CEOs, startup founders to join Modi for ‘Startup India Movement’

Jan 5, 2016 0

NEW DELHI– Startup founders, venture capitalists, angel investors and CEOs will join Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 16 to launch the ‘Startup India Movement’, the commerce and industry ministry said on Tuesday.

As many as 1,500 startup founders from across the country will convene at the event aimed at celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit of India’s youth.

“The closing session will be addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who will formally launch the initiative and unveil the Startup Action Plan,” said a ministry statement.

Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha will chair a panel discussion on "Show me the money: How do we capitalise entrepreneurhip"

Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha will chair a panel discussion on “Show me the money: How do we capitalise entrepreneurhip”

As indicated by Modi in his radio programme “Mann ki baat”, the event will unveil the full action plan for the ‘Startup India Movement’, highlighting the schemes and initiatives the government will take to address various aspects needed to develop a conducive startup ecosystem in India.

The day-long workshop will feature panel discussions on “Unleashing Entrepreneurship and Innovation: What do Indian Startups Need to Grow and Prosper”, “Celebrating Women: Stories of Innovative Women Entrepreneurs”, “How digitisation will change India’s future”, “Making Indian Healthcare Leapfrog” and “Financial inclusion is within reach”.

As a special feature, Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha will chair a panel discussion on “Show me the money: How do we capitalise entrepreneurhip”, the statement said.

“A unique question and answer session titled ‘Face-to-Face with Policy makers’ is also being organised wherein secretaries of key government ministries and departments will answer questions on how government will be creating an enabling ecosystem for Startups,” the statement said.

Questions will be answered by secretaries from the departments of revenue, human resource development, corporate affairs, financial services, economic affairs, science and technology, biotechnology, electronics and information technology, micro, small and medium enterprises and skill development.

Uber founder Travis Kalanick, Softbank CEO and founder Masayoshi Son and WeWork founder Adam Nuemann will feature in interactive talks.

Internet giant Google’s session titled “Launchpad Accelerator” will involve live pitches to potential investors from early stage startups, the statement said.

Live telecast of the event is planned in IITs, IIMs, NITs, IIITs, central universities and youth groups in as many as 350 districts across the nation.

The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) in association with Invest India, iSpirt, YourStory, NASSCOM, SheThePeople.tv and Kairos Society along with the youth wings of industry bodies FICCI and CII are organising the event.

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Women celebrate in Bihar’s first ‘smokeless’ village

Jan 4, 2016 0

PATNA– Women in a village in Bihar are celebrating — as all its 240 households have been provided with cooking gas connections and they no longer have to use firewood, cow dung cake or charcoal to cook.

Kausar Bano and Anjum Ara are two of the nearly 300 women in Purakothi village in Arwal district, about 80 km from Patna, who are upbeat and relaxed as their village has become Bihar’s first smokeless village.

“Life has suddenly changed in our village. Now women in all households are using LPG to cook. We have been provided LPG stoves and cylinders, no one is using firewood or cow dung cake any more to cook. It is a big development for us,” said Anjum, who is in her late 40s.

All households have been provided with LPG connection under the “Mission Smokeless Village” after the Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. (IOCL) adopted Purakothi last year, company official Arun Prasad said.

According to district officials, there are 250 houses in Purakothi but 10 of them are locked as the residents have shifted to other places.

“IOCL has made available LPG connection in 204 households, followed by 30 by BPCL and six by HPCL,” an official said.

Sagufta Khatoon said women are happier than men as they will no longer have to struggle with smoke, dust and dirt while cooking.

“We used to struggle for hours to cook with firewood, charcoal and cow dung cake during the monsoon season,” she said.

In Bihar’s rural areas, women are still dependent on firewood for their day’s cooking. Nearly 10 million households are still without LPG connection.

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Who is responsible for the mess in Air India?

Jan 4, 2016 0

NEW DELHI– The Supreme Court on Monday said that while private airlines were prospering, Air India was running into losses and wondered who should be held accountable for the mess inflicting the national carrier.

“While private airlines are prospering, Air India is going into red. Who should be held responsible for Air India mess? There are so many stories going around,” observed a bench of Chief Justice T.S.Thakur, Justice A.K.Sikri and Justice R. Banumathi.

The court’s observation came in the course of the hearing of a plea by Air India against the Himachal Pradesh High Court’s December 7 order asking it to commence flights on trial basis connecting Shimla with Delhi by air.

Appearing for the national carrier, Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar told the court that the flight connecting Shimla with Delhi was not economical as there were 12 to 15 one way passengers only, and that Shimla airport did not have refuelling facilities.

Apparently unimpressed, the court said that “you have already constructed an airport, probably spending Rs. 100 crores, now you can’t say that there is no refuelling facilities”.

While extending its December 16 order of status quo the court issued notice to the civil aviation ministry, the Airports Authority of India, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, and the Himachal Pradesh government.

The apex court on December 16, while directing the hearing of the matter on January 4 had ordered status quo thereby putting on hold the December 7 high court direction to Air India to undertake for trial flights.

Notice has also been issued to PIL petitioner Paras Daulta on whose public interest suit the high court had on December 7 Aasked to Air India to undertake trial flight from Shimla’s Jubbarhatti airport and Delhi.

The matter will come up for hearing on February 16.

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India’s Manufacturing activity slips to 28-month low in December

Jan 4, 2016 0

NEW DELHI– India’s manufacturing activity contracted in December for the first time in over two years with Nikkei’s Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) falling to a 28-month low of 49.1 against 50.3 in November.

A Markit-compiled Nikkei PMI reading below 50 indicates contraction, and this was the first time since October 2013 that it fell below the 50 threshold.

“India’s manufacturing sector took a turn for the worse at the year-end, with already gloomy internal demand further hampered by floods in the south of the country,” Markit economist Pollyanna De Lima said in the report released on Monday.

“Ending a 25-month sequence of growth, production plummeted in December. Such was the extent of the decline that the rate of reduction was the sharpest since financial crisis,” she added.

The contraction in December is the worst since the financial crisis of 2008. Flow of new work orders contracted for the first time since October 2013.

The survey said December’s unprecedented rainfall in Chennai impacted heavily on the sector, with fall in new work leading the companies to scale down output at the sharpest pace since February 2009.

Inflation was at a seven-month high in both input costs and output charges, the report said.

“The continued depreciation of the rupee against the US dollar pushed inflation higher, with PMI price indicators pointing to stronger increases in both input prices and output charges,” De Lima said.

“Following the Fed rate hike and expectations of further increases, more currency weakness is anticipated, adding strain to businesses’ dollar-priced debt and import costs,” she added.

The consumer price indexed (CPI) inflation in 2015 remained well under control hovering in the range of 3.66-5.4 percent while the wholesale price indexed (WPI) inflation stayed in the negative zone for the entire 2015 and there was no inflation at all.

While the fall in commodity prices eased cost pressures, higher transport and import costs more than counteracted falling commodity prices resulting in purchase prices rising in December. Part of the increase in costs was passed on by manufacturers, the report said.

It said new work and output fell in both intermediate and investment goods segments.

Despite India’s exports continuing to contract due to sluggish global demand, participants reported an increase in new business from abroad during December, which was attributed to a weaker rupee leading to enhanced pricing power in global markets.

The government’s mid-year review released last month sharply lowered the economic growth forecast for the current fiscal to the 7-7.5 percent range, from the previously projected 8.1-8.5 percent, mainly because of lower agricultural output due to deficit rainfall.

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Rajya Sabha passes arbitration bill

Dec 23, 2015 0

NEW DELHI–The Rajya Sabha on Wednesday passed without discussion the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill to replace an ordinance on arbitration for speedy settlement of high value business disputes.

The Lok Sabha had last week passed the bill by a voice vote.

Rajya Sabha

Rajya Sabha

While under the existing Act, a principal civil court or a high court with original jurisdiction is the relevant court for handling arbitration matters, the bill makes the high court the relevant court for international arbitration.

As per the Arbitration and Conciliation Act of 1996, interim orders of a court, order of an arbitral tribunal and appealable orders only applied to matters where the place of arbitration was India.

Under the new bill, these provisions will also apply to international commercial arbitrations even if the place of arbitration is outside India. This will apply unless the parties agreed otherwise.

Under the existing act, if any matter brought before a court is a subject of an arbitration agreement, parties will be referred to arbitration.

The bill says this power of referral is to be exercised by a court even if there is a previous court judgment to the contrary. The court must refer the parties to arbitration unless it thinks that a valid arbitration agreement does not exist.

At an interaction with industry chambers here last week Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said the government would bring seek the paasage of the bill for creating fast-track arbitration in the country, including single-member tribunals.

“India has almost ceased to be the centre of arbitration and adjudication and we need to bring it back because the arbitration costs abroad are enormous for our companies,” he said.

Highlights of the Bill:

– Modifies original act to say that in the case of international arbitration, the relevant court would only be the relevant high court.

– Provisions would also apply to international commercial arbitrations even if the place of arbitration is outside India. This would apply unless the parties agreed otherwise.

– Power of referral is to be exercised by a court even if there is a previous court judgment to the contrary.

– Introduces provision requiring an arbitral tribunal to make its award within 12 months that may be extended by a six-month period.

– Any challenge to an arbitral award that is made before a Court, must be disposed of within a year.

– Fast track procedure for arbitration – permits parties to choose to conduct arbitration proceedings in a fast track manner.

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India Tables Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code Bill

Dec 21, 2015 0

NEW DELHI– Here are the ighlights of the bill for an Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code that was introduced in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament, by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Monday:

– Consolidates into a single law a host of legislations that deal with the subject;

– Aims to speedily adjudicate such cases for higher recovery of debt and money;

– Allows operational creditors like employees to also call for insolvency resolution;

– Proposes Insolvency Regulator to exercise regulatory oversight over insolvency professionals, insolvency professional agencies and informational utilities;

– Moots two separate Insolvency Adjudicators — one with jurisdiction over companies and the other over insolvency and bankruptcy resolution of individuals;

– Proposes to regulate insolvency professionals and insolvency professional agencies, under regulator’s oversight;

– Proposes fast-tracking resolution of insolvency cases and improve recoveries of amount lent to companies within a timeline of 180 days, extendable by another 90 days;

– Proposes insolvency resolution process for individuals where the creditors and the debtor will engage in negotiations to arrive at an agreeable repayment plan of debts;

– Moots “Fresh Start” process for indigent individuals with income and assets lesser than specified thresholds; and

– Proposes insolvency information utilities which would collate, authenticate and disseminate financial information from listed companies and creditors of companies.

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India’s retail, wholesale inflation both move up in November

Dec 15, 2015 0

NEW DELHI–India’s annual retail and wholesale inflation rates rose considerably in November to 5.41 percent and (-)1.9 percent respectively, due largely to an increase in the prices of food items like pulses, official data showed on Monday.

The inflation rates for October stood at 5.0 percent at retail and (-)3.81 percent at wholesale levels.

Data on consumer price index (CPI) released by the Central Statistics Office here, showed that the retail inflation for rural areas was much higher at 5.95 as against 4.71 percent in urban India. For pulses, the combined inflation rate was a whopping 46.08 percent.

In fact, the food inflation based on retail prices was 6.07 percent at an all-India level, and 5.83 percent and 6.53, respectively at the rural and urban levels. This has inched up from 5.25 percent, 5.18 percent and 5.47 percent.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had set a target of 6 percent annual retail inflation rate for January 2006, saying this was within reach, despite the ill-effects of scanty monsoon an the persistent inflationary pressures.

“Taking all this into consideration, inflation is expected to broadly follow the path set out in the September review with risks slightly to the downside,” the central bank had said in a review earlier this month.

Earlier in the day, data on wholesale price index showed that there was no respite yet from rising food prices, notably pulses, which pushed up the inflation rate based on this set of statistics to (-)1.99 percent for November, against (-)3.81 percent for the month before.

These numbers, released by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, showed that prices of food articles rose sharply by 2.3 percent in just a month in November, as prices of fish, meat, eggs, lentils, condiments and spices, and fruits and vegetables all registered a rise.

Food inflation for the first eight months moved up above the zero percent level to 3.12 percent from (-)1.2 percent during the month under review. The annual index numbers for petrol, diesel and cooking fuels also rose, while still in the negative.

Pointing towards the continuing rise in the wholesale prices of the food segment, particularly in vegetables and pulses, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) pushed for agriculture sector reforms.

“It also remains imperative that the supply side bottlenecks are removed and leakages are plugged,” the chamber’s secretary general A. Didar Singh said. He also maintained that the weakness in prices of manufactured items pointed towards depressed demand.

The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) said that the negative WPI, was in line with the industry expectation and was mainly contributed by softening of potato, minerals, high speed diesel, sugar and iron prices.

“The continuous downtrend in WPI seen over the past few months is a positive signal towards stabilisation of prices but the policy makers need to check continued price pressure in pulses and onions,” said D.S. Rawat, secretary general of Assocham.

The business chamber elaborated that RBI has met the conditions of budgeted WPI and CPI, which provides the central bank room for further rate cut to substitute for weakening global demand.

Fitch Group company — India Ratings and Research — pointed out that pulses inflation can flare up inflation further, as it was mainly instrumental in pushing retail prices in November.

“Going forward, while sufficient food stock will play its role in managing cereals inflation, pulses inflation would continue to exert pressure on headline inflation,” said Devendra Kumar Pant, chief economist at India Ratings and Research.

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US rate hike decision to determine Indian markets’ movements

Dec 13, 2015 0

By Rohit Vaid
MUMBAI– An imminent US rate hike, coupled with upcoming macro data and developments on passing the goods and services tax (GST) bill passage during the winter session of parliament, will dictate the trajectory of not only Indian equities but also the rupee during the week ahead, market observers said on Sunday.

Bombay Stock Exchange

Bombay Stock Exchange

“The focal point will be the outcome of the US Federal Reserve (US Fed) meeting. The probability of a rate rise up to 25 basis points is now more than 70 percent. The US Fed driven volatility and year-end inactivity will keep the markets on a leash,” Devendra Nevgi, chief executive of ZyFin Advisors, told IANS.

“Global cues remain important, including the movement of the yuan.”

The chances of a US interest rate hike has been heightened with positive macro economic data and after US Fed Chairperson Janet Yellen said that she is looking forward to an interest rate hike, which will be seen as a testament to the country’s economic recovery.

The US Fed will conduct its FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) meeting on Wednesday. A hike in interest rates which have been at near-zero levels since the last decade will send shock waves across the world’s capital markets.

A rate hike could potentially lead to a massive pull-back of foreign funds from emerging economies like India. It is expected to dent business margins as access to capital from the US will become expensive.

In addition to the US, Indian markets can come in for a bombardment as frantic dollar buying will devalue the rupee.

On a weekly basis, the rupee weakened by 17 paise at 66.89 (66.8850) (December 11) to a US dollar from its previous close of 66.70 (December 4).

“The rupee value is expected to be under pressure till the Fed conducts its FOMC,” Anindya Banerjee, associate vice president for currency derivatives with Kotak Securities, told IANS.

“It is expected that the Fed will likely increase the interest rates during its meeting slated for next week. This will not only dent the Indian rupee but all the other EM (emerging market) currencies as well.”

Moreover, the FOMC decision will point to the future course of action of foreign investors, who have been on a selling spree in the Indian markets since March.

“It would be interesting to see the Fed’s roadmap for the next 12 months as it will certainly influence the decisions of foreign investors. This is extremely relevant for Indian markets,” Pankaj Sharma, head of equities for Equirus Securities, told IANS.

The National Securities Depository Limited (NSDL) figures showed that the FPIs (Foreign Portfolio Investors) were net sellers during the week ended December 11. They sold Rs.3,495.29 crore or $522.98 million in equity and debt markets during December 7-11.

The data with stock exchanges showed that the FPIs sold stocks worth Rs.1,437.46 crore in the week ended December 11.

Besides, foreign investors have taken out Rs.23,352 crore during August-September. In November, foreign investors off-loaded stocks worth around Rs.9,000 crore.

The silver lining on the cloudy horizon is the hope that consensus finally builds between the government and the opposition on the GST bill.

“One big hope locally is that the Congress may allow the GST bill to go through after the party’s strategy of linking the National Herald case with disruption in parliament has not really been successful,” Sharma cited.

Besides the GST, volatility is expected next week on account of other major events like the release of domestic inflation data points of the consumer price index (CPI) and wholesale price index (WPI).

“Investors will watch out for consumer inflation data on Monday which is expected to inch up marginally to 5.4 percent. The US will also release its core CPI data on Tuesday which could impact the markets,” Vaibhav Agarwal, vice president and research head at Angel Broking, told IANS.

Furthermore, the Indian markets are expected to open Monday’s trade on a positive note after domestic monthly factory output data showed robust growth, Agarwal said.

The Index of Industrial Production (IIP) data showed that India’s factory output rose sharply by 9.8 percent in October, due mainly to a robust 10.6-percent growth in the manufacturing sector.

The growth had decelerated to 3.84 percent in October, and was at (-)2.7 percent last October.

The barometer 30-scrip sensitive index (S&P Sensex) of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), declined by 594 points or 2.31 percent to 25,044.43 points from its previous weekly close at 25,638.11 points.

Similarly, the wider 50-scrip Nifty of the National Stock Exchange (NSE) receded during the week under review. It ended lower by 171.45 points or 2.20 percent to 7,610.45 points.

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Indian Business Briefs

Dec 11, 2015 0

Indian Electronics Sector Attracts $18 Billion in Investment Proposals
The electronics manufacturing sector has attracted investment proposals worth $18 billion since the Government launched its “Make in India” program last year, said Ajay Kumar, Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Communications, who added that the figure is expected to jump in 2016.

Mobility concept

Mobility concept

India, U.S. Foreign Office Consultation Held
Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken deliberated on a range of key issues of mutual interest as part of the India-U.S. Foreign Office Consultation. Jaishankar and Blinken also reviewed implementation of decisions taken during President Obama’s visit to India in January in addition to reviewing the security scenario in the region.

Report: India Sees 21% Jump in Smart Phone Shipments
One out of every three smart phones shipped to India in the third quarter of 2015 are 4G-enabled, said a report by the International Data Corporation (IDC). According to IDC, 28.3 million smart phones were shipped to India in the third quarter of 2015 – up 21.4 percent from the same period last year. In the third quarter, the 4G-enabled devices have witnessed almost a threefold increase in shipments over the previous quarter in 2015.

Bill Gates Calls on PM Modi
Bill Gates called on the Prime Minister Modi to discuss clean energy initiatives, financial inclusion, sanitation, health and nutrition. Gates was appreciative of the work done in India in the field of renewable energy and emphasized the need to lower the cost of clean energy to reduce the level of hydrocarbons.

Pfizer, IIT Delhi Launch ‘Innovation & IP Program’
Pfizer with IIT Delhi have announced the launch of “The Pfizer IIT-Delhi Innovation and IP Program,” an incubation accelerator initiative open to Indian nationals, individuals and startup companies. The program will provide two years of residential incubation at IIT Delhi, funding, mentoring support from IIT Delhi’s faculty and other services.

Govt. OKs Skill Training to 5 Million
The Government will provide skill training to more than 5 million people through its Skill India program with $1 billion in World Bank assistance. The Skill Training for Employability Leveraging Public Private Partnership project was cleared by the Department of Economic Affairs.

Govt. Has OK’d National Highway Projects Worth $16 Billion in Past 18 Months
Since the new Government came to power in May 2014, a total of 599 highways projects have been sanctioned, covering more than 8,000 miles of national highways and spending more than $16 billion, said Minister of Road Transport and Highways, and Shipping Nitin Gadkari. He added that regular meetings of the infrastructure committee are held for clearing bottlenecks and other projects.

Finance Minister Gets Report on Tax Reform
The Finance Minister received a report on tax reform that the submitting committee characterized as a historic opportunity for India to implement a game-changing tax reform. Domestically, it will help improve governance, strengthen tax institutions, facilitate “Make in India by Making One India,” and impart buoyancy to the tax base.

PM Modi’s Pro-Poor Programs Bear Fruit, LPG Subsidies Set Guinness World Record
After bringing millions of poor people into the banking network through his financial inclusion plan, Prime Minister Modi’s liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cash transfer plan is providing subsidies for millions more households. It is such a success that the Guinness Book of World Records recognized the LPG subsidies as the largest cash transfer program in the world.

Email is Now Primary Communication For Tax Matters
The Central Board of Direct Taxes said that email is the new mode of communication between tax officials and taxpayers, as part of the Government’s e-initiative to reduce human interface and complaints of harassment and corruption in conducting tax related jobs.

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Indian economy to become 100 percent digitised by 2020

Dec 10, 2015 0

NEW DELHI– The Indian economy, which is currently 50 percent digitized, is expected to reach 100 percent by 2020, a top official said on Thursday,

The digital transformation is being fueled by rapid innovation in the technology space, said National Cyber Security Coordinator Gulshan Rai at the 3rd edition of the National CIO Summit organized by Confederation of Indian Industry.

On the flip side, this transformation makes any country vulnerable to cyber threats, he said. India ranks amongst the five top most countries for malware penetration and security breaches.

Mobility, social networking, customer centricity and optimization of supply chain are four key forces driving the digital transformation, said KPMG director Arnab Mitra.

Organisations need to build capabilities to walk through this transformation, he said, adding successful digital transformation depend on degree of simplicity from adoption perspective, the risks identified and a proper mitigation plan needs to be in place.

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