With this year’s budget holding major significance for essentially two reasons—being the first after GST implementation and Modi government’s last full fledged budget presentation before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, it has been looked upon by many with a keen eye. While various industries are looking for the benefits that this year’s budget would bring them, it is particularly being looked upon as a crucial one for India’s technology sector.
As India is progressing towards achieving major milestones in areas like analytics, artificial intelligence and data science, industry experts as well as startups are eyeing major benefits from the Union Budget 2018-19.
Souma Das, Managing Director, Teradata India, shared that the government is already paying heed to the rise of disruptive technologies such as automation, advanced analytics, blockchain, internet of things, artificial intelligence and machine learning. and that there will be more adoption of these technologies.
Maneesh Jhawar, CEO & Founder, QualityKiosk echoed similar opinion. He said “While addressing the 104th Indian Science Congress, the Hon. P.M. Narendra Modi said that robotics, artificial intelligence, big data, and IoT can be turned into opportunities by Indian organisations by investing in research, training and skilling. Clearly, his government is looking into a tech-driven future”.
Analytics India Magazine spoke to industry leaders and startups in the field to understand their expectations from the budget. From defining policies to introducing schemes for re-skilling professionals keen on plunging into AI field, these experts shared various opinions, as below.
Policies across emerging technologies like AI and cloud
Experts believe that by combining the efforts of the government and innovation by companies, India can achieve major milestones and emerge as the engine of global growth. One of the major hindrances in the way is the uncertainty around rules and regulations for newer technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud, robotics etc. Experts believe that while it has been largely confined due to lack of policies, they are hopeful of a change in 2018.
Amit Sinha, chief operating officer of Paytm Mall echoed the thought that developing a policy framework and allocating budget to enable small value lending without excessive documentation can help small businesses.
Nishith Rastogi, CEO & Co-founder, Locus said “The upcoming budget will see major turnarounds in reforms, rules and taxes being framed for the entire e-commerce industry which if done properly can boost the entire sector, as it has happened across the world.” He also added that infrastructure is expected to be a priority in the upcoming 2018 budget.
“Also, the introduction of the twin measures (GST and infrastructure status) would bring a paradigm shift by reducing the overall cost of logistics for manufacturers to the internationally acceptable level of 7-10 percent of the GDP”, he said.
Reskilling to keep up with the tech trends
To get AI facilities going in the long run, India is in a dire need to create an ecosystem that nourishes talent and innovation. With a fear of AI replacing jobs, there is a constant talk of the need of reskilling in IT industry, and experts feel there is a need to have more programs to bring reskilling.
Suman Reddy, MD, Pegasystems India said “The development centres are looking for a more favourable deduction of Section 35 (2AB) to further India’s image as and R&D capital. On the startup fronts, local governments have set the precedent for bolstering innovation and entrepreneurship, and conditions like angel tax for domestic investors being higher than foreign investors must be relooked at.” As most of the research is being done around emerging tech like AI, this is the right time to boost them with favourable policies.
He also added that government can also look forward to set up more central initiative around new tech reskilling, as as there are initiatives being undertaken by organizations who find it feasible.
Anil Valluri, President, NetApp India & SAARC said “A stronger thrust on research and development that enables more indigenous innovation and increased investments in future technologies will be welcome. I do believe that we will see more of citizen focused & friendly decisions, and initiatives to bolster investment into India.”
On a similar lines, Souma Das, Managing Director, Teradata India said “We are looking forward to new measures by the government that will fuel the growth of innovation and R&D in India and further enhance ease-of-doing-business.”
Integrating data technologies to Fintech industry
With the creation of tools in credit scoring, lending systems, data analytics for credit and customer service applications, it has helped fintech industry to evolve further and industry stalwarts are keen that government should focus on building robust infrastructure for efficiency and safety especially for enabling technologies and solutions such as payments, lending etc.
“There should be reduction in income tax for individuals and companies promoting secure digital payments. The Budget should announce sops for fintech companies providing data protection”, said Bipin Preet Singh, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, MobiKwik.
Increasing the public spending to make AI mainstream
According to an Accenture Strategy report, artificial intelligence can boost revenues by 38 percent and employment by 10 percent. If the public spending on these disruptive technologies increase, it can make India more democratic and help the government in eradicating corruption and tax evasion.
Furthermore, government should consider reducing the corporate tax rate, which will not only help Indian companies to stay competitive but will also lead to an increase in entrepreneurship. “The Union Budget for 2018-19 must reduce corporate tax for start-ups and companies promoting digital payments ecosystem. At the moment, it is flat at 35 per cent”, said Bipin Preet Singh.
It cannot be forgotten that India has the potential to become the largest startup market in the world, if provided with proper channels of growth, boosting digital inclusion, innovation and manufacturing to create multi fold employment opportunities.
Mahesh Lingareddy, Founder & Chairman of Smartron believes that India needs an investment (VC) ecosystem that can pump in US$15-US$20 billion every year to support and sustain a 5000+ startup ecosystem and rival other countries like US and China. “Union Budget 2018 could play a decisive role in strengthening the startup ecosystem because it is no longer about just the number of startups but also about creating a pipeline with successful yearly exits across sectors. Currently, startups are stuck at the beginning of the funnel due to lack of investment ecosystem”, he said.
Boosting digitisation strategy
As India has been working extensively in its digitisation strategy, this budget provides yet another opportunity to bolster that. Bipin Preet Singh of MobiKwik said “The Union Budget for 2018-19 must announce measures to accelerate the pace of India’s migration to digital platforms. People in urban and rural areas should be able to easily access financial services like loans and investment products on their smartphones. The benefits of digital services value chain must percolate to the unbanked and underbanked population as the country transforms into a knowledge-driven economy.”
Sharing similar thoughts, Gaurav Hinduja, Cofounder of Capital Float said “We hope that the government will continue to push digitisation of financial services and encourage consumers to use digital platforms for transactions”.
Rajesh Rege, Managing Director, Red Hat, India shared “Government led programs like Digital India, Make in India, Smart Cities etc. are triggers for a boost in the country’s economy. These campaigns have opened a plethora of opportunities for IT industry as well. To truly realise the potential of these game changing initiatives, it is important to harness the power of collaboration and by extension, Open Source. In this budget, we look forward to continued focus on accelerating these initiatives using Open, Agile, Secure and Scalable solutions.”
“Govt’s Digital transformation strategy can help businesses with visibility and aid them in actionable intelligence towards better governance and outcome base revenue utilisation to drive growth and in turn generate employment in every industry sector. It is critical for the government to embrace and adopt disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence and big data advanced analytics to enhance citizen services and enable efficient governance, said Souma Das, Managing Director, Teradata India Pvt. Limited.
“Considering the government’s thrust on digitalisation, the Union Budget 2018-19 may have provisions and elements to speed up the process of India’s digital transformation. In the context of business, data is growing at an exponential pace. The organisations that prudently invest in emerging technologies such as AI/machine learning and analytics today stand a better chance of hitting the desired target with precision in the near future,” said Maneesh Jhawar.
Will it see the light of implementation?
While experts have a lot of expectations from the upcoming budget, there are a few investors and startups that do not have much hope with the upcoming budget. They share their concerns that, though government has come up with amazing initiatives in the past couple of years, the implementation has not happened the way it should have been. Despite a lot of attention from media, startups have progressed at a slow pace. Measures like angel tax and long-term capital gains prove to be a big deterrent to growth.
Gyan Gupta, DB Digital’s CEO shared that as communities and lot of business houses are getting involved with analytics, it is high time to recognise its true worth. “Its not that data or data science is a new thing, it’s just that people are now discovering the use cases. It is important to give it a larger shape, for which government support is needed”.
On a concluding note
With India slowly gaining traction as one of the fastest growing economy, India holds a potential to be the largest tech disruptor in the world. If it grows to be more competitive, and boost startups in the space, India too can be a multi billion-dollar industry. With data being the next natural resource, the convergence of big data and cloud powered by AI and ML can lead India in the global race, and government support plays a crucial role here.