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ISCC on economic ties between Spanish and Indian business communities

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Indo Spanish Chamber of Commerce (ISCC)

Indo Spanish Chamber of Commerce (ISCC) held a webinar. ISCC is a private non-profit organisation and the only business aggrupation of Spanish companies in India. In 2019 ISCC got the recognition as the official chamber of Spain in India, by the endorsement of the Spanish Government. The aim of ISCC is creating a forum in which sharing experiences, exchange, and contacts, with the aim of promoting the economic ties between the Spanish and the Indian business communities. Today ISCC has as members the most representative Spanish companies operating in India, and many Indian companies including some of the Nifty index ones.

Talking about the India-Spain relations, Indian Ambassador to Spain, H.E Mr. Sanjay Verma said, “I think that is a story in itself, it sounds very suggestive of where India itself would be looking at in that sector. Our Arogya Setu app- the contact tracing app or Aadhar are digital identity platform. These are indicative of how India has embraced the digital world. We are also focusing on startups in India, I think I understand seven startups have reached unicorn status in 2020 alone, joining the 30 odd plus already in this table and the sector of the economy where I think the digital economy is going to have tremendous impact from the Indian perspective is health, agriculture, education, defence, and not very insignificantly in empowerment. And when I talk about empowerment, I mean the socio-economic mobility or the empowerment of women or marginalized sections of society. Of course, it’s a double-edged in that to break into this you need minimum infrastructure and facilities but after that, it can be a near-level playing field.”

Mr. Sanjay further said, “As far as Spain goes, our understanding is that 4% of Spain GDP depends on this sector. There are 34,000 companies here and the areas in which Spain is doing tremendously well is software for defense and utilities, banking, air traffic control, etc. I also understand the Barcelona and Madrid combined together would be the fourth-largest hub in Europe with about 2400 startups in this field. I think names like glovo and cabify are suggestive of the role Spain and Spanish companies can play in this regard. At the country and the bilateral level, I think there is synergy emerging. I mean both the countries are bullish on AI, Spain has a secretary of state for digitalization with whom I’m incidentally meeting next week. So the takeaways from this meeting, I will report to the Secretary of State. In India, Niti Ayoga has an ambitious national AI plan, our new education policy depends a lot on digitalization and I may also add that the Indian foreign ministry this year in January 2020 established a division called NEST, it is New, Emerging and Strategic Technologies Division which is going to handmaiden and interface Indian foreign policy with the trends in this area, combining both are security and business interests. So this is a wonderful topic taken and I will try to listen very carefully; I am sure and in essence, we are looking for the Christopher Columbus to take India-Spain relations forward in this area. Maybe there’s a Christopher Columbus among us, doesn’t have to be a man could be a woman. But I’m glad we all join hands together because this is the age where we are going to determine how we regulate the digitalization space, how we generate incomes, without being Luddites. You surely cannot escape the fact that we are a country of 1.3 billion people and this debate on whether this is going to eat up jobs or is going to create jobs. I mean, the human interface and all this, I would imagine, would add to jobs.”

Throwing some light on the current situation in the IT sector involving digital transformation, Prasad P. Meharunkar, Regional Director for Iberia & Italy, WIPRO said, “Basically I represent the Indian IT industry, India definitely has potential to become world’s capital for artificial intelligence. It is not only because we have a large pool of talent, but like as embassy said we are a country of 1.3 billion people and we definitely lead outsourcing age, Internet age and digital age. So, definitely, we are very well in a position to be the world’s capital for artificial intelligence. And this is not only because we have a large pool of talent, but, the thing is that India has like so many challenges, so many complexities which can be solved by artificial intelligence, the problems to a common man in the sector of health care and education are the problems of the normal truck driver or normal taxi driver or even vegetable seller. So, because of this variety of problem, the complexity of the problem, we will have a phenomenal number of use cases in India and such kind of variety of experiences, our number of use cases- it is very difficult for anywhere in the world to be generated. And this kind of experience we can bring to the world and we can apply these use cases to promote or to implement the artificial intelligence-led solution for citizens across the world, and by this India will be able to lead this era of artificial intelligence in my opinion.”

Addressing the SMEs and the IT sector in India, Shivendra Singh, Vice President & Head of the Global Trade Development at (National Assoication for Software & Service Companies) NASSCOM said, “It’s a very, very rapidly evolving world. Now, the fact of the matter is that even under the pandemic, when, you know, we’ve seen a huge amount of negative growth, the tech industry, in the last two quarters have performed amazingly well. And one of the areas where the growth is happening is in the area of digital transformation, so that’s one big area, nearly about 40, to 50%, of all the growth is happening in this area. Now it’s a very, very conducive environment, cause you’ve seen cloud migration happening, you’re seeing bundling of technologies, you’re seeing workplace technologies, you’re seeing, you know, high speed, secure infrastructure, so there’s a lot which is happening, platformization of services are all happening. So, a lot which is happening is conducive to the current environment, and the growth. And as alluded to by Prasad, coming to the artificial intelligence, we are seeing the huge opportunities that exist in this area, whether he talked about the common man and some of the benefits but let’s look at the banking, financial services & insurance sector. Now, that’s something which is probably the largest for the tech industry, and the maximum potential to grow in the current pandemic is also there. So things on contact lists, technology, things on mobile payment, analytics in terms of customer expectation and managing all of that definitely is something which is really going to push developments and the growth of AI. In fact, all companies are technology companies, so you look at a bank, you look at a retailer, all of them are now probably technology companies because the order flow-in is phenomenal. So I am pretty bullish about it and just to answer the question about Python, in terms of acquisitions, the way this is going to go is you will have organic growth, but a lot of growth happening is with the engagement with startups and the scale of startups which have a stack of technology, large companies are also engaging with them, that could be a joint go to market strategy as well, an acquisition is one part of it, but there are various ways in which that engagement can happen. And for those startups, the great thing is that the large reach and scalability provided by our large tech companies are phenomenal. So it’s a win-win scenario and this is going to lead to a lot of partnership between, on one hand, startups in the middle, you have these tech players, and you will have the enterprises. So this whole combined approach is going to drive a lot of this growth in digital transformation as well and we’re seeing that happening.”

Dr Kiron Ravindran, the Asst. Professor of Information Systems at IE Business School, one of the most reputed business schools worldwide, addressed the current picture of India’s IT sector; he said, “I’m actually very happy to be in technology at this point in time. And my point, my viewpoint is that, for the longest time, we’ve always thought of IT as something that fixes problems being discussed about the communication issues, the silos that our organizations are, the departments not talking to each other and we were given the task of cleaning up the mess within client photos. In the last few years, what we’re seeing is, we’re taking a more upfront and central role, where we’re saying, look, let’s not fix up your messes in the back end but let’s go up front and address how your end customers are actually dealing with your product or service or whatever, right. And that’s where design comes into the conversation. For the longest time, our IT developers were placed in the basements of your client organization, you know, separated from the end customers, because we’ve been told not to talk to them, they were specifically skilled people who are given the responsibility of talking to clients. And now recently, we actually contracted by the WIPRO design team and I was very proud to go to this organization and tell the rest of my colleagues, look, these are the guys who are technically an Indian company, that’s telling us how we should do our customer experience. And for me, it was a matter of pride and seeing this in a bigger picture, if we think of what it is that an IT service provider provides for a client firm, we’ve been trying to reduce costs for a long time, we’ve been trying to raise growth or profits for a long time and for which, we got better and better. We introduced AI and robotics and all of this stuff, basically, to make this cost reduction a more company argument when the labour arbitrage was not so strong anymore. Now, we get to the point where we fixed up most of the messes, we’ve cleaned up the processes, there’s not much more we can add value to, use a cliche, we there’s not much more we can add value in that aspect. So we have to go ahead and realize that what we need to do is, make this software or the products that we develop for these customers actually used by their customers and so we get better at delivering the experience. And if that comes from internal channels, excellent. If it doesn’t come from internal channels, there are sourcing capabilities just like we did it for their clients. But I think the part that we’re missing out, and I don’t hear much attention being paid to this, are the role of all of this being under the banner of compliance and specifically compliance linked with security, cybersecurity. My hunch is that in the near future, there will be a lot more emphasis on service providers from India or wherever, having to not only deliver service, not only meet the demands of design but also ensure or help the clients maintain a level of cybersecurity that they might not be able to manage themselves. I also think that maybe in the future, we will have another compliance pressure in terms of the economic impact of the services that we offer. If you look at other industries, they are waking up to the fact that the service that they produce or products that they produce have an impact on the environment. For us, we know what we don’t admit that it actually has a carbon footprint. You know, every artificial intelligence algorithm that we come up with has an impact on the environment, has an impact on energy consumption, and we’re not talking about it yet. And my hunch is, these are the directions that the smarter ones among us will seize the opportunity in cybersecurity and energy compliance. We know how to do AI, robotics, IoT, blockchain, all of that stuff. But I think the part that we haven’t heard many conversations is about cybersecurity and energy complaint.”

Addressing the institutional framework for the development of AI and digital transformation on the Spanish side, the Chief Representative of CDTI, for India, South & Southeast Asia, the Spanish Government agency for Innovation, pertaining to the Ministry of Science and Innovation, Adrian Gutierrez said, “There is, at EU as well as at national level right now, institutional backing, as well as a top-down strategic approach effort towards digital transformation and this again will be coupled with a significant investment that will follow soon now. So basically, when we look at the EU framework, we basically have the next generation e-recovery plan that basically puts the emphasis on the twin, green and digital transformations as the two basic routes to reinforce EU’s competitiveness, resilience and stand as a global power. So with that framework, basically, the European Union is envisioning an expenditure and investment of more than 750 billion euros and targeted reinforcements on the long term through the EU budget from 2021 to 2027. EU’s vision of a digital single market relies on three pillars basically, the first one is better connectivity and rapid deployment of 5G. The second pillar priority would be to develop a larger technical and industrial presence of European industry across strong, digital and strategic digital capabilities, such as AI, quantum supercomputers, blockchain and so forth. And the third pillar is the reduction of the fragmentation and striving towards more European common data spaces, visibly like China and the United States, because that will enable the EU firms and the EU players to develop products and services that could reach and have a larger impact, larger scale. So in full alignment with the EU priorities and framework, the Spanish government has also developed its own vision, its own priorities, its own strategy and basically the two frameworks I would like to draw your attention to, which are the Spanish digital agenda 2025, recently released in 2020, and the research development and innovation strategy in artificial intelligence. The first one, the Spanish digital agenda, identify the objectives and structural reforms that need to be pursued in order to roll out the supporting infrastructure, develop better connectivity, and make companies especially SMEs more digital. The digital agenda in Spain will mobilize a significant volume of public and private investment, amounting to approximately 70 billion euros up to 2025. And the initial period of 2020 to 2022, the public investment announced is around 20 billion euros, out of which 15 will come from the European programs and funding instruments that are to be implemented through the new EU recovery plan. On the other hand, the research development innovation strategy of artificial intelligence is another relevant framework that we have currently in Spain, because this is the first time that the government reflects on in which areas the Spanish R&D stakeholders should do AI R&D related activities and basically, they have prioritized several sectors such as industry 4.0, health and energy, which were mentioned already for by some of the other panelists, tourism, public administration, environment, safety and security. And it’s not only that they set the R&D priorities but also they are established certain policy recommendations in the area of training and skill development, or, for instance, in the development and rollout of supporting computing infrastructure. So basically, what I wanted to bring to the attention of the panel is that there is an institutional backing to the transition, to the digital transformation right now in Europe, as well as a national level, that there is a strategic approach, and that there will be a good and significant amount of funding supporting that digital transformation in Europe. So basically, those would be my contributions when it comes to the EU and national broad frameworks for promoting digital transformation.”

Taking the conversation further, Pablo Royo Martin, Business Consulting Partner at Energy&Utilities of Minsait, and Indra Group company, said, “First of all, and I guess we are very happy to hear that from a public administration point of view, there is a clear view that digitalization strategy and the digitalization of the economy are key values to develop the economy. I think we all have seen this a couple of years back, that’s in fact, just to put our example, we launched this main side brand within Indra because it was founded to address the transformation in digitalization across the sectors. So we are aware that it needs to happen, that it is important, as this is the future; how we will develop, we are still in this roadmap. I still believe there is a long way to cover, I was hearing Kiron and I don’t know if I understood you correctly; there are many things the IT department knows- how to do robotics, etc, I think that’s correct. But there is still a long way to go and why is that, I guess technology is now a very intrinsic part of the business, it’s not a separate functioning animal. We see that in doing a proprietary framework, we see how this technology is going to help the business and we see three different ways that are completely different among them. One keeps on doing what you are doing but use all these transformations to do the things better; you will run your operations more efficiently, you will understand your customer more efficiently and better be able to customize the products to him or her, but you will still keep on doing what you were doing before, so it’s the same business. There is another way where you can tackle this, as you can build a new business model while you still are in the same business; to put an example, you are supplying electricity and you are complementing it, but you create a new business model that didn’t exist before because the technology was not enabling it. And there is a third aspect, which is a completely different model, you are changing the industry altogether. For all three, that I think needs to be tackled very differently, the technological part is already embedded. And I said before, I think there is still a long way to go and a long way to go where we can see it from the companies we are collaborating with.”

Anindya Saha, CEO & Founding Partner of NERO VENTURES S.L. expressed his views during the conversation. He said, “My professional life revolves around grassroot levels. The Spanish govt is working towards making the money reach MSMEs. People from India need to understand that in Spain 95 per cent of the companies are small and medium scale and these are great companies. And most of the technological transformations have come from these companies. Even in Switzerland, most of these are small companies. So, the scenario is very different in this part of the world; it is not run by the WIPROs and the TCS and the Infosys of the world, at the grassroots levels, it is really run by the smaller companies. Indra, now has grown much bigger but at a point, it was a small company. And so has happened to many other companies and there are two aspects to that. Glovo for me is not a technology company, it is a business model. Flipkart is not a technology company, Amazon- what we buy on the internet is not a technology company, it is a logistics company with a technological background. If you talk about Amazon web services, it is a technology company. So, these were two different things and we need to clarify that. India has tremendous potential because the entire population of Spain is 40 million and just only Uttar Pradesh population amounts 200 million. The population multiplying factor is huge. We need to do business and people sitting in India will be surprised at how similar the Spain and Italian culture are to the Indian culture and how distinct it is from the American culture. India has worked very strongly with the US but surprisingly, not Spain where the work and environment cultures are so similar that you feel totally like home within six months. The only difference is that the roads are cleaner here, otherwise, we are very similar in our imperfections. I am very surprised at how so little business happens between India and Spain and that is because of the over bias of India with UK and the US.”

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‘ANGANA MOREY’ HITTING NO. 2 ON BILLBOARD GLOBAL CHART A PLEASANT SURPRISE: SHREYA GHOSHAL

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Singer Shreya Ghoshal recently got candid with NewsX in an exclusive interview as a part of its special series NewsX India A-List, wherein she spoke about her latest song release Angana Morey, her musical journey and more. Angana Morey is garnering a phenomenal response in India and around the world.

Not only the song is being loved by the listeners but is also smashing records of singers like Selena Gomez and has made it to number 2 on Billboard’s Top Triller Global chart. Angana Morey is even more special to Shreya as it is in collaboration with her brother Soumyadeep Ghoshal.

Expressing her gratitude to all the love and appreciation coming her way for Angana Morey, Shreya said, “While making this song, we did not have any such expectations. It’s a pleasant surprise and a great feeling. The fans are rejoicing. Somewhere they always hoped that Shreya or as they call me Shreya Di will make it to the Billboard one day. It’s a sweet gesture, I am elated and hope it’s the start.”

Sharing insights from the making of Angana Morey, she expressed, “Angana Morey was born in the lockdown so it was an interesting experience. Soumyadeep is a fabulous musician. This was our second project together. Over the phone and on video calls, we only talk about music and the possibilities of doing so many different things. He pushed me into it and said that don’t worry about what the trends are or what are people doing off late, you should do whatever you want. That is how Angana Morey was born. This is a very different song from my kitty and that’s why I went Indie. When you are doing independent music, you have no pressure of following any rules. So I broke all of them and did a slightly classical-based number with very modern, electronic and transient, groovy elements in it.” 

Shreya spoke about her first song and how that proved to be a game-changer for her, “The first song that I did would always be the most momentous experience and time of my life. Bairi Piya from Devdas changed my life. I was around 16-years-old. Being called for a song like that by Sanjay Leela Bhansali for a film of that stature was unexpected. It was amazing and since then there has been no looking back. There have been many more such songs, milestones, concerts, world tours, and experiences that have added many more layers to my life and how my journey has moved from here to there but it’s too hard to count them now. I am blessed but I will always look back at my first song, my first film as the most sentimental, the most emotional and important milestone of my life.” On a concluding note, she crooned Ghar More Pardesiya from Kalank.

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Why mental health and psychological fitness is so important in sports

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In a special series on NewsX presented by CatFit, titled ‘Importance Of Mental, Emotional And Psychological Fitness In Sports’, two leading young sportsperson, international cricketer Arundhati Reddy and international badminton player Srishti Jupudi, shared their journeys as sportspersons in India and how mental health plays a major role in them delivering their best performance.

Addressing the importance of mental health and training in sports, Arundhati spoke about how she entered the world of sports at a very fragile age. At the time when she was playing domestic cricket there were certain days when she wasn’t able to perform. She said how she barely knew the importance of mental well-being or a certain frame of mind a sportsperson has to be in to enhance their skill and perform better on the ground. “Especially at such a top level, when you know that you are under scrutiny all the time, it comes to be a huge responsibility. The pressure to perform well is always there and it is very important to be mentally strong and tough,” she said.

Adding to Arundhati’s remarks, Srishti, who embarked on her sports journey in her teenage years, talked about her psychological and mental training. She stated how at the top level, when you are an international and professional sportsperson, it becomes more of an act of psychological warfare. She explained the ‘20:80 formula’ that functions in international sports, which denotes that 20% constitutes one’s skill set and physical training, whereas the larger part, i.e., 80% constitutes mental toughness and the psychological mindset of the player.

”Playing at the top level and surviving in a highly competitive environment has made me realise how strong-headed one has to be. I started following my mentor and coach’s advice for my mental well being and started to observe the changes which occurred in a linear manner, and eventually, I made it my routine,” Srishti added.

She also spoke about her mantras which have helped her keep moving forward and given her strength and resilience. Srishti underlined that one must constantly visualise their goals and work on their growth and progress.

Arundhati also talked about her training regime and how a lot of effort has to be put into hardcore strength and physical training. “We, the Indian team, put a lot of effort in preparing well for tournaments. For me, it’s more about the visualisation of my goals. It was during the lockdown when I started paying attention to my mental health and realised that I had not taken a break in decades. During the lockdown, I had a lot of time and began to do meditation regularly, and it has helped me a lot,” she shared.

Catfit as an organisation has been playing a significant role in improving the overall mental as well as physical well being of sportspersons. Talking about the initiative, Mr Arpan Dixit, Global Head of Catfit, said, “We started back in 2017 when we realised that there is a lack of mental health awareness and a need for mental and psychological trainers for people in sports. Catfit arranged a team of trained psychologists, mental health trainees, nutritionists and physical fitness trainers and began a regime of the military application and special forces tactics for sports.” Explaining this further, he underlined how within this special regime, sportspersons are first given a psychological questionnaire where the team analyses the level of resilience each person has, identifies issues and concerns arising out of the analysis, make a plan for their training and assign them a psychological and mental toughness trainer who is from the special forces or part of the ‘Black Cat’ commandos.

Arundhati then spoke about careers in sports and how parents often hesitate to send their children to the field. She spoke of how her mother has been an inspiration and given her constant support. ”Being a sportsperson herself, my mother has taught me a lot and always motivated me to pursue my dreams and I think every parent should just let their child do what he/she dreams of,” she said.

Wrapping up the conversation, Srishti said that India holds a lot of scope in terms of sports and many government policies and incentives now exist which help even those coming from poor financial backgrounds and other rungs of the social hierarchy. “Even if I have quit playing badminton, I think that my active engagement in sports shall help me forward on the leadership path that I want to embark upon. There are many incentives like Khelo India, different types of quotas are available for sportspersons and there are other avenues one can choose from,” she added.

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HOW THE NEW LABOUR CODES CREATE A WIN-WIN SITUATION

The recently passed labour codes have been restructured to benefit the two major stakeholders in industrial relations: The employer and the labour.

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In keeping with the underlying essence of the mantra “Shramev Jayate”, the government, devoted to the welfare of labour, has undertaken an arduous and long journey to roll out the much-needed labour law reforms. A journey that started several decades ago reached its climax in 2020, the year that saw the passing of the path-breaking labour codes by the Parliament. This is indeed a turning point in the economic history of India which has authenticated the positions of all stakeholders who have been determined in this journey.

The four new labour codes viz. the Industrial Relations Code, 2020, the Occupational Safety, Health & Working Conditions Code, 2020, the Social Security Code, 2020 and the Wages Code, 2020 envisage to cover over 50 crore workers from the organized, unorganized and self-employed sectors. The erstwhile 29 labour laws have now been subsumed in the simplified, easy to understand and transparent new labour codes, keeping the interest of the labour class at the forefront. The codes are a part of the government’s earnest desire to bring in much needed labour welfare reforms in the country, a task which was not been done for the last seven decades.

The revamped labour laws, in the form of the four labour codes, are essentially both pro-labour and pro-employer – making it a win-win situation for both the stakeholders. The broad benefits that emanate from the re-classification of the labour laws into the four labour codes are far too many and deserve to be transcribed. For the employers, these labour codes enormously decrease the difficulty in compliance due to a wide array of labour laws. That’s not all – they will also facilitate the ease of doing business. For perspective, India’s present ranking on the World Bank’s EODB Index is 63, and it aspires to grab a spot among the top 50 countries in the world.

The biggest positive externality that emerges from these big-bang labour reforms is the fillip that they will impart to employment generation. This will happen without distorting the fundamental features of securing employee rights, safety, security and health of workers, and the standardization of operating definitions under the different labour laws. The key mantras behind these labour reforms are essentially two-fold: simplification and rationalization. For example, the provision of a single license/single registration and single return will aid in saving precious time and monetary resources. Moreover, the cost of compliance will significantly come down as there will be a single, decentralised authority for execution.

The benefits that accrue for employees and workers are also multifarious. For instance, under the Social Security Code, 2020 a provision has been made to formulate various schemes for providing comprehensive social security to workers in the unorganised sector. The creation of a “Social Security Fund” on the financial side in order to implement these schemes is a step in the right direction. Besides, the Social Security Code envisages bringing within the ambit of social security work related to newer forms of employment like platform workers or gig workers, which have been created due to fast-evolving technology. India is one of the very few countries where this unprecedented and bold step of including workers of this category under social security has been taken.

It is also for the first time that a fixed term employee working for a determined period on a contract basis has been given the right of social security just like a regular employee. With the intention of making a nationwide database for the unorganised sector workers, registration of all these workers would be done through an online portal on the basis of self-certification through a hassle-free and easy-to-understand procedure. It would facilitate the extension of the benefits of various social security schemes to beneficiaries in the unorganised sector.

The most important factor for getting a job is to get access to information regarding job vacancies. With this objective in mind, it has been made compulsory for all establishments with 20 or more workers to periodically report the vacancy position in their respective establishments. This information would also be made available online.

Under the Occupational Safety, Health & Working Conditions Code, 2020 there is a provision for a free health check-up once a year by the employer for workers who are above a certain age. Besides, getting an appointment letter from the employer has been made a legal right for the first time.

It is an open secret that, until now, it took years for worker disputes to be resolved. The Industrial Relations Code, 2020 visualizes sincere efforts for resolving such disputes, not just effectively but also in a transparent and time-bound manner. A provision for two members instead of just one member in the Industrial Tribunal has been made. Therefore, in case of the absence of one member, work can still be undertaken without unwarranted delays. In case the disputes are not getting resolved at the conciliation stage, provisions have been kept for escalating disputes straight to the Tribunal. With the overall objective of ensuring the democratic participation of trade unions, a provision for a “Negotiating Union” and a “Negotiating Council” has been made for undertaking negotiations on any dispute.

It is worth mentioning that a provision for a re-skilling fund has also been made in the statute for the first time. Its target would be to re-skill those workers who have been removed from their jobs, so that they are well-qualified with appropriate skill sets to match the kind of jobs in the market easily. For this, workers would also be given 15 days’ salary within a period of 45 days.

These changes and reforms in labour laws have been conceptualised keeping in mind the fast-changing scenario over the years. It is imagined to make them futuristic so that India marches on a faster growth trajectory and eventually becomes the world’s favourite investment destination. With these labour codes, peaceful and harmonious industrial relations will be promoted across the country, which in turn will propel the engine of growth of industry, employment and income, and ensure balanced regional development. Besides, it will also put more disposable income in the hands of our workers. These path-breaking labour reforms in the form of the four labour codes will help our country attract foreign direct investment and also induce domestic investment from entrepreneurs. Most importantly, these futuristic labour codes will aid in ending the vicious cycle of Inspector Raj in the country and bring much-needed transparency in the system. Indeed, a win-win situation.

The writers are Indian Economic Service officers. The views expressed are personal.

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ART KEPT US CONNECTED DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC, SAYS SINGER SHILPA RAO

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In an exclusive interview with NewsX as part of its special series NewsX India A-list, Singer Shilpa Rao talked about her recent collaboration with The Yellow Diary for the song ‘Roz Roz’.

Known for exploring new trends and genres, Shilpa Rao is back to win hearts with her latest song Roz Roz, which is in collaboration with The Yellow Diary. Joining NewsX for a candid chat as part of its special NewsX India A-list, Shilpa spoke about singing Roz Roz, especially amid the pandemic and reminisced about her journey so far.

Reflecting upon the year gone by, she expressed that the last year was weird and it was particularly difficult to record songs but they made it happen through emails, voice notes, and recording from home. Expressing gratitude to all the love and appreciation coming her way for Roz Roz, Shilpa said, “It feels really special when people point out a particular line and say that they can relate to it.”

Exclaiming how “creators can’t sit still”, she said that as creators their mind keeps on working all the time. Previously it was hard to manage the time as they had to travel a lot but now when they are at home all the energy goes in one direction and it’s easy to finish the work. Shilpa added that artists are always up for something creative. Talking about Roz Roz, she said, “Not only I but so many artists came up with brilliant music in 2020. Professionally, it was weird to see a drastic change in 2020 but it was a good year. We all were scattered during the pandemic but art kept everyone connected.”

The year 2020 was also special for Shilpa on a personal level as she tied the knot with Ritesh Krishnan. On opting for an intimate wedding ceremony, Shilpa said, “Our parents are elderly so we chose to have a simple registered marriage at home. We kept it plain yet it was a perfect wedding. We officially registered for the wedding and all my friends and family members from all over the world joined in to see the ceremony on a video call.”

According to her, Tose Naina Lage has been the game changer song of her life. “It comes from a different world altogether. It was the most special song for me and will always be. Mithoon and I worked hard on this song and to know what we were in 2006 one should listen to the song,” said Shilpa.

Addressing the coronavirus pandemic, she said, “Post pandemic, we don’t need complex people, we need empathic people.” Shilpa shared a piece of advice with aspiring musicians, “We all are running a race and want to do much more to get success but the world right now needs pacifiers.” Concluding on a musical note, Shilpa sang Tose Naina Lage from Anwar.

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Exploring new-age entrepreneurship and opportunities for startups

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Taxolawgy Inc presented an intriguing session on ‘Startups: Opportunities in the next decade’, which was joined by leading names from the startup world, including Anil Chhikara, Amit Agarwal and Sajeev Nair.

Moving towards an Aatmanirbhar Bharat, Taxolawgy Inc on Thursday, presented a session on ‘Startups: Opportunities in the next decade’. Eminent leaders from the startup world including CA Farooq Haque, Serial Entrepreneur, Founder & CEO- Taxolawgy Inc; Divya Varma, Co-founder at Taxolawgy Inc, Marketing & Growth Strategist; Anil Chhikara, Founder & CEO, Bluebolt Startup Factory and Founder of Startup India Foundation; Amit Agarwal, author of ‘The Ultimate Sales Accelerator’; and Sajeev Nair, Serial Entrepreneur, Peak Performance Consultant joined the panel.

Charting the course for new-age entrepreneurship, especially in the new normal, Farooq in his opening remarks said, “The new normal is not about changing your destinations but rather changing your path and journey to reach the same destination.” Emphasising how the division between taking a job and or starting your own venture has blurred over the years, he added, “When I became a CA more than 25 years ago, there weren’t many opportunities out there. Either you went into the job industry or started your own practice. Then came the startup revolution around 10-12 years ago which gave a new opening to the young entrepreneurs out there who had the entrepreneurial mind and advantaged from the startup culture in terms of funds, mentorship, and the help they needed. But the new normal that we are witnessing now is a complete game-changer. That iron wall that existed earlier between the job industry and entrepreneurship is now completely broken. I would take this liberty to coin the new definition of freelancing, that is ‘entrepreneurial workforce’. Freelancing is not like a job since you are not on the payroll of the company, you are an entrepreneur developing something of your own in the work domain. This is going to be a game-changer in the forthcoming decade.”

Speaking about the growth of freelancing during and after the pandemic, Divya said, “The pandemic has proved to be a blessing in disguise for the freelancing industry. As the world went into lockdown, the only thing that survived or rather thrived was remote working and freelancing. Employers are re-evaluating budget and opting for a more flexible workforce. Even the employees are showing a growing interest in the independent world. Mac Berry, the founder of freelancers.com, has said and I quote, ‘While Covid-19 has been a trigger for upward-trending freelancer movement, this exponential growth can also be attributed to the strong demand for an individual to finally start their own freelance enterprise, work on their own terms, and supplement their income.”

Anil highlighted the development of the startup eco-system in India in the last decade. He said, “If we put in a time machine and send today’s young entrepreneurs 10 years back, they wouldn’t believe that India was where it was. Things that we almost take for granted were not there. If you look at Silicon Valley, they have gone through various upturns and downturns. The upturn is more important for an eco-system because of the downturn and what happens after the downturn. If you look at the history of Silicon Valley after every massive downturn much bigger companies have come back aligned to the new realities. The biggest change that happens during this is that the investors, mentors, and everybody that come into the ecosystem, are those who have been entrepreneurs before, have had success and failures. They have walked the path. I am happy to see in the last 10 years that the big change that has taken place is stakeholders, whether you are talking about accelerators, incubators, and even the government, today are running something like Invest India and Startup India, rather than putting ‘babus’ to run it. They are putting seasoned entrepreneurs who have been there, done that. The biggest example of this is Aadhar and UPI. I believe that the changes that happened in the last one year will outstrip the changes that have taken place in the last 10 years.”

When asked about how startups should plan their sales activity at the starting stage, Amit said, “There is a how part of sales and 4W part of sales. What I framed is a 4W and H framework of sales. Simply put, it is why are you selling, what are you selling, where are you selling, and who are you selling as well as how are you selling. In a lot of cases, I have seen that there is a lot of focus on the ‘H’, that is how part of sales. Startups should change that to focus on the first 4Ws. If startups start addressing these 4Ws, the ‘how’ part will automatically be optimised. There is a lot of literature on the ‘how’ part and less focus on the 4Ws.”

Elaborating how one can find out the scalability of a startup idea, Sajeev said, “We all know that one of the key factors we always count is the scalability of the concept. The question of how do you say whether your idea is scalable or not is purely based on the idea. Primarily because if you are coming out with an idea, there are many non-scalable business ideas. The basic question, which startup entrepreneurs should ask, is what is your idea. If you have to scale something, what is it that you are going to scale? You need to have a basic core element that you can scale up. When we start a business, we should be focusing very clearly on the element that can be scalable. There could be one or more elements that can be scalable. First, we should define the purpose, then design the products that meet the purpose after which we design the process that can take the products to meet the purpose. Followed by this, we find the people or the distribution channel through whom we can meet that purpose. When you are scaling up based on a purpose, you can gain success.”

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INDIA HAS ACHIEVED A GREAT SUCCESS IN COVID MANAGEMENT: LOMBARDY PRESIDENT

The unprecedented coronavirus wave has affected almost 3 million people in Italy and over 500,000 of them in Lombardy, says Attilio Fontana.

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Lombardy is one of the 20 administrative regions of Italy, in the northwest of the country, with an area of 23,844 sq km. About 10 million people live in Lombardy, forming more than one-sixth of Italy’s population, and more than a fifth of Italy’s GDP is produced in the region, making it the most populous, richest and most productive region in the country. It is also one of the top regions in Europe for the same reason.

On 13 February, Mario Draghi became the 30th Italian Prime Minister since the birth of the republic in 1946. The former President of the European Central Bank, Draghi is one of the leading figures in the European Union. He has come into office after the Conte government, which was faced with the most challenging year since the end of WWII, due to the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. For the first time in a decade, the new government is being led by an executive coalition tasked with fostering the country’s recovery. Lombardy, Italy’s economic locomotive, will be playing a strong role in the new Draghi government.

The following are excerpts of interview with Attilio Fontana, President of Lombardy:

Q. President Fontana, this is the second turning point for both Italy and Lombardy, following the first phase of the pandemic in February 2020. In a historic moment, Italy’s new government has given key ministerial roles to Lombard members of your party, specifically those of economic development and tourism.

A. The unprecedented viral wave has affected almost 3 million people in Italy and over 500,000 of them in Lombardy. However, the country has been working to cope with it and continues to move forward. We are entering a new political phase and we realise that ideological barriers must be overcome in order to construct a plan that will work for the whole country. Lombardy will certainly be an important part of it, with no fewer than 9 of the 23 ministers in the new government coming from our region. Clearly, as the most economically active and most international region, we feel confident about that.

Q. How has the global health plan worked in Lombardy and how will the vaccine plan be implemented?

A. It is clear that having transformed a part of the Milan Exhibition Centre into a Covid hospital has proved a successful strategy. Here, at the Fiera Hospital, we have built a large alliance to implement the Lombard model for vaccinations against Covid-19. Our plan is to vaccinate millions of people in six months. And, as Vice-President Letizia Moratti defined it, this important alliance also includes the manufacturers and the trade unions, all aiming to restart Lombardy. This is a historic event, which will save the lives of thousands of people, aiming to save lives and to strengthen the livelihoods.

Q. What kinds of policies will we be seeing in terms of Italy’s post-Covid recovery?

A. The first step is to trust our citizens. The approach is to carry them with us in advance and then carry out checks, randomly or across the board. The public administration will have to implement a radical simplification.

Q. The economic situation requires some kind of Marshall Plan for Lombardy. How can the example of Lombardy be applied in other contexts?

A. The budget of a public entity is divided between investments and current expenditures. The latter is the most limited, as 99% of those expenses are already allocated at the beginning of the year, and it is not possible to incur a debt. Therefore, we have decided—because we cannot intervene directly to support credit and support companies, except with limited resources—to intervene on the investment side. So, we have allocated 4 billion euro ($4.9 billion) in a plan, which is very important for our region, to make substantial investments in our territory. That will include public works—initiatives for which municipalities have been waiting for a long time—tangible and intangible infrastructure, major interventions in terms of digitisation. Certainly, India also knows a great deal about making investments in digitization and intangible infrastructure, and our goal is the same, we also want to choose a direction for the future of our country. On the one hand, investing in research and innovation means providing immediate resources to the economy, on the other hand it also means having a truly international development perspective in terms of how that is invested.

Q. What unites Lombardy and India as it is ahead in many technological sectors in Italy, and among the vanguard in Europe?

A. We are greatly pleased to know that India after reaching a peak of 11 million citizens affected, has achieved a great success in Covid-19 management through excellent planning, control and execution in restricting the spread of this pandemic and now the vaccination programme is underway.

Lombardy has always a synergy with Maharashtra area, which is industrially very progressive. There are numerous exchanges in the industrial sectors but I see particular activities in the pharmaceutical and food processing sectors.

I also hope that tourism will become important common ground between India and Lombardy, showcasing India’s cultural heritages and the beauty of this region’s lakes with the qualities of the centre of Milan. The exhibition and conference sector are also one of the points of great interest, but we will also have to understand how to successfully resume this sector again in Lombardy.

Q. Any plan of Lombardy Region for Odisha state?

A. Firstly, I must congratulate the Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik for developing Odisha in last two decades and making it an investor-friendly region. His corona pandemic management is truly praise worthy. We have great interest of business and industrial collaboration with Odisha primarily in the areas of mining, minerals, metallurgy, agriculture, food processing and textile. I would personally like to be in touch with him in this connection.

Pratapaditya Mishra, Visiting Professor in MBA Department, Utkal University, conducted this interview with the help of Alberto Cavicchiolo and Francesca Bruni—associated with Art Valley, Milan.

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