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OFB’s Corporatisation will put it on par with other defence PSUS

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The corporatisation of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) will put the ailing institution on par with other defence public sector undertakings managed by its own board of directors with broad guidelines from the government, a top source in the Ministry of Defence was quoted as saying by IANS on Tuesday.

 The government expects the turnover of OFB post corporatisation to annually rise to Rs 30,000 crore by 2024-25, against existing Rs 12,000 crore. The government said that post corporatisation, OFB will be allowed to forge partnerships with the private sector as per the Defence Ministry’s approved policy and will continue to receive orders from the country’s security forces. It will also be granted a special preference of 15 per cent above lowest price for ‘Make’ and ‘Buy and Make’ category products. The Centre will support OFB in case of losses, by way of loan for 30 per cent of the total shortfall, and by way of equity investment for balance 70 per cent of the amount. “The working capital for the next five years will be provided by the Department of Defence Production (DDP) as a one-time corpus fund. Capital investment for ongoing and sanctioned projects will also be provided,” the ministry said.

 Being an arm of the government, the OFB and its factories cannot retain profits, and do not have any incentive to make any. So, OFB in its present structure of a departmental organisation may not be appropriate for carrying out production activities and competing with rivals in the private sector who have all the managerial and technical flexibility,” a Defence Ministry official said. 

The government constituted an Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on 11 September to oversee the corporatisation of the OFB. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said that the process of corporatisation of the OFB would be completed in one year.

 India’s armed forces, being the biggest customer of ordnance factories, are likely to benefit immensely from corporatisation with better pricing and improved product quality.

 Apart from better management of its functioning and timely delivery and better quality supplied by factories, after corporatisation, there would also be competitive pricing. At present, a cost plus mechanism is followed by OFB to fix the prices. “In this system the price is fixed by taking maximum estimated cost plus 20 per cent to cater for contingencies which are further raised by another 8 to 15 per cent next year,” IANS quoted a senior government officer as saying. It is expected that corporatisation will lead to reduced and competitive pricing, since OFB will be competing with private players in defence industry, albeit with some advantages.

 “OFB is unable to run the factories from its own profits. OFB officers look at the Army as their captive customer irrespective of shortfalls in quality, delayed supplies, costly products and indifference to complaints,” said an officer.

 Further, factories operate on ‘No Profit No Loss’ basis. The products are supplied at a price that includes actual cost of production. But actual cost of production is very high because all non-production expenditure is added to the pricing making the products extremely expensive. Captive consumers have no choice due to government policies. The cost of production includes cost of material, cost of direct labour and overhead costs. The high pricing of OFB items is mainly attributed to the high percentage of overhead costs.

 Post corporatisation, there would be flexibility in technology acquisition. OFB will be free to form strategic alliances with Indian and overseas companies to boost innovation and develop new products. The factories, if modernised and managed properly, will be able to unlock its true potential and be the main key in the ‘Make in India’ project. Also, OFB may no longer be dependent on the government for funding as it will be able to generate funds through other means like being listed on the stock exchange similar to other DPSUs. 

At the time of Independence, India inherited all 18 ordnance factories established by the British, while Pakistan got none. Currently, the OFB has 41 factories, 13 development centres and 9 institutes of learning.

With IANS inputs

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For real estate players there might be opportunity in the pandemic: Abdullah Hussain, Director, Amaltas India Limited

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Abdullah Husain

In an exclusive conversation with NewsX for its special segment NewsX A-list, Abdullah Hussain, Director of Amaltas India Limited talks about the real estate sector, business insights and his journey so far.

Talking about the key challenges for the real estate sector foreseen in a post COVID world, Hussain said “Right now we are sitting at post lockdown stage and not post COVID stage. So, the lockdown has its own impact on the real estate industry which will take its own time to recover. Firstly, we’ll talk about the financial bodies involved in this, and the need of time, for the real estate sector. For example, I would say that the moratorium period given by the financial institutions was not enough, the real estate demanded for at least 12 months of moratorium period. And unfortunately, the loan restart restructurings did not take place as they were.”

Other than the financial front Hussain shares about how the pandemic affected the sector, “There is a shift of new launches, even in our company, we had five or six projects which were to be launched in FY 20 but now we have shifted them in second half of FY 21. So, this is a very deep issue. We are disposing off our ready to move in properties at very low prices to sustain and manage this crisis. It is breaking the whole cash flow cycle.”

Hussain also addresses the issue of labour shortage and recovery, “the labour and shortage of construction material in this sector has also affected it adversely. So, these all issues combined have adversely affected real estate which would further take a lot of time to recover.”

The Amaltas Group is Bhopal’s premier real estate developer and Hussain throws light on some of the biggest opportunities for this sector in a post COVID world too. “For a few real estate players that might be opportunity time for them because there are lands and very cheap rates and there are many different opportunities like the demand and supply ratio. I feel it will accelerate post-COVID-19 because there is a sense of having a shifting from a rented property to having your own home. So there is a feeling of being more secure and that feeling of safety, developing and growing and everyone’s mind, so that will accelerate the real estate sector.”

Hussain also elaborated on affordable housing as a plus point, “Affordable housing might boom because the middle-aged and middle-class people already have their own home. So, this might make the youngsters to come up with an idea of having their own home and investing in affordable housing, rather than spending on their lifestyles and apart from that We have also got some relaxation home loans and reduction of interest rates, so this will again boost the real estate sector as the overall player essential role to uplift this sector.”

Hussain talks about his own brand and their multi ventures along with key products, “It is a very diversified form of business which is commodity as well as FMCG business. We came up with the idea of this amongst us about multi ventures in 2017. Our vision was that the market was booming at that time and we were doing quite well in Madhya Pradesh. The basic idea was to be in every household, and deliver our quality in every household so we have a variety of products. We have diversified things in terms of categories where we have home care and personal care as well as healthcare.”

On a concluding note, Hussain talks about his company’s role during the lockdown and Modi’s Make in India vision, “Our CSR team has done a lot in terms of distributing masks, sanitisers and food packets. There was a very patriotic feeling starting this company at that time. PM Narendra Modi Ji had a vision of Make in India and one more idea of which we had in mind, was to compete with international players with our brands. We are taking that venture while expanding our name with quality and helping people by generating more and more employment, and being more patriotic.”

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COVID-19 DAMAGED CRICKET BUT THANK GOD FOR IPL: DAVE CAMERON

In an exclusive conversation with NewsX, the former president of the West Indies Cricket Board shares his insights about cricket, his journey, and what the sport endured during this pandemic.

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Former president of the West Indies Cricket Board, Dave Cameron, assessed the effects of the global lockdown on cricket and said that the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) is a huge plus for cricket after six months of the pandemic.

About the damage, he said, “It’s been tremendous and enormous but, interestingly, cricket has weathered better than some other sports. England was able to play the National series, New Zealand will too shortly, but West Indies haven’t started any since the start of the pandemic, so that is damaging their finances and I suspect the same for South Africa and some of the smaller countries.” He continued, “Cricket has been damaged quite a bit but, thank God for the IPL. We are watching some excellent cricket, and I think it’s excellent because you have the best players in the world to play again.” Cameron mentioned that he expects to see India and Pakistan find a way to have Pakistani players playing the IPL too because they are some of the best in the world.

Talking about the status quo that cricket has been accustomed to in the last few decades and the kinds of changes needed, Cameron said, “What cricket needs is for the governing body to be the governing body and set rules and create opportunities for private investments. IPL is the brainchild of the BCCI and really flourishing because of all the private attendees who came because of the resources. They attract the best cricketers around the world.”

Sharing what he would do if he took on the mantle of ICC president, the former WICB president said, “Cricket must grow quicker around the world and the big countries should develop cricket alongside the smaller countries and be able to have their players and coaches make the biggest leagues around the world. That’s how we’re going to grow. We need to get the United States and those with huge markets on board, with private investors.”

Talking about the notion that most of the money that comes into cricket is only from a few countries, Cameron said that West Indies hasn’t gotten a single dollar for the particular tournaments mentioned and elaborated on his plan to change that. “Well, I don’t think things can change overnight. It will continue to come from the big countries with the big economies. For example, Europe can contribute to our coffers. The United States is a massive contributor to tournaments. I’m not advocating anything, but I believe these other tournaments in Europe are never going to smaller countries. The West is producing the kind of income simply because of the size of their economy. We should be able to see cricket, and not be paying massive retainers or international players. But I don’t. So, it is something that the board needs to sit down for. It’s not something I can walk in and get done overnight. Discussions should grow to this point,” he said.

Responding to how he would tackle allegations about Test cricket being sacrificed at the altar of T20, he said, “That is not anybody’s doing. It’s Generation Z which doesn’t want to take five days to consume the game. Again, I believe that there are certain countries’ geographies and they should just continue to play Tests. England, Australia, India, Bangladesh can play. But a Test match in the West Indies is a dead robot. There is not enough revenue or advertising sponsorships behind it to make this,” said Cameroon.

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BE HONEST AND MOVE TOWARDS SOMETHING MEANINGFUL: MOHIT CHOBEY

Business leader and author Mohit Chobey joins NewsX for a special segment to talk about his journey and experience.

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Mohit Chobey is a business leader, TEDx speaker, a competitor in the Ironman competition, and the writer of “1000 KMs to Leadership”. Starting with the story about his writing, he shared, “I have been informally writing, in terms of blogs, but I think the formal process of getting into authorship happened pretty recently. I had a plethora of writings, in which I had put together many of the experiences in terms of how I saw myself evolve as an individual, a human being, and the process of becoming an endurance athlete.”

Elaborating more on that experience, he said, “One of the most impactful events which happened to me was when I undertook this journey to South Africa, and participated in something called the Comrades Marathon. It’s more than 100 years old and the largest and possibly the biggest ultramarathon in the world with 90 km of distance (covered) over 12 hours.” “During the process, the way I evolved, I think the articulation of those feelings was something very difficult. Over the years, I kind of put together my thoughts, and eventually, it forced me to come out with a book—it is actually a series of three, this is just the first in the trilogy—called “1000 KMs to Leadership.”

Mohit comes from an Army background and reflects their resilience. “I think genetics always plays a role. The environment in which you’re brought up makes a difference for me too, since my father donned the uniform for 38 years, and I’ve been to some very interesting escapades and adventures along with him. He was a national-level hockey player and I think to that extent, at least, the athleticism and the sports element was ingrained in me. Very early in my life, sports became an integral part of me. So, it will be apt to say that it was part of my upbringing, which helped me become an athlete,” he shared.

Chobey added, “Some other traits which also developed because of the fact that I resided in different cities and went to different schools. That allows a certain amount of versatility and adaptability. And I think that helped me become a much better and stronger business leader and be able to manage situations much better.”

Thus, while growing up, Mohit Chobey was able to soak in the metropolises of India as well as get an insight into what rural India or Bharat is all about. Talking about the same, he said, “My first few years in the corporate world were with FMCG companies and they further ensured that my understanding of India was not limited to the metropolis, but to the last mile, to the hinterland and the villages. And it is a matter of fact, that this entity, this nation of ours, is actually a conglomeration of different aspects. You have to dive deep into it, dwell into it, to really get a holistic understanding of the nation. And I think, early in my career, that’s something which happened to me. I’m very grateful for that.”

Not too many knew of the Ironman competition before Milind Soman completed it. Involving a 3.8-kilometre swim, typically in open water, followed by a 180-kilometre bike ride and culminating in a full marathon of 42.2 kilometres, the challenge covers an overall distance of 226 kms, in anywhere between 15 and a half to 17 hours, depending on the terrain. “For me, I think the trigger point came after I became a fairly serious endurance athlete in the running space. I was exposed to the idea of Ironman and, as I believe challenges help us evolve as individuals, this is something which I was really looking forward to. I knew it was not really my domain, because swimming in the open water takes you into a different level altogether. I’ve tried to capture some elements of it in my second book, but the challenge is something which I thrive on,” said Mohit.

Mohit Chobey is also a business leader and has been a TEDx speaker too. He also ended up writing an article on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. “It’s called ‘Opportunity in Adversity’. Too many times we end up getting so overwhelmed by the change in fortunes and situations that we do not see the opportunity which it presents. To put it into perspective, I could come up with my book because of Covid. I’m not undermining the kind of global impact it has had. The fact of the matter is: It created a certain time availability,” he shared.

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WHAT’S UNDERMINING BUREAUCRACY AND MEDIA?

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If the political and the corporate system are not delivering, what about the permanent civil service? The biggest strength of the bureaucracy is that it comes through a transparent selection process and has amongst the best minds in the country. Bureaucrats have a secure working span of 30 to 35 years and can therefore think in the long term. All of them, when they appeared before the UPSC, professed a desire to serve the people. They claimed that their motivation to join the government was to take the benefits of development to the poorest. Some of them could have lied but certainly not all. The bureaucracy runs the government and has the executive powers to enforce the law. They are not just for programme implementation, regulation and compliance but are also mandated to protect the interests of the weakest—who are undeniably an equal owner of the country’s natural resources. They have to build and sustain public institutions, not mindlessly support outsourcing. They should be working on capacity building, improving the quality of products and services in the MSME sector, setting up technology incubation centres, skilling, re-skilling and strengthening the health, education, sanitation and training infrastructure to energise small industrial units. Instead we see that even the regulatory role of the bureaucracy is getting compromised.

What is undermining the bureaucracy? I am not getting into the subject of administrative and police reforms, etc. Here the question is why bureaucracy alone is targeted for corruption? True, we have seen how corruption undermines peoples’ trust in the bureaucracy and it has to be put down. The mechanisms to do so are available; we need the will to go forth. There are checks which work. All government decisions are subject to oversight by Parliament and statutory audit by an autonomous constitutionally mandated CAG; RTI queries, public disclosure and judicial review are other powerful deterrents. While petty corruption has continued as always, the last few decades have seen big corruption at higher levels. All these cases are linked to corporate entities, which have thrived under opaque decision making. They waste shareholder wealth on lavish lifestyles, questionable deals and hide behind an audit system which is on their own pay rolls. Their business decisions are vetted by an amorphous body of shareholders, financial institutions and promoters, who steam roll decisions in their personal interest. Notice how all cases of big corporate corruption were unearthed only when public servants and public financial institutions were probed. It was the oversight in the public sector which exposed the rot in the private sector, even leading to the recent fall of a government. The message is clear if we want to root out corruption, we must subject the private sector to the same kind of scrutiny as the public sector. All decisions, except on matters of national security, should, by law, be open to public scrutiny. Let us bite the bullet and see the dawn of a new India.

Talking of media, a lot has been written about their falling standards and there is no point dwelling further on the same. The crux of the matter is that information and questioning are the basis of democracy. The stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. Only intelligent people can ask questions, while the others can be led like sheep through fake news and propaganda. Educated people are a threat to totalitarian regimes. Bhagat Singh, before he went to the gallows in his mid-twenties, was reading the works of Leo Tolstoy, Bertrand Russell, Karl Marx, V.I. Lenin, Upton Sinclair, Friedrich Engels, Louis Tennyson and Rabindranath Tagore while in Jail. Apart from his daring exploits, it will not be wrong to believe that his intellect was considered a greater threat by the colonialists, even when he was so young? Therein lies the role of media.

Propaganda and fake news have traditionally been considered to be tools of non-conventional warfare. You use it in adversary nations to exploit their fault lines, to sow dissension and create confusion with the objective of undermining unfriendly regimes. You never ever use it within your own country. The final prey of propaganda, if used within a country, is always the regime itself which starts believing its own fake claims and loses touch with reality. It is like setting up terror groups to wage war against unlawful organisations inside the country. The groups eventually turn on the creator. Let us also remember that if the media becomes too compliant and keeps projecting the regime’s version for too long, it eventually loses credibility and then there is no vehicle left to carry the truth. The way to correct wrong perceptions of the past is through informed debate and not through fake claims. Intelligent people on either side have to establish their claims through facts and reason—that has been our tradition of shastrarth. Pushing false narratives to a gullible and poorly educated public is not in the long-term interest of the nation. We need thinking people, not compliant masses.

News is now dictated by interests of the promoters and handouts by interested parties are published without even the minimum effort to check their veracity. Having said all this, it remains a fact that some of the brightest and most well-read men and women are connected to this field. Some may have ideological reasons, but most can easily discern what is happening around them. We have seen some senior columnists make a course correction in their analytical writings. Truth purifies the soul and gives the opportunity to start again. The idea is not to start ranting where you were fawning but to bring public discourse back to the reality. While professional bodies can exercise checks on their members, the longer-term solution is to have a mandatory disclosure of ownership and funding of all media enterprises.

The writer is an Indian civil servant and a former Chairman of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). The views expressed are personal. This is the fourth of a five-part series that will appear over a period of time.

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From his urge to serve the country better in terms of healthcare to providing high-quality affordable diagnostics: Suresh Vazirani shares his inspiring journey

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Suresh Vazirani

In an exclusive conversation with NewsX for its special segment NewsX A-list, Suresh Vazirani, Chairman & Managing Director, Transasia Biomedicals Ltd shares his vision and pioneering insights on diagnostics and healthcare in India.

Vazirani talks about his company which has been making high-quality diagnostics affordable and accessible to the masses not just in India but worldwide. “We are 100% made in India company and we started in 1979. I was part of the Jay Prakash Narayan movement and like thousands of other people and I began to see my country in a new light. But why are we so poor? We are suffering too much. We had everything that’s required to be a great country, but somehow was not happening. This was the part of my awakening and towards the late 70s, JP had to be on dialysis very often. Sadly during the time in India, there were only two places in the whole of India, where they had dialysis where most of the time the machines would not work.”

Vazirani got too absorbed looking at the sad state of healthcare in the country which led to a major turning point in his life. “We had very few facilities in the country and no manufacturers, everything was imported. I strongly believed the best person to start is oneself if I want something to happen in the country or in the world. I decided that I will start a service like that where I can serve the hospitals and the people of my country, and provide the necessary, affordable test.”

Talking about his brand and the real USP and driving force behind it, Vazirani says “Our brand stands for serving the people of our country in an honest business that provides good quality, affordable products. End of March when Prime Minister Modi announced the lockdown for the country, this is when I spoke to my team to see it as an opportunity to transition and serve a country that we’ve been wanting to. When lockdown came there was only one laboratory in India doing COVID tests. I thought for a country of 1.2 billion people they are going to just die without testing. So we got our research and development team to start developing the test. Fortunately, we have our R&D setups also in Europe and America. We’ve got our scientists there to start work along with our Indian scientists.”

Throwing light on his journey so far while building the brand on his own, Vazirani shared with us a very amazing experience, “ after seeing Jaya Prakash’s conditions and the lack of healthcare in India, and the equipment.I wanted to innovate and help a country. I founded Transasia Bio-Medicals Ltd. with a measly investment of Rs. 250 with a conviction that we will provide India’s needs for affordable, reliable, quality Diagnostics. I chose diagnostics because in a country like India should focus more on prevention, rather than cure. That is why I believe that we got into diagnostics to help people prevent diseases.”

Sharing his future plans the visionary said “Medical field and technology is changing very fast and fantastic new solutions are coming in every day. This is the most exciting field in terms of technology and we want to do our part. But realizing in India we do not have a strong medical research base. That’s why we went out to Europe and America and acquired about 15 companies in Europe and America who have the technology to give us products that countries like India need. Our idea is to be able to meet all the needs of India, in terms testings and not only today but continue to do it as the technology grows”

On a concluding note, Vazirani shares inspiring advice to the young entrepreneurs who should and need to serve the country and says there should be room for bigger goals because very often the goals are very small wanting to simply make fast money.

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I realised the necessity of quality school education in our valley: Showkat Hussain Khan, Chairman, Doon International School, Srinagar

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In an exclusive conversation with NewsX for its special segment NewsX A-list, Showkat Hussain Khan, Chairman, Doon International School, Srinagar shares his experience about life and importance of quality schooling especially in the region of Jammu and Kashmir.

Talking us back to memory Lane and sharing the journey of his life, Khan said “ Fortunately, I was privileged enough to get the chance of receiving my primary education in the region of J&K and that too from a english medium school. It was extremely uncommon those days and this gradually made me realise the critical importance of quality schooling in the child’s life along with well attainment of knowledge and other skills.”

“It was the experience of the university days when I was pursuing higher studies in the Department of Physics that I found the absolute necessity of quality school education, and the specification of knowledgeable teachers in our region. I strongly felt that these two basic ingredients with the pressing priority and need of the moment in the valley if we had to uplift and educate the community as well to elevate the consciousness in youth.” further added Khan.

The school director credits his mother much who was instrumental in taping and motivating him. “ It was right after coming out of the university corridors that I invested my blood, sweat, and tears in order to empower my people by spreading higher education. In the year 2006. I took the initiative of establishing the College of Education in Srinagar. In the next couple of years it grew up to cater the needs of almost 5000 students and had several branches, thereby giving an admission to the students of the neighboring states like Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, and of course J&K.”

The educationist further explained how in spite of starting the B.ed colleges successfully he felt that he had not fulfilled my utmost duty and tells us about a major turning point. “It was to work tirelessly for the most fundamental procurement of having a need based quality school, in order to galvanize and support the school going children. I made a decision to pursue my unfilled dream of having it fully, fully state of art educational school by the name of Doon International School, a franchisee name obtained from the main branch with the primary aim of felicitating and devising opportunities for the Kashmiri students.”

Khan opens up about the challenges and obstacles that he faced since inception and how running a school in a conflict torn region of J&K is like. “ Firstly, running a school in Srinagar itself is a challenge. Doon International School, Srinagar is widely known for its emphasis on providing our young children with a friendly, warm and homely environment. Classrooms are well-equipped with a pristine state of art infrastructure. The activity centre and play park designed by education experts provide areas for leisure and relaxation for the little ones outside their classrooms. The teaching is highly aided by technology through the use of tablets by children as well as teachers.”

Further Khan explains what sets Doon International apart from other schools in the valley. “Every child in our campus is an inevitable part of our ongoing mission and the progress of the primary and nursery students is tracked from a very tender age by grooming them in such a way that they are able to keep up with the challenges of the current cut throat competition. Teachers are well groomed and trained with all academic virtues, as well but soft skills, necessarily for childcare.”

Khan also mentioned the schooling system in the region, internet blockade and doing online classes on 2g speed. “As per the 2g network was concerned our teachers have left no stone unturned to work on our students even in the critical phases of pandemic. As a school it has set another benchmark by satisfying all the parents and the stakeholders in this prolonged phase of social crisis.

Moreover our students have brought laurels to the school worldwide in the International Taekwondo competition, Macau. The school has started in 2014 only but our students perform well in international competitions as well as in nationals. The school was sadly evicted with the impact of violence and strikes unusually for a couple of years. And this had its correlating effects on all our children.”

On a concluding note, the school director mentions how his school also encouraged sports infrastructure. “It makes my chest swell with pride to confirm that we have taken an important initiative by setting up MS Dhoni Cricket Coaching Academy in the school campus. This is the first venture meant for the cricket lovers,and will continue to provide a lifetime opportunity to the youths in the valley.”

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