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IL&FS gets NCLT nod to sell stake in 3 group cos including power, toll road, offshore entity

The National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) has approved the crisis-hit IL&FS’ three proposed transactions to pest its stake in

ONGC

Tripura Power to

GAIL

(India), its offshore entity IL&FS Prime Terminals FZC in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Warora Chandrapur Ballarpur Toll Road (WCBTRL).

IL&FS Group entities IL&FS Financial Services and IL&FS Energy Development Company jointly hold 26% stake in ONGC Tripura Power (OTPL), while it has nearly 72% stake in IL&FS Prime Terminals FZC, the company engaged in development and operation of a bulk petroleum storage terminal currently servicing the port of Fujairah in the UAE.

The government-appointed new board of IL&FS Group has selected VTTI Terminals’ bid of $90 million or Rs 672 crore for the acquisition of its stake in IL&FS Prime Terminals FZC.

India’s largest state-owned natural gas processing and distribution company GAIL (India) has offered an equity value of Rs 319 crore for 26% stake held by IL&FS in ONGC Tripura Power (OTPL). In addition to this, GAIL has also agreed to assume all financial and operational liabilities of OTPL without any compromise of debt.

Apart from IL&FS, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) holds 50% stake in OTPL, while India Infrastructure Fund II managed by Global Infrastructure Partners and Government of Tripura own 23.5% and 0.5% in the company.

OTPL, counted among India’s largest gas-based power plants, has an operational capacity of 726.6 MW. The plant has also secured the majority of approvals to add two 363.3 MW units to its existing capacity and expand to a total capacity of 1,453 MW.

IL&FS holds 35% stake in WCBTRL through its subsidiary IL&FS Transportation Network Ltd, while other partners Vishvaraj Infrastructure and Diva Media Private Ltd hold 55% and 10% stake in the company. Of these partners, Vishvaraj Infrastructure has offered to pay Rs 12.25 crore to acquire IL&FS Transportation Network’s 35% stake in the toll road project.

Once all these three stake sale transactions are concluded, IL&FS will be able to resolve debt of around Rs 2,800 crore.

IL&FS is monetising its assets with an objective to manage debt obligations. The failure of IL&FS to meet repayment obligations in September 2018 had triggered a liquidity squeeze that gripped India’s non-banking finance companies. As part of a clean-up, the government replaced the IL&FS board, which has been engaged in trying to resolve its debt.

The Uday Kotak-led IL&FS board estimates overall recovery to be around Rs 61,000 crore, an upward revision to its earlier estimate of Rs 56,000 crore. Improved valuations, better operating performance, enhanced recoveries from non-group exposures are driving higher recoveries.

The new board expects around 95% or Rs 57,000 crore worth estimated recovery to take place by March 2022. It has already resolved an estimated recovery worth over 52,000 crores as on October end. The recovery estimate includes through both, resolution and liquidation.

Karbon Card signs 15% more clients as corporate spending bounces back

Karbon Card, a Bengaluru-based fintech that specialises in corporate cards, has signed up 15% more companies this Diwali season, indicating rising corporate spending after prolonged restricted travel.

Traditionally, Karbon clocks 50% higher spends during the week culminating in Diwali, compared to the previous 30-day period on an average while spends are 40% higher in the week following Diwali. The Y Combinator-backed corporate card provider said it expects a similar momentum to continue for the rest of the year.

“Traditionally, travel has been a sector which has brought us good revenues. In the pre-March 2020 period, about 40% of all spending through our cards was done for travel – airline travel as well as hotel stays. That was brought down completely in the lockdown days,” said Sunil Kumar, Co-founder, Karbon Card. “With the lockdowns easing and people coming out of their homes, we are seeing a pick-up and about 10% of Karbon’s revenue is coming from this segment.

Corporate travel is also a major revenue grosser, which is bouncing back 15 months after being hit adversely by Covid.

Karbon’s card replaces personal credit cards for use by corporates – companies give these cards to their employees for a variety of uses as corporates find this a convenient mode of paying their employees as part of their salaries, or as rewards or reimbursements.

For start-ups, Karbon’s card offers 4 benefits ― credit with no personal guarantee or fixed deposits; payment transactions through corporate cards to its customers; rewards specific to the requirements of the start-up, and software products. “For Karbon, this Diwali will mark a new, rejuvenated start. As start-ups sprout by the day in India, and they endeavour to keep their talented staff content, Karbon will continue to play its role in making spending a convenient and pleasurable experience for our customers,” Kumar added.

Corporate gifting is yet another area which should see a spike this year. In the pre-Covid-19 days, Karbon used to get 20% of its total income from this segment. After the drastic fall during the two Covid waves, this sector is expected to begin contributing to the kitty this festival season onwards.

Azim Premji donated Rs 27 cr per day in FY21, retains top giver rank

Software exporter Wipro’s Azim Premji donated Rs 9,713 crore or Rs 27 crore a day to retain his top rank among Indian philanthropists in FY21.

Premji, the founder chairman of the company, increased his donation by nearly a fourth during the pandemic year, as per the Edelgive Hurun India Philanthropy List 2021, which had HCL’s Shiv Nadar at second place with contributions of Rs 1,263 crore towards upliftment causes.

Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries, India’s richest man by a distance, came third on the list with a Rs 577 crore contribution and was succeeded by Kumar Mangalam Birla with Rs 377 crore. The second richest Indian Gautam Adani is eighth on the givers’ list with a donation of Rs 130 crore towards disaster relief.

Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani’s ranking improved to fifth with a Rs 183 crore donation with “societal thinking” being identified as the primary cause.

“At present, most of the money is going to fundamental aspects like education and healthcare because of the requirements on the ground. Nilekani has indeed made interesting contributions, and in 10 years, we will have broader civil society issues feature as primary causes,” Hurun India’s managing director and chief researcher Anas Rahman Junaid said.

He said as the age profile of the givers shifts to those under-40, and many of them being self-made ones also presents a hopeful picture.

There are a few new entrants into the list, including the largest stocks investor Rakesh Jhunjunwala, who donated a fourth of his overall earnings or Rs 50 crore in FY21 with efforts on education. Jhunjunwala, who recently had a private meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is among the backers of Ashoka University, as per a statement.

Brothers Nithin and Nikhil Kamath committed USD 100 million (Rs 750 crore) over the next few years to support inpiduals, organisations and companies working on solutions for climate change and are 35th on the list.

Former chairman of engineering major Larsen & Toubro, A M Naik, is 11th on the list with a donation of Rs 112 crore, it said, adding that he has pledged to give away 75 per cent of his income for charitable purposes.

Others in the top ten givers include the Hinduja Family, Bajaj Family, Anil Agarwal and the Burman family.

Nine women find their place in the list led by a Rs 69 crore donation by Rohini Nilekani of Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies and, followed by Leena Gandhi Tewari of USV who donated Rs 24 crore, and Anu Aga of Thermax donated Rs 20 crore.

Based on the place of residence, Mumbai led with 31 per cent of the list and was followed by New Delhi 17 per cent and Bengaluru 10 per cent.

The pharma industry has the largest number of philanthropists followed by automobile and auto components and software and services.

Citi ​appoints Rajeev Mantri as ​CFO, Citi India and ​cluster ​finance ​head, ​south Asia

Citi has announced the appointment of Rajeev Mantri as chief financial officer (CFO), Citi India, and cluster finance head, south Asia, effective October 5, 2021, said a statement issued today.

In this role, Mantri will be based in Mumbai, and responsible for the finance function, overseeing business planning and strategy, balance sheet management, financial controls, reporting and tax matters and will focus on delivering the financial plan, while working closely with key stakeholders on franchise-level matters in India. In addition, he will also provide governance and oversight on the finance function of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

He will report to Ashu Khullar, CEO, Citi India and Tim Monger, Asia Pacific CFO, Citi. He takes on the role from Niraj Parekh, who will move to New York as the head of financial planning and analysis for the Institutional Clients Group.

Mantri has over 23 years of experience in the finance function across India, UAE and Singapore. Prior to this appointment, he was the CFO at TransUnion CIBIL. He has also worked at Standard Chartered Bank in several senior finance roles across wholesale banking, retail banking, financial controls, regulatory reporting, cost and balance sheet management.

Citi has approximately 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions.

MetricStream elevates Aravind Varadharajan as managing director of India

Governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) products and solutions company MetricStream has announced senior vice-president Aravind Varadharajan’s expanded role as managing director of India, said a statement issued today. Based in Singapore, he will now oversee the growth trajectory for the company in India.

As part of the company’s continued expansion in APAC where organisations are adopting digital services faster than ever before, it has named Varadharajan to lead the entire region, covering customer needs to provide comprehensive solutions for integrated risk management.

“India continues to be at centre stage for us, with the talent and expertise propelling us forward,” said Bruce Dahlgren, chief executive officer. “We continue to leverage that talent to support our clients through the digital disruption and regulatory changes with our GRC solutions. With Aravind’s experience and leadership, we shall forge forward with our cutting-edge solutions and closer customer ties.”

Varadharajan is a seasoned business leader with over 20 years of experience across sales and business management in Japan, ASEAN, and global markets across multiple business verticals. Prior to joining MetricStream, he was managing director – sales of iintelligent Cloud and Infrastructure at Accenture, leading the cloud business across the APAC region.

“The year 2021 heralds a new moment where the focus on resilience, compliance and proactive risk management is going to be at the core of many business decisions. I am delighted to lead MetricStream’s team in India and offer our cloud platform and cutting-edge solutions to the broad base of companies in the region to meet their critical requirements of GRC,” said Varadharajan.

The firm is headquartered in San Jose, California, with an operations and R&D centre in Bengaluru, India, and sales and operations support around the globe.

India to see higher salaries at 9.3% increase in 2022, up from 8% in 2021: Willis Towers Watson Survey

India Inc salaries are projected to see a median salary increase of 9.3% in 2022 – translating to an average salary increase of 8.8% — as compared to the actual median salary increase of 8% (average salary increase of 7.4%) in 2021, according to the latest Salary Budget Planning Report by Willis Towers Watson.

The high-tech sector in expected to see the highest salary increase at 9.9% in 2022, followed by the consumer products and retail sector at 9.5%, and manufacturing at 9.30%. In terms of proportionate increase over last year, the high-tech sector again tops with a projection of almost 1.9% increase from 2021.

India’s projected salary increase is highest in the Asia Pacific for the next year as optimism returns over improved business outlook in the next 12 months and companies recover from the economic fallout of the pandemic and face mounting challenges attracting and retaining employees.

As a large emerging market, India continues to project the highest salary increase for 2021 in the Asia Pacific region. Sri Lanka is projected to see an increase of 5.5%, China at 6.0%, Indonesia at 6.9%, and Singapore at 3.9%.

Rajul Mathur, Consulting Leader India, Talent and Rewards, Willis Towers Watson said in a statement: “Increased business optimism is clearly translating into higher salary budgets and increased hiring activity. The pandemic was a watershed moment in the way organisations plan their people spend. While talent attraction and retention remain a challenge, the core employee value proposition will now need to go beyond just competitive salaries, and increasingly focus on a wider range of benefits, wellness, upskilling and the overall employee experience. This trend is likely to reshape the people spend and total rewards philosophy in India going forward”.

Employees can also expect a higher average variable pay at 15.7% this year for the 2020 performance year. In terms of employee segments, the middle management, professionals and support staff category gained the most proportionate increase on variable pay from 11.6% last year to 22.2% this year. Payout at the Executive level is expected to marginally increase to 27.9% from the actual increase of 26% last year.

For top performers, the average salary increment budget allocation is 22.1%, whereas for average performers it stands at 43%. “With low salary increments last year, organisations have leaned towards a broader distribution of variable pay across employee segments by role, seniority and performance levels this year,” added Mathur.

The survey has 435 Indian companies participating this year.

Deep PocketsAgencies

Deep Pockets

Pine Labs appoints Flipkart’s Phanimohan Kalagara as its new CTO

Merchant commerce platform Pine Labs has announced the appointment of Phanimohan Kalagara as its new CTO, said a statement issued today.

This development comes at a time when the company has raised nearly $800 million in less than twelve months and is now looking to make inroads into the online payments space with the launch of Plural.

Kalagara has over two decades of experience of working with companies in the United States and India. He has extensive experience in the field of technology, having worked in e-commerce, financial technology, and the CAD/CAM industries. He also brings expertise in emerging technologies like virtual reality.

“We have made several new appointments in the past one year to bolster our technology capabilities. I am delighted to welcome Phanimohan as the new CTO. Phani comes with a wealth of experience in product and engineering and is the right man to lead our technology team during this exciting phase of growth for the company,” said B Amrish Rau, CEO, Pine Labs.”I would also like to acknowledge the role of his predecessor Sanjeev Kumar who will now move into a new role within the company and head the R&D vertical,” he added.

In his previous stint, Kalagara was with e-commerce company Flipkart where he was the SVP of product and engineering. He has also spent 12 years with global fintech company PayPal where he was leading product and engineering and spent nearly eight years in the United States working on several key assignments for the company.

“With Pine Labs, I see a massive opportunity to make a substantial difference to the future of merchant commerce in Asia. I am lLooking forward to being part of this team that is set to shift the fintech landscape in Asia,” said Kalagara.

Incorporated in Singapore, Pine Labs’ key investors include Sequoia India, Actis Capital, Temasek, PayPal and Mastercard.

Home is where HR is: How companies are coming up with new onboarding processes in Covid times

At clean luxury makeup brand, Asa Beauty, new employees are gifted a personalised kit from the brand, Vahdam gifts employees a branded mug, chocolates and an assortment of teas while at HealthifyMe, new recruits are sent kits with a gym bag, sipper, coffee mug, skipping rope, yoga mat and a grow-your-own-microgreens kit. Digital-first companies like TrulyMadly and CoinSwitch Kuber include a laptop and peripherals in their kits.

Welcome to the new onboarding processes of the pandemic-influenced age. Here, fresh hires are introduced to the company’s ethos, made to feel as though they are a part of the business, eased into the office’s culture from afar — and gifted hampers tailored to the brand on their first day at work.

At crypto exchange platform CoinSwitch Kuber, the introduction to company culture begins right from the interview rounds. “A unique aspect of our interviews is the Culture Round where we evaluate if the candidate is a right fit for our core values . You may be a great talent, but if you don’t fit into our values, then CoinSwitch may not be the right place for you,” says founder Ashish Singhal. “When an employee joins, we help an underprivileged woman restart her business through a financial grant. This contribution is done by us on behalf of the employees. It is our way of attracting them to the core purpose of the organisation,” he adds.

A virtual movie night is used as an icebreaker at health platform HealthifyMe. “Watching movies is fun and watching it (virtually) with the entire company is 10x the fun and an experience in itself,” says Nauman Shakib, director of human resources at HealthifyMe. “We opened up a live chat when the movie started and it broke all barriers. Everyone was typing away their thoughts, memes were flowing in along with opinions and scene predictions. The new joinees got a sense of how vibrant and open the culture we have is since many senior members too were expressing their thoughts in the chat.”

For makeup brand Asa Beauty, having a hybrid work structure has worked in its favour. On the days when employees are in office (they WFH on alternate days), Asa Beauty’s in-house brand expert conducts product-training makeup lessons for new joinees to introduce them to the brand. Founders Asha and Sukriti Jindal Khaitan describe it as “a fun room where work turns into play”. They say this has helped new joinees get closer to the company, and “seniors are open to taking advice and learning from juniors /new joinees and vice versa.”

Professional network Apna, which has achieved unicorn status, hosts a weekly virtual team lunch to help new joinees meet their colleagues. “Being a young company, we ensure there are maximum avenues of collaboration for exchange of ideas and inspiration,” says Nirmit Parikh, founder and CEO. “We give equal emphasis to relaxed sessions and activities that break the ice and warm up the teams.”

Vahdam India has moved back to office full-time. But when employees were working from home, founder Bala Sarda would ensure that during the weekly collaborative reviews for all departments, he would speak to the new recruits in each team.

Dating app TrulyMadly uses a traditional meet-and-greet to build that initial bond. Says CEO and cofounder Snehil Khanor: “When the pandemic hit and we could not meet in person anymore, so we decided to be pragmatic and mould the culture accordingly. We introduced new activities to engage the team members like playing Pictionary, going on quarterly off-sites and having dogfooding sessions [where employees get to test a new service before it is made available publicly] for every department.”

Devas Multimedia eyeing foreign assets of Indian govt to enforce $1.3 bn arbitral award

Devas Multimedia’s investors are eyeing several properties owned by the Indian government across the world, as they seek to enforce a $1.3 billion arbitral award the satellite company won against Antrix, the commercial arm of India’s space agency. Jay Newman, a senior advisor to the company, told ET that it is “nearly impossible” for the country to avoid enforcement action.

Newman is a former Elliott Management executive who has been roped in by Devas’ shareholders, including Columbia Capital, Telcom Ventures and Deutsche Telekom, to advise them on how to make the government pay up.

“For a sovereign that’s as worldly and as present as India is, it’s very difficult to ultimately prevail in avoiding enforcement. I would say it’s nearly impossible if the litigants have the will and the skills to pursue enforcement,” Newman, who successfully led Elliott’s 15-year-long battle to get Argentina to repay debt it had defaulted on, said.

Elliott Management is a New York-based investment firm that is one of the largest activist funds in the world with about $48 billion in assets under management as of June. The investor has made a name for itself by investing in mid-size (and some larger) technology firms, then pushing for management changes, sell-outs and even buyouts to maximise returns.

Untitled-3Agencies

In the year 2000, Elliott began buying Argentinian debt, the default of which resulted in a $4.65 billion payout in 2016 to Elliott and three other hedge funds. Newman, who retired from Elliott in 2016, led Elliott’s charge to get Argentina to pay it $2.4 billion, booking returns of 10-15 times its initial investment, according to news reports.

Earlier this year, Devas’ shareholders filed a petition in a New York court seeking to seize the assets of Air India (which was recently sold to the Tata Group), arguing that it was the “alter ego” of the Indian state and, therefore, liable to pay for sovereign debts. Devas was the second company to do so after Cairn Energy Plc.

In August, Air India wrote to the US court asking for the claims to be dismissed. On whether Devas’ shareholders would pursue the seizure of Air India’s assets now that the state-run company had been privatised, Newman said India owned a lot of property overseas and that investors in the beleaguered satellite maker had their eyes on many opportunities.

The 69-year-old said he had come back from retirement to pursue the case as he found it to be a “…disturbing trend when countries don’t observe the rule of law, and particularly when courts don’t observe the rule of law, which is what we’re seeing with the NCLT (National Company Law Tribunal).”

Untitled-2Agencies

Antrix has argued previously that the deal with Devas, signed in 2005, was fraught with fraud. It first made the allegation only after losing the arbitration awards against Devas.

Earlier this year, NCLT ordered the winding up of Devas Multimedia, ruling that the incorporation of the company itself was done with fraudulent motives to siphon off funds to foreign accounts. The order was upheld by the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT).

Devas’ shareholders have told US courts that Antrix, in collusion with the Indian government, had turned the company into a “Ghost Ship” by placing it in liquidation. India’s motion to stall the enforcement proceedings – by arguing that the company was in liquidation over charges of fraud – were, however, found lacking in merit by a US federal judge.

“It does seem that the NCLT is, without any real investigation, simply taking the side of the Indian government. I think we’re all hopeful that when these cases get to the Supreme Court, there will be adult supervision,” Newman said.

He added that India had never really put forward any real evidence to prove fraud in the deal with Devas. Antrix did not respond to ET’s queries, while senior NCLT officials did not return calls till press time Monday.

Businesses taking to WhatsApp in a big way, says Abhijit Bose

Hundreds of businesses, government institutions and entrepreneurs are now launching their services on the WhatsApp business platform every month as adoption by users is accelerating, Abhijit Bose, head of WhatsApp India told ET.

“WhatsApp connects over 400 million users in India who trust us on messaging, audio and video calls. In India, services on the WhatsApp API platform have grown significantly. People today don’t want to call a 1-800 number and wait on hold, or send an email and not know whether it’s been read. They want to send a message and get a quick, personalized response,” he said.

“There are several interesting product updates which we announced this year and there will be several others which we will be launching soon. Across the world, WhatsApp is quickly becoming the virtual store counter for customers to engage with brands, ask questions, discuss products, close sales and seek support,” he added.

He said companies in telecom, ed-tech, media and entertainment and BFSI are big adopters of the WhatsApp Business platform. “Infact for some specific sectors such as telecom, D2H and utilities, WhatsApp chatbots are also driving cost efficiency in customer support. Customers are able to easily interact with their service providers and troubleshoot their queries through WhatsApp chatbots to get the fastest possible resolution,” he said.

Companies such as Tata Sky and Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) said more users have been leveraging WhatsApp for services.

Rahul Tandon, head of digital transformation (Project Anubhav) at BPCL said in less than one year since it has gone live with the chatbot services on WhatsApp, it has seen 33.9 lakh unique users adopt the channel. “Compared to our smartline customer call centre which handles about 6 lakh interactions in a year, we have had more than 1.3 crore conversational sessions ie, interactions on WhatsApp till date,” he added.

A Tata Sky spokesperson said the number of customers using WhatsApp for assistance has gone up over the past six months especially on sporting event days such as IPL.

“The use of Whatsapp among Tata Sky subscribers is for adding or

dropping channels, modifying channel packs, resolving queries, placing requests for repairs, balance enquiries and credit requests etc. The usage of WhatsApp-API platform as a medium to resolve various requests has gone up considerably for Tata Sky and this along with other automated assistance have reduced our call centre traffic substantially,” the spokesperson added.

Abhishek Martand, general manager-IT at Madhya Pradesh Madhya Kshetra Vidyut Vitaran Company Limited (MPMKVVCL) said since the implementation of the WhatsApp Chatbot, the discom’s call centre traffic has reduced. “This has helped in consumer satisfaction as they get quicker responses to their queries.Since implementation around 248,627 electricity supply complaints have been registered over the WhatsApp chatbot,” he added.

WhatsApp has cut down the time it takes for businesses to get up and running from weeks to five minutes now. It also rolled out new messaging features to get business done faster. New list messages present a menu of up to 10 options so people no longer need to type out a response. Reply buttons will allow people to make a selection from up to three options with a tap that a business can set ahead of time through their WhatsApp Business API account.

Bose said business messaging has the potential to change the customer service market, just like mobiles changed the digital ad market. “As part of our consistent focus on R&D, we continue to invest in building new features that would further simplify and add value to customer journeys on our WhatsApp-API platform solutions,” he added.