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News in Brief

  VLCC enters men’s grooming segment
The fact that men’s grooming is a booming industry has been further strengthened with VLCC’s entry into men’s products. With the launch of various products like face wash, shaving gel and moisturiser, VLCC plans to touch the `100 crore revenue mark in three years.
The company said that it aims to tap 10% market share of the men’s grooming category in three years, as this market in India is expected to grow at a CAGR of over 17% through 2020.
 

Electric vehicles can save fuel cost by `40,000 annually
Using electric vehicles fully powered by renewable energy is expected to save fuel costs to the tune of `40,000 annually. This is four times more than earlier estimates.
According to a report by Bengaluru-based research firm Equitorials, cost of solar and wind energy has decreased significantly, and is far lower than coal-based power. This will enable the transition to all electric vehicles on Indian roads by 2030. Meanwhile, power minister R.K. Singh has said that his ministry will soon come out with regulations to promote e-mobility in India.

Online retail driving commercial vehicle sales
E-commerce companies are appearing to be a major driver for the commercial vehicle segment. This is after online sellers and logistics companies are consolidating warehousing solutions and opting for hub-and-spoke model under the unified GST regime. India’s largest commercial vehicle maker Tata Motors’s sales to ecommerce transporters have increased 20% in the first eight months of the fiscal year.
The logistics sector for the ecommerce industry is expected to grow to about `14,000 crore by 2020. Currently, online retailers now deliver to 12,500-15,000 pin codes out of nearly 100,000 pin codes in the country.

Housing market looking up
Property markets are looking up, with sales registering the best performance in five quarters. This is being attributed to the effects demonetisation being ironed away, as 22 of the top 30 markets either hovered around their five-quarter best or bettered their previous peaks. The implementation of the Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Act or RERA too is expected to help future movement of inventory smoother. Besides affordable pricing, improving consumer confidence due to implementation of RERA and various other government incentives for low-income group housing have worked in favour of smaller cities.

2 lakh jobs expected due to automation
Nearly two lakh Robotic Process Automation (RPA)-led jobs are expected to be generated in the country by 2021. According to Daniel Dines, CEO and Co-Founder of UiPath, a Bangaluru-based software company, India is poised to become a powerhouse for RPA, because of its growing talent pool and cost advantage.
RPA has been gaining traction as a way of automating repetitive, tedious tasks to handle higher-value analysis and decision making.

Hospitality sector expects higher revenues, profits in 2018
The hospitality sector is expected to perform better in 2018 in terms of revenues and profit margins than last year. With blips such as the demonetisation effect and the GST rollout affecting the industry, 2018 promises to be better given that most of such issues have been ironed out. Experts predict the upturn based on strong growth rates in foreign tourist arrivals and airline passenger movement.

Vodafone-Idea merger in final leg of approvals
Idea Cellular has said that the talks for a merger with Vodafone is in the final leg of regulatory approvals. The deal is expected to be complete in the first half of 2018. Both companies have already received approval for the proposed combination from the Competition Commission of India, SEBI & stock exchanges and recently from National Company Law Tribunal.

Newspapers add 110mn new readers in 3 years
In contrast to the global trend, the Indian print media has registered a steady growth, with total readership shooting up by 110 million, or an impressive 39%, in the last three years. According to the latest report of the Indian Readership Survey, the total readership of the dailies now stands at 407 million, compared to 295 million in the last IRS report released in 2014. Rural India has contributed 70 million of these new readers, while the urban markets have added 40 million readers. The total readership of English newspapers (28 million) is now fourth highest in the country, after Hindi (176 million), Tamil and Marathi (34 million each) dailies.

TCS, Infosys join global drive for tech reskilling
Indian IT giants TCS and Infosys have joined a global drive for tech reskilling of one million workers in the first ever such IT industry initiative. Other partners in the initiative include Accenture, CA Technologies, Cisco, Cognizant, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Pegasystems, PwC, Salesforce and SAP.
According to a World Economic Forum report on workforce reskilling, one in four adults reported a mismatch between the skills they have and the skills they need for their current job. The IT Industry Skills Initiative is ostensibly to meet this skills gap challenge and address job displacement.

89% Indian respondents affected by frauds
Over 89% of executives in India have reported that their companies were victim to at least one instance of fraud over the past 12 months, up from 68% in 2016, the Kroll Annual Fraud and Risk Report has revealed. India witnessed the highest incidence of fraud globally across three categories — theft of physical asset or stock (40%), IP theft, piracy or counterfeiting (36%) and corruption and bribery (31%). The report revealed that most common perpetrators of fraud incidents in India over the past 12 months were joint venture partners, with 45% respondents naming them as the primary perpetrators. Junior employees were the second most common perpetrators causing fraud incidents (43% respondents).

Reliance Jio topples Samsung from feature phone top spot
Reliance’s JioPhone has overtaken Samsung to become the top feature phone brand in the quarter to December by shipments. This is the first time that it has overthrown segment leader Samsung, according to a report by Counterpoint Research. Reliance Retai’s JioPhone had a 27% share of the segment of the market that comprises devices typically under `2,000. Samsung followed with a 17% share, with Micromax coming in third.
Overall feature phone shipments increased by 51% on-year and a massive 32% sequentially, when compared to the 10-12% and 6-7% that the industry generally ships.

Bullet train to be ready by 2023?
India’s first high-speed rail project between Mumbai and Ahmedabad should be completed by 2023. In September last year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had laid the foundation of the high-speed rail project, commonly known as Bullet Train project, between Mumbai and Ahmedabad.

Lower rise in banks reporting NPAs
Around 58% of banks have reported a rise in non-performing assets (NPAs) in July-December last year, having reduced significantly from 80%. According to a report by the Ficci-IBA, this reduction gives a strong indication of stability in credit environment. The survey drew responses from 19 public sector, private and foreign banks representing 59 per cent of the banking industry by asset size. However, only 28% banks reported a rise in the number of requests for restructuring of loans, as compared to 40% in the previous round.
Sci-fi author Ursula Le Guin passes away
Bestselling science fiction writer Ursula Le Guin has passed away in Oregon. She was 88. The award-winning science fiction and fantasy writer explored feminist themes, and her best known work was the Earthsea series. Le Guin won an honorary National Book Award in 2014, and was known for her vocal opposition to what she called “letting profit define what is considered good literature”.
Despite being a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1997, a rare achievement for a science fiction-fantasy writer, Le Guin often criticized the “commercial machinery of bestsellerdom and prizedom.” She gained fame with her novel The Left Hand of Darkness, which won the Hugo and Nebula awards – both top science fiction prizes – and conjures a radical change in gender roles well before the rise of the transgender community.

US government shut down for three days
The US government was shut down for three days due to a failure to pass legislation to fund government operations and agencies. This stemmed from disputes over the extension of status of persons affected by the immigration policy, as well as a dispute over whether funding should be allocated towards building a Mexico-US border wall, a keystone policy during Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. During the shutdown, all government systems were ceased to function, except for essential and emergency services.
The shutdown ended after Republicans and Democrats voted for a temporary funding bill, with the Democratic leadership agreeing to back the bill after accepting promises from Republicans for a debate later on the future of young illegal immigrants.

Qualcomm fined $1.23bn for Apple payment
US chipmaker Qualcomm has been fined $1.23 billion or roughly `7,800 crore by EU antitrust regulators for paying Apple to only use Qualcomm chips, rather than those made by rivals such as Intel. The fine represents 4.9% of Qualcomm’s 2017 turnover. Qualcomm shares fell as much as 5& in pre-market trading. According to an EU official, Qualcomm’s move meant that no rival could effectively challenge Qualcomm in this market, no matter how good their products were. The investigation, launched in 2015, covered the period from 2011 to 2016 and took into account Qualcomm’s market dominance in LTE baseband chipsets. There will be no repercussions for Apple in the case.

Lower rise in banks reporting NPAs
Around 58% of banks have reported a rise in non-performing assets (NPAs) in July-December last year, having reduced significantly from 80%. According to a report by the Ficci-IBA, this reduction gives a strong indication of stability in credit environment. The survey drew responses from 19 public sector, private and foreign banks representing 59 per cent of the banking industry by asset size. However, only 28% banks reported a rise in the number of requests for restructuring of loans, as compared to 40% in the previous round.

Sci-fi author Ursula Le Guin passes away
Bestselling science fiction writer Ursula Le Guin has passed away in Oregon. She was 88. The award-winning science fiction and fantasy writer explored feminist themes, and her best known work was the Earthsea series. Le Guin won an honorary National Book Award in 2014, and was known for her vocal opposition to what she called “letting profit define what is considered good literature”.
Despite being a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1997, a rare achievement for a science fiction-fantasy writer, Le Guin often criticized the “commercial machinery of bestsellerdom and prizedom.” She gained fame with her novel The Left Hand of Darkness, which won the Hugo and Nebula awards – both top science fiction prizes – and conjures a radical change in gender roles well before the rise of the transgender community.

US government shut down for three days
The US government was shut down for three days due to a failure to pass legislation to fund government operations and agencies. This stemmed from disputes over the extension of status of persons affected by the immigration policy, as well as a dispute over whether funding should be allocated towards building a Mexico-US border wall, a keystone policy during Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. During the shutdown, all government systems were ceased to function, except for essential and emergency services.
The shutdown ended after Republicans and Democrats voted for a temporary funding bill, with the Democratic leadership agreeing to back the bill after accepting promises from Republicans for a debate later on the future of young illegal immigrants.

Maruti Suzuki to showcase largest display at Expo
India’s largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki will showcase over 18 vehicle models at the Auto Expo 2018 in Greater Noida, which is the largest vehicle display by the company. With the display, Maruti Suzuki intends to send a strong message around its intent, which is built around the theme of Transformation. The company is looking to build concepts for cleaner technology and future compact vehicle design.
Included in Maruti Suzuki’s line-up is a concept electric vehicle, that reinforces the company’s commitment to launch an electric vehicle in India in 2020, as well as a working model of a next generation hybrid vehicle aimed at bringing down emissions and reducing dependence on fossil fuels.

2017 second hottest year on record: NASA
International space agency NASA has declared 2017 as the second warmest year on record since the late 1800s when climate records were first started, after 2016. Without the warming influences of El Niño, 2017 is the hottest year on record, the space agency said in a report.
NASA’s study, undertaken jointly with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, incorporated data from 6,300 weather stations from around the world. The average global temperatures in 2017 were found to be 0.90 degrees Celsius warmer than the mean 1951 to 1980 levels.

Petrol, diesel prices touch record highs
Petrol and diesel prices kept touched record highs in January in the national capital and other metros. Petrol was sold at `72.43 per litre in Delhi, the highest in three years. It cost `72.51 on August 2014, according to data from Indian Oil Corp.
In Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai, petrol was sold at `75.13, `80.30 and `75.12 per litre respectively, also at over three-year high levels. The previous highs were `75.46 (Kolkata, October 2014), `80.60 (Mumbai, August 2014) and `75.78 per litre (Chennai, August 2014).
Similarly, diesel prices, which have been touching new levels, shot up across all major cities. In Delhi, diesel was sold `63.38 per litre. In Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai, prices touched cost `66.04, `67.50 and `66.84 a litre respectively.

India in world’s bottom 5 countries in environmental health

India has been ranked as one of the bottom five countries worldwide in terms of environmental performance, slipping from 141st place in the last ranking in 2016 to 177 among 180 countries this year. The latest global Environmental Performance Index (EPI) was released by Yale University and Columbia University in collaboration with the World Economic Forum.  The new report highlighted air pollution as a leading threat. Environmental health also includes two other components of water and sanitation and exposure to heavy metals.