Weekly Indian Economic & Commercial Report (20th – 26th April 2020)

Source: IBEF News Letter 

Strengthening the fight against Covid-19, Lifeline Udan flights cover 2,87,061 km
20.04.2020

288 flights have been operated under Lifeline Udan by Air India, Alliance Air, IAF and private carriers. 180 of these flights have been operated by Air India and Alliance Air. Cargo transported till date is around 479.55 tons.  Aerial distance covered by Lifeline Udan flights till date is over 2,87,061 km. ‘Lifeline Udan’ flights are being operated by MoCA to transport essential medical cargo to remote parts of the country to support India’s war against COVID-19.

Pawan Hans helicopters have carried 1.86 tons of cargo covering a distance of 6265 kms till 18 April 2020.  Helicopter services including Pawan Hans Ltd have been operating in J&K, Ladakh, Islands and North East region transporting critical medical cargo and patients. The domestic Lifeline Udan cargo includes COVID-19 related reagents, enzymes, medical equipment, testing kits, Personal protective equipment (PPE), masks, gloves, other materials of HLL and ICMR; cargo requisitioned by State/UT Governments and postal packets etc.

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.

Domestic Cargo Operators SpiceJet, Blue Dart and Indigo are operating cargo flights on a commercial basis. Spicejet operated 410 cargo flights during 24 March to 18 April 2020 covering a distance of 6,00,261 km and carrying 3270 tons of cargo. Out of these 128 were international cargo flights. Blue Dart operated 141 domestic cargo flights covering a distance of 1,39,179 km and carrying 2241 tons of cargo during 25 March to 18 April 2020. Indigo has operated 31 cargo flights during 3-18 April 2020 covering a distance of 32,290 km and carrying around 48 tons of cargo.  This also includes medical supplies carried free of cost for the government.

International Sector- The date-wise quantity of medical cargo brought in after cargo air-bridge was established with East Asia for transportation of pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and Covid-19 relief material, is 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
6 12.4.2020 Shanghai 24
7 14.4.2020 Hong Kong 11
8 14.4.2020 Shanghai 22
9 16.4.2020 Shanghai 22
10 16.4.2020 Hong Kong 17
11 16.4.2020 Seoul 5
12 17.4.2020 Shanghai 21
13 18.4.2020 Shanghai 17
14 18.4.2020 Seoul 14
15 18.4.2020 Guangzhou 4
Total 242

Within South Asia, Air India transported around 9 tons of supplies on 7 April 2020 and tonnes on 8 April 2020 to Colombo.

Air India operated two flights between Mumbai- Frankfurt and Mumbai- London last week under the Krishi Udan program, carrying seasonal fruits and vegetables from Mumbai and returning with general cargo. Air India operated another flight on 15 April 2020 between Delhi-Seychelles-Mauritius-Delhi, carrying medical supplies.

IIA scientists connect Lithium abundance in interstellar space to new Lithium rich red giants
20.04.2020

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), an autonomous institute under the Department of Science &Technology, Govt. of India, have discovered hundreds of Li-rich giant stars indicating that Li is being produced in the stars and accounts for its abundance in the interstellar medium. They have also associated such Li enhancement with central He-burning stars, also known as red clump giants, thereby opening up new vistas in the evolution of the red giant stars.

Dr Eswar Reddy and his students Deepak and Raghubar Singh at IIA in their study published recently in the Astrophysical Journal Letters and Monthly Notices of royal astronomical society (MNRAS) discovered a number of super Li-rich giants which have Li quantity which is equal to or in some cases, more than 10 times the present value, A(Li) =3.2 dex ( measured in logarithmic scale relative to hydrogen).

Lithium (Li), is one of the three primordial elements, apart from Hydrogen and Helium (He), produced in the big bang nucleosynthesis (BBN) whose models predict primordial Li abundance (A(Li) ~2.7~dex). However, the present measurement of Li in the interstellar medium and very young stars is about 4 times more than the primordial value. Thus, identifying sources of Li enrichment in our Galaxy has been a great interest to researchers to validate Big Bang Nucleosynthesis as well as a stellar mixing process. Apart from reactions, in which high energy cosmic ray particles bombard with heavier nuclei such as carbon and oxygen-producing lighter particles such as Li, stars are also proposed as likely Li source in the Galaxy. In general, stars are considered as Li sinks. This means that the original Li, with which stars are born, only gets depleted over stars’ life-time as Li burns at relatively very low temperatures of about 2.5X10K – a range which is easily encountered in stars.

The team embarked on cracking this long-standing problem in stellar astrophysics. They followed a two-fold strategy by increasing the sample by systematically searching for high Li among low mass evolved stars in the Galaxy and determining the exact evolutionary phase of these high Li abundance stars. By employing data from large scale ground and space missions, they discovered hundreds of Li-rich giants. Though their study increased the number of Li-rich giants by many-fold Li-rich giants still accounts for only about 1 in 100 in the Galaxy.

The researchers determined the evolutionary phase of these giants by analyzing relative positions of thousands of stars using their temperature and luminosity and also subjecting their independent data set to atmospheric oscillations analysis using data from Kepler Space Telescope, a NASA mission for discovering planets. By determining their characteristic frequency and period spacing of pressure (p)-modes and gravity (g)-modes, they could differentiate between the stars that have a He-burning core, or inert He ash at the center due to Hydrogen fusion reaction.

Importantly, they showed for the first time that the Li enhancement in giants is associated only with central He-burning stars, which are also known as red clump giants. This is an important discovery that will help to eliminate many proposed theories such as planet engulfment or nucleosynthesis during the red giant evolution in which helium at the center is not burning.

ARI researchers develop bug sniffer for efficient detection of pathogens
20.04.2020

Researchers at the Agharkar Research Institute (ARI), Pune, an autonomous institute under the Department of Science &Technology, Govt. of India, have developed a sensitive and low-cost sensor to rapidly detect bacteria.  The portable device can detect as low as ten bacterial cells from a sample size of one milliliter in just 30 minutes. At present, they are working on a method for simultaneous separation and detection of Escherichia coli and Salmonella typhimurium.

Lead researcher Dr Dhananjay Bodas and his team from ARI call it the ‘bug sniffer,’ which is a biosensor that uses synthetic peptides, magnetic nanoparticles, and quantum dots to detect the presence of bacteria, providing a cost- and time-effective way of screening water and foodborne pathogens. The researchers also developed a chip comprising of microchannels made from copper wires and poly (dimethylsiloxane) The conventional techniques available for pathogen detection are less sensitive and cannot detect low cell numbers, besides being time-consuming and laborious whereas the ARI device, can detect pathogens with a limit of detection of 10 cells per 1 mL within 30 minutes.

The most common disease-causing bacteria Escherichia coli and Salmonella typhimurium can be detected individually and simultaneously using the in-house developed synthetic peptides, which act as a recognition element and provide the specificity to the detection. These peptides, which are highly specific to the bacteria to be detected, have extremely low cross-reactivity. In their work, which was published in the Journal of Biotechnology, initially, magnetic nanoparticles attached to the peptides were allowed to flow through the microchannel along-side the bacteria.

On applying an external magnetic field, the bacteria attached to the peptide were isolated and immobilised. Finally, the peptide tagged with quantum dots was passed through the microchannels to complete the sandwiched peptide assay. After capturing the bacteria, microchannels exhibited strong and stable fluorescence due to the quantum-dot-tagged peptides.

The bug sniffer is affordable, and the raw materials required for making it are readily available. Lead researcher Dr Dhananjay Bodas said that the nano sensor and research for developing it open up many possibilities for a speedy lab-on-a-chip diagnostics.

Currently, the researchers are working with simultaneous separation and detection of Escherichia coli and Salmonella typhimurium using LAMP (Loop-mediated isothermal amplification), a single-tube technique for the amplification of DNA and a low-cost alternative to detect certain diseases. This work is funded by ICMR.

TVS Motor buys UK’s iconic premium bike brand Norton
20.04.2020

TVS Motor Company has bought UK’s iconic sporting motorcycle brand Norton in an all-cash deal for a sum of about Rs 153 crore (US$ 21.89 million), marking domestic two-wheeler major’s entry into the top end (above 850cc) of the superbike market.

Norton Motorcycles was founded by James Lansdowne Norton, in Birmingham, in 1898, is the most popular British motorcycle brands and is one of the most emotive marquees today.

It is famous for their classic models and eclectic range of luxury motorcycles ranging from authentic retro classic reboots of the famous Commando to their contemporary 200 bhp, 1200cc V4 super-bikes. Its other popular models include Dominator and V4 RR.

The company has presence across 21 countries with portfolio of bikes that are priced in the range of 25,000-45,000 pounds with custom-built features.

Though, it has been facing challenges with its annual sales plunging to 500 units in the past two years.

The deal between two companies involves the acquisition of certain assets of Norton Motorcycles (UK) Ltd (in administration) through one of TVS Motor’s overseas subsidiaries, and it is not carrying any liabilities of the British company.

“Norton has fantastic global appeal with its British heritage, and we see an opportunity to nurture and grow this brand globally. We will extend our full support for Norton to regain its full glory in the international motorcycle landscape,” Mr Sudarshan Venu, Joint Managing Director, TVS Motor Company said.

The company expects to witness a strong synergy between both the brands and hopes that Norton motorcycles can be benefited TVS Motor Company’s global reach and supply chain capabilities to expand to newer markets.

TVS Motor will hold 55-odd staff of Norton and will strengthen the existing manufacturing facility for future growth.

“We have huge pending orders for Norton bikes, and our immediate focus is to fulfil those orders. Norton bikes are sold across 21 markets. We will strengthen the brand’s presence in those markets first and then look at expanding to more markets, including India,” said Mr Sudarshan Venu.

This deal with Norton is for different segment than the company’s tie-up with BMW.

“Norton will continue to retain its distinct brand identity with dedicated and specific business plans. TVS Motor will work closely with customers and employees in rebuilding the brand for future growth,” he added.

Zydus Cadila gets USFDA nod to market generic cancer drug
20.04.2020

Zydus Cadila, drug firm, has received final nod from the US health regulator to market generic Erlotinib tablets used for treatment of cancer.

The approval was given by the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) to market Erlotinib tablets in the strengths of 25 mg, 100 mg, and 150 mg, Zydus Cadila said in a statement.

It further added that the drug will be manufactured at the group’s formulation manufacturing facility at the SEZ in Ahmedabad.

Erlotinib is a cancer medicine that interferes with the growth of cancer cells and slows their spread in the body. It is used for treatment of metastatic non-small cell lung cancer and pancreatic cancer. It is usually given after other cancer medicines have been tried without success, Zydus Cadila said.

So far, Zydus Cadila has 288 approvals and has filed over 386 abbreviated new drug applications (ANDAs) since the commencement of its filing process, it added.

Shares of Cadila Healthcare, the listed entity of Zydus Group, were trading at Rs 334.55 (US$ 4.78) per scrip on the BSE, down 2.62 per cent over previous close.

Smt Nirmala Sitharaman attends the 5th Annual Meeting of Board of Governors of New Development Bank through video-conference
21.04.2020

Union Minister of Finance & Corporate Affairs Smt Nirmala Sitharaman attended the 5th Annual Meeting of Board of Governors of New Development Bank through video-conference in New Delhi today.

The NDB was established by the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) in 2014. The purpose of the Bank is to mobilise resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging market economies and developing countries to complement the existing efforts of multilateral and regional financial institutions for global growth and development. NDB has so far approved 14 projects of India for an amount of US$ 4,183 million.

In her opening remarks at the meeting, the Finance Minister commended the NDB’s efforts in establishing itself as a credible Global Financial Institution, delivering its mandate successfully by taking more sustainable and inclusive approach.

On the discussion of COVID-19, Smt Sitharaman appreciated NDB’s effort on fast tracking of financial assistance of about US$ 5 billion to BRICS countries including Emergency Assistance of US$ 1 billion India to combat COVID-19 pandemic. She also suggested that, assistance under this facility to be enhanced to US$ 10 billion. She mentioned about Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s initiative of creating a COVID-19 Emergency Fund and India’s efforts in supplying critical medicine to the needy countries to tackle the COVID-19. The Finance Minister of Brazil thanked India for the timely help it received from India in the form of critical drugs.

Smt Sitharaman also outlined various measures taken in India to respond to the COVID-19, includes, allocation of US$ 2 Billion (Rs 15,000 crore) by the Government of India for strengthening the healthcare system;  announcement of a scheme of social support measures amounting to US$ 25 Billion to alleviate the hardship of the poor and the vulnerable; insurance cover of US$ 67,000 (Rs 50 lakh) per person to over 2.2 million frontline health workers and others provision of relief to firms in statutory and regulatory compliance matters; easing of monetary policy by the RBI.

She also strongly encouraged NDB to take appropriate actions to join G-20 forum along with other Multilateral Development Bank (MDBs)/International Financial Institutions (IFIs). Finally, she urged NDB to follow innovative practices in supporting the BRICS nations for achieving their Sustainable Development Goals.

Indian Railways crosses 2 million mark in distribution of free meals
21.04.2020

Distribution of free hot cooked meals by Indian Railways during the national lockdown due to COVID-19 crossed the two million mark today with a total of more than 20.5 lacs.

The global pandemic has created unprecedented situations leaving large number of people vulnerable to hunger. Those worst hit by this pandemic and lockdown are stranded persons, daily wage labourers, migrants, children, coolies, homeless, the poor and many who form the floating population.

Indian Railways staff from number of Railway organizations have worked tirelessly since 28th March 2020 to provide hot cooked meals to needy people after the lockdown due to COVID-19. Railways has been providing bulk cooked food with paper plates for lunch and food packets for dinner through IRCTC base kitchens, RPF resources and contribution of NGOs. While delivering the food to needy persons, social distancing and hygiene is being observed.

Distribution of food is being done with the help of RPF, GRP, commercial departments of Zones, State Governments, District administrations and NGOs, even beyond the station vicinity to cater to the food requirements of needy people in areas surrounding the railway stations.

With the active cooperation of IRCTC base kitchens in New Delhi, Bangalore, Hubli, Mumbai Central, Ahmedabad, Bhusaval, Howrah, Patna, Gaya, Ranchi, Katihar, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Nagar, Balasore, Vijaywada, Khurda, Katpadi, Tiruchirapalli, Dhanbad, Guwahati, Samastipur, Prayagraj, Itarsi, Vishakhapatnam, Chengalpatu, Pune, Hajipur, Raipur and Tatanagar spread over various zones such as Northern, Western, Eastern, Southern and South Central, more than 20.5.lacs cooked meals have been distributed till today 20th April 2020.

Of these, about 11.6 lacs cooked meals have been provided by IRCTC, about 3.6 lacs meals have been provided by RPF from its own resources, about 1.5 lacs meals have been provided by Commercial and other departments of Railways and nearly 3.8 lacs meals have been donated by NGOs working with the Railway organizations.

The Railway Protection Force has played a major role in the food distribution to needy people prepared by IRCTC, other Railway departments, NGOs and from its own kitchens. Starting with distribution of food to 5419 needy persons over 74 locations on 28.03.2020, the number has grown daily. Presently about 50000 persons daily are being provided meals on an average by RPF across approximately 300 locations across the country.

In order to help as many people as possible, Indian Railway organizations have teamed up to feed hot cooked meals and hope to thousands of people every day.

NHPC wins bid for solar project
21.04.2020

An e-reverse auction was completed by NHPC for developing a 2,000-MW Grid Connected Solar photo voltaic project. Around seven bidders took part in the e-reverse auction coming for an aggregate capacity of 3,140 MW.

As per company statement, “Against the total allocated capacity of 2,000 MW, lowest tariff of Rs 2.55 (US$ 0.03) a unit to Rs 2.56 (US$ 0.03) a unit was achieved against the initial quoted tariff of Rs 2.71 (US$ 0.038) a unit to Rs 2.78 (US$ 0.039) a unit. Despite complete lockdown in India due to Covid-19, NHPC successfully completed the e-reverse auction.”

Shri Narendra Singh Tomar participates in the G-20 Extraordinary Agriculture Ministers Meeting through Video Conferencing on the issue of COVID-19 impacts on food security, safety and nutrition
22.04.2020

Union Agriculture Minister Shri Narendra Singh Tomar participated in an Extraordinary virtual meeting of G-20 Agriculture Ministers today to address the issue of COVID-19 impacts on food security, safety and nutrition. He shared the decision of Government of India to exempt all agriculture operations during lockdown period and ensuring continued availability of essential agriculture produce and supply, while adhering to protocol of social distancing, health and hygiene. Shri Tomar highlighted that the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has been at the forefront of supporting countries to tide over this crisis in various ways and that agriculture will not lag behind, consistent with the needs of our citizens.

The G-20 Agriculture Ministers virtual meeting was organized through video conferencing by the Saudi Presidency to deliberate on the ways and means of ensuring continuity of food supply value chain including livelihood of farmers. It was attended by Agriculture Ministers of all G-20 members, some guest countries and International organizations. Shri Tomar welcomed the initiative taken by Saudi Arabia to bring the G-20 countries together.

Later, a declaration of G-20 agriculture ministers was accepted. The G-20 nations resolved to have international cooperation in the backdrop of COVID-19 pandemic, to avoid food wastages and losses, maintain the continuity of food supply value chain across borders. They also resolved to work together for food security and nutrition, share best practices and lessons learnt, promote research, responsible investments, innovations and reforms that will improve the sustainability and resilience of agriculture and food systems. The G-20 nations also agreed to develop science based international guidelines on stricter safety and hygienic measures for zoonosis control.

Lifeline Udan flights support Covid-19 fight by delivering over 541 tons of medical cargo across the country
22.04.2020

‘Lifeline Udan’ flights are being operated by MoCA to transport essential medical cargo to remote parts of the country to support India’s war against COVID-19. 316 flights have been operated under Lifeline Udan by Air India, Alliance Air, IAF and private carriers during Covid-19 lockdown. 196 of these flights have been operated by Air India and Alliance Air. Cargo transported till date is around 541.33 tons.  Aerial distance covered by Lifeline Udan flights till date is over 3,14,965 km.

Helicopter services including Pawan Hans Ltd have been operating in J&K, Ladakh, Islands and North East region transporting critical medical cargo and patients. Pawan Hans till 20 April 2020 have carried 1.90 tons of cargo covering a distance of 6537 kms.

The domestic Lifeline Udan cargo includes COVID-19 related reagents, enzymes, medical equipment, testing kits, Personal protective equipment (PPE), masks, gloves, other materials of HLL and ICMR; cargo requisitioned by State/UT Governments and postal packets etc.

Domestic Lifeline Udan flights operate in a hub and spoke model. 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 lightweight 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.in/lifeline_udan/public_info.

Lifeline Udan flights have received excellent support from State Governments, DGCA, AAI, AAICLAS, AIASL, PPP airports, private carriers and ground handling agencies.

Domestic Cargo Operators SpiceJet, Blue Dart and Indigo are operating cargo flights on a commercial basis. Spicejet operated 447 cargo flights during 24 March to 20 April 2020 covering a distance of 6,64,675 km and carrying 3516 tons of cargo. Out of these 143 were international cargo flights.Blue Dart operated 152 domestic cargo flights covering a distance of 1,49,333 km and carrying 2407 tons of cargo during 25 March to 20 April 2020. Indigo has operated 33 cargo flights during 3-20 April 2020 covering a distance of 37,160 km and carrying around 66 tons of cargo.  This also includes medical supplies carried free of cost for the government.

International Sector– A cargo air-bridge has been established with East Asia 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
6 12.4.2020 Shanghai 24
7 14.4.2020 Hong Kong 11
8 14.4.2020 Shanghai 22
9 16.4.2020 Shanghai 22
10 16.4.2020 Hong Kong 17
11 16.4.2020 Seoul 5
12 17.4.2020 Shanghai 21
13 18.4.2020 Shanghai 17
14 18.4.2020 Seoul 14
15 18.4.2020 Guangzhou 4
16 19.4.2020 Shanghai 19
17 20.4.2020 Shanghai 26
Total 287

Air India will operate dedicated scheduled cargo flights to other countries for transfer of critical medical supplies, as per the requirement.

Dr Harsh Vardhan launches ‘COVID India Seva’, an interactive platform for citizen engagement on COVID-19
22.04.2020

Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare, Dr Harsh Vardhan today launched the COVID India Seva, which provided an interactive platform to establish a direct channel of communication with millions of Indians amid the pandemic. This initiative is aimed at enabling transparent e-governance delivery in real-time and answering citizen queries swiftly, at scale, especially in crisis situations like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Through this, people can pose queries @CovidIndiaSeva and get them responded to in almost real time. @CovidIndiaSeva works off a dashboard at the backend that helps process large volumes of tweets, converts them into resolvable tickets, and assigns them to the relevant authority for real-time resolution.

The Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan announced the dedicated account @CovidIndiaSeva with a tweet.

Announcing the launch of @CovidIndiaSeva to respond to citizens’ queries, real-time!

Trained experts will share authoritative public health information swiftly at scale, helping to build a direct channel for communication with citizens.

@PMOIndia @TwitterIndia @PIB_India @MoHFW_India

Commenting on the announcement of the Seva, Dr. Harsh Vardhan said, “Over time, Twitter has proved to be an essential service for both the government and citizens to interact and exchange information, especially in times of need. As #IndiaFightsCorona with social distancing, we are happy to make a concerted online effort by adopting the Twitter Seva solution. It is powered by a team of experts at our end who are trained and equipped to treat and respond to each query uniquely, and at scale. This will enable us in establishing a direct channel with Indian citizens, connecting with them in real-time to provide authoritative health and public information.”

The dedicated account will be accessible to people be it local or national in their scope. Whether it is for latest updates on measures taken by the Government, learning about access to healthcare services or seeking guidance for someone who perhaps has symptoms but is unsure about where to turn to for help, @CovidIndiaSeva will empower public to reach out to the authorities. People can get their queries answered by tweeting to @CovidIndiaSeva.

As these responses are transparent and public, everyone can benefit from the responses received around common queries. It is important to note that the Ministry will respond to broader queries and public health information. This does not require the public to share personal contact details or health record details.

On the launch of the interactive platform, Ms. Mahima Kaul (@misskaul), Director, Public Policy, India and South Asia, Twitter said, “We understand our role as an essential service for both the government to communicate with citizens and for the public to stay connected with each other. As #IndiaFightsCorona with social distancing, we are committed to working with the Government of India as they use the influence of social media to connect with the public at large.”

Over the last three months, the Ministry has introduced several initiatives in the war against Corona- including as part of a strategic communication strategy. This includes focused travel and health advisories, various Guidelines/Standard Operating Procedures/Protocols for different stakeholders across the public and private sectors for the governments, hospitals, citizens, different healthcare workers, employees and various other knowledge resources. Different channels of communication spanning the print, electronic and social media have been deployed as part of a holistic awareness campaign. It is as a result of these collaborative efforts that today there is a widespread awareness regarding basic measures of social distancing, hand washing and respiratory etiquettes to be followed for avoiding the virus. This effort has also been successful in the participation of different sections of the community in the prevention and containment measures of the Government.

Tech Mahindra, IBM tie up to set up innovation centres
22.04.2020

Tech Mahindra has decided to set up innovation centres in collaboration with IBM, in order to provide boost to digital transformation and encourage adoption of more cloud-based technologies among its global customers. The centres will showcase IBM’s digital transformation solutions built with Cloud Paks running on Red Hat OpenShift, which could come handy for solving complex business problems for various industries, including healthcare, telecommunication, financial services, manufacturing, insurance and retail.

The company plans to open the first such innovation centre in Bengaluru in 2020 and more such centres will be set up across North America and UK later this year.

“The collaboration with IBM will help us accelerate the development of cloud-based applications for our customers and build multi-cloud data management solutions on the industry-leading hybrid platform. The commitment to building Innovation Centers aligns with our TechMNxt charter, an initiative that leverages emerging technology to solve real-world business problems for customers,” Mr Pawan Sharma, president & global head of strategic initiatives at Tech Mahindra, said.

CloudPaks are containerised software solutions developed to help enterprises move their core business applications to any cloud in an open, faster and more secure way. It consist os containerized IBM middleware and common software services for development and management. As per IBM, it is designed on top of a common integration layer and is developed to decrease development time by up to 84 per cent and operational expenses by up to 75 per cent.

“This collaboration with Tech Mahindra is designed to help speed how businesses migrate critical enterprise workloads to the IBM public cloud and transform their operations using cloud-native technologies,” Mr Bob Lord, senior vice president, Cognitive Applications, Blockchain and Ecosystems, IBM said.

There was boost in IBM’s first quarter results from Red Hat and Cloud services and revenue from cloud and cognitive software increased by 5 per cent, while total cloud revenue for the quarter grew 19 per cent.

Earlier this week, Alibaba Cloud announced an investment of approximately US$ 28 billion on its cloud infrastructure over the course of next three years, with particular focus on data centre technologies to speed up digital transformation and also prepare organisations for future exigencies.

Compaq TV licensee Ossify Industries acquires Haryana plant for Rs 225 crore
22.04.2020

Ossify Industries, the brand licensee for Compaq smart televisions in India, has acquired a manufacturing facility in Kundli, Haryana, for around Rs 225 crore (US$ 32.19 million). It also plans to make an additional investment of Rs 210 crore (US$ 30.05 million) to upgrade the facility over the next 48 months. The production in plant is expected to begin by the end of 2022.

According to Mr Anand Dubey, CEO, Ossify Industries, said, “The acquisition of the manufacturing facility is a crucial step for us, as the company is embarking on its next phase of growth. This will help us immensely in fulfilling the projected domestic demand for Compaq. Equipped with cutting-edge technology for product design, development and testing, the new plant in Kundli will be rolling out a large volume of televisions annually.”

This acquisition will help the company to expand its Compaq TV business.

Mr Dubey said that amid the pandemic, the acquisition reflects the company’s long-term optimism about the TV industry, and resurgence of the economy from the current crisis.

“Ossify’s state-of-the-art manufacturing facility will primarily cater to the domestic and international business for Compaq televisions for which it holds licence for multiple countries and regions. However, a small percentage of the production may also serve the domestic and South Asia OEM/ODM business for some prominent TV brands,” the company added.

PM expresses gratitude to Mother Earth
23.04.2020

Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has expressed gratitude to Mother Earth on International Earth Day.

“On International Day of Mother Earth, we all express gratitude to our planet for the abundance of care & compassion. Let us pledge to work towards a cleaner, healthier & more prosperous planet. A shout out to all those working at the forefront to defeat COVID-19”, the PM said.

On International Day of Mother Earth, we all express gratitude to our planet for the abundance of care & compassion. Let us pledge to work towards a cleaner, healthier & more prosperous planet.

A shout out to all those working at the forefront to defeat COVID-19. #EarthDay2020

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 22, 2020

Union HRD Minister launches national program VidyaDaan 2.0 for inviting e-learning Content contributions in New Delhi
23.04.2020

The Union Human Resource Development Minister Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ e-launched VidyaDaan 2.0 program for inviting e-learning content contributions in New Delhi today. MoS for HRD Shri Sanjay Dhotre also participated in e-Launching through video conferencing. The programme has been launched due to the increasing requirement  for  e-learning content for students(both school and higher education) especially  in the  backdrop of situation arising out of Covid- 19 and also due to  the urgent need to integrate digital education with schooling to augment learning.

The DIKSHA Platform of MHRD has been operating since September 2017 with 30+ States/UTs leveraging DIKSHA for augmenting teaching and learning processes. With the unprecedented crisis due to the spread of the Novel Coronavirus and Covid-19 impacting upon school and higher education in many different ways, it is the right time and opportunity for all user states/UTs to strengthen their e- learning content for school and higher education on DIKSHA and leverage its potential use by students and teachers of your states/UTs.

Realizing the scale and potential of DIKSHA, multiple institutions, organizations and individuals over the years have expressed their interest in contributing digital resources on DIKSHA. During DIKSHA review meetings by Government of India also the use of crowdsourcing tools to obtain high quality content under VidyaDaan from expert teachers/individuals and organizations has been stressed upon.

Speaking on the occasion the Minister said that VidyaDaan is conceptualised as a common national program for individuals & organizations across the country to donate/contribute e-learning resources for both school and higher education to ensure continuity of quality learning.  He said that the content will be used on the DIKSHA app to help millions of children across the country to continue their learning anytime and anywhere.

Shri Pokhriyal informed that VidyaDaan has a content contribution tool that provides a structured interface for the contributors to register and contribute different types of content (such as, explanation videos, presentations, competency-based items, quizzes etc.), for any grade (from grade 1 to 12), for any subject as specified by the states/UTs.

He further informed that contributions can be made by educationists, subject experts, schools, colleges, Universities, Institutes, government and non-government organisations, individuals, etc. Shri Pokhriyal explained that it will be a matter of pride and national recognition for all those whose contributions will be approved and accepted to be included in the Diksha e-learning content. There is provision for approval of contributors, curation of content before uploading to the final and required taxonomy, and picking up content from any of the  contributions made to different states/UTs for the use of any other state/UT.States/UTs can have their own unique taxonomy for inviting contributions. The Minister said that VidyaDaan program shall soon be inviting contributions for Teacher Training material. All those whose contribution gets accepted and included

Cabinet approves fixation of Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS) rates for Phosphatic and Potassic (P&K) fertilizers for the year 2020-21
23.04.2020

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has given its approval for fixation of Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS) rates for Phosphatic and Potassic (P&K) Fertilizers for the year 2020-21. The approved rates for NBS are as under: –

Per Kg Subsidy rates (in Rs)
N P K S
18.789 14.888 10.116 2.374

The CCEA also approved the inclusion of a complex fertilizer namely Ammonium Phosphate (NP 14:28:0:0) under the NBS Scheme.

The expected expenditure for release of subsidy on P&K Fertilizers during 2020-21 will be Rs 22,186.55 crore (US$3.17 billion).

The subsidy on the P&K will be provided on the subsidy rates approved by the CCEA to the fertilizer companies.

Background

Government is making available fertilizers, namely Urea and 21 grades of P&K fertilizers to farmers at subsidized prices through fertilizer manufacturers/importers. The subsidy on P&K fertilizers is being governed by NBS Scheme w.e.f 01.04.2010. In accordance to its farmer friendly approach, the Govt. is committed to ensure the availability of P&K fertilizers to the farmers on affordable price. The subsidy would be released to fertilizer companies as per above rates so that they can make available fertilizers to farmers at a cheaper price than it would have been otherwise.

Facebook to invest Rs 43,574 crore in Jio platforms
23.04.2020

Reliance Industries Limited, Jio Platforms Limited and Facebook, Inc. entered in binding agreements for an investment of Rs 43,574 crore (US$ 623 billion) by Facebook into Jio Platforms.

This investment by Facebook values Jio Platforms at Rs 4.62 lakh crore (US$ 66.10 billion) pre-money enterprise value. This investment will translate into a 9.99 per cent equity stake in Jio Platforms on a fully diluted basis.

Jio Platforms, a wholly owned subsidiary of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), houses digital services of the group. Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, with 388 million subscribers, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Jio Platforms.

A world-class digital platform powered by leading technologies such as Broadband connectivity, Smart Devices, Cloud and Edge Computing, Big Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Augmented and Mixed Reality and Blockchain has been developed by Jio.

The company has designed an eco-system consisting of network, devices, applications, content, service experiences and affordable tariffs for every Indian to experience the Jio Digital Life. Jio’s platforms have been a dependable and inclusive Digital Lifeline for our Nation during Covid-19 pandemic.

The partnership between Facebook and Jio is unique in many ways and is the largest investment for a minority stake by a technology company anywhere in the world and the largest FDI in the technology sector in India.

The statement by the company said, “The investment values Jio Platforms amongst the top 5 listed companies in India by market capitalisation, within just three-and-a-half years of launch of commercial services, validating RIL’s capability in incubating and building disruptive next-generation businesses, while delivering market defining shareholder value.”

The investment will be focused in providing new opportunities for businesses of all sizes, but especially for small businesses across India and built new and exciting digital ecosystems that will empower, enrich and uplift the lives of all 1.3 billion Indians.

“When Reliance launched Jio in 2016, we were driven by the dream of INDIA’S DIGITAL SARVODAYA – India’s Inclusive Digital Rise to improve the quality of life of every single Indian and to propel India as the world’s leading Digital Society. All of us at Reliance are therefore humbled by the opportunity to welcome Facebook as our long-term partner in continuing to grow and transform the digital ecosystem of India for the benefit of all Indians,” said Mr Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director, Reliance Industries Ltd.

“The synergy between Jio and Facebook will help realise Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi’s ‘Digital India’ Mission with its two ambitious goals — ‘Ease of Living’ and ‘Ease of Doing Business’ – for every single category of Indian people without exception. In the post-Corona era, I am confident of India’s economic recovery and resurgence in the shortest period of time. The partnership will surely make an important contribution to this transformation,” added RIL CMD.

The financial advisor on agreement was Morgan Stanley and AZB & Partners and Davis Polk & Wardwell acted as counsels advised RIL on the transaction.

Fintech platform YAP raises $4.5 million in Series A funding
23.04.2020

API fintech platform YAP has raised US$ 4.5 million as a part of its Series A round, led by Singapore-based venture capital firm BEENEXT.

The other participant in this round includes 8i Ventures Fund, The DMI Group via its AIF vehicle The Sparkle Fund, Better Capital, and angel investors Alok Mittal, CEO, Indifi, Ashneer Grover, CEO, BharatPe, Amrish Rau, CEO, PineLabs, Jitendra Gupta, founder, Jupiter and Abhishant Pant, founder, Fintech Meetup.

The Chennai-based startup, in February 2020 has raised Rs 10 crore (US$ 1.43 million) as part of its seed funding led by PineLabs’ CEO Amrish Rau.

This current round of funding will be utilised to strengthen the team, build technology and provide enhanced API products to fintechs which are targeting on enabling access to credit, corporate banking solutions, cross border payments and providing neo-banking solutions.

YAP supports businesses to connect and roll out their own branded products. It works with banks and financial institutions as product providers and offers end-to-end program management services over a bundle of APIs (application program interface).

“Our platform is connected to 15 banks in India and by leveraging technology, we are accelerating the paradigm shift in sacheting of financial services by new cohorts of distribution, leading to lowering costs, enhancing access, and better value proposition to end consumers,” said Mr Prabhu Rangarajan, co-founder, YAP.

Presently, YAP offers an API platform to more than 200 fintechs, and the company claims to have raised over US$ 1 million in angel financing earlier this year.

“I have been actively looking for a “fintech anywhere” Platform Company in India for the past 12 months and I was very pleased when I met Madhu, Muthu and Prabhu and heard about their very unique founding journey. We agreed very quickly to partner and invest,” said Mr Dirk Van Quaquebeke, managing partner, BEENEXT.

An early-stage investment was made by BEENEXT in several fintech startups including – BharatPe, OpenBank, Shubloans, and SafeGold.

“YAP has played a crucial role in the evolution of the fintech ecosystem in India. As a provider of digital payments infrastructure, it is very well-placed to benefit from the continuing adoption of digital finance channels by Indian households and companies.” Added Mr Shivashish Chatterjee, co-founder, DMI Group.

Fintech infrastructure startup, Setu has raised US$ 15 million as a part of its Series A funding round, led by Falcon Edge and Lightspeed Venture Partners US along with existing investors Lightspeed India Partners and Bharat Inclusion Seed Fund last week.

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