News in Numbers, Nov 7, 2016: When ‘snooze’ is no longer an option…

How many times are we allowed to hit the ‘snooze’ button before we finally decide to wake up and smell the coffee? (or in this case, inhale poisonous air, the effects of which do not need any outlining) With respect to Delhi, sadly, not only have we hit the ‘snooze’ button way too many times but also, ignored or done little about the constantly-ringing alarm bells. Though the Delhi government has announced a few short-term measures, it is imperative for the central government and the state government to work in tandem to ensure effective implementation of long-term policies to tackle the worsening air pollution problem in the capital city. And, also ensure that other major urban/semi-urban areas do not end up mirroring Delhi’s situation. What can the governments and individuals do to curb pollution? Do share your ideas with us.

Regards,
John

 

588 µg/m³

What is it? The levels of particulate matter (PM) 2.5 in Delhi at around 8.00 am today, according to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) of the Union Ministry of Earth Science.

Why is it important? This is 9.8 times the safe limit of 60 µg/m³and falls under the ‘severe’ (the worst) category. The levels of PM 10 in the capital city was said to be 844, nearly 8.5 times the safe limit of 100 µg/m³, again in the ‘severe’ category. These particulates are considered deadly for their ability to penetrate deep into the lungs and blood streams unfiltered, which can cause respiratory problems, lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

Tell me more: Particulate matter pollution has been categorised as carcinogenic to humans and is considered to be a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer. SAFAR’s forecast for PM 2.5 and 10 for Delhi tomorrow is worse than today’s levels: 613 µg/m³ and 860 µg/m³ respectively.

 

50%

What is it? The fall in the number of startups that have reportedly registered with the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) for recruitment this year.

Why is it important? Indicates that startups’ hiring activity has slowed down amidst reports that investors have become increasingly cautious about loosening their purse strings in the recent quarters. Earlier this year, IITs had banned 31 startups including Grofers, Hopscotch, StayZilla and Portea Medical from participating in their placement drives as they had delayed joining dates, changed their offers in the last minute or revoked some of the students’ offer letters. 135 students were affected by such actions, according to the All IIT Placement Committee.

Tell me more: However, pre-placement offers are up by 25-30% this year. Some IITs are conducting screenings of some startups based on their funding, cash flow and stability before allowing them visit their campuses for hiring.

 

2

What is it? India’s ranking in a global index of business optimism in the July-September quarter of 2016, according to a survey.

Why is it important? The country has improved its position by moving up one slot from the previous quarter after being ranked on top in the previous two quarters. The latest ranking is due to the Indian government’s reform measures, its efforts to improve the ease of doing business in the country and on the back of expectations that the Goods and Services Tax would become a reality soon, according to the report. Though India is still ranked among the top five nations where red tapism and regulations are considered an impediment to growth, its ranking on this aspect has dropped to second from fourth.

Tell me more: This comes a few days after India was listed at the 130th position (of 190 nations) on the World Bank’s ease of doing business, where the report’s authors acknowledge that not all the measures taken by India in improving its business environment have been taken into account.

 

13%

What is it? The percentage of the American electorate which is undecided or likely to vote for a third-party candidate.

Why is it important? This indicates the high levels of uncertainty in the outcome and that the results could swing in favour of either of the US Presidential candidates in the 2016 elections: Donald Trump, the Republican Party nominee or Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party nominee. There are reportedly about 12 states, which form 155 votes in the electoral college (of the 538), that do not favour any party and could hold the key to who becomes the 45th US President.

Tell me more: The US citizens across 50 states would vote to elect 538 members of the electoral college, who in turn, would vote for the President. Of the 50 states, 12 are in favour of the Democrats and six leaning towards them and Clinton is predicted to have 219 safe votes. As many as 20 states are for the Republicans, one leaning towards them, predicting 164 safe votes for Trump. The winning candidate would require 270 votes.

 

1.1 lakh

What is it? The number of ideas received by the Indian Railways from its employees as of November 1 in response to the question: What if you were India’s Railway Minister?

Why is it important? This is the first time that such a brainstorming exercise has been conducted at the Indian Railways where crowdsourcing of ideas (contrary to the top-down approach at the organisation) has been encouraged to generate more revenue and margins and become more efficient. A panel of seven joint secretary officers have shortlisted 1,400 of these ideas. This would be further filtered to get the 15 best ideas and then, converted into business plans to be showcased to Prime Minister Narendra Modi later this month. He is likely to then spell out a five-year vision for the Railways and may roll out a campaign akin to the ‘Make in India’ or ‘Digital India’ campaigns, according to news reports.

Tell me more: Some of the ideas include: implementation of smart cards, which can generate additional revenues of Rs 400 crore, development of heritage tourism, large-scale solar energy development on land owned by the Railways around stations and offering surplus and vacant land on rent to private individuals.

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News in Numbers, Jun 7, 2016: Wipro’s automation move, India gets back 200 artifacts…

3,300

What is it? The number of computer engineers who will be freed up this year due to Wipro’s use of its artificial intelligence platform Holmes. The platform Holmes would be used to automate some tasks of fixed-price projects.

Why is it important? An early indicator of how automation can impact jobs in one of the highest paying sectors in the country. For the companies it can cut down labour costs – the move will save Wipro up to $46.5 million. Other IT firms TCS and Infosys are also working with their artificial intelligence systems to boost revenue per employee and profitability figures.

Tell me more: Wipro plans to sell the platform to existing and new clients to earn about $60-70 million.  

 

$159

What is it? Median monthly generic drug price in India, according to a study of cancer drug prices in seven countries.

Why is it important? While this is among the lowest in the world, in terms of affordability, it is among the most expensive. The cost of generics as a percentage of domestic product per capita at purchasing power parity is 33% in India. Cancer drug prices are the highest in the US where the median monthly price for generics is $654 or 14% of wealth adjusted for cost of living.

Tell me more: In case of branded drugs, the situation is even worse in India. The median monthly price of branded drugs is $1,515 , which is 313% of domestic product per capita at purchasing power parity.

 

Rs 30,000 crore

What is it? State owned NTPC Ltd’s proposed investment in 2016-17, part of which would go towards stepping up its renewable energy generation.

Why is it important? It is likely to help the country achieve its target of meeting 40% of its energy demands from non-fossil fuels (such as nuclear, wind, water and solar) by 2030. NTPC is reviewing its long-term plans of achieving 128 GW of capacity by 2032, of which over a tenth is to be accounted for by renewable energy.

Tell me more: NTPC, which accounts for a sixth of India’s power capacity, plans to add 1,000 MW of wind power in the current fiscal and to produce 10% of India’s target of installing 100 GW of solar capacity by 2022. NTPC will raise Rs 20,000 crore in debt, of which Rs 7,000 crore would be from overseas lenders.

 

2.18 acres

What is it? The area of land Indian government has allotted for the development of a naval detachment on Bitra island in Lakshadweep.

Why is it important? It will help government increase its military presence on the eastern and western coasts as it jostles with China to exert greater influence over the important Indian Ocean region and protect its maritime interests. Both the countries are improving their infrastructure and bettering their relations with smaller countries such as Bangladesh, Maldives and Sri Lanka, which also have strategic interests in the region.

Tell me more:  It is also establishing/upgrading its naval detachments on remote islands such as Kavaratti, Minicoy and Agatti and setting up military bases at Tuticorin (Tamil Nadu) and Paradip (Odisha).

 

200

What is it? Number of stolen artifacts the US returned to the Indian government on Monday.

Why is it important? Most of them were recovered from a decade-old ‘Operation Hidden Idol’, which led to the arrest of six people and recoveries of items worth $100 million. The artifacts, some of them that date back to 2,000 years, were stolen from India’s most valued religious sites.

Tell me more: The US has returned over 7,500 artifacts to different countries in the last 10 years.

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News in Numbers, May 25, 2016: Non-functional ATMs, world’s first 3D printed office…

3

What is it? The number of companies that have withdrawn from launching payments banks.

Why is it important? That is three out of 11 payment banks which got the RBI’s approval, and the withdrawal highlights some of its limitations: payments banks cannot lend, there are restrictions on deposit deployment, and, more importantly, might not find a strategic fit with a group’s other businesses. The companies which have said no to payment banks are: Cholamandalam Investment and Finance Co., Sun Pharma promoter Dilip Shanghvi and his partners (IDFC Bank and Telenor Financial Services) and Tech Mahindra.

Tell me more: Reliance Industries, Aditya Birla Nuvo, Vodafone and Airtel are among 11 companies that received in-principle approval from the central bank to set up payment banks last August.

 

10.7%

What is it? The pass percentage of Indian students with foreign medical degrees in the screening test that allows them to practice in India in 2015.

Why is it important? Indicates the urgent need to increase number of seats for medical courses in India and the lack of awareness among students about low standards of medical education in some colleges abroad. The pass percentage was 50.12% in 2005, which fell to an all-time low of 4.93% in 2014. With just 52,000 seats for MBBS courses and 25,577 post-graduate medical seats in India, students look to other countries such as China, Ukraine and Russia where medical courses are said to be cheaper.

Tell me more: The screening test called the Foreign Medical Graduates Examination is conducted by the Medical Council of India through the National Board of Examinations, where one needs at least 50% to pass.

 

33%

What is it? The percentage of automated teller machines (ATMs) that were found to be non-functional, of the 4,000 surveyed by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) recently.

Why is it important? If this is a representative sample, then a whopping 65,000 ATMs (as per February data) in India are out of order. Highlights the high cost of maintaining ATMs where footfalls are low – a likely reason why the banks have failed to keep them in order.

Tell me more: RBI’s deputy governor SS Mundra has warned the banks of penal action for non-compliance of RBI rules with respect to ATMs.

 

6

What is it? The number of months by which e-commerce firm Flipkart has deferred the joining date of six Indian Institute of Management (IIM) graduates.

Why is it important? Flipkart has attributed this to corporate restructuring. It signals wider problems the company is facing. It is growing slower than expectations, in the wake of increased competition, especially from Amazon India. It has reportedly slashed its hiring and is cutting down on discounts and advertising.

Tell me more: Flipkart expanded its workforce at a rapid pace earlier: from 14,000 to 35,000 (at the end of December 2015) in 12-18 months.

 

17

What is it? The number of days it took to build a 3D-printed office in Dubai, in addition to two days to install it on site.

Why is it important? This is the world’s first functioning 3D-printed office, which cost about $140,000. The technique used to build this structure could cut down building time by 50-70% and labour costs by 50-80% and a quarter of the buildings in Dubai would be printed by 2030, according to a United Arab Emirates Minister. This could well signal the beginning of a revolutionary change the construction industry might undergo.

Tell me more: A 3D printer, which is 20-feet high, 120 feet long and 40-feet wide, was used to print the building with a floorspace of about 2,700 sq.ft. using a special mixture of cement and a set of building material (designed in the UAE and the US). It took 18 people to put up the structure – one to monitor the printer, seven to install the building components and 10 to handle the electrical and mechanical engineering aspects.

 

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News in numbers, Oct 9, 2015: Bombay HC rules in favour of Vodafone, right to privacy in India…

 

Rs 8,500 crore

What is it? The amount by which Vodafone India’s tax liability has come down, thanks to a Bombay High Court ruling. This relates to sale of its call centre business to Hutchison and assignment of call options (sale of assets at an agreed price) to Vodafone International – and concerns around transfer pricing. (Transfer pricing is setting of price of goods and services sold between two divisions/legal entities under the same group.)

Why is it important? This could spell good news for other companies such as IBM Corp., Royal Dutch Plc and Nokia Oyj that are fighting transfer-pricing cases in India. It could even set a new precedent or result in clearer tax policies and regulations, something that foreign investors have been seeking for.

Tell me more: This is just one of the cases Vodafone battling with the Indian tax authorities. Last year, the Bombay High Court had ruled in favour of Vodafone’s Indian unit in a Rs 3,200-crore dispute where the tax department had accused the company of under-pricing shares in a rights issue to its parent firm. Vodafone, which bought Hutchison’s business in 2007, has also been held liable for capital tax gains on that deal. That is yet to be resolved.

 

~ 100,000

What is it? The number of people Accenture is looking to hire in September 2015 – August 2016.

Why is it important? This would help Accenture maintain its lead position over TCS, which is considered to be an aggressive recruiter. Recently, the company which has around 336,000 people, shot past TCS (319,656) in headcount. And, TCS is planning to hire about 65,000 people in the current financial year (April 2015 – March 2016).

Tell me more: The company is planning to spend about $1 billion on acquisitions in 2015-16. It is planning to focus on three ‘new’ technologies – digital, cloud and cyber security, which contribute to a third of its overall revenue.  

 

90%

What is it? The upper limit of the percentage of house price that RBI allows banks to lend for loans of up to Rs 30 lakh.  

Why is it important? The limit on loan value is up 50% from Rs 20 lakh earlier. This reflects rising house prices – and would help more people to consider buying a property. Might help revive real estate sector, which has been faced with high unsold inventory and tepid sales.

Tell me more: The central bank has also relaxed the risk weights (the capital to be set aside by banks) for individual housing loans.

 

61 years

What is it? The number of years since Supreme Court said right to privacy is not fundamental.

Why is it important? It might change now. The Supreme Court on Thursday has set up a Constitution Bench to re-look at the issue. Making it a fundamental right will warrant changes in certain government laws/policies. This question has sprung up now because of the Aadhaar card enrolment process, which involves parting with information such as fingerprints and iris signatures.

Tell me more: A petitioner against the Aadhaar scheme has raised concerns about the government owning personal data of individual citizens, which could be misused for ill-gains.

 

55.56 – 157.14%

What is it? The increase in prices of some vegetables such as pointed gourd, pumpkin, bitter gourd and brinjal in three weeks (between September 16 and October 8).

Why is it important? Overall, though wholesale and retail inflation have been falling, the increase in food prices, especially those of vegetables and pulses is worrying. In August, vegetable prices increased by 8.5% from July prices while pulses and related products saw the highest rate of increase among all the product groups.

Tell me more: The top three reasons given for the price rise are delayed monsoons and deficient or excessive rains in some areas.

 

 

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