Weekly Current Affairs

Welcome to the Endeavor Editors’ Weekly Current Affairs Choicest Blog series. Get a weekly roundup – of news from business, economy, markets, policy, and more. A quick capsule format news summary and update to keep you abreast with all the latest current affairs.

1) International News and Global Economy

Fed raises interest rates by 0.75 percentage points for the third straight meeting

The Federal Reserve approved its third consecutive interest-rate rise of 0.75 percentage points and signaled additional large increases were likely even though they are raising the risk of recession. Fed officials voted unanimously to lift their benchmark federal-funds rate to a range between 3% and 3.25%, a level last seen in early 2008. Nearly all of them expect to raise rates to between 4% and 4.5% by the end of this year, according to new projections released Wednesday, which would call for sizable rate increases at policy meetings in November and December. Officials projected that rate rises will continue into 2023, with most expecting the fed-funds rate to rest around 4.6% by the end of next year. That was up from 3.8% in their projections this past June.

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Federal Reserve hikes key interest rate 0.75 percentage points

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Ukraine war: Hundreds arrested as Russian draft protests continue

Hundreds of people have been arrested by authorities as protests against Russia’s new “partial mobilization” continue across the country, an independent rights group has said. OVD-Info said 724 people were detained across 32 different cities on Saturday. Widespread demonstrations have broken out since President Vladimir Putin announced plans to draft 300,000 men to fight in Ukraine. Unsanctioned rallies are banned under Russian law. Mr. Putin signed fresh decrees on Saturday imposing punishments of up to 10 years imprisonment for any soldier caught surrendering, attempting to desert the military, or refusing to fight.

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Russia: Panic, protests follow Putin’s call for ‘partial mobilization’ | DW News

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Dmitry Bulgakov: Putin fires deputy defence chief amid supply failures

Vladimir Putin has fired the general charged with managing the Russian military’s faltering logistics operations in Ukraine. Gen Dmitry Bulgakov, a deputy defence minister, was removed from his role on Saturday, the defence ministry said on Telegram. The ministry said the 67-year-old was “released” to transfer into a new role. He will be replaced by Col Gen Mikhail Mizintsev, who managed Moscow’s brutal siege at the port city of Mariupol. Gen Bulgakov has run the military’s logistics operations since 2008 and was responsible for keeping Russian troops supplied after their deployment to Syria in 2015. But observers say he has become side-lined in Moscow in recent months, with many blaming him for the chaotic logistics operations that have dogged Russia’s advance and seen their troops left undersupplied. In recent months, the Kremlin has been forced to approach North Korea and Iran – two of its only remaining allies – for new artillery and drone supplies. Gen Bulgakov’s dismissal comes as footage circulated on social media showing newly drafted Russian recruits being equipped with rusty assault rifles.

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Quad members oppose any unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo in Indo-Pacific

The Quad grouping of India, Australia, Japan, and the United States has said it strongly opposes any unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo or increase tensions in the Indo-Pacific, amidst China’s increasingly intimidatory behavior in the region. The foreign ministers met in New York City on the sidelines of the 77th United Nations General Assembly to deepen Quad multilateral cooperation in support of advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific, which is inclusive and resilient, according to the joint readout of the meeting held here on Friday. In the meeting, they also underscored the Quad’s unwavering support for the UN Charter, including its three pillars, and their steadfast commitment to strengthening and reforming the UN and international system.

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World Bank pledges $2 billion in aid to flood-hit Pakistan

The World bank has said that it will provide USD 2 billion in aid to Pakistan for reconstruction and rehabilitation which includes food, shelter, and other urgent needs of the victims of the recent devastating floods. The announcement was made by the World Bank’s new vice president for the South Asia region, Martin Raiser, on Saturday in a statement issued at the end of his Pakistan tour. The World Bank had earlier agreed to provide USD 850 million for flood relief in a meeting with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. The amount has now been increased to USD 2 billion.

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Canada counts damage after Fiona; Cuba and Florida brace for storm Ian

Parts of eastern Canada resembled a “war zone” Sunday after powerful storm Fiona swept houses into the sea and caused major power outages, as the Caribbean and Florida braced for intensifying Tropical Storm Ian. Fiona, a post-tropical cyclone that had earlier killed seven people in the Caribbean, tore into Nova Scotia and Newfoundland on Saturday. The storm packed hurricane-force winds of 80 miles (130 kilometers) per hour and brought torrential rain, as well as waves of up to 40 feet (12 meters), which left devastation across the region’s coast. A hurricane warning was in effect for Grand Cayman on Sunday, with Ian poised to brush past the British territory Monday on its way to western Cuba and then Florida by mid-week. Governor Ron DeSantis said Saturday that he had declared a state-wide emergency in preparation for the storm, warning on Twitter that “Floridians should take precautions.”

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2) India

IT minister releases draft version of Telecom Bill 2022, public feedback open till October 20

Ashwini Vaishnaw, the Union IT minister, has released a draft version of the proposed Indian Telecommunication Bill 2022 and invited feedback and suggestions from the public over it. The draft bill has several proposals. A major proposal is that calling and messaging services such as WhatsApp, Zoom, Skype, and Google Duo shall need licenses to operate in the country. The government has also put out provisions for the refund of fees if a telecom or internet provider surrenders its license. Additionally, the Centre may waive, in part or full, any fee for any license holder or registered entity under the rules.

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What does The Draft Telecom Bill 2022 propose?

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3) Economy

Economic reforms, ease of doing biz likely to take India’s FDI to $100 bn this fiscal, says government

The government on Saturday said that India is on track to attract USD 100 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) in the current fiscal owing to economic reforms and ease of doing business. The country received the “highest ever” foreign inflows of USD 83.6 billion in 2021-22. “This FDI has come from 101 countries and invested across 31 union territories and states and 57 sectors in the country. On the back of economic reforms and Ease of Doing Business in recent years, India is on track to attract USD 100 billion FDI in the current FY (financial year),” PTI quoted the commerce and industry ministry as saying. It said that to attract foreign investments, the government has put in place a liberal and transparent policy wherein most sectors are open to FDI under the automatic route.

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Economic activity still below pre-pandemic level; RBI to slow down on rate cuts till next year: ADB

With economic activity still to reach pre-pandemic levels, the RBI may slow down the pace of rate hikes until next year to quell soaring inflation while supporting growth, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) says in its latest report. The Manila-based multilateral funding agency has raised the inflation forecast for the current fiscal year ending in March 2023 to 6.7 percent from its earlier projection of 5.8 percent. For the next fiscal year too, the forecast has been revised upwards to 5.8 percent from 5 percent earlier. Inflation will remain elevated this year and the next, ADB said in an update to its flagship Asian Development Outlook (ADO) 2022 report. Even though supply pressures are expected to ease in the current fiscal year, upward pressure on inflation could continue because of demand-side pressures caused by increasing economic activity, according to the ADB report. The report says the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is expected to increase policy rates even though economic activity is still below the pre-pandemic trend and inflation continues to be driven more by domestic supply conditions than international factors.

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‘5th biggest in the world’: Jaishankar boasts India’s economy in the US

External affairs minister S Jaishankar said on Saturday while in the 20th century, colonialism ensured that India was one of the poorest nations, it stood proudly as the 5th biggest economy in the world at the moment. In his address in New York on a special ‘India@75’ Showcasing India-UN Partnership in Action event on the sidelines of UNGA in New York, Jaishankar said India today envisions itself as a developed country by 2047, the 100th year of its independence. “In the 18th century, India accounted for a quarter of the global GDP. By the middle of the 20th, colonialism ensured that we were one of the poorest nations in the world. That was our state when we became the founding member of the United Nations,” the minister said. Jaishankar said in the 75th year of its independence, India stands before the UN today “proudly as the fifth biggest economy in the world” and is still rising as the “strongest, most enthusiastic and definitely the most argumentative democracy”.

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4) Markets, Banking, and Finance

Rupee hits new low, breaches the 81-mark against US dollar

The Indian rupee on Friday started on a weak note and touched the 81 mark, which is its newest low against the US dollar after a choppy Thursday. So far this year, the domestic currency has recorded a drop of 8.48 percent, as per news reports. On Thursday, the currency saw a major fall and saw its biggest single-session percentage decline since February on the back of the US Fed’s hawkish hike of interest rates. Experts feel that the rupee is struggling due to the Reserve Bank of India’s less aggressive stance while taking action to tame inflation. As per reports, in the last seven sessions of the total eight, the currency has seen a major drop and lost over 2.51 percent in the last few days. As the US Fed has promised more hawkish rate hikes in the coming months, not just the rupee as major currencies will be under pressure as the Dollar index can see a significant increase. This would directly impact the business environment in India as a stronger dollar would make everything expensive for traders and companies.

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Citigroup sets India as high priority market amid China’s risks

Citigroup Inc. is targeting India as one of its top markets to expand globally as risks mount in China and other regions, the bank’s global co-head of investment banking said. India presents “very clear” opportunities, said Manolo Falco, the global co-head of Banking, Capital markets, and Advisory, in an interview in Mumbai. The New York-based lender expects initial public offerings in India to pick up next year as well as inbound deals in renewable energy and infrastructure, he said. The world’s second-most populous country is gaining traction among Wall Street dealmakers in part as growing political tension casts a pall over major plans to expand in China and as tensions mount in Europe and the US. India’s main stock gauge has gained this year, in contrast to mostly steep declines seen in major global markets. The nation saw a record $82 billion in merger and acquisition deals in the second quarter, defying a slump elsewhere.

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Exit barriers for customers not acceptable: Sebi Chief to Fintechs

Securities and Exchange Board of India’s (Sebi) chairperson Madhabi Puri Buch warned fintech companies not to act against the interests of investors by creating hurdles for exiting their products and making lofty claims of returns. She said fintech providers should not have a business model that builds barriers for customers to exit. Customers should be able to exit as easily as they enter an ecosystem, the Sebi chief said. “If your business model relies on building barriers (for customers) to exit, it is unlikely to find favor with the regulator. It is an important principle that we follow. We believe that whenever a customer has ease of entering then he also has the right to exit,” she said. Buch said data is a ‘public good’ and no private party can claim ownership of this citing the example of Aadhaar and Unified Payments Interface.

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5) Business

Zomato cracks down on cloud kitchens running more than 10 brands from a single location

Foodtech major Zomato is taking a tough stance on cloud kitchens after a recent viral Substack post exposed a dingy cloud kitchen in Bengaluru that was operating 200+ different brands from the same location. The food brands had little to no differentiation in their menus and raised several questions over food safety and hygiene standards. To combat the problem, Zomato will now “manually check any physical location” which runs more than 10 brands out of a single unit. “While there is no exact science to the right number of brands, we believe that even the most organized outlets in the industry don’t see operational benefits and customer trust in operating too many brands from a single kitchen,” the company stated.  Zomato further shared that it was in talks with the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) and its restaurant partners to arrive at the right approach to curb these practices that could end up tarnishing the reputation of the food industry.

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Byju’s clears $234-million dues to Blackstone for the Aakash acquisition

Edtech unicorn Byju’s has paid $234 million to global private investment firm Blackstone, which were pending dues linked to its deal to acquire brick-and-mortar coaching chain Aakash Institute last year, people briefed on the matter said. Byju’s acquired Aakash Institute for $950 million in April 2021 but the payment to Blackstone – which held around 38% stake in Aakash – was delayed. The original timeline for the payment was in June this year but that was extended to August. Byju Raveendran, the founder of Byju’s, told ET earlier this month that the delay was procedural as it had to meet guidelines set by the Reserve Bank of India. He said that the payment would be cleared by the end of September.

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Piramal, Zurich Insurance mull joint bid for Reliance General Insurance

Piramal Group and Zurich Insurance plan to form a joint venture for taking over Reliance General Insurance, a subsidiary of debt-ridden Reliance Capital undergoing a resolution process. Both Piramal and Zurich, which had submitted separate non-binding bids for the general insurance business of Reliance Capital in August, may hold 50 percent each in the proposed special purpose vehicle (SPV), sources said. Zurich confirmed that it has made a separate offer to acquire a stake in Reliance General Insurance Company as part of the resolution process under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC). The terms of any transaction are subject to negotiations and there can be no assurance that a transaction will take place,” the company said in an email reply. However, Zurich did not indicate any possible joint venture in work with Piramal Group to acquire Reliance General Insurance.

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Bhavish Aggarwal led Ola Electric to enter into International Markets

Even as Ola Electric struggles to keep pace with the increasing orders in India, the Bhavish Aggarwal-led company now plans to foray into Nepal. As part of this, the electric vehicle (EV) startup will launch Ola S1 and S1 Pro scooters in the neighboring country beginning next quarter. In the next phase of the expansion, Ola Electric will launch its products in five key markets across Latin America, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region, and the European Union (EU). He also said, “Our international expansion not only means that we will as a company be able to serve customers in these similar regions, but it is also a testament to the fact that India will lead the EV revolution for the world.” The startup has also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Nepalese conglomerate Chaudhary Group (CG). Under the terms of the agreement, CG Motors will serve as local distributors for Ola EVs in Nepal.

For details visit here.

6) Technology

Flipkart jumps onto Metaverse Bandwagon, to launch Flipverse this Diwali: Report

Ecommerce giant Flipkart is reportedly planning to announce its interactive and Metaverse-themed virtual shopping platform, Flipverse, during the ongoing ‘Big Billion Days Sale’. Sources told The Decrypting Story that Flipkart has partnered with social media giant Meta and Ethereum Layer-2 scaling startup Polygon for the project. They also said that the Metaverse project could be launched as soon as Diwali (around October) this year. Flipverse is expected to deploy a host of Web3.0 technologies to elevate the current user experience to include a virtual reality experience. The new offering will enable users to walk through the virtual shopping center and interact with digital storefronts. According to the report, Flipverse will host games, NFTs, product launches, and other contests.

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7) Politics

History beckons as Congress gears up for 4th election contest for AICC chief since Independence

With a contest for the Congress president’s post almost certain, history beckons the party as it would be the fourth time since Independence that polling would decide who would lead it. Also, with Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra deciding not to be in the running for the party president’s post, a non-Gandhi would be at the helm after over 24 years. The Congress is set to see a contest for the post of party chief with Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who has announced his candidature, expected to take on Shashi Tharoor who has also made his intentions clear by getting the nomination forms collected on Saturday.

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Rajasthan Congress crisis: At least 92 Ashok Gehlot loyalists resign

At least 92 MLAs loyal to Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot arrived at Speaker C P Joshi’s residence late Sunday evening to submit their resignation, plunging the Congress government into crisis as it prepares for a change of guard at the top, both in Rajasthan and Delhi. The MLAs are reportedly miffed that they weren’t consulted over Gehlot’s expected move to step down as chief minister in order to contest in the upcoming Congress president election. Cabinet Minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas told The Indian Express the number of MLAs is expected to rise up to 100. Earlier today, 71-year-old Gehlot hinted for the first time that he might step down as chief minister.

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A positive watershed moment in N-E as calm reigns & Army withdraws from counter-insurgence

A turning point in the history of insurgency in the Northeast as calm reigns for now. Shekhar Gupta explains the history of insurgency in the Northeast, the Army’s role in the past in counter-insurgency, and the complexities in this Episode.

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Maharashtra CM appoints guardian ministers of districts, Dy CM Fadnavis to be in charge of several Vidarbha areas

Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde on Saturday appointed guardian ministers of districts in the state, with his deputy and senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Devendra Fadnavis getting charge of several areas of Vidarbha. Fadnavis will be guardian minister of Nagpur, Wardha, Amravati, Akola, Bhandara and Gadchiroli. School education minister Deepak Kesarkar will be the guardian minister of Mumbai city and Kolhapur. while the metropolis’ suburban district will be under the charge of tourism minister Mangalprabhat Lodha. There are 20 ministers in the Eknath Shinde government, including the chief minister and deputy chief minister, while it can have a maximum of 43 ministers.

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Amarinder joins BJP as its Sikh face, at an intriguing time as ‘Khalistan Referendum’ is held in Canada

Shekhar Gupta looks at major developments in two distant parts of the world — former Punjab CM Amarinder Singh joining BJP and a ‘Khalistan Referendum’ being held by Sikhs For Justice in Canada’s Ontario. He also looks at the vacuum in Sikh and Punjab politics at why Amarinder joining the BJP is an important event in Punjab.

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8) Sports

Jhulan Goswami receives a ‘guard of honor’ as she bats one final time in international cricket

Legendary cricketer Jhulan Goswami played her last match at England’s Lord’s ground on Saturday. Goswami received a Guard of Honor from England’s players as she walked out to bat one final time in international cricket during the third ODI against England at Lord’s ground on Saturday. Coming out to bat at number nine in the 40th over of the match, the 39-year-old Jhulan saw the English cricketers lining up two sides at the iconic Lord’s to pay a tribute to one of women’s cricket’s biggest ever players. Jhulan will end her glorious, two-decade career as women’s cricket’s highest wicket-taker.

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9) Opinion

How will the new National Logistics Policy be a game changer for the Indian economy?

India aims to become a $20 trillion economy by 2040 and a developed nation by 2047. The National Logistics Policy has come at the right time, as seamless connectivity, superior infrastructure, and strong export and logistics efficiency are essential to achieve these ambitious goals. Currently, the logistics costs in India are 13-14% of the GDP, compared to 7-8% in developed countries. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while launching the policy, said that the aim is to bring the logistics cost to single-digit as soon as possible. The higher logistics costs are reducing the competitiveness of India’s exports. After eight years of formulating a policy, the government has developed the National Logistics Policy driven by the vision “To develop a technologically enabled, integrated, cost-efficient, resilient, sustainable and trusted logistics ecosystem in the country for accelerated and inclusive growth.” The policy targets reducing the cost of logistics in India to be comparable to global benchmarks by 2030, improving the Logistics Performance Index ranking to be among the top 25 countries by 2030, and creating a data-driven decision support mechanism for an efficient logistics ecosystem.

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The Moonlighting Vs Innovation Debate

While Indian IT companies have recently been grappling with the issue of moonlighting, it’s something that even Indian startups are becoming wary of. The firing of 300 Wipro employees who were found to be moonlighting for a competitor has brought up several takes, with many also claiming that moonlighting is key to growing the tech industry. In addition, there have been concerns about increased employee surveillance in the IT industry and other competitive sectors, where the talent crunch is being keenly felt. That’s something even Minister of State for Electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar pointed out, who said that companies taking steps to block employees from working on their own startups or consulting for other firms are doomed to fail. And he’s not the only one who has criticized anti-moonlighting policies. Tech giant Microsoft’s CEO chief executive officer Satya Nadella used the word ‘Productivity Paranoia’ to describe the changing attitudes toward moonlighting.

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BYJU’S, Unacademy & Vedantu: Can India’s Edtech Giants solve profit puzzle?

Nearly 18 months after the end of FY21, edtech unicorn BYJU released its financial statements for the fiscal year. In line with expectations of many critics and doubters, the Bengaluru-based startup reported nearly a 20X jump in loss to INR 4,588 Cr in the year ending March 2021. However, it’s not just BYJU’S that has this problem — nearly every other large edtech startup in the country, barring a few, is a loss-making company. Banked by VC funds, the cash burn to acquire users and other edtech startups has fuelled the scale of edtech giants, but profitability is still missing. What was once touted as a game-changing sector has turned into a cost sink not just for investors but also for schools, teachers, and parents? India’s three most prominent edtech startups — particularly those who have been working in K-12 and test prep stages — have seen the highs of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was expected to herald a new era for BYJU’S, Unacademy, and Vedantu, but the gains of the last couple of years have eroded — instead, there are questions over the credibility and the survival of the entire sector.

For details visit here.

10) Weekly special

The many Faces of Meesho: Will renewed focus on the marketplace end streak of losses?

Reseller platform, social commerce, B2B commerce, live commerce, a brief fling with grocery delivery, and finally a marketplace — there’s no e-commerce model that Meesho has not looked to tap into. And now the company founded by Vidit Aatrey and Sanjeev Barnwal and backed by Y Combinator, Sequoia Capital, SoftBank, Prosus, Meta, Fidelity Management, and B Capital among others is on a precipice, similar to many hulking giants of the startup ecosystem. In late 2021, reports claimed that Meesho hired an investment bank, Morgan Stanley, to lead talks for a $500 Mn-$1 Bn funding round at a valuation of $8 Bn. But that seems to be another time and era now. Like BYJU’S and others, Meesho is also said to be facing a down-round — as much as a 25% haircut on its previous $4.9 Bn valuation — according to a report by The Morning Context. After raising nearly $1 Bn, Meesho is, in many ways, starting from scratch again — as revenue from social commerce remains untenable given the 0% commission promise, Meesho’s new focus is on becoming a platform akin to Amazon and Flipkart and earning ad revenue.

For details visit here.

11) Did you know?

What is the Central Vista Project?

Central Vista Redevelopment Project refers to the ongoing redevelopment to revamp Central Vista, India’s central administrative area located near Raisina Hill, New Delhi. The area was originally designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker during British colonial rule and was retained by the Government of India after independence. Scheduled between 2020 and 2026, project 2020 aims to revamp a 3 km (1.9 mi) long Kartvyapath between Rashtrapati Bhavan and India Gate, convert North and South Blocks to publicly accessible museums by creating a new common Central Secretariat to house all ministries, a new Parliament building near the present one with increased seating capacity for future expansion, new residence and office for the Vice-President and the Prime Minister near the North Block and South Block and convert some of the older structures into museums. The cost of the Central Vista Redevelopment project, which also includes a Common Central Secretariat and the Special Protection Group (SPG) building, has been estimated to be around ?13,450 crores (US$1.7 billion) spread over four years.

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With that, we come to the end of our Weekly Current Affairs September 2022 -Week 4. We hope you have liked it. Write your feedback in the comments below and let us know if there is anything else you would like us to cover.

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