A Budget for Digital India: Focused on capacity, capability, competitiveness
Over the last month, almost every second headline mentions global economic uncertainty and recessionary headwinds. But India has emerged as a bright spot and in the weeks and months ahead, the country is expected to be the driver of the global economy. Amidst such high tides, this budget has set the unique path for India to emerge as a stronger engine for global growth. One that is focused on ensuring Digital For Development.
What stood out for me was that the intent of each initiative proposed was earnest, a clear articulation of the vision of a tech-empowered India, and the approach disciplined and imaginative. If executed well, these initiatives will propel the trust index of India’s competitive agility and the country as a strong inclusive, and responsible nation.
Today, as we realize the collective vision of India’s Techade, the key point of consideration should be the design principles that would ultimately shape this decade from potential to actionable tech impact. These include – Digital Transformation of companies and countries in a society where every process and business becomes digital; Energy Transformation and the transition to Net Zero; and Supply Chain Transformation, channeling our energies to grow the domestic supply chain ecosystem to build resilience. I think that this budget has struck the perfect symphony in outlining how India is at a relatively bright spot to not just lead, but build its advantage in all three areas.
Since 2014, the government's efforts have ensured all citizens a better quality of living and a life of dignity. This is reflected in over 76% increase in digital payment transactions and 91% increase in value in 2022, and we saw 7400 crore digital payments of Rs 126 lakh crore through UPI in 2022. Extending the DPI network for Agriculture, will not only enable inclusive, farmer-centric solutions through relevant information services but will also spur the growth of the agri-tech industry. The focus on building capacity, capability, and resultant growth through key announcements such as Centres of Excellence to develop AI for India, Agritech Accelerator Fund, and effective development of 5G services, is expected to give a fillip to the country’s innovation quotient and instill the right confidence on startups to innovate for last-mile impact.
Another notable highlight of the budget speech was the establishment of Data Embassies in India. It’s a very bold aspiration and will require the implementation of a very robust and fair data governance framework. But, if done right, this can significantly strengthen India’s trust factor globally.
The growth of any nation is closely intertwined with the growth of its digital talent. The expansion of opportunities through initiatives on skills & apprenticeship backed by the National Apprenticeship Policy, and the focus on skill development on new age Industry 4.0 courses will be critical to strengthening India’s competitive advantage and position as the Digital Talent Nation.
Green Growth as the Finance Minister articulated is an area where India has articulated a bold vision and needs all stakeholders to come together in making this real. The focus on green fuel, green energy, green farming, green mobility, and policies for efficient energy use, acknowledges the government’s commitment and efforts towards achieving Net Zero by 2070, while at the same time encouraging businesses to adopt this as a shared responsibility.
Last but not the least, I want to touch on start-ups, which was a key focus of our budget recommendations. Thrilled to see that our recommendation to allow new start-ups to be able to participate in the tax holiday scheme and to allow eligible startups to carry forward and set off losses incurred during 10 years of incorporation has been accepted. However, one key area that was left behind in the budget was the ask for ESOPs. Making the deferment of the time of payment of tax on ESOP available to the employees of more start-ups can significantly help founders not just attract but retain good talent. We will continue to work and engage with the government outside the budget process to ensure enhanced ease of doing business with an accelerated pace of growth for the ecosystem.
Budget 2023 could undoubtedly be termed as a blueprint for India@100 with strong intent and commitment. Now, the focus has to be on ensuring flawless implementation above all to build a truly inclusive technological design— something the world will learn from us.