Though nothing concrete and significant was announced for start-ups and information technology segments in India during the budget, they still stand to benefit from various opportunities that are being created by the government in the form of a sharp focus on the rural, education and healthcare segment which will all bring in more digitisation in the country.
Manu Jolly, the CEO of the start up Digiperform, a digital marketing training platform, feels that more job creation is in the offing through the Digital India initiative. “Since we are into imparting digital skill training, we can cash in on this opportunity to help people become employable,” Jolly told THE WEEK.
Similarly Neha Bagaria, CEO and founder, of Bengaluru-based start-up JobsForHer, feels that the budget allocation to 'Digital India' being doubled to Rs 373 crore is expected to spur the job market. “The creation of job opportunities has been at the core of policy-making as nearly 70 lakh formal jobs had been created last year,” said Bagaria.
As per NASSCOM, the budget reflects the government’s commitment to digitisation as a key force for India’s development strategy. The body welcomed Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s statement on increased investment for Artificial Intelligence, comprehensive initiative on Cyber Physical Systems and focus towards creating a 5G test bed. NASSCOM said that this will enable India leapfrog in areas of emerging technologies globally. The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) said the National Programme on Artificial Intelligence to be set up by Niti Aayog, the 5G test-bed in IIT Chennai and the mission by the Department of Science and Technology will encourage big data, cyber security and robotics, which will, in turn, promote the IT sector in the country.
Similarly Anil Valluri of data management firm NetApp felt that the focus on wide-scale broadband access on machine learning, AI and robotics, R&D as well as skilling, and on smart cities will keep pushing India’s digital agenda, well supported by the additional fund allocation.
Nasscom added that the proposal to review the outward direct investment will be of great relevance to the IT sector as it charts its global growth trajectory.
It also said in the context of the growing digital economy, the budget proposals include additional criteria for taxation, that would be applicable to companies who may not have physical presence in India. This could be particularly relevant to the technology sector, as internet-driven businesses and cloud-based platforms blur geographical boundaries. The body said the announcement of the Ayushman Bharat programme, will also create immense opportunities for the technology industry and start-ups to build solutions that will enable the transformation.
Extending the Start-up India scheme to March 2021 and rationalising the condition of turnover will enable tens of thousands of start-ups to avail benefits under the Act. Also, evolving a distinct policy for hybrid instruments, which are suitable to attract foreign investments in several niche areas, will advantage start-ups and venture capital firms. NASSCOM also stated that the government’s financial allocation to the Bharatnet project, along with the establishment Wifi hotspots in rural areas, will be a big boost to the rural digital economy.
Applauding the role of digital technologies for development of social sectors like health, agriculture and education, the IAMAI termed the budget a technology-oriented one. “Digital technologies can bring in efficiency and economic scaling up in the critical social sectors. Budget 2018 gives recognition to emerging sectors like edutech, agritech and healthtech, and is an encouragement for Digital India,” said Subho Ray, President, IAMAI.
IAMAI also stated that the initiatives like greater digital intensity in the education sector, special group under the ministry of finance on exploring fin-tech options for MSMEs and allocation of Rs 10,000 crore for five lakh public wifi spots will help promote internet penetration in the country.
IT services giant Tata Consultancy Services felt that the sector can immensely benefit from the Digital India initiatives. “Several programmes announced in the budget represent big strides in building a digital India: the outlay for the smart cities programme; the plans to explore blockchain technology; the national programme for adoption of artificial intelligence and research, training and skilling in cyber-physical systems; the innovative use of technology to digitally reimagine agricultural markets to empower small and marginal farmers; and the extending of broadband access to five crore rural citizens to bridge the digital divide. Having partnered the State Bank of India in their merger with six associate banks, we are excited about the planned merger of the three public sector insurance companies,” stated V. Ramakrishnan, chief financial officer, TCS.
A few experts felt that those start-ups that are focused at the rural and the health sector can benefit from these initiatives. “I feel that the IT sector in India is a fairly matured industry and can benefit from the different digital opportunities with a matured approach,” said Alok Shende of Ascentius Consulting.
Some experts felt that smart cities and development of rural apps can be a big opportunity for the Indian IT and start up segment. “I feel with a strong focus on rural connectivity more and more rural people will like to use apps that benefit them. Start-ups and IT companies can tap this opportunity,” said Kris Lakshmikanth, founder of recruitment firm Head Hunters India Limited.