‘Foul Cartel’ of airlines loots flyers, claims complaint to PM - Business Guardian
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‘Foul Cartel’ of airlines loots flyers, claims complaint to PM

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As the pandemic tapered off in February, lakhs of excited families planning domestic vacations to exotic locales by flights got a shock bigger than a Covid-19 positive test report. The airfares of all airlines to various destinations had suddenly shot up — and drastically — for seats on the trunk or non-trunk routes, irrespective of the flight timings, the particular carrier, the type of aircraft, direct or hopping services, the prevailing fuel prices, etc. “Welcome to ugly world of ‘Cartelisation’ – witnessed in India probably for the first time… The airlines have colluded to hike fares phenomenally and indulge in open loot of the passengers, under the very nose of the Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre,” accused a prominent consumer rights activist Barrister Vinod Tiwari. Tiwari is the President of Council for Protection of Rights of the NGO Grahak Bharti, Nagpur, which has red-flagged the alleged ‘unofficial syndicate’ involving most private airlines in India. He contended that until February 10, the passenger airfares of all airlines in the country were in the reasonable range of Rs 1,500-Rs 3,500 per sector in three slabs. If tickets were booked well in advance or at least 45 days before travel, the fares were very low, higher for 30 days slab, going up considerably as ‘normal fare’ for upfront bookings for less than 15 days travel dates. For instance, the Mumbai-Nagpur fare was in the range of Rs 1,800- 2,400-3,400, Nagpur-Delhi was Rs 2,400-Rs 3,400-Rs 4,500 in the three slabs, Mumbai-Delhi was Rs 2,000-Rs 3,000-Rs 4,000, and so on, for various sectors, depending on the travel dates. “Now, past over two months, the scenario has changed and all airlines are charging fares — presumably under a single slab, which in many instances, is double the usual ‘normal fare’, and this unholy nexus has hit hard lakhs of holiday flyers on tight budgets in the country,” explained Tiwari.

the soaring fares offered by various airlines — the rates charged are near-identical for most each sector, as seen on the major travel portals, where maximum bookings are known to take place. For instance, a Mumbai-Delhi ticket on any airline for this week will cost around Rs 8,042, whether full-service or frills-free, Tiwari pointed out. A cursory check of the tickets for entire May and mid-June reveals a similar trend for all airlines, whichever be the sector, leaving the poor flyers with no option but to prostrate and ‘pay the painful price’ for the post-pandemic sojourn. Perturbed by this and complaints from various quarters, the Grahak Bharti has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Minister for Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia, drawing their attention to the purported ‘evil nexus’ of the airlines out to make hay while the summer sun shines. “This is a big, serious issue, of open loot of air passengers due to the unusual ‘Cartelisation’ of airlines operators under the control of Ministry of Civil Aviation and therefore, an immediate intervention is needed to stop such unfair practices,” said the plea to Modi and Scindia. Tiwari warned that unless the Centre acts within 48 hours in the matter, the Grahak Bharti would move the Competition Commission of India (CCI) and take legal remedies if needed, and order the airlines to refund hundreds of crores of rupees they have jointly collected by fleecing the gullible flyers. He rued that in the absence of a government-run airlines to ‘balance the scales’, these monopolistic practices by private carriers are contravening the BJP’s own aims of making air travel affordable to the middle-classes through various schemes like UDAAN, etc. “Unfortunately for the BJP, the current milieu is contrary to its lofty proclamations… Air travel has again become a luxury within the reach of the suited-booted and rich, while the masses are once more sweating it out trains or buses,” slammed Tiwari.

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UK Economy shows 0.1% growth in February, indicating recession rebound

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The Office for National Statistics, the U.K.’s gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 0.1% in February, indicating a continuation of sluggish economic growth for the year. This figure matches the forecast from a Reuter’s poll. However, on an annual basis, GDP was 0.2% lower. The U.K. experienced economic contraction in the third and fourth quarters of 2023, resulting in a technical recession. January saw modest growth, which was revised upward to 0.3% on Friday. In February, construction output declined by 1.9%, contrasting with a 1.1% increase in production output, which the primary contributor to GDP growth became.

Meanwhile, growth in the U.K.’s dominant services sector slowed to 0.1% from 0.3%. Paul Dales, chief U.K. economist at Capital Economics, remarked that these readings “all-but confirm the end of the recession” from the previous year. “But while we expect a better economic recovery than most, we doubt it will be strong enough to prevent inflation (and interest rates) from falling much further as appears to be happening in the U.S.,” Dales added. British inflation fell more than expected in March, to a nearly two-and-a-half year low of 3.4%.

In the U.S., however, price rises came in higher than forecast at 3.5% this week, pushing back market bets for the start of interest rate cuts from the summer to September. This has raised questions about whether central banks elsewhere will be influenced by a later start from the Federal Reserve than previously expected, particularly if the U.S. dollar strengthens. Goldman Sachs on Friday revised its forecast for Bank of England rate cuts this year from five to four, projecting the trims will start in June, before slowing to a quarterly pace.

Simon French, chief economist at Panmure Gordon, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” on Friday that while the BOE is independent, policymakers will nevertheless be conscious of an upcoming U.K. national election, which politicians have suggested will be held in the second half of the year. “Do you get [cuts] out of the way ahead of that general election? There is quite a lot of pressure from the governing party, not necessarily the prime minister but the chancellor has talked about expecting rate cuts.”

Overall, French said the figures strongly indicated the end of the recession but were “not a reason to hang out the bunting.” Growth remains below its pre-pandemic levels and trails behind the U.S., but is comparable to many European counterparts. French noted signs of improvement, particularly in sectors like manufacturing and automobile production.

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US Interest rate cut unlikely in June amid stubborn inflation: Moody’s

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Moody’s believes an interest rate cut during the US Federal Reserve ‘s June meeting is likely off the table given stubborn inflation in the country.

Moody’s suggests that the likelihood of an interest rate cut during the US Federal Reserve’s June meeting has diminished due to persistent inflation in the country. March’s inflation exceeded projections, with the headline CPI rising more than expected, pushing the annual rate to 3.5 percent, its highest level since September. This development, according to Moody’s, dampens hopes for an interest rate cut at the upcoming Federal Open Market Committee meeting.

This assertion by the global rating agency comes soon after the US reported more than-expected inflation figures in March. On Wednesday, the latest data showed inflation in the US increased more than expected in March, putting cold water to hopes of an interest rate cut shortly. In the 12 months through March, the inflation increased 3.5 per cent year-on-year, the highest in about 6 months. This followed a 3.2 per cent rise in February. US Federal Reserve officials also expect it would not be appropriate to reduce the key interest rate until they gain “greater confidence” that inflation is moving sustainably toward a comfortable 2 per cent, minutes of its latest monetary policy meeting showed.

The minutes, released overnight Indian Standard Time, noted that the US central bank officials affirmed their strong commitment to returning inflation to the committee’s 2 per cent objective. Consumer price inflation in the US continued to trend down, though it remained above 2 per cent. The US Federal Reserve, in its March meeting, voted to leave the key interest rate unchanged at 5.25-5.50 per cent, keeping the policy rate unchanged for the fifth straight time on the trot. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the interest rates were near zero. Raising interest rates is a monetary policy instrument that typically helps suppress demand in the economy, thereby helping the inflation rate decline.

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G-SHOCK’s debut: unveiling trends in New Delhi with first exclusive store

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The brand invites visitors to explore its newly curated space, where every corner embodies the ethos of ‘Absolute Toughness’ and celebrates.

Casio Computer Co. Ltd, headquartered in Japan and the parent company of Casio India, is proud to announce the launch of its first Exclusive G-SHOCK Store in New Delhi, marking the sixth addition to its exclusive store network across the country. With this latest addition, Casio & G-SHOCK now boast a total of 61 Exclusive stores across India, reaffirming the brand’s dedication to providing unmatched experiences for its customers nationwide.

Nestled in the lively neighborhood of Pacific Mall, Subhash Nagar, this new G-SHOCK Exclusive Store is set to become a cornerstone of horological excellence in the heart of the capital city. Set to open its doors to fashion and streetwear enthusiasts and watch connoisseurs alike on the 10th of April, this exclusive G-SHOCK store promises an immersive experience, dedicated to showcasing the diverse product portfolio.

Boasting an extensive lineup of G-SHOCK’s iconic men’s and women’s range, this store is a haven for anyone who appreciates its rugged elegance and precision engineering. Central to the store’s offerings are G-SHOCK’s masterpiece series, including the legendary 5600 and 2100 series, alongside a curated selection of the latest drops and coveted limited-edition timepieces. From rugged functionality to cutting edge design, each G-SHOCK timepiece embodies the brand’s ethos of innovation, durability, and style. Speaking about the launch, Mr. Hideki Imai, Managing Director, Casio India, said, “We are thrilled to unveil our first Exclusive G-SHOCK Store in New Delhi, a city well-known for authentic style, creative expression, and diverse culture.

With the launch of this store, we are excited to bring our latest drops and a curated G-SHOCK range to the Delhi audiences. With superior craftsmanship and differentiated designs, G-SHOCK timepieces offer a compelling choice that resonate with the dynamic tastes and preferences of today’s audience. We look forward to welcoming our customers to our new store at Pacific Mall, Subhash Nagar.” Located at IK/1F/12, 1st Floor, Pacific Mall, Tagore Garden, New Delhi – 110027, the brand invites visitors to explore its newly curated space, where every corner embodies the ethos of ‘Absolute Toughness’ and celebrates the passion and creative expression of individuals from the realms of fashion, sports, art, music, and beyond.

The store is operational from 10:30 AM to 09:30 PM on all days of the week. G-SHOCK, the pioneering timepiece that revolutionized the very concept of toughness. In 1981, a daring challenge to prevailing norms ignited the genesis of G-SHOCK. Driven by Mr. Kikuo Ibe’s unwavering conviction that a watch could be crafted to withstand any shocks, Project Team Tough was formed to translate this vision into reality. Over a span of approximately two years, this team meticulously developed more than 200 prototypes.

Their resolute efforts culminated in the breakthrough shock-resistant yet sophisticated and streamlined architecture we know today. Since its inception, G-SHOCK has embarked on a relentless journey of evolution, ceaselessly pursuing greater resilience and bold stylish appeal across structure, materials, and functionalities. Envisioned in 1983, G-SHOCK now stands on the cusp of its 40th Anniversary in 2023, having left an indelible mark by retailing over 100 million watches across 100 nations. Strengthened by this remarkable legacy, G-SHOCK remains resolute in its quest for enduring strength, ever ready to conquer new frontiers of toughness.

About Casio India Co. Pvt. Ltd.: Casio India Co. Pvt. Ltd. (CIC) is the Indian subsidiary of Casio Computer Co., Ltd., Tokyo, Japan, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of consumer electronics and business equipment solutions. Casio India has established a dynamic presence in the Indian market since 1996, emerging as a leading and cherished consumer goods manufacturer.

Casio India’s range of products includes the sales and marketing of Timepieces, Electronic Musical Instruments, Desktop Calculators, Scientific Calculators, Label Printers, and Clocks. Setting the benchmark for excellence, Casio India is dedicated to embodying the spirit of innovation and quality that defines the Casio legacy. With a strong commitment to its corporate creed of “creativity and contribution,” Casio has consistently translated this ethos into the creation of innovative products making a positive impact on society.

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Indian real estate to surge to USD 1.5 trillion by 2034, says report

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The residential market is expected to be worth USD 906 billion by 2034 and the office sector USD 125 billion.

As per the report published on Friday, India’s real estate sector will be worth USD 1.5 trillion by 2034 as it grows three-fold from USD 482 billion now, with residential and commercial demand increasing. The sector’s share in the nation’s economic output is likely to rise to 10.5% in next 10 years from 7.3%, according to the ‘India Real Estate: A Decade From Now’ report by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and real estate consultancy Knight Frank. In 2015, the sector’s share in economic output was USD 279 billion.

Residential property demand is growing in the country, alongside the need for office space and an expanding hospitality and retail industry catering to the needs of a population with improving income. “Furthermore, expanding e-commerce is catalysing the demand for warehousing and storage facilities in India providing a thrust to the industry,” said the report. India’s growth in the next decade will depend on a growing young population, manufacturing, infrastructure and urban expansion. “Under favourable conditions for these drivers and assuming an annual 2% depreciation of the Rs (rupee) to $ (dollar) exchange rate, India’s gross domestic product could potentially reach USD 10.3 trillion by 2034,” it said.

The residential market is expected to be worth USD 906 billion by 2034 and the office sector USD 125 billion. The report estimated that in 10 years 42.5% of Indians will be living in urban centres. To meet the requirements of this population, India would need additional 78 million housing units in the next 10 years. A large number of the population will be in the lower middle and upper middle-income bracket that would need affordable housing as it transitions towards the mid segment. The share of high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth individual households is expected to rise from 3% to 9% by 2034, “driving significant demand” for luxury housing.

An additional 1.7 billion sq ft of office space would be required by 2034 to accommodate economic activity and the growth of the formal economy, said the report about commercial real estate. In office space, substantial growth would be driven by global capability centres (GCC). “By 2030, there will be an estimated 2,400 GCCs across India as [the country] emerges as a global technology and services hub. Assuming a similar pace of growth, the number of GCCs in India may scale up to 2880 by 2034,” it said.

India has around 1,700 GCCs now. Private equity (PE) in real estate will substantially increase: from around USD 3.1 billion in 2023 to USD 14.9 billion by 2034. “Emerging sectors such as data centers, healthcare, hospitality, co-living, and co-working spaces present promising avenues for private equity investors, driving the growth narrative in India for the coming years,” said the report.

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Indian tech startups see sharp drop in layoffs, down 60% in Q1

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Indian technology startups witnessed a notable decline in layoffs during the first quarter of the calendar year, according to data compiled by a tracking website. Despite ongoing economic challenges, layoffs in the sector reduced by 60% compared to the corresponding period last year, indicating a relatively stable employment landscape amidst evolving market dynamics.

The decline in layoffs coincided with a reduction in venture capital funding, as reported by layoffs.fyi. During the first quarter of 2023, 43 companies reportedly laid off 5,358 employees. Notable among these layoffs was edtech firm Byju’s, which terminated 1,500 employees across various departments including design, engineering, and production teams. Other prominent startups affected by layoffs included foodtech unicorn Swiggy, which underwent a company-wide restructuring resulting in 380 job losses, and social media platform ShareChat, which trimmed its workforce by 500 employees, constituting nearly 20% of its staff.

Additionally, Ola, MediBuddy, DealShare, MyGate UpGrad, and Pristyn Care were among the companies that laid off more than 100 employees each. In the current year, 11 startups-initiated layoffs in the first quarter, with ecommerce giant Flipkart letting go of approximately 1,100 employees as part of its annual performance reviews. Swiggy, in a separate instance, downsized its workforce by 400 employees, representing nearly 7% of its total workforce, in January. Other companies such as InMobi, Cure.fit, and Pristyn Care were also affected by layoffs.

The cycles of hiring and layoffs in the startup ecosystem are intricately linked to funding rounds and capital availability in the market. Last year, amid a funding winter, layoffs affected approximately 16,400 employees across 111 companies, whereas in 2021, a year characterized by heightened funding activity, layoffs amounted to nearly 4,000.

As funding rounds normalize this year, especially for early-stage companies, industry experts anticipate a reduction in layoffs and a more stable employment environment. Recent funding data from Tracxn Technologies indicates a 28% increase in early-stage funding rounds, despite declines in seed-stage and late-stage rounds, suggesting cautious optimism for the startup ecosystem moving forward.

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Business

India’s silver rush, imports surge to record high, expected to climb 66%

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In a significant development, India’s silver imports skyrocketed by a staggering 260% in February, reaching an all-time high. Government and industry officials disclosed to Reuters that this surge was primarily fuelled by substantial purchases from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), driven by lower duties on imports. With projections indicating a potential 66% increase in silver imports for the year, India’s status as the world’s largest silver consumer could significantly impact global prices, which are currently trading near their highest levels in three years.

According to a government official, India imported a record-breaking 2,295 metric tons of silver in February alone, marking a remarkable surge from 637 tons in January. Notably, a significant portion of these imports, totalling 939 tons, originated from the UAE as traders seized the opportunity to capitalize on the reduced import duties. Provisional data from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry revealed that India’s silver imports for the first two months of 2024 amounted to 2,932 tons, surpassing the total imports for the entirety of 2023, which stood at 3,625 tons.

This surge in imports led to an oversupply situation in the Indian market, resulting in local prices dipping into a discount and prompting banks to curtail imports significantly in March. Chirag Thakkar, CEO of Amrapali Group Gujarat, a prominent silver importer, attributed the spike in imports to the industry’s efforts to replenish depleted stocks from the previous year. He highlighted the cyclical nature of Indian silver imports, noting that following record-high purchases in 2022, imports had dipped in 2023, only to rebound strongly in 2024.

Thakkar further emphasized that robust demand from various sectors, including fabrication and solar industries, as well as increasing investment interest in silver, was expected to drive imports to approximately 6,000 tons in 2024. This surge in demand reflects growing confidence among investors in silver’s potential to deliver higher returns compared to gold.

Overall, India’s unprecedented silver imports underscore the country’s pivotal role in the global silver market and highlight the evolving dynamics of demand and supply in the precious metals industry. The surge in silver imports not only reflects India’s significant influence in the global precious metals market but also signifies the country’s evolving economic landscape and changing consumer preferences. With the Indian economy rebounding from the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, industries such as fabrication and solar are driving robust demand for silver, further fuelling import growth.

Moreover, the increasing interest in silver as an investment avenue underscore shifting investor sentiments and a quest for diversification beyond traditional assets like gold. Silver’s potential for higher returns, coupled with its various industrial applications, positions it as an attractive asset class in today’s volatile market environment. The cyclical nature of India’s silver imports, as highlighted by industry experts, underscores the interplay of factors such as supply chain dynamics, regulatory policies, and market trends.

As the world’s largest silver consumer, India’s import patterns often serve as a barometer for global market sentiment, influencing prices and trade flows worldwide. Looking ahead, the trajectory of India’s silver imports in 2024 will be closely monitored by market participants, policymakers, and investors alike. Continued growth in demand, coupled with ongoing geopolitical and economic developments, is poised to shape the outlook for the global silver market and determine India’s role therein.

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