IndUS Business Journal

India signs agreement for smooth travel to US

Jun 17, 2016 0
Arun Kumar Singh

Indian Ambassador Arun K.Singh

Washington– Indians visiting US are set for smoother arrivals, where they can avoid passport lines as India joins the club of nations which are a part of the Global Entry Programme of the US.

Global Entry is a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) programme that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travellers upon arrival in the US.

According to home ministry officials in India, the agreement was likely to come in force by end of July or August.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for making India a part of the programme was signed by CBP Deputy Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan and Indian Ambassador Arun K.Singh on June 3.

An official statement from US embassy on Friday called it a “valuable tool for the US and India to enhance security and the economic partnership between the two nations”.

It added that it will “expedite travel for pre-approved, low-risk air travellers to the US once they have applied and has been approved for the Global Entry programme”.

McAleenan said: “This is a very nice step forward as we work to create opportunities to expedite travel between our nations, and it’s so important to our economies”.

The two countries have been working towards the agreement since 2014, when representatives from each nation met to discuss an overview of the Global Entry programme.

Singh said that the agreement was another example of the robust relationship established between the two nations.

“Deep-rooted and vibrant links between the people of India and the US has been a unique facet of the relationship,” he said, “and has acted as a catalyst to forge closer and stronger ties between our two countries.”

He noted that many Indian descent live in the US and that people from both nations travel often to each other’s country.

“This initiative will bring direct benefit to these travellers,” Singh added.

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India’s auto component industry grew by 8.8% in 2015-16

Jun 17, 2016 0

New Delhi– India’s auto component industry body said on Friday the sector grew 8.8 per cent in 2015-16.

“Despite a challenging year, the auto component industry has registered a satisfactory growth of 8.8 per cent in 2015-16,” said Arvind Balaji, President, ACMA (Automotive Component Manufacturers Association Of India).

“Further, while overall exports from India witnessed de-growth of 9.58 per cent, the Indian auto component industry exports grew by 3.5 per cent.”

Arvind Balaji

Arvind Balaji

Balaji predicted that with signs of recovery in the India based auto market and prospects of a better monsoon, the component sector is expected to witness growth in early double digits this year.

According to Vinnie Mehta, Director General, ACMA, the component industry has been focused on delivering enhanced quality products.

“With the ‘Make in India’ initiative and thrust on increased localisation by OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), the component industry is actively focussing on delivering enhanced quality products, as well as, on R&D (research and development) and innovation,” Mehta said.

The sector’s data — “Industry Performance Review” for the fiscal 2015-16 was furnished by ACMA at a function held here.

The data showed that the turnover of the auto component industry increased by 8.8 per cent to Rs 2.55 lakh crore ($39 billion) for the period April 2015 to March 2016.

Further, the industry’s performance review for 2015-16 revealed that exports of auto components edged up by 3.5 per cent to Rs 70,900 crore ($10.8 billion) from Rs 68,500 crore ($11.2 billion) in 2014-15.

However, imports of auto components grew by 9.3 per cent to Rs 90,600 crore ($13.8 billion) in 2015-16 from Rs 82,900 crore ($13.5 billion) in 2014-15.

Besides, aftermarket sales in the period under review was higher by 12 per cent to Rs 44,660 crore ($6.8 billion) from Rs 39,875 crore ($6.5 billion) in the previous fiscal.

In addition, ACMA data disclosed that for the fiscal 2015-16 an estimated capital investment of Rs 2,700-Rs 4,000 crore ($0.44 – 0.66 billion) was witnessed in the auto component sector.

“The enhancement in investment can be attributed to better business prospects owing to improving market sentiments in 2016-17,” the industry body said in a statement.

ACMA added that the current data represents the entire supply from the auto component industry (ACMA members and non-members) to the on-road and off-road vehicle manufacturers and the aftermarket in India, as well as exports.

“The data also includes component supplies captive to the OEMs and by the unorganised and smaller players,” the statement added. (IANS)

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Tea exports cross 230 mn kg first time in 35 years

Jun 17, 2016 0

Kolkata– Tea exports from India breached the 230 million kg mark after 35 years as the country exported 232.92 million kg of tea, valued at Rs 4,493.10 crore, in 2015-16, the Tea Board of India said on Friday.

“Indian tea achieved another milestone during the financial year 2015-16 when it registered export figures of 232.92 million kgs valued at Rs 4,493.10 crore, breaching the 230 million kg mark after 35 years,” the board said.

Tea-cupThe board said that the quantity of tea exports in 2015-16 increased by 33.84 million kg or, 17 per cent over the previous year, while in value terms, the increase is by Rs 669.46 crore or, 17.51 per cent.

It said that India had exported 231.74 million kg in 1980-81. Prior to that, during 1976-77 and 1956-57, the country exported 242.42 and 233.09 million kg respectively.

Increase of tea exports were registered mainly to Russia, Iran, Germany, Pakistan, Bangladesh, UAE and Poland.

Tea production in India rose three per cent to 1,233.14 million kg during the last fiscal as compared to 1197.18 million kg produced in 2014-15.

According to the Tea Board, the increase in production of tea was mainly due to increase in production in North India by 52.74 million kg (5.52 per cent).

However, South India’s production declined by 16.78 million kg (-6.95 per cent) due to adverse climatic conditions and labour issues in Kerala.

The all-India production of tea estates increased by 1.62 per cent, while the production of the bought leaf factory (BLF) sector increased by 5.81 per cent, which indicates increase of small tea growers’ share in production.

About 33.85 per cent of the total tea production is being contributed by small growers.

CTC tea production which constitutes 90.93 per cent of the total production was at 1121.35 million kg, increasing by 23.19 million kg compared to last year.

Orthodox production constituting 7.51 per cent of total production stood at 92.60 million kg, increasing by 8.47 million kg as against last year.

Green tea production constitutes 1.56 per cent and stood at 19.19 million kg, increasing by 4.30 million kg.

The average price realisation and quantity sold at tea auctions throughout India also registered an increase of 8.05 per cent and 17.82 per cent respectively as compared to the last financial year. (IANS)

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India’s Water reservoirs only 15 percent full: Ministry

Jun 17, 2016 0

New Delhi– India’s 91 major reservoirs are only 15 percent full against their total storage capacity of 157.799 billion cubic metres (BCM), the Ministry of Water Resources said on Friday, with the monsoon yet to hit most parts of India.

“The water storage available in 91 major reservoirs of the country for the week ending on June 16, 2016 was 23.786 BCM, which is 15 percent of total storage capacity of these
reservoirs,” it said in a statement issued here.

This was 57 percent of the storage of the corresponding period last year and 80 percent of average of last ten years, it added.

In northern region of the country, which includes Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan, there are six reservoirs under the Central Water Commission (CWC) monitoring and these reservoirs have a total live storage capacity of 18.01 BCM.

“The total live storage available in these reservoirs is 4.12 BCM, which is 23 percent of total live storage capacity of these reservoirs. The storage during corresponding period of last year was 42 percent and average storage of last ten years during corresponding period was 29 percent of live storage capacity of these reservoirs,” the statement said.

The situation in other regions of the country is no different as rest of the reservoirs too have less than half water to their full capacity.

In the eastern region, that includes Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal and Tripura, there are 15 reservoirs under the CWC monitoring with total live storage capacity of 18.83 BCM.

The total live storage in these reservoirs is 3.25 BCM, which is only 17 percent of their total storage capacity.

The country’s water reservoirs in western, central southern and southern regions also have shortage of water, it added.

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HDFC Life in discussions to take over Max Life

Jun 17, 2016 0

Mumbai/Chennai– In one of the biggest consolidations to happen in the Indian life insurance sector, Max Life Insurance and Max Financial Services have signed agreements to evaluate a potential merger with HDFC Standard Life Insurance Company Ltd, officials said on Friday.

Analjit Singh

Analjit Singh

Explaining the proposed deal to the media in Mumbai, Analjit Singh, founder of the Max Group said: “First Max Life Insurance will merge with Max Financial Services-a listed entity. Then Max Financial Services will be merged with HDFC Standard Life which ultimately will become a listed company.”

“We expect to finalise the swap ratio in 60 days. The whole merger process is expected to be completed in 12 months time,” Deepak Parekh, Chairman, Housing Development Finance Corporation Ltd (HDFC) added.

Agreeing that the shareholding is a bit complex, Parekh also said the foreign partners in the two life insurance companies — Standard Life, UK in HDFC Life and Sumitomo Mitsui, Japan in Max Life- are part of proposed deal as they are on the boards of respective companies.

The officials said there will be no cash involved in the proposed merger deal as the consideration will be settled by share swap ratio.

Singh and Parekh said the product portfolio of the merged entity will be well diversified.

According to Singh, Max Life has a strong individual agents force whereas HDFC Life has a strong bancassurance channel.

With HDFC Bank and other banks as bancassurance partners for HDFC Life and Axis Bank as a major distribution partner for Max Life, the proposed combined entity will have a strong bancassurance channel, added Parekh.

Parekh hoped the agents of Max Life would continue and bring in business for the merged entity.

When asked about the impact of the merger on the policyholders, employees of both the companies, Parekh said those issues would be looked into latter and are yet to be decided.

Queried about the 4.9 per cent stakes held by Axis Bank in Max Life Singh said they would continue to be as shareholder and would get their share once the swap ratio is decided.

Earlier in the day in a regulatory filing in the BSE HDFC said the Board of Directors of HDFC Standard Life Insurance at a meeting on June 17, 2016, has approved entering into a confidentiality, exclusivity and standstill agreement to evaluate a proposal for a potential combination through a merger of Max Life and Max Financial Services with HDFC Life by way of a scheme of arrangement.

The proposed arrangements would be subject to due diligence, definitive documentation and applicable board, shareholder, regulatory, respective High Courts and other approvals.

HDFC Standard Life is a joint venture between HDFC with 61.63 per cent stake, Standard Life (Mauritius Holdings) 2006 Ltd with 35 per cent stake and the rest by others.

Earlier this month, HDFC had announced that its general insurance company HDFC ERGO General Insurance’s board had approved the acquisition of L&T General Insurance Company for Rs 551 crore.

The non-life merger is not complicated like the life insurance companies, said Parekh.

Meanwhile, the Max Financial Services scrip on BSE gained Rs 44.10 on Friday to close at Rs 427.80. (IANS)

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Export duty on sugar to hamper shipments of commodity abroad: ISMA

Jun 17, 2016 0

New Delhi– The Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) on Friday said that the imposition of a 20 percent export duty on sugar will hamper shipments of the commodity abroad.

“With the recent spurt in global prices, sugar exports from India was just about becoming viable but the 20 percent export duty which translates into around 100 USD per ton will make Indian exports unviable,” Abinash Verma, Director General, ISMA was quoted as saying in a statement.

Verma pointed out that latest steps indicates that the government intends to save sugar for domestic usage.

“It seems that the government wants to conserve sugar domestically in view of an expected fall in sugar production in the next 2016-17 sugar season,” Verma pointed out.

“Though there is enough availability of sugar next year, thanks to a reasonably high estimated opening balance of 70 lac tons on 1st October 2016.”

Verma added that the export duty on sugar will ensure a healthier opening balance for 2017-18 season.

On Thursday, the government decided to impose an export duty of 20 percent on sugar.

“To keep the domestic prices of sugar under check, government has decided to impose export duty of 20 percent on the export of raw sugar, white or refined sugar,” the Ministry of Finance said in a statement on Thursday.

A notification to this effect was also issued by the Central Board of Excise and Customs. (IANS)

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Regulator proposes to relax norms for real estate investment trusts

Jun 17, 2016 0

Mumbai–India’s markets regulator on Friday said it proposes to relax the norms for real estate investment trusts, including allowing them to invest up to 20 per cent in a property under construction.

It has, accordingly, floated a consultation paper inviting comments from stakeholders.

Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley

Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley

In a release replete with jargon issued on Friday, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) said it proposes to align minimum public holding in such funds requirement with SCRR — an abbreviation for Securities Contract Regulation Rules.

The proposals are intended to attract domestic and foreign investment to the funds-starved realty industry in India, that is facing the dual dilemma of low demand and high inventories in real estate — some of which are languishing due to paucity of money.

In his budget speech in February, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has said measures will follow on affordable housing.

“I propose that any distribution made out of income of SPV (special purpose vehicles, or holding companies) to the real estate investment trusts infrastructure investment trusts having specified shareholding will not be subjected to dividend distribution tax,” he said.

Realty trusts generally enable developers to raise funds by selling completed buildings to investors and listing them as a trust, they are listed entities which invest in retail assets and leased office. (IANS)

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Yoga wear made from Khadi hits markets

Jun 17, 2016 0

Ahmedabad–The Khadi & Village Industries Commission (KVIC) has launched Yogasutra, a range of clothes and mats made in Khadi to be used while performing yoga exercises.

Launched first in Gujarat, the yoga wear has been introduced in collaboration with Moral Fibre Fabrics, an Ahmedabad-based company that manufactures eco-friendly and trendy garments in Khadi.

Speaking on the occasion, Sanjay Hedaoo, director of KVIC Gujarat, said, “KVIC is always keen to promote Khadi through its innovative usages. Yoga wear is the need of the hour. With growing awareness about the benefits of yoga and a special interest shown by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it was only natural that we introduce yoga wear.”

He said yoga was perhaps the only stream that did not have customised clothes to suit the modern practitioner and complimented the initiative of Moral Fibre Fabrics for creating the Yoga wear collection.

Hedaoo expressed hope that doing Yoga exercises would be “lot more comfortable and meaningful” now. This could also be considered as KVIC’s contribution in the success of the International Yoga Day on June 21, he said.

The Khadi yoga wear collection will be available at KVIC Bhavans across Gujarat, including in Gujarat Vidyapith ahead of the International Yoga Day. The collection includes unisex yoga wear tops and bottoms. A gamchha napkin and a mat will also be available.

Shailini Sheth Amin, founder and CEO of Moral Fibre Fabrics, said, “We look forward to a wonderful linkage of yoga that integrates mind, body and soul with Khadi that supports sustainability of people and the planet.” She thanked the KVIC for allowing her company this platform. (IANS)

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NRIs now can join National Pension System online

Jun 17, 2016 0

New Delhi– Non-resident Indians (NRI) can now open National Pension System (NPS) accounts online if they have Aadhaar Card or PAN card, an official statement by the Finance Ministry said on Friday.

Till now, NRIs could open NPS accounts only through paper applications by approaching bank offices but this has now changed.

adhaar card“Through eNPS, a subscriber will be able to open an NPS account from the comfort of his home. All he will need is an internet connection and an Aadhaar or PAN Card,” the statement said.

India has the second-largest diaspora in the world, with around 29 million people living in over 200 countries, including 25 per cent in the Gulf countries.

The statement said NRIs will be able to open NPS accounts both on repatriable and on non-repatriable basis. On a repatriable basis, an NRI will have to remit the amount through his or her non-resident external (NRE) or foreign currency non-resident (FCNR) or non-resident ordinary (NRO) account.

“For non-repatriable scheme, NRIs will be able to join NPS through their NRE or FCNR or NRO accounts at the time of maturity or during partial withdrawal, the NPS funds would be deposited only in their NRO accounts,” the statement said.

Both repatriable and non-repatriable schemes will greatly appeal to NRIs who intend to return to India after their employment abroad, in view of their attractive returns, low cost, flexibility and their being regulated by the Provident Fund Regulatory and Development Authority, it added. (IANS)

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Microsoft acquires Indian-American’s messaging app startup

Jun 17, 2016 0

New York– With an aim to strengthen its position in the emerging era of conversational intelligence using artificial intelligence (AI), software giant Microsoft has acquired a California-based messaging app founded by an Indian.

Wand Labs, which builds messaging technology for apps, was brought to life by an IIT-Delhi alumnus Vishal Sharma in 2013.

Vishal Sharma

Vishal Sharma

With Sharma, an experienced leader and entrepreneur in the field of search and knowledge, Wand Labs has already been developing in areas specific to “Conversation as a Platform”.

“This acquisition accelerates our vision and strategy for Conversation as a Platform, which Satya Nadella introduced at our ‘Build 2016′ conference in March,” said David Ku, Corporate Vice President, Information Platform Group (Microsoft) in a blog post.

“Wand Labs’ technology and talent will strengthen our position in the emerging era of conversational intelligence, where we bring together the power of human language with advanced machine intelligence, connecting people to knowledge, information, services and other people in more relevant and natural ways,” he added.

The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

The move builds on and extends the power of the Bing, Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and Windows platforms to empower developers everywhere.

The Wand team’s expertise around semantic ontologies, services mapping, third-party developer integration and conversational interfaces make them a great fit to join the Bing engineering and platform team, especially with the work we’re doing in the area of intelligent agents and chat bots, Ku noted.

According to Microsoft, Vishal is a unique talent and a well-respected thought leader in this area.

“We are confident that he and his team can make significant contributions to our innovation of Bing intelligence in this new era of Conversation as a Platform. I am excited to welcome Vishal and the Wand Labs team to Microsoft,” Ku added. (IANS)

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