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Sambhar Mafia - Cooked To Kill!

Friday, September 30, 2005

Caught Red Handed

A student of a Chennai Engineering College has been pulled up by the College management for wearing dark shirt to the classes. The College dress code states that students should wear light colour shirts and dark colour trousers to the classes. A better way to implement these kinds of rules would be to give uniform to all the students :-) New Indian Express has more:

When contacted, college principal V K R Jaisingh said: This is the third time the boy is being pulled up by us. As per the college dress code, boys have to wear light- coloured shirts, must be clean-shaven and have short hair,'' he said. Girls have to wear salwar kameez with dupattas and jeans is not allowed. Cellphones are banned. Our intention was not to punish the boy but to warn him. We asked him to bring his father and let him off by 5.15 pm.

With the kind of developments in Chennai, reading a Chennai newspaper is probably the best time pass right now.

India Today and Outlook running for cover

The Delhi High Court has issued notices to India Today and Outlook in connection with their recent cover story. How did both of them come out with a similar cover story simultaneously?

News Today hits out at vernacular media and PMK

In this hard-hitting article, News Today criticizes the way in which the Tamil newspapers and the PMK have (mis)behaved in the recent developments in Chennai:

You know something somewhere is impossibly wrong when the media talks a lot about culture and morality. Private things are not for public consumption. But actually these are the two words that are frequently used on the two matters that have been hogging disproportionately high media space over the last few days. L'affaire Kushboo and the breast-beating over a party in a star hotel in the city.

The hotel is said to have circumvented a rule (of seeking permission for a fashion show) and that is why two of its staff members have been arrested. Period. There is nothing more to the story. period. But the kind of opinions expressed, especially in the vernacular media, makes one blanch.

The opinions expressed by political parties, especially by the self-appointed moral police in the State PMK, make one feel sick in the stomach. The PMK, which has a vested interest in keeping the Kushboo issue alive, yesterday demanded that she be sent out of the State as because she has married thrice. Now, has she? Who is to tell that that public discourse cannot be carried based on what appears in gossip columns of film rags?

The issue here is not whether Kushboo has married thrice or not. The numbers on her marital pages and the affairs, if at all she wants to have, is not ours to judge. If monogamy and celibacy are to be the criterion for staying in this State, how many will we have to ship out? A few hundred Titanics would be needed, and this is a conservative estimate. Politicians being politicians will always be specious in their reasoning and economical with truth. So to ignore the PMK kind of politics is the right way. Strangely, the issues that PMK espouses may find a positive echo among certain sections of the society. But if you listen carefully, those will be hollow and hypocritical.

But why is the media too jumping into the moral police bandwagon? It will always be tempting to dole out ideas and suggestions to others. It is a human failing. But taking the seeming moral highground, though it may be tempting, is fraught with huge risks. For if anyone falls from that position, the impact is bound to be heavy and that much more severe. Media's job is to just report, hold a mirror to the society at large. In other words, provide sub-titles to the life of picture running in the society.

But if it starts interpreting the texts and adding its own ideas, the plot goes haywire. The script becomes clumsy, and the climax unpredictable. Some sections of the media have published the photograph of a woman gulping down a large bottle of some spirited water and ridiculed the whole culture.

To be sure, there is nothing edifying in such types of act, but what is it ridiculing? Drinking? Or a lady drinking? Actually, it is the latter. Without them realising the papers have given the feminists a chance to climb the high horse and start shouting themselves hoarse about the inequity in the system. Moral high ground vs feminist high horse, now this is quite a fight. Feminism, morals, culture...thanks a lot for the unholy mess that the political parties and the media have got us into.

On top of all this, today's Tamizh Murasu says that Khushboo attempted to commit suicide. This is the last thing Khushboo would like to read on her birthday (Sep 29).

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Shiv Sena influence in Chennai?

Vernacular Media and restraint don’t go hand in hand and this fact got further reinforced after seeing the latest developments in Chennai. A fashion show / private party was held in a Star hotel in Chennai and the vernacular media splashed smooching pics in their respective newspapers. The police sprung into action and have arrested some of the hotel staff for running a bar without proper license. In what can be termed as an intrusion of privacy, the pictures of lot of the partygoer’s have been published without their consent. This moral policing has taken a new direction with the police launching a hunt to catch the partygoers. The police should be doing some other crackdowns to make it to the headlines.

Dinamalar had an article about this and Chenthil provides a translation for people who can’t read Tamil. Today’s Tamizh Murasu had this on the cover page (the pics have been removed)

Uma pretty much sums up the feelings of most of us:

Firstly can someone tell me, are people not entitled to their privacy when on a night out in Chennai? Whether its night out with family to a cinema, or with friends to a disco, people are entitled to their privacy. I have never been out clubbing in India and I don't think I ever will either. These people are grown adults right? So what, if they are drinking/dancing in the confines of the hotel bar/club. They are not being drunk, disorderly and causing trouble on the streets, are they?

After the Anna University dress code this is the second disgusting incident to happen in Chennai. Let some sense prevail!

An airline without budgets

Paramount Airways, an Indian airline which offers only Business Class seats is going to take off soon. The promoter hails from the business house, which was instrumental in founding Bank of Madura (which was later acquired by ICICI Bank). The airline flies in the following sectors: Coimbatore – Delhi, Delhi – Cochin, Coimbatore - Chennai. Although such concepts have existed in the US, this is novel concept as far as the Indian airline industry is concerned. It is too early to write them off. Paramount made news when they ordered Embraer Aircraft at the Paris Air Show. Following Paramount’s footsteps, liquor baron Vijay Mallya is also planning to order some Embraer aircraft for his Kingfisher Airlines.

The 70-seater Paramount's Embraer jet is to operate its maiden flight on September 23. The flight scheduled to leave Coimbatore at 6.10 a.m. will arrive in Delhi at 9 a.m. non-stop. On the return direction, it will leave Delhi at 9.40 a.m. and arrive in Kochi at 12.50 p.m. Leaving Kochi at 1.20 p.m., it would arrive in Delhi by 4.30 p.m. The flight will again leave Delhi at 5 p.m. and arrive in Coimbatore at 8 p.m. The flight will then leave for Chennai at 8.10 pm and reach Chennai at 9.05 pm. On the return journey, the flight will leave Chennai at 9.35 pm and reach Coimbatore by 10.30 pm.

The above schedule is way too packed for them to promise on-time arrival and departure. Any small jinx anywhere might throw their schedules out of gear. It is a well-known fact that there are huge landing queues in airports like Delhi. A 30-minute turnaround time will be quite difficult to achieve. It’s still not clear whether Paramount has outsourced its ground handling operations like what Kingfisher did.

Most of the new airlines have restricted themselves to the main metros and Paramount should be praised for their guts to target the smaller metros like Cochin and Coimbatore. I am a bit skeptical about the viability of running a full service airline (which offers only Business Class seats) from Coimbatore/Cochin to Delhi. I hope they have done their market studies before taking the plunge. If this model doesn’t click, they always have the option of rebranding themselves and offering discounted / APEX fares.


I was shocked to hear the Singapore radio channels referring to Jet Airways as an Indian budget carrier. I’m sure none of them have travelled in Jet before.

Can a link land you in trouble?

ET says that links to some sites can land you in trouble as some of the links circumvent the ads in the respective sites:

A hyperlink or link is a reference from one website to another, usually distinguished by underlined text in a different colour or a graphic or an image. Conventionally, linking from others has been welcomed by linked websites, as it increases traffic to the linked website--access through link records “hits” to the linked website--the advertising rates and thus the revenue of the linked website.

Recently, however, websites are challenging the practice of linking without seeking prior permission from the linked websites. The most common contentions being loss of control over how users experience their websites, loss in advertising revenues due to deep linking that bypasses the advertisement-laden homepages.

Also, the users may not even realise at times that they have been relocated to a new website via these links. Several legal issues have arisen in relation to hyperlinking, such as copyright infringement, trademark violation and passing off, unfair competition and defamation.

So is ET going to take me to task for linking to this article?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

A reason for Microsoft to cheer

Microsoft has been ranked as the most preferred employer in engineering campuses in India. Microsoft’s arch rival Google was ranked as the second most preferred employer. I think Google is a recent entrant to the campus recruitment process and it might be able to catch up by next year. Earlier this year, Microsoft recruited few Chennai students at a salary package of Rs. 12.80 lakhs. These kind of domestic pay scales are unheard of in engineering campuses.

The survey reveals that two out of three students intend to quit their job before the end of the second year. This must be a cause for concern for the IT majors as they invest anywhere between 3 and 6 months in training the fresh recruits. The control mindset reigns supreme and they try to put exit barriers like ‘Bonds’ to ensure that the freshers stay for a longer period. If the aspiration levels are such that the engineers want to pursue higher degrees, why don’t the recruiters tweak their systems to offer a ‘sabbatical’ to the employee. (Whether or the not the employee wants to come back to the same firm after the MBA is a different story altogether).

Is there a glass-ceiling @ Infy?

Infy announced that it airlifted its employees in Houston in order to save them from the Rita hurricane. Does this put pressure on other IT firms to disclose how they reacted to the crisis? It just goes to prove that Infy is the leader when it comes to PR / media management.

The Indian Business magazines frequently raise the question about the so-called ‘glass-ceiling’ at Infy. The appointment of (old timers like) S D Shibulal as the Sales head of Infy probably gives the indication that such a glass ceiling exists.

The sudden exodus of lot of high profile people (Hema Ravichander, Basab Pradhan, Raman Roy & Vivek Paul to name a few) from the IT majors can be partly attributed to the IT slowdown and also to the individual’s urge to venture out on their own.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Spotted at an Indian Restaurant

Please visit us between
11 am and 12 noon (from Monday to Friday)
and enjoy 10% discount and better service

I didn’t have a camera handy to capture it. Is it an indication that we should avoid their restaurant during peak hours because of the poor service?

The Bangalore “High-Flyers” Club

No more reckless spending says Vijay Mallya. Does it mean that he’ll stop publishing the annual swimsuit calendar?

Apart from Vijay Mallya, the only other guy (?) who probably owns private jets in Bangalore is Rajeev Chandrashekar. Rajeev has a pilot license and flies regularly between B'lore and Coimbatore to attend to business issues. Although the IT majors like Wipro and Infy could probably afford private jets for their top management, they are unlikely to do so given their low appetite for flashy attitude. The world wants to know what Rajeev is going to do with all the money he is going to receive from Hutchison Essar. Business Standard caught up with him recently. Controversial questions like his tiff with father-in-law TPG Nambiar have been avoided. I hope he doesn't drive his Ferrari during Bangalore's peak hour.
With one Cessna 172 and a P68 that he flies once a fortnight, a Harley Davidson, a Lamborghini and a Ferrari that he drives early in the morning on the Ring Road in Bangalore on weekends since he likes "to feel the wind in my face," BPL Communication's chief is not your run of the mill businessman. "I'd have been a biker if I wasn't in telecom," he says.

Nor is he your average sports enthusiast, though he has Michael Schumacher's overalls in an airtight case "so you can even smell his sweat" and the helmet Ayrton Senna used in the crash before he died.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Google’s Lackluster Blog Search

I had mentioned earlier that Google’s Blogsearch is faster than other blog search engines but it throws up lot of splogs. BusinessWeek has an analysis of the same and mentions some of these defects as well.

The Good Lets users pick between most relevant and most recent blogs. And it's fast
The Bad Doesn't provide complete results, and includes too many spam blogs The Bottom Line The search giant fails to deliver a KO. For now, it's just another blog search engine.

Search the Web, and you plow through a vast digital library. Things don't change much from one day to the next. But searching the world's fast-growing universe of blogs is another experience altogether. Blogs show us what people are talking about today. If Web sites show us what the world knows, blogs give us a read of what's on the world's mind.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Malls pave way to Food Court Culture

The retail boom and the rapid rise in the number of swanky malls and multiplexes has created a entirely new Food Court culture in the metros. These food courts do offer the length and breadth of Indian and International cuisine (North Indian, South India, chaat, non-veg, Chinese, Italian and Mexican food). Although the article says that these food courts weigh light on your pocket, my experience has been slightly different. Restaurants in a food court often charge higher than their own outlet elsewhere in the same city. The higher rentals in the shopping malls / food courts could be one of the reasons why these restaurants charge a higher price. Outlook has an article on the same topic:

Food courts are emerging as the new afterhours destination for the urban Indian. A combination of fast food and fine dining, they weigh light on your pocket without compromising on the 'eatertainment'.

What more can mall owners want? If there's a craze, cash in on it. So Pune has nine food courts, with 10 more slated to come up in a year or so. Delhi's gourmands already have a choice of 10-odd food courts and the number is expected to double before you can say mall. Mumbai boasts seven-eight such eateries, Calcutta three, Bangalore too is catching up.

By definition, a food court is an indoor plaza with multiple food vendors and a common area for self-serve dining. They first became a runaway success in (where else but) Yankland during the '80s. A clever bridge between fast food and fine dining, they bring both under one roof, quick and cheap. A meal for two comes within Rs 200. Fast service, variety of food and value for money make food courts score over traditional fine dining restaurants. And since they offer much more than burgers and shakes, they leave the Nirula's and the McDonald's far behind.

Subroto Bagchi on India Empowered Series

The latest person to adorn the India Empowered Series is Subroto Bagchi:

Finally, in my empowered India, people will be valued not just for mental work but for physical work they do. People who perform physical work, will be paid respectable wages that make basic comforts in life as accessible to them as they are to you and I. One day, I got down at the Orly airport in France and was picked up by a cab driver. The man was as well dressed as any one else. We got chatting on the way as he was driving me to a hotel near Versailles where I had a conference to attend. Next to my hotel, stood an even more beautiful hotel and pointing it out to me, the man said, that is where his wedding took place. I was simply amazed.

When will it be in India that a taxi driver in Mumbai or New Delhi can dress up half as well as you and I? When can he take his family to enjoy the same holiday destination that you and I go to? When will it be that the maid who comes to clean the house can dress up half as well as you and I without being suspected of thievery?

To me, India will be emancipated and empowered when the man scavenging on the municipal truck will work in sanitary conditions comparable with any developed country and is paid half as well as an entry-level software engineer. In an empowered India, women will not have to lower their eyes when they walk past a stranger, lest they be presumed to be available for solicitation. In that India, we will not underpay people who work with their hands and make a living with their skills. Till such time that we do not recognize the importance of these things, we will not be an empowered nation.

Friday, September 23, 2005

English signboard in Japan

JAPundit has featured this English signboard in Japan. (via AsiaPundit)

Claim at your own expense

Think twice before you fudge your expense claims. Intel India has just fired 250 people for faking the expense claims. Few homegrown companies do have stringent checks to monitor fudging of bills and the concerned employees (irrespective of their position in the company) are shown the door. However such instances have been few and far between. This crackdown by Intel is probably the largest of its kind in the Indian corporate world.

The report implies bad employee practices like "faking bills to claim your allowances like conveyance [and] drivers’ salaries" are endemic in Indian business, but Intel, for one, isn't having any of it, and has for the past few months been monitoring expense claims.

The probe was conducted as part of Intel's internal Business Practice Excellence programme, an initiative put in place in 2003 to keep the chip giant's corporate nose clean in an era of ever-greater public scrutiny of big business' behaviour.

One element of the programme Intel stresses is employee rights, but clearly it believes they come with responsibilities too. Hence, it seems, the clamp-down in India.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Desi restaurant sans the stereotypes

A new upmarket desi restaurant in NY offers no tandoori chicken or fusion food. In contrast, the restaurant offers food that tastes just like ‘home food’. Newsweek has more:

It's a sweet homecoming for the 32-year-old chef. "Indians have forgotten their classical cuisine, so it needs to be exposed again," he says. "I'm not discovering these recipes; they are our heritage."

Growing up in a middle-class family, where three generations lived together and people routinely dropped in for meals, taught him to be gregarious from childhood. As in many Indian families, food mattered deeply. "The last thing we spoke about at night was what everybody wanted to eat the next day," Saran recalls. A powerful grandmother ruled the kitchen, along with Panditji, the cook who originally came as part of her dowry. He served as the family historian and raconteur, entertaining the children with stories as he cooked and making a deep impression on Saran.

Shahrukh comes clean after the Lux bath

SRK dispels doubts about his sexuality in this interview with New Indian Express:

Shah Rukh is back to a whole lot of media attention about his Lux ad, a first for a male celebrity. Not true, SRK corrects, Before me Paul Newman has done the Lux ad. I wanted to get into the tub and not just stand outside watching a lady get in the tub or something. I guess that would’ve been a more predictable male perception of how the ad should’ve been done. But I wanted to do it the proper way. I don’t know why it should be such a big deal.

He pauses for just a few seconds and then says, actually all my favourite heroines I’ve worked with have done the ad. Lux has traditionally been considered a woman’s soap. But I can’t remember a time when it hasn’t been a part of Indian households, for the male or female. I grew up watching all those lovely ladies modelling for the soap. Now I’m part of it. Lux is now 75 years old or something, therefore the need to do something different with the product.

Paying (A) Guest for an ‘Extra’ innings @ Shaadi.Con

Is this a wedding or a movie shooting? (via)

The BBC has a report about the new trend of hiring ‘educated’ guests for weddings. The next time you attend a wedding, if you happen to spot a well dressed person clueless about what is going on there, he/she could very well be a ‘paid’ guest. ‘Body Shopping’ has got an all new meaning now. Looks like my Shattered Accountant qualification will finally be put to some use. If you are paid to eat food and stare at the camera, why would anybody say no?

"If there are lots of guests who come to your wedding, people think you have greater influence and greater prestige in society," he said. "Sometimes people can't afford to travel far, or people just don't have enough time. That's when we step in."

Some of the guests for hire are students, but others are doctors, chartered accountants, and other professionals.
"You might wonder why doctors want to come," Mr Syed said. "But I suppose they don't mind having a nice evening out, and I pay them well." The amount charged per guest is varied according to what Mr Syed described as the "level" required, and how smartly it is wished that they dress. Three categories are offered, with the highest - at around 600 rupees - being be-suited guests who are tall, well-built, light-skinned and who can converse well.

Mr Syed said that he has been contacted by families from far outside the state, including Bangalore, Calcutta and even Dubai.

"My people are well-trained," he added. "We brief them specifically on each and every point about the family. "The hired guests first go and spend some time with them, so that they know the style and atmosphere of the home. Then they behave accordingly. "That's the reason why I've helped in 10 marriages so far - and not one of my guests has ever been found out."

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The 'Print Party' continues

At a time when the developed markets (US & Europe) are witnessing a decline in newspaper readership, dailies in India and China have been witnessing unprecedented growth. The number of new newspaper launches and the media IPO’s reflect the true state of this boom.

Similar to the FDI in Retail, FDI in print is also a contentious issue. The government’s decision to allow fax copies of international newspapers is unlikely to have any impact. How many people would be interested in buying an overpriced print edition of IHT published from S’pore / HK. If FDI is allowed, the Business Standard – Financial Times (UK) would give market leader ET a run for its money. TIME magazine captures some of these aspects in its latest issue:

Newspapers grabbed 46% of the $2.6 billion spent on advertising in all Indian media last year. Smelling big profits in the combination of rising circulation and advertising, India's newspaper barons have now unleashed the biggest newspaper war in their country's history. Until recently, most cities have been dominated by one major English-language newspaper. Bombay, for example, was Times of India territory. A handful of families controlled India's major newspapers, and a gentleman's agreement largely kept them off each other's turf. Not anymore. In Bombay, a new English newspaper called DNA (as in Daily News and Analysis) has launched an advertising blitz, buying dozens of giant billboards around the city, as it prepares to take on the Times of India. At the same time, the Times launched a new tabloid, the Mumbai Mirror. To thicken the melee, the Hindustan Times, a leading New Delhi paper, also entered the fray. Bombay is currently experiencing India's most febrile newspaper battle, but it's not the only one. In Madras, the Deccan Chronicle is aggressively taking on The Hindu, India's most respected English-language paper.

The same issue also has an interview with Aamir Khan

(Pic Courtesy: TIME)

AICTE acts tough, cracks down on Amity

Glossy spreads in leading business magazines & newspapers and tall claims about state-of-the-art infrastructure, world-class placements are some of the selling points used by the infamous Amity Business School, Noida. Amity had used the ‘thought leadership’ plank to gain respect among the student community. It had regular columns in magazines like Business Today. Amity also conducted online quizzes in partnership with Business World. Being a big advertiser in these magazines worked out to Amity’s advantage as it was successful in ‘buying’ the rankings in the annual B-School survey. The AICTE has finally woken up to all these false claims and has decided to withdraw the approval for some of the courses offered by Amity.

Few months ago, Rashmi Bansal had mentioned that the owner of Amity Business School was wanted by Interpol for financial frauds committed in Germany.

However, Amity’s website sings a different tune:

Amity has been setup by the vision of Dr. Ashok K. Chauhan Chairman of the worldwide AKC Group of Companies who went to Germany over four decades ago and established a great business empire and became one of the greatest NRI’s of Europe. It is his commitment to his country and his believe that India will be world's superpower by 2030 that he established the Amity institutions.

The Telegraph has more on the latest developments:

“Amity Business School was found to conduct a large number of unapproved courses on the same premises, some even in collaboration with foreign universities that require the council’s mandatory sanction,” the technical education council said in a press statement.

The list of complaints against Amity is substantive. “Their admission procedure was not transparent. The institute was involved in commercialisation of education and charged exorbitant fees,” said the council.

The Amity Business School charges Rs 4.1 lakh for two years from non-sponsored students and Rs 6.2 lakh from company-sponsored students. The institution claims that it invests the money in infrastructure.

So who's next?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Back to Square D

If the Interpol has its way, the man who was behind DSQ Software and DSQ Biotech will be behind bars. Those who witnessed the software boom in the mid 90’s and the stock market boom in the late 90’s would definitely remember Dinesh Dalmia. Originally from Calcutta, Dalmia had a big establishment in Chennai. The CBI website also has a list of offences committed by him. Dinesh Dalmia’s website continues to project his laurels and accomplishments. The financial press in India has largely ignored these developments. I haven't seen much coverage about this incident in the last few month(s). (via)

In case you don’t know the logic behind the company name, here is the formula:

Dinesh Dalmia = D^2 = Square D = DSQ

New York Post has more on the same:

Dalmia's journey to this world of masked identities and numbered accounts began in the teeming streets of Calcutta at the start of the 1990s, where he set up an outsourcing body shop they called Square D Software Ltd.

In the decade that followed, Square D Software expanded across Europe and the U.S. until, by the end of the decade, it was racking up revenues that approached $64 million annually — bringing in investors ranging from Bank of America and Merrill Lynch, to Credit Suisse First Boston and the Templeton funds.

Yet neither the investors nor any regulators seemed even the slightest bit concerned as more and more of the company's soaring revenues began sluicing through a multiplying array of Dalmia-owned or controlled "associate" firms.
Nor did they seem to mind that the companies in this bewildering network kept changing their names as the tech boom roared on. In the U.S., a Texas-incorporated entity that Dalmia's Indian operation owned under the name D Square Software Inc., changed its name eight times between 1993 and 2003, but Texas regulators dutifully processed the paperwork without ever asking why.

The name changes for Dalmia's U.S. operations reflected similar activity elsewhere in the network. In Britain, the authorities seemed equally uninterested when Dalmia set up a private company, which he himself controlled, and, began using it to channel business to India. The U.K. company underwent five separate name changes of its own during the period.

Only when the shares of Dalmia's public company in India — by then known as DSQ Software Ltd. — soared a stunning 341% during the first three months of 2000 did Indian authorities at last take notice. In the probe that followed, they wound up uncovering the pump-and-dump scheme as well as four separate offshore shell companies in Mauritius and Tortola that the plot revolved around.

But Dalmia was hardly sitting on his hands, and while the regulators were investigating him, he was busy secretly transferring DSQ's worldwide assets into some of the same offshore shell companies he had used for his pump-and-dump.

In early 2002, Dalmia began negotiations to sell this buried treasure to a Singapore-based outsourcing company called Scandent Group. Founded the year before by an Indian businessman named Ramesh Vangal, Scandent boasted a board of advisers that knew little about the body shop business but whose members had been longtime friends of Vangal. Included among them: the former CEO of Pepsi Cola, Christopher Sinclair; Geier of Interpublic; and Bronfman and father, Edgar Sr., who once employed Vangal as head of Asian operations for the Seagram Co. empire.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Young Moghuls under 35

Red Herring recently came out with its list of 20 Outstanding Tech entrepreneurs under 35 and Anurag Dikshit (the same guy who made a killing at the LSE) of PartyPoker also figures in the list

Other prominent tech entrepreneurs include Rob Malda of Slashdot, Ben and Mena Trott of Six Apart, Evan Williams of Blogger and Odeo.

Tamizh Murasu fails to impress

Expecting quality from a Tamil newspaper is like asking for too much and the latest Tam newspaper on the Chennai newsstand is no different. I look at it as a ball pen being sold for Rs. 2 / 3 and a newspaper comes free along with that. Vijay Krishna of VKPedia has a first look at the new(s)paper:

300 paise. 8 pages. Colour photos. DMK bias. These are some things one can easily observe, the last of these being an implicit assumption. A casual perusal reveals no great difference from the normal Tamil daily. For example, the headline screams Actor handed Rs. 5 lakh fraud cheque to Jayalalithaa. Who and why? No answers. Just some general write-up about tsunami, tax exemptions and the like. Politics, and a photo of Beyoncé Knowles and Naomi Campbell adorn page 2.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Odeo Mike Testing 1 2 3......

Odeo recently started allowing people to upload podcasts. I wanted to check how it works and hence uploaded some popular tunes (performed by yours truly). I had uploaded this using some other software few months ago. The new readers of this blog might want to check it out.

You can listen to the podcast (or download it) here.

Let me warn you that it is an ‘amateurish’ performance by a wannabe musician. The blogger / performer is not responsible for any damage caused to your ears. Listen at your own risk.

The now familiar Outlook cover story

With cover stories like this, Outlook will probably be an acquisition target for ToI as both seem to be treading the same path. One of the related articles talks about how innocent devotees are falling prey to godmen. Lot of vernacular investigative magazines in TN have made a fortune by covering stories like these. These exposes have caught on so much that such stories have become the mainstay of the vernacular press.

There is, of course, the big guru of sin and shame, Swamy Premananda of Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu. In April this year, the Supreme Court upheld the sentences awarded to him by the Madras High Court and the sessions court of Pudukottai in Tamil Nadu. He had been sentenced to two life sentences for raping 13 girls, including his own niece, and murdering a man. The Sri Lankan-born godman, who migrated to India in 1984, had managed to build up a following of a few lakh devotees spread over many countries within a few years.

Look like his legacy still lives on

Do Doctors deserve such high salaries?

Doctors and lawyers are one of the highest wage earners in most of the developed countries. This article in Telegraph’s Opinion section discusses whether doctors deserve to be overpaid. If you happen to be in India, the best way to get rich is to start a Medical College / Engineering College.

The thought struck me when I read on Tuesday, in open-mouthed disbelief, that the average British GP now earns more than £100,000 per year. That is very serious money indeed. It is the national average, please note, which means that quite a lot of GPs must be paid a fair bit more. In almost any other profession or trade, you have to be at the very top to earn anything like that. For example (hence, I suppose, my bitterness), I would be very surprised to be told that more than 300 journalists in the entire country were paid more than £100,000 a year - and I assure you that I am not among them. But there were 41,574 GPs in the United Kingdom, at the last count.

That is an awful lot of rich men and women. Some 10,000 of those doctors are married to other doctors, which means that there must be a large number of medical households in the land, raking in the better part of a quarter of a million a year - largely at your expense and mine.

Yes, I know that GPs will tell us that they had to undergo many years of training, working exhausting hours for a pittance as junior hospital doctors, before they started pulling in the big money. Until last year they would have told us, too, that they had to be on call in the small hours of the morning and over the weekend. But all that has changed since the Government introduced its new contracts, and now two thirds of GPs have exercised their option to put their feet up after office hours.

Another advantage that doctors have, and which the rest of us don't, is more or less complete job security (they have to be practically mass-murderers, like Harold Shipman, to get struck off the register). They can also up-sticks and settle in any part of the country that takes their fancy, without having to take a pay cut. So what, exactly, are we getting for our money?

Fedex didn't expect this package mix-up

At a time when one Fedex is making waves, the real Fedex is upset because a guy has furnished his entire house using the Fedex cartons. Venky blogged about it some time ago. Fedex has now threatened Jose Avila and has even issued a Cease and Desist Order.
Necessity is often the mother of invention, and Avila needed a cheap way to furnish his apartment. When a friend of his sent him a picture of a desk made of Fed Ex boxes, he was inspired to make one himself.

The boxes were free, and he had a lot of them at his house since he did a lot of shipping for his job. So, he kept building. He made an L-shaped desk, a chair, a small bookshelf, a dining room set, and a bed — all of Fed Ex boxes and padded envelopes.

He was proud of his handmade furniture, and thought he could show other people who were broke how to do it themselves. So, he created a Web site called FedExfurniture.com.

I don’t understand why Fedex is making an issue out of this. Broken Kingfisher bottles adorn the exteriors of some factories in Bangalore. It is very rare to see people come up with such offbeat ideas.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Same News – Different Views

DMK conducted a women’s rally to push for 33 percent reservation for women in the Parliament and State Assemblies. This is how 2 newspapers reported the same:

Calcutta Telegraph: DMK wives hit streets for quota

The women of the DMK’s “first family” today took to the streets of Chennai to try and put more women in the country’s legislatures.

Party president M. Karunanidhi’s wife Rajathi Ammal, his daughter and poet Kanimozhi and daughter-in-law Durga Stalin led a march by the DMK women’s wing to press for 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament and Assemblies.

None of the three women have ever been in active politics or attended rallies or marches.

The Hindu is silent about the participation of the ‘first family’.

The story of the rogue and the bomb

If Jackie Chan is a rogue, why is Mallika Sherawat acting with him? Maybe she thought that cheap publicity would help in creating hype, especially when the movie release is round the corner. If Mallika Sherawat is in the news, be assured that the Indian media will come up with some sensational headlines.

Divided We Fall – Americans in the Aftermath

The Sikh community in the US has been the target of many attacks (especially after 9/11). Valarie Kaur is directing a movie called Divided We Fall, which captures the fears and sentiments of people in the aftermath of 9/11. She has managed to speak to Sikhs, Muslims and Arab Americans during the course of filming this movie.

This summer, award-winning director Sharat Raju and a film crew from New Moon Productions traveled with Kaur, now a graduate student at Harvard Divinity School, to re-trace her steps across America, revisiting and re-interviewing the people she first met in 2001. The crew also interviewed leading scholars, lawyers, and policy makers to speak about the broader implications of hate crimes, national security and civil rights in post-9/11 America. The finished film will weave this present-day narrative on film with the rawness of Kaur's original video footage. (via)

World over, there is increasing objection against the exercise of religious freedom by the Sikh Community. Hope films like these will help in putting things in the right perspective.

This film looks like a noble effort. Let’s wish Valarie and her team the very best.

TamL Konjum Konjum Theryum

Sun TV’s TRP rating for this show would have been very high. Namitha showed her affinity for Kollywood by saying, “Tamil Konjum Konjum Theriyum”.

Caller: Namitha, you are very beautiful
Namitha: Thank You ji
Caller: You’ll be even more beautiful if you slim down a bit
Namitha: Actually I have lost 7 kgs. You’ll notice it when you see this program on TV.
Namitha's extensive use of ji gave the impression that she is hooked on to KBC II. If Namitha and Pepsi Uma occupy the idiot box, even a 21 inch TV will look like a 29 inch TV. From now on this program will be called "Fill Sponsor Name" No Choice.

Namitha fans should be a happy lot. The show ended with the trademark Arjuna Arjuna song.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Summa Nachchnu Irukku

Viewers of SUN TV would have definitely seen the latest teaser ad called “Summa Nachchnu Irukku”. The fact that SUN TV is advertising this extensively in prime time gives a hint that this is an in-house product of SUN TV.

Since they are showing the product as something the whole family looks forward to, there are very few items that can fit the bill. My hunch is that they are promoting the newly acquired “Dinakaran” newspaper. Let’s see whether my guess turns out to be true.

What’s your pick?

Don't Say Cheez if you are in Britain

New Indian Express reports on the latest changes stipulated by the British Home Office:

Smiles are banned from British passport photographs from Monday following the introduction of new scanners that focus on biometrical recognition and require applicants to keep a straight face.

Under the new rules, potential travellers must produce "a neutral expression with your mouth closed", according to the instruction sheet from the Home Office, the Guardian reported.

The new measures are being introduced in a bid to fight terrorism.
The Sambhar Mafia crack team used it’s extensive networks and managed to find out that Tony Blair was the first one to change his passport photo as a result of this development. Take a look at the pics:

(Before rule change)

(After rule change)

Google unveils Blog Search Engine

Google's Blog Search Engine is definitely faster than other services like Technorati, Blogpulse, Icerocket and Feedster. I tried some random search for some keywords and the ‘related blogs’ search (are these sponsored ads?) threw up some splogs.

SearchEngineWatch and ZDNet have comprehensive coverage.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Bangalore – Problems aplenty

Saritha Rai of NYT writes about how Corporates are protesting against the current infrastructure problems in B’lore:
The Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce says it is tired of the government's inability to deal with problems like traffic congestion, power shortages and inadequate airport facilities. To make its point, the group says it will boycott a government-sponsored information technology fair scheduled for November.

The absence of the group's 450 members - including the Indian units of multinational corporations like International Business Machines, Texas Instruments, Motorola and Oracle as well as influential domestic companies like Infosys Technologies and Wipro - probably would sink the annual technology fair, known as BangaloreIT.in.

Executives are concerned about what they maintain is a decline in Bangalore's attractiveness as a destination for investment. The chamber said that only 30 new companies set up operations in Bangalore in the year ending in March, compared with 52 the previous year.
In addition to the above, this statement by a Karnataka Minister is also likely to upset the corporates.

Singaporean Humour

For more of such cartoons, pls visit What is Blog?

Intel Outside (India)

The whole world knows that Dayanidhi Maran went on record saying that Intel would set up shop in India. Intel was quick to refute that claim. What was more interesting was how Maran went ahead and ‘conveyed’ Intel’s decision to the media. It is an internal issue as far as Intel is concerned and hence Maran is not entitled to announce the same on behalf of the chipmaker. The final verdict is out. Intel has decided against setting up a plant in India. Not sure whether the project would have materialized if the ministry / government had handled things in a better manner. CNET reports on the same:

Intel won't be building a test and packaging facility in India, as Indian government officials earlier claimed, due to a breakdown in negotiations over tax concessions, according to an article in the Business Standard, a local business paper.

Maybe Intel is leaving its stance in negotiations a little too vague these days, or maybe bureaucrat are getting a little too anxious. Earlier in the year, Indian officials said Intel would build a fab in the country, a remote possibility considering that Intel has only built these in developed economies like the U.S. or Ireland. Then, Indian officials said Intel promised to build a test facility.

(Goodbye Mr. Maran. Keep trying and keep on trying. Better Luck Next Time. This message is brought to you by SUN TV's Ungal Choice. Do catch us at 8.30pm on Thursday night.)

The Minister’s Website (Refer to Page 5 of Press Coverage) still links to articles such as these:

Maran convinces Intel to set up facility (Business Line – 9th June 2005)

Intel likely to set up $400 Mn manufacturing facility in India

The final score: Intel 1 – Maran 0. No extra time for Maran.

Related posts:
Intel Inside India? Plus an Inside Look at TN Politics

Chennai Airport goes Wi-Fi

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Ghajini Promos

I had hinted in an earlier post that Ghajini stills resemble that of a shampoo ad. Finally it has turned out that CavinKare’s Fairever is sponsoring the Ghajini promos (currently being aired on SUN TV). So near yet so far :-(

Something is wrong

I think Kollywood has run out of creative ideas. Otherwise why would they name films like this?

Partisan Sports Coverage

Lopsided sports coverage in India has always been a controversial issue. At one time it was cricket Vs the rest of the sports. As more people started making a mark in other sports this disparity slowly started to subside. It was a well-known fact that games like Chess never got the attention they deserved till people like Vishwanathan Anand started making a mark in the international arena.

The meteoric rise of Sania has given a new lease of life to this partisan sports coverage. Sania is the newfound darling of the Indian media. The term “Sania Mania” would probably go down as the most often used term (in the media) in recent times. Although she might be entitled to every bit of the coverage, the proportion of such coverage needs to be reviewed. Mahesh Bhupathi’s mixed doubles victory in the US Open and Anju Bobby George’s victory in the Incheon games never received the kind of attention that they ought to have received. 'Sania sacrifices Biriyani’s and Baristas' might make good headlines but the media needs to decide how much of this attention is justifiable.

Sevanti Ninan, author of the weekly media column in The Hindu sums up the sorry state of affairs :

The day Sania lost at New York, Anju Bobby George won a gold at Incheon. But no forest of mikes was ranged outside her mother's door even at 7 p.m., let alone at 2 a.m. Long jump is not as sexy as tennis, and George is not given to sporting tee shirts which say "I'm Cute, No S***". She can manage responses to questions from studios, not comebacks at press conferences. P.T. Usha and Shiny Abraham, before her, were similar, and consequently did not spur news channels to make perfect asses of themselves in anticipation of their performance.

In addition to all this, the AP Chief Minister has announced a prize money of Rs. 20 lakhs to Sania. As Vikram rightly put it, this money would have been much more useful had it been given to somebody like Koneru Humpy. Chess is a game, which is shunned by advertisers / sponsors and these players do need money to travel overseas to attend all the tournaments.

I reiterate that my intention is not to do Sania bashing. The younger generation does need high achievers like Sania so that people can use her as an idol worthy of emulation. But the Sania craze has resulted in a blackout of news about other equally deserving sportspersons. Hope some balance is restored.

Update: Gayathri points us to this ToI slide show, which compares Sania Mirza with Koneru Humpy

Monday, September 12, 2005

Blogs in the news again

Shonali Muthalaly of The Hindu talks about how women are expressing themselves online through blogs. Familiar names like Ammani and Bridalbeer figure in the list. However, the article fails to give URL’s of the blogs being referred to in the article.

A palpable feature of women bloggers is their fearlessness in confronting the truth about their lives — both the present and the future. Contrary to what Ally McBeal, Bridget Jones and every other frothy commercial chick-flick would have us believe, these bloggers, in many ways, represent the real face of women today: strong, intelligent and remarkably clear headed when it comes to romance.

Bridal Beer, a lawyer in Kolkata, is an obstinate survivor too. She describes herself as "Single, 20s, was briefly in love... in New York for long enough to miss it. Now I am in India, training to be a wife-for-life to a relative stranger (not a stranger who is a relative, we don't do those)."

And although she's clearly pining for her New York boyfriend Brian, she takes her prospective arranged marriage with equanimity, because she realises she must. "Tomorrow, I have a date with a Would-Be's dad. This is really a Cannot-Be, yet I dine and date. Otherwise my parents will make it difficult for me to enjoy the creature comforts of a life here."

Bloggers Behind Bars

2 Singaporean bloggers have been charged under the Sedition Act for posting racist comments in their blogs. This has attracted widespread coverage in the local blogosphere. Channel News Asia also covered the same in its daily news bulletin. It is likely that these comments were posted on online forums / blogs which created a chain reaction in some of the discussion boards. Watch your word!

Bloggers Day Out

If you are a Blogger spending some precious time offline, the last thing you would like to think / discuss about is Blogs. Inspite of all this, the Singapore Indian Blogging fraternity was in full strength at the Second Indian Blogger Meet, which happened on Sunday. In all, we had 21 participants. (We had 20 people for the first meet that we had in June). The Meet was not devoid of celebrities (or should I say Blogebrity?). Chetan Bhagat attended the meet and Deepak Jois even brought a copy of Five Point Someone to get it autographed personally by Chetan.

The S'pore Indian Blogosphere consists of an eclectic mix of bloggers who blog about diverse fields like Politics, Foreign Affairs, Technology, Movies, Current Affairs, Culture & Business. Most of the blogs are available on my blogroll on the right side.

List of people who attended the Meet

Chetan Bhagat and Anusha Bhagat
Deepak Sarda
Deepak Jois
Nitin Pai
Preetam Rai
Prasanna and Mahesh
Ram C
Sunil (currently into Podcasting, plans to start a blog soon)

Thanks to Mito, we had a great venue for the blog meet. The setting was really nice for the large group. We had the usual cappuccinos, lattes and iced teas. The French fries and onion rings ensured that the bloggers didn’t end up going home with a hungry stomach. Preetam wanted to know whether any blogger has a second blog under an anonymous name. Nobody was forthcoming in revealing the same. We have serious doubts that Preetam himself might have an anonymous blog.

Although the blaring music was a slight distraction, the bloggers managed to introduce themselves and their URL’s with full enthu. Akshay had a real difficult time getting his URL across. He claims that his Blog URL is the longest word. Some of the bloggers almost fainted after hearing his URL :-) Vani also had a tough time explaining her URL to Nitin. Nitin Pai was quite busy with his blog post and hence ended up coming late (just in time for the drinks and snacks).

Chetan Bhagat revealed everything except the plot of his next novel. The cat will be out of the bag next month. We wish him the very best. Chetan also promised to perk up his blog by moving it to a better blog service provider.

Most blog meets happen to put a face to the URL. Having achieved that in the past 2 meets, we now hope to discuss about how to use this medium more effectively. With people like Sadagopan to guide us, I'm sure we can make progress in this direction. This well-knit group hopes to interact more often and an egroup will be the first step in that direction.

Knowing that I can't escape without providing pictures of the meet, I leave you with some glimpses of the 9/11 Bloggers Meet:

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Yet Another MBA Cover Story

This time it is from Outlook. The rankings are not yet available online. However Outlook has tried to provide an explanation on the myths and facts of B-School rankings.

Related stories in the same issue

New-age schools – Looking beyond the IIM’s

Indian B-Schools should concentrate on all round personality development

There is an urgent need to do some quality control

Online MBA courses take shape in India

Taking the NGO route to serve the ‘real India’

Companies shun the ‘top B-Schools’

Very often there is this grudge that MBA grads from the top schools are highly demanding and they don’t prefer to join Consumber Durable makers (LG, Samsung), engineering & manufacturing firms (L&T, Reliance). This is a fact that is not just limited to the B-schools. Look at the engineering colleges. L&T, SRF and other engineering / manufacturing firms are feeling the pinch. Globally, there is a shift towards services and even though the traditional sectors pays on par (that's what I heard) with the IT firms, work culture and future prospects are drawing the grads towards the IT firms. Hence the engineering firms can’t keep crying anymore.

Recruiters—and even some insiders—are convinced that IIMs don’t prepare students adequately for the corporate world.

So, employers would rather source future managers from the less elite schools, as they can be trained and shaped. Asha Bhandarker of MDI, Gurgaon, undertook a study between 2000-04 to assess the value added by a B-school degree.

Things haven’t changed much since then."Students from top-rung B-schools come with a lot of attitudinal baggage. We firmly believe managerial skills can be picked by most people, only if they have the right attitude," says Y.V. Verma, senior vice-president, LG Electronics.

For, even the IIM graduates are quite choosy when it comes to selecting their prospective employees. A lot of them don’t want to join old-economy firms or those that aren’t seen to be ‘sexy’ enough. "It’s more a matter of mismatched strategic objectives between graduates and the companies."

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Campus Abroad

The Week has a cover story on the increasing trend of Indians going abroad for their studies. This trend was limited to Masters (for the middle class) and Under Grad (for the elite) is now spreading fast. Newspapers and education counselors should be a happy lot as they are the direct beneficiaries of such a phenomenon. The lesser known universities court students by giving attractive ads in the newspapers.

Why are so many Indian students’or their parents ready to pay these exorbitant sums? Even education loans have to be repayed some day. "It is because the seats available for higher education in quality institutes in India are very few, compared with the number of students aspiring for them," said Vivek Srinivasan, spokesman for University 21 Global, a Singapore-based online business school, which has been strongly targeting Indian students. "There are 958 MBA programmes in India, but only about 20 of them guarantee a good job. Those who don’t get into those 20 are bound to, if they have the money, look beyond Indian shores."

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Media Loves It

The news about Indian MBA grads getting top dollar salaries abroad frequently makes it to the headlines of the Indian media. It is better if the media states the salary in the currency of the respective country and leaves it at that. To create more impact the media converts such pay packets into INR and publishes it in the headlines. Any salary in $ / £ / € when converted into INR will definitely be a huge sum. If Indonesia converts such dollar salaries into their currency it will work out to a few million Indonesian Rupiah.

Any relief funds for this catastrophe?

(via IntentBlog)

The Hindu wakes up to RSS feeds

The technology section of The Hindu has carried many articles about RSS feeds. However the newspapers was not very aggressive in offering the feeds to the reader community. The Hindu and its sister publication Business Line have started offering a comprehensive range of RSS feeds. Looks like it has been modelled on the lines of popular international publications like New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian and Telegraph. Go ahead and them to your feed readers.

Rediff, Indian Express, Telegraph, Outlook, Tehelka and Sify are some of the other mainstream sites which are offering RSS feeds in India. I hope the rest of the media will take a cue from The Hindu and start offering RSS feeds.

Bald & Not Beautiful – Taxing times for Taxi drivers

In order to give a ‘face’lift to the city’s cabs, government officials in the Chinese city of Nanjing are clamping down on cabbies who are bald, have long hair / goatees etc. Not many cab drivers will be able to comply to these conditions. If the clamp down on the refusal to pick up passengers is implemented in Chennai, 80 – 90% of the auto drivers would be suspended for 15 days. This would help a lot as there will be less traffic in the roads. If IA/AI adopt similar fashion conscious policies some of the senior cabin crew will be out of jobs.

In a bid to spruce up the city's image, authorities in China's Nanjing are banning taxi drivers who are bald, wear their hair too long, have moustaches or wear too much make-up, media said on Tuesday. The new rules are part of a 10-point plan to smarten up Nanjing, capital of eastern Jiangsu province, ahead of October's 10th National Games.

"Male taxi drivers cannot have long hair or strange hairstyles, cannot be bald and cannot grow moustaches or goatees," the report said.

"Women drivers must not use too much make-up and should wear appropriate clothes."

The report did not mention penalties for drivers that break the rules, but did say that cabbies who refused to pick up passengers could be kept off the streets for up to 15 days. The rules are part of a 10-point guideline which also encourage cab drivers to not take intentionally longer routes, stop in illegal areas and smoke in the taxis.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Online habits of Indians

Exchange4Media has published a report on the Online habits of Indians. It is quite evident from this survey that the ToI / IndiaTimes strategies are working out. Apart from the financial newspapers, I prefer Rediff for business related content as they seem to have sourcing arrangements from Business Standard, Business World, Forbes and Gita Piramal’s Smart Manager. In recent developments in the Webspace, BharatMatrimony has started a job portal and Naukri has started a property portal. It would be good if this survey covers the market shares of e-trading sites as well.

For news and information, Indian netizens log on to Indiatimes, apparently for its flagship news portal Timesofindia.com. Indiatimes is the front-runner with 30 per cent share, be it general, sports or event-related news. But one thing the portal may not digest is that it stands at an ignoble fourth position when it comes to search for adult content, ahead of many porn websites, including Playboy.

The runner up in the news and information category is the NDTV portal. The website has grown tremendously within a short span of time after the launch of the channel in 2003. It has also been ranked as one of the best foreign news websites by Forbes magazine in the past. Rediff, though famous for breaking news, has to be satisfied with the third position with a 10 per cent user share.

The erstwhile Baazee, now eBay, seems to be the Badshah when it comes to online shopping,with an overwhelming 44 per cent market share, way ahead of Rediff and Indiatimes, which have 22 per cent and 17 per cent shares, respectively.

For searching jobs online, Naukri.com (founded by Sanjeev Bikhchandani) is the preferred destination, way ahead of other players with a whopping 46 per cent share of the market. Monster and Jobsahead follow with 20 per cent and 12 per cent market shares, respectively. Timesjobs.com is ranked fourth with an 8 per cent share.

For searching a life partner, 31 per cent Indian netizens go to Shaadi.com (along with Fropper). There is a tie for the second place between Indiatimes and Bharatmatrimonial with a share of 16 per cent each.

The Latest Bestsellers

It is not the usual Dan Brown or J K Rowling novel. Bookshops seem to be the hottest sellers in the last one week. The Tata group acquired 75% of Landmark in an all cash deal worth Rs. 103 crores. Landmark started off in Chennai and then claimed that they are a 3C company having branches in Coimbatore and Calcutta. Down the line they might have realized that Coimbatore was not the right choice and they closed shop there (can somebody validate this fact?). They also have an outlet in Forum Mall in Bangalore and one of my friends told me that Landmark plans to open another outlet in Triplicane in Chennai. The Tatas are aggressive in retail and Hemu Ramiah might have found the offer too good to resist. Landmark has been credited with the new age book retailing in Chennai. They also pioneered the introduction of audio listening stations (Nakamichi?) in India. This was quite a craze at that time.

Having been to Westside (Tata’s retailing venture) I was not quite impressed with the way it was run. Globus, Shoppers Stop and Lifestyle are way ahead. The main thing which I didn’t like about Westside was the fact that they were selling only in-house brands. In this age of choice, if you offer only in-house brands to the customer he may not be very happy. I don’t know whether Westside is still run in the same format. Financial Express had hinted that Tata’s might be launching a consumer durables entity as well. Consumer Durables has so far been dominated by regional players like Viveks. Looks like the Tata’s want to grab a piece of every aspect of retailing.

Just a few days ago, Deccan Chronicle announced that it would be acquiring Odyssey. Odyssey has outlets in Chennai and in some smaller Southern cities. While Tata’s thirst to acquire Landmark is understandable, I don’t understand the logic behind DC’s acquisition of Odyssey. I don’t see too many synergies between DC and Odyssey. At a broader level, it is quite heartening to know that readership of books is on the increase. The record sales in recent Book fairs is a clear indication that reading habits are not on the decline. On the face of it, it looks quite surprising as most people feel that TV, Radio and Internet are dominating people’s lives.

Other retailers like Strand Book Stall also want to cash in on this boom and want to sell out if 'value systems' match. Given the high rentals, e-tailing must be the way forward. Although e-tailing seems to be on the increase, it doesn’t seem to have created a dent in the sales of the brick and mortar retailers. The fact that the brick and mortar retailers themselves have an online sales option ensures that there is not much price differential between the offline sales and the online sales. If the government allows FDI in retail, we could possible see the entry of Barnes and Noble and Borders.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Linkin Park - 7th Sep

A bizarre barometer of the economy

Sales of a brand of instant noodles are being using as a barometer of the performance of the Thai economy. Can our favourite 2-minute noodles also be used to track the Indian economy?

IT professionals are perking up the second hand car market in B’lore. But the question is whether B’lore roads have the capacity to absorb so many cars.

BusinessLine says that Indian customers are not treated properly by Call centre execs. It goes on to say that customer care in India begins and ends with giving a toll free number. Neelakantan also echoes the same thought.

Kenny Sia on the proposed World Toilet College in S’pore.

Do you know how Chennai’s Godown street got its name? It is not because of some godowns / warehouses in that street. It used to be called God’s Own Street earlier.

Jabberwock aka Jai Arjun Singh’s article on Blogs has been published in today’s Business Standard. Desipundit is also featured in the same article.

ToI on Work related blogging

Slimes of India has an article on work related blogging. Most of ToI’s articles do not present bloggers in good light.

A search of some Indian blogs threw up not only unsavoury references to a ‘kanjoos, khadoos boss of an IT multinational’, they also threw up information about ‘the sweatshop-like atmosphere where lowerrung employees are treated worse than slaves’ at another IT multinational. Employee blogs were not related to IT alone. Another blog spoke of a ‘boss of a leading hotel chain, and his not-so-nice activities.’ Says techie Nithin Jaidev, “Most Indian bloggers choose to remain anonymous, despite mentioning the companies they work for.”

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Save Money….take this free eye test

The title is not from a spam comment. If you want to test your eyesight please comment on this blog or on any other blog that has the word verification option. If your comment is successful then your eyesight is perfect. Otherwise please visit your Opthalmologist. If you are guilty of taking the free eye test, please click on the Google ads on the right side.

Next patient please.

Parents realize their dream through their kids

Last week Achanta Sharat Kamal won the Arjuna Award for Table Tennis. He happens to be the son of my Table Tennis coach in Chennai. My coaches Srinivasa Rao and Muralidhar Rao were popular coaches during that period (90’s) and Sharat Kamal is the son of Srinivas Rao. After reading the news about the Arjuna Award I started thinking about how some parents derive immense pleasure by realizing their dreams through their offsprings. If the parent has not been able to achieve a particular goal, it is natural for them to aspire for the same by pushing their son / daughter to achieve the same goal. Such stories abound in the field of arts (music, acting etc) and sports.

Sharat Kamal used to attend the same coaching class as mine. The kind of dedication he had for the game was amazing. He went on to represent India in the Olympics last year. He lost in the second round to a person from Hong Kong.

I’m sure this Arjuna Award must have been one of the greatest moments in Srinivasa Rao’s life. Even though he has coached so many people, the joy he would derive from his son’s accomplishment would be immense. The sacrifices that parents undergo to see their kids achieve such a position is something phenomenal. I have seen some parents (who happened to be PSU Bank employees) who resigned their jobs to accompany their son/daughter for global chess tournaments.

I took to TT sometime in 9th standard and started progressing quite well. I had major regrets because I started quite late in life. Most of the others who came for the coaching class were kids from Primary School. During 10th I had to make a call between sports and education (because my parents felt that both can’t co-exist). My (boring) defence oriented game earned me the nickname of “Wall”. Any resemblance with the other Wall is purely coincidental.

During 11th standard I tried to get into a school, which hosted the TT event of the SAF Games in Chennai. My application was turned down. I gave up TT after that. If I had made it big, I would have probably followed the treaded path of joining a PSU like Railways / ONGC / IA / AI / IOC / RBI. This is the standard route which other State ranking / National ranking players take. I haven’t tracked their careers and hence can’t say much about what they are doing now. Some of them will eventually become coaches. Some of them start fading once they get a PSU job.

I am glad that cricket was kept out of the awards this time. Other sports have been neglected (both by the media and the government) for a long time and it is high time we start encouraging the sportspersons in other fields as well.

TT has taken a back seat in recent times. Any good paddlers around?

Cut, Copy and Paste – An Established Norm in all walks of life

The academic fraternity often accuses students that project reports are copied from internet resources. Even creative communities engage in plagiarism and the Music Director/composer fraternity is one of the best examples. Sify has an article on the recent ‘inspirations’ in Hindi films. How does one differentiate between an inspiration and a song theft / copy? Itwofs.com has been doing a good job of exposing such copied songs. Even though I have mentioned about Itwofs before I thought of mentioning them again so that the blogging community supports such efforts.

Wanna Marry in Style?, Malaysia Beckons You

Malaysia wants to play the perfect host to Indians who want to get married in style. This is part of their effort to boost tourism. Given the acute shortage of marriage halls during the peak wedding season (in India) , this might be an option worth considering.

As part of an effort to woo Indians planning to get married, Tourism Malaysia has sent a group of eight wedding planners from India to Malaysia to show them first hand what the country has to offer for those seeking to tie the knot.

"We offer a chance of getting married on the beach, mountains or with the backdrop of the world's tallest tower (the Petronas). However, as in the case of other exotic destinations, the target audience is likely to be affluent Indians looking for a value-for-money proposition.

Destination South India

The Week says that lot of professionals are migrating to the South because of the booming economy

Maharashtra, Gujarat and the National Capital Region were the country's traditional industrial base for decades. The scene is changing. "Opportunities drove me southward," said Hemant Kumar Bhardwaj, vice-president (marketing) of the Chennai-based Polaris, an IT services firm. "The southern states are on a roll. They are creating immense job opportunities that are exciting and challenging."

It's not just the technology sector that is powering the south surge. Traditional sectors like automobile manufacturing, pharma and textiles are also contributing. Chennai, dubbed the Detroit of India, has been attracting huge investments from Hyundai, Mitsubishi and Ford. The world's number two automobile firm, Toyota, and the Swedish group Volvo have made Bangalore their manufacturing base.

Medical tourism is booming in the south. In Chennai, Apollo Hospitals has refurbished its rooms to match accommodation offered by five-star hotels. The hospital offers surgical procedures like hip and knee replacements, spine and cosmetic surgery at almost one-fourth of what US hospitals charge. According to global consulting firm McKinsey, medical tourism will become a $2 billion business in India by 2012.

Monday, September 05, 2005

The Second S'pore Indian Blogger Meet

The enthusiastic bunch of S’pore Indian bloggers had their first blogger meet about 3 months ago. Since we resolved to meet frequently we have decided to have the second meet on 11th September (Sunday).

Date: 11th September

Time: 4 – 6 pm

Venue: The Mind Café @ Prinsep Place or Settlers Café @ Clarke Quay.

If you like playing Board Games you will definitely enjoy these venues. I don’t think they have the Blogpoly game as yet. Maybe we should suggest them to buy Blogpoly so that we can have more Blogger Meets at the same place. If you are bored of playing board games you can participate in a discussion that will chalk out ways of taking blogs mainstream.

I’ll put up a separate post once the venue is finalized.

Few rounds of mails have already been sent to the Desi Bloggers. Since the above venues have limited seating capacity, we would like to hear from you at the earliest so that we can book the venue. Please let us know about your availability so that we can get an idea about the number of participants.

If you want to be included in the mailing list regarding the forthcoming Blogger Meet, do drop me a line. My email ID is sambhar [dot] mafia [at] gmail [dot] com

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Bollywood Rock Concert in S'pore

Bandwidth Bollywood Rock Concert will happen in Singapore on 8th Oct. The concert is likely to have a mix of English and Hindi classics. If you need more info about this concert please visit their webpage.

SingapuraThisWeek has been churning out good stuff for some time now. This blog captures the arts, culture, food, nature and sports scene in S’pore. If you are interested in such activities do support them. Their tagline says it all (it makes more sense after the recent hike in the price of movie tickets)

There are lots of things to do in Singapore, if you're willing to step away from the cinemas...

Of gossips and Preity Zinta

According to The Sunday Express, Preity Zinta is likely to marry to Ness Wadia of the Bombay Dyeing group. I have decided to blog about gossips because of this. Stay tuned for more.

Some more India Vs China stuff

The Sunday Express feels that China has an acute shortage of quality manpower.

The ‘‘China miracle’’ has largely been powered by a cheap, ostensibly bottomless pool of labour, making the price of ‘‘made in China’’ products unbeatable. In the past few years, however, the inconceivable appears to be happening. China is running out of cheap labour, and precisely in the area of maximum manufacturing demand: the Pearl River Delta (PRD).

According to HR consultancy Hewitt, senior managers in China now receive between $ 46,000 and $ 54,000 a year, while top executives can expect $ 80,000 to $ 90,000 or more. Management consultancy McKinsey & Co estimates Chinese companies currently trying to expand abroad will need up to 75,000 internationally experienced leaders if they want to grow over the next 10-15 years. There are however only 3,000-5,000 such people available in China. INDIA, by contrast, is an HR firm’s dream, given its ample supply of English-speaking, globe-trotting, western-style educated managers, with considerable experience in the private sector.