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19 May, 2017

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Govt targets a record 273 million tonnes foodgrain output for 2017-18

Buoyed by forecasts of a normal monsoon, the Centre has targeted a record foodgrain production during the 2017-18 crop year beginning July. The agriculture ministry has set a production target of 273 million tonnes (mt) of grains and pulses during the year, marginally higher than the 272 million tonnes estimated for 2016-17, also a record harvest following a normal monsoon last year.

In 2015-16, India’s foodgrain production stood at 252 mt.

“In just one year, farmers managed to grow 5 million tonnes of additional pulses (in 2016-17) and within two to three years India will be self-sufficient in pulses,”

Radha Mohan Singh Agriculture Minister

In the event of a normal monsoon and higher production, agricultural growth will likely be around 4% (in 2017-18), agriculture secretary Shobhana Pattanayak said, addressing the conference. This implies consecutive years of robust farm growth-—the sector is forecast to grow at 4.4% in 2016-17, after a poor 0.8% growth in 2015-16 and 0.3% contraction the year before due to back-to-back droughts (in 2014 and 2015).

Pattanayak said that the Centre was working on reforming agricultural markets to realize the goal of “one-nation, one-market”, and added that the government would aim to cover 40% of land holdings under the revamped crop insurance scheme.

“The official mindset is that higher production and over 4% growth rate means everything is fine in agriculture,” said Devinder Sharma, a Chandigarh-based farm policy analyst. “In the past year, the growth in production has not kept pace with farmer incomes, which in reality plunged due to lower prices (for pulses and horticultural crops). Despite higher output, farmers are running into losses, leading to indebtedness and suicides,” he added.

According to a background note prepared by the ministry and distributed among state officials at the conference, the Centre has written to all states to work on ways to double farmer incomes by 2022—a goal set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Some states like Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh have already devised suitable strategies in this regard,” the note pointed out.

Establishment of Spices Farmers Producer Companies (SFPCs) in Arunachal Pradesh – Inauguration by Commerce and Industry Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman

Press Information Bureau:  April 26, 2017

New Delhi: Commerce and Industry Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman will inaugurate the orientation programme for establishment of SFPCs and buyer seller meet on 26th April 2017 at Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh, a Government of India’s initiative to benefit the small and marginal spice farmers in the North Eastern States. 

In the event, more than 100 spice farmers, NGOs, farmers association, primary processors from Arunachal Pradesh and 35 big exporters from across the country will be coming together for a one day orientation programme and buyer seller meet organized by Spices Board at the Banquet Hall of the city. Officials from the concerned Department/Organizations of the State as well as Central Government will also be a part of the programme. 

The objective of the programme is to operationalize SFPC on pilot basis in 3 districts viz. Ziro in Lower Subansiri District for large cardamom and Namsai in Namsai District for ginger in Arunachal Pradesh & West District in Sikkim for large cardamom for empowering the farmers, especially women farmers in the identified spices growing districts, for better price realization through post harvest management, primary processing, value addition, packing, aggregation, organic certification etc. 

Each SFPC will have 500 farmers as members in a sub-division or district. The farmers will be identified on cluster basis in a village, taluk or district by forming Farmer Interest Group(FIGs), each consisting of 20 farmers. 25 such FIGs will be formed to establish a SFPC. 

India set for record foodgrain output

Business Standard:  May 11, 2017

India is set to see the highest foodgrain production this crop year, according to the government’s third advanced estimate released on Tuesday.

Boosted by normal southwest monsoon — a first in two years — foodgrain production in the 2016-17 crop year, which ends in June, would be 273.4 million tonnes, almost nine per cent more than that of the previous year.

For many farmers, though, a bumper harvest isn’t good news, as they have been forced to sell their produce, particularly pulses, dirt cheap. Production of grains, according to the second estimate released in February, would be around 272 million tonnes.

Wheat production was projected at 96.6 million tonnes. Bumper rabi and kharif harvests in 2016-17 should help ease inflation worries for the government. Benign food inflation would also give the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) headroom to hold on to interest rates, unless monsoon projections for 2017 are not favourable.

“Largest-ever foodgrain production this year will keep food prices subdued till the next harvest,” Madan Sabnavis, chief economist CARE Ratings, told Business Standard.

“Prices of wheat, rice and pulses are expected to remain weak due to surplus crop, unless, of course, the 2017 southwest monsoon does not match projections.” After Tuesday’s estimate, he said, it looked all the more likely that the RBI would hold interest rates in the next review, in June, unless monsoon shocks. The India Meteorological Department has projected normal monsoon for 2017. But with chances of the dreaded El Niño rearing its head, many global weather forecasting models have been confusing signals. The agriculture ministry has in its estimate projected pulses output at a record 22.40 million tonnes, around 37 per cent more than last year’s.

Oilseeds output was projected at 32.52 million tonnes, around 7 million tonnes more than that of the previous year. Cotton production was projected at 32.57 million bales, around 8.5 per cent more, while sugarcane production was projected at 306 million tonnes, around 12 per cent less.

The 2016 southwest monsoon was the first normal monsoon after two back-to-back droughts in 2014 and 2015. The rains were good in almost 80 per cent of the country’s land mass.



Niti Aayog’s 3-year agenda to bolster economy

April 26, 2017

The National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog has suggested various reforms in the field of taxation, agriculture and energy in a three-year draft action agenda (2017-18 to 2019-20), which aim to boost India’s growth as well as employment opportunities. The agenda has suggested measures to control tax evasion, expand tax base, make taxation easier via reforms and consolidate to a unified rate for custom duty. The agenda suggests reform of the Agriculture Produce Marketing to help farmers receive remunerative prices, improving irrigation to increase productivity, faster seed replacement, precision agriculture and encouraging farmers to move towards high-value commodities like horticulture, animal husbandry and fisheries. The draft recommends undertaking consumer friendly measures like provision of electricity to all households by 2022 as well as LPG connection to all BPL households, eliminating black carbon by 2022 and extending the city gas distribution programme to 100 smart cities. It also recommended reduction of cross-subsidy in the power sector to enable competitive electricity supply to the industry.


India to grow over 3-fold to US$ 7.25 trillion by 2030: NITI Aayog

April 25, 2017


The Indian economy is expected to grow by 8 per cent on an average over the next 15 years and its gross domestic product (GDP) will expand three-fold to reach US$ 7.25 trillion by 2030, as per Mr Arvind Panagariya, Vice Chairman, Niti Aayog. In FY 1999-2000, India’s GDP stood at Rs 46 lakh crore (US$ 713.45 billion) at 2015-16 prices, which increased to Rs 137 lakh crore (US$ 2.1 trillion) by FY 2015-16. Mr Panagariya also stated that India’s current per capita GDP is Rs 106,589 (US$ 1,653.17), which will increase to Rs 314,776 (US$ 4,882.09) by 2031-32. The Central and state governments expenditure which stood at Rs 38 lakh crore (US$ 589.37 billion) in FY 2015-16, will increase to Rs 130 lakh crore (US$ 2.01 trillion) by 2031-32.

World Bank says Indian economy to grow at 7.2% in FY18

The Indian economy is expected to grow at 7.2 per cent in F.Y. 2017-18 and further accelerate to 7.5 per cent in F.Y. 2018-19, according to a report by the World Bank. The growth in India had slowed down to 6.8 per cent in 2016-17 due to a combination of weak investments and the impact of demonetisation, however the economy is expected to recover and growth will gradually accelerate to 7.7 per cent by 2019-20. Timely and smooth implementation of the goods and services tax (GST) could prove to be a significant upside risk to economic activity in 2017-18. The expected threats to the economic growth include stress in the financial sector, uncertainty in global environment and fallout of demonetisation on small and informal economy.


India’s GDP to grow at 7.5% in 2017-18,

says FM Arun Jaitley

The Indian economy is expected to grow at 7.5 per cent in the fiscal year 2017-18, rising from 7.1 per cent in 2016-17, said Mr Arun Jaitley, Minister of Finance. These estimates are based on expectations of low inflation, fiscal prudence and low deficit. India and the other emerging economies are contributing significantly towards global growth, accounting for more than 75 per cent of global expansion. India will introduce the goods and services tax (GST) from July 2017, which will eliminate the multiplicity of taxes and make India a single common market.



BHIM-Aadhaar platform launched, advancing PM Modi’s digital push

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday launched the BHIM-Aadhaar platform—a merchant interface linking the unique identification number to the Bharat Interface for Money mobile application—at Nagpur on the 126th birth anniversary of Dr B.R. Ambedkar.

“Like Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar worked to give rights to the common man through the Indian Constitution, one can expect the BHIM app to do similarly great work through the financial system,” said Modi.

The new interface will enable customers to make payments using a merchant’s biometric-enabled device. The merchant merely has to download the BHIM app on his smartphone and link the device to an Aadhaar biometric reader.


“Any citizen without access to smartphones, Internet, debit or credit cards will be able to transact digitally through the BHIM-Aadhaar platform,”

Government of India

To start with, no transaction fee will be levied on either the merchants or customers to encourage adoption of the new digital payment service, especially in small towns and rural India.

“The new upgrade is aligned to facilitate government’s initiative of launching customer referral bonus and merchant incentive schemes. We have added more regional languages, enhanced user experience and security features for wider acceptance and usage of the BHIM app,” said A.P. Hota, managing director and chief executive of National Payments Corporation of India.

Three new languages—Punjabi, Marathi and Assamese—have gone live on the app. This development was reported earlier by Mint on 24 January.

According to Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union minister for electronics and information technology, 20 million people have downloaded BHIM so far, and payments worth Rs823 crore have been made. The app was launched on 30 December.

It was one of several measures aimed at promoting digital transactions in the aftermath of the 8 November demonetization of high-value banknotes, which triggered a nationwide cash crunch.

Govt may soon allow 100% FDI in cash, ATM management companies

April 17, 2017

New Delhi: The Government of India is likely to allow 100 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in cash and ATM management companies, since they are not required to comply with the Private Securities Agencies Regulations Act (PSARA). This will be an advantage for cash management companies as well as for companies making currency authenticators and sorting devices and currency counting machines. In 2015, the government allowed 100 per cent FDI in white label ATM operations under the automatic route. Foreign investments help in improving balance of payments and strengthening of rupee against the dollar among other global currencies. FDI in India grew by 22 per cent to reach US$ 35.85 billion during April-December, 2016-17.


Reforms, e-payments, GST will power India’s growth, says Nitin Gadkari

Livemint:  April 17, 2017

New Delhi: India will be an economic powerhouse in the next 10 years, powered by administrative reforms, digital payments and the goods and services tax (GST), said road transport, ports and shipping minister Nitin Gadkari at Hindustan Ratna PSU awards-2017 held on Wednesday.

This comes in the backdrop of President Pranab Mukherjee’s assent to four GST supporting bills which paves the way for a roll-out of the unified tax regime from 1 July. Also, the National Democratic Alliance government has been pushing for premise-less and paperless banking through the BHIM-Aadhaar platform—a merchant interface linking the unique identification number to the Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM) mobile application.

Efforts such as these will lead to the economy growing at a faster pace, Gadkari said while commending Hindustan’s initiative to felicitate public sector units.

India’s economy is set to grow at 7.4% in the current fiscal year against 7.1% in the previous year, on the back of pick-up in consumption demand and higher public investment, the Asian Development Bank said earlier this month.

A total of 27 state-run firms received awards at the event which was attended by petroleum and natural gas minister Dharmendra Pradhan, telecom minister Manoj Sinha and power, coal, mines and renewable energy minister Piyush Goyal.

India has 320 central public sector enterprises (CPSEs), with investments totaling around Rs11.62 trillion and a business worth of about Rs18.55 trillion. Apart from registering net profit of around Rs1.16 trillion in 2015-16, these CPSEs provide jobs to around 1.2 million employees.

Goyal said that PSUs work not only for a profit motive but also to fulfil a nation’s and its people’s needs. Citing the coal situation in the country, Goyal added that while a few years ago there was a coal shortage, the current situation is vastly improved—high production by PSUs meant there is no storage space for the fuel.

Record-high inventories of coal at power stations at the beginning of this fiscal year (after years of critically low supplies) are feeding electricity generation. Power generation utilities’ faith in the supply situation was strengthened, enabling them to cut inventory after the government rolled out a plan to double production to 1 billion tonnes in five years and to rationalise coal logistics.

The government has to ask them to cut production, Goyal said, adding that the abundance of coal meant that even if coal production is stopped for a month, there will be enough fuel available.

Speaking at the event, Dharmendra Pradhan commended PSUs for discharging their corporate social responsibilities (CSR) and urged the private sector to come forward and do the same.

CSR rules direct that companies with a net worth of Rs500 crore, a revenue of Rs1,000 crore or a net profit of Rs5 crore spend 2% of their average profit on social development activities, including education, health and women’s empowerment.

Manoj Sinha said that whenever the country has faced a natural tragedy or an emergency, its the PSUs who are the first to step up to help the people.

Since PSUs don’t bother about profit or loss while discharging their societal duties, they have a challenge as they simultaneously face stiff competition from the private sector, Sinha added.


India March WPI inflation eases to 5.7%, on cheaper pulses, potato, onion

HT Business:  April 17, 2017

New Delhi: A fall in the prices of pulses, potato and onion helped India’s wholesale price inflation (WPI) to ease to 5.7% in March from a two-and-a-half years high of 6.55% in February.

However, food inflation inched up to 3.12% in March from 2.69% in February on festival demand.

Analysts warned that a warmer summer and uncertainty over monsoon rains may push up inflation further in coming months, leaving Reserve Bank of India little room to lower rates. The central bank left policy lending rate (repo) unchanged and hiked borrowing rates (reverse repo) at the last policy review on April 7.

“RBI has already signalled that uncertain monsoon and low statistical base effect will keep CPI inflation at 4.5% in the first half and 5% in the second half of 2017-18. The government may also increase the minimum support prices (MSPs) of crops, which will put an upward pressure on inflation,” said Madan Sabnavis, chief economist of Care Ratings.

A pick up in new currency in circulation helped revive consumer demand after a bout of severe cash crunch during the demonetisation drive of November-December of 2016.

The March inflation number was still higher compared with the 0.45% fall in WPI during March 2016, as prices of petrol, diesel and minerals, firmed up due to an upward trend in global prices.

Festival demand pushed up prices of vegetables by 5.7% and fruits by 7.6%. However, potato prices fell 17%, onion 10.8% and pulses 6.1% from a year ago.

Mineral prices were up 23.5% while fuels were costlier by 18.2% as petrol and diesel prices were revised up.

Last week, government data showed a rise in the prices of sugar, confectionary, snacks and fruits during Holi pushed up India’s consumer price inflation (CPI) to 3.81% in March from 3.65% in February.

The slowing pace of remonetisation, or pumping new Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 notes into circulation, during March to replace the scrapped Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in November, helped inflation to stay within 4% in the financial year ending March 2017.

Consumption and investment activity were dampened after Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8 announced the bold decision to scrap Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.

While the demonetisation weeded out Rs 15.44 lakh crore or 86% of currency from circulation, the government and RBI has been able to pump in about Rs 13.35 lakh crore worth of new notes so far.


Electronic Interlocking – Yard Remodeling commissioned in record time of only 150 minutes.

Press Information Bureau:  April 19, 2017

New Delhi: In a significant move for high tech infrastructure with the view to improve mobility in train operations on the busiest route of Delhi Howrah section of Indian Railway network, Electronic Interlocking & massive Yard Remodeling has been commissioned at Dadri Railway Station in Uttar Pradesh which falls under Allahabad Division of North Central Railway. This project is part of ongoing process of modernization of Indian Railway network.

This Electronic Interlocking involves 318 routes adopting most Modern Signalling System with Centralized Operation controlling 45 Signals, 74 Points and 176 Track Circuits with massive yard remodeling. The another significant point is that this work has been commissioned in record time of only 150 minutes on 16th April 2017. This work has been successfully planned, executed and commissioned in the leadership and guidance of Shri M.C. Chauhan, General Manager North Central Railway.

Dadri is a complex yard in North Central Railway spread over six kilometers on busiest route of Delhi-Howrah Section of Indian Railways and also having connectivity with National Thermal Power Corporation Power Plant and Container Depot.

With Commissioning of this, 3rd line between Aligarh-Ghaziabad section is made through Dadri Yard improving mobility in train operation which was earlier not available. This has also facilitated extension of platform No. 1, 2 & 3 and addition of new platform No. 4 at Dadri Station. All these four platforms have also been connected with new foot over bridge improving passenger amenity facilities at this station.


Reserve Bank of India raises provisioning on telecom loans

Business Standard:  April 19, 2017

Mumbai: In an unusual directive, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Tuesday asked banks to set aside higher provisioning for the telecom sector, starting from the current quarter. 

The telecom industry had outstanding debts of nearly Rs 4 lakh crore, incurred mainly on account of payments for spectrum, spectrum usage charges and other levies. The beleaguered industry had written to the department of telecom, apprising it about the financial situation. As of September 2016, the total debt of listed telecom companies was at Rs 2,14,477.17 crore. 

Udit Kariwala, senior analyst, financial institutions, India Ratings, said the stressed assets in the telecom sector were estimated at about Rs 80,000 crore. Most of the loans were still shown as standard assets though they showed all signs of stressed assets, he added. For restructured advances, which are treated as standard assets, banks have to make a provision of five per cent.

The RBI also asked banks to increase provisioning even for standard loans to stressed sectors. At present, the RBI mandates banks to provide 0.4 per cent as provision for a standard loan as ‘regulatory minimum’, indicating the provisions could be higher. 

The RBI’s singling out of the telecom sector is particularly interesting. In its various publications, most notably in the Financial Stability Report (FSR), the RBI has said five sectors — infrastructure, steel, textiles, power and telecom — have contributed to more than 60 per cent of bank stress. Steel, power, transport and other infrastructure sectors have created a huge problem of non-performing assets (NPA) to banks. 

The RBI’s cautioning on the telecom sector could be seen in that context. 

The interest coverage ratio of the sector, now, is less than one, the RBI said. A ratio of less than one indicates that companies are not able to service their full interest from the operating profit, a clear indication of high stress. In addition, the companies were also reporting “stressed financial conditions,” the RBI noted.

“We are glad that the RBI has taken note of the financial issues of the industry. The stress level has caused major financial problems to the companies and we feel that the time has now come that the government addressed this issue,” Rajan Mathews, director general, Cellular Operators Association of India, said.

The central bank’s notification said the bank boards should review the telecom sector loan by June 30, “and consider making provisions for standard assets in this sector at higher rates so that necessary resilience is built in the balance sheets should the stress reflect on the quality of exposure to the sector at a future date.” 

“Besides, banks should also subject the exposure to the sector to closer monitoring,” the RBI notification said.

The central bank has been warning about the telecom sector for quite some time. 

For example, the FSR, published in December 2015, showed that telecom sector was still relatively healthy compared with power and transport, which saw restructured assets and bad debts in double digits.

In the December 2016 report, however, the RBI started getting concerned about the high leverage in the telecom sector.

While reviewing the sector, the banks should review quantitative and qualitative aspects like debt-equity ratio, interest coverage ratio, profit margins, ratings upgrade to downgrade ratio, sectoral non-performing assets/stressed assets, industry performance and outlook, legal/ regulatory issues faced by the sector, etc, Besides, sector specific parameters should also be taken into consideration, the notification said.

The higher provisioning for standard loans would be applicable to all sectors that are in stress, the RBI said. However, the central bank did not specify the extent of increase in provisioning. 

“Banks shall put in place a board–approved policy for making provisions for standard assets at rates higher than the regulatory minimum, based on evaluation of risk and stress in various sectors,” the RBI’s notification said. 

The provisioning goes up as the company fails to service the interest on its loans within 91 days. The RBI did not specify how much of additional provisioning should be made by banks, but said it should be sector-specific and should be reviewed at least on a quarterly basis.


Isro plans to mine energy from Moon by 2030 to help meet India needs

Livemint:  April 20, 2017

New Delhi: From launching 104 satellites at one go, enabling commercial roll out of lithium-ion batteries, to taking the lead in providing energy security, the Indian Space Research Organization (Isro) is firing on all cylinders.

Apart from planning for manned missions to Moon, Mars and even aircraft development, Isro is now working on a plan to help India meet its energy needs from the Moon by 2030.

The premier space agency, credited with launching 225 satellites till date, plans to mine Helium-3 rich lunar dust, generate energy and transport it back to Earth.

This comes in the backdrop of successful testing of lithium-ion batteries developed by Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre by the Automotive Research Association of India (Arai). This is expected to provide a fillip to India’s electric vehicles (EV) push. The government is now planning to transfer the technology to companies for commercial production of these batteries, reported Mint.


Isro’s lunar dust mine plans were revealed by Dr Sivathanu Pillai, professor at the space agency, in February.

Speaking at a conference in New Delhi, Pillai, former chief of BrahMos Aerospace, said that mining lunar dust was a priority programme for his organisation.

In a written reply to the Lok Sabha on 29 March, minister of state in charge of atomic energy and space Jitendra Singh said, “Technology is ready for transfer to Indian industries for undertaking the production of Li-ion batteries. BHEL has expressed interest in the transfer of technology.”

This lunar dust mining plan comes in the backdrop of India’s plan to cut down import dependence in hydrocarbons by 10 percentage points by 2022. India’s energy demand growth is expected to outpace that of the other Bric (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries, according to the latest BP Energy Outlook.

Isro’s success on this front will also help reduce pollutants and India’s fuel imports. This assumes significance given India’s energy import bill of around $150 billion, which is expected to reach $300 billion by 2030. India imports around 80% of its oil and 18% of its natural gas requirements. India imported 202 million tonnes of oil in 2015-16.


India to be third largest solar market in 2017: report

Livemint:  May 09, 2017

New Delhi: With 8.8 gigawatt (GW) of capacity addition projected for the year ahead, India is set to become the third biggest solar market globally in 2017, overtaking Japan, according to the India Solar Handbook 2017 released by Bridge to India (BTI) on Monday.

The report by BTI, a consulting firm in India’s clean technology market, said solar capacity in the country is expected to touch 18.7GW by the end of 2017, which is about 5% of global solar capacity.

As of March 2017, India had installed 12.2GW of utility scale solar. In June 2015, the government had revised India’s solar power target to 100GW from 20GW, by 2022.

The report said the “total new solar capacity addition in the next five years is expected at 56GW”. This, however, implies that India would fall short of its 100GW target.

According to the BTI report, about 79GW of solar capacity is expected to be added globally in 2017, with Asian countries continuing to dominate the industry while Europe continues to fall in rankings.

In India, the states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have emerged as the fastest growing in terms of solar power capacity addition. In 2017 nearly 60% of total new capacity addition is expected to come from the southern states, the report added.

“Indian solar market has grown by an average 72% in the last three years and is now worth approximately 8-9GW per annum. Growing market size and strong government commitment to the sector have attracted the world’s leading private sector players as well as resulted in lower tariffs for consumers. As the sector matures, however, there is a formidable new challenge arising in the form of how to absorb rising share of intermittent energy into the grid,” said Vinay Rustagi, managing director of BTI.

“There is more optimism about rooftop market with expectation of 12GW to be added by 2021. The biggest concern for the sector is grid integration of growing renewable capacity followed by poor financial condition of DISCOMs, notwithstanding the progress made on UDAY reform package,” Rustagi added.

The report also included Indian Solar CEO Survey according to which about 45% of the respondents felt that poor net metering implementation remains a major challenge for growth of the rooftop solar market.


President Mukherjee approves ordinance to amend Banking Regulation Act

Livemint:  May 05, 2017

Mumbai: President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday approved the ordinance to amend the Banking Regulation Act 1949, giving more powers to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to deal with non-performing assets, according to multiple news channels.

This comes after the Union cabinet on Wednesday approved the proposal to amend Section 35 of the BR Act and sent the ordinance for the President’s approval.

The stressed loans resolution package prepared by the government will empower the central bank to directly intervene in settling bad loan cases.

The central bank can effectively ask banks to sit down with defaulters and reach a settlement as part of the package, aimed at accelerating a resolution of the Rs9.64 trillion in bad loans choking the banking system. The NPA problem is, to a large extent, confined to 50 large loan defaulters.

“Banks presently have various powers under Banking Laws, SARFAESI Act, and now the bankruptcy law to enforce lenders rights concerning NPAs. However, banks have obvious incentive problems to exercise those powers including balance sheet implications. It is expected that the ordinance would empower the RBI to nudge the banks to take necessary steps towards resolution of NPAs,” said Bhavin Shah, partner, Financial Services Tax Leader, PwC.

This will involve amending Section 35 of the Banking Regulation Act, which currently deals with powers of inspection for RBI. The cabinet approved an amendment and sent an ordinance to President Mukherjee for his approval, finance minister Arun Jaitley told reporters on Wednesday without giving details.

RBI will create a timeline of, say, 6-9 months for banks to deal with their big bad-loan accounts.

The scheme will kick off with banks being told to resolve the top 40-50 cases, said two people on the condition of anonymity.

If banks aren’t able to find a solution to the problem by the specified time, the central bank will step in directly, said one of the people. This person said RBI will also get some punitive powers to ensure that banks act quickly on these bad loans.

Banks and investors perceive an implicit guarantee on the part of the government and think it will bear the cost of defaults and losses. This scheme will try to correct that perception, said the first person.

RBI will likely exercise control through oversight committees which will have representation from the central bank and help bankers overcome concerns about their decisions being probed by vigilance agencies, said the second person.

Currently, under the so-called Scheme for Sustainable Structuring of Stressed Assets (S4A), there is a provision for an oversight committee consisting of “eminent persons” recommended by the Indian Banks’ Association in consultation with RBI.

One of the functions of the panel under the new framework will be to ensure that the so-called joint lenders’ forums are more comfortable with taking decisions and speeding them up.

“If the regulator can come up with regulations suited to different sectors, unlike the past approach of one-size-fits-all, that would be a good thing,” said Ashvin Parekh, managing partner, Ashvin Parekh Advisory Services Llp. “If the ordinance has something on protecting bankers from fear of investigation, that would be an interesting thing.”

While there will likely be nothing in terms of an explicit protection to bankers from vigilance authorities, the new framework will “raise the bar for questioning business decisions”, said the first person.

Protection of commercial decisions from vigilance inquiries has been a key demand from bankers, especially after the Central Bureau of Investigation arrested former officials of IDBI Bank Ltd, including a former chairman, for sanctioning loans worth Rs950 crore to Kingfisher Airlines Ltd.

This fear has prevented lenders from sacrificing a part of the amount due to them and pushing through sales of stressed assets to turnaround specialists and private equity firms.



Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali eyes two-fold rise in sales at Rs 20,000 crore in FY18

Livemint:  May 05, 2017

New Delhi: Patanjali Ayurved Ltd will cross Rs20,000-25,000 crore in sales this financial year, said Baba Ramdev, the yoga guru who founded the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) firm.

In the year ending 31 March, the company’s overall turnover stood at Rs10,561 crore, of which Patanjali Ayurved alone accounted for Rs9,346 crore and Divya Pharmacy Rs870 crore, said Ramdev. While Patanjali sells products like soaps, toothpaste, hair oil, amla juice, atta, biscuits and noodles, Divya Pharmacy makes and sells Ayurvedic medicines.

In the next one or two years, Patanjali will become India’s largest swadeshi (local) brand, Ramdev claimed. “Turnover figures will force MNCs to go for kapalbhati (a breathing exercise). Let’s end their monopoly…,” he said at a press conference in New Delhi on Thursday. He added Patanjali will give moksh (freedom from the cycle of birth and death) to MNCs in the Indian market in the next five years.

Patanjali has seen a meteoric rise in the last two to three years. From Rs446 crore in 2011-12, its revenue rose to Rs2,006 crore in 2014-15, and around Rs5,000 crore in the year ended 31 March 2016.

While most listed companies are yet to file annual results for the year to 31 March 2017, Nestle India Ltd, which follows the calendar year, reported revenue of Rs9,223.80 crore in year to 31 December 2016. In year to 31 March 2016, Colgate-Palmolive (India) Ltd’s revenue stood at Rs4,162.29 crore while GSK Consumer Healthcare Ltd clocked Rs4,308.72 crore. Hindustan Unilever Ltd saw its revenue touch Rs31,987.17 crore and ITC Ltd stood at Rs36,837.39 crore.

“Prosperity for charity,” the banner behind the yoga guru read, referring to the company’s practice of spending profits for charity. Patanjali has, in the past year, more than doubled its profit, said Ramdev, adding the company will use all the profit for charity.

Ramdev, who has consistently mocked multinational companies, said: “In India, FMCG was synonymous to MNCs so far…..Don’t know when Colgate will have to close its ‘gate’.”

“So far, the CEOs of multinationals were sleeping peacefully considering that the market shares of Patanjali products were small. But that is not true (any longer). We are leaders in categories such as honey and ghee, and others are growing fast,” said Ramdev. The company claimed that its shampoo has a 15% market share, toothpaste 14%, face wash 15%, dish wash 35% and honey 50%.

During the fiscal year, Patanjali ghee had sales of Rs1,467 crore. Its oral care brand Dant Kanti was Rs940 crore, hair care brand Keshkanti Rs825 crore and herbal soap Rs574 crore. It sold honey worth Rs350 crore which it hopes take to Rs500-600 crore next year. Its kachhi ghani mustard oil will cross Rs1,000 crore in sales next year from Rs522 crore this year, Ramdev said.

The company is doubling its manufacturing capacity and will invest about Rs5,000 crore to set up few more factories in India, including in Noida, Nagpur and Indore, which will take its capacity to Rs60,000 crore from the present Rs35,000 crore. “Our Noida facility would have a production capacity of Rs20,000 crore, Nagpur Rs15,000 crore to Rs20,000 crore and Indore Rs5,000 crore,” he added.

Ramdev claimed Patanjali is not a corporate, but a company of 100 crore Indians. “MNCs have looted Indians for so long. It is time to make India MNC-free,” added the yoga guru.

The yoga guru also said India should ban Chinese products and companies as China is not a friend of India.

Interestingly, Ramdev’s Patanjali has been looking to export products to China, Mint reported on 16 March.

Ramdev said even after him, Patanjali’s successor will be a sanyasi (monk) and the brand will never go into the hands of a businessman. In the last couple of years, Patanjali has become the darling of equity analysts. A 5 January 2016 report by India Infoline Ltd estimated that Patanjali’s revenue could grow to Rs20,000 crore by 2020.

Patanjali eyes Rs 1 lakh-crore turnover in next 5 years

HT Business:  May 11, 2017

Ahmedabad: Baba Ramdev-led home-grown FMCG major Patanjali Ayurved, which posted a turnover of Rs 10,561 crore in the last fiscal, is now looking at a 10-fold jump in sales in the next five years.

“Our turnover was Rs 10,561 crore last (fiscal) year. Now, we are targeting to achieve a turnover of Rs 1 lakh crore in the next five years,” said Ramdev at a press conference here today.

On the occasion, the yoga guru-cum-entrepreneur announced his company will donate an equal amount of money for various social causes during the next 20 to 25 years.

“Foreign companies (operating in India) do not give anything for charity, while we donate 100 per cent of our profit for the betterment of the society. We have set a target of giving away Rs 1 lakh crore for charity, including for education, during the next 20 to 25 years,” he said.

Asked about his plans for Gujarat, Ramdev said the Patanjali Yogpeeth may come up with a ‘Cow Research Centre’ in the state.

“We are working on a project to increase milk yield of various cow breeds of Gujarat such as Kankreji and Gir. By using various methods and through embryo transplantation, we can increase the yield from 5 litres to almost 50 litres per day,” said Ramdev.

“It is very much possible that we would set up a Cow Research Centre in Gujarat to carry out these activities. However, you have to wait for a formal announcement on June 21,” he added.


A ton of energy going into India: Tim Cook

Business Standard:  May 04, 2017

New Delhi: Within weeks of the Narendra Modi government rejecting Apple Inc’s demand for Customs duty concessions for its suppliers who could look at manufacturing in the country, Cupertino-based tech major has pinned its hope on India even as global sale of iPhones dipped.

At the analyst call after the second quarter earnings early Wednesday (India time), Chief Executive Tim Cook said, “We’re very optimistic about our future in this remarkable country with its very large, young, and tech-savvy population, fast-growing economy, and improving 4G network infrastructure.” Cook said in his opening address that revenue in India grew by strong double digits during the quarter ended April 1, setting a record.

Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri quantified the “strong double-digit” growth for India — over 20 per cent. The company achieved double-digit growth in the US, Canada, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, Turkey, Russia and Mexico, Maestri said. “Our growth rates were even higher, over 20 per cent in many other markets, including Brazil, Scandinavia, the Middle East, Central and Eastern Europe, India, Korea and Thailand.”

Globally, Apple sold 50.76 million iPhones in its second quarter financial year, down from 51.19 million a year earlier during the corresponding period. In India, around 2.5 million iPhones are estimated to have been sold between October 2015 and September 2016.

While the talk on India revolved around high growth (mainly of iPhones) and 4G network access, top executives remained tight-lipped on the regulatory hurdles Apple faces in the country as well as on the company plans in this geography.

For instance, when Simona K Jankowski of Goldman Sachs asked Cook if it was reasonable to assume that Apple would sell 10 million to 20 million iPhones in India next year, keeping in mind the growth and 4G roll-out, the chief executive officer spoke of having “a ton of energy going into the country on a number of fronts”. According to the transcript of the analyst call available at Seeking Alpha website, Cook said, “We’ve been investing quite a bit… it is the third-largest smartphone market in the world today behind China and the US… So, we believe, particularly now that the 4G infrastructure is going in the country and is continuing to be expanded, there’s a huge opportunity for Apple there. So that and the demographics of the country is why we’re putting so much energy there.”

To another question from Jim Suva of Citigroup Global Markets on Apple’s road map for India and whether it needed to work more with the government to set up stores and production units as well as to improve sales further, Cook agreed that the company was “underpenetrated there”. The company is “bringing all the things that we brought to bear in other markets that we’ve eventually done well in, and that’s from channel to stores to our ecosystem and so forth,” Cook added. He referred to India’s growth rates in relation to iPhone sales as “really good by most people’s expectations”, but said, “maybe not mine as much”. Cook’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year in New Delhi had centred on the promise that India market held, and the country has delivered in terms of consumer response.

The company is bringing all the things to the India market, Cook said. But when and how are among the questions that have kept industry watchers glued to the scene. Business Standard spoke to people close to the company and analysts to piece things together on Apple’s likely India road map for setting up fully-owned stores, starting manufacturing in the country, stepping up assembly lines, selling Apple-certified pre-owned phones and opting for the e-commerce route.

Store plan can wait

Even as Apple had proposed early in 2016 to set up fully-owned stores in India, 30 per cent local sourcing norm as part of the single brand retail foreign direct investment policy (FDI) policy has kept the plan on hold. A senior official at the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) told this newspaper recently, “There’s been no retail proposal from Apple for a long time.”

Sources in the know said that the company was clear that compliance with the sourcing clause was not feasible. Case-to-case approval for niche cutting-edge companies was among the solutions devised by bureaucrats so that a company such as Apple could be spared from mandatory local sourcing. But definition of cutting-edge has been in the making for at least a year. Even as the government subsequently decided that a company manufacturing substantially in India would not have to comply with sourcing norms for owning retail outlets, the mathematics is still not working out for Apple, a source said.

There’s no show-stopper time frame for opening stores in India, a person familiar with the workings of the tech major said. Currently, there are franchisee stores in the country. “Apple could wait for long, till it has the right environment to set up stores as these are iconic destinations the world over. Typically, the company would not look at more than two to three stores in five to 10 years.” He cited global numbers to explain that Apple has no flagship store in many countries, including in Singapore. Dubai recently opened one. There are 495 stores in 18 countries, with maximum in the US, followed by Canada. China is high in the pecking order, too, with 40 stores, but Belgium, Mexico, Macau have only one each; the UAE, Netherlands and Sweden have three each; Turkey and Brazil have two each.

Make in India

However, the narrative has shifted to manufacturing in India now, at least from the government side. But for Apple, manufacturing will not take off till it makes business sense for the company’s component suppliers and the vendor universe, another source associated with production pointed out. Apple had asked for 15 years of Customs duty waiver, to be able to import components such as iPhone kits and other equipment needed for smartphone manufacturing, without incurring a high cost.

Anyway, now the GST (goods and services tax) regime will subsume those duties, a senior official in the finance ministry said, adding, “Nobody can do anything about tax concessions now.” He was replying to a query on the government rejecting Apple’s duty-waiver proposal. It would mean the company would continue to wait for the right time to start manufacturing in India, quite like having its stores.

Assembly line

Assembling in India is one route that is on. In fact, Wistron Corp – No. 92 & 93 Industrial Suburb II Stage, Yeshwanthpur, Bengaluru, India — stands out in the list of top 200 suppliers of Apple on the official website. It is the only one name associated with India to begin assembling of iPhones. To begin with, Taiwanese original design manufacturer Wistron will assemble iPhoneSE in the Karnataka plant. Last-mile work is in progress and things should start in about two months, a source at Wistron indicated.

However, it is the other Taiwanese firm – electronics contract manufacturer Foxconn – that caught public attention with its mega $5-billion now-on now-off investment proposal for Maharashtra. Sources close to the development said even as Foxconn is a big supplier for Apple worldwide, there’s nothing in India yet to connect the two. But, in the coming months or years, things could change and Foxconn could possibly start manufacturing for Apple even in India, they pointed out.

Other plans

Starting online stores is among its plans, and buying iPhones online could be a possibility in the future for Indian shoppers, one of the sources quoted above said. Then there are two more pieces in the Apple jigsaw — sale of Apple-certified pre-owned phones in India and the concept of phased manufacturing that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology recently floated. The proposal to bring pre-owned phones into India was rejected by the government and the company has not returned with any revised plan on that. Phased manufacturing is something that Apple top bosses may be discussing already with the government, at least to figure out what it exactly means.


Passenger vehicle sales forecast to grow at 9-11% over the next five years

Livemint:  May 04, 2017

Mumbai: Passenger vehicles sales in India, the world’s fifth largest car market, are expected to expand at a faster pace over the next five years as pay raises for government employees, courtesy the 7th Pay Commission, and a recovery in rural incomes boost demand for personal transport.

Low fuel prices and interest rates are also likely to encourage purchases.

Despite the shock currency invalidation in November that sucked out 86% of money in circulation, passenger vehicles sales in India advanced 9% in fiscal 2016-17—the quickest in six years, crossing the 3-million mark for the first time, auto industry lobby group Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturer (Siam) said last month. The research arm of rating agency ICRA Ltd on Tuesday said it estimates passenger vehicles sales in India to grow by 9-10% in the current fiscal year and a 9-11% mean annual growth rate over the next five years. Others are equally bullish.

In a 28 April report, Binay Singh and Satyam Thakur, analysts at Morgan Stanley Research, said they expect the five-year rolling volume CAGR to be 5% and 8% in fiscal 2018 and 2019, respectively, after an extended period of sluggish growth.

“The five-year rolling volume CAGR for the passenger vehicles segment was 3% for fiscal 2012-17, close to the lowest over the last 20 years,” they wrote. While volume growth showed signs of improving in fiscal 2016-17, demonetization affected the growth trajectory, they wrote. “With the effects of demonetization now behind, we believe that in fiscal 2017-18 and onward, the passenger vehicles sales recovery story will play out,” they added.

A stronger-than-expected revival in domestic sales in fiscal 20171-18 will be driven by a higher-than-expected boost from the 7th Pay Commission recommendations and strong recovery in rural demand.

To be sure, car makers are already gearing up to ride the high-growth phase and Maruti Suzuki India Ltd will be one of the key beneficiaries as well as a driver of the growth momentum.

“We remain positive on Maruti, as we expect strong volume growth in FY18-19 driven by implementation of the 7th Pay Commission and a strong model cycle,” wrote Sonal Gupta and Kohei Takahashi, analysts at UBS Global Research in a 28 April report.

The local arm of the Japanese car maker sold 1.5 million cars (including exports) in fiscal 2016-17, an increase of 10% from the previous year, and double sales in less than a decade, chairman R.C. Bhargava told reporters after the company reported its March quarter earnings on 27 April.

Hyundai Motor India Ltd, the country’s second largest car maker, has outlined an investment of Rs5,000 crore as it looks to double its sales in India to 1 million units by 2021. The company also plans to introduce eight models by 2020, including three models in the compact, small sport utility vehicle (SUV) and hybrid segments, Y.K. Koo, managing director at the company, told reporters on 21 April. The company expects to sell 682,000 units in 2017-18.

Tata Motors Ltd, which has seen sales surge in the last six months on back of new models, has an ambitious sales target of 250,000 for the current year, up 50% from last year, Mint reported on 27 April.

Puneet Gupta, associate vice-president at market researcher I.H.S Markit, said the months following implementation of the goods and services taxes could see slower sales as there is not enough clarity on the duty structure and its impact on vehicle prices. It’s also likely to lead to postponement of model launches.“We expect hiccups in the September quarter and sales to pick up again once the new duty structure is established,” he said.


World’s highest railway bridge is coming up over the Chenab in J&K

IBEF:  May 04, 2017

New Delhi: The Ministry of Railways is working on building the world’s highest railway bridge over the Chenab river in Jammu and Kashmir at a cost of around Rs 1,100 crore (US$ 171.5 million), which is expected to be 359 meters (m) above the river bed, 35 m taller than the Eiffel Tower. The construction of 1.3-kilometer(km)-long bridge is expected to use over 24,000 tonnes of steel, and is expected to be completed by 2019. The bridge is designed to withstand wind speeds of up to 260 km per hour, and explosion as it will be made of thick special blast-proof steel. The bridge would connect the 111 km stretch between Katra and Banihal, which is part of the Udhampur- Srinagar-Baramulla rail link project, and would likely become a tourist attraction in the region.



Automobile LPG sales grow 4.9 per cent in 2016-17

Business Standard:  May 03, 2017

The auto LPG sector in India closed the fiscal year 2016-17 with an encouraging sales growth of 4.9 per cent over the last fiscal, owing to a drop in prices.

Meanwhile, the sales volume growth was about 8.18 per cent in March 2017 as against March 2016. The auto LPG sales in India grew to 346 TMT in 2016-17 as against 330 TMT in 2015-16. The factors that helped the industry to achieve this growth are the reduction in auto LPG price by leading oil companies such as Indian Oil, HPCL, and BPCL since October 2016 making the fuel about 50 per cent cheaper than petrol. Following this, the sales jumped by 16 per cent in the period between October 1, 2016 and December 31, 2016.

“There is no doubt that auto LPG is the fuel for the future, and that it is the solution to check the growing pollution levels in Indian cities. We are positive about the growth in sales volume achieved this fiscal as it reflects the growing penetration of the fuel across the country. However, we are hopeful of much more positive growth figure in the coming year as the GST regime rolls out, bringing the commercial and domestic LPG prices at par with each other,” said Suyash Gupta, Director General of the Indian Auto LPG Coalition (IAC).

Auto LPG is a clean automotive fuel, which is much cheaper than petrol, diesel and comparable to CNG. The current indirect taxation regime makes auto LPG a less attractive option. While there is zero custom and excise duty on domestic LPG and minimal VAT, the same are cumulatively as high as 15-20 per cent on commercial LPG. All this is set to change with the GST regime.

“With the GST regime, the government has promised to bring both the commercial LPG and domestic LPG under a singular tax rate. This will encourage users to turn to auto LPG. At the same time, both public and private sectors shall feel encouraged to invest more in the sector. We are sure we will be looking at significantly impressive growth rates next year,” Gupta added. Globally, Auto LPG is the third most commonly used automotive fuel after Petrol and Diesel. Over 26 million vehicles across 70 countries use Auto LPG to help clean their urban environment.



Core sector output up 5%, signals industrial recovery

Business Standard:  May 02, 2017

Core sector output rose by 5 per cent in March, recovering from the one-year low growth rate of 1 per cent in February.

The rebound was led primarily by robust growth in steel and coal output, supported by a stable rise in natural gas production.

The data released by the Commerce and Industry Ministry on Monday showed that the eight core industries — coal, crude oil, natural gas, refinery products, fertiliser, steel, cement, and electricity — had a cumulative growth rate of 4.5 per cent in FY17. This was higher than the 4 per cent rise in 2015-16.

Contributing 38 per cent to industrial production (index of industrial production), core sector output had dipped in February mainly due to a decline in production in a majority of sectors such as crude oil, natural gas, refinery products, fertilisers, and cement.

In March, however, continuing the growth momentum, steel output rose by 11 per cent, up from the 8.7 per cent rise in February. The contraction in cement output slowed to 6.8 per cent from the 15.8 per cent contraction in February.

“Notwithstanding the considerable improvement relative to the previous month, the 6.8 per cent contraction in cement output in March signals that the construction sector is yet to fully recover from the disruption that had set in after the note ban,” said Aditi Nayar, principal economist, ICRA.

On the other hand, with its second-highest growth rate of 10 per cent, coal production has also improved over the 7.1 per cent growth seen in the previous month.  This has fired up activity in coal-based electricity plants with power generation also up by 5.9 per cent as compared to the 1.9 per cent growth in February.

The position of both crude oil and refinery products also improved, though slowly. While crude oil turned in a positive growth rate of 0.9 per cent in March after a 3.4 per cent fall in the previous month, the production of refinery products fell by 0.3 per cent, slowing from the 2.3 per cent rate of fall earlier.

Fertiliser production continued to fall for the fourth consecutive month, contracting by 0.8 per cent in March. A pickup in auto production, core sector output, and merchandise exports in March signals that IIP growth would revive relative to the 1.2 per cent contraction in February, ICRA said.


Sale of Khadi products rises 33% to Rs 2,005 crore in FY17

IBEF:  May 02, 2017

New Delhi: The sale of khadi products rose 33 per cent year-on-year to Rs 2,005 crore (US$ 312 million) in 2016-17, as against a sale of Rs 1,510 crore (US$ 235.2 million) a year ago. The Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) expects the sales to exceed its target of Rs 5,000 crore (US$ 779 million) in 2018-19. The KVIC is setting up export cells to promote overseas sales of the products. The overall sales of khadi and village industries grew 24 per cent to around Rs51,996 crore (US$ 8.1 billion) in 2016-17, and the production increased by 23 per cent to Rs 42,506 crore (US$ 6.62 billion) during the year.


ADB sees India growing 7.4% in 2017-18, says GST, bankruptcy law big positives

IBEF:  May 04, 2017

Yokohama: The Indian economy will grow by 7.4 per cent in FY 2017-18 and by 7.6 per cent in FY 2018-19 on the back of an improving business environment created by reforms like the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the new bankruptcy law, stated Mr Yasuyuki Sawada, Chief Economist, Asian Development Bank (ADB). A growth of more than 7 per cent is high compared to other emerging economies, including China. He further stated that the impact of demonetisation was short-term, and the Indian economy’s growth will accelerate over the medium-term. He was also of the opinion that the appreciation of rupee against the dollar will not have a negative impact on exports and that India’s overall export performance is positive.


India’s highway expansion opens up market for global bitumen producers

Livemint:  May 09, 2017

New Delhi: India’s roads and highways expansion drive has led to a sharp annual growth in import of bitumen, a refinery by-product used in laying the surface of roads and highways, opening up a growing market for shipments from Iran, the UAE, Malaysia, Singapore and Greece. Indian refiners, in the meantime, are focusing on capturing the global market for high-end finished petroleum products.

While India’s refining capacity rose by 21% since 2010-11 to 234 million in 2017-18, bitumen imports rose by a phenomenal 823% during the period to 905,000 tonnes as demand outpaced production and refineries opted for maximising output of other high-revenue-yielding finished petroleum products such as petrol, diesel and jet fuel with an eye on export markets, data from oil ministry’s arm Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell showed.

Imports from Malaysia and Singapore rose sharply in the April-February period of 2016-17 from a year ago in rupee terms, showed data from the commerce ministry.

The pace of road construction has picked up in the last few years. During 2012-14, highway construction was around 9km a day, which rose to 17.2km a day in 2015-16 and to approximately 22km a day in 2016-17.

A record 47,350km of roads were constructed during 2016-17, the highest-ever in the last seven years, under the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojana (PMGSY). This contrasts with 25,316km of roads built in 2013-14, 36,337km in 2014-15 and 36,449km in 2015-16.

Experts said the trend of rising import of bitumen will get more pronounced in the coming years as the country makes more rural roads to improve connectivity.

Binaifer F. Jehani, director, industry and customised research, CRISIL Research, said the demand for bitumen is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.6% to 8 million tonnes in 2020-21 due to a 6-7% CAGR in lane kilometres, largely driven by the expansion in rural roads . “Imports are also expected to increase due to strong growth in bitumen demand but major part of it will continue to be supplied by domestic refineries,” said Jehani.

An official from the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) said, on the condition of anonymity, that import dependence will expose states, which rely on bitumen for laying roads, to price and currency volatility, while the Central government is making a transition from bitumen to cement and concrete for laying national highways. “Most of the road estimates being prepared for NHAI are now based on cement and concrete, which costs roughly around 10-20% more,” said the official.

Refineries in the country, in the meantime, are eying the higher end of value-added refinery products with the hope of becoming major regional suppliers. “Bitumen is said to be at the bottom of the barrel, which implies its position among the set of refinery products. It, therefore, makes sense for refineries to maximise production of higher end items such as petrol and diesel, that could fetch them better margins. Production of bitumen also depends on the kind of crude used,” said R.S. Butola, former chairman of Indian Oil Corp., the largest refiner in the country. That approach has resulted in Indian companies exporting 15.4 million tonnes of petrol and 27 million tonnes of diesel in 2016-17, showing a growth of 14% and 34%, respectively, from 2010-11 levels.




70% Indian auto sales to be digitally influenced by 2020

Bain & Co, Facebook study

About 70 per cent of the total automobile sales in India, worth US$ 40 billion, will be digitally influenced by 2020 as against US$ 18 billion currently, as per a joint report titled ‘Changing Gears 2020: How Digital is Transforming the Face of the Automotive Industry’ by Bain & Company and Facebook.

Digital engineering, 3D printing, smart sensors and internet of things (IoT) are expected to disrupt the automobile value chain. About 40 per cent of the sales, worth US$ 23 billion will be influenced by social media by 2020 as against 20 per cent currently. By 2020, about 40 per cent of consumers will go online to book repair and maintenance services as against 14 per cent currently, and about 30 per cent will buy vehicle accessories online as against 8 per cent currently.

Kia to ink pact with AP for setting up its manufacturing unit

South Korea’s second largest carmaker, Kia Motors, will end its five-year evaluation on India entry when the company signs a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Andhra Pradesh (AP) government later this month for setting up a factory.

State officials had worked patiently for over a year to make this happen. Kia and the AP government have moved swiftly on the follow-up action after a final decision was taken.

The state government had issued orders for acquisition of 600 acres for the proposed manufacturing hub just a day after Kia’s team met chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu on April 12. The government proceeded with the acquisition only after Kia officials were satisfied with the site, after making two-three visits to Penukonda in Anantapur district, sources said.

The site is located on national highway around 120 km from Bengaluru.

Senior officials of the Andhra industries department had begun working with Kia Motors over a year ago after they first established communication with senior executives of Hyundai India, who were doing the initial ground work on behalf of its sister concern.

The state government had also offered attractive incentives to HeroMotoCorp and ISUZU for setting up manufacturing units in the state.


India Shows the Way to the World in Fight Against Climate Change

Press Information Bureau:  May 15, 2017

New Delhi:  Union Minister of State (IC) for Power, Coal, New & Renewable Energy and Mines, Shri Piyush Goyal presided over the launch of World’s largest efficient lighting programme, UJALA – UK (UK Joins Affordable LEDs for All) by Energy Efficiency Services Ltd. (EESL) in London, United Kingdom today. Talking about the philosophy of the Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi about preventing wastage of all resources especially electricity, Shri Goyal said that, “a sustainable lifestyle is important for the future of the planet and if the planet has to be saved for the future generations, it is I, you and we all who have to collectively make a difference and act today itself. We are running out of time.”

Informing the august gathering about the scale at which the EESL LED programme is expanding, the Minister said that, “the EESL LED programme in India has grown 140 times in less than 2 years and I don’t think we will find any parallel to that anywhere in the world. EESL would achieve the turnover target of $1.5 million by 2019, concomitant with the Government of India’s target under the UDAY scheme and 100% rural household electrification”. Shri Goyal further stated that even in the Developed countries like the US and Europe, there is a great potential for incorporating energy efficiency measures like the EESL LED programme, especially looking at the climate change scenario in the present context. India’s share in the Global LED market has increased from a mere 0.1% a few years back to around 16% today, it was informed.

Talking about the potential energy savings by implementing the LED programme in India, Shri Goyal said that lighting alone consists of 15% of the total energy needs of the population across the country, especially the lower middle class families, which is about 180 billion units of energy. As India moves towards becoming a 100% LED Nation, the potential savings would be around 112 billion units, in other terms reducing carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 79 million tonnes every year. Consequently, India’s peak load will reduce by about 20 GW and our consumers will save around $6.5 billion worth in electricity bills annually, the Minister added.

Describing the strategy for scaling up the LED penetration in UK, Shri Goyal said that India was able to significantly reduce the purchase price of the LED by increasing efficiency and not giving subsidies to the consumers. The scheme has sustained itself on the savings achieved by increasing energy efficiency in the whole lifecycle of the LED bulbs. “Government of India has fine tuned the process, brought down the costs of manufacturing and sold nearly 230 million LED bulbs whereas the private sector, in the same period, sold about 330 million LED bulbs, effectively replacing about 560 million incandescent bulbs in the last 2 years. The consumers are the direct beneficiaries by saving on electricity bills and reducing the carbon footprint on the environment for the future generations, he added.

The Minister requested the Government of UK to get EESL in touch with all the stakeholders like local distribution companies, e-commerce companies, hotels, industry, large businesses, supermarket chains etc. and replicate India’s model in the UK so as to achieve a similar kind of scale up that the programme has witnessed in India as a zero investment model. He stressed that a massive deployment of this LED programme throughout the world will go a long way in fighting climate change and make the world a better place to live in for the future generations. The Minister urged all the dignitaries present to become ambassadors of this Energy Efficiency programme for a better tomorrow. “I hope that we all will come together in a mission mode to adopt Energy Efficiency as a way of life in the future”, Shri Goyal added.

The Minister also suggested to the Government of the UK a target of replacing at least 100 million incandescent bulbs with LEDs by March 2019 and reduce the individual household consumption of energy by at least half. Further, it was informed that as a beginning to UJALA-UK operations, EESL has started the retrofitting of the facade and other lights of the High Commission of India in UK and the India House which would lead to considerable energy savings. EESL’s engagement with the UK will cover a broad spectrum including marketing of the world class energy efficiency products, services, investments and raising capital, scouting for new energy efficiency technologies and partnering with British companies to establish presence in third world country markets.

During the event, MoUs were signed between Indian High Commission and EESL and between the British Electrotechnical and Allied Manufacturers Association (BEAMA) and the Indian Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers Association (IEEMA) to strengthen bilateral industry cooperation and exchanges between India and the UK.

Dignitaries present during the event were Shri Y.K. Sinha, the High Commissioner of India to the UK, Shri Dinesh Patnaik, Deputy High Commissioner of India in UK, Pankaj Patel, President, FICCI along with other dignitaries from Governments of India and UK, FICCI and other stakeholders from the industry.


Narendra Modi to inaugurate India’s longest bridge in Assam near China border

Prime Minister of India, Mr Narendra Modi, will inaugurate the longest river bridge in India, called ‘Dhola-Sadiya’ bridge, that is built over the Brahmaputra river in Assam near the China border, with a length of 9.15 km, on May 26, 2017. The bridge can hold the weight of a 60-tonne battle tank and will enable easy movement of military troops due to its proximity to the China border, thereby strengthening India’s defence needs along the Shino-Indian border. The bridge will also provide quick access to the people of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, as it will reduce the travel time between the two states by about four hours. In the absence of a civilian airport in Arunachal Pradesh, this bridge will enable people from this state to go to the closest rail head in Tinsukia as well as the airport in Dibrugarh. The bridge is 540 km from Dispur, the capital of Assam, 300 km from Itanagar, the capital of Arunachal Pradesh and less than 100 km aerial distance from the China border.


The Swedish newspaper was recently asked it to delete the reference made by President Pranab Mukherjee to the Bofors scam in an interview to it, as a claim protested by the Indian Government on 27 May 2015. India has expressed disappointment over the disrespect shown to the President, the newspaper has defended its right to publish what was said during the interview.

Know, who is Vijay Kelkar and what is PPP !

Vijay Kelkar is a renowned economist and a former Finance Secretary. He was appointed head of newly constituted committee to give recommendations to recast the model of Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) model in India. India is one of the largest PPP market with over 900 projects. The Kelkar committee will review the PPP policy, suggest a better risk-sharing mechanism between private developers and the government after analysing such projects.

Know, who is Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar !

Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar was crowned as the new Maharaja of of Mysuru (Mysore) royal family. He is the 23-year old grandson of Princess Gayathri Devi, who was the eldest daughter of the last Maharaja of Mysore, Sri Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar. The coronation was held at Mysuru’s famous Amba Vilas Palace, which was decked up for the occasion.

Know about Sepp Blatter!

Swpp Blatter, was re-elected as FIFA president for a fifth term at the 65th Annual Congress of FIFA held at Zurich for four year term.

Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan stood against Blatter in this election. It is worth mentioning that FIFA is going through a major controversy regarding corruption in the organisation with two FIFA vice presidents and a recently elected FIFA executive committee member still in custody.


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