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AmazonFresh to venture into India in the next five years

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London :Amazon expects groceries and household products to account for over half of its business in India in the next five years, as it moves to broaden offerings in the segment and foray into areas such as fresh produce.

Amit Agarwal, the India head of Amazon, said in an interview that groceries and goods such as creams, soaps and cleaning products, were already the largest product category on Amazon in terms of number of units sold in India.

“I would not speculate on when we would launch AmazonFresh but, absolutely, if you ask me the next five years of vision – from your avocados to your potatoes, and your meat to your ice cream – we’ll deliver everything to you in two hours,” he said.

 

AmazonFresh, which launched more than a decade ago in the US market, is the company’s flagship fresh grocery delivery service. In India, Amazon currently offers some groceries via a service named Pantry. It has also tied up with local vendors in four cities for Amazon Now, which promises two-hour deliveries.

“Probably in the next five years groceries and consumables would be more than half of our business,” he told Reuters.

Agarwal said Amazon had already started experimenting with a few fresh groceries in India, already home to its largest active customer base outside of the United States.

India’s e-commerce market is tipped to grow to $200 billion in a decade, according to Morgan Stanley, as cheap mobile data makes online shopping increasingly accessible. And Amazon, which already has over 100 million registered users in India, is looking to cash-in on the opportunity.

“We want to get the next hundred million customers shopping with us,” said Agarwal, adding that Amazon plans to woo new clients with product exchange and staggered payment offerings.

With almost 500 million Indians using the Internet in 2018, India, Asia’s No. 3 economy, is a huge e-commerce battleground.

Retail giant Walmart is inching closer to here buying a controlling stake into home-grown e-commerce player Flipkart, which is already backed by big-name investors like SoftBank, Tencent and Microsoft.

“I feel extremely excited that e-commerce is attracting so much funding,” Agarwal said. “Otherwise, we’d have been wrong in going about it in such as big way.”

Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos told shareholders in a letter last week that Amazon India is the fastest growing marketplace in the country. He said Amazon added more members to its Prime loyalty programme in India in its first year than any previous geography in Amazon’s history.

Still, profitability in India is years away for Amazon, admits Agarwal, as logistics, payments and other infrastructure needed to address the long-term opportunity are still being built.

He said the $5 billion Bezos had committed here to investing in India was just a signal of intent, and the company was ready to invest significantly more to achieve its goals.

“Our ambition is so big it would be futile for us to think about anything other than to ensure we keep investing to bring the next 100 million customers online,” Agarwal said.


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Income Tax return processing time to reduce from 63 days to just 1 day

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Mumbai:The Union Cabinet approved an integrated income-tax e-filing and centralised processing centre (CPC) portal, which will reduce the return processing time from 63 days to just one day. The new portal is also expected to process the refunds within one day of filing of tax returns, in huge relief for taxpayers. However, one will have to wait for 18 months to see its launch.

“Earlier, taxpayers would face troubles because of delay in refund processing and the CBDT used to spend a lot of money every year as interest on pending refunds, which will be history now,” Union minister Piyush Goyal told reporters after the Cabinet meeting here.

Last month, Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) Chairman Sushil Chandra had said a simplified return form and process would be put in place soon in which the department would process the self-declaration made by the taxpayer. The new Rs 4,241-crore project will incorporate these changes.

 

“This is a laudable initiative and will go a long way to ease tax compliance, and enhanced experience for taxpayers. However, the real success of this will be measured when it brings ease to a common man and is accompanied by changes in the culture of the tax authorities at the operational level,” said Neeru Ahuja, partner, Deloitte India.

Currently, the e-filing portal and the CPC work separately. While e-filing is being managed by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), the CPC is run by Infosys.

In the bids invited by the government, Infosys emerged as the lowest bidder and it would develop the ITR-CPC 2.0 project in 18 months from now, Goyal said.

Under the new system, Infosys will handle end-to-end solution — from e-filing to return assessment to refund processing. The CBDT and Infosys would work in a revenue-sharing model, sources in the know said.

Goyal said ramping up scrutiny was not the mandate of the new portal. Currently, about 0.3 per cent of the I-T returns are scrutinised, he said. The system intends to resolve taxpayer grievances as well as tax demands from the CBDT faster and equitably, he said.

“The decision will ensure horizontal equity by processing returns filed by all categories of taxpayers across the country in a consistent, uniform, rule driven, identity blind manner. This will assure fairness in tax treatment to every taxpayer irrespective of their status,” a government release said.

But even under the new ecosystem, only those applications which are clean would have the chance of getting processed in a day, sources said.

About 23 crore I-T returns have been processed, along with Rs 2.62 trillion worth of refunds, till September 2018 cumulatively. Of this, refunds worth Rs 1.83 trillion have been processed in 2018-19, said Goyal.

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Lenders considering resolution plan for Jet Airways: SBI

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Mumbai: State Bank of India (SBI) on Thursday said lenders are considering a resolution plan for Jet Airways to ensure long-term viability of the debt-laden company.

The SBI statement comes a day after the crisis-hit airline said discussions were “progressing well” with stakeholders on a comprehensive resolution plan that also contemplates equity infusion and consequent changes in its board of directors.

There are rising concerns over financial health of Jet Airways, whose shares have also taken a beating at stock exchanges.

 

“We would like to state that lenders are considering a restructuring plan under the RBI framework for resolution of stressed assets that would ensure a long-term viability of the company,” SBI said in a statement.

It said the restructuring plan for the cash-strapped airline would need approval from boards of lenders.

“Any such plan would be subject to approval of boards of the lenders and subject to adherence and clearance, if required, from the RBI and/or Sebi (takeover code, ICDR regulations.) and Ministry of Civil Aviation and in compliance with all regulatory prescriptions,” the statement said.

Shares of the airline are trading 4.24 per cent lower at Rs 259.50 apiece on BSE.

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NGT slams Volkswagen for not depositing Rs 100 crore as per its 2018 order

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New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) slammed German auto major Volkswagen for not depositing Rs 100 crore in accordance with its November 16, 2018 order and directed it to submit the amount within 24 hours.

A bench headed by NGT chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel took strong exception to the non-compliance of its order by the automobile giant and asked it to give an undertaking that it will submit the amount by 5 PM Friday.

“Why have you not complied with our order when there is no stay. We will not give you any further time,” the bench, also comprising Justice S P Wangdi, said while asking Volkswagen to submit an affidavit of compliance after deposit.

 

The tribunal deferred the matter for hearing after it was informed that the Supreme Court is also seized of the issue.

On November 16 last year, the tribunal had said that the use of ”cheat device” by Volkswagen in diesel cars in India leads to inference of environmental damage and had asked the German auto major to deposit an interim amount of Rs 100 crore with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

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