RuPay ties up with Amazon & Jet Airways for online shopping

After Flipkart, home-grown payments gateway RuPay has tied up with Amazon and one of the largest carriers Jet Airways. With this, the RuPay debit card holders can now shop best deals on Amazon and book air tickets on Jet Airways, the Reserve Bank-promoted National Payment Corporation which issues the RuPay cards said in a statement today. “Acceptance on Amazon is a breakthrough for us. We are glad to offer a wider horizon to our cardholders to transact online. Also, our integration with Jet Airways will
definitely benefit our cardholders,,” says NPCI managing director AP Hota said.

rupayCommenting on the tie-up, Amazon India general manager for payments Srinivas Rao said, the arrangement is in line with its strategy of offering the widest set of  customers a variety of payment options that will enhance their shopping experience. The NPCI had last week announced that it has tied up with Flipkart, Snapdeal and LIC who are among over 15,000 merchants who will be accepting the RuPay cards, which  are the homegrown alternative to foreign gateways like Visa and MasterCard. Following the tie-up Jet Airways has begun accepting RuPay cards on their site for air-ticketing, airlines’ senior vice-president Gaurang Shetty said. NPCI has already issued more than 30 million RuPay cards, which are accepted at all ATMs, and by 9.8 lakhs POS terminals and over 15000 online merchants. The domestic online retail industry, as per a Crisil report, is expected to touch Rs 50,400 crore by FY16 from Rs 1,500 crore in FY08. According to online industry body IAMAI, travel has emerged out as the most transacted segment in the online space accounting for 60 percent of online payments. The value of online payments for travel industry stood at Rs 50,000 crore in FY13.

– ET

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Marriott International eyes 70 hotels in India by 2018

Hospitality major Marriott International plans to further expand its footprint in the country with an additional 49 hotels, which will take the total operational  properties to around 70 by 2018, a senior company executive said. “We are in India since last 15 years and currently have 25 operating hotels under our various brands. We have another 49 properties in pipeline that are under various
stages of construction. “Every year, we sign new contracts and are expecting 60-70 operating hotels in India by 2017-2018,” Marriott International Area Vice President, South Asia, Rajeev  Menon told PTI here. Marriott International, which primarily follows the management contract model, has seven operating brands in India representing luxury to upper mid scale category.

marriott international“These seven brands fairly fulfils the necessity in the country. However, we will continue to access opportunity in India to launch additional brands here,” he added. In India, Marriott International currently operates brands like JW Marriott, Courtyard by Marriott, Marriott Hotels, Fairfield by Marriott, Marriott Executive Apartments, Renaissance Hotels and The Ritz Carlton. The hospitality major, which currently employs about 6,500 in India is also planning to hire 10,000 more for all levels by 2018, Menon said. “We have the largest pipeline in the industry and with this expansion we will also need more manpower. We are looking at hiring about an additional 10,000 workforce by  2018,” he added. Of the seven brands, Courtyard by Marriott and Fairfield have huge potential in the country as they can expand anywhere, especially in tier II and III cities. “We see opportunity for our two brands – Courtyard by Marriott and Fairfield – to grow aggressively in the country. They have locational advantage as they can be
opened anywhere like tier II and III cities,” he pointed out. At present, there are 11 properties under the Courtyard by Marriott brand and another 19 are under construction, he said. The US-headquartered Marriott International has more than 4,000 properties (managed and franchised properties) over 20 brands around the world.

– ET

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Global luxury fashion labels log onto e-tail to expand in India

You don’t have to cajole an NRI friend or a relative abroad to courier you that elusive luxury fashion label you have been craving for. The reason? Most of the global luxury brands are taking the e-tail path to reach mass buyers even in tier II and III cities in India. The luxury sector is buzzing with e-tail activity as the renowned brands want to overcome the barriers typically associated with introducing brick-and-mortar  operations in India. According to a recent report from McKinsey, online sales of luxury items in India are growing twice as fast as the overall e-tail domain. Vikram  Chopra, CEO & founder, Fabfurnish.com, told TOI, “It is a great way for them (luxury brands) to find a foothold in an important market like India. Given the time it  takes to get approvals and find right locations in India makes going for offline retail a big decision, which needs long-term planning and focused execution. On the
other hand, online helps them provide relatively easy entry.”

luxury fashionFabfurnish.com has launched over 10 tableware/glassware brands — Noritake, Lodge, Nauni, Stoelze — which were so far found at high-end hotels such as Taj and Hilton in  India. The e-tail portal is talking to another 10 brands at the moment from across the globe.
“Luxury shoppers are well-connected digitally and it becomes easier for brands to showcase themselves online. The e-tail path helps them position their brand and  educate potential consumers about luxury. They can even reach out to tier II cities,” added Chopra.
Recently, Jabong.com brought international fashion labels like Dorothy Perkins and River Island to India. And Fashionandyou.com launched a “Luxury Lounge” section  stocked with top global fashion brands like Salvatore Ferragamo watches, Coach handbags, Aston Martin sunglasses and Burberry & Versace handbags, which are otherwise  not easily available offline in India. Aasheesh Mediratta, CEO, Fashionandyou.com, finds e-tail the easiest route to scan the market for potential sales without significant commitments and long gestation periods. Radhika Ghai Aggarwal, co-founder & CMO, ShopClues.com, said, “The fact that e-tailing can be integrated seamlessly with other digital media like mobile and  social is a big advantage.” Myntra.com COO Ganesh Subramanian finds the luxury e-tail segment the fastest growing one — projected to explode from $10 billion to $43 billion in the next five
years. The e-tailer is offering Harvard University-branded sports casual wear, Stanley Kane, Supra, Superdry apparel, New Balance, 883 Police, JanSport, Time Force,  Desigual, Scotch and Soda.

However, according to industry experts, if precious luxury brands take the discount route on e-tail domain, they would face the risk of losing stringent price and  brand positioning. Retailers’ Association of India CEO Kumar Rajagopalan said, “They should not imitate discount players.”

– ET

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Big oil discovery made near Ahmedabad

A significant oil discovery has been made near Ahmedabad in the Cambay basin that by some estimates may be the biggest onland find this year. Jay Polychem (India) Ltd, a unit of city-based Jay Madhok Group, made the oil discovery in the very first well it drilled on the block C B-ONN-2009/8 in Gujarat’s Cambay basin. The firm has since July last year drilled two wells and discovered huge oil pay zones in both the wells, sources said. The discovery in the well Kharenti-A has been notified to the upstream regulator DGH and the government. Sources said the discovery by Jay Polychem is huge and similar to oil being produced by ONGC in the neighbouring Padra field as also by GSPC in Ingoli field. The block is operated by Jay Polychem (India) Ltd with 87 per cent interest, while Jay Polychem Pte Ltd holds the rest. Cambay basin, which extends from Surat in the south to Sanchor in the north, covers an area of about 59,000 sq km with a hydrocarbon resource of more than 15 billion barrels.

ahmedabadFew dozen discoveries, mostly oil, have been reported in the basin. State-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp produces oil from most of them and recently Oilex of Australia too has found tight oil. Sources said the well Kharenti-A was drilled to a total depth of 858 meters in July last year and encountered significant oil shows of Olpad Formation. Testing done this month resulted in oil being found in three zones. A gross column of 52 meters was interpreted from log analysis and testing data to be oil bearing,  they said. Initial analysis of the oil samples suggests the presence of oil of API 14. Sources said the company is taking necessary steps to establish potential of the discoveries. The firm will further deploy world best technologies used to produce heavy oil in USA, Canada and South America to determine and commence production on commercial  basis from the Khrentie field. Jay commented that the discovery of a significant oil column in their first well in CB-ONN-2009/8 is encouraging for the ongoing prospectivity of the block. The discovery enhances their understanding of the Olpad Play which extends over the entire block and establishes hydrocarbon potential of the various prospects in the  block, the firm said.

Jay had won the block in the 8th round of bidding under New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP). The discoveries are first in NELP VIII blocks and very significant in the recent times in the Cambay basin. The 136 sq km CB-ONN-2009/8 was among the 13 onland blocks along with 8 deepwater and 11 shallow water areas that were awarded to explorers in 2010. The company, which has acquired 200 sq km of 3D seismic data, will drill 5 more wells by next quarter. Site for the new wells has already been acquired and the
development is on. It also has city gas distribution licence to retail CNG to automobiles and piped cooking gas to households in Jallandhar, Ludhiana and Kutch (east). 

-ET

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Swiss gold exports to India cross CHF 11-billion

As banks in Switzerland come under greater black money scrutiny, the quantum of gold having left Swiss shores for India so far this year has reached a record high level of over 11 billion Swiss francs (about Rs 70,000 crore). The gold exports from Switzerland to India stood at over 2.2 billion Swiss francs (about Rs 15,000 crore) in September alone, which is double the figure for the
previous month, shows latest data released by Swiss Customs Administration. As a result, the total Swiss gold exports to India since January this year has grown to 11.4 billion Swiss francs, shows the data compiled by the Swiss government’s  cross-border trade monitoring agency. While industry watchers attribute the surge during September partly to increased demand for the yellow metal ahead of Diwali and other festivals in India, the sudden  spike is also being seen suspiciously in the backdrop of gold being used for ‘layering’ purposes to move funds from Swiss banks amid growing scrutiny for suspected  black money. According to banking industry sources, banks operating in Switzerland, including those headquartered in the Alpine nation and the Swiss units of other European banks,  have turned wary about dealing with their Indian clients in the wake of a growing scrutiny of such accounts.

gold exportsA number of Swiss banks, including three with significant global presence, have begun telling their Indian clients to sign undertakings that are aimed at ‘derisking’  the banking institutions from potential risks arising out of regulatory actions against the bank customers by foreign governments. Some banks are also telling their clients to close their accounts if they are not ready to take such risks, or if they have apprehensions about such accounts not being  compliant to regulatory requirements in their home countries. Through these ‘derisking’ undertakings, the customer agrees to take responsibility for any possible regulatory or administrative compliance with international norms. At the same time, the bankers are also lobbying with the Swiss government to ensure that any information would be shared with their Indian counterpart about accounts  held in Swiss banks only after necessary provisions are made to safeguard the interest of the concerned banking institution. Following a high-level delegation visit from India, Switzerland recently agreed to cooperate on matters related to verification of genuineness of accounts and reply to  requests for banking account details in a time-bound manner, and also to initiate a process to include India among the countries eligible for ‘automatic exchange of
information’.

While banks try to put in place necessary safeguards, there are apprehensions that many of their clients are being advised to move the funds through gold and other  routes. As per Swiss government data, the total exports of gold, silver and coins from Switzerland stood at 347 tonnes (worth 6.62 billion Swiss francs) in September. This  included gold exports totalling 172.5 tonnes or 6.48 billion Swiss francs. In comparison, Switzerland’s total gold exports stood at just about three billion Swiss francs (80.6 tonnes) in August, while the overall figure for gold, silver and  coins stood at 3.16 billion francs (237 tonnes) in that month. India alone accounted for total bullion exports worth 66.5 tonnes from Switzerland, which mostly comprised of gold (over 58 tonnes or over 2.2 billion Swiss francs) in
September. The total gold exports to India stood at 29.5 tonnes (1.12 billion Swiss francs) in August, while the figure for July was 21 tonnes (792 million Swiss francs). In January, the total Swiss gold exports to India stood at about 27 tonnes (970 million Swiss francs), while it was in the range of 30 tonnes a month between February  to May before surging to over 44 tonnes (1.62 billion Swiss francs) in June. A new strategy of ‘layering’ through gold and diamond trade came to light earlier this year at Swiss banks to thwart any attempt for identification of real beneficiary  owners of funds entrusted with them, government and banking sources have said.

There is a growing suspicion that a portion of gold and diamond trade is being used to route funds from Swiss banks to India and other destinations. ‘Layering’ is a key stage in money laundering and involves moving illicit funds around financial system through a complex series of deals to complicate the paper trail. This layering typically takes place between the first stage — placement of black money in the financial system either in cash vaults, or through a series of cash or  sham financial transactions — and before the final ‘integration’ stage when money is put back into the financial system through various transactions for the benefit  of its final recipient.
Under global pressure, Switzerland agreed earlier this year to provide country-wise breakdown of its gold trade. Under a new agreement to tackle the black money menace, Switzerland agreed on October 15 to assist Indian authorities on a priority basis and provide requested banking information in a time-bound manner. There has been a huge political uproar over Indian black money allegedly stashed in Swiss banks and the new government has said it is committed to tackling this  menace. As per Swiss National Bank’s latest data, the total money held by Indians in Swiss banks stood at over Rs 14,000 crore as on December 2013, up by nearly 42 per cent from a year ago. Switzerland, which has also agreed to consider including India among the nations for automatic exchange of information, has been repeatedly rejecting India’s requests  for information on Indians named in a so-called HSBC list. India has sought information on bank accounts and other details of the persons named in this list, but Switzerland was refusing to cooperate saying these names were obtained “illegally” or through sale of stolen data by ex-employees.

– ET

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