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Updated: 2 hours 36 min ago

Ready to withdraw FIR against Assam CM: Mizoram

2 hours 36 min ago
The Mizoram government is ready to withdraw the FIR filed against Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, Chief Secretary Lalnunmawia Chuango said on Sunday.Even Chief Minister Zoramthanga did not approve the inclusion of Sarma's name in the FIR, he said."In fact, our chief minister did not really approve of mentioning the name of the Assam chief minister in the FIR. He suggested to me that we should look into it," he told reporters.Chuango said that he will discuss the matter with police officials concerned and remove the name of the Assam chief minister if there is no legal validity to substantiate the allegations against him."I will hold discussion with the police officer who filed the FIR, and if there is no legal fit, we would like to remove the name of Assam chief minister from the FIR," he said, adding that he was unaware of the development when the criminal case was filed against Sarma.The chief secretary, however, did not mention whether the cases filed against six Assam officials and 200 unidentified police personnel will be withdrawn.The Mizoram Police booked Sarma, four senior Assam Police officers and two officials on different charges, including 'attempt to murder', 'criminal conspiracy' and 'assault'.The FIR was registered at the Vairengte police station by its officer-in-charge Lalchawimawia on July 26 soon after the violent clash with the Assam Police.At least seven people from Assam, including six police personnel, were killed in the violence amid the border dispute between the two Northeastern states.The four senior Assam Police officers named in the FIR are Inspector General of Police (IGP) Anurag Aggarwal, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Cachar Devojyoti Mukherjee, Cachar's Superintendent of Police Cahndrakant Nimbalkar, and Officer-In-Charge of Dholai Police Station Sahab Uddin.Cachar Deputy Commissioner Keerthi Jalli and Cachar Divisional Forest Officer Sunnydeo Chaudhary were also booked.Besides, the Mizoram Police also registered criminal cases against 200 unidentified personnel of the Assam Police.The four senior Assam Police officers and two officials were asked to appear before the investigating officer at the Vairengte police station on Sunday.Meanwhile, the Assam Police also summoned Mizoram's Rajya Sabha MP K Vanlalvena and six others officials, including Kolasib's Deputy Commissioner H Lalthlangliana and Superintendent of Police Vanlalfaka Ralte, for questioning on Sunday.
Categories: Business News

Pros & cons of investing in index funds

2 hours 36 min ago
In recent times, investor interest has been rapidly increasing in passive index strategies. 2021 has already seen the launch of over 15 index funds and ETFs (exchange-traded funds). The figure for entire 2020 was just 17. What are index funds?Index funds replicate the weightages of companies that form part of the benchmark index under consideration. The weightage of the stocks in the fund will closely match the weightage of each stock in the index. In case od a change in the weight of stock within the index, the fund manager too will make changes to have its weight in the portfolio aligned to that of the index. For example, a Nifty index fund will invest in the 50 companies forming the Nifty50 index.Benefits of Index FundsDiversification: Index funds, in a simple and easy manner, provide diversification by investing across many stocks. Take Nifty 50 index. Through this index, an investor gets access to 50 different companies. As a result, the value of one's portfolio will not be adversely impacted in the event of any negative development in any one of the companies which is a part of the index. Furthermore, this diversification comes with a ticket size as low as Rs 100.Lower Costs: Costs associated with an index fund are generally very low. The total expense ratio (TER) for an index fund, as per market regulator SEBI, is capped at 1 percent. When compared to actively managed counterparts, this turns out to be a cheaper option for an investor who is comfortable with index fund investing.Return Potential: The aim of an index fund is to generate returns as close to that of its underlying index. Over the long term, if an investor is ready to stay invested, the return profile is likely to reflect the growth of the economy. For example, the 5-year CAGR of an index like Nifty 50 TRI is about 15%.SIP Facility: Just like any actively managed fund, investors can opt for daily, weekly, fortnightly, monthly, or quarterly SIP options.Limitations of Index FundsLack of Flexibility: Unlike an actively managed fund, if there is any material development in the economy or markets, the fund manager here cannot make any changes to the portfolio. As a result, there is no scope for the fund manager in managing market downsides.No room for Alpha: By investing in an index fund, the investor is signing up for returns that will be in line with that of the index which the fund is tracking.Tracking Error: Tracking error is the difference between the scheme’s return and the benchmark index’s return. While index funds try and replicate an underlying as close as possible, there is likely to be a gap due on account of factors such as expenditure incurred by the fund, cash balance, or portfolio deviation.Who can consider investing in Index Funds?Every Investor should have index funds as part of their asset allocation. First-time investors may also consider index funds as a stepping stone into the world of equities. In the short term, returns could be volatile but over the long term the fluctuations average out. To conclude, an index fund offers one of the cheapest ways to take exposure to equity markets but before investing do check if the fund matches your risk appetite, investment horizon, and financial goal.The author, Chintan Haria, is Head- Product Development & Strategy, ICICI Prudential AMC. The views are his own.
Categories: Business News

An Uber-like experience while booking a flat

2 hours 36 min ago
Real estate transactions mostly happen in traditional ways, led by agents and the transactions can take a few months. Compass, a New York based real estate technology company plans to change that with the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). It is trying to create an Uber kind of platform model to connect agents, buyers and sellers and use data to enable transparent and quicker transactions. Lot of the product development is happening out of its centers in Hyderabad and elsewhere in India where it plans to hire more engineers. Joseph Sirosh, Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Compass Inc believes many of the real estate transactions will be digitized over the next decade or so. Sirosh is passionate about AI, ML, and automation. He worked at Amazon and Microsoft before joining Compass in 2018. In an interview over Zoom, Sirosh discusses data, AI, ML, how real estate is changing with use of tech and more. Edited excerpts:In the last 15 years you've been working on Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and automation. Where have we reached?In the early days, AI was strictly applied to numerical data. And one of the first successful applications of AI was in credit card fraud detection. In the last 10 years, AI has made incredible strides in speech recognition, which is why you see Alexa, Google Home, Siri get better. Today, Facebook, Google, everybody else uses AI in a big way in understanding your intent and giving you the right answer.How do you see AI, ML impacting our lives, by say 2030?You won't see AI differently, but as part of software. You are experiencing AI every time you use your phone, open Facebook, search on Google and so on. Every time you use Siri or Google Assistant, you're using AI. In the next 10 years, we will see AI being applied a lot to helping people be better at what they do. AI will become Augmented Intelligence – it will make us significantly more effective at the repetitive tasks we do. So it frees us up and gives time for more creative mind space.From working with disruptors like Amazon, Microsoft you joined Compass, which is into real estate. What motivated you to join Compass? How is Compass using AI & ML?The biggest opportunities in the world are to go to places where problems have not been solved. Real estate is an ancient industry. It has been around almost as long as human civilization has been around, and it has been bought and sold in traditional ways. At some point in our future, whether it is 10 years or 15 years from now, most experiences around real estate transactions and how they work are going to become digital.The transaction portion of real estate is incredibly complex. It is every person's biggest transaction in their lives, but it is not trusted. It takes several months to do a transaction, finding a home is hard, getting its history, developing trust in that transaction, making payments, making the transaction come together, all of that is really hard. And the world is like that. Vast majority of real estate transactions are done by agents. Imagine taking all of those functions of agents —marketing, search, documentation, loan processing, location, price, advisory functions etc – and making it completely digital, put it on cloud, served over an app on mobile.That will make it simpler for everybody. Our goal is to make real estate transactions simple and pleasant for everyone with the power of technology.You see that change in transactions in the US market or outside as well?I believe in all the major cities – particularly the higher value transactions, where there’s data available will be more digital. In 10 years, in big cities across the world, real estate transactions will become better with use of technology.What part of real estate is Compass trying to digitise?Just like Amazon got started in books you must have a starting point. The area we picked was to create a platform that simplifies the real estate agent's work. Because that's 90% of the work done by agents all over the world. If you make their work digital and, on a platform, then their clients are going to interact digitally.So, search, marketing, document processing, pricing all become better and sharper with AI. When you create a platform like that, real estate agents all across the country join that platform. Just like Uber. When Uber created a platform for ride hailing it signed up drivers in market after market to serve more clients and their revenue grew. Same way, we recruit every agent in the US into that platform. And as they come into the platform, more and more real estate transactions are done through the platform. And our revenue grows. So, our goal is to make that end-to-end transaction come together in 48 hours or just a few days. Today, it can take a few months to complete transactions.What's the focus of the development center in India?We have 150 engineers in Hyderabad. This headcount will increase to 400, in the next 12 to 18 months, in Hyderabad, Noida and Bangalore. In all we have about 1,000 people globally. The India teams are developing things like the Android app and the core pieces of the platform.The agents will come to the platform. Do you see a situation where the need for agents will actually reduce?Take a profession like law. There's a lot of paperwork. You can digitize a lot of things around a lawyers’ profession, making it easier and quicker to access information. But lawyers will be around. So, with the digital platform the real estate agent becomes a better advisor, because their work becomes platformized and it can be done faster, with better data, better pricing of homes, better marketing and all of those things. But being a good advisor for the buyer and the seller is a capability that will survive.Does Compass plan to offer its services in India?Eventually. Going international is something we are definitely very much looking into. We haven't decided when.
Categories: Business News

Prevail Electric Mobility to set up additional manufacturing unit in India for electric 2-wheelers

2 hours 36 min ago
Prevail Electric Mobility, an arm of French lubricants major FRVelion, will set up an additional manufacturing unit in India for electric two-wheelers to meet demand in the country besides catering to Nepal and Sri Lankan markets, according to a top company official. The company, which will launch its first product in India this month, plans to set up the new manufacturing unit at Behrampur near Gurugram in Haryana to add to its existing plant at Neemrana in Rajasthan with an overall investment of around Rs 50 crore in the two plants. "Currently, we have a capacity of somewhere around 25,000 units a year. We'll be increasing it to around 40,000 to 50,000 units in a year," Prevail Electric Mobility CEO Hemant Bhatt told. He said this has been necessitated due to the company's move to enter Nepal and Sri Lankan markets simultaneously with the launch in India. Initially, the company had planned to launch its electric two-wheelers in India only. However, the company has been able to sign with partners in Nepal and Sri Lanka to sell its products there as well, he added. The target now is to sell around 10,000 to 12,000 units a year in India and 5,000 units in Sri Lanka and 3,000 units in Nepal, Bhatt said. The company is gearing up to launch three electric scooters with low-speed variants - Elite, Finesse, and Wolfury. All the models are fitted with 1,000W motors and one-click-fix functions. These will be able to cover up to 110 km in a single full charge. The EV manufacturing start-up, Prevail Electric Mobility, which began its operations in India in 2019, is also looking to tap on the network of its parent FRVelion in the country to expand its footprint. To start with, the company is opening its flagship stores in Delhi and Mumbai to kick off its journey. "We already have contact in the entire India because the parent company is into lubricants. So we already have our footmark in this segment from the past three years now," Bhatt said. Stating that the company already has the dealer network, the plan for this ongoing financial year is to put up 50 flagship stores in India "if everything goes well with no (further) COVID-19 wave", he added. "Then we will build a sub-dealership market," he said. At present, Bhatt said the company imports lithium ion and lithium phosphorus batteries from Taiwan and if its two-wheelers get traction in the market, it will look to set up a battery unit here as well.
Categories: Business News

IPOs raise over Rs 27,000 cr in Apr-Jul; issues worth Rs 70K cr in pipeline

2 hours 36 min ago
New Delhi: As many as 12 firms have raised a staggering Rs 27,000 crore through IPO route in the first four months of the ongoing fiscal, and the pipeline is pretty strong for the remaining part of the year too. Further to this, initial share sales of four other companies Devyani International, Windlas Biotech, Krsnna Diagnostics and Exxaro Tiles are schedule to open on August 4. Hemang Kapasi, Head of Equities at Sanctum Wealth Management, said that as many as 40 initial public offers (IPOs) are lined up for rest of the year looking to raise Rs 70,000 crore. Further, a lot of retail investors associated brands are going to list on the Indian bourses. The initial share sales of Paytm, Mobikwik, Policy Bazaar, CarTrade Tech, Delhivery and Nykaa will keep investors busy in the current fiscal, Kaushlendra Singh Sengar, founder and CEO at INVEST19, said. He further said the main reason for opting the IPO route is the recent bull run in the Indian markets. The bull market has facilitated companies to raise funds from equity market at high valuations. The companies are diluting their stakes at higher valuations which pushed promoters to file their preliminary papers with capital markets regulator Sebi, he added. Sandeep Matta, founder, TRADEIT Investment Advisor, said "exuberant equity bull run, higher participation of first-time investors, expectation of quick money, rewarding exit for existing investors, access to unconditional money are the major reasons behind companies going public". According to an analysis of data available with the stock exchanges, 12 companies have raised Rs 27,052 crore through IPOs in the first four months (April-July) of the current fiscal 2021-22. Apart from these, PowerGrid InvIT, the infrastructure investment trust (InvIT) sponsored by the Power Grid Corporation of India, mopped up Rs 7,735 crore through its IPO. This comes following a fund raising of Rs 31,277 crore by 30 firms in the entire 2020-21. The fundraise numbers look high compared to last couple of financial years when capital markets were subdued. In 2019-20, a total of 13 companies collected Rs 20,352 crore through IPOs, while 14 firms had floated IPOs in 2018-19 to raise Rs 14,719 crore. The financial year 2017-18 saw 45 main-board IPOs collectively mobilising Rs 82,109 crore. Adding depth to the IPO markets, companies from diverse sectors like, technology, specialty chemicals, dairy, pharmaceutical have made their way to the IPO space during the period under review. Also, many tech startups are opting for the IPO route, which is a great thing for the industry, because it sets a benchmark, Prateek Singh, founder and CEO of LearnApp.com, said. "Right from seed funding to an IPO is a full cycle for a startup and it is very encouraging to see that kind of growth. It also goes to show that startups are a great place to invest and grow your wealth which is an encouraging sign," he added. Sengar of INVEST19 believes that investors have started considering IPOs as an asset class that generate bumper returns on listing if they are lucky enough to get allotment. Therefore, initial share sales are receiving tremendous applications from the investors and IPOs have been subscribing multifold times. This has pushed companies to raise funds through IPO, he added. Companies like Tatva Chintan Pharma Chem, Rolex Rings, G R Infraprojects, Clean Science and Technology, Shyam Metalics and Energy, India Pesticides, Dodla Dairy, Glenmark Life Sciences and Zomato subscribed in the range of 29 times to 180 times. Interestingly, the ongoing financial year saw most of the IPOs opening with a premium over the issue price suggesting strong investors appetite. In fact, all the companies, which got listed in the current fiscal, are trading above their issue price, giving smart returns in the range of 14 to 110 per cent, since listing, to investors. Of the total Rs 27,000 crore mopped up during the period under review, digital food delivery platform contributed immensely. A total of Rs 9,375 crore raised by Zomato claims almost 35 per cent of the total funds garnered. Other big ticket IPOs were -- Sona BLW Precision Forgings, which collected Rs 5,550 crore, Macrotech Developers (Rs 2,500 crore) and Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences (Rs 2,144 crore). Milan Desai, Lead Equity Analyst, Angel Broking, said the current trend in fundraising environment is extremely supportive. Apart from the companies with solid fundamentals that would usually hit the market, those who would have had a hard time launching the IPO in a tougher environment are also witnessing success owing to a better demand environment, he added. Going forward, Desai expects the IPO environment to remain buzzing during FY22. Unless there is an adverse economic event or a third wave of COVID, "we are likely to see a robust IPO season", Subramanya SV, CEO and Co-founder of Fisdom, said. According to Angel Broking's Desai, some small finance bank IPOs that are mandated to get listed would capitalise on the opportunity and augment their Tier-I capital base. Also, many tech startups are expected to go public as Sebi, earlier this year, eased norms for startups companies coming for listing, Sanctum Wealth Management's Kapasi said. "Large part of the offerings (both primary and offer for sell) are likely to be from new tech startups which have lined up for public offerings post successful listing of Zomato," he added.
Categories: Business News

Six top firms lose Rs 96,642 cr in market cap

5 hours 37 min ago
New Delhi: Six of the 10 most valued domestic firms witnessed a combined erosion of Rs 96,642.51 crore in their market valuation last week, with Reliance Industries Limited taking the biggest hit. Last week, the 30-share BSE benchmark dipped 388.96 points or 0.73 per cent. While Reliance Industries, Tata Consultancy Services, HDFC Bank, Hindustan Unilever Limited, HDFC and Kotak Mahindra Bank were the laggards, Infosys, ICICI Bank, State Bank of India and Bajaj Finance were the winners. The market valuation of Reliance Industries tumbled Rs 44,249.32 crore to Rs 12,90,330.25 crore. Tata Consultancy Services witnessed an erosion of Rs 16,479.28 crore to Rs 11,71,674.52 crore in its valuation. The valuation of Kotak Mahindra Bank plunged Rs 13,511.93 crore to Rs 3,28,122.93 crore and that of HDFC Bank by Rs 8,653.09 crore to reach Rs 7,88,769.58 crore. HDFC's market capitalisation (mcap) declined by Rs 7,827.92 crore to Rs 4,40,738.35 crore and that of Hindustan Unilever Limited dipped Rs 5,920.97 crore to Rs 5,48,405.78 crore. In contrast, the valuation of Infosys rose by Rs 8,475.58 crore to Rs 6,85,819.28 crore. ICICI Bank added Rs 4,210.38 crore to its valuation at Rs 4,72,849.46 crore. Bajaj Finance's valuation increased by Rs 2,972.7 crore to Rs 3,75,972.88 crore and that of State Bank of India by Rs 2,275.78 crore to Rs 3,85,275.48 crore. In the top 10 table, Reliance Industries leads the chart, followed by Tata Consultancy Services, HDFC Bank, Infosys, Hindustan Unilever, ICICI Bank, HDFC, State Bank of India, Bajaj Finance and Kotak Mahindra Bank.
Categories: Business News

Cong must aspire to be like Apple, and not BlackBerry

5 hours 37 min ago
For a father, buying a gift for a daughter who has just entered her teens is a dicey proposition. Balancing the conflicting roles of a protective dad versus the uber cool one is like skating on thin ice. The BlackBerry mobile phone sorted out that predicament for me. While the USP of the gadget was its push-email (the corporate world was completely addicted to it), it had become a global sensation with adolescents because of a feature called BBM (BlackBerry Messenger). The BBM was the first messaging service that appeared like a private bubble, offering both confidentiality and unlimited texting for free. So prized was the BlackBerry that former US President Barack Obama in his autobiography A Promised Land talks about his heart-breaking separation from his favourite device for security reasons.Of course, that was eons ago. BlackBerry does not exist anymore (it has an enterprise software model now). Like BlackBerry in the smartphone industry, Congress once overwhelmingly dominated the political narrative in India. If BlackBerry in 2009 had 50% of the US smartphone market, Congress regularly won absolute majorities on its own in the Lok Sabha; its peak was 404 seats in 1984. By 2014, BlackBerry’s market share had nose-dived to less than 1% (with losses at $1 billion). In the same year, Congress was reduced to 44 Lok Sabha seats and WhatsApp, which initially appeared to be a poor third cousin of BBM, got a whopping valuation of $19 billion from Facebook. BBM had sunk into a rabbit hole. Do you see the similarities here? Both remained adamant that all was well, and the slipping customer/voter mindshare, at worse, a transient aberration. It would naturally fix itself. It did not.The Congress, plagued by internal hubris, underestimated the regional satrap from Gujarat who was revolutionising BJP. It seemed content with delusions of grandeur of being “India’s natural party of governance”. Once again in 2019 the Congress was vanquished, getting 52 seats, while the BJP won a massive 303.One of management’s most over-used clichés is reinvention. Periodically, every CEO pays homage to this homily, though few really walk the talk. Politicians more so; in fact, the Congress has chosen to be fossilised, a reluctant reformist. But as the Congress trouble-shooters attempted to put an end to the months of infighting between a confident but smug Captain Amarinder Singh and a recalcitrant and trigger-happy Navjot Singh Sidhu, many political pundits applauded the magic formula of brokering peace by the Congress in Punjab as a “pragmatic bold risk”.Is the Congress belatedly waking up to the reality that the good old days of incremental fiddling are over? That perhaps the time has come to take some imaginative strides which might even boomerang in the short-term? Or was this just a desperate reaction to being pushed to a corner, an unsustainable frail détente at best? Time will tell.In his seminal work Think Again, Adam Grant, an organisational psychologist at Wharton, talks of the “overconfidence cycle” trap that BlackBerry had fallen into. The Congress has been afflicted by the same bugbear, and many of my colleagues were convinced that at most the BJP would be a seasonal flavour. They have been proven wrong.The Congress must aspire to be an Apple, pushing boundaries, forcing inventions, periodically rejigging its mammoth organisation and recalibrating its storytelling. It has limited options, because political depreciation can become a death-wish. Unlike Blackberry that had to contend with several competitors, Congress is the only pan-India alternative to the BJP. The latter’s subpar performance (pandemic mishandling, Pegasus snooping, ravaged economy, high fuel prices, sectarian tensions, undermined institutions, record unemployment etc) could affect its political fortunes in 2024. But the Congress is being unusually magnanimous towards it. There are five things the Congress can do to seize the governance debate: elect a Congress president, bring the Congress under RTI and disclose source of funds (a game-changer move to checkmate BJP’s electoral bonds chicanery), decentralise by appointing vice-presidents for different regions, revitalise grassroots by having transparent elections from block levels to the CWC, and instead of focusing on personality politics like the BJP, bring back the original ‘Congress collective’, a culture of dynamic teams (Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, Bose, Maulana Azad etc.) who challenged each other, prioritising nation-building over petty politics.The Congress must create an alternative national blueprint and knock on every door to inspire a shared vision. The BJP for all its current hegemony must know that BlackBerry’s cataclysmic fall was also because it had just one product category: mobile phones. The over-dependence on Modi makes the BJP a one-trick pony, and diminishing returns have already kicked in.You have to break eggs to make an omelette; the ball is in the Congress’s court.(The writer is former Congress Spokesperson)( Views expressed above are the author's own.)
Categories: Business News

Investors richer by over Rs 31 lakh cr so far

5 hours 37 min ago
New Delhi: Equity investors have witnessed a wealth addition of more than Rs 31 lakh crore (Rs 31,18,934.36 crore) in the first four months of the current fiscal, helped by an overall bullish sentiment in the market. The 30-share BSE Sensex has jumped 3,077.69 points or 6.21 per cent during April-July this fiscal. Reflecting an upbeat sentiment in the market, the benchmark had reached its all-time high of 53,290.81 on July 16, 2021. It closed at its lifetime high of 53,158.85 on July 15. Thanks to the optimistic investor sentiment, the market capitalisation of BSE-listed companies have zoomed Rs 31,18,934.36 crore to reach Rs 2,35,49,748.90 crore -- its record high level -- on July 30. "Money flow and liquidity are the key factors behind investors' bullish sentiments," said Rahul Sharma, Co Founder, Equity99. Sharma added that markets have performed extremely well post the sell-off in 2020. The benchmarks have more than doubled from the lows of March 2020. "Once the rally began, volatility dropped, and the bull market climbed significantly," he said. In the entire 2020-21 fiscal, the market capitalisation of BSE-listed companies zoomed Rs 90,82,057.95 crore to Rs 2,04,30,814.54 crore. The 30-share BSE benchmark had jumped 20,040.66 points or 68 per cent last fiscal, braving many uncertainties due to COVID-led disruptions. V K Vijayakumar, chief investment strategist at Geojit Financial Services said, "First, it is important to appreciate the fact that this is a global bull market. Except a few markets like Egypt and Iran, all other markets are experiencing a bull run. "The major factors powering this rally are: huge liquidity that has been created by the leading central banks of the world, particularly the US Fed, the historically low interest rates and unprecedented retail investor participation. Of this, the huge global liquidity factor is very important." Analysts also said that Covid-19 vaccination drive is also adding to the bullish sentiment. When asked if this market rally would continue, Vijayakumar said, "The biggest threat to the continuation of the rally is the excessive valuation in the market. At high valuations markets are vulnerable to corrections. Some presently unknown factor can trigger a correction, globally. If that does not happen, the global liquidity will keep markets resilient, or it may even take the markets forward."
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Leh boosts oxygen infrastructure in forward areas

5 hours 37 min ago
Amid continued stand-off with China, the Leh administration is augmenting oxygen supply in the forward areas by adding new plants, a move that will boost the fight against Covid-19 in ‘zero-mile’ villages and far-flung settlements along northern and eastern Ladakh.“We have a new oxygen plant operating at Diskit in the Nubra sub-division earlier this month and a tender has been awarded for another plant at Nyoma sub-division to improve oxygen supply in these areas. Both are rated at 100 lpm (litre per minute) capacity,” deputy commissioner Shrikant Balasaheb Suse told TOI.Diskit is 113km north of Leh and 11km from the Army’s Siachen Brigade headquarters. The area has villages on the border with POK on its western flank. Nyoma is 180km east of Leh and forms the supply roadhead to villages in the Chushul and Indus sectors along the eastern part of LAC.Suse recently inspected the healthcare infrastructure in forward villages to take stock of their Covid preparedness. The administration is also weighing the option of setting up plants at Tangtse, the Chushul brigade headquarters and Khaltse, some 90km south of Leh.The new plants will ensure continued oxygen supply even in winter when road connectivity, especially with Nubra and Tangtse, become vulnerable to heavy snow and avalanches on the high passes – Khardung La and Chang La, respectively.Strict monitoring and medical planning by the district administration had averted oxygen shortage in Leh even though cases spurted during the second wave. The Ladakh administration had started work on augmenting oxygen supply right after the first wave had ebbed. Leh and Kargil has one oxygen plant each in the government sector. Leh has two more plants in the private sector. One plant for Zanskar sub-division of Kargil district was also under consideration, divisional commissioner Saugat Biswas had recently told TOI.
Categories: Business News

A bowl of ice cream and its long political history

5 hours 37 min ago
Cold calculations and frozen franchises American ice-cream manufacturer Ben & Jerry was furiously attacked for politicising the pleasures of eating the frozen desserts, after it refused to sell ice-cream in Israel’s West Bank over the displacement of Palestinians. But this is misplaced, both for the brand, which was built on its progressive image, and for ice-cream itself, which has a long political history.Chilled desserts were once reserved for the rich, who could build houses to store ice. But in the 18th century, Americans pioneered the global sale of cheap ice, and mechanical cooling later made ice-cream even cheaper. But it was hard to do at home, and benefitted from scale, making it an ideal mass market product. 84939754American democracy delighted in ice-cream. George Washington brought ice-cream making equipment, but it was the third US president, Thomas Jefferson, who was the first American to record a recipe for it. Every president since has professed to love ice-cream, except Barack Obama, thanks to his first job at Baskin-Robbins in Hawaii: “Rows and rows of rockhard ice-cream can be brutal on the wrists.” Being able to eat it for free also quickly dispelled the pleasure. Donald Trump, on the other hand, insisted on being served two scoops, where others only got one.American ice-cream’s populist appeal, paradoxically, had its greatest impact with communists. To demonstrate the success of Cuba’s revolution, Fidel Castro wanted every Cuban to be able to enjoy ice-cream. He built a giant parlour named Coppelia, which served 1,000 at a time, and the ice-cream it still dishes out is one of the few pleasures left for Cubans. 84939742Soviet Russia was also known for high-quality ice-cream, which Russians enjoyed even in the winter. In Elizabeth David’s book Harvest of the Cold Months, she suggests this was because ice-cream making know-how was imported from the US in the ’20s, before the countries became implacable enemies. American ice-cream went mass-market in the ’50s, with a sharp decline in quality, but the Cold War protected Russian ice-cream from such “improvement”.One person who contributed to this was Margaret Thatcher who, before becoming a politician, worked on industrial icecream production. Her paper entitled ‘On the Elasticity of Ice Cream’ described how to incorporate more air, giving an illusion of creaminess at less cost.There is a photograph from the early 1970s, staged yet still poignant, showing Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi eating ice-cream near India Gate. In 1998, The Times of India reported that when George Fernandes visited Jayalalithaa to persuade her to join the NDA, she flattered him by serving Baskin-Robbins, despite her diabetes, and he flattered her back by saying, “I normally don’t have foreign icecream, but today in your honour, I shall have some.”And when our austere prime minister promised to eat icecream with PV Sindhu after the Olympics, was it a hint of the famous Gujarati love of ice-cream?
Categories: Business News

Only 18 hours of work done in Monsoon session

5 hours 37 min ago
Parliament disruptions and frequent adjournments since the monsoon session began on July 19 have meant the two Houses functioned for only 18 hours of the scheduled 107, leading to a loss of more than `133 crore of taxpayers’ money.Government sources said the Lok Sabha has been allowed to function for about seven hours out of 53 hours in these nine working days. Rajya Sabha has a slightly better record with 11 hours out of 53. This adds up to 18 hours out of a possible 107 hours and a wastage of 89 hours of working time.If the taxpayers’ money spent on convening Parliament is calculated for this period, it would mean a total loss of more than Rs 133 Crore.In Rajya Sabha productivity was pulled down to 21% in the second week. Four Bills were passed in an hour and a half with only seven members participating in the debates.The Bills passed so far are The Marine Aids to Navigation Bill, 2021; The Juvenile Justice Amendment Bill, 2021; The Factoring Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 2021 and The Coconut Development Board (Amendment) Bill, 2021.Congress and TMC have been raising the unauthorized phone tapping through the Pegasus spyware of leaders like Rahul Gandhi and Abhishek Banerjee as well as several journalists and people from civil society. The Opposition has also been demanding repeal of the three farm laws.While the government has tried to reach out to the Opposition to end the impasse, the latter have stuck to their position that a debate on Pegasus be held first, and Home Minister Amit Shah give a reply. Efforts by Leader of the House in Rajya Sabha Piyush Goyal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi have had little effect. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is expected to now hold discussions with various political parties.
Categories: Business News

How fleet management firms are navigating Covid

5 hours 37 min ago
In May 2020, after four phases of nationwide lockdowns due to the coronavirus, India started hobbling towards unlocking. Districts were colour-coded according to the positivity rate and restrictions were eased accordingly. Containment zones remained closed, though.Businesses that were shut since March started gulping air as the unlock window started to open. But they struggled to figure out how employees and essential workers can travel without landing in or going through a containment zone. This was important, as a misstep meant possible contamination and quarantine.In the midst of this chaos, Srinivas Chitturi had a eureka moment. His firm, Bengaluru-based MTAP Technologies, provides SaaS to streamline the fleet management operations of service providers to companies and schools. Why not, thought Chitturi, use the company’s services to help essential workers and fleet operators who have to commute now but also avoid containment zones. So MTAP came up with a software that uses geofencing to detect Covid zones in a route and suggest an alternative course of travel.“If, say, a delivery executive has to go to a specific location, we will notify him that it falls in a containment zone. In case the location is near a containment zone, it will give the delivery executive a route that does not go through the red zone,” explains Chitturi, the CEO and co-founder of MTAP Technologies, which was set up in 2013.MTAP started providing automated solutions to several clients to make the trips of their employees safer and easier. “This updated info can be very helpful for essential workers and individuals who are required to step out of their homes daily — such as warehouse workers or hyper-local delivery staff,” Chitturi says.The algorithm even determines the optimal seating capacity in a vehicle within the social distancing guidelines at the same time. The software can alert a company if its employee is living in or near a Covid-containment zone. This is helpful when a driver goes to pick up or drop the employee. Other features include contactless boarding and monitoring through in-vehicle cameras. MTAP can also collect Covid self-declarations from vehicle drivers and passengers.Potential in the PandemicSuch services have helped companies take better routing decisions and reduce the chances of accidental Covid-19 transmission. Today, MTAP has over 100 customers in India, Vietnam, the Philippines and the Middle East, including DHL, Flipkart, HCL, Ericsson, Myntra, TESCO, Omega Healthcare and Parexel. In India, it covers 16 cities.Chitturi says they did more than Rs 500 crore worth of transport billing on the platform. In 2019-20, the company had earned revenue of Rs 13 crore.Such business has hit a sweet spot at a time when the $14.59-billion global fleet management software market (in 2019) is estimated to reach $50.09 billion by 2027, with a CAGR of 16.8%, according to a Fortune Business Insights report. 84847440Chitturi even has an expansion road map in place. “Everything is going towards hyperlocal, where you can get anything delivered from nearby shops. While many technology companies have emerged to cater to the demand side of this market, we want to focus on the fulfilment side. This means helping these companies with verification proof of delivery executives, routes to take, volume to pick up — we provide the entire automation cycle,” he says.This is a big turnaround for MTAP, which is in a sector that was floored by the pandemic. Lockdowns and fear of the coronavirus had discouraged people from leaving their homes, leaving fleet management companies in the lurch. Work from home meant staffers did not need a pick up or drop. Despite these challenges, some firms in this segment, like MTAP, were able to find opportunities to survive — even thrive, in some cases.Pune-based location intelligence platform Dista.ai also started mapping the containment zones, assigned resources for minimum exposure and made schedules for optimal routes. “With Dista, you can define zones either by pin codes or by drawing them on a map. Not only did it help define zones for better customer serviceability, but it also helped companies avoid these areas, keeping employee exposure to the minimum,” says CEO Shishir Gokhale.The second wave saw more defined delivery rules at district, city and state levels, he says. There were also specific rules for essential and non-essential services and what deliveries were allowed and in which zones. “We helped organisations redefine their serviceable areas with new guidelines and traffic patterns. This helped them cater to areas that were initially far off or were unserviceable due to distance and traffic constraints.”Game of PlanningGokhale explains that one of key learnings in this period has been adjusting to the shift in clients’ operations. Earlier, many restaurants and small outlets used third-party delivery personnel. As the pandemic forced cost reductions, these restaurants started to use their own staff for deliveries. “They wanted to find ways to re-employ their people instead of letting them go,” he says.Territorial-based planning has gained a lot more prominence, says Mohneesh Saxena, Senior VP-Product and Strategy at logistics planning and optimisation firm Locus. This was seen in e-commerce and food delivery services during the second wave. “It is now imperative to account for nuances of regions and micro regions in the last-mile delivery value chain, given the multitude of constraints put forth by the pandemic,” he says. 84847465While the Bengaluru-based company has always considered zone-based routing its forte, the pandemic threw up new challenges. Locus — which was founded in 2015 and has operations in North America, Europe, Southeast Asia and the Middle East — had to deal with a fluid situation as containment rules were changing regularly. “As countries recovered at different paces, new zones were introduced, removed or reintroduced at different times. These zones came up with separate challenges and multiple kinds of restrictions across geographies. This made dispatch planning even more challenging for companies,” says Saxena.The behaviour within these zones varied even after the lockdowns were lifted, as residential societies and other institutions restricted the entry of delivery personnel, he says. This led to missed deliveries and wasted time.But Locus — which has Unilever, Mondelez International, Nestle and Blue Dart, among others as clients — seems to have done well, considering that it raised $50 million in the Series C round. It was led by Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC and saw participation from Qualcomm Ventures, Tiger Global and Falcon Edge.Transporting EssentialsHome delivery became more of a necessity than convenience during the pandemic. Work from home (WFH) — once a preserve of the few and the envy of many — has become the norm. However, implementing WFH was easier said than done for many corporations. Homes aren’t ideally designed to enable a work environment. Companies had to shift devices to their employees’ homes so that work could go on.But WFH was a boon for fleet operators such as Routematic, which had lost its main source of income as companies no longer needed cab services. With its fleet of vehicles lying idle, Routematic pivoted into delivery of office equipment and devices to employees.Arjun Bhojaraj Manipal, VP-Business Development at Routematic, explains how they grabbed an opportunity amid the crisis. “As soon as the lockdown started, there was a massive need for transporting a lot of technical infrastructure such as laptops, PCs and dongles to employees’ homes. As regulations around cab services were not clear, many cab companies had shut down their business. This is where we came in.”Later, companies realised that some essential workers had to report to offices, and they needed safe and dependable transportation. “We helped these essential workers with their daily commute. These included people who needed to be in office every day — for example, the IT guys who manage servers, accountants and administrative staff,” Manipal says.To do this, Routematic had to upgrade its safety and hygiene standards. It had to ensure cars, drivers, and passengers were sanitised. We monitored the temperature of the drivers before a trip. A plastic partition separated the front and backseats. Health and vaccination status of drivers and passengers, a trip history feature and mapping of consignment zones ensured everyone remained safe. It also helped in contact tracing in case a driver or staffer became Covid positive.This year, too, Bengaluru-based Routematic could capitalise on a business opportunity when companies started vaccinating camps for its employees. They wanted safe transport options to the vaccination venues and back, in the midst of the second Covid wave and strict lockdowns. “There was also transport and logistics involved for medical supplies. Companies wanted to store oxygen concentrators in their office and we transported these equipment across various offices in around four cities,” Manipal adds. 84847535Routematic’s efforts have paid off. It raised $2 million from Bosch last November and reached a valuation of $28 million.Helping HandIn Mumbai, Everest Fleet was among the firms that pivoted from being a fleet management platform to a safe transporter of frontline corporate workers. When the pandemic hit, it started receiving calls for transport services for emergency purposes, such as banking and hospital operations.Siddharth Ladsariya, co-founder, says it started the emergency transport service through WhatsApp broadcasts to family and friends. It received 1,200 requests within a month. Several appeals for help were from people who had friends or relatives in hospitals. “During the first Covid wave, there were several restrictions. We had to move pillar to post to obtain the required permits. However, during the second Covid wave, the government realised the importance of keeping cab services running. It was easier for us to implement our services. There was a massive need for essential transport services during the second wave as the medical infrastructure was under pressure,” he says.Everest Fleet’s employees also were affected by Covid. But, Ladsariya says, they took all precautionary measures and ensured that their track record was never blemished.Locus’ Saxena says their experience during the pandemic has revealed the challenges in the supply chain. There is a need for robust, AI-based planning as well as an increased need for contingency planning. “Companies need to understand their supply chain network design end-to-end to understand vulnerabilities and consequently optimise their operations based on their supply chain robustness,” he adds.As the Coronavirus infections rise and fall and warnings of a third wave get louder, transport services are again likely to become the need of the hour.(Editing by Ram Mohan)
Categories: Business News

Delta pushes up Covid numbers in Asia

5 hours 37 min ago
The Olympics host city Tokyo, as well as Thailand and Malaysia, announced record Covid-19 infections on Saturday, mostly driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant of the disease.Cases surged in Sydney as well, where police cordoned off the central business district to prevent a protest against a strict lockdown that will last until the end of August.Police in Sydney closed train stations, banned taxis from dropping passengers off downtown and deployed 1,000 officers to set up checkpoints and to disperse groups.The government of New South Wales reported 210 new infections in Sydney and surrounding areas from the Delta variant outbreak.Tokyo's metropolitan government announced a record number of 4,058 infections in the past 24 hours.21 New Covid Cases Related to OlympicsOlympics organisers reported 21 new Covid-19 cases related to the Games, bringing the total to 241 since July 1.A day earlier Japan extended its state of emergency for Tokyo to the end of August and expanded it to three prefectures near Tokyo and to the western prefecture of Osaka. Olympics organisers said on Saturday they had revoked accreditation of a Games-related person or people for leaving the athletes' village for sightseeing, a violation of measures imposed to hold the Olympics safely amid the pandemic. The organisers did not disclose how many people were involved, if the person or people were athletes, or when the violation took place.Malaysia, one of the hotspots of the disease, reported 17,786 coronavirus cases on Saturday, a record high.More than 100 people gathered in the centre of the capital Kuala Lumpur, expressing dissatisfaction with the government's handling of the pandemic and calling on Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to quit. Protesters carried black flags and held up placards that read "Kerajaan Gagal" (failed government) – a hashtag that has been popular on social media for months.Thailand also reported a daily record high of 18,912 new coronavirus infections, bringing its total cases to 597,287. The country also reported 178 new deaths, also a daily record, taking total fatalities to 4,857.The government said the Delta variant accounted for more than 60% of the cases in the country and 80% of the cases in Bangkok. The Delta variant is not necessarily more lethal than other variants, but much more transmissible, Supakit Sirilak, the director-general of Thailand's Department of Medical Sciences, said.China is battling an outbreak of the Delta variant in the eastern city of Nanjing which has been traced to airport workers who cleaned a plane which had arrived from Russia.
Categories: Business News

When companies pay employees to play games

5 hours 37 min ago
Motivation can be hard to muster up between rolling out of bed and turning on your computer. But top bosses have found fun ways to keep their employees enthusiastic.SOUL SPACESachin Saxena, founding member of unicorn healthcare company Innovaccer, even has a name for their downtime — Ministry of Fun. “[We play] Call of Duty (CoD) and Clash Of Clans to Scribble and Among Us. We kid around, rib one another; it’s our soul space,” he says.Suhasini Sampath, co-founder of YogaBar, says, “Who doesn’t love games?” Right from Scribble to Pictionary to quizzes, Sampath says the games engage the team.Shubhra Chadda, co-founder of Chumbak, says her team enjoys playing virtual Pictionary on Fridays. “We crack up when we look at each other’s drawings,” she says. Chadda also introduced a 4.5-day working week, with work ending at noon, along with a no-meeting policy on Wednesdays. “We have catch-up sessions twice a month to chat about everything under the sun [other than work],” she says. 84939655FRI-YAY FUNBosses are encouraging their employees by offering new experiences. Pravin Prakash, chief people officer at BYJU’S, says, “We have had workshops on creating a vibrant workspace at home or spine care tips and hosted sessions on yoga, zumba, bhangra, nutrition and Bollywood fitness.”Laughter is the best medicine for Kabir Siddiq, founder of SleepyCat mattresses, who says that working remotely has been a challenge. “We organised monthly sessions with stand-up comedy and music jamming, etc. The idea is to encourage laughs, unwind and be ourselves on a Friday evening,” says Siddiq, adding that sometimes Mondays begin with game sessions.Next up? A live music session. Mixing it up keeps employees more positive, which is why unicorn e-commerce company Moglix’s founder Rahul Garg says their team has virtual coffee catchups, along with yoga, dance and gaming sessions. “It helps mitigate the effects of isolation,” he shares.Employees all over the world missed their water-cooler and coffee chats. Shantanu Deshpande, founder of Bombay Shaving Company, found a solution. Open sessions were held between the team and management on topics apart from work. Steaming hot tea and snacks were delivered to their homes, right before the session. “These open chai-sessions helped us unwind,” says Deshpande.But it’s not just fun and games. Sampath says it helps break the ice and allows a free flow of ideas, as well as getting to know the team. “I learnt who is the better tactical planner and the better fighter [doer] in my team after several intense games of CoD,” he says. 84939645Top of the GamesPictionary Scribble Among UsCall of Duty Virtual Trivia
Categories: Business News

Where to look for leadership in bank pack in Q2?

5 hours 37 min ago
Post Q1 results, one should be very cautious in terms of being positive on the market, says Mahantesh Sabarad, Head-Retail Research, SBICAP Securities. In the series gone by, there was a clear leadership from ICICI Bank and SBI. What could SBI deliver in terms of numbers and is the leadership going to stay with these two names?First of all, I cannot comment on SBI results. We are part of the SBI Group but when it comes to the banks, you have rightly said that there are a few banks which are now taking leadership positions in terms of cleaning up books. The cleaning activity that has been going on for several years, has now translated into good results for ICICI Bank and Axis Bank. The private banks have been doing well relative to the public sector banks in terms of the clean up act. I am not saying that the PSU banks have not done that. They have done a bit of cleaning of their own. But as far as PSU banks are concerned, their capitalisation ratios are poorer compared to the private sector banks and therefore their ability to grow post the cleanup of the book is likely to be limited. Having said that, if you go a little lower in terms of the banks’ sizes, then some of the PSU banks at the lower level -- Uco Bank, Indian Bank or even Canara Bank to some extent-- are doing relatively better when it comes to delivering a good set of results. The theme for most of the banks is that the leadership will come once you are up and ahead in terms of clean up of your books.As far as pharmaceuticals go, what do you make of Sun Pharma and the API story? Is there still a lot of upside left?Sun Pharma posted a very good set of numbers. The US business has actually grown even on a quarter-on-quarter basis from Q4 to Q1. Many of the other pharma companies -- be it Dr Reddy’s or Alembic -- have reported huge price erosion when it comes to their US market presence and Sun Pharma actually has seen no such price erosion so far. Over a period of time, Sun Pharma has pursed a brand strategy in the US and gradually built brand. That seems to have worked out well. Even Taro, which is their subsidiary, has posted a very good set of numbers but there is an exceptional item that they have reported in Taro -- close $60 million on the litigation side. We do not know whether that fully provides for the price fixation related litigation. I assume that is what they would have provided for when it comes to litigations or if there is something more left to be provided for in subsequent quarters. Sun Pharma’s strategy over the years has included paying rich dividends. From a stock point of view it is still at price levels which we had seen five years ago. Many other pharma companies are very close to their all time highs -- be it a Cipla, Dr Reddy’s or others. Sun Pharma has posted a good set of results; we now need to hear a little bit more from the management in terms of their commentary because we do not know whether the growth is going to be sustainable for Sun Pharma in the quarters ahead. Today’s price action was stunning and really unexpected. It has been exactly one week since the Zomato IPO got a blockbuster listing. Why have we not seen a rub-off effect on InfoEdge India? Afterall, InfoEdge discovered Zomato.I disagree that there is no rub off effect simply because you are looking at a one-week period or probably a very short period. If you look at a longer period, the rub off effect is clearly there because Zomato IPO process had started nine to 12 months ago and that IPO process got accelerated in this calendar year. Even from a calendar year perspective, InfoEdge has done quite well for itself. Also, Zomato is not the only IPO or the gem in their basket. InfoEdge has other start-ups and other tech based platform based companies which are gearing up for IPOs. There is PolicyBazaar, 99 Acres etc. Having said that, Naukri or InfoEdge has a lot to go in terms of maturing and growing in terms of its size. It is purely coincidental that we are just looking at a one big phenomenon since the listing of Zomato in terms of the rub off effect on InfoEdge. What needs to be looked at is a longer term period and InfoEdge has been fairly valued.Now that most of the big counters and their earnings are in, are you looking at any new themes?It is clear that the IT companies are doing substantially well and the deal win momentum is continuing. Infosys upgraded their guidance for FY22 when the first quarter results came in, Look at Tech Mahindra results; the last year’s total deal wins were some $2.2 billion. This quarter alone has seen $0.8-0.9-billion deal wins. That is quite substantially high and the reaction can be seen in the results as well. But the one theme that one can see cutting across sectors seems to be that the companies having climbed over that base effect of last year’s Q1, are now facing margin pressures. Not only that, going forward, the demand outlook is getting a little hazy. In the case of automobile companies, the demand outlook does not seem all that rosy. We have the festival season coming up. Typically the automobile sales spurt during festive seasons but some of that spark is missing in the monthly numbers that are getting reported by automobile companies. Look at NBFCs, we had a shocker of a result from M&M Finance when their NPA levels zoomed quite substantially. Talking of NPA levels, even HDFC Bank exhibited NPA pressures on their retail book side. So the theme that seems to be emerging here is that margin pressures are going to remain and many of the companies will have to either raise the prices of their products and services to ward off the margin pressure and have to contend with falling demand. So post Q1 results, one should be very cautious in terms of being positive on the market.
Categories: Business News

Ravi Dharamshi on how to bet on digital wave

5 hours 37 min ago
We are a little underweight on the financials but that is because they haven’t reached a stage where the capex cycle begins and probably is still four to six quarters away. But that could be changing going forward, says Ravi Dharamshi, Founder & CIO, ValueQuest Investment. Why is there no financial name in your top five holdings?Yes, we are a little underweight on the financials but that is because I do not think we have reached a stage where the capex cycle begins. Some of the consumers in India are still facing the brunt of the Covid and the spending is getting redirected towards other things. MSMEs are also suffering because of Covid. So, there is a little bit of tension on that front. Also the capex cycle has not yet begun and probably is still four to six quarters away is why we are underweight. But that could be changing going forward. I would like to just put that caveat in. How can one bet on the entire digital wave and bet on a beneficiary because ultimately the benefits will also be captured by the beneficiary or a company which is adopting digital and enabling platforms or services or customer experience using the digital platform?Absolutely. In the adoption curve, usually it is the shovel sellers that benefit first and for sure the eventual benefit of the technology might be realised by the consumer at some point of time. When I say consumer, I am talking about the companies that are consuming the technology. That benefit will take some time to percolate down to the shareholder wealth creation. At this point of time, we have to look at companies that are enablers and who are riding this wave at the crest. So, we have to go after the shovel sellers or the enablers of this opportunity because the opportunity is still unfolding, the technology is still evolving and the winners are not yet very clearly known in each and every space. They are much better formed in shape and size than they were probably 10 years back but it is a very fast evolving space in terms of technology and in terms of business model. The good thing for us as an Indian shareholders or Indian investors is that we can see those trends unfolding in other geographies -- be it the US or China -- and see that a similar kind of trend is going to pan out over here. We have some benchmarks. It becomes easier. We just have to look for companies that are emulating them and one can have a good winner there. Let us talk about your portfolio companies with a disclosure that you have vested interest in them. You have a large investment in Laurus Labs. What excites you as an investor about Laurus Labs?I would also like to add that we are likely to be acting contrary to whatever gets spoken over here. This discussion is purely for illustration purpose. The decision about Laurus Labs we took almost a year back. What got us excited was that it had invested ahead of the curve. It had leveraged itself, the company and the promoter both were leveraged and it had created the capacities and the costs had been borne but the fruits had yet to come. Now it just happens to be luck that Covid struck and that just accelerated the opportunity for them. Besides, they are the largest ARV API company and there was a big shift happening in the ARV market where the treatment was moving away from the last gen to the next gen -- from TLD to DTG, Dolutegravir and they were very beautifully positioned to take advantage of that. So that was the immediate trigger/ Besides that, we always admire Dr Satya in terms of his technical and his risk taking abilities. So, here was a company that was really positioned to take advantage of the coming wave and the market was very sceptical about it and was not giving any valuation. It was giving low multiples to a very subdued P&L and balance sheet. That is why the returns have been so big because suddenly the P&L as well as the balance sheet has improved dramatically in the last four to six quarters. Route Mobile is another portfolio company. You have been an investor in Route Mobile right from the IPO day. What gives you the conviction of being invested in a tech company which is a disruptor and where you have the likes of Google and Amazon which are just changing the rules of the game?Unlike most of the tech companies, Route Mobile does not burn cash and that was the first thing that attracted us. In fact, the company has been set up with barely Rs 6 lakh capital. So, it is a profitable model. The unit economics is very attractive and the strategy was to bolster their balance sheet and try and go for scale. We can never be very sure which way the technology is panning and the twists and turns of technology can end up disrupting the disrupter as well; at this point of time, we are trying to gauge how successfully we are riding this wave. Based on the management interaction of Natco and Route Mobile which are part of your top holdings, how much of your top five holdings are likely to change in the next two to three years?I really wish I knew myself. I am going to let it pan out. At this point of time, there is no intention to change this. It will happen as we progress and we will let the fundamentals dictate it rather than trying to anticipate anything. That is an honest answer. I have no idea. I am not looking to sell any of them with a three to five year view but as fundamentals change we will keep changing our view.
Categories: Business News

Biological E plans to break into the big league

5 hours 37 min ago
The Datlas of Hyderabad have come a long way. From making anticoagulant heparin injections and creating popular brands like Crocin and Lacto Calamine, the family is on the cusp of breaking into the big league, with the flagship company Biological E (BE) planning to manufacture three Covid-19 vaccines.Of these, the phase-three trials of Corbevax — jointly manufactured by BE, Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and Dynavax in California — are underway. BE says it will supply 30 crore doses to the Indian government after securing emergency use listing (EUL).“Trials are underway, and we expect to secure EUL by September. We will be able to deliver a minimum of 30 crore doses to the government thereafter,” says Mahima Datla, MD, Biological E. “We have recently applied to the Drugs Controller General of India, seeking permission to conduct safety and immunogenicity studies (for Corbevax) among children. We will start trials among adolescents first, followed by enrolling children in the 5-to-12 years age group,” she adds.BE has been in the business of vaccine manufacturing for over six decades. It manufactures and exports large batches of vaccines to over 100 countries. It has eight vaccines that are prequalified by WHO, which means that these meet the global agency’s quality, safety and efficacy standards. The company claims to have an installed capacity to manufacture 50 crore doses a year. It is currently expanding its capacity, spending nearly `1,000 crore. The government has said, in an answer in the Rajya Sabha, that it has given advance to Biological E for at-risk manufacturing. Earlier, in June, the government had said that it would make an advance payment of Rs 1,500 crore for 30 crore doses of Corbevax, to be delivered by December-end. 84931250“We expect to fill at a rate of 7.5 crore doses per month at the time of launch. This will be expanded to 10 crore doses per month starting next February. We will be able to deliver the doses sought by the government.Post-capacity expansion, we will be able to do more than 100 crore doses annually,” says Datla.BE has also signed up to contract manufacture Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) Covid vaccine in India.Transfer of technology, formulation and drug product is currently underway. J&J will also set schedules of its trials, production and supply. BE is also making a foray into manufacturing mRNA vaccines by partnering with Canadian biotech company Providence Therapeutics. BE has yet to start clinical trials on this.Providence will transfer technology to BE to manufacture over 600 million doses of Providence’s mRNA Covid vaccine next year. “Once we get the EUA here, Providence will export 30 million doses to India from its facilities in North America,” says Datla. 84931275Industry experts say BE will be able to deliver on its promises. Strong pedigree, experience in partnerships and a keen business acumen will help it grow, they say. “The difference between Datla and Krishna Ella (of Bharat Biotech) is that the former has been in this business for several decades, and the latter is more of a new-world technocrat,” says a retired vaccine scientist, who has worked with both Serum Institute and BE, and doesn’t want to be named. “The Datlas think of vaccines as a business while Ella is passionate about the science of vaccine manufacturing.” BE has manufacturing and research facilities in Telangana, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.It has over 5,000 employees, including scientists and medical professionals. “BE will be able to expand their facilities quite easily. It has good tech capabilities and the family is deep-pocketed. It has managed to keep its record clean, with multilateral bodies such as WHO,” says PV Appaji, former director-general, Pharmexcil.FAMILY AFFAIR Founded by DVK Raju and GAN Raju, the paternal and maternal grandfathers, respectively, of MD Mahima Datla, in 1953, BE is called India’s first private sector biological products manufacturer. It forayed into vaccines in 1962, four years before Cyrus Poonawalla set up Serum Institute of India in Pune. “The good thing about our business is that we were never a generic API (active pharma ingredient) manufacturer. We only made strategic APIs all along,” says Datla.BE’s portfolio includes vaccines for tetanus, DPT, hepatitis B, influenza, Japanese encephalitis, measles and rubella. It is one of the largest suppliers of pentavalent and tetanus vaccines in the world, and the largest antivenom manufacturer in the country.“The vaccine industry has a very high entry barrier, in terms of technology. BE has done well because it has a long history of commercialising innovationled products,” says Pushpa Vijayraghavan, director and healthcare practice lead at Sathguru M a n a g e m e n t Consultants, which has worked with BE previously.As per ICRA Ratings, BE posted Rs 1,095 crore in revenues and Rs 60 crore in profits in FY2020. It has an order book position of over $150 million for its vaccine business, of which nearly $100 million needs to be executed this fiscal, says ICRA report. “BE has reported a 42% growth in its vaccine business; its liquefied pentavalent vaccine, measlesrubella vaccine and Japanese encephalitis vaccines have done well,” says a former senior executive of BE, who did not wish to be named.The Datla family owns 100% of the stock in BE. Barring loans from IFC and banks, and grants from a few foundations and government bodies, it is funded through internal accruals and by the family. It has no immediate plansto list publicly or throw open its doors for private equity.“Equity investors in vaccine businesses will need a really long investment horizon. That’s why we don’t want to take them on our cap-table,” says Datla. “Also, vaccine manufacturers have to price their products lower to make it affordable. This is more of a call of the heart than a call of the brain. This contradicts the principle of maximising shareholder value.”A closely-held family business, BE has had its share of scuffles for power. After the demise of Mahima’s father Vijaykumar Datla, there was a maelstrom of litigation to secure the management control of BE, with Renuka Datla (Mahima’s mother) on one side and her three daughters on the other. This was later settled out of court, according to company insiders.ROAD AHEAD BE hopes to be the largest vaccine manufacturer in India by 2025. “Vaccines will take us to a different level.We hope to crack open the US and European markets.Traditionally, these are not vaccine markets; but we believe Covid will change that,” says Datla. “In all likelihood, the world would require booster shots against Covid; that’s where companies like ours will emerge.”Datla believes governments should control vaccination programmes for only that will make vaccines affordable for everyone. “Vaccines are the best bang for the buck in any public health intervention,” she says.BE has been dexterous in sewing up partnerships, working with GSK, Merck, J&J, Sanofi and Valneva.“Partnerships for vaccine manufacturing is like an involved marriage; there’s a lot of trust, transfer of technology and knowhow involved,” says Datla. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel a lot of times; you just need to find the right partner.” Or, attach the old wagon to a pair of new wheels — and ride on.
Categories: Business News

Tata Motors looking at changes in trim mix, direct buying from stockists to deal with chip shortage

5 hours 37 min ago
Tata Motors is looking at various measures, including direct buying from stockists and making changes in the product configurations, to offset the impact of semiconductor shortage on its production activities and sales, a top company official has said.The auto major, which sells models including Nexon, Harrier and Safari in the domestic market, is also looking at different kinds of chips which could be used in components where the supply situation is severe.The automaker expects the situation to remain challenging in the ongoing quarter and some improvement in supplies only in the second half of the fiscal."Yes, we are definitely impacted because of uncertainty of supplies but so far we have been able to manage somehow," Tata Motors President Passenger Vehicles Business Unit (PVBU) Shailesh Chandra told PTI when asked if the company was facing issues in its production activities due to semiconductor shortage.He said the company is mulling reworking some of the product variants in order to minimise the production loss."We are looking for alternate semiconductors and at times procuring directly from stockists. We are also trying to see if a more standard chip can be used in certain components where we are facing stress. Besides, we are looking at trim mix so that we don't lose on the sales," he added.The company is working very closely with chip suppliers as well to manage the situation, Chandra stated.Semiconductors are silicon chips that cater to control and memory functions in products ranging from automobiles, computers and cellphones to various other electronic items.The usage of semiconductors in the auto industry has gone up globally in recent times with new models coming with more and more electronic features such as bluetooth connectivity and driver-assist, navigation and hybrid-electric systems.Industry experts feel that enhanced demand for automobiles in the last few months has put pressure on the global supply chains leading to a shortage.Chandra noted that the situation in the current quarter is going to remain tough and things are expected to improve in the second half of the current fiscal."It is a very uncertain situation though, very hard to predict," Chandra said.Jaguar Land Rover, which is owned by Tata Motors, is also facing stress on production due to the chip shortage issue.The British brand expects semiconductor supply shortages in the July-September quarter to be greater than in the first quarter, potentially resulting in wholesale volumes about 50 per cent lower than planned.JLR currently has about 1,10,000 global retail orders pending.Earlier this week, Hyundai Motor India MD and CEO S S Kim had also stated that the automaker is facing issues due to the semiconductor shortages."Our production people are managing the situation, they are closely collaborating with our suppliers. Our production is very flexible so that we can adjust as per the situation...we have been affected but not that much," he had noted.
Categories: Business News

Charged up: PEs & VCs pump big money into electric vehicles

5 hours 37 min ago
Private equity firms and venture capitalists are betting big on the electric vehicle (EV) and allied sectors, on expected higher traction for alternative fuels and a demand upswing in the country.Investment activity in the EV space jumped after Japan’s SoftBank Vision Fund said in 2019 that it would invest $265 million in Ola Electric, ride hailing company Ola’s EV arm that is setting up an EV manufacturing facility in Krishnagiri, Tamil Nadu.PEs and VCs pumped in around $672 million between 2019 and 2021 in the EV sector, compared with the $200 million they invested in the preceding three years, data compiled by consultancy EY showed.The increased funding came despite nationwide lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic through much of last year, which significantly hurt investment sentiment and demand in the auto and ancillary segments. Industry experts said the EV ecosystem in India is at an inflection point and has emerged as an attractive investment proposition. 84938588“In the last 12-18 months, there has been heightened fundraising activity across the EV value chain, with participation across different investor classes including VC/PE and strategics,” said Randhir Kochhar, partner, investment banking advisory - automotive, EY India.Startups in the EV space used to face constraints in raising capital earlier, but a spate of attractive incentives — including subsidies — by various state governments, lower battery prices and increasing cost of operating a conventional vehicle due to rising fossil fuel rates, have made investors bullish about the EV sector, especially its two- and three-wheeler segments.“India's mobility market is entering a transformational phase led by electric vehicles across both commercial and private ownership segments,” said Manoj Kohli, country head, India, SoftBank Group, adding that the Japanese conglomerate – the world’s largest technology investor — would continue to back the adoption of clean energy transportation and support portfolio companies.Valuations of EV Startups Outside IndiaThe valuations of a dozen EV startups outside India — including Israel’s REE, China’s Nio, US-based Lordstown Motors (based in Ohio) and Rivian (from Detroit) — have skyrocketed in the recent past.Many investors are looking for such highly valued startups in India too, indicating that the EV industry is ready to take off, said Pawan Goenka, the former managing director of automotive leader Mahindra & Mahindra and now an advisor to a PE fund."The sector holds huge promise for growth as consumers show more willingness to buy an electric two-wheeler, leading to faster EV adoption," said Anjali Rattan, promoter of Rattan India Enterprises, which has invested Rs 150 crore in electric motorcycle maker Revolt Intellicorp — founded by Micromax co-founder Rahul Sharma — for a 43% stake.Hero Electric earlier this month raised Rs 220 crore as part of its Series B round, led by Gulf Islamic Investments and participation from existing investor OAKS.The funds will be primarily used to expand its production capacity, invest in R&D and future technologies, and grow its footprint across India-like markets, said Naveen Munjal, managing director of Hero Electric. The investment is expected to push Hero to achieve its ambition of putting over 1 million EV two-wheelers on the road over the next few years. The company is looking to invest more than ₹700 crore, Munjal said.According to industry estimates, nearly 10% of the overall two-wheeler market is likely to turn electric by 2025, which works out to 2 million units annually from the current levels of 150,000 units.Mumbai-based EV solutions provider Magenta, which is planning to set up 4,000 charging stations by March next year, recently closed its Series A funding round of Rs 120 crore from American philanthropist Kiran Patel. The government has chalked out a plan to set up 400,000 charging stations for two million EVs by 2026.Euler Motors, an automotive technology company focused on electric commercial vehicles, recently closed its $9.5 million Series A funding round, raising $2.6 million from new investor ADB Ventures, the investing arm of Asian Development Bank, the multilateral lender’s first investment in an EV company. Existing investors Inventus Capital and Jetty Ventures also infused $4 million.With this, Euler has raised a total of $11.6 million since 2018. Euler will use the funds for upcoming launches and expanding into the three-wheeler cargo vehicle segment. "ADB Ventures’ investment in Euler Motors signals a growing market readiness for EV in India. This also reaffirms our belief that indigenous innovation from India will fast forward the market transition to electric mobility both in India and across the world," said Saurav Kumar, founder and CEO of Euler Motors, whose other investors include Blume Ventures and B2B ecommerce startup Udaan.Recently, many states including Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, announced incentives for the sector to accelerate the mass adoption of EVs in the country. This has led to a number of electric two-wheeler companies saying they would launch bikes and scooters in the sub-Rs 70,000 price point.
Categories: Business News

Cathie Wood is just the beginning as stock pickers storm the ETF world

5 hours 37 min ago
Record inflows. Record fund launches. Record assets. If active money management is in decline, someone forgot to tell the ETF industry.Amped up by a meme-crazed market and emboldened by the success of Cathie Wood’s Ark Investment Management, stock pickers are storming the $6.6 trillion U.S. exchange-traded fund universe like never before -- adding a new twist in the 50-year invasion from passive investing.Passive funds still dominate the industry, but actively managed products have cut into that lead, scooping up three-times their share of the unprecedented $500 billion plowed into ETFs in 2021, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. New active funds are arriving at double the rate of passive rivals, and the cohort has boosted its market share by a third in a year. 84939862“Historically, people have thought about ETFs as being indexed-based,” said Todd Rosenbluth, head of ETF and mutual fund research at CFRA Research. “Then Ark became a household name, and then investors came to realize that not only were those products worth looking at, but so were others.”None of this is supposed to happen in an industry built on the magic of indexing. Yet a market roller coaster brought on by the pandemic is helping discretionary asset managers turn ETFs to their own advantage.Equity conditions in general have become conducive to an active approach, leadership shifting in a stop-start economy, an unpredictable macro backdrop, and increased market breadth.At the same time, investors are showing an unusual willingness to make concentrated bets, from riding the meme-stock madness to following the kind of thematic vision laid out by Wood.They’ve poured $62 billion into active ETFs year-to-date. That’s 12% of total flows going to a slice of the market with only 4% of assets. In the rush to tap the burgeoning demand, issuers have now launched 156 actively managed products in 2021, compared with 77 passive funds. 84939872“At the end of day, the ETF is just a wrapper, it’s just a way to package and distribute an investment strategy,” said Ben Johnson, director of global ETF research at Morningstar. “More investors are getting hip to the fact that the notion of an actively-managed ETF is not an oxymoron.”Fifty-Year BattleThe active surge is the latest development in a money-management battle that’s been raging since July 1971, when a team at Wells Fargo & Co. created the original index fund.Today, the passive juggernaut is slashing industry costs, opening up investing to the masses and forcing discretionary traders to adapt or die. Active launches may be booming, but the bulk of cash flooding U.S. stocks is still destined for big, cheap funds that do nothing but track the market.Read more: Wall Street Surrenders to the $500 Billion ETF Rush“Active ETFs are doing better than they have in past, but passive is still king,” said James Seyffart, an ETF analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence. “A lot of that active flow in the big months from late 2020 to early 2021 is to Cathie’s funds.” 84939882Wood has become the poster child for active management in ETFs. The flagship fund at Ark was one of the best-performing in America last year with a 149% return.Inspired by this and her enticing thematic approach -- which focuses on trends like robotics or space travel rather than market segments -- investors have sunk $14.5 billion into Ark funds in 2021.Passive AttackThe mini boom for active ETFs comes not a moment too soon for the stock-picking industry.Passive funds -- mutual and exchange-traded -- now manage $11 trillion and are on course to hold 50% of all registered U.S. fund assets within five years, according to BI calculations.Critics say the rapidly swelling index industry is blowing bubbles in stock markets, weakening corporate governance and more. And in some ways, it can also hit returns.Take Tesla Inc.’s entry into the S&P 500 in December. While discretionary managers could buy Elon Musk’s firm in advance, index funds ended up adding it at an inflated valuation -- and were forced to offload billions of dollars in other stocks to make space in portfolios.“Index funds systematically buy high and sell low,” wrote Rob Arnott of Research Affiliates and his colleagues in a June paper. They argued investors would have been better off holding the company pushed out of the index to make way for Tesla. 84939892The main advantage stock pickers enjoy over their passive peers is more flexibility in deploying their cash. That’s something they’ve been able to bring to ETFs for years -- Wood’s first fund launched in 2014 -- but it was a rule change in 2019 that paved the way for the current jump in activity.It made launching ETFs easier, and enabled new structures that could hide the strategy underpinning a fund. That helped lure multiple major Wall Street players to the industry after years of holding out, including the likes of Wells Fargo and T. Rowe Price.Talk of discretionary management’s decline is still rampant, but the woes aren’t as bad as they may seem. Even as U.S. active funds -- mutual and ETF -- saw $209 billion exit last year, they closed 2020 with about $13.3 trillion under management. That was a 13% gain from 2019.The increase was largely thanks to rising markets, but if the current trend continues, before long it could just as easily be down to ETF growth.“We’re going to see the percentage of assets in actively-managed ETFs continue to climb higher,” said Rosenbluth at CFRA. “They’re going to continue to have the opportunity to punch above their weight.”
Categories: Business News

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