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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

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


LTCG to go? Govt weighs move to win back upset investors

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MUMBAI: The government has approached tax advisers and experts on the possible implications of removing tax on long-term capital gains (LTCG) introduced amid much criticism in the FY19 budget. Government officials, tax advisers say, are considering options to attract more foreign long-term investment and one proposal is to do away with LTCG tax on listed equities.The government may also tweak the definition of 'long term' from a year to two years, people with knowledge of the discussions said. Currently, 10% tax is levied on LTCG.The removal of LTCG tax is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's speech in New York in September last year where he promised foreign investors that the government was working towards "bringing tax on equity investments in line with global standards". Many key countries around the world don't have LTCG tax, experts said.A person involved in the discussions said the government wants to differentiate between a strategic investor and a short-term investor.FPIs Reached Out to Govt"It will be a tough sell to merely slash LTCG two years after it was introduced. But this is crucial for foreign investors and so if the holding period is increased to two years, that incentivises long-term investors," he said."Globally most developed markets with which India competes for capital do not have LTCG. The government has also received suggestions from investor forums and all of them have demanded that such a tax on large investments becomes a tough sell to their own investors," said another person close to the development. The government had hoped to garner anywhere close to Rs 40,000 crore annually after it introduced LTCG but the collections have been nowhere close, according to the people in the know. "For the government divestment plans to be successful, a robust capital market is very important. LTCG on listed securities has raised heckles without yielding commensurate revenues. Many FPIs (foreign portfolio investors) and other investors expect LTCG on listed securities given the PM's assurance in New York that the government will relook at the capital gains tax regime," said Dinesh Kanabar, CEO of tax advisor firm Dhruva Advisors.Tax experts say several FPIs had also reached out to the government and sought removal of LTCG. "At least to the extent the government reverts to the earlier position of long-term capital gains exemption, it will incentivise long-term investors such as sovereign, pension, long-only funds, as they mostly stay invested for more than 12 months," said Sameer Gupta, tax markets leader, EY India.According to people in the know, several foreign investors have claimed that they will stay away from any divestment plan due to LTCG and other tax-related issues.Industry trackers are saying the government must also bring parity between holding period of several assets including listed equity, real estate and gold. "How can a one year of holding period be long term? There is an urgent need that we bring parity between holding periods and capital gain tax rates between different assets," said Kanabar of Dhruva. The government hopes that a two-year holding period on listed equities would mean that the revenue loss may not be as steep even if the LTCG tax is scrapped. The government is trying to manage the fiscal deficit that stood at Rs 8.07 lakh crore at the end of November last year, 13% above the full-year target, as per the Controller General of Accounts. Revenue collections have been below expectations so far this year. Direct tax collections were estimated at Rs 5.5 lakh crore by the end of September last year, 16% short of the internal target.

The pink slip count at Oyo could go up

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NEW DELHI: Job cuts at Oyo, across multiple roles and business functions, are likely to intensify, said senior company executives, as the SoftBank-backed hotel chain struggles to rein in costs and shore up bottom line.The magnitude of the layoffs may be "far larger" than expected, they said on the condition of anonymity. A significant chunk of the 12,000-strong workforce at the Gurgaon-headquartered company is likely to be impacted by the aggressive retrenchment move, they said.ET had reported that Oyo will lay off 2,400 people in its edition on January 14.When contacted by ET, Oyo spokespersons denied that there were further retrenchments in the offing and said that such information is "factually incorrect and misleading."The layoffs are happening even as Oyo is reportedly battling allegations ranging from anti-competitive practices to tax evasion, among others. Its position as India's second most valuable startup — deemed to be worth $ 10 billion — has also come under scanner.Layoffs Across RolesFounder and group CEO Ritesh Agarwal undertook a $2.5-billion financing round last year in order to buy out early investors Lightspeed Venture Partners and Sequoia Capital, and increase his stake in the company to about 30%.The turmoil within Oyo follows the high-profile churn at another Soft-Bank–backed startup WeWork, where a drastic decline in valuation put paid to plans of an IPO and led to the exit of founder Adam Neumann. Since then SoftBank has reportedly resorted to stringent measures to ensure the debacle is not repeated in other portfolio companies.The Japanese company currently holds about 50% in Oyo and has so far invested over $1 billion in the hospitality company. On Monday, in an internal email to employees, Agarwal confirmed that the company was undertaking layoffs in a bid to be profitable and create greater operational efficiencies though he did not specify the exact number of people who would be fired.Oyo clocked unaudited net loss of Rs 2,384.69 crore for the financial year 2019, up from Rs 360.43 crore in the previous financial year, according to a valuation report filed by the company in November last year. Operating expenses for the period jumped more than 390% to Rs 6,131.66 crore, while employee benefit expenses also rose almost six-fold to Rs 1,538.85 crore. Agarwal's note, which also charted out the company's strategic goals for 2020, came almost a month after ET had reported on December 19 that the company was in the process of sacking about 2,000 employees across functions in India by January. The current wave of layoffs include profiles including city heads and employees in other leadership and managerial roles.People familiar with the matter said the layoffs across divisions are being reflected in a series of exits from Oyo's internal WhatsApp groups.The company begun the process of notifying thousands of staffers individually about their status in the organisation through individual emails on Monday. Layoffs in locations like Delhi and Jaipur were communicated to the staff on Monday, while Gurgaon employees were notified on Tuesday. The people cited above said the company fired about 200 employees in Delhi on Monday.Last week, ET also reported that the income-tax authorities had conducted a 'recovery survey' — usually undertaken to investigate a company's ability to pay the taxes due after its liabilities are determined — at its Golf Course Road office in Gurgaon.At that time, an Oyo spokesperson had described it as a routine survey to determine the tax deducted at source (TDS) by the company.

Tata board will meet to unravel Cyrus mystery

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MUMBAI: Tata Sons has finalised plans for a board meeting shortly, with the Supreme Court having stayed a tribunal order that had quashed the ouster of Cyrus Mistry, and deemed void the appointment of his successor N Chandrasekaran as chairman.On the agenda of the board meeting will be a briefing on the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal order, including the challenge to the status of Tata Sons as a private company and reputational risks arising from the situation, said top executives with knowledge of the matter. The NCLAT decision of December 18 was stayed by the Supreme Court on January 10.Tata Sons had refrained from holding a board meeting to comply with the legal requirements of the NCLAT order as advised by its legal team, said the people cited above. The board of the Tata Group holding company will discuss steps to safeguard its interests, they said. The board has sought external legal opinion from top lawyers, they said. Tata Sons didn't respond to queries."There are residual risks since it is legally not a closed matter," said one of the persons. 73285842 'Legal Challenges Prevented Meeting'"The legitimacy of the current chairman was challenged and that is certainly an issue requiring discussion. We could not meet earlier owing to the legal challenges and now it is binding on the board to meet formally as soon as possible. Every public company has to have a board meeting every quarter and although we are a private company, we will ensure that all corporate governance norms are duly followed," said one of the persons.Capstone Legal managing partner Ashish K Singh said there has been no change in the legal position of Tata Sons since the matter is sub judice."It is only an interim stay," he said. "So what the Tata Sons board can decide at its meeting will have limited options as of today. The board can discuss and deliberate on the best governance practice going forward, but it would not be right for them to take any other decision impacting the group."The NCLAT had directed that Mistry be reinstated as chairman and director of Tata Sons and on the boards of three group companies, notably Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). The tribunal said Mistry's October 2016 ouster at the behest of chairman emeritus Ratan Tata was illegal and "oppressive" toward minority shareholders. It also restrained Tata and his representatives from taking any decision that would require a majority vote on the board of Tata Sons.'Basic Errors'The Supreme Court said there were "basic errors" in NCLAT's observations while staying the order.The tribunal had also quashed the conversion of Tata Sons into a 'private company' from a public firm, calling it "illegal". It said the decision by the Registrar of Companies (RoC) to allow the firm to become a private company was against the provisions of the Companies Act, 2013, and "prejudicial" and "oppressive" toward the minority shareholders — Mistry family-owned companies that hold 18% stake in Tata Sons.The tribunal had ordered a reversal in the status of Tata Sons. "The company (Tata Sons) shall be recorded as 'public company'. The RoC will make corrections in its record showing the company as public company," NCLAT had said.The Ministry of Corporate Affairs told the tribunal on Friday that it hadn't committed any illegality in granting permission for the conversion."We are conscious of ensuring the highest corporate governance standards," said one of the persons."Even as a private company, we ensure that all standard requirements as a deemed public company are met."Tata Group executives said there had been no major business impact stemming from the order and that the holding company had been concluding transactions and business deals.

Govt's Rs 36 K-crore made in India plan

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NEW DELHI: The government could unveil a ?36,000-crore fund to provide production-linked incentives (PLI) to smartphone makers to wean high-end electronic manufacturing away from China and Vietnam to India in the upcoming budget, three top government officials said."MeitY (Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology) is working on a productionlinked incentive and there will be certain rigid criteria to avail this incentive. We only want those companies which are going to make India an electronics manufacturing and export hub to be able to use this incentive," one of the officials told ET.The official added that while this was primarily to attract global supply chain companies such as Apple and Samsung to make India their manufacturing and export base, some other incentives - credit guarantee schemes and interest subvention schemes – were designed to help local phone makers such as Lava become dominant global players in the entry segment, were also being thrashed out.73286283 A fortnight ago, the PM had met with smartphone manufacturers including representatives from Apple, Samsung and Lava and sought suggestions on how to make India an electronics manufacturing and export hub. Following this, government officials have fast-tracked working on the modalities of the incentives that need to be doled out to attract big ticket investments in the country.The government has set an ambitious target to increase smartphone exports from the country to $110 billion by 2025 from $3 billion now.The PLI scheme is expected to formally replace the duty credit scrip under the Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (Meis), which India suspended from December 31. Duty credit scrip is a certificate with certain monetary value that can be utilised for payment of customs duty."The new scheme is most likely also going to be a form of duty credit scrip," said another senior officer, adding that the fund would be spread out over a period of five years and the budgetary support from the scheme in the first year could be close to ?3,000 crore.The news would bring cheer to the smartphone manufacturing industry that hit the panic button after a government notification halved MEIS support from 4% to 2% from January 1. The likes of Foxconn — the world's largest contract manufacturer of smartphones that is also among the biggest in India where it makes phones for Apple — as well as Samsung, Huawei, Vivo and Oppo that together account for over 80% of $500-billion global mobile phone market, have demanded clarity on the export sops.A high-level committee set up by the Prime Minister's Office in July, chaired by Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant, is believed to have submitted that the government could support as much as 7% through a suitable MEIS replacement. Officials said the final support could range between 5% and 7%.Under the PLI scheme, the criterion being deliberated on include employment generated, investment made, average selling price of phones and production. The industry is however batting for lesser number of qualifiers to make the scheme less complicated and more effective.According to various industry studies, the policy support in Vietnam renders India uncompetitive by 10-12% points and the disability of India compared to China lies between 19-23%.Indian Cellular & Electronics Association, which has Apple, Foxconn, Xiaomi and Flextronics among its members, has flagged subsidy for machinery & equipment, cost of power, incentive for supporting industry, labour subsidy, logistics and reduction of land rentals as other disabilities India faces in comparison to rivals such as Vietnam. These issues, the industry holds, can be negotiated with respective state governments Government officials are trying to ensure that the new policy is WTO compliant and doesn't directly link the support to exports while ensuring that the funds are not used for manufacturing devices to be sold locally.

Avighna in talks with HBS Realtors for Worli Project

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MUMBAI: Realty developer Avighna Group is in advanced talks with HBS Realtors to enter into an agreement to jointly develop a Rs 1,800 crore residential project in Mumbai's Worli locality. The project to be spread over 3.4 acre land parcel along Dr Annie Besant Road in Worli is estimated to have total development potential of 0.72 million sq ft. As part of the proposed agreement, Avighna Group is expected to take care of entire execution and marketing of the project, while HBS Realtors will bring in the land parcel. Avighna Group is likely to finance its part of investment into this project through internal accruals and sales collections.The company recently sold apartments worth Rs 350 crore at its project Avighna Estates, including One Avighna Park and Avighna 9, near ITC Grand Central Hotel in Mumbai's Lower Parel area.Apart from premium residential development, the project in Worli is expected to also include some retail and commercial component. However, both the companies are yet to take a call on proportion of these developments."We will be responsible for the entire project once the agreement is entered into. The agreement will be based on the area share being discussed, but we haven't finalised it yet," Nishant Agarwal, Managing Director, Avighna Group, told ET. "Based on the response to One Avighna Park & Avighna 9, we are looking to replicate a similar offering in other pockets of South Mumbai." ET's email query to HBS Realtors and calls to its MD Sandeep Shah remained unanswered until the time of going to press.The transaction will be one of the biggest in South Mumbai in recent years as the market has been sluggish till a few months ago for luxury offerings in this micro-market. However, according to market observers, the scenario is improving and this could be an inflection point."It's the most opportune time for financially well placed developers to look at expansion in south Mumbai, as several lucrative opportunities exist. The luxury residential market here has under-performed over the past few years, but now seems to be waking up from its slumber. Well-conceived and on-time projects have performed better than the market average," said Ram Naik, executive director, Guardians Real Estate Advisory.The recent policy level changes, including the implementation of Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Act, 2016, the Goods & Services Tax India and demonetisation have resulted in consolidation in real estate sector. Several realty developers across markets are looking for partners to associate with through joint developments, joint ventures or even exiting few projects completely.Earlier, developers preferred to invest in the creation of a land bank and sought low-cost land parcels in upcoming areas for later development. With the evolving operational environment under the RERA and GST regimes, developers have been relooking at their business models.

Telcos file 5G trial applications

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NEW DELHI: Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and BSNL on Wednesday submitted their respective applications for 5G field trials with the telecom department.People familiar with the matter said that both Vodafone Idea and Airtel have submitted their applications with Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei and ZTE, while Reliance Jio has submitted an application for trial with Korea's Samsung, which is also the sole gear vendor for its pan-India 4G network.State-run telco BSNL, on the other hand, has submitted the application with ZTE only for trials."Telcos have asked for spectrum in mid-band, millimeter-wave and anchor 4G bands to conduct 5G field trials," a person familiar with the matter said, adding that the telecom department intends to start trials by February in the country."Huawei will work with Vodafone Idea and Airtel in Delhi and Bengaluru, respectively for 5G trials. Samsung and Jio will do the trial in Mumbai. Nokia and Ericsson will have similar arrangements with both VIL and Airtel for trials," he added.

Hedged trades to cost less as Sebi may cut margin requirements

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The cost of hedged trades will soon dip in the Indian stock derivatives market.Traders using combinations of equity futures and options to create strategies that would result in limited losses could see margins for such bets decline significantly. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) is expected to reduce the margin requirements for 'hedged positions' that could lead to the cost of such trades coming down by 60-70 per cent, two people familiar with the matter told ET. The plan to lower initial margins comes in the wake of a growing clamour among market participants to ease growing pressure of high trading costs.Options segment contributed 92 per cent to the average daily turnover of Rs 16 lakh crore in the equity derivatives segment in January.The issue of higher margins in equity derivatives was discussed in Sebi's Risk Management Review Committee on Wednesday. The panel is said to have agreed in principle to the proposal to reduce margins on hedged positions, said one of the two people in the know. The regulator is expected to come out with the rules soon, he said.Initial margins that traders must pay exchanges include SPAN and Exposure. Standard Portfolio Analysis of Risk (SPAN) is an upfront margin that traders pay up at the time of placing their trades. It is a percentage of the value of the trades based on the software SPAN. Exposure margin, a concept unique to few markets like India, is an additional margin levied that brokers also collect from their clients for trading in derivatives at the time of initiating a trade. 73287162 Currently, the total margin that traders pay upfront for a Nifty futures trade is around 10 per cent. Out of this, the SPAN mar gin is about 7 per cent, while exposure margin is 3 per cent.As part of the margin rationa lisation exercise, Sebi is likely to reduce the contribution of ex posure margin and increase that of SPAN margin in the up front margin calculation, said one of the two people quoted above. The regulator could also ease the variables that form the SPAN margin, the person said which could result in a drop in margins for hedged trades.Brokers said the reduction in margins on hedged positions will benefit derivative traders, especially those betting on indices and stocks through options."Traders who are active in limited loss options strategies like vertical spreads and iron condor are likely to benefit a lot," said the head of a leading brokerage, which caters to a sizeable base of traders.In many of such strategies, traders use a mix of options contracts or blend options and futures that end up being mutual hedges, thereby capping losses. Such trading bets are usually done by sophisticated traders with deep knowledge of the intricacies of the derivatives markets. The less experienced stick to plain vanilla strategies like buying or selling options or futures but many of such trades tend to be fraught with risks—in some cases unlimited. The benefit of lower margins will not be available for basic trades or ones where an investor buys futures or options as a hedge against his share portfolio.Brokers said Sebi wants to encourage better-equipped traders to participate in the derivatives segment."If they reduce margins for hedged trades, it will be good for the derivatives segment. It will attract a new breed of traders," said the CEO of a large retail brokerage, who did not want to come on record since Sebi is yet to finalize rules.Brokers and traders have been crying hoarse, seeking a reduction in overall margins for derivative trades as the increase in trading costs had hit their profitability.Sebi and exchanges have been tightening margin requirements for futures and options in the last couple of years.Earlier this month, exchanges asked stock brokers to mandatorily collect the entire initial margin before a trade from clients even for transactions that are not carried forward to the next day.This is expected to impact day traders, who took bets by bringing in just a fraction of the value of the transaction upfront.

Investors can expect returns of 8-9% from Nifty this year: Patil

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Investors should expect high singledigit returns of 8-9 per cent from Nifty this year, said Mahesh Patil, chief investment officer, equity, Aditya Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund. In an interview with Prashant Mahesh, Patil said he has turned bullish on telecom and pharma recently. Edited excerpts:In 2019, most of the Nifty returns came from a handful of stocks. Will it change this year?Corporate profits are showing signs of bottoming out. A gradual recovery in economy should lead to higher topline growth. Raw material prices have fallen 5-30 per cent in the last 12 months, helping gross margins and bottomline. We expect the Nifty earnings growth to rise by 21 per cent in FY21, largely driven by corporate banks.Investors should expect high single digit returns of 8-9 per cent from Nifty this year. Investor expectations should be moderate as Nifty has moved ahead in anticipation of an earnings recovery. While the economy catches up, there will be a period of consolidation. On the other hand, mid and smallcaps had underperformed as there was risk aversion due to the NBFC crisis.However, as the economy recovers, earnings growth of mid and smallcap companies should pick up as they have a higher linkage to the domestic economy. Largecaps will continue to do well, mid and smallcap companies could catch up and their relative underperformance could reverse. It is a good time to make some allocation to mid and smallcap segment over a period of time.What are the risks for the equity markets in the coming year?On the global front, geopolitical risks continue to exist, and if oil prices go up significantly, say $80, our fiscal deficit will be under pressure. The US presidential election in November 2020, and an unexpected escalation of trade war leading to slowdown in China, can impact other economies also. On the domestic front, fiscal side is still challenging. If growth does not revive, the economy could be at risk. While bank balance sheets are getting repaired and banks are coming out of the NPA cycle, there is some pressure building up on banks from the mid corporates and retail side. There is some pressure from SMEs, which has not been classified as NPAs yet. If that gets converted into NPAs, it could pull down recovery.Are problems in the NBFC sector behind us?A number of NBFCs, where there were concerns over solvency, have improved their funding profile and accessed funding away from the bond markets. Many have, additionally, raised equity or reduced their books on wholesale assets, thus improving equity capitalisation and loss-absorbing buffers. In addition, the government's measures for NBFCs such as reduced risk weightages should help. The NBFC issue does not seem to be a systemic issue, as of now.What are the themes you like going ahead and why?Consumption is a theme we like. We see a continuous shift from unorganised to organised sector. Discretionary consumption will increase due to low penetration, improving affordability and increased electrification. In banking and financials, we like select private, corporate banks and insurance companies. Private banks will benefit due to increased market share based on comfortable capitalisation, better asset quality and healthy liability franchise. Some corporate banks will benefit due to NPL resolution, increased recoveries and capital infusion. Insurance companies shall see high growth, driven by low penetration and increasing financialisation of savings. We are also bullish on cement as affordable housing, a pick-up in real estate and an infra push of $1.4 trillion over the next 5 years augurs well for the sector.We have also got bullish on pharma and telecom recently. Domestic pharma is doing well; there is good cash flow and high RoE. There are many large Indian companies with US exposure on the generic side and the pricing pressure has eased. The decline in US sales has bottomed out and companies that have invested in R&D in complex generics will see good times. In telecom, we see price cuts have bottomed out. With the government supporting the sector, a bottom has been created. There is room for Arpus to improve from here, and we see it improving over next 2-3 years structurally. With tariff increasing, capex intensity will go down and free cash flow will improve and debt will come down.What kind of equity allocation should investors go with?Investors could allocate about 25 per cent to largecaps, 35 per cent to multicap funds, 20 per cent to midcap funds and 20 per cent to thematic funds like pharma, banking or MNC. Investors, who are seeking lower volatility, could go for a dynamic asset allocation fund or a balanced fund.

Xiaomi plans premium push in India through Mi

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NEW DELHI: Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi will double down on its premium bid in India in 2020 and wants to establish its Mi brand for products in pricier segments, including smartphones and televisions. It aims to continue to serve the mass market through its Redmi sub-brand for smartphones."In China, there are clear portfolios for Redmi and Mi. Mi stands for innovation and premium appeal. It has been missing from our portfolio here and we would want to set that up going into 2020," Xiaomi India head of online sales and categories Raghu Reddy told ET.Under the new strategy, Xiaomi, which has so far focussed mainly on the affordable segment to become India's top smartphone brand, will launch a number of premium phones under the Mi brand. Besides, it will expand the smart TV range with big-screen premium products. "We will launch a lot more of premium flagship devices under the Mi lineup. Once we have devices, there will be a clear differentiation between Mi and Redmi," Reddy said.The company may also look at launching its concept phone, Mi Max Alpha, in India and elsewhere. Priced in China at 19,999 renminbi, it could cost as much as Rs 2.5 lakh in India after duties and other expenses.Counterpoint Research associate director Tarun Pathak believes that the Mi brand will have more appeal and stronger connect with India customers. A wider premium segment presence generates higher margins, analysts said.Xiaomi entered the Indian market with its Mi 3 smartphone in 2014, followed by the launch of the Mi 4 and the Mi 5. But the portfolio took a backseat as the company focused on its core Rs 6,000-15,000 segment through Redmi.Reddy said Mi will focus on the Rs 20,000-plus smartphone segment.The premium smartphone segment in India has been growing rapidly, expanding 66% in the December quarter from the year earlier, according to Counterpoint data."We now believe that this is a meaningful segment for us to go and focus our energy on," Reddy said.Xiaomi has wider distribution and offline retail presence in India along with its own Mi Home setup, which will help in the premium drive."We treat both online and offline to be equally big partners and we will ensure we have the same set of products for both brands," Reddy said.

Talk like an American: Business of accent training

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NEW DELHI: "Many people learn English, but when you want professional growth, you learn an accent," says Billa Anirudh, a Hyderabad-based public speaking trainer. Anirudh went for American-accent training classes when he was working at a global bank, dealing with several US clients. He said that picking up a US accent helped him build confidence.A sharp uptick in business dealings with American clients is driving growth in the business of accent training. The demand for US accenttrained corporate employees has been high since 2017, says Salman Ansari, CEO of Talent Resourze, a company that provides accent training. Demand has been growing at 15% for the last two years, according to Ansari.Online learning platform Udemy too has several popular courses for learning British and American accents. "Earlier, a manager with a good or neutral accent would speak to US clients. Now, clients want updates from the person assigned to the project. People are put on live projects (only) if they get the American accent test right," said Ansari.73286222 The test he is referring to is Versant, an automated test that involves listening to a conversation in an American accent and then reproducing it as close to the original as possible. A pronounced regional Indian accent will mean the test-taker fails, says Ansari. Factors like pitch, cadence, fluency as well as accent are taken into account while scoring. "We try to reduce MTI — mother tongue influence. We teach high-profile vocabulary words," Ansari says.Influence of Social Media"Most customers are already good with grammar, but they need help with vocabulary and sentence structuring," he adds.Ansari says that having the right accent helps in getting selected for jobs, getting promotions and even sounding more authoritative. "Directors can't sound like regular employees. They get more respect and valued when they speak differently."Asif Ali Beg, a Mumbai-based theatre and dubbing artist who also does voice training said, "People are not taken seriously if they speak with a regional accent." Beg says he teaches a neutral accent, but sometimes gives tips on how to sound more British as well, if requested to do so.The influence of social media is also a factor. "I felt like something is missing in me when I saw YouTube videos (of public speakers)," said Anirudh."People want to copy Hollywood celebrities… America affects a lot of people — through social media, web series…" says Hasan Raja, a Delhi-based voice-trainer who said he caters to mostly middle-class and lower-middle class customers. Raja also says that American accent is perceived as "aggressive".Ansari said that about 10% of his clientele consists of those who have been fascinated by American accent in movies, and want to sound "good" in parties and while talking to friends."There is a lot of exciting content on OTT platforms in English, and consumers across the country look forward to staying abreast with these shows," says Antonius Raghubansie, Head India, Teaching and Cultural Centres, British Council India. "Social networking is on the rise, and people have access to global friends, celebrities and handles where English is the most common language used for engagement and expression."Raghubansie says the increasing popularity of international travel is also a reason people want to learn English and speak it "properly", so they have a "seamless experience" abroad. "We've trained some South Indian movie stars, fashion designers and even Arabs from Dubai with relatives in Hyderabad," said Ansari. But how easy is to actually pick up an accent?Many trainers ET spoke to said that they focus on building a neutral accent, rather than British or American accent. "The guiding rule (at the British Council) when it comes to accent is that one can keep their accent and yet be entirely understood," says Raghubansie. Some trainers even say learning a new accent is next to impossible. Sushil Yadav, a Gurgaon-based English trainer, argues: "Teaching accent is a myth." He adds that American accents have a lot of regional variations, so there no such thing as a uniform American accent.