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Updated: 1 hour 51 min ago

Soon, you may hire a charter plane like Ola, Uber and at half the price

4 hours 51 min ago
NEW DELHI: As the Indian government strives to make flying affordable for the masses with its regional connectivity scheme, aircraft charter companies are charting a similar flight path as aggregators — much like Ola and Uber — and offering fares that are up to 50% cheaper. As an aggregator, a company would offer flyers all available aircraft on one platform and optimise the use of the planes. There are 129 general aviation operators in the country and about 60 of them have fixed-wing aircraft in their fleets, while the remainder have only helicopters. Conventionally, most charter companies charge customers all the costs associated with hiring an aircraft — travel from the home base, the actual trip and the empty return leg. With the aggregator model, aircraft chartering charges can drop by as much as 50%. By positioning aircraft strategically across the country and by matching demand and supply more efficiently, the overall flying time can be reduced, significantly lowering costs for customers vis-à-vis the rate charged by a standalone charter company, according to Kanika Tekriwal, co-founder of Jet-SetGo, a New Delhi-based business charter company with cricketer Yuvraj Singh as one of its investors. “The cost differential can, hence, even be as high as 50%,” said Tekriwal. Hiring an aircraft with six to nine seats currently, ranges from Rs 150,000 to Rs 200,000 an hour. Air One Aviation Pvt, promoted by former president of Air Sahara Alok Sharma, is in the business charter business and has offered up to 500 planes through its subsidiary Ezee Charter Pvt. Sharma said the charter business segment in the country is set to grow and he plans to tap the leisure travel market. “At a later stage, we want to launch holiday packages, which will have on offer flights according to passenger convenience and hotels to a group of people flying to a particular destination. Going ahead, I see a lot of charter flights being used for leisure travel and a big market is waiting to be tapped,” said Sharma. While the primary focus is on business and leisure travellers, New Delhi-based Flaps Aviation is launching an exclusive air ambulance service – a first for India – by the end of this month. “We are primarily looking to base ourselves in the non-metros of the country, which is where the market for air ambulance services is. Our aim is not just to ensure easy and quick availability of air ambulances, but also provide it at a reasonable rate. Our rates will be about 20% cheaper than the rates being offered by the operators today,” said Amit Kumar, managing director of Flaps Aviation and a trained pilot, who has flown medical evacuation flights. The rate for an air ambulance between Guwahati and Delhi would be about Rs 500,000 per trip. Air ambulances are currently offered by hospitals and are not always available immediately. Flaps Aviation’s first base will be in Guwahati, which will be followed by Raipur. It will expand to Patna, Kochi, Surat and Vishakapatnam. The company will launch a membership scheme and is in talks with insurance companies to fund the air ambulance cost, at least partially.
Categories: Business News

Amid GST confusion, how this small 0.5% cess could create big headaches for cos

4 hours 51 min ago
MUMBAI: Krishi Kalyan Cess (KKC) — a 0.5% levy under the earlier tax regime — has become one of the biggest worry for most companies under the ambit of the goods and services tax (GST). Most are grappling with a question of whether they should add the KKC credit lying on their books to sales tax credit while filing the GST returns or not. Before the GST regime, companies could claim the refund of KKC against service tax paid. Most companies are looking to merge KKC credit lying in their books with other credits while they fill Trans 1 form, said two tax consultants and two finance heads of manufacturing companies ET spoke to. The deadline to file the Trans 1 form — an online mechanism to avail the credit for the taxes filed before the roll out of GST— is October 31. However, most companies are looking to complete it by October 20. Tax experts point out that most companies are looking to merge KKC with other credits, and this may not go down well with the taxman. “The tax department seems to have taken a view that KKC credit is not available under GST but most companies are considering this as eligible credits and claiming it,” said Sachin Menon, head, indirect tax, KPMG India. For companies there are only two other options: either they write off KKC credit or they don’t claim it now but carry it forward on their books and wait for government’s clarification. Tax experts point out that the stance taken by some companies could also lead to litigation and the government could avoid it by clarifying the issue. “Businesses are expecting the government to provide a benevolent disposition on the issue of carry forward of KKC credit as a decision to write off the same would adversely affect the profitability in an otherwise stressful quarter. The differentiation in the treatment of this issue by various businesses could also result in avoidable litigation in future, hence an early resolution of this issue is essential,” said MS Mani, partner, Deloitte India. KKC was first introduced in February 2016 Budget and came into effect from June 1 the same year. The amount collected through the cess was to be solely used for the welfare of agriculture sector. Unlike all other cess, cenvat credit of KKC was available under the Cenvat Credit Rules, 2004. Effectively, it meant companies could claim the refund of KKC in service tax. While there are no accurate figures on the total KKC amount, government estimates suggests that it could be in the region of Rs 5,000 crore. However, when GST was introduced on July 1 this year, companies had millions lying in their books as KKC credit. Many companies under the earlier tax regime would keep aside an amount in cases where they feared conflict with the tax department. However, that may not be possible under GST, say tax experts, sparking additional worries. “While some companies under earlier regime would keep cash equivalent to the disputed credit on their books unutilised as a precaution to avoid interest/penalty in case of an adverse decision, that’s not possible with GST. This is because once the credits are electronically taken, the GSTN system does not allow partial utilisation of credit taken, unless the output GST liability is less than input credit,” said Sachin Menon, head, indirect tax, KPMG India. This comes at a time when the tax companidepartment is already questioning a high amount claimed by companies as credits. ET had on October 14 reported that the tax department has sought explanations from banks and financial institutions, including multinationals, on transitional credit claimed in July under the GST. Taxmen suspect some companies are misusing the provision and have filed fake returns to claim high transitional credits. Of the total Rs 95,000-crore GST collected in July, Rs 65,000 crore was claimed in refunds or transitional credit. The move comes about two weeks after tax officers questioned manufacturing companies on transitional credit claimed by them. If most companies go ahead and merge KKC with other tax credits it may be questioned by the taxman in coming months, Menon said.
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Why Rahul must follow his grandmother, mother and not repeat his father's mistakes

4 hours 51 min ago
As he and his mother trooped out after former President Pranab Mukhejee's book launch, a lady decided to play the role of a fan. Only after a few persistent calls of 'Rahulji' did the Congress vice-president turn. "I like your new avatar," the lady said loudly for all to hear, flashing a thumbs up. Rahul Gandhi impishly smiled and walked on. Outside the hall, TV journalists buttonholed the mother-son duo. Questions have been unifocal since Sachin Pilot's disclosure this month that Gandhi's elevation as Congress president was expected any time after Diwali. Sonia Gandhi's reply settled the matter, "It will be done soon." No doubt Rahul's election, when it happens, will be the most significant development in opposition politics since Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed office. But donning the mantle would remain meaningless unless he adheres to a few dos and don'ts. Before listing these, assessing the timing of Gandhi's promotion is necessary. After his appointment as vice president in January 2013, and more so after the Congress wipeout in 2014, speculation mounted not just over when he would take charge, but whether he was cut out for the job. During this period, party elections were postponed and Gandhi covered himself in no glory. He was seen as a reluctant leader who timed holidays inopportunely. Moreover, he routinely made inappropriate statements justifying scorn and ridicule heaped on him by the BJP propaganda machinery. Why then is the autumn of 2017 the most appropriate time for Gandhi to take charge of the Congress? Essentially because this is the first occasion when a slight wobble is discernible in Modi's stride. Even by the government's admission, the state of economy is a matter of concern. This jeopardises the continued support of the BJP's core electoral constituency. Usually, whenever the incumbent displays tentativeness, the adversary instinctively begins making the right moves. Initially, news of Gandhi embarking on a tour of the US met derision. By consistently flagging important issues and tackling the tricky subject of dynasty dominating the Congress, Gandhi found patient ears, while raising the BJP's heckles. Grandma's Recipe He has maintained 'form' on return. Since early September, his statements have drawn several BJP leaders, including ministers, into the ring. Even Modi has frontally taken him on. From being ridiculed, Gandhi is subjected to issue-based condemnation, an indication that the opponent recognises his arrival. This now has to be conveyed to voters. Undeniably, the last quarter of 2017 is the most crucial period in the run-up to 2019. Finding the right lingo is just the first of several steps needed to put the party back on the rails. The biggest worry is to ensure total backing for his presidency from party elders who displayed unease at the takeover by Team Rahul. But as Ahmed Patel and Ashok Gehlot demonstrated during Gujarat's Rajya Sabha elections, the old guard retains utility and skills others are yet to pick up. Gandhi's immediate challenge is to carry veterans and satraps along, allocate vital responsibilities and ensure they do not work at cross purposes with his loyalists. Gandhi must pick up leaves from his grandmother's manual, who after defeat in 1977, rebuilt the party by weeding out political deadwood, but retaining trusted hands who worked alongside new inductees. He must not repeat mistakes of his father, who alienated the existing leadership and inducted loyalists in key positions after the 1984 elections. He must also learn from his mother the art of managing diverse groups and individuals with only a rare frown. During the recent campaign tours in Gujarat, Gandhi has consciously reduced the gap between him and the cadre. Regular engagement with Congress workers must continue. Elections are won because of last-mile conversion, an art the BJP is skilled in. Gandhi's handicap is that the Congress machinery has withered away, and it is not possible to overnight rebuild the network down to booth levels. In its absence, middle-level workers have to be galvanised to create the buzz and ensure factionalism does not raise its head. The party's social media strategy has, of late, met success, but this should not consume him. His additional task is to keep allies humoured and spot opportunities to chip at the NDA edifice. Vis-a-vis UPA constituents, the position of the Congress is akin to that in 2004 when a 200-plus tally was absent. Humility, not easy for someone who entered politics in 2004 after his mother had done much of the hard work, will be a necessity. No More Moonlighting Gandhi's new avatar may be admired. But it is currently visible only to enthusiasts. Ideologically, he must adopt a firm stance on secularism and set himself as a counterpoint to the BJP's Hindutva-driven programmes. Beyond the odd temple visit, he must underline the separation of religion from politics. Socially inclusive politics must be accompanied with economic egalitarianism. More important than his to-do list is his not-to-do list. He cannot be seen as a part-time politician. In the middle of a political storm, he can't head off to an exotic destination. It is necessary to realise that for a long time, he will be the last hope for the Congress. This is one assignment he cannot afford to botch up. This is his now or-never moment.
Categories: Business News

60K investors now entering Mutual Fund mkt every day

4 hours 51 min ago
The number of new mutual fund folios, or investor accounts, has risen to 60,000 per day, about thrice the monthly average of the past three years, according to data compiled by ET Intelligence Group from Sebi website.New folios in the six months to September numbered 6.65 million, just 500,000 short of the previous fiscal year's total, with much of the surge attributed to customers enrolling in systematic investment plans (SIPs).About 55-60 per cent of new folios are being created by new investors while the rest are existing ones, according to an internal study, said A Balasubramanian, CEO, Birla Sun Life AMC. 61138065 Concurrent with this has been a sharp rise of inflows into domestic equity MFs to the tune of an unprecedented Rs 49,562 crore in the past three months, a period during which new folio additions were 1.2 million per month. 61138068 The share of equity folios in total folio addition rose to 77 per cent in September from 69 per cent in the past 12 months. At the end of September, total mutual fund folios were 62 million, of which 45 million are equity folios. Total folios were 39.5 million three years ago.In the past few months, on average, around 880,000 SIP accounts were added every month with an average size of about Rs 3,300 per account, according to Association of Mutual Funds in India. The average SIP size for the same period last year was about Rs 2,200. The AUM to GDP ratio is more skewed for Indian equity funds at 4 per cent compared with the global average of 29 per cent. 61138072
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Government plans to cap margins for medical devices to provide relief to industry

4 hours 51 min ago
NEW DELHI: In a move that could bring relief to the medical device industry that's been hit hard by price caps this year, the government may look at the middle ground of imposing a cap on the distributor and retailer margins.The Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP) has asked medical device associations, healthcare industry bodies and relevant regulatory agencies to help it categorise the devices. The DoP secretary will hold a meeting on October 25 to fix trade margins, according to a letter sent by the department to the stakeholders. ET has seen a copy of this letter."The issue of rationalisation of trade margins in medical device sector has been under consideration of this department," said the letter. "In this regard, a meeting was chaired by secretary (pharma) on (October 16) wherein the abovementioned subject was discussed with all stakeholders and it was decided to hold a workshop... to decide on categorisation of medical devices into different segments for the purpose of fixing of trade margins."National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) will present the data it has collected from the industry on ex-factory prices or "price to trade" for 23 medical devices notified as "drugs", according to the letter. In addition to this, the industry will provide data to decide on the various segments.Nineteen out of 23 classes of devices ranging from syringes to heart valves and cochlear implants are not under price control.Even within the category of orthopaedic implants, only knee implants have come under price control.Unlike price caps, fixing trade margins would restrict how much a product's price can be raised from the import or manufacturing cost.DoP secretary Jai Priye Prakash and NPPA chairman Bhupendra Singh did not respond to queries. However, sources in the government confirmed that the workshop is on.DoP's discussions on trade margin rationalisation come amidst growing industry fears that the government may impose price caps on more medical devices similar to those on coronary stents and knee implants. It also follows a consultation DoP held with various stakeholders this month on limiting trade margins on pharmaceutical products — a measure that also figured in the department's last draft National Pharmaceutical Policy. 61137923 NPPA slashed prices of coronary stents and knee implants as much as 85% and 69%, respectively, to make them more affordable. It also limited trade margins for stents to 8%, while the maximum trade margin it allowed for knee implants was 16% for distributors and stockists and 8% for hospitals. The move polarised the industry, with multinationals such as Abbott, Medtronic, Boston Scientific, Smith & Nephew, Zimmer Biomet, Stryker and Johnson & Johnson hit the most. At the same time, domestic manufacturers that welcomed the price caps are also worried about more devices facing the same treatment. After stent prices were slashed this February, some civil society groups wrote to the Prime Minister's Office seeking similar price caps on devices such as intraocular lenses, heart valves and knee implants.HUGE MARK-UPSAccording to a domestic medical device lobby group, products such as syringes, needles and other orthopaedic implants can be marked up as much as 10 times, while intravenous catheters and sets may be more expensive by a factor of 20."In medical devices, the maximum retail price has reached astronomically unreasonable levels and is overly crosssubsidising procedure costs," said Rajiv Nath, forum coordinator of the domestic group, Association of Indian Medical Devices Industry (AiMeD).But seeking to preempt further government intervention, medical device industry lobby groups have also sent proposals to various government agencies endorsing a limit on markups across the trade channel as a more viable solution.An association representing some device companies had written to NPPA last month proposing that it limit trade margins of devices notified under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act at 35-50%."Trade margin rationalisation may not be needed by the pharmaceuticals industry but is needed in medical devices as the customer has no choice and no access to the lowest cost, best product," said AiMeD's Nath. Such a move could easily halve device prices for patients, he said.'NEED TO KEEP OPTIONS OPEN'In principle, capping trade margins for medical devices is a good move, but it is important for the government to understand how much margin to allow for each device, said Malini Aisola, member of activist group All India Drug Action Network. "This would be a broad regulation spanning entire categories of devices, but it should not foreclose other options.If it is found that patients are not benefitting, then further measures like caps on the ceiling price could still be considered," she said."The government also needs an understanding of the cost of production of these devices and should keep a consistent track of price data to ensure that companies don't inflate import or ex-factory prices afterwards." Trade margin rationalisation would be better than "un-nuanced" caps on device ceiling prices because it would prevent "unintended consequences" like distributors becoming disinterested in providing these technologies to tier-II and III towns, said Pavan Choudary, director general, Medical Technology Association of India (MTaI). It would also prevent major trading partner countries from considering retaliatory measures against Indian products, he said. MTaI is a lobby group for international device makers.
Categories: Business News

Aditya Birla retail sales up 20%, but finance costs a drag

4 hours 51 min ago
MUMBAI:Aditya Birla Retail, the operator of ‘More’ supermarkets, has reported a 20% increase in sales for 2016-17, though losses continued due to high finance and borrowing costs. The retail arm of the Aditya Birla Group posted Rs 4,194 crore in sales for the year ended March 2017, while net loss narrowed to Rs 644 crore, according to company filings with the Registrar of Companies. The fourth-largest supermarket chain in the country after Future Group, Reliance Retail and D’Mart ended the year with 493 ‘More’ branded supermarkets and 20 hypermarkets, covering over 2 million sq ft of retail space. The company reported debt of about Rs 6,573 crore and finance cost of Rs 471 crore for the year. The accumulated debt was mainly due to the acquisition of Trinethra and Fabmall a decade ago and Jubilant’s Total Super Store two years ago. Email query to Aditya Birla Retail remained unanswered till as of press time.
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Tata Teleservices (Maharashtra) board approves up to Rs 20,000 crore fund-raising plans

4 hours 51 min ago
NEW DELHI: Tata Teleservices (Maharashtra) said its board approved a proposal to raise as much as Rs 20,000 crore through an issue of preference shares to promoters or via debentures, with the proceeds possibly being used to pare debt. The move comes days after the Tata Group said it would sell its consumer mobile business to market leader Bharti Airtel on a debt-free, cash-free basis.Tata Teleservices (Maharashtra) Ltd (TTML), a subsidiary of Tata Teleservices (TTSL), revealed its plan in a notice to the Bombay Stock Exchange on Wednesday, sparking a rise in the stock. TTML rose 5 per cent on the BSE to close at Rs 5.88 on Wednesday.It didn't specify the purpose of raising the funds. Analysts said the money could be used to repay a part of the roughly Rs 31,000-crore debt that TTSL and TTML have on their books.TTSL owns over 36.5 per cent in TTML, which offers services only in the Maharashtra and Mumbai circles."It is likely that the Tatas want to repay the debt before seeking any approvals for the sale of its wireless business to Airtel as they don't want lenders to raise any objections," said a Mumbai-based analyst. "The Tatas wouldn't want a situation which was faced by Reliance Communications whose deal to merge with Aircel faced objections from lenders." 61137797 The RCom-Aircel deal was ultimately scrapped.TTML's proposal is "subject to approval of members either by way of postal ballot or at the extraordinary general meeting", the company said in its notice to BSE.The telco said the fundraising will be done through the issue of one or more types of instruments including redeemable preference shares to promoters, non-convertible debentures in one or more tranches, and/or inter corporate deposit/loans or commercial paper from the promoters and others.Tata Group holds its stake in TTML via TTSL, Tata Sons, Tata Power Co. and Panatone Finvest. The Tata Group last week announced that Bharti Airtel will take over more than 40 million subscribers of TTSL and TTML across 19 telecom circles, besides spectrum, other assets and people employed in wireless operations.Airtel will get access to 178.5 MHz of spectrum across the 800, 1800, 2100 MHz bands, around 40 per cent of which is ready for being used for 4G.The deal will allow Bharti Airtel to close the gap with a post-merger Idea-Vodafone combine in terms of revenue market share and subscriber base, and allow the Tata Group to exit its stressed telecom operations weighed down by debt, spectrum liability and monthly cash losses.While all of the Rs 31,000-crore debt will remain with the Tata Group, Airtel will assume payment of close to 20 per cent of theRs 9,000-10,000 crore deferred payments for spectrum to the government.Tata will pay the rest. Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran told ET previously that the mobile business was in a "really bad shape" and that a "tough call" would have to be taken on the business in this financial year.
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Believe it or not, China is already the world's biggest economy

October 18, 2017 - 11:39pm
By Noah Smith What’s the most powerful country in the world? There’s a good case to be made that it’s China. There are many kinds of power -- diplomatic, cultural, military and economic. So an easier question to ask is: What’s the world’s largest economy? That’s almost certainly China. Many might protest when hearing this. After all, the U.S. still produces the most when measured at market exchange rates: But this comparison is misleading, because things cost different amounts in different countries. Gross domestic product is supposed to measure the amount of real stuff -- cars, phones, financial services, back massages, etc. -- that a country produces. If the same phone costs $400 in the U.S. but only $200 in China, China’s GDP is getting undercounted by 50 percent when we measure at market exchange rates. In general, less developed countries have lower prices, which means their GDP gets systematically undercounted. Economists try to correct for this with an adjustment called purchasing power parity (PPP), which controls for relative prices. It’s not perfect, since it has to account for things like product quality, which can be hard to measure. But it probably gives a more accurate picture of how much a country really produces. And here, China has already surpassed the U.S.: If you don’t trust the murky PPP adjustments, a simple alternative is just to look at the price of a Big Mac. The same burger costs 1.8 times more in the U.S. than in China. Adjusting the market-exchange-rate GDP numbers by that ratio would put China even farther ahead. In some dimensions, China’s lead is even larger. The country’s manufacturing output overtook that of the U.S. almost a decade ago. Its exports are more than a third larger as well. American commentators may be slow to recognize China’s economic supremacy, but the rest of the world is starting to wake up to the fact: This doesn’t mean China's population is the world’s richest -- far from it. The countries with the highest income per person, in order, are Qatar, Luxembourg, Singapore, Brunei and the United Arab Emirates. But few would argue that Qatar or Luxembourg is the world’s leading economy -- while per-capita numbers are important for the well-being of a nation’s people, they don’t translate into comprehensive national power unless a country also has a large population. China’s modest per-person income simply means that the country has plenty of room to grow. Whereas developed countries can only get richer by inventing new things or making their economies more efficient, poor countries can cheaply copy foreign technology or imitate foreign organizational practices. That doesn’t always happen, of course -- many poor countries find themselves trapped by dysfunctional institutions, lack of human capital or other barriers to development. But there’s good reason to think that China will overcome at least some of these obstacles. Economists Randall Morck and Bernard Yeung have a new paper comparing the histories of Japan and South Korea -- both of which climbed out of poverty to achieve rich-country status -- with the recent rise of China. They find that China’s institutions are, broadly speaking, developing along the same path followed by its successful neighbors. In other words, not only is China already the world’s largest economy, the gap between it and the U.S. can be expected to grow even wider. This continues to be borne out in the growth statistics -- though China has slowed in recent years, its economy continues to expand at a rate of more than 6 percent, while the U.S. is at just over 2 percent. If that disparity persists, China’s economy will be double that of the U.S. in less than two decades. So economically, China has surpassed the U.S., and is on track to zoom far ahead in the near future. But what about military power? Here, it still looks like the U.S. reigns supreme. It spends more money on its military than China, has a larger nuclear arsenal, and -- thanks to its recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq -- has a more seasoned fighting force as well. But that doesn’t mean that the U.S. would win a war, if the two countries fought. A full nuclear exchange, of course, would have no winners. But in a protracted conventional struggle, there’s a good chance that China’s weight of numbers and manufacturing prowess would win out. As an analogy, consider the U.S. and Japan in World War II. At the beginning of the war, Japan’s aircraft carrier force outnumbered that of the U.S., and its navy was far more seasoned (due to Japan’s war in China). But when the war began, the U.S. greatly outproduced its opponent: The U.S. also had a 2-to-1 manpower advantage. When two countries of similar technology levels fight, numbers tend to tell. China has a larger GDP, more manufacturing output and four times the population. And as its recent advances in stealth technology, directed energy weapons, hypersonic missiles and other areas demonstrate, its military technology isn’t that far behind the U.S. In a drawn-out war, once the mighty Chinese steamroller got moving, it would be unstoppable. In other words, China is now in a position similar to that of the U.S. at about the turn of the 20th century -- a formidable superpower that just hasn’t yet felt any reason to exercise its dominance. Once the U.S. woke up to the need to throw its weight around, no one doubted its primacy. China may never make the same decision. It may choose to remain restrained on the international stage, with a modest nuclear arsenal and a light footprint in global institutions. If so, its dominance will remain a lurking, looming potentiality instead of a real and present fact of life. But I wouldn't count on that happening. (This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners)
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Have doubts about tax issues? Here's how you can now directly ask the tax department

October 18, 2017 - 11:39pm
NEW DELHI: The Income Tax Department has launched an 'online chat' service for taxpayers so that they can seek answers to their basic queries and doubts relating to direct tax issues. A window has been hosted on the main page of the department's website -- www.incometaxindia.gov.in/ -- with a prominent icon stating 'Live Chat Online- ask your query'. "A team of experts from the department and independent tax practitioners has been deputed to answer the general queries of a taxpayer. This first-time initiative is aimed to enhance taxpayer services in the country," the officer said. He added that more features would be added to the online chat system based on the feedback received by the department. A person can enter the 'chat room' by furnishing an email-id and ask questions as a guest. "An option has also been provided to the taxpayer for emailing the entire chat to their ids for future reference," the officer said. A precautionary note at the beginning of the chat, however, states: "The replies are based on the opinion of the expert and in no manner it should be interpreted as the clarification by the Income-tax Department on any matter." Last year, the I-T department had set up a new dedicated directorate within its establishment to monitor and resolve grievances of tax payers.
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Slamming China, US says it will always stand with India in times of uncertainty & angst

October 18, 2017 - 11:39pm
The US is India's "reliable partner" at the world stage in this period of uncertainty and angst, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said today, sending a strong signal to side with India amidst China's "provocative actions" in the region. In a major India-policy speech, the first by the Trump administration, Tillerson, who is scheduled to visit India next week, referred to the rise of China, saying its behaviour and action is "posing a challenge to the rules-based international order". "China, while rising alongside India, has done so less responsibly, at times undermining the international, rules-based order even as countries like India operate within a framework that protects other nations' sovereignty, he told a Washington audience ahead of his maiden visit to India as the top American diplomat. "China s provocative actions in the South China Sea directly challenge the international law and norms that the US and India both stand for," he said. Underlining that the US seeks constructive relations with China, he said, "But we won't shrink from China's challenges to the rules-based order, or where China subverts the sovereignty of neighbouring countries, and disadvantages the US and our friends." "In this period of uncertainty and angst, India needs a reliable partner on the world stage. I want to make clear: with our shared values and vision for global stability, peace and prosperity, the US is that partner, Tillerson said. He said the emerging Delhi-Washington strategic partnership stands upon a shared commitment upholding the rule of law, freedom of navigation, universal values and free trade. "Our nations are two bookends of stability on either side of the globe standing for greater security and prosperity for our citizens and people around the world," he said, noting that the challenges and the dangers are substantial. The scourge of terrorism and the disorder sown by cyber- attacks threaten peace everywhere. "North Korea s nuclear- weapons tests and ballistic missiles pose a clear and imminent threat to the security of the US, its Asian allies, and all other nations, he said. "And the very international order that has benefited India s rise and that of many others is increasingly under strain, he said. Tillerson said with India s youth, its optimism, its powerful democratic example and its increasing stature on the world stage, it makes perfect sense that the US at this time should seek to build on the strong foundation of its years of cooperation with India. "It is indeed time to double down on a democratic partner that is still rising and rising responsibly for the next 100 years," he said. "But above all, the world and the Indo-Pacific in particular needs the US and India to have a strong partnership. India and the US must, as the Indian saying goes, 'do the needful', he said. The Secretary of State said India and the US can be the voice the world needs them to be, standing firm in defence of a rules-based order to promote sovereign countries' unhindered access to the planet s shared spaces, be they on land, at sea or in cyberspace. "India and the US must foster greater prosperity and security with the aim of a free and open Indo-Pacific." The two countries, he said, need to collaborate to ensure that the Indo-Pacific is increasingly a place of peace, stability, and growing prosperity so that it does not become a region of disorder, conflict and predatory economics. "The world's center of gravity is shifting to the heart of the Indo-Pacific. The US and India with our shared goals of peace, security, freedom of navigation, and a free and open architecture must serve as the eastern and western beacons of the Indo-Pacific," he said.
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Johnson & Johnson blames price cuts in India for poor show in knee-implant business

October 18, 2017 - 11:39pm
MUMBAI: Drug giant Johnson & Johnson took a $10 million (Rs 65 crore) hit on its international knee implant business in the July-September quarter, which it blamed on price cuts in India. The US company, one of the biggest makers of medical implants, called India's decision to limit prices of stents and knee implants as one of the "extreme examples of what it has seen in other marketplace".The company's medical device business, which reported total revenue of $6.6 billion for the third quarter through September, saw the knee implant business decline to $343 million from $355 million. Revenue in the segment's international business, which includes India, fell to $122 million from $132 million.Addressing a conference call with investors on Tuesday, J&J executives said the performance in knees business outside the US was hurt by new legislation in India, which was lowering the pricing of implants. "That impact was approximately $10 million in the quarter," the drug giant said in the investor presentation.In August this year, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority, India's drug pricing watchdog, slashed the prices of different components of knee replacement systems by as much as 69 per cent using an emergency provision in the drug control order. According to a government statement, this decision was expected to save Indians Rs 1,500 crore a year.Though J&J's overall medical device business grew 7 per cent to $6 billion, the company said price cuts by governments were happening everywhere. But the India reaction, the company said, was one of the "extreme examples"."Our sense of it is that in some of these markets it's an episodic thing that happens and it's not that unusual over time," said Sandra E Peterson, J&J's group worldwide chairman."Obviously, the situation in Inidia — this one-time price impact on knees — clearly has an impact on the marketplace in that regard. I think that's a much more extreme example of what we've seen in other marketplaces, which are a lot more moderated," she explained to an investor query on this issue. Peterson said the company has had the opportunity, in some cases, to have broader considerations with the Indian government."It's part of why we have changed our business strategy to show up as an integrated business talking to them about a number of different things beyond purely the physical product on going forward," she added.
Categories: Business News

Gujarat government doles out sops ahead of Assembly polls

October 18, 2017 - 11:39pm
Ahead of Assembly polls in Gujarat, the state Government today announced a slew of sops for teachers, employees of municipalities and others. The polls are due later this year. The government said "fixed-pay" teachers of government- aided secondary and higher secondary schools across the state would get a significant hike in their salaries. Employees of 105 municipalities would now get salaries according to the provisions of the 7th Pay Commission. The Gujarat government also raised the annual income cap from Rs 1.50 lakh to Rs 2.50 lakh for the 'Ma-Vatsalya' scheme for free medical treatment of up to Rs 2 lakh for serious ailments. "Till now, only people with an annual income of less than Rs 1.50 lakh were eligible for treatment of up to Rs 2 lakh at any of the government-approved hospitals. Now we have decided to raise this income limit to Rs 2.50 lakh, so that more people can benefit from the Ma-Vatsalya scheme," Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel told reporters in Gandhinagar today. Around 7,000 "fixed pay" teachers -- whose salaries are fixed for five years -- as well as administrative staff of government-aided secondary and higher secondary schools will be given pay hikes. "We have decided to increase the monthly salary of 'fixed-pay' teachers of secondary schools from Rs 16,500 to Rs 25,000. Assistant teachers, who used to get Rs 10,500, will now get Rs 16,224. Administrative assistants will now get Rs 19,950 from the current salary of Rs 11,500," Patel said. A similar raise has been approved for teachers and administrative staff of higher secondary schools which are dependent on government grants, said Patel, who handles the finance portfolio. Around 15,000 employees of municipalities will also get a pay hike. Patel said the government had decided to give permission to 105 local bodies to pay salaries in accordance with the 7th Pay Commission. "Out of the total 162 municipalities in the state, 105 are paying their employees as per the 6th Pay Commission. Considering their demand, we have decided to allow these 105 local bodies to pay as per the 7th Pay Commission. This will benefit around 15,000 employees," Patel said. The Election Commission had last week announced the poll schedule for Himachal Pradesh but not for Gujarat, though the terms of both the Assemblies expire almost at the same time. PJT PD RMT BDS
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India gets big defence booster: US offers fighter jet launch system for aircraft carriers

October 18, 2017 - 8:37pm
WASHINGTON: The US has decided to release the crucial Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System for the Indian Navy's future aircraft carrier, according to the Trump administration. The decision comes ahead of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's visit to India. A formal date of the visit has not been announced yet. The Trump administration has informed India of its decision. India had sent a letter of request to the US government during the Obama administration for the Electromagnetic Launch System (EMLAS) built by General Atomics for aircraft carrier planned by the Indian Navy. Due to its flexible architecture, EMALS can launch a wide variety of aircraft weights and can be used on a variety of platforms with differing catapult configurations. The Trump administration sent a response to India on Monday about its decision to release this technology. Aerospace expert Dr Vivek Lall, chief executive, US and International Strategic Development, of General Atomics had told earlier that General Atomics is planning to open an office in Delhi to support the Indian government's military requirements. The Indian Navy plans to integrate the US-made EMALS catapults into its future supercarriers. This gesture ahead of the Tillerson's visit is another indication of the strategic alliance US wants to foster with India, informed sources said. Last month, the Defence Secretary Jim Mattis visited India.
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Kotak Bank ties up with Samsung Pay

October 18, 2017 - 8:37pm
Private sector lender Kotak Mahindra Bank today said its credit and debit card holders will be able to tap and pay using smartphones at merchant establishments. The city-based lender has tied up with Samsung, under which its cardholders will be able to tap and pay using smartphones of the Korean electronics major having the Samsung Pay acceptance machines, a bank statement said. Samsung Pay works on 2.9 million points-of-ale card machines across the country and as part of the tie-up, Samsung Pay will further strengthen Kotak's digital savings account product by enabling a virtual debit card for contactless payments, it said.
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No delay for approving TTML-Airtel merger as due process is followed, says Manoj Sinha

October 18, 2017 - 8:37pm
NEW DELHI: The merger of Tata Teleservices’ wireless business with Bharti Airtel will not face any delays from the government’s end, if both companies follow due process, a top official in the telecom ministry said, adding that the situation of the telecom sector which is ailing under a Rs 5 lakh crore debt, will improve after ongoing consolidation is completed. “They (Airtel and Tata executives) came to meet (about the merger). If they follow the process, there will be no delay from our end,” said telecom minister Manoj Sinha on Wednesday, on the side lines of an event where it lowered the price of calls to Rs 1 a minute, for army and para military units posted on border areas. The Sunil Mittal-led telco said last week that it was merging the consumer mobile businesses of loss-making Tata Tele across 19 circles -- 17 under TTSL and 2 under Tata Tele Maharashtra Ltd (TTML) - with itself, on a debt-free and cash-free basis. The market leader would get Tata’s entire spectrum holding, of which 40% is liberalised, and will take on a small portion of the outstanding spectrum liability to be paid to the government. Tata Sons’ chairman N Chandrasekaran and Sunil Bharti Mittal met the minister, soon after closing the deal, which marked the exit of Tata Group from India’s telecom services business amid aggressive competition intensified by the entry of Reliance Jio last September – which offered free calls and low-cost data to consumers. The merger announcement was the second such after Idea Cellular and Vodafone India, who announced their $23 billion amalgamation in March this year. Yet more consolidation was seen by Reliance Communications and Aircel that was announced in September last year, but talks fell through earlier this month. The Anil Ambani company has a debt of over Rs 45,000 crore, while Tata Teleservices’ outstanding debt is over Rs 31,000 crore. “We have our eye on the sector. Telecom sector has been a success story and will continue to be. It (sector situation) will improve after consolidation. If needed, the government will intervene as it has done in the past,” he added, when asked about the relief the sector would get after recommendations of the inter-ministerial group (IMG) were approved by the Telecom Commission. The apex decision making body at the Department of Telecom last month approved extension of time-period for the payment of spectrum bought in auctions by telcos to 16 years from the current 10 years. It also agreed to lower interest rate charged over penalties imposed on service providers from 14% to 12%. On Wednesday, the minister announced a cut in calling rates to Rs 1 per minute from Thursday, offered by state run carrier BSNL to soldiers and officers of various army and para-military units like CRPF, BSF, BRO and ITBP, deployed in areas of J&K, NorthEast including Meghalaya, and Himachal Pradesh, sharing borders with China and Pakistan. Soldiers in these areas use the service offered by BSNL which was till now priced at Rs 5 a minute. A monthly plan of Rs 500 for using the service has also been waived off. “The government will compensate BSNL about Rs 3-4 crore a year, on account of the loss due to the cut in tariffs,” Sinha added.
Categories: Business News

After Hours: Axis Bank bleeds; Reliance scales a new high

October 18, 2017 - 8:37pm
NEW DELHI: Domestic equity benchmarks ended Wednesday’s session in the negative zone. But Samvat 2073 –the traditional accounting year that ended on Wednesday – saw the Nifty notch up 18 per cent and the Sensex 17 per cent. The S&P BSE Sensex closed for Diwali – the festival of lights – at 32,584, down 25 points, with RIL (up 4.52 per cent) being the top gainer and Axis Bank (down 9.52 per cent) the biggest loser. The 30-share pack, which opened at 32,518 against the previous close of 32,609, hit an intraday high and low of 32,670 and 32,462, respectively. The broader Nifty50 index of the National Stock Exchange (NSE) settled at 10,211, down 24 points, with 14 of the 50 constituents ending in the green. Here’s a look at Wednesday’s top newsmakers on Dalal Street: Solid debut of MAS Financial Shares of MAS Financial Services made a strong market debut, as the scrip got listed at Rs 660 on BSE, a 43.79 per cent premium to the issue price of Rs 459. The Rs 460 crore IPO, which was sold between October 8 and October 10, had been lapped up by investors and had got fully subscribed on Day 1 itself. Overall, it was subscribed 128 times. The stock closed the day’s trade at Rs 654.75 apiece, up 42.65 per cent from issue price. RIL stock hits record high Shares of Reliance Industries advanced over 4 per cent to hit a fresh record high of Rs 915.55 after the company submitted a $1.4 billion plan to produce 7 million cubic metres a day of natural gas from KG-D6 deep-sea fields in the Bay of Bengal. For the quarter ended September 30, 2017, RIL reported total revenue at 71,761 crore and net profit stood at 8,265 crore. The scrip of the company closed at Rs 913.75 apiece, up 4.52 per cent on BSE. Axis Bank hits 9-month low Shares of Axis Bank hit nine-month low after it reported further worsening of asset quality for the quarter ended September 30, 2017. The lender’s September quarter earnings rose 35 per cent boosted by a low base in the previous year and a jump in treasury profits. But its corporate lending continued to suffer with rising bad loans, and its retail segment profitability was dented with a fall in pre-tax profit. Shares of the company closed at Rs 464 apiece, down 9.52 per cent. Most active stocks Shares of Axis Bank (down 9 per cent), JP Associates (down 2 per cent) and ICICI Bank (down 4 per cent) were the most active stocks in terms of value while those of RIL (up 4.59 per cent), Dewan Housing (up 2 per cent) and SBI (down 3 per cent) were most active in value terms. Spurt in open interest Shares of NIIT Technologies witnessed the biggest spike in open interest at 46.15 per cent, followed by Axis Bank (44.34 per cent) and Torrent Pharma (37.80 per cent). The sole gainer The Nifty FMCG index emerged the only gainer on NSE, closing at 25,684, up 63 points or 0.25 per cent. Out of the 15 components on the index, six ended in the green. Britannia (up 2 per cent), Colgate-Palmolive (up 1.36 per cent) and United Bank (up 1 per cent) were the major contributors to the surge.
Categories: Business News

Jio's 84-day plan hiked to Rs 459; double data in Rs149 scheme

October 18, 2017 - 8:37pm
Reliance Jio customers will have to pay 15 per cent more for its popular 84-day plan at Rs 459 from tomorrow, under which subscribers get 1GB 4G data at high speed per day, according to information published on the company's website. However, subscribers of Rs 149 plan will get 4GB of data for each billing cycle of 28 days under the new scheme "Diwali Dhamaka" compared to 2GB being offered at present. It has also reduced recharge tariff for lower denomination and short-term plans besides offering data benefits under the schemes. Jio has introduced plan for Rs 52 with one-week validity and Rs 98 with 2 weeks that will offer its customers free voice, SMS, unlimited data (0.15 GB daily), as per its website. All plans of Jio will continue to offer unlimited voice calls even during roaming. The Rs 459 plan will offer Jio customers unlimited services at 1GB high speed data per day for 84 days for prepaid users followed by data at curtailed speed, along with unlimited voice calling and access to Jio apps. The company has also reduced benefit under Rs 509 scheme, which offers 2GB of data per day, by reducing its validity or billing cycle from 56 days to 49. According, data at high speed gets reduced to 98 GB from 112 GB under previous scheme. Under this plan, data cost will be Rs 5.2 per GB. The Rs 999 plan which offered 90 GB of 4G data without cut in download speed will now offer 60 GB at high speed data for 3 months. Jio has introduced Rs 1,999 plan which will have six months validity and offer 125 GB data at unrestricted high speed. Under the new scheme, the validity of plan priced at Rs 4,999 will be for a year instead of 210 days under the previous scheme. However, customers opting for it will get unrestricted access to 350 GB high speed data for the plan period compared to 380 GB offered earlier for same price.
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In Xi's 3-hr marathon speech, there is a strong message for India

October 18, 2017 - 5:37pm
BEIJING: President Xi Jinping today assured jittery neighbours that China is ready to resolve its disputes through dialogue but not at the expense of Beijing's strategic interests, as he opened a key meeting of the ruling Communist party elite that will shore up his grip on power with a second term and even an unprecedented third innings at the helm. Xi, the General Secretary of the CPC, also vowed to make the People's Liberation Army a world-class military during his over a three-and-a half hour speech at the once-in-a-five-year Congress which is set to confirm his second term and elect new leaders to work with him. The 64-year-old spoke mostly of rebuilding of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) keeping its socialist structure intact. At the opening session of CPC's 19th Congress at the Great Hall of the People, the party put up a united show with most of the top retired leaders including former presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao besides former Premiers Wen Jiabao and several other erstwhile leaders sharing the dais with Xi on the front row. The week-long meeting will also amend the party's Constitution. Xi spoke at length of strengthening the military, need for continuation of his massive anti-corruption drive and bringing a "new era of socialism" and Chinese rejuvenation. "China will never pursue development at the expense of others interests, nor will China ever give up its legitimate rights and interests. No one should expect China to swallow anything that undermines its interests," he said amid thumping applause from over 2,300 delegates who attended the meeting telecast live. About the neighbours, Xi said China would "deepen relations with its neighbours in accordance with the principles of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness and the policy of forging friendship and partnership". "We should commit to settling disputes through dialogue and resolving differences through discussion, coordinate responses to traditional and non-traditional threats and oppose terrorism in all its forms," Xi said. China and India had been engaged in a standoff recently in the Dokalam area in Sikkim. China was engaged in a number of maritime disputes with the neighbours in the South and East China seas. Xi spoke at length about his plans to make the 2.3 million strong PLA, the world s largest military, into a world class force. By the year 2020, mechanisation will be basically achieved, with IT application coming a long way and strategic capabilities seeing a big improvement, he said. The modernisation of the national defence and armed forces should be basically completed by 2035, by which the "armed forces have been fully transformed into world-class military forces," he said. The Chinese military, which underwent massive reform drive since Xi took over power in 2012, has over USD 141 billion annual budget next only to US military. "A military is built to fight. Our military must regard combat capability as the criterion to meet in all its work and focus on how to win when it is called on ," he said, adding that all steps would be taken to ensure military preparedness to implement strategic doctrines. The CPC will build a powerful and modernised army, navy, air force, rocket (missile) force, and strategic support force, develop strong and efficient joint operations commanding institutions for theatre commands, and create a modern combat system with distinctive Chinese characteristics, he said. Unlike the militaries elsewhere, the Chinese military functions directly under the leadership of the party. Xi is the Chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission (CMC), the overall high command of the PLA. Xi also devoted his address titled "secure decisive victory in building moderately prosperous society in all its respects and strive for the great success of socialism with Chinese characteristics for new era" mostly to strengthening the CPC, which has ruled the country since 1949. "We must unwaveringly uphold and improve Party leadership and make the Party still stronger," he said. Xi, who in the past warned the party of going the way the Soviet Communist Party collapsed in 1991, said the defining feature of the party is socialism with Chinese characteristics. "We must keep on strengthening the Party's ability to lead politically, to guide through theory, to organise the people, and to inspire society, thus ensuring that the Party's great vitality and strong ability are forever maintained," he said. Founded in 1921, the CPC has about 89-million members with more than 4.5 million grassroots organisations. The Party is striving to strengthen its long-term governance capacity amid "complex" governance environment, Xi said, warning of the dangers of a lack of drive, incompetence, disengagement from the people, inaction, and corruption. The primary task of a political party building is to ensure that the whole party obeys the Central Committee and upholds its authority and centralised, unified leadership, Xi said. Last year, Xi was endorsed as the core leader, a status bestowed on party founder Mao Zedong and his successor Deng Xiaoping. By heading the party, presidency and the military, Xi has emerged as the most powerful leader in the country. His ideological teachings were expected to be made part of the amended CPC constitution during the Congress to ensure his legacy. Only the names of Mao and Deng were part of the CPC Constitution. Observers say with consolidation of power and having bulldozed the remnants of opposition in the party in his massive anti-corruption drive, Xi, 64 may be declared as Chairman of the party and may even have an unprecedented, third term after 2022. All Chinese leaders retire at the age of 68. In his speech Xi also pledged to make a sweeping victory in its fight against corruption to escape the historical cycle of rise and fall. Calling corruption "the greatest threat" the Party faces, Xi said the situation in the fight against corruption remains "grave and complex." The CPC will prevent any interest groups from arising within the Party, Xi said. Wherever offenders may flee, they shall be brought back and brought to justice, he added. Since he took over power more than 280 centrally- administered officials were investigated and over 1.4 million official received punishments, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
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What India wants: 3 important takeaways for Modi from this year's Pew survey

October 18, 2017 - 5:37pm
Even after three years in power, a time when most leaders face anti-incumbency, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's popularity has not waned. That's also despite his shock decision to ban high-currency notes last year that left a large number of people jobless, inconvenienced the middle class and pulled the economy down. Add to that the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) a few months ago that has not only hit the economic growth but also left traders confused and fuming -- even the government admits that both the decisions have created a negative impact, but for the short term. What is the secret of Modi's mass support? Maybe he has been able to convince people that whatever the immediate consequences of his steps, he is doing it all for the long-term good of the country. A new survey by US-based Pew Research Center seems to support this theory. It can also offer Modi insights into how he is viewed and what people expect from him. Growth is the key The survey finds that most of Indians trust their government. "In India, where the economy has grown on average by 6.9% since 2012, 85% (of people) trust their national government," Pew Research said in a report based on the survey on governance and trust in key countries. The linking of economic growth with people's trust in Modi indicates that a continued slowdown in the economy can turn masses away from him. India's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth slid to a three-year low of 5.7 per cent during the first quarter (April-June) of the current financial year. If the decline continues, it can erode Modi's mass support. Less-cash policy, JAM seem to be working The survey finds that India is one of the three countries in the Asia Pacific where people support technocracy (a government comprising an elite of technical experts). "Asian-Pacific public generally back rule by experts, particularly people in Vietnam (67%), India (65%) and the Philippines (62%)," it said. Indian public's liking for technocracy lies in the fact that people see hope of development through technology and not through ideology. Despite his critics opposing Modi's emphasis on a cash-less economy, e-governance, big data and the JAM (Jan Dhan, Aadhaar and mobile) trinity for development at the grassroots level, the technological initiatives are liked by people who trust technology more than political ideas. The lesson for Modi is that people support him not for the ideology but for his secular technological initiatives. Any tilt towards Hindutva and away from developmental technology can cost him dear. Stay bold Fifty-five per cent of respondents polled in India said a system in which a strong leader could make decisions without parliamentary or judicial interference is a “somewhat” or “very” good way of governing their country. This seems to be a less than ideal situation but if seen in proper context it makes sense. India's corrupt leaders and bureaucracy inspires little hope in people who look up to strong individuals who sound honest and committed. Modi knows this and plays to this sentiment. His sudden decision to ban high-currency notes may have serious downsides but he sent people the message that he can bend the system for target corruption. The criticism by opposition that demonetisation was an autocratic step does not wash with people because they want autocracy, albeit the one that claims to be working for them. According to the survey, roughly half of both Indians (53%) say the military rule would be a good thing for their countries. This does not show people's dislike for democracy but for the corrupt regimes democracy has thrown up so far. Modi's positioning as a strong leader who can do what he decides to appeals to this sentiment. Here, the lesson for Modi is if he grows mild and pulls out no other tough measure after demonetisation and GST, his popular support may weaken.
Categories: Business News

Hit by DeMo-GST, corporates slash gifts by 35-40%: Assocham

October 18, 2017 - 5:37pm
LUCKNOW: In sync with low-key festivities due to slowdown concerns and pressure on their balance sheets, corporate India is going rather lukewarm in Diwali gifts this year, slashing the budget by at least 35-40 per cent under this head, says a survey by industry chamber Assocham. The reduction in gifts from corporate houses to their associates, networked partners, employees and other key personalities is more for outside connects than employees who are more or less receiving their annual gesture from their employers, the industry body said. However, there has been certainly a downward impact on bonus payments with several corporates reeling under debt and cutting costs in their overall operations. Besides, disruptions arising out of demonetisation and roll out issues of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) too have affected the overall sentiment, it said. "Consequent to slowdown in the Diwali gift sale, the FMCG companies which generally bet high on festive sales in the business of chocolates, cookies and sweets are reporting less than normal sales. "Similar is the case with consumer durable firms engaged in washing machines, refrigerators, ovens, electric stoves and other such items. Even the festive sale of high-end smartphones seems to have taken a hit," Assocham secretary general D S Rawat said. "The survey endorses the general low key mood of the industry and trade with the considerable trimming of the festive budget," he said. The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) had conducted a telephonic survey of about 758 companies across tier I, II and III cities Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi-NCR, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai in the run-up to Diwali.
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