Business Today

'Expect forward looking policies that implement a rational tax policy across India'

India is no longer a minor player on the world stage and decisions from the budget will have significant impact on our citizens, our businesses, our international transactions reputation.

Umeed Kothavala        Last Updated: January 31, 2017  | 15:57 IST
'Expect forward looking policies that implement a rational tax policy across India'
Umeed Kothavala, CEO of Extentia Information Technology

What an interesting and unique 2016 we've had! Its arguably possible that we will look back at 2016 as the year that we collectively redefined our expectations from governments, from organizations, from businesses, and of human behavior. 2016 may have reminded us that in a flattening world full of opportunity and growth there remains a disenfranchised majority - one that will be heard by shouting out above the global din that surrounds us.

From Brexit, to the Syrian crisis, to the US elections we've seen significant action and decisions that appear to go against the grain. Yet, for an otherwise silent majority, it may have been the first occasion to draw attention. In a borderless economy, it may make little sense for the UK to seek independence from the EU; the US elections were a shoo-in for the Democrats until they weren't; and despite an outpouring of sympathy and outrage, it seems there are few new homes for the Syrian refugees.

Social Media and technology played an unprecedented role in the stories of 2016. Giving every connected citizen a front row seat to performances as they played out worldwide. Leaving otherwise clueless readers to differentiate between real and fake news. And overwhelming us with more updates, memes, and pressure to "Like" and "Share" than is possibly healthy!

And India was no stranger to the uniqueness that 2016 was. An increasingly polarized electorate, a taste of Olympic and Paralympic success, being first to patent a Zika virus, to unveiling the world's largest solar power plant. And, of course, for a post-Diwali gift, we had the unforeseen demonetization kick off in November.  With fervor, we tried to unearth black money (and discovered - surprisingly? - that most of it was with the politically connected), move to a cashless economy and drive the adoption of online and digital payment systems.

And that story of demonetization perhaps best lays the foundation for what we expect from a 2017 budget. While overnight announcements on monetary policy may make for headlines, we look forward to a government that is capable of crafting and sustaining a stable long-term fiscal policy. More than anything an energetic, enthused and inspired India is looking for the opportunity that stability and sound infrastructure facilitate. Business growth is best driven by a predictable policy framework that encourages entrepreneurship, development, investments into research and the future, rationalized tax structures and an educated, mobile and engaged workforce.

India is no longer a minor player on the world stage and decisions from the budget will have significant impact on our citizens, our businesses, our international transactions reputation. Will India be a global growth engine for 2017 and beyond? Or a misfiring engine caught up in her own rhetoric? With apparent support across the country, we are well poised to make the decisions - hard and easy; popular and otherwise - to lay the foundation for an India that will take her place in the world - as a dependable trading partner; welcoming international interest and trade; and built on a culture and ideology that sits comfortably with bedrock ideas of civility, family and respect.

The world of technology is going to see more growth and transformation in 2017. To take advantage of that we look for government policy that encourages businesses to grow in new directions, to take risks, to welcome challenges with minimal red-tape and interference.  We are uniquely poised to welcome a transparent government, empowered citizens, and an efficient and supportive bureaucracy. Government investment into infrastructure - communications, transportation, energy, etc. - and education is to be welcomed. We want forward looking policies that implement a fair and rational tax policy across the breadth of the country. Creating conditions conducive to a truly cashless economy, Smart Cities, and Make in India will not only benefit the country and citizens but will also reflect the government's seriousness behind such bold initiatives.

Technology is going to be driven byIoT, data science, machine learning, automation, augmented reality, virtual reality, wearables, mobility and artificial intelligence - and this creates incredible opportunities for India's next generation of knowledge workers. There has never been such dramatic change since the World Wide Web was invented and adopted, and we're still at the beginning of the next wave. The budget should drive focused investment and research by industry in these fields.

Lastly, the country needs minimal governmental interference to push investment and business growth, and we need a stable and predictable environment to make it all happen. As a maturing economy, we need to minimize disruptions, pandering to the fringes and populist movements that hurt the country's future. The international community should see India as a safe, accessible and secure destination at a time of worldwide tumult.

Indian industry - particularly technology - looks forward to a positive Union Budget 2017-18 that wows industry, consumers, and an international audience. We - the Indian people - want to feel assured, secure, heartened, and optimistic.

The writer is CEO of Extentia Information Technology

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