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By Sachin Bansal, Co-Founder, Flipkart
The Budget this year was as eagerly awaited as in previous years, despite the fact that with the GST, indirect taxes – a major portion of prior budgets – were outside its purview. The demands from various constituencies were unusually steep on this budget. Yet, the Finance Minister has delivered a balanced Budget that manages both fiscal prudence and the required investment focus on future growth pillars.
The biggest positive, in my view, was that India today joined a select group of countries that formally recognise the need for state policy and support for new-age technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, big data etc. It is my firm belief that AI will become a significant driving force of innovation and change across varied sectors in the Indian economy. For that to happen, we need AI For India, meaning we need our own homegrown AI solutions that solve local problems.
The announcement that the NITI Aayog would establish a national programme to direct India’s efforts in the RD and application of AI, machine learning is a major step in making us a global leader in this space.
The other welcome surprise in this year’s Budget was the focus on revitalising and upgrading the education sector. The recognition by the FM that technology will be the biggest driver in improving the quality of education, and the outlay of Rs 1 lakh crore will go a long way in improving the quality of India’s human resources. It is also heartening to see the government push ahead with its Digital India policy by allocating double the allocated amount towards the scheme this year. The proposal to build 5 lakh WiFi HotSpots for broadband access to 5 crore rural citizens will dramatically improve internet penetration. Infrastructure, as expected, got a major shot in the arm.
The proposal to build 35,000 km roads under phase I of Bharatmala project, massive allocations for urban rail systems in Mumbai and Bengaluru, and a 5 times increase in airport capacity will prove to be major growth catalysts.
Taken together with the cut in the corporate tax rate for all MSMEs to 25%, the national health protection scheme, and a stable fiscal deficit target, this Budget has balanced the aspirations of investors, businesses as well as common citizens. Still, for all the right buttons it presses, the Budget misses on a few areas such as the startup ecosystem, driven by internetbased companies, which currently lacks policy focus. By ensuring our homegrown internet companies have a business-friendly environment, we can foster a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation that not only improves people’s lives but also generates long-term employment.