Zymergen raises $130 million in funding

Oct 12, 2016 0

New Delhi– US-based biotechnology company Zymergen on Wednesday announced that it has raised $130 million in Series B funding led by Japanese telecommunications company SoftBank Group.

Zymergen also announced two additions to its board of directors — former US Secretary of Energy and Nobel laureate Steven Chu, and SoftBank Group International Managing Director Deep Nishar, previously a longtime senior executive at Google and LinkedIn.

Deep Nishar

Deep Nishar

“We are thrilled that SoftBank understands our proven business and supports our long-term growth,” said Joshua Hoffman, Co-founder and CEO, Zymergen, in a statement.

Zymergen has developed a proprietary platform, which uses robots and machine learning to engineer microbes faster and more predictably.

These microbes and the products they produce, have broad applications across industries, such as chemicals and materials, agriculture and healthcare, the company said.

“Zymergen has a revolutionary approach to engineering biology that is already solving business problems for Fortune 500 customers, and a proven ability to impact the economics of these mature, at-scale businesses,” added Nishar.

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Book Review: Mentally mastering money for a more meaningful life

Oct 11, 2016 0

By Vikas Datta

Title: Mind Over Money — The Psychology of Money and How to Use it Better; Author: Claudia Hammond; Publisher: Canongate/Random House India; Pages: 384; Price: Rs 599

Money is on the minds of most of us, most of the time, as we think about how to get it and what to do with it. But our relationship with money is far more complex than this, and we need to understand this intricate psychology where we hate losing money more than making it, become more careless on high-cost items — or why English footballers tend to miss penalty shoot-outs — to know how we can use it for a better life.

British author and broadcaster Claudia Hammond\'s book about the astonishing psychology of money

British author and broadcaster Claudia Hammond\’s book about the astonishing psychology of money

Explaining these and many more surprising examples of this complex psychology, including how waiters can earn bigger tips (may not work in class-conscious India), why friends should not be paid for favours, why huge bonuses to bankers are wrong, and why Donald Trump may have entered the US Presidential race is British psychology lecturer and writer Claudia Hammond.

Contending that the “ills of our society are not caused by money itself, but the way we use it”, she says: “…Too often we are prone to the opposite. We let money control our thinking, sometimes in counterproductive and even destructive ways. To stop that happening, and allow money to help us lead a good life and create a good society (which it can do), we need a better understanding of our psychology with the stuff.”

The author, however, stresses that her book is not one of the many on “what to do with money or how to make it”, or about the “evils of money, consumerism and capitalism”, which “undoubtedly bring their problems”, or arguing that money “necessarily sullies us”.

It is, instead, “about what money does to us today, how it changes our thinking, our feelings and our behaviour, and how when it’s scarce, it can even have more of a hold over us,” she says, adding that we constantly make assumptions about money, especially in its role as an incentive, but are frequently wrong as to its intended effects.

Drawing on latest research in psychology, neuroscience, biology and behavioural economics, Hammond, who also presents psychology-based shows on BBC Radio 4 and has previously written “Emotional Rollercoaster” on the science of emotions and “Time Warped’ on time perception, shows how and why this is so.

Beginning with an account of how the outrage and disgust the video-recorded burning of one million pounds – “as a work of art” by two musicians on a Scottish island in 1994 — created among people to underscore “the extraordinary power that money has over our minds” and the strong emotions that it can raise, she goes on to cite over 260 experiments which reinforce this in many unexpected ways, and how money can be a drug or a tool — or even both at the same time.

In over a dozen chapters, which, like old novels, inform you of the varied topics that will be encountered, Hammond presents various facets of money and its use most comprehensively and lucidly. She takes special care to cite the psychological effect – “psychological salience”, “loss aversion”, “retrieval inhibition”, “referent thinking” and others — only after explaining it with concrete examples.

She also seeks to counter stereotyped thinking, which she shows is not only erroneous, but may also lead to damage or losses. Among others is that more money does not always lead to happiness, nor does an expensive self-gift — while women, taunted for their supposed propensity to buy clothes at a whim, will especially relish what Hammond’s husband did, when ostensibly out to buy a present for her.

For those who read on behavioural economics and/or experimental psychology, some of the experiments cited here will be familiar. But there is much here that will be new — and useful — especially how to deal with pathological gambling, what really motivates children to study, and the like. To help you profit more, Hammond in the end lists the key lessons in the last chapter.

You might now how to raise more in charity, how to save more effectively, and use money to make yourself more happy, but knowing what mental processes are involved may make the tips more effective. (IANS)

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Gold imports in India decline by 59% during January-September

Oct 11, 2016 0

New Delhi–India’s gold imports declined by 58.96 per cent to 270 tonnes from January to September from 658 tonnes that were shipped-in during the corresponding period of last year, a research report said on Tuesday.

According to the report by the industry body Assocham, gold imports declined due to a prolonged strike by jewellers and continuation of 10 per cent custom duty on imports.

The report stated that smuggling of gold has been on the rise due to high custom duty, even as the industry demands a lower levy structure to encourage official imports.

Gold-2016India has been among the two biggest gold consumers in the world with average imports of more than 1,000 tonnes per annum reported in the recent past.

Further, the industry body pointed-out that it expects gold prices to stay firm in the range of Rs 30,500-Rs 33,500 per 10 grams.

The report said that gold prices are expected to remain firm in the backdrop of continuous global political and financial risks coupled with revival in demand in the domestic market. The prices have appreciated by about 25 per cent since January this year.

“The moot question among the buyers and analysts is whether scope for any further run is left when gold has seen so much of a rally, the best among all the assets classes – including quantitative easing led stock markets,” the research paper by Assocham said.

“Revival in Indian consumption, financial risks in the Chinese economy, tapering tantrums of the US Federal Reserve as also close American Presidential elections are all seen as the push factors for the gold to remain as a safe haven.”

Currently, gold prices range from Rs 31,000-Rs 31,500 for 24 carat purity in major Indian cities.

“Going forward, the festive demand will get a further push from the wedding season, which is the main contributor to gold consumption in India,” the paper said.

“The upside in the short term of a few months is seen between Rs 1,500-Rs 2,000, while the downside could be limited to Rs 1,000- Rs 2,000 per ten grams.”

D.S. Rawat, Secretary General of Assocham said: “Gold is finding a strong support levels in the international markets and is expected to stay above $1,200 mark, as a starting point for the next possible rally.”

“All in all, given the state of play in equity, debt and properties, gold would stand out for quite some time.”

Rawat elaborated that negative interest rates by major global central banks have also led the investors to seek refuge in gold.

“The outlook for the precious metal remains upbeat taking into consideration several factors including reduced pace of the US Fed rate hikes, increased adoption of negative interest rates most recently in Japan, increased inflows in gold ETFs (equity trade funds) and decline in gold production,” Rawat added. (IANS)

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5 Indian-Americans among America’s richest 400

Oct 10, 2016 0

New York– Five Indian-Americans figure among America’s 400 richest people, in a list again headed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, according to the survey by Forbes magazine.

Symphony Technology founder Romesh Wadhwani, co-founders of outsourcing firm Syntel Bharat, Syntel’s Neerja Desai, airline veteran Rakesh Gangwal, entrepreneur John Kapoor and Silicon Valley angel investor Kavitark Ram Shriram figure in Forbes’ ‘The Richest People In America 2016’ list.

Romesh Wadhwani

Romesh Wadhwani

Gates tops the list for the 23rd year, now with a net worth of $81 billion.

Wadhwani has been ranked 222nd on the list with a net worth of $3 billion.

Educated at IIT-Mumbai, he is the chairman of Symphony Technology Group, an empire of 17 data, technology, healthcare and analytics companies that together earn more than $2.8 billion in annual revenue, Forbes said.

The Desais rank 274th on the list with a net worth of $2.5 billion. Started in 1980, their firm Syntel generates over $950 million in revenue and has nearly 24,000 employees across the globe, Forbes said.

Gangwal is ranked 321 on the list with a net worth of $2.2 billion. He is an aviation entrepreneur, who co-founded InterGlobe Aviation, which operates budget airline IndiGo, that is India’s largest by market share.

US resident Gangwal owns more than 40 per cent of the company and currently serves as a board member, Forbes said.

Kapoor, who ranks 335 on the list with a net worth of $2.1 billion, is the chairman of two drug companies – Akorn, which specializes in “difficult-to-manufacture” prescription drugs and Insys Therapeutics, which produces an opioid for cancer patients, Forbes added.

Shriram ranks 361 on the list with a net worth of $1.9 billion.

According to Forbes, Shriram, who was one of Google’s early backers, has sold of most of his stock but remains on the board of its parent company, Alphabet. Since 2000, he has been investing in young technology startups through his firm, Sherpalo Ventures.

Sriram’s portfolio includes online card and invitation service Paperless Post, web and mobile app testing service Optimizely, and mobile advertising company Inmobi.

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Walnut farmer Sarabjit Johl: Agriculturist of the Year by the California State Fair

Oct 9, 2016 0

By Karishma S. Kalita

Sacramento, Calif.– Walnut farmer Sarabjit (Sarb) Johl was 13 when he migrated with his parents to the US in the early 1960s. Today, he presides over a 1,000 acre farm and a growers’ collective that recorded exports of $20 million last year. The icing on the cake, as it were, came earlier this year when he was named Agriculturist of the Year by the California State Fair.

“My father came here with very little money in 1963 and he worked in the farms enough to buy himself a piece of land — and we haven’t stopped pretty much since then,” Johl, who founded Sacramento Valley Walnut Growers LLC collective in 2006, told IANS.

The Johl Family at the 2016 California State Fair Gala (Pictured left to right, front row: Anu Johl Singh, Sureena Johl, Prabhjot Johl, Sarb Johl, and Kiran Johl Black. Pictured left to right, back row: Mithu Singh and Cameron Black.)

The Johl Family at the 2016 California State Fair Gala
(Pictured left to right, front row: Anu Johl Singh, Sureena Johl, Prabhjot Johl, Sarb Johl, and Kiran Johl Black. Pictured left to right, back row: Mithu Singh and Cameron Black.)

The farm is located in Marysville, Yuba County, in the quaint countryside where the sky is blue and the land stretches for thousands of acres. The trees that are harvested are usually not more than seven years old.

“The trees from which we harvest, we make sure they are of the same height so that they receive the same amount of sunshine so that the produce is the same,” Johl explained.

The trees remain completely dormant in the winter and the fruit starts growing during March-April, giving it plenty of time before the early October harvest season.

“Sacramento Valley Walnut Growers export not only across the US but also globally, including India, Japan, China, Australia, South Korea and Turkey,” he said.

The company exported about 4,500 tonnes of walnuts last year.

The harvesting is done by machines that shake the trees, sweeps the fallen nuts and collects them for cleaning, after which they directly go into a modern processing facility which is the final step in a walnut’s journey from the orchard to the table — “Farm to Fork”, as the growers put it.

The facility processes about 20 million walnuts at a time and also takes care of packaging and distribution.

Not only does the walnut taste great, it is a healthy nut that helps in fighting a number of diseases.

“As our research evolved, we learnt that walnuts are very helpful in decreasing diabetes, cancer and heart diseases and also in weight management,” Carol Sloan, a dietician with California Walnut Commission (CWC), told IANS.

“Walnuts contain the Omega 3 fatty acids which our bodies don’t produce on their own and making these nuts a part of our daily meals is a very healthy idea.”

Men should consume at least 45 grams and women about 31 grams which will also contribute to the healthy eating index.

“Don’t get bored by consuming these nuts the same way. Walnuts are very soft and easy to blend, so one can add them to smoothies, or on top of salads, instead of the bread croutons, and also just munch them as a snack,” Sloan noted.

The CWC and California Walnut Board represents over 4,000 growers and more than 100 handlers who process, package and market walnuts across the state. The Board was established in 1948 to promote the consumption of walnuts across the US. It also provides funding for walnut production and post-harvest research.

The CWC was launched in 1987 and is funded by the growers. It is mainly involved in health research and export market development.

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India cannot unilaterally revoke or alter Indus Treaty: Pakistan

Oct 7, 2016 0

Islamabad–India cannot unilaterally revoke or alter the Indus Waters Treaty, Pakistan has asserted, days after India decided to revisit the treaty.

“The Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) is not time-barred and was never intended to be time or event-specific. It is binding on both India and Pakistan and has no exit provision,” Dawn online quoted Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakria as saying on Thursday in a weekly media briefing.

He called upon the international community to take note of Indian claims as they were a violation of New Delhi’s obligations and commitments under the treaty. According to the sub-provisions (3) and (4) of Article XII of the IWT, the treaty cannot be altered or revoked unilaterally, he pointed out.

india-pakistan-flag-india-first“Pakistan is closely monitoring the situation and would respond accordingly,” he added.

The National Assembly Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs on Thursday asked the Foreign Ministry to launch ‘water diplomacy’ in the wake of India’s threat to revoke the Indus Water Treaty.

“Blood and water can’t flow together,” India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is quoted as having said last month during a meeting on the Indus Waters Treaty, during which India decided to revisit the 56-year-old river water sharing treaty, apportioning more water to itself.

“There are differences on the treaty. For any such treaty to work, it is important there must be mutual trust and cooperation. It can’t be a one-sided affair,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said last month following the September 18 Uri terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir, which killed 17 Indian soldiers. Two soldiers died later. India has held Pakistan-based militants responsible for the killings.

The water distribution treaty brokered by the World Bank was signed between the two countries in 1960.

According to the agreement, India has control over three eastern rivers – Beas, Ravi and Sutlej – all flowing from Punjab, while Pakistan, as per the treaty, controls the western rivers of Indus, Chenab and Jhelum that flow from Jammu and Kashmir.

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Bidi industry makes a case for participation in WHO meet

Oct 7, 2016 0

New Delhi–The All India Bidi Industry Federation (AIBIF) on Friday sought permission from WHO and the government to participate in the upcoming WHO FCTC COP7 to highlight the issue of counterfeit bidi trade.

In a press statement here, the Federation said the growth of counterfeit trade in bidis in India has severely impacted the livelihood of millions of bidi workers and their families.

Bidi smoking Sadhu: Photo courtesy: The Hindu

Bidi smoking Sadhu: Photo courtesy: The Hindu

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Conference of Parties (FCTC COP7) is being hosted by India in Noida from November 7-12, later this year. Various tobacco bodies, including farmers, have sought permission to participate in the global event.

The Federation also asserted that by keeping the tobacco farmers and the bidi industry out of the FCTC COP7, WHO and the Indian government are encouraging deterioration of social and economic condition of the tobacco industry-dependent families.

“The government is not realising that our participation is extremely important to highlight the counterfeit trade in bidis in India,” said Rajnikant Patel, AIBIF President.

“We are deeply concerned about the vested interests of NGOs and anti-tobacco activists in India, who through their relentless and biased campaign are influencing the government’s tobacco control policy and promoting extreme regulations that are already hurting bidi industry and consequently employment of bidi workers and causing widespread growth of counterfeit trade in bidis,” added Patel

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TiE-Boston Appoints Laura Teicher as its New Executive Director

Oct 6, 2016 0

CAMBRIDGE, MA—TiE-Boston, the local chapter of TiE-Global, one of the largest global not-for-profit organizations fostering entrepreneurship in the world, has appointed Laura Teicher as its new Executive Director. She replaces Anu Yadav, who left the second oldest TiE chapter in July.

“Laura brings a passion for impactful leadership grounded in experience managing business operations that will help us to strengthen current programs and events, grow our community, and establish ourselves as leaders in the eco system,” said TiE-Boston President Praveen Tailam.

Laura Teicher (Photo: Linkedin)

Laura Teicher (Photo: Linkedin)

Teicher served as Events Chair for two years and recently completed a term as President of the Boston chapter of Net Impact, a global association that connects and empowers professionals. She earned her MBA from Boston University. She completed portions of her studies in China and Brazil.

Her prior work includes three years with the Massachusetts Senate.

Since 1997, TiE-Boston has been supporting entrepreneurs by offering education, mentorship, networking, and funding opportunities. TiE-Boston connects entrepreneurs with each other and other stakeholders in the ecosystem, including seasoned serial entrepreneurs, angel investors, venture capitalists, service providers, and early customers.

TiE-Boston is a chapter of TiE-Global, the largest global not-for-profit organization fostering entrepreneurship.  TiE-Boston members leverage the global network of members from 61 chapters in 18 countries. TiE has 12,000 members throughout the world, and has contributed over $250 billion in wealth creation.

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IMF chief cautions against reverse globalisation

Oct 6, 2016 0

Washington– International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde on Thursday urged greater global trade integration, warning against tendencies of reverse globalisation, or retreat from globalisation and multilateralism.

“A retreat from globalisation and multilateralism is a serious risk at a time when international cooperation and coordination are as critical as ever,” Lagarde said in her policy paper presentation at the start of the annual fall meetings of the IMF and the World Bank here.

Christine Lagarde

Christine Lagarde

“This persistent underperformance (global growth) has exposed complex underlying trends in many countries — including the difficulty for some groups to adjust to rapid changes in the global economy,” she said.

The IMF chief said that in many advanced economies, demand is low with the post-crisis recovery being uneven across countries, and output gaps are still negative.

Productivity growth has not recovered, and its likely reasons owe to several factors that hinder investment, including debt overhangs, and low and uncertain prospects of future demand.

“Emerging economy growth improved overall, driven by robust activity in emerging Asia and large stressed economies showing some signs of improvement. Yet vulnerabilities, especially in the corporate sector of some large countries, have persisted,” Lagarde said, arguing that not enough has been done to address the concerns of those who have been adversely affected, creating social tensions and political backlash.

This situation has added to a political climate that favours inward-looking policies, makes reforms more difficult to enact, and puts at risk the well-established overall gains in productivity from globalisation and technological change, she contended.

The global economy has benefited tremendously from globalisation and technological change, particularly with regard to expanding consumers’ access to goods and services and helping to lift millions out of poverty in emerging markets and developing countries, she added. (IANS)

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Finance Minister Jaitley Kicks Off US Visit

Oct 6, 2016 0

Washington DC–India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley arrived on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., after a successful visit to Canada.

In Washington, the Finance Minister held a meeting with the World Bank Group President, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, where he acknowledged the long-standing and mutually beneficial relationship between the World Bank Group and India since the inception of the World Bank and also appreciated the support of the World Bank to the many significant achievements of India in its development process, especially the World Bank Support in the six priority areas identified by the Prime Minster for Multilateral Development Banks’ assistance.

Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley

Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley

While discussing the policy issues related to the World Bank Group, he indicated India’s strong support for the capital increase and its readiness to take larger share than the dynamic formula would require. He also emphasized that the World Bank Group should work together with the member countries to explore innovative financing solutions.

The Secretary General of the Commonwealth Rt. Hon. Ms Patricia Scotland also met the Finance Minister. Later in the evening Hon’ble Finance Minister interacted with several US State Department officials during the reception hosted in his honour.

Shaktikanta Das, Secretary Economic Affairs, held a bilateral meeting with United States Treasury Under-Secretary, Mr. Nathan Sheets. After exchanging notes on the state of their respective economies, both sides took stock of the work done on technical cooperation on NIIF, public debt management and municipal bonds and agreed to expedite progress on these issues. During the course of their interaction, Secretary (EA) also highlighted the sustained rapid growth of Indian economy and its ambitious reform agenda including the landmark Goods and Services Tax, passage of the recent national bankruptcy law and liberalization of foreign direct investment.

The Finance Minister is currently on official tour to Washington to attend the Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and other associated meetings. He is accompanied by Dr. Urijit Patel, Governor RBI, Mr. Shaktikanta Das, Secretary Economic Affairs, Dr. Arvind Subramanian, Chief Economic Advisor and other officials.

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