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Policy & Politics

Roadmap to counter the Dragon in the factory

Manufacture in China and sell it in India: This is the new trend because we have failed to build up the ecosystem for research and development and innovation in the country. Investing in R&D is assumed to be a waste. We could not develop a single indigenous product in the software industry with a global brand value… though we have the best IT companies and brains in the country.

Gopal Goswami

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The recent series of events occurred at Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh between Indian and PLA troops has created outrage against the autocratic regime of China and its expansionist spree. People have started self-boycotting possible products of China and nationwide protests have taken place. The government also banned 59 Chinese online applications with huge user base & popularity. But can we afford to boycott without quality alternatives? We should be realistic and sincerely work upon issues & Challenges faced by our Industrialists, Entrepreneurs & Service industry. Manufacture in China and sell it in India is the new trend because we have failed to build up the eco system for Research & Development and innovation in the country. Investing in R&D is assumed to be a waste. We could not develop a single indigenous product in the software industry with a global brand value like Apple, Google, Facebook, twitter though we have the best IT companies and brains in the country. We have copied their products like Flipkart from Amazon, Ola or Uber, etc. We need to understand the challenges and try to improvise and innovate at the earliest.

 China has emerged as a manufacturing superpower in last decades. World could not realise how they got enslaved with cheap and bulk items with value for money. They have products for each pocket both in quality and price. Today China controls major items sold by top brands on likes of Apple, Sony etc. Each electronic device manufactured in world has a part manufactured in China. China’s cheap labour and speedy execution of projects made it numero uno of manufacturing world.

Post Covid-19 world is anti-China, thanks to Wuhan virus. It has demonised China and its approach to human life, values, ethics and work culture. The world is searching for options where it can have goods with quality, competitive price and timely delivery. Over 300 foreign companies have decided to shut their manufacturing units in China and move to safe and better place. Japan declared two billion $ relief package for companies to shift from china.

 India is placed better to address the situation and grab this opportunity. We have cheap labour compared to the rest of the world except China, Vietnam or Bangladesh. We have better infrastructure now. We have a democratically elected government committed for growth and welfare of people. Whereas what dictatorship can lead to can be witnessed in China. No human rights, no transparency, massive corruption, uncertainty in policies and hostile conditions.

If we evaluate pro and cons of Indian business environment in an objective manner, our weaknesses and strong points as compared to China. We already discussed democracy and human right index is well above in India compared to China. Civil rights are enjoyed to the maximum or we can say at times it’s been abused. Censorship on the media and other communication means there is almost no transparency. The recent corona pandemic is evident how China risked humankind by hiding coronavirus. There is no concrete information about actual number of deaths by coronavirus in China. Had there been free media thousands of lives and huge resources could have been saved. 

 The areas which needs to be addressed immediately: 

 1. Policies are still not fully business friendly

2. Corruption  in middle and lower rungs of bureaucracy

3. Slow processes of decision making, implementation and communication

4. Absence of long-term policies [policies may change with the change of a government]

5. Politics in business related decisions. [Location of new plant, political pressure for jobs etc]

 6. Specialised Banks for each sector 

Policies

We don’t have industryfriendly policies which can inspire new entrepreneur and industrialist to venture in to large scale production facilities as the market is still controlled by few business houses. They kill each opportunity for the MSME to emerge big. Intensive focus needed to mitigate challenges faced by the MSME industry. Draconian laws of British era still exist in Indian regulatory system, Environmental laws, Land acquisition and conversion of land for industrial purpose is biggest source of corruption and major road block in development. Files take month and years to be cleared despite capitation money being paid to officials at each Collectorate or revenue department. Digital mapping of land and its conversion should be done online. Alternatively, Centre or state governments themselves should identify land parcels in advance, purchase them from farmers or other sellers, obtain necessary clearances, build infrastructure [like roads, power and water lines] and keep them ready for sale. In any case for so many business-like electronics, IT, Argo products, environment and forest clearances are unnecessary. It takes years for approval and promoter starts losing interest on the project even before project gets off the ground. This is because bank loan starts accumulating interest on it.

South Korean steel giant POSCO waited for so many years to set up its steel plant and has finally walked away because of such delays.

Bureaucracy is biggest hurdle in development as the decision taken at highest level fails to get implemented at ground. For example, in recent corona pandemic, govt of India has decided to reduce performance security deposit up to remaining project cost but it has not been passed on to agencies by departments, contractors are suffering serious financial crunches.

 In short, policies should be well thought out and must be for long term, should not be influenced by changes in the government or ministry or officials. Polices should be such that there are no scopes for corruption or delays.

Corruption

Though an autocratic regime is believed to be more corrupt, in china the corruption is limited to the top rungs of Chinese Communist Party only. Autocracy helps them in implementation of policies and projects in real-time. Fear of being severely punished works well with such way of governance. Contrary to this India has seen a non-corrupt regime at Centre in last 6 years. But mid and lower level is still the same, its big roadblock to policies and programs of the government. For example, Banks are told to lend to SME, MSME sectors to support it to revive. But banks are hell-bent on not doing it. They follow same old line of no work is better than to be held accountable. They fear of being booked by ED or CBI for any wrong lending. PSU bank and government enforcement agencies must understand that they are also doing business and some cases resulting in NPA doesn’t necessarily mean corruption. 

 One classic example is Dholera special investment region (SIR), the brainchild and dream project of PM Modi. A huge 72 square kilometre area has been developed with worldclass infrastructure near Ahmadabad out of the proposed total area of 920 Square kilometres. It was conceived when PM Modi was CM of Gujarat,  over 6 years since he became Prime minister but not a single industry has moved in. A sum of over Rs 5,000 crore already spent on development so far. It’s time to invite those 300 companies moving out of china to Dholera SIR. They can start manufacturing within a year with ready to move infrastructure in place.

 Present Modi government has been talking about so called “Plug and Play model” for new business, Dholera SIR is ideal location to execute this Plug and Play model.

The lower and mid-segment of government must show accountability towards timely implementation of the government schemes from time to time. Technology can play a big role to settle this issue. As the world is making new norms post Covid work culture, we should focus on online meetings for quick approvals, disbursements of disputes if any. Unnecessary movement of physical applications and paperwork should be avoided. The human interface only can reduce corruption and speed up the work.

Specialised banks for each sector

The rapid growth of china is largely attributed to planning of finances to new enterprises. China has separate bank for each business sector like Industrial bank of China is for industryspecific. Agricultural Bank of China is for agro-business only. Infrastructure bank of china is for infra projects lending. This makes the officials expert in their respective field and easy to understand customer needs. In India, all our private or public sector banks are doing all the businesses and they don’t have expertise in any specific business. They struggle to learn new type of project or consumer demand comes to them. We have our own ILFS or NABARD or NBFCs but they too are mired in red tape and corruption. We should improve and upgrade work culture of these lending institutions to make them more business friendly. Large PSBs should have “desks” or single widow systems for specific businesses.

Presently our yearly imports from China are about Rs 5 lakh crore. Bulk of them comprise of following segments

1. Electronics

2. Telecom equipment

3. Organic & Inorganic chemicals, intermediates, bulk drugs, agro chemicals, dyes etc

4. Textiles [including manmade fibres and yarns]

5. Air conditioners & Refrigeration equipment

6. Automobile batteries

Government must approach concerned trade bodies for above businesses to seek implementable solutions from them to replace these imports in time bound manner. Most of the items mentioned above are already being made in India. Some of them can be imported from other countries for time being [Refer case of Hero Motor Cycles, they cancelled their orders worth Rs 700 crore from China for auto components and planning to buy with little higher price from Germany but will eventually make them in India].

In short term our objective should be to meet domestic demands for these products. While doing this, we can address issues of quality and prices. This will enable us to globally compete China and should focus on “suppliers of first choice” because of antiChina environment across the world.

We are able to produce best of engineers and managers for the global businesses. Time is ripe for us to harness this talent to counter this Chinese challenge.

Key takeaways

 * Encourage all government departments dealing in revenue, environment, and pollution control to go digital and online to speed up the process, transparency, avoid harassment to industrialists.

* MSME sector must get close attention of Top decision-makers. They are backbone of economy and employment. About 50% of export earnings are from MSME sectors also employs 55% of our work force. While political leadership has realised importance of this sector, bureaucracy is yet to respond positively to this critical sector.

 * One nation one tariff for electricity. It varies from Rs 2.5-7.00 per unit. 

 * The manufacturer is confused, by the time they start production with pre-existing benefits announced by the incumbent government, the government changes and new policies come to force. They should have a protection pact for a minimum of 25 years.

* People should be encouraged to establish units in their own locality/ state and must be given incentives for such initiatives.

 * Consumption of goods made locally should be encouraged. Such goods are bound to be cheaper as they don’t involve storage and transportation costs.

* Bank lending must be done easily with lower collateral security & rate of interest to encourage new entrepreneurs & should be on top priority.

Any business decision involving huge capital outlay will be taken with prime consideration for the risks involved in safeguarding the capital deployed. This can be assured only with consistent long-term policies, political stability, rule of law, corruption free administration, efficient funding institutions and availability of skilled manpower. All these areas need to be addressed by political leadership. Beginning has already been made. China has provided us with the impetus to move ahead quickly in all these spheres.

Gopal Goswami is research scholar.

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Policy & Politics

The Unique Indian Market: Doing Business in India

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The complex and challenging diversity of India has confused many – Indians as well as foreigners have tried and are still trying to understand the market for taking right decisions. But often they have failed. Some learnt their lessons and survived whereas others quit. But no one could sum up common problems or common prospects with sure shot definition of the Indian market and its attributes like most global peers (by definition of a country). Now, here is a book which has tied all aspects about the country together in one thread and very brilliantly put them in mere 200 odd pages. This quick read summarizes the History, Geography, Democratic Politics and Economics of modern Free India along with undivided India/ colonial India(before independence), without compromising on data and the key facts.

The initial chapters in the book focus on an overall status of Indian market – a brief history, success, and failures of foreign companies in India. This is followed by describing the diversity across all possible parameters viz. ethnic, linguistic, regional, religious, cultural, food habits, lifestyle etc. The next few chapters brilliantly summarize the history of foreign attacks and rulers from Gupta Dynasty in 4th Century to the British rule till 1947 (middle of 20th Century) along with foreign business in India since 1292AD. All the East India Companies of different countries for different goods in different Indian territories, debate on acknowledgement of “India” and failure of an American East India Company (yet a successful ice-export to America by ship in 1883) is covered here.

Stating credible and authentic sources, the author boasts of the 35% contribution made by India to the world GDP before the foreign attacks and compares it to the ‘less than 1%’ a decade before the start of the 21st Century. The book compares the golden history with current concerns and struggles for the SMEs in the country providing valid reasons for the change over centuries and suggestions for making a mark again. It talks about how the country directly jumped from being an agrarian economy to the service one, grossly skipping the important manufacturing lessons. The seeds sown by the invaders that made India a supplier of raw materials and importer of finished goods, are still reaping their bitter fruits which has made Indians totally dependent on other countries or their MNCs/companies in India for the manufacturing part. Every eye is now on the results of ‘Make-In-India’ and ‘Atma-Nirbhar-Bharat’. How India makes up for the losses it faced for centuries and gets back its prosperity, which it lost to the greed of others, and self-created mistakes!

The next few chapters provide the reader an exhaustive overview of governance and administration system in India with around 1000 political parties at country level, and the love-hate relationship between the union and state governments, and its implications on businesses. Following these are topics on classification of the country based on wealth inequality, religion, reservations, working, education, native status, region, languages, surnames etc.

An exceptional set of chapters on Social Capital of India and Indian Education System follow next. The author highlights how successful SME with international trade existed even in ancient history. Pluralism based rich heritage was present without existence of slaves or concept of castes. Qualities and actions were given more importance in ancient India, not the family of birth – all these were changed by the British for their selfish motives and ‘divide and rule’ policies; castes were assigned at birth and first caste-based census was reported in 1987. Castes were brought by the Portuguese and the British. Jati

Book Review

(based on knowledge) or Varna (community) is not same as Caste. Caste and Reservations based systems were the main cause for lack of development , disharmony, and social problems like untouchability. The Indian Education System today faces issue of ample knowledge but lacks in skills and trainings, because it has shifted from the Gurukul system and well-developed universities to current faulty Pro-Degree one. This was surely another downgrade by foreign invaders who wanted India to remain a raw-material exporter. Practice based education system was converted to theory based, same education system for all, high tenure in education system of 10+2+3/4 years. The upcoming New Education Policy gets a ray of hope to cater to these drawbacks and revive the ancient Indian entrepreneurial system with new nomenclature.

India’s orientation towards service sector and the problems of agriculture and industries is covered in detail in the following chapters. How ‘thriving SMEs were uprooted and License-Quota-Permit-Raj was imposed’ is discussed. Even after 75 years of independence and multiple changes in industrial policy, manufacturing industry is still not even close to the ancient SMEs. Due to the strong Government control, even now around 2,000 different approvals and permissions are required to start and run a manufacturing business, which need to regularly undergo lot of inspections and regulations.

Business culture, business systems and impact of family system on business is well defined and exhaustively discussed by Dr. Jain. India vs. Bharat debate and India’s Diaspora with Indians who have settled abroad are a decent read. The author does not forget to cover the regular and massive festivals and celebrations and their role in business.Interestingly chapters that follow next highlight on media –(advertising and PR), Jugaad Technology, existence of parallel systems and paradoxes seen in the country which create a base for how things are not as they appear.

The last few chapters talk in detail about India being in transition, the taxation & legal system in India and strategies and tips for a successful India entry. Throughout the book, the author continues to assess the performance and what lacks in the SMEs ,he provides apt suggestions to cater to the later.

A well-researched, well-structured, and well-expressed book of 30 chapters, “The Unique Indian Market: Doing Business in India” is a masterpiece for existing and prospective entrepreneurs and for everyone who intends to understand the country (in fact, the Sub-continent – considering the diversity as the author Dr. Prateek Jain puts it). Dr. Jain has used a varied range of writing flavors – seriousness of facts, jokes with good sense of humor, using anecdotes or simple essaying – keeping the essence intact and effective. Each chapter is complete in itself, yet well connected with the other.

In a nutshell, after the detailed and fact-based analysis, the author convinces the reader how 2020s is the best time to do business in India. Success is guaranteed if the uniqueness of the market is accepted and appreciated, and case specific related action taken. Though targeted with a business in India focus, this book is a must-read book for a traveler, a student or a homemaker!

Hemant G. Golechha is PhD Research Scholar, Dr. Vishwanath Karad’s MIT World Peace University.

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Policy & Politics

INDIA’S MERCHANDISE EXPORT IN APRIL 2021 WAS US$30.21 BILLION

Tarun Nangia

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India’s merchandise exports in April 2021 was USD 30.21 billion, an increase of 197.03% over USD 10.17 billion in April 2020 and an increase of 16.03% over USD 26.04 billion in April 2019.

India’s merchandise imports in April 2021 was USD 45.45 billion, with an increase of 165.99% over USD 17.09 billion in April 2020 and an increase of 7.22% over USD 42.39 billion in April 2019.

India is thus a net importer in April 2021 with a trade deficit of USD 15.24 billion, which increased by 120.34% over trade deficit of USD 6.92 billion in April 2020 and declined by 6.81% over trade deficit of USD 16.35 billion in April 2019.

In April 2021, the value of non-petroleum exports was USD 26.85 billion, registering a positive growth of 200.62% over USD 8.93 billion in April 2020 and a positive growth of 19.44% over USD 22.48 billion in April 2019. The value of non-petroleum and non-gems and jewellery exports in April 2021 was USD 23.51 billion, registering a positive growth of 164.28% over USD 8.90 billion in April 2020 and a positive growth of 19.89% over USD 19.61 billion in April 2019.

In April 2021, Oil imports was USD 10.8 billion, a positive growth of 132.26% compared to USD 4.65 billion in April 2020 and a negative growth of 6.62 compared to USD 11.56 billion in April 2019.

Non-oil imports in April 2021 was estimated at USD 34.65 billion, showing an increase of 178.6% compared to USD 12.44 billion in April 2020 and an increase of 12.42% compared to USD 30.82 billion in April 2019.

Non-oil, non-GJ (gold, silver &Precious metals) imports was USD 26.05 billion in April 2021, recording a positive growth of 111.3%, as compared to non-oil and non-GJ imports of USD 12.33 billion in April 2020 and a positive growth of 6.48% over USD 24.46 billion in April 2019.

All Major commodities have recorded positive growth in export during April 2021 vis-à-vis April 2020 namely, Gems and Jewellery (9158.63%), Jute mfg. Including floor covering (1556.39%), Carpet (1351.48%), Handicrafts excl. Hand-made carpet (1207.98%), Leather and leather manufactures (1168.96%), RMG of All Textiles (920.52%), Cotton yarn/fabrics/made-ups, handloom products etc. (616.6%), Man-made yarn/fabrics/made-ups etc. (583.53%), Ceramic products and glassware (441.57%), Other cereals (441.46%), Electronic Goods (362.86%), Oil meals (275.91%), Cashew (252.46%), Mica, coal and other ores, minerals including process (234.63%), Engineering goods (234.63%), Tobacco (183.86%), Iron ore (175.15%), Petroleum products (171.11%), Cereal preparations and miscellaneous processed item (170.86%), Oil Seeds (166.24%), Meat, dairy and poultry products (148.6%), Tea (143.04%), Marine products (107.59%), Spices (102.32%), Coffee (73.83%), Organic and Inorganic Chemicals (69.39%), Rice (60.29%), Plastic and linoleum (47.49%), Fruits and vegetables (21.82%), and Drugs and pharmaceuticals (20.68%).

Major commodity groups of export showing positive growth in April 2021 over April 2019 are: Iron ore (219.55%), Other cereals (206.43%), Oil meals (86.59%), Jute mfg. Including floor covering (66.19%), Rice (49.45%), Cereal preparations and miscellaneous processed item (40.34%), Electronic Goods (35.81%), Mica, coal and other ores, minerals including process (33.17%), Spices (32.72%), Cotton yarn/fabrics/made-ups, handloom products etc. (25.27%), Ceramic products and glassware (22.57%), Drugs and pharmaceuticals (22.55%), Carpet (22.38%), Engineering goods (18.61%), Cashew (16.57%), Gems and Jewellery (16.38%), Marine products (16.34%), Handicrafts excl. Hand-made carpet (14.33%), Plastic and linoleum (13.31%), Fruits and vegetables (11.66%), Man-made yarn/fabrics/made-ups etc. (8.35%), and Oil Seeds (1.30%).

Major commodity groups of export showing negative growth in April 2021 over April 2019 are: Tea (-23.66%%), Leather and leather manufactures (-13.27%), Tobacco (-9.86%), RMG of All Textiles (-8.01%), Petroleum products (-5.5%), Coffee (-2.56%), Organic and Inorganic Chemicals (-2.21%), and Meat, dairy and poultry products (-1.38%).

Major commodity groups of import showing positive growth in April 2021 over the corresponding month of last year are: Gold (215906.91%), Pearls, precious & Semi-precious stones (119500.48%), Sulphur & Unroasted Iron Pyrites (1525.05%), Electronic goods (213.59%), Non-ferrous metals (193.89%), Transport equipment (170.95%), Professional instrument, Optical goods, etc. (163.13%), Artificial resins, plastic materials, etc. (138.18%), Metaliferrous ores & other minerals (133.77%), Petroleum, Crude & products (132.26%), Machinery, electrical & non-electrical (113.73%), Textile yarn Fabric, made-up articles (111.7%), Wood & Wood products (101.01%), Machine tools (100.93%), Vegetable Oil (97.57%), Project Goods (91.79%), Leather & leather products (91.59%), Dyeing/tanning/colouring materials (88.10%), Chemical material & products (84.57%), Iron & Steel (73.19%), Organic & Inorganic Chemicals (72.73%), Fruits & vegetables (70.0%), Coal, Coke & Briquettes, etc. (65.98%), Medcnl. & Pharmaceutical products (56.92%), Pulp and Waste paper (46.35%), Cotton Raw & Waste (11.68%) and Fertilisers, Crude & manufactured (7.75%).

Major commodity groups of import showing negative growth in April 2021 over the corresponding month of last year are: Silver (-88.55%), Newsprint (-46.07%), and Pulses (-42.46%).

Major commodity groups of import showing positive growth in April 2021 over April 2019 are: Vegetable Oil (75.85%), Gold (54.17%), Chemical material & products (41.68%), Artificial resins, plastic materials, etc. (36.69%), Metaliferrous ores & other minerals (29.60%), Sulphur & Unroasted Iron Pyrites (25.23%), Medcnl. & Pharmaceutical products (22.23%), Fruits & vegetables (18.95%), Electronic goods (17.01%), Pearls, precious & Semi-precious stones (15.39%), Non-ferrous metals (13.51%), Organic & Inorganic Chemicals (12.46%), Professional instrument, Optical goods, etc. (6.78%), Dyeing/tanning/colouring materials (5.54%), and Wood & Wood products (2.63%).

Major commodity groups of import showing negative growth in April 2021 over April 2019 are: Silver (-95.25%), Newsprint (-59.63%), Cotton Raw & Waste (-50.42%), Pulses (-46.98%), Project Goods (-37.47%), Leather & leather products (-33.10%), Transport equipment (-24.49%), Machine tools (-23.40%), Pulp and Waste paper (-18.09%), Iron & Steel (-17.93%), Coal, Coke & Briquettes, etc. (-14.84%), Fertilisers, Crude & manufactured (-11.44%), Petroleum, Crude & products (-6.62%), Machinery, electrical & non-electrical (-1.55%), and Textile yarn Fabric, made-up articles (-0.37%).

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Policy & Politics

Badrinath to be developed as spiritual and smart hill town by oil and gas PSUs

Chief Minister of Uttarakhand and Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas & Steel jointly witness the signing.

Tarun Nangia

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Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) were signed today between the Oil and Gas PSUs-IndianOil, BPCL, HPCL, ONGC and GAIL, and Shri BadrinathUtthan Charitable Trust for Construction and Redevelopment of Badrinath Dham as a Spiritual Smart hill Town. The MoUs were signed in the august presence of the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Tirath Singh Rawat, Union Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas & Steel Dharmendra Pradhan, Tourism Minister of Uttarakhand Satpal Maharaj, Secretary, MoPNG Tarun Kapoor, Chief Secretary of Uttarakhand Shri Om Prakash, and senior officers of the MoPNG, Uttarakhand Government and Oil & Gas PSUs.

As per the MoUs, the Oil & Gas PSUs will be contributing Rs. 99.60 crore in the first phase of the developmental activities, including river embankment work, building all-terrain vehicular path, building bridges, beautifying existing bridges, establishing gurukul facilities with accommodation, creating toilet and drinking water facilities, installing streetlights, mural paintings etc.

Speaking on the occasion, Pradhan said that Char Dham is close to millions of Indians, due to spiritual, religious and cultural reasons. The Oil and Gas PSUs will not only contribute to the development work of the Badrinath but are also part of the development of Kedarnath, Uttarkashi, Yamunotri and Gangotri. He said “Today’s event is a significant milestone in the direction of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of developing Badrinath shrine as a mini smart and spiritual city, without compromising on the religious sanctity and mythological importance of the region.”

Lauding the efforts of Oil & Gas PSUs in developing the facilities, Pradhan said, “I am glad that Oil and Gas PSUs of this nation have come forward to realise the vision of developing BadrinathDham into a Smart Spiritual Town. Tourism is one of the key industries, which is playing a critical role in the development of the state. Development of the sites like Badrinath would also help in attracting more tourists, which in turn would strengthen the economy of the state.”

Addressing the occasion, Tirath Singh Rawat said, “I congratulate Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Oil & Gas PSUs for extending their supports for this noble initiative. Shri Badrinath Dham has a special place in the hearts of the people of this country. It is considered to be one of the most sacred places in our country, and developmental activities are much needed to provide the best of facilities to the pilgrims from across the country. With the concerted efforts of both Uttarakhand Govt. and Oil & Gas PSUs, we are hopeful that the rejuvenation work of Shri Badrinath Dham will be completed within a span of three-year time.”

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Policy & Politics

SIGNIFICANT ECONOMIC PRESENCE: ADDING ANOTHER STRING TO THE BOW

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Over the years, digitalisation and technology have revolutionised our world and daily lives. Emerging technologies such as internet of things, quantum computing, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, big data, machine learning, blockchain etc have a marked influence on our economic as well as social activities and are changing the way people connect, entertain, socialise, create, sell, shop and work. With technological advancement, the pace at which businesses have proliferated their extraterritorial presence without having any tangible footprint, is astonishing. India is among the top three global economies in terms of digital consumer base, with 624 million active internet users. Taxation systems in major developing economies, including India, were drafted taking into consideration, the traditional way of doing business, ie a brick-and-mortar model. The conventional residence-based and source-based concepts of taxation have become outmoded over time and incapable of effectively taxing the digital economy largely due to its distinctive amorphous nature. This has resulted in either double taxation or non-taxation of revenues and has become a key base erosion and profit shifting concern across the globe. The OECD and G-20 countries have been working determinedly under the inclusive framework on BEPS to address the need for tax reforms. The OECD is spearheading a project to develop a consensus-based solution to address this crisis through revised profit allocation and nexus rules. India has been at the fore of adopting changes in international tax systems to keep pace with progression in the digital world. India was among the first to implement Equalisation Levy in 2016 on online advertisements related services and to substantially expanded the scope of this levy in 2020 to cover e-commerce supply and services. Equalisation Levy is designed to operate outside the framework of the existing system of tax treaties and transactions covered thereunder are not subject to income tax.

In the year 2018, the domestic tax laws in India were amended to widen the scope of ‘business connection’ with the introduction of Significant Economic Presence (SEP). The resulting income of a non-resident attributable to SEP in India were to be considered taxable. However, owing to delay in accomplishing a global consensus, SEP provisions were deferred till April 1, 2021 and the enacting thresholds were not prescribed. Pursuant to the amendments in Finance Act 2020 and the recent notification prescribing these thresholds, SEP is now defined to mean any transaction in respect of any goods, services or property carried out by a non-resident with any person in India, including the provision of download of data or software in India, subject to payments threshold of INR 20 million or systematic and continuous soliciting of business activities or engaging in interaction with 0.3 million or more number of users in India. Moreover, transactions and activities may constitute SEP in India, regardless of whether a non-resident has a residence or place of business in India, or renders services in India, or agreement for such transactions or activities is entered in India. This all-embracing definition is not restricted to digital transactions and could also impact typical buy-sell or service transactions between non-resident and an Indian resident. Far from the original intent, SEP provisions may also embrace offshore sale of goods and provisions of services outside India, unless clarified otherwise. Necessary clarifications regarding definition of key terms such as goods, property, systematic and continuous soliciting etc are awaited too from the Regulators.

Although SEP related provisions are applicable from April 1, 2021, it may only be a ‘paper tiger’ as non-residents from tax treaty network countries are shielded under the narrower definition of Permanent Establishment (PE) in respective tax treaties. India has an operational tax treaty alliance with majority of countries housing businesses that derive income from India. Unless these tax treaties are renegotiated through bilateral or multilateral instrument and corresponding modifications are made to include provisions similar to SEP in those tax treaties, SEP provisions under domestic tax laws seem innocuous. Irrespective of this armour, test of beneficial ownership could still be a relevant aspect to evaluate, especially in cases of multi-tier structures, where a non-resident could invoke tax treaty protection to duck SEP test. On other side of the fence, SEP provisions would set in motion for all businesses coming from countries such as the Bahamas, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, etc, with whom India does not have a tax treaty yet.

A conjoint assessment of net basis taxation under SEP and gross basis taxation under Equalisation Levy would become critical for digital businesses. Equalisation Levy would become an elective regime once a non-resident e-commerce operator accedes to an Indian PE, in the form of SEP. In a scenario where a non-resident constitutes SEP in India, only income attributable to such transaction or activities would be taxable in India. While a public consultation document on profit attribution for SEP was issued by the Central Board of Direct Taxes, no rules have been notified so far. It, therefore, becomes apposite to assess the applicability of Rule 10 in such a scenario. Constitution of SEP would unfold various compliance obligations for both, payers and non-residents. Payers would be required to review withholding tax position as any shortfall could trigger expense disallowance, interest, and penal consequences. Non-residents, on the other hand, could be required to file income tax return, tax audit and transfer pricing reports in India, wherever applicable. Notably, non-compliance related to transactions carried out between April 1 and May 2 of 2021 (ie before threshold notification date) may possibly be defended by payers on the tenet of impossibility of performance.

Though the payment threshold for Equalisation Levy and SEP are calibrated at same level, it is quite low given the size of Indian economy and growing consumer base. Even after the Apex Court settled the highly debated issue of taxation of software, taxpayers cannot breathe a sigh of relief as the ruling was based entirely on the premise of no PE in India and software sale as well as services transactions could now well be covered under the new SEP regime. The evolving ecosystem of taxation in India would require non-residents to tread a tightrope as dynamic provisions such as SEP are plugging-in loopholes that may have existed under domestic tax laws for a while. What lies ahead is the hope of reaching a quick global consensus that could provide a fair and just system of taxation, followed by modification of tax treaties to incorporate the suggested amendments.

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Policy & Politics

Pradhan flags off used cooking oil-based biodiesel from Indian Oil’s Tikrikalan terminal

Tarun Nangia

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Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas and Steel, Dharmendra Pradhan, remotely flagged off the first supply of UCO (Used Cooking Oil) based Biodiesel blended Diesel under the EOI Scheme from IndianOil’s Tikrikalan Terminal. Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas Tarun Kapoor and Chairman, IndianOil S M Vaidya, were also present on the occasion.

To create an eco-system for collection and conversion of UCO into Biodiesel and developing entrepreneurship opportunities, Hon’ble Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas & Steel, along with Hon’ble Minister of Health & Family Welfare, Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, had initiated Expressions of Interest (EoIs) for “Procurement of Bio-diesel produced from Used Cooking Oil (UCO)” on the occasion of World Biofuel Day on 10th August 2019. And such “Expression of Interest” is being periodically released by Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs). In the first phase, 11 EoIs were floated between 10.08.2019 to 09.11.2020 for 200 locations. Publication of EoIs has been extended for one more year up to 31.12.2021, for 300 locations across the country.

Under this initiative, OMCs offer periodically incremental price guarantees for five years and extend off-take guarantees for ten years to prospective entrepreneurs. So far, IndianOil has also issued 23 LOIs for Biodiesel plants with a total capacity of 22.95 Cr Litres (557.57 TPD). Under this initiative, IndianOil has received 51KL of UCO-Biodiesel at its Tikrikalan terminal in Delhi as of 31.3.2021.

Speaking on the occasion, Dharmendra Pradhan complimented the Oil industry on the stellar role they have played to keep the fuel lines running despite the stiff challenges of the pandemic. He also lauded the OMCs for going beyond the usual business imperatives by extending support for medical oxygen supply to the nation in this crisis. Mr Pradhan also appreciated IndianOil’s leadership role in smoothening the Liquid oxygen logistics in the country through various initiatives.

Referring to the flag-off of the first supply of UCO-based Biodiesel from IndianOil’s Tikrikalan Terminal, Mr Pradhan said, “This is a landmark in India’s pursuance of Biofuels and will have a positive impact on the environment. This initiative will garner substantial economic benefits for the nation by shoring up indigenous Biodiesel supply, reducing import dependence, and generating rural employment”. He appreciated the proactive role played by OMCs in this direction and shared that 30 LOIs have already been issued.

Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, Tarun Kapoor, while delivering his address, said, “With this flag off, a new era of Bioenergy has been ushered in that will revolutionize the Indian petroleum sector. Feedstock availability in Biodiesel is a challenge, and leveraging UCO can be a major breakthrough that will enable us to reach the target of 5% Biodiesel blending. It will also help divert the unhealthy used oil from the food chain to a more productive purpose”. Mr Kapoor also complimented IndianOil for their focused drive on UCO based Biodiesel and for the concerted efforts undertaken to promote the benefits of Biodiesel.

Earlier, Chairman IndianOil S M Vaidya, while welcoming the gathering, said, “IndianOil is committed to contributing to this remarkable drive to retrieve the unhealthy Used Cooking Oil and usher in a revolution through “Randhan se Indhan”. We aspire to trace even the last drop of UCO and ensure its conversion to Biodiesel, thereby contributing to a more energy secure, greener and healthier India. This event is yet another significant step towards a Swachh and Aatmanirbhar Bharat”. He also shared that IndianOil has started constructing eight Biodiesels plants across Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh.

Biodiesel is an alternative fuel similar to conventional or ‘fossil’ diesel. It can be produced from vegetable oil, animal fats, tallow and waste cooking oil. A significant advantage of Biodiesel is its carbon-neutrality, i.e. the oilseed absorbs the same amount of CO2 as is released when the fuel is combusted in a vehicle. Also, Biodiesel is rapidly biodegradable and completely non-toxic.

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Policy & Politics

INDIA BEGINS EXPORT OF ORGANIC MILLETS GROWN IN HIMALAYAS TO DENMARK

Tarun Nangia

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In a major boost to organic products exports from the country, first consignment of millets grown in Himalayas from snow-melt water of Ganges in Dev Bhoomi (Land of the God), Uttarakhand would be exported to Denmark.

APEDA, in collaboration with Uttarakhand Agriculture Produce Marketing Board (UKAPMB) & Just Organik, an exporter, has sourced & processed ragi (finger millet), and jhingora(barnyard millet) from farmers in Uttarakhand for exports, which meets the organic certification standards of the European Union.

UKAPMB procured millets directly from these farmers which have been processed in the state-of-art processing unit built by mandi board and operated by Just Organik.

“Millets are unique agricultural products from India which have significant demand in the global market. We will continue to carry out export promotion for the millets with a special focus on products sourced from Himalayas,” said by Dr M Angamuthu, Chairman, APEDA. He stated that Indian organic products, nutraceuticals and health food are gaining more demand in overseas market

In Uttarakhand, many of the common varieties of millets are the staple foods in the hills. The Uttarakhand government has been supporting organic farming. UKAPMB, through a unique initiative has been supporting thousands of farmers for organic certification. These farmers produce mainly millets such as ragi, barnyard millet, amaranthus etc.

The exports of millets to Denmark would expand exports opportunities in European countries. The exports would also support thousands of farmers that are getting into organic farming. Millets are gaining a lot of popularity globally because of high nutritive values and being gluten free also.

Meanwhile, India’s export of organic food products rose by more than 51% to Rs 7078 crore ($ 1040 million) during April-February (2020-21) compared to the same period in the previous fiscal (2019-20).

In terms of quantity, the exports of organic food products grew by 39% to 888,179 metric tonne (MT) during April-February (2020-21) compared to 638,998 MT shipped in April- February (2020-21). The growth in organic products have been achieved despite logistical and operational challenges posed by the COVID19 pandemic.

Oil cake meal is a major commodity of the organic product exports from the country followed by oil seeds, fruit pulps and purees, cereals & millets, spices, tea, medicinal plant products, dry fruits, sugar, pulses, coffee, essential oil etc. India’s organic products have been exported to 58 countries including USA, European Union, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, Switzerland, Israel and South Korea.

At present, organic products are exported provided they are produced, processed, packed and labelled as per the requirements of the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP). The NPOP has been implemented by APEDA since its inception in 2001 as notified under the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulations) Act, 1992.

The NPOP certification has been recognized by the European Union and Switzerland which enables India to export unprocessed plant products to these countries without the requirement of additional certification. NPOP also facilitates export of Indian organic products to the United Kingdom even in the post Brexit phase.

In order to facilitate the trade between major importing countries, negotiations are underway with Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Australia, UAE, New Zealand for achieving Mutual Recognition Agreements for exports of organic products from India.

NPOP has also been recognized by the Food Safety Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) for trade of organic products in the domestic market. Organic products covered under the bilateral agreement with NPOP need not to be recertified for import in India.

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