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Tapping the virtual space amid pandemic

Teja Gudluru, the CEO and founder of UDO, speaks about the genesis of his app and much more in an exclusive interview.

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Teja Gudluru is the CEO and founder of UDO.

An executive coach and a leadership development consultant, Teja Gudluru, the CEO and founder of UDO, a popular Android app that lets you connect to thousands of experts in over a hundred categories, spoke to NewsX about his company’s mobile app which helps people get connected to their buddies and seek expert advice related to any problems one could be going through. Here are some excerpts from that riveting interview :

Taking about the genesis of the app and how it evolved during the lockdown, Gudluru, who has trained and coached over 25,000 individuals across the spectrum of industries and hierarchies, says: “We started as an expert advice app where we wanted anybody with a special talent or a new way of doing things who wanted to make passive income. People who then need advice can search for specifically what they are looking for and the people who joined can guide them, with the lockdown we worked and introduced new features like online classes, video conferencing, ability to charge for paid webinars. A lot of things that other international apps do not have. That way we are integrated class teaching environment.”

Having travelled across the world during his 19 years tenure and expertise in the leadership and training arena, Teja whose niche training competencies include various Behavioural, Leadership and Management development workshops using a multitude of Learning technologies talks about turning this pandemic into an opportunity, he says: “So right now 30 percent of the world is freelancing resources from India but most of them are supporting and are made in accordance to the international market. With this pandemic people are losing their jobs and they are scared. They are thinking and looking towards solutions, for example if I can play the guitar and make money teaching someone, where is that one aap where I can sign up and users will be able to find me? In some of the other popular apps right now you have to create the link, you have to share it with people, here we let you connect with the people easily and there is no way people will know about you or even get to see what you are doing. From that perspective we have made it as a perfect aap for freelancers.”

 For all the budding entrepreneurs, Teja has a piece of advice especially during this time of crisis. “Collaborate do not compete, this is the time to take over Chinese markets and other companies. The only way to really fight and give the small Indian startups to perform better than the international ones is to collaborate and compete to diversify the market.” He sees an opportunity in this crisis, as he believes that Covid-19 will open a door for virtual/online businesses.

“The Indian economy is specifically steadily looking better than the other economies, not that we are doing fine it’s just we are doing better than most countries. This sector is the one that will see most growth this year as what this pandemic has taught us is to stay at home so the market for online and online learning, video conferencing, freelancing online,” says Gudluru who is a certified “Leadership and Management Trainer” by the American Society of Training and Development.

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Covid-19 herd immunity may be impractical strategy to fight the pandemic: Study

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Achieving herd immunity to Covid-19 is an impractical public health strategy, say researchers, adding that, immunity is not perfect and achieving it through widespread exposure is very unlikely. 

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, investigated the suppression and mitigation approaches for controlling the spread of SARSCoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

 “The herd immunity concept is tantalising because it spells the end of the threat of Covid-19,” said study lead author Toby Brett from University of Georgia in the US. “However, because this approach aims to avoid disease elimination, it would need a constant adjustment of lockdown measures to ensure enough people are being infected at a particular point in time,” Brett added. 

The research team sought to determine if and how countries could achieve herd immunity without overburdening the health care system. They developed an age-stratified disease transmission model to simulate SARS-CoV-2 transmission in the UK, with spread controlled by the self-isolation of symptomatic individuals and various levels of social distancing. 

Their simulations found that in the absence of any control measures, the UK would experience as many as 4,10,000 deaths related to Covid-19, with 3,50,000 of those being from individuals aged 60-plus. They found that using the suppression strategy, far fewer fatalities were predicted: 62,000 among individuals aged 60-plus and 43,000 among individuals under 60. If self isolation engagement is high (defined as at least 70 per cent reduction in transmission), suppression can be achieved in two months regardless of social distancing measures, and potentially sooner should school, work and social gathering places close.

 To instead achieve herd immunity given currently available hospital resources, the UK would need to adjust levels of social distancing in real time to ensure that the number of sick individuals is equal to, but not beyond, hospital capacity.

 “If the virus spreads too quickly, hospitals will be overwhelmed, but if it spreads too slowly, the epidemic will be suppressed without achieving herd immunity,” the team wrote. 

They further noted that much is unknown about the nature, duration and effectiveness of Covid-19 immunity, and that their model assumes perfect long-lasting immunity. 

The team cautioned that if immunity is not perfect, and there is a significant chance of reinfection, achieving herd immunity through widespread exposure is very unlikely. “We recognise there remains much for us to learn about Covid-19 transmission and immunity,” said study authors.

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China growing influence through affluence in Asia, it’s time India matched the Dragon’s might

Ajay Shukla

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During a visit to Sri Lanka last Diwali, we found the markets of the island nation glutted with Chinese goods. The largest road connecting the two ends of the country has been built by China. In addition to this, the maintenance of a Sri Lankan port is handled by Beijing. On observing all this, we asked officials there as to why Sri Lanka is handing over most of the infrastructure works to China despite the fact that India has done a lot of work in the island nation. 

The Sri Lankan officials replied that Colombo’s ties with Beijing have cemented further over the last four to five years and this, according to them, is attributable to China funding their country immensely with the result that unprecedented development has taken place in the island nation. According to them, China not only provides Sri Lanka with loans but also gets the work done at a low cost. They further said that India does not help them in the similar manner and, therefore, Sri Lanka cannot compromise the interests of its citizens. 

The Sri Lankan officials further said that China provided them advanced products at low cost. China’s aid has led to growing affiliation of every Sri Lankan sector with it and there is also a growing bonhomie between Colombo and Beijing, according to the officials there.

 With this feedback, we met the then Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, who is now Indian Ambassador to the US. We asked the High Commissioner as to why Sri Lanka goes on executing agreements with Chinese companies and the government relegating India to the background.

 He told us that India is also forging ahead as far as relations with Sri Lanka is concerned, and even there is a facility of visa on arrival and free visa. The High Commissioner further informed that India is going ahead with strengthening relations with Sri Lanka on age-old ‘religious bonds’ and this is being ensured by developing temples in the country. However, his reply forced us to introspect as to what kind of framework we are creating. 

There is no denying that the Chinese domination is increasing in the Asia-Pacific region. Majority of the countries in this region are not only debtors of China but the Dragon is also an important player in their infrastructure development. In this manner, China has maintained a grip over all these countries. In South Asia, China has tremendously burdened Pakistan, Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Nepal with its debt. 

According to an American report, three out of the four big Government Banks of China have advanced more loans to foreign countries than to corporates. China has adopted it as a strategy to disburse the loans. It is sending its companies to enter into commercial agreements with those countries of the world where there is only one-way profiteering.

 Sri Lanka being buried under a debt of more than a billion dollars had to hand over its Hambantota Port to China.

 Maldives snatched back all the projects from India and handed them over to China. Maldives withdrew the $511 billion international airport project from Indian firm GMR and handed over the same to China. Now many projects in Maldives are being developed by China. It is entrapped in the web of the Chinese debts. China is not only carrying out unprecedented development in Asian countries but is also doing the same in African countries.

 One such country Djibouti has handed over its most important port to China. America has established its armed bases in Djibouti and because of this, it is feeling insecure and on account of the same America is annoyed with Djibouti. 

The US Secretary of State has apprised the Congress that China is working in such a manner as to force all the countries to be dependent on it. It is in a position to enforce its dictates by advancing unaccountable loans and such countries are not only under the threat of losing their self-sufficiency but also their sovereignty.

 China is capable of building unprecedented infrastructure. The Centre for Global Development believes that 8 partner countries of “One Belt One Road” project namely Djibouti, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Maldives, Mongolia, Monte Negro, Pakistan and Tajikistan are all buried under Chinese debts. This commercially important project is a reason for threat to both India and America. 

The agreement between Pakistan and China over Gwadar has resulted in the colonization of the former by the latter via financial investment. Now China has started projects in Bangladesh and Bhutan to build close relations with these nations also. In this chain, it will link Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh with a road network and on the linking India would be encircled from all sides. Work is under progress on this project. Chinese road has also been laid down in Doklam. 

Pakistan is connected with China through a direct road link and now there is a plan to lay down a railway line which is not only alarming development for India but it is a ticking time bomb. Whether it is Ladakh or Arunachal Pradesh, China has captured thousands of kilometers of land and also massive infrastructure is being developed there. 

The manner in which China has backstabbed us has immensely weakened us and this is the reason why we have been forced to invest in purchase of defense equipment instead of improving our fiscal health at a time when the economy is deteriorating. 

We are in a race to create new infrastructures after demolishing the old ones but the infrastructure of our country is collapsing. We do not have a credible plan to challenge the Chinese dominance. In the recent days India, America, Australia and Japan entered into a strategic alliance against China and started the work when there was a regime change in Japan. However, it is yet to be seen how far Japan would work for the alliance in the time of economic crisis. 

The popularity graph of Trump has, at the same time, declined in America and the US elections are expected by this fall. If there is a change in the regime in Washington, then there would be a change in their policies, as a result of which this alliance would get weakened. It would have been beneficial if the trade chain in the Indo-Pacific region had been established but not much credible work could be done. India’s flawed economic policies, demonetisation, unsynchronised GST, the poor condition of states, and social unrest have all weakened the country with the result that our economic condition is in a bad shape. The Covid-19 pandemic made it worse and now we are among the worst economies of the world. 

The problem of our country is that our rulers do not frame the policies keeping in view the interests of the common citizens, consumers, poor farmers and laborers. Policies are framed keeping in view the interests of the corporates and big business houses, and this way common men are misled, sometimes on the issue of education or on the geopolitical history or on the issues related to communal hatred. As a result, there is neither peace/prosperity in the country, nor on its border. With this being the case, our enemies stand benefitted at the end. They encircle us from all sides, and as a result of this instead of spending our resources on the welfare of our citizens and on development, we are forced to spend it on procurement of weapons. And this is what is happening. If a timely action is not there, it shall be too late and everything would be lost.

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Husband sells land, buys elephant to fulfil wife’s dream

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The best thing to hold onto in life is each other and this was manifested by a Bangladeshi man for his wife. 

Dulal Chandra Roy, a resident of Lalmonirhat’s Panchagram union Bangladesh, sold his land and bought an elephant out of the proceeds as a token of love for his wife Tulsi Rani Dasi to fulfil her wish. Dulal is a farmer by profession. He sold two bighas of his land, went to Moulvibazar and bought an elephant for Tk 16.5 lakh. He returned home last week with the animal in a truck hired for Tk 20,000. 

“I sold the land and bought the elephant to fulfil my wife’s dream,” he said.

 Dasi said she had a dream about a year ago where she had bought an elephant and was taking care of it. It was not the first time she bought animals after seeing them in her dreams. A few years ago, Tulsi bought a horse, a swan and a goat. People from the nearby areas thronged the couple’s house to see the elephant. Dulal also hired a mahout, Ibrahim Mia from Moulvibazar on a monthly salary of Tk 15,000. “It’s for the first time I’ve seen someone buying an elephant in this age to fulfil his wife’s dream,” said Santona Rani, a resident of Rajarhat area.

IANS

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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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Interesting times ahead for FMCG sector: Varun Chaudhary

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CG Corp Global, having a rich legacy of over 150 years, happens to be Nepal’s first and only billion-dollar corporation listed by Forbes. Achieving excellence in the FMCG sector, Varun Chaudhary, Executive Director of CG Corp Global, spoke about his familyrun transnational conglomerate which set up the first noodle plant in Nepal and the fascinating story behind the renowned noodle brand Wai Wai, which is run by CG Corp across India and globally.

 He recalls, “My father used to frequently travel to countries like Japan, Singapore, Thailand and while travelling back to Kathmandu he used to see and observe that a lot of cartons are coming on the luggage belt. So it all started building his curiosity to know how noodles all the way from Thailand are coming to Nepal in such huge quantities.”

 “That is where the business instinct kicked in and my father founded the company and decided to do a technical collaboration with the Thai counterpart. It was the first noodle plant in Nepal and that’s how the story began from a baggage belt to where it is today,” Chaudhary continues. 

“I predominantly look after Food Parks and FMCG and since Wai Wai is such a household brand but surprisingly its success story lies behind the word of mouth which spread like wildfire from students who came from Nepal to study in Indian boarding schools. Seeing the future market and demand, our company in the early nineties started manufacturing it here as well and those seven sisters in the Northeast including Sikkim and West Bengal.”

 He mentions how the company did not lay off even a single employee. “For the FMCG sector during the pandemic, the safety aspect is paramount. We maintained our workforce and made sure that they were motivated as that is all that matters since it is the people who built brands.

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Manuu Mansheet: Finding true calling in a creative field

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Manuu Mansheet, director of Mansheet Design and a renowned interior designer and visual merchandiser, always desired to be artistic, but he had started his journey in academia. “I always wanted to become an artist and a creative person but I didn’t know which field to choose, and because of family pressure mainly, I got into academia.”

 “I did an MBA programme but my heart was not there because I wanted to do something different and creative as well as more fulfilling, and that took me to this route. I found my calling and started in the profession with visual merchandising and styling, and now it’s been over 25 years that I’ve been working in this field.”

 Speaking of how he ended up in designing, while working with reputed companies and building his repertoire, Mansheet said, “I did not know where this kind of education could be pursued but visual merchandising happened to me by chance. From the start, 9-to-5 jobs didn’t suit me and interestingly, Taj Khazana, a chain of luxury lifestyle stores, offered me the post of doing visual merchandising and window display for them, and it really opened up doors.” 

The desire of studying in a design school stayed with Mansheet but there were no such institutes in those times. However, working with IKEA changed directions for him and he designed for them in Dubai and Abu Dhabi for a year which gave him a lot of practical training and confidence. “It helped me understand visual merchandising a lot and I learnt about lighting and colour and communication which has stayed with me.”

 But stepping into his career wasn’t a cakewalk. Mansheet opened up about the reactions he received from people, saying, “I am proud of this journey, mainly because when I had gotten into this, there had been a lot of backlash about what I was doing and why an MBA graduate would be doing this kind of work. It was looked down upon by my family, extended family, neighbours and society in general and I had to win that battle.” 

Mansheet talked about one of his biggest milestones and recognised work, Swadesh Bazaar, which he designed for Mukesh Ambani’s daughter, Isha Ambani’s pre-wedding celebration. “Initially, I wasn’t aware it was for the Ambanis but I got very nervous when I realised the world would be watching it. But the whole team and everybody was very encouraging. It was a huge project for me and I don’t think I slept for 72 hours, and I was working non-stop. But in the end, it came out very well and was received well and appreciated by the family and people all around.” Adding to his achievements post the wedding, Mansheet was featured in the Huffington Post, a renowned international publication, and they shot a feature movie on him, recognising his work.

 The designer also happens to be a lecturer in many reputed design and management institutes, honing young and creative minds with his expertise for over 20 years now. “During the early 1990s, when I was looking for creative career options, I didn’t find any institute to go to and learn, but I want to give back to society now and I really look forward to Mondays, which are reserved only for teaching and interacting with those young, passionate people.”

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