Vodafone’s job initiative to help 5 mn Indians find work

Mar 20, 2018 0

Mumbai– Telecom service provider Vodafone on Tuesday announced the launch of a new digital skills and jobs initiative that aims to help five million youth in India and 10 million young people across 18 countries find employment by 2022.

The initiative, named “What will you be?”, launched internationally will provide career guidance and access to training content in the digital economy.

“India has one of the youngest populations in the world. The vision of Digital India, to which we are all committed, requires an abundance of digital skills and new learnings,” Sunil Sood, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Vodafone India, said in a statement.

“Over time, every workplace will go digital, creating new roles and accelerating the demand for a wide range of specialist technology skills relevant for a digital economy.

“With this programme we want to prepare five million young people across India to be future fit for work places of the new world,” Sood said.

As part of the initiative, Vodafone has also developed a Future Jobs Finder — a new online platform accessible to all youth for career guidance, access to relevant training and searching meaningful jobs in the digital economy globally.

It aims to help match skills with potential job positions and extends an opportunity to improve skills through online courses.

Users can also access relevant online digital skills training on this platform, where several courses are available free of cost. (IANS)


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Tata Starbucks opens 24 new stores in India

Mar 20, 2018 0

Kolkata– Tata Starbucks, a 50:50 joint venture between coffee store chain Starbucks and Tata Global Beverages, is opening 24 stores across cities in India to take the total number of stores to 115 by the end of this fiscal, an official said here on Tuesday.

The coffee store chain is also “pleased” with its revenue growth in India.

“We are pleased with the growth in our topline this fiscal and it has improved over the last year’s space (of growth). Our profitability has also improved,” company’s Chief Executive Officer Sumitro Ghosh told reporters here after launching its first store in the city at Park Street.

Two more stores in Kolkata will be in South City mall and Acropolis mall.

After entering the Indian market in 2012, Starbucks has found India to be the fastest growing market in the first five years of operations.

“We are opening 24 stores, including three in Kolkata, in the current year ending March to take the total number of stores to 115. We hope to open more than 24 stores in the next fiscal. In the first five years, there are no other markets that have grown faster than India,” he said, adding that the company is looking at malls, high street markets to open its stores.

With the increasing consumption of coffee in India, almost every player is witnessing a growth in their businesses, he said.

Asked about the plan to open stores in smaller cities, he said: “We are evaluating the next city where we can open new stores.”

The company, which had introduced Teavana brand in India, currently operates 113 stores across seven cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad.

It has the maximum number of stores in Mumbai at 43, followed by Delhi. (IANS)

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Unrealistic to expect GST to settle down in less than 10 years: Bibek Debroy

Mar 19, 2018 0

New Delhi– Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council Chairperson Bibek Debroy on Monday said the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a process which would take more than 10 years to settle down.

“GST is a process and if we expect that the entire process will settle down in anything less than 10 years, then we are being unrealistic,” Debroy said at the annual general meeting of India International Chamber of Commerce.

He said only seven countries in the world had actually implemented the GST system in its true form out of which, five had unitary GST and only two countries, including India, had implemented a federal GST.

“There are very few countries which have implemented GST. There are around 140 countries which have implemented VAT but only seven which have implemented GST,” Debroy said.

He added that out of those seven, only two countries had implemented a federal GST, the other being Canada whose GST system is also “not perfect”.

On direct taxes front, the NITI Aayog member made a case for removal with exemptions which he said was on government agenda.

He said a task force has been set up which would look into the issue. (IANS)

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Delhi’s crop area falls by 52%, fertility among lowest in country: Survey

Mar 19, 2018 0

New Delhi– Gross cropped area in the city has fallen by 52 per cent compared to 2000-01 and Total Fertility Rate (TFR) at 1.6 is among the lowest in the country, according to the Economic Survey of Delhi 2017-18, tabled in the Delhi Assembly on Monday.

On the positive side, per capita expenditure by the government on education and health rose in Delhi in 2016-17 and the per capita income of Delhi was almost three times the national average, both at current and constant prices, the survey said.

Also, Delhi has a life expectancy of 73.8 years, which is the second highest in the country and the crude death rate of four, the lowest.

The Economic Survey was tabled in the House by Finance Minister Manish Sisodia.

The tax collection of Delhi registered a slow growth rate of 3.03 per cent in 2016-17(provisional), compared to 13.61 per cent in 2015-16.

Rural area in the city went down from 558.32 sq.km in 2001 to 369.35 sq.km in 2011 and the number of villages fell from 165 to 112 in the same period.

TFR of Delhi at 1.6 was one of the lowest in India as the all-India level is 2.3, the survey said.

TFR refers to total number of children born or likely to be born to a woman in her lifetime measured on the basis of prevailing age-specific fertility rate of the population.

“The gross cropped area got reduced from 52,816 hectare in 2000-01 to 34,750 hectare in 2017-18. The main reasons behind such reduction are fast urbanisation and shift in occupational pattern, especially during the last two decades,” the survey said.

The per student per annum expenditure on education increased to Rs 54,910 in 2016-17 compared to Rs 29,641 in 2012-13.

Similarly, the per capita expenditure on health increased to Rs 2,233 in 2016-17 from Rs 1,548 in 2011-12.

“As per advance estimate, per capita income of Delhi at current prices during 2017-18 is estimated at Rs 3,29,093 as compared to Rs 3,00,793 in 2016-17,” as per the survey.

Delhi’s green cover increased by 0.04 per cent to 20.06 per cent in 2017 from 20.02 per cent in 2015. While south Delhi has the most green cover, east Delhi has the least.

According to the survey, the power demand of the city increased to 6,261 MW in 2016-17 from 4,720 MW in 2010-11.

Also, number of working factories increased to 8,968 in 2016 compared to 8,557 in 2012.

“Government facilitates supply of food grains to around 72.48 lakh poor people through a network of 2,254 Fair Price Shops at a subsidized price,” the survey said.

The survey also found that the total bed capacity in city hospitals was 53,329 at the end of 2016-17.

“Besides projects of new hospitals, existing hospitals are planned to be remodelled to enhance bed strength,” the survey said. (IANS)

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Partners to steer Microsoft towards $107bn ‘Intelligent’ Cloud market in India

Mar 19, 2018 0

By Nishant Arora

New Delhi– As more and more businesses strive to embrace Cloud in India, Microsoft, with its vast partner network, is in a unique place, offering a complete Cloud platform as well as productivity and business applications, a top global executive has stressed.

For Gavriella Schuster, Corporate Vice President, One Commercial Partner Worldwide, Microsoft Corporation, the ‘Intelligent Cloud’ and ‘Intelligent Edge’ opportunities in India are pegged at $107 billion.

“Cloud services form the backbone of digital services and Microsoft stands in a unique place as it offers both a complete cloud platform and productivity and business applications,” she told IANS.

Businesses and government across the world, including in India, are increasingly looking to transform their operations digitally.

“They are aiming to have efficiency in operations, empower employees, engage better with customers, and transform their products and services,” Schuster said.

Microsoft has always been a partner-led company and 95 per cent of its revenue comes from its partner network.

At present, the company has over 9,000 partners in India, adding more than 400 partners every month.

“Our partner organisations are taking our platform and using some of those applications to develop new high-value intellectual property to help organisations digitally transform themselves,” Schuster said.

In order to work closely with its partners, Microsoft has brought them under the “One Commercial Partner” organisation.

“The ‘One Commercial Partner’ organisation has unified our partner facing workforce and narrowed our focus to building solutions, taking these solutions to market and co-selling with our partners — working as a unified team,” the executive stressed.

For example, a Microsoft partner, “Precimetrix”, is providing Jaipur Municipal Corporation Internet of Things (IoT) and analytics solutions — to help them manage street lights from a single central location. The move, along with the use of LED bulbs, has led to 80 per cent savings in energy use.

“We also have partners like ‘Progressive Infotech’ which enables its customers to capitalise on Microsoft Azure and collaborate better. Since the collaboration, Progressive has grown multifold and has seen compound quarter growth rate (CQGR) of over 17 per cent over the last seven quarters, and an increase of over 900 per cent in its employee headcount,” Schuster told IANS.

In 2015, Microsoft launched Cloud services from three local data centres in India, bringing the power of Cloud to organisations, especially those that require local data residency.

“The effort was recognised by the government as we became one of the first global Cloud service providers to achieve full accreditation from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY),” Schuster said.

Microsoft, along with its partners, is offering a variety of solutions that cater to all of their needs, servicing industries, including banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI), retail, healthcare, IT/ITeS and manufacturing — all built on its platform.

“At present, we have 70 of the 100 top Bombay Stock Exchange-listed companies across sectors as well as start-ups using our Cloud. Last year, we made our Cloud services available to over 5,000 start-ups in India,” Schuster noted.

As part of its new co-sell programme, Microsoft is investing additional resources to help bring solutions to the market and connecting with the right customers.

“We are taking the end-solution that a partner has built on our platform by bringing that partner in to sell with us to those business decision-makers,” the executive informed.

“The customer benefits because they get their solutions. The partner benefits as they get increased sales. Microsoft benefits through the adoption of our platform. So that, in a nutshell, is the concept of co-selling,” Schuster told IANS.

In India, Microsoft has some interesting partner and customer cases such as Talview, a leading talent assessment technology platform.

“Its collaboration with Microsoft has pushed frontiers in application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) in recruitment. It harnesses advanced data science and ML algorithms to help clients expedite hiring and reduce turnaround time,” Schuster said.

ZingHR, a hire-to-retire HR platform, has built an application to ease HR processes for organisations offering services like digital lockers, attendance mapping and employee reimbursements, among others.

The app is hosted on Azure and can be accessed by employees of an organisation on their mobile phones. (IANS)

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Realty market improving but ‘industry status’ would help, say developers

Mar 19, 2018 0

By Rituraj Baruah

New Delhi– After four consecutive years of slump and low demand in the real estate sector, market participants believe 2018 will be a year of revival as the sector has finally shed the impact of demonetisation, Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the implementation of the Real Estate Regulatory Act (RERA).

Business stakeholders say the government could do its bit to push the real estate sector forward by giving it an industry or infrastructure status, which would help lower the cost of funds for developers and reduce prices for consumers.

Although demand is not bullish, the sector is rising from its trough, with unsold inventory slowly finding consumers, they say.

“Earlier there were around 600,000 units unsold. Now that’s down to about 450,000 units in the country,” said Narasimha Jayakumar, Chief Business Officer at 99acres.com , a property advisory website.

“We are quite optimistic about the whole sector in the next 12 months. I think it’s going to increase…it’s going to grow,” Jayakumar told IANS.

Amit Modi, Vice President, Credai Western Uttar Pradesh, said: “In 2017-2018, according to reports from markets such as Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru, there is an increment of 30 per cent in sales compared with 2016-2017.” Credai is the apex body representing real estate developers.

Modi, who is also the Director of the real estate company ABA Corp, said there are instances of rise in prices.

“In one of my projects, which is in the premium segment, we started selling at Rs 3,500-Rs 4,000 per square foot four years back, but (now) the price in our project is more than Rs 6,500 per square foot. In some units we have touched the price of Rs 7,000,” he added.

Online search for properties are also on the rise, said Jayakumar. “There are several examples we are seeing… there is 50 per cent growth in searches. There has been a 45-50 per cent growth in queries for buying,” he said.

However, although searches and research regarding properties have risen from September onwards, the process of concluding a sale was still slow, said Jayashree Kurup, Head of Content and Advice at magicbricks.com .

“In January this year, the market was fairly active from the end-user side before a marginal slowdown in mid-February,” Kurup told IANS.

“In the last two-three weeks we have seen an uptick again and I think it is a very slow and steady market.”

Talking about the demand for apartments, the stakeholders said the trend is changing from buying by investors to end-users. “Investors used to earlier buy 50-60 per cent, that number is now down to 8-10 per cent,” Jayakumar said.

“In many cases the difference between the rent and EMI (equated monthly installment) is only 15-20 per cent, particularly with the credit-linked subsidy scheme, depending on the prices of property and the loan tenure, making it very attractive for the youth to buy,” he added.

Real estate players felt, apart from the market dynamics, the sector is also seeing structural changes and consolidation among small players, largely after the implementation of the RERA and its mandate to establish state units.

Although the introduction of RERA disturbed the status quo in the market, which was largely unorganised and unregulated, its proper and complete implementation would clear up the sector of unscrupulous players and bring about confidence among buyers, they say.

Stakeholders, however, expressed concern about not getting industry status for the sector.

“Industry status means that you can get access to lower-cost bank financing. You don’t have to go to an NBFC (non-banking financial company), other private financing or private equity, which are much more expensive,” Jayakumar said.

Modi emphasised that to reach the target of housing for all, industry status was required.

“(With industry status) the sector will be more organised, one window clearance will be there, and cheap finance will be there, which will definitely stabilise this business and also fulfil the Prime Minister’s dream of housing for all by 2022,” he said.

Although the government provided the industry or infrastructure status to affordable housing projects in Budget 2017-18, it does not seem to be budging on the demand of real estate players for the status to be extended to the whole real estate sector.

Going ahead in the year, the market players also believe the rental housing policy will play a significant role in the sector.

The policy, which is currently at consultation stage and will be sent for cabinet approval after due diligence, is aimed at alleviating the housing shortage in urban areas by encouraging renting of homes.

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National Rental Policy likely to be out soon: Hardeep Puri

Mar 16, 2018 0

New Delhi– The government will soon release the draft National Urban Rental Housing Policy after due consultation between the ministries concerned, Union Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Friday.

Interacting with media on the sidelines of a conference on affordable housing organised by Ficci here, he said the rental policy will be out “quickly”, adding that “consultations on the rental policy are on. We have done (consultations) with the Chief Ministers, we need to do with some other ministers in the government”.

Puri, however, did not give any specific time frame for releasing the policy.

The policy, which is currently at a consultation stage and will be sent for cabinet approval after due diligence, is aimed at alleviating the housing shortage in urban areas by encouraging renting of homes.

On concerns that most slum dwellers are not interested in shifting to affordable houses as they are located away from cities and employment hubs, Puri said: “You have to develop the slums on an ‘as-is-where-is’ basis. It is no longer possible to lift people and relocate 40-50 kilometres away from the habitation and their work.”

So far under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, the government has sanctioned nearly 4 million houses, out of the required 12 million houses by 2022, he said.

On the outlook for the real estate sector at the conference, Sanjaya Baru, Secretary General, Ficci, said the demand for housing had revived and he hoped that positive trend would sustain. (IANS)

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Credit cost to rise as LoUs issuance discontinued: SBI Ecowrap

Mar 16, 2018 0

New Delhi– The RBI’s decision to discontinue the Letters of Undertaking (LoUs) or Letters of Comfort (LoC) might increase the credit cost for imports as it will lead to a shift towards “other off-balance sheet” products, said a State Bank of India (SBI) report on Friday.

According to SBI Ecowrap report, the shift to “other off-balance sheet” products will be “administratively time consuming” and in the short-term might impact export funding as well.

On March 13, RBI decided to discontinue the system in the wake of the Rs 12,600 crore fraud at the state-run Punjab National Bank (PNB).

“Banning LoUs/LoCs might lead to shifting to other off balance sheet products — LCs, Bank Guarantees, other fund based facilities or on to balance sheet,” the SBI Ecowrap report said.

“We, however, believe the shift to other off balance sheet products if occurs, will be administratively time consuming. However capital charge may vary for different products leading to changes in capital requirements in either direction depending on the product used and associated risk.”

Earlier, banks were permitted to issue guarantee/LoU/LoC in favour of overseas supplier, bank or financial institution up to $20 million per import transaction under the automatic route for a maximum period up to one year in case of import of non-capital goods.

As per the latest available RBI data, guarantees given on behalf of constituents outside India stood at Rs 1.95 lakh crore as on March 31, 2017. (IANS)

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Power sector woes: Government mulls easing RBI’s NPA norms

Mar 16, 2018 0

New Delhi– The Centre proposes to recommend that the RBI make some relaxation in its norms on non-performing assets (NPAs), or bad loans, of banks, failing which up to 70,000 MW of power projects will go under bankruptcy proceedings, the Association of Power Producers (APP) said on Friday.

NPAs in the power sector, which account for the major chunk of bad loans, was a main item in the agenda of a meeting held here on Friday between Power Minister R.K. Singh and private power producers, including GMR, Adani Power, JSW Energy, JP Power and Lanco as well as state-run NTPC and the power financing arms of the ministry — PFC and REC.

“We discussed the implications of the RBI (Reserve Bank of India) circular on NPAs which if implemented in letter and spirit would lead to between 60,000-70,000 MW of power projects going for bankruptcy,” APP Director General Ashok Khurana told reporters here following the meeting with the Minister.

Noting that the new RBI norms on resolving the NPAs issue were too rigid, Khurana said the power producers had apprised the Minister of the serious problems being faced by the industry in the way of coal shortage and the huge bill outstandings due from state distribution companies (discoms).

He said the producers had also presented a proposal for a “bill discounting scheme” in respect of the outstanding dues of discoms.

As per the RBI’s revised framework on NPAs banks are required to classify even a day’s delay in paying loan instalments as a default. Producers say this is too stringent for power companies, pointing to how they pay for coal in advance but discoms take 90-150 days to pay for the power.

According to Power Ministry sources, such a recommendation for RBI to relax on the NPA norms could be put up through the Finance Ministry.

Meanwhile, the Power Finance Corp (PFC) has approached the National Co Law Tribunal (NCLT) to start insolvency proceedings against promoters of stressed power projects, officials said.

The PFC and other consortium lenders have filed appeals with the NCLT under the new Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) in some of the cases which include thermal, gas-based as well as hydro power projects, PFC officials said.

Power Minister R.K. Singh told reporters last week that the PFC and Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) Ahave been directed not to grant loans to discoms making heavy losses unless these submit time-bound plans for reducing such losses.

A Parliamentary panel report has revealed that there are as many as 34 stressed electricity projects with a total capacity of over 40,000 MW. (IANS)

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Indian GST system among most complex globally: World Bank

Mar 16, 2018 0

By Vishav 

New Delhi– The Indian Goods and Services Tax (GST) system is among the most complex in the world with not only one of the highest tax rates but also one of the largest number of tax slabs, the World Bank has said.

It added that India has the highest standard GST rate in Asia, and second highest in the world after Chile.

“The tax rates in the Indian GST system are among the highest in the world. The highest GST rate in India, while only applying to a subset of goods and services traded, is 28 per cent, which is the second highest among a sample of 115 countries which have a GST (VAT) system and for which data is available,” the World Bank said in a report.

What makes the Indian GST system even more complex is the number of different GST rates applicable on different categories of goods and services.

India currently has four non-zero rates: 5, 12, 18 and 28 per cent. Apart from that, several items are taxed at zero per cent while gold is taxed at 3 per cent. To make things worse, petroleum products, power and real estate have been kept outside the GST ambit.

According to the World Bank’s biannual India Development Update report, most countries in the world have a single rate of GST: “49 countries use a single rate, 28 use two rates and only five countries including India use four rates,” it said.

Apart from India, the countries that use four or more GST rates are Italy, Luxembourg, Pakistan and Ghana.

While the government has said it would bring down the number of rates once the new taxation system stabilises, it has repeatedly ruled out a single GST rate.

“Luxury goods, sin products, and products hazardous to the environment and health can’t be taxed at the same rate as ‘common-man products’. Wheat, rice, sugar can’t be taxed at the same rate as a Mercedes car or a yacht or tobacco,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said while ruling out the possibility of a single GST rate.

When reached for comment, a World Bank spokesperson said that India is unique in terms of its size and scale of implementation when compared to other counties that have introduced GST.

“The difference with other countries in design is therefore to be expected,” he said.

But it is not just the tax rates that distinguish India’s GST system from the rest of the world. According to the World Bank report, the fiscal threshold for businesses to fall under the full GST impact is also the highest among all comparable countries.

In India, businesses having annual sales above a threshold of Rs 1.5 crore fall under the full GST, and are thus liable to remit GST and eligible to deduct input tax credit.

India started with a threshold of Rs 75 lakh, but in a span of a few months doubled it to Rs 1.5 crore mainly to ease the cost of compliance of small and medium enterprises, it said. “India’s new threshold is the highest among all the 31 comparator countries.”

The report also took note of the disruptions in the initial days of the introduction of tax reform, but added the introduction of GST should be considered as the start of a process — not the end.

“There have been reports of increased administrative tax compliance burden on firms and a locking-up of working capital due to slow tax refund processing. High compliance costs are also arising because the prevalence of multiple tax rates implies a need to classify inputs and outputs based on the applicable tax rate.

“Along with the need to apply the correct rate, firms are required to match invoices between their outputs and inputs to be eligible for full input tax credit, which increases compliance costs further,” it said.

The World Bank spokesperson said the introduction of the GST is only the start of the process that government has undertaken to implement “this bold reform”.

“Drawing actively from user-feedback, the government has been very alert to implementation challenges and continues to take steps to make GST compliance more simple and efficient,” he added.

The World Bank said while international experience suggests that the adjustment process can affect economic activity for multiple months, “the benefits of the GST are likely to outweigh its costs in the long run”.

“Despite the initial hiccups, the introduction of GST is having a far-reaching impact on reducing tax-related barriers to trade barriers, which was one of the primary goals of the introduction,” it said. (IANS)

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