India Inc reacts to 2018 budget

February 2 2018:  Here is the first instalment of reactions to the Indian Budget... the widest spectrum of opinions  in the media.  We will carfy a second compilation tomorrow.
Professonal Institutions:
Starting nine years ago, Aadhaar, eKYC, UPI and the rest of India Stack laid the foundation for a formalization of the Indian MSME sector. With the introduction of Aadhaar for Business and the unlocking of GST data for lenders, we are poised to see an explosion in flow-based lending to MSMEs, ultimately having a multiplier effect on jobs and economic growth. This is great news for MSME focused digital lenders and the product startups serving them. Therefore, a significant digital dividend for the Bharat economy is finally in sight. It is heartening to see government adopt the same digital-first approach when it comes to health and education. While this is a great start, much work remains. Laying the policy foundation alongside an India Stack inspired technology spine will ensure the rise of the Bharat focused tech-entrepreneur. We need India’s entrepreneurs to lift outcomes for patients and students not adequately served by our existing system.  On the startup and investor fronts, this budget is a missed opportunity to address the important near-term issues. We had hoped to see the resolution for Angel Tax and other such Stay-in-India Checklist issues. Slapping a Long-Term Capital Gains Tax on the previously untaxed sale of listed equities will adversely affect the List-in-India initiative. Additionally, the compliance overhang of listing will no longer be tempered by the promise of tax-free gains. The promised tax regime must incentivize and protect foundational (angel and domestic investors) as opposed to fleeting capital.While well-intentioned, this budget falls short of our expectations. India’s complexity and diversity call for a much more responsive and action-oriented policy-making approach. Only then can we harness our entrepreneurial energy to address India’s most pressing challenges.

ELCINA: The Union Budget for 2018-19 carries a clear message by applying majority of the country’s resources for upliftment of the poor and under privileged segments of our society. There is also a rural focus and emphasis on providing education, health and social security to all strata of citizens. India is today a US$ 2.5 Trillion Economy and the Finance Minister has stated that it would be the 5th largest economy in the world very soon. The current growth rate is hovering at 7.5% and we are on course to achieve 8%.
The primary push for ESDM sector this year is the move towards Phase 2 of the Phased Manufacturing Program (PMP) for Mobile Phone manufacturing which was introduced two years ago through differential duty mechanism and later by imposing 10% BCD on import of Smart Phones. The enhanced duty on selected inputs is meant to ensure large scale CKD assembly, PCBA’s and a number of mechanical components being manufactured locally. Value addition in mobile manufacturing would grow to 15-20% from sub 10% levels at present and strengthen the manufacturing eco-system.
LED Display Panels and Flat Panel TV value chain is also addressed in the budget and BCD on Flat Panel Displays has been hiked to encourage assembly within the country. The industry feels that duty hike in inputs should be gradual and should be delayed to next year as the industry is not mature enough. BCD has also been hiked on a number of other products such as Toys, Video Game Consoles and Smart Watches nudging the industry to take up manufacturing of these products which are largely imported.

IET: Shekar Sanyal, Director and Country Head: The Union Budget 2018 with its very specific focus on quality of education is a reassurance to the education sector. The introduction of Diksha initiative with an aim to provide teacher training is a great move. The IET is more than happy to extend its support to the government through the Faraday programme which emphasises on STEM education for teachers and students.Secondly, the stress on digital learning is in complete sync with the Digital India movement. It is quite relieving to know that this time the government has taken a step towards encouraging talent growth in India. With the idea to set up another 18  IITs and NIITs along with the scheme to identify bright students pursuing B Tech in premiere engineering institutes, and providing them higher education opportunities in the IITs and IISc, we hope the vision of  making India an education hub comes true very soon

Individual opinions
Diwakar Nigam , MD and Chairman, Newgen Software: Reduction of corporate tax rate to 25% for companies with reported revenues of upto Rs 250 crores is a step in the right direction. However, we do hope that reduction in corporate tax rate across the board would be adopted soon. 10% Tax on LTCG On listed equity shares and equity oriented mutual funds can have negative impact on the market. Impetus to technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning etc. will offer greater transparency and scalability to businesses and usher in a digital economy in a phased manner. Doubling the funds allocated to Digital India initiative will boost India’s growth into a digital innovation hub.
Sridhar Krishna, Chairman & MD of Sankhya InfoTech: The Union Budget 2018 presented today addressed many of the concerns of rural India and that of the MSME sector. We applaud Finance Minister, Mr. Arun Jaitley, for introducing measures to alleviate some of the pain points they suffer. The outlay for healthcare and education is a much needed boost to create a more healthy and skilled & educated India. In a major step, the Budget announced the largest government-funded health insurance scheme to be implemented anywhere in the world. The sheer size and coverage of the scheme committed will require investment to train and skill additional resources and address shortage of qualified medical professionals. India lacks trained experts, and the corresponding measure to increase the number of medical colleges will provide a boost.
V Ramakrishnan, CFO, TCS: This is a forward looking, growth-oriented budget with a focus on the rural economy, healthcare for the poor, investments in infrastructure, Digital skilling, education and jobs creation. Several programs announced in the budget represent big strides in building a Digital India: the outlay for the smart cities program; the plans to explore blockchain technology; the national program for adoption of artificial intelligence and for 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 5 crore rural
Rohit Kulkarni, Country Manager at Payoneer :It was heartening to see our Finance Minister recognizing India’s MSME enterprises as a major element for growth and the fastest growing sector post demonetization and GST. The FM in the 2018 budget has reduced the tax for MSME’s by 5%. The deduction of tax has come down to 25% from 30%. This gives MSME’s and other traders an opportunity to expand their services globally and venture their businesses into various global marketplaces.
Rajesh Rege, Managing Director, Red Hat, India and SAARC: It was a well-rounded budget. Emphasis on education, entrepreneurship & healthcare was much needed & is welcome. FM’s comments on AI & Blockchain are a step in the right direction & we look to an early implementation of these initiatives.
Surendra Singh, Country Director, Forcepoint: The government has come out with a truly ‘Bharat’ budget and has introduced several inclusive digital programmes for rural India to reap benefits of information technology. From doubling the outlay for promoting digital economy for the next year and  plans to speed-up digitisation with initiatives such as implementing five lakh WI-FI hotspots to provide the internet to rural citizens, connecting one lakh gram panchayats via internet cables, announcing a national program to direct efforts in Artificial Intelligence and increased digital intensity in the education sector are welcome steps. However, as more technology use grows amongst people so would be the need to become aware of cyber threats. Cyber security will now be more important than ever for securing digital assets as more and more people connect and conduct business using technology. 
Jatin Dalal, Chief Financial Officer, Wipro Limited: The Budget has largely delivered on the socio-economic agenda of strengthening the agricultural and rural economy, health care, infrastructure and education in the country. On the tax front, while reduction in the corporate tax rate for companies with turnover less than Rs. 250 crores is a step in the right direction, it would need to be followed up with further rationalization in the form of broad based reduction of MAT and corporate tax rate. We welcome the greater push for digitization and increased transparency in administration. The introduction of new scheme for e-assessments across the country would lead to reduced tax administration cost and increased tax payer satisfactio.
Shashank N.D., Founder and CEO, Practo: We welcome the government’s move to provide healthcare cover to 10Cr families as part of the National Health Protection Scheme. This is a big step forward and will help millions of people afford healthcare for themselves and their loved ones. Implementation of the scheme would be central to its success. I believe successful implementation will depend on optimal use of private healthcare providers and technology to make it seamless, convenient & transparent for the consumers.This is a great opportunity for the government to push for Digital Healthcare in a Digital India.
Pushan Mahapatra, MD & CEO, SBI General Insurance: we can certainly expect to see more excitement for investing in areas of Aritificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Robotics, Big data & Quantum communication, etc.Since Insurance industry today is at the forefront of technology adoption if not technology innovation, there are good number of takeaways especially on the tech innovation side for those who wish to make the most of the opportunity thrown open by the government of the day.
As Niti Aayog sets up a national program to conduct R&D on Artificial Intelligence & machine Learning, more advanced forms of algorithms will come into existence and it will make the adoption of these technologies easier and more reliable. As an immediate effect, Insurance industry which has seen umpteen number & varieties of ChatBOTs, which are direct application these technologies, becoming more user friendly and sounding more & more like a human. Advanced forms of Machine learning will take a way a lot of manual work involved in Insurance operations like document scanning, extracting data from forms, matching customer profile with Government ID’s, etc. It’s not hard to imagine a more automated, customer centric and cost effective insurance operations in days to come.A very high speed of Data transfer in an eavesdropping protected secure environment is an insurance companies dream. The introduction of 5G & quantum communications technologies, will revolutionize the world of network communications in their own ways and the insurance industry will be able to rely more on open networks for sharing sensitive data at a very high speed.While virtual currencies like Bitcoin remain illegal for all purposes in India, the Government’s declaration that it will explore the potential use of blockchain technology is a very good news for the Insurance industry.
Adhil Shetty CEO and Co-founder BankBazaar: The budget overall is positive. There is visible support for Fintech industry as the FM specifically mentioned that Fintech is playing an important role in countries growth and hence announced setting up a working group for its growth. The biggest announcement was about insurance and Rs5Lac is a great mediclaim amount and 50 Cr individuals is a great target. This will create tremendous awareness for medical insurance. Also, reduced corporate income tax for companies with revenue up to Rs250Cr is a big one. There are couple of points which will raise questions. The 3.5% fiscal deficit in FY18 and 3.3% fiscal deficit target in FY19 is slightly higher than expected which will impact the borrowing cost for Private sector. Second, introduction of tax on LTCG exceeding Rs. 1Lac after 14 years.
 Aniketh Jain, CEO & Co-Founder of Solutions Infini Pvt. Ltd: Cryptocurrency is not a legal proposition and the usage of the same is discontinued by the government. However, the usage and need of block chain technologies is not discouraged and will be looked upon case by case, which is a positive sign. cryptocurrency which is powered by Bitcoin is the digital currency that has raised quite a buzz in the investment market. According to reports, several banks posses frozen account cryptocurrencies in India while ROC (Registrar of Companies) has stopped companies to act in such exchanges. The underlying assets of cryptocurrencies have been volatile with heavy price fluctuations. The roots of the cryptocurrencies and the related transactions are not extravagantly transparent making them more questionable. Hackers are gaining most out of this scenario as the difficulty of tracing the roots of accounts and transactions are very high. There have been several instances where the accounts of the investors have been prone to hacker attacks and there's no established mechanism to revive the accounts from the hackers. The vulnerabilities of losing the money invested in these accounts is extremely high as there are no pre conceived notions to revive the hacker's attack, paving them ways to swag the wealth.
Samay Kohli, Group CEO, GreyOrange: We are glad to see the government’s increased focus on Digital India. With the budgets for the initiative doubled this year, it is set to be one of the key drivers of India’s economic growth. The Union Budget for 2018-19 has laid a strong emphasis on emerging technologies, such as Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Big Data and IoT, which we believe, is an important step towards fostering innovation in the country. This would also help in creating jobs, improving the quality of education and healthcare. The announcement of a national program directed towards research and development of AI and Machine Learning, as well as efforts towards exploring Blockchain technology, are the testimony to the fact that India is taking significant steps to gain a rightful place on the global technology map.
 Chanda Kochhar, MD and CEO, ICICI Bank: The Union Budget 2018-19 has done a commendable job in holistically addressing the various priorities of the Indian economy. It has addressed social sector priorities and charted out a clear plan to boost infrastructure, while maintaining fiscal discipline.The wide ranging measures announced for various segments of the rural economy will boost income levels and create gainful & sustainable employment. This in turn will help to increase consumption levels in the economy.The far reaching National Health Protection Scheme, which will be the largest of its kind in the world, along with measures taken to enhance education, skilling and research & development are indeed welcome steps.
Brijesh Lohia, Managing Director of Global Ocean Group: With the government outlining infrastructure as one of the focus areas of budget 2018-19, augurs good for the logistics industry, as a well-connected country will give a boost to this industry and help take us to the next level of development. Infrastructure is the lifeline for logistics industry and the focus on rural infrastructure, roads, railways, development of highways, agriculture will help in the growth of logistics sector and attract more business.
Connectivity is still a big issue in rural areas and it feels good to see that this has been addressed in this year’s Budget. The allocation of Rs. 500 crore for the development of agri-infrastructure called Operation Green, will boost the logistics sector and facilitate development of cold chains and other hard infrastructure.
Shrenik Bhayani, GM, Kaspersky Lab (South Asia): The aim to setup 5 lakh hotspots is a great step, which also calls the need for being alert on the cybersecurity front. People need to be educated about antivirus solutions and be made aware about not falling for phishing attacks. The blockchain can be an effective technology and I feel that exploring Block Chain Technology for payments is a brave step taken by the government. I am excited for the development of this remarkable and useful technology in our country, as it is in fact increasingly being implemented by a vast number of industries. At the same time, it can be an attractive target for cybercriminals. Some cyberthreats have been inherited from e-payments, such as changing the address of the destination wallet address during transactions and stealing an electronic wallet, among other things. Therefore, we should remain vigilant to stay secure.
Deepak Mittal, CEO, TO THE NEW: The Union Budget 2018 provides a great push towards technology adoption with an increase in investments towards research in new areas such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, and robotics. It is good to see the focus increasing on leveraging best-in-class technologies such as Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence to strengthen the country’s cybersecurity and use digital technologies to improve the overall quality of education in India.
Jay Chen, CEO, Huawei Telecommunications India: We applaud the forward looking Union Budget 2018 where the Hon’ble Government is extensively focusing on digitalization with further support to initiatives like Digital India, Smart Cities, Swachh Bharat among others. The Union Budget laid down plans to connect additional 1.5lakh gram panchayats with fibre optic networks under the BharatNet. This will create access and affordability and will help in bridging the digital divide even further.
Priti Rathi Gupta, Managing Director, and Promoter at Anand Rathi Share & Stock Brokers: The capital markets will undergo some pain due to the LTCG being levied, but I see no major long-term effects as Equities remain to be the most attractive asset class in the coming years too. LTCG was removed when Securities Transaction Tax was levied, hence STT should have been reviewed/removed. Gold monetization and strengthening E-nam and agriculture markets, both spot and futures will be a big boost to the commodity markets.
 Albinder Dhindsa, Co-Founder and CEO, Grofers: This year’s Union Budget laid  a strong focus on inclusive development and sustained economic growth. The measures introduced to bolster fields such as agriculture, infrastructure, MSMEs, youth and rural economy, are commendable. The growth focus around ease of living is laudable, and we are hopeful that this will anchor the future growth of the Indian economy and its citizens. 
Vivek Agarwal, Co-founder, M-tech Informatics Ltd: The Union Budget 2018 is a growth oriented budget with enormous push for health, agriculture, education and infrastructure, which we believe will usher in healthy economic growth in the years to come. Speaking specifically of mobile phone industry, we are glad that our demand of increasing customs duty on mobile phone CBU [completely built units] imports to 20 % from the existing 15 % has been met. This will prevent dumping of phones in the Indian market,  boost domestic manufacturing and provide a level playing field to home grown brands. The announcement is in line with the objectives of the Make in India initiative.
Sahil Chopra, CEO and Founder, iCubesWire: This year the allocation to Digital India Scheme has been doubled to INR 3073Cr which is a worthwhile move for the industry as a whole. Not only that, with the onset of fast-paced technology & Artificial Intelligence shaping the new segment of digital World, NITI Aayog will establish a national programme for Artificial intelligence. This is a clap-worthy reform which will help organizations diversifying with AI to have a wider scope with vast awareness among everyone.  For a higher internet penetration, 5 Lakh wi-fi hotspots will be set up in rural areas, which again is beneficial for the rural dwellers. The need to eliminate cryptocurrencies which are funding illegitimate transactions was also mentioned. 
Nikhil Rungta, MD, Intuit India: We are delighted about the recognition from the government, MSME’s are indeed a major engine of growth and employment generation. This budget not only provides small and medium enterprises easier access to their working capital requirements but also highlights  the importance of the role of online fintech lending companies. In the last year, while GST has been hailed as a much-needed overhaul of the indirect tax system, many small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) across sectors - services and product alike - are still adapting to the new tax regime .
 Mitesh Shah, Head of Finance, BookMyShow:  Increasing allocation for digital India and the overall strong thrust on digitalization is a welcome step. Initiatives such as High speed connectivity and Wi-Fi access to 5 Cr rural citizens and tax disallowance on cash expenditures above Rs. 10,000 for all entities now also give digital movement a great push and will benefit internet businesses.  However, some more direct incentives for promoting digital ecosystem in form of lower MDR or cashbacks would have been welcomed by online platforms as well as merchants.
Vinay Singhal, Co-Founder & CEO, WittyFeed: Hopes were high that the budget would be made on the lines to achieve Mission 2020. While we have seen some good things like free medical care, women empowerment, and digital education. However, the middle class seems to be ignored in all of this. There are no rate cuts or slab adjustments to reduce tax liability. And by saying that government will explore BlockChain Technology and discourage crypto-currency, what we fail to realize is that our position in the global market will be hampered.
Sunil Jose, SVP and Country Leader, Salesforce India: The clear winners are insurance and healthcare which will be transformed with the progressive vision of the government, in the coming years. The doubling of the allocation to the Digital India programme for 2018 -19 is a catalyst for investment in the technology sector and in employment generation. As we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we are delighted to see the government take cognizance of the potential of artificial intelligence,  digital manufacturing, big data analysis and internet of things fueling investments in research and skilling of these sectors. The proposal to setup five lakh wi-fi hotspots which will provide internet access to five crore rural citizens only means that more customers will hop-on to the digital bandwagon, making it an imperative for businesses to provide enhanced customer experiences. Globally, all eyes will continue to be on India and we look forward being a part of this journey.
Arvind Bali, Videocon Telecom : The budget has a clear push towards socio-economic growth of the country with aggressive focus on agriculture, education, rural economy, healthcare and infrastructure. The allocations aimed towards rural India will increase consumption which boost industries and help in nation building.  Focus on digital solution and new age technologies is a big push in terms of creating the right environment for the next level of development in India. The increase in customs duty will further boost 'Make in India'.
Rajesh Maurya, Regional Vice President, India & SAARC, Fortinet: The Wi-Fi hotspots, New Smart Cities, internet connectivity, investments in Telecom infrastructure and Digital India expansion is going to witness proliferation of online devices, and the hyperconnectivity towards which India is heading needs to be secured with a very sound cybersecurity policy. Data Protection is a top priority, and a security approach that leverages the power of automation, integration, and strategic segmentation backed by threat intelligence are critical to the implementation of the above programs.
Keshab Panda, CEO L&T Technology Services: We welcome the government’s thrust on encouraging R&D pursuits in the areas of AI, machine learning, robotics and edge analytics. This move will further leapfrog the innovations in this space that is significantly driven by Indian companies and will place the country at the centre of global digital transformation focus.
 Srinivas Rao – CEO & Co-Founder of Aujas Networks : Lowering tax on MSMEs is a welcome step that would provide a much-needed fillip by creation of jobs and more revenues for the country. The Government’s bold move on the digital India program by seeding in more investments and implementing various digital projects like Artificial intelligence, digitization of rural areas and education sector will enable a true connected India. As our economy is becoming digital day by day, there is a need to consider cybersecurity as a top concern. Though the proposed Budget has not specifically addressed imminent challenges affecting privacy and data security concerning to enterprises and citizens today but the push for exploring blockchain technology will enable a strong security framework.
Harshvardhan Lunia, CEO & Co-Founder, Lendingkart Group: The programs that have been announced for the rural, agriculture, healthcare and manufacturing sectors will drive essential growth. The continued focus on MSME’s with the allocation of over 3000 crores for credit support along with backing the efforts of FinTech companies’ will help in creating more avenues of financial inclusion for the underserved segment. Bank recapitalisation will also sustain these efforts by adding much-needed credit in the market. The emphasis on complementing existing digitisation efforts by connecting villages through high speed optic fibre networks and building Wi-Fi spots will give an impetus to upcoming digital sectors that rely heavily on connectivity like FinTech and Edtech.
Kishalay Ray, President- Consumer Electronics Division, Sharp Business System: Overall the entire Budget was wonderfully balanced. However, Air pollution has caught the eye of the Budget for the FY 18-19, as it was a major reason of concern in the year gone by. This has definitely proved how much attention and support is required on this issue. Air contamination became a major concern of the nation due to the rapidly rising health and respiratory problems it caused. Balancing Populism with Progress, our Financial Minister also touched upon some areas like Rural with ultra-modern smart cities, Ecology and environment with Industry & Commerce.
Vijay Thadani, VC and MD, NIIT Ltd: Among the positive steps for the education sector, Revitalising Infrastructure and Systems in Education (RISE) by 2022 with a total investment of Rs 1,00,000 crore in next four years stood out. The fact that the Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) would be suitably structured for funding this initiative is a much appreciated provision. Increase in digital intensity in education and envisaging move from ‘‘black board’’ to ‘‘digital board’’; using technology to upgrade the skills of teachers through a digital portal "Diksha"; national program on artificial intelligence under the aegis of Niti Aayog; mission on Cyber Physical Systems and a test bed for 5G technology at IIT Chennai were among the other encouraging initiatives.
Amit Shukla, CEO, Budget 2018 is heavily inclined towards reducing rural stress that has been steadily building up due to low crop prices, high input costs and crop losses due to unforeseen events. Introducing assured MSP of 1.5x of cost of production for all Kharif crops will help farmers get decent remunerations for their efforts. It may however have inflationary effect in food prices in retail and may correspondingly affect food affordability and nutritional access. Rs 3 lac Cr allocation to Mudra Scheme, though less than Rs 4.6 lac Cr loan disbursement in FY17 and reduction of corporate tax for firms with less than 250 Cr turnover in FY17 is a welcome step. Rural livelihood and skill development has been accorded importance.
 Kaushik Murali, President, Sankara Eye Hospital: Healthcare sector has been a clear priority in budget 2018. There has been a good balance on short term respite from out of pocket health costs & building capacity in the long term.The Ayushman Bharath the scheme to provide health cover to 50 crore Indians of Rs 5 lakhs is simply audacious in scale and reach and could be a game changer. Healthcare needs to be universally accessible and also start from preventive care. This should be taken care of with the proposed 1.5 lakh health & wellness centres.
Thiru Vengadam Regional Vice President India, Epicor Software Corporation: The budget proposes bringing down the corporate tax for firms that reported turnover up to Rs 250 crore , thereby reducing tax burden on MSMEs. Further the government has allocated funds for 2018-19 for credit support to MSMEs.
For MSMEs technology is an enabler for business growth and technology adoption is seen as  a top priority. However, MSMEs are often unable to utilize the opportunities available through technology due to lack of working capital finance. The budgetproposals of access to credit  and tax breaks to MSMEs will help reduce capital constraints  and encourage investment in IT solutions such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) to help them work smarter, operate more efficiently and be innovative.
Rajan Navani, Vice Chairman and Managing Director of Jetsynthesys: Budget 2018 demonstrated the commitment of the government on Digital India by doubling allocation, developing an increased focus on new technologies including artificial Intelligence and blockchain. The contribution of new age businesses and technologies over the next decade to GDP will be significant as will be the ability of Indian companies to be part of global supply chains through value added technologies. All of this will result in more entrepreneurs and additional jobs that will drive the future of a New India.
Gaurav Hinduja Cofounder, Capital Float: The Government and the Finance Ministry continues to identify the MSME sector as being critical towards increasing GDP & employment. The recapitalization of the PSU banks up to Rs 5 lakh crores and allocation of Rs 3 lakh crores in MUDRA loans ensures a higher availability of formal finance for credit-starved MSME segments. Another huge step towards boosting the growth prospects of MSMEs is the reduction of corporate tax to 25% for enterprises with a turnover of up to Rs 250 crores. 
KK Mookhey, CEO & Founder of Network Intelligence: The move to make cryptocurrencies illegal is a major announcement; it is likely to create a negative impact on the price of these currencies, especially Bitcoin. A better idea may have been to come out with some sort of a regulatory framework around cryptocurrencies. On the other hand, the point raised by the Finance Minister about exploring the usage of blockchain technology for payments is a very good initiative. It will support homegrown technologies who have already invested in the technology and will attract new investments in this technology.
Hitesh Doshi, Chairman and Managing Director, Waaree Group:  With the elimination of customs duty on solar tempered glass, manufacturing solar panels will become relatively cheaper. Being a leading energy company, we are also looking forward to help the Government fulfill its ambitious goal of providing free electricity to 4 crore rural households, in addition to creating more employment opportunities as part of the Indian manufacturing sector. We also applaud the Government for coming in acknowledging the role of MSMEs with the announcement of the reduced rate of 25% for companies with a turnover of up to INR 250 crore in 2016 – 2017. We hope this results in increase of skill development, and adaptation of new technologies and innovations across industries.
Bhavish Aggarwal, Co-founder & CEO, Ola: The budget is progressive, balanced and forward looking with a well-defined focus on Digital India. Ola is already a partner to some of the Digital India initiatives. Allocation of INR 3073 crore towards Digital India is a significant leg-up. The thrust provided to tourism with the  commitment of creating iconic tourist spots, investment earmarked for transport infrastructure, progress made on Smart Cities and creation of more than 5 lakh Wi-Fi hotspots in India is truly welcome. Overall, it is a balanced budget which will further strengthen India’s position as a leading world economy with good livability index and business environment.
Kiran Deshpande, Co-founder & President - Mojo Networks: The government’s budget for 2018-19 has a special emphasis on increasing digital intensity in education. Wireless communication technology has a big role to play in enhancing interactivity in at all levels and in creating smart campuses. Additionally, providing WiFi in trains, increasing broadband access through WiFi hotspots to 5 crore rural citizens and connecting 1.5 lakh more villages under BharatNet initiative is a step forward towards digitizing India.” He further added, “Also reduction in corporate tax to 25% is a huge boost and will benefit the entire micro and small and medium enterprises which amount for 99% of the companies filing their tax returns.
Pranav Roach, President, Hughes Network Systems: The Finance Minister announced during the budget speech that one lakh Gram Panchayats have already been connected thanks to expansion of the network but this also highlights the fact that more than 2 lakh villages are still awaiting access to high-speed broadband. Internet connectivity is undeniably a great enabler and also a medium through which maximum governance with minimum government can be implemented. Satellite broadband technology can greatly help connect the under-served and un-served regions. We request the government to use high throughput satellite connectivity we're proposing to bring.
Sanjay Kalirona, CEO & Director, COMIO Smartphones: The Union Budget-2018 is a positive step towards India’s growing smartphone market. The increased custom duty on mobiles will further boost local manufacturing and will be the essential push to create a manufacturing eco-system as well as boost local manufacturing of components & accessories in India. Smartphones play a crucial role in today’s times and this budget is an extension to the ‘Digital India’ initiative.  With focus on development, it is a progressive budget and is a stepping stone to India’s growth story.
Suman Reddy, MD, Pegasystems India: The 2018 budget brings us one step closer towards the realisation of Digital India with allocated budgets for R&D, training and skilling in AI, machine learning, Robotics, and Data sciences. We welcome the government’s focus on e-governance through blockchain, digital manufacturing, IoT, quantum computing, big data and the monumental focus on digital transformation. The national program designed by Niti Aayog to boost R&D would ace India’s positioning as the centre of innovation. Broadband coverage for rural areas would certainly help reduce the digital divide. Such government initiatives would help democratize AI for citizens. Necessitating skilling of IT employees as they have been lately burdened with the pressure of feeling redundant, will go a long way in curbing job loss by creating and defining new roles for employees. Government’s proposal to invest INR 1 trillion to develop premium education infrastructure over the next four years is a welcome move towards ensuring quality education. Growth of fintech companies and recent policies of ease of doing business will boost entrepreneurship. India is at the cusp of digital transformation and establishment of centres of excellence will augment its positioning globally.
MORE REACTIONS FOLLOW in a separate piece