Hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, auto sales in India is expected to witness a steep decline in FY21. Luxury car sales, which accounts for only one per cent of the total car sales, may take a bigger hit as its target customers are in a cautionary mode. On Monday, Balbir Singh Dhillon, Head of Audi India and Manohar Bhat, Head of sales and marketing, Kia Motors India spoke about impact of Covid-19 on the industry, high taxes, releif from the government, among other things, in a chat with author and senior journalist Kaveree Bamzai and Prabhu Chawla, Editorial Director at The New Indian Express as part TNIE’s Express Expressions, a series of live webcasts with people who matter. “A large part of the price customers pay when buying a luxury car goes to import duty, registeration tax and GST. We are just one per cent of the total car sales volume but we contribute almost 10 per cent of the total revenue,” pointed out Dhillon. Currently, the import duty on compete built-up (CBU) cars in India is between 60-100 per cent. Then GST is between 40-50 per cent, depending on the size and engine capacity of the car, and registration taxes stand between 10-20 per cent. Let’s say, if one is buying a car worth Rs 1 crore, he might end up paying taxes in the range of Rs 65-70 lakh. For the locally manufactured ones, one ends-up paying 20 lakhs as taxes for a unit that is priced at Rs 50 lakh. “If this is not rationalised, we will not grow. The problem is not just tax. It is tax on tax,” said Dhillon. He added that high rate of taxes also impacts a company’s capability to export more from India. “We have treaties with many countries. Export also has certain taxation. These are taxes which are higher in India as compared to many other countries. For example, export tax from Mexico is lower than xport tax from India,” the head of Audi India explained. Korean carmaker Kia Motors, however, is happy with the response it has so far received in India. In its short one year journey, it has become a major player in the passenger vehicle segment with two big hits —Seltos and the recently launched Sonet. “We are confident about the medium term estimate we had about the Indian market. Short term could have been better but we are not complaining. The GDP is expected to degrow this year and auto sales is closely linked with it. The biggest question is when will the industry return back to the 2018 level,” asked Bhat.
For a national opposition, there are a lot of roles to be played by strong regional leaders and unless people stand up to pressure tactics of the ruling party, the country will not have a national opposition, says eminent lawyer and Congress MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi. Trinamool Congress MP Dinesh Trivedi thinks the opposition needs to have credibility to take on the BJP. Their remarks came during a conversation on ‘Paralysis of National Opposition’ with Prabhu Chawla, Editorial Director, The New Indian Express, on TNIE’s Expressions, a series of live webcasts with people who matter. Q: Do you see a national opposition led by a national party emerging in future. AMS: It’s a mistake to think that unless Congress matches the BJP’s number, you will not have the national opposition. Two leaders of the largest state, Uttar Pradesh, are in silence for last over one year. Unless people stand up to such pressure tactics of the ruling parties, you will not have a national opposition and you cannot expect the Congress to go from 44 to 272. For a national composite collective opposition, there are a lot of roles to be played by a lot of people who fit in the puzzle and who are not playing that role. DT: It is not always numbers; it’s quality also. I don’t think we should look for leaders, but what is needed is credibility. We need to have people with credibility and what perhaps is lacking in the opposition is credibility and that comes with a lot of work. Today, youth is looking for definite answers. Nothing remains stagnant and there is no need to say democracy has gone to dogs...things will happen and leadership will come. We should not look for shortcuts and if the BJP is forming government in states at any cost, believe me if there is no value, then it will not last long. Q: Do you think Rahul Gandhi has the credibility to lead the united opposition? AMS: We (Congress) have the uppermost credibility at the national level. Rahul Gandhi was very active when we won several states and he was very much in the saddle. He fought hard when he was the party president. The only mistake I would say is when Rahul put his foot down (in resigning as party chief) and now he should immediately take charge. DT: Rahul Gandhi has to change the style…Because you have to be at it 24x7 and in your house, there has to be a mela (congregation of party workers). There are regional leaders who are very powerful and they can lead the opposition.
In a candid chat arranged as part of Express Expressions, a series of webinars organised by The New Indian Express, Ajay Bijli, the Chairman of PVR Limited, addressed many issues plaguing the entertainment industry, including the ever-rising OTT threat. He began by expressing that the OTT fixation may be ‘overrated’. “The present situation is an aberration. We haven’t faced something like this in a 100 years. While I enjoy films and web series on OTT platforms, I’m disappointed that films made for theatres are being released for the television,” he said, and went on to compare the present status of theatres to an injured athlete. “Theatres now are like injured athletes, who have to take a break before returning. Theatres will very much be a part of the game.” He also shared that the pressure on producers is not lost on him. “I am sensitive to the needs of producers who are selling their films to OTTs. However, in the long run, I see them returning to the theatres, as only this will allow them to fully monetise their content.” To make this point, he cited the examples of films like Kabir Singh, Bala and Article 15. “They would not have got their collections, had they got an OTT release. Big budget films too, like Sooryavanshi, Radhe or Coolie No 1, need theatrical revenue to turn over a profit,” he said. Ajay did not make much of the uncertainty looming over the future of the entertainment industry. “Theatres will return to normalcy between June and July, according to my predictions. The government is opening retail outlets in phase 1, and right now, we are pushing for theatres to be opened in the next phase,” he shared. Shooting, he added, would commence after that. “Content flow is crucial for exhibitors like me. If shooting doesn’t resume soon, even OTT platforms can’t survive. I am in touch with the Producer’s Guild, and it’s only a matter of time before shooting is allowed to resume.” Ajay also predicted that the theatrical experience would undergo some changes, after the lockdown is lifted. “Our priority is to restrict touchpoints. The box office will be digitised completely. As for food counters, we will install glass walls to separate staff and customers,” he said. The seating system too will undergo a change. “Our software will leave two seats in between couples or families in order to ensure social distancing. There will also be a buffer time in between shows, in order to avoid crowding in the lobby.” He reiterated that the magic of theatres will not fade away. “Cinema has survived the test of time. It has crossed the world war, the great depression, and the Spanish flu. Theatres will bounce back again; I trust my audience.”
3/3 in the Hindi heartland states for Cong. Does this mean a resurgence for the Rahul-led party as we head into 2019 for a Lok Sabha battle. Watch our analysis of this and other important news.