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Cabinet Approves Rs. 4,500-Crore PLI Scheme to Boost Solar PV Modules Manufacturing

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By ANI | Updated: 8 April 2021

The union cabinet on Wednesday approved a production linked incentive (PLI) scheme with an outlay of Rs 4,500 crore to add 10,000MW capacity of integrated solar PV modules manufacturing plants.

Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, while addressing a press conference said, “The union cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved high-frequency solar PV modules.”

The government said that this decision would add 10,000 MW capacity of integrated solar PV manufacturing plants and bring a direct investment of around Rs. 17,200 crores in solar PV manufacturing. The PLI scheme is likely to create direct employment of around 30,000 and indirect employment of 1.2 lakh.

Solar capacity addition presently depends largely upon imported solar PV cells and modules as the domestic manufacturing industry has limited operational capacities of solar PV cells and modules, as per a government release.

The National Programme on High-Efficiency Solar PV Modules will reduce import dependence in a strategic sector like electricity. It will also support the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative.

Solar PV manufacturers will be selected through a transparent competitive bidding process. PLI will be disbursed for five years post commissioning of solar PV manufacturing plants, on sales of high-efficiency solar PV modules.

With this scheme, manufacturers will be rewarded for higher efficiencies of solar PV modules and also for sourcing their material from the domestic market. Thus, the PLI amount will increase with increased module efficiency and increased local value addition, the release stated.

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Wearable Fan Helps Cats and Dogs Beat the Heat in Japan’s Scorching Summer

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By Reuters | Updated: 1 August 2022

A Tokyo clothing maker has teamed up with veterinarians to create a wearable fan for pets, hoping to attract the anxious owners of dogs – or cats – that can’t shed their fur coats in Japan’s blistering summer weather. The device consists of a battery-operated, 80-gramme (3-ounce) fan that is attached to a mesh outfit and blows air around an animal’s body.

Rei Uzawa, president of maternity clothing maker Sweet Mommy, says she was motivated to create it after seeing her own pet chihuahua exhausted every time it was taken out for a walk in the scorching summer heat.

“There was almost no rainy season this year, so the hot days came early, and in that sense, I think we developed a product that is right for the market,” she said.

After the rainy season in Tokyo ended in late June, the Japanese capital suffered the longest heatwave on record with temperatures up to 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) for nine days. Soaring energy prices and the threat of power shortages during the recent heatwave had boosted expectations the government would restart some of the dozens of nuclear reactors idled after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

“I usually use dry ice packs (to keep the dog cool). But I think it’s easier to walk my dog if we have this fan,” said Mami Kumamoto, 48, owner of a miniature poodle named Pudding and a terrier named Maco.

The device debuted in early July and Sweet Mommy has received around 100 orders for the product, Uzawa said. It comes in five different sizes and is priced at JPY 9,900 (roughly Rs. 5,900).

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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NITI Aayog Offers Roadmap for Licensing, Regulation for Digital Banks: Report

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By ANI | Updated: 21 July 2022

Government think tank NITI Aayog has made a case and offered a template and roadmap for a licensing and regulatory regime for digital banks that focuses on avoiding any regulatory or policy arbitrage and offers a level playing field to incumbents as well as competitors. In a report titled ‘Digital Banks – A Proposal for Licensing and Regulatory Regime for India’, the think tank recommended the issuance of a restricted digital bank license to such financial entities. It mooted for a ‘full-scale’ digital bank license.

The methodology for the licensing and regulatory template offered by the report is based on four factors such as entry barriers, competition, business restrictions, and technological neutrality.

Taking forward the agenda of fintech innovations, and marking 75 years of India’s independence, the government in its Budget for 2022-23 proposed to set up 75 digital banking units in 75 districts of the country by scheduled commercial banks.

The report also maps prevalent business models in this domain. It highlights the challenges presented by the ‘partnership model’ of neo-banking–which has emerged in India due to a regulatory vacuum and in the absence of a digital bank license.

Given the need for leveraging technology effectively to cater to the needs of banking in India, this report studies the prevailing gaps, the niches that remain underserved, and the global regulatory best practices in licensing digital banks, said CEO Parameswaran Iyer while releasing the report.

In recent years, India has made rapid strides in furthering financial inclusion catalyzed by the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana for the unversed. However, credit penetration remains a policy challenge, especially for the nation’s MSMEs that contribute 30 percent to GDP, 45 percent to manufacturing output, and 40 percent to exports, while creating employment for a significant section of the population.

Financial inclusion has only been furthered by the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), which has witnessed extraordinary adoption. UPI recorded over 4.2 billion transactions worth Rs 7.7 trillion in October 2021.

The NITI Aayog report has been prepared based on inter-ministerial consultations. Last year, NITI Aayog released a discussion paper on the subject for wider stakeholder consultations. Comments received from 24 organizations were examined and suitably addressed in the final report.

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India’s Startup Story Intact, Tech Innovation Vibrant, Relevant: HCL Tech CEO C Vijayakumar

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 18 July

India’s startup story is “intact” and its tech innovation fundamentals remain vibrant and relevant despite fluctuating valuations in the startup space, according to HCL Technologies Chief Executive Officer C Vijayakumar. The comment by the Indian IT major HCL Technologies’ top official comes at a time when investments and venture capital deal volumes in the startup space have started to taper, as investors turn wary of committing large cheques amid uncertain market conditions.

Asked about startup valuations coming off their peak, and whether the space is headed for a possible reset, HCL Tech’s Vijayakumar in an interview with PTI said: “I absolutely believe that the India startup story, tech innovation, products, all of that coming out of India, is very intact”.

“Obviously there is some kind of reduction in valuations … but barring that, the big picture is very vibrant and relevant for a lot of new things that are happening in the market. So, I am very positive on that,” Vijayakumar added.

After a dream run and heady valuations in past years, the wave of venture capital chasing the Indian startup ecosystem (the third largest startup ecosystem in the world) appears to be dwindling. Spooked by concerns over profitability, cash burn, and corporate governance issues, investors are raising their guard, while stock market corrections have taken the sheen off newly-listed startups.

Funding in startups dropped by 17 per cent sequentially to USD 6 billion (about Rs 47,800 crore) in the April-June period, according to industry body Nasscom. As per a report by market intelligence platform Tracxn, the total funding raised by Indian startups in the just-ended June quarter fell 33 per cent sequentially to USD 6.9 billion.

The funding seems to have come off the previous high, witnessed in Q3 2021, the Tracxn report said, while indicating a “major consensus amongst market players of a ‘winter of funding’ or a downturn in investors’ confidence and sentiments towards funding startups”.

On whether HCL Tech would look at the startup space for acquisition, given the valuations have turned attractive, Vijayakumar said, “it all depends … we’re constantly looking for capability-led acquisitions, in the services and products side. If we find something interesting, we may look at it.” HCL Technologies recently reported a 2.4 per cent year-on-year rise in its consolidated net profit for the three months ended in June 2022 at Rs 3,283 crore. The revenue of the Noida-headquartered firm stood at Rs 23,464 crore, nearly 17 per cent higher than the year-ago period.

The company retained its FY23 revenue outlook in the 12-14 per cent band, citing “strong momentum in the market” and said it is positive about growth trajectory. The company expects to be on the lower end of the guided EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) margin band of 18-20 per cent.

Vijayakumar asserted that the company is “on a good upcycle”, and will use multiple levers to mitigate the challenges around margins. On whether there is any impact of the Russia-Ukraine war on operations, Vijayakumar said that the company does not have any presence in these locations, for sales or delivery.

“We have presence in some adjacent countries, such as Romania, Poland … so in those countries there is no problem, things are going fine. We didn’t have any direct exposure to Russia or Ukraine,” he said.

As far as Europe is concerned, the company has not seen any material changes in the overall pipeline or demand, and “it continues to be quite robust”. To a question on the timelines by when the company plans to get its workforce back to office, Vijayakumar said HCL Tech pursues a ‘virtual-first hybrid operating model’.

“So wherever the work can be done virtually, we tell people to continue doing it virtually. We are putting together an engagement model, where we expect them to be in one of our locations, maybe a couple of days in a month, or in some cases, a couple of weeks,” he said.

That model is evolving right now. “Maybe about 20 percent of our employee base is working from our locations, and that number varies from location to location. We think it will only marginally increase, not dramatically increase,” he said but did not divulge a target ratio or timeline for achieving the same.

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IISc Says Team Has Developed Enhanced Data Encryption, Security Device

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 28 May 2022

An Indian Institute of Science team has developed a “record-breaking” true random number generator (TRNG), which can improve data encryption and provide improved security for sensitive digital data such as credit card details, passwords and other personal information. The study describing this device has been published in the journal ‘ACS Nano’, the Bengaluru-based IISc, said in a press release on Friday.

“Almost everything we do on the internet is encrypted for security. The strength of this encryption depends on the quality of random number generation,” says Nithin Abraham, a PhD student at the Department of Electrical Communication Engineering (ECE), IISc.

Abraham is a part of the IISc team led by Kausik Majumdar, associate professor at ECE.

Encrypted information can be decoded only by authorised users who have access to a cryptographic “key”. But the key needs to be unpredictable and, therefore, randomly generated to resist hacking.

Cryptographic keys are typically generated in computers using pseudo-random number generators (PRNGs), which rely on mathematical formulae or pre-programmed tables to produce numbers that appear random but are not.

In contrast, a TRNG extracts random numbers from inherently random physical processes, making it more secure.

In IISc’s “breakthrough” TRNG device, random numbers are generated using the random motion of electrons.

It consists of an artificial electron trap constructed by stacking atomically-thin layers of materials like black phosphorus and graphene. The current measured from the device increases when an electron is trapped, and decreases when it is released. Since electrons move in and out of the trap in a random manner, the measured current also changes randomly. The timing of this change determines the generated random number, the statement said.

“You cannot predict exactly at what time the electron is going to enter the trap. So, there is an inherent randomness that is embedded in this process,” explains Majumdar.

The performance of the device on the standard tests for cryptographic applications designed by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has exceeded Majumdar’s own expectations.

“When the idea first struck me, I knew it would be a good random number generator, but I didn’t expect it to have a record-high min-entropy,” he says.

Min-entropy is a parameter used to measure the performance of TRNGs. Its value ranges from zero (completely predictable) to one (completely random). The device from Majumdar’s lab showed a record-high min-entropy of 0.98, a significant improvement over previously reported values, which were around 0.89.

“Ours is by far the highest reported min-entropy among TRNGs,” says Abraham. The team’s electronic TRNG is also more compact than its clunkier counterparts that are based on optical phenomena.

“Since our device is purely electronic, millions of such devices can be created on a single chip,” adds Majumdar.

He and his group plan to improve the device by making it faster and developing a new fabrication process that would enable the mass production of these chips.

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Elon Musk Wins $13 Billion SolarCity Lawsuit Against Tesla Shareholders

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 28 April 2022

A judge in the state of Delaware on Wednesday handed Tesla chief Elon Musk a victory in a shareholder lawsuit filed over the controversial buy of solar panel maker SolarCity.

The judge ruled against a group of Tesla shareholders who contended that Musk, who was chairman of both Tesla and SolarCity at the time of the transaction, “poisoned” Tesla’s ability to fairly evaluate the purchase, wasting corporate assets in the $2.6 billion (roughly Rs. 19,920 crore) deal and harming people who owned Tesla stock, according to a complaint.

The judge wrote in his decision that evidence indicated Tesla paid a “fair price” for SolarCity and has benefited from the acquisition.

The group of investors, which includes union pension funds and other institutional investors, argued that SolarCity was a failing enterprise that faced “likely bankruptcy” were it not for the actions of Musk and other Tesla board members, who also had large equity stakes in SolarCity.

The shareholders who filed the suit had previously reached a $60 million (roughly Rs. 460 crore) settlement with other Tesla directors originally named in the complaint, with the payment coming from insurance. This group, which included Kimbal Musk, Elon Musk’s brother, did not admit fault.

A key question in the trial was whether Musk, who held 22 percent of Tesla’s equity at the time, controlled the transaction, which won approval from Tesla shareholders.

Musk told the court that buying SolarCity was part of his “master plan,” according to CNBC.

Dan Ives, analyst at Wedbush Securities, said during the course of the trial that Wall Street was watching “very closely to see the outcome for Musk and the corporate governance.”

The SolarCity deal has been a “black eye” for Musk and Tesla and a “clear low light” in the company’s whirlwind rise, Ives said in a note late last year.

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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Invites US Semiconductor Players to Invest in India

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 26 April 2022

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday held a meeting with representatives of the semiconductor industry of the US and invited them to make further investments in India. The Finance Minister spoke about opportunities for companies situated in Silicon Valley and about the government of India’s commitment to be a reliable player in the entire semiconductor value chain with dedicated incentive for the sector in mission mode through the Indian Semiconductor Mission.

Last year, the government approved a Rs 76,000-crore scheme to boost semiconductor and display manufacturing in the country in a bid to position India as a global hub for hi-tech production, and attract large chip makers.

Incentives have been lined up for companies engaged in silicon semiconductor fabs, display fabs, compound semiconductors, silicon photonics, sensor fabs, semiconductor packaging and semiconductor design.

During the roundtable with industry leaders from the semiconductor ecosystem, including design, manufacturing, equipment, technology and systems in San Francisco, the participants informed the Finance Minister that they have substantially scaled their capabilities in India in the last few years and are also collaborating with Academia for research and development.

“The participants also mentioned that in view of global supply chain disruptions, they need to review overreliance of supply chain in certain jurisdictions and with the right policies and talent in place, next decade will belong to India,” the finance ministry said in a tweet.

Participating in the meeting Devinder Kumar, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of AMD spoke about the company’s growth in India and how India is poised to grow strongly with the vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat driving it.

Western Digital, Senior Vice President, Corporate Business Development Dan Steere said the company is excited to explore opportunities with the government of India to expand manufacturing in the Indian market.

Manish Bhatia, executive vice president of global operations at Micron Tech said the $10 million (roughly Rs 80 crore) scheme by the government would encourage semiconductor manufacturing in India.

The Finance Minister also met Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who gave a snapshot of the company’s investment in India and expansion plan.

During the meeting, he expressed his optimism about the company’s growth in India across segments, and how the company is looking to quadruple the number of drivers on the platform to 2 million.

“Finance Minister Smt. @nsitharaman acknowledged @Uber’s expansion plans in India and said that technology plays an important role in strengthening transportation and mobility sectors as well as last mile connectivity,” another tweet said.

“Union Finance Minister Smt. @nsitharaman met with Mr Mark Widmar, CEO, @FirstSolar, in San Francisco, today. They discussed about India’s renewable energy landscape and @FirstSolar’s $700 million investment in India,” a separate tweet said.

Widmar informed the Finance Minister that the company’s plant will be operational shortly and this is their lowest-cost factory across jurisdictions with very low carbon footprint and recycles 90 per cent of the material.

He also said that India has been at the forefront of reforms made in the renewable energy sector and the government’s new policy facilitates companies to operate at a level-playing field. Opportunities around green hydrogen and sustainable energy were also discussed at length.

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