Weekly Indian Economic & Commercial Report ( 25th – 31st May, 2020)

Source: IBEF News Letter 

Government is exploring new financial lending institutions to support small-scale units – Mr Nitin Gadkari 






Union Minister for MSME and Road Transport and Highways, Shri Nitin Gadkari today said that the government is exploring new financial lending institutions to support small-scale units in terms of financial support. Shri Gadkari said that government is working towards strengthening the NBFCs which will help small businesses to avail easy credit in the coming time.

He was speaking at a meeting via video conferencing with the Members of Calcutta Chamber of Commerce on impact of COVID-19 on MSMEs and the measures taken to address the challenges at hand.

Addressing the members, Shri Gadkari re-iterated that these are trying times as we are waging a war against COVID-19 pandemic as well as the economic instability caused by it. He requested all the stakeholders to work in tandem and urged the industry to maintain a positive attitude during this time to tide over this crisis.

The Minister also stressed on usage of PPE (masks, sanitizer etc.) and advised to maintain social distancing norms in personal life and at workplaces.

Apprising the representatives of recent announcement on Special Economic Package: Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, he explained various support measures which has been announced for MSMEs such as collateral free automatic loan, distress fund etc. He said that all these measures will provide the required support to MSMEs to face the current economic challenges.

The Minister also informed them that there has been restructuring of 6 lakh MSMEs till March 2020 and the Ministry is aiming to cover additional 25 lakh until December 2020. He added that the current contribution of MSMEs in export is 48 per cent, which may be increased to 60 per cent. He further shared that currently 11 crore jobs have been created through MSMEs and this to be increased to 5 crore.

The Union Minister mentioned that special focus towards export enhancement is the need of the hour. He further added that there is need to reduce our cost on production, logistics etc. to become economically viable. The Minister shared that the Ministry of MSME is working on two booklets to cover details about last three year’s export and import.

Some of the questions asked and the suggestions given included: issue of delayed payment needs additional thrust to ensure timely payment to MSMEs, interest subvention of 4 per cent should be looked at to provide support to MSMEs and safeguard them from becoming an NPA, how banks can be incentivized for proper implementation of proposed measure etc.

Shri Gadkari responded to the questions from representatives and assured all possible help from the government.

Comfortable face mask designed by CeNS could encourage public to use it for long hours




A team of researchers at Centre for Nano and Soft Matter Sciences (CeNS), Bangalore, an autonomous institute of the Department of Science and Technology, have developed a cup-shaped design (patent filed) of the mask that helps to create enough space in front of the mouth while speaking. It has been transferred to a Bangalore based company for mass production.

This snug fit mask causes no speech distortion, no fogging on glasses, and indeed, packs well all around, leaving practically no room for leakage while breathing. Another important advantage is its high breathability allowing one to wear it without any discomfort. Further, the researchers have chosen the fabric layers such that there is a possibility of deactivating pathogens sheerly by the electric charges that may prevail under mild friction due to the triboelectric nature of the fabric. These advanced-level tests are being carried out.

“While an ergonomic design for COVID-19 protection mask is essential for its ease of use for long hours, it is often not paid much attention beyond a few standard designs. A good design should minimize the feeling of intrusion and leakage around the edges but maximize the ease of breathing and talking while holding its place,” said Prof Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, DST.

With the increase of active COVID cases in India and other countries, usage of face masks has been advised for the public. While the healthcare professionals can use the special and high technical quality medical masks, for the public, a mask with moderate filtering efficiency should suffice. It should be comfortable to wear to encourage public to wear it for long hours.

CeNS has transferred this technology to Camellia Clothing Ltd., a Bangalore based garment company, established a couple of decades ago. The company wishes to produce and sell around one lakh mask per day through different distribution channels throughout India.

HIL (INDIA) geared to provide locust control Pesticide to Iran






Despite logistics and other challenges posed by COVID 19 lockdown Hindustan Insecticides Limited (HIL (India)) a PSU under Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers ensured timely production and supply of pesticides for farming community.

HIL is now in process of production and supply of 25 MT Malathion Technical for supply to locust control programme to Iran under Government to Government arrangement. Union Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has approached HIL for manufacturing and supply of said commodity to Iran.

Credit rating of Central PSU upgraded to BBB- from BB, which is a stable investment grade.

The Company has exported 10 MT of fungicide – Mancozeb to Latin American country, Peru and another 12 MT will be exported in next one week.

HIL has also signed an agreement with Ministry of Agriculture and Famers Welfare for the supply of Malathion Technical to Rajasthan and Gujarat for Locust Control Programme. HIL had manufactured and supplied 67 MT of Malathion Technical till last week

HIL supplied to malathion Technical to municipal corporations for dengue and chikungunya control programme.

Supply of 314 MT of DDT 50 per cent wdp to various states like Rajasthan, Punjab, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh etc was executed as per the supply order placed by ministry of family welfares, NVBDCP programmes. The company is in process of supplying balance quantity of 252 MT to other state.

During the lockdown period till 15th May 2020, HIL produced 120 MT of Malathion Technical, 120.40 MT of DDT Technical , 288 MT of DDT 50 per cent, 21 MT of HILGOLD (Water Soluble Fertilizer), 12 MT of Mancozeb Fungicide for exports and 35 MT of different agrochemical formulations so that farming community and health department may not feel the heat of lockdown.

Hoi Foods raises US$ 2 million in Pre-Series A funding






Hoi Foods, cloud kitchen start-up, has raised US$ 2 million in its pre-Series A funding round. The fundraising was led by 1Crowd, an equity crowd funding platform, and other start-ups such as Sprout, Angelist, Samar Singla, founder of Jugnu, VCCircle chief executive officer (CEO) Jaideep Mehta, Mukund Kulashekaran of Urban Company, among others, also participated.

The firm plans to utilise these funds in order to strengthen the existing network of cloud kitchens and aims to catapult itself into the big league of the cloud kitchen ecosystem. It will also expand its cloud kitchen network across India, enhance its tech platform and strengthen supply chain.

The firm was founded by Mr Indrajeet Roy and Mr Pawan Raj Kumar. It has more than 150 cloud-kitchens serving 5,000+ meals in a day across the National Capital Region (NCR) and Bengaluru. The start-up plans to expand to Hyderabad, Mumbai and Pune.

“We are building a very strong play in the cloud kitchens ecosystem and have been able to put together a decently large network in a very short duration. We feel honoured and excited to receive the confidence of all investors. I am also very confident and motivated to build our organisation much bigger and better with this,” said Mr Kumar, co-founder, Hoi Foods.

In 2018, Hoi Foods had raised its seed funding and has grown seven times since then, according to a company statement.

Though, lockdown has impacted the business of cloud kitchens and Hoi is no different. “We had close to 150 kitchens pre-COVID but about 50 or so are operational today. Labour, logistics, lockdown, low demand are the reasons for closure of other outlets,” added Mr Rajkumar.

It has also introduced other partner brands on its network such as Deez Biriyani, Ketofy, Nirula’s, Misht, Smoodies and Cold Love apart from its flagship brands, Hoi Foods, Jacky Ching and Hoi Cafe. Hoi Foods also runs a dark shop model called Hoi Stores for hyperlocal delivery through aggregators.

Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) aims to enhance fish production to 220 LMT with an investment of over Rs 20,000 crores in next five years





The Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) aims to enhance fish production to 220 lakh metric tons by 2024-25 from 137.58 lakh metric tons in 2018-19 at an average annual growth rate of about 9 per cent. The Union Minister for Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Mr Giriraj Singh, today said the ambitious scheme will result in doubling export earnings to Rs 1,00,000 crore (US$ 14.19 billion) and generate about 55 lakh direct and indirect employment opportunities in fisheries sector over a period of next five years. Dedicating the PMMSY to fishers, fish farmers, fish workers, fish vendors and other stakeholders associated with the fisheries sector, Mr Giriraj Singh said that insurance coverage for fishing vessels is being introduced for the first time.

Addressing a press conference on the “PMMSY – A scheme to bring about Blue Revolution through sustainable and responsible development of fisheries sector in India”, approved by the Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi on 20th May, 2020, Mr Giriraj Singh said that the scheme envisages an estimated investment of Rs 20,050 crore (US$ 2.84 billion) comprising Central share of Rs 9,407 crore (US$ 1.33 billion), State share of Rs 4,880 crore (US$ 692.30 million) and Beneficiaries contribution of Rs 5,763 crore (US$ 817.56 million). He added that the PMMSY will be implemented over a period of five years from FY2020-21 to FY2024-25 in all States/Union Territories.

Mr Giriraj Singh said that under the PMMSY thrust will be given towards enhancement of fish production and productivity, quality, sustainability, technology infusion, post-harvest infrastructure, modernisation and strengthening of value chain, standards and traceability in fisheries sector from ‘catch to consumer’, establishing a robust fisheries management framework, fishers’ welfare, enhancement of fisheries export competitiveness.  He further mentioned that PMMSY will create a conducive environment for private sector participation, development of entrepreneurship, business models, promotion of ease of doing business, innovations and innovative project activities including start-ups, incubators etc. in fisheries sector.  The Minister further mentioned that PMMSY being a fisher centric umbrella scheme, fishers, fish farmers, fish workers and fish vendors are the key stakeholders in the developmental activities envisaged and enhancement of their socio-economic status is one the core objectives of this scheme.

The Fisheries Minister said that about 42 per cent of the total estimated investment of the PMMSY is earmarked for creation and upgradation of fisheries infrastructure facilities. Focus areas include Fishing Harbours and Landing Centers, Post-harvest and Cold Chain Infrastructure, Fish Markets and Marketing Infrastructure, Integrated Modern Coastal Fishing Villages and Development of Deep-sea Fishing. Besides creating critical fisheries infrastructure by attracting private investments in fisheries sector, the scheme plans to reduce post-harvest losses from the present high of 25 per cent to about 10 per cent by modernizing and strengthening value chain. Under the Swath Sagar plan, activities envisaged with a view to modernize the fisheries sector include promotion of Bio-toilets, Insurance coverage for fishing vessels, Fisheries Management Plans, E-Trading/Marketing, Fishers and resources survey and creation of National IT-based databases.

Underlining the need to enhance domestic fish consumption with corresponding health benefits, the Minister said that the Government will register “Sagar Mitra” and encourage formation of Fish Farmers Producer Organizations (FFPOs) to help achieve the PMMSY goals. Youth will be engaged in fisheries extension by creation of 3,477 Sagar Mitras in coastal fisher villages. Large number of Fisheries Extension Services Centers will be set up in private space to create job opportunities to young professionals.

The scheme will also focus on several new activities and areas such as Traceability, Certification and Accreditation, Aquaculture in saline/alkaline areas, Genetic improvement programmes and Nucleus Breeding Centres, Fisheries and Aquaculture start-ups, promotional activities for fish consumption, branding, GI in fish, Integrated Aqua parks, Integrated coastal fishing villages development, State-of-art wholesale fish markets, Aquatic Referral Laboratories, Aquaculture Extension Services, Biofloc, support for new/upgradation of fishing boats, disease diagnostic and quality testing labs, Organic Aquaculture Promotion and Certification and Potential Fishing Zone (PFZ) devices.

Mr Giriraj Singh said that the PMMSY provides thrust for infusing new and emerging technologies like Re-circulatory Aquaculture Systems, Biofloc, Aquaponics, Cage Cultivation etc. to enhance production and productivity, productive utilization of wastelands and water for Aquaculture. He added that some activities like Mariculture, Seaweed cultivation and Ornamental Fisheries having potential to generate huge employment especially for rural women will be promoted.

Stressing on attaining self-sufficiency in availability of quality seed at affordable price, Mr Giriraj Singh said that the scheme will result in increasing aquaculture average productivity to five tons per hectare from the current national average of three tons per hectare. This will be achieved through promotion of high value species, establishing a national network of Brood Banks for all commercially important species, Genetic improvement and establishing Nucleus Breeding Centers for self-reliance in Shrimp Brood stock, accreditation of Brood banks, Hatcheries, Farms and also addressing diseases, antibiotics and residues issues, aquatic health management. These steps are likely to ensure quality, higher productivity, improve export competitiveness and fetch higher prices to fishers and farmers.

Constituting about 7.73 per cent of the global fish production and export earnings of Rs 46,589 crore (US$ 6.61 billion) (2018-19), India today has attained the status of the second largest aquaculture and fourth largest fish exporting nation in the world. Mr Giriraj Singh that the country has high potentiality to attain the first highest fishing producing and exporting nation in the world in the coming years, and his Ministry is committed to take the fisheries sector to newer heights. The Minister said that the Fisheries sector has shown an impressive growth in terms of fish production and export earnings during the past five years. The sector recorded an Average Annual Growth Rate of 10.88 per cent during 2014-15 to 2018-19, 7.53 per cent average annual growth in fish production and 9.71 per cent average annual growth in export earnings, with 18 per cent share in agricultural exports. He further added that the Gross Value Added (GVA) of Fisheries sector in the national economy during 2018-19 stood at Rs 2,12,915 crore (US$ 30.20 billion) which constituted 1.24 per cent of the total National GVA and 7.28 per cent share of Agricultural GVA.

Foreseeing the huge scope for development of fisheries, the Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi, in December 2014, had called for “a revolution” in the Fisheries sector and named it as “Blue Revolution”. The Union Government has taken several initiatives to harness the potential of the Fisheries sector in a sustainable and responsible manner towards ushering the Blue Revolution in Fisheries as envisioned by the Prime Minister.

Some of the major reforms and steps taken by the Union Government include

  1. Creation of a separate Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying in the Union Government.
  2. Setting up a new and dedicated Department of Fisheries with independent administrative structure.
  3. Implementation of the Centrally Sponsored Scheme on Blue Revolution: Integrated Development and Management of Fisheries during the period 2015-16 to 2019-20 with a central outlay of Rs 3,000 crore (US$ 425.59 million).
  4. Creation of Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund (FIDF) during 2018-19 with a fund size of Rs 7,522.48 crore (US$ 1.07 billion).
  5. Launching of PMMSY with an investment of Rs 20,050 crore (US$ 2.84 billion), the scheme with highest ever investment for fisheries sector.

The Ministers of State for Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Mr Sanjiv Kumar Baliyan and Mr. Pratap Chandra Sarangi, and Secretary, Department of Fisheries, Dr Rajeev Ranjan, were present during the press conference. On the occasion, the dignitaries released a booklet on the PMMSY.

PFC signs MoU with NBPCL to fund projects worth Rs 22,000 crore for 225 MW hydro-electric projects & Multipurpose projects in Madhya Pradesh






Power Finance Corporation (PFC), the central PSU under Ministry of Power and India’s leading NBFC, today entered into an agreement with Narmada Basin Projects Company Ltd. (NBPCL), a wholly-owned company of Govt. of Madhya Pradesh, to fund projects worth Rs 22,000 crore (US$ 3.12 billion) for 225 MW hydro-electric projects & multipurpose projects in the State of Madhya Pradesh.

The funds will be deployed by NBPCL for setting up hydroelectric projects of 225 MW and power components of 12 major multipurpose projects in Madhya Pradesh. The MoU was signed on a virtual platform by Mr Rajeev Sharma, CMD, PFC and Mr I.C.P. Keshari, Managing Director, NBPCL. The Government of Madhya Pradesh has conducted the pre-feasibility study of these projects and has provided approval for their execution. The disbursal of the amount will be linked to the execution of the projects.

The MoU will help PFC to actively partner with NBPCL and provide finance for hydro-electric plants totalling 225 MW along with power components of multipurpose projects as part of state government’s endeavour to implement twelve major multipurpose projects.

Some of the major multipurpose projects that will be financed under the MoU are Basaniya Multipurpose Project Dindori, Chinki Boras Multipurpose Project Narsinghpur Raisen Hoshangabad, Sakkar Pench Link Narsinghpur Chhindwara, Dudhi Project Chhindwara Hoshangabad, etc.

PFC will consider the financial assistance to NBPCL based on due diligence and on mutually acceptable terms.

Gadkari inaugurates the breakthrough event of Chamba Tunnel under Chardham Pariyojana





Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways and MSMEs Mr Nitin Gadkari today inaugurated the breakthrough event of Chamba Tunnel under Chardham Pariyojana through video conference mode. Border Roads Organisation (BRO) achieved this major milestone by digging up a 440 m long Tunnel below the busy Chamba town on Rishikesh-Dharasu road Highway (NH 94). The breakthrough was completed amidst threat of COVID-19 and nationwide lockdown. The construction of tunnel was a challenging task in terms of weak soil strata, continuous water seepage, heavy built up area on top thereby chances of sinking of houses, land acquisition issues, restrictions during COVID lockdown etc.

Speaking on the occasion, the Minister said, this Rishikesh-Dharasu-Gangotri road in Uttarakhand has a very significant role from socio economic and religious point of view. He said, opening of this tunnel will ease out congestion though the Chamba town and reduce the distance by one kilometer and journey through the town will take only ten minutes as compared to thirty minutes earlier. Mr Gadkari lauded BRO for working in some of the very difficult terrain and ensuring implementation of critical projects. He said that he has been informed about completion of the project by October 2020, i.e. three months ahead of the schedule.

Director General of Border Roads Organisation, Lt Gen Harpal Singh said, BRO started the work on North Portal of this tunnel in Jan 2019 but work on South Portal could be started only after Oct 2019 due to stiff resistance from locals on account of safety concerns and compensation issues. To compensate for the loss in time, day and night working shifts along with use of modern technology facilitated the breakthrough. BRO is a key stake holder in prestigious Chardham project and breakthrough of this tunnel has been achieved by Team Shivalik. Latest Austrian technology has been used in its construction. The tunnel will be through for traffic by October this year, almost three months before its scheduled date of completion.

Under prestigious Chardham Project costing around Rs 12,000 crore (US$ 1.70 billion) with approximate length of 889 Km, BRO is constructing 250 Km of National Highways leading to holy shrine Gangotri and Badrinath. Majority of the works are progressing ahead of schedule and BRO is slated to complete four projects by October this year.

BRO has been entrusted 251 Km of stretches  costing Rs 3000 crore (US$ 425.59 million) approx. consisting of 17 Projects on road Rishikesh – Dharasu (NH-94) from Km 28 onwards of 99 Km length, Dharasu- Gangotri Highway (NH-108) of 110 Km length and Joshimath to Mana ( NH-58) of 42 Km length. Out of these, 10 Projects consisting of 151 Km road length have been sanctioned which are worth Rs 1,702 crore (US$ 241.45 million) and works are under progress as under:

  1. Rishikesh – Dharasu (NH-94), 99 Km length (Five projects).
  2. Dharasu- Gangotri Highway (NH-108), 22 Km length (Two-projects). Five projects of BESZ are yet to be sanctioned.
  3. Joshimath to Mana (NH-58) 32 Km (Three Projects). Two projects are yet to be sanctioned

BRO is slated to complete four Projects aggregating a length of 53 Km out of 10 ongoing projects ahead of their scheduled, date of completion as under:

  1. Dharasu- Gangotri Highway (NH-108) KM 110-123 by June 2020.
  2. Rishikesh- DharasuHighway (NH-94) Km28-59 by July 2020.
  3. Rishikesh- Dharasu Highway (NH-94) Km 59-65 including Chamba Tunnel by October 2020.
  4. Chinialisaur bye pass on Rishikesh- Dharasu Highway (NH-94) by October 2020.

A Tunnel of 440-meter length to decongest busy Chamba town is being constructed out of these 10 projects. This is a Horseshoe type tunnel with 10-meter carriage way width and 5.5-meter vertical clearance. The sanctioned cost of this tunnel is 107.07 crore (US$ 15.19 million). The awarded cost is Rs 86 crore (US$ 12.20 million), including Rs 43 crore (US$ 6.10 million) for Tunnel and Rs 43 crore (US$ 6.10 million) for 4.2 Km approach roads to tunnel.

Euler Motors raises Rs 20 crore as part of Series A Funding







Euler Motors, an automotive technology start-up focussing on commercial electric vehicles (EVs), has raised Rs 20 crore (US$ 284 million) as a part of its ongoing Series A funding led by the Inventus Capital India.

The round also saw participation from other investors including Blume Ventures, Singapore-based Jetty Ventures India Investments and Udaan co-founder Mr Sujeet Kumar. With this investment, Euler Motors has so far raised more than Rs 35 crore (US$ 4.97 million).

“The Series A funds will be primarily used for hiring talents, R&D and launching our vehicles across the Indian key cities with a focus on localisation of the supply chain,” Mr Saurav Kumar, founder and CEO of Euler Motors, said.

The company plans to utilise these funds to enhance its product and technology and scale its network of charging and service stations across India. The company intends to launch its three-wheeler EV for commercial logistics by the end of this year.

“For India to unlock the next wave of growth in electric mobility, it is essential to drive the adoption in the commercial vehicle segment with superior electrical vehicles and infrastructure. Euler Motors is an early front-runner in the space and is well-positioned to build the EV ecosystem,” Mr Rutvik Doshi, Managing Director of Inventus Capital India, said.

Euler Motors has previously raised Rs 15 crore (US$ 2.13 million) as part of its pre-series A round from Blume Venture, US-based Emergent Ventures and Andrew Lee.

PepsiCo India ties up with Dunzo for doorstep delivery of its snack brands





PepsiCo India has partnered with Dunzo for its snack food brands that includes Lay’s, Kurkure, Doritos and Quaker, in order to strengthen its distribution channel.

The company has launched the initiative as a pilot in Bengaluru and plans to eventually expand to four more cities across Mumbai, Gurugram, Delhi, and Jaipur.

Customers can reach the Lay’s E-store by tapping the ‘Daily Grocery’ on Dunzo’s app and get these products delivered within an hour of ordering. Although, the E-store opening timings will depend on the guidelines issued by the respective State Governments, it added.

Mr Dilen Gandhi, Sr Director, Marketing – Foods category, PepsiCo India said, “The tie-up with Dunzo will further strengthen our ‘Direct-to-Customer’ initiative and provide our products at the customers’ doorstep. By complying with the safety norms of social distancing and contactless delivery, we want to ensure that our consumers have uninterrupted and safe access to our products.”

The company also entered into a similar distribution partnership with Swiggy for doorstep delivery of its snack brands.

Indian Railways operationalizes 3543 “Shramik Special” trains till 27th May2020 (1000hrs) across the country and transports around 48 lakh passengers to their home states through “Shramik Special” trains in 26 days





Subsequent to the Ministry of Home Affairs order regarding movement of migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists, students and other persons stranded at different places by special trains, Indian Railways is operating “Shramik Special” trains form 1st May 2020.

As on 27th May 2020, a total of 3543 “Shramik Special” trains have been operationalized from various states across the country. On 26.05.2020, 255 Shramik Specials were originated. Till now, around 48 lakh migrants have been transported through Shramik Special Trains in 26 days.

These 3543 trains were originated from various states. The top five States/UTs from where maximum trains originated are Gujarat (946 Trains), Maharashtra (677 Trains), Punjab (377 Trains), Uttar Pradesh (243 Trains) and Bihar (215 Trains).

These “Shramik Special” Trains were terminated in various States across the country. The top five states where maximum trains terminated are Uttar Pradesh (1392 Trains), Bihar (1123 Trains), Jharkhand (156 Trains), Madhya Pradesh (119 Trains), Odisha (123 Trains).

IRCTC distributed more than 78 lakh free meals and more than 1.10 crore water bottles to travelling migrants.

It may be noted that trains running today are not facing any congestion.

In addition to Shramik specials, Railways are running 15 pairs of special trains connecting New Delhi and plans to start 200 more-time tabled trains on 1st June.

DST-SERB supports study for identification of structure-based potential antivirals against COVID 19





The Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) under Department of Science & Technology (DST) has recently supported a proposed study by Prof Pravindra Kumar from IIT- Roorkee for identification of structure-based potential antivirals against SARS-CoV2.

The study to be funded under Intensification of Research in High Priority areas (IRHPA) will search for small molecule inhibitors targeting some of the most important viral replication enzymes. These enzymes are viral proteases (papain-like protease & 3CLprotease), RNA dependent RNA polymerase (nsp12), and the Methyltransferase or MTase (nsp14).Viral proteases, which are enzymes encoded by the genetic material (DNA or RNA) of viral pathogens, catalyse the cleavage of specific peptide bonds in cellular proteins.

In this study, a computer-based high throughput virtual screening approach will be used to identify antiviral molecules from different compound libraries that will be experimentally validated for antiviral potential. The collaborators Dr Shailly Tomar from IIT Roorkee and Dr Gaurav Sharma from Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI), Bareilly, will help in experimental testing and evaluation of the antiviral efficacy of the identified antiviral molecules against SARS-CoV-2 virus.

As a preliminary work, the investigators have already performed the in-silico work by high-throughput virtual screening approach to examine the binding affinity of FDA approved drugs targeting the viral protease Mpro.

“The hunt for new drugs, including repurposed drug candidates, is getting a boost by in silico approaches, which allude to identifying the potential antiviral molecules based on computer simulation of their molecular structures. This approach is expected to be much faster and accurate in selection of potential drugs and vaccines for experimental and clinical testing.”, said Prof Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, DST.

SARS- CoV-2 is the etiological agent responsible for the global COVID-19 pandemic with high morbidity and mortality. Across the globe, the R&D activities by various agencies were initiated towards the identification of clinically effective vaccine or specific antiviral drugs or drug repurposing strategies to combat the COVID-19 infections either in the form of prevention or treatment.

Using structure-based approach for drug repurposing, this study would pave the way to identify the molecules that bind to Mpro active site, and their potential can be used as antiviral molecules against COVID-19.

Smt Nirmala Sitharaman attends Special Board of Governors meeting of New Development Bank through video conference






Union Minister of Finance & Corporate Affairs Ms Nirmala Sitharaman attended the Special Board of Governors meeting of the New Development Bank (NDB) through video conference here today.

The agenda included the election of next President of NDB, appointment of Vice-President and Chief Risk Officer and membership expansion.

In her opening remarks, the Finance Minister commended the contribution of NDB in funding the infrastructure development, which has positively impacted the development agenda of the member countries, including India. Within a short span of time, NDB has approved 55 projects of member countries for an amount of US$ 16.6 billion, which is quite a remarkable achievement. Ms Sitharaman also mentioned that the Bank has successfully created a niche for itself and proudly stands shoulder to shoulder with the peer MDBs.

The Finance Minister appreciated Mr K. V Kamath, the outgoing President of NDB for his stellar stewardship in very quickly giving shape to the vision stated by the BRICS Leaders in 2014. The swift response to COVID-19 through launch of the COVID-19 Emergency Programme Loan product will be remembered as one of his contributions.

Finance Minister congratulated newly elected President Mr Marcos Troyjo from Brazil and newly appointed Vice President and CRO, Mr Anil Kishora from India. While congratulating them, Smt Sitharaman remarked that she has great expectations from new leadership in continuing this momentum forward and taking NDB to the next level in terms of lending performance to members, transparency, international credibility and effectively achieving the NDB mandate. She suggested that the focus should also be given to achieve the twin objective of preserving BRICS values and growing NDB into a global development institution.

Ola Electric acquires Etergo BV, a Netherlands-based electric scooter OEM





Ola Electric Mobility Pvt Ltd, the electric vehicle arm of Ola, has acquired Amsterdam-based Etergo BV, manufacturer of electric scooters.

This marks the entry of Ola Electric in the premium electric two-wheeler market. The company plans to manufacture these scooters.

Etergo was founded in 2014 and has developed an all-electric state-of-the-art ‘AppScooter’, first launched in 2018. The AppScooter utilises swappable high energy density batteries to deliver a range up to 240 km.

Though, this concept is still in early stage and Ola plans to introduce these electric scooters on Indian roads by the start of 2021, with manufacturing units set up in the country.

“The future of mobility is electric, and the post COVID world presents an opportunity for us to accelerate the adoption of electric mobility globally. Every year, almost twice the number of two-wheelers is sold across the world compared to cars. With electric, digitally connected capabilities, two-wheelers will further emerge as the most preferred urban mobility paradigm around the world and empower every consumer,” said Mr Bhavish Aggarwal, founder and chairman, Ola Electric.

Mr Aggarwal confirmed that Ola will build engineering, design, and manufacturing capabilities for these products in India.

“We are looking forward to joining Ola Electric and together, reimagining electric mobility to transform the way the world moves!” said Mr Bart Jacobsz Rosier, co-founder and chief executive, Etergo BV.

With this acquisition, Ola Electric’s engineering and design capabilities will be enhanced, considering Etergo team’s vehicle development experience with automotive companies including Tesla, General Motors, Ferrari, Jaguar, and BMW.

Etergo’s team will continue to be based out of Amsterdam as they join Ola Electric.

Ola Electric has been planning to set up extensive charging and swapping networks around the country over the past year and is currently running various pilots to deploy electric vehicles and charging solutions across cities with a focus on two- and three-wheelers space.

According to the company, it claims to be working with power distribution companies for developing a beneficial EV ecosystem through the establishment of battery swapping and charging stations in the national capital.

In July 2019, Ola Electric became one of the fastest unicorns of the Indian start-up ecosystem after it raised over US$ 250 million from SoftBank, pegging the valuation of the entity to a little more than US$ 1 billion.

Apart from Softbank, Ola Electric is backed by the likes of Tata Sons chairman Emeritus Ratan Tata, Tiger Global, and Matrix India.

EV manufacturer Gemopai to launch new mini-scooter ‘Miso’ in India






Gemopai, an auto manufacturer, plans to launch its new electric vehicle- a mini scooter ‘Miso’ in India in June.

This will be first-of-its kind ‘social distancing’ scooter and is a ‘Made in India’ product.

The company expects that there will be an increase in the demand for personal mobility. Miso will be a great choice as it is an efficient and comfortable personal vehicle at a time when COVID-19 has disrupted the mobility across the country.

Miso will be India’s first social distancing mini scooter and will be available in two variants. One variant will have a carrier, useful for utility vehicle whereas other one will be more focused on simple daily commute. Various battery options will be available with a range of 65 km in a single charge of battery.

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