Daily & Weekend Economic News 22-25 December 2016

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26 Dec, 2016

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Indian Economy News

December 22-25, 2016

ND has initiated a new section of daily news, where our news desk compiles the latest news on the Indian economy, to keep our readers abreast and updated on daily economic state of affairs.

The economy news compilations bring business news reports that are relevant today and tomorrow, based on the new pattern of current affairs, and for English awareness. This gives vital inputs on the various sectors of the Indian Industry and trade.

Highest ever urea production of 245 LMT occurred in the country during 2015-16

Press Information Bureau:  December 22, 2016

Following are the achievements of Department of Fertilizers, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers during the year:

Availability of Fertilizers

  • Highest ever urea production of 245 LMT occurred in the country during 2015-16 (period April, 2015 to March, 2016) – an increase of 20 LMT (approximately) in comparison to the previous year.
  • Even in the current year, during Kharif 2016 (April to September) the availability of urea was 159.10 LMT against the sales of 144.14 LMT.
  • Timely and adequate availability of fertilizers in every part of the country has been ensured through close monitoring and meticulous planning of imports.

Neem Urea Coated

Based on the CCEA decision, vide notification dated 25th May, 2015 Department of Fertilizers has made it mandatory for all the domestic producers of urea to produce 100% as Neem Coated Urea with an extra MRP of 5% (of Rs. 5360/- per MT) to be charged by the fertilizer manufacturing entities from farmers. Entire quantity of indigenously produced urea and imported urea is being neem coated w.e.f 1st September, 2015 respectively.  In order to determine the impact, Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare (DAC & FW) was entrusted to conduct a study.  DACFW has submitted an interim report prepared by Agricultural Department and Rural Transformation Centre (ADRTC).  The findings of said study are as under:

  • Improvement in soil health.
  • Reduction in costs with respect to plant protection chemicals
  • Reduction in pest and disease attack
  • An increase in yield of paddy to an extent of 5.79 per cent.
  • An increase in yield of sugancane to extent of 17.5 per cent.
  • An increase in yield of maize to the extent of 7.14 per cent.
  • An increase in yield of Soyabeen to the extent of 7.4 per cent.
  • An increase in yield Tur/Red Gram to the extent of 16.88 per cent.
  • Diversion of highly subsidized urea towards non-agricultural purposes negligible among farmers after the introduction of the mandatory policy of production and distribution of only neem coated urea.

New Urea Policy

Based on the CCEA decision, vide notification dated 25th May, 2015, the New Urea Policy-2015 (NUP-2015) has been notified by Department of Fertilizers, with the objectives of maximizing indigenous urea production; promoting energy efficiency in urea production; and rationalizing subsidy burden on the government.  It is expected to prepare the domestic urea sector to become globally competitive in terms of energy efficiency over a period of three years.  On the basis of actual energy consumption and pre-set norms, the units have been divided into three groups and revised energy consumption norms have been fixed for next three financial years and target energy norm have been fixed for 2018-19.  It will drive urea units to select better technology and different measure to reduce energy consumption.  NUP-2015 is effective from 1st June, 2015 to 31st March, 2019.  NUP-2015 has led to additional production of approximately 20 LMT from the existing plants and the total production of urea during the year 2015-16 was 244.5 LMT, i.e. the highest ever urea production in the country.

City Compost

  • The Government of India approved a policy on promotion of City Compost.  A notification conveying the approval of the Government has been issued by this Department on 10.2.2016 in which marketing development assistance of Rs. 1500/-MT has been provided for scaling up production and consumption of city compost.
  • For co-marketing of City Compost, the tagging of Cities with fertilizer marketing companies for the purpose of proper utilisation of city Compost produced in the cities has been completed as per the list provided by M/o Urban Development.
  • Compost producers vide O.M. dated 28.9.2016 issued by the Department of Fertilizers, have been allowed direct sale of city compost to farmers.
  • The required software for routing of MDA through FMS and mFMS (now iFMS) is operational.
  • A joint Committee of Joint Secretaries of Department of Fertilizers, Ministry of Urban Development, and Department of Agriculture have been set up for coordination.
  • The fertilizer Companies have adopted 190 villages for promoting the use of City Compost.
  • State level steering Committee has been constituted for promotion of City Compost.
  • During April, 2016 to November 2016, 63994 M.T of city Compost has been co-marketed.

NBS Scheme for P & K fertilizers

  • Under NBS 2015-16, the condition regarding submission of quality certificate from State Government for the claim of balance payment to the companies has been liberalised. If quality certificate from State Governments is not received within 180 days, it would be considered as deemed receipt of certificate and balance payment if subsidy would be released to the fertilizer companies.
  • Applicability of NBS rates on the closing of P&K fertilizers at the end of FY has been streamlined.
  • In order to push major policy reforms in the fertilizer sector, Department of Fertilizers, w.e.f 18.3.2016 has removed minimum capacity utilization criteria for the Single Super Phosphate (SSP) units to be eligible for the subsidy under the Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS) Scheme.

Reduction in price of P & K Fertilizers

The NBS rates are fixed based on international prices of P & K fertilizers under the NBS Scheme.  During the year 2016-17, the Government has already reduced the NBS rates taking into consideration the falling international prices of P&K fertilizers. It is observed that international prices of these fertilizers has again fallen down but this time Government has decided not to reduce NBS rates and pass on the benefit of international prices to the farmers. Accordingly, the P&K fertilizer companies have reduced the MRP of MOP, DAP and NPK by Rs. 5000/MT, Rs. 2500/MT and Rs. 1000/MT respectively in the month of June 2016 since the reasonableness of MRP is checked by the Department.

DBT in Fertilizers

Direct benefit transfer in modified from is being implemented in fertilizer sector. Department of Fertilizers has chalked out a programme to implement the DBT Pilot Project of the country in the following 16 Districts in Fertilizers Sector:

  1. Bihar                    –           Kishanganj
  2. West Bengal        –           Maldah

iii.        Madhya Pradesh  –           Hoshangabad

  1. Haryana               –           Karnal
  2.        Haryana               –           Kurukshetra
  3.       Andhra Pradesh   –           Krishna

vii.        Andhra Pradesh   –           West Godavari

viii.        Maharashtra        –           Nasik

  1. Himachal Pradesh   –           Una
  2. Kerala                   –           Kunnur
  3. Telangana            –           Rangareddy

xii.        Karnataka           –           Tumkur

xiii.        Maharashtra       –           Raigarh

xiv.        West Bengal       –           South 24 Parganas (in plac of Murshidabad)

  1. Rajasthan            –           Pali

xvi.        Gujarat               –           Narmada (in place of chotta Udepur)

To implement the DBT Pilot Project in above 16 Districts of the country, a meeting was called with the District Collectors and CMDs of leading Fertilizers companies on 07.09.2016 to chalk out a plan for installation of Standard Operating System (SoP) at retailers point and also sort out the issues pertaining to the implementation of the DBT project.  A presentation was also given to them on the sale on point of fertilizers at retailers shops. The fertilizers companies were requested PoS devises as per NIC specification in consultation with all stakeholders for implementation of the DBT in 16 Districts.  The fertilizer companies were also asked to prepare a plan for installation of PoS devices at all retailers of the country by 1st January, 2017.

Department of Fertilizers has authorized PDIL to recruit personnel for the posts of Project Manager, Technology Consultant, IES & MIS consultant and 16 District Consultant on contract basis for DBT Pilot Project in Fertilizer Sector. Department has already issued orders to M/s. PDIL for appointment of 1 Project Manager, 1 Technology Consultant and 1 IES & MIS consultant 13 District Consultant.  M/s. PDIL has appointed 13 District Consultant, 3 District Consultant of Kunnur (Kerala), Tumkur (Karnataka), Raigarh (Maharastra), Raigarh (Maharastra) have not been appointed.

Department proposed to use KYC for authentication and collecting demographic data during DBT pilot Project in the country.  Department has already made agreement with UIDAI to take services of authentication Service Agency (ASA) which are registered with UIDAI.  The agreement has also been made with CSC. All documents as desired by UIDAI have seen sent to them to get on board with UIDAI as KYC User Agency (KUA).  UIDAI has provided license key & AUA Pre-production/KUA Pre-Production access to Department of Fertilizers.

It has also been decided that based on the success of pilot Project, DBT in entire country will be rolled out by March 2018 in Phase-wise manner.

Formation of Indian Council for Fertilizer and Nutrient Research (ICFNR)

Indian Council for Fertilizer and Nutrient Research (ICFNR), an Institution exclusively devoted to promotion of research in fertilizer sector under the Department of Fertilizers, has been set up on 16.09.2016.  The ICFNR has a Governing Council under the chairmanship of Hon’ble Minister of Chemical & Fertilizers and an Executive Council under the chairmanship of Secretary (Fertilizers). The terms of reference of ICFNR are as under:-

  1. To undertake/promote research in the area of fertilizer manufacturing technology, use of raw material and innovation in fertilizer products through partnership ad collaboration with various research institutions, fertilizer industry and other stakeholders.
  2. To examine and comprehensively deliberate R&D project proposals submitted by various R&D organizations/Academic institutions, for suitable recommendations for funding.

iii.  To play a supportive role for identifying and formulating long range technology plans and working out suitable mechanism for adoption of indigenous processes.

  1. To identify and promote eco-friendly micro nutrients and pesticide coated slow release fertilizers and also to ensure reduction of Carbon Footprint of fertilizer sector and energy efficient operation.
  2. To undertake and promote research in bio fertilizer and its derivatives with appropriate coating or blending so as protect and increase soil fertility.
  3. To undertake and promote research in organic fertilizer and its derivatives with suitable coating or blending so as to protect and increase the soil fertility.

vii. To promote dissemination of information on latest developments in Fertilizer sector and also to support new ideas and changes for effecting improvements in fertilizer industry.

viii.  The centre will work in close collaboration with other research institutions/centres/institutes and will also decide and disseminate the research work already undertaken by them.

  1. To undertake all such activities which will promote the core idea of ICFNR.

Demonetisation likely to boost tax revenues, growth in future: Arvind Panagariya

Economic Times:  December 22, 2016

New Delhi: NITI Aayog vice-chairperson Arvind Panagariya expects demonetisation to bring significant tax gains going ahead, and help the economy bounce back strongly in the years ahead. He listed tax reforms and election funding as key follow-up measures to build on demonetisation in an interview with ET. Edited excerpts:

There has been a debate about short-term loss versus long-term gain from demonetisation. What is your sense, when will the economy return to normal, at least the transaction part?

Eleven out of 13 analysts and commentators have said that the growth rate in 2016-17 will drop by 1% or less. Exceptions are Dr Manmohan Singh and Ambit Capital with the former predicting at least 2% decline and the latter expecting an even larger decline. Absent data, it is difficult to say with certainty which of the two sides is right. What I can say more confidently is that we will more than recover any decline in the growth rate this year in subsequent years. Besides, we must not forget that the demonetisation is truly the first major frontal assault on black money. It sends a loud and clear signal that the prime minister is serious about combating corruption and there is not going to be any compromise on this front hereon. This is unprecedented in our post-independence history.

While digitisation has been one of the follow-up strategies to build on demonetisation, what more can be done so that formal economy rises?

First of all we have to make digital transactions a habit instead of onetime affair. Right now the shortage of cash offers an obvious reason to individuals to transact digitally but it is important that this compulsion is turned into a choice and indeed habit. But we need to do more if we are to make a major dent in future accumulation of black income. There are two ways to achieve this objective. One, bring to justice those who accumulate black income and, two, make policy changes that would discourage future accumulation of black money. Demonetisation falls in the first category of actions. To achieve the second objective, we need tax simplification, elimination of exemptions and precise stipulation of rules of taxation, so that tax officials have minimal discretion.

If you look at personal income tax and corporate tax structures, both have incentives for investments and savings. Do you think there is a merit in doing away with these kinds of incentives?

If we do away with the exemptions, tax rates can be lowered, which would on balance create greater incentive to save and invest. It will also bring larger proportion of savings into the banking system, thereby increasing the productivity of our investments.

Should we look at some other incentive structure for people to invest/save instead of tax exemptions?

If we have a simple tax system with low and stable tax rates, and continue to improve the ease of doing business to create an overall friendly, stable and credible business environment, much more investment will come. Many countries that have successfully industrialised, such as Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, have done so by being credible investment destinations. We still have multiple layers of regulation that need to be removed to make it easier to start and conduct business.

Is political funding a big elephant in the room?

To discourage the creation of black money and curb corruption, we will also need to tackle election funding. The Election Commission has just said that no anonymous donations beyond Rs 2,000 be permitted. This will be a step in the right direction and the prime minister has welcomed this suggestion. We must also move towards requiring election contributions to be made digital. There is also a proposal for state funding of elections, which may be considered.

Demonetisation has led to a kind of reset of the system. Do you think we need to rethink how we grow our economy in terms of a fiscal stimulus?

Some reset has already happened. Demonetisation will likely bring significant gains in tax revenues, which may allow the government to raise expenditure without violating any of its fiscal goals. We have enormous need to build roads, railways, and waterways speedily.

Do you see a need for redrawing the fiscal road map in the wake of demonetisation?

We have a committee under Mr NK Singh looking into the matter, which would be making its recommendations soon. So this is an open question at the moment.

There is a talk that if any black money comes in, it should flow to the poor through Jan Dhan accounts. If that idea is on, do you think we should move to universal cash transfer?

There are two separate issues. One is that of targeted cash transfers versus universal cash transfer. My personal view is in favour of targeted instead of universal transfers. With the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC), we have a pretty good idea of who the poor are. So we can use the limited fiscal resources more effectively to combat poverty. As an example, if half of the population is poor, by targeting, we can give twice the cash to the poor than we would be able to do if the transfers are universal. I lean in favour of a strategy that places larger volume of cash in the pockets of the poor than the one that gives cash to everyone in smaller amounts.

The other issue concerns replacing some of the existing social expenditure programmes by direct cash transfers. I personally go for cash transfers since they allow us to plug the leakages more effectively and at a lower cost. I also believe that we must trust the beneficiaries to spend what they receive judiciously. May be 5% of the beneficiaries will spend the receipts injudiciously but as Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar says this is not a good enough reason to penalise the 95% who do spend the receipts judiciously. Besides, few advocates of in-kind transfers question the payment of NREGA wages in cash.

Do you think there will be a change in cash-to-GDP ratio post demonetisation?

Cash-to-GDP ratio in India stood at 10.6% at the end of March 2016. This compares with a cash-to-GDP ratio of 9% in China and Russia, and 3% or less in Brazil and South Africa. If you really manage to reduce black money, which was not in circulation for legitimate transactions, the ratio can clearly be lowered. If we are able to achieve a significant rise in digitisation, there will be further scope for reduction in cash.


PE firm Advent International buys stake in ASK Group for US$ 130 mn

Livemint:  December 22, 2016

New Delhi: US-based private equity firm Advent International said on Wednesday it has acquired a minority stake in financial services firm ASK Group but did not give details of the deal.

Founders of ASK Group, an investment and wealth management company, will retain a controlling stake and continue to lead the business.

While Advent International did not mention the quantum of stake and deal amount, an official involved in the transaction on conditions of anonymity said that Advent has acquired a 40% stake in ASK group for around $130 million.

The deal is the first investment made by the PE firm from its new $13 billion global private equity fund GPE VIII. In March, Advent International—which had $29 billion worth of assets under management at the end of 2015—completed raising $13 billion for its latest fund.

It would also be its third investment in India in the last two years after it acquired stakes in Crompton Greaves Consumer Electricals Ltd and QuEST Global Services.

“This partnership will enable ASK Group to scale up its existing business, and explore new business opportunities domestically and internationally,” Sunil Rohokale, managing director and chief executive of ASK Group said.

The group was looking to build an international franchise for Indian investment opportunities focusing on institutional investors and family offices, Rohokale added.

“With Advent joining hands, it only strategically helps ASK to expand our international operations because Advent is a $40 billion global fund and they have a substantial knowledge, ability and skill to raise capital from institutions, which are global in nature. Now, ASK is India centric fund manager, and hence taking help of Advent as a partner internationally to raise India centric money is all this partnership all about…We will be focusing on making investment only in India, but we will be raising capital throughout the globe. Focus will mostly be on Asia, Middle East, Europe and US,” he added.

“With its deep sector expertise and global resources, Advent can bring significant value to help us increase productivity, broaden our range of services and expand our international presence,” said Asit Koticha, chairman and founder of ASK Group.

Founded in 1983, ASK is a diversified financial services group and provides a range of services including wealth advisory, private equity investing, real estate private equity investing and portfolio management services.

ASK manages assets of more than Rs29,480 crore ($4.4 billion) across seven offices in India and has offices in Dubai and Singapore catering to its international investor base.

“ASK has well-respected investment managers, and we believe it is strongly positioned to enhance the value it offers to customers by expanding its reach, products and services. We look forward to working with ASK’s management team to pursue these growth opportunities,” said Shweta Jalan, managing director and head of India for Advent International.

On 20 October, Mint reported that ASK Property Investment Advisors, the private equity arm of ASK Group, is raising a Rs2,000 crore special situations fund from domestic and foreign investors to invest in residential projects.

The ASK Real Estate Special Situations Fund, which falls under Category II AIF (alternative investment fund), will raise about Rs1,000 crore each from domestic and offshore investors and offer capital in the form of preferred equity to developers.

Advent has significant experience in the financial services sector and has invested in around 40 companies in sub-sectors such as payments, insurance and consumer finance over the past 25 years. The firm has been investing in India since 2007 and opened an office in Mumbai in 2009.

Moelis & Co. served as exclusive financial advisor and Shardul Amarchand served as legal advisor to ASK Group on the transaction. Nomura served as exclusive financial advisor and Cyril Amarchand served as legal advisor to Advent International.

In an interaction with Mint on 3 October (bit.ly/2hUbK8o), Jan Janshen, managing partner at Advent International, said that the company wouldn’t mind putting $1 billion at work in India.

“We invest at a sensible valuation with a sensible governance in place and I wouldn’t mind putting a billion at work in India. We have a global $13 billion fund, so there is no reason why we wouldn’t put a billion at work in Mumbai,” he said.

Investments made by Advent include those in QuEST, a global engineering solutions provider; Care Hospitals, a tertiary care hospital chain in the country; and Computer Age Management Services (CAMS), a provider of business process outsourcing services to the asset management industry.

RCom signs binding agreement with Brookfield for sale of tower business

Livemint:  December 22, 2016

Mumbai: Reliance Communications Ltd (RCom) on Wednesday said it has signed a binding agreement with Brookfield Infrastructure Partners to sell its tower business for an upfront payment of Rs11,000 crore in cash on completion of the transaction, RCom said in a statement.

Brookfield Infrastructure is expected to give class B non-voting shares to RCom in the newly acquired business.

RCom claims the deal to be the largest investment by a foreign investor in the Indian infrastructure business as RCom’s telecom towers will be demerged into a separate company that will be wholly owned and managed by Brookfield Infrastructure.

“RCOM will enjoy certain information and other rights, but will not be involved directly or indirectly in the management and operations of the new Company. RCOM and Reliance Jio will continue as major long term tenants of the new tower company, along with other existing third party telecom operators,” the company added in its statement.

Anil Ambani-controlled RCom is selling assets to reduce debt and aims to turn net debt-free by 2017. It is the most indebted telecom service provider in India, with debt of around Rs42,000 crore.

“This deal is helpful for the company and the industry as RCom reduces its debt and the industry moves towards economies of scale. The market is in a phase of consolidation and moving to greater economic efficiency,” said Amresh Nandan, research director at Gartner Inc.

In January, RCom signed a definitive agreement to buy Sistema Shyam Teleservices Ltd (SSTL) in a deal valued at Rs4,500 crore and payments towards spectrum allotted to SSTL. Following the deal, SSTL acquired a 10% stake in RCom worth Rs2,082 crore.

RCom is also merging its wireless business with smaller rival Aircel and has said the deal will help reduce its leverage as it transfers part of its debt to the new venture. RCom also signed a spectrum sharing and trading agreement in April with Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd—the telecom unit of Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd—for the 850Mhz spectrum band.

RCom said on Wednesday that the proceeds from upfront payment for the tower unit and the money from the Aircel deal will reduce its debt by 60% to about Rs17,000 crore. The firm will hold a 50% stake in the wireless business with Aircel and 49% in non-voting shares in the tower business.

RCom is likely to further monetize its real estate to bring down debt by another Rs5,000 crore. However, it will retain business interests in other Indian enterprise business, data centres, optic fibres, global submarine cables, etc.

“RCom also does not require any major spend for spectrum or capital expenditure in the future, as post the merger with SSTL and Aircel being completed, and with spectrum sharing already implemented with R-Jio, it has extensive 2G, 3G and 4G networks already operational across the country. The Brookfield deal for the tower business brings to a culmination RCom’s four pronged strategy to future-safe its business,” an official at RCom said on condition of anonymity.

The sale of its tower business is subject to approval from shareholders, lenders and other regulatory compliances. RCom owns an equity stake of nearly 91% in Reliance Infratel, with the rest held by a clutch of investors including New Silk Route, George Soros’s Quantum and Galleon, which had together invested around $287 million in 2007.

Reliance Group companies have sued HT Media Ltd, Mint’s publisher, and nine others in the Bombay high court over a 2 October 2014 front-page story that they have disputed. HT Media is contesting the case.


Government looks to educate 1 crore rural citizens on e-payments

Economic Times:  December 23, 2016

New Delhi: The government expects to make digitally literate as many as 1 crore people in rural India in a few days through the newly-launched Digi Dhan Abhiyan or digital financial literacy programme, launched on December 9.

“We aim to create 1 crore people digitally literate on e-payments, and in a matter of 3-4 days, the government can touch this figure in rural India,” Ravi Shankar Prasad, minister for electronic and IT as well as law and justice, said at the launch of The Economic Times CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) Compendium. Corporates featured in the book include Reliance, Unilever, Aditya Birla Group, Bajaj group and Fortis.

The government has also launched a website—DigitalJagrati.in—to track real-time statistics on the digital financial literacy scheme. Government data on Thursday revealed that 48 lakh citizens were registered with 47 lakh Aadhaarenabled payment system (AEPS) in addition to 1.35 lakh small merchants who were trained through 2,100 sensitisation drives primarily at the village level.

On the back of demonetisation of old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on November 8, Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led NDA government is promoting cashless economy in a big way, and the initiative has garnered massive support from people in rural India. Stressing upon the need to align CSR goals with the ambitious ‘Digital India’ programme, Prasad said social activities by private sector companies could provide a helping hand to startups.

“Government has a limitation but the private sector can come along to promote innovation. Startups coming up with extraordinary products should be encouraged by CSR initiative,” he said.

Prasad added that such CSR funds by companies should also be used for cleaning at least 10 villages alongside river Ganga to imbibe the changing culture. The minister, however, said the government was not satisfied with the private sector’s efforts towards building toilets, as part of the Swachh Bharat initiative.

As per Swachhta Status Report 2016 released by the National Sample Survey, less than 1% private firms contributed in toilets construction in schools under the cleanliness mission. Swachch Bharat has been a major government initiative since it came it power over two years back.

Prasad said the present government has come to transform India, and programmes such as Digital India, Make in India, Skill India and Smart City, are transformative in nature.

JICA to consider relaxing minimum procurement norms, speeding up project appraisal

Press Information Bureau:  December 23, 2016

New Delhi: A high level delegation of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) led by its President Shri Shinichi Kitaoka held wide ranging and productive talks with the Minister of Urban Development Shri M.Venkaiah Naidu here today.

Responding to the issues raised by Shri Naidu for further upscaling cooperation, Shri Kitaoka assured that JICA would consider positively the suggestions including sourcing of equipment and rolling stock for metro projects from India in respect of projects financed by it, in consonance with the spirit of Make In India, reducing the time taken for appraisal of projects posed for financing, supporting new metro projects and speeding up the Varnasi Convention Centre Project.

Shri Naidu said that JICA has beena reliable and longstanding partner in infrastructure development in India and would like further upscaling of this cooperation. He said that under Make in India campaign, several foreign and Indian companies have expanded their production bases in India and Japanese companies may be encouraged to do so. He also suggested that the project appraisal time being currently taken by JICA needs to be reduced in the context of growing emphasis on infrastructure development in India.

Seeking speedy execution of the Convention Centre Project in Varanasi for which JICA has agreed to give a grant of Rs.150 cr, Shri Naidu said the Centre could be named as ‘India-Japan Friendship Convention Centre’ in recognition of the time tested and growing cooperation between the two countries.

Responding positively to the suggestion of Shri Naidu, JICA President Shri Kitaoka said; “I have been associated with promotion of India-Japan cooperation for a long time and a friend of India. I met Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi yesterday and had useful discussions. In the context of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe emphasizing on infrastructure development in India further to his meeting with Prime Minister Mr.Modi, JICA would be happy to do the needful. We are proud of the impact of New Delhi on pollution mitigation and would be happy to be associated with new such projects as well. Japanese companies would be encouraged to set up their India bases to further Make in India efforts and also to increase procurement from Indian companies.”

Shri Venkaiah Naidu noted that there is significant scope for increased involvement of JICA in Micro Tunneling, Pipe Jacking and Trenchless technology for metro projects, Non-revenue water management, Waste water recycling and reuse, Capacity building and technology transfer, Artificial recharge of acquifers, Integrated Solid Waste Management and Metro projects.

Shri Rajiv Gauba, Secretary(UD) also participated in the 40 minute long discussions on various issues.

Govt exempts imported PoS machine from BIS labelling

Times of India:  December 23, 2016

New Delhi: To facilitate cashless payments, government has exempted imported Point of Sales machines from mandatory BIS-labelling till March 31 to expedite their shipments.

The ministry of electronics and IT has given nod to a proposal of finance ministry “to allow the import of non-labelled BIS registered Point of Sales terminals” complying to certain conditions.

The merchant will be given clearance for import if he presents valid registration number issued by BIS for particular model of PoS being imported along with manufacturer’s details. Also, the merchant will need to label products at the port before the release of consignment.

“In order to facilitate the implementation of cashless digital payment and to allow the import of non-labelled BIS registered PoS terminals, this ministry has granted special exemption till March 31, 2017 for import of non-labelled PoS terminals,” MEITY said in its letter to the excise and customs department.

The letter said that ministry of finance had requested MEITY to provide special exemption to PoS machines as they are being imported in country to promote cashless and digital payments eco-system.

An SBI research report said that the country has 15.1 lakh PoS machines but may need an additional 20 lakh more if digitisation has to gain traction.

As per rules, it is mandatory for PoS machines that are imported in the country to BIS certification and accordingly bear BIS standard logo for clearance at Indian customs for sale in the country. BIS is implementing agency. Customs department allows import of goods covered under it as per direction of MEITY and BIS.

IT services firms bank on innovation to woo clients

Livemint:  December 23, 2016

Bengaluru/Pune: One of the defining trends in 2016 played out at India’s $150 billion technology outsourcing industry is the way Indian companies chased clients for business. Clients going through a guided tour of the large, manicured facilities of the largest companies is passé; rather in the spotlight are visits to the research and development hubs or innovation labs, have a first look at solutions in the areas of blockchain and artificial intelligence platforms, and even engage with start-ups focused on newer technologies.

Sample this.

Don Callahan, head of operations and technology at Citigroup Inc., paid a visit in October to Wipro Ltd’s innovation lab in Bengaluru and was showcased the company’s artificial intelligence (AI)-powered platform Holmes. The stakes are high: The last time the contract was awarded, in 2008, it was worth $2.5 billion for a 10-year period, and this will be the largest outsourcing contract up for grabs in close to a decade.

“When a client visits us here (in Bengaluru), they usually spend a full day. Now we have our clients visit out our innovation lab and we have dedicated sessions, usually running for about one-and-a-half hour, for our clients,” said K.R. Sanjiv, chief technology officer at Wipro Ltd, country’s third largest software firm. “We curate the list of start-ups. We tell the customer where start-ups can value-add. Basically to make them know the art of possible.”

Earlier this year, Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS), India’s largest software services company, unveiled a new building at its Mumbai office. Since the start of the financial year, the building has hosted and showcased company’s solution offerings in the areas of natural language processing, machine learning and 3-D printing.

At India’s fifth largest outsourcing firm, Tech Mahindra Ltd, teams from the company’s 40-odd research and development unit and some start-ups, showcased 45 solutions in areas such as drones, connected cars, and blockchain technology at its once-a-year, flagship innovation event held at Pune last week.

Executives from AT&T Inc., Barclays and Vodafone Group Plc were among the 110 clients who visited the annual two-day event, as against 20 client visits at last year’s annual event.

“Clients these days want to see what investments we are making. What better way to showcase before them the solutions we have to offer,” said Jagdish Mitra, chief strategy and marketing officer at Tech Mahindra.

Customer visits at Infosys Ltd, India’s second largest software company, these days include a tour of the design thinking labs, where the benefits brought in by the engineers using user-centric approach of design thinking are shared with clients.

Over the past few years, Indian software services have struggled for growth as their traditional business model of deploying armies of engineers to write software codes and maintain data centres and manage technology infrastructure for Fortune 1000 companies has started getting commoditized. This is essentially because of the twin challenges posed by the cloud computing service providers (Amazon Web Services) and AI-powered platforms offered by companies like IPSoft which means mundane repeatable tasks of providing customer support no longer need engineers and can be replaced by bots. For this reason, over the last 18 months, most technology companies have launched their own AI-powered platforms and some stitched partnerships with cloud computing firms.At the same time, technology vendors have also set up teams to write applications on technologies like blockchain or work on cloud computing platforms such as General Electric’s Predix, as these newer technologies become the first-choice of companies across the globe.

“We’ve seen the impact that Accenture, Capgemini, and IBM have by helping clients imagine the art of the possible,” said Ray Wang, founder of Constellation Research, a technology research and advisory firm. “Wipro, Infosys, and Tech Mahindra are diversifying their offerings and moving more into design and consulting. For this reason, we expect 2017 to be a year where every IT services firm broadens their offering and bundle more services into larger mega contracts”

Indian technology firms believe that by offering solutions in some of these technologies, they can manage to open not just new revenue streams but also create a differentiated offering to wrest back outsourcing contracts which is seeing intense competition and pricing pressure. “IT firms hoping to wrest business away from incumbents will look to offer solutions based on newer technologies,” said Siddharth Pai, who has personally led over $20 billion in complex, first-of-a-kind outsourcing deals. “I believe technologies like blockchain will essentially become mainstream, and so it is logical companies have started working on these technologies and importantly showcasing them to clients”

Is this move to make clients visit innovation labs and connecting them with start-ups helping the companies?

“This was the third year we held our annual event, and over the last three years, we have seen such solutions, many of them going beyond paid pilot projects, impact our business by $500 million,” said Mitra of Tech Mahindra. “This does not mean we got $500 million in direct revenue but Tech Mahindra has seen win deals which until a few years back we were not even called for.”

Analysts certainly believe this is a good start.

“The reason these innovation labs and design centres drive business stems from the fact that if you are co-innovating and co-creating with a client, you are helping them solve a real business problem,” said Wang of Constellation Research.


Magma Fincorp Limited to expand its operations in South India

Economic Times:  December 23, 2016

Kochi: Magma Fincorp Limited, a leading Kolkata-based NBFC, is expanding its operations in South India. The company is targeting 20% growth in Kerala in FY 16. It will focus on housing finance and Suvidha (used vehicle loans) to achieve the numbers.

Addressing the media, Dhrubashish Bhattacharya, Vice President, Magma Fincorp Limited said that the company is already a major player in retail finance and has strong customer relationship in the state.

He said that the renewed focus on the rural and semi- rural markets will come handy for the company and the focus on tractor finance will continue. “Over the past months, we have been able to build a strong team to deliver the numbers in tractor and affordable housing and expect to grow at over 20% in each of the products”, Bhattacharya added.

Magma recorded Rs 168 crore disbursements in Kerala in the second quarter of FY 17. The company has 12 branches across the state and two more branches would be opened soon.

Magma manages a loan book of Rs 17796 crore. The company has 257 branches in 22 states. A non-deposit taking, non-banking finance company, Magma provides a bouquet of financial products including financing of utility vehicles & cars, commercial vehicles, construction equipment, used commercial vehicles, tractors and SME Loans. It also operates in affordable housing finance and general insurance segments.


The best hindi films of 2016

The robustness of ‘Dangal’, the delicacy of Manoj Bajpayee, and a host of women-led films

If we’re being honest, 2016 wasn’t a great year for Hindi cinema. Last year, a list of noteworthy films might have stretched to 10, maybe even 15. Pickings were a lot slimmer this time around, though the predominance of mid-budget titles on the list is, perhaps, cause for some cheer. Here are our top eight films that released in theatres this year.


The first hour and a half of Nitesh Tiwari’s Dangal is as close to perfect as mainstream Hindi film-making got in 2016. After that, the film’s attempts to keep its lead actor central to the story hamper the narrative, but there’s still plenty to enjoy: juicy comic performances from the young actors and Aamir Khan, observant, witty writing and direction, and some blistering fights. A fitting coda to a year in which Indian women athletes, including a Haryana wrestler, shone at the Olympics.


If you liked Airlift well enough but felt that the film worked too hard to sanctify its central character, Neerja is the antidote. After a soft-focus opening (necessary, in the larger scheme of things), Ram Madhvani’s film becomes a lean, largely unsentimental Paul Greengrass-like thriller. Sonam Kapoor plays Neerja, a character based on flight purser Neerja Bhanot, whose quick thinking saved the lives of 359 passengers aboard a Pan Am plane stormed by hijackers at Karachi airport on 5 September 1986. As the hijacking unfolds, the film interjects scenes from Neerja’s abusive marriage, which she eventually walked out of. It’s a moving tribute, illuminating not one, but two, moments in an otherwise ordinary life when courage sprang up, unbidden.


Professor S.R. Siras, dismissed by Aligarh Muslim University after a video of him in bed with a man surfaced, was the public face of a movement, and a most reluctant figurehead. This dichotomy is at the heart of Aligarh, which is at its best when sticking close to the retiring academic. The lopsided scenes in court and in the TV studio cannot compare with the quiet power of the conversations between Siras and Deepu Sebastian, the reporter who becomes his friend. The film derives much of its power from Manoj Bajpayee’s extraordinarily delicate portrayal of Siras, and from Rajkummar Rao’s sympathetic supporting turn.


Pawan Kripalani’s Phobia uses the refractive lens of genre to explore ideas of consent, women’s navigation of urban spaces and the weight of societal judgement—issues tackled much more bluntly in one of the year’s most talked-about films, Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s PinkPink had little time for genre, or frills, or for anything that distracted from the task at hand. Phobia, on the other hand, addresses issues, but at a remove—you could watch it as a straight-ahead horror film and come away satisfied. Not everything adds up, but the psychological grounding of the central character’s agoraphobia is fascinating, and Radhika Apte is compellingly frayed.


Anu Menon’s film, about a young wife and an old husband whose spouses are comatose in a Kochi hospital, could easily have been soppy or morbid. Instead, it’s funny and sharp, eschewing the high drama of sickness and hospitals and exploring their tedium instead. Naseeruddin Shah’s Shiv has tended to his comatose wife for so long that he has almost turned into an amateur physician himself, to the profound irritation of her actual doctor. Once Kalki Koechlin’s spiky Tara turns up, he becomes a sort of hospital coach for her, while she gets him to loosen up. Life lessons are learnt by all, but Menon’s tart script (co-written with James Ruzicka and Atika Chohan) and low-key directorial style, and a beautifully fractured performance by Koechlin, steer the film clear of TV drama cliché and towards a clear-eyed empathy.


In another year, Jugni would have placed amongst the also-rans: a modest film, with individuality and charm and some evident flaws. First-time director Shefali Bhushan drew from her own life to tell the story of Vibhavari (Sugandha Garg), a music producer who travels to Punjab to record a local artist, Bibi Saroop (Sadhana Singh), and ends up being fascinated by—and fascinating—her son, a singer named Mastana (Siddhant Behl). The city-dwellers aren’t as well-etched as their small-town counterparts, and the film’s third act, which unfolds in Mumbai, is a bit of a mess, but as long as the film is in rural Punjab, Jugni is a blast, full of salty dialogue, Clinton Cerejo’s crackling Sufi music and a star-making turn from Behl as the motormouth Mastana.

Udta Punjab

The film no one could agree on. Did it go too far, or not far enough? Did you go in expecting Trainspotting and get Traffic, or vice versa? Like Abhishek Chaubey’s previous films, Udta Punjab was profane, eccentric and ramshackle, jaundiced in its view of humanity but also capable of bursts of unexpected warmth. As a look at a society ravaged by drugs, it was harrowing, and the contrasting styles of the film’s lead actors generated its own tension. Controversy seemed to dog the project, from the Central Board of Film Certification asking for an unprecedented number of cuts to reports that the plot was very likely inspired by Ben Elton’s novel High Society.

Kapoor & Sons (since 1921)

The dysfunctional family drama is a subgenre most commonly associated with American indie cinema. Yet, given the complexity of our family structures, it’s ideally suited for adaptation here. In recent years, various film-makers have responded to it in different ways: PikuDil Dhadakne DoTitli. Shakun Batra’s Kapoor & Sons doesn’t cast the genre in a new light, but it might be the most satisfying exploration, in recent Hindi cinema, of a family held together by duct tape and hope. Long-standing resentments surface and assorted neuroses brush up against each other, but Batra avoids the preciousness of genre staples like Little Miss Sunshine, finding a brittle, bright tone of his own. A wonderful ensemble–Alia Bhatt, Rajat Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor, Fawad Khan, Sidharth Malhotra, Ratna Pathak Shah—brings it all back home; the scenes where everyone’s yelling at each other are more propulsive and thrilling than anything (more…)

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