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DIGITAL WALLET COMPANIES HAVE NO FUTURE

Mumbai: HDFC Bank MD Aditya Puri took a jibe at Paytm and other digital wallets saying they have no future as they don’t have enough margins to sustain their businesses. “The wallet proposition as a valid economic proposal is doubtful. Paytm’s reported losses is Rs 1,651 crore and you can’t have a business that says ‘pay Rs 500 bill and take Rs 250 as cashback’,” he said at the Nasscom India Leadership Forum (NILF).

Puri said the wallet companies cannot copy the Alibaba model as the Indian regulators are “better”, hinting that regulators here will play tough. Drawing from his experience from a trip to the Silicon Valley to look at evolving scenarios in the financial services world, Puri said Apple Pay is also another version of the wallet and there is no “reimagining” of a bank that’s happening in the Valley.

Puri noted that banks also have wallets for e-commerce transactions and said the standalone wallet companies depend on the bank as an intermediary to get the funds. Additionally, the launch of the unified payments interface (UPI) makes it possible for banks to carry out transactions faster. “Is this wallet any better than mine, other than a cash back? I don’t have a Rs 1,651 crore loss. You eliminate the loss, then we will talk,” he told reporters on the sidelines of NILF.

Asked about the higher deposit rates of over 7% that payments banks are offering – Paytm will be entering the space soon – Puri said such high returns are not sustainable. “When he (Paytm) launches the bank, then we will see. Judge the risk and put your money,” he said.

FIAT FOCUSES ON JEEP BRAND WHICH CAN BE A MAKE OR MAR MODEL

CHENNAI: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles India’s (FCAI) new product strategy has an overwhelming focus on the Jeep brand in general and its soon to be launched, locally-made Jeep Compass in particular. The company, which sold just 288 units in January despite a steep price cut of upto Rs 77,000 on its Punto (priced between Rs 5.45 lakh and Rs 7.50 lakh) and Linea models, has invested $300 million in its Ranjangaon plant in Maharashtra and is getting ready to productionise the Jeep Compass and launch it by the third quarter of this calendar.

India will be only the fourth manufacturing hub globally for the model – apart from Brazil, Mexico and China – and the Compass manufactured in Ranjangaon will not only be sold in India but also exported to right-hand drive markets like UK, Japan and Australia. As for existing models like the Linea and Punto, the Fiat management will take a call on their future if the price mark down does not perk up sales. “We recognise the vehicles are quite late in their life cycles and if the price cuts don’t work we will be working fervently on what comes next,” said Kevin Flynn, president & MD, Fiat’s Indian operation.

Flynn said the company was “badly hit by demonitisation” and the management is “working with the dealers to help them recover volumes. The price move was part of that. We will see how that goes. If it works fantastic, if it doesn’t and we need to something about it we will do it,” he said on the question of whether the company will phase out low volume non-Jeep models like the Linea and Punto. FCAI’s decision to introduce its MOPAR customer care programme is also part of the “counter measures” being put in place to correct its sales slide, he added.

TRUMP POLICY IMPACT ON EXPORTS

CHENNAI: EEPC India, an initiative of the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry, which recently celebrated its 60th anniversary has been pushing for higher exports of Indian machinery and engineering solutions in markets as far-flung as Vietnam to Iran. B Sarkar, executive director, said.

We are seeing no immediate, short term impact, but there are long-term grave implications with a protectionist regime. Castings, valves, forgings, are heavily imported by US companies from Indian makers. Now, Trump can talk of ‘Make American, Buy American,’ but ultimately it will result in higher labour costs, tighter environment laws and heavier clearance for manufacturing industrial equipment. Industries there will also have to contend with a stronger union and cannot really make their products with a competitive edge. While it is true that the engineering export slumped to $56 billion in 2016 from $70 billion in 2015, we expect the market to rebound. In the March quarter alone we are expecting a growth of 15%.

MADE IN INDIA VS MAD IN INDIA

MUMBAI: Peeved at hurdles being faced by his company to launch its quadri-cycle in India, industrialist Rajiv Bajaj has said stifling of innovation by regulatory agencies will turn `Made in India’ into `Mad in India’, taking potshots at the Centre’s flagship manufacturing initiative.

“If your innovation in the country depends on the Government approval or the judicial process, it will not be a case of ‘Made in India’, but ‘Mad in India’. After five years, we are still waiting for permission to sell our four- wheeler in the country,” the Managing Director of Bajaj Auto told a gathering of IT industry executives here.

Stating the quadri-cycle is being sold across countries in Europe, Asia and Latin America, Bajaj wondered why a vehicle which is cleaner, fuel-efficient, safer and whose benefits are as “obvious as daylight”, is facing troubles. “This is the only country that has not given us permission to sell this vehicles. Because for some reason it thinks if four-wheeler is worse, let people continue on three- wheeler,” Bajaj said.

RBI HOPES FOR REVIVAL OF ECONOMY

NEW DELHI: Reserve Bank Governor Urjit Patel on Friday said India’s economic growth will make a “sharp V” recovery following the recall of old 500 and 1,000 rupee notes. Patel also made a strong case for continuing with globalisation even in the face of a potential shift to trade protectionism under US President Donald Trump as India has benefited from open trade.

“Almost everyone agrees that the impact is going to be a sharp ‘V’, that we would have a downgrade of growth for a short period of time,” he told CNBC-TV18 in an interview. “However, the remonetisation has happened at a fast pace and that was part of the plan.”

RBI last week lowered economic growth for the current fiscal to 6.9 per cent from the previously projected 7.1 per cent, but saw it bouncing back in a big way to 7.4 per cent in 2017-18. He said the benefit of junking 86 per cent of currency in circulation will take time to fully play out and needs more work to ensure they are lasting.

Asked when India could achieve 9 per cent GDP growth, he said it is difficult to predict sustainable growth rates. Higher growth rate is possible if very fundamental reforms, especially in factors of production like land and labour, are undertaken, the Governor said.

“Now how much higher than 7.5 that we are achieving so far is difficult to say. But the fact is we need to grow at some point faster than we are now,” he said. “I think 7.5 per cent growth rate is not something to be disappointed about.” The six-member monetary policy committee (MPC) headed by Patel had last week kept interest rates unchanged at 6.25 per cent for the second straight meeting and changed policy stance to ‘neutral’ from ‘accommodative’.

 

FOCUS ON RURAL ECONOMY

NEW DELHI: Rural India will gain from strong growth in horticulture, poultry, dairiesand fisheries, in addition to bumper farm production that is estimated to hit a new record this crop year, agricultureminister Radha Mohan Singhsaid.

The government’s focus on making India self-sufficient in food grains will ensure that the country does not import pulses in the years ahead, Singh told ET on Thursday, a day after his ministry forecast major crop output to reach nearly 272 million tonnes in the year through June 2017. The estimated production is 2.6% more than the current record, achieved in 2013-14.

“Due to the concerted efforts of scientists to get early-maturing varieties of pulses and increase in minimum support price, pulses production is on the rise for the past two years. I am hopeful that in the next few years the country will be self-sufficient in pulses,” he said.

AUTO INDUSTRY DIVIDED OVER ISSUE OF UNSOLD BS-III

CHENNAI: The ongoing debate over the issue of unsold BS-III vehicles has pitted one half of the auto industry against the other. Close on the heels of Bajaj’s managing director, Rajiv Bajaj’s statement on the two-wheeler industry, comes a statement by Daimler India Commercial Vehicles MD & CEO Erich Nesselhauf who saw obvious attempts by some players in the truck industry to use the unsold inventory ruse to dilute the emission agenda.

“Continuing discussions on BS-IV are reflecting obvious attempts of some players in the Indian commercial vehicle industry to dilute this upcoming transition of emissions standards,” he said. “Recent studies on air quality show how important this project is for the people and the environment. It should not be diluted by commercial interests. There is no acceptable reason for any delay, as everyone in the industry had enough time to get ready for the transition.”

Nesselhauf also added that BS-IV vehicles are in fact economically beneficial for the customers as they deliver more kilometres per litre compared to BS-III and can therefore reduce the import bill of the government of India. “We will shift production of BharatBenz trucks in March to vehicles equipped with state-of-the-art BS-IV technology only,” he added. “We have been selling several hundred BS-IV vehicles since August 2015. The positive feedback from these early BS-IV customers clearly tells us that BharatBenz is fully ready for the transition. We have extensively trained our BharatBenz dealers and service personnel for our BS-IV technology – our customers can expect a smooth transition to the BS-IV standard,” he said.

GREEN CARD OFFER TO THE INVESTORS OF $500.000

Every week, on average, three Indians are signing up to shell out half-a-million dollars each to have a go at living the American dream, through a sponsored ‘invest in the US and get a green card’ program called the EB-5.

The EB-5 Investor Visa program provides an opportunity for immigrant foreign nationals and their immediate family (children up to the age of 21) to obtain US green cards and permanent residency in mainly two ways. Through the first route (direct investment), one can invest a minimum of $1 million, start a business from scratch and create 10 full-time American jobs.

The second way (regional center program) is simpler and requires a one-time investment of $500,000 (Rs 3.4 crore) into a government-approved EB-5 business that creates 10 or more full-time American jobs in rural areas. One can also redeem the investment after five years.

“We have signed up 210 investors in a very short time and 42 are Indians,” said Rogelio Caceres, co-founder & CMO of LCR Capital Partners, an investment cum immigration consultancy that invests applicants’ funds into companies such as Dunkin’ Donuts and Four Seasons. “For EB-5, we have witnessed interest from top executives at companies including Bain, Reliance, Aditya Birla and McKinsey apart from business families. These guys do not want their kids to face uncertainty while looking for jobs in the US,” said Caceres. He attributes the current rush for EB-5+to two factors: uneasiness over the Trump administration’s take on H-1B+ and the expiry of the EB-5 visa program in April.

FUNDING TO STARTUPS DECLINES

MUMBAI: Mumbai, which spawned a bunch of high-profile startups like Housing. com and attracted millions of dollars in investor capital over the past few years, registered a 44% decline in funding deals in 2016, even as Pune managed to buck the slowdown.

Mumbai struggled as its startup epicenter Powai saw many shutdowns last year, including the likes of TinyOwl, taking away the sheen from the city as a prime location for young ventures to flourish. The city racked up $232 million (over Rs 1,550 crore at current exchange rate) worth of funding across 151deals last year; falling from 233 deals accounting for $419 million (about Rs 2,800 crore) in 2015, said data released by VCCEdge, a NewsCorp-owned online financial research platform.

Pune, on the other hand, received $52 million (Rs 350 crore) worth of funding last year compared to $39 million (Rs 260 crore) in 2015. It also registered a 69% annual increase in the number of financing deals compared to Mumbai. The number of funding deals in Pune went up from 35 in 2015 to 59 last year. Investments in startups have come down dramatically after a few years of excessive capital coming into young tech startups in India.

Last year, startups in Maharashtra collectively scooped up $285 million (Rs 1,910 crore) as against $496 million (Rs 3,300 crore) in 2015; a drop of about 42% in terms of deal value, the data said. “One of the reasons is that a lot of startups have moved from Mumbai to places like Bengaluru where there is a bigger tech pool and cheaper talent, along with a lower cost of living,” said Aseem Khare, founder of hyper-local startup Taskbob, which recently shut operations.

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