In The Onion World: India’s Loss Could Be Another’s Gain


Philanthropy is in the air. After Infosys’ chairman Nandan Nilekani, its Sunil Bharti Mittal pledging a tenth of his total wealth. Onion prices have shot up. They have some strange connection with elections. Indian railways has saved a ton of money on its power bills. HUL will cut down prices on several of its offerings post GST cuts on them. 


Rs 7,000 crore

What is it? The amount founder and chairman of Bharti Enterprises Sunil Bharti Mittal and his family have pledged for philanthropic activities, which is a tenth of their total wealth.

Why is it important? Mittal is among the growing list of billionaires in India who are committing a significant share of their wealth towards philanthropy. Recently, Infosys chairman Nandan Nilekani and Rohini Nilekani signed the Giving Pledge initiative, sponsored by American investor Warren Buffett and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, to give away half their wealth for charity. Other Indians who have signed this pledge include Wipro chairman Azim Premji, Biocon MD Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw and Founder Chairman of Sobha Group PNC Menon.

Tell me more: Most of Bharti family’s wealth would go towards setting up a university in an effort to offer free education to youth from economically weaker sections of society.


$850 per tonne

What is it? The price at which Indian exporters can sell onions in international markets until the end of the year.

Why is it important? The Indian government has applied this restriction as onion prices in domestic markets shot up. At Lasalgaon, the country’s largest wholesale onion market, prices increased to Rs 3,211 per 100 kg last week, which is its highest in two years. On Thursday, the modal price went up even higher to Rs 3,600 per quintal, according to government data. Onions are said to have a curious connection with Indian elections, where a rise in their prices is a politically sensitive topic.

Tell me more: Some traders say onion exports are not possible at $850 a tonne, and that this might result in an increase in key importing countries such as Bangladesh, UAE and Sri Lanka.


Rs 5,636 crore

What is it? The amount the Indian Railways says it has saved in power bills between April 2015 and October 2017.

Why is it important? This has been possible due to the Open Access Policy under the Electricity Act, 2003, which allows consumers with an electricity load of above 1 MW to procure power directly from markets. Over half of the total requirement of 2,000 MW for electric traction power has been accessed through this route. This has resulted in the decrease in the average cost of power to Rs 5 from Rs 7 in states from where electricity is procured via the open access route. The Indian Railways has seen a decline in passenger and freight traffic revenues in the last few years even as the central government’s financial support has largely remained at similar levels.

Tell me more: The Indian Railways says the cumulative figure can go up to Rs 6,927 crore, about Rs 1,000 crore higher than the stipulated target, and has projected total savings of Rs 41,000 crore over the next decade.



What is it? The average cut in product prices across categories that Hindustan Unilever will effect in about 600 stock keeping units (SKUs), post the recent rationalisation of tax rates under the goods and services tax (GST).

Why is it important? This Hindustan Unilever action follows similar announcements by FMCG majors like Dabur, Godrej Consumer and ITC, and comes in the backdrop of the scathing critique from the government that it had done its bit to lower tax rates for many items of everyday use, but companies and service providers had not extended these tax cuts to consumers. It even threatened companies with action, and asked them to take corrective and informative steps.

Tell me more: On November 10, the government took out 178 item headings from the 28% category, leaving 50 items in that GST bracket.



What is it? The points margin that Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes needs over Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari in the last race of the 2017 Formula 1 season this weekend to finish second in the driver’s championship. Effectively, Bottas would have to win and Vettel would have to score no points.

Why is it important? If Bottas does manage to overtake Vettel, this will be the 4th consecutive season in which Mercedes would have finished one and two in the F1 driver’s championship. It would also be a blow to Ferrari, who were leading the driver’s title race till seven races ago, but saw their prospects implode after a series of driver and team errors.

Tell me more: Lewis Hamilton clinched the championship two races ago, in Mexico, for the fourth title of his career. The last time a Ferrari driver finished in the top two was Fernando Alonso in the 2013 season.

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News in Numbers, May 16, 2016: Google’s likely antitrust fine, polling across three states…

€3 billion

What is it? The antitrust fine amount Google is reportedly to be served with, by the European Commission in the near future.

Why is it important? If true, this would be the highest antitrust fine imposed on any company, surpassing a €1.1 billion fine on chip-maker Intel in 2009. The world’s largest search engine has been accused of promoting its shopping service in Internet searches, harming its rival services. This is likely to force Google to stop manipulating its search results, a case which has gone on since 2010 in the European Union.

Tell me more: The fine is expected to be announced in June and could go up to €6.6 billion, one-tenth of Google’s annual sales.


What is it? The number of jobs affected in the automobile sector due to the ban on diesel cars and SUVs with engine capacity of 2,000 cc and above in the Delhi-NCR area, according to an industry body.

Why is it important? The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers has contended that there is no link between engine capacity and emission levels and automakers such as Mercedes Benz have argued that their vehicles are BS VI-compliant and that diesel does not pollute the air anymore than petrol. Some have called for phased reduction, which might also give more time for transition for workers. However, Supreme Court appears to be entertaining no further debate on the issue.

Tell me more: Due to this ban between December 16, 2015 and April 30, 2016, production of 11,000 vehicles has been affected and a countrywide ban during the same period would have impacted 47,000 jobs and resulted in a loss of production of 1 lakh vehicles.


What is it? The total number of constituencies where polling is happening across Tamil Nadu (232 of 234), Kerala (140) and Puducherry (30).

Why is it important? In Tamil Nadu, which has always elected a clear winner for nearly 50 years, the fight is between J Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK and M Karunanidhi’s DMK, it remains to be seen if the combine of a few regional parties including Vijayakanth’s DMDK is able to make a mark to result in vote-splitting. In Kerala, the ruling UDF and the LDF are battling it out. In both these states, BJP’s vote share would be keenly watched as a measure of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity, who campaigned in both the states.

Tell me more: In the southern union territory of Puducherry, two Congress parties are up in arms against each other – one, led by Sonia Gandhi and the other, a breakaway faction led by chief minister N Rangasamy.

6 days

What is it? The delay in the onset of Indian monsoons this year, which is now expected to hit the Kerala coast on June 7.

Why is it important? After two consecutive years of drought and with a quarter of India’s population reeling under its effects, India’s monsoon this year is highly anticipated. The monsoon accounts for over 70% of India’s annual rainfall, is the primary source of irrigation for half of the country’s cropland and refills over 80 nationally-monitored water reservoirs (important for drinking purposes, power and irrigation). The delay is unlikely to affect the sowing of the Kharif crops.

Tell me more: Monsoon usually arrives on June 1 and the India Meteorological Department’s forecast has a margin of error of four days.


What is it? The number of seconds by which Dutch teenager Max Verstappen beat Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen in Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix.

Why is it important? With this win, 18-year-old Verstappen became the youngest winner of a Formula One race, beating four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel’s victory in 2008 at the age of 21. He is also the first Dutch race winner since the championship began in 1950.

Tell me more: Dominant players Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg collided and crashed out in the opening lap. Verstappen made his F1 debut when he was 17 for Toro Rosso, one of the two F1 teams owned by Austrian beverage company Red Bull, after which the minimum entry age was changed to 18 years.

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