Citizens' Issues
Panagariya launches new website of NITI Aayog
Vice chairman of NITI Aayog Arvind Panagariya on Monday launched the new website of the aayog here, almost five months after archiving the website of the erstwhile Planning Commission, a statement said.
 
The National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog had replaced the Planning Commission on January 1, 2015.
 
The beta version of the website, which can be accessed on url http://www.niti.gov.in, provides details of the constitution, functions and current activities of the aayog.
 
"The website has a unique feature of NITI Blogs, which will incorporate articles, field reports, work in progress and opinions by NITI officials," it said.
 
The launch was attended by Chief Executive of NITI Aayog Sindhushree Khullar and members Bibek Debroy and V.K. Saraswat, the statement added.
 
NITI Aayog has been designated to serve as a policy think-tank for the central as well as state governments, and has the prime minister as its chairperson.

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New Zealand-based Indian nationals targetted for immigration scam
Indians in New Zealand have been warned following reports of a scam with callers posing as immigration officials demanding money against deportation threats, a media report said on Monday.
 
According to sources, the callers posing to be officials from New Zealand Immigration, inform Indian nationals that there were problems regarding visa processing or passenger arrival card (that is handed out to passengers before they arrive in New Zealand) information and extort money to be paid into a bank account in India, The New Zealand Herald reported.
 
The callers were aggressive and authoritative, the business innovation and employment ministry said, adding that the scammers often have details about the person they were speaking to, which made the call seem genuine.
 
The scammers used a technology allowing a legitimate phone number, such as the immigration contact centre, to appear when the call was actually made from another number.
 
New Zealand Immigration said they would never request money over the phone and told potential targets not to pay, no matter how important the caller sounded.
 
Those targeted were told to contact the police or report the call to consumer affairs ministry website, Scamwatch.

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First time in 20 Years, Indian mobile phone sales drop
The decline in smartphone sales from quarter-to-quarter was 7.14 percent. Cheaper “feature” phones performed worse, with an 18.3 percent sales decline over the same period
 
Indian mobile-phone sales have dropped for the first time in 20 years, raising the question: Is a slowdown at hand for the world’s fastest-growing smartphone market?
 
Mobile sales dropped 14.5 percent the first quarter (Q1, January-March) 2015, on a quarter-to-quarter basis, compared to Q4 (October-December) 2014 -- from 62 million handsets in Q4 2014 to 53 million handsets in Q1 2015, according to a report of CyberMedia Research, a consultancy.
 
The decline in smartphone sales from quarter-to-quarter was 7.14 percent. Cheaper “feature” phones performed worse, with an 18.3 percent sales decline over the same period. India became the fastest-growing market for smartphones in Asia-Pacific in 2014, and is supposed to overtake US as the second-largest smartphone market globally, with 204 million smartphone users by 2016, according to a study by eMarketer, a research firm.
 
Is this a Cyclical issues or a larger problem? Do these data indicate that India’s mobile-phone growth is topping out? Experts believe cyclical glitches account for the downturn in mobile-phone sales: Unexciting phones, tax issues, increased competition and even extended Chinese new-year festivities.
 
“With major announcements of new handsets and entry of some new brands happening in a big way in Q4 2014, there wasn’t really something very exciting in the market for customers that could push up sales in Q1 2015,” said Faisal Kawoosa, lead analyst, Telecom Research at CyberMedia.
 
“At the same time, a change in duty structure and the longer continuation of Chinese new year festivities which generally conclude by mid-February each year, affected the supply chain and inventories.”
 
In an attempt to push local manufacturing, the government, in a budget announcement, increased the excise duty on mobile handsets to 12.5 percent from 6 percent, pushing the cost of handsets by around 4 percent.
 
Experts said there were two more reasons: First, sales have fluctuated for vendors, with one vendor dominant in one quarter and another in the next. Second, as Kawoosa put it, “a maniacal focus” on online flash sales.
 
“Though there is an Internet revolution in India and brands do need to focus on building their online base, it only works well for new brands (for example, Xiaomi) willing to enter the Indian market,” said Kawoosa. 
 
“Established brands, such as Micromax and Samsung, should focus on their existing legacy. The differentiating strength of these brands lies in their distribution network, built and invested in over the years across India, which they should leverage to increase sales.”
 
Overall, the industry will get used to changes (such as the increase in excise duty) and pick up again, he said.
 
The year 2014 saw the entry of many new players in the mobile market, especially Chinese firms. With an 18.5 percent market share, Samsung continues to occupy the top spot, followed by India’s Micromax with 12.1 percent and Microsoft with 9.6 percent.
 
Within the smartphone segment, Samsung has an even bigger lead, a market share of 27.9 percent, followed by Micromax with 16.2 percent and Intex, an Indian brand, with 9.2 percent.

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