India, World Bank sign $68 mn project for improving education in Nagaland

Source: Business Standard, Feb 23, 2021

New Delhi: Indian government, Government of Nagaland and the World Bank on Tuesday signed a $68 million project to enhance the governance of schools across Nagaland as well as to improve teaching practices and learning environments in select schools.

The “Nagaland: Enhancing Classroom Teaching and Resources Project” will improve classroom instruction; create opportunities for the professional development of teachers; and build technology systems to provide students and teachers with more access to blended and online learning as well as allow better monitoring of policies and programs, a Finance Ministry statement said.

Such an integrated approach will complement conventional delivery models and help mitigate the challenges posed by Covid-19.

About 150,000 students and 20,000 teachers in the government education system in Nagaland will benefit from the statewide reforms in schools.

C.S. Mohapatra, Additional Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, said that the education project in Nagaland will address the critical gaps faced by students and teachers and play an important role in the development of the state.

Nagaland currently faces challenges of weak school infrastructure, lack of opportunities for the professional development of teachers and limited capacity on the part of communities to partner effectively with the school system. The Covid-19 pandemic has further accentuated these challenges and created additional stress and disruptions to the state’s school education system. Junaid Ahmad, World Bank Country Director in India said that even as the number of children attending school in India has increased over the last few years, there is a growing need to significantly improve learning outcomes to meet the demands of the labour market and fuel future growth. This project is designed to support the Government of Nagaland’s ongoing efforts to improve and develop a more resilient education system in the state.

India, Mauritius enter into limited free trade act

Source: The Hindu Business Line, Feb 22, 2021

New Delhi: India and Mauritius have entered into a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Partnership Agreement (CECPA) that will allow trade in select goods between the two countries on preferential terms.

The bilateral CECPA signed on Monday is the first such pact that India has entered into with an African country and is expected to provide a wider entry for Indian goods into the entire continent.

“A special day for our special relationship. Privileged to witness along with (Mauritian) PM Jugnauth Kumar the signing of Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Partnership Agreement, India’s first such agreement with an African country,” tweeted Minister for External Affairs S Jaishankar who is visiting Mauritius.

The CECPA is a limited agreement, covering 310 export items for India, including foodstuff and beverages, agricultural products, textile and textile articles, base metals and articles, electrical and electronic items, plastics and chemicals, wood etc.

Benefit from preferential market access

Mauritius will benefit from preferential market access into India for its 615 products, including frozen fish, speciality sugar, biscuits, fresh fruits, juices, mineral water, beer, alcoholic drinks, soaps, bags, medical and surgical equipment, and apparel.

Since Mauritius has free trade agreements with the rest of Africa, it could act as a gateway for Indian investments and exports to other African countries.

Under the agreement, Indian service providers will have access to around 115 sub-sectors from the 11 broad service sectors such as professional services, computer related services, research & development, other business services, telecommunication, construction, distribution, education, environmental, financial, tourism & travel related, recreational, yoga, audio-visual services, and transport services. India has offered access in 95 sub-sectors from the 11 broad services sectors, including professional services, R&D, other business services, telecommunication, financial, distribution, higher education, environmental, health, tourism and travel related services, recreational services and transport services.

India-UK bilateral relations to touch new high post Covid: Report

Source: The Economic Times, Feb 21, 2021

India-UK bilateral relations will touch a new high in the post-COVID world, as India is likely to be a priority country for the UK, leading to an enhanced economic partnership, according to a report. According to the Britain Meets India report, developed by CII and Grant Thornton Bharat, FDI inflow from the UK to India for a particular year increased from USD 898 million in 2015-16 to USD 1,422 million in 2019-20.

Sandeep Chakravorty, Joint Secretary (Western Europe), Ministry of External Affairs, said, “Besides a free trade agreement, mobility and an interim trade deal, we are working on a 10-year 360 degree roadmap to strengthen our relationship with the UK. Going forward, we see investments in India’s clean energy sector coming from the UK.”

Pallavi Joshi Bakhru, Partner and India-UK Corridor Leader, Grant Thornton Bharat LLP said, “Our research identified 572 UK companies in India with a combined turnover of around INR 3,390 billion, tax payment of around INR 173 billion and employing 416,121 people directly. This reflects the important contribution made by the UK companies to the Indian economy as a key ally in India’s growth story.”

The list of ‘fastest growing UK companies in India’ includes Dyson Technology, Aviva Life Insurance, Diageo Business Services, RMD Kwikform and FMC Technologies, among others, says the report.

The list of ‘top 20 UK companies by revenue’ includes Vedanta, VodafoneHindustan Unilever, United Spirits India, etc. Also, G4S Group, Vedanta Resources and HSBC Holdings feature in ‘top UK employers in India’.

Among the states, Maharashtra tops as the leading investment destination for UK companies followed by Haryana, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Karnataka. Moreover, industrial and business services are top sectors being eyed by UK firms.
Gaitri Issar Kumar, High Commissioner of India to UK, said, “The governments of both India and the UK are committed to an enhanced trade partnership. We are developing a roadmap to a free trade agreement with an ambitious target of 100 billion pounds by 2030.”

Alex Ellis CMG, High Commissioner of UK to India, noted, “Both India and the UK must think about coming together to create a global impact. Both the economies will have to create a lot of jobs in the next decade and build back in a more sustainable way.”

For the purposes of this report, CII and GT Bharat identified 572 companies incorporated in India that are owned or controlled, directly or indirectly from the UK.

Additional benchmarks were an annual turnover of more than Rs 500 million, y-o-y revenue growth of at least 10 per cent and a minimum two-year track record of filings with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs in India.

India emerges as Asia’s biggest destination for fintech deals

Source: Business Standard, Feb 17, 2021

Kolkata: India has emerged as Asia’s biggest destination for financial technology (fintech) deals, leaving behind China in the quarter ended June 2020, a research report said on Wednesday.

With around 33 deals valued at USD 647.5 million, India has the highest investment in the fintech segment compared to China’s USD 284.9 million during the quarter ended June 30, 2020, the report released by RBSA Advisors said.

Total investments in India’s fintech sector crossed the USD 10 billion mark over the last four and half years (calendar year 2016 to H1 of 2020).

“Amid COVID 19, India has seen a 60 per cent increase in fintech investments to USD 1467 million in H12020 compared to the USD 919 million for the same period last year,” the leading valuation, investment banking and transaction advisory firm said in a statement.

Bengaluru and Mumbai remain the top two headquartered cities for fintech companies.

“While the fintech industry is still in its early adoption stage, we believe it is well-positioned to witness long-term growth in the coming years. The changes will be more focused on digital lending (alternative finance) and open banking”, RBSA Advisors MD and CEO, Rajeev Shah, said.

Out of total 21 unicorns in India, around one-third are fintech companies, Paytm being the highest valued unicorn, at USD 16 billion. The fintech market in India was valued at Rs 1,920 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach Rs 6,207 billion by 2025, expanding at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 22 per cent during the 2020-2025 period.

Cabinet approves trade pact between India, Mauritius

Source: The Economic Times, Feb 17, 2021

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved signing of a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement, a kind of a free trade pact, between India and Mauritius which is aimed at liberalising norms to boost two-way commerce. The Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the signing of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (CECPA) between India and Mauritius, an official statement said.

The pact would cover 310 export items for India, including foodstuff and beverages, agricultural products, textile and textile articles, base metals, electricals and electronic items, plastics and chemicals, wood and its articles.

Mauritius would benefit from preferential market access into India for 615 products, including frozen fish, speciality sugar, biscuits, fresh fruits, juices, mineral water, beer, alcoholic drinks, soaps, bags, medical and surgical equipment, and apparel.

In such an agreement, two trading partners cut or eliminate duties on a host of products besides liberalising norms to promote services trade.

A mutually convenient date would be finalised for signing of the agreement, after which it will be implemented. It would be India’s first such trade pact with an African nation.

The pact would cover trade in goods, rules of origin, trade in services, Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures, dispute settlement, movement of natural persons, telecom, financial services, customs procedures and cooperation in other areas.
The bilateral trade between the countries has been dipped to USD 690 million in 2019-20 from USD 1.2 billion in 2018-19. While India’s exports in 2019-20 aggregated at USD 662 million, the imports stood at USD 27.89 million.

India exports petroleum products, pharmaceuticals, cereals, cotton and electrical machinery, apparel and clothing accessories to Mauritius. The island nation’s exports to New Delhi include iron and steel, pearls, precious/semi-precious stones and optical, photographic and precision instruments.

Mauritius was the second top source of foreign direct investment (FDI) into India in 2019-20. India received USD 8.24 billion (about Rs 57,785 crore) foreign inflows from that country in the last fiscal.

M&A deal activity in 2020 jumps 33 pc to USD 36.9 billion

Source: The Economic Times, Feb 12, 2021

Mumbai: Deals cut by Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries helped overall merger and acquisition (M&A) activity grow 33 per cent in 2020 to USD 36.9 billion, a report said on Friday. The number of deals came down to 357 from the 443 in 2019, indicating a surge in average ticket sizes, the report by advisory firm Grant Thornton said. It pointed to the combined USD 10.1 billion stakebuy in Reliance Jio by Facebook and Google as an illustrative case.

The year also saw nine other deals value over USD 1 billion each, it said, adding that the top deals accounted for nearly two-thirds of the overall activity.

There were 35 deals of over USD 100 million but under USD 1 billion, down from 47 in the year ago period, it said.

Cross-border deal volumes fell 19 per cent compared with the previous year but the deal values jumped two times over 2019 to USD 21 billion, it said.

Indian companies with strong balance sheets have shaken off the shock from the coronavirus pandemic to chase overseas acquisitions, coming back strong after recording the lowest quarterly deal volumes in the second quarter of 2020 since 2011, it said.

Cross-border transactions between India and the US dominated in both the inbound and outbound segments. They together totalled 31 per cent of cross-border transaction aggregating to USD 15 billion, and was followed by Japan and UK which dominated the inbound and outbound volumes, respectively.
Overseas acquisitions from India were spread over 29 countries; of which, 29 transactions aggregating to USD 2.4 billion were executed in the US majorly in the information technology sector, it said.

Private equity investment values stood at USD 40.2 billion in 2020, marking the highest yearly values witnessed in any given year since 2011, it said. The attributed it to USD 9.8 billion funding raised by Reliance’s Jio platforms and USD 6.4 billion investment raised by Reliance Retail Ventures.

There were 26 fundraises via qualified institutional placement (QIP) at USD 10.4 billion, again the highest since 2011, it said, pointing to transactions like Bharti Airtel, ICICI Bank, Axis Bank and Kotak Bank.

Eighteen companies raised USD 6.5 billion via Initial Public Offering (IPO), a 2.5 times increase in issue size over 2019, with top three public offerings being Yes Bank, SBI Cards and Payment Services and Gland Pharma.

From an outlook perspective, it said there is a scope for more deals in 2021.

India, UK hold discussions to promote bilateral trade, investments

Source: Business Standard, Feb 08, 2021

New Delhi: India and the UK have held discussions on promoting bilateral trade and investments between the two countries, an official statement said on Monday.

The talks were held between Minister for Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal, and UK Secretary of State for International Trade Elizabeth Truss MP on February 6.

Both the ministers agreed to deepen trade cooperation between the two countries through an Enhanced Trade Partnership (ETP).

“They also reviewed progress in removing market access barriers on both sides and ongoing cooperation in response to COVID-19,” the commerce ministry said.

It added that the two sides reviewed the ongoing engagements between the two sides for an ETP to develop a roadmap that would lead to a potential comprehensive FTA (free trade agreement), including considerations on an interim pact on a preferential basis.

“In a significant step forward, the ministers agreed that this partnership would formally be launched during the visit of the UK Prime Minister to India, later this year,” it said. The two countries also expressed commitment to relaunch the UK-India CEO Forum and agreed on the Forum’s meeting at the earliest.

Amazon signs MoU with K’taka to help drive e-commerce exports from state

Source: Business Standard, Jan 28, 2021

Bengaluru: The Amazon India on Thursday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the government of Karnataka to help drive e-commerce exports from the state.

As part of the MoU with the Department of Industries and Commerce, Amazon will train and onboard MSMEs from the state on Amazon Global Selling, its exports programme, enabling them to sell their unique Made in India products globally to millions of Amazon customers across 200+ countries and territories, it said in a statement.

The company said that Amazon Global Selling lowers the entry barrier for motivated Indian MSMEs to expand their business and launch their brands globally from anywhere in India.

With this programme, homegrown businesses get instant access to global markets from Day one, benefiting from Amazon’s distribution capabilities and global footprint to scale rapidly, creating a sustainable exports business, Amazon said.

As part of the programme, Amazon will conduct training, webinars and on-boarding workshops for exporters from key MSME clusters like Ballari, Mysuru, Channapatna and other districts.

The workshops will focus on sharing knowledge and imparting training to MSMEs about Business-to-consumers e- commerce exports and selling worldwide through Amazon’s 17 international marketplaces to over 300 million customers worldwide. The company quoted Jagadish Shettar, Minister for Large and medium scale Industries, as saying, “Karnataka has a vibrant automobile, agro, aerospace, textile and garment, biotech, and toys / handicraft sectors which is held together by lakhs of MSMEs.

Indo-Pacific partnership: India-Japan explore new projects for Northeast

Source: The Economic Times, Jan 28, 2021

New Delhi: India and Japan held the fifth joint meeting of the India-Japan Act East Forum (AEF) on Thursday to give a push to connectivity projects and other development & capacity building initiatives as part of their Indo-Pacific partnership.

The meeting was co-chaired by Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary, and Suzuki Satoshi, Ambassador of Japan to India.

The AEF reviewed progress of ongoing projects in the North Eastern Region of India in various areas including connectivity, hydropower, sustainable development, harnessing of water resources, and skill development, according to officials.

They discussed several new projects being undertaken under India-Japan bilateral cooperation and also exchanged views on cooperation in new areas such as healthcare, agro-industries and SMEs, bamboo value chain development, smart city, tourism and people-to-people exchanges, officials added.

Foreign Secretary and the Japanese Ambassador appreciated the role played by the AEF since its establishment in 2017 in streamlining India-Japan bilateral cooperation for the modernization of the North Eastern Region.

AEF provides a platform for India-Japan collaboration in the North Eastern Region under India’s “Act East Policy” and Japan’s vision for a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific”.
Japan attaches a great importance to the cooperation for the development of India’s North East, anchored by its historical ties, trust and friendship, an official said.

“The North East stands on a place strategically important to realise a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific; and Japan is proud to have been a partner with the people of North East in their aspirations for a better and sustainable future. Japan is the only country which has an independent framework for discussing the development of India’s North East and the one at such a high-level,” a Japanese official said.

Japan has been actively providing assistance to various projects in the region. The ongoing ODA projects supported by Japan amounts to more than 231 billion yen(appx. INR 1,600 crore).

The AEF has been a driving force to coalesce the developmental efforts of India, its North Eastern regionand Japan. The AEF provides guidance for the joint actions between Japan and India, as well as with the North Eastern region. In today’s meeting, such key areas as road connectivity, health (including water and sanitation), forest conservation and people-to-people exchanges were covered to pursue further collaborations.

India inks pact with IEA to bolster its energy security

Source: LiveMint.com, Jan 27, 2021

India signed a ‘strategic partnership framework’ on Wednesday with the International Energy Agency (IEA), the world’s premier energy monitor, further bolstering the country’s energy security and it’s cleaner fuel transition plans.

The development comes at a time when international energy markets have been volatile and amid rising tensions between China and India, the world’s second- and third-largest crude oil importers.

“The Strategic Partnership Framework represents a new phase in the relationship between the IEA and India, the world’s third-largest energy consumer, making it the first IEA Association country to take a formal step to further advance ties with the Agency,” IEA said in a statement.

IEA’s 30-member countries also hold 1.55 billion barrels of public emergency oil stocks. In addition, 650 million barrels are held by industry under government obligations and can be released as needed.

The MoU was signed by India’s power secretary Sanjiv Nandan Sahai and Dr. Fatih Birol, IEA’s executive director.

“This partnership will lead to an extensive exchange of knowledge and would be a stepping stone towards India becoming a full member of the IEA,” the power ministry said.

The Paris-based agency is keen on India becoming a member as India’s entry will boost the global energy security apparatus and add heft to its dealings with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec)-plus grouping.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil producer has recently cut production, leading to price volatility. Opec makes up about 40% of global output and 83% of India’s oil imports.

“The contents of the strategic partnership will be jointly decided by the IEA members and India, including a phased increase in benefits and responsibilities for India as an IEA strategic partner, and building on existing areas of work within Association and the Clean Energy Transitions Programme (CETP), such as energy security, clean and sustainable energy, energy efficiency, enhancing petroleum storage capacity in India, expansion of gas-based economy in India etc.,” the statement said. “This marks a major milestone in global energy governance that could lead to eventual IEA membership for India,” the statement added.

Eligibility criteria for becoming a member includes maintaining emergency oil reserves equivalent to at least 90 days of net imports.

India stores 10 days of the country’s crude oil requirements currently, with domestic refiners also maintaining 65 days of crude storage. In addition, the government is building strategic crude oil reserves to support another 12 days of crude oil needs. The partnership with IEA also comes at a time when US President Joe Biden has recommitted to the Paris Agreement. Some of the strategies adopted to meet the objective of energy security and energy transition by India include a faster clean energy trajectory.