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Government weighs doubling cash support for women farmers

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Ahead of the impending general election, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is reportedly contemplating a substantial increase in annual payouts to female landowning farmers, aiming to double the amount to Rs 12,000. Sources familiar with the matter revealed this potential move, suggesting it as a strategic step likely to resonate with women voters.

Expected to be formally announced during the upcoming budget on February 1, this proposal could incur an additional expenditure of Rs 12,000 crore for the government, as stated by the sources, who opted for anonymity while discussing a budgetary proposal.

This augmentation seeks to enhance an existing initiative, the “Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi” program, which currently disburses Rs 6,000 annually to both male and female farmers. Since its inception, this program has allocated over Rs 281,000 crore to more than 110 million farmers across 15 instalments until November last year, as per government estimates.

The revelation of doubling the financial support and directing it specifically towards women farmers is a fresh development in the ongoing discourse. While the agriculture ministry declined to comment on this, there was no response from the finance ministry to queries seeking their input.

India boasts over 260 million farmers, comprising a substantial voting demographic in the nation of 1.4 billion people. Despite women constituting 60% of these farmers, only a minority—less than 13%—own the land they cultivate, as per government data.

Sources familiar with the matter indicated that enlarging the financial assistance for women farmers would not significantly impact government finances, considering the relatively small proportion in the estimated $550 billion budget.

Notably, women have been a crucial support base for Prime Minister Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), especially considering the anticipation surrounding the upcoming elections. Recent election results in states like Madhya Pradesh showcased substantial female support for the BJP, where the party won a notable 51% of the female vote compared to 46.2% of the male vote, owing in part to a cash transfer program for married women implemented by the BJP government.

This move signals a strategic manoeuvre by the government to potentially garner support from female voters and underscores efforts to address gender disparities within the agricultural sector ahead of the imminent general elections.

This potential augmentation in annual payouts to female landowning farmers, doubling the amount to Rs 12,000, represents a strategic move by the Indian government ahead of the looming general elections. Aimed at appealing to women voters, this proposal underscores efforts to address gender disparities within the agricultural sector and signals a proactive step toward empowering female farmers in the country’s socio-economic landscape.

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India’s PV sales in April grow modestly by 1.3 per cent at 3.36 lakh units

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India’s wholesales of passenger cars in April registered a marginal growth of 1.3 per cent with 3.36 lakh units, as compared to April 2023 and yet continuing the highest ever monthly sales trend driven by positive consumer sentiments and festivities in this month. Sales of PVs were 3,31 lakh units in the corresponding month last year, the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) reported on Tuesday.

The total sales of all categories put together was approximately 25 per cent to 21,36,157 units during the month as compared with 17,12,812 units in April 2023, the SIAM monthly report showed. Vinod Aggarwal, President, SIAM feels 2024-25 has started on a reasonably good note for the auto industry, as all the segments have posted growth in April 2024. “Above normal monsoon rainfall, policy continuity post-elections and Government’s push on manufacturing and infrastructure would propel the overall economic growth which would help in continuing the auto sector’s growth trajectory,” said Aggarwal.

Continuing with the trends of Q4 of 2023-24, two-wheelers reported significant yoy growth of 30.8 per cent in April 2024, compared to April 2023, posting sales of about 17.51 lakh units. Two-wheeler sales in April 2023 were 13,38,588 units. The SIAM data shows motorcycle sales grew by 34.4 per cent y-o-y to 11,28,192 units as compared with 8,39,274 units in April 2023. Similarly, scooter sales grew by 25.2 per cent y-o-y to 5,81,277 units as against 4,64,389 units in the same month last year.

The three-wheeler segment also reported sales of about 0.49 lakh units, with a growth of 14.5 per cent in April 2024, compared to April 2023. Three-wheeler sales in the domestic market were 49,116 units in April 2024. The total production of passenger vehicles, three-wheelers, two-wheelers and quadricycle in April 2024 was 23,58,041 units.

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Singapore retailer to operate duty-free shops at Noida Airport

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Heinemann will run duty-free stores at Noida International Airport, while BWC Forwarders will manage domestic retail and international duty-paid retail.

Noida International Airport (NIA) has granted the concession for retail and duty-free operations to a consortium led by Heinemann Asia Pacific and BWC Forwarders Private Limited. Heinemann will oversee duty-free stores, while BWC Forwarders will handle domestic retail and international duty-paid retail operations. Passengers at NIA will have access to Heinemann-branded stores throughout the airport. The domestic retail area will showcase a wide array of top international brands and well-known Indian labels.

The retail outlets at NIA will also showcase elements of local culture and heritage, highlighting the artisanal traditions of Uttar Pradesh. A curated collection of elegant regional artifacts, textiles, woodwork, jewelry, and metalwork sourced locally will provide passengers with a glimpse into the rich cultural tapestry of the region.

Meanwhile, the international duty-free outlet at NIA will offer a wide array of premium brands across categories such as liquors, tobacco, confectionery, perfumes, cosmetics, fragrances, and chocolates. Additionally, passengers can explore fashion accessories, regional handicrafts, souvenirs, ayurvedic products, packaged food, teas, coffees, and spices, ensuring a delightful shopping experience amidst their travels.

Speaking on the development, Christoph Schnellmann, chief executive officer of NIA, said, “As we continue to develop Noida International Airport into a world-class facility, this partnership will provide a seamless blend of duty-free and retail shopping, catering to the diverse needs of our travelers. This will enable access to an array of premium and experiential options that will ensure our passengers’ time at the airport is both enjoyable and memorable. We believe this collaboration will set a new standard for airport retail, creating an unparalleled shopping experience for travelers at Noida International Airport.”

“The Indian growth story, particularly when it comes to travel and aviation, is an extremely exciting onwards and upwards journey to be a part of. We deeply thank the NIA team for their trust in appointing us as their very first retail partners. Together with BWC, we look forward to crafting an exceptional retail environment at Noida, and to continuously grow our shared business in India for the long term,” Marvin von Plato, chief executive officer of Heinemann Asia Pacific, added.

Noida International Airport’s first phase is anticipated to handle a capacity of 12 million passengers annually. NIA’s future development phases will enable it to cater to up to 70 million passengers per year.

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Amazon’s new seller fees criticized as a ‘Kick in the Gut’

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Amazon.com Inc. merchants are facing significant economic pressure. Earlier this year, the e-commerce giant implemented fee changes, effectively transferring more operating costs onto the small businesses that constitute the majority of its product sellers. Additionally, merchants are grappling with a trend of consumers opting for cheaper products across various categories in the first four months of the year, as reported by Adobe Inc. This shift towards lower-priced items makes it challenging for merchants to increase prices and maintain profitability online.

Duncan Freer, who sells weighted blankets and sleep masks on Amazon, expects his profit margin to slide to 8% from 20% as a result of the new fees. One, imposed in March, charges a levy on shipments sent to the company’s fulfillment centers. That will drive the cost of shipping two pallets of Freer’s products to Amazon to more than $800, up four-fold from what it cost him in October, he said. Amazon reduced the cost of fulfilling each customer order, but Freer said it only partially offsets the new fees.

“Amazon just keeps grabbing more and more,” said the Chicago businessman, whose sales on the marketplace amount to about $500,000 a year. “It’s like a kick in the gut.”

Amazon said the new fees are intended to reflect its own cost of distributing inventory around the US so more items can be delivered in just one day, which helps boost overall sales for online merchants. Some fees actually went down. In January, Amazon cut commissions for sellers of low-cost apparel, a move interpreted by merchants as an effort to blunt competition from Chinese fast-fashion startup Shein.

“When we announced these new fee changes in December, we estimated that sellers will on average see an increase of $0.15 per unit sold, which is significantly less than the average fee increases announced by other fulfillment service providers,” company spokeswoman Mira Dix said in an emailed statement. “As sellers are adapting to these changes we have seen that the actual impact is even lower, and many more sellers are seeing a decrease in the average fees that they are paying to Amazon.”

Still, many merchants say Amazon is mostly benefiting from the higher fees, an assertion reflected in the company’s earnings. Revenue from seller services, which includes the popular Fulfillment by Amazon logistics operation, increased at a faster rate than fulfillment expenses in each of the past seven quarters. Amazon’s seller services revenue of $34.6 billion for the period ended March 30 was up 36.5% from two years earlier, more than triple the pace of growth of its fulfillment costs, which were $22.3 billion in the period.

In last month’s earnings report, the cloud computing division’s strong performance overshadowed the growing tension between Amazon and its sellers. Amazon Web Services in the first quarter contributed more than 60% of the company’s operating income even though it accounts for less than 20% of revenue. But sales in the core e-commerce business grew at a slower pace than the number of units sold, another indication that consumers are watching their budgets.

Amazon’s marketplace model helps the company keep growing through a slowdown by charging fees for advertising and logistics. Antonio Bindi, a Brazilian businessman who has sold home storage and kitchen products on Amazon for five years, said the fee structure is getting increasingly complex. Of particular concern: a levy introduced in April charged when sellers’ inventory runs low. That’s on top of previous storage fees that increase when slow-selling inventory lingers in Amazon warehouses. It’s too much for his 20-person team to manage, so he’s whittling his catalog of 500 products down to 400 to simplify the operation. Five years ago, he said, “Amazon was a platform that would facilitate your business operations and let you focus on what you’re good at, like creating great products. You could just send your products to Amazon, and they’d take care of everything. Now you need an entire department to deal with the complexity. The costs are prohibitive.”

San Francisco seller Neil Ayton sells golf yardage books, yoga gear, and pickleball equipment. One of his most popular products is a yoga stick practitioners use to stretch. It was 59 inches, the longest it could be to avoid higher fee tier. Earlier this year, he noticed Amazon cut the size limit, and suddenly his yoga sticks were one inch too long. Shipping costs for each product jumped from $10 to $26, and Ayton began losing $3 per sale.

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Record-breaking IPL 2024: Star sports draws 510 mm viewers in 51 matches

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Disney Star, the broadcaster for the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024, announced a record viewership of 510 million for the initial 51 matches. As the Tata IPL 2024 approaches its finals with 17 matches remaining, cricket fever has soared to unprecedented levels, establishing new records both in the sport and in terms of viewership. According to data from the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), Star Sports, the broadcasting channel for IPL 2024 under Disney Star, has attracted 510 million viewers during the first 51 matches. This figure represents a 5% increase compared to the previous high recorded in 2019 for the same number of matches.

Additionally, the broadcaster has experienced an 18 per cent increase from the previous edition in terms of total watch time, with viewers spending a staggering 356,000 million minutes. Disney Star also witnessed a 19 per cent increase in TVR (television viewership rating) for the first 51 matches, compared to the 2021 season.

As the conclusion of the IPL 2024 league stage approaches, the competition for playoff berths is intensifying, with eight teams competing for the last four positions. Mumbai Indians and Punjab Kings are not in contention for the IPL 2024 playoffs race. Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals are striving for the top two spots, while Delhi Capitals and Lucknow Super Giants are locked in a battle for fourth place with 12 points each.

In a release, Disney Star said, “The Tata IPL 2024 season is reaching its fever pitch, and Star Sports is capturing the electrifying race to the playoffs with unique surround programming. The battle for the top four positions is set to go down to the wire, promising thrilling and exceptionally close matchups, making it one of the most compelling races in IPL history.

Disney Star is airing the Tata IPL 2024 across 14 channels in 10 languages. The marketing campaign for the 17th edition of the tournament, titled “Ajab IPL ke gazab rang,” revolves around the idea that a fan’s allegiance shines through during their team’s journey in the tournament, with each IPL moment resonating uniquely with diverse viewers.

This year, Star Sports has collaborated with Tata Play and Airtel Digital TV to provide IPL matches in 4K resolution and introduced value-added services.

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India’s industrial output slows to 4.9 % in March ’24, manufacturing, power rise

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India’s factory output, measured by the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), in March 2024 posted 4.9 per cent year-on-year growth, moderating from 5.6 per cent in February 2024 and ending fiscal 2024 on a sober note. The IIP growth was led by a robust expansion in electricity even as manufacturing growth rose to a five-month high, albeit on a very low base.

The growth rate of the mining sector for the month of March 2024 over March 2023 was 1.2 per cent, manufacturing grew 5.2 per cent yoy while the growth rate of electricity for the month of March 2024 was 8.6 per cent more than that in March 2023, as per Government data on Friday. Within the manufacturing sector, the top three positive sectoral contributors to the growth of IIP for the month of March 2024 are ‘basic metals with 7.7 per cent growth, pharmaceuticals, medicinal chemical and botanical products with growth of 16.7 per cent and manufacture of other transport equipment with growth of 25.4 per cent.

Dharmakirti Joshi, Chief Economist, CRISIL notes that the slowdown in March was driven by infrastructure and construction goods, which reflects moderating government capital expenditure at the end of the fiscal. “Among consumer products, while durables slowed, non-durables revived this month, hinting at a moderation in urban demand and a revival in rural demand,” says Joshi.

According to CRISIL, the IIP had increased to 5.7 per cent on-year in February from 4.1 per cent in January, boosted by healthy performance in both consumption and industrial sectors. Meanwhile, January’s reading was revised up from the previous estimate of 3.8 per cent as IIP growth picked up in all three subsectors of manufacturing, mining, and electricity.

Aditi Nayar, Chief Economist, ICRA sees the dip in IIP growth on expected lines as the leap-year effect faded. Nayar observes that the yoy growth in a majority of the available high-frequency indicators witnessed an uptick in April 2024, including vehicle registrations, generation of GST e-way bills, petrol sales which zoomed to a 22-month high of above 14.1 per cent from above 6.9 per cent, partly owing to increased movement in the run-up to General Elections), output of Coal India and electricity generation to a six-month high of more than 9.6 per cent from more than 8.1 per cent, owing to rise in temperatures. “In contrast, the yoy performance of diesel sales to more than 1.4 per cent from more than 3.1 per cent, cargo traffic at major ports to more than 1.3 per cent from more than 3.6 per cent and finished steel consumption to more than 9.4 per cent from more than 9.6 per cent, albeit remaining quite robust deteriorated in April 2024 relative to March 2024.

Government data also shows cumulative growth rate for the period of April-March 2023-24 over the corresponding period of the previous year at 5.8 per cent. The cumulative growth rate of mining for the period of April-March 2023-24 over the corresponding period of the previous year is 7.5 per cent, manufacturing growth was 5.5 per cent and electricity growth, yoy, for the period of April-March 2023-24 was 7.1 per cent.

Joshi foresees a likely slowdown in gross domestic product (GDP) with growth averaging 4.9 per cent in the fourth quarter, compared with 6.2 per cent in the third. On the positive side, as Joshi points out, rural demand, which was a key drag for consumption last fiscal, could revive this fiscal. While early weather forecasts predict a normal monsoon this year, the lagged impact of the Reserve Bank of India’s rate hikes and regulatory tightening of credit could have a moderating impact, especially for urban consumption,” says Joshi.

“A lower fiscal impulse this year is further expected to dial down the capex support to growth in fiscal 2025 as government targets reducing fiscal deficit to 5.1 per cent of GDP from 5.8 per cent of GDP previous fiscal. A pickup in private capex is critical to sustain the investment momentum,” suggests Joshi.

Due to these factors, CRISIL expects gross domestic product growth to moderate to 6.8 per cent in fiscal 2025 over 7.6 per cent estimated for the past year.

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Sovereign gold bonds shine as safe haven for Akshaya Tritiya, say Experts

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On the auspicious occasion of Akshaya Tritiya, celebrated with traditional zeal across India, the focus on the price of gold has intensified, particularly in Delhi where gold prices surged to Rs 71,240 per 10 grams of 24k gold on Friday.

This marked a noticeable increase compared to April 22, 2023, when the price stood at Rs 59,845 for the same quantity of gold. Kishore Narne, the Commodity head and executive director at Motilal Oswal group, attributed the significant gains in both gold and silver prices to geopolitical tensions and Central Bank purchases. He noted a 13 percent increase in gold prices and an 11 percent rise in silver prices Year-to-Date (YTD).

Narne highlighted that while there have been occasional price corrections in the gold market, the overall trend has been upward, with gold demonstrating a 10 percent Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) over the past 15 years.

Akshaya Tritiya, also known as Akti or Akha Teej, holds great cultural significance for Hindus and Jains, symbolizing prosperity, wealth, and new beginnings. Traditionally, it is believed that any investment or purchase made on this day will bring prosperity and good fortune, leading to a surge in gold purchases.

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