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Budget '17: Leading digital players hail sectoral boost

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MUMBAI: “Digital economy helps in cleaning up the system, has transformational impact, energises private investment through low-cost credit, and benefits the common man,” asserted finance minister Arun Jaitley while announcing the Union Budget 2017 on 1 February. The budget 2017 emphasised a lot on the promotion of digital economy and strengthening the country’s cashless economy.

Apart from launching two new schemes, Referral bonus for citizens and cashback for merchants, the government has also announced the launch of Aadhaar Pay. For the financial year 2017-18, the government targets around 2,500 crore digital transactions through UPI, USSD, Aadhaar Pay, IMPS and debit cards.

The government's focus on growing the digital footprint in India, enhancing digital infrastructure, capping cash transactions and enabling Aadhaar Pay crucial measures were laudable. Let’s take a look at what the digital, payment solution, e-commerce platforms and payment wallets have to say about the Union Budget 2017:

Hungama.com CEO Siddhartha Roy said, “Focus on digital infrastructure in the current budget is extremely encouraging. Greater reach of broadband and data services into urban and rural India will lead to an inclusive digital economy, encouraging more people to embrace digital, driving consumption and transactions across the medium. Better quality of data is also set to give an impetus to the digital entertainment industry lead by video which is certainly poised for massive growth.” 

Payment Wallets: FreeCharge & Oxigen

Oxigen Services CMD Pramod Saxena says: "The budget 2017-18 reflects the government’s continuous efforts to move towards less cash economy and bringing transparency in value chain through digital payments & GST. The budget has stressed upon the importance of strengthening India’s digital economy by bringing down cost of digital infrastructure. The acceleration of PoS infrastructure with 10 lakh PoS machines by March 2017 and  another 20 lakh Aadhaar-based PoS by September 2017 is a reflection of pushing digital payments at last mile by 300 per cent from the current base of 15 lakh PoS achieved so far in last 20 years. The decision to exempt duty on various POS machines will help in reducing cost of digital infrastructure implementation and benefit companies like Oxigen." 

FreeCharge CEO Govind Rajan shared: “FreeCharge welcomes the policy measures aimed at accelerating the adoption of a digital economy in India. The incentives for adoption of fintech equipment, expansion of digital infrastructure in under-served areas, Aadhar Pay for wider adoption by merchants and capping cash transactions at Rs 3 lakh, all together have kept the spotlight on building a less-cash India. In doing so, we will all help build a transparent and efficient future for our country”

Payment Solution Platforms: AGS & Telr

AGS Transact Technology group chief marketing officer Pratik Seal added, “The Union Budget 2017 has seen a host of incentives to boost India’s digital economy.  However, the budget has not been a very populous one with incentives for the startup fraternity per se. Reduction of income tax for companies with a turnover of Rs. 50 crore to 25 per cent is a welcome move, and will aid many emerging companies. The three-year tax holiday in the first seven years (extended from five years) since inception of startups is a measure which will provide some relief to them. 

Furthermore, he added, the surcharge of 10 per cent levied on individuals earning between Rs 50 lakh to Rs 1 crore may impact startups in the process of scaling-up, to attract senior talent on  their usual cash and ESOP/stocks packages, as the taxation gap over and under the Rs. 1 crore mark is now practically non-existent. The instant gratification "of being in the Rs 1-cr plus CTC and still be in the sub Rs-1 crore tax bracket” part is effectively eliminated. One would rather demand a fatter, all-cash pay-cheque now. Unfortunately, no policies have been announced providing relief for the aspiring Indians in the Rs 10-30 lakh bracket while heavier taxation for Rs 50-100 lakh is also a serious "aspiration dampener!"

Telr founder and CEO Sirish Kumar said, “The budget looks well-rounded and in favour of digital economy, something we had anticipated following the demonetisation drive. There are policies to take internet to rural masses, including Bharat Net and ensure security of same via BHIM app and setting up CERT. Furthermore, limiting cash transactions to three lakh is going to work in favour of payment solution-providers, having the provision to handle payments of bigger ticket sizes. The increased emphasis on AadhaarPay, tax exemptions on Iris scanners, MicroATMs and POS machines, in addition to iris scanners, is further going to democratise digital economy in India. Taxes have been lowered for more than 67 per cent of MSME. This will make these businesses more viable.”

E-commerce Platforms: Craftsvilla & Snapdeal

Craftsvilla co-founder Manoj Gupta added, “There is nothing big bang in this Union Budget. There is very little for startups and ecommerce. Abolition of FIPB would hopefully make FDI easier. I was looking forward for the Government to take more proactive actions on areas like handloom and tourism that has huge potential for India. I would have also loved it if they announced developing handloom parks or heritage parks across the country with better facilities.”

Snapdeal Kunal Bahl co-founder & CEO Kunal Bahl said, “We commend the focus on growing the digital footprint in the country -- enhancing digital infrastructure, capping cash transactions, reducing cash donations, using Adhaar Pay to enable more digital payments are significant measures. Initiatives make an impact when there is continued attention and the new announcements build on the demonetisation efforts. We also welcome the emphasis on skill development and technical education - this will enable India to successfully harness the demographic dividend. The attention to affordable housing, greater employment in rural areas are the right interventions to build a more equitable society.”

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