Decoding Budget 2020: Nirmala Sitharaman draws roadmap to make India a deep-tech nation

Tech startups and founders welcome Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s allocation to the national optical fibre network and the national mission on quantum tech, saying the move will help build Digital India.

The Narendra Modi-led government has woken up to the fact that new-age technologies, including artificial intelligence, IoT, quantum tech, and data analytics, will propel India into the future.

Reason enough for Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to single out emerging technologies across verticals for special attention during her Budget 2020 speech. In a flurry of announcements, she said the Indian government was looking to promote technological adoption, and make the country a pioneer.

The finance minister allocated Rs 6,000 crore to the national optical fibre network, BharatNet, and Rs 8,000 crore to the national mission on quantum tech. She also announced that a policy for setting up data centre parks across the country to build data connectivity would also be announced soon.

These are huge first steps towards the success of the Digital India initiative. The moves are expected to increase the adoption of technologies of the future, including IoT, analytics, and AI, leading to an unprecedented amount of data generation.

Sandeep Bhambure, Vice President and MD, India and SAARC, at Veeam Software, said,

“Data management and protection will play a key role to safeguard citizens’ data from cyber-breaches. Additionally, the implementation of intelligent data management platforms will help achieve positive outcomes from the data.”

Interestingly, apart from the data aspect, the Indian government has also looked at the fragmentation associated with managing supply chains in the country.

Vartul Jain, SVP and Chief Financial Officer at warehousing process automation startup GreyOrange, said, "Measures such as geo-tag warehouses and establishment of efficient facilities at the block level will be key to ensure zero wastage and optimise resource allocation. We are now excited to witness how the industry makes the most of these initiatives for entrepreneurship and drives innovation to further the spirit of India Vision 2025."

Data privacy and security

The finance minister also quoted the popular phrase “data is the new oil” in her speech, recognising that big data, analytics, and fintech were changing the way India lives.

Apart from plans to empower one lakh gram panchayats with optical fibre network, Nirmala Sitharaman also announced that a digital platform would be set up for seamless application submission for intellectual properties (IPs).

The industry has been all praise for the initiative.

Venkatraman Swaminathan, Vice President and Country GM at Schneider Electric IT Business India, said,

“Localised data centres that can be accessed and controlled from a centralised system will significantly improve data privacy and security, allowing free flow of data within borders. We, at Schneider Electric, shall be happy to partner with the government in furthering this initiative.”

In the July 2019 Budget session, the finance minister had said that the government had recognised and addressed the explosion of data and the corresponding demand in employment. The Cabinet had pledged to train 10 million youth in industry-relevant skills in AI, IoT, 3D printing, robotics and big data.

Deepak Kagliwal, Director and Head of Sales and Marketing at Blazeclan Technologies, said, "As a public cloud service provider, Blazeclan is encouraged by the government’s recognition of the potential of big data and analytics. We align with the finance minister’s analogy of calling data the new oil as we believe that data lies at the core of ensuring scalability of businesses, regardless of the industry.”

The VC side also was happy with the announcements.

Pankaj Makkar, Managing Director at Bertelsmann India Investments, said,

“Budget 2020 takes several progressive steps towards economic growth recovery by incentivising entrepreneurship through formulation of an investment clearance and advisory cell, allocating funds for education and healthcare, and promoting new-age technologies such as AI and IoT.”

Focus on deep tech

Amit Sharma, CEO and Cofounder of Retail OS company ShopX, said he was excited about the support for digital infrastructure buildout.

“Support for standard QR codes, AI, and other deep tech is a good sign. As an engineering-led company, ShopX deeply believes in the Indian government's progressive digital infrastructure policies.”

In her speech, Sitharaman had said that the Budget would focus on building emerging technologies to drive financial inclusion in the country. Knowledge transfer centres are expected to be set up across new emerging sectors to facilitate this.

While quantum technologies are opening new frontiers in cybersecurity and for internet users, a total outlay of Rs 8,000 crore has been allocated for over five years, for the national mission on quantum technology and applications. This will make India the third biggest pioneer in the world, with respect to the adoption of emerging technologies, after the US and China.

KT Prasad, Country Sales Director, Zendesk India, said his company was happy to see the push for adopting AI and ML, particularly in the healthcare sector, as it would boost access to services and quality of care for more people. He said a move like this would drive the economy’s growth.

“It is also interesting to see that the government has invested Rs. 8,000 crore in the quantum technologies mission, which will ensure India remains a key global technology player. This move aligns and propels India into the future, with an eye on data, communications, cybersecurity, and technology. This is particularly encouraging from Zendesk’s position as a global SaaS company,” Prasad said.

(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)


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