29/01/2015

China pledges to ‘regulate and revamp’ e-commerce sector amid Alibaba row | South China Morning Post

The Ministry of Commerce said it will boost regulation of China’s e-commerce sector amid the continuing row between Alibaba Group, over alleged sale of fake goods by its subsidiary Taobao.com, and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC).

Alibaba's corporate headquarters in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. Photo: Reuters

Shen Danyang, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce, said on Thursday that the move was aimed at revamping the entire sector.

Last year, the ministry investigated more than 11,000 violations in the fast-growing e-commerce industry, and closed 3,400 websites, Shen said. The ministry would continue its campaign to build a safe and reliable market for consumers.

Online media company Sina reported on Thursday that a SAIC spokesperson denied they had received a formal complaint from Taobao.com against director Liu Hongliang, despite Taobao’s claim yesterday that they would do so.

An open letter was published on Taobao’s official Weibo account on Tuesday accusing SAIC director Liu of commissioning an “unfair” quality survey of goods sold on the platform, which resembles eBay of the US, and making public the results without giving online shop owners a chance to appeal.

Alibaba Group is due to release its quarterly earnings tonight.

via China pledges to ‘regulate and revamp’ e-commerce sector amid Alibaba row | South China Morning Post.

29/01/2015

China eyes mass innovation, entrepreneurship as new engine – Xinhua | English.news.cn

China’s State Council pledged to take various steps to create an amicable environment for innovation and entrepreneurship in order to power growth and generate jobs.

China should embrace the trend of mass entrepreneurship and innovation in the Internet age, a statement released after an executive meeting of the State Council presided over by Premier Li Keqiang said.

The statement said China will foster a platform offering low-cost services in a variety of areas to micro businesses and individual start-ups that show innovation.

The government will also step up policy support, such as simplifying registration procedures and giving subsidies, to innovative businesses. They will improve financing systems to give special support to start-up companies, according to the statement.

Although China’s broader economy is slowing, China’s young entrepreneurs are driving a wave of startups that has become a bright spot for the economic landscape and an important engine for future growth.

The number of newly founded companies in China surged almost 46 percent year on year to 3.65 million in 2014, the latest data showed.

via China eyes mass innovation, entrepreneurship as new engine – Xinhua | English.news.cn.

29/01/2015

India’s Vodafone decision eases tax worries for Shell, others | Reuters

This action demonstrates the new pro-business attitude of Modi’s government.

“India’s decision to drop a tax dispute with Vodafone Group Plc(VOD.L) is likely to mean relief for Royal Dutch Shell PLC(RDSa.L) and others caught in similar, protracted battles, as the government tries to attract much-needed foreign investment.

A Shell logo is seen at a petrol station in London January 31, 2013. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor/Files

India’s image as an investment destination has been tarnished by a reputation for red tape, unpredictable rules and a tax office long seen as over zealous in its pursuit of foreign firms. Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s government, seeking to reboot a slowing economy, has sought to change that.

Late on Wednesday, the government said it would not appeal a Bombay High Court ruling in favour of Vodafone, the biggest foreign investor in India.

“It’s a departure from the past when all the high-value tax cases were always litigated,” said Himanshu Shekar Sinha, a partner at law firm Trilegal.

“With this, the government has sent a clear direction that appeals should not be filed routinely.”

Tax lawyers said they expected cases such as those involving IBM (IBM.N), Nokia Oyj (NOK1V.HE), Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) and others could now be resolved instead through negotiation.”

via India’s Vodafone decision eases tax worries for Shell, others | Reuters.

28/01/2015

BBC News – The village that just got its first fridge

Three-quarters of the world’s homes have a fridge – an appliance that can revolutionise a family’s life. A tailor in one Indian village has just become the first person in his community to own one – something he has dreamed of for 10 years.

Santosh choosing a fridge

Santosh Chowdhury is pacing up and down speaking into his mobile phone.

“How much longer? It’s left past the auto-rickshaw stand, yes that’s right,” he shouts, and then continues his nervous pacing.

It’s a big day for him and indeed for the village of Rameshwarpur, just outside Calcutta in north-east India.

Santosh has bought a new fridge – not just his first but also the first in the entire community of 200 people. “Owning a fridge is quite rare in a village like ours,” he says.

The lack of fridges in Rameshwarpur reflects the situation across the whole of India. Only one in four of the country’s homes has one. That compares to an average of 99% of households in developed countries.

But change can be rapid when linked to an emerging middle class. In 2004, 24% of households in China owned a fridge. Ten years later this had shot up to 88%.

“Ours is the first generation to own a fridge in my family,” says Santosh. “No one in my father’s and grandfather’s time had ever seen one.”

Rameshwarpur has a distinctly rural feel. People bathe in a pond in the middle of the village, children fly kites in the dusty lanes. The homes are little more than simple huts, made of mud and brick. But the village has electricity and many houses have televisions.

Santosh works as a tailor. He lives in a modest, two-room hut which doubles as his home and workplace. “I don’t have a regular job as such,” he says. “Sometimes I also work part-time in a factory. I make about three to four dollars a day.”

Life is quite hard, especially for his wife Sushoma.

She cooks lunch, stirring a pot of rice on a wood fire outside their hut. It’s something she does every day because they have no way of storing leftovers. So Santosh has to go the market early each morning to shop for groceries.

He’s always wanted to make life easier for his wife and has been dreaming of buying a fridge for 10 years. “Owning one will be so convenient,” he says. “You don’t have to buy vegetables every day, you can store food – especially in the summer.”

So he’s been saving hard, putting away a bit of money every month for a purchase that costs more than a month’s salary. “I don’t make that much money, that’s why it’s taken me so long. But now I have enough,” he says, smiling.

At one of Calcutta’s high street stores, about 15km from his home, Santosh had several models to choose from. Peering inside, he ran his fingers along the side of a bright red model.

“It was quite confusing. It was my first time you know. I couldn’t figure out which one to get,” he says shyly. “My wife wanted a red one. I wanted one that will consume the least power. We need to keep our bills down.”

Finally, the deal was struck. Santosh got a discount because it was the final week of the winter sales. The price was 11,000 rupees (£120) – but more importantly, he was able to pay in instalments, having paid just under half the money up front.

“No one pays cash any more like they used to,” says store manager Pintoo Mazumdar. “Everyone can get a loan from the bank or the store – all you need is a bank statement and ID. That’s why so many lower income people can afford to buy a fridge these days.”

 

FRIDGEONOMICS

Fridge ownership around the world

76% Global average

65% Asia Pacific

99% Europe and North America

87% Latin America

63% Middle East and Africa

Source: Euromonitor

 

Santosh’s fridge finally arrives on the back of a cycle rickshaw. He walks along next to it with a broad smile. Many of the villagers come out on to the lane as well, craning their necks to get a better look.

“Careful, careful,” he cries out as a couple of them help carry the fridge into his house.

Then it’s time for a religious ceremony.

His wife applies a dab of vermillion to the fridge, to keep away evil spirits, and then blows on a conch shell to seek divine blessings and welcome the fridge into their home. The fridge has pride of place – next to Santosh’s sewing machine and their tiny television set.

They simply cannot stop smiling.

“We’ve dreamt of this moment for so long,” says his wife Sushoma. “Some of our neighbours have already asked us if they, too, can store some food in our fridge. “And I can’t wait to drink cold water in the summer.”

As Santosh shows off his fridge everyone crowds around, excited. “Imagine, they won’t have to shop for fresh vegetables every day,” says one woman. “I’m thinking of getting one too,” another man says.

It’s a special moment for the Chowdhurys. This acquisition could potentially transform their lives. “I can focus on finding more work and not worry about buying food for the family,” Santosh says. “My wife will get more free time and perhaps she can give me a hand as well.”

With those words, he opens his fridge and places the first contents inside – tomatoes, an aubergine, eggs and some milk.

via BBC News – The village that just got its first fridge.

28/01/2015

Car ownership tops 154 million in China in 2014 – Xinhua | English.news.cn

China added a record 17 million new cars on the road in 2014 as car ownership reaches 154 million, said the Ministry of Public Security on Tuesday.

Strong demand for cars has helped the automobile replace the motorcycle as the main method of transportation. Cars made up 58.6 percent of total motor vehicles, a sharp rise from 43.9 percent five years ago.

The number of people obtaining driving licenses also ballooned from 219 million in 2013 to 247 million as of the end of 2014, said the ministry, adding 29.7 million drivers have fewer than one year’s driving experience.

Of the 35 cities which have more than one million cars each, ten have more than two million cars, including Beijing, Chengdu, Shenzhen, Tianjin, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chongqing.

The ministry said the number of passenger cars has reached 117 million, 90 percent of which are private cars. Beijing has the highest private car penetration, with 63 private cars for every 100 households, while the average is 25 private cars for every 100 households.

Carmakers have enjoyed strong sales over the years, with more middle-class customers placing orders for their first cars. But with frequent traffic jams, it is yet to be seen whether cars can still ride the booming tide in the years to come. More local governments have begun to limit car use, among them eight cities have quotas for new car plates.

via Car ownership tops 154 million in China in 2014 – Xinhua | English.news.cn.

28/01/2015

Bill and Melinda Gates Receive Indian Civilian Award – India Real Time – WSJ

Bill and Melinda Gates received one of India’s highest civilian awards for their work to promote global health and development. The Gates are among four foreigners and 16 Indians to receive the Padma Bhushan award “for distinguished service of high order,” according to a statement from India’s Ministry of Home Affairs.

“We are honored to receive the Padma Bhushan award for social work alongside so many distinguished awardees,” said Mr. and Mrs. Gates in a statement Wednesday

Their foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, started work in India in 2003 to prevent HIV/AIDS. It has since expanded its work to areas including vaccines, maternal and child health, sanitation and agricultural development and has an office in New Delhi. The foundation has an asset trust endowment of $42 billion.

“Our work is guided by the belief that all lives have equal value. We are excited to see the extraordinary progress that India is making in improving the lives of its people,” said the Gates’ statement. “We applaud the government of India’s commitment and look forward to continuing to partner with them to build an equitable system where women and children survive, thrive and reach their full potential.”

The Padma Bhushan is conferred on Jan. 26, Republic Day, each year by the president of India  for service in fields including  art, social work, public affairs, science and engineering, trade and industry, medicine, literature and education, sports and civil service.

Other winners this year include political commentator Swapan Dasgupta, Supreme Court lawyer Harish Salve and filmmaker Jahnu Barua from the northeastern state of Assam.

The Padma Vibhushan, a higher award conferred on the same day, was awarded to nine people including Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan and BJP co-founder L. K. Advani.

via Bill and Melinda Gates Receive Indian Civilian Award – India Real Time – WSJ.

28/01/2015

China plans to set 2015 growth target at ‘around 7 percent’ – sources | Reuters

China plans to cut its growth target to around 7 percent in 2015, its lowest goal in 11 years, sources said, as policymakers try to manage slowing growth, job creation and pursuing reforms intended to make the economy more driven by market forces.

The growth target, which is set to be announced by Premier Li Keqiang at the annual parliament session in March, was endorsed by top party leaders and policymakers at a closed-door Central Economic Conference in December, said a number of people with knowledge of the outcome of meeting who spoke to Reuters.

The target, which is in line with market expectations, has not been previously reported.

“This year’s economic growth target will be around 7 percent, but the 7 percent should be the bottom line,” said one of the sources, an influential economist who advises the government.

via Exclusive: China plans to set 2015 growth target at ‘around 7 percent’ – sources | Reuters.

27/01/2015

Taobao cries foul over study’s claim that it sells fake, substandard goods | South China Morning Post

China’s largest online shopping platform Taobao.com has hit back at the results of an official quality survey that accused it of selling fake and substandard goods, saying that the poll’s sampling methods were questionable and its test standards unfair.

Taobao cries foul over study’s claim that it sells fake, substandard goods

More than 60 per cent of products randomly chosen from Taobao failed to meet China’s retail-goods standards, according to a recent survey commissioned by the state commercial regulator and conducted by the China Consumers’ Association.

In an open letter published on Taobao’s Weibo account, the e-commerce giant said the survey selected only 51 products out of the more than 1 billion that it had on sale.

It also said it was unfair of the State Administration of Industry and Commerce to compare the quality of goods sold on Taobao – whose platform comprises millions of e-commerce businesses operated by individual sellers – with those sold by self-operated retailers.

One of China’s major self-operated e-commerce businesses is Taobao’s major rival, Jingdong Mall. It is also the country’s second largest online shopping platform. The survey results showed that 90 per cent of Jingdong Mall’s products met official standards.

About 80 per cent of goods sold on Yihaodian, a Chinese online grocery business controlled by Walmart, met standards.

Taobao’s open letter, titled “Don’t “Don’t make unfair calls, Director Liu Hongliang. You’ve crossed the line”, was penned by an anonymous employee, Taobao said on Weibo.

The letter addressed State Administration for Industry and Commerce director Liu Hongliang, accusing him of making public the survey results without giving the online shop owners a chance to appeal. The move violated China’s regulations on quality surveys, it said.

“Director Liu, is it appropriate to make use of your public power [like this]? It’s easy to ruin [the reputation of] Taobao, but please don’t ruin the spirit of private entrepreneurs simply because [you are angry with] Taobao,” the letter said.

Chinese officials, including Premier Li Keqiang, have over the past year repeatedly voiced support for the country’s burgeoning private enterprises, especially those in the e-commerce sector.

At least 350 million people have shopped online in China, with each spending at least 3,000 yuan (HK$3,770), according to official statistics.

via Taobao cries foul over study’s claim that it sells fake, substandard goods | South China Morning Post.

27/01/2015

New highway encircles stubborn homeowners – Chinadaily.com.cn

A room with a 360-degree road view

New highway encircles stubborn homeowners

If you can’t build through it, build around it – city planners seem to have taken this advice quite literally.

Motorway builders encircled the homes of three Chinese families with a four-lane flyover after they refused to make way for the bulldozers.

Demolition teams in Guangzhou had planned to destroy the houses in order to connect the city’s road network to a recently opened tunnel under the Pearl River.

A photograph of the so-called “nail houses” – so named because they proved difficult to move–completely surrounded by the flyover, proved popular on the Chinese Internet this week.

Some Internet users joked that authorities had given locals homes “with a 360-degree road view”.

via New highway encircles stubborn homeowners[1]- Chinadaily.com.cn.

27/01/2015

China’s Top 100 Brands: The Private Sector Reigns Supreme – China Real Time Report – WSJ

China’s top brand is no longer a state-owned company, nor is it e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.BABA +0.85% It’s technology player Tencent Holdings TCEHY +3.45%.

In a ranking of the top 100 most valuable Chinese brands by research from agency Millward Brown and media company WPP, Tencent,  China’s largest online-games and social-networking company, ranked No. 1 with a brand value of $66 billion, ahead of No. 2 Alibaba’s $59 billion. Tencent’s WeChat and QQ messaging services propelled it to the top of the list, said Doreen Wang, global head of Millward Brown’s BrandZ division.

Tencent’s rise unseats state-owned telecom giant China Mobile, which has held the top spot since the ranking’s launch in 2010. It also marks a sea change for China’s private-sector companies, which now account for 47% of the value of the top 100 brands. To calculate rankings, Millward Brown and WPP analyze financial data of listed companies’ brands, pairing it with survey data from more than two million consumers in over 30 countries.

China’s state-owned enterprises have long dominated China’s list of leading companies. In 2010, of the top 50 Chinese brands identified in the report, state-owned companies occupied a third of the list and accounted for an estimated 70-75% of the $280 billion total combined value of the top 50.

Today, it’s a different story. In the past year, the government as has pushed private sector reforms and talked about the need to let market forces play a “more decisive” role in the economy. Alibaba’s public listing last year also contributed to the jump in value for market-driven brands, Millward Brown said, adding that technology brands have also for the first time surpassed financial institutions, becoming the highest valued sector in the rankings, representing 23% of the top 100’s value. Search giant Baidu Inc.BIDU -1.66% ranked No. 5, behind China Mobile and Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd.

Tencent now ranks fifth in the world for global technology leaders’ brand value, according to MIllward Brown. Google Inc. is No. 1 with $158.8 billion, with Apple Inc. holding the No. 2 spot, followed by International Business Machines Corp.and Microsoft Corp.

Yet, even with Alibaba’s record-setting IPO and Tencent’s various successes, Chinese brands haven’t gained global recognition, said Ms. Wang. Only 22% of consumers surveyed outside of China could recognize a Chinese brand in 2014, a slight rise from 20% the year earlier. Chinese brands need to clarify what they stand for and need to ensure that they can satisfy needs beyond the Chinese market for them to gain more recognition, said Ms. Wang. “They need to consider what kind of benefit they bring to global consumers,” she said.

via China’s Top 100 Brands: The Private Sector Reigns Supreme – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

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