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Union Budget 2018: Industry expects govt to favour consumption

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MUMBAI: Union Budget 2018 has snuck up on us. This Thursday, the government will unveil its budget for fiscal year 2018-19 and many market watchers are expecting a slew of incentives for businesses. After a difficult year, some course correction is certainly on the anvil. Here’s what some of the leaders in the industry had to say:

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“In the rapidly changing landscape, we believe that the distinction between telecom, IT and broadcasting technology has disappeared and that a convergence of these sectors is required. A positive consideration of this demand in the 2018 budget will certainly help in the rapid growth and generation of substantial employment in our country. Also, similar to the telecommunications sector, television broadcasting organisations including direct-to-home (DTH), cable services and headend in the sky (HITS) require huge investments in setting up technology and distribution networks and, as such, are ‘asset-rich’ organisations. Hence, just like in the software and telecom sectors, it is necessary to allow for the carry-forward of losses in the case of amalgamation or merger of companies in the broadcasting sector.

For the budget 2018, we are also hopeful that the government will issue a clarification stating that transponder hire charges are not ‘royalty’ in order to avoid protracted litigation.” 

Indian Broadcasting Foundation president Punit Goenka 

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“I anticipate that the Union Budget of 2018 will drive growth and whenever the economy grows, the advertising industry benefits. I see a particular thrust from the government in the areas of infrastructure development as well as for rural development. We have had a reasonably good monsoon, rural economy is starting to look up and another push in the same direction  will significantly benefit all consumption-led sectors, including FMCG, which are heavily advertised.

I think the government will make efforts  to ensure that there is more money in the pockets of the common man, hopefully by giving some relief on the income tax front and will use technology for better tax compliance, thereby keeping the fiscal deficit under control. The fiscal deficit is very important from the point of view of controlling inflation.

Specifically for the advertising industry I hope that there are some simplifications around the services part of GST that are announced. While GST has been a progressive step for the country, my feeling is that the services sectors  were relatively less focused upon and hence the step that was supposed to simplify indirect taxation has actually ended up complicating it significantly, particularly for advertising agencies that operate out of different cities and states and service clients who may be based all over the country. Under the thrust of the government for ease of doing business, I hope this issue gets addressed. The advertising industry doesn’t mind paying the taxes but needs simplification of processes, which are taking away too much of unproductive manpower and blocking working capital.

Over all I feel that India is poised to see  good economic growth over the next 10 years and a little bit of help from the government policies, through the Union Budget of 2018 will further help the economy outperform the rest of the world.”

—     Dentsu Aegis Network chairman and CEO (South Asia) Ashish Bhasin

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“The announcement of Union budget is just around the corner with discussions & debates being conducted around it. There is hush-hush regarding the assumptions when everyone is expecting a positive release. As far as digital is concerned, besides the allocation of budgets on Digital Infra Development, there is a need to initiate a few reforms. Digital is the fastest growing sector of India and should be highly benefitted from the Union Budget.

As per my understanding, budgets should be allocated to PSUs for investing in digital marketing. This will lead to a win-win situation as for the organisation the digital mediums will help gain recognition and support. While the digital agencies will spread awareness and educate the audience about the benefits of the organisation. Even the digital organisations paying taxes dutifully should be recognised well and given the right opportunities to flourish.

Even on a personal level, the entrepreneurs who are platinum taxpayers should be given certain advantages as a reward for their contribution towards the nation. Any individual paying heavy taxes on time should be entitled to such benefits which could be in the form of a card similar to the other identity cards we have. This will not only be a welcomed move, but it will also ignite the zeal among the others to be a part of that category thereby benefitting the country.

However, what the budget is going to be will be interesting to witness and I hope for some reforms that help the digital sector in various ways.”

— iCubesWire CEO and founder Sahil Chopra

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“Given the NDA Government’s strong intent to drive reforms, we definitely anticipate some rationalisation in tax structures and strengthening of related  infrastructure. While the GST council has already taken some proactive measures, we hope the Government will reemphasize on a roadmap for simple and business friendly GST compliance and administration systems. More importantly, over the course of next few months, initiate all necessary constitutional amendments to ensure that there are no other State or Local Body Taxes, as they defeat the very purpose of bringing uniformity in tax structure, while ensuring proper input credit for taxes. 

For the accelerated growth of the start-up sector and economy at large, it’s important that the push for digitisation should continue with more vigour. Initiatives by the Government including waving MDR on debit cards on transactions upto Rs 2,000 really go a long way in attaining this objective and we hope, on similar lines in post-budget period, rationalisation mechanisms are introduced around credit cards rates as well–which will continue to be a major mode of payments. UPI should be made more cost effective and should be given a much larger push to increase its adoption in India. 

We do expect the Government to take up and address IT infrastructure and allied issues this year, taking into account some serious issues that are being faced by the entertainment/media sector such as Piracy. The IT laws must be strengthened to address the root cause for these issues that are constantly causing a substantial hit to the overall revenues for the sector.” 

— BookMyShow head of finance Mitesh Shah  

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"In this budget, we look forward to the government focusing on the upliftment of the rural economy and job creation. 49 per cent of the Indian population is engaged in the rural economy. More money in their hands will lead to rebalancing of media spends by corporates that provide goods and services to the rural market. This will be a positive for the advertising industry."

—     iProspect India CEO Rubeena Singh

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“India’s hospitality industry is one of the key drivers of growth of its service sector. With a turnover of USD 71.53 billion in 2016, it accounted for 9.6 per cent of GDP and was the third largest foreign exchange earner for the country. The sheer volume of business it is generating makes streamlining GST on hospitality imperative for Budget 2018.

Government has somewhat eased its taxation policy by downward revision of rates or rationalization of tax slabs, however, a more detailed approach for resolving issues that still plague GST is required. For instance, IGST in not available to Hotels, tax is calculated on declared rather than actual tariffs, luxury travel and stay are taxed at considerably higher rates, food and beverages sector suffers from the loss of input tax credit, all of which increase costs for end-users and subliminally disincentivises consumption. With experts predicting overall industrial growth between 100 and 200 per cent in next couple of years, 2018 should see a significant expansion in HORECA industry; hence it would be highly beneficial if government would fuel this growth with some planned tax benefits.

Hotel industry is highly capital intensive. Granting infrastructure status to this sector would enable hotels secure long term loans at competitive rates, which would help reduce room tariffs. Facilitating loan availability to small and medium enterprises under Mudra scheme with easier accessibility and larger outlays and granting tax benefits to remote businesses can further help the industry.

In addition, leading hospitality industries around the world revolve around a core group of highly skilled individuals - an area where India still lacks. Benefits of creating and maintaining a talent pool of skilled manpower would be significant. Were government to allocate some portion of the budget to this area, it would go a long way in making India the global leader in the hospitality sector.”

—Pursuite.com CEO Amit Shukla

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