Archive for August, 2016

MODERN APPROACH Using this technology, parts of the building are built in a factory nearby and assembled at site to finish the building

The demand for office space among corporates is rising but what is holding back leasing activity is shortage of good quality office space in top cities. While many new office projects have kicked off in the last few months to augment supply, a few builders are trying to capture demand early by speeding up construction using pre-fabrication technology which allows them to finish a building in 12-15 months as opposed to around 20-24 months using traditional methods.

Using this technology, parts of the building like the walls are built in a factory nearby and then transported to the site and assembled to finish the building.

In Gurugram, private equity fund and developer IREO is building an 11 million sq ft IT SEZ on 67 acres of land in Gurugram’s Golf Course Extension Road using this technology. In the first phase, it has started construction of a 1.2 million sq ft building that it says will be completed in just 1215 months, allowing the company to tap in to the demand for quality space that exists today among top corporates.

Builder Embassy is working on a 1.5 million sq ft building in its Embassy Tech Village on the Outer Ring Road in Bengaluru that will be completed in 13.5 months, says Mike Holland, CEO, Embassy Office Parks.

Another Bengaluru-based builder Salarpuria Sattva is exploring using this technology to building the remainder of its 6.5 million sq ft commercial complex in Hyderabad. The company has already built 2 million sq ft using traditional construction methods and plans to use pre-fabricated structures for the rest 4 million sq ft, says Bijay Agarwal, managing director of Salarpuria Sattva Group.

“We want to cut down on construction time which will help us rotate the space quickly,“ he says.

This speed, of course, comes at a cost. Using this technology is 5-10% more expensive, say builders.

“Yes it is more expensive than regular construction, but then you save almost 6-12 months of construction time which would eventually translate into savings for us and bring in rentals early,” says Ramesh Sanka, chief executive officer of IREO.

To finish the building in 12-15 months, IREO is setting up a pre-cast plant near the construction site to manufacture pre-casted walls that will have insulation sandwiched between two layers to provide permanent protection.

In 2015, India’s top seven cities saw a record 38 million sq ft of office space being leased, 18% higher than 2014, according to property advisory firm CBRE. The first six months of calendar year 2016 have seen over 17 million sq ft being leased.

Property consultants, however, say that leasing is now taking time because most key micro-markets do not have enough new supply to handle the current demand.

“The biggest challenge for builders is timing the market. With prefab, they can churn out buildings much faster and capture the demand,” says Ram Chandnani, managing director advisory and transaction services at CBRE South Asia.

He points out that in the top markets, there is nothing available that is ready to move in for corporate clients and whatever is under construction has already been pre-leased.

Chandnani says some builders are using the technology for built to suit buildings being made for corporates.

Since it started construction two months ago, Embassy has already completed two basement floors of 206,800 sq ft, compared to the average six months that traditional construction methods would require, says Holland. The company has leased 50% of the space in the property to aerospace firm Quest and is discussing with a few clients to lease another 400,000 sq ft of space.

“This technology reduces error and cost of wastage of time as well as materials,” he says.

Holland points out that prefab improve quality of finishes and use less manual labour making it a safe technology.” There is benefit of time, safety and quality with this new technology.”

The company is viewing the construction of this building as a test case and if the outcome is positive it will replace it for other projects as well.

Sumesh Sachar, CEO of offsite construction technology firm KEF Infra says this is the way forward for the real estate sector in India where cost, quality and energy efficiency are becoming a growing concern. While the time cycle for laying a floor slab in traditional construction would be 7 days, there is not wait time using prefab. It takes about 10 days to install a column on site but with precast it can be done in an hour.

Source : The Economic Times (Delhi)

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GUNNING FOR IT Tweak in rules now permits export of small arms from India with due permission

Top small arms manufacturers from across the globe are looking to set up shop in India with a critical tweak in rules by the government that has enabled the private sector to set up manufacturing units and even cater to export orders after due permissions.

The revised Arms Rules 2016, which have been notified by the government last month, have brought clarity to the sector, giving clear rules on how private players can set up shop, bring in foreign investment and sell small arms.

Till now, only state owned public sector units were manufacturing arms for the Indian forces. With a massive requirement stretching across the three armed forces, paramilitary forces and state police, a large quantity of small arms like rifles, carbines and side arms were being imported annually.

“These revised rules will disperse the clouds of ambiguity that had engulfed the Small Arms and ammunition manufacturing sector thereby enabling the private sector to not only help meet domestic demand but enter the regional export market in a significant manner,” says Ankur Gupta, Vice President at EY India. In a recent tweak in FDI rules, the government for the first time brought in small arms under the defence ambit. This has opened the way for an automatic route for FDI investments up to 49 percent in the sector.

Industry insiders say that several top manufacturers, like Colt, Heckler and Kotch and IWI are in advanced talks with Indian players to set up facilities after the recent tweak.

As per the notified rules, Indian companies will be granted a seven year license after due vetting and will be allowed to set up units in special economic zones. No facility will be allowed to come up near border areas. The arms manufactured will also be “allowed for export subject to the approval of the Ministry of Home Affairs in consultation with the Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Commerce, on a case to case basis”.

While industry experts have wel While industry experts have welcomed the move, they have cautioned that some processes will need to be smoothened out to encourage manufacturing.

“On the flip side, the licensing process is under the MHA and approvals are required even for importing machinery. This will take time to evolve and companies could face delays in the short term,” Gupta said.

Source : The Economic Times (Delhi)

The government has launched an online platform for most routine purchases, helping to streamline buying while making it faster, more efficient and price competitive. The Directorate General of Supplies and Disposals (DGS&D), the government’s central purchase arm, launched the Government e-Marketplace, or GeM, on Tuesday. The one-stop shop was developed by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology’s National e-Governance Division.

“To begin with, common-use items in 26 categories like computers, office equipment, stationery, etc., have been placed on the GeM portal. Apart from goods, the notable feature of GeM is providing facility for engaging taxi services with multiple options of hiring like spot, daily use, monthly or annually and also leasing, the commerce department said in a release, calling this reform a “game changer.” The number of services offered will be expanded.

As ET had reported on June 8, the proposal to reform government procurement was announced by finance minister Arun Jaitley in the budget and was presented by a committee of secretaries to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as one of the mechanisms to drive cost and operational efficiencies. “Like GST (goods and services tax) will revolutionise the tax system, this will revolutionize government procurement,” commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman said while launching the marketplace.

The portal allows buyers to make direct purchases of as much as 50,000. Beyond ` this limit, purchases should be make comparison, bid de through price comparison, bidding or reverse auction. Through the portal, the government will be able to consolidate its requirements across departments and be able to derive better prices from vendors for bulk purchases.

Authorities are required to make payments for GeM procurements within 10 days. If goods are not rejected within 10 days of receipt, they will be considered accepted.

The portal will help fetch the best prices and benefit buyers and sellers, Sitharaman said.

Industry has been looking forward to the launch of the portal since it is expected to bring in transparency in procurement, facilitate easier and faster payments ­ a major pain point ­ and allow smaller vendors to work with the government.

Cabinet secretary PK Sinha said that the Government e-Marketplace is a “Gem of an idea. This is just the beginning. We still have a long way to go.”

Source : The economic Times (Delhi)

Source : The Times of India (Delhi)

Air guns, which could earlier be bought off the shelf even from toy shops, will now be difficult to acquire as a licence will be needed for all air weapons, including air rifles, air guns and paintball markers, irrespective of the muzzle energy or calibre or bore, according to the new arms rules notified by the government.

Not just that, a manufacturer of certain air weapons including air rifles and air guns having muzzle energy exceeding 20 joules or 15 foot-pound (ftlbs) or bore exceeding 0.177 or 4.5 mm will have to maintain record with ID proof of the buyer.

Recently, the Hyderabad module of Islamic State busted by NIA was found using air guns for target practice as the members were planning terror attacks. An air gun was recovered from them. Intelligence agencies had issued alerts in past that air weapons were used by Indian Mujahideen terrorists for target practice and also by militants based in Kashmir.

The Arms Rules 2016, notified through a gazette notification by the home ministry recently, says, “Manufacture or proof test or both, transfer, sale, keeping for sale or transfer of all types of air weapons by a manufacturer, including air rifles, air guns and paintball markers or guns irrespective of the muzzle energy or calibre or bore shall be subject to licensing.”

Some officials said the new rules will make it tough to get arms licence now, for restricted/prohibited weapons used by army , police, security forces and air guns as well, which were earlier easily available.

Those looking to save their crops from damage from wild animals will also get arms licence under the new rules formulated by the government.

Source : The Times of India (Delhi)

Scientists have created a highly breathable material that may lead to futuristic smart ‘second skin’ uniforms that can protect soldiers from biological agents and chemical hazards in the field.

High breathability is a critical requirement for protective clothing to prevent heatstress and exhaustion when military personnel are engaged in missions in contaminated environments.

Scientists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) fabricated flexible polymeric membranes with aligned carbon nanotube (CNT) channels as moisture conductive pores.

The size of these pores less than 5 nanometres (nm) -is 5,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.

To provide high breathability, the new composite material takes advantage of the unique transport properties of carbon nanotube pores.

Biological threats like bacteria or viruses are much larger and typically more than 10 nm in size. Performed tests demonstrated that the CNT membranes repelled dengue virus from aqueous solutions during filtration tests.

This confirms that LLNLdeveloped CNT membranes provide effective protection from biological threats by size exclusion rather than by merely preventing wetting. The results show that CNT pores combine high breathability and bio-protection in a single functional material.

However, chemical agents are much smaller in size and require the membrane pores to react to block the threat.

To encode the membrane with a smart and dynamic response to small chemical hazards, researchers are surface modifying these prototype carbon nanotube membranes with chemical-threat-responsive functional groups.

These functional groups will sense and block the threat like gatekeepers on the pore entrance.

Source : The Times of India (Delhi)

After robotic pack mules, the US military is now testing a gun-wielding robotic unmanned ground vehicle

The US Marine Corps is testing a robotic system outfitted with sensors and cameras that can be armed with an M240 machine gun. It’s called the Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System (MAARS), and it looks crazy.

If it were actually fielded ,MAARS would complement the 12-person infantry squad that typically carries small arms, offering up a tracked vehicle that can zone in on targets with a mounted M240B machine gun firing 7.62mm NATO rounds.

It can carry about 400 rounds, or it can be reconfigured to tote a 40mm grenade launcher instead. The Qinetiq-built robot only hits seven mph for a top speed (which is fast enough for troops who are walking alongside it) and can run for eight to 12 hours.

They control it with a tactical robotic controller (TRC), which lets them see what it sees and targets the bad guys. The TRC can also control a bunch of other gadgets, such as drones and ground sensors.

Of course, it does have some limitations. It’s not totally hands-free, since operators need to hand reload it, and it could be stopped by rougher terrain. But MAARS is just one of many technologies the Corps is testing for its Warfighting Laboratory. Among other tech that the Corps is considering are a fully autonomous ground support vehicle, multiple smaller scale drones, and a precision airborne strike weapon that a grunt can carry in a backpack.

Source : The Economic Times (Delhi)

Digital payments platform and wallet Freecharge will launch its financial products marketplace and lending platform by the end of this year. The move comes after Freecharge took over the Capital Assist programme run by Snapdeal earlier this month. “Apart from opening up the Capital Assist programme to merchants on the Freecharge platform, running Capital Assist helps us provide new ways of credit scoring for anyone who transacts on Freecharge, Snapdeal or Cleartrip,” said Govind Rajan, CEO of Freecharge. The Capital Assist programme partners with 26 banks and NBFCs to provide capital loans to sellers registered on the marketplace.

Source : The Economic Times (Delhi)

Retailers in Asia-Pacific have been turning traditional stores into `bricks-and-clicks’, offering `click-and collect’ services. Some of them are also engaging convenience stores as their network of in-store pick-up points to attract the new generation of busy consumers, says a new report by Euromonitor, along with KPMG, titled `Retail Asia-Pacific Top 500’. Despite what retail gurus and futurists may predict, in-store retailing in 2015 still accounted for 93% of sales in Asia-Pacific.

Source : The Economic Times (Delhi)

B2B ecomm players are seeking to attract business by helping SMEs address the issue of recruitment

A clutch of business-to-business e-commerce players are seeking to attract more business by helping small and medium enterprises (SMEs) address the issue of recruitment.

Ahmedabad-based startup Tradeohub, an end-to-end supplier for SMEs, is one such company. It has tied up with local human resource or hiring firms as it found that recruitment is the second biggest challenge faced by SMEs after finance.

“Manpower retention and recruitment is a major issue among SMEs but unfortunately it’s the least talked about,” said Akash Domadiya, cofounder of Tradohub.

Tradohub started supporting SMEs by providing manpower recruitment facility via its tie-ups with local HR firms, bridging the gap left by reliance on spread of information through direct references and word-of-mouth popularity. This has helped it attract more SMEs on its platforms as they get access to HR consultancy firms for their recruitment, training and other HR issues. “We started just to help SMEs solve their manpower problem. But it attracted more SMEs to join us and get us more business volume,” said Domadiya. Most SMEs face challenges in retaining good employees or even hiring them in the first place, he said.

“The skillset or resources required may not be available on the popular job portals due to (lack of) IT literacy of the target audience,” said R Narayan, founder of Power2SME.

The startup recently raised an undisclosed amount of funding from existing investors Accel Partners, Kalaari Capital and onboarded Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani as a strategic investor. Good databases do not necessarily mean good employable resources for SMEs, Narayan said. “We have third-party services where we assist SMEs in availing themselves of services from our enlisted HR recruitment partners,” Narayan said.

Power2SME ensures that these partners offer an array of services in staffing solutions to the SMEs at affordable price points, he said.

The manpower challenge is substantial, Narayan said, since India’s SME sector generates about 1.3 million jobs each year. SMEs employ nearly 40% of India’s workforce and account for 45% of the manufacturing output.

Source – The Economic Times (Delhi)