Alibaba’s Singles’ Day Brings In Moolah


    Alibaba raked in billions with its Singles’ day shopping festival, outdoing Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. SoftBank is padding Uber with more money. Air India is borrowing yet again while it sits on a mountain of debt. Industrial output bounced a little but is still lower than August’s. 


    $10 billion

    What is it? The amount that SoftBank Group could end up committing to ride-hailing service Uber, both in fresh funding and in buying out existing investors.

    Why is it important? Uber yesterday announced it had entered into an agreement with a consortium led by SoftBank and Dragoneer on a potential investment. For Uber, which is in a state of flux on several fronts, it marks its association with the weightiest investor in the Internet economy. For SoftBank, it gives it a piece of the leader of the unicorn club and a pivotal seat in the ride-hailing sector.

    Tell me more: SoftBank is also an investor in other ride-hailing companies, notably Didi in China, GrabTaxi in Singapore and Ola in India.


    $25.3 billion

    What is it? The sales generated by Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce firm, from its 11.11 Global Shopping Festival in 24 hours, which celebrates single people.

    Why is it important? The ninth edition of the annual sale is its highest ever, up 42% from 2016, cementing its position as the world’s largest shopping event. It is almost twice the combined sales from Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the US in 2016. Seen another way, it is higher than the GDP of Cameroon. Some experts say the massive growth is due to retailers competing with each other to grab a pie of consumer spending in the growing Chinese economy.

    Tell me more: The online extravaganza broke other records too. Alibaba surpassed last year’s sales figure in 13 hours. Chinese postal and courier companies handled at least 331 million packages, over 30% higher than those in the same day a year ago.


    Rs 1,500 crore

    What is it? The value of loan reportedly received by Air India from Bank of India to meet its working capital needs.

    Why is it important? It highlights the financial situation of Air India, which has a total debt of Rs 52,000 crore and recently received an in-principle nod for disinvestment. However, according to a report, the new owners are likely to take over only the aircraft debt and not working capital loans, which would be transferred to a special purpose vehicle (to be managed by it) before the sale. Of the total debt, Rs 33,000 crore is on account of working capital loans.

    Tell me more: The recent working capital loan comes nearly a month after the national carrier floated a tender seeking government-backed short-term loans for the mentioned amount.



    What is it? The rate at which India’s industrial output grew in September on a year-on-year basis.

    Why is it important? While this was lower than the 4.3% recorded in August, it was significantly higher than the depths of June and July, two months that also contained the overhang of the transition to a new goods and services tax (GST).

    Tell me more: Of the 23 industries, 11 registered growth, indicating that stability was gradually returning to the industrial sector after the disruptions caused by demonetization and GST.


    Rs 25,000-30,000

    What is it? The amount Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) reportedly spends on a cricketer for DNA testing.

    Why is it important? This is to understand each player’s body needs to maintain a particular fat percentage, whose limit for a senior Indian player is 23%. This test is believed to help cricketers improve their speed in fat burning, endurance, recovery and muscle building by developing a customised and comprehensive fitness programme. However, researchers are divided on the usefulness of such tests to improve athletes’ performance: one study claims these are ‘virtually meaningless‘, while another says DNA-matched training programmes improve their performance by three times than the mismatched ones.

    Tell me more: Earlier, Indian cricketers took Skinfold tests and DEXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) scans to measure body fat percentage.


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      Is Demand For Gold Fading Away?


        World’s demand for gold is the lowest since third-quarter of 2009.  Voters in Himachal Pradesh turned out in large numbers in the latest assembly elections. A larger chunk of proceeds of crime have been laundered through banks ‘using a maze of shell companies’. Indian doctors are not spending enough time for primary care consultations, says a study.


        650 tonnes

        What is it? India’s expected gold demand in 2017, according to World Gold Council (WGC) India.

        Why is it important? This would be the lowest in eight years. In comparison, the demand was 666.1 tonnes last year while the 10-year average was 845 tonnes. The WGC has attributed this to the government’s initiatives to make bullion trading more transparent in addition to weak demand in some rural areas. Under the new goods and services tax regime rolled out recently, the tax on gold more than doubled to 3% from 1.2% earlier.

        Tell me more: Weaker demand in India, which is the second biggest gold consumer after China, could result in the reduction of global gold prices, which recently were at a near three-week high. It remains to be seen if the wedding season in the current quarter is able to help revive the demand in the country.



        What is it? The polling percentage for the Himachal Pradesh assembly elections held on Wednesday.

        Why is it important? This is the highest voting percentage for the hill state, which has not returned a government in the last 30 years. A high voter turnout was traditionally considered as an anti-incumbency vote, but recent data doesn’t suggest so. In three state elections – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh – with high voter turnover, two incumbents were re-elected.

        Tell me more: Himachal Pradesh became the first state to use paper trail (voter-verifiable paper audit trail) for all polling stations (7,525). 297 out of 11,283 paper trail machines developed snag and were replaced.



        What is it? The percentage of cases registered under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) where financial institutions were responsible post-demonetisation.

        Why is it important? Higher incidence of people using financial institutions to launder money could indicate corrupt practices within the highly regulated banks, but it could also mean suspicious transactions are better tracked. Enforcement Directorate (ED) says proceeds of crime are laundered through banks ‘using a maze of shell companies’. Real estate (35%) and gold/ precious metal (7%) came second and third in terms of number of cases registered by the ED.

        Tell me more: Between November 2016 and September 2017, the ED conducted 620 searches and issued 597 showcause notices. ED has attached assets worth Rs5,335 crore under FEMA.


        2 minutes

        What is it? The mean duration of India’s primary care consultation time in 2015, according to a global study published in British medical journal BMJ Open.

        Why is it important? Shorter consultation times means poorer health outcomes for patients, which also indicates a heightened sense of burnout for the doctors. According to a recent Global Burden of Disease Study, the country ranked a poor 154 of 195 countries on the healthcare index. In India, the doctor-population ratio of 0.62 per 1,000 is way lesser than the prescribed ratio of 1:100 by the World Health Organization.

        Tell me more: The report, which collated data from 178 studies, covered 67 countries and over 28.5 million consultations. Overall, primary care consultations last less than five minutes for half of the global population but range from 48 seconds in Bangladesh to 22.5 minutes in Sweden.


        180 million

        What is it? The number of smartphone owners who are at the risk of having their text messages and calls intercepted by hackers, according to cyber-security firm Appthority.

        Why is it important? This is due to a simple coding error in some mobile apps that use functions provided by Twilio, a third-party service provider. Such studies point to the necessity to download apps from trusted stores, a careful inspection of app permissions and not go for something called ‘rooting’ (for Android users) that allows third-party services to break software locks for users to make software changes that cannot be made otherwise.

        Tell me more: Appthority found 685 problematic mobile apps linked to 85 Twilio accounts of a survey of 1,100 apps. Here’s how it works: The apps use the services of providers such as Twilio to send text messages and make phone calls and if developers leave those credentials (tools for authentication) in apps, their accounts could be exposed to the hackers. They, in turn, can access related data if they log into the accounts of the developers on Twilio.



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          A Two-Horse Race In Himachal


            It’s a two horse race in the Himachal Pradesh assembly elections. Delhi government is considering re-instating the odd-even scheme. Mary Kom clinched her fifth gold in the recently concluded Asian Women’s Boxing Championship. India is likely on track to achieve its targets for green house gas emissions.



            What is it? The number of candidates in the fray in the 68-seat Himachal Pradesh assembly, the elections for which are being held today. Both the BJP and Congress are contesting from every constituency.

            Why is it important? Himachal has been a two-horse race, with the BJP and the Congress taking turns to lead it. For the BJP, Himachal matters as another addition to its state count, an objective it has pursued with intent since returning to power at the Centre in 2014. For the ruling Congress, it needs to stop BJP’s expanding footprint.

            Tell me more: Of the 68 candidates each fielded by the two national parties, 59 Congress candidates and 47 BJP candidates have declared assets above Rs 1 crore. The results will be declared on December 18.



            What is it? If the Delhi government today decides to enforce the odd-even scheme for vehicular movement in the capital—number plates ending with odd and even digits on alternate days—this will be the third time in two years.

            Why is it important? Air pollution levels in the National Capital Region continued to remain in the “severe plus” category, with readings yesterday even rising to 10 times that of Beijing, another city infamous for bad air.

            Tell me more: As of March 31, 2016, there were 9.7 million vehicles registered in Delhi. Of this, 6.1 million were motorcycles and scooters, and 3 million were cars and jeeps.



            What is it? The number of gold medals Indian boxer Mary Kom has won at the Asian Women’s Boxing Championship, the latest being on Wednesday.

            Why is it important? This is her maiden gold in the 48 kg category of the tournament. Also, this is Kom’s first international gold medal in the last three years (since the 2014 Asian Games) and her first medal in over a year. In all, she has clinched five golds and a silver in all editions of the championship.

            Tell me more: The 35-year-old pugilist shifted to the 48 kg category, which she says suits her better than the 51 kg from which she made a switch last year after five years of competing in that category.



            What is it? The amount the United States government has announced it will grant to organisations for ideas and projects to promote religious freedom in India and Sri Lanka.

            Why is it important? The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has changed its stance on religious freedom in India: from ‘no large-scale incidents’ in 2008 to it being on ‘a negative trajectory’ in 2015. In 2009, the USCIRF had put India on its ‘watch list’ with respect to this issue. India, which believes that no foreign entity has the locus standi to pass comments and judgment on the constitutionally protected rights of Indians, has denied visas to USCIRF’s members for seven straight years, as reported last year.

            Tell me more: Indian applicants to this US grant are expected to submit proposals that develop and implement early-warning systems to quell large-scale violence, implement conflict-management systems between majority and minority groups, and counter hateful messages with positive ones using all forms of media.



            What is it? The number of countries (of 25 emitting countries/regions), including India, that are likely or roughly on track to achieve their self-determined unconditional 2025/2030 targets for greenhouse gas emissions with currently implemented policies, according to a new report.

            Why is it important? The report projects that India is likely to overachieve its 2020 pledge of reducing emissions per unit of GDP (gross domestic product) by 20-25% over 2005 levels. However, it adds, no definitive conclusions can be made as this is dependent on future economic growth. The projections made by India in its Draft Electricity Plan of 2016 for stabilisation of coal capacity at 250 GW in the next decade and the expansion of renewable energy to 275 GW by 2026/27, if implemented, would “have a substantial impact on emissions”.

            Tell me more: The other nations/regions that are expected to achieve their targets in the next three years are Brazil, China, Colombia, Japan, Mexico, the Russian Federation, Turkey and Ukraine.


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              Clash Of The Titans: Sindhu Vs Saina


                Delhi is caught in the haze, yet again. Tax base has widened as more e-returns were filed this year until October, versus the same period last year. Air passengers have piled up complaints against IndiGo, but that number is still lowest amongst the airlines. In clash of the badminton titans, its PV Sindhu vs Saina Nehwal this time.



                What is it? The air quality index pertaining to PM 2.5 (fine solid and liquid hazardous particles suspended in air) at RK Puram, a locality in Delhi, at 10 pm on Tuesday, according to the US Embassy.

                Why is it important? This falls in the ‘hazardous’ category, the worst among six. By comparison, a score between 0 and 50 qualifies as ‘good’ while 51-100 translates to ‘moderate’. The Indian Medical Association said the national capital was witnessing a public health emergency and warned people against stepping out. The National Green Tribunal pulled up the governments of Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, and asked them why steps were not taken to prevent deterioration in air quality.

                Tell me more: The Environment Pollution Control Authority has recommended the following measures: parking fees in Delhi-NCR region be quadrupled, Delhi Metro reduce fares during off-peak hours for at least 10 days and introduce more coaches, road construction agencies violating pollution norms be fined Rs 50,000, and the Delhi government start preparing for measures such as the odd-even scheme and ban on construction activities.



                What is it? The increase in e-returns filed until October in 2017-18 (37.8 million), up from 32.2 million filed in the corresponding period in 2016-17.

                Why is it important? Today marks a year since the shock announcement of withdrawal of high-value currency notes, which the government defended as part of its efforts against black money and corruption. The increase in e-returns is one of the data points released by the government to demonstrate impact. Other data points include a widening of the tax base, amount deposited and withdrawn by companies, and striking off of firms from the Registrar of Companies and disqualification of directors.

                Tell me more: The number of individual e-filers (who use form ITR-1) increased by 23.3% to 20.8 million between April-October this year, from 16.9 million.



                What is it? The percentage of passengers per 10,000 who filed complaints against IndiGo in September, according to the airline regulator. Among major domestic airlines, this is the lowest.

                Why is it important? Yesterday, India’s largest airline came under flak when an IndiGo staffer was seen manhandling a passenger. IndiGo has since suspended the staffer and its CEO Aditya Ghosh has tendered an apology. Earlier in the week, Indian badminton player PV Sindhu had accused the airline’s staff of rude behaviour, which the airline contested.

                Tell me more: Among domestic airlines, Air India had the highest complaint rate (1.6% per 10,000 passengers carried), followed by Jet Airways and JetLite (1.3%).


                $1.5 billion

                What is it? The loss posted by Denmark’s AP Moller Maersk in the July-September quarter, against a profit of $429 million in the corresponding year-ago period, despite an increase in revenues from $7 billion to $8 billion.

                Why is it important? The world’s largest shipping company, also an oil producer, has partly attributed this loss to the cost of a cyber-attack in June—of $250-300 million—that primarily affected its shipping unit. This makes a persuasive case for businesses to bolster their IT systems to thwart cyber-attacks.

                Tell me more: According to a recent report by Lloyd’s of London, a major, global cyber-attack could cause economic losses to the tune of $53 billion, which would be equivalent to the losses due to a catastrophic natural disaster such as the US super-storm Sandy in 2012.



                What is it? The head-to-head record between Indian badminton players PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal in the international sphere.

                Why is it important? The two women, who put India on the world badminton map, yesterday reached the finals of the Senior Badminton National Championship. This summit clash will be a rare encounter between the two who are referred to in a similar vein but whose tenures at the very top have coincided little.

                Tell me more: Nehwal won her first international encounter in January 2014, while Sindhu won in March 2017. Saina is 27, while Sindhu is 22.


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