Archive for ‘India alert’

02/12/2016

Indian Startup Plans to Land on the Moon in January 2018 – India Real Time – WSJ

An Indian aerospace startup has said that it will launch its mission to the moon in a year’s time, as it takes part in a Google-funded competition to become the world’s first-ever privately held company to make a soft landing there.

Team Indus‘s rover, nicknamed ‘Ek Choti Si Asha,’ or ‘one small hope’ in Hindi, won the Axiom Research team a million-dollar prize from Google last year.

A group of more than 100 scientists and engineers, including around a dozen former ISRO scientists, make up Axiom Research Labs’ Team Indus. The team is India’s only entry in the Google-funded Lunar XPrize challenge, which has a bounty of $30 million.

To win the prize, a team has to successfully place a spacecraft on the moon’s surface, travel at least 500 meters and transmit high-definition video and images back to Earth.

“A full launch vehicle from ISRO [Indian Space Research Organization] will launch our spacecraft into the orbit of the moon end of 2017,” Rahul Narayan, the fleet commander of the team, said at a news conference in New Delhi on Thursday.

The supermoon rising above Cape Town on November 14, 2016, when it was closest to the earth in 68 years.

The Team Indus spacecraft is expected to make it to the moon’s Mare Imbrium region by January 2018.

The race is on. Sixteen other teams from across the world want to make the 238,900-mile trip, and Team Indus is the fourth team to announce its launch plans, said Mr. Narayan.

“We are considering the team from Israel great competition at this point,” he said.

The Indian team’s plan is the country’s first shot at becoming the fourth nation to land gently on the lunar surface and unfurl its national flag, after the U.S., Russia and China.

The South Asian nation’s inexpensive Mars mission put its satellite Mangalyan, which now appears on India’s new 2,000-rupee bank notes, into the red planet’s orbit for $74 million in September 2014. The U.S. spent $671 million getting its Maven satellite to Mars orbit.

The team said its mission would cost $60 million.

Team Indus’s core leadership team, including fleet commander Rahul Narayan, fourth from left.

“We’ve already raised about $15 million through private equity,” said Julius Amrit, co-founder and director. The company aims to raise $20 million by charging companies or universities to put their instruments on board to collect data. It also expects to raise another $20 million from sponsorship, donations and grants.

Its top investors include Ratan Tata, chairman of the Tata group, one of India’s biggest conglomerates; Nandan Nilekani, co-founder of Indian outsourcing firm Infosys; and the owners of e-commerce website Flipkart Internet Pvt. Ltd.

“We are quite confident at this moment that we will have enough money to send our spacecraft to the moon,” Mr. Amrit said.

The Bangalore-based startup won a million dollar prize from Google last year for its WALL-E lookalike moon rover, which will shoot high-quality images, video and data and beam them from the moon’s surface to the company’s mission center in India.

 

But the mission isn’t without its challenges.“If you have to softly land, you need to be able to [precisely] manage your velocity and time [to switch your engines on and off],” said Dhruv Batra, Program Lead at Team Indus. “Unfortunately, there is no throttle-like mechanism in a spacecraft, like you have in a car.”

Another challenge is to be able to land at the right time of the day—to make sure the solar panels are able to power the gadgetry, while making sure the temperature isn’t too extreme for the batteries and other electronics to work properly.

“We are currently refining each and every output of our simulations to arrive at that level of precision we need,” said Mr. Batra.Seven years ago, Team Indus was one of the last teams to sign up for the Google challenge, and its founders had no prior experience in aerospace engineering or space sciences, said Mr. Narayan, the fleet commander. “It was just a dream.”

Source: Indian Startup Plans to Land on the Moon in January 2018 – India Real Time – WSJ

30/11/2016

India prisons: Why security needs to be improved – BBC News

Two major jailbreaks in a month have shone a spotlight on security in India’s overcrowded and under-staffed prisons. BBC Hindi’s Vineet Khare reports.

On Sunday, five armed men in the northern state of Punjab attacked the high-security Nabha prison and freed six inmates. One of the escapees, a Sikh separatist leader, was recaptured on Monday.

It was a brazen attack. Assailants dressed in police uniforms arrived “on the pretext of depositing a prisoner” but began firing indiscriminately as soon as the prison gate was opened. They escaped with the inmates in a convoy of vehicles.

“This is what happens when there is diversion of jail staff to non-jail work and infrastructure is creaking,” said retired police officer Prakash Singh.

Prison break: Four unusual ways Indians have escaped jail

A bad seven days for Indian justice

More than 180 prisoners have escaped in more than 40 jailbreaks over the past two years, latest government figures say

Last year, two inmates escaped from the high-profile Tihar jail in the capital Delhi by digging a tunnel under a wall.

Last month, eight prisoners escaped from a high-security jail in the city of Bhopal in central Madhya Pradesh state. The inmates, members of an outlawed Islamist group, were killed outside Bhopal after they resisted arrest, police said.

Eight prisoners escaped from this prison in Bhopal last month

The men used bed sheets to scale the walls of the prison before escaping the high-security Bhopal Central Prison, police said.

The police version was questioned when unverified videos of the killing of the men surfaced from the outlawed Students Islamic Movement of India. The matter is being investigated.

India’s prisons are notoriously overcrowded and under-resourced.

Some 1,400 prisons house nearly 420,000 inmates against a capacity of 366,7810, according to India’s National Crime Records Bureau.

More than a third of positions for prison guards and officers are lying vacant. Nearly half of the staff positions in Tihar are vacant.

Inmates ‘do everything’

It is estimated that more than two-thirds of the prisoners in Indian jails are on trial, contributing significantly to overcrowding.The Bhopal jailbreak, described as an act of coldblooded murder by the inmates’ lawyer, served again to highlight what was wrong with India’s prisons.

The prison houses more than 3,000 inmates against a capacity of 1,400.

Madhya Pradesh also has a history of jailbreaks:In 2011, nine prisoners spiked the tea of six guards of the state’s Dabra prison and ran away

In 2013, five captives broke through the washroom window of the dilapidated Khandwa prison and escaped

Retired jail officials say no one is paying attention to a system that is crying out loud for support.

“Our jails are collapsing,” retired jail official GK Agarwal told me in Bhopal, showing me a number of handwritten official correspondences to officials, in which he had pleaded for reforms.

Two years ago, in a missive to top officials, Mr Agarwal had predicted a “big accident” at Bhopal jail owing to its “structure, vulnerable points, imprudent security and staff’s deplorable situation”.

But Mr Agarwal said nothing had moved.

Lawyer Dr Siddhartha Gupta, who spent two days in the jail on a minor charge of “disturbing peace outside the court” told me: “The presence of guards inside is next to nothing.”

It’s the inmates who do everything. From cooking to office jobs to counting inmates, everything is done by them.

“Under pressure to act, Madhya Pradesh’s new head of prisons, Sanjay Choudhary, is promising “speedy modernisation”.

“We are enhancing security, increasing manpower and creating a high-security zone,” he said.

Source: India prisons: Why security needs to be improved – BBC News

29/11/2016

Digital payment firms cash in on India’s money mess, but can it last? | Reuters

Digital payment providers in India have mobilised hundreds of extra workers to enrol small merchants and offered their services for free, betting that severe cash shortages will prove to be the opportunity of a lifetime.

Signing people up, however, may be the easy part.

Getting shops and customers to change their reliance on cash permanently will involve convincing people like Mohammad Javed, a 36-year-old meat shop owner in New Delhi.

Working out of a bustling market in the capital, he is surrounded by banks and ATM machines, but says he does not know how to use a credit card machine, let alone a mobile wallet.

He says business has dropped since Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s shock move on Nov. 8 to ditch higher value banknotes, but Javed does not believe mobile app providers offer a solution to his problem – or to his customers.

“We don’t have knowledge or resources to open a mobile wallet or card-swipe machine, and our customers who pay 100-200 rupees ($1.46-$2.92) are not interested either,” he said.

Javed’s reluctance is a reality check for the likes of Paytm and smaller rival MobiKwik, which have gone into promotional overdrive since Modi’s announcement.

The prime minister, whose government supports digital payments, brought in demonetisation to crack down on the shadow economy and improve tax collection.

“Why should India not make a beginning in creating a ‘less-cash society?’,” he said on Sunday, “Once we embark on our journey to create a ‘less-cash society’, the goal of ‘cashless society’ will not remain very far.”P

ROMISING SIGNS

The companies say results have been promising so far.

Paytm, backed by Chinese Internet giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (BABA.N), has added 700 sales representatives since Nov. 8, taking its number of agents to 5,000.

Advertisement boards of Paytm, a digital wallet company, are seen placed at stalls of roadside vegetable vendors as they wait for customers in Mumbai, India, November 19, 2016.

The company, which has 4,500 full-time employees, plans to double the number of agents to more than 10,000, as it aggressively expands its network.

It says it has nearly doubled the number of small merchants signed up to its services to 1.5 million in the last few weeks and added eight million clients to the 150 million it had before the banknote ban.

MobiKwik, whose backers include U.S. venture capital firm Sequoia Capital and American Express (AXP.N), said it had increased its agent base to more than 10,000 from about 1,000 before the Modi move.

Merchants on its platform have risen to 250,000 from 150,000 previously, and chief executive Bipin Preet Singh said they were aiming for a million in up to two months. It has added 5 million accounts since Nov. 8, bringing the total to 40 million.

But challenges loom.

Credit Suisse estimates more than 90 percent of consumer purchases are made in cash, as millions still do not have bank accounts. Those who do have bank cards mainly use them to withdraw from cash machines.

Sales of cheap smartphones have boomed in recent years, but internet networks remain patchy, especially in rural India. Financial literacy and technology usage also remain low.

Dillip Kumar Agrahari, a vegetable seller in a Mumbai suburb, recently signed up to Paytm but does not know how to operate a smartphone.

He hopes switching to digital payments will improve his business as the cash crunch drags on, but says he will have to depend on a cousin to help with accounts.

Many businesses have traditionally opted for cash transactions because they are hard for the tax man to trace, given sales taxes are typically at least 10 percent.

Mangal Singh, a furniture store owner, said nearly 80 percent of his business was transacted in cash, even though he accepts credit card payments.

“We are working on wafer-thin margins,” he said. “If we are asked to pay 12.5 percent tax and other charges, we will have to close down our shops.”

Concerns also remain about the infrastructure for mobile payments, as customers or merchants from one platform cannot transfer payments to another.

MobiKwik said it had started offering wallet-to-wallet transfers, though not all rivals were on board.

WHEN WILL PROFITS COME?

The challenges raise questions about whether the business models of mobile payments providers are sustainable.

Paytm recently slashed fees until Dec. 31, from a system of fees that ranged from 1 to 4 percent, with the most lucrative coming from telephone and utility bill payments.

MobiKwik is not charging fees until March 2017.The closely-held companies are loss-making.

Paytm Chief Executive Vijay Shekhar Sharma said the company expected to reach profitability in two years, without giving details. MobiKwik’s co-founder Upasana Taku said they hoped to become profitable in mid-2018.

Fitch Ratings believes that once the cash crunch subsides, some merchants and customers will go back to business as usual, using notes to pay for transactions.

“I would expect some amount of behavioural changes,” said Fitch analyst Saswata Guha. “We’re still not sure if this shock per se is incentive enough for them to completely change the way they do things.”

($1 = 68.1384 Indian rupees)

Source: Digital payment firms cash in on India’s money mess, but can it last? | Reuters

29/11/2016

Nissan Revs Up Connected Car Plans in India – India Real Time – WSJ

Nissan Motor Co. said Tuesday that it planned to accelerate the penetration of internet-connected vehicles by offering a connection device to existing customers in Japan and India starting next year.

Nissan has been among the most aggressive car makers in putting connection technology in lower-priced vehicles. Now, it is expanding the offering to owners of older models.

The device will allow car owners to get live updates on maintenance needs, make service appointments and order parts ahead of time. Nissan said it planned to bring the device to other countries eventually and install it in 30% of the 40 million Nissan vehicles on the road globally today.

The device contains a Global Positioning System tracker and can transmit information about the vehicle’s health to Nissan through mobile networks. The goal is to give customers a taste of connected-car services that will become available on new cars, Nissan said.

“In the coming years, customers will see sophisticated applications of software and hardware that will keep them connected with work, with friends and family. It will allow them to control their vehicles from their phones in their pockets,” said Kent O’Hara, who runs Nissan’s after-sales division.

Source: Nissan Revs Up Connected Car Plans in India – India Real Time – WSJ

21/11/2016

How Dangerous Are India’s Railways? – The Numbers – Briefly – WSJ

The derailment of a train in northern India that killed more than 130 people highlights the dangers and challenges along the country’s rail network.

Accidents on the rail system resulted in more than 25,000 deaths in 2014, according to the latest statistics available.

While the cause of Sunday’s incident isn’t yet known, it again draws the spotlight onto the country’s rickety rail system.

So how dangerous is traveling on the country’s trains? Here are the numbers.

28,360     The number of railway accidents in India in 2014. Though that was a decrease of 9.2% from a year earlier, 25,006 people died. That figure is much higher than the 768 deaths recorded on America’s railways the same year.

17,480     The number of railway accidents that were reported to be due to someone falling from a train or a “collision with people at track.” In India, passenger trains are often full to bursting, with people hanging out of windows and doors.  Pedestrians also often cross tracks by foot. The government has sought to raise awareness about the proper use of level crossings and the dangers of strolling near railway lines.

5,024     The number of people who died in railway accidents in Maharashtra in 2014. The western state is home to Mumbai, the country’s financial capital, which has some of the most crowded and dangerous suburban trains.

442     The number of rail-construction projects active in India as of March 2014. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made modernizing the ageing network a priority,  and has made building a high-speed corridor a pet project.

$16 billion     The amount a government audit found that delays and poor planning had caused costs on the 442 rail projects to balloon.

40%     The proportion of the more than 31,000 railway crossing that are unmanned. Those level crossing contribute to about 40% of train accidents, according to a government news release.

Source: How Dangerous Are India’s Railways? – The Numbers – Briefly – WSJ

15/11/2016

The Economist explains: Why India scrapped its two biggest bank notes | The Economist

In a surprise televised address on the evening of November 8th, Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India, delivered a bombshell: most of the money in Indians’ wallets would cease to be accepted in shops at midnight. The two most valuable notes, of 500 and 1000 rupees ($7.50 and $15), were to be “demonetised”, economist slang for taken out of circulation. Indians have until the end of the year to visit banks to either exchange their cash against newly printed notes or deposit it in their accounts. After that, their notes will become mere pieces of printed paper with no value at all.

Citizens and businesses face weeks or months of disruption as the new currency stock is deployed. So why bother?

The government justified the move in part due to concerns over a proliferation of counterfeit notes (not unusually, it pointed the finger at neighbouring Pakistan), which it claims is fuelling the drug trade and funding terrorism. But its main impact will be on “black money”, cash from undeclared sources which sits outside the financial system. Perhaps 20% of India’s economy is informal. Some of that is poor farmers, who are largely exempt from tax anyway. But the rich are perceived to be sitting on a vast illicit loot. Though a large part of that sits in bank accounts in predictable foreign jurisdictions, a chunk of it is held in high-value Indian notes. Purchases of gold or high-end real estate have long been made at least in part with bundles (or suitcases) of illicit cash. The impact of the move is that everyone will have to disclose all their cash or face losing it. Those with mere bundles of 500 rupee notes clearly aren’t the target: the government has said tax authorities won’t be told about deposits of less than 250,000. But those who have stashed large piles of notes are in a bind. A recent amnesty programme for “black money” has just passed meaning the tax man is unlikely to look upon undeclared cash piles with sympathy.

The question is not whether the scheme will work but whether the cost of implementing it is worth it. The notes being nixed represent 86% of all cash in circulation: everyone is impacted. Queues have snaked around banks for days as Indians have tried to convert their notes into new money. And the “black money” hoarders have ways to liquidate their loot, for example hiring lots of people to deposit their notes into their own accounts and then send it back, all for a fee. The benefits are hard to gauge for now. The government is keen to be seen to be cracking down on tax-dodgers on behalf of the “common man”. But if the poor fellow then has to spend his days (like your correspondent) scouring the streets for an ATM that works, he may end up wondering if he is a beneficiary of the scheme or its victim.

Source: The Economist explains: Why India scrapped its two biggest bank notes | The Economist

10/11/2016

PM Modi heads to Japan to seal nuclear deal amid uncertainty over U.S. policy | Reuters

Prime Minister Narendra Modi headed to Japan on Thursday to seal a landmark nuclear energy pact and strengthen ties, as China’s regional influence grows and Donald Trump’s election throws U.S. policies across Asia into doubt.

India, Japan and the United States have been building security ties and holding three-way naval exercises, but Trump’s “America First” campaign promise has stirred concern about a reduced U.S. engagement in the region.

Such an approach by Washington could draw Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe even closer, said foreign policy commentator and former Indian ambassador M.K. Bhadrakumar.

Officials in New Delhi and Tokyo said a deal that will allow Japan to supply nuclear reactors, fuel and technology is ready for signing after six years of negotiations to find a way around Tokyo’s reservations about such an agreement with a country that has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

India says the NPT is discriminatory and it has concerns about nuclear-armed China as well as its long-time rival Pakistan.

Japan, the only country to have suffered a nuclear attack, has been seeking assurances from New Delhi that it would not conduct nuclear tests any more.

Indian foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said the two sides had reached a broad agreement on nuclear collaboration as early as last December and had since been trying to finalise the document.

A “legal, technical scrub” of the agreed text has now been done, he said, but added that he could not pre-judge the outcome of Modi’s summit talks with Abe over Friday and Saturday.

A Japanese ruling party lawmaker said the two sides will sign an agreement during Modi’s visit. A Japanese foreign ministry spokesman declined to comment.

JAPANESE AIRCRAFT ALSO DISCUSSED

The nuclear agreement with Japan follows a similar one with the United States in 2008 which gave India access to nuclear technology after decades of isolation.

That step was seen as the first big move to build India into a regional counterweight to China.

India hopes to lift ties with the United States to a new height, Modi said in a message to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday.

A final deal with Japan could also benefit U.S. firms.

India is in advanced negotiations with U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric, owned by Japan’s Toshiba, to build six nuclear reactors in southern India, part of New Delhi’s plan to ramp up nuclear capacity more than ten times by 2032.

“Japan is keen to put aside it’s staunch non-proliferation principles and engage with the lucrative Indian programme,” said Manpreet Sethi, nuclear affairs expert at the Centre for Air Power Studies, a New Delhi think-tank.

But the agreement will still have to be ratified by the Japanese parliament, she said.

Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper said the main accord will likely be accompanied by a separate document stipulating that Tokyo will suspend nuclear cooperation if India conducts a nuclear test. Initially, Japan wanted that inserted into the agreement itself, but India resisted, it said.India has declared a moratorium on such testing since its last explosions in 1998.

The two countries have also been trying to close a deal on the supply of amphibious rescue aircraft US-2 to the Indian navy, which would be one of Japan’s first sales of military equipment since Abe lifted a 50-year ban on arms exports.

India’s Defence Acquisitions Council met earlier this week to consider the purchase of 12 of the planes made by ShinMaywa Industries, but failed to reach a decision.

An Indian government source said opinion within the military was divided over whether to buy the aircraft when it was struggling to find resources to replace ageing and accident-prone submarines and address a shortage of helicopters.

A Japanese defence source said Japan was considering a cost reduction, which would mean a price cut for India as well as for the Japanese navy which it supplies. A US-2 currently costs about 13 billion yen ($123 million).

Source: PM Modi heads to Japan to seal nuclear deal amid uncertainty over U.S. policy | Reuters

10/11/2016

How the Trump Win Played Out in South Asia – India Real Time – WSJ

As Donald Trump was winning his first states in the U.S., South Asia was getting up to follow the results.In Pakistan, Javed Hassan, a former investment banker who previously worked in London and Hong Kong, got up early, at 4 a.m. local time (6 p.m. Tuesday ET), to watch election results come in at his home in the city of Karachi. On Whatsapp, he started trading messages with his son, Ali, a 20-year-old studying economics and politics at New York University.

The younger Mr. Hassan, Ali, watching TV with friends at his dorm at NYU, started his evening telling his worried father that there was no chance of a Trump victory.

“Trump won’t get enough votes in the north and the American people will not go for his racism,” he told his father.

The elder Mr. Hassan, however, was switching between CNN and BBC coverage and was seeing “long queues of white people” waiting to vote, he said, and seeing the state-by-state projections.

By 7 a.m. Pakistan time (9 p.m. Tuesday ET), father and son started to see the trends in states like Michigan.

“What really did it was when Hillary started losing in Wisconsin,” said Mr. Hassan, 51, who now runs a non-governmental organizational that provides vocational training across Pakistan. His son, enveloped in a New York bubble, with all his friends voting for Mrs. Clinton, could not see it coming, said Mr. Hassan.

Meanwhile in India, Sagar Chordia, executive director of Panchshil Realty, a real estate firm which this year built the country’s first Trump Towers in the western city of Pune, had gotten up at 5 a.m. (6.30 p.m. Tuesday ET) to watch the results on television.

Mr. Chordia said he tracked the Twitter and Facebook updates of Donald Trump Jr., who was instrumental in signing the deal with his company.

Mr. Chordia typically leaves for the office around 9 a.m. (10.30 p.m. Tuesday ET), but on Wednesday he stayed at home in Pune, glued to the TV for another hour or so, until Mr. Trump had garnered 220 electoral votes. “Now, I know he’s the winner,” he thought at the time.

Mr. Chordia said that once he got to the office, he found his staff were happy with the result, as many of them met Mr. Trump when he visited Pune in 2014. Then, Mr. Chordia said, he and his team threw a big party for Mr. Trump, with 800 guests.

He said Mr. Trump’s election is good for India, because the president elect has traveled to the country and has praised Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “They really love India and they want to do more and more projects in this country,” he said of the Trumps.

In Mumbai, India, Alok Churiwala, a 48-year-old stock broker, was waiting for the benchmark stock index to open at 9.15 a.m. (10.45 p.m. Tuesday ET). Mr. Churiwala was tracking the election results on television, as well as Twitter and on his Whatsapp account.

He prepared for the market to open down, given that the Dow Jones futures were already trading lower, but he wasn’t ready for the 5% fall.“We were horrified when the markets opened,” he said.

At his morning meeting with dealers, Mr. Churiwala told his staff that clients should be kept from doing anything reckless. They were not to encourage clients to short the market, bet against it, or borrow for day trades.

As stocks swooned, he was swamped by clients calling to ask what was happening.

“Phones were ringing off the hook, because everybody was worried,” he said. “You’d think that this is apocalypse,” said Mr. Churiwala.

He skipped lunch.

He said one client who is based in the U.K. called. “What is it about Trump that is so horrifying for the market?” he said she asked him.

He said that he was neutral to both U.S. presidential candidates and he believed that Mr. Trump may not carry through on some drastic steps he had suggested on the campaign trail. “Politicians are known to make promises before elections when they want to woo voters,” he said.

In India’s capital New Delhi, members of a small Hindu nationalist group were ready for the news of Mr. Trump’s win. They began gathering at 11 a.m. (12:30 a.m. Wednesday ET) to celebrate a Trump lead they were certain would result in a victory. The group, known as the Hindu Sena, or Hindu army, had hosted a prayer ritual for such an outcome a few months ago. It even held a birthday celebration for Mr. Trump in June.

A member of Hindu Sena celebrated Mr. Trump’s victory, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 9, 2016. PHOTO: CATHAL MCNAUGHTON/REUTERS

More than four dozen supporters gathered at a prominent square on Wednesday. They distributed Indian sweets to passers-by and beat traditional drums. Modifying a popular slogan from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election campaign two years ago, they chanted in Hindi, “this time, a Trump government.”

Vishnu Gupta, who founded the group in 2011, said he’d sent out text messages at 7 p.m. (8:30 a.m. Tuesday ET) the previous day, asking supporters to watch the news closely and gather in the late morning. Mr. Gupta himself hadn’t slept all night, he said, glued to the television as Americans cast their ballots.

To Mr. Gupta, Mr. Trump, represents strong leadership against what he called Islamic terrorism, much like India’s Mr. Modi, he said. “Many people criticized Trump’s proposals to stop radical Muslims from entering the U.S. and mocked us for celebrating the man,” he said. “But today, we’ve come out ahead.”

Back in the U.S., the younger Mr. Hassan didn’t wait up for Trump’s victory speech. “Screw this,” he told his father in Pakistan and went to sleep at around midnight in New York.

The elder Mr. Hassan said that he was worried about his holdings on the local Karachi Stock Exchange, which plunged 2% early on Wednesday, before recovering.

Source: How the Trump Win Played Out in South Asia – India Real Time – WSJ

09/11/2016

5 Sectors Likely to Be Affected by India’s Surprise Move to Replace Large Rupee Notes – Briefly – WSJ

India’s move to curb corruption and counterfeiting by replacing high-denomination bank notes with new ones will likely have a significant impact on some sectors wrapped up in the cash economy.

Here are five industries likely to see change.

1 Real Estate

Many property transactions in India are made using cash. Builders often accept 10% to 20% of an asking price in cash to lower both the buyer’s and seller’s tax liability.“You may yourself have experienced when buying land or a house, that apart from the amount paid by check, a large amount is demanded in cash. This creates problems for an honest person in buying property,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Tuesday.The use of counterfeit or undeclared earnings in this way has increased the price of real estate, Mr. Modi said. The move to scrap the current 500 and 1,000 rupee bills could reduce prices, analysts said.“This will clean up the real estate sector and bring down the cost of doing business,” says Dhiraj Relli, chief executive of HDFC Securities.

2 Gold

Investing in gold is another way some Indians keep money from the eyes of tax officials. The country is one of the world’s biggest consumers of the precious metal, along with China.According to various estimates, the current volume of gold in Indian households is above 20,000 tons. Analysts say if people are no longer able to use wads of 500- and 1,000-rupee notes to buy gold, they will have to put it into the formal banking system or invest it in stocks, mutual funds or bonds instead. This is also likely to slow down India’s gold imports and reduce foreign-currency outflows.

3 Two-Wheelers

India is one of the largest two-wheeler markets globally. In rural India, many farmers buy motorbikes and scooters with cash after they sell their their crops.The current measure may slow down two-wheeler sales as buyers are expected to postpone their purchases until they replace their existing bank notes with the new ones.No wonder, two-wheelers stocks are one of the biggest losers on India’s benchmark S&P BSE Sensex index today, falling between 4% and 6%.

4 Consumer Durables

rMany people in India also prefer to buy televisions, fridges or air-conditioners with cash. Some of those purchases involve money derived from corruption.Others are made by people who might not have a bank account and are purchasing the products as dowry items. As a result, the move to replace the existing high-denomination notes is expected to hurt sales in this segment.

5 Microfinance

rMicrofinance companies that disburse loans to poor people will likely face difficulty collecting or disbursing cash in the near term. In the worst case, they may have to postpone loan-repayment installments and disbursements may not happen in the next 10 days due to a shortage of currency notes, says broker Religare Capital Markets Ltd. However, things will likely stabilize after few weeks, it adds.

Source: 5 Sectors Likely to Be Affected by India’s Surprise Move to Replace Large Rupee Notes – Briefly – WSJ

07/11/2016

Theresa May Says U.K. May Improve Visa System for Indians – India Real Time – WSJ

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday said the U.K. may make improvements to its visa system for Indians, as she sought to lay the foundations for a future trade deal once Britain leaves the European Union.

On a two-day trip to India focused on trade, Mrs. May, speaking alongside Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said the partnership between the U.K. and India was natural, since the countries have shared values and culture. But a key sticking point in U.K.-India relations has been Britain’s reluctance to loosen restrictions for Indians wanting to work or study in the U.K., and this will likely be a difficult point to settle in any free-trade negotiations.

“The U.K. will consider further improvements to our visa offer if at the same time we can step up the speed and volume of returns of Indians with no right to remain in the U.K.,” she said.

Mrs. May is unlikely to implement any changes that would result in big increases of Indians entering the U.K. She has said the June vote to leave the EU was underpinned by frustrations about rising levels of immigration and has pledged to reduce numbers.The U.K. is seeking to go beyond its traditional trading partners in Europe as it prepares to leave the European Union. While it can’t finalize trade deals while still a member of the EU, Britain is in preliminary discussions on trade with countries including Australia and India, the world’s fastest-growing major economy. Any deal is likely to take years to complete.

Source: Theresa May Says U.K. May Improve Visa System for Indians – India Real Time – WSJ

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