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Traders seek veggies from India

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In view of the skyrocketing prices of vegetables amid the ongoing floods and relentless monsoon rain across Pakistan, the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) on Tuesday demanded the government to give permission for vegetable import from India through Wagah border.

LCCI president Nauman Kabir urged the government to grant permission to import vegetables from India to control its prices.

“The recent floods have destroyed crops of tomato, onion, potato and other vegetables across the country,” he said, adding that the crisis is expected to prevail for the next three months. The vegetable crisis could further worsen in September, October and November, he added.

It will take a few days to transport vegetables from India to Pakistan via the Wagah border, Geo News reported. The grocery vendors are charging exorbitant prices from consumers amid the countrywide floods triggered by torrential rains.

The traders are making hefty profits at a time when the death toll from the relentless monsoon rains has exceeded the 1,100-mark and inflicting $10 billion loss on the country’s economy.

According to the details, tomato is being sold at 250 PKR per kg in the market while its official price is 190 PKR per kg.

Similarly, the vendors are selling onion at 300 PKR to 320 PKR per kg while the commodity’s rate was fixed at 290 PKR by the authorities, Geo News reported.

Potatoes are being sold at 120 PKR to 140 PKR per kg instead of its official rate of 100 PKR per kg.

Ginger’s official rate is 360 PKR per kg but it is available for 380 PKR per kg in the market.

Garlic is being sold at 250 PKR per kg while its official rate is 200 PKR per kg.

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State-owned retailers IOC, BPCL, HPCL record Rs 81,000 cr profit in FY24

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State-owned fuel retailers Indian Oil Corporation, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd, and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd collectively recorded robust profits amounting to approximately Rs 81,000 crore in FY24. This figure significantly surpassed their annual earnings in the years preceding the oil crisis. Regulatory filings revealed that the combined standalone net profit of IOC, BPCL, and HPCL during April 2023 to March 2024 (FY24) surpassed their annual earnings of Rs 39,356 crore in the pre-oil crisis years.

All the three companies posted the highest-ever standalone as well as consolidated net profit in FY24. The retailers have resisted calls to revert to daily price revision and pass on softening in rates to consumers on grounds that prices continue to be extremely volatile – rising on one day and falling on the other – and that they needed to recoup losses incurred in the year when they kept rates lower than cost.

IOC in 2023-24 posted a standalone net profit of Rs 39,618.84 crore, according to the company’s regulatory filing. This is compared with Rs 8,241.82 crore annual net profit in 2022-23. While the company could argue that FY23 was impacted by the oil crisis, the FY24 earnings are higher than even the pre-crisis years – Rs 24,184 crore net profit in 2021-22 and Rs 21,836 crore in 2020-21.

BPCL posted a net profit of Rs 26,673.50 crore in FY24, higher than Rs 1,870.10 crore earning in 2022-23 and Rs 8,788.73 crore in FY22. HPCL’s 2023-24 profit of Rs 14,693.83 crore is compared with a Rs 8,974.03 crore loss in FY23 and a profit of Rs 6,382.63 crore in 2021-22, according to the filings.

The losses in FY23 led to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announcing Rs 30,000 crore for IOC, BPCL, and HPCL to support their energy transition plans in her budget for 2023-24. Mid-way through the year, that support was halved to Rs 15,000 crore. The support which was to happen by way of equity infusion via a rights issue, hasn’t been given yet.

The trio of companies, commanding approximately 90 percent of India’s fuel market share, have “voluntarily” refrained from altering prices of petrol, diesel, and cooking gas (LPG) for the past two years. This decision has led to losses during periods of elevated input costs, but gains when raw material prices were lower.

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Air India Express Fires Cabin Crew After Mass Sick Leave Disrupts Flight

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The mass sick leave, deemed premeditated by management, disrupted over 95 flights, affecting 10,000 passengers and prompting the Civil Aviation Ministry to demand a report from Air India Express.

Amidst significant disruptions in flight operations, Air India Express has taken stern measures, terminating at least 25 cabin crew members following a sudden mass sick leave by nearly 300 employees. This unprecedented move came after hundreds of employees reported sick and failed to report to work, leading to widespread flight cancellations and delays.

Sources within the airline revealed that the management deemed the mass sick leave as a premeditated and coordinated absence from work without valid reasons, which violated the company’s employee service rules. This disruption impacted over 95 flights, affecting more than 10,000 passengers, prompting the Civil Aviation Ministry to seek a detailed report from Air India Express.

In response to the disruptions, Air India Express CEO, Aloke Singh, announced plans to reduce flight operations in the coming days to mitigate the impact. Singh emphasized that the actions of a few employees do not reflect the dedication of the majority of the cabin crew, who continue to serve with pride and commitment.

The termination of the cabin crew members was attributed to their violation of employment contract conditions, resulting in immediate dismissal from their positions. The airline management issued termination letters, stating that the employees’ actions caused inconvenience to passengers, disrupted flight schedules, and tarnished the company’s reputation.

Despite efforts to resolve the issues through discussions with the staff, including an ongoing meeting between the employees’ union, the labour commissioner, and the management, tensions remain high. The union has demanded the reinstatement of the sacked employees and raised concerns about unequal treatment and modifications in compensation packages.

The crisis at Air India Express comes at a challenging time for the Tata Group, which recently acquired Air India and is in the process of merging Air India Express with AIX Connect. The airline has assured passengers of its commitment to minimizing inconvenience and has offered refunds or rescheduling for affected flights.

Meanwhile, the Regional Labour Commissioner has intervened, highlighting genuine grievances raised by the employees and calling for corrective measures to address mismanagement and ensure harmonious industrial relations within the company.

Amidst the ongoing turmoil, Air India Express faces escalating challenges as the fallout from the mass sick leave intensifies. The abrupt termination of cabin crew members has sparked further discontent among employees, leading to heightened tensions within the organization.

The terminated employees’ union has vocally opposed the management’s decision, demanding the reinstatement of their colleagues and highlighting what they perceive as systemic issues within the company. Allegations of unequal treatment and discrepancies in compensation packages have further fueled the discontent among the workforce.

In response to the escalating situation, the Civil Aviation Ministry has been closely monitoring developments, underscoring the gravity of the crisis for both the airline and the passengers affected by the disruptions. The ministry’s intervention underscores the broader implications of the crisis, not only in terms of operational challenges but also regarding regulatory compliance and public perception.

The crisis at Air India Express comes at a critical juncture, with the Tata Group’s recent acquisition of Air India and ongoing efforts to streamline operations and enhance efficiency across its aviation portfolio. The disruption caused by the mass sick leave and subsequent terminations presents a significant setback to these efforts, highlighting the complexities of managing a large-scale merger and addressing the concerns of diverse stakeholder groups.

In addition to the immediate operational challenges, the crisis also raises broader questions about labour relations, corporate governance, and the management of organizational change within the aviation industry. The Regional Labour Commissioner’s intervention underscores the need for a systematic approach to address the underlying issues and ensure fair treatment of employees in line with labour laws and industry best practices.

As Air India Express grapples with the fallout from the mass sick leave and its aftermath, restoring trust and confidence among both employees and passengers will be paramount. Transparent communication, meaningful dialogue, and proactive measures to address grievances are essential to navigating the current crisis and laying the foundation for a sustainable and resilient future for the airline.

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Emirates announces first 9 destinations to join its A350 network

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These aircraft are slated to serve short- to medium-haul routes within the Emirates network, with Bahrain being the debut destination.

Emirates has unveiled its inaugural lineup of destinations for its A350 aircraft, set to commence service in September 2024. The airline’s plan includes deploying 10 new A350s by March 31, 2025, to nine selected destinations, promising travelers the latest in cabin experiences.

The initial batch of Emirates A350s will feature three distinct cabin classes: 32 Business Class seats, 21 seats in Premium Economy, and 259 seats in Economy Class. These aircraft are slated to serve short- to medium-haul routes within the Emirates network, with Bahrain being the debut destination.

As Emirates integrates the A350s into its fleet, passengers will have more opportunities to enjoy the acclaimed Premium Economy product and explore the next generation of Business Class cabins, particularly on routes spanning the Middle East, GCC, West Asia, and Europe.

Adnan Kazim, Deputy President and Chief Commercial Officer at Emirates Airline, emphasized the A350’s significance, stating it will revolutionize regional travel by enhancing operational efficiency and flexibility across key markets. The introduction of the latest cabin products underscores Emirates’ commitment to delivering unparalleled customer experiences, featuring sought-after Premium Economy offerings, advanced in-flight entertainment, and various customer-friendly amenities. Kazim noted that deploying the A350 to nine cities within a short timeframe expands premium cabin options across geographies, reinforcing Emirates’ competitive edge and industry-leading position.

The airline has outlined the following schedule for the rollout of A350 services:

Middle East/GCC:

The first A350 flight to Bahrain will commence on September 15, operating the daily EK839/840 service, with an increase in frequency to two services per day starting November 1.
Kuwait will welcome its first Emirates A350 on September 16, serving the daily EK853/854 route.
Muscat will see A350 service on the daily EK866/867 flight from December 1.

West Asia:

Mumbai will be served by the A350 starting October 27 on the EK502/503 route.
Ahmedabad’s daily EK538/539 service will transition to A350 operation from October 27.
Colombo’s fourth daily service, EK654/655, will be operated by the A350 from January 1, 2025.

Europe:

Lyon will receive daily A350 service from December 1.
Bologna will be served by the A350 starting December 1.
Edinburgh will rejoin the Emirates network on November 4, operated by the A350, with further details to be announced.

Emirates plans to unveil additional destinations as new A350 aircraft join its fleet. Tickets for A350 flights are now available for purchase on emirates.com, the Emirates App, or through travel agents.

Passengers can anticipate a spacious and serene cabin onboard the A350, featuring high ceilings, ample bin space, and personalized mood lighting aimed at reducing fatigue and jet lag. Further details regarding seat features and cabin amenities will be disclosed in the coming months.

With 65 A350-900s on order, Emirates strategically aligns its fleet expansion with future growth plans and Dubai’s economic agenda, as outlined by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, aiming to integrate 400 cities into Dubai’s foreign trade map over the next decade.

Emirates has today announced the first set of destinations to be served by its A350 aircraft, which will enter service in September 2024. With 10 new A350s expected to join the Emirates fleet by March 31, 2025, the airline plans to deploy its latest aircraft type to nine destinations in the coming months, offering customers its latest signature cabin experiences.

These first 10 Emirates A350 aircraft will offer three cabin classes, with 32 next-generation Business Class seats, 21 seats in Premium Economy, and 259 generously pitched Economy Class seats. All of these aircraft are earmarked to serve short- to medium-haul cities on the Emirates network, with Bahrain as its inaugural destination.

As the first Emirates A350s begin entering the fleet, the airline will offer customers more opportunities to experience its highly acclaimed Premium Economy product and sample its next generation of Business Class cabins for the first time, particularly on short and medium-haul routes in the Middle East and GCC, West Asia, and Europe.

Adnan Kazim, Deputy President and Chief Commercial Officer, Emirates Airline, said: “The A350 will be a game-changer for Emirates, enabling us to serve regional points with superior operating efficiency and flexibility across the Middle East and GCC, West Asia, and Europe. With the latest generation of cabin products, including more of our sought-after Premium Economy in more cities, top-notch in-flight entertainment technologies, and an abundance of other customer-friendly features, the Emirates A350 builds on our long-standing commitment to investing in the very best customer experience in the sky. Flying the A350 to nine cities in such a short span of time adds more premium cabin options and choice across geographies for our customers and ensures we maintain our competitive edge and industry-leading position.”

Newly delivered aircraft sporting the airline’s latest cabins will roll into scheduled service in the following cities:

In the Middle East/GCC:
Emirates will operate its first A350 to Bahrain on the daily EK839/840 service from September 15. The frequency of A350 services will progressively increase to cover two Bahrain services, with the second service starting on November 1.
The first Emirates A350 will land in Kuwait on the daily EK853/854 service on September 16.
Muscat’s daily EK866/867 will be served by the A350 from December 1.

In West Asia:
The Emirates A350 will be deployed on EK502/503 to Mumbai on October 27.
Ahmedabad’s daily EK538/539 will be served by the A350 from October 27.
Colombo’s fourth daily service, EK654/655, will be served by the A350 from January 1, 2025.

In Europe:
Lyon will be served daily with the Emirates A350 from December 1.
Bologna will be served by the A350 from December 1.
Edinburgh will rejoin the Emirates network on November 4, operated by the A350. More details are to follow soon.

Emirates will announce more destinations in the coming months as new aircraft join its fleet.

Emirates flights to A350 destinations go on sale today and can be booked on emirates.com, the Emirates App, or via travel agents.

Customers can look forward to the A350’s spacious and quiet cabin, high ceilings, expansive bin space, and customized mood lighting designed to reduce fatigue and jet lag. Additional Emirates A350 seat features and other cabin details will be announced in the coming months.

Emirates has 65 A350-900s on order, and all are carefully planned to support the airline’s future growth as well as Dubai’s economic agenda set out by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum to add 400 cities to Dubai’s foreign trade map over the next decade.

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Paytm’s UPI transactions drop again, market share shrinks

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ED ASKS PAYTM TO FREEZE AMOUNTS IN MERCHANT IDS

The company cornered 8.4 per cent market share in the UPI applications’ ecosystem in April. The share has come down from 10.8 per cent and 9.13 per cent.

Paytm, a leading fintech player, witnessed a third consecutive monthly decrease in Unified Payments Interface (UPI) transactions in April, according to data from the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI). In April, the company processed 1,117.13 million transactions, marking a 9% decrease from March’s 1,230.04 million transactions. Consequently, its market share within the UPI ecosystem has contracted, declining from 10.8% in February to 8.4% in April.

However, the Noida-based company has continued to retain its spot as the third largest player in the ecosystem because other players are considerably smaller in comparison to the fintech major. For instance, Cred, which finds itself in the fourth position on the UPI transaction charts, is a much smaller player as compared to Paytm. In April this year, Cred processed 138.46 million transactions, whereas Paytm handled 1,117.13 million transactions, indicating that Cred’s transaction volume is at least eight times lower than that of Paytm.

Meanwhile, the top two players, PhonePe and Google Pay, processed 6,500 million and 5,027.3 million transactions, respectively, in April. Their share in the overall transaction numbers was pegged at 48.8 per cent and 37.8 per cent, respectively.

Both the companies have seen their share of UPI transactions inch up after the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) action on Paytm’s associate entity Paytm Payments Bank. In February 2024, Walmart-owned PhonePe held a share of 47.3 per cent in overall transaction volumes. Meanwhile, Google Pay had a share of 36.7 per cent the same month.

As other major UPI apps gain traction, Paytm has seen a silver lining after NPCI allowed the fintech firm to function as a third-party application provider (TPAP) in March this year.

Following which in the last month, the NPCI allowed Paytm to start migration of users to new payment service provider (PSP) bank handles.

These four banks — State Bank of India (SBI), Axis Bank, HDFC Bank, and YES Bank — now act as PSPs to Paytm.

Paytm would continue to see a decline in the volume of transactions processed on UPI since the company cannot add new users until the existing ones are migrated to a new handle.

This came after the RBI’s crippling restrictions on Paytm Payments Bank.

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Made-in-India Vande Bharat metro trains coming soon for faster city connections

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India is set to join the select global club of metro train rolling stock manufacturers with the introduction of domestically manufactured 12-coach trains. These trains, extendable to 16 coaches if required, are designed to cater to India’s rapidly expanding inter-city and suburban routes. It is anticipated that 50 such trains will be introduced in the first two years following the approval of the prototype, with larger orders of over 400 trains expected to follow. This initiative represents a significant investment worth ₹50,000 crore over the next few years in manufacturing units.

Currently, metro coaches operating in various Indian cities are predominantly supplied by global train makers. However, with the introduction of domestically manufactured trains, India aims to reduce costs significantly, making it one of the cheapest metro systems globally. The move towards localization is expected to have a positive impact on job creation, investment in research and development, and reducing dependence on imports, thereby fostering self-sufficiency in India.

The 12-coach trains, equipped with modern amenities akin to the existing Vande Bharat trains, will have a maximum speed of 120-160 km per hour, facilitating faster inter-city travel with more stops. They will cater to both general passengers and daily commuters, featuring an entire unreserved configuration to accommodate diverse travel needs.

The rollout of these trains is part of a broader strategy under the Make in India initiative, aimed at transforming the landscape of rail travel in India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had previously announced plans for three versions of Vande Bharat semi-high-speed trains, with the first chair car version launched in February 2019. Currently, 51 Vande Bharat trains, serving 102 train services across 100 different routes spanning 284 districts in 24 states and Union Territories, are operational. The introduction of the second chair car version and the metro versions of Vande Bharat trains is expected later this year.

The production of domestically manufactured metro trains marks a significant milestone for India’s railway sector, signaling a shift towards self-reliance and innovation. By leveraging local manufacturing capabilities, India aims to enhance its infrastructure and connectivity while stimulating economic growth and job creation. Furthermore, the potential for export opportunities underscores India’s growing prowess in the global rail manufacturing market. Initially catering to domestic demand, these trains may later explore export options, further bolstering India’s position as a key player in the global rail industry.

Overall, the introduction of domestically manufactured 12-coach trains represents a strategic step towards achieving self-sufficiency in India’s rail sector. With a focus on innovation, affordability, and scalability, these trains are poised to revolutionize inter-city and suburban travel, enhancing connectivity and accessibility for millions of passengers across the country.

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Indian airlines to carry 50 % of India’s global traffic by FY2

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The share of Indian air carriers in international passenger traffic originating from, terminating in, or transitioning through India is set to surge 700 basis points (bps) to 50 per cent by fiscal 2028 from 43 per cent in fiscal 2024, driven by airlines deploying additional aircraft and adding new routes in the international segment, as well as their inherent advantage of superior domestic connectivity compared with foreign carriers.

The business profiles of Indian carriers will strengthen as a result of their rising share in international traffic, which is more profitable than the domestic segment. India’s international passenger traffic grew to around 70 million in fiscal 2024, from a low of 10 million in pandemic-hit fiscal 2021, to surpass the pre-pandemic level.

The share of Indian airlines, which was rising steadily earlier, picked up pace since the pandemic. Manish Gupta, Senior Director, CRISIL Ratings observes a noticeable shift in spending patterns has emerged after the pandemic, as evident in the increasing inclination of Indians towards international leisure travel. Increasing disposable incomes, easing visa requirements, growing number of airports and enhanced air travel connectivity are boosting international travel.

“The Government’s focus on making India a hub for tourism is also expected to provide a fillip to inbound traffic. Thus, international passenger traffic is likely to clock a CAGR of 10-11 per cent over the next four fiscals, against a mere 5% CAGR in the four years prior to the pandemic,” points out Gupta. Indian airlines are looking to capture a large portion of the growth in international passenger traffic as it is typically more profitable due to higher yields and has less intense competition compared with domestic routes.

They have already added 55 new international routes over the past 15 months, taking their tally beyond 300. These include direct flights originating from additional cities to popular long-haul destinations in the United States, Europe and Australia, effectively reducing flying time and eliminating layovers. The homegrown carriers are also aiming to deploy additional aircraft on the short- and medium-haul international routes and leveraging codeshare agreements with major global airlines to offer onward connectivity to passengers.

As such, Indian airlines have certain natural advantages in cornering a larger share of the country’s international traffic compared with foreign airlines. They have superior domestic connectivity than their overseas counterparts – which serve only select Indian cities – and can offer end-to-end international connectivity on a single ticket to travelers from tier 2 and tier 3 cities. India’s geographic location also lends itself well to air connections between the EMEA and Asia Pacific regions, potentially positioning the country as a hub for international travel. To capitalize on the growth in international travel, Indian airlines are investing in widebody and long-range narrowbody aircraft for network expansion, adding new international routes and introducing long-haul non-stop flights to key destinations.

Aided by the planned fleet addition and network expansion strategy, Indian airlines could log a CAGR of 14-15 per cent in the international segment over the next four fiscals, taking their market share to 50 per cent. That said, an economic slowdown impacting discretionary air travel and higher-than-expected competition from foreign airlines can delay the gain in market share by Indian airlines and, thus, will bear watching.

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