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17 VOLUME 18 ISSUE 12 DEC-JAN 2019-20







Managing Editor Jason D Pavorattikaran Editor John Antony Director (Finance) Ceena Associate Editor Carl Jaison Senior Editorial Coordinator Jacob Deva Senior Correspondent Bina Menon Creative Visualizer Bijohns Varghese Photographer Anish Aloysious Office Assistant Alby CG Correspondents Bombay: Rashmi Prakash Delhi: Anurag Dixit Director (Technical) John Antony Publisher Jason D Pavorattikaran

ARE WE USING THE BEST INDIAN BRAINS? The writing on the wall is getting clear. Like all nations of a serious size, India’s politics is getting more and more irrelevant, whereas India’s economics is slowly getting recognized as the elephant in the room. This should be no wonder really, as India is a vibrant democracy where there are enough checks and balances to ensure that while the politics will lead the nation always, it will also be reined in optimally by the democratic forces including the media.

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That is why, if Indian economy is not performing well up to the expectations for some quarters now, it is pretty dumb as well as pretty useless in putting the blame just on the Prime Minister or the Finance Minister or even the ruling party or coalition.

Agreed, that any government will often try to shuffle the bureaucracy in order to try either new or experienced hands in new roles. PM Modi too has done it

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What this means is that most of our elected politicians are leaders who have excellent leadership qualities and most importantly integrity towards the nation.

What needs to be looked upon is what has not changed when current PM Narendra Modi took over first in 2014 and then in 2019. It is clearly the bureaucracy, especially its top layer that advises the PM and the Cabinet.

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India is a vast nation with huge density of population and varying geopolitics from state to state, and often from district to district. People get to exercise their voting power frequently as they can choose their MP, MLA, & Councillor and thus have a say in the selection of PM, CM, & Mayor. Maybe it is not perfect, but democracy is as good as it gets, for now.

But are we expecting too much from these political leaders? No political leader, not even in advanced countries like USA, UK, Japan, & China are expected to know a lot about economics and commerce. They all are forever briefed by subject matter experts.

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All health related articles are for first information purposes only. Always consult your doctor before taking any decison affecting your health.


to deal with the situation, in a first of sorts in India. The economic miracle they unleashed together by liberalizing the business environment and by opening up India to the world, was so powerful that it could propel India’s growth into high single digits for over a decade, under Prime Ministers AB Vajpayee and later Dr. Manmohan Singh himself during UPA-1. But the elephant in the room kept growing. It was most evident in the way, how India’s architect of economic liberalization, Dr. Manmohan Singh, himself stood paralyzed post the global economic crisis of 2009. a few times, by shuffling key department heads especially in economics, but the performance improvements have been only marginal. Also to be considered is the fact that Indian bureaucracy, especially the top level leaders, coming in through the IAS/IRS route are in no way inferior. In fact, they are of high quality, especially when it comes to administrative acumen. But the unfortunate fact staring at us Indians is that none of them are capable enough to tame the elephant in the room – economics. This is not an issue of the bureaucracy’s inaptitude, but the enormity of the problem we are facing. The reasons are simple enough to understand. Before the economic liberalization of the 90’s itself, India’s economics was hard to tame due to the vastness of the Indian state, and the abject poverty due to the low productivity, plaguing us. Since PV Narasimha Rao understood the problem, but could not handle it on his own, he brought an economist

Again, it was not a case of inaptitude, but a case of the elephant growing to unmanageable levels, that old mahouts were not enough to contain it. In one way, the economic liberalization contributed to the problem, as now the challenges were not from just every nook and corner of India, but from every nook and corner of the world. Indeed, we are now competing head on with giants like USA and China! An Indian software company has to compete with US IT giants, an Indian mobile phone company has to compete with Chinese mobile giants, and our car companies has to win business against Japanese and Korean auto conglomerates! And forget foreign companies, foreign governments are turning hyper-competitive and hyper-strategic. Just look at China’s Belt & Road Initiative. Or how the likes of North Korea are paying expensive hackers to target Indian strategic facilities, for obvious clients like our neighbours. Our politicians need help. Urgent help from economists, help from scientists, help from management experts, help from entrepreneurs, help from tech innovators, help from grassroots level innovators, help from wherever quality help and ideas are available. If India needs to progress to a developed nation, we need to formalize or institutionalize a framework to use our best brains, urgently. John Antony






"ARE DEMOCRACY AND MERITOCRACY FINALLY COMING TO INDIAN CRICKET AND IT'S MANAGEMENT?" There was no lack of drama as the first pink ball test on Indian soil produced everything that was expected from it. India demolished Bangladesh in convincing fashion but it was the allure of the pink ball that stole the limelight. India had a new pink city as Kolkata collectively showed why Test matches are not (yet) dead and innovation can draw in the crowds. But does that reveal enough about Test cricket's road to revival? While Kohli smashed his way to yet another scintillating century, becoming India' first pink ball centurion, he was wary enough to say that pink ball cricket isn't the only answer to improve test cricket's viewing prospects.

AMERICA IS REJECTING 25% OF NEW H-1B VISAS While Cognizant saw over 60% of its initial applications rejected, it is closely followed by Capgemini, Accenture, Wipro and Infosys.


P.N Menon and Shivshankar Menon



INSIDE THE ISRAELI SPYWARE USED TO SPY ON INDIANS Traditionally, Pegasus works by sending a link, and if the target user clicks on it, it is installed on the user’s device.

WHY SBI DESERVES BETTER VALUATION On blockbuster Q2 numbers, with standalone profit zooming three-fold to Rs 3,012 crore, State Bank of India has been making analysts and investors to look at it with new eyes.

OYO'S LOSSES SOAR SIX FOLD, PROMOTER PLANS BUY BACK Hospitality startup Oyo Hotels and Homes’ losses widened more than six-fold to Rs. 2,384.69 crore during the financial year ended March 2019 (FY19), even as revenues rose over four-fold during the period, signaling that the six-

THE BRAIN BEHIND THE TIKTOK PHENOMENON Since its launch in 2017, TikTok has been downloaded over 1.5 bn times. The Chinese tech guru behind TikTok’s success has become a leading billionaire and one of the richest entrepreneurs in China.

POWERFUL GROWTH ORGANICALLY AND INORGANICALLY The merger with Gruh Finance that came to effect on October 17 has given Bandhan Bank access to a high-quality housing-loan portfolio of Rs. 18,200 crore. Already Bandhan had an existing loan portfolio of Rs. 46,000 crore, which is dominated by the short-term and high-margin microfinance,

RAGHURAM RAJAN REMINDS OF HIS LONGER TENURE WITH NDA Raghuram Rajan has hit back, saying most of his time as RBI chief was under BJP-led government. The former RBI governor had said in a recent interview that India needed..

LIVING IN ANTARCTICA'S FIRST RESEARCH STATION POWERED BY GREEN ENERGY Kate Winter, a research fellow of Antarctic Science at Northumbria University, Newcastle, writes about her stay at the Princess Elisabeth Antarctica Research Station,

NORTH KOREAN FIRM HACKS INDIAN NUCLEAR POWER PLANT Malware attributed to North Korea's Lazarus group is confirmed to have infected a system on the administrative network of Nuclear Power Corp.'s Kudankulam plant in India. After initial denial, company says report of “malware in system" is correct.

GLENN MAXWELL'S DECISION PUTS MENTAL HEALTH IN FOCUS Australia all-rounder Glenn Maxwell has taken a 'short break' from cricket to deal with mental health issues.

MEET TATA GRAVITAS, THE 7-SEATER SUV Tata recently announced that it will launch the 7-seater version of the Harrier SUV in February, 2020. Called the Tata Gravitas, the SUV will lock horns against multiple cars right from Mahindra XUV500 and MG Hector 7-seater to Toyota Fortuner, Ford Endeavour and Mahindra Alturas. Here, we have listed down 10 interesting facts about the all-new

THE VALUE IN INDIA'S DIAGNOSTICS PIONEER Dr. A. Velumani led Thyrocare Technologies has been India's pioneer diagnostic chain in the listed space. But like how all pioneers have had to suffer, Thyrocare too had its ups and down in the capital markets. But starting from Q1, and gathering pace with Q2's good numbers, Thyrocare has put it all behind to emerge once again with rapid gains in the market, as it deserves to be rerated like its bigger peers that have listed more recently.

WHAT VALUATION IS REASONABLE FOR A CURRENTLY LOSS MAKING VENTURE? The plight of the WeWork IPO in the US last month signals the beginning of an end – the end of demand for companies that are making losses even while demanding high valuations. This is an overhang that Samhi Hotels too will have to overcome when they go for their planned Rs. 2000 crore IPO.



The affected users were spread across 149 countries, and the number was similar to the number of warnings sent in the same period of 2018 and 2017.

Credit and debit card details of 13 lakh Indians was reportedly put on sale. RBI has told banks to probe, and if required reissue cards.

INDIA PLANS 100 NEW AIRPORTS India is planning to invest Rs. 1 lakh crore to open 100 additional airports by 2024, as part of a plan to revive economic growth in Asia's third-largest economy,

PARACETAMOL HOLDS PROMISE AGAINST DEPRESSION The study, published in the US in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, suggested that anti-



CONTENTS ECONOMY DOWN, MARKETS UP, IS INVESTING RISKY? A FOREST IN A STADIUM Swiss art curator Klaus Littmann has planted 300 trees in a football stadium in Austria as a "memorial" to the environment in the anthropocene era.

INDIA’S MANUFACTURING GROWTH MAY STAGNATE SAYS STUDY The Nikkei Manufacturing PMI, compiled by IHS Markit, dropped to 50.6 last month from September's 51.4. Growth was restored in capital goods and softened in the consumer goods category.

FOODS TO AVOID WITH ARTHRITIS Arthritis is a condition that causes inflammation in the joints. There are different types of arthritis. Some of them include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis. While this condition is most common in elderly people,

IRFC GETING READY FOR PUBLIC LISTING Indian Railway Finance Corporation (IRFC) is coming up with a 10-year dollar bond to raise $1 billion, ahead of its planned IPO this fiscal. Earlier, in July, IRFC had raised Rs. 2,120 crore by issuing 15-year

THE ONLY PLACE ON EARTH WHERE THERE IS NO LIFE Geothermal fields in Ethiopia is the only place on earth that is uninhabitable as it is most torrid environment on the planet with daily temperatures even in winter exceeding 45 degrees Celsius.



Markets are at dizzy highs despite gloomy economic data. And the economics may get worse before they get any better. While market enthusiasts note that one of the best times to invest is when GDP growth is low, at current levels, India is still the most expensive market among peers. This makes investing a risky bet. Here is a look at why markets are rising in times of slowdown.

BRITISH STUDY FINDS ANTIBIOTICS HARM CHILDREN Preschool children who had taken 2 or more antibiotic courses for acute respiratory tract infections in the preceding year had around a 30% greater chance of not responding to subsequent treatment.



Jayalalithaa’s prime dream in her final years was to make Tamil Nadu a developed state with $10,000 dollars per capita income, in a still developing India. This is the legacy that Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami and Industries Minister MC Sampath have inherited and which they are trying to fulfil.

Chosen by none other than Late Dr. J Jayalalithaa as Tourism Minister, and retained and endorsed by Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami in this role, Vellamandi N Natarajan brings in unparalleled insights

AN EMPIRE PRECIOUS AS GOLD, TRANSPARENT LIKE DIAMONDS Gold retailing used to be a goldmine for investors, until a few bad apples ruined the show for all. But Joy Alukkas still runs an empire that is as precious as the gold he retails, with impressive growth and admirable transparency. Within the last 32 years, it has helped Joyalukkas grow to be a 161-showroom chain across 11 countries, with 89 of them in India. With an 8000 member employee base, Joyalukkas clocked Rs. 13,000 crore in turnover last year, with Rs. 8100 crore from India. A billionaire with a

FIAT-CHRYSLER AND PEUGEOT TO MERGE FCA and Peugeot Officially Announce 50:50 Merger; To Become World's 4th Largest Automaker.

ECONOMY DOWN, MARKETS UP, IS INVESTING RISKY? Markets are at dizzy highs despite gloomy economic data. And the economics may get worse before they get any better. While market enthusiasts note that one of the best times to invest is when GDP growth is low, at current levels, India is still the most expensive market among peers. This makes investing a risky bet. Here is a look at why markets are rising in times of slowdown.


ECONOMY DOWN, MARKETS UP, IS INVESTING RISKY? Markets are at dizzy highs despite gloomy economic data. And the economics may get worse before they get any better. While market enthusiasts note that one of the best times to invest is when GDP growth is low, at current levels, India is still the most expensive market among peers. This makes investing a risky bet. Here is a look at why markets are rising in times of slowdown. nvestors in India’s equity markets are really forward looking. Despite all the depressing news about the economy in the media, and a plethora of gloom-and-doom forwards on WhatsApp, the markets are at all-time highs. BSE’s Sensex touched the 41,000 mark for the first time ever on Tuesday and National Stock Exchange’s Nifty index surpassed the 12,100 mark, at a time when prime economic indicators and some high-frequency data are at loggerheads with the market’s euphoria. It’s almost as if a section of the markets doesn’t give two hoots about the dismal economic data. It makes everything look hunky-dory, when it actually isn’t. “The Indian stock market is already factoring in reasonable recovery in the economy and earnings," analysts at Kotak Institutional Equities explained in a note to clients. Analysts at Jefferies India Pvt. Ltd echoed this view: “India’s equity markets appear sanguine that the worst has passed." Simply put, the markets are up purely on the hope of a better future. And this dissonance between the markets and economic numbers naturally causes confusion in the minds of observers. It’s another matter that there is nothing on the ground to support the optimism. Jefferies India, for instance, points out that its economic activity index slipped to a 15-year low in September. The broker’s Activity Index is based on 36 indicators including credit growth, automobile sales and electricity demand. The latest reason for hope is the number of measures the government has taken to bolster the economy. Among other things, the Centre announced a massive cut in corporate tax rate. But analysts

worry that the impact of these measures will take a long time to benefit the economy. “We remain fairly sceptical about any imminent recovery in the Indian economy," say Kotak’s analysts, citing multiple reasons. The current slowdown is because of structural factors such as low household income and poor job creation. Besides, the government’s finances are stretched and there is hardly any room for it to boost the economy by increasing spends. And while the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is trying its best to bring interest rates down, the high borrowing needs of the government have kept real interest rates from falling meaningfully. All the key indicators reveal that the economy is not in a good shape at all. However, the Indian equity market has largely been buoyant on account of better-than-expected corporate earnings in the September quarter and on expectations of further tax reforms by the government," says S. Naren, executive director at ICICI Prudential Asset Management Co. Ltd. He adds that global investor sentiment is up, with monetary easing by the US Federal Reserve, better-

than-expected American GDP data and de-escalation of geopolitical risks. In the September quarter, earnings for a number of companies got a boost from the cut in effective tax rate. “This is a short-term boost to earnings. It will only make rich companies richer, and is unlikely to cause the investment boost the government was hoping for," says the chief executive of a brokerage firm on condition of anonymity. In the past five years, analysts have estimated double-digit earnings growth year after year for companies in the Nifty index, but average earnings growth has been only around 5% in this period. As such, the story of hope in the Indian markets isn’t new; it’s just that the degree of hope has become greater lately. After a series of poor performances indicated by the high-frequency data, the GDP growth rate in the second quarter (Q2) is not expected to be any better than it was in Q1. In fact, Bloomberg puts GDP growth at about 4.6% in Q2, even lower than in Q1. So, apart from hope, what else is driving the dissonance between the markets and the economy?



To be sure, a surge in global liquidity is good fuel for the markets. With interest rates abysmally low in some countries and even negative in others, naturally, some of the money sloshing around would find its way into riskier assets.

indices have lost 4% and 8%, respectively, in 2019 so far. Investors are buying select stocks with the hope that these will be immune to a large correction when the market sentiment turns.

Not surprisingly, these funds start to chase assets where yields are positive. In fact, India’s 10-year domestic benchmark yield is hovering around 6.5%, which is near its five-year lows. This seems to be a cue for traders willing to take some risk and diversify into emerging markets.

But what this has done is that it made some Indian stocks very expensive. Besides, it has driven the valuations of the Nifty sky-high. In fact, stock markets have become as expensive as the 2008 era when valuations were driven north on high global economic growth before the Lehman crisis hit.

In November so far, inflows from foreign institutional investors (FIIs) are at an eightmonth high. FIIs bought Indian equity worth $2.54 billion in the month while they were net buyers of $12.49 billion in the year so far. In October, they pumped in $2.06 billion after a sell-off spree from July to mid-September. On the other side of the geographic divide, domestic institutions have also been injecting more liquidity into the markets. Indian retail investors continue to have a high degree of optimism regarding stock purchases. Retail systematic investment plan (SIP) flows have been consistently steady, at about ?8,000 crore a month, showing that retail investors still want to have a shot at equity gains. SIPs allow people to invest a fixed amount in a mutual fund scheme, periodically. Just a few months ago, post the July 2019 Union budget, the market was heading lower after the government imposed a surcharge on foreign portfolio investors. However, in September the finance minister reversed the stance and even opened up its fiscal purse. Later, the government’s tax cut announcement was just the catalyst the market needed, and since then there has been no looking back. “Markets have been helped by continued inflows, foreign and domestic," says Gautam Chhaochharia, ED and head of India Research at UBS Securities India Pvt. Ltd. It should not be forgotten that most of the optimism is restricted to a few big stocks. Only eight of the 30 Sensex constituents have gained more than 20% in the year to date, while the benchmark Sensex and Nifty are up 11-13%. The contribution of Sensex stocks to India’s market cap has grown from 44.77% in January to 47.23% at current levels. The BSE MidCap and BSE SmallCap SEASONAL MAGAZINE


The Sensex now trades at a 12-month forward price-to-earnings ratio of 19.44 times, compared with 20.22 times on 10 January 2008, the peak before the global financial crisis, according to Bloomberg data. “The market is being driven by a select few quality stocks. After the rally in large caps, valuations have been fully priced in," says ICICI Pru’s Naren. At current levels the Indian market is still the most expensive among peers. A corporate earnings recovery, critical at this juncture, may be derailed due to liquidity concerns and the slowdown in consumer demand. This also brings us to the crucial point of where earnings will go from here. So far, earnings have been tepid. The slowdown in the economy means that earnings in sectors such as automobiles, consumer discretionary and some parts of consumer staples will be within the standard range. Orders in a large way have not yet trickled into the capital goods and infrastructure sectors, which means that this portion of the market is not expected to turn up just yet. That leaves only a few domestic consumption stocks to lead the earnings growth, not excluding banking and fast-moving consumer goods firms. While the recent cut in corporate tax rates limited the pace of earnings downgrades, businesses continued to reel under pressure in the September quarter. A Mint analysis of 1,462 firms showed net sales in the three months ended September was the lowest in at least 27 quarters. Net sales decelerated 2.23% year-on-


year, much lower than the 5.15% growth in the preceding three months, according to data provider Capitaline. Clearly, while the government and RBI have stepped in to revive growth, analysts believe that their efforts will take time to percolate. But what the markets are probably expecting even more is the second leg of reforms that could drive economic growth. Some of this hope also springs from the fact that the government can use proceeds from privatization to pump prime the economy. However, a big impact is not expected here. “In 2003-04, the government’s privatization and divestment measures drove the markets. While this reform measure is also being done this time, it will not move the needle much in comparison to 2003-04. So, the government must make some more fiscal room and push for vigorous reforms," says an economist at a leading brokerage firm on condition of anonymity. It’s only then that a broad-based earnings revival could be expected, which could, in turn, raise the earnings of the rest of the market and not just the larger firms. This could also help the valuation dichotomy to narrow. Market watchers have noted that one of the best times to invest is when GDP growth is low, like now. For example, in 2002, India’s GDP was very low, which was followed by a massive rally in equities until 2007. Of course, the difference between 2002 and 2019 is that while the markets were also at their lows in 2002, they are at their highs in 2019. “There is a significant disconnect between valuations of growth and value stocks, making value as a theme very attractive for investments," says ICICI Pru’sNaren. Of course, all this hinges on the risk appetite of investors as well. As long as equity yields are low globally, riskier assets will have a field day. There’s also optimism that global growth will revive. That would mean that stock valuations could remain lofty for some time. Be warned. (Credit: By Clifford Alvares and Nasrin Sultana for LiveMint, with inputs from Ashwin Ramarathinam.)




A FOREST IN A STADIUM Swiss art curator Klaus Littmann has planted 300 trees in a football stadium in Austria as a "memorial" to the environment in the anthropocene era.

or Forest is replica of a European forest that has been transported to Wörthersee Stadium in Klagenfurt, where visitors can enjoy the spectacle of the leaves changing and falling during autumn. The installation is Littmann's realisation of a dystopian vision of artist Max Peintner, who imagined a world where trees would only exist like species of animals in a zoo. "For Forest is very timely as it coincides with growing global discussions and activism linked to deforestation and climate change," Littmann told Dezeen. "Peintner drew The Unending Attraction of Nature in 1971. At the time, there was only little discussion about climate change and deforestation. I discovered the drawing in the 80s at an art exhibition," said Littmann. "It took me nearly 30 years to realise this project but never has the timing of one of my projects been so spot on." Trees are one of the defining symbols of the anthropocene era – the period where human activity is the biggest impact on the environment. Deforestation – whether to clear land SEASONAL MAGAZINE


for agriculture or industry or as the result of out of control wildfires such as those currently burning in the Amazon – is a key factor in the emergence of the anthropocene era. A single Sitka spruce tree on Cambell Island in the Southern Ocean is regarded by scientists as the marker of the anthropocene's start. Dubbed the world's loneliest tree, the tree's rings record the radiocarbon of above ground atomic bomb tests. The peak in 1965 is seen as the official start of the era of human impact dominating the environment. At For Forest, Littmann said he wants each visitor's experience of the stadium of trees to be personal. The trees are open to be interpreted as an artistic sculpture, or a philosophical symbol of life. "With the discussions going on now, people can also see it as a memorial meant to bring people together to think about their environment and protect it." Putting trees in an unorthodox situation is intended as a challenge to viewers perception. "People will not see trees or forests in the same way again," he said. Planting 300 mature trees in a short

window of time was a big undertaking. "The most challenging part of the project was its complexity," said Littmann. "The timing for setting up the temporary art intervention was crucial. We only had three weeks to set everything up." No animals or insect life will be added to the installation, but Littman said that he hopes "animals will find their way into the forest" during the time the artwork is in place. For Forest was open for viewing till 27 October, with floodlights turned on to light the trees after dark. After the installation closes, the trees will be re-planted on a plot the same size close to the stadium, where they can develop. A wooden pavilion will be built alongside them to act as a education hub for future visitors and students. "This way, the stadium forest will remain in memory as a forest sculpture," said Littman. Several recent exhibitions and art shows are engaging with the themes of the anthropocene and climate change. British artist Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg's show at the Vitra Design Museum includes a new branch for the tree of life made from manmade organisms.



“THE DENIAL RATE FOR INITIAL EMPLOYMENT, PRIMARILY FOR NEW EMPLOYEES, HAS INCREASED FOR NEARLY ALL LEADING COMPANIES BUT ITS CLEAR USCIS ADJUDICATORS HAVE SINGLED OUT INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY SERVICES COMPANIES FOR THE MOST RESTRICTIVE POLICIES,” for its employees. Apple, Cummins and Walmart are the three companies that have seen no change in the percentage of rejections, according to the analysis of 27 top technology companies by NFAP. Immigration experts say such high rejection rates for work permits could hit the tech services companies’ ongoing business halting talent movement.

he Donald Trump-led US administration has rejected nearly a fourth of all fresh H1B applications through the third quarter of this year, (from October to June) according to a US body. The rejection rate has jumped three times in 2019 compared to 2015, according to an analysis of H-1B data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) by National Foundation for American Policy. Indian nationals account for nearly 70% of all H-1B permit holders as global technology companies rely on such talent to work onsite in the US. USCIS follows the October to September financial year. “The denial rates for H-1B petitions have increased because USCIS has changed the standards for approval without new

regulations or Congress passing a new law,” Stuart Anderson, executive director of NFAP told ET.

“There is a problem and sharp increase in denials. Also the denial rate for past petitions for extension cases have gone up and that is more alarming,” Poorvi Chothani, managing partner, LawQuest, an immigration law firm.

Denial rates for initial H-1B petitions or fresh applications stood at around 6% in FY 2015.

The denial rate of 12% for continuing employment (average of continuing petitions for 27 companies) in FY19 is four times higher than the denial rate of only 3% for such petitions in FY2015, NFAP analysis showed.

“The denial rate for initial employment, primarily for new employees, has increased for nearly all leading companies but its clear USCIS adjudicators have singled out information technology services companies for the most restrictive policies,” Anderson said.

Ever since President Trump began delivering on his election promise of anti-immigration reforms, Indian IT firms have been at the receiving end of growing protectionism. The US has also shifted to a new rule that favours candidates with US Master’s degree for the work permit.

Cognizant saw over 60% of its initial applications rejected, followed by Capgemini, Accenture, Wipro and Infosys.

The Trump administration has plans to rescind an Obama era rule that allowed spouses of H-1B work permit holders to work in the US. Indian nationals, the majority of them qualified women, have been the primary beneficiaries of the H4 EAD, receiving over 90% of the 120,000 visas issued since 2015.

In 2018, the top six Indian firms got just 16% or 2145 H-1B work permits, less than the 2399 visas that Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer secured




Citizen Lab was approached by Arab human rights activists who believed they were under surveillance.

INDIAN JOURNALISTS AND ACTIVISTS SPIED UPON WhatsApp reveals Israeli spyware was used to snoop on Indian journalists and activists.

100 members of civil society which is an unmistakable pattern of abuse. This number may grow higher as more victims come forward,” it said. The NSO Group, in a statement, said: “In the strongest possible terms, we dispute today’s allegations and will vigorously fight them. Our technology is not designed or licensed for use against human rights activists and journalists.” After doubts about this technology were first raised in May, the NSO Group said it put in place a ‘Human Rights Policy’ on September 19 which “further embeds human rights protections throughout our business and governance systems”. The NSO Group claims Pegasus has been sold only to government agencies. “We license our product only to vetted and legitimate government agencies,” it said.

t is learnt that about a dozen academics, lawyers, Dalit activists and journalists in India were contacted and alerted by WhatsApp that their phones had been under state-of-the-art surveillance for a twoweek period until May 2019. The disclosure follows a lawsuit filed Tuesday in a US federal court in San Francisco in which WhatsApp alleged that the Israeli NSO Group targeted some 1,400 WhatsApp users with Pegasus. Facebook-owned platform WhatsApp, in a startling revelation, has said journalists and human rights activists in India have been targets of surveillance by operators using Israeli spyware Pegasus. The disclosure follows a lawsuit filed Tuesday in a US federal court in San Francisco in which WhatsApp alleged that the Israeli NSO Group targeted some 1,400 WhatsApp users with Pegasus. While WhatsApp declined to reveal the SEASONAL MAGAZINE


identities and “exact number” of those targeted for surveillance in India, its USbased spokesperson told The Indian Express that WhatsApp was aware of those targeted and had contacted each one of them. “Indian journalists and human rights activists have been the target of surveillance and while I cannot reveal their identities and the exact number, I can say that it is not an insignificant number,” Woog said. It is learnt that about a dozen academics, lawyers, Dalit activists and journalists in India were contacted and alerted by WhatsApp that their phones had been under state-of-the-art surveillance for a two-week period until May 2019. In the lawsuit against the NSO Group and Q Cyber Technologies, WhatsApp alleged that the companies violated US and California laws as well as WhatsApp’s terms of service which prohibits this type of abuse. It claimed that smartphones were penetrated through missed calls alone. “We believe this attack targeted at least

In September 2018, Canada-based cyber security group Citizen Lab said: “We found suspected NSO Pegasus infections associated with 33 of the 36 Pegasus operators we identified in 45 countries” including India. The 2018 report goes on to point to an India link active from June 2017 to September 2018. “We identified five operators that we believe are focusing on Asia. One operator, Ganges, used a politically themed domain.” Citizen Lab was approached by Arab human rights activists who believed they were under surveillance. Incidentally, the NSO Group terminated its agreement with Saudi Arabia following the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and emergence of links suggesting its spyware played a role in the tracking of Khashoggi before he was killed in his country’s consulate in Istanbul. Sources at WhatsApp said while messages going to and fro on their platform are encrypted and secure, the problem starts when a malware compromises the device itself, making it very vulnerable to breach of privacy, often endangering freedoms and sometimes lives.



hatsApp recently confirmed that a spyware was being used by Israel based company NSO Group to spy on government officials, journalists, activists, lawyers, and various countries globally, including India. The confirmation about the use of Pegasus spyware came earlier this week after WhatsApp sued NSO Group, which had long been suspected in the WhatsApp cyberattack that happened earlier this year. Reportedly WhatsApp has warned several Indian users who are expected to be targets of the illegal snooping spyware. As of now, there is no confirmation on how many people were targeted in India. A WhatsApp spokesperson has however confirmed that a certain number of Indian users were among those who could have been a part of the cyber-attack that happened in May. WhatsApp wrote in a blog post, “We sent a special WhatsApp message to approximately 1,400 users that we have reason to believe were impacted by [May 2019] attack to directly inform them about what happened.” But how exactly does this spyware work, especially after WhatsApp claims to offer high-end encryption methods? Pegasus is said to be around for about three years and it is not your ordinary spyware. Traditionally, Pegasus works by sending a link, and if the target user clicks on it, it is installed on the user’s device. Once installed, it begins to contact control servers which allow it to relay commands so one can gather data from the infected device. It has the potential to steal your passwords, contacts, text messages, calendar info, as well as voice calls made through messaging apps, in this case, WhatsApp. The threat doesn’t stop there as it can even let the hacker have access to your

phone's camera, microphone and GPS to track live locations. Pegasus has been around for at least three years and it was also believed to have been used to target Indians earlier as well. The spyware targeted a vulnerability in WhatsApp VoIP stack which is used to make video and audio calls. By just giving a missed call on someone’s WhatsApp number allowed Pegasus to gain access to the device. This essentially means that despite offering high-end data encryption for chats, WhatsApp overlooked the security of its calling feature. WhatsApp took the help of The Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, where researchers confirmed that Pegasus is a flagship spyware from NSO Group and is also known by different names like Q Suite and Trident. Pegasus can not only be used to attack Android devices but iOS as well. Pegasus has been used in the past to take over a target's device by simply asking users to click on a link packaged under a fake offering. Notably, while companies that make spyware are usually under surveillance, the way they pitch their ‘tool’ to governments is completely different. In fact, Eva Galperin, Director of Cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has even shared the Product User Guide for Pegasus, giving a deep look as to how the spyware works and how organizations that make use of it can overcome certain challenges to achieve mobile intelligence collection.

SAMOSA GANG IS INCONSEQUENTIAL: RANGOLI ON 'THALAIVI' LOOK BEING TROLLED Actress Kangana Ranaut's sister Rangoli Chandel on Monday took to Twitter to criticise people trolling Kangana's look in former Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa's biopic 'Thalaivi'. "Anyone who has got eyes can see the brilliance of prosthetic work baki samosa gang is there jo din ko raat aur raat ko din kehte hain, they are inconsequential," she wrote.

GOOGLE FIRES 4 EMPLOYEES FOR DATA SECURITY VIOLATIONS AMID PROTESTS Google fired four employees stating that they repeatedly violated data security policies, escalating tension between management and activist workers. The four employees allegedly distributed business information outside the scope of their jobs. Notably, Google has been facing protests over issues including its work with the military, censorship in China and its handling of sexual abuse complaints.

OLA MAY SPIN OUT FINTECH SERVICES TO CHALLENGE PAYTM, GOOGLE PAY Homegrown ride-hailing giant Ola's parent firm ANI Technologies' board has reportedly approved the hive-off of its fintech business Ola Financial Services. ANI Technologies reportedly aims to raise capital separately for the independent entity and will pit it directly against larger rivals like Paytm, Google Pay and PhonePe. Bengaluru-based Ola had launched its fintech service Ola Money in 2015. SEASONAL MAGAZINE





here was no lack of drama as the first pink ball test on Indian soil produced everything that was expected from it. India demolished Bangladesh in convincing fashion but it was the allure of the pink ball that stole the limelight. India had a new pink city as Kolkata collectively showed why Test matches are not (yet) dead and innovation can draw in the crowds. But does that reveal enough about Test cricket's road to revival? While Kohli smashed his way to yet another scintillating century, becoming India' first pink ball centurion, he was wary enough to say that pink ball cricket isn't the only answer to improve test cricket's viewing prospects. Although he had suggested that there needs to be only 5 designated test venues, this would inevitably lead to easier predictability of the playing surface. This has been Test cricket's biggest advantage over the other two formats, at least for the purists - the sheer possibility of fluctuating fortunes over the course of 5 days of grueling sessions not just underscores the need for tactical prowess but the ability to control the human emotions. In the pink ball format, the issues have related to visibility as the texture of the ball doesn't exactly blend with the surrounding. That invocation takes us to another drama this time from the commentary box involving former India cricketer Sanjay Manjrekar and renowned cricket analyst and show host Harsha Bhogle. Bhogle, rightly, suggested that after the test match, there needs to be a post-mortem done to rectify the issues with the ball to which Manjrekar dismissively replies that it was only Bhogle that needed to find out since 'we have played the game and know what it feels like'. This was obviously a minor incident and was not picked up by most of who were watching the on-field action. It went viral on a far more hostile surface – Twitter. But, it helped to prove one thing. That certain cricketer-turnedcommentators do not have the humility that you tend to associate with former players from other countries. However, this is a systemic problem in Indian cricket – a feeling of entitlement and inflated self-worth. The custodians of the game in India need to showcase better judgment and indeed, competence. The rot cannot easily be washed away and this test match only added a pink stain to the mounting dirty laundry.



But, at least, for now BCCI seems to be in capable hands. Sourav Ganguly seems to have the knack of cricket administration and is also adored by the cricket-loving public. Being an able communicator, Ganguly’s first task should be to preach to his colleagues in the BCCI that mediocrity cannot be tolerated anymore. For too long, the system was being subverted to serve the selfish interests of a few. The Lodha recommendations turned the tide but it failed to offer a structural overhaul. For India’s domestic cricket to flourish, the people who run the show need to show objectivity and shun favoritism. Domestic cricket is not only about List-A Ranji trophy tourneys. It should also look into the management of cricket at the grassroots (club level). The root cause of the tumour has been known for a while now. Can Ganguly play surgeon? Secondly, the paying public deserves a better experience of the game. The condition of stadiums in India is pathetic. The grandiose arrangement for the pink ball test match is a sobering reminder of how Indians only boot up when the situation demands. The all-round experience for the spectators needs to improve substantially. Ticket prices should be commensurate with the facilities it offers. It is not hard to discern the reasons for low turn-out in Test matches in India. Scheduling has been a strong factor, but with the emergence of digital and live streaming of matches on smart phones, the appetite for an average fan to visit the stadium must be made insatiable to have any chance of competing with broadcasters. We could celebrate the white-wash over Bangladesh, but the fact remains that India still need to prove themselves in tougher conditions abroad. While we are at it, do take a leaf out of the way fans are treated outside the subcontinent. Indian cricket needs to put their money where their mouth is. India might be winning, but are its principles in place? SEASONAL MAGAZINE




election is a crucial step in the grueling cricketing process. But, more often than not, transparency issues continue to plague the domesticlevel selection process. In many cases, selection is guaranteed on the basis of patronage extended by an influential individual or local club thereby affecting the chances of genuine talents who are outside this system of nepotism. Given the intensely nasty competition, youngsters in the U-16 and U-19 level often resort to age-fudging to better their chances while the selectors and coaches are not overly worried about their own positions in spite of the falling performances of their teams. There is a pressing need to inject transparency and accountability norms at the grassroot level and aspiring cricketers must be provided with a conducive environment to express their talent without fear or favour.



irstly, the proposed amendments refer to changes in the cooling-off period where the Board is seeking two consecutive terms for its new president and secretary. The second amendment deals with the ‘70-years old’ rule whereby septuagenarian officials are barred from serving in cricket administrative posts. Thirdly, the tenure of selectors has been scaled back from five to four years, which brings an end to MSK Prasad’s stint as the chief selector. The proposed changes to the existing constitution will not only dilute the essence of the Lodha recommendations, but also ensure that the Supreme Court’s supervision is downplayed. However, the requirement of the SC’s assent to the proposed changes to the constitution is a step towards transparency in the running of the multi-million dollar worth organization. Sourav Ganguly and Jay Shah, the BCCI president and secretary respectively, would look to convince the SC that certain changes would ‘lead to the administration to

work better’ and that the ‘current provisions are difficult to implement.’ This includes the ‘70-years old’ rule coming in the way of nominating a senior administrator to represent the BCCI at the ICC meetings, for which the ‘experience’ argument has been doled out. However, in the 88th AGM held at the Cricket Centre the BCCI, with 38 full members, nominated its secretary Jay Shah to the Chief Executive Committee (CEC) of the International Cricket Council (ICC). In the same meeting, it was held that proposals towards infrastructure development and subsidies to associations would be considered. The host of subjects relating to match fee to the senior domestic players, establishment of a support system for the newly formed associations and to consider the sanction of Rs. 10-15 crores to the Indian Cricketers Association’s (ICA) budget were also discussed. However, the relaxation of the age bar so as to favor the BCCI’s old guard is a backward step. The whole crux of the Lodha panel was to extricate the Board from the clutches



ricket administration is grossly underestimated in terms of its impact on the growth of the sport. This is partly the reason why some cricket associations at both the district and state levels are run with an utter lack of professionalism and long-term strategy. Similar to how political parties operate in the country, cricket associations continue to function as family fiefdoms and resist any democratic overhaul of their internal management and functioning. The need of the hour is to implement binding decisions on such bodies through a multi-stakeholder model involving local players, clubs and neighborhoods. Democratization is the first step towards cleaning up the system and there is no better way to enact changes than by involving the local community in having a say with regard to the development of the sport at the grass-root level.

of power-greedy politicians and their proxies for prolonged periods. The age relaxation rule ensured that the likes of N Sreenivasan and Sharad Pawar have had to effectively hang up their boots but their re-emergence would not bode well for the smooth implementation of the Lodha reforms. It is important that the new clutch of administrators recognise how the lax regard for norms of propriety and attempts by chieftains like N Srinivasan to run BCCI like fiefdoms invited public anger and judicial scrutiny. Even in the case of Ganguly’s efforts to extend his tenure,

it comes across as a personal grievance rather than a structural issue plaguing cricket administration. The proposed amendments understandably give a longer duration of time for the new BCCI officials to implement their ideas. Instead, Ganguly should worry less about his term of office and ensure that the system cannot be tailored according to the whims of certain individuals. For someone who has always set an example in his style of play and conduct, Ganguly can show the way and uphold public propriety rather than private interest.





or years, cricket associations have been given a long rope when it comes to financial disclosures. The recent Lodha recommendations called for BCCI officials to disclose their assets to the governing board. Cricket administrators at all levels have frowned upon financial scrutiny of their records making it imperative to institute an ombudsman with the requisite authority to investigate financial irregularities. The new BCCI President Sourav Ganguly has a massive task on his hands to streamline auditing processes in his own den and ensure that it percolates down to every unit. Given the sport’s mass appeal and marketing potential, the access to financial largesse is unparalleled. However, the funds have to be sufficiently ploughed back to develop cricket infrastructure and provide for those talented cricketers who otherwise can’t support themselves financially.


ne of the most celebrated names in Indian cricket, Rahul Dravid, is being dragged through the ‘conflict of interest’ controversy. After receiving a clean chit from the CoA over his appointment as the Head of Cricket at the National Cricket Academy (NCA), a disgruntled member of the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association complained that the former Indian skipper holds a board position with India Cements, a company associated with the IPL franchise Chennai Super Kings. Now Dravid has had to depose before BCCI’s Ethics Officer over charges of ‘conflict of interest’. While Dravid’s case could be a natural outcome of a new regulatory regime, the manner in which a reputed former player and one of the legends of the game has been accused is nothing short of cynicism to satisfy the egos of desperate cricket administrators. ‘Conflict of interest’ charges should not be leveled against passionate individuals who have an emotional bond with the sport. The real issue is with greedy individuals who are interested in conflict as a means to stall reforms which pose a threat to their own machinations. An example of this is the use of ‘proxy candidates’ by the old guards like N Sreenivasan and Anurag Thakur, who were booted out after the CoA’s intervention, to influence the working of state cricket associations.





ccountability is one of the most basic rules of public life. When cricketers attain the level of fame and fandom that makes you wonder whether they are larger-than-life characters, that is the opportune moment to reflect on this basic principle governing the conduct of the sport. When accountability is linked to on-field performance, the likes of Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah cease to have the diplomat-like immunity which they otherwise enjoy plentiful. When a team fails to meet expectations, the buck has to stop with the captain. When the team fails to produce the desired results despite the efforts of the captain, then the coach has to take the blame. In recent years, there is a palpable sense of security for certain cricketers who, despite carrying the tags of being over-achievers, are sometimes let off the hook following an abject performance. When players don’t take up responsibility for their decisions, then it is a reflection of the state of affairs of people who manage them. Nobody is bigger than the game. In other words, accountability keeps cricketers grounded.



ndian captains, over the years, have been judged on the basis of their team’s performance or due to off-field incidents that have spiraled out of control. Despite having the reputation of being connoisseurs of the game, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid did have successful captaincy stints. As for Mohammad Azharuddin and Sourav Ganguly, the match-fixing scandal and the fallout with the head coach respectively had brought an end to their leadership tenures. Dhoni is perhaps the only Indian skipper to have been given the long rope although his record in major tournaments speaks for itself. However, the demise of accountability coincided with Dhoni’s period at the helm. Having been decimated in Test series whitewashes, Dhoni’s continuation as captain was seldom questioned. In fact, the lack of a suitable alternative desisted the selectors from naming a successor. If captaincy is part performance-based and part team results, then Dhoni deserved the axe after presiding over India’s heaviest overseas defeats in England and Australia. Cut to today, Kohli’s team has had a more consistent run than Dhoni’s but have failed to produce tangible results to show. If India exits with a whimper in next year’s T20 World Cup tournament, should Kohli and Ravi Shastri step down? In a setup that increasingly favors nepotism over meritocracy, the demand for accountability is less obvious. Indian cricket could take a cue from football, where the results-driven nature of the sport implies that head coaches and managers are constantly made to feel like every day is their last. Like in corporate companies, this culture of accountability must be practiced at the very top and govern the processes of the organization at all levels.



DIFFERENT YARDSTICKS USED FOR DIFFERENT STATES States like Maharashtra (Mumbai in their Ranji avatar), Karnataka, Delhi, West Bengal have exercised considerable influence in the running of cricket affairs in the country. Unsurprisingly, these states are the factory production units, churning out cricketers for India’s national team across formats. What is surprising is that these states and the other under-performing states receive the same treatment from the BCCI with regard to investment in cricketing infrastructure. These states also host the highest number of matches during a cricket season, mostly for its better quality pitches and infrastructural capacity. Recently, Kohli made his observation regarding the idea of five designated test venues in the country saying it would help both the home and opposition teams in terms of preparation. Glaringly, such an approach would deprive certain states from becoming test match venues without any assessment of the opinions of fans and these state boards. The Lodha committee rightly recommended that a ‘one vote per state’ would help to instill transparency in the working of the BCCI. By extension, the BCCI must also chalk out a scheme where each state’s cricket is developed based on its infrastructural requirements. The state boards must also set up a systematic mechanism that can track the progress of its infrastructural readiness making officials liable to lose their posts if projects have not materialized.



TREATMENT METED OUT TO FORMER PLAYERS LIKE KUMBLE, DRAVID The ‘conflict of interest’ saga involving Dravid refuses to die down. But the episode that upset Indian fans the most in recent memory was the unceremonious exit of India’s former coach Anil Kumble who reportedly had disagreements with Indian skipper Virat Kohli. Kumble is not only one of the greats of Indian cricket, but a remarkable individual with the passion for taking Indian cricket forward. Like Dravid, Kumble prefers to keep such disagreements under wraps, which might have come across as a sign of weakness. Even with the CoA members comprising of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman speaking with the Indian skipper could not change his mind on Kumble’s future as India’s coach. However, the issue at hand is how the true stakeholders of Indian cricket are being toyed around for no fault of theirs. It not only sends a message that the captain should always have the veto power, but suggests that coaching is a secondary role in a star-studded team as far as cricket is concerned. However, the role of a head coach is vital in terms of his contribution as a mentor, teacher and motivator, which is beyond cricketing terms. In order to keep a star-studded team grounded to reality and focused, it is imperative that individuals like Kumble are taken seriously. Former players come with truckloads of experience but more importantly they partake in the success and failures of the team. It should be obvious that they transcend parochial and vested interests, but the rot in the sport is such that the angels are mistaken for demons.




"GANGULY IS THE RIGHT PERSON TO TAKE INDIAN CRICKET FORWARD" In a free-wheeling chat with Seasonal Magazine, former CAG and member of CoA panel, Vinod Rai speaks about Ganguly's appointment as BCCI President, the Kumble-Kohli fiasco, his experience in the CoA panel, the 'conflict of interest' issue and his belief that the BCCI old guard has no way back in cricket administration. SK Magazine: You have categorically stated that former India captain Sourav Ganguly is the right man to lead the BCCI. In your view, how important is it to have former players run sporting administrations and associations? Vinod Rai: See, let us get to the fundamentals of the issue. This sport is played by those 11 people on the ground, who feel the joys and pains associated with it. Anything that the BCCI does or the revenue earned by the cricketing community is best understood by former players. Everything about the game from team selection, coaching process, support staff, travel arrangements, across all formats,is understood well by someone like Sourav Ganguly. He has been one of India’s most successful captains. He has also had ups and downs with the then coach (Greg Chappell) during his captaincy stint. Sourav has also been the President of the Cricket Association of Bengal. Therefore, to my mind, he has the unique capacity and capability or experience of having been both a cricketer and cricket administrator. That is why I believe he is the most suited to lead BCCI in the country at present. SK Magazine: On your comment regarding Kumble’s unceremonious stint as India’s head coach, one of the papers ran a headline attributing the following quote to you: “Sourav would have thrust Kumble down Virat’s throat”. Where do you stand on the role of a coach in cricket and does the dominant say for the captain bode well for Indian cricket? Vinod Rai: I shall answer this in two parts. A coach is a very important SEASONAL MAGAZINE


component of any team. He is a friend, philosopher, guide and a mentor especially to the youngsters in the team. He keeps the team in a cohesive hold. When the Kumble controversy arose, the CoA were not aware of the entire situation. We learned only in April (2017) that Kumble’s tenure was to conclude in June and that his contract was for a period of one year. It didn’t have an extension clause. Everyone we spoke with during this period commented that Kumble was an ideal coach but that there was dissonance within the dressing room. It is mighty difficult to sack the captain in any sport. Since we were new to cricket administration, we entrusted the task of resolving this matter to who I call the ‘three wise men’ of Indian cricket – comprising of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman. These three people weren’t appointed by us, we inherited them. I spoke with all three of them to get their opinion. We didn’t want to be labeled as rank-outsiders who was trying to influence the team nor did we have the requisite expertise to take a call on this matter. We requested them to speak with both the captain and coach regarding selection matters and they had made their choice. It would have been easier for stalwarts of Indian cricket rather than us to influence Kumble or Kohli.

sporting bodies take a cue from this setup?

Regarding the captain’s dominant role in cricket, we were certain that instead of giving the say to the President and the Secretary (BCCI) there must be a free hand given to the captain and the coach. If you had to give freedom, it had to be given to these two individuals. I dare say, which has otherwise been made out also, by virtue of giving that freedom the team performed well during the last two years despite the lack of successes in major ICC tournaments. However, the team has shaped into a well-oiled and cohesive unit. A large extent of the credit should go to the captain and coach.

Vinod Rai: Well, one of the misfortunes of cricket administration in India is that the BCCI does not get to monitor the grants that have been given to the state associations. They receive 70% of the gross revenue and how they utilize it is that is their business. In addition to that, they believe that the BCCI should not interfere in their functioning in that respect. They also receive a huge amount of infrastructure subsidy. I think the time has come for the BCCIand state associations must sit together and develop infrastructure for cricket in a systematic fashion and assess the facilities available in different states. The north eastern state associations had not been given membership but we have ensured that they have. We gave Uttarakhand, the UT of Chandigarh and Puduchery as well. We have a critical mass and that is where too much attention has gone into India’s senior

SK Magazine: Your stint as the CoA has been widely praised for the manner in which professionalism has been bled into the system. What is your take on the model of cricket administration in India? Should other

Vinod Rai: Those who ran the BCCI over a period of time managed to do a good job and I have personal regard for a lot of them. Unfortunately, there were allegations in certain spheres of management and like all organizations, there were cliques or vested interests who were even against the PILs. That is when the Supreme Court stepped in, which has done a great amount of good. With the Lodha recommendations, it is the first time that former cricketers are becoming part of the administration. Now you have the likes of Sourav Ganguly, Anshuman Gaekwad, Rahul Dravid etc in their respective positions. Former India captain Mohd Azharuddin heads the Hyderabad Cricket Association. These people deserve time to see whether they can manage affairs and I fully belief in their ability. Seasonal Magazine: As you have stated recently about how the BCCI’s revenue share from ICC has increased from $293 mn to $405 mn over the last two years, how much of it has been invested in domestic cricket infrastructure? Has there been an increase in the budgetary allocation for the development of domestic cricket in India?

team at the expense of domestic cricket. But now I think we concentrated a lot more on the domestic circuit and tournaments and with the active participation of all states almost 2800 matches were held last year. Thanks to the IPL, we have unearthed talents that would otherwise found it difficult to represent India in various formats. Seasonal Magazine: Similar to reactions post your stint as the CAG, the public confidence in Indian cricket is high as you step down from the CoA panel. Going forward, how can an institution like the BCCI inspire confidence among the most important stakeholders of the sport: the fans? Should there be a model like in football where fans associations have a say in the running of the club/county teams? Vinod Rai: When we took over, we realized that the credibility of the BCCI among the public was low due to various incidents. To this end, we instituted the Indian cricketers association where in former cricketers run the body with state chapters also. Now we feel there will be a larger space for interaction and connect between the viewing masses and the cricket administrators in a certain state. They will have two representatives of the apex council in the state body. The connect should start from the grassroots level and this was woefully missing three to four years back. The D/N matches were accordingly finalized since the team wanted to play with the pink ball first at home rather in the overseas tour to Australia. Sourav is in the right place now to prepare the team for D/N test and prepare them in the home ground. This was a fans requirement and the feedback loop is in place. Seasonal Magazine: The issue of ‘conflict of interest’ has once again been raked up against Rahul Dravid who has been asked to depose before BCCI’s ethics officer for the second time. Is this due to an ambiguity in the rules or is the system fundamentally set up against passionate and driven individuals like Dravid? SEASONAL MAGAZINE


Vinod Rai: As a concept, it is sound which should apply to everyone. The only thing is the SC had asked the Lodha panel to make recommendations and this was challenged. Rather than in the spirit of the game, the rule has been practiced according to the spirit of the law due to which it is straight-jacketed. Our understanding was that since cricketers have a short span of life in terms of playing career, they should be allowed to serve in some capacity related to the sport be it in commentary, coaching, mentoring etc. We found that in one case Sourav Ganguly was the mentor of Delhi Capitals while Ricky Ponting was the head coach. In such scenarios, a foreign coach had no restrictions on gathering information about the team which could be useful for his home country while people like Ganguly were made to run behind the law. We found this to be a huge anomaly, working against Indian coaches and also against cricket in India.Therefore, we proposed that if a person is contracted with the BCCI, then he/she should not be allowed to take up any other position. Otherwise, any other secondary activity which they engage in should not be held against them. We recommended this to the SC for a renewal of the issue, which the media has called dilution. But, ultimately we believe it bodes well for the stakeholders of Indian cricket. Seasonal Magazine: As a well-wisher of Indian cricket, what do you think are the three key areas where the sport could improve on? Vinod Rai: Firstly, we need to substantially improve our infrastructure. The National Cricket Academy needs to be seriously developed as an incubator for future cricketers. It should become a comprehensive institution where the cricketing, physical and mental conditioning are state-of-the-art. When we took over, we had found out that around 25 acres of land had been procured in 2007-2008. This was paid for but had been left idle all along. When it came to our notice, I spoke to SEASONAL MAGAZINE


the chief secretary of Karnataka and he agreed to give an additional 15 acres of land. With the total land, we began to draw a detailed project plan. But I felt that the CoA, which was a nominated body, could not take decisions on behalf of the NCA. So we left it to the cricketing administration now where both Sourav and Rahul will have a major say in how this shapes up. Secondly, the Indian women’s cricket has been given an uplift because they are doing very well. In terms of facilities and uniforms, they have been treated very unfairly. We tried to bring them on par barring compensation because it is linked to revenue generated. We have increased their compensation from 8 lakhs to 50 lakhs. Even for the men’s cricketers, their pay structure had not been looked into since 2011 which we have brought to 8 crores. These are the people who generate revenue for the BCCI and they had been unfairly compensated until now. Seasonal Magazine: Recently, the likes of former BCCI Presidents N Sreenivasan and Anurag Thakur have increasingly been trying to wield their influence over the state units and affairs of the BCCI. Do you think their involvement through support for their proxy candidates in these associations or even in the ICC undermines the spirit of the Lodha recommendations? Vinod Rai: I don’t think so. Out of the 35 states, 32 states have adopted the

package proposed by the Lodha panel. Only three – Haryana, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu are yet to abide by it. There is a hearing on the 27th and 28th of this month from which they hope to get some flexibility. We believe these so-called cricket administrators who were only in it for vested interests have reached the twilight of their activity. But, of course, the efforts will continue since old habits die hard. It will be difficult for them to accept the status quo but they will have no choice but to come to terms with the Lodha package. I have written one chapter on the BCCI in my book where I have cited the work of Mihir Sen. He has highlighted the arrogance of some cricket administrators in India and their regressive methods due to which cricket had been hampered. Seasonal Magazine: What do you make of former CoA members Guha and Vikram Limaye’s refusal to take remuneration for their roles in the CoA? Do you think it is in protest to anyone? Vinod Rai: No. Guha was there for barely two-three months and he had made it clear that he wont accept any remuneration for his short stint. Vikram was already a salaried person when he joined working with IDFC and he got a job with the NSC. He was a highly paid executive. There were no protests whatsoever. Seasonal Magazine: While you have come down heavily on various malpractices and corporate misgovernance issues at BCCI, as a former apex auditor, how transparent and fair were BCCI’s books of accounts? Vinod Rai: We have left them totally transparent now. Every decision that we took of every CoA meeting is now available on the website and in the public domain. The only thing we could not do was to encourage the state associations to make it public also. Since these are public bodies, they deserve to be accountable and how they are run. That will help build trust among the viewing public and institutions.



GLENN MAXWELL'S DECISION PUTS MENTAL HEALTH IN FOCUS AUSTRALIA ALL-ROUNDER GLENN MAXWELL HAS TAKEN A 'SHORT BREAK' FROM CRICKET TO DEAL WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES. ustralia all-rounder Glenn Maxwell has taken a 'short' break from cricket to deal with mental health issues, Cricket Australia said in a statement released recently.


Maxwell has withdrawn from Australia's T20 International squad and Western Australia's D'Arcy Short has been named as replacement ahead of third T20I against Sri Lanka on Friday. Cricket Australia's (CA) psychologist Dr Michael Lloyd said, "Glenn Maxwell has been experiencing some difficulties with regards to his mental WE ASK THAT EVERYONE GIVES GLENN AND HIS FAMILY AND FRIENDS SPACE; AND RESPECTS THEIR PRIVACY AT THIS TIME.

health. As a result, he will spend a short time away from the game. Glenn was proactive in identifying these issues and engaging with support staff." "The well-being of our players and staff is paramount. Glenn has our full support. Cricket Australia will work collaboratively with Cricket Victoria's support staff to ensure Glenn's well-being and his reintegration into the game," CA's Executive General Manager Ben Oliver said. "We ask that everyone gives Glenn and his family and friends space; and respects their privacy at this time. He's a special player and an important part of the Australian cricket family. We hope to see him back in the team during the summer," Oliver added.

WOMAN WHO LIED TO ENTER TRUMP'S FLORIDA RESORT JAILED FOR 8 MONTHS A Chinese woman has been sentenced to eight months in prison after she was convicted of lying to enter US President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. It was feared Yujing Zhang was a spy when she was arrested on March 30. The 33-year-old, who has already served seven-and-a-half months in pretrial detention, was carrying multiple electronic devices.

VP NAIDU, RAJNATH SINGH PAY TRIBUTE TO 26/11 TERROR ATTACK VICTIMS Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu on Tuesday paid tribute to the victims of 26/11 Mumbai terror attack. "My tributes to all those who lost their lives...we stand in solidarity with the bereaved families. I salute the bravery and devotion of our security personnel...the motherland," he said. "Let's...ensure that 26/11 is never repeated in future," Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted.

FORMER JAPANESE PM YASUHIRO NAKASONE PASSES AWAY AGED 101 Yasuhiro Nakasone, one of Japan's longest-reigning Prime Ministers, has passed away at the age of 101. Born in the hilly district of Takasaki to a wealthy timber trader, Nakasone graduated from the Tokyo Imperial University, later the Tokyo University, before entering the Home Ministry in 1941. He joined the Tokyo Police Department after Japan's surrender in 1945. SEASONAL MAGAZINE



INDIA’S MANUFACTURING GROWTH MAY STAGNATE SAYS STUDY The Nikkei Manufacturing PMI, compiled by IHS Markit, dropped to 50.6 last month from September's 51.4. Growth was restored in capital goods and softened in the consumer goods category. fell to a six-month low, while companies were reluctant to hold excess stock and lowered input buying in response, said the statement. Business confidence also slipped to its lowest level in over twoand-a-half years, according to the statement.

The seasonally adjusted IHS Markit India manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI), based on a survey of 400 producers, fell from 51.4 in September to a two-year low of 50.6 in October, narrowly avoiding slipping into contraction, the market information supplier said in a statement.

In another sign of subdued growth conditions, input costs declined for the first time in over four years.

Growth was restored in capital goods and softened in the consumer goods category, while a quicker contraction was registered at intermediate goods makers, the statement said. The cooling of manufacturing conditions in India continued in October, with both factory orders and production rising at their weakest rates in two years. Subsequently, job creation

Filmmaker-actor Hemwant Tiwari won the Best Noir Feature award for his film 'The Fox' (Lomad) at the Genre Celebration Festival in Japan. The film, which is the "world's first black and white one-shot feature-length film", also won Best Feature Film at the Momòhill Film Fair in Switzerland. It was earlier awarded Best Foreign Feature at the Studio City Film Festival.


ndia’s manufacturing output grew at its slowest pace in two years in October, indicating continued weakness in industrial activity in Asia’s thirdlargest economy, according to a private survey released on Friday.

A figure above 50 indicates expansion and one below 50 indicates contraction. The survey tracks new orders, output, jobs, suppliers’ delivery time and stocks of purchases.


According to Pollyanna de Lima, principal economist at IHS Markit, PMI data for October showed a continuation of manufacturing sector weakness in India, with sales growth softening to the slowest in two years. "Weakening demand had a domino effect in the manufacturing industry, knocking down rates of increase in production, employment and business sentiment." The government and the Reserve Bank of India have been taking steps to arrest the slowdown. The RBI last month slashed its policy rates for the fifth time this year taking the cumulative reduction so far this year to 135 basis points to support growth. RBI’s repo rate stands at 5.15%. The central bank has cut its GDP growth estimates to 6.1% for this fiscal, from an earlier estimate of 6.9%.

Two-wheeler manufacturer Bajaj Auto invested $8 million in a strategic funding round in Bengaluru-based e-bike startup Yulu. The investment will see Yulu sourcing Bajaj electric two-wheelers, which have been co-designed and manufactured for shared micromobility. Yulu was founded in 2017 by mobile ads startup InMobi's Co-founder Amit Gupta along with RK Misra, Naveen Dachuri and Hemant Gupta.

FORMER JAPANESE PM YASUHIRO NAKASONE PASSES AWAY AGED 101 Yasuhiro Nakasone, one of Japan's longest-reigning Prime Ministers, has passed away at the age of 101. Born in the hilly district of Takasaki to a wealthy timber trader, Nakasone graduated from the Tokyo Imperial University, later the Tokyo University, before entering the Home Ministry in 1941. He joined the Tokyo Police Department after Japan's surrender in 1945. SEASONAL MAGAZINE







THE VALUE IN INDIA'S DIAGNOSTICS PIONEER DR. A. VELUMANI LED THYROCARE TECHNOLOGIES HAS BEEN INDIA'S PIONEER DIAGNOSTIC CHAIN IN THE LISTED SPACE. BUT LIKE HOW ALL PIONEERS HAVE HAD TO SUFFER, THYROCARE TOO HAD ITS UPS AND DOWN IN THE CAPITAL MARKETS. BUT STARTING FROM Q1, AND GATHERING PACE WITH Q2'S GOOD NUMBERS, THYROCARE HAS PUT IT ALL BEHIND TO EMERGE ONCE AGAIN WITH RAPID GAINS IN THE MARKET, AS IT DESERVES TO BE RE-RATED LIKE ITS BIGGER PEERS THAT HAVE LISTED MORE RECENTLY. BUT UNLIKE SOME OF THEM THYROCARE IS A PROFITABLE ENTITY FROM DAY ONE, EVEN WHEN OFFERING IMMENSE VALUE TO ITS CUSTOMERS. AND FOR INVESTORS, IT OFFERS A SCALABLE SIZE AND EXCELLENT DIVIDEND YIELD. It is an eternal riddle how much of our human lives are of our own choice and making, and how much of it is predetermined or destined to happen. While the proponents of each theory are quick to rubbish the other, the fact of the matter is that any careful observer can find out that there is a mysterious mix of the two. Even Bill Gates, who has once again become the world’s richest person in November 2019, and who is known for thinking about everything scientifically and objectively, has made it clear that he wouldn’t have been the numero uno billionaire he is now, unless he had been

born in a specific period in a specific country to specific parents. Gates cannot deny that obvious truth because he was born to not only very successful parents, but to parents who were influential in the society, especially his mother who had a leading role in a huge charitable organization, and who played a pivotal role in young Bill’s school getting a computer for the students on which the future co-founder of Microsoft learnt programming basics. And needless to say, where it all happened – USA – and when it all happened – the dawn of microcomputing – was picture perfect for a

highly competitive and talented kid like Bill Gates to emerge as one of the youngest ever billionaires and eventually the world’s richest guy. But if anyone thought only rich and influential parents, as well as developed countries like USA, can spawn predetermined successes, nothing could be farther from the truth. Aarogyaswamy cultivated maize for about four months every year in his own small land near Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, for a living. His name is believed to mean the ‘God of Health’ in Tamil language, but he had nothing much to do with health services, or so most must SEASONAL MAGAZINE


have thought back then.

that adversities.

By the time he had four kids, Aarogyaswamy was turning apprehensive about how in the world he would provide for them all and his wife Sayammal with this meagre maize cultivation that was dependent on the vagaries of the annual rains.

Why is this important in understanding Thyrocare Technologies, and especially its prospects in the capital markets, in wealth creation?

But Sayammal rose to the occasion and took things in her own hands. She was already helping her husband in the fields. But she realized it was not enough. She spent her savings on buying two buffaloes, and the family started making Rs.50 more every week. Sayammal was not only a micro entrepreneur but a good money manager too. She used to run the entire household of husband, four kids and herself on just Rs. 70 a week. The keywords were simplicity and frugality. On such values, she managed to make all four of her kids, college graduates. It was by no means any easy task. All of them attended the local Town Panchayat Union School, where all the stuff the kids had were a slate and a plate. There was no uniform and the kids sat on the floor, listening keenly to their teacher. Besides that, Aarogyaswamy’s kids had the additional burden of missing school for four months of the rainy season, as they were busy helping their Appa and Amma to cultivate corn in their small land. The miracle is not that their elder son Aarogyaswamy Velumani or A Velumani as he is popularly known went on to create a successful healthcare empire called Thyrocare which is listed in the stock exchange and valued at half a billion dollars, but that A Velumani credits his father, his mother, his village and his upbringing for his success! That is not something even Bill Gates or even any of the billionaires would dare to do! Crediting deepest of adversities in childhood and youth, for what one has achieved today. There are many who would say that they succeeded against such odds, but A Velumani’s take on it is different – he is speaking about a higher truth which is that he succeeded precisely because of SEASONAL MAGAZINE


Thyrocare, at its present market capitalization of around Rs. 2910 crores, clearly falls into what the Indian market calls the small-cap space. And the sharpest wealth creation has always happened when some of the aspiring small-caps surged into midcaps and even fewer of them eventually became large-caps. At the large-cap, and even to an extent the mid-cap space, the entrepreneur or the founder has ceased to become the all-powerful factor determining success, as tiers of management talents also become crucial. But in the small-cap space, even if professional management and cutting-edge technology deployment are there, the crucial factor determining success is still the entrepreneur. That is where the unique values of Thyrocare’s Founder, Chairman, MD, & CEO A Velumani scores. When he says adversities built him, he is not simply saying a fanciful statement, but has enough to back it up from his own life and Thyrocare’s history. There are values that he has always lived by, and on which he had built the Thyrocare empire. It was on these values that he converted each adversity that came his way into a growth opportunity. These values are focus, discipline, honesty, frugality and disruption. Among these, he regards frugality as the basic and most crucial lesson of life. As


noted, his childhood was about foods made of the corn they cultivated, limited amenities and simple requirements. Says Velumani, “I learned business management from my mother who used to manage the family, consisting of 4 children, with only 70 rupees. But she managed to make all her 4 children graduates.” And whereas most children learn the value of discipline from school and college, if at all, Velumani says it has been deeply ingrained in him due to his village upbringing. Says the Thyrocare Founder, “Villages are the true universities; entrepreneurs who are born in villages create a big impact because in villages there is only practical learning. Poverty gives you stamina. The poor have nothing to lose; there is no lack of courage in them. An empty stomach teaches you everything in life.” According to Velumani, focus is the single-most important value that is inevitable for success. Sometimes focus is thrust upon us, whereas some other times we must choose to focus on what is important. He remembers his plus-two years (at that time PUC) as such a period. He was away from home, at a relative’s place, homesick and he was lonely most of the time making him focus on studies and unpopular subjects among students like maths and science. His college days were mired in adversities as he wanted to pursue engineering, but there was no means for it with his family. He was forced to join for BCom by some relatives, but a professor at the college saw his focus for science and maths and shifted him to science. He also had to try for odd and part-time jobs to support his own college life. Thus it was focus that first got him to BSc Chemistry and later on to MSc in Biochemistry (Thyroid) and PhD in Thyroid Pathophysiology, the latter two from Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), while he was working there. According to Velumani, his focus on maths helped him immensely even in his entrepreneurial career. Always short of cash even for the basic


amenities, Velumani remembers that he often spent time on railway platforms studying, and while on his first trip to Mumbai to be interviewed at BARC, he had to spend four days at the Mumbai CST station. The seeds for disruption were also sowed in his mind from early on. In one such instance, Velumani remembers being turned down from many jobs by citing his lack of experience. He was just out of degree college, and he kept wondering how on earth he was supposed to have experience of years, when it was only just a few months after his degree. It was this adversity that made him try for a position at BARC, and which proved to be his first major turning point. And years later, Velumani would use this bitter job hunting experience to good use, as Thyrocare started welcoming fresh graduates who were perfectly trained and deployed across the organization. Today, for most of his 1500 employees, he has been their first employer, which builds loyalty and trust. And Velumani’s penchant for disruption knows no bounds. He has disrupted his own life at a crucial juncture, and went on to disrupt the entire diagnostic space. After spending nearly two decades as a scientist, and with all of Rs. 2 lakh in his PF account, he would one fine day resign from BARC to pursue his dream of starting a diagnostic chain. His influence on his family was nothing short of infectious. Whereas most Indian wives would have found fault with his decision to quit a plum scientist’s job at BARC, Velumani’s wife Sumathi who




was at that time working for State Bank of India, quit her career of 15 years on the same day and joined ranks with him in creating Thyrocare. But the biggest disruption would come from Thyrocare, in the diagnostics market. From day one, Thyrocare was not only a quality leader but a cost leader. The secret to this was automation and superior efficiency. It was this edge that made Thyrocare rapidly become the preferred partner for hospitals, laboratories and clinics. To this day, it is doubtful whether there is any other diagnostic chain in India that enjoys 75% of its business from the stable Business-to-Business (B2B) segment. Velumani is one entrepreneur who will not ever underestimate the need for




disrupting the cost for focusing on the customer. Says he, “You should have the courage for pricing. If your business is a failure your pricing was wrong”. But pricing has never deterred Velumani’s ambition to remain as the tech emperor in the field of diagnostics. From day one, Thyrocare has utilized the then available world-class technologies, and over the years, the momentum of technology adoption has

exponentially increased. Today, Thyrocare has deployed all cutting-edge diagnostic technologies including CLIA, ELISA, HPLC, CE, SE, LC-MS, ICP-MS, Fluorescence Flow Cytometry, Nephelometry, Photometry, Cytogenetics and more. Thyrocare has set up India’s first fully automated clinical chemistry laboratory with a focus on providing quality results at affordable costs to clients like

laboratories, doctors, hospitals and organizations as well as patients from across the country and abroad. Thyrocare’s Centralized Processing Laboratory at Navi Mumbai consists of 120,000 sq. ft. of track automation system that has a capacity to process over 50,000 samples in a day. The laboratory operates 24x7, processing over 40,000 samples a day with a turnaround time of 4-5 hours. Such superior turnaround times are possible only through Thyrocare’s deployment of air-cargo and IT infrastructure. Through air-cargo, more than 25,000 samples from all parts of India are brought to CPL. This is made possible by a strong logistics network of Thyrocare whose well coordinated efforts ensure that the samples reach the CPL every night, on the same night, before mid-night. These are meticulously collected, collated, checked for sample integrity, temperature and other aspects of Preanalytical Quality Control and then stored appropriately. The company’s superior information technology infrastructure helps in seamless integration of all the processes, as work orders are downloaded from the web server, barcodes are scanned and specimens are arranged accordingly for processing. More than 25,000 different samples are processed every night and

the reports are directly uploaded back in the website for the customer to see. With such systems in place it is no wonder that Throcare is performing well financially. In the most recent Q2, consolidated net profit rose 38.6 percent year-on-year at Rs 35 crore. Revenue was up 11.9 percent at Rs 116.2 crore. EBITDA rose 21.2 percent to Rs 52.1 crore and EBITDA margin was up 340 bps at 44.8 percent. Revenue from Diagnostic and imaging testing services increased by 13% and 5% YoY, respectively. Diagnostic services EBIT has increased by 18%. While it’s bigger B2B business grew 8%, it’s B2C revenue has increased by 17% YoY. Despite strong fundamental performance over the past few quarters, the market is yet to rerate the Thyrocare stock due to its so far greater focus on the B2B segment. But Thyrocare is a dividend leader with 3.6% dividend yield to investors, and an interim dividend for FY20 at the rate of Rs 5 per share was announced after Q2. A Velumani has also in recent years spearheaded a new venture Aarogyam that focuses on preventive health checkup packages and Nueclear, a chain of high-end imaging centers. With B2C business increasing, strong growth in both revenues and earnings and high dividend payout, it is only a


matter of time before Thyrocare enjoys premium valuations as is customary with consumer facing business. As of now there is a sharp valuation discount to peers, prompting noted analysts to give buy ratings on the stock. Dr Velumani who had a majestic journey till 2016, then had to encounter the loss of his most valuable asset and co-founder, Mrs. Sumathi Velumani for Pancreatic Cancer. Says Dr. Velumani, the father of Thyrocare, on his wife, “She was the Mother Of Thyrocare.” Though his children, Anand and Amruta Velumani have been a part of Thyrocare for some time now, he says “ No one can truly be a replacement for Sumathi”. He fondly acknowledges the contributions of his younger brother Mr A Sundararaju, Director and CFO of Thyrocare for trusting and journeying with him for 4 decades. SEASONAL MAGAZINE








HANDPICKED BY AMMA TO HANDLE TOURISM hen J Jayalalithaa upset the calculations of all political pundits to storm back into power for a second consecutive time in 2016 – the first CM to do it in Tami Nadu since MGR did it in 1984 – she was determined to give her cabinet some serious fresh energy. This was also her sixth term as Chief Minister and like the seasoned assessor of talent she was, she handpicked 13 new faces to be in the Cabinet, which was almost 50% of the 28 member ministerial team. While this ruffled a few feathers especially as the old Cabinet under her had retained power, the move spoke volumes about her political wisdom to constantly bring in new talent to key posts to get things done in new ways. Speaking about new talent, most of them were not new in the sense of their youthfulness. They weren’t young Turks, but seasoned politicians who had hitherto gone unnoticed despite their special skills. One of these prominent new faces in the 2016 Jayalalithaa Cabinet was Vellamandi N Natarajan, a veteran AIADMK leader who had won the Tiruchirappalli East constituency for the party in 2016. Right from our first phone call to his office to coordinate this interview, this wisdom of Amma in handpicking Natarajan for this post was obvious. When we were discussing the ways and means to catch up with him with his secretaries, it was Minister Natarajan himself who took over the phone from them suddenly and asked us warmly to come over to Chennai on a specified date, reassuring us that he would be honouring the appointment come what may. Now, if warmth is the essence of the tourism & hospitality industry, Tamil Nadu’s Tourism Minister has ample quantities of it. It became further clear to us that Amma would not have missed that quality in him, when we were ushered in to his room for this interview. Vellamandi N Natarajan is not only SEASONAL MAGAZINE


warm and forever smiling with an intense love for his land of Tamil Nadu, but he is well prepared with neatly written down answers in Tamil for a sampling of questions we had forwarded, so as not to waste his precious time or ours. But soon, his answers broke the barriers of the written down words, as he started explaining every nook and corner of Tamil Nadu’s tourist map that makes the state a national leader in tourism. Soon, more of Amma’s wisdom in choosing Natarajan as Tourism Minister becomes clearer. Unknown to many outside the state, what makes tourism tick big time in Tamil Nadu is not the material but the spiritual. Tamil Nadu is the Land of Temples. According to official figures, there are 38,615 temples in the state. And make no mistake, many of them are no ordinary temples, but ancient monuments dating back to anywhere from 800 to 5000 years! There are temples in Tamil Nadu for each and every Hindu God and Goddess, and that is what makes Tamil Nadu a strong attraction for pilgrims from across the country. This has been a major factor in the state’s strong showing in domestic tourism. In addition to this strong show by Hindu temples, there are also outstanding places of worship for other religions. The 500 years old Marian Shrine of Our Lady


of Vailankanni attracts 2 million pilgrims from India and abroad each year, while Palaiya Jumma Palli, built in 628-630 AD, is one of the oldest mosques in the world and one of the first two in India. The state has a strong secular culture with peaceful co-existence of all major religions of India, and it has consistently rejected efforts in communalism and polarization, and this has contributed to the state’s fame as one of the safest tourist destinations in India. For the four consecutive years, between 2014 and 2017, the state had topped

knows the secret behind this spectacular performance from abroad.


Well, the secret is this – since decades if not centuries, Tamilians has been one of India’s largest diaspora abroad. Thanks to this, more than 50% of inbound tourists to Tamil Nadu are still from the Tamil diaspora in countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, South Africa & Mauritius.

the country in drawing the maximum number of domestic tourists. A Tourism Minister who is not the most pious and most knowledgeable in temple affairs simply can’t be the best in this role, and this is something in which Minister Natarajan has perhaps no competition.

While there are temples in Tamil Nadu for all Hindu Gods and Goddesses of India, there are multi-times more ancient and magnificent temples in the state for Deities that are unique to Tamil Nadu. These are the prime attractions for the Tamil diaspora from across the globe, and it matters that someone who understands these temples in-depth is in charge of tourism.

Now, there is an even more important reason why under Minister Natarajan’s leadership, tourism department can expand what is perhaps Tamil Nadu tourism’s most lucrative segment. Tamil Nadu still attracts the highest number of foreign travellers in India. The number of inbound tourists from abroad has climbed impressively from 46.85 lakh in 2015 to 60.73 lakh in 2018. And like in domestic tourism, for the same four consecutive years, between 2014 and 2017, the state had topped the country in drawing the maximum number of international tourists too! But few people outside the tourism industry

Centuries might have passed since their forefathers migrated to these countries, and most of them today are citizens of those countries, but they are Tamilians at heart still. And here is where the temple connection comes in again.

Mind you, each of these temples have their own elaborate rituals, processes, seasons and rigors to visit them, and Minister Natarajan is an expert in these affairs. The way he described the ambience of the sanctum sanctorum of some of his favourite ancient temples, during this interview, revealed the passion he has for the role he has been entrusted by Amma. No wonder then that, post Amma’s unfortunate demise soon after starting her sixth term as Chief Minister, SEASONAL MAGAZINE


SINCE CENTURIES NOW, TAMILIANS HAS BEEN ONE OF INDIA’S LARGEST DIASPORA ABROAD, AND DUE TO THIS MORE THAN 50% OF INBOUND TOURISTS TO TAMIL NADU ARE STILL FROM THE TAMIL DIASPORA IN COUNTRIES LIKE MALAYSIA, SINGAPORE, SRI LANKA, SOUTH AFRICA & MAURITIUS, MAKING THE STATE A LEADER IN INBOUND TOURISM TOO. Natarajan continues to be the Tourism Minister despite the two years of political upheavals within AIADMK. During the last seven years of AIADMK rule, and especially during the last three years when Natarajan has been the Tourism Minister, Tamil Nadu tourism has seen remarkable change and significant growth. As many as 295 sites had been identified for development as tourism destinations under the Tamil Nadu Integrated Tourism Promotion Programme. The State Tourism Ministry could also get approval from Central Government for 77 projects under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme and 24 projects under the PRASAD Scheme. Under Minister Natarajan’s leadership, brochures on popular tourist spots in Tamil Nadu have been printed in six international languages, including Russian, French & Chinese. Plans are now on to make available for potential travellers, these brochures from Indian missions and consulates in different countries. He has also risen dramatically to the demands and emerging trends of this job, as his knowledge and focus on medical tourism reveals. According to figures readily available with him, today, 40% of medical tourists to India are now visiting Tamil Nadu for treatment. This has happened after better medical facilities, expertise and low-cost treatments had improved in the State. The private as well as government hospitals in all major tourism hubs like Chennai, Coimbatore, Vellore, Madurai, Trichy, Thanjavur, Tirunelveli and Nagarcoil are today offering better treatment at low cost to the tourists. Minister Natarajan and his Tourism Ministry are also getting excellent support to grow this segment from the whole Government especially Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami. Under CM’s guidance, Government is now planning to set up an air ambulance facility to transfer patients to tertiary care hospitals, and the CM has also signed SEASONAL MAGAZINE


an MoU to upgrade the skills of healthcare professionals, and both these measures will further boost medical tourism in the state.

54 had been put up for medical tourism, so much so that it had a separate title too, Tamil Nadu Medical Value Travel Mart.

The surge in momentum for medical tourism in the state was most evident in the recently concluded second edition of Tamil Nadu Travel Mart. In the wellattended three-day event, of the 82 stalls,

Medical Tourism is indeed one of the largest emerging growth engines for Tamil Nadu Tourism as already 20% of the travel to the State is for medical treatments. Seasonal Magazine in conversation with Vellamandi N Natarajan, Minister for Tourism, Government of Tamil Nadu: Q. What were your broad takeaways from the Tamil Nadu Travel Mart and its impact on tourism in the state?


A: It was a hugely successful endeavor. Tamil Nadu had very good arrival of tourists for five years as per data collected by the Tourism department in 2018. The tourism industry offers job opportunities to all kinds of workers. It continues to be a priority sector in India due to generation of good income. The travel mart sought to offer a platform of stakeholders in the hospitality sector to identify the opportunities and challenges in this field. Tamil Nadu has architectural splendour and the best mix of heritage, eco and wildlife tourism. It

ALL THE MAJOR ANCIENT TEMPLES IN TAMIL NADU HAVE THEIR OWN ELABORATE RITUALS, PROCESSES, SEASONS AND RIGORS TO VISIT THEM, AND MINISTER NATARAJAN IS AN EXPERT IN THESE AFFAIRS. It is a historical event, which hasn’t taken place anywhere else in the country. Even celebrities who come from afar relish in the hospitality offered by our state and take back with them lasting memories. This is the kind of tourism experience we would like to offer on a consistent basis and we believe that we are on the right course. Q: What are some of the broad initiatives in the eco-tourism field? A: The tourism and forest departments are jointly promoting such initiatives. Most of the large reserves in the interior forest areas for tourism potential belong under the Forest Department, which are coordinated at the Central Forest Department. After taking due permission from Central agencies, we undertake site visits. We identify the spots for nature trekking hotspots and other activities. Q: Sri Lanka has expressed keen interest to restart the ferry service but there has been a delay at the end of the Indian government. What would be the TN govt's stand on this issue? Will this give a boost to the 'Ram Circuit' project connecting TN with Sri Lanka?

has been adjudged as the best state for heritage and spiritual tourism. The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments department in Tamil Nadu manages a total of 40,000 temples. Of late, countries like Japan have direct flight connectivity with Chennai. Foreign tourists need not land in Hyderabad to visit Tamil Nadu. Q: The Vice President of India, Shri Venkaiah Naidu recently stated that Tamil Nadu is the ‘medical hub of the country’. How do you propose to open up the medical value travel sector to the private sector through the Tamil Nadu Travel Mart & Medical Value keeping in mind the interests of small and medium-sized local players? A: Around 40% tourists visit our state for medical purposes. In India, we have been at the top for around 4 years now. This hasn’t changed. Religious tourism also plays a big part given we have many temple towns with rich cultural heritage. Those tourists who visit for medical reasons also find time to visit these places. The recent TN Travel Mart has been a huge success in achieving this.

A: That is not under our purview but the Central Government’s consideration. However, we are certainly kept in the loop about this initiative.


Q: What were the broad takeaways from the recent National Conference of Tourism Ministers? What was your state's tourism pitch? A: Around two weeks back, we had the opportunity to attend an-all Tourism Ministers meeting under the stewardship of the Union Tourism Minister. This was the National Conference of Tourism Ministers. We had various discussions relating to schemes like the Swadesh Darshan and potential opportunities in the coastal sector. These are areas we are looking to invest in. Under the Prasad scheme, two of the places selected were Vellankanni and Kanchipuram and we are looking to move forward on implementing this. We SEASONAL MAGAZINE


MEDICAL TOURISM HAS BOOMED IN TAMIL NADU AFTER BETTER MEDICAL FACILITIES, EXPERTISE AND LOW-COST TREATMENTS HAD IMPROVED ACROSS THE STATE IN PRIVATE AS WELL AS GOVERNMENT HOSPITALS IN ALL MAJOR TOURISM HUBS LIKE CHENNAI, COIMBATORE, VELLORE, MADURAI, TRICHY, THANJAVUR, TIRUNELVELI AND NAGARCOIL. are able to seek financial aid from the Centre for these schemes. Q: Last year, the Central government signed a loan agreement for 31 million US dollars with the Asian Development Bank to improve the tourism industry in Tamil Nadu. Would this initiative help to drive growth and employment? A: On the ADB loan, all the districts will get an impetus to enhance their tourism potential. This loan will also cover finances for the upkeep and maintenance of amenities in tourist places. However, we need to pay back the loan with interest, which is a nominal rate around 5%. So we are utilizing the loan for infrastructural facilities, which will help to generate revenue for the state exchequer and help in the loan repayment process. We have received around Rs. 600 crores and we have utilized around 95% of this already for various projects under the tourism ministry. So far it has been mainly utilized for floodlights, signposts and tourist resorts, hotels etc. Q: Recently, Madras High court directed against illegal construction activity and solid waste dumping in SEASONAL MAGAZINE


Kodaikanal. Has the lack of accountability of local officials led to this order? What are the steps TN govt will take to preserve Kodaikanal's unique natural heritage? A: The hoteliers have filed cases against the government for our decision to restrict the construction of buildings whose height can’t go beyond a permissible limit. However the court has ruled in our favor and instructed for

speedy implementation. We have also instituted a full plastic ban in Kodaikanal as part of our cleanliness drive. In fact, plastic has been discouraged statewide and we take this issue very seriously. In eco-friendly areas like Ooty and Yercaud, plastic has been totally banned and we have instructed the authorities to strictly implement this at the ground level. Q: As many as 295 sites had been identified for development as tourism

destinations under the Tamil Nadu Integrated Tourism Promotion Programme. Is there an effort by your government to promote tourism in the tier-2 towns and cities where tourism inflow is otherwise dominated by destinations like Chennai, Madurai, Kanyakumari etc? A: We have built basic amenities near the Thiruvenkadu temple. Similar initiatives have been carried out in Sriperumbudur town. We have also build facilities near the Chidambaram temple, Thillai Nataraja Temple and in nearby Chennai. 12 ancient sites have been refurbished as well. We also have many tourist lakes for which we recently purchased boats for this purpose. Solarpowered tube-lights have been put up in these places for efficient energy use. Under the previous government, there was an issue with scarcity of electricity. So we have decided to exploit our unique position in the solar energy sector. Even the use of LEDs has been important for our power-generation purposes.

slowly integrated into government ones and we are working towards this. Needless to say, these services are provided free-of-cost to the public beneficiary. The reason why we continue to remain No.1 in this field is because the government hospitals have been able to successfully carry out complex surgeries like the recent case where a person lost both his arms. Even services like maternity and pregnancy care is provided to expecting and new mothers with state-of-the-art facilities at all stages of pregnancy. We have monitoring system where each and every mother’s medical care is accounted for and is looked after by the state. Even post-partum care is offered by these hospitals. There are also yoga centers for the overall developmental of the mind and body. We are also providing siddha and Ayurveda services as part of the medical tourism experience. Another encouraging sign is good doctors joining the government run hospitals in large numbers.

Q: With medical tourism attracting 20% of the travel to Tamil Nadu, how do you propose to increase the necessary infrastructure and facilities?

Q: Why do you think Tamil Nadu has consistently performed well in this industry? Is it the requisite infrastructural support provided for tourism?

A: We are striving to enhance government facilities in the medical tourism sector. For example the superspecialty hospital is a step in this direction. The technologies available in the private hospitals are also being

A: The reason why large number of tourists visits the state is because we have four international airports that cater to the main parts of the state. The presence of two ports is also a big bonus. Even our roads have improved

considerably over the last few years. Power supply is plentiful in our state and there are very rare instances of power outages. The transport facilities have ensured that small towns are now connected with the major cities, providing relief to many making intrastate level. The law and order situation is stable. For that matter, Tamil Nadu is one of the few states with places of religious worship of all hues like churches, temples, mosques etc as is the case in Trichy and many other towns. The tourism department of the government provides vocational training for travel and tourism through its own college. This is a 30-acre campus. Q: Tamil Nadu has the maximum domestic and foreign tourist inflow over the last four years. But these have mainly been to either Chennai or Madurai. Small hoteliers in towns have expressed concern that they are not able to achieve 100% occupancy even during peak season. How do you propose to address this? A: As long as the places have some historical value and cultural heritage, people will flock to these towns regardless. However, the government will continue to support people in these towns who are dependent on their livelihood from the tourism sector. We have recently mooted the concept of a pilgrimage circuit, called as the Ram Circuit. Additionally, around 1012 lakh people go to Thiruvanmalai to ascend the mountain there for a 20-day period. Tamil Nadu’s temples have a rich historical tradition and the religious experience cant be divorced from this reality. These temples have maintained their original architecture and form because that is what makes them look so attractive. White marble structures can only do so much! Even Chennai city has well known religious sites, adding to its already magnificent profile. In all these places, we have inter-communal harmony and all faiths are respected. Panchabhoota place has five temples, which is dedicated to Shiva, four in Tamil Nadu and one in Andhra Pradesh. These are major tourist attractions in the tier-2 and tier-3 towns. SEASONAL MAGAZINE





The study, published in the US in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, suggested that antiinflammatory agents were better than placebo and enhanced the effects of standard antidepressant treatment.

According to Rajnish Kumar, Neurologist, Paras Hospital in Gurugram, usage of anti-inflammatory drugs to curb symptoms of depression is still controversial.

The effects were even greater when one or other of these agents were added to standard antidepressant treatment.

For undertaking the study on the curative aspects of anti-inflammatory agents, researchers trawled databases to find suitable studies published up to January 2019. They have found 30 relevant randomized controlled trials, involving 1,610 people, which reported changes in depression scales. They pooled the data from 26 of these studies. SEASONAL MAGAZINE



lthough researchers abroad claim that anti-inflammatory agents such as aspirin or paracetamol can safely and effectively curb the symptoms of major depression, doctors here dispute the claim.

"We cannot say anti-inflammatory drugs will tackle the issue. These drugs will have more counter-productive action as compared to curbing the depression symptoms. So, these agents won't be that beneficial," Kumar stressed.

"This has been hypothesized to reduce the symptoms in bipolar disorder. Also, it augments the effect of conventional anti-depressants in major depressive disorder and is helpful in resistant cases," Gupta told IANS. "The doses of conventional medicines can be reduced and side effects like nausea, insomnia, weight gain, and suicidal thoughts can be reduced," he concluded.

he study, published in the US in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, suggested that anti-inflammatory agents were better than placebo and enhanced the effects of standard antidepressant treatment.

"We haven't seen any such cases where anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin, paracetamol or brufen have helped a patient. A lot of studies are taking place around the world regarding this but none of them had shown 100 per cent cure," Kumar told IANS.

arachidonic acid (AA) cascade to reduce neuroinflammation and excitotoxicity of neurons," Gupta explained.

"The study claims that OTC drugs like aspirin and brufen can be used in depressive disorders. However it's premature to accept this in routine clinical practice as yet," said Tarun Sahni, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals in Delhi. "The danger is that this may lead to selfdiagnosing and medication for such illnesses and therefore the risk of delay in it with increased morbidity," Gupta added. However, Rahul Gupta, Director of Department of Neurosurgery, Fortis Hospital in Nodia, said that antiinflammatory medicine like aspirin in low doses can be effective in Psychiatric illnesses like bipolar disorder. "In bipolar disorder, there is evidence of chronic inflammation and elevated pro-inflammatory cytokines. Aspirin, by its capacity to inhibit COX 1 enzyme, can reduce the inflammatory process in the brain. It down-regulates the brain

Talking about his son Shahid Kapoor, Pankaj Kapur said that he could see the potential in him when he was only being judged as a "goodlooking chocolate hero". "I said 10 years back time will pass, people will see his ability," he added. "When an actor gets...opportunity to do things, only then can he prove his mettle," Pankaj said.

YOUR EMMY NOMINATION IS A WIN: DIA MIRZA TO 'LUST STORIES' TEAM Dia Mirza has extended her support to the team of 'Lust Stories', which was nominated in the TV Movie/MiniSeries category at the 47th International Emmy Awards. Sharing a picture of the team, Dia wrote, "Congratulations Team #LustStories. Your nomination is a #Win...may there be many many more." 'Lust Stories' lost against the Australian series 'Safe Harbour'.



Mi Watch has ability to store and stream music directly off the Internet without needing to be paired to a smartphone. he Xiaomi Watch aka Mi Watch has been teased multiple times to build hype ahead of the official launch next week. We already know what the Mi Watch looks like and the kind of hardware it packs. More details have now been teased by Xiaomi by sharing an image of the watch bands that are available with the upcoming Mi Watch. Another teaser also showcases the Mi Watch's ability to store and stream music directly off the Internet without needing to be paired to a smartphone. The latest teaser from Xiaomi shows that the Xiaomi Watch will

have four colour options when it comes to the strap of the device. It has a black, gray, white and a navy blue colour option. These straps are made out of fluoro rubber that has anti-allergic and anti-sweat properties. The bands also seem to have a watch-like clasp which should secure the watch on your wrist. Another teaser from Xiaomi showcases the ability of the Mi Watch to store and stream music directly from the watch. This eliminates the need for a smartphone while listening to music and you can leave your smartphone behind while you work out. This isn't the first

smartwatch to have this functionality but it is a good feature to pack in. The Xiaomi Watch also has eSIM functionality which should give it the ability to stream music right off the internet. The Mi Watch is an interesting device and will run MIUI for Watch OS. Powering the smartwatch is a Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor and we know that it has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, as well as NFC connectivity. The smartwatch also has an App Store so buyers will be able to download apps without a smartphone. It'll be interesting to see when Xiaomi brings the Xiaomi Watch to India.



FULFILLING AMMA’S DRE JAYALALITHAA’S PRIME DREAM IN HER FINAL YEARS WAS TO MAKE TAMIL NADU A DEVELOPED STATE WITH $10,000 DOLLARS PER CAPITA INCOME, IN A STILL DEVELOPING INDIA. THIS IS THE LEGACY THAT CHIEF MINISTER EDAPPADI K. PALANISWAMI AND INDUSTRIES MINISTER MC SAMPATH HAVE INHERITED AND WHICH THEY ARE TRYING TO FULFIL. hen we were ushered in to Minister MC industrial growth – during calendar years 2017 & Sampath’s room in Tamil Nadu Secretariat 2018 due to former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s for this interview, we were initially unfortunate demise and subsequent political apprehensive as sharing the room with the uncertainty – to regain its rightful position as India’s Minister was around thirty visitors. second largest in GDP, next But we took confidence from the only to Maharashtra. Minister GOVERNMENT IS GIVING TRAINfact that his office had called up and Sampath is not only highly ING SUBSIDY OF RS. 4000 PER re-confirmed our interview that effective in his interactions but MONTH FOR 6000 WORKERS, morning itself, and also from the warm and open minded. FOR A CERTAIN PERIOD WHICH fact that there was absolutely no Adorning his office walls and WILL COST THE GOVERNMENT delay at the gate or the building. table are portraits of his mentors After briefly attending to one of the RS. 39 CRORE, AND AFTER THAT and former Chief Ministers MG visitors, Minister Sampath urged us Ramachandran and J THESE GIRLS FROM BPL FAMIto take our seats. Being the Minister Jayalalithaa, as well as his LIES WOULD BE PLACED BY for Industries at India’s second most leader and current Chief FOXCONN IN HIGHER SALARIES. industrialized state is not easy by Minister Edappadi K any measure. We soon learned that Palaniswami. And they are not the Minister was soon off to a meeting with top just on the walls and tables, but in his heart as well, officials of Foxconn, the Taiwanese contract as his words often reveals. It is his Amma’s – as manufacturer, who is incidentally the world’s largest Jayalalithaa is fondly called - dreams that he is and maker of Apple’s iPhones, and which has a large fulfilling. After she stormed back into power for presence in Tamil Nadu, employing thousands of the last time in 2016, and barely months before people. Soon into our initial discussion with Minister her unfortunate demise, she had formulated one Sampath, we realize one thing – how Tamil Nadu of the most ambitious visions for the development could bounce back from a nearly two-year lull in of the state. Called Vision 2023, it was a







FULFILLING AMMA’S DREAMS comprehensive plan not just to develop Tamil Nadu, but to make sure that Tamil Nadu is No.1 and far ahead of all other states in industrialization, innovation and welfare schemes. Coming from Jayalalithaa, even her detractors took it seriously as she had numerous firsts to her credit. In 1995, it was she who invited Ford Motor Company to set shop in Chennai. The success of the Ford factory opened the floodgates to other international auto majors, and by the next two decades, most of the prominent international auto brands including Hyundai, BMW, Daimler, Renault, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Caterpillar and Yamaha had chosen Tamil Nadu, earning Chennai the

sobriquet, Detroit of India. Her other achievements include making Tamil Nadu a power surplus state from a state plagued by power cuts; the first Global Investors Meet in 2015 which saw over Rs 2.43 lakh crore worth of investments being committed to the state; big-ticket FDI investments into the state worth over $20 billion, India’s first 1000 MW nuclear power plant at Kudankulam and Chennai Metro lines. An exceptional performer on the social welfare front, her government within 100 days of resuming power in May 2016, wrote off the outstanding crop loans given by cooperative banks to over 16.94 lakh farmers, gave free power to households to extent of first 100 units

and gave free power to handloom weavers to extent of 200 units, gave 750 units of power to power loom weavers, implemented closure of 500 liquor shops and reduced working hours of liquor outlets. Her most ambitious objective in the Vision 2023 document was to make Tamil Nadu a kind of developed state in a developing India by ensuring $10,000 per capita income and the resultant high HDI. This is the legacy that Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami and Industries Minister MC Sampath have inherited and which they are trying to fulfil.

SEASONAL MAGAZINE IN CONVERSATION WITH MC SAMPATH, MINISTER FOR INDUSTRIES, GOVERNMENT OF TAMIL NADU: Recently, Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics contract manufacturer, has announced an expansion in Tamil Nadu. Can you provide more details of it? As you are aware, Foxconn is already present in a big way in Tamil Nadu and they have employed 15,000 people, mostly girls in the age of 18 to 34. Now, in this recently announced second phase of expansion, Foxconn has plans to recruit another 20,000 girls. This expansion is known to be for manufacturing the higher end iPhones in India itself. The qualification they are looking for is only 10th, 11th, or 12th standard education. Most of the girls are coming from Below Poverty Line (BPL) families. Government has worked hard for winning this project and is supporting it in a major way. We are giving training subsidy of Rs. 4000 per month for 6000 workers, for a certain period which will cost the government Rs. 39 crore, and after that these girls would be placed in higher salaries.

Government is offering incentives like land at 50% of the prevailing land value, electricity subsidies, training subsidies and also special subsidies on a case-to-case basis. SEASONAL MAGAZINE


Government is supporting this as a part of our commitment to bring in industries that can uplift the poor families in Tamil Nadu. Among the new wave of manufacturing investments coming into Tamil Nadu last year, a pioneering MoU was with the tyre manufacturer, CEAT. Has this become operational? Yes, very much operational. The first tyres from this CEAT plant near Chennai will be rolling out by 2020 itself. Already 700 people have been provided employment there with more to follow. As you know, Tamil Nadu being an automotive hub for long, the state is also a leader in tyre production. Almost all major tyre manufacturers in India including MRF, TVS, Apollo, JK, as well as Japanese giant Yokohama through their ATG division and the French giant Michelin are already here in Tamil Nadu. Now, CEAT too has come in a big way. When the plant will be fully operational over a period of 10 years, CEAT would have invested Rs. 4000 crores. The greenfield factory has come up in 163 acres at Madhuramangalam Village near Sriperumbudur, a popular manufacturing corridor. Initially, the company will be making passenger car radials, with an initial capacity of around 7 lakh tyres per month. Tyres from here will also be exported as Tamil Nadu has excellent port facilities. Which are other labour intensive projects or expansions happening in Tamil Nadu now? There are several labour intensive projects being planned by companies now and which the government is supporting, but one that readily comes to my mind is the expansion of Lotus Footwear. They have already employed 15,000 people in their unit at Bargur in Krishnagiri district. They also make for international shoe brands like Nike. The beauty is that they are employing people who have completed just 10th, 9th or 8th standard education. Their manufacturing unit is spread across 147 acres in SIPCOT industrial estate at Bargur where the company has invested Rs. 360 crores. In Cheyyar of

Tiruvannamalai District, they have another unit, in the SIPCOT estate there,which similarly employs 25,000 people. Now in Bargur, Lotus is adding another 15,000 people. Government is supporting such projects as the employment benefit goes to the poor BPL families in the state. Which are the major new IT infrastructure being planned by the government and which companies are expanding or setting shop in the software sector in Tamil Nadu? Government is constructing a new mega IT Park in Avadi, a suburb of Chennai. Being built at a cost of Rs. 300 crore, it will have nearly 54 lakh square feet of IT office space. It is a joint venture of TIDCO that runs the TIDEL Parks, and companies have already


expressed good interest in setting up operations here. We expect IT companies that are not yet in Tamil Nadu to be attracted by this new facility. Regarding expansions by existing companies, I think both Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) that employs 20,000 engineers in Tamil Nadu and Infosys that employs 16,000 engineers here, will be expanding operations in the state. Which are the new industrial infrastructures that the Government is planning and most bullish about? Again, there are several such new infrastructure projects, but one that is most promising is the Chennai Kanyakumari Industrial Corridor (CKIC). It was a dream project of our former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa. The impact of this project will be widespread as it covers 23 districts having 64% of State’s area and 70% of our total population. The Rs. 6,448 crore CKIC project is funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the state government in 70:30 ratio. According to a Comprehensive Development Plan prepared by ADB, the project will generate more than 4.7 million additional jobs and an annual manufacturing output of $222 billion, when it is fully operational. CKIC will be implemented as a joint venture with Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation (TIDCO), and will have six nodes. To benefit the most backward areas of the state first, the Phase I will SEASONAL MAGAZINE


FULFILLING AMMA’S DREAMS have Madurai-Virudhunagar-DindigulTheni and Thoothukudi-Tirunelveli nodes, which is estimated to attract an investment of around Rs. 91,000 crore. Also, the government has already identified hubs in backward places like Kanyakumari, Theni and Tuticorin to set up heavy industries, IT parks, small scale industries, tourist attractions and educational institutions in the industrial corridor.Feasibility study and project preparation forCKIC have already been completed, survey is going on and project work will begin shortly. What all are the main incentives the state government is offering investors to set shop in the state? In certain projects including the Chennai Kanyakumari Industrial Corridor, the Government is offering land at 50% of the prevailing land value. There will also be a significant subsidy on electricity charges. And as I said in the case of Foxconn and others, Government is willing to offer training subsidy to promote large scale training and employment. Over and above all such announced subsidies, Government is willing to consider special incentives to deserving projects on a case-to-case basis. Industries looking to set shop somewhere in India has too many options or destinations these days. In such a competitive scenario, business friendliness or ease-ofdoing-business assumes great importance. How is Tamil Nadu



pitching its case in this regard? Tamil Nadu has always had several inherent advantages like availability of ample land, social stability, affordable labour and peaceful atmosphere. Based on such strengths, Tamil Nadu has been historically itself the second most industrialized state after Maharashtra, coming second in state level GDP too. Government has been building upon these strengths by offering business friendly measures like uninterrupted electricity and single window clearance. Recently, under the leadership of our Chief Minister, we have also implemented an Express Clearance mechanism whereby a High Level Committee with CM as Chairperson and key ministers and officials like from power and local administration departments as members, would look into deserving projects and provide all clearances within 30 days of application. This will boost the state’s Ease of Doing Business standing in the coming months. You mentioned the Chennai Kanyakumari Industrial Corridor. How promising are the national level industrial corridors of which Tamil Nadu is a part of? There are three promising industrial corridors in which Tamil Nadu plays an important part. The first of them is the East Coast Economic Corridor (ECEC), India's first coastal corridor, which runs from Kolkata to Kanyakumari, going through four states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and West Bengal. In fact, the Chennai Kanyakumari Industrial Corridor is a part of ECEC. Due to its huge size, ECEC is being implemented in a phased manner, with Visakhapatnam–Chennai Industrial Corridor (VCIC) as the first phase, and as such it will benefit Tamil Nadu from the first day onward. The focus of ECEC is improving trade with ASEAN and East Asian economies which are major global manufacturing hubs. Another promising corridor is the ChennaiBangalore Industrial Corridor (CBIC)

Project, which is one of the five industrial corridors coming up in India, and this project is being done with assistance from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Two major backbone infrastructure projects are planned for this corridor, involving upgradation of both road and rail connectivity like Bangalore - Chennai Expressway and Bangalore - Chennai Dedicated Freight Corridor. The first node of CBIC will be coming up in Ponneri in Tamil Nadu, for which a detailed Master Plan has been prepared by JICA. There is a proposal to extend CBIC to the West Coast to Mangalore. The third major national level corridor benefitting Tamil Nadu is the Defence Industrial Corridor. Can you share more details about this Defence Industrial Corridor? Central Government had proposed that two Defence Industrial Corridors be set up in Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh, in last year’s budget. Tamil Nadu has progressed much in this regard and ours will be the first Defence Industrial Corridor to be operational in the country. Government has identified five nodal points in Tamil Nadu for setting up this Defence Industrial Corridor which are Salem, the first and main node, with other identified nodes being Chennai, Coimbatore, Hosur and Tiruchirappalli. More than half a dozen consultative meetings of stakeholders were organized across these various nodes till date, and the project was also presented in Global Investment Meet early this year, and investment commitments of over Rs.3100 crore were announced by Ordnance Factories Board (OFB), Defence PSUs and private industries for this Tamil Nadu Defence Industrial Corridor. The state is already home to major private sector players like Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and Lakshmi Machine Works (LMW) that are active in the defence sector. LMW as you must be knowing is a company that has successfully diversified from textiles to high-tech composite material components for defence. As you rightly mentioned earlier, Tamil Nadu has been a leading automotive hub. What are your

ALMOST ALL MAJOR TYRE MANUFACTURERS IN INDIA INCLUDING MRF, TVS, APOLLO, JK, AS WELL AS JAPANESE GIANT YOKOHAMA THROUGH THEIR ATG DIVISION AND THE FRENCH GIANT MICHELIN ARE ALREADY HERE IN TAMIL NADU. NOW, CEAT TOO HAS COME IN A BIG WAY. plans to further bolster this edge? Yes, Chennai is known as the Detroit of India, as we have the manufacturing facilities of almost all international automotive majors like BMW, Daimler, Ford, Hyundai, Nissan, Renault, Mitsubishi, Yamaha, Caterpillar etc, as well as Indian leaders like Ashok Leyland, Mahindra & Mahindra, Force Motors, Royal Enfield, TVS, TAFE Tractors etc. Tamil Nadu accounts for over 30% of India’s automotive and ancillary production. Despite the lull in domestic automotive sales, our state continues to witness strong demand for both setting up shop as well for expansions. Hyundai which expanded last year, is yet another eyeing a Rs. 7000 crore expansion for its electric

HYUNDAI WHICH EXPANDED LAST YEAR, IS YET ANOTHER EYEING A RS. 7000 CRORE EXPANSION FOR ITS ELECTRIC VEHICLES. FRENCH CARMAKER PEUGEOT, WHICH WAS EARLIER IN INDIA IS COMING BACK IN TAMIL NADU SOON. vehicles. French carmaker Peugeot, which was earlier in India is coming back in Tamil Nadu soon. The government is also bullish on electric vehicles and is now scouting for largescale battery manufacturers and electric vehicle manufacturers to set shop in the state. Tamil Nadu is known for its massive agricultural and farm output. Has the state been able to attract any large scale investment for value addition in this sector? Government is keen on value addition in this sector and has been welcoming food processing industries into the state. A leading French food processing company is investing Rs. 2200 crore to set up a mega food processing unit. They are currently in the process of choosing SEASONAL MAGAZINE


LOTUS FOOTWEAR, WHICH PRODUCES FOR NIKE, ALREADY EMPLOYS 15,000 AT BARGUR AND 25,000 AT CHEYYAR AND NOW THEY ARE ADDING 15,000 PEOPLE MORE AT BARGUR. a location with help from the government. It is a comprehensive unit in that it will process all kinds of food materials including grains, vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, eggs, milk etc to produce value added products. They are a major global supplier of such food items, and the success of this unit will kickstart this hugely promising segment for Tamil Nadu. Which are the major new industrial segments that Tamil Nadu is keen of entering into? Most kinds of high technology industries are already in Tamil Nadu, but one new segment we would be soon entering is Aerospace MRO (Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul). This is a highly promising segment for Tamil Nadu due to factors like abundant land and affordable technical manpower. We are planning an aerospace hub itself at either Chennai or Thoothukudy. International aviation majors have evinced interest in this plan, including Dubai’s Emirates. Which is the largest industrial project that Tamil Nadu government is facilitating currently? That would be definitely the Thoothukudy PCPIR (Petroleum, Chemicals and Petrochemicals Investment Region), which is coming up at an estimated investment of Rs. 50,000 crores. A leading Kuwait based petroleum and petrochemicals major will be setting this up. It is a long-term and challenging project but even its initial phases can change the face of Thoothukudy and surrounding districts. ou mentioned uninterrupted power You supply to industries. While Tamil



Nadu has long been a leader in conventional power and even in renewable power like wind, how has its performance been in the fast emerging solar field? In solar power too, Tamil Nadu has been an early mover and hopes to achieve a leadership position in the country through mega scale projects. One such flagship solar project in the state is the 3000 megawatt solar farm at Kumudi Village in Ramanathapuram District. Solar leader Adani Group is building it and already 1500 megawatts have become operational. Ports have played a great role in the development of Tamil Nadu. What are the planned developments in this sector? As you know there are only nine coastal states in India, together having only 12 major ports. Of these, three major ports are in Tamil Nadu – the Chennai Port which is India’s second largest, Tuticorin


Port which is the state’s second largest and Ennore Port which is the first in the country to be corporatized as a company. All existing ports have been deepened to ensure that all kinds of large vessels can berth there. Now, the Central and State Government have proposed plans to develop Colachel near Kanyakumari as a fourth major port which is also being planned as a transhipment terminal that can effectively compete against Colombo Port. What are the state’s new endeavours in the higher education sector? As you are aware, Tamil Nadu has been the leader in higher education, especially professional higher education in the country. Around 50 MoUs were signed in Global Investor Meet 2019 for setting up of new universities and colleges, both from India and abroad. Government has also applied for setting up of new deemed universities in the public sector. While Global Investor Meets show great potential, only a fraction of the projects gets implemented. How has been Tamil Nadu’s track-record in this regard? This is very true across states, as most of the GIM projects are huge and will require several months or years of deliberations and processes like land acquisition, even if all clearances are given fast. Still, Tamil Nadu has been a leader in implementation of GIM projects. Around 29% of projects in GIM 2015 has already been implemented, while from this year’s GIM, already 56% of projects have been implemented. This is one of the fastest implementation rates from across the country.



S A KULGAM TERROR ATTACK VICTIM'S KIN PUTS IT, "KASHMIR HAS CHANGED, WILL NEVER GO THERE AGAIN FOR BETTER PAY." ince Tuesday night, when police came with the news, nobody in Bahalnagar has slept, say villagers. A pall of gloom envelopes the village as it waits for the bodies of the five labourers.

said, “He went to Kashmir on October 3. He thought that in the apple and paddy harvesting season there, he will earn double compared to what he makes here and that would help our Rahima’s treatment. But now it’s all over. What I will do now?”

Abita bibi wife of Naimuddin Sheikh who is killed in Kashmir. Resident of Sagardighi police station area or Murshidabad.

Since Tuesday night, when police came with the news, nobody in Bahalnagar has slept, say villagers. A pall of gloom envelopes the village as it waits for the bodies of the five labourers.

Less than a month ago, 32-year-old Kamaruddin Sheikh decided to go to Kashmir and work as a labourer there. The better pay in the Valley, he told his family, would enable him to ensure better treatment for his elder daughter Rahima (16) who is suffering from a kidney ailment. On Tuesday night, police reached Bahalnagar village in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district with news that brought the world crashing down on the families of Kamaruddin and four other migrant labourers from the village — the five were killed in a militant attack in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district. Kamaruddin’s wife Roshenara Bibi (28)

Bahalnagar, located about 200 km from Kolkata, has about 250 families. Most families are under the poverty line and a majority of the villagers work as labourers. During the harvest season in Bengal, they work in the paddy field or in other odd jobs. At other times, they go Kashmir or Kerala for better pay. Besides Kamaruddin, those killed in the attack are Rafique Sheikh, Naimuddin Sheikh, Murshalim Sheikh and Rafikul Sheikh. Rafique (52) was the sole earning member of his family and had been going to Kashmir for about two decades. He last spoke to his wife Samirun Bibi

(40) on Monday and told her that work is over and he is preparing to return. Samirun said, “He will never return now. We have three daughters. Two of them are married. The third had some problems with her husband and now stays with me. His mother too stays with us. What will I do now?” Abida Bibi, the neighbour of Naimuddin (38), said, “For about 18 years now, people from this village and neighbouring villages have been going to Kashmir for better pay. During the apple and paddy harvest season from October to December, a labourer makes Rs 500-700 a day there. Here, the daily income is Rs 200-250. But, never did our villagers face this type of an incident.” Safiqul (30), the elder brother of Rafikul (22), said, “I have been to Kashmir several times, but never faced such a situation. Militants sometimes came and threatened us, but they never attacked us. But this year, after the special status was scrapped, the situation changed. Every year, 250-300 labourers used to go to Kashmir from here. This year, the number dropped to 50-60. But we never thought this can happen.” “At 7.30 pm on Tuesday, my mother spoke to the apple garden owner who we call ‘malik’. He said all is well. Around 11 pm, police came. We had gone to sleep. They then called us and told us that Rafikul had died in a militant attack. We didn’t believe them at first. Then, the officer in charge said this has actually happened,” he added. Sahir (34), the elder brother of Kamaruddin, has also been to Kashmir several times. “We have seen many terror attacks. But they never harmed labourers. What happened this time? The government should answer. We have lost everything. Who will compensate?” he said, adding, “Kashmir has changed. We will never go there for better pay again.” While the other four lived in mud houses, Murshalim had got a pucca house built last year and decided to go to Kashmir for the paddy and apple harvest so that he could pay back loans, said his family members. Since Wednesday morning, several political leaders, including Congress leader in Lok Sabha and Murshidabad MP Adhir Chowdhury visited the families of the five killed. SEASONAL MAGAZINE



of the malware. Dtrack shares elements of code from other malware attributed to the Lazarus threat group, which, according to US Justice Department indictments, is a North Korean statesponsored hacking operation. Another version of the malware, ATMDtrack, has been used to steal data from ATM networks in India.

NORTH KOREAN FIRM HACKS INDIAN NUCLEAR POWER PLANT MALWARE ATTRIBUTED TO NORTH KOREA'S LAZARUS GROUP IS CONFIRMED TO HAVE INFECTED A SYSTEM ON THE ADMINISTRATIVE NETWORK OF NUCLEAR POWER CORP.'S KUDANKULAM PLANT IN INDIA. AFTER INITIAL DENIAL, COMPANY SAYS REPORT OF “MALWARE IN SYSTEM" IS CORRECT. he Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) has acknowledged today that malware attributed by others to North Korean state actors had been found on the administrative network of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP). The admission comes a day after the company issued a denial that any attack would affect the plant's control systems. In a press release, NPCIL Associate Director A. K. Nema stated, "Identification of malware in NPCIL system is correct. The matter was conveyed by CERT-In [India's national computer emergency response team] when it was noticed by them on September 4, 2019." That matches the date threat analyst Pukhraj Singh said he reported information on the breach to India's National Cyber Security Coordinator. "The matter was immediately investigated by [India Department of SEASONAL MAGAZINE


Atomic Energy] specialists," Nema stated in the release. "The investigation revealed that the infected PC belonged to a user who was connected to the Internet connected network used for administrative purposes. This is isolated from the critical internal network. The networks are being continuously monitored." It's not clear if data was stolen from the KKNPP network. But the nuclear power plant was not the only facility Singh reported being compromised. When asked by Ars why he called the malware attack a "casus belli"—an act of war— Singh, a former analyst for India's National Technical Research Organization (NTRO), said, "It was because of the second target, which I can't disclose as of now." The malware in question, named Dtrack by Russian malware protection company Kaspersky, has been used in widespread attacks against financial and research centers, based on Kaspersky data collected from over 180 samples

DTrack appears to be an espionage and reconnaissance tool, gathering data about infected systems and capable of logging keystrokes, scanning connected networks, and monitoring active processes on infected computers. The malware may have been delivered by an "in-memory implant," Singh said, though he added that he is waiting for confirmation from other sources. He added that he had not seen any data indicating whether data had been stolen from the KKNPP network. "I didn't have the full indicators," Singh said. While the attack may not have given direct access to nuclear power control networks, it could have been part of an effort to establish a persistent presence on the nuclear plant's networks. As a paper published in May by the International Committee of the Red Cross on the human cost of cyber operations pointed out, “the majority of the computer devices in the world are only one or two steps away from a trusted system that a determined attacker could compromise." Lukasz Olejnik, a security researcher who co-authored the paper, noted that "preemptive compromise of trusted systems would make attacks significantly easier," and that establishing a persistent presence on a network could aid in things such as supply-chain attacks—attempts to use software update processes or other potential opportunities to move to isolated networks to deliver an attack in the future. That's similar to the route demonstrated by Stuxnet, the malware attributed to US and Israeli intelligence that managed to jump an "air gap" into Iranian nuclear enrichment equipment controls. While the administrative network of KKNPP was likely not a good route for such an attack given standards for nuclear control systems security, it certainly could provide information about maintenance operations that would be useful for espionage—or for a future attempted cyber-attack.


RBI Asks Banks to Probe Major Leak of Credit / Debit Card Details

CREDIT AND DEBIT CARD DETAILS OF 13 LAKH INDIANS WAS REPORTEDLY PUT ON SALE. RBI HAS TOLD BANKS TO PROBE, AND IF REQUIRED REISSUE CARDS. eports of a debit and credit card detail selling online has come up, revealing a massive risk of privacy on 13 lakh Indian credit and debit card users. Now the Reserve Bank of India(RBI) has swung into action in order to safeguard the interest of these affected Indian customers. RBI in a notice to banks has said that they should secure the customers' data by performing a preliminary analysis of the leaked card information online. "On finding leaked data to be correct and genuine, disable and re-issue the credit and debit cards as per the bank's policy," said the RBI notice dated October 29. Security researchers at Singapore-based Group-IB discovered that critical card details of 1.3 lakh Indians were being


sold at a price of $100 per card on dark web. The value of the leaked database has been estimated by the group at $130 million (ÂŁ100 million). "We do not disclose the names of banks, but can tell that the database held the credit and debit card dumps related to the largest Indian banks," Group-IB said in a statement on Thursday, adding that it had informed authorities about the breach.

ASTROPHYSICIST CHALLENGES PHYSICS OF CYBERTRUCK PULLING FORD PICKUP TRUCK Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson commented on the video of Tesla's allelectric Cybertruck 'defeating' Ford's F-150 in a tug-of-war shared by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, challenging the physics involved. Tyson said that an empty F-150 truck offers only mild traction for the Cybertruck to overcome. "This contest is more about the Physics of Friction than Engine Power," Tyson further said.

GRENADE ATTACK OUTSIDE KASHMIR UNIVERSITY; AT LEAST 2 PEOPLE INJURED At least two people have been injured in a grenade attack by suspected terrorists near the University of Kashmir gate in Hazratbal area of Srinagar on Tuesday. The people were standing near Sir Syed gate of the university when the grenade attack happened, the police said. More details about the blast are awaited.

There were about 51.7 million credit cards and 851.5 million debit cards in circulation as of August, RBI data shows. "The (RBI's) Department of Banking Supervision has sent out this letter as whenever there are some incidents the RBI alerts the banks and sends them a cautionary note which is sent to all the scheduled commercial banks," said an industry official, requesting anonymity. Banks have also been asked to inform the government's CERT-In department, which is responsible for emergency response, regarding the steps taken by them. Regulators have often issued advisories to prevent data breaches which are frequent in India, a country of 1.3 billion people where the use of payment cards and digital wallets is rising rapidly.

SIKH MAN DONATES LAND FOR BUILDING MOSQUE IN MUZAFFARNAGAR A 70-year-old Sikh man named Sukhpal Singh Bedi on Sunday donated a 900square-foot plot of land for a mosque in Muzaffarnagar district, UP. Making the announcement at an event in Purkazi, Bedi gave the land documents to Nagar Panchayat Chairman Zahir Farooqui. Citing Guru Nanak Dev's teachings of equality, Bedi said he wanted to spread the message of communal harmony. SEASONAL MAGAZINE




reschool children who had taken 2 or more antibiotic courses for acute respiratory tract infections in the preceding year had around a 30% greater chance of not responding to subsequent treatment. GPs in the UK carry out over 300 million patient consultations every year and at least a quarter of these deal with children. Almost two-thirds of such appointments are for coughs, sore throats, or earaches - illnesses that young children commonly get. Doctors and nurses group these types of illnesses as “acute respiratory tract infections”. They are considered to be “self-limiting”, meaning that antibiotics have little or no benefit and that the illness will go away in time. Yet, in at least 30 per cent of these consultations, antibiotics are prescribed. That’s an estimated 13 million unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions. This is not only wasteful but may also have unintended consequences for the child’s health. Indeed, in our new study of over 250,000 children in the UK, we found SEASONAL MAGAZINE


that preschool children who had taken two or more antibiotic courses for acute respiratory tract infections in the preceding year had around a 30 per cent greater chance of not responding to subsequent treatment (including the need for hospital referral and admission) compared to children who hadn’t taken any antibiotics. Our study specifically excluded children with long-term health conditions that would make them more prone to infections. It’s well known that using antibiotics unnecessarily drives bacteria to change and can lead to antibiotic resistance developing. But people tend to think that resistance only occurs in people who use antibiotics too frequently, for too long, or in those patients with other medical conditions that make them sicker. This is not true. Taking any antibiotic (whether appropriate or not) makes developing antibiotic resistance more likely. As this research shows, even relatively low antibiotic use has potential health implications and brings home the impact of unnecessary antibiotic use in children. And when you consider that

IT’S WELL KNOWN THAT USING ANTIBIOTICS UNNECESSARILY DRIVES BACTERIA TO CHANGE AND CAN LEAD TO ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE DEVELOPING. many preschool children often have multiple illness episodes, potentially leading to several antibiotic courses, it makes the findings even more pertinent. At this stage, it is impossible to say for sure what the underlying reasons are for children who have taken more antibiotics showing a greater chance of not responding to subsequent treatments. It may be, for example, due to the emergence of resistant bacteria. It could also be down to the disruption of the fragile gut microbiome in young children. And it may also be related to parental expectations of further treatment and the fact that they are perhaps unaware of the limited role of antibiotics in most childhood infections. Indeed, it is normal for childrens’ coughs to last longer than you might think - indeed, half go on for ten days and one in ten go on for 25 days. Of course, GPs want to provide the best care possible for their patients. But they grapple with the decision to prescribe an antibiotic - thereby lowering an individual patient’s risk of coming to harm - versus not prescribing it, and lowering community risk. This decision is not always straightforward. And when uncertain, clinicians often err on the side of caution and prescribe. But the study found that children who received more antibiotics were also more likely to revisit a health professional within a 14day period - which inadvertently will have increased the workload of doctors and nurses. Given that findings show that even relatively low antibiotic use has shortterm health implications for children, it is clear that the less GPs are prescribing antibiotics in such instances, the better. But this isn’t just on GPs and nurses, parents also need to be realistic about how long their child’s illness might last.The Conversation




he proposal, which includes starting 1,000 new routes connecting smaller towns and villages, was discussed at a meeting last week to review infrastructure needed by 2025, the people said, asking not to be identified as the discussion is private. Steps to start a plane-lease financing business in the country was also discussed, they said. With economic activity at a six-year low and prospects of further slowdown looming, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is keen to double down on infrastructure projects in a bid to revive growth and achieve a target of making India a $5 trillion economy by 2025. Last month, the government cut corporate tax rates, putting India on par with some of the lowest in Asia, to help compete with the likes of Vietnam and Indonesia for investments amid global trade tensions. India's plans to expedite airport development still trails that of China's, which has set a goal of having 450 commercial airports by 2035, almost double the number at the end of 2018. A spokesman at India's civil aviation ministry was not immediately available for a comment. The proposal by India's state think tank also includes boosting the number of locally trained pilots to 600 a year and double the domestic aircraft fleet to 1,200 during the period, the people said. SEASONAL MAGAZINE


The Indian government has committed investments of 1 trillion rupees to build airports in the next 5 years. Just three years back, only 75 of India's 450 runways were functional, as airlines avoided flying to smaller, World War-era airstrips in smaller towns. But Modi's subsidy program, which partly funds airline losses while capping fares on remote routes, has helped add as many as 38 airports to the nation's aviation map at the start of this year, while contracts were given to airlines to start flights to a further 63 airports with no or limited connectivity. While the lure of India -- with an emerging middle class flying for the first time -- has attracted companies such as Singapore Airlines Ltd. and AirAsia Bhd. to set up local units, provincial taxes in the nation make jet fuel one of the most expensive in the world. The government is aware of the high taxation burden and higher jet fuel prices, and will rationalize the tax regime as soon as next year, the people said. India will also encourage the use of drones - for which it announced a policy this year allowing unmanned vehicles to fly beyond the line of sight - and sees the number of legal drones reaching a million by 2024, the people said. The country will prepare drone corridors by 2021, and allow delivery of goods by drones by 2023, they said.

PAK SC SUSPENDS NOTIFICATION EXTENDING ARMY CHIEF GENERAL BAJWA'S TENURE Pakistan's Supreme Court today suspended notification that extended the tenure of Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa until a hearing tomorrow. Pakistan's Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said the President had not approved the extension and added that out of 25 cabinet members, only 11 had approved it. PM Imran Khan had approved General Bajwa's extension for another three years.

TRUMP HONOURS CONAN, THE DOG WHO CHASED ISIS CHIEF BAGHDADI US President Donald Trump on Monday presented an award and a certificate to Conan, the military service dog who chased ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Syria last month. Conan was injured as Baghdadi blew himself up in a tunnel. The special forces personnel who carried out the raid also met Trump.

RUPEE ASIA'S ONLY EMERGING MARKET CURRENCY TO FALL THIS QUARTER The Indian rupee is the only emerging market Asian currency to weaken this quarter. The local currency, which has slumped nearly 5% from this year's high in July, dropped to 72.2425 per dollar earlier this month, just 17 paise away from a nine-month low of 72.4075 set in September. Notably, Moody's cut India's credit rating outlook to negative this month.




he 50:50 merger will create the new FCAPeugeot Group, the world's fourth-largest automaker with Groupe PSA's Carlos Tavares stepping into the role of the Chief Executive Officer. Amidst a number of rumours and speculations, Groupe PSA and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Group have officially announced that the automotive giants will be entering into a 50:50 merger under a Dutch parent company. The boards of both companies have given the nod to the collaboration and the companies will be working to finalise a Memorandum of Understanding in the coming weeks. The power move is a giant leap for the automakers with the merger creating FCA-Peugeot - as the world's fourthlargest automaker with over 8.7 million cars sold annually. The new group will be headed by Group PSA CEO - Carlos Tavares, while FCA's top boss John Elkann will serve as the chairman. There will be eleven members on the board of the group with five members nominated by either company respectively.

Carlos Tavares, Groupe PSA CEO, said: "This convergence brings significant value to all the stakeholders and opens a bright future for the combined entity. I'm pleased with the work already done with Mike and will be very happy to work with him to build a great company together." Mike Manley, FCA CEO, said, "I'm delighted by the opportunity to work with Carlos and his team on this potentially industry-changing combination. We have a long history of

successful cooperation with Groupe PSA and I am convinced that together with our great people we can create a world class global mobility company." Shareholders of Peugeot and FCA will own 50 per cent of the equity in the new company, which is projected to achieve 80 per cent of the synergies after four years, and cut overall costs by about 2.8 billion Euros. The total combined revenues for both companies in 2018 stood at nearly 170 billion Euros and a recurring operating profit of over 11 billion Euros. The companies say that the merger will lead to value growth of 3.7 billion Euros in annual run rate. The new Dutch parent company will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange, Borsa Italiana (Milan) and Euronext (Paris). The auto manufacturers have also clarified that that merger will not lead to any plant closures.

Carlos Tavares

Mike Manley

The results of the merger are expected to be huge for the western automotive landscape as a number of brands under the umbrellas of the respective companies come together. Previously, FCA was seeking partnership with Renault for a similar merger, but the discussions fell through in what was described as "unfavourable political conditions." SEASONAL MAGAZINE





ormer Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan on Thursday hit back at Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for claiming that he “presided over the worst phase” of the Indian banking sector. In an interview, Rajan said he spent much more time as central bank governor under the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government than under the erstwhile Congress-led government. “I had eight months in the previous government, and 26 months under this government, so much of my term was in this government,” Rajan told. “Look, let me not get into political back and forth. The reality is there is a cleanup [of the banking sector] which we started, which is under way, which needs to be completed fast. The recapitalisation has to be done, but it also has to be done in the non banking financial sector, which is seizing up.” Rajan was the RBI governor from September 2013 to September 2016. The first Narendra Modi-led government came to power in May 2014. The Indian banking system has lost SEASONAL MAGAZINE


$24.8 billion (Rs 1.76 lakh crore) due to non-performing loans of 416 defaulters being written off over the last three years. “It was in Rajan’s time as governor of the Reserve Bank that loans were given just based on phone calls from crony leaders,” Sitharaman said at a lecture at Columbia University in New York City on October 16. “Public sector banks in India till today are depending on the government’s equity infusion to get out of that mire.” Sitharaman said she respected Rajan as he was a great scholar who chose to be in the central bank in India, at a time when the Indian economy was “all buoyant”. The finance minister said she

Indian economic growth slowed down to a six-year low of 5% in the first quarter of the 2019-’20 financial year.

was grateful that Rajan had conducted an asset quality review, but everyone should know what has caused the crisis in banks now and “where it has been inherited from”. Indian economic growth slowed down to a six-year low of 5% in the first quarter of the 2019-’20 financial year. The RBI has cut India’s growth forecast for 2019’20 to 6.1%. Rajan further told that the 5% growth rate will not provide jobs, given that one million (10 lakh) people enter the workforce every month. “India needs far stronger growth,” Rajan said. “But it is not going to come from tinkering. It really needs another generation of reforms. Good news: the government has the political strength and power to undertake those reforms. Bad news: it hasn’t done so so far.” India’s unemployment rate touched a 45-year high of 6.1% for 2017-’18, data released by the National Sample Survey Office showed in May. The financial year of 2017-’18 was the first full year after the demonetisation of high-value currency in November 2016.


FAMOUS FATHER-SON DUO PN Menon and Shivshankar Menon

ailing from the illustrious Palat family of Ottapalam, Mr Shivshankar Menon, India’s former foreign secretary and now visiting professor at Ashoka University spends his time doing academic research and delivering guest lectures at think tanks. He is a thirdgeneration diplomat from the family coming from a long line of distinguished public servants. His great-grandfather, Sir C Sankaran Nair, had been president of the Indian National Congress in 1897. His paternal grandfather, Dr KCKE Raja, was the first Indian to be appointed director-general of Health Services in 1947. Upon retirement, Raja was tasked to raise the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, India’s top research hospital, where future PM Manmohan Singh would have his heart surgery five decades later. Menon is the grandson of well-known diplomat K P S Menon (Senior) and nephew of K P S Menon (Junior) of the Palat family, both of whom served as foreign secretaries. Apparently, astrologers had foretold the family that Menon would go on to assume the same position as his family members. His appointment as the foreign secretary was surprising to many as he was cherrypicked for the coveted job by Manmohan Singh, superseding over a dozen of his seniors. However, T.P Sreenivasan, former Permanent Representative of India to United Nations, recalls how for all those who knew the bright and competent Menon, it was not whether he would be the foreign secretary, but when it would happen. He also served as India’s National Security Advisor, had assignments in Pakistan & Sri Lanka as High Commissioner and Ambassador to China and Israel. His father, P.N Menon who is a career diplomat himself, was posted as India’s Consul-General in Lhasa. When Shivshankar Menon was ambassador in Beijing, the World Tibet Network SEASONAL MAGAZINE


recalled that he had spent some of his boyhood days in Lhasa, where his father was posted. During the tense months leading to the celebration of the Buddha Jayanti under the auspices of the Dalai Lama in Tibet, the noted Buddhist monk and Ladakhi statesman Kushok Bakula Rinpoche had stayed at Menon’s residence. It was here that India first learned about Chinese incursions into the Tibetan region. Little did the Dalai Lama know that three years later he would undertake a miraculous escape into India after the Chinese army occupied Tibet. Menon also personally attended to loan requests of the Tibetan government in the backdrop of increasing Chinese control. However, he died relatively young while posted to Belgrade as ambassador during the time that Yugoslavia was a key pole in the Non-Aligned Movement. Menon’s father-in-law, Ram Sathe, had been foreign secretary as well. Shivshankar Menon’s family’s tryst with

China is most interesting as his grandfather and uncle also served there. Add to that, he speaks fluent Mandarin, which reinforces his credentials as a skilled negotiator in dealing with a tough neighbour like China. Kuku, as he was fondly called at home, also married an IFS kid Mohini who was the daughter of another former foreign secretary RD Sathe. One of his most recognizable attributes was his penchant for having a ‘balanced’ view on any issue and the tremendous clarity of thought in his writings and speeches. If his appointment as the foreign secretary took the IFS fraternity by surprise, then PM Manmohan Singh’s preference for him as his NSA was an open secret. Manmohan Singh made National Security Advisor (NSA) M K Narayanan head to Bengal as governor, so that Shivshankar Menon, who the PM had a liking for, could be made the NSA. He was instrumental in the talks and dialogues leading to the civil nuclear

SHIVSHANKAR MENON’S FAMILY’S TRYST WITH CHINA IS MOST INTERESTING AS HIS GRANDFATHER AND UNCLE ALSO SERVED THERE. ADD TO THAT, HE SPEAKS FLUENT MANDARIN, WHICH REINFORCES HIS CREDENTIALS AS A SKILLED NEGOTIATOR IN DEALING WITH A TOUGH NEIGHBOUR LIKE CHINA. Manmohan Singh. He could still retain his occasional bold streak and could assert himself to the PM even in times of crisis. Along with his predecessor Shyam Saran, Manmohan Singh’s face would light up whenever the two would walk into his office. Menon once stepped in to deflect public anger away from Manmohan Singh, who had instructed his foreign secretary to include a line stating ‘Prime Minister Gilani mentioned that Pakistan has some information on threats in Balochistan and other areas’ that appeared to be a concession. However, Menon took the blame by calling it a ‘drafting error’.

cooperation agreement with the U.S. and was heavily invested in the U.SIndia relationship during his years as foreign secretary. As evidenced from a Wikileaks cable of US ambassador to India David Mulford in 2005, the American diplomat noted how “in a bureaucratic culture dominated by North Indian Hindi speakers, this Keralite lock on the PM’s inner bureaucratic circle represents something of an anomaly, which could in the long term create new fault lines around the prime minister.” T.P Sreenivasan reminisces the time when they were neighbours to the Menon family, upstairs in the Ministry of External Affairs hostel on Kasturba Gandhi Marg in the late seventies. Back then, Sreenivasan was impressed by the young Menon’s work as the under secretary for China at a time when India was taking new initiatives with regard to China. His proficiency in matters relating to China and maturity of

approach were quite evident even at that time and these multiplied over the years of his experience of dealing with China. His background in the nuclear arena was courtesy his stint as a midlevel officer in Vienna and later as the MEA representative in the Department of Atomic Energy which provided him with the depth of knowledge that proved crucial during the Indo-US nuclear agreement and dialogue. Sreenivasan reveals how there was a proposal to induct him into the International Atomic Energy Agency, which, however, did not materialize. Like his predecessors, Menon made it a point in his later years to get acquainted with the affairs of the neighbourhood and desisted himself from postings in Europe and North America. Cerebral and soft-spoken, the Scindia School and St Stephen’s College educated Menon was not a mere pliant officer because of his loyalty to

At the end of Menon’s tenure, Manmohan Singh had pondered whether to extend his foreign secretary’s tenure by a year or more. But Menon opined that he would prefer not to continue as it would be unfair on those who are eligible to succeed him in the post. If not for his sure-sightedness, Nirupama Rao would have missed the bus to become only India’s second woman to hold the post of foreign secretary. When asked by Manmohan Singh on what his post-retirement plan was, Menon replied that he might consider taking a break or accept a lecturing position for a while. “Don’t agree on anything without telling me first,” Manmohan instructed. After the Congress’ election victory in 2009, Manmohan Singh nudged Narayanan to become the West Bengal governor while setting the stage for Menon’s ascent to the NSA. There was chatter that Narayanan was miffed with Menon for not keeping him in the loop about the latter’s private chats with the PM. Perhaps this was also the reason why Menon was reluctant to assume the NSA role since his mentor Narayanan was a senior in the intelligence circles and he knew how much Narayanan liked the role. Menon went on to serve in the post until May 2014 before the BJP stormed to victory in the Lok Sabha elections of that year. SEASONAL MAGAZINE




Kate Winter, a research fellow of Antarctic Science at Northumbria University, Newcastle, writes about her stay at the Princess Elisabeth Antarctica Research Station, which finally proves that sustainable living is possible anywhere.

litter the edge of the continent, where researchers from around the world gather to measure ice flows, the atmosphere and natural biomes. While these stations all have similar traits, the Princess Elisabeth stands out. I have never seen anything like it. Almost every inch is covered in solar panels – on the roof, on the walls, on the side of sleeping containers. They are even screwed to frames anchored to the ground. Solar panels have to be mounted high above the snow-covered ground to capture the 24 hours of daylight during the austral summer. Wind turbines are drilled into the granite ridge beneath the snow and ice, removing the need for large concrete foundations. Their blades are maintained with carefully designed polar lubricants, but they can shut down production during intense storms. These renewable energy sources melt snow for water, which is filtered and reused on site to reduce waste.

s a scientist investigating climate change, I’m embarrassed by the high carbon footprint I have when I travel to, and work in, Antarctica. Researchers based in the UK regularly take four or five flights to reach the continent and the stations we visit rely on electricity from fossil fuels. Our food is shipped in and our waste is returned by ship to South Africa, South America or New Zealand. When we venture further afield for research and set up a temporary camp, a portable generator is flown in with us, along with our snowmobiles. Antarctica is the most remote and inhospitable place on Earth, so it’s no surprise that people based there have struggled to break out of convenient habits. It’s cold. There are 24 hours of darkness in winter. Icicles build up on solar panels operating during the summer months and the concrete foundations for wind turbines won’t set in the cold. It’s expensive to ship in renewable energy components and it’s difficult to find SEASONAL MAGAZINE


warm and dry places to keep large batteries for storing energy. These challenges are real, and yet, I’ve seen how they can be overcome at Antarctica’s only zero-emission research base, the Princess Elisabeth Antarctica Research Station in East Antarctica. The base is staffed during the summer season from October to March, when the majority of scientists – like me – conduct their research. Dreamt up by the Belgian explorer Alain Hubert during his transantarctic crossing of the continent by kite ski in 1998, and constructed by the International Polar Foundation and its many partners, the Princess Elisabeth station has welcomed researchers since its first 2008-2009 summer research season. The glinting silver pod looks like something from a James Bond film. It’s anchored by raised pylons, hovering above the East Antarctic Ice Sheet on a narrow granite ridge. In Antarctica these other-worldly structures are somewhat the norm. Raised, aerodynamic research stations

The whirl of nine wind turbines generates the reassuring sound of regular clean electricity on base. While other research stations have to use fossil fuels to keep station staff warm, fed and hydrated, the Princess Elisabeth station uses 100% renewable energy supplied by the sun, the wind, and plentiful frozen water. There’s no need for conventional heating here either. Nine layers of cladding and insulation keep the biting Antarctic cold out, and the pleasant warmth of the station in. Every piece of electrical equipment runs on renewable energy. Even my hair dryer is powered by the almost constant Antarctic winds and summer daylight. In order for the base to run as sustainably as possible, there’s a strict hierarchy for energy use on the base. Safety is the priority, so electricity for the doctor’s surgery, the base commander’s office, fire alarms, smoke detectors and satellite connections that can alert the need for outside help are maintained first. Basic human needs like food and water are a close second, while working facilities, like lights, microscopes and laptops come third.



Unnecessary luxuries like showering or laundry are at the bottom of the list for energy need priorities. We shower once or twice a week, using push-button showers to limit how much water we use. Everyone understands and respects these systems. We all come to Antarctica to experience one of the most enchanting natural environments on Earth, we don’t come here to pollute the environment. When I asked Alain Hubert, the expedition leader, why he wanted to build a zero-emission base in Antarctica, he said that if we can do it here, we can show the world that it can be done anywhere. I hope life and work with no carbon emissions can become a reality for people everywhere. The Princess Elisabeth Antarctica Research Station shows us that these zero-emission lifestyles are within reach. As the current holder of the prestigious Baillet Latour Antarctica Fellowship, I’ll be able to visit the station once more, in January 2020, to collect samples that will allow us to better understand the global carbon feedback cycle. By then, working there will become even more sustainable with new electric-powered snowmobiles. I can’t wait to try them out.

Xiaomi has confirmed the launch of its 108MP smartphone camera in India. The company’s India CEO Manu Kumar Jain has confirmed the arrival of India’s first smartphone with the 108MP camera sensor. Jain took to Twitter to announce the launch of Xiaomi’s smartphone with the 108MP camera sensor. The tweet does not reveal whether Xiaomi would launch the smartphone as Mi Note 10 or CC9 Pro. The 108MP Penta-lens smartphone camera is expected to be launched as Mi Note 10. Xiaomi is also expected to launch the ‘Pro’ variant of the Mi Note 10 as well. The Mi Note 10 and Mi Note 10 Pro feature a 6.47-inch Super AMOLED curved edge display with an FHD+ (1080 x 2340 pixels) resolution and a 19.5:9 ratio. The screen features a 398 ppi density with a peak brightness of 600 nits. The Mi Note 10 also supports HDR10 and DCI-P3 coverage. Additionally, the Gorilla Glass 5 back and front coupled with an aluminium frame will make the phone look and feel premium.

The highlight feature of the Mi Note 10 series is its camera unit. On the back, the Mi Note 10 features five cameras with a 108MP f/1.7 primary sensor. The Mi Note 10 packs a 7P lens to match the capability of that 108MP sensor, while the Pro variant gets an 8P lens. Apart from the 108MP lens, there is a 20MP ultra-wide lens with f/2.2 aperture and a 5MP telephoto lens with 50x digital zoom and optical image stabilisation. The Mi Note 10 series also features a 12MP, f/2.0 portrait shooter and a 2MP macro lens. The Mi Note 10 Pro aka Mi CC9 Pro Premium Edition’s camera unit is currently tied for first place with the Huawei Mate 30 Pro on DxOMark list of best smartphone cameras. For selfies, the 32MP f/2.0 shooter is placed inside the water-drop notch. Under the hood, the Mi Note 10 series feature an 8nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G processor. The smartphone packs a massive 5,260 mAh battery with 30W fast-charging support and runs on MIUI 11 based on Android 9 Pie.




Gold retailing used to be a goldmine for investors, until a few bad apples ruined the show for all. But Joy Alukkas still runs an empire that is as precious as the gold he retails, with impressive growth and admirable transparency. Within the last 32 years, it has helped Joyalukkas grow to be a 161-showroom chain across 11 countries, with 89 of them in India. With an 8000 member employee base, Joyalukkas clocked Rs. 13,000 crore in turnover last year, with Rs. 8100 crore from India. A billionaire with a heart of gold, he is constructing 250 free homes for flood victims in Kerala at a cost of Rs. 15 crore.






An Empire Precious as Gold, Transparent Like Diamonds

The Founder and Chairman of Joyalukkas Group, repeats the warning to us twice more as such dividers seem to spring up suddenly in a busy and poorly lit stretch of the highway from Thrissur to Kozhikode. He should know as since the last few years, his India headquarters as well as residence has been in Thrissur, his home town, and this is a route that he travels twice or thrice a day. That is, when he could be in India, and when he could be in this headquarter city of one of the largest jewellery chains based in India and Middle East. Yes, he is a globe trotter like none other, as Joyalukkas has 161 jewellery showrooms across 11 countries. He is an avid India traveller too as 89 of his showrooms are spread across India, mainly in its metro and large cities. And seeing the way this billionaire businessman gives driving tips, his management style is evident – diligent and hands-on – that makes him visit his showrooms across the globe at least once in a year. Earlier, during the first part of this interview at his corporate headquarters, a call had come from his manager at Houston, Texas, and we could hear Joy Alukkas enquiring about the winter there, whether it is fit for a visit now. Houston is one of the three US cities where Joyalukkas has showrooms, the other two being Chicago and New Jersey. Perhaps it is seeing the ordered traffic systems at US, UK, Singapore, Malaysia, UAE and elsewhere in the Middle East, where he has showrooms, that is prompting him to be diligent about the unruly Indian traffic and poor safety measures. By the time he saw the third divider SEASONAL MAGAZINE


without a reflective indicator, he has dropped off from our ongoing conversation about the Group’s financials, and is busy making a call to one of his executives. And despite his seeming frustration at the situation, he calmly notifies him that the reflective signs have again been hit by vehicles and fallen off and that he has to make new reflective boards and place it in those locations. Catching our obvious surprised looks, Joy explains, “The signboards placed by the authorities fell off long back, and replacements will take time if at all they come, so what I do is I get similar signboards done on our own and place them at such locations, again and again when the existing ones get damaged by vehicles or weather.” The time was past 7 PM, and the executive at the other end is explaining that it would be difficult now to get the new boards done now. But Joy rarely takes no for an answer, and encourages the executive to find a new vendor who works late, get the boards done immediately and get it fixed that night itself! “You can get it done with a few phone calls,” he assures his executive before hanging up. “It is a long route leading up to Kozhikode, Kannur and even interstate to Karnataka, and unfamiliar drivers or even entire families would get killed, if we don’t act,” says Joy explaining his pushiness over the affair. After reaching home, Joy orders drinks and food for us and takes us on a guided tour of the mansion, as this is the first time we are visiting him at home and because the house has already become a buzzing subject among home lovers across India and abroad. When we sat down to resume our interview, Joy Alukkas excused himself for a few moments, summoned another executive who is living there, to enquire about a free home the Joyalukkas Foundation, their CSR arm, is building for a flood victim in Thrissur. Branded as Joy Homes, this is in fact one of the largest such private

philanthropic initiatives from any superrich individual in India. Following the massive floods in their home state of Kerala, Joy Alukkas started Joy Homes, this initiative to freely build 250 homes to flood victims at a cost of Rs. 15 crores. These homes span 8 worst affected districts of Kerala. He is indeed a billionaire with a heart of gold. He with wife Jolly have been heading the Foundation that extends help for the welfare of


T “

ake care, a lot of accidents happen in this route, when these lane dividers start suddenly and there are no reflective signboards signalling their beginning,” says Joy Alukkas to us as we drive with him from his corporate headquarters in Mission Quarters to his sprawling mansion in Sobha City, both in Thrissur.




lakhs in their electricity bill!

He asks for detailed answers from this executive who is overseeing this specific ongoing home to one of the selected flood victims. No one should expect Joy to leave one stone unturned in his quest for effectiveness and efficiency.

The mansion already produces electricity from solar panels, and Joy’s latest plan for the home is to convert the entire topmost floor for solar power generation and sell excess power to the public grid.

The company recently did a novel experiment of reducing the coldness of air-conditioners used in all its showrooms by just four degrees, and it resulted in savings to the tune of Rs. 32

But he is a tad disappointed that his home state of Kerala is yet to recognize the depth of his achievements. Within the last 32 years, he has grown

Joyalukkas into a 161 showroom chain across 11 countries, with 89 of them in India. The Group’s last year’s turnover was Rs. 13,000 crores with Rs. 8100 crore from India. This year, Joyalukkas will be doing in excess of Rs. 14,500 crores, says Joy. His focus on things he attempts is relentless. Even amidst answering in detail our various queries on the



An Empire Precious as Gold, Transparent Like Diamonds group’s financials, he remembers to call up the executive entrusted with making and fixing the reflective signboards on both ends of dividers. With such focus, it is difficult for the Joyalukkas organization to see anything but good times. SEASONAL MAGAZINE IN CONVERSATION WITH JOY ALUKKAS, FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN, JOYALUKKAS GROUP. What are your expansion plans for the next two years? We want to consolidate our operations. Rather than keeping on opening new showrooms, we will be strengthening our existing showrooms. This is because it is very important for the showrooms to grow from strength to strength, on their own. I see a lot of showrooms in this sector, across India, which are very feeble. I am particular that none of Joyalukkas showrooms should be like that. They should be tiger cubs growing into tigers, and not stray puppies who get killed by various dangers. In other words, it would be quality over quantity, during the next two years. But will your growth get affected by it? Not at all. That is a wrong thinking in the market. If opening maximum shops, year after year, is the main engine for growth, we wouldn’t be the growth leader we are today. It would have been someone else. Same store growth is very



important. Leadership in each city and each major suburb is important. For example, we were the first Kerala based jeweller to set shop in Coimbatore. Today, there are no major jeweller in Kerala and South India that doesn’t have a presence there. We have stayed ahead of the game there with three showrooms now, which were all well-calculated forays by assessing the demand in key suburbs there. As a retail entrepreneur in the jewellery sector you have several innovations to your credit. Can you detail some of those? When I came back to India in 2000 to start my first showroom here, after establishing the business well in UAE from 1987 onward, jewellery retailing was not well organized or professionally managed, and in a very primitive state. Most large jewellers believed in just one mega store concept in their home town. And the designated chair for the jewellery founder was behind the cash counter. It was I who showed that both these were primitive. From day one, our focus was on setting up a chain of Joyalukkas stores, and we proved that the founder and the top management should be managing it not from behind the cash counter, but from a separate corporate office. We were also the first jeweller to professionally create and manage ads across all media so that each of our shops can leverage our ads. Within years, all these have become

norms in the industry. There have been several more of such innovations from Joyalukkas. It goes on. One of the striking elements while walking into any of your showrooms is the young workforce. Has this been a conscious decision always? Yes, very much. I am the oldest guy around here! And we have a few top level managers in my age group. Other than that, the majority of our workforce, especially our sales force is in their 30s. I would say around 98% of our employees are in this age group. We recruit people young, while in their early 20s, and train them uniformly, as we want their best performance here. Today, this age advantage is helping Joyalukkas deliver unparalleled, uniform and courteous services in all our showrooms across the world. Your profit growth has been keeping pace with your topline growth, or performing even better in recent years, showing margin expansion, especially in India. What have been the levers you were pulling for this, and is there scope for margin expansion in the future? Yes, definitely our EBITDA and PAT margins have been rising during the past several years, and I expect it to continue. I will explain why. There are two factors to this improvement. One is the expansion in the product margins and the other is the expansion in opex margins. Joyalukkas has the levers to steadily up both these margins. The product margins are expanding mainly on a better product mix, driven by more diamond jewellery in the mix. As you know diamond jewellery has better margins vis-à-vis low margin gold-only jewellery. This trend is primarily a market phenomenon showing the maturing of the Indian market, which better reflects such global trends now. With our high focus on diamond jewellery for several years now, with the trendiest of designs, we have been able to capitalize well on this trend. And this trend itself will continue as India is still a market dominated by gold-only

jewellery, thereby offering a huge growth opportunity for diamond jewellery, and steadily improving product margins for us. What are the levers you have been applying for bettering opex margins? That is even more interesting to share with you. While Joyalukkas has always been careful on containing operating expenses, it is only during the last few years that we came to realize that much more could be done on this front. I will share with you two quick examples. One is that just by adjusting the temperature of our showroom airconditioners, from 18 degrees to 22 degrees, we have saved around Rs. 32 lakhs in annual electricity charges! Another one is that we have been using three security personnel per showroom. But with the deployment of latest security technologies across our showrooms, three security personnel at each showroom were found to be redundant, and we reduced it to two, which resulted in significant savings. There is no end to such things that we can do, if we apply careful analysis and thought. This has now become a passion across the organization and every day we are discovering and considering new approaches to trim operating expenses, and hence I am




hopeful of continued expansion in opex margins. Are you seeking investments into Joyalukkas from private equity funds or through an IPO, for pursuing enhanced growth? I think the very notion that investments can make a business grow, especially in the jewellery sector, is flawed. If that were the case, we have had jewellers who were in high momentum, then received private equity, but then saw deceleration in growth. In contrast, we have not opted for any such funds, but have still outperformed such PE backed players in the same period. One hundred percentage of our equity is still with us, me and family, with some minor stakes held by a few of our directors. So growth is decided by other factors like vision, strategy and ultimately the value provided to customers. Fund infusion into the company makes sense only if it is deployed efficiently as per such vision, strategies and customer value. Having said that, I do agree that PE funds and public listing do have their advantages, which has more to do with better visibility in the corporate and investment world. One thing I am very particular is that if I am accepting investors to come on board, whether it is through private equity placement or IPO, they will have a guidance about what they can expect, like say 10% growth. I don’t want unsatisfied investors who crib that we have underperformed with their expectations, and neither will I accept pressure from investors to do business in a certain way to boost growth or profits, so as to jack up valuations. I have also made it clear to PE funds approaching us that we will not accept any deadline regarding IPOs, whether it is short or long. I have absolutely no

need or intention to make money by getting the company listed somehow at high valuations, and then let the retail investors suffer when market turns. Some PE funds have been suggesting me to sell a portion of my own stake to them to raise funds for myself and family, but I absolutely have no use of such large funds. So, can retail investors expect an IPO from Joyalukkas in the near future? An IPO is definitely in our consideration, but apart from that I cannot comment on when or whether it will happen. There are multiple options before us like going for PE funding first and then IPO, or go directly to IPO, or even remain as a major unlisted player for now. Whatever we choose, it will be based on the best interests of the Joyalukkas organization, so that its growth momentum is only enhanced and not affected adversely. When you consider taking in investments, will it be for your Indian company alone or for both your Indian and UAE based global operations? My original plan was to take an investor on board for the UAE based global operations alone, but most funds that approached us have evinced interest in investing in the Indian company too. That is because our Indian operations have better margins as well as better growth. We are open to the idea, in case we are taking in investments. You have diversified interests apart from jewellery retailing. What is your SEASONAL MAGAZINE


Can you mention such emerging avenues in your core jewellery retailing business? Yes, definitely. Online sales or ecommerce in the jewellery sector has been picking up fast. In as much as jewellery and diamonds were not thought of as great fits for e-commerce, companies including Amazon, Flipkart, Joyalukkas and several others are proving that not only can this be done with full features like returns, but that it can be a scalable business. Our online sales is growing steadily and reaching Rs. 500 crores per year now. We sell on our own platform as well as through large players like Amazon. There are several challenges, like in-camera packing and logistics, but such things are being done smoothly today, resulting in customer delight. Another growth avenue for Joyalukkas has been the B2B segment. This is mainly in the large metro cities of India, where we sell gift cards, coupons, and discount vouchers directly to corporate companies which use them as incentive or bonus during the festive seasons. You have been a noted philanthropist too, with your Foundation’s projects standing out for their uniqueness. Can you explain what drives your philanthropy? SEASONAL MAGAZINE



strategy with regard to diversification? I think diversification is a bad word, a bad strategy. We have had diversifications that clicked well, and those which did not work out as much as we expected. Our best diversifications have been Joyalukkas Exchange which is a global money exchange company, and Jolly Silks, our garment retailing chain. My take on diversification is that an entrepreneur should stick to his or her core competence when considering diversifications. If a proposed diversification will benefit from your core competence, well and good, but otherwise I think it is a bad idea. This is because, there are always better and emerging avenues for growth in our core business, where we have an edge due to our high competence in that.



Joyalukkas Foundation that handles our CSR activities has been born from our belief that the people and the community within which we operate are the cornerstones for our success. The Foundation has made its mark in highly demanding avenues including building homes for flood victims, medical treatment assistance, providing needy expats in Middle East with financial assistance to return home, and around 20 such needs of the common man. My wife Jolly is a Trustee of the Foundation and takes active interest in its activities. We formally started off with the unique ‘My 0.50’ scheme, by which all employees contribute a small daily sum, which is matched at the month end by the management with an equal amount. Ever since it started in 2007, it has grown from strength to strength, helping thousands of needy people in their times of distress, in a perfectly

transparent way as it is driven by a software. Following the massive floods in our home state of Kerala, the Foundation started Joy Homes, an initiative to build 250 homes to flood victims at a cost of Rs. 15 crores. These homes span 8 districts of Kerala, and our website carries the details of all ongoing home projects under this scheme. What do you consider as your biggest achievement in your business career? Are you satisfied with where the group is now? Well, there are a few such achievements. First is that I have led this growth single-handedly and without attracting funds from any formal financial investors like PE funds or from informal investors like how many peers and retailers have done. I think many people, especially in Kerala, miss this unique point about the Joyalukkas organization. Within the last 32 years, I have grown Joyalukkas into a 161 showrron chain across 11 countries, with 89 of them in India. Our last year’s turnover was Rs. 13,000 crores with Rs. 8100 crore from India. This year, we will be doing in excess of Rs. 14,500 crores. Few retail entrepreneurs in Kerala have such an achievement to speak about within three decades. But in North India, my achievements are better appreciated by the business community.




The merger with Gruh Finance that came to effect on October 17 has given Bandhan Bank access to a high-quality housing-loan portfolio of Rs. 18,200 crore. Already Bandhan had an existing loan portfolio of Rs. 46,000 crore, which is dominated by the short-term and high-margin microfinance, whereas the home loan portfolio from Gruh gives it the much needed long-tenure loans. The merger has also added incrementally to its deposit base as Gruh was a deposit-taking NBFC with deposits of Rs. 1,600 crore. Altogether the merged entity's deposits now stand at Rs. 49,200 crore, and on both the loans and deposits front, Bandhan is on a strong footing, compared with other young banks. On the profits front, Bandhan has been delivering a power-packed show, eclipsing the profits of several similar sized or even bigger sized PSU banks taken together. With such strong growth in lending and deposits and profits, Bandhan Bank is now flexing its muscles in MSME and credit cards, and planning a bigger move in affordable home finance.



andhan continues to show immense promise, as its focus has come back to MFI loans, and it is growing impressively. Bandhan’s growth is secular and multidimensional, with strong growth in both lending and deposits, and with significant pricing power. The bank has refocused from corporate loans to MSME and with the Gruh merger, Bandhan is poised to address affordable home financing effectively. It has also launched cobranded credit cards with international banking giant Standard Chartered. With the cut in corporate tax rate, Bandhan Bank stock is also making a comeback, as lenders with secular profits are its best beneficiaries. Microfinance industry is around 30 years old, pioneered by Muhammad Yunus of our neighbouring country Bangladesh who went on to found Grameen Bank and bag a Nobel Peace Prize for impacting the lives of millions of poor people through it. Due to geographical proximity as well as similar economic

situation in rural areas, India too was an early adopter of this unique lending model to the poor without any collateral. Bandhan, promoted by Indian microfinance pioneer Chandra Shekhar Ghosh, was one of the first microfinance institutions to start in the country. Bandhan has since then become India’s largest, and the first MFI to be granted a Universal Banking Licence in 2015 by RBI when noted global economist Dr. Raghuram Rajan was its Governor. The growth of Bandhan has come to symbolize the robustness of the Indian microfinance industry itself. Muhammad Yunus recently had some surprising words to say about the Indian microfinance sector. He expects Indian microfinance to double its lending business in the next five years if the current growth momentum in the sector continues. According to Sa-Dhan’s Bharat Microfinance Report 2019 released by Yunus recently, the Indian microfinance industry clocked a growth of over 40 per cent, with a gross loan portfolio of Rs. 178,552 crore in loan outstandings at the end of March 2019. Yunus said the trend shows that the industry would double itself as the pace of growth and base have increased. “Given this impressive record, it has now all preparation for doubling itself in the next five years. Whatever the industry has done in the last 25-30 years, you would see it double in the next five years, as it has gained tremendous speed now,” he said. But being the microfinance pioneer, he is not oblivious to the challenges facing the sector. With size, there would also be some challenges, he opined, but which the industry should be geared to handle by now. Indeed, Indian microfinance industry has been repeatedly hit by political interventions, demonetisation and loan waiver impacts, but has eventually come out from all those storms, even more powerfully. If and when Yunus’ prediction comes true, there are no marks for guessing who would be one of the largest beneficiaries. As the largest player, Bandhan Bank would be that beneficiary.

No wonder then that Bandhan Bank stock is trading at valuations that are heftier by both book value (P/BV) and earnings (P/E) than most of its comparable peers in the banking and small finance banking sector. But interestingly, there are also analysts who feel that Bandhan Bank is deserving much better valuations, given its impressive growth, its sector leading return ratios and its robust capital position. Such analysts have often advised to bottom-fish the Bandhan stock. On one hand, Bandhan has a highyielding asset book, whereas on the other hand it has a robust low-cost deposit franchise. That will ensure that like HDFC Bank over the last two decades, Bandhan can be a long term compounder that may be able deliver around 30% growth consistently. Bandhan Bank has been leading in loan book growth compared to all small finance banks and even comparable universal banks. At the same time, due to its lower operating expenses, Bandhan has one of the best set of return ratios in the industry. Bandhan’s projected Return on Assets (RoA), over the next two years, is likely to remain high at the current level of 3.9 times, whereas for most SFBs and comparable peer banks, it is below 2 times. Unlike most new banks, Bandhan has been excelling on the deposit side too. In June 2019 quarter, Bandhan’s deposit base grew by 42% year-on-year, compared with low double-digit growth for most comparable lenders. This is because, Bandhan has pricing power among its vast base of microfinance customers. The most attractive and low cost Current Accounts Savings Accounts (CASA) segment accounts for about 36 per cent of Bandhan Bank’s total deposit base of Rs 43,000 crore. The 4 year old bank has also been on an asset diversification strategy that will see microfinance business being complemented by asset backed retail loans. Microfinance’s share in overall loan book is expected to decline to around 50% over the medium term from the current 86%. Since microfinance is the higher margin business, it will add to some margin pressure but Bandhan

is likely to weather it due to its pricing power in the deposits side. Bandhan ‘s asset diversification strategy is sure to gather momentum as it has completed its merger with leading home loan provider from the HDFC stable, Gruh Finance. At the same time, this merger will also ensure geographical diversification of Bandhan to a good degree. Currently, East India and North East India accounts for more than half of its geographic base. Today, Bandhan has 4,014 banking outlets, including doorstep banking services encompassing microfinance customers. The total customer base of the bank is 17.4 million. The merger with Gruh Finance will bring in its 195 branches and 700 employees who are a highly experienced team, which will help Bandhan establish its presence in the affordable housing segment that will provide the bank with not only diversification to asset backed loans, but to more long tenure loans. This is why affordable housing finance has been identified as a major growth area by Bandhan Bank. It was in January this year, that the bank announced its merger with Gruh Finance, the affordable housing finance arm of HDFC ltd. The merger with Gruh has also helped the bank’s promoters reduce their shareholding from nearly 82% to 61%. Bandhan is required to bring it further down to 40% to meet RBI norms, which has been one of the overhangs on the stock. This is especially so as unlike its peer Kotak Mahindra Bank, which finds itself in a similar predicament, Bandhan has not approached courts on this issue.

Bandhan, promoted by Indian microfinance pioneer Chandra Shekhar Ghosh, was one of the first microfinance institutions to start in the country. SEASONAL MAGAZINE


Apart from microfinance and affordable housing finance, Bandhan has identified Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) as a major focus area. The move appears smart as some of the best run banks like HDFC Bank has been most bullish on growing this sector as the next major growth avenue. This MSME segment, especially its Micro Enterprises sub-segment is very well suited for Bandhan as being a longstanding microfinance lender, it is now seeing many of its lenders graduating to start small businesses of their own. On the other hand, this move also speaks of immense prudence as Bandhan’s initial foray into bigger corporate lending did not go well. The bank burnt its fingers in the IL&FS crisis, and had to make provision of Rs 385 crore towards a corporate loan. Yet another business that Bandhan Bank is most bullish on is the credits card business. Here, again, it is following the cues from the largest banks like State Bank of India (SBI) which has grown its cards business so well that it is now eyeing an Initial Public Offer for SBI Cards.



the cards to its customers.

The merger with Gruh would also help the bank’s promoters reduce their shareholding from nearly 82% to 61%. Bandhan is required to bring it further down to 40% to meet RBI norms, which has been one of the overhangs on the stock.

Bandhan is following a novel approach in starting its Credit Cards business. It is starting off with a co-branded credit card with international banking giant Standard Chartered Bank. Under the collaboration, while Standard Chartered bank will take the credit risk for the cards, Bandhan Bank will be responsible for identifying and issuing

It is a unique, complementary and winwin tie-up for both the lenders. While Stan Chart is a leader in credit cards business in India with a user base of 1.2 million and growing at the rate of 1520 per cent a year, it has only 100 branches in India. In contrast, while Bandhan Bank is only just starting off in the credit cards business, it has an impressive current account and savings account (CASA) franchise spread across 1,000 branches and having four million branch customers, many of whom can be offered credit cards eventually. Bandhan Bank has launched three variants of co-branded credit cards called One, for the mass market, Plus, for the affluent segment, and Xclusive, for the premium. The lower and the middle level segments, One and Plus, would constitute an attractive segment for the credit cards business, because of revolving credit in these segments of Bandhan Bank. At the same time, there were no signs of stress in these credit card segments, neither in terms of growth nor in terms of delinquencies.



The plight of the WeWork IPO in the US last month signals the beginning of an end – the end of demand for companies that are making losses even while demanding high valuations. This is an overhang that Samhi Hotels too will have to overcome when they go for their planned Rs. 2000 crore IPO.

oss making companies going for their IPOs is nothing new. After all, who can prevent investors if what they want a piece of the loss – a negative Earnings Per Share (EPS) at a hefty valuation? So such companies too have had successful IPOs in the past in India as well as abroad. Some of them have eventually turned profitable, while some others are yet to turn a dime in profit, while some others have disappeared forever. If start-ups with even no idea on how to turn a profit can attract investments from even Private Equity (PE) funds, nothing could possibly prevent loss making companies from attracting lesser investors like noninstitutional investors and retail investors. This has been the businessas-usual in the investing world. But something changed in the world markets this past month. One of the poster boys of the start-up and investment world had a hiccup. It was a commercial real estate company founded in New York only in 2010. But by 2019, the company had not only pioneered the shared workspace model but had become this segment’s undisputed leader, managing 46.63 million square feet, across 86 cities in 32 countries, which has been lapped up by buoyant companies in technology, financial services, health services and practically every emerging segment, and especially by start-ups. Yes, this is indeed about WeWork now rechristened The We Company. Seeing

WeWork’s tremendous success there was a mad rush by the global investing majors to own a piece of WeWork, so much so that its investors read like a Who-is-who of the largest institutional investors. JP Morgan Chase, T Rowe Price, Wellington Management and Goldman Sachs were all there in WeWork within a few years. And the valuation started swelling. By January of this year, WeWork was valued at $47 billion. 0 to 47 billion in just 9 years! But just ten months down the lane, that is by September end, WeWork’s valuation has plummeted to just $10 billion, which is interestingly even less than the $12.8 billion it has raised so far by selling stakes to investors! What was the great calamity that befell WeWork within these 10 months? Absolutely nothing, as their shared workspace model continues to grow admirably. The only blunder they did was they tried to go for their IPO at these inflated valuations. It was not really a blunder, as dozens of such companies pass through their IPOs in this way. But this time, the market was not enthused at all that a company that was making losses of around $2 billion a year was going for its IPO on high valuations. And WeWork had to pull off its IPO and that is what plummeted the valuations and cost Co-founder Adam Neumann his job as CEO and his majority voting rights. In fact, most analysts think that this is not something specific to WeWork, but the beginning of an end – the end of

demand for companies that are making losses even while demanding high valuations. When Samhi Hotels go for its IPO, there is likely to be an overhang of the high-profile WeWork debacle due to a few reasons. Firstly, Samhi too is currently a loss making venture. Secondly, Samhi too has been riding the valuation boom due to its high growth model which saw it zoom from 0 to over 4000 hotel rooms in just 7 years. Thirdly, Samhi too has high-profile investors like billionaire investor Sam Zell’s Equity International, Goldman Sachs and IFC. Samhi Hotels is mainly into the ownership or leasing of hotel properties, and not into the actual running of the hotels which are done by international brands like Marriott, IHG and Hyatt. This makes Samhi look more like a commercial realty company specializing in hotel properties. And this asset-heavy and debt-heavy model has been a dampener in making profits. Indian investors are not over enthusiastic over hotel stocks as time and again their asset heavy and debt heavy model has not delivered on investor returns. Will Samhi Hotels' Rs.2000 crore IPO be any different because it is a market leader in the premium space with 27 operating hotels comprising 4,048 keys across 12 cities for Marriott, IHG and Hyatt brands, with No.1 position in the first two brands. Like most large hospitality companies, Samhi too is saddled with large debt and has been making losses. The silverline is the 23 year experience of Ashish Jakhanwala, the Founder, MD & CEO. SEASONAL MAGAZINE







While Q2 had one-off elements there is no doubt that the bank has not only overhauled its core banking business, but that almost all of its subsidiaries are doing extremely well. And this is only the tip of the iceberg as SBI is sitting on the largest ever cross-selling potential across its insurance, cards and mutual funds businesses. On the asset quality front, fresh slippages halved to Rs. 8800 crore from Rs. 16000 crore on a quarterly basis. The largest Indian bank has been taking its challenges head on, like holding a mega property e-auction recently where hundreds of crores of its stressed assets found ready buyers. And State Bank of India's return on assets is poised to hit a fouryear high this fiscal year on the back of improving interest income, driven by higher net interest margins. Much of SBI's fresh NPA troubles are not bank-specific but sector specific in that it is due to the farm loan waivers. Peers like Bank of India and IDBI Bank too have been affected by the uptrend in agriculture NPAs. Most analysts today have a buy call on SBI with some placing the upside at as high as 42$. Earlier, SBI has had one of its best quarters in nearly two years, in June, with profits surging and NPAs falling. While public sector

competition from peers are expected to increase due to the mega bank mergers, SBI is on a sure foot here as it too had completed merger of five subsidiaries into itself. SBI has also managed the October 1st deadline by RBI to link retail loan rate with an external benchmark like Repo, without much hit on NIMs. An expected rebound in NPAs due to more NBFCs defaulting on loans has been avoided. And on a low base, cut in corporate tax, and based on its SBI Cards IPO, SBI may perform better than peers, going forward.SBI Cards is India's second largest credit card business. It has over 17% market share in both credit card base and credit card spends. And it is growing admirably - over 32% last year in credit card base and nearly 35% in spends. SBI Cards is also well structured for independent growth as it is operated as a subsidiary in which SBI holds 74% and private equity giant Carlyle holds the remaining 26%. But the greatest thing going for SBI Cards is the sheer under-penetration of credit cards in India. For every 100 people here, there are only 3 credit cards, while in Singapore it is 165 cards. That is why SBI is preparing SBI Cards for its mega IPO too which is estimated to be of Rs. 7000 crores.







he Chinese billionaire behind teen phenomenon TikTok is a 36-year-old tech guru whose eye for youth trends and pioneering use of AI has blasted the app to global success - while working handin-glove with censors to control content within China. Zhang Yiming’s Beijing-based startup ByteDance owns TikTok, whose kaleidoscopic feeds of 15 to 60-second clips feature everything from hair-dye tutorials to dance routines and jokes about daily life. Since launching in 2017, TikTok has been downloaded more than 1.5 billion times, according to US-based research agency Sensor Tower. It has huge followings in India, the US, Indonesia and elsewhere. But its rise has raised security fears and last month two senior US senators called for a government review of the app, saying it could leave users vulnerable to spying by Beijing. ByteDance, which Zhang founded in 2012, prides itself on using artificial intelligence to personalize newsfeeds according to users’ interests. The company has had “huge and immediate success" because it pays close attention to its young users, said Bo Ji, assistant dean for the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business. “The new generation... want to share their real feelings, whether good or bad. They are more direct and expressive," he said. TikTok is ByteDance’s most popular overseas app, while its other products in China and abroad include news aggregators and productivity tools. Together they have taken Zhang—a programmer before he became a businessman—to the highest echelons of China’s billionaire club. In 2019, he was listed in the top 20 of the Hurun China Rich List with $13.5

“today’s headlines". “(Toutiao) has changed Chinese reading habits... they will know what you like to watch, and you will have the things you like to see recommended to you,’ said Liu. Aside from TikTok, ByteDance also runs TopBuzz in the US, an English-language news aggregation app that the company was reportedly trying to sell in September. In 2016 it became a controlling stakeholder of BaBe, an Indonesian news app with more than 30 million downloads since its launch in October 2013. Productivity app and Slack-competitor Lark is ByteDance’s latest product, which features cloud storage, chat and calendar functions.

billion in wealth, surpassing more established tech tycoons, such as the founder of search giant Baidu. Zhang’s fortunes were given a huge boost with ByteDance’s 2017 acquisition of lipsyncing video app—later merged with TikTok—in a deal reportedly worth as much as $1 billion. “Mr Zhang is unusual Chinese entrepreneur," said Bo. “He built something for the world; he understands the young people and their psychology." Liu Xingliang, dean of the DCCI research centre, told AFP that Zhang represents a new wave of entrepreneurs and a different breed to China’s most famous tycoon, Alibaba’s Jack Ma. He is “more like a young Pony Ma," Liu said, comparing Zhang to the 48-year-old cofounder of Chinese internet giant Tencent. This is because Zhang “used to be a programmer, paid more attention to products, and knew technology well", he said. ByteDance also operates a Chinese version of TikTok, called Douyin. It is the top short video app in China, with over 400 million monthly active users, according to iResearch. Douyin, launched in 2016, attracted users by bringing on board top celebrities like Chinese actor and singer Kris Wu. But ByteDance’s first flagship product was the immensely popular Chinese news aggregation app Jinri Toutiao, or

And according to recent reports, the company is also planning to launch its own music streaming service to compete with subscription models like Spotify and Apple. In mainland China, ByteDance employs thousands of censors to scrub out inappropriate content in its domestic platforms—at a significant cost to the company. It reportedly hired 2,000 censors in January 2018 after Beijing accused its news aggregation app of “spreading pornographic and vulgar information". It then promised to increase its internal censorship staff to 10,000 after being temporarily banned by the government in a widening content crackdown. Censorship is common in China where the internet is tightly controlled. But going global has brought its own censorship challenges for TikTok, which is blocked in Bangladesh and was briefly banned by an Indian court over claims it was promoting pornography among children. It was also hit with an enormous fine in the US for illegally collecting information from children. One TikTok video that went viral this week contained criticism—hidden within a clip that appeared to offer tips on eyelash curling—of China’s mass detention of Muslims in its Xinjiang region. The video was readily available on TikTok Wednesday. SEASONAL MAGAZINE




Here are some foods to avoid if you have arthritis.


1.SATURATED FATS Foods that have high levels of saturated fats will likely trigger the inflammation of the fat tissue (adipose). This could put you at risk of getting heart disease and worsen inflammation, making your arthritis situation even worse than it might already be. Some examples of foods that have very high levels of saturated fats include fried and processed foods, red meat and full-fat dairy products. Reducing your intake of this will help in that it will restore your body’s natural defenses and keep inflammation low.

2. SUGAR AND REFINED CARBS Taking too much sugar on a daily basis will cause an AGE spike in your body which will cause inflammation. According to reputable studies, sugar triggers the release of inflammatory messengers. They are known as cytokines. So understandably, it is hard to avoid sugar. Part of the reason is that sugar comes in a number of different names. To be on the safe side though, just look out for any labels that end on “ose” for example fructose or sucrose. For your own good cut out things like SEASONAL MAGAZINE


soda, candy and other desserts with empty calories and food made from refined white flour.

3. CORN OIL & OMEGA-6S First of all, the body actually needs Omega 6 fatty acids for normal growth and development but it just needs the right balance of omega-6s to omega-3s. Taking too much omega-6 will bother you if you have arthritis, as it is linked to inflammatory chemicals.To be on the safe side, it is advisable to stay away from oils containing sunflower, soy, vegetables, peanuts, corn, and safflower. Instead, focus more on adding omega-3s such as olive oil, nuts or go for seeds such as pumpkin and flax seeds.

4. SALT Salt can make things worse for people with arthritis. You should be on the lookout as to whether excess intake of salt worsens your joint inflammation or not. It is better to stay away from most packaged foods. They contain so much salt and preservatives. Instead, cook your food at home. That way, you can use salt in its whole form and you will also be in a better position to control how much of it you take. Whenever you go shopping, try and get products with natural preservatives and always read labels and choose products with reduced sodium.

5. DAIRY PRODUCTS Other than the fact that dairy products contain a lot of fat, they also have in them a protein that could irritate that

tissue surrounding the joints. Since the effect of dairy products differs in different patients, it really is worth experimenting to see whether or not eliminating it helps you or not. If it helps, then you might want to try a vegan diet.

6. ALCOHOL Alcohol drinking could lead to gout, which can also cause arthritis in the smaller bones that are found on the feet. In cases where one has gout, the uric acid is not metabolized. Too much alcohol consumption overworks the liver and could cause inflammation and also an interference with all that is required for one to have healthy joints, that is, a balanced diet, sleep, and exercise.

7. TOBACCO Tobacco is really not good for anyone but it’s even worse in that it increases your chances of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Smoking harms your bones. It also harms the joints and connective tissue. For people who are already suffering from arthritis, it affects how the medication works. It makes it less effective and could cause some serious complications in the event that surgery is necessary.


These foods cooked at high temperature lead to the production of AGEs (advanced glycation end products) which create inflammation. By foods cooked at high temperatures, we mean those that are grilled, pasteurized or fried and they could end up releasing cytokines when they are eaten, which could send inflammatory messages throughout the entire body. It may not be very practical to eliminate all of such foods but you can reduce your intake of them. Go for whole fruits, salads and lightly cooked vegetables instead.

9. MSG Food additives that have been produced in laboratories should be avoided by people who have arthritis. They trigger chronic inflammation in some people. An example of such is MSG, which is mostly found in Asian foods. It is a salt based powder that has very high sodium content. MSG is sometimes added to soup mixes, deli meats, salad dressings or fast foods, all of which are bad for you as well.

10.ASPARTAME Another one to avoid is aspartame. This is sad news because a number of people will often want to use it as an alternative to sugar but it has no nutritional value. If you have sensitivity issues, your body will have a negative reaction to it. It will react as if an invader has entered it which also causes inflammation. So it’s better to just avoid it too if you are a person suffering from arthritis. SEASONAL MAGAZINE



MEET TATA GRAVITAS, THE 7-SEATER SUV 6. MULTIPLE DRIVE MODES The new 7-seater SUV from Tata will offer five driving modes, namely, Neutral, Reverse, Manual, Drive and Park. It will be equipped with Terrain Response System with three modes – Wet, Rough and Normal. Read – BS6 Tata Harrier Coming Soon



1. LAUNCH AT 2020 AUTO EXPO Tata Motors has confirmed that the Tata Gravitas will debut in February, 2020. The 7-seater SUV will make its first public appearance at the 2020 Auto Expo. The carmaker might also announce prices of the vehicle at the event.

2. BIGGER THAN HARRIER The overall length, width and height of the Tata Gravitas stand at 4661mm, 1894mm and 1786mm respectively. Compared to the Harrier which is 4598mm long, 1894mm wide and 1706mm tall, the 7-seater version is around 63mm longer, 72mm wider and 80mm taller. Read – Tata Altroz To Launch In January 2020 3. WIDER THAN FORTUNER AND ENDEAVOUR Interestingly, the new Tata Gravitas is wider than the fully-fledged SUVs like Toyota Fortuner (1855m wide) and Ford Endeavour (1869mm wide). The wheelbase of the new Tata 7-seater SUV is exSEASONAL MAGAZINE


actly similar to the Harrier – i.e. 2741mm.

4. MORE POWERFUL ENGINE Besides sharing the OMEGA platform with the Harrier, the all-new Tata Gravitas borrows the 2.0-litre Kryotec engine from its younger sibling. Though, it will be calibrated for generating more power. While the Harrier delivers 138bhp with 350Nm, the Gravitas will be able to return a maximum power of 170bhp with 350Nm of torque. Reports suggest that the updated engine could be named ‘Kryotec170’. Read – Tata Blackbird SUV Concept Might Debut At 2020 Auto Expo

Tata recently offered an electric sunroof as an official accessory for the Harrier SUV. It can be fitted on all variants of the 5-seater at an additional cost of Rs 95,000. The Tata Gravitas is likely to get a large panoramic glass roof that will enhance its aesthetic appeal.

8. SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT DESIGN In terms of design and styling, the Tata Gravitas will look slightly different than the Harrier. It will carry taller stance along with sport running boards and bigger alloy wheels. The rear section will be more upright to offer decent headroom for third-row passengers. The taillamps and boot lid will also be revised. The windshield is larger and rear spoiler is more prominent than the Harrier. Read – 2020 Tata Nexon Facelift To Share Design With Nexon EV

9. MORE PREMIUM FEATURES Interior layout of the Tata Gravitas will be more or less similar to the Harrier. Though, it will have more features and an additional third row seat to offer.



Unlike the Harrier, the Tata Gravitas will be offered with two gearbox options – a 6-speed manual and a Hyundaisourced 6-speed automatic. The carmaker will also introduce the automatic transmission on the 5-seater Harrier lineup in coming months.

Similar to the Harrier, the Tata Gravitas could be launched at a lucrative price point. Compared to its 5-seater sibling, it’s estimated to cost around Rs 1 lakh premium. Currently, the Harrier comes in the price range of Rs 12.99 lakh – Rs 16.85 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi).


OYO'S LOSSES SOAR SIX FOLD, PROMOTER PLANS BUY BACK HOSPITALITY STARTUP OYO HOTELS AND HOMES’ LOSSES WIDENED MORE THAN SIX-FOLD TO RS. 2,384.69 CRORE DURING THE FINANCIAL YEAR ENDED MARCH 2019 (FY19), EVEN AS REVENUES ROSE OVER FOUR-FOLD DURING THE PERIOD, SIGNALING THAT THE SIX-YEAR-OLD STARTUP MAY HAVE A LONG WAY TO GO BEFORE IT CAN GO PUBLIC. convertible preference shares at a price of $52,643.22 a share to SVF India Holdings Cayman Islands-registered entities. At the same time, RA Hospitality has been issued 13,169 equity shares at a price of $52,643.22 a share. Post the closure of the transaction, Agarwal will hold 18.03% of the company, up from his pre-investment holding of 9.43%. It is to be noted that the reports of Agarwal buying back stake in OYO first emerged in July 2019. It was reported then Agarwal is looking to buy $1.5 Bn worth of shares from Sequoia and Lightspeed, while another $500 Mn will come in the form of primary capital, which could see existing investors also pitch in, and which would be capital for the company’s expansion drive.

ccording to a valuation report filed with the registrar of companies (RoC), Oyo reported operational revenue of Rs. 6,457 crore in FY19, up four-fold from Rs. 1,413 crore reported a year ago. Total expenditure rose five-fold to Rs. 9,027.53 crore in FY19 compared with Rs. 1,835.38 crore reported a year ago. However, these figures are not final or audited figures A majority of Oyo’s expenses is attributed to operational expenses which ballooned to Rs. 6,131.65 crore in FY19, a five-fold increase from a year ago. Oyo also spent around Rs. 1,539 crore in employee-related expenses in FY19, a six-fold jump year-on-year. There have been reports that Oyo is preparing for an initial public offering (IPO) in the next two-three years at a hefty valuation of $18 billion. However, as per listing norms in India, a company

has to return pre-tax operating profit for at least three years for a direct listing. The other available route for listing in India is through the Securities and Exchange Board of India-regulated Innovator’s Growth Platform (IGP) meant for SMEs and startups, which Oyo is unlikely to use due to its huge size. The latest valuation report prepared by Oyo’s auditors pegs the startup’s postmoney valuation at $5.32 billion ( Rs. 36,658 crore) as of June 2019. Meanwhile, Ritesh Agarwal has got Oyo’s board approval to buy back shares in a secondary transaction to increase his stake in the company. Oyo parent company, Oravel Stays, in an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) of shareholders has approved a $1.5 Bn primary capital infusion into the company by SoftBank Vision Fund and Ritesh Agarwal’s RA Hospitality. The special resolution, has approved the issue of 15,325 Series F compulsorily

Later, in October, OYO issued a media statement saying that in the Series F round, Ritesh Agarwal’s RA Hospitality Holdings’ will infuse approximately $700 Mn as primary capital in the company, with the balance $800 Mn being supplemented by other existing investors. It said that a part of the funds will be diverted towards driving growth in the United States and in strengthening its position in the vacation rental business in Europe. OYO claimed that it has seen a 3.8x YoY growth in revenue in August 2019 (vs. August 2018), with 1.2 Mn rooms under management across hotels and homes. The company said it has a strong balance sheet of $2 Bn across group companies, a significant part of which will be further invested in the business. Founded in 2013 by Agarwal, OYO has grown to a franchisee model. Its verticals vary from holiday homes, casino hotel and coworking spaces to budget hotels, corporate stays and more. The India based company has expanded its services to more than 800 cities in over 80 countries, including the US, UK, China, Indonesia, and Japan. SEASONAL MAGAZINE




IPO Watc h tch he upcoming dollar bond issue by IRFC is likely to be a ‘144A/Reg S’ bond so that US investors can participate along with investors from other regions. Earlier, in March, IRFC had raised $500 million through a 5-year overseas bond, for which it received over $1.2 billion worth of bids. After IRCTC’s blockbuster IPO recently and last fiscal’s successful IPOs of its Railway PSUs, IRCON and RITES, Indian Government is planning to tap primary markets again for its larger Railway PSU, Indian Railway Finance Corporation (IRFC). IRFC’s IPO will be sized at about Rs. 2000 crores and is likely to happen this fiscal. As one of the major financial providers for Indian Railways, IRFC is always on the lookout for fund raising plans and has been tapping even overseas markets successfully. Government of India is simply the largest promoter of diverse enterprises in India. Once in a while, GoI takes from its deep pockets an anmol ratan or rare jewel that will surprise most Indians. This is the story of one such jewel – Indian Railway Finance Corporation - that is all set to go public now with its Rs.2000 crore IPO. The domain of Non-Banking Financial Companies or NBFCs is dominated by the private sector in the country. But unknown to many but their employees and financial sector experts, Government of India also runs a few large NBFCs. Indian Railway Finance Corporation (IRFC) is one such NBFC recognized by the sector regulator Reserve Bank of India as a Systemically Important Non–Deposit taking Non-Banking Financial Company (NBFC – ND-SI). Owned 100% by the Government of India and coming under the administrative control of Ministry of Railways, IRFC is also an Infrastructure Finance Company (NBFC- IFC) under RBI regulation.

Now, to what makes IRFC an Anmol Ratan from the government stable. The moment an analyst hears of a lender – be it a bank or an NBFC – the first concern would be their Non Performing Assets or NPAs. Because, most banks and NBFCs have been reeling from staggering NPAs since 2009. How does IRFC fare on this front? Well, it has 0% NPAs. Yes, nil or no NPAs at all. The second concern with lenders would be something called Capital Adequacy Ratio or CAR. It signals how financially stable is a bank or NBFC when it comes to growing it’s loanbook. International Basel regulations as well as RBI stipulates stringent CAR norms for different kinds of lenders, and most of these fall in the double digit teens. Lenders literally struggle to keep up with regulatory norms for CAR as either it requires highly profitable operations or frequent Tier! Capital rises. Here also, IRFC comes out with flying colours with a CAR of 355%. The third concern would be the operational profits, as with everything else like NIMs and yields getting to be equal, lenders differentiate more through their better operational efficiencies. Here also, IRFC has no competition as it is a lean operation, having only one owner and one client – Indian Railways! Indian Railway Finance Corporation (IRFC) was set up in 1986 as the dedicated financing arm of the Indian Railways for mobilizing funds from domestic as well as overseas Capital Markets. In more than 30 years of


existence, IRFC has played a significant role in supporting the expansion of the Indian Railways and related entities by financing a significant proportion of its annual plan outlay. The primary objective of IRFC is to meet the predominant portion of Extra Budgetary Resources (EBR) requirement of the Indian Railways through market borrowings at the most competitive rates and terms. The Company’s principal business therefore is to borrow funds from the financial markets to finance the acquisition / creation of assets which are then leased out to the Indian Railways. IRFC’s cumulative funding to rail sector had crossed Rs.2.20 lakh crore by the end of March, 2018. The funds are utilized for acquiring rolling stock assets and also building up infrastructure, constituting significant part of annual capital expenditure of Indian Railways. So far, it has funded acquisition of 8998 locomotives, 47910 passenger coaches, 2,14,456 wagons, which constitute around 70% of the total rolling stock fleet of Indian Railways. From 2011-12 onwards, IRFC has forayed into funding of railway projects and capacity enhancement works. With such growth prospects, but tempered by Railway’s highly economical services, this NBFC has been growing its topline steadily with a revenue CAGR of 13%. A noted issuer and pioneer of bonds in the Indian and overseas market, IRFC is now attempting its largest dollar bond issues, ahead of its planned IPO.


Private University



“Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another” -G.K. Chesterton ducation is central to the development of a nation, and every developed nation is a witness to this fact, and our country India, strongly believes in this philosophy from Vedic days. In the recent past, it is the educated youth of India that made the difference to our economy when Indian economy opened up in1991. Bangalore was known as a Garden city, now became “Silicon Valley of India”. It is the educational eco system of Bangalore which created thousands of graduates over the years that made the changes to our economy. Dayananda Sagar Institutions (DSI) established by Mahatma Gandhi Vidya Peetha Trust (MGVPT) founded by Late Shri. Dayananda Sagarhas more than 60 years of history in higher education and has produced more than 40,000 graduates over the years in Engineering, Technology, Management, Pharmacy, Nursing, Dentistry, Basic Science and Social Sciences, were all part of theupward journey of India. There is nothing permanent except change (Heraclitus). In the recent past, the new technologies are disrupting every sector of economy including Higher Education. Dayananda Sagar SEASONAL MAGAZINE


School of Commerce and Management Studies, and School of Arts and Humanities; shortly School of Medicine will be added. At present, the University has more than 7000 students and around 700 students have graduated. DSU has been ranked 4 th among private universities in Karnataka and rated as a 4 Star University by K-SURF, a Karnataka Government sponsored agency. DSU is participating in NIRF and QS-India Rating Systems too.

University (DSU) was created in Bangalore, in the year 2014, as a Private University sponsored by Mahatma Gandhi Vidya Peetha Trust in the State of Karnataka by an act of 2014, to address the challenges being posed by new paradigms in education.

DSU is driving innovation in higher education sphere to consciously address the issues of mismatch between graduate skills and jobs available; reduced return on investment for students; higher cost of the degree and inhibition of students for Entrepreneurship, which are in fact the issues plaguing the higher education across world, India in particular.

DSU has been created with a mission to promote and foster innovation, creativity and scholarly pursuits among its students and faculty members. The graduates of the University have the domain and unique leadership qualities to solve problems at local, national and global levels and are trained to be lifelong learners. DSU has School of Engineering, School of Basic & Applied Sciences, School of Health Sciences,

DSU has ensured that the programmes and curriculum are current, relevant and outcome based by reviewing curriculum on an annual basis by involving academics and industry champions from across industry sectors. The Schools have adopted modern pedagogical methods like project based learning, problem/simulation based learning, blending online courses into its curriculum and experiential learning


methods. To achieve experiential learning and for students to access industry, DSU has developed partnership with Industry clusters and has created DERBI- Dayananda Sagar Entrepreneur Research and Business Incubation, which is supporting more than 25 start-ups at a given point of time. The University is focussing on setting higher targets for students and faculty to achieve so that the students are trained on higher level understanding and skills to create opportunities to work with tier-1 companies and foreign placements. The University is continuously investing on newer tools and laboratories, and faculty development programs to handle the ever changing skill needs. The University is contemplating on setting up endowments to subsidise student’s higher education costs. The University is also contemplating to bring in the concept”earn while learn” ideas in the system. The University’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship cell has created an ecosystem to motivate a significant number of students to take up entrepreneurial route and a number of champion faculty members are identified to continuouslywork on new and feasible ideas to support entrepreneurship amongst their students. DSU has collaboration or symbiotic partnership with IBM, Bosch, GEHealthcare, Analog Devices, VMware, Autodesk and Dassault Systems to support innovation. DSU has involved a number of faculty from International Universities to train DSU faculty on curriculum development and modern pedagogy. In the meantime, the University management has been working towards developing teams of faculty members and students for carrying out transformational research. Another hall mark of the University is Lifelong Learning. Professional and Skill Development Centre (LL- PSDC) - offers programmes for practicing engineers and managers to upgrade their qualifications and develop new skills. A large number of skill development programmes have been initiated to address the skill levels of

smart and green and will have all amenities of International quality for students,thusenabling unique student experience and study programmes of high educational value with unmatched quality. The management of DSU wishes every faculty involvement or dedication in building of the University and must narrate an inspirational story for generations to come! Write up by S.R. Shankapal S.R. Shankapal employees in the industries.PSDC interacts with industry on faculty consultancy. In addition, DSU executes a targeted number of socially relevant outreach activities involving students on annual basis. In this era of disruptive technologies, DSU is aspiring to be Numero Unoinnovation led research university in this part of the world, and has created an eco-system on campus that seamlessly integrates industry champions-facultystudentsadministration and management, so that there is sea of vigour, innovation, creativity flowing on campus to remain relevant and current in today’s higher education scene. Some of the additional features of the University are, Well qualified experienced faculty, study abroad programme for global exposure, students clubs to develop transferable skills and an active training and placement centre to assist students for placements, hostel accommodation, transport facility, student competitions, distinguished lectures to name a few. The University faculty and students publish a quarterly newsletter, an annual magazine and a bi-annual scientific journal. An efficient egovernance system integrates all the University activities which is accessed by every member of the University.

SCOOTER RENTAL STARTUP VOGO IN TALKS TO RAISE $40 MILLION: REPORT Ola-backed scooter rental startup Vogo is reportedly in talks to raise $40 million in equity funding led by investment firm Lightstone Aspada, along with South Korea's Mirae Asset Management. Earlier, reports claimed that Vogo was seeking $50 million funding from Goldman Sachs. However, the deal fell through after an internal restructuring of Goldman Sachs' private equity and investment team.

NASEERUDDIN, SHABANA OPPOSE MUSLIMS CHALLENGING SC'S AYODHYA VERDICT Hundred renowned Muslim personalities including Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi have opposed the decision by All India Muslim Personal Law Board to file a review petition challenging Supreme Court's Ayodhya verdict. "While agreeing that the court order is judicially flawed, we strongly believe that keeping the Ayodhya dispute alive will harm, and not help, Indian Muslims," they said.

A world class campus with an area of 130 acres will be ready to house the University from its present location by 2020-21.The new infrastructure will be able to accommodate more than 25000 students in a unitary campus. The campus will be multi-cultural, digital, SEASONAL MAGAZINE



esearchers have found an aquatic environment on the Earth with a complete absence of any forms of life, an advance that may lead to an improved understanding of the limits of habitability. The study, published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, revealed that any form of microbial life was absent in the hot, saline, hyper acid ponds of the Dallol geothermal field in Ethiopia. The researchers, including those from the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT), said Dallol's landscape extends over a volcanic crater full of salt, constantly releasing toxic gases with water boiling in the midst of the intense hydrothermal activity. Dallol is a cinder cone volcano in the Danakil Depression located near Erta Ale volcano. It is a boiling cauldron of burning salts, sulfuric acid and volcanic rock.



alkaline) — even hitting the negative mark. Earlier studies had pointed out that certain microorganisms can develop in this multi-extreme environment and researchers presented the place as an example of the limits of conditions that can support life. The researchers said the place was even proposed as a terrestrial analogue of early Mars. "After analyzing many more samples than in previous works, with adequate controls so as not to contaminate them and a well-calibrated methodology, we have verified that there's no microbial life in these salty, hot and hyper acid pools or in the adjacent magnesium-rich brine lakes," said study co-author Purificacion Lopez Garcia from FECYT.

They said it is one of the most torrid environments on the planet with daily temperatures even in winter exceeding 45 degrees Celsius.

The researchers found a great diversity of a type of primitive salt-loving microorganisms in the desert, and the saline canyons around the hydrothermal site but not in the hyper acid and hypersaline pools, nor in the Black and Yellow lakes of Dallol which are rich in magnesium.

The landscape, the researchers said, had abundant hypersaline and hyper acid pools, with pH - which is measured on a scale from 0 (very acidic) to 14 (very

"And all this despite the fact that microbial dispersion in this area, due to the wind and to human visitors, is intense," Lopez Garcia said.



In a devastating turn of events, a little lick from his dog proved fatal for a 63year-old man, who died after catching a rare infection from his pet’s saliva. According to news reports, the pet owner was admitted in the hospital after he complained of flu-like symptoms including high fever and muscle aches for three days. The case study is mentioned in the European Journal of Case Reports in Internal Medicine. The man’s condition got significantly worse as he started facing difficulty in breathing and developed painful blisters on his face, excruciating pain and unexplained bruises on his legs. Furthermore, he was diagnosed with severe sepsis as his organs began to fail and he suffered from brain damage. Ultimately, his skin started to rot away and his liver started shutting down, leading to a cardiac arrest. The cause behind this deadly infection was Capnocytophaga canimorsus, a type of bacteria which can be found in the

animal saliva. This fatal bacteria can be spread through bites, scratches or even licks of household cats and dogs. While most people who come in contact with the Capnocytophaga, bacteria do not fall ill, one can never be too careful. It is also fatal in around 28 to 31 per cent of cases If you feel feverish or develop flu-like symptoms and have a pet at home, pay close attention to whether the symptoms


anks should closely monitor their loans under the Mudra category as there are concerns of growing non-performing assets (NPAs) in this segment, said MK Jain, deputy governor, Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Speaking at the Sidbi National Microfinance Congress 2019 recently, Jain said banks need to focus on repayment capacity at the appraisal stage and monitor the loans through the lifecycle much more closely. "Mudra is a case in point. While such a massive push would have lifted many beneficiaries out of poverty, there has been some concerns at the growing level of loan performing assets among these borrowers," said Jain.

are getting more complicated. The team, led by Dr Naomi Mader, wrote: 'Pet owners with flu-like symptoms should urgently seek medical advice when their symptoms exceed those of a simple viral infection, which in this case were breathing problems and rash. Pet owners - especially dog-lovers - often treat their furry family members like their own babies. From talking, hugging to even kissing them, most people love to pamper their four-legged friends. However, before you let your dog lick you in affection, it is important to understand that there are more than 700 different types of bacteria in a dog's mouth. Although it is highly unlikely, your dog’s disease-carrying saliva can also cause a fatal infection. The risk factor goes up for pregnant women, elderlies, babies and those with a weak immune system. It is especially important that you steer clear of your pooch’s saliva if you have a wound or a broken skin, as it can be easily absorbed through the open sores.

Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana (PMMY) was launched in April 2015 for providing loans up to ? 10 lakh to noncorporate, non-farm small/micro enterprises. These advances are classified as Mudra loans and given by commercial banks, regional rural banks (RRBs), small finance banks, cooperative banks, micro finance institutions (MFIs) and NBFCs. Data showed that non-performing assets ratio or bad loans as a percentage of MUDRA loans were at 2.68% in 201819, up 16 basis points from 2.52% in the previous year. Interestingly, MUDRA loan NPAs were at 2.89% in 2016-17. Of the 182.60 million MUDRA loans sanctioned, 3.63 million accounts defaulted as on 31 March. "The application of technology in finance has its own share of risks and challenges for regulators and supervisors. Early recognition of these risks and initiating action to mitigate the related regulatory and supervisory challenges is key to harnessing the full potential of these developments," he said. Similarly, he said, systemic risk may

arise from unsustainable credit growth, increased interconnectedness and financial risk manifested by lower profitability, with data confidentiality and consumer protection other major areas that need to be addressed. "Microfinance institutions must broaden their client outreach to reduce the concentration risk in their own interest and to serve a wider clientele base. From a financial inclusion perspective they should also critically review their operations so other regions don't remain underserved," he said. Jain also said some leading ecommerce companies have tied up with banks and non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) to offer working capital loans to their suppliers at competitive terms, most of whom are micro and small enterprises. He added that the introduction of goods and services tax (GST) has helped the informal economy in a significant manner. "As a result of much improved digital footprint, micro and small enterprises have become attractive clients for banks and NBFCs and microfinance institutions, thereby reducing their dependence on informal source of funds. The cost of credit for the micro and small enterprises will also decrease meaningfully as lending will shift from collateral based lending to cash flow based lending," said Jain. SEASONAL MAGAZINE




On first looks, LIC Housing Finance too is not an exception to the plight Housing Finance Companies (HFCs) find themselves in, since the past one year. To start with, the recapitalization of public sector banks had started provided heightened competition to HFCs. And as the interest rates went southward, banks came to command a distinct edge in the market, especially in attracting the most secure kind of salaried homebuyers. Then came the IL&FS crisis, that soon became a contagion affecting almost all NBFCs, and hence by definition the HFCs too which is basically a kind of non-banking finance company. Making matters even more worse, a major housing finance company itself – Dewan Housing Finance – buckled, and ever since then, HFCs have garnered both necessary and unnecessary attention from various regulators as well as market participants some of whom have also taken up speculating on their downfall. The fundamental performance of many HFCs too took a hit, compounding the problems. But here is where a SEASONAL MAGAZINE


leading housing finance major like LIC Housing Finance shows its strength. It has shown excellent growth in its topline and loan book during FY’19, and reasonable growth in its bottomline too. And this home loan lender promoted by life insurance behemoth LIC of India has put up similar growth in revenue, loan book and profits during this fiscal’s first two quarters too. Then why is LIC Housing Finance trading near its 52-Week Low? The reason is more sectoral than company specific. There is an acute cash crunch in the NBFC market post the IL&FS and DHFL crises, which is making it difficult for NBFCs to raise further funds from the market to repay maturing debt. HFCs are especially hard hit as the quantum of their funds are among the highest due to they funding houses, rather than cars or bikes or home appliances. Making matters tougher, the revised norms of the National Housing Bank (NHB) has spiked the funding requirements of HFCs. LIC Housing Finance has to repay Rs 28,384 crore of debt maturing

till December 31, 2019. While the figure is daunting, the good news is that LIC Housing Finance has risen up to the challenge. It has already raised over Rs 19,000 crore through commercial papers (CPs) and non-convertible debentures (NCDs) in the current financial year. The HFC’s ability to raise funds is strong, with Rs 10,610 crore raised through CPs and Rs 8,754 crore raised though the NCD route at competitive rates. This shows the company’s ability to raise additional capital to meet the revised norms of NHB. To ward of any potential crisis, LIC Housing also has several other avenues. It has unutilised funding lines from banks for Rs 9,435 crore, cash and liquid balances of Rs 1,149 crore, book overdraft of Rs 2,500 crore, and it can raise additional funding of up to 15 per cent of its net worth and longterm borrowings from LIC. Unlike many other HFCs, the company can also raise funding through the securitisation route, as a high percentage of its loan portfolio (around 76%) is made up of retail home loans and that too the secure salaried segment. The sectoral average for HFCs is only 62%, making them less attractive securitization targets for banks. The asset quality of its non-home-loans is also one of its strengths, as even in this segment, retail products like Loan Against Property (LAP) dominates with 17% of overall book and only 7% belonging to wholesale loans like developer loans. It is said that the best stock market investments are made when good companies go through bad times, and the current situation of LIC Housing Finance seems fit for this description. It is performing fundamentally and it is geared up to any potential challenges, yet the market situation is dictating its stock prices for now. The company has recently received another advantage when its Chief Operating Officer Siddhartha Mohanty was elevated to be its Chief Executive Officer, instead of bringing in a senior leader from parent LIC as was customary. There are few leaders in both companies now who are as experienced as Mohanty to handle LIC Housing Finance’s challenges and objectives for now.

Profile for John Antony

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