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Switzerland’s Swatch to open stores in India

Swatch has applied to set up stores in India, a report said on Saturday, as the Swiss-based watchmaker moves to tap a growing and increasingly accessory-conscious consumer class.

Switzerland's Swatch to open stores in India
Photo: AFP

Swatch, with $10 billion in annual sales, has made a formal proposal to the commerce ministry under which the company would have 100 percent control of its business, the Business Standard daily said.

The watchmaker would be the biggest international group to seek entry into India's 100-percent-owned single-brand retail segment after furniture-maker IKEA and fashion clothing firm H&M, both Swedish companies.

Swatch watches, including Omega, Longines and Tissot, are currently are sold in India through dealers and third-party stores.

Neither Swatch nor the Indian government could immediately be reached for comment.

Experts say the move is a sign that Swatch wants to create a stronger Indian brand identity.

The Indian watch market is forecast to rise to $2.7 billion by 2020 from $898 million now, according to a recent industry report.

India's new right-wing government hopes foreign investors will start looking closely again at the country after turning away in the face of a sharp growth slowdown and corruption scandals under the previous left-leaning Congress government, ousted at the polls in May.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised to improve India's investment climate, ease bureaucratic red tape and create a more predictable regulatory and tax climate.

But introducing free-market change is politically fraught with many politicians, unions and civil society groups favouring government spending and protectionism over economic liberalisation.

The Modi government, despite its pro-business tone, has already said it opposes a law passed by the previous government allowing foreigners to own stores selling more than one brand of products because it wants to protect India's many small shopkeepers from supermarket giants such as Wal-Mart, Tesco and others.

Swatch's reported application comes soon after French supermarket chain Carrefour's announced its departure. Carrefour, which operates five wholesale stores in India, made the announcement after the government reiterated opposition to foreign investment in multi-brand retail.

Wal-Mart last year ditched a plan to open retail stores to focus on wholesale activities and e-commerce.

The Economic Times separately said the government was unlikely to formally reverse Congress's decision allow 51 percent foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail for fear of sending negative signals to the foreign investor community.

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TRAVEL

Travel: Spain imposes mandatory quarantine on arrivals from India over virus strain fears

Spain will make all travellers arriving from India undergo a 10-day quarantine to prevent the potential spread of the Asian country’s coronavirus variant within the Spanish territory.

Travel: Spain imposes mandatory quarantine on arrivals from India over virus strain fears
Photo: JACK GUEZ/AFP

Spanish government spokesperson María Jesús Montero made the announcement on Tuesday, explaining that as there are no direct flights between Spain and India, it isn’t possible for Spain to adopt measures such as banning arrivals outright as other European countries have done.

The quarantine requirement for travellers arriving to Spain from India starts on May 1st 2021.

India joins a number of South American and African nations that are already on Spain’s quarantine list to stem the spread of the Brazilian and South African variants. 

According to the Spanish government’s website, those “coming from the Federative Republic of Brazil, the Republic of South Africa, Republic of Botswana, Union of Comoros, Republic of Ghana, Republic of Kenya, Republic of Mozambique, United Republic of Tanzania, Republic of Zambia, Republic of Zimbabwe, Republic of Peru and Republic of Colombia, must remain in quarantine for 10 days after their arrival in Spain, or for the duration of their stay if it is shorter than that. This period may end earlier, if on the seventh day the person is tested for acute infection with negative results.”

India is currently battling a record-breaking rise in Covid-19 infections that has overwhelmed hospitals and led to severe bed and oxygen shortages.

A key question is whether a new variant with potentially worrying mutations – B.1.617 – is behind what is currently the world’s fastest-growing outbreak, setting four records in a row for the highest daily coronavirus infections by one country, the latest on Sunday with 349,691 new cases.

The country has also been recording around 3,000 deaths per day from Covid-19. 

Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Italy and the Netherlands have all imposed restrictions or travel bans on arrivals from India in recent days.

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“No cases of the Indian variant have been detected to date to my knowledge,” Spain’s Emergencies Coordinator Chief Fernando Simón told journalists on Monday. 

“The intel does not indicate that we have to worry about it,” he added, given that the UK variant now makes up 94 percent of all infections in Spain. 

“We cannot rule out that a case (of the Indian variant) may be detected”, Simón admitted, but “so far it is not a variant of concern, it is a variant of interest”.

Patients breath with the help of oxygen masks inside a banquet hall temporarily converted into a Covid-19 coronavirus ward in New Delhi on April 27th, 2021. (Photo by Money SHARMA / AFP)

That is not a view shared by Amós José García Rojas , president of the Spanish Association of Vaccinations (AEV), who argues “we have to worry a lot” about the “chaos” that this new variant is leaving in the Asian country and why it could affect the spread of this strain of the virus.

“This new variant is fundamentally worrying because of what it is causing in India,” Rojas told medical publication Redacción Médica. 

“It shows that as there are territories where people are largely not vaccinated, there’s many people who are susceptible to the virus and it creates a breeding ground for the development of new variants”.

“We cannot vaccinate comprehensively in some countries and forget about other countries at the mercy of God.

“We have to worry about everyone because there is a risk that situations like the one seen in India will happen again. 

So far, the B.1.617 variant has been categorised by the World Health Organisation as a “variant of interest”.

Other variants detected in Brazil, South Africa and the UK have been categorised as “of concern”, because they are more transmissible, virulent or might reduce antibody efficacy.

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