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Singapore should put in place billion dollar funding arrangement for Indian start-ups: Experts

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Singapore should put in place a billion-dollar funding arrangement for investments in Indian start-ups that are poised for exponential growth, according to experts.

Technologist and venture capitalist Mohandas Pai sees good potential for Singapore-India partnership in building the start-up ecosystem.

He called for a billion-dollar fund of funds for investments in at least 1,000 start-ups in India, which has a spread of over 40,000 such entities with 5,000-6,000 start-ups joining the industry every year.

"By 2025, we will have 1,00,000 start-ups and create USD 500 billion of value and employ 3.25 million people,” Pai said on the sidelines of Singapore Fintech Festival 2019.

Echoing similar view, Girija Pande, Chairman of Apex Avalon Consulting, who currently mentors four Indian start-ups in deep technology from Singapore said "we want much more investment in start-ups from Singapore."

The two IT stalwarts noted that Japan, constrained in developing domestic start-up ecosystem due to a small and stagnant economy, is working on a USD 200 million fund of funds for start-up investments in India.

According to Pai, India is expected to have 100 unicorns, up from 34 as of now, 18 of which are registered outside India for ease of raising funds from global markets.

Both Pande and Pai see the Indian IT industry growing from software services hub into a large base of manufacturing unique IT products for global markets.

Indian IT industry will remain competitive with a large number of engineers joining every year in a small domestic IT services economy.

India produces 800,000 engineers a year, with top 20 per cent becoming software engineers. Moreover, the average age of Indian software engineer is 27 and is trainable in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Pai said.

The US is the world's largest IT country with a mammoth economy and demand, but it is short on skilled engineers, Pai said adding that every two in six US-based engineers are from India.

"India clearly dominates this field and will keep dominating. There is no other country that can match India in software skill," Pai said at the FinTech Festival that was attended by 43 Indian companies.

DoT tells telcos to clear AGR dues as per SC order

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The Department of Telecom (DoT) has issued notice to telecom operators to pay their revenue share dues within three months as directed by the Supreme Court, according to an industry source.

The DoT has given option to telecom operators to clear all the dues on self-assessment basis.

The apex court had upheld the definition of Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) calculation as stipulated by the DoT.

The apex court had upheld the definition of Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) calculation as stipulated by the DoT.

According to an internal estimate prepared by the DoT, total dues on the telecom service providers arising out of SC order are around Rs 1.33 trillion.

As per DoT's estimate, liability of Bharti Airtel Group stands at Rs 62,187.73 crore, Vodafone Idea  at Rs 54,183.9 crore and BSNL and MTNL at Rs 10,675.18 crore.

DoT tells telcos to clear AGR dues as per SC order

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The Department of Telecom (DoT) has issued notice to telecom operators to pay their revenue share dues within three months as directed by the Supreme Court, according to an industry source.

The DoT has given option to telecom operators to clear all the dues on self-assessment basis.

The apex court had upheld the definition of Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) calculation as stipulated by the DoT.

The court held that all revenues, except for termination fee and roaming charges, will be a part of the AGR while telcos argued that non-telecom, non-core revenues should not be a part of the AGR.

In the next two weeks, the telecom department will seek the Cabinet's nod on the panel's proposals, the official said. Vodafone's decision to halt further investments in India has also given rise to concern, the official added.

According to an internal estimate prepared by the DoT, total dues on the telecom service providers arising out of SC order are around Rs 1.33 trillion.

As per DoT's estimate, liability of Bharti Airtel Group stands at Rs 62,187.73 crore, Vodafone Idea  at Rs 54,183.9 crore and BSNL and MTNL at Rs 10,675.18 crore.

Govt gives 3 months more till December for export of last year's balance sugar quota

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The government on Monday gave sugar mills three months more till December to export the last year's balance quota of the sweetener.

Mills were able to export about 3.8 million tonne of sugar during the 2018-19 marketing year (October-September) due to depressed market conditions, against the target of 5 million tonne under the Minimum Indicative Export Quota (MIEQ) scheme.

"Now, it has been decided by the central government to allow those sugar mills, which had partially exported their MIEQ of 2018-19 till September 2019, to export the balance quantity of their MIEQ by December 31, 2019," said a fresh notification issued by the food ministry.

This will be over and above the quota allocated for the ongoing 2019-20 marketing year.

A senior food ministry official said that much of the sugar during the last year was exported to the Middle East, Iran, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

For the current year, the government has fixed an export quota of 6 million tonne under the MIEQ. Mills are hopeful that the quota will be fulfilled as the global market is facing 4 million tonnes of deficit.

India has started the 2019-20 marketing year with an all-time high opening stock of 14.5 million tonne against a requirement of 3-5 million tonne.

The government has pegged sugar output to decline to 28-29 million tonne for the current year from 33.1 million tonnes during 2018-19 due to sharp fall in cane acreage in Maharashtra and Karnataka.

Whereas industry body ISMA has projected the country's output to touch a three-year low at 26 million tonne during 2019-20.

There are 534 mills in the country. Mills in Uttar Pradesh have started the crushing operation, while it is delayed in Maharasthra and Karnataka.

Iron ore supply to steel makers to be disrupted after mining leases expire

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With the mining leases of 329 private mines slated to expire on March 31, apex mineral body FIMI believes that iron ore, a raw material used in steel-making, will be the worst hit from the move.

The 329 mines, including 48 operative and 281 non-operative ones, are spread across 10 states, Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (FIMI) said.

"Raw material for steel industry, iron ore, would be the worst hit, since out of 329 mines 232 are of iron ore alone - 24 operative and 208 non-operative iron ore mines," FIMI Secretary General R K Sharma said in a statement.

"Things are not that simple as the government might be thinking. It is going to be a panic situation for a lessee if it is not able to retain the mine.....On one side steel industry is looking to produce 300 plus million tonne and here we have a situation where supplies of raw material are bound to get disrupted for a long period," Sharma said adding that the current capacity is of about 100 million tonne.

When India is looking to achieve this target, the blues in iron ore mining will be a major roadblock for steel producers, he rued.

The mining leases of 48 operative mines - 24 in Odisha, six each in Jharkhand and Karnataka, five in Gujarat, three in Andhra Pradesh, two in Rajasthan, and one mine each in Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh - will expire on March 31, 2020.

Mining leases of 184 non-operative mines in Goa, 42 in Karnataka, 12 each in Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh, nine in Maharashtra, seven in Odisha, six each in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, two in Rajasthan, one in Himachal Pradesh will also expire.

Majority of non-operative iron ore mines are in Goa which has a blanket ban on mining.

Besides iron ore, the mining leases of 21 mines of manganese, 14 of bauxite, 23 of limestone, four of chromite, two of graphite, one of garnet and 32 of other minerals will expire on March 31.

"FIMI does not understand the logic behind such discrimination. For captive mines the expiry is March 31, 2030 and for non-captive mines it is March 31, 2020. Ultimately the raw material is being used to make final products. These bottlenecks are nothing but hinderance in economic growth and need to be removed," Sharma said.

FM to review state of economy at FSDC meet on Nov 7

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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will review the state of economy at a meeting of the Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC) on November 7 to be attended by sectoral regulators, including RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das. The FSDC is the apex body of sectoral regulators, headed by the finance minister.

According to sources, the meeting will take stock of various measures taken by the government to boost the sagging growth which hit a six-year low of 5 percent in the first quarter of the current fiscal.

The meeting will review the current global and domestic economic situation and financial stability issues, including those concerning banking and NBFCs, sources added.

Besides RBI Governor, Securities and Exchange Board of India chairman Ajay Tyagi, Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India(IRDAI) chairman Subhash Chandra Khuntia, Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) chairman M S Sahoo and Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Ravi Mittal will attend the meeting.

This would be the second meeting of the FSDC after the Modi 2.0 government assumed office.

The government has announced several short and long-term measures to boost the economy in three phases between August 23 and September 14.

Out of the total 44 measures announced, 16 have been fulfilled while the rest of the announcements are under consideration by relevant ministries.

Further, it said action on one out of three announcements made for the housing sector has been completed and the other two are being taken up.

According to experts the slowdown is primarily due to moderation in demand and steps are being taken to infuse liquidity in the financial system to aid loan growth.

Sources said the FSDC meeting will also be attended by Minister of State for Finance Anurag Singh Thakur, Finance Secretary Rajiv Kumar, Economic Affairs Secretary Atanu Chakraborty, Revenue Secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey and other top officials of the finance ministry.

FM Nirmala Sitharaman reviews state of economy at FSDC meeting

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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday reviewed the state of economy including stress in the financial sector at the meeting of the Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC). The FSDC is the apex body of sectoral regulators, headed by the finance minister.

"The meeting was very constructive and it took stock of entire financial system and other issues," said Finance Secretary Rajiv Kumar after the meeting that lasted nearly two hours.

RBI and other regulators are looking at financial at it holistically, he said when asked about stress in the financial sector.

Bank credit growth to moderate to 8.5% in FY20: ICRA

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Growth in bank credit may decelerate sharply to 8-8.5 percent during 2019-20 from 13.3 percent last fiscal, mainly due to decline in incremental credit in first half of the current financial year, rating agency Icra said in a report.

"Moreover, with the bond markets remaining risk averse towards NBFCs, the YoY growth in the volume of bonds outstanding is expected to moderate to about 4 percent in FY2020 from 12 percent in FY2019," it said.

Additionally, the recent changes in mutual funds regulations are likely to result in a decline in the volume of commercial paper (CP) outstanding by March 2020, it said.

Considering these three domestic sources of funding, that is bank credit, corporate bonds and CP outstanding, Icra expects year-on-year credit growth to decline to 6.2-6.8 percent in FY20 from 13.5 percent in the last financial year.

A shift of large borrowers such as NBFCs and housing finance companies (HFCs) to the banking system for their funding requirements had boosted bank credit growth in FY19, it said.

However, factors such as muted economic growth, lower working capital requirements of various borrowers, as well as risk aversion among lenders, have compressed incremental credit in first half of the current fiscal, it said.

"Incremental bank credit has declined by Rs 0.19 trillion during H1 FY'20, in contrast to the rise of Rs 0.81 trillion during H1 FY'18 and Rs 3.51 trillion during H1 FY'19," it said.

The recent data on bank credit released by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) reveals that the contraction in incremental credit outstanding to the services as well as the industrial segments, offset the entire growth in credit to the retail segment during H1 FY20, it said.

Within services, the credit outstanding to NBFCs increased. However, the decline in trade credit and other services (which also includes HFCs) resulted in the overall contraction in credit outstanding to the services segment in H1 FY20.

India manufacturing activity growth drops to 2-year low in October: Report

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Manufacturing activity in the country continued to weaken in October, with factory orders and production rising at the weakest rates in two years, a monthly survey said on Friday.

The headline seasonally adjusted IHS Markit India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell to a two-year low of 50.6 in October from 51.4 in September.

This indicates only a marginal improvement in the health of the manufacturing industry, the survey said.

In PMI parlance, a print above 50 means expansion, while a score below that denotes contraction.

As per the IHS Markit survey, the cooling of manufacturing sector conditions in India continued in October, with both factory orders and production rising at the weakest rates for two years.

"Subsequently, job creation softened to a six-month low, while companies were reluctant to hold excess stock and lowered input buying in response," it noted.

The PMI data for October showed a continuation of manufacturing sector weakness in India, "with sales growth softening to the slowest in two years", said Pollyanna De Lima, Principal Economist at IHS Markit.

"Weakening demand had a domino effect in the manufacturing industry, knocking down rates of increase in production, employment and business sentiment," Lima said.

With quantities of purchases contracting for the third month in a row, Lima pointed out that input costs fell for the first time in over four years during October.

Citing Singapore model, experts bat for cutting multiple GST rates in India

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Citing the example of Singapore, several experts have suggested that India should do away with multiple tax slabs under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) for greater ease of compliance.

Singapore has only one tax rate under GST— seven per cent -- on taxable goods and services while India has multiple slabs to charge the indirect tax.

An achievement of India's GST implementation is that the measure hasn't been inflationary, according to Abhijit Nath, who works with Insitor Partners, a consultancy firm on GST.

“However, to avoid confusion and greater ease of compliance, India should aim for a two-rate system over time to be in line with global best practices,” suggested Nath.

GST introduction in India has the potential to be a long-term game-changer by unifying the country as one market, he said.

Singapore's practice of early announcement of GST rates for various categories helps in smooth transition, he added.

“This also makes the increase politically viable,” Nath said, suggesting that the same can be followed in India as well.

Singapore's Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in his budget 2018 speech announced that there are plans to increase GST from 7 per cent to 9 per cent sometime from 2021 to 2025, according to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS).

Sandeep Chilana, managing partner of Chilana and Chilana law offices, said India should endeavour to move towards least tax slabs.

He said while other countries have considered a single rate of GST, keeping in mind the vast gap in per capital income and the need for generating revenues, it may not be possible at this stage for India to consider it.

“However, India should endeavour to move towards least tax slabs possible, of 6 per cent and 14 per cent,” Chilana said.

Manu Bhaskaran, founding director and chief executive officer of Centennial Asia Advisors, said GST is one of the most efficient taxes available “so it is a good tax”.

“By itself, it can be regressive so it needs to be combined, as Singapore did, with other measures so that the net effect is not regressive,” he said, when asked what developing economies like India can learn from Singapore's GST model.

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