Trump administration business-friendly, offers tremendous opportunities: Infosys CEO

The Trump Administration is business-friendly and entrepreneurial, and the new American government offers tremendous opportunities to do innovative work, says Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka.

“We see a tremendous opportunity to do innovative work. The (Trump) administration is a very business administration, a very entrepreneurial administration,” Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka told PTI in an interview as he refuted reports that the Indian IT companies are facing challenges under the Trump Administration.

“I don’t feel that way,” he said in response to the question during a wide-ranging interview.

“As long as we can continue to focus on innovation, on value delivery in the new areas, I think things will be okay. So IT is more and more as that. The underlying skills issue, the…Making sure that the workforce is something that is frontier of the future,” he said.

Sikka said the Trump Administration is taking steps to improve the atmosphere of doing business in the US.

“If you look at the, some of the regulated industries like banking or pharma, the emphasis has clearly shifted from valuably compliant towards innovative areas, new R&D, new adoption of financial services, new adoption of technologies for faster trading, better trading, better derivative analysis,” he said.

“Areas like that, rather than a lot of spending that used to go into regulatory compliance…In the US we notice a shift in these priorities towards innovative areas and so on,” said the Infosys CEO.

According to Sikka, Indian IT companies have a bright future in the US. “Definitely (Indian IT companies have a bright future). We have to be aligned to the future, we have to be aware of the changes that are happening around us. We have to sense and understand and respond to those by building in the software, the services, the capabilities for the future,” he said.

Infosys

“And if we do that, then I am confident that we will be relevant, we will able to thrive and this is precisely what Infosys is doing,” Sikka said.

Indian IT companies, he noted, have made extraordinary progress in the last three and half decades.

“What has got us here has worked extraordinarily well. It has created an enormous success in the last three and a half decades. But this is not what is going to get us forward. We need to continue our core values of education, of learning, of what the future is,” he said.

“What I find after my three years of experience (in Infosys), is that the youth in India is ready for that (change). It is ready to embrace that. It is ready to be entrepreneurial, to be innovative.

“I find that one of the big challenges is to make sure that the people in senior management and so forth also understand what needs to be done and that the transformation of our processes the transformation of our mechanics, our systems, to support that future reality. That has to also happen,” Sikka said.

And that is not easy, he acknowledged.

“That is a very challenging thing to do. I mean, transformation in general is a very challenging thing to do. And especially in our case, where our core business is under a margin pressure. It is exceedingly important to get that right,” he said.

 

What defines a luxury home? It’s a different answer in every country

Luxury means different things to different people.

“Proximity to nature, interestingly, remains a constant — it’s the sea for some, hills, greenery or golf links for others,” says Tushad Dubash, director of Mumbai-based Duville Estates developers.

While seniors around the world tend to prefer standalone luxury residences with backyards, young couples and singles alike prioritise condos where maintenance is managed by someone else, and want smart home features such as home automation systems, remote lighting controls and wine rooms.

A report by Sotheby’s International Realty called ‘Global Affluence: The Emerging Luxury Consumer’ released last month talks about the changing luxury real-estate scenario in the world.

It highlights the confidence, spending habits and purchasing interests of emerging luxury consumers from around the world.

“We focused on luxury consumers in the US, UK, UAE, India and China,” says Ankit Tyagi, COO of Sotheby’s International Realty India. “We found that, in contrast to India, consumers in markets such as the US and UK focus on condos in skyscrapers with stunning views.”

Luxury real-estate is growing fast in India, Tyagi adds. He attributes it to the fact that the number of high- and ultra-high-net-worth individuals has jumped by 330% over the past 10 years — against a 68% rise globally.

At Raheja Universal’s Odyssey, your dining room is connected to a spacious deck with views of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park.

luxury

And it is not just HNIs or UHNIs that aspire and invest luxury in the country, says Reema Kundnani, vice president, head – Marketing, Corporate Communications & Luxury Residential Sales, Oberoi Realty.

“We are very aspirational and seek all the amenities at homes as our income increases. A lot of young Indians are investing in luxury properties across the country. Grand architecture, high-tech security and app-based operations are among what consumers look for in luxury homes.”

Borders are fading in interesting ways, when it comes to luxury real-estate. “Many luxury homebuyers are investing in properties outside their home country, because they travel frequently or have children studying in these locations,” says Tyagi of Sotheby’s.

Even when they buy at home, they’re looking for projects that offer them the sense of being a global citizen.

In the US, luxury means a front yard, a backyard, a driveway and an open kitchen since families like to cook together on weekends.

Indians are increasingly opting for European, Singaporean, Spanish and Mediterranean-themed luxury projects.

Indians continue to be more brand-conscious too. “In the US, luxury homes usually consist of a front yard, a backyard, a driveway and an open kitchen since families prefer to cook together on the weekends,” says Kundnani of Oberoi Realty. “In India, people like to have a developer who has hired an architect from the US, a contractor from Korea and a consultant from UAE.”

Some things haven’t changed. Location remains a key selling point. And old favourites continue to dominate.

In London, for instance, there is still no better address than Hyde Park. In California, true luxury can only mean Beverly Hills.

A decade from now, there may be new names on this list though. New Dubai is already a force to contend with on the global luxury real-estate rankings. And a report by Knight Frank released last month shows luxury real-estate prices soaring in China’s third-largest city, Guangzhou.

 

IT export to grow at 7-8%, 1.5 lakh jobs to be created in 2017-18: Nasscom

Indian IT exports will grow by 7-8 %, unchanged from previous year’s growth, despite protectionist voices in major markets like the US, industry body Nasscom said today.

The $ 156 billion Indian industry — the biggest job creator in the organised sector — is also projected to add 1.3-1.5 lakh new jobs during 2017-18 compared to a net hiring of 1.7 lakh in the previous fiscal.

In a first, the industry body had deferred giving the growth forecast in February and had instead postponed the same to April-June quarter.

Speaking to reporters, Nasscom president R Chandrashekhar exuded confidence that the outlook is positive despite the political and economic uncertainties in key overseas markets that may impact client spending.

“We expect export revenues to grow by 7-8 %, not hugely different from last year (7.5 %), notwithstanding the headwinds we talked about (H1-B visa curbs in the US, protectionism and Brexit),” he added.

The domestic infotech industry is expected to grow at faster pace of 10-11 % (in dollar terms) in 2017-18.

“We definitely see the industry to be net hirer of as many as 1.3 to 1.5 lakh people in the year ahead. This industry continues to be a substantial hirer and a substantial creator of new jobs. At the same time, there is a churn in the industry too,” Chandrashekhar said.

He said as the industry is currently driven by the digital revolution, Nasscom has decided to re-skill about 1.5 to 2 million IT professionals to equip them for future requirements.

IT sector

“Nasscom is working with its partners, members to establish a comprehensive digital platform. You will be hearing about this more during the months ahead. We expect 1.5 to 2 million people amongst the workforce to be re-skilled in the next 4-5 years.”

The size of the Indian IT industry is pegged at $ 154 billion, including $ 11 billion incremental revenues added in the previous fiscal, according to Nasscom.

“Uncertainty impacted the businesses. Whether it is BFSI segment or healthcare, all segments confronted by the uncertainty delayed the decision-making in the quest for stability. That translated into low opportunities for IT industry,” the Nasscom chief explained.

Chandrashekhar, however, was optimistic about growth of the domestic IT industry, backed by some of the Centre’s initiatives such as aiming for one trillion dollar digital economy.

Replying to a query, he said the Indian IT industry is all set to move beyond the markets it is heavily dependent on and expand footprints to newer geographies such as Continental Europe, Japan, China and Africa.

The US and the UK account for almost 80 % of the country’s IT export revenues.

Compared to Nasscom’s guidance of 7-8 % growth, Infosys expects its revenues to rise 6.5-8.5 % in constant currency (and 6.1-8.1 % in $ terms), while Cognizant has guided for 8-10 % rise in topline in constant currency terms.

Keshab Panda, MD and CEO, L&T Technology Services, said he is confident of double-digit growth.

Govt seeks details of Apple’s proposed investments in India

The government has sought investment and job creation details from iPhone maker Apple in order to facilitate setting up its proposed manufacturing facility in India.

A view on Apple’s application for tax concessions would be taken up after considering the levels of investments and the benefits that are likely to accrue to the Indian economy, sources said.

Departments including revenue, electronics and information technology, and industry are deliberating upon the Cupertino-based technology major’s proposal to set up smartphone manufacturing facility in India.

Earlier, Apple Inc had indicated to the government that it is ready with a blueprint to begin manufacturing iPhones in India, but wants fiscal concessions, including customs duty exemptions, duty waiver on import of components, permission to repair and re-export smartphones and continuation of certain tax incentives after implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST).

Apple

Sources added the government is actively considering their proposal.

With sales tapering off in the US and China, Apple is eyeing India – the fastest growing smartphone market in the world — and looking to set up a local manufacturing unit to cut costs.

Apple, however, does not manufacture devices on its own but gets the job done through contract manufacturers. Besides exemption from the customs duty on imports of components and equipment for 15 years, Apple has sought relaxation in the mandated 30% local sourcing of components.

Apple sells its products through company-owned retail stores in countries like China, Germany, the US, the UK and France, among others.

It has no wholly-owned store in India and sells its products through distributors such as Redington and Ingram Micro.

Mukesh Ambani blinks, drops gas price challenge against govt

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries and its British partner BP plc have withdrawn a legal challenge they had mounted three years back against the government over delay in gas price revision.

The withdrawal of the arbitration will now entitle the two companies to marketing and pricing freedom on the natural gas they produce from newer fields in the deep sea at an investment of Rs 40,000 crore by 2022.

Sources said the two companies moved to withdraw the international arbitration before Ambani and BP CEO Bob Dudley met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 15 morning. They completed the process within days.

That day, Ambani and Dudley, in a rare press appearance, announced restarting the investment cycle in their Krishna Godavari basin KG-D6 block after eight years hiatus by taking up of three sets of deep sea discoveries for development at a cost of Rs 40,000 crore.

Dudley had in his previous meeting with Modi in January 2015 made a fervent pitch for extending the gas price premium to existing undeveloped gas fields in difficult areas like deep sea instead of restricting them to future finds as had been announced in an October 18, 2014 decision.

The government agreed to his suggestion but made it conditional upon companies withdrawing any legal proceedings or arbitration challenging government’s gas pricing policy.

While RIL was non-committal, BP made its intentions clear within days of the March 10, 2016 decision.

BP India spokesperson had on March 12 stated that the “decision by the government on marketing including pricing freedom for new production from deep, ultra-deep water and high-pressure, high-temperature areas provides clarity to end the pending gas pricing dispute.”

And today, the spokesperson confirmed that the legal challenge has indeed been withdrawn. “Yes, the ‘gas price’ arbitration has already been withdrawn,” the spokesperson said.

An email sent to RIL remained unanswered.

Mukesh Ambani

RIL and BP had in May 2014 filed an international arbitration after the Election Commission forced deferment of implementation of a new pricing formula the previous UPA government had approved for pricing of RIL-BP’s eastern offshore KG-D6 and other gas.

The Election Commission wanted the new government to take a view and when the new NDA government came to power it rejected the formula. The formula would have lead to doubling of the gas price to $ 8.4 per million British thermal unit in 2014 but the rate would have been at almost the same level of $ 5.56 per mmBtu decided under the March 2016 formula for difficult fields.

Sources said another arbitration automatically fell last year after RIL failed to name arbitrators within stipulated time for the challenge it had mounted against the Oil Ministry’s decision to take away five of its KG-D6 block discoveries.

BP had not participated in the February 2015 arbitration notice challenging the ministry’s decision to take away 814 sq km of its KG-D6 area that contained five gas discoveries for failure to develop them within stipulated time period.

However, two other arbitration remain — one against the government disallowing recovery of certain cost because the partners did not drill their committed number of wells leading to output lagging targets by a large margin.

So far $ 2.3 billion in cost has been disallowed as penalty for output lagging targets.

The other legal challenge pertains to the $ 1.55 billion penalty the government has imposed on the partners for drawing natural gas belonging to ONGC by drilling wells close to the boundary wall of the state-owned firm’s adjacent block in KG basin.

RIL is the operator of KG-D6 block with 60 per cent interest while BP has 30 per cent stake. Niko Resources of Canada has the remaining 10 per cent stake.

Qatar Airways seeks up to 10% stake in American Airlines

Qatar Airways, its Middle Eastern business pressured by a diplomatic row with neighbours, is seeking as much as a 10% stake in American Airlines, the US carrier said.

The surprise investment push by Qatar Airways was disclosed by American Airlines in a securities filing on Thursday, saying the Qatari company planned to buy at least $808 million in American shares. In addition, Qatar Airways’s chief executive told his counterpart at American that the carrier sought a stake of about 10%.

The outreach drew a frosty response from the US carrier, which said the intended purchase “was not solicited by American Airlines and would in no way change the Company’s Board composition, governance, management or strategic direction.”

American’s bylaws require board approval to stakes of 4.75% or more. Qatar Airways said it would not exceed this level without board approval and would “make all necessary regulatory filings.”

“Qatar Airways sees a strong investment opportunity in American Airlines,” the company said in a statement.

“Qatar Airways believes in American Airlines’ fundamentals and intends to build a passive position in the company with no involvement in management, operations or governance.”

The move comes after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates severed ties with Qatar over its alleged support for extremist groups and Iran. The countries have suspended all flights to and from Qatar.

Qatar’s government denies the allegations.

Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways has downplayed the impact of the dispute on its business, saying on June 14 that the “vast majority” of its network was unaffected. But analysts have warned the profitable carrier could take a hit should the diplomatic crisis drag out.

At the Paris Air Show this week, Qatar Airways was named the world’s top airline for passenger service by Skytrax, a closely-watched industry prize.

American has had its differences with Qatar Airways, among other Middle Eastern carriers, over state subsidies the US air travel industry says violate international agreements.

American chief executive Doug Parker has joined an effort with the leaders of Delta Air Lines and United Airlines to urge a crackdown by President Donald Trump on an alleged $50 billion in state subsidies to Qatar Airways and two other state-backed Middle East carriers that they argue allows the airlines to illegally compete in the US market.

Parker alluded to the controversy in a letter to employees Thursday, which adopted a sceptical tone toward Qatar’s motives.

“While anyone can purchase our shares in the open market, we aren’t particularly excited about Qatar’s outreach, and we find it puzzling given our extremely public stance on the illegal subsidies that Qatar, Emirates and Etihad have all received over the years from their governments,” Parker said.

“If anything, this development strengthens our resolve to ensure the US government enforces its trade agreements regarding fair competition with Gulf carriers, because we must make it crystal clear that no minority investment in American will ever dissuade us from doing what is right for our team members, our customers and all of our shareholders.”

Qatar Airways already holds stakes in other foreign carriers, including a large holding in International Consolidated Airlines Group, the parent of British Airways.

Taxman Notifies New Scrutiny Notices With E-Facility For Taxpayers

New Delhi: The CBDT has notified revised income tax scrutiny notices that will allow taxpayers to conduct their business with the taxman over the Internet without needing to visit the I-T office, hence reducing physical interface between them.

The new format pertains to three types of notices that are issued by the taxman under section 143(2) of the Income Tax Act (scrutiny of tax return) and the Central Board of Direct Taxes, the policy-making body of the department, has told all field I-T offices in the country that “all scrutiny notices…, shall henceforth, be issued in these revised formats only”.

“This has become necessary in view of board’s (CBDT) decision to utilise e-proceeding facility for electronic conduct of assessment proceedings in a widespread manner from this financial year,” the CBDT order, issued yesterday, said.

The three revised notices have been accessed by PTI and are meant for procedures of limited, complete and compulsory manual scrutiny.

A scrutiny procedure in the income tax system pertains to a case where a taxpayer is required to provide a number of documents and testimonials to the assessing officer (AO) after his or her case is picked up for a threadbare examination after study of their tax returns.

The department has said in the past that it only picks less than one per cent of the total I-T returns (ITRs) filed for examination under the long-drawn scrutiny process but this has still been a issue of grievance for many assessees.

Each of the three, one-page notices, will bear the name of the assessing officer, their designation, telephone and fax number and now, their email id too.

Taxman Notifies New Scrutiny Notices With E-Facility For Taxpayers

A taxpayer can use their account on the official e-filing website of the department or their personal email id to conduct their scrutiny assessment dealings with the AO.

“The department wants itself to be seen as a facilitator for the honest tax paying public without him or her requiring to visit the tax office and conducting their dealing with the AO with ease of the click of a computer mouse. The e-proceeding is aimed to curb complaints of harassment and corruption in tax related issues,” a senior officer of the department said.

The new notices will also carry a five-point explanation about the new changes being made for the taxpayer with the ushering in of the Internet-based e-proceeding regime in the Income Tax Department.

“As part of the e-governance initiative to facilitate conduct of assessment proceedings electronically, I-T
department has launched e-proceeding facility.

“It is a simple way of communication between the department and assessee, through electronic means, without the necessity to visit the income tax office for conduct of assessment proceedings. This taxpayer friendly measure would substantially reduce the compliance burden for the assessee,” the note says.

However, the AO will have discretionary powers to call for additional documents and records and seek personal appearance of the taxpayer if there is a reason for him to delve deeper into the case and such a thing is not possible over the e-proceeding communication link.

The CBDT is also expected to soon implement the system of conducting the limited scrutiny cases via the ‘e-proceeding’ system through the official e-filing website.

 

Ford India recalls 39,315 units of Fiesta Classic, old Figo

Ford Motor India on Friday recalled 39,315 units of Fiesta Classic and the previous-generation Figo models in India to rectify faulty power assisted steering hose.

It said the recall will affect units of the two models made at the company’s Chennai plant between 2004 and 2012.

“Ford India is voluntarily inspecting 39,315 Ford Fiesta Classic and previous-generation Ford Figo vehicles…for a potential concern related to high pressure power assisted steering hose,” it said in a statement.

Ford India

The company, through its dealers, will replace the high pressure power assisted steering hose on all affected vehicles, it added.

Ford remains committed to delivering world-class quality vehicles to its customers and this voluntary safety recall is part of that commitment, it said.

Previously, Ford India had recalled 1,66,021 units of Figo and Fiesta Classic models in September 2013 to rectify faulty rear twist beam and the power steering hose.

Last year, the company had recalled around 42,300 units of the new generation of hatchback Figo and compact sedan Figo Aspire to fix a software glitch that could lead to malfunctioning of airbags during a collision.

In November 2015, the automaker had announced recall of 16,444 units of compact SUV EcoSport in India to fix faulty rear twist beam bolt, a part in vehicle’s suspension.

Maruti Suzuki Dzire Waiting Period Goes Up To 3 Months

It was just last month that Maruti Suzuki launched the new, third generation of the Dzire in India. In fact we’ve told you everything about the car, right from the design of the exterior, interior and even the extensive feature list that the car gets. While we thought it ticked all the right boxes when we drove it, we weren’t quite sure how the customers would react to it considering there’s been a slight hike in the price of the car. But at the launch itself, Maruti Suzuki announced that the Dzire had received close to 33,000 bookings and the number has kept on increasing, the recent being 51,000. Clearly the demand for the car is increasing and so is the waiting period.

At the launch of the Dzire in May, it was announced that the car already had a waiting period of 8 weeks. Given the rise in the demand, that number has gone up to 15 weeks which is more than 3 months depending on the variant one has booked. The Dzire has ruled the roost in the subcompact sedan segment for close to a decade and the new generation of the car looks to be filling in the big shoes pretty well.

new maruti suzuki dzire
The new Dzire looks elegant, has grown in dimensions and packs in more features as well

The new Maruti Suzuki Dzire is manufactured in the company’s Manesar plant and 650 cars are built every day. The new-gen Dzire has grown, not only in dimensions but in the way it looks. The styling is derived from the new generation Swift hatchback and gets a massive trapezoidal grille and a raked A-pillar for a more sedan-like stance. The new HEARTECT platform is lighter and stronger than the older version with the use of high tensile steel in the construction and has helped lose up to 85 kg on the petrol and up to 105 kg on the diesel variants.

Under the hood, it’s the same powertrain but is a lot more efficient now. The 1.2-litre K-Series 4-pot petrol is tuned for 82 bhp at 6000 rpm and 113 Nm of peak torque at 4200 rpm. The 1.3-litre DDiS diesel, on the other hand, makes 74 bhp at 4000 rpm and 190 Nm of peak torque at 2000 rpm. Both engines come paired with a 5-speed manual and Automated Manual Transmission options. The engines now return an ARAI certified fuel economy of 22 kmpl on the petrol and 28.48 kmpl on the diesel version.

Jeep Compass Receives 1000 Bookings In Just 3 Days

We’d told you at the beginning of this week, that FCA India has started the bookings of the new Jeep Compass SUV in India. It’s just been about three days and the company has already said that it has received an overwhelming response. 1000 bookings of the Compass SUV have already been made and that’s too in just 3 days. With pre-bookings opened online as well as at Jeep India dealerships for a sum of ₹ 50,000, the Compass seems to have captured a lot of attention, as much as we were when we drove the SUV earlier this month.

The Compass SUV was first unveiled in India a couple of months ago and of course is manufactured at the company’s FCA plant in Ranjangaon. In fact it is the first Jeep to be manufactured in India. The localisation levels on the car are up to 80 per cent and the car will be exported to right hand drive markets like Japan, UK and South Africa by the end of this year. The heavy localisation also means that the price of the Jeep Compass will be very competitive, which is one reason why we see the kind of attention its getting.

jeep compass review
The Jeep Compass will go on sale in August

There’s been a lot of hard work gone behind making the Compass in India and it took just 23 months for FCA India to get the facility up and running. There was a significant investment of $280 million made into the plant and from what we can notice, Jeep’s first made-in-India SUV has successfully managed to grab the attention of the people.

Under the hood, the Jeep Compass features two engine – a 1.4-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol and a 2-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged diesel motor. The petrol engine makes over 160 bhp and 260 Nm of peak torque and oil burner churns out over 170 bhp and 350 Nm of peak torque. Transmission duties are handled by a 6-speed manual unit and an optional 7-speed automatic gearbox. The Jeep Compass will get a four-wheel-drive system, which will get Jeep’s terrain response system. The driving modes will include Snow, Sand and Rock options, which change the characteristics of the power delivery and drive dynamics of the SUV. It’s a capable off-roader as we found out when we drove the car and that’s another big USP for the car.