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BW Businessworld

Social Engineering Feat

Over Rs 25 crore advertising blitz in Indian media is to drum up support for the FB scheme to offer free Internet access to never-before users in small towns and rural areas

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Nobody has missed Facebook stepping on the gas to make sure ‘Free Basics’, formerly “Internet.org” gets support from Indians online. However, recent heart-warming images of FB founder Mark Zuckerburg in a clinch with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Paulo Alto are threatening to blur with FB facing charges of trying to make an unethical grab for a big slice of India’s rapidly expanding internet market.

The over Rs 25 crore advertising blitz in Indian media is to drum up support for the FB scheme to offer free Internet access to never-before users in small towns and rural areas. The FB campaign is also aimed at countering criticism that Facebook initiative provides access to only a limited set of websites — undermining the equal-access precepts of Net Neutrality. Critics say it would be like entering a walled garden tended by Facebook and its partner, RCom. Limited Internet access at slow speeds will also create a diluted version of the Web, stifling innovation and putting Indian startups building rival apps at a disadvantage, it is alleged.

Fortunately, the TRAI has put the brakes on an actual rollout of Free Basics and compliance has been confirmed by Reliance. Internet activists in other countries such as Brazil and South Africa are watching the Indian fireworks with interest and will go for FB when the time is ripe. That the implications of such a plan need much more thought is a fact well recognised by various ministers. Facebook wants users. It’s not getting them from China. It’s not difficult to do the math.
— Mala Bhargava

Indigo In Select Club

The country’s largest airline by market share, IndiGo, has joined two select clubs recently. First, it is the only low-cost carrier to have joined the 100-plane fleet size which till now had two full service carriers in Air India and Jet Airways. IndiGo entered this select company when it inducted the new Airbus A320 recently. The airline currently operates 653 daily flights connecting 39 destinations.

More importantly, IndiGo also entered into the list of the top 50 most valuable companies in terms of market capitalisation following a sharp surge in its stock price post listing. On 16 December, IndiGo had a market cap of Rs 42,684 crore and stood at 47th position in overall m-cap ranking on the BSE. The company climbed 11 positions in the m-cap pecking order since its debut on the bourses on November 10, 2015 when it stood at 58th position with m-cap of Rs 31,655 crore at the end of first day of listing. IndiGo had raised Rs 3,009 crore though the initial public offering.
— Ashish Sinha

Big Fish Bear More NPA Pain
Mint Road’s Financial Stability Report (FSR; December 2015) says there’s been a huge uptick in gross non-performing asset (GNPA) ratio among state-run banks from the universe of large borrowers. It says it went up to 8.1 per cent in September 2015 from 6.1 per cent March — up by 200 basis points in six months.

If you were to look at standard assets (that which is good), its share among large borrowers fell to 84.5 per cent at end-September (from 86.2 per cent) of gross advances. Credit to the `Top 100’ large borrowers stood at 27.6 per cent of credit to this universe and 17.8 per cent of bank credit. The share of GNPAs of these borrowers in total bank GNPAs went up sharply to 3.1 per cent (from 0.7 per cent) — it tells you to brace for more pain. If the “big fish” are gasping for life, it can’t be all rosy for the small fry.
— Raghu Mohan

All In The Family
In sharp contrast to the Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s rather tumultuous relationship with the RSS, the Narendra Modi government enjoys more cordial — some would say cohesive — relationship with the larger Sangh Parivar. Just a couple of months ago the Sangh’s labour wing, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), had threatened to join other labour unions in a pan-India strike against the Centre’s economic policies. However, now there is bonhomie. The BMS last week organised a “felicitation ceremony” for Central ministers Arun Jaitley, Piyush Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan and Bandaru Dattatreya — members of an inter-ministerial group to engage with labour unions — for the passage of the Payment of Bonus (amendment) Bill, 2015, by Parliament. Jaitley said that the government wanted to implement it from 2015-16, but it was only at the BMS insistence that it was decided to implement it with retrospective effect, from 2014-15. Behind this show of bonhomie, say sources, there’ve been vigorous back-channel talks to keep the brotherhood in saffron united, especially in the face of a united Opposition onslaught.
— Suman K. Jha

Digital Weddings
Just as home services, education, shopping are being taken online, so is wedding planning. There are a plethora of startups claiming to help the bride and the groom to plan their D-day with the comfort and ease of a click of a button. Whether it is choosing the catering services, the right venue, or a good photographer, wedding vendor search portals such as WedMeGood, Indear.in, WeddingPlz and PlanningWale give reviews and rates of each service to help the to-be-wed couple that is already suffering from fatigue in making the right decisions about the colour of flowers or the width of the stage. One hopes they have put in the same amount of energy to discover where their sensibilities match and ensure the marriage lasts, as they did in fussing over the minute details of their dream wedding.
– Sonal Khetarpal

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 11-01-2016)