Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman tabled the Union Budget 2022 yesterday, calling it ‘inclusive and growth-oriented’ – among other things – in her speech. But was it really? What did the corporate sector really think about the announcements with regard to CSR, inclusive development, job creation, the EV ecosystem and climate action? We asked leaders from these domains for their own take on the Union Budget 2022-23, and what it means for the near future of India Inc.
On inclusive development
Said Dhuwarakha Sriram, Chief of Generation Unlimited (YuWaah) and Youth Development and Partnerships at UNICEF, “India is one the youngest countries in the world. The Union budget’s focus on imparting supplementary education and building a resilient system for imparting education and skills is commendable. Skilling programmes will be done in partnership with the industry, and the National skills qualification framework will be aligned with the dynamic needs of society. We applaud this step and propose a case for engaging with young people as indispensable partners from the conceptualization and planning stage, putting them at the centre for developing policies aimed at them.”
She went on to add, “The government’s focus on digital equality, particularly for the most marginalized young people, such as young women, people with disabilities, and young people in rural and remote areas, is a welcome move, given the learning loss we witnessed post-pandemic. Initiatives of setting up Digital DESH ePortal, ‘One Class, One Channel’ under eVIDYA, and a Digital University will help young people access future skills and economic opportunities (jobs and entrepreneurship), contributing to nation-building and societies’ collective wellbeing. Additionally, the focus on providing access to these initiatives in Indian languages will lead to a wider, more inclusive impact.”
Said Neera Nundy, Co-Founder and Partner, Dasra, “Inclusive development as one of the 4 major pillars for the country’s progress into ‘Amrit Kaal’ is an encouraging and much-needed approach to India’s social sector that works closely with vulnerable communities, who have been hit the hardest by the pandemic. ‘Giving’ or philanthropy and social sector investments, capable of bridging the fund gap and highlighting underrepresented issues, need to adopt a G.E.D.I lens (Gender, Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity) to grant-making. Only when NGOs, closest in proximity, are empowered with agency for their continued advocacy of marginalised communities, will India rebuild with resilience, equity and dignity for a billion to thrive.”
Said Chet Jainn, Founder, Crowdera, “This budget is significant from the point of view of sustainable development. The Indian government has prepared a Sustainable plan, which aims at curtailing the infrastructural waste, which includes electronic waste, used oil waste, and toxic and hazardous waste. This will be an excellent initiative towards the Green Planet and make the environment better. Sustainable growth in each sector is the Government’s top priority, and let us all help the Govt at our level for sustainable development. FM also mentioned the green bond, accelerating green and environmentally beneficial activities. With this, the government’s aim of 175 GW of renewable energy will also be fulfilled by 2022. There was a lot of expectation from this budget for the crowdfunding industry. We hoped that the Govt would make a proper framework and regulatory policies for crowdfunding so that we will work on our full potential, however there was nothing in the 2022 Union Budget.”
Said Sushant Gupta, Founder & CEO of SG Analytics, “The Union budget 2022 is certainly growth-oriented & futuristic as it covers different facets of technology and embraces digital adoption widely. Whether it is the introduction of a New Digital Rupee or Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), legitimizing private cryptocurrencies & NFT (with 30% tax imposition on virtual assets), Digital Universities, or Digitization of Post Offices, the list is ambitious and futuristic. The thrust and focus on digital technology are certainly welcomed and appreciated. Also, very timely and heartening is the focus on inclusive development, energy transition, and climate action as three of the four pillars of development. I wholeheartedly welcome the decision regarding the provision of green jobs and the acknowledgment of new-age entrepreneurship and its drivers.”
On agriculture and precision farming
Said Deepak Yadav, Founder, GreenSat Innovation Labs, an agri-tech satellite imagery data analytics company, “The budget for 2022 has given both impetus and direction to the Agri-tech revolution, which has been gaining momentum in the country for the last few years. With the rapid penetration of technology and agriculture being the primary industry; it is encouraging to see the government take steps towards the promotion of this trend. The introduction of funding for start-ups via Nabard will help resolve the seed capital issues faced by numerous entrepreneurs. Today, data has become crucial for the success of almost every activity. In agriculture, thorough data analysis and data-based predictions are critical aspects that aid in improving the income of farmers, yield quantity, and quality of output. The announcement of steps like stress on Digital land records, India’s own digital currency, and increased usage of drones will establish a Big Data culture in the agriculture sector. These measures will make it easier for tech-backed agri-tech companies to reach out to an expanded set of farmers. With this budget, one can say that the gap between Indian farmers and prosperity is getting bridged with each passing day.”
Dr. Neelam Gupta President & CEO of AROH Foundation, “With nearly flat allocation of budget to agriculture at Rs 1,24,000 crore from Rs 1,23,017 crore in FY22, the key highlights were creation of NABARD Agritech Fund for ‘Kisan Drones’ for assessment and promotion of millets, Chemical free, Natural farming through all means during next few years. Healthcare & related Infrastructure got an allocation of Rs 64,180 to recover from the impact of the pandemic. Additionally Rs. 60,000 crore allocated to cover 3.8 crore households in 2022-23 under Har Ghar, Nal se Jal. Integrated benefits are targeted to women and children through Mission Shakti, Mission Vatsalya, Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan 2.0. Our Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman had very appropriately introduced the budget 2022 as Growth – oriented Budget with a sweeping high allocation of capital expenditure by 35.4%, with an aspiration of shooting up GDP up to 9.2% in the coming years. That is why; it seems to have more provisions for the future, than for now. This is not an agenda of merely one year’s development, but a blueprint of the country’s development in the next 25 years.”
Said RN Mohanty, CEO Sightsavers India, “Persons with disabilities have been the hardest hit by the pandemic and at times like these, inclusive budgeting was the need of the hour. The new tax relief for parents/guardian of a person with a disability is definitely a step forward towards a better and more inclusive world.”
Said Sumit Tayal, COO, GiveIndia, “Anganwadi centres have been playing a critical role in pre-school education in rural India. GiveIndia welcomes the finance minister’s announcement that two lakh anganwadis across the country will be upgraded with better infrastructure, audio-visual aids, and an improved environment for early child development. We are also happy with the revamping of Mission Poshan 2.0 to fight malnutrition with greater vigour.”
On the proposed National Tele Mental Health Programme, Dhuwarakha Sriram added, “It is another step towards helping young people thrive in the 21st century by developing emotional wellness and resilience. Aligned with the PM’s vision of a new AatmaNirbhar Bharat, young people have the potential to bring about positive change, spark innovation, drive economic growth, and create jobs of tomorrow. The time to support and nurture young India is now. How we meet the needs and aspirations of young people will define our shared future.”
Said Shilpa Khanna Thakkar, CEO, Chicnutrix, “The Union Budget 2022-2023 is a welcome move for the start-up ecosystem. FM Nirmala Sitharaman in her budget extended the redemption of taxes from three consecutive years to further extending it by one more year which is a big boost for young start-ups in India. We really appreciate the Indian government’s continuous efforts to improve digitization and increase digital and financial inclusion in the country which are key factors leading to growth. The Government’s emphasis on ‘One Nation, One Registration’ will facilitate the ease of living & doing business in India. Besides this, the FM also announced that 25,000 compliances have been eliminated and 1,486 union laws have also been revoked which will make it easier to do business in the country. This will provide an impetus to the business economy and hence ease the process. Also, the Government has recognized the power of Nari Shakti in India and revamped the schemes like Mission Shakti, Mission Vatsalya which will benefit the women in India.”
Said Varun Khanna, Group CEO, Fullife Healthcare, “The Union budget 2022-2023 presented by the Hon’ble Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has boosted the morale of the healthcare industry. With the ongoing pandemic, it is a welcome change to see the digital emphasis on healthcare programmes and initiatives where Indians can have their own unique digital health identity and access to health facilities pan India. This attempt is a step forward to be at par with other countries. Additionally, launching a National Tele Mental Health program is much needed in a country like India which often considers the subject of mental health a taboo. In her speech, Nirmala Sitharaman also said that as many as 95% of 112 Aspirational Districts have made significant progress in health and infrastructure which shows we are on the right tracking and taking health seriously through a holistic approach.”
Said Vijayaraghavan Venugopal, CEO & Co-Founder, Fast&Up, “With the announcement to set up a National Tele Mental Health program in India, Hon’ble Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman highlighted the accentuation of mental health problems in people of all ages amid the pandemic. The stress and lifestyle adoption has definitely taken a toll on our mental as well as physical health. Commendable on the part of our government to address it with having access to quality mental health counseling and care services.”
On education and digital learning
“The COVID-induced gap in learning needs to be addressed on priority and EdTech platforms should continue to ensure that students receive uninterrupted learning in such challenging times. By providing students easy access to quality learning, this year’s budget lays a clear emphasis to reduce the gap between students in remote areas and education. Initiatives such as the ‘One Class One TV Channel’ and the E-Vidya scheme is a welcome move that will drive impact at scale and bridge the language divide amongst students from small-town India. We believe that this budget rightly aligns with our vision of democratizing education by providing students access to high quality learning, improving learning outcomes and thereby contributing to a vibrant knowledge economy,” said Vamsi Krishna, CEO & Co-Founder, Vedantu.
Said Rajeev Tiwari, Co-founder at Stemrobo Technologies, “Although what we had expected from the budget hasn’t been addressed but we should look on the positive side. The ‘One Class One TV channel’ programme of PM eVIDYA will be expanded. The government is definitely somewhere trying to mitigate the learning losses which students had to face due to Covid-induced lockdowns and the content through regional languages would circumvent the language barrier, ensuring the knowledge has no limitations. What should be noted is that the govt did emphasize on digital adoption through its E-content delivering mechanism, imparting knowledge through various mass media is something that govt should be applauded for. But it would have been great if special attention had been on the training of teachers with adequate resources and the leveraging of technology should have been more emphasized, as education is one of the important pillars for the upliftment of the society. The budget did touch some important areas but what the real picture comes out on the ground would help us to get into the crux of the issue.”
Said Yeshwanth Raj Parasmal, Co-founder of digital school 21K School, “The Finance Minister has unveiled a Budget that aims to bridge the economic gap between India and Bharat. The proposed policies are an inspiring start in what will hopefully provide stimuli for continued growth, leading us closer towards our goal of achieving sustained acceleration. I welcome the focus on digital aspects of education and creating greater access for students with structured, high-quality content. The announcement of Digital University is most welcome and in line with the trend of online schools across the country. But, it misses the opportunity to leapfrog with more significant innovation and investment for improved access, equity and affordability. The structural flaws of the education sector and problems on the ground could have been addressed. Exciting times are ahead for Digital Education.”
“We welcome the government’s thrust towards upskilling the youth and digitization in the Union Budget FY 23 announced today. New initiatives such as digital DESH e-portal for skilling, the expansion of PM’s eVIDYA scheme, and a digital university are not only innovative but also an encouraging boost to the education sector; and will provide students with equal opportunities across rural and urban regions. While we were hoping for the rationalization of 18% GST in online education services and some tax rebate online learning programs, we are excited to see the government adopt a collaborative strategy that allows world-class universities to offer courses in financial services and technology free of Indian regulations in the GIFT city. Moreover, it is heartening to see that the Budget also included steps for the empowerment of teachers, enabling them to facilitate better learning outcomes. Finally, we are thrilled about the animation, visual effects, gaming, and comics (AVGC) Taskforce, as it has the potential to create immense employment opportunities for the youth,” said Akshay Munjal, Founder & CEO, Hero Vired.
Said Sarvagya Mishra, Co-founder & Director of deeptech startup SuperBot (PinnacleWorks), “The government has insisted on the development of digital infrastructure. Especially, in the education sector, the government has realised the need for a nationwide eVidya programme and digital university. This also opens prospects for new age tech startups to collaborate and contribute in establishing a robust digital infrastructure along with the government. New businesses have been leveraging technologies like AI, machine learning and data analytics, and have presented successful implications which might come handy in enabling the national education projects.”
On skill development and job creation
Said Vishwastam Shukla, CTO at HackerEarth on Budget 2022: “The future of the world is tech-driven, and the sooner our policies align with the industry demand, the better it will be for our country’s talent pool and long-term growth. This year’s budget lays down the government’s vision in the same direction. The digital university announced by the Finance Minister has the potential to make education more accessible and democratic, and bridge class divides that exist among students from Tier 1, 2 and beyond. This ensures skill and aptitude is given priority over mere pedigree and geographical advantages.
Too often, in the developer world, it is seen that good talent falls by the wayside when compared to a good ‘resume’. A digital ecosystem for skilling and livelihood can, in theory, provide many with the access to learn coding and explore other technologies. Self-taught coders are on the rise, and comprehensive and skilling programs aligned with the industry can improve the tech talent pool across the country, helping us stay ahead. In theory, skill assessment functionality will only add to the future-readiness of the company’s youth. In practice, it will be interesting to know how the API-based skill credentials and payment layers will function. With time, the impact and effectiveness of these actions will unfold, however, I personally will have my eyes peeled for our first self-taught, digital university-certified, tech leader.”
Said Shaina Ganapathy, Head of Community Outreach, Embassy Group, “As the country’s collective attention is focused on the 2022 Budget, we at Embassy are eager to see some much-needed policies in the fields of education and health come into place. The finance minister began on a hopeful note by saying that India’s economic growth is estimated to be at 9.27% in FY22, highest among all large economies.
Considering the heightened need for more emphasis on training and skill development, we are happy to note that the government will be reorienting Skilling programs and launching a digital DESH e-portal for the skilling, upskilling and reskilling of India’s youth. With over 12 million people joining the Indian workforce annually, these measures will surely strengthen the next generation of blue and white-collar employees and contribute to the growth of the Indian economy through an upskilled workforce.”
Said Dr Manoj Singh, CEO, RUBIKA India, “Very intrigued to know about setting up of the digital university and the AVGC task force that the government has announced in the budget today. The budget certainly looks to be forward looking and promising as the AVGC (Animation, Visual Effects, Gaming and Comics) industry in India happens to be worth about 40 billion dollars today and would be growing to about 60-70 billion dollars by 2027/28. This is a very welcoming step keeping in mind the growth in AVGC industry, augmenting global demands for quality content and the current resource crunch of the trained and skilled individuals. We sincerely look forward to seeing an ecosystem being developed for the same.”
Said Ritesh Kumar, Country Lead, Wiley India said, “It is heartening to see that the government continues to place a strong emphasis on digital learning, skilling, and education. With the policies and schemes that have been proposed in the Union Budget 2022, we are expecting more robust growth in the year ahead. The government’s planned interventions aimed at establishing centers of excellence, democratizing access to education, bridging the digital divide, promoting skilling, and upskilling, and facilitating quality content and world-class education is welcoming. At Wiley, we believe that education is the key to becoming truly self-reliant (Aatmanirbhar) and that it is critical to invest in education, skilling, and lifelong learning.”
On electric mobility
Said Shubhankar Chaudhry, CEO, One Moto India, “Almost all the auto giants in India have stepped into EV manufacturing further to the launch of e-mobility mission. In fact, a number of startups have also launched electric vehicles to leverage the shifting focus towards EVs over ICE. However, creating a balance between supply and adoption was the long stalling challenge for every player. Imagine, when the consumer is ready to buy an EV but gets hesitant due to the absence of charging infrastructure. This could not have been achieved without ample government support towards creating the right infrastructure, and fueling the adoption at consumers’ end. State governments have been launching policies and subsidies to accelerate the adoption at their end. Now with the Budget announcement of battery swapping policy, and charging stations at a scale, there is hope that we will soon have a robust system to support the increasing adoption of EVs on road.”
Said Mridu Mahendra Das, Co-founder and CEO, Automovill, “The Budget just refueled the ongoing initiative with the announcement of battery swapping policy, and charging stations setup plan. The battery swapping policy will enable adoption of battery as a service. This is also expected to reduce the running cost of the vehicle. With the increasing adoption of EV there is a need for simultaneous strengthening of the support infrastructure. Like new age auto tech -service startups are upskilling and reskilling internally to support the maintenance end of it. As we have already launched India’s first learning management system for bridging the gap between skilled, semi-skilled workforce across the country in line with government vision. However, any sort of mismatch in manufacturing and post sales requirements like charging infrastructure absence would have taken away the steam of the ultimate aim of eMobility mission. Not just auto manufacturers, even auto service players will benefit from this budget.”
Said Vikash Mishra, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, MoEVing, “Electric Vehicle adoption and working towards a fossil fuel free country is at the center of India’s Budget 2022. I am happy to see the budget taking a holistic view and prioritizing battery manufacturing, charging infrastructure and vehicle adoption, across private and public sectors. We at MoEVing look forward to further building an ecosystem that can support implementation on ground across various stakeholders of the EV ecosystem, resulting in supporting this budget and accelerating adoption of EV, especially among the driver community this year.”
On climate change and renewable energy
Said Ankush Patel, Founder & CEO, Treeni Sustainability Solutions, “India has set ambitious reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Accords, and it is great to see that Climate Action is one of the four pillars in the Union Budget 2022. It is a growth-oriented and stable Budget with many positive interventions like issuing Sovereign Green Bonds, giving public funds access to climate action, enabling investors to create a responsible portfolio. Another important highlight of the announcement is encouraging the private sector to develop sustainable and innovative business models for battery and energy as a service, improving the efficiency in the EV ecosystem.”
“While EV and Solar Energy have been given a good tailwind, agro-forestry and private forests have also been given policy boost, a reassuring move toward sustainable production goals. Other positives include the action plans for a circular economy for ten industry sectors. However, the execution and infrastructure need to be built rapidly for progressive outcomes. Hopefully, this will also encourage more innovation and expansion in the industry,” added Patel.
Said Sameer Jain, Managing Director, Primus Partners, “India’s global commitment to Climate Action is highly dependent on the devolution of the action agenda to states and private sectors. The same will require investments in technology, access to green Capital and most important hard policy stands. The budget has taken the right step with respect to easing access to green finance. However, without a well-coordinated effort at state levels and institutional arrangements to monitor action, the progress will be slow.”
Said Abhishek Pathak, Founder & CEO, Greenwear, “The budget for the year 2022-23 has provided a promising start for a greener and cleaner future of our economy. Sovereign Green bonds for mobilising resources for green infrastructure will definitely add value in reducing the carbon intensity of the economy. It would have been an icing on the cake if the budget allocation in the clean energy sector would somehow be directly linked with livelihood generation at the local level. Announcement of Vibrant Village Programme and inclusion of decentralised renewable energy resources for villages located on the northern border is also a welcoming step.”
On MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises)
Said Sarosh Amaria, Managing Director, Tata Capital Financial Services Ltd., “The Government has continued its support to MSME sector with measures announced in the Budget like extension of ECLGS scheme and integration of digital portals. Higher allocation towards capital expenditure at Rs. 7.5 lac crores will aid the industry in sustaining recovery after the pandemic.”
Said Yogesh Mudras, Managing Director, Informa Markets in India, “This year, the Union Budget has been one of recovery and stabilization from the impact of COVID-19. The Budget has taken some initiatives for MSMEs and India Inc for start-ups. With a focus on contributing to the environment, chemical-free natural farming focusing on soil, biodiversity and human well-being is a welcome move. Introduction of the battery swapping policy and recognizing battery and energy as a service will help to develop charging infrastructure and increase the use of EVs in public transportation. This would motivate businesses to incorporate EVs into their fleet and create new avenues for companies to venture into the business of battery swapping. The formation of a strong charging infrastructure alongside the highways across the country would promote the use of EVs for interstate travel. An additional allocation of Rs. 19,500 crore to boost manufacturing of solar modules under the government’s flagship PLI scheme has the potential to create 60 lakh new jobs, while producing 30 lakh crore jobs during next five years.”
Said Amit Das, Co-founder and CEO of Think360.ai, a data science, and analytics company, “Overall, this budget has been quite underwhelming for a mid-size technology company like us and fell short of our expectations. There were occasional glimmers of positive change: the core banking system modernization of post offices, thereby creating transfer and interoperability between post office accounts and bank accounts; set up of 75 Digital Banking Units in 75 districts; NGDRS (National Generic Document Registration System) aiming to drive Unique Land Parcel Identification Number. These initiatives should tangibly impact financial inclusion and digital financial literacy at the grass-root level. The expansion of corpus for CGSTME and ECLGS should also provide a certain boost to MSME segments. We would have liked to see a lot more specificity in progressive AI adoption initiatives, startup benefit schemes (for fundraising, taxation, infrastructure, EODB, setting up of innovation zones that allow startups with vetted ideas access to free workspaces and infrastructure, etc.), and a progress report on how various government departments have adopted start-up innovations in their day to day initiatives.”
Said Shalu Jha, Co-founder & Director, PRandit Solution, “Despite tech-enabled development being announced as one of the key focus areas of this year’s Budget, it was disappointing to note that no major announcements were made with regards to technology proliferation and promotion in the media or media-tech segments of the country. The Budget was also mostly silent on the communications-oriented service sectors – which also shocked us. However, The FM’s announcement on the extension of existing tax benefits for startups by one more year is a welcome move and comes as a big relief for startups that are still bearing the brunt of the ongoing pandemic. I am also happy to note that the incentivization and encouragement for the digital economy continues with this year’s Budget announcements.”
Said Nishar, Founder and Chairman – Azent Overseas Education, “Start-ups have emerged as ‘drivers of growth for our economy’. This is a huge recognition for the entire Startup sector and is also a testimony that the government is bullish about the growing influence and importance of Start-up ecosystem in India. Over the past few years, the country has seen a manifold increase in successful start-ups. To encourage this influential trend, the government extended the tax incentives for three consecutive years out of ten years for eligible start-ups. This should help in accelerating the start-up wave further. It is a phenomenal development that defence specific R&D will now be opened up for industry, Startups and academia with 25% of defence R&D budget earmarked. Startups will also be promoted to facilitate ‘Drone Shakti’ through varied applications and for Drone-As-A-Service (DrAAS).
Venture Capital and Private Equity have invested more than Rs. 5.5 lakh crore last year facilitating one of the largest start-up and growth ecosystem. The announcement of an expert committee to examine and propose appropriate measures to scale up these investments signifies that the government is traveling an extra mile to fuel the Startup ecosystem.”