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Sambhar Mafia - Cooked To Kill!

Friday, April 28, 2006

Can we trust them anymore?

SEBI has clamped down on 24 leading stockbrokers and banks for their involvement in the IPO scam. Two leading broking firms (Indiabulls and Karvy Stock Broking) are the worst affected as they can’t indulge in any form of market activities. Indiabulls and Karvy have been big success stories in recent times. People who have Demat accounts with Karvy have been asked to move their respective demat accounts to some other DP.

Karvy and Indiabulls have enjoyed meteoric rise over the last few years. Indiabulls was very much in the news recently when Lakshmi Mittal bought a stake in the company. Karvy has been dabbling in almost every sphere in the financial markets. Karvy also happens to be India’s biggest Registrar and Transfer (R&T) Agent. They were involved in most of the popular issues including Reliance Petro and Sun TV.

Irrespective of these IPO scams, retail investors continue to invest in the IPO’s hoping to ride the wave. As a result of this scam, the retail investor might not have got the allotment that he/she had hoped for. With the current craze for IPO’s, retail investors would still find it difficult to get an allotment.

Linkworthiness and Overlinking

One wonders whether such articles are written to feed the blogosphere. Lot of bloggers have the habit of linking to offbeat articles. The Pepsi – Condom article was bloggable from the word go. At some point the article becomes an overlinked one. When you read the words Pepsi or Condom in the heading, you know what to expect. A similar thing happened in the case of Kaavya Viswanathan. Although the plagiarism expose was not offbeat, it was big enough to make its way to the Technorati Top 5. Bloggers tried their best to rephrase the book title to reflect the recent news and after the first few days, all possible permutations and combinations had been tried out.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Dilbert: VC Vijay is back

Previous Dilbert comic strips on VC Vijay: 1, 2 & 3.

Get Local

Just happened to receive a comment on my old post related to Community / Neighbourhood newspapers in Chennai and how the biggies are eyeing this space. Vincent D’Souza, editor of some prominent neighbourhood newspapers in Chennai had this to say:

When DNA is setting fire to ToI in Mumbai now after Mid-Day rattled it some years ago, ToI jut could not resist making a hash of its new idea - to run neighbourhood newspapers.

Knowing well ToI's brand of razle-dazzle journalism, it fell flat in its early issue sof the local paper in Anna nagar by snaring in a a well known sporst personality who had nothing to do with Anna Nagar and putting her on the cover!

As far as The Hindu's Down town is concerned, theres little local journalism in it. Downtown was created to tap a local retail market. So many store owners are happy that they get a good deal for their ads. Ask the readers though and they will shove the pullout under their cot!

I don’t get to read Hindu’s Downtown (it’s not available online!) and hence can’t comment on it. The fact that there is not much buzz about ToI’s neighbourhood newspaper also goes to prove that they have not been able to make a dent in this segment.

Radaan to stick to Sun Network….

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

DTH: Will Tata give in to Maran's demands?

In a shocking expose, The New Indian Express has revealed that Dayanidhi Maran has been misusing his official position to coerce the Tata Group to add Sun Network as JV partner in the Tata – Newscorp DTH venture. The DTH space has been hotting up recently and all the major players want a piece of the action. Tata – Newscorp JV seems to be the most aggressive of the lot. It has been reported that Dayanidhi Maran even threatened the Tata Group that he will use his official position to withdraw all the approvals that are supposed to be granted to Tata Telecom.

The Tatas presently hold 80 per cent of the project and Murdoch 20 per cent. The Maran family has acquired a DTH license. But there is a rider to that. Under its terms the Sun TV cannot hold more than 20 per cent like the Star TV cannot hold more than 20 per cent in the Tata Sky project. It has to find a partner for 80 per cent and also investment of thousands of crores!

Since the future belongs to DTH,Sun TV desperately needs to own DTH connectivity. That is why the Maran brothers, both Kalanidhi who runs Sun TV, and Dayanidhi who runs the ministry that is directly involved in DTH business, seem to have got interested in the Tata-Murdoch project.

This website's newspaper inquiries reveal that Kalanidhi Maran telephoned the Tata group chairman Ratan Tata and asked for a meeting. In the meeting he sought 33 per cent share in the Tata-Star DTH project with management rights. He demanded that Sun TV be given the shares at par, regardless of the real value.

This meant he not only wanted partnership but also at a huge concession. He also demanded to be included as promoter along with Tata and Murdoch.

Shocked by the brazen demand, Ratan Tata told him that it was Tatas’ project and they had no intention of parting with it to anyone. It was then that Dayanidhi Maran intervened.

I hope that New Indian Express and the rest of the media will do a follow up on this issue and ensure that such bullying can’t be tolerated. I think the opposition should raise a voice and ensure that Dayanidhi Maran doesn’t handle a ministry, which is even remotely related to his brother’s business.

Update: BJP demands Maran's ouster

Chimp ties the knot?

Doesn’t Nayanthara deserve something better?

TN Polls: Mother of all Promises

An independent candidate in Cuddalore is promising the moon:

Here comes another set of promises. This time it is from an Independent candidate. Free colour cell phones with free connectivity, laptops to computer literates and one lamb to every household. Though sounds attractive, the offer seems practically impossible to implement.

The only thing left is a free iPOD for everyone.

Tom Peters Business Decoder

Tom Peters tries to decode some of the management jargon:

"Work 'smart'" = "I'm too tired to work hard"

"Synergistic acquisition" = "I want to be bigger than him" (CEO v CEO at Fortune-sponsored cocktail parties)

"Brand you" = "You're on your own, dude"

"Diversity" = "Enough non-white guys in group photos to keep the EEOC off our backs"

Blogging = Conversations

The Economist touches upon the history of blogs and discusses their current state in this article:

Conversations have a life of their own. They tend to move in unexpected directions and fluctuate unpredictably in volume. It is these unplanned conversational surges that tend to bring the blogosphere to the attention of the older and wider (non-blogging) public and the mainstream media. Germany, for instance, has been a relatively late adopter of blogging—only 1% of blogs are in German, according to Technorati, compared with 41% in Japanese, 28% in English and 14% in Chinese.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Statutory Warning: Sambhar Mafia is Inflammatory

Chennai Chronicle, the city supplement of Deccan Chronicle has a feature on how bloggers are tracking the TN Polls (Thanks to Vijay Krishna for the tip). This article is quite identical to the earlier DNA article that I had linked to. The only difference in the DC article is a reference to my recent post-titled Going Rates. Divya Subramanian of DC goes on to say that my post was inflammatory. I wonder whether the offensive words used in my blog’s title had anything to do with DC terming my post as inflammatory.

One inflammatory blog posted by a certain Sambhar Mafia - Cooked To Kill!, spoke about the going rates for film stars like Sarath Kumar, Radhika, Simran and Kamal Haasan to campaign for Amma. A certain ‘informed’ blogger claims that Vaiko got Rs 40 crore and the whole Sarath Kumar, Selvi and Thaka Thaka Thaka Thaka Thanga Vettai package was ‘sold’ for Rs 20 crore.

A certain Dreamchaser aka Embezzlers posted some additional details as well, saying “Simran was offered 2 crore initially and was promised 25 lakh for every talk she makes on the stage around Chennai and Tamil Nadu. She recently made one in Tambaram (Chennai), just think about 10 speeches a month, which would fetch her Rs 2.5 crore.”

All I have done is collate rumours that have been doing the rounds in various forms of media (Internet, Junior Vikatan, Kumudham Reporter, Nakheeran etc) and present it as a blog post. This is what those magazines have been doing for a living. Just try to compare the reach of the Tamil investigative magazines and this poor blog. I leave it for you to decide as to which one is more inflammatory.

Update: Dreamchaser has images of the article here.


A court in New York has ruled that an employee caught surfing the web during working hours can’t be fired.

In his decision, Spooner wrote: "It should be observed that the Internet has become the modern equivalent of a telephone or a daily newspaper, providing a combination of communication and information that most employees use as frequently in their personal lives as for their work."

The only difference between the Net and the telephone / newspaper is that Net usage stats can be tracked accurately whereas it might be difficult to track the other two (especially when you are using a personal phone).

Tirupathi Mottai for AVM

Why is Ajith celebrating when the movie is not doing well? It looks like Perarasu is paying some jobless youth to erect cutouts for him.

SUN TV’s Dream Debut

The Sun TV stock got listed today. When the IPO came out, lot of people felt that the issue price of Rs. 875 was on the higher side. With this kind of observation, people would have thought that the stock would list at a moderate premium. No one would have expected the stock to close its first trading day at Rs. 1466, a cool 65% gain over the issue price. At current market prices, Kalanidhi Maran’s net worth from the listed entity is Rs. 9000 crores. (Kalanidhi Maran owns 90% of the company and the remaining 10% is publicly held). Do expect to see Kalanidhi Maran in the Indian Billionaires list next year.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Short-lived Stardom

Desi chick-lit Kaavya Viswanathan has got herself into trouble. I wasn’t following the developments in the last 2 days and hence was not aware of this controversy. The only thing I read about Kaavya recently was her interview that appeared in the Sunday edition of The Hindu and the latest edition of Outlook.

A casual look at my Statcounter revealed that lot of people have landed on my blog by searching for plagiarism charges related to Kaavya. I decided to probe further and came to know about this burning issue. A report in The Harvard Crimson says that some parts of "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life," are strikingly similar to a novel published five years ago. Sepia Mutiny and Dart Blog have detailed analysis of the plagiarism charges. We need to see whether Kaavya’s publisher goes ahead with her second book. I still feel that the movie deal might go through.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Serious Journalism and Circulation Numbers

Sevanti Ninan has some observations about the current media scene:

The Indian Express figures eighth among English newspapers, after a number of regional newspapers which have no pretensions to being national. The Deccan Chronicle, Telegraph, Mid Day, Deccan Herald, regional papers all, have overtaken the Delhi-based Express group in readership. Last year when Hindustan Times and DNA entered the Mumbai market, IE went from being the number two player in the city, to number four.

India Today and Outlook have become predictable and I’m hoping that the slew of magazine launches being planned by the Indian Express group would also include something in the current affairs space.

A cartoonist’s view of the polls

Have a hearty laugh.

Coalition government on the cards

S Anand of Outlook predicts that the keenly contested elections will result in the formation of a coalition government in TN.

The watershed assembly election in Tamil Nadu next month could well mark the beginning of the end of the 30-year monopoly of the two Dravidian parties—the DMK and AIADMK. With neither likely to manage a simple majority (118 in a house of 234), and the election poised to swing either way, it appears that the state could be in for a dose of instability. Despite AIADMK supremo J. Jayalalitha riding a rollback wave after reversing every one of her unpopular policy decisions, the DMK-led front seemed well ensconced till the Dalit Panthers of India and MDMK formed an alliance with the AIADMK in March. The buzz till April was that Amma could come back. However, the DMK manifesto's slew of sops has changed equations. This election will go down to the wire.

A novice DMK Union cabinet minister had a brainwave: an offer of 10 gm gold thali (mangalsutra) to all women entering matrimony. "Women love gold and free thalis will capture their imagination," was the logic. This was jettisoned, and the idea of free colour TVs was born. Rs 2 a kilo rice, two acres of land, free gas stoves, monthly maternity allowance of Rs 1,000 for six months to poor women, Rs 15,000 marriage fund for women etc made for a heady mix in the DMK manifesto. For 15 days, the AIADMK leadership and MDMK leader Vaiko ridiculed Karunanidhi for his "bird-brained, impracticable ideas"; and suddenly Jayalalitha blinked. She decided to offer 10 kg of free rice.

We can expect to see S Anand in Sun TV’s post-election poll analysis as he is a regular there. Do I need to spell out the name of the novice Union Cabinet Minister?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Film Producers vs Cable Channels – The New Twist

After announcing that giving footage, songs and clippings to cable TV channels can eat into the revenue of movies, the TFPC has tied up with Jaya TV to air the songs and clippings. Irrespective of who is in power, the Film Producers need the support of SUN TV to reach out to the audience. SUN TV commands unparalleled reach (their market share in the Tamil Cable TV segment is around 70%) and hence can’t be taken so lightly. SUN TV is facing a temporary setback (A Tamil dubbed version of an English film was featured on the Thirai Vimarsanam programme yesterday), but I’m pretty much sure that SUN TV is going to win this battle. The film fraternity even floated a separate TV channel to battle the onslaught of the cable channels, but their venture didn’t find favour with audience.

The stakes in film production are pretty high. The box office collection in the first 2 – 4 weeks determines the fate of the movie. The TFPC is going to learn a lesson the hard way.

Are Blogs Overhyped?

A recent study in UK says that blogs receive disproportionately higher media coverage than what they are really worth.

Media coverage of blogging has led to increased awareness of the phenomenon among internet users, but this has not yet translated into more people writing or regularly reading blogs, according to new research.

The findings of the British Market Research Bureau's quarterly survey led senior associate director Trevor Vagg to conclude that blogging has received disproportionate media coverage and the whole idea of citizen journalism is overhyped.

If at all somebody needs to take the blame for the excessive media coverage, I think it has to be the media houses themselves. They don’t want to be left behind and they seem to be competing quite actively by asking their staff to start blogs and podcasts. This is being doing in order to send the signal that they are in tune with the times.

Going Rates

Sarath Kumar, Selvi & Thaka Thaka Thaka Thaka GoldHunt Package – 20 crores
Vaiko – 40 crores
Simran – ??
Kamal – 100 crores

Friday, April 21, 2006

To Hell With Dell

Val Willis at Tom Peters Blog writes about an infuriating experience with Dell. The situation in this part of the world is no better. Dell has a plant in Penang and all the shipments have to come out this place. Since I forgot to order the mouse along with my laptop, I had to place a separate order for the mouse. It took about two days for the mouse to reach me.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Feedburner Launches Email Subscriptions

Not everyone is comfortable with using Feedreaders to keep track of blogs and news. Some people rely on bookmarks / delicious / blogroll links and the rest use the plain old method of typing the URL in the address bar. People who have a limited reading list might not have felt the need to graduate to feedreaders. Although email subscription services (like Bloglet) have been around for sometime, not many blogs offered email subscriptions. With Feedburner joining the fray, more people might start offering email subscriptions. Further, some bloggers have the habit of sending the permalink of their latest post to draw the attention of friends and fellow bloggers. Instead of doing so, if they can let others know about the feed subscription option and email subscription option, it might turn out to be a non-intrusive way of making others stay tuned with the latest posts on your blog.

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Indian booksellers are not serious about online sales

Sometime ago, we looked at how the various Indian book-shopping sites stack up. It was quite evident that there were very few serious players. A recent report that I came across further confirms that the booksellers themselves are not gung-ho about their online models. The study says that books constitute 31% of all online shopping. I have my own doubts about this figure.

Chennai-based bookstore, Landmark which set up its virtual bookstore a few years ago is also not too upbeat about the prospects of the venture for the next few years.

Hemu Ramaiah, CEO, said, "It was something we started for a lark, just because we wanted to and not because we expected to make money off it."

The e-tailing business contributed about Rs 31 lakh to the groups total turnover of Rs 100 crore last year. This, despite it offering an impressive 1 million titles (1.1 million to be precise). Earlier, people had their apprehensions about making payments online but that is not the case today.

However, people are still not ordering books online although it is an extremely convenient proposition.

While this could partly be linked to the low level of internet penetration in India, other factor that limits online book shopping is that the people likely to order online are the ones who like going to one of the modern bookstores, for the ambience and experience that comes with buying a book. This, most people believe, is unlikely to change soon.

I can only say that Landmark has not fully realized the potential of the online model. With a strong brand like Landmark, they could have definitely achieved more if they had been a bit more aggressive. With such a low annual sales figure (for Internet sales), I won’t be surprised if Landmark decides to ditch the model and concentrate more on their expansions plans.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Blogging The Polls

DNA has a feature on how the blogosphere is tracking the political developments in the States, which are going for the assembly elections. There have been quite a few blogs which are following the TN elections and most of them find a mention in the article:

Tamil Nadu, however, with a dozen dedicated political blogs like Arasiyal Talk, Therthal 2006 and Idly Vadai easily outnumber blogs from God's Own Country.

Arasiyal Talk has information on candidates and their tall promises, while Therthal 2006, a team effort of ten bloggers, has posts on celebrity campaigners and popular Tamil election songs.

Vijay Krishna and S Eshwar started Chennai-today.blogspot.com in February to capture the essence of the hustings.

Their site lists opinion pieces on seat sharing agreements and involves reader interaction through queries on topics like the outcome of switching parties and fate of newcomers.

Focussing on national political developments, Allaboutpolitics.-blogspot.com pokes fun at the free colour TVs that political parties are dangling in front of voters in Tamil Nadu.

Serving up piping hot political news, Idlyvadai.blogspot.com and Hotmachihot.blogspot.com gives information on the latest deserters, newcomers and campaigning gaffes like the politician who used Hindi handbills to campaign in Tamil Nadu.

Getting Paid for Blog Content

These models might still be at the infancy stage, but we might see the emergence of a site/blog which relies wholly on user generated content and attracts a dedicated audience. The sites could have the potential of sharing some of their revenues with the users. My understanding is that Metroblogging has plans to work on a revenue share model with its contributors as and when they turn profitable.

TN Elections: Opinionated Opinion Polls?

There is no scarcity of opinion polls during the election season. Once the election results come out, the people who came out with the closest prediction claim victory. This is somewhat similar to astrologers claiming that they had predicted a tragedy / natural calamity.

After Kumudham and CNN-IBN, it is Thuglaq’s turn to throw its hat in the ring. The earlier CNN-IBN poll was non-committal on the number of seats and had just come out with the analysis on the vote share of the various parties. The Thuglaq opinion poll predicts that the ruling ADMK will bag 60% of the seats. Finer details about the methodology and the sample size has not been revealed. They have just said that they managed to cover 100 constituencies. One doesn’t know the number of constituencies covered in Northern and Southern parts of TN. Anyway, Cho has been backing Amma for sometime now and the opposition might cry foul about the neutrality of the poll.

While you are at it, do read the field report from the Rediff Reporter.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Fasten your seat belts....

....coz the pilot is on a high!

TN Polls: A War Over Rice

After terming that the DMK’s move to offer rice at Rs. 2 / Kg as a populist measure and not feasible, Amma has joined the ring by offering rice at Rs. 1.75 per kg. Captain Vijayakanth might have anticipated all this and that’s why he has offered 15 Kgs of rice at no cost. If anybody wants to beat that, they need to offer cash to the ration cardholder for receiving the free rice.

Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Monday promised to provide 10 kg of free rice every month to each ration cardholder, if elected to power.

Cardholders would be entitled to free rice, if they buy 10 kg at Rs. 3.50 a kg, she said here. At present, there were 1.88 crore cardholders in the State of which her government issued 32 lakh cards to poor people during her tenure.

At present, 20 kg of rice was being supplied to each cardholder at Rs.3.50 a kg. In future, they could buy 10 kg at Rs.3.50 a kg and get 10 kg free.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Made in Chennai

What’s common to Hyundai, Nokia, BMW, GM, Ford, Saint Gobain and Victoria’s Secret?

In a gold rush that evokes the start of China's factory boom, multinationals like Bayerische Motoren Werke, General Motors and Intel are locking down real estate in Tamil Nadu, as are scores of little-known companies from South Korea to Italy. Outside Madras, also known as Chennai, barren grazing land that cost $1,000 an acre, or $2,500 a hectare, 20 years ago sells for up to 65 times as much today.

Cover your tattoos....

.....before you shift loyalties in politics :-) (via email from Sriram Sankaran)

Somebody Stop Perarasu.....

....coz I don't want him to write lyrics for a Kamal movie. BTW, would he name the movie as Paramakudi or Alwarpet?

Sarath & Co join ADMK Camp

Get ready to see Selvi and Thangavettai in Jaya TV as Sarath Kumar and Radhika have shifted base to the ADMK camp. This was very much on expected lines. Since Sarath has joined ADMK after the constituency allocation and candidate announcement, he might not be able to stand on behalf of ADMK for the Assembly elections. He might be looking at making it to Rajya Sabha once again.

Big Daddy of the Blogosphere

Sydney Morning Herald has a piece on the reach and impact of Boing Boing:

But the six-year-old "directory of wonderful things" attracts more than 1.7 million readers a day, and that is the kind of following that can give a website serious clout.

"Blogs have a different way of writing news and breaking news," says the site's co-editor, Cory Doctorow, who is in Australia on a lecture tour. "Newspapers can't go to print saying 'we've heard something but we're not too sure'. With blogs, this is not only possible but desirable. You say: 'I've noticed something, what do you think?' People add to the story, you update it."

"The greatest threat to an artist is obscurity, not piracy," says Doctorow, who has released three other novels on the internet. "All the people out there who didn't buy my books mainly did so because they hadn't heard of me, not because they could get it for free.

A B(l)ooming Business

Newsweek reports on the current trend of foreign tourists flocking to India for fertility related issues. Availability of doctors who are fluent in English has been cited as one of the reasons in India’s favour. I’m sure the cost advantages and the successful track record would also be equally important factors in promoting India as a reliable destination for Fertility Tourism.

Techie Diet And The Problems Associated With It

Business Line throws some light on the food habits of IT professionals. Since the study doesn't reveal data about the trend among groups such as single and married IT professionals, it may not be right to conclude that the diet mentioned in the article is largely restricted to single IT professionals.

A lifestyle study of the country's tech pool workers reveals some astonishing stats: Only about 5 per cent of IT employees eat well-balanced meals and only about 30 per cent of them stretch their muscles regularly.

For most techies, the `health meal' at the office cafeteria has become an indulgence and that too just twice a week. The rest of the days, it's platefuls of high-calorie and low-fibre food. "This means traditional Indian rice-sambar-roti becomes an alternative. And food oozing with calories, the staple diet."

TN Polls: Film world at the mercy of politicians

T R Jawahar of News Today talks about the interlinkages between Film world, media and politics in this insightful article:

Poll time is the season to call those favours. But this election, if filmi grapevine, is to be believed, the pressure on filmstars to perform on political stages has been immense. Parties are in a frantic bid to grab any filmiface, be it a screen sensation or a sloppy sidekick. For many, it has come as a blessing because they get paid for the meetings that they address. But even reluctant artistes, the middle level ones primarily, it is learnt, are being bullied into political roles. The threats often come from film financiers, who in turn are benamis for political masters. The unseemly behind-the-scene manipulations are playing havoc with filmdom's fragile relationships. The sad reality is that just two of their fraternity are in the fray; the rest are just use & throw showpieces, parroting scripts here too. Ironically, the leader of Nadigar Sangham and the latest political adventurer from filmdom has not a single filmi name on his political rolls. The Captain's natural army appears to have deserted him.

Friday, April 14, 2006

ToI Plagiarizes Again

Sometime ago, I had linked to a USA Today article (originally published in the Christian Science Monitor) on making money through Google Adsense. ToI has published a refurbished version of the same and has got some facts wrong.

Here is what the USA Today article said:

Jayant Kumar Gandhi, a former software engineer in New Delhi, is one of hundreds of thousands around the world on Google's shadow payroll.

In his spare time, Mr. Gandhi runs a free computer help website and recently began running ads by Google on his homepage as part of Google Adsense, a program that pays website publishers for advertising space. When visitors click on the ads on Gandhi's site, Google makes a small profit from the advertiser, and in turn, pays a percentage of that profit to Gandhi.

Deepesh Agarwal, who runs a small cybercafe in Rajasthan state, India, draws about 90% of his income, or $1,500 a month, from his Adsense earnings. It is a princely sum in a state where the average income is just $300 a year.

Let’s compare this with the ToI article:

Popular belief says metros are the only place to be to make money, but Deepesh Agarwal, thinks otherwise. Agarwal is the owner of a tiny cyber café in Mount Abu. Mount Abu is not a particularly affluent city—the average earning of the residents here is only about $300 (approx Rs 13,500) a year.

But Agarwal’s monthly earnings match those of white collared executives in the metros—he makes a whopping packet of about $1,500 (approx Rs 67,500) a month. How? In his spare time, Agarwal runs a free software download web site that runs ads by Google Adsense on his homepage. Google Adsense is a program that pays website owners for advertising space. When visitors click on the ads on Agarwal’s website, Google makes profit from the advertisers and in turn, pays a percentage of that profit to people like Agarwal.

ToI has picked the facts related to Mr. Gandhi and mentioned it as stuff related to Mr. Agarwal. The text highlighted in bold is the actual content that has been copied verbatim. Since ToI has not acknowledged the source as USA Today or CSM, I guess we can conclude that this tantamounts to plagiarism.

Women March Ahead

This Economist article shows how the world’s economic power is shifting in favour of women:

The increase in female employment in developed countries has been aided by a big shift in the type of jobs on offer. Manufacturing work, traditionally a male preserve, has declined, while jobs in services have expanded. This has reduced the demand for manual labour and put the sexes on a more equal footing.

Of course, it is misleading to talk of women's “entry” into the workforce. Besides formal employment, women have always worked in the home, looking after children, cleaning or cooking, but because this is unpaid, it is not counted in the official statistics. To some extent, the increase in female paid employment has meant fewer hours of unpaid housework. However, the value of housework has fallen by much less than the time spent on it, because of the increased productivity afforded by dishwashers, washing machines and so forth. Paid nannies and cleaners employed by working women now also do some work that used to belong in the non-market economy.

Nevertheless, most working women are still responsible for the bulk of chores in their homes. In developed economies, women produce just under 40% of official GDP. But if the worth of housework is added (valuing the hours worked at the average wage rates of a home help or a nanny) then women probably produce slightly more than half of total output.

Yuvan On A Roll

Like most others, I am not a great fan of Yuvan’s singing (especially the slow songs where the gaps are more pronounced) and his imperfect pronounciation. Inspite of all this, I really enjoy Yuvan’s music as he seems to be creating a new breed of music. Be it rap or soothing melodies, Yuvan isn’t the one who is shy of experimenting. Most of his recent albums have something to offer.

Vidyasagar and Bharadwaj are becoming predictable and might slowly fade away if they continue with the formula music of kuthu songs and hero intro songs. That leaves us with ARR, Harris and Yuvan as the Top 3. ARR and Harris Jeyaraj are extremely selective about the projects they choose and we would be lucky we get to hear more than 4/5 albums in a year. In sharp contrast, Yuvan seems to be coming out with one music album almost every 2/3 weeks. Among the newcomers, I have high hopes on Vijay Antony.

Yuvan Shankar Raja has evolved as the hottest music director of Kollywood who has the eyes and ears of Generation Next. A large chunk of music listeners (nearly 85 per cent according to audio industry estimates) comprises the under-25 crowd, which listens to music on IPod, FM radio, television, at pubs and parties. This crowd likes new sounds and is ready for something innovative.

A popular countdown show on an FM channel recently featured at Number 3 the song "Taj Mahal... " from `Kalvanin Kadhali', "Poga..Poga... " from `Pattiyal' at Number 2 and at the top position was "Enga Yeriya... " from `Puthupettai.' All three numbers have music by Yuvan Shankar Raja.

DMK Embraces Hindi

TN Polls: The Countdown Begins

CNN-IBN has come out with the results of the pre-poll survey that it conducted in collaboration with The Hindu. They feel that it could be anybody's game. There is no clear winner as yet. I’m not sure whether the impact of the poll promises of the various parties has really been considered in the voters’ responses. IMHO, the battle is far from over. We still have about 3 weeks left.

According to the survey, the AIADMK will get a 46 per cent share of the votes and the DMK 44 per cent. Actor-politician Vijaykanth’s party, the DMDK, is projected to get 5 per cent of the votes. Such a close fight means that later the field could be open for small groups during government formation.

Even poll pundits won’t risk predicting the exact number of seats the AIADMK and the DMK will win, but both parties might get almost an equal number of seats.

A certain Tamil magazine had come out with its pre-poll survey indicating a vote share of 50% of ADMK combine, 40% for DMK combine and 10% for DMDK combine. I don’t know whether there was truth in that survey, but the CNN-IBN estimation looks more realistic.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Best Job in Amreeka....

....and the winner is

IndiaTimes Wakes Up

IndiaTimes (mainly ToI and ET) was receiving lot of flak not just for the type of content but also the layout. As we all know, their stories ran into few pages making it a pain for all of us to navigate from one page to the other. It looks like they realized the mistake and have decided to offer all their articles in a single-page format. IBN Live lets the readers to choose between the single-page format and the multi-page format.

Simran: From item numbers to poll arithmetics

Simran’s dialogue delivery skills would be put to test, as she can’t do a retake in the poll campaign. As expected, there would be more focus on Simran’s attire during the current campaign.

Simran along with the other film artistes stood in a line and waved at the crowd. The massive crowd went mad, shouting, shrieking and jumping up and down on the plastic chairs. Simran, clad in jeans, light kurta and a bandhini duppatta looked beautiful and charming. She looked more scholarly in spectacles than a glamorous film star.

They kept a mike at the centre of the stage so that all could see Simran well. As an afterthought, a stool was brought for her to stand on. Simran stood really tall on it, and first made the victory sign which is also the symbol of Iratta Ilai. The crowd went berserk making the sign back at her and shouting and screaming.

From a piece of paper, Simran read, "Namma chinnam Iratta Ilai. (Our symbol, two leaves). The crowd repeated after her. "Amma namma leader." The crowd cheered loudly. "Ammakku vote pottal, nalla roads, no rowdism, no water problem," she said. Once again, she said, "Namma chinnam?" The crowd answered, "Iratta Ilai."

I wonder whether Amma has gifted the following book to Simran.

BTW, Amma’s friend Badar Sayeed (ADMK candidate for the Triplicane constituency) might also need a copy of this book.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Bloglines Down Down!

This might sound like a communist statement but that reflects the real state of affairs. Expressing dissent comes naturally to bloggers and the current Bloglines outage is no different.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Join Me on Isolatr

Dear Blog Reader,

I'd like to recommend you to my other professional contacts, so here's an invitation to join my network on ISOLATR. It's an easy way to keep in touch with colleagues. It's free to join and takes less than a minute to accept my invitation. I hope you'll join me.

- Kaps

Every other day you get a mail like this asking you to join a service which serves as your online address book / contact list / networking service / birthday reminder etc. Although this might be a good way to stay in touch, the problem is that each one uses an altogether different service and hence you need to be part of multiple services (like Linked In, Names Database etc) to stay in touch. So far, I haven’t really registered with any of them. We have multiple Instant Messaging services (Yahoo, MSN etc) today and some IM services allow you to access multiple IM’s like Yahoo, MSN through a single login. I guess a similar consolidated service might be the way forward for online address book / networking sites. Till then I’ll have to use Isolatr :-) (via)

Monday, April 10, 2006

Sarath Kumar walks out of DMK

As expected, Sarath Kumar has quit DMK. Radhika's Radaan Mediaworks is heavily dependent on SUN Network for its revenues. It remains to be seen whether SUN Network will continue to offer prime time slots to Radaan.

Red Cards in Kollywood

Only very few films have done well in Kollywood this year and the Tamil Film Producer’s Council (TFPC) is hell bent on going ahead with its policy of not giving film clippings, songs etc to TV channels. IMHO, giving select clippings and songs to the TV channels would actually work to the benefit of the film industry as people generally form opinions based on some of the clippings / songs. This could actually work as a free advertisement for the film. In the absence of this, people would be more happy sitting at home and watching the mega-serials. I don’t think the entire success of Pattiyal can be attributed to the fact that no clippings were provided to the TV channels. Pattiyal would have become a hit anyway. The TFPC has also gone ahead and imposed on a ban on film personalities giving interviews to TV Channels. This is really really bizarre. I don’t know how this would affect the prospects of a particular film. The film stars continue to give interviews to Tamil newspapers and magazines. So, imposing a ban on interviews to one particular form of media (TV in this case) is a stupid move. Hope this gets sorted out at the earliest.

More shocking is that none of the channels will have the regular interviews with stars and previews of new releases for the Tamil New Year Day special. The stars have been told by the TFPC that a red card will be issued to them if they give exclusives or interviews to channels. According to industry sources, the imbroglio will be sorted out only after the Assembly elections.

FMCG's Fast Mover

C K Ranganathan, CEO of CavinKare is somebody who changed the rules of the FMCG game. Rags-to-riches might be an overused term, but it would be the right way to describe C K Ranganathan. He is widely regarded as the man behind the sachet revolution. The FMCG business is becoming increasingly complicated with the biggie HLL competing with regional players in various parts of India. HLL battles it out with CavinKare in most of the Southern markets. CavinKare has registered tremendous growth and has ambitious plans to expand its product portfolio. CavinKare acquired Ruchi Food Products (known more for their pickles!) about two years ago and is currently making a foray into international markets. Sushila Ravindranath of New Sunday Express caught up with C K Ranganathan recently:

He would never admit to it, but his company was obviously cocking a snook at Lever when it changed its name from Beauty Cosmetics to CavinKare ( CK).

The folks at Calvin Klein, a Unilever brand, were surely not amused. In an earlier interview Ranganathan has said the similarity to the original CK was coincidental though not entirely unwelcome. Says he: “It is a tribute to my father Chinni Krishnan. Also, Cavin in ancient Tamil means beauty and grace. Actually we had a contest in the organisation for new names. The winner came up with this.”

Snippet: Just about a year ago, I happened to see CK Ranganathan at the Lifestyle outlet in Chennai. Lifestyle was running a sale and CKR had come with his family for some good bargains. Although there was quite a bit of crowd, nobody really noticed that a CEO of a Rs. 500 crore company was in their midst.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

BBC Launches Blog Network Portal

BBC has consolidated all its blogs under one umbrella. The site is far from being called complete, but knowing BBC they will be able to ramp up faster than expected. Ben Metcalfe has more here.

Polite Police

Let's see how long this is going to last.


It is not so often that we get to read an interview with Azim Premji. From what I know, Premji clarifies with the journalist whether the interview is going to deal with Wipro or his personal life and wealth before he gives an appointment for the interview. He seldom gives an appointment if the journalist is more keen on probing about Premji’s wealth. Knowledge@Wharton brings you the first part of the interview with Azim Premji (via). Some of the questions are related to the transformation after the exit of Vivek Paul.

While you are at it, do read the recent IBN Live interview with N R Narayanamurthy:

Anuradha SenGupta: Corporate leaders writing books have been more like a norm. Have you ever considered writing yourself?
N R Narayana Murthy: I have received many offers and many famous authors and agents have approached us at Infosys. But we have declined the offers. All of us are very reticent about talking about ourselves -- in other words, talking about Infosys in personal terms.

Shreya Ghoshal live in Singapore

Shreya Ghoshal is one singer who stands out among the current crop of singers. Her songs in Devdas, Parineeta and Jism were chart toppers. She has managed to carve a name for herself in the Tamil music scene as well. IMHO, her Tamil diction is much better than some of the other non-Tamil singers in Kollywood (I remember that she goofed up little bit during Ilayaraja’s concert). Although Shreya has sung for many Tamil music directors, most of her gems happen to be in the music of Ilayaraja and Yuvan Shankar Raja. She was outstanding in Enakku Piditha Paadal (Julie Ganapathy). She also made a mark in songs like Dhavani Potta Deepavali (Sandaikozhi), Saamikitte (Daas), Pani Thuli (Kanda Naal Mudhal) & Khajuraho (Oru Naal Oru Kanavu).

Shreya Ghoshal will be performing at the Esplanade Concert Hall in Singapore on 23rd April. Since the Tamil music directors might not be keen on bringing Shreya for their concerts in Singapore, this “Bollywood Melodies” concert seems to be the only option for me to catch her live. Go grab your tickets!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Linkin Park: The Media Edition

Rediff Citizen Reporter
On the lines of CNN-IBN’s Citizen Journalist initiative, Rediff is encouraging readers to send in their reports about the forthcoming state elections. Some of you might remember that a student of Sathyabama Engg College had sent some pictures to CNN-IBN during the recent controversy.

New Indian Express E-paper
Chennai-based New Indian Express now offers its paper in the E-paper version. I hope these guys do away with the crappy free registration thingie.

Readers’ Editor or Fact Checker?
The Hindu’s Readers’ Editor has been around for a month now and I don’t see a big impact so far. All I can see is the daily "Corrections and Clarifications" that is being published. Do they really need a Readers’ Editor to handle this role? Doesn’t a newspaper need to perform this anyway? In the absence of a Readers’ Editor, somebody else working for the newspaper might have ended up doing this role.

DNA Blogs Page
In case you are not aware, DNA has a Blogs page which links to blog posts on a daily basis. They have a specific topic everyday and some selected blog posts related to the topic are featured under the Blogs section.

Nexus between intelligent readership and astrology
Does having an astrology column mean that the newspaper is not commited to intelligent readers?

The Unofficial Placement Report

As expected, ET has managed to find out the profiles of the ISB students who have bagged the top offers. ET also reports that ITC Infotech is the recruiter behind the top dollar salary.

Guess Who?

A prominent TN politician in a recent interview:

Q: Do you have plans of writing an autobiography capturing your achievements and the troubles you had to go through?
A: Those who create history don’t have the time to write about it.

I’ll let you decide whether it is a fair statement.

Update: Hot Machi Hot has a post about the tone of the Kumudham interview.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Sulekha on a spamming spree

If you are a blogger with some amount of readership you would have definitely received emails and comments from Sulekha Blogs Team asking you to create a parallel domain in Sulekha. If they had done it once, I would have not really got upset. I have received 2/3 comments and 1 email from them. I hope my crib reaches the right people.

Update: Chenthil has a related rant. Chandru, Prabhu, Witchu and Krithiga have also joined the campaign. Anti is providing outside support.

Multiplex Ticket @ Rs. 40

You need to be in Ghaziabad to enjoy this special price. Something tells me that the multiplex will make up for this low price by overpricing the food and beverages.

How Kaavya Viswanathan Got Rich?

I don’t know what the record is for the highest advance received by an Indian author, but the $500K advance received by 19-year-old Kaavya Viswanathan should be right there at the top. Kaavya’s book hit the stands recently and is already receiving some good reviews. The book is about to be made into a movie as well. New York Times has an article about Kaavya, where the young author clarifies that the story is not based on her real life experience.

Ms. Viswanathan was born in Chennai (formerly Madras) in India and spent her early childhood in Britain. She and her parents, Mary Sundaram, a physician who gave up practicing to raise her daughter, and Viswanathan Rajaraman, a brain surgeon, moved to the United States when Ms. Viswanathan was in middle school. (As is sometimes customary among South Indians, Ms. Viswanathan took her father's first name as her last name.)

Sitting in a restaurant in Harvard Square, Ms. Viswanathan, small, with almond-shaped eyes and glistening shoulder-length black hair, wanted to make it clear that she was not Opal, and that despite the novel's details about upper-class suburban Indian immigrant life — the near-identical center hall colonials, the elaborate parties to celebrate the Hindu festival of Divali, the shifts in conversation between Hindi and English — the Harvard-mad parents in the book are not her parents.

"They've always been very good about not putting pressure on me," she said of her mother and father. "I mean, I adore them."

With such a good beginning, one would expect Kaavya to pursue a writing career, but she seems to be focused on making even more money by making it to Wall Street.

Ms. Viswanathan, who said she planned to become an investment banker after college, finished writing "Opal" during her freshman year, in Lamont Library at Harvard, while taking a full course load.

The Indian Edition of the book retails at Rs. 250.

Update: IBN Live has an interview with Kaavya.

DMK’s Colour TV Economics

The Hindu has some gyaan on how the DMK intends to provide Colour TV’s:

Explaining how the DMK would implement the scheme if it came to power, he said there was a total of 156 lakh families in the State. Of this, 53 lakh were below the poverty line. At Rs.2,000 a television set, and assuming that all those under the poverty line needed to be given one, this scheme would cost only Rs.1,060 crore. If the DMK came to power, it would implement the programme over two years. The Government needed to spend Rs.530 crore a year.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Predictable cover pages and skyrocketing salaries

I’m unable to remember how the cover page of an Indian Business Daily looks like. All through the months of Feb and March, the Sensex and the MBA salaries have grabbed the headline for having breached one record after another. Once these two issues die down, I’m sure the business media is going to have a serious drought in the items that can be featured in the cover page. Here is the headline for tomorrow:

Close on the heels of Indian Institute of Management graduates getting record salary deals, the Hyderabad-based Indian School of Business on Wednesday reported the highest international annual package of $233,800 (Rs 1.04 crore) for one of its students.

The ISB set a record with placements touching new highs for the Class of 2006. Four of its graduates have bagged offers that have broken the $200,000 mark.

"Surprisingly, the highest international salary has been offered by an Indian technology company," ISB Deputy Dean Ajit Rangnekar said. He, however, declined to divulge the name of both the company and the student who has bagged the deal.

The average international salary for ISB students stood at Rs 53.5 lakh (Rs 5.35 million), up 21 per cent over 2005, while the average Indian salary was Rs 11.77 lakh (Rs 1.177 million), 18 per cent more than last year.

"The highest Indian salary of Rs 30.33 lakh (Rs 3.033 million), came from the Indian company HiTech," Rangnekar said.

IBN Live has already announced that this would be the topic of discussion in Face The Nation at 10 pm tonight. ISB has been careful enough not to reveal the identity of the student or the recruiter. For a change, an Indian tech company seems to have bagged the title of the highest paying recruiter for an international posting. There are a handful of Indian companies who can throw this kind of money. I’m sure the prying media will come out with more details pretty soon.

BTW, have any of you heard about this company called HiTech?

A Tale of two Indias

BSNL may claim that it is One India, but Randeep Ramesh doesn’t think so:

Aamby Valley offers Indians a way to buy their way out of the state: a couple of acres costs 70m rupees (£900,000). In British terms it may not sound like a fortune, but the price of the cheapest wooden two-bedroom chalet is 15m rupees (£190,000) - 90 times the average Indian family's annual income. This alone will ensure that flourishing India is kept well apart from the unwashed masses.

All this points to a deeper trend: a swelling class of people with a deep mistrust of government who dream of creating an Indian Shangri-la. The new wealthy in India are quietly abandoning the state: paying for their own private police force and playing golf at private clubs. There appears to be little concern about supporting public services or about the poor who are stuck with decrepit hospitals and schools. This kind of institutional inequality has its roots in the caste system, India's social hierarchy, but it will soon be criss-crossed by another set of divisions that will see older cities becoming dumped with an Indian underclass.

Against All Odds

One of the easiest ways to get noticed is to contest the elections against a well-known politician. The leading politicians always pick the safest seats to avoid any embarassing defeats and hence the people contesting against them should be commended for entering the battle inspite of knowing that they have very little chance of victory. DMK’s P Seeman is contesting against Jayalalitha in the Andipatti assembly constituency. Seeman is claiming that he has lot of local patronage. This statement of his is one of the funniest that I have read in recent times:

"I have about 25,000 relatives and friends in Andipatti who will vote for me. I will plead with my vast number of relatives to canvass for me," the 50-year old candidate told reporters Monday.

I wonder how many people would have attended Seeman’s family weddings / functions.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Recipe for success in the blog world

Derek Gehl of Enterpreneur.com has some tips:

1. Great content
2. Regular Updates
3. Distinct personal voice

Needless to say that regular updates can’t be a substitute for good content.

Monday, April 03, 2006

NYT Online's New Look

NYT Online has unveiled its new look. Some of the features include most emailed articles and most blogged articles.

Let's Go Book Shopping

I spent some time doing book shopping on the net (Indian sites only) and have used the experience to present a comparative study of the various Indian book-shopping sites. The following are the sites in my order of preference:

1. Prakash Books – Offers 21.50% discount on all the books. The range of books is not exhaustive, but they carry most of the popular titles. The site layout is not all that great, but that should not bother you much as you get a good deal. These guys have been around for a long time, but they don’t advertise much and hence not many people are aware that they have an Internet shopping site. Their customer service is very poor. Based on my experience, I can say that they don’t send out email alerts when your order is shipped out. They don’t even respond promptly to your queries.

Shipping Charges: Rs. 36 for the first book and Rs. 26 for every additional book.

2. Indiatimes – Offers quite competitive pricing and free shipping. Once you add in the delivery charges, there should not be much of a price difference between Prakash Books and Indiatimes. Definitely worth a try. If you become a member of the Indiatimes Book Club (there is a joining fee!), the price of the book drops further.

Shipping Charges: Indiatimes offers free shipping (shipping costs might be built into the product price itself).

3. Fabmall – Offers a wide variety of titles. Pricing may not be as good as Indiatimes and Prakash Books. Their site layout is good, helps you find your book easily.

Shipping Charges: Fabmall charges Rs. 25 per book.

4. Landmark on the Net – Probably the only Indian retail bookstore, which is into online and offline models (Prakash Books is not exactly a new format retailer and hence have excluded them for this purpose). The conflict between the online and offline pricing would mean that the online model doesn’t dole out lot of discounts. Since they have a physical bookstore, the range is quite big. Landmark offers its books under the banner of SifyMall.

Shipping Charges: Shipping charges are calculated at the time of check out.

5. Rediff – Prices are quite high. I don’t think they are serious about etailing of books.

Other Players:
Firstandsecond, Gobookshopping – Although players like Firstandsecond started off with a bang, they seem to have lost track along the way. Most of the books are sold at retail prices and hence there is no compelling reason to buy from them. Apart from this, one could also explore Ebay.in for purchase of new books and second hand books. For a book like Two Lives (priced around Rs. 550 in Ebay), I found that the shipping charge was Rs. 60. I think such high shipping charges (Rs. 60 in Ebay Vs Rs. 25 - 35 charged by other sites) could be a potential hindrance to the growth of the Ebay model.

Other Issues:
Avaibility of Cash on Delivery facility: I think sites like Fabmall do offer that, but Prakash Books is not offering the same. This could help in wooing customers who are not comfortable in disclosing their credit card number over the Internet.

International Delivery Option and Applicable Shipping Charges: I think Rediff has a option of shipping to the US, not sure of the others though. The exorbitant international shipping charges would often mean the price of the book is lower than what you pay for the shipping.

I would be happy to hear from people who have bought from the above sites. It would actually help in confirming / refining some of the above observations.

Sun TV plans to go pay in India

Sun TV’s book-building issue opened today. The stocks are being issued at a very high premium. It has come to light that Sun TV plans to turn into a pay channel in India and might charge Rs. 15 – 20 per household. I haven’t heard of any success stories of Tamil channels turning pay. Since the Sun Network owns cable distributor SCV, they might just be able to force the people to pay this price.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

India Today to join the print party

Just when you thought that new newspaper launches have reduced, India Today Group is said to be firming up plans for a brand new morning newspaper. Full details about the tentative name and the pricing are not yet known.

Some of you might remember that Living Media (which runs India Today) had launched Newspaper Today (India’s first e-newspaper) during the dot com boom. Newspaper Today started off as a free newspaper and claimed that it is updated every minute of the day. Very soon they realized that going pay is the only way to stay in business. Given that most of the content on the internet is free, the paysite didn’t receive a good response and Newspaper Today had to close shop. India Today Group would be hoping for a different ending this time.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Laloo's Pan....

....is Anbumani's pain

ISB Joins The Crorepati Game

ISB hasn’t come out with its placement report, but Economic Times quotes some unconfirmed sources to say that ISB grads might come out on top in the dollar game being played by the media:

The B-school moolah has hit a new high this year. Five students of Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad have been offered a staggering $2,00,000 plus pay package.

That’s a salary of close to Rs 1 crore from the word go, and this is just the floor level as the actual figure is not known and could be much higher.

ISB student Bharani doubts the authenticity of this news.