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Sambhar Mafia - Cooked To Kill!

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Blogging as a tool to enhance business

In what can be termed as a novel initiative in the Indian context, ING Vysya Life Insurance has started a blogging portal whereby its insurance advisors will interact with potential customers through their individual blogs. Although insurance sales is more effective through face-to-face interaction, this could probably serve as another medium to interact with the customers.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Black in TIME Top 10 movies of 2005

TIME Magazine has come out with a list of Top 10 movies for 2005 and Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Black has made it to the list. What’s interesting to note is that the Europe editions and US editions of TIME have different lists even though the film critic picking the Top 10 is the same person. This probably has to do with the reader profile of the two editions. Black has been mentioned in the Europe edition.

This is an unofficial remake of the 1962 U.S. film The Miracle Worker, about the deaf-blind child Helen Keller and her teacher Annie Sullivan, who penetrated the wall of dark silence to introduce Helen to the world of words. Bhansali, whose last film was the mega-soap opera Devdas, extends and reconfigures Keller's real-life inspirational story. Now the girl, an Anglo-Indian called Michelle McNally, pursues her education at a "normal" university. And her Annie Sullivan is a man — the man of Bollywood cinema, Amitabh Bachchan. As the plot ripens, and the grownup Michelle (Rani Mukherjee) emerges from the girl (Ayesha Kapoor), she must cope with both her teacher's ambitions for her and her emotions for him. This is an unusual film for India: no songs, a running time under 2 hrs. and most of the dialogue in English; yet it became a box office hit. It could also be a test for Western audiences unused to the fever pitch of Indian melodrama; they may need a warning label — Caution: Extreme Sentiment (May Be Contagious). Everyone else can dive right into the bathos and savor the brave, passionate performances of Amitabh, who harnesses gravity and humor to his magisterial machismo in what may be his greatest role, and the two Michelles, who revere and adore their teacher as the one man who matters. In so many Indian films the deepest searches are for romantic ecstasy and for reconciliation with the father figure. By addressing both these needs, Black is more than a noble weepie; it is the ultimate Bollywood love story.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Metroblogging Mumbai

Metroblogging, a city specific blog site has opened its India edition with a blog focussed on Mumbai. Familiar names like Sakshi, Arzan and Yazad Jal are associated with Metroblogging Mumbai. Lot of Indian cities have vibrant blogospheres and I’m sure this movement will catch on. (via)

Chennai - The Craze For Real Estate

Chennai’s Property Prices seem to be going through a phase of unprecedented boom as indicated by this Hindu article:

In the last five or six months, land prices in residential localities such as T. Nagar, Ashok Nagar, Vadapalani, Anna Nagar, Kilpauk, Adyar and Alwarpet shot up by 60 - 70 per cent, says Chozha Foundations head M.K. Sundaram.

"It has turned into a sellers' market. Anyone with a piece of land is able to call the shots. Almost on a daily basis, the sellers tend to change the land price quotes."

Jaya backs out at last minute

Srilankan PM cancels Chennai visit due to cancellation of meeting by Jaya. The forthcoming election will reveal whether it was worth ditching the appointment of a head of state.

The BPO Overkill

Washington Post has a feature on the lifestyle and culture at Indian BPO's. I don’t know how much of this is true and how much of this is exaggeration. There is so much written about Indian call centres and BPO’s that one gets a feeling that a lot of this information could be half-truths that have been included just to add spice and flavour to the articles. The political opposition seems to have subsided and it’s time the media frenzy dies its own death.

Call centers have brought new wealth to India, but they are also fostering a cultural backlash, as the country's young, hip BPO workers run up against the traditions of the older generations.

The Indian twenty-somethings laboring in these call centers not only work together -- they also drink together, dance together, date one another and, most important, understand one another. Their jobs compel them to cultivate American pronunciations and keep up with U.S. pop culture. They have their own hybrid vocabulary. ("No probs, yaar" means "no problem, my friend.") And they have boundless expectations about where their new careers can take them.

But not everyone rejoices at these new employment opportunities. Citing low pay and dead-end jobs, India's most popular news portal declared recently that call centers have "cons more than pros." A television talk show probed whether such centers are no more than "swanky sweatshops." And in a best-selling novel, "One Night @ The Call Center," two BPO workers quit to open their own company, saying they were sick of working all night for Americans in jobs with no potential.

"In charge of scheduling agents, Pundir said she can't allow her employees to skip work for every religious or family function, as is customary in some Indian companies. Instead, call-center workers take U.S. holidays including Labor Day and Thanksgiving -- but because the rest of India works on those days, they end up hanging out with friends from other call centers.

On Sunday nights, typically a day off, BPO workers flood Gurgaon's half-dozen or so malls and wander the stores, sometimes waving to each other from passing escalators. They sit in coffee shops such as Cafe Coffee Day and Barista, crowding around bistro tables or onto leather couches. A recent issue of Cafe Coffee Day's newsletter, "Cafe Beat," provided fodder for their conversations: movies, dating, gadgets and gaming. Last month's cover story was on "live-in relationships."

While their parents might have dated or consumed alcohol, younger Indians say they can do so overtly now. In some cases, they also earn more than their parents, allowing for purchases -- jeans, cologne, nightclub admissions -- that would be pricey even by American standards.

Simply Sneha

She makes it to the news everyday.

Free books about Wall Street

After Scott Adams and Cory Doctorow, we have more people distributing their books free on the Internet.

How not to do brand building - The Shattered Accountant way

In what can be termed as a bizarre move, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), the regulatory body for the CA’s is trying to ‘add’ more value for the CA brand by making Chartered Accountants use the term CA as a suffix. I have also seen some engineers use the prefix ER, but this is not used so widely. Although the Dr. prefix makes lot of sense (especially in Railway reservation charts and other such travel information) as it can be of immense use in an emergency. I’m not really convinced whether the use of such a suffix is going to add brand value or be of good to the general public. I can now call myself Kaps CA and who knows we might even have a movie called Munnabhai CA.

The use of the term CA is a move towards professional recognition of our members. For example one recognises a doctor through the letter Dr. before their name and there will be a similar thing for a CA.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Blogging during vacation

I did not evaluate the various blogging options during the vacation period. I did consider some of the suggestions mentioned in this Problogger article. I was thinking about preparing posts in advance so that they can be posted at specific time intervals, but never got the time to do it. Further, lot of the content here was related to current affairs and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to put a wholehearted effort on this front. Do read the various approaches suggested by Problogger as it can come in handy at a later date.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Reverse brain drain

The topic of reverse brain drain has been dominating the news for sometime now and we can expect more such articles in the near future. Some excerpts from an IHT article:

Nasscom, a trade group of Indian outsourcing companies, estimated that 30,000 technology professionals have moved back in the past 18 months. Bangalore, Hyderabad and the suburbs of Delhi are becoming magnets for the influx of Indians, who count as the top-earning ethnic group in the United States. These cities, with their Western-style work environment, generous paychecks and quick career jumps, offer the returnees what they could only get in Palo Alto or Boston until now.

Now they offer something else: a housing boom. Homes have tripled in value in Palm Meadows over the past 12 months, and rents have quadrupled.

For many returnees, the newly challenging work environment has tied in neatly with personal reasons like raising children in Indian culture and caring for aging parents.

As the lifestyle gaps between India and the West have narrowed, salary differences at top executive levels have virtually disappeared. Annual pay packages of $500,000 are common in Bangalore, but even for those taking a pay cut to return home, the lower cost of living balances lesser paychecks. Starting salaries for engineers are about $12,000 in India, versus $60,000 in Silicon Valley.

Kela, his 9-year-old daughter, Payal, and 6-year-old son, Ankur, enjoy riding bikes together on weekends, and they often play cricket, about which Kela is passionate. His daughter learns the classical Indian dances of Kathak and Bharatanatyam. During Halloween this year, Kela led his children on a three-hour trick-or-treat walk.

His neighbor, Swamy, is immersed in building a Silicon Valley-style team in Bangalore, but with some local adjustments. When he learned that the company routinely received calls from prospective fathers-in-law of employees asking to verify their ages, titles and salary details, Swamy wrote a memo titled "HR Policy on Disclosing Employee Information to Prospective Fathers-in-Law."

Kollywood 2005

Rediff lists the top Tamil hits of this year and News Today does a round up of all the Kollywood action in 2005. Ghajini is missing in Rediff's list.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Outlook Year-End Special

As expected, Outlook’s year-end issue is comprehensive. You need lot of quality time to read the whole issue. I just happened to glance through the blogging related pieces in the issue. Amit Varma, Jai Arjun Singh and T R Vivek have written the various articles. It’s good to see articles that don’t refer to blogs as mere online journals or personal diaries.

Amit Varma writes about the power of blogs and the freedom this online medium has given to him:

It is true that in the hands of mediocre writers, the freedom that blogging affords can lead to self-indulgence. But I've found over the past year that the blogosphere is meritocratic, and readers are quick to sort out the wheat from the chaff. This is a new medium, and there's space for plenty more wheat.

T R Vivek makes some references to the role played by bloggers during the floods and the tsunami relief efforts:

A week later, when floodwaters recede, Superblogger and Hourlyblogger, along with 50 others, meet at the tony Amethyst coffee shop. And over some overpriced Ceylone tea, they agree that blogs and bloggers were indeed heroes during the disaster.

Jai Arjun Singh on how blogs don’t serve as a threat to MSM:

That said, the hoary Bloggers vs Mainstream Media (MSM) debate is a non-issue. Most leading topical bloggers are aware of how limited their reach is. They see themselves as complementing the MSM's work, not taking it on—if they perform a corrective role by drawing attention to the MSM's mistakes, they are no less harsh with other bloggers. Admittedly, because of the medium's nature (and the low net penetration in India), it's difficult to provide quantifiable evidence of what a blog has accomplished.

Celebrating Christmas & New Year in Philadelphia

My vacation has finally begun. Although I don’t prefer to take holidays during peak periods (airfares are way too expensive, tickets are difficult to get, air travel becomes chaotic), I decided to disregard that stand and finally proceeded with a much-needed break. The temperature here is a bit too cold by my standards (don’t get me started on Chennai and Singapore weather), but I’m told that it is much better that it was in the previous weeks.

It’s time to have some great home food and also taste mom’s sambhar:-)

I will try to blog as and when time permits. I also intend to play catch up on my ever-increasing list of Bloglines feeds. I also have plans to meet a few bloggers during my stay here. Let’s see how that goes.

Internet browsing in International airports

Having transitted through two airports before reaching here, I noticed some things about the free internet browsing facility offered in some of the international airports. A majority of the people who use these facilities fail to logout of their email accounts and hence are putting their personal information at risk. Every public terminal that I noticed has atleast one webmail account (yahoo / hotmail / gmail), which the user hasn’t logged out. I don’t know how we can explain this phenomenon. One reason could be that people are rushing to catch their flight and hence they might have forgotten to log out. Not logging out from a public terminal in the airport might be less hazardous than the same act in a browsing centre. In the airport, the people might not have the time or the inclination to use your email account to their advantage as they might be rushing to catch their own flights. In sharp contrast, the person in a browsing centre might have ample time at his/her disposal to take advantage of this personal information. I feel that the airports should put up some bold notices urging people to logout everytime people access their email from a public terminal. Such reinforcement will probably alert people about the nature of this risk.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Happy & Gay - A Celebrity Union

No wedding in recent times has drawn as much media attention as this one. My friend corrects me by saying it should be called a Union and not a marriage.

Some of them even call it a civil partnership. Wonder what other names they will come up with?

Yet another Indian news site

I happened to visit the virtual abode of India’s latest news channel CNN-IBN. The look and feel of the site reminds me of NDTV. Although it is a newly launched site, they have already started offering RSS feeds. They are also offering free video clippings. Although they have a section called blogs, I’m not too sure what they are trying to do with it. Lot of the Western media is encouraging their staff to blog, but we have not seen that happening in India. This could be the start of such a trend.

Blogging Pays

Look at the prizes for the Best Science / Technology Blogs.

Global brands add desi flavour to Indian ads

International brands are increasingly courting Indian customers by customizing their ads to suit the sub-continent. Two recent examples –

British Airways print ad – A Brit model does a traditional Indian welcome

Tourism Malaysia print ad – The ad now has a Hindi tagline (Jao Toh Jaano) to woo the Indian customer.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Short-haul flights Vs Road / Rail transport

Ashwin had indicated in one of my earlier posts that Paramount Airways was not on firm ground and had put some flights on hold. The Hindu mentions about the crowded nature of the Chennai – Delhi sector. The article quotes Paramount’s CEO saying that some flights to Kochi were put on hold. I haven't heard of any VC investing in Paramount. It looks like they are funding it out of accrued earnings (from their group companies).

Paramount has also unveiled its plans for a late night shuttle service between Chennai and Bangalore. IMHO Air travel may not always be the best and convenient mode of transport, especially for distances which can be covered by road / rail in about 6 hours. Take the case of the Bangalore – Chennai sector. Airports are typically located outside the city and it takes anywhere between 45 – 60 minutes (both ways) to commute from the airport to home / office. The waiting time during boarding and security check could take about an hour and the flying time will take another 45 minutes. If you provide for all the above, the door-to-door time might take about 4 hours. If you travel by bus or train, the travel time from Chennai to Bangalore could be 6 to7 hours. Boarding and alighting points for buses and trains are typically located centrally and hence this could also work out in favour of people taking the bus / train. The same logic can be extended to other sectors, which can be covered in an overnight journey.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Private gains in the name of public good

These kind of ads are not new. Why should the Central government be paying for publishing Sonia Gandhi’s picture and Karunanidhi’s picture when the function is one organized by the Union government? Sonia and Karunanidhi don’t hold any official positions in the Union government and hence the government should not be paying for such ads. This is the same issue being discussed by News Today in this excellent article.

....The above thoughts come to mind on seeing the cheap, petty, politically partisan, flashy and splashy advertisement issued by a government of India organisation called Sethusamudram Corporation Limited to announce a function arranged in Chennai today for signing the Memorandum of Understanding between Sethusamudram Corporation Limited and Suez Canal Authority, Egypt, in the august presence of Dr Kalaignar M Karunanidhi.

The same advertisement also carries the photographs of Dr Manmohan Singh, the de jure Prime Minister of India and Sonia Gandhi, the de facto Prime Minister of India.

By arranging a party function in the guise of a government of India programme, Baalu has clearly shown that he is not a 'Servant of the State'. He has shown through his ill-advised advertisement that he is a 'Servant of Infamy'. He has also irrefutably shown that he is a 'Servant of both DMK party and its supremo Karunanidhi only'.

Men like Baalu, Sonia and Karunanidhi are brazenly starving their conscience while thriving in State. Washington Irving described the kind of function which is being organised today in Chennai as 'Meetings consisting of some half a dozen scurvy pothouse politicians'.

Blogspot archives

Ram posed me this question sometime ago. Blogger.com allows us to delete / edit only the last 300 posts. Is there a way we can access the older posts?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Valuing newspapers using ‘eyeballs’

Sevanti Ninan gives some valuation tips through her Media Matters Column:

To cap it all, some wise guys at Business Standard worked out the value of a newspaper reader by dividing the valuation of a newspaper by the number of subscribers it had. Going by the prevailing valuations in April when this exercise was done, each Mid-Day reader in Mumbai was valued at Rs. 22,071! By the same yardstick, a Dainik Jagran reader was valued at Rs. 2,372. Today, a Hindustan Times reader would be valued at around Rs. 20,000. The Jagran reader's valuation will doubtless be reassessed after its IPO next year.

It does remains though for someone to work out the nuisance value of the rapidly proliferating media that is now at everybody's doorstep. You could begin by asking Mr. Natwar Singh who was hounded out of government that much faster because the media got into the act.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

How Operation-Duryodhana took shape?

An interesting article in The Telegraph:

Indeed, it was his passion for the big story that took Bahal through the corridors of politics, spotting the odd MP that he thought would be willing to ask questions in Parliament in return for a wad of bank notes. It was not just risky, but expensive to boot. Bahal is said to have poured lakhs into the job, but is unwilling to say how much. The money, he says, came either from his own pocket or from his friends.

Blowing the lid off the parliamentary cash-for-questions racket, however, was an operation that, he says, came about by chance. It was while criticising the sting operation carried out by a news channel on Bollywood’s casting couch in March that Bahal floated the idea of an operation on greasy-palmed MPs. And then he decided to follow up his words by actually delving into the cartel that previously existed only in the domain of hearsay.

Once the footage had been taken, Bahal spoke to some news channels and a deal was finally struck with Aaj Tak. Rumour has it that he has made quite a packet, but Bahal isn’t willing to disclose how much. “Let’s say it took care of all my expenses and legal security, and paid me a token remuneration for my efforts. And of course, (Lok Sabha speaker) Somnath Chatterjee gifted me a pen. I think it’s a Sheaffer,” he smiles.

Update: Aniruddha Bahal refuses to reveal the location(s) of the hidden camera. Looks like a good move after hearing that he has plans to do some more sting operations. His lies have to be more creative so that the targets don't suspect any member of Bahal's team.

Newsweek – The India Story

The India story is being retold in as many ways as possible and nothing new is coming out of these articles. These stories seem to repackaged versions of all the coverage given by international magazines like Time, Newsweek, Businessweek, Fortune and Economist in the past. Newsweek has a feature on how US capital and labour are migrating to India. They write about the phenomenon of US MBA grads seeking internship in Indian firms and also the massive investments being made by the likes of Cisco, Microsoft and Intel in India.

A few days before Gates's trip, Silicon Valley chip maker Intel's chairman Craig Barrett announced that his company was investing $1.1 billion in India. And in October, Cisco Systems Inc. announced that it would put more than $1 billion into India over three years—its largest non-U.S. investment ever. A good chunk of that money, like Microsoft's investment, is going for the kind of innovative work that attracts world-class grad researchers and engineers, rather than the low-level call center jobs stereotypically outsourced to India.

Thirty-year-old Tim Hentzel is an M.B.A. student at the Wharton School of Business who first went to India in 2004 on his school’s three-week "global immersion" program. Infosys, an IT business and consulting services firm traded on the Nasdaq, piqued his interest because "their [106] interns come from all over the world—I needed the international experience." Infosys also appealed to him because their interns work on hands-on projects, are matched to mentors and have easy access to the company's top executives. Of his stint at the company's spa-like campus in Bangalore, Hentzel says, "it's the best decision I made. India's on the cutting edge." He says he put in long hours and made lasting personal and professional contacts because "I had gone to work, not for a safari."

Update: Outlook has a feature on single white women working in India

Time – Best Photos of the Year 2005

The latest issue of TIME has a collection of the best photos of this year. There is an online poll, which allows readers to vote for their choice for the best picture. Majority of the pictures reflect the terror attacks (London bombings), riots (Paris) and natural calamities (Tsunami aftermath, Indo-Pak Earthquake, Katrina and Rita floods) that dominated the news this year. Let's hope that next year's photos will have more smiling faces.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Air India to offload overweight cabin crew

This was one of the headlines mentioned in the daily news bulletin of BBC Tamil Radio. I moved over to Google news to get more details on the same. Interestingly, international news sites like CNN and BBC are more keen to cover such news. Hindustan Times was probably the only prominent Indian site to report this. I was expecting a retaliatory statement from the Air India union. The cabin crew unions have actually welcomed the decision. The HT article pointed out how people from different states are evaluated

“We welcome the decision, as it is for our own benefit. It will indirectly help us to maintain healthy lifestyle, but we urge AI to re-start the health club facility for our cabin crew members to conform to these stringent weight parameter,” said Raju Joshi, senior vice-president AICCA. The entire cabin crew is divided into three categories. Those from Punjab are allowed a five-kilogram relaxation, while those hailing from Maharashtra and Gujarat are in the second and are allowed a little deviation in weight, while the rest fall under the third category.

All the three categories have to confirm to different weight parameters depending upon determinants like age, gender, and height. The entire selection is then divided into three categories underweight, overweight and obese levels. The BMI levels are taken into account but only for the senior ECC.

CNN has more:

But the airline is trying to change the public perception that its cabin staff are tired and inefficient and a recently issued directive says overweight pilots, flight stewards and stewardesses will not be allowed to fly unless they lose the weight.

He would not say how many people would be affected by the order to lose weight, but the Hindustan Times newspaper reported that a significant number of cabin crew members between the ages of 40 and 55 were "overweight, obese or morbidly obese."

"Imagine if crew members can't fasten their seat belts, how can they fly?" Rao asked.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Rajini b’day celebrations @ IIMB

The ‘real’ Sambhar Mafia seems to have worked overtime to have a gala celebration for the Superstar. Aravind has more details:

11 December it was! The eve of Rajinikanth's Birthday!The celebrations for Superstar's Birthday started in the campus. Sambhar Mafia, the official thamizh junta of IIMB, celebrated this Thiruvizha (festival) with such grandeur! The mess was decorated with huge posters of Rajini and charts with collage of loads and loads of Rajini photos! From 7:00 pm, all superhit songs of Rajini were played in the mess. Thus, the environment was all set for a huge celebration!The junta was also ready with drums and whistles (none of us knew how to whistle without the whistle!!!)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Vishwanathan Anand on India Empowered

via Financial Express

Chess is one of the few games where gender is not a division. India has produced world-class players of both sexes. I think this has helped overcome preconceived notions and girls should be encouraged to participate more in school level events. After all, it was my mother who showed me how to play. What needs to change is the official bureaucracy in the form of various sports associations. Most officials forget that they represent the players.

For me, India Empowered is when I am not Mr Anand from the land of snake charmers and mystic eccentricities but Anand from a country whose intellectual capital is coming of age. India is a country where in every household there is a lamp of ingenuity, intelligence and perseverance. Now the light is on us and the world is taking notice.

A Chennai icon turns 25

I’m fortunate to have their outlet in my city. With a presence spanning South East Asia, Middle East, Europe and the Americas it can now call itself as a homegrown MNC.

Anjappar is one more Chennai restaurant, which has now established itself in the similar geographies. I came to know recently that Mr. M Mahadevan of Hot Breads is the one helping the Chennai restaurants expand overseas. Here is an excerpt from a slightly dated article.

Mr Mahadevan says he also took the Saravana Bhavan chain abroad, jointly with Mr Shivakumar, a son of the hotel's promoter. Mr Mahadevan and Mr Shivakumar together own about 26 per cent of the equity in each of the Saravana Bhavan outlets abroad with the balance owned by local partners.

Interestingly, the Saravana Bhavan hotels abroad pay a 4 per cent royalty to the Saravana Bhavan group headquartered in Chennai. Mr Mahadevan has also helped open the Chennai-based Anjappar restaurant abroad. He will hold a stake in these ventures. The restaurants have been opened in Kuala Lumpur and Dubai and will open shortly in Toronto, Canada.

Related Posts: Mysurpa is just a stone’s throw away

A visitor’s view of Chennai and India

Chennai already has quite a few prominent expat blogs. I stumbled upon a Business Visitor’s blog recently. Mark was on a business trip for a short while and he has jotted down his observations about Chennai and India. Here are some excerpts from some of his blog posts. Luckily there are no elephants and snake charmers in their postings.

We saw our first cow on this trip waltzing lazily through the roads, and then we saw entire herds. The first stop we made was to Dakshina Chitra, which showed what a traditional Tamil Nadu village would have looked like for hundreds and hundreds of years before modern times. We watched two drummers and a pipe player show their playing talent while a man dressed as a peacock strutted for all of us to see. When he leaned down, picked up a necklace of flowers and then proceeded to drape them over my head, I learned the peacock had married me! (Marriage comes up again on a trip to India!)

On our way back to the city, we saw one family with two children all on one motorbike, then a family with five later! No helmets, no carseats, and no cares in the world. Today I felt I saw more of the rest of India, and how all of the towns and streets appear, at least in Southern India. I felt I was in an ancient land that had a vast, yet slow advancing history. It was also very surreal to look out on the very seas that were a part of the Sunami just last year. I don't believe we were in a heavily damaged area, but the scene was most likely very similar to thousands of other Sunday mornings on the Bay of Bengal last Dec. 26.

We then made it over to the Spencer's Plaza, another huge hulking concrete indoor structure holding hundreds of small stores on three floors. It really is a glorified flea market but in a mall setting. The amount of people was unbelievable, yet you got around right away to where you wanted to go without any trouble.

Geethapriya Tmu is dressed in the traditional Sari that women in India wear for more formal events. Today is her father in law's birthday and she chose to dress up to observe the special day. We learned from Anusha that Friday is a special day for many of the Indian citizens and a lot of times the women will dress up more and place flowers in their hair to set the day apart.

The obsession of our India adventure is fast becoming the status of the twist caps on the water bottles!!! We are still trying to stick to the directions we have been given to drink no tap water and only use bottled water even for brushing our teeth. The paranoia set in when we learned sometimes the bottles are just filled up again and the top replaced by the hotel staff. (ask Donna Slatkin more about that) Thelma has spent many moments scrutinizing the little plastic connections between the cap and ring to make sure they are brand new and not refills. So far we are all very healthy and sleeping through the night for the most part.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Maran Vs Jaya

The drama continues. TN is not the winner

Get ready to be pampered

Business Standard discusses the unique business models of Paramount Airways and Club One Air in this article on Indian aviation sector. What’s interesting to note is Paramount’s decision to offer flat beds for a 3 hours journey from Delhi to Coimbatore / Cochin.

Paramount is also looking at converting part of the aircraft into a private space with some flat beds - at a fare that is equivalent to that of business class in regular airlines. But why do we need flat beds for a journey that, at the very maximum, will be three hours long?

“Well, it is a value-added service, and there will definitely be takers, especially frequent fliers,” says Thiagarajan. Covering routes popular among the business community, such as Delhi-Cochin, Delhi-Coimbatore, Coimbatore-Cochin and Chennai-Cochin, Paramount today has five Embraer jets (E-jets) from Brazil, and conducts eight flights a day.

Old is Gold………

………when it comes to Hindi film dialogues


An excerpt from Operation Duryodhana related press release:

Is it true that while NRI firms such as India Uncut of USA, Sepia Mutiny of Britain and AnarCap Lib of Netherlands have been allowed to invest in Indian SSIs, the reputed German investment firm Desipundit has been denied permission? If so, the reasons thereof? Is the Union Government of India planning to make automatic the long procedure of permission for SSIs to import new technologies such as Trackbacks, Pingbacks, Blogrolls, Splogs and Hitcounters?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Does India have 12 lakh bloggers?

MSN India’s Krishna Prasad writes in Financial Express about the state and the growth of blogging in the Indian context. Since MSN Spaces hosted the Aamir Khan Mangal Pandey blog (it has not been updated for 4 months), he makes a mention of that as well. I am bit surprised about the number of Indian bloggers because the readership figures seem to be telling a different story. IMO there should be some kind of relationship between the number of bloggers and the readership figures of popular blogs. DesiPundit gets about 2000 - 2500 page views a day. Some of the other blog stats are now available publicly through the Indian Bloggers Directory.

According to recent statistics by the India Online 2005 report, there are approximately 1.2 million users and posters of blogs. There has been a huge turnaround in the profile of the bloggers. Today in India itself, there are loads of people who are blogging - ranging from the ever bustling college going teenagers to the junior and senior executives. There have been certain interesting insights that have been noticed regarding bloggers in India namely that- male bloggers seem to be significantly more in number as compared to females. Secondly, the most active blogging segment were from the 25-30 age group, almost 75% of the bloggers live in the metropolitan cities and who are well educated, upwardly mobile, ambitious and with reasonable purchasing power. Many of whom have been using the blog for quite some time.

A Tale of 2 Kanths

It’s Superstar’s birthday today. In his usual style, he will be celebrating his birthday somewhere outside Chennai. Looks like he celebrated his birthday few days in advance.

Filmstar turned politician Vijayakanth has been extremely cautious about revealing his political opponents. He has commended JJ for the flood relief work and taken a dig at ministers and MP’s from TN. It’s quite obvious that he is hitting out at PMK. Is this a sign of things to come?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Sensationalism at its best

Chennai eveninger Tamil Murasu has sensationalized the fire that broke out at a fuel depot in London earlier today. The following news report says that lots of people have died. As per the original BBC article, no casualties have been reported. Shouldn’t a newspaper exercise more restraint? This newspaper seems to be doing well commercially and it is expanding to 9 cities across TN. Some big-bang TV ads are the prime reason for the commercial success.

A Costly Mistake

Lesson: Those who deal with big money need to be on their toes

Desi Playboy

This report in Asia Times believes that a desi Playboy edition is not too far away. Going by the nature of the proposed contest, it looks like Playboy has considered protests by RSS, VHP and Shiv Sena before finalizing the content. The final product could be ToI style pics with a Playboy name.

Blogging Tips

Various blogging styles that are commonly found. What's your style?

Types of blog posts and how to tackle bloggers block

Friday, December 09, 2005

Bill Gates' Chennai Visit and Maran’s Blame Game

Bill Gates returned back ‘richer’ after his meeting with MK as he was presented an English translation of Thirukkural. Dayanidhi Maran’s attention grabbing exercise is scaling newer heights as he continues to take potshots at the opposition.

Dayanidhi Maran has made a statement that they couldn’t take Bill gates to TIDEL Park as the road conditions were not conducive. On top of this, Dayanidhi Maran makes a statement that nobody took the initiative to invite Bill Gates to Chennai. I don’t know the exact specifics, but couldn’t they have explored the possibility of taking Bill Gates in an helicopter to TIDEL Park? If egos were pushed aside, somebody could have worked with the State Authorities to ensure that the roads were spruced up. Bill Gates’ itinerary was kept under wraps and how can you expect the State authorities to know where all he is visiting. If Maran continues at this rate, his mudslinging initiatives will over shadow whatever good work he has done in the recent past.

Teakada also echoes similar thoughts

Related posts: Dayanidhi Maran’s High PH

Winning in a lottery………

…………………is much easier than getting flight tickets during peak holiday periods like Christmas and New Year

Thursday, December 08, 2005

IC to get a facelift

Donning new clothes alone will not make a difference. I hope they do something to improve their overall image.

The Budget Airline booms seems to be benefitting Tier II cities as well. Tuticorin becomes the 5th city in TN to join the air network.

Cover story……..

…………and the cover up

I don’t know whether the example I’m going to state here is apt. After reading the above article, I’m reminded of a similar / remotely similar incident in the Indian context. Hamish McDonald’s biography of Dhirubhai Ambani (titled Polyester Prince) ran into trouble few years ago. The Ambani family threatened to sue the author and the book never made it to Indian bookstores. Even if it had released in India, the Ambani family might have used its money power to grab all the copies from the bookstores. In that context, do read this old piece by Sucheta Dalal on why Indian biographies are not accurate.

SP Jain's Singapore foray

After IIMB, SP Jain has unveiled its plans to start a campus in Singapore. A press release says that they will offer a course whereby students can spend 50% of their time in the Dubai campus and the remaining 50% of their time in the Singapore campus. I don’t really think there is a market need for such a course, except from a tourism angle. IIMB and SP Jain can really be termed as successful in their overseas forays only if they can offer a truly diverse class composition. If these centres are going to be mere extensions of Indian campuses with similar student profiles (maybe slightly richer ones), IIMB and SP Jain would be failing in their duties.

The word of the year is out

How should we announce it to the world?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

PJ of the Day

News: Bill Gates to meet MK in Chennai tomorrow
Agenda: Replace Windows in Gopalapuram

On a serious note, I wonder what Bill Gates is going to achieve by meeting MK (apart from the obvious news clip for SUN TV and Tamil Murasu). Shouldn’t Bill Gates be more careful in granting appointments? I’m sure he values his precious time. Dayanidhi Maran is definitely making his ‘presence felt’ by getting Craig Barrett and Bill Gates to visit Chennai.

Time cover story on Lee Kuan Yew

The Asian edition of TIME has a cover story on Lee Kuan Yew (Minister Mentor of Singapore). It also features an exclusive interview with LKY. Definitely worth a read.

Everyone who lives in Asia today thinks they are watching history being made; Lee Kuan Yew is one of those who can say, without fear of contradiction, that he helped make it.

When Singapore was ejected from Malaysia in 1965, it had no natural resources save for the enterprise of its largely Chinese population and its port's position astride one of the world's major shipping lanes. It possessed little industry or infrastructure besides a naval base and ship-repair facilities left behind by Britain's shrinking navy. Most of the population lived cheek by jowl in ramshackle two-story shophouses or traditional village houses fashioned of rattan and bamboo. It was poorer than Mexico. Today, the city is one of Asia's most modern metropolises, the business district bristling with skyscrapers and ringed by highways. Over 90% of the population own their own homes, most of them well-maintained and scrupulously clean apartments in government-built blocks. Singapore's cultural life—a phrase that was once oxymoronic—is now at least as vibrant as those of other cities in Southeast Asia, with a sparkling new performing-arts center and some of the best restaurants in the world. After decades of strong economic growth, per-capita income last year was $24,220, about the same as Italy. As they trip around Asia, popping off to Bali or Perth for the weekend while dressed in Prada and Gucci, wealthier Singaporeans could be forgiven for pitying their former European masters, whose day in the sun—they will sometimes tell you—is now all but over.

Those who wish Asia well will hope that Singapore does so. This is not just because modern Singaporeans deserve the chance to show that they are sufficiently talented to hold their own in any clash of ideas and ideologies (which they most certainly are.) It is because Singapore's achievements, and Lee's influence, extend far beyond the shores of an island of just 700 sq km and 4 million people. Lee's little nation is a testimony to what hard work and discipline can do to improve lives. That, perhaps, is legacy enough. But what a place in history there would be for Lee if his successors prove that Singapore can marry continued economic prosperity to a more open, tolerant, creative, and, yes, messy society—and hence create a new miracle, from which other nations, bigger, more powerful and more potentially frightening than Singapore, could one day learn anew.

Revenue stream for blogs

I seriously don’t understand what is being mentioned in the article. It says that this blog is India’s first blog to be funded by investors. The quality of the blog is far from satisfactory. Why is MSM covering such blogs when there are much more better blogs around?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Sugar baroness speaks out

Some excerpts from Rajshree Pathy’s interview in Business Standard. People familiar with Coimbatore can relate to it.

The PSG family produces girls, the Laxmi Mills family produces boys, they marry each other and live happily ever after.

When she’s especially stressed, she likes to go driving — with cousin Narain Karthikeyan, who’s done the Grand Prix. “My family has been in racing since 1952. I haven’t done Formula One but I’ve done Sholavaram. That’s fast enough for me."

Some more on Chennai’s Blog Scene

This time it’s from DNA. Am I the only one feeling that this article resembles the earlier New Indian Express article? I don’t think there should be so much noise about the number of blogs from any city. The content and quality matter more. I hope they stop blowing it up further.

Indian 420 = Nigerian 419

Take this route to discover your pot of gold

Monday, December 05, 2005

Saree shopping in Chennai

Read all about Nalli, Kumaran, Pothys and the rest

Singapore History and Transformation Series on Discovery Channel

Discovery Channel is running a 3 part series on Singapore’s Past, Present and Future. The first episode was telecast yesterday. There are repeats telecast as well. The first part ran for 3 hours. The series features interviews with MM Lee, SM Goh and other leaders who have played a part in the transformation. Do watch it if you are interested in the theme.

Another tribute to Manjunath

Manju’s batchmate Akhil Krishna pays tribute to Manjunath in this Outlook article

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Sting operation raises a storm

Big B is the victim this time

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Power of Pen & How MSM is changing with the times

Happened to read a couple of BBC articles, which reflect on the relationship between MSM and Blogs today. The first article is by Bill Thompson and he discusses how journalists need to change with the times.

It's also important for any journalist or would-be journalist to have an online presence to supplement their CV and portfolio, since more and more people looking for jobs are going to find their online activities scrutinised as part of the application process.

Elsewhere every journalist now knows to expect comment and criticism from the blogosphere, and those who might once have cut corners by not checking facts or cutting and pasting phrases from other people's work should now find their lives less comfortable.

The growth of internet use and the emergence of easy-to-use publishing tools could well be the best thing that has happened to journalism since radio and then television offered new ways to reach people, but that requires a certain degree of modesty and a great willingness to learn on the part of a profession that is not noted for either attribute.

Plagiarism by Indian MSM is among the hotly debated topics these days. A UK based blog has instituted an award called Press Plagiarist of the Year award. The second BBC article discusses this Cut and Paste culture and the Google investigative journalism that is taking shape. It would be good to see such awards in India too. Some of the Indian nominees would be more than willing to get away after buying an expensive gift for the bloggers.

This is one of the strengths of the blogosphere: playing a different game to professional writers, with a different set of aspirations.

The Press Plagiarist Of The Year Award, likewise, is not out to make any friends. With so much of the blogosphere devoted to howling at mainstream media, the award could easily have come over as self-important, worthy and whiny.

But by taking the mickey out of bloggers (weblog research is referred to as "Googling investigative reporting") and itself (in the spirit of transparent corruption, nominees can have themselves removed by paying in the form of the fancy wine Chateau Margaux), it's actually a spot of much-needed fun in the often-tiresome war between old and new media.

Leading MSM sites (like MSNBC / Newsweek) are providing a Technorati link icon, which shows the number of blogs that are discussing the news article at any point in time. This is a double-edged sword as bloggers could also be bitching about the article and those reading Newsweek online could get to hear some dissenting voices as well. However, this sends a signal that Newsweek is open to criticism. One more problem with the Technorati link is that lot of spam blogs start linking to the Newsweek article (based on keywords) and they also start figuring in the list of Technorati links.

Some other MSM sites (an Australian newspaper) has started providing Wikipedia links to some of the topics and issues discussed in their articles. These are some MSM initiatives to ensure that the reader gets the whole picture. If this were to happen in India, an article on IIPM would be accompanied by Technorati search on IIPM and the Wikipedia link to IIPM.

Craving for desi food

This Hindu article states that desis largely stick to Indian cuisine even while travelling abroad. How do we explain our reluctance to try other cuisines?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Yet another book on Chennai

Publishers seem to be benefiting from the good times. This year saw the release of “Chennai Latte – A Madras Brew” by Ranjitha Ashok and Biswajit Balasubramanian. "Madras Mosaic" is the latest one to hit the circuit. Although "Chennai Latte" had a distinct brand of humour, it tried to stick to usual stuff like Filter Kaapi, December Kutcheri, Deepavali shopping, Mosquitoes etc. "Madras Mosaic" promises something unique and different. The success of such ventures could trigger a new wave of books in new and different themes.

Meera has an eye for the offbeat. "Middle-aged Mothers" is about "a new tribe of middle-aged grandmothers in Chennai", who are "in their late forties or early fifties, still full of life, and have a wide range of interests and hobbies to pursue, but no time for them. Their spouses are on the verge of retirement and have hectic post-retirement plans. But for the new breed of `mothers' there is no super-annuation or relaxation, because the life cycle begins all over again, a cycle involving more work and greater responsibility."

Although, women appear a lot more in the book, it's not a book about them. It's also about "elusive grooms", "a choosy beggar" ("He has been a familiar sight in Alwarpet and Mylapore in south Chennai for over five decades, the only difference being that at first, he used to beg for milk to feed his snake, and after his snake's death he begs to feed himself"), multiculturalism, personality training, Akshaya thritiya and a lot more.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Jet Set Go

After a long wait, Jet has launched direct services between Singapore and Chennai. Jet has been operating on the Chennai – KL sector and Mumbai – Singapore sector for sometime now. This will be the fourth airline that offers direct flights between Chennai and Singapore.

When Jet launched their Mumbai – Singapore flight and when Sahara launched Delhi – Singapore flights, they offered promo fares in the range of S$ 550. However Jet’s initial price for the Chennai – Singapore segment has been put at $800 - $850. The fact that they are launching the service during the peak season might be one the reason for the high pricing. Further, Jet plans to offer connecting flights to other Southern metros like Madurai, Coimbatore, Hyderabad, Bangalore etc.

Although Jet’s entry is a welcome move, their timing seems to be inappropriate. The onward flight and the return flight are during the day and hence not many people would prefer the same. However if people are looking for connections to other southern metros (which may not have direct flight to S'pore or may not have daily flight to S'pore), then they might go for Jet. Jet’s move to offer SIN – Delhi flights via Chennai is quite confusing. If a Delhi bound passenger has some work in Chennai, he/she might prefer this (in case a break of journey is allowed). I don’t think anyone would like to spend 10 hours for a journey from Singapore to Delhi. The fare for the SIN-DEL-SIN (via Chennai) doesn’t come cheap (S$1125). I hope Jet tweaks its timings and provides better fares to make a mark in this lucrative segment.

Bloglines playing truant

I’m having an unusually bad time with Bloglines as it is not allowing me to login. Their support system seems to be too bureaucratic (what else can you expect from a free service). My Blog surfing schedule has been thrown out of gear :-(