India Insight

Segway’s India business pegs hope on tech-savvy Modi

By Shashank Chouhan and Ankush Arora

People ride self-balancing Segway transportation devices past the Indian home ministry in New Delhi January 5, 2014. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee/Files

Among the companies hoping for tax credits from the business-friendly Bharatiya Janata Party since its election victory in May is the Indian distributor of the Segway Personal Transporter. The company hopes that the government will recognise the battery-run two-wheeler as a green vehicle, a move that could spur sales of the expensive device in a country where many people today cannot afford it.

The U.S.-based Segway Inc. was founded by Dean Kamen based on a vision to develop “high-efficient, zero emission transportation solutions” that are manoeuvrable and can be operated on sidewalks and pathways.

In 2002, Segway, adapted from the word segue that means “to transition smoothly from one state to another”, got the right to operate in over 30 states in the United States. By 2007, the New Hampshire-headquartered company had a worldwide presence in 60 countries, according to a report. It made its India debut in 2010.

Four years later, the Segway has a presence in Delhi, Mumbai and parts of the state of Maharashtra and southern India, including Bangalore. The company is building the vehicle in the city of Gurgaon just outside Delhi, and wants to sell it to airports, hotels, the police and upscale neighbourhoods, according to a top executive of the Bird Group, Segway’s Indian distributor.

However, the product’s steep price (a single unit costs between 400,000 to 500,000 rupees or around $8,000. For that price you can buy a sedan in India) in a price-sensitive market like India coupled with high customs and a lack of infrastructure weighs on the vehicle’s sales potential. The result – it has been confined to commercial and institutional use or at farmhouses or by tech-savvy rich people.

Budget 2014: Wishlist from healthcare sector

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has its work cut out if it wants to transform the country’s health system and provide a universal health insurance programme.

India has just 0.7 doctors per 1,000 people, and 80 percent of this workforce is in urban areas serving 30 percent of the population, according to industry lobby group NATHEALTH.

Less than 25 percent of the population has access to any form of health insurance. And India’s public and private expenditure on health is around 4 percent of its GDP, the lowest among BRICS countries.

Highlights – President Pranab Mukherjee’s address to parliament

The new government will pursue an economic reform agenda that foresees introducing the goods and services tax, encouraging foreign investment and speeding approvals for major business projects, President Pranab Mukherjee said in a parliamentary address on Monday.

Mukherjee also said the focus of the Modi government would be to:

- contain food inflation

- improve supply side of agro-based products

- prepare contingency plans for sub-normal monsoons

- increase public and private investments in agriculture

- address issues in farm pricing and procurement

- set up IITs and IIMs in every state

- have zero tolerance against violence against women and will strengthen criminal justice system

- tackle illegal immigration and infiltration in the north east region

- roll out broadband highways in every village in next five years

- vigorously follow up issue of black money with foreign governments

- focus on social media as a tool for participative governance

- provide predictable, fair and stable policy environment

- make every effort to introduce goods and services tax

- encourage investment through foreign direct investment

- promote labour-intensive manufacturing, tourism for job creation

- move towards a single-window system of clearances to promote manufacturing

- fast-track investment friendly public, private partnership

- liberalise foreign direct investments in defence

- encourage private investments in defence production

- implement reforms in defence procurement

- take up modernisation and revamp of railways on priority

- chalk out infrastructure development programmes for high-speed rails, roads and airports

Markets this week: Sensex surges 5 percent on hopes from Modi, ONGC rallies

By Ankush Arora and Aditya Kalra

The BSE Sensex ended at a record closing high on Friday, rising 5 percent during the week, as Indian shares rallied on hopes of faster economic recovery after Narendra Modi became India’s prime minister last month.

Markets have high hopes that the new Modi-led government would push for policy reforms and end bottlenecks that have stymied growth in Asia’s third-largest economy.

On Friday, the Sensex hit a new life high of 25,419.14 while the broader Nifty index touched its all-time record high of 7,592.70. Both indexes are now up about 20 percent this year.

Aam Aadmi’s party isn’t over yet, Bhagwant Mann says

The one-and-a-half-year-old Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) poor performance in this year’s parliamentary elections in India was a big letdown for the anti-corruption party’s members and its leader Arvind Kejriwal. One of the party’s newly elected parliamentarians, Punjabi actor-comedian Bhagwant Mann, is doing his best to keep spirits high. Following are excerpts from two phone conversations with India Insight about the future of the AAP.

 (This interview was conducted in Hindi and translated into English)

Q. Why didn’t the “Modi wave” work in Punjab?

A. There was nothing like a Modi wave in Punjab. Punjab is already affected a lot by drugs and unemployment. So Punjab’s problems are not about [BJP slogan] “Ache din aane waley hain” (“Good days are coming”) or “Har Har Modi” (Hindu religious chant, modified for Modi). Punjab wanted a third alternative, it wanted to get out of the two-party mill – Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Congress.

Q. What is your reaction to the party’s performance in Punjab and the rest of the country?

Modi boost helps Sensex rise 8 pct in May, Sesa jumps 51 pct

By Ankush Arora and Sankalp Phartiyal

A road sign stands next to the Bombay Stock Exchange building.Indian shares rose sharply and scaled new record highs in May, with the benchmark index rising above 25,000 points on hopes of an economic revival after pro-business Narendra Modi became India’s new prime minister.

The BSE Sensex touched a life high of 25,375 points on May 16, the day results for the five-week election gave Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party a clear mandate to govern Asia’s third-largest economy. In May, the index rose 8 percent, its best monthly performance since October.

The BJP and its allies stormed to power by winning 336 of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha, riding on Modi’s promises to create more jobs and push India back on the high growth path. Stocks rallied across the board, while the Indian rupee also touched multi-month highs.

Markets this week: BHEL, Sesa Sterlite top Sensex gainers

By Ankush Arora and Sankalp Phartiyal

India’s stock market closed the week on a record-breaking note as the Bharatiya Janata Party led by Narendra Modi swept the Lok Sabha election, handing the Congress party its worst ever result.

Surpassing 25,000 for the first time on the day of counting, the benchmark Sensex jumped 4.9 percent this week. The broader Nifty, which also scaled a fresh peak on Friday, rose 5 percent.

In 2014, overseas investors have so far invested 6.5 billion rupees in Indian equities, contributing to a 14 percent gain in the main stock indices.

Young professionals in Bangalore favour Modi’s promise, shrug off riots

As far as Vinod Hegde is concerned, Indian prime minister candidate Narendra Modi bears no responsibility for the 2002 Gujarat riots. More to the point, Hegde doesn’t care.

Hegde, a 26-year-old stockbroker in Bangalore, said that for people like him, the Gujarat chief minister is the only choice to lead India after countrywide parliamentary elections that began this week.

Allegations that Modi failed to stop or even allowed deadly riots in 2002 don’t sway his vote, Hegde said. And if the ruling Congress party’s candidate is Rahul Gandhi, the choice becomes even clearer.

State Elections in India: Opinion polls and 2008 results

India will hold state elections in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Delhi, starting November 11. The polls are seen as a warm-up for next year’s national elections.

Three of these five states – Mizoram, Rajasthan and Delhi — are governed by the Congress party, while the Bharatiya Janata Party rules in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. These state elections will serve as a popularity test for Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat and the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 national elections.

(Also read: Schedule of assembly elections in five states)

RAJASTHAN: In 2008, Congress swept the Rajasthan elections with 96 seats, adding 40 seats to its 2003 tally of 56. Ashok Gehlot took charge as chief minister, replacing Vasundhara Raje of the BJP. However, a recent opinion poll by India Today Group-ORG said Raje will make a comeback this year, with her party expected to win 105 seats. A Times Now-CVoter poll predicted BJP will win 118 seats in the 200-member house.

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