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TMC for rollback of Mudra scheme due to rising NPAs

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Voicing concern over increasing default in loan repayment under the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (Mudra), the Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Tuesday demanded that the government rollback the scheme before rising NPAs stifle credit growth and bring ruin to the MSME sector.

The Mudra Yojana was launched in 2015 for providing small loans to income generating small enterprises in manufacturing and services. Raising the issue during Zero Hour in the Upper House, TMC member Manish Gupta said, "Public sector banks have suffered hugely because of this scheme as collateral is not mandatory under the scheme. Over 2,300 cases of fraud have been detected and Mudra category loans have increased over last few years."

The NPAs (non-performing assets) have been on a rise in public sector banks. The number of NPA accounts have increased from 17.99 lakh accounts in 2018 to 30.57 lakh accounts in just one year, he said.

Total value of non-performing assets (NPAs) by public sector banks is Rs 7.07 lakh crore.This figure has increased more than 100 per cent, he added.

Gupta said the RBI has advised that rising NPAs under Mudra loans should be addressed aggressively. So far this fiscal year, Rs 1.41 lakh crore loan has been disbursed under Mudra Yojana.

"However, sources have claimed that bankers are pressured to grant Mudra loans to people who sometimes have no business plan," Gupta said. The average loan under the scheme is Rs 45,000, which many reports say is not enough to start a business and create jobs, he added. Moreover, the data suggests, the Trinamool Congress member said only one out of five or 20 per cent of Mudra loans has resulted in job creation. "Sir, this is yet another example of poor economics and poorer implementation. I would only urge the government to roll back the scheme before rising NPAs stifle credit growth and bring ruin upon the MSME sector," Gupta noted.

MMTC importing onions to meet demand; shipment likely by January 20: MoS Consumer Affairs

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State-run trading company MMTC is importing onions to check spiralling prices and the shipment is expected to arrive by January 20, Union Minister Danve Raosaheb Dadarao said in Rajya Sabha on Friday.

Delayed and prolonged rains are the main reason for damage to onion crops, Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Dadarao said during Question Hour.

He said the government used buffer stock to meet the crisis.

"Onion prices are rising ... there can be no two opinions. Late rains and prolonged rains damaged onion crop...But government had buffer stock, it was distributed from that. MMTC is importing from various countries and it is expected by January 20," the Minister said replying to a supplementary.

On Thursday, onion prices which have been fluctuating for over a month in Delhi, touched Rs 109 per kg in many markets in the city.

About edible oil, the minister said its domestic production is not adequate to meet demand in the country and gap between demand and production is met through imports.

"The production of soyabean in Maharashtra for 2019-20 is expected to be 42.08 lakh tonne as compared to 45.48 Lakh tonne in 2018-19. However, the expected production of 42.08 LT of soyabean in 2019-20, in Maharashtra, is more than the last five year average production of 34.77 LMT," the minister said.

In case of any decline in the domestic production, the gap between demand and availability is met through import of edible oils, he said.

He said while government has taken various steps to enhance edible oil production, 60 per cent of its requirement is met through imports while only 40 per cent was met through domestic production.

He said its minimum support price has been increased.

Services output expands for first time in 3 months: PMI

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India's services sector activity returned to growth after two months of decline in November, driven by new business orders, faster job creation and strengthening business confidence, a monthly survey showed on Wednesday but noted that there were signs of "fragility".

The IHS Markit India Services Business Activity Index improved to 52.7 in November from 49.2 in October.

Notwithstanding the upturn, the headline figure remained below its long-run average of 54.2, the survey added.

"Although the services economy shrugged off some of the weakness seen in September and October, the latest PMI results continue to sound a note of caution regarding demand and the underlying state of the sector," said Pollyanna de Lima, Principal Economist at IHS Markit.

Lima further cautioned that "while the sector moved along nicely and looks set for a sustained expansion in December, there were signs of fragility".

"Rates of expansion in sales and activity were mild by historical standards, while the degree of business confidence remained subdued. Also, a moderation in charge inflation, which came despite the strongest upturn in cost burdens for over a year, highlights a lack of pricing power among services firms," Lima said.

On the prices front, the survey said that the average input prices increased solidly in November, with the rate of inflation quickening to a 13-month high. While, average prices charged for the provision of services in India increased only slightly and at the weakest pace since July.

"This relatively weak rise in charges likely supported demand in November, but leads to questions on how long firms can absorb cost increases and sacrifice margins in favour of demand growth," Lima said.

The Composite PMI Output Index that maps both the manufacturing and services sector, rose from 49.6 to 52.7, signalling a moderate pace of increase that was below the long-run survey average.

According to official data, India's GDP growth hit an over six-year low of 4.5 per cent in July-September 2019.

Bankers and experts believe the Reserve Bank may cut interest rates for the sixth straight time on December 5, to support growth that has continued to slip.

No job losses post merger of 10 PSBs: Govt

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The government on Tuesday assured the Rajya Sabha that merger of 10 public sector banks will not lead to any job losses and employees' interest will be protected.

In August, the government announced a mega plan to merge 10 public sector banks into four with a view to creating fewer and stronger global-sized lenders with robust balance sheets that can be used to boost credit and spur growth.

During the Question Hour, Minister of State for Finance Anurag Singh Thakur said lending and other banking services to eastern states will be improved after two Kolkata-based banks are merged.

While United Bank of India (UBI) will be merged with Punjab National Bank, Allahabad Bank will be amalgamated with Indian Bank. These two banks are headquartered in Kolkata.

"Merger of banks will strengthen the lending capacity. It has been ensured that no person loses job. The employees of merging banks will benefit the maximum. Merger is being done keeping their interest in mind," he said.

"We have taken enough precaution," he said, adding that Narasimham Committee in 1998 and Leeladhar Committee in 2008 recommended amalgamation of the banks.

"Amalgamating banks was advised to duly factor in and draw road maps for converging IT systems and HR and to put in place institutional arrangements to ensure expeditious integration," Thakur said.

After due consideration by their respective boards, the banks have informed that multi-level coordination and integration committees have been set up to ensure faster integration across functionalities, he added.

The minister was responding to a query from Trinamool Congress member Manish Gupta who said that about 50,000 employees will be jobless by next year due to the merger.

To another query on banking services likely to be affected in eastern states due to the merger, the minister said the reach and lending capacity will be "much larger and better" with the amalgamation.

"In today's time of competition, I think expansion of these banks is very important...It was our government which went for asset quality review of bank loans given between 2004 and 2014. We adopted an approach for better functioning of the banks and recapitalised them with over Rs 2.35 lakh crore for better strengthening and functioning," he said.

As far as lending to eastern states is concerned, the minister said, "Let me assure the member there would not be any shortage or shortfall of services."

Responding to another query from Trinamool Congress member Manas Ranjan Bhunia on reasons for merger of UBI with PNB, the minister said, "I think the overall intention was to create a strong and competitive bank that may serve as catalyst of growth with improved risk profile of the bank. As far as the interest of the employees are concerned, pay allowances were less favourable overall."

He said UBI's total business size is Rs 2,08,000 crore, whereas that of PNB is Rs 11,82,224 crore. With the merger, total business size will be Rs 17,94,526 crore, making it the second largest bank in the country.

"What we have kept in mind is the software 'Core Banking System' being used by them. All these banks which are using similar kind of software have been merged accordingly so that there would not be any difficulty for the employees," he said.

As far as the sentiment of eastern states or Kolkata is concerned, that will be taken care of, Thakur added.

India's manufacturing sector activity growth inches up in November; but remains subdued

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The country's manufacturing sector activity inched up in November, but the upturn remained subdued as growth rates for new orders as well as production were modest, a monthly survey said on Monday.

The IHS Markit India Manufacturing PMI rose to 51.2 in November from 50.6 in October, when it had fallen to a two-year low, indicating only a slight improvement in the health of the sector.

Although business conditions in the Indian manufacturing sector improved in November, the rise, however, remained subdued compared to earlier this year and the survey history, the study said.

This is the 28th consecutive month that the manufacturing PMI has remained above the 50-point mark. In PMI parlance, a print above 50 means expansion, while a score below that denotes contraction.

"After pulling back noticeably in October, manufacturing sector growth displayed a welcoming acceleration in November. Still, rates of expansion in factory orders, production and exports remained far away from those recorded at the start of 2019, with subdued underlying demand largely blamed for this," said Pollyanna de Lima, Principal Economist at IHS Markit.

According to the survey, growth of manufacturing activity in November was supported by the launch of new products and better demand, though restrained by competitive pressures and unstable market conditions.

"Some level of uncertainty regarding the economy was evident by a subdued degree of business optimism. Also, companies shed jobs for the first time in over a year-and a-half and there was another round of reduction in input buying," Lima said.

Lima further noted that the weakness of these forward-looking indicators suggest that firms are bracing themselves for challenging times ahead.

On the inflation front, there were only marginal increases in both input costs and output charges in November.

"PMI data continued to show a lack of inflationary pressures in the sector which, combined with slow economic growth, suggests that the RBI will likely extend its accommodative policy stance and further reduce the benchmark interest rate during December," Lima said.

The Reserve Bank may cut interest rates for the sixth straight time on December 5 to support growth that has continued to slip to more than six-year low on slump in manufacturing, bankers and experts said.

The RBI has cut interest rates on every single occasion the monetary policy committee (MPC) has met since Shaktikanta Das took over as the Governor in last December.

In five reductions so far in 2019, interest rates have been lowered by a total of 135 basis points over concerns that growth momentum is slowing down and also to try to boost liquidity in the financial system.

GDP growth slowed sharply to a pace of 4.5 percent in the July-September, hit by a slump in manufacturing output. The pace of GDP growth has moderated from the 5 percent rate in April-June and 7 percent in July-September quarter of 2018.

Further dip in GDP growth strengthens case for a 25 bps rate cut: Aditi Nayar

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In line with expectations, economic expansion slowed further in Q2 FY20, with GDP and GVA growth declining to 4.5 percent and 4.3 percent, respectively in the quarter, down from 5 percent and 4.9 percent, respectively in Q1 FY20.

The dip in GDP growth in Q2 FY20 was unsurprisingly led by anemic investment activity, with gross fixed capital formation rising by 1 percent on a year-on-year basis.

Somewhat unexpectedly, private final consumption expenditure displayed a sequential uptick in growth to 5.1 percent in Q2 FY20, up from 3.1 percent in the previous quarter. This was at odds with the evidence provided by various sectors that consumer sentiment was muted in both rural as well as urban areas.

Moreover, the quarter post-elections saw a sharp improvement in the growth of government final consumption expenditure to 15.6 percent in Q2 FY20 from 8.8 percent seen in Q1 FY20.

In terms of the sectors of the GVA, the slowdown was driven by industry, even as the services and agriculture broadly maintained their growth momentum in Q2 FY20, as we had anticipated.

Industrial GVA growth recorded a broad-based deceleration to a marginal 0.5 percent in Q2 FY20 from 2.7 percent in the previous quarter. This was driven by the 1 percent contraction in manufacturing GVA in Q2 FY20, which reflects the subdued volume trends reported for a wide variety of sectors.

In our view, muted raw material costs cushioned earnings, and prevented manufacturing GVA from displaying an even deeper contraction in Q2 FY20.

The modest agricultural growth in Q2 FY20 was in line with our forecast, based on the mixed trend in the output of kharif crops revealed by the 1st Advance Estimates of crop production.

However, with the excessive rainfall in various parts of the country in August-October 2019, additional moisture could lead to crop yields being lower than the initial estimates, in our view.

A sharp expansion in Central and state government spending in Q2 FY20 supported the performance of public administration, defence, and other services, which boosted service sector growth in that quarter. Excluding this sub-sector, GVA growth slowed to a distressingly low 3.2 percent in Q2 FY20 from 4.5 percent in Q1 FY2020.

In October 2019, the Monetary Policy Committee had indicated that it would retain the stance of monetary policy as accommodative for as long as necessary to revive growth.

Following the slowdown in GDP growth in Q2 FY20, the contraction in the core sector output has deepened sequentially in October 2019.

Therefore, we anticipate that the Committee would reduce the repo rate by 25 bps in the December 2019 policy review to support economic growth, looking through the vegetable price-led uptick in the CPI inflation in October 2019.

Not through bonds, only cash, says Rangarajan on banks recapitalisation

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Former RBI governor C Rangarajan on Friday suggested that recapitalisation of banks should be done through by infusing cash rather than issuing Bonds, as he cautioned that Boards of public sector undertakings, including banks, should maintain "arms length" from the Government.

Rangarajan comments assume significance as Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in August, announced upfront capital infusion of Rs 70,000 crore into public sector banks, a move aimed at boosting lending and improving liquidity situation.

At the inaugural session of the seminar 'Non-Performing Assets (NPA) and its Resolution in Indian Banks' at ICFAI Foundation for Higher Education,he, however, said the centre has infused Rs two lakh crore as capital into various banks during the past three years and it would be difficult for any dispensation to pump in so much as capital in cash form.

"I also have a point that one of the answers to the problems faced by the banking system is to ensure that the capitalisation of the banks is done properly."

According to him, the mode of recapitalisation that is being done now is through the issue of bonds. "What the banks really gain is only the interest income through the bonds. This also needs a relook...I plead guilty because we initiated thisin the early 1990s. But that was a different situation.

The fiscal was undergoing a great deal of problems as part of the reforms (then). But should we continue with this system?" he said.

The economist said though the majority of the stakes in banks is owned by the government, it is necessary to ensure that the lenders run business in the national interest and it is not necessary for the government to interfere with commercial decisions of banks.

"The credit decisions must be left to the Boards (of directors of banks). There is a large literature on the relationship between the government not only banks but also other public sector units.

And the people talk about the arms length between the board and the government..There is still much that needs to be done in terms of appropriate mechanism for appointing the Boards, for appointing the chief executives of the banks," he said.

Later talking to reporters, he said though there is decline in the country's growth numbers the situation does not amount to "recession."

"There is a slowdown..there is no doubt about the fact that there is slowdown, but the slowdown is in growth rate," Rangarajan said.

Hoping that the growth may pick up next year onwards, the former Chairman of the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council said it would take another eight years for India to become USD five trillion economy as opposed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's target of 2025, due to the muted growth now. "The growth may pick up next year. Growth may not be substantial, but it may pick up next year..it takes 2-3 years to get back the growth of higher than 7 per cent," he said.

Advising that bankers should neither be "lazy bankers" nor "hasty bankers", Rangarajan said recent history shows that the appraisal systems for credit and working capital should be improved.

Andhra Pradesh govt hopes to get $60 million loan from World Bank for watershed project

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The Andhra Pradesh government is hoping to secure a 60 million USD loan from the World Bank to take up the Rejuvenating Watersheds for Agriculture Resilience through Innovative Development (REWARD) project in five parched districts of the state over the next six years.

The total cost of the project, which would be taken up in the four Rayalaseema districts of Anantapuramu, Chittoor, Kadapa and Kurnool besides Prakasam in south coastal AP, is expected to be around Rs 500 crore.

While the World Bank would fund 70 per cent of the project cost, the state and the central governments have to share the balance, a senior official of the Panchayat Raj Department said.

The REWARD project would be implemented in Karnataka and Odisha apart from AP, with the World Bank lending a sum of 178 million USD for the three states. The total project cost in the three states is estimated to be 350 million USD.

A team of World Bank officials, led by Task Team leader Priti Kumar and co-leader Grant Milne, held talks separately with state Panchayat Raj Minister P R C Reddy and Chief Secretary Nilam Sawhney and discussed the project modalities.

"The project is in a preliminary stage and the World Bank has agreed in principle to grant the loan. We hope to get about 60 million USD from the Bank," Panchayat Raj Commissioner M Girija Shankar told PTI after the meeting.

Efficient water management, soil fertility improvement, adoption of standard agricultural practices and enhancement of cultivation are some of the salient features of the proposed project. Protection of water resources in areas of scarcity and optimum utilisation of water using proper management techniques would be the key features of the project.

The project would be implemented on a convergence mode involving different departments and also the MGNREGP, official sources said.

The state government would form a consortium comprising the State Rural Development Agency, Agriculture Department, AP Space Applications Centre and the Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University to oversee the project.

Real estate package easy to implement in the short term: Samir Arora of Helios Capital

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Indian markets on November 26 touched new milestones but failed to hold on to gains and ended moderately lower.

The Sensex hit 41,000 for the first time, rising to 41,120 at day's high before settling 68 points lower at 40,821. The broader Nifty also touched a new intra-day high of 12,132 though settled 0.30 percent lower at 12,037.

In an interview with CNBC-TV18, Founder and Fund Manager of Helios Capital Samir Arora said the momentum will sustain but the rally needs to broaden.

“Now we are analysing two things on stocks. One is the stock and the other is what has brought it down. Sometimes...what has brought it down is so irrelevant that we can expect that at least it will retrace 50-60 percent of that fall because the fall is so disproportionate to the news,” he pointed out.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

The big question then is the new all-time high. What should be the market strategy at this point? Stay with the leaders?

I would think that for the moment, that momentum is working but if you have to take a slightly longer-term bet, the bet must be that this rally will broaden and actually it’s already broadening; if I look at the 5-7 stocks we bought in the last 3-4 months, they are up like 30-40 percent each, some which I told on your channel also once.

So I can see that it is broadening but it has not spread yet. But overall I am still a bit confused as to why it has suddenly gone up yesterday and today – that is a separate question.

What would be the stock-picking strategy now?

As I said what we did over the last few months is buy some of the stocks which may have had some bad recent results or something, but which were not going to totally disappear from the map of investing and all of them seemed to have worked and maybe more have worked but I am only tracking the ones I bought.

I totally do not believe that to be a fund manager, you have to choose between either a strategy given by one fund manager who says buy the highest quality or the second one who says buy totally beaten-up because at a certain instance and time that would make one strategy much better and therefore that fund manager a big hero of that time.

However, overall it’s a continuous game where investors are coming, old investors are already there.

So you cannot say that if today the price is right and tomorrow, if the price is up 20 percent and a new guy comes in, the new investor comes in, basically he is buying the same stock 20 percent higher and it does not matter what the starting point is, what the time is. It is a mix and match and that is what a fund manager can do by buying 30 odd names.

So we have always had this mix and over time the discoveries will be in the stocks that have not done well or that are beaten-up or their beating up was much more.

There are so many examples where the reaction to the news is totally disproportionate and now are allocating 10-15 percent in five names; 2 percent only, but in names where the stock doesn't need to be good or bad but the response to some random irrelevant news is so high.

Can you name stocks or at least sectors?

Last time I indirectly said were the Delhi real estate company and a private sector bank which cannot be driven out of existence; only you may have a market cap of $ 1-1.5 billion and proper private sector banks, not those old banks. So those stocks have all gone 30-40 percent, not a bad deal. There are 3-4 more like that.

Some we may say, enough is enough but the point is now we are analysing two things on new stock. One is the stock and the other is what has brought it down. Sometimes the stock may not be great but what has brought it down is so irrelevant that we can half expect that at least it will retrace 50-60 percent of that fall because the fall is so disproportionate to the news.

I just want to come back to the point about what is happening with this market because as you said if you go out on the street everyone is talking about how this market is climbing a wall of worry but there are so many worries whether it is slowdown, GST, weak global cues, weak GDP, etc, you think there is still more legs for this market to go or do you think now it will catch up with reality?

I think it is not straightforward and going up at this pace may not be fair as of now. However we have a high net because we are betting on the budget but the new news that is coming on the budget is not so exciting because there is no talk on LTCG, DDT may be useful to some but not useful to others but what can they do for telecom? You cannot tell the world that there is price control, you can only give them compensation in some other form -- take two more years, three more years. So, it is not straightforward but as I said the government seems to be keen on doing things and that is helpful and over time the base effect will take over.

The real estate package which came up with reviving these old stuck projects is easy to implement in the short term. I think the government should give up on the deficit number because that is making it do things that are not necessarily optimal.

For example, you want to privatise BPCL, you can get a much higher value if you gave it a little bit more time. If you say no, I must do it by March 31 because I have to show a fiscal deficit number, most probably you will sell it at a suboptimal price. So, they should just give up the fiscal deficit number and treat it like a rolling number rather than a number which you have to get on March 31.

The sector of this year has been telecom - Bharti has been the stock of the year. Do you think this rally has a risk of perhaps completely petering off in 2020 or are you adding any telecom names to your portfolio?

You do the research of 160 countries and tell me in which country a telecom stock has done well over 10 years, any country, whatever be the structure, the whole world is available to you for research that which country the pure telecom stocks have beaten their market in a meaningful manner?

Go for 2-player countries, 3-player countries, go to any country and do any period for the last 10-15 years, it is a capital guzzling machine, it is not so straightforward.

Which sector does well across countries, liquor?

It is very easy. Best is to go and look at the Forbes list around the world and see where are the billionaires? You will see that the billionaires are mostly in technology because they don't have to dilute so much. You become a billionaire or your stock does well - which is the same thing - in two ways. One is your company becomes very big or your company doesn't become super big but you have a large stake in it. You have a large stake in it means that you didn't have to sell much along the way.

So if you look at the big billionaires, they will be in technology, they will be in consumer like the Walmarts and all have so many billionaires. Where have you found a telecom billionaire? Except for absolute monopoly in Mexico.

Since you have been in India for a week, what is the sense you are getting, is the equity cult back because mostly what we are seeing is the hot money driving this market, there has been money coming from FIIs, etc. But what about the domestic fraternity? Do you think DIIs are going to take this market ahead?

I don't know like that directly but my problem is whoever I met is confused that why am I bullish on this market because the corporate is not bullish.

We say, no, look ahead, look beyond, tax cut, long-term capital gain (LTCG) cut - LTCG cut excites us but doesn't excite the corporates. So we hope that there will be some consumption-driven or demand-driven cuts, maybe tax cuts or something. I think all this can be achieved provided the government gives up on this fiscal deficit.

Anyway, two years ago we had a higher fiscal deficit. So we can restart from that level and then say that now that we have done everything and the economy mostly will be on the mend, now we will go down but for one shot, we are taking it back to 3.8. So we are not stuck upon it.

Right now I think they are stuck upon this number which is - there is another fear that if they are stuck upon this number, what will they do in January, February, and March. Will they suddenly freeze any more spending because they will try to hit that number?

A lot of companies are complaining that dues from the government are increasing at a time when it is already difficult to raise money. So your point is taken. It can grind the economy slower. Which waters will you fish in?

I only do the same three sectors which I told you, financials, consumer - broadly defined - and technology. These days they are all working, so we are all enjoying it.

Rejected for an engineering job? Your qualifications might not be the reason

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Manish Dhawan was fresh out of a leading engineering institute and had applied for a role at a manufacturing firm.

However, he was surprised when his classmate with lower scores and no relevant work experience, was chosen over him.

A senior from his college later told Dhawan that his answers in the interview lacked conviction. This is despite the fact that he answered all the technical questions accurately.

Incubation lab BridgeLabz Solutions recently did a study on technology employability in India. This showed that 50 percent of engineers were found to be under-confident while applying for jobs.

For employers, what matters is not only your degree or knowledge, but how you present yourself in an interview. Technology and manufacturing firms are paying special attention to these aspects.

There could be instances where a candidate does not know the correct answer to a technical question. Rather than faking an answer or lying, it is imperative that he/she is truthful and confident about that the fact that they are willing to learn on the job.

On the other hand, as the survey also pointed out, engineering school syllabus is out of sync with the real-world needs. Rather than having yearly meetings on fee hikes, the engineering institutes need to focus on course revamp every one to two years.

Human resource experts also state that even instances like inability to give a 'firm' handshake or drinking multiple glasses of water during an interview is a clear sign of under-confidence.

Similarly, when given an opportunity to ask questions to the interviewer, the type of queries also matter. Asking about the job role and team or compensation structure is appreciated while staying quiet can be seen as being 'dull'.

At a time when every employee is considered as a company's brand ambassador, HR managers also look to choose people who can represent this brand everywhere they go. And under-confidence means that the prospective employee will not be able to appropriately present the vision and mission of the company in any public forum.

No engineering institute will be able to help a candidate in getting this training. This will have to be done through a mix of observing seniors or talking to alumni working in a chosen company.

At the end of the day, how you market yourself on the day of the interview can be a make or break moment for your professional career.

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