Ambani leaps into the online retail space as he transforms Reliance Industries Ltd

Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani (pictured) moved a step closer to creating an e-commerce giant for India, unveiling plans to set up a $24 billion digital services holding company that would become the main vehicle in his ambition to dominate the country’s internet shopping space.

This is really hotting up as Ambani takes on Amazon and Flipkart (owned by Walmart).

The board of Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd. approved a proposal to place $15 billion into the fully owned subsidiary, which will in turn invest that amount in Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd., the conglomerate’s telecommunications venture.

The move by Asia’s richest man is the latest sign of the oil-to-petrochemicals group’s pivot toward data and digital services for future growth. Ambani, 62, told shareholders in August that the new businesses, including retail, are likely to contribute half of Reliance’s earnings in a few years, versus about 32% now.

While former English teacher Jack Ma started Alibaba in 1999 from scratch, Ambani is using the heft of his empire to build something similar for India by connecting retailers and consumers.

Shares of Reliance Industries have rallied 28% this year, compared with an 8.8% gain in the benchmark S&P BSE Sensex index.

The tycoon, whose net worth is about $56 billion as per the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, has also revealed a plan to sell 20% of Reliance’s oil and chemicals business to Saudi Arabian Oil Co. at an enterprise value of $75 billion – he’s cleaning up the balance sheet and heading for a “debt free” target soon.

Watch this space!

Now India launches the worlds’ most expensive chocolate

I do love chocolate – but maybe not this much!

India’s ITC group has launched worlds’ most expensive chocolate that is priced at US$6152 per kg under its Fabelle brand name.

‘Trinity – Truffles Extraordinaire’, a limited-edition range of chocolate, that was introduced by ITC’s luxury chocolate brand Fabelle entered into Guinness World Records to become the world’s most expensive chocolate.

The chocolate is co-curated by France’s Michelin Star Chef Philippe Conticini and Fabelle’s Master Chocolatier.


ITC Chief Operating Officer – Chocolates, Confectionary, Coffee and New Categories – Food Division, Mr. Anuj Rustagi said, “We at Fabelle are extremely happy for setting new benchmarks not just in the Indian luxury chocolate market but also now in the world with achieving the Guinness World Records feat.”

The chocolates will be offered in a hand made wooden box that will contain 15 truffles, each weighing around 15 grams. The made-to-order box will be made available at an indulgent price of US$ 1,431 inclusive of taxes.

Place your order now!


India trade with USA given a boost while Australia is doing OK

This week USA-India trade grew to US$87 billion, as the demand from India for USA crude oil, LNG and coal took a big leap – energy imports from the USA have been around US$7 billion but this year will reach $10 billion.

Australia-India trade sits at around A$30 billion with Aussie exports of goods and services reaching $21 billion. While it could do better, compared to global data perhaps Australia is OK.


India’s top imports continue to be Crude Petroleum, gold, diamonds coal briquettes.

India’s main exports include rice, mica, orthopaedic devices, spices, jewellery and garments.

Both USA and Australia attract thousands of Indian university students and education has become a key segment of two-way trade – perhaps the future for it is “more two way”?

India’s PM Modi facing economic slowdown and needs a growth trigger

Moody’s is the most pessimistic, predicting Indian GDP to grow at just 5.8% for Financial Year 2020.

But s the above chart shows, many others are predicting declines.

This is a challenge for Indian PM Narendra Modi who has pinned his future on sustaining growth and lifting more out of poverty.

Citigroup has been optimistic on India, predicting that by 2050 India would be the world’s biggest economy. That was based on an annual growth rate of 6.5% over 40 years.

But 2019 has seen a slowdown to around 5% growth.

The one constant in India is population growth – around 20% per decade.

While the services and manufacturing sectors are seeing good growth, more can be achieve and infrastructure across the board still needs surgery. Daily power outages are common in major cities, education outcomes disappoint and healthcare is lagging. Not to mention roads and so on.

PM Modi needs a trigger – something that can draw the business and investment communities together to regain the excitement of the India growth story.

It is a major challenge.

Karnataka could lead India into global academic collaborations

India’s state of Karnataka is currently looking at a proposal to establish a “Centre for International Strategic Academic Collaboration” which would actively generate linkages with international universities and students.

The proposal is the brainchild of Mr. Nanjundaiya Ramesh Kumar (pictured below), holder of two Masters’ degrees – Industrial Economics from Brussels University, Brussels, Belgium and in Business Administration from Boston University, Boston, US. He is an experienced international banker and advisor to Governments as well as a tireless promoter of Karnataka as a provider of quality university education – the state has 55 universities.


INTO INDIA recently reported on an initiative of RMIT University in Melbourne to create a collaborative post graduate research model with India – universities and research institutes.

The Karnataka “Centre for International Strategic Academic Collaboration” would involve all 55 Universities (faculty, students and other stakeholders) in Karnataka and the professional community of learners internationally to achieve sharing of best and tested education practices via a mutually beneficial and collaborative international partnership.


The Centre would ensure that arrangements are in place at the University level for the effective management of overseas strategic academic collaborations, including procedures for the maintenance of academic standards and the assurance and enhancement of the student learning experience.

It would reach out to International Deans, College International Leads and College International Business Development Managers and key overseas University Services on the development and management of academic collaborations.


The Government of India since 2016 has been encouraging collaboration between Indian and overseas Universities.

Centrally this initiative has the full support of the Ministry of Human Resource Development and all States in India have been advised to look into this on priority basis.

Recommended areas of collaboration include Art and Design, Health, Higher Education, Creative writing & poetry, Literary criticism & English language, Sociology and Social Policy, Aviation, Transport and advanced Communication. Research Collaborations would be sought in Sensing & Imaging, Electrochemistry, graphene and carbon nanotubes, Mechanical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering and Sustainable Ecology and environment protection studies.

Education Hubs

One of the suggestion of the proposed Centre will be to Create ‘Education Hubs‘ or Centres of Excellences (CoEs) strategically in Bengaluru and allow reputable overseas institutions and universities to establish a presence in India, through joint initiatives (with any local university in Karnataka) in curriculum design and delivery, branch campuses, train the trainer initiatives and joint research and scholarly activities that could help build capacity, reduce the imbalance in student mobility and attract significant export earnings.

Karnataka is already strong in higher education – this proposal could see the state become a global higher education powerhouse and magnet.

This is definitely something the Australian Government and Australian universities should be actively looking at as pathways to collaboration in India become more open.


India way behind on the “study in India” goal of attracting foreign students

India’s higher education institutions hosted a total of 47,427 international students from 164 countries in the academic year 2018/19, newly-released figures reveal.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is determined to increase the quality of university education in India but he has a long way to go.

About 64% of all international enrolments came from 10 countries, and the highest senders were India’s regional neighbours.

Nepal sent 27% of all international students, Afghanistan 10% and Bangladesh 4%. The other countries in the top 10 were Sudan, Bhutan, Nigeria, US, Yemen, Sri Lanka and Iran.

Almost two thirds of the international student cohort were enrolled at undergraduate level, while 16% were pursuing postgraduate qualifications

Last year, the Study in India initiative made headlines as the country announced plans to rebrand as a major study destination and host 1 million international students.

According to Sannam S4  executive director & head of education Lakshmi Iyer, the country is “a long way” from achieving its goal.

“[International students are] merely 0.13% of the total enrolments in higher education in the year 2018-19,” she explained.

“The number of foreign students enrolled in India has increased by 3% year-on-year. So, a long way to go especially considering that foreign students come from 164 different countries across the globe.”

“India has always recognised the importance of education as a soft diplomacy tool, however it is for the first time we have stitched together a credible initiative to really push this agenda forward in the face of China’s well-funded Belt and Road Initiative which is pushing into regions which India considers as her natural allies,” she added.


Indian PM Modi picks up rubbish on the beach – how many PM’s and Presidents would do that?

Into India has always said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is different – in a very good way! News this week gives another example.

As part of his cleanliness drive, PM Modi picked up trash Saturday (pictured above) from a beach in the southern temple town where he hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Modi released a short video on Twitter showing him walking barefoot in the sand, collecting the trash in a bag on Saturday morning in Mamallapuram in Tamil Nadu state (pictured below).


He tweeted, “Let us ensure our public places are clean and tidy.”

Modi launched a “Clean India” campaign after he became prime minister in 2014.

In a radio talk last month, Modi lauded the efforts of an Indian “plogger,” Ripudaman Belvi, who launched a campaign to pick up litter while jogging.

Modi said that “plogging” is popular in foreign countries, and praised Belvi for promoting it in India.

We told you he was different! Let’s have more like him.

Modi rubbish

China, Japan and India – the new startup triangle

China is a major provider of funding and control of many Indian startups. In 2015, Alibaba invested in Paytm through its affiliate Ant Financial. In 2017, Tencent took major stakes in Flipkart and Ola.


Japan is also a serious provider of funding in India. Japanese giant Softbank has invested over US$8B in startups in the country, with a goal of $10B by 2024 that now looks surprisingly conservative.

As a result of this “triangle”, India is currently home to 26 startups valued over US$1B.

Oyo Hotels and Homes is raising US$1.5 billion from founder Ritesh Agarwal, SoftBank Group Corp., and other investors as it expands into foreign markets such as the U.S. and Europe.


Agarwal, 25, will spend $700 million to buy new shares in the company.

Indian edtech startup CollegeDekho, which helps students connect with prospective colleges and keep track of exams, has raised US$8 million in a Series B round.

Last October, Indian e-commerce startup Snapdeal raised US$627 million at a valuation of over $2 billion. In the same month, India’s Uber-style taxi service, Olaraised $210 million, while being valued at over $1 billion in under three years.


India’s largest online retailer and version of Amazon is Flipkart which recently raised another US$700 million at over a $11 billion valuation.

India’s online restaurant guide, Zomato, recently bought US-based Urbanspoon for over $50 million—one of the largest acquisitions by an Indian startup.


India’s Silicon Valley – Both Koramangala in Bangalore and Hiranandani Powai (pictured below) in Mumbai – are becoming thriving ecosystems to nurture startups in India.


Things are changing in modern India – and the “triangle” of India, China and Japan is playing a big role in the change.

 Time to look again?

India’s diversity means agreement can be a rare thing, even on the Vada Pav

A recent discussion with a group of young Indians was a great insight into the diversity of India.

I had asked the group what is in a Vada Pav (Mumbai’s favourite street food)?  Generally Vada Pav contains spicy potato filling, in a cut bun with layers of spicy garlic and green chutney. By the way, it is delicious!

vada pav7

One in the group did not think it had potato, Another member thought is was based on chick peas. Then the discussion went on. Finally, there was a happy confusion about Vada Pav.

This is India. Often you find there is no common understanding on what seem fairly simple things. Ask a group to tell you what a “crore” or a “lakh” is and pretty soon your head will be spinning.

Why does this happen?

It is not India, but many Indias. This is not one country – this is a country of countries. There are so many Indias and common understandings across the whole country are rare.

Major festivals often have different names or slightly different spelling of names, depending on where you are.

This is diversity and needs to be understood if you are to succeed there. India manages to stay together but it really is an amalgamation of ethnicity, culture and over 26 major languages.

Investigating culture pays off. Underestimating cultural difference can be the beginning of the end for your project.


I hope Australian PM Morrison will speak in January at India’s Raisina Dialogue

Good news – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is to visit India next year.

There is a hint that the timing is January.

I hope he chooses to become a keynote speaker at the Raisina Dialogue – January 14-16.

Raisina Dialogue is a multilateral conference committed to addressing the most challenging issues facing the global community. Every year, global leaders in policy, business, media and civil society are hosted in New Delhi to discuss cooperation on a wide range of pertinent international policy matters.

The Dialogue is structured as a multi-stakeholder, cross-sectoral discussion, involving heads of state, cabinet ministers and local government officials, as well as major private sector executives, members of the media and academics.

The conference is hosted by the Observer Research Foundation in collaboration with the Government of India, Ministry of External Affairs.

The visit is also a great opportunity to further develop the positive relationship PM Morrison has with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.