Business News

Subscribe to Business News feed Business News
The Economic Times: Breaking news, views, reviews, cricket from across India
Updated: 2 hours 44 min ago

Buffet says he still hasn't found cure for his $112 bn cash pain

5 hours 45 min ago
NEW DELHI: Legendary investor Warren Buffett on Saturday said among its economic trees (read diverse businesses), a few are diseased and unlikely to be around a decade from now. Many others, though, are destined to grow in size and beauty. He warned investors against owning businesses at sky high prices.In his customary annual letter to shareholders, the Oracle of Omaha dropped hints of a possible share repurchase and Berkshire Hathaway’s hunt for a big acquisition.Buffett said Berkshire will forever remain a financial fortress and that in managing it, he will make expensive mistakes of commission and will also miss many opportunities, some of which should have been obvious.“At times, our stock will tumble as investors flee from equities. But I will never risk getting caught short of cash. In the years ahead, we hope to move much of our excess liquidity into businesses that Berkshire will permanently own,” he wrote. The immediate prospects for that, however, are not good, he said.“Prices are sky-high for businesses possessing decent long-term prospects. That disappointing reality means that 2019 will likely see us again expand our holdings of marketable equities,” Buffett said. He said Berkshire, nevertheless, continues to hope for an elephant-sized acquisition.“Even at our ages of 88 and 95 – I’m the young one – that prospect is what causes my heart and Charlie’s to beat faster. (Just writing about the possibility of a huge purchase has caused my pulse rate to soar.) My expectation of more stock purchases is not a market call. Charlie and I have no idea as to how stocks will behave next week or next year,” he wrote. “Predictions of that sort have never been a part of our activities. Our thinking, rather, is focused on calculating whether a portion of an attractive business is worth more than its market price,” Buffett said.On stock investmentsBuffett said Charlie and he do not view the $172.8 billion stock investments as a collection of ticker symbols – a financial dalliance to be terminated because of downgrades by “the Street,” expected Federal Reserve actions, possible political developments, forecasts by economists or whatever else might be the subject du jour."What we see in our holdings, rather, is an assembly of companies that we partly own and that, on a weighted basis, are earning about 20 per cent on the net tangible equity capital required to run their businesses. These companies, also, earn their profits without employing excessive levels of debt.”Buffett, 88, said: "Returns of that order by large, established and understandable businesses are remarkable under any circumstances. They are truly mind-blowing when compared against the return that many investors have accepted on bonds over the last decade – 3 per cent or less on 30-year US Treasury bonds, for example.”Buffett said a ridiculously-high purchase price for a given stock may cause a splendid business to become a poor investment – if not permanently, at least for a painfully long period. “Over time, however, investment performance converges with business performance. And the record of American business has been extraordinary,” he said.On Friday, Berkshire reported a notional loss of $4 billion in its investments in Kraft Heinz stock, as the scrip fell over 27 per cent in a single day on disappointing quarterly earnings. Data showed Berkshire recently bought bank stocks in US, but trimmed its stake in Apple Inc.In his letter, Buffett talked about five groves, four of which are differentiated clusters of businesses and financial assets that are easy to understand. He called insurance as the fifth grove, huge and diverse.On leadershipIn his letter, Buffett talked about the cash piling up at the world's largest financial services company by revenues, equity holdings but did not drop any hint on his potential successors, Greg Abel and Ajit Jain.Berkshire last year made Greg Abel and Ajit Jain vice-chairmen at the financial giant. While Abel was made in charge of insurance operations and India-born Jain was made in charge of non-insurance businesses.In Saturday’s letter, Buffett said the move to make them vice-chairmen was overdue. “Berkshire is now far better managed than when I alone was supervising operations. Ajit and Greg have rare talents, and Berkshire blood flows through their veins,” he said.On doomsayerBuffett said that those who regularly preach doom because of government budget deficits (as I regularly did myself for many years) might note that US’s national debt has increased roughly 400-fold in 77-year periods. That’s 40,000 per cent!“Suppose you had foreseen this increase and panicked at the prospect of runaway deficits and a worthless currency. To “protect” yourself, you might have eschewed stocks and opted instead to buy 31⁄4 ounces of gold with your $114.75,” he wrote.“And what would that supposed protection have delivered? You would now have an asset worth about $4,200, less than 1 per cent of what would have been realized from a simple unmanaged investment in American business. The magical metal was no match for the American mettle.”Berkshire Hathaway, whose market value stood at $450 billion as of Friday, is engaged in diverse business activities including insurance and reinsurance, freight rail transportation, manufacturing, utilities and energy, retailing and services. The common stock of the company is listed on the New York Stock ExchangeBerkshire will hold annual shareholders meeting on May 4 at CHI Health Center Omaha (formerly named CenturyLink Center), US.
Categories: Business News

In a 1st, Muslim nations’ group invites India

5 hours 45 min ago
In a significant move, India has been invited to the inaugural plenary of the foreign ministers' conclave of the OIC, a powerful grouping of Muslim majority nations, and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will attend it in Abu Dhabi next month as the 'guest of honour'.The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) called the invitation a "welcome recognition" of the presence of 185 million Muslims in India and of their contribution to its pluralistic ethos, and of India's contribution to the Islamic world.Official sources said it was for the first time, India has been invited to an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meeting as guest of honour. The 46th Session of the OIC's Council of Foreign Ministers will be held in Abu Dhabi from March 1 to 2.The invitation to India by the OIC comes at a time when India has been mounting diplomatic offensive against Pakistan to isolate it internationally following the Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed.The OIC has usually been supportive of Pakistan and, often sided with Islamabad on the Kashmir issue.The MEA said Foreign Minister of United Arab Emirates Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan invited Swaraj as the 'guest of honour' to address the inaugural plenary and that India was happy to accept the invitation."We see this invitation as the desire of the enlightened leadership of the UAE to go beyond our rapidly growing close bilateral ties and forge a true multifaceted partnership at the multilateral and international level," the MEA said in a release."We see this invitation as a milestone in our comprehensive strategic partnership with the UAE. We also see this invitation as a welcome recognition of the presence of 185 million Muslims in India and of their contribution to its pluralistic ethos, and of India's contribution to the Islamic world," it said.India is, therefore, happy to accept the invitation and thanked the leadership of the UAE for it, the ministry said.Last year, Bangladesh proposed restructuring of the charter of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to pave way for the inclusion of non-Muslim countries like India as an "observer state" of the 50-year old grouping.
Categories: Business News

The extraordinary fall of a rich man called Anil Ambani

February 23, 2019 - 10:30pm
By PR SanjaiAnil Ambani has spent years fending off creditors and suing critics of his debt-saddled business empire. But his moment of reckoning may have arrived, as he races to pay debts or face a possible jail sentence.On February 20, the Supreme Court said that the Reliance Group’s phone unit had disobeyed a ruling to pay about $77 million owed to the local subsidiary of supplier Ericsson AB, adding that the tycoon will personally face three months of jail unless the payments are made within four weeks. Ambani’s group said it will comply with the order and make the payments within the required time.It’s an extraordinary fall for a man listed by Forbes magazine in 2008 as the world’s sixth-wealthiest person. The court’s decision comes after a tough year for Ambani, as parts of his empire saw losses and competition in India’s telecommunications market became increasingly brutal. His story also offers insights into how far India has come in cracking down on overdue borrowers and curbing the financial impunity of its richest citizens.“He has reached the final weeks of the battle,” said Arun Kejriwal, director at KRIS, a Mumbai-based investment advisory firm. Ambani can fight with Ericsson and other creditors but can’t do that with the nation’s top court, he said.Anil Ambani took ownership of the telecom business after battling his older brother, Mukesh, in a high-profile dispute over control of the sprawling conglomerate built by their father, who died in 2002 without a will. Prior to the patriarch’s death, the Ambani brothers served as executives at their father’s company. Three years after their father’s passing, the dispute was settled by splitting the empire into two, vaulting both Ambanis among the ranks of India’s wealthiest businessmen.The founder’s death left the sons in charge of the massive family business just as India was about to enter a growth spurt powered by a newly upwardly mobile middle class. Even as Anil’s star has faded, his older brother Mukesh has gone on to become Asia’s richest man. Representatives for both brothers didn’t comment.Bloomberg News is currently defending litigation brought by Anil Ambani, 59, and Reliance Communications Ltd. in connection with previous Bloomberg reporting.Here’s a look at how the sibling rivalry at the Ambani family, troubles at the telecom business and India’s tougher stance on credit, contributed to the decline in Anil’s fortunes.Fortune DividedWhen the family feud was settled in 2005, Mukesh got control of the flagship oil-refining and petrochemicals business. Anil, meanwhile, got the newer businesses such as power generation, financial services and a telecom business, which was seen as a prime growth prospect.From there, Anil’s companies borrowed heavily to diversify and build a credible conglomerate that could generate the kind of revenue enjoyed by Mukesh’s refining firm Reliance Industries Ltd.Telecom HeadwindsA non-compete clause between the brothers kept Mukesh out of telecoms until the agreement was scrapped in 2010. The elder brother’s return to telecom resulted in the creation of Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd., which built a nationwide 4G wireless network.At the same time, the younger Ambani brother was facing intensifying competition in the fast-growing wireless-phone business. As carriers fed off each other’s subscribers, Reliance Communications raised borrowings to keep up. Still, the carrier lost its rank as the No. 2 carrier in a slide that accelerated when Mukesh fatefully barged into the market. Jio’s entry into the market in 2016 pressured all rivals, including Anil’s company, because it lured so many of their customers away with free calls and cheap plans.“Telecom was a tale of disaster for Anil owing to cutthroat competition, which led to industry-wide consolidation and debt overhang," said Mumbai-based Alok Shende, principal analyst at consulting firm Ascentius Insights.Other BusinessesWhile his attempts to sell telecom and other assets failed to generate the needed cash, problems emerged at some other businesses as well. Shares of Reliance Naval & Engineering Ltd., a warship and submarine maker bought in 2015, fell as the company continued to post losses.Electricity generator Reliance Power Ltd., also part of Anil’s group, has failed to stem a decade of stock declines since its then-record initial public offering in 2008.Jail RiskThe Supreme Court’s remarkable warning to one of the nation’s most prominent businessmen came after months of wrangling.The row with Ericsson began when the Swedish equipment maker sought to collect overdue payments from Reliance Communications, or RCom. The Indian company appeared to settle the dispute with Ericsson in May last year, but failed to meet the payment deadlines, prolonging the row.Separately, RCom had agreed to sell its airwaves, towers, fiber and other telecom assets to Jio in December 2017 to fend off creditors. But regulatory and legal hurdles stalled the closing of the deal, frustrating RCom’s attempts to repay lenders. RCom ultimately decided to enter bankruptcy proceedings this month after struggling to repay billions of dollars in debt.However, India’s top court this week said it will put the Indian mogul behind bars unless his group pays Ericsson within four weeks.What’s Next?As part of efforts to comply with the court order, RCom has said it requested urgent approval from its lenders to release about 2.6 billion rupees ($37 million) received from income tax refunds, which are in its bank account, directly to Ericsson. A sum of 1.2 billion rupees has already been deposited with the Supreme Court and the company is confident it will be able raise the balance of about 2 billion rupees in time, it said.Meanwhile, Anil’s Reliance Capital Ltd. has sought to raise funds by inviting Nippon Life Insurance Co. to take full control of their joint venture Reliance Nippon Life Asset Management, according to a stock exchange statement."This is the easiest and fastest way to resolve the looming crisis," Kejriwal said.
Categories: Business News

Tension in Kashmir, govt arrests 150 people

February 23, 2019 - 10:30pm
SRINAGAR: Tension mounted in Kashmir on Saturday as the government launched a massive crackdown on separatists and detained over 150 people, mainly from the Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir, including its chief Abdul Hamid Fayaz, ahead of a hearing in the Supreme Court on Article 35-A of the Constitution.Though police termed the action as routine saying that leaders and potential stone pelters have been picked up in the past, officials privy to the development said this was the first major crackdown on the Jamaat-e-Islami.The hearing on Article 35A, which provides special rights and privileges to natives of Jammu and Kashmir, is likely to take place in the apex court on Monday.The Jamaat-e-Islami has in the past been touted to be the parent political party of the Hizbul Mujahdeen, but the organisation has always maintained that it is a socio-religious group.Heightened tension was palpable and people were seen in groups on streets even as security was tightened.Orders issued by some government departments added to the fears of the people. The Government Medical College in Srinagar cancelled winter vacation of its faculty members and directed them to positively report for work on Monday.The Department of Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs, which provides ration to people through its outlets, has directed its staff members in south Srinagar to ensure completing sale of food grains in their respective areas by Saturday evening.They were also directed to keep ration depots and sale outlets open on Sunday as well.As many as 100 additional companies of the paramilitary (nearly 10,000 personnel) have been sent to Kashmir Valley in the apprehension of a law and order situation. Officially, no reason was cited for the movement.According to Union Home Ministry sources, the movement of troops was pre-election induction.Markets in Lal Chowk, the commercial hub of the valley, and adjoining areas opened more than an hour late as business owners were not sure of the situation in the wake of detention of over 150 separatist and Jamaat cadres during the night on Friday.The sound of frequent flying of fighter jets till 1.30 am on Saturday added to the worries of the residents due to simmering Indo-Pak tension following the Pulwama suicide car bomb attack that left 40 CRPF soldiers dead on February 14.However, IAF officials described it as a routine exercise.Long queues were seen outside petrol stations and people were thronging provision shops and buying essential supplies.The Jamaat issued a statement condemning the detentions and said "...the move is a well-designed conspiracy to pave way for further uncertainty in the region."The party claimed that during the intervening night of February 22 and 23, police and other agencies launched a mass arrest drive and raided many houses in the valley, wherein dozens of its central and district-level leaders were arrested, including its ameer (chief) Abdul Hamid Fayaz and spokesperson, advocate Zahid Ali.The Jamaat termed the raids as "fishy" at a time when the Supreme Court is to hear a petition regarding Article 35A of the Constitution."The way forces personnel unleashed the spree of mass arrest and detained dozens of Jamaat members prior to the hearing seems something is hatching behind the curtains...," it said.Besides this, police also detained JKLF chief Yaseen Malik on Friday night, and lodged him in central jail.The Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), an umbrella coalition of separatist groups, has called for a shutdown in the valley on Sunday."To protest these arbitrary mass arrests, nocturnal raids, insecurity among people due to state repression, killings and censorship and any tampering with Article 35-A, a strike will be observed on 24 Feb 2019 (Sunday)," the JRL said in a statement.Reacting to the valley-wide crackdown, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti questioned the legality of the action saying the "arbitrary" move would only "precipitate matters" in the state."In the past 24 hours, Hurriyat leaders and workers of Jamaat organisation have been arrested. Fail to understand such an arbitrary move which will only precipitate matters in JK," Mehbooba tweeted."Under what legal grounds are their arrests justified? You can imprison a person but not his ideas," she said.Leader of People's Conference, an ally of the BJP, Sajad Lone also said such crackdowns in the past have yielded no results."Gov (sic) seems to be on an arrest spree. Just a word of caution. Large scale arrests took place in 1990. Leaders were ferried to Jodhpur and many jails across the country. Things worsened. This is a tried tested and failed model. Please desist from it. It won't work.Things will worsen," he tweeted.CPI(M) MLA Mohammed Yusuf Tarigami said the crackdown on and arrests of separatist leaders without any solid legal grounds do not augur well for the state."Curbing dissent and those holding a contradictory viewpoint is not democratic at all. On the contrary, such sections should be engaged," he said.Moderate Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq also condemned Yasin Malik's detention and the crackdown on the Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir leadership."Strongly condemn the nocturnal crackdown on Jamat-e-Islami leadership and cadres and the arrest of Yasin Malik. Such illegal and coercive measures against Kashmiris are futile and will not change realities on ground. Force and intimidation will only worsen the situation," the Mirwaiz posted on Twitter.
Categories: Business News

Mohali could have India's answer to MIT

February 23, 2019 - 7:29pm
More than 40 top CEOs and entrepreneurs, mostly IIT and IIM alumni, have come together to set up a Rs 2,000-crore project that involves setting up a university with a sharp focus on engineering directly aimed towards bolstering entrepreneurship and a home-grown startup ecosystem.These Indian honchos include Vineet Nayyar, vice chairman of IL&FS and Executive vice-chairman of Tech Mahindra, CP Gurnani, managing director of Tech Mahindra, Ambarish Raghuvanshi, founder of Infoedge, V Vaidyanathan, chairman of IDFC First, Mukul Agarwal, chairman of Param Capital, Dalip Pathak, former head of Warburg Pincus Europe, Neeraj Aggarwal, Asia head BCG, Ashish Gupta, managing director at Helion Ventures and Niten Malhan, founder of New Mark Advisors among others.The vision originated in the minds of few IIT alumni, including Vineet Gupta (founder of Jamboree Education), Ashish Gupta, (founder of Benori Knowledge Solutions and a Mckinsey Alumnus ), Neeraj Aggarwal (BCG Asia Chairman) and Manas Fuloria (CEO of Nagarro). They believe in the power of education and its ability to unleash the huge potential that India has. Plaksha University, named after the mythical tree of knowledge from which river Saraswati originated, will come up in Mohali in 2021. With a campus spread over a vast area of 50 acres, the institute will focus on core engineering, deep technology such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and mathematics. It has already entered into a MoU with Stanford Research Institute for joint research and has made collaborations with other Ivy League names such as Berkeley and Purdue Universities. Well-known academics such as Ashish Nanda of Harvard University, Anant Agarwal of MIT, S. Shankar Sastry of University of California-Berkeley, and Arvind Raman of Purdue University are among those who have joined the academic advisory board of the new university. Plaksha has also tied up with Stanford Research Institute and Purdue University. “This institution will focus on innovation, will be real world oriented and emphasize real world learning. I think these are very important for a high-quality technology institution for tomorrow,” said Prof Nanda, senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School.“Only one in four Indians goes for higher education. In South Korea, which got independence pretty much at the same time, nine out of 10 students go to college. This gap has to be filled by private education which is only 69 per cent of the sector,” said Vineet Gupta. The idea was so contagious and inspiring that it did not take long to get more than 40 honchos on board.Ashish Gupta says that it took less than a minute to convince Mukul Agarwal, another co-founder who he met at Harvard University. “It is the need of the hour. India has been one of the biggest victims of brain drain to the West. We can at least do this much for the motherland,” said Agarwal, a well-known figure in the capital market space. The trigger came from "seeing many children in the family going to study in the US and eventually moving there," V Vaidyanathan of IDFC First shares similar thoughts. “So many children of our generation are going abroad, particularly the US for graduation. It’s time we developed world class institutions to keep our children here and get the world to come here,” he said.The numbers of Indian students going abroad speak for themselves. The statistics indicate the extent of the brain drain – ourward remittances on studies abroad amount that Indians spend on education overseas has increased near 20-fold in the past 10 years to $3 billion in 2018.The entire team of more than 40 co-founders brainstormed for three years, putting in place a vision that advocates the best model in pedagogy, curriculum, culture, faculty, and processes. Of the Rs 2,000 crore project, the group has already raised Rs 400 crore through personal contributions and CSR funds.Sometimes, to get a perspective of the future, it’s important to look at the past. The Finance Minister of Punjab, Manpreet Badal, brought up a thought-provoking analogy at the foundation stone laying ceremony. “1631 was the year when the Taj Mahal was completed. This was the same year that Harvard University was founded. It took 17 times more the investment to build the Taj Mahal. Imagine, if India had invested in 17 Harvards in 1631, we would’ve been spared 200 years of colonialism.” And as this idea takes shape in the form of Plaksha University, the possibilities for the future seem endless.
Categories: Business News

Air India gets hijack threat, airports on high alert

February 23, 2019 - 7:29pm
Air India's Mumbai control centre on Saturday received a phone call threatening to hijack its plane, following which Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) ordered all airlines and CISF to follow specific enhanced measures to ensure security, according to an official note."A telephonic message received by the station duty office, AI (Air India) AOCC (Airport Operation Control Centre) Mumbai, stating information regarding a threat to Indian Airlines flight getting hijacked to Pakistan on 23.2.2019," stated the BCAS note dated February 23.The note added, "In view of the above, APSU (Airport Security Unit)/ASG (Aviation Security Group) and all aircraft operators shall adopt the following (eight) measures with immediate effect."Both APSU and ASG are part of the Central Industrial Security Force. Indian Airlines is a part of the Air India only.According to BCAS note, the measures to be followed are:Strict access control to regulate entry to terminal building, airside, all operational area and other aviation facilities.Intensive checking of vehicles entering car parking area to preclude possibility of car bomb attacks.Enhanced screening of passengers, staff and visitors including enhanced random screening at the main gate.Enhanced screening and protection of hold baggage, cargo, cargo terminal, catering, mails, etc.Surveillance through CCTV cameras as well as manual surveillance in and around the terminal building and operational areas.Quick reaction team and perimeter patrolling to be strengthened.Manning of all cargo gates and vehicle entry gates will be strengthened with strong armed support.Any other security measures based on local intelligence inputs.The Parliament passed Anti-Hijacking (Amendment) Bill in 2014 in order to lay down new protocol to deal with hijacking of an airplane."The Bill provides death punishment for the offence of hijacking, where such offence results in the death of a hostage or of a security personnel; or with imprisonment for life and the moveable and immoveable property of such persons shall also be liable to be confiscated," the central government said in a statement on December 3, 2014.
Categories: Business News

China's secret weapon not a secret anymore

February 23, 2019 - 4:29pm
by Adam MinterThis was supposed to be the China-New Zealand Year of Tourism, but the celebration appears to be off. An influential Chinese state-owned newspaper recently reported that Chinese tourists were having second thoughts about traveling to New Zealand thanks to suggestions that its government might bar Huawei Technologies Co. from the country’s next-generation wireless networks. (Wellington now says the door isn’t closed to the company.) A senior official at China CYTS Tours Holding Co. Ltd., a powerful state-owned Chinese tour operator, summarized the decision-making process: "How warmly a country treats tourists could also affect Chinese citizens' choices of travel destinations."This is no idle threat. As countries from Palau to South Korea have learned the hard way, the Chinese government isn't afraid to divert its tourists and their thick pocketbooks whenever it wants to make a political point. The economic consequences can be devastating for tourist-dependent economies. The good news for New Zealand and other scenic countries is that this not-so-secret weapon might not be so much of a weapon much longer. The modern Chinese overseas tourist was born in the early 1980s when the Chinese government began loosening decades of travel restrictions. Destinations were initially limited to territories with large ethnic Chinese populations, such as Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. The purpose was expressly political: The Chinese government wanted to reestablish bonds with these long-neglected communities.As incomes rose in the mid-1990s, demand for overseas travel grew as well and the government was forced to loosen restrictions. In order to maintain some semblance of control, it established the Approved Destination System, licensing Chinese agencies to organize group tours to listed countries (they're also expected to take responsibility if those tourists don't return to China). In return, approved countries were licensed to market themselves in China as attractive destinations.The ADS system has been remarkably effective at helping a country of inexperienced travelers explore the world. In the space of a generation, China has become the world's largest market for outbound tourism, with citizens taking nearly 150 million trips abroad in 2018. The system has also worked out well for destination countries. According to one study, ADS status boosts Chinese arrivals to a country by more than 50 percent over the initial three-year period. For a tourism-dependent economy such as New Zealand, where 6 percent of GDP is derived directly from travel and tourism and Chinese are the second-largest group of inbound tourists (after Australians), that boost can be economically essential.That fact hasn't been lost on the Chinese government. For example, in 2001, it granted Turkey ADS status in exchange for allowing a decommissioned Chinese-owned aircraft carrier passage through its waterways. Conversely, in 2017, Beijing suspended authorized group tours to South Korea after Seoul agreed to deploy a U.S. missile shield. The South Korean government estimates that the suspension cost its tourism industry almost $7 billion in 2017 alone. Last year, the tiny South Pacific island nation of Palau saw its all-important tourist economy collapse in the wake of a ban on Chinese group tours because it wouldn't agree to shift its diplomatic recognition of Taiwan to the mainland. Previously, Chinese accounted for roughly 45 percent of Palau's tourists.Yet, as Chinese tourists become wealthier, more sophisticated and more confident, the prospects for this economic weapon are decidedly dim. The longtime preference for government-approved group tours is naturally eroding in favor of independent travel that's not -- for now -- subject to government restrictions. In 2013, 37 percent of all Chinese outbound travel was independent; during the first half of 2018, it was 50 percent (as booked through Ctrip.com International Ltd., China's largest tour agency). And in some regions, it was even greater. In Australia, independent travelers comprise 58 percent of Chinese tourists, up from 42 percent in 2014; in the U.S., they accounted for 78 percent of Chinese tourists during the second quarter of 2018.Of course, some Chinese travelers may decide on their own not to spend their yuan on certain countries, even without government coercion. But, this younger, richer and more educated demographic has proven itself to be more independent in its consumer choices than prior generations. Millions of independent Chinese tourists continued to visit South Korea after the politically-charged ADS bans and they returned more quickly than groups after the strictures were lifted. Nor would an official appeal to patriotism necessarily work: Chinese consumers have increasingly resisted calls to boycott products associated with political adversaries, as evidenced by the well-publicized and failed effort to boycott high-end jacket maker Canada Goose Holdings Inc. for Canada's role in arresting a top Huawei executive.New Zealand recognized this shift long ago. Even before the recent Chinese threats, its government-funded tourism agency had begun to refocus its China marketing efforts on well-heeled independent travelers. The best way to resist China’s government may be to go around it.
Categories: Business News

Apurvi Chandela wins gold at shooting World Cup

February 23, 2019 - 4:29pm
New Delhi: Apurvi Chandela won the first gold for India at the ISSF World Cup by finishing on top of the women's 10 metre Air Rifle category here on Saturday.Apurvi also set a new world record with 252.9 points on the way to the title.The Chinese took home both the silver and bronze medals.Zhao Ruozhu finished second with 251.8 points while her compatriot Xu Hong had to settle for the third spot with 230.4.
Categories: Business News

Adani Green Energy arm bags tender to set up solar power project in Gujarat

February 23, 2019 - 4:29pm
NEW DELHI: Adani Green Energy Saturday said its subsidiary has been awarded a tender to set up a 150 MWac solar power project in Gujarat and the project is expected to be commissioned by October-December quarter of 2020-21 financial year.According to a regulatory filing, "Adani Renewable Energy Park (Gujarat), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Adani Green Energy (AGEL), has been awarded for setting up 150 MWac solar power project in the tender issued by Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam to be developed in Gujarat"."The fixed PPA tariff is Rs 2.671 kWh for a period of 25 years. Project is expected to be commissioned by Q3 FY 2021. With this, AGEL's portfolio of renewable generation capacity in India stands at 4.31 GWac with 1.97 GWac operational projects and balance 2.34 GWac in development stage," Adani Green Energy said.
Categories: Business News

Regulate cross border data flows localisation, setup data authority: Draft e-commerce policy

February 23, 2019 - 4:29pm
India has proposed regulating cross border data flows, locating computing facilities within India to ensure job creation and setting up a dedicated ‘data authority’ for issues related to sharing of community data.In its draft National e-Commerce Policy, India has said that the data generated in the country is a national asset, and citizens and the government have a sovereign right over it.The policy bars “sensitive” data collected and processed here but stored abroad from being shared with foreign governments and other business entities outside India. It has suggested a three year period for companies to setup data storage here and advocates a review of the current practice of not imposing custom duties on electronic transmissions.“The draft policy will be made public anytime soon,” said a senior official.The 40-page policy, which ET has seen, has suggested a ‘data authority’ to oversee restrictions on data collected by IoT devices in public space; and data generated by users in India by e-commerce platforms, social media, and search engines.“It is hence vital that we retain control of data to ensure job creation within India,” the government said in the draft policy document.The National e-Commerce Policy addresses six broad issues of the e-commerce ecosystem- data; infrastructure development; e-commerce marketplaces; regulatory issues; stimulating domestic digital economy; and export promotion through e-commerce.It has favoured retaining policy space to seek disclosure of source code for facilitating transfer of technology and development of applications for local needs as well as for security.“Policy space to grant preferential treatment of digital products created within India must also be retained,” it said.Further, has proposed banning all parcels, except life saving drugs, coming in through the ‘gifting’ route, as an interim measure to avoid its misuse.Cross border data flows As per the policy, by not imposing restrictions on cross-border data flow, India would itself be shutting the doors for creation of high-value digital products in the country.However, the draft policy exempts certain categories of data from restrictions on cross-border data flow. This includes data not collected in India, B2B data shared between business entities under a commercial contract, and data flows through software and cloud computing services. Also, data (excluding that generated by users in India from sources like e-commerce platforms, social media activities, search engines) shared internally by multinational companies are exempted from restrictions on cross-border data flows.
Categories: Business News

Commodity arms of Motilal, IIFL declared unfit

February 23, 2019 - 1:28pm
NEW DELHI: Sebi has declared Motilal Oswal Commodities Broker and India Infoline Commodities as not ‘fit and proper’ for undertaking commodity derivative trades.The two were among 300 brokerages named by Sebi in a first information report (FIR) pointing to the violation of rules in the National Spot Exchange Limited (NSEL) scam.These brokers were allegedly involved in illegal forward contracts at NSEL in contravention of the Forward Contract Regulations Act 1952 (FCRA). SEBI termed the contracts as illegal as NSEL had authority to allow trading only in spot contracts, which must be settled in 11 days.Reputation is an important factor for consideration of ‘Fit and Proper Criterion’ and the reputation of the noticee has been seriously eroded, said Madhabi Puri Buch, Whole Time Director at Sebi.“Thus, I find that the notice is not a fit and proper person to be granted registration/ to operate as a commodity derivatives broker,” Buch said on Motilal Oswal Commodities Broker case."The Noticee, by virtue of being a broker, and by its own admission, has facilitated transactions in the said paired contracts for its clients on the NSEL platform. This in itself establishes a close association between the Noticee on the one hand and paired contracts and NSEL on the other. Over and above this, the Noticee, by its own admission allowed himself to become a channel and instrument for NSEL to promote paired contracts amongst its clients," Buch said. The close association of Motilal Oswal Commodities Broker to NSEL, he said, and the paired contracts, and the relatability of the same to the broker, the serious adverse observations of the various courts and authorities have, in turn, seriously eroded the reputation and belief in competence, fairness, honesty, integrity and character of the Motilal Oswal Commodities Broker. The noticee shall cease to act, directly or indirectly, as a commodity derivatives brokers, he said in the order.A similar order was issued in case of India Infoline Commodities."In case of any existing clients of the Noticee as commodity derivatives broker, the Noticee shall allow such clients to withdraw or transfer their securities or funds held in its custody or withdraw any assignment given to it, without any additional cost to such clients within 45 days from the date of this order," Sebi order on India Infoline Commodities read."In case of failure of any clients to withdraw or transfer their securities or funds within 45 days from the date of this order, the Noticee shall transfer its balance clients with their corresponding securities and funds to another person, holding a valid certificate of registration to carry on such activity, within a further period of 30 days. Such person should not be directly or indirectly related to the Noticee," it read.ET had earlier in the day reported that a Mumbai police arm dealing with financial crimes has called about 100 brokers to ascertain their alleged roles in illegal contracts traded on the National Spot Exchange (NSEL), taking forward the probe into a complaint of mass irregularities at the mothballed commodities bourse. The Economic Offences Wing (EOW) has already questioned about 15 of these brokers in the past two days, official sources told ET.
Categories: Business News

The ABC of PM Modi's speech at ET GBS

February 23, 2019 - 1:28pm
In a power-packed speech at the ET GBS, PM Modi outlined a $10 trillion vision for the country and spoke about how his government worked to remove the ABC mentalities --- avoiding, burying and confusing. Some of the key points from his speech:After 2014 hesitations has been replaced by hope, issues have been replaced by initiatives.The global community was skeptical there were talks about surrendering and that's when we came in power and the change is clearly visible.The Surge in innovation and improvement in culture clearly visible.India has made significant improvements in almost all rankings since 2014.It was said corruption free government is impossible but people of India made it possible. Impossible is possible now.India would register average growth of 7.4% and an average inflation of 4.5% from 2014 to 2019.The engine of growth is running, one on social infrastructure for all particularly for those left out and other on physical infrastructure for those who will shape the future.Number of trademarks registered in 2013-14 were 68,000 and 2.5 lakh in 2017-18 this is almost a four-fold increase.IBC, GST, Realty Act laid a solid foundation for high growth.We have removed ABC (avoiding burying & confusing) from the governance, instead of avoiding issues we address them instead of burying, we dug it out and instead of confusing we came up with solutions
Categories: Business News

Trump worried about India, Pakistan situation

February 23, 2019 - 1:28pm
WASHINGTON: Asserting that there is a lot of problems between India and Pakistan, US President Donald Trump has said New Delhi is looking at something "very strong" in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack.Forty CRPF personnel were killed and five injured on February 14 in one of the deadliest terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir when a suicide bomber of Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) rammed a vehicle carrying a huge quantity of explosives into their bus in Pulwama district.India launched a major diplomatic offensive against Islamabad after the attack and highlighted Pakistan's role in using terrorism as an instrument of state policy.The international community led by the US pressed Pakistan to deny safe haven to terror groups operating form its soil and bring the perpetrators of the Pulwama attack to justice.Trump, after his meeting with a visiting Chinese trade delegation led by Vice Premier Liu He, told reporters in the Oval Office of the White House on Friday that "in Kashmir, it's very dangerous".The President referred to the possibility of a strong response from India in the wake of the terrorist attack."India is looking at something very strong. And I mean, India just lost almost 50 people with an attack. So, I could understand that also," he said when asked about India's right to self-defence.Responding to questions on the tense situation between the two South Asian neighbours, Trump said the US is talking so does some other nations, without mentioning them."We are talking and a lot of people are talking. But, it is a very, very delicate balance going on right now. There's a lot of problems between India and Pakistan because of what just happened," said the US President."We're very much involved in that, if that's what you're referring to," he said.Trump described the current situation between India and Pakistan as very dangerous."It's a terrible thing going on right now between Pakistan and India... it is a very, very bad situation and it's a very dangerous situation between the two countries. We would like to see it stopped. A lot of people were just killed and we want to see it stopped," he said.Trump claimed that his administration has developed a much better relationship with Pakistan, even after he stopped USD 1.3 billion in financial aid to Islamabad."I stopped Pakistan, the USD 1.3 billion that we were paying them. In the meantime, we may set up some meetings with Pakistan."Pakistan was taking very strong advantage of the United States under other presidents and we were paying Pakistan 1.3 billion a year. I ended that payment to Pakistan because they weren't helping us in a way that they should have. And honestly, we've developed a much better relationship with Pakistan over the last short period of time than we had," Trump said.In the wake of the Pulwama attack, US National Security Adviser John Bolton told his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval last week that America supports India's right to self-defence as both sides vowed to work together to ensure that Pakistan ceases to be a safe haven for JeM and other terror groups.India has asked Pakistan to take immediate and verifiable action against terrorists and terror groups operating from territories under its control.New Delhi also announced the withdrawal of the Most Favoured Nation status for Pakistan and hiked the customs duty by 200 per cent on goods originating from Pakistan.
Categories: Business News

1 in works, railways to study 10 more bullet train corridors

February 23, 2019 - 1:28pm
NEW DELHI: The railways has lined up a mega expansion plan, including more than doubling the freight capacity and adding new high-speed trains for which 10 corridors with a cumulative length of about 6,000 km have been identified.The transporter has already moved a proposal to seek Cabinet approval, which includes permission to carry out a feasibility study and a detailed project report for the 10 possible bullet train corridors. Segments on the radar include Delhi-Mumbai, Delhi-Kolkata, Delhi-Amritsar, Patna-Kolkata and Chennai-Bengaluru. Sources said these will require investment of about Rs 10 lakh crore over 10 years. “This plan is very preliminary,” a source told TOI.Currently, there is one high-speed train corridor — Ahmedabad-Mumbai — under implementation. 68119973 The immediate focus is on adding 17,000km to the existing 1.2 lakh km rail network, which will entail an investment of over Rs 5 lakh crore and will be funded through extra-budgetary borrowings, sources familiar with the plan told TOI. The plan involves trebling the rail tracks along the Golden Quadrilateral and other lines with the objective being to win back traffic from roads.Separately, three new freight corridors have been discussed on the lines of the Delhi-Mumbai and Amritsar-Kolkata DFCs.It has been proposed that a large chunk of funding for these projects could come from multilateral funding agencies such as the World Bank, JICA and the Asian Development Bank.‘Rail-on-rail’ flyovers to decongest junctionsRailway ministry officials said there is a three-pronged strategy to augment the capacity of railways and increase its network. The National Rail Capacity Augmentation Plan, or Rail Vistaar Pariyojna, will focus on increasing the carrying capacity for both passengers and freight, particularly to increase the share of freight transported thro- ugh railways, to 45-50% as compared to the current trend of 30%.The tripling of Jalgaon-Wardha, Guddur-Chennai and Mumbai-Chennai would be undertaken. Another 14 sections on other highly utilised network routes would be covered under this project. The total tripling is estimated to be 4,286km.In its bid to decongest major junctions, the railways has also prepared a blueprint of building “rail-on-rail” flyovers and bypasses at 222 locations. Railway minister Piyush Goyal had recently said a roadmap is being prepared for this.After eliminating all unmanned crossings, the next big step would be eliminating the 7,000 manned crossings with rail overbridges and rail underbridges.All these works would require about Rs 5.7 lakh crore and the government estimates these works will generate 9.6 lakh jobs and will also push the demand for cement and steel to the tune of 21 lakh tonnes in each case.
Categories: Business News

Railways to run special train to Statue of Unity from March 4

February 23, 2019 - 1:28pm
Railways will run a special train for tourists visiting the Statue of Unity in Gujarat, five months after it was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a statement from the ministry said. The train, which will be run under the government's Bharat Darshan scheme, will have a seven-night and eight-day tour package beginning March 4 from Chandigarh, it said. The journey will also cover pilgrimage sites like Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga near Indore, MP, Shirdi Sai Baba Darshan, Trimbakeshwar in Nashik, Maharashtra, and Ghrishneshwar Jyotirlinga in Aurangabad, Maharashtra. Priced at Rs 7,560 per person, the tour package has multiple boarding and de-boarding stations viz Chandigarh, Ambala, Kurukshetra, Karnal, Panipat, Delhi Cantt, Rewari, Alwar and Jaipur, the statement said. "The package has been designed to pay tribute to the Iron Man of India, Shri Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Train will halt at Vadodara station and passengers will be taken to the Statue of Unity by buses," it said. The Statue of Unity is situated on the river island called Sadhu Bet in front of the Narmada Dam in Gujarat. It is the world's tallest statue at a height of 182 metres. The package includes the train journey in non-AC sleeper class, hall or dormitory accommodation at places of night stay, morning freshen up, road transportation, pure vegetarian meals, sightseeing as per the itinerary by non-AC vehicles, services of tour manager, according to the statement. The 182-metre tall Statue of Unity at Kevadia Colony in Narmada district has become a major attraction for the tourists after it was opened to public last year. It had made a collection of Rs 1.26 crore within three days since November 8. By December, the daily footfall had reached 30,000, according to the state government.
Categories: Business News

Capgemini boss on the edge China has

February 23, 2019 - 10:27am
NEW DELHI: India can compete with China in terms of building a data economy by harnessing its large population to innovate and build the next Google and Amazon locally, Capgemini chairman Paul Hermelin said on Friday.“China is right in thinking it is successful because data is the key ingredient. Data in China will be like oil in Saudi Arabia,” Hermelin said at the Global Business Summit. “India can compete with China in terms of data as it (India) is a large country with a large population.”Hermelin gave credit to first generation IT entrepreneurs such as Infosys founder NR Narayana Murthy and Wipro’s Azim Premji, for building a competitive and productive industry by selling services to global companies in the West. Capgemini is partly built on that model, he said, with the French business consulting firm having a large offshore base of more than 1.06 lakh people in India.India’s IT industry used talent and base to deliver services to global businesses and grew into a $180 billion industry over the last three decades. This successful model, of having a huge offshore base, has been replicated by companies such as IBM, Accenture and Capgemini.Hermelin said business shifts in the digital age demand different types of companies. “The beauty of innovation is that we don’t know who will be the leaders in 10 years, 20 years,” he said. “I know that India has built a successful services industry. The question is, can we see an Indian Google or Amazon? For that you need talent, intelligence and that you have more than anybody.”
Categories: Business News

Even you can own a stake in Dhoni's IPL team

February 23, 2019 - 10:27am
MUMBAI: Everyone wants a piece of Chennai Super Kings (CSK), it seems. Unlisted equity shares of the Chennai-based Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket team are getting traded at prices ranging from ₹25 to ₹32 apiece, according to brokers dealing in unlisted stock.“CSK is among the most popular unlisted scrips these days,” said Sandip Ginodia, owner of Abhishek Securities, which specialises in delisted and unlisted shares. “At least 500,000 CSK shares would be getting traded across the country every day.”The buzz around unlisted equities is not restricted to CSK, according to brokers. Shares of new-age businesses and startups such as Paytm (One97 Communications), Ola Cabs (ANI Technologies), Oyo Rooms, gaming company Nazara Technologies, Fino Paytech, unlisted HDFC-affiliate HDB Financial Services, small finance banks Capital SFB and Suryoday Bank, Swiggy, Hero FinCorp and Carwale.com, among others, are being traded in sizable lots everyday through brokers dealing in unlisted equities. 68121606 “We’re seeing buying interest from HNIs and even small investors,” said Rajan Shah, managing director of 3A Capital Services, a broking firm dealing in unlisted shares for close to two decades. “Investors are looking for new businesses these days… They’re not quite pleased with the way the listed markets have been faring over the past few months.”Unlisted shares enter trading circles when employees dilute their stock options or through private placements by promoters or general shareholders. No formal market exists for unlisted equities.Used for working capital needsPromoters, especially of startups, use this route to raise small amounts of working capital without higher levels of stock dilution, and also get a valuation reference point for further fundraising, said brokers.“I personally can’t digest investing in startups even now,” says Ginodia, adding, “But then, investors come to us for new-age unlisted companies. We try to dissuade them, but they don’t listen to us. In such cases, we simply play the role of market-makers for such stocks.”Apart from retail investors, financial institutions running portfolio management services (PMS) and alternative investment funds (AIF) pick up unlisted shares. Many of these funds invest to “capture pre-IPO valuations” to take advantage of a rise in valuations following an initial public offering.“Last two years, we’ve seen a lot of AIFs launching focussed pre-IPO funds, which invest in unlisted new-age companies. These funds are in a sticky spot now,” said Prateek Pant, products and solutions head at Sanctum Wealth Management, sounding a warning. “Investing in unlisted stocks is a risky game… These are illiquid counters, with almost no exit opportunity. Investors could get trapped holding these papers if these companies do not go public.”According to brokers, investments in unlisted newage companies got a boost after the Flipkart-Walmart deal. “People think they can make a lot of money investing in mid-sized startups…They’re willing to risk their money for higher returns,” said Shah of 3A Capital.Shares of most new-age companies are in dematerialised (demat) format, making ownership transfer seamless. Promoters of such companies declined to comment on the record.“If our shares are seeing interest in the unlisted market, it’s because investors see value in our business,” said the promoter of an IPO-bound company on condition of anonymity.
Categories: Business News

IL&FS employee welfare trust under ED lens

February 23, 2019 - 10:27am
MUMBAI: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is investigating the IL&FS Employee Welfare Trust (EWT) over possible irregularities, extending its probe into alleged money laundering related to subsidiaries of Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services (IL&FS).“As much as 13.64% shareholding of IL&FS is held by the employee trust, of which the principal beneficiaries are the senior management of IL&FS, including its former CMD Ravi Parthasarathy, former director Hari Sankaran and others,” stated the February 19 enforcement case information report (ECIR), which ET has seen. “The accused Ravi Parthasarathy, Hari Sankaran and others, in order to increase the fund base and investor base and to lure them into making investments at each stage and sub-stage, have created a myriad, complex and non-transparent structure and a web of companies which have been initially promoted by IL&FS and subsequently by those companies itself.”ACCUSED FLOATED SHELL COMPANIES TO AWARD CONTRACTS: EDA case under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) has been registered against ILFS Rail Ltd, ILF Transportation Networks Ltd, Parthasarathy and Sankaran.According to the ED, the persons involved floated shell companies to award contracts and allegedly siphoned off Rs 74 crore that was used to purchase assets. The shell companies were allegedly given a commission of 0.5% of the amount routed through them. While this case deals with subsidiaries, people with knowledge of the matter said the probe into it will widen to include IL&FS and its entire debt burden of Rs 91,000 crore.The default by IL&FS in September roiled the markets and swamped the nonbanking finance companies (NBFC) sector, prompting the government to step in and force a change in management.The IL&FS EWT is an unregistered entity constituted under an August 1990 indenture of trust with IL&FS as settler and Parthasarathy, former joint director and CEO Arun K Saha and DK Contractor as initial trustees.“EWT was floated with a purpose to provide subsidised loans, housing facilities, medical, health and education relief to enlist a few, to needy employees. However, the probe has revealed that, especially post-2006 after amendment to the trust indenture was carried out, EWT has been dominated by the accused and other prominent board members,” said one of the persons cited above. “It was used to further decisions taken by them and also to profit themselves at the cost of the IL&FS group companies. Prima facie, from the transactions carried out by the trust, it looks like it was created for the purpose of creating individual wealth and our probe will focus on unearthing this.”SFIO FINDINGSED is not the only agency probing IL&FS EWT. The Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) detailed alleged irregularities in the trust in its interim report submitted to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) in November last year.According to the SFIO report reviewed by ET, less Rs 2.91 crore (1%) was paid toward welfare of needy employees, while Rs 280 crore was the profit realised by select employees on shares distributed by the trust. The trust has outstanding debt of Rs 500 crore.SFIO, which is now in the process of preparing its final report, is also examining the role of a leading private bank in advancing a loan of Rs 94.76 crore. According to the agency, the security against the said loan were shares that the bank had sold to EWT. “The bank had given a secured loan with an asset coverage of less than 100%, that too against unlisted equity shares. When the loan was repaid in 2015, a fresh loan of Rs 95 crore was granted within a month against the same shares pledged as security without any fresh valuation,” according to the SFIO findings.Meanwhile, the ED plans to write to the SFIO for a copy of the interim report. “Since they have already investigated and detailed out the irregularities in EWT, we will write to them to share their findings. This will help us to link the present case probed by us to other subsidiaries and also how EWT was misused,” said an ED official with knowledge of the matter.“The trust, which was created for the purpose of the welfare of all the employees of the IL&FS group companies, through an amendment (carried out in April 2006), had been made a vehicle to invest into the securities of the IL&FS and group companies with the loans obtained from them and there after distributing these shares at very nominal price in a differentiated manner to some select management personnel of the group or selling the investments to a third party and distributing the sale proceeds among the same selected management personnel,” the interim SFIO report states.According to the SFIO findings, EWT distributed around 3.1 million shares of IL&FS to select employees and managerial personnel under an employee stock option (ESOP) scheme.“As per the resolution passed in the AGM of the IL&FS, shares were allotted by the company to the EWT in three trenches for the welfare of the employees,” said the report. “The said resolution had no reference to onward sale to employees under ESOP scheme. This is another instance of breaching of corporate governance norms.”The trust was used as a cover to perpetuate wrongdoing, the report said.
Categories: Business News

India among five fastest-growing nations for Airbnb: Nathan Blecharczyk, Cofounder

February 23, 2019 - 10:27am
Nathan Blecharczyk, cofounder and chief strategy officer of Airbnb, said India operations are “set up for success” with 78% local growth overall and a fourfold growth in its business travel segment in the past year. The company has about 45,000 listings in India, with Goa being its most popular market at 6,000. Blecharczyk, who’s a guest speaker at the Global Business Summit in New Delhi, told ET in an interview that he doesn’t see any competition from homegrown companies like SoftBank-backed Oyo in the digital hospitality space and feels there is room for everyone to grow. Edited excerpts:Airbnb clocked more than $1 billion revenue in the third quarter of 2018. What has driven these numbers?If you look at our business model and what we offer, we do something that is incredibly differentiated and relevant compared with anything else on the market or with those who have come before us.GROWTH REQUIRES REINVENTIONWe’re just really focused on providing unique, local, authentic experiences, and whether that’s done through homes or our new product, Experiences, we’re really reshaping how people think about travel. And within that new category of experiential travel, we dominate. If you look at our scale, after 10 and a half years, we have 5 million homes in 191 countries. Several hundreds of millions of guests have stayed on Airbnb. On any given night, there’s a couple of million guests staying in other people’s homes. It’s really a global phenomenon in every country of the world. I think we’re starting to see that play out here in India as well. It was about two and a half years ago that we started operations.How is the India business doing?It is doing well. It has doubled in terms of guests over the last two and a half years. It’s really set up for success. We really do view this as a long-term commitment (because) it takes time to localise your value proposition and explain your value proposition. When we launched this company, everyone said, how can you trust a stranger, why would I want to do this, and now it has become mainstream, especially in the US and Europe, but now in emerging markets as well. You look at the top 25 fastest-growing countries for Airbnb, 20 of them are in emerging markets.Where would you place India?It is one of the fastest in that list.Among the top five?Top five would be accurate. We have seen this trend play out elsewhere in other very competitive markets too. If you look at China, for example, the country is notorious for being very competitive. And yet, Airbnb is doing very well there. We’ve focused first on establishing a strong foundation and have done a lot of outreach work in partnership with the government to showcase how the business model can be applied locally to achieve local objectives. In India, to showcase the potential of the platform, our early partnerships centred around empowerment, entrepreneurship and women, with a focus on quality.Today, we’re announcing that we’ve launched Airbnb Plus here, which are homes that will be inspected in person for comfort, quality that addresses people’s core question — what can I expect? We can offer an even higher level of certainty around some of our homes going forward. What we expect from all this, though, is to build that kind of general understanding of the market of what is Airbnb. And over these last two and a half years, we have had 1.8 million Indians use Airbnb.I’d say that’s a critical mass relative to the potential. It’s still a small number, but with 1.8 million who have actually used it and experienced it, and are talking about it, we can expect very robust growth off those numbers.The way we know it’s working is, we’ve seen the growth in the domestic market. In the beginning, it was all about Indians going abroad. But now, our fastest-growing segment is the domestic segment, and that’s grown 78% over the last year alone in India. We have about 45,000 listings in India. Goa is hugely popular — that’s probably our most popular market at about 6,000 listings. I think the flywheel has begun spinning… we can expect many more years of similar growth rates.What do you make of the Indian competition?We don’t focus on the competition very much. They’re very different business models. I think travel is a big space and there’s room for multiple players but I think if you look at what we do, it is very different from what Oyo does or anyone else for that matter. I think we each have our own approach to the market, and we each have a loyal following, and a sizable following.Do you plan to go public this year?This is obviously something I’m not going to comment on, except what we’ve already said, which is that we’re technically able to do it whenever we choose. There is a window of time where this is more likely.How do you view the cities-versus-Airbnb conflict?It’s part of the natural progress, where you do something new that doesn’t fit within the norms that previously existed. And then, as that thing scales, this question has to be addressed. I think our general approach has been to partner with local governments as proactively as possible. And I think we’ve done that effectively. For the most part, there’s about 200 different municipalities or countries that have passed home-sharing laws that acknowledge that home sharing is here to stay and it’s a powerful force and it’s something that, with some guidelines in place, should be encouraged. We have partnered with over 400 jurisdictions around the world to collect over $1billion in hotel and tourism tax. So, I think we’re actually building a lot of constructive relationships that will unleash another wave of growth. Of course, from time to time, you’ll see a disagreement and that will flare up and that will make a headline, but… If you put in the perspective of 200-300 positive regulations, I think it’s going quite well.You’re the chief strategy officer. What growth drivers are you putting in place?I think we’ve been very methodical and we’ve stuck to our roots of what makes us different as we have grown. We’ve been careful to not compromise on our vision of what travel should be. And we think travel has the potential to transform how you think about the world and other people and places. We really think it’s about connection between people and giving them local authentic experiences. To grow and explore new opportunities, we need to bring those ingredients into this space…you often have to reinvent, innovate and do something different. With the Experiences product, that’s what we did. That requires a great deal of patience, because you have to experiment a little bit. And then, once you come up with this very different type of product, you have to explain it to the world. On day one, people say what is this, why should I book this? But if you look at Experiences, it’s something we launched a couple of years ago — and we now have over 20,000 Experiences.We have offered Experiences in New Delhi and Goa and the product is doing quite well. It grew over sixfold last year, and will continue to grow at a very fast rate. Now we’re thinking about — homes, Experiences, what next? We talked about flights. Recently, we made an announcement there and made a very key hire (aviation veteran Fred Reid). He is someone with a very interesting background, who has pioneered a lot of things in travel. He is a gentleman who’s proven that you can constantly reinvent and pioneer — he has been doing it his whole life. He has actually been an Airbnb host. We had him as a guest speaker at one of our host events four years ago. We’ve gotten to know him for a long period of time now. We’re looking at every aspect of travel, and thinking about how do we apply our philosophy of travel to the space, which inevitably means reinventing that segment. It’s something that we have been doing very methodically but I’d say also taking our time. In other words, we haven’t let growth be our primary motivation. We take our time to do something that’s different and do it right. And then we take on another thing.Starting off, Airbnb was perceived as a company which offered budget accommodation. You’ve talked about luxury listings on the platform being endorsed by celebrities and other influencers. How are you looking at positioning the company going forward?We really think Airbnb can be for everyone. And we have started to focus on specific segments and customise the product for those segments right, so we have our Plus offering. We have a high-end luxury offering as well. We also have business travel now, which is doing very well in India — it grew about fourfold year on year. About 6,500 companies have signed up to do business travel directly with Airbnb, which is very promising. It’s also very important for continued growth and the domestic market because so much of that market is business travel. But yeah… the inherent strength of Airbnb is that there’s so much diversity of accommodation that you can naturally just find something regardless of what your requirements are. That being said, we’ve tried to formalise it so that there’re clear buckets that can be mapped to traditional segments.
Categories: Business News

Pages

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