The Union Budget 2017-18 presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is a positive budget in my opinion. There are quite a few high points like the focus on digital economy, clear path to job generation, increase in innovation in education sector, and for the first time ever, political funding as a topic in budget presentation. A ‘progressive budget’ without a doubt. There were a few expected announcements too, like the continuation of steps from demonetization by rewarding honest tax players and a conscious effort to enhance the tax payer’s bracket. While more clarity is awaited on GST, it suffices to say that the government hasn’t tinkered with indirect taxes as we await GST.
With ambitious targets like 100 per cent rural electrification by next year, there is a lot of momentum now for rural energy startups. Clean tech and clean energy startups, especially those focussed on solar power, also stand to gain from the Finance Minister’s emphasis on increasing solar power capacity.
Rural India in general is an extremely fertile space for entrepreneurship and startups. I am bullish on allied rural sectors such as healthcare and education. For instance, the announcement of Mahila Shakti Kendras to boost digital literacy and skill development among women in rural areas can lead to many startups and boost the potential of already existing initiatives.
Edutech startups have also received plenty of good news in the budget. This could incentivise many startups to collaborate with the Government to boost skill development, employability and better curriculums.
The decision to lower the corporate tax for SMEs to Rs 50 cr is a step in the right direction and would help the SME world which constitutes 97 per cent of corporate India.
While there was some concern after the announcement of demonetization that the sections of the population without debit cards or with scarce access to digital transactions may be affected, the introduction of AadhaarPay card should go a long way in easing such concerns. The announcement of cyber security measures in the financial sector will also secure startups and their services in the digital payment space. The removal of charges on card payments and other digital transactions should incentivise the transition further. Startups in the digital transactions of the sector could find opportunities to collaborate with the government on introducing more secure transactions for citizens.
In fact, I think there’s an incentive for startups in almost all the budget priorities. Overall, I would say this has been positive with regard to the participation of startups in the economy, and also opens up collaboration opportunities with the government.
Bhaskar Mazumdar, Managing Partner, Unicorn India Ventures