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Suzuki to Invest $35 Billion in EVs Through 2030, Will Introduce Electric Vehicles in India and Europe




Suzuki plans to learn from Toyota how to use EV technology to make small electric cars, the firm said during a visit to India this month,
By Reuters | Updated: 27 January 2023

Suzuki Motor will invest JPY 4.5 trillion (roughly Rs. 2,85,614 crore) through fiscal 2030 in research, development and capital spending to make battery electric vehicles (EVs), it said on Thursday.

The Japanese automaker known for making compact “kei” cars said it would invest JPY 2 trillion in electrification and autonomous driving technologies, while allocating JPY 2.5 trillion (roughly Rs. 1,56,915) to build a battery EV plant and for renewable energy facilities.

Of the money earmarked for electrification, JPY 500 billion (roughly Rs. 31,380 crore) would be invested in batteries, it said.

Suzuki’s announcement comes after other Japanese automakers have rolled out similar goals to catch up with European and US rivals in the fast-growing battery EV market.

Mazda Motor unveiled in November a $10.6 billion (roughly Rs. 86,460 crore) spending plan to electrify its vehicles.

Suzuki said it would introduce its first battery EVs, including small sport-utility vehicles and micro “kei” cars, in Japan in fiscal 2023. With cost-conscious customers in mind, company president Toshihiro Suzuki said he wanted to sell vehicles for around JPY 1 million (roughly Rs. 6,27,400).

Suzuki plans to introduce battery EVs in Europe and India, and its first battery electric motorcycles globally, the following year.

The company is aiming to leverage its cooperation with car giant Toyota Motor to capture a bigger share of India’s budding EV market, which is gaining momentum.

Suzuki plans to learn from Toyota how to use EV technology to make small electric cars, Suzuki said during a visit to India this month.

Still, Toshihiro Suzuki said on Thursday the automaker was not abandoning hybrid and internal combustion vehicle line-ups, pointing to a lack of charging infrastructure, high EV costs and concerns over limited battery resources.

For India, Suzuki’s key market, it predicted EVs would make up 15 percent of its vehicle line-up in fiscal 2030, while internal combustion engine cars using biofuels and ethanol as fuels would make up 60 percent.

“We will put in vehicles for various price ranges, for various people, for various regions,” Toshihiro Suzuki said.

© Thomson Reuters 2023


6.1 Percent Indians Are Optimistic About Generative AI Tools: Survey




GenAI is a rapidly evolving space, and its transformative impact is already being felt in workplaces around the world, says Nicolas De Bellefonds.
By Press Trust of India | Updated: 7 June 2023

From ChatGPT to Dall-E and all the technologies in between, the new wave of generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) is transforming businesses at a rapid pace, and 60 percent of Indian executives are optimistic about its impact on workplace, as per a survey.

However, opinions vary by seniority and by country, according to the survey by Boston Consulting Group.

The survey is based on inputs from 12,800 employees from the executive suites to the frontline employees across industries in 18 countries.

As per the survey, Brazil (71 percent) is the most optimistic country about the impact of GenAI on workplace followed by India (60 percent) and the Middle East (58 percent).

The least optimistic are the US (46 percent), the Netherlands (44 percent) and Japan (40 percent).

Geographies most concerned about AI are the Netherlands (42 percent), France (41 percent), and Japan (38 percent), while the least concerned are the Middle East (25 percent), Brazil (19 percent), and India (14 percent), As much as 61 percent of the 1,000 respondents in India are optimistic about the tool while 72.8 percent of them believe the rewards of GenAI outweigh risks.

Also, close to 88 percent of respondents believe their job is likely to be transformed by AI and 80 percent feel AI-specific regulations are necessary.

GenAI is a rapidly evolving space, and its transformative impact is already being felt in workplaces around the world, says Nicolas De Bellefonds, the global leader of AI and software at BCG X, BCG’s tech build and design unit.

As per the survey, 52 percent of respondents are optimistic about AI’s impact on work, which was 35 percent in 2018.

According to Nipun Kalra, managing director & partner, and head of BCG X in India, among the 18 countries surveyed, Indian executives are the most optimistic about the transformative impact of AI.

The survey also showed that senior leaders are more frequent users of generative AI, and thus are more optimistic and less concerned about it than frontline employees. While 62 per cent of leaders are optimistic about AI, only 42 percent of frontline employees share that view.

Also, 62 percent of regular users of GenAI are optimistic about it, compared to 36 percent of non-users. A majority of leaders (80 percent) report that they use GenAI tools regularly, compared with just 20 percent of frontline employees.

Further, frontline employees made up the largest percentage of non-users (60 percent).

Globally, more than a third of the respondents (36 percent) think that their job is likely to be eliminated by AI and 86 percent believe they will need skilling.

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Government Approves $11 Billion Revival Plan for BSNL to help deploy 4G, 5G




The development comes days after BSNL partnered with top software company Tata Consultancy Services to help deploy 4G network across the country.
By Reuters | Updated: 7 June 2023

India’s cabinet on Wednesday approved an Rs. 89,000 crore ($10.79 billion) revival package for loss-making Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) to help the state-owned telecom operator deploy 4G and 5G services in a market dominated by private players.

“With this revival package, BSNL will emerge as a stable telecom service provider focused on providing connectivity to remotest parts of India,” the cabinet said in a statement.

The development comes days after BSNL partnered with top software company Tata Consultancy Services to help deploy 4G network across the country at a time when larger rivals were rolling out next-generation 5G network.

Debt-laden BSNL, grappling with poor infrastructure, has been posting losses for the past 12 years. The losses narrowed to Rs. 69.82 billion in the year ended March 2022 from Rs. 74.41 billion a year ago.

The company has also been struggling to win customers in the face of intense price competition from Reliance Industries-owned Reliance Jio Infocomm, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea.

The telecom market in India was upended by Jio’s launch in 2016, when it offered free calls and cut-price data plans, eroding the profit and revenue of rivals and leading to consolidation.

Shares of state-owned telecom firm Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd surged 14.3 percent after the news on a revival package for BSNL.

($1 = 82.5057 Indian rupees)

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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Won’t Notify Fact-Checking Unit Till July 10, Centre Tells HC; Two New Pleas Filed Against IT Rules




The Union government had in April told the HC that the fact-checking unit would not be notified till July 5.
By Press Trust of India | Updated: 7 June 2023 

The Centre on Wednesday told the Bombay High Court it was extending till July 10 its earlier statement that it won’t notify its fact-checking unit to identify fake news against the government on social media, even as two new petitions were filed challenging the recently amended IT Rules.

The Union government had in April told the HC that the fact-checking unit would not be notified till July 5. The statement was made when the court was hearing a petition filed by stand-up comic Kunal Kamra challenging the constitutional validity of the Information Technology Rules.

On Wednesday, a division bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Neela Gokhale was informed that two new petitions have also been filed challenging the Rules.

The petitions filed by the Editors Guild of India and the Association of Indian Magazines claim that the Rules are arbitrary and unconstitutional.

The court said it would hear all the three petitions from July 6.

“We shall take up the petitions for final disposal from July 6 onwards. The petitioners’ counsels shall complete their arguments on July 7 after which we shall set a date for the Union government to put forth their arguments,” the court said.

“In view of the dates fixed for hearing, the Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh says that the statement made earlier by the Centre shall stand extended till July 10,” the court added.

On April 6, 2023, the Union government promulgated certain amendments to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, including a provision for a fact-checking unit to flag fake or false or misleading online content related to the government.

The three petitions sought the court to declare the amended Rules unconstitutional and direct the government to restrain from acting against any individual under the Rules.

The Union government in its affidavit filed in comedian Kamra’s petition in April said that the “role of the fact-checking unit is restricted to any business of the Centre, which may include information about policies, programmes, notifications, rules, regulations, implementation thereof, etc”.

“The fact check unit may only identify fake or false or misleading information and not any opinion, satire or artistic impression. Therefore, the aim of the government regarding the introduction of the impugned provision is explicitly clear and suffers from no purported arbitrariness or unreasonableness as alleged by the petitioner (Kamra),” the Centre’s affidavit had said.

As per the amendments, intermediaries such as social media companies will have to act against content identified by the fact-checking unit or risk losing their safe harbour protections under Section 79 of the IT Act.

“Safe harbour” protections allow intermediaries to avoid liabilities for what third parties post on their websites.

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Apple Acquires AR Headset Startup Mira: Report




This comes a day after Apple unveiled a costly augmented-reality headset called the Vision Pro.
By Reuters | Updated: 7 June 2023

Apple has acquired Mira, a Los Angeles-based AR startup that makes headsets for other companies and the US military, the Verge reported on Tuesday, citing a post from Mira CEO’s private Instagram account and a person familiar with the matter.

This comes a day after Apple unveiled a costly augmented-reality headset called the Vision Pro, one of its riskiest bets since the introduction of the iPhone more than a decade ago, barging into a market dominated by Meta Platforms.

Apple’s headset will test a market crowded with devices that have yet to gain traction with consumers and put it in direct competition with Facebook-owner Meta after years of clashes between the companies over issues like user privacy and control of developer platforms.

Mira’s military contracts include a small agreement with the US Air Force and a $702,351 agreement with the Navy, according to government records and press releases, the Verge report said.

The Verge added that Apple had confirmed the acquisition saying that it buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and generally does not discuss its purpose or plans.

Apple has brought on at least 11 of Mira’s employees as part of the acquisition, according to the report.

Apple, Mira and its CEO Ben Taft did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.

Last month, Apple said it has entered a multi-billion-dollar deal with chipmaker Broadcom to use chips made in the United States.

Under the multi-year deal, Broadcom will develop 5G radio frequency components with Apple that will be designed and built in several US facilities, including Fort Collins, Colorado, where Broadcom has a major factory, Apple said.

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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Reddit Lays Off 5 Percent of Its Workforce, Will Reduce Planned Hiring for 2023




Tech companies have been slashing jobs after aggressively hiring during the pandemic, as the industry braces for an economic downturn.
By Reuters | Updated: 7 June 2023

Reddit said on Tuesday it is laying off about 5 percent of its workforce, or 90 employees, joining a list of technology companies that have been cutting jobs across corporate America.

Tech companies including Meta Platforms have been slashing jobs after aggressively hiring during the pandemic, as the industry braces for an economic downturn.

Meta, the owner of Facebook, slashed jobs across its business and operations units last month, as it carried out its last batch of a three-part layoff round, first announced in March to eliminate 10,000 roles.

Reddit, which was spun off from magazine conglomerate Conde Nast in 2011, saw a recent surge in appeal due to the popularity of WallStreetBets and other forums on its platform that have become a venue for retail investors to speculate on stocks.

The Wall Street Journal first reported Reddit’s move on Tuesday, citing an email sent to employees from Chief Executive Steve Huffman.

Huffman said the company would also reduce its hiring for the rest of the year to about 100 people from an early plan of 300, according to the WSJ report.

In December 2021, Reddit had confidentially filed for an initial public offering with the US securities regulator after the company’s message boards became the go-to destination for day traders during a meme stock frenzy.

The company was looking at a valuation of more than $15 billion (roughly Rs. 1,14,380 crore), Reuters had reported in September 2021.

Earlier that year, the company was valued at $10 billion (roughly Rs. 76,260 crore) in a private fundraising round.

Reddit was also reportedly tapping Wall Street banks Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group for its initial public offering.

Reddit, which was founded in 2005 by Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian, has more than 50 million daily active users and over 100,000 communities.

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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US SEC Sues Coinbase, One Day After Suing Binance; Accuses Crypto Exchange of Operating Illegally




The SEC says Coinbase failed to register as an exchange.
By Reuters | Updated: 7 June 2023

The US Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday sued Coinbase, accusing the largest US cryptocurrency platform of operating illegally because it failed to register as an exchange, in another blow to the crypto industry.

The lawsuit is the SEC’s second in two days against a major crypto exchange, following its case against Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, and founder Changpeng Zhao.

Both civil cases are part of SEC Chair Gary Gensler’s push to assert jurisdiction over the crypto industry, which he on Tuesday again labelled a “Wild West” that has undermined investor trust in the US capital markets.

“The whole business model is built on a noncompliance with the US securities laws and we’re asking them to come into compliance,” Gensler told CNBC.

Crypto companies say the SEC rules are unclear, and that the agency is overreaching by trying to regulate them.

Coinbase suffered about $1.28 billion (roughly Rs. 10,564 crore) of net customer outflows following the lawsuit, according to initial estimates from data firm Nansen.

Paul Grewal, Coinbase’s general counsel, in a statement said the company will continue operating as usual and has “demonstrated commitment to compliance.”

Ten US states led by California also on Tuesday accused Coinbase of securities law violations concerning its staking rewards program.

Shares of Coinbase’s parent Coinbase Global closed down $7.10 (roughly Rs. 586), or 12.1 percent, at $51.61 (roughly Rs. 4,260) after earlier falling as much as 20.9 percent. They are up 46 percent this year.

‘Can’t ignore rules’

In its complaint filed in Manhattan federal court, the SEC said Coinbase has since at least 2019 made billions of dollars by operating as a middleman on crypto transactions, while evading disclosure requirements meant to protect investors.

The SEC said Coinbase traded at least 13 crypto assets that are securities that should have been registered, including tokens such as Solana, Cardano and Polygon.

Founded in 2012, Coinbase recently served more than 108 million customers, and ended March with $130 billion (roughly Rs. 10,73,016 crore) of customer crypto assets and funds on its balance sheet. Transactions generated 75 percent of its $3.15 billion (roughly Rs. 25,998 crore) of net revenue last year.

In the staking rewards program, which has about 3.5 million customers, Coinbase pools crypto assets and uses them to support activity on the blockchain network, in exchange for “rewards” it provides customers after taking a commission for itself.

The SEC lawsuit seeks civil fines, the recouping of ill-gotten gains and injunctive relief. The SEC had warned Coinbase in March that charges might be coming.

“You simply can’t ignore the rules because you don’t like them,” SEC Enforcement Chief Gurbir Grewal, who is not related to Paul Grewal, said in a statement.

States probing the staking rewards program also include Alabama, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, South Carolina, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin. New Jersey fined Coinbase $5 million (roughly Rs. 41.2 crore) for selling unregistered securities.

Coinbase said it expects to have “productive conversations” with the states and is confident its staking services are not securities.

Opposition to SEC crackdown

Gensler’s crypto crackdown has prompted the industry to boost compliance, shelve products and expand outside the country.

Kristin Smith, CEO of the Blockchain Association trade group, rejected Gensler’s efforts to oversee the industry.

“We’re confident the courts will prove Chair Gensler wrong in due time,” she said.

On Monday, the SEC accused Binance of inflating trading volumes, diverting customer funds, improperly commingling assets, failing to keep wealthy US customers off its platform, and misleading customers about its controls.

Binance pledged to vigorously defend itself against the lawsuit, which it said reflected the SEC’s “misguided and conscious refusal” to provide clarity to the crypto industry.

Customers pulled around $790 million (roughly Rs. 6,520 crore) from Binance and its US affiliate following the lawsuit, Nansen said.

On Tuesday, the SEC filed a motion for a US asset freeze in the Binance case.

Coinbase’s friction with Gensler dates to 2021, when the SEC threatened to sue if Coinbase were to let users earn interest by lending digital assets. The company scrapped the idea.

Tuesday’s case is SEC v Coinbase Inc et al, US District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 23-04738.

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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