US Agency and Andhra Pradesh to develop Visakhapatnam as smart city

Feb 12, 2016 0

VISHAKHAPATNAM–The US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) and Andhra Pradesh government on Friday signed an MoU for developing Visakhapatnam as a smart city.

The USTDA signed the MoU with the department of municipal administration on funding for drawing up master plan for Visakhapatnam smart city.

Leaders in the smart grid arena AECOM, IBM and KPMG will provide Vizag with a planning framework and development strategy for several high-priority investment projects for smarter urban development.

The agreement was signed by Principal Secretary, Municipal Administration, Karikal Velavan and USTDA country manager Heather K. Lanigan in the presence of Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, USTDA director Leocadia I Zak and US Ambassador to India Richard Verma.

The MoU will advance Visakhapatnam’s efforts to make it more efficient and sustainable through the development of interconnected infrastructure, communications and data systems.

Vizag was one of the 20 cities named by the central government last month under the first phase of smart cities programme.

Speaking on the occasion, Naidu said Vizag would be developed into one of the finest smart cities in the country with the assistance of the US. He said the project offer great opportunities for the US companies.

“We are proud of our cooperation with the state government of Andhra Pradesh and the important role our partnership will play in advancing one of India’s highest economic development priorities.A By bringing together the right private sector expertise and a committed partner, the opportunities for growth are limitless,” said Zak.

This cooperation is one component of a multi-faceted effort by USTDA to support the development of smart cities in Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Read More

Wipro to Acquire US Firm HealthPlan Services for $460 Million

Feb 11, 2016 0

SOMERSET, N.J.—Wipro Limited, a leading global information technology, consulting and business process services company, announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire HealthPlan Services from Water Street Healthcare Partners, a strategic investor focused exclusively on the health care industry.

Since partnering with Water Street in 2008, HealthPlan has grown to become the leading independent technology and Business Process as a Service (BPaaS) provider in the U.S. Health Insurance market. As part of the agreement, Wipro will acquire 100% of HealthPlan Services’ shares for a purchase consideration of USD 460 million.

Jeff Bak

Jeff Bak

Headquartered in Tampa, Florida, HealthPlan Services employs over 2,000 associates. HealthPlan Services offers market-leading technology platforms and a fully integrated Business Process as a Service (BPaaS) solution to Health Insurance companies (Payers) in the individual, group and ancillary markets. HealthPlan Services BPaaS solutions are ideal for payers who want to operate in the private and public exchanges and the off-exchange individual market in the U.S.

HealthPlan Services connects its payer clients to over 40 public exchanges and over 150 private exchanges in the U.S. HealthPlan Services has powered many of these payers to achieve desired membership growth, while keeping their administrative costs predictable.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has dramatically altered the health insurance landscape in the U.S. The post-reform individual market is growing at a fast pace and is expected to continue to grow in coming years. By partnering with HealthPlan Services, Wipro gains the competitive, first-mover advantage in the high growth public and private exchange space for individual, group and ancillary markets. This partnership also strengthens Wipro’s payer portfolio, with access to HealthPlan Services’ payer clientele.

Wipro Logo

Wipro Logo

This transaction is closely aligned with Wipro’s key levers for growth, which are to dominate the services market through industry utilities that multiple customers can use. This acquisition adds another platform-led Business Process as a Service (BPaaS) offerings, delivered on cloud to Wipro’s services portfolio. Wipro’s clients currently include over 100 U.S. payers, leading healthcare providers, and public health agencies.

“The partnership with HealthPlan Services positions Wipro to participate in the shift of the US health insurance industry towards a consumer-centric business model. HealthPlan Services strengthens Wipro’s position in the health insurance exchange market while offering synergies with Wipro’s presence in the Managed Medicare and Commercial Group Insurance markets. The addition of HealthPlan Services’ capabilities complements Wipro’s strengths in claims processing and back office services. This is a strategic move for us, as it advances Wipro’s vision of leveraging unique insights into customer buying behavior and applying this across the healthcare value chain. This will help us lower the cost of healthcare and transform the quality of the member experience,” said Jeffrey Heenan Jalil, Senior Vice President & Head – Healthcare Life Sciences and Services, Wipro Limited.

“We welcome the HealthPlan Services team to the Wipro family. Over the past eighteen months we have transformed our BPS business into a platform-led BPaaS business with a strong focus on the healthcare services market. This transaction will help us become the leader in administrative service in the U.S. health insurance industry. The partnership with HealthPlan Services also reinforces our commitment to the US market by creating jobs and value within the US economy,” said Nagendra Bandaru, Senior Vice President and Head – Business Process Services, Wipro Limited.

“We are excited about what Wipro and HealthPlan Services can accomplish together for our customers and employees,” said Jeff Bak, CEO and President of HealthPlan Services. “The combination creates the first true end-to-end solution in the individual under 65 commercial market and the governmental over 65 and Medicaid markets. Together, Wipro and HealthPlan Services will give payers the power to accelerate growth strategies while providing both Business Platform as a Service (BPaaS) and competitive administrative service solutions. We are delighted that Wipro believes in our talented people, strategic vision, corporate culture and business fit to help insurers succeed in a consumer-centric world.”

This transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals and is likely to be completed in next 60 to 90 days.

Read More

Oracle CEO discusses smart city solutions for Maharashtra

Feb 10, 2016 0

MUMBAI– Oracle CEO Safra Catz on Wednesday met Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and discussed how Oracle can provide assistance with smart city apps to improve citizen experiences.

Safra discussed three mobile solutions — myOneCity, mHelp and mTourist — to help authorities provide multiple channels to address public grievances, be better prepared for natural disasters and improve tourism in the state.

Safra Catz

Safra Catz

“I am thrilled to have this opportunity to meet with the chief minister of Maharashtra to discuss his vision and priorities for the state and to discuss our nearly three decade’s commitment to India. We have 38,000 employees and 700 partners in India and we are still growing strong,” Catz said in a statement.

myOneCity will help citizens interact with government agencies through multiple means of communication with particular focus on mobile and enable authorities to address these concerns through monitoring process.

The complaint gets registered and intelligent backend engines will route it to the right department.

Citizens can take pictures, which will be automatically geo-tagged, and embed them within the complaint.

mHelp will provide citizens and city administration a comprehensive mobile solution for disaster management. The app will ensure timely alerts and response from government for much needed co-ordination between officers on the field and affected citizens.

mTourist will help tourists access information about places to visit, events to attend, maps, road traffic, weather and pollution levels and make bookings.

Catz was conferred with the Global CEO award by apex IT body Nasscom for her role in driving business transformation at Oracle Corporation.

She received the award at the 24th Nasscom India Leadership Forum in Mumbai.

The award recognises individuals for business excellence and technology leadership within their organisations in areas such as vision, excellence in IT usage, business leadership and contribution to India.

Past recipients include luminaries such as Ratan Tata, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, Intel chairman Craig Barrett, and HSBC Group CEO Stephen Green, among others.

Read More

Mukesh Ambani, Sam Pitroda in US engineering academy

Feb 9, 2016 0

MUMBAI– Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani and tech evangelist Sam Pitroda are to be inducted as members of the prestigious National Academy of Engineering of the US, taking the Indians in it to 10, among 2,275 eminent people.

Founded in 1964, the US-based National Academy of Engineering (NAE) is a private, independent, non-profit institution, providing global engineering leadership.

Mukesh Ambani“Individuals in the newly elected class will be formally inducted during a ceremony at the NAE’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C. on October 9, 2016,” a statement from the institution said.

The other Indian members include P.C. Kapur of IIT-Delhi, scientist R.A. Mashelkar, Narayana Murthy of Infosys, scientist Roddam Narasimha, Pradip P. of TCS, scientist P. Ramarao, chemical engineer M.M. Sharma and industrialist Ratan Tata.

Founded in 1964, the academy is a private, independent, non-profit that provides engineering leadership with a mission to promote a vibrant engineering profession and giving insights to the US government on related matters.

As per an announcement of the non-profit, Pitroda is a member for developing rural telecom infrastructure for India, while Ambani has made the cut for engineering a business leadership in oil refineries, petrochem and related industries.

The institution has more than 2,000 peer-elected members and foreign members, who are considered among the world’s most accomplished engineers — people who provide leadership for numerous projects to link their domain with better quality of life.

Read More

Liability pact makes India-US N-deal a big deal

Feb 7, 2016 0

By Arun Kumar

WASHINGTON–India’s ratification of an international convention on nuclear energy accident liability has removed a major irritant in India-US relations and would help them unleash the full potential of the landmark India-US nuclear deal.

The US was quick to welcome the development removing the last hurdle in the way of US firms to build nuclear plants in India and generate an estimated $100 billion in business seven years after the deal was signed with much fanfare.

Indian Prime Minister Mody

Indian Prime Minister Mody

A deal between Toshiba Corp’s Westinghouse Electric to build six nuclear reactors in Gujarat may well be signed in time for a possible visit by Prime

Minister Narendra Modi to Washington to attend the March 31- April 1 nuclear security summit.

Westinghouse is reported to be negotiating with the state-run operator Nuclear Power Corp of India Ltd (NPCIL) with the hope of making a “commercially significant announcement” during Modi’s expected US visit and sign a final contract later in the year.

Another US company GE Hitachi is said to be in talks about the techno-commercial viability of its reactors at sites in Andhra Pradesh.

American firms had been allocated sites in the two states under the nuclear deal signed in October 2008 after the then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh staked his government over it.

However, the two US companies were reluctant to go ahead in the face of India’s tough 2010 nuclear liability law that made the suppliers of nuclear plants liable for damage in the event of an accident.

Though the deal otherwise transformed India-US relations, Washington was sore that while it had done the heavy lifting to get India a waiver from the

48-nation Nuclear Supplier Group to do nuclear business with other countries, it had been left high and dry.

Finally, it was during President Barack Obama’s historic visit to New Delhi last year as chief guest at India’s Republic Day that he and Modi reached what was described as a “breakthrough understanding” to allay US concerns about industry liability.

The understanding sought to resolve India’s concerns about inspections and US concerns about liability for a nuclear accident with Washington saying India’s laws and regulations do not meet international standards.

On the first, with India agreeing on ‘administrative arrangements’ providing

for tighter checks by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Washington dropped its insistence on ‘flagging’, or tracking, fuel consignments.

On the issue of liability, the understanding endorsed the principle of strict liability, which ‘channels’ costs arising from a nuclear accident to the plant operator and requires it to pay no-fault compensation.

To address another issue posed by India’s 2010 nuclear liability law that allows a plant operator to seek secondary recourse against a supplier, an India Nuclear Insurance Pool (INIP) with a liability cap of 15 billion rupees ($222 million) was launched in June 2015.

Now with India agreeing to ratify the IAEA Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC), it would also gain access to international funds with risk shared according to how many nuclear plants a country has.

The Feb 4 submission of the instrument of ratification to IAEA in Vienna, according to Indian officials “is the conclusive step in the addressing of issues related to civil nuclear liability in India.”

State Department spokesman John Kirby Friday acknowledged that Indian membership in the CSC will “facilitate participation by companies from the United States in the construction of nuclear reactors in India.”

And as he noted it will also reduce “India’s reliance on carbon-intensive sources, that will benefit the environment, and will offer India greater energy security for its large and growing economy.” And that makes it a big deal.

Read More

US Places Food Products Made by India’s Laljee Godhoo & Co. on Import Alert List

Feb 6, 2016 0

BOSTON—U.S. Food and Drug Administration has banned food products made by Mumbai-based Laljee Godhoo & Co. On Feb. 1, FDA added food products from Laljee on the FDA website’s import alert list.

FDA logoImport alert means detention without physical examination of food products due to the presence of Salmonella, according to the agency’s website. This alert provides for manufacturers and shippers, from multiple countries, to be placed on detention without physical examination for food products found to contain Salmonella. Food products from other countries are also put on import alert.

FDA said that its Northeast Regional Laboratory found a sample of dried fruit, namely dried lychee from the Peoples Republic of China, to contain Salmonella. In the past, other imported food such as spices, chocolate candy, sesame products, including halawa and tahini, and food products containing dried egg or nonfat dry milk, such as pasta and egg noodles, have also been found to be contaminated with Salmonella.

The food products on the import alert list from Laljee Godhoo & Co. include LG Hing powder spice, and its use in other bakery products, macaroni/noodle, dried milk products, cheese prooducts, ice cream, egg products, meat and poultry, coffee, tea and dressing condiment, among others. For more information and complete listing, please visit FDA website.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

Read More

IT Minister Prasad: Take advantage of Digital India initiative

Feb 6, 2016 0

By Wire Services

CAMBRIDGE, MA– India’s future as a technology powerhouse and its plans to connect India’s 600,000 villages to the Internet through the Digital India programme were the focus of a roundtable of top American and Indian companies.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Startup India initiative also came up at the roundtable with Indian Minister for Communications & IT Ravi Shankar Prasad hosted by the US-India Business Council (USIBC) at Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Friday.

The roundtable was attended by USIBC President Mukesh Aghi and senior executives of American and Indian companies that included Google, AT&T, MasterCard, Facebook, American Tower Corporation, UST Global and iTech.

USIBC comprises 350 top-tier US and Indian companies advancing US-India commercial ties.

“Digital India provides an enormous investment opportunity for both global technology companies and startups from tech hubs like Boston and Silicon Valley,” Prasad said.

“India is sitting on the cusp of a digital revolution,” he said. “Whether it is big metropolitan cities or small towns, a well-connected India has the potential to not only usher in economic and welfare opportunities for its citizens, but also the global economic order.”

The Indian “government is taking every policy decision in a transparent, predictable and reasonable manner,” Prasad said encouraging “American businesses to take advantage of the Digital India programme, and the growth opportunities in India.”

Prasad also outlined the progress that has already been made to implement Digital India programme and his priorities for the future.

Aghi said, “Prime Minister Modi’s directive to connect Indians across the country is a tremendous opportunity for both Indian and US companies alike.”

Noting that 85 percent of Indians still do not have access to the Internet, he said “the government could make it easier to obtain clearances to install cell phone towers.”

“IT infrastructure can be further expanded by lifting the ban on foreign satellite operators so they can provide spectrum in hard-to-reach areas.”

Dan Gupta of UST Global commented on the economic growth that can be spurred by the Digital India initiative and adoption of key technologies across sectors.

“By some estimations, the Digital India initiative could help boost India’s gross domestic product (GDP) by around $550 billion – upping its GDP by $1 trillion by 2025,” he said.

Sonny Khurana, CEO of iTech, praised the rapid strides in connectivity and the startup ecosystem under the current government.

Read More

Indian Railway Minister in US to address World Bank conference on transport

Jan 15, 2016 0

NEW DELHI– Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu is currently on a three-day tour of the US capital on the request of the World Bank, the railways ministry said in a statement here on Friday.

He is to deliver an address at the plenary session on the World Bank Conference on “Transport and Cities – Key Drivers for Meeting Climate Goals”, the statement said.

Suresh Prabhu

Suresh Prabhu

Apart from this, his tour involves a number of seminars, conference, meetings and events, it added.

At an event on Thursday evening at Washington’s Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Prabhu said the Indian government wants to make infrastructure growth a priority, where transportation would be the key element of development and growth of the country.

“A proper sustainable transportation sector has potential to play a key role in India’s economic growth including removal of social disparity, help reduce global greenhouse gas emission,” he said.

“I do not think India can achieve higher economic growth unless we put in place a strong transportation sector,” he added.

Prabhu, who is scheduled to meet US Deputy Transportation Secretary Victor Mendez, during his current visit, said India wants to involve the US in its modernisation of the railways.

Noting that globally railways derive more than 30 percent of its income from non-railway operations, he said the modernisation of India’s railway stations and railway real estate is a step in that direction.

“As of now Indian Railways earns less than one percent of its income from non-railway operations,” he said.

Read More

India tops in sending scientists and engineers to the US

Jan 14, 2016 0

WASHINGTON– Among Asian countries, India continues its trend of being the top country of birth for immigrant scientists and engineers to the US, says a latest report, adding that with 950,000 out of Asia’s total 2.96 million, India’s 2013 figure represented an 85 percent increase from 2003.

Overall, the number of immigrant scientists and engineers in the US has risen to 18 percent from an earlier 16 percent and 57 percent of those were born in Asia.

National_Science_Foundation_logo_From 2003 to 2013, the number of scientists and engineers residing in the US rose from 21.6 million to 29 million.

This 10-year increase included significant growth in the number of immigrant scientists and engineers, from 3.4 million to 5.2 million, said the report from the National Science Foundation’s National Centre for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES).

In 2013, 63 percent of US immigrant scientists and engineers were naturalised citizens, while 22 percent were permanent residents and 15 percent were temporary visa holders.

“Also since 2003, the number of scientists and engineers from the Philippines increased 53 percent and the number from China, including Hong Kong and Macau, increased 34 percent,” the report added.

The NCSES report found that immigrant scientists and engineers were more likely to have earned post-baccalaureate degrees than their US-born counterparts.

In 2013, 32 percent of immigrant scientists reported their highest degree was a master’s (compared to 29 percent of US-born counterparts) and 9 percent reported it was a doctorate (compared to 4 percent of US-born counterparts).

“The most common fields of study for immigrant scientist and engineers in 2013 were engineering, computer and mathematical sciences and social and related sciences,” the findings showed.

Over 80 percent of immigrant scientists and engineers were employed in 2013, the same percentage as their US-born counterparts.

Among the immigrants in the science and engineering workforce, the largest share (18 percent) worked in computer and mathematical sciences, while the second-largest share (eight percent) worked in engineering.

Three occupations — life scientist, computer and mathematics scientist and social and related scientist — saw substantial immigrant employment growth from 2003 to 2013, the report said.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering.

Read More

Vyome Biosciences Announces FDA Acceptance of Investigational New Drug Application in the US

Jan 6, 2016 0

NEW DELHI–Vyome Biosciences, a dermatology focused innovative bio-pharmaceutical company, announced that the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) has accepted its Investigational New Drug (IND) Application for the initiation of clinical studies for its lead program VB 1953, a topical therapeutic candidate for the treatment of moderate-to-severe acne. Vyome plans to start the Phase I clinical trials very soon.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne represents the most common skin disease, affecting 85% of teenagers and affects 40-50 million people in the US. Approximately 40% of acne patients are suffering from antibiotic resistance. Physicians around the world have cited a large unmet need for new, improved topical therapy options, vis-à-vis the current available topical products. Vyome’s program VB 1953 targets this large unmet need of an effective topical treatment option.

“Today marks an important milestone for Vyome Biosciences. With the US FDA accepting our first IND application for the lead program VB 1953, we have become a clinical stage company in the USA, which is an important value inflection milestone for us. This should pave the way for further filings with the US FDA in the future. VB 1953 is a first-in-class new product in acne therapy for addressing one of the very important and large unmet needs,” remarked N. Venkat, Co-Founder & CEO at Vyome.

“Successful IND acceptance of VB 1953 by the US FDA, is a culmination of tremendous efforts by Vyome’s product discovery & development team. I am extremely delighted at Vyome’s significant achievement and look forward to more of them in the future,” said Dr. Raghunath Mashelkar, Chairman of Vyome’s Board of Directors.

Apart from the lead program VB 1953, Vyome has a deep R&D pipeline of Dual Action Rational Therapeutics (DARTs) antibiotics that are very less prone to resistance development. Vyome also has a portfolio of clinically tested and commercialized products with superior efficacy for various fungal indications, developed using its breakthrough technology platform Molecular Replacement Therapy (MRTTM).

Read More