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Maruti Suzuki has introduced automatic (CVT) option in the top-end Alpha trim of its premium hatchback Baleno, priced at Rs 8.34 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)


The company already sells Delta and Zeta variants of the model with continuously variable transmission (CVT)


With this launch, customers looking to buy an automatic Baleno will get hi-end features including the smartphone linkage display audio that works with Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink, a company official said


Since its launch in October 2015, the company has sold over 2 lakh units of Baleno. The vehicle crossed the 1 lakh unit sales milestone in less than a year


In March this year, Maruti had also launched the Baleno RS+ , a sporty version of the Baleno, marking its entry in the high-performance segment


Currently, Baleno is being exported to over 100 countries and is the first car from MSI being shipped to Japan


Over 68,000 units of the hatchback have been exported across the world including Japan, Australia, New Zealand and several parts of Europe and Latin America.MSI has been trying to introduce models with various kind of automatic technologies in the domestic market


For the company, the contribution of two pedal technology has increased from 6 per cent in 2014-15 to 11 per cent in 2016- 17


The company aims to double the two-pedal contribution from the current levels of around 1.5 lakh units to 3 lakh units mark by 2020


MSI sells models like Celerio, Wagon R, Alto K-10, Ignis and Dzire with auto gear shift technology, two variants of Baleno with CVT and Ciaz and Ertiga with automatic (AT) transmissions.


Source:The Times of India

India is capable of producing 300 million tonnes of steel by 2030, as envisaged in the National Steel Policy 2017, but many challenges have to be overcome on the path to the target, according to experts in the sector. At present, India produces 90 mt of steel per annum.


They were speaking at the one-day seminar on success and survival strategies in the steel sector organised here on Friday by the magazine, Steel and Metallurgy. Magazine editor Nirmalya Mukherjee presided over the seminar.


N.K. Nanda, the Director (Technical) of the National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC), the chief guest, said the main challenge was to keep input costs in steel production down and maintain high quality for the industry to be competitive.


He said, "As far as coking coal is concerned, we have little choice as it has to be imported from other countries, but we have sufficient reserves of iron ore. But the challenge is to produce ore in a cost-effective manner and supply it to the steel industry. The landed cost of ore has to be reasonable for the industry to be competitive."


He said captive mining of ore may not be of much use to the steel companies in the present scenario, "as iron ore mines are being auctioned at high prices."


A.S. Firoz, an economist specialising in the sector, said backward integration may not be of much use to the steel companies at present. Bad investment decisions are plaguing the sector, he added.


P.L. Haranadh, the Deputy Chairman of the Visakhaptnam Port, said logistics cost would have to be brought down drastically to make the steel industry competitive. "For that to happen, we have to rely more on inland waterways and coastal shipping and less on the railways and roads," he said.


S.K. Rai, the technical director of M.N. Dastur & Co Ltd, said Visakhapatnam Steel Plant should aim at 20 mt per annum by 2030 from the present level of 6.3 mt.


D.N. Rao, the Director (Operations) of RINL, said marketing, input costs and quality control were the three key factors in steel production. The RINL had appointed 300 rural dealers to sell steel in villages.


Sushim Banerjee, the Director-General of the Institute for Steel Development and Growth, said creating demand for steel, especially in rural areas, was as important as capacity augmentation to reach the target by 2030.


N.S. Rao, a former director in the RINL and currently a professor of metallurgy in Andhra University, said China takes 29 months to build a blast furnace and a private company in India roughly 40 months. "It has taken nearly 70 months for the RINL to build and commission the third blast furnace. We have to speed up our processes. The target of 300 million tonnes is very difficult, but not impossible," he added.


Source: Business Line

Agriculture experts have urged the government to increase focus on trebling India’s share in agri exports to double farmers’ income by 2022.


A report prepared by a city based not-for-profit organisation Center for Environment and Agriculture (Centegro) emphasises the need to raise India’s share in global agri exports to increase farmers’ income automatically. The report was prepared in association with experts from Tata Strategic Management Group and released by Union Minister Nitin Gadkari in presence of Union Minister of State (Agriculture) Purshottam Rupala and Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture chairman Hukumdev Yadav.


The World Trade Organisation (WTO) estimates global export in agricultural products at over $1,500 billion annually of which India’s share stands at less than $35 billion. The report follows the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision to double farmers’ income by 2022.


“In order to double farmers’ income, our focus should shift from production to increasing consumption within and outside the country. In order to bring price stability in domestic market, we must access foreign markets. One of the ways to double farmers’ income is to increase our agricultural exports to over $100 billion by 2022,” said S Ganesan – Advisor, Crop Care Federation of India (CCFI).


Increasing India’s international presence is a key to mitigating problems arising from production glut. Indian farming is backward, un-enterprising, distressed, debt-ridden and a drag on economic resources what millions tend to believe.


India ranks second globally in agricultural production ($367 billion in 2014) whereas in services and manufacturing sectors India’s position stands at 11th and 12th respectively. Agriculture’s contribution to India’s economy extends beyond the rural economy and encompasses many activities in manufacturing and services sector. Export surplus from the country’s agricultural trade is higher than the corresponding figure achieved by the manufacturing sector.


“Traditionally used - yield per acre for crops is an unfair measure of Indian farm productivity. Globally, India is the largest producer of milk, second largest in fruits, vegetables and fish; and third largest in egg production in the world. This is all due to small and marginal farmers who deploy family labour and engage in intensive multi cropping all year round. They also manage livestock and poultry efficiently using agriculture waste as animal feed and to produce manure


Source: Business Standard

India’s youngest telecom operator Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. has launched a 4G-enabled feature phone as it looks to tap a market that contributes two-thirds of the handset sales in the country


The JioPhone, essentially a basic phone with some capabilities of a smartphone, will be “effectively free”, said Chairman Mukesh Ambani at the 40th annual general meeting of its parent Reliance Industries Ltd. Effectively free, because a customer would have to pay Rs 1,500 upfront as a security deposit which will be refunded after three years on returning the phone. “Net-net, you pay nothing for the JioPhone,” Ambani said


The move is driven by Reliance Jio’s need to increase its subscriber base, which according to brokerage CLSA, has hit the “4G device hurdle”. The Ambani-backed operator, with its free services, had seen the number of customers grow to 11.74 crore in May, but additions have slowed down since it started paid operations in April, after six months of free services


“The JioPhone should support mass market adoption of 4G data,” said UBS Research in a report. India has the second highest number of internet users in the world, but penetration is still low as they are just 27 percent of the population, according to World Bank. Almost 80 percent of those use mobile for data consumption, showed a report by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Networking giant Cisco has forecast internet users in India to more than double in the next four years.Jio offers reprieve to over 50 crore “data-deprived mobile feature phone users” in India, Ambani said, adding it’s part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India initiative


Feature phones still outsell smartphones in India. Nearly 65 percent of India’s handsets are feature phones with annual sales of around 13.6 crore devices compared to 11.3 crore yearly smartphone sales, CLSA said in a report in July. Reliance estimates around 50 crore feature phones in India


Also Read: Reliance Industries' Triple Pla


Reliance’s JioPhone isn’t a conventional feature phone though. It will support 4G services, including Jio’s free voice calling, along with some advanced features like near-field communication, voice commands, web browsing and pre-loaded Jio applications. More interestingly, Ambani said that the phone is capable of casting content on all types of television sets through a cable. It will feature a distress button too for emergency.Ambani has also promised a software upgrade which will allow user to connect to their bank accounts, Jan Dhan accounts and UPI accounts with the phone


It is not clear what the exact specifications of the phone are or who will be manufacturing it. Taiwan’s Foxconn, the maker of Apple’s iPhone, will be manufacturing the JioPhone, Bloomberg reported citing sources who requested anonymity, adding that Reliance Jio may also tie up with Taiwan’s Wistron Corp


The phones will be available for beta testing from August 15 and for pre-booking for August 24, Ambani said. It will be available for sale on a ‘first come, first served’ basis from September. The operator will look to make 50 lakh phones available every week, and plans to manufacture all JioPhones in India from 2018.Jio is offering a Rs 153 per month plan for JioPhone buyers, which will offer them the usual free calling, access to Jio apps, along with 500 MB of data every day. All other tariff packs by Reliance Jio will also be available for the JioPhone


It has also unveiled two “sachet” plans that offer a week’s service for Rs 53 and Rs 23 for two-days


Jio may not be able to penetrate the mass market as the monthly tariff and the initial deposit is still “steep for low income consumers”, said Bank of America Merrill Lynch in a report. The brokerage said the plans would still hurt smaller telecom operators which would lead to faster consolidation in the market


CLSA estimates that about 30 percent of feature phone smartphones generate an average revenue per user of Rs 150-180. The other 70 percent clock Rs 50 or lower per user


In spite of the subsidised offerings, the net impact on Jio's value will be lower as a larger subscriber base would bring annual savings of around Rs 8,400 crore (assuming it adds 10 crore users through JioPhone) in interconnection charges, the brokerage said


It had earlier said that Reliance Jio requires around 11 crore active subscribers and an average revenue per user of Rs 300 every month to break even, after pumping in investments to the tune of Rs 1.9 lakh crore for improving infrastructure


CLSA expects the telecom sector’s revenue to fall 7 percent year-on-year in FY18 led by “promotions and retaliatory tariffs”, and a rebound is likely only in FY19 when Reliance Jio starts charging customers fully


Unique Offering


The JioPhone will stack up against existing feature phones under the Rs 1,500 bracket like Lava Arc Selfie, Itel it5060, Ziox Star Victa and HMD Global's Nokia 105 in India


"Usually, to buy a 4G enabled phone you'd have to spend over Rs 3,000", Anis Sayyed, a local mobile handset retailer told BloombergQuint. "You cannot download applications on feature phones that we have in the range of Rs 1,500, but the JioPhone comes with pre-loaded ones", he added


While all the phones have dual sim support, and expandable memory, the JioPhone is the only one which supports 4G services. Except for the Nokia 105, all other phones are capable of web browsing.


Source: Bloomberg Quint

2017 marks 25 years of ASEAN–India partnership. In 1992, India joined ASEAN as a sectoral partner, at a time when India was a relatively inward-looking economy. Today there are 30 dialogue mechanisms between India and ASEAN, including a summit and seven ministerial meetings in a wide range of sectors. In the last two years, the president, vice president and prime minister of India have visited nine out of 10 ASEAN countries. Such is the high order of importance that India attaches to ASEAN today.The Free Trade Agreement (FTA) implemented between ASEAN and India in 2010, and the services, trade and investment agreement in 2015, both represent major achievements in ASEAN–India integration. India completed its tariff liberalisation obligations in December 2016, barring those against the Philippines. Investment flows have been growing consistently and have contributed to the success of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ program. India is also a partner of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which is a comprehensive free trade agreement being negotiated between the 10 ASEAN members and ASEAN’s six FTA partners.


After almost two years of slow growth, ASEAN–India trade is now back on track, with Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore being India’s top three trade partners in ASEAN. Total trade increased to US$70 billion in 2016–17, from US$65 billion in 2015–16. During this period, India’s exports to ASEAN increased to US$30 billion from US$25 billion. While traditional import sources are yet to stabilise, India is gaining industrial, technological and digital production linkages with Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore.


Connectivity is a matter of strategic priority for both India and the ASEAN countries, as improved connectivity is a must for facilitating cross-regional production networks. India has announced a line of credit worth US$1 billion to promote projects that support physical and digital connectivity with ASEAN, and a Project Development Fund with a corpus of US$77 million to develop manufacturing hubs in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. India contributes to three major cooperation funds with ASEAN, namely the ASEAN–India Fund, the ASEAN–India Science and Technology Development Fund and the ASEAN–India Green Fund.


In terms of infrastructure, India has made considerable progress in implementing the India–Myanmar–Thailand Trilateral Highway and the Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project. But issues related to maritime and air connectivity, and the possible extension of the Trilateral Highway to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, remain under discussion. The India–Myanmar–Thailand Motor Vehicle Agreement will play another critical role in realising seamless movement along roads linking India, Myanmar and Thailand. India is also working towards an early conclusion of the Agreement on Maritime Transport and opening negotiation of the Regional Air Services Arrangement between ASEAN and India.


But a mere signing of the FTA is not enough. Regional integration can only be successful if it unleashes new competition that lowers prices, introduces new technology and promotes productivity. At the same time, FTAs may give rise to negative effects, including a rise in poverty and inequality. These effects should be identified and appropriate measures should be taken to address them. Coordinated efforts are necessary to realise sustainable growth and development in India and Southeast Asia.


Several barriers in the way, including those related to business visas, non-tariff barriers to trade, inefficient customs procedures or worse, apparently legitimate trade defence by way of anti-dumping or countervailing measures. On the issue of how to make the ASEAN–India FTA itself as effective as possible, the sensitive goods lists should be minimised. Liberal rules of origin need to be negotiated between the two partners. The harmonisation of standards, customs procedures and cooperation in transport infrastructure is very important.


Mutual recognition agreements have to be signed in services trade sectors. India is yet to receive greater market access to services trade in ASEAN, even though ASEAN can utilise India’s IT and IT-enabled services, as well as education, health and tourism services in which India has global competitiveness. It would be worth undertaking a review of the ASEAN–India FTA to monitor problems and barriers relevant to both tariff and non-tariff measures. This liberalisation will contribute to strengthening the integration process even if all bilateral FTAs are eventually subsumed under RCEP.


Still, success will depend on how strongly ASEAN and India integrate with the world economy. Unless high external protection levels are dismantled across the board, regional tariff liberalisation at the ASEAN–India level (or for that matter within RCEP) could lead to substantial trade diversion, by pushing firms into less efficient production processes. As ASEAN celebrates its golden jubilee, and the silver anniversary of its partnership with India, the time is ripe for India to invest in a stronger economic partnership with ASEAN.


Source: East Asia Forum