News in Numbers, Mar 20, 2017: The Wall (not Trump’s)

$130,000

What is it? Minimum wage for a H1B visa holder, as proposed in High Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act, introduced by Congressperson Zoe Lofgren of California earlier this year.

Why is it important? It’s one of the visa reforms being sought by some United States politicians, concerned about foreign nationals taking away American jobs. This bill was expected to impact the way Indian IT companies operate. One of the first signs of change on ground is a decision reported to have taken by Infosys not to apply for H1B visas for junior staff.

Tell me more: The introduction of the bill is potentially acting as a catalyst for IT companies even as they tweak their operating models so they are less dependent on H1B visas (and human resources in general).

 

139 days

What is it? The number of days Manipur was under economic blockade.

Why is it important? United Naga Council, which had imposed the blockade on the north eastern state to protest against the creation of Sadar Hills and Jiribam into full fledged districts, has called it off effective Sunday midnight.

Tell me more: It’s a win for the BJP-led coalition, which is awaiting a floor test in the State Assembly. In the recent elections, Indian National Congress emerged as the single largest party. BJP joined hands with smaller parties to claim the right to form the government.

 

47

What is it? The number of people who were sworn in as ministers in Uttar Pradesh government under chief minister Yogi Adityanath and deputy chief ministers Keshav Prasad Maurya and  Dinesh Sharma.

Why is it important? The focus of everyone’s attention was Yogi Adityanath himself, who is known for provocative and often divisive speeches, and controversial statements. His selection as the country’s largest state came as a surprise to many who thought of recent election results as a mandate for development.

Tell me more: The newly formed government has 21 ministers in cabinet rank. BJP won 312 of the 384 seats it contested (and of 403 available) in the recently held assembly elections. Samajwadi Party won 47 seats and Bahujan Samaj Party won 19.

 

~ 400 million

What is it? The number of customers that telecom players Vodafone and Idea will have as a merged group.

Why is it important? That would mean a 35% market share by number of users. While there were talks about Vodafone – Idea merger for some months now (especially after the launch of Reliance Jio), the companies acknowledged they were in talks last month, and formally announced it after Idea board approved the merger on Monday.  The merged entity will control over 40% of revenue market share, and a quarter of all the spectrum available in the country.

Tell me more: Vodafone will own 45.1%, and Idea promoters will own 26% in the new company.

 

525

What is it? The number of balls faced by Cheteshwar Pujara against Australian cricket team at Ranchi in the ongoing test series.

Why is it important? It is the longest innings ever played by an Indian, and beats Rahul Dravid’s record of 495 balls against Pakistan, in which Dravid scored 270 runs. Pujara scored 202. This is the third test in India – Australia series. The match ends on Monday.

Tell me more: The others in the top five list (of Indian players) who stayed longest on crease by number of balls faced) are Navjot Sidhu, Ravi Shastri and Sunil Gavaskar.

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News in Numbers, Feb 01, 2017: Notes-ban drag down GDP

0.25-0.5%

What is it? The effect of the notes-ban on GDP growth in FY17, as estimated in the Economic Survey presented to the Parliament on Tuesday.

Why is it important? The first official acknowledgement of demonetisation’s impact on the economy revises a baseline growth of 7% down to 6.5-6.75%. The Central Statistics Office had not figured in the cash-crunch when giving out its estimate of 7.1% earlier this month. The government took potshots at and challenged unofficial estimates, as most have factored in a larger impact of demonetisation on GDP. It included the IMF, which forecast the withdrawal of 86% of the currency value in November would result in a growth of 6.6%, down a full percentage from its October estimate.

Tell me more: GDP growth in FY18 is expected to be between 6.75 and 7.5%, still lower than FY16’s 7.6%. The government also admitted the GDP estimate would not capture the effect of the cash shortage on the informal sector, the largest employer in the country.

 

>$130,000

What is it? The salary level an H1B visa-dependent employer will have to meet if the High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017 in the US House of Representatives goes through.

Why is it important? It has sent shivers down stocks of Indian IT companies, who send employees for onsite work using the visa. By removing the H1B minimum wage of $60,000, constant since 1989, and more than doubling it for the employer to be exempt from non-displacement and recruitment assessment requirements, the act could strain the coffers of US-based IT clients. It would lead to not just a rethinking of how many local employees to replace with onsite Indian staff, but also see IT companies mull more expensive US hires or digital delivery from India. Major IT stocks including the big four, fell by 2-4.5% while the Sensex dropped 2.96%.

Tell me more: The act would also reserve 20% of the annual H1B visas for small and start-up employers, while removing the ‘per country’ limit for employment-based immigrant visas.

 

5%

What is it? Rise in the share price of US’ Iconix Brand Group, on news of its plans to sell majority stake in the beloved franchise Peanuts Worldwide, which includes cartoon strip characters such as Snoopy and Charlie Brown.

Why is it important? Even though the iconic characters generate around $30 million, licensed in over 100 countries, Iconix’s decision to sell could be the result of a large customer — US insurance company Metlife —  dropping them after 30 years of use as mascots. This could be a major opening into the over-$-144-billion US licenced merchandise market (the biggest in the world) for keen investors. Peanuts, created by Charles Schulz, still counts Nestle, Zara and Hallmark as its licensees.

Tell me more: The deal could ease the debt burden on Iconix which bought its 80% stake in Peanuts in 2010, while the remaining 20% is owned by Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates, controlled by the creator’s family.

 

18 lakhs

What is it? The number of people whose cash deposits after demonetization do not match their taxpayer profiles as identified by the Income Tax department

Why is it important? Indian government hopes that the exercise, a follow up on large scale currency reform in November, will result in a higher tax collection rate. Economic Survey pointed out that India is among the countries that perform poorly on this metric – just seven direct tax payers for every 100 voters. The Income Tax department has identified over 10 million accounts with deposits exceeding Rs 2 lakh, and would start by scrutinizing those who have deposited over Rs 5 lakh.

Tell me more:  The queries by income tax department can be answered via its online portal.

 

78.3 million

What is it? The number of iPhones sold by Apple in the last quarter.

Why is it important? This is the largest number of phones sold by Apple in a quarter since the launch of iPhone in 2007, and comes after three consecutive quarters of decline in sales, defying industry expectations. The sales helped push Apple’s total revenue by 3% to $78.4 billion. It will also restore some faith in its CEO Tim Cook, who has been losing sheen following the decline of iPhone sales and the absence of any other product in its stable to match iPhone’s success.

Tell me more: iPhones accounts for two-thirds of Apple’s sales. The boost comes after the launch of iPhone 7 / 7 Plus in September 2016. While the lower priced iPhone 7 is the best selling model, the bigger ‘Plus’ version performed better than the previous larger sized models launched by the company.

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