Weekly Indian Economic & Commercial Report (4th April – 10th May 2020)

Source: IBEF News Letter

430 flights operated under Lifeline Udan






430 flights have been operated under Lifeline Udan by Air India, Alliance Air, IAF and private carriers. 252 of these flights have been operated by Air India and Alliance Air. Cargo transported till date is around 795.86 tons. Aerial distance covered by Lifeline Udan flights till date is over 4,21,790 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.
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 2 May 2020, have carried 2.27 tons of cargo covering a distance of 7,729 kms. 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, Indigo and Vistara are operating cargo flights on a commercial basis. Spicejet operated 760 cargo flights during 24 March to 2 May 2020 covering a distance of 13,09,310 kms and carrying 5,519 tons of cargo. Out of these, 279 were international cargo flights. Blue Dart operated 253 cargo flights covering a distance of 2,76,768 kms and carrying 4,364 tons of cargo during 25 March to 2 May 2020. Out of these, 12 were international cargo flights. Indigo has operated 87 cargo flights during 3 April to 2 May 2020 covering a distance of 1,43,604 kms and carrying around 423 tons of cargo and including 32 international flights. This also includes medical supplies carried free of cost for the government. Vistara has operated 20 cargo flights during 19 April to 2 May 2020 covering 28,590 km and carrying around 139 tons of cargo.
A cargo air-bridge was established with East Asia for transportation of pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and Covid-19 relief material. 899 tons of medical cargo was brought in by Air India from East Asia.
In addition to the above, Blue Dart has uplifted around 114 tons of medical supplies from Guangzhou and Shanghai starting 14 April upto 2 May 2020. Spicejet has also uplifted 204 tons of medical supplies from Shanghai and Guangzhou upto 2 May 2020 and 16 tons medical supplies from Hong Kong and Singapore upto 2 May 2020.

India Salutes Corona Warriors Indian Navy Salutes the Corona Warriors on Land, Air and High Seas





Indian Navy joined the entire nation to express gratitude and salute the Corona Warriors on Sunday 03 May 20. Expressing gratitude and appreciation of the entire nation – while representing the Indian Armed Forces – towards the determination and committed efforts of our Corona Warriors –  the medical professionals, health workers, policemen, government staff and media, for their relentless efforts against CoViD19 on 03 May 20 through a number of activities on ground, in air and on water

On Land

Appreciation to the Corona Warriors. Station Commanders & Senior Naval Officers across the three Commands (Western, Southern and Eastern Naval Commands) and in Andaman and Nicobar Command met the Health Care professionals, policemen, sanitation workers and other frontline Corona Warriors  to convey the appreciation on behalf of the Indian Navy and applauded their efforts in successfully treating the COVID 19 patients and also thanked for their relentless efforts.

Human Word Chain. 1500 Indian Navy personnel at INS Hansa, Goa expressed their appreciation by forming a Human Word Chain and thank the Corona Warriors.

Naval Band. Earlier in the day, the SNC band played some famous numbers on a warship berthed opposite the Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL) and near the Vikrant-Venduruthy Bridge, epochal landmarks of Kochi. Naval Bands also performed onboard Ex-Viraat in Mumbai and in Visakhapatnam Harbour.

  • As part of the Thanksgiving gesture, Chetak helicopter of the Navy showered flower petals on the District Hospital in Kochi. Subsequently, 07 aircraft flypast consisting of 02 Dornier aircraft, 01 SeaKing helicopter, 02 Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) and 02 Chetak helicopters of Indian Navy was conducted over the city’s renowned landmark, Marine Drive which was immediately followed by steampast by 07 Fast Interceptor Crafts of the Navy, in the channel, displaying a banner thanking the Corona Warriors.
  • A Chetak helicopter from INS Dega showered flower petals over Andhra Medical College, Govt Hospital for Chest and Communicable Diseases (GHCCD) and GITAM Institute of Medical Sciences and Research (GIMSR).
  • Indian Navy Chetak helicopter carried out flypast with showering of petals over Kasturba Gandhi hospital and Asvini Naval hospital in Mumbai.
  • Indian Navy Chetak helicopter carried out flypast with showering of petals over Goa Medical College and E.S.I Hospital (along with ICG Helps).

Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Indian Naval aviation assets carried out fly past along with the Air Force and Coast Guard across various parts of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

At Sea

Eastern Naval CommandINS Jalashwa and INS Savitri on their Mission Based Deployments saluted the Corona Warriors for their relentless fight against the COVID pandemic while at sea

Western Naval Command.

Indian Navy personnel in Arabian Sea onboard Mission Deployed ships expressed their appreciation and thanked the Corona Warriors for their unwavering commitment in the fight against corona.

Indian Navy personnel on board INS Vikramaditya off Karwar expressed their appreciation by forming a Human Word Chain in thanking the Corona Warriors.

Southern Naval Command. Steam past by 07 Fast Interceptor Crafts of the Navy, in the channel, in Kochi displaying a banner thanking the Corona Warriors.

Illumination of Ships at Anchorage.

The day’s events culminated with 25 Indian Naval warships across nine port cities including those in Andaman & Nicobar Islands carried out illumination along with firing of flares and sounding of sirens from 7:30 PM onwards.

Employees of EPFO contribute Rs 2.5 crore to PM CARES fund





The employees of Employees Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) have also come forward to support the Government’s initiative in combating national crisis of COVID-19 pandemic and voluntarily contributed one day’s salary- amounting to around Rs 2.5 crore (US$ 0.35 million) to the PM CARES Fund. EPFO, as one of World’s largest Social Security Organizations, stands committed in the service of the nation in every possible way.
The COVID-19, declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, has posed serious challenges for the health and economic security of millions of Indians. Government of India has set up a public charitable trust under the name of ‘Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund’ (PM CARES Fund) with the primary objective of dealing with any kind of emergency or distress situation.
Officers and staff of EPFO are also contributing by putting in extra efforts for providing relief by expeditiously processing EPF withdrawal claims including COVID claims under PMGKY  package, etc.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles India launches online retailing for Jeep






Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) India launched an online ‘touch-free’ Jeep retail experience in response to continued movement restrictions and social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic. The potential customers can book and own a Jeep online without having to physically visit a showroom and will enjoy the accessibility of a test drive and sanitized vehicle delivery at their doorstep, the company said.
FCA India President and Managing Director Mr Partha Datta said, “Our commitment is to ensure customers can still continue to access Jeep at their fingertips. To ensure health, safety and convenience, we are making the Jeep retail experience as touch-free as possible.”
The online booking comes together with a 360-degree digital retail architecture that will deliver easy-to-use experience for customers and prospective customers can book and own a Jeep without leaving the safety of their homes, he added.
Some details such as their contact information, geographical location, choice of vehicle variant, colour, powertrain and transmission are required from the customers. After reconfirmation, they can proceed to paying the booking amount via online payment options.
Then, FCA’s automated retail architecture will generate a unique ID automatically and link the customer’s information to its authorized dealer in that city and a sales executive will assist the customer for test drive, booking and final payment, the company added
“The touch-free retail experience is designed to enhance convenience for customers. Physical distancing has become the new normal and keeping this in mind, our approach is to ensure customers as well as our dealer showroom staff are well protected,” Mr Datta said.

Jio Platforms gets Rs 5,655 crore investment from PE giant Silver Lake





Private equity firm Silver Lake plans to invest Rs 5,655.75 crore (US$ 802.35 million) into Jio Platforms for 1.15 per cent stake. This investment values Jio Platforms at an equity value of Rs 4.90 lakh crore (US$ 69.51 billion) and an enterprise value of Rs 5.15 lakh crore (US$ 73.06 billion).
Earlier, a Rs 43,574 crore (US$ 6.18 billion) deal with Facebook was made by Reliance Industries This Silver Lake deal signifies a 12.5 per cent premium to the equity valuation of the Facebook investment into Jio Platforms, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL).
Other investment made by the firm includes Airbnb, Alibaba, Ant Financial, Alphabet’s Verily and Waymo units, Dell Technologies, Twitter and numerous other global technology leaders.
In order to cut down debt, Reliance was in talks with other strategic and financial investors for a similar-sized deal, after selling a 10 per cent stake to Facebook.
RIL chairman and managing director Mr Mukesh Ambani said, “Silver Lake is one of the most respected voices in technology and finance. We are excited to leverage insights from their global technology relationships for the Indian Digital Society’s transformation”.
While Silver Lake co-CEO and managing partner, Mr Egon Durban said that Jio Platforms is one of the world’s most significant companies, led by an incredibly strong and entrepreneurial management team who are driving and actualizing a courageous vision. “They have brought extraordinary engineering capabilities to bear on bringing the power of low-cost digital services to a mass consumer and small businesses population. The market potential they are addressing is enormous,” he said.
This deal is subject to regulatory and other customary approvals.

National Gallery of Modern Art presents the virtual program










National Gallery of Modern Art is closed temporarily due to COVID 19 but COVID19 failed to bring down the enthusiasm to display EXHIBITION OUTREACH DURING LOCK- DOWN. National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi proudly presents the virtual program “NGMA KE SANGRAH SE”.  This virtual program will showcase the rarely seen or maybe unseen jewels from its repository. This program is based on various weekly/ daily themes from NGMA’s prestigious collections.
The theme for this week is ARTIST BY ARTISTS and is dedicated to Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. This week’s program coincides with the maestro’s 159th birth anniversary on 7th May 2020, a date we would like to celebrate. Many more exciting and thought-provoking themes have to come in the coming days. These virtual programs and exhibitions will give the opportunity to art lovers, artists, art connoisseurs, students, teachers, etc. to see the rarely presented artworks from their homes.
National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi has earlier presented various virtual exhibitions such as Jamini Roy and Raja Ravi Vermaetc. and has also shared permanent collections virtually to commemorate International Days such as International Women’s Day, International Dance Day and International Workers Day. These exhibitions are available on NGMA’s website and social media platforms.
Shri Adwaita Charan Garnayak, DG, NGMA states, “The closure of Museum galleries due to COVID 19 Lockdown did not dampen our spirits and couldn’t disconnect us with our audiences. Rather, this has presented us a new opportunity to get connected in an exciting way with a wider world audience through web and social media supported by the internet. All endeavours are being received really well by the community and we are hoping to serve the same way in the coming future.”

DRDO develops UV Disinfection Tower













Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed an Ultraviolet (UV) Disinfection Tower for rapid and chemical free disinfection of high infection prone areas.
The equipment named UV blaster is a UV based area sanitiser designed and developed by Laser Science & Technology Centre (LASTEC), the Delhi based premier laboratory of DRDO with the help of M/s New Age Instruments and Materials Private Limited, Gurugram.
The UV Blaster is useful for high tech surfaces like electronic equipment, computers and other gadgets in laboratories and offices that are not suitable for disinfection with chemical methods. The product is also effective for areas with large flow of people such as airports, shopping malls, metros, hotels, factories, offices, etc.
The UV based area sanitiser may be used by remote operation through laptop/mobile phone using wifi link. The equipment has six lamps each with 43 watts of UV-C power at 254 nm wavelength for 360-degree illumination. For a room of about 12 x 12 feet dimension, the disinfection time is about 10 minutes and 30 minutes for 400 square feet area by positioning the equipment at different places within the room.
This sanitiser switches off on accidental opening of room or human intervention. One more salient safety feature of the product is the key to arm operation.

‘Lil’ Goodness closes seed funding round of Rs 5 crore





Bengaluru-based kids’ food and nutrition start-up ‘Lil’ Goodness announced the close of its seed funding round of Rs 5 crore (US$ 0.71 million).
The participant in the round includes Beyond Next Ventures (BNV), a Japanese VC Fund, led by Mr Tsuyoshi Ito, President and Mr Mayu Morishima, Executive Officer. Earlier, top business leaders such as Mr Sajan Pillai, former CEO-UST Global, and General Partner-Season two Ventures, the family of Mr Lalit Pai, ex-CEO, Nightingales Healthcare and Dr Muthu Krishnan, ex-CEO Tata Health have also invested in the seed round.
IIM-Calcutta alumnus, Mr Harshavardhan and nutrition expert Ms Pariksha Rao founded the company and pursues to empower millennial moms with a range of kids foods based on good health to strengthen immunity with a focus on quality, hygiene and food safety, while providing the convenience of anytime, anywhere accessibility.
“We are quite excited by the vision of the founders -Harshavardhan and Pariksha, in building a scientific food and nutrition brand focused on the kids. There is a huge opportunity for growth in this space especially as mothers look for healthy and hygienic solutions in the current context of Covid-19. We are impressed with the differentiated business model of the enterprise that combines the range between fresh meals and packaged foods, enabled by technology, and with a focus on principles of good nutrition,” said Mr Tsuyoshi Ito, President and Mayu Morishima, Executive Officer, Beyond Next Ventures.
Mr Harshavardhan, Co-founder and CEO, ‘Lil’ Goodness, said, “We are excited to receive the additional investment support from ‘Beyond Next Ventures’. Given the current circumstances, this is indeed a good boost for the entire team. We, at ‘Lil’ Goodness’ have the vision to positively influence the eating habits of our future generations through tasty, nutritious food options. With this fund infusion, we are looking to further expand our product range and distribution of packaged foods, develop a digital interface that will enable mothers to order products directly to their homes through a contactless delivery option for the fresh meals business, ScoolMeal.”

Logistics startup LoadShare raises Rs 100 crore led by BEENEXT, others





LoadShare Networks, a logistics startup, has raised a Series B funding round of Rs 100 crore (US$ 14.19 million) led by BEENEXT along with participation from CDC Group.
The participant in this round included the existing investors Matrix Partners India, Stellaris Venture Partners and venture debt providers Alteria Capital.
These funds will be utilised by the company to deepen clientele, invest in technology as well as look at geographic expansion. It also intends to use the proceeds to expand its network and foray into sectors such as pharmaceuticals, fast moving consumer goods, and grocery for delivery of essentials.
“This investment is timely as it helps us deepen our engagement with clients and continue building capabilities through investments in technology, attracting the best talent, geographic expansion and undertaking new initiatives (especially, hyperlocal delivery and movement of essentials),” said Mr Raghu Talluri, chief executive, LoadShare.
He added that in the past 12 months, the startup has created over 3,000 new jobs across its partner ecosystem and will continue focusing on this.
The company also provide help to small and medium enterprises (SME) in logistics with technology, operations know-how enabling them with a pan-India network.
“LoadShare is operating in a deep US$ 20 billion addressable market, which is undergoing a fundamental change. LoadShare’s execution across different logistics segments, enabled by their tech enabled marketplace model working with SMEs makes it exciting for us to partner with them,” said Mr Teruhide Sato, founder and managing partner, BEENEXT.
LoadShare has expanded its regional footprint beyond the northeast, where the company first started operations in the last two years. It has reached 18 states and over 400 towns, with focus on eastern states.
“Logistics is a major cost of business in India and this investment demonstrates our continued goal to support increased market access for small businesses and provide economic opportunities for low-income workers. We recognised in Loadshare, an opportunity to deliver greater impact through its technology-enabled, asset-light platform.” Mr Srini Nagarajan, managing director and head of Asia, CDC Group PLC, said.
LoadShare said it is developed on its expertise in e-commerce logistics to serve clients in non-e-commerce businesses (CPG, industrials) in a variety of areas such as regional trucking and distributors or brands to store logistics.
The company was co-founded in 2017 by Mr Talluri, Mr Pramod Nair and Mr Rakib Ahmed. It provides a range of solutions including hyperlocal, intracity B2C deliveries, as well as regional intercity solutions to the B2B distribution logistics ecosystem.

Wheat production may cross 113 million tonnes: Skymet






According to estimates released by private weather forecasting firm Skymet, during the current rabi season, wheat production could be at a record 113.66 million tonnes (mt), nearly 10 per cent more than the 103.6 mt output in the previous year, whereas, gram output could be 8 per cent higher at 10.74 mt.
The estimate for wheat production of Skymet are much higher than the 106 mt projected by the second advance estimates of the Agriculture Ministry.
Although, there will be marginal increase of 2.7 per cent at 9.5 mt in the production of mustard and rapeseed as against 9.25 mt in the previous rabi season.
The Skymet report also added that due to the nationwide lockdown, agricultural activities and supply chain were disrupted. Harvesting activities were disturbed due to the non-availability of migrant labour.
The report added, “Though the government is trying to normalise the situation, even till date the situation is dismal as farmers and their produce are unable to reach the market due to the lockdown”. As a result, producer is struggling to sell the produce at appropriate prices, it added.
According to Skymet, the worst-hit are horticulture farmers. There have been disruptions in supply chains because of transportation problems and other issues. Farmers are not able to bring the produce to mandis. Those who have storage facilities have stored the produce while the rest have sold it at whatever prices they could get.
Consumers ended up paying more, although the prices declined for vegetables and other crops. Farmers were also affected badly by the temporary closing down of restaurants and eateries.
“The future also looks bleak as the supply of agri-inputs for the upcoming kharif season – especially seeds may get affected by this lockdown. Unavailability of seeds and other agricultural input may lead to the delayed sowing or no sowing at all,” the report said.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture data, the report said wheat sowing was up by 12.3 per cent this year over last year, with most of increase in acreage coming from Maharashtra (89 per cent more), Gujarat (73 per cent), Madhya Pradesh (nearly 33 per cent) and Rajasthan (17 per cent). Skymet said it expected the national average yield to be 3.38 tonnes per hectare.
Likewise, there is 11.5 per cent increase in the area of gram cultivation which is on account higher acreages reported from Maharashtra (58 per cent more) and Rajasthan (42 per cent), which adequately compensated for the 20 per cent drop in gram area in Madhya Pradesh.
The report added that the area under mustard and rapeseed was more or less the same this year, even though Rajasthan and Haryana planted marginal more than last year, but there was a nearly 10 per cent drop in mustard cultivation in Madhya Pradesh.

Pradhan Mantri Bharatiya Janaushadhi Kendras accepting orders on WhatsApp and e-mail to facilitate medicine procurement during lockdown





Amid lockdown many Pradhan Mantri Bharatiya Janaushadhi Kendras (PMBJK) under the Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers are accepting the orders for medicines on WhatsApp and e-mail, where on the basis of uploaded prescriptions medicines are delivered at the doorsteps of the patients. This novel move is ensuring use of technology for facilitating easier procurement of medicines by the users.  Complementing PMBJKs for this initiative Union Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers Shri DV Sadananda Gowda said, ” it is heartening to note that many PMBJKs are using modern communication tools including social media plataforms like Whatsapp to provide better services in effecting faster delivery of essential medicines to the needy.”
PMBJKs are working under the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP). At present threre are over 6300 PMBJKs functioning in 726 districts of the country ensuring supply of quality medicines at affordable prices. These medicines are cheaper by about 50 per cent to 90 per cent on an average. In April 2020 around Rs 52 crore (US$ 7.38 million) worth of medicine have been supplied throughout the country.
In addition, supply arrangements with India Post has also been made for supply to remotely located stores.
Moreover, Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India (BPPI) under Department of Pharmaceuticals, Union Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers, has paid its vendors within due date for solving their working capital issues for raw material & logistics.
Dedicated Team has been created of BPPI Officers for every State to sort out bottlenecks in supply due to lockdown.
Jan Aushadhi warehouses are working at full capacity and inhouse residential arrangements have been made for staff.
Helpline numbers of BPPI is working to resolve any issues of consumers and store owners.
For maintaining supply of essential Medicines during lock down period, BPPI has issued purchase orders for 178 fast moving medicines in the month of April having MRP of Rs 186.52 crore (US$ 26.46 million).

IIT Bombay Professor receives Young Career Award in Nano Science & Technology 2020 for Advanced Transistor Technologies





Professor Saurabh Lodha from Electrical Engineering, IIT Bombay, has received the Young Career Award in Nano Science & Technology for the year 2020 instituted by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India. This award recognises his pioneering contributions in the development of logic transistor technologies beyond silicon and nanoelectronic devices based on two-dimensional Van der Waals materials.
Prof Lodha’s recent work in the area of advanced transistors has been driven by strong industry partnerships. He has worked closely with Applied Materials Inc., the world’s largest semiconductor equipment manufacturer, for the last eight years on technological challenges plaguing beyond-silicon transistors- the workhorse device that fuels over 90 per cent of all electronics. Specifically, he has developed new materials and processes to improve the thermal stability and reliability of the heart of the transistor- its thin (1-2 nm) gate dielectric, to lower the resistance of metal contacts to the transistor and also to achieve higher levels of electrical impurities while keeping leakage currents under check.
These advances help future electronic devices such as mobile phones, servers, desktops and laptops, to perform tasks faster, consume less power, and last longer with lower failure rates. Prof Lodha’s work has not only been presented at top device conferences across the globe but has also been incorporated in semiconductor equipment for advanced transistor technologies. Working closely with industry, collaborators has helped his research group bring solutions to cutting-edge problems of practical significance with shorter time-to-market innovations and broader scale of impact.
Besides working on advanced transistors that run computing and communication electronics, Prof Lodha’s group has also been working with recently discovered ‘flat’ two-dimensional materials analogous to graphene. The ultra-thin (less than a nm thick) nature of these Van der Waals materials bestows them with extraordinary optical and electronic properties along with high mechanical flexibility. From a technological perspective, it makes them less power-hungry and ideal for Internet-of-Things (IoT) sensor networks as well as flexible and wearable electronics. At the same time, their two-dimensional nature poses unique and fundamental challenges in building electronic and optoelectronic devices such as transistors and photodetectors. Prof Lodha and his students have helped identify and solve some of these problems, e.g., the nature of their interface with metals, ways to modulate their electrical current-voltage relationship, and their response to optical switching. These insights and solutions have been published in high impact journals and are well cited.
Prof Lodha, an alumnus of IIT Bombay and Purdue University, USA, plans to leverage the capabilities and expertise in his group for developing power electronic transistors based on wide bandgap semiconductors such as silicon carbide and gallium oxide. These transistors can alleviate efficiency and reliability bottlenecks in diverse applications ranging from high voltage power grids, electric trains, renewable power conversion and storage to strategic defense, medical and industrial instrumentation. Wide bandgap power electronics has seen tremendous progress worldwide, but national efforts are lacking. Prof Lodha hopes to provide critically needed momentum for power transistor research in the country.

CSIR IGIB and TATA Sons sign an MoU for licensing KNOWHOW related to development of a kit for rapid and accurate diagnosis of COVID-19





CSIR’s constituent lab, Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB) and TATA Sons signed a MoU for licensing of KNOWHOW for FNCAS9 Editor Linked Uniform Detection Assay (FELUDA) for rapid diagnosis of COVID-19.
The license shall include transfer of the knowledge for scaling up the KNOWHOW in the form of a kit that can be deployed for COVID-19 testing on ground as early as end of May. A completely indigenous scientific invention, FELUDA for COVID-19 has been designed for mitigating the ongoing COVID-19 situation and cater to mass testing. Its main advantages are its affordability, relative ease of use and non-dependency on expensive Q-PCR machines. CSIR IGIB and TATA Sons will now work together to bring it for widespread use at the earliest.
Commenting on the agreement, Mr Banmali Agrawala, President – Infrastructure and Defence & Aerospace, Tata Sons said, “we are happy to enter into a partnership with Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology of CSIR (Council of Scientific & Industrial Research) for further development and commercialisation of Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) based technology for COVID-19 detection. This innovative CRISPR ‘Feluda’ test uses cutting edge CRISPR technology for detection of genomic sequence of novel coronavirus. It uses a test protocol that is simple to administer and easy to interpret enabling results to be made available to the medical fraternity in relatively lesser time, as compared to other test protocols.  We believe that CRISPR is futuristic technology that can also be configured for detection of multiple other pathogens in the future.
DG-CSIR, Dr Shekhar C Mande commented that “CSIR labs such as CSIR-IGIB have been working on deep science and developing cutting edge technology and I am happy to see that leading Industry TATA Group is partnering towards its deployment. The strong partnership with industry in tackling COVID-19 has been the hallmark of CSIRs strategy in mitigation of COVID-19.
Dr Anurag Agrawal, Director-IGIB highlighted that the technology was conceived and developed at CSIR IGIB under sickle cell mission and utilizes an indigenously developed cutting edge CRISPR Cas9 technology to specifically recognize COVID-19 sequence in a sample. A combination of CRISPR biology and paper-strip chemistry leads to a visible signal readout on a paper strip that can be rapidly assessed for establishing the presence of viral infection in a sample.

Edtech platform Classplus raises US$ 9 million in Series A round led by RTP Global


Classplus, a business-to-business (B2B) edtech startup, has raised US$ 9 million in a Series A funding round, led by early stage tech investor RTP Global. The round also witnessed the participation from existing investors including Blume Ventures, Sequoia Capital India’s Surge, Spiral Ventures and Strive.
The company is headquartered in Noida and provide supports to offline coaching institutes to take their businesses online. The start-up plans utilise these funds to improve its technology and expand its product offerings. It is also expanding its portfolio in product, engineering and business teams, and also working with content publishers to create easier access to online assessments.
Currently, there are over 3,500 coaching centres across 70 cities and towns in India that uses the platform. Classplus was launched in 2018 by Mr Mukul Rustagi and Mr Bhaswat Agarwal.”We are the category leaders in the segment, and the new fund raise will help us to serve more teachers with a world-class product experience. India is home to the largest after-school tuition market in the world and delivery models keep evolving as we speak. As national examinations move online, so must after-school tuition practices, and this new round of capital is a testament to Classplus’ ability to digitise the ecosystem,” said Mr Rustagi, co-founder and CEO of Classplus.
Mr Kirill Kozhevnikov, Partner at RTP Global, said, “According to the Global Teacher Status Index by the Varkey foundation in 2018, India was among the top-10 in the world in respecting teachers, though was in the last-10 in paying them. Classplus is liquidating this imbalance by empowering tutors with full-stack mobile solutions, while maintaining and further improving the high reputation of tutors.”

Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi addressed the virtual ‘Vesak Global Celebrations’ on Buddha Purnima today





Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi addressed the virtual Vesak Global Celebrations on Buddha Purnima today. Minister of State for Culture(I/C) and Minister of State for Tourism(I/C), Shri Prahlad Singh Patel and Minister of State for Youth Affairs & Sports(I/C) and Minister of State for Minority Affairs, Shri Kiren Rijiju also participated in the event held virtually.
Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi in his keynote said that the life, teachings and message of Lord Buddha have continued to enrich the lives of people across the globe. His message is not limited to any one circumstance, or to any one subject. Time changed, the situation changed, the functioning of society changed, but the message of Lord Buddha has been continuously flowing in our lives.  Buddha is not just a name, but also a sacred thought, a thought that beats in every human heart and guides humanity.
Prime Minister further said that Friends, each and every word, each and every discourse of Lord Buddha reinforce India’s commitment to serve humanity. Buddha symbolizes both the Enlightenment of India and the Self-Realization of India. With this self-realization, India is and will continue to work for the benefit of entire humanity, the whole world. India’s progress will always be helpful in the progress of the world.
Kindly click the link below for full speech of Shri Narendra Modi
Speaking on the occasion, Minister of State for Culture(I/C) and Minister of State for Tourism (I/C) Shri Prahlad Singh Patel congratulated  everyone on the Buddha Purnima and expressed his gratitude towards Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji who had taken the initiative to observe Buddha Purnima as national celebration in 2015. Shri Patel said that Lord Buddha shows us the power of love and nonviolence. Lord Buddha teaches the whole word that non-violence is the language of knowledge. He said that Lord Buddha teaches the power of love to the world. Shri Patel also shared examples of Lord Buddha’s preaching during his address.
Minister of State for Youth Affairs & Sports(I/C) and Minister of State for Minority Affairs, Shri KirenRijiju said that “I am feeling great that people from all over the word gathered virtually just like a family to celebrate the Buddha Purnima in the time of Covid-19 . I believe this is the best example of VasudhaivaKutumbakam, which means the world is one family.”
Ministry of Culture, Government of India in collaboration with the International Buddhist Confederation (IBC), a global Buddhist umbrella organised the Virtual Prayer Event with the participation of  heads of  Buddhist Sanghas from around the world. Buddha Purnima celebrations are being held through a virtual congregation owing to the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic across the globe. It is also being dedicated as Global Prayer Week  in honour of the Victims and the frontline warriors of COVID-19.
Prayer ceremonies on the occasion were streamed live from the Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya , Mulgandha Kuti Vihara, Sarnath, India, Parinirvana Stupa, Kushinagar ,India ; Sacred Garden Lumbini, Nepal; Pirith Chanting from Ruwanweli Maha Seya in the sacred and historic Anuradhapura stupa premises, Sri Lanka;  Boudhanath, Swayambhu, Namo Stupas, Nepal apart from other popular Buddhist sites.
The program was live streamed on FB live, YouTube from IBC social media handles as well as on Mandala mobile app.
It was viewed by large audiences in India ,Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, S. Korea, Myanmar, Mongolia, Malaysia, Nepal, Russia, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam among others.
Vesak- Buddha Poornima, is considered the Triple Blessed Day as it celebrates Tathagata Gautam Buddha’s Birth, Enlightenment and Maha Parnirvana.

465 flights operated under Lifeline Udan to deliver critical medical supplies across the country





465 flights have been operated under Lifeline Udan by Air India, Alliance Air, IAF and private carriers. 278 of these flights have been operated by Air India and Alliance Air. Cargo transported till date is around 835.94 tons.  Aerial distance covered by Lifeline Udan flights till date is over 4,51,038 km. ‘Lifeline Udan’ flights are being operated by MoCA to transport essential medical cargo to all parts of the country including remote and hilly areas to support India’s war against COVID-19.
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 5th May 2020 have carried 2.27 tons of cargo covering 7,729 kms. 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, Indigo and Vistara are operating cargo flights on a commercial basis. Spicejet operated 819 cargo flights covering 13,83,854 km and carrying 5,946 tons of cargo. Out of these, 294 were international cargo flights. Blue Dart operated 278 cargo flights covering 3,09,272 km and carrying 4,683 tons of cargo. Out of these, 14 were international cargo flights. Indigo has operated 95 cargo flights covering 1,59,158 km and carrying around 470 tons of cargo and including 38 international flights. This also includes medical supplies carried free of cost for the government.
Vistara has operated 23 cargo flights covering 32,321 km and carrying around 150 tons of cargo.
A cargo air-bridge was established with East Asia for transportation of pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and COVID-19 relief material. The quantity of medical cargo brought in by Air India is 972 tons. Blue Dart has uplifted medical supplies of around 114 tons from Guangzhou and Shanghai and 24 tons from Hong Kong, starting 14th April up to 5th May 2020. Spicejet has also uplifted 204 tons of medical supplies from Shanghai and Guangzhou up to 5th May 2020 and 16 tons medical supplies from Hong Kong and Singapore up to 5th May 2020.

Dr Harsh Vardhan launches the ‘Sanjivani’ App and inter-disciplinary studies involving AYUSH interventions for COVID 19








Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Health & Family Welfare Minister launched the ‘AYUSH Sanjivani’ App  and two AYUSH based studies related to COVID-19 situation, here today, in the presence of Shri Shripad Yesso Naik, MoS (I/c), AYUSH who participated through Video Conferencing from Goa.
Highlighting the importance of harnessing technology for COVID-19 response, the Union Health Minister said “The ‘AYUSH Sanjivani ’ mobile app, which has been launched today, will help to generate data on acceptance and usage of AYUSH advocacies and measures among the population and its impact in prevention of COVID 19. It is developed by Ministry of AYUSH and MEITY and shall reach out to a target of 50 lakh people.”
Dr Harsh Vardhan stated that COVID-19 mangement has provided a potent platform for alliance between MoHFW, MoAYUSH and technology organisations such as CSIR, ICMR, and UGC to not only develop AYUSH interventions and solutions, but also help in promoting AYUSH knowledge for the larger good of the global community. These organisations are joinging hands today and are being supported and guided by ICMR and DCGI in propagating the wholesomeness and holistic health benefits of the age-old traditional medicinal knolwedge of Ayurveda, he added.
In addition to the App, Dr Harsh Vardhan also launched two more scientific studies. One is the collaborative clinical research study on Ayurveda interventions as prophylaxis and as an add-on to standard care to COVID-19, which shall be a joint initiative of Ministry of AYUSH, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and the Ministry of Science & Technology through Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) with technical support of ICMR. The Interdisciplinary Ayush R&D Task Force headed by Dr Bhushan Patvardhan, Vice Chairman, University Grant Commission (UGC), has formulated and designed clinical research protocols for prophylactic studies and add-on interventions in COVID-19 positive cases through thorough review and consultative process of experts of high repute from different organisations across the country for studying four different interventions viz. Ashwagandha, Yashtimadhu, Guduchi +Pippali and a poly herbal formulation (AYUSH-64). This includes the following two areas:
1. Ashwagandha for the Prophylaxis Against SARS-COV-2 in subjects with increased risk during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A comparison with Hydroxychloroquine in the health care providers, and
2. Effectiveness of Ayurveda Formulation as an adjunct to ‘Standard of Care’ for the Treatment of Mild to Moderate COVID-19: A Randomized, Open Label, Parallel Efficacy, Active Control, Multi-Centre Exploratory Drug Trial.
Dr Harsh Vardhan also launched the population based interventional studies on impact of AYUSH based prophylactic interventions for prevention of COVID-19 infection in high risk population. The core objectives comprise of assessment of preventive potential of AYUSH interventions for COVID-19 and to assess the improvement in quality of life in high risk population. The study will be carried out through four Research Councils under Ministry of AYUSH and National Institutes in 25 states across the country and several State Governments covering approximately 5 lakh population. The outcome of the study is expected to pave a new horizon in understanding the preventive potential of AYUSH interventions during pandemics like COVID-19 through scientific evidence.
Elaborating on the import of these studies, Dr Harsh Vardhan stated that these studies shall re-establish the importance of AYUSH pathies with the help of rigour of CSIR, ICMR and DCGI. “This is truly a momentous day. The technology alliance provides valuable opportunity for such knowledge-based solutions to continue to benefit us even after the COVID-19 pandemic has passed, by possible integration of AYUSH in the mainstream scientific efforts”, he added. Let us also understand that the modern pathies of medicine and science are not in competition with those of AYUSH, but they complement and strengthen each other in intrinsic ways, Dr Harsh Vardhan stated. Under the leadership of our beloved Prime Minister, AYUSH advisories for enhancing immunity during COVID-19 pandemic have been acknowledged the world over, he said.
Shri Rajesh Bhushan, OSD/Secretary (HFW), Shri Vaidya Rajesh Kotecha, Secretary, AYUSH, Dr Shekhar Mande, Director General, Council of Scientific & Industrial Research, Dr V. G. Somani, Drugs Controller General of India, and other senior officers of MoHFW and AYUSH were also present at the launch event.

PE firm Vista Equity to invest Rs 11,367 crore in Jio Platforms






Private equity firm Vista Equity Partners will invest Rs 11,367 crore (US$ 1.61 billion) in Jio Platforms for a 2.32 per cent stake. This is Jio Platforms’ third deal after Facebook and Silver Lake’s share acquisition plans over the last two weeks.
“This investment values Jio Platforms at an equity value of Rs 4.91 lakh crore (US$ 69.66 billion) and an enterprise value of Rs 5.16 lakh crore (US$ 73.22 billion),” said Reliance Industries.
“We believe in the potential of the Digital Society that Jio is building for India. Mukesh’s vision as a global pioneer, alongside Jio’s world-class leadership team, have built a platform to scale anda advance the data revolution it started. We are thrilled to join Jio Platforms to deliver exponential growth in connectivity across India, providing modern consumer, small business and enterprises softwareto fuel the future of one of the world’s fastest growing digital economies,” said Mr Robert F. Smith, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista.
The net combined value of Jio Platform reached Rs 60,596 crore (US$ 8.60 billion) for the unit of Reliance Industries after the investment from Vista equity. The business comprises mainly of its telecom under Reliance Jio Infocomm, which is the largest in the country with over 388 million subscribers.
Vista will be the largest investor in Jio Platforms after RIL and Facebook. On April 22, 2020, Facebook announced that it would invest US$ 5.7 billion in Jio Platforms for a 9.99 per cent stake. Then on May 4, US private equity firm Silver Lake announced an investment of Rs 5,655.75 crore (US$ 802.35 million) in Jio Platforms for a 1.15 per cent stake.
Vista has more than US$ 57 billion in cumulative capital commitments and its global network of companies collectively represent the fifth largest enterprise software company in the world. Presently, Vista portfolio companies have a significant presence in India with over 13,000 employees.
The world’s largest tech investor, Silver Lake Partners announced an investment of Rs 5,655.75 crore (US$ 802.35 million) to buy a 1.15 per cent stake in billionaire Mr Mukesh Ambani’s digital unit that houses India’s youngest but biggest telecom firm.
This investment by Silver Lake was at a 12.5 per cent premium to the Facebook’s US$ 5.7 billion investment for a 9.99 per cent stake in the firm.
Earlier, 9.99 per cent stake in Jio Platforms were brought by Facebook for US$ 5.7 billion at an enterprise value of Rs 4.62 lakh crore (US$ 65.54 billion).
The financial advisor for the completion of deal was Morgan Stanley.

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