Translate

Post Your Self

Hello Dearest Gameforumer.com readers

Its your chance to get your news, articles, reviews on board, just use the link: PYS

Thanks and Regards

Saturday, January 18, 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


India is slowly turning into a startup hotspot for foreign nationals

Posted:

Every morning, Jose Leon, 33, rides his two-wheeler to work in Hyderabad's Jubilee Hills area, covering a distance of 10 km in under 30 minutes. "While driving in India, I only think of surviving," he says with a straight face. "But it is not that dangerous once you get a hang of it," adds the Costa Rican, who moved to India to start a business two years ago. Leon runs a medical transportation startup called StanPlus, essentially an Uber for ambulances, with his INSEAD batchmate Prabhdeep Singh. Navigating the bylanes of Hyderabad helps him familiarise himself with the new place, makes him feel less like an outsider.Amid a slew of MNCs that are looking at India, foreigners like Leon are an anomaly. For foreign individuals, "India is still not considered a lucrative destination to set up large-scale businesses," says chartered accountant Amit Maheshwari, whose firm Ashok Maheshwary & Associates specialises in business advisory for foreign firms and individuals. Bureaucratic delays, frequent regulatory changes in certain sectors and lack of investor trust dampen their spirits. 73361737 "You see an uptick largely in the food and beverages segment, where foreigners set up restaurants or food supply businesses to cater to their community of expats in India," he adds.Despite several stumbling blocks, a host of foreign nationals have relocated to India to fulfil their startup ambitions in the tech sector. In Bengaluru, Nakkyun Chong, 58, from South Korea has netted $1 million in seed funding to build Giftiicon, a marketplace for gift vouchers. British entrepreneur Lizzie Chapman is running a fintech company called ZestMoney in the same city, while 48-yearold Steve Hardgrave from the US has raised $75 million in funding to grow his edutech startup Varthana that offers services to improve access to private school education in India. 73361754 In 2016, Washington-born Katie Taylor moved from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston to Pune. The move was triggered by an ongoing project at MIT to build solar-powered irrigation systems to Indian farmers. "We would make assumptions about their requirements while working at MIT. But in our interactions with farmers during our India trips we realised we were getting it all wrong." Her venture has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from MIT and Tata Trusts in India, among other institutional investors.In the last two years, Mumbai-based chartered accountant Paras Savla has seen a 60% spike in enquiries from foreigners wanting to set up businesses in India. "Most of them are in the services and tech sectors," he says. South Korea's Chong failed in his first attempt of starting up in India couple of years ago. He delved into the e-grocery space and yielded to the high logistics and maintenance cost of running warehouses. But he saw a second chance in the country's growing online market to create Giftiicon. The soon-to-be-launched platform — synced with a user's Facebook and WhatsApp contacts — will allow users to send gift vouchers from various brands to people in their circle. "I decided to set up a platform business since I didn't want to rely too much on investor money," he says. 73361770 The size of Indian consumer market, tech talent and low labour cost are a huge draw for foreign entrepreneurs. People like Savla and Maheshwari, who specialise in assisting foreign individuals and entities on financial matters, also make it easier for them to set up businesses and register companies."Back in the 1990s when I came to India, it took me a year to get my company registered as a foreign national. Now it takes a matter of weeks," says Mikael Gislen, 57, who moved from Sweden to India in 1994 and runs a company, Gislen Software, in Chennai with an annual revenue of Rs 16 crore.The two areas where foreign entrepreneurs face the most resistance are in hiring senior talent and in getting investor interest. Leon remembers a hiring story that was a cultural lesson in disguise. He was about to make an offer to someone from Udaipur when the potential hire told him his parents were reluctant. 73361786 That parents were involved in a professional decision of this nature was a culture shock to Leon. "My cofounder Prabhdeep intervened during the call and asked to speak to his parents. He told them about our educational background and vision for the company. I thought the guy would freak out but it worked in our favour. He joined us two days later." Since then, Leon asks every potential hire about their family and financial obligations.A common fear among investors and potential hires is whether the foreign founder will be in India for the long haul, says Greg Moran, cofounder of ZoomCar. Moran, a New Yorker, moved to Bengaluru in 2012 to start the self-drive car rental company."There weren't too many startups then. They weren't as fashionable to work with as they are today. And people had a lot of questions about the market we were operating in," he recalls. Moran relied extensively on his referral network to hire talent in the early days. To woo investors, he focused on making the product speak for itself. 73361803 "Scepticism around foreign founders may never go away. But you have to keep plodding," says Moran, 34. ZoomCar has raised $121.9 million in funding to date. "The company is EBITDA profitable which is big for us," he adds.For many foreigners eager to venture into the Indian tech startup ecosystem, ZoomCar is a success story. The problem, says Prabhdeep Singh, is that such stories are very few. To make matters worse, they are often outweighed by stories of foreigners retreating to their home country after a stint in India.Take, for instance, Canadian entrepreneur Marissa Bronfman. The 33-year-old former journalist came to Indian on a work assignment a decade ago and fell in love with the country. In 2011, she moved to Mumbai and started a digital agency bagging a few luxury clients rather quickly. Soon after, she started a vegan food business. "But the increasing cost of living in India as a foreigner, what with the taxes, and the lack of institutional support became an issue. As a woman and foreigner, meeting Indian male investors for my food venture was also a challenge," she says. 73361820 "Scaling a natural food business is far more difficult than scaling a software company or a mobile app. Not only was I a woman raising for something historically and culturally associated with the domestic realm, but my status as a foreigner added an extra layer of perceived risk." In 2017, Bronfman moved back to Toronto. Data from the Ministry of Corporate Affairs points to this churn. While the total number of companies registered by foreign individuals and entities went up from 4,625 to 4,866 between 2017 and 2019, the number of active firms in this category went down a little from 3,380 to 3,376.Even ZoomCar's cofounder David Back returned to the US in 2015, after staying in India for about three years. When StanPlus was founded in Hyderabad in 2016, two of its three cofounders were foreigners - Leon and Antoine Poirson from France. But Poirson moved out of India eventually, says Singh, the company's Indian cofounder. 73361833 "We need more diversity in the people creating new-age companies in order to bring fresh perspectives and work ethics," says Singh. During the early days of StanPlus, the cofounders decided against paying bribes to expedite processes. "I reasoned that this is how things are done in India, but they said that's not how we would work," recalls Singh. StanPlus, having raised $1.1 million in funding so far, occupies a 30% market share in Hyderabad at present. It has doubled its capacity over the last six months, with 1,000 owned and affiliated ambulances operating across Bengaluru, Visakhapatnam and Hyderabad. Jessiedna Araujo, an investment professional at Kstart Capital, Bengaluru, agrees with Singh. "The biggest advantage of being a foreign entrepreneur in India is that you are able to bring different perspectives and approaches to the table," says the former electrical engineer from Brazil. Araujo moved to India in 2016 and started a food truck business in Bengaluru, which she sold off two years later. She tolerates the city's traffic and pollution but likes the people and "affordable cost of living". 73361845 Pollution levels in the city bug the athlete in Moran too. "I also miss potable tap water," he says. After spending close to three decades in India, Gislen from Sweden doesn't feel like an outsider in Chennai anymore. "I speak better Tamil than many Indian employees in my company," he says. Leon misses the clear blue skies of Costa Rica. Chong of Giftiicon misses the snow of South Korea and his all-weather friends there.What some of them are happy to be rid of is the political climate of their home country but almost all are concerned about the current scenario of political and economic instability in India. "It is disturbing to see hate speech and discrimination becoming acceptable and leading to violence in my home country, the US, and here," says Taylor of Khethworks. India is not an adventurous trip for any of them. They mean business and they want it to work. "After running a business for four years in India, it doesn't feel like a research trip anymore. This is my life," says Taylor. Chong has even roped in his 26-year-old daughter Jihyun, who has studied professional design in the US and the UK, to look at the user interface and user experience of his new startup. "I have put in all my life's savings into this business. I have to make it successful. Otherwise, I will have to go back to Korea and live in the mountains," he says, only half-jokingly.

This $4-tn industry isn’t afraid of recession

Posted:

By Vildana HajricRecession. Just the mention of it sends shivers down the spine of even the most stalwart on Wall Street. But not among sellers of exchange-traded funds.A growing number of asset managers see a prolonged downturn spurring the next big cash injection for the $4.5 trillion US industry which, after years of meteoric growth, is showing signs of slowing down. While assets rose 32% in 2019, fund debuts shrank to the lowest in five years and liquidations jumped.Naysayers have been forecasting a recession for years as the U.S. extends its longest period of continuous growth in more than a century. But as companies try to cycle-proof their businesses, there's a growing roster of ETF providers who think a significant correction could scare billions of dollars out of mutual funds -- and see them reinvested in ETFs. 73363478 "We know the market's going to trend down at some point and it could be the next wave -- it could catalyze the next wave -- of ETF adoption," Rich Powers, Vanguard Group's head of ETF product management, said at a conference in December. There's precedent, he said, arguing that the global financial crisis was "one of the great catalysts for the adoption and acceleration of ETFs."Certainly, money managers like Vanguard and BlackRock Inc. have done very well since the crash as investors increasingly adopt passive products, but the connection between the two is a little counterintuitive. If negative growth curtails the stock market's bull run, you can bet ETFs will slide as investors head to the exits. But the argument goes that this short-term pain could ultimately translate to long-term gain for money managers. 73363484 That's because a downturn could also prompt redemptions from mutual funds -- ETFs' main rival for assets -- and this money could flow back into the market via cheaper ETFs. Active managers, who pick and choose investments, will come under heightened pressure to beat their benchmarks during times of stress and any underperformance may augment the appeal of indexed products."The spikes in growth are always when assets move from the incumbency, from where they're stuck to the new places," said Michael Venuto, co-founder and chief investment officer of Toroso Investments. "A lot of the ETF growth is new assets coming in; what we're talking about is the $14 trillion that's over there in mutual funds and unsticking it."History shows that market pullbacks have been beneficial for ETF flows, according to a study in 2018 by Toroso. 73363489 For example, many investors in actively-managed strategies flocked to low-cost passive funds following the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008, despite the stock market taking another six months to bottom out. Stock ETFs saw inflows of nearly $64 billion in the three months that followed the bank's fall, data compiled by Bloomberg show. After 12 months, inflows totaled more than $66 billion.By contrast, equity mutual funds saw outflows of $109 billion in the quarter after Lehman failed, according to the Investment Company Institute. Investors added just $15 billion back to these funds over the subsequent nine months, leaving flows in 2009 far below the $73 billion that was contributed in 2007, the data show.Some of the shift comes down to cost. Investors in active funds pay about 4.5 times more than those in passive products, the widest disparity since 2000, according to a 2018 Morningstar Inc. study. The cheapest ETF costs as little as 20 cents for every $1,000 invested, a major draw for anyone disillusioned with stock-picking, data compiled by Bloomberg show.Tax is also a factor, with investors disincentivized from selling their mutual funds in good times for fear of incurring capital gains. But a downswing could reduce those gains and create a strong motive to bail. Investors could then choose to buy a low-cost ETF over a higher-cost, underperforming mutual fund when the market recovers.Whatever the reasoning, ETFs have become more versatile compared with other fund formats and are easier to trade, said Ben Johnson, an analyst at Morningstar. "Thus, investors of all stripes with different needs, views, and time horizons have and will continue to gravitate toward the format."

The curious case of death penalty in India

Posted:

The four convicts in the 2012 Delhi gangrape case could be hanged on February 1. This will be the first time in 5 years a death penalty will be carried out in India and puts a spotlight on courts handing out capital punishment for murders involving sexual violence.102 Capital Punishments in 2019: After handing out 186 death sentences in 2018 — a 20-year high — the number of capital punishments given out at trial courts in 2019 declined sharply to 102. But the share of death sentences for sexual crimes is on the rise, driven by several state-level sentencing decisions. 73360932 73360952 Spotlight on Sexual Crime:There is a clear focus on perpetrators of sexual crimes as particularly "deserving" of the death penalty. However, there is no evidence that adding the death penalty for rape under certain circumstances has acted as a deterrent. In fact, the number of rape-murders increased between 2017 and 2018. 73360960 402 on Death Row:At the end of 2018, there were 402 people who had been handed out capital punishment in the country, with Maharashtra home to the most number of such convicts (76), followed, some distance away, by Uttar Pradesh (44) and Madhya Pradesh (40). 73360969 Pace of a Case:Despite the 2012 Delhi gangrape case used as an example of rape victims having to wait many years for justice, the case progressed faster than the average death penalty case, especially in the initial years. 73360981 Death Row Convicts: A Profile:Poorly educated and primary breadwinners for their families, the Delhi gangrape case convicts fit the description of the average person sentenced to death in the country. 73360976

How India's car market is undergoing a rapid change

Posted:

When Shubhankar Rawat, 39, bought a Kia Seltos sports utility vehicle in late December, he says it felt like an upgrade. The Korean automaker's first offering on the roads in India was loaded with features thus far unheard of in a mid-segment car. It's loaded with bells and whistles — three screens, including a retractable one, to handle vehicle health, navigation and entertainment duties; cameras and sensors all over; ventilated seats; the works. "It feels like top-end car features at a price point where Merc, BMW and Audi don't even have a product," says Rawat, a Gurgaon-based portfolio manager. The luxury carmakers, of course, have raced ahead on innovation and top-end models boast of voice and gesture controls with almost every part under the hood embedded with sensors, capturing data continuously with help just a touch away.Car companies have long tried to load vehicles with tech. But the level of tech and tech-enabled services in popular models now hitting the roads in India is such that the ecosystem is witnessing a realignment. Telematics, arrays of sensors and 24-hour live assistance mean car companies are having to upskill everyone from salespersons to mechanics, operate call centres and mount aggressive collaborations with tech companies or raise large tech divisions in-house, employing data scientists, software architects and programmers, to meet expectations about in-cabin features. This is spawning new jobs even as it renders parts of the older ecosystem — especially low-tech roadside mechanics — obsolete.Digital Dashboards"The car is becoming complex. It's changing from a mechanical system to a smart, sensor-driven system," says CV Raman, executive director and head of engineering at Maruti Suzuki India. The transformation is segment-agnostic. "We are aspiring to be a digital company," says Manu Saale, MD & CEO at Mercedes-Benz R&D India. 73362439 In December, Mercedes-Benz launched a model with voice and gesture controls. You can ask the car what's the weather at your destination, or if there's an Italian restaurant close by, for instance. The car will not only give the options, but also take you there should you like to go. "What's available in high-end vehicles today will be available in small cars tomorrow," says Ganesh Kalyanaraman, global delivery head for manufacturing, logistics, energy and utilities at Cognizant. 73362444 As core vehicle features such as engine, capacity and comfort have become optimised and harder to base differentiations on, the competition has moved to make cars smarter and more connected, in a bid to make in-cabin experience the edge against competition. This means manufacturers are packing cars with computers and sensors. Apart from monitoring and optimising every aspect of a vehicle's performance, the computers and a mobile internet link also make sure the car is never off the grid. What can't be fixed automatically (like a leak in the coolant pipe or brake pad clogging) results in an alert on the dashboard. Data is stored on on-board computers or transmitted to the cloud where the manufacturer can monitor in case of a call for help. 73362448 "A luxury vehicle has the computing power of 20 PCs (personal computers), and about 100 million lines of code. It has 50-100 CPUs and can process 25 GB of data every hour," says Kalyanaraman. Today's cars are an integration of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT), resulting in what's broadly termed as a connected car. 73362459 "A Mercedes has more lines of code than a Boeing Dreamliner 747. There are at least 100 ECUs (engine control units) in a top-of-the-line car," says Saale. Lingraju Sawkar, GM, global technology services, IBM India/South Asia, adds: "Spends (by auto companies) on classic IT are reducing while spends on business IT are increasing." By classic IT, he means traditional solutions such as enterprise resource planning software, emails, etc. IBM partners with a host of carmakers to make them smarter. For example, if the brake pad is good to last another 25,000 km, the sensor should send that alert to the owner's app or the car's screen well in advance to replace it. 73362469 Tech PartnersCarmakers are partnering with hardware and software developers to get that smart edge. Take MG Hector, China's SAIC Motor's first offering in India. It has partnerships with Cisco, Microsoft, SAP, iTeligence, Adobe, Cognizant, Panasonic and TomTom (for maps). Chip makers Infineon Technologies, NXP and Western Digital are eyeing big business from carmakers. Maruti has a core team of 110 staff in IT and also works with partners such as Wipro, Infosys, IBM, NXP and others to develop hardware and software solutions. 73362481 Gaurav Gupta, chief commercial officer, MG Motor India, says, "The Hector comes with over-the-air software update capabilities." That means much like a smartphone, it can upgrade its software via wireless internet connectivity.When Tesla first introduced the feature in 2012, it caused a sensation in the auto industry. Now a car priced upwards of Rs 12 lakh has the same features. 73362492 Among American carmakers, GM introduced the feature only in 2019 and Ford has said its vehicles will get the capability in 2020. Mercedes prefers to do it all in-house at its R&D units in Bengaluru, Sunnyvale in California and at its headquarters in Germany. "It's all too valuable to be outsourced. When it becomes commodity, maybe we will," says Saale. 73362507 Even in features such as in-car navigation, which has been around for a while, there's constant pressure to upgrade. "There's demand for better experiences. Maps, for instance, moved from 2-D to 3-D to now high-definition. Cameras are becoming more intelligent. Topend models can easily use up to 1 TB of storage while a mid-range car will have around 256 GB storage," says Vivek Tyagi, senior director for enterprise sales, India & South Asia, Western Digital, a US-based hard-disk maker and data storage firm.Dashboard as a User InterfaceReal-time data processing has led to increasing on-board storage. While data is moved to the cloud eventually, a lot of data critical to the vehicle's operation is stored on-board to avoid any lag during the exchange over the cloud. "Parts that need to process data real-time can't take a chance and that's pushing the envelope for bigger hard disks within cars," adds Tyagi. 73362517 This has resulted in new design concepts as well. Sanjay Gupta, vicechancellor at World University of Design, a Haryana-based institution, says carmakers are trying to turn the experience in the cabin akin to one that users are familiar with — using a smartphone. "The focus is on making the interface similar to a smartphone operation with features such as easy scrolling and swiping. The dashboard should be able to implement GPS, play music and videos and log data." With the dashboard becoming a user interface, "design focus is on making them flexible unlike earlier when they were fixed", Gupta adds.While the focus of innovation currently revolves around comfort, connectivity and safety, it all started with regulation compliance. Before emission laws came in, it was possible to build a car without a smart sensor. Now even entry-level cars come with at least an engine control module (ECM) to monitor emissions and keep them at acceptable levels."Now this has scaled further to make cars better and create a smartphone kind of experience on wheels. All systems in a car are connected to a CAN or controller area network. CAN sends signals (via alerts on apps or in-car screens) to enable, disable things or even repair/replace them," says Maruti's Raman.More Business for CarmakersEarlier, a customer's relationship with a car dealer rapidly diminished once the car left the showroom. Mechanical parts could be repaired by roadside shops which were usually 30-50 per cent cheaper than authorised service stations, notwithstanding the risk. "Buyers disappeared after the first three free services," says a dealer. Car companies have now changed tack to make sure it is the company the customer calls at the first sign of trouble. Expensive modern cars at any rate cannot be repaired by roadside repair shops. This, the automakers hope, would improve lifetime revenues from a vehicle.This has spawned a new support ecosystem. In December, Bosch started an emergency call service in India for Mercedes-Benz customers. The service is supported by data and call operations centres in Bengaluru and Coimbatore.Bosch, which supports Mercedes globally, declines to share employee numbers but a spokesperson said the current set-up is capable of supporting up to 1 million cars. The call centre responds automated/manual alerts and supports arranging response when needed. Besides help for any engine-related problems, it enables access to 13,500 hospitals and police stations across 27 states and 5 Union territories. The assistance is provided in Hindi and English.Upgrading MechanicsIn 2018, Maruti launched Suzuki Connect, an embedded device that tracks the location and key performance parameters of a vehicle in real time. Information about the car is relayed to the cloud and can be accessed by the company and its dealers. Available in four of its top models, Suzuki Connect at the backend is supported by 10,000 people manning call centres and service stations. "We offer over-the-air software upgrades. And in case you need a mechanic to attend, much like hiring an Uber, you can track their location and the time they will take to respond," says Rajesh Uppal, CIO at Maruti Suzuki India.Suzuki Connect costs Rs 10,000 for a three-year subscription. In the last 12-18 months, 6,500 technicians have been trained to install Suzuki Connect and this could increase to 10,000 in the coming months. MG Motor has partnered with Bajaj Allianz for roadside assistance. The company claims its Pulse Hub call centre, managed internally, will answer queries within 10 seconds. Dearer Cars:All this means buyers are also more for support. Companies take anywhere from Rs 10,000 to Rs 30,000 for up to three years of maintenance. "Earlier when I bought a car I didn't really need to go back to the dealer for expensive repairs as there was always a good option in the neighbourhood which was 30-40 per cent cheaper than the manufacturer. Now that option has gone," says Pooja Mittal, a Delhi-based marketing professional, who sold her 2007 Innova and bought a Hyundai Creta in mid-2019. Mittal is happy with her purchase. "It's an upgrade. Cameras make life easy when parking and reversing. Inside the car I'm connected automatically via Bluetooth, so I don't need to reach out to my phone if it rings or to read messages quickly," she says. However, "the wireless charging pad is not good to charge the iPhone 7 and the location of dashboard screen which show maps and other alerts could be better as I have to take my eyes off the road to look at them".Raman Roy, chairman-cum-managing director of Quatrro BPO Solutions, who drives a Toyota Camry, says: "The roadside fellow has no answer to any problem, barring a flat tyre or replacing a fused bulb. I had a problem with lights and had to take it to the company to fix them as lights were software-driven. You are stuck even for basic things like car lights." The prospects for the ubiquitous roadside garage, therefore, are bleak.Kavan Mukhtyar, partner & leader, automotive, PwC India, believes that by 2025, about one-third of the cost of the car will be accounted for by computers on-from about 10 per cent at present. "Car is becoming a moving computer. Roadside garages will see a dead end unless they become part of a bigger network, aligning with carmakers.Vehicle as a Service (VaaS) will be a new business model and up to 50,000 new jobs will be created in the next three to five years to support the cars." Western Digital's Tyagi sees car companies tying up with local repair garages to deliver services, "much like e-commerce companies partnering with kirana shops for quick delivery".Delete the DataBuyers will have to pay more for service every year and will even sign up for multi-year maintenance contracts. They will have to get used to software upgrades, firewall protection, diagnostics via app and hooking up with call centres for assistance. And buyers are keen, even in the used car market, to get a tech-loaded car. Sunny Kataria, VP, Auto, Olx India, says: "Ownership period of cars has declined from 7 years to 4 years and is expected to touch 3 years in 2020 — almost smartphone kind of replacement cycles. Cars with tech features can fetch 10-12 per cent higher prices than regular cars."While many might be keen to upgrade to new models, the level of data logging means owners must be careful to delete and reboot before selling a tech-loaded car. Much like a smartphone.Future ReadySmarter, connected cars will not only predict what is ahead, but even flySony Vision S 73362554 What happens when consumer electronics giants design cars? We have at least one answer in Sony Vision-S from Sony Corp. The car has 33 sensors, including 12 cameras, three solidstate lidar sensors (to measure distance using laser), and 15 radar and ultrasonic sensors. The combined hardware monitors traffic, road, driver and passengers. The dashboard is a screen that stretches between the pillars. If you don't see Vision-S on the roads in the coming years, you might find all the tech wizardry in cars that use this licensed tech from Sony.Hyundai Uber Flying Car 73362562 South Korean carmaker Hyundai aims to free up road traffic and make people zip across cities. The answer is a flying car, targeted at people in megacities like London and New York who can afford helicopters to get around. The electric flying car will have a range of 100 km per charge and recharge in 5-7 minutes. The plan is to mass produce these 5-seater vehicles and deploy them for Uber's air taxi network. Tests are due in 2020-21 and deployment is likely in 2023.AI-powered Sun Visor 73362573 It is the biggest upgrade of a car part that has barely changed for decades. Bosch has introduced artificial intelligence (AI)-powered sun visor called Virtual Visor. The visor takes the form of a rectangle that swings down from the headliner to block sunlight. It is a transparent LCD screen that uses an occupant-monitoring camera to track shadows across the front passengers' faces. AI then identifies facial features and uses this information to tint only the parts of the visor through which sunlight hits the passenger's eyes, creating a shadow that looks like a robotic Venetian mask. The rest stays transparent. All this for a safer drive.

Demolition of Maradu flats in Kochi turns spotlight on controlled explosion

Posted:

Rajeevan Nair could not bring himself to go out and watch what was a spectacle to many. Hundreds gathered in Maradu in Kochi on the second weekend of January to witness something that had never been done in India before — four illegally constructed skyscrapers being pulled down with explosives. "For them, it was like a fireworks show. But we were on the verge of losing our house in the vicinity of the high-rises," says the 56-year-old deputy superintendent at the Kochi Port Trust.Nair's villa was a mere 12 metres away from one of the four apartment buildings that were to be brought down because of a Supreme Court order. And he was scared the demolition would damage his house, too. A week before the destruction, he covered his entire house with tarpaulin and moved with his family to a rented dwelling 150 metres away. When the lakeside buildings came crashing down — two towers were brought down on January 11 and two on 12 — he could hear the explosions. "I felt the earth tremble." He watched the videos online, like millions more, as the collapse was live-streamed and the clips went viral. The event was extensively reported by the local and national media, and even piqued the interest of global news outlets.When the dust from the collapse settled, Nair heaved a sigh of relief. His residence had survived the demolitions. He plans to move back after a round of cleaning and painting. He also plans to have an engineer assess his house for cracks.The Kochi demolitions have brought to the fore controlled implosion, a method that has been used to raze buildings in the West for decades but is still relatively uncommon in India, thanks to lack of expertise and the availability of cheap labour for alternative methods. But with the success of the Kochi demolitions, controlled implosion could now find more takers across the country.73362731 The demolition videos show how controlled implosion works. First, explosives go off in a sequence at strategic places in the building. The structure then starts collapsing on itself. A thick cloud of dust and debris envelops the surrounding greenery and buildings. The whole operation is over in a matter of seconds. What took years to erect is reduced to rubble in the blink of an eye.What is interesting in this form of demolition is that the process largely leaves the adjacent buildings untouched. In Maradu, some houses in the vicinity reported damages to windowpanes and roofing sheets due to the implosions.S Suhas, district collector, Ernakulam, who oversaw the demolitions, says convincing the locals about the safety of the implosions was a bigger challenge than the technical hurdles.73362735 People from within 200 m of the buildings were temporarily evacuated, roads were cleared and Section 144 imposed for a few hours on both days. The Ernakulam administration spent around Rs 2 crore for the demolition project, with the contractors making money off the steel recovered from the buildings and the debris. No other structure in the vicity saw major damages because of the demolition, he adds."People are not fine with something exploding in their neighbourhood. But after the Kochi demolitions, thanks to the media coverage, they might become more comfortable with it," says Manish Kumar, assistant professor at the IIT-Bombay.Among other structures recently razed through controlled implosions are fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi's bungalow in Alibag and a hotel in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, both in 2019. An 11-storey residential building in Chennai was brought down in 2016. Telangana reportedly wants to use controlled implosion to tear down its secretariat.73362741 There is no data available on the buildings demolished every year in India. But according to the 2011 Census, around 5% of residences, or over 13 million units, are in a dilapidated condition. And there were over 2,000 deaths from structural collapses in 2018, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.Demolition is a largely unorganised industry with lax safety standards, and there are fewer than 10 companies in India with the know-how to carry out implosions. While explosives are used in mining and to bring down cooling towers and chimneys, they have rarely been used to bring down large buildings in India.73362747 Even in the US, Europe and China, where implosions of tall structures are hardly a novelty, the method is used in just 1-2% of demolitions. Before implosion, a building is cleared of toxic and flammable materials, glass, furniture, etc. Then the columns are drilled to be filled with explosives like ammonium nitrate, 750 kg of which was reportedly used in Kochi. The explosives are placed in such a way that the structure falls to a side if there are no buildings nearby or crumbles on itself.Controlled implosion is preferred for structures with more than 10 floors or when a building is to be razed quickly. The latter was the case with Modi's bungalow, which was in violation of coastal regulation zone (CRZ) norms. Vijay Suryawanshi, district collector of Raigad, says he gave the demolition order but Modi didn't challenge it."I wanted to do it before he could challenge the order." It was his first controlled implosion and cost the government just Rs 2.5 lakh. There are another 150 illegal bungalows in the district whose demolition has been stayed. "Once the stay is vacated, we will use controlled implosions to demolish them. It is cheap and saves time," adds Suryawanshi.A controlled implosion can be done in half the time it takes to use a high-reach excavator or a wrecking ball, and can cost just as much in some cases.Time constraint was also the primary reason for the choice of controlled implosion for the Maradu flats, whose construction began in 2006. They were later found to be flouting CRZ rules, which do not permit any construction within 200 m of the coast in the area. After homeowners got a reprieve from the Kerala High Court in 2015, the matter was taken to the Supreme Court, which in May 2019 ordered the demolition of the nearly 350 flats. After rejecting review petitions by the builders, the apex court in September asked for the demolition to be expedited and for homeowners to be paid a compensation of Rs 25 lakh.The authorities had to make sure the neighbouring buildings, one of which was just 6 m away, suffered no damage. The district administration invited bidders and chose two companies — Mumbai-headquartered Edifice Engineering and Chennai-based Vijay Steels — to carry out the demolitions. Planning began three months ago and Edifice, which was given three of the four buildings, sought the expertise of Johannesburg-based Jet Demolition, known for carrying out controlled implosions."It was one of our most challenging projects as the time we had was exceptionally short and there was huge interest from the authorities and the people," says Joe Brinkmann, managing director of Jet Demolition. Brinkmann has overseen the implosions of several skyscrapers, including a 108 m tower in Johannesburg in November. But this was Jet's first project in India — and a high-profile one, to boot — and the company could not afford for it to be anything less than very precise. "If it had gone slightly haywire, we would not be sitting here; we would be behind bars," says Uttkarsh Mehta, partner, Edifice.Mehta adds that district administrations and the local police have been wary of signing off on controlled implosions as they involve the use of explosives and there is a risk of threats to life and property. "We had 2,000 police personnel manning the area in Kochi. You can't have that for every implosion," says Jigar Chheda, the other partner at Edifice. The largest of the Kochi complexes was nearly 70 m high — a record for implosion in India — while the tallest structure ever to be demolished using explosives was the JL Hudson building (134 m) in Detroit, US, back in 1998.IIT's Kumar says the Kochi implosions were possible only because the neighbouring constructions were relatively new, engineered buildings. "When the nearby structures are old, the ground vibrations can be severe. Also, I wouldn't recommend it in a densely populated area." There are also concerns about the pollution caused by an implosion, which can have a severe but temporary impact on air quality.As demands for commercial and residential spaces increase in India's major cities, some of the old buildings will have to make way for bigger replacements, and implosions could now be more seriously considered as a way of knocking them down. Similarly, the judiciary could use the Kochi demolitions as an example to order quick razing of illegal structures.

How India's car market is undergoing a rapid change

Posted:

When Shubhankar Rawat, 39, bought a Kia Seltos sports utility vehicle in late December, he says it felt like an upgrade. The Korean automaker's first offering on the roads in India was loaded with features thus far unheard of in a mid-segment car. It's loaded with bells and whistles — three screens, including a retractable one, to handle vehicle health, navigation and entertainment duties; cameras and sensors all over; ventilated seats; the works. "It feels like top-end car features at a price point where Merc, BMW and Audi don't even have a product," says Rawat, a Gurgaon-based portfolio manager. The luxury carmakers, of course, have raced ahead on innovation and top-end models boast of voice and gesture controls with almost every part under the hood embedded with sensors, capturing data continuously with help just a touch away.Car companies have long tried to load vehicles with tech. But the level of tech and tech-enabled services in popular models now hitting the roads in India is such that the ecosystem is witnessing a realignment. Telematics, arrays of sensors and 24-hour live assistance mean car companies are having to upskill everyone from salespersons to mechanics, operate call centres and mount aggressive collaborations with tech companies or raise large tech divisions in-house, employing data scientists, software architects and programmers, to meet expectations about in-cabin features. This is spawning new jobs even as it renders parts of the older ecosystem — especially low-tech roadside mechanics — obsolete.Digital Dashboards"The car is becoming complex. It's changing from a mechanical system to a smart, sensor-driven system," says CV Raman, executive director and head of engineering at Maruti Suzuki India. The transformation is segment-agnostic. "We are aspiring to be a digital company," says Manu Saale, MD & CEO at Mercedes-Benz R&D India. 73362439 In December, Mercedes-Benz launched a model with voice and gesture controls. You can ask the car what's the weather at your destination, or if there's an Italian restaurant close by, for instance. The car will not only give the options, but also take you there should you like to go. "What's available in high-end vehicles today will be available in small cars tomorrow," says Ganesh Kalyanaraman, global delivery head for manufacturing, logistics, energy and utilities at Cognizant. 73362444 As core vehicle features such as engine, capacity and comfort have become optimised and harder to base differentiations on, the competition has moved to make cars smarter and more connected, in a bid to make in-cabin experience the edge against competition. This means manufacturers are packing cars with computers and sensors. Apart from monitoring and optimising every aspect of a vehicle's performance, the computers and a mobile internet link also make sure the car is never off the grid. What can't be fixed automatically (like a leak in the coolant pipe or brake pad clogging) results in an alert on the dashboard. Data is stored on on-board computers or transmitted to the cloud where the manufacturer can monitor in case of a call for help. 73362448 "A luxury vehicle has the computing power of 20 PCs (personal computers), and about 100 million lines of code. It has 50-100 CPUs and can process 25 GB of data every hour," says Kalyanaraman. Today's cars are an integration of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT), resulting in what's broadly termed as a connected car. 73362459 "A Mercedes has more lines of code than a Boeing Dreamliner 747. There are at least 100 ECUs (engine control units) in a top-of-the-line car," says Saale. Lingraju Sawkar, GM, global technology services, IBM India/South Asia, adds: "Spends (by auto companies) on classic IT are reducing while spends on business IT are increasing." By classic IT, he means traditional solutions such as enterprise resource planning software, emails, etc. IBM partners with a host of carmakers to make them smarter. For example, if the brake pad is good to last another 25,000 km, the sensor should send that alert to the owner's app or the car's screen well in advance to replace it. 73362469 Tech PartnersCarmakers are partnering with hardware and software developers to get that smart edge. Take MG Hector, China's SAIC Motor's first offering in India. It has partnerships with Cisco, Microsoft, SAP, iTeligence, Adobe, Cognizant, Panasonic and TomTom (for maps). Chip makers Infineon Technologies, NXP and Western Digital are eyeing big business from carmakers. Maruti has a core team of 110 staff in IT and also works with partners such as Wipro, Infosys, IBM, NXP and others to develop hardware and software solutions. 73362481 Gaurav Gupta, chief commercial officer, MG Motor India, says, "The Hector comes with over-the-air software update capabilities." That means much like a smartphone, it can upgrade its software via wireless internet connectivity.When Tesla first introduced the feature in 2012, it caused a sensation in the auto industry. Now a car priced upwards of Rs 12 lakh has the same features. 73362492 Among American carmakers, GM introduced the feature only in 2019 and Ford has said its vehicles will get the capability in 2020. Mercedes prefers to do it all in-house at its R&D units in Bengaluru, Sunnyvale in California and at its headquarters in Germany. "It's all too valuable to be outsourced. When it becomes commodity, maybe we will," says Saale. 73362507 Even in features such as in-car navigation, which has been around for a while, there's constant pressure to upgrade. "There's demand for better experiences. Maps, for instance, moved from 2-D to 3-D to now high-definition. Cameras are becoming more intelligent. Topend models can easily use up to 1 TB of storage while a mid-range car will have around 256 GB storage," says Vivek Tyagi, senior director for enterprise sales, India & South Asia, Western Digital, a US-based hard-disk maker and data storage firm.Dashboard as a User InterfaceReal-time data processing has led to increasing on-board storage. While data is moved to the cloud eventually, a lot of data critical to the vehicle's operation is stored on-board to avoid any lag during the exchange over the cloud. "Parts that need to process data real-time can't take a chance and that's pushing the envelope for bigger hard disks within cars," adds Tyagi. 73362517 This has resulted in new design concepts as well. Sanjay Gupta, vicechancellor at World University of Design, a Haryana-based institution, says carmakers are trying to turn the experience in the cabin akin to one that users are familiar with — using a smartphone. "The focus is on making the interface similar to a smartphone operation with features such as easy scrolling and swiping. The dashboard should be able to implement GPS, play music and videos and log data." With the dashboard becoming a user interface, "design focus is on making them flexible unlike earlier when they were fixed", Gupta adds.While the focus of innovation currently revolves around comfort, connectivity and safety, it all started with regulation compliance. Before emission laws came in, it was possible to build a car without a smart sensor. Now even entry-level cars come with at least an engine control module (ECM) to monitor emissions and keep them at acceptable levels."Now this has scaled further to make cars better and create a smartphone kind of experience on wheels. All systems in a car are connected to a CAN or controller area network. CAN sends signals (via alerts on apps or in-car screens) to enable, disable things or even repair/replace them," says Maruti's Raman.More Business for CarmakersEarlier, a customer's relationship with a car dealer rapidly diminished once the car left the showroom. Mechanical parts could be repaired by roadside shops which were usually 30-50 per cent cheaper than authorised service stations, notwithstanding the risk. "Buyers disappeared after the first three free services," says a dealer. Car companies have now changed tack to make sure it is the company the customer calls at the first sign of trouble. Expensive modern cars at any rate cannot be repaired by roadside repair shops. This, the automakers hope, would improve lifetime revenues from a vehicle.This has spawned a new support ecosystem. In December, Bosch started an emergency call service in India for Mercedes-Benz customers. The service is supported by data and call operations centres in Bengaluru and Coimbatore.Bosch, which supports Mercedes globally, declines to share employee numbers but a spokesperson said the current set-up is capable of supporting up to 1 million cars. The call centre responds automated/manual alerts and supports arranging response when needed. Besides help for any engine-related problems, it enables access to 13,500 hospitals and police stations across 27 states and 5 Union territories. The assistance is provided in Hindi and English.Upgrading MechanicsIn 2018, Maruti launched Suzuki Connect, an embedded device that tracks the location and key performance parameters of a vehicle in real time. Information about the car is relayed to the cloud and can be accessed by the company and its dealers. Available in four of its top models, Suzuki Connect at the backend is supported by 10,000 people manning call centres and service stations. "We offer over-the-air software upgrades. And in case you need a mechanic to attend, much like hiring an Uber, you can track their location and the time they will take to respond," says Rajesh Uppal, CIO at Maruti Suzuki India.Suzuki Connect costs Rs 10,000 for a three-year subscription. In the last 12-18 months, 6,500 technicians have been trained to install Suzuki Connect and this could increase to 10,000 in the coming months. MG Motor has partnered with Bajaj Allianz for roadside assistance. The company claims its Pulse Hub call centre, managed internally, will answer queries within 10 seconds. Dearer Cars:All this means buyers are also more for support. Companies take anywhere from Rs 10,000 to Rs 30,000 for up to three years of maintenance. "Earlier when I bought a car I didn't really need to go back to the dealer for expensive repairs as there was always a good option in the neighbourhood which was 30-40 per cent cheaper than the manufacturer. Now that option has gone," says Pooja Mittal, a Delhi-based marketing professional, who sold her 2007 Innova and bought a Hyundai Creta in mid-2019. Mittal is happy with her purchase. "It's an upgrade. Cameras make life easy when parking and reversing. Inside the car I'm connected automatically via Bluetooth, so I don't need to reach out to my phone if it rings or to read messages quickly," she says. However, "the wireless charging pad is not good to charge the iPhone 7 and the location of dashboard screen which show maps and other alerts could be better as I have to take my eyes off the road to look at them".Raman Roy, chairman-cum-managing director of Quatrro BPO Solutions, who drives a Toyota Camry, says: "The roadside fellow has no answer to any problem, barring a flat tyre or replacing a fused bulb. I had a problem with lights and had to take it to the company to fix them as lights were software-driven. You are stuck even for basic things like car lights." The prospects for the ubiquitous roadside garage, therefore, are bleak.Kavan Mukhtyar, partner & leader, automotive, PwC India, believes that by 2025, about one-third of the cost of the car will be accounted for by computers on-from about 10 per cent at present. "Car is becoming a moving computer. Roadside garages will see a dead end unless they become part of a bigger network, aligning with carmakers.Vehicle as a Service (VaaS) will be a new business model and up to 50,000 new jobs will be created in the next three to five years to support the cars." Western Digital's Tyagi sees car companies tying up with local repair garages to deliver services, "much like e-commerce companies partnering with kirana shops for quick delivery".Delete the DataBuyers will have to pay more for service every year and will even sign up for multi-year maintenance contracts. They will have to get used to software upgrades, firewall protection, diagnostics via app and hooking up with call centres for assistance. And buyers are keen, even in the used car market, to get a tech-loaded car. Sunny Kataria, VP, Auto, Olx India, says: "Ownership period of cars has declined from 7 years to 4 years and is expected to touch 3 years in 2020 — almost smartphone kind of replacement cycles. Cars with tech features can fetch 10-12 per cent higher prices than regular cars."While many might be keen to upgrade to new models, the level of data logging means owners must be careful to delete and reboot before selling a tech-loaded car. Much like a smartphone.Future ReadySmarter, connected cars will not only predict what is ahead, but even flySony Vision S 73362554 What happens when consumer electronics giants design cars? We have at least one answer in Sony Vision-S from Sony Corp. The car has 33 sensors, including 12 cameras, three solidstate lidar sensors (to measure distance using laser), and 15 radar and ultrasonic sensors. The combined hardware monitors traffic, road, driver and passengers. The dashboard is a screen that stretches between the pillars. If you don't see Vision-S on the roads in the coming years, you might find all the tech wizardry in cars that use this licensed tech from Sony.Hyundai Uber Flying Car 73362562 South Korean carmaker Hyundai aims to free up road traffic and make people zip across cities. The answer is a flying car, targeted at people in megacities like London and New York who can afford helicopters to get around. The electric flying car will have a range of 100 km per charge and recharge in 5-7 minutes. The plan is to mass produce these 5-seater vehicles and deploy them for Uber's air taxi network. Tests are due in 2020-21 and deployment is likely in 2023.AI-powered Sun Visor 73362573 It is the biggest upgrade of a car part that has barely changed for decades. Bosch has introduced artificial intelligence (AI)-powered sun visor called Virtual Visor. The visor takes the form of a rectangle that swings down from the headliner to block sunlight. It is a transparent LCD screen that uses an occupant-monitoring camera to track shadows across the front passengers' faces. AI then identifies facial features and uses this information to tint only the parts of the visor through which sunlight hits the passenger's eyes, creating a shadow that looks like a robotic Venetian mask. The rest stays transparent. All this for a safer drive.

How Sebi's new margin money rule changed game for brokers

Posted:

By DK AggarwalSebi recently aligned margin processes for derivative and cash markets, with the objective of reducing risks in the system. Actually, the markets regulator has come up with many additional rules and mechanisms recently to reduce the risks of misuse of funds and securities, and to safeguard retail investors.Sebi has now restricted stockbrokers from providing additional leverage for intraday trades. With the change in the rule, investors now need to deposit the value at risk margin (VaR), extreme loss margin (ELM), mark-to-market margin (MTM), delivery margin, special/additional margin or any other margin as prescribed by the stock exchanges at the time of placing an order.Meanwhile, a request has been placed with Sebi to segregate between intraday margin and positional margin. Stockbrokers have written to Sebi to allow them to collect margins from their clients after market closing, instead of collecting them upfront at the time of doing the trade. Earlier, margin funding allowed brokerages to keep the unpaid securities in their own account, and in turn, pledge them to NBFCs to raise funds. If data is to be believed, intra-day trading volumes comprise at least 50 per cent of most stockbrokers' daily activity. As the new rule prevents brokerages from offering margin funding, it could adversely impact trading volumes on stock exchanges. The new rule will allow only bigger traders to take bigger positions, as they can afford it, and hence revenues of smaller brokerages are going to get hit. It would lead to an increase in the impact cost or slippages. Besides, participation in the weekly options is going to get limited as traders may be forced to move to monthly options in stocks and indices. Many small stockbrokers will need to limit their business, as they will have to pay a penalty if the initial margins have not been paid for trades carried forward to the next day. However, in the long run, it is expected to help retail traders adopt a disciplined approach and indirectly control speculative activities in the market. Moreover, a sufficiently leveraged system and positions will positively make trading more transparent and increase market participation in a more continuous manner. 73350925 Chairman and MD, SMC Investments and Advisors

Xiaomi India's MD hands over offline retail biz to COO; to focus on new areas

Posted:

Xiaomi India's managing director Manu Kumar Jain would play a key role in deciding the Chinese electronic company's entry into newer global markets and product categories, while chief operating officer Muralikrishnan B will helm the offline expansion. The entry into brick and mortar stores was till now spearheaded by Jain. Three senior industry executives said that while Jain will continue in his existing role of India MD, he will allocate disproportionate time to anchor these strategic initiatives and mentor new projects, both for India and global operations. The role shift, announced internally last week, is effective this month.Considered the poster boy of the smartphone industry in the country, Jain is one of the rare Indian executives featuring in the top leadership team of a Chinese company as a global vice president. He is the only expat in the CXO team at Xiaomi Corp.Xiaomi wants to enter new markets and categories banking on the success in India where it overtook deep pocketed and well-entrenched Samsung more than two years ago to become the largest smartphone maker. It also claims leadership in smart televisions in India, a category it entered less than two years ago.Jain will head the expansion of newer categories, such as smart televisions, and expand presence in internet connected devices and home appliances in India. He also handles Xiaomi's operations of Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka from India, which is the SAARC base for the company.Xiaomi has also decided to expand the width of its presence in offline market in India and is seeking to double offline sales this year to strengthen and widen the lead over Samsung and Realme, the executives said.A Xiaomi India spokesperson did not respond to queries.Xiaomi India's director for offline sales Sunil Baby will report to Muralikrishnan. Raghu Reddy, who leads all categories and online sales, will continue in his role. Reddy and Muralikrishnan will report to Jain. The company recently announced it has sold one million devices in the Indian offline market last Friday. Xiaomi currently has an offline presence of more than 2,500 Mi Stores, 75-plus Mi Home and more than 20 Mi Studios. Besides, it also has a presence in more than 7,000 multi-brand stores that operate as preferred partners.