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A Bitcoin Is Worth Gold

Bitcoin is now worth a half kilogram of gold. Indians have taken to trading in the cryptocurrency as 11 bitcoin trading platforms have cropped up in the country where about 30,000 members on average trade on any given day. Is it a bubble waiting to be burst or currency waiting to be recognised, is not known yet. What’s known is that it is not legally recognised in India and IT watchdog is hawk-eyeing every Bitcoin transaction on these exchanges.

 

Rs 14.1 lakh

What is it? The amount one has to pay to buy one unit of bitcoin from Bengaluru-based bitcoin firm Unocoin, including a fee and tax, according to the rate on Wednesday evening.

Why is it important? Bitcoin is not legally recognised in India. Income tax authorities are reportedly investigating transactions at bitcoin exchanges, including in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi and Gurgaon. It is not clear if these investigations are related to money laundering or tax evasion. Also, there is no clarity on the levy of taxes related to Bitcoin transactions in the country.

Tell me more: There are reportedly at least 11 Indian bitcoin trading platforms that claim to have about 30,000 members actively trading at a given point of time.

 

50%

What is it? The percentage of world population that does not have full coverage of essential health services, according to a report by the World Health Organization and the World Bank.

Why is it important? This highlights the distance the human race needs to go in terms of achieving universal basic health coverage. It says about 100 million people are being pushed into extreme poverty (living on $1.9 or less) as they have to pay for healthcare and nearly 12% of the global population spends at least a tenth of their household budget on healthcare.

Tell me more: According to a study by medical journal Lancet, India ranks a poor 154 of 195 countries in access to healthcare. It also fares badly in terms of government spending on healthcare, parting with just 5% of its total expenditure compared to China’s 10.4%.

 

0.25 percentage point

What is it? The amount by which the US central bank has increased its key interest rate, in a move that was widely expected.

Why is it important? The US federal funds rate, which helps determine rates for mortgages, credit cards and other borrowing, will now hover in the range of 1.25% to 1.5%. This is the fifth time the Fed has lifted interest rates since the 2008 financial crisis. Policy makers plan to raise rates three more times in 2018, and then twice in 2019. Despite the current and planned increases, US interest rates remain at historically low levels.

Tell me more: Key US share indices hit all-time highs following the government reporting healthy macroeconomic numbers and news that it would be able to muster the numbers to push through a business-friendly tax package.

 

10-12%

What is it? The increase in overall cost of solar projects following the introduction of the goods and services tax (GST), according to the All India Solar Industries Association (AISIA).

Why is it important? The AISIA general secretary, in letters to the revenue secretary and other government officials, has said that this would be detrimental in achieving the solar power capacity of 100 GW by 2022 under the National Solar Mission. The association says that solar power generating systems are being charged 5% tax, but equipment such as module mounting structures, transformers, cables and trackers are subjected to different rates under GST.

Tell me more: In a note this May, consulting firm Bridge to India had said that a 5% tax on solar panels, instead of 18% proposed earlier under GST, would translate to an increase of 4% in cost of solar power projects.

 

3

What is it? Number of double hundreds scored by Indian batsman Rohit Sharma in one-day internationals. His latest came on Wednesday, when Sharma carted Sri Lanka for 208 not out in 153 balls.

Why is it important? No other batsman has two double hundreds in ODIs, leave alone three. In all, five batsman have scored 200 or more in the 50-over format, including three Indians. The pace of evolution of batting in this format can be gauged from the fact that the first 200 was scored only in 2010. And since then, six more have been racked up.

Tell me more: Sharma’s knock on Wednesday was a tale of two innings. In his first 126 balls, he scored 116 runs. In the next 27 balls he faced, he smashed 92 runs, including 11 sixes and three fours. Such acceleration has been the feature of all his three efforts.

 

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‘Period’ Market Is Waiting To Be Tapped

Women in India are enraged. Well, for several reasons, but at the moment, it is sanitary pads (SPs). Period pain is one thing. But, pain of bearing a higher burden of expenses every month on this most essential item in every woman’s closet is under debate.

So, what’s going on here? Under the new tax regime, meant to make things simpler for everybody, items/services were clubbed under five different tax slabs and taxed more or less like they used to be before. Amongst the new tax bands- 0%, 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%, sanitary napkins were put under the 12% bracket in the July meeting.

While, the government has justified the new tax bracket under which SPs are clubbed, domestic manufacturers have an opportunity to find the more affordable alternatives.

A regular no frill napkin is priced between Rs. 4 – 11 a piece, adding to the monthly bill close to Rs. 50 –132 per period cycle. For a city woman, this may be paltry, but for girls/women in 70% of India, this could cause much grief.

In India, as per the last census, of 34 crore females of menstruating age, 71% lived in rural areas. And that’s quite large a population to be ignored.

Government says they cannot make the 12% tax on sanitary pads go away. It hurts the manufacturer as the raw materials used in making a pad such as polymer, glue, poly ethylene film, is taxed between 12- 18%. So, a zero or lesser tax, would hurt the interests of domestic manufacturers as they would lose out on the input tax credit. That means, the tax they pay on the purchase of raw materials would not be set off against the tax payable on the final product. So, a higher tax burden. Another justification for a higher tax is, that before GST, sanitary napkins were taxed at effectively 13.7% (6% – Excise and 5% Vat), so its pretty much status quo post GST as well. While for manufacturers and states, there’s hardly any loss of revenue, it doesn’t do anything for the end-consumers. Women who found it expensive then, find SPs unaffordable even now. As per the latest NHFS survey, only 48.2% of rural females age between 15-24 years use hygienic methods of protection during their periods. This percentage is much higher among the urban females, 77.5%. And country as a whole fair pretty dismally.

There’s a case for domestic manufacturers to find affordable and healthier solutions to reach this market, which if covered, would greatly benefit the well-being of our women and as a customer base, it is waiting to be tapped.

The map below shows the share of rural females between the age 10-50 years by districts. Out of 640 districts recognised by Census, there are just 12 such, that have zero presence of rural females. And nearly 300, which have close to 80-100% share of the targeted group.

(Click on the top left to view the color indexing done on the basis of % of rural females in each district.)

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When the Earth isn’t enough 🌏

336,107

What is it? The number of H-1B visa applications filed by employers between October 2016 and June 2017.

Why is it important? The number of applications has not declined despite US President Donald Trump pledging to crackdown on misuse of H-1B visas, a temporary work permit. At this rate, the full year applications will exceed that of 2016 number of 399,349. However, approvals for current fiscal is sharply lower at 59% as compared to 87% in 2016. This could be because large number of petitions in current year are still pending decisions.

Tell me more: 74% of applications are filed for candidates born in India.

 

47.9

What is it? Nikkei’s Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) in July, a composite indicator of India’s manufacturing activity based on a survey by Markit, a financial information and services company.

Why is it important? This is the lowest since February 2009, the days of the global financial crisis. It slipped below the 50-point mark separating expansion from contraction for the first time this year. Uncertainty and information gaps around goods and services tax that was introduced on July 1st seems to have negatively impacted purchasing decisions.

Tell me more: New orders fell for the first time in the year-to-date and at the fastest pace since early 2009.

 

7

What is it? The number of months in which this year’s Earth Overshoot Day has arrived (August 2) this year, according to environmental groups WWF and Global Footprint Network.

Why is it important? Earth Overshoot Day is the date in which the annual demand of humanity on nature exceeds what the planet can regenerate over the year and it is the earliest so far. In other words, humanity is using up planetary resources such as soil, water and air at a faster pace than ever and will live on “credit” for the rest of the year; currently, we are using the resources of 1.7 Earths.

Tell me more: We would be able to return to living within the means of one Earth before 2050 if we moved the Earth Overshoot Day back by 4.5 days every year. Some of the ways in which individuals can help stop and later, reverse the trend is by burning less fuel, cut back on food waste and eating less meat.

 

22.4%

What is it? The percentage increase in car sales for Maruti Suzuki, which has more than 50% market share, in July this year.

Why is it important? Car sales has picked up after introduction of the goods and services tax (GST) from July 1st, after contracting by 11% in June. Other car makers, except Hyundai Motor, reported double-digit increase in sales growth.

Tell me more: Shipping of cars from factory gate to dealers is counted as a sale, so the increase could be because of manufacturers pushing the stock to dealers than end-customer demand.

 

61.5%

What is it? The increase in the net worth of Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, in one year.

Why is it important? With a total net worth of $35.2 billion, he has raced ahead of Hong Kong-based Li Ka-Shing to become the second richest Asian after Alibaba’s founder, Jack Ma. Globally, Ambani went up to the 19th position, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. This has been possible partly due to investors rallying behind Reliance Jio that has disrupted the telecom space in the last few months.

Tell me more: A report by Oxfam, which works to eliminate poverty, said India’s 57 billionaires have the same wealth as the bottom 70% of the population, pointing to rising income and wealth inequality in the Asia’s third largest economy.

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Snail’s pace housing 🐌🏡

Rs 154

What is it? Bharti Airtel’s average revenue per user (arpu) in the three months ended June.

Why is it important? This is about 21% lesser than that reported in the same quarter a year ago and is an indication of the impact of Reliance Jio. The new telecom player provided free services for six months after its entry last year, which forced the incumbents to reduce their tariffs to protect/retain their market share. The impact of Jio on other players may lessen in the subsequent quarters as it has started charging its customers from April this year. Its maiden paid-for and most popular plan would translate into an arpu of Rs 96 while the most prominent of its revised plans would increase the arpu to Rs 124, according to ratings agency Icra.

Tell me more: The net profit of India’s largest telecom operator declined by 75% to Rs 367 crore from a year ago period. However, it added 5.2 million subscribers in the last three months, which is the highest ever.

 

180,877

What is it? The number of houses built under the ‘Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana’ so far.

Why is it important? This is less than 0.5% of the target of 5 crore homes for the poor by 2022, which indicates the slow pace of the programme (launched in February 2016) as well as raises the question of the feasibility of achieving the goal. The programme is important as at least 6.5 crore people live in slums across India and most do so in makeshift houses and shacks.

Tell me more: The initiative was also launched with the idea that it would help create jobs though unemployment rate has gone up to 5%of the labour force in 2015-16 from 4.9% in 2013-14, the year before the NDA assumed power.

 

2002

What is it? The year since the Indian monsoons (June-September) have strengthened, according to a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Why is it important? The strengthening in the last 15 years has resulted in the reversal of a 50-year drying spell when the monsoon brought relatively less rainfall to the northern and central parts of India. Strong warming of the entire Indian subcontinent and a significant slowdown in the temperature rise over the Indian Ocean could partially explain this trend, according to the researchers.

Tell me more: The year of 2015 saw a blip in trend – widespread drought across the subcontinent – which the study attributes to the severe El Niño (unusually warm temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific) season.

 

300-325 km

What is it? The distance covered by trucks a day after Goods and Services Tax (GST) was implemented.

Why is it important? This is 30% more than the 225-km-a-day covered by them pre-GST. The road transport ministry is crediting the abolishing of state-border checkposts for the increased productivity. Earlier, anywhere between 20-30% of a logistic truck’s travel time was spent on clearing checkposts, due to congestion.

Tell me more: The ministry says along with the abolishment of inter-state sales tax, it could bring down logistics costs by 10-12%.

 

Rs 500 crore

What is it? The relief package declared by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the flooded districts of Gujarat.

Why is it important? Gujarat has seen some of this year’s worst flooding, since June due to heavy monsoon rains, aggravated by water inflow from Rajasthan and relentless rains over the weekend. More than 36,000 people have been displaced from their homes and the transport sector suffered over Rs 6 crore losses a day due to flooding. The relief package will help rebuild and rehabilitate the lives of those displaced.

Tell me more: In 2015-16, 1,543 people died in natural disasters. Gujarat’s toll has crossed 70 since the start of monsoon this season.

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