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India’s digital economy to drive 20% of GDP by 2026

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Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar, while addressing the ‘Startup Conclave 2023’ organized by the Gujarat government, emphasized India’s digital transformation and its burgeoning role in the global tech landscape. Chandrasekhar projected that the digital economy is poised to contribute 20% to India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2026, a substantial increase from its current 11% and a significant leap from 4.5% in 2014.

Highlighting the impact of the ‘Digital India’ program launched in 2015 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chandrasekhar credited the initiative for reshaping India’s economic and innovation landscape. He noted that India has shifted gears from being a technology consumer to a producer of devices, products, and platforms for the world.

The minister underscored the transformation of India’s economy, moving from a scenario dominated by a few segments to becoming highly diversified. He lauded the country’s status as the fastest-growing digital economy globally, crediting Prime Minister Modi’s leadership for the remarkable strides made in the innovation and technology sector.

Chandrasekhar painted an optimistic picture for the future, asserting that the forthcoming decade will offer unprecedented opportunities for startups and innovation. He deemed the current era as the most exciting phase in independent India’s history, particularly in terms of technological growth and innovation.

The ‘Startup Conclave 2023’, orchestrated by Gujarat’s Education department, aims to unite startup innovators and investors, fostering idea exchanges and opportunities. The event’s agenda includes sessions, masterclasses, and networking platforms, facilitating collaborations and nurturing the startup ecosystem, as highlighted by Higher and Technical Education Minister Rushikesh Patel.

Chandrasekhar’s assertions and the efforts initiated by the conclave in Gujarat underpin India’s ambitious aspirations in the digital realm, striving to propel the nation as a global leader in technological innovation and entrepreneurship.

Chandrasekhar’s vision aligns with India’s steadfast pursuit of digital innovation, which has witnessed a transformative trajectory over the past decade. The country’s evolution from a technology-consuming market to a thriving hub of tech innovation and production echoes its commitment to carving a distinct niche in the global digital landscape.

India’s digital journey, propelled by initiatives like ‘Digital India’, has fostered an environment conducive to fostering startups and technological advancements. The emphasis on diversification and innovation in the economy reflects the government’s proactive measures to create an enabling ecosystem, amplifying opportunities for budding entrepreneurs and tech-driven enterprises.

The ‘Startup Conclave 2023’ in Gujarat stands as a testament to the collaborative efforts aimed at nurturing and empowering the burgeoning startup culture in the country. By fostering dialogue, knowledge sharing, and networking opportunities, such initiatives pave the way for inclusive growth, fostering a robust ecosystem that fuels India’s march toward a digital-centric economy.

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Elon Musk: New X users may face annual posting fee

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Elon Musk revealed that new users could face fees for posting content on the social platform X (previously known as Twitter). In response to a user inquiry on the platform, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX clarified that introducing “a modest fee for new user write access” is essential in addressing the ongoing challenge posed by bots. Regrettably, instituting a nominal fee for new user write access is the sole method to deter the continual barrage of bots. Current AI (and troll farms) can pass “are you a bot” with ease.

Musk was responding to a tweet made by the X Daily News which had posted a notice by the platform stating that new accounts are required to pay a “small annual fee” before being able to “post, like, bookmark, and reply”. The notice added that this was to “reduce spam” and “create a better experience for everyone.” Users can, however, continue to follow accounts for free. “The onslaught of fake accounts also uses up the available namespace, so many good handles are taken as a result,” Musk explained in his response.

Musk also highlighted that current AI can easily bypass traditional bot detection measures. “Current AI (and troll farms) can pass ‘are you a bot’ with ease,” he said. Emphasizing that this measure targets new users exclusively, Musk clarified that after a probationary period of three months, users would regain free write access. This announcement follows the platform’s decision last October to charge new unverified users in New Zealand and the Philippines a fee of $1 per year. Recently, X initiated a massive purge of spam accounts, resulting in some users losing followers. The platform has been grappling with an influx of spam and porn bots in recent months, prompting Musk to initiate the purge.

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Microsoft invests $1.5 bn in UAE’s G42 AI firm, secures minority stake

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Announced yesterday (15 April), the deal will give Microsoft a minority stake in the company that is currently the leading AI firm in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

According to a statement released on Tuesday, Microsoft is set to invest $1.5 billion in G42, an artificial intelligence company based in the United Arab Emirates. This investment will provide the US tech giant with a minority stake in G42 and a position on its board of directors. Under the partnership, G42 will run its AI applications and services on Microsoft’s cloud computing platform Azure to deliver advanced AI solutions to global public sector clients and large enterprises. Microsoft President Brad Smith, who will take a seat on G42’s board, said “We will combine world-class technology with world leading standards for safe, trusted, and responsible AI, in close coordination with the governments of both the UAE and the United States.”

The firms will work together to bring advanced AI and digital infrastructure to countries in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa. The partnership comes amid Washington’s efforts to hobble Beijing’s technological advances, with the US adding four Chinese companies to an export blacklist for seeking to acquire AI chips for China’s military. G42 had divested its investments in China and began the lengthy task of pulling out Chinese hardware amid US concerns over its relationship with Chinese businesses. Microsoft and G42 will support the establishment of a $1 billion fund for developers to boost AI skills in the UAE and broader region. The partnership stipulates several safeguards for the AI technologies shared with G42.

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Samsung reclaims smartphone crown as Apple shipments slide

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According to data from the International Data Corporation (IDC), smartphone shipments worldwide experienced a decline of 7.8% year-over-year in the first quarter of 2024 (1Q24), amounting to 289.4 million units. This downturn led to a reshuffling of the market, with Samsung surpassing Apple to become the leading smartphone provider once again. Apple’s smartphone shipments fell by approximately 10% in the first quarter, attributed to heightened competition from Android smartphone manufacturers vying for dominance.

Despite Apple’s strong performance in the preceding quarter, where it briefly claimed the top spot, it slid back to second place with a market share of 17.3%. On the other hand, Samsung saw a marginal decrease of 0.7% in shipments, retaining its position as the leading smartphone seller globally with a market share of 20.8%. The resurgence of Chinese brands like Xiaomi and Transsion contributed to the competitive landscape, with Xiaomi experiencing a remarkable increase in sales of nearly 34% year-over-year.

Xiaomi, ranked third in terms of smartphone shipments during the quarter, reported robust growth, shipping 40.8 million units. Similarly, Transsion witnessed a substantial surge in shipments, marking an 85% increase compared to the previous year. The overall growth in smartphone shipments signifies a recovery in the market, despite prevailing macroeconomic challenges. Higher average selling prices indicate consumer preference for premium devices, reflecting a trend of holding onto smartphones for longer durations.

Apple’s slip in rankings underscores the dynamic nature of the smartphone market, where shifts in consumer preferences and competitive pressures influence market dynamics. As smartphone manufacturers navigate evolving trends and market conditions, the competition intensifies, driving innovation and strategic manoeuvres to secure market share. The rise of Chinese smartphone manufacturers, including Xiaomi and Transsion, has contributed significantly to the competitive landscape, challenging established players like Apple and Samsung.

Xiaomi’s aggressive expansion strategies and focus on offering feature-rich devices at competitive prices have resonated with consumers globally, driving its impressive sales growth. Transsion’s success can be attributed to its strong presence in emerging markets, particularly in Africa, where it has gained considerable market share by catering to the diverse needs of consumers with affordable yet reliable smartphone options. The evolving dynamics of the smartphone market underscore the importance of adaptability and innovation for manufacturers seeking to maintain their competitiveness.

As consumer preferences continue to shift and new technologies emerge, companies must anticipate and respond to these changes effectively to stay ahead of the curve. While Samsung reclaimed its position as the leading smartphone provider, the intensifying competition highlights the need for continued investment in research and development, marketing, and customer engagement to sustain growth and market relevance. Overall, the smartphone market remains dynamic and fiercely competitive, offering both challenges and opportunities for manufacturers. Success in this space hinges on a combination of factors, including product innovation, strategic partnerships, and agility in responding to market trends and consumer demands.

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US govt agrees to provide USD 6.4B to Samsung for making computer chips

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The Biden administration has solidified a groundbreaking agreement, earmarking up to $6.4 billion in direct funding to catalyze Samsung Electronics’ establishment of a cutting-edge computer chip manufacturing and research hub in Texas. This financial injection, revealed by the Commerce Department on Monday, forms a pivotal component of an overarching investment in the cluster, projected to soar beyond $40 billion when supplemented by private capital.

This government backing emanates from the CHIPS and Science Act, a legislative cornerstone inked by President Joe Biden in 2022, aimed at reinvigorating the domestic production of sophisticated computer chips. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo hailed the proposed endeavor as a catalyst poised to elevate Texas into a preeminent semiconductor ecosystem. Speaking during a briefing with journalists, Raimondo underscored its pivotal role in aligning with the administration’s ambitious objective of domestically manufacturing 20% of the world’s foremost chips by the decade’s end. Anticipated job creation also looms large, with Raimondo forecasting a surge of at least 17,000 construction positions and over 4,500 manufacturing roles in the wake of the project’s realization.

Samsung’s envisaged cluster, nestled in Taylor, Texas, comprises two pivotal factories slated to churn out four- and two-nanometer chips, alongside a dedicated research and development facility and a component packaging plant. According to government timelines, the inaugural factory is slated to commence operations in 2026, with its successor following suit in 2027. The funding package also encompasses an expansion initiative targeting an extant Samsung establishment in Austin, Texas.

Lael Brainard, helming the White House National Economic Council, underscored a crucial strategic dividend stemming from Samsung’s foray into Austin: the ability to directly furnish chips to the Defense Department. In an era marked by escalating geopolitical tensions and a burgeoning rivalry between the United States and China, securing access to advanced chip technology assumes paramount significance, attested by Brainard.

In tandem with the $6.4 billion allocation, Samsung is poised to leverage an investment tax credit from the U.S. Treasury Department, further cementing the partnership’s financial underpinnings. Notably, this collaboration represents a broader trend, with the government previously delineating terms to buttress other chip behemoths such as Intel and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. across multifarious projects dispersed across the nation.

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Ramkrishna Forgings gets Rs 270 cr order for Vande Bharat train-set

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Ramkrishna Forgings Limited, one of the leading suppliers of rolled, forged, and machined products has received a significant order for Vande Bharat train-set valued at INR 270 crore. The order will be supplied to the BHEL TRSL consortium, marking a pivotal moment in the company’s journey towards excellence in rail infrastructure development.

The scope of this project involves the development and validation of the bogie frame for the sleeper version of the Vande Bharat trainset. This order encompasses 32 train sets, each comprising 16 coaches. Consequently, RKFL will be producing a total of 1024 bogie frames, showcasing the company’s capacity to handle large-scale and intricate manufacturing requirements.

Says Lalit Kumar Khetan, Director & CFO, “Receiving this order underscores the company’s dedication to providing top-notch solutions for the railway industry. We are honoured to support the Government’s “Make in India” initiative and the advancement of rail transport in the country by leveraging our expertise in manufacturing high-quality bogie frames.”

Ramkrishna Forging has a proven track record in precision engineering and adherence to stringent quality standards and in ensuring timely delivery and exceeding customer expectations. The company was incorporated in 1981 with the objective to manufacture forged products. The annualized installed capacity after commissioning of hollow spindle line, a new 7000 ton press line, a 2000 ton warm/hot forming press and a fabrication facility is 187,100 MT.

Headquartered at Kolkata, the company has state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities at Jamshedpur along with offices at Detroit in USA, Toluca and Monterrey in Mexico, Istanbul in Turkey having warehousing facilities at Hagerstown, Louisville, Detroit in USA, Toluca, Monterrey in Mexico and Westerloo in Belgium.

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India’s overall exports in FY24 at $ 776.68 bn passes FY23 nos, trade deficit improves 35.77 %

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Overall trade deficit significantly improved by 35.77 per cent to USD 78.12 billion in FY24 from USD 121.62 billion in FY23.

Despite persistent global challenges, India’s overall exports (merchandise + services) in financial year 2023-24 (FY24) reached USD 776.68 billion, surpassing the USD 776.40 billion of overall exports achieved in 2022- 23 (FY23) with a growth of 0.04 per cent year-on-year as electronic goods, drugs and pharmaceuticals, engineering goods, iron ore, cotton yarn/fabs./made-ups, handloom products etc. and ceramic products and glassware delivered strong numbers. Overall imports in FY24 (April-March) declined 4.81 per cent at USD 854.80 billion. Overall trade deficit significantly improved by 35.77 per cent to USD 78.12 billion in FY24 from USD 121.62 billion in FY23.

The country’s robust performance in external trade is underlined by the highest monthly merchandise exports in March 2024 at USD 41.68 billion as compared to USD 41.96 billion in March 2023 while imports were USD 57.28Billion, as compared to USD 60.92 billion in March 2023. Services maintained upward momentum with India exporting USD 339.62 billion of services in FY24 compared to USD 325.33 billion in FY23. The country achieved services trade surplus of USD 162.05 billion in FY24 with services imports coming at USD 177.56 billion in FY24 as compared to USD 182.05 billion in FY23.

Ashwani Kumar, President, FIEO points out that the achievement in overall export figures for the FY24 is impressive despite Russia Ukraine war, Red Sea crisis, tight monetary stance by the developed world and falling commodity prices posing challenges. Aditi Nayar Chief Economist ICRA notes that India’s merchandise trade deficit eased to an 11-month low of USD15.6 billion in March 2024, led by a larger yoy decline in merchandise imports vis-à-vis such exports, while also trailing the levels seen in the year-ago month. This comes amid a halving of gold imports and a fall in non-oil non-gold imports. “This is expected to augur well for the current account number in Q4 FY2024, which may witness a small, transient surplus of USD1-2 billion in the quarter,” says Nayar.

On a slight downside, in FY24, merchandise exports declined to USD 437.06 billion as against USD 451.07 billion during FY23 while imports came down to USD 677.24 billion as against USD 715.97 billion during FY 23. This however, lowered merchandise trade deficit for FY 24 at estimated at USD 240.17 billion as against USD 264.90 billion during FY 23. India’s exports of merchandise and services combined in March 2024 at USD 70.21 billion also dipped 3.01 per cent over March 2023 while overall imports in March 2024 at USD 73.12 billion, exhibited a negative growth of 6.11 per cent over March 2023. Overall trade deficit is estimated to significantly improve by 35.77% from USD 121.62 Billion in FY 2022-23 to USD 78.12 Billion in FY 2023-24; Merchandise trade deficit improves by 9.33% at USD 240.17 Billion in the current FY as compared to USD 264.90 Billion in FY 2022-23.

Among main drivers of merchandise export growth in FY 2023-24, non-petroleum and non-gems and jewellery goods which comprises basket of gold, silver and precious metals, grew to USD 33.67 billion, compared to USD 30.87 billion in March 2023. The same basket of imports in March 2024 were USD 35.21 billion, compared to USD 36.51 billion in March 2023. In FY24, non-petroleum and non-gems and jewellery exports increased by 1.45 per cent to USD 320.21 billion, as compared to USD 315.64 billion in FY23. The imports of this basket of goods were USD 422.80 billion in FY24 compared to USD 435.54 billion in FY23.

In a sectoral show of strength, electronic goods exports increased by 23.64 per cent from USD 23.55 billion in FY 2022-23 to USD 29.12 billion in FY 2023-24 while drugs and pharmaceuticals exports increase by 9.67 per cent from USD 25.39 billion in FY 2022-23 to USD 27.85 billion in FY 2023- 24. Engineering goods exports increased by 2.13 per cent from USD 107.04 billion in FY 2022-23 to USD 109.32 billion in FY 2023-24. Exports of agricultural commodities namely tobacco grew 19.46 per cent, fruits and vegetables grew 13.86 per cent, meat, dairy and poultry products grew 12.34 per cent, spices grew 12.30 per cent, cereal preparations and miscellaneous processed items grew 8.96 per cent, oil seeds grew 7.43 per cent and oil meals exhibited positive growth of 7.01 per cent.

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