Wipro buys US-based Viteos Group for $130 Million

Dec 23, 2015 0

BENGALURU–Global software major Wipro Ltd. on Wednesday announced the acquisition of US-based back-office firm Viteos Group for alternative investment management industry for $130 million (Rs.861 crore).

Shaji Farooq

Shaji Farooq

“Our strategy is to invest in industry vertical platforms which will provide platform-based services to our clients in transaction or outcome-based pricing models. Viteos will further our strategy in the capital markets domain,” Wipro chief executive for finance solutions Shaji Farooq said in a statement here.

Headquartered at Somerset in New Jersey, Viteos provides customised straight-through-processing and integrates post-trade operations across asset class, currency, border or structure for the alternative investment management sector in the US, Europe and Asia.

As a leader in shadow-accounting services, Viteos offers a range of middle and back-office outsourcing through its 400 employees.

“We will expand our capital markets portfolio in fund accounting services and enhance our business process service (BPS) capabilities with Viteos, which brings leadership, domain expertise and business process as a service (BPaaS) capability, Wipro BPS head Nagendra Bandaru said.

Viteos licenses its proprietary platform to offer transformation and integration of post-trade operations.

The platform can be leveraged to provide solutions across other segments of capital markets. The solutions will bring in non-linear and higher revenue realisation.

As a leading BPS provider to some global investment banks, Wipro specialises in platform-led transformation and utility-based offerings in reconciliation, KYC (know-your-customer) settlements, middle office, asset servicing and syndicated loans.

“Viteos will retain its identity to leverage its brand in the buy-side and expand its offerings into the larger asset management industry with the backing of Wipro’s size and presence,” the statement added.

Viteos’ founder chief executive Shankar Iyer said its search for a global partner to expand market presence had culminated in acquisition by Wipro.

The deal is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of this fiscal (2015-16), ending March 31, next year.

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Chicago University gets $1 mn to collaborate with Lucknow NGOs

Dec 23, 2015 0

LUCKNOW–The Center for Inter-disciplinary Inquiry and Innovation in Sexual and Reproductive Health (Ci3) at the University of Chicago will get a $1 million grant for the next two years from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, an official said on Wednesday.

University of Chcago

University of Chcago

Ci3’s newly launched Transmedia Story Lab (TSL) will collaborate with leading non-governmental organisations in Lucknow to train them in novel, youth-friendly data collection techniques.

Together with their community partners, Ci3 will conduct workshops with Lucknow youth aged 15-24 using games, storytelling and art to learn more about the daily lives of young people to better understand the social determinants of adolescent reproductive health and well being.

Digital storytelling will anchor the project.

Digital stories are short, first person documentaries produced with music, images and narratives of young people communicating their daily lives, hopes and dreams.

The storytelling methodology helps to paint a rich portrait of the lives of young people living in urban slums, enhance the field’s understanding of gender and social norms and create new insights for improving adolescent sexual and reproductive health and reducing the unmet need for family planning.

Workshops will be accompanied by interviews with policy makers, non-governmental organisations, parents and healthcare providers.

In the second year, Ci3 will create a small grants programme to invest in young people’s ideas on how best to advance the lives of girls in India.

This project also reflects Ci3’s commitment to developing novel partnerships. Ci3 will work with the University of Chicago alumnus Sandeep Ahuja MPP ’06, director of Operation ASHA, an international leader in tuberculosis (TB) eradication.

Operation ASHA is known for its innovative approaches and outcome-oriented research.

Ci3 recently launched Transmedia Story Lab which builds upon South Side Stories, a two-year project funded by the Ford Foundation.

Culminating in the summer of 2014, South Side Stories chronicled and digitally archived stories that countered dominant narratives about African- American adolescent’s sexuality.

Founded in 2012, Ci3 is a University-wide centre established to empower young people and remove policy and systemic barriers to sexual and reproductive health and well being.

Ci3 develops novel interventions using technology, games and narrative in collaboration with youth, partner organisations and University faculty.

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Hefty $4,000 US visa fee hike discriminatory for Indian IT firms

Dec 22, 2015 0

NEW DELHI– The steep hike in H-1B and L-1 visa fee by the US government on the software engineers Indian IT firms fly out for onshore projects was discriminatory and would hamper US economic growth, a leading Indian industry trade body said on Tuesday.

US President Barack Obama on Dec 19 signed into law a $1.8-trillion spending package, which includes a hefty $4,000 fee for certain categories of H-1B visa and $4,500 for L-1 visa.

US President Barack Obama on Dec 19 signed into law a $1.8-trillion spending package, which includes a hefty $4,000 fee for certain categories of H-1B visa and $4,500 for L-1 visa.

“Such legislation, amending the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010, will hamper growth of the US economy and will be discriminatory to Indian IT firms,” the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) said in a statement here.

US President Barack Obama on Dec 19 signed into law a $1.8-trillion spending package, which includes a hefty $4,000 fee for certain categories of H-1B visa and $4,500 for L-1 visa.

Companies having over 50 employees and more than 50 per cent of their US employees on H-1B and L1 visas will have to pay the new fee when the next visa application session kicks off on April 1, 2016.

“Indian IT industry is of the view that the additional fee is unjustified, similar to the earlier border security and the Health and Compensation Act, which have nothing to do with the technology industry,” the statement asserted.

Noting that such protectionist laws not only impacted the business of the Indian IT sector but also limited access to skilled IT personnel for US firms, Ficci said adding that the increasing costs of hiring skilled personnel and services would influence US technology firms to consider moving IT operations overseas, thereby reducing US jobs and tax revenues.

This year’s Congressional approved quota of 65,000 H-1B visas was filled up in the first few days of the start of the application process on April 1.

“In our view, linking unemployment and H1-B visa issue with 9/11 Health and Compensation Act is unfair and should be dealt independently with a broader outlook considering the overall impact on both economies,” the statement reiterated.

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US visa fee hike not to have adverse impact: Narayana Murthy

Dec 18, 2015 0

NEW DELHI– The recent hike in US visa fees will not have an adverse impact on the Indian IT industry growth, Infosys founder N.R.Narayana Murthy said here on Friday.

Narayan Murthy

Narayan Murthy

“I don’t think it is an issue at all… $2,000 or $4,000 that doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you have to provide excellent value to customers,” he told reporters after holding a meeting with the Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

The US Congress has slapped a special fee of up to $4,500 on the H-1B and L-1 visas, used mostly by Indian tech employees going to the US for work.

Narayana Murthy said the value of Indian IT services industry is so high to the US corporations that these issues will not come in the way of the Indian It industry growth.

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Indian Business Briefs

Dec 17, 2015 0

U.N.: At 7.3%, India Will Remain World’s Fastest-Growing Economy
India is projected to grow by 7.3 percent next year and will continue to be the fastest-growing economy in the world in 2016 and 2017, according to a U.N. report. The United Nations World Economic Situation and Prospects 2016 report said India’s growth should rise to 7.5 percent in 2017.

Defence Minister Parrikar Visits U.S. To Further Cooperation

Defence Minister Parrikar Visits U.S. To Further Cooperation

PM Modi: Paris Agreement a Victory of ‘Climate Justice’
Prime Minister Modi has described the landmark climate change deal reached in Paris as the victory of “climate justice” and said there are no winners or losers in the outcome. “#ClimateChange remains a challenge but #ParisAgreement demonstrates how every nation rose to the challenge, working towards a solution,” Modi tweeted.

Govt. Cuts Time Needed to Register a Company by Half
Steps taken by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs over the past year have cut in half the number of days required to register a company, from an average of 9.57 days to 4.51 days. This is in line with Govt.’s efforts to improve the ease of doing business in India.

Govt. OKs Model Text for the Indian Bilateral Investment Treaty
The Cabinet has given its approval for the revised Model Text for the Indian Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT). The revised BIT will be used for re-negotiation of existing BITs and negotiation of future BITs and investment chapters in Comprehensive Economic/Partnership Cooperation Agreements and Free Trade Agreements, and will provide appropriate protection to foreign investors in India and Indian investors in the foreign country.

Govt. OKs 7 Foreign Investment Proposals Worth $782 Million
The Government’s Foreign Investment Promotion Board has approved seven foreign direct Investment proposals worth $782 million including that of India Advantage S4 I, L&T Finance Holdings and Strugence Debt Fund.

Cabinet Designates 106 More Inland Waterways as National Waterways
The Cabinet approved legislation to declare 106 additional inland waterways as national waterways, bringing the total number of national waterways to 111. The expeditious declaration of National Waterways and its subsequent development will enhance the industrial growth and tourism potential of the hinterland along the waterway.

Defence Minister Parrikar Visits U.S. To Further Cooperation
At the invitation of U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar visited U.S. from Dec. 7-10, touring multiple U.S. facilities, including U.S. Pacific Command. The two met at the Pentagon and discussed the India-U.S. defense relationship and the broader India-U.S. strategic partnership. The two leaders also observed flight operations aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. Secretary Carter said the defense partnership between India and the U.S. will become an ‘anchor of global security’.

India’s Annual Industrial Output Growth Hits 5-Year High of 9.8%
Industrial growth rocketed to a five-year high in October, riding a festive season-led boom in purchases of consumer goods, providing evidence that the economy may finally be picking up pace. The surge in industrial output was the fastest since October 2010 and much higher than the upwardly revised 3.8 percent in September and the expectation of about 7.5 percent.

IBM: The 21st Century Can Be the ‘Indian Century’
Improved governance, strong social and physical infrastructure and a growing entrepreneurial spirit are the top drivers that can help make the 21st century the “Indian century,” technology giant IBM said in a report. According to the survey, 51 percent of executives said improved governance and removal of excessive regulation will be a crucial driver of sustained economic growth in the country.

Microsoft to Incubate 500 Start-Ups in 5 Years
Microsoft Ventures plans to incubate 500 start-ups in India in the next five years. Most of them are either start-ups working on the Internet of Things or independent software vendors that would aid the “Digital India” and “Smart City” initiatives. According to Microsoft, there are about 4,500 tech-based start-ups in India.

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India asks US to push technology transfer approvals

Dec 12, 2015 0

By Arun Kumar

WASHINGTON– Citing “numerous positive changes” in the defence field in India, Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has asked the US to reciprocate positively for technology transfer approvals and leverage opportunities created by New Delhi.

Manohar Parrikar

Manohar Parrikar

“In the past one year, there have been sincere attempts from the Indian Ministry of Defence to change the mindset,” he said at a roundtable with senior executives of American and Indian aerospace and defence companies.

“Numerous positive changes have been incorporated through the revision of the offset policy and the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP),” Parrikar said at the event organised by the US-India Business Council (USIBC) Wednesday.

“The US government needs to reciprocate positively for technology transfer approvals and leverage opportunities created by the procedural changes in Indian defence procurement,” he said.

Apart from a Ministry of Defence delegation accompanying Parrikar, US Under Secretary of Defence Frank Kendall, and both US and Indian Ambassadors also attended the meeting.

Discussions focused on pushing the needle forward on ‘Make in India’ and challenges around technology transfer, according to a media release.

Over the past year, scientists and engineers from the two militaries have conducted five workshops in Autonomy, Cognitive Sciences, Directed Energy, Materials, and Munitions/ CIED. More workshops, including one on manufacturing, are expected soon.

Welcoming the minister, USIBC president Mukesh Aghi said, “The past decade has been a period in which our bilateral security ties have seen robust growth, not just in value, but in the level of technical partnership as well.”

Noting that Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) has become a key part of India-US defence relationship, Kendall said the two sides had identified many new areas for cooperative research and development.

Both sides are also committed to continue to exchange ideas in the search for additional projects for possible co-development and co-production that meet the spirit of DTTI, he said.

Pathfinder projects under DTTI include the Raven mini Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), “roll-on, roll-off” mission modules for C-130J aircraft, Mobile Electric Hybrid Power Sources (MEHPS) and Next Generation Protective Ensemble (NGPE) for soldiers.

As many as 17 new ideas for cooperation under the DTTI are also being discussed. The US proposed 11 new ideas for possible cooperation while India has offered six new proposals.

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US firm to set up $100 million solar plant in Karnataka

Dec 12, 2015 0

BENGALURU– US-based Triton Solar would set up a $100-million (Rs.670 crore) plant in Karnataka to manufacture nanotech-powered solar panels for the renewable energy sector, an official statement said on Thursday.

Triton Solar panel

Triton Solar panel

An agreement to set up the hi-tech facility was signed by Triton’s Indian-born chief executive Himanshu B. Patel and state’s Additional Chief Secretary Ratna Prabha in New York last week.

Prabha was in the US along with state Industries Minister R.V. Deshpande on a roadshow to woo American investors and enterprises to the ensuing ‘Invest Karnataka 2016’ event on February 3-5, 2016 in Bengaluru.

“Triton will ‘make in Karnataka’ solar panels for the world and its investment will generate 250 direct jobs and many more indirect jobs,” Deshpande said in the statement here.

The New Jersey-headquartered Triton makes printed solar panels, lighting and batteries using nanotechnology.

The statement, however, did not disclose the proposed plant’s location and other specifics.

“I am confident of producing world class solar products from Karnataka,” the statement said quoting Patel.

Patel, who founded Triton, also lauded the state government for facilitating its investment and supporting its foray into the southern state.

Using nanotechnology, Triton also makesAprintable batteries, printable lighting and printable solar panels.

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2015 Nobel laureates receive awards, pay rich tributes to early mentors

Dec 11, 2015 0

By Gokul Bhagabati

STOCKHOLM– From being a “failure in chemistry class” to a believer in “slow understanding”, the Nobel laureates of 2015 might not have been the brightest of kids in their school days but when it came to discoveries that led to “greatest benefits for the mankind”, they were honoured by the King of Sweden at a glittering ceremony here on Thursday.

The 2015 Nobel laureates in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and economic sciences received their awards from the hands of King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden at the Stockholm Concert Hall, in the presence of over 1,000 guests, including royals, international star academics and foreign dignitaries.

Nobel-sizedThe event that was organising after Sweden raised its terror threat alert to what the local media here described as “historically high levels” passed off without any disruption even as placards asking for a Nobel prize in ecology or environment to combat climate change in 2016 welcomed the dignitaries outside the Concert Hall.

Addressing the guests at the Nobel Banquet at the Stockholm City Hall that followed the award ceremony, Swedish chemistry laureate Tomas Lindahl said he once failed in chemistry in school.

Even as the dignitaries present on the occasion broke into laughter, he said scoring low in school was not fun for him then as he wanted to secure a medical seat.

“Today, I realise how important our teachers can be,” he said.

“Without outstanding teachers, it would have been impossible for me to be standing in front of you tonight,” he added.

“Some of the scientific discoveries we celebrate today have already proved to be extraordinarily useful for mankind in the treatment of certain disease. These examples illustrate that research can solve many problems and contribute to a better world,” added professor Carl-Henrik Heldin, chairman of the Board of the Nobel Foundation.

Angust Deaton, who was awarded the prize in economic sciences in memory of Alfred Nobel, said he became economist by accident as he drifted from one topic to another, adding he was helped in his career by distinguished mentors.

Chinese scientist Tu Youyou received the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine at the glittering ceremony.

Tu, William Campbell from the US and Satoshi Omura from Japan received the medicine prize for unlocking revolutionary treatments for malaria and roundworm, helping to roll back two parasitic diseases that blight millions of lives.

“The discovery of Artemisinin has led to development of a new drug that has saved the lives of millions of people, halving the mortality rate of malaria during the past 15 years,” said Professor Hans Forssberg, member of the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine, when presenting Tu’s scientific contributions.

The concert hall awards ceremony was followed by a lavish evening banquet at the Stockholm City Hall.

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Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar Visits US

Dec 11, 2015 0

WASHINGTON–Minister of Defense of India Manohar Parrikar made an official visit to the United States at the invitation of US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter from December 7-10, 2015 that included visits to multiple U.S. facilities including U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), the Pentagon, and a visit with Secretary Carter to observe flight operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69).

Manohar Parrikar

Manohar Parrikar

First, Defense Minister Parrikar participated as a guest of honor in a Pearl Harbor commemorative ceremony at PACOM. He also met with Admiral Harry Harris, the PACOM Commander and visited various facilities in Honolulu, Hawaii.

At the Pentagon, Minister Parrikar and Secretary Carter held their third meeting. They discussed the India-US defense relationship and broader India-US strategic partnership, and focused on ways to maintain the strong momentum of security and defense engagement, including means to further move the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) forward. Secretary Carter and Minister Parrikar expressed satisfaction with DTTI progress to date. They committed to identifying additional projects for possible co-development and co-production of high technology items that meet the transformational intent of DTTI.

Minister Parrikar and Secretary Carter commended positive discussions at the Joint Working Group on Aircraft Carrier Technology Cooperation (JWGACTC), especially in the area of Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment (ALRE), and look forward to continued progress to be achieved at the second meeting of the JWGACTC in February 2016 in India. They further expressed satisfaction that the Jet Engine Technology Joint Working Group (JETJWG), which met this week in Bengaluru, had concluded its Terms of Reference and had productive discussion on cooperation in this area.

Secretary Carter informed Minister Parrikar that in light of the strengthening relationship between the United States and India, the DoD has updated its policy on gas turbine engine technology transfer to India. As a result of this policy update, the Secretary is confident that the United States will be able to expand cooperation in production and design of jet engine components. Secretary Carter and Minister Parrikar look forward to U.S. companies working with their Indian counterparts to submit transfer requests that will benefit from this updated policy.

Minister Parrikar informed Secretary Carter about the Make-in-India initiative, under which several reforms have been taken in the Indian defense sector. Secretary Carter welcomed Indian initiatives in this regard and hoped that this would pave the way for even greater participation of US companies in the defense sector.

Secretary Carter welcomed India’s participation in the Rim-of-the-Pacific (RIMPAC) multilateral naval exercise in 2016 as well as participation by the Indian Air Force in the multilateral Red Flag exercise in April-May 2016, and expressed support for greater Air-to-Air interaction in the future. Minister Parrikar welcomed announcement of US participation in the International Fleet Review of the Indian Navy at Visakhapatnam in February 2016.

Secretary Carter and Minister Parrikar expressed satisfaction at the level of maritime cooperation between the two navies and resolved to further expand the same in coming years. They announced their intention to soon complete a memorandum of understanding between their navies on “white shipping” information sharing. They also welcomed the renewal of the Fuel Exchange Agreement.

Minister Parrikar and Secretary Carter commended the progress achieved last month at the Defense Policy Group (DPG), including the re-establishment of a working group on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) cooperation under the Military Cooperation Group and focused discussions on defense capability development.

They also discussed a wide range of regional security issues, including the threat posed by ISIL and entities such as Al-Qa’ida and its affiliates, Lashkar-e-Tayibba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, D Company, the Haqqani Network, and other regional terror groups. They discussed ways to implement the defense-related aspects of Prime Minister Modi and President Obama’s Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region.

The official visit underlined the strategic importance of the defense relationship and the personal priority that the Minister and Secretary place on the bilateral partnership. During his visit, Minister Parrikar also met with senior National Security Council officials and members of Congress.

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Indo-US experts developing solar-powered oral cancer detector for remote areas

Dec 10, 2015 0

By Sahana Ghosh

KOLKATA– Researchers in India and the US are testing a handy solar-powered device for early detection of oral cancer which could be integrated with mobile technology, enabling faster and accurate diagnostics in rural areas.

Petra Wilder-Smith

Petra Wilder-Smith

Designed by the Beckman Laser Institute (BLI), University of California-Irvine (UCI) and the Mazumdar Shaw Cancer Centre (MSCC) in Bengaluru, the compact screening and diagnosing system – slightly larger than a shoe box – has been specially adapted for India, which has one of the highest rates of head and neck cancers in the world and accounts for the highest rate among women.

Its light-weight and user-friendly features mean even minimally educated healthcare workers in the field can apply it. The solar energy-driven device will capture images of the patient’s oral cavity and transmit them via a mobile phone to experts at the centre.

“India is the first country in which we are using the device – it was specifically designed to meet conditions and needs there. The final device will have a solar option,” Petra Wilder-Smith of BLI told IANS in an email interaction.

Recognised as a pioneer in the application of optics and lasers in oral diagnosis, Wilder-Smith said the device is based on optical coherence tomography (OCT) – an imaging technology that is similar to ultrasound, except that it uses light (a laser). Screening will be in real-time and the patient will not be subjected to harmful radiation.

“The inexpensive, very small, robust portable diagnostic system for oral cancer based on OCT will be used to screen for oral cancer in the field by basic level healthcare workers in India, and a simple diagnostic algorithm will indicate further diagnostic and treatment needs for each individual,” said Wilder-Smith, director of dentistry at BLI.

Oral cancer is the most common cancer in India, accounting for 40 percent of all cancers overall and for over 50 percent of all cancers in some areas of the country.

It is also disturbing to note the spike in oral cancer in young adults.

“In the US, the oral cancer rate is also high, especially in African-Americans, older persons, and tobacco and alcohol users. It is particularly troubling that recently a trend has been observed worldwide towards an increased incidence of oral cancer among young adults,” informed Wilder-Smith, stressing on early detection.

Why the emphasis on the light-based technology?

Wilder-Smith said oral cancer and pre-cancer are currently diagnosed using a visual exam, which has a poor accuracy rate, and by surgical biopsy, which cannot be performed in the field by basic-level healthcare workers.

And since existing and emerging imaging-based diagnostic tools are too expensive, too fragile and difficult to operate in remote locations, head and neck oncologist M.A Kuriakose from MSCC, who is leading the venture in India, said the probe will be of immense value in low-resource settings in rural India, where visits to dentists are rare.

“It is being tested in MSCC Bengaluru. The validation phase is 12 months. We are also planning to incorporate the transmission of the laser image from remote location via a mobile phone. Once developed, one needs to get regulatory approvals before it can be made available for wider clinical use,” Kuriakose said.

With the fabrication cost goal estimated at lower than $5,000 (Rs.335,000), researchers say the subsequent models of the probe will be wireless and 3D scan-enabled.

“The experimental model costs about Rs.1.5 lakh (lower than that of existing commercial devices). However, the commercial product cost will be significantly lower,” Kuriakose told IANS.

The project is funded by the National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, under the Indo-US collaborative programme. The Department of Biotechnology is also a funding partner, said Kuriakose.

The collaborators are also working in close consultation to thrash out a simple diagnostic algorithm which will indicate further diagnostic and treatment needs for each individual.

“Screening will identify whether a person needs to travel to a centre with higher levels of expertise in oral cancer for further tests and potential cancer therapy,” Wilder-Smith added.

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