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UK’s Boris Johnson warns world leaders as climate summit begins

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has opened a global climate summit, saying the world is strapped to a “doomsday device.”

Johnson likened the Earth’s position to that of fictional secret agent James Bond — strapped to a bomb that will destroy the planet and trying to work out how to defuse it.

He told leaders Monday that “we are in roughly the same position” — only now the “ticking doomsday device” is real and not fiction.

He was kicking off the world leaders’ summit portion of a UN climate conference, which is aimed at getting agreement to curb carbon emissions fast enough to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) below pre-industrial levels.

Britain‘s leader struck a gloomy note on the eve of the conference, after Group of 20 leaders made only modest climate commitments at their summit in Rome.

Gretas stand up all across G20 nations

NEW DELHI: A majority of teenagers across G20 countries believe climate change is a global emergency and can mainly be dealt with by conserving forests and land, promoting renewable energy and opting for climate-friendly farming as the three top-most policy interventions, shows a poll of public opinion on climate change released by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the University of Oxford on Monday.

Published ahead of a G20 summit in Rome this weekend, and the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, next week, the poll shows people under-18 are more likely to believe this than adults, and often by large margins, such as Australia (11 percentage points), the US (10 points), and India (nine points).

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In many countries such as the UK, Canada, France, Germany and Australia, making companies (polluters) pay for their pollution is more popular among adults than under-18s. However, in India, more under-18s participants believed in polluters’ pay principle.

On average across the G20 countries surveyed from October 2020 to June 2021, 65% of adults thought that climate change is a global emergency, compared with higher support among under-18s, at 70%. The UNDP report noted how the outcome shows public support for climate action is set to strengthen in the near future as climate-aware teenagers become of voting age, enter the workforce, and move into positions of greater influence.

“Our findings show that younger people within the G20 want a bold and broad set of policy responses from governments. As they come of age, political leaders cannot ignore the higher expectations of this emerging climate-aware electorate,” said Stephen Fisher, department of sociology, University of Oxford.

The most popular climate policies among under-18s in the G20 countries surveyed were conservation of forests and land (59%), using solar, wind and renewable power and using climate friendly farming techniques (both 57%).

The report underlines that it will be impossible to keep global heating to 1.5 degree Celsius as required by the 2015 Paris Agreement without bold action from G20 countries, which account for 80% of the global economy and 75% of global emissions.

Referring to perception of higher percentage of young people in G20 countries who believe that they are in a “global climate emergency”, the UNDP administrator Achim Steiner in a statement said, “Given that they are about to inherit this climate emergency, young people are sending a message to global leaders that is loud and clear: they want climate action now.”

70 per cent of defence machinery imported while Indian defence companies find government a hindrance

When drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, of the US Army fly over enemy territory, they use a technology developed by a little-known Bangalore company to send back crystal clear images to their command centre. This technology is used by armed forces around the world, except in India — the home of its developer Arvind Lakshmikumar, who founded Tonbo Imaging four years ago.

Tonbo developed this technology for Europe’s biggest defence company which, in turn, sold it to various armed forces. Lakshmikumar, 36, had been keen to sell such innovations to the Indian armed forces, but gave up after he realised the futility of trying to convince the authorities here that his products were among the best in the world.

He shifted his headquarters to Singapore, as he felt that he could crack the global market for his technologies better from the Southeast Asian city state. Lakshmikumar’s ordeal is just another example of the difficulties and frustrations that small Indian aerospace and defence companies have to go through, facing a hostile bureaucratic set up on the one side and a colonial mindset on the other.

“There is a serious colonial hangup for foreign products,” says Lakshmikumar. “For an Indian bidder they have millions of questions.” The milieu is skewed so against the local players that while an Indian bidder is asked to pay a security deposit, a foreign bidder is not.

“The system is structured in such a way that even if we need a pin, we prefer to import it rather than make it ourselves,” says Smita Purushottam of the New Delhi-based think tank Institute for Defence Studies & Analyses.

India imports more than 70 per cent of its weapons and technology for its defence needs, making it a sitting duck for security threats during wars. In contrast, even Pakistan has a more proactive policy that encourages domestic manufacturers. China is in a different league altogether. The mindset of those in power is also hurting the economy. India will spend $100-150 billion (about Rs 5.4-8.1 lakh crore) on defence modernisation programmes by 2022, according to consulting firm Frost & Sullivan. It will also become the fourth biggest defence spender in the world by 2020, behind the US, China and Russia, according to IHS, a US-based information and analytics provider.

“The best of our minds are utilised by other countries for their progress,” says A Sivathanu Pillai, a scientist and CEO of BrahMos Aerospace, the maker of BrahMos missile. “Put them on the same level field, and they will compete.” The government said its intention was to promote local companies when it unveiled its offset policy in 2005-2006, requiring foreign firms winning defence contracts to ensure that at least 30 per cent of the contracted value is invested in India. But most of it is still on paper.


“As of today not a single offset contract has been fulfilled,” says S Ravinarayanan, chairman of Axis Aerospace & Technologies. He points out that of the 18 offset contracts worth $15 billion that have been signed since 2006, offset commitments were made for deals worth $4.62 billion. “Original equipment manufacturers have repeatedly defaulted in discharging their offset obligations,” he says, suggesting that it is the responsibility of government to ensure that the obligations are met.

The government says it will take more time to see the effects of the new policies. “Rome was not built in a day,” Defence Minister AK Antony told reporters recently at Aero India 2013 in Bangalore. Text messages and phone calls to Jitendra Singh, minister of state for defence, were not answered. Small companies also complain that the government is doing little to encourage them, unlike in the United States or in Israel, where grants are given for companies with promising technologies.

“We are made to compete directly with multinationals for projects. A small entrepreneur cannot beat multinationals,” says Siddharth Amin of Swallow Systems which makes unmanned aerial vehicles. “The government procedure is so long, cumbersome.”

An engineer, Amin, 43, shut down his profitable computer hardware business to pursue his passion for making unmanned aerial vehicles. After more than a decade of research, he launched Swallow. But despite having cutting-edge products, his company is yet to find any takers in the government. On the other hand, Amin’s counterpart, Integrated Dynamics, in Pakistan, started about the same time as he did and has thrived due to government support. “It now makes combat drones,” says Amin, who now earns his living by providing mapping services to mining companies in India and overseas. “We have not lost hope,” he insists.

Tonbo’s Lakshmikumar, an alumnus of BITS Pilani and Carnegie Mellon University, worked at Intelligent Automation and Honeywell in the US before returning home in 2003. There, he built various imaging technologies for major defence contractors such as Lockheed Martin. He was also a part of government-funded programmes like Future Combat Systems intended to prepare the US Army for modern warfare.

Lakshmikumar soon realised that India still does not have an ecosystem like the US or Israel, where government-run organisations fund young companies to develop new technologies. Indian entrepreneurs also face delays in payments. A foreign bidder gets a “letter of credit” before shipping the products, but an Indian bidder’s payment gets delayed for months on end.

Captronic Systems, a Bangalore-based venture that makes test equipment, had to face payment delays of over 120 days more than once. As a result, Vinod Mathews, 44, who runs Captronic, was forced to take a loan of Rs 2.2 crore to pay his vendors. Many small hi-tech companies are also facing intellectual property issues. If they co-develop a product with Defence Research and Development Organisation, they are asked to share their intellectual property. “It is like, if you are making a camera, you are asked to give its design as well,” says an entrepreneur who did not wish to be identified. “It does not happen in other countries like the US.”

Rajiv Chib, associate director of the aerospace and defence practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers, says that Indian entrepreneurs have already overcome challenges on a global scale. “However, doing business is still not easy for them due to certain India-specific practical challenges.” Also, regulatory hurdles are time-consuming and can lead to missed opportunities.

Captronic Systems developed an indigenous in-flight data recorder at one-tenth the cost of imported ones. It offered the equipment to state-run Hindustan Aeronautics. Mathews was shunted between HAL and The Center for Military Airworthiness & Certification before giving up. Mathews, an electronics engineer who founded Captronic almost a decade ago, is finding interest in markets like Israel, Spain and France for his product.

“I applied for funding from Technology Development Board and found myself competing with a firm which makes detergent,” says Mathews.

Indian companies are capable of providing the bulk of the country’s requirements if they find the right environment and bold reforms are initiated. “Look at the talent pool. Many of them have done post-graduation related to this industry, but end up with sub-optimal employment as sales clerks. This needs to be urgently addressed,” says Purushottam of IDSA.

“No country has become a major technological power without nurturing an innovative, fast-growing manufacturing foundation.”

High-street labels like Armani, Gucci & Zegna roll out made-to-measure outfits

NEW DELHI: It was only a matter of time before they hit the middle ground. But the Italians were uncompromising to begin with – in such things Rome draws the line, they said – and fervently hoped Indians would lose the stomach for anything bigger. We held on, now the Italians are back, with a tape and a tailor in tow.

In a nutshell, ladies and gentlemen, that’s how the Armanis, Guccis and the Zegnas of Italian high-street fashion lost their war with the stubborn Indian potbelly as they set out to clothe one of the biggest emerging markets for Rs 1 lakh-plus suits and trousers. As the realisation sunk in that India’s wealthiest men – from Altamount Road’s pedigreed industrialists to Gurgaon’s


riche builders – are so unshapely for their dapper ready-made suits, the Romans have decided to stretch that famous Italian stitch a bit more.

Enter MTM (made-to-measure) offerings – clothing that is sewn to fit each customer inpidually. A typical Armani or Zegna suit will come for Rs 1 lakh, if you are unwilling to go easy on the desi ghee stuff, no problem, but be willing to shell out Rs 30,000 more for an MTM one of your favourite brand.

Armani, Gucci, Zegna, Corneliani, Canali, you name it, the MTM offering comes alongside these days, even for the very British Burberry’s.

Big demand for 48-52 waist sizes

Canali, which is a popular brand among the youth, had a team of stylists fly down from Italy for an MTM event recently.

A store manager told ET the average Indian waist size is between 40 and 44 inches, but there is a big demand for larger sizes between 48 and 52. “Many of my clients, which include top businessmen whom I cannot name, order suits and have to wait for two months for them to be delivered from Italy, and they pay 20-25% more,” he says. “Most of the classic luxury menswear brands get 50-52 sizes in India,” says Salesh Grover, business head of OSL Luxury, a Delhi-based firm that sells Corneliani.

“When a shopper spends that kind of money to buy a suit, he does not mind paying 20-25% more for made-to-measure to get that perfect fit,” says a Zegna spokesperson in India. Zegna is aggressively promoting its made-to-measure suits. “This service will help us reach out to consumers in markets where we do not have stores,” Gildo Zegna, chief executive of Ermenegildo Zegna, which has a 51:49 joint venture with Reliance Retail in India, had told ET in an interview a month ago.

Corneliani has begun to offer its customers a range of fabrics that are sent to its headquarters in Mantua, where the garment is cut, sewn and delivered in three weeks at a starting price of Rs 1.25 lakh, costlier than ready-to-wear pieces. An MTM usually comes with the personalised service offered by the staff, a selection of fabric, stitching at the headquarters, and also the client’s initials at times.

The Indian apparel market is currently estimated to be around Rs 1 lakh crore, of which about Rs 30,000 crore is ready-to-wear. “Of the total western ready-to-wear market, menswear segment is around 80%,” says Atul Chand, chief executive officer at Wills Lifestyle.

Giorgio Armani gets a lot of shoppers who walk in at the brand’s store hoping to walk out with ready-to-wear suits, but not everyone gets lucky. “We have a lot of shoppers who get upset when the sleeves of a jacket are longer than their hands or shoulders are uncomfortably tight. Even the paunch comes in the way of a perfect fit and then they complain that the brand is not for them,” says a store manager, adding, “Very subtly, we then introduce them to our MTM offering, which works well both for the brand and the client.”

Gucci has also launched its MTM service last year. The brand offers clients fabrics from an exclusive selection; the service provides for customisable options with finishes and details and allows for personal tailoring according to the client’s inpidual measurements.

So far, local tailors, designers and home-grown menswear brands have been addressing the market. “Made-to-measure is for people looking for a certain degree of personalisation or for whom their body is a challenge,” points out designer Raghavendra Rathore.

Indian designer wear is more affordable compared to international luxury brands in terms of the overall bill size. A made-to-measure suit by an Indian designer can be bought at Rs 50,000 or even less, compared to Rs 1 lakh an above for a suit by a foreign brand.

“Culturally, Indians are used to personalised tailoring. Also, since India is a perse country with different shapes and sizes, it is imperative for the brands to find solutions to cater to a heterogeneous set of customers,” says Saba Ali, India representative for Altagamma.

Luxury clothing brands do not discuss clients, but many of them admitted in private that the biggest challenge is not demand, but the body shape of Indian men and women.

“But the future looks bright. The next generation wants to look fit, and is working out in gyms and elsewhere. They are also affluent and upwardly mobile,” says Mehul Choksi, chairman of Geetanjali group, who gets all his luxury suits stitched abroad. “We get men above 35 years of age who want to be fitter, but the awareness level is very low. Studies show that Indians need to exercise seven times more in a week than their global counterparts to be at par with them. So, at present, brands are adapting themselves to different Indian sizes and shapes, rather than shoppers working on their bodies,” says Vikram Bhatia, managing director of Fitness First gyms.

( Originally published on Apr 11, 2013 )

To home or Rome? England and Italy meet in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley tonight

To hear the England players giddily singing along with the Wembley Stadium crowd to “Sweet Caroline” — “so good, so good” — encapsulates the youthful exuberance and carefree spirit of a group unburdened by trying to end the team’s 55-year trophy drought on Sunday.

To hear Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini talk about going all the way shows how pressure to win a trophy for your country can be an enduring motivation for yourself and the squad, especially in the twilight of a career. “Maybe at 36 you feel it more,” Chiellini said, “because you understand more how hard it is and the work that goes into it.”

The European Championship final on Sunday pits England, which hasn’t even reached a final since winning the 1966 World Cup, against one of the continent’s most decorated teams.

The last of Italy’s four World Cup victories came in 2006, when Chiellini had already made his international debut but didn’t play at the tournament. But the team is a comparative underachiever in the European Championship with its only title in 1968.

Italy, however, has already reached the final twice in recent years — in 2000 and 2012 — whereas England hasn’t got close until now.

With the pandemic restricting travel to London, the permitted crowd of 66,000 at Wembley Stadium will be largely packed with England fans for the national team’s greatest soccer moment since 1966, when coach Gareth Southgate wasn’t even born.

Winning Euro 2020 would be a form or redemption for Southgate, whose penalty miss against Germany at Euro ‘96 denied England a chance of making the final. “I know it won’t be enough for me and for the rest of the staff and for the players if we don’t win it now,” Southgate said. “You get lovely messages that say ‘whatever happens now,’ but that won’t be how it will be on Monday. We’ve got to get it right.”

Italy didn’t even qualify for the 2018 World Cup but has excelled with a 33-match unbeaten run since then under coach Roberto Mancini. “At the beginning, when he told us to have in our minds the idea of winning the Euro, we thought he was crazy,” Chiellini said. “Instead, during these years he has created a team which is now on the brink of doing that. And as he has repeated to us after every match, `One centimeter at a time,’ and now there is only the last centimeter left.” They have to find a way past an opponent that has conceded only one goal in its six games at Euro 2020 and coped with Harry Kane not even scoring in the group stage.

Tournaments can define, reshape perceptions and elevate players.

Just look at Federico Chiesa, who wasn’t even starting for Italy initially at Euro 2020 but went on to score key goals in the knockout phase.

Take Raheem Sterling, whose place in the England lineup was questioned because of his failure to score at any previous tournament and his struggles with Manchester City. He responded by netting the team’s only goals in the group stage, the opener in the win over Germany in the round of 16, and his attacking threat won the penalty that led to England’s semifinal winner against Denmark.

Guarding against a presumption of glory might be the hardest thing for England fans energised by the “football’s coming home” lyrics in its team anthem.

To home or Rome? We’ll know on Sunday night

World food prices fall in June for first time in a year: FAO

World food prices fell in June for the first time in 12 months, pushed lower by declines in vegetable oils, cereals and dairy products, the United Nations food agency said on Thursday.

The Rome-based FAO also said in a statement that worldwide cereal harvests would come in at nearly 2.817 billion tonnes in 2021, slightly down on its previous estimate, but still on course to hit an annual record.

The Food and Agriculture Organization‘s food price index, which measures monthly changes for a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy products, meat and sugar, averaged 124.6 points last month versus a revised 127.8 in May.

The May figure was previously given as 127.1.

On a year-on-year basis, prices were up 33.9% in June.

FAO’s vegetable oil price index plunged 9.8% in June, partly on the back of a fall in palm oil prices, which were hit by expectations of output gains in leading producers and a lack of fresh import demand. Soy and sunflower oil quotations also dropped.

The cereal price index dropped 2.6% in June month-on-month, but was still up 33.8% year-on-year. Maize prices fell 5.0%, partly because of higher-than-expected yields in Argentina and improved crop conditions in the United States.

International rice prices also fell in June, touching 15-month lows, as high freight costs and container shortages continued to limit export sales, FAO said.

Dairy prices dipped 1.0% on a monthly basis, with all components of the index easing. Butter recorded the largest drop, hit by a rapid decline in global import demand and a slight increase in inventories, especially in Europe.

The sugar index posted a 0.9% month-on-month gain, reaching its highest level since March 2017. FAO said uncertainties over the impact of unfavourable weather conditions on crop yields in Brazil, the world’s largest sugar exporter, pushed prices up.

The meat index rose 2.1% from May, with quotations for all meat types rising as increases in imports by some East Asian countries compensated for a slowdown in China‘s meat purchases.

FAO said the slight fall in its estimate for world cereal production this year was principally triggered by a sharp cut to the Brazilian maize production forecast as prolonged periods of dry weather weighed on yield expectations.

Global wheat production prospects also retreated this month, as dry weather in the Near East hurt yield prospects there. By contrast, the forecast for global rice output in 2021 edged up.

The forecast for world cereal utilization in 2021/22 was cut by 15 million tonnes from the previous month to 2.810 billion tonnes, still 1.5% higher than in 2020/21.

World cereal stocks by the close of seasons in 2021/22 are now expected to rise above their opening levels for the first time since 2017/18. “Higher maize stocks foreseen in China account for the bulk of this month’s upward revision to world cereal inventories,” FAO said.