GST Council Takes Aim At Tax Evaders, Why The SMS Industry is Booming & Other Business News for Today

 

GST Council amps up anti-profiteering measures. NITI Aayog asks two-wheeler industry to step up efforts to adopt EV technology. Government seeks five-year ban on IL&FS’s auditors. Reason to hope for non-bank lenders. And a bright star on the dark NBFC horizon. Arvind Subramian’s GDP calculations would mean Germany overstates its growth while Brazil understates it. Piyush Goyal warns consultants against misguiding investors to break the law. Are teenagers growing horns because of smartphone addiction? And why the SMS industry is booming.

Moving on to the top Business news today:

 

 POLICY 

GST Council amps up anti-profiteering measures. NITI Aayog asks two-wheeler industry to step up efforts to adopt EV technology.

 

As expected, when the new Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman chaired the GST Council meeting for the first time she extended the tenure of the National Anti-Profiteering Authority by two years.

 

Ease of Asking for Aadhaar: The Council also concluded that Aadhaar-based GST registration will simplify the process and, since businesses will not be required to provide any other documents, improve the ease of doing business.

 

Taxing Times for Tax-Evaders: Furthermore, besides extending the GST returns filing deadline for the last fiscal year by two months, the Council also introduced stringent anti-tax evasion measures. Businesses that pocketed tax cuts meant for consumers had to earlier pay a flat penalty of INR25,000. Now, the fine will be 10% of the profiteered amount.
 

Pull Up Your Socks: In a meeting with representatives of the two-wheeler industry, government think-tank NITI Aayog warned officials that if they did not wake up and board the electric vehicle (EV) train, start-ups would beat them to it.

 

Established players including Hero, Honda, Bajaj and TVS were present at the meeting. These players reportedly want a gradual conversion to EV technology while ambitious start-up companies, already springing up across the country, say they are ready to welcome a swifter transition.

 
NITI Aayog asked manufacturers to present an EV conversion plan in two weeks’ time. The government itself is eager to incentivise electric vehicles in India to decrease reliance on fuels, given India’s status as an oil importer and the environmental hazards of conventional fuel technology.

 

 NBFC 

Government seeks five-year ban on IL&FS’s auditors. Reason to hope for non-bank lenders. And a bright star on the dark NBFC horizon.

 

Auditing the Auditors: Following the IL&FS Financial Services default in September, the government is seeking a five-year ban on its auditors. These included Deloitte and BSR, which were accused by the government of ignoring signs that pointed to IL&FS’s problems and which could have avoided the liquidity crisis the default sparked.

 

But Deloitte and BSR have protested the move, arguing that the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) doesn’t have the jurisdiction to decide on the ban since, they say, auditors can’t be put in the same category as independent directors and senior managemen.

 

Now the NCLT has adjourned the case till 15 July and has asked the Ministry of Corporate Affairs to file its reply in coming four days.

 

High Hopes: IL&FS’s default may have sparked a disastrous crisis in the non-bank lending sector but some industry leaders are still optimistic.

 

In his message to shareholders in Kotak Mahindra’s annual report, the bank's Managing Director Uday Kotak said he doesn’t see the troubles affecting non-bank lenders in India as a “systemic risk”.
 

He added that he is “confident that the policy-makers and regulators will take steps to manage the situation”.
 

Bright Star: Maybe there is indeed reason for hope. Bajaj Finance, for example has seen its stocks surge 25% since the IL&FS crisis began, even as many of its peers’ stocks plunged as much as 89%. Only this year, Bajaj Finance’s stock has gained as much as 36%.
 

A lot of the credit for this goes, of course, to the company’s policy of diversification of lending beyond the housing finance sector, unlike other NBFCs.

 

 MINDRUSH 

Arvind Subramian’s GDP calculations would mean Germany overstates its growth while Brazil understates it. Piyush Goyal warns consultants against misguiding investors to break the law.

 

No Dearth of Debates: Arvind Subramanian’s claim that the growth of GDP of India was over-estimated by 2.5% for most of this decade continues to spark passionate commentary.

 

Indian Express Contributing Editor Surjit Bhalla applied Subramanian’s methodology to calculate the GDP 89 countries and found that using the former CEA’s calculations would mean that GDP was over-estimated or under-estimated in as many as 43 countries. Germany, for example, would be over-estimating its annual growth by 1.8% while Brazil would be under-estimating it by 3%.

 

Commas & Full-Stops: Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal warned consultants against misleading investors by exploiting possible loopholes in policy to break the law.

 

Speaking on the government’s recent denial of FDI to multi-brand retail and addressing mainly the “Big Four” firms (PwC, Deloitte, KPMG and E&Y), Goyal said any attempt to find “commas and full-stops” in a law with the aim of bypassing or violating it “is not possible and that cannot even be possible for us to overlook”.

 

 AI 


A new AI bot wants to do for office meetings what Slack did for workplace communication. When AI assistants go rogue.

 
Remember Mailbox? The email management system that inspired many features used today on Gmail and Apple Mail? It was the hot thing in 2013 and was bought by Dropbox amidst high expectations – until it was controversially shut down in 2015.
 
 
Making Meetings Work: Four years later, the team behind Mailbox is back with another project – Navigator. Just like Slack began with an aim to disrupt workplace communication, Navigator wants to disrupt workplace meetings – an unavoidable part of work life that,
when not organised efficiently (and that’s usually the case), leads to loss of precious time, revenue and employee motivation.
 
 
Navigating the Workplace: Navigator works as a virtual chief of staff, organising a meeting’s agenda with separate discussion topics and compiling a meeting’s key takeaways for all participants, in addition to their inputs for everybody to read afterwards. It even checks in with attendees after the meeting to learn if they have finished their tasks.
 
 
The chatbot’s founder, Gentry Underwood, says Navigator is more than a tool, it is a teammate, and it’s all about turning meetings “from painful, expensive wastes of time, to effective, meaningful moments of deep collaboration”.
 
 
Here’s hoping the AI project succeeds in improving workplace efficiency, and doesn’t meet an untimely death like Mailbox!
 
 
Child's Play: AI bots are proliferating around the world. From ordering groceries to Googling to just being a “person” to talk to when
bored or alone, bots like Alexa and Google Assistant are slowly becoming a part of our lives.

 
But what happens when our bot buddies go rogue? Not intentionally, of course (we should hope not), but because algorithms are still not as advanced as human instinct (not yet, anyway). For example, did you hear about the time when a little girl in Dallas asked Amazon Echo to play with her and it had an expensive doll house shipped to her house? And how connected Amazon Echoes heard the story and did the same in their houses?
 
 
Good Bot Gone Bad: The new film “Child’s Play” envisions such a world, where AI bots have become commonplace – and a little too self-aware. In this movie, a terrorising high-tech doll is helpful to a fault.
 
 
You’re near a meltdown? It orders all 87 items on your Amazon Wish List at once to gift to you. Thinking you need to burn more calories, it amps up the speed on your new smart treadmill while you're on it. Irritated by how often you ask it solve your issues, it tries to pass the buck to your friends – by posting all your Google searches on Twitter. And to help you avoid traffic, it re-routes you to a faraway abandoned drive-in so that you can scream in peace.
 
 
Hopefully, the movie will remain an absurdist depiction of an improbable future, meant just for entertainment. (Either way, you might want to turn off your virtual assistants while watching it, or someone might start to get ideas.)
 
 
 OFFBEAT 

Are teenagers growing horns because of smartphone addiction? And why the SMS industry is booming.
 
 
Spiky Skulls: Researchers from Australia found the prevalence of a small, spiky growth from the backs of teenagers’ skulls. This growth, an “enlarged external occipital protuberance” (EEOP), many recent articles online claim, is because of spending long periods of time staring down at mobile screens.
 
 
The 2018 study found that a third of the surveyed 18-86-year-olds had EEOP, with the 18-30 age bracket most likely to show signs of the bone growth.
 
 
Hold On To Your Horns: Are we growing horns because of our mobiles? Before you check your skulls for aberrations, you should know that the smartphone factor was only a hypothesis – the surveyed individuals’ cell phone usage was never analysed in depth because that was not the subject of the research paper in the first place. It was assumed that smartphone usage was the reason because of the age group.
 
 
But after the BBC carried a piece on how modern life is transforming the human skeleton, a number of articles sprung up across the internet claiming (rather too excitedly) that teenagers today are growing horns.
 
 
Your Inbox Is Full: One might assume that with the growth of messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Messenger the SMS would be dying a slow death. But that’s not the case. On the contrary, the segment has grown 20% every year since 2014 and is today a business worth $500m.
 
 
The reason for this growth is not user-to-user SMSes – that number has flatlined. Instead, it is thanks to business-to-user messages. With the explosion of apps, more and more businesses are using SMSes to contact users and customers. In 2014, 100 billion messages were sent. This year, the number is expected to reach 265 billion.
 
 
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