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Novartis loses court appeal, cancer drug to stay cheap

cancer pills, cheap drugs

Poor cancer patients in India would welcome Indian apex court’s decision, dismissing Novartis’ appeal for a patent for its anti-cancer drug, Gleevec. The Supreme Court judgement, delivered by Justice Aftab Alam and Justice Ranjana Desai, has called for a strict interpretation of section 3(d).

India’s  Cancer Patients Aid Association (CPAA) has described the ruling as a huge victory for human rights. Y. K. Sapru of CPAA says, “Our access to affordable treatment will not be possible if the medicines are patented.”

cancer pills, cheap drugs

The ruling is a landmark for the interpretation of section 3(d) of the Patents Act 1970 which prevents patenting of new forms of already known molecules, also known as evergreening, unless the new drug offers a significant enhancement in efficacy.

The Swiss pharmaceutical company argued that better physico-chemical qualities would satisfy the test of enhanced efficacy.

Rejecting Novartis’ argument, the Supreme Court held that the physio-chemical properties of the drug may be beneficial for patients in some manner but they do not meet the standard of efficacy required by Section 3(d).

At the root of the case is Novartis’ Gleevec, a drug used to treat chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), a type of blood cancer. Novartis’ price for its version of the drug, Gleevec or Glivec, is INR 120,000 (USD 2400) per month, while generic versions are available for INR 8,000 (USD 160) to INR 12,000 (USD 240) per month.

Cancer Patients Aid Association procures the generic versions at discounted prices, and provides them to their members at subsidised rates. About 25% of the generic versions are provided free of cost to cancer patients.

Anand Grover, Senior Counsel and Director of Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS Unit, who represented CPAA in this matter, says that the Supreme Court’s interpretation of section 3(d) keeps it intact. “It is alive and kicking. It gives life to Parliament’s intent of facilitating access to medicines and of incentivizing only genuine research.

“By refusing patent monopolies on minor changes to known molecules, this judgment will facilitate early entry of generic medicines into the market for other medicines and diseases too. The impact will be felt not only in India, but also across the developing world.”

In the past, Section 3(d) was also used as one of the grounds to disallow patents for minor modifications of several antiretroviral (ARV) medicines used to treat people living with HIV.

The Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+)  had been filing oppositions to patent applications on ARV medicines on the basis of section 3(d). “This is a crucial victory for people living with HIV and other diseases who can continue to rely on India for access to affordable treatment,” says Loon Gangte of DNP+.

The ruling will have significant benefit for many developing countries – as much as 98% of generic drugs that India manufactures are exported to other poor countries.

Leena Menghaney for Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), which relies on Indian-made generic drugs to treat AIDS and other diseases in Africa and many poor countries, says Novartis’s attacks on the elements of India’s patent law that protect public health have failed.

“The Supreme Court’s decision prevents companies from abusing the patent system to get secondary patents on existing medicines, to block price-busting generic competition on HIV and other essential medicines. This confirms that all patent offices in India have to use this interpretation and the law is now clear and must be strictly applied.”

Novartis has fought this battle for more than a decade. In 1998, Novartis filed a patent application in India for a product patent on the beta-crystalline form of imatinib mesylate (imatinib mesylate). The basic molecule, imatinib, had been discovered in the early 1990s and therefore was not patentable in India. India had not joined the WTO club then.

In 2005, the Chennai Patent Office heard patent oppositions filed by CPAA, represented by Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS Unit, and other Indian generic companies.

In 2006, the Patent Office rejected Novartis’ patent application on several grounds, including section 3(d). Novartis has been fighting this battle since.

In an expected reaction, Novartis says it will not invest on research and development in India, and will move its R&D facilities to “favourable destinations”.

The company will continue to introduce products in the country, but not invest in R&D here, Novartis India Vice-Chairman and Managing Director Ranjit Shahani told a media briefing in Mumbai.

Experts in pharmaceutical industry have expressed concerns over the implications of the decision. “The pharmaceutical industry is driven by innovation, and they need to be able to recover their cost of drug development,” said an industry observer in the United States.

“If cheaper alternatives are available in the market, major drug developers will struggle to recover money, and this will affect future drug development.”

It takes anywhere from $1 billion to $2 billion to develop a drug, and the complete process ranging from research to securing patent takes 12 to 15 years for one drug.

(With inputs from a media release by Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS Unit and Cancer Patients AID Association)

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How to keep teenagers safe on net

A consumer advocate is warning that fraudsters maybe “mining” people’s personal data today and use it months or years later for fraud.

Parents need to know their kids may be risking their identity and future credit rating by posting volumes of personal information to open forums and other sites, a consumer advocate  warns on Safer Internet Day.

“The harsh reality is if you’re a young person you are not immune to identity fraud. Even though you are not yet credit active the personal information you make public today could be used against you in the future,” chief executive of MyCRA Credit Repair, Graham Doessel says.

Social media, online fraud, identity theft

The comments come as Australian government’s ‘Cybersmart‘ hosts Safer Internet Day today, with more than 22,000 students participating in Cybersmart’s online safety presentations.

Graham says identity theft is still a risk for under 18s, and many young people and their parents don’t know the dangers of having a public ‘profile’ on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

In late 2011, identity expert Ben McQuillan of the Australian Federal Police warned people about the new trend of ‘warehousing’ which involves storing data for a time, making it harder for a victim or bank to trace where and when the data was stolen.

“If people know your full name, your date of birth, where you went to school and other lifestyle issues, and they were to warehouse that data, there is a prospect that could then be used to take out loans or credit cards or to create a bank account that could then be used to launder money,” McQuillan told the Sydney Morning Herald.

This warning was echoed by Queensland Fraud Squad’s Superintendant Brian Hay, who warned that criminals were targeting the personal information of young Facebook users.

Brian said criminals had been known to be storing the personal information of children around the world in databases to be used when they turn 18 and are able to take out credit.

“We know that the crooks have been data warehousing identity information, we know that they’ve been building search engines to profile and build identities,” he told Channel 7’s Sunrise program in October 2011.

“We need to tell our children if you surrender your soul, if you surrender your identity to the internet it could come back to bite you in a very savage way years down the track,” he said.

Graham says identity theft is not only about the initial loss of monies, but if the fraud amounts to credit accounts in the young victim’s name going undetected and unpaid past 60 days, creditors will issue defaults.

“It need not be major fraud to have a detrimental effect. Credit file defaults for as little as $100 can stop someone from being able to obtain credit for 5 years. So any damage, however small to someone’s credit file can be extremely significant,” he says.

He says the onus is on the victim to prove to creditors they didn’t initiate the credit.

“The fact that the perpetrator is long gone and the actual act of identity theft happened years earlier will only add to the difficulty for the young person in recovering their good name,” he says.

Experts recommend parents and young people continue to update their skills on how to be cyber-smart.

Five  Tips for Safeguarding Personal Information on Facebook and Twitter

1. Keep privacy settings private. Your profile on sites like Facebook should be kept Private, and it’s a good idea to check your settings from time to time to make sure it stays that way. This makes it harder for crooks to find your personal information.

2. Use passwords. Use strong passwords online, regularly changing them. You should also do the same for your smartphone. Stay one step ahead of hackers.

3. What you post may be permanent. Every piece of information you post – no matter how secure you think it may be – may show up again one day.

4. Your personal information should be guarded at all times. Personal information is the gateway to identity theft. How secure is the site you are using? Think – if it’s not necessary – do you really need to give it out or post it?

5. Careful who you ‘friend’. Crooks can scan the internet requesting ‘friendships’ on sites like Facebook – but they may not be after friendship but your personal information. If you don’t know the person who is sending you the friend request, check their profile – do they seem like a real person? Ask -why do they want to be my friend? If you’re unsure, ignore the request.

The cybersmart website  has a range of multimedia educational resources.

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401(K) and IRA – should expats invest in retirement plans?

Many overseas Indians and expats settled in the United States of America face a common dilemma – should they invest in a 401(K) plan or an IRA (Individual Retirement Account).

The confusion is more prominent among non-US citizens or those without permanent residence status in the US.

Many Indians working in the US have plans to return to India and would like to withdraw their contributions from their retirement plans.

Here’s the dilemma – if a non-US citizen contributes to a 401(k) plan at work, he makes tax savings on that amount. He also benefits from tax-deferred growth and employer match. However, if he chooses to withdraw his contribution early, he may be subject to taxes and a 10% penalty.

Is it then worth contributing to a 401(K) and a traditional IRA or Roth IRA for Indians?

While the concerns are valid, it should not hold you back from considering saving for your future retirement.

If you are a permanent resident (green card holder) when you leave America, it is easy to address the question of Federal taxes. You can use a phased withdrawal approach to minimize taxes. The idea is to withdraw only enough money each year to reduce the impact of taxes upon withdrawal. You can also reduce the 10% penalty for early withdrawal by rolling over the 401(k) to an IRA and then converting to a Roth IRA, subject to the restrictions for IRA rollover and Roth conversions. Speak to your tax consultant.

In fact, the problem is not so much about taxes in the US. You need to consider the taxes you will be required to pay in India, if you decide to take your savings back with you to India.

Indian residents are taxed on  their  income earned anywhere in the world, and a payment from an IRA is income.

However, there’s a ray of hope. India provides a special “semi-resident” status for those who worked abroad and returned to India. When in this status, income from foreign sources, including from retirement plans, are not taxed. Unfortunately, this status lasts only for a few years, so any phased-withdrawal strategy will have only a limited benefit.

For most overseas Indians who have invested in 401(K) or IRAs, the best thing to do is not withdraw money from the 401(k) account, if this is allowed, or to roll over to an IRA and leave it there until they are 60 years old. IRA custodians like Vanguard and Fidelity allow non-citizens to keep their IRAs even if they are no longer living in the US.  You can easily keep track of these accounts via internet from anywhere.

However, for these options to work, you need to be a permanent resident.

If you are not a green-card holder, then you are a non-resident alien and attract a 30% federal tax on IRA distributions when you leave the country . Also, the IRA custodian is required to withhold this 30% when the distribution is made. This harsh penalty may severely limit any benefit gained through tax-deferred growth and employer match on the 401(k) contributions.

In short, if you are not a green-card holder, there’s little point in investing in 401(K). But that’s a short-term view with the assumption that you intend to return to India after a few years. The truth is, most NRIs end up staying back in the US, get green card and retire. By then, it is too late to plan for the retirement.  They miss the valuable 401(K) boat.

What’s the difference between a 401(k) and an IRA?

Most people don’t know the difference between a 401(k) and an Individual Retirement Account (IRA).  All they know about a 401(k) is you can start withdrawing after you are 59-1/2 years old without attracting a penalty.

Here’s the difference – 401(k) is a pension plan and is offered through your the employer,  and involves your contributions and often contributions from your employer, whereas an IRA is a private investment funded solely by your money.

Secure your retirement with 401(k) easily

The maximum amount an individual can save in a 401(k) is $16,500 a year, or $22,000 if you’re 50 or older. If you can save that much, you should. If not, then grab your employer match. Many employers suspended 401(k) matches during the great recession, but they are starting to reinstate them. Make sure you contribute at least enough to get the matching contribution.

Each year, you can contribute as much as 15 percent of your salary or $10,000, whichever is less.

An employer can make similar contributions. Some companies contribute 33.3 cents to 50 cents for every $1 the employee contributes. What’s more, this amount is tax-deferred.

What’s the difference between traditional IRAs and Roth

Traditional are the old IRAs and Roth are the new ones. Roth are a better investment, unless you need deductions.

Traditional IRA: Any person working or receiving alimony can contribute to an IRA. Your employer does not contribute to your IRA, like 401(K).

You can go to a renowned investment company like Vanguard, Fidelity for opening an account. The maximum contribution each year is $2,000 in most cases. This limit is lower for higher income earners. Contact IRS for details.

Under IRA as well as  401(k) plan, you can withdraw funds without penalty after the age of 59-1/2.

However, if you are serious about your future, invest in Roth IRA. The bad news is the Roth is not deductible. But the good news is, the lock-in period is only five years. You must keep your money for at least five years in a Roth. If you withdraw within the first five years, you have to pay a 10 percent penalty. The amount you contribute is not taxable.

If you withdraw after you turn 59-1/2,  your withdrawals will not be taxed. Neither your contributions nor the capital gains are taxed. And this is the biggest advantage of investing in a Roth.

Because the maximum annual contribution is $2,000, it is to your benefit to start early and invest in a Roth IRA.

Think long-term.

(About author: Sanjeeve Pai is an investment advisor for overseas Indians. Views expressed here are for guidance only. Please seek professional advice before making investment decisions.)

Business Global Indians Work Abroad

Indian recruiter wins IT award in NZ

RANN IT Recruitment won the coveted Seek Annual Recruitment Awards under the IT Recruitment – small category recently in Auckland.

RANN – “Resource & Networking Needs” is a specialist IT Recruitment Company based in Auckland dedicated to both permanent and contract positions. RANN IT recruit across full IT spectrum from Technical Business IT and Software Development, IT Management, as well as Infrastructure roles including Helpdesk and Desktop Support, Network and Middleware Specialist roles.

The SEEK Annual Recruitment Awards (SARAs) recognise the stars of the New Zealand recruitment industry. Winners are voted for by the country’s jobseekers and employers in recognition for delivering successful placements and providing outstanding client service.

RANN IT’s Managing Director, Nigam Mehta accompanied with a member of his team – Krithika KB accepted the award at the SARA event in Auckland on Thursday 22 November 2012. “Being recognised in these national awards in our first year of nomination is a great achievement for the team. Thank you to everyone for your support and for voting for us.”

Janet Faulding – General Manager SEEK New Zealand, explains the significance of these awards in recognising how the recruitment industry has supported Jobseekers in a changeable employment market.

“Winning agencies have provided outstanding levels of commitment to Jobseekers across New Zealand and supported them through this challenging period. We all know how stressful looking for a job can be, and having a recruitment agency that supports you though the process cannot be underestimated. The SARAs are a great opportunity to recognise the agencies that go the extra mile and provide exceptional levels of service.

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India,New Zealand to share agrotech knowlege

New Zealand India Agritechnology

Two major industry associations from India and New Zealand have signed an MoU to share knowledge and other resources.

A delegation from  New Zealand National Fieldays Society is in India to sign the MoU with Confederation of Indian Industries (CII).

New Zealand National Agricultural Fieldays will be held 12-15 June 2013 at New Zealand’s Mystery Creek Events Centre, 10 minutes south of Hamilton.

Before arriving in India, the delegation from Fieldays visited China as guests of the 19th China Yangling Agricultural Hi-Tech Fair in Yangling, Shaanxi Province, West China.

New Zealand India Agritechnology

The China visit was part of a reciprocal agreement between the two organisations, with the aim of forging strong ties between the NZ agriculture sector and the agritechnology industry in China.

Jon Calder, CEO of Fieldays and Tony Begbie, Fieldays Society Board Member and recently-appointment President of the Waikato Chamber of Commerce, formed part of a business mission visiting India.

Led by Minister for Primary Industries, David Carter, the delegation spent time in Delhi and Chandigarh, with the intention of forging closer economic relationships through the primary sector. They signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the NZ National Fieldays Society and the Confederation of Indian Industry, which organises the Agro Technology & Business Fair; an Indian agribusiness and technology ‘mega event’.

The delegation visited  Khalsa Dairy Farm Mohali with the delegation. “They have about 300 cows and they milk 2000 litres of milk everyday,” said Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, a New Zealand MP, sharing details of the visit on his Facebook page.

“Our trips to China and India reinforce the importance of the NZ National Fieldays to New Zealand’s agribusiness sector,” says Calder.

“We take pride in our ability to provide a platform for New Zealand agribusinesses to launch their companies internationally.”

The Fieldays 2013 theme, Getting Down to Business in the Global Economy, highlights New Zealand’s unique position as an innovative agribusiness driven economy to capitalise on the growing international demand for food, protein, and agricultural expertise.

(Image courtesy: Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi)

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iPhone 5 price in India starts at Rs45,000

Buyi Phone 5 in Delhi Mumbai

It’s not very often that you will get to see Indian men turning their back on a hot Bollywood actress.

I guess iPhone does that to men. To buy iPhone 5 in India, the men had to overlook the temptation of a Bollywood actress in red dress standing just a few feet away. The iPhone 5’s price in India was not a deterrent, either.

When Apple chose Delhi’s premium DLF Place (near Select City mall) to launch the latest version of its flagship product, iPhone 5, in India, the venue fitted the upper class target audience well.

Buyi Phone 5 in Delhi Mumbai

Looking at the craze in the crowd, you really wondered whether Apple really needed to rope in popular Bollywood actor Neha Dhupia to launch the hot phone.

At the launch venue in the middle of the atrium, men fought with each other to hand over their cash to Apple executives in the eight booths selling three versions of iPhone – 16GB, 32GB and 64GB. Hundreds of iPhone fans, mostly men, literally jostled in the queue to get their hand on the “thinnest, lightest iPhone ever”.

Wondering what’s the iPhone 5’s price in India? Be prepared to squander away anywhere from Rs45,000 (US$835) to Rs60,000 (US$1100) on your passion.

“I am a die-hard iPhone fan,” said the actress as she launched the new gadget which has already been prebooked in India to the extent of 150,000 units, according to a media report.

The gadget goes on retail sale from Sunday and will be available for the first time without being tied up with any mobile service provider.

Within minutes of going on sale at the launch, the sales counters were putting up “sold out” signs.

Airtel and Aircel are offering special plans for iPhone users.

In the fastest global rollout in iPhone’s history, Apple will release the new iPhone in 100 countries by Christmas this year.

How is iPhone 5 different from iPhone 4s

Thinner, lighter, longer

Larger 4-inch retina display

Faster A6 chip

8MP iSight camera

Faster WiFi

 

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Chinese to start dairy farming in New Zealand

New Zealand milk production

Shanghai Pengxin, the Chinese company which spent the last 18 months waiting for final approval to buy a large New Zealand farm, says it is delighted the Supreme Court has refused to allow a further legal appeal by iwi (an aboriginal group), and that there is now no obstacle to the purchase being concluded before the end of the year.

Describing the purchase of Crafar Farms as  “an unbelievably protracted process”, the company says it never considered giving up at any stage, and looks forward to a positive relationship with the dairy industry and the local communities in which it will shortly be a corporate dairy farmer.

“Over time, we hope we will demonstrate many benefits in New Zealand and China working together and maximising the opportunities available for New Zealand’s largest industry in China,” says the company.

New Zealand milk production

The purchase will be in the name of Milk New Zealand Holding Ltd, a subsidiary of Shanghai Pengxin. The farms will be managed by a joint venture company, Milk New Zealand Farm Management Ltd (“MNZFML”) a 50/50 joint venture with Government-owned Landcorp, which will be the managing partner.

Landcorp chief executive Chris Kelly says the next stage is a period of due diligence where an inventory of the physical assets of each farm will be checked and the herds reviewed. The various management contracts and share-milking contracts which the company will take over from the Receiver, will be activated before the transaction is settled.

“All going well, we expect to take over the running of all the farms early in December,” says Chris Kelly. “Our early priority will be to begin the upgrades necessary if we are to meet our increased production targets and to commence the environmental upgrades which have been agreed with the Overseas Investment Office. We are also required to establish a dairy training school on one of the properties so will be involved in planning that.”

Chris says MNZFML intends to spend some $15.7 million on the properties in the first three years.

For the time being, Milk New Zealand will continue to supply the milk production from its farms to Fonterra.

But , with finality of ownership now achieved, Milk New Zealand Holding is able to make progress on its options to process milk production from the farms and create a range of high value consumer products for sale in China. Spokesman Cedric Allan said this may be a contract arrangement with a New Zealand supplier or a joint venture with a New Zealand company. Milk New Zealand Holding has set aside a marketing budget of $100 million in China in the first five years.

Final steps will now be taken to form MNZFML and appoint directors and a chairman, who will be announced shortly.

Cedric says Milk New Zealand remained interested in acquiring further dairy farms if the right opportunities arose, and is still prepared to continue discussions with the iwi wishing to buy two of the Crafar farms.

“We’re prepared to talk, but it has to be on a commercially realistic basis. We have no interest at all in conducting negotiations through the media.

“We are inviting a Maori business delegation to visit China this year talking about more opportunities with wider iwi.

“Milk New Zealand will set up a head office in Auckland soon.”

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Asian quota will be ‘insult to injury’ – activist

Job quota for Indians

Providing reservation in jobs for Indians or Asians will be counter-productive, says a human rights activist in New Zealand.

Anthony Ravlich, chairperson of Human Rights Council New Zealand (not to be confused with Human Rights Commission) says it is absurd that “New Zealand may now provide affirmative action (job reservations/quota) for perhaps its highest achieving group. Consequently, I see such affirmative action as being far more of an ‘insult’ than a help.”

Job quota for Indians

Anthony was responding to Human Rights Commission’s suggestion of ‘focus on inclusion’ to help address growing discrimination towards Asians.

According to a Human Rights Commission survey, an average of around 75 per cent of respondents identified Asian people as suffering “a great deal” or “some” discrimination”. (Race Relations in 2011, NZ Human Rights Commission report of March 2012).

The report adds that the commission will ‘actively focus on inclusion in all aspects of New Zealand life as a means to break down discrimination against Asian New Zealanders and other minority ethnic groups”.

The Race Relations Commissioner, Joris de Bres, told the New Zealand Federation of Multicultural Councils in Wellington earlier this year, “There are very few Asians on the boards of District Health Boards, not enough Asian teachers in our schools, not enough Asian local councilors community board members and Asian migrants continue to face discrimination in applying for jobs.’

Joris says that one of the organizations that has strongly focused on Asian recruitment over a recent years is the New Zealand Police. “All public agencies should be doing the same. Some private sector organizations, such as the major banks, have also reached out to Asian communities because it makes good business sense.”

However, Anthony is not in favour of job reservations for Asians.

“Asians are generally acknowledged to have a strong work ethic and are high achievers despite often being handicapped by having to learn English,” says Anthony.

“For instance, they are by far the highest achievers when it comes to gaining university entrance at school.”

Similarly, affirmative action is not widely used for other minorities, including Maori and Pacific peoples.

Replying to a separate query, Joris accepts that the use of “affirmative action” or “measures to ensure equality” in employment is not widespread in New Zealand, even though there is ample evidence of entrenched inequalities experienced by Māori in employment and elsewhere.

“Unless there is a specific reason in a specific circumstance, however, it would be unlawful to advertise specifically for people who are of Māori or of any other ethnicity,” says Joris.

What does the law say?

Part 2 of the Human Rights Act 1993 makes it unlawful to discriminate in employment on the grounds of race, colour, and ethnic or national origins.

However, it also provides at Section 73 (Measures to Ensure Equality) that “Anything done or omitted which would otherwise constitute a breach of any of the provisions of this Part shall not constitute such a breach if—

(a) it is done or omitted in good faith for the purpose of assisting or advancing persons or groups of persons, being in each case persons against whom discrimination is unlawful by virtue of this Part; and

(b) those persons or groups need or may reasonably be supposed to need assistance or advancement in order to achieve an equal place with other members of the community.”

Affirmative Action is permitted by the Act.

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Kotak Mahindra launches NRI banking with Scotiabank

Indians moving to Canada can now experience NRI banking services with another trusted Indian banking brand.

For new immigrants, or international students, the latest alliance of Kotak Mahindra Bank with Canada’s Scotiabank opens the doors for financial services at a time when you need those the most – just after arrival in a new country.

The services will suit not just people emigrating from India to Canada but also to Non-Resident Indo-Canadians seeking accounts in India.

NRI bank

Scotiabank employs 81,000 people in more than 55 countries including India. Scotiabank has been operating in India for three decades which gives it “a unique perspective on what international clients are looking for in financial planning,” says Troy Wright, Scotiabank’s Executive Vice President of Retail Distribution, Canadian Banking.

“Partnering with Kotak Mahindra Bank gives Scotiabank a platform to reach out to Indian residents immigrating to Canada and provides our customers in Canada with a referral to one of the leading financial institutions in India.”

Now, select Kotak Mahindra Bank branches will offer Canada-bound Indian residents with access to the Scotiabank StartRight Program for Newcomers. The program lets people open an international account and credit card even before leaving India.  In Canada, select Scotiabank branches will help non-resident Indian customers seeking bank accounts in India by referring them to Kotak Mahindra Bank’s MyIndia Program – their non-resident Indian (NRI) and people of Indian Origin (POI) banking solution.

The $2.4 billion Kotak Mahindra Group received a banking license from the Reserve Bank of India in February 2003 and the bank has over 375 branches, and 863 ABMs, in 219 locations across India.

“We have a strong focus on NRI Banking and our alliance with Scotiabank further strengthens our customer offering,” says Virat Diwanji, Executive Vice President & Head, Branch Banking, Business Assets & NR, Kotak Mahindra Bank.

“Canada has a sizable NRI and PIO population and both banks look forward to sharing common values.”

In addition to its new partnership with Kotak Mahindra Bank, Scotiabank offers the Scotiabank StartRight international account opening program in select Scotiabank branches in India and Mexico and through China Everbright Bank in China.

“We understand that moving around the world is an enormous undertaking, and we strive to offer some stability during this transition by helping people with the financial part of their move,” says Winnie Leong, Scotiabank’s Vice President of Multicultural Banking.

The Scotiabank StartRight Program is available at any Scotiabank branch in Canada or by calling 1-866-800-5159 (from North America) or 000 800 100 7460 (from India). To better assist customers both in India and Canada, the Scotiabank StartRight website (www.scotiabank.com/startright) is available in a variety of languages, including Punjabi.

 

Business Money Property

NRI income tax return: deemed rent

NRI Income Tax

NRIs (Non Resident Indians) investing in real estate in India get excited about high returns on property, but don’t consider the NRI Income Tax rules.

Filing tax returns are a priority now that the due date for the year 2011-12 is close. NRI Income Tax rules has some strange provisions that beat common sense, but still need to be followed by locals as well as expats.

Deemed rent

If you own two or more properties in India, only one will be considered as self-occupied. This rule of the Indian Income Tax Act applies to NRIs as well as residents.

NRI Income Tax

This means, you don’t have to pay income tax on owner-occupied property. All other properties, whether rented or not, will be considered an investment property or rental property.  Yes, it doesn’t matte whether you have rented the other property or not. That’s the weird part of the NRI income tax rules when it comes to expats property tax.

So what do you do in such a situation?

You calculate estimated rent for your other properties, and pay tax on that. Essentially, you will be paying tax on income (rent) that you have never received. Unfair as it may sound, that’s the law.

So how do you calculate the deemed rent? There are some provisions given in the Indian Income Tax rules that you can use to calculate the deemed rent on your investment properties in India.

In short:

If you own only one house in India in which you live, you don’t have to pay tax on it. If you own only one house and you don’t live in it or rent it out, it will still be considered self-occupied and there is no tax to be paid

If you are an NRI and given out the only house you own on rent, then you pay income tax on the rent you receive.

If you own two houses, and given both out on rent, you will have to pay tax on the rental income of both properties.

If you own two houses, and neither is given out on rent, then one will be considered self-occupied and the other will be deemed to be receiving rent, and you will pay tax on the deemed rent. The good news? You can decide which of the two houses to consider for deemed rent.

What constitutes property under Indian Income Tax Act?

Property is not limited to houses alone. It also includes offices, factories and warehouses. The strict definition of property under Indian Income Tax Act is Property is defined as ‘building and any land appurtenant’. It does not include only land holding.

However, if you own even one commercial property, you will have to pay tax on on its rent – whether it is rented or not.

So where does this ridiculous law come from? That’s anybody’s guess, but wait till you hear the really bad news.

I live in my own home in the US, but have one house in India. What’s the tax I need to pay?

Indian Income Tax Act says that when you own two or more properties, only one will be considered self-occupied. All other properties will be deemed to be receiving rent, even if they are lying vacant. The irony is, the law was written at a time when not many NRIs owned houses in India and abroad at the same time. So the law does not specify whether the law applies to houses owned in India alone.

Say you are an NRI who lives in New York and you own the house in which you live there. You also own a house in Delhi, which is lying vacant. For the purposes of the Indian Income Tax Act, you own two houses – irrespective of the fact that one house is outside India. You will have to pay deemed rent on your house in India.

I live in a rented house in Singapore but own a house in Mumbai. Will I pay tax in India?

If you own only one house, which is in India, that house will be deemed to be self occupied. No tax for you, madam!

But I have inherited my house in India

You are the owner of the inherited property and the same rules apply.

So how much tax do I have to pay on deemed rent?

The Indian Income Tax Act has some valuation prescription that needs to be used to calculate deemed rent. This valuation is based on municipal value of your house, its construction cost, the rent as per the Rent Control Act, and the rent of similar houses in the neighbourhood. The highest of these factors is considered annual value of your house.

You can deduct 30% towards expenses, whether are not you have incurred any expenses. You pay tax on the balance amount.

For more details, visit the official Indian Income Tax Department website.

Also see the tax calculator by the Indian Income Tax department.

(This article is for guidance only. The Global Indian accepts no responsibility for its accuracy. Please consult your financial advisor or chartered accountant.)

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Prem Watsa raises stake in BlackBerry

prem watsa Fairfax Blackberry RIM

Samsung Galaxy, iPhone and Android-based smartphones have reduced the popularity of once-market-leader BlackBerry, but an Indian is showing faith in the troubled smartphone.

Prem Watsa, known as Warren Buffett of Canada, has raised his stake in Research In Motion (RIM), the Canadian maker of BlackBerry, indicating a belief that there’s still life left in the brand that created the smartphone category in the mobile phone industry.

prem watsa Fairfax Blackberry RIM

As the newest board member and the third-largest investor in RIM, Prem has increased his doubled stake to just under 10%, while still warning that a turnaround could take three to five years.

Prem’s share is valued at US$349.5 million.

The billionaire founder of Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. has shown confidence in the mobile-phone maker whose market value has dropped 80% in the last year year.

“He said that he’s looking to average down (his cost),” Sameet Kanade, an analyst with Canada’s Northern Securities told a media outlet. “Their investment horizon is normally three to five years — they are not looking for a quick turnaround.”

RIM, the first company to offer emails on mobile devices, expects its new offering – BlackBerry 10 (due early next year) –  to turn its fortunes around.

RIM posted its first operating loss in eight years in June 2012. RIM’s share price was $150 a few years ago. Today, it is only $7. In a desperate attempt to save the brand, RIM has decided to cut its workforce by a third, resulting in 5000 job losses.

However, Prem’s astute investment in RIM has provided a slight boost to RIM’s share price.

Born in India’s Hyderabad, the 62 year old Prem graduated from India’s prestigious the Indian Institute of Technology with a degree in chemical engineering , before going on to complete an MBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business of the University of Western Ontario.

In June 2009, he became the chancellor of the University of Waterloo.

Watsa is also on the board of the Dakshana Foundation – the charity set up by American billionaire Mohnish Pabrai, to give away 4% of his wealth, or about $2 million, in charity every year.

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India a promising market for exporting polymers – report

India’s polymer industry, while growing, still has vast untapped potential, according an industry report.

India consumes only 7.4kg of polymer per person every year, much lower than the United States which uses more than 100kg per person annually. Global average is 29kg (2010).

Polymer is used in various forms, from making straws and bottles for soft drinks, to bags, inside parts of your car doors, vehicle tyres, and the pipes and wires used in your house.

Polymer accounts for a major recycling problem worldwide, especially in developed nations – the largest consumers of polymer. Open your recycling bin and most containers you see in there use some form of polymer.

China and India still account for very minor consumption of the world’s polymer. However a report by GlobalData, an international business research firm, suggests that the use of polymer in India is on the increase.

India is currently the world’s third largest consumer of polymers, according to the GlobalData report, behind China and the US, with a share of 5.7% of the 2011 global total – an increase from 3.5% in 2000.

Growth in the polymer industry really kicked off in India after the country’s economic liberalisation in 1991, says an analyst for GlobalData.

“The resulting deregulation and privatization sparked a boom in end-use sectors such as packaging, construction and automotive that has seen per capita consumption increase from 1kg in 1980 to 7.4kg in 2010.”

This consumption is still significantly lower than that of most western countries – when compared on ‘per person’ basis.

“With surging industrialisation and an increasingly powerful economy, the subcontinent still has massive as-yet largely untapped potential.”

India produces about 7.4 Million Metric tons (MMt) annually (2011), and this production is expected to grow to 11.6 MMt by 2016, thanks to special incentives by the government.

The government has set up Petroleum, Chemicals and Petrochemicals Investment Regions (PCPIRs) in Dahej (Gujarat), Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh), Paradip (Orissa) and Haldia (West Bengal), while two more are planned – Cuddalore (Tamilnadu) and Mangalore (Karnataka).

However, the demand is very high in India as the consumption grew at a compounded rate of 9.1% from 2000 to 20011.

The government also approved 100% Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) which allows foreign firms to have 100% ownership of food processing companies, which will in turn create a higher demand for plastic packaging materials.

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India gets ready for super-expensive custom cars

HotRodsIndia

A young entrepreneur from India’s capital city of New Delhi is dreaming big. How big? In a car market where a mid-range BMW costs Rs 5000,000 (US$90,000), and a Jaguar Rs 30 million (US$540,000), he is planning to make a car that’s going to cost Rs 150 million (US$2.7 million)

Hradyesh, who likes to be known only by his first name, is completing work on a 600 BHP hand crafted hot rod for a client, with a price tag of Rs 15 crore. Hot rods are American cars with large engines modified for speed.

HotRodsIndia

However, the 30-year old car-groomer plans to make this into an exquisite club of expensive cars that are personalised to their owners.

To promote his business, Hradyesh will travel across India in ‘Morris Street’, India’s first street rod, built by him. The show aims to give car enthusiasts a glimpse of the world of street rods and custom cars, Hradyesh tells The Global Indian magazine.

The creator has travelled about 2000km in Morris Street from New Delhi to Jaipur and further cruised to Amritsar, and other north-western states.

“When people saw the symbol of style majestically gliding through the country, many dreams were born.”

The road show is now travelling to the central and western states of India.

While Hradyesh is offering handmade, highly-personalised cars to car lovers, he is probably following a Harley Davidson Exclusive club model, by providing other services to his clients.

“The owners can expect to be a part of events organized especially for them.”

“They can look forward to experiencing the sensuous Rod Resorts in India and even revel in the adrenalin rush of participating in India’s first ever Hot Rod Drag Racing Events.”

Completing first year in business, Hradyesh has seen some really interesting passions people share about cars.

“I have received requests for wacky looking cars, super luxury cars and even cars with performance specs that have never been seen before. It is my job to turn people’s dreams into real masterpieces and this is just the beginning.”

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How to repair bad credit rating

Credit cards with bad credit rating often cause financial distress, and they often search for credit cards for people with bad credit rating. They are attracted to advertisements that promise ‘no credit check credit cards’.

People with bad credit rating are sometimes disadvantaged because they are continuously declined for regular home loans, personal loans, car loans, credit cards and even phone contracts.

However, even if you are somehow approved it is likely that you will be paying extra in interest rate payments and other charges.

There are many reasons people choose to repair their credit. Some of these reasons include:
1. Getting instant approval
2. Reducing interest rates on current loans and credit cards
3. Getting lower interest rates on new loans and credit cards
4. Reducing upfront and ongoing fees
5. Reducing repayments
6. Saving thousands of dollars a year in unnecessary payments
7. Improving the accuracy of your personal information

A bad credit rating can cost you a great deal. Lenders will deny you financing, or worse, charge you high interest rates on loans.

You may have to pay deposits in order to secure a mobile phone or have utilities turned on.

Sometimes, clients face unfavourable rates and terms on new loan agreements.

Fortunately, you can take steps to repair your bad credit rating and get your credit file back on track.

With bad credit your financial options are not completely gone but they may well be greatly reduced. To the average lender, a consumer with bad credit is a credit risk.

It may seem daunting, and not a task you want to face, but you can fix your bad credit rating.

Here are some tips to help you get out of trouble.

• Evaluate the entire file to determine what is damaging your credit report. Identify problem accounts for further examination.

• Some lenders may be willing to erase the black marks on your credit report in exchange for repayment in full. Always ask the lender to do this before paying off the debt.

• Highlight any inaccurate, incorrect, or erroneous information. You must immediately contact the credit provider (lender) to inform them of the discrepancy.

• Work with lenders when times are tough. If you are unable to make your monthly payments, talk to the lender.

Your bad credit will never get better if you have serious infringements and default payments still outstanding. Take steps to pay the debt off, or visit a debt counselor or we can arrange a meeting for you with a deft counselor negotiate your debt.

If you take steps to clear the debt and fix your record you are on the road to fixing your credit.

Bad credit limits your borrowing options greatly. In the Australian marketplace there are thousands of lending products that you are open to using if you have good credit.

If you have a better credit rating you will receive better conditions of lending and interest rates. If you have bad credit you eliminate 90% of products immediately as most lenders do not want to lend to someone who is a credit risk.

There are lenders who specialise in lending to people with poor credit. Research these lenders thoroughly or call ESMA Credit Repair Specialist as the terms of lending may put you in a worse position as interest rates are often higher and terms of repayment may be at the limit of your serviceability.

Before you take any steps get a copy of your credit report. Look at it carefully to see if there are any listings which may not be yours.

Your credit report may contain incorrect information. For example a credit reporting agency may not realize there is a person with an identical name living in your apartment block and their credit information has been placed on your credit report.

Incidents like this are the reason approximately 1 in 4 credit reports have errors of some description.

If the error is as basic as a misspelt name it may have implications on the rest of your report as there may be black marks which have been incorrectly assigned to you. You have the right to challenge these errors as they may be affecting your credit rating even though the problem is not yours. This is the quickest way to fix your credit report and help your credit rating.

Being in this industry I have seen credit cards major contributors in establishing bad credit. Missed payments reflect badly on your credit report. Most Australians who pay off their debt end up accumulating the same debt again within a year.

Some credit cards, especially store cards, carry very high interest rates. This can get you into real trouble if you are not disciplined.

Take a very disciplined approach towards these cards if you want to repair your credit. As some infringements take two or more years to be removed from your credit report you do not want to increase your chances of creating another infringement and starting the whole process again.

If you are in debt or have a bad credit rating and want to know more about the solutions available to you contact us on (Australia) 1300793757 02 86778721 or 0414959671 or visit us at Parramatta or West Pennant Hills office.

Sukhwinder Rajput is a director of ESMA Home Loans. This article is for reading purpose only. ESMA Home Loans, author or The Global Indian magazine does not take any guarantee of any kind for any process. Readers are advised to seek own expert financial advice.

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How to get a job in Australia

Lure of high-paying jobs in Australia in a range of sectors, from mining to information technology, is attracting skilled professionals from neighbouring countries like New Zealand as well as from far away destinations like the UK, Ireland, America, Canada and India.

The Global Financial Crisis (GFC) has forced migrants from New Zealand, the US, Canada and the UK to look for high-paying jobs in Australia, which seems to have escaped the great economic recession. Certain sectors like mining have been hiring, and paying well to skilled employees from New Zealand. Job expos for jobs in Australia have recently attracted record number of attendance in Auckland.

A recent media report even suggested that Australian mining companies were offering fly Kiwis to Australia for five weeks, and then fly them back to New Zealand for a paid holiday for three weeks, offering high salaries for these long-commute jobs. This move hasn’t been well-received in Australia where local workers are struggling to get well-paying jobs.

The Australian government, in the meantime, is keen to attract highly-skilled migrants, especially in the upcoming sectors like technology. Australia promises higher wages, good weather, lifestyle and plenty of job opportunities.

A keen migrant can apply for 457 visa, which will allow them to work in selected fields in Australia for up to four years as long as they have a job offer. Once in Australia on 457 visa, many professionals then aim to convert their 457 visa to permanent residency, before becoming an Australian citizen.

The 457 Visa occupations List is prepared by the Australian Government to identify specific occupation shortages in Australia. When applying for a 457 visa, the applicant should demonstrate their work experience and/or qualifications that match an occupation that is on the 457 List.

A list of job descriptions of 457 visa occupations.

Use this job description to confirm if the tasks you have completed for your occupation meet the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) requirements.

The list includes many IT jobs such as business analysts, systems analysts, analyst/programmers, developers and telecommunications engineers which are in short supply. The Global Indian magazine understands from some Australian recruitment agents that many of these jobs are difficult to be filled from the existing talent pool in the country.

How to get a 457 visa for work in Australia?

You can apply for a job in your field in Australia. If an employer likes you, they can sponsor your work visa (457 visa). This may seem daunting, but many Australian employees are struggling to fill positions and are willing to hire from overseas as long as they can find a suitable candidate for the job.

If this doesn’t work, then you can register yourself with a labour hire company. Such company can get you to Australia on a 457 visa and you can then work for different companies as a contractor. Essentially, you will be paid by the labour hire company but you will be working for some other company.

This may sound like a strange arrangement, but it is becoming increasingly popular as it makes it easy for talented professionals to work in Australia, while it provides a diverse pool of talent to choose from for the Australian employers.

But you may wonder: Is there a skills shortage in Australia, especially in the IT sector?

The ICT professionals are the third-most difficult set of professionals to hire, after corporate service managers and engineering professionals, as per the March quarter Clarius index released in June 2012. This is largely driven by the uncertainty caused by global financial crisis.

Australia’s Westpac CIO Clive Whincup was quoted last month that he doesn’t think the bank will ever be able to hire the number of workers that it requires, making it lean heavily on outsourcing. His comments followed similar words in 2011 from his counterpart at ANZ, Ann Weatherston, who said that the skills shortage and a lack of IT graduates are accelerating the bank’s move to offshore its IT workforce.

Another Australian company, De Bortoli, found that the company’s location makes it difficult to find good employees, and as such it hires and trains talented locals and ex-locals, and uses cadetships and 457 visas.

Peoplebank, a labour hire company, believes that the difficulty of finding good hires will only get worse when the economies around the world improve.

Peoplebank CEO Peter Acheson told ZDNet Australia that certain skills would become tight again very quickly once the market picks up.

To be able to get a 457 visa, the employee should have relevant qualification; but more importantly, they should have relevant experience in their chosen field, for at least two years before applying for 457 visa.

Apart from making the visa process smoother, there’s one more advantage of working for a labour hire company – they have an obligation to keep the visa-holder employed for the entire duration of the visa.

Finally, you can come to Australia even without a job offer. You can get a visa based on points which are in turn based on your work experience. You can also migrate on a business visa.

How to get a job in Australia

  • Research: Visit various Australian job sites well before your intended time of migration. Getting a job takes time
  • Be flexible. Keep an open mind, and be prepared to compromise in the short-term for some long-run gains. You can compromise on the location, industry, position level and salary to start with
  • Permanent resident visa: While you keep trying to get a job offer from an employer that can sponsor you, you should also apply for permanent residency. This shows your eagerness to settle in Australia
  • Wider reach: In addition to applying for advertised jobs in Australia, widen your net and send your CV to companies you would like to work for, whether they have advertised a job or not.
  • Network: Use social media, including LinkedIn, and other networks like your industry body, to make connections in Australia. Remember, 70% of the jobs are not advertised.
  • Revise your cover letter and CV to match the Australian style
  • Be prepared to visit Australia for job interviews at short notice
  • Patience: Don’t expect things to work out for you overnight.
  • Enjoy: Migration can be a great learning experience, or a stressful nightmare, depending on your attitude.
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New Zealand’s little known partner

Indonesia is New Zealand’s nearest Asian neighbour, the world’s fourth most populous country, and has a rapidly growing economy. But a new Asia New Zealand Foundation (Asia:NZ) report highlights the gap between its significance to New Zealand and our engagement with it.

In the report Indonesia and its Significance for New Zealand, author Frank Wilson writes that Indonesia has a positive outlook for sustained economic growth; a rapidly growing middle class; and a crop-based agricultural sector that is complementary to – rather than competitive with – New Zealand’s.

But Indonesia is “very foreign” to most New Zealanders. “As New Zealand’s nearest neighbour in Asia, Indonesia is surprisingly little known by most New Zealanders.” Awareness of New Zealand is also low in Indonesia.

People-to-people links between the two countries are weak. “Levels of tourism and education exchanges are under-developed relative to other comparable Asian countries. The Indonesian community in New Zealand is small and Indonesian studies programmes are non-existent.”

Indonesia is among New Zealand’s top 10 trading partners. Frank writes that bilateral trade in primary products is expected to grow, and trade in services such as tourism, education, engineering, consulting and IT is also “ripe for attention and expansion”.

“There seems to be such a natural complementary between our economy and the Indonesian economy, which is certainly agriculture – but cereals, rice and so on – and minerals.

“In the traditional areas of trade there are obviously tremendous opportunities, as well as new areas.”

Asia:NZ’s director of policy and research Dr Andrew Butcher says a quick succession of announcements made in recent months show Indonesia’s growing significance to New Zealand.

In February, Air New Zealand announced the introduction of direct flights between Auckland and Bali, starting later this month. During his visit to Jakarta in April, Prime Minister John Key announced four cooperation agreements with Indonesia covering agriculture, environment, labour and geothermal energy. He also announced New Zealand would be appointing a new trade commissioner to the region.

“These are good steps in the right direction,” Andrew says. “But there is more to be done. Our interest in Indonesia should not be limited to its benefit to New Zealand’s trade.

“Indonesia is a key regional player in groupings like ASEAN and the G20. New Zealand needs to pay attention to what Indonesia is doing in the region, particularly at a time of shifting power balances.

“This has to be a two-way relationship. While New Zealand needs to see that Indonesia is indeed a significant partner, it also needs to offer its own valuable contributions to Indonesia and to the region.”

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Should I fix my mortgage or keep it floating?

Should I fix my mortgage or keep it floating? Or should I stay with my bank or switch?

With ever changing home loan market, finding the most suitable and accurate information from an unbiased source about home loan is very difficult. It gets more confusing when you visit different banks and every bank says that their product suits you best. With so much information, how do you decide which loan suits you and meets your requirements?

Never before has it been more important to find a home loan that is not only right for you right now, but one that will also be right for you in the years to come. Buying a home is a major financial investment that should be taken seriously and heavily researched. Finding a home loan that will accommodate your home ownership needs and save you money can be a challenging task for most. But at ESMA Home Loans (Australia), we have years of experience in providing existing and potential home owners the best loan solutions.

Your mortgage broker or financial advisor should provide unbiased information in an easy to understand way: how much can I borrow? what will be my stamp duty costs? what are my options when my family is growing and when we need to buy a bigger house?

This makes it so much easier for people unsure about their current mortgage and financial situation along with first home buyers looking for the right information to get their first home buying experience underway.

Whether it’s your home loan for your first house, refinancing, buying an investment property or using your home’s equity to renovate or extend, you must shop around for best interest rates and best terms.

Talking to an expert can give you a clear, easy to understand description of your personal home loan to business loan options. Here are some of the common questions I am asked.

Do I need a deposit to buy my first home?

Yes. Most Australian banks have scaled back the availability of no deposit home loans and 100% home loans. However, with growing competition among banks and financial institutions it may be possible to buy your first home without a substantial deposit. Some banks even allow you to put the funds from your First Home Owner Grant toward paying fees and charges associated with your home purchase. The best way to check if you’re able to begin searching for your first home is to contact a professional mortgage broker.

How do I negotiate the lowest interest rate on my home loan?

There are rules that apply to everything in life and that includes mortgage rates. It’s not enough to simply want to secure the best mortgage rates; you have to know what factors affect the mortgage rates you receive and what you can do to improve your chances of finding a rate that is affordable for you.

If your finances are not solid then securing a mortgage will be difficult and costly. After all, a mortgage is a loan, a loan that will be paid for many years to come. Would you risk lending thousands of dollars to someone who can’t prove their financial security? Both your income and your credit rating are taken into consideration when you get a mortgage loan and both will need to be moderate to high.

Remember, the higher your financial rating is the lower the interest rate you are offered will be.

The more money you put down, the less money you’ll need to borrow, and the less risky lending money to you will be perceived by the lender.

The economy and housing market in particular will have a direct effect on the mortgage rates you receive. If the economy is doing well you should be able to secure good interest rates, but rates often tend to be even better when the economy is on a decline.

These are just a handful of the factors that affect the mortgage rates you will be quoted if you are seeking a mortgage home loan. Being aware of them even before you begin searching for a home can help you get mortgage rates that are fair and affordable.

Should I fix my interest rate or keep it on floating?

If you decide to fix your home loan, you should be focussed on achieving certainty in terms of your monthly loan repayment rather than hoping to gain from future interest rate movements. This type of certainty can be important if you have a limited income or are an investor. For someone who wants to combine ‘certainty’ and ‘flexibility’, a split loan may be a good option. This allows you to fix part of your loan and keep part of it at a variable rate.

Sukhwinder Rajput (JP), is a director of ESMA Home Loans in Australia. This article is for guidance only, and should not be considered professional advice. Please consult your financial advisor. The Global Indian magazine or ESMA Home Loans will not be liable for any financial loss.

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NZ needs to move beyond students, soldiers in Southeast Asia – report

Southeast Asia is familiar territory for New Zealand: it educated its elite and defended its shores.

However, New Zealand needs to move beyond students and soldiers in Southeast Asia and with ASeAN, says a report.

New Zealand needs to boost its relationship with Southeast Asia and not rely solely on China for its economic growth, the report from the Asia New Zealand Foundation (Asia:NZ) says.

The report – Beyond Soldiers, Students and Sentiment: New Zealand, Southeast Asia and ASEAN – says the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is increasingly important to New Zealand’s trade routes, both in the region and through it to north Asia – including China.

“New Zealand’s economy security relies on the security of the region of Southeast Asia, in which New Zealand has both a stake and a role,” writes report author Dr Andrew Butcher, Asia:NZ director of policy and research.

New Zealand has a long history of engagement with Southeast Asia, including security and defence contributions. In education, the Colombo Plan brought students from the region to study in New Zealand, creating “deep and long-lasting” goodwill.

But New Zealand’s visibility in Southeast Asia is “remarkably low and does not appear to go much beyond the ‘students, soldiers and sentiment’ that characterised the bilateral relationships 60 years ago,” Dr Butcher writes.

The report discusses the need for balance in New Zealand’s economic ties with Asia. Economic relationships with the 10 countries of ASEAN not only “diversify New Zealand’s basket of FTAs”, but could also protect New Zealand from negative impacts if China’s economic growth slows.

Asia:NZ’s Perceptions of Asia tracking surveys show awareness of ASEAN countries is low amongst New Zealanders. ‘Beyond Soldiers, Students and Sentiment’ is the first in a series of reports aimed at increasing knowledge and understanding of the region.

In an audio interview accompanying the report, Terence O’Brien, a senior fellow at the Victoria University of Wellington’s Centre for Strategic Studies, says New Zealand needs to work hard to boost its engagement with Southeast Asia on all levels, not merely trade.

“For most of the 20th century, our international security and our international prosperity interests were taken care of by our relationships and alliances with major western countries.

“What’s happening now as we are move into the 21st century is that this marriage made in heaven between our economic interests and our security interests is actually being broken. Our economic interests now principally lie with countries that were not previously ones from whom we sought security. We have to enlarge our security-type relationships, defence relationships with key nations in East Asia.”

There are also strong people-to-people links between the region and New Zealand. Domestically, New Zealand’s population is becoming more diverse and more Asian, says the report. At the 2006 census, 11 percent of New Zealanders identified themselves as being ethnically Asian; this is projected to grow to 16 percent by 2026.

In the past five years New Zealand has had its first Asian cabinet minister  and its first Asian Governor-General. Robert Didham estimates that there are perhaps 8,000-12,000 New Zealanders in Southeast Asia, compared with approximately 50,000 Australians. In 2006 there were nearly 60,000 people born in Southeast Asian countries residing in New Zealand and about ten times that number (600,000) in Australia.

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Indian innovater gets ready with iPhone payments gadget

iPhone gadgets

When you speak with him, you get a sense of ease, even a sense of quiet, that sounds like an introvert. Get him to talk about his latest innovation – SwipeHQ however, and you get to hear him talk passionately.

And then, there’s an air of swiftness while answering potentially tricky questions (future product plans) that are met with a guarded and measured response.

Manas Kumar is a technology-smitten young man who spends 20 hours a day thinking about producing digital tools to make lives easier for businesses and its customers.

iPhone gadgets

And at 32 years of age, he has became the second-youngest business-owner to list his company on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

Ever since that listing in December 2011, he’s been in news – for good reasons of course! The most recent being the announcement of his yet-to-be-launched device – SwipeHQ, a matchbox-sized device that plugs into an iPhone’s sound jack and converts the smartphone into a mobile payment device that can swipe a credit card to process a payment.

But that’s not how this story was meant to start.

He was a typical 20-something, cricket-struck Indian, with a dream to play at international level. That dream brought him to New Zealand in 2001, and before he knew, he was flipping burgers and pumping gas to make ends meet.

The hand-to-mouth existence meant he was working on multiple jobs, and did not leave him with much time to go home – so he would find somewhere in downtown to sleep before starting on the morning shift. Two years later, an urge to get out of the meagre existence gripped him.

Einstein gave him a clue. “The definition of insanity is,” Einstein famously said, “to do the same thing again and again and expect a different result.”

Manas aspired to break the vicious circle. That moment, the cricket bat made way for computer keyboard. A $10 buy of a domain name later, Manas started his website design company in 2003.

It wasn’t an easy ride – the first years of business were extremely difficult. Einstein probably repeated his mantra, and Manas changed gears to reinvent his company to develop software for businesses.

The year was 2007. This is when the wind entered the sail – things began to look up.

OptimizerHQ , as Manas’ company is now known, received good response to its flagship email marketing software, among other products. Manas had found his muse – to develop digital tools to help businesses serve its customers better.

Taking a leaf out of his own book, and possibly still listening to Einstein, Manas and his team looked at new ways of helping businesses, at a time when iPhones, Blackberrys and Galaxys were creating a growing category of tools – smart phones.

Manas designed a device, which will be launched in August, that can be plugged into a smart phone and voila! You have a payment gateway – a tool that merchants can use to receive payment from customers.

From lawnmower in the backyard, to the baker at the farmers market to major retail shops, the device can help a range of businesses. So who is his competition? “No one,” says Manas.

He is targeting a market that’s currently dependent on customers carrying cash. And what better place to launch his product than New Zealand – a cashless society, where the number of electronic payments (per capita, at point of sale) is one of the highest in the world. But he is not keen to compete in the EFTPOS (debit card) market.

SwipeHQ, as the device is known, will be able to process credit cards only at this stage. “It’s a deliberate strategy,” he says, and stops, not intending to reveal the reasons.

EFTPOS machines have taken years to gain trust of customers. Will customers trust smart phones to handle payments? Manas affirms that they have followed industry best practices in encryption and data safety while designing SwipeHQ.

“If you look in media, there have been so many instances where EFTPOS terminals have had issues in terms of not being able to stop fraud. There’s always risk with payment gateways.

“We have gone through all the regulatory aspects of producing this technology. We deploy a lot of resources into securing the device, and our commitment to security is second to none.”

He’s upbeat about the future of his company. “Internet is not just about website. OptimizerHQ is going to be a significant company because we are able to make a change in the way companies do business.”

Ask him about his personal life over the next few years, and you are greeted with a pause. “I’ll probably be still putting in 20-hour days for weeks at end!”

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Diaspora key to doing business with India – report

A new report identifies the value of building connections with Indian businesspeople in New Zealand, so that Kiwi exporters can explore full potential of Indian market.

“The growing, well-educated and well-connected Indian diaspora in New Zealand provides a valuable resource for building sustainable businesses, as well as cultural and social links between the two countries,” says a new report by Asia New Zealand Foundation.

“Managers and policy-makers should work more extensively with the Indian diaspora in New Zealand, particularly its members involved in the business community.

“This community provides considerable potential for business managers to improve their understanding of the Indian business culture and prepare for successful business engagement in the market,” says the report.

India can offer huge potential market for New Zealand businesses as long as entrepreneurs are well-prepared for India’s regulatory environment and business culture, says the report.

One of the biggest differences is the style of meetings, says New Zealand email security firm SMX. “Everybody’s got about two phones ringing at the same time. There are people walking in and out of the office all the time. Messengers bringing papers on the desk which are signed and then sent off again in the middle of the meeting.”

SMX is one of 14 New Zealand managers operating in India that has been interviewed for “Getting to Know Indian Businesses” report published by Asia New Zealand Foundation.  The report also draws on the experiences of their 14 Indian counterparts and provides advice like the need for using local contacts to help navigate the bureaucracy.

India was ranked 134th out of 184 countries in the World Bank’s 2011 Ease of Doing Business report, while New Zealand was ranked third. “That is a stark difference that comes about primarily because of that regulatory environment,” Says author Val Lindsay, Associate Professor in International Business at Victoria University of Wellington, in an audio interview accompanying the report.

India is New Zealand’s seventh-largest export market and the subject of ongoing Free Trade Agreement negotiations. Prime Minister John Key launched the Government’s Opening Doors to India strategy in October, setting out six goals that include growing merchandise exports to $2 billion by 2015.

There is also “huge potential” for New Zealand firms to tackle India in a more coordinated way, Dr Lindsay says, pointing to the successful approach taken by Aviation New Zealand.

“One of the key things about the Indian market is the size and the need to meet the scale requirements. For New Zealand firms, the collaborative approach is clearly one that would provide a lot of potential.”

Access the Getting to Know Indian Businesses report.