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India's forex reserves rise by $ 954.6 million to $ 294.36 billion

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India’s foreign exchange reserves increased by $954.6 million to $294.360 billion in the week ended February 28, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here today.
 
The reserves had fallen by $ 383.7 million to $ 293.406 billion in the previous week.
 
In its weekly statistical supplement issued here yesterday , the central bank said that foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, increased by $ 33.6 million to $ 266.902 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 increased by $ 902.3 million to $ 20.978 billion, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) increased by $ 13 million to $ 4.469 billion during the period.
 
India's reserve position in the Indian Monetary Fund (IMF) went up by $ 5.7 million to $ 2.012 billion, the bulletin added.
 
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Naval officer dies in gas leak on board under-construction destroyer INS Kolkata

Yard-701 mishap: One officer killed, two injured
An officer of the Indian Navy died and some personnel of the public sector shipbuilders Mazagon Docks Limited (MDL) here were affected in a gas leak in a mishap ths afternoon onboard the under-construction INS Kolkata, the Navy's most modern destroyer, which was due to be commissioned in some weeks from now.
 
Sources in the Navy and at MDL identified the deceased officer as Commander Kuntal Wadhwa.
 
According to them, he died after he ended up inhaling excessive quantities of carbon dioxide in the mishap on the vessel, officially called Yard-701, around 1 pm today while it was undergoing machinery trials. He was rushed to hospital along with the others, where he was declared dead, they said.
 
"Yard-701, being built by MDL while undergoing machinery trials in MbPT had a malfunction in its Carbon Dioxide unit, leading to gas leakage. One naval officer and some MDL personnel were affected and have been hospitalised," a statement from MDL had said earlier.
 
The mishap is expected to push back the commissioning of the ship by some weeks and has come as another setback for the Navy, whch is yet to recover from the fire on board one of its submarines, INS Sindhuratna, on February 26, in which two Naval officers were killed and seven others were injured.
 
That incident came on top of several incidents and accidents involving Naval assets, starting with the devastating explosions and fire on board another frontline submarines, INS Sindhurakshak, in August last year, in which 18 men lost their lives.
 
Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Devendra Kumar Joshi had resigned from his position on February 26, hours after the fire on INS Sindhuratna, accepting moral responsibility for the incidents.
 
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Rakesh Sharma appointed MD&CEO of Lakshmi Vilas Bank

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Lakshmi Vilas Bank today announced the appointment of Mr. Rakesh Sharma, a former State Bank of India (SBI) official, as its Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer.
 
Mr. Sharma’s last assignment with SBI was as Chief General Manager for Patna Circle, comprising two states of Bihar and Jharkhand. He served SBI for more than 33 years, and has experience in retail and wholesale banking, asset liability management, loan syndication, trade finance and personnel development.
 
During his stint at SBI, Mr. Sharma held several responsibilities including head of mid-corporate accounts in Andhra Pradesh region and supervising retail operations in the states of Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Western Uttar Pradesh. 
 
Mr. Sharma also administered banking operations for International Banking Group (IBG) encompassing consolidation of balance sheets for all the foreign offices of the bank. While posted at Tokyo, he was in charge of overall functioning of SBI branches in Japan, a press release from Lakshmi Vilas Bank added.
 
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India's current account deficit narrows sharply to $4.2 billion in Q3: RBI

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India's current account deficit (CAD) narrowed sharply to $ 4.2 billion (0.9 per cent of GDP) in the third quarter (Q3) of 2013-14 from $ 31.9 billion (6.5 per cent of GDP) in Q3 of 2012-13.
 
The figure is also lower than $ 5.2 billion (1.2 per cent of GDP) in Q2 of 2013-14, the Reserve Bank of India said in a statement on the country's balance of payments (BoP) for Q3 on the basis of preliminary data.
 
"The lower CAD was primarily on account of a decline in the trade deficit as merchandise exports picked up and imports moderated, particularly gold imports," it said.
 
On a BoP basis, merchandise exports increased by 7.5 per cent to $ 79.8 billion in Q3 of 2013-14 (3.9 per cent in Q3 of 2012-13) on the back of significant growth especially in the exports of engineering goods, readymade garments, iron ore, marine products and chemicals, it said.
 
On the other hand, merchandise imports, at $ 112.9 billion, recorded a decline of 14.8 per cent in Q3 of 2013-14 as against an increase of 10.4 per cent in Q3 of 2012-13. 
 
The statement said that the decline in imports in Q3 was primarily led by a steep decline in gold imports, which amounted to $ 3.1 billion as compared to $ 17.8 billion in Q3 of 2012-13 and $ 3.9 billion in Q2 of 2013-14.
 
As a result, the merchandise trade deficit (BoP basis) contracted by around 43 per cent to $ 33.2 billion in Q3 of 2013-14 from $ 58.4 billion a year ago, it said.
 
Net services receipts improved during Q3 of 2013-14, essentially reflecting a decline in payments on account of services imports. Net services at $ 18.1 billion recorded a growth of 8.9 per cent in Q3 of 2013-14 (y-o-y).
 
The statement said net outflow on account of primary income (profit, dividend and interest) amounting to $ 5.4 billion in Q3 of 2013-14 was relatively lower than that in the corresponding quarter ($ 5.8 billion) of 2012-13 as well as the preceding quarter ($ 6.3 billion). In Q3 of 2013-14, gross private transfer receipts at $ 17.3 billion showed an increase of 4.8 per cent (y-o-y).
 
In the financial account, on net basis, both foreign direct investment and portfolio investment recorded inflows of $ 6.1 billion and $ 2.4 billion, respectively in Q3 of 2013-14. Within portfolio investment, the debt segment showed net outflow in Q3 which, however, was offset by higher net inflows of US$ 6.2 billion under the category of equity.
 
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‘Loans’(net) availed by deposit taking corporations (commercial banks) witnessed an outflow of $ 5.9 billion in Q3 of 2013-14 owing to repayments of overseas borrowings and a build-up of their overseas foreign currency assets. 
 
Under ‘currency & deposits’, net inflows of NRI deposits amounted to $ 21.4 billion in Q3 of 2013-14 as compared to $ 2.7 billion in Q3 of 2012-13.
 
A sharp increase in NRI deposits was on account of fresh FCNR(B) deposits mobilised under the swap scheme offered by the Reserve Bank during September-November 2013. 
 
Loans (net) availed by other sectors (i.e., external commercial borrowings) at $ 4.1 billion also showed an increase of 42.1 per cent over Q3 of 2012-13. Net flows under trade credits and advances, however, continued to be negative in Q3 of 2013-14 as repayments remained higher than disbursements.
 
On a BoP basis, there was a net accretion of $ 19.1 billion to India’s foreign exchange reserves in Q3 of 2013-14 as compared to a drawdown of $ 10.4 billion in the preceding quarter, it said. 
 
The turnaround in export growth and decline in imports from July 2013 onwards led to a sharp improvement in the trade deficit to $ 116.9 billion in April-December 2013 from $ 150.0 billion in April-December 2012.
 
Contraction in the trade deficit, coupled with a rise in net invisibles receipts, resulted in a reduction of the CAD to $ 31.1 billion (2.3 per cent of GDP) in April-December 2013 from $ 69.8 billion (5.2 per cent of GDP) in April-December of 2012.
 
Net inflows under the capital and financial account (excluding change in foreign exchange reserves) declined to $ 39.7 billion in April-December 2013 from $ 68.5 billion in corresponding period of 2012-13 owing to net outflows on account of portfolio investment, higher repayment of loans, and trade credit & advances.
 
On BoP basis, foreign exchange reserves increased by $ 8.4 billion during April-December 2013 as compared with an accretion of $ 1.1 billion in April-December 2012, the statement added.
 
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RBI extends date for exchanging pre-2005 banknotes to Jan 1, 2015

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The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today extended the date for exchanging the pre-2005 banknotes to January 1, 2015. 
 
It has also advised banks to facilitate the exchange of these notes for full value and without causing any inconvenience whatsoever to the public, a press release from the central bank said.
 
"The Reserve Bank solicits the cooperation of the public in withdrawing these notes from circulation by exchanging them at a bank branch convenient to them.
 
"This withdrawal exercise is in conformity with the standard international practice of not having multiple series of notes in circulation at the same time. A majority of such notes have already been withdrawn through the banks and only a limited number of notes remain with the public.
 
"The Reserve Bank clarifies that the public can continue to freely use these notes for any transaction and can unhesitatingly receive these notes in payment, as all such notes continue to remain legal tender," the release said.
 
The Reserve Bank will continue to monitor and review the process so that the public is not inconvenienced in any manner, it added.
 
The RBI had earlier, on January 22, announced that it would, after March 31, 2014, completely withdraw from circulation all banknotes issued prior to 2005.
 
It said the public could easily identify the notes to be withdrawn as the notes issued before 2005 do not have on them the year of printing on the reverse side. 
 
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India, UAE agree to bolster bilateral trade, continue strategic dialogue

Union Minister for Commerce & Industry Anand Sharma with Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court, at the 2nd Meeting of the India-UAE High Level Joint Task Force on Investment, in Mumbai on March 3, 2014.
Union Minister for Commerce & Industry Anand Sharma with Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court, at the 2nd Meeting of the India-UAE High Level Joint Task Force on Investment, in Mumbai on March 3, 2014.
India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) today agreed on several steps to strengthen bilateral trade and pave the way for continued strategic dialogue between them.
 
At the second meeting of the India-UAE High Level Joint Task Force on Investments (HLTFI) held in Mumbai, the two sides also held wide-ranging discusions on priority sectors of engagement for chanelling investments in the two countries.
 
The meeting was co-chaired by Indian Commerce & Industry Minister Anand Sharma and Shekh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court.
 
The HLTFI was established in April 2012 as a platform to address mutual issues associated with existing investments between the two countries and to promote and facilitate cross-border investments.
 
More than 30 government and private sector representatives from India and the UAE were present at the meeting, an official press release said.
 
The two sides discussed ways of supporting the establishment of a strategic petroleum reserve in India in a manner serving the common strategic interests of both countries and based on the principles of long term strategic partnership and cooperation. They decided to establish another joint working group to make progress on this effort.
 
They also discussed ways of expediting the resolution of current pending issues associated with existing UAE investments in India (Etisalat, Emaar & DP World), and a plan of action was agreed for the Legacy Issues sub-working group to address and resolve these issues.
 
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The meeting acknowledged TAQA, the Abu Dhabi-based international energy and water company, as the largest private operator of hydroelectric plants in India, following its acquisition, signed on Saturday 1st March, 2014 in New Delhi, of two hydroelectric plants in India. 
 
The equity invested by the TAQA-led consortium in the acquisition of the two hydroelectric plants will amount to approximately Rs 3,820 crores (US$ 616 million), of which 51% is from TAQA. The consortium will also acquire the assets` non-recourse project debt, taking the value of the deal to $ 1.6 billion. 
 
The agreement followed the signing of the UAE-India Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement in December 2013 and the UAE`s commitment at the last HLTFI meeting to invest US$ 2 billion in India`s infrastructure sector.
 
The UAE side invited the Indian companies in the renewable energy area to the UAE to meet with Masdar to discuss potential investments.
 
The meeting noted that the UAE and India are significant trading partners and bilateral trade between the two countries is expected to continue its important growth in years to come. Alongside trade, the HLTFI would seek to achieve a similar growth path for investment with a clear roadmap between the two countries, an official press release issued after the meeting said.
 
Mr Sharma underlined India’s status as a major destination for foreign investments and the opportunities that exist for the UAE, especially in infrastructure areas such as roads and highways, power and utilities, civil aviation, ports, renewable energy and urban infrastructure,  and participation through the Infrastructure Debt Funds. 
 
He also highlighted India’s desire to participate in the hydrocarbon sector in the UAE, especially in the upstream petroleum sector. He also mentioned that he saw greater opportunities for UAE investors as strategic partners in India’s growth story.
 
"Today we have advanced the work of the Joint Task Force, and laid the foundation for further mutually beneficial investments and areas of common interest," Sheikh Hamed said.
 
"We look forward to the ratification of the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, and the resolution of the outstanding issues identified at our first meeting. Together, our combined efforts will help to further strengthen bilateral trade relations and pave the way for continued strategic dialogue," he said.
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The first meeting of the HLTFI, held in Abu Dhabi in February 2013, resulted in a wide-ranging discussion on matters of mutual interest including the identification of priority sectors of engagement for possible investments in the two countries. Since then, work conducted by the HLTFI to strengthen and develop bilateral relations in the field of investments culminated in the signing, in December, 2013, of a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA), serving as a platform for promotion and reciprocal legal protection of investments in both countries.
 
As a result of decisions taken during the inaugural meeting of the HLTFI, several joint working groups have been created to address issues of mutual interest in the following sectors: Infrastructure, Investment & Trade, Energy, Manufacturing & Technology, Aviation, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Legacy Issues. 
 
At today`s meeting, an action plan was agreed to expedite progress across all these joint working groups, the release added.
 
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L&T wins Rs 1550 crore road project in Oman

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Infrastructure major Larsen & Toubro (L&T) today said it had won a prestigious international order worth Rs 1550 crore from the Ministry of Transport and Communications in Oman for the construction of a road between Bidbid-Sur Section (Second Phase, First Part).
 
The scope of L&T’s works involves widening of the existing 76 km two-lane road into three-lane dual carriageway, the construction of 10 arch type interchanges, 5 two-cell vehicular underpasses, 7 single-cell pedestrian underpasses and 15 kilometers of linked and service roads along the stretch. 
 
The project is scheduled to be completed in 38 months, a press release from the company said.
 
When completed, the project will transform the existing single-lane carriageway into an international-class, all-weather motorway, on which vehicles can be driven at a speed of 120 kilometers per hour, it said.
 
Mr. S.N. Subrahmanyan, Member of the Board and Senior Executive Vice-President (Infrastructure and Construction), L&T, said, “This order augurs well for L&T’s business expansion plans in the infrastructure space in the GCC markets.  L&T has been making significant strides in the transportation infrastructure sector both in the International and domestic markets through our well-established capabilities in design, engineering and project execution with top class quality and safety standards."
 
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HDFC raises $ 300 million ECB under low cost affordable housing scheme

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Housing finance major Housing Development Finance Corporation Limited (HDFC) today said it had raised external commercial borrowing (ECB) of $ 300 million from a consortium of four lenders.
 
The lenders are State Bank of India (SBI), Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC), The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd. and DBS Bank Ltd, a press release from the company said.
 
HDFC has assets of over $ 35 billion and a market capitalization of $ 20.5 billion.
 
The ECB, which is in the form of a syndicated loan facility, is a first by an Indian housing finance company (HFC) under the low-cost affordable housing scheme of Reserve Bank of India (RBI). 
 
RBI in December 2012 permitted HFCs/NHB to raise ECBs for financing prospective owners of low cost affordable housing units. 
 
Low-cost affordable housing units have been defined as units where the property cost does not exceed Rs 30 lakh, loan amount is capped at Rs 25 lakh and the carpet area does not exceed 60 square metres. 
 
RBI has prescribed an aggregate limit of $ 1 billion each for FY 14 & FY 15 for ECBs to be drawn under this window.  HDFC’s borrowers are predominantly middle class individual households.
 
SBI and SMBC are the Original Mandated Lead Arrangers & Book runners, while The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd. and DBS Bank Ltd are Mandated Lead Arrangers, the release added.
 
The borrowing facility has a tenor of 5 years.  HDFC has drawn down the facility in February 2014 from the above consortium of lenders. The rate of interest on the facility is linked to USD Libor plus a spread of 1.75%. HDFC has swapped the facility in Indian Rupees for the entire tenor of the loan. Roadshows shall be conducted by the lender banks in Taipei & Singapore in March 2014 to syndicate the facility and invite other international banks to participate in the facility. 
 
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Two missing naval officers on Sindhuratna found dead, probe begins into mishap

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The Indian Navy today said that the two naval personnel, who were missing since a fire broke out yesterday morning on one of its submarines, INS Sindhuratna, had been found dead this afternoon.
 
"The two officers who were earlier declared missing have been located in the compartment and after examination by medical officers, both the officers were declared dead," a brief message from the Navy said.
 
Official sources identified the two officers as Lieutenant Commanders Kapish Munwal and Manoranjan Kumar.
 
The Russian-made kilo-class Sindhuratna was at sea off Mumbai for routine training and workup (inspection) when the mishap occurred.
 
"While at sea in the early hours of 26 Feb 2014, smoke was reported in the sailors accommodation, in compartment number three, by the submarine. Smoke was brought under control by the submarine's crew," a statement from the Navy said.
 
"In the process of controlling the smoke/fire, seven crew members inhaled smoke and felt uneasy. The Headquarters, Western Naval Command (HQWNC) rushed a Seaking Helicopter with medical team. The seven crew members were transferred to naval hospital Asvini. All specialist medical officers attended and reported that the crew is safe," it said.
 
Naval ships were dispatched by HQWNC to the area to provide assistance to the submarine and a search had been launched for the two missing officers. The vessel has since returned to the harbour.
 
The statement said all other crew of the submarine were on board and safe. The submarine was also safe and it did not have any weapons on board.
 
An inquiry has been ordered to establish the cause of the incident, the statement added.
 
The high-level inquiry, headed by an officer of the rank of Rear Admiral, has been constituted and commenced its work. The inquiry will establish the cause of recent incidents involving submarines and suggest steps for their continued safe operations.
 
Within hours of yesterday's mishap, which was the latest in a series of accidents and incidents involving Naval assets, including submarines, in he past seven months, causing great embarassment for the Navy, Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) Admiral Devendra Kumar Joshi resigned from his position/
 
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The Government accepted the resignation of Admiral Joshi with immediate effect and said that the Vice Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral R K Dhowan, would be discharging the duties of officiating CNS, pending appointment of regular CNS.
 
The Navy had suffered a devastating blow when one of its frontline submarines, INS Sindhurakshak, sank with about 18 people on board after it was gutted by two huge explosions followed by a major fire at the Naval dockyard in Mumbai in the early hours of August 14 last year.
 
Admiral Joshi had taken over as Chief of Naval Staff on August 31, 2012 and would have retired from service in mid-2015. He is the first CNS to resign from office.
 
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Sanjeeb Chaudhuri named Standard Chartered's Group Head of Brand & Chief Marketing Officer

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Standard Chartered today said it had appointed Mr Sanjeeb Chaudhuri to the newly created role of Group Head of Brand and Chief Marketing Officer with effect from April 1.
 
In his new role, Mr Chaudhuri will oversee all brand and marketing teams across the Group, and take overall responsibility for developing a singular, cohesive brand strategy, a press release from the bank said.
 
"This will underline Standard Chartered’s recently announced re-organisation, in which the Wholesale and Consumer Banking businesses will integrate. As part of this, he will also spearhead a significant drive towards optimising Standard Chartered’s brand recognition across digital and mobile channels, enabling the Bank to better cater for customers who are increasingly living online. Sanjeeb will play a key role in helping to deepen understanding of ‘Here for good’, which remains the cornerstone of Standard Chartered’s brand proposition," it said.
 
Mr Chaudhuri currently serves as the Bank’s Regional Head for South Asia and Chief Marketing Officer for the Consumer Bank. 
 
Since joining Standard Chartered in 2011, he has driven the bank’s digital and mobile marketing offering, launching and executing innovative approaches to reach customers and prospects.
 
In his new role, he will report to Tracy Clarke, Director, Compliance, People and Communications.
 
Prior to his career with Standard Chartered Bank, Sanjeeb was CEO, Retail and Commercial Banking for Citicorp, Europe, Middle East and Africa, while also holding the role of Head, Retail Banking and Chief Marketing Officer for Europe, Middle East and Africa. He was also a member of the Citi CEO Leadership Forum, the Citi Global Digital Council and the Citi Global Advertising Council.
 
He has also held senior marketing and general management positions at Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive and Unilever.
 
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"Neither RIL nor Mukesh Ambani hold illegitimate accounts": RIL

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Energy and petrochemicals major Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) today strongly denied all allegations made by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal against them its Chairman & Managing Director Mukesh Ambani at a rally at Rohtak on Sunday.
 
"As stated earlier it is being reiterated that neither Reliance Industries Limited nor Mr. Mukesh Ambani have or had any illegitimate accounts anywhere in the world," a statement from the company said.
 
Mr Kejriwal had read out two numbers at the rally and said that they were of the Swiss bank accounts of Mr Ambani and his brother Anil Ambani, who heads the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG). He had challenged Guarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, wo is the BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate, to bring back to the country such allegedly illegal wealth stashed abroad.
 
Mr Kejriwal also alleged that the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre was controlled by Mr Ambani and that Mr Modi's high-profile campaign was being financed by him and other industrialists.
 
"Reliance Industries Limited has business interests in several countries with turnover of thousands of crores in Rupees. As a part of their normal business, these international subsidiaries of Reliance Industries Limited deal with several global banks.
 
"These accounts are fully compliant with all regulations and are disclosed in their appropriate jurisdictions and in India.
 
"The continued tirade of baseless allegations being made by AAP against us appears to be instigated by vested interests," the release added.
 
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Delhi Airport ranked 2nd, Mumbai 5th in 25-40 million category in ACI's ASQ Awards

A view of the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi
A view of the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi
Two Indian airports - Delhi and Mumbai - figure in the top five in the 25-40 million passengers per annum (MPPA) category in the Airport Service Quality (ASQ) Awards for 2013 announced earlier this week in Montreal by the Airports Council International (ACI).
 
While the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) in Delhi has been ranked second in the category for the third year in a row, the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) in Mumbai has been placed fifth.
 
Seoul's Incheon airport topped the category, while Taipei's Taoyuan and Shanghai's Hongqiao airports were placed third and fourth.
 
Hyderabad's Rajiv Gandhi International Airport was placed second in the 5-16 million passengers category.
 
IGIA was placed fifth among the Best Airports in the Asia Pacific Region, while Kolkata was chosen as the Best Improved airport in the region. 
 
IGIA scored 4.84 on the ASQ scale out of 5 points, a vast improvement over its ASQ score of 3.02 in 2007, ranking last in an universe of 101 airports.
 
“IGIA has come a long way in the last seven years since we took over. We have ensured that quality has become a way of life not just with DIAL employees but with all stakeholders of the IGI Airport family. We are confident that all 30,000 plus members of the IGI Airport family will continue to strive for excellence and we hope to improve our position even further in the coming years," Mr I Prabhakara Rao, CEO of Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) said.
 
IGIA now boasts of an annual passenger capacity of over 60 million, including the state of the art Terminal-3 (T3) which can handle 34 million passengers. 
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As many as 36.71 million passengers passed through IGIA in 2013 CY. The airport also handled almost 586 thousand metric tonnes of cargo and 309074 aircraft movements during the same period.
 
Since its creation in 2006, the ASQ Awards have become the world's leading airport passenger satisfaction benchmark with over 235 airports participating. The ASQ Awards recognize and reward the best airports in the world based on ACI's ASQ passenger satisfaction survey.
 
ACI is the only global trade representative of airports. The 573 members operate 1751 airports in 174 countries and territories. It is a non-profit organisation whose prime purpose is to represent the interests of airports and to promote professional excellence in airport management and operations.
 
The ASQ Awards are presented in four categories that include: Best Airport by Region, Best Airport by Size, Best Small Airport and Best Improvement.
 
The following is the list of awards:
 
Best Airport by Region (first place): Cape Town (Africa), Seoul Incheon (Asia-Pacific), Moscow Sheremetyevo (Europe), Guayaquil (Latin America-Caribbean), Abu Dhabi (Middle East), Indianapolis (North America).
 
Best Airport by Size* (first place): Changchun (2-5m), Haikou (5-15m), Seoul Gimpo (15-25m), Seoul Incheon (25-40m), Singapore (over 40m).
* Millions of Passengers Per year
 
Best Small* Airport by Region (first place): Upington (Africa), Skopje (Europe), Quebec City (North America), Mazatlan (Latin America-Caribbean), Langkawi (Asia-Pacific).
* Fewer than 2 million passengers per year
 
Best Improvement by Region (first place): East London (Africa), Kolkata (Asia-Pacific), Gothenburg (Europe), Nassau (Latin America-Caribbean), Amman (Middle East), San Antonio (North America).
 
ASQ 2013 Top Performers
BEST AIRPORT BY REGION
Africa: 1. Cape Town 2. Durban 3. Mauritius 4. Cairo 5. Johannesburg 
Asia-Pacific: 1. Seoul Incheon 2. Singapore 3. Beijing 4. Shanghai Pudong 
5. New Delhi
Europe: 1. Moscow Sheremetyevo 2. Zurich 3. Porto 4. Keflavik 5. Malta
Latin America-Caribbean: 1. Guayaquil 2. Cancun 3. Montego Bay 4. Nassau 
5. Puerto Vallarta 
Middle East: 1. Abu Dhabi 2. Dubai 3. Doha 4. Tel Aviv 5. Amman
North America: 1. Indianapolis 2. Ottawa 3. Tampa 4. Sacramento 
5. Jacksonville
BEST AIRPORT BY REGION: FEWER THAN 2 MILLION PASSENGERS PER YEAR
Latin America-Caribbean: Mazatlan 
Asia-Pacific: Langkawi
Africa: Upington 
Europe: Skopje
North America: Quebec City
BEST AIRPORT BY SIZE 
2-5 million passengers: 1. Changchun 2. Guayaquil 3. Ottawa 4. Halifax 5. Grand Rapids 
5-15 million passengers:1. Haikou 2. Hyderabad 3. Tianjin 4. Wuhan 5. Harbin
15-25 million passengers: 1. Seoul Gimpo 2. Chongqing 3. Tampa 4. Salt Lake City 5. Zurich
25-40 million passengers: 1. Seoul Incheon 2. New Delhi 3. Taipei Taoyuan 4. Shanghai Hongqiao 5. Mumbai 
Over 40 million passengers: 1. Singapore 2. Beijing 3. Shanghai Pudong 4. Hong Kong 5. Guangzhou
BEST IMPROVEMENT
Africa: East London 
Asia-Pacific: Kolkata
Europe: Gothenburg
Latin America-Caribbean: Nassau
Middle East: Amman
North America: San Antonio
 
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Injured Dhoni out of Asia Cup, Virat Kohli to lead

Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been ruled out of the Asia Cup to be played in February-March in Bangladesh and the side will now be led by Virat Kohli.
 
The Senior Selection Committee of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) met here today and picked Dinesh Kartik as his replacement in the Indian squad for the tournament.
 
Dhoni suffered a Grade I left side-strain injury during the second Test against New Zealand. He will be undergoing rehabilitation for ten days, a BCCI press release said.
 
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CCI imposes penalty of Rs 3.81 crore on L.H.Hiranandani Hospital in Mumbai

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The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has imposed a penalty of Rs. 3.81 crore on Dr. L.H.Hiranandani Hospital, Mumbai for violation of Sections 3 and 4 of the Competition Act. 
 
This followed a complaint filed by a person, Ramakant Kini, alleging that the hospital had abused its dominant position in the area of stem cell banks and did not allow the stem cell of the child to be collected by any other service provider except Cryobank with whom it had an exclusive agreement. 
 
An official press release said that, consequent upon detailed investigation by the Director General of CCI, the Commission had arrived at the conclusion that exclusive arrangements between two undertakings do not accrue any benefit to the consumer and are rather at the cost of consumer. Such an agreement has anti-competitive effect in any market, it said.
 
CCI also considered it as an abuse of dominance by Hiranandani Hospital and the conditions put up on its patients that in case one had to avail stem cell banking system, they will only have to avail services of Cryobank, as abusive and violative of Section 4 of the Competition Act. CCI, under Section 27 of the Act.
 
In its order, the Commission declared null and void the agreement between the hospital and Cryobank for 2011-12 and 2012-13 and said that the hospital should not enter into a similar agreement with any stem cell bank in the future. These directions have to be complied with immediate effect, it said.
 
The Commission also imposed a penalty of Rs. 3,81,58,303 calculated at the rate of 4% of the average turnover of the hospital. The penalty is to be deposited within 60 days of receipt of the order, the release added.
 
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Despite import curbs, gold demand in India up 13% at 975 tonnes in 2013

Despite several import-related curbs during 2013, gold demand in India remained buoyant with a full-year total of 975 tonnes (t), valued at Rs 191,142.8 crore as compared to 864t worth Rs 170,066.2 crore in 2012, according to data released by the World Gold Council (WGC) today said.
 
According to the latest World Gold Council Gold Demand Trends report, total jewellery demand in India for 2013 was up by 11% at 612.7t as compared to 552t in the previous year.
 
The value of jewellery demand in 2013 was Rs 161.750 crore, a rise of 2% from Rs 158,359.1 crore in 2012.
 
However, the demand for gold in India in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2013 was, at 218.7 tonnes, down 16% as compared to 261.9 tonnes in the last quarter of 2012. Gold demand value in Q4 of 2013 was Rs 55,664.3 crore, a fall of 28% from Rs 78,477.5 crore in the same quarter of 2012.
 
The total investment demand for 2013 was up by 16% at 362.1t as against 312.2t in the previous year. In value terms, gold investment demand was Rs 95,460.8 crore, a rise of 6% from Rs 90,184.6 crore in 2012.
 
The total gold recycled in India in 2013 was 100.8t as compared to 113t in 2012. 
 
The WGC estimated the 2014 full-year gold demand in India at between 900 and 1000 tonnes.
 
“Demand in the second half was lower due to the effect of the supply curbs introduced in that period, but, equally, it was due to households having met a large part of their annual gold requirements in the first half, using the price drop in April as a buying opportunity," Mr Somasundaram P R, Managing Director, India, WGC said.
 
"The latter half of last year has seen intense grey market activity, but its impact will be more visible and significant in 2014, if the import curbs continue. Gold has a special status socially, culturally and economically in India. The demand for gold is innate and cuts across socio economic groups but fundamentally, it is an asset class like any other and the policy focus must be on assigning gold the status of an economic asset in private hands. 
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"Gold can be part of the solution to the challenges that India faces today, and it’s time for the discussions to move towards developing a coherent policy on gold that enhances India’s role in the global gold markets," he said.
 
WGC said global consumer demand for gold was at unprecedented levels in 2013, led by China and India, with China becoming the world's biggest gold market.
 
The report said that, in Western markets consumer demand also remained strong, with the United States, in particular, having a robust year in the jewellery, bar and coin sectors.
 
In 2013 the gold market saw 21% growth in demand from consumers which contrasted with outflows of 881t from exchange trade funds (ETFs). The net result was that global gold demand in 2013 was 15% lower than in 2012, with a full year total of 3,756t, the report said.
 
Annual global investment in bars and coins reached 1,654t, up from 1,289t in 2012, a rise of 28%, and the highest figure since the World Gold Council’s data series began in 1992.
 
For the full year, Chinese and Indian investment in gold bars and coins was up 38% and 16%, respectively. Although much smaller markets in terms of volume, in the US, bar and coin demand was up 26% to 68t, and in Turkey it was up 113% to 102t, demonstrating solid support on a global basis.
 
Meanwhile demand for jewellery, the other component of consumer demand, increased by 29% from 519t to 669t in China, and by 11% from 552t to 613t in India, reaching 2,209t globally, the highest figure seen since the onset of the financial crisis in 2008.
 
Mr Marcus Grubb, Managing Director, Investment Strategy at the World Gold Council said: “2013 has been a strong year for gold demand across sectors and geographies, with the exception of western ETF markets. Specifically, it was the year of the consumer. Although demand has continued its shift from West to East, the growing demand for gold bars, coins and jewellery is a global phenomenon.
 
“Taken together, the statistics demonstrate the resilience of the gold market and the unique nature of gold as an asset class, rebalancing to reflect the economic environment," he said.
 
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Actress Mallika Sherawat to participate in Oxford Union debate on gender

Mallika Sherawat
Mallika Sherawat
Indian actress and model Mallika Sherawat is among those invited to participate in a debate by the Oxford Union on February 27 on the proposition, "This House Believes Gender Exists to Oppress".
 
Ms Sherawat will speak against the motion, along with S Bear Bergman, trans activist, poet, playwright and theatrical performer, Jessi M'Bengue, model ad dancer, and Stephen Whittle, activist with transactive group "Press for Change", Professor of Equalities and Law and former President of the World Professional Association of Transgender Health.
 
Those speaking for the motion include Calpernia Addams, musician, actor and campaigner for transgender rights, David Aaronovitch, author, broadcaster and journalist, and Roberta Kaplan, American lawyer who has successfully argued the case against the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA) in front of the US Supreme Court in 2013, removing one of the last obstacles to gay marriage in the US.
 
The programme for the debate said Ms Sherawat is renowned for her roles in Bollywood films, her on-screen presence, and her outspoken criticism of attitudes towards women in India.
 
In its invitation to Ms Sherawat, a representative of the Union wrote, “We feel that as a figure who recently was very outspoken about the image of women and women’s rights in a country like India, Mallika would lend an interesting angle to the debate.” 
 
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"Yes, I have accepted the invitation. The date is set on Feb 27th. A lot of preparation is required. It's a great honour. I come from a small town, so it means a lot to be invited to speak at such a historic venue. I can use the platform to highlight issues like drop in the conviction rate in rape cases across the country," Ms Sherawat said.
 
Founded in 1823, the Oxford Union is one of the most famous debating societies in the world and has hosted world leaders from all fields. 
 
They include former US Presidents Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Mother Teresa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
 
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RBI clarifies on import of gold, gold dore by banks and agencies

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The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has clarified that, in cases of gold imports on the basis of Advance Authorisation (AA) and Duty Free Import Authorisation (DFIA) issued before August 14, 2013, the condition of sequencing imports prior to exports shall not be insisted upon even in case of entities/units in the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and Export-Oriented Units (EOUs), Premier and Star Trading Houses.
 
The central bank issued the clarification yesterday after it had received representations in this regard and following consultations with the Government.
 
In a notification to all scheduled commercial baks (SCBs) which are authorised dealers (ADs) in foreign exchange and all agencies nominated for import of gold, it said the imports made as part of the AA/DFIA scheme will be outside the purview of the 20:80 scheme.
 
Such Imports will be accounted for separately and will not entitle the Nominated Agency/ Banks/Entities for any further import, it said.
 
"The Nominated Banks / Agencies / Entities may make available gold to the exporters (other than AA/DFIA holders) operating under the Replenishment Scheme. They can resort to import of gold for the purpose, if considered necessary. However, such import will be accounted for separately and will not entitle them for any further import," it said.
 
"Import of gold in the third lot onwards will be lesser of the two: Five times the export for which proof has been submitted; or Quantity of gold permitted to a Nominated Agency in the first or second lot."
 
On import of gold dore, the RBI clarified that refiners are allowed to import gold dore of 15% of their licence for each of the first two months.
 
In case the quantity has already been identified by Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) for first two lots, import of such quantity will be in compliance with the guidelines issued earlier on December 31, 2013, it said.
 
"DGFT, through a notification, may include new refiners, and fix licence quantity for them," it said.
 
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India’s forex reserves increase by $ 1.26 billion to $ 292.33 billion

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India’s foreign exchange reserves rose by $ 1.26 billion to $ 292.33 billion in the week ended February 7, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said here yesterday.
 
In its weekly statistical supplement issued here, the central bank said that foreign currency assets, which constitute a major chunk of the forex reserves, increased by $ 1.263 billion to $ 265.832 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 last week’s level of $ 20.076 billion, while its special drawing rights (SDRs) declined by $1.3 billion to $ 4.429 billion.
 
India's reserve position in the Indian Monetary Fund (IMF) went down by $1.5 million to $ 1.994 billion, the bulletin added.
 
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Unity Infraprojects bags two projects worth Rs. 364.42 crore

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Civil contracting major Unity Infraprojects Ltd today said it had bagged two projects worth Rs 364.42 crore from Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) and NTPC.
 
A press release from the company said these included one for a township package for Kudgi Super Thermal Power Project, Stage I (3x800MV) by NTPC Limited, valued at Rs. 248.58 crore, which is to be completed within a period of 24 months.
 
The second order worth Rs. 115.84 crore is from the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai for Design, Planning and Construction including supply, delivery, erection, commissioning of mechanical, electrical, instrumentation and automation works and comprehensive operation and maintenance of Storm Water Pumping Stations (SWPS) at Britannia Outfall, Reti Bunder Bay, Reay Road, Mumbai.
 
Mr. Abhijit K. Avarsekar, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Unity Infraprojects Ltd., said, “We received two orders amounting Rs. 364.42 cr in the fourth financial quarter so far. We are privileged on receiving order repeats from MCGM and NTPC. It symbolises the trust these clients have on us. This is a platform to showcase our skills and quality in operations and we are very much confident to accomplish these projects within the given time-frame.”
 
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Reliance says Kejriwal's move on FIR on gas pricing "shocking", allegations baseless

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The Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) today said the direction of the Delhi Government to order the registration of first information reports (FIR) against it and others in relation to the decision of Union Cabinet to revise the price of gas was "shocking".  
"The complaint and each of the allegations on the basis of which the Delhi Government has taken such action are completely baseless and devoid of any merit or substance whatsoever," the energy and petrochemicals major said in a statement this evening.
 
"The allegations appear to have been made by persons who are also petitioners in the Supreme Court of India in a petition in which similar allegations have been made. The issue of gas pricing is also a contentious issue between the contracting parties being the Government of India and the Contractors.
 
"We deny these irresponsible allegations and propose to resort to the available legal remedies to protect our reputation and preserve the pioneering efforts and investment made by Reliance so far. We also remain fully committed to the development of oil and gas sector in India within the parameters of law," the statement added.
 
Earlier in the day, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said he had directed the anti-corruption branch (ACB) of his government to file first information reports (FIRs) against Petroleum & Natural Gas Minister M Veerappa Moily, former Minister Murli Deora and RIL Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani in connection with the pricing of natural gas from the Krishna Godavari (KG) basin.
 
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FIRs would also be filed agianst former Director General of Hydrocarbons V K Sibal, RIL and others, he said.
 
Mr Kejriwal told a press conference in Delhi that he had done this after the ACB had received a complaint that RIL had made windfall profits following an increase in the price of gas allowed by the Government.
 
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Singapore Airlines to shift Mumbai operations to T2 of CSIA

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Singapore Airlines today said it would shift its operations at the Mumbai Airport to the new Terminal 2 (T2) with effect from February 12.
 
Recently inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan singh, this state-of-the-art, integrated terminal is designed to handle 40 million passengers annually.
 
"With effect from 1300 hours IST on 12 February, 2014, immigration clearance and checked-in baggage collection for customers arriving into Mumbai will be at the new Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) Terminal 2 (T2)," a press release from the airline said.
 
Singapore Airlines flights arriving in Mumbai on 12 February at the new T2 will be SQ426 (12 Feb, 2105 hrs), SQ422 (13 Feb, 0525 hrs) and SQ424 (13 Feb, 2250 hrs), the release said.
 
Departing flights are SQ425 (12 Feb, 2220 hrs), SQ421 (13Feb, 0845 hrs) and SQ423 (14Feb, 0005 hrs), the release added.
 
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President to visit Maharashtra on February 8-9

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President Pranab Mukherjee will visit Mumbai, Nagpur and Gondia in Maharashtra on February 8-9.
 
Tomorrow, Mr Mukherjee will inaugurate the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations of Kishinchand Chellaram College at Mumbai. He will also inaugurate the 150th Anniversary Celebrations of the Advocates’ Association of Western India (AAWI) at the National Sports Club Complex, Worli, Mumbai on the same day. 
 
On February 9, he will inaugurate "Krishi Vasant", a national exposition organised by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Government of Maharashtra at the Central Institute of Cotton Research, Nagpur.
 
On the same day, he will attend annual day function of the Gondia Education Society at Gondia before returning to the capital, an official press release added.
 
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Reliance Capital Asset Management discloses investment by group firms in MF

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Reliance Capital Asset Management (RCAM), a part of Reliance Capital, today said that, as of December 31, 2013, the investment of group companies, in its total mutual fund average assets under management (AAUM) stood at Rs 3274 crore ($ 528 million).
 
This accounted for 3.2 per cent of the total mutual fund AAUM of Rs 1,02,487 crore ($ 16.5 billion), it said.
 
The information was given as part of RCAM's decision to voluntarily disclose total investments made by group companies in its total mutual fund AAUM.
 
The company, in addition to disclosing its total mutual fund Assets Under Management (AUM) and AAUM, will also be giving total investments made by group companies in its mutual fund AAUM, a press release from RCAM said.
 
The disclosure would be made on a quarterly basis, in line with the frequency of disclosures mandated for all AMCS.
 
RCAM will be the first assets management company (AMC0 to make such separate disclosures in public domain of total investments by group companies in its mutual funds, it said.
 
“As the biggest asset manager in the country, we feel it is our responsibility to take disclosures in the mutual fund industry to the next level. Disclosing the details of total investment by group companies in the AAUM will help the investor get a better view of the fund house and enable greater transparency. We hope the other players in the industry will also makes this voluntary disclosure in the larger interest of the investors,” said Mr Sundeep Sikka, CEO, RCAM.
 
Investments from group companies will include investments made by Reliance Capital Limited (sponsor & holding company); Reliance Group affiliate companies, subsidiaries and businesses including insurance, securities, power, infrastructure and communications & media
 
“The size of the AAUM is one of the important criteria which help the investors in taking an informed decision for investing in mutual funds. We need to help these investors by building their confidence with all such disclosures that can enhance their trust in the industry," Mr Sikka said.
 
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India’s biggest dry bulk vessel berths at Essar Ports in Hazira

Essar Ports achieved a major milestone when MV Kiran, a 175,000 tonne DWT vessel, India's largest dry bulk vessel, berthed at its bulk terminal at Hazira in Gujarat to discharge iron ore pellets.
 
The vessel, owned by Essar Shipping, has an overall length of  281m and beam of 45 m, making it the largest ship the terminal has handled till date. 
 
"The handling of a ship of this size highlights the capability of Essar Bulk Terminal Hazira, to handle the largest of bulk carriers. It also highlights the operational efficiency of the terminal, and the capability of the operating team," a press release from the company said today.
 
"We deployed powerful tugs, and ensured adequate under keel clearance, accurate judgment of vessel’s engine and steering capabilities," Capt. Subhas Das, CEO, Essar Bulk Terminal, Hazira, said.
 
Mr. Rajiv Agarwal, MD & CEO, Essar Ports Ltd. said, "We are proud of our team at Hazira, which is now handling some of the largest bulk carriers. Our focus is on operational excellence and safety of operations, and our teams on the ground are continuously striving towards it."
 
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Star CJ Network India appoints Mumbai start-up as its digital marketing agency

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Online home shopping company Star CJ Network India Pvt. Ltd has appointed Digital Strings, a Mumbai based start-up, to manage its online marketing activities. 
 
All online marketing activities of Star CJ across various social media platforms will be handled by Digital Strings, a press release from the agency said here today.
 
"Digital Strings will be responsible for managing the online reputation of Star  CJ. The mandate will also include managing Star CJ’s social media presence, driving online visitors through search engine marketing and managing online advertising for creating a strong presence of the brand digitally," it said.
 
Mr. Kenny Shin, Chief Executive Officer of Star CJ, said, “After a rigorous evaluation of various agencies, our team made a decision of appointing these young bunch of professionals to manage our online marketing activities.”
 
“We have been quite successful in the business of home-shopping on our channel Star CJ alive. But looking at the change in the consumer behavior in India due to the penetration of online shopping, we intend to strengthen our presence online and reach out to a wider consumer base. We believe that Digital Strings would stand up to our expectations and help us create a niche in the online shopping business," he said.
 
According to the release, the estimated online media spend for Star CJ is Rs 5.5 crore for 2014. Star CJ intends to expand its online business drastically by the end of this year and take a strong position in the e-commerce space through the online sale of premium category products such as mobile phones, kitchen appliances, electronics, household goods, and so on.
 
Mr. Rohit Kerkar, Managing Director, Digital Strings, added, “It is a big win for us as a start-up. I am grateful to the team of Star CJ for seeing us capable enough to manage their online reputation as against various well established agencies currently present in the country. We are privileged to be associated with Star CJ.  Our team at Digital Strings will strive hard to manage and build Star CJ’s online image.”
 
Star CJ is a joint venture between Star Group and the South Korean home shopping major, CJ O Shopping Co. Ltd. The venture was started in 2009, with the launch of program slots on Star Utsav. In 2010, it was introduced as a 24X7 home shopping TV. 
 
StarCJ.com was launched in the year 2011 to reach out to more consumers.
 
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