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Maharashtra logs 809 COVID-19 cases, lowest after May 2, 2020; 10 fatalities

Maharashtra on Monday reported 809 fresh COVID-19 cases, the lowest additions in a day after May 2, 2020, and ten fatalities, a health department official said. The tally of cases now stands at 66,11,887 and the death toll at 1,40,226, he said.

On May 2, 2020, Maharashtra had recorded 790 cases.

On Sunday (October 31), the state recorded 1,172 cases and 20 fatalities.

A total of 1,901 patients were discharged in the last 24 hours, taking the number of recoveries in Maharashtra to 64,52,486 so far, leaving the state with 15,552 active cases.

Maharashtra’s case recovery rate now stands at 97.59 per cent and the fatality rate is 2.12 per cent.

The cumulative number of tests conducted so far in Maharashtra rose to 6,27,52,687 on Monday with 85,476 samples being examined in the last 24 hours, the lowest in the recent past, the official said.

In Maharashtra, 15 districts and nine municipal corporations did not report any new COVID-19 cases on Monday. Several districts and municipal corporations logged new cases in a single digit.

Mumbai district reported the highest 258 new infections, followed by Ahmednagar with 74 cases.

Among the eight regions in Maharashtra, the Mumbai region reported the highest 428 fresh cases, followed by 187 cases in the Pune region.

For the first time, the Nagpur region did not report any fresh COVID-19 case.

Among other regions, the Nashik region reported 132 cases, Kolhapur 28, Latur 18, Aurangabad 10 and Akola one, the official said.

At four, the Mumbai region reported the highest number of fatalities among the eight regions. Pune region and Latur region reported two deaths each due to COVID-19. One fatality each was reported from Nashik and Kolhapur.

Aurangabad region, Nagpur region and Akola region did not report any COVID-19 death in the last 24-hours, the official said.

Mumbai city witnessed 258 new infections. Pune city added 50 cases but no fresh fatality was reported.

Among 15,552 active patients in Maharashtra, the Mumbai district has the highest 4,503 active cases, the official said.

Among 64,52,486 recovered patients in Maharashtra, the highest number of recoveries at 11,31,762 is from the Pune district.

Coronavirus figures for Maharashtra are as follows: Total cases 66,11,887, new cases 809, total deaths 1,40,226, fresh deaths: 10, total recoveries 64,52,486, active cases 15,552, total tests conducted 6,27,52,687.

Benami probe: I-T Dept attaches four assets linked to Ajit Pawar

The Income Tax (IT) department has showcaused and provisionally attached at least four assets linked to Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar in its ongoing probe under the Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act (PBPTA), 1988, sources privy to the development told ET.

Under the PBPTA, a showcause notice is served to the company or inpidual who is holding the assets to explain the source of funds and other IT related documents The time-bound probe will establish who is the actually beneficial owner, the benamidars (who is holding the assets) and the benami assets. During the course of the probe, the department also summons the suspected beneficial owner to join the probe before passing the final prohibition order. The order passed by the initiating office can be challenged before the Appellate Tribunal under SAFEMA Act which is the adjudicating authority for cases under PBPTA.

The four assets include Jarandeshwar sugar factory, a residential property in Delhi, an office in south-Mumbai and a resort in Goa, sources said.

“In this case if Pawar is found to be the beneficial owner, then he could be asked to join the probe,” sources told ET.

Sources added that the probe under PBPTA is a follow up action arising out of the raids and search operations carried out by the investigation wing of the IT department in October. According to the department, search operations were carried out at 70 locations including those in Mumbai, Pune, Baramati, Goa and Jaipur. The department had found evidence that prima-facie revealed unaccounted and benami transactions to the tune of Rs 184 crores.

“The preliminary analysis of the flow of funds indicated that there has been an introduction of unaccounted funds in the group by way of various dubious methods like introduction of bogus shares premium, suspicious unsecured loans, receipt of unsubstantiated advance for certain services, colusive arbitration deals out of non-existent disputes. It has been observed that such suspicious flow of funds has taken place with the involvement of an influential family in Maharashtra,” the department had said earlier in a statement without naming the politician. Sources however confirmed that the search operations were linked to Pawar. Also amongst the locations covered included residential premises belonging to Pawar sisters.

The department had found that the funds allegedly raised through dubious means were utilised for acquisition of assets such as office building in a prime locality in Mumbai, flat in Delhi, a resort in Goa, agriculture land parcels and investments in sugar mills in Maharashtra.

Ahead of Diwali, Union Steel Minister announces Rs 28,000 bonus, wage revision for MOIL employees

Union Minister of Steel Ram Chandra Prasad Singh on Sunday announced a bonus of Rs 28,000 as well as wage revision for the employees of the state-owned Manganese Ore India Limited (MOIL). Singh was addressing a gathering at the inauguration 2nd Vertical Shaft, Chikla Mine and various other facilities of the company based at Nagpur in Maharashtra.

He announced a production-linked bonus of Rs 28,000 for all the MOIL employees, which will be paid before the upcoming Diwali festival. The wage revision is for 10 years, with effect from August 1, 2018 to July 31, 2027, and will benefit around 5,800 employees of the company, it said in a release.

It is based on an MoU arrived between the company’s management and the MOIL Kamgar Sanghatan, a recognised union of its employees.

The proposal includes fitment benefit of 20 per cent and perks /allowances at the rate of 20 per cent, the release said. An interim relief at 12 per cent of the basic and dearness allowance (DA) was given by the company with effect from May 2019, it said.

BRNL, partners exit Ghaziabad-Aligarh Expressway project, sell stake to Cube Highways

Kolkata-based road developer Bharat Road Network Limited (BRNL) and its partners have exited the Ghaziabad-Aligarh toll road project by selling their stake to global infrastructure group I Squared Capital’s Cube Highways, a company statement said.

BRNL held a 39 per cent stake in Ghaziabad-Aligarh Expressway Private Limited – the special purpose vehicle that developed and operated the 126-km toll road on NH-34.

PNC

Infra and its associates held a 35 per cent stake and the balance 26 per cent was with Galfar Engineering and its associates.

“BRNL along with its partners has signed an agreement with Cube Highways, a portfolio company of I Squared Capital, for the complete transfer of ownership” in Ghaziabad-Aligarh Expressway Pvt Ltd, the firm said in the statement.

The proceeds from the sale will be utilised to reduce debt and also capitalise on growth opportunities in the highways sector.

The transaction is done at an enterprise value of up to Rs 1,600 crore, the statement said.

The share purchase agreement provides for the sale of the entire stake in Ghaziabad-Aligarh Expressway Private Limited, the special purpose vehicle (SPV) engaged in the development, operation and maintenance of a 126-kilometre toll road project from Ghaziabad to Aligarh on National Highway 34, it added.

The project has been granted a 24-year concession in 2011 for strengthening and widening the two-lane highway, the statement said, adding toll collection on this road started in June 2015.

“We continue to explore opportunities for value creation through our portfolio realignment. We remain focused towards optimising value through such strategic exits and are equally committed to raise resources to capitalise on the current and upcoming primary and secondary market opportunities in the highway sector,” BRNL Managing Director Bajrang Kumar Choudhary said.

The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals and other closing conditions, it noted.

BRNL is a road BOT (build, operate, transfer) company in India, focused on the development, implementation, operation and maintenance of roads and highways projects.

It has a project portfolio worth Rs 7,000 crore consisting of six operational BOT projects, covering 2,095 lane kilometres across Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha.

Cube Highways and Infrastructure Pte is a Singapore-based company investing in road and highway projects, along with other select infrastructure sectors in India.

Transporters stare at $2.4 bn loss in April on account of lockdowns

The fresh wave of Covid-19 cases sweeping the country and the resultant lockdown measures implemented by several states have already started hurting transporters. The trade is estimated to suffer $2.4 billion (Rs 17,800 crore) of revenue loss in April alone, according to leading transporters. This could also affect GDP growth, which is projected at 10.5% by the central bank for this fiscal year.

The Indian road transport sector carries goods worth $150 billion a year, which means about $12 billion of business is done per month. As of now, the impact is 15-20%, but it may exacerbate in the coming weeks, fear transporters.

Transport Corporation of India

chief executive Jasjit Sethi said retail markets were impacted, there was a drop in load availability and that the overall supply chain was slowing down.

“The current wave is more aggressive and daily infection numbers are higher than ever. The impact is likely to spread to other states from just Maharashtra and Delhi. We feel there will be a minimum impact of 20% on load carriage, which may take away a couple of billion dollars in revenue for the logistics sector for the month,” added Sethi. Truck rentals, which were firming up on improving trade, are also set to fall 6-8% in April, said the Indian Foundation for Transport Research & Training.

SP Singh, a senior fellow & coordinator at the foundation, told ET that the demand till March 31 was very healthy, but over the last 10 days, there had been a drop in business of 15-20%.

“The trucks are being moved from long-haulage trucks to agri-products. Despatches from the factory gates have dropped and the load availability has come down. Thankfully, there is a compensatory load of harvest or else the drop would have been even steeper,” added Singh. The load offtake from the wholesale market of the National Capital Region has seen a 30-50% drop. The NCR hub serves basic needs for the neighbouring states of Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, UP and Himachal Pradesh, but there are trucks lying idle, said Singh.

The truck fleet utilisation had peaked at 85% in March, which was better than the pre-Covid levels but has now dropped to 70%, according to truckers. “Transport is a dependent business, it is not an independent business. Since truckers will be having lesser trips to run, business is expected to go down by 25%,” said Singh of foundation. Truckers will be hard-pressed to pay back their EMIs, he added.

Lobby group All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) estimates an up to 50% drop in demand in the sector, resulting in the daily lost business of about Rs 315 crore. Other industry stakeholders too expressed fear of the business getting hit due to the lockdowns but pegged a lower magnitude of impact.

The situation is also causing delays as some companies in Maharashtra are holding trucks for a day before loading goods onto them, as a precaution against infection in case the vehicle has been contaminated, said Sachin Haritash, a director at Chetak Logistics. Delays are also caused due to checks on state borders for RT-PCR tests for drivers, he said. This causes an artificial shortage of transport capacity in the market, he added.

However, the situation is yet to impact demand for transport from sectors like FMCG, e-commerce and the automobile industry, Haritash said. A delay in the movement of vehicles may also lead to the expiry of e-way bills in some cases, the AIMTC said. The lobby group demanded priority vaccination for drivers and workers in the transportation business.

“The lockdown rules in some states like Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh will lead to considerable problems in road transportation,” said Vijay Kumar, chief operating officer at lobbying body Express Industry Council of India. “While last-mile e-commerce is being allowed in Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh has come up with rules that also stop last-mile delivery of goods,” he added.

“In terms of cargo transportation, there has been a clear shift from road to rail in the last 8-9 months,” said Prahlad Tanwar, partner at KPMG. “The shift has been even more prominent after the increase in fuel prices for vehicles,” he added.

Eye care chain Dr Agarwals plans to spend Rs 1,000 crore to expand presence

Chennai-based specialty eye care chain Dr Agarwals Eye Hospital on Friday said it is in talks for Series-D funds, as it plans to spend Rs 1,000 crore over the next three years to add dozens of hospitals across the country and abroad.

Adil Agarwal, its CEO, declined to comment on how much capital the company is planning to raise but said an announcement will be made in this regard in a couple of months. “The investment will be made through a combination of primary fund raise, debt and internal accruals,” Agarwal told ET.

The company’s existing investors, including Temasek, CDC and ADV Partners, may take part in the funding round, he said.

The group has so far raised Rs 755 crore in three rounds of funding–Rs 270 crore from Temasek in February 2019, Rs 215 crore from CDC in December 2019, and Rs 270 crore from ADV Partners in 2016.

Agarwal said the plan is to open over 100 eye hospitals and 500 outreach clinics. About 20% of the new expansion will be outside of India, he said. The company will earmark about Rs 300 crore for expansion in Maharashtra alone, he said.

Dr Agarwals operates 100 eye hospitals, of which 86 are in India and the remaining in Africa. It has clinics in Mauritius, Mozambique, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda.

The company on Friday said it has acquired Mumbai-based Aditya Jyot Eye Hospital for an undisclosed amount.

Aditya Jyot Eye Hospital, the largest eye care centre in Mumbai headed by ophthalmologist Sundaram Natarajan, will become the hub of operations for Dr Agarwals in Mumbai and Maharashtra, the company said.

Fertiliser major IFFCO setting up oxygen plant in Gujarat, to give it for free to hospitals

Cooperative fertiliser major IFFCO on Sunday said it is setting up a medical oxygen plant in Gujarat and will supply it for free to hospitals. IFFCO will also put up three more plants across the country to help the nation in this pandemic period, it said.

“We at IFFCO, humbly share that on nation’s service, IFFCO is putting up an Oxygen plant with capacity of 200 cubic meter per hour in its Kalol unit in Gujarat,” IFFCO Managing Director and CEO U S Awasthi tweeted.

IFFCO will give free oxygen to hospital each cylinder of 46.7 litres, he said.

The proposed oxygen plant in Kalol will generate medical grade oxygen and fill 700 big D- type cylinders daily and also 300 medium B-size cylinders on demand, which will be supplied to all hospitals free, he added.

Awasthri said that IFFCO will fill up free of cost the oxygen cylinders for hospitals but they need to bring their own cylinders for refill.

A security deposit will be taken if cylinders taken from the IFFCO to avoid hoarding of oxygen, he added.

In view of the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, there is huge demand for oxygen for effective clinical treatment of COVID-19 patients. As a result, there are reports of shortage of medical oxygen in some parts of the country, especially in states of Maharashtra and Delhi.

I am a promoter, I am a founder but that does not mean that it is my company, says Marico chairman, Harsh

In an interview with ET Now, Harsh Mariwala, Chairman,

Marico

, talks about his new book, learning business basics at home, staying with distributors in small towns, leaving behind a legacy and the necessity of grit in life.

Let us talk about the book you have written, not about Marico but your story, on how Harsh Mariwala made an unknown company an unforgettable brand?
I began my journey at the very young age of 20. I did not have any clue about what I was going to do in life, all I was sure was that I am going to be in the world of business, and I am not going to be working for anybody else. I had entrepreneurial genes in me. My family, my father, my uncles, my grandfather all were businessmen so a lot of business issues used to get discussed.

I had just done my graduation in commerce and I thought of branding edible and coconut oils. I started visiting distributors of small towns in Maharashtra, and Saurashtra, all the while staying with them because there weren’t any good hotels there. I also got myself trained in an ad agency for a week. This is how my journey began, and we were able to create national distribution networks using a ton of innovation.

I do not remember any year where we have not grown because growth to me is very important, it is like oxygen to any business. It excites all stakeholders and creates new challenges. If you are stagnant in a business, then there is a problem. The growth mindset starts at the top but the biggest challenge for entrepreneurs and businessmen is to make sure it filters down all the way to the bottom.

In 1996 when Marico went public, did you ever imagine that it could be close to a market cap of $10 billion?
No way. When we went public we were at Rs 180 crores and I did not have any clue what we would be in terms of size or the market cap. I think I feel good about it because it helps attract good talent, a good Board. I feel proud that we have done that and I think it helps the organization in terms of its image.

For a business that you started from scratch, you passed on the leadership baton. How hard was it is for you because in India promoters rarely sell, they always pass on the business to the next generation?
There were strong attempts made for me to sell out, and I was very clear that I have not built the company for monetary reasons. I wanted to create a certain legacy. I strongly believed that what I have created is very strong and that I will be able to take on MNCs. We realised that in coconut oil, our product was superior, we were weak mainly in the area of distribution. I’m talking of 1996. We had a turnover of Rs 400- 500 crores and we were weak in rural distribution where MNCs were much stronger. Within a crisis we saw an opportunity and we improved our rural penetration.

I was absolutely sure that I was not going to sell out and I will be able to take them (MNCs) on and I think that paid off. In the interim period, we had some setbacks in terms of profit growth because our over investment in marketing but we were never impacted by regression. Over a period of time, they decided to sell out and we acquired those brands. Instead of selling out, we actually acquired brands.

What about resistance within the family? Did your son approve of it?
At that time he was young and had some other preferences. He likes being an investor and he’s running an investment office for the family. He has done exceedingly well. The key thing is just because he is my son, that does not mean he should occupy my chair. He is on board of Marico and he is making investments in some new age businesses. I reckon he wants to leave his own legacy in terms of creating something on his own.

I strongly believe that the company does not belong to me, I am a majority shareholder, I am a promoter, I am a founder but that does not mean that it is my company.

What would be your advice for entrepreneurs because the way businesses today are getting created is that promoters do not bring capital to the table, but bring ideas and raise capital by selling equity?
I think a lot depends on the kind of business you are in. New age businesses require a lot of money, and the more you go towards money, the more you dilute your stake. I think a lot depends on the kind of entrepreneur you are. I want to create something which persists for all time whether I am there or not.

When Marico was born 20 years ago the challenge was reach and distribution, today that challenge may not be there because of digital connectivity. What to your mind will be the edge for future consumer companies?
There is disruption as far as what is known as D to C brands, direct to consumer brands and we have seen emergence of many such brands. You can now reach the market through e-commerce and you can do digital marketing.

I do not see too much disruption in the ranking but you will see newer types of competition coming from D to C brands though their size may be much much smaller compared to what the bigger players. There will also be opportunities for the big FMCG companies to acquire these D to C brands just like Marico has acquired two brands, Beardo and Just Herbs.

If you have to start Marico all over, how will you start it?
I think I went through trial and error because I have not studied management. It was a typically family-managed organisation and I started from the bottom. I think that experience really helped me. We were recruiting a lot of management graduates and it forced me to do a number of short-term programs on management, study a lot of books on management.

I went on experimenting with different leadership styles. I would do it in the same way but I wish there was somebody to guide me and I would have moved much faster. I think we have created some very strong mechanisms for the organisation to continue growing on a perpetual basis and that is what I am very proud of apart from creating very strong brands which are market leaders.

What has been the biggest learning for Harsh Mariwala? Something which you have learned the hard way?
The biggest learning I think is about grit. You do not give up easily. I have had multiple failures in my life and all my failures are captured in my book (Harsh Realities). When there is failure, there is learning. If you read the book, I can say that there are 8-10 failures in my journey and I think each of them has led to a better Marico.

You are running several foundations now. When you retired 6-7 years ago, you mentioned that now you have lot of time to do things which you always wanted to do. Tell us what inspires you every morning?
Six years ago, I stepped down and pursued many newer initiatives. From starting a new business in the area of aqua therapy to helping my son set up an investment office, to spending time on Marico which takes about 30% of my time. I am on advisory board of some PE companies. We are also one of the largest funders of mental health for last the eight years in India.

I sat with my wife and I leveraged her strengths in writing to write this book. I also roped in a co-author and Professor Ram Charan. I think it (book) will appeal to entrepreneurs, it will appeal to professionals, it will appeal to students and also anybody who is interested in autobiographies.

Public sector general insurers losing motor segment share very fast, lost 30% biz since FY18

Even as the motor insurance segment, which had a massive decline in FY21, is returning to the growth path, public sector general insurers have been steadily losing ground to the private insurers overall and more so in the bread and butter motor segment, with pie crimping to 32.6 per cent in August, down from 36.6 per cent a year ago.

As against this, the private sector has improved their market pie to 67.4 per cent in the reporting month from 63.4 per cent in the same period last year, shows an analysis of the monthly data by Care Ratings.

That the decline is so stark for the public sector players is clear from the FY18 market share number when they held 46.5 per cent of the total motor segment premia, while private players had only 53.5 per cent then.

Come FY19, the respective share declined to 40.7 per cent for the public sector while jumped to 59.3 per cent for the private players. The share of public sector players declined to 36.8 per cent in FY20 and further dropped to 34.2 per cent in FY21 while that of private players rose to 63.2 per cent in FY20 and further accelerated to 65.8 per cent in FY21, according to Care report.

Similarly, in FY18, the public sector had a market share of 37.5 per cent of the motor OD (own damage) market, and the private players had it 62.5 per cent, which declined and increased respectively to 32.5 per cent and 67.5 per cent in FY19 and further to 28.3 per cent and 71.7 per cent, respectively in FY20.

In FY 21 the respective shares were 25.5 per cent and 74.5 per cent. In August 2020 the pie was 27.8 per cent and 72.2 per cent and which further declined to 24.3 per cent and 75.7 per cent respectively.

Its only in motor TP (third-party) segment that the public sector have some leeway as they had a market share of 52.7 per cent as against private players’ 46.3 per cent in FY18, but within a year they lost that too.

In FY19 it declined to 46.5 per cent and to 42.2 per cent in FY20 while for private players the pie increased to 53.5 per cent in FY19 and to 57.8 per cent in FY20.

In the last fiscal, the share of public players was at 39.7 per cent and private players at 60.3 per cent. In August 2021, this is at a low of 38.3 per cent for the public sector, down from 42.3 per cent in August 2020, as against private players’ 61.7 per cent and 57.7 per cent.

This downtrend is particularly important for the public sector player as the motor TP segment has emerged as the larger segment driving the overall motor insurance growth.

According to industry data, there were over 23.12 crore vehicles on road in the country as of March 2019, of which 57 per cent were uninsured vehicles. Two-wheelers were the largest component of the uninsured vehicles with over 60 per cent of them being uninsured, whereas uninsured cars were only 10 per cent, showing massive potential for growth.

In FY21, motor premium had declined after the pandemic but retained the top spot which it has ceded in FY22 to the health segment. This is also in line with the international market, where health is significantly larger than the motor segment. Motor TP segment has continued to grow faster than the Motor OD segment.

Amongst the states, Maharashtra continues to occupy the top spot followed by Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Uttar Pradesh in motor business for insurers.

The report expects motor insurance premia to grow at 6-8 per cent driven by any increase in TP rates, and auto sales for the full year, despite the chip shortage.

Piaggio India expects share of electric in its three-wheeler sales to treble in next 2-3 years

Piaggio Vehicles expects the share of electric in its three-wheeler sales in India to treble in the next two-three years as rising fuel prices and government incentives to encourage the shift to e-mobility influence consumer preferences.

“In the last four months, the penetration of electric three-wheelers in our sales has increased to 10%. Several states, including Delhi, Gujarat and Maharashtra, have announced policies to encourage e-mobility,” Diego Graffi, managing director at Piaggio Vehicles, told ET. “We expect penetration of electric vehicles in the three-wheeler segment will reach nearly 20-30% in the next 2-3 years.”

Piaggio, which is headquartered in Pontedera (Italy), has manufacturing units in Baramati, Maharashtra.

The growth can be even more if investments are made in the supply chain for deeper localisation, Graffi said, adding, “Right now, we import the powertrain, which adds on to the cost.”

Electric three-wheelers account for about 10% of sales at Piaggio, up from zero about four months ago. While acquisition costs of electric three-wheelers are higher by Rs 10,000-50,000 (depending on the state) compared with diesel- and CNG-powered options, running costs are substantially lower at 50 paise/km, compared with Rs 1.50/km for CNG 3W and Rs 3.50/km for diesel 3W. With battery prices set to fall further, industry stakeholders expect a marked shift towards e-mobility in the segment over the next couple of years.

Overall, in the three-wheeler segment, Piaggio said it saw good demand for cargo carriers following the easing of lockdowns by state governments after the second Covid-19 wave, especially in markets in west and north India. However, sales in the category are expected to normalise only in the first half of the next calendar year. Graffi said he expects three-wheeler sales in the local market this fiscal to be around FY21 levels.

Piaggio sold 62,730 three-wheelers in the domestic market in the last financial year, a decline of 59% from the 152,336 units it sold in FY20. Overall, 216,197 three-wheelers were sold in the country.

As regards two-wheelers, Piaggio said while it is working on attaining its sales target of 100,000 units in CY2021, much would depend on the evolution of lockdown restrictions across the country.

“In many of our important markets in the North-East, in Maharashtra, there are restrictions on operations,” Graffi said. “We had hoped 100% of our dealerships would be operational in July. But that has not happened.”

The company said it is firm on its intent to enter the midsize motorcycle market in India, however, it is yet to determine a timeline for the launch. The product, when launched, will be made locally, it said.

As far as electric two-wheelers are concerned, Piaggio said it has products available globally. The company said it is evaluating the right model for the Indian market but has not determined a timeline for its launch.