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An engineer’s initiative sees weavers net up to 900% more for rare silk

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Udyan Singh was born and reared in Banka, Bihar, and went to Delhi to pursue his engineering degree in 2006. He obtained steady work with the Indian Railways but left to pursue his dream of making commercials. For over six years, the 38-year-old stayed away from his hometown, feeling that it had no future.

That changed in 2015, when Udyan founded ‘Banka Silk,’ a social venture dedicated to developing a domestic and worldwide market for silk weavers. He has impacted the lives of hundreds of weavers by providing a steady income, training the weavers with designers and specialists from the weaving business, and providing education to their children.

Having such a large-scale on-ground influence that has helped improve the financial circumstances of several people while also making indigenous silk famous across the country is no small effort.

Empowering artisans

The first challenge for Udyan was to break the cycle of debt and loans that artisans used to buy raw materials. Through his organization, he was able to take advantage of government microfinance initiatives for craftspeople.

Historically, middlemen and loan sharks kept weavers trapped in a web of debt. They were unable to negotiate a reasonable price due to a lack of education and must accept whatever they get to feed their families. In comparison to Bhagalpur and South Silk, the government has done little to cultivate and promote indigenous talent. To satisfy the current demand, Udyan enlisted the help of fashion designers to teach the weavers how to prepare dye, threadwork, and adopt new innovative formats.

Udyan put in a lot of effort into developing both online and physical marketing platforms. To market his handmade fabrics, he teamed up with e-commerce giants such as Amazon and Flipkart. He organised an exhibition in Patna with the help of 100 weavers in his first offline event. Scarves, saris, and materials worth Rs 7 lakh were sold by the artisans. This encouraged him to participate in a few more shows in locations such as Mumbai and Delhi.

For on-shelf promotion, he addressed lifestyle companies such as Biba, FabIndia, and Aravind. The silk can be purchased in one of two ways; buyers can buy direct from the weavers or the weavers can sell it to Udyan, who will sell it to interested buyers.

The organization sells scarves, stoles, sarees, masks, and other items for between Rs 40 and Rs 5,000. As a result of selling directly to customers, profits have increased from 5% to 25%. Around 5,000 weavers’ incomes have increased dramatically, with each earning up to Rs 300 per day. Udyan is attempting to expand his business by exporting to North America and Europe. He recently built the first Banka Silk store in Delhi and is raising funding to open a dyeing facility.

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Business

Investor’s greed a problem, says Sankaran Naren

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Gordon Gekko might have felt that greed, for lack of a better word, is good, but that isn’t always the case. The human urge to clamour for more has caught many an investor on the wrong foot and Sankaran Naren, Executive Director and CIO at ICICI Prudential, opines that investor greed is increasing day-by-day, which is a problem.

Naren Indian equity portfolios at ICICI Prudential, and has worked with various financial services companies, including Refco Sify Securities India and HDFC Securities. Delving further into the issue at hand, he says, “We are not seeing a problem in the macro or business cycle. But investor greed is a bigger problem. They think that there is only one asset class called equity and there is nothing called risk and that is the bigger problem rather than anything else in the macro or business cycle from an India point of view. In the world, all the way from 2012, people have not seen market corrections in the US. There people are used to investing in stocks and not worrying at all about market corrections except in 2018 December and 2020 March,” said Sankaran.

At this point, he believes that it is very important for investors to practice asset allocation and that they should make choices based on earnings connected to 2021 or 2022, investing in names which have steady operating cash flows, dividend yield, etc.

“The key learning from 2007 is that investors who invested in IPOs based on 2014 earnings were in for a disappointment. There is a fair amount of froth in many parts of the markets, particularly in new-age areas. Unlike Asia which has seen periodic market corrections, since 2012, US equities have barely witnessed a meaningful correction,” said the fund manager.

“Today the number of loss-making new age companies trading at stretched valuations is very high in the US compared with dividend-paying, cash flow-generating old economy-oriented companies,” he concluded, as he offered an investment roadmap for stocks and mutual funds to a rapt audience. 

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Business

Swiggy to give 2-day paid monthly period leave to female delivery partners

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Food delivery giant Swiggy has announced a two-day paid monthly period leave policy for female delivery partners, marking an industry first. Swiggy has over 1000 women on its delivery team, and has stated that since bringing on female delivery partners, it has been working to increase inclusivity and diversity across the platform. The company believes that providing a welcoming environment for women will inspire them to explore delivering with them.  

Other initiatives to deepen inclusivity include enabling access to vehicles, access to hygienic restrooms, and implementing safety measures for female delivery partners. Mihir Shah, Vice President of Operations at Swiggy, said discomfort from being out and about on the road while menstruating is probably one of the most underreported reasons why many women don’t consider delivery to be a viable gig.  

“To support them through any menstruation-related challenges, we’ve introduced a no-questions-asked, two-day paid monthly period time-off policy for all our regular female delivery partners,” said Shah.  

SoftBank-backed Swiggy has approximately 200,000 delivery partners, with about 1,000 of them being female. Swiggy hired its first female delivery partner in Pune in 2016. “Since then, we’ve been working hard to promote inclusivity and diversity across the platform, with a goal of increasing the number of female delivery partners in Swiggy’s delivery fleet,” Shah added.

“Swiggy understands the pain of a woman in the field and period leave will definitely motivate more women to choose this platform and be independent,” said Komal, a delivery partner from Chennai.  

Last year, rival company Zomato announced a period leave policy, allowing female employees to take up to 10 period leaves in a year. These are available to employees and not the gig workforce. It has, however, taken steps to have a more inclusive gig workforce. In June this year, it said it has set a goal of reaching 10 percent female delivery partners by the end of 2021 starting with Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Pune. 

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Health

Gates Foundation boosts access to Covid-19 drug for lower-income countries

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The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged up to $120 million as part of its Covid-19 response effort to help lower-income countries gain access to the investigational antiviral medication Molnupiravir, which some say might be a gamechanger.

The Gates Foundation’s co-chair, Melinda Gates, said: “To put an end to the pandemic, we must ensure that everyone has access to life-saving health services, regardless of where they live on the planet. Low-income countries, on the other hand, have had to wait for everything from personal protective equipment to vaccinations. That’s not good enough.”  

Concerned about lower-income countries’ struggles to access Covid-19 vaccinations and the risk of being left behind once again when it comes to medicines, the Gates Foundation is urging other donors to commit money to hasten the implementation of Merck’s experimental drug Molnupiravir, if it is approved.  

Merck expects trial tablets fto reach low-income countries by early next year. Regulatory authorities such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and national governments are in charge of deciding whether or not to approve the drug for usage. The Gates organization said it aims to significantly reduce the time it takes for new drugs to arrive in low-income regions after they become available in wealthier markets. That gap can be at least 12 months, it said.

The organization has already granted money to assist generics firms in developing low-cost production procedures that lower raw material costs and boost product yields. Some wealthy and middle-income countries, such as Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, have either obtained or are in the process of obtaining the therapy.

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