Tuesday, September 27, 2022

SRM's Mega Convocation for 7380 Graduands


SRM Institute of Science and Technology (SRMIST) is one of the oldest and largest deemed-to-be universities in the private sector in India.  The main SRMIST campus at Kattankulathur near Chennai has almost every course under its roof, but is noted mostly for the size of its engineering cohort. While many of its peers struggle to produce 5000 graduates within 10 years, SRMIST delivers more than that number every year - this year’s Convocation which was its 18th, witnessed 7380 graduands from its Faculty of Engineering & Technology including 107 PhD Scholars. While Member of Parliament and Founder Chancellor of SRMIST, Dr TR Paarivendhar, presided over the convocation, the Chief Guest was the Prinicipal Scientific Adviser to Government of India, Prof. Ajay Kumar Sood. The Guest of Honour was the Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) S Somanath. 

World is looking at India with admiration and expectations that we will contribute to solving global issues such as clean energy, water remediation and clean environment, said Professor Ajay Kumar Sood, Prinicipal Scientific Adviser to Government of India. This is certainly within our reach, said Professor Ajay, while delivering the graduation day address. 

Over 7380 graduands from the Faculty of Engineering and Technology including 107 PhD Scholars received degrees and 77 students who have secured 1st, 2nd and 3rd ranks in their respective subjects were awarded gold medals.

The Principal Scientific Adviser Prof. Ajay also received an honorary degree of Doctorate of Science (Honoris Causa) during the graduation day in recognition of his contribution to the field of science.

Speaking to the graduands further, Prof. Ajay said our research has to be on par with the best in the world in all disciplines ranging from basic sciences, engineering to humanities. “I urge you to push the frontiers of knowledge and translate this knowledge towards societal development,” exhorted Prof. Ajay.

The Principal Scientific Adviser encouraged the students to enhance creativity in themselves. “Creativity should be a part of your DNA,” he opined. Speaking about education, the eminent scientist said the motto of all universities should be to promote innovation in teaching, learning and research and cross pollinate new ideas, new technologies and new world views.

The Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) S Somanath was also awarded an honorary degree of Doctorate of Science (Honoris Causa) in recognition of his contribution to the field of science. He was the guest of honour during the graduation day.

Addressing the students, Somanath said the next 25 years would be known as 'Amrit Kaal' for our nation, as commendable work is to take place in the fields of science and technology which can transform this country. It is time to kindle the spirit in our young population and motivate them to play a crucial role in the progress of the nation.

Vice chancellor of SRMIST Prof. C Muthamizhchelvan delivered the welcome address and presented the annual report. SRMIST is an educational institution that is offering multi disciplinary education and has made steadfast progress since its inception. The institution has garnered good ratings in recognition of its work. The institution has created a space for itself in the higher education sector in the country.

Pro Chancellor (Academics) of SRMIST Dr P Sathyanarayanan, Registrar of SRMIST Dr. S Ponnusamy, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Medical) of SRM Medical College and Research Centre Col. Dr. A Ravikumar and Controller of Examinations at SRMIST Dr K Gunasekaran were among others present during the 18th Convocation of SRMIST.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Cochin Shipyard is Displaying Global Capabilities

Madhu S Nair, Chairman, Cochin Shipyard Ltd.

2022 is already a great year for Cochin Shipyard Ltd, as it completes 50 years of its glorious existence in service of the nation. Apart from the high visibility this provides, CSL has several achievements boosting its performance including the upcoming delivery of INS Vikrant, recent deliveries of the 500-pax luxury vessels Sindhu and Nalanda, and two electric autonomous barges for a Norwegian client. Its stabilizing fundamental performance, its entry into hydrogen fuelled electric vessels, and its plans to invest in maritime startups are further positives. Under CMD Madhu Nair’s able leadership, the PSU major is also ready to utilize any opportunities arising from the crisis in neighbouring Sri Lanka.

Logistics is the most carbon emitting operation for most businesses, especially for supermarket chains. So, can you imagine any supermarket chain that dreams of achieving zero carbon emission for its logistics service by as near as 2026? Yes, you guessed right, it can’t be in India or any other developing nations for that matter.

Such a supermarket chain exists and it is Norway’s leading retail chain NorgesGruppen. Its logistics subsidiary ASKO Maritime, which prides itself as the prime player putting food on millions of Norwegian food plates each day was tasked with this seemingly impossible objective to turn zero carbon within a few years.

And whom did ASKO Maritime trust with this task? A shipbuilder around 7000 kms away from Norway. Yes, it was Cochin Shipyard in India’s southeastern coast that was selected to build the two electric barges zero emission operations. Besides being electric, they were also to be designed as autonomous vessels.

Don’t be misled by the word barges though. The barges ‘Maris’ and ‘Teresa’ are each 600 tonne affairs, 67 metres in length, and can carry 16 fully loaded trailers in one trip! After reaching Norway and commissioning of the autonomous equipment and field trials, these vessels will operate as fully autonomous ferries.

Even the transportation of Maris and Teresa to Norway was an epic affair, speaking volumes about the kind of globally competitive and comprehensive work Cochin Shipyard is capable of. It obviously required something called a yacht transport carrier.

It took an eight hour effort to place Maris & Teresa on board the 210-metre-long mother vessel owned by a Dutch firm. For this, the mother vessel was first lowered 8.90 metres into the backwaters and its deck filled with water, following which tugs were used to pull the barges on board. This was followed by the raising of the mother vessel and the start of sail. The barges are expected to reach Norway in a month.

When it comes to building world-class passenger vessels of medium size as is the trend now, Cochin Shipyard has been displaying amazing capabilities. Recently this leading PSU shipyard in India delivered such a 500-pax vessel that is a beauty to behold. Built according to an international design by Knud E Hansen of Denmark, renowned naval architects, the vessel is equipped with a modern cafeteria, recreation rooms, gymnasium, library and other luxury amenities.

Built for the Andaman and Nicobar Administration, this vessel ‘Nalanda’ also features deluxe cabins, first class cabins, second class cabins, bunk class and seating class that can accommodate 500 passengers altogether. It is the second vessel of the class built and delivered by the shipyard, with the  lead vessel of this series ‘Sindhu’ being delivered in March this year. Cochin Shipyard, which is a leader in ship maintenance and repair, will also provide full life cycle support for the vessels’ efficient operation.

Both these ships are also built to the highest standards of the Indian Register of Shipping and the American Bureau of Shipping, thereby meeting the Indian Merchant Shipping rules and are also customised for Indian requirements with a high level of safety comparable to international standards. Nalanda will be managed by a crew of 61, and both the ships are designed to cruise at 6 knots.

The detailed production engineering design was carried out by Cochin Shipyard itself, and the vessel is noted for its versatility. For instance, Nalanda will operate mainly between the groups of islands of Andaman and Nicobar but can also sail to mainland India, if needed. The vessel is also capable of carrying cargo of up to 150 MTs to the remote islands.

But in many ways, such smaller ships are easy projects for Cochin Shipyard where the country's first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant is being built, and now nearing its launch. INS Vikrant has been designed and constructed by the Indian Navy and Cochin Shipyard Ltd.

With more than 76 percent indigenous content, INS Vikrant has led to the growth in indigenous design and construction capabilities, besides the development of a large number of ancillary industries, with employment opportunities for over 2,000 CSL personnel directly and for about 12,000 employees in ancillary industries.

During the fourth phase of sea trials of INS Vikrant recently, integrated trials of a majority of equipment and systems onboard the carrier including some of the aviation facilities and complex equipment were undertaken.

Maiden sea trials of INS Vikrant were successfully completed in August 2021, followed by the second and the third phases of sea trials in October 2021 and January 2022, respectively. During these trials, endurance testing of propulsion machinery, electrical and electronic suites, deck machinery, life saving appliances, ship’s navigation and communication systems were undertaken.

INS Vikrant is likely to be delivered by Cochin Shipyard to the Indian Navy by July end, followed by commissioning of the carrier in August to commemorate Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav. When it is delivered and commissioned, Cochin Shipyard will attract international eyeballs.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Joyalukkas IPO - A Good Balance of Growth & Profitability

Joy Alukkas, Founder

When it comes to capital markets, jewellery chains don’t have a coveted name. Part of the problem is their inconsistency in profit growth, as they are often saddled with large equities as well as large debts to fund new store growth. But Joyalukkas has been following a totally different strategy for growth, relying on own capital, high capital efficiency, internal accruals and reasonable debt to power growth across India. That is why Joyalukkas’ plans for its Rs. 2300 crore IPO are keenly discussed by investors.

Leading national jewellery retailer, Joyalukkas has filed a Draft Red Herring Prospectus (DRHP) for its proposed Rs. 2300 crore Initial Public Offer (IPO). Joyalukkas is one of the best managed gold and diamond jewellery retailers in the country, and the DRHP sheds light on several of its strengths.

Despite growing at a faster clip than most of its peers, Joyalukkas had so far shunned private equity, instead relying on own capital, internal accruals and debt for funding the growth of its formidable retail chain. The promoter Alukkas Varghese Joy (better known as Joy Alukkas) and his family still holds close to 100% of the equity (99.98% to be precise) of Joyalukkas.

Such careful guarding of its own equity by the promoter group is extending to the IPO too, and despite its huge IPO size of Rs. 2300 crore, it doesn’t have an Offer for Sale (OFS) by the promoter group, which it could have easily done. This respect for their own equity by the promoters is likely to be noticed by the discerning investors in the market.

The luxury brand’s reliance on debt has also been quite reasonable unlike some of its peers that are saddled with high debt. As on September 30, 2021, Joyalukkas’ net debt to equity ratio was 0.77. And as of 28 February 2022, the total outstanding debt of the firm was Rs 1,524.47 crore.

The company has been on a prudent path of debt reduction for a few years now. Net Debt to Equity Ratio had fallen from 1.04 in 2019 to the 0.77 level achieved as on September 30, 2021. Even the bulk of the IPO proceeds - Rs 1400 crore out of Rs. 2300 crore - would be for debt reduction, and this will help Joyalukkas cancel 92% of its current debt and help its journey towards being a debt-free company.

Joyalukkas is also noted for its consistency in generating profits, unlike many of its peers. Its weighted average return on net worth (RoE / RoNW) for the past three fiscals stands at a healthy 16.43%, and this is despite two out of these three years being the pandemic years. According to a report by Technopak, the company has the highest EBITDA and one of the highest PAT per square foot among all large jewellers in the country.

In FY21, Joyalukkas had clocked a net profit of Rs 472 crore on revenues of Rs 8,066 crore. The company had posted Rs 40.71 crore as profits in the year-ago period, which was the most affected by Covid-19 lockdowns.

The growth in the current fiscal is also going stronger than the previous fiscal. For the half year ended in September 2021, its revenue was at Rs 4,012.26 crore against Rs 2,088.77 crore a year ago. Net profit for the period stood at Rs 268.95 crore versus Rs 248.61 crore last year.

With a face value of Rs10 each share, the current paid-up capital of the company is Rs 770.3 crore divided into 77.03 crore shares. The Net Worth or Shareholders Equity of the company as of September end, 2021, was around Rs 1917 crore, which works out to a book value per share of Rs 283.68, pre-issue.

Joyalukkas’ founder Alukkas Varghese Joy, hails from a leading business family in Thrissur, Kerala, and has over 33 years of expertise in the jewellery industry in India, Middle East and several other global markets. The company began operations in 2002 by opening a showroom in Kottayam, Kerala, and has grown ever since then at a blistering pace.

Today, the company operates 85 showrooms under the ‘Joyalukkas’ brand located across 68 cities in India with an aggregate area of approximately 3,44,458 square feet, as of January 31, 2022. Of these 85 showrooms, six are large-format showrooms with an area of 8,000 square feet or more. Its largest showroom so far is at Chennai, Tamil Nadu, which has an area of over 13,000 square feet.

Quite interestingly, three business groups founded by Thrissur-based businesspersons – namely, ESAF Small Finance Bank, Popular Vehicles and Sales Ltd and now, Joyalukkas, are set to become public listed companies during the ensuing financial year itself as they all have filed initial proposals for their IPOs. The city is also known for producing leading listed financial institutions like CSB Bank, South Indian Bank, & Manappuram Finance.

At present, Joyalukkas generates over 90% of its revenues from southern states followed by the Western region. The company is in the process of expanding its geographical footprint, even while maintaining its leadership in its key markets of Southern and Western regions.

As mentioned earlier, the net proceeds of the IPO will be utilised for repayment or prepayment, in full or part, of certain borrowings availed by the company of around Rs 1,400 crore. The leading retailer will also use around Rs 464 crore for financing the opening of eight new showrooms. The remaining funds will be utilised for general corporate purposes.

Over the next two years, Joyalukkas plans to open eight new showrooms in Telengana, Maharashtra, Odisha and Karnataka. In FY23, four new showrooms will be opened in Mumbai, Habsiguda and Mehdipatnam in Telangana and Bhubaneshwar. Those in Siddipet, Suchitra and Chandanagar in Telangana and Gulbarga in Karnataka will come up in FY24. Total investment on these showrooms will be Rs 492 crore.

Not more than 50% of the issue will be available for allocation to qualified institutional buyers (QIBs) and up to 60% of the QIB portion would be allocated to anchor investors on a discretionary basis. Not less than 15% will be available to non-institutional bidders and not less than 35% of the issue shall be available for allocation to retail individual bidders.

The book running lead managers to the issue are Edelweiss Financial Services, Haitong Securities India Private, Motilal Oswal Investment Advisors, and SBI Capital Markets. The registrar to Joyalukkas IPO is Link Intime India.

Joyalukkas has a range of over 100,000 jewellery designs, across various price points, and caters to customers across all market segments. The firm maintains an inventory of jewellery made of gold, diamond and other precious stones, platinum and silver, all with an extensive array of designs. Its gold, diamond and other jewellery inventory in each individual showroom reflects regional customer preferences and designs.

In FY21, the gold category accounted for 84.24% of its overall revenue from operations, whereas diamonds and others, including silver and pearls, made up 14.14% and 1.62% respectively.

Its product profile includes traditional, contemporary and combination designs across jewellery lines, usages and price points. Its focus on design and innovation, ability to recognize consumer preferences and market trends, the intricacy of their designs and the quality of the products are among its key strengths in jewellery retailing.

Its large format showrooms provide a luxury experience and customer service, with a combination of inventory and variety of jewellery products enabling it to attract and retain a growing customer base exceeding over 2 million customers so far in India.

Joyalukkas diamond jewellery is certified by Forevermark, IGI, GIA and DHC. They have developed a number of sub-brands that include Pride, Eleganza, Veda, Ratna, Zenina, Apurva, Masaaki Pearls and Li’l Joy Kids Jewellery.

The Indian opportunity in jewellery retailing is unique in the global jewellery market, which is estimated at $320 billion currently. India is the second largest consumer for gold ornaments after China, and one among the top-three in the world when it comes to all kinds of jewelleries, behind USA & China. Global jewellery market is projected to reach $350 billion by 2025. There is no inventory obsolescence risk in jewellery retailing as products can be recycled to make new ones.

But the Indian market opportunity is also unique in two other ways. In India, gold serves a dual purpose of ornamentation and investment, and is therefore never a hard sale like many other lifestyle retail segments. India also plays a significant role in the supply chain of both gold and diamond jewellery market.

The Indian market’s growth dynamics also favours organized retailers like Joyalukkas. The size of the Indian jewellery retail sector was close to Rs 4,58,000 crore in fiscal 2020, and it is projected to increase at a CAGR of 9% to reach Rs 6,94,000 crore by fiscal 2025. However, organised jewellery retailers like Joyalukkas would increase at a quicker rate, at a CAGR of roughly 14% from Rs 1,45,000 crore in fiscal 2020 to Rs 2,75,000 crore in fiscal 2025. The share of organised jewellery retail in the whole jewellery market is projected to rise from 32% in fiscal 2020 to 40% in fiscal 2025.

To serve to younger and tech-savvy clientele, Joyalukkas had launched its online portal, www.joyalukkas.in, in March 2018 where customers can browse the ornaments based on their preferences, collections, and designs, then purchase it and have it delivered to their homes through a partnership with third-party logistics companies.

It also offers a purchase advance scheme on its online platform, called the Easy Gold Scheme, where customers can plan for gold jewellery purchases in fixed monthly instalments up to ten months in advance, at the current gold rate, and finally receive their purchase at their doorstep.

Joyalukkas is one of the jewellers credited with professionalizing the jewellery retailing business in India into an organized sector. Along with this, its high respect for equity, prudent financial management, better capital efficiencies and high growth trajectory are likely to garner high investor interest in this IPO.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

SASTRA Graded Among Top-5 Institutions Nationally

SASTRA Chancellor Prof. R Sethuraman and Vice-Chancellor Dr. S Vaidhyasubramaniam.

Tamil Nadu based deemed-to-be-university, SASTRA, has retained the highest grade of A++ awarded by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) in the recently concluded fourth cycle of re-accreditation.

Headquartered near the ancient temple town of Thanjavur, The Shanmuga Arts, Science, Technology and Research Academy (SASTRA), also bettered its score to 3.76/4.00 in this fourth cycle from the 3.54/4 it had scored in the third cycle. 

With this, SASTRA, led by its Chancellor Prof. R Sethuraman and Vice-Chancellor Dr. S Vaidhyasubramaniam, has been graded at the topmost position among all higher educational institutions in Tamil Nadu and has become one among the top five national institutions with such a score.

The peer review team of NAAC, which had visited the university’s primary campus at the laid-back town of Thirumalaisamudhram, recently, appreciated SASTRA’s research and social outreach activities apart from its modern infrastructure and proactive management style before arriving at this final score. With this latest re-accreditation, SASTRA will also remain as a Category 1 University for the next seven years.

After receiving the coveted re-accreditation at the nationally topmost level, Vice-Chancellor Dr. S Vaidhyasubramaniam was thankful to the Central and State governments, the entire SASTRA family of faculty, students & parents, and all other stakeholders for their continuous support and encouragement.

It is no wonder really that SASTRA has been steadily moving up in such accreditations, rankings, placements and all such metrics. The deemed university is noted for its proactive stance when it comes to furthering its academic and research standards, which has come to inspire generations of students.

SASTRA’s practice of giving Distinguished Alumnus Awards is very telling in this regard. In its latest round, four former students were selected as SASTRA Distinguished Alumnus. The university has a thriving SASTRA Alumni Association, which is now headed by SV Ramanan, Secretary, who is working as CEO (India & South Asia) of financial software major Intellect Design Arena. Himself a SASTRA Distinguished Alumnus, it was he who gave away this year’s awards.

The latest winners are, Manoj Varghese (of 1994 Mechanical Engineering batch), who is now Chief Platform Head - Mahindra & Mahindra; Prof. S Kalyankumar and Prof. K. Sundarajan (of 1998 ME batch), who are now professors of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Alabama, USA; and C Vasudevan, (of 2007 Biotech batch), who is now a noted entrepreneur having co-founded the B2B startup, Ninjacart, which is India's largest fresh produce supply chain company, backed by Walmart, Flipkart, Tiger Global and others, and almost a unicorn now.

How do SASTRA students go on to be such high achievers? Much credit goes to the high quality faculty who have been handpicked by Chancellor Prof. R Sethuraman and Vice-Chancellor Dr. S Vaidhyasubramaniam. There are examples galore of such inspiring faculty in the rolls of SASTRA now, with a recent example being Prof. S. Swaminathan who was recently awarded the prestigious Prof. CNR Rao Bengaluru India Nano Science Award at the 12th Bengaluru India Nano, India’s flagship Nanotech Event.

Another SASTRA faculty who shot into limelight recently was Senior Assistant Prof. James A Baskaradas, of the School of Electrical & Electronics Engineering, whose innovative idea on the design of intercept receiver for electronic support systems won the Defence Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO) Innovation Award contest - Dare to Dream 2.0. The idea conceived by Prof. James will be of much use to the armed forces in surveillance support, and his innovation is now under active consideration of the Technological Development Fund Scheme for transforming the idea into a prototype.

Apart from selecting, grooming and facilitating such stellar faculty, SASTRA takes immense efforts to forge the right kind of industry tie-ups. Two recent examples of such tie-ups were with Singapore based Cantier Systems and Tata Electronics. The first partnership has resulted in the setting up of the SASTRA - Cantier Centre of Excellence in the campus that will give students a headstart in next generation manufacturing technologies like Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), Industrial Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Automation etc.

Under the tie-up with Tata Electronics, SASTRA students admitted to the two-year MTech degree in Very Large-Scale Integration (VLSI) Design will complete one year of the course at SASTRA campus in Thanjavur, and the second year in either Asia University or Yuan Ze University in Taiwan. The second-year curriculum will include practical experience in major lab facilities, and a six-month industry internship in Taiwan's advanced semiconductor manufacturing industry. Tata Electronics will help SASTRA to create the course curriculum and will also provide financial support for overseas education and training of these students.

With such world-class initiatives, however, it is easy for any university’s faculty and students to lose touch with the ground realities in India. But such things don’t happen at SASTRA, as the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor are very particular that the university should do more than its reasonable role in supporting the community around it. 

Recently the university delivered free medical consultation at a camp organised in memory of the Founder Chancellor of the SASTRA University, S. Ramachandran at Thanjavur and Kumbakonam. An excellent medical team led by the Vice-Chancellor of Sri Ramachandra Medical University, Chennai, Dr. JSN Moorthy provided medical advice to the patients suffering from cardiac, neurology and ENT related problems at the camps. People from economically weaker sections in the Thanjavur district requiring surgery will be identified and the cost of surgery will be sponsored by the University.

In another major outreach to the community around it, 75 schools in Tamil Nadu have been provided with Virtual Reality (VR) facilities by Sastra University to promote digital education and interactive learning in the state. This will provide students at these 75 schools an immersive & experiential learning experience. This announcement was made as part of the National Science Day Awards presentation function organized by SASTRA.

Explaining this contribution from SASTRA to the greater cause of nation building and education, Vice-Chancellor Dr. S Vaidhyasubramaniam, said, “The VR facility each costing about Rs. 2 Lakhs at these 75 schools shall be loaded with pre-developed subject matter content that shall provide students creative pedagogical tools to appreciate science concepts & improve their learning outcome.”

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