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Saturday, March 16, 2019

economic news of india - world economic news - economics news for students - indian economy news

economic news of india - world economic news - economics news for students - indian economy news


India’s largest luggage maker is at the cusp of change

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Change is in the air at India's largest luggage company VIP Industries, and the mood is palpable at the headquarters in central Mumbai. Located on the top floor of a building in Prabhadevi, the office sports an open architecture and is in itself a contrast to the rest of the building's old world look. The youthful decor has Bollywood stars posters endorsing VIP brands on the walls and colourful pieces of luggage placed along the corridors.In two weeks' time, on April 1, VIP Industries promoter Dilip Piramal, 69, will give up his executive role to become a non executive chairman, and Sudip Ghose, currently the CEO, will become the managing director. Around the same time, the VIP brand will be relaunched.Central to this transition at VIP remains Piramal's daughter Radhika, who gave up the managing director's role two years ago since she wanted to shift to London. The 41-year-old herself is a breath of fresh air in India's corporate world, possibly the first Indian CEO who was open about her homosexuality.In 2011, Radhika married her long-time partner Amanda in London. In 2017, Amanda, an American, wanted to shift back to London, and Radhika decided to partially shift there to support her partner. That was another rarity — a young CEO of an Indian family-run business moving away from a leadership role for the sake of love. 68444402 Radhika, an MBA from Harvard who worked in management consultancies in the US, continues as vice-chairperson and executive director of VIP Industries, valued at nearly a billion dollars.While Ghose prepares to lead the charge, Radhika guides much of the company's strategy, flying to Mumbai from London several times every quarter or sometimes every month. She sees herself pushing the change further — by making VIP bigger, more global and inclusive. She can also take much of the credit for creating VIP Industries as it looks today. Radhika started leading the company from 2010 after moving back to India the year before.Three years later, Ghose joined as marketing head of the company, moving in from rival luggage maker Samsonite. Soon, under Radhika, VIP Industries transformed itself into a company with a storied brand structure --Carlton, VIP, Skybags, Aristocrat and Alfa in luggage and Caprese in handbags. VIP and Samsonite today dominate the organised luggage market in India, with Safari being a distant third."Since I moved to London in 2017, I focus less on managing the quarterly and annual performance. That is now managed by Sudip Ghose, who will become the MD on April 1. I focus more on long-term strategic and organisational goals. Strategic goals include increasing our international business, which is currently less than 10% of VIP's turnover," Radhika told ET Magazine in an interview.Today, nearly 70% of inputs for VIP products are imported from China, and Radhika says she would like reduce this since the costs have gone up. 68444407 Margins have been under pressure too in the last two quarters with profits before depreciation, interest and tax dropping to a single digit in the September-December quarter of 2018-19.The company has two factories in India — in Nashik and Haridwar — and a soft luggage factory in Bangladesh.VIP is now looking to expand its production capacity in India but its real growth will have to come from new markets. There is a five-year-plan in the works, which includes entering new markets and new categories and increasing annual revenue to Rs 4,000 crore from Rs 1,700-1,800 crore the company is likely to touch in the current fiscal. The company's growth plan includes increasing its access to the overseas markets.VIP acquired Carlton, a British luggage brand, in 2004. Carlton used to be among the UK's top three luggage brands in the 90s and it is now a premium offering in the VIP Industries portfolio in India. But more than Europe, Radhika sees Carlton as an entry vehicle for VIP Industries into the US market. "The US is a more exciting market," she says.Currently, most of VIP Industries' foreign revenues come Africa, Middle East and Southeast Asia.The other change Radhika would like to see at VIP is the organisation becoming more inclusive. "VIP has a long journey ahead in this area as we are just starting to make the necessary changes. We have formally changed our HR policies to include sexuality in our non-discrimination clauses. But there is a long way to go from drafting a policy to seeing a change on the ground," she says.Radhika also wants to ensure that rules to prevent sexual harassment at the workplace are not reduced to a "tick-the-boxes" exercise and that there is genuine discussion between management and employees on improving diversity-- be it members of LGBTQ community or the differently-abled.Radhika says in the UK, "LGBT people have same rights as straight people when it comes to family rights, marriage, adoption." Asked if she takes on speaking opportunities in London on LGBTQ issues, she says: "There is more need for speeches in Mumbai than London."

How long will China save Masood Azhar?

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It was close to midnight, but the very fact that the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) responded within minutes to China blocking Masood Azhar's ban at the UN Security Council's 1267 Committee showed that the news was greeted with very little surprise in India.This was China's fourth "block" on a proposal to ban Jaish-e-Mohammed's chief. China opposed the move in 2009, and has consistently done so. Incidentally, China's "technical" hold barely has ground to stand on since there is no such term in the UNSC. But the script, as it stands now, is this — in six months, the Azhar file will be resurrected and China has an opportunity to keep the "hold" for another three months, or lift it. In another nine months, China can let it through or block it, as they have done before.China defended its actions with bland words that cut no ice anywhere. "China conducts thorough and in-depth assessment of these applications and we still need more time, so that is why we put forward the technical hold," its foreign ministry said. "Only a solution that is acceptable to all sides could fundamentally provide a chance for a lasting solution to the issue. China is ready to communicate and coordinate with all sides including India to properly handle this issue." What does Masood Azhar, or his Pakistan ISI handlers, have on China? Why is China, the world's putative superpower, expending diplomatic capital to keep a known terror leader out of the banned list, and its international reputation of being soft on Pakistani Islamist terror intact?Theories abound. The China-Pakistan relationship is very deep, Pakistan being China's only real ally at present — even Kim Jong Un is showing distressing signs of independence. China does not want to let Pakistan down, not when there is intense international pressure on Islamabad-Rawalpindi to roll back its terror infrastructure.Every time the Azhar issue comes up, China has no option but to bat for Pakistan, even at the risk of being seen as soft on terror, or worse, that Masood Azhar is a Chinese asset as much as a Pakistani one.There are reports that say China has made a deal with terror groups like Jaish-e-Mohammed to keep their activities away from the restive Xinjiang province, which would light up like a powder keg with just a sniff of terror.The reasoning goes that China would rather JeM and Azhar direct their operations against these two countries rather than China. With China now joined at the hip, literally, with Pakistan through the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, JeM could wreak havoc on Chinese people, workers and projects on Xi Jinping's flagship project. China may be afraid of that.But let's be clear, China keeps India off kilter by Pakistan and its terror proxies. It is low-cost, high returns. What's not to like? Nevertheless, anyone familiar with Terrorism 101 would know that China's approach is unsustainable. You can only bribe your way out of terror for so long.In 2007, it was Chinese pressure that compelled Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf to act against Abdul Rashid Ghazi and his goons in the Lal Masjid operation. That botched enterprise was ironically the trigger for the creation of the TTP — "bad" Taliban that turned on the Pakistani state. JeM allied with those groups and spent a few years in the ISI doghouse. The Jaish has clawed back into their good books and is now the preferred "sword-arm" against India and Afghanistan. LeT, ISI's other favourite, became damaged goods after 26/11 — at this moment, the ISI wants to mainstream LeT into a political party. Hafiz Saeed even applied to the UN to lift his terror tag.Meanwhile, Azhar is merely a symbol — a UNSC ban on him will have little effect. Hafiz Saeed has been running tame in Pakistan for years wearing a UNSC ban like a badge of honour. The real game should be to roll up the Pakistan Army-ISI's terror infrastructure, because the groups are merely tools by which they conduct jihad as foreign policy.The UNSC has no power to enforce any such thing on Pakistan. The only multilateral organisation that does is the FATF (Financial Action Task Force). FATF's actions are not only enforceable, but the international financial system will treat a country like an outcast if it is on the infamous black list.Pakistan is currently on the grey list, which means there is much greater scrutiny on its financial system. Pakistan has been given a list of 27 actions to be completed by October 2019, if it wants to avoid the black list. It could have gotten out of the grey list in February, by taking five specific actions. It did not. By October, China will become the next president of the FATF — as a result of a deal with India and the US, where China agreed to put Pakistan on the grey list in return for Indian and US support for its candidature. Pakistan must believe that China will save it from the black list after October.Both India and US and the rest of the world have a chance to get China to do the right thing at the FATF. Therefore, the Indian government has agreed to cut China some slack on Azhar. Will it work?

How BJP rose and Cong fell in three decades

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Will the upcoming Lok Sabha elections give the Congress a lease of life or continue the party's declining graph? It took three decades, from 1984 to 2014, for the mighty Congress to shrink to a political pygmy and the tiny BJP to grow into a giant. The 2019 Lok Sabha elections will decide if the trend of shrinking fortunes of the Congress and rising fortunes of the BJP will hold or be disrupted.1984 Lok Sabha election was a key moment for the Congress as well as the BJP. The Congress under Rajiv Gandhi bagged its highest number of seats at 415. It never crossed the 400 mark even under Jawaharlal Nehru. It's highest till then was 364 under Nehru in 1952 elections. Under Indira Gandhi, the Congress had won 353 seats in 1980. A splinter group of the Janata Party that split in 1980, the BJP was formed to resurrect the Bharatiya Jana Sangh which had merged in Janata Party in 1977. In 1984 when the Congress won 415 seats, the BJP bagged just 2. 68440612 Three decades later in 2014, the fortunes reversed. The BJP rose from 2 to 282 while the Congress was reduced from 415 to mere 44.Neither the decline of the Congress nor the rise of the BJP has been steady in these three decades. The number of the Congress's seats dipped to less than half to 197 in the 1989 election, just five years after its biggest tally of 415. In 2009, five years before its seats were reduced to just 44, the Congress had won 206 seats. The BJP rose sharply from 2 in 1984 to 85 in the next elections in 1989. Its number of seats never slid below 100 after that. in 2014, it took a big leap from 116 seats in 2009 to 282 seats.The 2019 Lok Sabha elections will decide whether the trend holds for both the parties or the 2014 election were just an outlier event.

Why millenials are turning to co-living spaces

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68408893 66804554 67750317 Tavarakere is something of a mecca for millenials working across Bengaluru, who need a cheap place to live. The locality, in the south east of the city, is a warren of narrow, congested roads, with apartment buildings standing cheek by jowl with budget restaurants, grocery stores, salons and realtors' offices.At 8 pm on a warm Thursday, working executives and students stroll about grabbing a bite from a corner kebab store, headed to a dive bar for a beer or bought eggs for breakfast the next day. On the streets, residents buzz about amidst the waft of deep fried food and fresh fruit being sold off hand carts.The locality is a hub of millennial executives and students, being close to Christ University, a large education institute, and under half an hour from Electronic City, home to the campuses of Infosys and other marquee names in tech. The startup hubs of Koramangala, HSR Layout and Bellandur are also close by.At nightfall, they will all cram into rooms in one of 500 hostels and paying guest accommodation that cram the neighbourhood. Most of these places offer residents a room and sometimes food, charging upwards of Rs 3,000 per bed per month.Young professionals and students are at the mercy of owners and agents, who decide amongst themselves who gets in and who's banned. Rules are arbitrary and often over-bearing for young adults [curfews, no friends or family, vegetarian fare only], making the experience of house hunting for these millennials one long-drawn nightmare.Bengaluru landlords typically demand 10 months' rent as deposit, for example, and that's a heavy burden for someone starting out in their careers while living away from home. It is into this mess of arbitrary demands, unkept promises and all-around disarray that a glamorous cousin of hostels and PGs has checked in— the co-living space.A number of hospitality companies are now expanding in this market, offering clean and comfortable dwellings and hygienic food, clear policies and pricing, on-demand services through apps, and a collegiate atmosphere with group activities, performances and that ultimate marker of casual, cheerful spaces—foosball.If co-working has taken the world of work by storm, the belief seems, co-living could well be the next big trend for young professionals and students.Plug & Play Stay Zolo Stays, one of India's largest providers of co-living accommodation, is trying to stand out in the Tavarkere din. There are at least 20 to 25 accommodation options on the road where Zolo Destiny, one of the firm's units, is located. This five-floor building, a new unisex property, has 200 beds. Current occupancy is 50%. The average Zolo property has 160 beds and the smallest units have 50.Company executives say another 20% of capacity at Zolo Destiny will be filled in weeks. This is a premium offering, with foosball, table tennis, carroms and a gym, with an indoor cricket pitch being laid to coincide with the start of the latest edition of the Indian Premier League tournament. Inside, each flat comes with a refrigerator, kitchenette and basic utensils. There's a kitchen on premises and menus are constantly tweaked based on resident feedback."We have premiumised the previously unorganised market and are streets ahead of the competition," Nikhil Sikri, Zolo's CEO and co-founder, said. Two months from now, the company will also launch a community product to give residents more reasons to hang out together and a one-stop platform to socialise.At Zolo Destiny, Anshuman Jayant, 22, does a quick jig after scoring a goal at the foosball table. He moved into this property with six of his BITS Pilani classmates nine months ago and loves the plug and play environment. For Jayant, who works at a startup 20 minutes away, this building works well. They initially took the usual route, hunting for a shared apartments or a PG, but found this far more convenient, given their crazy work days."Everything here--from booking the room to paying for it and add-on services—are done on the app. So it frees us from the typical headaches of fixing utilities, finding help and housekeeping," he says. 68443817 Co Live Beds: 11,000 Cities: 3 Investor: Ncubate Capital Expansion: 25,000 beds by March end 68443836 "By 2022, we largely believe the word co-living will replace phrases such as hostels and PGs in common usage" Suresh Rangarajan, CEO & cofounderViral Chhajer, the co-founder of Stay Abode, another coliving player, is putting the final touches to a 1,400 bed in the tech hub of Whitefield. This will more than double the firm's 1,200-bed capacity. "We want to focus on building a community and give them a place like home," he says.Across Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and even in the education hub of Kota, such co-living ventures are taking root. For instance, Hyderabad, with some 400,000 new seats being built out in the outsourcing space, could easily evolve into India's co-living hub. For students who arrive in a new city, these facilities are emerging as top options.Eighteen months ago, Gunjan Bansal arrived in Delhi from her hometown of Chandigarh to start her Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) from Shri Ram College of Commerce. As a newcomer to the city, she did the usual rounds of hostels and PGs, but found little to her liking. "This is a much more social experience for someone who is new to a big city," the 19-year old says. "As a social person, the group activities, including movie nights, music and bonfires are all welcome distractions from classes and course work." 68443857 Stay Abode Beds: 1,200 Cities: Bengaluru Investors: Anupam Mittal and others Expansion: Another 1,400 bed unit in Bengaluru & foraying into Hyderabad 68443874 We want to focus on building a community and give people a place like home Viral Chhajer, CofounderBansal has had a good first year at a five-floor facility run by Stanza, rather modestly named Los Angeles. Her roommate is a fellow-Chandigarh resident, now a friend, and she has also made other friends at the place. The location, close to Delhi University, means her commute is just five minutes.In cities hustling with entry-level coders and educations hubs such as Delhi and Pune, there's something of a co-living boom afoot.Beyond adding a layer of technology to ease service delivery, these players also focus on the experience, nudging residents to socialise rather than retreat quickly to their rooms after they return from work or college.If these residents earlier spent extra hours at work--thanks to free aircon and broadband--over dodgy PG digs, that trend is reversing. "This accommodation is much more comfortable and service more reliable than oldworld options," says Kanieka Dhupar, an executive with a public relations firm, who lives at a Coho property in Gurgaon. "It is minutes away from a large market and the metro, making it much safer for women."Safety for women residents is a big reason for them to opt for residences such as CoHo, which offer security allaround-the-clock, biometric access control and accessible locations. "I looked at many places, but for someone new to the city, this offered a soft landing and a clean, hygienic accommodation option," says Tanvi Vyas from Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh.FACTS ABOUT C0-LIVING SPACESCo-living spaces 20% costlier than oldschool paying guest accommodations and hostelsNew co-living spaces in huge demand, with occupancy at over 80%Interstate migration rate doubled to 4.5% in 2001-2011 compared to previous decadeWorkforce in India likely to increase to 600 million by 2022, compared to 473 million in 2018Between 2013-14 and 2017-18, number of new colleges rose by 25% triggering a rush for student accommodationBesides more vibrant common areas, these companies are organising events, tying up with brands to offer discounts and promotion to residents and offering adjacent services [think CV writing for final year students] to keep them engaged.Today, the overall market share of rental housing in India can be anywhere between 35-45% of the total residential market, according to estimates from real estate consultants.This share of rentals is increasing, especially rapidly in urban areas, which account for more than two-thirds of the rental market. In the 2011 census, 28% of respondents said they were renters, but experts think that number has spiked sharply in the past few years. 68443737 According to IMF's last estimate in 2016, India's residential rental market was estimated to be a more than $20 billion market comprising of $13.5 billion in urban areas, $0.8 billion in rural areas, and $5.7 billion of vacant properties held by non-resident Indians living abroad If the opportunity appears massive, bringing some of this into the co-living market is harder than it appears.While old school PGs are upping their game [yay, free wifi] to cling on to market share, newer players have the additional burden of finding either several floors in a building or an entire complex to suit their needs. 68443644 Industry executives say doing this is difficult. Existing three and four bedroom flats are mostly rigged for family living [puja rooms, servants quarters], which offer little to companies building co-living spaces. Instead, these companies are pushing real estate companies to increasingly construct custom facilities for them.It's not as if everyone's happy, however. While some of them offer seemingly prime places [Zolo has an infinity pool in one Bengaluru property], some residences can be rather bare. Several students told ET Magazine that they discovered how poor their room looks only once they landed up and had to change rooms and bookings twice or more before settling down.Elsewhere, 22-year old Jaya Purwar, a Zolo resident, complains that some old rules die hard--friends and family aren't allowed to stay late or stay over, despite her facility being unisex. 68443688 Zolo Stays Beds: 20,000 Cities: 7 Investors: IDFC Alternatives, Mirae & Nexus Venture Expansion: 50,000 rooms by 2020 68443714 "We have premiumised the previously unorganised market and are streets ahead of the competition" Nikhil Sikri, CEO & cofounderWhile many co-living players got off the ground a couple of years ago, they seem to have hit critical mass only now, netting funding to back ambitious expansion plans and recast singles accommodation nationwide."This is a consumer lifestyle business, not a real estate or technology one," says Uday Lakkar, co-founder and CEO of CoHo, a co-living provider with 3,000 beds operational and thousands more in the works.Market Ripe for Biggies As millenials look beyond staid co-living places, the newcomers to this market have their work cut out. The devil may be in the detail. For example, at Co Live, standard iron beds have been replaced by customised ones and low-cost, cotton-stuffed mattresses with pricier options. "For our target group, style is an important factor when they consider a place to live," contends Suresh Rangarajan, CEO and co-founder of the venture. "To friends and family, they want to appear style-conscious."Co Live is spending time and money sprucing up its premises with modern furnishings, fitness and games rooms and has started rolling out facial recognition access to properties. By standardising these offerings and aggressively using technology, Co Live plans to have 100,000 beds operational in three years.TL;DRA raft of startups are recasting the unorganised space for shared livingBeyond a bed, they aim to build a more social residence for young residentsLarge investors and real estate firms are also eyeing a piece of the pieLarge rivals including We Live and Oyo are muscling in tooStanza, which focusses on the student population, on the other hand, has tweaked its offering focused on its core demographic. Backed by marquee investors such as Sequoia and Accel, this co-living services provider runs an initiative called Stanza Social [think games night] and Springboard where residents are offered career-focused services including CV writing and app building. 68443764 CoHo Beds: 3,000 Cities: NCR & Bengaluru Investors: Angel investors including serial entrepreneur Sachin Bhatia Expansion: Hyderabad and several other citiesHaving helped fund, grow and sell a co-living venture in the UK and Europe, for around a billion dollars, co-founder Anindya Dutta now wants to do an encore in India. "We want to build a hospitality-led business in the premium student accommodation market," he says. 68443787 "This is a consumer lifestyle business, not a real estate of technology" Uday Lakkar, Founder & CEOStoked by the size of the opportunity, the biggies are now coming into this space. Over the past few months, Soft-Bank-backed global co-working major WeWork has been piloting its WeLive unit in India, tying up with real estate firm Embassy Group. OYO, the hospitality platform valued at $5 billion, waded into the market with 2,000 beds across five cities, with plans to hit 50,000 beds by the end of the year.Hotel chain LemonTree has tied up with private equity giant Warburg Pincus for a co-living foray too. New age co-living providers say that they are being inundated by interest from large realtors who are looking to get a piece of this pie, too.Industry executives say the inflection point for this industry may now be around the corner. "By 2022, we largely believe the word co-living will replace phrases such as hostels and PGs in common usage," says Rangarajan, CEO of Co Live. 66454863

How Radhika Piramal is steering VIP Industries towards bigger and global roads

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Change is in the air at India's largest luggage company VIP Industries, and the mood is palpable at the headquarters in central Mumbai. Located on the top floor of a building in Prabhadevi, the office sports an open architecture and is in itself a contrast to the rest of the building's old world look. The youthful decor has Bollywood stars posters endorsing VIP brands on the walls and colourful pieces of luggage placed along the corridors.In two weeks' time, on April 1, VIP Industries promoter Dilip Piramal, 69, will give up his executive role to become a non executive chairman, and Sudip Ghose, currently the CEO, will become the managing director. Around the same time, the VIP brand will be relaunched.Central to this transition at VIP remains Piramal's daughter Radhika, who gave up the managing director's role two years ago since she wanted to shift to London. The 41-year-old herself is a breath of fresh air in India's corporate world, possibly the first Indian CEO who was open about her homosexuality.In 2011, Radhika married her long-time partner Amanda in London. In 2017, Amanda, an American, wanted to shift back to London, and Radhika decided to partially shift there to support her partner. That was another rarity — a young CEO of an Indian family-run business moving away from a leadership role for the sake of love. 68444402 Radhika, an MBA from Harvard who worked in management consultancies in the US, continues as vice-chairperson and executive director of VIP Industries, valued at nearly a billion dollars.While Ghose prepares to lead the charge, Radhika guides much of the company's strategy, flying to Mumbai from London several times every quarter or sometimes every month. She sees herself pushing the change further — by making VIP bigger, more global and inclusive. She can also take much of the credit for creating VIP Industries as it looks today. Radhika started leading the company from 2010 after moving back to India the year before.Three years later, Ghose joined as marketing head of the company, moving in from rival luggage maker Samsonite. Soon, under Radhika, VIP Industries transformed itself into a company with a storied brand structure --Carlton, VIP, Skybags, Aristocrat and Alfa in luggage and Caprese in handbags. VIP and Samsonite today dominate the organised luggage market in India, with Safari being a distant third."Since I moved to London in 2017, I focus less on managing the quarterly and annual performance. That is now managed by Sudip Ghose, who will become the MD on April 1. I focus more on long-term strategic and organisational goals. Strategic goals include increasing our international business, which is currently less than 10% of VIP's turnover," Radhika told ET Magazine in an interview.Today, nearly 70% of inputs for VIP products are imported from China, and Radhika says she would like reduce this since the costs have gone up. 68444407 Margins have been under pressure too in the last two quarters with profits before depreciation, interest and tax dropping to a single digit in the September-December quarter of 2018-19.The company has two factories in India — in Nashik and Haridwar — and a soft luggage factory in Bangladesh.VIP is now looking to expand its production capacity in India but its real growth will have to come from new markets. There is a five-year-plan in the works, which includes entering new markets and new categories and increasing annual revenue to Rs 4,000 crore from Rs 1,700-1,800 crore the company is likely to touch in the current fiscal. The company's growth plan includes increasing its access to the overseas markets.VIP acquired Carlton, a British luggage brand, in 2004. Carlton used to be among the UK's top three luggage brands in the 90s and it is now a premium offering in the VIP Industries portfolio in India. But more than Europe, Radhika sees Carlton as an entry vehicle for VIP Industries into the US market. "The US is a more exciting market," she says.Currently, most of VIP Industries' foreign revenues come Africa, Middle East and Southeast Asia.The other change Radhika would like to see at VIP is the organisation becoming more inclusive. "VIP has a long journey ahead in this area as we are just starting to make the necessary changes. We have formally changed our HR policies to include sexuality in our non-discrimination clauses. But there is a long way to go from drafting a policy to seeing a change on the ground," she says.Radhika also wants to ensure that rules to prevent sexual harassment at the workplace are not reduced to a "tick-the-boxes" exercise and that there is genuine discussion between management and employees on improving diversity-- be it members of LGBTQ community or the differently-abled.Radhika says in the UK, "LGBT people have same rights as straight people when it comes to family rights, marriage, adoption." Asked if she takes on speaking opportunities in London on LGBTQ issues, she says: "There is more need for speeches in Mumbai than London."

Indian roads: Fatalities in mishaps high despite better construction and use of tech

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Amitesh Kumar has one of the toughest jobs in Mumbai. From his sixth-floor office overlooking the sea at Worli, Kumar has to ensure traffic moves smoothly in one of the world's most populous cities. That is easier said than done, given that India's financial capital is notorious for its interminable gridlocks. During our 30 minute conversation, the bespectacled joint commissioner of police (traffic) had to stop mid-sentence several times to attend to calls and visits by officials. To the right of his desk is a nearly wall-sized screen with 16 windows showing live feeds from CCTVs — there are 5,217 in all installed on various roads of the city.Talking in a measured tone, Kumar is quick to rattle off statistics: there were 41,000 speeding violations in the city in 2017, which shot up 19 times to 7,70,000 in 2018. What changed? In January 2018, the Mumbai traffic police started installing cameras with automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) system.These cameras — there are 56 in the city — are more effective in zeroing in on speeding motorists than portable speed guns.Use of such technologies, combined with the identification of accident-prone spots and a crackdown on drunk driving, has brought down Mumbai's road fatalities 15% from a year earlier to 430 in 2018, says Kumar. "Enforcement should be strict enough to act as a deterrent." ANPR cameras have also been installed in other parts of the country, including the NCR, Hyderabad and Kolkata.68443867 With safety increasingly become a top priority for authorities, it would not be wrong to say that our roads are becoming less dangerous, according to some metrics such as the number of accidents, though fatalities are still a problem. Quality of roads, which has a huge impact on safety, has seen a marked improvement over the years. But quality and safety are still very much works in progress and India cannot afford to take its eyes off the road.An indicator of improving quality of our roads is the increasing number of lanes separated by a median, which avert head-on collisions, says Vinayak Chatterjee, chairman and cofounder of integrated infrastructure services provider Feedback Infra.Piyush Tewari, founder of non-profit SaveLife Foundation, says steps like plugging gaps in medians, which prevent illegal U-turns, also help. SaveLife worked with the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation to identify engineering factors responsible for crashes on the Mumbai-Pune expressway. They identified median gaps, missing shoulders (on the side of the road) and plants obstructing vision, among others. In 2016, when the NGO started working on the project, there were 151 deaths on the stretch. In 2018, the figure fell to 110, says Tewari.68443878 Road accidents in India have declined from 42 per 1,00,000 population in 2010 to 36 in 2017, according to the ministry of road transport and highways. Even in absolute terms, road accidents have been falling since 2015, and the 2017 figure — 4,64,910, or 53 every hour — is the lowest since 2006. But it is a slightly different story in fatalities due to road accidents. While both absolute deaths and fatalities per 1,00,000 population declined marginally in 2017 — to 1,47,913 (17 every hour) and 11.5, respectively — the number of fatalities per 100 accidents rose from 31.4 in 2016 to 31.8 in 2017.Interview requests sent to Nitin Gadkari, minister for road transport, did not yield any response.One explanation for the high level of fatalities is the woeful state of emergency response across the country. There are over 25,000 ambulances plying under the National Health Mission. Of that, around 9,300 ambulances are for emergency response through the tollfree number 108. Besides, hospitals and private companies also operate ambulances.But there is no data available on how many road accident victims lose their lives because of lack of medical attention within the first hour of the mishap, called the "golden hour" when treatment can mostly prevent death.68443888 India has the highest number of road fatalities in the world. In 2016, the latest year for which global figures are available, India accounted for more than a third of global road accident deaths. The World Health Organization says such deaths are under-reported and estimated that in 2016, the figure for India was likely twice as big as that reported by the government.Even the Indian government's figure is alarmingly high. But technologies like ANPR cameras and other safety interventions will start giving improved statistics in a few years, says S Sundar, a former Union transport secretary and a fellow at The Energy and Resources Institute.India, despite having around 230 million registered vehicles, does not have a national road safety policy. The only legislation to deal with road safety is the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. An amendment was proposed to the law to ensure children's safety while commuting, increase penalties in line with inflation, ensure liability of road contractors, digitise the licensing system and to recall old vehicles that do not adhere to safety norms. It was passed in the Lok Sabha in 2017, but faced opposition in the Rajya Sabha, particularly from regional parties, supposedly over state governments' powers being taken away. The ordinance has now lapsed. India is a signatory to the 2015 United Nations Brasilia declaration, which aims to cut road traffic deaths and injuries by half by 2020.68443896 One reason for bad driving habits is that most people do not go through formal driving lessons before getting a licence, says Tewari of SaveLife Foundation. "And in several places you can get your licence delivered to your home for a price." Improving driving skills and a proper licensing system can ensure better road behaviour and effective law enforcement.Getting riders to wear helmets and those travelling by car to wear seat belts, simple as they may seem, has proved to be challenging. But these can help reduce fatalities. Enforcement without the physical presence of personnel, like ANPRs, is fast becoming the norm around the world. "Cameras don't go home at night nor can they be bribed," says Tewari.But such methods are not without their lacunae. For instance, less than half the offenders identified by ANPR cameras in Mumbai actually pay the fines. In an ideal situation, a text message would go to the offender with a link to an e-challan, along with a picture of him taken by the camera. But if the motorist's mobile number is not linked to his vehicle documentation, it does not work. The driver finds out about past penalties only when he is stopped by a traffic cop for a different violation and his vehicle number is run through the database, or if the driver does the check himself.68443915 That is what happened to Mayank Singh in 2018. He had bought a Renault Duster in December 2017 and used it to drive from Mumbai to Pune. In March 2018, he learned that he could go to www.mahatrafficechallan.gov.in and find out if he had violated road rules. He found out that he had exceeded the 80 km per hour speed limit 17 times in Mumbai and had racked up penalties of `17,000. "After that, I became speed-conscious at those points and used to check online every fortnight." In September, he relocated to Jakarta for work.The fundamental problem with our roads is they are designed for motorists. "Pedestrians are not prioritised and that should change," says Kelly Larson, who oversees Bloomberg Philanthropies' work on road safety in 10 cities across the world. Pedestrians accounted for 13% of those killed in accidents in 2017 in India.68443927 Not far from Joint Commissioner Amitesh Kumar's office, Girija Ambala had to pay with her life due to the carelessness of another person. A speeding motorcycle with three young men hit Ambala when she was crossing a road on a January evening in 2018. Her jacket snagged on the handlebar and she was dragged for 100 meters. She sustained fatal injuries to her skull. Ambala was to turn 20 three weeks later. Her father, Ganga Murli Ambala, says pedestrians had complained about speeding on this stretch of the road for years but no action was taken. Not much has changed since the tragedy, he adds. "They can't put cameras everywhere but they should at least have speed breakers every 50 or 100 metres and a zebra crossing. That way, it is very hard to speed." The straighter a road, the lower the chances of an accident on it. But a linear stretch is not always possible because of the terrain and land acquisition problems.Road IndexAside from factoring safety considerations into the design of a road, the quality of Indian roads has seen a notable improvement over the past decade or so. For instance, an annual survey of business executives conducted by the World Economic Forum on the quality of roads in around 140 countries reflected that. 68443937 Between 2008 and 2018, India's rank in road quality rose from 87 to 51. The share of paved roads in our road network has increased from half in March 2008 to nearly two-thirds in March 2016, according to the latest available figures. India has a road network of 5.6 million km, of which national highways contribute just 2% and state highways 3%. Rural roads account for the lion's share, at 70%.While national and state highways almost entirely have a black top surface (with bitumen as a binder) or cement concrete, just over half of rural roads are paved.National highways, which carry 40% of the country's road traffic, get most of the attention among roads and have been one of the few bright spots in infrastructure development over the past few years; 34,300 km were built between April 2014 and November 2018. "Earlier, there were mostly brownfield projects, which were for the widening of highways and there were latent defects in the design we had to work with. But now there are a lot of greenfield projects," says Satish Parakh, managing director of Ashoka Buildcon, which has built 10,000 lane-km of roads so far. Lane-km takes into account the number of lanes constructed on a km. So 4 lane-km would mean four lanes of one km each have been constructed. Besides highways, rural roads have also seen a transformation, especially under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana. Launched in 2000, this scheme has led to the laying of around 5,80,500 km of rural roads.68443944 But all is not rosy. Reports of worsening potholes after rains are common in cities, due to inefficient drainage, and multi-lane highways are built without into account the needs of villagers who need to cross it, resulting in accidents. Most of India's roads do not befit the fastest-growing major economy and way too many people lose their lives in accidents. But there are certainly signs of change.

Uber, Lyft may yet save year from worst IPO start since 2016

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By Eric Newcomer and Olivia ZaleskiUber Technologies Inc.'s plan to go public could rescue 2019 from a disappointing first quarter for US initial public offerings.The world's biggest ride-hailing business is planning to file publicly in April for an IPO, said people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because it was private. That would set up a share sale before the end of June. People familiar with the matter have said the company could be valued at as much as $120 billion. Even if Uber floats only 8 percent of its shares at that valuation, it would raise more than $10 billion in fresh capital. 68439303 Uber's offering alone would eclipse the 21 US IPOs that have raised $1.6 billion so far in the first quarter, which has been the worst since 2016. It would also likely lift the year's first half above the $7.12 billion in share sales for the first six months of 2016. For perspective, one has to go back to the financial crisis in 2009 to find a worse first half.Uber will likely be following its smaller rival, Lyft Inc., whose IPO could this month or next. Lyft is seeking to be valued at $20 billion to $25 billion, people familiar its plans have said.

Week in 10 stocks: Stocks that surged up to 23%, IPO update

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The best weekly show since November 30 -- That sums up the new-found vigour of the stock market. Picking up from where they left off, Indian stocks saw a terrific week as benchmarks BSE Sensex and NSE Nifty settled with a weekly gain of over 3.50 per cent. Positive global cues only made the climb easier.The bulls took charge as foreign institutional investors kept the funds flowing into India. Rupee's rising trajectory and expectations of Prime Minister Narendra Modi taking power again kept the pitch conducive to more upside.Numbers tell the story. The BSE Sensex advanced a whopping 1,353 points to 38,024 during the past five trading sessions. The broader NSE Nifty rose 391 points, or 3.55 per cent, to 11,427.Foreign portfolio investors bought shares worth Rs 12,298 crore during the week while domestic institutional investors offloaded equities worth Rs 7,402.30 crore.Overall, market capitalisation of BSE-listed firms soared by Rs 3.95 lakh crore in the five sessions to Rs 148.62 lakh crore, from Rs 144.67 crore on March 8.So, what are the top stocks and sectors that kept investors glued to their seats the whole week. Here we go.The return giftAs many as 32 stocks on the BSE500 managed to deliver over 10 per cent returns during the week gone by. The list featured stocks such as Himatsingka Seide (up 23 per cent), CG Power (21 per cent), Manpasand Beverages (18.55 per cent), Dilip Buildcon (17.41 per cent), Westlife Development (16.96 per cent) and Edelweiss Financial Services (15 per cent).Stocks that crackedOnly four stocks plunged in double digits. Reliance Communications slipped 25 per cent, followed by Sterlite Technologies (14 per cent), Take Solutions (12 per cent) and Future Consumer (11 per cent). Reliance Power, Inox Wind, The Lakshmi Vilas Bank, Linde India, Swan Energy and Reliance Capital went down over 5 per cent during the week.IPO updateMSTC: The initial public offering by state-owned MSTC has been extended till March 20 and the price band has been lowered, according to a regulatory filing. The price band of the offer, which was to close on Friday, has now been revised to Rs 120-128 from Rs 121-128 per share.Embassy REIT paces up: Embassy REIT has allotted 5.81 crore shares in the upper band of Rs 300 per unit, aggregating Rs 1,743 crore, as part of the anchor investor allotment. The initial issue of REIT will open on March 18 with a price band of Rs 299-300 per unit and will close on March 20. The IPO is expected to raise up to Rs 4,750 crore. TCIL eyes listing: State-owned Telecommunications Consultants India (TCIL) expects to raise roughly Rs 1,500 crore from its planned IPO and wants to retain part of the proceeds -- about Rs 600 crore -- for expansion and working capital needs, according to a company source. The proposed IPO is likely to hit the market sometime in the middle of this year, according to PTI.Sectoral updateSector-wise, the BSE Realty index as well as Bankex rallied more than 5 per cent during the week. Other indices including the BSE Oil, Telecom, Capital Goods, Power, Consumer Durables and Healthcare jumped 1-4.50 per cent. "Public sector banks are expected to report net profits of Rs 23,000-37,000 crore during FY20, after four consecutive years of losses, even though overall profitability will remain weak with return on net worth (RoNW) of 4-6.3 percent," rating agency Icra said in a note.Top Nifty gainers/losersWith a gain of over 10 per cent, IndusInd Bank and HPCL emerged as the leader of the Nifty pack. However, Tech Mahindra (down 1.49 per cent) and UltraTech Cement (down 1.41 per cent) took the top losers tag. HPCL gained after media reports that the department of public enterprises is in the process of conferring Maharatna status to the company. NBCCShares of NBCC rallied 15 per cent during the week after the state-owned firm said it has secured an order worth Rs 700 crore from Raipur SMART City. Midcaps, smallcaps show fatigueWhile the benchmark equity indices rallied over 3 per cent, BSE Midcap and Smallcap indices advanced 2 per cent for the week ended March 15. Among the second rung stocks, Indo Coun Industries, The Byke Hospitality, Steel Exchange India, Alok Industries and Adlabs Entertainment firmed up over 25 per cent last week.IDBI BankIDBI Bank has been categorised as a private lender following acquisition of majority stake by Life Insurance Corporation, the RBI said. In January, LIC completed the process of picking up a controlling 51 per cent stake in the nearly crippled IDBI Bank. "IDBI Bank has been categorised as a 'private sector bank' for regulatory purposes by the Reserve Bank of India with effect from January 21, 2019, consequent upon LIC acquiring 51 per cent of the total paid-up equity share capital of the bank," RBI said in a statement on Thursday. Shares of the lender came down by 1.15 per cent to Rs 42.90 from Rs 43.40 during the period under review.RCom on a sticky pitchShares of Reliance Communications cracked 6 per cent on Friday following reports that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is invoking bank guarantees to recover Reliance Communications' (RCom) latest spectrum dues. DoT is invoking bank guarantees to recover RCom's latest spectrum dues and is set to issue a notice asking why the airwaves shouldn't be withdrawn, adding to the woes of the telco whose chairman Anil Ambani faces jail for not paying a vendor, an ET report suggested. Shares of the company plunged nearly 25 per cent for the whole week.Stocks @ fresh new highAs many as 22 issues on the BSE500 index scaled their fresh lifetime highs. The list includes stocks such as Tube Investments, UPL, Info Edge, ICICI Bank, Trent, HDFC Bank, Titan Company, Bata India, Muthoot Finance, Reliance Industries and Axis Bank.