India close to having its own navigation satellite system, launches third satellite under IRNSS

India on Thursday moved tantalisingly close to having its own satellite navigation system as it smoothly launched a satellite with its rocket – and is now only a step away from joining a select group of space-faring nations that have such a system. With the successful launch early Thursday of the third of seven satellites planned under the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), India is just a  satellite and a couple of months away from having its own satellite navigation system. This puts India at the door step of an exclusive space club that has the US, Russia, China and Japan as members. The navigational system, developed indigenously by India, is designed to provide accurate position information service to users within the country and up to 1,500 km  from the nation’s  boundary line. Though IRNSS is a seven-satellite system, it could be made operational with four satellites, ISRO officials said.  The fourth navigation satellite is expected to be launched this December. The entire IRNSS constellation of seven satellites is planned to be completed by 2015. Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) scientists and described the launch earlier in the night as “a matter of immense  pride and joy”.

irnssExactly at 1.32 a.m., the rocket – Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle-C26 (PSLV-C26) – standing around 44.4 metres tall and weighing around 320 tonnes, blasted off from  the first launch pad here at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, around 80 km from Chennai.
The expendable rocket with fierce orange flames at its tail lit up the night sky here. The rocket tore into the night skies with its luggage, the 1,425-kg IRNSS-1C  (Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System-1C) satellite. For the onlookers, the rocket looked like an inverted flare with a long handle as it ascended towards the heavens amidst the cheers of the ISRO scientists and the
media team assembled at the rocket port here. Space scientists at ISRO rocket mission control room were glued to their computer screens watching the rocket escaping the earth’s gravitational pull. At around 20 minutes into the flight, the PSLV-C26 spat out IRNSS-1C at an altitude of around 500 km above the earth. Immediately on the successful ejection, scientists at the mission control centre were visibly relieved and started applauding happily. “India’s third navigation satellite is up in the orbit,” ISRO chairman K. Radhakrishnan said post launch. Soon after the ejection into the orbit, the satellite’s solar panels were deployed. In the coming days, four orbit manoeuvres by firing its on-board motors will be conducted by ISRO to position the satellite in the Geostationary Orbit.

The satellite has two kinds of payloads – navigation and ranging. The navigation payload would transmit navigation service signals to the users. A highly accurate rubidium atomic clock is part of the navigation payload. The ranging payload consists of C-band transponder which facilitates accurate determination of he range of the satellite. The satellite with a life span of around 10 years is the third of the seven satellites which will constitute the IRNSS.  The first satellite IRNSS-1A was launched in July 2013 and the second IRNSS-1B in April 2014. Both have already started functioning from their designated orbital slots. The system, expected to provide a position accuracy of better than 20 metres in the primary service area, is similar to the global positioning system of the US,  Glonass of Russia, Galileo of Europe, China’s Beidou or the Japanese Quasi Zenith Satellite System. The system will be used for terrestrial, aerial and marine navigation, disaster management, vehicle tracking and fleet management, integration with mobile phones,
 mapping and geodetic data capture, visual and voice navigation for drivers and others. While the ISRO is silent on the navigation system’s strategic application, it is clear that the IRNSS will be used for defence purposes as well. By adding more satellites, the service area can be expanded, an ISRO official said.

Radhakrishnan had earlier said though IRNSS is a seven-satellite system, it could be made operational with four satellites. He had said each satellite will cost around Rs.150 crore and there will be a total of nine – seven in the space and two as stand-by on ground. The PSLV XL version used to put the satellites in orbit costs around Rs.130 crore. The seven rockets would involve an outlay of around Rs.910 crore. In addition, there will be investments made in setting up a chain of ground stations which will be around Rs.1,000 crore, Radhakrishnan had said. Once the regional navigation system is in place, India need not be dependent on others. The IRNSS will provide two types of services — standard positioning service and restricted service. The former is provided to all users and the later is an encrypted service for authorised users. The IRNSS system comprises of two segments – the space and the ground. The space segment consists of seven satellites of which three will be in geostationary orbit and  four in inclined geosynchronous orbit. The ground segment consists of infrastructure for controlling, tracking and other facilities.

– ET

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Honda to start CBR-650 production in India from next year

Riding upon the ‘Make in India’ appeal, auto giant ‘Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India Private Limited’ (HMSI) will start production of its high-end sports motorcycle ‘CBR-650′ in the country from next year, a top company executive said here today. “We announce that (from) next year Honda will start making CBR -650 in India. By this, we will not only open up the skill of our existing manpower but it will also  showcase the Honda India’s manufacturing quality to the world,” HMSI Vice President Y S Guleria told reporters here on the sidelines of a foundation stone laying  ceremony for its upcoming plant at Vithalapur in Ahmedabad district. However, Honda is yet to finalise the facility it has in the country from where it will start manufacturing CBR-650.

cbr-650Besides the upcoming unit at Vithalapur, Honda has a total of three plants in Haryana, Rajasthan and Karnataka. When asked about the capacity of the Vithalapur plant, Guleria said that the quantum is yet to be decided. “As of now, we have not decided on units as numbers are too small… and very quick decision can be taken, but we are not expecting very high volume,” he said. Guleria further said that the Japanese auto giant’s purpose to start making CBR-650 bikes is in tune with the ‘Make in India’ commitment of the company. Honda has also not finalised the price tag for the sportsbike for its Indian customers. “The purpose (to start manufacturing the bike in India) is to build in India and also the affordability aspect will be considered for customers with Make in India  commitment,” he said. CBR-650 is 649 cc sports bike with the four-cylinder double overhead camshaft (DOHC) engine technology and having the six-speed gearbox, as per the Honda website.

-ET

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Amazon in talks to acquire Jabong

Amazon is in preliminary talks to buy Jabong, part of the US-based online retailer’s plan to bolster its presence selling fashion products, four people aware of the discussions told ET. Jabong is one of the fashion portals that Amazon is interested in acquiring, and Jabong has other suitors, the sources said, cautioning that a deal is not imminent. A regulatory filing by Rocket Internet, which incubated Jabong, put the value of the fashion portal at 388 million euros, or $500 million (Rs 3,000 crore). A person with direct knowledge of negotiations said that Jabong is holding out for much more at least $700 million. Amazon said it does “not comment on anything we may or may not do in the future”. Jabong did not reply to emailed questions.  “After Myntra got acquired by Flipkart, Jabong is the ideal candidate,” said a person who is working closely with Amazon on the negotiation. A big chunk of the $2 billion that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has promised to invest in India is meant for acquisitions, this person said. Amazon is battling leader Flipkart for dominance in one of the world’s fastest-growing markets for online retail, expected to reach Rs 50,000 crore by 2016 according to consultancy Crisil.

jabongLast month, Bezos told ET that the value of goods sold by Amazon India in a year had topped $1 billion and that fashion was one of the “exciting frontiers” for the Seattlebased company. Jabong, which counts Germany’s Rocket Internet and Swedish investment firm Kinnevik among its investors, is the secondlargest fashion portal in  India after Myntra, which was acquired by Flipkart in May for an estimated value of $370 million. According to industry estimates, the Flipkart-Myntra combine has a market share of over 50% in fashion retail and Jabong 25%. Fashionara and Limeroad are the other  significant fashion portals. ET has not been able to establish if they are in talks with Amazon. For Amazon, getting it right in India is vital to its fortunes, especially because its presence in China is negligible where Alibaba dominates. And the key to getting it right in India lies in fashion, the fastest-growing category for online retailers. According to retail consultancy Technopak, fashion accounts for 25% of the online retail industry’s sales. To boot, operating margins in fashion are around 35% in an industry where gross margins are in negative territory. Amazon India started offering fashion products on its marketplace in May, and an acquisition offers a swift route to scaling up. In the United States, Amazon chose a
similar strategy to improve its fashion credentials by buying Zappos in 2009. Shares of UK-based clothing portal Asos have been on the rise after rumours of an acquisition by Amazon. A deal with Jabong, while it may be desirable, will be complicated, said a source who is directly involved in the talks. The complication arises from the fact that in  September, investors Rocket and Kinnevik began the process of merging five of their international fashion ecommerce companies, including Jabong, into a single global
entity.

– ETRetail

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Softbank likely to invest 650 million dollars in Snapdeal

SoftBank Corp is set to invest up to $650 million in Snapdeal in a deal that could see it become the largest shareholder with a nearly 35 per cent stake in India’s second-biggest online retailer and is expected to be solemnised in the last week of October when the Japanese mobile and Internet giant’s founder and CEO Masayoshi Son visits India. Multiple sources familiar with the transaction have told ET that the latest round of fund-raising, which will leave Snapdeal with a valuation of around $2 billion,  could also see Nikesh Arora, former Google board member and now vice-chairman of SoftBank, pick up a 5 per cent stake in his personal capacity and be appointed to the  Indian company’s board, possibly as its non-executive chairman. “The deal is almost done. The big visit of (SoftBank founder) Son to India is in that direction,” said one source, who has been directly involved in the discussions.  Son, 57, who is Japan’s richest man with a net worth of around $22 billion, will be in India on October 27 and 28 for a visit that could also see him call on Prime  Minister Narendra Modi, the latest in a series of high-profile international business leaders to do so. At least two other sources confirmed that a deal had been all  but sealed and would be announced in weeks.

snapdealAn investment by SoftBank, which has already invested in a bunch of Indian startups, most notably InMobi, and has a joint venture with the Bharti Group, will at one stroke make it a serious player in India’s online retail sector. It will give the Japanese firm, already the biggest investor in China’s ecommerce behemoth Abibaba  with a 32 per cent stake, a strong foothold in the Indian market, which like China offers phenomenal headroom for growth with its billionplus population that is fast embracing shopping on the Internet.
The investment in Snapdeal by SoftBank will be the Japanese firm’s single largest to date in the country and will also rank as a big endorsement of the market potential for ecommerce in India which has lured several big investors. In late July, a clutch of investors led by USbased Tiger Global invested $1 billion in Snapdeal’s bigger rival Flipkart, valuing it at around $7 billion. Another  rival, USbased e-tailing pioneer Amazon Inc, has pledged to invest $2 billion in its Indian operations. SoftBank declined comment on the deal while a statement from Snapdeal said: “This is speculation and we don’t comment on speculations”. Nikesh Arora also declined to
comment when asked about his purported investment and his possible chairmanship.

A fund-raising by Snapdeal, which was founded by schoolmates and friends Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal in 2010, has been the subject of feverish speculation for weeks  now, especially ever since its rivals managed to put together a massive war chest to fund their aggressive expansion plans in India’s fast-growing online retail market. On Wednesday, Reuters News reported that Snapdeal, which already counts former Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata and Wipro Chairman Azim Premji’s family investment firm Premji Invest among its shareholders, is close to raising $600-650 million from existing investors led by Soft-Bank, although ET has learnt that SoftBank and, at most, Arora will be the only investors in this round. “The temptation is to raise as much or over $1 billion, but it’s more likely that this round will only see Soft-Bank invest,” said another person familiar with the discussions who also pegged the amount involved at around $650 million. Multiple sources pegged the pre-money valuation at around $1.2 billion and a postmoney
valuation of around $2 billion. Other sources said the transaction could see some of Snapdeal’s early institutional backers such as Kalaari Capital, Nexus Venture Partners and Bessemer Venture  Partners not participate in the latest fund-raising round and even partially exit the company. “There are large investors keen to put capital and given the size of this fund-raise, we will not do much of a dent,” said an executive at one of the venture capital firms. Snapdeal, which began life as a discount coupons site and then metamorphosed into an online marketplace that now has more than 50,000 sellers, has an investor roster that includes eBay, Intel Capital, Temasek, BlackRock and Tybourne, most of which have bought into the company at one of its many funding rounds.
Experts said a deal with SoftBank, coming at a time when the sector has attracted negative publicity, hostility and government scrutiny, could help underline the red- hot characteristics of India’s ecommerce sector. “If true, this only shows that the appetite for putting big money by foreign investors in India’s ecommerce story remains very high. Global investors are betting on the market, not withstanding any negative publicity which has been moving about last couple of weeks,” said Arvind  Singhal, chairman of retail and advisory firm Technopak.

Snapdeal last raised money in May this year when investors such as Temasek, BlackRock Inc, Myriad, Premji Invest and Tybourne stumped up $100 million at an estimated valuation of $1 billion. The company has raised a total of $320 million from investors in its various rounds, of which $233 million was secured this year over two rounds. Industry experts  expect SoftBank, which was one of the earliest backers of Alibaba having funded its founder Jack Ma some 15 years ago, to get the Chinese firm and Snapdeal to possibly
collaborate, share best practices and explore synergies. SoftBank, which was also an early investor in Yahoo, has a trophy investment in Alibaba. Its stake in Alibaba  was worth more than $70 billion when the company listed in New York last month.

– ETRetail

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Biba launches web portal to leverage growing e-commerce mkt

bibaEthnic wear brand Biba today launched its online portal to leverage the country’s fast growing e-commerce space and also cash on the ongoing festive season. Commenting on its e-commerce portal, Biba Managing Director Siddharath Bindra said, “We want to make shopping convenient for our consumers and e-commerce being a  prevalent and growing channel is indeed a natural progression for our existing business.” At present, 6-8 per cent of the company’s revenue comes from online sales. “We see our foray into this online world as another important way to connect with our customers, and provide them with an easy access to our contemporary fashion,” he added. This development will indeed help the company strike new conversations with brand loyalists as well as will be an attractive choice for new customers, it said in a  statement. Biba retails its products through 155 exclusive outlets across 65 cities, apart from presence in all major retail chains in the country like Shopper’s Stop, Lifestyle  and Pantaloons. In November 2013, Kishore Biyani-led Future Lifestyle Fashion Ltd divested its stakes in Biba. Future Group had first acquired a 6.5 per cent stake in the ethnic wear brand in 2007, which was gradually increased to 25.8 per cent in 2011.

– ETRetail

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