Friday, October 10, 2014

Chola MS launches motor insurance on the Go app

Cholamandalam MS General Insurance Company has announced the launch of Chola MS Motor Insurance on the Go mobile application for its customers. This application, available both on Android and iOS supported smart phones, will offer a range of benefits and convenient access to the network of preferred garages offering cashless repair facility to the customers. The customers will be sent an sms and an email communication with the link to download the application.

Policy details like coverage, the sum insured, etc., renewal reminder and preferred garage network with geo tagging on Google Maps are other benefits available in the app.

The application offers some unique features like document wallet, mileage tracker and free driving tips. This will help improve the motor consciousness amongst customers. It also offers customers discounts and exclusive offers at select hospitals, pharmacies and diagnostic labs. They can also dial Chola Customer care from the app and get tele-assistance.

Mr. S.S. Gopalarathnam, Managing Director, Chola MS, said: “This is an industry first technology initiative and Chola MS is proud to take a lead. I am sure this will delight our customers.” He also informed that the company had launched a similar app “Wellness on the Go” for its health insurance customers in February 2014. This has been well received and there are more than 500 customers actively using the app. He also informed that the company is planning to develop and launch more such mobile applications for our customers.

OBO Bettermann inaugurates maiden facility at Oragadam

OBO Bettermann has announced the opening of its state-of-art manufacturing facility at the SIPCOT Industrial Growth Centre at Oragadam near Chennai.

Based in Menden, Germany, OBO Bettermann, a family owned business has a legacy of 103 years is a premium provider of cable management and protection systems for all types of electro-mechanical installations offering 30,000 products from seven unique product lines. Internationally, the company employs about 3,000 people, working in 40 subsidiary firms across 60 countries on every continent, and generates an annual turnover of EUR 500 million. Besides Germany, it has production facilities in Hungary, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Brazil, South Africa and now India.

OBO Bettermann started its India operations in 2008, for its renowned products that are best known for their quality, ease of use and reliability. OBO Bettermann India has so far invested 10 million Euro (about Rs. 80 crores) in this modern facility. With its manufacturing base in India, the company aims to cater to the domestic market as well as for export. Further investments, to be finalised soon, will enhance the total outlay to 25 million Euro by 2017.

The modern Indian facility will provide employment opportunities for more than 230 people – direct 80 and indirect 150. According to Mr. Gopa Kumar, Managing Director, OBO Bettermann India, a business strategy is in place to boost the company revenues to 10 million Euro by 2015 and 25 million Euro (about Rs. 125 crores) by 2020. This will be possible only by strengthening its presence across India by empowering its customers, dealers and suppliers. In line with the global strategy of creating localized products, the company is planning to create a modern R&D and testing centre shortly.

OBO Bettermann would use India’s strategic geographical proximity to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the Middle East to make it an export hub for these nations in the future.

OBO’s team of specially trained engineers present across India provide the necessary knowledge support in the area of lightning protection, surge protection, EMI/EMC and earthing. In addition, it has also conducted numerous site studies and implemented protection measures in India and abroad.

The company is working closely with the universities and institutes of repute, as well as advanced testing centres to enhance its knowledge base and experience. This is behind the general acceptance of OBO as the most trusted partner brand in lightning protection.

The Indian company is a joint venture between OBO Bettermann and Mr. Gopakumar and his family members. A major portion of the equity is held by the German company.

Volkswagen announces Volksfest 2014 to connect with customers

Volkswagen, Europe’s leading car manufacturer, has announced ‘Volksfest 2014,’ a 24-day mega-carnival during October 8 - October 31 where the company’s existing and prospective customers could avail of a range of valuable offers, exciting benefits and assured gifts. In addition, prospective customers will also be able to test-drive Volkswagen cars of their choice at the company dealerships across the country.

During Volksfest 2014, which coincides with the upcoming festive season in India, customers can avail best deals on car finance and other valuable offers on new car purchase. Attractive offers in after sales services include road side assistance, benefits on selected Volkswagen genuine accessories and merchandise, body and paint services.

Volksfest 2014 will also provide an opportunity for prospective customers to avail free insurance on purchase of New Polo and benefits of upto Rs. 1,00,000 on the purchase of Vento and Jetta cars, when they upgrade to a Volkswagen. This offer can be availed through Das WeltAuto, Volkswagen brand’s pre-owned car division.

Mr. Michael Mayer, Brand Director, Volkswagen Passenger Cars, Volkswagen Group Sales India Private Ltd., said: “With the Volksfest, we aim to offer something extra to our customers and hope to bring some added joy to their lives during this festive season. I wish all our customers the continued joy of motoring and look forward to welcoming many more into the Volkswagen family during Volksfest 2014.”

Revenue growth to decelerate in Q2 FY15: CRISIL Research

CRISIL Research, India’s largest independent and integrated research house, expects India Inc. to report a revenue growth of 9-10 per cent year-on-year (y-o-y) in the September 2014 quarter, lower than 13 per cent growth reported in the June quarter, due to slower growth in export-oriented sectors and the continued weak performance of investment-linked sectors. This forecast is based on an analysis of 600 companies (excluding financial services and oil companies), representing 71 per cent of the overall market capitalisation of India Inc.

Export-oriented sectors have been performing extremely well in the past 5 quarters, reporting strong y-o-y growth due to a slight rebound in demand in key markets and currency tailwinds. However, in the September 2014 quarter, the rupee appreciated by 3 per cent against the USD on a y-o-y basis; so no gains will be reported on the currency front.

Said Mukesh Agarwal, President, CRISIL Research: “Despite healthy volume growth, we project revenue growth of IT service providers to decline to an 8-quarter low of 12 per cent. Similarly, revenue growth of the pharmaceutical sector is also forecast to fall to 14 per cent from 16.3 per cent in the preceding quarter. In the textile space, cotton spinners are likely to report 9 per cent revenue decline on the back of lower export demand from China.”

On the other hand, the automobile and steel sectors are expected to post 12-14 per cent revenue growth, largely on the back of higher sales volumes as well as the strong performance of overseas operations of some companies. FMCG companies are likely to grow by about 15 per cent, propelled by an increase in realisations and superior product mix. Investment-linked sectors such as construction and capital goods will continue to perform poorly, as the pace of project execution continues to be tardy. The cement industry, however, is forecast to buck the trend, with revenue growth touching 15-17 per cent, driven largely by increase in realisations on a low base of last year.

On the profitability front, CRISIL Research foresees a 50 basis points y-o-y jump in EBITDA margins in Q2 FY15. Mr. Prasad Koparkar, Senior Director, CRISIL Research, said: “The steel and cement sectors will see a 90 bps and 180 bps improvement, respectively, owing to higher realisations. The IT services sector margins will improve by about 85 bps due to better employee utilisation, while the surge in data revenues and cost control will drive a 110 bps expansion in EBITDA margins of telecom operators. On the other hand, the automobile sector’s margins are expected to contract by 30 y-o-y as an increase in the margins of commercial and passenger vehicle segments is likely to be offset by a decline in margins in two-wheelers and tractors. The diversion of coal from the e-auction route to the power sector, will translate to a contraction of 300-350 bps in the margins of the coal sector. Tighter operating norms coupled with lowered incentives are likely to hit the power sector’s margins by 120-150 bps.”

First edition of International Writers & Readers Festival 2014 concludes on a promising note

The much-talked-about literature festival – International Writers & Readers Festival – which took place from October 4-6, 2014, at Kala Academy, Panjim, Goa, concluded giving a substantial experience to the organizers as well as the audiences. The Festival witnessed participation from literature stalwarts across the globe along with some well-known personalities from Goa.  In addition to literature, music, theater, and food along with publishers such as Harper Collins, Pan McMillan, Rupa, Red Ink, Penguin played a large role in the festival.

The International Writers & Readers Festival saw the presence of Mr. Shripad Naik, Union Tourism Minister, who said while opening the second day session: “I am glad that for the first time, the tourist haven of Goa hosts a literary festival that has brought together writers from six different languages on one platform. It will also enlighten the delegates about Goa’s tourism and literature.

The festival saw sessions by India’s highly acclaimed and leading authors and speakers from all-over the globe. The festival had simultaneous sessions spread throughout three days with a strong emphasis on literature, poetry and politics, facts and fiction, images and painting, as well as focusing on all genres of writing.

Mr. Alaham Anil Kumar, Founder & Director, International Writers & Readers Festival, Goa, 2014, said: “It has been a great experience. We had good participation from the publishers as well as from the globally acclaimed authors. It was our attempt to celebrate literature by bringing global voices, Indian writers and literary heavyweights of regional languages together on one platform and we have successfully achieved it. We will try our level best to continue the legacy this prestigious festival and spread across the importance of knowledge sharing”.

Australian novelist and Man Booker Prize winner, Thomas Keneally, expressed his feeling at the International Writers & Readers Festival, 2014 of being more patient as a writer would have positively affected the quality of some of his books. He said: “The overwhelming feeling after 50 years of writing is that I am free to continue writing because writing a book is an ageless experience. It’s a spiritual, emotional and psychological experience and it’s wonderful to be still writing. I feel more privileged and blessed to still write and witness such great literature festivals”.

Credit ratio shows early signs of recovery: CRISIL

Corporate India’s credit quality is showing early signs of recovery, as indicated by CRISIL’s credit ratio (ratio of number of upgrades to number of downgrades) of 1.64 times for the first half (H1) of 2014-15 (refers to financial year, April 1 to March 31). Upgrades exceeded downgrades in H1 2014-15, with 741 upgrades as compared to 451 downgrades. Firms with low debt exposure primarily witnessed positive trends in credit quality. Despite the credit ratio exceeding 1 time, the ratio of the quantum of debt of the firms upgraded, to that of those downgraded (excluding financial sector players) remained weak at 0.59 times during the same period, reflecting continued pressure on systemic credit quality. CRISIL believes that the improvement in credit quality will be gradual and any significant recovery will be contingent to a sustainable increase in investment demand.

The improvement in business-related factors was the key driver for 60 per cent of the upgrades. This is visible for export-linked sectors and non-discretionary consumer segments such as traders, packaged foods, pharmaceuticals, textiles and agricultural products, which continue to have the highest upgrade rates.

Says Mr. Ramraj Pai, President - CRISIL Ratings: “Our analysis indicates that there is a sharp disparity in credit quality trends based on leverage, profitability, and liquidity.” Firms with better profitability (return on capital employed [RoCE] exceeding 15 per cent), witnessed three upgrades for every downgrade. Among firms with low leverage (debt-to-earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation [EBITDA] ratio below 2.5 times), more than three firms were upgraded for every downgrade in H1 2014-15.

In contrast, weak liquidity, and pressure on profitability were key drivers for downgrades. Firms with high leverage (debt-to-EBITDA above 4 times) were subject to significant credit quality pressures as evident from their credit ratio below one during first half of 2014-15. Players operating in the construction, engineering and capital goods, and automobile (auto) ancillary sectors had higher downgrade rates than their counterparts in other sectors.

Says Mr. Pawan Agrawal, Senior Director - CRISIL Ratings: “Credit quality buoyancy in the overall economy is still some time away; for that to happen, investment demand, which depends on the extent to which the central government pushes big ticket policy reforms, needs to substantially increase.”

CRISIL expects a gradual improvement in the credit ratio over the medium term, as economic growth records mild recovery from the lows of the two years through March 31, 2014. The impact of the monsoons, progress by indebted corporates in reducing their external debt through asset sales or equity infusion, demand outlook in the economy, and the extent of policy reforms by the Government of India, will remain key monitorables.

Mercedes-Benz’ stylish GLA-Class SUV launched in Chennai

Mercedes-Benz launched in Chennai on October 7 its latest SUV and the global style icon, the GLA-Class. With this launch, Mercedes-Benz now further bolsters its dominant position in the Indian luxury SUV market, offering the widest product range for its customers ranging from the GLA-Class to the G 63 AMG.

The stylish and luxurious GLA-Class was launched by Mr. Boris Fitz, Vice President, Sales & Network Development, Mercedes-Benz India, and Mr. Abdul Qadir, Managing Director, Trans Car Pvt. Ltd.

Progressive in design, serene in day-to-day motoring and with good off-road capability, the Mercedes-Benz GLA reinterprets the luxury SUV segment in a very convincing style. The GLA-Class exudes self-confidence and revels in its sporty dynamic design, cutting-edge drive systems and unparalleled standard of luxury as well as safety which is unique in the segment. The GLA-Class will be available with two engine options – the 2.0 litre petrol and the most frugal 2.2 litre diesel.

Mr. Boris Fitz commented on the occasion: “The launch of the GLA-Class luxury SUV in India marks the commitment of Mercedes-Benz in introducing the latest products from its global portfolio for our customers here. The new generation customers who want to drive an emotionally appealing luxury SUV would find the GLA most suited for their lifestyle.

The GLA-Class SUV features typical qualities of a Mercedes-Benz: innovation, efficiency, safety and promises excellent value retention. The GLA-Class is an important element of Mercedes-Benz’s product strategy globally as well in India, and it will join our existing volume drivers. It combines the key design values of Progression and Tradition, and is the SUV of the future and undoubtedly the next milestone of our growth strategy.”

He further said: “With its striking features the GLA embodies our progressive thinking and enthralls with its off-road proportions. It is an all-rounder with hallmark Mercedes-Benz SUV genes, comprising many unique segment first features that will appeal to our new generation of customers, who wanted a stylish and dynamic luxury SUV having the practicality of everyday use. Witnessing the unprecedented response to the GLA-Class that resulted in more than 600 confirmed bookings even before its India debut, we are very confident that the SUV will redefine the segment and make an important contribution to the product offensive of Mercedes-Benz in India.”

The GLA’s modern four-cylinder engines with turbocharging and direct injection are mated to a 7G-DCT 7 speed dual clutch transmission. The dual clutch transmission combines the comfort of a 7-speed automatic transmission with the driving dynamics of a manual transmission. This leads to fast, smooth gear changing without any interruptions in tractive power and results in improved acceleration. The shift characteristics can be preset from fuel-saving to sporty via the “Economy”, “Sport” and “Manual” transmission modes.