India’s forex reserves soar by $ 2.672 billion to $ 366.781 billion

Continuing an uptrend for the fourth consecutive week, India’s foreign exchange reserves soared by $ 2.672 billion to $ 366.781 billion during the week ended March 17, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here today.
The country’s forex reserves had risen by $ 98.6 million to $ 364.109 billion in the previous week.
In its weekly statistical supplement, the central bank said that  foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, had gone up by $ 2.646 billion to $ 343.102 billion during the week.
Foreign currency assets expressed in US dollar terms include the effect of appreciation or depreciation of non-US currencies such as the euro, pound and yen held in the reserves.
According to the bulletin, the country’s gold reserves remained unchanged at $ 19.914 billion during the week, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) went up by $ 10 million to $ 1.445 billion.
India’s reserve position in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) increased by $ 15.9 million to $ 2.320 billion during the week, the bulletin added.

Reliance Capital transfers commercial finance division into wholly owned subsidiary

Reliance Capital, a part of Anil Ambani-ed Reliance Group, today said it had completed the transfer of its commercial finance division -- Reliance Commercial Finance Limited (RCFL) - into a separate wholly owned subsidiary.
The company had announced plans for such a move on February 25, 2016, subject to regulatory, High Court and Reliance Capital shareholders' approvals, which have since been received.
Reliance Capital shareholders had approved the transfer by an overwhelming majority of 99.99 per cent votes in favour of the Scheme of Arrangement at the court-convened equity shareholders meeting held on September 10, 2016, a press release from the company said.
RCFL is amongst the leading SME lenders in the Indian non-banking finance space with a focus on asset backed lending and productive asset creation. The commercial finance division has an aggregate asset under management (including securitized portfolio) portfolio of Rs 16,191 crore (US$ 2.4 billion) as of December 31, 2016.
"Reliance Commercial Finance now stands as a fully owned subsidiary of Reliance Capital. This completes our restructuring process as Reliance Capital moves to become a core investment company from next fiscal. This transfer will align RCFL with the overall operating structure of Reliance Capital wherein all operating businesses are held either as wholly owned or majority owned subsidiaries. The proposal will enhance management focus and provide flexibility to the Company to unlock value through stake sale," said Mr Anmol Ambani, ED, Reliance Capital.
Reliance Nippon Life Insurance and Reliance Nippon Life Asset Management, both subsidiaries of Reliance Capital, already have a strategic partner – Nippon Life Insurance - with 49 per cent stake in each business.
The transfer will also enhance employee engagement and retention through ability to grant ESOPs in the business. The transfer, pursuant to the Scheme of Arrangement, will be effective from April 1, 2016, the release said.
Reliance Capital would be applying to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for registering itself as a Core Investment Company (CIC) and expects to become a CIC soon, subject to necessary approvals, the release added.

Sports networking site Viktre expands into India

Viktre, a content publishing platform and online community for professional athletes and fans, expanded into the Indian market today.
Apart from its India-based partners, cricketers Zaheer Khan and Rohit Sharma were present at the launch of the sports networking site.
Curated to showcase the life of an athlete, Viktre provides a multi-faceted network and community for professional athletes to connect on a more personal level with their fans. The platform features two interfaces: One for fans to interact with their favorite athletes via exclusive content, and one for professional athletes of all levels to interact with each other in a private, peer-to-peer setting.
“Launching in India has been an enormous goal of ours since day one,” said Al Steele, founder and CEO, Viktre. “We are thrilled to commemorate our expansion with these amazing athletes and delegates, who have helped us celebrate the rich sports culture in India. Viktre is all about embracing and celebrating the craftsmanship of athletes and the loyalty of sports fans. There’s few places on earth that have the same enthusiasm as Indian players and fans.”
A press release from Viktre said the platform, which is already operating in North America, was keen on developinga footprint in India.
The company is currently partnered with over 1,000 of the world’s most influential athletes, representing a myriad of sports and interests from golf to football and now cricket and boxing.
"Viktre's unique way of communicating with fans and athletes allows me to tell my personal stories – about cricket, charity, and family – all in my own voice and from my distinct point of view,” said Anil Kumble, head coach of the Indian cricket team. “It is wonderful to see a Canadian company investing in India, in Indian athletes and Indian sports.“
The official launch event was held at the Cricket Club of India here, with delegates and athlete partners from around the world. John Tory, mayor of Toronto, Canada, was also in attendance to represent and celebrate the prosperity of Canadian-Indian business relations, both in India and Canada. 
The social network can be accessed online or via its iOS and Android app, the release added.

CCEA approves fresh estimates for deepening, widening of Mumbai Harbour, JN Port channels

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) yesterday approved fresh estimates of the project Deepening and Widening of Mumbai Harbour Channel and JN Port Channel (Phase-II). 
The cost of the project will be Rs. 2029 crore excluding Service Tax, an official press release said. The entire project cost will be funded through internal resources of JN Port Trust (JNPT) with market borrowing, if necessary. 
The release said the project includes the widening of the existing channel from 370 m at present to be widened from presently 370 m to 450 m for straight reach and the channel to be extended from existing 33.5 kms to 35.5 kms. The draft of the channel will be increased from existing 14 m draft to 15 m. The estimated quantity to be dredged to the tune of 35.03 million including 1.73 million rock dredging. 
The work is likely to be implemented by inviting global tenders and to be completed within two years after its award, it said.
The present total capacity of the JNPT for container handling is 5 million TEUs (Twenty feet Equivalent Unit). After the 4th Terminal becomes operational, this capacity will be enhanced to 9.8 million TEUs. Considering the expansion of the container vessel sizes on the main trade routes, it is anticipated that vessels of more than 8,000-12,000 TEU size will call at the JN Port. 
After completion, JNPT will attain capacity for handling additional traffic throughput of 1.67 million TEUs. The enhanced capability would help in handling larger vessels upto 12,500 TEUs besides economic benefits like saving in vessel waiting time and savings on account of transshipment. The ultimate benefit to users will be in terms of lower unit cost, direct and indirect tax benefits in addition to reduction in vessel traffic congestion at JNPT. This would add to the competitiveness of India’s export-import trade, the release said.
"Over the years, the size of container ships is progressively becoming larger as it is much more economical to operate large ships and the cost of operation gets cheaper as much as by 40% for the larger ships. With increase in container cargo volume and increase in capacity of container carrying vessels fleet worldwide, JN Port has decided to handle new generation container vessels with wider beam and deeper drafts. The new generation bigger size vessels need deeper channel depth to navigate and accordingly deepening and widening of the channel further from 14.0 to 15.0 m draft with vessel capacity of 12,500 TEU is envisaged," it said.
At present, JN Port is handling vessels having a draft of 14 m that is 6,000 TEUs capacity by taking advantage of tidal window, the release added.

BCCI doubles men cricketers' retainer amounts, enhances match fees

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) today doubled the annual retainer for all categories of men cricketers, with the amount going up to Rs. 2 crore per annum for Grade A players, to Rs. 1 crore per annum for Grade B players and Rs. 50 lakh per annum for Grade C players.
The decision was taken by the BCCI's Committee of Administrators, which met earlier in the day and decided on the Annual Player Contracts for men cricketers for the period ending September 30, 2017.
A press release from BCCI said the Match Fee enhancement for men cricketers will be effective from October 1, 2016 onwards. It will be Rs 15 lakh per Test, Rs 6 lakh per ODI and Rs 3 lakh for T20 International.
While updating the list of contracted players, the BCCI has demoted batsman Shikhar Dhawan to Grade C from Grade B, while Suresh Raina does not figure in any of the three groups.
Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja and Murali Vijay have been promoted to Grade A, where they join Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ajinkya Rahane.
Following is the updated list of contracted players:
Grade A: Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, R Ashwin, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja, Murali Vijay.
Grade B: Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Wriddhiman Saha, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuvraj Singh.
Grade C: Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Amit Mishra, Manish Pandey, Axar Patel, Karun Nair, Hardik Pandya, Ashish Nehra, Kedar Jadhav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Parthiv Patel, Jayant Yadav, Mandeep Singh, Dhawal Kulkarni, Shardul Thakur, Rishabh Pant
The BCCI also handed over a cheque for Rs. 15 lakh to Ms. Sandhya Rajesh Sawant, wife of late Rajesh Sawant, who passed away while he was on official assignment with the India Under 19 team, in recognition of his services to Indian cricket.

Idea, Vodafone India merge to create India's largest telecom company

Telecom services providers Vodafone Group Plc and Idea Cellular on Monday announced that they had reached an agreement to combine their operations in India, excluding the former's 42 per cent stake in Indus Towers, to create the country's largest telecom operator.

Telecom services providers Vodafone Group Plc and Idea Cellular today announced that they had reached an agreement to combine their operations in India, excluding the former's 42 per cent stake in Indus Towers, to create the country's largest telecom operator.
"The combined company would become the leading communications provider in India with almost 400 million customers, 35 per cent customer market share and 41 per cent revenue market share," a press release from the two companies said.
Idea Cellular is the third largest wireless operator in India and is listed on the National Stock Exchange (NSE), and the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE). It is part of the Aditya Birla Group, one of the largest business groups in India.
Vodafone is one of the world’s largest telecommunications groups with  mobile operations in 26 countries. It partners with mobile networks in 49 more, and fixed broadband operations in 17 markets. As of 31 December 2016, Vodafone had 470 million mobile customers and 14.3 million fixed broadband customers. 
The release said the brand strategy of the combined company would be developed in due course and would leverage customers’ affinity for both existing brands, built up over the past decade. The name of the combined listed company will be changed in due course, it said.
"The merger of Idea and Vodafone India is founded on a shared commitment to realise the Indian Government’s ‘Digital India’ vision and financial inclusion goals, delivering significant benefits to 1.3 billion Indian consumers and creating substantial value for all stakeholders," the release said.
According to it,  by combining their respective businesses, Idea and Vodafone will establish a company with the scale and efficiency required to offer innovative and attractively priced mobile services, enhancing consumer choice in a highly competitive market with at least five major telecoms providers. The combination of the two companies’ networks and spectrum holdings, together with continued investment, will accelerate the pan-India expansion of wireless broadband services on 4G/4G+/5G technologies to build capacity, supporting the expansion of digital content and IoT services and delivering a world-class broadband experience to customers.
Vodafone, Idea in $ 23 billion Indian merger
The release said the combined company would have sufficient spectrum to compete effectively with the other major operators in the market. It would hold 1,850 MHz, including circa 1,645 MHz of liberalised spectrum acquired through auctions. It will be capable of building substantial mobile data capacity, utilising the largest broadband spectrum portfolio with 34 3G carriers and 129 4G carriers across the country.
"Vodafone India’s strong presence in metro circles and Idea’s leadership in semi-urban and rural telecom markets will allow for nationwide leadership within Indian M&A guidelines. In circles where both Idea and Vodafone India currently have a limited presence, the combined entity will become the leading challenger with the scale to compete more effectively and enhance consumer choice," it said.
The release said the combined company would  be able to draw on support from its two largest shareholders, Vodafone and the Aditya Birla Group, to drive growth, investment and to create value for all stakeholders. The parties’ capabilities combine experience of running leading businesses across multiple industries and geographies, world-class expertise in telecoms with global scale, enterprise services, mobile money services and procurement and a deep understanding of – and strong relationships within – the Indian market, it said.
Providing details of the transaction, the release said Idea would contribute all of its assets including its standalone towers with 15.4k tenancies and its 11.15 per cent stake in Indus Towers. Vodafone will contribute Vodafone India including its standalone towers with 15.8k tenancies but excluding its 42 per cent stake in Indus Towers.
"The merger ratio is consistent with recommendations from the joint independent valuers. Based on Idea’s undisturbed share price (INR72.5 based on the 30 trading day VWAP as at 27 January 2017), the agreed merger ratio implies an enterprise value for Vodafone India of INR828 billion (US$12.4 billion) and an enterprise value for Idea’s mobile business of INR722 billion (US$10.8 billion), excluding its 11.15 per cent stake in Indus. This is equivalent to valuing Vodafone India at 6.4x EV/LTM EBITDA and Idea excluding its stake in Indus Towers at 6.3x EV/LTM EBITDA," it said.
"Vodafone’s contribution of net debt will be dependent on Idea’s net debt at completion as well as customary closing adjustments. Vodafone will contribute INR25 billion (US$369 million) more net debt than Idea at completion. Based on Idea’s net debt of INR527 billion (US$7.9 billion) as at 31 December 201610, this would have implied INR552 billion (US$8.2 billion) of debt to be contributed by Vodafone," it said.
The release said Vodafone would own 45.1 per cent of the combined company after transferring a 4.9 per cent stake to the Aditya Birla Group for INR39 billion (US$579 million) in cash, concurrent with completion of the merger. The Aditya Birla Group will then own 26.0 per cent of the combined company and Idea’s other shareholders will own the remaining 28.9 per cent.
The Aditya Birla Group has the right to acquire up to a 9.5 per cent additional stake from Vodafone under an agreed mechanism with a view to equalising the shareholdings over time. If the Aditya Birla Group does not equalise its stake, Vodafone will reduce its holding in order to equalise its ownership with that of the Aditya Birla Group. Until equalisation is achieved, the additional shares held by Vodafone will be restricted and votes will be exercised jointly under the terms of the shareholders’ agreement.
Prior to completion of the transaction, Vodafone and Idea intend to sell their standalone tower assets and Idea’s 11.15 per cent stake in Indus Towers to reduce leverage in the combined company. Vodafone will also explore strategic options for its 42 per cent stake in Indus Towers; potential options include either a partial or a full disposal, the release said.
As the combined company will be jointly controlled by Vodafone and the Aditya Birla Group, Vodafone will deconsolidate Vodafone India immediately. Post-closing, the combined company will be reported as a joint venture by Vodafone and accounted for under the equity method, resulting in a decrease of Vodafone’s net debt.
"As described above, as at 31 December 2016 this would have been INR552 billion (US$8.2 billion), which together with the INR39 billion (US$579 million) of cash received from the Aditya Birla Group would lower Vodafone Group’s reported leverage by around 0.3x Net Debt/EBITDA," the release said.
The transaction is expected to be accretive to Vodafone’s cash flow from the first full year post completion, it said.
According to the release, combination of Idea and Vodafone India will create the scale to meet customers’ rapidly accelerating demand for data consumption, and enable significant efficiencies. 
Run-rate cost and capex synergies are expected to reach INR140 billion (US$2.1 billion) on an annual basis by the fourth full year post-completion. This is equivalent to a net present value of approximately INR700 billion (US$10.5 billion)14, after integration costs. Operating cost savings represent 60 per cent of the expected run-rate savings.
The release said the major expected sources of cost and capex synergies include:
rationalising network infrastructure, generating operational efficiencies, lower maintenance expenses and savings in energy costs;
higher spectrum availability and larger single radio access network (RAN) deployment coupled with re-deployment of overlapping equipment from rationalised sites, resulting in lower capex;
service centres, back office and distribution efficiencies;
streamlining regional and nationwide IT systems and evolving to a single IT system for the new entity; and
optimising general and administration costs.
"The parties also anticipate some regulatory dis-synergies. These are primarily driven by spectrum liberalisation payments and requirements to meet regulatory spectrum caps and market share thresholds in certain circles one year after completion of the transaction. Spectrum liberalisation costs are expected to have a net present value impact of approximately INR30 billion (US$0.5 billion)," it said.
The two parties have agreed a standstill period for the first three years after closing, during which neither party can buy any shares from or sell any shares to a third party.
During the standstill period, the Aditya Birla Group has the right to purchase a stake of up to 9.5 per cent in the combined company from Vodafone at an agreed price that is equivalent to an equity value of INR946 billion (US$14.1 billion) for 100 per cent of the combined company (post-closing). This is equivalent to INR130 per share, which represents a premium of 80 per cent to Idea’s undisturbed share price of INR72.5 (based on the 30 trading day VWAP as at 27 January 201717).
If the parties’ shareholdings have not been equalised over the first three years, the Aditya Birla Group needs to inform Vodafone how many further shares (up to a maximum of 9.5 per cent less any shares purchased in the first three years), it wishes to acquire. The Aditya Birla Group then has a period of 12 months to complete such purchase at the prevailing market price. At the end of the third year after closing, the standstill provisions expire in relation to all shares other than those that the Aditya Birla Group has committed to acquire, if any.
From the beginning of the fifth year after completion, if Vodafone and the Aditya Birla Group’s shareholdings in Idea are not yet equal, Vodafone will sell down shares in the combined company to equalise its shareholding to that of the Aditya Birla Group over the following five-year period.
"Vodafone and the Aditya Birla Group have entered into a shareholders’ agreement, and it is intended that the combined company’s articles will be amended at closing to reflect certain rights for each party.
"Following completion, the Board of the combined entity will be comprised of 12 directors including three directors appointed by each of Vodafone and the Aditya Birla Group, and six independent directors.
"The Aditya Birla Group will have the sole right to appoint the Chairman (as one of its three directors), who will be Mr Kumar Mangalam Birla. Vodafone will have the sole right to appoint the Chief Financial Officer. Both Vodafone and the Aditya Birla Group will jointly agree on the appointment of the Chief Executive Officer and the Chief Operating Officer," the release said.
Those roles – together with those of the broader management team – will be confirmed prior to closing, with appointments made on the principle of ‘the best person for the job’, it said.
The parties’ rights under the shareholders’ agreement – and the amended articles of the combined company – will be subject to a number of conditions including (but not limited to) a party maintaining its shareholding in the combined company above 26 per cent until 31 March 2020 and above 21 per cent thereafter, it said.
The release said pro forma net debt as at 31 December 2016 would have been INR1,079 billion (US$16.1 billion). On this basis, leverage of the combined company would have been 4.4x LTM EBITDA19. Pro forma for the sale of Vodafone and Idea’s standalone towers as well as Idea’s 11.15 per cent stake in Indus and the estimated run-rate opex synergies, leverage would have been 3.0x LTM EBITDA.
"The parties expect the combined company to be self-funding going forwards but are committed to maintaining appropriate leverage prior to closing and thereafter, aided by the expected sale of Idea and Vodafone India’s standalone towers as well as Idea’s 11.15 per cent stake in Indus.
"The parties have agreed a capital structure and dividend policy which is expected to be implemented post completion. This will ensure that the combined company is appropriately capitalised and that excess cash flow21 is distributed to shareholders," it said.
The release said the transaction is subject to approvals from the relevant regulatory authorities. Vodafone and Idea have undertaken preparatory work on the required scheme and other necessary filings.
The transaction is also subject to other customary closing conditions, including the absence of any material adverse change. Shareholder approval will be required from Idea shareholders under a scheme of arrangement. The transaction is not subject to approval from Vodafone shareholders.
The transaction has a break-fee of INR33 billion (US$500 million) that would become payable under certain circumstances.
Vodafone and Idea anticipate that completion will take place during the 2018 calendar year, the release said.
For the last twelve months to December 31, 2016, Idea Cellular reported revenue of INR369billion (US$5.5 billion) and EBITDA of INR114 billion (US$1.7 billion).
Aditya Birla Group Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla, said: “Throughout its history, the Aditya Birla Group has been synonymous with the task of nation building and driving inclusive growth in the country. This landmark combination will enable the Aditya Birla Group to create a high quality digital infrastructure that will transition the Indian population towards a digital lifestyle and make the Government’s Digital India vision a reality. For Idea shareholders and lenders who have supported us thus far, this transaction is highly accretive, and Idea and Vodafone will together create a very valuable company given our complementary strengths.”
Vodafone Group Chief Executive Vittorio Colao said: “The combination of Vodafone India and Idea will create a new champion of Digital India founded with a long-term commitment and vision to bring world-class 4G networks to villages, towns and cities across India. The combined company will have the scale required to ensure sustainable consumer choice in a competitive market and to expand new technologies – such as mobile money services – that have the potential to transform daily life for every Indian. We look forward to working with the Aditya Birla Group to create value for all stakeholders.”

L&T Hydrocarbon wins Rs. 1656 crore contract from ONGC

L&T Hydrocarbon Engineering Limited (LTHE), a wholly-owned subsidiary of infrastructure and construction major Larsen & Toubro (L&T), has bagged an offshore contract for the Neelam Re-Development and B173AC Project from the Oil & Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) valued at Rs. 1656 crore ($ 245 million).
A press release from L&T said the contract, won against international competitive bidding, encompasses total ‘EPCIC’ – Engineering, Procurement, Construction, Installation and Commissioning for the project. 
The scope includes one new process platform having gas processing and compression facilities, three new well head platforms, 32 km pipeline, clamp-on on three existing platforms and modification work on eight existing platforms in the Neelam Field in western offshore basin in India, it said.
The project, part of ONGC’s strategy to enhance the field life and increase recovery of Neelam field, is scheduled to be completed by April 2019. 
The incremental gain from the field after implementation of project till 2034-35 is pegged at 2.76 MMT crude oil and 4.786 BCM gas.
Neelam Offshore field is situated in the Heera-Panna block in Mumbai Offshore, located at about 45 km south-west of Mumbai city.
The release said LTHE provides complete ‘EPCIC’ solutions for the offshore oil & gas industry combining customized engineering, procurement, fast-track project management and world-class fabrication and sea installation capabilities meeting stringent timelines, conforming to international safety standards.

M. S. Swaminathan, a global scientist of rare distinction, says Mukherjee

President Pranab Mukherjee conferring the Honorary D. Lilt. upon Dr. M.S. Swaminathan at a special convocation of University of Mumbai, in Mumbai on March 17, 2017.
President Pranab Mukherjee conferring the Honorary D. Lilt. upon Dr. M.S. Swaminathan at a special convocation of University of Mumbai, in Mumbai on March 17, 2017.
Lauding Dr. M. S. Swaminathan as a global scientist of rare distinction, President Pranab Mukherjee today conferred an Honorary D. Litt. on him at a special convocation of the University of Mumbai.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr Mukherjee said the University of Mumbai, whose alumni include Mahatma Gandhi, has always recognized leaders who have played a transformational role in various fields. Those conferred Honorary D. Litt. in the past include eminent scholars and social reformers like R.G. Bhandarkar, Dadabhai Naoroji, Dr. C.V. Raman and M. Visvesvaraya.
The President said Dr. Swaminathan’s work brought about a sea-change in the life of the nation. It is due to his pioneering efforts that India transformed from a ship-to-mouth existence to one of the leading producers and exporters of food grains in the world.
Over a period of 65 years, Dr. Swaminathan has worked in collaboration with scientists and policy-makers on a wide range of problems in basic and applied plant genetics and agricultural R&D. He is considered a global scientist of rare distinction because of the indelible mark he has made on food production in India and elsewhere in the developing world, the President said.
His advocacy of sustainable agriculture leading to an ever-green revolution makes him an acknowledged world leader in the field of sustainable food security, he said.
Mr. Mukherjee said the higher education sector had a crucial role in the national developmental effort. Being the storehouse of traditional wisdom, as also the nursery of new knowledge, the higher education eco-system will influence various growth centres of the economy.
“Growth of the economy depends on higher education in important ways. The quality of training provided to students employed by the economy determines the level of its competence. Induction of quality manpower is the first point of contact that the economy has with the higher education system,” Mr Mukherjee said.
“The graduates have to meet the skill-set requirements of the domestic economy. The course work in our campuses must be aligned to the needs of the industry. It will be beneficial to have corporate experts advising academic managers on industrial requirements in the course curricula,” he added.
The President said the 21st century is expected to be an ‘Asian century’ with the Asian countries regaining their pre-eminence in the world through all-round development. The post-eighties’ performance of the Asian economies is a symbol of this resurgence. One of the important elements that has guided in this journey is education and new knowledge, he said.
"Ancient India was known for the high level of philosophical debate and discussion it nurtured. India was not a mere geographical expression but it reflected an idea and a culture," he said.
“Conversation and dialogue are part of our ethos and life. They cannot be done away with. Universities and higher education institutions are the best fora for free exchange of views. We should embrace free conversation and even argument, leaving behind narrow mindsets and thoughts.
“The lesson for a modern Indian university is to ensure that this great tradition finds new life and vigour within its precincts. There should be no room for intolerance, prejudice and hatred within the spaces of our educational institutions. They must act as flag bearers for the co-existence of multiple views, thoughts and philosophies,” he added.
The President said growth of the economy was dependent on higher education. The quality of training provided to students employed by the economy determines the level of its competence. Induction of quality manpower is the first point of contact that the economy has with the higher education system.
“The graduates have to meet the skill-set requirements of the domestic economy. The course work in our campuses must be aligned to the needs of the industry. It will be beneficial to have corporate experts advising academic managers on industrial requirements in the course curricula,” he added.
“A vast quantum of knowledge is created in the tertiary education system through research. They find application in society through industrial and other sectors. A robust industrial linkage, according to me, provides an efficient mechanism for transfer of knowledge from the higher education system to the economic system,” Mr Mukherjee said.
“Industry-academia collaborations have focused mainly on conferences, training of industrial employees, internship of students, adjunct faculty positions for industry experts, and transfer of academically created intellectual property to business enterprises through licensing.
“While these are important, the industry-academia interface must also focus on high intensity linkages like research partnerships, shared incubators and research parks. A strong relationship between an institution of higher learning and an industrial enterprise can spur further expansion of the spheres of collaboration,” he added.
“I am pleased to note that the University of Mumbai has taken a holistic view in this connection. Not only is it developing newer programmes which will prepare its students to face the challenges of the changing economy; it is also investing in creating an eco-system conducive to basic research and to incubate innovation.
“The vision of the Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Sanjay Deshmukh, to prepare the Master Plan of the University for its infrastructural and R&D make-over, is noteworthy. Looking at the initiatives the university has undertaken in its 160th year – be it the establishment of the Centre for Railway Research; or the Film and Media Entertainment Training academy; or its programmes in sports management, aviation, leadership development, or fire-fighting; or successfully aligning itself to the government initiatives like ‘Skill India’, ‘Digital India’and ‘Make in India’, - it is poised to partner effectively in the nation’s developmental effort,” the President said.

India’s forex reserves rise by $ 98.6 million to $ 364.109 billion

Maintaining an uptrend for the third consecutive week, India’s foreign exchange reserves rose by $ 98.6 million to $ 364.109 billion during the week ended March 10, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here today.
The country’s forex reserves had jumped by $ 1.218 billion to $ 364.01 billion in the previous week.
In its weekly statistical supplement, the central bank said that  foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, had gone up by $ 95.7 million to $ 340.456 billion during the week.
Foreign currency assets expressed in US dollar terms include the effect of appreciation or depreciation of non-US currencies such as the euro, pound and yen held in the reserves.
According to the bulletin, the country’s gold reserves remained unchanged at $ 19.914 billion during the week, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) went up by $ 1.1 million to $ 1.435 billion.
India’s reserve position in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) increased by $ 1.8 million to $ 2.305 billion during the week, the bulletin added.

L&T Electrical & Automation FZE wins Rs. 500 crore order from Qatar Rail Company

L&T Electrical & Automation FZE (LTEAFZE), the Competency Centre for L&T Electrical & Automation (E&A)’s automation business in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has won a major order worth Rs. 500 crore from Qatar Rail Company (QRail) for Phase 1 of Doha Metro.
The scope of the order encompasses supply, installation, testing, integration, commissioning and five years of maintenance of a network-wide Building Automation and Control Systems (BACS) for 37 stations, a press release from the company said.
LTEAFZE was nominated by QRail for network-wide implementation of BACS after a meticulous assessment of its capabilities in delivering technologically advanced solutions within stringent project timelines and with distinguished quality against global automation product manufacturers. The Frame Agreement awarded by QRail to LTEAFZE is through nine contracts with design & build contractors for the stations and tunnels under multiple lines (Red line, Green line and Gold Line) and a five-year maintenance contract directly with Qatar Rail, it said.
“LTEAFZE’s core strengths for project management, domain knowledge and application engineering will enable us to offer distinctly superior and proven system integration solutions by leveraging L&T’s capabilities built over four decades. Backed by a pool of experienced engineers, LTEAFZE has the competency to provide preventive and corrective maintenance services to maximise the performance and uptime of its automation systems and control equipment," Mr. S.C. Bhargava, Senior Vice President & Head of E&A Business, said.
The metro system will be built in two phases: the first will see the construction of three out of the four lines (Red, Gold, and Green) and 37 stations spanning 111 km of tunnels and 8.7 km of viaducts. The Phase 1 has to be completed on a fast-paced project schedule for handing over all the 37 stations by August 2018 with scheduled start on revenue period by end-2019. These lines are expected to be open to the public by 2020. 
When in operation, the project will provide an environmentally-friendly and sustainable mode of transport to over 600,000 commuters a day by 2021. 
The second phase will be completed by 2026, and will involve the expansion of the Phase 1 lines, and the construction of an additional Blue Line and another 72 stations.
The purpose of BACS is to control and supervise MEP systems, acquire and display MEP equipment status and alarms, provide reliable and effective 3rd-party interfacing services, storage and offline/online analysis of MEP systems acquired data, enable testing and commissioning of MEP systems. It will be able to operate either in remote control mode through ICC Rail SCADA controls or in stand-alone mode from the station control room. The project requires a structured and systematic approach to ensure all requirements are met with regard to reliability, availability, maintainability and safety (RAMS).
Interfaced with BACS are the MEP systems and sub systems like station air conditioning systems, special ventilation system for life safety, fire-fighting system, LV power systems, addressable lighting systems, vertical and horizontal transportation system and plumbing system at stations and tunnels.
The release said BACS is being designed to help build green station buildings with higher energy efficiency, lower operating and maintenance costs, better indoor air quality and greater occupant comfort and productivity in line with global sustainability assessment systems. BACS solution is based on fault-tolerant programmable logic controllers, BACS servers and software with system availability equal to or more than 99.995% and safety integrity level equal to or more than 2 in view of the control of critical life safety functions.
L&T Electrical & Automation (E&A) is a major business portfolio of infrastructure and construction major Larsen & Toubro (L&T). LTEAFZE is a 100% subsidiary of L&T International FZE and a part of L&T Electrical & Automation. Established at Jebel Ali (Dubai) in the UAE in April 2008, it provides systems integration solutions to major industry verticals like Oil & Gas, Water & Wastewater, Power, Utilities and Infrastructure in GCC, Africa and CIS markets.

USFDA to lift import alert on Sun Pharma's Mohali facility

Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd today said it was informed by the United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) yesterday that it would lift the import alert imposed on the company's Mohali, Punjab manufacturing facility and remove it from the Official Action Initiated (OAI) status.
This proposed action will clear the path for Sun Pharma to supply approved products from the Mohali facility to the US market, subject to normal US FDA regulatory requirements, a press release from the company said.
The Mohali facility was inherited by Sun Pharma as part of its acquisition of Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. in 2015. The US FDA had taken action against the Mohali facility in 2013 when it ordered the facility to be fully subject to Ranbaxy’s Consent Decree of Permanent Injunction. Certain conditions of the consent decree will continue to be applicable to the Mohali facility, the release said.
"This development illustrates Sun Pharma’s commitment to work closely with the US FDA and strive for 100% cGMP compliance at its manufacturing facilities," the release added.

Indian Navy's aircraft carrier INS Viraat decommissioned

File photo of INS Viraat sailing out from Mumbai for Kochi on her last sailing under her own steam, on July 23, 2016, ahead of her decommissioning later in the year.
File photo of INS Viraat sailing out from Mumbai for Kochi on her last sailing under her own steam, on July 23, 2016, ahead of her decommissioning later in the year.
Indian Navy's flagship aircraft carrier INS Viraat was decommissioned at a grand and solemn ceremony at the Naval Dockyard here yesterday, bringing the curtains down on a glorious era.
INS Viraat, the second Centaur-class aircraft carrier in service, had spent 30 years in the Indian Navy and 27 years as HMS Hermes in the Royal Navy.
The decommissioning ceremony was attended by more than 1300 personnel who had served on board the ship.
Admiral Sir Philip Jones, KCB, ADC, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff of Royal Navy, and Vice-Admiral Vinod Pasricha, the commissioning Commanding Officer of INS Viraat, were the guests of honour, while Admiral Sunil Lanba, Chief of the Naval Staff, was the chief guest on the occasion.
To commemorate “30 years of Glorious Service to The Nation” by INS Viraat, a Special Postal Cover was released by Admiral Lanba on the occasion.
INS Viraat holds the world record as mentioned in the Guinness Book of records for being the longest serving warship of the world. The ship which was the centrepiece of the Navy, housed the fighters Sea Harriers of INAS 300, popularly called “White Tigers”, anti-submarine aircraft Sea King Mk 42B - also known as “Harpoons” -, Sea King Mk 42 C and the SAR helicopter Chetak as an integral flight. 
The indigenous Advance Light Helicopters ‘Dhruv’ and the Russian twin rotor Kamov-31 have also operated from the ship. The Sea Harrier fleet was decommissioned in Goa on May 11 last year.
Under the Indian flag, the ship has clocked more than 22,622 flying hours by various aircraft in the past three decades and has spent nearly 2252 days at sea sailing across 5,88,287 nautical miles (10,94,215 km). This implies that Viraat has spent seven years at sea, circumnavigating the globe 27 times. Since her inception, she has had a total of 80,715 hours of boilers running. 
Viraat played a major role in Operation Jupiter in 1989 during the Sri Lankan Peacekeeping operation, after which she was affiliated with the Garhwal Rifles and Scouts of the Indian Army in 1990. She also saw action during Op Parakram in 2001-2002, post the terrorist attack on Parliament. The ship was instrumental in honing the art of flying operations from a carrier deck in the Navy, which also resulted in seamless induction of INS Vikramaditya and its integration with the fleet. 
The ship has participated in various international joint exercises like Exercise Malabar (USA), exercise Varuna (French) and Naseem-Al-Bahar (Oman Navy). She has also been an integral element of all annual theatre level exercises (TROPEX). The last operational deployment of Viraat was for the International Fleet Review (IFR 2016) off Vishakhapatnam in February 2016. 
‘Mother’, as she was fondly referred to in the Navy, had been commanded by 22 Captains since 1987. She was the flagship of the Navy since her inception. Around 40 Flag officers including five Chiefs of Naval Staff were raised and groomed in her lap. Her legacy under the Royal flag was no less. As HMS Hermes, she was commanded by 13 Captains of the Royal Navy. Her role in Operation Mercy in 1974 and the Falklands War in 1982 are now textbook references for future navies. 
As part of the decommissioning ceremonies, a "barakhana" for retired and serving sailors and their families was held on March 4 and a ceremonial dinner were held on the following day. During these functions, nineteen personnel comprising officers, sailors as well as civilians, and personnel from Garhwal Rifles and Hermes Association were felicitated for notable services onboard. 
At sunset yesterday, the Naval Ensign and Commissioning Pennant was lowered for the last time onboard INS Viraat, bringing to a nostalgic end a glorious chapter in the history of the Indian Navy.
"The legacy of Viraat will live on forever and will be carried forward by INS Vikramaditya, which is already integrated with the fleet, and INS Vikrant which will be inducted in the next few years," an official press release added.

Filmmaker Karan Johar becomes father to twins via surrogate

Karan Johar
Karan Johar
Well-known filmmaker and talk show host Karan Johar today announced that he had become the father of twins, a boy named Yash and a girl named Roohi, who were born via a surrogate.
“I am ecstatic to share with you all the two most wonderful additions to my life, my children and lifelines;  Roohi and Yash.  I feel enormously blessed to be a parent to these pieces of my heart who were welcomed into this world with the help of the marvels of medical science," Johar, 44, said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
Johar said this was an emotional yet well thought-out decision which he had taken after considering all the responsibilities and duties that come with being a parent.
"In order to arrive at this decision, I have prepared myself mentally, physically, emotionally and logistically to ensure that my children get all the unconditional love, care and attention from me and mine. I have submitted to the fact that my children are my world and priority.  My work, travels and social commitments would have to  take a back seat and I am prepared for that. By the grace of God, I have the most caring and supportive mother who will be an integral part in the up-bringing of her grandchildren and of course, friends who are family.
"I am eternally grateful to the surrogate who has fulfilled my lifelong dream and provided a warm, loving and nurturing environment to my children before bringing them into this world. She will always remain in my prayers.
"Finally, a big thank you to Dr. Jatin Shah for his guidance and support and for being like a family member through this wonderful and exciting journey," he added.
The boy is named after Karan's father Yash Johar, a renowned filmmaker who passed away in 2004, while the girl's name is an anagram of Hiroo, his mother's name.

India's forex reserves rise by $ 63.7 million to $ 362.793 billion

Reversing a two-week downtrend, India’s foreign exchange reserves rose by $ 63.7 million to $ 362.793 billion in the week ended February 24, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here today.
The country’s forex reserves had decreased by $ 56.8 million to $ 362.729 billion in the previous week.
In its weekly statistical supplement, the central bank said that  foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, had gone up by $ 63.4 million to $ 339.783 billion during the week.
Foreign currency assets expressed in US dollar terms include the effect of appreciation or depreciation of non-US currencies such as the euro, pound and yen held in the reserves.
According to the bulletin, the country’s gold reserves remained unchanged at $ 19.248 billion during the week, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) went up by $ 0.1 million to $ 1.443 billion.
India’s reserve position in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) increased by $ 0.2 million to $ 2.317 billion during the week, the bulletin added.

L&T Construction wins orders valued at Rs. 2170 crore

Infrastructure major Larsen & Toubro (L&T) today said its construction arm had won orders valued at Rs. 2170 crore across its various business segments.
A press release from the company said these included orders worth Rs. 1169 crore secured by its Power Transmission & Distribution Business.
Consolidating its position in the sub-station segment of highest voltage level in Oman, the business has secured an order from Oman Electricity Transmission Company SAOC for turnkey construction of the 400/132 kV Qabel Grid Station and associated works, the release said.
The business has secured two more orders from customers for design, supply, construction and commissioning of five 132 kV sub-stations in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
On the domestic front, the business has won a contract from West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd. for strengthening the sub-transmission and distribution network in the urban area of Nadia district, West Bengal under the Integrated Power Development Scheme.
The release said Water & Effluent Treatment Business had won an order worth Rs. 360 crore. These include an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) order bagged from Rajasthan Urban Drinking Water Sewerage and Infrastructure Corporation Limited (RUDSICO), Government of Rajasthan, under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) for the execution of a sewerage project with treatment facilities spread across three towns -- Bharatpur, Gangapur and Hindaun.
The scope includes constructing 354 km of sewerage network, providing more than 40,000 house connections and building eight sewage treatment plants of total capacity 24.75 million litres per day (MLD) using Sequential Batch Reactor (SBR) Technology.
The release said the company's Building & Factories Business had secured an order worth Rs. 320 crore from a client to construct commercial and residential towers in Mumbai. The scope of works include civil shell and core, and finishing works.
In addition to above, the business has secured additional orders worth Rs.  321 crore from existing clients across various business segments.

L&T Hydrocarbon Engineering wins Rs. 1100 crore contract from IOC

L&T Hydrocarbon Engineering (LTHE), a wholly owned subsidiary of infrastructure major Larsen & Toubro (L&T) has bagged an onshore engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract from Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOC) worth around Rs. 1100 crores for setting up a 0.740 MMTPA Fluidised Cracking Unit (FCC) including LPG Treatment Facility at its Bongaigaon Refinery, Assam.
LTHE has won the contract through a competitive bidding process, in which reputed global EPC organisations also participated, a press release from the company said.
The scope of work under the contract covers extended basic engineering, detailed engineering, procurement, supply, transportation, storage, fabrication, inspection, construction, installation, testing, mechanical completion, pre-commissioning and commissioning of the unit, it said.
The process licensor for the Indmax unit is Lummus Technology Inc. For the LPG treatment unit, the process licensor is Merichem, USA. 
LTHE has the distinction of executing all Indmax FCC Units including IOC’s Guwahati and Paradip refineries, the release added.

INS Betwa on even keel, to be fully operational by April 2018

INS Betwa, a P-16A Class frigate has been made upright by the Naval Dockyard, Mumbai and the salvage firm Resolve Marine, specially contracted for the operation. 
It may be recalled that the ship, which was undergoing major repairs, had keeled onto her side during her undocking on December 5, 2016.
An official press release said the salvage operations were progressed on a war footing and the initial stabilisation of the ship was achieved by December 29, 2016.
The complete salvage operation involving complex hydrodynamic calculations and rigging up of intricate measuring and monitoring systems was completed in less than two months, it said.
As the ship was undergoing major refit and mid-life up-gradation since April 2016, majority of the equipment/ machinery had already been removed for routine servicing/ replacement with upgraded equipment. 
"Indian Navy is confident that with in-house expertise and sustained efforts, the ship will be made fully operational by her scheduled date of refit completion i.e by April 2018," the release added.

OCare launches platform for dentists, insured patients

Ocare, an independent Insurance Process as a Service (IPAAS) platform, has launched an integrated and improved website aiming to connect empanelled dentists and insured patients on a single digital platform.
“While insurance has been around for many years now, dental insurance is a new concept in India," Dr. NeerajSheth, founder & CEO, OCare, said.
"With low oral health in India and the growing costs of dental treatments, Dental Insurance is a must to maintain dental hygiene in the country. We aim to provide the best product coupled with a seamless engagement of a dentist with his patient," he said.
“Besides choosing OCare's wide list of empanelled dentists to take care of their dental needs, patients can access their dental history at any time they want. For dentists too, this is a boon as they will be able to better recommend a course of treatment based on their history,” added Ravi Kikan, COO, OCare.
A press release from OCare said the website had been designed to provide easy navigation and information flow for Ocare’s products and services for customers as well as dentists.
"Dental Insurance is a completely new concept and there are quite a few queries on what dental insurance is and how the entire process works right from when a patient enters the clinic, the dentist outlining their treatment plan to details of the claim reimbursement process. All these questions are answered in an easy 4-step process in the ‘How it Works section’ of the website," the release said.
Further questions about dentist empanelment, insurance coverage and turnaround time are answered in the Help/FAQ section to assist both prospective patients and dentists. The terms and condition section on the website clearly outlines the treatments covered, exclusions and costs.
Once a dentist registers with OCare, he can enter all the details related to his practice, treatment and costs. He can use the scheduler to manage his appointments and patients. Dentists will also use this platform to enter details related to the treatment plan, costs and sharing an OPG of the decayed tooth and the tooth post treatment. This also ensures all dental records are maintained digitally and can be accessed at any time, it said.
Patients can use this platform to book appointments at a preferred dentist based on location and convenience. They can view their medical and treatment history and most importantly use it for their dental insurance claim process, it said.
According to the release, Ocare brings to patients dental insurance for the first time in India. It covers existing conditions, has no waiting period, offering a sum assured of Rs. 25,000 per annum covering dental treatments over a location independent dental network. 
"OCare offers a host of benefits for a nominal premium for Rs. 1699. OCare is currently offered as a group insurance to corporates, schools, colleges, and organizations with a member-strength of more than 50," it said.
Other product highlights include an oral hygiene kit, loyalty card with points redeemable for dental services and bi-annual dental check-ups.

Reliance Jio unveils Prime Membership programe for existing 100 million customers

Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited (RJIL), a subidiary of the Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) on Tuesday announced the Jio Prime Membership programme for its existing 100 million-plus subscribers with a slew of benefits.

Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani unveiling Reliance Jio's Prime Membership Programme in Mumbai on February 21, 2017.
Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani unveiling Reliance Jio's Prime Membership Programme in Mumbai on February 21, 2017.
Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited (RJIL), a subidiary of the Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) today announced the Jio Prime Membership programme for its existing 100 million-plus subscribers with a slew of benefits.
Announcing the programme, Mr. Ambani, the Chairman and Managing Director of RIL, said Jio Prime members would be able to enjoy the unlimited benefits of the existing Jio Happy New Year Offer for another full year , or till March 31, 2018, for a nominal one-time enrolment fee of Rs. 99 and an introductory price of Rs. 303 per month. This effectively works out to just Rs. 10 per day, he said.
He said the programme would enable Jio Prime members to enjoy the full bouquet of Jio's applications absolutely free till March 31, 2018, which translates to additional benefit worth over Rs. 10,000 for them.
In addition, there will be many other attractive deals and offers from both Jio and its partners that the Jio Prime Members will enjoy under this programme, he said.
Mr. Ambani said the programme will be available only for current Jio subscribers and those who sign up on or before March 31 this year. Enrolment will start from March 1 and remain open until March 31.
He said Jio would also offer other "Extreme Value Plans" to members, details of which they can see via the MyJio app and
"We are putting together a line-up of attractive deals and offers, from both Jio and its partners," he said.
"We are committed to returning your trust in us… and you can count on us to give you manifold more surprises in the coming days. As they say in Mumbai, 'Unlimited Maza, continue hoynga'," he said.
Mr. Ambani said subscribers can enrol for the membership through the MyJio app, or the website or at any Jio or Jio partner store.
"This is a limited time opportunity that we are launching only for our existing customers, and I invite all of you to enroll at the earliest," he said.
"Customers will also enjoy a completely digital recharge and billing experience to provide further convenience and ease of usage," he added.
Mr. Ambani said RJIL had enrolled 100 million subscribers in just 170 days after launching its services on September 5, 2016. This meant that it added seven new members per second every single day for the last 170 days.
This is the fastest achieved by any start-up technology company in the world including the likes of Facebook, WhatsApp and Skype, he said.
He said a Jio SIM card today resides in the SIM slot of a majority of 4G smartphones in India. Further, Jio’s proprietory app ‘Jio4GVoice’ and its utilitarian Jiofy Wifi devices are enabling lakhs of 3G and 2G smartphone owners to enjoy a 4G voice and data environment without having to invest in a new handset. 
"A series of similarly thoughtful, customer-oriented solutions and applications have helped create a unique digital life experience for Indian consumers and added to the excitement for the Jio offering," he said.
Mr. Ambani said Jio users today make more than 200 crore minutes of voice and video calls every day. They also consumed more than 100 crore GB of data on the Jio network, which worked out to more than 3.3 crore GB of data a day.
"Remember, before Jio, India was 150th in the world in broadband  netration...Today, India is the number one country in the world for mobile data usage. Jio users as much mobile data as the entire United States of America, and nearly 50% more mobile data than all of China," he said.
Mr. Ambani said a significant portion of this data is consumed as video, and Jio carries nearly 5.5 crore hours of video dail on its network, making it one of the largest mobile video networks in the world.
Speaking about the Jio infrastructure, he said it alread had more than twice the number of 4G base stations compared with all the other Indian operators put together. "In the coming months, we will more than double our data capacity… and this means even better quality for our customers. By the end of 2017, the Jio network will be present in nearly all the cities, towns and villages of India and cover 99% of our country’s population," he said.
He said lakhs of customers had moved to Jio fro other networks, using the Mobile Number Portability (MNP) facility and the trend is increasing every day.
"Data is the oxygen of Digital Life and it is our promise that Jio will provide world-class quality and quantity of data, at prices that are affordable to all Indians. It is our credo that while we are the best today… we will strive to be better tomorrow," he said.
Noting that the company's Happy New Year Offer was drawing to a close on March 31, he said Jio would start offering its traffic plans from April 1. "On all of Jio’s tariff plans, all domestic voice calls to any network will always remain free. Across India. To any network. Always. And no roaming charges, no blackout days and no hidden charges," he said.
"n the last few months, hundreds of offers have been launched by the industry. These plans have created a lot of confusion in the market… and customers are having what I call Data and Value Anxiety .. whether they are getting the best value for the price that they are paying. So, we have decided to do something that will remove this confusion once and for all.
"Jio is instituting a comprehensive process of monitoring all publicly announced plans from all operators… across the country… on a regular basis. And we will not only match the highest selling tariffs of each of the other leading Indian telecom operators… but we will provide 20% more data in each of these plans," he said.
Mr. Ambani described the company's 100 million initial customers as the "first believers in Jio".
"Today is the day for me to show my gratitude to you… to ensure that you always continue to get extreme value with Jio," he added, as he unveiled details of the Jio Membership programme.

Reliance Jio, Uber announce strategic partnership for digital push

Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd (RJIL), a subsidiary of the Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) and ride sharing app Uber today announced a strategic partnership aimed at bringing the benefits of the Jio Digital Life ecosystem to their users.
As part of the partnership, Jio and Uber will work together and explore various opportunities to progressively enrich and enhance the Digital Life experience of their users through complementary programmes, a press release from Jio said.
"Today JioMoney, the PPI wallet offered by Reliance Payment Solutions Ltd, and Uber announced an agreement that will enable Uber riders to pay for their rides using JioMoney and thereby enhance the digital transaction ecosystem in India. Similarly, JioMoney users will soon be able to request and pay for Uber rides from within the JioMoney app. The partnership will give a major boost to cash-free payments in India and provide mobility options to millions of Jio users," it said.
According to the release, starting today, Uber will gradually roll out the JioMoney payment option for its users across the country. This integration provides a hassle-free payment experience to Uber riders and will be an added avenue for digital transactions for JioMoney’s rapidly growing user-base across India, it said.
Mr. Anirban S Mukherjee, Business Head, JioMoney said, “Jio aims to bring the benefits of evolving digital technologies to every Indian through an entire ecosystem that will allow Indians to live Digital Life to the fullest. JioMoney is an integral part of the Jio ecosystem and is fast emerging as a preferred option for digital transactions due to its ease of use, intuitive interface and growing acceptability. JioMoney’s integration with Uber will power the rapid migration of many more Uber transactions to the digital platform.”
Mr. Madhu Kannan, Chief Business Officer, India and Emerging Markets for Uber said: “We are delighted to partner with Reliance Jio to unlock synergies across two of the largest user bases in India. Digital payments have become part of our everyday lives and by integrating JioMoney as a payment option, our riders will have the ability to use a familiar and consistent payment experience. Through this strategic partnership we are looking to fast forward to digital solutions at scale for the Indian users.”
To mark the association, JioMoney and Uber will offer incentives to every user paying for Uber rides through JioMoney. The users of JioMoney will enjoy the hassle free payment experience of JioMoney at multiple avenues along with attractive offers and coupons available through JioMoney app, the release added.

India's forex reserves dip by $ 360.9 million to $ 362.786 billion

Reversing a four-week uptrend, India's foreign exchange reserves dipped by $ 360.9 million to $ 362.786 billion in the week ended February 10, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here today.
The country's forex reserves had soared by $ 1.589 billion to $ 363.147 billion in the previous week.
In its weekly statistical supplement, the central bank said that  foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, had gone up by $ 347.1 million to $ 339.779 billion during the week.
Foreign currency assets expressed in US dollar terms include the effect of appreciation or depreciation of non-US currencies such as the euro, pound and yen held in the reserves.
According to the bulletin, the country’s gold reserves remained unchanged at $ 19.248 billion during the week, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) went down $ 5.3 million to $ 1.442 billion.
India’s reserve position in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) decreased by $ 8.5 million to $ 2.316 billion during the week, the bulletin added.

Pop sensation Justin Bieber to bring Purpose tour to India in May

Justin Bieber
Justin Bieber
Global pop sensation and Grammy award winner Justin Bieber will bring his Purpose world tour to India in May this year, the promoters of the event announced here today.
"The wait is finally over and Beliebers can rejoice! It is officially confirmed – Grammy award winner and global pop sensation Justin Bieber is making his way to the India sub-continent this summer," a press release from White Fox India said.
"This highly anticipated event will be the biggest live music act witnessed in recent times in India and will further strengthen India’s position on the global music map," it said.
White Fox, the sole promoters of the tour, confirmed that, after a week of speculation and uncertainty, they would bringing the 22-year-old Canadian megastar's Purpose World Tour to the DY Patil Stadium in Mumbai on May 10.
The tour is in support of Bieber's fourth album, the critically acclaimed Purpose, in which he has experimented with more exploratory electronic sounds. Apart from India, the Asia leg of the tour comprises Tel Aviv in Israel and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the release said.
Purpose, which is Bieber's fourth studio album, debuted at number 1 in over a hundred countries and has sold over eight million copies worldwide.
"Bieber is without a doubt one of the most successful pop stars in the world today with a recent world tour imbibing sold out dates across countries," the release said.
The release said concert goers can pre-register for tickets at Book My Show for the event. Tickets will go on sale on February 22 and will be priced at Rs. 4000 upwards, it said.
 "Concert goers can look forward to a set list that will surely comprise worldwide smash hits including Where Are Ü Now, Boyfriend, Love Yourself, Company, As Long As You Love Me, What Do You Mean?, Baby, Purpose, Encore: Sorry amongst others," it said.
Mr. Arjun Jain, Director, White Fox India said, "Justin Bieber is the biggest artiste of our time and attracts a universal fanbase across all ages. This tour is one of the most successful in the world at the moment and will further enhance India’s current cultural repertoire. Justin Bieber will be bringing an extraordinarily epic show propelled by state-of-the-art production and of a magnitude that the country has not witnessed in recent times. There are few artistes who warrant such a dedicated fan base as Justin Bieber. He enjoys a more than 80% dedicated fan following in India and we envisage one of the biggest live events of the year."
"We are expecting a full house on May 10 with one of the biggest arena tours witnessed in recent times. This tour will place India on the global map and open up avenues for other artists of similar stature who may want to consider India as part of their touring roster," he said.
The Purpose World Tour has already mesmerized fans and critics alike across the United States, Canada and Japan last year and will tour throughout Europe before landing in Australia and New Zealand this year. 
"With more than 100 huge shows on the tour and close to a million ticket sales globally, there is no doubt that Bieber is at the top of his game with this tour," the release said.
Purpose is Justin Bieber's first album in two years. Right after its release, Purpose was the most streamed album on Spotify in one week with What Do You Mean as the most played song. The record sold more than 640,000 copies in less than a week.
Justin Bieber also holds the record for the highest most Twitter followers for any male user. He also has the highest number of YouTube subscribers for any male singer and became the first artiste to reach 10 billion views on YouTube in 2016. Bieber released his first album "My World 2.0" co-produced by the rapper Usher in 2009 at the age of 14. His single "Baby’" brought the star worldwide recognition and made him the most viewed artist with 4.1 billion views on YouTube. Earlier this fall, Bieber’s hit "Sorry" grabbed 10 million YouTube views in less than 24 hours. Apart from winning at the Grammy Awards, Justin Bieber also has eight new Guinness world records to his credit.
He won the Grammy for Best Dance Recording for Where Are You Now in 2016. He had also made headlines for the first ever singer to have seven songs from a debut album to feature on the Billboard Hot 100. Beiber also recently broke the Beatles' 1964 record by topping the American Billboard 17 times.

L&T, MBDA establish joint venture for development of missile systems

Infrastructure, engineering and defence major Larsen & Toubro (L&T) today said it had established a joint venture with MBDA, a world leader in missile systems, to develop and supply missiles and missile systems to meet the growing potential requirements of the Indian Armed Forces.
The joint venture is in recognition of the "path-breaking initiatives" of the Government of India to promote indigenisation of the defence sector under the Make in India campaign, a press release from the company said.
The joint venture company, named ‘L&T MBDA Missile Systems Ltd’, will operate from a dedicated work centre, which will include pyrotechnical integration and final checkout facilities. It is expected to be incorporated in the first half of 2017 after necessary approvals, the release said.
The release said L&T would own 51% of the company and MBDA, 49%, fully complying with India’s foreign direct investment (FDI) policy norms. The JV will be registered in India and conduct business as an Indian company, subject to Indian laws, it said.
The JV would focus on business opportunities in the Missiles and Missile Systems domain and target prospects under the Buy (Indian – IDDM), Buy (Indian) and Buy & Make (Indian) categories of Defence Procurement.
"The decision to formalise this partnership, a key milestone for both L&T and MBDA in their long term relationship, was made after extensive evaluation and identifying the strong synergy between the two organisations. L&T and MBDA have collaborated and partnered on co-development and production of major subsystems involving complex technologies and sophisticated weapon systems such as MICA missile launchers and airframe segments including control actuation units for Indian MoD orders," it said.
"Having developed a strong working relationship and built mutual trust, L&T and MBDA are convinced that it is the right time for the relationship to mature in to a JV, given the conducive policy environment in the defence sector in India. Both JV partners have a proven track record as trusted suppliers to the Indian Armed Forces - providing critical weapon systems and defence solutions across land, sea and air domains," it said.
The release said that, to begin with, the JV company will look to develop and supply fifth generation Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGM5s), missiles for coastal batteries and high speed target drones.
According to it, L&T has been delivering a range of launch systems, fire control systems and airframes / sub-systems for various indigenous weapon (Missile / Rockets / Torpedo) programmes as development partners and production agency to DRDO and DPSUs. 
"By combining our manufacturing and system integration capabilities and track record with MBDA’s technological excellence, we now look forward to delivering complete Missile Systems, hitherto imported, to meet the requirements of the Indian armed forces as required under DPP 2016," it said.
Mr. A M Naik, the Group Executive Chairman of L&T, said, “We have been trusted partners to DRDO and the Indian Navy, delivering complete weapon systems and platforms, command control and sensor systems, designed, developed and manufactured in India for over three decades. Over this period, we have worked closely with Ministry of Defence, and its different arms in jointly developing and delivering cutting-edge defence solutions."
Mr. Antoine Bouvier, Chief Executive Officer, MBDA, said: “Our business strategy in India has always focused on forming partnerships at the deepest level, not just with the armed forces but also with Indian industry. This has seen us involved in the transfer of technology and the production of products and components with the state-owned DPSUs (Defence Public Sector Undertakings) and also with the establishment of very close partnerships with the Indian private sector including large companies and SMEs. The setting up of this JV is a natural progression of our partnership strategy. With L&T, I am convinced that we have found the ideal Indian partner."
MBDA is jointly held by Airbus Group (37.5%), BAE Systems and Leonardo (25%).

Second Gateway of India Geoeconomic Dialogue to be held in Mumbai on February 13-14

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) will co-host the Second Gateway of India Geoeconomic Dialogue with Gateway House on February 13-14 in Mumbai
The dialogue is India's premier geoeconomics conference on the theme "Where Geopolitics meets Business" focussed on building synergies between business and foreign policy. 
The conference will feature an inaugural dialogue where Minister of State for External Affairs M. J. Akbar will be in conversation with his Bangladesh counterpart Mohammed Shahriar Alam. 
There will also be keynote addresses by Mr. Yves Leterme, former Prime Minister of Belgium, and Secretary General, International IDEA; and, by Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Minister of Law & Justice and Electronics & Information Technology.
On February 14, Dr. S. Jaishankar, Foreign Secretary, will be in conversation with Dr. C. Rajamohan, Director, Carnegie India. Other highlights for that day include a Power Dialogue with Mr. Piyush Goyal, Minister of Power, and panel discussions covering topics like Sovereign Funds, Global Taxation, Digital Economy, Indo-Pacific, India’s Defence-Industrial Base, a press release from the MEA added.

India's forex reserves soar by $ 1.589 billion to $ 363.147 billion

Continuing an uptrend for the fourth consecutive week, India's foreign exchange reserves soared by $ 1.589 billion to $ 363.147 billion in the week ended February 3, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here today.
The country's forex reserves had gone up by $ 782.7 million to $ 361.558 billion in the previous week.
In its weekly statistical supplement, the central bank said that  foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, had gone up by $ 914.7 million to $ 340.126 billion during the week.
Foreign currency assets expressed in US dollar terms include the effect of appreciation or depreciation of non-US currencies such as the euro, pound and yen held in the reserves.
According to the bulletin, the country’s gold reserves rose by $ 664.3 million to $ 19.248 billion during the week, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) went up by $ 3.8  million to $ 1.448 billion.
India’s reserve position in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) increased by $ 6 million to $ 2.324 billion during the week, the bulletin added.
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