Business Standard

Weekend Bites: Tesla, Rs 2,000 note, and it's dog-eat-dog in food delivery

In which we munch over the week's platter of news and views

Tesla

Photo: Bloomberg

Suveen Sinha New Delhi
In early April 2016, Tesla said it would bring its Model 3 to India, and started taking bookings for it. Several celebrated names from Indian business, among them Paytm’s Vijay Shekhar Sharma, rushed to book one.

It has been a long wait. Some Indians, according to reports, already own a Tesla, but those would have been imported. For, Tesla has not yet launched in India.

In May last year, Sharma asked Elon Musk on Twitter when he was coming to India to deliver the first Tesla at the Taj Mahal. This was in response to the Tesla chief reminiscing about his visit to the monument in 2007.

Story of the week: Tesla comes calling

Tesla has had a bumpy ride in India. Two years ago, Elon Musk registered a company in Bengaluru to import cars, and talked about setting up company-owned retail showrooms. But he later abandoned the search for showroom space and reassigned the India team to other parts of the world.

India has been steadfast in its refusal to lower import tax on cars, which can be as much as 100 per cent, causing a surge in the prices of imported cars. Secondly, the government wants Tesla to manufacture in the country. Tesla wanted to test the market first with imports and urged the government to reduce the import duty to 40 per cent.

Is this deadlock loosening? Senior Tesla executives were in India this week to meet the government. It seems a reduction in import duty is off the discussion table. What’s more, Tesla is apparently ready to set up a factory in India and has put forth a proposal, according to international news agency Reuters, which attributed the information to unnamed sources.

It seems the Tesla people were here also to see how they could develop local sourcing of components from India. The company already has suppliers such as Sona and Sandhar that provide components indirectly, but the numbers have been small.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg, another international news agency, quoting “people familiar with the matter”, reported that the carmaker stopped short of proposing to build vehicles in the country. 

Musk knows what the truth is.

In other news…

This brought back memories of a November evening in 2016. The Reserve Bank of India on Friday announced the withdrawal of Rs 2,000 currency notes from circulation. The existing notes can either be deposited in bank accounts or exchanged by September 30.

Another news emerging from the Central Bank on Friday was that it will transfer Rs 87,416 crore to the Centre as surplus for 2022-23.

An expert committee appointed by the Supreme Court said it could not conclude any regulatory failure around Adani Group's stock rallies, and that Sebi had "drawn a blank" in its probe into alleged violations in money flows from offshore entities into the conglomerate. But the six-member panel said there was evidence of a build-up in short positions on Adani Group stocks ahead of the report of the US-based short-seller, Hindenburg Research, and profiting afterwards.

Vedanta Limited’s efforts to prop up its parent and group holding company, Vedanta Resources, has started to strain its balance sheet. Vedanta Ltd’s gross debt burden (consolidated) became 24 per cent heavier in the financial year ended March this year, reaching its heaviest in six years. Analysts attribute this to the record dividend by the mining and metals company despite a sharp fall in its earnings and cash flows.

Srichand Hinduja, who died at the age of 87, was the patriarch of the business empire that carries the family name. His death raises further questions about the group that is already in turmoil.

Tech that: Word from the world of technology and start-ups

At a time when India’s start-ups are facing a shortage of funds, Sequoia India is seeing a new window of opportunity for semiconductor start-ups, a nascent sector in which it recently made two investments.

“Some of our best companies globally have been created in downturns and recessions,” Mohit Bhatnagar, managing director, Sequoia India, told us this and much more.

Watch it: From The Morning Show

The government decided to raise the usage tax on international credit card transactions from 5 per cent to 20 per cent from July with the intent of curbing under-reporting by the rich. But this has many other ramifications. Watch it here.

What is Suveen obsessing over these days?

As CVs go, Nandan Nilekani’s would be tough to beat. One of Narayan Murthy’s co-founders at Infosys. A fruitful stint as the IT bellwether’s CEO. The man behind Aadhaar. Revolutionised digital payments with UPI. There is the minor matter of a lost Lok Sabha election in 2014, but that can sound like a laurel considering Manmohan Singh lost one as well, in 1999.

Nilekani is now out to fix e-commerce with the Open Network Digital Commerce. Government-backed and non-profit, ONDC aims to democratise e-commerce by moving it from a platform-centric model to an open network. Buyers can tap into it using any participating app to search for an item and get connected with thousands of sellers across the country, with ONDC acting as the facilitating platform without being an app.

The first sign of the upheaval surfaced in the delivery of food ordered online as social media was flooded with messages that the same food order cost less on ONDC than on Zomato or Swiggy, the duopoly that now rules the business. The former, which is listed, saw a fall in its share price because of the perceived threat from ONDC.

A Bloomberg column said ONDC was democratising burgers and biryani and raised a few searching questions.

Our Edit on the topic raised questions of its own. Signs of a lower-than-expected traction can be had, it said, from the fact that Paytm might forgo its 3 per cent commission as a buy app to stoke customer participation. Also, that Big Commerce players are being invited to join the platform contradicts the original intention of facilitating small retail. The moot point is whether the ONDC is the “UPI moment” for Indian e-commerce, as is being projected.

That, as the cliché goes, remains to be seen. Meantime, it is a dog-eat-dog world out there.

This is Suveen signing off. Please send comments, news, or views about anything — from electric cars to dog food — to suveen.sinha@bsmail.in.

(Suveen Sinha is Chief Content Editor at Business Standard)

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First Published: May 20 2023 | 7:04 AM IST

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