Business News

Subscribe to Business News feed Business News
The Economic Times: Breaking news, views, reviews, cricket from across India
Updated: 20 min 51 sec ago

Why RSS agreed on Ram Nath Kovind as BJP's choice for Raisina Hill

20 min 51 sec ago
Before entering public life, Bal Thackeray was a cartoonist of repute. After the Shiv Sena emerged from the sidelines and became a significant political player, he continued using political caricature or sarcasm as stratagem. In March, barely a fortnight after the astonishing Uttar Pradesh verdict, the Sena queered the political arena by suggesting that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat would be an apt choice for the presidency. Sanjay Raut, the editor of party organ Saamana, declared that “there is an atmosphere of Hindutva in the country” and after Yogi Adityanath’s appointment as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, and with Narendra Modi already prime minister, it would be apt for the sarsanghchalak to become the third member of the Hindutva troika at the helm. All core issues of the Sangh, “Ram Mandir, Article 370 and Uniform Civil Code will be fulfilled”, he said to the obvious discomfort of the RSS brass. This suggestion was repeated earlier this month in a Saamana editorial. “The country gets direction from Bhagwat anyway (sic), but his guidance as president will be important. His election will be a victory of all the ideas the RSS and our party have espoused,” said the editorial. It was tough to decipher if the proposition was in mock seriousness. Nonetheless, it left RSS leaders scurrying for an apt response. While Bhagwat dismissed the suggestion as a joke, others explained that the sarsanghchalak’s position was above all official posts. Eventually, the Modi-Amit Shah duo zeroed in on a person who is not a swayamsevak but unquestionably part of the RSS “system”. Long Shadow of the Past Ram Nath Kovind may not have, from his youth, arisen every morning at the crack of dawn and readied hastily for the shakha and declared loyalty to the Bhagwa Dhwaj, but his political rise was assisted by many swayamsevaks who gathered for this ritual and every RSS activity. Besides his social identity, the political terrain that Kovind dwelled in without significant brilliance provided him with the USP for this selection. On the one hand his stated “non-association” with the RSS enables Nitish Kumar the pretence of staying “secular”, but on the other, it does not prevent the average swayamsevak from gloating over a more-than-asympathiser becoming the preserver, protector, defender of the Constitution and the laws of the land. Yet, when he utters these words in the eventuality of winning this Dalit versus Dalit contest, Kovind will not be unaware of the cruel irony that he will have to shield what Modi labelled with a flourish, as India’s “only holy book” — the Constitution, the same book which has been damned by RSS leaders and ideologues for long, most recently by Bhagwat’s predecessor, KS Sudarshan. In March 2000, shortly after he picked up the Sangh baton from Rajendra Singh or Rajju Bhaiyya, Sudarshan demanded scrapping the Constitution. Instead, he wanted a document “based on the aspirations of the Indians”. Just days after the Constituent Assembly adopted India’s guiding text in November 1949, Organiser, the official organ of the RSS, editorialised, “in our Constitution there is no mention of the unique constitutional developments in ancient Bharat”. It eulogised “Manu’s laws” for its ability to “excite the admiration of the world and elicit spontaneous obedience and conformity”. In time, MS Golwalkar, the revered sarsanghchalak to preside over the edifice for over three decades, bemoaned:“unfortunately in our country, our Constitution has equated the children of the soil with the aggressor, and given equal rights to everybody, just as a person without understanding may give equal rights to his children and to the thieves in his house and distribute the property among all”. He also ran down federalism and called for a constitutional amendment to make India a unitary state. It will be Kovind’s sworn brief to protect these “thieves” and protect the nation as defined. The moot question in case of his election is if he will do this with words, action or even silence. Kovind’s nomination is a step forward from Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s selection of APJ Abdul Kalam, grudgingly accepted by the RSS in 2002. The call to Kovind to be the man atop Raisina Hill was precipitated by periodic violence against Dalits and resurgent upper-caste aggression after Adityanath’s elevation. Despite lip service to its “Muslim project”, the RSS is more committed to efforts to enlist Dalits. The RSS’s decision to agree with Modi that it was unwise at this juncture to risk a gamble to install a swayamsevak at Rashtrapati Bhavan is indicative of an evolved pragmatic characteristic. Despite strong opposition from significant sections of the Sangh Parivar, Modi was named as the prime ministerial candidate in 2013. For the past three years, although there were occasions when affiliated organisations protested decisions of the Modi government, Bhagwat ensured that opposition from within did not derail the regime. Compared with the past, the RSS leadership today has diluted idealism. The earlier credo was that ideological hegemony would secure absolute power. The belief now is that political power, even if it is not unrestricted, will advance the ideas and ideals of the RSS. Lost Opportunity While the RSS and Modi did not miss a single trick, the Congress and other opposition leaders have surely lost an opportunity. To ensure that their nominee was not the “sacrificial lamb” as Nitish has portrayed Meira Kumar, the Congress lost sight of its objective. Instead of selecting a candidate who had the potential to create a rift within the NDA and its supporters, it has ended up enabling a split within the opposition ranks. The Sena’s backing of Bhagwat and its absence when Kovind filed his nomination demonstrated that it remains out of step. Instead of prising open the Sena’s rift with Modi, Meira’s candidature only deepened cleavages in the Bihar coalition. The scenario may possibly have been significantly different had either Sushil Kumar Shinde or an eminent leader or public figure from southern India been chosen. Unless the script alters dramatically before July 17 when the poll is held, history will judge it as an occasion when the Congress and other opposition parties missed an opening. In contrast, the RSS-Modi combine took another synchronised step towards the objective.
Categories: Business News

IRDAI spent only 40 per cent of ad budget in 2016-17

20 min 51 sec ago
NEW DELHI: Unable to spend even 50 per cent of earmarked funds for insurance awareness last fiscal, Irdai is looking for innovative methods to utilise this year's advertisement budget that has been raised to Rs 66.5 crore. The government is keen on increasing insurance penetration in the country, especially in remote areas. The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (Irdai) makes use of various platforms like newspapers, television, radio and outdoor publicity to create awareness about importance of insurance. Irdai had a budget of Rs 60 crore towards advertisement, but only an estimated Rs 24 crore, or 40 per cent, was spent. The advertisement for consumer affairs department of Irdai for 2017-18 has been budgeted at Rs 66.50 crore. While increasing the budget for the current financial year, the regulator in an official document said it is "planning for more advertisement". Towards this purpose, Irdai has started scouting for creative agencies for production of TV spots, radio jingles, and organising exhibitions. It also has plans to empanel agencies to carry out publicity campaign at the national level. The empanelment will be for two years extendable by another one year. The regulator looks to spend funds on advertising programmes for promoting insurance awareness among the public, issuing notices, quarterly journal and calendar, among other activities. During the first decade of insurance liberalisation, the sector has reported a consistent increase in market penetration to 5.20 per cent in 2009, from 2.71 per cent in 2001. Since then, this has been in decline. However, there was a slight increase in 2015, when it reached 3.44 per cent compared to 3.3 per cent in 2014. While insurance penetration is measured as the percentage of insurance premium to GDP, insurance density is calculated as the ratio of premium to population (per capita premium).
Categories: Business News

Now, Airports Authority of India revises bidding norms for Jaipur, Ahmedabad airports

20 min 51 sec ago
NEW DELHI: The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has reworked the bidding parameters for awarding operation and maintenance works of Ahmedabad and Jaipur aerodromes to private players amid the process hanging fire for over a year. Seeking to attract more bidders, the contracts would now be awarded for 15 years instead of the 10-year time frame while the same entity could be awarded the two projects. Along with putting in place revised parameters for bidders, the AAI has again extended the deadline for submitting the bids for Operation and Maintenance (O&M) of Ahmedabad and Jaipur airports. With the deadline being extended for the sixth time in nearly one year, the process for awarding the contracts would be further delayed. The AAI, which owns the Ahmedabad and the Jaipur airports, has tweaked various bidding parameters, including allowing the same private player to carry out O&M of the two aerodromes in case that entity wins the bids. "It is clarified... that there shall be no restriction on one bidder (whether individually or as part of a consortium) being awarded both the contracts," the AAI said in a recent notification while making changes to the original bidding documents for the two projects. In another significant move, the tenure of the contract for O&M works has been increased to 15 years. This means that the winning bidder can carry out the work for 15 years as against the earlier limit of 10 years. Among others, the AAI has scrapped incremental per passenger revenue or increase in per passenger revenue for each year of the tenure) owed by it to the O&M provider. There would be a fixed fee structured along with a variable amount rather than an annual incremental fee hike. The bidding process for the two airports' O&M works would be conducted separately but simultaneously. With the revisions, the last date for submitting the bids has been extended by nearly three months to September 18. Earlier, the deadline was June 29. Late last year, the AAI had invited Request for Proposal (RFP) from bidders for operation and maintenance of "select areas" of the Jaipur and the Ahmedabad airports. The move came after the AAI had rejected twice Singapore's Changi Airport's proposal to operate and maintain the Jaipur and the Ahmedabad airports on the grounds that it was "unfeasible" and not commercially viable for the government airport operator. The proposal to rope in Singapore's Changi airport for the projects was first floated during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the island nation in November 2015. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was also signed by the AAI and Singapore Cooperation Enterprise at that time. The proposed contracts are for operating and maintaining passenger terminal building, airport operations control centre, fire control room, passenger boarding bridges, apron area (not including the apron areas of the cargo terminal) and surface car park, among others, at the two airports.
Categories: Business News

Job market eyes GST booster for over 1 lakh immediate openings

20 min 51 sec ago
NEW DELHI: The job market is looking forward to a big boost from the new GST regime and expects over one lakh immediate new employment opportunities, including in specialised areas like taxation, accounting and data analysis. The historic tax reform, to be rolled out from July 1, is expected to help the formal job sector attain an annualised growth rate of 10-13 per cent and fuel demand for professionals in various segments of the economy, experts said. Indian Staffing Federation's President Rituparna Chakraborty said the GST (Goods and Services Tax) will make procurement and distribution of goods much faster while cash flow is expected to become more predictable and profitability should improve, too. "All these and the transparency of compliance shall make working with unorganised players exponentially less attractive thereby pushing the country towards greater formalisation," she added. "We are expecting an annualised growth to the tune of 10 -13 per cent in formal job creation on account of GST," Chakraborty said. Leading executive search firm GlobalHunt's MD Sunil Goel said, "On an estimation, it looks like it will create more than one lakh jobs immediately from the first quarter of the implementation date and another 50,000-60,000 jobs will be created for specific activities for GST, going forward." Mid- and small-sized companies will prefer to outsource similar activities to the third party account firms, he said. GST is expected to create significant job opportunities as the businesses will need to hire professionals for dedicated GST management, upgradation and reconciliations. "The new tax system will have a positive impact on ease of doing business, thereby making it conducive for foreign investors and companies. This would help in better execution of all government initiatives and propel formal job creation," Monster.com's APAC and Middle-East MD Sanjay Modi said. Sector-wise, the immediate high-impact segments of GST are expected to be automobiles, logistics, home decor, e-commerce, media and entertainment, cement, IT and ITeS, BFSI, consumer durables, pharma and telecom. LabourNet Services India co-founder and CEO Gayathri Vasudevan also said hiring is expected to see a significant rise across sectors. However, this will become a reality only if the infrastructure and logistical challenges on the path of GST implementation are mitigated in time, she emphasised. "Although GST is set to propel hiring, compliance ambiguities such as place of supply (intra- or inter-state), for instance, could pose as a challenge for industries that could adversely affect job creation in the near future. However, once the transition phase eases out, in the long run, GST will add momentum to the entire hiring landscape," Vasudevan said.
Categories: Business News

What Indian startups should learn from the ouster of Uber's Travis Kalanick

3 hours 23 min ago
By Vivek Wadhwa Indian entrepreneurs still worship Silicon Valley’s idols and aspire to be like them. The downfall of Uber cofounder Travis Kalanick should teach them that they need better role models. They need to stop looking up to the spoilt brats that lead some of the Valley’s most hyped companies and the investors that fund their misbehaviour. Kalanick’s ouster from Uber is literally a watershed for Silicon Valley, something that is shaking up its venture capitalists and entrepreneurs. For too long, its elite has gotten away with sexism, ageism and lapses in ethics. Its cult of the entrepreneur idolised arrogant male founders who plundered money and sank companies; the more money they raised and lost, the higher the valuations their companies received and the more respect they gained. Corporate governance and social responsibility were treated as foreign concepts. Uber is not the worst company in the tech industry; it was just the most visible and the one that got caught. Its investors have been humiliated for having their heads in the sand. This is because it has long been clear that Uber needs management that is more responsible. It started in 2013, when complaints about male drivers assaulting female passengers met with denials of responsibility by the company. Then followed the sexist “boober” comment by Kalanick; ads in France that pitched attractive female drivers; suggestions by an Uber executive that he would dig up dirt on a journalist; and then the rape of a woman passenger in New Delhi partly caused by a lax screening of drivers. Through all of this, Uber investors supported the company and ignored the ethical lapses. All that seemed to matter was that valuations were rising and business was expanding. When it was revealed that an Uber executive had secured a copy of the medical report of the Delhi rape victim and shared it with Kalanick and they both wanted to discredit her, they should have been fired. Yet things only reached a boiling point when allegations by a woman employee about rampant sexism and sexual assault at Uber headquarters went viral. And when a board member illustrated the root of the problem by making a sexist remark at a meeting about eliminating sexism. The board was finally compelled to do something it should have done years ago: force Kalanick out and clean up its own act. To be fair, there is outrage about this in Silicon Valley. And there are many technology companies that are, in this regard, exemplary, including Salesforce, Microsoft and Facebook. They are going to extremes to correct problems that they found to exist in their ranks. I know from discussions with Satya Nadella how hard he has been working towards diversity. India’s Boys Clubs The downfall of Kalanick presents valuable lessons for Indian entrepreneurs as well as those in Silicon Valley. With the help of Arianna Huffington, Uber is working on reforming itself. And if Uber can do it, so can the US and Indian Boys Clubs. To begin with, the people who fund the offenders need to be held accountable and boards need to be made diverse. The Diana Project, at Babson College, documented that, as of 2014, 85% of all US venture capital–funded businesses had no women on the executive team, and only 2.7% had a woman CEO. The number of women partners in US venture-capital firms had also declined to 6% from 10% in 1999. India is no better. Even with The Companies Act of 2013 and guidelines issued by Securities and Exchange Board of India that made it mandatory for listed companies to have at least one woman on their boards, only 13.7% on public company boards are women. Private companies are much worse. And then there is the problem of age discrimination. In most industries in the US, discriminating on the basis of gender, race or age would be considered illegal. Yet in the tech industry, VCs brag about their “pattern recognition” capabilities. They say they can recognise a successful entrepreneur when they see one. The pattern always resembles Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, or them: a white nerdy male. Women, blacks and Latinos need not apply. VCs openly admit that they only fund young entrepreneurs; they claim that older people can’t innovate. The money that VCs invest is not their own. It is raised from pension funds, universities and state governments. VC firms must be required to provide public disclosures about the diversity of the companies they invest in — including the gender and age of the executives. They must have a diverse set of investment partners, without sugar-coating the numbers using inflated titles for junior associates. And then all tech companies in India and the US must take heed of the report that was put together by former US attorney general Eric Holder for Uber. There are obvious procedures to employ in making diversity a priority: such things as blinded resume reviews; interviewing at least one woman and one minority candidate for each open position; limiting alcohol at work events and in the office; and banning employee– manager relationships. There are great role models in India who have built great businesses. And there is a culture of spiritualism, respect and giving back. Corporate social responsibility may be a foreign concept to Silicon Valley, but is ingrained in Indian business. These are the people that Indian entrepreneurs should look up to and the values they must imbibe. (Vivek Wadhwa is a distinguished fellow at Carnegie Mellon University and author of The Driver in the Driverless Car: How Our Technology Choices Will Create the Future)
Categories: Business News

Subtle message for Donald Trump in PM Narendra Modi's huddle with CEOs

3 hours 23 min ago
WASHINGTON: Tread softly, or you tread on my... turf. Paraphrasing salutary advice by the poet Yeats may well be India's guiding principle as Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarks on his first visit to Washington DC in a Donald Trump Presidency. Just days after President Trump met with top US CEOs at the White House to discuss a government overhaul, Modi is holding an identical meeting on Sunday with American honchos just a stone's throw away in Willard Hotel. The hotel originated the term lobbying (because President Ulysses Grant was accosted in the lobby here when he took a break from the White House), and by 'hanging out' rather conspicuously together here, Modi and the CEOs are quietly lobbying the Trump administration to go easy on the nationalistic rhetoric that has put a hex on global business. The guest list for the meeting, expected to discuss investment, trade, and visa issues, is similar to the Trump meeting attendees: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and Cisco CEO John Chambers, among others, will exchange thoughts with Modi. But what is striking in the Modi list is the number of CEOs of Indian-origin, several of whom also attended the Trump meeting. Among them: Microsoft's Satya Nadella, Adobe's Shantanu Narayen, and Mastercard's Ajay Banga. Google's Sundar Pichai and Deloitte Global CEO Punit Renjen, who were not at the Trump meeting, will also be at the Modi meeting. The Indian side is trying to keep the event low key so as to not ruffle feather in the White House, where Trump's senior advisor Steve Bannon, who leads the nationalist brigade, is known to hold a bleak view of the rise of Asian-Americans in Silicon Valley. Most Silicon Valley CEOs and senior executives are liberal democrats, and the chasm between the Trump White House and the Bay Area/ California/ West Coast in general is vast. The Modi jamboree is also hosting a relatively low-key community event at the Ritz-Carlton in Tyson's Corner, across the river from Washington DC in a Virginia suburb. The hotel's 14,000 sq feet ballroom can accommodate just 1500 people, a far cry from the more than 15,000 Indian-Americans who crowded into Madison Square Gardens in New York and the San Jose Center in Silicon Valley, two big events that set the template for Indian diaspora gatherings across the world. Although the Greater Washington DC area, home to 150,000 people of Indian-origin, could easily host the event at a bigger venue such as the Washington Convention Center or bigger ballrooms in several DC hotels (including Trump International!), there appears to have been a conscious effort not to diss the President who is fond of boasting about the size of his rallies. New Delhi has for years carped about how visits by the Indian Prime Minister to the US don't get adequate media coverage. For a change, Indian mandarins are quite happy with it. They may even be relieved that Prime Minister Modi has about two million less Twitter followers than President Trump: 31 million to 32.7 million.
Categories: Business News

Top on Modi's US list: How to handle an unpredictable Trump

12 hours 25 min ago
By Sreeram Chaulia Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fifth bilateral visit to the US on June 25-26 is a test of his diplomatic skill and mettle wrought by the heterodox presidency of Donald Trump. Unlike the Indian leader’s previous triumphal marches across America, when he preached to the choir and enjoyed the doting attention of the White House, this trip is not guaranteed to be a joyride until it is over or not even then. The notoriously fickle and uncoordinated approach that Trump brings to foreign policymaking has shaken US allies. No amount of prior preparation or coaching before meeting him can account for surprise elements that he might introduce. An experienced world leader like Modi will surely have a technique to handle Trump in one-on-one sittings, but the former must hedge against the latter’s maverick behaviour by using other levers in the American system to ensure continuity of extensive ties between India and the US. Diplomatic Stick and Carrot Whenever Trump disses a partner country, his secretary of state, secretary of defence and national security adviser rush in as firefighters to reassure alarmed interlocutors that nothing is amiss and that America will keep working with them as usual. US senators and representatives have also acted as bridges to calm down agitated partners and sustain joint programmes with nations that get caught in the crosshairs of the irascible Trump. Cultivating close understanding with second-rung American policy framers and implementers is thus essential for Modi and his team as they navigate an internally divided and strategically disjointed US administration. Personal chemistry with foreign counterparts has been a cornerstone of Modi’s diplomatic achievements, and he will surely want to hit it off with Trump. But this method of cultivating friendship and trust has to transcend his equation with Trump and become diffused throughout the American body politic. By thickening bonds with the “deep state” in the US, Modi can insure India against flip-flops or sudden fluctuations from the populist and inward-looking Trump. Trump’s foreign policy is transactional, i.e. narrowly focussed on counting specific numeric benefits for America from each interaction. Modi is a master at convincing foreign partners that India is a dream economic opportunity which can deliver solid returns on investment to them. He needs to now extend this logic by statistically and argumentatively demonstrating how much material gain the US gets by engaging with India. He should cite examples such as Indian IT major Infosys, which plans to open four new centres in the US and hire 10,000 American workers in the next couple of years. If Trump rants against the $24 billion goods trade deficit that the US has with India, Modi has to remind him that the bilateral services trade deficit is only $6 billion and that leapfrogging growth is currently happening in exchange of services rather than in goods. Moreover, the US’s trade deficit with India is dwarfed by what it incurs with China, Japan, Germany or Mexico. In Trump’s mercantilist worldview of nations playing “unfairly” against the US, India is a minor offender. During the Barack Obama years, Modi piloted India-US relations via heavy geostrategic coordination to push back China’s aggression in the Indo-Pacific region. But Trump lacks the liberal vision of India as a democratic counterbalance to authoritarian China. The erratic manner in which he first predicted that his summit meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping would be “very difficult”, and later proclaimed that he “loves China” and has a “terrific relationship” with Xi, shows that today’s White House can turn on a dime. There is a lesson for Modi in the quid pro quo that Trump hopes to secure from Xi, wherein China is expected to moderate North Korea’s behaviour while America tempers its pressure on China for stealing US jobs and bullying small nations in the South China Sea. Trump the businessman loves a bargain and chases “ultimate deals”. In this context, Modi should offer an advanced global partnership on a worldwide basis with the US to counter terrorism and Islamist fundamentalism, which are Trump’s favourite targets. From Afghanistan to the Philippines, and from the Middle East to Africa, India has the capacity of forging coalitions that tackle jihadist groups and rebuild postjihadist futures. In return, Modi must extract Trump’s commitment to draw red lines on Pakistan-sponsored Islamist extremism. The ongoing overall review of the Trump administration’s South Asia policy is sounding harsh towards the menace posed by Pakistan. If a scheming Saudi Arabia could entice Trump into cornering Qatar for sponsoring terror, India has a spotlessly clean record to convince him to walk the talk on “eradicating radical Islamic terrorism from the face of the earth” by cutting aid to Pakistan, downgrading Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally, and bombing jihadist camps in Pakistani territory. Trump could promise to take the Pakistani bull by the horns and maximise defence sector cooperation with India. But an inconsistent White House does not inspire confidence. Modi will score a national security victory only by embedding India’s cause with practical executioners of US defence and commercial policies who can convert Trump’s spurof-the-moment rhetoric into a logical blueprint for the next four years. Sreeram Chaulia is a professor and dean at the Jindal School of International Affairs and author of Modi Doctrine
Categories: Business News

A 23-yr-old college dropout may be the darkest horse in SoftBank's India portfolio

12 hours 25 min ago
Only about one company in nine, contend Bain strategists Chris Zook and James Allen, has sustained more than a minimum level of profitable growth during the past decade. Of those 1.234%, the duo concluded that nearly two-thirds are governed by a "founder’s mentality", a finding that figures in their bestseller with the same title that was released last year. The takeaway: founders of businesses create more value than professional CEOs, who obviously lack the "founder’s mentality". Ritesh Agarwal claims to possess the three intrinsic traits that typify the founder’s mentality, as per Zook and Allen: an insurgent’s clear mission and purpose; an unambiguous owner mindset; and a relentless obsession with the front line. "It is an interesting book I have been reading for a long while," says the 23-year-old founder of Oyo Rooms, India’s biggest online aggregator of budget hotels. "It’s terrible though that I have not been able to finish it," he rues, as he turns to numbers to show how he relates to The Founder’s Mentality. From 105 rooms in 11 hotels across just two cities in March 2014, SoftBank-backed Oyo now claims to have over 70,000 rooms in 7,000 hotels in 200 cities. Growth in revenues has been exponential, too. Cyrus Mistry may no longer be chairman of Tata Sons, but Agarwal got a big kick last year when at the annual general meeting of the Indian Hotels Company — which owns the Taj, Vivanta by Taj, Gateway and Ginger hospitality brands — Mistry confessed that "clearly, this (Oyo) is a threat". "I think Mr Mistry was quite generous," says Agarwal with a grin, as he gets ready for an exclusive interview with ET Magazine at his Gurgaon Townhouse. "Not many people would stick their neck out and say something like that." Earlier this year, Oyo moved beyond the budget hotel format into the premium mid-market segment with the brand Townhouse. Check-in Time Nestled in a serene residential colony in South City II, the one-storey building stands out. The walls are grey, the main door is deep red in contrast, and the lawns have a bright white boundary and a few chairs around a table. It doesn’t look like a hotel. Inside, there’s a small co-working space, a few rooms for guests, a lounge that is open to the neighbours as well and a merchandise section. The rooms are minimalistic but provide Kindle and Netflix connection. "Townhouse will be a gamechanger for us," says Agarwal. As Oyo gets ready to close a $250-300 million round of funding from SoftBank, which will take its valuation to over $850 million and a step closer to the unicorn club, is it set to be the darkest horse in SoftBank’s Indian stable? While the top SoftBank-backed companies — from Snapdeal to Ola to Grofers — have been bleeding heavily, the Japanese conglomerate has been betting big on the online budget aggregator by funding its last two rounds. Oyo’s competitors like MakeMyTrip and Yatra are also deep in the red. If Agarwal has to take heart, it’s from the fact that Oyo’s losses aren’t as large as its rivals in the industry (See How Oyo Stacks Up Against the Competition) and its counterparts in the SoftBank stable. Agarwal considers losses as "part of investment" and is counting on the backing of his investors. Amit Somani, managing partner of Prime Venture Partners, believes that having a deep-pocketed and long-term investor in SoftBank adds a lot of staying power to Oyo. "Oyo was arguably the first successful company to dramatically increase the supply of branded, budget properties," he says, adding that the challenge for the upstart would be to get the growth metrics right. This means curtailing losses and reducing cash burn. SoftBank, says Shubhankar Bhattacharya, venture partner at Kae Capital, is an outlier in its investment style: while its cheque sizes tend to be large — even by hedge fund standards — it tends to go with highly risky tech investment prospects. "This strategy has paid off handsomely with companies such as Alibaba and Yahoo!," he says. Source: “Hotels in India: Trends & Opportunities” report by HVS Most of SoftBank’s investments in India have little to write home about, but one or two giant winners will be more than adequate for bumper returns from its entire India hand, even if the rest proves to be duds. The billion-dollar question, of course, is which one is going to be the winner, and which ones will be the flops. The answer is some time away but, for the moment, SoftBank is chasing a new strategy of consolidating its investments and picking up stakes in the leading players in their respective segments. Examples: working to get investee company Snapdeal to merge with Flipkart, thereby getting a stake in India’s top etailer; and a recent investment of $1.4 billion in the holding company of mobile payments leader Paytm. Interestingly, Paytm has Alibaba as the lead investor, while Flipkart has Tiger Global. Oyo is Not Among the Top 5 SoftBank-backed Startups in India... (rounds with SoftBank participation) If SoftBank has so far opted for scale in a trade-off between growth and profit, that may well be the nature of the game played by global VCs. Take, for instance, Mark Suster. The American entrepreneur and venture capitalist has always made a strong case for growth over profit. One needs to understand, said Suster in his blog early this month, that often investors care more about growth than profits. They don’t want high burn rates but they will never fund slow growth. "There is a trade-off between profits and growth," he says. The next time somebody wants to slam Amazon for not being more profitable, please explain this. Amazon, he wrote, is continuing to grow at such a rapid pace that, of course, it should take some of today’s profits and reinvest them in growth or acquisitions. Cash burn, though, have become two four-letter words, as funding dries up and investors yearn for the colour black. And, back in Gurgaon, Agarwal seems to have toned down his unbridled aggression after learning from some mistakes. ...but Oyo has Raised Funds Consistently The Good Tip In 2015, a slew of online budget room aggregators cropped up and started burning money to woo hoteliers and consumers. "Our response was to build a bigger, better, wider network faster than anyone else," he says. Oyo added over 100 cities in just about six months. The unbridled aggression also resulted in Oyo trying to acquire Tiger Global-backed rival Zo Rooms last year. The deal did not happen and Zo Rooms shut down. "The acquisition is not done yet," says Agarwal cryptically, declining to shed more light on what led to the closure of Zo Rooms and the aborted buyout plan. The reckless expansion not only burnt a hole in the pocket, it also affected customer experience. The lesson: customer experience is more important than discounts. Oyo delisted erring partners, gave up its partial inventory model where it had little control over guest experience, cut freebies and went back to the drawing board to make a consumer engagement plan. Result: the "net promoter score" (NPS), claims Oyo, increased over 2.6 times between the second quarter of last year and May this year. NPS is an index ranging from -100 to 100 that measures the willingness of customers to recommend a company’s products or services to others. Customer delight, measured in terms of five-star ratings by users, too jumped by over 60% in one year, says Oyo. In the past one year, claims Agarwal, Oyo has more than doubled it growth. Its burn rate has come down by as much as 60%, customer service rating is at the highest, and losses have come down from Rs 496.31 crore in March-ended 2016 fiscal to Rs 325.26 crore a year later. The venture, he maintains, has found the right momentum, has shunned incentivisation as a long-term, customer-acquisition strategy, and has the backing of its investors. Justin Wilson, operating partner at SoftBank, sounds optimistic about the progress made by Oyo. Agarwal and his team, says Wilson, are not just addressing accommodation standards in India, but are also elevating the hospitality experience for the budget traveller. "They have managed to grow aggressively while also being disciplined about their unit economics," he says, adding that the quality and breadth of the leadership team has helped Oyo stay ahead of the competition and build for the long term. A section of VCs, though, is guarded in their assessment. While conceding that SoftBank’s large investment will give Oyo more room to try new things, Vikram Gupta, founder of IvyCap Ventures Advisors, contends that Oyo has realised that one cannot keep burning cash with the hope of making money in the future. Though Oyo might have created a technology platform that can be scaled across multiple segments, including the premium segment, growth — of assets and people — may pose a different set of challenges. The Townhouse model, for instance, will call for investment — an estimated Rs 3.5 lakh in each room, with each property having up to 20 rooms — as the company goes about setting up 250 Townhouses over the next six months. "One will see the outcome only after testing the market," adds Gupta. Influencing a change in the consumer mindset always requires an initial investment that is larger than expected. Oyo may have to go through the same cycle with the newer segments that it is testing. Having deep-pocketed investors was the primary reason Oyo burned cash unrealistically, says Ankita Sheth, cofounder of Vista Rooms, an online budget hotel aggregator. "Townhouse is a completely new ballgame for Oyo," she says. Though Oyo is transforming from a marketing-heavy business to an operations-heavy business, it will now come down to their ability to execute operations better than existing hotel chains. However, it remains to be seen if a customer will have a better experience at an Oyo Townhouse versus a Sarovar or a Lemon Tree, she adds. That precisely could be the biggest challenge for Oyo: of establishing an identity. Is it a mass provider of budget accommodation with limited control over customer experience or a "manchised" hotel — franchisee model but with control over operations — that manages softer aspects of customer experience, or a full-service business hospitality provider, asks Bhattacharya of Kae Capital. Trying to conquer all of these spaces simultaneously might be too overwhelming a challenge, even for a company as well-funded as Oyo, he adds. Agarwal, for his part, sounds confident of making it big with Townhouse. "Oyo will quickly evolve into a strong alternative in not only the budget segment but also in the upper segments. That is one thing that is absolutely going to happen." Well, that may be exactly the kind of "clear vision and purpose" and "unambiguous owner mindset" that Zook and Allen would approve of. SoftBank may well endorse it, too. What matters most, though, is the thumbs-up from the consumers of Oyo and Townhouse.
Categories: Business News

Trump is keeping Indian students & their parents away from US colleges this year

12 hours 25 min ago
Harvard, Stanford, MIT Sloan School and Carnegie Mellon are just four of the more prominent universities at which some of India’s renowned industrialists, academics and politicians honed their skills — think Anand Mahindra, Azim Premji, Raghuram Rajan and Jairam Ramesh, in that order. While those are the names you may encounter in headlines on a regular basis, there are lakhs of lesser known Indian students who seek and find a berth in some 4,726 colleges and universities across the US every year. In 2015-16, the figure stood at 1,65,918. That, according to the Open Doors Report by the Institute of International Education, was the number of Indian students in the US for higher education. That’s an almost 25% jump over the previous year’s figure of 1,32,888. This, however, may well be the last such spike for some time to come, thanks mainly to the strong anti-immigration rhetoric by US President Donald Trump. The international admission season now kicks in for most US campuses, although numbers will not be available before fall 2017, when most students will join their classes. A recent report in Inside Higher Ed, an online content provider in the higher education space, suggested that about 40% of US colleges have seen a decline in applications from international students. International student recruitment professionals, according to the report, found students and their families concerned over visas and worried about the US having become a less welcoming destination following the election of Trump. US government agencies, though, are still upbeat. “The US institutions attract so many Indian students because of the quality of education — India is, in fact, the second leading place of origin for international students after China. Since November last year several campuses have been running the #YouAreWelcomeHere campaign as an outreach to global students to not just make them feel at home but also assure them that there are communities here dedicated to them,” says Alfred M Boll, branch chief of EducationUSA under the US Department of State’s bureau of educational and cultural affairs. Presidents of many top universities too have come out with public statements, including some who are of Indian origin, to reassure international students that they are welcome. Visa issues In the face of uncertainty surrounding the H-1B visa, which provides an opportunity for many Indian students to work in the US after they finish their education, universities are tapping into their alumni networks as well as campus support systems to guide overseas students. “Nothing has changed as far as visas for Indian students are concerned, and those studying in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields have an optional practical training (OPT) period after their courses of up to three years when they can stay back in the US and gain professional experience,” adds Boll. Rahul Choudaha, CEO, DrEducation, an American research firm specialising in international students, however, feels that it’s not just stricter visa rules that will hurt the ability of Indian students to go to the US. “The impact of currency demonetisation in India, which may have resulted in some students finding it difficult to arrange for finances, could result in higher visa refusals.” The key trigger for an overseas education for most Indian students is to earn an American degree at a low cost and recover the educational investment over time. Indian students are concentrated in engineering and computer science master’s programmes in public institutions that offer lower tuition and cost of living options. The three-year OPT and subsequent H-1B are a critical consideration in recovering the investment in education. “Given the recent perception of discrimination and racism in certain regions, some of the universities outside the top ones will find it challenging to attract Indian students for this academic year. However, most of the top-ranked institutions will remain immune to decline in enrolment,” adds Choudaha. The message from the US government is clear — that safety and security on campuses is a primary concern at all levels, including within the campuses. However, despite all the reassurances from the US government, there are concerns that have increased since Trump took charge at the White House. The sense of unease is palpable on various campuses. “There are legitimate concerns under the Trump administration over the H-1B visa and we have seen some of our former students having trouble getting jobs after their student visa period is over. A few have moved to unusual career paths such as working in India or in Europe for a year with global companies before they will perhaps move back to the US,” says Irfan Nooruddin, a professor at the school of foreign service at Georgetown University in Washington DC, who moved to the US in 1992 as a student himself from Mumbai. A few miles away at Fairfax, Virginia, close to Washington DC, there are apprehensions about enrolment of Indian students at George Mason University as well. “So far we find that the enrolment rates are flat. International students, including those from India, are probably taking time over their decision to join campuses in the US. However, there’s time till August for them to make up their minds and we are making efforts towards additional outreach,” says Amy Takayama-Perez, dean of admission at George Mason. Her team is reaching out to students in India through social media and other platforms to answer any questions they may have on living on campus, safety and work opportunities. The university has 50 undergrad students and 530 graduate students from India, with the largest number enrolled in computer science, telecommunications and data analytics courses. Many students are part of the outreach efforts. Aditya Trivedi from Mumbai, for instance, is a graduate student in computer science who volunteers for the international students office at George Mason. “In my computer science class, a majority of the students are Indians. So working with the overseas office helps me connect with the larger community and later may also help me in networking when I start looking for a job,” he says. There are problems too that some students face. Swapnil Goud Tadkal, a graduate student in computer forensics from Telengana’s Sangareddy district, finds that government agencies which are large employers in the Virginia area are unlikely to offer jobs or even internships to foreign students in an area like cybersecurity. This is against a backdrop of heightened security measures under the Trump administration. “After my course is done, I will look for opportunities in private firms in Texas or Silicon Valley,” says Tadkal. Indian students’ associations at various universities, meanwhile, are stepping up efforts to help students keep abreast of immigration rules around the F1 students visa status. An F1 visa is a non-immigrant visa for those wishing to study in the US. Cause for concern? University at Buffalo, New York, had notched up a high of roughly 1,600 Indian students across undergraduate and graduate courses in various disciplines in the fall of 2016. “But this year we do sense heightened anxiety around immigration and employment issues and we are doing all we can to help prospective students by answering all their questions and supporting them,” admits Dr Satish K Tripathi, the Indian-American president of Buffalo University since 2011. Tripathi is an alumnus of Banaras Hindu University. Indian students at the university feel that while their overall experience on campus has been positive, a few recent incidents have caused concern. “We have seen a few international students being harassed verbally. The entire community, however, has been supportive and there has been a strong petition to declare Buffalo a sanctuary campus,” says Shayani Bhattacharya, a student from Kolkata who has just completed a PhD in English and is headed for a tenured track position at a liberal arts college in Pennsylvania. Kent State, a public university in Ohio, has seen a fall in international students from 3,045 in the spring 2016 semester to 2,489 a year later, according to figures from the university’s communications and marketing team. The figures were published in a report on its website. The highest number of overseas students on the Kent campus are from India, at 691; the fall has been attributed to the turbulent political climate in the US by the office of global education of the university. Some universities believe jumping to conclusions about a slump in interest may be premature. “It is far too early in enrolment to be definitive but at this point we are actually slightly ahead of our overall international student numbers at this time last year,” says Dr Roger Brindley, vice-president at the University of South Florida (USF). Addressing some of the important concerns of students in India during a recent trip to the country, Brindley pointed out that so far there have been no changes in the rules for OPT. “The focus of the executive order on H-1B appears to be on multinational employers and lower-paid tech jobs. Our master’s and doctoral graduates are being recruited for middle/high-paying jobs as they complete their OPT. Simply put, as they apply for their F1 student visas this summer, they are not the focus of this H-1B executive order.” Many students who are enrolled in STEM courses remain upbeat because they can legally remain in the US for three years after their courses, working or looking for jobs. Piyush Malviya who is enrolled in the Robert A Foisie School of Business at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts for a management information systems course, believes there will be good opportunities for him on the business side of IT. “However, I believe there might be a decline in the number of students going to the US for studies due to the change in administration. It has become a little difficult currently to find employers who will sponsor international graduates for a required work authorisation or H-1B visas.” Varsha Parthasarathy, a graduate student at the Georgia Institute of Technology, doesn’t see any cause for concern for Indian students who are enrolled at the top colleges and universities. She feels that the alumni network and the university will help in the job search process despite some companies being a bit cautious about sponsoring international students for H-1B visas. Meanwhile, on June 8, the US embassy in Delhi and the consulates general in Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai, opened their doors to more than 4,000 Indian students applying for visas on what was earmarked as Student Visa Day. Chargé d’Affaires MaryKay Carlson and consuls general throughout India congratulated applicants as they joined the growing ranks of Indian students studying in the US. Arunima Sharma, who will join an MS management sciences programme at Columbia University in New York City, was among the students who received her F1 visa on that day. She has spent a few months at Stanford University as a global ambassador in 2015-2016 and feels that students don’t have to worry despite political issues. “US college campuses are secure and students’ associations and international offices are always willing to help. Besides, most varsities have very active alumni associations. For those concerned about repaying loans, even the three year OPT can be enough to get a good job and clear the outstandings,” says an upbeat Sharma. The writer was in the US at the invitation of the US Department of State
Categories: Business News

Meet the man trying to give EPFO a friendly face

12 hours 25 min ago
A lot has changed in Delhi in the last two decades. But Bhikaji Cama, once a prominent office complex in south Delhi remains, as it was. Stray dogs loiter. Mounds of export-surplus products catch your attention. Parking lot looks like an afterthought. Overall, the upkeep is sub-par. The office of Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) in Bhavishya Nidhi Building truly belongs here. Nothing much seems to have changed since the last time this reporter visited in the early 2000s. A dingy reception welcomes you. For an important organisation that has 18,000 employees, administers a provident fund programme to close to 19.3 crore Indian workers in the organised sector and manages a corpus of Rs 9.8 lakh crore, its office is modest. On the third floor where the Central PF Commissioner (CPFC) sits, the furniture is barebones and the office space spartan. While the physical space may not change any time soon, VP Joy, the man at the helm who took over the reins in February 2016, vows that he will change the way EPFO operates. “We have many legacy issues. We are working hard to modernise and digitise our operations,” says the CPFC, a Kerala cadre IAS officer. Multiple initiatives are underway. The journey started in 2014 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi rolled out the UAN (Universal Account Number). Linked to a worker’s permanent account number (PAN) and Aadhaar, every worker enrolled with the EPFO gets a unique lifelong identity number. This helps in a smooth PF account transfer, avoiding duplication in the event of workers switching employers and cities. For long used to working as islands, 114 of the 123 branch offices of the EPFO have been digitally connected. The central office now has real-time access to all PF accounts and deposit updates. Instead of physical applications with cumbersome and time-consuming approval processes, a range of services -- from PF account transfer and partial mony withdrawal to modification in the worker profile and statement update -- can now be done online in a time-bound manner within 10 days. "We are changing our strategy. Instead of putting pressure on workers to not close PF accounts we want to make it so compelling that they stay invested," says Joy. Initiatives like helping workers buy houses and health insurance cover for retired workers under ESIC (Employees' State Insurance Corporation) are on the cards. Embracing Digital EPFO’s efforts are being acknowledged. Prakash Rao, vice-president consulting firm, sees a sea change. By the 15th of every month, employers typically have to deposit the PF money deducted from workers’ salaries with EPFO. Earlier, it had to be deposited by cheque and a physical challan was issued. “The entire process was offline, lengthy and cumbersome. It is now instant and electrons," says Rao. In the past, each of the 123 EPFO branch offices had its own bank accounts into which companies deposited money monthly. When a worker shifted from one zone to another, her account had to be physically transferred, an elaborate and time-consuming process. "Account reconciliation could take up to four months, " says Joy. With all branch offices connected to a central server and the shift to electronic transaction, it has also become easier for the head office to keep tab on transgressions and defaults on a real-time basis. "This has dramatically improved our default management system," adds Joy. Sonal Arora, vice-president, TeamLease, a temporary staffing firm, agrees. “We have seen a big change in the way EPFO functions in the last two years. They have become very workerfriendly,” she says. For instance, earlier when a worker switched employers she had to fill a physical form that had to be signed by the previous and present employers. The entire process could take weeks. Today, with the UAN number linked to PAN and Aadhaar, the task can be done quickly online. Workers can also register on the EPFO portal and get SMS alerts when their PF accounts get credited with funds or interest. Procedures and timelines around partial withdrawal of PF funds in emergencies too have been overhauled, reducing the compliance burden. For example, earlier if a worker needed to withdraw funds from her PF account for, say, a marriage, she had to submit a claim form with accompanying evidence (like the wedding card) and the form had to be duly attested by the employer. No longer. Allowing self-certification of several documents, the new claim form can be submitted directly by the worker to the EPFO without employer’s attestation. Of course, (only those who have linked their UAN with their Aadhaar number can avail of this. A utilisation certificate that was earlier required to be submitted has been dispensed with. EPFO promises to deliver these services within 10 days. “These are big changes. Dependence on employers has been substantially reduced and the timeline too has been cut short,” says Venkatakrishnan Natarajan, CFO, Tata Hitachi Construction Machinery. Journey half done Though EPFO has made some good progress, much more remains to be done. For example, in case of a complete withdrawal of funds, the procedure remains cumbersome. Employers’ biggest problem today is poorly equipped EPFO portal. “Between the 10th and 15th of every month, it literally stops working due to traffic overload,” says Rao of PeopleStrong. Employers are trying to find ways to tackle this, with relevant departments uploading data at night when traffic is low. “Old data too is not available. The government must improve the technology backbone urgently,” says Arora of Team-Lease. Rao suggests emulating the passport office, which has outsourced critical functions to third parties, improving service dramatically. EPFO too should outsource the digitisation job and build a technology backbone quickly. “Change management of an old culture is always difficult. Digitisation brings transparency which many don’t like. A third party will do a better job in a short time,” he adds. While fixing glitches, EPFO must also prepare for a broader role in a worker’s life. For example, Joy is exploring ways in which it can partner the government in boosting home ownership among its workers. The Modi government has set a target of housing for all by 2022. “Who will give a home loan to a worker with Rs 13,000 salary,” asks Joy. Since April, EPFO has been engaging with employers, workers and companies like HUDCO to find ways to make this a reality. Joy envisages that workers could form a cooperative society where they can collectively bargain with a builder for housing. EPFO can do the certification on how much money they have in their PF accounts. HUDCO could work with banks to offer subsidised home loans. And EPFO can directly release 90% of a worker’s accumulated PF money towards buying their homes. “Annually, we get 1.16 crore claims of which 91.2 lakh are premature closure. Instead of creating hurdles we want to make PF so attractive that workers will not want to exit,” says Joy. EPFO must take a stab at other bigger problems. Under 10% of India’s 470 million workforce is in the organised sector, who are covered under the EPFO. The challenge is to offer some form of social security to the remaining workers in the unorganised sector who have little knowledge and wherewithal to save for retirement. A recently released vision document by EPFO aims to offer universal social security to all workers under its PF, pension and life insurance program by 2030. “India might want to look at Singapore for some inspiration,” says Chitra Jayasimha, senior actuary and practice leader, Aon Hewitt. In Singapore, the Central Provident Fund offers compulsory savings plans for all working Singaporeans and permanent residents, which help them fund their retirement, make available healthcare insurance and housing at a very subsidised rate. NPS (National Pension Scheme), open to all Indian citizens, is a step in the right direction. But more needs to be done. A young nation must begin to worry about retirement and old age now to avoid a future crisis. We want to help workers buy homes: VP Joy, chief PF commissioner
Categories: Business News

India wants to double consumption of cheap material in 5 yrs, what about its plastic waste?

12 hours 25 min ago
If Waste Ventures’ name does not spell out clearly enough what it does, a visit to its office surely does the job. Located behind a weighbridge on the outskirts of Hyderabad, the startup’s headquarters are at the entrance to a partially roofless, 13,000 sq ft warehouse. Home temporarily to a tiny fraction of the city’s plastic and paper refuse, most of the godown can be manoeuvred only by crushing soft drink bottles and wafer packs underfoot. Two compactors are making 100 kg bales out of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles, which are then piled on top of each other; the best view of the godown is afforded from atop these, from where you see the staff, mostly women, sorting the waste. Once the waste is sorted and compacted, it is sent to recyclers. Waste Ventures aggregates 150 tonnes every month, which is just 0.1% of Hyderabad’s waste. Of that, 90 tonnes are plastic. The company also offers Toter, an on-demand recyclable waste collection service. Companies like Waste Ventures are crucial to addressing one of the most daunting challenges facing city administrators and urban planners: how to manage tonnes of what we discard every day, particularly plastics, which are made from crude, and how to stop them from finding their way into the ocean and rivers. Wasteward Ho As per a 2013 estimate by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Indians throw out 15,342 tonnes of plastic waste every day, of which about 60% is recycled, most of it in the informal sector. While the recycling rate in India is considerably higher than the global average of 14%, there are still over 6,100 tonnes of plastic which are either landfilled or end up polluting streams or groundwater resources. While some kinds of plastic do not decompose at all, others could take up to 450 years to break down, leaving a vexing problem to address. Developing countries are especially vulnerable as their plastic consumption rapidly increases. Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan last year said the government plans to double India’s annual per capita consumption to 20 kg by 2022. An Indian on average uses 11 kg of plastic a year, about a tenth of what an American consumes and less than half the global average. While the Indian government’s target does not seem alarming next to developed countries’ love of plastics, the fact that there is no comprehensive mechanism in place yet to manage the waste we generate should be reason enough to panic. A survey of 60 Indian cities by the CPCB found that plastic accounts for 8% of all solid waste, with the figure going up to over 10% in nine cities, including Delhi that produces the maximum plastic waste in the country, Kolkata and Ahmedabad. The biggest hurdle to plastic recycling and waste management in general is non-segregation of waste at source. More often than not, segregation is done by waste pickers, which leads to a lot of soiled plastic and paper being left out of the recycling process and ending up in landfills. Roshan Miranda, cofounder of Waste Ventures, says the waste pickers they source from collect only segregated refuse. “Imagine plastic waste being mixed with sanitary napkins, diapers, egg and meat. Waste pickers can only do so much.” However, he adds, most of the high-value plastic like PET bottles and shampoo bottles, which are made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE), are sorted by waste pickers before the waste is taken to the dumpyard. Low-value items like most carry bags are ignored by them since they are not worth the effort it takes to collect them. Since contractors are paid by the kilogram for the waste they take to dumpyards, there is no incentive for them to sort the waste before, according to Miranda. A third of Hyderabad’s households segregate their waste, while in Mumbai only 27% do. Companies like Waste Ventures and Mumbai-based RUR (which is short for Are You Reducing, Reusing,Recycling?) also help housing societies compost their organic waste; RUR has composted 100 tonnes so far. It has also recycled 1.9 million Tetra Pak cartons since 2010 through an initiative with the company. The cartons are made of 75% paper, 20% plastic and 5% aluminium, all of which are recyclable; these can be used to make school desks and park benches. Curse of Disposables Monisha Narke, founder of RUR, calls plastic a “beautiful invention”, given its wide application because of its light weight, low cost and other attributes. Plastics make up 50% of the Boeing Dreamliner and 15% of a car. “Where we missed the bus is in identifying the good and bad plastics. We started using it for everything and when we started moving to disposable plastics, it became a hazard.” Packaging is the single largest application of plastics — in India, it accounts for 43% of all plastics — and most packaging of consumer products is single-use. Globally, by 2050, plastic packaging production will be more than the overall plastic volumes today, according to a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF). Around 95% of the economic value of plastic packaging, or $80-120 billion a year, is lost after their first use. The economic cost of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the production of plastic packaging and the pollution caused by plastic waste is pegged at around $40 billion. Plastics’ share of global oil consumption is expected to more than treble to 20% between 2014 and 2050, and plastics’ share of the global carbon budget will see an even steeper rise, from 1% to 15%. (Carbon budget is the amount of carbon emissions that can be allowed while maintaining a reasonable chance of limiting the temperature increase this century to 2 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels.) An increase in recycling means a reduction in the dependence on virgin feedstock. One of the worst consequences of plastic waste is a lot of it ends up in the ocean. Around 8 million tonnes of plastic waste enter the ocean every year, with Asian countries responsible for four-fifths of it, and at present there are 150 million tonnes in seas. The WEF report says in 2014 there was 1 kg of plastic in the ocean for every 5 kg of fish; by 2025 the ratio will worsen to one to three; and by 2050 plastic will exceed fish by weight. Cleaning Up the Mess Afroz Shah, a lawyer who has been leading a citizens’ clean-up drive on Mumbai’s Versova beach since October 2015, says 95% of the 5.5 million tonnes of waste they have collected so far is plastic, much higher than the 62% globally. “People asked me why I, a lawyer, didn’t file a PIL (public interest litigation). No law or court order is going to save the planet. Individuals will have to take up the responsibility.” Shah was given the United Nations Environment Programme’s top award in December for his efforts. Erik Solheim, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, believes fixing binding targets on countries is not always the best solution. “With the Paris Agreement (on climate change), we have seen overwhelming support based on voluntary commitments. I think that has made the agreement take on a life of its own, with cities, states, the private sector and private citizens seeking to contribute. This is precisely what we need to happen with plastics.” Key to the Indian government’s attempts, besides the much-publicised Swachh Bharat Mission, to tackle the problem are the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016. Unlike their predecessor, these rules cover not just cities, but also rural areas; the minimum thickness for carry bags has been raised from 40 microns to 50 microns; and, in what is a contentious clause, street vendors and retailers who provide plastic carry bags will have to pay a minimum monthly waste management fee of Rs 4,000, which could be impractical for small vendors. The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation has already levied penalties of Rs 18.20 lakh on those violating the 50 microns rule, according to additional commissioner N Ravi Kiran. Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai officials were not available for comment. There have been calls for cities to adopt Pune’s model of joining hands with a cooperative of waste pickers to decentralise collection and processing waste. The initiative, which has been operational for a decade, covers 4,00,000 households. The 2,600 waste pickers of the cooperative collect 600 tonnes of solid waste a day, saving the Pune Municipal Corporation Rs 15 crore every year. The most important of the rules is extended producer responsibility (EPR). Plastic producers, importers and brand owners (like fast-moving consumer goods companies) will have to contribute to collection of plastic waste they introduce into the market, especially multi-layered plastic packs, which are hard to recycle. Waste Ventures’ Miranda claims two FMCG companies, without naming them, have asked his firm to collect 20 tonnes of non-recyclable plastics like laminated plastics, which are used in wafer packs. These are normally sent to waste-to-energy plants or used to power cement kilns. One criticism of EPR is the lack of specific targets in the rules. “It’s just a paragraph in the rules. There are no guidelines on how it will be implemented,” says Swati Singh of Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). An official at the CPCB, requesting anonymity, says the government is working on the guidelines. Questions sent to Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan went unanswered. Haren Sanghavi, president of the All India Plastic Manufacturers’ Association, says EPR should be the responsibility of brand owners and not polymer producers. “They (polymer makers) don’t know where their products are going. They don’t have the network FMCG companies have.” The plastic processing industry had volumes of 13.4 million tonnes and sales of Rs 1 trillion in 2015, according to a report by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry. Sanghavi says 40% of the industry is unorganised. Sustainable packaging is an issue plastic makers and FMCG companies cannot take lightly any longer. Unilever, one of the world’s largest FMCG companies, plans to make all its packaging “reusable, recyclable or compostable” by 2025. In addition to partnering non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in waste collection, Hindustan Unilever, the company’s India unit, claims the use of better materials for packaging helped it reduce polymer waste by 840 tonnes in 2015. Moreover, 80% of the PET used in blister packs for its brands like Pepsodent toothbrush and Fair & Lovely is recycled. “This ensures there is an application for newly available r-PET (recycled PET) resin in the market, thereby establishing circular economy thinking,” says a company spokesperson. Miranda says PET has the most established recycling market among all plastics in India. One of the biggest applications of recycled PET is in fabrics. He says 10 PET bottles could be recycled to make a T-shirt. Reliance Industries, the oil & gas behemoth that is also India’s largest maker of commodity plastics, collects 2 billion PET bottles every year and recycles them into polyester yarn. ITC Ltd, the cigarette, FMCG and hospitality company, has for over a decade been running an initiative called Well-being Out of Waste, which now covers 400 municipal wards in Chennai, Coimbatore, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and some towns in Telangana. Sanjib Bezbaroa, head of ITC’s corporate environment, health and safety, says the programme impacts 3,00,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste annually. Talking of the company’s efforts to make its packaging more recyclable, the spokesperson adds, “If source segregated, the plastics used in ITC products can all be recycled. Having said that, we are focusing on increasing the quantum of single polymer-based packaging, which would enhance recyclability.” A spokesperson for Reliance says India could adopt Europe’s EPR model, which allows companies to pass on their individual obligation of taking back the waste from the market to producer responsibility organisations (PROs), of which companies are members. “This provides a long-term agreement of PROs with brand owners whereby PROs collect the waste on behalf of the brand owners and in return receive reimbursement of agreed charges from brand owners.” CSE’s Singh says the government is not doing much to encourage more sustainable alternatives to traditional plastic packaging. “Most people cannot afford Rs 5 or Rs 10 cloth bags.” Sanghavi says innovations like biodegradable plastic, which could be made out of corn starch or cellulose, are at present too expensive for mass adoption. As a result, such options are not an immediate solution to the problem of plastic waste and the need of the hour is a more systematic and organised waste management and recycling mechanism, which is unlikely without a stringent enforcement of the new rules. Additional reporting by CR Sukumar
Categories: Business News

These 20 technology skills can help you beat IT job market blues

June 24, 2017 - 10:42pm
You can beat the gathering gloom in job market by equipping yourself with the latest tech skills. In a bleak employment scenario, evolving technology has opened up a vast space as businesses chase innovative solutions. The new-age skill sets such as natural language processing are in high demand and promise market-beating rates. Data from a website that matches freelancers with employers reveals US demand for software engineers who program computers to understand human speech grew faster than workers with any other skill. Voice-activated virtual assistants such as Apple's Siri and Amazon's Echo devices have been made possible by natural language processing. According to a Bloomberg report on the Upwork data, freelancers who know natural language processing earned an average hourly rate of $123 per hour, and the total amount that they billed increased by 2,300 per cent last quarter from a year earlier. "The nascent boom in these jobs also foreshadows the employment that advances in artificial intelligence could create, even while they replace other human tasks," says the Bloomberg report. 59299926 While natural language processing topped Upwork's list of the 20 fastest-growing skills, Swift, a programming language used to build apps for Apple devices, ranked second, followed by Tableau, a system to create data visualisations. Amazon Marketplace Web Services, Stripe, Instagram marketing, MySQL programming, Unbounce, social media management and Angular JS were other top skills in the Upwork list. Evolving technology works both way-if it creates demand for new skills, it also renders even some recent tech skills obsolete. "The demand for workers who know how to analyze Twitter data plunged 51% last quarter from a year earlier, reflecting the social media service's struggle to grow its user base," says the Bloomberg report.
Categories: Business News

Trump will have an answer ready if Modi asks about H-1B visa next week

June 24, 2017 - 10:42pm
59302448 WASHINGTON: The Trump administration has said that if the Indian side raises the contentious H-1B visa issue during President Donald Trump's meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Americans were ready to respond. "On the (H-1B) visas issue, there's no plans for that to come up specifically," a senior administration official told reporters ahead of the Modi-Trump meeting at the White House on Monday. But if raised by the Indian side, the Americans are ready for it, the official said. "But if it's raised, I would just note that the administration has signed some executive orders related to work and immigration, and President Trump's executive order on H1-B visas of course directs the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Homeland Security to propose potential reforms to the H1B visa program," the official said. However, there have been no immediate changes to visa application or issuance procedures, so the administration was not in a position to kind of prejudge what the outcome of the review might be, the official said. "So there's really been no changes as such at this point, and no specific changes that target any specific country or sector as of yet," said the senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. His remarks come amid growing concerns in India over the crackdown on H-1B visas, the most sought-after by Indian IT professionals. Trump signed an executive order in April for tightening the rules of the H-1B visa programme to stop "visa abuses". Trump said his administration is going to enforce 'Hire American' rules that are designed to protect jobs and wages of workers in the US. The executive order also called upon the Departments of Labour, Justice, Homeland Security, and the state to take action against fraud and abuse of the US' visa programmes.
Categories: Business News

Kerala asks Centre to put cap to airfares to Gulf sector

June 24, 2017 - 10:42pm
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Kerala government today asked the Centre to put a cap to airfares to the Gulf sector to prevent the 'unjustified' hike of fares by airlines during the festival and summer vacation seasons. The state also wanted the Centre to introduce more Air India Express flights and persuade private airlines to operate additional flights to the Gulf region under the open sky policy. In a letter to Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapati Raju, Chief Minister Pinarayi sought the Centre's intervention to control airfares. The Chief Minister pointed out that airlines had hiked the fares five to six times for destinations in West Asia to the state, causing hardship to ordinary workers who planned to visit home town during the Ramzan festival. It seems that airlines were cashing in on the demand during the festival season and closure of educational institutions for the summer vacation in the Gulf,Vijayan said. "This kind of hike in airfares had never occurred in the past", the Chief Minister added. In view of this,the Centre should put a cap to airfares and also introduce more Air India Express flights to the Gulf region under the open sky policy, he said. Vijayan also referred to the meeting of airlines CEO's here on May 15 and the Civil Aviation Secretary's suggestion that the Centre would consider providing more seats for a shorter 15 day period in festival seasons to control fares. However, instead of lowering airfares, airlines have hiked fares, Vijayan said.
Categories: Business News

Firm behind auto industry's biggest safety recall to file for bankruptcy on Monday

June 24, 2017 - 7:40pm
By Kevin Buckland, Masatsugu Horie and Ryan Beene The expected bankruptcy of troubled air-bag maker Takata Corporation isn't just a crisis for its employees and suppliers. It also throws a wild card into one of the biggest and most complicated recalls in automotive history. The Japan-based auto supplier has pledged to recall and replace tens of millions of defective air-bag inflators used by 19 car and truck makers around the world, from Tesla Inc. to Toyota Motor Corp. A filing to restructure in US bankruptcy court, which could come as early as Monday according to people familiar with the matter, doesn't relieve a manufacturer of recall responsibilities. However, should its financial assets be exhausted before all the work is done, carmakers may have to cover the difference. US bankruptcy laws permit a would-be buyer to acquire Takata's desirable assets, but not necessarily assume unwanted liabilities -- including recall obligations, according to Robert Rasmussen, a University of Southern California law professor specializing in corporate reorganizations. Funds raised by an asset sale would go toward funding Takata's production of replacement parts, Rasmussen said. US law treats a manufacturer's recall obligations in bankruptcy as a claim of the US government and they receive priority "to ensure that consumers are adequately protected from any safety defect" in a manufacturer's products, according to statute. "The big risk," Rasmussen said, "is how much are the assets worth versus what's the cost to do the replacements." Scott Upham, president of Valient Market Research, estimates that automakers and suppliers globally face $5 billion in future costs tied to the recalls, about $2 billion of which can be tied to Takata. He estimates a Takata asset sale will generate about $1.5 billion to $2 billion. "There's not enough money," Upham said. Automakers may have to cover any shortfall, he said. The car companies have already shifted business away from Takata and toward rivals for about 70 percent of the parts to repair the millions of vehicles recalled for the company's defective airbag inflators, which can explode with too much force and spray drivers and passengers with metal and plastic shards. That should assure enough new inflators for the estimated 100 million defective ones forecast to be replaced worldwide. Only 38 percent of the 43 million air bag inflators under recall in the U.S. had been repaired as of May 26, according to data on the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website. In Japan, 73 percent of the close to 19 million air bags under recall have been repaired, a spokesman at the country's transport ministry said this month. At least 17 deaths have been linked to the devices worldwide. Mounting liabilities associated with the faulty airbags have forced Takata to seek a buyer that would see it through a costly restructuring process. A Takata steering committee has recommended Key Safety Systems Inc. -- the U.S. air-bag maker owned by China's Ningbo Joyson Electronic Corp. -- as the preferred bidder, and bankruptcy filings would bring the Japanese company a step closer to a sale. The challenges for the acquirer are manifold. Takata posted its third-straight annual loss even without including the full costs of repairing millions of air bags, which automakers are now paying for. It faces a talent exodus and auto industry distrust. "It would be hard for Key Safety Systems to put in huge amounts of money if there's no guarantee against unexpected liabilities, after any deal," said Mitsuhiro Harada, a researcher at Tokyo Shoko Research. "Takata is making money in non-airbag operations, so if they can drastically cut recall-related debt through bankruptcy, they can surely revive soon." Automakers have avoided supply disruptions by sourcing replacement parts from Takata competitors Autoliv Inc., ZF-TRW and Daicel Corp. Autoliv, for example, has already provided 15 million replacement inflators and has orders for another 15 million into 2019, company spokesman Thomas Jonsson said. "We are working with suppliers to ensure a steady supply of replacement inflators for our customers," said Kelly Stefanich, a Toyota spokeswoman in Princeton, Indiana. "We don't anticipate any supply disruptions at this time." Honda Chief Executive Officer Takahiro Hachigo said at a June 16 media briefing that the automaker hasn't heard any specifics about the Takata bankruptcy plan. The Japanese government has said it's focused on completing the recall process and ensuring there's no disruption of the supply chain. In the US, NHTSA has been coordinating the pace of recalls and the flow of parts under a legally-binding 2015 agreement with Takata and 19 companies. That pact, NHTSA said, "is designed to deal with future contingencies, including the possibility of additional recalls, new information about the cause of the ruptures, or interruptions in the supply of replacement inflators." "The automakers, the government, Key Safety Systems and Takata will come to an agreement to keep supplies flowing," Upham said. "The No. 1 priority is the safety of the driving public, and I think everybody realizes that." Honda first started recalling Accord and Civic models in 2008 due to the flaw that may end up being Takata's undoing. The supplier's inflators use ammonium nitrate propellant that can be rendered unstable after long-term exposure to heat and humidity. That same year, Takata began adding a drying agent to its propellant formula in an attempt to fix the problem. It has until the end of 2019 to prove to U.S. regulators that those air bags are safe. Honda now uses no Takata-sourced inflators for recall repairs in the U.S., and none of the company's new vehicles in mass production worldwide use Takata inflators with ammonium nitrate propellant, said Chris Martin, a Honda spokesman in the U.S.. Opting for bankruptcy protection in Japan and the U.S., as opposed to a court-led restructuring, should ensure there's "minimum negative impact to the airbag supply chain for automakers," said Takeshi Miyao, an analyst at Tokyo-based market researcher Carnorama. He predicts the procedure would take two months in a best-case scenario, but would more likely need half a year.
Categories: Business News

Rs 3.56 lakh cr debt-laden Maharashtra announces farm loan waiver of Rs 34K cr

June 24, 2017 - 7:40pm
MUMBAI: Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has announced the ‘biggest ever’ loan waiver in the state upping the loan waiver limit from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 1.50 lakh per farmer. Announcing the decision Fadnavis said that 90 per cent of the farmers will be benefitted from the move. Calling the decision ‘historic and unprecedented’, Fadnavis who chaired a cabinet meeting on Saturday cleared the move, the Chief Minister said that the state would cost the state around Rs 34,000 crore. The Chief Minister admitted that the state will have to face a huge burden under the scheme called, ‘Chhatrapati Maharaj Krisha Samman Yojana’. He admitted that the state would face a huge financial burden due to this exercise as the state already has a debt of 3.56 lakh crore. “I am aware that a huge burden will fall on us, we will have to allocate less money to other departments. However, the government has taken a decision and we are standing strongly behind this decision.” said the Chief Minister. Fadnavis said that the state would not be able to completely pay off the farmers loans owed to the banks in one go and hence would initiate talks with the banks for a staggered payment. Aware that farmers were demanding for a complete loan waiver of their entire loan, the Chief Minister said, “ We can’t take more than this burden. Even the current loan waiver is very difficult for us, it is the biggest loan waiver in the country.” He also added that the government in a bid to encourage farmers who have been paying off their loans would deposit money in their accounts. The money deposited would be 25% of their loan amount but would not exceed Rs 25,000. The Chief Minister said that he is aware that certain groups would not be happy with the decision but expressed optimism that farmers would not support any future stir.
Categories: Business News

Future Group to set up its Central store in Kolkata's Metro Cinema property

June 24, 2017 - 7:40pm
KOLKATA: Future Group is going to set up its Central departmental store in the heritage Metro Cinema property on Esplanade in Kolkata having taken around 60,000 sq ft on lease which is being currently re-developed. The store is likely to open after a year. Future Group CEO Kishore Biyani confirmed the group is opening up a Central store in the Metro Cinema property. He said the property owner will ensure that the heritage status of the building is maintained. He did not share anything more. An industry source said the Metro Cinema project will also have space for a four screen Inox multiplex, a food court and car parking. However, Biyani said availability of parking will not be a major issue since several consumers now avail app-based cab services like Ola and Uber. The group is also taking up the Grace Cinema located on Mahatma Gandhi Road in the city which will be converted to a Big Bazaar outlet, said regional head Manish Agarwal. Future Group will also take the West Bengal government’s retail chain Biswa Bangla national in its Central store. Biyani said the group is in talks with the government to set up the stores in at least 12 Central stores in cities like Delhi and Mumbai amongst others. The Biswa Bangla stores sell the state’s fashion products like saree, handicraft and other products. The group on Saturday opened its first Central departmental store in Kolkata at Rajarhat spread over a lakh square feet. The store will have 500 brands several of which would be exclusive such as Tommy Hilfiger, Guess, Gucci, FCUK, Giorgio Armani, Calvin Klein, Diesel, Versace and Dolce & Gabbana.
Categories: Business News

Newbie in investment world? Here are 5 pressing questions answered

June 24, 2017 - 4:37pm
Those born between 1980 and 1995 are referred as Generation Y or the Millennials. Also, the term generation Z is used for those born between 1996 and 2010. Taken together, it covers the population falling between the age 27 and 37. According to a report by Morgan Stanley India, there were 40.7 crore Indians in the age group of 18-36, in 2016. The report also said that India's millennial population is the largest in the world at 400 million and its spending power is expected to reach $330 billion by 2020. Besides, the thrust on spending, this very segment of the population is fast catching up on investments. Here are 5 important questions and their answers, faced by a newbie in the world of investments. I have recently started to earn. Why do I need to start saving for retirement so early? Among several other reasons to suggest saving for retirement early in life, possibly the one that could gel well with youngsters is that the amount required will be considerably less compared to making a delayed start. Aniruddha Bose, Chief Information Officer, FinEdge says, "By starting to save early for your retirement, one will benefit from the magic of compounding. Most people are unable to fathom the true cost of delayed savings. For instance, Rs. 10,000 per month saved for 20 years would grow to roughly Rs 1 Crore (assuming a 12% CAGR). In 30 years, the accumulated amount would be closer to 3.5 Crore. Look at the kind of difference a 10-year head start can make!" The graphic below shows the advantage of starting early to save. Also, remember the 30:30 rule of retirement. 30 years of earning period feed the 30 years of the non-earning period! This is because with increasing life expectancy, the non-earning period in an individual's life is increasing and one needs to make provision for it as early as possible. I am new to stock markets. I don't want to risk my earnings by investing in equity markets. Is there any risk by not investing in equities? Every asset class such as equity or debt and for that matter, any investment will have its own share of risk. Even in the safest of investment backed by a sovereign guarantee, the risk is that of losing the purchasing power on the income earned. Whether equities or non-equities, one needs to understand the nature of the risk and its impact on one's earnings before linking it to a specific goal in life. Otherwise choosing a non-equity asset class for every goal may not be fruitful. "It's good to hear that you are planning to save some part of your earnings. As such, there is no material risk by not investing in equities. The only risk is that of inflation and taxation. Your investment returns should be positive post inflation and tax," says Tarun Birani Founder and CEO, TBNG Capital Advisors. Here's how tax and inflation impact the returns. Different assets such as debt and equity are taxed differently. Let's look at the post-tax return on a fully taxable investment such as bank fixed deposit. For example, someone who pays 30.9 percent tax, the post-tax return on a bank FD of 7 percent is 4.83 percent. Post-tax return: ROI - (ROI * TR) Here, ROI is the rate of interest and TR is the tax rate. Hence, post-tax return = 7 - (7 * 30.9%) = 4.83% Now, let's see what the real rate of return will be after adjusting for inflation. Real rate of return = ((1+ROR%)/(1+ROI%)-1)*100 Say, the inflation rate is 4%, ROR is rate of interest per annum i.e. 4.83% (as arrived above), the real rate of return = ((1+4.83%)/(1+4%)-1)*100 = 0.79%. It shows that there is hardly any growth and the potential to create wealth is highly curtailed by investing in taxable investments. In most cases, therefore, investing in equities becomes imminent for long term goals. Even though the returns from equities are prone to volatility, with proper reviewing of the performance, the impact reduces over time. Studies in the past have shown that equities, as compared to other asset classes, have the potential to deliver higher inflation adjusted returns over the long term. Other asset classes like debt are primarily helpful for the preservation of capital. I got my first paycheck recently. Should I start SIP in any mutual fund? Put a financial plan in place with all its elements and then proceed. Choosing SIP or other investments options come at a later stage. "Any decision of investing should be backed by a sound financial plan that caters to all of your financial goals. Investment strategies are guided by how much money you need and by what time do you need it," says Tarun Birani Founder and CEO, TBNG Capital Advisors. Over the last few years, Indian investors have taken up the SIP route to investing overwhelmingly. SIP mode of investing instils discipline and most importantly keeps the temptation to time the market away. It suits anyone looking to save for a long-term goal by diverting a fixed amount from the monthly paychecks. Birani says, "SIPs are a great way of wealth creation since they are subject to the power of compounding. Also, they serve as a disciplined mechanism for averaging the cost of investments as the risk of timing the market is also averted." However, starting to invest in any mutual fund scheme through the SIP mode may not be enough. "Choosing the right scheme, which could be debt, equity, balanced, others and the right amount for SIP will again depend upon your goals and risk profile, says Birani. One needs to properly estimate the inflation adjusted requirement for the short-medium-long term goals, identify the consistently performing MF schemes accordingly for various time horizons and then start SIP in them. As far as possible, ensure that the SIP's are adequately diversified across fund houses, asset classes, market capitalisation, industries and investment style amongst others. Although portfolio allocation of the chosen schemes may change over time, important will be to keep an eye on the investment style -value, growth or a blend of both - while selecting the schemes. One should not make ad-hoc decisions based on market situations and as a beginner better to stay away from sectoral or small-cap funds. Investing in five different equity MF SIP's, all with exposure to large-cap stocks or nearly 50 percent exposure to 3-4 industries or all following a specific investment style, may not serve the purpose well unless the objective is to solely stick them. For unmarried, it's better to start saving rather than wait for the full picture of financial goals to emerge. The idea is to make a start and an investment portfolio of not more than 5 SIP's with adequate diversification would be enough to meet the financial goals as and when they arise at different life stages of life. I am 30 and saving in bank deposits. Now I want to invest aggressively in equity shares and equity mutual funds? How to go about it? Those who have recently started to earn and even those who have recently started to consider investing in equity markets have to be a little bit extra cautious. The euphoria of the current stock market levels and its performance should not be the reason for them to join the market bandwagon. To start with, beginners may consider investing in an index fund to understand the risks attached to equity investing. Index funds are passive funds with no role of the fund manager in its performance. It mimics the index that it tracks. Alternatively, active funds are managed by fund managers and thy attempt to beat its benchmark index. Over time, such actively managed diversified large-cap scheme may be added. It's important to evaluate one's own risk appetite, understand how the market and asset classes works, various investment options and the approach towards investing before making a start. "Switching directly from debt instruments and opting for an aggressive approach towards equity is not a good way to start your financial journey. The amount of risk to be taken by an individual depends upon risk profile which would define one's ability to take risk and ability to withstand the possible losses," says Birani. We were recently blessed with a child? How should I go about planning our financial life? As one's family grows, so do the financial obligations. Planning your kid's future needs such as education and marriage is an important goal that is always on the top of every parent's mind. Many of us leave it to the last minute while others largely rely on a half-baked plan. The early one begins to plan for it, the richer are the benefits and with a lesser burden too. In order to avoid making hasty financial decisions or abruptly changing investment strategies, prepare early to meet the financial needs at different stages of life. Identify and estimate (after adjusting for inflation) the child goals with different time horizon and then start saving towards it. But, even before one starts investing, ensure the risks are taken care of. Bose suggests, "Step up your life cover by a requisite amount, include your child in your family floater health insurance, and start SIP's in aggressive equity oriented mutual funds for critical goals such as your child's higher studies and marriage."
Categories: Business News

Working in the IT sector? Here's what you should do to survive the lay-offs

June 24, 2017 - 4:37pm
By Devashish Chakravarty It began with start-ups dying out. Then the biggest e-commerce names started freezing hirings, reneged on campus offers and finally began letting people go. Now the lay-offs have started in your organisation. Multi-billion-dollar Indian IT services companies are cutting costs, hit by a double whammy of US politics and the fast-changing digital landscape. Recruiters have taken the NASSCOM-McKinsey report to indicate that IT majors will lay off around 6 lakh people in the next 3 years. What should you do as a techie hit by the lay-offs? Inhouse reskilling The largest customers of Indian IT companies were in international banking and healthcare. With uncertainty in the US and customers building in-house capabilities, these lucrative contracts are drying up. Your employer is currently considering newer technologies like cloud-based services and investing in reskilling its existing bench. Find out the new focus areas and existing reskilling programmes and projects to be amongst the first to make the challenging transition. Moonlighting Have you thought about being self-employed someday? Do you want a backup income plan? Try moonlighting. While you still have a job, create the foundation for an alternate source of money. Work with fledgling startups that cannot afford the tech talent they need and are willing to let you help even if you have no prior relevant exposure. By chipping in after office hours or on weekends you can learn and deliver outcomes on the go, while the start-up benefits from an extra pair of hands. You can also try online freelancing sites like Upwork. Technical education If you are clear that your current skillset will not help you advance your career over the next 5 to 10 years then acquire a new skill set. Consider spending a couple of years to get an MTech or an MS in a new domain like robotics AI, natural language processing etc. If you can afford the time and money, then the learning, exposure, network and certification will give you the credibility and runway for steep career growth. Alternatively, educate yourself through online learning platforms in your spare time and keep bolstering your knowledge by doing projects for others. Change of industry or function Your current employer is in the business of servicing clients from different industries like financial services, manufacturing and hardware. These industries hire in-house IT teams to either work with solution providers or manage in-house IT development and implementation. Hence there are always opportunities relevant to your current skill set in other industries that you can explore. Similarly, if it excites you, you can change function by leveraging your IT skills to find options in a tech sales and service team or in IT purchase. If you want to make a complete switch of career and enter a non-IT domain, either sell your non-IT skill sets like team management, delivery and people skills, or sign up for an MBA programme to reskill as a generalist. During the global financial meltdown of 2008-09, many banking professionals found themselves in similar or worse situations. Through a combination of education, domain change and entrepreneurship, most of them bounced back from the setback of having been laid off. Responsibility 'I alone am responsible for my career'- adopt this attitude to be successful in a structurally grim environment. If you do not empower yourself and remain dependant on circumstances, you will be at the mercy of market forces and luck like the rest of your colleagues. This means that you must revisit all your existing assumptions regarding your career, and pick the ones that give you a fighting chance. Which cities are you willing to work in? What will be the initial salary? Are you open to entrepreneurship? Create a new vision and stick to it, but be flexible about the path. Professional relationships If you haven't invested in building professional relationships beyond your own team, start immediately. Research shows that most new jobs come through weak links in your network. Someone who knows someone close to you could point you to hidden opportunities. Start reaching out to people in your immediate circle and extend your web of interaction. Don't be too shy to ask for favours, connections and job opportunities. Runway Think like a start-up founder who is running out of cash but needs to keep the engine running. Be open to taking a pay cut or even a change in designation in your current organisation to remain employed. Understand that your employer is dealing with reduced revenues, and to survive it must find a way to cut costs. When you offer to take a salary cut, your employer finds a clear benefit in retaining you for your institutional knowledge over the risk of hiring a potential misfit at the same reduced salary. Simultaneously increase your runway by reworking your personal expenses, material goals like buying a house or car, and personal goals like starting a family. For emotional support, make sure that you involve your family and dependants in the decision-making process. Campus choices for engineers Core muscle Take a fresh look at your core engineering stream. Combine your core knowledge and your coding chops to find new opportunities for yourself. For instance, manufacturing involves automation and hence needs both software and hardware specialists. New tech Maybe your engineering syllabus is ancient and you are still learning C++ with some exposure to the web. Choose the right courses or educate yourself on relevant languages and systems. Join a student club, participate in competitions and stay up to speed on new technology. Endless learning If lifelong learning is not your thing, then consider alternate career paths because a career in the constantly evolving IT space is not for you. New technology developments create new jobs and kill old ones. So, you will need to reskill every few years or end up jobless. Non-tech company Unlike your seniors, your batch may not be hired in their hundreds by a few large IT services companies. So, consider alternatives like a tech role in a traditional company. Every business from FMCG to manufacturing requires an in-house technology team. (The writer is Director, Executive Search at QuezX.com)
Categories: Business News

Pages

  Udhyog Mitra, Bihar   Trade Mark Registration   Bihar : Facts & Views   Trade Fair