Saturday, 10 November 2018

L&T- built Statue of Unity turns into a tourist magnet.


India's tallest political leader, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was dedicated with World's largest statue. 182 metre tall Statue of Unity made by Mumbai based Larsen Toubro was dedicated towards the nation by PM Modi. At the launch ceremony, the Prime Minister and other dignitaries’ poured soil and Narmada water into a Kalash to mark the dedication of the ‘Statue of Unity’ to the nation. The Prime Minister pressed a lever to commence a Virtual Abhishek of the statue.

At 182 meters (597 feet), the steel, concrete and brass-clad statue is the tallest in the world and Larsen & Toubro is proud to have constructed it in a record time of 33 months. The Buildings & Factories business of the construction arm of L&T had won this prestigious EPC contract for the design and construction of the Statue of Unity from the Government of Gujarat in October 2014 and construction of the raft of the statue began in December 2015.

A statesman par excellence, Sardar Patel is widely considered as the architect of modern India, who was responsible for uniting the newly-independent nation. The Statue of Unity, on the Sadhu Bet Island, approximately 3.5 km south of Sardar Sarovar Dam at Kevadia in the Narmada district of Gujarat now stands tall as an inspiration to future generations, a reminder of Sardar Patel’s sterling contribution and a symbol of national harmony and integrity.

The Statue Of Unity offers Museum and Exhibition centre and viewing gallery (approx 60 floor high) to tourists. This gallery, at 153 metres height, can accommodate up to 200 visitors at one time. It offers a spectacular view of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, its reservoir, and the Satpura and Vindhya mountain ranges.

The SoU complex comprises an exhibition centre at its base, a memorial garden, a designer bridge connecting Sadhu Island with the mainland along the Narmada River, an internal roadway of 5 km length, improvements to the existing roads /bridges/ culverts connecting the area of Sadhu Island. It also hosts an administrative complex and a star rated hotel (Shrestha Bharat Bhavan) and a conference centre.

The statue, a towering piece of engineering by L&T, is conceived as a naturalistic depiction of Sardar Patel in his characteristic garb in a walking pose. It rises out of a star-shaped, geometric base that covers the entire Sadhu Hill. The statue has a unique, slender width to height ratio, far more exacting than existing technical norms that call for special engineering considerations. The structure has two vertical cores each housing a high-speed passenger elevator. The vertical cores support the steel frames to which about 6,500 bronze panels are clad. A viewing gallery at the level at the chest, can accommodate up to 200 visitors at one go and affords a breath-taking view of the Sardar Sarovar dam and its environs.

While critics were sceptical about ROI of the Statue, the enthusiastic and nationalist people of India proved them wrong with massive turnout at Statue of Unity monument. As reported by DeshGujarat, more than 1,00,000 people visited SoU in Diwali holiday adding to approx Rs 2 crore revenue to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust. Since, the area of not yet well connecting by Public Transport, people chose to visit by cars adding to a 9km long traffic jam.

A large turnout towards SoU is now having teething troubles but this would be a learning lesson for management to rectify in the coming months. GSRTC, the state transport should also start Volvo buses every 1 hour from Surat CBS, Ankleshwar, Vadodara CBS and Ahmedabad. A few buses from Bhavnagar and Jamnagar are also in demand via RoRo service for SoU. The Govt of Gujarat or SVPRET should invest few crores in public amenities to truly make the Statue of Unity, a world-class national monument.

How To Reach Statue of Unity from Mumbai?

1. Board Dehradun Express (12.00am) from Bandra Terminus or Borivali till Surat (5.00am).
2. Board 6.00am GSRTC bus from Surat Central Bus Stn (Opp. Surat Rly Stn) to Kevadiya Colony.
3. From Kevadiya Colony, a dedicated bus for Statue of Unity is available.
4. Make sure you have reservations for all keeping in mind tourist inflow.

- Chaitanya Kulkarni

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Delhi Metro Phase III gets Rs 3300 crores ODA loan from Japan's JICA.


Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) signed an agreement with the Government of India to provide Official Development Assistance (ODA) Loan of 53,675 million Japanese Yen (approximately INR 3,300 crore) for the ‘Delhi Mass Rapid Transport System Project Phase 3 (Tranche III)'.

The objective of the Project is to cope with the increasing traffic demand in Delhi by expanding mass transit systems, thereby mitigating traffic congestion, reducing air pollution, minimizing road accidents and making travel smoother for the people in New Delhi. The scope of the Phase 3 includes the construction of Pink Line and Magenta Line and the extension of Yellow Line, Blue Line, Green Line and Violet Line. The Phase 3 will add 159.7 kilometers to the existing Delhi Metro Line and will connect 109 metro stations.

The ODA loan agreement was signed between Shohei Hara, Director General, South Asia Department, JICA and Mr. Sujan R. Chinoy, Ambassador of India to Japan on October 29, 2018 at Tokyo.

The Executing Agency for the Project is Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Limited. The Project envisages building of an efficient transportation system for the city, catering to the growing population. With high growth in transport demand, congestion on roads has been increasing and the mode of travel in favor of public transportation has remained around 50%. It is expected that the mode of travel in favor of public transport will increase to 60% upon commissioning of the Project, while the mode of travel in favor of Delhi Metro will increase to 19% from the current 15%.

"With the signing of Tranche-III of Delhi Metro ODA Loan, JICA has continued to fulfill its commitment of improving the mobility in the capital city. We are pleased to support the network of Delhi Metro which has now reached a cumulative length of 349.7 kilometers. Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) shares an over two-decade-long association with JICA, and with the signing of this ODA loan agreement, our bond is only going to grow stronger." - Mr. Katsuo Matsumoto, Chief Representative, JICA India.

JICA has extended a cumulative total of 705,206 million Japanese Yen (approximately 45,000 crores) in ODA loans for the Delhi Mass Rapid Transport System Project since 1997. With the signing of the loan agreement for Delhi Metro Project Phase 3, the cumulative loan amount provided by JICA for Metro projects in India (including Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai and Ahmedabad Metro) exceeds 1.2 trillion Japanese Yen (approximately 77,000 crores).

Source - JICA.

Monday, 22 October 2018

Reliance Jio disrupts Broadband segment with the acquisition of Hathway and Den Networks.


After disrupting the mobile internet segment, India’s largest internet service provider Reliance Jio is set to enter broadband internet business. The Jio GigaFiber has announced that they may offer internet speeds of up to 1 GBPS in 1100 cities at reasonable prices. In its welcome offer, Jio Gigafiber offers 100 MBPS free internet for 3 months upon submitting Rs 4500 refundable deposit for the high-speed router and Home Hub.

Reliance Jio is projecting itself as Smart Home appliance provider as it would not just offer high-speed broadband but also Set Top Box with 4K capabilities and many more smart appliances. Media reports suggested that local cable operators were reluctant with proposition with Reliance Jio offers. With the acquisition of Hathway Cables and Den Networks, we can predict that a PAN India service launch of Reliance Jio would be possible by 2019.

Reliance Industries Limited in its press release announced the strategic investment of RIL in Hathway and Den to accelerate Jio GigaFiber service. A primary investment of Rs. 2,045 crore through a preferential issue under SEBI regulations and secondary purchase of Rs. 245 crore from the existing promoters for a 66% stake in Den Networks. Primary investment of Rs. 2,940 crore through a preferential issue under SEBI regulations for a 51.3% stake in Hathway Cable and Datacom Limited (“Hathway”) Limited.

These strategic investments are in furtherance of Reliance’s mission of connecting everyone and everything, everywhere – always at the highest quality and the most affordable price and transforming India’s digital landscape. After having taken India to the top position in the mobile broadband space, Reliance is now committed to taking India from a global rank of 135th to among the top-3 countries in the world on wireline digital connectivity. RIL believes that these investments and partnerships will create a win-win outcome for the Local Cable Operators, Consumers, Content providers and overall eco-system.

With high-speed internet linked with set top box, consumers will be able to watch 4K channels without paying extra cost as Jio plans to charge only for Internet. This shift would also enrich channels to shift to Full HD stream from current SDTV service.

Jio shall bring JioGigaFiber to more than 50 million homes across 1,100 Indian cities and towns, in the shortest possible time. JioGigaFiber will offer:

  • Ultra High Definition Entertainment on large screen TVs.
  • Multi-Party Video Conferencing from the comfort of everyone’s living room.
  • Artificial Intelligence, in the form of voice-activated virtual assistants, who obey every command of the consumer
  • Virtual Reality Gaming and Digital Shopping in a magical universe of immersive experiences
  • Smart-Home Solutions, where hundreds of devices like security cameras, home appliances, even lights and switches, can be securely controlled by their owners, from both inside and outside their homes
  • Fixed Mobile Convergence, to offer end-to-end services on an integrated network.

Telecom analyst Jio Gigafiber to be competitively priced. For massive reach, RIL may offer 1GBPS speed internet from Rs 500 per month along with 100 TV channels. Plans are not out yet.

RIL is being advised by JM Financial Limited, Citigroup Global Markets, Khaitan & Co, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, AZB Partners and EY LLP on this transaction.

– Chaitanya Kulkarni.

Also published on DigiCookies.com - Tech that transforms life.

Friday, 19 October 2018

BRICS established New Development Bank deploys TCS BaNCS for treasury management.

NDB TCS
Pic Courtesy - Russia Today

Global enterprise tech giant Tata Consultancy Services has announced that New Development Bank (NDB), a multilateral development finance institution set up by the BRICS nations and headquartered in Shanghai, has gone live with TCS BaNCS for Treasury.

New Development Bank is a multilateral development bank established by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa in 2014 with an initial authorized capital of USD 100 billion. The Bank is mandated to mobilize resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging economies and developing countries, complementing the efforts of multilateral and regional financial institutions for global growth and development. Since the launch of its operations, NDB approved projects in its member countries with loans aggregating over USD 5.1 billion. The Bank’s headquarters is located in Shanghai, China and is headed by renowned Indian banker KV Kamath.

NDB selected TCS BaNCS for its risk and treasury operations for the solution’s support for an impressive array of asset classes, and advanced features such as real-time position keeping, risk analytics, and a single product configurator that supports complex debt structures for their issuance programs. The cloud-based offering of TCS BaNCS reduces the time taken for customer on-boarding to a fraction of what it takes in conventional on-premise implementations, as the need to procure and invest in internal infrastructure is eliminated, along with the complexities involved in replacements.

The go-live at NDB, which was achieved in 12 weeks, deployed TCS’ market-proven methodology for cloud on-boarding that leverages enabler toolkits for all project activities – from solution configuration and alignment, to migration, training and testing. TCS also demonstrated its capability with ISO/IEC 27001:2013 cloud services with this deployment, enabling responsive and resilient operations for the bank. TCS BaNCS will now support all market operations linked to NDB’s investment and liability portfolio consisting of global bond issuances, including managing inherent risks.

“Technological change will continue to transform the economic landscape and open new opportunities for citizens of BRICS nations. For a bank to develop conventional infrastructure as well as to take maximum advantage of transformative technological developments as they happen at high speed and large scale, a flexible and digital backbone is essential. TCS BaNCS was selected not only for its extensive product capabilities but also for its compelling and relevant implementation footprint across the globe.” - Leslie Maasdorp, Vice-President & Chief Financial Officer, NDB.

TCS BaNCS for Treasury is an integrated, cross-asset-class solution for front-, middle-, and back-office operations in treasury and trade, encompassing cash and derivatives on foreign exchanges, money markets, fixed income, equities and hybrid structures. It is a multi-entity, multi-currency trading, risk management, processing, settlements and accounting solution that drives innovation, agility and efficiency in markets worldwide.

Source - Press Release.

Monday, 15 October 2018

Fund raising via Non Convertible Debentures surges over 7 fold to Rs 29,000 in Q1 FY2019.


While the Indian market has tumbled down to 34,000 level, NBFCs have depended heavily on NCDs to raise capital. As many as 10 companies raised a little over Rs 29,000 crore through issuance of debentures during April-September period of 2018-19, registering a surge of more than seven times from the year-ago period.
The funds have been mobilized for business expansion, supporting working capital requirements and other general corporate purposes.

As per the latest data with regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), a total of 10 companies together mopped up Rs 29,013 crores through retail issuance of non-convertible debentures (NCDs) in the first six months of the current financial year (2018-19).

These companies are Kosamattam Finance, Muthoot Finance, Srei Equipment Finance, Dewan Housing Finance Corp, JM Financial Credit Solutions, Shriram Transport Finance Company, ECL Finance, Indiabulls Commercial Credit, Tata Capital Financial Services and Aadhar Housing Finance.

Kosamattam Finance has taken the route twice to garner funds. In comparison, four companies collected Rs 3,896 crore through this route in the same period of 2017-18. Overall, firms accumulated about Rs 4,950 crore in the entire preceding fiscal. Muted demand for qualified institutional placements (QIPs), lukewarm secondary market and apprehension over a sustained rise in interest rates attracted companies towards the debentures, market experts said.

Moreover, several firms have announced plans to raise funds through NCDs, which are loan-linked bonds that cannot be converted into stocks and usually offer higher interest rates than the convertible debentures.

Individually, Dewan Housing raised Rs 10,945 crore in the period under review as against a target of Rs 3,000 crore, Shriram Transport garnered Rs 3,648 crore against a target of Rs 1,000 crore and Tata Capital Financial Services raked in Rs 3,433 crore against a base size of Rs 2,000 crore. Besides, Indiabulls Commercial collected Rs 3,101 crore as against a target of Rs 1,000 crore and Muthoot Finance mopped up Rs 3,000 crore against a base size of Rs 500 crore.

Financial and Markets expert are of an opinion that fundraising via NCD may be a bullish opportunity for NBFCs. With markets now regaining the lost ground, even Govt companies may enter this financial opportunity.

Source - PTI.

#TheBlindList: 12 Degree Celsius in Indian Summer - Backpacking Kodaikanal

Jungles of Kodaikanal

Frustrated from the urban life and rattled with constant corporate pressure, the crowd in local trains and air pollution, I badly was looking for a much-needed summer break. After researching about backpacking hostels and escape, I zeroed down my backpacking choice on a quiet hill station in the Western Ghats – Kodaikanal.

Two days later, I landed in Madurai from Mumbai to have holy blessings of Meenakshi Amma to start with my backpacking journey. Madurai and hostel were spectacular especially when you meet fellow travellers like Balaji, Mani and Tamilseran. Time flys by very quickly when you discuss about Rajni Sir's movies and complicated Tamil Nadu politics. Initially, I had planned to visit Rameswaram and Shri Ram Sethu but I had to cancel due to the unforeseen bus strike. Backpackers travellers like me always prefer to stay in dorms as we get a company of other travellers and the stay is pocket-friendly if you are planning a long stay. To be frank, since every part of my backpacking trip was unplanned, my budget for 10 days trip was just Rs 6000 bucks. Seem crazy, but I enjoyed well within my budget. 

Balaji told me to visit Kodaikanal, a hill station in the state of Tamil Nadu. I checked all the details on Instagram and the place looked brilliant. There are buses every 30 mins from Arapalayam Bus stand in Madurai to Kodaikanal.

The Road untravelled.


Kodaikanal is 70 km in the west to Madurai. TNSTC bus will costs around Rs 50. Kodaikanal is located at 2200 metres above sea level. The road to the top is scenic but with lots of turns. The temperature changes rapidly after gaining some height. My bus reached at 4.30 in the evening. It was windy at 14 degrees and the worst part is I was wearing half pants. Clearly, I hadn't planned well on Kodaikanal. Papa Johns pizza brought some heat to my body. I had booked Vedanta Wake Up Lagoon for 2 days. It is located on observatory road and is just 200 metres away from Kodaikanal lake.

Lost in shadows on Deodhar.

Kodaikanal is known as the queen of hills. Crystal clear lake, the air we breathe and the chill in the environment seem right. But, to my surprise, it is not. Kodaikanal is believed to be poisoned with a dark history. Here's the story, Unilever came and left the land in contamination. They set up a thermometer factory where the workers handled toxic mercury. While closing its factory, the sold the toxic materials to the local shrubbery. Unilever is accused by the local activists of dumping toxic mercury in the open forest. The mercury contamination quickly spread across the city and forest. In 2001, the Department of Atomic Research conducted a study and found that the mercury in air and water was 100 times more than average. A very long-term exposure to mercury is dangerous to the human body. The mercury pollution level would have been low by now (Sigh!) as there are global chains, hotels and govt organisation running their business here as usual. All is now well :)


I had a cycle ride around the Kodaikanal lake. The night temperature at Kodaikanal dropped so low that my whole body was shivering. As everything was unplanned, I purchased a sweater from the local street shop. 12 degrees celsius in June is unbelievable for South Bombay wala like me. A bottle of whiskey, which is considered as premium liquor in Tamil Nadu helped me sit in half pants in the terrace. I was alone in the 4-floor hostel as it was off season. Spent some spooky nights but it did help me to have a much-needed peace of mind. 

The sun was up at 5am in the morning. There is plenty much to see in Kodaikanal. The best part of this town is the unusual chill and clouds. Local sightseeing costs around Rs. 300 by bus. Pine forest and Guna caves are the highlights of the trip. Guna caves are named after Guna/ Gumnaam movie. The caves are barricaded by the government as several people have their lives adventuring here. Chocolates, herbal products and windcheaters are widely sold in the town.
That's me after a cycle ride across Kodaikanal lake.
The deep evergreen jungles of Kodaikanal reminded me of Jungle book story. I even spotted a rear Giant Red Squirrel and some deers. It was my first backpacking trip which made me #SayYesToTheWorld . Travel brings power and love back to your life. A trip unplanned plans out to be the best.


What next? I have now shortlisted 6 locations across India namely Barmer, Chitkul, Puri, Tawang, Ladakh and Nainital and would like to decide where to go next 48 hours prior to the trip. With flights, trains and buses plying round the clock anywhere in India, one should always have #TheBlindList ready. Only those who dare, truly live!

- Chaitanya Kulkarni

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

The Japanese Passport is Now the Strongest in the world. Indian Passport at Rank 81.


The land of Rising Sun, Japan has now the strongest passport in the world. The country known for its Innovation, Culture, and Multi-national Tech Giants earn the much-needed reputation and respect from Sovereign Nation across continents. 

Japan has overtaken Singapore to claim the top spot on the 2018 Henley Passport Index, having gained visa-free access to Myanmar earlier this month. Japan now enjoys visa-free/visa-on-arrival access to 190 destinations, compared to Singapore’s total of 189. Japan and Singapore have been neck and neck on the index since they both climbed to 1st place in February - following a visa-exemption from Uzbekistan.

The Henley Passport Index, which is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), is an important tool for measuring not only the relative strength of the world’s passports but also the extraordinary results that states can achieve when they work hand in hand with their global peers to build a more interconnected and collaborative world. 

Germany has fallen further to 3rd place, which it now shares with South Korea and France. France moved up from 4th to 3rd place last Friday when it gained visa-free access to Uzbekistan, while South Korea moved from 4th to 3rd place on 1 October when it gained visa-free access to Myanmar. Germany, France, and South Korea all have a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 188. Iraq and Afghanistan continue to hold the bottom (106th) spot of the Henley Passport Index, with only 30 destinations accessible to their citizens.

The US and the UK, both with 186 destinations, have also slid down one spot — from 4th to 5th place - with neither having gained access to any new jurisdictions since the start of 2018. With stagnant outbound visa activity compared to Asian high-performers such as Japan, Singapore, and South Korea, it seems increasingly unlikely that the US and the UK will regain the number 1 spot they jointly held in 2015.

List of Strongest Passport upto Rank 5

Rank 1 - Japan
Rank 2 - Singapore
Rank 3 - Germany, France, South Korea
Rank 4 - Denmark, Italy, Spain, Sweden
Rank 5 - Luxembourg, UK, Netherlands, Austria, Norway, US, Portugal.

Weakest Passport in the World.

Rank 100 - South Sudan, Lebanon, Libya, Bangladesh
Rank 101 - Nepal
Rank 102 - Sudan, Palestinian Territory, Eritrea
Rank 103 - Yemen
Rank 104 - Pakistan
Rank 105 - Syria, Somalia
Rank 106 - Iraq, Afghanistan.

India has been ranked at Rank 81 by Henley Passport Index with access to 60 countries. Citizens with Indian Blue passport have Visa Free access to some major nations and most of Island micro nations. Indians can travel without Visa to these major nations: Bhutan, Nepal, Indonesia, Serbia, Senegal, Tunisia, Equador, El Salvador, and Qatar. India's neighbour, China was ranked at 71 and the other one, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was at bottom 5 sharing seats with War-Torn Nations.

- Chaitanya Kulkarni.