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Updated: 2 hours 47 min ago

Centre refutes 'speculative' report on death toll

5 hours 48 min ago
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Saturday informed that States and Union Territories record Covid-19 deaths as per guidance issued by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). In an official release, the ministry slammed a renowned international magazine for publishing an article that claimed that "India has suffered perhaps five to seven times 'excess deaths' than the official number of Covid-19 fatalities". The union health ministry said that the article was speculative article, is without any basis and seems to be misinformed. It added that the unsound analysis of the said article is based on the extrapolation of data without any epidemiological evidence. Studies which are used by the magazine as an estimate of excess mortality are not validated tools for determining the mortality rate of any country or region, the government said. "The so-called "evidence" cited by the magazine is a study supposedly done by Christopher Laffler of Virginia Commonwealth University. An internet search of research studies in scientific databases such as Pubmed, Research Gate, etc., did not locate this study and the detailed methodology of this study has not been provided by the magazine. "Another evidence given is the study done in Telangana based on insurance claims. Again, there is no peer-reviewed scientific data available on such a study," the statement said. "Two other studies relied upon are those done by Psephology groups namely "Prashnam" and "C-Voter" who are well versed in conducting, predicting and analyzing poll results. They were never ever associated with public health research. Even in their own area of work of psephology, their methodologies for predicting poll results have been wide off the mark many times," it said. By their own submission, the magazine states that "such estimates have been extrapolated from patchy and often unreliable local government data, from company records and from analyses of such things as obituaries", the statement said Stating that it has been transparent in its approach to Covid data management, the government said that as early as May 2020, to avoid inconsistency in the number of deaths being reported, the ICMR issued 'Guidance for the appropriate recording of COVID-19 related deaths in India' for correct recording of all deaths as per ICD-10 codes recommended by World Health Organisation (WHO) for mortality coding. States and UTs have been urged through formal communications, multiple video conferences and through the deployment of Central teams for correct recording of deaths in accordance with laid down guidelines. Union Health Ministry said that it has also regularly emphasized the need for a robust reporting mechanism for monitoring district-wise cases and deaths on a daily basis. States consistently reporting a lower number of daily deaths was told to re-check their data. A case in point is the Union Government writing to the State of Bihar to provide a detailed date and district-wise break-up of the reconciled number of deaths to the Union Health Ministry. As per the ministry's release, it's a well-known fact that there shall always be differences in mortality recorded during a profound and prolonged public health crisis such as Covid pandemic and well-conducted research studies on excess mortalities, usually done after the event when data on mortalities are available from reliable sources. The methodologies for such studies are well established, the data sources are defined as also the valid assumptions for computing mortality.
Categories: Business News

Goa govt extends COVID-19 curfew till June 21

5 hours 48 min ago
The Goa government on Saturday announced extension of the coronavirus-induced "curfew" in the state till June 21 with some more relaxations.Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said the curfew will be extended upto 7 am on June 21."Shops, including in panchayat and municipal markets, may open between 7 am to 3 pm. Marriage function with upto 50 persons have been permitted...," he said on Twitter late in the evening."Detailed order will be issued by District Collectors,” he said.Goa recorded 472 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, taking the caseload to 1,62,048. With 15 patients succumbing during the day, the death toll in the state reached 2,914.
Categories: Business News

The politics of austerity and its shortcomings

5 hours 48 min ago
Manohar Lal Khattar would have found a kindred soul in Charles Dickens’ Mr Micawber with regard to the latter’s famous advice on the virtues of thrift: ‘Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.’It was with a similarly laudable objective of good husbandry in mind that the Haryana CM took to task Arvind Kejriwal, for being too prodigal with the usage of anti-Covid vaccines in Delhi, saying, ‘Even we can administer 2 lakh jabs in one day and exhaust our stock. But… if we keep administering 50,000-60,000 doses to people daily, our work will keep going on.’The Delhi CM’s rejoinder to this, ‘My aim is not to save vaccines but to save people’s lives,’ revealed a lack of appreciation of the laws governing supply and demand in a country where chronic shortages, of not just vaccines but just about everything, are a norm. So, the mismatch between what is available and what is needed is best made up by tightening the belt of demand and not by loosening the purse strings of supply.An exemplary case in point is that of electricity. We can’t seem to produce — or efficiently distribute — enough of it, with the result that there are frequent unscheduled outages, despite claims regarding the progress made in rural electrification and the declaration of ‘power cut-free zones’. So, what’s our solution to this persistent problem? Not an increase in supply, but a deterrent to demand by imposing punitive changes on those who consume the most power — an inversion of the blithe belief that economies of scale result in a lowering of costs and prices, and not a raising of them.A similar principle of ‘less is more’ was evident in the ‘Miss a Meal Day’ that was promulgated in Calcutta in the 1960s. Every Monday, the residents of the city were enjoined by the authorities that, to eke out scant food supplies, it was their civic duty to eschew eating either lunch or dinner on the designated day of the week. To facilitate this programme of abstinence, restaurants and eateries had to have a special ‘Snacks Only’ menu to be served either for lunch or dinner.No one questioned this dietary diktat by asking why the food deficit, which supposedly was responsible for it, could not be made up both by increasing produce and ensuring that stockpiles in government godowns weren’t left to rot or be eaten by rats and other vermin.Nor did anyone in authority address the point as to how a ‘Snacks Only’ policy for a single meal could significantly restrict calorific intake. No specifics were given as to the quantity of ‘titbits’ that could be ordered, thus enabling a customer to follow Marie Antoinette’s injunction and eat lots of cake, not to mention samosas and sandwiches, in the absence of daal-roti.Ever since Sarojini Naidu — referring to Mohandas Gandhi’s insistence on travelling in third class on trains and so making it mandatory for his security to have an entire coach reserved for him — remarked that it cost the taxpayer a lot to keep Bapu in the frugality he was accustomed to, conspicuous, and competitive, austerity has been the shambolic mantra of our polity.Khattar’s statement that by vaccinating fewer people than Delhi was doing, he was ensuring that ‘our work will keep going on’ is a reprise of Indira Gandhi’s strident sloganeering of ‘Garibi hatao!’ subsequently paraphrased by different dispensations. While the garibi, like a recalcitrant squatter, refuses to be evicted from the vote-bank premises it continues to occupy.For if garibi were indeed to be hataoed — and all shortages, be they of vaccines or of food, or anything else, eliminated — there would be no further need of the proponents of what some would call use-less policies, and others term merely useless.
Categories: Business News

IAS: Losing the swagger in the corridors of power

June 12, 2021 - 11:25pm
Last month, the Government of India appointed 20 joint secretaries (JS) in various ministries, in which the majority — 12 to be precise — belonged to services other than the elite Indian Administrative Service (IAS). The new entrants included three officers from the income-tax department, three from the railways, two from the central secretariat service and one each from postal, audit and accounts, civil accounts and ordnance factories services, all considered rank and file in the hierarchy of Indian civil services. This is not a new trend. But the pattern has become so consistent since 2017-18 that IAS officers holding critical JS rank have now become a minority in almost all central government offices. According to data available with the department of personnel and training (DoPT), IAS officers in the rank of a GoI joint secretary are only one -third, a dramatic fall from five years ago when almost all posts of JS and above were unofficially reserved for the prestigious cadre. A JS in GoI is a senior officer with a mandatory experience of 16 years, a post deemed important because of the power and independence it wields. Plus, it is a stepping stone to the upper echelons of civil services: additional secretary and secretary. “IAS is no longer a premier service,” says a serving additional chief secretary-ranked IAS officer, requesting anonymity. “Other services have lobbied far too well. The Seventh Central Pay Commission has damaged us a lot, both in terms of pay and seniority,” he adds, referring to its refusal to accept the IAS’ demand for faster promotion. The outcome is clear. The “IAS lobby” is on the wane, losing its swagger and power, and the political establishment at the Centre does not seem to be unhappy about it. Small wonder that when Alapan Bandyopadhyay, a 1987 batch IAS officer and the then chief secretary of West Bengal, was in the dock recently for failing to attend PM Narendra Modi’s review meeting regarding Cyclone Yaas, none of his comrades in the service, not even his batchmates, made any backroom bid to rescue him, say officials in the know. Bandyopadhyay has been served a notice under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, and if the case is doggedly pursued and the officer’s explanation not found satisfactory, he could end up in jail for a year, a harsh punishment for any officer of such seniority. It will, however, be wrong to claim that IAS, a legacy of the British-era Indian Civil Service (ICS), has lost its sheen entirely. Even today, most of the 90 GoI secretaries are IAS officers, barring those in a few specialised ministries and departments such as science and technology, space and external affairs (the last is always an IFS officer). As on March 24, the actual strength of IAS and IPS officers, excluding those from state services and promoted later, were 3,719 and 2,992 respectively, with IAS having 942 vacant posts, according to a reply to a Lok Sabha question. ET spoke to half a dozen serving IAS officers, two officers belonging to other central services and a few retired bureaucrats to outline the emerging trends in the premier civil service. First, a unique situation has arisen where the secretary of a GoI ministry is still an IAS officer, but the majority of joint secretaries hails from diverse backgrounds like tax collection and ordnance factories and have little experience of working in state civil departments. “IAS officers as joint secretary have a clear advantage over others in almost all ministries, barring a few such as defence, civil aviation, commerce and industry that don’t need to deal much with states,” says Satyananda Mishra, former DoPT secretary. “Let’s be honest, when a joint secretary, who is an income-tax officer, calls up a senior state officer, who will invariably be an IAS, the response is likely to be far less enthusiastic,” he adds. VK Yadav, a former railway board chairman who belonged to the Indian Railway Service of Electrical Engineers (IRSEE), disagrees: “Railway officers are well-trained to meet any challenge. That’s why they excel when they join any ministry on deputation. Also, they bring back the experiences to the railways.” The second trend has been the Centre’s tightening of norms for empanelment under the “360 degree” evaluation process since 2015. (Empanelment refers to preparing a list of officers for positions under the Central Staffing Scheme at the level of joint secretary and above.) Unlike in the past when 70-80% of a particular IAS batch got empanelled, the share has slipped to 45-50%, says an officer who has recently managed to scrape through the process. The selection process has become more inclusive but it is also somewhat opaque, as the review allows an expert panel to independently verify the credentials, integrity and, some allege, the ideology of an applicant beyond what the boss has written in the appraisal papers, better known as ARC (annual confidential report). A railway officer, requesting anonymity, asks: “Why should the entire administration be left to the whims and fancies of one service? The government is empanelling a smaller number of IAS officers to accommodate more from other services. The government is right as it is breaking the IAS monopoly.” No government functionary wants to come on record, but many say the present political establishment does not want to hand over the reins to only one service. Third, there is a genuine shortage of mid-career IAS officers because of fewer number of recruitments in the past as well as a growing reluctance among officials to come to Delhi. In the mid-1990s, the government’s focus on downsizing its operations had resulted in at least half a dozen smaller IAS batches, with just 50-60 recruits, as against 180 now. Its fallout is felt currently when officers of those batches are eligible for a JS posting. “In 1972, our batch had 112 IAS officers. In the late 1990s, the intake got reduced to 50-60. That has its impact now. Also, many IAS officers nowadays simply don’t want to join the central government. Many say they are finding Delhi not so conducive,” says GK Pillai, who retired as Union home secretary in 2011, after serving at the Centre and in his home state, Kerala. Fourth, the clout of IAS could diminish further if officers from other services fast-track their empanelment process. This depends, among others, on how proactive the cadre-controlling authorities are; for instance, the Department of Revenue controls the cadre of the Indian Revenue Service (Customs and Central Excise) officers. As of now, 1999 batch IRS (C&CE) officers are empanelled for joint secretary as against 2004 batch IAS officers — a gap of five years. When more and more young non-IAS officers become joint secretaries, there will always be a greater probability of their moving up to the next level. Since the government seems to have put in the deep freeze its experiment with lateral entry for joint secretaries, IAS officers won’t have to face an avalanche of private CEOs in the corridors of power, but the challenge from officers in other services is real. On the debate of deputation of IAS versus non-IAS officers, former cabinet secretary, KM Chandrasekhar, tells ET, “I have always held the view that public administration is a specialised skill and that anyone picked up from outside the system cannot make any significant impact.” Should the IAS or any other service be protected? “What happens to a section of officers of any service is less important than the transformation of administration into a results-oriented system,” he says, giving the example of UK and Australia’s corporatestyle, customer-centric New Public Management.
Categories: Business News

UP gets Rs 10,870 cr for Jal Jeevan Mission

June 12, 2021 - 11:25pm
The Centre has allocated Rs 10,870 crore to Uttar Pradesh under Jal Jeevan Mission in 2021-22 as the state government looks to provide 7.8 million piped water connections across 60,000 villages this year ahead of the assembly polls next year.The central allocation for the mission has been increased to Rs 10,870.50 crore from Rs 2,571 crore last fiscal and Rs 1,206 crore in 2019-20.Work under the Jal Jeevan Mission will begin in 60,000 villages in the coming days, people aware of the development said. The government will provide tap water supply in 177 arsenic and fluoride-affected habitations this year, they said. There are 26.3 million households across about 97,000 villages in the state. Out of these, only about three million, or 11.3%, households have tap water supply in their homes at present.In the last 21 months, the state has provided tap water supply to 2.49 million (9.45%) households. Despite this, there are about 23.3 million households without tap water supply in Uttar Pradesh.The state had assured availability of Rs 3,348 crore of central fund for the Jal Jeevan Mission last fiscal year, including enhanced allocation of Rs 2,571crore and opening balance of Rs 777 crore. It could utilize only Rs 2,053 crore from this fund. Union Jal Shakti minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat has written a letter to UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, urging him to take necessary measures to accelerate the implementation of the mission.
Categories: Business News

View: Athletes show us work is more important than age

June 12, 2021 - 11:25pm
By the time you read this, James Anderson will have played more Test matches than any English cricketer in the history of the game. Sachin Tendulkar finished on 200 — top of the list. But he began when he was 16, and there was no question of him being dropped, or rotated, or rested against his will.The next closest are Ricky Ponting, a batting prodigy, who racked up 168 appearances, and Steve Waugh, on the same number. Jacques Kallis (166), and two dour specialists, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Rahul Dravid, come in at 164.Anderson may not get to 200, but he will go past the rest, because he is still at the top of his game at 38 years 11 months 47 days (today) and counting. He is fit, strong, and valued by the country he plays for.Only days ago, Darren Stevens, the 45-year-old Kent cricketer scored 190 in 149 balls, and then picked up crucial wickets in his team’s match against Glamorgan. He was the oldest man to score a first class hundred in England in 35 years. In the aftermath of the match, his county offered him a contract for the next season, something that typically does not happen till the end of the ongoing season.It’s easy to dismiss these developments with the usual clichés: life begins at 40; be naughty after 40; age is just a number. But what professional sport is showing us is that the work you do is more important than the age in which you do it.When Pravin Tambe played for the Rajasthan Royals in 2013, he was already 41. He had not played first class cricket. After his IPL heroics, he played for Mumbai, the toughest domestic team to get into, in the Ranji Trophy. Today, he is still at it, plying his trade in T20 tournaments around the world.When you look at most sporting disciplines — chess, cue-ball sports aside — 40 is a bridge too far, when it comes to age.But equally, in India, we are at a crossroads. The level of competition is so high, and the space for coaches to train wards so low, that if you haven’t cut your teeth in competitive sport at a really early age, you will not be let in.My son is nearly 10, and while he likes to kick a football around with friends, he has not been able to do this in Covidian times. He took to badminton in a proper training camp. But that has been since shut down. With both his parents being cricket journalists, it was not surprising that he couldn’t be bothered with the bat and ball game.Pointedly, at 10, he is too old already to get into organised cricket in India. He has missed the bus, so to say. But the other end of the Covid-19 spectrum has been the lengthening of careers for those already in the mix. Which reminded me of a far more physically demanding sport than cricket.NBA basketballer Reggie Miller, of the Indiana Pacers, played 18 seasons for the team, and was 39 when he finished. He then held the record for the most 3-point field goals made. More importantly, he made these shots in clutch time, under extreme pressure. Running up and down a basketball court in the course of an NBA game demands fitness that Tambe, and likely even Anderson, cannot match. And now you have skin fold tests and bleep tests and several similar measures that will allow you to even qualify for a team.While times have changed, and the demands on fitness and youth must keep up, it’s becoming clear that health and strength are no longer the preserve of youth. As for skills and perspective, let’s not go down that route. That may be a bridge too far.Views are personal
Categories: Business News

Pandemic losses: The year dreams went to die

June 12, 2021 - 11:25pm
When Namitha MS got accepted to a college in Pune for her MBA in 2020, she was over the moon. This was her chance to leave behind Bengaluru, the city where she has lived all her 23 years, and have a host of novel experiences such as living in a hostel — a rite of passage for many. A year on, that experience remains out of reach, thanks to the pandemic.Since Covid-19 began making its way across the globe, millions have gone through a multitude of such lost opportunities. “Over the last year, my therapy practice has just been about these types of stories: people having lost out on opportunities, seeing their plans change,” says Pallavi Arora, a counselling psychologist in Gurgaon.In the face of the devastating loss of life and livelihood caused by the pandemic, it is tempting to dismiss the loss of the chance to take up a new job or missing a family milestone event, but psychologists say it is important to identify and acknowledge our personal losses, and not minimise them. “Be very mindful of when you start to dismiss your own pain because someone else’s seems greater,” says Arora. One thing she does with many of her clients is to help them identify and acknowledge their losses. “I think that’s something all of us need to do — to really take stock of how much our life has been disrupted and what exactly we’ve lost.”Here are the stories of a few such lost opportunities over the past one year — giving up on an Olympic dream, shelving a startup venture, missing the birth of a grandchild — and the coping mechanisms that have helped people come to terms with these.Gave up on an Olympic dreamVirdhawal Khade, 30 SwimmerSwimmer Virdhawal Khade was desperate to return to the pool. The bronze medallist of the 2010 Asian Games had set his sights on the Tokyo Olympics — but the pools in Maharashtra were shut for eight long months last year, his training was suspended and his hopes of competing in the Games kept dashing against the walls.Khade had clocked 22.4 seconds in men’s 50 m freestyle at a qualifying event in 2019 — it was a national record and a B qualification for the Games, but it doesn’t guarantee a berth. He was hopeful of making the A qualification mark of 22.01 seconds, which gives a direct entry to the Olympics.Then the pandemic struck. The lockdown followed. Khade tried to stay fit. “I made sure I did not put on an extra gram of weight. But it wasn’t the same.” Finally, with no inkling of when pools would reopen, the 30-year-old took a difficult decision. He would stop thinking about the sport that had consumed his life, take a break and focus on his family and his day job as a tehsildar, even if that meant giving Tokyo a miss.Once he made up his mind, he says, he felt at peace. “I swim because I love competition. Without a goal, I find it difficult to motivate myself. I was getting frustrated every single day, till I finally decided to take a break.” Key to his coping strategy was Thor, the Lhasa Apso pup that he and his wife adopted in the lockdown.With pools closed once again in the second wave, Khade has no regrets about what he has given up. But he worries about the sport: “Everyone says Indian swimmers aren’t as good as others. We had been trying to catch up for years. Now it will take us a couple of years to make up for this lost time.” 83465547Birth Pangs Usha Murthy, 62 RetireeUsha Murthy knows exactly what she will do when she finally gets to meet her newborn grandson. “I will run to him, hold him, cuddle him and kiss him.” She has it down pat, for that’s all she has been dreaming about for months. Her husband, she jokes, has been saying how he wishes he had wings to fly to The Netherlands from Bengaluru and see their first grandchild, whose birth they were forced to miss because of the pandemic.It was a trip they had been planning ever since they learnt in April 2020 that their daughter was expecting. They hoped the situation would improve close to the delivery. “But everything went palat-palat (upside down),” she says. The first couple of months after her daughter’s delivery were particularly trying for Murthy, 62. “I couldn’t sleep at night. Sometimes, I used to cry, thinking how they had to manage alone,” she says. The daily video calls help but it’s not the same. “We are really missing out on those first few months.”Meanwhile, she and her husband have got vaccinated and are planning to buy a mini sherwani to gift the child, whenever they meet. “Now we just need the visa office to open,” she says. 83465567MBA from the bedroomNamitha MS, 24 StudentFor Namitha MS, doing her MBA was never about the degree alone. The two-year course at a reputed institute in Pune was to be her ticket out of Bengaluru, where she has spent all her life, a chance to experience hostel life, have roommates and stay up all night with friends. But the pandemic and consecutive lockdowns have meant doing half of her master’s online, locked down with her parents at home.“I was mentally prepared to go to campus in September but that kept getting pushed,” says Namitha. Now, she and her classmates are wondering if it might be 2022 by the time they finally meet. “If I had any idea 2020 would be like this, I wouldn’t have written the exam. An MBA is not just about what your lecturers teach you, it’s about what you learn from your peers, about networking.”Still, she has been able to make new friends, attend lectures and even become part of clubs online. But what she is missing the most, she says, are the simple pleasures of college life. “I never thought I’d say this but I miss sitting in class... things like sitting on the backbench, sharing food while a class is on.” 83465597Stuck at home Shibumi Raje, 32 LawyerIn her seven hectic years as a lawyer, the longest break Shibumi Raje had managed stretched to all of two weeks and three weekends. That was set to change from October 2019, when Raje quit her job for an 8-to-10-month sabbatical, which was to be interspersed with long stretches of travel. March was to be spent in Japan in time for sakura season, with her mother. The next couple of months would be split between US and Europe, including a solo trip to Slovenia. This was also to be a time to reflect on her career, relocate from Bengaluru to Mumbai and spend time with family.Raje , 32 , has checked just two things: move to Mumbai and spend time with family. Back in March 2020, once she knew she would have to cancel all her bookings, a rollercoaster of disappointment and anger followed. What helped her come to terms with it was that the rest of the world, too, had come to a standstill. That and the fact that she was privileged enough to isolate safely with enough savings.When the world reopens, Raje knows she will be able to travel, but it won’t be the way she had planned. “The slow, immersive travel is a missed opportunity. Another sabbatical is not feasible in the immediate future,” she says. 83465616Startup shutdown Shreya Jha, 42 Marketing professionalAt the end of May, Shreya Jha made a final call to her developer and decided to pull the plug on her startup’s website. There was little choice — the server costs were adding up for the website of a business that was never launched. “It felt like I was letting go of little parts of me,” says the 42-year-old marketing professional.It wasn’t meant to be like this. After 16 years in marketing, Jha had gone to Barcelona for a master’s in high-tech entrepreneurship. That’s where the seed of a startup was planted — Find a Buddy, a platform for people to meet for offline activities. On returning to Mumbai, she began working on her venture in right earnest, investing all her time, effort and money. The launch was slated for March 2020. By then, Covid-19 had brought the world to a standstill.At first, Jha thought of putting Find A Buddy on hold for a few months. But even as restrictions eased, the contagious virus brought into question the very premise of the platform, which would involve meeting strangers. Now, after a year of waiting and with nearly all her savings exhausted, Jha is looking for a corporate job to return to.“It was bad luck,” she says. Having gone all-in for an idea she was passionate about, giving it up was difficult. However, the same pandemic that tore apart her plans has also helped her see her loss in perspective. “I’ve lost so many people close to me. It has been easier to accept the loss of the business because at least you can eventually pick it up.” 83465663Missing the right noteRuth Isaia, 18 StudentHaving sung in choirs since she was in second grade, it was not surprising that Ruth Isaiah chose music as one of her majors for her undergraduate degree. But singing in a choir where you blend your voices, practise harmony and learn from each other is a world away from doing it online. “It’s unnerving because you have to unmute one by one on a video call and sing. It takes all the fun out of it,” says the 18-year-old.With lockdown succeeding lockdown, it’s one of the many things about first year in college that Isaiah has had to miss out on. “I had seen pictures of the campus and was looking forward to being there, meeting people, using the recording studio. There’s also a choir concert every year with choirs from different institutes, but this year that was also online,” she says.The one silver lining, she says, is how well her class has managed to get along with one another, despite never having met in real life. “We gelled well from Day 1, with everyone spamming the WhatsApp groups with memes — maybe because everyone was desperate to meet people!”With no clarity yet on on-campus classes, Isaiah is not making any plans. “I’ll have to get used to not attending classes in pyjamas,” she chuckles. “But I’m looking forward to it.” 83465714
Categories: Business News

PhonePe goes to Sebi against Ventureast

June 12, 2021 - 8:25pm
PhonePe on Saturday said it has filed a formal complaint with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) against early-stage investment fund Ventureast and its top officials. The complaint’s main premise is that Ventureast, an investor in homegrown content discovery platform Indus OS, did "side dealings" with Affle Global "deliberately" in a "bad faith attempt to scuttle" PhonePe’s acquisition of Indus OS. Affle is also a minority investor in Indus OS, which has objected to the deal.PhonePe said its complaint to the market regulator has highlighted "serious misrepresentations, including a series of unethical and bad faith actions, as well as potentially illegal actions, that have been and are being continually undertaken by the managing partner, general partner and principal of Ventureast involved with this transaction."PhonePe’s complaint with Sebi against Ventureast follows allegations that Ventureast sold its stake in IndusOS to Affle, giving it nearly 23% stake while the terms were already agreed for an acquisition by PhonePe."As founders, we are always held to the highest standards of legal and ethical integrity by our investors. But these standards should apply to investors in startups too. I believe in this case, VPF (Ventureast Proactive Fund-II) has not only broken Sebi’s code of conduct, but it has also acted in complete negligence of its fiduciary duties as a large shareholder of Indus OS. By deliberately derailing PhonePe’s acquisition of IndusOS, a deal which all three OS Labs founders continue to also believe is in their company’s best long-term interests, VPF has also hurt OSLabs’ long term interests,” PhonePe’s cofounder Sameer Nigam said in a statement.“We believe it’s important to expose such unethical conduct by VPF for the sake of the larger startup ecosystem. We have a very strong case and are confident that we will prevail on both fronts, and hopefully in the process also create a strong deterrent against bad actors trying to bully young startups.”ET has exclusively reported how PhonePe’s seemingly straightforward deal to acquire Indus OS for $60 million has run into trouble after Affle objected to the deal. Affle has sued Indus OS and PhonePe in a Singapore court seeking an injunction over the proposed acquisition. In reaction, PhonePe has also filed a counter lawsuit against Affle as well as Ventureast. ET reported earlier this month that Indus OS, which wants to close the deal with PhonePe, has also moved a petition against Affle in a Singapore court.Over the past few weeks, ET has reported about the legal tangle over the takeover. PhonePe was in the final stages of closing its acquisition of Indus OS but Affle Global had sought an injunction in the Singapore court on the deal and said it had the right of first refusal against the sale of the founders’ stake to PhonePe. Indus OS had told ET earlier that its founders and board members had signed a term sheet to sell a significant majority in the company to PhonePe. According to the initial plan, PhonePe was looking to buy over 90% in Indus OS. The latest developments would have a direct impact on this plan but PhonePe, meanwhile, has secured two board seats in Indus OS as it bought over 30% in the company from earlier investors like Omidyar Network, JSW Ventures and others. Affle Global has previously told ET that it has invested over $20 million, so far, in Indus OS and owns a 20% stake, valuing the startup at $90 million. This is another point of conflict as PhonePe has valued Indus OS at $60 million.Indus OS was started in 2015 by three IIT alumni - Rakesh Deshmukh, Akash Dongre and Sudhir Bangarambandi. The company operates a local Android app store called Indus App Bazaar, which offers apps and content in over a dozen Indian languages. The company said it hosts more than 400,000 apps and caters to over 100 million users across India.Through this acquisition, PhonePe’s plan is to bring a wider array of apps on its platform through in-app integrations. If it happens, this would be PhonePe’s second acquisition after it bought point-of-sale startup Zopper in 2018.Bennett, Coleman and Company Ltd (BCCL), the publisher of Economic Times, is an investor in Affle Holdings Pte Ltd, which owns Affle Global.
Categories: Business News

Bharat Biotech shares full research data of Covaxin

June 12, 2021 - 8:25pm
India's first indigenous COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer- Bharat Biotech on Saturday shared comprehensive data of all research studies of Covaxin. As per the company release, the complete data for Phase I and II, and partial data for Phase III trials of Covaxin have been thoroughly scrutinised by the regulators in India.Covaxin, a whole-virion inactivated coronavirus vaccine, is the first and only product to have published any data from human clinical trials in India, Bharat Biotech said.The full data from studies on Covaxin’s neutralisation of variants are already published at bioRxiv, Clinical Infectious Diseases, and Journal of Travel Medicine, the release addedIt is the first and only product to have published any data from human clinical trials in India. Covaxin is the only product to have any data on emerging variants and it is also the first and only COVID-19 vaccine to have efficacy data in Indian populations, Bharat Biotech said in a statement. In vaccine development, preclinical studies involve the testing of vaccine candidates in laboratory animals."The published studies are widely cited for the rigour and breadth that Bharat Biotech brings to its clinical trials. Currently, data from both efficacy and safety follow-up of Covaxin's Phase III trial is being analyzed and compiled. Upholding its uncompromising commitment to integrity, the company will make Phase III trials data from the final analysis public soon," read the statement. India had begun its COVID-19 vaccination drive on January 16, 2021, with two vaccines- Covaxin and Serum Insitute of India's Covishield.The company said that the full data from studies on Covaxin's neutralization of variants are already published at "bioRxiv", Clinical Infectious Diseases, and Journal of Travel Medicine. "The study on the neutralisation of Beta and Delta variants (B.1.351 and B.1.617.2 respectively) and the study on B1.1.28 variant, at Journal of Travel Medicine, while the studies on B.1.617 variant and Alpha variant (B.1.1.7) are published at Clinical Infectious Disease, and Journal of Travel Medicine respectively," it said.Bharat Biotech completed three preclinical studies, which are published in Cellpress, a peer-reviewed journal. The studies on Covaxin's Phase I (done to assess a vaccine's safety, immune response and to determine right dosage), and Phase II clinical trial (carried out to assess the safety and the ability of the vaccine to generate an immune response) are published by the peer-reviewed journal- the "Lancet-Infectious Diseases", read the statement.(With Agency inputs)
Categories: Business News

NITI CEO outlines a post pandemic business plan

June 12, 2021 - 8:25pm
It will not be business as usual after the COVID-19 pandemic and we need to bring more "simplicity" in the ease of doing business by doing away with the current maze of rules, NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said here on Saturday. He was speaking to reporters after visiting the Aurangabad Industrial City and Marathwada Auto Cluster at Waluj.To a question about proposed reforms after the pandemic, Kant said, "It is very clear that business will not run as usual after the pandemic. We need to bring reforms as much as we can, after COVID. "We have made many rules, regulations and procedures. By removing them, we need to bring more simplicity to ease of doing business," he added. The country also needs to "grow the technology and leapfrog along with it", Kant said, adding that the Union government is working in this direction. Talking about Aurangabad and the surrounding areas, he said this part of central Maharashtra needs a regional master plan for development with consideration for possible growth in the next 25 years. "This area has a potential and can come up as one of the fastest growing region in the country from the tourism and industry point of view," he said.
Categories: Business News

Just how far would Trump administration go?

June 12, 2021 - 8:25pm
Former President Donald Trump has made no secret of his long list of political enemies. It just wasn't clear until now how far he would go to try to punish them.Two House Democrats disclosed this week that their smartphone data was secretly obtained by the Trump Justice Department as part of an effort to uncover the source of leaks related to the investigation of Russian-related election interference.It was a stunning revelation that one branch of government was using its power to gather private information on another, a move that carried echoes of President Richard Nixon during Watergate.On Friday, the Justice Department's internal watchdog announced that it was investigating the records seizure.And Democratic leaders in Congress are demanding that former top Justice officials testify before a Senate committee to explain why the iPhone records of Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, both Democrats, and their family members were secretly subpoenaed in 2018. The records of at least 12 people were eventually shared by Apple.The dispute showed that the rancorous partisan fights that coursed through the Trump presidency continue to play out in new and potentially damaging ways even as the Biden administration has worked to put those turbulent four years in the past.White House spokesman Andrew Bates said the conduct of Trump's Justice Department was a shocking misuse of authority.“Attorneys general's only loyalty should be to the rule of law - never to politics,” he said.The disclosure that the records had been seized raised a number of troubling questions. Who else may have been targeted? What was the legal justification to target members of Congress? Why did Apple, a company that prides itself on user privacy, hand over the records? And what end was the Trump Justice Department pursuing?The revelations also are forcing the Biden Justice Department and Attorney General Merrick Garland to wade back into a fight with their predecessors.“The question here is just how did Trump use his political power to go after his enemies - how did he use the government for his political benefit,” said Kathleen Clark, legal ethics scholar at Washington University in St. Louis.The effort to obtain the data came as Trump was publicly and privately fuming over investigations by Congress and then-special counsel Robert Mueller into his 2016 campaign's ties to Russia.Trump inveighed against leaks throughout his time in office, accusing a “deep state" of working to undermine him by sharing unflattering information.He repeatedly called on his Justice Department and attorneys general to “go after the leakers,” including singling out former FBI Director James Comey and Schiff, now chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.In May of 2018, he tweeted that reports of leaks in his White House were exaggerated, but said that nonetheless, “leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!”Schiff and Swalwell were two of the most visible Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, then led by Republicans, during the Russia inquiry.Both California lawmakers made frequent appearances on cable news shows. Trump watched those channels closely and seethed over the coverage.There's no indication that the Justice Department used the records to prosecute anyone.After some of the leaked information was declassified and made public during the later years of the Trump administration, there was concern among some of the prosecutors that even if they could bring a leak case, trying it would be difficult and a conviction would be unlikely, one person told The Associated Press.That person, a committee official and a third person with knowledge of the data seizures were granted anonymity to discuss them.Federal agents questioned at least one former committee staff member in 2020, the person said, and ultimately, prosecutors weren't able to substantiate a case.For decades, the Justice Department had worked to maintain strict barriers with the White House to avoid being used as a political tool to address a president's personal grievance.For some, the Trump administration's effort is more disturbing than Nixon's actions during Watergate that forced his resignation.Nixon's were done in secret out of the White House, while the Trump administration moves to take the congressmen's records were approved by top Justice Department officials and worked on by prosecutors, who obtained secret subpoenas from a federal judge and then gag orders to keep them quiet.“The fate of Richard Nixon had a restraining effect on political corruption in America,” said Timothy Naftali, a Nixon scholar and former director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.“It didn't last forever, but the Republican Party wanted to cleanse itself of Nixon's bad apples and bad actors.”The Republican Party is far too aligned with Trump to do that now, but it doesn't mean Biden should let it go, Naftali said.“The reason to do this is not revenge,” Naftali said. “It's to send a signal to future American lawyers they will be held accountable.”While the Justice Department routinely conducts investigations of leaked information, including classified intelligence, opening such an investigation into members of Congress is extraordinarily rare.A less rare but still uncommon tool is to secretly seize reporters' phone records, something the Trump Justice Department also did.Following an outcry from press freedom organizations, Garland announced last week that it would cease the practice of going after journalists' sourcing information.The subpoenas were issued in 2018, when Jeff Sessions was attorney general, though he had recused himself in the Russia investigation, putting his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, in charge of Russia-related matters. The investigation later picked up momentum again under Attorney General William Barr.Apple informed the committee last month that the records had been shared and that the investigation had been closed, but did not give extensive detail.Also seized were the records of aides, former aides and family members, one of them a minor, according to the committee official.The Justice Department obtained metadata - probably records of calls, texts and locations - but not other content from the devices, like photos, messages or emails, according to one of the people.Another said that Apple complied with the subpoena, providing the information to the Justice Department, and did not immediately notify the members of Congress or the committee about the disclosure.And the people whose records were seized were unable to challenge the Justice Department because the subpoenas went to Apple directly.The gag order was renewed three times before it lapsed and the company informed its customers May 5 what had happened.Apple said in a statement that it couldn't even challenge the warrants because it had so little information available and “it would have been virtually impossible for Apple to understand the intent of the desired information without digging through users' accounts.”Patrick Toomey, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said the seizure of congressional records was part of a series of Trump-era investigations that “raise profound civil liberties concerns and involve spying powers that have no place in our democracy.”
Categories: Business News

Will children be more affected in Covid third wave?

June 12, 2021 - 8:25pm
There appears to be no substantial evidence to suggest that children will be more affected or have greater illness severity due to COVID-19 in the anticipated third wave, according to a new report. The Lancet COVID-19 Commission India Task Force prepared the report after convening an experts group comprising leading paediatricians from the country to examine the issue of 'paediatric COVID-19' in India. It said the infection's symptomatology in children in India appears to be globally comparable. "Most children with COVID-19 are asymptomatic, and amongst those symptomatic mild infections are predominant. Most children have fever with respiratory symptoms, and often present with gastrointestinal symptoms (such as diarrhea, vomiting, pain in abdomen) and atypical manifestation compared to adults. The proportion of symptomatic children increases as age increases as does the severity in such age groups," the report stated. In the absence of a national database on clinical presentation and outcomes of infected children during the two surges noted thus far, the data of approximately 2,600 hospitalised children, below the age of 10 years (excluding neonates), from 10 hospitals (both public and private), in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra and Delhi-NCR region, was collected and analysed. According to the data, mortality rates amongst these surveyed hospitalised COVID-19 positive children below the age of 10 years was 2.4 per cent and about 40 per cent of the children who died had comorbidities. "Nine per cent of all hospitalised COVID-19 positive children presented with severe illness, under 10 years of age. The above observations were similar during the two surges of COVID-19 infections India has experienced," the Lancet document said. Three doctors from AIIMS, namely Sheffali Gulati, Sushil K Kabra and Rakesh Lodha, contributed to the study. Kabra said less than 5 per cent children will require hospital admission in COVID-19 and out of them the mortality is of 2 per cent. "Say out of 1 lakh, 500 children get hospitalised and 2 per cent of deaths are reported among them. So in one lakh, mortality of just one or two children is seen. In children, as such the disease is less severe. Very low proportion requires hospitalisation and very small proportion of mortality is reported. The mortality is also contributed by underlying diseases in the form of comorbidities like diabetes, cancer, anemia or severe malnutrition. In normal children, mortality is extremely rare," he told . The data was also evaluated separately for the time periods corresponding to the two surges, March 2020-December 2020 and January 2021-April 2021. Comparable observations were recorded in a multicentric study which examined 402 children hospitalised in Indian hospitals, of which 90 per cent were asymptomatic to mildly symptomatic, and of 318 cases wherein 44 per cent had underlying co-morbidities, it said. "Based on the data available, there appears to be no substantial evidence to suggest that children would be more affected or would have greater illness severity due to COVID-19 infection in the anticipated third wave. Studies also indicate that children have milder disease, better prognosis, and low mortality in comparison to adults," it said. On multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) in children, the report said, risk factors for this condition include obesity, asthma, compromised breathing, developmental disorders, cardiac disease, cancers or immunocompromised children as well as those who have undergone surgeries. Although figures indicate low mortality rates from acute COVID-19 in older teens, it appears to be higher in those who are obese. Most published data suggest mild to moderate predisposition in most cases and low mortality linked with MIS-C. "Preliminary review of cases within representative facilities further corroborates the low case severity and low overall mortality rates in children. That said, the health system needs to gear up for a paediatric case load with adequate infrastructure, earmarked facilities at primary, secondary and tertiary levels of care, oxygen availability, appropriate equipment, trained manpower, drugs and injectables among others, all of which are specific to children," the report said. The national-level clinical protocols must be adhered to at all levels of facilities and all providers adequately trained, similar to adult protocols. "The health system must maintain its routine programs like immunisation and nutrition and identify high risk patients in advance for better management. Vaccines will form an important part of the preventive strategy for adults and also eventually for children and this must be evaluated and implemented expeditiously. "Behaviour change communication and media management must be prioritised to help alleviate panic and anxiety. Schools must be reopened cautiously in person, with options for online access as needed, but with a firm resolve to bring normalcy back as quickly as possible in children's lives," the report added.
Categories: Business News

IMA to hold countrywide protest on June 18

June 12, 2021 - 8:25pm
The Indian Medical Association will hold a protest on June 18 against assault on doctors, with the slogan of 'save the saviours'. In a statement, the apex medical body asked all its state and local branches across the country to observe the protest by wearing black badges, masks, ribbons, shirts and running awareness campaign against violence targeting healthcare professionals. The IMA said press conferences will also be organised and they will also meet local NGOs and voluntary service leaders. It termed "extremely disturbing" a series of violence against doctors in the last two weeks in Assam, Bihar, West Bengal, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and other places. It demanded the implementation of central hospital and Health Care Professionals Protection Act with IPC and Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), standardisation and augmentation of security in each hospital, and declaring hospitals as protected zones among others. "Action Committee of IMA, after considering all the aspects and to express our concern, anger and solidarity, has decided to observe the 18th June 2021 as IMA National Protest Day with demand to stop assault on the profession and the professionals with the slogan 'Save the Saviors'," the medical body said. It further said that June 15 will be observed as a National Demand Day and Press Meets will held across the country by branches. On yoga guru Ramdev's alleged recent disparaging remarks against allopathy, the IMA said the legal course is underway and it will be followed up. "Ramdev has now publicly issued the new statement saying that 'DOCTROS ARE DEVDOOTS' and he will personally also go for vaccination. But the mental agony/verbal violence inflected on us, is unforgettable," it said.
Categories: Business News

UK-EU Brexit spat clouds G7 leaders summit

June 12, 2021 - 8:25pm
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson held meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday on the sidelines of a G-7 summit, as post-Brexit turbulence strains relations between Britain and the EU. After Britain's top diplomat accused the EU of taking a "bloody-minded" approach to relations, Johnson also met the bloc's leaders, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel, at the Carbis Bay resort where G-7 leaders are gathering. The two sides are locked in an escalating diplomatic feud over Northern Ireland, the only part of the U.K. that has a land border with the bloc. The EU is angry at British delay in implementing new checks on some goods coming into Northern Ireland from the rest of the U.K. required under the terms of Britain's divorce from the bloc. Britain says the checks are imposing a big burden on businesses and destabilizing Northern Ireland's hard-won peace. The spat has drawn in U.S. President Joe Biden, who is concerned about the potential threat to Northern Ireland's peace accord. Von der Leyen tweeted after meeting Johnson that Northern Ireland peace was "paramount," and the binding Brexit agreement protected it. "We want the best possible relations with the UK. Both sides must implement what we agreed on. There is complete EU unity on this," she said. The EU is threatening legal action if the U.K. does not fully bring in the checks, which include a ban on chilled meats such as sausages from England, Scotland and Wales going to Northern Ireland starting next month. It says Britain must fully implement the agreement, known as the Northern Ireland Protocol, that the two sides agreed and ratified. Britain accuses the bloc of taking a rigid approach to the rules and urged it to be more flexible in order to avoid what has been dubbed a "sausage war." U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Saturday that if the EU continued to take a "bloody-minded and purist" approach, Britain would have to act to protect "the integrity of the U.K." Johnson's spokesman, Max Blain said the U.K. wants the protocol to work but that it needs "radical changes." British officials say it's unlikely the issue will be solved during the G-7 summit, which ends Sunday. But Blain said the two sides had agreed to keep talking. Johnson "wants the EU to work with him to find an urgent compromise," he said.
Categories: Business News

IIT-K professor appointed member of WHO body

June 12, 2021 - 8:25pm
A professor at IIT-Kanpur has been appointed as an honorary member of the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Air Pollution and Health-Technical Advisory Group (GAPH-TAG), a communique issued by premier institute said. Mukesh Sharma, an air quality expert associated with the civil engineering department at IIT-Kanpur, has melded rigorous research with policy engagement, it said. "Members of the Technical Advisory Group are selected across the globe and appointed by the Director-General, WHO," the communique issued on Friday said. WHO-TAG is an advisory body to the WHO providing technical guidance and inputs to support WHO's efforts and work in the fields of air pollution and health issues, including how member countries can achieve the air pollution and health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 3.9.1, 7.1.2 and 11.6.2). The SDGs or Global Goals were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Sharma has been associated with WHO, Geneva, International Council for Clean Transport, Clean Air Asia United National Environmental Program, Bangkok, and the World Bank, it said. He will be part of the WHO advisory group on interventions/policies for air pollution control in 194 member states, the communique added. IIT-Kanpur Director Abhay Karandikar congratulated Sharma.
Categories: Business News

Iconic Goa villa Palacio Aguada sold for Rs 80 crore

June 12, 2021 - 5:25pm
In the 2000s, 'Palacio Aguada', entrepreneur Jimmy Gazdar’s secluded sea-facing property in North Goa was a hot spot for the A-list party scene. Vijay Mallya, for instance, used to arrive in Goa in his private yacht and head to Gazdar's New Year bash before he finally bought and designed his plush Kingfisher Villa in Candolim.With its lush lawns in full bloom, expansive swimming pools, a cave, three dance floors and tea garden, 'Palacio Aguada' was the equivalent of James Bond cool meeting South of France chic. Back then, rumour had it that the late Gazdar, who was a shareholder in rubber-plantation company Cochin Malabars Estates and Industries Ltd, also had pet panthers. The panthers may have gone but the house retains its original aesthetic, one that a source close to new owner Pinky Reddy, wife of Sanjay Reddy of GVK, says will be retained -- including the original name of the property.According to the source, the 5-acre property was acquired by Reddy, who saw the property in March and signed the MOU in April, for the sum of 80 crore. The deal, that’s undergoing due diligence, took barely a month to close as Reddy’s mother and Gazdar’s niece, Rita Mehta (who inherited it from Gazdar) are dear friends. Mehta, who currently lives in Dubai, had preferred to sell her uncle’s home to someone she knew.The source adds that Reddy plans on converting the 5-bedroom property into a 10-12 bedroom boutique hotel that focuses on health, with a spa and clean eating on the menu. The aim is to turn the villa into an international and exclusive destination for wellness. The villa's original architect, Gerard da Cunha, has been roped in to do the renovations and the source reveals he is happy to return to a property that once was his project.Reddy's first visit was for the 2000 New Year's party and she thought it looked outstanding. The source adds that on her recent visit to the property two decades later, her opinion remained unchanged.When contacted, Reddy confirmed the purchase and said, “It has always been a dream of mine to get into the health and wellness space with boutique hotels. I look forward to this new venture.”
Categories: Business News

Customer experience post-Covid will never be same

June 12, 2021 - 5:25pm
Covid-19 has indeed changed the customer experience in far more ways than one could imagine. It has disrupted in-person experience to a level that it resulted in a digital space that’s louder and way too harder to cut than ever before.While it has already re-shaped the business landscape; the pioneers of customer experience are deploying strategies not just for the present, but to prepare for the future too. After months of chaos and uncertainty, government policies and rules relating to the pandemic continue to change regularly – it is, therefore, important that organizations also keep a very flexible mind-set and quickly adapt to the new environment.As this pandemic doesn’t seem to end and keeps hitting us waves after waves; we must look at the changing consumer behaviour and the impact this pandemic has had on the way brands meet and manage customers’ expectations.Understanding changing consumer behaviourAs we continue to live in this unprecedented time and see the radical impact this has had on our lives; the effect it had on the consumer psyche and business as well is very apparent.Consumers stockpiled essential goods such as groceries, dry foods and other household products in the wake of this impending crisis. This sudden amplified demand for essentials disrupted the supply chain for most of the FMCGs. On the other hand, non-essential good-to-have product companies witnessed a sharp decline, be it apparel and luxury brands, services industry like travel/hospitality etc.The impact on financial services was not untouched too. The physical touchpoints were to be re-looked on high priority. Some of these changes in customer behaviour seem to be an irreversible trend, forcing companies, more than others and more than ever before, to re-align themselves to the ‘new normal’.They had to look at gaining competitive advantages by embracing this new reality and adopting emerging trends that would help businesses thrive in the new normal.The customer journey facing the greatest disruptionMost of the CX leaders are seeing disruption across all six core customer journeys that includeThe research and need identification journeyThe marketing and sales journeyThe on boarding journeyThe product or service usage journeyThe issue resolution journeyThe re-ordering, renewal or collection/recovery or claim journeyWith many staff still working remotely, the volume of in-person interaction that companies can handle is strictly limited – customers can’t interact with brands in the ways they’re used to or would still like to.In light of this, it is extremely important to build the ability to tolerate uncertainty and being prepared to pivot quickly that may include the following in my opinion:1. Drive customer behaviour changeCX leaders must put a lot of focus on helping those who are not digital and educate them to adopt digital. They must re-imagine parts of key customer experiences or implement solutions that improve or replace affected touch-points.CX leaders must focus on letting their customers know what their options are and what resources are out there to help them, depending on their situations and their current or future needs. It may sound like a long-drawn thing, but the start has to be in that direction – the sooner the better.When there’s a government announcement or policy rollout, we must reach out to our customers and educate them on how they can be benefited and how we as a company can help them achieve that.In a nutshell, we have to start driving the paradigm shift in moving our customers to adopt digital and make them future-ready.2. Accessing customer needsWith no end to the pandemic insight, companies need to understand what their customers need now, at the moment. Only once CX leaders have used all the tools at their disposal to assess the situation will they be able to judge how best to amend their strategies for the months and years aheadThey may (or must) use all possible tools like ‘digital customer analytics’, ‘social media listening’, ‘focus group’, ‘customer journey re-mapping ‘customer feedback’ along ‘employee feedback’. This shall help them re-align their entire customer journey mapping to the need of the hour, the current crisis.3. Replace in-person touchpoints with digitalWe’re seeing a lot of digital adoption and our digital channel transactions have gone up but this is just a small part of the job done.We’ve had a huge amount of work to be carried out to get all our call centres mobilised in terms of working-from-home and getting the all necessary equipment to staff.Customer on-boarding journeys have been the hardest hit by Covid-19. In financial services such as lending businesses; we have had a huge dependency on in-person interactions similar to banking or insurance. We had to quickly turn out on a digital boarding journey and had to make them a touchless process. While that helped in business continuity but as iterated earlier, it’s a long-drawn thing and customers may take time to adapt to this – we still see a very positive trajectory building up. This may well work to our advantage as we reduce the cost of acquisition substantially.4. Invest in technology:As said above, setting up the contact centre for remote working was just one part of addressing the impact this pandemic has had post-Covid-19. This was perhaps the simplest of the tasks as we now realise. This shall now be less of a priority for CX leaders as we move ahead.The bigger thing would be to invest further in technology. Some of the things that we did in our organisations and a few are work-in-progress which I strongly recommend to all CX leaders:Invest in data, integration, integrity or enrichment of technologyInvest in multi-channel customer experience platforms. Give all possible online options to customers to reach out and interact with you.Install chatbots with ‘live takeovers’ capabilitiesVoice bots that use NLP (Natural language processing)Invest in digital self-serve space. Customers are now more open to having their issues resolved themselves instead of queuing up on a toll-free number to interact with a customer service agent.Deploy interactive personalised video content both for educational purposes and transactional services. 5. Addressing barriers to CX success in ‘New Normal’It is now apparent that the best practices for engaging with customers will now be different in a post-pandemic world.While customers will continue to expect the same level of service levels albeit more through digital channels; we must continue to provide an Omnichannel experience and keep in-person touchpoints available too in some cases.We, as CX leaders, must therefore channelize the organisations to mobilise the resources into investing significantly in this direction and address the barriers as early as possible:We must prioritise our investments. We cannot continue to play old-school and imagine a different (favourable) result in this new normal. Our investments have to be towards technology and digital avenues. We must start securing organisation-wide support to this effect and re-imagine customer journeys, enrich business processes and re-align them quickly and continue to measure the impact of such changes to gauge customer experience. It is cyclic in nature that helps in continued advancements to business.ConclusionThe differentiator in this new world isn’t going to be based on ‘product’ and ‘prices’ anymore; instead, it is going to be ‘customer experience’. Those who embrace this new normal and deliver a seamless digital experience will only succeed and leave the competition behind.The writer is Head of Operations, Compliance & CS, Clix Capital.
Categories: Business News

Cong will 'relook' at Art 370: Digvijaya

June 12, 2021 - 5:25pm
Congress leader Digvijaya Singh's comments in a clubhouse conversation that the revocation of Article 370 and stripping Jammu and Kashmir of statehood was an "extremely sad" decision and his party will have a "relook" at the issue have triggered a row, with the BJP accusing him of speaking against India and in agreement with Pakistan. Singh's remarks to a person, who the BJP said was a journalist of Pakistani origin, was seized by the saffron party leaders to hit out at the opposition party with its spokesperson Sambit Patra demanding statements from Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi on the issue. "The decision of revoking Article 370 and reducing the statehood of J&K is extremely, I would say, sad decision, and the Congress party would certainly have a relook on the issue," Singh said, according to bits of conversation available on social media. He was responding to a question about the "way forward" on the issue once the Modi government is gone. As the BJP attacked him, Singh posted a tweet in Hindi in an apparent jibe at the ruling party. "This bunch of illiterate people cannot probably differentiate between 'shall' and 'consider'," the former Madhya Pradesh chief minister said. अनपढ़ लोगों की जमात को Shall और Consider में फ़र्क़ शायद समझ में नहीं आता।— digvijaya singh (@digvijaya_28) 1623474592000 Attacking him, Patra told reporters, "We have all seen how Digvijaya Singh is spitting venom on India and speaking in agreement with Pakistan. This is the same person who had dubbed the Pulwama attack as an accident and described the 26/11 Mumabi attack as RSS conspiracy." The BJP leader cited old comments of other Congress leaders, including Rahul Gandhi and Mani Shankar Aiyar, to allege that Singh's remarks were part of a larger pattern of the party being "hand in glove" with Pakistan. "This is all part of the toolkit which the BJP had exposed," Patra said in a reference to a controversial document rejected as fake by the Congress. The Congress would go to the extent of collaborating with China and Pakistan to spread "hate" against Modi and India, he alleged. "The Congress should change its name from INC (Indian National Congress) to ANC, Anti-national Clubhouse. This is such a clubhouse whose members have begun hating India while hating Modi," he alleged. Patra asked Sonia Gandhi and Rahul to make their party's stand clear on the issue. He claimed that Rahul Gandhi is the leader of these Congress politicians, adding that Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan had used his criticism of Article 370 as part of his country's dossier against India on the issue in the UN. Union ministers Giriraj Singh and Kiren Rijiju were among other BJP leaders who targeted the Congress in their tweets over the issue. Singh alleged, "Congress's first love is Pakistan. Digvijaya Singh conveyed Rahul Gandhi's message to Pakistan. Congress will help Pakistan in grabbing Kashmir."
Categories: Business News

Does plant-based diet help beat COVID?

June 12, 2021 - 5:25pm
Since the beginning of the pandemic, it's been suggested that certain foods or diets may offer protection against COVID-19. But are these sorts of claims reliable? A recent study published in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention and Health sought to test this hypothesis. It found that health professionals who reported following diets that are vegetarian, vegan or pescatarian (those that exclude meat but include fish) had a lower risk of developing moderate-to-severe COVID-19. Additionally, the study found that those who said they eat a low-carbohydrate or high-protein diet seemed to have an increased risk of contracting moderate-to-severe COVID-19. This may make it sound like certain food preferences - such as being vegetarian or a fish eater - may benefit you by reducing the risk of COVID-19. But in reality, things aren't so clear. Self-reporting and small samples First, it's important to underline that reported diet type didn't influence the initial risk of contracting COVID-19. The study isn't suggesting that diet changes the risk of getting infected. Nor did it find links between diet type and length of illness. Rather, the study only suggests that there's a link between diet and the specific risk of developing moderate-to-severe COVID-19 symptoms. It's also important to consider the actual number of people involved. Just under 3,000 health professionals took part, spread across six western countries, and only 138 developed moderate-to-severe disease. As each person placed their diet into one of 11 categories, this left a very small number eating certain types of diet and then even smaller numbers getting seriously ill. This meant, for instance, that fish eaters had to be grouped together with vegetarians and vegans to produce meaningful results. In the end only 41 vegetarians/vegans contracted COVID-19 and only five fish eaters got the disease. Of these, just a handful went on to develop moderate-to-severe COVID-19. Working with such small numbers increases the risk of a falsely identifying a relationship between factors when there isn't one - what statisticians call a type 1 error. Then there is another problem with studies of this type. It's observational only, so can only suggest theories about what is happening, rather than any causality of diet over the effects of COVID-19. To attempt to show something is actually causal, you ideally need to test it as an intervention - that is, get someone to switch to doing it for the study, give it time to show an effect, and then compare the results with people who haven't had that intervention. This is how randomised controlled trials work and why they are considered the best source of evidence. They are a much more robust method of testing whether one single thing is having an effect on something else. Plus, there is also the problem that the diet people say they consume may not be what they actually eat. A questionnaire was used to find out what foods people ate specifically, but responses to this were also self-reported. It also had only 47 questions, so subtle but influential differences in people's diets may have gone unnoticed. After all, the foods available in the US do differ from those available in Spain, France, Italy, the UK and Germany. So what does this tell us? When it comes to trying to determine the best diet for protecting against COVID-19, the truth is we don't have enough quality data - even with the results of this study, which are a small data set and only observational. And a further issue is that the study didn't look at the quality of people's diets by assessing which foods they actually ate. This is another reason why it needs treating with caution. Self-declared diet types or food questionnaires may not capture information on the variety and type of foods eaten - for instance missing details about how much fresh or processed food someone eats, how meals are eaten and with whom. And as alluded to above, self-reported data on what people eat is also notoriously inaccurate. The bottom line is: the name of what you call your diet is far less important than what you actually eat. Just because a diet is vegetarian or pescatarian doesn't automatically make it healthy. For now, the robust evidence isn't there to suggest that being vegetarian or pescatarian protects against COVID-19 - so there's no need to rush to switch your diet as a result of this study. However, what we do know is that keeping active, eating a sensible healthy diet and keeping our weight in check helps to fortify us against a wide range of health issues, and this could include COVID-19. Perhaps the best advice is simply to keep following general dietary guidelines: that is, that we should eat a variety of foods, mainly vegetables, fruit, pulses, nuts, seeds and whole grains, with few highly processed foods that are high in sugar, salt and fat.(This article is syndicated by PTI from The Conversation)
Categories: Business News

Yoga & a to-do list help Realme India boss stay productive

June 12, 2021 - 5:25pm
Madhav Sheth, CEO – Realme India and Europe starts his day by practicing meditation and yoga. "It allows me to have a much more peaceful start to the day with a laser-minded focus. We have all settled into the WFH schedules in this one year, and so have I," he says.Setting his to-do list for the day makes work from home easier. It indicates what to do, when to do and when to call it a day and maintain work-life balance. Sheth checks in with various teams to assess the situation. Fitness track"Sometimes, back-to-back work and meetings fatigue me, so I make sure to take breaks to rest, participate in team-building events, and exercise regularly to remain mentally fit. I am quite old-school by nature, but I love technology and I am quite enthusiastic about exploring different apps through the lens of the users. Nothing compares to working next to someone in an office, but joining a video conference with my team members via Zoom call during the day helps to bridge the gap," he says.It's important to have a dedicated workspace in order to maintain work efficiency and maintain a healthy work-life balance. As a result, Sheth has a dedicated workspace that he used only for work"I like being comfortable while I work, so my work-from-home style mostly includes pairing up a realme T-shirt with a pair of jeans or shorts," he says.Working from home was initially difficult due to different kinds of distractions at home, but with self-discipline and a dedicated workspace, Sheth was able to manage and overcome these obstacles."One of the most important elements for a smooth flow of work is effective communication, and the lack of face-to-face communication, especially right before launch, was another challenge. As a result, my first step towards establishing effective communication was to follow various communication platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom for conducting regular meetings," he says.Daily driveSheth wakes up early in the morning. I get up at 5 am, which gives him enough energy to get through the day. "I strive to create a positive atmosphere around me and at work; this not only helps to create a positive work environment but also motivates me to work on my projects with a renewed sense of intent and enthusiasm. I set targets for the day after completing the first part of my morning routine. Additionally, I make a to-do list of regular activities. Since most of my time is spent in the office, spending some quality time with my kids in the morning is a priority," he says.Yoga and meditation are regular practices for Sheth and these daily exercises infuse a feeling of bliss and calmness in him. "I have been regularly practicing yoga and meditation, and have been focusing on strengthening my core muscles. I have adopted certain forms of yoga during this period," he says.Sheth used to play the guitar during his college days and wished to sing for a band. "During the lockdown, I tried a few musical notes and spent some time on them. Having said that, what truly fascinates me is technology, its versatile application in products, and how they simplify and elevate everyday life," he says.He loves to wash his cars sometimes. "It’s my way of unwinding through a leisurely activity," Sheth ends.
Categories: Business News

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