Blinken as new US Secretary of State to push India UN role and closer ties

Antony Blinken, US President-elect Joe Biden’s closest foreign policy adviser, has been nominated for Secretary of State.

What will be the Biden-Blinken approach to India?

India a “High priority relationship”

On July 9, Blinken spoke at the Hudson Institute, Washington DC. “Strengthening and deepening the relationship with India is going to be a very high priority.”

Biden role

“During the Bush administration, then Senator Biden partnered with that administration to help get the peaceful nuclear cooperation agreement, the 123 agreement through the United States Senate, usually important to solidifying our relationship,” Blinken said.

Defence Cooperation

Blinken talked about the Biden administration making India a “major defence partner”. This is a major new statement on defence.

Paris Climate Change Pact

“Having sort of set that foundation and made the relationship stronger, guess what? We then worked hard to persuade India that it would be more prosperous and more secure if it’s signed on to the Paris Climate Agreement. We succeeded… It was a challenging effort but Vice President Biden was one of the leaders of the effort to convince our partners in India and they did. I think that’s a reflection, again, of the fact that we cannot solve common global challenges without India as part of the deal,” Blinken said. 

Kashmir & CAA

Blinken flagged concerns on the human rights situation in Kashmir and the Citizenship Amendment Act.

India leading role in UN

On August 15, Blinken again participated in a panel discussion on Indo-US ties and flagged the issue of UN reforms. “In a Biden administration, we would be an advocate for India to play a leading role in international institutions and that includes helping India get a seat on a United Nations Security Council,” he said.

China challenge

“We have a common challenge which has to deal with an increasingly assertive China across the board, including its aggression toward India…I think you’d see Joe Biden as president investing in ourselves, renewing our democracy, working with our close partners like India, asserting our values and engaging China from a position of strength. India has to be a key partner in that effort,” he said.

Cross-border terrorism

Blinken also addressed New Delhi’s concern of cross-border terrorism, without naming Pakistan. “We would work together to strengthen India’s defence and also I might add its capabilities as a counterterrorism partner.”

Biden’s vision 2020

Blinken quoted Biden from 2006 — just before he was going to take charge as the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2007-2009 — “My dream is that in 2020, the two closest nations in the world will be India and the United States.”

Is your city like Melbourne – optimistic for a “better normal” post Covid19?

Australians’ practical response to a problem –“She’ll be right mate” – remains true of Melburnians, despite months of COVID lockdowns. This was a key finding of an international “Better Normal” survey conducted this month by the Melbourne-based global thinktank, the Centre for Optimism.

The “Better Normal” Survey asked 3000 people from 37 countries whether they made positive changes to their lives during lock-down and what were their expectations for the future.  Two-thirds of respondents and two-thirds of Melburnians said: Yes! They want a better normal, not a return to old ways of working.

With most businesses still awaiting a full return to work, the Centre found considerable change in people’s attitudes to work, with the majority seeking more co-operation and productivity, a greater balance between work, life and home and a greater focus on wellbeing.

“The results show the need for all businesses and agencies to ask their workforce, customers and other stakeholders about the improvements they have made and what they expect,” said Victor Perton, Founder of the Centre for Optimism. “It is a change that management needs to be aware of and to address because the expectations are now considerably different to a year ago.

“We have a people – young and old – changed and strengthened by the pandemic and the lockdown state of disaster!  Government and business would be crazy not to understand it better and respond.”

The Centre’s Chairman, Robert Masters said the change highlights that organisations need to be prepared for the unexpected.

“The pandemic has been a global societal shock,” he said. “Through the collective conversations in the survey, the greatest damage to an organisation lies in unsuccessful management of the new expectations of stakeholders. This can be achieved only by complete and accurate data and insights.”

Check out the Centre for Optimism – highly recommended:

https://www.centreforoptimism.com/

India’s Adfactors PR chief sets out a post Covid-19 reputation strategy

Madan Bahal, Managing Director, Adfactors PR, (pictured above) has said that both startups and mature companies have to navigate the post-COVID-19 world through effective communication and reputation management.

I would agree, and add that when you join climate change, Industry 4.0 and the generation gap into this equation you have uncharted territory that demands immediate action to protect and enhance reputations.

His view: “The COVID-19 pandemic has created an environment where customers may not blindly trust a new product, service, or business. As a result, reputation management and effective communication strategies for businesses have become increasingly important.”

So, how do you start?

Madan Bahal advises that with new market realities emerging in the post-pandemic world, a strong line of communication between a business and its customers can instil positivity and reliability around the brand.

“The post-pandemic business environment will be one represented by growing geopolitical complexity, a more polarised society, and the chance for backlash if the popular sentiment is hurt.”

His advice works for startups and mature companies alike, saying they have to navigate these challenges through effective communication and reputation management.

Despite the rising popularity of public relations (PR) services for business communications and crisis management, some fledgeling companies are still reluctant to give PR a serious thought.

According to Madan, there is often temperamental incompatibility between young startup founders and PR firms due to a mismatch in expectations. However, founders eventually realise the importance of public communication for attracting talent, announcing fundraises, and dealing with crises, he added.

Madan has been an entrepreneur since 1981, co-founded Adfactors PR in 1997. Adfactors PR is India’s largest PR firm, serving over 300 retained clients across 40 cities in the country.

Madan compares startups to fragile organisms vulnerable to risks in a complex environment.

“For these startups, public relations and reputation management add a ring of protection, trust, and credibility. This gives them a competitive advantage across the board,” he said.

Madan highlighted the positive and negative perceptions the media held about the young startup founders. “Startups were perceived to be transformational and big contributors to economic growth, however, they suffered from insensitive hire-and-fire policies or toxic work culture,” he said.

Now, getting down to what you do when facing all these challenges – here is his list of seven actions which can protect and build reputations:

  1. startups should view every action from the lens of public interest
  2. invest time in maintaining healthy media relations
  3. establish listening posts to guide and alert potential reputation risks
  4. place CXOs, CFOs, or CHROs as reputation leads
  5. build crisis protocols to enable rapid responses
  6. make the purpose of sustainability, diversity, and inclusion the guiding principles for actions and communications
  7. realise a sincere apology goes a long way in reputation management

It is hard to imagine any organisation which would not greatly benefit from his advice.

(Thanks to YourStory India and “TechSparks 2020” for much of the above content)

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.

Covid19 could lead us to a cleaner more innovative world – if we rethink what we do

About seven million people are killed by air pollution every year. The current model of modern society is unsustainable.

Two leading Professors say that looking through a COVID-19 lens provides us an amazing picture outside and shows some innovative pathways on living in harmony with nature, i.e. new-modern society.

bhargava3

They are Professor Suresh Bhargava, RMIT University, Australia (pictured above) and Professor Seeram Ramakrishnan, National University of Singapore (below).

seeramrama

Here are some points from their recent paper on the topic:

Contrary to devastating effects, the COVID19 had positive outcomes in terms of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, depletion of natural resources, and climate change.  Satellite imageries confirm the reduction of NOx, SOx and other pollutants in all cities of the world.

COVID19 provides an opportunity to rethink everything humans do. The current model of modern society is unsustainable. Reversing the clock and going back to pre-modern society built on fulfilling just the needs of humans is not realistic.

Pollution

Sustaining the modern society built on fulfilling the needs and wants of humans requires out of the box thinking. In the current climate of COVID, companies are struggling to survive on top of challenges in industry 4.0 or digitalization of products and services. How will they be able to think about sustainability while their worry is about resilience, and make the necessary adjustments to their business for the long term?

Sustainability has tended to be a secondary priority for many industries and especially SME businesses. Now faced with business survival and viability concerns, what is the status of existing sustainability initiatives in companies and across industries? How has the pandemic affected existing initiatives and longer-term targets, plans and ambitions on the sustainability front?  How can organisations get back on track with regard to their sustainability ambitions e.g. are there synergistic business-led propositions that can serve these aims? What countries can do in terms of sustainability, circular economy and Paris agreement to decarbonize while growing shrink economies and rising employment opportunities?

Using a COVID19 lens, there are opportunities for decarbonisation while not compromising the modern ways of living and economic growth.

pollution2

Countries and companies will shorten the supply chains and value chains.  Globalization will take newer form relying more on digital technologies and internet.  This will be facilitated by yet to emerge innovations in finance and commerce.

COVID19 has unexpected effect on food industry. Clean meat is touted as a solution to zoonotic diseases associated with current methods of producing meat from the animals.  Clean meat is made from plant based, cultivated cells.  Hence the carbon footprint is lower than animal sourced meat.

Critics will argue for slow and careful introduction of clean meat to the mass population.  Therein lies huge opportunities for innovations, technologies, new jobs and new pathways of economic growth while caring for the Earth.

Importance of safe water and its adequate supply is highlighted by the COVID19.  Sustainable future lies in the zero-waste water innovations and technologies.

The single use plastic wastes have been identified for their pollution of the marine ecology and subsequent negative effects on the food chain and human health.  Science, business, standards, and policy innovations are needed to replace the petrochemical derived plastics with degradable bioplastics derived from the renewable sources.  Designing products with end-of-life considerations and life cycle engineering opens up opportunities for economy growth and new jobs creation while improving the quality of environment.

The Energy sector is also affected by the COVID19.  Oil futures went into negative. It is an opportune time for the governments to eliminate the fossil fuel subsidies and invest in renewable energy infrastructure as long-term nation building.

Perhaps, governments and companies should together accelerate the electrification of transportation.  New jobs and new economic growth to happen in vehicle design and manufacturing, digitization, as well as charging infrastructure.

COVID19 transformed shopping and brought almost the whole of humanity to on-line shopping.  The on-line shopping for groceries and food deliveries are on par with electronic goods and accessories.

Similarly, work has moved to telework, and the Education moved to on-line learning and assessment.

Digital services for virtual meetings, online learning, telemedical diagnostics, government services, ecommerce, grocery delivery, e-banking, and entertainment all experienced unprecedented growth in demand. The hyper scale data centres with their 24x7x365 resilient operation, are the heart of digital transformation.

Looking to the coming decade, the introduction of 5G will further accelerate the digital transformation era with its clear alignment with Industrial 4.0, in which real time data and automation will power more of the industrial world.

Clear messages emerged from the COVID19 pandemic include, the digital transformation is a necessity to keep society running; mental health is important for the general well-being and productivity of a person; and a healthy living environment is a basic human right.

The circular economy vision, decarbonisation and sustainability efforts mitigate climate change thus create opportunities for sustained economic growth and new jobs creation. 

Amazing research work by the two and continues the innovative and collaborative approaches of my friend Professor Suresh Bhargava – well done!

Bhargava5

 

 

India’s water and waste provide big opportunities for Australian firms

Water and waste management and technologies are in high demand in India.

Funding from the Indian Government and the World Bank is driving new projects.

Local players are doing well – the Water & Effluent Treatment Business of L&T Construction has secured three Engineering Procurement Construction (EPC) water management orders from the Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development and Finance Corporation (KUIDFC).

According to the company’s statement, under the contracts it will be responsible for ‘Design, Build, Operate, Maintain and Transfer of water supply systems.

Austrade has long been a champion of Australian expertise getting into this sector in India. It says: “The Indian industrial water and waste-water market are going through a shift with recycling and reuse, zero liquid discharge, and online effluent quality monitoring systems becoming mandatory across industries.”

Recycling and reuse of water has been made mandatory for industries and housing projects in some states. Industries across power, food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, refineries and textiles and other sectors are gearing to meet stringent pollution norms, leading to increased demand for reliable water and wastewater treatment technologies.

Austrade points to four major opportunities in India:

  • Ganga River Cleaning Project: US$3.5 billion (jointly funded by the World Bank and the Government of India) project to focus on river restoration, building sewage treatment infrastructure across 118 towns, village level waste water management, and rehabilitation of existing sewage treatment plants (STPs).
  • National Hydrology Project: US$700 Million (jointly funded by the World Bank and the Government of India) project aimed at establishing a hydrologic database and hydrological information system (HIS) for effective water resource planning and management.
  • Groundwater Aquifer Mapping and Management Project: US$1 billion projects aimed at data acquisition through 21,000 exploratory and observatory borewells to be excavated, preparation of aquifer maps and real time groundwater monitoring.
  • Smart Cities Initiative: Water is a significant aspect of the smart cities initiative in India. Projects on urban water supply, recycle and reuse of waste water, smart water meters are in pipeline.

smartcities2

South Australian firm Hydro-dis is one of several Aussie firms active in India – it has snared a role in the Cleaning up the Ganges project.

The company, based in Adelaide’s northern suburbs, has developed a new device that provides immediate disinfection, improves the efficiency of metal removal and includes residual chlorine to reduce contamination after treatment.

Post Covid19 could be a good time for a major Aussie push into the water and waste landscape of India – we are good at it, have the expertise and the technology.

 

EV’s and charging stations boosted in India

Two announcements have given a great promotion to Electric Vehicles in India.

First, the Government has lowered the GST rate on EV’s to 5% from the standard 12%.

Second, leading company Tata Power will increase its network of electric vehicle charging stations to 700 by next year.

evcharge3

The company which has already installed 100 fast charging stations in various cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune and Hyderabad.

The company is not only targeting the public spaces but will also offering home EV charging stations.

The company is also in talks with metro rail authorities and municipal corporations for setting up EV charging stations. Moreover, it will set up charging stations at Tata Group owned outlets such as Chroma, WestSide, Titan watch showrooms and Indian Hotels.

evcharge4

Pictured is a trial solar powered EV charge station in India

Solar is getting really interesting as Australia to build world’s biggest solar farm – energy for Asian neighbours

Plans to build a giant solar power and battery facility in central Australia to supply electricity to Singapore will go ahead thanks to backing from tech and mining billionaires Mike Cannon-Brookes and Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest.

The duo are co-leads on an investment round for Singapore-based Sun Cable‘s $22 billion proposal for a 10-gigawatt (GW) solar farm and 22GWh battery storage near Tennant Creek, in the Northern Territory.

asiamap8circle

Solar is stepping up while the Australian Government continues to step back – locked into an ideological stance of opposing any alternative to coal and denying any impact on the climate. Sad to see this continue.

Singapore gets 95% of its electricity from imported LNG and Sun Cable hopes running a 4500km high voltage direct current cable from the 15,000 hectare site – around a quarter of the size of Singapore itself – via Darwin to the island state will supply up to one-fifth of the city’s power needs. It will be the world’s largest solar farm and also supply the NT capital.

The 10GW plant is nearly double the 5,500 megawatts Snowy Hydro scheme, which generates around 4500GWh anually. The Australia-Singapore Power Link (APSL) plant’s generation capacity is four times more than Australia’s largest coal-fired power station.

Central to the project is Sydney solar energy startup 5B, founded by Chris McGrath and Eden Tehan in 2013.

The business developed new technology for portable, prefabricated solar arrays, re-engineering the supply chain and simplifying how solar projects are delivered, using fewer materials, rapid deployment and streamlined logistics.

If Australia makes this happen, we can become the biggest energy supplier to the Asian region – Indonesia, Malaysia and more.

The project is expected to take six to seven years to complete.

Big Battery gets bigger too

News of Sun Cable’s progress comes in the same week that South Australia’s Hornsdale Power Reserve, dubbed the Tesla Big Battery, announced plans to expand the world’s largest battery by 50% by mid 2020.

The 50 MW/64.5 MWh expansion, supported by Tesla, will be the first grid-scale battery in Australia to provide inertia benefits to the National Electricity Market (NEM), which is critical to grid stability and the future integration of renewable energy.

Solar looks set to change history – for the better.

solar2

The changing mindset of India

The mindset of India has split into two camps – one, the traditional, opposes spending and innovation – the other, entrepreneurial, chases innovation and adventure. It can be tough to navigate.

I was talking to an Indian colleague the other day about collaboration around Hydroponics – growing vegetables and some fruits in a liquid solution combined with various forms of protection such as glasshouses.

This is ideal for India – does not need good land, uses less water, produces the same quality 365 days per year and so on. Plus it grows crops that India’s growing urban populations demand – fresh capsicums, lettuce, broccoli, cucumber and strawberries.

But the early India response is an insight into the competing mindsets.

From one quarter of traditional banking, no thanks, it would cost money to install. Forget the benefits. Forget the competitive advantage. If it costs money, NO.

delhi2

From another side of the India mindset comes an enthusiastic response – an entrepreneurial and CSR view. This can make money plus help poor rural farmers and poor rural women. So, YES.

As an optimist, I am guessing the YES side will win on this one.

The Australian Government is probably facing this varying mindset as it seeks to heavily promote Australian coal exports to India.

coal2

Yes, our coal can provide India with uninterrupted power, increasing efficiency and quality of life (and add to the already overwhelming pollution).

No, it would cost money and we put up with interrupted supply anyway. And, No, because we do not have the distribution network so alternatives such as solar are attractive for rural villages (even if interrupted, “it’s better than nothing”).

I am guessing that the NO side might win on the coal issue. But let’s wait and see.

India’s renewable energy reaches new highs

We often look at India from outside and just see pollution – but look closer and you will see major change is taking place.

Solar and wind energy are taking off – “An aggregate of 80.46 GW of renewable energy limit has been introduced in the country as on June 30, 2019 which includes 29.55 GW from Solar and 36.37 GW from Wind control,” according to Power and New and Renewable Energy Minister Mr R K Singh.

solar2

The government has set a focus of 175 GW of clean energy capacity by 2022, including 100 GW solar and 60 GW of wind energy.

According to India’s submission to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change on Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), a combined electric power limit of 40 per cent from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources is to be introduced by 2030.

The Ministry also told the House that a sum of 42 solar power parks with a total limit of around 23.40 GW have been approved by the government so far to encourage accomplishment of 100 GW target by March 2022.

Well done India – keep it going.