Boom time for beauty care
Guwahati, Sept. 29: The beauty care business is growing by leaps and bounds in the Northeast.
New companies are entering the market every six months. “Companies are walking into the Northeast as opportunities are huge,” Anirban Das, who looks after the Northeast market for L’Oréal India Private Ltd, told The Telegraph.
The region contributes 35-37 per cent of the company’s revenues, growing at five per cent annually. “The region contributes a lot to the company,” Das said.
A few days ago, Nomarks Teens from the stable of Ozone Group was introduced in the Guwahati market. The company claims that it is a unique initiative, specially designed for teenagers and their never-ending skin-related woes.
Ozone Group had entered the Northeast in 2001, when other companies held back fearing trouble, and has been doing good business since then.
“Sixty per cent of out revenue comes from the Northeast and we value our relationship with the region,” Ozone Group of Companies chairman and managing director S.C. Sehgal said at a news conference a few days back.
“The industrial policy of Assam is the best, as it offers lots of incentives,” he said.
He said the beauty care business was growing very fast and would grow faster in times to come.
Sehgal said the idea of an age-specific beauty care range came from the observation that women of every age have their own needs, wants and desires. “We at Ozone believe that they choose everything according to their age, be it clothes, accessories, hairstyle or lifestyle. But, when it comes to beauty care products, they are left with no options. We have taken a giant step towards progress — the natural and herbal way — by developing a beauty care range for the teens,” he added.
The company, which has two manufacturing facilities in Guwahati, is setting up the Oscar Beauty Training Institute in the region. The institute, will provide training on a wide range of holistic and beauty treatments.
“The classes will be held on product training, corporate grooming and etiquettes to train both amateurs and qualified professionals. This move would not only provide income generating techniques to aspiring individuals but also fuel the ambitions of budding women entrepreneurs,” Sehgal said.
To start with, 50 women will be trained and there will be a constant upgrade of skills to keep them abreast of the latest trends in the world of beauty care.
He said a career in beauty therapy could be very demanding but as a caring profession, it was always extremely rewarding, and added, “To establish a regular, loyal clientele, therapists have to be personal and sympathetic to their client’s needs.”
Sehgal said the company had plans to start a herbal treatment resort — Holistic Health Village — in the region and added that it would be coming up at Jakhalabandha in a year’s time.
But what is so special about the beauty care industry of the region that induces companies to come here?
Anirban Das said hairdressers in the Northeast have inherent characteristics and qualities. “The latest trends of beauty in India comes from the Northeast, and consumers in the region are more concerned about clothing.”
Even Sehgal admitted that women from Northeast were the best in the country.
For Oriflame, the Northeast market is a big one, which has grown by 50 per cent and holds vast potential, given the region’s growing fashionable population. Guwahati has emerged as one of the biggest branches of the company in the country.
Mary Kay, a leading brand of skin care and colour cosmetics, is also looking at expanding its activities in the region, including Dimapur, Kohima, Aizawl and Guwahati. Nagaland is a special target as the demand for its products there is growing.
India’s renowned chain of skin care clinics, Kaya Skin Clinic, has also opened shop in Guwahati, which has been identified as a promising market in this untapped region.
Company research by Kaya has shown that there is a high level of awareness in this region about the need to look good by using efficacious skin care services.


NRL opts out of river route

NRL opts out of river route
Guwahati, Sept. 14: Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL) has decided to stop sending export consignments on National Waterway 2 (the Brahmaputra), signalling further reduction in cargo movement along the river.
NRL managing director Dipak Chakravarty told The Telegraph that transporting cargo over the river was uneconomical, as it took far too long for consignments to reach Bangladesh.
The refinery has been exporting high-speed diesel to Bangladesh since 2007.
This does not augur well for the waterway as cargo movement over it has been coming down since 2004-05, despite the Centre’s attempts to convince industries to use this “safe” route to move large consignments.
In 2004-05, cargo movement on the river was 10,017.16 metric tonnes, which came down to 1,592.27 metric tonnes in 2010-11.
The major commodities being sent along the waterway are coal, cement, high-speed diesel and edible oil.
An NRL official said, “Taking into account our past experiences, we thought it prudent to put using the river on hold as it was not making sense.”
The official said it had taken more than a month for the vessels to reach Bagabari in Bangladesh from Silghat — a journey that normally should not have taken more than 15 days.
“It is difficult to hold stocks for so long as one loses money. The river needs to be improved to ensure smooth sailing,” he said.
Exporting to Bangladesh remains the best option for NRL, as it is the nearest market. Otherwise, the company has to look for distant markets in other parts of India. It has to market 85 per cent of its products outside the Northeast to ensure viability.
Till date, NRL has exported 3,400 metric tonnes of high-speed diesel to Bangladesh in two consignments (2007 and 2008).
A waterway official said Brahmaputra was a difficult river to navigate, as there were submerged rocks at many places along with sharp bends and steep gradients, and added that to ensure smooth sailing for cargoes, suitable cargo vessels were also required.
He said the highly dynamic nature of the flood-prone river system made maintenance and control measures like dredging and riverbank protection difficult.
A waterway official said the river needed to be improved in a big way as otherwise, navigation over the Brahmaputra would be difficult, especially for cargoes that require smooth sailing. “The river is wide and dynamic and it needs to be controlled by river training measures like bank protection,” the official said.
The river training and control works include maintenance of the minimum river depth, which can be achieved through dredging. “Designing an appropriate riverbank protection system on the Brahmaputra has been a challenging task for engineers. It is a braided river system with varying flood channels and frequent floods changing its characteristics,” the official said.
Moreover, the waterway does not have cargo suitable vessels. “One requires a 1,000 tonne vessel with a draft of 1.8 metres to ply on Brahmaputra,” the official said, adding that it was a very difficult river to negotiate, as there were hidden objects like submerged rocks at many places along with strong currents, sharp bends and steep gradients, especially in the Upper Assam stretches.
Though the ministry of shipping had moved the Centre to provide subsidy for the inland water transport sector in the Northeast to make it attractive to ensure optimum use, nothing has materialised.
NRL has also mooted a plan of using a pipeline to send high-speed diesel to Bangladesh. But, the official said, it was still at a concept stage. An NRL team would be visiting Bangladesh soon to discuss the proposal, as the company’s officials consider it a feasible option.

Lohit river basin to be hit by hydro projects

Lohit plan will impact river: report
Project may affect ecology
Guwahati, Sept. 12: Construction of the six proposed hydroelectric projects on Lohit in Arunachal Pradesh could adversely affect the river’s ecology, impacting aquatic life and animals, a draft report has concluded.
Six projects with installed capacity of 7,450MW — Demwe Lower, Demwe Upper, Hutong-II, Hutong-I, Kalai-II and Kalai-I — will restrict the 144.2-km river to 42.4km, which is 30 per cent of the river’s stretch.
The Lohit basin is the eastern most river basin of India, forming part of the Brahamputra basin, with its catchment spreading across the international border, covering part of Tibet.
It is bounded by China and part of Dibang valley district of Arunachal Pradesh in the north, Changlang district in the south, the hills of Myanmar in the east and Assam in the west.
“Construction of the proposed dams would hamper the upward and downward migratory movement of various fish species in summer and winter. It is likely that the migration of fish species, Schizothorax richardsonii and Acrossocheilus hexagonolepis, in the 144.2km stretch would be affected on account of construction of the proposed hydroelectric projects. Likewise, migration of fish species from tributaries to river Lohit would be affected on account of creation of reservoirs because of construction of proposed hydroelectric projects. Thus, the projects will lead to adverse impact on migratory fish species,” says the report which has been compiled by WAPCOS Limited, a government of India undertaking under the instruction of the ministry of environment and forests.
Congregation of workers could disturb wildlife during construction of the project, the report said.
Besides, the sites chosen for the projects should free from dense vegetation, away from wildlife habitats, including breeding sites, and riverbanks.
“In view of this it is recommended that adequate number of check posts be developed in the major construction area and in the vicinity of labour camps to prevent poaching in the area. Each check-post shall have four guards, who will be supervised by a range officer,” the report said.
The expert appraisal committee for river valley and hydroelectric projects under the ministry of environment and forests, on the other hand, has called for a study of the downstream impact of Lohit on Dibru Saikhowa National Park in Assam, which the current report has not included. It also pointed out that the tributaries of Lohit river have not been studied.
The committee said the ecology, flora/fauna presented in the report is not adequate and lower group of plants have not been reported at all. While scientists prepared a checklist of 213 species of fishes in Arunachal Pradesh, the report has mentioned only eight fishes in Lohit river.


Plucking incentive under review

Plucking sop faces review
 The tea industry will review the tea plucking incentive that was agreed upon last year but could not be fully implemented because of crop failure.
The agreement, signed last year for the Brahmaputra valley, stated that garden labourers in Assam would have to pluck 23kg compared to the previous 21kg. Anybody who plucked more than 24kg will be given an incentive of 55 paise per kg.
Production in the Brahmaputra valley in 2010 was 428.74 million kg as compared to 445.13 million kg in 2009, resulting in a deficit of 16.39 million kg. The shortage was because of crop failure resulting from pest attacks.
The best year for the Brahmaputra valley was 2007 when production was 467.75 million kg.
“The plucking incentive was implemented for a limited period of time and in a few locations only and hence was not implemented fully,” a tea industry official said, adding that it was not implemented in the Golaghat area, considered to be the best area for tea in the state.
The decision to review the plucking incentive was taken on August 26 at a meeting in Dibrugarh. The plucking incentive is only for the ticca period ( June to October).
The agreement signed last year had stated that there would be a review after one year.
“The pros and cons of the incentive will be discussed. However, it is difficult to say whether the plucking incentive will be reviewed after a year or not,” the official said.
A committee was formed to assess the impact of the plucking incentive and a sample survey was done. The survey found an increase in productivity as well as in earnings of pluckers.
In fact, the tea industry has been harping on increased productivity and positive about providing incentives to those who worked more and disincentives for those who did not pluck according to the assigned tasks.
Absenteeism has been a major problem plaguing the industry and is in the range of 15-20 per cent. It needs to be addressed with mechanisation as well as strong disciplinary measures.
The official said counselling of workers and continuous efforts to curb the absenteeism trend had not met with much success.
Lengthy negotiations had to be done with the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha on improving productivity following which a plucking incentive was agreed upon.
Productivity in Assam tea gardens varies between 1,800kg and 2,600kg per hectare, which is quite low when compared globally. Plucking standards vary across the Assam valley because of various reasons.
The incentive earlier was 27 paise per kg if labourers plucked more than 21kg.
In fact, for the first time, a new category of garden output was added to the incentive slab. If a worker plucked 24kg to the average output of the garden, he or she would be given an incentive of 55 paise per kg.
The average output of the garden will be calculated on the basis of the past three years (2007-09). An incentive of Rs 1 per kg will be awarded if a worker plucked more than the average output of the garden.


NRL to increase refinery size

NRL increases capacity  for viability
 The Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL) is increasing its installed capacity from three to eight million metric tonnes per annum to make itself viable.
“The expansion would cost between Rs 8,000 and Rs 10,000 crore and will be completed by the end of 2017 — the end of the 12th plan period,” NRL managing director Dipak Chakravarty told The Telegraph.
Commercial production of the refinery, set up in accordance with provisions of the Assam Accord, started in October 2000.
He said among others, the company had mooted a plan for importing crude to Numaligarh through a new pipeline from Dhamra port in Orissa. The length of the inter-state pipeline would be roughly 1,500km.
A source in the company said an area of persistent concern for NRL was the inadequate availability of crude oil, which was unlikely to be addressed unless the possibility of processing imported crude was explored at the right earnest.
The company will also be soon calling in tenders for preparation of a techno-economic feasibility report for the expansion plan.
“There should not be any problem in getting 1,000 acres of land near our current premises,” Chakravarty said, adding that the resources required for executing the plan could be raised through a public issue.
He said the demand projections for petroleum products during the 12th five-year plan supported the refinery’s capacity expansion plan in terms of product absorption. “If the plan materialises, the company would achieve an economical scale of operation in the next few years and this would pave the way for making the refinery viable,” he said.
The capacity expansion plan has been discussed with officials from the ministry of petroleum and natural gas and the Planning Commission.
The performance of the company in the 2010-11 fiscal was good, as it achieved the highest sales turnover of Rs 8,972 crore — a 13.9 per cent increase over last year’s figure of Rs 7,874 crore.
The recent duty restructuring by the Centre has robbed the company of Rs 600 crore, a figure that would be reflected in next year’s balance sheets. “We have approached the Centre to look into the issue, because otherwise, we would be in the red,” Chakravarty said.
The source said while the company had drawn up plans for improving profitability through implementation of several value addition projects during the course of the next few years, any measure to reduce excise duty benefits before implementation of the planned projects could threaten the company’s viability.
The Centre’s move will also hit hard the three other refineries of the Northeast.
The Centre has been offering 50 per cent excise duty benefit to the region’s refineries in view of inherent handicaps like their sub-economic sizes and restricted capacity utilisation owing to inadequate crude oil availability, among others. But recently, the customs duty on crude and high-speed diesel was reduced along with reduction in excise duty on high-speed diesel. This hit hard the region’s refineries, which had to cope with reduced profits in terms of their share of the duties.
NRL’s profit before tax was recorded at Rs 415 crore, while the profit after tax was Rs 279 crore during the 2010-11 fiscal.


NE wants imaginative solutions: PC

Panel wants ‘imaginative solution’
 The Planning Commission has called on the authorities to find “imaginative solutions” for the Northeast in the forthcoming Twelfth Plan to deal with the region which has special challenges.
The commission, in its draft approach paper to the Plan, says the Northeast needs special application, as it has enormous development potential, but its growth has been slow.
“The low levels of private investments in the region are because of the perception of limited opportunity and difficult logistics and access. Development of infrastructure, better connectivity, greatly improved access to trade with the rest of the country and Look East window to Bangladesh and Southeast Asia will yield rich results. These are complex and sensitive issues for which imaginative solutions must be found during the Twelfth Plan,” it says.
The draft approach paper was approved last month.
Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, along with senior officials, had visited Guwahati in the first week of July to include views from the region.
The Federation of Industry and Commerce of North Eastern Region (Finer) has already called for an exclusive five year plan for the Northeast to address the issue of regional imbalance with the rest of the country.
On the potential for development of hydropower in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and other states of the region, it said: “The pace of capacity creation in this area has been slow and it is vital that special emphasis be given to expedite environmental and other clearances, so that the pace of work on these hydro-electric power projects can be stepped up. Early completion of these projects will also generate an income stream for the Northeast which will enable them to accelerate the pace of development.”
Another important area is upgrading and expansion of the transmission grid in the region, so that it can both receive and transfer power to the rest of the country.
“A special project on power evacuation from the Northeast will have to be undertaken. The possibility of such lines passing through Bangladesh could be considered, reflecting our mutually beneficial inter-dependence,” it said.
The draft has laid stress on development of road infrastructure which is critical for the completion of several power projects because movement of heavy equipment to remote areas is not possible without good road links.
The commission said the “Look East Policy” should lead logically to special efforts at developing road connectivity to Thailand, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
Development of waterways transport will also generate economic activity and investments need to be promoted in this sector, it said.
Tourism is another high potential area, the draft said.


Northeast india refineries hit by duty restructuring

Duty restructure hits refineries

Guwahati, Sept. 1: Profitability of refineries in the Northeast, which has always been under strain, will be badly hit because of restructuring of duties by the Centre.
The ministry of petroleum and natural gas had carried out duty restructuring in the wake of high crude prices and mounting under recoveries of oil marketing companies.
The duty restructuring led to reduction in customs duty on crude oil from five per cent to nil, motor spirit/high speed diesel from 7.5 per cent to 2.5 per cent and excise duties on high speed diesel (HSD) from Rs 4.60 per litre to Rs 2.
Sources said while these would prove helpful in cash flow management of oil marketing companies and in mitigating the subsidy burden of upstream companies, this would have a negative impact on the already strained profitability of the refineries in the region.
There are four refineries in Assam — Guwahati, Bongaigaon, Digboi and Numaligarh. The adverse impact because of restructuring of duties will be to the tune of Rs 1,900 crore.
The reduction of customs duty on crude oil does not bring any benefit to North East refineries as these are processing indigenous crude oils. In fact with this change, Northeast refineries are now at a disadvantageous position vis-à-vis refineries processing imported crude oil as N-E refineries are required to pay VAT at five per cent and entry tax at two per cent. Refineries processing imported crude oil do not have to pay anything as the incidence of customs duty/sales tax for them is nil now.
In fact the reduction in excise duties on HSD from Rs 4.60 per litre to Rs 2 per litre has resulted in huge decline in realisation to refineries because of reduction in the region excise duty benefit.
The Centre provides 50 per cent excise duty concession in view of the sub-economic size and geographically disadvantageous location. Because of decline in excise duties, these refineries stand to lose this benefit.
In addition to these, enhancement in VAT rate from four to five per cent on crude oil by the state government and revision in pipeline charges by OIL for Barauni-Bongaigaon section have adversely affected the refineries of the region.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Gas, in its latest report, has noted with concern the financial health of oil refineries in the region because of various problems, including entry tax on crude oil being charged by the state governments, which is affecting the profitability of the refineries. In fact, the director (refineries) of Indian Oil Corporation Limited, B.N. Bankapur, has written to the ministry saying that all the three refineries of IOCL would end up in the red.
“This is an undesirable situation from the point of aspirations of the employees, ancillary industries and regional development. While there have been plans to improve the profitability of the N-E refineries with setting up of facilities, the same will now be uneconomical,” he said.
The IOCL has requested the ministry to request Assam to waive VAT and entry on crude oil. Till that happens, it has asked the ministry to withdraw the instructions. It has requested the finance ministry to enhance Northeast excise duty concession from 50 to 100 per cent.
The general secretary of North Eastern Region Oil Worker’s Co-ordination Committee, Biren Kalita, has called for reduction in VAT and waiving of entry tax to help the refineries remain viable.
The reduction in customs duty has resulted in entitlement of lower refinery transfer price to these refineries. The refinery transfer price (RTP) is the price at which oil marketing companies (OMCs) lift products from the refineries.
The NEROWCC has also asked the Centre to expand the capacity of the four N-E refineries to make it economically viable.
The issue figured in Parliament a few days back when minister of state for petroleum and natural gas R.P.N. Singh in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha had said the Northeast refineries have implemented a number of projects for their modernisation, quality upgrade and efficiency.
These projects will improve the efficiency and thereby the profitability of the refineries, he said.