Union Budget 2020: Industries applaud boost for Digital India

With Rs 6000 crore set aside for BharatNet and the emphasis on AI, IoT, Data Center Parks etc., the Union Budget did not disappoint Digital India, say experts

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Feb 3, 2020 8:57 AM  | 8 min read

It is the digital era and India is in no mood to be left behind. The intent to boost digital infrastructure and ensure that the internet is available in every nook and corner of the country was reflected in the Union Budget 2020. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman set aside Rs 6000 crore to the BharatNet, which is an ambitious programme of the Indian government to ensure internet in every home.  

 The digital ecosystem in India took wing on the back of cheap data a few years ago. Better internet connectivity is bound to drive the Digital India growth story. The infusion of funds towards BharatNet, therefore, comes as good news for India Inc, given that every business now rides on the internet. But the news is especially good for digital-first companies, OTT platforms, e-commerce etc. And not to forget the employment opportunities it will bring.

To quote the Finance Minister: "Our vision is that all 'public institutions' at Gram Panchayat levels such as Anganwadis, health and wellness centres, government schools, PDS outlets, post offices and police stations will be provided with digital connectivity. So, Fibre to the Home (FTTH) connections through Bharatnet will link 100,000-gram panchayats this year. It is proposed to provide Rs 6000 crore to BharatNet programme in 2020-21.”

 The Finance Minister acknowledged in her speech that the new economy is based on innovations that disrupt established, business models. She said, “Artificial intelligence, Internet-of-Things (IoT), 3D printing, drones, DNA data storage, quantum computing, etc., are re-writing the world economic order. India has already embraced new paradigms such as the sharing economy with aggregator platforms displacing conventional businesses. Government has harnessed new technologies to enable direct benefit transfers and financial inclusion on a scale never imagined before”

 She further added, “It is now a cliché – 'data is the new oil' and it is true that Analytics, Fintech and Internet of Things (IoT) are changing the way we deal with our lives. To take advantage of this, I propose to bring out soon a policy to enable the private sector to build Data Centre parks throughout the country. It will enable our firms to skilfully incorporate data in every step of their value chains.”

 Digital stakeholders from across the business spectrum reacted positively to the impetus laid by the government on the internet and technology in the budget. However, some also pointed out that the government’s intent will need to translate on the ground in order for Digital India to move full steam ahead.

Bharat Khatri, Country Lead, Xaxis India: “The first budget of this new brave decade continues to focus on digital infrastructure- BharatNet project getting additional Rs 6000 crore funds to boost digital connectivity & allowing private sector to build data centres in India is a great move which reflects government’s clear vision to transform India into digitally-empowered society. And as Sitharaman clearly pointed out, India has already started seeing innovations in the space of IoT, AI, data cloud, quantum computing, etc. are all rewriting the world economic orders and will also disrupt the established conventional business models in India.”

Gautam Sinha, CEO - Times Internet said: “Budget 2020 is a promising step towards establishing India’s future as an enduring digital economy. The increased focus on improving data connectivity under Bharat Net, steps to boost the smartphone manufacturing industry and the Rs 8,000 crore allocation for the National Mission on Quantum Computing & Technology will help build better digital infrastructure to support this sector's rapid growth. Finally, deferring tax on ESOPs for startups is also a major move that will help promising startups attract and retain talent that would fuel our burgeoning digital ecosystem.”

Chetan Asher, Co-founder & CEO, Tonic Worldwide:  "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 centres and encouraging the production of mobile and network devices will all compliment each other in growing the ecosystem."

 Shrenik Gandhi, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, White Rivers Media: "There will be views that support right and views that support left, but I strongly believe, data and digital occupied the centrepiece of the budget!

"The fact that we moved beyond jargon war and marching towards embracing digital technology is a very strong positive move. 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 the 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."

 Girish Menon, Partner and Head, Media and Entertainment, KPMG in India: “Although there was no direct reference to the media and entertainment sector in Budget 2020, the focus on improving India’s digital connectivity bodes well for the sector. The Honourable Finance Minister’s announcement that an amount of Rs 6,000 crores will be spent on BharatNet initiatives will see more citizens connected to the proposed pan-India FTTH network. Media and entertainment is increasingly becoming a digital medium and an enhancement of the underlying digital communications infrastructure will support more immersive experiences. Finally, the focus on building a vibrant start-up ecosystem with measures to improve access to funding and IP protection will help India emerge as a global hub for technological innovation.

Nachiket Pantvaidya, CEO, ALTBalaji and Group COO, Balaji Telefilms: “The overall budget has been exemplary with equal consideration given to entrepreneurship, job creation and youth of the nation. We appreciate the step to promote digital connectivity through its BharatNet programme and connecting 100,000-gram panchayats through an optical fibre network. This is one more important step taken in the direction of achieving the vision of a digital India where rural India gets placed on the digital map.”

 Prashan Agarwal, CEO - Gaana said, "We appreciate the efforts of the government to boost the digital ecosystem in the country. The increased focus on improving connectivity under the Bharat Net scheme and the emphasis on Artificial Intelligence will allow OTT players to offer bespoke and personalized solutions to consumers. Additionally, the impetus to the smartphone manufacturing industry will make internet consumption accessible to a wider section of Indian society that will expand the scope of revenues for OTT players. The allocation of Rs 8,000 crore for setting up the National Mission on Quantum Computing and Technology will also boost the development of the industry by making resources cost-effective."

 Anurag Avula, Co-founder & CEO, Shopmatic, “Stressing on digital connectivity, the FM has proposed to bring digital connectivity to 100,000 Gram Panchayats and allocating Rs 6,000 crore for the optical fibre program under BharatNet. The same will strengthen the digital infrastructure that rural entrepreneurs can leverage to promote and sell their products and services.” 

Jasmeet Thind, Co-founder, Coutloot, “ With technologies like AI, IoT and Data Analytics transforming the world, and cutting across streams, the Union Budget 2020 has introduced some ample changes that will certainly benefit the start-up community. The finance minister announcing that entrepreneurs from rural areas will be offered additional opportunities to learn and develop their skill sets is definitely a moment to rejoice. Stressing on digital connectivity throughout the country and the Rs 6000 crore allocated for the same under the BharatNet program, we are happy that aspiring entrepreneurs and small businesses from suburban and rural areas will be able to scale their business outside of their towns. We will continue to offer our support to enable them to achieve their goal and own successful businesses.”

Abhishek Kothari - Co-Founder at FlexiLoans.com, “It is good to see technology find a significant mention in the budget. If done correctly, setting up Data Centre Parks, Fibre to home and investments in quantum computing, have the ability to create a digital connected India. The proof is always in the execution.”

 Kunal Jain, Founder & CEO, Analytics Vidhya, “I welcome the Government’s initiative to open Data Center Parks across the country as the Finance Minister has rightly said that ‘Data is the New Oil’. This will lead to the digitisation of the rural areas while providing various employment opportunities to the people across the country. Also, I would appreciate the use of AI & ML by the government in Aayushman Bharat Scheme to improve the healthcare services and eradicate tuberculosis in India by 2025.” 

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