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Bridge Collapse Is Latest Tragedy on India’s Roads – India Real Time – WSJ

The collapse of a bridge in the western Indian state of Maharashtra this week that left 14 people dead and 18 others missing wasn’t the first road tragedy to hit the area.In 2013, a bus veered off a 80 year-old bridge on the Jagbudi river, which flows parallel to the Savitri about 70 kilometers (43 miles) to the south, killing 37 of the 52 people on board.

That accident happened when a bus flew off the bridge and flipped in midair before landing on its roof 30 feet below.

The Wall Street Journal took a deep look into the tragedy.

Such incidents are alarmingly frequent on India’s roads.

India has been spending more money to improve its bridges, ports and airports, but the Savitri accident is yet another example of how the country’s depleted infrastructure is under increasing strain due to the rising demands of a fast-developing economy.

Its ageing road network, the world’s second-largest after the U.S. but largely made of dirt tracks, is particularly challenging. India’s roads are the most dangerous in the world: In 2015, the country accounted for almost one in 10 road casualties world-wide, according to the World Health Organization.

While India reported 137,000 deaths due to road crashes in 2013, the WHO estimated the figure was much higher. Those deaths cause an approximate 3% loss in economic output, it said.

Two buses and a number of cars plunged into the Savitri river in the early hours of Wednesday when the bridge in Mahad, built before India gained independence from Britain in 1947, crumbled into the waters below amid heavy monsoon rains.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has ordered a judicial probe into the accident and said government technicians will carry out a safety audit of old bridges in the state.

The bodies of 14 people were recovered from the waters of the Savitri by Friday morning, and 18 more are missing, National Disaster Response Force Commandant Anupam Srivastava said.

Source: Bridge Collapse Is Latest Tragedy on India’s Roads – India Real Time – WSJ


More Than 100 Chinese Firms on Global Fortune 500, but Not Alibaba – China Real Time Report – WSJ

More than 100 Chinese companies made the Fortune Global 500 list this year, with the U.S. the only country with more names on the list.

China power giant State Grid jumped from seventh place last year to the No. 2 spot, after Wal-Mart Stores Inc., followed by oil giants China National Petroleum Corp. and Sinopec Group, in third and fourth place, respectively.

Dubbed “the world’s most profitable lender,” Industrial & Commercial Bank of China–China’s biggest bank by assets–was No. 15 on the list, up from 18th last year even after a year of nearly flat profit.

Among the 13 Chinese companies that made their debuts on the list were three home builders: China Vanke Co.(356th), Dalian Wanda Group (385th) and Evergrande Real Estate Group (496th), which all benefited from the property-market recovery in China last year after the government loosened restrictions on home purchases.

Ranked at 366th, China’s second-largest online retailer, Inc., also entered the list for the first time.

One notable absence: China’s perhaps most famous company, e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., which as an online platform doesn’t have massive revenue, the basis for the list’s rankings.Investors and analysts have focused on a different metric to chart its growth — gross merchandise volume, or the total value of third-party sellers’ transactions on its platforms — because it shows how fast an e-commerce company is growing relative to competitors.

Earlier this year, Alibaba said that transaction volume on its sites hit 3 trillion yuan ($463 billion) in the fiscal year ended in March, which it said meant that by that measure it had overtaken Wal-Mart to become the world’s biggest retail network.

Source: More Than 100 Chinese Firms on Global Fortune 500, but Not Alibaba – China Real Time Report – WSJ


Amazon Plans $3 Billion Investment in India – India Real Time – WSJ Inc. plans to invest an additional $3 billion into India, which is emerging as a critical area of growth for the e-commerce giant.

Chief Executive Jeff Bezos announced the plan at a meeting of business leaders Tuesday with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Washington. Amazon sees “huge potential in the Indian economy,” Mr. Bezos said in a statement.

The announcement brings Amazon’s total planned investment in India to $5 billion, since it announced a $2 billion infusion in 2014. An Amazon spokesman declined to provide details such as how the new funds would be allocated or over what period.

Amazon operates a pure marketplace in India, due to local rules, selling only goods offered through its website by third parties. It nonetheless has warehouse and delivery technologies there that are particularly attuned to the local market, where internet connectivity can be spotty or nonexistent and many consumers don’t have credit cards.

Source: Amazon Plans $3 Billion Investment in India – India Real Time – WSJ


Facebook Wins a Trademark Battle in China – China Real Time Report – WSJ

The court battles on American trademarks in China keep coming. But this time, a U.S. company has walked away with a win.

Late last month, the Beijing Higher People’s Court ruled in favor of U.S. social media giant Facebook in a trademark case against a Chinese beverage company that owned the trademark “face book.”

Zhongshan-based Zhujiang Beverage, which sells products like milk-flavored drinks and porridge, said it registered its trademark, “face book,” or 脸书, (lian shu) in 2011. The company faced objections from Facebook, but gained approval from the Trademark Review and Adjudication Board, the country’s trademark authority, in 2014 to use it.

In a verdict posted on its verified Weibo account, the Beijing court said that the trademark authority’s approval had been revoked and that it is now up to the regulator to revisit its decision. While the verdict was issued last month, it has gotten wider attention in recent days on Chinese social media.

“Lian shu is something very Chinese,” said Liu Hongqun, marketing manager of Zhujiang Beverage. “We have lian shu in traditional operas,” he added, referring to the intricate masks — called “face books” in China — that are used to indicate a historical character in traditional Chinese opera, especially Peking opera.

Facebook naturally wasn’t happy and went back and forth with the trademark authority before eventually bringing the matter to the Beijing court. Facebook won the original lawsuit; Zhujiang then appealed, and, as of the most recent ruling, lost again.

Facebook declined to comment on the case.

Mr. Liu argued that even though Facebook is a known brand around the world, it’s blocked here in China – and has been since 2009.

“How many Chinese customers get access to or sign up for Facebook in mainland China?” Mr. Liu said. “Where can we get access to this product in mainland China?”

The Facebook win is a bright spot for U.S. companies, which lately have been under the trademark gun.

In late March, a Beijing court ruled that a Chinese handbag manufacturer can continue using the trademark “IPHONE,” in a setback to Apple Inc.’s iPhone trademark.

The court said Apple failed to prove that its brand was famous in China before the accessories company applied for its trademark in 2007, even though Apple first registered its iPhone trademark here in 2002.

Athletic gear maker Under Armour, meanwhile, is contemplating legal action against a Chinese sports apparel company called Uncle Martian, which last month unveiled an eerily similar logo to that of the Baltimore-based business.

On social media, Chinese internet users speculated that Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg’s adulation for China may have helped his company win. Mr. Zuckerberg has gained media attention for, among other things, his jog on a heavily-polluted day in Beijing this spring and his prominent placement of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “The Governance of China” on his desk during a U.S. visit by China’s internet czar.

“[Facebook] shook hands with a standing committee member, after all,” wrote one online user, referring to a meeting in March between Mr. Zuckerberg and Liu Yunshan, a member of China’s top circle of leadership. “How could you dare not to give them the trademark?”

Source: Facebook Wins a Trademark Battle in China – China Real Time Report – WSJ


India’s Bharat Petroleum Wants to Use Gas Stations to Bring E-Commerce to Rural India – India Real Time – WSJ

Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd., India’s lumbering state-run fuel company, is planning use its nationwide network of 12,800 gas stations to deliver online retail to rural India.

The oil refiner and retailer is hoping it can leverage its outlets and logistical staff across India to succeed as a latecomer to India’s ongoing online retail boom. It is upgrading its technology and logistics network to be able to sell farmers everything from fertilizer to smartphones.

The e-commerce push will begin December, with BPCL’s rural gas and cooking gas distributors starting to accept orders and payments online, said BPCL Chairman and Managing Director S. Varadarajan.  As early as next year, the company is also considering using its urban branches to sell and distribute groceries.

While the early movers in e-commerce in India such as Flipkart Internet Pvt. Ltd.’s, Jasper Infotech Pvt. Ltd.’s and Amazon Seller Services Pvt. Ltd.’s are still struggling to find cost-effective ways to reach the hundreds of millions of Indians who live outside the biggest cities, BPCL already has employees and properties throughout the country.

“About 30% of our retail outlets are in rural India,” Mr. Varadarajan said. Rural customers can shop online then “pick up stuff when they fill fuel at their local gas station.”

India’s state-run oil refiners are desperate to find new sources of revenues as the fall in oil price as well as increased competition from the private sector weigh on their sales.

BPCL’s retail ambitions are “a response to competition by improving margins,” said Deepak Mahurkar, head of PwC’s Oil & Gas Industry practice in India.

Analysts say that while BPCL does theoretically have unique access to much of India’s middle class, which uses its stations to refuel their cars and motorcycles, whether this traditionally slow-moving company can capture a corner of the rapidly-evolving online retail business remains to be seen.

BPCL has prime properties on the main streets and highways across the country, but few of its gas stations have the facilities or the staff to do more than pump gas. Many don’t even have running water in their bathrooms, much less the Internet connections, storage facilities and delivery technology a vibrant e-commerce company would require.

Diving into e-commerce would necessitate a big change in mindset for BPCL which is not used to worrying much about competition or consumers, said Anand Kumar Jaiswal, who heads the Centre for Retailing at IIM Ahmedabad, an Indian management school.

“I am really skeptical about it,” said Vishnu Kumar, an assistant vice president for research at Chennai-based broker Spark Capital Advisors (India) Pvt. Ltd.  “If I am a consumer I am not going to check with BPCL for a microwave.”

Even people within BPCL’s own network doubt the company can pull it off.

Sachin Shah, the manager of a company that delivers BPCL cooking gas cylinders to more than 20,000 customers in the southern city of Hyderabad, said the company will have to radically improve its logistics system to guaranteed delivery if it wants to sell more than gas cylinders and gas stoves

“If Bharat Petroleum doesn’t deliver, I will lose face,” he said.

BPCL’s Mr. Varadarajan said the company is confident it can deliver because it will use its best dealers and a new distribution system to get products to customers.

Source: India’s Bharat Petroleum Wants to Use Gas Stations to Bring E-Commerce to Rural India – India Real Time – WSJ


China’s Xi lauds Britain for ‘visionary’ openness, prods others to emulate | Reuters

Chinese President Xi Jinping heaped praise on Britain for what he called a “visionary and strategic choice” to strengthen commercial ties with China, as he prepared for a state visit to the United Kingdom that’s expected to be richer in pomp and considerably warmer in tone than his recent trip to the United States.

The trip comes at a time of global anxiety about China’s slowing growth. Xi himself acknowledged “concerns about the Chinese economy”, but sought to allay them in a written interview with Reuters.

China itself is worried about the slowing of the broader global economy, Xi said, even while he expressed confidence that China would weather the current downturn as it reshapes its economy to be more resilient in the future.

That confidence will be on display when Xi arrives in London on Monday evening to kick off a four-day visit that is expected to cement ties between Britain and China, including through a host of business deals.

“The UK has stated that it will be the Western country that is most open to China. This is a visionary and strategic choice that fully meets Britain’s own long-term interest,” Xi said in a written response to questions from Reuters.

“China looks forward to engaging with the UK in a wider range, at a higher level and in greater depth.”


Xi’s visit comes amid debate in Britain and many other Western countries over what is the best way to engage with a Communist-ruled China that has grown more influential economically and diplomatically, but which maintains stances in areas from human rights to the South China Sea that are often at odds with those widely held in the West.

Such tensions were on display when Xi visited the United States last month, with friction over issues from cyber theft to China’s maritime disputes with its neighbors at the center of discussions.

Xi’s visit to Britain, during which he and his wife Peng Liyuan will stay at Buckingham Palace as guests of Queen Elizabeth II, is expected to be much warmer, with Xi saying it could be the start of a “golden time” in bilateral relations.

Britain was the first Western nation to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) earlier this year, leading to a stampede of other countries signing up and marking an embarrassment for Washington, which had been pressing its allies not to join.

At the time, Britain said joining the AIIB at the founding stage would “create an unrivalled opportunity for the UK and Asia to invest and grow together”.

British finance minister George Osborne set the tone with a preparatory visit to China last month, when he courted Chinese investment into Britain and won praise from Chinese state media for having the “etiquette” not to press human rights issues.

Still, Xi’s visit, the first state visit by a Chinese president since 2005, will not be without potentially awkward moments. Newly installed opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn intends to bring up the issue of human rights when he meets Xi, his official spokesman has said.

Source: Exclusive – China’s Xi lauds Britain for ‘visionary’ openness, prods others to emulate | Reuters


China slaps one-year ban on imports of African ivory hunting trophies | Reuters

China slapped a one-year ban on African ivory hunting trophy imports, the state forestry authority said on Thursday ahead of a trip by President Xi Jinping to Britain, where members of the royal family have urged China to crack down on the ivory trade.

A government official picks up an ivory tusk to crush it at a confiscated ivory destruction ceremony in Beijing, China, May 29, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-HoonConservationists say China’s growing appetite for contraband ivory imports, which are turned into jewels and ornaments, has fueled a surge in poaching in Africa.

In March, Britain’s Prince William urged an end to the trade during a visit to a Chinese elephant sanctuary in the southwestern province of Yunnan.

Xi is scheduled to travel to Britain between Oct. 19-23, where he will stay at Buckingham Palace, home to the royal family.

China’s State Forestry Administration said in a statement posted on its website that it would “temporarily prohibit” trophy imports until Oct. 15, 2016 and “suspend the acceptance of relevant administrative permits”.

It did not give further details, though the official Xinhua news agency said a government review is under way on whether to extend a separate one-year ban made in February on imports of African ivory carvings.

The policy also follows a deal to enact nearly complete bans on ivory imports and exports made during Xi’s September state visit to the United States.

Within China, the trade and sale of ivory carvings are legal if the items were imported before the country joined the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1981, or come from a stock of 62 tonnes of raw-ivory bought from four African countries in 2008 as a one-time exemption.

The government releases a portion of that stockpile each year to ivory carving factories.

China crushed 6.2 metric tonnes (6.83 tons) of confiscated ivory early last year in its first such public destruction of any part of its stockpile. However, the country still ranks as the world’s biggest end-market for poached ivory, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

In June, a Tanzanian government minister described elephant poaching as a national disaster, and urged China to curb its appetite for ivory.

Source: China slaps one-year ban on imports of African ivory hunting trophies | Reuters


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


China Telecom plans bid to build Mexico broadband network – sources | Reuters

China’s third-largest carrier China Telecom is preparing a possible bid for a contract to build and run a new mobile broadband network in Mexico and is seeking local partners to join it in a consortium, three people with knowledge of the matter said.

It has already secured up to several billion dollars of financing from Chinese state-controlled banks, including the China Development Bank, for the project, which Mexico estimates will cost $10 billion over 10 years, one of the people said.

The proposed network is part of a sweeping reform designed to break billionaire Carlos Slim‘s hold on the Mexican telecoms business, but the Chinese involvement could prove controversial and trigger concerns from the U.S., some Mexican officials say.

Mexico’s government is trying to ease its economic dependence on the United States and ramp up Chinese investment. A Chinese-led consortium looks poised to win a $3.75 billion contract to build a high-speed train system, sources with knowledge of the plan say. This is despite the group’s previous winning bid being revoked late last year amid a political scandal.

via Exclusive: China Telecom plans bid to build Mexico broadband network – sources | Reuters.


Logistics Hold India’s E-Commerce Companies Back – Businessweek

Laxminarayan Krishnamurthy figured a Samsung (005930:KS) Galaxy Core 2 smartphone would make a perfect gift for his wife. So he ordered one from New Delhi-based e-retailer When the package arrived, it contained a brick and a bar of soap but no phone. When he contacted the company, Krishnamurthy was told the phone was stolen by unscrupulous middlemen transporting the package. So he took his complaints to Facebook (FB).

Logistics Are Holding India’s E-Commerce Companies Back

“Had ordered a samsung mobile through snapdeal and we got a soap bar!!!” Krishnamurthy wrote. “The worst customer service ever received!!! Beware of snapdeal guys!!”

Anjana Swaminathan, a Snapdeal spokeswoman, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

via Logistics Hold India’s E-Commerce Companies Back – Businessweek.

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