The first day of India’s lockdown 3.0 ended with a lot of drama. Serpentine queues outside liquor shops stole the day’s headlines with the Delhi government ordering the levy of a 70% “special corona tax” on alcohol. All eyes were on the repercussions of the move by the state government, but it turned out to be an anti-climax. After the unending queues at liquor shops overwhelmed the Delhi Police on the first day, the force decided not to allow most liquor shops to open in the national capital on the second day. Many hopefuls had lined up since 8-8:30 in the morning. Minutes before the shops were to open, the police came swooping in to announce the shops would not open. Arguments broke out but they were soon quelled. Areas like Laxmi Nagar, Malviya Nagar, Vasant Vihar, East of Kailash and many others saw dispiriting scenes like these. In some areas the police closed the shop after about half an hour since their opening. In the handful of far-flung areas in the capital that saw liquor shops opening, the scenes were a carbon copy of the Monday.
Huge queues, complete flouting of social distancing and chaos at the counter. Later in the day, the Delhi government wrote to the Police Commissioner asking him to allow the shops to open. That too didn’t lead to much change on the ground. The sudden and unannounced closing of liquor shops left many heartbroken. Many in Laxmi Nagar, where there are two government liquor shops right next to the Delhi Metro station, had stationed themselves within the eyeshot of the closed shutters even at mid-afternoon. Whenever they saw a person going near the store, these eager individuals would come running from corners. “Lagta hai aaj nahi khulega (Looks like it won’t open today),” they said to each other. Meanwhile, the citizens of Delhi were in for another blow. The state decided to increase value-added tax (VAT) on fuel in the national capital.
Petrol prices in Delhi rose to ₹71.26 a litre as against ₹69.59 per litre while diesel prices climbed to ₹69.39 a litre as against ₹62.29. The VAT on petrol was hiked to 30% from 27% while VAT on diesel was almost doubled to 30% from 16.75%. For citizens, some respite came in the form of AC service person nel being finally allowed to come to their homes. As temperatures across northern India touched 40°C, the new-age urban Indian was desperate to see his cooling units working. Domestic help such as maids, drivers and cleaners have been allowed to go to work, however, their commute remains a hurdle. The myriad residents’ welfare associations have been given the right to take a call on allowing in outsiders. Certain other activities have also been allowed in Delhi with restrictions: Movement of individuals and vehicles for permitted activities with a maximum of two persons (besides the driver) on four-wheelers but no pillion rider two-wheelers.
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‘Dream Come True’: Akashdeep Sengupta on composing Sooryavanshi’s Mere Yaara
Music composer Akashdeep Sengupta joined NewsX for a candid chat as part of NewsX India A-List. In the exclusive conversation, Akashdeep opened up about composing a song for Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif starrer Sooryavanshi, his journey till now and much more.
Talking about composing the song, ‘Mere Yaara’ in Sooryavanshi, Akashdeep expressed, “It is a dream come true to be a part of such a big production, such a big casting, working with the likes of Karan Johar, Dharma Productions, Akshay Kumar, Rohit Shetty and such a big franchise. It is a dream come true. It is a lovely song. We always had that trust. Me, Kaushik and Guddu, they are my fellow composers in the song. It is a dream come true for me to compose such a track for them. It took some time for this song to come out but eventually it has.”
When asked how did he bag the project, Akashdeep shared, “It was something that completely happened because of Azeem Dayani. Azeem is the music supervisor for Dharma films. He supervises all the films for Dharma music. He had immense faith in the song and in us. He took this song a long time back. It was with him since 2017-18. He tried to put the best film with the best cast and the best people. He got it in Sooryavanshi.”
Talking about the response to song, Akashdeep said, “I am simply overwhelmed. It is a dream come true. Before this, it never happened but now that the song is out, people have messaged and congratulated me and my team. We have all been benefitted a lot from this song and people have really loved it. They have really welcomed us in the industry as music directors.”
On composing music for Amazon Prime’s Sherni and Modern Love, Akashdeep shared, “These projects came to me out of the blue. Aniket, who is the head of Amazon’s music studio originals, called me one day and he told me that he was interested in my profile and he wanted me to supervise music. I have been associated with Pritam Da for a long period of time as a assistant to him. I have been vocally supervising his songs, like dubbing singers and all. From there, he got to know about me and he called me up. I gave them some ideas of mine. Sherni happened. I supervised the title track of Sherni, got all the artists together like Raftaar, Utkarsh, Akasa. For Modern Love, it happened the same way. There was already a song called Setting Sail. He made the Hindi official cover for it. I got Zaedan and Lisa Mishra onboard for that song. It’s pretty much like you recruit the right artist, you choose the correct melody and you try to give a superb soundtrack to the audience. That’s how supervision works.”
Flexibility and adaptability with the customer have been the growth mantra: Harsh Khandelwal
Harsh Khandelwal is a young entrepreneur. He is the CEO of SGN Software. A visionary in his own right, Harsh has identified the opportunities for growth in the IT sector and has kept his company ahead in the industry. We hosted him for an interview for our latest series, NewsX India A-List. Below are the excerpts from the interview:
Our first question to Mr. Khanderwal was about the ethos of his company and how they identified the areas where they could capture the market, to which Harsh said, “The ethos for SGN started in 2009 when we saw a gap in the market in the SME space where we saw tech firms, MNCs working in the SME space.” For the second part of the question, he stated, “India’s SME market is huge, so we wanted to see if we can start our initiative on a practice where we can provide enterprise applications services at a cheaper cost. So that initiative started and then I saw we were the early entrants in the market working with leading software players like Oracle, SAP, Salesforce and we made it in the SAP market and we have grown the practice over the last decade working in eastern and northern India.”
We then asked Mr. Khandelwal how the IT industry landscape has changed since the pandemic began and how the transition has been for his clients. “The good thing about IT is the customers realised the importance of IT in the pandemic. While working from home, customers realised the importance of connectivity, real-time data, how to be connected with people, be it HR applications, be it Salesforce automation, be it banking integration where they know what is their incoming account receivable, payables,” said Harsh. He finished the answer by saying, “So, we have done a lot of projects remotely. It’s been a huge paradigm shift.”
Telling us about their plans for expansion, Harsh informed us that his organisation has invested in the upcoming Bengal Silicon Valley Tech Hub. “We have acquired a space there and we are looking to expand our IT footprints there,” said Mr. Khandelwal. He also said, “We are also looking to get into freshmen recruitment. Currently, we do not have any on-campus recruitment. We hire trained people, experienced people and deliver. But we have realised that we need to nurture new skills.”
Harsh then told us about his journey from an SAP consultant fresh out of college to the CEO of a consulting firm. He shared with us, “I started my career once I graduated from the US, I started my career as an SAP consultant, so I have been a consultant myself before I started this company.” He added, “So, I have been there, done that and know how consulting goes. I am hands-on, I look into the day-to-day affairs.” Harsh further said that coming from the ground up has taught him a great deal about consulting.
For our next question, we asked Harsh how SGN Software manages a globally spread out clientele, to which his response was, “That’s our MSP. We are an SME company and flexibility is our backbone.” “We have worked with companies, mostly family-run businesses and we show flexibility in our day-to-day delivery mechanism. My mandate to my team is, ‘Keep the customer happy,’ it’s customer first. We go by the word of reference.” He finished the thought by saying, “Flexibility and adaptability with the customer have been the growth mantra over here.”
Talking about talent in the IT industry, Mr. Khandelwal said, “What I have also realized is that we need to build talent. Talent still has a shortage and the new technology, be it machine learning, advanced data analytics, there are hardly any resources available. And if there is resource available, there are big guys in the market – the leading companies – be it the Accentures, the IBMs who hire them. For a small company like us, we need to build our own resource.”
‘Magic of 80s’: Raj Babbar & Padmini Kolhapure talk about their latest web series Dil Bekaraar
Actors Raj Babbar and Padmini Kolhapure joined NewsX for a candid chat as part of its special series NewsX India A-List. In the exclusive conversation, the duo spoke about their latest web series Dil Bekaraar on Hotstar, which is set in the 80s.
Speaking about what attracted him to the show, Raj Babbar said, “My first priority is my work. I give a lot of time to a lot of things but I thought this is my identity. If I am known as Raj Babbar, it is because of Mumbai and the Hindi Film Industry recognised me as a performer. No matter where I go, people recognise me as an actor and then other adjectives on whatever I am. I realise that I should give priority to the actor side of me, which gave me this recognition and gave me a place in the society. That’s why I feel my first priority is my work.”
He added, “When I heard this story, I remembered a book that I had read sometime in the past. It was a bestseller at that time. It was called, ‘Those Pricey Thakur Girls’ and it stayed in the mind. When I heard this story, I felt very nice, a very interesting subject and I am doing a very beautiful role in it. I found the innocence of 80s, magic of 80s in this. That romance, the comedy, all of this is beautifully captured in this. The USP of the 80s that people used to think is evil is the corruption and the corrupt is the evil. These fiery girls, my 5 daughters, they are brilliant and also very fiery and ambitious. It is this very interesting thing, which attracted me. When I heard the narration and got to know that Padmini ji and Poonam ji are doing this, I said okay. I got this confidence that we will be in majority. Meher and Akshay are beautiful actors. They are very energetic people and it was fun working with them.”
When the same question was posed to Padmini Kolhapure, she responded, “The first attraction was Mr Habib Faisal. I have seen his work and he is a brilliant director. After working with him, I realised truly how meticulous he is. This script and this story demanded a lot of nuances to recreate the 80s era, which he has done brilliantly. He has lived that era and knows a lot about it. We have been there and done that so it wasn’t very difficult for Raj, Poonam or me to do this. More challenging probably for the youngsters because they don’t know what the 80s era was. I am sure that they would have had to work on every little thing. Second thing was the production house, so it was Smriti Shinde and Sobo films and then the OTT platform, which was Disney + Hotstar, so what better could I have asked for. You have Raj Babbar, Poonam Dhillon, Akshay, Seher, Aditya. This entire ensemble cast and to top it all, my role. It being a web series, it runs into a couple of episodes so it was not like I am playing a primary character in it but I am playing a very important role. It is a very colourful role, which I was quite amused while performing. Every time I would finish my role, I would just look back and laugh. I’d say to myself, ‘what am I doing?’. It is really beautiful when you are an actor and performing such challenging roles. You realise what an actor you can be and what can come out. With a good director and co-actors, you can just create magic.”
GFI LAUNCHES INITIATIVE TO STRENGTHEN FARMER PRODUCER ORGANISATIONS
Grameen Foundation India (GFI) on Monday launched a special initiative ‘Catalyst Award’ under its MANDI (Market Enabled Access through Digital Innovation) project to support and develop the farmer producer organisations (FPOs) in Uttar Pradesh.
Speaking at the event, Prabhat Labh, Chief Executive Officer, GFI said, “Smallholder farmers, especially women, play the most critical role in ensuring food security in Uttar Pradesh. Grameen’s endeavour is to recognise the role of women smallholder farmers, and support them through linkage to markets, technology and finance in order to increase their incomes.” The MANDI project aims to strengthen the FPO’s capacity to connect smallholder farmers, especially women, to markets and finance, in order to improve farmers’ incomes and resilience. It predominantly works on four thematic areas such as financial linkage, access to market, FPO capacity building on day-to-day operation and compliance, and gender mainstreaming. It also focuses on leveraging data for decision-making and facilitates need-based modern technologies. The MANDI project is implemented by GFI in partnership with Walmart Foundation.
The Catalyst Award is a financial assistance program being offered to select FPOs to support their long-term institutional strengthening and growth. The financial assistance being extended to the FPOs would help them in serving their members, particularly women and smallholder farmers in a better and organised manner. The awards were given at a one-day workshop organized on Monday, 29 November 2021 on “FPO strengthening through Gender Mainstreaming” at the Shatabdi Krishi Prekshagrih, Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi.
Addressing the participants, Mahendra Singh, Joint Director, Agriculture, Government of Uttar Pradesh said, “FPOs can become business entities serving needs of small and marginal farmers and focusing on women participation. FPOs should focus on market and financial linkages to benefit shareholder farmers.”
The day also saw the launch of another initiative on which GFI is collaborating with ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics). Under the collaboration, it has developed a support fund for the FPCs (Farmer Producer Companies) in response to Covid-19 pandemic mainly to cope better with situation brought on by the pandemic. FPC support fund (FSF) is being given for promotion and expansion of business activities being conducted by registered FPCs promoted under the MANDI project. A total amount of INR 4.5 lakh will be given to the FPCs.
The overall objective is to provide immediate support to FPCs which will help the project beneficiaries cope better with the pandemic while building resilience and bringing things back on track— by providing access to ‘working capital’ to the farmers through the FPCs, so that the farmers can continue with their farming operations uninterruptedly. This will also help FPCs for strengthening business activities, innovative product and services design and delivery which will help the farmer members of FPCs. The program is implemented through GFI’s subsidiary Grameen Foundation for Social Impact (GFSI) with support from ICRISAT and would cover four districts of Ghazipur, Varanasi, Mirzapur and Prayagraj and would benefit about 11,500 farmers.
This event is part of a series of activities being organised by the GFI for generating awareness among the stakeholders of FPOs, and creating an ecosystem to foster women’s empowerment in agriculture. It aims to sensitise stakeholders on increasing women’s participation in decision-making and in the entire FPO value chain.
About 146 attendees representing FPOs, experts from financial technology, markets and convergence participated in the event and subsequent workshop. The companies such as Blue Soils, UPPRO (State Level Federation of FPOs of Uttar Pradesh), EF Polymer also displayed their products and services.
Grameen Foundation India is a leading social impact organisation, working on financial inclusion, agriculture-based livelihoods and health and nutrition initiatives with the mission to enable the poor, especially women to overcome poverty and hunger. Inspired by the work of Nobel Laureate Prof Muhammad Yunus, Grameen provides works in partnership with leading development organisations in India to ideate, innovate and scale breakthrough solutions that reach underserved populations, particularly women.
YOTTA TO BUILD NEXT TWO DATA CENTER BUILDINGS IN GREATER NOIDA
Yotta Infrastructure announced that it will commence construction of two more data centers in their Greater Noida Data Center Park in January 2022. The two buildings will have a capacity of 30MW IT load each and will be ready to go live in January 2024. The construction of the first of six data center buildings started in January 2021 and will go live for customer operations by July 2022, in a record time of less than 18 months. Once completed, it will have a capacity of 30 MW IT Load.
Commenting on the development and his vision to transform Uttar Pradesh as a technology hub, the Honourable Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Shri Yogi Adityanath, said, “Uttar Pradesh today is at the forefront of all-round development. Data Centers are the hub of the digital revolution. They are the temples for digital democracy. The government of Uttar Pradesh has taken path-breaking steps, including a forward-looking Data Center policy helping and incentivising the development of high-quality, large-scale data centers in UP. I congratulate the Hiranandani Group and Yotta for taking this initiative which shall enhance the quality of life for citizens and shall grow the digital economy of the country, promise them all help and wish them success.” The Uttar Pradesh government, in October 2020, gave approvals to the company to set up a 20-acre hyper-scale data center park in Greater Noida. This will be the first data center park in the region, which will consist of 6 interconnected data center buildings offering 30,000 racks capacity powered by more than 250 MW of power. The estimated cost to set up the park is approximately INR 7000 Crore (~USD 950 Mn). The project will also generate direct and indirect employment in Uttar Pradesh as the company expands its team to operate and build the data centers.
Darshan Hiranandani, Group CEO – Hiranandani Group, said, “The Digital India initiative has opened up new avenues for businesses, and India has been on the upward trajectory with respect to digital transformation way before the pandemic hit us. The last couple of years have only reinstated the need to grow digital infrastructure in our country. We are grateful to the Government of Uttar Pradesh and the Honourable Chief Minister Shri Yogi Adityanath Ji for extending their constant cooperation that helped us speed up the construction process. Our Datacenter Park in Greater Noida will go a long way to augment the digital infrastructure not only in Uttar Pradesh but also in the entire north region of the country as Yotta continues to strive to bridge the demand-supply gap in the Indian data center industry.”
Sunil Gupta, Co-founder, and CEO of Yotta Infrastructure said, “Foreseeing increased demand from the region due to digital acceleration, we’ve decided to commence construction of two new data center buildings of 30MW IT load each from January 2022, much ahead of our earlier schedule. The data center park shall be the largest one in the region, powered by redundant 220 KV express feeders and an on-site substation, with an option of 100 percent green energy to customers. With the presence of multiple telco operators, redundant fiber paths and various public and private Internet exchanges and availability of Build To Suit (BTS), Bulk and Retail Colocation and various Cloud and Managed Services, this highly interconnected data center park is attracting customers from across the World and industry verticals.”
Riding on the digital revolution and a huge supply-demand gap in the country for high-quality, scalable data centers and benefitting from its all-around capabilities across the value chain of Datacenter from Build to Operate, Yotta is feverishly developing data center parks across the country. It has also signed MoUs with Tamil Nadu and West Bengal Government to set up data centers in Chennai and Kolkata, respectively. The company recently announced that its first data center in Navi Mumbai – Yotta NM1, is India’s first and the only Tier IV Constructed Facility certified by Uptime Institute (USA).
In sync with Guru Nanak’s ‘oneness’
An exhibition titled ‘Paradigm of Oneness’—a solo show by artist Dr Jaspal Singh Kalra—was held recently in the capital at the Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre wherein the artist attempts to imagine Baba Nanak in the content of his immortal Shabads.
Artist Dr. Jaspal Singh Kalra
Banrae Embroidery & sketch on linen by Dr. Jaspal Singh Kalra
Nanak’s oneness goes beyond just humans. His compositions talk of nature, animals, plants, earth, water, air and to love them all is true oneness with the divine. Imagining self as part of other is the paradigm of Nanak’s oneness that takes us beyond our ego. The series of artworks on display are Kalra’s journey of art as a personal expression. His art is not about deciphering or finding reasons but simplifying the complexities.
This personal expression of setting text in artworks has been part of Dr Kalra’s style for more than a decade. When his mother passed away, it transformed into interpretation.
The word ‘Sab Tera’ is also interpreted as ‘terah’ or thirteen and in keeping with this concept thirteen Shabads have been taken to create this series of artworks. Shabads by Baba Nanak, Kabirdas and Sheikh Farid range from oneness of humans, gender, nature, universe, divinity and value of sharing.
Speaking to The Daily Guardian, Kalra explained the title of the exhibition and said that oneness is about gender, people and moving away from discrimination. “When we started creating these artworks, we had people from different faith who understood his philosophy and tried to associate with it. Here it was about the oneness of thought and connecting it with art,” he said.
He added, “We gave it the name paradigm because it was not just about one single thing. There are smaller aspects. It has so many components to it that makes it a paradigm.”
Everyone knows that Guru Nanak is an important religious figure in Sikhism. But in the case of Kalra, he says it is important and a conscious effort to humanise him in order to understand his teachings. “When we humanise something, we connect to that person much closer. When we make someone a god or a demi-god, there’s an awe that comes in. If you have to love someone’s poetry and follow, the first step would be to be in one with that person,” he said while speaking to The Daily Guardian.
On the issue of the hurdles he faced while creating these works, he said that he did not face much of it and added that he was being guided by a force through the creative process. Kalra further said that every time he was working with a Shabad or a Doha of Kabir on his artwork, he was reliving them. “Every time when I was working on it, I would go deeper into the meaning because we were spending so much time in sketching and conceptualising. Then you really look (at the work and the verse) and get into another time zone,” he added.
“The whole process for us (of creating these works) became an act of respect and worship,” the artist said further. From his artwork, he said, the thing that the viewer must capture is the human values and make your own meanings out of them.
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