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CORONA CALAMITY LIVES ON…

Maharashtra, Delhi and Punjab are in the deadly grip of the second wave of Covid-19. The election rallies in West Bengal and religious gathering in Uttarakhand further worsened the situation.

RENÉE RANCHAN

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I am off to the Himalayas. No, the Second Surge, as Covid-19 is now being described, has not made me decide to hang up my boots, to hole up in a mountain cave, living my remaining years as a hermit — a far cry from doing so. It’s just that I am in dire need of a break or given the current scenario ‘a getaway’ the apt description, having been nailed to Delhi, dear Delhi, for exactly two years and three months today. Taking whistle-stop work trips cannot be counted as time off, so without a backward glance, hoping that the maid will adhere to ‘a watched kettle never boils’ instructions and manage to hold the fort till I return, have my bags all packed with a deliciously inviting picnic basket to lunch solo at whatever hour when the train chugs up to Shimla, my once-upon-a-time home town. 

 On 25 March 2020, the entire nation was in a lockdown, and for months on end, the only shops visibly open were your neighbourhood grocers or chemist outlets equipped with gallons of sanitisers (available in all possible forms!) soaps, masks, gloves…Yes, prepared for battle. Online schooling, tuitions, dance competitions readying us for the `new normal’ as was the, `more than one can stomach’ rallying cry. Now to stay in line one had to be online, all the time. The outcome: bleary, rheumy eyes, and a fogged-out, blurred brain. Very senior citizens too had to learn to pay their electricity bills and whatnot, online — a different story that their slowed down fingers and cloudy eyes could not catch the OTP numbers fast enough, and it would be an exercise in teary-eyed frustration to go back to the drawing board. And expecting 20-something grandchildren to explain or rather show the steps a second time over, an experience likened to jumping off a plane minus a parachute. 

  Last year, saw salaries being slashed into half for the lucky ones, for many it was, without a day’s notice, retrenchment; with many scurrying here and there for cover under the very roof that housed them. And contrary to popular belief, being huddled together at home, 24X7, was for the family, ‘too close for comfort’. Tempers soared, irritability was at an all-time high and the need for space was never more craved for and with no maids or help, the piles of household work read like a list as long as one’s arm, with a day drawing to a close, and arms still up in work. Here the husband believing that he was being motivational by going idiomatic, with statements such as ‘a calm sea does not make a skilled survivor’ with an incensed ‘better-half’ retorting in the same dialect. Surely one has heard of, ‘a wise head keeps a still tongue’. 

  At a snail’s pace shops lifted their shutters, the air catching wafts of coffee with cafés reopening, parks no longer held a deserted look with children in masks taking to the playground, chaperoned by watchfully cautious grandparents fortified with aerosol cans of sanitisers to spritz over swings and slides. Yes, haltingly, bit-by-bit, semi-normalcy was restored. And in congratulatory tones, we complimented ourselves for beating the pandemic, for managing to overcome it. 

  I shall talk of how we keep breathing in our own carbon dioxide, toxifying our lungs, and with all the aerosol cans spurting sanitised spray the ozone layer slooshing away, on another day. For now — with masks in place — about overhearing conversations to the tune of how despite India’s bursting population we had curtailed the pandemic. Quite unlike scantily populated Europe or the U.K. And the less said of Trump’s America, the better! And Brazil, good Gawd. The multitudes of Covid-19 affected people. The endless deaths on account of it. In Mumbai’s Dharavi — the world’s largest slum — the pandemic had been given a lick. Here, the gloating quite audible. Yes, despite being typecast as a nation with negligible regard for law and order, with us Indians being pigeonholed as carrying a collective chaotic DNA that was meant for breaking rules, had silenced the world. We were on the top of the game, we had dealt with this coronavirus ‘Kaihar’ intelligently — religiously done our share of the compulsive washing of hands and donning face masks while sitting in the rain, train or whether in a moat or boat. And with vaccination to do away with this virus being indigenously manufactured, India stood proud. Then with Bill Gates laudatory comments on how we had succeeded in keeping this disease at bay, we glowed like an expectant mother. Amid these head-to-head exchanges, jokes abounded how steel strong our stomachs were, of our fighting-fit immune system. 

  Then came April and we hear of India’s deadly Second Wave. Maharashtra was quite already in the grip of it. Curfews had been imposed. Followed by a Lockdown of sorts. Then Delhi becomes the world’s Covid-19 capital with Punjab following suit. The second strain had come in from the U.K., and with so many Punjabis living there, and making regular trips back home to their  pind/villages this particular type was bound to be imported…And what with the election roadshows held in West Bengal, with overrunning hordes of mask-free people elbowing each other for foot-space, inhaling the breath belonging to multitudes. The political kingpins, post these gigantesque mass assemblies, such grand exposure to the public, their ‘janata’ return to the Power Centre, and Delhi becomes the Covid-19 megapolis. That said, the showbiz spectacle particularly in Bengal takes the credit for advancing the ill effect of this untamable fiend. 

  With the outbreak of this ‘plague’, this ‘scourge’, 13 months back, places of worship remained, with conscientious zeal, out of bounds. Shut, padlocked till it was safe to pray as a community. Then how is it, that this time around, on 14 April 2021, over 10 lakh devotees took ritualistic baths in the Ganga — wading in all closeness? Last heard, 30 pandits overseeing the rituals had come down with Covid-19. The count of worshippers contracting or succumbing to this ailment is not a five-finger exercise, and so news channels are simply going by the guesswork. The number of pilgrims not enrolled, you see.

  I put this pen down with a heavy heart, and in a bewildered state, question, had we become so smug, so cocksure of having gained an upper hand over this harrowing disease that we thought it is quite fine to roam the roads in swarms, take en masse holy water dips? Had our war-footing vaccination drive inoculated us from better sense? Or was caution thrown to the winds, to mix politics with religion to rake in the votes, to win elections at all costs?

Dr Renée Ranchan writes on socio-psychological issues, quasi-political matters and concerns that touch us all.

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ART EXHIBITION UNRAVELS DICHOTOMY, MULTIPLICITY OF URBAN LANDSCAPE

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On a busy Saturday evening at the Triveni Kala Sangam in New Delhi, amidst the intellectual conversations, the setting sun and the aroma of filter coffee in the air, stood a shiny white exhibition room, with huge pieces of monochromatic art hung at the walls and people silently observing them, then murmuring something and then looking again.

A new art exhibition titled ‘Layered Dichotomy’ by Delhi-based artist Shruti Binay is being presented in this room at the Triveni Gallery, Mandi House, from November 21 to 30. Shruti, a young, budding artist, through this exhibition of paintings, drawings and mixed media works, attempts to “embrace life’s multiplicity”.

Talking about what inspired this collection, Shruti told ANI, “I am fascinated with the things around me. I stay in Gurgaon, so, for me, buildings, metro bridges, structures, architecture have always fascinated me. I have simplified those structures into lines and forms. I find the urban landscape interesting because I think I see life in it. You see the fabric in some of these paintings, that gives a different kind of life to the piece. In all my paintings you will see something moving, the sense of life is there in most of them.”

She added, “I have tried to include human forms as well because that is the best way to express myself, by connecting with my own self. Most of the paintings have been liked by people and I see the ones with human forms are being liked the most, as people most easily can connect to them.”

In the exhibition the theme of the collection revolves around dichotomy, and it could be seen and reflected in varied ways from one piece to another.

“I like to play with the medium, so in my paintings, you would see different layers created, with different kinds of textures such as paper, fabric, I’ve used tea bags and paper pulp, old paper. There’s a plane surface, and then there is a textured surface as well. Somewhere there is strength and somewhere it’s all worn out. Mostly they are monochromatic, with a wash-off look…but then some colours like blues, greens, reds stand out in other places. That’s the dichotomy I’ve tried to present,” she explained.

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URANUS COLLECTS OVER 2.5 TONS OF USED COOKING OIL TO TURN IT INTO BIODIESEL

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Providing a commercially viable solution to the food industry to dispose of its used cooking oils (UCO), Uranus Oil Corp, a Chennai-based startup in renewable energy and waste management solutions, collects UCO for a price and supplies them to manufacture biodiesel, a cleaner and greener form of diesel.

Uranus has recently set a record by collecting over 2.5 tonnes of UCO in a month from restaurants, hostels, canteens and other similar sources in and around Chennai. UCO poses a threat to human health, when consumed, and to the environment, when dumped untreated. Hence, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India and Biodiesel Association of India, have recently launched the Repurpose UCO (RUCO) program, to prevent UCO from getting into the food supply chain or the environment, and to use it for producing biofuel.

Uranus is an authorised UCO aggregator, enrolled in the RUCO program. The company distributes ‘RUCO cans’ to hotels, hostels, canteens, and other such outlets to collect the UCO, and supplies the collected oil to Pan Oleo Energy Limited (formerly, DCI Limited), a large-scale biodiesel manufacturer and renewable energy company in Tamil Nadu, which converts UCO into biodiesel, a cleaner and greener form of diesel.

Uranus is scaling up its operations rapidly in order to collect about 15 tonnes of UCO per day by the end of 2022.

In his comments, Mr. Vasanth JB, Co-founder of Uranus Oil Corp, said, “Edible oils are the primary source of unsaturated fats and vitamin E in human diets. They are used in frying, baking, and other types of cooking and food preparations in restaurants, fast foods and households. However, when cooking oils are reheated again and again, they release toxic substances. These oils also increase free radicals in the body which in turn cause inflammation and various chronic diseases. If there is no alternative to collect UCO, they could find their way to smaller restaurants, dhabas, and street vendors or be discarded in an environmentally hazardous manner. Our model offers a commercially appealing and effective solution in this space.”

UCO is a key ingredient in making biofuel, specifically biodiesel which can be used as an alternative to conventional petrodiesel.

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Tiktok rival Lomotif launches in India

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With Tiktok’s ban in India, the country continues to witness a rise in content creators, who continue to experiment with short video formats, and apps that become a voice for them to showcase their talent, we have yet another popular US-based app: ‘Lomotif’ joins the bandwagon.

Featuring the currently popular short video format, the app has entered the Indian market at just about the right time with the space constantly evolving. Founded by Singapore-based Paul Yang in 2014, and acquired by ZASH Global Media and Entertainment, the app gives access to a global audience, and its patent technology allows users to immerse themselves in a super-engaging reel format of content. At the same time, with a comprehensive platform such as ‘Lomotif’, competitors should be alert because they are here to stand out.

Since TikTok was banned, the country has seen several local apps emerge and try to stir creators into telling their stories. LOMOTIF, firstly, does not just want the users to create their stories, but do so uniquely and in a way that will make their audience ‘move’ by just being themselves.

Secondly, they want the creators to create and foster global partnerships and that itself makes them a winner. So, with pre-build editing and mixing available and constant endeavors by the app creators to localize content for the Indian audience, we sure have a winner materialising.

‘We were very excited with the initial response to the beta testing of our app in India, which led to launching the app in India with the support from Socialkyte, our strategic partner. The content creation market is ever-growing and LOMOTIF will emerge as a platform where we can see a spirit of collaboration, build a community of creators who want to showcase their realness via their content and a source of entertainment for the viewers. I thoroughly enjoyed the launch and the response was overwhelming.’ says Ted Farnsworth, Chairman & Co-Founder of ZASH Global Media and Entertainment.

Gurjot Batra, Co-founder of Socialkyte says “We always believed Lomotif would be a huge success in India and to see our initial response from the Indian market even exceeded our expectations.”

Vidur Mahajan & Bharat Agarwal, co-founders of Socialkyte added, “We believe collaborations are the new economy and are very excited to bring the Lomotif platform to our creators. The app’s advanced editing tools will truly help them explore their talents”

Interestingly, with a soft launch, they have already kickstarted and initiated a dance-off challenge with none other than the Dance King himself i.e. Remo D’souza. They also had several exciting challenges executed like a #DanceRemix with Shakti Mohan spearheading the same. Several artists have already started using the app to launch their music videos.

On a side note, Socialkyte will enable access to their network of 100,000 influencers collaborating and growing together. They have a specialised dashboard with advanced filters that enables brands to find the right creators for their campaigns. With these common goals and interests, this partnership is bound to be a successful one. Taking all of this into consideration, it’s evident that their vision is simple: to get creators to create diversified and unique content to grow exponentially.

The launch this weekend was spearheaded with Ted Farnsworth, highlighting the app features alongwith popular actors like Asim Riaz, Ravi Kishen, Sanjeeda Sheikh, Adaa Khan, Vikkas Manaktala, YouTuber Anushka Sen and singer Tulsi Kumar. The launch also saw singers Shirley Sethia and Guru Randhawa rocking the stage with their performances.

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OUR USP IS TIMELESSNESS: ROHINI SINGH GUPTA, CO-FOUNDER, JUST CHIFFONS

In an exclusive interview with NewsX as part of NewsX India A-List, Rohini Singh Gupta opened up about her brand Just Chiffons, the USP of her company and much more.

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Rohini Singh Gupta, Co-founder, Just Chiffons, recently joined NewsX for an interview as a part of NewsX India A-list. In the exclusive interview, she opened up about her brand Just Chiffons, the USP of her company and much more. Excerpts:

Speaking about her brand Just Chiffons, Rohini said, “Just Chiffons was started by my mother. She wanted to look for nice chiffons for herself in Indore. She could not find it in the market and so she thought she might as well design herself and started making a few. The relatives started coming in and said, ‘it looks so nice, give it to us,’ and that is how we traditionally started. Slowly and steadily, it has become a name in Indore and in India as well. “

Talking about her journey with the brand and how did she come on board, she reminisced, “I would accompany her in her errands the market and sit with her, the workers and just listen and observe. I also studied BSc so it was very different but I always have an interest in being with my mother all the time, when back home in Indore. I had that interest and slowly when I moved back to Indore after my studies, I started taking an even deeper interest. It came naturally sitting with her and talking about sarees and the colours, the designs. It came very naturally.”

When asked about the USP of Just Chiffons, “Basically, I feel our USP is timelessness. The chiffons are so versatile, yet classic. They can be worn over the period of time. It can be passed through generations. They are very elegant.”

Giving us an insight into the first exhibition of Just Chiffons and response over the years, she said “Over the years, initially people said, ‘oh this is back in fashion.’ We have actually revived it again and now they feel okay, it looks really nice. Another point is our price point. They are not that expensive and cost about 8 to 25 thousand, which is very much viable with everybody. The response has been really good. Since we have also launched our website last year and because of our Instagram and social media, it just come up. Slowly and steadily, we are gaining followers and are getting a lot of queries.”

Talking about the impact of Covid on Just Chiffons, she said, “Covid was obviously a shock for us. The first month, everything was cancelled. We didn’t know what to do but we have to look for the benefit of our artisans and our workers.”

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HUNAR HAAT CREATED NEWER OPPORTUNITIES FOR ARTISANS AND CRAFTSMEN: MUKHTAR NAQVI

With 300 stalls, this is the largest participation by the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs in the India International Trade Fair this year.

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Union Minister for Minority Affairs and Deputy Leader, Rajya Sabha, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, while speaking at the conclusion of the annual Hunar Haat event, said that the event had generated crores of rupees for artisans and craftsmen who were engaged in making indigenous products.

Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi at the event

Over 550 artisans and craftsmen from more than 30 States & UTs participated in the 33rd Hunar Haat

Crowd around the stalls of artisans and craftsmen at the event

Over 550 artisans and craftsmen from more than 30 States/UTs participated in the 33rd “Hunar Haat”, organised at India International Trade Fair at Pragati Maidan from 14 to 27 November.

While talking to reporters on the conclusion of Hunar Haat, Naqvi said that while people purchased indigenous exquisite handmade products worth crores of rupees, the artisans and craftsmen have also received orders worth crores of rupees from national as well as international buyers.

“Hunar Haat” was also awarded the prestigious IITF2021 Silver Medal for strengthening its commitment to “Vocal for Local” and its strong presence at Trade Fair.

According to Naqvi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “mantra” of “Vocal for Local” and “Swadeshi to Swavlamban” have encouraged and promoted India’s traditional and ancestral legacy of handloom-handicraft.

With 300 stalls, this was the largest participation by the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs in the India International Trade Fair this year. Canara Bank had set up a stall in the “Hunar Haat” to provide easy loans to artisans and craftsmen for employment and self-employment.

Renowned artists such as Annu Kapoor, Vinod Rathore, Sudesh Bhosale, Roop Kumar Rathore and Sonali Rathore, Suresh Wadekar and Padma Wadekar, Amit Kumar, Mohit Khanna, Prem Bhatia, Osman Mir, Rekha Raaj, Vivek Mishra, Ankita Pathak, Priya Mallick, Bhupendra Singh Bhuppi, Mirza Sisters, Posh James and others made memorable spectacular performances every evening at “Hunar Haat”.

The minister said that Hunar Haat’s virtual and online platform, and GeM portal, have opened enormous opportunities for economic empowerment of artisans and craftsmen. More than 7 lakh artisans, craftsmen and people associated with them have been provided employment and employment opportunities through “Hunar Haat” in the last about 6 years.

The next “Hunar Haat” will be organised at Surat from11 to 20 December; JLN Stadium, New Delhi from 22 December 2021 to 2 January 2022. “Hunar Haats” will also be organised in Mysuru, Guwahati, Pune, Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Patna, Puducherry, Mumbai, Jammu, Chennai, Chandigarh, Agra, Prayagraj, Goa, Jaipur, Bengaluru, Kota, Sikkim, Srinagar, Leh, Shillong, Ranchi, Agartala and other places in the coming days.

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Vyapar app simplifies financial management for MSMEs

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Financial management is the key to business success. There’s no refuting this fact, but despite that, many business owners are simply not careful enough.

India has approximately 6.3 Crore MSMEs which contributes about 29 percent towards the GDP through its national and international trade. 70 percent of businesses in India are Micro, Small, and Medium-sized (MSMEs), and many business owners cannot cope with their business growth. Financial asset management is one of the contributing factors. In addition to that, many of them also struggle to keep up with digital systems that are supposed to ease the process but don’t actually do so. When they cannot afford better systems, hire qualified accountants and practice better financial management, they tend to lose control of their business.

To solve this issue, Vyapar App was launched in the year 2016 with the aim of making it easier for MSME business owners to run their businesses. Accounting can take a significant amount of their time, but they have comprehensive and accurate financial reports at the tips of their fingers with the app. Vyapar App is a business accounting application that helps the user store and access all their financial data in one place. In addition to offering an accounting solution, they also provide inventory tracking, customer and vendor management, invoice generation, barcode management, online cataloging, and even order tracking features.

Using Vyapar software you can send free transaction messages, payment reminders, generate E-way bills, delivery challan, generate financial reports and much more.

By providing so many features onto one software, they’ve enabled the growth of many MSME businesses in the country. Until now, many business owners would suffer because they had to use different applications for different purposes, which would lead to increased costs and efforts. But by using this easiest one-stop solution, they can manage their finances and get creative with it.

The software offers them the option to customise their dashboard and other feature of software as per their individual requirement. MSMEs have been able to present themselves professionally and see increased business as well.

One of the key points that many of their users talk about is that when the GST filing process was introduced, it was tough to manage it since you’d need an accountant with sound financial knowledge. But now, they can retrieve GST report directly from software in government prescribed format in excel. Later they can convert the excel file to JSON format using an offline utility tool available on GST portal. User can now upload the JSON file by logging in to GST portal.

This shows how the team at Vyapar Apps has taken the concerns of their users into account and adapted the software over time.

Overall, no other service in the market simplifies business and financial management for MSME business owners the way Vyapar App does. It’s available for download on the Play Store and can be done in two languages — English and Hindi. This will be a top-notch option if you’re looking to simplify financial management and grow your business.

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