Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Ola's COO and CFO to exit firm amid its plans to go public


Mobility company Ola's chief financial officer Swayam Saurabh and chief operating officer Gaurav Porwal are leaving the company.

These developments come at a time when the SoftBank-backed company’s core ride-hailing unit is planning to go public and for which it raised $500 million from Warburg Pincus and Temasek in July this year.

These investment firms had partnered with the company founder Bhavish Aggarwal for this round.

In an internal email sent to the employees recently, Bhavish Aggarwal has said that over the last year Ola has re-architected its mobility business to be much more robust and structurally efficient, enabling strong growth and a rapid return to pre-Covid levels.

“Our vehicle commerce business, Ola Cars, has scaled up rapidly to become a large operation, and our Delivery and Financial Services businesses are at key inflection points,” said Aggarwal, in the letter and which has been seen by Business Standard.

“As we look forward to Ola's next phase of growth, we are making some key updates to our organisation that will enable us to capture the opportunities that lie ahead.”

He said Vinay A Bhopatkar, who is building our Deliveries business, will take on the additional responsibilities for the driver and supply ecosystem of the company’s mobility platform due to the strong synergies between these businesses.

“It will enable us to further improve driver experience and utilisation,” said Aggarwal.

Anshul Khandelwal, who leads marketing will take on the additional responsibility to drive revenue as well.

“Gaurav (Porwal), who has run the mobility business for the last year and built a strong foundation during challenging times, will be leaving Ola to pursue other interests,” said Aggarwal.

“It has been a real pleasure working alongside. Please join me in thanking him for his incredible efforts and in wishing him the very best for everything that lies ahead.”

Aggarwal said Arun Kumar G R, Ola’s Group CFO has helped the firm build an extremely strong finance function in a very short time.

He said the firm’s finance team is much stronger with incredible talent and is much more business-oriented than ever before.

“Arun (Kumar) will continue to run the finance function across the group and all the key finance leaders at Ola will now report directly to him.

"Swayam Saurabh will be moving on to pursue other opportunities in mid-December.

"I wish him the very best for his next endeavour,” said Aggarwal.

Aggarwal also said Arun Sirdeshmukh will continue to play the role of CEO, Ola Cars, the firm’s vehicle commerce business.

“Please join me in congratulating them on their new roles and let’s continue to build the future of mobility together,” he said.

The executives are leaving when Ola has new growth plans, including setting up a Rs 2,400-crore electric vehicle facility expected to become the world’s largest two-wheeler factory.

Ola’s ride-hailing business is recovering after the coronavirus pandemic’s hurt and demand for its food business and financial services improves.

Swayam Saurabh who joined Ola in June this year brought over two decades of varied experience in a cross-section of roles.

This includes internal audit, risk management, business and operational process improvements and financial reporting.

He had worked at companies including Hindustan Zinc, Philips, Asian Paints and Larsen & Toubro.

He had joined the Ola leadership team as CFO of the high-growth mobility business, as well as the fast-growing financial services and foods businesses.

His focus was on building strong growth with a robust bottom line.

At the time of joining, Saurabh had said Ola is uniquely positioned to make a significant impact in an under-penetrated consumer internet space.

“I find it super exciting to have the opportunity to be part of the team that will help fuel its next phase of profitable growth,” Saurabh had said in June this year.

Another executive Gaurav Porwal, the chief operating officer at Ola, was a former scientist at Procter & Gamble India and co-founder of Sparsh Nephrocare.

He was a few years senior to Ola’s Bhavish Aggarwal in IIT Bombay and joined the company in 2019.

Early this year, Porwal had taken up the role of Pranay Jivrajka, a founding partner of Ola, in the interim. Jivrajka, had quit the ride-hailing company to launch his own startup, according to the sources.

Jivrajka, who is also an alumnus of IIT-Bombay, was one of the early employees of the firm and was AVP for operations till 2013. He was later made chief operating officer in 2015, a founding partner in 2017 and CEO of Ola Foods the same year.

Under Jivrajka’s leadership as chief executive officer (CEO) of Ola Foods, the firm’s new business grew in the coronavirus pandemic.

Another Ola executive Puneet Bhirani quit the company in April this year.

In September this year, he was appointed by Byju’s, the world’s most valuable edtech company as senior vice president-operations.

Before joining Byju’s, Bhirani was the chief executive officer of Ola Fleet and group chief operating officer at Ola across mobility, foods, and Ola electric.

The executives quitting Ola also comes at a time when the company has witnessed high-profile exits in the recent past.

Ankit Jain, the co-founder of Ola Electric and one of the closest confidants of Ola’s Bhavish Aggarwal, stepped away from his role in the company last year.

Anand Shah, another co-founder of Ola Electric, had also left the firm.

Ola’s Australian managing director Simon Smith, who had joined the firm in 2018, left the firm in December 2020. 

Two top executives, Arun Srinivas and Sanjiv Saddy, resigned from the company last year.

These exits followed that of Nitin Gupta, CEO of Ola Financial Services, who also resigned last year.

Last year Ola’s chief business officer, Sanjay Bhan left the firm after spending merely 10 months in the company.


Govt issues 202 notices to e-com players for violating norm


The Union government on Tuesday said it has issued 202 notices to e-commerce players for incorrect declaration of 'country of origin' on products on their platforms in the last one year.

The maximum number of such violations were found with respect to electronic appliances, followed by clothing and home products.

Out of 217 notices, 202 notices were issued for violations relating to 'country of origin' norm.

The rest 15 notices were for incorrect declaration of date of expiry/best before, address of manufacturer and importers, charging more than MRP, non-standard units and net quantity.

However, the Consumer Affairs Ministry did not disclose the names of the e-commerce players to whom the notices were issued.

When asked why the government was not naming and shaming the companies for violation, Consumer Affairs Secretary Leena Nandan said, "we are trying to do this exercise to alert both companies as well as consumers".

The companies should be aware that they do whatever is legally maintainable in terms of consumer redressal of grievances.

And consumers need to know their rights, she said during a press conference.

"About 76 companies have compounded their offences and Rs 42,85,400 been collected by compounding of offences," Nidhi Khare, Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) Chief Commissioner and Additional Secretary in the ministry, said.

Out of 76 companies, 69 companies have compounded their offence for violation of country of origin while four of them for date of expiry and three for violation of address of manufacturer/importers, she added.

Stating that the government has further strengthened the platforms through which consumers can file their complaints from across the country, Khare said some complaints filed through National Consumer Helpline (NCH) have been successfully resolved in the last few months.

For instance, a non-refund of Rs 11,314 from an airline company of a cancelled ticket in April this year from Kota, Rajasthan has been resolved.

Even refund of non-recharge of mobile after deduction of Rs 429 from Orai in Uttar Pradesh has been resolved, she said.

Besides NCH, Khare said consumers have an option to file their complaints online.

E-filing has been facilitated at district, state and national commission level since September 2020 through which nearly 3,000 cases have been registered.

So far, about 183 cases filed through e-dakhil have been disposed of, she said.

She noted that be it small or big amounts involved, more and more consumers are using the e-filing route to register complaints.

For instance, a consumer from Vizianagaram (Andhra Pradesh) registered a complaint for Rs 127.46 against a restaurant while another consumer from Godda (Jharkhand) filed a complaint for Rs 39,999 against an e-commerce entity, she added.

Further, the CCPA chief said it has issued 56 notices for misleading advertisements, out of which 29 notices were for unfair trade practices.

About six companies withdrew ads claiming more than 99 per cent efficacy against coronavirus and four companies agreed to correct their advertisement that claimed more than 99 per cent efficacy against coronavirus. 

Notices were also issued to travel firms for not giving refunds against cancellations, she said.

The ministry is also undertaking a campaign against fake and spurious goods.

In the first phase, it is sensitising consumers about counterfeit helmets, domestic pressure cookers and cooking gas cylinders.


Zee : HC restrains Invesco from requisitioning EGM


The Bombay high court on Tuesday granted an interim injunction against Zee Entertainment Enterprise Ltd's (ZEEL) largest shareholder Invesco, restraining the latter from going ahead with the requisition of an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) seeking removal of the ZEEL MD and CEO Punit Goenka.

A single bench presided over by Justice Gautam Patel said, “I have granted an injunction to the respondents."

A detailed order of the court is awaited.

The high court had reserved its order on the issue last week after ZEEL had told the court that it was not willing to hold an EGM of shareholders as requested by its largest shareholder, Invesco.

The submission was made in response to a previous suggestion made by the Bombay HC whereby, Justice Patel had asked the ZEEL if it was willing to hold such a meeting.

Senior counsel Gopal Subramanium, who appeared for ZEEL, had told the HC at the time that the company's Board of Directors could not grant permission for something that could turn out to be “illegal."

Invesco Developing Markets Fund and OFI Global China Fund, the largest investors of ZEEL, had sent a requisition to the company on September 11 to call for an EGM for the removal of MD and CEO Punit Goenka and two other non-independent and non-executive directors from the company's board.

It had also sought the induction of six new independent directors.

ZEEL, however, moved the HC on October 2, seeking that the court declares the requisition notice for a shareholders meeting sent by Invesco as illegal and invalid.


DA hike to 31% effective from July 1: FinMin


Dearness Allowance for central government employees has been hiked to 31 per cent of the basic pay from 28 per cent with effect from July 1, 2021, the Finance Ministry said.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

In an office memorandum, the Department of Expenditure, under the Finance Ministry, said the term 'basic pay' means the pay drawn as per the 7th pay commission matrix and does not include any other type of pay like special pay, etc.

"....the Dearness Allowance payable to central government employees shall be enhanced from the existing rate of 28 per cent to 31 per cent of the basic pay with effect from July 1, 2021," said the office memorandum dated October 25.

The hike will also apply to civilian employees paid from the Defence Services, while in respect of Armed Forces personnel and Railway employees, separate orders will be issued by the Defence and Railways Ministry, respectively.

The Union Cabinet had last week approved a 3 per cent hike in dearness allowance (DA) for central government employees and dearness relief (DR) for pensioners over the 28 per cent existing rate.

The decision will benefit about 47.14 lakh central government employees and 68.62 lakh pensioners.

In July this year, and DA rate was increased from 17 per cent to 28 per cent.

With a 3-per cent hike now, the DA rate will become 31 per cent.

The combined impact on the exchequer on account of the Dearness Allowance and Dearness Relief would be Rs 9,488.70 crore.

Following the COVID pandemic outbreak, the government had frozen the three additional instalments of the DA and DR, which were due from January 1, 2020, July 1, 2020, and January 1, 2021.

The freeze was lifted from July 1, 2021, and the DA, DR rate was hiked by 11 percentage points to 28 per cent.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Economy to see 10.5% or higher growth this fiscal: Niti Aayog VC


Indian economy is expected to grow 10.5 per cent or more in the current fiscal, Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar said on Thursday.

Illustration: Dominic Xavier

Speaking at a virtual conference organised by the Public Affairs Forum of India (PAFI), he also said that modernisation of the retail sector is very much on the cards.

"India Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for both manufacturing and services has shown a very smart uptick last month.

"This (Indian economy) will strengthen even further," he said.

"I expect Indian economy to grow 10.5 per cent or higher in FY 22," he noted.

The country's economy grew by a record 20.1 per cent in the April-June quarter, helped by a very weak base of last year and a sharp rebound in the manufacturing and services sectors in spite of the devastating second COVID wave.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has lowered the growth projection for the current financial year to 9.5 per cent from 10.5 per cent estimated earlier while the IMF has projected a growth of 9.5 per cent in 2021 and 8.5 per cent in the next year.

Kumar asserted that the unevenness in demand across various parts of the country is not because of a lack of consumer confidence, which has come up in a significant manner, but because of certain supply constraints.

He described these constraints as "chips, ships and global trips," which have constrained India's growth recovery.

Replying to a question, Kumar said reasons for the slump in two-wheeler sales might be the transition from internal combustion engine scooters and bikes to electric bikes and scooters.

Noting that exports create jobs, he said, "we need to double our share of global trade... and for that we might need better market access".

The Niti Aayog VC said the private sector has to work with the government to take the country forward and make development a people's movement.

He urged industrialists not to be sceptical about the government's intention because it has already taken a lot of hard decisions like the roll back of the retrospective tax.

On divestment and asset monetisation, Kumar said the focus is on implementation as far as asset monetisation is concerned.

"I am confident we will achieve the targets because of close monitoring at the highest level," he said.

Noting that most background work has been done on privatisation, Kumar said, "We will achieve the budgeted targets for privatisation as most background work is done and one will see more coming in."

Replying to a question on poverty, Kumar said he is of the view that going forward India needs to focus on infrastructure financing and building real estate as these have a huge multiplier effect.

"These sectors will create employment," he said, adding that the economic environment has been created for sustained recovery of jobs.

On e-commerce, Kumar noted that e-commerce was a saving grace during the pandemic.

"Modernisation of the retail sector is very much on the cards and the government will take it forward," he said, adding that, however, all stakeholders will have to abide by regulations.

Kumar said he was mystified at the declining women labour force participation though the 2019-20 Periodic Labour Force Survey pointed to a slight uptick in women workforce.

"There is no real survey to explain the reasons for a decline," he said, and urged industry to help the government to understand the drivers of female participation in the labour force.


Get your Karva Chauth fashion right, Bollywood style!


Celebrate Karva Chauth this weekend with the right look, and you can rely on Bollywood's ladies for inspiration.

Namrata Thakker gives you lovely tips on how to look stunning on the special day!

Photograph: Kind courtesy Priyanka Chopra Jonas/Instagram

Keep it simple but bold in a red sari paired with a strappy gold blouse and some delicate gold jewellery. That's Priyanka Chopra living up to her desi girl tag.

Photograph: Kind courtesy Shilpa Shetty Kundra/Instagram

Shilpa Shetty Kundra looks gorgeous in her red and gold sari with foil print designed by Masaba Gupta.

If you're newly married, this Karva Chauth look is just for you. Don't forget to wear a statement neckpiece to complete the traditional look.

Photograph: Kind courtesy Anushka Sharma/Instagram

How about giving your Karva Chauth look a floral touch?

Here's Anushka Sharma doing that in a beautiful red Sabyasachi sari with beige floral print and gold sequins.

Photograph: Kind courtesy Raveena Tandon/Instagram

If sari isn't your thing, then go the Raveena Tandon way and opt for an embellished red kurta with a red sharara and a sheer red dupatta.

Photograph: Kind courtesy Sonali Bendre/Instagram

Sonali Bendre looks simple yet so pretty in a pink suit.

Photograph: Kind courtesy Bipasha Basu Grover/Instagram

We love Bipasha Basu's sharara set from designer Gopi Vaid's Begum collection.

The contrast coloured dupatta adds that extra spark to her desi avatar

Photograph: Kind courtesy Aamna Sharif/Instagram

Aamna Sharif's multi-coloured satin-silk lehenga, matching blouse and embroidered scalloped organza dupatta is perfect for any festive occasion.

Add a green and gold choker neckpiece to your look and you'll be a diva in no time.

Photograph: Kind courtesy Rubina Dilaik/Instagram

Not everyone can carry off pink from head-to-toe, but Bigg Boss 14 winner Rubina Dilaik makes it look effortlessly easy with her Karva Chauth outfit.

Photograph: Kind courtesy Debina Bonnerjee/Instagram

Television actor Debina Bonnerjee ditches the customary red colour and wears a beautiful white sari with a red, green and gold border.

Photograph: Kind courtesy Niti Taylor/Instagram

Kaisi Hai Yaariaan actor Niti Taylor looks ravishing in her red bandej sari paired with a sleeveless blouse.


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

VIL to opt for 4-year moratorium on spectrum payments


Vodafone Idea on Wednesday said its board has approved availing the four-year spectrum payment moratorium being offered by the government as part of its relief package for the telecom sector.

The other options offered in the Telecom Department's notification will be considered by the board of directors within the stipulated timeframe, it said in a regulatory filing.

"...we wish to inform you that the Board of Directors of the company has approved the exercise of the option of deferment of the company's spectrum auction instalments for a period of 4 years (October 2021 to September 2025) in accordance with ...the notification dated 14 October 2021 issued by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to the company," it said.

In line with the bold reforms announced recently for the telecom sector, the government last week wrote to telcos including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio asking them to convey by October 29 if they would be opting for the four-year dues moratorium.

It has also given 90 days time to the operators to indicate if they want to opt for converting the interest amount pertaining to the moratorium period into equity.

Along with this option, the audited financial statements of the immediately preceding financial year (2020-21) would have to be submitted, according to the letter sent to the telcos.

The government has offered the option to defer payment of the spectrum auction instalments due up to four years, with immediate effect, excluding the instalments due for spectrum auction 2021.

This option is applicable from FY 2022-23 to FY 2025-26.

These deferred amounts will be spread equally over the remaining instalments to be paid, without any increase in the existing time period specified for making the instalment payments.

Interest as stipulated in the relevant year of auction of spectrum will, however, be charged so that the Net Present Value (NPV) of the payable amount is protected.

The letters were sent by the Department of Telecom (DoT) on Friday to the individual operators.

"Option for converting the interest amount, arising out of protection of NPV on account of deferred spectrum dues, pertaining to the moratorium period, by way of equity, shall be exercised within 90 days of this notification," the DoT letter to telcos had said.

The letter spelt out the fine print related to the option for moratorium of deferred spectrum auction instalments and AGR related dues, as also the modalities for converting interest amount into equity.

The method of arriving at the price and valuation for equity conversion of interest dues is different for listed and unlisted companies.

One of the letters issued by DoT to a listed company had mentioned that equity shares would be issued by the company to the government on preferential basis.

It went on to add that the NPV of the interest amount will be calculated as on the date of exercise of option.

The interest amount will continue to be treated as a loan to companies till the completion of the equity infusion process, DoT had said.

The government recently approved a blockbuster relief package for the sector that includes a four-year break for companies from paying statutory dues, permission to share scarce airwaves, change in the definition of revenue on which levies are paid and 100 per cent foreign investment through the automatic route.

The measures, aimed at providing relief to companies such as Vodafone Idea that have to pay thousands of crores in unprovisioned past statutory dues, also include the scrapping of Spectrum Usage Charge (SUC) for airwaves acquired in future spectrum auctions.

For the past dues, the government has allowed a moratorium or deferment of up to four years in annual payments.

But the telecom companies will have to pay interest during the moratorium period.

Also, the government will have an option to convert the due amount pertaining to the deferred payment into equity at the end of the moratorium/deferment period.

It has also given an option to the telcos to pay the interest amount arising due to the said deferment of payment, by way of equity.


Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Mittal had last month said the company will opt for payment moratorium and redirect the cashflow to aggressively build networks.

With regard to interest dues on payment moratorium, Mittal had said Airtel will take a decision, when the offer comes from the government, on whether to go for equity conversion mechanism or pay cash.


Mahindra XUV700 deliveries to begin from Oct-end


Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) on Wednesday said the deliveries of its recently launched model XUV700 would begin from this month-end.

The deliveries of petrol variants will start from October 30 while that of diesel trims from the last week of November.

The company said it has garnered 65,000 bookings of XUV 700 in two weeks of commencing the process.

The company had opened bookings of the model on October 7.

M&M noted that it has partnered with one of the top-three global consulting companies to devise and implement an algorithm-based process for deliveries.

"The objective is to streamline the delivery process for customers, based on a combination of parameters which include, quantum of bookings at city and dealer level, ratio of online and bookings at dealer counters and variant-level production feasibility based on supply chain constraints," the automaker said in a statement.

The delivery timelines will be communicated to customers by their respective dealerships starting October 27, 2021, for both petrol and diesel variants, it added.

This date might change, depending on the prevailing global supply chain scenario, the automaker noted.

Bookings are currently open for all customers, through both platforms i.e., online and the nearest dealerships for which, prices at the time of delivery will prevail, it added.

The company is offering XUV700 in two series — MX and AdrenoX (AX).


The XUV700 features diesel and gasoline engines paired with manual and automatic options and five- and seven-seater capacity.

It also comes with an optional all-wheel-drive (AWD) spec trim.