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Saturday, March 14, 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


As US campuses start emptying out, what about Indian students?

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The coronavirus scare is giving Sonali Mohan, a Gurgaonbased education consultant, sleepless nights. Apart from the anxiety over the widespread infection, she is now unnerved about both her daughters studying in US universities, especially after 150 colleges asked students to vacate campuses and shifted classes online to check the spread of the virus."My younger daughter is a final-year student in Pomona College in California and it is impossible for her to even consider leaving the US now despite classes going online.She is preparing for her thesis, for which she needs access to the library and laboratory. She will also be filing a petition for optional practical training (OPT), which will allow her to remain in the US and look for a job after course completion," says Mohan.The period between filing for OPT with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and getting an employment authorisation document, which permits a student to remain there to look for a job, could be between 60 and 120 days. Leaving the US during that period is not advisable for applicants, says Sudhir Shah, a Mumbaibased immigration lawyer. "The economic situation has become more uncertain now due to coronavirus. It may get tougher for students to find employment after their course."Early this week, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and 150 other US universities said they were moving all undergraduate and graduate classes online for the time being. Several institutes have asked students to vacate the campuses until further notice. Suddenly, students, especially those who have taken loans and work part-time on campus to sustain themselves, have been left in the cold. They would have to find accommodation outside campuses, which can be expensive, to stay back in the US or return to their home country. 74629975 "US colleges, especially those in areas with many cases of coronavirus patients, are looking to reduce the campus population," says Adarsh Khandelwal, cofounder and director of overseas education consultancy Collegify.News articles in the US have reported stories of even low-income American students facing financial and other troubles because of a sudden shutdown that is forcing them to go back home. Some colleges have offered to accommodate students who cannot travel back home at such short notice.Many colleges and communities have set up helpline desks for international students who do not have family or friends to stay with in the US. Despite these measures, students and parents have been rattled by the situation."We have been told that campus will remain open," says an undergraduate student from India at UCLA who doesn't want to be named. "But only the barest of resources, like dining, would be available. A lot of students and their parents are panicking." The undergrad student has moved into a relative's place for now."Students are confused about whether they should come back to India or stay back in the US," says V Anandkumar, an IT professional in Bengaluru whose daughter is an undergraduate student at the UCLA. 74629999 "My daughter has gone to her friend's place in the US till the end of the semester. After that, she will head to my sister's place in Silicon Valley. But not everyone has family in the US and many Indian students are being forced to head home.UCLA is among the universities that have shifted classes and exams online.Students who have chosen US universities known for prestigious classroom learning experience are not appreciative of shifting to an online mode."Classroom learning is an immersive experience, especially for soft-skills courses such as leadership, which benefit from group work or classes based on case discussions," says Aditi Chadha, who is enrolled into MIT's prestigious Sloan MBA programme."It is hard to do that online, and to electronically raise your hand each time on a software." And what about campus events for recruitment and networking that have been cancelled or maybe streamed online? The online mode would not be as compelling as the real one when it comes to networking and interviews, says Chadha, who cofounded DAZL, a tech startup in Gurgaon that created a wearable device with SOS alerts targetted at women, before going to the US for the MBA.For those who opt to return, Khandelwal says the time difference between the US and India and internet connectivity issues could pose problems for virtual classes.Thousands of Indian students in the US and their parents share similar concerns. The parents were reluctant to mention their children's names because of the uncertainty regarding visa and job prospects.There is, however, some hope for students on F1 visas, which mandate a certain number of class-hours on campuses. The USCIS said it would make accommodation for such candidates. "Students on F1 visas should be able to maintain their status even if the programme goes online and they leave the campus as long as the university makes the notification to USCIS within 10 days," says Cyrus Mehta, an immigration lawyer in New York.If the pandemic situation worsens and schools have to completely shut down and students have to come back to India, he says, USCIS may still allow them to keep the F1 status. Such steps have been taken in the past, such as after the attack on the World Trade Center in September 2001.For now, the atmosphere of uncertainty continues to haunt the thousands of Indian students spread across US campuses and their parents in India.

Don't keep count, numbers won't matter...

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By Naomi Kresge and Corinne GretlerNizana Brautmann found out her 6-year-old son had been exposed to coronavirus via a note on the locked door of his Berlin daycare center on Monday morning. It told parents to take their kids home and wait.That was the last clear information she got. The center asked parents to decide whether to quarantine their families. Her doctor told her to stay away from his office and take over-the-counter cold remedies. A medical hotline advised herbal tea. Though her son had a cough and Brautmann was running a slight fever and had some trouble drawing a full breath, a test was surprisingly hard to come by.Brautmann is just one among many. As the focus of the new pandemic shifts to Europe, authorities there have been slower to embrace the aggressive testing credited with helping to curb the spread in Asia. The U.K. changed its rules late Thursday to test only the most severe cases -- people who require hospitalization -- as officials there warned that as many as 10,000 Britons may be infected.Meanwhile, a shortage of tests in the U.S. has left the true scope of the pandemic unclear. While restrictions help prevent authorities from wasting precious detection kits and staff time on hypochondriacs, not casting a wide enough net can give the pathogen a chance to spread undetected. The World Health Organization issued a stern warning on the matter this week as case numbers spiked."You can't fight a virus if you don't know where it is," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday. "That means robust surveillance to find, isolate, test and treat every case, to break the chains of transmission."Though four out of five people will probably have mild symptoms, the new coronavirus can be deadly for the elderly and people with conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.There are signs things could start to pick up in the U.S. Legislation to make tests free was approved by the House of Representatives. Roche Holding AG has won emergency approval from the federal government for a highly automated test, potentially speeding up tenfold the ability to diagnose patients. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told MSNBC on Friday that testing will accelerate within the next week because of increased coordination with private companies.Meanwhile, the challenge of tracking the chains of infection when this coronavirus gives some people barely any symptoms means the existing number of worldwide cases, currently above 135,000, is an understatement. The U.K. estimate of 10,000 is more than 12 times the official tally of confirmed cases as of Friday.'Disastrous' Decision"Testing only the most severe cases is a disastrous public-health decision," said Ralph Baric, a professor at the University of North Carolina's Gillings School of Global Public Health and a veteran coronavirus researcher. People with few to no symptoms can easily pass the virus, he said, predicting "hundreds of thousands of additional infections" from uncontrolled spread without broader testing.When Spain expanded its criteria in early March beyond just those with a link to recent travel to China, its case tally surged from just a handful to several hundred. A death that had been attributed to another cause was swiftly uncovered. In the Seattle area, the virus began circulating in January but remained undetected until patients at a nursing home started dying.In France, health authorities readily acknowledge that the official figures don't reflect reality. Only "the tip of the iceberg" is visible, says Jerome Salomon, France's director general for health. But he points to other ways of identifying clusters: One person in the hospital means at least six or seven others must have a more benign form of the virus, he said at a briefing Wednesday. One death signals that at least 100 others are infected in the area.Others say Europe at least has moved past the point of trying to diagnose everyone with the sniffles, especially in a context where there aren't enough tests."Testing anyone with mild complaints seems sympathetic but burns resources," said Marion Koopmans, who heads the department of viroscience at Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam and advises the WHO. "Better to have an aggressive stay at home policy and social distancing."In European countries including France, Germany, Switzerland and Austria, authorities are sticking to a policy of testing mainly those who had traveled to a virus hotspot or had contact with a confirmed Covid-19 patient, even as the infection spreads more broadly through the community.The WHO is urging countries to test anyone with unexplained respiratory illness who has been in an area where the virus is being passed locally. Such community transmission is happening in much of Europe, as well as in the U.S."Diagnostic testing algorithms that only test a small proportion of people who are likely to be Covid-19 is not the way forward in this epidemic," said Michael Ryan, head of the WHO's emergencies program.In Germany, authorities are doing some broader testing as part of a working group on influenza. Patient samples are also being checked for coronavirus, according to the Robert Koch Institute, the country's public health authority.Success StoriesThere's evidence that broader testing helps. In South Korea, where authorities are assessing 10,000 people a day, there were more coronavirus recoveries than fresh infections for the first time this week. Proactive testing was part of the arsenal that Taiwan and Singapore used to limit the outbreak in their countries despite strong ties with China, where the virus originated.Casting a wider net could create its own set of problems, however, according to Rosanna Peeling, director of the International Diagnostics Centre at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Random testing would certainly uncover additional cases, but might also cause panic."You'd want to isolate or quarantine them, but still it's so late by the time we know this that the virus has already taken off," Peeling said in an interview last week.Brautmann, the mom in Berlin, could have taken her sick child to a testing station in Berlin. The line at the location in her district was more than four hours long on Monday. She opted not to go, reasoning that if they were positive, they would expose others. Instead, she put herself and her son in home quarantine for two weeks.They go outside once a day, before the neighborhood begins to stir, to run around a nearby soccer field. Her son's daycare will remain closed until March 20, operator Kindergaerten NordOst said.Brautmann, 40, believes the official number of cases that have been identified in Berlin -- 158 as of Friday -- is misleading."It's a joke because nobody is testing us," she said.

...& forget flying cars, it's the year of the virus

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"There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen" — Vladimir LeninA pandemic can be a threat to humankind. As for the macabre dance of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) across the globe, it's also throwing up a lot of material to reflect on, holding up a mirror to who we really are, as well as teachable moments in leadership, sacrifice, arrogance, human frailty and abounding, harmful stupidity.I'm thinking about the entitled folks who returned from Italy and, when taken to an army quarantine facility in Manesar, protested that material comforts were inadequate. When told the facility complied with protocols and this was going to be it, they made an offer they thought nobody would refuse: We can pay.They did not pause to think what such an offer would mean back in Italy, which went from 322 cases to 12,462 in about two weeks. Faced with a "tsunami" of incoming patients, overwhelmed doctors and healthcare workers must resort to a warlike medical triage system — they have to decide who among their patients gets a shot at life. An account from Lombardy describes heartrending scenes — hospital corridors filled with patients with acute distress, a clogged system unable to help people literally gasping for breath. Money is futile if you are the first patient to come in after all the emergency beds are taken.Shocking instances of civic negligence are reported from across India — patients running away from quarantine, attendants who discharged a patient against medical advice and took him to multiple private hospitals, folks concealing their travel history for fear of extended stay in a government hospital. They are probably unaware of the gravity of their actions. South Korea, which did very well in controlling the outbreak early on, was brought to its knees by one individual who ignored the doctor's advice. A so-called superspreader, Patient 31 travelled widely, coming into contact with over 1,000 people since being advised to get herself tested.Such behaviour jars against the sacrifice of the medical staff who are working to exhaustion around the world, reminded of their vulnerability by colleagues periodically succumbing to the disease.The virus is proving to be a terrible inconvenience by disregarding well-established human boundaries of wealth and social class. It is also showing a knack for grounding arrogance. NBA player Rudy Gobert tested positive days after making a joke of touching reporters' microphones. He must have felt invincible, which is easy when you are a sports star used to a $100 million salary contract. Coronavirus rolled its non-existent eye.Australia's home minister and stridently anti-immigrant politician Peter Dutton has tested positive, and will presumably be looked after well by immigrant nurses. 74630753 US President Donald Trump, who dismissed the concern over the virus as a hoax by the Democrats during a recent campaign rally, and his guest at Mar-a-Lago last weekend, Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro, who said the virus was a fantasy, have both been jolted after the latter's press secretary, present at the summit, tested positive. Brazil's ambassador in Washington, who sat at Trump's table at dinner, has also tested positive, and so has Miami mayor Francis Suarez, who met the Brazilian delegation separately.Rather sneaky of the virus to have got to sniffing distance of the world's most powerful man within weeks of departing the national boundaries of China.In England, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has taken an enormous risk by following a markedly different strategy from every other country, following the advice of chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance, who is a proponent of the idea of herd immunity. Other countries are working on the idea of "flattening the curve", meaning slowing the spread of infection so that the public health systems are not overwhelmed. England is going to let the cases soar as it wants the population to develop immunity to the virus. The country believes this is the only lasting solution because while social distancing and lockdowns will slow down the spread of the virus, it can spread again when the restrictions are lifted.Constraints on economic growth must also be playing on the minds of UK's leaders. There is a real risk that lower economic growth due to reduced activity will bring greater misery to people's lives than the virus itself. That's something for all leaders to keep in mind, especially in poorer nations where daily wagers and those on the margins will suffer when economic activity is frozen.Nonetheless, UK's strategy hinges on being able to manage the peaks of the epidemic — make sufficient intensive care beds available for those who need it. Once you run out of beds, bodies will start piling up. It could also end up being a terribly discriminatory policy as the virus's morbidity is disproportionately high in those above 60 years. Some virologists have contested the herd immunity theory, saying there's little evidence that people develop sustained immunity to the coronavirus family. Depending on the outcomes, Johnson will either be damned as a killer or hailed as a genius who saw what no other country could. It's a leadership test with potentially thousands of lives at stake.The march of the virus is also bringing stories of hope, cheer and wonder. If you haven't, you must watch (on YouTube) the videos of Chinese drones enforcing the lockdown in Wuhan. The drones swoop down on people who are out and about, and an operator, unseen to the person, scolds them through the machine's speakers. "Why are you not wearing a mask? Go back home!" it chides an astonished little kid, who promptly turns around and scampers home.It has brought heartening evidence of state capacity, as states like Kerala and Karnataka have started publishing detailed route maps of infected individuals. In Kerala, state workers are delivering midday meals home to anganwadi children. From the same state has emerged the story of a shop that has sold 5,000 masks for Rs 2 each, after procuring them for Rs 10. A video from Italy, showing people in a locked down neighbourhood together singing Sicilian songs from their balconies, is a tribute to human resilience.The virus has also reminded us of our collective frailty. Who could, after-all, have fathomed that in 2020, the year from science fiction that was supposed to be about flying cars, uploading our brains to the cloud and nudging immortality, we would instead see supermarket riots over toilet paper?

How Indians are dealing with coronavirus outbreak

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We have been here before. Almost. A long time ago, in 1918, the Spanish Flu infected 500 million people and killed an estimated 10-50 million, devastating the global economy.A century later, the world was supposedly making massive progress and scientists focusing on higher order problems — like blurring the boundaries between the real and virtual worlds. Armed with path-breaking tools such as gene editing, AI and big data, human beings were learning to play god, creating designer babies and disrupting death.And then, coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), the China-born microbe that inflicts infectious respiratory illness, brings the world to its knees. The pandemic is still unravelling and it is too early to gauge its ultimate human and economic impact. Already, an unprecedented global lockdown is underway. Schools, colleges, malls, theatres and much more have been shut. Conferences and sports events such as IPL have been called off. Countries are tightening borders and suspending visas en masse, leaving airports empty, flights cancelled and many stranded in a world of globetrotters. With the world factory China as the epicentre, the global manufacturing machinery is grinding to a halt. Remote working and social distancing are the new buzzwords as workplaces struggle to carry on business.The virus has been a great leveller, affecting people irrespective of their wealth and social status.Amid jittery stock markets, the super-rich are reportedly jetting off to disaster bunkers to isolate and protect themselves. Geographically, too, Covid-19 is spreading wildly.Over 120 countries — from developed nations such as the US and Italy to developing ones such as India and Iran — are reeling from its attack.The virus could spread the economic contagion, far and deep. Early estimates from the UN Conference on Trade and Development suggest it will knock off an estimated $1 trillion from the global economy in 2020.Globally, 142,320 people are infected and 5,388 dead. Experts say the virus is at the early stages of its journey in India. While the country took sweeping measures fairly early, high population density, risk of intergenerational transfer in joint families and inadequate medical facilities are risk factors. The nation is bracing for tough times. Whatever the trajectory, in a world where globalisation is anyway in retreat, expect the pandemic to reshape the society, economy, politics and human behaviour in the long term.As the contagion spreads, Indians are figuring out how best to deal with it. On the following pages, you will read diverse experiences. A flight attendant wakes up to the flip side of an airline job. Anxious parents live through a nightmare, worrying about their child's potential exposure. A global sourcing manager describes her life in quarantine, and an ENT specialist worries about his safety — these accounts capture the human stories and fears behind the numbers.How a parent responded when she learnt that her 12-year-old daughter might have been at risk of exposure to coronavirus. Self-quarantine at home drove us crazy: Neevita Narayan, 46, audiologist & speech therapist, Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh 74631429 Our nightmare began on the night of March 2. Our daughter, Aarna, was in the midst of exams. That day, she had given her penultimate exam. We got a message from her school that their Lucknow trip was cancelled due to the coronavirus scare. It was the third time in six months that they had postponed the trip. We thought the school was overreacting.The next morning, all hell broke loose. We got to know the real reason for the cancellation of the school trip. The first patient of Covid-19 in Delhi turned out to be the father of a child in Aarna's class. Just a couple of days ago, on February 28, the patient had hosted his kid's birthday party where other children were invited. Even on the day of the party, the father was symptomatic. His test results came on March 1 but his children had come to school the next day for the exam. This meant the chances of the contagion spreading had surged.On March 2, when I discovered all this, I was in deep panic. Within an hour, my phone was flooded with messages. All the children who were present at the birthday party were being screened for infection. I started asking Aarna about her friends and who all she had come in contact with to get some sense of her exposure risk. Her best friend is a good friend of the Delhi patient's child. So, my stress and anxiety grew. Our TV was on all day for updates. I was reading every news related to coronavirus on the web.The school principal was sending out hourly messages. The school was immediately shut and fumigated. Meanwhile, all the kids present at the birthday party tested negative. I heaved a sigh of relief. But the two days before that were madness. I was acting as if we had tested positive and had made dramatic lifestyle changes. We isolated ourselves at home amid fear that we would spread the contagion. We stopped stepping out and stocked up on face masks and sanitisers. I skipped going to my clinic and immersed myself in the world of coronavirus, reading and watching every development. I stopped Aarna from socialising or going for any class.But self-quarantine had driven us crazy. The following weekend, feeling guilty, I took Aarna to the mall. Swinging from one extreme like self-quarantining to the other like going to a mall, we struggled as parents on how to maintain a sense of balance.Finally, we realised that too much anxiety wasn't doing us any good. We slowly normalised our schedule while putting in place necessary precautions like avoiding crowded places, wearing masks when required, washing hands and sanitising frequently. Earlier, we were casual about cleaning our dog's paws after he returned from his walk. No longer.We have asked everyone around us to practise hygiene. We have installed liquid soap dispenser at the gate itself so that anyone entering can wash their hands. 74631436 How coronavirus is impacting the businessOur entire business will be at risk if one of us gets exposed: K Sudarshan, 49, managing director, EMA Partners, Mumbai 74631451 I am grounded. I no longer have the freedom to move freely and I am rethinking all my travel plans. I was planning to go to London later this month and I was hoping to combine it with a short trip to Zurich. Given the situation, I would like to avoid travel hubs and, anyway, many countries are already in lockdown. A family holiday in Goa in Marchend stands cancelled. Coronavirus has put uncertainty around everything in my calendar.Our company's annual offsite in India next week has been postponed. Even before the government cancelled most visas, we had asked our colleagues in Dubai and Singapore not to travel.We are a small firm of 40 people. The issue of business continuity constantly weighs on my mind. Even if one of us gets Covid-19, all of us will have to be quarantined for two weeks. Large firms have cushion, can plan for contingencies and segregate teams to avoid the spread of contagion. For us, precaution is critical as our entire business is at risk if one of us gets exposed. This, of course, has financial implications as well — in cancelled hotels and flight bookings. Amid this madness, one saving grace is that we have realised how valuable video tools are. In Singapore and Dubai, precautions are top priority. Except in emergency situations, clients have stopped all face-to-face meetings. Everyone is playing safe. Video interviews and virtual meetings have become common. In India, we haven't reached that stage of paranoia yet. Last week, however, we had a difficult experience. My Bengaluru colleagues travelled to Hyderabad for scheduled meetings, but when they landed they found out that the client had cancelled all meetings due to virus scare. The fear impacts at a personal level too. In April, I was due to travel to the US for three weeks of a classroom course at Harvard. This would have required close interactions with classmates from all over. I don't think that's happening. I have been advised to cancel the trip. Around me, people have stopped meeting people.The long-term impact will be huge. Businesses that thrive on proximity or contact — gyms, restaurants — will be affected big time. If you extrapolate the impact it has on your personal lives, you will know the massive impact it will have on businesses.We were anyway living in uncertain times. Coronavirus has now added another layer of uncertainty. 74631462 74631465 How doctors are keeping themselves and their families safe from the virusNow the first thing I ask patients is their travel history: Dr Ashwini Kumar, 34, ENT specialist, Apollo Hospitals, Delhi 74631473 I work at Apollo Hospitals in Delhi. I also have my own clinic. Altogether, I work 10-12 hours daily, seeing 30-40 patients and doing some charitable work at a gurdwara. My wife is also a doctor and works with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). We have a seven-year-old daughter.Doctors need to be extra careful and we make efforts to first protect ourselves. As an ENT specialist, I need to examine ears, nose and throat of my patients. I am always in close proximity with them. In the past, too, doctors took precautions like using sanitisers but now we are more particular about them.Since we can't identify a Covid-19 patient without a test, we suspect every patient. The first thing we ask them is their travel history. Bear in mind that this is also the time we get seasonal flu cases. If there is a travel history from geographies where coronavirus risks are high, then we become more cautious. We note down their phone numbers and watch if their symptoms settle down or not. We check if they have breathing difficulties.Recently, a patient came to me with a travel history that was worrying. I doubted if that person could be a potential Covid-19 case. But thankfully, the person was fine after three-four days and I heaved a sigh of relief.One recent incident was scary although it wasn't related to coronavirus. One of my patients had chicken pox. After five days, my wife got it. That made me realise the risk my family is exposed to because of my job.These days when I go back home, I am extra careful. Earlier, I was a bit casual about changing my hospital clothes — I would go sit on the sofa and watch TV. Now, as soon as I enter home, I keep my used clothes in the laundry room, wash up and change before I settle down.My parents, who stay with us, are paranoid. Every time they see coronavirus news, they get scared. Then they will call and ask me to take care. Since they are not medical experts, their fears can at times be irrational. But I can't say that there is no fear.We have also stopped eating out. We no longer eat non-vegetarian food or street food. My daughter's school has given instructions to students because of which she doesn't want to eat anything from outside. Family outings have dramatically come down as we have almost stopped going to malls, movies and restaurants.How a flight attendant is coping with the fear of the virus outbreakI Feel Scared but Working from Home is Not an Option for Me: Simran, 22, BengaluruThis is my first job — I have worked for just two and a half years as an air hostess. When the coronavirus first made headlines in China, we felt safe in Bengaluru, thinking it had not hit India. Even internationally, only the Chengdu sector was affected; Bangkok was not. Soon, our airline provided us with masks on international routes.The first sign of something being amiss was when crew members started refusing international flights. Typically, these flights provide a 24-hour layover at the destination where it is usually great to party. Since then, things have steadily become worse. Recently, we flew to Bangkok with 20-odd passengers in an aircraft with 180 seats. Usually, the flight would be full. With the cancellation of international flights and curbs on travel, tourism will be visibly affected. It will impact the world economy.Since masks were allowed only on international flights, we requested our bosses to permit us to wear them on domestic flights, too. In fact, many passengers were asking us why we weren't wearing masks to protect ourselves. Now, we are wearing masks on the domestic circuit as well.In these worrying times, we encounter many tricky situations. I remember a recent one in the Mumbai-Delhi sector. Two passengers had a fight in the flight. One of them overheard the other saying on the phone that she suspected she had got coronavirus even as she was coughing. The woman who overheard the conversation came to us and asked if we could offload her. But she didn't want to come into the picture and officially report what she had heard. We could not take any action, since we hadn't heard anything ourselves. So we declined her request. Soon, the two passengers started arguing and a big fight ensued.These days, often, when somebody is coughing, fellow passengers request a seat change. But that's not a request we can satisfy if the flight is fully booked.Recently, I had a difficult experience. We were flying from Delhi to Bengaluru and had a group of 15 business travellers who looked like they were from East Asia. I had to wake them up to serve corporate meals and I was really nervous.While flying, we take precautions like wearing masks and using hand sanitisers. Often, we feel scared and unsafe. But I know that airlines are not going to shut down. This is my job. I need the salary at the end of the month. And I don't have an option to work from home. 74631727 (As told to Malini Goyal)The story of a quarantiner who came from China and developed symptoms of the virusMy Symptoms Terrified Me. I Rushed to a Hospital from the Airport: Komal Jagnani, 37 74631765 I work as a global sourcing manager for a company in the building materials industry. I travel to China quite a bit — for work, for exhibitions, to meet vendors. On December 16, I travelled to China for what was supposed to be a weeklong trip. Since the products were not ready, I ended up spending 24 days there. I travelled in and around Foshan, which is the largest furniture market in the world, and I was travelling on trains. When I developed a cough and fever during a trip to Amritsar after I came back to India, I became very worried.It might have been the cold weather or all the travel I did, but I began to develop breathing difficulties. I was terrified. As soon as we landed in Bengaluru, my husband and I went to the Airports Authority of India. Back then it was very new, so they directed me to a nearby private hospital. The doctor checked me, gave me a mask upon hearing I had been to China and directed me to the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases, the only facility in Bengaluru where I could be tested for Covid-19.I was not very sure about going to a government hospital, not knowing how things would be there, but I wanted to get my tests done, so we went. When I got there, they quarantined me in a room and told me I would not be able to leave because of a government order. The hospital did its best with the facilities they had, checking my temperature twice a day, giving meals on time. Though it was supposed to be a quarantine facility, the bathrooms were not great and the nonmedical staff did not have any protective gear apart from a mask. Once when I asked for water, I saw an assistant fill the bottle from the bathroom. All of us protested. Some wrote to the hospital director, asking if they could be transferred to a private hospital or quarantined at home.I got more worried when three people who had returned from Wuhan were admitted. My husband was concerned that I would get the infection from one of them. When I finally got my results three days later, it was negative, and I could go home. But I still had to quarantine myself at home and there were follow-up calls to check how I was doing. For 10 days, I was careful and did not go out.My family doesn't want me to go back to China for work. But China has better infrastructure than most Asian countries. They are capable of dealing with Covid-19. I intend to go back. 74631798 (As told to Indulekha Aravind)A businessman narrates his taleOur Orders from China Are Delayed. We Will Source Locally: Vijendra Rawat, 50, cofounder, Color My Brand Pvt Ltd, NCR 74631851 For 14 years, we have been in the business of corporate gifts. We have 20-odd corporate customers, most of them large MNCs. Often, we source our products from China. Since we import as per order and don't do the regular cash-and-carry trade, we aren't much affected. But lately, we are facing challenges with delayed deliveries from China.When I get new orders these days, I wonder whether I should source locally or from China. As our orders from China are getting delayed, we are trying to identify suppliers in India and source products locally now. If I source the same product from India, it will work out to be slightly expensive. Or, I could explore substitutes that can be sourced locally and are cheaper. Recently, we had to source some cheering sticks for an MNC, which is an IPL sponsor (meanwhile, the IPL, which was scheduled to start on March 29, has been deferred till April 15 due to coronavirus). Last time, the sticks were made of plastic and sourced from China. This year, the MNC wanted non-plastic options that are sustainable as well as environment-friendly. So, we developed samples of a paper clapper. While the sample was developed in China, we are getting it made locally. We managed to get both better rate and quality.It is true that necessity is the mother of invention. We have just placed orders for 50,000 clappers. Now we are planning to pitch similar products to another client. So, we can see Make in India happening in a very different way. The difference for us is that when we source from China, we have over 10 options to show our clients. Local sourcing means limited options — maybe just four — for our MNC clients.At a personal level, I have stopped going to crowded places — no more malls, movies and metro. I have stopped eating out as well. When I go to the gym, I have my gloves on. And before I use any equipment there, I ask the gym to have it cleaned first.Let's see what's in store for all of us.(As told to Malini Goyal)What Sets Covid-19 Apart 74631882 74631908 Jyoti Asarpota, 55, retiree, Mumbai"How Can We Have a Wedding When the Guests Can't Come?"74631956 Right after my daughter's engagement in December, we had begun planning for the wedding, which we had fixed for May 1. We had decided on Thailand because the children wanted to have a destination wedding. By January, we had engaged a wedding planner, Foreign Wedding Planners, and by February, we had decided on the resort, after going there for a recce.By then, there was some news coming in about the coronavirus. Thankfully, Neha Mehrotra, our planner, had got us a deal with the resort, which offered us free cancellation till March 15, if we were calling it off because of the virus.Even at that point, we thought of going ahead with the wedding. But because of the scare over the coronavirus, our family members were not willing to travel. What's the point of having a wedding if none of the guests is coming?We immediately looked for backup options. We began planning to have the wedding in Udaipur on the same date, May 1. But with the government announcing new travel restrictions and Maharashtra in virtual lockdown, even that looks uncertain.The last few days have been very difficult. The children had set their hearts on having the wedding in Thailand. We are very stressed and so is our wedding planner because it's double the work for her. She had planned everything for Thailand and now she has to do it all over again for India.We still haven't got the wedding cards made because of the scare of the coronavirus.We had decided to go ahead with the wedding in Udaipur as people were comfortable with the idea of having it in India. Now we really don't know. If all our guests were in India, we could have managed, but people will be coming from abroad as well. There is so much uncertainty now, we can't do anything, except wait and watch, and hope for the best.(As told to Indulekha Aravind)74631980

Future tense for Indian students as US campuses shut down

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The coronavirus scare is giving Sonali Mohan, a Gurgaonbased education consultant, sleepless nights. Apart from the anxiety over the widespread infection, she is now unnerved about both her daughters studying in US universities, especially after 150 colleges asked students to vacate campuses and shifted classes online to check the spread of the virus."My younger daughter is a final-year student in Pomona College in California and it is impossible for her to even consider leaving the US now despite classes going online.She is preparing for her thesis, for which she needs access to the library and laboratory. She will also be filing a petition for optional practical training (OPT), which will allow her to remain in the US and look for a job after course completion," says Mohan.The period between filing for OPT with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and getting an employment authorisation document, which permits a student to remain there to look for a job, could be between 60 and 120 days. Leaving the US during that period is not advisable for applicants, says Sudhir Shah, a Mumbaibased immigration lawyer. "The economic situation has become more uncertain now due to coronavirus. It may get tougher for students to find employment after their course."Early this week, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and 150 other US universities said they were moving all undergraduate and graduate classes online for the time being. Several institutes have asked students to vacate the campuses until further notice. Suddenly, students, especially those who have taken loans and work part-time on campus to sustain themselves, have been left in the cold. They would have to find accommodation outside campuses, which can be expensive, to stay back in the US or return to their home country. 74629975 "US colleges, especially those in areas with many cases of coronavirus patients, are looking to reduce the campus population," says Adarsh Khandelwal, cofounder and director of overseas education consultancy Collegify.News articles in the US have reported stories of even low-income American students facing financial and other troubles because of a sudden shutdown that is forcing them to go back home. Some colleges have offered to accommodate students who cannot travel back home at such short notice.Many colleges and communities have set up helpline desks for international students who do not have family or friends to stay with in the US. Despite these measures, students and parents have been rattled by the situation."We have been told that campus will remain open," says an undergraduate student from India at UCLA who doesn't want to be named. "But only the barest of resources, like dining, would be available. A lot of students and their parents are panicking." The undergrad student has moved into a relative's place for now."Students are confused about whether they should come back to India or stay back in the US," says V Anandkumar, an IT professional in Bengaluru whose daughter is an undergraduate student at the UCLA. 74629999 "My daughter has gone to her friend's place in the US till the end of the semester. After that, she will head to my sister's place in Silicon Valley. But not everyone has family in the US and many Indian students are being forced to head home.UCLA is among the universities that have shifted classes and exams online.Students who have chosen US universities known for prestigious classroom learning experience are not appreciative of shifting to an online mode."Classroom learning is an immersive experience, especially for soft-skills courses such as leadership, which benefit from group work or classes based on case discussions," says Aditi Chadha, who is enrolled into MIT's prestigious Sloan MBA programme."It is hard to do that online, and to electronically raise your hand each time on a software." And what about campus events for recruitment and networking that have been cancelled or maybe streamed online? The online mode would not be as compelling as the real one when it comes to networking and interviews, says Chadha, who cofounded DAZL, a tech startup in Gurgaon that created a wearable device with SOS alerts targetted at women, before going to the US for the MBA.For those who opt to return, Khandelwal says the time difference between the US and India and internet connectivity issues could pose problems for virtual classes.Thousands of Indian students in the US and their parents share similar concerns. The parents were reluctant to mention their children's names because of the uncertainty regarding visa and job prospects.There is, however, some hope for students on F1 visas, which mandate a certain number of class-hours on campuses. The USCIS said it would make accommodation for such candidates. "Students on F1 visas should be able to maintain their status even if the programme goes online and they leave the campus as long as the university makes the notification to USCIS within 10 days," says Cyrus Mehta, an immigration lawyer in New York.If the pandemic situation worsens and schools have to completely shut down and students have to come back to India, he says, USCIS may still allow them to keep the F1 status. Such steps have been taken in the past, such as after the attack on the World Trade Center in September 2001.For now, the atmosphere of uncertainty continues to haunt the thousands of Indian students spread across US campuses and their parents in India.

Coronavirus-hit tourism industry seeks relief measures from Centre

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KOLKATA: The Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) on Saturday said its representatives met Union Tourism Minister Prahlad Singh Patel and sought the Centre's intervention to revive the sector which has been hit by the coronavirus outbreak.The industry is witnessing about 70-80 per cent cancellation in bookings following the coronavirus outbreak, according to the association."A complete GST holiday for tourism, travel and hospitality industry for the next 12 months till the time the recovery happens," TAAI president Jyoti Mayal told PTI, detailing the suggestions submitted to the minister on Friday.The association urged the minister to provide funds from the MGNREGA scheme to support the salaries of employees in the industry.The association also demanded six to nine months' moratorium on all principal and interest payments on loans and overdrafts, besides deferment of GST and advance tax payments.They also asked the minister for removal of fees for any upcoming licenses, permits renewal, excise exemption for liquor for the hospitality and travel industry across the country.The association also sought interest reduction or subvention on term loans and working capital loans.Mayal said the industry apprehends large scale job loss owing to the restrictions from the outbreak.Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism & Hospitality, the umbrella body of the sector, has sought to meet the prime minister to apprise him of the situation, she added.Almost 50 per cent of the annual business in the tourism sector takes place during this period, Mayal said.

How to use valuation ratios like PE, EPS, PBV for stock selection

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By DK AggarwalInvesting in stocks needs careful analysis of financial data to find out the actual value of a business. The stock selection process is based on the idea that the stock of the selected company must outperform its peers in the industry and the industry must outperform other industries.Fundamentals that drive the valuation multiples must be identified and the impact of changes in these fundamentals on these multiples must be analyzed. Valuation of a stock is usually analysed through multiples such as price to earnings (P/E), price to book value (P/BV), price to sales (P/S) but it should come down in a certain order.For all multiples-based calculations, it is always good to derive a long-term expected financial measure, rather than rely on the most recent number reported by the company.Before making a judgement based on these multiples with respect to valuation, one should have a deeper look at the business model of the company as these metrics are highly dependent on the nature, growth and volatility of the business. Generally, a business which is related to the demographics or has linear growth patterns enjoys higher multiples whereas a business that has seasonality, high volatility or is related to commodities enjoys lower multiples. Multiples are also influenced by factors like growth margins, return of equity (RoE) and return on capital employed (RoCE).As the saying goes: "Higher the factors, higher the multiples." For example FMCG and consumer staples sectors have higher multiples, because these businesses are considered safer and tend to see significant investor interest in periods of uncertainty. The price to sales (P/sales) multiple is commonly used for valuing the retail and fast moving consumer goods sectors. Price to book value (P/BV) is used commonly for valuing banks and financial services. The steel sector is highly capital intensive with huge capex requirement and depreciations and is highly leveraged, thus, operating profits can best define the sector valuation.Among all the relative valuation tools, price to earnings is the one used most commonly and also across all sectors. Undoubtedly, it is a close reflection of the true value. 74624276 Chairman and MD, SMC Investments and Advisors

Crown Prince’s oil war looms over first Aramco results since IPO

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by Matthew Martin and Anthony DiPaolaWhen Saudi Aramco publishes its first earnings as a listed company, its world-beating profits will be overshadowed by its role in the collapse of the oil market.Aramco executives briefing Wall Street analysts on Monday may face tough questions about how they've become tools in the kingdom's price war with Russia. Even as crude endures a historic slump, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman doubled down on his plan to pump flat out, ordering the company to spend tens of billion of dollars boosting production capacity.Aramco has been "weaponized," said Karen Young, a resident scholar covering the Middle East and energy policy at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. "It is a gamble and Saudi Arabia, via Aramco, has gone all in."Aramco declined to comment when asked about its investment plans and relation to the state.The world's biggest crude exporter and the source of most Saudi government income is the key pillar of Prince Mohammed's goal to make his kingdom a magnet for investment and build a new post-oil economy. It was the world's most profitable company in 2018, with net income of $111 billion that exceeded the combined earnings of corporate giants including Apple Inc., Samsung Electronics Co. and Alphabet Inc.Saudi Arabian Oil Co., as it's formally known, is forecast to post adjusted net income of 347 billion riyals ($92 billion) for 2019, according to the average of analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. The country's production slipped to an average of 9.83 million barrels a day last year due to output cuts, down from 10.65 million in 2018, while the price of Brent crude was about 10 per cent lower, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.Price WarThe Crown Prince's push for control of global crude markets brings into stark relief how he's using the world's most profitable company as a policy lever, while minority shareholders are left to look on.Brent lost around a quarter of its value in a week and the company's shares plunged 12 per cent this week after Saudi Arabia, Russia and other members of the OPEC+ alliance failed to reach a deal to cut production and support oil prices on March 6.After talks broke down, the Saudis and Russians kicked off an oil price war, both announcing plans to ramp up production and flood the market with crude. Aramco slashed crude pricing and doubled down on sales to Europe in an assault on markets in Russia's backyard.How a new lower-for-longer oil price scenario will affect the company will likely be the main focus for analysts when Aramco hosts its first earnings conference call since a world-beating initial public offering last year.Oil prices have dropped so low that Aramco may not make enough to cover capital expenditure commitments and to pay a pledged $75 billion dividend, according to analysts at Credit Suisse. Unless crude recovers, free cash flow may fall short of requirements, the analysts including Thomas Adolff wrote in a note on March 12."One of the key things from the company now is how they manage the capex to lift production," said Christyan Malek, head of JP Morgan Chase & Co.'s oil & gas research for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. "We could see them reallocate some of the investment away from downstream projects to focus on boosting production."

How the tech industry is ensuring business continuity in the times of coronavirus

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Coronavirus has presented a situation most geeks probably didn't anticipate: what happens when even the disaster recovery sites and business continuity plans are rendered useless. You can fly resources to alternative locations. But how do you run a global business when flights are grounded and countries regulate who can come in?For the $190 billion IT services and BPO sector, Covid-19 poses the twin challenges of business continuity and business growth. Sangeeta Gupta, senior vice-president, Nasscom, says, "You can't shift people from, say, Chennai to Delhi (like it happened during the Chennai floods in 2015) to keep a business functioning. Besides, travel, hospitality and aviation verticals might see a dip in growth in IT spending as coronavirus has directly impacted all three due to travel bans and grounding of flights." This could lower the overall sector's growth by a few notches from the 7.5% estimated by Nasscom for 2019-20.Infosys on Saturday evacuated one of its buildings in Bengaluru as a precautionary measure after one of its employees came in contact with a suspected Covid-19 patient.A challenge for IT services companies is that asking employees to work from home raises the risk of leak of sensitive information and data thefts. Besides, the Department of Telecommunications' rules don't allow office virtual private network to connect to home IT infrastructure. "We are asking DoT for a four-week exemption to this rule," adds Gupta. On March 14, the DoT relaxed this restriction for BPOs, KPOs and medical transcription services alone till April 30.The US market, which accounts for almost 65% of the business of Indian IT services companies, is better cushioned to a large extent as the companies has hired more local staff. Gupta says, "There is enough staff keeping the lights on. There is no doomsday scenario."74630850 An option is to use bots for more work, like software testing, though this course is not entirely risk-free from virus attacks, of the virtual kind.Even as risks mount, companies are educating employees, offering relevant information and keeping a panel of doctors on standby. Harshvendra Soin, chief people officer, Tech Mahindra, says, "We have advised employees to work from home if they have symptoms of Covid-19. We have also postponed all events that require large gatherings."Multinational tech companies in India are also taking precautions and depending more on remote collaboration tools. An employee of Dell India who returned from the US tested positive for Covid-19 and has been quarantined. A Dell spokesperson says, "Team members who may have come in contact with the employees are working remotely." The company has increased the frequency of deep cleaning and sanitisation at offices and has encouraged employees to work from home.Microsoft has seen a 500% increase in usage of its collaboration platform Teams. It has also seen an increase in the use of conferencing facilities and remote working systems among its employees in China and elsewhere. Companies are also using Skype and Zoom, among other facilities, to work remotely."This is a time to test blended work environments, using physical and virtual collaboration tools," says Nasscom's Gupta. "If Covid-19 persists, companies could depend more on such tools."Tech companies have their task cut out to remain on top of the game and safe from viruses — both online and offline.

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