Archive for ‘India alert’

22/10/2014

Google’s Big Plans for Low-Cost Android One Phones in India – Businessweek

With the Indian smartphone market booming, Xiaomi has made a splash with its weekly flash sales on Flipkart, an Indian rival to Amazon.com (AMZN). When the Chinese smartphone brand conducted another of its sales on Tuesday, over 300,000 people registered to buy some 90,000 of its Redmi 1S phones priced at 5,999 rupees (or $98). In last week’s sale, the Xiaomi phones sold out in four seconds.

The Spice Android One Dream Uno smartphone

Xiaomi isn’t the only foreign company looking to take advantage of consumer demand for inexpensive alternatives to the iPhone (AAPL). The company with perhaps the most ambitious plan is Google (GOOG), which last month made India the first market for its new Android One smartphone operating system. Google teamed up with local brands Micromax, Karbonn, and Spice, all of which have recently introduced smartphones priced around 6,000 rupees.

India particularly needs better low-cost phones, argues Caesar Sengupta, Google’s vice president of product development in Singapore and head of the Android One project. India’s mobile operators don’t offer the sort of generous subsidies that consumers in the U.S. and other markets take for granted. ”In the U.S., when you buy an iPhone, it costs $600 to $700 but you get a subsidy, so to a consumer it feels you are buying a $200 phone,” Sengupta says. In India, the cost to the consumer is much closer to the actual cost of the hardware.

via Google’s Big Plans for Low-Cost Android One Phones in India – Businessweek.

22/10/2014

India’s Modi Ends Fuel Subsidies, Showing He Is a Reformer – Businessweek

Narendra Modi has proven once again how important it is to be lucky in politics. In the spring, he was India’s opposition leader, running for prime minister by focusing on the government’s mismanagement of the economy. He had plenty of ammunition: The coalition led by the Congress Party had presided over years of corruption scandals and stalled reforms—and also had to contend with a growing budget deficit fueled by soaring prices for oil and other imported commodities.

In India, Falling Oil Prices Make Modi's Job Much Easier

During the campaign, Modi said he wanted to cut back on the costly subsidies the government offered millions of Indians to cushion the blow of those soaring prices. Petroleum subsidies account for one-quarter of India’s 2.6 trillion rupee ($42.4 billion) subsidies bill. But after he won in a landslide, Modi’s first budget (which his finance minister announced in July), was a modest plan that left the subsidies untouched.

That left observers unsure as to whether Modi was backing away from the politically difficult task of making the cuts. “We can either trust that the government will deliver price hikes as the year progresses,” Mirza Baig, head of foreign exchange and interest rate strategy at BNP Paribas in Singapore, wrote in a report after the budget announcement in July. “Or we can be more cynical and suggest that the Modi administration intends to continue the practice of rolling forward subsidy expenditure to next year.”

via India’s Modi Ends Fuel Subsidies, Showing He Is a Reformer – Businessweek.

22/10/2014

Diesel Deregulation Frees Up Billions for India to Spend More Wisely – India Real Time – WSJ

India’s decision to end government control of diesel fuel prices will save the government billions of dollars which can be better spent on more pressing needs such as building schools, roads and ports, analysts say.

India announced over the weekend that it would end a decades-old policy of controlling the retail price of diesel fuel. Providing diesel at below-market rates cost the government about $10 billion last year, hampering India’s ability to spend on other things.

The government had given up control over the prices of gasoline back in 2010 but had continued to regulate prices of diesel – the primary fuel used in trucks and tractors as well as for running generators used to power irrigation pumps.

“It shields the government’s finances from volatility in global oil prices, because of which the subsidy bill often went up,” said Radhika Rao, an economist at DBS Bank.

HSBC estimates that the diesel deregulation will drop fuel subsidy bill to around 0.4% of gross domestic product, half of the 0.8% of GDP it paid last year.

“Our estimate is that over the next few years, fuel subsidies should remain contained,” said Prithviraj Srinivas, an economist at HSBC.

Diesel subsidies cost India close to $50 billion over the last five years, economists say. If India sticks to its guns and lets fuel prices meander with global markets, it will no longer have to foot that kind of unproductive expense. Instead, it can now choose to lower its fiscal deficit or spend more on infrastructure development or social development programs.

Analysts say the government’s fiscal deficit target of 4.1% of GDP this fiscal year – a level that many analysts had thought optimistic – now looks within reach.

via Diesel Deregulation Frees Up Billions for India to Spend More Wisely – India Real Time – WSJ.

21/10/2014

Schindler Raises Profit Forecast as China, India Grow Faster – Businessweek

Schindler Holding AG (SCHP) raised its full-year profit forecast after the Swiss elevator maker’s nine-month earnings were boosted by rapidly expanding sales in China and India.

Schindler increased its net profit forecast by 15 million francs ($16 million) to as much as 865 million francs, supported also by the consolidation of Chinese subsidiary XJ-Schindler and the sale of land in Switzerland. Ebikon-based Schindler stuck to a prediction of 6 percent to 8 percent sales growth in local currencies.

Silvio Napoli, who became chief executive officer in January after almost six years as head of Schindler’s Asia-Pacific business, was promoted as the Swiss company expands operations in Chinese and Indian markets, where it predicts sales of elevators will grow fastest over the next decades. Schindler is far exceeding market growth in each of these countries, the company said today.

Nine-month net income gained 91 percent to 703 million francs, while sales rose 3.2 percent to 6.7 billion francs.

Earnings at Schindler, a company with a market capitalization of $15 billion, bucked a more subdued outlook among European industrials. Royal Philips NV Chief Executive Officer Frans Van Houten said yesterday that the maker of health-care equipment and light bulbs is facing sustained softness in a number of markets such as China and Russia, after reporting quarterly earnings that missed estimates.

The Schindler and Bonnard families, along with related parties, hold 67.3 percent of the voting rights in the company which dates back to 1874.

via Schindler Raises Profit Forecast as China, India Grow Faster – Businessweek.

21/10/2014

India Steps Closer to Ending 40-Year-Old Monopoly on Coal – Businessweek

India stepped closer to ending a four-decade-old government monopoly on mining and selling coal as Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks to tackle fuel shortages.

India Coal Mine

The government approved a decree enabling it to permit commercial mining in future, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said at a briefing in New Delhi yesterday, without giving a timeline. The ordinance also allows auctions of coal mines to private companies for their own use, he said.

Modi made curbing blackouts a priority after sweeping to office in May on a pledge to revive growth in Asia’s third-largest economy from near the slowest pace in a decade. State-owned Coal India Ltd. (COAL) has missed output targets in at least the past four years, and easing its grip may allow companies such as Sesa Sterlite Ltd. (SSTL) and NMDC Ltd. (NMDC) to profit from the world’s fifth-biggest reserves.

Enabling private companies to mine and sell coal would be “one of the key game-changing reforms,” said Sonal Varma, an economist at Nomura Holdings Inc. in Mumbai. “Fuel availability has been a big concern for the economy.”

Opening up the coal industry risks stoking protests by some of Coal India’s about 325,000 workers and executives, at the same time as the government prepares to sell a 10 percent stake in the company that would fetch about 228 billion rupees ($3.7 billion).

Coal India accounts for more than 80 percent of the country’s production. The government wants to spur competition in the industry, Jaitley told the NDTV 24×7 television channel today.

via India Steps Closer to Ending 40-Year-Old Monopoly on Coal – Businessweek.

21/10/2014

India’s Narendra Modi to Star at Sydney’s Allphones Arena – India Real Time – WSJ

Since becoming prime minister, Narendra Modi has performed in New York’s storied Madison Square Garden  and played drums on stage in Japan.

His next big-ticket venue: Sydney’s Allphones Arena this November.

Mr. Modi will address what is expected to be a sell-out crowd at the 21,000-seat venue in Australia’s financial and commercial capital on Nov. 17 during his four-day trip to the country for the G20 summit in Brisbane.

Organizers say it will eclipse the prime minister’s biggest gig so far, when he spoke to a crowd of 18,000 people, mostly Indian-Americans, at Madison Square Garden on Sept. 28.

“This will be bigger and better,” said Balesh Singh Dhankhar one of the organizers of the reception for Mr. Modi. The Allphones Arena, built for the 2000 Olympics,  “has more grandeur” than Madison Square Garden, he added.

The stadium in Manhattan is famous for hosting some of the biggest names in entertainment, like the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen and “The Fight of the Century” between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.

The Allphone Arena also hosts musical acts and boxing matches. In the same month as Mr. Modi’s visit, The Rolling Stones and Katy Perry will play the arena and an Ultimate Fighting Championship event will take place there.

Australia is home to around 350,000 people who were born in India, according to the latest census data from 2011. That was a 90% increase on the number recorded in the census in 2006, but a tenth the size of the Indian-American community in the United States.

After Mr. Modi’s speech in New York, people in Australia began asking when he would come here, said Mr. Dhankhar, a spokesman for the Indian Australian Community Foundation that is helping put on the event that was conceived only three weeks ago.

Some 14,000 people have registered in the first two and a half days of registration, according to the organizers. It will be broadcast live on Indian television channels.

“We invited Mr. Modi and said the Indian diaspora in Australia is very eager to see him,” Mr. Dhankhar added.

Tickets for the Sydney event are free and the show will start around 5.30p.m., but further details of the spectacle are under wraps right now, Mr. Dhankhar said. “There are a number of cultural and exciting events before the speech that would be a surprise for the audience in India and Australia. These will be wider and more surprising that at Madison Square Gardens.”

via India’s Narendra Modi to Star at Sydney’s Allphones Arena – India Real Time – WSJ.

20/10/2014

Grocery retailing in India: A long way from the supermarket | The Economist

ON THE morning of Dussehra, a Hindu festival, Amar Singh is explaining why he stocks “exotic” produce, such as broccoli and iceberg lettuce, at his vegetable stall in Thane, a commuter city north of Mumbai. “I have to keep the customer in my grasp,” he says. Mr Singh has traded hereabouts for 20 years, and seems unperturbed by the supermarket chains whose branches have recently sprouted nearby. They are cheaper, he says, but they cannot match him on quality. As he speaks he sorts a tray of beans, discarding stringier ones. His assistant, Dabloo, has spent the early hours going through sacks of produce at a wholesale market to pick the best stuff.

The 10m-12m small traders like Mr Singh are a protected species. Complex and changeable rules governing foreign direct investment have made it tricky for rich-world chains to set up shop in India. They might count themselves lucky. India’s home-grown supermarkets account for only 2% of food and grocery sales and are struggling to make a profit. Revenues have not kept pace with rising rents. The Thane branch of Reliance Fresh, one of India’s big chains (see table), shut up shop recently. More closures seem likely. The bet made by the chains was that as India became richer, its consumers would abandon kerbside stalls and kiranas (small family-owned shops) for air-conditioned stores with wide aisles and broad ranges. Why has it not paid off?

In large part it is because supermarkets are not a compelling draw in terms of price and service. Most shoppers in India buy dairy products, vegetables and fruit either daily or every two to three days, and the traditional trade has a lock on these frequent purchases, according to research by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). Its hold weakens a bit (and the appeal of supermarkets correspondingly tightens) on rich consumers and for less regular purchases: packaged foods; soaps, detergents and other groceries; and staples, such as rice and grains (see chart). But in general even affluent consumers prefer traditional stores, because they are closer to home, are usually open longer and offer credit to familiar customers. Many will deliver free of charge.

Traditional traders are also seen as cheaper. In fact, says Abheek Singhi of BCG, a full basket of goods is 3-4% cheaper at the supermarket, in part because it will sell a few vegetables and some staples as loss-leaders. Mr Singh’s stall sells tomatoes at 50 rupees a kilogram. In the local D-Mart, a low-frills supermarket, they sell for just 42 rupees. Yet Mr Singh has a fair claim to having the reddest variety. The chains ought to be able to offer keener prices on branded goods by squeezing their suppliers. But none of the supermarkets has enough muscle to push around Unilever or Procter & Gamble in negotiations. And India has a law that mandates a maximum retail price for packaged goods, which allows manufacturers a degree of control over retailers’ margins.

The supermarkets can offer a greater variety of groceries than the neighbourhood mom-and-pop store or stall-trader. But that is not as big a competitive edge as it may seem, says BCG’s Mr Singhi. Supermarkets compete with clusters of kiranas, which together can offer most of the same products. Next door to Mr Singh’s stall in Thane kiranas sell confectionary, fresh eggs and poultry.

via Grocery retailing in India: A long way from the supermarket | The Economist.

19/10/2014

India’s big manufacturing push: Time to make in India? | The Economist

NO ONE doubts that Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister (pictured), is a capable speaker. On September 25th he called together hundreds of diplomats, business leaders, journalists, ministers and others to a swanky hall in Delhi to launch his latest marketing push. The event was broadcast live across India and to diplomatic missions abroad. A remarkable cast of industrial heavyweights were called on to show support, including Cyrus Mistry of Tata Sons, Reliance’s nervy-sounding boss, Mukesh Ambani, the chairman of Wipro, Azim Premji, the chairman of Aditya Birla Group, Kumar Mangalam Birla, and the chairman of ITC Limited, Yogesh Chander Deveshwar.

Over the course of two hours these business cheerleaders, along with ministers and then Mr Modi himself, took turns to explain why it would be a great thing if industrial production, in particular labour-intensive manufacturing, could blossom in India. They are absolutely right. India needs to create lots of jobs—perhaps 1m additional ones a month—if it is to employ its booming population. One speaker suggested 90m manufacturing jobs could be created in India over the next decade. Mr Premji set out how Wipro—better known for IT—has five manufacturing units in India (they make hydraulic cylinders) and overall relied on a broad network of 1,200 Indian suppliers, meaning lots  of jobs created indirectly.

Mr Birla spoke of a new high-end aluminium manufacturing site in Odisha (formerly Orissa) which now does quality work for the firm that used to be done in a British factory. A representative from Lockheed Martin, an American defence firm, explained how its factory near to Hyderabad makes component parts for its global production of the massive C130-J Hercules plane. A stronger manufacturing sector could help in a host of other ways, suggested speakers, linking India into global supply chains, boosting exports, helping to reduce the current-account deficit and so on. Mr Ambani concluded that India’s economy could boom in the long run, at a sustained rate of 8-10%, growing quicker than China, if only the right conditions were created.

All this looks and sounds attractive. So, too, do a flash new website that Mr Modi inaugurated, a new symbol—a lion made up of cog-wheels—and some new brochures that set out how India is a bit more welcoming to manufacturers. But was the exercise anything more than a PR event? As one cynical member of the audience grumbled, it seemed to be a big palaver for the launch of a few marketing tools.

What has actually changed in India as Mr Modi pushes manufacturing? First, discount the worst gush from business leaders. The likes of Mr Ambani and Mr Deveshwar may be embarrassed to be reminded of how sycophantic they were in Mr Modi’s presence. Mr Ambani waffled on about being “blessed with a leader”, the “unique leadership quality of a prime minister, a man who dreams and he does”, who has apparently motivated a billion Indians to “dream and do”. Mr Deveshwar was even more craven, thanking “the Almighty” for the leadership “given to us” in Mr Modi, for “your astuteness, your wisdom…Sir, I’m profoundly inspired by the boldness of your vision and the simplicity with which you have communicated.” Mr Modi sat stony-faced as they fawned. But he probably agrees with the implied message: that most of what it takes to boost manufacturing in India is strong leadership from him, as he showed when he was chief minister of Gujarat. Indeed, when he spoke, he referred back to his success in Gujarat, saying that with the same civil servants and resources as the rest of the country, he had produced striking industrial successes. He expects more of the same in the country as a whole.

Sadly, leadership alone will not do it. Matters are more complicated than that. Mr Modi, endearingly, admitted in his speech “I am not a big economist” while urging investors not to think of India only as a big emerging market, but also as a place for production. As he suggests, achieving that requires progress in a host of areas. He spoke of an urgent need for skills development as far too many of India’s youngsters are poorly prepared for globally competitive work (though that is a huge mission, since it means fixing a rotten school and university system) and identifying 21 clusters for industrial development. He spelt out how infrastructure would improve (but not where massive capital to fund that will come from). Laudably, he emphasised the need to make India a far easier place to do business by scrapping red-tape and oppressive rules, mentioning a recent meeting he had with the World Bank to discuss India’s awful ranking—134th—on its annual “ease of doing business” assessment. Mr Modi thinks India should aim to be ranked much higher, quickly, in the top 50 countries.

via India’s big manufacturing push: Time to make in India? | The Economist.

19/10/2014

Jayaram Jayalalithaa Granted Bail – India Real Time – WSJ

India’s Supreme Court Friday granted bail to Jayaram Jayalalithaa, the influential leader of one of India’s biggest regional parties, as she appeals her conviction nearly three weeks after she was sentenced to four years in jail for corruption.

In September, a court in Bangalore found Ms. Jayalalithaa and three of her aides guilty of having accumulated wealth beyond their known sources of income.

On Friday, the Supreme Court granted her “conditional bail on grounds that she is unwell and needs to rest at home,” her party’s spokesman Aspire K. Swaminathan told The Wall Street Journal in an interview.

After a case that lasted close to two decades, Ms. Jayalalithaa had to step down immediately from her position as chief minister of the southern state of Tamil Nadu after the September verdict. Her party – the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam– quickly named O. Paneerselvam as her successor as chief minister, she remains the leader of the party and has been in jail in Bangalore since Sept. 27.

Ms. Jayalalithaa denied wrongdoing and appealed for bail in the Karnataka High Court earlier this month on health grounds. But the court rejected her bail plea saying there was no reason to suspend her conviction.

Subramanian Swamy, a petitioner in the case against Ms. Jayalalithaa and a leader in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party said the top court has asked Ms. Jayalalithaa to submit her appeal within two months in the Karnataka High Court, “failing which her bail would be cancelled.”

via Jayaram Jayalalithaa Granted Bail – India Real Time – WSJ.

19/10/2014

After border row, India, China plan counter-terror drills to build trust | Reuters

India, which under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has struck an assertive national security posture, also agreed to China’s request to move next month’s exercises away from the border with Pakistan with which China shares a close relationship.

The manoeuvres will come just weeks after thousands of Indian and Chinese soldiers confronted each other on their de facto border in the western Himalayas, accusing each other of building roads and observations posts in disputed territory.

“The exercises are a confidence-building measure, it is in everyone’s interest,” Jayadeva Ranade, the China specialist on India’s National Security Advisory Board, told Reuters.

“It doesn’t mean anyone is conceding anything.”

The row in the Chumar sector of the Ladakh region erupted just as China’s President Xi Jinping was visiting New Delhi for his first summit with Modi since the Indian leader’s election in May. The leaders of the Asian giants aim to ramp up commercial ties.

India sees the anti-terrorism collaboration with China as a way to highlight the threat they both face from Islamist militants in Pakistan.

It had arranged for the Chinese to practise mock assaults in Bhatinda, about 110 km (70 miles) from the Pakistan border.

via After border row, India, China plan counter-terror drills to build trust | Reuters.

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