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Indian Car Buyers Lapping Up SUVs, High-Tech Features Like Never Before




By PTI | Updated: 17 July 2022

India’s romance with SUVs is intensifying and automakers are fuelling the affair, having launched 36 such models in the last five years. Such is the craze for SUVs at present that waiting periods for some of the most popular models are stretching to over two years, and fresh orders are still flowing in. Car buyers are now willing to spend more on their personal mode of travel and are preferring top-end variants that come loaded with features such as a sunroof and connected technologies.

In India, where hatchbacks used to dominate the sales charts, entry-level and mid-sized sports utility vehicles (SUVs) are are growing in popularity, leading to more and more product launches in the segment. “The SUV segment has seen a major growth in the last few years. The SUV segment’s contribution, which was around 19 per cent of the industry, has now gone up to 40 per cent in 2021-22 and we see it growing further,” Maruti Suzuki India Senior Executive Director (Sales and Marketing) Shashank Srivastava told PTI.

One of the reasons for the growth of this segment has been customers’ liking for vehicles with a high stance and better road visibility, he added. With this increase in demand, the entry-level SUV segment became the largest in the domestic passenger vehicle market last fiscal, overtaking the premium hatchback vertical which has dominated the market since 2011.

Out of 30.68 lakh units last year, the entry-level SUVs’ share stood at 6.52 lakh units. It is also no surprise that the largest number of model launches in the last five years in the entire passenger vehicle segment has been in the compact and mid-level SUV space.

“Also, the new age millennials are preferring to buy high-end variants which come equipped with several comfort and convenience features. Preference for feature-loaded cars has gone up from 17 per cent in 2016-17 to 24 per cent in 2021-22. In some of our models, like the recently unveiled Brezza, the top variants account for 70 per cent of bookings,” Srivastava noted.

Studies show that spending will increase further now, and people are willing to spend more, he said.

Tata Motors Passenger Vehicles Managing Director Shailesh Chandra said differentiated design, evolving lifestyles, a shift from public to personal transport as a result of the pandemic, and a growing awareness of safety and convenience features are some of the factors that are driving growth in the passenger vehicles market.

“Customers today know exactly what they desire and we constantly strive to provide them with the same through our range, which is refreshed in short intervals, be it in terms of features, variants or brand new products,” he stated.

Chandra said the company’s strong comeback in FY21, reclaiming the third position in terms of volumes and being a challenger brand, has been thanks to a new range of cars and SUVs, which have been developed after studying the market in depth and understanding evolving customer needs.

Kia India Chief Sales Officer Myung-Sik Sohn said the increasing demand for SUVs among Indian customers clearly shows a strong preference towards bold, stylish vehicles with a tall stance. “We launched the Carens earlier this year and have already sold more than 30,000 units in less than five months,” he added.

Another trend the company is observing is that more and more customers are buying the top-end variants of cars, Sohn noted. “In fact, 47 per cent of the total Kias sold in India are top trims and this shows that customers today demand nothing but the best.” Customers today want connected features in their cars, and Kia now has more than two lakh connected cars on Indian roads with an activation rate of 97 percent, Sohn said.

Further, the modern digital savvy customer is increasingly scouting for the entire experience of owning a car with minimal physical contact, he added.

Toyota Kirloskar Motor Associate Vice President (Sales and Strategic Marketing) Atul Sood said the rapid pace of urbanisation and economic development is contributing to the demand for SUVs. Quite a number of models are already available in the segment in response to demand, thus making SUVs one of the strongest lineups in the car market today, he pointed out.

Sood noted that new launches and product refreshments always bring in excitement and added interest among customers. “We at Toyota have received an overwhelming response for all our new offerings, including the new Camry Hybrid and the new Glanza,” he said.


India Expected to See 31 Million Users Upgrading to 5G Phones by December: Survey




On an average, Indian 5G users spend two more hours per week using these services compared to users in other early adopter 5G markets.
By Press Trust of India | Updated: 3 October 2023

As many as 31 million smartphone users in India are expected to upgrade to 5G phones between now and December, a report by Ericsson said on Tuesday underlining the accelerated pace at which the world’s second largest telecom market is adopting the ultra high-speed services.

Ericsson estimates the current base of 5G handset users in India to be between 80 and 100 million.

5G services were launched in India in October last year by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the past months have seen a rapid rollout of these services across the length and breadth of the country by operators like Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel.

Swedish telecom maker Ericsson’s Consumer Lab’s Global Survey released on Tuesday pointed out that 5G users in India stand out for their high quality daily engagement with apps, such as streaming high definition video, video calling services, mobile gaming and augmented reality.

Among the big takeaways were the 5G satisfaction levels, and the willingness — by a section of those polled — to shell out a premium for innovative services and differentiated 5G connectivity.

On an average, Indian 5G users spend two more hours per week using these services compared to users in other early adopter 5G markets such as the US, the UK, South Korea, China and others.

“We estimate about 31 million users will upgrade to 5G phones in the remainder months of 2023,” Jasmeet Singh Sethi, Head of Ericsson Consumer Labs said during a briefing.

Another key finding of the report was that India’s 5G satisfaction levels rivalled or surpassed 5G early adopter markets.

“A total of 15 percent of Indian consumers are interested in adding application bundles, including video on demand, gaming and music, to their 5G plans, even at a higher cost. They are prepared to pay a 14 percent premium for these services,” the Ericsson report said.

While demand for larger data buckets remains the most prominent expectation among consumers for 5G plans, notably 31 percent of 5G users tend to deplete their data allocations by the end of the month. A larger portion, 58 percent of 5G users find themselves with more than 30GB of unused data by the month’s end.

“This suggests a clear need for service providers to explore more innovative approaches in crafting their 5G monetisation strategy beyond just offering higher data allowances to better align with consumer preferences and usage patterns,” the report advocated.

As 5G coverage expands in India, there is a significant opportunity to unlock greater value.

“By offering segmented 5G propositions using QoS (quality of service) offerings, providers can tap into the 22 per cent of smartphone users who express interest and are willing to pay a 13 percent premium for such enhanced experiences,” it said.

Recently, Ookla said the launch of 5G services in India turbocharged mobile download speeds here, pushing the country’s ranking 72 notches higher to 47th spot in Speedtest Global Index, ahead of nations like Japan, the UK and Brazil.

India’s speed performance has zoomed 3.59 times since the introduction of 5G, Ookla said dubbing the country’s 5G advancement as “remarkable”.

In this global pecking order, India ranked not only ahead of its neighbours like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan, but also some G20 countries, such as Mexico (90th), Turkey (68th), the UK (62nd), Japan (58th), Brazil (50th ), and South Africa (48th place).

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Crypto Rug-Pulls Affect Thousands of Users in Himachal Pradesh, Over Rs 200 Crore Lost




The fraudsters used a combination of misinformation, deception, and threats to maintain control over their scheme.
By Press Trust of India | Updated: 3 October 2023

Fraudsters in Himachal Pradesh minted a series of a crypto coins — two of which were KRO and DGT — to cheat thousands of investors of more than Rs 200 crore over a period of five years, beginning in 2018 — the year that crypto reached fever pitch.

The persons alleged to be part of a gang lured people promising them high returns in a short span of time in crypto investments and created a network of investors.

The initial investors then were baited to reel in other people in a Ponzi-style scheme.

The matter was raised in the Vidhan Sabha by Independent MLA Hoshyar Singh who pegged the amount of money swindled from people in Kangra and Hamirpur alone to be upwards of Rs. 200 crore.

In the wake of Singh’s assembly speech, a special investigation team was formed to probe into the matter.

The exact amount defrauded is yet to be ascertained, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Northern Range, Abhishek Dhullar, who is heading the SIT, told PTI on Monday.

Five people have been arrested in the connection with the frauds, however, their kingpin is still at large, police said.

The frauds used a combination of misinformation, deception, and threats to maintain control over their scheme and continued to extract money from unsuspecting investors by manipulating the prices of their coins, he said.

The first coin they launched was ‘Korvio Coin’ or KRO coins.

They charged the buyers an initial activation fee and promised them substantial returns. In their five-year-run, the frauds used three to four cryptocurrencies.

Cryptocurrency is a digital currency designed to work as a medium of exchange through a blockchain-based computer network that is not dependent on any central authority, such as the government or bank to uphold or maintain it.

Once their accounts were activated, the investors were encouraged to rope in more members into the scheme, police said.

The criminals used a Ponzi scheme pattern — a type of investment scam in which returns are paid to earlier investors from the capital contributed by new investors rather than from any legitimate profits.

Investors were encouraged to keep recruiting new members, a practice which created a cycle where money from new investments was used to pay returns to earlier investors. These initial investors got huge returns and became brand ambassadors of the scheme.

The scammers built fake websites to list their coins and manipulated their prices.

They later launched a new coin called ‘DGT Coin.’ After enough people had purchased these coins at a higher rate, its price was deliberately brought down causing a massive rugpull.

The accused introduced new coins and investment plans under different company names, such as ‘Hypenext’ and ‘Aglobal.’ Each time a new coin was introduced, it was marketed as a yet another investment opportunity, police said.

According to police, they have received 50 complaints about such frauds this year alone.

During their investigation, police found that the modus operandi across these frauds was similar and names involved common, SP Cyber Crime Rohit Malpani said.

Since then, five people have been arrested and chargesheeted in connection with these frauds and eight FIRs filed, police said.

“We are close to nabbing the kingpins of cryptocurrency scams in Himachal Pradesh and have mapped their assets and are conducting financial investigation,” Director General of Police Sanjay Kundu told PTI.

“My advice to people is not to fall prey to the cryptocurrency fraudsters,” he said.

Cryptocurrency market has seen several rug-pulls in the past few years, including the famous 2021 Squid coin scam in which the coin makers reportedly made off with $23 million (roughly Rs. 190 crore).

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China offers to collaborate on lunar mission as deadlines loom




By Reuters | Updated: October 3, 2023

BEIJING, Oct 3 (Reuters) – China, which aims to become a major space power by 2030, has opened up a key lunar mission to international cooperation as mission deadlines loom for setting up a permanent habitat on the south pole of the moon.

China welcomes countries and international organisations on its uncrewed Chang’e-8 mission and to jointly carry out “mission-level” projects, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) said at the 74th International Astronautical Congress in Baku, Azerbaijan, on Monday.

Mission-level projects mean China and its international partners could launch and operate their spacecraft, conduct spacecraft-to-spacecraft “interactions”, and jointly explore the surface of the moon, according to details announced on CNSA’s website.

International partners are also welcome to “piggyback” on the Chang’e-8 mission and independently deploy their own modules once the Chinese spacecraft lands, CNSA said.

Interested parties must submit a letter of intent to CNSA by Dec. 31. Final selection of proposals will come in September 2024.

The Chang’e-8 mission will follow the Chang’e-7 in 2026, which also aims to search for lunar resources on the moon’s south pole. The two missions will lay the foundations for the construction of the Beijing-led International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) in the 2030s.

China, which deployed an uncrewed probe to the moon on the Chang’e-5 mission in 2020, plans to send an uncrewed Chang’e-6 probe to the far side of the moon in the first half of 2024 to retrieve soil samples.

China aims to land astronauts on the moon by 2030.

China’s timeline to build an outpost on the south pole coincides with NASA’s more ambitious and advanced Artemis program, which aims to put U.S. astronauts back on the lunar surface in December 2025, barring delays.

On the 2025 Artemis 3 mission, two U.S. astronauts will land on the lunar south pole, a region previously unvisited by any human. The last time a human set foot on the moon was in 1972 under the U.S. Apollo program.

The crewed Artemis 4 and 5 missions are planned for 2027 and 2029, respectively.

NASA is banned by U.S. law from collaborating with China, directly or indirectly.

As of September, 29 countries – including India, which landed a probe near the moon’s south pole in August – have signed the Artemis Accords, a pact crafted by NASA and the U.S. State Department aimed at establishing norms of behaviour in space and on the lunar surface.

China and Russia are not signatories of the agreement.

China, for its own lunar station program, has secured participation from only Russia and Venezuela so far.

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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Meta floats $14 a month ad-free plan for Instagram, Facebook in EU – WSJ




By Reuters | Updated: October 3, 2023

Oct 2 (Reuters) – Meta Platforms (META.O) is exploring a plan that could make users in the European Union shell out as much as $14 to access ad-free versions of Instagram or Facebook or agree to personalized ads for the free versions, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

Under the plan, Meta would charge roughly 10 euros ($10.46) a month on a desktop for a Facebook or Instagram account, and about 6 euros for each additional linked account, the report said, citing people familiar with the proposal.

On mobile devices, the price for a single account would jump to roughly 13 euros because Meta would factor in commissions charged by Apple’s and Google’s app stores, WSJ said.

The social media company was fined 390 million euros earlier this year by Ireland’s Data Privacy Commissioner and told it cannot use the so-called “contract” legal basis to send users ads based on their online activity.

Meta subsequently said it intended to ask users in the EU for their consent before allowing businesses to target advertising in order to address a number of evolving regulatory requirements in the region.

Meta has now told European regulators it hopes to roll out the ad-free plan, which it calls subscription no ads (SNA), in the coming months for users in Europe, the report said.

A Meta spokesman told the Journal that the company believes in “free services which are supported by personalized ads” but is exploring “options to ensure we comply with evolving regulatory requirements.”

Meta, Ireland’s Data Protection Commission and the European Commission did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment outside regular business hours.

The New York Times first reported that Meta was considering paid versions of Facebook and Instagram with no ads for users residing in the EU, without giving details about how much they would cost.

($1 = 0.9553 euros)

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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EV maker Rivian beats Q3 delivery estimates after raising production




By Reuters | Updated: October 2, 2023

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct 2 (Reuters) – Electric-vehicle maker Rivian Automotive (RIVN.O) on Monday reported third-quarter deliveries above analysts’ estimates, as it ramped up production to meet a sustained demand for its pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles (SUVs).

The Irvine, California-based startup said it was on track to produce 52,000 vehicles in 2023 – a target it raised in August from 50,000 vehicles as supply-chain bottlenecks eased.

The stronger-than-expected numbers from Rivian come amid concerns of softening demand for electric vehicles in the U.S. due to higher borrowing costs, which has prompted price cuts and discounts by rivals including Tesla.

Rivian, which makes R1T pickup trucks and R1S SUVs, delivered 15,564 vehicles in the quarter ended Sept. 30, compared with Visible Alpha estimates of 14,740 vehicles and up 23% from the second quarter.

It produced 16,304 vehicles at its facility in Normal, Illinois, up from 13,992 in the second quarter. That means Rivian has to make just more than 12,300 vehicles in the current quarter to hit its full-year target.

Price cuts by Tesla to boost demand and responses from competitors have pushed average EV retail prices down to $53,376 in July 2023, from a high of nearly $70,000 a year ago, according to Cox Automotive.

Rivian has stayed away from cutting prices. Instead, it has been cutting cost and moved to building in-house Enduro powertrains to reduce its dependency on suppliers.

Despite a slowdown, there are positive signs of growth in the U.S. EV industry, which has become one of the fastest-growing EV markets, according to market research firm Canalys Research.

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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France’s Planisware IPO targets price range of 16 to 18 euros per share




By Reuters | Updated: October 1, 2023

Oct 2 (Reuters) – French software company Planisware launched on Monday an initial public offering as part of its aim to become a leading provider of multi-specialist project management solutions.

The group said 15.1 million shares will be sold, priced between 16 and 18 euros each, and it hopes to raise 241 million euros ($254.52 million) from the share sale.

The pricing of the offering is expected to take place on Oct. 11.

($1 = 0.9469 euros)

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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