News in Numbers, Jan 3, 2017: Wéi!


What is it? The market share of Chinese phone companies in the smartphone segment in November, according to analysts.

Why is it important? For the first time ever, Chinese brands hold a dominant position in the smartphone segment in India at the cost of the market share held by Indian companies and the bigger players such as Samsung and Apple. The share of Indian brands fell from a peak of over 40% recorded earlier in 2016 to 18% in October and November whereas that of Samsung and Apple fell by 3% month-on-month to land at 32% in November. Interestingly, Indian and Chinese players had an equal share (34% each) as of September.

Tell me more: As many as 32.3 million smartphones were shipped in the July-September quarter of 2016, continuing to clock double-digit growth, according to research firm International Data Corporation. Chinese players including Lenovo, Xiaomi, Vivo and Oppo are looking to gain a stronghold in India following the saturation in Chinese mobile phone market.



What is it? The service charges levied by hotels and restaurants, in lieu of tips.

Why is it important? The Department of Consumer Affairs issued a notification on Monday clarifying that it is not mandatory for the customers to pay the service charge that is added to the bills. This comes after customers complaining that they are forced to pay the service charge irrespective of the kind of service they are offered. This is likely to force hotels/restaurants to provide better services and/or increase the prices of the items on their menu cards.

Tell me more: After seeking a clarification from the Hotel Association of India, the Department of Consumer Affairs has asked the state governments to make hotels and restaurants aware of this rule and also direct hotels to put up notices to inform their customers that the payment of service charge is discretionary.



What is it? The growth rate of India’s eight infrastructure sectors – coal, crude oil, natural gas, refinery products, fertilisers, steel, cement and electricity – in November on a year-on-year basis.

Why is it important? Though it is higher than 0.6% recorded in November 2015, it is slower than the rates registered in September and October 2016 – 5% and 6.6% respectively. The slowdown is likely due to the currency reset move by the government in November, which also led to Nikkei’s Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index, a composite indicator of the country’s manufacturing activity based on a survey, to decline to 49.6 in December (from 52.3 in November) – the biggest month-on-month decline since November 2008 and the first contraction (below the 50-mark) in this year.

Tell me more: Among the eight core sectors, coal production, petroleum refinery production, fertiliser production, steel production, cement production and electricity generation registered increases in November compared to a year ago while crude oil and natural gas recorded decreases during the same period.


> 12,000 km

What is it? The distance China’s first freight train to London, which was flagged off on Sunday.

Why is it important? The train, which will reach London in about 18 days, is part of China’s efforts to strengthen its ties with Britain, better serve its Belt and Road Initiative and boost its weak exports and economic growth, which was the slowest in 25 years in 2015. At the end of June 2016, there were 1,881 China-Europe cargo trains in service, which imported and exported goods worth $17 billion. An estimated 5,000 cargo trains will run between China and Europe per year by 2020, according to the former’s top economic planning body.

Tell me more: China’s freight train to London, which primarily carried household items, garments, cloth, bags and suitcases, would pass through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France.


< 3 cents

What is it? Solar energy prices per kilowatt-hour in countries such as Chile and the United Arab Emirates in 2016.

Why is it important? This is about half the average global cost of coal power and could become the cheapest source of power by 2025, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Prices of solar, which is greener than burning fossil fuels, have fallen by 62% since 2009 mainly due to increase in volumes and lower margins. In India too, solar power tariff fell to a record low of Rs 3 per unit in November 2016, which was as high as Rs 12 per unit six years ago.

Tell me more: India is looking to achieve its target of 100 gigawatts of solar capacity generation by the end of 2017 itself, much ahead of its original deadline of 2022. The country’s solar power generation crossed 19,000 megawatts in 2015-16.

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News in Numbers, May 18, 2016: SBI merger, Reliance Jio among top 5 smartphone vendors…

Rs 37 lakh crore

What is it? The balance sheet of the entity formed by the merger of the State Bank of India with its five associate banks.

Why is it important? This would be more than five times the size of India’s second largest lender, ICICI Bank, and push it to top 50 globally (according to Bloomberg), all other factors remaining the same. Signals the first major step towards consolidation in the Indian banking system in recent times, which would help in reducing duplication and costs. Experts say that capital efficiency was the prime reason for such mergers earlier but now, the ballooning bad loans and its quicker resolution are the main drivers for such a move. However, this merger faces hurdles such as strikes by bank unions, who fear job losses due to consolidation.

Tell me more: SBI chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya is confident of the merger happening in this fiscal, subject to regulatory approvals. The five associate banks are: State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur, State Bank of Hyderabad, State Bank of Mysore, State Bank of Patiala and State Bank of Travancore.


What is it? The number of mineral blocks (including gold, limestone and iron ore) the Indian government will auction in 2016-17.

Why is it important? These will be the first auction under the newly tweaked policy – and could boost companies’ earnings hit by a year of low prices. The tweak essentially unbundles prospecting and mining. Now, two different companies can gain access to the same mine- one, for prospecting and surveying of minerals, which would earn a royalty for 50 years if another company wins the production licence. Under the earlier policy, the production contract was allocated to the same company that did the initial exploration.

Tell me more: Even though the volume of total mineral output increased by 9%, its value declined by 11% to Rs 39,767 crore in 2015-16. A system of star ratings for the mines has been put in place- one, by an independent external agency and another, the mining company’s self-certified rating – to ensure the welfare of the communities living around the mines and in general, the environment.


What is it? Reliance Jio’s share in the Indian smartphone market in the first quarter of 2016, according to International Data Corporation (IDC).

Why is it important? Mukesh Ambani-owned Jio has already replaced Lava as the fifth largest smartphone vendor and threatens the market share of the other top vendors. All the top five smartphone vendors (from the previous quarter) recorded a decline in the three months ended to March 2016 (though it is usually a slow quarter after the conclusion of the festive season) in a market that declined by 8.2% in the same period.

Tell me more: Samsung continues to lead the pack with over a fourth of the Indian smartphone market followed by Micromax (12.6%), Intex (9.2%) and Lenovo group (8.2%). 4G device shipments grew six times from a year ago to account for around two-thirds of the smartphone market, led by Samsung, Lenovo and Reliance Jio.


What is it? The number of extra characters in a tweet users are likely to get, as per Twitter’s new policy on 140-character limit.

Why is it important? Twitter users who feel constrained by the character limit are likely to welcome it. If implemented, it would be the latest in the tweaks that Twitter has made in the recent past to keep itself relevant. The social networking service is struggling to increase its user base and saw a number of its top management leave in the last few months.

Tell me more: The firm had earlier considered increasing its word limit from 140 to 10,000 characters but the brevity is what sets it apart from others. Links posted as part of tweets (even if shortened) occupy 23 characters, which Twitter is likely to not count as part of the 140 characters it allows per tweet. It would also not count the space taken up by images.

$6.5 billion

What is it? India’s oil dues to Iran, which it is now rushing to pay ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the country on May 22.

Why is it important? The choice of channel for the payment of these dues is one of the issues to be discussed during Modi’s visit to Iran. Other issues include: India’s interest in developing the Chabahar port project (will help India to get access to oil and gas resources in Iran and other Central Asian countries), a trilateral transit trade agreement with Iran and Afghanistan (will allow India to bypass Pakistan to transport goods to Afghanistan and Central Asia using a sea-land route), announcement of investments by Indian companies in Chabahar Free Trade Zone and security and defence agreements.

Tell me more: During his visit, Modi will inaugurate the $300-million Salma Dam, which is known as Afghanistan-India friendship dam.

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