An Impending ‘Humanitarian Catastrophe’


What is it? The estimated number of people that have fled their homes in south-western Syria since the military launched an assault on the rebel-held areas a few weeks ago.

Why is it important? This figure has grown by more than five times from an estimated 50,000 six days ago. Last week, the UN Commissioner for Human Rights had asked all sides to end the escalating conflict in Daraa or it could result in a humanitarian catastrophe. Those fears are now compounded as the refugees have taken shelter near the Israeli and Jordanian borders and both the countries have refused to allow them in.

Tell me more: The Syrian government, under President Bashar al-Assad, has regained control of the country’s biggest cities but large parts are still under control of rebel groups and the Kurdish-led SDF alliance. A peaceful uprising against Assad’s rule seven years ago blew up into a full civil war and has claimed the lives of over 350,000 people.


What is it? The number of people that could lose their jobs due to US President Donald Trump’s plan to ban spouses of high-skill visa holders from working, according to a study.

Why is it important?A recent study says that as a result, this would result in social isolation of spouses, increase domestic tensions and strain the family’s financial resources. This could affect the visa holder’s satisfaction levels, posing risks to them in continuing their posting in the US. In addition to indirect costs, the cost of expatriate assignments range from $250,000 to $1 million.

Tell me more:The Trump administration is planning to reverse the 2015 rule that permits spouses of H-1B visa holders to work in the US. The US has issued employment authorisation documents to over 71,000 spouses of H-1B visa holders, of which more than 90% are Indians.

Rs 7,900 crore

What is it? The amount Volkswagen said it will invest in India between 2019 and 2021.

Why is it important? The group has set a target of achieving a market share of 5% of the Indian passenger vehicles market by 2025. India leapfrogged Germany recently to become the world’s fourth biggest auto market and is expected to go up to the third position by 2020, according to major automakers.

Tell me more:Under its ‘India 2.0’ project, group firm Skoda Auto is setting up an engineering design and development centre in Pune, in addition to improving capacities at its two plants, which is expected to create 5,000 direct and indirect jobs.


What is it?The number of months it took for transactions under the unified payments interface (UPI) to double to 200 million.

Why is it important?UPI is a payments system launched by the National Payments Corporation of India, the umbrella organisation for retail payments in the country. It facilitates instant fund transfer between two bank accounts on a mobile platform without requiring any detail of the beneficiary’s bank account.In June 2018, the number of UPI transactions stood at 246 million, amounting to Rs 40,834 crore. This is a brisk 30% increase in volume terms and 22% in value terms over May 2018.

Tell me more: UPI was launched in August 2016 with 21 participating banks. As of June 2018, this number had increased to 110 banks.


What is it?The goal deficit that Belgium clawed back from to win their round of 16 match against unfancied Japan in the 2018 football world cup on Monday.

Why is it important?With 21 minutes to go for full-time, Belgium trailed Japan by 2 goals in an open match. However, Belgium struck thrice, including Nacer Chadli in the 4thminute of added time in regulation to become the first team since 1970 to come back from two goals down in a world cup knockout match. This is Belgium’s second appearance in the quarter-finals and its best finish was a semi-final appearance in 1986.

Tell me more: In another match played yesterday, Brazil beat Mexico 2-0 to enter the quarter-finals.

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Flipkart’s Suitors

Rs 1,250 crore

What is it? The amount Hero Enterprise Investment Office and the Burman Family (promoters of Dabur) have offered to jointly invest in Fortis Healthcare.

Why is it important? This comes after the company reportedly received a potential bid of $1.3 billion from IHH Healthcare Bhd., opening a possible takeover battle for India’s second largest hospital chain. Asia’s largest hospital operator offered to pay Rs 160 per share. A day ago, Fortis Healthcare received a revised offer from Manipal Health Enterprises, of Rs 155 per share.

Tell me more: The firms backed by the Munjal and Burman families have offered to invest in Fortis through the preferential allotment route: Rs 500 crore binding upfront and the balance after due diligence within three weeks.


What is it? The number of months within which (by end of June) Walmart is reportedly likely to reach a deal to buy a majority stake in Flipkart.

Why is it important? If the deal goes through, it would be the US retail giant’s biggest acquisition of an online business, opening a new front in its fight with Amazon, vying for a bigger share in India’s e-commerce market. Amazon, the world’s largest e-commerce firm, is also reportedly considering to acquire Flipkart in a deal that would value the latter at $18-20 billion, though any potential deal between the two is likely to face intense scrutiny from India’s competition watchdog.

Tell me more: Walmart is said to have completed its due diligence on Flipkart and has proposed to buy 51% stake or more for $10-12 billion.


What is it? The number of large corporate accounts that were referred by the central bank for immediate bankruptcy proceedings under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 10 months ago and which are now in the final stages of resolution (out of 12).

Why is it important? Together, these borrowers account for a quarter of the banking system’s gross bad loans and timely resolution of these accounts would ease the pressure on lenders, allowing them to reduce their provisioning. Of the five accounts, two are facing litigations, while the committee of creditors in the other three cases have approved the winning bids.

Tell me more: Under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, a corporate insolvency resolution process must be completed within 270 days of the admission of a case. The deadline for eight of the 12 cases would expire by the end of this month.


What is it? The number of months that Matthias Mueller remained at the helm of automaker Volkswagen.

Why is it important? On Thursday, Volkswagen replaced Mueller with brand chief Herbert Diess. Mueller was appointed CEO in September 2015, when the company admitted to tampering with its engines for better emission readings, a scandal that resulted in the company coughing up $30 billion in fines. The new appointment, in a sense, turns that page, and shifts the company’s focus from protecting reputation to reorganising business.

Tell me more: Under Mueller’s watch, weighed down by the corporate scandal, the company’s share price has never really broken out.


What is it? The world ranking in men’s singles of Indian badminton player Kidambi Srikanth.

Why is it important? The 25-year-old Srikanth is the first Indian male to sit atop the badminton world rankings. His ascent comes on the back of a strong rise in the last 12 months, rising from 31 in March 2017. Srikanth, who made his international debut in 2008, has career earnings of $396,978.

Tell me more: Only one other Indian player has reached the top spot in singles badminton: Saina Nehwal in 2015. Her career earnings stand at $746,548.

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PoS-itive additions 💳📊

1.4 billion

What is it? The amount e-commerce firm Flipkart raised from eBay, Microsoft and Tencent

Why is it important? It’s the biggest amount raised in a single funding round by an Indian start-up. It came at a pre-money valuation of $10.2 billion, signalling the confidence investors have showed in the company that saw a series of markdowns in the last couple of years. The funding – and acquisition of eBay India, that was a part of the deal – will strengthen Flipkart as it fights its aggressive and better endowed competitor Amazon.

Tell me more: There have also been talks that Snapdeal, the third largest commerce player in the country will be merged with Flipkart, along with additional funding from SoftBank.



What is it? The share of the Europe, Middle East, India and Africa (EMEIA) region in the global IPOs (initial public offerings) in first three months of 2017.

Why is it important? India with 26 IPOs accounted for nearly 34% of the region’s activity that ranked it second to Asia-Pacific in IPO numbers. EMEIA ranked third with 15% share in global proceeds, behind Asia-Pacific and the Americas.

Tell me more: The EMEIA region had 77 IPOs, raising $5.2 billion in all in Jan-Mar, 2017.


>2.5 million

What is it? The number of point-of-sale (PoS) machines at merchant establishments/shops.

Why is it important? PoS machine availability in India trails that of BRIC nations such as Brazil and China where per capita PoS availability for swiping plastic money is higher. Demonetisation had brought the scarcity into focus as people had to do less cash transactions. The numbers inched from 1.5 million swipe machines in October, 2016, to 1.7 million in December, 2.2 million in February, 2017, to over 2.5 million now. SBI has led with installation of 124,000 machines.

Tell me more: The count, shared by a National Payments Corporation of India official, is a little less than Niti Aayog’s estimate of 2.8 million PoS machines in February.


17 days

What is it? The time the UK-to-China freight train would take to reach its destination in Zhejiang, travelling along the ancient ‘Silk Road’ route.

Why is it important? The time taken by the train between the two countries, spanning a route along seven other countries, is still half the duration at sea. It is also cheaper than sending goods by air. While the train had brought household items, clothes, and consumer fashion goods from China, it is transporting soft drinks, baby products and pharmaceuticals on the maiden return journey.

Tell me more: Chinese premier, Xi Jinping’s 2013 “One Belt, One Road” policy to revive land-routes for trading with the West, has made London the 15th European city with a direct rail connection.


$50.9 billion

What is it? Tesla’s market cap at the end of trading on Monday

Why is it important? It is now the most valued car company in the US, beating General Motors, the 108 year old giant, by 64 million dollars. Tesla’s position is seen more as a reflection of investors’ faith in Elon Musk’s vision for the future of electric cars, than the present financials of the companies. GM earned $9 billion in 2016, and Teslalost $674 million. GM sold nearly 10 million vehicles, and Tesla sold 80,000 globally.

Tell me more: Toyota, with its  $172 billion market cap, is the biggest carmaker by market value at present. Volkswagen, with a sale of 10.31 million vehicles in 2016, is the largest carmaker by sales volume, closely followed by Toyota.

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