Monday, 15 July 2019

Tamal Bandyopadhyay’s HDFC Bank 2.0 book narrates the Puri legacy.


Tamal Bandyopadhyay book Aditya Puri


Indian banking industry is not in the pink of health now but that’s largely the story of the government-owned banks. If we look at the private sector, barring a few odd banks which are not the best examples of corporate governance, over the last three decades, the industry has witnessed phenomenal growth with consumerism. The privitisation push in 1991 was a defining moment for the financial sector in India. What we have achieved today would not have been possible without India’s private sector banks like HDFC Bank. It is a child of economic liberalisation.

In the 1990’s, talking about banks as dinosaurs, Bill Gates of Microsoft famously said, “We need banking, but we don’t need banks anymore”. Three decades later, a bank is still relevant and will continue to do so if it’s willing to reinvent itself to be in sync with the changing milieu where it operates – by embracing digitalisation.

From a nimble start-up in 1995 to India’s most valuable banking brand, HDFC Bank has a made  gigantic strides into the world of digital banking under the leadership of Mr Aditya Puri. In a sector marred by controversies, Mr Puri has not just been the longest serving chairman of any bank globally but the face of a world class bank in India. Tamal Bandyopadhyay’s latest book “HDFC Bank 2.0: From Dawn to Digital” narrates this unique story of the  transformation of India’s most valued lender from a life cycle bank to a lifestyle bank. 

For starters, let me remind you that this book is not a sponsored project. It chronicles the HDFC Bank story warts and all. While highlighting the bank’s unique features, Tamal also criticises the unforgivable mistakes done by HDFC Bank during this journey through his unparalleled  writing skills. 

One of the key reasons why Indian banks were largely unaffected  during the Global Financial Crisis of 2009 was the fact that they were truly connected with their roots. During that  period, Mr Puri had guided HDFC Bank to add branches and ATM network in tier three cities and rural areas. The expansion drive created the credit card, auto and home loan boom. The book describes how  a bank reaching out to person for a loan – and not  the other way round - creates a new sense of trust in the aspirational class of India.

The era of Digital Disruption

Mr Puri believes that digitalisation and disruption are intertwined. Whenever there’s change, people tend to panic but if handled correctly, it can open up new beginnings. HDFC Bank saw this transformation ahead of others. During his Silicon Valley trip in 2014, Mr Puri saw how the fintech companies – the new kids on the  tech block – were venturing into fund transfers, mobile banking and shopping. They could build products that could give instant loan with slick user interface on their phones. Home grown fintech innovations like the United Payments Interface (UPI) were set to transform the way we Indians bank.

“Why don’t we disrupt ourselves instead of waiting to be disrupted by fintech companies? Why can’t we give a loan in 10 seconds? Why can’t we invent something to transfer money in just a click? HDFC Bank aspires to become a financial marketplace. It wants to be India’s Alibaba or Netflix when it comes to banking”. - Mr Aditya Puri, Chairman & Managing Director, HDFC Bank.

HDFC Bank first tied up with Chillr, an app which sends money over the phone using a UPI technology. A BharatQR code-based payments service named PayZapp is popular in many stores. The bank has also used AI for many applications like chatbots and social media interactions. Indigenously developed IRA robots have been deployed at several branches to solve customer queries. 

While adopting this technological shift, there were times when the bank failed on the customer front. For instance, the HDFC bank app crash in November 2018 became a hot topic in the media and  the bank was subjected to national outrage and ridicule. The book – “HDFC Bank 2.0: From Dawn to Digital” – clinically  chronicles the journey over the years.

About the book

Tamal Bandyopadhyay’s HDFC Bank 2.0: From Dawn to Digital is published by Jaico Publishing House. The book was launched by Rajnish Kumar, Chairman, State Bank of India at Nehru Centre, Mumbai. Aditya Puri, Managing Director, HDFC Bank Ltd  and many  luminaries in the financial services industry were present there. Tamal Bandyopadhyay is an author, columnist and keen watcher of banking and finance. His Banker’s Trust column, which now appears every Monday in Business Standard, is the most popular column on banking and finance with over half a million followers on the Linkedin platform.

“Tamal combines his financial knowledge, eye for detail, and an excellent storytelling style to create a vivid portrait of India’s most valued bank and its path to future” - Nandan Nilekani, Co-foundar & Chairman, Infosys & founding chairman of UIDAI, has written in his forward to the book.

HDFC Bank 2.0: From Dawn to Digital (ISBN: 978-93-88423-35-9) are now available at Crossword, Amazon, Flipkart and other leading book stores.

Friday, 12 July 2019

TVS launches India's first Ethanol based Motorcycle - Apache RTR 200 Fi Ei100 at Rs 1.2 lakhs.

Ethanol Bike In India


A #MakeInIndia products which runs on #MakeInIndia fuel.

TVS Motor Company, a reputed manufacturer of two-wheelers and three-wheelers in the world have created a benchmark in the industry by launching India’s first Ethanol based motorcycle – TVS Apache RTR 200 Fi E100. The motorcycle was launched by Shri. Nitin Jairam Gadkari, Hon’ble Minister for Road Transport and Highways of India & Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, Shri. Amitabh Kant, CEO of NITI Aayog, and Shri. Venu Srinivasan, Chairman, TVS Motor Company.

TVS Motor Company first showcased the TVS Apache RTR 200 4V Ethanol concept in Auto Expo 2018 held in Delhi. TVS Apache is the flagship brand of TVS Motor Company with over 3.5 million happy customers across the globe.

Commenting on this launch, Shri. Venu Srinivasan, Chairman, TVS Motor Company, said, “We are delighted to launch the TVS Apache RTR 200 Fi E100 in the presence of Hon’ble Minister for Road Transport & Highways of India; & Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Shri. Nitin Jairam Gadkari who has created a roadmap for the implementation of future mobility in the country.”

Shri. Srinivasan further added, “Today, the two-wheeler industry is looking at green and sustainable future mobility solutions spanning across electric, hybrid and alternate fuels. TVS Motor Company believes that Ethanol-based products are an important option for our customers. This is due to the easy compatibility in the transition to Ethanol and its sustained positive impact on the environment without compromising on performance and total cost of ownership. TVS Apache RTR 200 Fi E100 is a breakthrough in the two-wheeler space that will set the trend for a green future in India.”

Ethanol will be domestically produced by the farmers of this country. It is cost-effective, import free and environmentally sustainable fuel.

Ethanol is domestically produced from renewable plant sources. It is non-toxic, biodegradable, as well as safe to handle, store and transport. An oxygenated fuel that contains 35% oxygen, Ethanol reduces nitrogen oxide emissions from combustion. Apart from this, Ethanol also helps reduce carbon monoxide emissions, particulate matter, and sulphur-di-oxide. Use of Ethanol as a fuel will also reduce dependence on the import of petroleum and increase energy security.

The TVS Apache RTR 200 Fi E100 sports a vibrant interplay of green graphics seamlessly woven with the ‘Ethanol’ logo. It is equipped with a Twin-Spray-Twin-Port EFI technology. This ensures better drivability, faster throttle response and reduction in emission levels. It delivers better usable power under varied ambient conditions. This motorcycle boasts of impressive peak power of 21 PS @ 8500 rpm with a torque of 18.1 Nm @ 7000 rpm and has an ascending top speed of 129 kmph.

Promising consistent performance coupled with a sustainable green solution, the TVS Apache RTR 200 Fi E100 is a winner for both the rider and the environment. This special edition would be available in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Karnataka at an attractive price of Rs. 1,20,000.

- Press Release.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Shapoorji Pallonji's renewable energy arm Sterling and Wilson Solar Ltd ranked World's Largest Solar EPC Service Provider: IHS Markit.



Sterling and Wilson Solar Limited, a Shapoorji Pallonji group company, has been ranked as the world's largest Solar EPC service provider by IHS Markit in its recently announced Solar EPC and O&M Provider Tracker Q1 2019 report. The ranking is basis the annual installations of utility-scale PV systems of more than five MWp in the year 2018. As the largest global Solar EPC solutions provider, Sterling and Wilson Solar had a global market share of 4.6% in the year 2018 - a number more than double that of the 2nd largest company globally - according to IHS Markit. The company was also ranked as the largest Solar EPC solutions provider in India with a market share of 16.6%, 3 times the size of its closest competitor.

Declining costs, advancing technology trends and favorable regulatory environments across the world are some of the factors driving the growth of solar energy globally. Sterling and Wilson Solar has built more than 6 GWp of solar plants across the globe and the recognition as the world's largest solar EPC provider is a significant milestone in its trajectory.

With a strength of 1179 employees across the world including 138 in design and engineering, Sterling and Wilson Solar has been executing projects globally. Today, it has over 6062.83 MWp of solar EPC projects as part of its portfolio in different stages of implementation (commissioned and contracted). This impressive global portfolio also includes a 1,177 MWp single location Solar PV plant in Abu Dhabi - one of the world' s largest such Solar PV plants.

Sterling and Wilson Solar is present in 26 countries today, with operations in India, South East Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, the Americas, and Australia. The company has been strategically focusing on markets that have conducive solar power policies and investing resources in geographies that have long-term solar opportunities in utility-scale solar power projects and rooftop solar projects.

In the year 2018, according to IHS Markit, the company was also the largest solar EPC solutions provider in Africa and the Middle East with a market share of 36.6% and 40.4% respectively. Today, Sterling and Wilson Solar is expanding its global presence through strategic acquisitions in its target markets. The company recently acquired a 76% equity interest in GCO Electricals Pty Limited, an electrical contracting company based in Australia with expertise in the execution of solar power projects in the region. 

The company provides EPC services primarily for utility-scale solar power projects with a focus on project design and engineering and manage all aspects of project execution from conceptualizing to commissioning. As the global solar market is likely to grow substantially in the years to come, Sterling and Wilson Solar has positioned itself well to be at the forefront of this tremendous opportunity.

Source: Press Release/PTI.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Morocco to inaugurate Africa's Largest Seawater Desalination Plant by 2021.

Desalination Plant in Sorek, Israel.

India has a coastline of 7500km and yet it struggles to provide unlimited water to its citizens, farmers and industries. In the words of Socialist Dr. Lohia, 'India's Shakti (here women) are capable to solve innumerable problems of themselves and Bharat Bhoomi in whole but first, we need to provide them with toilets and water'. India's newly formed Jal Shakti Ministry has released the target to provide potable tap water to every household by 2024. 

Despite having such a huge coastline and massive rivers like Ganga, Godavari and Brahmaputra, we Indians suffer due to lackluster planning and low investments in Water Technology. Israel, the land with no river provides 24x7 potable water to its citizens and farmers, thanks to the adoption of scientific Sea Water Desalination technology. 

It's not that desalination tech is something new to India. Reliance Industries produces desalinated water for its Jamnagar refinery and even provides additional water to Jamnagar Municipal Corp at a fee. Chennai drinks desalinated water from one of its desalinated plants on East Coast Road. In fact, Indian companies like VA TECH WABAG, Essel Infraprojects and L&T have been awarded works to set up desalination plants in abroad and India. City nations like Singapore, Qatar, Kuwait are using Desalination for decades. Recently, Morocco has awarded a contract to a Spanish firm to build 'Africa's Largest Seawater Desalination Plant' in the city of Adagir.

In 2017, Spain's Abengoa signed contracts to develop a desalination and irrigation project in the Agadir region. The project, valued €309 million, involves the construction of a desalination plant with a 275,000 m3 total production capacity of desalinated water per day which will be the largest plant designed for drinking water and irrigation. The contract also provides for the possible capacity expansion to up to 450,000 m3/day.

The project involves increasing plant capacity to 150,000 m3/d of drinking water. And the second project calls for the additional production of 125,000 m3/d of irrigation water as well as the construction of the corresponding irrigation network for a total of 13,600 ha. Project operations can be powered on renewable power with a focus to meet the demand for water for domestic use in addition to irrigation water needs in the area of Agadir.

Farmers have also contributed MAD 10,000 (1 MAD - INR 7.24) to the financing of the station. The government has promised them desalinated water for irrigation at a low price of MAD 5 per cubic meters in exchange for the investment in construction.

As of now, the world's largest sea water desalination plant is located in Saudi Arabia. The Ras Al Khair plant has a desalination capacity of 1,036,000 m3/day.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

BSE launches 'BSE stAR MF' Android app for its mutual fund platform


BSE StAR MF, India's largest Mutual Funds Distributor platform, launched its mobile app - ‘BSE StAR MF’ at BSE International Convention Hall, Mumbai. The newly-launched app would look at enabling more participation from Mutual Fund Distributors (MFDs) by helping them process transactions on the go! The app would further ease the process of purchase and redemption of mutual fund units on behalf of their clients.

BSE StAR MF Mobile app supports real-time client registration and paperless transactions, creates and uploads mandate for SIPs, generates the basket of multiple of orders, tracks and allows the distributor to analyse his business at his fingertips.

In April 2019, the platform processed 42.6 lakh transactions. In FY2018-19, BSE StAR MF crossed 3.5 crore transactions witnessing 111% growth as compared to 1.70 crore transactions in FY2017-18.

Commenting on the launch of BSE StAR MF app, BSE MD & CEO, Ashishkumar Chauhan said, “BSE StAR MF platform has become a benchmark for the fintech industry in India by e-enabling more than 24,000 direct IFAs and 200,000 indirect IFAs to automate end to end processes in their front and back offices. The launch of the app would further provide the comfort of doing business to our 24,000 members. This app would not only increase their productivity, but would also enable IFAs to take their business anywhere, anytime. BSE StAR MF has seen more than 100% year on year growth every year for the last 10 years consistently. With the launch of the app, we look forward to help IFAs grow their business and retain the No. 1 position in the online MF distribution platform segment. This mobile application will also be provided to individual investors shortly.”

Overall, the superior support system and distribution reach of BSE StAR MF has enabled the platform to grow exponentially with the registered distributors soon to touch 24,000 in India. The launch of the StAR MF app is expected to further increase the number of distributors significantly. In the future, the app aims to support online video KYC to onboard new investors.  The BSE StAR MF app can be downloaded from the Google Play Store. Once the app is downloaded, the sign up can be done by providing the member identification number.

Source: Press Release.

Monday, 13 May 2019

Cashkrupt Pakistan receives $6 billion bailout from International Monetary Fund.

Security at China owned Port of Gwadar, Balochistan.

Failed economic policies, sponsorships for Islamic terror, high inflation and active corruption at all stages of government has taken down India's enemy neighbour, Pakistan at its knee. Pak PM Imran Khan has put the onus of degrading economic position on former PM Nawaz Shariff. The much touted economic corridor of prosperity, CPEC, has turned into an economic nightmare for taxpaying Pakistani citizens. For instance, the Chinese owned Gwadar Port in Balochistan rarely has any shipping calls. China has assured continuous economic help for the fulfillment of CPEC, as of now. After personally escorting Saudi King, Pakistan has received moratorium for deferred oil payments for one year. But this was not enough to save Pakistan's depleting economic reserves.

In April 2019, the finance minister of Pakistan requested the 13th bailout since the 80s from International Monetary Fund (IMF). In response to a request by the Pakistani authorities, an International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission led by Mr. Ernesto Ramirez Rigo visited Islamabad, Pakistan from April 29 to May 11 to discuss IMF support for the authorities’ economic reform program.

The Pakistani authorities and the IMF team have reached a staff-level agreement on economic policies that could be supported by a 39-month Extended Fund Arrangement (EFF) for about US$6 billion. This agreement is subject to IMF management approval and to approval by the Executive Board, subject to the timely implementation of prior actions and confirmation of international partners’ financial commitments. The program aims to support the authorities’ strategy for stronger and more balanced growth by reducing domestic and external imbalances, improving the business environment, strengthening institutions, increasing transparency, and protecting social spending.

At the end of the visit, the IMF representative Mr. Ramirez Rigo made the following statement:

"Pakistan is facing a challenging economic environment, with lackluster growth, elevated inflation, high indebtedness, and a weak external position. This reflects the legacy of uneven and procyclical economic policies in recent years aiming to boost growth, but at the expense of rising vulnerabilities and lingering structural and institutional weaknesses. The authorities recognize the need to address these challenges, as well as to tackle the large informality in the economy, the low spending in human capital, and poverty. In this regard, the government has already initiated a difficult, but necessary, adjustment to stabilize the economy, including thorough support from the State Bank of Pakistan. These efforts need to be strengthened. Decisive policies and reforms, together with significant external financing are necessary to reduce vulnerabilities faster, increase confidence, and put the economy back on a sustainable growth path, with stronger private sector activity and job creation."

"The EFF aims to support the authorities’ ambitious macroeconomic and structural reform agenda during the next three years. This includes improving public finances and reducing public debt through tax policy and administrative reforms to strengthen revenue mobilization and ensure a more equal and transparent distribution of the tax burden. At the same time, a comprehensive plan for cost-recovery in the energy sectors and state-owned enterprises will help eliminate or reduce the quasi-fiscal deficit that drains scarce government resources. These efforts will create fiscal space for a substantial increase in social spending to strengthen social protection as well as in infrastructure and human capital development. The modernization of the public finance management framework will increase transparency and spending efficiency. Provinces are committed to contributing to these efforts by better aligning their fiscal objectives with those of the federal government."

"The forthcoming budget for FY2019/20 is a first critical step in the authorities’ fiscal strategy. The budget will aim for a primary deficit of 0.6 percent of GDP supported by tax policy revenue mobilization measures to eliminate exemptions, curtail special treatments, and improve tax administration."

What Next?

The State Bank of Pakistan has assured the IMF that it will focus on reducing inflation, which disproportionately affects the poor, and safeguarding financial stability. A market-determined exchange rate will help the functioning of the financial sector and contribute to better resource allocation in the economy.

While a $6 billion bailout comes as a breather for tumbling Pakistan. The question arises that till when will this $6 billion help last. Will Pakistan stop the financing of Jihad for the moment at least to avoid the hanging sword of Paris based FATF? Any adventure with the world's fastest growing economy, India could spell doomsday for Pakistan at this very moment.

- Chaitanya Kulkarni

Source: IMF.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Reliance Industries acquires 100% stake in global toy retailer Hamleys.

Hamleys Store in Singapore.


Reliance Brands Limited, a subsidiary of Reliance Industries Limited, and Hong Kong-based C Banner International Holdings have signed a definitive agreement for Reliance Brands to acquire 100% shares of Hamleys Global Holdings Limited, which owns and operatives Hamleys brand worldwide, from C Banner International. The acquisition is valued at approx Rs 620 crores in an all-cash deal.

Founded in 1760 by Williams Hamley in London, Hamleys has over 250 years of celebrated history of being the oldest and largest toy shop in the world and bringing smiles to children all over the world. From soft toys to dolls and GenX remote control cars, Hamleys truly represent a unique model leveraging the quality and wide range of toys.

Globally, Hamleys has 167 stores across 18 countries. In India, Reliance has the master franchise for Hamleys and currently operates 88 stores across 29 cities. Hamleys started with the India journey by opening a 22,000 sq feet store at Phoenix Malls in Lower Parel, Mumbai. The first Hamleys store in London is as huge as 7 floors and covers 54,000 sq feet store area with over 50,000 lines of toys at the sale. The London Hamleys store is UK's prominent tourist attraction with 5 million visitors every year. In early 2018, Hamleys opened its largest ever store of 1,15,000 sq feet in Beijing, China. This acquisition will catapult Reliance Brands to be a dominant player in the global toy industry.

While kids dream to have every single toy on display at Hamleys, Mukesh Bhai has fulfilled RIL's long cherished dream by acquiring the World's largest toy store chain in an all-cash deal altogether. The worldwide acquisition of the iconic Hamleys brand and business, places Reliance into the frontline of global retail.