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Transportation technology – be it in various forms from online to vehicular – continues to showcase the best of its elements in an ever-changing manner in India, even as the country ushers in revolutionary platforms, devices and manpower to meet the huge, ever-hungry appetite of the world’s second-most largest population in the world. One of them is SWIFT which recently stepped into India with its online transportation secured transaction messaging platform for the country’s financial industry. SWIFT India Domestic Services Pvt Ltd went live in first week of March. SWIFT India is a joint venture created by SWIFT SCRL (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication), the global banking cooperative, and nine partner banks to address domestic market needs of the Indian financial services industry. After receiving formal approval from the Reserve Bank of India in April 2015, the new service will now enable harmonised exchange of structured financial information between domestic participants in the domestic Indian community, while keeping the same level of resiliency and security that SWIFT offers at a global level.

Eddie Haddad, Managing Director, Head of Sales, SWIFT (Asia Pacific) and Acting CEO, SWIFT India, said things happening in India are very innovative, especially in view of the digitisation revolution taking place here and the SWIFT India messaging platform would greatly facilitate trade in this regard by allowing banks and financial institutions to use one connection for transporting transactions in a secure manner. Emphasising that SWIFT India is owned by the Indian community, he said it would also benefit stock exchanges, brokers etc.

“This is the second wave of transformation taking place in the technology space in India,” M V Nair, Chairman of the Board, SWIFT India, said while highlighting SWIFT as a global cooperative, not-for-profit organisation with its standard messaging format operating in 215 countries. “SWIFT India is the perfect mix of world-class technology and local knowledge. Not only will the new service enable standardised financial information domestically, but it will also allow connecting the world to India.”

He said India would be witnessing its banks being securely connected through SWIFT and the Reserve Bank of India for which a joint venture had been put into place between SWIFT and various banks including: Axis Bank, Bandhan Bank, Bank of Baroda, Barclays, Citibank, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, IDFC Bank, Punjab National Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, State Bank of India, Union Bank of India and Tata Consultancy Services. Replying to questions about SWIFT’s global pricing being costly, he said the Indian pricing had been made cost-effective in rupee payment to help the country create a financial infrastructure and economic growth. “We are providing an alternative to redundancy and competition to the marketplace. Also, we have made huge investments in India and will continue to provide it,” he added.

Alain Raes, Chief Executive APAC and EMEA, SWIFT said: “We are excited to see the Reserve Bank of India now live on SWIFT India. Eleven banks already signed up and are live on the SWIFT India network. These are now able to exchange financial information domestically in a fast and secure manner. SWIFT is glad to be one of the early FDI pioneers and make India our home.”

Highlighting SWIFT as having about 10,000 clients in 12 countries of which 1,400 were corporate, Raes said with India’s macro-economy needing a strong financial industry, SWIFT had invested here in supporting payments to national institutions while also being given the ability to consolidate. Stressing that SWIFT is in the messaging business and not Payments etc, he said “We are in the business of transporting information that is necessarily related to banking transactions and we are looking to reach out to endpoints of capillarity in India by connecting to as many institutions as possible. The vast majority of transactions in our connections never leave the borders of any given country. We see India as a market we can support, with also emergence of a very key structure, while also ensuring – in transactions – protection against crimes. The support of the Reserve Bank of India has been essential and we want to be in the forefront in this industry which has potential for innovation,” he said, adding “India is a very large country with large population and growing very fast, especially in the middle class segment. We are not here for maximising our profits, but for 
adding value to shareholders.”

To a query about the risks of transacting in the SWIFT system including failure rate, pending transactions, Raes said: “There are millions of transaction happening worldwide and our global network is transporting about 120 million transactions per day of which 80 per cent are payments and the remaining related to security and trade finance. This shows the criticality of our operations in which security is of paramount importance. It is part of our DNA that we have never been broken/hacked and can never be hacked or fraudulently changed.”

To a question about Iran being unplugged from the SWIFT network, Raes said, “We never disconnected Iran from our network, but what happened was a consequence of sanctions imposed on that nation by many countries, and we duly complied with the regulations. Not all banks in Iran were affected but we ar now reconnecting with them.”

Describing secured transaction messaging as very important for India’s economy, Mohan Tanksale of the Indian Banking Association said the country’s banking industry had grown and highlighted the need to look for a matured platform like SWIFT which has now gone “live” with 13 banks and others joining them. “This is a structured messaging platform and, if the Letter of Credit becomes digitised, then the possibility of frauds will be minimised. We have so far not yet created a product akin to a post-dated cheque and therefore need such a platform like SWIFT, which will substantially reduce cheque transactions in the country. This is a great opportunity for Indian banks and pricing will not be a purely commercial objective as I am sure all banks will join including those wanting to differentiate on their products,” he said, adding that as far as SWIFT’s success in reducing frauds was concerned, “Forging documents will not happen.” 

Chandan Sinha, Executive Director, RBI stated, “We strongly believe infrastructures are key to financial inclusion and sustainable growth. The messaging services of SWIFT India will support and strengthen the infrastructure for financial transactions in the country.”

Meanwhile, another form of transportation – this time dealing with movement of consumer goods – is getting its act together to make this industry more appealing and challenging for those in the driver’s seat. While everyone dreams of becoming a champion, the trucking industry is also gearing up for making itself an appealing prospect for truck drivers with a little help from Tata Motors, which launched its “T1 Prima Truck Racing Program” in 2014 as a driver development initiative  aimed at creating “PRIMA RACERS” out of ordinary truck drivers. In its 3rd edition this year, Tata Motors kicked off India’s first Indian Truck driver Race training and selection program for participants to compete in the championship that will also witness experienced international drivers. About 17 drivers will compete for the first-ever, “Indian Truck Racer” trophy and race at speeds of 135 kmph through laps  totaling 3.1 kms at the Budh International Circuit in Greater Noida on March 20, 2016. Tatat Motors also unveiled their T1 2016 race truck for this season’s racing.

Describing the top three reasons truck drivers would aspire to be truck racers, Tata officials said these included: hope for a better life (relief from abuse, dishonor and turmoil experienced by them while driving through tough terrains); making family/community proud (as many of them suffer from low self-esteem and winning would make their company/family proud of their achievements); and Thrill of driving a Prima truck on a racetrack. “There is nothing aspirational about driving a commercial vehicle, besides harsh working conditions and constant pressure to deliver on time alongside multiple employment opportunities emerging in the last few years,” they said.

Ravi Pisharody, Executive Director, Commercial vehicle Business Unit, Tata Motors, said with trucking being vitally important to the nation’s economy, the T1 Racer Program has been designed to help put a name and face to “the men who deliver essential commodities across the country daily. Our objective is to promote trucking as a business and profession while also showcasing our technological achievements. We are transforming highway drivers – the most unrecognised community – into racetrack drivers and they took to this like fish to the water. These trucks have met British racing conditions and the top three commercial players worldwide are already in India. The companies participate in racing as it provides engineers the ability to go into cutting-edge technology.”

To ensure best driver participation, Tata Motors sourced participants from its customers to reach a target of 500+ entries of which 147 drivers were shortlisted. The PRIMA Racing Championship Season III has been themed “India to the World.” The PRIMA range trucks are based on Italian cab design, engine technology from the US and Europe, gearbox expertise from Germany, chassis frame know how from Mexico, sheet metal dies from Japan and Korea, and Swedish precision on a robotic weld line.

The participating drivers’ reactions were priceless: “My wife would think of me as a third class driver,” said Malkeet Singh. “Now I will be called a racer. I called her before coming here and she was beaming with pride.” Another participant Anand said, “I firmly believe that this initiative has the potential to change lives. I am fairly young and can build my life with this while giving a better future to my kids. If not mine, then some other fellow drivers life will change forever.” Syed Pasha of Bengaluru dreams of winning and gifting his parents a car, besides going barehanded fishing with his best friends. Padam Singh Bhati is looking to own a PRIMA truck of his own. Others expressed providing better education and lifestyle for their families, becoming a wrestler or kabaddi player.

Mumbai recently witnessed Maruti Suzuki Ltd launching its first ‘compact urban SUV’ Vitara Brezza nationally to highlight “Glamour, Urban, Sporty, Stylish, Ambitious” lifestyle-oriented drivers, who are seeking this car as an extension of their personality. Enhanced safety and eight colour variants reflect this car with its concept, design, development and manufacturing done in India itself, noted Kenichi Ayukawa, MD & CEO, Maruti Suzuki.

The company’s entry into the popular compact SUV segment highlighted the muscle, glamour and style quotient that was so far missing in this segment, he said, adding  “Outstanding fuel efficiency (24.3 kmpl) and attractive pricing will appeal to customers, even as the Vitara Brezza is set to redefine the rules in the SUV space.”

Describing 2015-2016 as the busiest year for Maruti Suzuki with numerous car launches, Ayukawa said smart hybrid technology had drawn good response and the company’s target is two million sales by 2020. 
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