Modi pushing hard on reducing imports and increasing exports

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi set out an ambitious plan to boost exports while reducing imports – and it is working.

According to data collected from the Centre Government, India’s exports to the USA amounted to USD 5.1 billion in September 2020, 15.5% more than the figures for the corresponding month (USD 4.4 billion) in 2019.

In addition, imports from the United States decreased by a substantial 34.3% to USD 1.8 billion in September 2020, compared to USD 2.8 billion in September 2019.

Similarly, in the period from April to September this year, imports from China, one of the largest producers of commodities across industries, decreased to USD 27.4 billion. Therefore, imports have decreased by 24.5% from the USD 36.3 billion amount for the same duration last year.

Meanwhile, Indian exports to China increased by 26.3% to hit USD 10.6 billion in the above-mentioned period, a substantial increase from USD 8.4 billion for the period April-September 2019.

It’s a stunning turnaround and more is to come…

Suzlon Group appoints new CEO for next stage of renewable energy

Suzlon Group, India’s largest renewable energy provider, has announced that it has appointed Mr. Ashwani Kumar as its Group CEO.

This is a significant announcement for sustainable energy and India in particular.

The Suzlon Group is one of the leading renewable energy solutions providers in the world with a global presence across 18 countries in Asia, Australia, Europe, Africa and Americas. Headquartered at Suzlon One Earth in Pune, India; the Group is comprised of Suzlon Energy Limited (NSE & BSE: SUZLON) and its subsidiaries.

Ashwani Kumar, with over three decades of experience in the areas of projects, business development and finance at leading Indian Power and Infrastructure companies is a Mechanical Engineer, and an alumnus of IIM Bangalore and The Harvard Business School.

Mr Tulsi Tanti

Mr Tulsi Tanti, Chairman and Managing Director, Suzlon Group, is the driving force who has built Suzlon into a major global wind energy player.

Mr Tanti is picture sixth from left when he presented the Australia India Address in Melbourne.

India boosts Quad naval cooperation as China hostility continues

New defence ties in the Indian Ocean region are rolling out on a regular basis – the latest one reports Australia will join three-way Malabar naval exercises – involving the United States, Japan and India.

Australia left the program after participating in 2007 – leaving following some strong criticism from China.

The move back by Australia shows how much regional attitudes to China have changed.

This new move could raise concerns in China, which has criticised similar joint drills as “destabilising”. China has been slamming import restrictions on Australian cola, cotton, wine and other products.

In contrast to declining relations with China, Australian PM Morrison and Indian PM Modi are working closely together.

India took the initiative of inviting Australia back in a sign of cooperation between the “Quad” countries.

The Malabar exercises are held in the Bay of Bengal.

The joint drills are super significant because they are the first concrete action of the Quad grouping.

China has denounced the Quad as an attempt to contain its development.

India’s decision on expanding the exercises comes at a time when it is locked in a military stand-off on the disputed land border with China.

Four Indian startups become unicorns during Covid19

Great Indian story of succeeding in tough times – four Indian startups, Postman, Nykaa, Unacademy and Razorpay, have become unicorns amid covid-19.

In the venture capital world, a “unicorn” is a startup with a value of $1 billion.

The nation is on track to have 8 unicorns in 2020, almost the same number of additions as in 2019.

According to a study titled ‘Covid-19 and the Antifragility of the Indian Startup Ecosystem,’ India is on its way to having 100 unicorns by 2025.

The study was launched by TiE-Delhi, a global non-profit organisation supporting entrepreneurship in collaboration with Zinnov, a global management and strategy consulting company.

It revealed that total funding fell by 50% compared to pre-covid levels during the lockdown. As a result, around 40% of start-ups have been adversely affected and 15% have been forced to discontinue operations.

The third largest start-up ecosystem in the world was jolted by the multi-dimensional pandemic and the effect was extreme during the lockdown period from March to June 2020. However, the rate of recovery, both in demand and in investor sentiment, was faster than anticipated as the economy opened.

Why is India doing so well in tough times?

During Covid19 there has been a big move to digital consumption – so startups in education, healthcare and trade have boomed.  

Indian PM Modi and Australian PM Morrison could create “Indian Ocean Food Bowl” – India exports up

Not many in the west think of India as a food exporter. But it is – and the numbers are going up.

This blog Into India has called for greater collaboration between India and Australia to become the “food bowls of the Indian Ocean Region”. The combination of the know-how in both countries could produce major agribusiness innovations, especially in horticulture and hydroponics.

Indian exports of essential agricultural commodities for the cumulative period of April-September, 2020 has increased by 43.4% to US$ 7.34 billion.

The major commodity groups doing well in export include Groundnut (35%), Refined Sugar (104%), wheat (206%), Basmati Rice (13%) and Non-Basmati Rice (105%).

It’s a great outcome for the Modi Government.

To boost agri exports, the Government created an Agriculture Export Policy, 2018 which, among other things, provides for a cluster-based approach for export-centric farming of cash crops like fruits, vegetables, spices, etc. It is working!

Recently, the Government has also announced an Agri Infra Fund of US$ 13.70 billion to improve the agri business environment – so more export growth is on the way.

India to be focus of Canada’s giant pension fund investments

 Canada’s massive pension fund plans to invest up to a third of its funds in emerging markets over the next five years and India is an important destination, according to a senior executive. 

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) manages about 434.4 billion Canadian dollars ($329.75 billion) as of June 30. A bulk of its investments are in North America — around 34% of total assets are allocated in the United States — followed by Asia. 

“We expect to invest up to one third of the Fund in emerging markets by 2025 and India is a key component of that,” Suyi Kim,  CPPIB’s Asia Pacific head, told CNBC by email.

“Our investments in India span different asset classes including infrastructure, real estate, public and private equities, funds and co-investments and credit,” Kim said, adding, “We see domestic consumption, technology and increasing demand for infrastructure to support the growth underpinning many of the themes and opportunities we look at in India.”

CEO Mark Machin recently told CNBC that the pension fund was reviewing its bond holdings in light of near zero interest rates. watch nowVIDEO02:50Near zero interest rates are challenging for Canada’s massive pension fund, CEO says

CPPIB has an office in India. Some of its investments thereinclude a stake in Kotak Mahindra Bank as well as $225 million to the India Resurgence Fund, which invests in distressed assets in the country. 

In December, CPPIB said it agreed to invest up to $600 million in India’s National Investment and Infrastructure Fund that included a $150 million commitment in NIIF’s Master Fund and co-investment rights of up to $450 million in future opportunities.  

Time for Australian superannuation funds to increase commitment to India?

Indian economic indicators positive for investors – Kotak

As India moves gradually from tough “lockdown” to enter an “unlock’ phase, economic and market indicators remain positive for investors – according to the latest Indian Markets report from Shibani Kurian, Head – Equity Research, Kotak Mahindra Asset Management Company Limited. Extracts from their report:

Key highlights

  1. High frequency economic indicators in India continued to show improving trends
  2. All eyes are now on the festive season starting from the end of October till the first half of November.
  3. Government sticks to its borrowing plan for dated securities in H2FY21; Bodes well for bond yields though some concerns on increase in supply still linger on; state finance remain vulnerable
  4. Monetary Policy Committee (MPC): New external member appointed; Rates likely to remain on hold in the upcoming policy meet on October 9, 2020
  5. GST collections: Trends improve in August; Trend is positive but partly due to a low base as well as collections pf payments due during May-July 2020
  6. Rainfall trends remain healthy; This bodes well for farm cash flows and rural demand; Food-grain production likely higher by 2.8% YoY

Indian markets witnessed a fair degree of volatility in the month of September 2020 on the back of global uncertainty heading into the US elections. The large cap Nifty Index fell 1.50% while the NSE midcap index fell 1.52% in September (both in USD terms).

Among the indicators we track, the e-way bill generation is now up to the Feb’20 peak run-rate levels, and up YoY for 7 weeks. Expressway-toll collections are now 3% above pre-COVID levels. Rail freight, unemployment data, electricity consumption and petrol consumption were some of the other indictors which showed improvement.

The key to the direction of the domestic equity markets would be the trajectory of demand post the festive season and the path towards economic growth normalization.

There are expectations around a possible announcement on the fiscal front along with market awaiting the outcome of the monetary policy meeting now scheduled on October 9.

Even as the high frequency activity indicators improved, some cities like Pune, Bengaluru and Mumbai saw a “second wave” of infections with a rise in daily new cases. However, while the new additions rose, the pace of recovery also improved resulting in the reduction in the addition to the active cases. The case fatality rate in India remains below the global averages thereby significantly reducing the probability of another nationwide lockdown.

Thanks to Shibani Kurian, Head – Equity Research, Kotak Mahindra Asset Management Company Limited, and Nikhil Iyer, EVP, Kotak Mahindra (UK) Ltd. – Singapore Branch

“Owned media” is on the mind of clients and is changing the PR mix

COVID-19 makes everything happen faster – and using “owned media” is on the rise. Of course, with Covid-19 dominating all traditional media, opportunities for “earned media” have declined. On top of that, major media is shrinking the numbers of journalists.

Add technology to this mix and you have a big change for PR.

India is leading this change in the PR mix.

Kunal Kishore, founder director -Value 360 Communications makes a prediction – “Previously earned media made up the majority of external communications. In the future there will be a good balance on earned and owned media for brands. This balance could be 70-30 or even 60 -40 (Majority going to earned media).”

PR firms in India have been alert to this shift and many are hiring aggressively from journalism for this shift to “owned content”.

One of the leading innovators in this PR shift is Sujit Patil, vice president and head of corporate communications, Godrej Industries Limited, who says: “Consumers today prefer to have a direct channel of dialogue with brands, there is also sadly a shrinking trust in media channels due to the fake and paid news. The issue of authenticity and the blurring lines between earned content and paid content has resulted in activating a sense of ‘ad-blocking’ in the minds of consumers.”

Patil describes “owned media” as a slow burn process.

“The key aspect of any communication strategy is to generate awareness and engagement amongst the existing and potential audience of the brand. While earned, paid and social media are mediums to do this, essentially, they offer lesser control on the narrative.

”Owned media gives brands the opportunity to share stories creatively with their customers, and vice-versa albeit with more control…it builds a bridge between customers and brands to engage with each other more experientially, authentically and effectively.”

Kunal Kishore makes the point that “owned media” was always important. Brands were using it reach their end stakeholders even before.

”For example, Lufthansa worked with TiE to create a start-up symposium to communicate with entrepreneurs. After COVID-19, this has become multifold. Discovery of content by brands has become very important, and they have discovered that a digital footprint travels”.

Aniruddha Atul Bhagwat, chief executive officer, Ideosphere says, “In today’s post-COVID digital world, established brands as well as emerging businesses are finding the first opportunity in owned media to not only reach out to the external world, but also bring their internal teams together, spark engagement, and fuel collaborative innovation in remote, omni-present work environments.”

Partha Ghosh, vice president and head, corporate communications, Samsung India & South West Asia commented that, “The pandemic has transformed the way people are consuming media, with a definitive shift towards digital. During this period, brands have developed great appreciation for owned media as a platform to tell unique and authentic stories to consumers and other external stakeholders.”  

Examples of Owned Media PR driven properties 

Sujit Patil explains the thinking and impact of the PR led property Godrej L’Affaire, In the last four years it has grown as a strong community and platform that brings together brands, influencers and customers. The platform provides experiences in all things’ lifestyle – food, fashion, travel, music and wellness.

“We launched it as over 7 our businesses and many brands at Godrej are in the lifestyle space. Making the platform brand agnostic (meaning external non-competing brands in the lifestyle space also made a part of the platform) has actually helped create a positive rub-off on smaller brands,” according to Patil.

Nandita Lakshmanan, CEO, The PRactice says, “We believe we will see more clients who will recognize the value of owned assets like resource portals, blogs, newsletters, magazines, podcasts, video channels, documentaries, short films. For example, for a real estate client, we decided to focus on LinkedIn and blogs as well as launched a podcast series, while focusing on the work they did with their foundation.”

Getting Owned Media Right 

Patil says the theory of gate-keepers of journalism is offset in owned media with the theory of RECCE (Relevance, Engagement, Content, Community, Experience). Since the customer experience and brand ethos are the core of owned media platforms, it pushes brands to create Relevancy among its target consumers to drive Engagement using interesting Content which eventually leads to Community building through Experience (RECCE).

Kishore suggests organisations should be alert to the quality of content, the credibility and authority of the person sharing the content, transparency, interactivity, listening and curating content.

It’s the fast changing world of Public Relations.

Indian firm Godrej innovating with PR

Direct Communication is one of the global PR, because when done well it ensure the brand engages directly with audiences and influencers.

It is rarely done well – but Indian firm Godrej is showing the way.

Of course, direct engagement is not a replacement but represents a complementary approach to traditional communications based on paid, earned and owned media.

Godrej is pioneering direct communications in India through its owned media platforms L’Affaire, Vikroli Cucina, Design Deko, etc.

Sujit Patil, VP & Head Corporate Brand and Communications Godrej Industries Limited & Associate Companies was driven into this because research few years back showed that the affinity towards for brand Godrej amongst Millennials and youngsters could be much better. There are 450 million millennials in India. so you better take notice when they are not.

Patil says: “The three pillars of our owned media platform strategy are – content creation, experiential engagement and building a community of advocates for the brand Godrej.”

Godrej began with the food space as seven of Godrej businesses have a significant share of the kitchen (Interio kitchens, appliances’, Real Good Chicken, Cartini Knives, Protekt hand wash etc.).

Patil again: “The runaway success of ‘Vikhroli Cucina’ as a platform to engage with KOLs in the food space encouraged us to launch ‘L’Affaire’ which is  our owned media property that enables brands and businesses in the lifestyle space to meaningfully engage with audiences in an experiential manner.”

“Since the customer experience and brand ethos are the core of owned media platforms, it pushes brands to create Relevancy among its target consumers to drive Engagement using interesting Content which eventually leads to Community building through Experience.

“The authentic content that gets created is used as a constant fuel for the social media handles of the participating brands. 

Godrej has innovated to support people during Covid19.

“We started the L’Affaire Saturday night live music series during the initial phase of the lockdown. This was basically started to keep our followers engaged by giving them a good dose of happiness and positivity during the uncertain times. It still continues every Saturday and due to a good traction for the Masterbrand, we added Wilderness Wednesdays, Travel Tuesdays and now Writers Wednesdays. “

Sujit Patil says the PR industry is undergoing a huge cultural and behavioral change.

“The ‘R’ in PR today represents Reality, Resolution, and Reputation. Brands will look at building closer ties through experiences and engaging content with the audience. In fact, the skew will be towards building more direct channels with the target audience offering bi-directional engagement opportunities. The trust in earned and owned media will witness an increase. Therefore, brands which have utilized the lockdown time to re-assess, introspect, and adapt their communication strategy have an edge over others” he concludes.

Australia and international students after Covid19 – we have a problem!

Australia has damaged its reputation as a location for international students. This damage is partly due to government action and partly due to our universities.

The damage can be repaired but we will have to start now.

What went wrong?

First, international students were caught in a double whammy – they could not qualify for Job Keeper or Job Seeker – and many could not “go home” because of border closures. That means they were stuck in Australia with no money.

The Australian Prime Minister’s messaging made matters worse, suggesting that those unable to support themselves should “make [their] way home”.

Second, a quarter experienced verbal racist abuse and a quarter reported people avoiding them because of their appearance. More than half of Chinese respondents reported experiencing either or both of these.

These were the findings of a nationwide survey of 6,105 international students and other temporary migrants conducted in July – finding that 70% lost all or most of their work during the pandemic, while thousands have been left unable to pay for food and rent.

A report from UNSW Law Associate professor Bassina Farbenblum and UTS Law Associate professor Laurie Berg – co-directors of the Migrant Worker Justice Initiative – revealed more than half of survey respondents (57%) believe their financial stress will deepen by year’s end.

“Over 16,00 participants described being targeted with xenophobic slurs, treated as though they were infected with Covid-19 because they looked Asian, or harassed for wearing a face mask”, said Farbenblum.

It is a disaster for Australia – three in five international students, graduates and working holidaymakers said they are now less likely or much less likely to recommend Australia as a place to study or have a working holiday.

It is time for Australian universities and Governments to repair the damage.