As another pandemic-ridden year nears its end, here are some of the biggest stories from the world of Indian businesses and economy in 2021. Not all of these stories were positive, but the impact they had on the Indian economy and thereby on the citizens was huge. As you go through these stories, you will realise that while there is hope for a better future in 2022, there are some warning signs as well.
In January, India began its ambitious vaccination campaign against COVID-19, one of the largest in the world. Starting with healthcare workers and frontline workers, the vaccination programme was gradually opened for all adults in the country. As of Wednesday morning, over 143 crore doses of vaccines have been administered in India. The success of the vaccination campaign put to rest all the doubts about the country's capability to manufacture and administer the vaccines, and also helped in resumption of economic activities. In between, there was also a period when the demand for vaccines was much higher than the supplies, and the country's exports of vaccines had also come under criticism. However, as the year ends, the threat of the virus still looms large. In the new year, the country will start vaccinating those in the 15-18 years age group and also administer 'precaution dose' to the healthcare and frontline workers and to those above 60 years of age with comorbidities.
GDP numbers on an upward trend
As India learned to live with the COVID-19 pandemic and normalcy was restored, economic activities in the country saw an uptick. This was visible in the gross domestic product (GDP) numbers. The Indian economy grew at 8.4 per cent in the July-September quarter of financial year 2021-22, following a 20.1 per cent year-on-year growth over a low base during the previous June quarter. Hit by the pandemic-related restrictions, the economy had shrunk by 7.3 per cent in FY21. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) expects India to grow at 9.5 per cent in FY22. However, with COVID-19 infections rising again and many states re-imposing some of the restrictions, a little bit of caution is warranted.
The second wave of pandemic
In April-May 2021, India was hit by the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Powered by the Delta variant of coronavirus, India reported over 4 lakh daily cases at the peak of the second wave. There is no clarity on the exact number of deaths during the second wave, with reports quoting various figures from 1.5 lakh to 2.5 lakh. It also highlighted the lack of healthcare infrastructure in the country as visuals emerged daily of people desperately looking for hospital beds and oxygen cylinders for their loved ones. Besides its impact on the physical and mental health, the second wave also disrupted the economic activities as restrictions were back in place. Unfortunately, with the number of cases rising again in many states, India cannot afford to let its guard down.
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Bumper listing for Nykaa
In a year that saw the Indian start-up ecosystem come of age and a buzzing IPO market, the stock market listing of FSN E-Commerce Ventures, the operator of Nykaa and Nykaa Fashion chain, stood out. The company made a stellar debut on bourses, with shares of Nykaa listing at a premium of 79 per cent to the issue price. The company made its market debut at Rs 2,001 per share on the BSE against the IPO issue price of Rs 1,125. The stock touched an all-time high of Rs 2,574 on November 26. Falguni Nayar, the 58-year-old founder and CEO of Nykaa, became India's wealthiest self-made woman entrepreneur with a net worth of nearly $7.4 billion as her company's valuation soared to nearly $13 billion.
Disruptions in supply chain due to the pandemic and weather-related disruptions in the country meant inflation continued to remain a concern for the government and the central bank. India's retail inflation in November rose to 4.91 per cent, towards the upper limit of RBI's target range. Meanwhile, the wholesale price-based inflation rose to 14.23 per cent in November. RBI has projected the retail inflation to be at 5.3 per cent for 2021-22. The rise in commodity prices and input costs has also forced companies to raise the prices of their products. According to Hindustan Unilever CMD Sanjiv Mehta, commodity prices are likely to cool down by the second half of 2022, which in turn will result in moderation in consumer inflation.
Disappointment for Paytm
Unlike Nykaa, One 97 Communications, the parent company of Paytm, had to face disappointment on its debut on the stock exchanges. Following its $2.5 billion-IPO, Paytm initiated its journey as a public company with a 27 per cent fall over its IPO price on November 18. The scrip listed at a discount of 9.30 per cent at Rs 1,950 on the NSE against the issue price of Rs 2,150 per share. The stock has been on a roller-coaster ride since its listing. It touched a 52-week high of Rs 1,961.05 on November 18, and a 52-week low of Rs 1,271.25 on November 22. However, the listing did change the fortunes of its founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma, whose net worth is estimated to be somewhere around $2.4 billion, as per Forbes.
GST numbers show economy on upswing
India's gross GST (Goods and Services Tax) revenue collected in November 2021 stood at Rs 1,31,526 crore, second-highest ever since the introduction of GST. It was at Rs 1.39 lakh crore in April 2021. The GST collection remained above the 1-lakh crore mark in every month since July this year, highlighting that the economic recovery is on a firm ground.
The Maharaja returns to the Tata Group
After a wait of almost 67 years, national carrier Air India returned to the Tata Group with the conglomerate winning the bid to take back the reins of the state-owned airline. On October 8, the government announced that Talace Private Limited -- a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tata Sons -- had won the bid to acquire the debt-laden airline. The Tata Group outbid a consortia led by SpiceJet founder Ajay Singh to emerge the winner. In a letter to employees, Tata Sons Chairman N Chandrasekaran called the group winning the bid for Air India as its most significant milestone in 2021. The successful completion of the handover of the airline will also mark a big victory for the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government's ambitious disinvestment agenda.
Also Read: Winning Air India bid most important milestone of 2021: Tata Sons chairman's letter to employees
Withdrawal of farm laws
Almost a year after farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, began their protests against the three farm laws passed by the Parliament, the Modi-led government caved in and decided to repeal the three laws which it had touted as the gamechanger for farmers of the country. The government had said the reforms would liberalise the farm sector in the country and help increase the income of the farmers. However, on November 19, PM Modi during his address to the nation said that the government will withdraw the farm laws. "Whatever I did, I did for farmers. What I'm doing, is for the country," the prime minister said. With this, India lost another opportunity for farm reforms, which according to Modi were demanded by farmers, economists and agricultural experts to empower small farmers. The agitation also saw violence on the Republic Day in the first month of the year and a man being hacked to death at a protest site.
The great green push
The year saw two of India's richest men, Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani, take giant steps on their ambitious renewable energy agenda. In June, Ambani made public a plan to invest Rs 60,000 crore to set up four giga factories, which "will manufacture and fully integrate all the critical components of the new energy ecosystem". The plan is to make solar photovoltaic modules, advanced energy storage batteries, electrolysers and, finally, fuel cells. Another Rs 15,000 crore is to be invested in the value chain, partnerships and future technologies. That adds up to Rs 75,000 crore investments in the new energy business over three years. Ambani further said that Reliance will "establish and enable at least 100 GW of solar energy by 2030".
Meanwhile, the Adani Group plans to invest $20 billion in renewable energy generation, component manufacturing, transmission and distribution over the next decade. The duo's proposed cumulative investment of $30 billion will not only decide the future of their respective groups but also shake up the renewable energy ecosystem in the country. It will also help India take giant strides in the sector and meet its climate commitments.
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