Chamber Voice – May 2018

President's Letter

Dear Friends,

Greetings to all!! I trust you are all doing well.

As the international crude oil price touches a four year high of $74 a barrel, diesel prices in India have hit the highest level ever witnessed and petrol prices have touched a near five-year high.

Fuel has become an indispensable part of our day-to-day life, and we can’t imagine our life without it. But with the prices sky rocketing, it is eventually going to affect everything that we use in our day to day lives. Within three years petrol prices have increased 10 times and is still increasing. The increase in fuel prices will also result in the increase in food prices. This will have a severe impact on the poor because poor households spend more than half of their income on food and only a tenth on fuel. It is a chain reaction that once started will affect everyone. The spiralling increase in fuel prices will increase the cost of transportation, which will result in the increase in price of goods, and so on. This is a very difficult situation and the Government needs to step in to remedy the situation.

It’s not just the common man that is feeling the pinch. India Inc. has urged the Government to cut excise duty on petrol and diesel immediately, observing that the spiralling oil prices pose a high risk to India’s growth. In addition, industry bodies have

also pitched for the inclusion of both fuels under the ambit of the goods and services tax (GST) as a long-term solution to rising prices. At a time when the Indian economy is on a recovery path, rising oil prices will pose a serious challenge to India’s economic growth trajectory.

Moving on, the unfortunate turn of events at Synthite Industries, one of the biggest and leading Companies in our State, has been a cause for great concern in the Chamber. The Company has been facing several issues with the labour unions for over two months now. In this connection, the Chamber took the initiative to convene a meeting of all the trade bodies and the representatives of Synthite Industries, in the Chamber Office, on the 23rd of April, 2018, to understand, discuss and find possible solutions to the issue. We have also sent representations to the Government and the Senior Officials concerned, in this regard.  Our Vice-President Mr. V. Venugopal also had the opportunity to meet the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Kerala and the Hon’ble Labour Minister, to discuss this matter and to seek their help in resolving the issue at the earliest. We are hopeful that a solution will be found before too long.

The Cochin Chamber was represented by its Immediate Past President Mr. C S Kartha at an open house meeting arranged by the District Collector on the 23rd of April, to elicit suggestions from the public on finding solutions to the traffic congestion in the city consequent to the construction of the flyover at Vytilla. In this connection, we handed over a representation to the Collector outlining the need to restart the RO-RO services between the Cochin Port and the ICTT which will help decongest the roads by taking the container trailers off the main roads.

On the 27th of April, the Chamber organized an exclusive one day Workshop for the EXIM community on the recent amendments on the Foreign Trade Policy. The Session covered various transaction provisions and the impact of the recent amendments through the mid-term review of the Foreign Trade Policy. The session also covered GST for the EXIM Community. The Workshop was handled by Mr. M.S. Venkataraman and Mr. M. Bhasker, Founder Members of Freight Club, Chennai.

The 7th CEO Forum Breakfast Meeting was held on the 4th of May, 2018. Mr. V. Venugopal, the Vice-President of the Cochin Chamber of Commerce & Industry, who is also the Vice-President, Legal of Harrison’s Malayalam Limited, was the Speaker at the session. Mr. Venugopal spoke on “Land Laws in Kerala & the Plantation Industry.” Mr. Venugopal, in his session shared his knowledge on the subject on the basis of the research done while sorting out the legal issues facing his Company vis-à-vis  the Government of Kerala.

The 8th CEO Forum Breakfast Meeting will be held on Friday the 1st of June, 2018 at Taj Gateway Hotel, Ernakulam. The topic for the session will be “Mergers & Acquisitions – Impact of US Tax Reforms on Indian Companies and other M&A Tax Issues.” Speakers from PwC India, Mr. Aditya Narwekar, Partner, PwC’s M&A Tax & Regulatory Practice and Mr. Himanshu Aggarwal, Manager – M&A Tax, PwC will be the Speakers. This will be followed by a networking breakfast. I invite you all to register for this monthly event of the Chamber.

We are in the process of scheduling various programmes for the coming months. The details pertaining to the programmes, once finalised, will be shared with you all in due course.

In the meantime, if you have any suggestions or queries, please feel free to get in touch with me or the Chamber Secretariat.

Shaji Varghese

President

Recent Events

JOINT MEETING OF TRADE BODIES TO DISCUSS THE LABOUR ISSUES BEING FACED BY SYNTHITE INDUSTRIES LTD. | 23rd April, 2018

A meeting was convened in the Cochin Chamber of Commerce & Industry of the representatives of various trade associations, to address the labour unrest and related issues being faced by Synthite Industries Ltd., one of the most successful business ventures in Kerala. The Meeting was held at 4.00 p.m. on Monday the 23rd of April 2018, at the Chamber Hall on Willingdon Island.

Mr. Shaji Varghese, President of the Cochin Chamber, welcomed the representatives of the different trade bodies and thanked them for have come to the meeting on short notice.

Synthite Industries Ltd., was represented by Mr. Aju Jacob – Director, Mr. Vineeth Mathew, HR, Manager and Mr. K. Gnana Vadivel, Sr. Vice President, Operations.

The meeting commenced with Mr. Aju Jacob explaining the situation at the Company due to the issues being created by a trade union with the support of a few of their workers.

Mr. Vineeth Mathew outlined the origin of the current issue and the steps that the Company had taken to overcome the same. He said that Synthite Industries has a very clear and transparent wage plan for its employees with a salary correction being carried out every three years. He said that this is done in consultation with the workers through the Welfare Association set up by them, of which a majority of the workers are members. He said that this time around the Company had ensured that all employees working with them will have a reasonably good living wage and that the new settlement had come into effect from December last year. Mr. Vineeth said that the current issues began when a few employees joined one of the Unions and submitted a Charter of Demands requesting an out of turn salary correction. This request was rejected by the Company management. As is the norm, for any new union formed to be recognized by the management, it needs to have a minimum required membership and will have to wait for a period of six months before a referendum is conducted to gain recognition. The Synthite management has only asked for the law to be followed in letter and spirit, he said.

In the meantime, the company had also transferred some employees to other units of the Company in other locations as per requirement. While three employees accepted the transfer order and moved to new locations 7 other refused to do so. Transfers within the Company are routine and over the last one year, Synthite has transferred over 70 of its employees to different location within the country, he said.

In December 2017, the employees of Synthite Industries formed an “Employees Welfare Association” within the organization and accepted the benefits that the Company offers to its employees. Of the 450 employees, 338 signed in favor of this new Welfare Association and the rest decided to join the newly formed Trade Union.  On the 9th of January 2018 the newly formed Trade Union under the CITU was registered and the notification for a meeting was sent to the senior management at Synthite Industries. Their demands being unreasonable, the management did not agree to them. This is when the problems worsened and dharanas and strikes by the people affiliated to the Trade Union commenced.

The meeting was informed that ongoing agitation is causing a lot of nuisance to the Company and the surrounding areas. This has made the Company rethink its strategy and is now considering shifting its operations outside the State.

After Mr. Vineeth explained the situation, the members present at the meeting discussed the situation at length. The meeting was of the unanimous view that the situation needs to be resolved at the earliest and normalcy restored. The general view was that a company like Synthite Industries should not have to move away from Kerala. This would set a bad precedent and would affect other industries too. This will also hamper fresh investments from coming to the State. At a time when the Government seems keen to attract new investments into Kerala the Government should be pressurized into taking a firm stand in the matter.

After the discussions, it was decided that for now the following actions would be initiated;

a)Each Association would send a representation to the Chief Minister/Labour Minister requesting their intervention

b) A meeting to be fixed up with the Labour Commissioner to discuss the issue

c) Discussions to be initiated at the local level with the leaders of the said trade union to try and sort out the issue

The meeting was of the view that once these actions were initiated and if it is found that there is no progress in resolving the matter, a joint delegation would go and meet the Chief Minister in this connection.

Mr. Vivek K. Govind, President of the Kerala Management Association agreed to initiate discussions with Mr. P Rajeev of the CPI (M). Mr. V. Venugopal, Vice-President of the Cochin Chamber said thathe would be meeting the Labour Minister and other senior officials in Trivandrum later in the week and that he would discuss this issue too with them.

The meeting also requested the representatives of Synthite Industries not to take any harsh decisions which could affect the general industrial scenario in the State and possible investment prospects in the future.

Workshop on Foreign Trade Policy and GST for EXIM Trade | 27th April, 2018

The Cochin Chamber of Commerce & Industry organised an Exclusive One Day Workshop for the Export-Import Community on the Amendments (Mid-Term Review) to the Foreign Trade Policy (2015-2020) and the implications of the Goods and Services Tax on Friday, 27th April 2018 at the Cochin Chamber Hall, Willingdon Island, Ernakulam.

The interactive session covered the various transaction provisions and the impact of the recent amendments through the mid term review of the Foreign Trade Policy and some of the effects of the GST Regime towards the Export Import sector.

The Workshop was handled by Mr. M.S. Venkataraman and Mr. M. Bhasker, Founder Members of Freight Club, Chennai.

Mr. S.P. Kamath, Executive Committee Member of the Cochin Chamber, delivered the Welcome Address.

Over 35 participants attended the workshop.

CEO FORUM - 7th Breakfast Meeting - Land Laws in Kerala and the Plantation Industry | 4th May 2018

The Seventh Breakfast Meeting of the Cochin Chamber’s CEO FORUM 2017-18 was held on Friday, the 4th of May 2018 at the Taj Gateway, Ernakulam.

Mr. Shaji Varghese, President of the Chamber, delivered the Welcome Address.

Mrs. Nisha Menon, Director Tax – PwC India, compared the various International funding options available to Companies as part of the Knowledge Sharing Partnership between the Chamber and PricewaterhouseCoopers India Pvt. Ltd.

Mr. V. Venugopal, Vice President – Legal, Harrisons Malayalam Ltd., who is also the Vice President of the Cochin Chamber of Commerce & Industry was the Speaker for the session. Mr. Venugopal spoke on the topic “Land Laws in Kerala & the Plantation Industry.”

Mr. Venugopal, in his session shared some points on the land laws in Kerala and went through case studies explaining how some of them posed a threat to the ease of doing business in the state and affect the trade and commerce as a whole.

Mr. C.J. George, Managing Director and Promoter of Geojit, presented a Memento to Mr. V. Venugopal.

Mr. S.P. Kamath, Executive Committee Member, delivered the Vote of Thanks.

Quotes

Your mindset matters. It affects everything - from the business and investment decisions you make, to the way you raise your children, to your stress levels and overall well-being. - Peter Diamandis

Advertisements

Trivia

Representations by the Chamber

Representation to the Chief Minister of Kerala on the issues faced by Synthite Industries

Representation to the Hon'ble Union Minister of Commerce & Industry

Investment Outlook

Apply for E-Certificate of Origin

Advertisement

Exclusive EXIM Statistics

Upcoming Event

CEO FORUM - 8th Breakfast Meeting - "Mergers & Acquisitions"

The Eighth Breakfast Meeting of the CEO FORUM 2017-18 will be held on Friday, the 1st of June 2018 at the Taj Gateway, Ernakulam.

Speakers:

Mr. Aditya Narwekar, Partner, PwC’s M&A Tax & Regulatory Practice

Mr. Himanshu Aggarwal, Manager – M&A Tax, PwC

Topic: Mergers & Acquisitions – Impact of US Tax Reforms on Indian Companies and other M&A Tax Issues

Date: Friday, 1st June 2018

Time: 8.00 a.m. to 10.00 a.m.

Venue: Marina Hall, Taj Gateway, Marine Drive, Ernakulam.

For registrations, please contact:

ceoforum@cochinchamber.org

Tel: +91 484 2668349/ 2668650 / +919895676827 / +919744629992

Exclusive EXIM Statistics

Sample Reprts

To avail this service please contact statistics@cochinchamber.org

Contact Number : 0484 2668650/ +917736856995

E-mail : statistics@cochinchamber.org

For Export details -Mr. T M Padmanabhan

For Import details – Ms. Madhumathi Kamath