Archive for ‘India alert’

19/04/2014

India’s Mobile Marketers Try Phone Calls to Reach Rural Consumers – Businessweek

In many parts of the world, businesses relentlessly market to customers via their Web-connected smartphones, slipping pitches into everything from interactive games to graphics-laden productivity apps. Not so in rural India: To better reach the country’s 833 million villagers, Unilever (UL) is delivering free Bollywood music to their basic cell phones via old-fashioned phone calls.

In India, Mobile Ads Mean Phone Calls

Between the popular tunes and cheesy jokes presented during the 15-minute recorded programs served up by Unilever’s mobile phone music service, users listen to four product ads. Consumers are biting: In March, at least 2 million people subscribed to the free service available in two states, says Anaheeta Goenka, executive director of Lowe Lintas & Partners, the agency handling the campaign for the world’s second-biggest consumer company. The service expanded to Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, on March 31.

Companies from Unilever to PepsiCo (PEP) to Mondelēz International (MDLZ) are turning to mobile campaigns to win over consumers who live in locales where cable television or even newspapers may have limited reach. In a country where most people don’t live in big cities and 88 percent of phones aren’t smart, the tuneful approach makes sense because rural spending growth now exceeds that of India’s urban centers. And mobile phone ads cost less and are more targeted than mass media campaigns on the subcontinent.

via India’s Mobile Marketers Try Phone Calls to Reach Rural Consumers – Businessweek.

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19/04/2014

India struggles with rebel threats during election – Businessweek

Indians cast ballots Thursday on the biggest day of voting in the country’s weekslong general election, streaming into polling stations even in areas where leftist rebels threatened violence over the plight of India’s marginalized and poor.

Nationwide voting began April 7 and runs through May 12, with results for the 543-seat lower house of Parliament to be announced four days later. Among the 13 key states voting Thursday was Chhattisgarh, now the center of a four-decade Maoist insurgency that has affected more than a dozen of India’s 28 states.

With roadside bombings, jungle ambushes and hit-and-run raids, the rebels aim for nothing short of sparking a full-blown peasant revolt as they accuse the government and corporations of plundering resources and stomping on the rights of the poor.

via India struggles with rebel threats during election – Businessweek.

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19/04/2014

Sustainable Design Is a Given in India – India Real Time – WSJ

“Architecture should be ethical and show empathy toward the human condition,” said Bijoy Jain, whose firm Studio Mumbai received the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture from L’Institut Francais D’Architecture in 2009. The Indian modernist—known for blurring the boundaries between indoors and outdoors, and creating oases of peace from local stone and wood—studied in the U.S. and worked on the Getty Center in Los Angeles. He established his practice in 1996, building a compound that houses dozens of the craftsmen he employs near his own handsome but humble residence in the countryside of Alibag, not far from central Mumbai.

Mr. Jain’s home was recently part of “Where Architects Live,” an installation at the global design fair Salone del Mobile in Milan that re-created the residences of world-renowned talents including Zaha Hadid, Daniel Liebeskind and Shigeru Ban. Mr. Jain said he sees his live-work complex as a laboratory for new ideas and a standard-bearer for old traditions. “There’s a lineage of carpentry and masonry, building with high skill and great efficiency that’s specific to India, and I am transferring that ideology to projects around the world,” said the globe-trotting architect, 49, who is working on projects in Switzerland, Spain and Japan and will teach a semester at Yale this fall. Mr. Jain spoke to us about sustainable design, how he’d blow $20,000 and the most beautiful restaurant in the world.

via Sustainable Design Is a Given in India – India Real Time – WSJ.

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17/04/2014

Non Residents Are Stakeholders in India’s Future Too – India Real Time – WSJ

Conversations in Mumbai are usually about the elections these days – be it at roadside food stalls or in the boardrooms of India’s financial capital.

The stakes, after all, are high: following a period of robust growth, the country’s economy has slowed considerably in the past few years – largely because of (depending on who you talk to) the global crisis, policy paralysis, corruption and such. Inflation too is a massive concern.

The need of the hour, most agree, is a secular, stable and investment-friendly government that helps create prosperity for India’s multitude, and not just for a few seen close to the powerful.

That in essence is also the main topic of discussion some 2000kms to the west of the city – for non-resident Indians in Dubai, a fast growing regional financial hub.

Back in the 70s and 80s, hordes of Indians left the country in search of better opportunities – many of whom came to the oil-producing Middle East countries. The tech boom of the 90s provided them another global opening, though by then economic reforms at home were also taking effect – helping drive growth and creating more and better-paying jobs in the next decade.

Many Indians still look abroad for livelihood, but have increasingly channelled a big chunk of their earnings back home in search of returns. And why not? Even global investors are happily betting on the country’s future.

India topped the global list for remittances in 2013 – receiving some $70 billion, according to a World Bank report last week, underscoring its importance as an important source of foreign exchange. To be sure, remittances last year were “more than the $65 billion earned from the country’s flagship software services exports,” the World Bank noted.

That the country has been among the leading recipients of remittances over the past few years is not surprising, given that some 25 million Indians (variously classified) live abroad and, in several cases, continue to have strong familial ties back home.

The importance of Indians living overseas and their contribution to the country has been recognised on various platforms – such as the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, which has been held every year since 2003 to “mark the contribution of Overseas Indian community in the development of India,” according to the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs.

The ministry says these conventions facilitate the overseas Indian community to engage with the government and people for “mutually beneficial activities”. Simply put, Indians living overseas are increasingly participating more actively back home.

But they – the millions of NRIs – still can’t vote from foreign locations and choose a government of their liking in the country’s general elections.

via Non Residents Are Stakeholders in India’s Future Too – India Real Time – WSJ.

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16/04/2014

India Signs Power Contracts for 700 Megawatts of Solar Capacity – Businessweek

India signed contracts to purchase solar power from companies building 700 megawatts of capacity awarded in a national auction.

English: Photovoltaic system with 19 Megawatts...

English: Photovoltaic system with 19 Megawatts peak near Thüngen/Bavaria Deutsch: Solarpark/photovoltaikanlage mit 19 Megawatt Spitzenleistung nahe Thüngen/Bayern (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The government is waiting to sign purchase agreements for the remaining 50 megawatts from the auction in February, Tarun Kapoor, joint secretary at the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, said today in an interview in New Delhi. The agreements, which lock in rates for the power generated for 25 years, bind developers to complete the plants within 13 months.

Two developers dropped out after winning bids, including St. Peters, Missouri-based SunEdison Inc. (SUNE:US), which said last week it gave up a 20-megawatt project because local equipment shortages and prices make it unviable. The other developer that Kapoor didn’t identify forfeited its project after failing to get permission from its parent to proceed, he said.

via India Signs Power Contracts for 700 Megawatts of Solar Capacity – Businessweek.

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16/04/2014

Promises and more promises: India’s parties pitch their visions | India Insight

Campaign season in India means it’s also promise season, and political parties aren’t short on pledges for what they would do if they come to power after election results come out in May. From the Tamil Nadu-based MDMK party’s pledge to rename the country “The United States of India” to the Odisha-based BJD‘s promise to “guarantee” development projects, there are plenty of promises floating around to help parties capture, retain or regain power.

There has been plenty of coverage of the manifestos from the biggest national parties, Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, so here are some highlights from the others.

Lok Satta Party: This Andhra Pradesh-based party has promised to nationalise the sale of liquor and to limit the number of stores where people can buy it. Families of liquor “victims,“ meanwhile, would get pensions.

BJD: In power for more than 10 years, the Biju Janata Dal of Odisha has promised to guarantee primary infrastructure needs in the state. It will also make it mandatory for industry to provide shares in projects to people whose land they buy for their projects.

DMK: The former ally of the ruling Congress party will oppose reservation, the setting aside of government jobs for members of groups recognized by the government as disadvantaged, based on economic criteria. It would, however, support caste-based reservation in the private sector. It also proposes that only qualified Tamil people be appointed as India’s envoys to the nations where Tamils live in considerable numbers. The party has also included not “bashing” other parties in their pitch.

AIADMK: Tamil Nadu’s ruling party says it would stop the sale and privatisation of state-owned companies. To stabilise the rupee, the AIADMK says it would not encourage short-term capital flows and will support long-term foreign direct investment.

CPI-Marxist: This Leftist party favours the production of goods for mass consumption rather than “unsustainable” luxury goods. It also would enforce a code of conduct for all elected representatives against sexist language. CPI-M favours revising the India-U.S. nuclear deal and will seek removal of nuclear weapons from the U.S. military base in Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

TMC: West Bengal’s ruling party, the Trinamool Congress, has promised it will provide a stipend and medical insurance to artists and folk performers. It has also promised to form a court to try human rights violations.

TRS: With the new state of Telangana to be carved out of Andhra Pradesh, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti says it will give a special “Telangana increment” to government employees to celebrate the state’s formation later this year.

JD(U): The Janata Dal (United) manifesto has promised legislation for the safety and security of migrant workers in India. It wants a commission to study the socio-economic condition of poor upper caste people to draft welfare measures for them.

MDMK: An ally of the BJP in Tamil Nadu, MDMK promises to rename the country “United States of India” to put emphasis on the federal structure. It wants to lift the ban on the LTTE, the Tamil separatists in Sri Lanka.

AAP: The Aam Aadmi Party, or common man party, is interested in animal welfare as well as human. It wants to protect the dignity of animals used in industries “for food, clothing and entertainment.” To encourage young people to join politics, it favours allowing 21-year-olds to run for office (the current minimum age is 25). Apart from laws to deal with violence against women, it promises long-term public education programmes to end the culture of gender-based discrimination. It has some provisions to regulate media as well.

BSP: The Bahujan Samaj Party of Uttar Pradesh, which counts millions of Dalits among its supporters, did not release any election pitch. “We do not release manifestos as we believe more in doing real development work for the people rather than making hollow claims which are never realised,” party chief and former UP Chief Minister Mayawati declared at a rally.

via Promises and more promises: India’s parties pitch their visions | India Insight.

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15/04/2014

As Growth Slows in India, Rural Workers Have Fewer Incentives to Move to Cities – WSJ.com

As a teenager, Ram Singh left this remote rural village and moved to fast-growing New Delhi to chase the spoils of his country’s economic boom.

For 14 years, he toiled in tiny, primitive factories making everything from auto parts to components for light switches. His wages barely kept pace with the cost of living and eventually he gave up on city life.

Today, he is back on the farm, scratching out a living from a small plot of land near his birthplace where he grows corn, wheat, potatoes and mustard.

“Whenever someone leaves his village for the city, he thinks, ‘I will earn money,’” says Mr. Singh, who isn’t certain of his age but says he is around 30 years old. “Everyone has dreams, but it’s not always in their power to turn them into reality.”

Just a few years after India was hailed as a rising economic titan poised to rival China—even surpass it—growth in gross domestic product has slowed to a pace not seen in a decade. The Indian economy expanded at an annual rate of 4.7% in the last quarter of 2013. That may be sizzling by Western standards, but it is a serious comedown for a country whose GDP growth peaked at 11.4% in 2010. Inflation is high, workers aren’t finding jobs, and industrialization and urbanization are stalling.

via As Growth Slows in India, Rural Workers Have Fewer Incentives to Move to Cities – WSJ.com.

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11/04/2014

India’s election: Seasons of abundance | The Economist

LICK your lips: mangoes are coming into season in Andhra Pradesh, piled up on roadside fruit stalls. Hyderabadis claim theirs are the country’s sweetest. So too are the bribes paid by the state’s politicians to get people to vote. Since early March state police have seized more money from politicians aiming to buy votes—590m rupees ($10m)—than the rest of India combined. An excited local paper talks of “rampant cash movement”, reporting that police do not know where to store the bundles of notes, bags of gold and silver, cricket kits, saris and lorry-loads of booze.

Andhra Pradesh, India’s fifth most populous state, is due to hold an impressive series of polls in the next few weeks—municipal elections and then both state-assembly and national ones. Many politicians keep up old habits by paying voters, especially rural ones, to turn out. A villager can stand to pocket a handy 3,000 rupees per vote. Economists predict a mini-boom in consumer goods.

If this is the lamentable face of Indian politicking, the hopeful side is that, increasingly, skulduggery is being pursued. A worker with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Hyderabad says police looking for illicit cash stopped and searched her car five times in a single drive one day last week.

This may be because in Andhra Pradesh, unusually, politicians are not currently running the show. The state is under “president’s rule”, with bureaucrats in charge, ahead of its breaking into two on June 2nd. Then, a new state, Telangana, will emerge to become India’s 29th, covering much of the territory once ruled by the Nizams of Hyderabad, the fabulously wealthy Muslim dynasty whose reign India’s army ended in 1948. A rump coastal state gets to keep the name Andhra Pradesh. For a decade Hyderabad will serve as joint capital.

The split will have a bearing on the national election. In 2009 the ruling coalition, the United Progressive Alliance, led by Congress, returned to national office on the back of two whopping southern victories. Congress scooped 33 seats in Andhra Pradesh, more than in any other state. Its ally next door in Tamil Nadu, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), got 18 seats. Both now face heavy defeats. “The south’s biggest impact nationally will be negative, in not voting for Congress”, says K.C. Suri of Hyderabad University.

via India’s election: Seasons of abundance | The Economist.

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11/04/2014

India Under Narendra Modi Could Be Japan’s Best Friend – Businessweek

The results of national elections in India, expected to be announced on May 12, could mean good news for Japan and not such good news for China. Narendra Modi, the leader of the Hindu nationalist opposition party, has long been a favorite of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who would like to foster military and economic ties with India. Modi, the front-runner in the contest to be India’s prime minister, and Abe also share an antagonism for China. Modi has criticized the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for being too accommodating toward China and has pledged to take a tougher line on issues such as the border dispute between the two countries that has festered for decades.

A supporter of Narendra Modi dons a mask of the Hindu nationalist candidate

Abe has clashed with China in a dispute over the ownership of several islands in the East China Sea. When it comes to the Chinese, “the Japanese are extremely apprehensive,” says P.K. Ghosh, senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi think tank. “It doesn’t take a genius to say India can be the largest friend of the Japanese.”

Abe has long treated Modi as a kindred spirit. Even after the George W. Bush administration put Modi on a travel blacklist for his alleged role in the 2002 riots that killed about 1,100 people, mostly Muslims, in Gujarat state, Abe welcomed Modi to Japan. The Indian politician, who was exonerated by the Indian courts, visited in 2007 during Abe’s first term as prime minister and then again when Abe was opposition leader in 2012. “Japan has worked very hard to improve relations with India,” says retired Indian General Vinod Saighal, author of Revitalising Indian Democracy. With a Modi victory, he says, relations “will get a boost, certainly.”

via India Under Narendra Modi Could Be Japan’s Best Friend – Businessweek.

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11/04/2014

Young professionals in Bangalore favour Modi’s promise, shrug off riots | India Insight

As far as Vinod Hegde is concerned, Indian prime minister candidate Narendra Modi bears no responsibility for the 2002 Gujarat riots. More to the point, Hegde doesn’t care.

Hegde, a 26-year-old stockbroker in Bangalore, said that for people like him, the Gujarat chief minister is the only choice to lead India after countrywide parliamentary elections that began this week.

Allegations that Modi failed to stop or even allowed deadly riots in 2002 don’t sway his vote, Hegde said. And if the ruling Congress party’s candidate is Rahul Gandhi, the choice becomes even clearer.

“Even assuming Modi has been responsible for XYZ, we don’t see an alternative,” Hegde said. Referencing a Twitter post by music director Vishal Dadlani, he said, “If I had to choose between a moron and a murderer, I’d probably choose the murderer.”

Not everyone states their case for supporting Modi in such blunt terms, but interviews with young professionals in Bangalore, the information technology hub known as India’s Silicon Valley reveals a calculation in favour of Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that omits the riots from the equation.

For many people in Bangalore’s highly educated workforce, Modi is a welcome alternative to what is seen as an ineffective and corruption-tainted Congress party. They are part of what some media organizations have called a “Modi wave” that opinion polls, however unreliable, say could bring the BJP to power and push out the Gandhi-Nehru family’s Congress party.

Many BJP supporters see Rahul Gandhi, the party’s leader and the Gandhi family’s heir apparent, as ill suited for the job of running a country that is trying to revive its slowing economic growth and to provide opportunities for prosperity to its burgeoning middle class. (A note for people unfamiliar with this round of Lok Sabha elections: Indians will vote for members of Parliament in their local constituencies, and the winning party’s leadership names its ministers when it forms a new government.)

via Young professionals in Bangalore favour Modi’s promise, shrug off riots | India Insight.

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