ITC Geared Up To Expand Its Market Share Online

The Indian FMCG giant ITC is geared up to become one of the first frontline compaies in its genre to start its own e- commerce operation for premium as well as niche products as it upto spread its market share in the online sales sector and thus ensure wider availabilty of products, said its Executive Director B Sumant. 

A recent report by Nielsen says e-commerce share in total FMCG sales in India has tripled over last two years with 98% of Indian consumers with access to internet having made an online purchase. The conglomerate will sell both food and non-food FMCG products from the recently launched e-store, itcstore.in ,  where it is currently undertaking a pilot to sell gourmet chocolates, Fabelle. Sumant said ITC’s online store will be limited to metros that account for the largest share of consumption of premium and niche FMCG products for now. The store will complement its efforts to sell through online channel partners and marketplaces. ITC has also launched an e-store and an app for stationary products.

“ITC plans to sell premium and niche FMCG products to discerning consumers through the e-store. Based on the success in major metros, we may scale it up later to other cities,” Sumant said. The online store will initially sell in Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Kolkata. 

ITC intends to sell its premium skincare range Dermafique, Sunbean Gourmet Coffee, blended atta sold under Aashirvaad brand and products which are currently sold in limited markets or have a niche appeal, such as ghee, rice and protein biscuits.

The company will also sell a range of functional food such as products targeted at diabetics and those with metabolic disorders and health food such as millet and ragi flour, which it will launch in the next few quarters. The fulfilment of orders will be done by a distributor, while ITC will tie-up with third-party logistic providers who are already operating in the ecommerce space.

ITC currently sells through trade partners on platforms like Amazon, Flipkart, Grofers and Big Basket. The move to expand into direct online sales is not due to the recent disruption in operations in large e-commerce marketplaces, but to expand its reach and ensure products are never out of stock for online shoppers.

ITC also runs direct e-commerce operations for its lifestyle apparel business, WLS and John Players. It has recently started online sales of Classmate notebooks and other stationery products with the pilot operational in Bengaluru, Chennai and Kolkata. This platform allows consumers across the country to customise the covers of their Classmate note books, which are then printed and delivered to them, said Sumant.

ITC is aspiring to become India’s largest pure-play FMCG firm by 2030 across products like packaged food, personal care and stationary which account for Rs 1 lakh crore in revenue. In 2017-18, the non-cigarette FMCG business revenue was Rs 11,328 crore, while the business gross profit nearly quintupled to Rs 164 crore.

Oil Rig Count Rises In US, Falling Prices Lead To Trade Concerns

Oil prices in the United States fell by 1 per cent on Monday as drilling activity picked up and financial market were pulled down by trade concerns. 

A fire that took place in a refinery in Illinois in the US resulted in the shutdown of a huge crude distillation unit. This also affected the prices adversely, traders said. 

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $52.09 per barrel at 0347 GMT, down 63 cents, or 1.2 percent, from their last settlement.

International Brent crude oil futures were down 49 cents, or 0.8 percent, at $61.61 a barrel.

In the United States, energy firms last week increased the number of oil rigs operating for the second time in three weeks, a weekly report by Baker Hughes said on Friday.

Companies added seven oil rigs in the week to Feb. 8, bringing the total count to 854, pointing to a further rise in U.S crude production, which already stands at a record 11.9 million bpd.

WTI prices were also weighed down by the closure of a 120,000-barrels-per-day (bpd) crude distillation unit (CDU) at Phillips 66’s Wood River, Illinois, refinery following a fire on Sunday.

Elsewhere, the head of Russian oil giant Rosneft, Igor Sechin, has written to the Russian President Vladimir Putin saying Moscow’s deal with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to withhold output is a strategic threat and plays into the hands of the United States.

The so-called OPEC+ deal has been in place since 2017, aimed at reining in a global supply overhang. It has been extended several times and, under the latest deal, participants are cutting output by 1.2 million bpd until the end of June.

OPEC and its allies will meet on April 17 and 18 in Vienna to review the pact.

Analysts said economic concerns were also weighing on crude oil futures.

Vandana Hari of Vanda Insights said in a note that crude prices were dragged down “as China returned from a week-long Lunar New Year holiday and regional stock markets plunged into the red amid resurgent concerns over the U.S.-China trade dispute.”

Trade talks between the Washington and Beijing resume this week with a delegation of U.S. officials traveling to China for the next round of negotiations. The United States has threatened to increase tariffs already imposed on goods from China on March 1 if the trade talks do not produce an agreement.

Preventing crude prices from falling further have been U.S. sanctions on Venezuela, targeting its state-owned oil firm Petroleos de Venezeula SA (PDVSA).

“The issues in Venezuela continue to support prices. Reports are emerging that PDVSA is scrambling to secure new markets for its crude, after the U.S. placed additional sanctions on the country,” ANZ bank said on Monday.

Thailand Election Panel Disqualifies Princess As PM Candidate

The election panel of Thailand disqualified the sister of the king from contesting for the prime ministerial post on Monday. This marked the end of a short- lived candidacy. 

The Election Commission released the official list of parties’ candidates for prime minister without the name of Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi, 67, the king’s elder sister.

The list left out Ubolratana “because every member of the royal family comes within the application of the same rule requiring the monarch to be above politics and to be politically neutral,” the panel said in a statement after a meeting.

The princess had accepted the nomination of the Thai Raksa Chart party, a populist movement drawn from supporters of ousted ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who has been at the centre of nearly 15 years of turmoil in Thai politics.

The March 24 elections are the first since a 2014 military coup toppled a pro-Thaksin government. Among the candidates for prime minister is the current junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha, who as army chief led the coup.

Thailand has been a constitutional monarchy since 1932, but the royal family wields great influence and commands the devotion of millions of Thais, with the king considered to be semi-divine.

Ubolratana’s surprise nomination broke with a tradition for members of the royal family to stay out of politics.

However, in a statement read on all Thai television stations within hours of her announcement as a candidate, King Vajiralongkorn said it was “inappropriate” and unconstitutional for members of the royal family to enter politics.

The commission is also considering a complaint seeking to ban the Thai Raksa Chart party but did not mention the petition on Monday.

IndiGo Offers Great Deals For Its Flyers

IndiGo is up with the best of deals for its domestic flyers with fares starting at ₹899 for domestic flights and at ₹3399 for International flights. The offers are valid from 11th Feb 2019 to 13th Feb 2019. The off- rates are available for travels between 26th Feb 2019 to 26th Sep 2019, as per the airline’s website. 

Under the offer, some attractively priced routes include Delhi to Mumbai flight will cost around Rs 2,424 on 19 September 2019. Whereas, a flight from Delhi to Bengaluru is priced around Rs 2,699 for the same date. A Mumbai to Bengaluru flight will cost you a little more than Rs 2,000, according to the fares available on the IndiGo’s website.

International Destinations

During the offer, Delhi to Dubai flight was observed to be around Rs 6,670 for the one way trip. The same from Mumbai can be availed at Rs 8,114 for 19th Sept 2019. These prices are indicative and subject to change for various dates.

For a Mumbai to Singapore flight, you will be shelling about Rs 7,806. The same will cost around Rs. 7,672 from Delhi.

SC Refuses To Keep An Eye On CBI Investigation Into Chit Fund Scam

The Supreme Court on Monday turned down to monitor the ongoing CBI investigation into the Saradha chit fund scam in Kolkata. 

A two-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna did not allow the application filed by some investors that despite the apex court’s 2013 order directing the CBI to probe the chit fund scam, the investigation has not attained finality.

“We are not inclined to set up a monitoring committee to monitor the chit fund scam probe,” the bench said.

Gujjar Quota Reservation Protest Turns Violent, 4 Cops Injured

The currently running Gujjar protest for reservation turned violent on Sunday. The  protest was on its third day when protesters carrying sticks clashed with cops. The clash resulted into the Rajasthan government imposing prohibitory orders in Dholpur, Karauli and Bharatpur districts. 

Violence was widespread, mainly in Dholpur. Four cops were injured in stone-pelting. As many as 26 trains were diverted and 12 others cancelled due to protests on tracks. The protesters also blocked road traffic at Gudla in Karauli, Asind in Bhilwara, Nainwa in Bundi and on the Jaipur highway in Ajmer.

An intelligence alert has been issued for Dausa district too. 

DGP (law and order) ML Lather told TOI that situation in Dholpur was quickly brought under control by the local police but at least four cops sustained injuries due to stone pelting by agitators. “Some people had tried to block the traffic on Chambal Bridge in Dholpur. When the protesters began to misbehave with passengers in cars and buses, police had to intervene. When the protesters started hurling stones at cops, Dholpur police resorted to firing teargas shells. We have filed three FIRs. Two more cases will be filed as public property and police vehicles have been damaged,” he said, adding that old videos from the 2007 Gujjar agitation were being made viral to whip up passions.

CM Ashok Gehlot claimed that some miscreants had got involved in the clashes. “Bainsla ji (agitation leader Kirori Singh Bainsla) had appealed for peace and people should listen to his message. The doors for dialogue are open from our side,” he told reporters. 

Clashes in Dholpur sent nearby Karauli and Bharatpur district administrations into a tizzy. “We have decided to impose Section 144 for the entire Karauli district,” said district collector Nanu Mal Pahdia. 

Meanwhile, the Karauli administration pasted a notice on the house of Kirori Singh Bainsla for violation of court orders. A meeting was called by additional chief secretary (home). “We have told SPs where Gujjars decide to sit on roads, they must find alternative routes to divert traffic,” an official said.

Security Forces Counter Major Terror Attack On Army Camp, Uri

The security forces countered a major terror attack in Uri, Jammu & Kashmir. The attacks took place on Monday over an Army Artillery Unit at Rajarwani in Uri border town. Some suspicious activities were noted by the security personnel at the Army Artillery Unit nearby the camp late at night. The security then opened fire to smash any probable attack. 

Unconfirmed reports said that at least two terrorists have been killed in the firing by the security personnel.

The entire area has been cordoned off and a major combing and search operation is underway.

The search is being conducted jointly by the J&K Police and the Army.

A J&K Police spokesman said, “During night hours, the guards at Army Artillery Unit at Rajarwani in Uri detected some suspicious movement around the camp and opened fire. The area has been cordoned off and is being searched jointly by the police and Army,”

All local units of Army and the central paramilitary force deployed in the area have been alerted.

Meanwhile, two people have been detained and are being interrogated in connection with the incident, said ANI.

The security around the Army camp has also been tightened.

The attack comes a day after five terrorists belonging to Pakistan-backed terror outfits Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) were killed in an encounter with security forces in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kulgam district.

The gunbattle broke out after terrorists opened fire on a search party of the security forces in Kulgam’s Kellem village on Sunday morning.

A top Army official later confirmed that five terrorists were killed in the encounter and weapons and warlike stores were recovered from the spot.

The slain terrorists were identified as Waseem Ahmad Rather, Aqib Nazir Mir, Parvaiz Ahmad Bhat, Idrees Ahmad Bhat and Zahid Ahmad Parray, the official said.

“As per police records, it was a combined group of proscribed terror outfits HM and LeT and their (terrorists) exact affiliations are being ascertained. They were wanted by the law for their complicity in a series of terror crimes, including attacks on security establishments and civilian atrocities,” a police spokesperson said.

Waseem, Aqib and Parvaiz were involved in killings of a civilian, Mohd Iqbal Kawa, and local Army jawan, Mukhtar Ahmad, he said.

He said this group of terrorists was also involved in various grenade attacks across Anantnag and Kulgam districts.

IndiGo Airlines Likely To cancel Over 30 Flights Today

Indian airlines IndiGo cancelled over 30 domestic flights. The flights especially operating out of Hyderabad, Chennai, Jaipur, on Saturday and Sunday and approximately 30 flights are likely to be suspended on Monday too. 

At least eight flights out of Chennai, six out of Hyderabad and three from Jaipur were among those cancelled over the weekend. Sources attributed the problem to operational reasons and crew shortage. “Pilots cannot be rostered to fly over 1,000 hours in a year. A number of IndiGo pilots have reached the limit and so they have to wait it out, before these crew can be rostered again,” said a source.

However, IndiGo said the flights were cancelled because of poor weather. “Due to a severe hailstorm in North India on Friday, 11 IndiGo Flights were diverted. Consequently, this disrupted operations across our network the following day. As part of recovering our schedule, positioning of the crew and aircraft had to be readjusted,” said the airline in a statement.P

Andhra Pradesh CM Chandrababu Naidu On Day- Long Fast For State’s Special Status

Andhra Pradesh CM Chandrababu Naidu is on a day- long fast, a protest for justice at the Andhra Pradesh Bhavan, New Delhi. Naidu is likely to be joined by his ministers, MLAs, MLCs and MPs. 

Before beginning the fast, Naidu offered tributes to Mahatma Gandhi at Raj Ghat and to B R Ambedkar at Andhra Pradesh Bhavan. The chief minister has participated in ‘Dharma Porata Deeksha’ in 11 districts of Andhra Pradesh, so far. 

The Andhra Pradesh chief minister launched a tirade against the BJP-led central government, alleging Prime Minister Narendra Modi was not following ‘raj dharma’ by denying the state special status. “On behalf of five crore people, I’m warning this government… I came here to remind you of the promises made in the AP Reorganisation Act,” he said. 

 “If you wont’t fulfill our demands, we know how to get them fulfilled. This is about self-respect of people of Andhra Pradesh. Whenever there is an attack on our self-respect, we won’t tolerate it. I am warning this government and particularly the PM to stop attacking an individual,” Naidu said.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi, National Conference president Farooq Abdullah also reached Andhara Bhawan to extend their support to the the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief. AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal is also expected to show his support to Naidu. 

A large number of protesters from Andhra Pradesh have also reached the national capital. The state government hired two special trains to ferry people to Delhi. 

 A TDP delegation led by Naidu will submit a memorandum to President Ram Nath Kovind on Tuesday. 

On April 20 2018, on the occasion of his birthday, the TDP chief had observed fast Vijayawada demanding special status for the state. 

In October 2013, Naidu had staged an indefinite fast at the Andhra Pradesh Bhavan, demanding that if a separate state is carved out of then unified Andhra Pradesh, both should get equal rights. He, however, on the fifth day of his protest was forcibly shifted to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital.

Naidu has been trying to unite the opposition parties to take on the BJP in the general elections. Over the last three months, he has held a number of meetings with the opposition party leaders on forming an anti-BJP front. 

The party has been accusing the Narendra Modi government of not releasing enough funds for the Polavaram irrigation project, the Kadapa steel plant and Amravati, the under-construction ultra-modern state capital. On Sunday, taking exception to PM Modi addressing him as “father of Lokesh” at a rally in Guntur, the Andhra Pradesh chief mnister launched a counter-offensive by dragging his wife into the row. “You have estranged your wife. Do you have any respect in the family system,” Naidu asked Modi. 

Taking a swipe at Naidu and his son Lokesh, Modi described the TDP rule in the state as “father-son government.” At a particular juncture of his speech, he addressed Naidu as “N Lokesh’s father.” He also said Naidu promised the sunrise of Andhra Pradesh but was fixated with the rise of his own son Lokesh.