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Industry News

  • Exports Increase by 27.6% in March, Imports up 45%: India's merchandise exports increased at the fastest pace in almost six years in March led by an overall rise in shipments across sectors even as a steeper rise imports due to firmer commodity prices widened the trade deficit.

    Buoyed by petroleum, textiles, engineering goods and gems and jewellery, exports zoomed 27.59% in March to $29.2 billion but a 45.25% increase in imports on the back of higher gold imports led to a trade gap of $10.4 billion.

    This is the seventh consecutive month of rise in exports this year. Twenty-five out of 30 sectors showed an increase in exports led by iron ore. India's imports in March were $39.6 billion of which gold imports were $4.1 billion, up 329% year-on-year. Imports too rose at a six-year high.

    "In continuation with the double digit growth exhibited by exports during February 2017, exports during March 2017 have shown a significant growth...Overall the trade balance has im proved," commerce and industry ministry said in a statement.

    However, the robust monthly data failed to boost annual exports to the $300-billion mark.

    India exported goods worth $274.6 billion in 2016-17, 4.7% higher than $262.2 billion in FY16.Trade deficit in 2016-17 was $105.7 billion.

    "With these numbers, we expect exports to touch $325 billion this year. We have political stability, reforms are underway and measures on ease of doing business will start showing results," said Ajay Sahai, director general of the Federation of Indian Export Organisations.
    (ET, Apr 14, 2017)
  • Industry seeks to allay radiation fears: The telecom industry has dispelled fears that tower radiation causes health hazards and urged citizens not to panic as Indian emission norms are stricter than global standards.

    The Cellular Operators Association of India issued a statement a day after a media report said the Supreme Court had ordered Bharat Sanchar Nigam last month to deactivate an illegally installed tower in Gwalior within seven days, acting on a complaint by a man who claimed to be afflicted with cancer due to radiation exposure from the tower.

    The report relates to an interim -not final -order in only one of four cases that have been brought up in the apex court, said COAI.

    "The industry appeals to the citizens and the public to not panic and read the interim order in its entirety. There are four EMF (electromagnetic fields)-related cases which have been clubbed together. The interim Supreme Court order relates to only one of them, whereas cell towers included in the other cases were left untouched," said Rajan Mathews, director general of COAI.

    Eight high courts have found that radiation emanating from mobile towers is not hazardous for human health, he added.
    (ET, Apr 13, 2017)
  • WTO Expects Global Trade to Grow at 2.4% in 2017: Global merchandise trade is expected to rebound this year, with the World Trade Organisation forecasting a growth of 2.4% in 2017 compared to 1.3% in 2016. However, this is contingent on recovery of the global economy as expected and governments pursuing the right policy mix, the international trade regulator said.

    The organisation blamed the sluggish rate of trade growth in 2016 on low investment spending in the United States, China's drive towards consumption that dampened import demand last year and slowdown in emerging market economies. It has pegged global merchandise trade to pick up slightly in 2018 and grow 2.1-4%.

    "Weak international trade growth in the last few years largely reflects continuing weakness in the global economy. However, if policymakers attempt to address job losses at home with severe restrictions on imports, trade cannot help boost growth and may even constitute a drag on the recovery," WTO director general Roberto Azevedo said on Wednesday after releasing trade statistics for 2016 and projections for 2017 and 2018.

    WTO said the unpredictable direction of the global economy in the near term and the lack of clarity about government action on monetary, fiscal and trade policies raises the risk that trade activity will be stifled.

    "A spike in inflation leading to higher interest rates, tighter fiscal policies and the imposition of measures to curtail trade could all undermine higher trade growth over the next two years," the WTO said in its report.

    In 2016, the weak trade growth was partly due to cyclical factors as economic activity slowed across the board.

    "Global economic growth has been unbalanced since the financial crisis, but for the first time in several years all regions of the world economy should experience a synchronised upturn in 2017. This could reinforce growth and provide an additional boost to trade," the report said.
    (ET, Apr 13, 2017)
  • Cisco Plans Global Exports from India (setting up a hardware hub) : Cisco sees India as an international exports hub for its hardware products and wants its co ponent-making partners to set up shop here too. It is a ready manufacturing access points and routers in Pune Dinesh Malkani, president, Cisco India & SAARC, told ET that the US-based networking company expects to complete 50 digitisation projects by December end, funded by its $100-million Country Digitisation Acceleration programme.

    "We have seen much policy change lately, enough for us to say we are ready (for full-fledged manufacturing)," said Malkani. "We recently invited all our partners to share why we took this decision and why it ma y we took this decision and why it makes sense. We are encouraging them to come here (too)."

    "When they (component makers) are in your backyard, you cut logistics costs. I feel quite bullish about it," he said. Cisco recently unveiled one of the most popular products in its switching portfolio as its first under Make in India. Initially, the company will make five to six products in India, Malkani said.

    Cisco's global supply chain head al so sounded out the government on ecosystem development. It manages deep engagements with six-seven states across 50 projects under its Country Digitisation Acceleration programme. It has set up six innovation centres in Bengaluru, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Jaipur and Gujarat to co innovate with customers, startups and partners to build new solutions, products and engage in rapid proto typing around Internet of Things (IoT) and other digital technologies.

    Cisco has invested in 25-26 companies across sectors in India through its $280-million venture fund and is looking to broaden its portfolio. "Of innovation-focused corpus is $40 mil this, the India innovation-focused corpus is $40 million," said Malkani, adding that Cisco has been filing two patents every week. Malkani said India has been and will continue to outpace market growth, though he declined to share numbers.
    (ET, Apr 12, 2017)
  • Indians In Demand Despite H-1B Noise, Say US Varsities (Top American firms are keen to employ Indian students like before, says Lawerence Tech Varsity CEO Moudgil) : Presidents of the top US universities have recently assured international students, particularly those from India in high-tech courses, that they are still in demand by top American industrial and business enterprises notwithstanding the recent noises to change H-1B visa norms, according to an Indian-origin CEO and president of Michigan-based top technological university .

    The Indian students in US universities have no reason to get unduly perturbed if they are seeking placements in America after finishing their courses. Presidents of top universities in America in a recent move have assured the Indian students that their talent is very much acknowledged in the USA. Top American firms are keen to employ Indian students like before notwithstanding noises over changes in US visa norms. The universities in the USA are with the international students including those from India," Indian-origin president and CEO of Lwarence Technological University Virinder K Moudgil, currently on a visit to India, told ET. Moudgil, who is meeting Indian students aspiring to enroll in US universities, assured them that American university campuses are safe and efforts are being made to promote multi-culturalism. He described the recent controversy as a `blip' which will disappear.

    Claiming that USA was a hospitable place to study and prosper, the senior academician said that American universities provide best of research environment for any student to excel in his or her chosen discipline. "Indian students in the USA do well because they are not only talented but also hardworking. Therefore, they are at an advantage and are sought after by the American firms across disciplines," Moudgil explained.

    He recalled his own success story from a boy in Ludhiania who went on to become president of an US university. "I went to the USA for higher studies in early '70s. I returned back and got a cushy job as a lecturer in a top university in Punjab. But I went back to the USA as it was giving me the opportunity to excel in my area of research. Thereafter I charted a different course and even had the opportunity to even lead an American university, " said Moudgil.
    (ET, Apr 12, 2017)
  • Business confidence at all-time high: India's business sentiment is bullish and expectations from the economy are at an all-time high, a business outlook survey carried out by the Confederation of Indian Industry has revealed.

    The CII Business Confidence Index (BCI) for the quarter to March has surged to a record high of 64.1as against 56.5 recorded in the previous quarter. "The turnaround in business expectations gives credence to a growth narrative based on improved business sentiment and investor confidence," said Chandrajit Banerjee, director general, CII.

    The survey calculates BCI based on the responses from more than a 100 large, medium, small and micro firms across the country, on questions related to the performance of their firm, sector and the economy based on their perceptions about the previous and current quarter.

    Over 77% of respondents expressed optimism with regard to budget tax proposals and 52% expected the goods and services tax (GST) to have a positive impact on the economy after a year of its implementation.

    About 41% of the respondents expected a downward revision in the GDP data, while about 47% expected inflation levels to rise above the 3.2% recorded in January. This notwithstanding, business conditions are expected to improve as over 63% of the firms expect an increase in sales in the fourth quarter of FY2017.
    (ET, Apr 10, 2017)
  • India to remain fastest growing major eco : ADB : India will remain the fastest growing major economy in the world with growth expected to be over 7.4% in 2017 and 7.6% in 2018, while expansion in China is likely to slow in the next two years, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said in its latest forecast.

    In its new Asia Development Outlook (ADO) report, the manila-based ADB said the deceleration to 7.1% registered last year was due to slower investment growth and the impact of demonetization that the government unveiled in November. But it said the impact of scrapping some high value notes has been largely temporary.

    "An array of important reforms has propelled India's economic success in recent years," said Yasuyuki Sawada, ADB's chief economist. "A continued commitment to reforms - especially in the banking sector - will help India maintain its status as the world's fastest growing major economy."

    China's growth continues to moderate as the government implements measures to transition the economy to a more consumption-driven model. ADB said,. Overall output is expected to slow to 6.5% in 2017 and 6.2% in 2018, down from 2016's 6.7%.
    (TOI, Apr 07, 2017)
Information Technology
  • Digital Drive : (India has become the second highest country in terms of mobile internet users and its internet economy is expected to achieve US$ 250 billion by 2020) : With about 391 mnusers, India has already become the second highest country in terms of mobile internet users.This is expected to grow rapidly to approximately 650 mn mobile internet users by 2020. At the same time, data consumption could potentially increase 10-14 times by 2020.The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), along with The Indus Entrepreneurs (TIE), released a report titled 'The $250 Billion Digital Volcano: Dormant No More' that describes this phenomenal digital adoption in the country.

    India's internet economy is expected to double to become US$250 bn by 2020. E-commerce and financial services are projected to lead this growth. For instance, share of digital payment transactions could more than double to go up to 30-40 per cent by 2020.

    "The focus on digital payments will revolutionise payment habits in India with digital payments becoming the new normal in 2017. As we become more digital, India will see new taxpayers and better transparency in incomes," states Bipin Preet Singh, Founder & CEO, MobiKwik.

    As the new digital paradigm emerges, adapting to change will become critical. For instance, the impact on jobs is expected to be transformational. New ways of working are expected to emerge with an increasingly flexible workforce optimising efficiency.

    "It is essential to understand the three forces that are now synergising to unlock internet consumption in India," says Nimisha Jain, a BCG partner and report co-author. "Firstly, 4G-enabled devices are expected to grow six times to 550 mn devices by 2020, constituting 70 per cent devices in use. Secondly, reliable high speed data is becoming both ubiquitous as well as mass affordable (data rates have reduced to less than one-third in just 4-5 months). Lastly, digital content is proliferating as well as improving in quality, thus driving consumption," she informs.

    Even for the SMEs, digitisation is a boon. "Emerging businesses across the country share a common need to control costs, boost performance to drive profitable growth. Some of the other technology adoption requirements of SMEs are accessibility to appropriate software information, readymade templatised solutions, and maintenance and management of the software," shares Priyadarshi Mohapatra, Vice President, Emerging Business, SAP India.

    Not just digitisation, artificial intelligence (AI), too, is going to play an important role, especially in the financial sector. "Indian banks are embracing digital solutions for interacting with customers; the next step is implementing the enabling power of AI, such as identifying consumer preferences and then reacting with insight and emotional intelligence," says Piyush Singh, managing director and head of Accenture Financial Services group in India.

    "In addition to gaining insights, banks could transform customer experience and improve operational efficiency. However, the challenge will be how quickly banks can implement these new technologies as banks continue to face legacy issues with their existing IT set up. This would require a C-suite-led impetus to embrace new technologies," he states.

    Increased technology adoption plays a key role in helping all businesses, be it the large enterprises, the SMEs or the startups, to deal with the challenges of economy, security and performance that loom over these businesses and open doors to the opportunities waiting to be explored.
    (ET, Apr 14, 2017)
  • Cortana has You Covered on Win installs : Microsoft recently modified its voice recognition feature to enable users to configure their PCs. Setting up a Windows machine has gradually been getting easier thanks to Microsoft's simplifications, latest in line being the Windows 10 Creators Update. Microsoft's digital voice recognition assistant Cortana will guide users through the setup process. Users can configure keyboard and setup an internet connection, just by conversing with Cortana.
    (ET, Apr 10, 2017)
  • In Telecom with Roaming gone & Consumer is King : Mobile phone users, especially those who travel within India, would be greeted with a lower bill for April as India's major telcos - Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular and Aircel --have taken giant steps towards abolishing roaming in their attempt to match Reliance Jio Infocomm's offers.

    Starting April 1, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular and Aircel have already abolished incoming charges while roaming. Newcomer Reliance Jio has made voice calls free for life, which includes no charges on incoming or outgoing calls while roaming on any network.

    Market leader Airtel has also said it won't charge a premium on outgoing calls while roaming, and others would have no choice but to follow suit, meaning mobile phone users can now carry their mobile numbers anywhere in the country, talk freely and pay home rates, which in turn, would translate into lower monthly phone bills.

    Experts though note that incumbent telcos could see a further dip in voice average revenue per user (ARPUs) in the coming months, starting with the first quarter of this fiscal year which began April 1as roaming accounts for 3 to 4.5% of a telco's revenue, though the fall will partly offset by likely rising call volumes. Nitin Soni, director at ratings agency, Fitch, agreed that consumers would be the "biggest beneficiaries" with the death of domestic roaming as their "bill shocks would end", which in turn, would boost voice usage levels.

    "Domestic roaming as a concept got pretty much killed ever since Jio decided that voice would be perceived as free by consumers," Mayuresh Joshi, fund manager at Angel Broking, told ET. Vodafone and Idea, he said, will have no choice but to respond to the disruptive moves taken by Jio and Airtel on the domestic roaming front, and price their voice and data rates accordingly.

    A top industry expert, who did not wish to be named, backed the view, saying "a complete equilibrium in domestic roaming charges is imminent," especially since all serious telcos are rapidly seeing "India as a single telecom geography and not 22 separate circles."

    Fitch's Soni also feels domestic roaming has rapidly gone out of fashion amid surging data consumption.

    "With consumers increasingly using popular OTT (over-the-top) voice communication apps such as WhatsApp, Skype to FaceBook Messenger for domestic long-distance calls, national roaming as a concept is fast losing relevance," he said.

    He, however, said that there will be some revenue losses in the coming quarters for incumbents.

    But the industry executive cited above noted that the fall in roaming revenue could be partially offset by an increase in overall call volumes coupled with a rise in the number of domestic roamers.
    (ET, Apr 15, 2017)
  • Trai to consider Rel Jio complaint against big three: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) will soon examine and settle the complaint made by new entrant Reliance Jio Infocomm against incumbent players Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular for allegedly violating licensing norms.

    "We receive many plaints. They (Jio) may have written to Trai. We will look into it soon and dispose of the matter," Trai chairman RS Sharma told ET, without specifying any timeframe.

    The telecom arm of the oil-to-logistics conglomerate Reliance Industries (RIL) in a letter to Trai dated April 10 sought the `strongest' possible action and `highest penalty' against market leader Bharti Airtel, Aditya Birla group's Idea Cellular and UK-based Vodafone's India arm for deploying unfair and deceptive ways to retain customers willing to exit their networks.

    "At the outset, we submit that as far as these mobile number portability offers are concerned, these are in gross violation of existing telecom laws including Telecom Tariff Order, 1999," Jio in a letter to the regulator alleged. Sunil Mittal-owned Bharti Airtel and Vodafone India have denied Jio's charges.
    (ET, Apr 15, 2017)
  • No end to Telecom War (Bharti Airtel Moves Telecom Tribunal over Jio Schemes) : Bharti Airtel has moved the telecom tribunal against Reliance Jio Infocomm, asking it to restrain the Mukesh Ambani-owned company from providing free services, including those offered under its `Summer Surprise' offer that was withdrawn on order from the sector regulator. Lawyers of Jio objected to Airtel's application, saying it was meant to confuse issues.

    Airtel, through an application filed on Thursday, objected to alleged delays from Jio's end to implement regulator Trai's order to stop Summer Surprise offer, which provided free voice and data for three months for a charge of Rs. 303.

    India's top telecom service provider also objected continuation of the benefits under that offer to consumers who had subscribed to the offer before it was withdrawn. Senior Lawyer Gopal Jain representing Bharti Airtel asked Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) to "restrain Reliance Jio forthwith from providing or from continuing to provide free services andor services under the Summer Surprise Offer to any of its customers, including but not limited to, such customers who have already subscribed to the Summer Surprise Offer", a person present in the tribunal said.

    Ramji Srinivasan, counsel representing Reliance Jio, claimed that Airtel's plea was not "maintainable since it is raising an entirely new different point, and is only filed to confuse the issues."

    Srinivasan and Trai's lawyer Kirtiman Singh said the Summer Surprise offer was withdrawn by April 11.

    TDSAT directed Jio and Tele com Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to file their respective replies to the tribunal by April 18.

    The next hearing is scheduled for April 20. The tribunal will club this application along with another petition where Airtel and Idea Cellular have challenged a Trai order that allowed Jio to offer free services beyond 90 days, the stipulated period for pro motional offers. Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio did not comment on the latest developments.

    Tariff wars between incumbents and the new entrant have become a contentious issue and escalated manifold in the past few months. While Jio has been coming up with new ways to give free data to lure customers, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular have been upping the ante by giving additional data benefits to retain customers. Both sides have also taken legal and regulatory recourses to curtail one another.

    Jio had asked Trai to take "strongest action" and levy "highest penalty" on the trio for violating licence rules, telecom tariff orders and mobile number portability (MNP) guidelines.
    (ET, Apr 14, 2017)
  • Handset Makers Shift Focus to Neighbourhood Stores in India: Smartphone brands Asus, InFocus, Xiaomi, Motorola, ZTE and Huawei are streamlining strategy to intensify expansion into brick-and-mortar retail with the goods and services tax (GST) expected to be rolled out on July 1likely to erode the difference in pricing of smartphones online and offline.

    These brands have drawn up fresh strategies such as direct distribution, partnership with large-format retail, creation of separate models for offline, setting up own stores and increasing marketing spend, three senior industry executives said.

    "There is a scramble amongst online smartphone brands to expand into offline retail. While a couple of brands like Xiaomi and Huawei are intensifying efforts, most others are making fresh attempts. With GST, the value added tax (VAT) advantage, which the online sellers enjoy, will disappear completely, making online and offline a much more level playing field," said cellphone retail chain Hotspot's director Subhasish Mohanty.

    At present, online sellers sell from low VAT markets like Bengaluru and Hyderabad where VAT on smartphones is 5% while it is much higher in most other markets, with the national average at around 1012%, whereby they have a pricing advantage to sell at such low prices. With GST, the taxes will become uniform.

    Xiaomi has rejigged its distribution replicating the online model into offline space where distributors sell distributors sell directly to retail stores cutting-down layers to ensure common pricing across plat forms. It has also partnered with four big retail cha ins in South India - Sangeetha, Poorvika, BigC and LOT -and is in talks with others. Also on the cards are plans to set up company-owned Mi Home stores in India, just like in China.

    Xiaomi India managing director Manu Jain said while the brand is leading in the online smartphone market, the overall online market space constitutes only one-third of the market in India. "For us to attain an overall market dominance, a key challenge we face is to improve the offline experience. The direct to retail offline model is a clear winning example of our approach," he said.

    Asus India country manager Peter Chang said the company is focusing right from metros to tier II offline markets. He said the brand plans to expand its offline presence this year. "Besides achieving standardisation of taxation levels and making inter-state movement of goods easier, it should also help sellers achieve similar selling prices."

    InFocus too is re-launching its offline business and building a portfolio of models. The Foxconn-owned brand has plans to invest big money in offline trade and marketing replicating the strategy of Chinese rivals, Oppo and Vivo. ZTE too is going to offline retail in a big way, including expansion into smaller towns, a senior industry executive said.

    Huawei India consumer business group director of product centre, Allen Wang, said the dual channel strategy for Huawei and Honor helps it to reach out to wider consumers. "We carefully evaluate the right mix of channel required before launching a product in the market," he said.

    Even online marketplaces like Amazon and Flipkart are drawing up plans to foray into offline distribution of smartphones for brands like Coolpad, OnePlus and Lenovo. Smartphone is the largest selling category in Indian e-commerce.
    (ET, Apr 13, 2017)
  • Apple looks for selective Manufacturing here : Apple wants to set up selective manufacturing lines in India during this financial year, the commerce and industry minister told the Rajya Sabha.

    Nirmala Sitharaman said the government has not made its final decision on the concessions demanded by the US-based iPhone maker for setting up manufacturing facilities in India.

    The Department of Revenue, along with the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology , is deliberating on the company's demands. Apple has asked the government for exemption from custom duty on components for 15 years.

    In a recent meeting between government officials and Apple executives, the company was told to work closely with the Ministry of Electronics and IT so that its plans conform to the government's current phased manufacturing programme to the maximum ex tent possible.

    Apple wants to make India a major manufacturing hub after China and Brazil, and is set to start the work towards this goal from a plant being set up by contract manufacturer Wistron in Karnataka to assemble 300,000-400,000 iPhone SEs a year.

    The company wants to scale up manufacturing in India by establishing a local supplier base in the long run. It currently makes and exports chargers through a contract manufacturing facility in Chennai.

    India offers a 20% capital subsidy for electronics manufacturing for 10 years under the Modified Special Incentive Package Scheme.
    (ET, Apr 13, 2017)
  • New Business courses cope with price wars: (B-Schools Top Up on Telecom Tales) : Price wars, mergers, selloffs, corporate accusations, regulator-operator tiffs, lawsuits and job cuts -developments that roiled the telecom industry in the past six months or so are now case studies at business schools to explain management concepts.

    The turmoil in the telecom industry has offered a number of examples to cover everything from handling of human resources and industrial relations to strategy, marketing, business model and pricing that form part of management courses, professors at Indian Institutes of Management, XLRI-Xavier School of Management, Indian School of Business, SP Jain Institute of Management & Research (SPJIMR) and other B-schools said.

    "The telecom sector is of strategic importance to the Indian economy as new technologies create new communication options and telecommunications can reduce information and transaction costs," said S Raghunath, who teaches corporate strategy and policy at IIM-Bangalore.

    He has been discussing with students how low tariffs could lead to unsavoury consequences for companies but benefits for consumers. Sectors like banking and insurance, too, could benefit as lower tariffs mean higher profits for those who heavily depend on the service to market and deliver their own products and services.

    The entry of Reliance Jio Infocomm has shaken up the telecom sector that had three dominant players - Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular and Vodafone India. Jio's free offers that lasted for six months led to the industry's worst price wars. The aftermath was falling re venue and profits for the companies, debt upwards of `4.8 lakh crore and a wave of consolidation.

    The tiff between the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and the incumbent operators is also being discussed in management colleges. Raghunath pointed out to his classes the importance of a proper mix between a low regulation profile in the field of the Internet and considerable regulation in the telecommunications sector. "Inadequate regulations could dampen investment and innovation in the sector," he said.

    "Traditionally, global players had all business models converge to a centralised way, but in India, with dynamic shifts, they have had to change keeping competition in mind and this has caught them by surprise," said Pant.

    Last year, UK's Vodafone Group wrote off GBP 4.4 billion in its India business. Among others, Telenor exited the country, selling its Indian unit to Airtel, while Japanese firm Docomo is expected to leave once its legal tussle with the Tata Group gets sorted out.

    Pant is also teaching his class how the biggest corporate groups can make erroneous bets, like the Tata Group
    (ET, Apr 12, 2017)
  • Jio Surprises Again with New Offer (Airtel says it's Old Wine in New Bottle): Reliance Jio Infocomm unveiled a new plan for mobile phone subscribers, offering three months of freebies besides 1 GB data a day for a one-time recharge of `309 and above, drawing criticism from Bharti Airtel, which deemed it similar to the new entrant's previous plan that the regulator had stopped.

    Under the Jio Dhan Dhana Dhan plan available now and valid for 84 days from the date of subscription, Jio will offer free voice, unlimited SMS and access to Jio apps, and 1 or 2 GB of daily data for a one-time payment of Rs.309 or Rs.509, respectively, to its Prime members, who paid a onetime fee of `99. Non-Prime members can pay the one-time fee and recharge with either of the two amounts to become eligible for the new offer.

    "Jio is currently implementing the world's largest migration from free to paid services in such a short period of time. In order to smoothen the migration from free to paid services, Jio has implemented simple, affordable and regulatory-compliant plans in customer interest," the company said in a statement.. Jio said it had racked up over 100 million users and 72 million of them converted to paid users by March 31, making it the largest telco by wireless broadband subscribers.

    The Mukesh Ambani-owned company said that it had withdrawn its Summer Surprise offer following the advice of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. Under that offer, launched on March 31, Prime members making their first recharge payment of `303 or more by April 15 would get three months of complimentary services.

    "We are surprised to see what Jio is doing. It violates the spirit of the Trai directive and essentially continues with a similar plan now masquerading under a different name," an Airtel spokesperson told ET over email. "This is a classic example of old wine in a new bottle. We hope that the authority will act against this provocative disregard of their direction."
    (ET, Apr 12, 2017)
  • OnePlus 5 may pack 8GB RAM: Chinese manufacturer OnePlus is known for producing flagship phones with an impeccable performance at affordable prices. According to reports, the OnePlus 5 will have an edge-to-edge screen and may come with 8GB DDR4 RAM along with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset. It will also reportedly come with a 23MP rear camera with OIS and optical zoom.
    (ET, Apr 12, 2017)
  • Huawei plans public cloud push now: Chinese telecoms equipment and smartphone maker Huawei Technologies said it will expand its cloud computing section, with a dedicated division that will recruit 2,000 more people this year. "We used to focus on private cloud and did well," Zheng Yelai, president of the new unit, said. "The aim is to strengthen our public cloud offering." Public cloud services involve shared data infrastructure, rather than dedicated infrastructure built for single customers.
    (ET, Apr 12, 2017)
  • Higher-end Handsets Now Have More Takers in India: Smartphone makers in India had one big positive last year, when they were hit by slowing sales. The average sale price of these devices, crucial to their revenue and profitability, rose for the first time in four years in 2016 going up by 3% and is expected to increase this year as well.

    The unexpected change in trend reflects a shift in consumer buying in an acutely price sensitive market, indicating that more smartphone users are now willing to spend more on higher-priced products from Apple and Samsung Electronics and mid-segment priced phones launched by Chinese companies, industry executives and analysts said.

    With volume growth in 2017 expected to be little changed or marginally higher, companies are trying to focus on driving value from the same volumes. This means revamping their portfolio to offer higher-value models in the hope of pushing up margins and profitability.

    "With thinning margins on lower-priced smartphones, brands focused on models that were priced higher, specifically in the `10,000-` `20,000 price band, while ecommerce platforms like Flipkart and Amazon also focused on brands in the mid-segment to chase profitability," said Tarun Pathak, associate director at Hong Kong based Counterpoint Technology Market Research. "Even though 75% of the sales are under $150, the sweet spot for consumer purchase changed from $75 to $100, which led to the increase in the average s le price (ASP)."

    According to Counterpoint, ASP of smartphones in India rose by 3% to $122 on-year after declining every year since 2013. International Data Corporation pegged the ASP at $135 in 2016, up 2.3%.

    Still, ASPs in India are among the lowest among major markets, at about half the level of China's $258 and a third of $410 in the US, IDC added.

    Shubhajit Sen, chief marketing officer at Indian Smartphone maker Micromax Informatics, said that new companies concentrated on launching devices in the mid-premium segment (` Rs.10,000- Rs.20,000),leading to a high double-digit growth in this category. "ASPs rose by as much as 20% to cross `10,000 for the first time ever in 2017, we will continue to see growth in the mid-premium segment," Sen said.

    The company launched Rs.24,999-priced Dual5 last month as a precursor to a wider, higher-priced portfolio this year. Rival Indian company Lava ventured into this price bracket last month with its Z series, aiming at generating h\higher revenue from this segment.

    Oppo, along with Chinese companies Vivo, Lenovo, Xiaomi and Gionee, has been driving up volumes in the mid premium segment by aggressively launching models, making it the fastest-growing price band in the market.

    "Even though most Indian consumers are still very price sensitive, there is a growing section of the new-age buyers who are willing to pay more for the premium quality for their Smartphone," said Sky Li, president of Oppo India, adding that he expected the ASP to rise in 2017 as this buying sentiment continues.
    (ET, Apr 11, 2017)
  • Micromax, Flipkart to Co-Develop Phones : Micromax Informatics, seeking to regain its spot among India's top five smartphone sellers, has tied up with Flipkart to jointly develop devices in the Rs.6,000 to Rs.12,000 price band, which will be sold exclusively on the ecommerce , say the companies. The phones branded Evok are likely to hit the market next week. Micromax is targeting a price segment that accounts for about 50% of the market by volume and over 40% by value. The company lost its position among the top five to Chinese rivals and is banking on online and offline platforms for a comeback. Online contributes half of Micro max's sales in the Rs. 6,000 to .Rs.12,000 price band.

    "It's a long term agreement with Flipkart where we will be developing products jointly based on the insights and consumer understanding we get," said Shubhajit Sen, chief marketing officer at Micromax. "This is a way of design for India, which will take Micromax's online share up, while t will help Flipkart penetrate deeper into Tier II and Tier III markets, as both are targeting he value-conscious buyer."

    Flipkart and Micromax will invest in the initiative, although they did not reveal the quantum or how much each of them would put into the devices. While a couple of Evok devices will be launched on Flipkart starting this month, the country's largest online retaier already has exclusive rights o sell the premium Micromax Dual5 for Rs.24,999.
    (ET, Apr 11, 2017)
  • Nokia Helping Airtel, BSNL Prepare for 5G (Finnish telecom gear maker says since technology is moving faster, the move is a preparatory phase) : Top telco Bharti Airtel and state-run telco Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) are working with Nokia to transform existing networks to 5G, with the telecom gear maker defining use cases around the technology that will be relevant for the Indian market.

    The Finnish gear maker recently inked memorandum of understandings (MoUs) with market leader Airtel and BSNL.

    "Thoughts behind these MoUs would be to introduce 5G here, and what are the steps required for the same, besides identifying applications to define the target segment, which will lead to a complete 5G strategy for telcos," Sanjay Malik, head of India market at Nokia, told ET. "It is more of a preparatory phase for getting into 5G."

    The commercial launch of 5G technology is likely to take place around 2019-2020 globally . In India, field and content and application trials will start around 2018, he said.

    Nokia already supplies 4G equipment for Airtel's network in nine circles -Gujarat, Bihar, UP East, Mumbai, MP, West Bengal, Odisha, Punjab and Kerala. It recently emerged as the L1 (lowest) bidder for BSNL's phase-8 expansion, and is currently working on an advanced purchase order (APO) for the telecom operator. Malik added that BSNL is currently working on setting up the foundation for 5G.

    "5G is moving very fast, so it is important to start discovering and looking at the possibility of what spectrum exists in India and start working on it... if you look at the overall ecosystem and how 5G is developing, it is not only about 3.5 GHz or 700 MHz, but also about millimetre waves and centimetre waves and gigahertz of spectrum going forward," Marwah said.

    Nokia is creating an experience centre within its research and development center in Bengaluru to try to discover stakeholder requirements for 5G in India and push its efforts towards the new technology for India.

    "Whole cycle of 2G took 10 years to develop in the world, 3G took less, and 4G even lesser. Today , India is sitting on par with any other place in the world in terms of technology , and we want to leverage that opportunity here," Marwah explained.
    (ET, Apr 10, 2017)
  • Job cuts in Telecom as consolidation begins: Reliance Communications (RCom) has laid off over 600 roles in an ongoing effort towards a leaner organisation, people familiar with the matter said. The country's fourth largest telecom company is in merger talks with Aircel and MTS.

    Retrenchment over the last few weeks has even touched some middle and senior managers -in the `30-50 lakh salary bracket, they added.

    "In-country consolidation is taking place in telecom and, as is the practice globally, rationalization of network infrastructure, sales and marketing, people and other assets will be the key drivers of greater efficiencies and synergies," said an RCom spokesperson in an emailed statement. Company officials asking not to be named said job cuts will help the 7,500-strong RCom integrate workforce when mergers with Aircel and MTS materialise.
    (ET, Apr 08, 2017)
  • Trai to come out with revised QoS norms by May : The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) will come out with the revised Quality of Service (QoS) norm for the telecom operators by May, which will help improve customer experience and have more leverage to calculate call drops.

    Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the India Internet Conference, organized by industry body FICCI, Trai Chairman R S Sharma said these revised norms will not only increase competition between telecom service providers, but also aid the consumer in choosing the best operator.

    "We are reviewing and relooking the QoS norms to ensure that they are more customer friendly. Also related to this is that there are new technologies that have come such as VoLTE, they have different names for certain parameters. So we have to prepare what is called equivalence mapping so that these parameters are applicable. Basically, we have to look at QoS parameters which are technology agnostic and which are equivalent to all technologies for example there should be parameters for all 2G or 3G or 4G" he said.

    When asked about the call drop situation, Sharma said that it is getting better. "Call drops is essentially a QoS issue. So we have now done three things. For data we have the crowd sourced app - My Seed App. We are also doing a tower wise call drop mapping on the analytics portal of Trai. Then we are conducting drive tests, which are done both independently and also helped by the operators. So these steps will nudge to develop more competition among the service providers ad also provide transparency to the customers to choose the best service provider," he added.

    Asked about the timeline when the regulator will come out with the QoS norms, Sharma said, "We are close to coming out with it, I can't give a deadline, but it will come in a couple of weeks.. it could be 4-5 weeks also."
    (FE, Apr 07, 2017)

Solar Energy
  • Solar Tariffs Fall to Record Low at NTPC Auction: Solar tariffs in India fell to yet another record low at the NTPC-conducted auction of 250 MW at the Kadapa Solar Park in Andhra Pradesh. The winning bid was Rs 3.15 per kwH, made by Solaire direct Energy India, a subsidiary of the French power giant ENGIE, which acquired it in 2015.

    The lowest tariff achieved until this auction had been in the NTPC auction at the Rewa Solar Park in February this year for 750 MW. This was a tariff of Rs 2.97 per kwH in the first year, followed by a five paise escalation every year for 15 years, after which for the next 10 years, the tariff would level off at Rs 3.62 per kwH. This worked out to a mean tariff of Rs. 3.30 per kwH over the 25 year life of the plant. The Kadapa bid of Rs.3.15 per kwH, which will remain constant throughout the life of the plant, is thus substantially lower. "Clean, affordable power for all: solar achieves another record low of Rs 3.15 per unit (flat rate) during auction in Kadapa, AP, by NTPC," tweeted Piyush Goyal, Minister for New and Renewable Energy. ENGIE, through its subsidiary Solaire direct, already has an installed capacity of around 325.6 MW of solar power in India across several states, and is building another 140 MW.

    Solaire direct has a tradition of making record -or near-record --low bids: in De Rs 7.49 per kwH for a 5.6 cember 2011, it bid ` MW project at Phalodi, Rajasthan, under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission, a record at the time. The plant was successfully commissioned in June 2013.Again, in January 2016, it won 140 MW at an NTPC auction at the Bhadla Solar Park, Rajasthan, with a bid of Rs. 4.35 per kwH, which was just one paisa higher than the record low of Rs.4.34 per kwH bid by Fortum Finnsurya for 70 MW at the same auction. There were six other bidders for the Kadapa project which lost out: Ostro Energy (which bid just one paise more, Rs. 3.16 per kwH) Canadian Solar Energy (Rs.3.39), Greenko Energies (Rs.4.09), Azure Power Rs.4.38), Mohoba Solar (Rs.4.54) and Mahindra Renewables (Rs.4.68).
    (ET, Apr 13, 2017)
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