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Last year, I embarked upon a personal challenge to validate a business idea in 30 days. To make it even more difficult, it was a random idea chosen by my readers. They asked me to do it without using my existing website, traffic and business connections and without spending more than 20 hours per week on the project. On top of that, I limited myself to spending no more than $500 validating this idea. The experiment was a success.In just two weeks, I built an email list of 565 subscribers without having an actual website. Then, I reached out to a handful of those subscribers and pre-sold 12 copies of a book that didn't even exist yet, all in less than 30 days. I wrote about the experiment in real-time with in-depth weekly updates, successes, failures and lessons learned along the way, right here in my validation challenge. Today, I want to share with you the five most effect…

Japan offers India soft loan of $15 billion

Parked passengers trains are seen at a railway station in Mumbai.
The 505 km corridor linking Mumbai and Ahmedabad gas been assessed as a viable project.

Japan has offered to finance India’s first bullet train, estimated to cost $15 billion, at an interest rate of less than 1 per cent, officials said, stealing a march on China, which is bidding for other projects on the world’s fourth-largest network.

Tokyo was picked to assess the feasibility of building the 505-km corridor linking Mumbai and Ahmedabad, the commercial capital of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home State, and concluded it would be technically and financially viable.

The project to build and supply the route will be put out to tender, but offering finance makes Japan the clear frontrunner.

Last month, China won the contract to assess the feasibility of a high-speed train between Delhi and Mumbai, a 1,200-km route estimated to cost twice as much. No loan has yet been offered.

Japan’s decision to give virtually free finance for Modi’s pet programme is part of its broader push back against China’s involvement in infrastructure development in South Asia over the past several years.

“There are several (players) offering the high-speed technology. But technology and funding together, we only have one offer. That is the Japanese,” said A. K. Mital, the Chairman of the Indian Railway Board, which manages the network.

The two projects are part of a ‘Diamond Quadrilateral’ of high-speed trains over 10,000 km of track that India wants to set up connecting Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. Japan has offered to meet 80 per cent of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad project cost, on condition that India buys 30 per cent of equipment including the coaches and locomotives from Japanese firms, officials said.

Japan’s International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which led the feasibility survey, said the journey time between Mumbai and Ahmedabad would be cut to two hours from seven. The route will require 11 new tunnels including one undersea near Mumbai.

“What complicates the process is Japanese linking funding to use of their technology. There must be tech transfer,” said Mr. Mital.

Rickety rail
JICA declined to comment on the details of its offer.

“The report has already been handed over to India, and the Indian government is now in the process of making a consideration,” a spokeswoman said.

Toshihiro Yamakoshi, counsellor in the economic section of the Japanese embassy, said Japanese companies were keen to collaborate with their Indian counterparts on the rail project as part of Modi’s Make-in-India programme. He said it was too early to provide details of the cooperation.

Tokyo’s push in India comes just weeks after it lost out to China on the contract to build Indonesia’s first fast-train link.
Beijing offered $5 billion in loans without asking for guarantees, an Indonesian official said, ending a month-long battle to build the line linking Jakarta with the textile hub of Bandung.

Japan’s NHK broadcaster quoted Transport Minister Keiichi Ishii as saying that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had instructed him to step up exports of transport systems to India and Southeast Asia.

“It is very regrettable that a high-speed railway project in Indonesia was awarded to China,” he said.

China won the Delhi-Mumbai survey after securing clearance from Indian security agencies long worried about China’s involvement in Indian infrastructure.

The two neighbours fought a war in 1962 over a border dispute that remains unresolved, though trade between them is booming.

India’s cabinet will take a decision on the Japanese proposal over the next few weeks, an Indian railway official said. He said there were lingering concerns about whether the billions of dollars required for high-speed rail might be more usefully spent in modernising the railway system.

“There is a lot of money involved in this. The different departments are weighing the implications. Should we be committing all our resources to a single high-speed line,” the railway official said on condition of ‘anonymity’.

“The railways have not attempted anything as big as this before in terms of costs,” the official said.

India’s rickety State-controlled rail system, which moves 23 million people a day, has a poor safety record and is in desperate need of funds to modernise it.

The average speed of trains is 54 km/hour, and rail experts have argued that the priority ought to be to improve the speed and safety on existing trains and routes.


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