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Trump's legacy: A more divided America

January 19, 2021 - 4:57pm
WASHINGTON: When President Donald Trump delivered his inaugural speech on Jan. 20, 2017, he promised an end to "American carnage," a bleak and dysfunctional nation he had promised that he alone could fix. Closing out his presidency exactly four years later, Trump leaves behind an even more polarized America, where thousands are dying daily from the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy is badly damaged and political violence has surged. Trump didn't create the bitter differences that have come to define American life. Still, he seized upon many of them as tools to build his power base, promising to uplift rural America and the broader working class he said had been neglected by the Washington establishment. When thousands of his angry followers - the vast majority of them white - marched on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6, they rallied behind Trump's false claims of a stolen election. The rioting that ensued left a police officer and four other people dead, dozens wounded and a nation shaken. A major part of his legacy when he departs the White House on Wednesday is likely to be Americans more politically and culturally estranged from each other than they were when he took office. At the heart of that divide, Trump's opponents say, is race. Early in his presidency, he initially resisted denouncing white nationalists after a deadly 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, fueling perceptions that he sympathized with their cause. His harsh rhetoric often worsened racial crises that flared over police killings of Black people on his watch. "Sadly, he is the natural outcome of the history of divide and conquer," in American race relations, said Reverend William Barber, a prominent civil rights activist and co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign, an anti-poverty, anti-racism movement that Martin Luther King helped organize in the 1960s. "The thing is, he just pushed it all the way." Trump has repeatedly denied any racist animus. His staunch supporters argue that he served as a corrective to prior administrations of both parties that let down the poor, the working class and rural regions that have struggled in recent decades. That base of support remains large - another likely legacy of the Trump era. Alex Bruesewitz, an organizer for Stop the Steal, a pro-Trump group protesting the election results, said the president retains his appeal to working-class voters. "They felt like they were the forgotten men and women. And the president said, 'You are forgotten no longer'," Bruesewitz said. Trump's refusal to concede defeat to Democratic President-elect Joe Biden, and his encouragement of his supporters to descend on the Capitol, mean his term is ending amid a swirl of untruths that millions of Republicans have taken to heart, creating a serious challenge for the new administration to win their trust. The disorderly transfer of presidential power comes against the backdrop of the increased spread of a pandemic that Trump has downplayed, and mounting financial hardships from the deep recession spurred by it. Keeping the country on edge, and prompting security lockdowns in Washington and state capitals, is concern that the pro-Trump mob's siege of the Capitol on Jan. 6 could embolden far-right extremists to further violence. "There has never been a presidency in modern times when America's dysfunction has been so fully on display," said Aaron David Miller, a former State Department adviser to Republican and Democratic administrations who is now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. White House spokesman Judd Deere rejected the notion that Trump's legacy lay in tatters. In a written statement to Reuters, Deere cited a list of what he considered Trump's economic accomplishments, such as getting the country on the path to recovery and deregulatory moves, which have included loosened restrictions on auto emissions and oil drilling. He also argued that the president secured the border with Mexico, rebuilt U.S. military strength, brought some troops home and helped orchestrate development of a coronavirus vaccine in a matter of months. "He leaves office having made America safer, stronger, more secure," Deere said. He declined, in the statement, to address racism accusations against the president. 'AMERICA FIRST' Trump did, in fact, deliver on a number of priorities for his Republican Party. In partnership with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, he overhauled the U.S. judiciary, giving it a more conservative bent with the appointment of three Supreme Court justices and the fast-tracking of more than 200 federal judges. Trump pushed through massive tax cuts for corporations. The economy expanded faster than it had under predecessor Barack Obama, and unemployment reached record lows. But the solid economy, which he hoped would be his biggest re-election selling point, was swept away in a wave of coronavirus-driven shutdowns that plunged the country into the worst downturn in nearly a century as joblessness soared. The national debt, which had ballooned during his term, grew even more in his final year. Trump catered to his base by cracking down on illegal immigration, but critics condemned his approach as too harsh. Biden plans to reverse much of it, including a travel ban on a handful of Muslim-majority nations. Erecting a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border was a signature pledge of his 2016 campaign. Less than half of the 1,000 miles he promised was built, much of it where existing barriers stood - and Mexico never paid for it as Trump had vowed. Abroad, Trump often invoked his "America First" agenda. He dismantled or disrupted multilateral pacts, withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, which committed nearly every nation to cut greenhouse gas emissions; and the Iran nuclear deal, which eased sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program. His administration eroded bedrock alliances like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, antagonized traditional partners and indulged autocrats such as Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. But Trump has been credited by Republicans as well as many Democrats for a tougher stance on China. He slapped tariffs on billions of dollars of Chinese imports, sanctioned top officials over a crackdown in Hong Kong and imposed penalties on Chinese telecommunications companies. His administration faced some criticism, however, for provoking a trade war with Beijing and reverting to Cold War-style rhetoric. Trump has also won praise for brokering historic accords to normalize relations between Israel and four once-hostile Arab neighbors. And he reduced U.S. forces in conflict zones such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, though he failed to completely extract America from "endless wars" as he promised in his 2016 campaign. "Trump did accomplish some useful things," Richard Haass, a former senior State Department official who is president of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote on the think tank's website. He deserves credit, Haass said, "for moving the U.S. policy vis-a-vis an increasingly repressive, powerful, and assertive China in a more sober, critical direction." But what the president got right, Haass added, was "dwarfed by what Trump got wrong," citing foremost "the damage he has done to American democracy." FRINGE SUPPORTERS Trump's political strength stemmed, in part, from his ability to pose as a populist champion to tap into white rural and working-class resentment that has been building for years, as the United States became a more multiracial society and their communities felt the brunt of globalization, analysts say. Some far-right fringe groups have also flocked to Trump's banner. Rioters who gathered at the Capitol included some of the more extreme elements of his base, including members of QAnon, who espouse a debunked conspiracy theory that claims Trump is fighting a Democratic cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles and cannibals. "Trump built a coalition out of white supremacists, conspiracy theorists and bigots," said Douglas Brinkley, presidential historian at Rice University in Houston. Trump has denied any affinity for such groups or welcoming them into his fold. "I'm the least racist person you'll find anywhere in the world," he insisted in 2019. Accusations against Trump of xenophobia extended to his immigration policies. One White House official told Reuters on condition of anonymity that it was a "fiasco" when the administration in 2018 separated several thousand children - including infants - from their undocumented parents at the Mexican border. Images of crying youngsters crowded into chain-link pens were beamed worldwide. While some Trump supporters have turned away from him since the assault on the Capitol, most appear to be sticking with him. Seventy percent of Republicans remain loyal to Trump, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling done in the immediate aftermath of the siege. Many activists say they're willing to abandon the party for any perceived slight against their leader. "I see Trump as a fighter for the people that actually work and put the backbone into this country," said Will Williams, a Trump supporter from Oklahoma. "His legacy will be remembered by me as a great man that took on the corruption in this country." Trump's invocation of "American carnage" at his own inauguration, painting what many Democrats considered an overblown dystopian vision, was an appeal to that base and also to the urban poor. He said their dreams had been stifled by economic distress, crime, drugs and loss of jobs to other countries. Opponents say Trump, a wealthy former real estate developer, did little to help them. He sought repeatedly to kill the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which helped millions of Americans get health insurance. His tariffs war with China hurt American farmers and didn't trigger the U.S. manufacturing revival he had promised. And his tax cuts mainly benefited the rich. REPUBLICAN SOUL-SEARCHING? As Trump heads out the door as the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice, most recently on a charge of inciting the Capitol riot, the Republican Party's future is deeply uncertain. Trump remade it in his image, replacing traditional conservative principles of fiscal austerity and commitment to international alliances with large deficits, his "America First" approach and a habit of frequently issuing policy shifts and trial balloons by Twitter. He demanded unwavering loyalty and turned on anyone who opposed him. Now that Republicans find themselves relegated to the opposition in the Senate, the question is whether Trump's spell over the party - and "Trumpism" as a viable movement - will endure when he no longer wields the levers of government power. Trump's base remains a potent electoral force. It handed him more votes - some 74 million - than any Republican in history. Fear of antagonizing them was evident when nearly half of Republican House members, fresh off the mob attack that had sent them scuttling for cover in the Capitol basement, endorsed a failed effort to block certification of Biden's victory. But some cracks have formed in Republican ranks in response to the Capitol mayhem, and the party may be in for a period of soul-searching. Trump's own political future could be in jeopardy as well. If convicted by the Senate in an impeachment trial that would occur after he leaves the White House, Trump could be banned from holding office again. Bob Corker, a former Republican senator from Tennessee, said Trump had been a "consequential president" in terms of enacting many policies Republicans wanted. "But in the process of being purposely divisive and perpetuating untruths" about the election, "he undermined our democracy," Corker told Reuters. Corker said the Republican Party needs "to go in a direction not led by him. We've got to redefine who we are."
Categories: Business News

Execute last year’s budget proposals: Exporters

January 19, 2021 - 4:57pm
The pandemic had a debilitating impact on the country’s exports for most part of last year. Except for the positive momentum in September when exports moved up 5.99%, the performance in other months reflected the trail of devastation caused by the virus outbreak.December showed an increase, albeit marginally, at 0.14%. Sectors such as petroleum products, leather and leather manufactures, marine products and coffee were among some of the product categories that registered a negative growth during this period. On the upside, labour-intensive sectors such as carpets, ceramic products and glassware and handloom products among others showed positive trends.Exporters hope that the coming time would mean recovering what they have lost in 2020. Ajay Sahai, DG & CEO, Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO), says that he is hopeful of a V-shaped recovery in world trade. “The Christmas and New Year sales have been pretty encouraging. This implies the inventory will be liquidated and demand for new orders will come,” he adds, bullish on the road ahead.Sahai added that addressing the supply side challenges and concerted efforts by the government at this point can go a long way in offering the much needed push to exports.Schemes for a leg upIn February last year, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced the NIRVIK scheme, which would provide high insurance cover for exporters and reduce premiums for small exporters. “To achieve higher export credit disbursement, a new scheme NIRVIK is being launched which provides for high insurance cover, reduction in premium for small exporters and simplified procedures for claim, settlement,” Sitharaman had stated while presenting the Budget last year.However, operational rollout of the scheme still hasn’t happened so far. Exporters feel that institutionalising the scheme could prove timely and facilitate lending more seamlessly. “It will offer a good cushion to banks to lend to exporters. Under this, the interest premium to exporters is expected to come down, which will be of immense benefit. Also, the enhanced insurance cover will play a big role as liquidity has been at an all-time low and defaults are bound to happen. It will be a win-win situation if the scheme comes through,” Sahai added. 80340317The other anticipated measure has been operationalisation of the new Remission of Duties or Taxes on Export Products (RoDTEP) scheme which was effective from January 1, 2021. The scheme which replaces the Merchandise Export from India Scheme (MEIS), will reimburse the taxes, duties or levies at the central, state and local level which are currently not being refunded under any other mechanism. “This scheme is going to give a boost to the domestic industry and Indian exports providing a level playing field for Indian producers in the International market so that domestic taxes/duties are not exported,” the PIB release had stated in March last year.The refunds under RoDTEP have been expected to be a step towards ‘zero-rating’ of exports, along with refunds like Drawback and IGST, which will enhance cost competitiveness in international markets. However, the uncertainty on rates of reimbursement so far has meant that exporters are still not clear on how to cost their products. Exporters have been rooting for notification of rates as the need of the hour as this would enable complete rebating of Indian exports by refunding the taxes, including embedded taxes.Pressing issues and concernsAnd then there have been other issues playing havoc as far as exports are concerned. Container shortage owing to the export-import mismatch has been creating much trouble, with air and sea freight seeing a considerable spike.Exporters feel that the myriad uncertainties in logistics is making competitiveness a big question mark. “The logistic issues have been very specific from a Covid perspective. We are getting into our peak season - by all accounts, it is going to be a 100% increase even in key shipments now. That is really unbelievable and we have seen nothing like that,” highlights Pankaj Khandelwal, Chairman and Managing Director of INI Farms, a horticulture company with 85% exports in its portfolio mix. The company’s agri exports, especially perishable items, is high from Jan - early May with 70-80% exports done during this period.Khandelwal elaborates further stating that while the government has been offering some support within the domestic movement, the scenario hasn’t been the same for exports. “On the exports side, there is absolutely nothing. Till now, things were being managed in some way because of off peak season. However, air freight has continued to be a 3x of normal and that has had a huge impact on perishables. Sea freight has been 15-20% higher. But now in peak season, all indications are that even sea freight will be 100% higher than last year and that is something that the government urgently needs to address,” he asserts. 80340342Echoing similar views, Mahavir Pratap Sharma, Immediate Past Chairman, Carpet Export Promotion Council (CEPC) says key issues relating to container shortage need immediate attention as it is reducing competitiveness, especially in the low end segment. “We should insist on shipping lines to have enough containers in India. The Government has to put a cap on freight charges for sea freight at least as that mode is for cargo alone. Airlines should be asked to run more cargo planes before passenger planes go back to normal,” he rationalises.Will exports pick up in 2021?While there are many factors acting as constraints in the present time, will 2021 also bring some hope and happiness for exporters? Exporters feel it can be a mixed bag, especially with lockdowns resurfacing across the globe to tackle the spate of fresh coronavirus infections taking over. “Lockdowns are on in European countries, so much can’t be said right now. It will depend on how vaccines succeed not just in India, but also in the global markets. We can presume the second half of the year to do better,” says Puran Dawar, Northern Region chairman, Council for Leather Exports (CLE).Moreover, getting a fix on supply chain issues will be a key determinant of export recovery in this year. “There is a good possibility for exports to deliver a 5-7% growth over last year depending on how the supply chain issues are addressed. If these are not resolved in the first six months, we may see contraction by 8-10%. But if that is taken care of, it should be business as usual in the last six months of the year,” adds Khandelwal optimistically.While uncertainty may well be the dominant factor hovering over the country’s exports at present, there is also hope that the coming time may just see a turnaround. As Sahai of FIEO puts it, “We may have bottomed out, but the way forward from that is only growth.”(Illustrations by Sadhana Saxena)
Categories: Business News

3 sectors that may throw up multibaggers

January 19, 2021 - 4:57pm
Look for semi midcap and smallcap gems in textile, second-tier steel and manufacturing sectors, says Sanjay Dutt, Founder & Director, Quantum SecuritiesWhere are you treasure hunting in the semi midcap or the smallcap pond?It is a good time to look at the textile sector. There are a lot of companies in the textile sector, maybe even lower than that Rs 2,500-crore market cap because that is one sector which the government would focus on, plus it is coming out of a long cycle of mess and a lot of problems. I am looking at opportunities there. I have always maintained that in the Rs 2,500- 10,000-crore range, there are a large number of second-tier steel companies which over the next year or two would give good returns. I am a believer that metals have more steam to go with a pullback. Similarly, there are a good number of second-tier manufacturing companies belonging to good, well established families. You will be able to find many of them in cement, in ancillaries and a lot of other places. So there is a huge basket available in that space. There will be 50 to 100 companies worth evaluating and considering which will give good entry opportunities if the market cracks. I think these are the pockets of the smaller companies which are still off the radar and people are not focussing on them. This is the place where investors need to be in but obviously this is a difficult space because you need to do a lot of homework and understand things, read the annual reports and research reports, it is not easy to get the next 2x or 3x stock within this universe. What will you completely stay out of?There would not be anything that is a clear avoid. All portfolios normally have underweight and overweight positions but at this point of time, contrary to consensus on the Street, I would be a little wary of the IT companies which have started to trade at closer to 30 multiples. Similarly, a lot of branded consumer plays are there also. I would be underweight for the time being on companies which are trading in the multiple of 50, 70 or more. Those are the two places I would have very little exposure to in my portfolio. I saw you retweeting a view on Reliance the other day saying that it has a return on equity of barely 9% which does not even cover the cost of equity and the ROE despite significant profit growth projections is still expected to be 10-11% over the next two years. How does it all tie in with investment into Reliance?At this point of time, particularly in the 1900-2200 range where Reliance is trading, it has got most of the positives priced in, particularly because some of the platform businesses where there have been a lot of excitement. Those businesses are going to take a substantially long period of time to actually see cash coming in. In order to see positive returns and capital coming in, they would borrow a good amount of capital and the petrochemicals business is exactly where the ROE and all those things have been coming out. But even the petrochemicals business does not seem robust enough right now to actually carry the stock getting further from the current levels. It is in the upper end of the range but longer term, once the whole unlocking story is out, we will have demerger of various verticals into separate listed companies -- be it retail or the Jio IPO that have been talked about. Once that happens, we may have some upside coming in but as a stance, plus minus 10% or 15% is all that Reliance has to offer over the next 12 months. Out of insurance, hospitals, drug companies, diagnostics -- where is the opportunity for not just in the short term but for next two to five years?In the broad healthcare space, priority would be diagnostics because it has phenomenal potential if you tag this with insurance and other issues particularly in Covid. People are going to get more timely health checkups and in any case, healthcare in India is evolving in such a manner that the entire methodology has changed. As soon as you land up with a physician or a specialist, the first thing he asks you to do is some tests. I think diagnostics is a very big market in India and it will continue to grow and the existing players will really become big and some more new players will come in. It is not as capital intensive as hospitals. It is more of a logistics-oriented business and there is a phenomenal amount of mechanisation, automation, technology that has gone into this business. So, that is where I would like to be. But overall healthcare as a theme is very positive. After that insurance is a big bet. So diagnostics along with insurance is the biggest opportunity in the healthcare space. Hospitals yes, but hospitals are very capital intensive businesses and it requires a huge amount of investments which takes a long time to give returns. So to cut a long story short if you want to take exposure to the healthcare segment, I would be into diagnostics and insurance and of course individual pharma companies which are way ahead. How should one bet on internet or e-commerce IPOs?It is near impossible to get the right valuation metrics for these companies because most of these companies tend to burn a huge amount of cash in the initial phases which they are in right now. Companies like Zomato are burning a lot of cash but the bet you always make is on the company that is going to emerge as the winner. After a few years of cash burn, the leader finally starts breaking in profits. So the IPOs get lapped up and no one looks at cash flows or anything. There is enough liquidity in the system but sustainability is a whole question. It is like what we saw in Burger King. The kind of volatility we have seen there in just a short span of a few weeks. Exactly the same thing would be repeated ee in some of the internet companies. But they are very exciting businesses and you need to evaluate them carefully and have some of them in your portfolio for a longer term five-ten years. I am very optimistic on something like Zomato. What is a realistic return expectation or a year-end target that an investor can keep in mind?You have to be smart enough to just sit aside and get in when there is a deep cut in the market. You obviously cannot get in at the bottom and by deep cut I mean if the market falls about 5-8% and even if you have got in when it fell about 4 or 6%, there is a good chance of making a 15% return from that level. But timing has become very tricky now because indices have rallied a lot. So, if you were to take a call and a return based on purely indices it is very difficult to do as market timing becomes very critical. I would on the other hand advocate timing in the market and not market timing, that is get your right stocks, stay put in them for the next 2-4 years and then you would make returns. But trying to game your entry point and when you can sell is very difficult. Most of the aggressive volatile moves in the market are a function of things other than domestic happenings like the dollar index, EM flows and a lot of other combinations. It is near impossible for even someone like us who have been in the markets for decades to really game an entry level when it comes to indices. So to cut the long story short let us just stick to good quality stocks which you understand, hold them in your portfolio, ride them out over the next three, five years and you will make good money. But if you want to get too cute to game an entry or exit based on an index, then you are basically a trader.
Categories: Business News

Bird flu: Red Fort shut for public till Jan 26

January 19, 2021 - 4:57pm
New Delhi: A sample of a dead crow from Red Fort has tested positive for bird flu and orders have been issued to restrict the entry of public into the monument, officials said on Tuesday. Around 15 crows were found dead in the premises of Red Fort a few days ago. A sample from a dead bird was sent to a Jalandhar-based laboratory for testing, Rakesh Singh, the director of the Delhi government's animal husbandry department said. Entry of public into monument has been restricted till January 26 as a precautionary measure, he said. On Saturday, samples from a dead owl in the Delhi zoo had tested positive for avian influenza. Last week, the Delhi government had banned the sale of processed and packaged chicken brought from outside the city and ordered the closure of the Ghazipur poultry market in east Delhi for 10 days after samples taken from crows and ducks at parks and lakes in the national capital tested positive for avian influenza. Municipal corporations of the city had also imposed a temporary ban on sale and storage of poultry or processed chicken meat in view of the bird flu situation here. However, the ban was lifted on Thursday after all the 100 samples taken from Ghazipur, Asia's largest poultry market, tested negative.
Categories: Business News

BJP more dangerous than Maoists: Mamata

January 19, 2021 - 4:57pm
Terming the BJP as more dangerous than the Maoists, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday accused the saffron party of making false promises to the people before elections. The TMC supremo, whose party is witnessing an exodus ahead of the assembly elections due in April-May, asserted that politics is a solemn ideology and philosophy and one cannot daily change ideologies like clothes. "The BJP is more dangerous than the Maoists," Banerjee said while addressing a rally in Purulia district, which was once a hotbed of Left-wing extremism. "Those who want to join the BJP can leave but we will never bow our heads to the saffron party," she said. Several TMC leaders have left the ruling party in the state to join the BJP. She claimed that the BJP leaders misled the Adivasi people of the Jangalmahal area, within which Purulia is situated, with false promises and did not visit them after winning the Lok Sabha elections. BJP candidates won all the seats in the Jangalmahal area including Purulia in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Categories: Business News

Mastercard launches resource site to support SMEs

January 19, 2021 - 4:57pm
To help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) recover from the pandemic and prepare for the future, Mastercard has launched the Digital Acceleration for Small Businesses microsite across most of its Asia Pacific websites with information and resources on how to digitalize and run businesses more efficiently.As COVID-19 drives a shift to e-commerce and contactless payments, the center features guides on digital transformation, e-learning courses, information about Mastercard products and services for SMEs, cyber security insights and tools to reduce vulnerabilities and access to discounts on business software solutions, e-commerce platforms and digital marketing services.“SMEs have taken a particularly hard hit from the pandemic, so it’s vital for them to get the knowledge, skills and resources they need to offer an omnichannel shopping and payment experience that drives business and builds customer loyalty in the physical and digital worlds. With consumer buying habits and expectations evolving so quickly, this initiative is just one of the ways that Mastercard is fostering financial inclusion and helping small businesses to go digital across their operations to reduce costs, increase efficiency and improve cashflow management – all while staying safe and protected from cyber risks and fraud,” said Sandeep Malhotra, Executive Vice President, Products & Innovation, Asia Pacific, Mastercard, in a statement.The Digital Acceleration for Small Businesses center is available across Mastercard’s English-language websites for Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Hong Kong, India and Southeast Asia. It will be rolled out selectively on non-English sites in the future.To enhance the resources for SMEs, Mastercard has joined forces with website builder Wix and Zoho, a cloud solutions provider. These partners are sponsoring online guides and articles on various topics – from creating an online store and choosing a domain name to migrating to an online expense management and accounting platform.“As the world shifts beyond short-term survival, SMEs need to plan for long-term success in a new world of online shopping. At Wix, we’ve seen how the past year challenged businesses in so many ways but how it brought out their resilience, grit and adaptability. “We will draw on the collective learning of the Wix team who built our eCommerce platform and the merchants who run their businesses on it to help SMEs plan and strategize for 2021,” said Liat Karpel Gurwicz, Head of eCommerce Marketing at Wix, in a statement. In a statement, Vice President and GM, Asia Pacific, Zoho Corp, Gibu Mathew said, “Even as organizations are trying to reimagine their business models, dwelling in rich content helps unlock ideas. This initiative will enhance and deepen digital awareness and know-how, allowing business owners and top management to make informed decisions when selecting solutions that best support evolving business needs.”The resources site in Asia Pacific is part of Mastercard’s global efforts to help SMEs 'Get Paid, Get Capital and Get Digital' through new product development, partnerships and distribution channels. These include initiatives in North America, the Caribbean, Australia and New Zealand.
Categories: Business News

Delhi airport evaluating 'computer vision' tech

January 19, 2021 - 4:57pm
NEW DELHI: Delhi airport is evaluating "computer vision" technology to track passengers, reduce waiting time and ensure social distancing at its terminals, a top official of the facility's operator said on Tuesday.Computer vision technology uses images to analyse and understand passenger density at the airport. It has already been installed at the GMR group-led Hyderabad airport.Delhi airport, which is also led by a GMR group-headed consortium, installed the 'Xovis' passenger tracking system at Terminal 3 last month. It uses sensors to check passenger density.“We are also evaluating some other technologies. As you might be aware that the Terminal 1 is getting revamped, so while this (Xovis) system is a tried and tested one, there is also something called computer vision technology our Hyderabad airport has tried. We are also evaluating that for future uses,” Videh Kumar Jaipuriar, CEO of Delhi International Airport Limited, said at a press conference here.Since flight operations are currently less than pre-COVID levels, only Terminal 2 and Terminal 3 of the Delhi airport are handling aircraft movement.In the Xovis passenger tracking system (PTS), passengers are counted and tracked anonymously using ceiling-mounted sensors.The PTS receives data streams from the sensors and provides the airport operator with valuable key performance indicators (KPIs) such as waiting times, process times and passenger throughput.The KPIs are visualised on an intuitive dashboard, enabling airports to quickly identify crowded areas and bottlenecks.The operator has put PTS display screens at various points of Terminal 3 – check-in hall, arrival pier junction, etc.
Categories: Business News

Time to buy SBI instead of HDFC Bank? Here's why

January 19, 2021 - 4:57pm
If you are betting on the economy there is no reason why good quality PSU banks will not start doing well over the next two to three years! I am a tad worried about investing in the likes of Kotak and HDFC Bank though they are phenomenally good, well managed companies, says Sanjay Dutt, Founder & Director, Quantum Securities. The Delhi winter is at its peak. How are things with you?My only worry is the winter cold shouldn’t hit the markets because at the moment they are hot and in action. Otherwise, markets are bearing pretty positively for investors for a long time and the last two-three days’ correction and some deep cuts in select stocks will shake out the weak hands and give people a reality check. From Ruchir Sharma to CLSA, from Citi to BofA, the universal view is that markets are pricing in a strong economic recovery this year and next and stocks are trading at a valuation from where near term returns should not be expected?On a broader gauge, I would agree with that especially in some of the sectoral indices, but one can’t say that there are no opportunities in the market. There are a lot of opportunities in the market. Industry may not see another 10-20% rise over the next 12-18 months, but there are opportunities in select stocks and sectors, particularly economy-facing cyclical, manufacturing and select PSU plays where the government is expected to take some serious steps over the next two years and either privatise them or make them more efficient. We are already seeing first signs of that. So to cut a long story short, most of the observations are being made by research houses that markets are more or less pricing in everything but to say that there are no opportunities in the market is wrong. There are a lot of opportunities in the market to make money but it is getting difficult to find them and to really go into depth and understand as to what kind of growth they will give and how much of the growth is already in the price. What should an ordinary investor do? We definitely are in a bull run. In a bull run, it is important to participate but if you are participating via the mutual fund route, the returns have not been very gratifying?I do not think we can really pass a verdict on mutual fund returns over the last year or two. Most of the mutual fund money can only be evaluated for a little longer time frame. Yes the past five-six years has not been good but for various reasons and I am reasonably confident that lay investors or investors who do not understand the integrities of individual stock and sector analysis should continue to do their SIPs. Yes they can take selective calls on some of the funds they bet on, funds that are exposed to the economy. They could probably increase allocation there and avoid funds that are exposed to the much higher and overvalued kind of growth story. That is very easy to evaluate by looking at the funds portfolio. So my recommendation would be selective on mutual funds, but do not evaluate them over the last year or two which have been pretty rough for the fund managers. It is not easy to make money but I am reasonably confident that 5-10 funds would perform very well in the next five odd years. The countdown to Budget has started, There has been an upbeat sentiment on consumption and demand coming back and things really getting back on track. What would be your strategy going forward? Would you still focus on cyclicals or go for consumer stocks?I would focus on cyclicals. I have been positioned on cyclicals and domestic facing stocks for the last six-eight months. Consumption is also domestic facing. Infra, steel and cement segments are the places where aggressive public expenditure can be seen. Also, the capex cycle will see revival in the next 12 months because the single most important factor that is going to benefit the economy are lower interest rates. We are already seeing the impact and we are hearing positive news from some of the housing finance companies. We heard a lot of positive talk from the managers at HDFC that demand is starting to pick up at the lower end of the market. As interest rates fall, the cost for all companies which are into manufacturing and who need working capital, are going to come down, margins are going to improve and at the consumer level, the average EMI is going to come down substantially. Lower interest rates are here to stay. We can worry about inflation and 25-50 bps up and down in interest rates over the next two to three years but I do not think anything more than that. I do not see inflation being a big headache over the next 24 months for the RBI Governor. There seems to be a suggestion that perhaps you should get used to this new normal from the financial basket; maybe we would not see outperformance in that same time period. What is your take?Financials is a very tricky space as one does not have the conviction to take a call on buying an HDFC at the valuations it is trading right now. I would be quite sceptical but markets are markets, prices are prices, people are buying into them and I really would want to be underweight on private sector financials which are so overvalued. I am positioned more towards the State Bank of India, If you are betting on the economy there is no reason why good quality PSU banks will not start doing well over the next two to three years! I am a tad worried about investing in the likes of Kotak and HDFC Bank though they are phenomenally good, well managed companies and have been delivering quarter on quarter. Whenever you bet against them you go wrong, but I would still avoid being invested in them because they are not my cup of tea as such.
Categories: Business News

BCCI announces Rs 5 cr bonus for Indian team

January 19, 2021 - 4:57pm
The BCCI on Tuesday announced a Rs 5 crore bonus for the Indian cricket team after the Ajinkya Rahane-led side won the fourth and final Test against Australia to clinch the series 2-1 and retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy. India chased down 328 in the final Test to end Australia's 32-year unbeaten run at the Gabba, Brisbane. BCCI President Sourav Ganguly and Secertary Jay Shah tweeted within minutes of each other to make the annoucement of a bonus. "Just a remarkable win...To go to Australia and win a test series in this way ..will be remembered in the history of indian cricket forever ..Bcci announces a 5 cr bonus for the team ..The value of this win is beyond any number ..well done to every member of the touring party," Ganguly tweeted. Just a remarkable win...To go to Australia and win a test series in this way ..will be remembered in the history of… https://t.co/xqEqix2BvM— Sourav Ganguly (@SGanguly99) 1611043282000"The @BCCI has announced INR 5 Crore as team bonus. These are special moments for India Cricket. An outstanding display of character and skill," Shah tweeted minutes ahead of him. The @BCCI has announced INR 5 Crore as team bonus. These are special moments for India Cricket. An outstanding disp… https://t.co/rsNUc6YOam— Jay Shah (@JayShah) 1611042752000 In another post, Shah lauded the performances of India's young brigade in the absence of some key players due to injury. "#TeamIndia has redefined words like resilience, grit and determination this #BorderGavaskarTrophy. You have inspired the entire nation. Well done, @ajinkyarahane88 @RaviShastriOfc & the boys. Special mention to Siraj @RishabhPant17 @RealShubmanGill," read his another post.
Categories: Business News

India create history at Gabba, Modi, Pichai laud team

January 19, 2021 - 4:57pm
As India clinched a scintillating 3-wicket win against hosts Australia at the Gabba Test in Brisbane, congratulations poured in for the cricketing bunch. The team led by Ajinkya Rahane put up a brave fight and bagged the fourth and final Test of the Border-Gavaskar series, winning it by 2-1.India’s win over the Aussies has been dubbed as “historic”. And not without reason. The last time a touring team managed to have the last laugh at the Brisbane Cricket Ground was almost 33 years ago in November 1988. At the time, Sir Vivian Richards led the Caribbeans to a thumping win over Allan Border's team by 9 wickets. The Brisbane Cricket Ground, commonly known as the Gabba, has remained a fortress for the hosts, and no one, till now has been able to breach that. And one of the first to acknowledge India’s historic feat was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who hailed the “stellar intent and remarkable grit” shown by the side. While he lauded them for their “remarkable energy and passion”, his colleague and Home Minister Amit Shah called it a “historic” win. We are all overjoyed at the success of the Indian Cricket Team in Australia. Their remarkable energy and passion wa… https://t.co/SJXTJwpgEm— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 1611042538000Hats off to Indian Cricket Team for registering a historic series win. Entire nation is proud of your remarkable ac… https://t.co/J00W0NT1cc— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) 1611043842000Across the world, in the United States, Sundar Pichai also seemed to have been tuned in to the game that saw Rishabh Pant script a new high for himself as he became the fastest Indian wicket-keeper batsman to score 1,000 Test runs, thereby breaking former India captain MS Dhoni's record of 32 innings. The Google boss called the Gabba game “one of the greatest Test series wins ever” while congratulating both sides.One of the greatest test series wins ever. Congrats India and well played Australia, what a series #INDvsAUS— Sundar Pichai (@sundarpichai) 1611042179000The Indian team has had a fantastic turnaround in the series. From being crushed for 36 in the first Test to scripting a win like this, it has been a great learning experience for the series. Rahane led the team confidently after Virat Kohli had to fly back to India for the birth of his first child with wife Anushka Sharma. The 33-year-old skipper congratulated the team on Twitter, and had a message for critics who had reservations about the team's calibre after the Adelaide debacle. WHAT A WIN!!! Yessssss. To everyone who doubted us after Adelaide, stand up and take notice. Exemplary performance… https://t.co/pz5JhDgamH— Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) 1611044547000Former India opener Virender Sehwag while hailing India's performance, took a dig at the "Australian arrogance and pride."India had many players injured, but what has been injured more has been the Australian arrogance & pride.The test… https://t.co/NLiiD2rv6G— Virender Sehwag (@virendersehwag) 1611045329000
Categories: Business News

Epidemics lead biggest short-term risks: WEF

January 19, 2021 - 4:57pm
LONDON: Infectious diseases and livelihood crises led the rankings of risks expected to pose a critical threat to the world in the next two years, according to a survey of more than 650 World Economic Forum (WEF) members from business, government and academia.Extreme weather events and cybersecurity failure were also key risks, WEF said in an annual risks report on Tuesday.The COVID-19 pandemic has already had a devastating impact on many livelihoods, as global lockdowns have led to job losses and business closures. It has also exacerbated issues such as increasing inequalities over access to technology and the threat of civil unrest."The pandemic has accelerated trends that have been coming for a long time," said Carolina Klint, risk management leader, Continental Europe, at insurance broker Marsh.Medium-term worries include burst asset bubbles and debt crises, the report found, while the biggest long-term concerns were of the use of weapons of mass destruction and of state collapses."As governments, businesses and societies begin to emerge from the pandemic, they must now urgently shape new economic and social systems that improve our collective resilience and capacity to respond to shocks while reducing inequality, improving health and protecting the planet," said Saadia Zahidi, managing director at the WEF.Peter Giger, chief risk officer at Zurich Insurance, remained optimistic about rebuilding after the pandemic."The history of the economy suggests that every major structural change has led to higher employment," he said.The world's leaders will hold a virtual Davos Agenda event next week, instead of the traditional January event in Switzerland, and a face-to-face meeting in Singapore in May.The report was compiled together with insurance companies Zurich and Marsh & McLennan and South Korea's SK Group.
Categories: Business News

Improved affordability supports housing demand recovery; sustainability key to recovery, ICRA

January 19, 2021 - 4:57pm
MUMBAI: Improved affordability led by record-low home loan rates, government initiatives including stamp duty waivers and discounts offered by realty developers has stimulated demand for housing.Housing sales volumes that had declined by 62 per cent on-year in June quarter across top 8 Indian cities, bounced back considerably in subsequent quarters, helping limit the on-year decline in December quarter at 7 per cent. The sequential growth in housing sales in September and December quarter was 60 per cent and 53 per cent, sequentially. Sustainability of the trend, however, is the key to a continued recovery, said ratings agency ICRA.Housing affordability in India has historically been low, with unit pricing remaining high due to rising land costs, zoning and floor indices-based restrictions, and high transaction costs and taxes, such as stamp duty and registration charges.In recent years though, the government has been taking steps towards moderating real estate transaction, finance costs and taxes, through measures such as higher income tax incentives for first time buyers in the form of housing loan interest deduction, credit-linked subsidy schemes under PMAY for purchases in the affordable and mid segments, etc.Post the onset of Covid-19, a steep reduction in home loan rates, together with other state and Central Government incentives, has further supported affordability and in turn, housing demand, thereby stimulating some recovery from post-Covid lows.“While the increase in GDP per capita has outstripped the increase in housing prices, which has resulted in some improvement in affordability over the years, overall affordability remains low, with an average house estimated to cost around 44 times the GDP per capita in FY2021. In recent quarters though, reduced home loan rates, attractive payment schemes/discounts and reduction of stamp duties in certain key states on the back of Covid-19, has significantly brought down housing costs and stimulated housing demand,” said Shubham Jain, Senior Vice President and Group Head at ICRA.Repo-linked lending rate (RLLR) for home loans have touched a historical low, with the rates dropping below 7 per cent. Banks are also offering discounts on processing fees etc. Given the prevailing economic uncertainties, repo rates are likely to remain low over the near-to-medium term, and thus home buyers may continue to benefit from the same into 2021-22.Developers have also recognised the liquidity issues being faced by home buyers, and have thus offered deferred payment schemes and/or discounts in various forms, such as freebies, the Goods & Services Tax waivers etc.Further, weakness in the rupee has also supported affordability for the non-resident Indians, and stimulated demand from that segment, ICRA said.Certain states including Maharashtra and Karnataka, which contain the key housing markets of Mumbai and Bangalore, have extended 2-3 per cent reductions in stamp duty for a limited time, which has spurred housing registrations to reach all-time highs in some areas.The central government is encouraging other states to extend similar reductions, and effective implementation of the same would continue to boost housing sales in 2021-22.The Maharashtra Government has also reduced construction premiums for developers by 50 per cent up till December 2021, and in turn, has required the developers availing of this scheme to pay stamp duty on behalf of the buyers, which would further boost demand in the region, the ratings agency said.Mumbai has amongst the highest construction premium levies in the country, with such premiums typically amounting to around 10-15 per cent of the selling price.As per ICRA estimates, even after payment of stamp duty on behalf of the buyers, the developer would still gain by up to 4.5 per cent of the selling price, which would result in improved project viability. Additional pass on of some this benefit to the consumers would further improve affordability and demand.
Categories: Business News

Rising health awareness amid the pandemic set to accelerate sale and visibility of premium salt segment: Tata Salt

January 19, 2021 - 4:57pm
Bengaluru: Edible salt market will be 100% branded in the next 4-5 years and the market for value-added salt category, accelerated by the pandemic, will gain a lot more visibility now, said Tata Consumer Products. The maker of the eponymous salt brand Tata Salt and market leader in the category estimates the salt market growing at 2-4% driven by increasing consumer awareness about health and quality. Currently, about 7% of the salt market is accounted by unbranded players.“The desire to be healthy than just a tick mark on the checklist was the biggest trend this fiscal. There has been an actual shift than just talking the talk. Consumers are making more conscious choices,” Richa Arora, president, packaged foods - India at Tata Consumer Products, told ET. The FMCG company, that also sells packaged tea, pulses, spices and ready-to-cook meals, registered 11% growth in revenue in its salt division and gained market share in the second quarter ended September. Consumer reports and data points studied over the last six months, overlapping with the pandemic, showed increase in market share for the company, it added. “Currently we have 30% market share but we will be growing aggressively to seize share. We will enter new geographies and continue to focus on our value-added salt segment this year,” said Arora. While Tata Salt, the country's first iodised salt brand, was launched close to four decades ago, the company later expanded the portfolio with premium or value-added salt such as fortified salt and low sodium variant and more recently natural products such as black salt and rock salt. In the second quarter ended September, the company had registered 100% growth in value-added salt segment compared to the same period in 2019. In a follow-up analyst call, Tata Consumer had said that the company was looking to further expand the portfolio in salt to give variety to consumers and in turn increase margins.“Consumers, especially youngsters, have become more health conscious amid the pandemic. Indian consumer is value-conscious but not price conscious,” said Arora, adding, “Premium salt segment is driving the image of the brand. There is a lot of room for growth within the segment. These are not passing trends.” Premiumisation agenda will be percolating into the company’s overall food segment and not just salt in 2021, she hinted.The market for packaged iodized salt in India is estimated to be worth about Rs 22 billion.Other domestic brands include ITC’s Aashirvaad, Surya Salt, Nirma Shudh, Annapurna Salt and Saffola Salt.
Categories: Business News

Buy metal, financial and auto stocks on dips

January 19, 2021 - 1:56pm
If the correction continues, I would like to buy into the metal stocks like Hindustan Zinc and Vedanta at lower price points, says Deven R Choksey, MD, KR Choksey Investment Managers. What is your take on the cement counter?Cement companies have started utilising their capacities at a threshold level which is above 85% capacity utilisation. This is good news because up till now, the companies have been holding the price but at the same time, the capacity utilisation remained in the vicinity of 65-75%. So from that perspective, if you start looking at cement companies, the advantage would be twofold. The volume-led growth was spurred by higher consumption taking place. Better capacity utilisation also means better profits for the companies at the bottom line level. All in all, cement as a sector is heading for relatively better times. We prefer some of the large capacity companies with a strong pan-India presence, like Holcim and Ultra Tech. Some of the regional players like Shree Cement, Ramco Cement and India Cement also look interesting. We like cement as a space. We believe that it will continue the good run going forward. Traction is building in the ONGC counter. What would be your strategy right now?Fortunately, the exploration companies are finding themselves in a relatively better period now, locally as well as globally. The cost of exploration would remain at $48-54 per barrel and many of the companies have started looking about this level. So, most of these companies can expect higher profits including ONGC. A steadier crude price of around $50-60 would improve things going forward for companies like ONGC. I do not have any specific recommendation on this company since we do not cover the public sector companies. But in general, we believe they are in for better times. What about Reliance? What could we hear from the management this time around?The Reliance refinery business has steadier GRMs now. Reliance is going to have a more profitable delta. They have been successful with a larger amount of cracks on the diesel side as well which has basically seen the traction. So, things could look up for Reliance in the current year from the GRM perspective. Petrochemical polymer prices have remained firm during this period and along with the buoyancy in crude oil prices, have started contributing to higher revenue and profit. The core business of the company, which is refining and petrochemical polymers along with exploration business, could see a relatively better quarter compared to the earlier two quarters in the current financial year. On the other hand, the consumer facing businesses -- telecom and retail -- are showing distinct growth. Jio is seeing relatively better ARPU as they progress every single quarter. They are inching towards higher ARPUs At the same time, we would like to hear from the company about the fibre-to-home and fibre-to-enterprise rollout plans. Should these two platforms gain traction and momentum, then 2021-22 would be the year to watch out for as far as Jio performance is concerned, which has the potential to go up 30-35% over the previous year. So, that is one area which we would like to look at. As for the retail segment, the company has tied up on the supply chain side and we are going to watch for progress in the Jio Mart business. We expect the retail segment to grow at around 15% CAGR at least in the near term. Put together, all Reliance verticals are expected to show better performance in the current quarter. Yesterday’s decline in Tata Steel, Vedanta and even JSW Steel gives a good entry point for those who missed buying metals in the first leg. Do you agree?It is always going to be very challenging to chase the price point as far as cyclicals are concerned. Metals are no exception to this. Commodity prices are remaining strong and are likely to remain strong given the fuel prices remaining on the higher side. It suggests hardened commodity prices going forward as well. Whether you are a trader or a stock investor, it is very challenging to decide at what price point you should buy a particular company. As I see it, yesterday’s fall probably happened because traders offloaded their position. Also in light of the fact that the pandemic surge is happening elsewhere in the world including in China and Japan, crude oil prices have softened yesterday to a certain extent. That is where the larger amount of selloff took place. In this kind of cyclical counters, where traders dominate, one has to be prepared for such sharp selloffs. It is very difficult to put a handle on the price as far as buying is concerned but if a correction is of a sharper degree, it makes a case for buying if you are a trader. If the correction continues, I would probably like to buy into the metal space at lower price points, particularly companies like Hindustan Zinc and Vedanta. What is your favourite idea which is a clear proxy to the economy and could be a big beneficiary of a resurgent economy?With the consumerisation drive which is happening in the country, one would probably like to stay with companies which are in financing business -- be it corporate banks, private sector banks or some of the stronger NBFCs in housing or consumer finance. On one side, the consumer is spending. The cost of money is low and in some of the larger banks like HDFC Bank and NBFCs like Bajaj Finance and HFCs like HDFC, the size of the balance sheet is good enough for them to grow the entire business activity. As demand grows and as the size of the balance sheet allows then to lend further, one can expect faster and more consistent growth. We are looking at 20-25% CAGR growth in the credit lending businesses of HDFC, Bajaj Finance and even HDFC Bank. This is an area where we would be comfortable investing our money. Every correction would mean a buying opportunity in this space. Any view on Tata Motors or from within the auto basket? Tata Motors is probably in a sweet spot. Their passenger vehicle portfolio has been growing very smartly. The company has struggled for a very long period of time. Now they probably have got the right kind of products and most importantly they have addressed the needs and the distribution reach of the consumers. Both these factors are working in favour of the company with a passenger vehicle portfolio. At every price point, they have a vehicle to offer. On the other side, the commercial vehicle segment is showing a good demand and has growth potential as well. More importantly, the fleet operators have started operating above 80% capacity utilisation which is very important because that means economy-wise, things are improving and the demand for commercial vehicles has started improving. Most importantly, JLR which was a bleeding portfolio up till now, is also improving. All these factors are giving the company a good amount of visibility, including a scope for restructuring the balance sheet of the company where JLR could be separated out at some point of time and that could mean a relatively better rating coming up for the company. In my view, the company is in a better position currently and I see it as a buy on dips for Tata Motors share. What about realty and infra pack?We are comfortable investing in proxy to real estate and would probably bank more on the housing finance companies (HFCs). We believe that cyclicality is definitely attached to real estate business but the housing finance business is probably more consistent. Real estate finding traction is a good news. It will probably give a larger amount of growth and so instead of fielding the cyclicality of the real estate company and being on the receiving end, we think the low cycle I would rather stay focused on to the housing finance companies per se as far as I think real estate outlook is concerned. In case of infrastructure, many of the InvIT companies would be a better proxy compared to buying directly into the infrastructure because an InvIT company would probably also have sufficient amount of cash flows and if they are available at discounted price, they will remain a relatively better play compared to directly investing in infrastructure. Also, I believe that infrastructure direct investment is a play best suited to larger funds including endowment and sovereign funds which have more appetite to put larger amounts of money into such kinds of businesses. But for retail investors and midsized investors, InvITs and REITs are much better comparatively.
Categories: Business News

Dunzo lands $40 million from Google, others

January 19, 2021 - 1:56pm
Hyperlocal delivery startup Dunzo has raised $40 million in Series E funding from new and existing investors including Google, Lightbox, Evolvence, Hana Financial Investment, LGT Lightstone Aspada, and Alteria among others.The company said it plans to focus on sustainable growth across its fastest-growing cities such as Mumbai, Chennai, and Pune in the coming year.Dunzo said it witnessed strong organic user demand in the pandemic-hit 2020 and is now approximately a $100 million business in annualised gross merchandise value (GMV), a two-fold increase over the past year."As a team, we are more focused than ever to enable local merchants to get closer to their users and build one of the most loved consumer brands in the country," said Dunzo cofounder and chief executive Kabeer Biswas.The Bengaluru-based startup said it has supported over 300 neighbourhoods across eight cities in the past six months, delivering essential goods to users within 29 minutes on average."As merchants go digital, Dunzo is helping small businesses in their digital transformation journey in support of business recovery," said Caesar Sengupta, vice-president, Google. "Through our India Digitization Fund, we’re committed to partnering with India’s innovative startups to build a truly inclusive digital economy that will benefit everyone."This financing comes at a time when the hyper-local delivery sector is heating up with the recent entry of Flipkart and heightened focus from existing players like Amazon and Swiggy in the segment, with more consumers preferring doorstep deliveries due to the virus outbreak.
Categories: Business News

WhatsApp may face CCI heat over new privacy policy

January 19, 2021 - 1:56pm
Bengaluru: WhatsApp’s new privacy policy aimed at allowing the messaging app to share extensive metadata and business chats with parent Facebook and its companies could be viewed as an abuse of its dominant position, according to legal and privacy experts who expect this could also raise antitrust concerns with the Competition Commission of India (CCI). In August last year, CCI had declared WhatsApp as a dominant player in the relevant market of ‘OTT messaging apps through smartphones in India’, saying the Facebook-owned app has the advantage of reaping the benefits of ‘network effect’. It added that the lack of interoperability between platforms is another concern, as a result of which customers may be unwilling to incur switching costs.WhatsApp has deferred the implementation of its new privacy policy from February to May following sustained outrage from users. The changes proposed by WhatsApp does not offer users the option to opt out in case they do not want to share data with Facebook. Those who don’t agree to its new update will lose access to the app. “It is not a question of downloads of rival apps, and it’s not just about the quality of service. The question is where is your network? With 400 million users, the shift cannot be swift,” said antitrust lawyer Abir Roy, who is the founder of Sarvada Legal.‘A One-sided Contract’“People are accepting the new privacy policy because it is very difficult to shift completely. And therein lies the issue. It’s a one-sided contract. CCI should look at it. They can take suo moto cognisance,” said Roy.Emails sent to CCI chairman Ashok Gupta did not elicit a response.WhatsApp, however, does not agree that its new privacy policy is an abuse of its dominant position in India. “No. We’re grateful that people continue to use and trust WhatsApp to communicate with family, friends and co-workers. We know we have to compete for users’ trust when it comes to privacy. We think competition on privacy is good because it will help make apps even more private and secure in the future,” Will Cathcart, global head of WhatsApp, told ET in an email.Following the messaging app’s announcement of its new policy last week, downloads of rival app Signal, which has a minuscule base of 20 million monthly active users globally, has soared in India. The privacy activists fear that the network effect among WhatsApp’s users in India could still render it a dominant player in the market.Network effects happen in markets where an increase in usage of a particular platform leads to a direct increase in the value for other users, which makes social media products a ‘winner takes all’ market. Smriti Parsheera, a tech policy researcher with the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy ( NIPFP), believes that a combination of network effects and Facebook’s integration strategies mean that the user is not only tied to a product but to a family of companies, and this could make the entry of competitors and exit by users even harder. “Until that last person in your network doesn’t move out of WhatsApp, it may not be easy to completely give up on the system. CCI has held WhatsApp to be a dominant player. If a dominant player changes terms unilaterally it could constitute an unfair practice, which is a type of abuse of dominant position,” she said.
Categories: Business News

New Covid issue: Mutations rise along with cases

January 19, 2021 - 1:56pm
The race against the virus that causes COVID-19 has taken a new turn: Mutations are rapidly popping up, and the longer it takes to vaccinate people, the more likely it is that a variant that can elude current tests, treatments and vaccines could emerge. The coronavirus is becoming more genetically diverse, and health officials say the high rate of new cases is the main reason. Each new infection gives the virus a chance to mutate as it makes copies of itself, threatening to undo the progress made so far to control the pandemic. On Friday, the World Health Organization urged more effort to detect new variants. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a new version first identified in the United Kingdom may become dominant in the U.S. by March. Although it doesn't cause more severe illness, it will lead to more hospitalizations and deaths just because it spreads much more easily, said the CDC, warning of "a new phase of exponential growth." "We're taking it really very seriously," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government's top infectious disease expert, said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." "We need to do everything we can now ... to get transmission as low as we possibly can," said Harvard University's Dr. Michael Mina. "The best way to prevent mutant strains from emerging is to slow transmission." So far, vaccines seem to remain effective, but there are signs that some of the new mutations may undermine tests for the virus and reduce the effectiveness of antibody drugs as treatments. "We're in a race against time" because the virus "may stumble upon a mutation" that makes it more dangerous, said Dr. Pardis Sabeti, an evolutionary biologist at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. Younger people may be less willing to wear masks, shun crowds and take other steps to avoid infection because the current strain doesn't seem to make them very sick, but "in one mutational change, it might," she warned. Sabeti documented a change in the Ebola virus during the 2014 outbreak that made it much worse. MUTATIONS ON THE RISEIt's normal for viruses to acquire small changes or mutations in their genetic alphabet as they reproduce. Ones that help the virus flourish give it a competitive advantage and thus crowd out other versions. In March, just a couple months after the coronavirus was discovered in China, a mutation called D614G emerged that made it more likely to spread. It soon became the dominant version in the world. Now, after months of relative calm, "we've started to see some striking evolution" of the virus, biologist Trevor Bedford of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle wrote on Twitter last week. "The fact that we've observed three variants of concern emerge since September suggests that there are likely more to come." One was first identified in the United Kingdom and quickly became dominant in parts of England. It has now been reported in at least 30 countries, including the United States. Soon afterward, South Africa and Brazil reported new variants, and the main mutation in the version identified in Britain turned up on a different version "that's been circulating in Ohio ... at least as far back as September," said Dr. Dan Jones, a molecular pathologist at Ohio State University who announced that finding last week. "The important finding here is that this is unlikely to be travel-related" and instead may reflect the virus acquiring similar mutations independently as more infections occur, Jones said. That also suggests that travel restrictions might be ineffective, Mina said. Because the United States has so many cases, "we can breed our own variants that are just as bad or worse" as those in other countries, he said.TREATMENT, VACCINE, REINFECTION RISKSSome lab tests suggest the variants identified in South Africa and Brazil may be less susceptible to antibody drugs or convalescent plasma, antibody-rich blood from COVID-19 survivors - both of which help people fight off the virus. Government scientists are "actively looking" into that possibility, Dr. Janet Woodcock of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration told reporters Thursday. The government is encouraging development of multi-antibody treatments rather than single-antibody drugs to have more ways to target the virus in case one proves ineffective, she said. Current vaccines induce broad enough immune responses that they should remain effective, many scientists say. Enough genetic change eventually may require tweaking the vaccine formula, but "it's probably going to be on the order of years if we use the vaccine well rather than months," Dr. Andrew Pavia of the University of Utah said Thursday on a webcast hosted by the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Health officials also worry that if the virus changes enough, people might get COVID-19 a second time. Reinfection currently is rare, but Brazil already confirmed a case in someone with a new variant who had been sickened with a previous version several months earlier.WHAT TO DO"We're seeing a lot of variants, viral diversity, because there's a lot of virus out there," and reducing new infections is the best way to curb it, said Dr. Adam Lauring, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Loyce Pace, who heads the nonprofit Global Health Council and is a member of President-elect Joe Biden's COVID-19 advisory board, said the same precautions scientists have been advising all along "still work and they still matter." "We still want people to be masking up," she said Thursday on a webcast hosted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "We still need people to limit congregating with people outside their household. We still need people to be washing their hands and really being vigilant about those public health practices, especially as these variants emerge."80340430801955378016669480112196
Categories: Business News

Withdraw allegation: Amartya Sen asks Visva-Bharati

January 19, 2021 - 1:56pm
Kolkata: Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen has written to Visva-Bharati demanding that the university authorities withdraw the allegation that his family is in "illegal" possession of land in its Santiniketan campus and alleged that the accusations are a crude attempt at harassment. Sen had on Monday written the letter to Visva-Bharati Vice-Chancellor Prof Bidyut Chakraborty two days after the authorities of the central university asked the West Bengal government to measure the plot owned by him at Santiniketan as soon as possible to permanently resolve the dispute. The noted economist said in the letter that his father had purchased free-hold land from the market and not from Visva-Bharati - to add to their homestead and he has been paying taxes for them. Sen had also sent a legal notice earlier this year to the VC asking him to withdraw "false" allegation made to the news agencies that a plot of land owned by Visva-Bharati is unlawfully occupied by the economist. While the university was not able to provide any justification for the allegation, it has requested the West Bengal government "to measure the area of our homestead, Pratichi, to compare with the long term lease of land taken by my father in 1940 from Visva-Bharati", Sen said in the letter. "This sudden abuse of an 80-year-old document is clearly a crude attempt at harassment or worse," he said. "Among other errors it ignores the big fact, which I have stated many times (even in the context of this dispute), that a substantial amount of free-hold land was purchased by my father (in the market -- not from Visva-Bharati) to add to our homestead on which khajna and Panchayat taxes are paid by me yearly," the letter said. Hence the officiating registrar's threat of legal action if the official discovers any additional land beyond the leased land seems hugely mischievous, Sen said. Stating that he is tired of the VC's repeated claims despite emphatic denials on his part about his phone call to Chakraborty in 2019, Sen said that the VC insisted that the call was made either on June 2 or June 14. "On being informed that I was abroad for the entire month of June 2019 and came back to India only in July, the story was promptly altered by the V.C.'s office to assert that I had called in June or July but said the same things," the letter said. "Rather than inventing new falsities and adding to their culpability, Visva-Bharati should withdraw the false allegations made by them, as my lawyer has asked," Sen said. A controversy had erupted on December 24 last year, the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the centenary celebrations of Visva-Bharati, when media reported that the university has written to the West Bengal government alleging dozens of land parcels owned by it were wrongfully recorded in the names of private parties including Sen. Sen, who now lives in the US, has said that the land, on which his house stands is on a long-term lease, which is nowhere near its expiry. Stating that the Visva-Bharati authorities had never complained to him or his family about any irregularity in holding the land, Sen has accused the VC of acting at the behest of the Centre "with its growing control over Bengal". Visva-Bharati officials were not available for comment on the letter. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and several prominent intellectuals of the state have expressed their supports to the economist on the row.
Categories: Business News

Vaccination must for return to normalcy: Sabnavis

January 19, 2021 - 1:56pm
By Tamanna Inamdar While the idea of giving free vaccines to everybody is commendable, I do not think it is practical, says Madan Sabnavis, Chief Economist, CARE Ratings. Does it really matter how many people get vaccinated? Will it have a spillover effect in that sense that restaurants, malls and shopping centres will see more footfalls and airlines will see more seats filling up?Madan Sabnavis: I think having everybody vaccinated is a necessary condition before we get back to normal because as long as people are not vaccinated. there will always be a fear that the infection would have scope of spreading and to that extent opening up the economy will be a little more challenging. So hypothetically, if all the 1300 million people get vaccinated, it will be very good time for the economy because then we can boomerang our daily business to what we were doing before the lockdown was imposed So both from the point of view of health as well as from the point of view of the economy, we will get back to normal only if people are vaccinated. Relying on herd immunity would mean being a bit too optimistic and the risk of re-infection would remain. Do you think that the services sector will have the same extent of pent up demand that we have seen in the manufacturing sector?The pent-up demand story does not really play out when we are talking of services because if I cannot go to a restaurant and have a meal now, that does not mean I am going to have multiple meals once I venture out. The same holds for holidays. Also, when we are looking at the services sector, we know that lots of trends have changed like going to a cinema theatre and instead watching things on Netflix or any of these other OTT channels. A lot of lost space will be regained by some of the sectors but it will be a case of starting afresh. We will not see a case of pent-up demand there and so what is lost is actually lost. The damage is permanent. The private sector is taking initiative to tie up with vaccine manufacturers and see how quickly they could get their employees back into office. Would that really speed things along?Actually it will because the organised sector has a total employment force of 20 to 30 million. Just assume that my company says that my entire family can be vaccinated. Either the company bears the cost or we bear our own cost and so multiply by four. We are talking of 80 to 120 million of the population getting independently vaccinated and we could really steady up the process. We need to have both the engines firing. I agree that the government may not be in a position to finance the entire thing because at Rs 400 per person into 1300 million translates into Rs 52,000 crore. While the idea of giving free vaccines to everybody is commendable, I do not think it is practical. So, the private sector will have to play a role and lots of people will be willing to pay for it but we should be given access to it as soon as possible which will be possible only in case you open it up to the general public.
Categories: Business News

Biden to propose 8-yr citizenship path for immigrants

January 19, 2021 - 1:56pm
WASHINGTON: President-elect Joe Biden plans to unveil a sweeping immigration bill on Day One of his administration, hoping to provide an eight-year path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status, a massive reversal from the Trump administration's harsh immigration policies.The legislation puts Biden on track to deliver on a major campaign promise important to Latino voters and other immigrant communities after four years of President Donald Trump's restrictive policies and mass deportations. It provides one of the fastest pathways to citizenship for those living without legal status of any measure in recent years, but it fails to include the traditional trade-off of enhanced border security favored by many Republicans, making passage in a narrowly divided Congress in doubt.Expected to run hundreds of pages, the bill is set to be introduced after Biden takes the oath of office Wednesday, according to a person familiar with the legislation and granted anonymity to discuss it.As a candidate, Biden called Trump's actions on immigration an ``unrelenting assault'' on American values and said he would ``undo the damage'' while continuing to maintain border enforcement.Under the legislation, those living in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2021, without legal status would have a five-year path to temporary legal status, or a green card, if they pass background checks, pay taxes and fulfill other basic requirements. From there, it's a three-year path to naturalization, if they decide to pursue citizenship.For some immigrants, the process would be quicker. So-called Dreamers, the young people who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children, as well as agricultural workers and people under temporary protective status could qualify more immediately for green cards if they are working, are in school or meet other requirements.The bill is not as comprehensive as the last major immigration overhaul proposed when Biden was vice president during the Obama administration.For example, it does not include a robust border security element, but rather calls for coming up with strategies. Nor does it create any new guest worker or other visa programs.It does address some of the root causes of migration from Central America to the United States, and provides grants for workforce development and English language learning.Biden is expected to take swift executive actions to reverse other Trump immigration actions, including an end to the prohibition on arrivals from several predominantly Muslim countries.During the Democratic primary, Biden consistently named immigration action as one of his ``day one'' priorities, pointing to the range of executive powers he could invoke to reverse Trump's policies.Biden allies and even some Republicans have identified immigration as a major issue where the new administration could find common ground with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and enough other GOP senators to avoid the stalemate that has vexed administrations of both parties for decades.That kind of major win _ even if it involves compromise _ could be critical as Biden looks for legislative victories in a closely divided Congress, where Republicans are certain to oppose other Biden priorities that involve rolling back some of the GOP's 2017 tax cuts and increasing federal spending.As a candidate, Biden went so far as to say the Obama administration went too far in its aggressive deportations.
Categories: Business News

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