Airtel to expand 4G in 6 more circles; inks pact with Nokia

Telecom major Bharti Airtel today signed a deal with Nokia Networks to launch high-speed 4G services in six more telecom circles, comprising 11 states, starting from December this year. The new circles where Airtel will launch 4G services are- Andhra Pradesh, North East (7 states), Punjab, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, and Karnataka, sources said. Airtel has plans to launch 4G services in Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, North East and Punjab by December 2015, Karnataka by February 2016 and Rajasthan by April  2016, sources added. Meanwhile, Bharti Airtel Chief Technology Officer Abhay Savargaonkar in a statement said: “Having already launched the high-speed 4G services across four circles of  India, we are now looking at extending this enriching high-speed broadband experience to new circles on 1800 MHz band.” The deployment in these circles will be on a different type of 4G technology called FDD-LTE.

airtel 4g“We are happy to expand our TD-LTE footprint with Bharti and partner with them to deploy India’s first FDD-LTE in six new circles,” Nokia Networks Vice President and Head of India Region Sandeep Girotra said. Globally, there are 360 network providing 4G services and out of this 158 network use FDD-LTE technology, as per Global mobile Suppliers Association, implying better eco-system and availability of affordable devices for this technology. Indian firms, including Airtel, have so far launched 4G service on TDD LTE technology. Nokia Networks, already a supplier of Bharti Airtel’s TD-LTE network, will also deploy TD-LTE on the 2300 MHz in 2 other circles, the statement said. Sources said that  these two circles are Mumbai and Kerala.

– ET

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Russia may create joint orbital station with India, China

orbital stationRussia is exploring the possibility of a joint manned orbital station with India and China as part of a common strategy to create technological alliances and may take up the matter with the two Asian space giants in July. “Moscow could propose to China and India to create a joint manned orbital station at the summit of the BRICS emerging economies in Russia’s Ufa in July,” a document  drafted by the expert council at Russia’s military and industrial commission said today. The experts recommend “working out the possibilities of an international manned project with BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) countries as part  of a common strategy of creating technological alliances”, Itar Tass reported. “We can start this work now and include the issue in the agenda of the BRICS business council in Ufa,” the document reads. In particular, Russia should make such a proposal to India and China, which have been actively developing their manned space programmes, the experts say. Other perspective areas for further research could be modular rockets using methane as fuel and also the creation of an aerospace vehicle, which could be used in the future to construct a fighter or a bomber of the sixth generation.

– ET

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FMCG products slowly gaining traction in India’s booming ecommerce market

Everyday consumer products such as shampoo, deodorants, makeup and even toilet cleaners are slowly gaining traction in the country’s booming ecommerce market currently dominated by electronics, books and fashion. While this growth is mostly powered by smaller FMCG companies with limited resources, big national brands too are increasing their presence in online shops not to miss  out on the opportunity. An Amazon India spokesperson said categories such as skincare, baby nursing, make-up, deodorants and grooming products have grown by more than five times in the past  year. This growth is mostly powered by companies without much distribution muscle, such as Khadi, Patanjali, Vini Cosmetics, Adjavis, Park Avenue and TTK. “Customers are now  looking for unique brands that are sulphate and paraben-free like Indulekha, Iba Halal Care, Vedantika Herbals, Prakriti Herbals, Vaadi Herbals, etc,” the spokesperson said.

fmcgSnapdeal expects the growth to be around 50 times in the coming three years. “Overall in ecommerce, we believe that after ticketing, electronics and fashion  categories, FMCG is going to be the next wave that this industry would ride on. The beauty of this segment is that a customer exactly knows what his/her consumption  patterns (brand & consumption rate) are, leading to regular repeat purchases,” said a spokesperson of the company. The ecommerce site is working directly with most of the FMCG players in the market including but not limited to HUL, P&G, ITC, R&B, L’Oreal, Godrej. It sells close to 1,00,000 products in the category of which segments such as baby care products, sexual wellness, Cosmetics and skin care and health supplements are  the most popular ones. Other ecommerce majors such as Flipkart and eBay, too, are selling hair oil, shampoos and soaps. None of them responded to ET’s questions on their FMCG sales as of press time. Online shopping of grocery and personal care products is on the rise globally. A recent report by Kantar Worldpanel predicted that ecommerce for FMCG globally will increase 47% to $53 billion by 2016, up from $36 billion in 2014. It also forecasted that ecommerce will account for 5.2% of global FMCG sales by 2016, up from 3.7%, and that Asia will be the next major growth market. Most FMCG majors in India are looking to boost their online sales.

“Modern trade has not taken off the way it should have, so we are leapfrogging to online, which is expected to do very well because of cost savings,” said Varun Berry, MD at biscuits maker Britannia Industries. The company recently launched its Good Day Chunkies, a super-premium chocolate chip cookie, exclusively on Amazon. While Britannia sells directly on big online marketplaces and through its distributors on smaller ones, most others are encouraging their distributors and retailers to take the online route. Dabur India has appointed exclusive stockists for the online channel. “Most online retailers prefer working with such dedicated servicing networks as the dynamics and  logistics of online retailing are better understood by these specialist stockists,” said George Angelo, executive director for sales at Dabur. The maker of Dabur Chyawanprash and Real juice encourages its brick-and-mortar distributors to also sell online to augment sales. “We are taking an aggressive yet a measured approach to this channel as we evaluate and learn the finer aspects while leveraging the increasing consumer affinity towards this channel,” Angelo said.

Many distributors and retailers of FMCG majors such as Hindustan Unilever, Procter & Gamble and Marico are taking the online route. Kolkata-based Primarc Pecan Retail, for example, has ventured into retailing national and international FMCG products on online platforms such as Amazon. “We sell  products from health and personal care, toys, gourmet and pet food on various market places,” said company director Sidharth Pansari. The Rs 150-crore firm has been in  the retail business for the last 25 years, selling products of large FMCG companies. Siva Sri Retail, a Telangana-based distributor of skincare products of HUL and P&G, too, has been selling its products on Amazon and Flipkart for the last six months.  “The learning has been great,” said its owner Aravindan Jayakumar. Internet giant Google had recently got several FMCG companies including Hindustan Unilever, Lakme, Paris India, Nivea, P&G, Reckitt & Benckiser and Johnson & Johnson to sample their products to a large set of customers during Google’s Great Online Shopping Festival which saw nearly 80 lakh visitors during the three-day-long  festival.

– ET

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Mahindra to expand renewables business amid India’s clean energy push

Indian conglomerate Mahindra Group plans to expand its renewable energy business and invest 45 billion rupees ($732.5 million) over the next three to four years, its chairman said, amid a government-led push to increase the use of clean energy. The investment will mainly be financed by taking on 33 billion rupees in debt, with the rest funded through cash, Chairman and Managing Director Anand Mahindra told  Reuters. The group also plans to commission 500 megawatts (MW) of solar power projects by the end of March 2016 from 180 MW it expects to complete by end-March this year, he added.

mahindra“The (renewable energy) business is going to boom this year. It is a very attractive investment right now,” Mahindra said on Sunday. The renewable energy unit, which builds solar power projects and offers off-grid power solutions, was formed in 2011 and is currently one of the smaller businesses of the $17 billion autos-to-technology conglomerate.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ramped up his target for solar energy by 33 times to 100,000 megawatts (MW) by 2022 as he bets on renewables to help meet rising power  demand and overcome the frequent outages that plague Asia’s third largest economy. Modi says India needs $200 billion – half of it from foreign companies – to meet its target and US President Barack Obama pledged on Sunday during a visit to India to  support this ambitious goal through additional funding. Companies such as US-based First Solar and SunEdison Inc already have sizeable businesses in India, while Canadian Solar, China’s JA solar and JinkoSolar Holdings plan to invest in the country.
First Solar’s biggest projects in India include a plant with local firm Kiran Energy Solar Power and the Mahindra Solar One plant.

– ET

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Indian Oil Corp to commence commissioning Paradip refinery from Q1 of 2015

Indian Oil Corp (IOC), the nation’s biggest company, will begin commissioning of its long-delayed Rs 34,500 crore Paradip refinery from the first quarter of 2015. “Once fully operational, this 15 million tonnes a year flagship refinery will further strengthen IOC’s position as India’s premier refiner and also add substantially to our bottomline,” a company statement quoted its Director (Refineries) Sanjiv Singh as saying. He said commissioning will begin from the first quarter of 2015 but did not say by when the full unit will be commissioned. Paradip refinery was originally to be built by April 2012 but has faced delays because of law and order problem. The 11th refinery of IOC was to cost Rs 29,777 crore but the delays have now taken the cost to Rs 34,500 crore. “All our teams have geared up for realising the successful commissioning of this dream project which will enable us to process most difficult and cheap crudes resulting in higher profitability,” Singh said.

indian oilEmphasising the responsibility towards clean environment, he said IOC has always given highest priority to environment and its operations are in total harmony with ecology. “In line with the Auto Fuel Policy, IOC refineries will switch to 100 per cent BS-IV fuels production to meet timelines,” he said. For improved reliability in operation, downtimes during planned turnarounds should be minimised, Singh said, adding outages due to interruptions should be absolutely zero. “In deregulated market, reliability in supplying the products in right quantity and of right quality, as committed is absolutely essential. For improving reliability, we need to identify the weak spots and take corrective actions to eliminate the same,” he added.

– ET

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