Current Affairs Current Affairs - 27 October 2015 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 27 October 2015

General Affairs

PM Telephones Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Takes Stock of Post-Quake Situation
  • PM Telephones Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Takes Stock of Post-Quake SituationNEW DELHI:  Prime Minister Narendra Modi telephoned Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to take stock of the situation after a major earthquake jolted the state today.

    "Spoke to Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and took stock of the situation arising due to the unfortunate earthquake," the prime minister said in a statement.

    An earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter Scale and with its epicentre in Afghanistan shook large parts of north India, causing widespread panic.

    There were no reports of casualties but there was major damage to property in Kashmir.

    Most multi-storey public and private buildings in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, suffered huge cracks.

    Dozens of houses and school buildings collapsed in southern and central parts of the Kashmir Valley, officials and residents said.

    Traffic came to an abrupt halt as vehicles started swinging on shaking roads in the valley. A traffic flyover in Srinagar developed cracks.

        Congress Accuses PM Modi of Stoking 'Communal Polarisation' in Bihar
        • Congress Accuses PM Modi of Stoking 'Communal Polarisation' in BiharNEW DELHI:  Prime Minister Narendra Modi was stoking "communal polarisation" in Bihar as the BJP stared at a "big defeat" in the on-going Bihar elections, the Congress alleged today.

          The attack was seen as a response to PM Modi's charge against the 'Grand Alliance' that it was trying to reduce out five per cent reservation from schedule castes, scheduled tribes and other backward classes to give it to a "particular community".

          "The Prime Minister is habitual when it comes to attempts at communal polarisation during elections. The BJP is staring at a big defeat," party's senior spokesman Anand Sharma said.

          Claiming that these are "desperate attempts" by the Prime Minister, he said that PM Modi "never believes in speaking truth and comfortable with lies".

          Accusing the Prime Minister of misleading people, he said the Supreme Court has already settled the quota issue.

          "These leaders are making a devious plan. They are conspiring to take away 5 per cent reservation of dalits, mahadalits, backwards and extremely backwards and give it to a particular community.

          "I come from an extremely backward class and understand the pain of having been born to a poor woman. I will not allow this to happen. I pledge to protect the rights of dalits, mahadalits and backwards even if it means sacrificing my life," PM Modi had told an election rally in Buxar earlier in the day.

          Congress is part of the 'Grand Alliance' which also includes the Janata Dal (United) and Rashriya Janata Dal.

        Nestle Plans to Resume Sale of Maggi Next Month: Spokesperson
        • Nestle Plans to Resume Sale of Maggi Next Month: SpokespersonZURICH:  Nestle, the world's largest packaged food company, plans to resume sales in India of its Maggi noodles in November, a spokesman for the Swiss group said on Monday.

          "November is envisaged as the date," he said. Nestle officials had declined earlier this month to speculate when sales might resume.

          Vevey, Switzerland-based Nestle has been grappling with a public relations crisis following a nationwide ban on its Maggi instant noodles in May.

          Nestle had taken Maggi off shelves earlier this year after excess quantity of lead was found in some samples. The company says its instant noodles are safe for consumption.

        Modi Government Crippling Northeastern States, Alleges Congress
        • Modi Government Crippling Northeastern States, Alleges CongressSHILLONG:  The Congress today accused the NDA government at the Centre of "crippling" the elected governments in the northeastern states by withdrawing special category status and discontinuing central 90:10 funding pattern for all sponsored schemes for the region.

          "The central government has withdrawn the special category status of the north-eastern states besides discontinuing its 90 per cent grant given to the states in the region. Therefore, development activities in the region will be affected," Congress leader V. Narayanasamy claimed while briefing media persons at the Congress Bhavan in Shillong.

          Mr Narayanasamy is Congress incharge of seven north-eastern states of which four - Mizoram, Manipur, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh - are ruled by the party.

          The former Union minister said all centrally sponsored schemes and special packages and fund flowing from the North Eastern Council for the state governments in the region were put on the back-burner.

          "Schemes working on 90:10 formula for all north-eastern states have been pared down to 50 per cent grant from the Centre; the NDA government has also scrapped special schemes apart from making North Eastern Council non-functional," Mr Narayanasamy said.

          He accused the Narendra Modi government of not providing central assistance for ongoing developmental projects of the state governments.

          "They have even stopped grant sanctioned by the previous United Progressive Alliance government. Financially, the north-eastern states have been crippled by the central government," he said.

        Gunfight Breaks Out Between Terrorists and Security Forces in Kashmir

        • Gunfight Breaks Out Between Terrorists and Security Forces in KashmirSRINAGAR:  A gunfight broke out between terrorists and security forces today evening in south Kashmir's Pulwama district.

          The operation was on and there were no reports of casualties from either side, a senior police official said.

          "Acting on a tip-off, a joint team of army's counter-insurgency Rashtriya Rifles and state police's Special Operation Group cordoned off Drabgam village, 37 km south of Srinagar," the official told IANS in Srinagar.

          He said terrorists, believed to be two in number, opened fire on security forces, which was retaliated by the troops, triggering the gunfight.

        Business Affairs 

          Bharti Airtel may invest $200-$400 mn on 3G, 4G infra
          • Bharti Airtel may invest $200-$400 mn on 3G, 4G infraTelecom firm Bharti Airtel said on Monday it may invest an additional $200-400 million in the current financial year to ramp up 3G and 4G infrastructure.
            The company had already announced a capital expenditure guidance of about $3 billion for this fiscal.
            "Our willingness to spend an additional $200-400 million on capex during the course of this year. A large part of that capex would really be around expanding our footprint in 3G and 4G," Bharti Airtel MD and CEO (India and South Asia) Gopal Vittal said during an investor call.
            He added that when 3G network is expanded, voice quality also improves.
            "... in a way it's actually killing two birds with one stone, which is the investment actually goes to drive incremental revenue streams, which is around data but at the same time, it creates the capacity to unclog 2G networks, especially in situations where spectrum has been reduced for markets like Delhi and that helps the overall call quality," Vittal added.
            On the issue of call drops, Vittal said the company is working with the government to address the problem.
            "We are working with the government to address the problem of fixing of network infrastructure by deploying cell towers, providing adequate and affordable spectrum as well as educating citizens on radiation fears... We view this as the most effective way to address any call drop issue that may exist in the system," he added.
            On a query if Airtel could increase tariffs, Vittal said the company would look at opportunities but it won't be at the cost of losing competitiveness.
            "We always maintain that we would like to see voice realisation move up, we continue to stick to that position but we have to operate in a competitive market, so we would look at opportunities to raise the pricing but we will not allow it to be at the cost of any competitiveness because the cost of recovering market share in a category like ours is very high," he said.
            Vittal added that there has been a marginal pressure on voice pricing in the reported quarter and the competitive intensity continues to be unabated not just by the smaller players but larger players as well.
            "We will keep calibrating our position between both price opportunities as well as volume opportunities without ceding any competitive ground. Our objective would be to continue to drive revenue and profitable growth," he added.

          India seeks to counter China dominance via Africa Summit
          • Prime Minister Narendra ModiIndia started its biggest-ever Africa summit on Monday as Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks to challenge China's dominance on a continent that is blessed with vast natural resources and has the world's fastest-growing population.
            The 3rd India-Africa Forum Summit kicked off in New Delhi with a meeting among the senior officials of the host nation and 54 countries from the African continent.
            "A moment for the cameras. IAFS formally begins with senior officials meeting," foreign ofice spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted, soon after a photo session at the venue, the Indira Gandhi Nation Stadium.
            New Delhi wants to project its soft power and historical ties to Africa, in contrast to China's focus on resource extraction and capital investment that has sparked a backlash in some countries against Beijing's mercantilist expansion.
            Of the 54 countries invited, the hosts expect more than 40 to be represented by their heads of state and government who, after a series of ministerial meetings, will hold a full summit on Thursday.
            India's trading ties with Africa date back to antiquity and both found common cause in the struggle against colonial rule. Yet India's influence faded over the course of the Cold War as it withdrew into non-aligned isolation.
            Now Modi , self-styled chief salesman of a "Make in India" export drive, wants to capitalise on an economic slowdown in China to highlight India as an alternative partner for trade and investment.
            "India is the fastest-growing major economy. Africa is experiencing rapid growth too," Modi told African journalists on the eve of the summit.
            Although India's headline economic growth has overtaken China's, its economy is one-fifth the size and it lacks the financial heft to challenge Beijing in a head-to-head contest for the African market.
            "We can't match the Chinese in terms of resources - but any engagement we do with the Africans at least gives them a choice," said C Raja Mohan, a foreign policy commentator at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi.
            The India-Africa Forum Summit is the third of its kind and, since the first was held in 2008, two-way annual trade has more than doubled to $72 billion.
            That lags trade between China and Africa, which has exploded to $200 billion as the world's No.2 economy sucks in oil, coal and metals to feed its industrial machine.
            The world's largest democracy has been criticised by human rights groups for inviting Omar al-Bashir, the president of oil-rich Sudan wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur.
            Exploitation and Extraction
            For India, business comes first.
            State-run oil company ONGC, which has fields in Sudan and South Sudan, is on the hunt to buy $12 billion in foreign assets over the next three years and has identified Africa as an investment target.
            India is also in talks with South Africa to buy coal mines producing up to 90 million tonnes of coking coal each year to feed its growing steel industry. South Africa is already a major coal supplier to India.
            Still, India wants its involvement in Africa to be less transactional than China's, seeking a development partnership for two regions that account for a third of the world's people, but seven in 10 of those living in poverty.
            "Our partnership is not focused on an exploitative or extraction point of view, but is one that focuses on Africa's needs and India's strengths," said Vikas Swarup, spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs.
            Trade ministers from India and Africa are looking to make common cause at a World Trade Organization ministerial meeting in Nairobi next month, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.
            Although India dropped its veto against a WTO deal to streamline customs procedures a year ago, it remains uneasy over Western pressure on food stockpiling it says is vital to ensure its 1.25 billion people don't go hungry.
            "India and Africa are on the same page," Sitharaman told reporters.

            IndiGo IPO set to hit Street on Tuesday; brokerage recommends 'subscribe'
            • IndiGo IPO set to hit Street on Tuesday; brokerage recommends 'subscribe'InterGlobe Aviation, India's most profitable airline IndiGo, is all set to enter capital markets with its Initial Public Offering (IPO) beginning on Tuesday. The issue will close on Thursday.
              The promoters will sell 22.82 million equity shares via the initial public offer (IPO) to raise around Rs 3,000 crore. The airline has fixed a price band of Rs 700-765 per share for the public issue
              InterGlobe IPO will be the largest share sale in the country since 2012 and will give the low-cost airline Indigo a valuation of around Rs 26,000 crore.
              "We believe that the valuation of Interglobe is justified, considering the opportunity present in the vastly underpenetrated Indian air travel market. Interglobe is better placed than its peers to capture higher market share on the back of its proven Management track record, continuous fleet addition and with its sustainable profitable business model. Hence we recommend a "Subscribe" to the issue at the higher end of the price band," said broking firm Angel Broking in a research note.
              However, following are the three concerns, the brokerage points out to keep an eye on:
              Low Entry Barriers: The Indian airline industry is characterized by low entry barriers given the availability of leasing options and external finance. Increased competition can impact the load factors of airline companies.
              Increase in Crude Oil prices: Since crude oil is a major portion of operating expense for all airline carries, any sharp increase in crude oil prices will impact the profitability of the company.
              Currency Fluctuation Risk: Most of the company's debt is funded via ECBs. Any adverse impact on the currency could impact the profitability of the company.
              The much-talked about IPO stuck in controversy even before the launch of issue as analysts and investors questioned rather hefty dividends that have been paid out to promoters in recent years.
              Analysts believe IndiGo's negative net worth of 1.39 billion rupees ($21.41 million) as of June 30 may have been caused by rich dividends paid in that period.
              The airline's profits in June quarter stood at 6.4 billion rupees.
              "Our company had negative net worth of Rs 139.39 crore as of June 30, 2015. If this financial position continues, it might make it more difficult or expensive for us to obtain future financing or meet our liquidity needs. Further, there can be no assurance that we will achieve positive net worth in periods going forward," said IndiGo in its red-herring prospectus filed with exchanges on Friday.

            Arun Jaitley to launch eSahyog and PAN camps on Tuesday
            • Finance Minister Arun JaitleyFinance Minister Arun Jaitley will tomorrow launch eSahyog and PAN camps, initiatives of the Income Tax Department to improve services.
              Through eSahyog he will launch the paperless initiative of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT ) under which notices to assesses would be sent to their emails.
              The PAN camps are aimed at expanding the coverage of number of people through Permanent Account Number (PAN). Currently there are 23 crore people with PAN card.
              The expansion of Number of PAN card holders would help the government implement the budget proposal of mandatory quoting of PAN for cash transaction of Rs 1 lakh.
              The tax department has already started a pilot project of using e-mails for sending notices, getting replies as well as carrying out tax assessments in an attempt to make sure taxpayers don't have to visit I-T offices physically in smaller cases.
              The government in the Budget had announced that quoting of PAN ((Permanent Account Number) will be mandatory for any purchase or sale exceeding Rs 1 lakh.
              But concerns were raised about complying with this condition because not everyone, particularly in rural areas, possesses a PAN card.
              To facilitate people to get PAN cards, the government plans to launch camps across the country. 

            New distribution strategy, launches and renewed focus on rural areas helped Britannia increase profits.
            • Britannia's Managing Director Varun Berry.Market cap up 159.7 per cent, top-line growth of 14 per cent and 68 per cent rise in bottom line - it has been a dream run for Britannia Industries, the Rs 7,850-crore (consolidated revenues) biscuit and dairy products manufacturer, in 2014/15. There is an obvious sense of pride and satisfaction in the voice of the 53-year-old Managing Director (MD), Varun Berry, who says a lot of hardwork has gone into taking the company to where it is now.
              When Berry stepped into the shoes of Vinita Bali a year-and-a-half ago, Britannia was among the country's leading biscuit makers, but with quite a few missing links. "The company was sitting on past laurels, was laid back, and not really bothered about offering consumers delightful products, the fundamental ingredient for the success of any food company," he says.

              • RANK 2015: 61
              • RANK 2014: 118
              • MARKET CAP FY15 APRIL-SEPT: Rs 32,534 crore
              • TOTAL INCOME: Rs 7,607 crore
              • NET PROFIT: Rs 622 crore
              • ROCE: 58.8%
              • SO WHAT: Jumps 57 slots to get into Top 100; market cap rises 159.7%
              Source: CMIE Prowess, Standalone data

              Britannia was way behind market leader Parle Products in market share and ITC Foods was clearly the rising star in biscuits. With popular products such as Chocofills and Chocomeltz, ITC was taking the market, especially its top end, by storm. "We had not come up with an innovative product for a long time," says Berry.
              In fact, if rumours are to be believed, one of the major reasons Chairman Nusli Wadia preferred Berry was Vinita Bali's inability to expand market share in biscuits, the company's core business. Under Bali, Britannia had also diversified into a lot of new categories such as oats that did not yield the desired returns. In biscuits, too, the focus was too much on health. The company, for instance, launched biscuits for diabetics. These had few takers, as most Indians buy food more for taste than nutrition.
              "ITC came up with delightful innovations in biscuits and stole the show," says A. Mahendran, Chairman & MD, Global Consumer Products. He was earlier the MD of Godrej Consumer Products. "Britannia has benefited more from low commodity prices. There is a mismatch between its top line and bottom line growth," he says. Prices of commodities such as sugar and wheat have fallen 25 to 30 per cent in the last one year, which has helped the company register healthy volume growth.
              Berry agrees that falling commodity prices have helped volumes but asserts that the company also invested heavily in expanding the distribution network and improving the product pipeline. In March 2015, the company's products were available in one million outlets, as against 7.5 lakh one-and-a-half year ago. The last one year, he says, has been spent in putting together cost-optimisation strategies related to ingredients, packaging and distribution. "Our biscuits travel hundreds of kilometres to reach consumers. So, we asked ourselves if we should open smaller factories across the country? Though we set up a couple of larger factories, we reduced distribution costs by making products that were more in demand in that geography. This increased profitability."
              'ITC came up with delightful innovations in biscuits and stole the show,' says A Mahendran, Chairman & MD, Global Consumer Products. (Photo: Rachit Goswami)
              He also took tough calls like consolidation of stock-keeping units or SKUs. Britannia had 250 SKUs of biscuits, cakes and rusks, besides 120 SKUs of dairy products. Around 80 biscuit and 65 dairy SKUs were axed. "We feared this could impact volumes, but we also believed that this way we would be able to do justice to the bigger SKUs," says Berry. The company also identified blockbuster brands such as GoodDay, Nutrichoice, Milk Bikis, 50:50 and Tiger and made extra efforts to develop them.
              Managing Talent
              When Berry joined the company in 2012, his foremost concern was that its biscuits were not as delicious as that of competition. But even more worrisome was the lack of urge to innovate. So, instead of product innovation, he first decided to put his team in place and rejig the distribution network.
              He got rid of as many as 300 people from the sales team. "We strengthened our team despite this. We did so by empowering people and making them responsible and accountable. In the earlier structure, we had sales coaches, who were not responsible for sales. This to my mind was a no-no."
              Berry spent 30 per cent of his early days hand-picking the core team. While it would have been easier to get people from outside, he decided to groom in-house talent to ensure that the team didn't feel alienated. "Today, seven people out of the 10 who report to me are from Britannia itself."
              Britannia has been known to be skewed towards urban markets. Its competitor Parle (with Parle G and Monaco) is more associated with rural markets. To change this, Berry decided to strengthen the rural presence. "We set up a hub-and-spoke rural distribution model and within a year increased our rural reach by over 8,000 outlets. Today, rural is growing faster than urban."
              Abneesh Roy, Associate Director (Institutional Equities - Research), Edelweiss Securities, in a recent report said that Britannia's rural share, especially in the Hindi belt (where Parle has a distinct edge), is one-fifth of Parle's. Berry says their focus during the next few months will be on rural penetration. He plans to bring the entire range of Britannia's value brands under the Tiger umbrella, targeted at rural markets.
              The premium segment, Britannia's stronghold, has seen the launch of a lot of innovative products such as Goodday Chunkies, Nutrichoice Heavens, Chocolush and Rum & Raisin Cakes. Berry believes this segment will bring incremental growth.
              To make distribution in urban areas more efficient, Berry built a split route model wherein the 250-odd SKUs were divided between two salespersons. "Earlier, one salesperson used to walk into a store. Now, two people go, each with different SKUs. This has helped us put more SKUs in stores," says Berry.
              Analysts feel Britannia still has a lot of work to do before it can match ITC in innovation. According to Peshwa Acharya, former Chief Marketing Officer of Reliance Retail and currently founder of a marketing accelerator firm,, Britannia's biggest plus is that it is synonymous with biscuits. "Britannia should use this to create more biscuit consumption opportunities. It could focus on the taste-plus-nutrition proposition."
              Both Acharya and Mahendran feel that it is crucial for the company to put its innovation pipeline on the treadmill.
              Berry's vision is to make Britannia a Rs 20,000 crore company in the next five years. He plans to do this not just by investing in biscuits but also in adjacent categories. He doesn't specify the categories but says chocolates, snacks and breakfast could be some areas of interest.
              Berry is also focusing on the Rs 400-crore dairy business. "We will announce our dairy strategy in the next three-four months." The plan, he says, is to look at an integrated strategy, which will include a clear milk collection and processing model. Britannia at present works with contract manufacturers, which he thinks isn't viable.
              Berry is hopeful about global operations whose turnover has doubled in the last one year from Rs 300 crore to Rs 600 crore. Britannia exports its products to around 72 countries and has production facilities in the UAE and Oman. "I want our international business to contribute at least 25 per cent to revenues in the next few years."
              When asked what is the one big change that has happened in the company in the last one year, he says, "It is much more competitive now. There is absolutely no room for inertia."

            General Awareness

            Major Earthquakes in India, Southeast Asia: A Timeline

              • imeline of earthquakes that have rocked India and Southeast Asian countries since 2001:

                October 26, 2015: An earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale and an epicentre in Jarm in Afghanistan, 256 km northeast of Kabul, also hits parts of India and Pakistan.

                April 25, 2015: An earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale strikes Lamjung district in Nepal.

                November 23, 2014: A 6.3 magnitude quake hits China, killing at least two people.

                November 23, 2014: Over 50 people injured and around 10 houses collapsed after a 6.7-magnitude quake hit Japan.

                May 5, 2014: An earthquake of 6.0 magnitude occurred in the Bay of Bengal and tremors were felt across India.

                September 25, 2013: A 7.7-magnitude quake hit Pakistan's remote south-west province of Balochistan, killed over 300 people.

                April 20, 2013: A quake of 6.6 magnitude hit a remote mountainous area of south-western China's Sichuan province, killing around 150 people and injuring hundreds of other people.

                September 20, 2011: At least 68 people were killed and over 300 injured in a quake of 6.8 magnitude that struck Sikkim.

                September 22, 2009: An earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale killed at least 10 people in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan and left dozens more injured.

                October 8, 2005: The magnitude 7.6 earthquake killed at least 86,000 people, injured more than 69,000 and caused extensive damage in northern Pakistan.

                December 26, 2004: A quake of 9.3 magnitude on the Richter scale hit countries in the Asia Pacific region, killing over two lakh people.

                January 26, 2001: An earthquake measuring 7.7 on the Richter scale hit the town of Bhuj in Gujarat, killing over 10,000 people.

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