Louis de Kergorlay

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Champs-Elysées project for 2030
LES ECHOS

Champs-Elysées 2.0: Makeover For World's Most Famous Avenue

Parisians have abandoned the legendary avenue, leaving it for tourists and military parades. But there are plans to return it to its more humanistic glory of the past.

-OpEd-

PARIS — In everyone's mind, the Champs-Elysées remains as a via triumphalis bordered by monuments recalling Napoleonic conquests, utilized by victors of war, recently elected heads of state and World Cup champions. It is an irreplaceable theater for moments of national commemoration or popular enthusiasm.

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A long road
India

Coronavirus, A Two-Way Street For India's Economy

While there are significant supply chain concerns across sectors in the short-term, others see this as yet another distant opportunity to take some business away from China.

CHENNAI — Even as the business community across the world is keeping its fingers crossed on the eventual impact of the coronavirus in China, a view is fast gaining ground that New Delhi has to be nimble-footed in not only blunting the virus's effect on the country but also leveraging it to India's advantage.

On the one hand, a sense of apprehension is palpable as industry leaders have spoken out about possible disruption to the broader supply chain. In the last few days, major players in India's pharmaceutical and mobile phone industries have noted how if the virus continues to prompt a shutdown in China, local production and supply of everything from handsets to a few generic drugs may come to a halt.

"The bigger issue is that the supply chain constraint is also likely to hit India. It will take at least 2 to 3 months for the supply chain to get back to the normal mode and hence, there will be some amount of disruption in the global supply chain till that time," said the head of an auto component major in Chennai, who did not want to be named.

"China is an integral part of the global supply chain, including for the automotive sector. The more advanced the technology, the more likely that those parts are being made in China. A lot of the players, including those in the passenger vehicles segment, are affected in the current scenario. While the Chinese government has said that factories can start functioning, the issue relates to third-party logistics services where the truck transporters typically use drivers who are migrants and the question is whether they will be allowed back immediately. A lot of the ports are fully blocked," he continued.

Given the issues relating to China, of late there has been a focus on de-risking, including in the automotive and hi-tech industries. Some of the businesses in the mobile phone space have already gone to Vietnam. Auto industry sources also pointed out that China has not been as cost competitive as in the past.

Global companies want to create a manufacturing hub in India by recreating what they did in China.

"For quite some time, global companies have been looking at options to build supply chain capabilities in India as an alternative to China. There is generally a move to look at de-risking. The fact that global companies are looking at non-Chinese options is an opportunity for India," an auto industry source said.

"The other option that the global companies are looking at is creating a manufacturing hub in India by recreating what they did in China in the past and using India as a manufacturing export base," said a ranking official of an auto component company.

"India is in a good position to take advantage of this, though the Chinese scale is huge. But there are some segments which are supply chain-based to create some kind of manufacturing hub," the official continued. "Trade-related competition from other countries should be viewed from the point of creating enough employment in the country. That is when India will grow faster."

Off the coast of Chennai — Photo: Vinoth Chandar

According to Pramodh Sharma, chairman of the Fifth Avenue Group, a sourcing management firm based out of Hong Kong, "The issue of coronavirus is one with serious global ramifications. Across the world businesses are being affected. China is the factory of the world, there are few businesses which do not get material from China either fully manufactured or as specialized parts'."

He reckoned that "this can be a serious opportunity for India as the world can be made to see us as a serious alternative. Countries and business houses which were China-centric are now forced to look at risk mitigation and viable alternatives in the medium and long term," he added.

There is a caveat though. For India to make the most of this opportunity, New Delhi will have to hasten infrastructure development. There is a certain consensus that India has never fully utilized opportunities that came in its way. This is indeed true when it comes to the trade war between China and the US. "It is up to not just entrepreneurs but also the government to be proactive and move forward decisively. If that happens, then India has a giant opportunity which can truly spur our growth," Sharma said.

The onus is on the government.

With the right demographic, language advantage and the creativity, India has the ability to convert the present crisis into an opportunity. "In the long-term, India can certainly leverage this to its advantage in terms of getting to move more businesses to our country, provided we learn our lesson and invest in creating capacities to lap up such opportunities from such fall-outs, though one wishes such fall-outs happen not for reasons of viral scare," said Srinivas Acharya, managing director of Sundaram Home Finance.

"Those Indian firms with plants in China have certainly suffered, but the impact may not be very high because of the ongoing slump here. We always knew that for one reason or the other, there could be flight of manufacturing bases from China, but we do not seem to have prepared ourselves for such an eventuality to capitalize on it," he added.

All the same, the consensus view is that the onus is squarely on the government to seize the opportunity. The world is not simply waiting to get into India. There are plenty of others who are readying the red carpet. It is high time the authorities in India did the same.

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Amaro (or Hudson?) your life
Future

Instagram Filters: The Tyranny Of Digital Retouching

A 'plastic surgery style' is a new part of the culture exploding on social media.

PARIS — A microscopic nose covered in bruises. Prominent cheekbones. Swollen lips with marks from Botox injections. The images are part of a recent trend on Instagram, and a pretty scary one at that.

The trend is to use special filters (with names like Bad Botox, FixMe and Plastica) that alter a person's portrait and give it a "just back from plastic surgery" look. They'll take your selfie, in other words, and disfigure it — doing in a virtual way what the wealthy New York socialite Jocelyn "Catwoman" Wildenstein, after multiple cosmetic procedures, did in real life.

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Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah
Geopolitics

Why Iran Jailed An Unconventional French-Iranian Academic

Fariba Adelkhah, a French-Iranian expert on Shia society, has critics on all sides. Since June, she's been jailed in Tehran's notorious Evin prison. She and her companion have been on a hunger strike since last month.

PARIS — For years, Fariba Adelkhah has been working and living on the edge, watched over by Iranian security services but still tolerated. This 60-year-old French-Iranian specialist of the Shia world at the Center for International Studies (CIS) at Paris' prestigious Sciences Po university is studying, from an anthropological standpoint, the mutations of the Iranian society under the Islamic Republic. This has always been a highly perilous exercise and is currently an impossible one for a foreign researcher. Women's rights, underprivileged people and cross-border traffic are indeed very sensitive subjects that Iranian authorities don't want investigated.

"Despite the current general opinion, a researcher is not an agent from foreign secret services. Results from their studies varies and the researcher does their work in the light of day," wrote Adelkhah, back in 2009, in an open letter following the arrest of Clotilde Reiss, a French student at the University of Isfahan, accused of taking part in demonstrations against the regime and detained for 10 months in Iran before being sent back to France after the payment of a 230,000 euro fine.

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Euros are replacing dollars
Economy

Why The Euro Is Starting To Resemble The Yen

The European single currency is emerging as the new global provider of liquidity to the international financial system.

-Analysis-

PARIS — The "Japanification" of the euro is happening. The European single currency is on its way to becoming the world's currency of global borrowing, changing its role and bringing it closer to that of the yen, according to George Saravelos, a top Deutsche Bank strategist. Foreign investors like sovereign wealth funds and central banks are not otherwise disposed to invest in Europe, given the poor attractivity of the bond market and dim perspectives of economic growth.

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What do you drink when you don’t feel like drinking?
food / travel

Bottoms Up: Alcohol-Free Liquor Has A Good Shot At Success

A generation after alcohol-free beer surprised the beverage market, it may be time to go one step stronger.

PARIS — Pernod Ricard, the France-based global liquor giant, is launching "Ceder's." It is not, however, a new brand of booze, but alcohol-free gin. It will now be distributed in ten countries after initial testing on the UK market.

Another world leader in wines and spirits, Diageo paved the way for non-alcoholic liquors before the French group, as industry experts are unanimous that this is a new beverage trend with major potential.

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