India's first `book village'

The sleepy village of Bhilar, in the heart of Maharashtra's famed `strawberry country' will soon get another identity as India's first “book village“. Inspired by Britain's Hay-on-Wye, the state government has decided to convert the village near the twin hill-stations of Mahabaleshwar-Panchgani into a readers's paradise.

The country's first-ever `book village' will be inaugurated on May 4 by CM Devendra Fadnavis.

Located around 250 km from Mumbai, Bhilar boasts of a year-round salubrious climate and lush greenery. The government has financed around 15,000 books to be kept there permanently for the public at around 25 key locations around the village of 600 families. Anybody can simply pick up a book of his/her choice, read for as long as they want and keep it back for the others. The 25 book hotspots in the village have been decked up into `mini-libraries' and 75 artists have creatively designed the 25 locations.

Initially, the books ranging from literature to environment, biographies and history, shall be available in Marathi and other languages will be introduced later.

India's Scooter boom

Take a bow ladies, India's scooter boom is driven by you. According to JD Power surveys, one in every four scooter buyer is a woman. And what's more, an overwhelming majority of these women customers are young. In comparison, women motorcycle buyers are still negligible in number. The good news for two-wheeler makers is that a majority of all two wheeler sales are by first-time buyers increasing the overall vehicle pool and offering upgrade options in future.

The substantial women customers in the scooter segment is also the reason why the purchase triggers for this product is very different from the more macho motorcycles.

Scooters have become a top-growth segment in the Indian two-wheeler industry clocking a 20% CAGR which is five times that of commuter motorcycles over the past 10 years. They comprise one-third of domestic two-wheeler sales. Globally, except in China and Africa, scooters outsell motorcycles with 57% market share to 43% for bikes. Scooters are also doing extremely well in parts of the ASEAN like Indonesia and Vietnam and auto analysts expect the segment to become equally dominant as bikes in India as well.

Privatise PSU banks: Viral Acharya

RBI deputy governor Viral Acharya has called for privatization of nationalized banks and sale of their subsidiaries and other assets. Acharya also quoted an IMF report to highlight that Indian businesses are the most heavily indebted and banks worse off than their peers in terms of capital available to meet bad debts.

The deputy governor also reiterated governor Urjit Patel's call for merger of under-performers with stronger banks as a quid pro quo for government capital injection. “It would provide great opportunity to rejig management responsibility away from those who have underperformed or dragged their feet the most,“ said Acharya in his speech at a FICCI event.

According to the deputy governor, the presence of a large safety net of state-ownership and deposit insurance, which ensure that there are likely to be no bank runs, end up eroding any discipling force that gets the bank health restored.

“Perhaps re-privatizing some of the nationalised banks is an idea whose time has come?“ said Acharya. He added that this would reduce the overall amount that the government needs to inject as capital and help preserve its hard-earned fiscal discipline.

Terming bank recapitalization as throwing good money after bad, Acharya provided the example of bank recapitalization plan of 2008-09 after the global financial crisis. “Banks that experienced the worst outcomes received the most capital in a relative sense. Most of these banks need capital again,“ he said. In his speech, the deputy governor likened the bad loan situation to a person slipping off the terrace of a skyscraper. He said that not preparing for an emergency is akin to “hoping that laws of gravity will freeze and work differently this time“.

Building up a case for taking away management from weak banks, Acharya said they throw good money after bad to help borrowers repay past loans and delay making provisions for default. They also try to earn money fast by providing risk loans that give higher return. “Faced with such borrowing prospects healthy borrowers who have access to alternate forms of finance may be able to switch out of bank borrowing,“ he said.

NaMu Airport opening pushed back

Mumbaikars' wait for a second airport just got longer. The Centre said the Navi Mumbai airport may get operational by 2020, a year later than earlier envisaged. Hitherto, the government was aiming for the first flight from the airport to take off by 2019-end.

Union minister of state for civil aviation Jayant Sinha said the first phase of this project -a runway and terminal building -is likely to be ready by 2020. “There are several issues, including the fact that the area where the airport will come up is marshy . It will take significant amount of time to resolve the issues. We also need to accelerate and expedite the process as much as possible,“ said Sinha, who did an aerial survey of the Navi Mumbai airport site last week.

After a long wait, the Union ministry of environment and forests had on April 21 granted the crucial stage II forest clearance for the airport, paving the way all the work on the ground such as cutting and levelling of Ulwe hill and changing the course of the river.

GVK-led Mumbai International Airport Ltd has won the construction contract by offering 12.6% in revenue to the project implementing authority , Cidco of Maharashtra.

MMRDA ties up with Dubai, Qatar for international financial centre

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority, the nodal agency for establishing Mumbai International Financial Services Centre project being developed as part of the South Asia Middle East financial corridor, signed two strategic agreements this week.

The MoUs will enable cooperation between Dubai International Financial Centre and Qatar Financial Centre in sharing best practices and developing co-services to serve the increasing demand of investors in the region. IFSC at BKC is one of the pet projects of chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.


Kia Motors inks MoU with Andhra

The queue of foreign automakers lining up for a slice of the Indian car market is growing. Kia Motors, an affiliate of Korean auto giant Hyundai, has announced investments of over $1.1 billion for setting up a greenfield factory in Andhra Pradesh.

The Andhra government, however, pegged the total investment by the Korean auto giant at $2 billion, possibly taking into account investments proposed by the company's suppliers.

Kia -which recorded global sales of 3 million vehicles last year (Hyundai sold 4.9 million) -will start selling cars from 2019, starting with a compact SUV and a mini sedan. However, the company has no plans to share dealership with Hyundai, even though there may be synergies at the back-end and sharing of some of the component suppliers.

The company signed an MoU with the Andhra Pradesh government for the facility to be set up in the Anantapur district. This will have an annual production capacity of 3 lakh units.

Kia is the latest entrant to make a dash for the high-potential Indian car market which is forecasted to emerge as the third largest (after the US and China) in the world by 2020

Construction of Kia's manufacturing facility will commence in the last quarter of this calendar year and the plant will occupy an area of around 23 million square feet, incorporating facilities for stamping, welding, painting and assembly . Kia said the site will also be home to many suppliers' facilities.

Sources said Hyundai, which is manufacturing at near-peak levels at its plant near Chennai, may produce some of its cars at Kia's plant in the initial phase.

Kia's plant, however, is not close to Hyundai's facility . The distance between the two factories will be around 350 kms.

Kia has been eyeing the Indian market for many years, but had earlier refrained from making investments.

Perceived Corruption

Karnataka occupies the first slot in a list of the states perceived to be corrupt on the basis of people's experience in paying bribes for public services. Karnataka is followed by Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Jammu - Kashmir and Punjab.

The Centre for Media Studies survey, which covered 20 states, found Himachal Pradesh, Kerala and Chhattisgarh to be the least corrupt. The report said around one-third of the households experienced corruption in public services at least once during the last one year in comparison to about 53% of households that admitted to paying bribes during a similar study in 2005. The survey covered 3,000 odd persons, both in urban and rural areas.

It also claimed over half of the respondents felt that the level of corruption had decreased in public services during the demonetisation phase of November and December 2016.

The report estimated the total bribe paid by households across 20 states and 10 services was Rs.6,350 crore in 2017 as against Rs.20,500 crore in 2005.

It added while the the bribe amount usually ranged between Rs.100-500, there were instances of people paying as much as Rs.50,000 as bribe for school admission in Maharashtra.