Intel set to expand in India, says top executive

Apr 18, 2016 0

By Sourabh Kulesh

New Delhi– The chip-making giant Intel is all set to invest further in the country to support the “Digital India” initiative and there may not be any job cuts in the country, a top Intel executive has said.

“I hope the company grows in India and I suppose they are not making any job cuts here,” Thaine Creitz, director of consumer technical marketing at Intel, told IANS on the sidelines of the Intel technology and innovation tour India 2016 here.

After announcing the departure of its two top executives in teh US last week, Intel was reportedly preparing to cut thousands of jobs across its business units globally by the year-end, media reports had said.

The worldwide cutbacks would reduce employment in some parts of the business by double-digit percentages. The planned downsizing of Intel operations could begin soon after the global giant reports its first-quarter financial results on April 19, though sources say timing and specifics remain fluid, the reports said.

Creitz, however, said the number of retailers and opportunities is growing in India and, personally, the company’s investment for India will grow exponentially in the near future.

Talking about more on job cuts, he told IANS: “I do not have any details which organisations would follow this procedure. Many of organisations have multiple sites, so if we have people in California and China, replication of some job sites is possible. So the company is streamlining this.”

Asked why two top executives quit Intel, he said the company is making an effort to have stability to executive staff. “What you are seeing is the opportunity to move on to new roles as we bring in some key executives,” Creitz added.

Intel has reportedly seen a decline in its personal computer market as people have started moving towards smartphones and wearables.

To counter this, in its technology and innovation tour India 2016, Intel showcased many devices from various brands, including ASUS, Acer, Xiaomi, Dell and HP Inc., among others.

The main talk-point of the tour was to apprise people of the new capabilities that its recently launched 6th Generation processor series has.

The company displayed a number of devices, including notebooks, smartphones, tablets and convertibles that use Intel’s 6th Generation processors and work on both Windows and Android platforms.

Creitz also talked about how the new processors deliver better performance and graphics, extend battery life and increase the mobility with half the size and weight in Intel’s new devices being launched in the country.

With respect to Windows, he mentioned the enhanced responsiveness with Microsoft’s personal assistant Cortana, better gaming, security and accuracy with Windows Hello.

He also talked about Intel CORE processors for power and performance, COREm processors for mobile devices and ATOM processors for long lasting mobility.

Apart form this, Creitz shed light on new platform innovation such as Intel Optane technology for high performance, Thunderbolt 3.0 for lightning fast transfer of data — 40GB transferred in 30-odd seconds — and Intel IRIS for better rendering of high resolution of games and 4K videos.

Asked whether these offerings in different products such as PCs and mobile devices are to cover up the revenue lost in the PC market, Creitz said this is a very viable business. He tried to show people examples of new capabilities with PC, specially with the new devices.

“The emergence of devices like wearables actually gives a platform to enjoy the experience. We are definitely branching out to launch very specific products like sensors in all kind of new markets. It is just that over time we will show growth,” he noted.

Talking about the launch of smartphones and wearables, Creitz said data centres are also a valuable business for the company.

“You can see Intel being efficient — creating enthusiasm and new opportunities with the PCs and entirely new experiences like with drones and wearables,” Creitz told IANS.

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Pepsi gears for summer with mini can, bottles with emojis

Mar 14, 2016 0

New Delhi– Gearing up for the upcoming peak season of India’s $1 billion plus carbonated beverages market, PepsiCo on Monday announced a 150-ml mini can for its flagship cola, and pet bottles printed with emojis.

Addressing reporters here, PepsiCo India vice president, beverages, Vipul Prakash said the 150-ml mini can has been made a convenient size for people to carry along in summers. It has been priced at Rs.15.

Pepsi Emoji Naughty“New packaging is always exciting and Pepsi cans have always epitomised ‘cool’. The Pepsi Mini is the perfect bite sized packaging that takes the ‘coolness’ a notch further,” Prakash said.

“The mini cans will be available in 2 million outlets in 30-40 major cities in the country,” he added.

About the emoji-printed bottles, he said the campaign has the tagline “Jaisa Mood, Waisa Pepsi” and is aimed to particularly attract the younger generation into grabbing the beverage based on their mood and emotions.

There will be 38 PepsiMoji designs across the Pepsi product portfolio, including Pepsi and Diet Pepsi. This will also include eight emojis particularly designed for the Indian consumers– from the traditionally turbaned man, the lunch box and popular Indian snacks like dosas and samosas, to musical instruments and popular celebrities.

The company said there will be no television advertisement for the time being for the mini cans. However, the company will be launching content-driven digital mini-series campaigns on March 16.

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Rockefeller Foundation to provide $4.5 million to OMC Power

Mar 8, 2016 0

Chennai–The US-based Rockefeller Foundation will finance OMC Power to the tune of $4.5 million to construct and also retrofit 100 solar power plants with mini-grids in Uttar Pradesh, the Foundation announced on Tuesday.

The Rockefeller Foundation said in a statement that the arrangement is part of its Smart Power for Rural Development (SPRD) initiative to provide reliable power to 1,000 villages.

The financial deal with OMC Power is to build and retrofit solar power plants with mini-grids in rural Uttar Pradesh.

A mini-grid is a decentralised power distribution infrastructure. Renewable energy producing companies deploy mini-grids to provide electricity to villages where power access is either unavailable or inadequate.

“There is a need for significant investment in expanding off-grid energy access that can power both domestic and business activities, and the kind of financing we provide can enable committed companies such as OMC Power to build the mini-grid sector,” Ashvin Dayal, The Rockefeller Foundation’s associate vice President and managing director, Asia was quoted as saying in the statement.

“We are growing a sustainable rural utility business that not only creates value for our shareholders but also furthers energy access, entrepreneurship, economic development and social empowerment in rural India,” Rohit Chandra, managing director, OMC Power was quoted as saying in the statement.

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US company in talks with India to launch communication satellite

Mar 2, 2016 0

NEW DELHI– An American company is holding discussions with Antrix Corporation to put into orbit its communication satellite, using India’s heavy rocket Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), the government said on Wednesday.

A leading space company from the US is under initial phase of discussion with Antrix, to utilise the GSLV launch services for one of their communication satellite, it said.

SateliteUnion Minister of state (Independent Charge) for Development of North-Eastern Region (DoNER), PMO and Atomic Energy and Space Jitendra Singh disclosed this in response to a question raised in the Lok Sabha.

Antrix is the commercial arm of the Indian space agency Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

According to Singh, the other entities that have shown interest in utilising GSLV launch services include space agencies/companies from Canada, France, Republic of Korea and Turkey.

India has two rockets to launch satellites – GSLV-Mark II and Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).

The GSLV has a total carrying capacity of around 2.5 tonnes while PSLV’s capacity is around 1.8 tonnes.

India is also developing another GSLV variant with a total carrying capacity of around 4 tonnes.

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Uber opens Centre of Excellence in Hyderabad

Feb 24, 2016 0

Hyderabad– Uber, the global tech-based transportation firm, on Wednesday opened a Centre of Excellence in Hyderabad, its first in Asia and fifth globally.

The Centre of Excellence (CoE) is part of the $50 million investment in Hyderabad announced by the firm last year.

This state-of-the-art centre, with 500 customer care executives, will provide 24×7 assistance to both riders and drivers

UberThe facility will offer services through channels like email, phone and social media to enhance ride experience. Proficient in different languages, the staff will address the grievances of passengers from across the country, the company said.

Amit Jain, President, Uber India, said they already hired about 30 percent employees and started support operations from CoE. The headcount will go up to 500 by the end of 2017.

This is Uber’s first facility in Asia and the fifth globally. It currently has centres of excellence in Phoenix, Chicago, Ireland and Poland.

The company had last year signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the government of Telangana to commit an investment of $50 million in the state, its biggest investment in India.

The company officials had then said that Uber will set up a facility which will be the biggest outside its headquarters in the United States.

Uber, which has presence in 361 cities in 66 countries, has a market share of 40 percent in India, where it is offering its services in 26 cities.

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US supporting only India as emerging global defence leader: Envoy

Feb 22, 2016 0

New Delhi– India is the only country that the US is supporting as a emerging global defence leader, US Ambassador Richard Verma, who is of Indian-origin, said on Monday.

“We are engaged in cooperation here in India that is not only unprecedented for this relationship but is qualitatively different than those we share with any other country in the region, or the world,” Verma said while delivering a lecture on “Indo-US strategic partnership: Present status and future trends” organised by the Indian Association of Foreign Affairs Correpondents (IAFAC).

Richard Verma

Richard Verma

“Here in India we are focused on helping Indian forces develop the capabilities and platforms that will allow them to fulfill India’s stated goal of becoming a leading power in the region and beyond,” he said.

Stating that for the US, this partnership was unique, Verma said: “There is no other country in the world that we are supporting as an emerging global defence leader. We have overhauled our approach to defense licensing to India with a presumption of approval for the vast majority of even the most sensitive platforms.”

According to the ambassador, who is one of only three Indian-origin envoys posted in New Delhi, the US’s offers to provide Indian forces with Apache attack helicopters – the most advanced helicopter in the US inventory – Chinook heavy-lift helicopters and M777 howitzers are akin to Washington’s defence relationships with its closest NATO allies.

“Never in our history have we actively supported the indigenous development of an aircraft carrier program in another country. Yet, we are doing so today – the joint Aircraft Carrier Technology Working Group met here in India this past week,” he said.

“In the future, I am sure we will soon see US and Indian aircraft carriers operating side-by-side in the region and beyond to maintain the freedom of the seas for all nations.”

Verma said the US was also eager to partner with India on solutions to its pressing need for modern fighter aircraft.

“We are also mindful that India does not simply want to purchase fighters but intends to establish a production line here in India that will provide for the maintenance and supply of its air force. I am hopeful that US companies and technology will play a central role in an arrangement that would see US-designed fighters built here in India in response to India’s requirements,” he stated.

According to the ambassador, India’s leadership is crucial to the Asia-Pacific region.

“There is no place where India’s leadership is needed more sorely that in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said, adding that the region was experiencing change at a furious pace with the emergence of new democracies, territorial disputes, the effects of climate change and profound questions over the governance of the commons.

Verma stated that American diplomacy in the region demonstrated that “we are here to stay in our efforts to preserve and enhance a stable and diversified security order in which countries pursue their national objectives peacefully and in accordance with international law and shared norms and principles”.

Stating that India the US could not do this alone, he said: “We look to India to continue to move beyond its historical reservations to seize this moment, to reassert its leadership role in the region in our shared efforts to promote the peaceful resolution of disputes, an open economic order, and a liberal political order that promotes peace and human dignity, based on human rights and the rule of law”.

According to Verma, it is critical for India to take its rightful place on the world stage.

“It is an absolute necessity that the world’s largest democracy, and one day soon the world’s most populous country, make its voice heard in the international issues in this increasingly complicated and interconnected 21st century,” he said.

According to the ambassador, the US was committed to ensuring that India not only has a seat at the table, but that it also has the political stature to act as a global leader, through Washington’s support for India’s role in a reformed UN Security Council and interest in joining Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

As for the future of the India-US relationship, he said that the threat of international terror remains a defining challenge for both our countries.

He said the US’s counter-terrorism partnership with India will remain a central tenant of the cooperation between the two countries, “sharing sophisticated intelligence, collectively training our special operators in more advanced joint exercises, and ensuring we are both working together to counter the messages of violent extremists”.

“Improving economic security is also something we can tackle together,” Verma stated.

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New York-based DigitalOcean to open data center in Bengaluru

Feb 22, 2016 0

Bengaluru– New York-based developers’ cloud computing platform DigitalOcean on Monday said it will set up a data centre in Bengaluru and offer solutions to startups, individual developers and other non-enterprise clients.

Karl Alomar

Karl Alomar

“Currently there are no simplified and tailor-made cloud computing solutions to individual developers and startups who do not fit the target profile of large cloud solutions providers. We aim to cater to this niche segment with our solutions where they can launch a virtual server in seconds,” said its COO Karl Alomar.

He said India’s vibrant startup community with ever rising startups – 4,000 in 2015 – and considering the software developers to touch five million by 2018, DigitalOcean’s solutions are best suited for them to be taken up at an affordable price point of $10 per GB of memory.

Software as Solution (Saas), SMBs, Bigdata and Adtech companies are also its target group.

The company pricing model for Droplets (its virtual servers) is the same for US and India, available between $5 to $640 for various combinations of virtual servers.

“Digital Ocean will invest $5 million in India in 2016 to set up its 12th datacentre and hire five to 10 employees in Bengaluru,” said Alomar.

The company’s cofounder Mitch Wainer said players like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and others solutions are overwhelming for developers and startups and cater to larger enterprises.

“Key differentiators from DigitalOcean are simple control panel, active developer community, professional hosting starting at $5 per month, solid state disk (SSD) only cloud, one click installations and Linux distributions,” he said.

The company has six lakh clients globally and 58,000 in India as of December 2015. E-commerce player Flipkart is one of its Indian clients.

DigitalOcean was founded in 2011 by Moisey Uretsky, Ben Uretsky and Wainer in New York. It has 250 employees.

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India to showcase small oil, gas finds at US energy meet in Houston

Feb 20, 2016 0

New Delhi–Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and senior officials from the sector will showcase India’s small and marginal oil and gas field discoveries at a global energy conference in the US beginning on Monday in order to seek investors for their proposed auction.

Dharmendra Pradhan

Dharmendra Pradhan

An official source here said that Pradhan and senior officials and executives will travel to the IHS CERAWeek Conference in Houston being held from February 22-26, which is expected to be attended by several oil ministers and oil company chief executives.

According to an IHS release, Saudi Arabian Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister Ali bin Ibrahim Al-Naimi will deliver a special address during the 35th IHS CERAWeek.

The Indian government announced last September that it will auction 69 small and marginal oil and gas fields on a new revenue sharing model, where bidders will quote the revenue they will share with the government at both low and high ends of the price and production band.

The new revenue sharing model will replace the controversial production sharing contracts (PSCs) – by which oil and gas blocks are awarded to those firms which show they will do maximum work on a block – that has governed the bidding under the earlier nine New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) rounds.

The change in model is designed to help keep the government share in cases of windfall from both steep rise in prices as well as quantum jump in production.

The PSC regime, which allows operators to recover all investments made from sale of oil and gas before profits are shared with the government, was criticised by India’s official auditor, who said it encouraged companies to keep inflating costs – “gold plating” – so as to postpone giving higher share of profits.

Of the 69 fields of state-run explorers of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and Oil India Ltd (OIL) which are to be auctioned, 27 are in Mumbai offshore while another 15 are in the Krishna Godavari (KG) basin. On offer are also 10 discoveries in the Assam Shelf.

ONGC and Oil India surrendered 63 and six oil and gas fields, respectively, which they found uneconomical to develop in view of small reserve size and high economic cost.

Cumulatively the surrendered fields hold about 50.8 million tons of oil and 53.45 billion cubic meters of gas. The biggest discovery is D-18 in the Mumbai offshore that holds 14.78 million tons of oil reserves.

Among the gas discoveries, the largest is ONGC’s B-9 find in the offshore Kutch basin that has in-place reserves of 14.67 billion cubic metres.

Pradhan has said that companies offering the maximum revenue share or percentage of oil and gas to the government, and committing to do more work, will win.

He has said that with this move, producers will be spared day-to-day government interference and the government would unlock 89 million tonnes of untapped hydrocarbon reserves worth Rs.70,000 crore.

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How India will protect nuclear liabilities of US firms

Feb 19, 2016 0

By Amit Bhandari

A $48-billion (Rs 3.26 lakh crore) penalty claimed by the US government from Volkswagen for cheating on diesel-car emissions is about 200 times as large as the $225 million (Rs 1,500 crore) insurance pool set up by Indian insurance companies to compensate US nuclear companies for mishaps in India.

If a US nuclear company were to build a reactor in India that suffered a catastrophe, and people were to die in India, the US government’s position seems to be that American suppliers shouldn’t face civil or criminal liability. The US believes the Indian civil nuclear liability law, which calls for both penalties, is unduly harsh. Rather than say so directly, US officials keep repeating that the “Indian law is inconsistent with the international liability regime”.

The Indian civil nuclear liability law holds the equipment supplier responsible for any incident caused by the supplier or its employees. The Indian liability law differs from those of other countries because it was drafted keeping in mind the 1984 Bhopal tragedy – where, despite 5,000 deaths and effects across generations, no one was held criminally liable.

The penalty demanded in the Volkswagen case is about 100 times the compensation of $470 million – ($907 million in 2014 dollars) – paid by US firm Union Carbide after the Bhopal Gas tragedy, which also left 70,000 people maimed or injured. Volkswagen’s cover-up caused no injuries or deaths.

Although the Indian government wants to protect US nuclear companies against the Indian liability law, critics argued that these companies are using India’s eagerness to avoid any liability, if something goes wrong.

India wants to build more nuclear power plants in an attempt to reduce the share of coal in electricity generation. Increasing the use of nuclear power is also a part of the country’s strategy to tackle climate change.

India currently has 5,780 MW of nuclear power in operation and plans to add another 17,400 MW, making it possibly the largest market for nuclear power after China, and a financially lucrative prospect for Western firms faced with limited domestic sales.

However, the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster has heightened concerns of nuclear safety and accident costs. The fallout of that disaster will also make it hard to change India’s liability laws.

The US’ large settlements extend to corporate wrong-doing beyond its borders

Large settlements in the US are a regular feature. In October 2015, the Justice Department arrived at a settlement with oil major BP, which will pay a penalty of $20.8 billion to cover the economic and environmental damage arising from a 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Volkswagen could, in theory, face fines of as much as $37,500 per vehicle for each of two violations of the law; up to $3,750 per “defeat device”; and another $37,500 for each day of violation, a Reuters report said.

In April 2010, a deepwater oil-drilling rig operated by BP, the Deepwater Horizon, suffered an explosion which killed 11 men, and the well it was drilling leaked over five million barrels of oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

This was the largest-ever settlement in the history of the Department; the Volkswagen penalty could be larger.

A number of companies have paid tens of billions of dollars in fines over the past decade for breaking US law.

Top US banks, such as Bank of America, JP Morgan, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley, have paid multi-billion dollar fines for their roles in the 2008 global financial crisis, caused by reckless business practices of large Western banks.

The remit of the US Justice Department extends beyond its borders and to foreign firms as well. In May 2015, five global banks–Citicorp, JP Morgan, Barclays, UBS and the Royal Bank of Scotland–agreed to pay fines adding up to $2.5 billion, for manipulating a widely-used financial benchmark set in London. This brings the total penalty paid by these banks for their role in this manipulation to $9 billion.

UK-based HSBC was fined for “illegally conducting transactions on behalf of customers in Cuba, Iran, Libya, Sudan and Burma”–countries under US economic sanctions.

During the financial year 2015, the US justice department collected $23 billion in penalties in various civil and criminal cases, slightly lower than the collection for 2013, when it had a record haul.

Indian firms also fined in the US

While the US nuclear industry wants to avoid any liability in India for acts of omission or commission, Indian companies have often been slapped with large fines for violations of US law.

Drug manufacturer Ranbaxy paid penalties of $500 million (Rs 3,400 crore) in 2013 for falsifying data about its drugs and for not following proper manufacturing practices–more than twice the value of the nuclear liability insurance pool to be created in India.

In 2013, tech firm Infosys paid a $35 million penalty in a civil settlement on allegations of visa misuse; the firm maintained that the “claims are untrue and remain unproven”.

India has started levying penalties too

India, too, has started levying big fines. For instance, in 2013, a group of Indian cement companies was fined Rs 6,698 crore by the Competition Commission of India for working as a cartel and over-charging consumers. This amount, levied for unfair business practices rather than causing deaths and injuries, is 4.4 times the proposed liability cap for nuclear incidents.

Similarly, Delhi-based real estate firm DLF has been recently ordered to pay a penalty of Rs 630 crore for unfair business practices.

(In arrangement with IndiaSpend.org, a data-driven, non-profit, public interest journalism platform. Amit Bhandari is a media, research and finance professional. The views expressed are those of IndiaSpend.)

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US firms to invest $27 billion in India

Feb 17, 2016 0
Mukesh Aghi

Mukesh Aghi

New Delhi– Over 50 American firms are expected to invest $27 billion (Rs.1.85 trillion) in India by 2017 as against $15 billion invested since May 2014, US-India Business Council president Mukesh Aghi said on Wednesday.

“We expect 52 US companies to invest $27 billion in India this year and next year, in addition to $15 billion by 20 percent of our member firms since Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed office,” Aghi said, citing a council survey.

Noting that reforms under Modi’s leadership were resonating well with US firms, he commended the country’s rise in the ease of doing business index.

“Our members are buoyed by the direction of reforms, including fast-tracking approvals, transparent auction of natural resources and facilitating a level-playing field for investors,” he said.

Reorganising its policy groups to address Modi’s priorities, focusing on manufacturing ties, the council told the prime minister at a meeting with him that a robust IP (intellectual property) policy was essential to boost investor confidence.

“We also stressed on greater clarity on certain FDI regulations and implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST),” Aghi added.

A delegation led by council chairman and global networking major Cisco head John Chambers met Modi and key ministers to explore new opportunities for the India-US relationship.

Council’s ex-chairman, MasterCard chief executive Ajay Banga, vice-chairman Ed Monser and Aghi were also present.

“Both countries have a huge opportunity to scale bilateral trade exponentially in the coming years. The council has built a strong foundation in engaging US business in India to take the relationship to the next level,” Chambers said later.

Asserting that Indo-US ties and India’s business climate were getting stronger, Banga said the opportunity for the council to act as a catalyst for greater investment in India was greater than ever before.

Formed in 1975 at the behest of both the governments, the council is the premier business advocacy organization, comprising 350 top-tier US and Indian firms advancing Indo-US commercial ties.

The council is also the largest bilateral trade association in the US, and has offices in New York, Silicon Valley and New Delhi.

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