RBI calls for enhanced participation of Indian banks in global markets - Business Guardian
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RBI calls for enhanced participation of Indian banks in global markets



The Governor of Reserve Bank Shaktikanta Das has called for enhanced participation of Indian banks in global markets, which will growing, is yet quite small, and expressed concern over participation of domestic banks in derivative markets remaining limited with only a small set of active market makers. Domestic banks are dealing with market-makers in global markets rather than with end clients and are yet to emerge as market-makers of note globally, the RBI Governor said Monday at a global conference in Barcelona. These are among the six recommendations of the RBI Governor for the further development of India’s financial markets, which have seen a slew of reforms undertaken by the RBI and aimed at providing a strong bedrock for markets to move to the next trajectory for meeting the growing funding requirements in the economy, providing cost effective hedging options and competing effectively in global markets.

Providing the backdrop to RBI’s market reforms, Das recalled that the onset of the global financial crisis (2008) which altered the way the world looked at financial markets, played out at a time when India’s financial markets were just beginning to develop, buoyed by the needs of a growing economy and in the background of the transition to market-determined interest rates and exchange rates, convertibility in the current account and gradual liberalisation of the capital account. Despite significant institutional and market infrastructure developments like setting up of the Clearing Corporation of India Limited (CCIL) and the operationalization of RTGS, the NDS-OM platform and a trade repository for derivatives, markets remained in the early throes of development.

Bank-intermediated finance was the preferred funding option, diversity in financial products and participants was limited and the approach to foreign participation in domestic markets was guarded. At the same time, the economy’s growing aspirations was placing increasing demands on financial markets while successive global crises necessitated prudent risk management. Das emphasised that it was this context which provided the stage for the RBI’s efforts in recent years to develop the financial markets focused on meeting the needs of a more confident and aspirational economy. Das drive home the the RBI’s reform endeavours which have over the years fostered trust, stability and innovation by making capital raising more efficient, removing segmentation between onshore and offshore markets, expanding the participation base by easing access to markets for hedging and expressing views on market movements, promoting innovation through a larger suite of products and ensuring the integrity and resilience of markets and market infrastructure and ensuring fair conduct by market participants.

“There are, however, some areas which call for attention,” Das said While a lot of progress has been made by banks and other market participants, the six specific areas where more can be done include widening participation of domestic banks in derivative markets. Das suggests that that banks need to do their own due diligence, assess their risk appetite, and then move forward carefully in this direction with focus on enhancing and widening the participation of Indian players in markets for INR derivatives, both domestically and offshore, while being prudent. Another important call for action is that transparency in pricing remains work in progress and more can be done.

Das expressed concern that the retail customer is yet to get a deal at par with large customers which calls for effective marketmaking and finer pricing for smaller deals on NDS-OM. Besides, Das noted that divergence in pricing in FX markets for the small and large customers are wider than what can be justified by operational considerations and banks may need to do more to facilitate the use of the FX Retail platform. He cautioned that banking channels continue to be used by certain persons or entities to fund activities on unauthorised FX trading platforms. This warrants enhanced vigilance by the banks. The other recommendation pertained to bank treasuries which need to scale up their dynamism to utilise the opportunities presented in the context of the recent regulatory reforms.

According to Das, this is very critical for achieving efficient market intermediation, effective management of financial risks and alignment of financial variables across different segments and markets. Das informed that from FY 2024-25, the new prudential framework for investment by banks has come into effect which provide increased flexibility to banks in managing their treasuries and offer scope for increased efficiency, provided banks manage their treasury function actively. The framework of assessment of a bank’s treasury should take into account risks arising out of action and risks arising out of inaction i.e., missed opportunities. Das suggests appropriate safeguards be put in place to address the new challenges posed by new products, participants and markets.

For example, as sophisticated OTC derivative products are introduced, they must be accompanied by adoption of certain safeguards, both by the market-makers as well as customers. As Indian markets get integrated with global markets and non-resident participation increases, transmission channels from global developments will become stronger and speedier and this, Das observes, will require greater watchfulness and proactive management of the associated risks by market participants even as the opportunities are grabbed. Das concluded by highlighting the strong foundation laid down by RBI through development of the financial markets in a manner that can continue to meet the needs of a growing and globally connected economy while fostering trust, stability and innovation.

Moreover, according to the RBI Governor, financial markets has been sought to be promoted through market reforms which have focused on ensuring fair market conduct by preventing market abuse, fair customer conduct through robust market-marking regulations and ensuring price transparency and enhanced disclosures by market participants. Das underlined that achievement of desired outcomes will be contingent on financial institutions and market participants taking forward the reform agenda so that India has vibrant and internationally competitive financial markets. Das set collaboration to usher in the next generation reforms to place India at a position it rightly deserves as the agenda for the next decade coinciding with 100 years of RBI.

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Paytm makes Easy Everyday Payments with UPI Lite (Up to Rs 4,000, No PIN)




In a strategic move aimed at enhancing user experience and streamlining everyday payments, One97 Communications Limited, the parent company of the renowned fintech giant Paytm, has unveiled its latest offering: Paytm UPI Lite wallet. With a sharp focus on catering to users who prefer wallets for low-value transactions, Paytm UPI Lite presents itself as an on-device wallet solution, promising swift, secure, and reliable payments without the need for a PIN.

The key highlight of Paytm UPI Lite lies in its agility in processing transactions, with the capability to facilitate instant and fail-proof payments of up to Rs 500 per transaction. This feature particularly appeals to individuals engaged in frequent small-scale transactions, such as purchasing groceries, paying for parking, or covering daily commute expenses. Moreover, Paytm UPI Lite ensures a clutter-free bank statement, consolidating multiple transactions into a single entry, thereby simplifying financial tracking for users seeking a streamlined overview of their expenditures.

To further enhance convenience, Paytm allows users to add funds to their UPI Lite wallet, up to Rs 2,000 twice a day, culminating in a total daily capacity of Rs 4,000. This flexibility empowers users to manage their daily expenses efficiently, eliminating the inconvenience associated with multiple entries in their bank passbooks. Additionally, the absence of a PIN requirement adds to the ease of use, ensuring hassle-free transactions for users.

Activating UPI Lite payments on the Paytm app is a straightforward process. Users can navigate to the ‘UPI Lite Activate’ icon on the homepage, select their preferred bank account, specify the desired amount to be added to the UPI Lite wallet, and validate the MPIN to create their account. Once set up, the UPI Lite wallet facilitates seamless one-tap payments, simplifying the transaction process for users.

Facilitating this initiative, Paytm has collaborated with leading Payment System Providers (PSPs) including Axis Bank, HDFC Bank, State Bank of India (SBI), and YES Bank. This collaboration ensures a robust framework for UPI transactions, reinforcing the reliability and security of Paytm UPI Lite.

A spokesperson for Paytm emphasized the significance of wallets as essential payment tools, enabling users to conveniently manage everyday expenses and execute quick payments on the go. Paytm UPI Lite represents a significant advancement in this regard, offering faster transactions at local stores, street vendors, and for routine purchases, while simultaneously maintaining clarity in bank statements. The spokesperson reiterated Paytm’s commitment to expanding the UPI ecosystem in collaboration with the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), aiming to penetrate every corner of the country with this innovative solution.

The introduction of Paytm UPI Lite underscores the company’s unwavering dedication to enhancing user experience and revolutionizing digital payments in India. With its emphasis on speed, security, and convenience, Paytm UPI Lite is poised to become a preferred choice for users seeking a hassle-free and efficient payment solution for their everyday transactions.

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




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



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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Price hike for home-cooked veg thalis, up 8% compared to last year



The cost of a home-cooked vegetarian thali witnessed an 8 per cent increase in April compared to the same month last year, reaching Rs 27.4 from Rs 25.4, as reported on Wednesday. Conversely, the cost of a non-vegetarian thali experienced a 4 per cent decline to Rs 56.3 from Rs 58.9, attributed to a reduction in broiler prices, according to CRISIL’s ‘Roti Rice Rate’ report.

The vegetarian thali typically comprises roti, onion, tomato, potato, rice, dal, curd, and salad, while the non-vegetarian variant substitutes dal with chicken (broiler). These calculations are based on input prices from North, South, East, and West India.

CRISIL attributed the surge in prices to lower onion arrivals due to a significant drop in rabi acreage and crop damage in West Bengal, affecting potato yields. Furthermore, rice and pulses recorded price hikes of 14 per cent and 20 per cent year-on-year (Y-o-Y), respectively.

Despite these increases, the escalation was mitigated by declines in cumin (jeera), chili, and vegetable oil prices, which decreased by 40 per cent, 31 per cent, and 10 per cent, respectively. This prevented a more pronounced rise in the cost of the vegetarian thali.

Meanwhile, the cost of broiler chicken declined by 12 per cent Y-o-Y, contributing to the affordability of the non-vegetarian thali. Broiler chicken constitutes 50 per cent of the total thali cost.

Sequentially, the price of a vegetarian thali in April remained stagnant due to a 4 per cent reduction in onion prices and a 3 per cent fall in fuel costs. However, prices of tomatoes and potatoes continued to rise. In contrast, the cost of a non-vegetarian thali increased by 3 per cent compared to March due to heightened broiler demand and rising input costs.

Pushan Sharma, Director of Research at CRISIL Market Intelligence and Analytics, suggested that vegetable prices are likely to remain elevated in the near future. He noted a divergence in prices between vegetarian and non-vegetarian thalis since November 2023, with the former becoming costlier year-on-year while the latter becomes more affordable. This trend is primarily driven by declining broiler prices juxtaposed with rising vegetable costs.

Looking ahead, Sharma anticipated firm vegetable prices, though a projected decline in wheat and pulses prices could provide some relief.

The report also provided a historical overview of thali costs over the past year, highlighting fluctuations in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian variants. For instance, in April 2023, the vegetarian thali cost Rs 25.4, while the non-vegetarian counterpart was priced at Rs 58.9. These figures fluctuated over subsequent months, with varying impacts on consumers.

Such insights offer valuable perspectives for policymakers, economists, and consumers alike, enabling them to discern trends, anticipate market movements, and make informed decisions. As food prices continue to fluctuate, stakeholders across the supply chain must remain vigilant, adaptive, and responsive to changing dynamics to ensure food affordability and accessibility for all segments of society.

All in all, the CRISIL report sheds light on the intricate dynamics influencing thali prices, underscoring the interplay between supply, demand, and external factors such as crop yields, weather conditions, and input costs. As India grapples with inflationary pressures, particularly in the food sector, concerted efforts are needed to address structural challenges, enhance agricultural productivity, and foster sustainable food systems to safeguard the well-being and livelihoods of millions.

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India and Ghana to launch mobile payments system within 6 months



In a landmark move aimed at fostering closer economic ties, India and Ghana have agreed to expedite the process of linking their respective payment systems. The agreement, reached during a Joint Trade Committee (JTC) meeting held in Accra from May 2-3, signifies a significant step forward in facilitating seamless financial transactions between the two nations.

The primary focus of the discussions centered around integrating India’s Unified Payment Interface (UPI) with Ghana’s Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems (GHIPSS) within a timeframe of six months. Once implemented, this linkage will enable users in both countries to conduct instant fund transfers, thereby enhancing convenience and efficiency in cross-border transactions.

India’s push for UPI integration extends beyond Ghana, with similar arrangements already in place with countries such as France, UAE, Sri Lanka, and Mauritius. This strategic expansion underscores India’s commitment to leveraging its advanced payment infrastructure to facilitate international trade and financial interactions.

In addition to the UPI-GHIPSS linkage, both nations explored avenues for further collaboration in digital transformation solutions. Discussions also encompassed the prospect of establishing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on various fronts, including the Local Currency Settlement System (LCCS). LCCS facilitates cross-border transactions in local currencies, thereby reducing reliance on third-party currencies such as the US dollar and fostering greater financial autonomy.

Furthermore, the deliberations underscored the potential synergies arising from the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, highlighting opportunities for enhanced bilateral trade and investment between India and Ghana.

The identified sectors for collaboration encompass a diverse range of industries, including pharmaceuticals, healthcare, information and communication technology (ICT), agriculture, food processing, renewable energy, power, digital economy, and digital infrastructure. This broad spectrum reflects the multifaceted nature of the bilateral relationship and the shared commitment to exploring new avenues for mutual growth and development.

India’s engagement with Ghana is part of its broader strategy to strengthen economic ties with African nations. Trade between India and Ghana reached $2.87 billion in the fiscal year 2022-23, underscoring the significance of the bilateral partnership.

Moreover, India’s proactive approach towards local currency settlement systems has garnered traction, with recent advancements including the fast-tracking of LCCS with Nigeria. This initiative aims to facilitate trade in domestic currencies and streamline capital and current account transactions between the two countries.

India’s efforts to promote direct currency trade extend beyond Africa, with initiatives underway in neighboring countries such as Nepal and Bhutan. Additionally, collaborations with nations like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka signal growing interest in exploring similar arrangements.

The adoption of local currency settlement mechanisms aligns with India’s broader objectives of enhancing financial autonomy and reducing dependency on traditional reserve currencies. Recent developments, including the initiation of Rupee-Dirham direct trade between India and the UAE, underscore India’s commitment to expanding the reach of its currency in global trade.

In conclusion, the agreement to link UPI with GHIPSS represents a significant milestone in India-Ghana economic relations, promising to facilitate seamless financial transactions and foster greater collaboration across various sectors. As both nations embark on this transformative journey, the prospects for deeper integration and mutual prosperity are bound to flourish, heralding a new era of economic cooperation and synergy between India and Ghana.

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GST collection for April’ 24 surges to Rs 2.10 lakh cr, posts 12.4% y-o-y growth



The GST collection figures, notes Aditi Nayar, Chief Economist, ICRA, displays an impressive double-digit expansion and reflecting the collections for the previous month, which typically include year-end adjustments made by the taxpayers.

Underscoring the robust health of the Indian economy, gross Goods and Services Tax (GST) collections hit a record high in April 2024 at ₹2.10 lakh crore, representing a significant 12.4 per cent year-on-year growth. The surge was driven by a strong increase in domestic transactions which registered 13.4 per cent increase and imports which accounted for 8.3 per cent increase, the Finance Ministry said on Wednesday. After accounting for refunds, the net GST revenue for April 2024 stands at ₹1.92 lakh crore, reflecting an impressive 15.5 per cent growth compared to the same period last year.

“GST collection crosses ₹ 2 lakh crore benchmark,” said Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in a tweet, attributing the achievement to “the strong momentum in the economy and efficient tax collections. “Congratulations to the Central Board of Indirect Taxes & Customs, Department of Revenue, all officers at the state and central levels. Their sincere and collaborative efforts has achieved this landmark,“ Sitharaman said. The finer print of April 2024 collections reflects positive performance across components with Central GST (CGST) at ₹43,846 crore and state GST (SGST) at ₹53,538 crore. The integrated GST (IGST) collection was ₹99,623 crore, including ₹37,826 crore collected on imported goods.

The cess collection was ₹13,260 crore, including ₹1,008 crore collected on imported goods. The GST collection figures, notes Aditi Nayar, Chief Economist, ICRA, displays an impressive double-digit expansion and reflecting the collections for the previous month, which typically include year-end adjustments made by the taxpayers. In the month of April, 2024, the Central Government settled ₹50,307 crore to CGST and ₹41,600 crore to SGST from the IGST collected. This translates to a total revenue of ₹94,153 crore for CGST and ₹95,138 crore for SGST for April 2024 after regular settlement. “This IGST settlement of ₹91907 crore is ₹4,413 crore more than the actual net IGST collections of ₹87,494 crore and stands settled by the Central Government. There are no dues pending on account of IGST settlement to the states,” the Finance Ministry said.

Economists have lauded the GST collections with Shravan Shetty, Managing Director at Primus Partners observing that the 12.4 per cent y-o-y increase in GST points to the fact that growth is driven by both an increase in goods produced and the formalisation of the economy driven by increasing compliance. “April typically has the highest collection of GST in a year as seen last year,” points out Shetty, who expects coming months to be close to the 1.7-2 lakh crore mark which should pick up as India enters the festive season post rainy season.

Key factors to consider for the coming months, as per Shetty, would be the current heat wave and the impact of it on manufacturing and services output. “Also, the coming monsoon will impact the agricultural and rural economy which will determine GDP growth and GST collections in the second half of the year,” Shetty adds. Nayar anticipates that the CGST collections exceeded the FY2024 revised estimate by Rs 250- 300 billion, suggesting an embedded growth of 9 per cent to meet the target set in the Interim Budget Estimates for FY2025,” said Nayar. According to the Finance Ministry’s monthly economic review last month, March 2024 witnessed a significant milestone in India’s tax revenue landscape, particularly in GST collections.

The gross GST revenue for the month stood at an impressive ₹1.78 lakh crore, a substantial 11.5 per cent year-on-year growth. The increase was primarily driven by domestic transactions that witnessed a huge surge. Collection from domestic transactions signifies a buoyant domestic economic landscape, instilling optimism and bolstering overall revenue accruals.

Furthermore, the steady rise in average monthly collections by approximately ₹18,000 crore throughout the year underscores a compelling narrative of robust growth and economic recovery. With March concluding the fiscal year 2024, the uptick in GST collections not only reflects robust compliance but also signifies an expansion in the ambit of GST, covering a broader spectrum of economic activities within its purview, the Finance Ministry said.

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