IndUS Business Journal

Vodafone India launches unlimited roaming plans for US, UAE, Singapore

Apr 24, 2017 0

New Delhi– Vodafone India has launched an unlimited international roaming proposition for travellers to the US, UAE and Singapore in its international roaming pack, Vodafone i-RoamFREE, where customers opting for this pack will not be charged a single additional rupee for calls and data while roaming in these three countries, the company announced on Monday.

This pack is available at price points with options of Rs 5,000 for 30 days, Rs 3,500 for 10 days, Rs 2,500 for seven days and Rs 500 for 24 hours, the company said in a statement here.

“There is no cap on the number of calls or amount of high speed data that can be used. Also, calls include all incoming calls and outgoing calls anywhere in the world. This means customers travelling in the US can even make calls to Hong Kong at no extra charges,” the statement said.

Vodafone i-RoamFREE is an international roaming pack which offers home-like tariffs while roaming in 47 countries of the globe.

“This is the first time ever unlimited international roaming proposition and we are very excited to introduce it for our top three travel destinations — US, Singapore and UAE. We are making calls and data, both incoming and outgoing, while travelling in these countries completely free,” said Sandeep Kataria, Director – Commercial, Vodafone India.

“This completely eliminates the need and hassle of changing SIM cards when travelling abroad and customers can now freely use their local number seamlessly without worrying about any bill shocks or expensive charges. They can remain confidently connected on their existing Vodafone number when they travel, and be assured the best of voice and data services,” he added. (IANS)

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Tata Sons welcome order from National Company Law Tribunal

Apr 24, 2017 0

New Delhi–Tata Sons on Monday welcomed the order of an apex corporate tribunal which ruled against a petition that had alleged mismanagement by the company.

The petition by Cyrus Mistry’s investment companies — Cyrus Investment and Sterling Investment Corp. — had alleged mismanagement and oppression of minority shareholders by the company.

The order against the petition was given by the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) on April 17, 2017. It had ruled that the petitioners representing certain companies of the SP Group (SP Group Companies) failed to establish the merits of the petition.

According to Tata Sons, the order has also noted that petitioners failed to demonstrate any cause of action against the company, the Tata Trusts and Ratan N. Tata.

The company pointed out that the tribunal did not see a prima facie triable case to take forward.

“The Tata group, led by Tata Sons, has always been committed to the highest ethical standards and principles of governance. We welcome the NCLT’s order, and it is an endorsement of these values and principles,” N. Chandrasekaran, Executive Chairman of Tata Sons, was quoted as saying in a statement.

N. Chandrasekaran

“Tata Sons and the operating companies are focussed on growth to deliver value to our shareholders, and we thank all stakeholders for their continued support.”

On April 17, the NCLT had dismissed a plea filed by Mistry’s investment companies to waive off a regulatory bar on them as their original petition had been rendered non-maintainable by the March 6th order.

On March 6, the NCLT had ruled against the maintainability of the petition filed against Tata Sons, which cited governance lapses and compromise of minority shareholder interests after Mistry was ousted as Chairman of the holding company of the industrial conglomerate.

The top corporate tribunal held that Mistry’s family firms were not qualified to file a petition against Tata Sons alleging mismanagement and oppression of minority shareholders.

Under the current rules, only a shareholder with more than 10 per cent effective shareholding can file a minority interest petition with the NCLT.

However, the Companies Act empowers the NCLT to waive off this requirement for a petitioner to hold at least 10 per cent of the total issued share capital of the company to qualify for filing a minority interest petition.

Besides the waiver plea, the main company petition which was filed against Tata Sons was also rejected on April 17.

Subsequently, Mistry’s investment companies approached the New Delhi-based National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) on April 19 against the March 6, 2017 order by NCLT which had declared their main petition against Tata Sons as non-maintainable.

On October 24 last year, Tata Sons’ Board ousted Mistry as its Chairman and appointed Ratan Tata as Interim Chairman.

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Indian IT firms don’t steal jobs, create them: Prasad

Apr 23, 2017 0

Bengaluru– Indian IT companies, which conquered the world with their software skills, don’t steal jobs anywhere in the world but create them, asserted Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Saturday.

“Indian IT companies do not steal jobs but create jobs, be it in the US or any other country. We are proud of their contribution in America and the world over,” he said at an interactive meet with leaders of the IT and Electronics System Design Manufacturing industries here.

On the recent executive order US President Donald Trump signed to reform the H-1B visas, Prasad said the concerns of the Indian IT firms have been conveyed to the US administration.

“Our Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who is currently in Washington, has conveyed your (IT firms) concerns on the H-1B visa reform move to US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and the key role of Indian professionals in the US economy,” he said.

Noting that Indian IT firms had paid $22 billion in taxes and generated about 4 lakh jobs in the US over the last five years, the Minister said the Indian software firms had also created value and competitive edge for two-thirds of Fortune 500 firms the world over, including the US.

“The Indian IT eco-system is based upon reciprocity. India’s human resources contribute to the US economy and many American firms benefit in Bengaluru and other parts of the country where they have set up development centres to use our unique talent in creating products for their global markets,” he pointed out.

Ravi Shankar Prasad

Acknowledging that the $150 billion Indian IT industry was under stress due to what is happening in the US and global headwinds, Prasad asked the IT honchos to suggest measures to de-stress them.

“What is your suggestion to me as IT Minister to de-stress your industry. We held your hands when you conquered the world with tax incentives and other benefits,” he asked the gathering.

He also told them to after having “conquered the world with your software expertise”, it was time they looked inside India to “explore the vast market of ‘Digital India’ opened by our government to improve the quality of services and life of people”.

In a tweet later, Prasad said opportunities in emerging areas of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data presented a huge market for Indian IT firms. (IANS)

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Snapchat struggles in ‘rich people gate’

Apr 23, 2017 0

New York–Southern California-based social media company Snap Inc., which highly publicised IPO in March with value at $24 billion, faced backfire as CEO Evan Spiegel was accused of claiming that Snapchat was an app “only for rich people”.

Snapchat, which was labeled by business analysts as the strongest rival to Facebook, had to start damage control urgently, saying Spiegel never made such remarks and “these words were written by a disgruntled former employee”, Xinhua n ews agency reported on Sunday.

The quote, which Snapchat called “ridiculous”, came from a recently unredacted court complaint by Anthony Pompliano, who was hired away by Snapchat from Facebook then served as the company’s growth lead for a few weeks in 2015.

Pompliano’s lawsuit filed in redacted form in Los Angeles Superior Court in January. Snap Inc. dropped its efforts to keep the unredacted complaint under seal and released it in a public filing last week.

Evan Spiegel (Photo courtesy: Adweek)

In the complaint, Pompliano recounted an exchange he said he had with Spiegel in a September 2015 meeting about the app’s international growth plans. He said he presented methods to address the issue, but Spiegel abruptly cut him off.

“This app is only for rich people,” Spiegel said, according to Pompliano. “I don’t want to expand into poor countries like India and Spain.”

These words sparked outrages from all around world, especially in India.

Hundreds of thousands users voiced their disapproval via social-media posts and one-star reviews in Google and Apple’s app stores.

“Mr. CEO of Snapchat, we may be poor but we have bigger hearts than you,” a user named K.P. Naik said in a recent one-star review in Play store.

Another tweet posted by Shreyas Singh on April 15 said: “I am very poor so uninstalled #snapchat but thanks for entertaining for this many days. @evanspiegel @Snapchat don’t mess with India.”

“This is ridiculous,” as statement released by Snap argued, saying those words were written by “a disgruntled former employee”.

“We are grateful for our Snapchat community in India and around the world,” the statement said.

However, Snapchat would face huge challenge in this lawsuit more than PR works as Pompliano also claimed that he learned the company had exaggerated its user data and that top executives were “completely misinformed” about key metrics.

According to report of Variety, in the lawsuit, Pompliano said that on his second day of the job he met with two data analysts, who confided to him that Snapchat had “an institutional aversion to looking at user data”, and its efforts in that area were marked by “utter incompetence.”

Pompliano said he found Snapchat’s daily active users (DAUs) was much less than the company’s boasted number, 100 million DAUs at the time, moreover, the user base increased only one to four per cent per quarter, far less than the double-digit month-over-month growth the company was claiming.

Pompliano also claimed that he was fired because Spiegel determined that he “presented a risk to Snapchat’s IPO”. (IANS)

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Visually-challenged business achiever Srikanth Bolla eyes higher Forbes ranking

Apr 23, 2017 0

By Mohammed Shafeeq

Hyderabad–Forbes has named him in the list of super achievers from Asia under the age of 30 but visually challenged Srikanth Bolla is in no mood to celebrate. His goal is to get into the Forbes list of richest persons — and he won’t settle for anything less.

Such is the determination of the 25-year-old, who was born blind and overcame all adversities to become the first international blind student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and now heads a Rs 30 crore ($4.6 million) company.

Visiting manufacturing plants in different locations in Telangana and Karnataka, attending business meetings and, in between, troubleshooting over the phone, the CEO of Bollant Industries is a busy man.

Equally fluent in different languages, he handles every issue with ease and shows incredible business acumen.

Born in a family of farmers in Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh, life has been one long struggle for him. After passing his Class 10 exam he chose the science stream for the plus-two stage but was not permitted to write the Joint Entrance Exam for IIT-aspirants as he was blind.

“I said when IIT doesn’t want me, I don’t want IIT either. Let me find the best opportunity in the world — better than IIT. MIT being the top school in the world, I always wanted to go there and I went there,” said Srikanth, who has a B.Sc in management from MIT.

Srikanth Bolla

“I don’t believe in honours or awards,” Srikanth told IANS on being named among the Super Achievers under 30 from Asia.

“When I reach the goal of taking my company to an IPO — that is when I will celebrate. I will celebrate when the company reaches Rs 1,000 crore in valuation. Getting into the Forbes main list is my goal and that is when I will celebrate,” said the confident CEO of a packaging and paper products company which is also creating employment opportunities for the differently-abled.

Srikanth is planning an IPO in two years. The company’s turnover in 2016-17 was Rs 30 crore, up from Rs 5 crore in the previous fiscal.

“The company is growing at 20 percent a month since inception. This is a great joy for me because no company, including the unicorns of India, is growing at 20 percent a month.”

He attributes this high growth to the company’s consistent scaling and backward integration, and an over 90 per cent market share.

“Growth is a self-fulfilling prophecy, if you convince the world to give you cheap capital. That is what we were able to do. The cost of capital for cottage-level players is close to 50 per cent per annum. We always keep the capital cost under 15 per cent,” he said.

The packaging and paper products market is highly fragmented but huge at $30 billion and he entered the segment to consolidate it by manufacturing quality products.

The company has seven manufacturing plants in Telangana and Karnataka, employing 600 people.

It recently acquired a sick paper mill in Hyderabad. Out of seven plants of the company, five were previously sick industries.

“Everybody goes and sets up a new plant. It takes one or two years for them to start. We don’t do that. We go after sick industries and revive them within the span of one to two months. We can take their assets at 25 percent of their actual value, which is why we spend less amount of capital and the topline will be high in a short time.”

The company has four directors, including co-founder Swarnalatha, angel investor Ravi Mantha and tech and infra entrepreneur S. Prabhakar Reddy. Its pool of investors include top angels like Ratan Tata, Satish Reddy of Reddy Laboratories, Srini Raju of People’s Capital and Kiran Grandhi of GMR.

The company has so far raised Rs 2 crore in equity and Rs 10 crore in convertible notes.

“I struggled so much in my life that I don’t want the younger generation and disabled people to suffer. I always wanted to come back and do something for India.

“We decided we will employ the underprivileged as the core of our workforce and empower them to be productive citizens of the country and that has been our social mission and it will be our mission for ever keeping our commercial aspect aside,” he said.

Out of 600 people the company employs, 200 are disabled.

How does he look back on the journey so far?

“I think I have had a lovely journey so far, and I also had a rough journey. Because I had tough challenges I could achieve what I achieved. I don’t see challenges as challenges, I see challenges as solutions, in a sense; when I see any problem, I see a solution rather than running away from the problem.” (IANS)

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World cranberry leader Ocean Spray eyes Indian market

Apr 23, 2017 0

By Gurmukh Singh

Vancouver–With Indians reporting high rate of urinary tract infections, the world’s top cranberry producer Ocean Spray is eying the huge Indian market for its products.

An egg-shaped dark red fruit native to North America, cranberry is a natural remedy or antibiotic for urinary tract infections and stomach ulcers.

With annual sales of over $2.5 billon last year, Ocean Spray — which is the marketing cooperative of cranberry farmers in the US and Canada — operates in over 90 countries where it sells over 1,000 products that include fresh and dried fruits, juices, snacks, cocktails and sauces.

The move by Ocean Spray to enter India now assumes significance after a recent World Health Organization report that increasing resistance to antibiotics could become a major threat to people’s health.

Peter Povitar Dhillon

Indo-Canadian Peter Povitar Dhillon, the Ocean Spray chairman who recently visited India as part of a seven-member delegation, said: “We went India to explore opportunities of doing business there.”

“As a global company, we recognise the huge potential of the Indian marketplace. India has the fastest growing middle class and it is the world’s youngest country in terms of the age of its people.”

During their 72-hour trip, Dhillon and his team met Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur, the CEO of Invest India, the chairman of Tata Global Beverages and many senior government and business leaders.

According to Dhillon, considering that young people and pregnant women in India report higher incidents of urinary tract infections, cranberry products can be the best natural remedy to prevent bladder problems.

“We went there to understand the marketplace because the culture of doing business in India is very different. It was a very positive trip. Now we are thinking about the best ways to educate Indians about the unique benefits of cranberry,” he said.

“India’s growing middle class is very affluent and they are becoming very health conscious.”

Citing the WHO report about growing resistance of the human body to antibiotics, Dhillon said: “But cranberry is the nature’s way to give you natural antibiotics and prevent infections.”

Dhillon, who also is the biggest cranberry farmer in Canada, said he has personal reasons to see Ocean Spray enter India as early as possible.

“My parents came to Canada from Punjab and they started growing cranberry here. Now I have the unique opportunity to take this fruit to India. So in a way, things are coming full circle.”

As a follow-up to his team’s visit to India, Dhillon said: “We have some people from Ocean Spray going to India next month. It is a marketplace that we must understand first before we take steps to enter it.” (IANS)

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Jaitley raises H-1B visa issue with US authorities

Apr 23, 2017 0

Washington– The vexed issue of the Trump administration mulling curbs in H-1B visas has been taken up with by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley with the American authorities during his ongoing visit, an Indian official said on Sunday.

The issue was raised by Jaitley during his meeting with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin here on Saturday, an Indian Finance Ministry statement said.

“Finance Minister Arun Jaitley raised the issue of H-1B visas for skilled professionals from India and highlighted the contribution which Indian companies and professionals are making to US economy,” it said.

Arun Jaitley

The issue stems from recent executive orders signed by US President Donald Trump which indicate a possible tightening of the H-1B visas.

“Issues related to terror funding were also discussed and the US Treasury Secretary appreciated the role of India in this regard, including Indo-US cooperation in FATF (Financial Action Task Force),” the statement said.

“Critical economic issues like Indo-US Investment Initiative, infrastructure collaboration, National Investment and Infrastructure Fund, collaboration with USA for smart cities development, etcetera, were deliberated upon during the meeting,” it added.

Jaitley is on a five-day visit to the US to attend the Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

According to the Finance Ministry, Jaitley also held bilateral meetings with the Finance Ministers of Sweden, France and Bangladesh, as well as with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim.

Meanwhile, the US, in turn, has alleged that Indian IT companies were unfairly cornering the major share of H-1B visas by putting extra tickets in the lottery system, which the current US administration wants to replace with a more merit-linked immigration policy.

“The top recipients of the H-1B visa are companies like Tata, Infosys, Cognizant — they will apply for a very large number of visas, more than they get, by putting extra tickets in the lottery raffle, if you will, and then they’ll get the lion’s share of visas,” a senior US official said at a White House briefing last week, according to transcripts posted on the White House website.

“And those three companies are companies that have an average wage for H-1B visas between $60,000 and $65,000. By contrast, the median Silicon Valley (US) software engineer’s wage is probably around $150,000,” the official said. (IANS)

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Consider January-December financial year, Modi urges states

Apr 23, 2017 0

New Delhi–Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday asked the states to consider advancing the financial year to January-December, saying that in a country where agricultural income is exceedingly important, budget should be prepared immediately after its receipt for the year.

Making the observation while delivering the closing remarks at the third meeting of the Governing Council of NITI Aayog here, he said there have been suggestions to have the financial year changed to January-to-December — in place of the existing April-to-March — and urged the states to take the initiative in this regard.

The Prime Minister said that because of poor time management, many good initiatives and schemes had failed to deliver the anticipated results.

He also reiterated the idea of holding simultaneous parliamentary and state assembly elections, saying that the country had suffered from economic and political mismanagement for long now, and that a constructive discussion had already begun on the subject.

“The Prime Minister said if the elections are held simultaneously, then political parties could just focus on them once in five years and then use the rest of the period to do serious work,” NITI Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya told reporters after the meet.

Modi also called upon the state governments to work with the Centre as to build “the India of the dreams of our freedom fighters” by 2022, the 75th anniversary of Independence.

He urged states, local governments and all government and non-government organisations to decide goals for 2022, and work in mission mode towards achieving them.

He called upon the states to use the GeM (Government e-Marketplace) platform to reduce corruption and increase transparency in government procurement, adding that the use of technologies such as BHIM and Aadhaar would result in significant savings for the states.(IANS)

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Three-year action agenda presented at NITI Aayog meet

Apr 23, 2017 0

New Delhi–NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya on Sunday presented a draft of the three-year action agenda for the nation’s development at the planning body’s Governing Council meeting here.

The NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog Vice Chairman said inputs from the states as well as central ministries and subject experts were incorporated in the agenda.

Panagariya invited further inputs and support of the states in taking the vision forward.

“The action agenda is co-terminus with the 14th Finance Commission’s award. This gives stability to the funding estimates of both the Centre and states,” he said.

Panagariya said that apart from the action agenda, there would be a seven-year strategy and a 15-year long-term vision that will replace the erstwhile Five-Year Plans for the nation’s planning framework.

The 12th Five-Year Plan ended on March 31.

During the meeting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the action agenda was just a draft and that all suggestions by the Chief Ministers of various states would be taken into account before finalising it.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Panagariya said the 15-year vision document pegs the Indian economy’s growth from Rs 137 lakh crore in 2015-16 to Rs 469 lakh crore by 2031-32 at 2015-16 prices.

This projection is based on growth estimate of 8 per cent per annum, he said.

Panagariya said the three-year agenda has been divided into seven parts, with each part having a number of specific action points.

Over 300 specific action points have been identified covering the whole gamut of sectors, he said.

“In part one, a revenue and expenditure exercise is undertaken to illustrate how we can begin to shift our expenditure based on set priorities within a three-year period — like increasing expenditure on health, infrastructure, agriculture, and rural economy,” he said.

The NITI Vice-Chairman said subsequent parts deal with major sectors, growth enablers, governance, social sectors and sustainable development.

“Part two deals with agriculture, industry and services; part three with transport connectivity, digital connectivity, public private partnership, energy, and science and technology.

“Part four focuses on innovation and entrepreneurship; part five on governance, tax policy and administration, rule of law, and pro-competition policies and regulations.

“Part six deals with health, education and building an inclusive society; and part seven on environment and forests, and sustainable management of water resources,” he added.

Niti Aayog Chief Executive Amitabh Kant

NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said the major take-away was that the think tank assured there was no vacuum after the 12th Five-Year plan that ended on March 31 as it quickly worked on the three-year plan.

During NITI Aayog Governing Council’s third meeting here, Kant outlined the initiatives taken in areas like agriculture, poverty elimination, health, education, digital payments, disinvestment, coastal zone, and island development.

He said that NITI Aayog will work with states to improve basic services and infrastructure, especially in districts and regions which require specific attention.

Union Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia made a presentation on the Goods and Services Tax (GST), explaining the benefits of the indirect tax collection system and the way forward. He urged the Chief Ministers of states to expedite the legislation of State GST Bills.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan made a presentation on doubling farmers’ income by focusing on irrigation, technology generation and dissemination, and policy and market reforms.

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Anu Chitrapu and her sisters launch social enterprise “Nyrvaana” to save fabric from landfills

Apr 21, 2017 0

BELMONT, MA—Anu Chitrapu, a senior Bank of America executive and columnist for INDIA New England News, and her two sisters have launched Nyrvaana (pronounced as ‘Nirvana’), a social enterprise to save fabric from landfills.

“It all started when the floods hit Chennai in December of 2015. Many of our friends and family talked about how their old silk sarees were destroyed beyond repair,” says Chitrapu, a resident of Belmont, MA. “When we saw the beautiful, hand woven borders on silk and cotton sarees that could never be worn again that was the moment Nyrvaana came into being as a spark in our eyes. It took us over a year to figure out how exactly we could save hand woven, natural fabric from being lost in landfill.”

Anu Chitrapu

Chitrapu is a Senior Vice-President and Executive at Bank of America. She has won awards at the bank for exceptional performance, and is the executive sponsor for the Boston chapter of the Asian Leadership Network. She is also on the advisory board of Saheli, an organization that empowers South Asian women, and has served as the gala chair for their fundraiser Nirbhaya. She serves as treasurer of DAWN (Direct Action for Women Now), a Boston based non-profit that seeks to end gender based violence. Chitrapu holds an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

How does it work Nyrvaana work?

“First came the jewelry pouches. We cut the unusable sarees into small pieces and then attached borders from other sarees. The beauty of kancheevaram silk came to life once again, in a new avatar, when we attached the borders to pieces of fabric salvaged from old clothing, kurtas and dupattas,” said Chitrapu. “After perfecting the pouch design, we became more ambitious – why let bedsheets and curtains go to waste? We tried and tested grocery bags made with these. We bought fabric from the surplus market in Chennai and lined it with an old curtain and, lo and behold, that became a strong, reusable shopping bag!”

Chitrapu said that her team did not want to throw away the thin saree fabric that could be used … so they came up with the design for lightweight jholas. These are very similar to the traditional jholas one would see hanging on the shoulders of students in India in the 70s and 80s.

“We wanted to bring them back into the limelight. So we created light jholas and sturdy book jholas and were thrilled to find some professors in India wanting them,” Chitrapu said. “We have come a long way but have a much longer way to go.”

She says her goals are twofold : first, save natural fabric from ending up in a landfill, and second, to provide employment for women by having all the sewing done by women.

“A hundred percent of profits from Nyrvaana are used to support women. Using profits from our first batch of pouches, which completely sold out, we supported various women-focused causes, including buying a cycle for a young girl in Chennai who is now empowered with wheels,” said Chitrapu. “We provided pouches for women undergoing treatment for cancer – the pouches hold a lip balm, mints and aloe cream. In addition, we sponsor bags for fundraisers and any events that support causes for women.”

For more information, visit Nyrvaana online store at www.nyrvaana.com or email at nyrvaana1@gmail.com for any custom orders.

“And whether you shop at Nyrvaana or not, please do save fabric from landfill by following the principle of reduce, reuse, recycle,” Chitrapu advises.

Nyrvaana is a social enterprise founded by Chitrapu and her sisters, Padma Chitrapu and Subbayama Chitrapu. The inspiration for Nyrvaana came from their mother Satyavathi Chitrapu who came up with the idea of making bags with used fabric.

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