News in Numbers, June 23, 2016: East’s answer to NATO, India’s largest spectrum auction…

8

What is it? The membership strength of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) once India and Pakistan join the group at a two-day summit starting today.

Why is it important? It’s East’s answer to NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation). This would help India participate in military cooperation in the areas of counter-terrorism measures in Central Asia, intelligence sharing and tackling cyber terrorism with the member-states of this group. This would also provide better access to Central Asia for both India and Pakistan at a time when they are seeking to deepen their ties with the region, especially given their involvement in projects such as Chabahar Port and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor respectively.

Tell me more: The SCO comprises of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan while Afghanistan, Belarus, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan have observer status.

 

$950,000

What is it? The penalty the US’ Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has levied on mobile advertising company InMobi for tracking locations of consumers including children without their permission.

Why is it important? Shows how some new-age firms resort to practices deemed to be unethical and illegal to chase growth. Highlights the risks to consumers who have no way of knowing if their privacy (and their children’s privacy) is being compromised. For InMobi, which is competing with Facebook and Google, this comes at a time when it is struggling to raise funds, build a sustainable business model and fighting attrition in its senior and mid-level management.

Tell me more: Under the terms of settlement, the FTC said InMobi is subjected to a $4 million civil penalty, which is suspended to $950,000 given the “company’s financial condition”. InMobi has to delete all information collected from children and location information of consumers besides instituting a comprehensive privacy policy, which will be independently audited every two years for the next 20 years.

 

Rs 5.66 lakh crore

What is it? The amount the spectrum auction is estimated to fetch the Indian government.

Why is it important? Given how expensive the spectrum bands are (a firm bidding for 5 MHz of pan-India bandwidth in the 700 band would have to pay Rs 57,000 crore– over half of what the government earned from the 2015 auctions) and the Rs 3.5 lakh crore debt under which the telecom sector is reeling, the level of participation by the firms in the auctions remains to be seen. Idea, Vodafone and Airtel are reportedly not planning to bid for spectrum in the 700 MHz band.

Tell me more: This is the first time the government would put up the entire spectrum available on sale. The bidding is expected to commence from September 1.

 

Rs 418.25 crore

What is it? Revenue of ANI Technologies, which owns and runs brand Ola, in 2014-15.

Why is it important? It increased eight-fold from Rs 51.05 crore in 2013-14 though its losses shot up 20 times from Rs 34.21 crore in FY14 to Rs 754.87 crore in FY15. Indicates that the growth of the company, which raised two rounds of funding totalling to $251.5 million (nearly Rs 1,700 crore) in this period, came at a high cost (discounts and driver incentives) and that it requires increased capital to fend off competition from Uber and maintain its lead.

Tell me more: Ola is reportedly in talks with investors to raise $300-400 million or $1 billion, according to different publications.

 

57%

What is it? Percentage of cost of travel recovered by the Indian railways on passenger fares on an average.

Why is it important? The railways has been printing this information on train tickets in the last one week. The idea is to make rail passengers aware of the huge subsidy on rail tickets. Increasing rail fares is a politically sensitive subject in India and this awareness-building could be the first step in rationalisation of fares in the coming years.

Tell me more: Passenger fares were last hiked by 14.2% in June 2014. Suburban and short-haul train passengers account for over half of the traffic but their share in total passenger revenues was just 6-7%, accounting for around 60% of the annual subsidy of Rs 34,000 crore.

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News in Numbers, May 24, 2016: India’s first supercomputer, India and Iran sign 12 deals…

84%

What is it? The percentage of samples of 38 commonly available brands of pre-packaged bread in Delhi that have tested positive for potassium bromate and potassium iodate, according to a report by an NGO.

Why is it important? Potassium bromate is possibly cancer-causing to humans while potassium iodate can contribute to thyroid-related diseases (both have been banned in many countries). The food regulator said it had already decided to remove potassium bromate from the list of permitted additives and is gathering evidence against the other substance before it restricts its usage. Some of the companies have denied the use of these chemicals.

Tell me more: Both the chemicals are used for treating flour. The study by Centre for Science and Environment conducted tests on bread samples of brands such as Britannia, Harvest Gold, KFC, Pizza Hut, Subway, Domino’s, McDonald’s and Slice of Italy.

 

70

What is it? The number of supercomputers India is planning to build over the next seven years, the first of which will be ready by August 2017.

Why is it important? They can be used for discovery of drugs, weather forecast and climate modelling among others. India, which launched a Rs 4,500-crore National Supercomputing Mission last year, has 11 machines in the world’s 500 most powerful supercomputers (as of November 2015), lower compared to US (233 systems) or China (37 systems).

Tell me more: This mission is likely is likely to improve India’s position in the top 500 most powerful supercomputers, though it has to tackle the challenges of heat and power management. China has the world’s most powerful supercomputer, which retained its top position for the fifth straight year in 2015.

 

$500 million

What is it? India’s investment commitment to develop Iran’s Chabahar port in the first phase.

Why is it important? This provides increased trade access to India with Iran, Afghanistan and central Asia and gives landlocked Afghanistan an alternate route to access the Indian Ocean, bypassing Pakistan. The tripartite deal signed by India, Iran and Afghanistan is also a sign of India’s strategic victory over China, which has been vying to develop this port and increase its influence in the region. It is seen as a sort of counter to Pakistan’s Gwadar port, which China has been developing as part of a $46-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Tell me more: It’s the first visit by an Indian leader to Iran in 15 years. Prime Minister Modi has also signed 12 deals with Iran (including the Chabahar port) on economy, trade, transportation, culture, science and academic cooperation.

 

0.2%

What is it? The average percentage points by which Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump is ahead of Democratic party’s likely nominee Hillary Clinton in presidential polling, according to RealClearPolitics, a polling data aggregator.

Why is it important? This is the first time that Trump has overtaken Clinton. However, this could just be a temporary deviation as Trump has wrapped up his nomination while Clinton is yet to (likely in early June) but the increasing Republicans’ support for Trump could mean that this is going to be tight race between the two.

Tell me more: There are questions raised about the way in which the average is calculated, which is a simple straight average of the five most recently-conducted polls, which use different methodologies to calculate their numbers.

 

500

What is it? The number of liquor retail outlets run by the Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC) that will be closed down by the state government.

Why is it important? Besides being an indication that the newly elected chief minister J Jayalalithaa intends to keep her promises of phased prohibition, it also raises questions on how she would manage the state’s finances. Over 30% of Tamil Nadu’s revenues comes from state-run liquor shops even as it faces a revenue deficit of over Rs 9,000 crore.

Tell me more: By the state’s own admission, one of the main reasons for the sharp increase in Tamil Nadu’s revenue deficit is the host of freebie and subsidy schemes being implemented by the state. The state-run liquor shops have been a major source of funding these schemes. There are 6,286 TASMAC outlets in Tamil Nadu and the state ranks sixth among 17 states/UTs in terms of alcohol consumption, according to a 2015-16 survey report.

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