India, 19 other nations pledge $20 bn to promote clean energy

1433615708-1477

Twenty countries, including India, the US and China, will today launch an initiative to double their clean energy research and development budget over the next five years as part of global efforts to tackle climate change.

The total amount of money being committed by these 20 countries – under ‘Mission Innovation’ – amount to $20 billion, about half of which would come from the US, White House officials said.

A formal announcement of the initiative is expected later in the day at a meeting attended by US President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande along with other leaders from the private and public sector, a White House official told reporters before Obama left for Paris Climate Change Conference.

These additional resources will dramatically expand the new technologies that will define a future global power mix that is clean, affordable and reliable, the White House said.

“This is an effort designed to accelerate clean energy innovation and address global climate change, provide affordable clean energy to consumers with a special focus on the developing world in creating commercial opportunities for creating clean energy in developing countries,” top Obama adviser Brian Deese told reporters.

Other participating countries include France, Germany, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, the UAE and the UK.

These 20 countries accounts for over 80 per cent of global clean energy R&D.

“One thing that we know clearly is that the investment in basic research in clean energy technologies needs to be connected to private capital that’s willing to deploy against the most promising of those technologies and help bring them to scale,” Deese said.

Noting that individual countries will focus on clean energy efforts that suit their needs, like energy efficiency or reducing hydrofluorocarbons, US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in the US’ increase in funding, about 15 per cent per year starting in 2017, would rely on Congress.

“There’s a lot of support for innovation,” he said.

In addition to ‘Mission Innovation’, another initiative called ‘Breakthrough Energy Coalition’ will be launched simultaneously.

Spearheaded by Bill Gates, it is a global group of private investors that will take the risks that allow the early stage energy companies that emerge from the research programmes of ‘Mission Innovation’ countries to come out of the lab and into the marketplace.

“The renewable technologies we have today, like wind and solar, have made a lot of progress and could be one path to a zero-carbon energy future,” Microsoft founder Bill Gates said in a statement.

Paris Climate Change : “But given the scale of the challenge, we need to be exploring many different paths and that means we also need to invent new approaches. Private companies will ultimately develop these energy breakthroughs, but their work will rely on the kind of basic research that only governments can fund. Both have a role to play,” Gates said.

He noted that the world’s growing demand for energy is also a big problem, because most of that energy comes from hydrocarbons, which emit greenhouse gases and drive climate change.

“So we need to move to sources of energy that are affordable and reliable, and don’t produce any carbon,” he said.

Advertisements

Price war breaks out among Gliptin drugs

1423654796-9288

Teneligliptin, a drug to control diabetes, is in the middle of an intense price war. While Mankind Pharma reduced its price by 50 per cent within 24 hours of a launch, Glenmark is evaluating the option of decreasing the price. A week ago, Zydus Cadila, another prominent companies, already launched the lowest-priced Teneligliptin.

India’s Gliptin market, estimated at Rs 2,000 crore yearly, is growing at around 60 per cent annually. Of the 68 million diabetics in India, about 1.85 million are on the Gliptin therapy to manage their type-2 diabetes.

According to October data from the All-India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD), the country’s anti-diabetic drug market is seeing a growth of 25 per cent at Rs 7,638 crore.

“We are evaluating the option of lowering the price of our two Teneligliptin brands (Ziten and Zita Plus) to get more patients in the advanced Gliptin therapy fold,” says Sujesh Vasudevan, president and head of India Business, Glenmark Pharmaceuticals.

Glenmark had launched these two drugs earlier this year at Rs 20 a tablet, half the price of the medicine sold by many multinational drug firms. Last year, anti-diabetes drugs accounted for only Rs 100 crore to Glenmark’s overall revenue of Rs 6,600 crore. While it is a dominant player in dermatology, the company is now planning to expand its product portfolio in other therapeutic areas like diabetes.

Mankind Pharma, which launched its own Teneligliptin generic ‘Dynaglipt’ on November 23 at Rs 20 a tablet, decreased the drug’s price a day later to Rs 8.60 a tablet.

“Diabetes is a growing epidemic; to cater to it, we are targeting the middle-class and rural diabetic patients, so that it becomes affordable and more economical. The change in prices will help reduce the cost of medicines by about half,” said R C Juneja, chairman & founder, Mankind Pharma. The company is targeting at least Rs 200 crore in annual revenue from this drug.

Zydus Cadila, which launched its own generic drug ‘Tenglyn’ at Rs 7 a tablet a week ago, has no immediate plans to reduce the price further, according to a senior company executive.

“Considering the incidence of the disease, benefits of the drug, and price, Gliptin Drugs could become a large-volume drug and face further price erosion as volumes grow,” says D G Shah, secretary-general, Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA).

Indo-Pak cricket series to be a money-spinner for big hitters

1375459644-625

When the Indian team toured Pakistan in 2004, it was not only an emotionally charged series but a major money-spinner for their cricket board. A bankrupt body before the series, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) reported a profit in excess of Rs 200 crore that year. Such is the monetary opportunity an India-Pakistan series offers.

These are the dividends the boards involved – PCB, Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the Sri Lanka Cricket Board (SLCB) – will look at reaping, if India faces off with Pakistan in December in Sri Lanka. Talks of a bilateral series between the two traditional rivals have been doing the rounds for a while. Then Pakistan Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, approved and Rajeev Shukla for the BCCI went on record to confirm it

Who benefits more? While PCB will be looking at massive sponsorship revenue from on-ground partnerships and gate money, SLCB will earn rent for providing the grounds. BCCI will be paid a designated sum for participating. And, there is Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd’s Ten Sports, which holds the broadcast rights to any series hosted in Lanka (and in Pakistan). It gains because it earns lucrative advertising money.

And this is despite the matches being held at a neutral venue. Pakistan will also be considered the host nation, say experts. Since the agreement between BCCI and PCB during N Srinivasan’s regime states the Indian players will tour our north-west neighbour, PCB is officially the host board and has claim to marketing rights, they say.

“It’s a win-win for all. PCB, being the host nation, will see revenues flowing in from the broadcast rights, on-ground sponsorships and gate money. The series comes at a time when the political atmosphere in both nations is charged and this will guarantee more eyeballs. An India-Pak series is always among the top-watched in India and the whole sub-continent, in fact,” says Indranil Das Blah, operations head and partner at CAA KWAN, a sports and celebrating management company.

Advertisers are excited. “Despite it being off-season for us, we will still evaluate investing on the India-Pakistan series because it is a big opportunity to make ourselves visible to our target group. I wouldn’t want to miss it. I don’t think anybody would,” B Thiagarajan, executive director and president, air-conditioning & refrigeration products business, Blue Star, said.

Cricket while being male-skewed, is still considered the widest in terms of appeal and reach among sports in the Indian sub-continent. So, not only men, but also women, children, youth and senior citizens watch crucial games and tournaments, experts say.

Executives at Coca-Cola, however, indicate that the “devil is in the detail”. “It is a good opportunity, but advertiser investments would come once the details about the format and timing of matches becomes clear,” a Coca-Cola executive said.

PepsiCo, which exited the title sponsorship of the Indian Premier League last month, was not available for comment. Samsung, another prominent television advertiser, said it would not be able to offer a comment just yet.

But Eric Braganza, president, Haier Appliances India, said his firm would take a call on advertising during the series. “Haier Pakistan is quite active on the advertising front when the Pakistan team is playing within the country or outside. But here, you have an India-Pakistan series, which is coming after a while. Yes, we will take a call on this,” he said.

While the BCCI and PCB are yet to make a formal announcement about the duration and format of the series, sources in the know reveal the two teams will play each other in a limited-over format (which means either one-dayers or T20 matches or a combination of the two). Currently, South Africa is touring India and the last Test match is expected to conclude on December 7. India then heads to Australia for a five-match One-Day International series, starting January 12. This leaves the two boards a narrow window of five weeks and to monetise the series to the maximum, a limited-over format seems the way to go.

That will also mean clutter, some advertisers say. “No one will want to miss an Indo-Pak series. But you have to bear in mind that advertising inventory is finite. So companies will have to be ready to shell out big bucks. We will evaluate whether all of this works within our scheme of things,” Shashin Devsare, executive director, Karbonn Mobiles, said. During the ICC Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand earlier this year, advertising rates for the Indo-Pak tie were among the highest charged by STAR Sports, the broadcaster for the tournament. The average rate for an India match was Rs 10-13 lakh for a 10-second spot (depending on the opponent and stage of the tournament) but the India-Pak face-off saw brands pay up to Rs 20 lakh in last-minute spot buying.

Chance for reforms: 29% central employees to retire in 10 years

620paycommission

One of the chief problems in reforming India’s bureaucracyis that it is a powerful pressure group, which does not like to see a drop in its influence or a drop in its numbers. Now, a rare opportunity presents itself.

Of 3.3 million civilian Central Employees at the beginning of April 1, 2014, nearly one million (around 29%) are in the age group of 50-60 years, according to datareleased by the 7th Pay Commission recently.

“This is a ready pointer to the number of retirements that would take place in the next ten years,” said the report, running into nearly 900 pages. “The Commission notes that losing experienced high-level personnel entails unquantifiable costs as new recruits will require training and on-the-job skills. At the same time it presents ministries/departments the opportunity to align their personnel requirement in line with their current and future challenges.”

That observation is in line with a frequently mentionedneed for administrative reform, which could include bringing in professionals from outside government, introducing performance-linked salaries and paying higher salaries to fewer employees.

“Successive governments have been guilty of turning a blind eye to administrative reform without which economic reform will not have its desired effect,” former cabinet secretary KM Chandrasekhar wrote in acolumn in The Economic Times. “The greatest obstacle to ease of doing business is administrative incapacity and, to this, governments traditionally pay no heed. It is time we brought administrative reform to the top of the governmental agenda and create systems that ensure efficiency and accountability.”

IndiaSpend’s analysis of the staffing of government departments and numbers of those facingretirement reveals the opportunities that exist in each.

The Pay Commission decides salaries and incentives for central-government employees. The Commission, which is constituted once in every 10 years, is also considered to be the base to decide salaries for state government employees.

“A central-government employee is defined as all persons in the civil services of the Central Government or holding civil posts under that government and paid salaries out of the Consolidated Fund of India. This, however, does not include such persons appointed to serve Parliament or the Union Judiciary,” the report said.

Here are some departments that have a heavy concentration of employees in the 50-60 age group:

The textiles ministry has the highest proportion of employees (75%) in the 50-60 age group, followed by the coal (64%) and urban development (62%) ministries.

Among central-government employees, 22.23% are in the 20-30 age group, 22.28% in the 30-40 age group and 26.1% people in the 40-50 age group.

While the sanctioned strength of central-government employees is more than four million, no more than 3.3 million positions are filled, indicating a vacancy of 744,000 positions or 18%.

Indian Railways–one of the world’s largest employers with more than 1.3 million–has the most vacant posts, 235,000 followed by the defence ministry (civil) at 187,000, finance ministry (over 80,000) and home ministry (over 69,000).

The government recruited 857,764 people between 2006 and 2014 – an annual recruitment of only 100,000 people every year.

During the years 2012 to 2017, India’s labour force is projected to increase by 44.6 million, which is an average annual increase of more than 8.9 million. “This suggests that the Central Government is at best a marginal source for employment generation,” said the Pay Commission report.

The recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission are likely to cost the exchequer more than Rs 1 lakh crore ($15 billion) in financial year 2016-17, an increase of 23% over existing salaries and allowances.

The 7th Pay Commission has recommended a minimum pay of Rs 18,000 per month — for peons,clerks and some police head constables — and an annual increment of 3%. It has also recommended doubling the ceiling on gratuity (lump sum paid based on years of service) to Rs 20 lakh from the current Rs 10 lakh, enhanced medical insurance and pension schemes.

Aamir Khan speaks, brands get the jitters

1448482025-4496

The last thing e-tailer Snapdeal expected when brand ambassador Aamir Khan spoke recently about growing intolerance was to deal with a consumer backlash. But, that is a reality the e-commerce major, whose estimated enterprise valuation is $7 billion, is facing.

Almost 91,000 customers have in the past two days downgraded the Snapdeal application to one on a scale of five and the Twitterati is abuzz that another 700,000 consumers have uninstalled the app from their mobile phones.

While Snapdeal distanced itself from the remark, saying the comments made by the actor were “in his personal capacity”, the episode has sparked a debate, with chief executives of companies admitting they will now be cautious when drafting celebrities who are passionate about issues.

“This is the first time India has seen something like this, and I suspect companies will now ensure there is some safeguard in place when hiring celebrities who are vocal about issues,” says S N Rai, co-founder and director, Lava International, maker of the Lava and Xolo brands of mobile handsets.

No intention of leaving country, proud to be Indian: Aamir Khan

Lava recently brought on board actor Irrfan Khan to endorse its Xolo phones. Rai says the company saw a fit between Irrfan Khan’s personality and the values the brand wished to communicate. “That is how most brand endorsements happen but that could change. Companies will become stricter,” he says.

Flipkart’s co-founder and CEO Sachin Bansal came out strongly in support of Snapdeal on Wednesday, saying slamming it for Aamir Khan’s views was wrong. “Brands don’t buy into brand ambassadors’ personal opinions. @Snapdeal shouldn’t face this,” Bansal tweeted on Wednesday.

Rai or Bansal are not the only ones speaking this language. C M Singh, chief operating officer, Videocon Industries, says companies will watch the unfolding developments closely. “I expect most advertisers to watch this situation closely because there are implications when a celebrity says something. At the end of the day, he represents a brand. A positive activity or comment has a positive rub-off on the brand he endorses. Similarly, something is construed negatively will also the rub the brand the wrong way,” Singh says.

Videocon has worked with a slew of celebrities, including Shah Rukh Khan, who continues to be associated with it. Others who have endorsed the brand in the past are cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni and actor Abhishek Bachchan.

Aamir Khan has endorsed Titan, Tata Sky, Godrej and Coca-Cola in the past. These companies were not available for comments. In a statement, Coca-Cola India, said, “We have had no commercial association with Aamir Khan for several years and it is therefore, out of bounds for us to comment on his remarks.”

But Harsh Mariwala, chairman, Marico, the maker of brands like Saffola and Parachute, says the incident will peter out in a few days. “I don’t see anything wrong with what he has said and I don’t think it will have any impact on how brands deal with celebrities. This was a personal opinion of Aamir’s, something he voiced when attending an event. I don’t think it was intentional. Yes, if there is an attempt to gain political mileage out of it, then it may not die down in a few days,” Mariwala says.

Aamir Khan featured as the most trusted film celebrity after Amitabh Bachchan in the 2015 edition of the annual Brand Trust Report, which is published by city-based brand advisory firm TRA. According to N Chandramouli, chief executive officer, TRA, Aamir had moved up two notches in the 2015 list from 2014. Aamir last year was ranked fourth after Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan.

Internationally, say experts, brand endorsement agreements are watertight with probably every eventuality factored in. “It is almost like a pre-nuptial agreement, where everything is laid out in black and white,” Chandramouli says.

“India could see something similar and possibly the discussion between brand and endorser will have to grow as to what works and what doesn’t in this contract,” he adds.

Golfer Tiger Woods lost a bevy of brands after facing allegations of adultery a few years ago. These included Gillette, Gatorade, Accenture, AT&T and Tag Heuer.

But as Vijay Narayanan, head of marketing at electricals major Havells, says, the episode might not be a personal crisis, but something that was said in public. “Brands will have to factor the unpredictable in their contracts in this 24×7 digital age. As an advertiser, you never know when or where the next shot will be fired,” he adds.

With a sedition case now filed against Aamir and his wife Kiran Rao in a Bihar court on Wednesday under sections 153 (A),(B) and 124 (A) by advocate Sudhir Kumar Ojha, the actor has only dug himself into a deeper hole.

Aamir Khan under fire for intolerance remarks

1448375641-1701

Aamir Khan’s remarks on growing “intolerance” within the country sparked off a political storm on Tuesday.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) attacked the actor, while Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi and opposition leaders Sitaram Yechury and Arvind Kejriwal came out in his support.

Security had to be stepped up at the actor’s residence after Hindu Sena activists protested outside, demanding that he withdraw his remarks.

Speaking at an award ceremony Khan on Monday, Aamir Khan had said he and his family were disturbed at the growing disquiet in the country and his wife Kiran Rao had wondered if they should move out of India. Aamir Khan’s statements come weeks after Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan had spoken about being uncomfortable with the atmosphere of “intolerance.”

Supporting Aamir Khan, Rahul Gandhi said in a series of tweets, “Instead of branding all those who question the Govt & Modiji- as unpatriotic, anti-national or ‘motivated’ The Govt would do better to reach out to people to understand what’s disturbing them. That’s the way to solve problems in India- not by bullying, threatening & abusing!”

BJP members lashed out at Aamir Khan since morning. “Don’t forget India made you a star,” said BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain.

At a press conference in Mumbai, he said the Congress was behind this. “This shows Congress complicity in a campaign to malign the country. The Congress cannot tolerate an elected government and a popular prime minister. When the country is progressing under the leadership of Narendra Modi, Congress is creating an atmosphere to malign the country,” he said.

Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju refuted Aamir Khan’s remarks, stating that communal incidents in the country had come down since the Modi government came to power in May 2014.

BJP MP Yogi Adityanath, who has stirred up controversies earlier, said, “If somebody wants to leave (India), then has anybody stopped him? If somebody wants to leave, he can do so voluntarily. At least, it will reduce the country’s population.”

Bollywood actors, too, accused Aamir Khan of playing politics. Anupam Kher, Paresh Rawal, Raveen Tandon, who are either BJP party members or sympathisers, lashed out against Aamir Khan.

The company roped in Aamir Khan as its brand ambassador back in March this year. The endorsement fee was estimated to be between Rs 15-20 crore and Aamir Khan Snpadeal launch him as its ambassador through an extensive television ad campaign.

Reacting to Khan’s remarks, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweed: “Every word that @aamir_khan said is so true. I admire him for speaking up.”

Incidentally, the Chief Whip of the Congress in the Lok Sabha has already moved a notice asking for a discussion on the intolerance issue, as have other Opposition parties.

Aamir Khan says his wife Kiran Rao contemplated moving out of India

aamir-khan-1434387865-4652660

Film actor Aamir Khan on Monday said his wife Kiran Rao had spoken to him about moving out of India, as she feared for their child due to the security environment prevailing in the country.

“When I chat with Kiran at home, she says ‘Should we move out of India?’ That’s a disastrous and big statement for Kiran to make. She fears for her child. She fears about what the atmosphere around us will be. She feels scared to open the newspapers every day. That does indicate that there is this sense of growing disquiet, there is growing despondency apart from alarm. You feel why this is happening, you feel low. That sense does exist in me,” the 50-year-old actor said.

Aamir Khan, speaking at the Ramnath Goenka Awards function organised by The Indian Express, also defended the ‘award wapsi’ by historians and filmmakers. “Returning awards was one way of getting your point across,” he said, adding how any non-violent form of protest was a legitimate form of protest. “I will endorse any protest that is non-violent.” He also slammed the Censor Board for Film Certification on some of its recent diktats to filmmakers.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was chief guest at the event. Aamir Khan was one of the first ambassadors of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat or Clean India campaign last year.

Khan said he felt there was an increased sense of despondency in India over the last six-eight months, and he considered it important that those in power strongly condemn whatever was wrong. He said India’s social fabric wasn’t at its best right now. “… people who are our elected representatives, people who we select to look after us for five years, state or Centre … when people take law into their hands, we look upon these people to take a strong stance, to make a strong statement, speed up the legal process, when we see that happening there is a sense of security but when we don’t see that happening,  there is a sense of insecurity.”

Khan said his birth may have been in a Muslim household but when he speaks he speaks for everyone. He said for him acts of terrorism were not connected to any religion, and the mistake was being made was labelling perpetrators of such violence as Islamic terrorists or Hindu terrorists.

Khan is not the first from the film world to flag the issue of growing insecurity among minorities in recent months in India. Earlier this month, Shah Rukh Khan had also spoken out against growing “intolerance” in the country, and defended returning of government awards by filmmakers and academicians as a valid form of protest.

Over the years, Aamir Khan’s films have been subject to protests by right-wing groups. Bajrang Dal activists had vandalised cinemas exhibiting Khan’s film PK last year as they felt it had mocked the Hindu religion.

In 2006, Fanaa was not shown in Gujarat after the actor had come out in solidarity with Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar.