French companies keen to enhance Bengal presence

Aug 19, 2016 0

Kolkata–France’s Ambassador to India Alexandre Ziegler on Friday said French companies are looking to enhance their presence in West Bengal.

On his maiden visit to the state, the envoy held discussions with state Finance Minister Amit Mitra. He is to meet Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as well as business captains from the state.

“We had very fruitful talks with the Finance Minister and Bengal surely is a part of the French investment scheme in India.

“Bengal is developing very very quickly and the energy that I felt coming here, I am sure, the French companies will also feel. The presence of these companies is going to increase from what we have now,” Ziegler told mediapersons.

While as many as 394 major French conglomerates are doing business across India, their presence in West Bengal was just four percent.

Present in sectors like IT and services, Ziegler said the French companies are looking to invest in information and technology, services and food processing among others.

“This part of India is developing very fast, its dynamic. We have to bring more French companies here,” said Ziegler, adding that the Banerjee government’s annual global business summit can play a role in attracting French investment. (IANS)

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Indian officials urged to maximize use of social media

Aug 19, 2016 0

New Delhi–Union Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore on Friday asked government officials to maximise use of social media platforms and disseminate information which is useful for general public.

Addressing a workshop here on ‘Effective Use of Social Networking for Government Communication’, Rathore said that through social media the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has tried to establish two-way communication with people.

“You cannot hide information in today’s world. You have to share the information. The idea is to send the right kind of content that people can engage with,” he said.

The Minister said the information generated in social media can in the ultimate be helpful to empower and update people.

Addressing Press Information Bureau (PIB) officials who cater to the government’s communication outreach, Rathore said the era of “iron curtain” vis-a-vis information dissemination is now a thing of the past.

“We need to open up. Typically, governments have been with iron curtains all around. But today, time is changing,” he said stressing upon the need for changing the mindset.

Rathore maintained that social media has assumed its own importance as matters and views circulated on social media “shape” one’s mind and opinion and this often gets reflected in the regular media.

Most central ministers are on Facebook, he said but added that there was still scope for improvement on that score. (IANS)

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Government announces team to improve innovation ranking of India

Aug 19, 2016 0

New Delhi– The Indian government on Friday announced that a team would be set up to advise on how to further improve India’a ranking in the global index of countries in the sphere of innovations.

“I am announcing that from the Department (of Commerce) a team would be formed that would look at repositioning India in the sphere of innovations,” Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said here, releasing the Global Innovation Index 2016 Report at an event hosted by jointly by the Niti Aayog, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion and industry chamber CII.

Nirmala Sitharaman

Nirmala Sitharaman

“This team, which will include members from both government and outside, will not reinvent the wheel, but will go into the report, identify challenges and weaknesses to India’s innovation and what the government can do — where it should step in and where it should step back and away,” Sitharaman said.

In the ninth Global Innovation Index report this year, India has improved its ranking by 15 places over last year, following five previous years of decline in position.

“I commit myself to the government’s assistance and facilitation to improve India’s innovation ranking next year,” the minister said, adding the composition of the committee would be announced in a few days.

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US-based NCR Corp. to create new R&D center in Hyderabad

Aug 18, 2016 0

Hyderabad– US-based NCR Corporation, a global leader in omni-channel solutions, will move its Hyderabad R&D facility here to a new state-of-the-art location by early next year.

The new facility at Raheja Mindspace will be a global centre of excellence for NCR as part of its transformational journey towards leadership in the omni-channel evolution.

Starting in 2004 with 50 engineers, NCR’s current Hyderabad R&D centre houses more than 800 professionals focused on software development for the financial, retail, and hospitality industries, as well as 125 consultants supporting customer deployment of NCR technologies.

Hyderabad R&D centre is one of NCR’s largest software development centres and will remain a critical hub focused on developing innovative solutions for global markets, the company said in a statement on Thursday.

The Hyderabad centre is already developing and supporting software and services that global institutions use to empower consumers through self-service applications like the Interactive Teller ATM, EMV contactless ATM cash withdrawals, mobile cash withdrawals, mobile check deposits, EMV-enabled multi-industry payments systems, retail self-checkout lanes, CRM platforms, and cinema and stadium systems management solutions, among many others.

“As we continue to build our innovative, omni-channel architecture, the Hyderabad facility will play an important role as a strategic global centre for software development,” said Eli Rosner, senior vice president and chief technology officer for software solutions at NCR Corporation.

NCR operates in 180 countries, with India increasingly becoming an area of significant operational growth. In addition to the R&D Centre in Hyderabad, NCR has a new world-class manufacturing facility in Chennai, a development centre in Gurgaon and sales & services headquarters in Mumbai.

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Russia to help India in four key industrial areas

Aug 18, 2016 0

New Delhi– Russia agreed to help India in four key areas of civil aviation, fertilisers, mining and metallurgy, said an official statement after the fifth meeting of the India-Russia working group on modernisation and industrial cooperation here on Thursday.

“In the civil aviation sector, the Russia delegation declared its readiness to participate in the ‘Make in India’ programme to develop technological and production capabilities of the Indian industry and potential supplies of the jointly produced equipment to third-world countries, the statement pointed out.

Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion Secretary Ramesh Abhishek led the Indian delegation and Deputy Minister of Industry & Trade Alexander Potapov led the Russian delegation at the meeting.

“In the fertiliser sector, both sides expressed interest in developing the long-term cooperation in mineral fertilizers in the framework of the memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers of India,” the statement noted.

The talks were held in a constructive atmosphere and both sides acknowledged their mutual interest in strengthening and expanding bilateral cooperation between Russian and Indian companies in different sectors.

Both sides also took note of the discussions held in the meeting of subgroups on modernisation, mining, fertilisers and civil aviation.

“Both sides identified specific areas of cooperation in mining and metallurgy. India expressed interest in the joint development of coal fields and iron ore mines in Russia,” the statement said.

Other fields identified to enhance cooperation included technology for production of CRGO steel in India, pharmaceutical industry, modernisation of steel manufacturing facilities in India and participation of Indian power equipment suppliers in modernisation of power sector in Russia.

“Russia reconfirmed its interest in receiving information about possible participation of its companies in the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor,” the statement added.

Both sides have agreed to hold the next meeting of the Working Group in 2017 in Russia. (IANS)

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Apple cultivation in south India a game-changer

Aug 18, 2016 0

By Vishal Gulati

Shimla– Apple cultivation, long associated with the Himalayan foothills, is headed south to the tropics in an experiment that, if successful, could see the country’s output jump several-fold.

The project to grow “low-chilling variety of apples” in southern India is revolutionary, says horticulture scientist Chiranjit Parmar, with production per hectare expected to be in the range of 65 tonnes — dramatically higher than in states like Himachal Pradesh.

“If the project succeeds in the tropics, which it almost has, it will be a revolution in the apple production in India,” Parmar, who is based in Mandi town of Himachal Pradesh, told IANS.

He said the south Indian apple orchards — primarily in Karnataka — could produce 10 times more per hectare than Himachal Pradesh. This means the country’s apple production will shoot up exponentially.

The plantation in the south is in the nascent stage and commercial cultivation is yet to start. It started bearing fruit in less than two years, against the six-seven years it normally takes in the hills.

It is estimated that over 8,000 apple trees have been planted since 2011 in and around Karnataka.

Parmar, a former horticulture expert of the Solan-based Y.S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, experimented with the growing of apple trees in tropical areas after seeing apple plantations in tropical Indonesia.

According to him, the reason for the speedy growth of apple saplings in the tropical region is the absence of the plant’s dormant phase — a natural phenomenon which helps it resist extreme cold.

“The apple plantation sees a huge success in those regions which do not experience winter at all and where the minimum temperature never falls below 12 degrees Celsius and the summer is also not harsh,” he said.

“Now apple plants are sent every year not only to Karnataka but also to the adjoining states,” Parmar said. A majority of saplings have been supplied from the horticulture university’s nursery at Bajaura in Kullu.

Krishna Shetty of Mangalore is one of the growers who procured 300 saplings from Himachal Pradesh in January 2011 and planted them at 20 locations on a trial basis. Subsequently, he procured more plants in 2012.

Grower Gangadhar Murthy of Tumkur, who planted apple sapplings in 2013, said his plantation was quite successful, along with coconuts. He’s now eyeing a commercial cultivation of apples.

“The growing conditions for apple trees are entirely different from those in their native regions. So the plants are behaving differently. For example, because of the incessant growth, flowering in the trees begins in the second year whereas it takes five to six years in the hills,” Parmar said.

“Moreover, the flowering is continuous throughout the year. The shoots have a tendency of growing upright. The trees are becoming tall compared to the hills. The pests and diseases in the tropics are also different and new. This can be controlled by the state research centres,” he said.

Parmar pointed out that some unscrupulous people have started promoting its cultivation by claiming that they have developed apple varieties exclusively suitable for southern India.

“The reality is different. The variety has got no role to play in its success. It’s the timings of lifting the saplings from the nursery and then their planting at the new place which governs the success,” Parmar said.

He said the saplings could be procured only from apple-growing belts in the hills after their dormancy is over by March. And these should be replanted in less than two days.

Horticulture expert S.P. Bhardwaj, a former Joint Director at the Y.S. Parmar University, told IANS the low-chilling apple varieties should be promoted on a large scale.

“The government of India should promote its cultivation as a majority of the country’s apple market is being captured by the imported ones, mainly from China, the US, New Zealand and Australia,” he added.

The only downside, if it could be called that, is that apples grown in tropical conditions have a shorter shelf-life compared to those grown in temperate areas.

Thus, apples grown in Karnataka have a time-period of 12-15 days, whereas those from the hills can last up to a month. (IANS)

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State Bank of India to acquire 4 banks

Aug 18, 2016 0

Mumbai–In a move that can potentially trigger a major consolidation in India’s state-run financial services space, the board of the State Bank of India (SBI) on Thursday approved the acquisition of four other entities in the industry subject to a host of approvals.

The entities are: State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur, State Bank of Mysore, State Bank of Travancore and the Bharatiya Mahila Bank.

The news of this development came after the close of trading hours of Indian bourses.

In mid-June, the government gave an in-principle approval to the proposal for the merger of six banking entities with the country’s largest lender, which State Bank of India chairperson Arundhati Bhattacharya hailed as a “win-win” for all.

The other two banks that have not figured in Thursday’s list are: State Bank of Hyderabad and the State Bank of Patiala. (IANS)

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Singapore Telecom to buy 7.39 percent more stake in Bharti Telecom for $650 million

Aug 18, 2016 0

New Delhi– Singapore Telecommunications (Singtel) on Thursday said it is acquiring 7.39 per cent additional stake in the holding arm of India’s largest telecom company Bharti Airtel for around $650 million.

The development, as per a series of regulatory filings across countries, is a part of a larger deal struck by Singtel with Temasek to acquire 21 per cent in Thailand-based Intouch Holdings and 7.39 per cent of Bharti Telecom for a total consideration of $1.8 billion.

“The aggregate consideration payable for the Bharti Telecom sale shares is approximately Singapore Dollars 884 million (US $658 million),” Singtel added about the deal, which comes just ahead of India’s largest-ever spectrum auction to date.

“Singtel currently already has an interest of approximately 39.78 per cent in the share capital of Bharti Telecom and an interest of approximately 15.01 per cent in the share capital of Bharti Airtel.”

Following the acquisition of the Bharti Telecom sale shares, Singtel’s interest in the share capital of Bharti Telecom will increase from approximately 39.78 per cent to 47.17 per cent.

“Singtel will pay Temasek Thai Baht 60.83 for each share of Intouch and Rs 235.62 for each share of Bharti Telecom. The transaction is subject to the fulfilment of certain conditions precedent, including shareholder and relevant regulatory approvals, and is expected to be completed by December 2016,” the statement added.

It will be satisfied in full in cash in Singapore Dollars on completion, and will be funded in part through the utilisation of the cash proceeds from the allotment and issue of the new shares under the placement agreement, with the balance being funded by internal cash and short-term debt.

The rather complex deal also involves a share placement of 386 million new Singtel shares to Temasek totalling Singapore Dollars 1.605 billion at a price of Singapore Dollars 4.16 per new share.

Singtel said Bharti Airtel is India’s largest telecommunications company with operations in 18 countries across South Asia and Africa and that it has been an associate of its group since 2000. It said the acquisition of stake in Bharti Telecom and Intouch Holdings, which is the biggest shareholder in Thailand’s largest mobile phone company, Advanced Info Services, further consolidates its economic interests in the region.

“Singtel has been a strategic partner to both Advanced Info Services and Airtel for more than 15 years. We have built deep and trusted relationships, worked well together through the years, sharing knowledge and expertise and we have grown together, from strength to strength,” said Singtel Group Chief Executive Chua Sock Koong.

“Today, they have a combined mobile customer base of more than 380 million across Asia and Africa. This is a unique opportunity for us to deepen our relationships with two great market leaders,” Chua added.

The company said both India and Thailand are fundamentally attractive markets, reaping the benefits of rapidly increasing smartphone penetration and mobile data adoption by a growing middle class.

“Both Advanced Info Services and Airtel are well-positioned to benefit from these trends. The recent mobile spectrum auctions in Thailand and ongoing industry consolidation in India have strengthened their competitive positions. They have also built for the future, securing significant spectrum for the long term and investing extensively in 3G and 4G networks and services.”

Bharti Airtel declined comment on the deal, and only posted the identical press statement of Singtel in the regulatory filing to Indian stock exchanges. The shares of Bharti Airtel closed at Rs 352.40 on the BSE on Thursday, up Rs 7.15 or 2.07 per cent.

Besides mobile telephony, the New Delhi-based Bharti group has interests in diverse industries, telecom towers infrastructure including mobile gaming, retail, insurance, branded farm produce, realty and e-learning. (IANS)

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Apart from State Bank of India, corporations dropping public sector banks as their primary bank

Aug 17, 2016 0

Mumbai–Apart from State Bank of India (SBI) and its associates, the rest of the public sector banks (PSBs) along with foreign banks, are losing out on their share of primary bank relationships for corporates, a report has said.

“Foreign and nationalised banks have lost share of primary banking relationships to new private banks,” a joint report by industry body FICCI (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry), IBA (Indian Banks’ Association) and BCG (Boston Consulting Group), said.

The report tilted “Digital and Beyond: New Horizons in Indian Banking” was released here on Wednesday at the FICCI-IBA Conference — FIBAC 2016 — by Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan.

According to the survey, the share of primary banking relationships for PSBs, excluding SBI and its associates, fell from 35 per cent in 2013 to 30 per cent in 2016 while that of foreign banks fell from 13 per cent to 6 per cent.

At the same time, the share of private banks during the period has risen from 29 per cent to 36 per cent.

This comes amid the fact that corporates are increasingly consolidating towards two bank accounts, the survey said.

“The reason for an increase in the share of private banks is that they have better transaction banking propositions which determine primary banking relationships. They are more aggressive in marketing current accounts, payments and collection solutions than PSU banks,” Bharat Poddar, Partner and Director BCG, told IANS.

The share of SBI and its associates however has not been affected and in fact has risen from 25 per cent to 28 per cent in last three years as they have constantly come up with new digital solutions for the corporates, Poddar told over the phone.

But in setting the pace for financial inclusion, PSBs have outperformed the new private banks with almost twice the number of business correspondent outlets per bank, it said.

“The proportion of zero balance Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana accounts has significantly reduced with the impact of direct benefits transfer coming through,” it added.

The survey also reveals that digital transactions have increased by 70 per cent over the last year while bank branches have decreased.

It predicts a three-fold increase in corporate banking activities on mobile devices over the next five years.

However, despite the much talked about digital wave, the new private banks have increased their branch presence by 20 per cent over the last year, it said.

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Petroleum Ministry to set up four new natural gas processing terminals

Aug 17, 2016 0

Agra–Indian Petroleum Ministry will set up four new terminals with a capacity of 50 million tonnes across the country for processing and supply of natural gas to ensure better availability of the gas to the industries, Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister of State (independent charge) for Petroleum and Gas said on Wednesday.

He was speaking at a meeting of industrialists in Agra, which was attended by more than 200 industrialists.

The conference was convened by Laghu Udhyog Bharti.

Pradhan said during National Democratic Alliance rule the price of gas had been reduced thrice. He expected another reduction soon.

Compared to previous government, gas under the new dispensation was costing 40 per cent less to the consumers, he said.

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