Shouldn’t let AI become weapon of non-state actors, says Modi

Shares rise buoyed by TCS buyback plan, banking gains

Promise of moratorium interest waiver spurs bank stocks

Indian shares ended higher on Monday as Tata Consultancy Services’ market capitalisation touched ₹10 lakh crore ($136.46 billion) — on share buyback plans — and banking stocks gained after the government said it would waive interest levies on some loans under moratorium.

The NSE Nifty 50 index ended 0.76% higher at 11,503.35 and the S&P BSE Sensex gained 0.71% to close at 38,973.70. TCS said it would consider a share buyback later in the week when it reports results, sending its shares up as much as 8.1% to a record high of ₹2,728.10.

The Nifty IT index rose 3.47%. Shares in TCS, Wipro Ltd. and Infosys Ltd. were among the top percentage gainers on the blue-chip Nifty 50. The Centre had told the apex court it would waive the compounding interest component on loans up to ₹2 crore under a COVID-19 support plan, a legal filing showed. The Supreme Court will have its next hearing on the interest waiver case on October 13.

The NSE Bank index ended 0.56% higher, with shares of IndusInd Bank rising as much as 6.5% and Canara Bank Ltd. shares closing 0.6% higher.

PNB to add 4,000 jobs, open 500 branches in FY21, says Rao

Managing Director says lender to focus on the South, West for expansion

Public sector lender Punjab National Bank (PNB), which has set its sights on the South and West for expansion, will open about 500 branches and add about 4,000 jobs during the current fiscal, said its MD and CEO Ch. S.S. Mallikarjuna Rao.

“We have completed the business and human integration of United Bank of India and Oriental Bank of Commerce with the PNB,” said Mr. Rao. “IT migration will happen by December and February 2021 respectively,” he added.

The bank, which currently operates 11,000 branches predominantly in the North and East, plans to expand in the South and West. Initially, the bank plans to open about 500 branches during FY21.

“The merger will lead to high incidence of rationalisation of branches,” Mr. Rao said. “If there are two branches within 500 metres, we will club them together and then use the licence to open a new branch in the South or in the West. That way, we hope to open 500 branches and will be writing to the RBI.”

By November 15, PNB will be adding almost 4,000 employees to its payroll with 990 of them absorbed in the officer cadre.

On loss-making branches, Mr. Rao said they would number about 350 and the bank was finding ways to reduce their count through innovative marketing of services or introduction of region-specific products.

Noting that the bank’s financial performance was muted in the first half due to COVID-19, he said the lender expected the economy to pick up in the second half.

Google defers Play Store billing move to March ’22

Firm ‘mindful of local needs, concerns’

Google on Monday said it was extending the deadline for developers in India to integrate with the Play Store billing system by six months to March 2022, while adding that it would also be setting up “listening sessions” with leading Indian start-ups to understand their concerns.

The development comes after several Indian start-ups voiced their displeasure against Google over the company’s requirement that apps mandatorily use the Play Store’s billing system for in-app purchases of digital goods. Paytm, which competes with Google’s digital payments application GPay, on Sunday introduced its own ‘mini app’ store to support Indian developers.

“First and foremost, we want to reiterate that we are deeply committed to the success of the Indian ecosystem — we do not succeed unless our partners succeed,” Google said in a blogpost. “Being mindful of local needs and concerns” the firm said it had taken steps including planning workshops to clarify its policies.

‘Road transport revenue may shrink 18-20% in FY21’

ICRA keeps negative outlook on sector

The Indian road freight transportation sector is expected to see revenue contraction of 18-20% in FY21 due to the adverse impact of lockdowns, ICRA Ratings has said.

ICRA has maintained its negative outlook for this sector due to expectations of continued pressures on the credit profile of road transportation companies. The rating agency said over the medium term, the sector would witness some consolidation trends, given the rising pressure on viability of small fleet operators.

“The aggregate revenues of ICRA’s sample of logistics companies contracted sharply by 35% during the quarter,” Shamsher Dewan, vice-president, ICRA Ratings, said. “The impact was more visible on players operating on an asset-heavy model, due to high fixed costs for owned assets, while asset-light players fared relatively better,” he added.

This decline was also corroborated by the generation of e-way bills, which contracted by 49% during the quarter.

Shouldn’t let AI become weapon of non-state actors, says Modi

‘Collective responsibility to ensure trust in how it is used’

Vowing to make India a global hub for artificial intelligence (AI), Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday stressed the need for transparency and accountability to protect against weaponisation of the technology by non-state actors.

“It remains our collective responsibility to ensure trust in how AI is used. Algorithm transparency is key to establishing this trust. Equally important is accountability. We must protect the world against weaponisation of AI by non-state actors,” the PM said at the inauguration of RAISE 2020, a virtual summit organised by the Centre.

Stakeholders from about 123 countries are expected to participate in the event.

‘Unique advantages’

Stating that creativity and emotions continued to be the greatest strengths of humans, Mr. Modi said these attributes were unique advantages that humans had over machines. “Even the smartest of AI cannot solve mankind’s problems without blending with our intellect and empathy,” he said.

Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani stressed the urgent need for a regulatory framework on data, which he said was the raw material for AI.

Observing that intelligent data was ‘digital capital’ and a vital national resource, he said, “In the coming decades… nations will increasingly compete on digital capital.

“We are confident that the government will introduce a sound data regulation framework to protect this national resource and ensure data privacy,” Mr. Ambani added.