MARKET LIVE: Sensex, Nifty volatile at open; telcos in focus

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LIVE market update: BSE Sensex traded lower on Wednesday dragged by Infosys, Maruti Suzuki, Bajaj Auto, Sun Pharma, TCS. The index quoted at 58,212 level, down 67 points or 0.12 per cent in early deals.


It’s NSE counterpart Nifty50, meanwhile, dipped 14 points at 17,344 levels. In the broader markets, the BSE MidCap SmallCap indices were flat


On the global front, Japan’s Nikkei gained 0.8 per cent. On the flipside, South Korea’s Kospi, Australia’s ASX200, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped up to 0.7 per cent.

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Apple’s next big thing in doubt as chief of self-driving car project exits

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The abrupt departure of Apple Inc.’s top automotive executive imperils its efforts to develop a self-driving car, a project that’s been seen as one of the tech giant’s biggest bets.


Doug Field, a Tesla Inc. veteran who joined Apple in 2018 to head up its car project, left Tuesday to become Ford Motor Co.’s chief advanced technology officer. The announcement, which came after Bloomberg first reported the news, made only passing reference to Field’s work at Apple.


Field’s exit calls into question the progress Apple has made toward developing the technology experience needed to compete in the auto industry. It’s just the latest upheaval for the division: Field is the fourth executive leading the Apple car project to step away in its seven-year history.


Not that developing self-driving cars has been easy for anyone else. Tesla, the market leader in electric vehicles, is still probably years away from offering fully autonomous cars. Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo has suffered a rash of departures in its efforts to develop the technology. And Uber Technologies Inc. agreed to sell off its autonomous-driving division last year.


Apple’s car efforts have always been a bit of a paradox — it’s a hotly anticipated product that the company says almost nothing about. Field’s official title at Apple was vice president of special projects, belying the significance of his role. But he was entrusted with developing one of the company’s “next big things,” a product that could keep sales growing the way the iPhone, iPad Apple Watch did in the past decade.


Apple first kicked off plans to develop a self-driving electric car around 2014, entering a race with the likes of Tesla. By 2016, the project was struggling with confusing messaging from leadership, a lack of vision problems surrounding autonomous-driving technology. Apple also found it hired too many people laid off hundreds of engineers from the project in 2016 2019.


Around the time of the first layoffs, former chief Apple hardware engineer Bob Mansfield began overseeing the effort — known as Project Titan — sought to refocus on the underlying capabilities. Apple seemed to zero in on the technology that runs self-driving cars, rather than trying to build a whole car itself.


But then Field arrived in Cupertino in 2018. He had previously worked for Apple before leading Tesla’s engineering efforts for the popular Model 3, his return was seen as a sign that the company was back to building an actual vehicle. Field reshaped the car group, bringing in Tesla’s former executives in charge of self-driving software, car interior exterior designs, drivetrains.


After Mansfield retired last year, oversight of Field’s project shifted to John Giannandrea, Apple’s top executive in charge of artificial intelligence. By late 2020, Apple appeared to be making progress attempted to negotiate deals with a bevy of carmakers for components, manufacturing other partnerships.


But by early 2021, it was still hard to gauge the company’s progress. Despite reports that an Apple car would go into production in three years, people familiar with the situation said development work was still at an early stage. Then the departures began anew. Benjamin Lyon, Dave Scott Jaime Waydo — three of the top Apple car managers — all left in the first half of this year.


Filings with the California Department of Motor Vehicles indicated that its testing on public roads in 2020 lagged the year prior that the reliability of its technology is still not approaching competitors like General Motors Co.’s Cruise Waymo.


Kevin Lynch, who has run Apple’s smartwatch health software efforts, took over some software aspects of the car project. That move raised its own questions inside the company given that Lynch didn’t come from the car industry.


There were other changes, with senior engineers from products like the iPhone joining the endeavor. Apple also hired Ulrich Kranz, who oversaw panned vehicles from BMW’s electric car division had failed stints as a top leader of Faraday Future Canoo.


It’s unclear who will ultimately replace Field if existing managers or Giannandrea will take a larger role. Apple said it wishes Field well, but it wouldn’t comment on how he would be replaced. Field’s departure could also indicate that he believed he had a better shot shipping electric cars at a legacy company rather than Apple — despite it being the most valuable technology company in the world with nearly limitless resources.


After launching the Apple Watch in 2015, Apple has been seeking breakthrough new product categories to continue expits territory gain new customers.


Its other forays, such as its Apple TV+ streaming service, haven’t had much of an impact. Apple is working on a headset that would mix virtual augmented reality, it could be announced as early as next year. And it’s working on lightweight AR glasses that could be released later this decade. But that product category is still nascent, companies like Google have failed to find a successful formula.


That’s why so many eyes were on Apple’s car potential. If successful, it could have added billions of dollars to the company’s bottom line. With Field out, the road to that happening is less immediately clear.

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Covid-19 updates: Kerala eases curbs; India vaccinates 17% of population

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Coronavirus updates: Kerala ended night curfews restrictions on Sundays as a measure on how quickly the coronavirus is spreading had improved, said its chief minister on Tuesday.


Passengers coming from seven countries will have to take a test for Covid on arrival in India–irrespective of negative medical report before boarding or vaccination status, the health ministry has said. 

World coronavirus updates: Three-quarters of US adults have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. The country hit the 70 per cent threshold in early August, four weeks beyond President Joe Biden’s target, Bloomberg reported.


Philippine authorities have deferred easing restrictions on public movement in the capital region, keeping the current curbs potentially through September 15, said a presidential spokesperson.


Myanmar’s junta said it wants to receive 10 million doses each in September October 4 million in November. The country targeted vaccinating half its population by year-end, said Bloomberg.

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India’s school lockdowns have robbed a generation of upward mobility

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Economic lockdowns hurt output, but once they’re lifted, activity usually bounces back, jobs return. School lockouts, by comparison, may have a longer more pernicious effect.


A new survey of nearly 1,400 underprivileged school children across 15 Indian states raises some disturbing possibilities. A year-and-a-half of pandemic-related school closures, for instance, have created a four-year learning deficit. A student who was in Grade 3 before Covid-19 is now in Grade 5, will soon enter middle school, but with reading abilities of a Grade 1 pupil.





Trying to narrow this gap would put enormous demands on a reluctant welfare state, while leaving it unaddressed would lop off from India’s “demographic dividend ”–the high growth the country can potentially achieve while it still enjoys a relatively youthful population.


The School Children’s Online Offline Learning, or SCHOOL, survey, overseen by a group of economists including Jean Dreze Reetika Khera, shines a spotlight on the biggest losers of lockouts: the poor. At the family level, there is reasonably high access to smartphones: 77% in urban areas, 51% in villages, just what one would expect in a country witnessing a digital revolution of sorts amid crashing handset data prices. Yet, even among households that possess internet-enabled devices, the proportion of children who’re regularly studying online dwindles to 31% in cities 15% in villages. The wage-earner’s claim on the phone clearly outweighs its utility as an educational device.


“The school has been closed ever since the pandemic began.” That was the sentence, in large typeface, that volunteer surveyors asked children to read in their local language. About 35% of Grade 3-5 students in cities 42% of the cohort in villages couldn’t manage more than a few letters.


From Wall Street, the view of technology-assisted learning in India looks very different. As China cracks down on private education, India is witnessing a surge of interest, with an estimated $4 billion flowing into the industry over the last 18 months. Byju’s, a startup valued at $16.5 billion, is in early discussions about an initial public offer. Smaller rivals like Eruditus UpGrad raised money from investors last month.


But the thriving edtech market caters mostly to the needs of the wealthier segments of the population. Those who make a precarious living from non-salaried occupations–rank far from the top in Indian society’s caste hierarchy–can do little to change findings that show that, away from generally better-equipped urban schools, only 12% of children who have some access to online education participate in live lessons.


As for those who’re consigned to the offline world, the biggest learning is from teacher-assigned homework, which even in cities covers just 39% of students. Homework without regular feedback has questionable pedagogic value, but that’s another matter. Delivery of education was lopsided even before the pandemic, but has become more so because of a yawning digital divide.


Some Indian states are beginning to acknowledge that physical classes for primary middle-school students have to resume without further delay. Otherwise, learning gaps may become impossible to reverse, causing higher dropout rates concomitant social problems, including youth violence. Future productivity may suffer, income inequality could worsen as a generation is robbed of a shot at upward mobility. Society must place at least some weight on the future of today’s disadvantaged children even as it deals with the immediate public health challenge.


The good news is that India’s poor haven’t given up on education. The SCHOOL survey notes that child labor is unusual among very young children, though among girls aged 10 to 14, a “large majority” are now doing some housework and, in villages, 8% of them had done paid work in the preceding three months.


Before more families are tempted to bargain away their future for food, schools must reopen.

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LIC IPO could result in job losses, social spending, trade union warns

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The mega initial public offering of India’s biggest state-backed insurer could result in job losses impact the company’s social infrastructure spending plans, according to one of its largest trade unions.


Life Insurance Corp. “was formed to provide insurance to rural social economically backward people,” Rajesh Kumar, general secretary of All India LIC Employees’ Federation, said in an interview with Bloomberg TV on Tuesday. The company, which has been funding capital-intensive infrastructure projects such as roads, railways power for more than six decades, may instead focus on “profit-maximizing investments” after the IPO, Kumar said.





Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is looking to dilute as much as 10% stake in LIC as part of a broader divestment target to help plug a widening budget gap. The sale, which is set to be the country’s biggest, could value the company at as much as $261 billion, surpassing Reliance Industries Ltd., according to analysts at Jefferies India.


The trade union, which represents about 4,000 of LIC’s roughly 114,000 employees, has written to the prime minister members of Parliament to protest about the listing is planning campaigns to raise concerns about the share sale, Kumar said.


“We believe that selling national asset is a willfully disruptive policy,” he said. “Recruitment will be minimal, outsourcing will happen job losses will take place.”


The government last month picked 10 banks for the sale that’s planned for between January March 2022.

Dear Reader,

Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information commentary on developments that are of interest to you have wider political economic implications for the country the world. Your encouragement constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed updated with credible news, authoritative views incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.

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As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better more relevant content. We believe in free, fair credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.

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