Archive for ‘Chindia Alert’

28/07/2016

Furniture Retailing With Chinese Characteristics – China Real Time Report – WSJ

At the opening of Zaozuo’s first furniture store this month in Beijing, a shopper snoozed on a couch while others clambered onto wall-mounted shelves to take selfies perched in chairs. Welcome to furniture retailing with Chinese characteristics.

Online furniture startup Zaozuo Zaohua Zworks Ltd. opened the outlet in an upscale mall after hitting resistance from customers wary of buying bulky items without so much as a feel of the fabric, let alone a bit of shuteye.

Liu Yusi, a 33-year old human-resource executive living in Beijing, said the showroom is a good idea given that buying large pieces of furniture without a test drive can be a leap of faith, although she was a little disappointed there weren’t any beds on display. “Maybe the store is too small,” Ms. Liu said. “But I think a mattress is something you really need to lay on before you decide to buy.

”Zaozuo has tried to distinguish itself from competitors by letting customers vote on the design and style of furniture items at the prototype stage before they’re mass produced, a strategy it says reduces inventory and cuts cost. This is a Chinese adaptation of business models used by the likes of U.S. website Threadless.com — which conducts online polls of crowd-sourced T-shirt designs before producing winning entries – and by crowd-funding sites that have investors vote on ventures they’re willing to fund.

The approach has its skeptics. Guangdong Weiyuhua Furniture Co. says it thinks Zaozuo’s voting is a gimmick and questions whether selling furniture online is sustainable. “It targets a few rich people in cities like Beijing or Shanghai,” said company sales manager Li Songzhi. “Traditional furniture companies like ours have real stores all over China.

”With nearly 700 million online users, Chinese consumers are driving explosive growth in the e-commerce sector, undercutting traditional retailers and leaving new online ventures fighting for an edge. Zaozuo co-founders, Stanford business school graduates Shu Wei and Guan Zishan, say China’s struggling manufacturing sector needs a wakeup call as it battles rising debt and excess capacity.

“The old system is not working very well,” said Ms. Shu. “That was the starting point of our business model.

”One potential problem with the company’s voting system is possible voter fraud, says Travis Wu, China research director with consultancy Forrester Research Inc. “In China, everything is a bit tricky, and lots of people try to game the system,” Mr. Wu said. That could see designers tilt results toward their own models, for example, or allow competitors to steer Zaozuo into producing money-losing items, he said.

Another concern: with Zaozuo opening a showroom, it risks driving up costs and undercutting its advantage over traditional furniture makers. Mr. Guan says users must be registered before voting, the company watches carefully for unusual online activity and the new store is not a major investment.Zaozuo, which attracted several thousand curious shoppers to its store launch on a recent weekend, sees itself inhabiting a competitive space between expensive designer brands and mass marketers like Sweden’s IKEA, a company that attracts its share of showroom lounge lizards. On any given weekend, entire families can be found snoozing on beds in Ikea’s massive showrooms, luxuriating in the air conditioning and enjoying the inexpensive food.

China’s fragmented furniture industry with around 5,000 large companies and combined revenue of 244.5 billion yuan [$37.3 billion] in 2015, up 16.1% increase from the previous year, is tradition-bound and due for a shakeup, say online companies. Internet furniture companies only command a tiny slice of the market but are growing rapidly. Privately held Zaozuo said sales are increasing by 40% annually although it has yet to break even. MZGF Furniture Studio Co., another online firm, said sales have been expanding by as much as 200% year on year in some months.Zaozuo, which works with 50 Chinese factories and more than 80 European designers, has attracted $17.5 million in venture funding and hopes to eventually go public. Anna Fang, chief executive of venture capital group Zhen Fund, which has invested $1.3 million in Zaozuo, said prospects for the industry are promising but the startup may need to shorten delivery times, which range from three to 35 days. “Ikea can get furniture to you right away,” she added.

At its store opening, Zaozuo said it tried to discourage shoppers from getting too comfortable on its furniture. “The customer might be comfortable, but the image is not that good for other customers who can’t feel the fabrics if someone’s sleeping on it,” said Mr. Guan. “Maybe they do it because they’re tired. Shopping can be very tiring.”

Source: Furniture Retailing With Chinese Characteristics – China Real Time Report – WSJ

28/07/2016

With eye on China, India doubles down on container hub ports | Reuters

Indian conglomerate Adani Group has started building the country’s first transshipment port, conceived 25 years ago, and the government will construct another $4-billion facility nearby to create a shipping hub rivalling Chinese facilities in the region.

New Delhi will grant billionaire Gautam Adani 16 billion rupees ($240 million) in so-called “viability gap” funding to help the new port at Vizhinjam in Kerala win business from established hubs elsewhere in Asia.

Once Vizhinjam is operational the central government will start building the port of Enayam in neighbouring Tamil Nadu, said a senior shipping ministry official. Enayam alone will save more than $200 million in costs for Indian companies every year, he said.India’s 7,500-km (4,700-mile) coastline juts into one of the world’s main shipping routes and Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to capitalise on that proximity by developing ports that can shift freight on to huge vessels capable of carrying up to 18,000 20-foot containers.

By bringing onshore cargo handling now done at entrepots in Sri Lanka, Dubai and Singapore, Modi’s government expects cargo traffic at its ports to jump by two-thirds by 2021 as India ramps up exports of goods including cars and other machinery.

The lack of an Indian domestic transshipment port forces inbound and outbound containers to take a detour to one of those regional hubs before heading to their final destination.

New Delhi expects the new ports to save Indian companies hundreds of millions of dollars in transport costs, as well as ease concerns over the growing strategic clout in South Asia of rival China, which has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Sri Lankan ports at Colombo and Hambantota.

Adani wants the Vizhinjam port, which an arm of his Adani Group is building at a cost of around $1 billion, to be operational in 2018. The port lies hard by the Gulf-to-Malacca shipping lane that carries almost a third of world sea freight.

“The port can attract a large share of the container transshipment traffic destined for, or originating from, India which is now being diverted primarily through Colombo, Singapore and Dubai,” said an Adani Group executive who declined to be named.

But officials acknowledge that it would be difficult for the new ports to win international clients unless they offered discounts.”A major part of transshipment is happening at nearby ports. We can win some of that business,” said A.S. Suresh Babu, who heads a government agency set up by Kerala to facilitate the construction of Vizhinjam.

“There’s a viability issue in the first few years. Already the Chinese are operating there. So unless you give some discount you can’t attract these ships. So that’s why the government of India has approved the viability gap funding.”

Source: With eye on China, India doubles down on container hub ports | Reuters

27/07/2016

India’s farmers seize offer of free registration of land sold on ‘plain paper’ | Reuters

When Telangana announced a three-week window for free registration of land that had exchanged hands via handwritten notes on plain paper, the offer triggered more than a million applications.

All over the state the sale of land on notes known as “sada bainamas” has been customary because of widespread inability to pay the registration fees, illiteracy or ignorance of the law.

Around a million farmers in Telangana lack secure title to land bought this way, according to a 2014 survey carried out in the state by Landesa, a U.S. based charity .

Guram Muttaya is a beneficiary of the registration drive and one of many farmers who occupy land they have been cultivating for 30 to 40 years on the strength of informal documents.

“Registering the land will bring me government agriculture loans, compensation for crop damages and crop insurance too,” Muttaya told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, holding up a torn piece of paper bearing a signature.

The piece of paper is his only proof of ownership of a fifth of a hectare of land he bought in Kannayapally village 27 years ago for $67 and whose market value has risen to $3,000.

Studies have shown that broadly distributed secure land rights for farmers can help to pull families out of poverty and boost sustainable economic development.

Source: India’s farmers seize offer of free registration of land sold on ‘plain paper’ | Reuters

27/07/2016

China’s Fosun to sign agreement for $1.4 billion Gland Pharma buy – paper | Reuters

Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical (Group) Co (2196.HK) will sign a definitive agreement on Wednesday to buy a controlling stake in India’s Gland Pharma in a $1.4 billion deal, the Economic Times newspaper reported, citing a source with direct knowledge.

In May, Shanghai Fosun had made a non-binding proposal to buy Gland Pharma, which is backed by KKR & Co (KKR.N), to boost its drug manufacturing and research and development capacity.

Fosun did not immediately comment, when contacted by Reuters. Gland Pharma made no immediate comment on the report.

The paper said KKR declined to comment.

Source: China’s Fosun to sign agreement for $1.4 billion Gland Pharma buy – paper | Reuters

27/07/2016

Parliament passes controversial child labour bill | Reuters

Parliament on Tuesday approved a controversial law that would allow children to work for family businesses, despite widespread concern by the United Nations and other rights advocates that it will push more children into labour.

A week after the bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha, the Lok Sabha approved the measure that brings a raft of changes to a three-decade-old child labour prohibition law. The bill now goes for the President’s assent before becoming law.

The U.N. Children’s Agency (UNICEF) as well as many others have raised alarm over two particular amendments – permitting children to work for their families and reducing the number of banned professions for adolescents.

A 2015 report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) put the number of child workers in India ages 5 to 17 at 5.7 million, out of 168 million globally.

More than half of India’s child workers are employed in agriculture and more than a quarter in manufacturing – embroidering clothes, weaving carpets or making match sticks. Children also work in restaurants, shops and hotels and as domestic workers.The new legislation extends a ban on child labour under 14 to all sectors. Previously, only 18 hazardous occupations and 65 processes such as mining, gem cutting and cement manufacturing were outlawed.

It also stiffens penalties for those employing children, doubling jail terms to two years and increasing fines to 50,000 rupees ($740) from 20,000 rupees ($300).

While child rights groups have welcomed such changes, there has been concern over other amendments proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s government.

For example, children will be allowed to work in family businesses, outside of school hours and during holidays, and in entertainment and sports if it does not affect their education.

Also, children 15 to 18 will be permitted to work, except in mines and industries where they would be exposed to inflammable substances and hazardous processes.

The government says the exemptions aim to strike a balance between education and India’s economic reality, in which parents rely on children to help with farming or artisanal work to fight poverty or pass on a family trade.

“The purpose of this very act is that we should be able to practically implement it,” Labour and Employment Minister Bandaru Dattatreya told parliament. “That’s why we are giving some exemptions.”UNICEF had urged India to exclude family work from the proposed law and include an “exhaustive list” of hazardous occupations.

“To strengthen the Bill and provide a protective legal framework for children, UNICEF India strongly recommends the removal of ‘children helping in family enterprises’,” it said in a statement on Monday.

“This will protect children from being exploited in invisible forms of work, from trafficking and from boys and girls dropping out of school due to long hours of work,” it said.

Source: Parliament passes controversial child labour bill | Reuters

27/07/2016

India orders 4 more maritime spy planes from Boeing worth $1 billion | Reuters

India has signed a pact with Boeing Co for purchasing four maritime spy planes at an estimated $1 billion, defence and industry sources said, aiming to bolster the navy as it tries to check China’s presence in the Indian Ocean.

India has already deployed eight of these long-range P-8I aircraft to track submarine movements in the Indian Ocean and on Wednesday exercised an option for more planes, a defence ministry source said.

“It has been signed,” the source familiar with the matter told Reuters. An industry source confirmed the contract, saying it was a follow-on order signed in New Delhi early on Wednesday.

Source: India orders 4 more maritime spy planes from Boeing worth $1 billion | Reuters

27/07/2016

Why India’s Lack of Toilets Is Hurting Its Children’s Development – India Real Time – WSJ

India’s lack of toilets and poor access to sanitation are holding back its children, causing stunted growth and curbing their development, a new report says.

Is India Winning the Fight Against Childhood Malnutrition?

Why Is Indian Children’s Growth So Stunted? It’s Not Why You ThinkT

he country has more than 48 million under fives with impaired growth, the largest number in the world, the report from London-based international development charity WaterAid said.

India also has 774 million people without access to adequate sanitation, and 76 million without safe water, the report said.

Children who are stunted because of malnutrition tend to be shorter and lag behind their peers cognitively. Poor access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene cause diarrhea and expose children to other intestinal infections during the crucial first two years of life.

Around 140,000 under-fives die in India every year because of diarrhea and other diseases caused by lack of access to these basic services, the report said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said in the past that he would rather build toilets than temples — setting a goal for every home in the country to have a place to go to the bathroom by 2019. But the program has suffered challenges: some Indians prefer to relieve themselves outdoors.

India is making some progress, however. The report said the percentage of its children who were stunted reduced from 48% in 2006 to 39% in 2014, the year Mr. Modi came to power.

Pakistan, India’s closest neighbor, ranked third with more than 9.8 million children who are stunted, according to the WaterAid study.

Source: Why India’s Lack of Toilets Is Hurting Its Children’s Development – India Real Time – WSJ

26/07/2016

Could India Become a Cashless Economy? – India Real Time – WSJ

Cash is set to lose currency in India, as an explosion in smartphone usage drives a digital payments boom, according to a new report.

By year 2020, nearly $500 billion worth of transactions in India will happen digitally, using online wallets and other digital-payment systems, 10 times the level currently, according to a report by Google India and The Boston Consulting Group.

Indians traditionally prefer to save and spend in cash, and a vast majority of the more-than 1.2 billion population doesn’t have a bank account.

Last year, 78% of all consumer payments in India were made by cash, whereas in developed countries like the U.S. and U.K., only 20% to 25% of such payments were made that way, the report said.

But the reliance on notes and coins in India is likely to diminish, as spending habits change and financial services reach more people, said the Google-BCG report. It expects cash-based consumer payments to fall to 40% to 45% by 2025.

A sharp increase in the use of mobile phones with internet connectivity will help drive the move to digital payments, said the report.

India has more than 1 billion mobile subscribers, a quarter of whom use smartphones, according to the report. By 2020, the number of smartphone users in the country will likely be 520 million, and the number of internet users 650 million, twice the number currently, according to the report.

Personal internet banking has become more popular in India over the past few years along with digital payment options that allow users to settle mobile phone, electricity and even taxi bills.

The recent spurt of growth has come from non-bank companies offering payment services. Cellphone companies like Airtel and Vodafone offer facilities to transfer money using phones, while “wallet” companies like One97 Communications’ Paytm unit, and MobiKwik, allow users to store money digitally and pay through their systems.

The next level of growth will come when local mom-and-pop grocery stores start accepting digital payments, said the report.However, there are plenty of consumers and merchants who still feel skeptical of digital payments, or find them too complicated, said the report. And others just don’t want to give up using cash, it added.

Source: Could India Become a Cashless Economy? – India Real Time – WSJ

25/07/2016

India urges security forces to exercise restraint in Kashmir | Reuters

India has asked its security forces to exercise restraint in responding to protests in disputed Kashmir and replace pellet guns with non-lethal weapons, its home affairs minister said on Sunday.

Forty six people have been killed and more than 5,000 wounded, including security forces, since protests erupted after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8.

Normal life remains paralysed because of the curfew imposed by the government and calls for a shutdown by separatist leaders.

“I appeal to the youth not to resort to stone pelting and I also want to appeal to the security forces not to use pellets. I have told security forces to use maximum possible restraint,” Rajnath Singh said, winding up his two-day visit to Kashmir.

Kashmir has been at the centre of a tussle between New Delhi and Islamabad for decades, as both claim the region in full but rule it in part.

“We don’t need the involvement of a third party to address the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. I want to tell my neighbour that you are yourself a victim of terrorism,” said Singh.

Since they split some 67 years ago, India and Pakistan have fought each other in three wars, two over Kashmir. There has not been a full-blown war since they both tested nuclear weapons in 1998.

Singh on Thursday told lawmakers that India would set up a panel to look for an alternative to pellet guns.More than 300 people have suffered because of pellet guns, including 171 with eye injuries, Kaisar Ahmad, principal of the Government Medical College in Srinagar, told Reuters.

Source: India urges security forces to exercise restraint in Kashmir | Reuters

25/07/2016

ASEAN breaks deadlock on South China Sea, Beijing thanks Cambodia for support | Reuters

Southeast Asian nations overcame days of deadlock on Monday when the Philippines dropped a request for their joint statement to mention a landmark legal ruling on the South China Sea, officials said, after objections from Cambodia.

China publicly thanked Cambodia for supporting its stance on maritime disputes, a position which threw the regional block’s weekend meeting in the Laos capital of Vientiane into disarray.

Competing claims with China in the vital shipping lane are among the most contentious issues for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, with its 10 members pulled between their desire to assert their sovereignty while finding common ground and fostering ties with Beijing.

In a ruling by the U.N.-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration on July 12, the Philippines won an emphatic legal victory over China on the dispute.

The Philippines and Vietnam both wanted the ruling, which denied China’s sweeping claims in the strategic seaway that channels more than $5 trillion in global trade each year, and a call to respect international maritime law to feature in the communique.

Backing China’s call for bilateral discussions, Cambodia opposed the wording on the ruling, diplomats said.

Manila agreed to drop the reference to the ruling in the communique, one ASEAN diplomat said on Monday, in an effort to prevent the disagreement leading to the group failing to issue a statement.

The communique referred instead to the need to find peaceful resolutions to disputes in the South China Sea in accordance with international law, including the United Nations’ law of the sea, to which the court ruling referred.

Source: ASEAN breaks deadlock on South China Sea, Beijing thanks Cambodia for support | Reuters

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