Union Budget 2020 great for digital India but falls short

Announced Saturday, the budget allocated Rs. 6,000 crore for BharatNet

MUMBAI: The Union Budget for the fiscal 2020-21 announced by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had a prominent focus on further strengthening the digital infrastructure of the community.  The budget allocated Rs 6,000 crore for BharatNet and dedicated Rs 8,000 crore to national mission on quantum technologies, emphasising on the importance of leveraging artificial intelligence, data analytics, and internet of IoT for digital governance. The digital patrons of the marketing world welcomed the move with open arms and lauded the government for empowering the ecosystem. 

Delighted about the increased investments into the digital sector 121XP managing partner Alvin D'Souza said, “This budget makes me optimistic about the growth of the digital ecosystem. Firstly, the Rs. 6000 crore allocation towards Bharat Net will give last mile connectivity the impetus that it needs and pave way for digital transformation at all levels. Allowing private players to build data centers and encouraging production of mobile and network devices will all compliment each other in growing the ecosystem. Being an experiential marketing company, we believe any initiative taken to strengthen the business sentiments on ground – to jumpstart economic growth will impact us positively.”

D’Souza also added that this Union Budget had a tough ask to revive business confidence and the government has pursued the right path towards strengthening the core pillars - aspirational India, economic development and caring society. “As a start-up, it is heartening to see the Government’s commitment to address core issues – be it in empowering businesses financially or improving new technology ecosystems or offering tax relaxations. We feel, although there is still a long way to go to achieve the $10 trillion economy dream, but definitely the Union Budget is directionally on point.”

One Impression CEO Apaksh Gupta said, “We are absolutely thrilled that the government has recognized data as one of the driving forces of the economy. The digital industry thereby requires a solid approach towards data centres, allowing to create incredible content and streamline/automate processes. This policy will create tremendous benefits for the digital growth of the nation.”

Tonic Worldwide co-founder and CEO Chetan Asher added, “This budget makes me optimistic about the growth of the digital ecosystem. Firstly the Rs. 6000 crore allocation towards BharatNet will give last mile connectivity the impetus that it needs and pave way for digital transformation at all levels. Allowing private players to build data centers and encouraging production of mobile and network devices will all compliment each other in growing the ecosystem.” 

Elaborating more on the benefits that the advertising and marketing industry can reap from the budget, NeoNiche CEO and MD Prateek N Kumar noted, "The brands and advertising industry will gain momentum due to the announcement on  Analytics, IoT and AI being key contributors in the growth story of India, and will change the way Indian consumers are absorbing the information provided.  The new policy that will be rolled out by the government to enable the private sector to build data centre parks throughout the country will enable brands to improve their reach and connect with masses and will also enhance data and consumer insights for brands.”

White Rivers Media CEO and co-founder Shrenik Gandhi elucidated that moving beyond jargon and marching towards embracing digital technology is a strong positive move. He was positive that the new budget will lead to higher disposable income in the hands of the consumers thus enabling more consumption. He said, “New age technologies, keeping data and digital at the heart of it shall lead to big reforms. Focus on IoT, Data Parks, AI shall make India a strong contender amongst the top digital economies, globally. The ambitious fibre to home proposal shall get the next 100M in the Digital universe soon. All in all, it’s a very positive budget for digital by the government which has always vouched for the power of digital. The same coupled with reduced tax slabs and abolition of DDT shall lead to higher disposable income; thus enabling more consumption."

Resulticks co-founder and CEO Redickaa Subrammanian said that she is excited about the government's support for India's technological advancement and the entrepreneurial spirit it promotes. She also welcomed the setting up of the investment clearance cell. She was hopeful that the proposed revisions in the income tax structure should lead to increased consumer demand and provide an overall impetus for economic growth in India.

Subrammanian added, “Digital disruption has transformed India’s business landscape and the announcement for building more data center parks will further aid in laying a strong foundation for a digitally connected country. INR 8000 crore allotment for developing quantum technology is impressive, and this in tandem with the grassroots level skilling initiatives, make for a strong technology ecosystem. Engineering students will also gain real-world experience through the new internship programs, creating a digitally skilled talent pool equipped to work in a digital economy.”

Bobble AI founder and CEO Ankit Prasad noted, “A good thing about the #budget2020 is that they have kept StartUps in mind w.r.t. Income tax deduction, deferred taxation on ESOPs and all other policies which are adopted. However, that said, we as an industry are jaded by the past - there have been issues when it comes to implementation and have been at the receiving end of the IT Department courtesy misinformation of angel tax, for example. Here’s hoping that this year will be different and that there will be no friction whilst implementing and executing the proposed policies.”

However, the industry is not completely satisfied with the overall budget. 

Mediacom South Asia CEO Navin Khemka felt that the budget is status quo for the short-term. He said, “What is required is more purchasing power to the Indian middle class. This will help boost demand in the sluggish economy. I hope the investment in infrastructure and kisan express helps in achieving this objective in the long run. Short term, however, I think this budget is status quo. Demand growth could be sluggish and this could continue to impact media investments by corporates."

Dentsu Aegis Network CEO APAC and Chairman India Ashish Bhasin shared that compared to the expectations that the industry had from the budget, this seemed like a lost opportunity. He expected more on the rationalisation of direct taxes, particularly the cess introduced over and above the tax rates. However he was happy to see that the dividend distribution tax has been abolished. 

Bhasin rated the overall budget as “mixed” saying, “I think this is a good budget in some ways because it has attempted to put money in the hands of the middle class through rationalisation of tax rates as well as has concentrated on looking after the agricultural sector, including introduction of best practises like storage for producers and other measures.  It is good to see efforts being made to encourage new-age skill development as well as helping the start-ups and what's particularly interesting is the proposal to set up data centre farms all over the country. This will prepare India for the economy of tomorrow. It is also good to see attempts at simplification of taxation through digitisation but the proof of the pudding will lie in seeing its implementation on ground.

It would be fair to say that at best it is a mixed budget and while there are some encouraging decisions, enough does not seem to have been done for the situation the economy is in.” 

DAN India CEO Anand Bhadmakar said, “The budget has provided relief to the middle class with lower tax rates which is a welcome move, as it will provide more liquidity. On direct taxes, abolition of DDT and also introduction of tax dispute resolution scheme is a welcome step alongside tax reliefs for start ups. The budget is focusing on ease and simplification of compliance, with changes in corporate laws as well as in GST and direct taxes. However, I was expecting further simplification re. cess and surcharges beyond tax rates across slabs etc.”

He added, “The proposals regarding development of road infrastructure, setting up data centre parks and skill development initiatives are welcome steps in addition to allocations for social welfare schemes. However, the expectations from the budget were high on the background of current economic slowdown, and as such seems to be short on matching those expectations, with no specific industry sector focused sops providing the stimulus. While the budget is focusing on long term growth and social development, overall in the current scenario looks like a mixed budget, falling a bit short of market expectations of more corrective measures.”

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