Business Resumption Touches New High

India’s business resumption raced ahead, touching a new high on the back of continued moderation in Covid cases and mobility returning to pre-pandemic levels, a private tracker showed.

Global financial services group Nomura said despite the uncertainty triggered by the Omicron variant of coronavirus, high frequency data suggested that the economy remained on a recovery path and inflationary pressures were building up.

The Nomura India Business Resumption Index rose to yet another high of 114.5 for the week ended November 28 from a downwardly revised 113.4 in the previous week.

The NIBRI is about 4-15pp above pre-pandemic levels, pegged at 100.

“With domestic infection cases continuing to moderate, mobility is almost back to pre-pandemic levels, and this is boosting services,” Nomura said.

However, border reopening will likely be slow, as the discovery of the Omicron variant globally has prompted the government to review and tighten its international travel guidelines, and several states are on alert, it added. Axis Bank Monday projected Q2 FY22 GDP growth at 8.3%, while keeping its full year forecast at 9.5%, but “with increasing downside risks”.

India, SL, Maldives hold joint military exercise

A two-day trilateral maritime drill conducted by the coast guards of India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives to bolster security in the Indian Ocean, enhance mutual operational capability and exercise interoperability between these three countries culminated in the Maldives on Sunday, the Indian High Commission said.

The 15th edition of the trilateral engagement termed “Dosti” is conducted biennially, and 2021 marks 30 years since these maritime drills were first introduced.

However, it began primarily as a bilateral engagement, involving only Indian and Maldives Coast Guards. Sri Lanka joined in 2012 to make it a trilateral exercise.

“The two-day exercise under the aegis of Colombo Security Conclave is a pioneering effort to collaborate efforts towards the Pillar of Maritime Security”, the Indian High Commission in Colombo said in a statement.

The CSC Focused Operations are aimed at streamlining Standard Operating Procedures and enhanced interoperability amongst the three navies.

The Indian Navy was represented by INS Subhadra Offshore Patrol Vessel and P8I Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft. 

India-born Parag Agrawal Takes Over as Twitter CEO

India-born Parag Agrawal took over as the chief executive officer of Twitter as its cofounder Jack Dorsey stepped down after 16 years at the helm of the San Francisco-headquartered microblogging platform.

Agrawal, an IIT-Bombay alumnus, was the chief technology officer of Twitter before the elevation that caught investors by surprise.

Twitter stock went up by as much as 10% with the news in opening trade.

The two most powerful people at Twitter will now be India born – the other being Vijaya Gadde, its policy and safety lead director.

Agrawal will join the league of several India-born executives such as IBM’s Arvind Krishna, Google’s Sundar Pichai and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella to lead large US technology companies that have a presence globally.

Dorsey said the Twitter board of directors ran a rigorous process to look for a successor and "unanimously" appointed Agrawal who will also be appointed to the Twitter’s board. In a letter to Twitter employees that he shared on the platform, Dorsey said Agrawal has "been behind every critical decision that helped turn this company around".

"He's (Agrawal) curious, probing, rational, creative, demanding, self-aware, and humble. He leads with heart and soul, and is someone I learn from daily. My trust in him as our CEO is bone deep," Dorsey wrote.

Agrawal, who has a PhD in computer science from Stanford University, began his career at Microsoft Research with stints in R&D units of Yahoo and AT&T Labs before joining Twitter as a software engineer in October 2011.

"I joined this company 10 years ago when there were fewer than 1,000 employees," he wrote to Twitter employees in a letter that was shared on his handle.

BJP clean sweeps Tripura civic polls

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party secured a clean sweep while the Trinamool Congress emerged as a strong political force in the Tripura civic elections for which polling was held on November 25.

Amid allegations of pre-poll violence by the opposition parties, the ruling BJP had earlier won 112 (34 per cent) seats uncontested in seven urban local bodies in Jirania, Ranir Bazar, Mohanpur, Bishalgarh in western Tripura, Santir Bazar and Udaipur in southern Tripura and Kamalpur in northern Tripura.

Elections were held on Thursday in the 51-member Agartala Municipal Corporation and 171 seats in seven Municipal Councils and six Nagar Panchayats. The BJP candidates won in all the 51 seats in the AMC and 165 seats in the seven Municipal Councils and six Nagar Panchayats.

According to state election commission officials, the main opposition party CPI-M won three seats in three municipal bodies in Kailashahar, Ambassa and Panisagar while the Trinamool Congress won one seat in Ambassa Municipal council. The Trinamool Congress secured over 20 per cent votes and second position in 27 of the 51 seats in the politically important AMC which has put up a big challenge to both the ruling BJP and the key opposition CPI-M led Left parties.

The Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice on a plea seeking independent SIT probe into the communal violence in Tripura.

The plea, filed by advocate Ehtesham Hashmi through advocate Prashant Bhushan, has arrayed Centre, DGP Tripura, and the Tripura government as respondents. A bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud permitted the counsel for the petitioner to serve the copy of the petition to the central agency and to the standing counsel of Tripura.


Credit card co Slice 41st unicorn in 2021

Fintech startup Slice, which targets millennials with credit cards, has become India’s 41st unicorn in 2021.

Slice has raised $220 million in a series-B round valuing the company at over $1 billion. The round was led by Tiger Global and Insight Partners. Other investors include Advent International’s Sunley House Capital, Moore Strategic Ventures and angel investor Binny Bansal.

Sources said that the startup received strong interest from global investors in this oversubscribed round, and is still evaluating some investments. Earlier in June, Slice had raised a $20-million series-A round that had valued it at around $200 million.

Slice, which started as a ‘buy now, pay later’ payments product, pivoted to offer credit cards in 2019 to address what it saw as a large market gap. Users can sign up, get a slice ‘super card’ (a prepaid visa card with a credit line) virtually, and also get the physical card delivered to their home. Slice, which is shipping around 200,000 cards each month, lets users slice the bill into 3 monthly instalments at zero cost and enjoy up to 2% cashback on each transaction.

“Our burn is very low compared to other consumer startups and we are going to use the funds to hire more product and design talent and focus on making more products that are best-in-class in terms of user experience,” Rajan Bajaj, founder and CEO, Slice, said. “Our superior product experience has made us the most popular alternative to existing credit cards. We have a net promoter score of over 75 today — much higher than most banks,” he added.


MVA 2 years : A mixed bag for infrastructure

The two years of Maha Vikas Aghadi government have been a mixed bag for infrastructure projects as Metro projects lagged behind targets, while the other big-ticket Mumbai Coastal Road project executed by BMC has witnessed steady progress.

The first Metro line was opened in Mumbai in June 2014 but it has been almost seven years and Mumbaikars are still awaiting the opening of the second one. A senior state government official said, “Pandemic played a major role in disrupting timelines as labour had rushed to their home states, and supply lines got disrupted because of the global nature of the crisis.”

Metro 2A (DN Nagar-Dahisar) and 7 (Dahisar-Andheri via Western Express Highway), which were in advanced stages of completion a year ago, could be opened for commercial operations even though trials commenced on May 31. There has been no solution in sight for the depot for Metro 3 corridor and trials are slated to begin outside the depot in January 2022.

But the pet project of Sena has witnessed decent progress. Despite protests by fishermen in Worli, and some residents in South Mumbai and allegations of corruption by BJP, BMC’s coastal road is making steady progress.

BMC is targeting completion of the 10km coastal road project between Nariman Point and Worli by December 2022 despite a five-month disruption last year. The Rs12,721-crore project was to be completed in four years since commencement of work in October 2018. But BJP MLA Ashish Shelar recently alleged irregularities of Rs 1,600 crore in project. BMC refuted the allegations.

Mumbai Trans Harbour Link too witnessed steady progress as around 70% work on the crucial 22km link is completed.

A senior official said, “In this term, there is also strong push for Sewri-Worli connector as Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray is taking keen interest in this project.” The 17km Versova-Bandra-Sea Link is lagging behind and Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation imposed a penalty on the contractor. The Rs55,000 crore Mumbai-Nagpur super communication highway will be fully completed in December 2022.

Mumbai: Metro 2A & 7 updates

Mumbai Metro lines 2A and 7, which promise respite to commuters from the Western suburbs, are expected to become partially operational before February and the entire corridor is expected to be open by July 2022. Metro 7 line will run from Dahisar to Western Express Highway, Andheri, and 2A from Dahisar to D N Nagar. A senior Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority official said, “Nearly 95% of the work on Phase I is completed and we are confident of opening the lines in two to three months.”

The first phase spanning 20km is between Dahanukarwadi to Aarey (18 stations). Both these Metro lines are expected to reduce vehicular traffic by 25%. In September, MMRDA had served showcause notices to four contractors—J Kumar Infraprojects, NCC, Godrej and Capacite Infraprojects—for delay in completing Metro station works. MMRDA sources said the cumulative penalty amounting to more than Rs 2 crore will be recovered if they fail to complete the work within the set deadline. The official said, “The showcauses notices have acted as a deterrent and contractors are now able to meet the timetable as they have managed to mobilise manpower and machinery to complete the balance station works. We have not imposed any penalty yet but the show cause notices too have not been withdrawn.”

MMRDA had hoped to open these lines by October 2019. Later, this deadline was revised to December 2020. The pandemic in early 2020 led to a lockdown and fleeing of labourers to their native place due to which work had come to a standstill. The commercial operations were later targeted to commence from October 2021 between Kamraj Nagar and Aarey via Dahisar on both the lines. The commissioning deadline for the entire stretch of lines 2A and 7 was earlier set on January 1, 2022.

A senior state government official said, “The initial deadlines were extremely ambitious.”

MMRDA plans to run services with 11 rakes at a frequency of 15 to 20 minutes initially. As and when rakes get added, the frequency will come down to 5 minutes per train. Both these Metro lines were sanctioned by the Devendra Fadnavis-led government on October 6, 2015. The Bhoomipujan was performed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October11, 2015.