Weekly Indian Economic & Commercial Report (13th – 19th April 2020)

Source: IBEF News Letter

Medical cargo flights under Operation Lifeline UDAN transport 108 tons of essential supplies for the nation in a single day
13.04.2020

Over 214 Lifeline Udan flights have been operated by MoCA to transport essential medical cargo to remote parts of the country to support India’s war against COVID-19. 128 of these flights have been operated by Air India and Alliance Air. Cargo transported till date is around 373.23 tons. Smt Usha Padhee, JS, MoCA said that the aerial distance covered by Lifeline Udan flights till date is over 1,99,784 km. The Cargo load carried on 11th April 2020 was 108 Tons. The Ministry of Civil Aviation and the aviation industry is determined to support India’s war against COVID-19 by transporting medical air-cargo within India and abroad in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.

Special focus has been on the North East Region, island territories and the hill states. Air India and IAF collaborated primarily for J&K, Ladakh, North-East and other island regions. Bulk of the cargo comprises light-weight and voluminous products like masks, gloves and other consumables, that consume relatively larger storage space on the aircraft. Special permission has been taken to store cargo in the passenger seating area and overhead cabins, with due precautions.

Public information related to Lifeline Udan flights is updated daily on the portal at https://esahaj.gov.inlifeline_udan/public_info. that was developed by National Informatics Centre (NIC) and MoCA in a record span of three days to enable seamless coordination between various stakeholders.

Domestic Cargo Operators Spice Jet, Blue Dart and Indigo are operating cargo flights on a commercial basis. Spice jet operated 286 cargo flights covering a distance of 4,01,290 km and carrying 2334.51 tons of cargo. Out of these 87 were international cargo flights. Blue Dart operated 94 domestic cargo flights covering a distance of 92,075 km and carrying 1479 tons of cargo. Indigo has operated 25 cargo flights covering a distance of 21,906 km and carrying around 21.77 tons of cargo. This also includes medical supplies carried free of cost for the government.

Date No. of Flights Tonnage Kilometres
11-04-2020 9 40.36 7271

International cargo by Spicejet

Date No. of Flights Tonnage Kilometres
11-04-2020 11 103.35 21,100

Blue Dart cargo uplift

Date No. of Flights Tonnage Kilometres
11-04-2020 8 145 7,856

Indigo cargo uplift

Date No. of Flights Tonnage Kilometres
11-04-2020 6 15.66 4,829

(Note – Indigo’s Tonnage also includes Govt. cargo consisting of medical supplies carried on Free of Cost (FOC) basis.)

International Sector

An air-bridge has been established with effect from 4 April 2020 for transportation of pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and Covid-19 relief material. The date-wise quantity of medical cargo brought in as follows:

S No Date From Quantity (Tons)
1 04.4.2020 Shanghai 21
2 07.4.2020 Hong Kong 6
3 09.4.2020 Shanghai 22
4 10.4.2020 Shanghai 18
5 11.4.2020 Shanghai 18
Total 85

Within South Asia, Air India transported around 9 tons of supplies on 7 April 2020 and 4 tonnes on 8 April 2020 to Colombo. Air India will operate dedicated scheduled cargo flights to other countries for transfer of critical medical supplies, as per the requirement.

A number of regulatory initiatives have been announced, which inter alia include (i) permission to utilize the passenger cabin of aircraft for carriage of cargo subject to safety requirements; (ii) waiver of demurrage upto 50 per cent on import cargo at airports; and (iii) extension of validity of certificates of dangerous goods (e.g. chemicals used for medicines).

Robust Digital Payment Infrastructure Enables Prompt Transfer of Cash Payment under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package.
13.04.2020

A digital pipeline has been laid through linking of Jan-Dhan accounts as well as other accounts with the account holders’ mobile numbers and Aadhaar [Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile (JAM)]. This infrastructure pipeline is providing the necessary backbone for DBT flows, adoption of social security/pension schemes, etc. The Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) was launched in August, 2014 with an aim to provide bank accounts to unbanked persons.  Out of around 126 crore operative CASA accounts as on 20th March 2020, more than 38 crore have been opened under PMJDY.

  1. Enablement of interoperable, speedy and accurate transactions:
    1. The bank accounts are enabled to carry out both cash and digital transactions at bank branches, Business Correspondent (BC) points, merchant locations and on internet. Using biometric ID, highly cost-effective payments solutions like AePS/ Bhim Aadhaar Pay have been created both for banking services and for retail payments.
    2. The Digital Payment Ecosystem includes the following modes:
  1. AePS: helps in cash withdrawal by using Aadhaar authentication at branch/BC locations.
  2. Bhim Adhaar Pay:  enables payment to merchants using Aadhaar authentication
  3. RuPay debit cards: As on 31 March 2020, a total of 60.4 crore RuPay cards have been issued including 29 crore issued in PMJDY accounts. These cards could be used at ATMs for cash withdrawal and at Points of Sale (PoS)& e-commerce for digital payments.
  4. UPI: Immediate real time payment system which helps in both person to person (P2P) and Person to Merchant (P2M) transactions.
  5. BBPS: helps in payment of utility bills through internet & BC locations both by using cash & digital modes.

Using the digital payment infrastructure mentioned above, more than 30 crore poor people have received financial assistance of Rs 28,256 crore (US$ 4.04 billion) under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package announced by Union Finance Minister Smt Nirmala Sitharaman on 26th March to protect them from the impact of the lockdown due to COVID 19.

The following amounts have been released to beneficiaries till 10th April 2020, under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package.

Scheme No of beneficiaries Estimated amount (Rs crore) Estimated amount (US$ billion)
Support to PMJDY women account holders 19.86 crore

(97 per cent)

9930 1.42
Front-loaded payments to farmers under PM-KISAN 6.93 crore

(out of 8 crore)

13,855 1.98
Support to NSAP beneficiaries (widows, senior citizens and Divyang) 2.82 crore 1405 0.2
Support to Building and other construction workers 2.16 crore 3066 0.44
Total 31.77 crore 28,256 4.04

 

Union HRD Minister Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ launches a web-portal YUKTI (Young India Combating COVID with Knowledge, Technology and Innovation) in New Delhi
13.04.2020

Union Minister for HRD Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal “Nishank” has launched a web-portal YUKTI (Young India Combating COVID with Knowledge, Technology and Innovation) today in New Delhi. It’s a unique portal and dashboard to monitor and record the efforts and initiatives of MHRD. The portal intends to cover the different dimensions of COVID-19 challenges in a very holistic and comprehensive way.

Speaking on the occasion Union Minister said that in the wake of COVID-19 threat, our primary aim is to keep our academic community healthy, both physically & mentally and to enable a continuous high-quality learning environment for learners. The portal is an effort of HRD Ministry to achieve this goal in these difficult times.

Shri Pokhriyal informed that It will cover the various initiatives and efforts of the institutions in academics, research especially related to CoVID, social initiatives by institutions and the measures taken for the betterment of the total wellbeing of the students. The portal will cover both qualitative and quantitative parameters for effective delivery of services to the academic community at large. He said that portal will also allow various institutions to share their strategies for various challenges which are there because of the unprecedented situation of COVID-19 and other future initiatives. The HRD Minister hoped that this portal will give inputs for better planning and will enable MHRD to monitor effectively its activities for coming six months.

Shri Nishank said that the portal will also establish a two-way communication channel between the Ministry of HRD and the institutions so that the Ministry can provide the necessary support system to the institutions. He said that we are confident that this portal will help in critical issues related to student promotion policies, placements related challenges and physical and mental well-being of students in these challenging times. The web platform Yukti will epitomize its name and prove to be a great enabler in taking the research to the ultimate stakeholders, the citizens of our country, he added.

Teva ships India’s first consignment of hydroxychloroquine to the US
13.04.2020

The first consignment of the hydroxychloroquine from India, a drug used in the fight against Covid-19, has reached the United States.

The drug was exported by Israeli drugmaker Teva from its Goa plant (under Watson Pharma, a company it had acquired). “The company has exported 2.4 million tablets, and nine metric tonnes of the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) used to make the tablet,” said Mr Udaya Bhaskar, Director-General, Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council of India (Pharmexcil). Mr Bhaskar said he had spoken to company officials in Goa, who confirmed that it had reached the US.

This development comes a week after the Centre’s flip-flop on exporting the drug. Other companies which are ready to export the drug includes Ipca, Zydus Cadila and Laurus Labs.

Hydroxychloroquine is used in treatment of certain types of malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Earlier, US President Trump called it a “game changer” and asked India to released stocks of the drug it had ordered. As earlier India had stopped the export of drug, with no exceptions. Although the situation has changed a lot and the Centre opened the gates for a dozen-odd APIs, besides permitting limited export of hydroxichloroquine and paracetamol.

Both the international and domestic market has seen a rise in demand for hydroxychloroquine, although scientific voices call for its restrained use in healthcare workers handling Covid-19 patients or the family of the patient. The drug is concerned to have impact on the heart and the eyes. This, even as reports emerge of patients with lupus finding it difficult to get the drug from their chemist, something the government denies.

The value of the consignment is approx US$ 2 million.

ZEE invests Rs 522 crore in tech startup SugarBox
13.04.2020

Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL), a media and entertainment company, plans to invest RS 522 crore (US$ 74.69 million) in Margo Networks Pvt Ltd (SugarBox), a tech startup it bought three years ago.

SugarBox provides Internet services to users in areas where the network is bad or unavailable, ZEEL said. Users at important places of interest (PoIs) can access its servers over a local wi-fi network. PoIs consist of public transport, public places, rural areas, hotels, co-living spaces and malls where a large mass of users access a host of digital services. Around 80 per cent of shares in SugarBox are owned by Zee.

Using the SugarBox platform, a user can stream and download videos, listen to music, play games, learn on-the-go, pay bills and access other online services without a mobile data connection. ZEE added that the investment will be focused on strong synergies of the technology developed by SugarBox with the current businesses of the company with a potential to significantly augment digital content consumption.

“The unique technology will enable us to serve content to consumers across the nation, without being restricted by connectivity constraints. We are confident that this synergy will create a strong foundation for us, as we progress towards offering relevant content to consumers across platforms,” Mr Punit Goenka, managing director and chief executive officer, ZEEL, said.

PM addresses the nation for 4th time in 4 Weeks in India’s fight against COVID-19; Announces extension of lockdown till 3rd May
15.04.2020

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi today announced the extension of lockdown till 3rd May 2020. The earlier 21-day lockdown is ending on the 14th of April 2020.

Addressing the Nation in combating the spread of the corona virus, PM said the extension of lockdown was decided keeping in mind suggestions from many states, experts and the people.

He requested people to continue maintaining vigil and to adhere to social distancing during this lockdown.

Prime Minister also suggested that those areas which are of low risk may be permitted to open up for certain specific activities from 20th April 2020.

PM said, “Until 20th April, every town, every police station, every district, every state will be evaluated on how much the lockdown is being followed. Areas that succeed in this litmus test, those which will not be in the hot-spot category and will have less likelihood to turn into a hot-spot maybe allowed to open up select necessary activities from 20thApril”.

“However, permissions will be withdrawn immediately if lockdown rules are broken, and if there is threat of spread of Coronavirus” he cautioned.

A detailed guideline will be issued by the Government tomorrow in this regard.

The Easing of restrictions in the low risk areas is being done keeping in mind the difficulties being faced by the poor and daily wage earners, he said.

“Those who earn daily, make ends meet with daily income, they are my family. One of my top-most priorities is to reduce the difficulties in their lives. The government has made every possible effort to help them through Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojna. Their interests have also been taken care of while making the new guidelines” he said.

Paying tributes to Baba Saheb Bhimrao Ambedkar, on his birth anniversary today, the Prime Minister said, “I am well aware of the problems you have faced -some for food, some for movement from place to place, and others for staying away from homes and families. However, for the sake of your country, you are fulfilling your duties like a disciplined soldier. This is the power of ‘We, the People of India’ that our constitution talks about.”

Prime Minister mentioned that India had been pro-active even before a single case of COVID -19 surfaced in the country. He said, the screening of the international passengers, 14 day mandatory isolation of the international travellers, shutting of malls, clubs, gyms were taken at very early stages. Prime Minister said India also proactively went into a nation wide lock down which was ending on the 14th April.

Compared to other Covid affected World’s big & powerful countries, he said, India is in a very well managed situation.

“A month, month and a half ago, several countries had been at par with India in terms of Corona infection. But today, Corona cases in those countries are 25 to 30 times than that of India. Thousands of people have tragically died in those countries. Had India not adopted a holistic and integrated approach, taking quick and decisive action; the situation in India today would have been completely different”, he said.

Prime Minister said India has benefitted from Lockdown. He said notwithstanding the economic travails being faced, it is clearly the correct path as it protected so many lives in the country.

“From an economic only point of view, it undoubtedly looks costly right now; but measured against the lives of Indian citizens, there is no comparison itself. The path that India has taken within our limited resources has become a topic of discussion in the entire world today”, he said.

He assured the country that there are ample reserves of medicines, food and other essential goods. Prime Minister also assured that the health infrastructure is being further strengthened.

“From having only one testing lab for Coronavirus in January, we now have more than 220 functional testing labs. Global experience shows that 1,500-1,600 beds are required for every 10,000 patients. In India, we have arranged more than 1 Lakh beds today. Not only this, there are more than 600 hospitals which are dedicated for Covid treatment. As we speak, these facilities are being increased even more rapidly” he said.

Prime Minister exhorted the citizens to follow seven steps in their fight against the pandemic

First, to take special care of the elderly, especially those who have chronic disease.

Second to completely adhere to the ‘Lakshman Rekha’ of Lockdown and Social Distancing; use homemade face-covers and masks without fail.

Third to follow the instructions issued by AYUSH ministry to enhance immunity.

Fourth to download the Arogya Setu Mobile App to help prevent the spread of corona infection. Inspire others to download the app as well.

Fifth to take care of poor families; to fulfil their food requirements.

Sixth to be compassionate towards the people who work in every individual business or industry. Do not deprive them of their livelihood.

Seventh to pay utmost respect to our nation’s Corona Warriors – our doctors and nurses, sanitation workers and police force.

Fit India and CBSE organise first-ever live fitness sessions for school students in the second phase of lockdown, guidelines of Ministry of Ayush to be shared
15.04.2020

After the massive response to the live fitness sessions under Fit India Active Day programme launched by Fit India, the Government of India’s flagship fitness movement is yet again set to start a new series of fitness sessions. This time it will be organised in partnership with the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) for school children from across the country. During the programme guidelines of Ministry of AYUSH to stay healthy will be shared with students.

Talking about this first-of-a-kind initiative, Union Minister for Human Resource Development Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ said, “CBSE has supported the Fit India Movement right from its initiation. 13868 CBSE schools have been part of several Fit India programmes in the past and 11682 CBSE schools have already got the Fit India flag. Now, with this unique endeavour I am confident that students across the country will not just be gainfully engaged during the lockdown but will also be motivated to take up fitness and healthy living as a way of life, which is the vision of our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi.”

Union Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Shri Kiren Rijiju feels that the online sessions are the need of the hour. He said, “Children are all at home with limited physical activity. These sessions by fitness experts will ensure that children practice fitness even when at home. It is also imperative at these times to ensure that everyone, especially children remain healthy and have strong immunity. In these sessions, besides fitness-related topics, the guidelines of the Ministry of Ayush, with regard to following simple steps to increase immunity will also be discussed. I am sure children and parents will benefit greatly from these rich sessions.”

Owing to the nation-wide lockdown due to Covid19 up to May 3rd and following Prime Minister’s call to all citizens to increase immunity and stay healthy, Fit India and CBSE have taken this unique initiative to ensure fitness of all school children. Besides sessions on fitness-related issues, guidelines of the Ministry of Ayush on ways to build immunity and stay healthy during this time will also be shared with students.

Commencing from 15th April 2020 at 9:30 am, students can easily get access to these live sessions on the Facebook and Instagram handles of Fit India Movement and CBSE. All the sessions will also be available on YouTube so that students can access it at their convenience as well.

The live sessions will cover all aspects of children’s fitness from daily workouts to yoga, nutrition to emotional well-being. Distinguished fitness experts like Aliya Imran, nutritionist Puja Makhija, emotional wellness expert Dr Jitendra Nagpal, yoga professional Heena Bhimani and several others would be a part of the sessions.

Live streaming would also be available on the social media handles of CBSE, GOQii and Shilpa Shetty App.

Motherson Sumi Systems to raise up to Rs 1,000 crore to secure liquidity
15.04.2020

A leading auto components supplier, Motherson Sumi Systems Ltd (MSSL), received approval from its board of directors to raise up to Rs 1,000 crore (US$ 143.08 million) to secure liquidity while dealing with the global coronavirus pandemic.

According to the company, its board has assigned the responsibility to the committee of directors who would evaluate various borrowing proposals to raise the required funding.

“To further enhance liquidity in these uncertain times, the board of directors has accorded in-principle approval to raise up to Rs 10 billion (US$ 143.08 million) and delegated its committee of directors to evaluate and decide on various borrowing proposals. We are also proactively working to leverage on various government support schemes to enhance liquidity,” as per the MSSL official statement.

As on March 31, 2020, consolidated net debt level of the company stood at Rs 7,150 crore (US$ 1.02 billion). It included Samvardhana Motherson Automotive Systems Group B.V. or SMRP’s, in which MSSL holds 51 per cent stake, net debt of euros 702 million.

According to the unconsolidated financial result, it’s consolidated cash as on March 31, 2020 stood at Rs 4,690 crore (US$ 671.05 million), out of which SMRP reported cash reserves of euros 412 million for the period.

“We have adequate headroom in our bond documents to utilize the above and there are also no major maturities of debt in the next 12 months,” the company said in a statement.

The company has been rationalizing costs, controlling non-critical business investments and optimising working capital to conserve cash flows across its global footprints.

It has also been working with the governments, which have instituted employment protection schemes and are bearing part of employee costs during the lockdown period in order to reduce its fixed cost. The investment in major capex was also completed in the last fiscal and that any new future capex requirements would be aligned with the new product launch schedules of its customers.

Its plant in China and South Korea are also operational. Although, MSSL’s plants across India, Europe and America are temporarily closed, it said that it has received reopening dates for vast majority of the plants by end April or early-May.

“Multiple internal task forces have been created to monitor the situation on a daily basis across all our plants,” it said.

Mr Vivek Chaand Sehgal, chairman, MSSL, said the unprecedented covid-19 crisis has hindered the management’s plan of closing its target acquisitions.

“However, we believe that these same opportunities have become more attractive in valuations since the covid crisis,” he said adding that the customers have asked to look at companies that can be acquired at low valuations.

“We wanted to showcase our plans to the investors in June but keeping in mind the current environment, we will probably do so in October,” he added.

The company also updated that Samvardhana Motherson International Ltd or SAMIL, which owns 33.43 per cent in MSSL, has paid part of latter’s debt and subsequently 30.5 million MSSL shares are expected to be released from pledge this week.

“It intends to pay back more facilities from internal accruals and dividends going forward,” it said.

Fitch Ratings has downgraded the company’s long-term issuer default rating (IDR) to BB from BB+ with negative outlook due to the impact of the pandemic.

“The negative outlook reflects the risk of further deterioration in SMRP’s credit profile if covid-19 spread is not controlled or is prolonged, leading to a more pronounced and extended impact on economic growth and new auto sales globally,” Fitch said.

MSSL had reported significant exposure and dependency on its European operations, where Europe and Volkswagen Group contributed more than 40 per cent and 28 per cent of consolidated revenues in FY2019, respectively.

In FY2019, the company’s consolidated sales stood at Rs 62,570 crore (US$ 8.95 billion), which included Rs 55,100 crore (US$ 7.88 billion) from overseas businesses and Rs 7,400 crore (US$ 1.06 billion) from domestic operations.

The company has witnessed a significant rise in net debt over the past years, increasing from Rs 3,200 crore (US$ 457.86 million) in FY15 to close to Rs 8,000 crore (US$ 1.14 billion) in FY19. The company has set up more than 30 new manufacturing plants globally including India in the last five years thereby adding enormous fixed costs.

Hindalco closes US$ 2.8 billion acquisition of US-based Aleris Corp
15.04.2020

The acquisition of Ohio-based aluminium rolled products maker Aleris Corp was completed by billionaire Kumar Mangalam Birla’s Hindalco Industries through its subsidiary Novelis Inc. The enterprise value of the deal, at US$ 2.8 billion, which is slightly higher than the initial estimate of US$ 2.58 billion. With this deal, Hindalco is now one of the world’s largest aluminium makers.

“The Aleris deal marks a major milestone for Hindalco and Novelis, on their path to global leadership. The closure of this deal amid the challenging market conditions, reflects our conviction in the Aleris business and its value to our metals portfolio,” Mr Kumar Mangalam Birla, chairman, Aditya Birla Group, said. “This is a long-term strategic bet, much like Novelis was in 2007. The Aleris deal, crucially, enables the further diversification of our metals downstream portfolio into other premium market segments, most notably aerospace.”

Aleris has long-term supply contracts with aircraft makers Boeing, Airbus and Bombardier. Hindalco will also receive access to the aluminium supply market for the building and construction segments under the acquisition. The delay in the deal closure which was fixed January 2020 was due to regulatory hurdles.

Under the deal, Novelis will acquire Aleris’ 13 plants across North America, Europe and Asia. Regulatory clearance from China, the EU and the US are still awaited. In order to prevent a concentration of aluminium supply in the European market, the EU regulator required Aleris to divest its Duffel, Belgium, plant. Aleris will be selling this to UK-based Liberty House for US$ 337 million. Aleris also needs to divest its rolling mill at Lewisport, Kentucky, and its 200 kilotonne (kt) automotive finishing line in order to satisfy regulatory requirements from the department of justice. This will proportionately reduce the acquisition price for Novelis and Hindalco.

As of now, the closing purchase price of US$ 2.8 billion consists of US$ 775 million in equity value, besides approximately US$ 2 billion for the assumption or extinguishment of Aleris’ current outstanding debt, and US$ 50 million earn-out payment. Legacy Aleris debt levels have increased since the initial acquisition announcement due to rising working capital requirements to ramp up operations, while the earn-out is related to stronger-than-expected performance by Aleris’ US business, the press release said.

Beyond its many strategic benefits, the acquisition is expected to generate approximately US$ 150 million in synergies and create a strong financial profile. In addition, combined net debt to adjusted EBITDA of approximately 3.3x is within the recently updated guidance of below 3.5x, and well below the initial outlook of below 4x, it added.

“The Aleris acquisition takes forward our aluminium value-added products strategy and gives us entry into high-end aerospace. It further insulates Hindalco-Novelis from global price volatility and sharpens our focus on the downstream business. Aleris enhances our strategic position in Asia and also solidifies our position as a leading global metals player, with a stronger presence across the US and Europe as well. I thank the team for closing this important deal,” said Mr Satish Pai, managing director, Hindalco Industries.

Smt Nirmala Sitharaman attends the 2nd G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting
16.04.2020

Union Minister for Finance & Corporate Affairs, Smt Nirmala Sitharaman participated in the virtual session of the 2nd G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors (FMCBG) meeting under the Saudi Arabian Presidency today, to discuss the global economic outlook amid evolving COVID-19 pandemic crisis.

Finance Minister appreciated the Saudi Presidency for their tireless efforts in delivering on the outcomes as mandated by the G20 Leaders during the Extraordinary Leaders’ Summit, particularly in preparation of G20 Action Plan in Response to COVID-19.

Smt Sitharaman had represented India in the 2nd Extraordinary Virtual G20 FMCBG Meeting held on March 31, 2020 wherein she talked about the importance of international cooperation and coordinated actions in ensuring that the financial system continues to support and quickly revive the global economy.

Today in her intervention, Finance Minister focused upon the role of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors in safeguarding the lives and livelihood of people while maintaining macroeconomic stability in a sustainable manner. She shared with her G20 counterparts the measures taken by Government of India to provide the vulnerable sections with swift, timely and targeted assistance. She added that so far, within a couple of weeks, India has disbursed financial assistance amounting to US$ 3.9 billion to more than 320 million people, with a special focus on direct benefit transfer through digital technology so that the exposure of beneficiaries to public places is minimised. She informed the august gathering of finance ministers and central bank governors that India is now reaping benefits of the farsighted measures of financial inclusion which are part of the pioneering reforms carried out by our Prime Minister.

Smt Sitharaman also said that the monetary policy measures undertaken by Government of India, Reserve Bank of India and other regulators have helped de-freeze the market and catalyse credit flows. These measures include liquidity support of USD 50 billion, regulatory and supervisory measures for credit easing, relief on debt servicing through moratoriums on instalments of term-loans, eased working capital financing and deferred interest payments on such financing.

An Action Plan has been prepared by G20 members on the directions of G20 Leaders to protect lives, safeguard people’s jobs and incomes, restore confidence, preserve financial stability, revive growth and recover stronger, provide help to countries needing assistance , coordinate on public health and financial measures and minimise disruption to global supply chain. Talking about the Action Plan, Hon’ble Union Minister called it a step in the right direction and said that the document will guide individual and collective actions for the G20 members in responding to COVID-19 pandemic in short and medium term. She expressed her sincere hope for the global community to overcome this crisis soon and said that the lessons learnt will enable us to develop prudent policy measure to combat any such crisis in the future.

Agriculture Minister Shri Narendra Singh Tomar launches All India Agri Transport Call Centre numbers 18001804200 and 14488 to facilitate inter-state movement of perishables during lockdown
16.04.2020

The Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Shri Narendra Singh Tomar launched the All India Agri Transport Call Centre at a function in Krishi Bhavan today to facilitate inter-state movement of perishables in the current situation of lockdown due to the COVID-19 threat. The Call Centre numbers are 18001804200 and 14488. These numbers can be called from any mobile or landline phones any time of the day or night.

The 24×7 service All India Agri Transport Call Centre is an initiative of the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare (DAC&FW), Government of India for coordination between States for inter-state movement of perishables – Vegetables & Fruits, Agri Inputs like seeds, pesticides and fertilizer etc.

Truck drivers and helpers, traders, retailers, transporters farmers, manufacturers or any other stakeholder who is facing problems in inter-state movement of agricultural, horticultural or any other perishable commodities besides seeds and fertilizers may seek help by calling at the Call Centre. Call Center Executives will forward the vehicle & consignment details along with the help needed, to State Government officials for resolution of issues.

Operated by the IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Limited (IKSL) from their offices in Faridabad, Haryana, the Call Centre lines will initially be manned by 10 customer executives round the clock in 3 shifts of 8 hour each. The Call Centre service may be escalated to full capacity of 20 seats based on requirements. The Call Centre Executives will also maintain records and verify the disposal of problem as the case may be.

The Ministers of State (Agriculture and Farmers Welfare) Shri Parshottam Rupala and Shri Kailash Choudhary, Secretary (AC&FW), Shri Sanjay Agarwal, and senior officers of the Ministry were present during the launch function of the All India Agri Transport Call Centre.  The 24×7 Call Centre service is part of several measures undertaken by the DAC&FW to facilitate the farmers and farming activities at field level during the lockdown period.

In big boost to provide protection to Health Care professionals in fight against COVID 19, Indian Railways plans to produce over 30,000 coveralls (PPEs) in April 2020
16.04.2020

Indian Railways Production Units, Workshops and field units have started manufacturing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Coveralls for medical and health-care personnel who get directly exposed to the COVID-19 disease when working amongst infected patients.

Indian Railways will produce over 30,000 such coveralls in April 2020 and plan to manufacture 1,00,000 of the same in May 2020. The prototype coveralls have already cleared the prescribed tests with the highest grades at the authorised DRDO laboratory at Gwalior.

Indian Railways’ Doctors, Medical Professionals, other health workers and care-givers are working tirelessly fighting the COVID-19 disease. All these personnel are directly exposed to the COVID-19 disease when working amongst infected patients. As a first line of defence against contracting the novel Coronavirus, they need to be provided with a special kind of impervious coverall that acts as a barrier to the virus as well as other disease carrying fluids. Since each such coverall can only be used once they are required in very large numbers. As the incidence of COVID-19 disease increases, even though in a relatively controlled manner, the requirement of PPE coveralls is also multiplying.

In order to fill the gap in availability and requirements of PPEs, Jagadhari Workshop of Northern Railway had taken the initiative to design and manufacture a prototype PPE coverall. The prototype coverall was tested by Defence Research Development Establishment Laboratory of DRDO at Gwalior, authorised for conducting such tests. The coverall samples passed all the tests conducted by DRDE with the highest grades.

Taking this initiative forward, Indian Railways has been able to procure and distribute to its workshops and other units sufficient raw material for manufacturing more than 30,000 PPE coveralls in the current month (April 2020).

Production has been started and Indian Railway’s own doctors, the end users of these coveralls, have also been involved in trying out these coveralls as their production is ramped up. To meet the growing requirement, Indian Railways have set the target of manufacturing another 1,00,000 PPE coveralls in the month of May, 2020, and sourcing of appropriate raw material has been started.

All this has been done despite there being a major global shortage of appropriate raw material as well as machinery for manufacturing PPE coveralls. Behind this endeavour is the time-tested capability of Indian Railway’s workshops and Production Units of manufacturing and maintaining some of the safest railway rolling stock in the world. The same capabilities, expertise, protocols and procedures usually followed for design, manufacturing and use of rolling stock, have been utilised for enabling field units and workshops to start manufacturing high quality PPE coveralls so rapidly.

It is worthwhile to note that the same dedication has already seen Indian Railways converting more than 5000 of its passenger coaches into mobile quarantine/isolation facilities, in a very short period.

FarEye raises US$ 25 million in Series D
16.04.2020

Logistics SaaS platform, FarEye, has raised a Series D investment of US$ 25 million led by M12 (Microsoft’s Venture Fund) with participation from Eight Road Ventures and Honeywell Ventures. Existing investor SAIF Partners also participated in the round. So far, FarEye has raised a total of US$40 million.

The company was founded in 2013 by Mr Kushal Nahata, Mr Gaurav Srivastava and Mr Gautam Kumar. FarEye’s predictive logistics platform enables enterprises to orchestrate, track, and optimise their logistics operations. Currently, the company has presence across 20 countries with over 150 customers including global retailers, CPG companies, logistics & transportation providers including DHL, Amway, Domino’s, Walmart, Johnson & Johnson and Hilti, among others.

“We deeply value the support and trust of our investors, customers and partners who have been instrumental in our success. I am delighted to see the impact we are making by optimising 10 million transactions every day across the globe on our platform which provides better decisioning based on billion plus data-points fed into our machine learning engine,” Mr Kushal Nahata, CEO, FarEye, said.

“We will use this investment to create greater value and improve the experience for our customers by enhancing the platform’s predictive capabilities, increasing platform partnerships, expanding into new markets and growing our teams in Europe, APAC and the US,” added Mr Nahata.

“From just-in-time logistics optimisation to last-mile transportation notifications for end customers, supply chain visibility is a business imperative for organisations. FarEye stands out amongst other supply chain solutions for its orchestration and predictive intelligence capabilities, which equip enterprise customers to respond quickly and strategically in dynamic business environments,” said Mr Abhi Kumar, M12 India Head.

FarEye is also offering companies globally, its solution ‘Serve’ at a zero-fee till June 30, and for all deliveries to hospital sites and for the supply of food and medicines for NGOs that are responding to the Covid-19 crisis until September 30 in order to deal with Covid-19 pandemic. In the last three weeks, FarEye Serve has enabled the movement of 30,000 – 40,000 essential deliveries every day.

Ms Shweta Bhatia, Partner, Eight Roads Ventures, said, “The global pandemic has accelerated the need for enterprises to scale their supply chain operations efficiently to meet the rising share of online deliveries. FarEye’s highly configurable last-mile and long-haul logistics platform has been validated by leading global enterprises across the 3PL, retail and manufacturing categories.”

“With supply chain and logistics networks becoming so critical in today’s environment, FarEye has proven to be a business-critical provider and enabler of delivery logistics,” said Kamal Vasagiri, director of venture capital investments at Honeywell Ventures.

Best Regards,
Manoranjan Sahu
Attache ( Economic & Commerce)
Embassy of India, Bangkok
46 Prasarnmitr, Sukhumvit Soi 23
Klongtoey, Wattana, Bangkok – 10110 (Thailand)
T: +66 2 2580029 (Direct), +66 2 2580300-06 (Extn. 162)
F: +66 2 2584627 Email: com.bangkok@mea.gov.in