The Union Budget for 2018-19 has not proposed any specific measure or incentive for the $150-billion-plus Indian information technology (IT) industry but what has charmed the sector is the government’s strong intention in harnessing the latest technologies to give further impetus to the entire ecosystem. Finance minister Arun Jaitley while presenting the Budget emphasised the government’s intention to further the use of technologies such robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), digital manufacturing, Big Data analysis, quantum communication and Internet of Things (IoT). These are all new technologies which are projected to be the next frontier for the IT industry and the sector hopes that this will usher in wide-ranging changes which could result in all-round growth. “Combining cyber and physical systems has great potential to transform not only the innovation ecosystem but also our economy and the way we live. To invest in research, training and skilling in robotics, AI, digital manufacturing, Big Data analysis, quantum communication and IoT, Department of Science & Technology will launch a Mission on Cyber Physical Systems to support establishment of centres of excellence. I have doubled the allocation on Digital India programme to Rs 3,073 crore in 2018-19,” Jaitley said in his Budget speech.
It is very unlikely that any of these announcements would have a dramatic change but the government’s intention may show new vistas of growth for the IT industry in the country. B V R Mohan Reddy, founder and executive chairman, Cyient, said, “I am delighted to see the government’s increased impetus on emerging technologies to help India turn into a digital society. The investments in research, training and skilling in AI, robotics, digital manufacturing, and IoT will pay rich dividends by creating new jobs and re-skilling the existing workforce.” Similarly, the Budget also spoke about using blockchain technology, which is rapidly emerging as the new tool for financial services industry to maintain their transactions. “The government will explore use of block chain technology proactively for ushering in digital economy,” Jaitley said. On the long-term benefit from these new technologies, PN Sudarshan, partner, Deloitte India, said, “Successful absorption and indigenisation to local needs can provide the platform for scale and granularity that could bring these technologies towards mainstream adoption faster.”
The Budget has also emphasised on other key themes of the government like smart cities, digital economy and creating a paperless infrastructure. These would augur well for the country as it keeps pace with latest developments in technology. Tech Mahindra CEO C P Gurnani, said, “The steps taken to strengthen the presence of fintech in the MSME space and the plans for Smart Cities such as Smart City Command Centres, smart roads and solar power shows that we are on our way to achieving our goal of being a trillion dollar digital economy by 2025.” There are also other initiatives in the education and healthcare sector which is bound to bring long-term benefit for technology companies in India as they could emerge as valuable partners in delivering the services. The government’s ambitious plan of providing health insurance to over 10 crore families will find an able partner in the Indian tech companies as they already have the experience of providing such a service.
Sudharshan of Deloitte India, said, “National Health Protection Scheme will entail significant technology investments, which could be catered to, very efficaciously, by the Indian technology sector already proficient in addressing this segment globally.” Even Rostow Ravanan, CEO, Mindtree, said, “We are also interested to learn more about the largest social insurance scheme planned by the government—this could be a large opportunity for using technology to deliver superior outcomes.” There was also the mention in the Budget on the use of 5G technologies and creation of Wi-fi spots to extend the reach of internet connectivity. This could give an impetus to the telecom industry which would have an indirect benefit for the IT sector. Prakash Mallya, managing director, sales & marketing group, Intel India, said, “The DoT’s establishment of an indigenous 5G centre is an encouraging sign of the government’s view of collaboration with the broader technology ecosystem as the best strategy to accelerate the rollout of 5G infrastructure in India.”
However, there was also certain disappointment from the PC industry which expected certain fiscal incentives similar on the lines of the mobile handset industry which would have further encouraged the theme of ‘Make in India’. Rahul Agarwal, CEO & MD Lenovo, India, said, “We are bullish on the ‘Make in India’ initiative and expect the Budget propositions to provide an impetus to the manufacturing sector. The revision of import custom duties on smartphones from 15% to 20% will significantly strengthen the manufacturing ecosystem within the country and increase domestic value addition. However, there is an immediate need to provide similar manufacturing incentives to the PC sector and accelerate the vision of Digital India.” The Budget has spoken the right words on technology revealing its very modern outlook. The IT industry now eagerly awaits further policy pronouncements which will allow technology to reach out to a wider population.