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Tuesday, January 28, 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


Trump comes to India next month with a $10-bn trade deal

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NEW DELHI: India and the US are likely to finalise a mega trade deal pegged above $10 billion (more than Rs 71,000 crore) next month when United States Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer visits New Delhi.The deal, whose legal vetting is underway, will be signed during US President Donald Trump's visit to India, and is a precursor to a free trade agreement between the two nations, officials in the know of the plans said.Lighthizer and commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal are likely to meet in the second week of February to finalise the terms of the deal. Trump is expected to be in India during February 24-25, his first visit here as head of state. 73719143 There were meetings on the planned deal in Davos during the World Economic Forum. A six-member team from the US administration was in Delhi over the weekend, meeting Goyal and the relevant line ministries to discuss the contours of the proposed pact.Goyal had met Lighthizer in the US last year.'Medical Devices Issue Resolved'"It is a fairly large deal," said an official aware of the details. The issue of medical devices, which was a key obstacle in the trade talks between the two countries, is resolved, the official added.India and the US have been entangled in a series of trade spats across various sectors. The deal could touch upon Washington's demand of doing away with duty on American information and communication technology goods along with market access for its dairy products and duty cuts on Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The US is also keen to sell more almonds to India. New Delhi, on the other hand, had sought market access to its fruits including grapes."We expect the full deal to be signed this time and the longer-term idea is an FTA," the official added.India also wants restoration of benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP).Under the GSP, certain products can enter the American market duty-free if the beneficiary developing country meets the eligibility criteria established by US Congress. The benefits to India were withdrawn from June 5, 2019, after the US dairy and medical devices industries alleged that Indian trade barriers affected their exports.In 2018, India exported goods worth $6.3 billion (as per USTR figures) to the US under the GSP, accounting for around 12.1% of India's total export to the US.The average duty concession accruing on account of GSP was almost $240 million in 2018. "We want GSP as it spreads across sectors, from textiles to agriculture, and we want access for our goods in the American market," the official said.Goyal had earlier told ET that any imported product which had got animal feed into the food chain was a redline for India if it was not properly marketed as a non-vegetarian, because of the religious sensitivities around it. Opening up access to certain agricultural products where India is self-sufficient and wants to protect the farming community is another such issue, the minister had said."There are always certain issues where one takes extra precautions and ensures that it doesn't affect the Indian ecosystem, but usually in a trade deal, there are no complete no-nos. One can always work around and find sustainable solutions which can be acceptable to all parties," he had said.Lighthizer is coming first to close the deal and he will come again with Trump to announce it, officials said.The two sides have been engaged in talks to iron out the differences which began in 2018, when the US levied global additional tariffs of 25% and 10% on the import of steel and aluminium products, respectively. India responded by levying retaliatory tariffs on 28 products originating or exported from the US with effect from June 16, 2019, for which Washington dragged it to the World Trade Organization.India's exports to the US in the April-November period of fiscal 2020 totalled $35.6 billion, compared with imports of $25.1 billion. In the whole of fiscal 2018-19, exports were $52.4 billion and imports, $35.5 billion.

The trick that's helping Ola retain drivers

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BENGALURU: Drivers on ride-hailing platform Ola have spiked 7-10% in seven metro cities, after the homegrown aggregator rolled out revised standardised commissions to keep drivers active during peak hours, two people directly in the know of the matter told ET.The new payout structure, with an average take rate of 20% for the company, gives drivers a more predictable and transparent view of earnings as well as charges on tolls, taxes, commissions and parking. ET first reported Ola's revamped incentive structure on January 6. An Ola spokesperson confirmed the new commissions structure.Retaining drivers has been a tough task for both Ola and rival Uber as falling incentives have led to lower earnings. The revamped payout is Ola's strongest push in two years to keep drivers on its side, they said. "It also strategically comes at a time when Uber has moved its focus towards profitable growth globally, giving Ola the leeway to strengthen its presence in its home market," an investor in the company said. Uber has not visibly changed its incentives, drivers told ET. "Ola's earnings structure for partners is designed to maximise revenue and encourage highest quality of service and availability on the platform, in a sustainable fashion...," the Ola spokesperson said.Both Ola and Uber continue to fight for customer wallets but keeping the supply of drivers consistent has been their biggest issue. "At a time when car ownership is falling, consumers are willing to pay more for predictable supply during peak hours," a person closely tracking the mobility space said. "The key to this business is keeping active driver supply with incentives under check," he added.An Ola driver dashboard of a trip in Bengaluru that ET accessed showed that the company charged a commission of about 20% on the fare, 5% in taxes, as well as a consumer service fee of 5.5% for its in-app entertainment Ola Play. Rides to the airport have an additional parking charge which is deducted from earnings, while Ola reimburses toll charges. 73718827 "Over the last three months, a lot of bottoms-up research and demand-supply mapping work has been done to frame these structures in a way that, on average, Ola keeps its take rate at 20-22%. Drivers, too, see value in being active on the platform at the right time," the second person quoted earlier who is familiar with the developments said.The revised structure is not expected to hurt its path towards profitability, he added. "Balancing growth with profitability is where the power of platform comes into play," the Ola investor quoted earlier in the story said. Ola has other models to make money for riders, including its membership program Ola Select, in-ride entertainment Ola Play and financial services. It also has a strong presence in the corporate segment and high margin businesses like outstation and self-drive.Ola's decision to rejig its incentives structure comes at a time when rival Uber has sold its loss-making food delivery unit in India to Zomato and is expected to ramp up focus on its core ride-hailing business."We constantly ensure sustainable earnings opportunities for our driver-partners... These fares are dynamic, as is our business model," an Uber spokesperson said.

April will be the cruellest month for FPIs

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Mumbai: Foreign investors have sought grandfathering benefit from the government as a new global tax framework which kicks in from April this year may see them getting slapped with capital gains tax notices unless tax treaties are reworked, consultants and experts said. Taxmen may question or deny tax exemption given under current existing treaties with foreign countries after April 1 as the new multilateral instrument (MLI) regime has no provision for grandfathering or exemption from tax for investments made before a certain period.MLI is a common tax treaty or agreement India will have with all the countries and will replace the different tax treaties the country now has. These treaties provided grandfathering benefit. For instance, the separate amended treaties with Singapore, Mauritius and Cyprus protected investments made before April 2017 from higher or new taxes on capital gains. GAAR, the General Anti Avoidance Rule, introduced in 2016, also provided this protection.But the MLI, which is going to replace everything from April 1 is silent on grandfathering. "With effect from 1April 2020, 30 tax treaties entered into by India will get modified as a result of MLI. Having regard to the insertion of principal purpose test, there is an apprehension whether capital gains exemption under the relevant tax treaties can be challenged by revenue authorities, despite the "grandfathering" under GAAR as also some of the tax treaties. The government should issue a clarification on the matter to allay taxpayer concerns," said Himanshu Parekh, head, corporate and international tax, KPMG. 73718434 Tax experts say that unlike the current tax treaties the MLI framework is stricter and investors cannot just escape by showing "substance" in tax havens."Under MLI, the threshold to claim treaty access is generally stricter and to that extent investors will need to take cognisance of this. Even though Singapore treaty has a grandfathering clause for cap gains on equities, the MLI once in play, will mean that investors will need to adhere to the higher threshold, unless India and Singapore agree otherwise," said Sameer Gupta, tax markets leader, EY India.Investors fear that tax department can dig out cases for the last eight years as it's allowed under tax regulations.For instance, any sale of investment by an American PE fund after 2022 and where the investment is dated 2015 and routed through Singapore, could trigger a tax issue. In 2022, MLI would have replaced Singapore tax treaty and the taxman can straight away deny grandfathering benefit. To add to it, the taxman can also question rationale for investing in India through Singapore instead of directly from the US."Under tax treaties FPIs could show substance by showing employees in jurisdiction, but MLI only speaks about purpose of investment. Now one explanation can be given that Singapore was only used to pool money from global investors and saving tax was only an outcome of that, but a tax officer can reject this explanation," said a tax advisor.As per the MLI framework Indian tax authorities can levy penalties and additional taxes if it's found that the purpose of using a tax haven or a jurisdiction was to save tax. More than 100 countries including India, signed the OECD multilateral convention in Paris in 2017 that aimed to check cross border tax evasion by MNCs.Tax experts say that under GAAR framework—that also aims at catching investors that escape taxes— any officer can issue notices to investors."Just like in the case of GAAR, it would be worthwhile to introduce the concept of an Approving Panel to whom each case of PPT should be referred to before the Tax Officer actually invokes it," said Parekh.

Tata Sons may bank on TCS to clear AGR dues

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Tata Sons has started the process of arranging funds for paying off the statutory dues of Rs 13,823 crore owed by Tata Teleservices, top officials close to the development said. It will most likely bank on group flagship TCS for sourcing funds in case it has to pay the dues immediately, an official privy to the matter said.The move comes even as the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear modification petitions filed by telcos after the court upheld the government's broad definition of telecom service providers' adjusted gross revenues (AGR) based on which their levies and spectrum charges are calculated.The steel to salt conglomerate is upset over the impact of this payout demand. "But we are realistic of the importance to have a payment plan in place," one of the officials said.Tata Sons declined to comment.If the top court allows telcos to negotiate with the telecom department (DoT) then the timeline for payment may get extended, and the Tata group company may not have to rush into clearing the AGR dues. Otherwise, it may have to make the payment immediately as the deadline fixed by the top court ended on January 23. 73709599 Top officials close to the development said the issue has been much debated by the holding company which is closely monitoring the capital allocation and return on capital of operating companies."It is an unreasonably huge amount, but we are aware that we have a reputation to protect of paying off every single due owed by group companies," a group official said. "The Tata Sons board had also discussed various scenarios to best handle the financial impact when they last met before the NCLAT order in end 2019."The holding company's finance team is handling the discussions on other possible avenues of raising funds to deal with the crisis that has come in a challenging business environment. For the group this is a double whammy of sorts, coming at a time when the Tata Trust is fighting another legal battle with the income tax department.The group is also worried about the impact of the payment on its balance sheets."Our worries are also over the kind of impact it has have on business decisions of foreign investors," a top official said on condition of anonymity. "How does (the group) focus on sensible capital allocation on growth when we continued to be distracted by industry legacy issues?"To deal with such issues, the group is increasingly depending on the profits from TCS that has a market cap of Rs 8.2 lakh crore as of Tuesday."This is really a major concern for us," said another senior group executive. "We chose to do the right thing and paid off Docomo and the banks so that we would close issues that would distract. Such issues keep distracting us from giving complete attention to the other challenges that we are also facing."The Docomo and Tata fight was a three-year tussle in which the Delhi High Court in 20117 allowed Tata Sons to pay NTT Docomo a $1.17 billion arbitration award upon termination of their telecom joint venture. The group paid Docomo in October same year.Tata Teleservices, along with Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel, had filed review petitions before the Supreme Court against its earlier verdict on AGR dues. That petition was dismissed, following which the three went for modification applications. Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel face statutory dues of Rs 53,039 crore and Rs 35,586 crore, respectively.The tussle between telcos and government over AGR dues concluded on October 24, 2019 when the top court upheld the government's definition.Although the deadline has gone, DoT has directed its circle offices not to take any coercive action against the telcos till the Supreme Court's decision on the modification appeal.

Alcohol firms urge Andhra Pradesh government to clear Rs 765-crore dues

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MUMBAI: An association of liquor and beer suppliers has urged the Andhra Pradesh government to clear at least half their dues, pending since September last year, saying uncertainty in payments will lead to a liquidity crisis.The state government has taken over the liquor retail business. Andhra Pradesh accounts for nearly 8-10% of the overall spirits and beer consumption in India. The suppliers are seeking immediate release of Rs 765 crore by the state.The Association of Liquor and Beer Suppliers — which represents companies such as United Spirits, Pernod Ricard, United Breweries and AB InBev — said the state excise department's sales receipts were Rs 7,081 crore over the past four months and it was holding back 15% of the total proceeds from suppliers. The trade body called it "appalling and unjust". ET has a copy of the letter.73718048 The Andhra Pradesh finance ministry and excise department did not respond to ET's queries.The liquor industry in the state works on a revenue model, purely on credit terms, towards stocks and duties and the excise department makes payments on the stock's value and advance duties only after the entire stock is sold."Holding the payments for September-December is cascading to a huge deficit in availability of working capital to re-invest in further supplies," says the letter sent to the principal secretary of the state's finance ministry and to the Andhra Pradesh State Beverage Corporation."Keeping in view the above delays, we humbly request you to release immediately 50% of the amount of Rs 1,533 crore (Rs 765 crore), which can at least meet the demand after the Sankranthi festival," it said.Late last year, the state introduced a new bar policy which includes cancellation of existing bar licences, issuance of new permits from January 2020 and reduction in the number of bars by 40%.This has already resulted in a sharp decline in alcoholic beverage volumes in the state — for the October-December quarter, spirits volumes were down 32% year-on-year, while beer volumes were down 63%. January numbers are similar too — spirits volumes are down 40%, while beer volumes have declined 56% over the past three weeks, according to state excise department data.This comes at a time when companies have been witnessing slower growth sequentially every quarter because of increased taxes and curbs on liquor in a few states.United Breweries, which controls nearly half the beer market with brands such as Kingfisher, had said that unless there was a dramatic turnaround in the economy overall, 2020 would continue to be challenging for the industry."There will be a base effect. We will hopefully see growth in Q1 (January-March) this year since the base effect of Q1 of 2019 was depressed due to elections. But that gets negated by the fact that Andhra Pradesh, which was a large market, will be significantly reduced because of government policies," UB's managing director Shekhar Ramamurthy told ET earlier this month.

Branded agarbatti companies rework models amid slump

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BENGALURU: Marigold and red hibiscus, offered at Mumbai's Siddhivinayak temple, are being dried, crushed and mixed with agarbatti masala. At the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi, floral waste — dhatura and lotus — is getting converted to perfume. It is no different at the Puri Jagannath temple, as diversified conglomerate ITC attempts to make temples 'go green' and bring innovation into the incense stick segment.At stake is a market that breached $1 billion (Rs 7,278 crore) in the previous calendar year.Yet, the segment grew by just 4% last year, from a 14% expansion rate in 2018, indicating that austerity has even knocked on the doors of products for religious use and suggesting perhaps that the sector could use a bit of divine intervention.73717755 Agarbattis, typically used in ritual prayer, are among the oldest and one of the highest selling fast moving consumer goods in the country. Both Hindu as well as Muslim households light agarbattis during prayer.It is this supposedly recession-proof market that companies such as ITC, Cycle Pure Agarbathies — the largest player in the segment — and Moksh Agarbatti Company are eyeing. "We have focused on superior fragrance appeal and launched differentiated fragrances," said Ravi Rayavaram, chief executive, Agarbatti and Matches business at ITC.ITC's incense stick brand Mangaldeep has increased its reach among households and gained volume share, he added, without disclosing specific numbers.Cycle Pure Agarbathies and Moksh Agarbatti Company, too, are expanding their portfolio beyond devotion or popular variants such as sandal and jasmine.Agarbatti companies recently introduced fragrances such as apple and pineapple, neem-based mosquito repellants and no-smoke ones for asthmatic patients that also act as air purifiers.These special agarbattis retail at 50 paise to Rs 4 a stick, as companies go premium to earn higher margins. "Religion and faith have immense significance in India. People have not stopped praying because of an economic slump. Large players have sustained the pain and survived," said Anand Kumar Ashiya, CEO of Moksh Agarbatti Co.Agarbatti makers used to clock growth rates of 15-25% pre-demonetisation and GST, but price tags have reduced by 8-10% since then, impacting value growth, experts said.So, what really led to the tepid growth in sales last year?Unbranded products and cheaper imports, marketers said.In August, the government restricted the import of agarbattis, reclassifying the segment from 'free' to 'restricted', significantly impacting the domestic industry. Cycle Pure Agarbathies said floods and a muted Diwali season also proved to be dampeners last year."The coming monsoon is critical, and the market will positively recover in 2020," said Arjun Ranga, managing director of N. Ranga Rao & Sons, which owns the Cycle brand and manufactures 12 billion incense sticks a year.Currently, the branded incense stick sector has close to 600 players, although more than half of the market is in the hands of small, unorganised firms.

Weak demand, China virus fears may take WTI crude to $50 level

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Crude prices have succumbed to coronavirus fears and have been witnessing a huge selloff, as concerns over containing the China-originated coronavirus have impacted market sentiment. The main impact would be on aviation fuel, as air travel has taken a hit from lockdown in several cities in China, which is celebrating its New Year. The authorities seek to contain the virus, labelled by WHO as an emergency in China. Like SARS outbreak in 2002-2003, market experts believe this fresh crisis can adversely affect fuel demand amid an already oversupplied market. Large scale disruption in travel could hurt jet fuel and crude oil demand, with a demand loss of 260,000 barrels per day should the virus spreads dramatically. Market, meanwhile, has ignored bullish news of a number of unplanned outages, including the ongoing Libya blockade. Saudi Arabia's Energy Ministers also said that all options would be on the table at their next meeting in March to stabilise prices. Geopolitical premium might get some boost as tensions in the Middle East escalated after rockets struck the US embassy in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone on Sunday, injuring at least one member of staff at the embassy. If there is any retaliation from the US, we might see some cap on selloff. Elsewhere, Brazil will initiate talks of joining the Opec in July when representatives from the country travel to Saudi Arabia, the Brazilian Energy Minister said at an interaction in India. However, he did not expect to achieve the membership this year. Brazilian crude oil exports are expected to increase to 1.4 million bpd in 2020. In the present context, why is oil market witnessing a selloff in response to coronavirus reports, but not rising, when rockets are exploding in the Middle East? The answer lies with oil producer such as Oriental Petroleum who took advantage for the speculative rally to hedge their 2020 output. There was roughly 140 million barrel-equivalent expansion of swap dealers' net short position in Nymex light sweet crude between early December and early January, a proxy for hedging activity by producers. As oil prices declined, particularly toward such key levels as $60 in Brent and $55 in WTI, banks that wrote the Put sell futures to manage their own exposure — a self-reinforcing spiral similar to what appeared to happen in the oil rout that closed out 2018. Coronavirus updateWhile the majority of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths are in mainland China, the virus has also been identified in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Nepal, France, Australia and the US. The WHO has so far declined to declare the disease a global health emergency, saying it needs more data. The virus is currently spreading through human-to-human contact and in medical settings. In China, President Xi Jinping on Saturday warned that the spread of the coronavirus presents a grave situation as officials from central China to Hong Kong struggle to stop the spread of the disease that has so far infected more than 4,000 people worldwide and killed over 100. IEA and OpecBoth IEA and Opec have raised 2020 non-Opec supply growth forecast, resulting in concerns over a persistent supply surplus. That in turn puts tremendous pressure on Opec and its allies, which may need to cut further. IEA's latest monthly report predicts non-Opec oil supply growth accelerating to 2.1 million bpd this year from 2 million bpd in 2019. The US contribution has slumped to 52 per cent against 84 per cent on an average over 2017-2019. Significant gains will come from Norway, Brazil, Canada, Australia and Guyana. For Opec, IEA stated that even if they adhere strictly to the cuts, there is likely to be a strong build in inventories during the first half of 2020. Opec crude production would fall to 29.3 million bpd in January if there were to be fully compliant amid steady output from Libya, Iran and Venezuela. IEA kept its 2020 oil demand prediction unchanged, forecasting growth of 1.2 million bpd, helped by prices remaining relatively subdued, higher global GDP growth than last year and by progress in settling trade disputes. ConclusionWe continue to expect follow-through selling in the complex, as trend follower's further sap liquidity from the market, selling their length and adding shorts. Further fundamental outlook for the oil market is not constructive, with expectations that the market will return to surplus over H12020. Global oil demand growth is still languishing and the market will be closely watching what Opec+ does next. The market is discounting the fact that as we move closer to March, there are chances for Opec+ to increase production or extend the deal till the end of June. The signing of Phase one deal might bring some relief, but refining margins continued to remain under pressure, suggesting weak global demand for oil. We expect WTI prices to touch $50 is there are more cases of coronavirus, which will hamper global demand. (Investors are advised to consult financial advisers before taking an investment calls based on these observations)

Even a small let-down in Budget will be a big negative for market

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It looks like we are in a standstill mode as we count down to the Budget. The euphoria that we were seeing last week definitely seems to be cooling off. Markets are possibly realising that big bang reforms are unlikely. What is your view?It is pretty intriguing. The last few sessions have seen some amount of cooling off but for the month as a whole, so far January has been a very good month. You do not see that optically as far as the Nifty50 is concerned. But if you look at the midcap index, they are all up 5-6% and you can see that happening across stocks. In that sense, this has been a very good month running up to the Budget with midcaps and the broader market bouncing back. For a change, the top names are taking a breather after the torrid run in the whole of last year. It has not been a really bad month. I would be a little cautious going into the Budget because there is so much expectation. It is being looked at as that one panacea for all our problems. The market has also had a good run up. I would be a little cautious as we get into the Budget. I would even think that things like the expectation of long term capital gains tax and other measures for real estate are already being factored in. There is very little scope for disappointment as we get closer to the Budget. Maruti's quarterly performance has been a miss on pretty much all parameters. The volume growth has come in at 4.37 lakh units, revenues a higher by just about 5%, the higher depreciation expenses as well as the higher sales promotion seems to have eaten in this time. How are you looking at Maruti's Q3 report card?One should not be really surprised because volume numbers are out in public domain almost month on month. Considering the kind of inventory and sales, it is really not surprising what Maruti has delivered. You have seen a very muted response as far as the stock is concerned. Most of the negatives are already there as far as the stock is concerned. Simultaneously, you have also seen the probable talk about the first month where you are going to see a halt in the declining trend. The stocks have already reflected that and they have bottomed out much earlier. How would you say the situation is currently within the telecom sphere? Would you venture out and join the bandwagon when it comes to picking up a Bharti Airtel or would you remain circumspect on the telecom space as a whole?We would avoid the whole pack as such although there is this talk of consolidation and finally two or three players being around. The point is this sector has been stumbling from crisis to crisis. Even if you get a relief from the Supreme Court or some time to pay the AGR dues, there are the 5G auctions. That is an options choice for most of these guys.

Infosys sets up team to scale platform unit

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BENGALURU: Infosys has set up a multi-disciplinary internal team to help scale up its platforms business, as the Bengaluru-headquartered IT services company looks to tap the growing demand for products from clients.The platforms could be proprietary software used to host educational content or process mortgages. IT companies are betting on a platform play to help offset margin contraction caused by the increasing commoditisation of their core business. Software companies need to make one-off investments in building the platform, but the returns could be exponential if a slew of customers adopt it. "We have a platform council which looks at how to scale these platforms faster. It is a cross-functional group of people," Salil Parekh, CEO of Infosys, told ET in a recent interview. "We have a clear view that we want to scale our platforms. If we see the client view is that they want to use platforms, we will continue to build them out," he said.The council comprises 14 senior executives from its marketing, delivery and service teams to leverage both existing platforms and create new ones, Parekh said. "This is an internal construct to accelerate it because when you build a platform you do need multiple disciplines to work together," he pointed out. Infosys' larger rival, Tata Consultancy Services, has seen multi-billion dollar deals from its insurance platform and has built others for pharma and retail.Infosys bought mortgage platform Stater last year and has its own insurance platform, McCamish. It is also looking at growing its skilling platform WingSpan and a blockchainbased platform to settle trades. Parekh, however, said building and scaling platforms will not be a quick process. "It takes a lot of time and it also takes multiple attempts. What I think is more likely is that we will work on five to 10 platform concepts, and in three, five, seven years, one or two of them will be quite successful," Parekh said. Infosys does not break down standalone revenue from platforms.There are two types of platform strategies, analysts said. One, in which the IT firm owns the entire intellectual property (IP) and the other, where the it helps the client build the platform and contributes intellectual property or a component of the platform."It appears that Infosys is increasing its investment in IP so it can better participate in both strategies. The total ownership strategy is the most risky of the two, and takes considerably more investment," said Peter Bendor-Samuel, CEO of IT advisory firm Everest Research.

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