Companies & Sectors
Yash Birla among five Indians named in Swiss gazette

Industrialist Yash Birla, along with the Masoods related with multi-crore City Limousines scam, are among five Indian nationals whose names have been made public in Switzerland's official gazette for having bank accounts in that country

 

Industralist Yash Birla, whose companies are not repaying money to thousands of depositors and shareholders, is named by the Swiss authorities as having a bank account in that country. Names of Birla, Sayed Mohamed Masood, the kingpin behind the Citi Limousines scam and his colleague Chand Kauser Mohamed Masood, Ponty Chadha's son-in-law Gurjit Singh Kochar and Delhi-based businesswoman Ritika Sharma, along with Sneh Lata Sawhney and Sangita Sawhney are published in Switzerland's gazette.
 
Making public these names, the Swiss Federal Tax Administration (FTA) has asked them to file an appeal within 30 days before the Federal Administrative Court if they do not want their details to be shared with the Indian authorities under their 'mutual assistance' treaty on tax matters.
 
In the past, the Swiss authorities had already shared some details about Sayed Mohamed Masood, who is being probed for a major Ponzi scheme run from Mumbai through City Limousines. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had also requested Swiss authorities to freeze his bank accounts.
 
As per the notifications published in Switzerland's official gazette, the Indian authorities have sought fresh details about Syed Masood and Chand Kauser Masood.
 
In February 2014, income tax (I-T) officials questioned Yash Birla as part of the investigation into alleged tax evasion involving his companies, says a report from the Times of India. In January that year, the I-T department raided premises belonging to Birla and found several undeclared foreign accounts with a balance of crores of rupees, the report added.
 
Yash Birla is known for its lavish lifestyle and Page3 parties instead of his business moves, which shows the careless attitude of the Group. People had invested in his companies on goodwill of ‘Birla Family’.
 
However, Yash Birla and his group companies had maintained a silence over refunding money invested as fixed deposits (FDs), to small investors, including several senior citizens. (Read: Yash Birla Group companies in deep trouble?)
 
Last year in April, the debt-ridden Yash Birla Group unit Birla Power Solutions Ltd (BPSL) had proposed to refund money it collected over eight years ago from investors for its corporate fixed deposit (FD) scheme. However according to the proposal submitted before the Bombay High Court, the company wanted to pay only the principal amount over next three years without any interest. Earlier in February, Yash Birla’s wife Avantika and her maternal uncle Narayan Baheti met officials form the Economic Offence Wing (EOW) and assured them that, the Group would arrange money to repay its depositors.
 
BPSL is being probed by EOW of Mumbai Police for defaulting in repaying its deposit holders. A criminal case has been registered under the Maharashtra Protection of Interests of Depositors' (MPID) Act. Its former managing director, PVR Murthy was also arrested. 
 
Moneylife Foundation has been receiving complaints from its members that they are not receiving their fixed deposit maturity amounts from two Yash Birla Group companies namely Zenith Birla (India) and Birla Power Solutions. Birla Power had problems in paying tax dues as well.
 
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GM mustard trial report to be submitted to Centre soon: Pental

Tested in Rajasthan and Punjab and at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), Delhi, the GM mustard's yield is 20 to 30 percent more than the best varieties available currently, said Delhi University's Deepak Pental, who heads the research on the transgenic mustard

 

A team of Indian scientists has completed the final field trials of a genetically-modified variety of mustard and will submit a report on its yields and safety to the central government within a month.
 
Tested in Rajasthan and Punjab and at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), Delhi, the GM mustard's yield is 20 to 30 percent more than the best varieties available currently, said Delhi University's Deepak Pental, who heads the research on the transgenic mustard.
 
"It was tested in Rajasthan at three places for two years; at two places in Punjab for one year; and in Delhi in IARI. Results reveal that it yields 20 to 30 percent more crop than the best varieties ... no mean achievement by global standards," Pental, a professor at DU's department of genetics, told IANS on Tuesday.
 
This could substantially bring down India's edible oil imports, he observed.
 
The report would be handed over to the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), housed in the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.
 
Though there is stiff opposition from a section of farmers and other sectors, Pental said, positive results could help these technologies succeed.
 
"The government has to take a call. If it allows one or two transgenics and people see the positive results like Bt Cotton, then only these technologies will succeed," he said.
 
Pental said biosafety studies (most conducted at National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad) did not show any "untoward effects" in terms of allergenic reactions, toxicity and environmental impacts.
 
He said the genes used in the process have been deregulated (allowing GM seeds to be commercially sold) in many countries and the safety of these genes is "beyond doubt".
 
"The three genes we used have been deregulated in rape seed, a sister crop of mustard that is extensively grown in Europe, Canada, the US, China and Australia. These genes have been deregulated in Canada since 1996. Today, 50 percent of their area is under these transgenics containing these three genes that we used," Pental said.
 
"End products which humans consume will not have any proteins - either the plants' own proteins or the transgenic proteins," he added.
 
Currently, Bt cotton is the only GM crop allowed for commercial production in India.
 

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Cleartrip's domestic online travel to grow 12-14 percent in 2015

The $3 billion online travel agency (OTA) industry accounts for 22 percent of the overall travel industry, according to the company

 

Online travel portal Cleartrip is expecting the domestic online travel agency in the country to grow 12-14 percent this fiscal with the companies in this space focusing on organic growth.
 
The $3 billion online travel agency (OTA) industry accounts for 22 percent of the overall travel industry, according to the company.
 
"I think the various companies now are focusing on growing their business internally and inorganic growth may come afterwards. For the time being, it'll be organic growth," the company's chief revenue officer Amit Taneja told mediapersons here.
 
The company commands the largest market share in terms of mobile transactions and is the second-largest in the OTA segment having 39 percent market share. MakeMyTrip is the market leader in the overall OTA segment.
 
"Our turnover last year was $800 million and we received 54 percent of the enquiries from mobile handsets. This fiscal year, we are projecting a growth rate of 45 percent compared to 39 percent in the previous financial year from 2013 to 2014," he said.
 
He said the OTA industry is increasingly getting queries from the mobile platform.
 
"Forty percent of the transactions with an average size of Rs.8,000 for us was through the mobile platform last year," Taneja said.
 
He, however, said that his company will continue to focus on growing bookings from the computer segment and focus on the mobility segment which is predominantly led by apps.
 
The venture capital-funded travel portal is not seeking any rounds of investment presently.
 
"We are not looking at any funding. We have sufficient funds at this point," the official said.
 
Cleartrip received its last round of funding in 2012.

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