As India gears up to becoming ‘Digital’ and ‘Smart’, I expected this year’s union budget to provide a host of ‘incentives’ to support this objective. In that sense, I must admit that I am a bit disappointed. However, I understand that the yearly budget is not the only platform where such ‘incentives’ can be announced and I remain hopeful that this will happen sometime during the course of this year. ‘Incentives’ need not be and infect should not be in terms of subsidies or tax-breaks but rather in terms of creating an environment where companies providing or intending to provide such services can thrive and succeed. Uber and Ola have made the taxi industry smart and the ubiquitous black and yellow cabs have had to follow suit by providing an easy taxi hailing platform. The erstwhile taxi unions tried to resist by means of strikes, disruptions etc., but without any intervention by the Government, they had to finally offer competitive services. Digital wallets have made traditional banks go digital, private bus bookings have gone online, most private stores have a digital presence, and even utility bills and taxes can be paid online. The only laggards at least in a large city like Mumbai seem to be the city and government services. By making these services digital and smart, a large number of illegal touts and agents will be eliminated and the service experience can be drastically improved. I hope to hear some announcements on this front shortly.
Another welcome announcement will be in terms of cash incentives and tax breaks for clean and renewable energy sources that are truly ‘Made in India’ and not just assembled in India. Allocations to research in this field will surely yield great returns in the future. With the USA Government standing up for its manufacturers and refusing to share technology to have the same made in India, the Indian Government needs to reply in kind. And what better way than to push such technologies to be researched and made in India.”