Weekly Indian Economic & Commercial Report (24th February – 1st March, 2020)

Source: IBEF News Letter

PM inaugurates first Khelo India University Games

24.02.2020

The Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi inaugurated the first Khelo India University Games today in Odisha via video link. Addressing on the occasion, Prime Minister said that today is not just the beginning of a tournament but the beginning of the next phase of the sports movement in India. Here you are not only competing with each other, but also with yourself.

I am connected with you through technology, but I can experience the atmosphere the enthusiasm, the passion and the energy there. The first Khelo India University Games in India’s history are starting today in Odisha. This is a historic moment in India’s sports history. It is also a big step for the future of India’s sports”, Prime Minister said.

Prime Minister added that Khelo India campaign has played an important role in increasing interest towards sports and recognition of young talent in every corner of the country. When the Khelo India Games started in the year 2018, 3500 players took part in it. But in just three years the number of players has almost doubled to more than 6 thousand.

This year, Khelo India Schools Games has broken 80 records. Out of which 56 records have been in the names of our daughters, our daughters have won, our daughters have done wonders. The important thing is that the talent coming up under this campaign is not from the big city, but from small towns”, Prime Minister said. 

Prime Minister mentioned that since the past 5-6 years sincere efforts have been made for the promotion and participation of sports in India. Transparency is being promoted in identification of talent, training and selection process.

These are the players who are likely to take part in the Tokyo Olympics. The players benefiting from this scheme have given more than 200 medals to the country in several sporting events such as Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, Asian Para Games, Youth Olympics. In the coming days, the goal is to win more than 200 Gold medals, and more importantly to improve your own performance and to give new heights to your own potential”, Prime Minister said.

Power demand up 7.5 per cent in February

24.02.2020

India witnessed an increase in electricity demand by 7.5 per cent in the first 18 days of February with early onset of summer in the South and West, providing some relief to the stressed thermal power sector which can now operate at higher capacities.

Presently, thermal power projects are operating at 58 per cent capacity, a senior government official said.

Power demand had grown 3.7 per cent in January, turning around after five months of decline.

The electricity demand stood at 1,05,289 megawatt (mw) in January as against 1,01,570 mw in December 2019. According to the data available with Central Electricity Authority, the demand was also 3.5 per cent higher than the 1,01,713 mw in January 2019.

In February so far, demand was 15–20 gigawatt (gw) higher than peak-hour demand for the same period last year.

During February 1-18, thermal and large hydro projects generated 7.3 per cent more electricity than the same period last year, whereas renewable power plants produced about 5.3 per cent more electricity. The peak-hour power requirement reached 176.6 gw in the current month so far, against 160 gw in the corresponding period a year ago.

During April-January period of the current financial year, the power demand was 10.7 per cent higher than in the same period last fiscal year.

However, according to the monthly data of power requirement for January, there was contraction between December and January in Gujarat and Maharashtra, the two most industrialised states in the country, while it was higher in most other states.
The electricity demand is seen as an important indicator of economic health, although the Economic Survey tabled on January 31 had suggested that it was not.
“Given that these indicators do not exhibit a stable relationship with GDP growth even before 2011, they are poorly equipped to diagnose mis-estimation post 2011,” it had said.
In 2019, India’s power demand grew just 1.1 per cent.

In December, the country’s power demand fell 0.5 per cent from the year-ago period, a fifth straight month of decline, compared with a 4.3 per cent fall in November. The fall was the most in October, at 13 per cent, led by a sharp reduction in demand from Gujarat and Maharashtra.

Blume Ventures raises US$ 41 million opportunity fund

24.02.2020

Blume Ventures, which is a homegrown start-up investor, closed its opportunity fund at US$ 41 million, focused to invest in best performing portfolio companies, a senior executive said.

This is one of the largest domestic opportunity funds among Indian venture capital funds, of which we have already deployed 80 per cent. This was an ideal opportunity for Blume to partner with these onshore capital providers as well as high-quality foreign institutions given the attractiveness of both a shorter life fund and a very selective set of emerging winners in the portfolio,” said Mr Karthik Reddy, managing partner at Blume Ventures.

Early-stage VC firms managing their second or third fund are looking to double down on successful portfolio companies, and allow their limited partners (LPs), or investors, to go deeper in mature start-ups—thus raising funds dedicated to select portfolio companies.

So, a good problem is brewing—we have belief in a lot of these companies growing 5X from here and we think another batch of 10 companies is coming, but of course, we have no additional capital left—so, we’d have to pass up our pro ratas (investing to prevent stake dilution) or find innovative means to keep exercising our option (retaining stake),” Mr Reddy said.

The investment made by Blume from this fund consist of the Series B to D rounds of online education firm Unacademy, robotics firm Grey Orange, gadget repair startup Servify, insurance firm Turtlemint, delivery firm Dunzo, cosmetics firm Purplle, travel firm IntrCity (Railyatri), milk delivery startup Milkbasket, healthcare firm Tricog and smartphone reseller Cashify.

The company plans to invest in early-stage technology-led startups from its third fund which was closed at US$ 102 million. A larger third fund, compared to its first US$ 20 million and second US$ 60 million fund, as well as the add-on fund helps the VC firm stay competitive and avoid dilution of its shareholding in its best companies where valuations inch towards the billion-dollar mark, in an environment where investors say they are seeing better quality entrepreneurs than ever before.

For a small fund, it’s imperative to get into founders and ideas which can become incredibly large but are yet not mainstream. Blume gets paid to be ahead of the curve than larger (Series) A players doing seed programmes, not to be behind them or riding the same wave,” he said.

We can’t win with US$ 1-2 million of capital—so, we have to have as deep a conviction of the space as the founders pitching radically new ideas and having capacity to build teams to execute for that scale,” Mr Reddy added.

Over the last 12-18 months, more domestic VCs have increasingly resorted to add-on funds for the same reason.

India Quotient, Kae Capital, 3one4 Capital and DSG Consumer Partners have all raised add-on funds worth a combined Rs 500 crore (US$ 71.54 million).

Earlier, on 19 February it was reported that VC fund Iron Pillar also plans to raise a US$ 30 million add-on fund to invest in existing portfolio companies such as online meat and fish grocer FreshToHome and phone service management firm Servify.

Haier launches 83 products, some AI- and IoT-powered

24.02.2020

Home appliances and consumer electronics brand Haier has launched 83 products in different categories, including some powered by Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Thing solutions.

The home appliances industry has entered the era of IoT and new technologies with customers looking for products that provide a connected and a holistic new age experience,” said Mr Eric Braganza, President of Haier Appliances India.

These new range consist of refrigerators, air-conditioners, washing machines and LED TVs.

The company expects to witness a high growth in momentum in different categories with the expansion of its product portfolio to smart home solutions. The company has a network of around 20,000 dealers and 539 service centres covering 19,000 pin codes across the country.

The company introduced its AI-enabled Smart TVs and smart refrigerators and Wi-Fi-enabled washing machines along with other products.

Targeting the upcoming summer season, Haier has lined up 29 new air conditioners to cater to diverse needs of its customers.

Beginning of a new chapter in India-US ties: PM Modi

25.02.2020

Prime Minister of India, Mr Narendra Modi said that US President Mr Donald Trump’s maiden visit to India marks the start of a new chapter in India-US ties.

Mr Modi, who welcomed the US President and first lady Ms Melania Trump in a packed stadium of more than 100,000 people for the ‘Namaste Trump’ event in Ahmedabad, spoke about the efforts made by the Trump administration to bring the two countries closer.

This visit by President Trump will start a new chapter in the relations between India and America, which will bring progress and prosperity to the people of the two countries. India-US relations are no longer just another partnership. It is a far greater and closer relationship,” he said.

This two-day state visit comes ahead of President Trump’s re-election bid the US votes in November and just months after the prime minister’s “Howdy, Modi!” show in Texas last year. This visit also comes amid the intense trade talks between the two countries.

Mr Modi said he appreciated the fact that Trump and his family had flown down all the way to Ahmedabad to start their India journey. Trump’s visit was history being repeated, he said in reference to the Howdy, Modi! event.

The prime minister lauded India-US relations and said unity and vibrancy in diversity form the basis for the strong ties. The focus on the similar ideas and values that the two countries share, the spirit of enterprise and innovation and shared opportunities, challenges, hopes and aspirations. According to Mr Modi, the US is the land of the free and India considers the whole world to be one family. India is proud of the Statue of Liberty while the other country is proud of the world’s tallest statue, Sardar Patel’s Statue of Unity. “Not just in the Indo-Pacific region, India can play a strong role in peace, progress and security of the entire world. I believe President Trump’s visit in the beginning of this new decade is a huge opportunity for us,” Mr Modi said. He further added that the US is a strategic partner for growth while the country is India’s largest trading partner. He added that the India has largest number of war games with the US as well as the most exhaustive research and development partnership that India enjoys is also with it.

Mr Modi said amid the loud cheers in the stadium, that India is not only making a world record in the number of satellites being sent from the country but also creating a world record of the fastest financial inclusion programme. The country is maintaining pace in setting up not just the world’s largest cricket stadium in Motera but also managing to run the biggest global health insurance scheme, Ayushmann Bharat, he said. The prime minister added that the 1.3 billion Indians are creating a new India, with the US its strategic partner in this growth story in areas including IT, defence, health, and energy.

In the new decade of this 21st century, the new India is also bringing many opportunities for resurgent America. There is a lot to gain in development aspects for both the countries. Expansion in manufacturing and infrastructure will bring new avenues for America. India’s digital economy will provide good space for US to invest in India,” he said.

Mr Modi added that India and the US are natural partners which can work together toward digital cooperation, economic partnership and in maintaining peace and security by taking a strong stand against terrorism.

Shri Dharmendra Pradhan Rolls Out Red Carpet for Japanese Steel Industry

25.02.2020

Union Minister for Steel and Petroleum & Natural Gas Shri Dharmendra Pradhan participated in a workshop on ‘Enabling Procedures for increase of steel usage for the growth of Economy’ here today. The aim of the workshop was to hold deliberations among key stakeholders to further increase the steel usage in sectors such as construction & infrastructure for the growth of economy. The workshop is organised by Ministry of Steel in collaboration with Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Govt. of Japan and the Association for Overseas Technical Cooperation and Sustainable Partnerships of Japan. His Excellency, the Ambassador of Japan to India Mr Satoshi Suzuki also participated in the workshop.

Addressing the inaugural session, Shri Pradhan focussed on collaborations of India and Japan to increase steel usage. Highlighting the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of 5 trillion dollar economy, he said that various policy reforms and Government’s initiatives like Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, Har Ghar Jal Yojana, unprecedented speed of construction in railways and roads, creation of a gas based economy, creation of new agri-storage facilities and many others are set to drive steel demand growth.

Speaking about Indian steel sector, the minister said that with a large market, policy reforms, abundance of raw material, India is one of the most attractive global investment destinations in steel sector. Lauding Japan’s technological competence, he invited the Japanese industry to invest in India and get into technology transfer partnerships in order to tap the opportunities arising out of growing steel demand and generate employment opportunities in the country.

Shri Pradhan also stated that in the next 20 years, India is set to be the largest energy market in the world. US$ 60 billion is being invested in creation of energy infrastructure in the country. Addition of about 16,000 kms of gas pipelines will further give boost to steel demand.

Speaking on the occasion, the Minister of State for Steel Shri Faggan Singh Kulaste said that steel is crucial to the development of any modern economy and is considered to be the backbone of industrial development. He mentioned about the usage of steel in developing disaster resilient structures. He further stated that the ministry is coordinating with other ministries to increase steel usage in the Government initiatives. Shri Kulaste alsosaid that such workshops will help to generate employment opportunities across the sector.

The workshop witnessed participation from policy makers, bureaucrats, steel PSUs, integrated steel producers, secondary steel producers, infrastructure developers, equipment manufacturers, user organizations & associations, academicians, secondary steel associations, steel consultants, among others.

India explores opportunities for co-production and collaborations in films with International counterparts

25.02.2020

Members of the Indian delegation including Joint Secretary (Films), Ministry of I&B, Smt TCA Kalyani; Addl. DG, Directorate of Film Festivals, Shri Chaitanya Prasad met representatives of European Film Market (EFM). The delegation and EFM representatives held elaborate discussions on the significance of 51st IFFI. The discussions included recent policy initiatives of Government of India to ensure ‘Ease of Filming’ including setting up of a single window system- Film Facilitation Office- and its web portal www.ffo.gov.in for online application for shooting films in India.

Later in the day the Indian Delegation met Mr Matthijis Wouter Knol, Director European Film Market (EFM). Mr Knol said that the stakeholders of EFM would actively consider participating in the 51st IFFI. He also underlined that the participation would pave a way forward for a more proactive interaction between the Indian stakeholders and the industry with the organizers of Berlinale in future. He expressed hope that there will be more active participation from the Indian Government and other stakeholders in the future editions of Berlinale.

The delegation also met heads of prominent Festival and Film Commissions including Ms Veronique Encrenaz, Head of MIFA, Festival International Du Film D’Animation D’Annecy (CITIA); Ms Emma Boa, Senior Projects Manager, Edinburgh International Film Festival; Mr Elliot Grove, Founder, Raindance Film Festival; Ms Irina Safletea, DG Connect, Creative Europe Media, Mr Marco Muller, Producer, among others.

The representatives from Raindance and Edinburgh Film Festivals talked about opportunities of future collaboration with IFFI 2020 and discussed scope of working together to showcase India at their prominent festivals. Ms Encrenaz, Head of MIFA (CITIA) offered her participation and support for IFFI 2020. The representatives from Creative Europe Media expressed their interest to work with India and discussed taking up progressive developments regarding the India- European Co-production treaties, incentives schemes, etc.

Taking forward deliberations on the co-production between India & Germany, the successful story of partnership between Mr Sunil Doshi’s Alliance Media and Pluto Film, Germany, for distribution and production of the film “The Bra”, was noted. The internationally acclaimed film, directed by Veit Helmer, had also featured in IFFI 2018.

We are very excited to have found an exciting partner in Alliance Media led by Mr Sunil Doshi, to distribute and adapt our acclaimed film – The Bra. We are looking forward to its adaptions, keeping in mind the socio-cultural fabric of India” said Pluto Films, Germany.

Ministry of I&B in collaboration with Confederation of Indian Industry, is participating in the Berlin International Film Festival 2020 being held from 20th February 2020 in Berlin, Germany. An India Pavilion has been set-up at the Festival to act as a platform to popularize Indian Cinema in overseas market and facilitate new business opportunities.

KEC International acquires automated transmission tower manufacturing facility in Dubai

25.02.2020

KEC International Ltd, through its wholly owned subsidiary KEC Towers LLC, has acquired an automated transmission tower manufacturing facility with a capacity of 50,000 tonne per annum in mainland Dubai. Although, the financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

According to the company’s statement, acquisition was through an auction sale conducted by Emirates Auction Authority.

This facility will help us in expanding our business at a time when we are clearly witnessing resurgence of tendering activity in Middle East and North Africa. We believe this acquisition to be value accretive to our stakeholders,” KEC International Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Mr Vimal Kejriwal said.

A strategic foothold is expected through this acquisition that will help the company to serve the markets with high growth potential in Middle East and Africa. This will also enable the company to leverage its technical know-how to develop effective EPC solutions and connect more easily with customers, it added.

KEC global manufacturing footprints are further expanded through this acquisition providing further strengthens to KEC’s position as a key player in the infrastructure space. Mow, KEC has six facilities, manufacturing transmission towers, railway and solar structures, monopoles and hardware spread across India, the UAE, Brazil and Mexico with a total manufacturing capacity of up to 4,22,200 tonne per annum after the acquisition.

Fintech platform BharatPe raises US$ 75 million in Series-C funding round

25.02.2020

BharatPe, New-Delhi based fintech platform, has raised US$ 75 million in a Series-C funding round, according to the TechCrunch report.

The report added, the funding round of the start-up, which was co-founded by Mr Ashneer Grover and Mr Shashvat Nakrani in 2018, was led by New York-headquartered hedge fund Coatue Management and existing investor Ribbit Capital.

The other participants present in the round were VC firm Amplo and existing investors Steadview Capital and Insight Partners. The start-up is now valued at over US$ 400 million with the latest funding round and has raised US$ 140 million so far, the report said.

The platform offers help to the offline merchants in managing the digital payments. The fresh capital will be utilised to facilitate working capital for its merchant partners.

BharatPe intends to provide fund to its new merchants by helping them secure US$ 500 for a period of three months from the platform. The amount that can be secured by merchants has been increased to US$ 2,000 over the time.

So far, the start-up has a user base of over 30 lakh merchants across 30 Indian cities and targets to double the number by March 2021, the report said.

In January, BharatPe had announced its plans to hire over 75 engineers and project managers in 2020 to expand its technology team.

BharatPe has moved all of its communication with merchants to WhatsApp since February 1, in order to counter other similar platforms. The fintech platform announced plans to transfer all its communication related to transaction notifications, OTPs, day-end balances and loan balances to its WhatsApp contact number.

According to Mr Grover, the move towards WhatsApp was a strategic plan for BharatPe, as all other players, such as PayTM, PhonePe and GooglePay, will never move to WhatsApp.

Documents concluded during the State Visit of President Donald J. Trump of the USA

26.02.2020

SI. No. Title Nodal Entity on the India side Nodal Entity on the US side
1 Memorandum of Understanding on Mental Health Department of Health and Family Welfare of the Government of the Republic of India Department of Health and Human Services of the Government of the United States of America.
2 Memorandum of Understanding on the Safety of Medical Products Central Drugs Standard Control Organization within the Directorate General of Health Services of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of the Republic of India Food and Drug Administration of the Department of Health and Human Services of the United States of America.
3 Letter of Cooperation Indian Oil Corporation Limited and ExxonMobil India LNG Limited Chart Industries Inc.

India to purchase over US$ 3 billion defence equipment from US: Donald Trump

26.02.2020

India will buy defence equipment worth more than US$ 3 billion from the United States, President Mr Donald Trump said, on the second day of his two-day visit to the South Asian nation.

United States was working productively with Pakistan to tackle terrorism on its soil, said Mr Trump at a joint press conference with Indian Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi in capital New Delhi.

Though, the trade deal between New Delhi and Washington is yet to be signed, but the two countries would begin talks to strike a comprehensive agreement, added Mr Trump and Mr Modi.

The discussion was also made between the two regarding the importance of a secure 5G telecoms network in India, ahead of a planned airwaves auction by the country.

The United States has banned Huawei, arguing the use of its kit creates the potential for espionage by China, though this was denied by Huawei and Beijing but India, where telecoms companies have long used network gear from the Chinese firm, is yet to make a call.

EESL successfully completes a decade of helping India become energy efficient; Power Minister R.K. Singh announces installation of 10 lakh Smart Meters across India

26.02.2020

India will buy defence equipment worth more than US$ 3 billion from the United States, President Mr Donald Trump said, on the second day of his two-day visit to the South Asian nation.

United States was working productively with Pakistan to tackle terrorism on its soil, said Mr Trump at a joint press conference with Indian Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi in capital New Delhi.

Though, the trade deal between New Delhi and Washington is yet to be signed, but the two countries would begin talks to strike a comprehensive agreement, added Mr Trump and Mr Modi.

The discussion was also made between the two regarding the importance of a secure 5G telecoms network in India, ahead of a planned airwaves auction by the country.

The United States has banned Huawei, arguing the use of its kit creates the potential for espionage by China, though this was denied by Huawei and Beijing but India, where telecoms companies have long used network gear from the Chinese firm, is yet to make a call.

Surf Excels as HUL’s top brand, nets over Rs 5,000 crore in sales

26.02.2020

Surf Excel became the first Hindustan Unilever brand to top the mark by posting more than Rs 5,000 crore (US$ 715.41 million) in annual sales last year. This was mainly on the back of the company’s increased focus on premium products in the detergent market.

Surf was launched around 60 years ago and recorded sales of Rs 5,375 crore (US$ 769.07 million) in the past year with a market share of 17.9 per cent, according to the industry executives citing Nielsen data. It accounted for around 14 per cent of the company’s net revenue and 45 per cent of its laundry segment sales. Though, no respond was provided by Nielsen.

In 2018, the laundry portfolio was outshined by Surf with the mass market Wheel brand which dominate the HUL’s portfolio. According to a spokesperson, the company’s efforts towards premiumisation of the segment through liquid detergents and fabric conditioners have yielded a strong result.

The spokesperson added, “HUL’s laundry category continues its growth momentum with performance driven by a relentless focus on core and market development initiatives”. In 1985, Ahmedabad-based Nirma took over Surf as the market leader in detergent category, leading to the launch of lower-priced Wheel by Surf to take on the new rival.

Wheel captured the top spot back for HUL and managed to hold the position between the early1990s till 2012, when Kanpur-based RSPL’s Ghari brand edged it to be the market leader. The gap between the two is narrow. The company added 1.8 percentage points over the past two years in market share, whereas Ghari’s share has remained unchanged at 19.2 per cent with annual sales of Rs 5,756 crore (US$ 823.58 million) in 2019.

According to a top RSPL, the company is aiming to push growth and expand market share. “We are launching machine wash variants, entering the modern trade channel and expanding geographical reach to generate higher sales growth this year,” said President Mr Sushil Kumar Bajpai. He added that though the brand has minor share in modern trade but is by far the leader in general trade.

HUL’s overall share in India’s laundry care market stood at 39.1 per cent of worth Rs 29,959 crore (US$ 4.29 billion) as company also owns Rin and Sunlight. HUL has been gradually launching higher priced variants and formats that led to the growth in the category to nearly 11 per cent for the company last year, compared with six per cent in 2018. As a result, HUL’s share in the premium laundry market is more than 77 per cent, compared with 22 per cent in the mass segment and 44 per cent in the mid-priced.

The company introduced another premium product last year, which was Love & Care focused for special fashion fabrics. As the penetration of washing machines has increased and lower-priced detergent powders, laundry care consumers are shifting from bar detergents to powder detergents, a factor triggering growth in the category.

Tata Consumer to soon launch rice flour, poha, other new products

26.02.2020

Tata Consumer Products Ltd (TCPL) is planning to introduce new products in the household segment in 12-18 months.

TPCL’s innovation centre in Pune is working on developing around 30 new products which includes rice flour and poha, said Mr Amit Chincholikar, Global Chief Human Resource Officer, TCPL.

He added that the target is to expand its reach to more households with multiple product categories so as to ensure their availability both in modern trade outlets and at kirana stores in rural areas.

The consumer in India is more health conscious now and there is a need to cater to their tastes, said Mr Chincholikar, citing the growing popularity of unpolished dal, which is more nutritious than the polished version.

Mr Chincholikar was present at an international conference on natural dyes at Munnar organised by Aranya Natural, Shrishti Trust supported by TCPL and Tata Trust.

TCPL, which recently became a combined entity of four verticals by adding food to its existing ones of beverages, water and international business, is eyeing an 8 per cent growth this year. The company is aiming to grow at a much faster pace than the industry in the coming year, he said, adding that the FMCG segment has been impacted significantly by the slowdown.

We are fairly bullish. We believe we have the right set of products, the brand value of Tata and a strong distribution network,” he said. The company is looking at utilising its strong distribution network to maintain its growth rate in FY21, he added.

With a 20 per cent market share in the tea segment, TCPL is focussing more on speciality and high-quality premium products, said Mr Chincholikar. “We have the advantage that our tea is available across all price segments,” he added.

The company recently launched glass bottles under the Himalayan brand of water, he further said. TCPL as a combined entity has a turnover of Rs 9,300 crore (US$ 1.33 billion).

Shri Kiren Rijiju inaugurates 1st Khelo India Winter Games in Leh, Ladakh

27.02.2020

The Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports (I/c), Shri Kiren Rijiju has inaugurated the first-ever Khelo India Winter Games in the Union Territory of Ladakh at Leh, Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir today. The event, which is first of its kind in India, is being organised to promote winters ports in India and to popularise these games among the youth of the country.

Speaking at the launch ceremony of Khelo India Winter Games, Shri Kiren Rijiju said, “to channelize 20 percent share of youth energy of the world from India, the government is conducting University Games, Youth Games and Winter Games for the first time under the Khelo India programme. So far 15 thousand students have been identified and under training in various camps. From March 7, J & K Winter games will be conducted in Gulmarg, and I assure increase in funds for improving the standards and participation in the Winter Games.”

The second leg of the Khelo India Winter Games will be held at Kongdori, Gulmarg from 7th till 11th March and will have participants competing in Alpine Skiing, Cross Country Skiing, Snow Boarding and Snow Shoeing events.

A total of three winter sporting competitions are being held during the Ladakh leg of Khelo India Winter Games, these are – Open Ice Hockey Championship, Figure Skating, Speed Skating. These events will have over 1700 athletes from Leh and Kargil participating during the competition which would be held at Block, District and UT levels during these games.

CCEA approves Creation of National Technical Textiles Mission

27.02.2020

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has given its approval to set up a National Technical Textiles Mission with a total outlay of Rs 1,480 crore (US$ 211.76 million), with a view to position the country as a global leader in Technical Textiles. The Mission would have a four year implementation period from FY 2020-21 to 2023-24.

Technical Textiles are futuristic and nice segment of textiles, which are used for various applications ranging from agriculture, roads, railway tracks, sportswear, health on one end to bullet proof jacket, fireproof jackets, high altitude combat gear and space applications on other end of spectrum.

  • The Mission will have four components:
  • 1. Component -l (Research, Innovation and Development) with outlay of Rs 1000 crore (US$ 143.08 million). This component will promote both (i) fundamental research at fibre level aiming at path breaking technological products in Carbon Fibre, Aramid Fibre, Nylon Fibre, and Composites and (ii) application based research in geo-textiles, agro-textiles, medical textiles, mobile textiles and sports textiles and development of bio­degradable technical textiles.

The fundamental research activities will be based on ‘pooled resource’ method and will be conducted in various Centre for Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) laboratories, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and other scientific/industrial/academic laboratories of repute. Application based research will be conducted in CSIR, IIT, Research Design & Standards Organisation (RDSO) of Indian Railways, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO), National Aeronautical Laboratory (NAL), Indian Road Research Institute (IRRI) and other such reputed laboratories.

  • 2. Component -II (Promotion and Market Development)

Indian Technical Textiles segment is estimated at US$ 16 Billion which is approximately 6 per cent of the US$ 250 billion global technical textiles market. The penetration level of technical textiles is low in India varying between 5-10 per cent against the level of 30-70 per cent in developed countries. The Mission will aim at average growth rate of 15-20 per cent per annum taking the level of domestic market size to US$ 40-50 billion by the year 2024; through market development, market promotion, international technical collaborations, investment promotions and ‘Make in India’ initiatives.

  • 3. Component – III (Export Promotion)

The component aims at export promotion of technical textiles enhancing from the current annual value of approximately Rs 14,000 crore (US$ 2 billion) to Rs 20,000 crore (US$ 2.86 billion) by 2021-22 and ensuring 10 per cent average growth in exports per year up to 2023-24. An Export Promotion Council for Technical Textiles will be set up for effective coordination and promotion activities in the segment.

  • 4. Component- IV (Education, Training, Skill Development)

Education, skill development and adequacy of human resources in the country is not adequate to meet the technologically challenging and fast-growing technical textiles segment. The Mission will promote technical education at higher engineering and technology levels related to technical textiles and its application areas covering engineering, medical, agriculture, aquaculture and dairy segments. Skill development will be promoted, and adequate pool of highly skilled manpower resources will be created for meeting the need of relatively sophisticated technical textiles manufacturing units.

  • The Mission will focus on usage of technical textiles in various flagship missions, programmes of the country including strategic sectors. The use of technical textiles in agriculture, aquaculture, dairy, poultry, etc. Jal Jivan Mission; Swachch Bharat Mission; Ayushman Bharat will bring an overall improvement in cost economy, water and soil conservation, better agricultural productivity and higher income to farmers per acre of land holding in addition to promotion of manufacturing and exports activities in India. The use of geo-textiles in highways, railways and ports will result in robust infrastructure, reduced maintenance cost and higher life cycle of the infrastructure assets.
  • Promotion of innovation amongst young engineering /technology/ science standards and graduates will be taken up by the Mission; along with creation of innovation and incubation centres and promotion of ‘start-up’ and Ventures’. The research output will be reposited with a ‘Trust with the Government for easy and assessable proliferation of the knowledge thus gained through research innovation and development activities.
  • A sub-component of the research will focus on development of biodegradable technical textiles materials, particularly for agro-textiles, geo-textiles and medical textiles. It will also develop suitable equipment for environmentally sustainable disposal of used technical textiles, with emphasis on safe disposal of medical and hygiene wastes.
  • There is another important sub-component in the research activity aiming at development of indigenous machineries and process equipment for technical textiles, in order to promote ‘Make in India’ and enable competitiveness of the industry by way of reduced capital costs.
  • A Mission Directorate in the Ministry of Textiles headed by an eminent expert in the related field will be made operational. The Mission Directorate will not have any permanent employment and there will be no creation of building infrastructure for the Mission purpose. The Mission will move into sunset phase after four years period.

Background of Technical Textiles:

  • Technical textiles are textiles materials and products manufactured primarily for technical performance and functional properties rather than aesthetic characteristics. Technical Textiles products are divided into 12 broad categories (Agrotech, Buildtech, Clothtech, Geotech, Hometech, Indutech, Mobiltech, Meditech, Protech, Sportstech, Oekotech, Packtech) depending upon their application areas.
  • India shares nearly 6 per cent of world market size of US$ 250 billion. However, the annual average growth of the segment is 12 per cent, as compared to 4 per cent world average growth.
  • Penetration level of technical textiles is low in India at 5-10 per cent, against 30-70 per cent in advanced countries. The Mission aims at improving penetration level of technical textiles in the country.

EESL plans to set up 1,500-MW decentralised solar power plants by 2021

27.02.2020

State-owned Energy Efficient Services Ltd (EESL) has forayed into solar power generation and intends to set up 1,500 MW of decentralised solar power plants across the country by the end of 2020-21, its managing director, Mr Saurabh Kumar said.

The Maharashtra government had given mandate for 800 mw of solar power, out of which EESL has already operationalised 100 MW whereas EESL was given order to set up 113 MW of solar distributed generation projects in Rajasthan, Mr Kumar added.

In Maharashtra, EESL is supplying electricity at Rs 3.10 (US$ 0.04) per unit to agriculture feeders, with land for the project being provided by the state while in Rajasthan, the company will supply power at Rs 3.90 (US$ 0.055) per unit along with land acquisition cost, he said.

Though, the company plans not to set up solar capacity of more than 10 MW at one location, said Mr Kumar, further adding that the capacity of these solar power plants in each substation ranges from 0.5 MW to 10 MW.

According to Mr Kumar, the decentralised solar plants will meet the requirements of farmers connected to the agriculture feeder. He said EESL has installed 1.1 million smart meters in New Delhi Municipal Corp area, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Bihar. EESL has set a target of installing 250 million smart meters over the next few years.

Toyota Kirloskar Motor launches self-charging hybrid electric vehicle Vellfire

27.02.2020

Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM) launched Vellfire, the new luxurious self-charging hybrid electric multi-purpose vehicle in India.

Globally, more than 6,00,000 units have been sold by the company so far and has introduced Vellfire in CBU form, priced at Rs 79.5 lakh (US$ 0.11 million) ex-showroom.

The Vellfire ensure a low fuel consumption and carbon footprint and offers a powerful driving experience, thanks to it being a strong hybrid vehicle.

Studies have shown that strong hybrid vehicles can run 40 per cent of the distance at 60 per cent of the time on electric or zero emission mode with the engine off.

The 2.5-litre 4-cylinder gasoline hybrid engine provide 86 kW (115 BHP) power and a maximum torque of 198 Nm @2800-4000 rpm. The engine, which is coupled with two electric motors and a hybrid battery, controls emissions while delivering a delightful driving experience.

The care offers a spacious interior that assures one of lounge-class travel. Moreover, a new suspension has been adopted for the rear to achieve a luxurious ride, while maintaining stability.

The hybrid engine synergy contributes to a mileage of 16.35 km/l under standard test conditions. The Vellfire comes packed with 17-speaker JBL premium audio, power adjustable seats with Ottoman function, 16-colors ambient light and super long seat sliding function.

Mr Vikram Kirloskar, Vice-Chairman, Toyota Kirloskar Motor said, “The automotive industry in India is undergoing a profound technology-driven transformation with innovation and creativity defining the overall customer experience. As industry leaders, it is imperative for us to challenge ourselves and provide customers with new breakthroughs that not only promise magnificence and comfort, but also contribute to the well-being of the ecosystem.”

TKM has environmentally-sustainable solutions at the heart of all our business operations and every single vehicle that is manufactured in the plant. Along the lines, our latest offering New Toyota Vellfire too embodies our commitment to offering “Ever-Better Cars with Ever-Better Technology for an Ever-Better Environment,” he said.

The company’s Managing Director Mr Masakazu Yoshimura said, “Globally, we have a caravan of luxury offerings, and the launch of Toyota Vellfire in India marks a significant moment in our journey. Today’s announcement is a significant step in our mid-to-long term plan to achieve zero CO2 challenge.”

Mr Naveen Soni, Senior Vice-President, said, “The Toyota Vellfire offers a perfect blend of superior craftsmanship and comfort while delivering phenomenal fuel efficiency with its self-charging hybrid electric technology.”

Mr Soni added that the Vellfire is well-aligned with Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050, which encourages us to move towards a society where people, cars and nature can coexist in harmony.

The customer feedback has been positive so far, thus far, the first three months of shipments of 180 CBU imported units have all been sold out.

Mr Soni said, “We are not in numbers game but are looking to consolidate our India business.”

On the alliance with Suzuki Motor, Mr Soni said, “This is a mutually-beneficial association and we see immense scope for engagements through the alliance.”

Union HRD Minister launches UKIERI-UGC Higher Education Leadership Development Programme for Administrators in New Delhi

27.02.2020

The Union Minister for Human Resource Development, Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ launched‘ Higher Education Leadership Development Programme for Administrator’– a joint initiative of UGC and British Council under the auspices of UK India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI), which aims to deliver a leadership development programme for middle and senior level administrative functionaries in Indian Universities. Shri Amit Khare, Secretary, MHRD; Prof D.P. Singh, Chairman, UGC; Ms Barbara Wickham OBE, Director, British Council India and other officials from the Ministry of Human Resource Development, University Grants Commission and British Council were present during the launch of the programme.

Speaking on the occasion Shri Pokhriyal said that this is a unique programme which will address the critical aspect of enhancing leadership capacity in the mid and senior level functionaries of Indian Universities. He said that the programme will be a step towards institutional development in line with our Governments’ commitment to improve the quality of education being imparted in our Universities. He added that the programme will lead to developing a more global outlook and promote learning for inclusive and internationally connected higher education systems that support the economic and social growth in UK and India. The Minister also said that the programme will serve as a stimulant for the functionaries to improve their performance and capabilities which consequently shall enhance institutional profile and reputation of Universities in India.

The main objective of the programme is to train the senior and middle level academic administrators to enable them to bring about systemic changes with renewed approaches, capacity, tools and skill in Universities in India. This “Higher Education Leadership Development Programme for Administrators” ensures effectiveness on the part of the administrative functionaries of the Universities. This programme includes two workshops conducted by UK trainers, which will train about 300 academic administrators in the level of Registrar and Joint/Deputy/Assistant Registrar to enable them to bring about professional transformation in the higher education institutions. Further to make the programme sustainable 30 potential future leadership development programme trainers from among the 300 participants will be chosen and will be given additional training to train others.

The University Grants Commission (UGC) will conduct this programme in collaboration with Advance HE as the training partner with globally recognized institutional expertise and leadership excellence from the UK, which is being enabled by the British Council in India.

MoUs Exchanged during the State Visit of President of Myanmar

28.02.2020

S.No

MoU/Agreement

Signatory (India)

Signatory (Myanmar)

Exchange

1

MoU on Cooperation for Prevention of Trafficking in Persons; Rescue, Recovery, Repatriation and Re-Integration of Victims of Trafficking

HE Mr Saurabh Kumar; Ambassador of India to Myanmar

HE Mr Moe Kyaw Aung
Ambassador of Myanmar to India

Same as signatories

2

Agreement between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar regarding Indian Grant Assistance for Implementation of Quick Impact Projects (QIP)

HE Mr Saurabh Kumar; Ambassador of India to Myanmar

HE Mr Moe Kyaw Aung
Ambassador of Myanmar to India

Same as signatories

3

Project Agreement between Rakhine State Government and Embassy of India, Yangon for construction of incinerator in Mrauk Oo township hospital, construction of seed storage houses and water supply systems in Gwa township under Rakhine State Development Programme

HE Mr Saurabh Kumar; Ambassador of India to Myanmar

HE Mr Moe Kyaw Aung
Ambassador of Myanmar to India

Same as signatories

4

Project Agreement between Rakhine State Government and Embassy of India, Yangon for distribution of electricity by solar power in five townships of Rakhine State under Rakhine State Development Program

HE Mr Saurabh Kumar; Ambassador of India to Myanmar

HE Mr Moe Kyaw Aung
Ambassador of Myanmar to India

Same as signatories

5

Project Agreement between Rakhine State Government and Embassy of India, Yangon for construction of Kyawlyaung- Ohlphyu road, construction of Kyaung Taung Kyaw Paung road in Buthedaung Township under Rakhine State Development Program

HE Mr Saurabh Kumar; Ambassador of India to Myanmar

HE Mr Moe Kyaw Aung Ambassador of Myanmar to India

Same as signatories

6

Project Agreement Between Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement and Embassy of India, Yangon for construction of pre-schools under Rakhine State Development Programme

HE Mr Saurabh Kumar; Ambassador of India to Myanmar

HE Mr Moe Kyaw Aung
Ambassador of Myanmar to India

Same as signatories

7

MoU for Cooperation on Combating Timber Trafficking, and Conservation of Tigers and other Wildlife

HE Mr Saurabh Kumar; Ambassador of India to Myanmar

HE Mr Moe Kyaw Aung
Ambassador of Myanmar to India

Same as signatories

8

MoU between India (MoPNG) and Myanmar (Ministry of Electricity & Energy) for cooperation in the field of petroleum products

Mr Sunil Kumar
Joint Secretary
Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas
Republic of India

Mr U Than Zaw
Director General, Oil & Gas Planning Department, Ministry of Electricity & Energy

Ambassador of India to Myanmar Mr Saurabh Kumar and Ambassador of Myanmar to India Mr Moe Kyaw Aung

9

MoU between the Ministry of Communications of the Republic of India and the Ministry of Transport & Communications of Myanmar on cooperation in the field of communication

Mr Anshu Prakash, Secretary, Department of Telecommunications, Ministry of Communications

H.E Mr Moe Kyaw Aung, Ambassador of Myanmar

Same as signatories

 

Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services launch New Trio of Products for marine-based users

28.02.2020

The Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), Hyderabad has launched a trio of products to better cater to its diverse users. INCOIS provides a number of free services for users in the marine realm. The institute is an autonomous organisation under the Ministry of Earth Sciences. INCOIS prioritises requests for specific services from its diverse user community that ranges right from fishermen to offshore oil exploration industries.

One of these new products is the Small Vessel Advisory and Forecast Services System (SVAS), to improve operations on the numerous small marine vessels, particularly fishing vessels that ply the coastal waters of India.

The Swell Surge Forecast System was also launched, which will provide forewarnings for the coastal population of India’s vast shoreline, which experiences a slew of damages caused by the swell waves that actually originate from the distant southern Indian Ocean.

The final new product in this trio is the Algal Bloom Information Service (ABIS), providing timely information on harmful algal blooms, which are detrimental to coastal fisheries and also tend to induce respiratory problems within the coastal population from time to time.   

All three products focus on significantly reducing damage and losses for service/product users and the coastal population. Following are the details of each product:

Small Vessel Advisory and Forecast Services System (SVAS):   The Small Vessel Advisory and Forecast Services System (SVA) is an innovative impact-based advisory and forecast service system for small vessels operating in Indian coastal waters. The SVA system warns users about potential zones where vessel overturning can take place, ten days in advance. The advisories are valid for small vessels of beam width up to 7 m. This limit covers the entire range of beam widths of the fishing vessels used in all the 9 coastal states and union territories of India.   The warning system is based on the ‘Boat Safety Index’ (BSI) derived from wave model forecast outputs such as significant wave height, wave steepness, directional spread and the rapid development of wind at sea which is boat specific.    

Swell Surge Forecast System: Swell surge forecast system is an innovative system designed for the prediction of Kallakkadal/Swell Surge that occurs along the Indian coast, particularly the west coast. Kallakadal/Swell surge are flash-flood events that take place without any noticeable advance change in local winds or any other apparent signature in the coastal environment. Hence the local population remains totally unaware of these flooding events until they actually occur. Such events are intermittent throughout the year. Kallakkadal is a colloquial term used by Kerala fishermen to refer to the freaky flooding episodes and in 2012 UNESCO formally accepted this term for scientific use. During Kallakkadal events, the sea surges into the land and inundates vast areas. These events have attracted attention especially after the 2004 Tsunami in the Indian Ocean, since most people mistake Kallakkadal to be Tsunamis. Tsunami and Kallakkadal/Swell surge are two different types of waves with entirely separate causes or mechanisms. Kallakkadal are caused by meteorological conditions in the Southern Ocean, south of 30°S. A study by INCOIS scientists has revealed that specific meteorological conditions in the Southern Indian Ocean support the generation of long period swells. These swells once generated, travel northward and reach the Indian coasts in 3-5 days’ time, creating havoc in the coastal areas.  The system will now predict Kallakkadal and warnings will be given to concerned authorities at least 2-3 days in advance, which will help the local authorities for contingency plans and to reduce damage.

Algal Bloom Information Service (ABIS): The increasing frequency of algal blooms is a major concern due to its ill effects on fishery, marine life and water quality. INCOIS has developed a service for “Detection and Monitoring of Bloom in the Indian Seas”. The target users are fishermen, marine fishery resource managers, researchers, ecologists and environmentalists. The service also complements INCOIS’ marine fishing advisories i.e. Potential Fishing Zone advisories. INCOIS-ABIS will provide near-real time information on spatio-temporal occurrence and spread of phytoplankton blooms over the North Indian Ocean. Accordingly, relevant data retrieved from satellites i.e. Sea Surface Temperature , chlorophyll-a, Algal Bloom Index – chlorophyll, rolling chlorophyll anomaly, rolling sea surface temperature anomaly, phytoplankton class/species, phytoplankton size class and a composite image delineating bloom and non-bloom regions will be disseminated daily through ABIS. In addition, four regions have been identified as bloom hotspots viz. a) North Eastern Arabian Sea b) coastal waters off Kerala c) Gulf of Mannar and d) coastal waters of Gopalpur.

Flipkart opens experience centre in Kolkata

28.02.2020

Walmart-owned e-commerce major Flipkart has set up a ‘Furniture Experience Center’ in Kolkata, marking its first offline presence in eastern India.

The centre has been opened in collaboration with Emami Realty at its township project and is spread across around 2,200 sq ft.

The aim is to lessen the gap between customers as they prefer for ‘touch and feel’ before buying furniture online. The experience centre will be showcasing Flipkart’s certified products at strategic locations across cities, the company said in a release.

There is home furniture available at the centre from 11 brands including @home by Nilkamal, Royal Oak, House of Pataudi and Perfect Homes.

This is in line with the increasing importance of the East as a market for Flipkart Furniture, said the release. Currently, furniture is among the fastest growing marketplaces in the country, with over 2 lakh products across various categories, providing delivery and selective installation across over 16,000 pin codes, it added. The segment is witnessing a growth of over 100 per cent year-on-year.

As per the industry reports, the Indian furniture industry is about US$ 17 billion in size, of which online accounts for just 3 per cent, growing at a CAGR of 80-85 per cent.

Mr Nishit Garg, Vice-President, Furniture and Books and General Merchandise at Flipkart, said, “This is part of our broader vision for the region, which will see further investments in the coming months.”