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Counting underway for Punjab local body elections amid tight security

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Batala (Punjab) [India], February 17 (ANI): Counting for the Punjab local body elections is underway. Polling for 117 local bodies including eight municipal corporations, 109 municipal councils, and Nagar panchayats was held on February 14.
Punjab police had ensured tight security and no one else except the counting staff is allowed to enter the counting centers.

The Punjab government had earlier said that the voter turnout in the state had recorded a new high of 71.39 per cent.
“Voting turnout recorded a new high in general/by-elections of 8 Municipal Corporations and 109 Municipal Councils and Nagar Panchayats of Punjab with 71.39 per cent of votes have been polled,” said the state government in a tweet.
“The fate of 9222 candidates enlists in EVMs,” they added. (ANI)

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Startup is all about scaling up: Supreme Incubator co-founder

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New Delhi: Disha Singla, co-founder of Supreme Incubator, recently joined NewsX for an insightful conversation as part of its special series NewsX India A-list. In the exclusive interview, Disha spoke about the inception of Supreme Incubator, the functioning of a startup incubator, future of startups in India and how her organisation is paving the way for young entrepreneurs to lead a change.

Speaking about the inception of Supreme Incubators, Disha said, “A couple of years ago, I went to a business school in the USA to pursue my degree with a major in entrepreneurship. I spent a lot of time around startups there. In fact, my own startup was incubated by my university. I got connected with mentors and potential investors over there while working with other startups who were at the same initial stages. All of this inspired me to further pursue my passion. When I came back to India, I hosted some events here and received a great response. We started receiving applications from all over the country and connected those startups to potential investors and mentors and received a phenomenal feedback from them. It has been two years now since the inception of Supreme Incubator and it’s going great. We are focussing on Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities, we uplift the startups by connecting them with potential investors, experts, and specific mentors so that they can grow in a short period.”

Giving an insight into the functioning of an incubator, she said, “An incubator takes action towards creating an adept ecosystem by connecting them with experts and advisors. These mentors are expert in their domains and have led their own successful ventures. They are leading large corporations so they know how to run large organisations. We have mentors from different fields, some mentors are experts in business and technology while many of them are experts in artificial intelligence.”

Further emphasising how her organisation is different from others, Disha expressed, “We focus more on a personalised approach. Every startup which is accepted in our cohort gets personalised assistance and guidance as per their industry type. We provide industry-specific mentors to them so that they receive mentorship and guidance throughout their tenure which will help them to move in the right direction in the least possible time.”

When asked about her views on the start-up ecosystem in India and how it has changed and evolved over the years, she replied, “The startup ecosystem has definitely developed at a very fast pace over the last 10 years, especially over the past five years. When I was in high school, I used to keep up a lot with news-related to business. Earlier, when we used to hear the word ‘startup’, we had to understand what it is but now everyone seems to say that they want to get into the startup ecosystem. Startup is all about scaling up. There are a lot of challenges and the success ratio of startups are very low. Yet everyone is excited about this term ‘startup’. We have also seen a lot of companies coming in India with so many success stories. Everyone gets motivated to pursue the field that they are passionate about.”

On a concluding note, Disha shared her vision of the company and expressed that they are looking forward to work with startups that offer different niches and are determined towards uplifting and volunteering for a social cause. “At this point in time, as an incubator, we accept startup applications from different industries. In the coming years, we want to get into different niche segments and connect to those startups which are focussed on non-profit ventures and doing some social cause,” she stated.

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Changing image from poor man’s timber to wise man’s timber

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New Delhi: Yogesh Shinde, the founder of Bamboo India, recently joined NewsX for an exclusive chat as part of its special series NewsX India A-List. In an exclusive interview, Shinde talked at length about the necessity to reduce plastic which could be possible only by the advent of bamboo. 

Bamboo India has been manufacturing locally grown bamboo which can be the most effective solution to reduce the usage of plastic. “To contribute something to India’s economy brought me back. In any time in the future, when the history will be written, I will be known as a contributor, not as a spectator,” exclaimed Shinde, who has been a part of the corporate culture but decided to walk on the path of social entrepreneurship owing to his growing concern over increasing pollution in India. 

Tracing the journey of the inception of Bamboo India, he said, “The inception of Bamboo India occurred with the vision of ‘Brush, Collosion, Awake’. The motto behind the establishment of the company has been reduction of plastic with bamboo. India is the second largest bamboo growing country but is not contributing to the bamboo world market. We are not even in the top 10 list to import the products. On top of that, we are the world largest bamboo importer. That made me very scared and I thought that we must do something about it. Our target is simple, we want to reduce plastic waste from our mother earth.” 

Interestingly, Bamboo India is also known to make innovative products, one of them being the bamboo toothbrush. Emphasising on the need to reduce plastic and shift from plastic toothbrushes to bamboo ones, Shinde stated, “Plastic toothbrushes are one of the leading pollution contents in the world. As every one of us have been talking about the increasing global warming, I, as an individual, thought of manufacturing bamboo toothbrushes in India. We are one of the first companies to have started manufacturing bamboo toothbrushes with locally grown bamboo.” He believes that the usage of sustainable products will be a long-term affair. Applauding those individuals for their effort in promoting the principles of sustainability on social media and playing an important role in the reduction of plastic, Shinde calls them ‘the real superheroes’. 

Commenting on the journey of Bamboo India so far, he said, “To convert bamboo’s perception of poor man’s timber to wise man’s timber is what our journey is all about.”

When asked about the challenges of running a social entrepreneurship enterprise, Shinde said, “The first challenge is fundraising. As bamboo is not a traditional business in India, we faced difficulties in terms of financing. None of the companies offered us a loan as they did not understand the potential of bamboo and that is not the end of the world for us. We get funds from friends and family.”

Sharing his vision of the company, he said, “In the next five years, all our products will be available at local medical stores. Till the last four years, we have been a small startup. We have reduced 14 kg of plastic with our own initiative. Once the media starts showing interest in the venture, it will be a wildfire and more plastic would be reduced. Bamboo toothbrushes would be available in the supermarkets across India by end of this year and maybe the next year this product will be available all across the globe.”

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HOW INDIA CAN BECOME A GLOBAL HUB FOR MANUFACTURING & RESILIENT SUPPLY CHAINS

For India to capture the global market, it must focus on boosting technologies and digitalisation, supporting labour, strengthening infrastructure and utilities, environmental laws, taxation and business reforms.

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India has a golden shot to embark on global supply chains. Covid-19 has caused huge disruption across demand and supply. Corporations are relocating their geographic base from susceptible market origins to more credible and economical kernels. Precisely, companies are trying to diversify their production base from China to other stable countries. With strong macroeconomic fundamentals, demographic dividend, highly-skilled English-speaking workforce, ease of doing business, cheap labor costs, enormous resource accesses, and an expanding market of 1.3 billion people, India has an exclusive chance to be the favorable investment destination across the globe.

Southeast Asian countries including Vietnam, Indonesia are attracting many American and Japanese countries for diversification. Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) as a trilateral approach by Japan to trade with India and Australia (with ASEAN probable to join) is an initiative to diversify the supply chains. With South Asia steadied for a growth liftoff, economic integration of South Asian countries becomes crucial. Substantially India is being seen as the hub for emerging supply chains.

To ameliorate US-China trade war fallouts, Apple Inc with a budgetary outlay of Rs 200 billion is set to shift its iPad manufacturing assembly to India. Elon Musk-led Tesla registered its subsidiary Tesla India Motors and Energy Private Ltd. Tesla also plans to set up an electric vehicle manufacturing division in Karnataka. On the heels of this statement, Starlink under SpaceX—the super-fast Internet venture—opened its pre-booking in India for $99. Amazon declared its Fire TV stick device manufacturing – its first production line in India via a subsidiary of its manufacturing partner Foxconn Technology Group. Swedish retailer IKEA having bought a 48,000-square-metre plot in Noida also proposed to launch its first shopping centre in India—being among the world’s largest sites.

Aatmanirbhar Bharat outlining economy, infrastructure, system, demography, and demand is an endeavor to become self-sufficient. Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme attempts to accelerate domestic production and invite foreign direct investments. India’s Look East policy encourages economic and strategic relations with Southeast Asian countries to strengthen its importance as a regional power. The Indo-Pacific region is home to the fastest and growing economies and military powers in the world.

While India rises to be a desirable preference for investors, the questions that need to be addressed are: “How competitive are India’s policies to attain a resilient supply chain?” “Are they enough to obtain a prime stance in the global economy?” It appears that Indian value chains are bedeviled with inefficiencies sinking it below international standards.

Logistics costs incurred in the Indian supply chain networks account for 14 percent of the GDP compared to the global average of 8 percent. This brings a competitive gap of $180 billion for India, likely to rise to $500 billion by 2030. India ranked 44 in the World Bank Logistics Performance Index lagging behind the US and China. India has a poor-quality infrastructure. Despite having the second-largest road network globally, national highways contribute less than 2.7 percent to the total network. Having one of the largest rail networks, the speed of the freight train is 24-25 kmph compared to 38-40 kmph in the US and China. The unbalanced logistics model mix of India further proliferates transportation costs. Despite broken transportation infrastructure facilities, India is heavily dependent on its road networks. It’s rail and sea-networks remain underutilised. These high costs act as a barrier to entry for greenfield manufacturing.

India still lags in technology adoption in its value chain processes. This heightens inventory costs due to mismanagement amounting to $120 billion to $180 billion of total logistic expenses. India lacks warehouse shortages. As of 2019, India had a cold storehouse facility of 226.7 lakh tons (lt), against the needed capacity of 350 lt. According to the Indian Council of Food and Agriculture, 30 percent of agricultural produce gets destroyed. India also suffers because of fragmented logistics and an uneven channel mix of domestic retail and FMCG sales.

India needs to make bold changes in its supply chain system to be the prime player. Integrating technology with physical networks is a prerequisite. Embracing geo-tagging, auto-capture, and big data will enable cooperation, forecasting, and traceability across chains. The omnichannel retail operation must be considered to streamline businesses. Building rationale infrastructure remains the crux of development. Logistics models must be benchmarked. Flexible networks will require optimising highways, delivery systems to lessen product loss. Shifting from an experience-based system to an analytical-based risk management system is imperative.

Government involvement is necessary to change the manufacturing landscape. India must welcome foreign investments—investors that bring capital, technology, and market with greenfield projects and private equity to finance the growing Indian start-up culture. Building on existing initiatives, India needs to boost exports to integrate with global supply chains. Indian states have high reservation percentages which clog growth. India must eliminate such structural bottlenecks to intensify its fraction in world trade. India should speed up its Free Trade Agreement (FTAs) authorisations with the UK and the EU. Promoting the ASEAN-India FTA may add the required fuel to trade flow. India should also focus on sensitive lists, non-tariff measures, and customs cooperation. Besides, re-skilling and upskilling measures are significant. Erecting a strong foundation of research and development (R&D) and entrepreneurship base is vital from a global standpoint. Key sectors of interventions must be tourism and hospitality, auto industry, retail & e-commerce, and food processing.

The pandemic is being viewed as a historic opportunity to evolve out better. Indian supply chains need to be smarter, prompt, agile and technically viable. As the realm steps towards the new normal world, it has generated an opportunity to re-invest uniquely—an investment aligned towards more sustainable companies. For India to capture the global market, it must focus upon boosting technologies and digitalisation, supporting labour, strengthening infrastructure and utilities, environmental laws, taxation and business reforms, investment and trade promotion. To catapult to economic prosperity, India not only needs to think bigger but also act better now.

Rajesh Mehta is a leading international consultant & columnist working on Market Entry, Innovation & Public Policy. Diksha Mittal is a public policy researcher working closely with Rajesh Mehta. Views expressed are personal.

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Top women achievers participate in SheWings Campaign

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MUMBAI: International Women’s Day is a day for acknowledging women rights from all around the world. Women rights play a crucial role to maintain the equilibrium in the society but what if the women with the rights are suffering from inside and living a life of suffocation every second due to poor menstrual health and hygiene. The initiative has collected 30 thousand pairs of undergarments so far. #DonateOldBraPanty is trending among young females as they are donating old dry cleaned UG’s and urging via posting it on social media.

While reaching out to 2 million women across India, SheWings found that so many of these women can’t even afford to buy undergarments. Members of SheWings realized that the major barrier faced by these girls and women in accessing menstrual hygiene products, is not just that they can’t afford pads but also that they don’t have undergarments. “Low-cost Menstrual Hygiene Items including undergarments should be exempted from the tax slab because this is not a luxury for these underprivileged women” – Madan Mohit Bhardwaj, Founder SheWings.

SheWings has organised a giant awareness conclave on this International Women’s Day, which is facilitated by Dr. Kiran Bedi (IPS Retd. and Former LG Puducherry), Mr. PK Gupta (IRS, DG and CEO Credai), Ms. Mamta Sharma (Ex-Chairperson NCW), Mrs. Rajul Ben Desai (Member NCW), Mr. Abhishek Singh (IAS & Actor), Mrs. Anca Verma (Former Miss Romania & Chairperson Olialia), Mr. RK Dubey (ED, IOCL.)

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WOMEN-LED DEVELOPMENT TAKING PLACE UNDER PM MODI’S LEADERSHIP, SAYS SMRITI IRANI

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NEW DELHI: Union Textiles and Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani on Monday said that under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the narrative has shifted from women’s development to women-led development.

She also stated that now women not only lead change for themselves but also for other women, adding that for the first time Gender Inclusion Fund was introduced into the National Education policy. “Under PM’s leadership, the narrative has shifted from women’s development to women-led development. We now lead change not just for us but also for other women. Because of this, for the 1st time in National Education policy’s history, we have Gender Inclusion Fund”, said the Union Minister while addressing a gathering of women MPs and journalists on the occasion of International Women’s Day.

She further said, “There are still skies to touch. Our flag and Constitution are one despite being from different political ideologies.”

“Women who have gathered here today are often celebrated societally for our strength and achievements. Not many look at the chip on our shoulders, a chip on which we falter at times publically and on social media. Where the impact is strong as we get ‘trolled’ but also we get opportunities in the August House where irrespective of our ideologies, we speak on issues that bring transformation”, added Irani.

Addressing the same event, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman on Monday said nuanced discrimination, even in language, is often accepted and not objected to, due to its subtlety. She added that language needs to be gender-sensitive and wrong language shouldn’t be encouraged.

“Language of communication has to be gender-sensitive. We stand up each time for use of the right language. We come across language both formal and informal that doesn’t recognise an implicit gender bias. We need to say language needs to be gender-sensitive. We shouldn’t encourage such language,” said Sitharaman while addressing a gathering of women MPs and journalists.

Giving an example she quoted a popular Hindi expression the Union Finance Minister said, “Arey main choodi pehen ke baitha hoon kya?” (Am I just sitting here wearing bangles like a woman?) That means you don’t have courage. Each one of us has to say that we don’t accept such language and expressions.”

Another problem she spoke about was facing different terms of engagement for both genders. “We are MPs, but we are often treated as women first, and MPs later. We have to make a conscious attempt to change these things. We need to do more,” she said.

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7 dead in fire in Kolkata, CM announces Rs 10 lakh ex gratia

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Kolkata (West Bengal) [India], March 9 (ANI): Seven people, including four fire department personnel were killed in the fire that broke out in an office building on Kolkata’s Strand Road on Monday, West Bengal minister Sujit Bose said.
The West Bengal Fire and Emergency Services Minister said two persons are still missing in the blaze at the building housing the office of the Eastern Railway.
“Among the seven who died in today’s fire are four firefighters, an assistant police sub-inspector, and two Railway Protection Force officials,” Bose said.
“The situation is under control now, cooling operation will be undertaken,” the minister added.
Meanwhile, the state government has announced and ex gratia of Rs 10 lakh each for the kin of the deceased.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who visited the spot said, “It’s very sad. Ex gratia of Rs 10 lakh each will be given to the kin of the deceased and government job will be given to one family member.”
The fire broke out on the 13th floor of the multi-story building on Strand Road on Monday evening according to a fire official.
Eight fire tenders had rushed to the spot to douse the blaze. (ANI)

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