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DIVERSIFICATION IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS IN BUSINESS: RAO

Animesh Singh Rao, the co-founder of RR Group, which began with the packaging business model and soon diversified to other verticals, including hospitality and lifestyle, speaks to The Daily Guardian about the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on Indian economy.

Noor Anand Chawla

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Animesh Singh Rao and Hitesh Rao co-founded the RR Group, which began with the packaging business model and soon diversified to other verticals, including hospitality and lifestyle. While Hitesh is known for driving the company’s growth, Animesh is the calculated risk taker with deep investment knowledge, and has led the diversification into multiple industries. Animesh speaks to The Daily Guardian about the effects of the pandemic on multi-faceted Indian businesses like RR Consulting.

Q. Please tell us about the journey of RR Consulting from its inception.

A. Started by a group of pioneers, visionaries, designers, artists, engineers, and business managers in the year 2004, with the aim of giving their clients new and innovative packaging ideas, RR Consulting is the one-stop-shop for all packaging needs related to any kind of business or service.

Since its inception, RR Consulting has been fortunate to entertain some of the finest clients, who enthusiastically supported the company’s growth at an energetic pace. The underlying foundation of our group had always been to grow and over time, RR Consulting expanded to include different industries under its main umbrella, such as hospitality, pharmaceuticals, fashion, education, IT, personal care, liquor and more. Our clients include The Taj Group of Hotels, Foodhall, Vistara, Maruti Suzuki, Haldiram’s and SBI, among a host of others.

Expansion and growth also led to numerous difficulties, which I firmly believe have only helped us grow and mature into a position of providing unique solutions to aid our customers, whilst complying with tight deadlines. One thing that has kept the company going strong has been the confidence that our customers have shown in us.

Q. When and how did RR group diversify to hospitality, beauty and other verticals?

A. Diversification was always on the cards — it was just about deciding the right time and having the right amount of cash flow. In 2018, the company started its journey of expansion, with a range of salons that have been doing well, and we intend to expand in this space soon.

As far as hospitality is concerned, it comes from a very special place in our hearts — operating quirky and eccentric restaurants and hotels has always been a dream, and The House of Celeste was our first step in achieving this dream. In times to come, I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about us in this domain. We have it all mapped out and we are just raring to go!

Q. Is diversification of business models the secret to long-term and sustained success?

A. Yes, I believe so! If it weren’t for diversification, the pandemic would have been even more difficult for us than it already was. In our opinion, diversity is a necessity to avoid redundancy. Heterogeneity, more often than not, stimulates, inspires and drives one to survive. Further, diverse businesses help each other grow by increasing one’s reach and clientele. It helps us cross-promote amongst our products and companies.

Q. How has the pandemic affected your businesses?

AOur strategy amidst the pandemic was one of survival; however, we witnessed an unexpected growth from the packaging industry because of promptly shifting our efforts to focus on clients who were providing essential items during the lockdown. The trick was to look at the market from a consumer’s perspective and drive the focus of the business in that direction. The packaging industry in India has been growing rapidly since 2016, with an approximate CAGR of over 15% during this period. It is expected to reach $84 Billion by 2022, which is still dwarfed in comparison to most Western countries.

Although Covid has derailed prospective economic growth, some industries have been only nominally affected during this period, such as the pharma industry, as well as some FMCG sectors. In my view, the pandemic will lead to an opportunistic impact in the longer run, as the demand for packaged products is only going to grow from this point onward, given that 95% household items sold in India are unpackaged.

As far as other industries are concerned, 2020 has been a trying time and it would be very difficult for us to comment on what our future will look like. Our hospitality business had great expectations from 2020, with plans to expand by opening 2 more restaurants as well as a hotel; however, these plans were disrupted. Until the markets stabilise, we are going to be steering clear of this.

Q. For a multi-faceted business like yours, has it been easier to get back on your feet by restructuring or re-focusing on certain verticals over others?

A. It has been an arduous and demanding effort to scrap all plans for 2020 and develop new ones to suit the situation. We were lucky to have realised early on, the scale of what was happening and were able to move quickly and do something about it. Now we are RR 2.0 — restructured, fearless and ready to take on anything.

Q. Where is the future of the packaging industry headed, now that everything is digital?

A.The demand for packaging has grown faster than India’s economy. While the trend is not going to change, the pattern of buying will observe drastic changes over the next few years. Today most smaller companies source materials from local vendors at a premium, due to lack of proper knowledge or purchase power. With Jio reorganising the Internet landscape by ensuring India has the second highest number of Internet users, I hope to see everyone educated so they may not be trifled with, the way they are today. At RR Consulting, we are working to create a marketplace model to acquire the maximum number of SKUs under our belt, in order to increase the traction necessary to operate a digital business.

The interviewer is a lifestyle columnist and blogger at www.nooranandchawla.com. She can be found on Instagram @nooranandchawla.

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Former Assam CM Tarun Gogoi shows some improvement but still critical

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The health of former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has slightly improved after deteriorating on Saturday, the Superintendent of Gauhati Medical College and Hospital, where he is admitted, said on Sunday. His condition, however, is still critical.

“Last evening former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s health deteriorated so we intubated him, he was critical yesterday. His AGB (arterial blood gas) test and parameters are slightly better today,” hospital Superintendent Dr Abhijit Sarma told ANI here.

Gogoi’s heath had deteriorated on Saturday. He was “critical” and on ventilator support following post-Covid complications. There were also reports that Gogoi is suffering from multi-organ failure.’

The 86-year-old Congress leader had become “completely unconscious” on Saturday afternoon after difficulty in breathing, Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said. He also suffered multiple organ failure, the minister confirmed.

Since Saturday, Gogoi has been on mechanical life support at the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital, where a team of doctors is monitoring his health and efforts are being made to revive his organs with medicines and dialysis.

The GMCH doctors are in constant touch with experts from Delhi’s premier All India Institute of Medical Sciences who have ruled out the possibility of shifting Gogoi outside the state in this condition.

Tarun Gogoi’s son, Congress leader and MP Gaurav Gogoi, is at the hospital.

The three-time former Assam CM had tested positive for Covid-19 in August. On 26 October, he had thanked the medical team at Guwahati Medical College and Hospital including the specialists, doctors, nurses, staff, for their “excellent care for the past two months” and had said that he looked forward to continuing his recovery at home under medical supervision.

With agency inputs

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Bharti Singh, her husband sent to judicial custody till 4 December

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On Sunday, a court in Mumbai sent comedian Bharti Singh and her husband Haarsh Limbachiyaa to judicial custody till 4 December. The two were arrested by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in connection with the alleged consumption of cannabis.

Before producing the couple in the court, the NCB took them to the hospital for medical examination.

Bharti Singh was held on Saturday while Haarsh Limbachiyaa was arrested a day later on Sunday.

“Charges of consumption of drugs have been invoked against them,” said Sameer Wankhede, Zonal Director of the NCB, Mumbai.

NCB on Saturday raided the production office and house of comedian Bharti Singh and recovered 86.5 grams of ganja (cannabis) from both places.

The NCB had earlier raided a place in Khar Danda area and nabbed a trafficker aged 21 years with various drugs including 15 blots of LSD (commercial quantity), ganja (40 grams), and Nitrazepam (psychotropic medicines). In follow up and in corroboration with previous inputs, the NCB raided the production office and house of comedian Bharti Singh.

This comes as the probe, which began from the drug case in connection with the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, continues to expand to the alleged drug abuse by Bollywood celebrities.

Recently, a raid was also conducted at the residence of actor Arjun Rampal, after which he and his girlfriend were summoned by the NCB for questioning in the matter.

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With rise in respiratory diseases, Covid-hit Delhi in a health soup

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Amid the massive spike in Covid-19 cases in the national capital, Delhi-NCR has another cause for big concern: Deadly smog and its health implications. With pollution seeing a big rise with the first hint of winter in the sight, health experts on Sunday said they have seen a substantial increase in patients with respiratory disorders in the Delhi-NCR region.

Air pollution is an important cause of worsening of respiratory disorders, including sinusitis, allergic rhinitis, bronchitis and respiratory difficulty in those patients who do not smoke or have pre-asthmatic conditions.

According to experts, air pollution also plays a significant role in making Covid infections worse. Dr Praveen Gupta, Director and Head, Neurology, Fortis Hospital in Gurugram told IANS: “Pollution has been identified as a leading cause of stroke and heart disease increasing the risk by 25 per cent in people who do not have risk factors for stroke or any heart ailment.”

“Exposure to high levels of air pollutants may cause irritation to the eyes, nose and throat, wheezing, coughing, breathing problems. Air pollution can also affect existing lung and heart conditions,” he added.

Smog can cause irritation in the eyes, throat and can damage the lungs, can also lead to fatigue, migraine, headaches, anxiety and depression.

“It can also worsen the skin, cause allergic disorders as well as significant hair problems,” Gupta added.

He has observed a 25 per cent increase in patients with respiratory disorders in the OPD in past weeks.

Dr. Puneet Khanna, HOD and consultant-Respiratory Medicine, HCMCT Manipal Hospitals in Delhi said that as the winter approaches, smog is exacerbated by low temperature and slow movement of air.

“Ground-level ozone O3 and PM2.5 play a significant role in the formation of smog. Besides industrial activities and public transportation, stubble burning and road dust are majorly responsible for smog in winters,” Khanna informed.

The vulnerable group include newborns and children, pregnant women, elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, diabetics, angina and cardiac diseases.

Peaks in air pollution often irritate the upper and lower respiratory system making it harder to breathe besides aggravating symptoms of asthma and COPD.

According to Dr. Khanna, even a small increase in air pollution leads to heavy rush in OPDs, increased emergency room visits, hospitalisations and deaths. Long-term risks include lung cancer and reduction in life expectancy.

“During smog periods, these people should avoid intense physical activity outdoors particularly in morning and evening hours. They should venture out if absolutely essential and preferably wear an N95 mask during peak hours,” he said.

Dr. Navneet Sood, Pulmonary Consultant, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital said that “the apparent effect of air amid Covid pandemic is creating more problems for people living in Delhi-NCR”.

“A comprehensive approach is needed to deal with the problem. Wear a mask whenever stepping out of the house, avoid going out early morning and late evening, follow every precaution related to Covid-19,” Sood advised.

With IANS inputs

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Moderna may cost up to Rs 2,700 per dose, Sputnik V to be much less

Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel says that governments willing to purchase Covid-19 vaccine may have to shell out Rs 1,854 and Rs 2,744 per dose—depending on the size of the order.

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Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel has said that governments seeking to purchase Moderna’s potential Covid-19 vaccine may have to shell out $25 and $37 per dose—which amounts to Rs 1,854 and Rs 2,744—depending on the size of the order. Bancel said that this would be a “fair price” and that the company was not interested in “maximum profit”.

However, on Sunday, the official Twitter handle for Russia’s Sputnik V tweeted that their vaccine will cost governments much less than that of Pfizer’s (estimated at Rs 1,446) and Moderna’s.

“Translating pharma lingo: the announced price of Pfizer of $19.50 and Moderna of $25-$37 per dose actually means their price of $39 and $50-$74 per person. Two doses are required per person for the Pfizer, Sputnik V and Moderna vaccines. The price of Sputnik V will be much lower,” said the tweet.

According to a spokesman for the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), RDIF is Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, the price of the Russian vaccine will be made public next week, TASS news agency reported.

Sputnik V is the world’s first registered vaccine against the Covid019 pandemic. It was developed by the Gamaleya National Research Centre for Epidemiology and Microbiology of the Russian Health Ministry. However, it was officially registered and given regulatory approval by the Russian government ahead of large-scale clinical trials.

According to the Russian Health Ministry, these vaccines have proved their ability to form lasting immunity for a period of up to two years.

The third, post-registration, stage of clinical tests for the vaccine had begun on August 25 and the first batch of the vaccine was dispatched to Russian regions on September 12, said the TASS report.

Meanwhile, US pharma giant Moderna said last week that its vaccine has shown more than 94.5 per cent effectiveness in preliminary data from the company’s ongoing study. Before Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech had said that their vaccine candidate was found to be more than 90 per cent effective in preventing Covid-19.

Moderna is expecting to produce approximately 20 million doses of its mRNA-1273 vaccine by the end of 2020. The company said it remains on track to manufacture 500 million to 1 billion doses globally in 2021.

The Moderna CEO also said that his company was engaged in negotiations with the EU Commission for the delivery of its vaccine against Covid-19, adding that talks have been “constructive”, and that it was “only a matter of days” before the contract is signed.

On the other hand, Pfizer said on Friday that it was moving ahead with its request of asking the US regulators to grant emergency approval of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate.

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Won’t back down: Australian PM rebuffs Chinese grievance list

A Chinese official gave a dossier to Australian media containing 14 grievances, saying: ‘If you make China the enemy, China will be the enemy’.

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Australia will not bow to pressure from China, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday after Beijing released a laundry list of complaints about the country. A Chinese official gave a dossier to Australian media containing 14 grievances, highlighting the increasingly fractious relationship between the two nations.

“If you make China the enemy, China will be the enemy,” a Chinese government official reportedly told three prominent outlets on Wednesday.

Among the complaints are Australia’s strict foreign interference laws, the country’s ban on Huawei’s involvement in its 5G network and decisions that blocked Chinese investment projects on “national security grounds”.

PM Morrison said the “unofficial document” came from the Chinese embassy and would not stop Australia from setting “our own laws and our own rules according to our national interest”.

“We won’t be compromising on the fact that we will set what our foreign investment laws are or how we build our 5G telecommunications networks or how we run our systems of protecting against interference Australia’s way we run our country,” the Australian PM told Channel Nine.

The document also claimed Canberra had engaged in “incessant wanton interference” in China’s affairs while singling out Australia’s call for an independent inquiry into the origins of Covid-19. It accused Australia of “siding with the US’ anti-China campaign and spreading disinformation” about where the virus originated—a particularly sore point for Beijing.

Relations between China and Australia have reached a new low in recent months, leaving Australian government ministers unable to persuade Chinese counterparts to even accept their phone calls. The discord has left Australian exporters exposed as their largest trading partner places a series of retaliatory bans on agricultural goods including beef, barley and timber.

With agency inputs

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Big B to do ‘Khushboo Gujarat Ki’ campaign around Kevadia

Amitabh Bachchan’s campaign will no longer be just about Kutch. The new tagline will be: ‘If you haven’t seen Kevadia, then you have not seen anything.’

Abhijit Bhatt

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Ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister, he had a dream that Gujarat would become a tourism hub, now that dream is coming true. Gujarat’s tourist places have become world-famous, first after the development of Kutch and now the Statue of Unity and the development of Kevadia around it which is being considered to promote the campaign starring Amitabh Bachchan.

The ‘Khushboo Gujarat Ki’ campaign will no longer be just about Kutch. A senior government official said that the campaign is being planned around Kevadia. “If you haven’t seen Kevadia, then you have not seen anything,” the new tagline will say.

Sources reveal that the discussions have started that Big B is going to star in a new ad film to promote Kevadia’s tourism development around the Statue of Unity. The world’s tallest statue and the new attractions built around it have enhanced its tourism value.

The Gujarat government led by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani wants the ‘Khushboo Gujarat Ki’ campaign to attract the attention of the tourists from all over the world and this time only Kevadia would be there.

The earlier done ad films done for the campaign included Kutch, Gir, Buddhist Caves, Ambaji, Gujarati Handicraft, Saputara, Gujarat’s Architect Modhera’s Sun Temple and Ahmedabad. Since Kevadia has been revamped, the Gujarat government is now considering this campaign and shooting dates are likely to be announced soon. Once the campaign agreement and shooting dates are set, Amitabh Bachchan will come to Gujarat. Apart from the Statue of Unity in Kevadia, the veteran actor is likely to do jungle safari, river rafting and also visit Butterfly Garden. Amitabh Bachchan’s new ad film might be shot around these tourist spots.

Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated 17 projects in Kevadia. Preparations are going on to invite Big B for international branding.

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