Mayday Mayday

Rs 2,313.66 crore

What is it? The consolidated loss before tax of Ola, the Indian cab-hailing app in FY16.

Why is it important? Nearly three times more than FY15’s loss, this is being seen as Ola’s cost to remain a block ahead of Uber, its American rival. Revenue increased seven times to Rs 758 crore, but a four-times rise in advertising (Rs 385.5 crore) and over five-times increase in employee costs (Rs 379 crore), have ensured the losses pile up.

Tell me more: Ola-parent, ANI Technologies’ standalone operating revenue was Rs 383.44 crore, with which Uber India was almost neck and neck at Rs 374.79 crore.



What is it? Number of civilians killed in Iraq and Syria by US strikes against Isis targets since 2014, according to the Pentagon.

Why is it important? The Pentagon number is far less than the estimates of non-profit monitoring groups. Airwars, for example, puts coalition-led civilian deaths in Libya and Syria at 3,164 people atleast. High civilian deaths have remained the coalition fighting Isis’ Achilles heel, as human rights organisations have often criticised them for indiscriminate targeting.

Tell me more: Pentagon further said it was assessing the deaths of 42 people reported recently.



What is it? The number of states that have notified rules for the new Real Estate Act.

Why is it important? The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act , 2016, which promises transparency and protection of consumer rights, comes into effect on 1st May. The act was passed by both houses of parliament last year, and being a model law, it leaves the state governments to pass their own specific rules. The low number indicates the states are not prepared, but might face public pressure to notify rules.

Tell me more: Among other guidelines, the real estate act mandates developers to separately deposit 70% of the funds collected exclusively for construction.



What is it? Import duty on gold at present.

Why is it important? Indian government is reportedly looking at bringing import duty down ahead of Goods and Services Tax (GST) rollout. Think tank Niti Aayog had suggested reducing the duty to make more gold available for small and medium firms, which in turn can increase jewelry exports. Lower duties also tend to bring down smuggling.

Tell me more: GST of 12% plus the current import duty is likely to make gold more expensive, according to industry players.


$1 billion

What is it? The cost of the anti-missile system called Thaad (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) , deployed by South Korea.

Why is it important? US President Donald Trump’s recent remarks of South Korea footing the bill for Thaad, which the US military built and deployed to South Korea, had put it in a spot. The US has now reassured it will pay for it. The anti-missile system installed as its neighbour, North Korea, lines up more missile and nuclear tests, has stirred up quite a few problems for the Asian country. They include China’s disapproval and political opposition in the ongoing presidential race in its country. The reassurance will bring some relief to South Korea.

Tell me more: North Korea test-launched another missile on Saturday, which was unsuccessful.

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16 numbers to remember 2016 by

This piece originally appeared on




4 innings

Virat Kohli played this many innings less than Joe Root’s (37 versus 41) while racking up a near-similar count of runs across all three formats in 2016 ( 2,595 versus 2,570 ). Kohli and Root finished Nos.1 and 2 in runs scored, but the Indian batted at another level, returning a Bradmanesque 86 runs per innings—76 in Tests, 92 in One Dayers and 107 in T20s—against Root’s 50. And he also led the Test side to an undefeated year, with 9 wins in 12 matches.

18 years, 228 days

At that fresh age, Max Verstappen became the youngest winner of a Formula One race. He made a shining claim to being the next big thing in F1: swallowing slower cars, hustling faster ones, testing the limits of driving ethics unapologetically. “I’m not here to finish fourth,” he once told his team boss over car radio, when asked to preserve a position and not overtake.

92 years

Tennis player Nora Polley was the first Indian woman to participate in the Olympics, in the 1924 Paris Games. Weightlifter Karnam Malleswari was the first Indian woman to win a medal, a bronze, in 2000. It took till Rio this year, 92 years after Polley, that an Indian woman won an Olympic silver. That’s the kind of Olympic history 21-year-old P.V. Sindhu made in 2016.


96% erosion

Before Google and Facebook, there was Yahoo. And then, there wasn’t. A poster child of the Internet in the 1990s, valued once at $125 billion, Yahoo had been in decline for many years. Its main operating business was sold to US telecom company Verizon for $4.8 billion, at a difference of 96% from its peak valuation. One magazine called it the “saddest $5 billion deal in tech history”.

2 companies

The number of firms in the 30-share BSE Sensex whose chairperson is older than 78-year-old Ratan Tata. In the biggest story of corporate India in 2016, Tata Sons removed Cyrus Mistry as chairman of the Tata group and brought back Ratan Tata—his predecessor, who instituted reductions in age for key Tata positions—as interim chairman. It triggered a wave of firings, resignations, recriminations, letters and lawsuits.


38% replacement

On 8 November, in an attempt to call out black money, the government called back all Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes. In one stroke, 86% of the currency in circulation was rendered worthless. Cash curbs followed. The government asked citizens for 50 days to restore normalcy. As of 19 December, only Rs5.92 trillion, or 38% of the cancelled amount, had been put back into circulation, suggesting more pain in early 2017.



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Rs 100 cr collections

If Eid belongs to Salman Khan and Diwali to Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan has come to own Christmas. And how. ‘Taare Zameen Par’, ‘Ghajini’, ‘3 Idiots’, ‘Dhoom 3’, ‘PK’ and, in 2016, ‘Dangal’. On its first weekend, ‘Dangal’ crossed Rs100 crore in ticket sales. It’s on pace to mount a serious challenge to ‘Sultan’, the biggest-grossing Hindi film of 2016 so far, and ‘PK’, which holds the all-time record for Hindi films.

75 minutes

They popped up in parks and in medical wards. And people, about 500 million of them, reached for their smartphones to ‘capture’ them. ‘Pokemon GO’, a mobile game that picks up a user’s location to flash virtual creatures, called Pokemon, in their surroundings with the aim of catching them, was one of the most used and profitable apps in 2016. In its first week, users averaged 75 minutes per day on the Pokemon app—more than WhatsApp, Instagram and Snapchat.

119 albums

Life called time on five shining stars of popular music, who left behind bodies of work and personal statements that were rich in texture and wide in appeal. Between them, Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, George Michael and Rick Parfitt (of Status Quo) released 119 studio albums and sold an estimated 500 million records.


53 days

Count the costs. By various estimates, 85 civilians and two policemen died. Another 13,000 civilians and 4,000 police personnel were injured. For 53 days, the Kashmir Valley was under curfew, its longest spell ever. The killing of Hizbul Mujahideen separatist Burhan Wani by security forces in an encounter saw major protests erupt across Kashmir. Security forces responded to the throwing of stones by protestors by using pellet guns, which, while intended to be ‘non-lethal’, resulted in serious injuries, including blindness.

$14 billion wealth

Not in living memory has a US president caused such divide. Or, fear and loathing. The $14 billion combined wealth of president-elect Donald Trump’s top appointments—which are still getting made—might be the highest ever in a presidential team. Democrat rival Bernie Sanders called it a “cabinet of billionaires”. Trump remains unfazed. His top team includes Rex Tillerson of Exxon, Gary Cohn of Goldman Sachs, and billionaires Todd Ricketts (net worth $5.3 billion) and Betsy DeVos ($5.1 billion).


0.94 degree Celsius

The earth continues to heat up. Average global temperature between January and November 2016 was above the 20th century average of 14 degrees Celsius by 0.94 degree Celsius, according to the US’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa). By comparison, the average of records between 1880 and 2015 show a rise of 0.04 degree Celsius. This is likely to make 2016 the hottest year on record; 16 of the 17 hottest years on record then would belong to this century (the one remaining is 1998).

0 good-air days

This was the year when air purifiers entered Indian homes and took their place next to inverters and water filters as exhibits of state or human failing. Data compiled by the Central Pollution Control Board in 2016 on monitoring done in 2015 showed that 13 Indian cities with a combined population of about 41 million people had fewer than 20% good-air days (of the total days monitored). Mumbai had 13% good-air days in 2015, Delhi had 4%. Varanasi, Gwalior and Allahabad did not have a single good-air day.


Dublin, Wednesday 31th October 2013: Pictured at the The Web Summit 2013, RDS. Photo by Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media
Dublin, Wednesday 31th October 2013: Pictured at the The Web Summit 2013, RDS. Photo by Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media (Sourced from Wikipedia)

719,000 transactions

Today, it pales before mobile wallets like Paytm, but the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is one to watch. A digital-payments option designed for mobiles, and aimed at making money transfer as easy as sending an SMS, UPI allows money transfer between bank accounts without using an intermediary (like Paytm). Part of a series of digital public infrastructure built around Aadhaar, UPI has been integrated into the Android apps of over 30 banks. Against 287,000 transactions in November, UPI clocked 719,000 in the first fortnight of December as demonetization nudged more to check out digital options for payments.

$200,000 ticket

Entrepreneur Elon Musk unveiled an ambitious plan to make humans multi-planetary species: high-powered, reusable rockets and large ships that can ferry about 100 earthlings at a time to Mars in 80 days. Musk believes the cost of a trip can be brought to $200,000 (Rs1.36 crore), even $100,000 as the operation scales up. Often compared to Steve Jobs, Musk sees the first flight blast-off in a decade.

200,000 hires

The torchbearer of white-collar jobs in India is losing its flame. In 2015-16, the IT-BPO (information technology and business process outsourcing) sector hired 200,000 employees, down from 230,000 in 2014-15, due to lower demand and automation. Industry body Nasscom has lowered growth projections for the sector to 10-12% in 2016-17, from 12-14% earlier. The $28 billion BPO segment, a lead indicator for outsourcing, has been busy using technology to do jobs done by people earlier.



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News in Numbers, Oct 3, 2016: Black, the colour of the season…

Rs 65,250 crore

What is it? The value of assets declared under the Income Disclosure Scheme, 2016.

Why is it important? This is said to be the biggest black money disclosure and would fetch the government over Rs 29,000 crore in taxes. This might take some sting away from the criticism that NDA government was going too slow on black money. One of its main poll promises was to crack the whip on tax evaders. Under this scheme, there were 64,275 declarants with an average disclosure of more than Rs 1 crore.

Tell me more: The government had given a four-month window for people to declare their undisclosed assets, which closed at midnight on Friday. The taxpayers could escape prosecution by paying tax at 30%, a penalty at 7.5% and a surcharge at 7.5%, taking the total to 45% of the undisclosed income. In comparison, the income declared under the Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme, 1997, was over Rs 33,000 crore.


Rs 53,531 crore

What is it? The value of bids received by the government from telecom companies on day 1 of the latest spectrum auction.

Why is it important? This is India’s biggest spectrum auction and is expected to help the firms in providing better quality services amidst intensifying competition, especially with the entry of Reliance Jio’s 4G services at competitive rates. However, there were no takers for the 700 megahertz (MHz) band of airwaves, which has been put on sale for the first time and is considered to be the most efficient for offering high-speed broadband services. The reserve price – at Rs 11,485 crore per MHz – is considered expensive by the bidders.

Tell me more: Seven telecom firms – Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Tata Teleservices, Idea Cellular, Reliance Communications, Reliance Jio Infocomm and Aircel – are bidding to acquire airwaves in seven bands (700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 Mhz, 1,800 MHz, 2,100 MHz, 2,300 MHz and 2,500 MHz).


Rs 21,000 crore

What is it? The divestment proceeds collected by the Indian government between April and September this year.

Why is it important? This is over 37% of the total disinvestment target of Rs 56,500 crore for 2016-17. It has also exceeded the previous high in the first six months of 2015-16 by over Rs 8,000 crore. This indicates that 2016-17 may be the year when it either achieves its targets or comes closer in reaching them, after having missed it for the last six years straight and for the 16th time last year in the disinvestment’s quarter-century history.

Tell me more: Of the total raised so far this year, Rs 16,500 crore is from buybacks initiated by five public sector units.



What is it? The number of products Flipkart said it sold in the first hour on the first day of its special Big Billion Days sales event on Sunday. Amazon said it sold 100,000 units on the first half hour of its Great Indian Festival sales, which started a day earlier.

Why is it important? This highlights the stiff competition between the two players as they try to capture India’s e-commerce market. Amazon India has the financial backing of its parent in America. Flipkart is reportedly in talks with Wal-Mart for a billion dollar investment in the company. The sales metrics the companies shared underscored the difficulty is assessing who is ahead in the race.

Tell me more: Snapdeal, the third big player in the market, said more than 2 million users logged on during the first hour of sale.



What is it? The number of years US presidential candidate Donald Trump might not have paid any income tax, according to a New York Times story

Why is it important? Trump’s finances has become an important issue in the ongoing election campaign in the US, because he hasn’t yet released his tax returns yet, defying a norm among the presidential candidates. His tax returns for 1995 showed a loss of $195 million, which “could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years,” the newspaper said. The revelation is likely to help Hillary Clinton, and there are speculations that releasing his returns could be devastating for Trump’s campaign.

Tell me more: According to Forbes magazine calculation, Donald Trump’s net worth is $3.7 billion, primarily from the real estate properties he owns or has a stake in.


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News in Numbers, Aug 30, 2016: Fines for animal cruelty, smartphones and productivity…


What is it? The percentage points by which the weighted average lending rate on outstanding rupee loans fell from December 2014 to June 2016. The repo rate (the rate at which the central bank lends money to banks) was reduced by 1.5 percentage points in the same period.

Why is it important? Indicates that monetary transmission has not been effective, despite the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) push to banks to reduce lending rates. On the other hand, the weighted average domestic term deposit rate has been reduced by 1.12 percentage points, a move seen as the banks’ attempt to protect their profit margins even as they struggle with mounting bad loans and higher provisioning for those.

Tell me more: The RBI said that with the new system (marginal cost of funds based lending rate), which has been effective since April 1, 2016, the banks’ benchmark lending rates would be “more sensitive to changes in the policy rate”.


Rs 25-100

What is it? The proposed fines for treating animals with cruelty by beating, kicking and torturing, as per changes to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960, according to a report. The current penalties range between Rs 10-50.

Why is it important? Indicates that the government is getting serious about animal cruelty, after a series of shocking incidents. However, it’s not clear if such small hikes in penalties will deter the violators of animal protection rules. The PCA (amendment) Bill, 2016, is likely to be introduced in the Parliament during the Winter Session.

Tell me more: If someone is found to be using an injection on cows and other milch animal to improve lactation at the cost of the animals’ health, the proposed fine is Rs 5,000, up from the current Rs 1,000. There have been 24,353 animal cruelty cases reported in India between 2012-13 and 2014-15, according to government records.



What is it? The number of years the urine/blood samples of Olympic participants are stored by the International Olympic Committee for re-testing.

Why is it important? Re-testing of silver medal winning wrestler Russia’s Besik Kudukhov in 2012 London Olympics has led to his disqualification, and upgradation of Yogeshwar Dutt’s bronze medal to silver. The event was 60-kg freestyle wrestling. Once the official announcement is made, India would have three silver medals from the London Games, including those won by wrestler Sushil Kumar and shooter Vijay Kumar. Kudukhov died in a car accident in 2013.

Tell me more: The earlier maximum period for re-testing of samples was eight years from collecting them, which was then extended to 10 years in 2015.



What is it? The jail term given to a former primary school principal in Bihar for the death of 23 children after consuming a mid-day meal in 2013.

Why is it important? The court in Chhapra (headquarters of Saran district) treated it as a rarest of rare case and ordered for the sentence to be run consecutively rather than concurrently. The former principal Mina Devi has been given 10 years in prison for culpable homicide and seven years for criminal negligence in addition to a total fine of Rs 3.75 lakh. The mid-day meal scheme is the world’s largest school feeding programme of its kind and has been implemented to ensure children do not skip school due to hunger.

Tell me more: Devi was found negligent of storing mustard oil in a container that had traces of pesticide.



What is it? The increase in productivity levels when people don’t use smartphones while working at their desks, according to a study.

Why is it important? This could help companies devise policies on the usage of smartphones at workplaces. One suggestion is to have dedicated smartphone-free time and one of the ways to implement this is to not allow the use of smartphones in normal work environments, according to the managing director (South Asia) at Kaspersky Lab.

Tell me more: The experiment tested the behaviour of 95 people aged 19-56 years in labs at the Universities of Würzburg and Nottingham-Trent where a pattern emerged correlating productivity levels and the distance of the smartphone from the user. The productivity levels were the lowest when the smartphone was on the desk and the highest when taken away from the room.


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