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Sambhar Mafia - Cooked To Kill!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Dilbert on Outsourcing to India

Hiring The Wrong ‘Guy’

BBC made the mistake of featuring Guy Goma instead of the IT expert and openly acknowledged that they have committed a mistake. I think the matter should end there. It appears that Guy Goma interviewed with BBC for the Data Support Cleanser position and BBC has decided against hiring him. Some people have created an online petition demanding that the BBC should offer a job to Guy Goma. I don’t see a reason why BBC should give in to this demand.

Guy Goma now has his own website. His email ID (thewrongguy@guygoma.com) is quite cool.

Ravana at the helm

"I am not a Pathu Thalai Ravanan, (ten-headed demon king Ravanan in Ramayan), but a pattruthal ulla Ravanan (affectionate Ravanan)," Chief Minister Karunanidhi said today.

Taking a dig at AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa for her remarks that DMK was her eternal enemy and the just concluded Assembly polls would be the last election for him, Karunanidhi told the state Assembly "I was described as a Ravanan. Yes. I am Ravanan, not the ten-headed Ravanan, but one who has affection for the people of the state," he said.

Will the affectionate Ravana start showing Ramayana in Sun TV so that the people can watch it on their newly acquired 14-inch colour TVs? I’m sure people would be disappointed after hearing that the TV is going to be just 14 inches. If the DMK was smart enough, they could have even bought second hand TVs and delivered it to the TN voters. Next you might hear that the TV doesn’t have any remote and will not come with a warranty.

Tennis: Doing Away With Tiebreaks

Not all tennis matches go on till the last set and not all deciders go on till the tiebreak. Some of the tournaments (the French Open is one) have done away with the tiebreak and the winner is decided based on a 2 game margin in the final set. Knowing the energy levels of some of the players, we could very well end up seeing epic matches like the scores mentioned below:

No. 26-seeded Jose Acasuso and No. 32 Nicolas Massu won five-setters. Acasuso edged Fabrice Santoro 6-3, 6-1, 3-6, 1-6, 11-9 in a match suspended in the final set on Sunday because of darkness. Massu outlasted Xavier Malisse 6-1, 7-5, 1-6, 4-6, 9-7.

I thought that it might be beneficial to the tournament organizer and the player(s) if the match is decided using a tiebreak. Like the penalty shoot-out in football, the tiebreak in tennis provides a verdict in the shortest possible time. By doing so, the players need not burn out during the prelim stages of a tournament. They could save their best for the final stages of the tournament. It is better if this rule is applied from the quarter-final or the semi-final stage as the stakes are pretty high. If you look at the first match mentioned above, a total of 52 games have been played in a first round match. I thought there would be some compelling reason behind this rule and got hold of a Columbia University research paper (in PDF form) which concludes that the tiebreak is generally beneficial for the less consistent player.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Asking For Trouble

Washer / dryer manufacturers might need to add some more disclaimers and warnings in their future booklets after reading about this incident.

Tamil on Google Current

A recent episode of Google Current featured the word “Tamil”. Among other things, the stuff that made it to the show includes TamilMatrimony.com (Mr. Ashok should be getting lot of responses now :-)), Galatta.com, Indiaglitz.com and Imsai Arasan 23am Pulikesi Trailer. (via The blogger formerly known as Anti)

Monday, May 29, 2006

What’s in a name?

IT major Infosys is trying to restrain other companies from using the term Infosys as part of their company name. This move is to prevent the other companies (some of them are dubious!) from enjoying the goodwill that the Infosys brand enjoys.

Definitely having `Infosys’ as part of a company’s name will have a positive rub-off effect. Small wonder that over a dozen companies have ‘Infosys’ as part of their identity. But the Bangalore-based IT major is not taking kindly to this. Infosys has identified such companies and is seeking legal action against them.

Back in the 90s, lot of companies went in for such name change so that they mislead the investors and get huge oversubscription during the IPO. The term Infosys is nothing unique as it is the combination of two words associated with the IT field. Other terms like InfoTech and InfoComm also fall under the same category. We already have a company by name Infotech Enterprises Limited (IEL). If IEL becomes a multi-billion dollar company like Infosys, we might see IEL doing the same thing. If this happens, people who want to make genuine use of such names to indicate the nature of the business might be running out of choices.

Sticking to the topic of brand names, we have a case of the same name being used for a premium car and an entry-level watch. I wonder whether Hyundai has raised any issue with Titan for the use of the ‘Sonata’ name for Titan’s watch range.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

ToI & Amity: Partners in Crime

Peter Foster of The Telegraph has some observations about the journalistic standards of ToI. He spots an Amity ad, which resembles any other ToI article.

Under a news story about Board Examination results is a ‘story’ headlined “Rush for Amity University Forms shows preference for professional degrees”. The story has a byline and is a font identical to all the other stories on the same page.

As I read the ‘story’ I couldn’t understand why the journalist was producing such a shameless puff/advert for the Amity University brand. No other University was given so much of a mention to justify this apparent trend.

However it was only right at the end that I understood what was going on when the last word was, in small print, ‘Advt’.

Be it TV or print, Amity has been making a conscious attempt to make their ads look like the regular content of the TV / newspaper. Amity also seems to be influencing the shooting locations of CNN-IBN (via):

Amity School has been advertising furiously on all channels but perhaps more so on CNN-IBN and maybe there is a bit of quid pro quo going on here. A debate on the issue of reservations was conducted by the channel on the school's NOIDA premises with considerable airtime being given to the principal of Amity School.

I think Amity can make more money if they offer a course called Masters in Media Management. You are atleast assured of a job in Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd or TV18 :-)

Your Hangover.....

.......could have an impact on Bangalore Inc.'s turnover

Sivaji: More Leaks & Headaches

Given Shankar’s strategy of keeping everything hush hush, he wouldn’t be too happy to see such pictures being featured in the Tamil media. Atleast when the shooting happened in Chennai, it would have been difficult to nail down the offender since there would have been lot of people in the set. This new snap is from the shooting that took place in Spain. It should be pretty easy for Shankar to find out the culprit and then take a stand on whether he wants to remove this shot from the original movie.

MRP: Who Pays The Price?

Most retailers know that it is very difficult to enforce Maximum Retail Price (MRP) and hence they openly violate the rules. It is very common to see your neighbourhood shop charging more for a soft drink just because the retailer has to spend for refrigerating the soft drink. To the best of my knowledge, the MRP fixed by the manufacturer includes the cost of refrigeration as well. Given that the premium we pay is not much, we don’t raise any noise.

Multiplexes are notorious for charging exorbitant prices for snacks and refreshments. One reason for this could be the huge rental paid by the snack shop to the movie hall (in case the movie hall doesn't own the refreshment stall). The snack bar owner has no option other than to pass on this burden to the end customer. Although you cannot do much about the price of the popcorn (since most of them might not be governed by the MRP norms), you can atleast do something about the drinks sold there. The MRTPC has cracked down on Delhi’s PVR Cinema for selling mineral water at a price higher than the stipulated MRP. I don’t think the other movie halls across the country are going to treat this as a warning signal. The penalties charged by MRTPC may not be much and hence the movie halls would continue to charge higher prices till they get pulled up by the MRTPC. I’m not too sure whether the soft drinks sold inside the multiplex are also governed by the norms of the MRTPC. If that were the case, movie halls could be at the receiving end once again.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Mansions of Madras - Where Dreams Come True

If there is an award for the maximum number of people per square metre, Chennai’s Ranganathan Street would come out on tops. The various mansions that dot Chennai would come a close second (That was a bad attempt at cracking a joke). It’s simply amazing how such small rooms can accommodate 4 – 6 people. Triplicane is generally considered a hub for mansions. During the last few years, such mansions have also mushroomed in other parts of Chennai. Such mansions are usually characterized by the excessive number of bikes and cycles that are parked outside and the lungi-clad bachelors who usually prefer to stand outside to enjoy the fresh air and the scenery :-)

Lot of builders flout government norms to build such mansions. The water problem might have reduced a bit now, but when water scarcity was rampant, there was some kind of regulation on the type of apartment complex that could be built in a particular locality / street. The restriction was mainly from the angle of the water and drainage problems such densely populated residential development causes. Knowing well that getting an approval for a mansion would be difficult, the builders would classify the property under some other category to get all the approvals.

Kavitha Muralidharan of The Week provides a peek into mansion life and terms the mansion as a bachelor’s best friend:

The other Thiruvallikeni would put the first one to shame. Its congested streets, crowded mansions and petty shops would dissuade anyone from stepping in. Yet, it is this Thiruvallikeni that is a constant source of comfort and hope to hundreds of youngsters who come to the city in search of better prospects.

Penniless and clueless about their future, the youngsters find warmth in 100-odd mansions, each mansion of which have hundred rooms fit for twin-sharing. Each mansions would house more than 200 youngsters who are either on small jobs or on a look out for one. In a city where house rents are sky-rocketing, a room is affordable-between Rs 500 and Rs 1,500 a month. The advance, too, is low. For an outsider, life in a mansion could seem pathetic. Living in a dingy room which has just enough space for a cot and having to pay for everything including drinking water could be one hell of a thing. For those who live there it is a valuable experience.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Anything for you, Ma’am

After the success of FPS & ON@TCC, publishers have started focussing on the youth segment by bringing out books in the sub Rs. 100 category. “Anything for you, Ma’am” is one such book by an IIT student. The author Tushar Raheja is a final year student of IIT Delhi. If this trend catches on, we could see more publishers (atleast the Indian ones) signing up first time authors (especially the 20-something authors).

Monday, May 22, 2006

MSN India in Tamil and Hindi

Sometime ago, we heard about Microsoft’s Bhasha initiative to promote content in Indian languages. It was expected that MSN India would roll out portals in Indian languages. MSN India’s Tamil and Hindi portals are up and running now. To start with, MSN Tamil is sourcing lot of content from Webulagam. Sify Tamil seems to have built a lead in this space. Let’s hope that the entry of MSN Tamil will help in improving the quality of Tamil portals.

A Trip To The Book Store

* One gets a feeling that Dan Brown books sell more than soaps and toothpastes.

* Just like how iPOD created a business opportunity (products that could complement iPODs), The Da Vinci Code has done something similar for the publishing industry. There is this entire section titled “If you liked The Da Vinci Code, you’ll enjoy these books” section.

* Kakuro is in, Sudoku is out

* At the rate at which “Men are XXX, Women are YYY” type books get published, they will be running out of titles soon.

* With the growth in the “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” series, we’ll soon see some other series (maybe Chicken Soup) vanishing from the shelves.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

In or Out?

Vaiko announced three days ago that MDMK is still part of UPA. However, Sun TV and Tamizh Murasu are painting the town red that MDMK has been kicked out of the UPA because Vaiko has not been invited for some Congress function in Delhi. No other MSM has carried this news. Since Congress party is the Convenor of UPA, shouldn’t the UPA Chairperson (Sonia in this case) make a statement in this regard? If what DMK is propagating is false, the Congress should clarify its stand on this issue to avoid the people from drawing inferences from the developments.

With Congress stepping up pressure for a share in the state ministry, it would be interesting to see how DMK reacts to this. MK has already gone for a mega ministry (largest ever in the history of TN) and he could use this as an excuse to deny power sharing in the state. EVKS Elangovan can now have a hearty laugh, as he was the first one from the Congress side to make a demand for a coalition government long back. The DMK got furious at that time and even asked Elangovan to apologize personally to MK.

We are now going to see some Ulle Veliye with Congress wanting to get in and DMK wanting to throw MDMK out of UPA.

Friday, May 19, 2006

It's Time To Ditch IndiaTimes Email

When such superior email services like Gmail, Yahoo Mail and Hotmail are available; I’m surprised that some people are still using Indiatimes email. While the Indiatimes email user might have his/her own compelling reason to stick to it (user ID not available in other mail services / first email ID to be created / employed with ToI group :-) etc), there are some glaring security issues because of which you should discontinue using IndiaTimes email.

When the referring link in your blog’s sitemeter indicates that the hit has originated from an email ID (in case the permalink of your blog / blog post is circulated through email), and you decide to click on the referring link, it will normally throw up a login screen for the relevant email service. Gmail, Yahoo Mail and Hotmail ensure that even the User ID of the mail user is not displayed when you try to find out the referrer. In sharp contrast, if the referring link points to an Indiatimes email ID, then the user ID of the Indiatimes user is also mentioned in the referring link. In addition to this, the referring link leads you to the Inbox of the Indiatimes email user. This means that somebody could gain access to such an IndiaTimes email ID without knowing either the email ID or password. Some hit counter services (Sitemeter, Extremetracking and Bravenet to name a few) allow bloggers to give public access to their site statistics. In such a case, when a random reader who visits the site statistics notices that one of the referring link is from an Indiatimes email ID, then such a random reader can gain access to the referring Indiatimes email account.

I may not be technically competent to explain the above security glitch in a language, which is easily understandable to the average user. In case you or your friends use an Indiatimes email ID, please do not to click on any outgoing link directly from your email account (you may copy and paste the relevant link in your browser to avoid any security glitch). In the long term, you may switch to a service, which offers a higher degree of security.

Can knowledgeable readers also throw some light on how Rediffmail handles this? I'm more concerned because Rediffmail enjoys a higher degree of patronage.

Captain's Debut Match


Going Places With Travelguru

As I was catching up on some of the recent business magazines, I noticed a familiar face in an issue of Business Today. I had read quite a bit about the action in the online travel booking space, but wasn’t aware that an old friend-cum-batchmate was behind one of these startups. DV Ashwin, an HBS alumnus had created a Business Plan in the online travel retail space and this Biz Plan went on to win the second prize in the Biz Plan competition at Harvard. Ashwin teamed up with a fellow HBS alumnus to roll out Travelguru in India. They also managed to get a funding of $10 Million (Rs. 45 Crores) from Westbridge Capital Partners (now Sequoia Capital). Apart from domestic and international flight bookings, Travelguru also offers hotel bookings (in line with international sites like Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity).

Travelguru operates in an increasingly competitive space. We already have players like MakeMyTrip, ClearTrip, YatraOnline and Traveljini. In addition to this, biggies like IndiaTimes and Rediff also have a presence in this space. To keep costs low, budget carriers like Air Deccan, Kingfisher and SpiceJet might try to promote sales through their own channels and websites. Given this landscape, it would be interesting to see how these travel portals evolve. I haven’t used any of these travel portals and hence don’t know how they stack up against each other.


(Courtesy: Business Today)

We very often notice that the final price we pay through a travel site (inclusive of taxes and fees) is much higher than the initial price (pre-tax price) quoted by the site. Travelguru seems to have understood this and is directly offering an “all inclusive” fare so that there are no hidden charges.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to growth of the online business in India is the resistance of people to use their credit card online. This is one of the issues faced by people like Fabmall and Indiatimes and they already offer Cash on Delivery. Given that the transaction values are generally larger, travel portals need to necessarily rely on credit card payments. They should be hoping that the tech-savvy traveller will fuel the growth of such travel portals.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

You May Not Watch Doordarshan……

……but you still need to pay for it. If this move gets the govt. nod, India will join the club that has members like Singapore and Britain.

All New Reliance

Anil Ambani has finally revealed the corporate logo for the Reliance ADAG Group. Knowing the flashly nature of Anil, one would have expected a much more innovative corporate brand. Sticking to the recent trend, some of the characters are in lower case. The name of the brand consultant has been kept under wraps. Shombit Sengupta seems to be missing in action these days. He might have done a better job if he had worked on this.

Most Wanted

(Courtesy: Deccan Chronicle)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Barter Food Stuff Thru Blogs

Gimme Your Stuff

The people behind Gimmeyourstuff sent me a mail asking me to write about them. Gimmeyourstuff is somewhat similar to One Red Paper Clip Blog. Gimmeyourstuff intends to promote cultural exchange by encouraging people to swap items (mainly food related). Do take part if you are interested. It looks like a novel initiative and is bound to catch on after more people come to know about it.

The Old Man and the Rice Arithmetic

In response to a question on the state of the TN economy, MK has given a slightly vague answer.

“It is how I am now”, was the cryptic reply by chief minister M Karunanidhi, to the newsmen who asked him about the state of the Tamil Nadu economy. If so, he must be very well, indeed. For though the CM refused to elaborate, despite being pressed for details, his smile said it all.

We all know that MK is far from being considered healthy (inspite of waking up early and doing yoga / walking and other stuff). He is almost like what Shankar Dayal Sharma was at one point of time. Are we to infer that the state economy is not in good shape?

Ever since the DMK’s poll manifesto was announced, there has been lot of speculation about the way it is going to be funded. Lot of questions were raised about the feasibility of the Rs. 2 a Kg rice scheme. Finance Minister P Chidambaram had lent credence to the DMK manifesto saying that such a scheme was feasible. However, PC didn’t comment on how it is going to be implemented and whether the Centre would provide subsidies for the same. Parties like BJP and MDMK had questioned whether the same scheme would be extended to other states. The parties kept up the pressure by posing the same question in the Rajya Sabha. As expected, PC has told the opposition parties to direct the question to MK.

At first, Mr. Chidambaram said the question should be addressed to the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister.However, Brinda Karat of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and several others said he had gone on record justifying the promise and asked whether it was possible to implement it throughout the country.

"Mr. Chidambaram is not just an MP from Tamil Nadu, he is also the Finance Minister of the country. Why is it not possible to implement all over the country what has been given in Tamil Nadu," asked Ms. Karat.

The New Indian Express adds that PC has ruled out any central assistance and has put the onus on the DMK to deliver on their promise.

I feel that PC has carefully played around with words (saathiyam) to divert peoples attention and is now slowly finding a way to wriggle out of the controversy.

BBC Interviews Two 'Guys'

The BBC has revealed that the person wrongly interviewed during their report on the Apple ruling was not a cab driver, but somebody who had come to the BBC office to attend a job interview. Interestingly, both of them share the same first name. BBC has been honest enough to admit the mistake and even call both of them for an interview. Let's hope that Guy Coma lands a job with BBC :-)

TFM Quiz: A M Rajah and P B Srinivas

Continuing with his recent quizzes on Tamil BGMs, S Anand presents the toughest of the lot. This time he brings us some tunes from the 60s. There are two separate quizzes on A M Rajah and P B Srinivas. My answers are in the Comments section (Full disclosure: Had to Google the song name to find out the movie name in 3 cases).

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Honeymoon Over, Lok Paritran Splits

It is often said that the Congress party has more factions that the number of members. It looks like the newly formed Lok Paritran is no different. India’s youngest political party already has a splinter group (via RaajK). I think LP put more effort on promoting its Mylapore candidate as it felt that it has a slightly better chance in the Mylapore constituency. This might not have gone down well with the other LP contestants. Surprisingly, Deccan Chronicle is the only MSM to carry this article.

Not Again

New Indian Express has an ‘exclusive’ interview with Captain Vijaykanth. Although lot of people felt that Vijaykanth will cut down on his acting, he seems to be determined to carry on with his contribution to the film world :-)

Will you continue to act in films?

V: Yes. Offers have been pouring in. I am planning to produce films. But I will see to it that my involvement in films do not affect my political career.

Sticking to New Indian Express, columnist S Gurumurthy writes about the Vijaykanth factor in the recent elections. He feels that Amma could have won the election if she had forged an alliance with Vijaykanth’s DMDK. As S Anand observed in his recent Outlook article, Vijaykanth’s 8% vote share should be viewed as a protest vote and it might not be right to generalize that the vote share reflects a wholehearted support to Vijaykanth. Hot Machi Hot also seems to echo the same thoughts:

Gurumurthy blindly assumes that if Vijayakanth had aligned with the ADMK, he would have won as many votes as he ended up winning. That, to me, is a big and unreasonable assumption. The main reason why people voted for Vijayakanth was that he was different, he didn't align himself with either of the Dravidian parties, he provided an alternative, idealistic it may be.

Time Best of Asia

Time comes out with a Best of Asia series every year. Last year they featured Bollywood as the “Best Place To Dream Of Stardom”. This year they have featured Indian Budget Carriers as the Best Place to experience the Indian Boom.

If you suspect that India's economic boom is only benefiting the country's rich, then book yourself on a flight on one of India's budget airlines. Pick someplace nice—Goa, for instance—and once you're aboard, take a look at your fellow passengers. There's a high likelihood some of them are flying for the first time in their lives. Chances are many are visiting Goa for the first time as well.

Another interest place to note is the Best Place for Cynicism:

Should you ever doubt that there's a fundamentally benign order to the universe, talk to Mikako Kato. The Tokyo magazine editor has lost her navy-blue Loewe wallet five times in the last 14 years—and it has always been returned to her, complete with credit cards, identification cards and, most remarkably, a good deal of cash. "It's just so incredible," says Kato, "or this must be a very unattractive wallet." It had nothing to do with the wallet's appearance—Japan has an amazingly high return rate when it comes to lost property. Of the 255,844 wallets reported mislaid in Tokyo last year, a heart-warming 194,139 were handed in to authorities, according to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police's Lost and Found Center. About 95,000 of the 100,247 cell phones reported lost were also brought in.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Kamal's next mov(i)e.....

....coming soon to a Multiplex near you. Let's hope the Vasoolraja strikes gold with this one.

Nadal - The King of Clay

I managed to watch the final set of the Rome Masters Final between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. It was worth every bit of it. I really regretted missing the first four sets. After seeing Nadal and Federer in action during the crucial fifth set, no one would believe that these guys have been in the court for close to 5 hours. Let's hope Nadal makes it to the Chennai Open atleast next year.

Cabbie Turns Cyber Expert on BBC

In a case of mistaken identity, the BBC interviewed a Cab driver for a tech show while the cyber expert was waiting just outside the studio. BBC realized the mistake and cut short the cabbie’s interview and later issued an apology.

A London cabbie suffered an awkward few moments of fame when the BBC mistook him for a computer expert and interviewed him live on the flagship News 24 channel, the corporation admitted on Saturday.

The real expert was Guy Kewney, a journalist specialising in computer issues who had been invited to comment on Apple Computer's legal battle with Apple Corps, the Beatles' music publishing company.

In fact, this 'expert' was the taxi driver who had come to collect Kewney after his interview. But as soon as he had arrived at the BBC building, an excitable assistant had bundled him into the studio and equipped him with a clip-on microphone before he had a chance to protest.

(YouTube Video link via Boing Boing)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Sun, Son and Beyond

With the amount of space I devote to Sun TV bashing, I might as well start a separate dedicated blog on the same topic. The Assembly elections might be over, but the news around Sun Network refuses to die.

Sevanti Ninan, a regular media affairs columnist with The Hindu writes about the dominance and bullying tactics of Sun Network. The Hindu’s promixity to the Maran family and to the DMK would ensure that such an article never makes it to The Hindu. Sevanti Ninan chose to publish her article in The Hoot as The Hindu refused to carry her article. Unfortunately, The Hoot doesn’t reach the common man and Sevanti Ninan’s article might not find its way to the intended audience.

All of that clout is used to protect an extraordinary monopoly: a cable network, Sumangali Cable Vision that has sewn up the entire state and has been known to pull out the plug when it does not want the state watch something that is not complimentary to the DMK. And a monopoly on TV news. Sun TV has the only statewide news channel in Tamilnadu. Thanks to the nature of Kalanidhi Maran’s clout Jayalalitha’s Jaya TV has not succeeded in getting clearance for a proposed news channel, applied for in May 2004. Brother Dayanidhi’s Communication Ministry has to give a clearance even if Information and Broadcasting is the nodal ministry for permitting new news channels. And other channels with news ambitions, Star Vijay and Raj TV, have given up.

Together the two monopolies come in handy. Brother Dayanidhi’s alleged attempt to arm twist the Tatas and Star into parting with a controlling stake of their DTH venture, has become an election issue. He is fighting the allegations, and has slapped a defamation suit on the newspaper which broke the story. Last fortnight, Sumangali simply blacked out all channels for fifteen minutes or more because Jaya TV had announced a discussion on this topic! Not to be outdone, Jaya TV then featured the black out as a news item later in the evening. Meanwhile, Jayalalitha’s government has tried to take over SVC, but without success.

S R Ramanujan has another article in The Hoot on the same topic.

Whatever the legal ramifications, the perception is that SUN network would like to have a stranglehold over the entire media world and thus control the thought process of the people. Is the trend compatible with a democratic society? Among the literate sections, the SUN network is seen as a bully not content with finishing its rivals in the field, but to take on major industrial houses as well to reinforce its monopoly in the media world. Is this not the time for the powers-that-be to have a fresh look at the "cross-media ownership" and monopolistic trends? The SUN model is a real threat to free society that should promote and encourage diverse viewpoints.

Jaya TV of course, is no better. But being a minor player, it is a lesser evil.

Sun TV’s dominance has also not gone down well with media persons as well. Alaphia of NDTV explains how Sun Network misused its power in the coverage of the swearing-in ceremony.

The swearing-in ceremony was a disaster held in the nauseating heat of an indoor stadium bursting beyond capacity. Sun TV's pre-eminence was on display with their cameras getting the best positions and live coverage of a horribly organised event.

The Hindu justifies Maran-DTH coverage

When the New Indian Express broke the story about Dayanidhi Maran – Tata DTH controversy, people were curious to how The Hindu is going to report it. The Hindu never gave coverage to the main story. The only news The Hindu carried was the demand by opposition parties like BJP and ADMK demanding the resignation of Dayanidhi Maran. Although The Hindu’s Readers’ Editor has justified the way in which The Hindu handled the issue, I doubt whether people are going to buy his story.

I am here not concerned with the details of the charges against Mr. Dayanidhi Maran, but with how The Hindu dealt with the story.

The first time the paper took note of the development was when it reported on April 27 the BJP's and Mr. Vaiko's demand for action against Mr. Maran. That brought in immediate reactions from readers. The policy of not reporting in detail or recycling political allegations made during election campaigns could not be offered as a cover for the inadequacies in this report. It missed out on basic points, as a reader pointed out, of what was the issue it termed serious, what was the family business referred to, and who did what.

There was no need to go into the details of the charges, which did not acquire authenticity because of publication in a newspaper. But it should have been possible to include those details that are fundamental to any news report that make it understandable to readers. The best newspaper practice would have suggested getting Mr. Maran's reaction to the published report and following up or developing the story in that way.

Boring Buddhas and Stale Sons

Commenting on the recent election coverage by the various TV channels, Aloke Thakore asks the channels to drop the clichés and try something new:

May anchors and copy editors save the reader and viewer from such trite constructions as Laughing Buddha or Smiling Buddha or rising son or son rising. May they remember that Buddha and sons are not about to disappear any time soon and continue the search for more conceits and clichés by, may be, relying on alliteration.

TN Media: Partisan to the core

In another excellent article, S R Ramanujan analyzes the state of the Tamil MSM and throws some light on the polarized and biased nature of the various newspapers and magazines.

But Maran’s real trump card was its price of one rupee whereas other dailies price ranged from Rs 3 to Rs 4/. He also saw to it that the new paper’s 16 colour pages were designed in such a way that they looked attractive and mod-ish in sharp contrast to the competitors. Within a few weeks the multi-edition daily started selling a million copies because of the price and fresh look. Tamilians have the habit of going out in the morning to fetch milk sachets for their "Kapi". They didn’t mind spending just a rupee for 16 pages, whatever be its editorial content. This helped Maran to create a sort of revolution in the newspaper industry, catching other dailies off-guard.

However, Maran’s business rivals claim what they lost were their trained staff for a fat pay packet in the SUN stable and not their circulation.

The Tamil air is full of arithmetic these days. Therefore, the attention is on the economics of "Dinakaran". The production cost of the daily is estimated to be around Rs 7. With a sale price of Rs one, Maran will be subsidizing every copy by at least Rs 6, thus incurring a loss of Rs 60 lakhs a day. Even with all the financial muscle of the network, he cannot continue this for ever. Either he has to increase the sale price like the Deccan Chronicle did in Tamil Nadu or go in for combined ad tariff for both television and print to offset the losses at least on paper. Well, now that his purpose has been achieved with his grand father’s party in power, he does not have to be as aggressive as he has been in pushing the paper.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Azim Premji: From Stanford to Sarjapur

The Stanford Alumni Magazine profiles Azim Premji’s growth story in this insightful article. Among other things, Premji’s sentimental attachment for his Consumer Care business (Wipro’s Vanaspathi and Santoor are part of this) is fairly evident.

“Our biggest problem today is getting senior management to transfer to the United States,” Premji says. “If they want to go with their families it’s too complicated because they’re too comfortable here—they have high disposable income, they have the advantage of servants, the advantage of a chauffeur.”

Complicating matters further are the so-called NRIs, nonresident Indians who hanker for home. The journey back can be bumpy. In his recent memoir/biography, Two Lives, Vikram Seth, MA ’79, describes the trap young Indians can fall into when they’re drawn to the United States: they take a few laps in the pool and emerge to discover they’re 50, raising kids who are more American than Indian, and strapped to a mortgage— finding themselves “so embedded in their temporary lives” that they only return home on brief visits when a parent becomes ill or dies.

Premji, too, has seen how America’s melting pot can bend Indians out of shape. “Our experience typically with Indians who have been in the United States for 10 or 15 years is they become cultural misfits. If they haven’t become cultural misfits, their families have become cultural misfits for India, so we would be very hesitant to take back an Indian settled in America for 15 years into a senior position.

Kollywood to make truce with Sun TV

With DMK returning back to power, Kollywood doesn’t have much choice. They need to give up on their earlier stand of banning stars from giving interviews to TV channels and also be more lenient on giving film clipping to cable channels. The TFPC might need to forget the exclusive tie-up they forged with Jaya TV and start patronizing Sun TV as well. Get ready to watch all the new songs, comedy clipping and film reviews once again in Sun TV.

Update: Sify confirms that Sun TV will start showing film clippings and songs pretty soon.

Friday, May 12, 2006

High and Dry

When the DMK manifesto was announced, the question on everybody’s mind was how they were going to fund all the grand populist measures they had announced. This is probably their first official word on the topic:

And how will Karunanidhi obtain the financial resources to fund the DMK's poll promise of a free colour television and rice for Rs 2 a kilo? "Oh that is very easy!" said Maran whose family owns the Sun network, south India's dominant television company.

"There is a company called Midas which supplies liquor and gets Rs 6,000 crore (Rs 6 billion) from the exchequer. We will fund our programmes by diverting government money from such companies," he said.

Interestingly, an AIADMK source told this correspondent that the Midas company is owned by a Jayalalithaa confidante.

PMK’s Ramdoss had raised some noise during the campaign the popularity of TASMAC had actually ruined the state. If he is really serious about curbing the popularity of TASMAC, the government would need to introduce prohibition or privatize the sale of liquor. I guess Dayanidhi Maran’s statement means that they would not be doing either of the above.

On Expected Lines

DMK list of ministers has no major surprises. It was widely expected that Stalin would be part of the Ministry and that has come true. With Dayanidhi Maran’s intention to poke his nose in all the affairs, I’m sure he would be doing lot of stuff behind the scenes. He has already become DMK’s defacto choice to speak to the English news channels.

Vijaykanth on a High

Commenting on Vijaykanth’s victory in the recent elections, S Anand of Outlook writes that Captain was drunk when he was addressing some of the election meetings (via).

The vote for Vijaykanth has to be understood as an abstract protest vote and not an approval of what Vijaykanth stands for as such. On several occasions during the campaign he was in an inebriated state, chewing gum to suppress the breath. Campaigning in Cuddalore, he once assaulted a candidate in full public view because he had apparently used too many vehicles in the convoy causing an accident. On another occasion he ended his speech by suggesting that people vote for the AIADMK; correcting himself after being prompted.

Vijaykanth's calculation is to wait for a post-Karunanidhi scenario. Opinion polls have indicated that Karunanidhi's son Stalin has hardly 1% popularity as chief ministerial candidate; whereas Vijaykanth stands next to Karunanidhi and Jayalalitha. As chief minister as the age of 83, it is only a matter of time before Karunanidhi looks for his successor, most likely in Stalin.

Some of the regional media never mentioned anything about this while covering Vijaykanth’s campaign. That doesn’t mean that Outlook’s statement could be false.

Pudu name for Pondicherry

When state capitals can go for a name change, can the Union Territory be far behind? Will it be pudu wine in old bottle for our kudimagans (citizens)?

Is Indian Blog Advertising Finally Taking Off?

Some of you might have noticed that DesiPundit and other Indian sites now carry ads for an online Indian reality show called oktatabyebye.com (Full Disclosure: I'm not getting paid for promoting them:-( ). This may be some sort of first in the Indian Blogosphere. With sites like Indian Bloggers providing the readership stats of some of the registered blogs, it becomes easier for advertisers to know about the reach of some of the desi blogs. However, if the advertiser is looking to promote a particular product like a book or a music album, they need to zero in on blogs that target a specific audience. This might just be a beginning and we can see more and more of these instances in the near future. At last, we might just have some option other than the ubiquitous Google Adsense.

For advertisment, Indian blogs usually stick to the tried and tested medium of Google Adsense, which generates ads by reading your contents. While Adsense is safe, it doesn’t drum up that much money, even for the more popular blogs in India.

At the outset, oktatabyebye will launch a contest, where someone, preferably a blogger, gets Rs 50,000, a laptop and a digital camera to trot around India and blog live from any location. ‘‘We want to eventually have a travel community and a structured website which will be self-sustained,’’ says Rao. ‘‘The blogger will be providing articles for our bank.’’

In a few months, oktatabyebye hopes to get 25,000 registered users. Which is where the banner advertisements and plugs on blogs come in. ‘‘I’m sure one popular Indian blog couldn’t get us as much traffic as say Rediff or Yahoo. But if we spread the word on many Indian blogs, it might have the same effect.’’

Using ‘‘instinct’’ and a few other judging techniques — number of comments, inbound links, site statistics — the team narrowed down about 60 Indian blogs to advertise on. ‘‘The investment is really small, about a couple of lakhs,’’ says Rao, ‘‘And the money to travel and the laptop and so on are provided by makemytrip.’’

On a related note, this blog was also approached by an advertiser. The ad for an online travel portal called Cfares is now featured prominently at the top of the homepage. More than anything, I wanted to experiment whether such ads really work. Let’s see what the outcome is.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

TN Assembly Results: The Action Begins

The results have already started trickling in. Initial trends indicate that the DMK alliance (DPA) may not win with a landslide as was projected in some of the exit polls. But it looks as if DMK has no option other than forming a coalition government. Bloggers can’t compete with the MSM in the election coverage. So head over to the following sites:

IBN Live



The Hindu

New Indian Express

I’ll post updates as and when possible.

Idly Vadai and Hot Machi Hot also have frequent updates. Do read their comments section as well.

Update: It is now clear that the DMK will now form a coalition government with the support of its allies. The interesting feature in these elections is the slender victory margins of both the DMK and the ADMK. One just feels that the entry of Vijayakanth’s DMDK might have just caused the difference. Another thing to note is the impressive performance by ADMK in Chennai. ADMK has managed to bag 7 seats in the city. Even some of DMK’s victories in Chennai are none too convincing. In Thousand Lights, M K Stalin has won by a margin of 2400 votes and in Harbour, K Anbazhagan won by a margin of just 400 votes.

The election commission’s website has comprehensive information about the various constituencies.

Mylapore: S Ve Shekher (ADMK) – 62,784 , Napoleon (DMK) – 61,127 , Santhanagopal Vasudev (Lok Paritran) – 9,436 , Rajan (DMDK) – 7,441.

The biggest loser in this election is Vaiko’s MDMK. With the DMK stepping up pressure on the Congress to remove MDMK from the alliance, Vaiko should decide soon about his next move.

Vijayakanth’s party has put up a decent performance securing almost 10% of the votes (higher in some cases) in most of the assembly constituencies. The only worry Vijayakanth would have is that the votes are so spread out that they have not got converted into Assembly seats.

The pundits didn’t have high hopes on Lok Paritran, but LP still managed to retain it's deposit in some of the constituencies.

As expected, CNN-IBN takes pride in the fact that their exit polls were bang on target. This goes on to prove that exit polls do come true sometimes.

Last but not the least, Kalanidhi Maran should be a happy man as the Sun TV stock witnessed some action today. This goes to prove that the market clearly sees Sun TV benefitting out of their proximity to the DMK-led government.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Scrabble - Now in Tamil

A Neat Effort. There are those who talk about Tamil for political gains and there are few who really do something about it.

Chennai Food Guide Launched

Kingfisher lent its name for the Bangalore Good Food Guide. The Hindu’s Metro Plus does something similar (?) for the Chennai Food Guide. Yummy Stuff:

For Foodies it definitely is an important day because for the first time they will be served a useful and usable food guide. Its 276 pages bristle with information that will make your life more interesting. Meticulously put together, the MetroPlus Food Guide is divided into two parts.

Part 1 is "The Restaurant Guide" which not only has well-written and insightful restaurant reviews with ratings, but also extremely essential information such as cost per meal, home delivery services, valet parking, house specialties, credit card facilities and so on.

Availability of buffet, alcohol, vegetarian or non-vegetarian is clearly indicated by user-friendly symbols. So, in this section (which runs alphabetically) you have all categories of restaurants that span cuisines and areas. I am especially delighted about this section and will carry this book with me every time I am here so that I can easily navigate my way through the food map of the city.

Rumour or Real?

Is this news related to this one?
(via) (Source)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

TFM Quiz

Stud Anand comes up with yet another music quiz. This time the BGM's are from the 1970s and some of them are slightly difficult to crack. I had good fun taking this one. Most of the songs are classics by Ilayaraja. My answers are in the comment box.

Economics is back in fashion

The Standard reports about the growing popularity of economics books:

The sudden popularity of economics books is hard to miss. Freakonomics by Steven Levitt, professor of economics at the University of Chicago, and Stephen Dubner, is still securely lodged in the New York Times bestseller list, and has been one of the surprise hits of the past year. Also on the list is The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman, an analysis of the changing global economy. In Britain, the hardback bestseller lists last week saw the debut of Tim Harford's The Undercover Economist.

At this rate, John Grisham will be putting aside his lawyers and Dan Brown his religious conspiracies, and planning works on price theory and demand management.

Chennai Circulation Wars

The Hindu is involved in a legal battle with Deccan Chronicle regarding issuance of the circulation figures by ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulation). The Hindu’s main complaint is that DC pays hefty trade commissions (much above industry norms) to boost their sales.

The Hindu had sought to restrain the ABC from issuing a certificate for the Chennai edition of the Deccan Chronicle, for the period July-December 2005, and thereafter. The Hindu had also claimed interim relief and costs.

The core issue is the commissions paid by Deccan Chronicle in Chennai to the trade. As per ABC norms, the total trade commission ceiling is reportedly at 40 per cent of the cover price. Deccan Chronicle’s cover price was at Re 1 till very recently (applies to the July-December period; it now sells at Rs 1.50). While Deccan Chronicle claims that the commission is 35 paisa, industry players, including The Hindu, contest this.

After a careful consideration of claims by both parties, the Bombay HC has rejected The Hindu’s plea.

The Bombay High Court has rejected the plea by The Hindu to restrain the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) from issuing an "ABC Certificate" for the circulation of the Chennai edition of the Deccan Chronicle for the period JulyDecember 2005. The plea was made by Ms Kasturi and Sons, publishers of The Hindu, and was rejected by an order dated April 25, 2006, signed by Justice (Ms) Nishita Mhatre.

In a revealing comment, the publishers of The Hindu admitted in their plea that such a certificate issued to the Deccan Chronicle "would adversely affect the circulation and advertising revenues of The Hindu" and would "also adversely affect the business interests of The Hindu, which has a dominant market share in Chennai." The statements implicitly recognised the fact that the Deccan Chronicle, which started printing in Chennai on March 28, 2005, had effectively eroded the claimed monopoly of The Hindu in Chennai.

Kasturi & Sons added that "there is every possibility that their advertising market would be hampered" and claimed damages "on account of losses and hardships they suffered."

With such high trade commissions, I wonder how Deccan Chronicle makes money.

The Bagel Salesman and Annalakshmi

Stephen Dubner of Freakonomics fame writes about a Canadian pop singer who is allowing her fans to determine the price for online music downloads. Dubner draws parallel between this and the Bagel Salesman story in Freakonomics. The Canadian pop singer example can be extended to Annalakshmi Restaurant as well. Unlike it’s Indian branch, the Annalakshmi restaurant in Singapore operates on a pay-as-you-wish basis. Although Annalakshmi doesn’t display what others paid, one gets a feeling that people generally end up paying more than what they would have otherwise paid at a regular restaurant.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Exit Poll Build-up

A scene from IBN Live where Vidya Shankar Aiyar is posing questions to Chennai Correspondent Vivian Mathew (rough transcript of the proceedings):

Vidya Shankar Aiyar: We understand that the voter turnout is likely to be around 65%. Since this is higher than the usual turnout, who is this likely to benefit?
Vivian Mathew: That’s a million dollar question Vidya. There are divergent views on who the beneficiary will be. We need to wait till 9.30 pm tonight to see the results of the CNN-IBN - Hindu exit poll.

I know they wan’t to create hype for their exit poll show. But it becomes irritating if they start emphasizing the same thing in each and every statement. Instead of saying I don’t know, Vivian Mathew gave a long-winded answer to drive people to the special program devoted to exit polls.

For those who don’t want to wait till 9.30pm IST, go ahead and read the outcome of other exit polls. Star News – AC Nielsen exit poll predicts that the DMK combine will end up with a tally of 175 seats. IMHO, the final tally for the DMK alliance is likely to be between 160 and 190. Their fancy poll promises might have just done the trick.

Update #1: Rajdeep Sardesai hints that the exit poll outcome is going to be a total reversal of what was predicted in the pre-poll survey (They had declared that ADMK has a marginal lead and it was too close to call).

Update #2: CNN-IBN - Hindu exit poll predicts that the DMK combine will bag between 157 & 167 seats. ADMK alliance is likely get 64 to 74 seats.

India’s Adsense King

Exchange4Media has a report on the Delhi Bloggers Meet, which happened over the weekend. The report also mentions Amit Agarwal, one of the very few professional bloggers in India. Amit seems to have found his pot of gold with Google Adsense and is also among the highest ranked Indian Bloggers on Technorati. Unlike India specific posts, tech-related posts enjoy a wider global audience and this could be one of the reasons for his high ranking on Technorati. Going by what is mentioned in the report, Amit's blog would be right at the top of the list of the most visited Indian blogs.

Amit Agarwal, a professional blogger from Agra, was the centre of attraction. Agarwal worked as a software engineer for six years before he left his job two years back to start full time blogging at http://labnol.blogspot.com. Now Agarwal claims his income runs into thousands of dollars per month without disclosing any particular figures.

“Almost 60 per cent of my visitors come from the US. I get some ads from US software companies, which are both click and impression based, but 90 per cent of my income comes from Google Adsense,” Agarwal told exchange4media, whose blog is ranked 400 on BlogPlus and 1000 at Technorati.

“I get 25,000 to 30,000 hits per day,” he informed. Agarwal is active at blogging communities and has been attending such bloggers’ forums in Chennai and Hyderabad too. “But I have not found another person who has left his job for blogging and making a good living out of it,” said a proud Agarwal.

NDTV on iPODs and Podcasting

NDTV seems to have got it all wrong here. While we all know that podcasts can be heard through multiple devices (iPODs being just one of the delivery modes), NDTV has projected as if podcasts can be listened only through iPODs. For some reason or the other, Indian news channels have not made a mark in tech reporting and it looks like the scene will not change for the better.

ARR on IBN Live

The transcript of ARR’s interview is available now.

Rajeev Masand: Have you ever been embarrassed by the way a song has been filmed?
A R Rahman: Yes, a lot of times. But, I guess the people are intelligent enough now to know all that, what is personal and what is not, and what is done for the movie.

Rajeev Masand: You won’t take any names?
A R Rahman: No.

Hope S J Surya gets the message.

A Colourful Election

The picture says it all:

Dravidian parties hope for a divine intervention says ToI:

Leaders of both Dravidian parties — DMK and AIADMK — spent the weekend going to temples across TN to conduct prayers and offer pooja for their victory in the 2006 state assembly polls, voting for which will be held on Monday.

Several Dravidian leaders also visited Tirupathi, the abode of Lord Balaji, to get his blessings for the elections. It was interesting to see the new trend, since most Dravidian leaders believe and practice atheism.

In many cases, wives of the leaders, including those of Union IT and communications minister Dayanidhi Maran and DMK deputy general secretary M K Stalin, visited temples on behalf of their husbands. For both Maran and Stalin, this will be an important election since they are fighting for supremacy within the DMK.

The Weekend Dilemma

The general rule is to think twice before blogging on a weekend as the traffic is at an all time low. The fall in traffic could be one of the reasons why lot of bloggers refrain from posting on weekends. The best option is to write posts on a weekend and try to publish it during the course of the week. If the post is about a burning issue, the post can’t be published later as the relevance / utility will be lost. Darren at Problogger has some very relevant points about the weekend blogging strategy.

Can you recognize the song?

Stud Anand has put up a collection of some famous BGM’s from Tamil movies. You need to guess the name of the movie after listening to the two sets of songs (1980s and 90s). Do give it a shot. Most of them are pretty straightforward. I managed to crack all of them:-)

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Outlook on Plagiarism Debate

Commenting on the Kaavya plagiarism scandal, Anjali Puri of Outlook lists down some of the recent plagiarism accusations in the Indian MSM:

And then, there is the media. The internet has not just hugely multiplied opportunities for the scissor-happy, but, ironically, also for their detection. A writer snitches from what he or she may believe to be a little-read publication, and blogosphere erupts in outrage. Striking similarities between a film review by a senior journalist with the Times of India and a review of the same film by a Chicago Sun Times reviewer hit blogosphere first. So did similar charges about The Hindu's film reviewer. Both reviewers continue to review, and if any actions were taken by their employers, they are not in the public domain.

"Newspapers, even big newspapers, do not respond with alacrity to charges of plagiarism," points out media critic Sevanti Ninan. "The reader deserves an apology which s/he does not get." However, in a departure from the norm, The Hindu's recently appointed readers' editor, K. Narayanan, responded, point by point, last week to a complaint against freelancer Neeta Lal's article in the paper, which also included a charge of unattributed borrowing. He concluded that there had been a "lack of fairness and journalistic ethics" on the part of the writer. Will the paper continue to use her? "That's for the editor to decide," Narayanan told Outlook. However, in general, he believes that when a writer has been found to plagiarise, "everything he or she writes will be suspect". And here's a reader's suggestion, which he rather likes: Let every piece of writing come with a declaration that it's an original piece of work.

If you wan’t to know more about the Neeta Lal article, do read this column by K Narayanan, Readers’ Editor of The Hindu.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

A Case of Two HLL’s

CNN-IBN reports about a new launch by Hindustan Latex Limited (A Govt. Company) and they wrongly put an image of Hindustan Lever Limited’s (HLL) corporate brand. The similarity begins and ends with the word HLL. IBN has been creating a distinct brand in the online news space and goof-ups like this one doesn’t bode well for them. Till IBN entered the space, MSM sites were more keen on one-way communication. IBN has brought in lot of interactivity. Their articles on Rajkumar’s demise attracted over 800 reader comments. Although they have a moderation policy, they have been generous in permitting comments, which sometimes criticize some of the points in a particular article.

Another area where IBN needs to work hard is the proof reading. The amount of typos are simply unacceptable for a professional news site. Even bloggers fare better :-). Hope they will improve in the coming months.

Update: The IBN site is now updated with the corporate brand of Hindustan Latex Limited.

Battle Spills Over To TV

DNA explains how the battle for TN is being fought in a full-fledged manner through the TV channels. DNA goes to say how Sun TV is blacking out all scenes related to ADMK campaigners. Based on Sun TV's reaction to scenes pertaining to filmstars in the opposite camp, I wonder why they have spared Radhika's Selvi mega-serial?
Also appearing in some of the Sun channels are song sequences of actor Karthik who, in his new role of the All India Forward Block state general secretary, has become a Jayalalithaa critic. ‘Supreme star’ Sarath Kumar, who left the DMK for AIADMK recently, is on top of Sun’s hate list.

When KTV (a Sun channel) telecast Mammooty-starrer Maunam Sammadham, the entire sequence involving Kumar, who plays a supporting role, was edited out.

Sun has even stopped advertisements of its sister publication and Tamil evening tabloid Tamil Murasu, to prevent inadvertent publicity to murasu (drum), which is actor Vijaykanth’s election symbol. Meanwhile, Jaya TV has been dishing out a virtual MGR film festival.

Fans of the AIADMK founder were treated to Nallavan Vazhvan, Meenavan Nanban and Oorukku Uzhappavan – all specimens of MGR’s careful portrayal of the messiah of the masses. Jaya TV, however, “blundered” when it failed to edit out a song in Nallavan Vazhvan, which was produced when MGR was in DMK.

In addition to the above, Sun TV has converted its prime time news into a campaign vehicle projecting Vaiko and Sarath Kumar in the worst light possible and also airing some silly ads which stop one short of saying that MK is the latest magician to hit the town. Although campaign comes to an end today, the TV channels would keep airing such biased reports till the polling date. Till then, make full use of the remote control.

Friday, May 05, 2006

This Blog Just Got Younger

When I decided to write about the TN elections, the options before me was to start a dedicated blog for the elections or to continue writing in this blog. Since I felt that driving traffic towards a new blog is not an easy task, I decided in favour of the second option (knowing well that it might not go down well with a section of the audience). The surge in hits (especially from search engines!) has been a great motivator. To top it all, some MSM mentions don’t hurt, do they?

The Tamil Nadu elections are not just being discussed at tea shops and bus stands. For the first time ever in Indian politics, blogs might just have a say in the final results.

Sambharmafia, Idlyvadai and Hotmachihot - these are just some of the over 20 blogs that have come up in the last two months and are dedicated to the Tamil Nadu elections.

From serious analysis on seat sharing to poking fun at free colour TVs in English and Tamil, these blogs have them all.

And it's not just the people of Tamil Nadu who are participating.Therthal 2006 or Elections 2006, a blog in Tamil, is a joint effort by ten bloggers from different parts of the world.

Update: The Video of the CNN-IBN news report is available here.

Upgrading Chennai

A Summa Statement:

Chennai will be upgraded like Shanghai, Hong Kong & Singapore

By Amma

Cast Your Vote

(via email from Chandru)

I am for Mylapore :-)

It looks like Napolean has turned tech-savvy to woo the Mylapore voters (via). I’m sure he would have got the idea from Lok Paritran. It’s not too often that Praveen blogs about serious stuff, so better listen to him.

IBN’s Tamil Blockbuster

CNN-IBN has been consolidating all their TN poll related articles under one page. The poll on TN’s biggest icon is also witnessing some action. There is hardly any difference between the various contenders. President Abdul Kalam and Isai Puyal A R Rahman lead the pack with 18% of the votes. Something tells me that ARR will win the icon poll and the CNN-IBN coverage will culminate with this show.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Dravidian Politics in Hard Cover

There seems to be a big publishing boom in India with more and more Indian authors coming out with English books. It has become pretty common to see atleast two or three book launches every week. We are having a situation where popular foreign books are priced cheaper than some of the works of the Indian writers. I simply don’t understand why the new launches in India need to be brought out in Hard Cover format. The logic behind the Hard Cover format in the West could be the motive to milk the market. I still believe that the India Writers in English (IWE) don’t enjoy a wide readership and attractive pricing and marketing are key to reach out to the Indian audience. This is some area where Rupa & Co. and Chetan Bhagat have achieved tremendous success and other authors and publishers could learn a thing or two from them.

Hitting The Market During Poll Time

Election fever is pretty high in TN and Vaasanthi has seized this opportunity in launching her new book on the inner workings of TN politics. The book has been launched in Hard Cover format and retails at Rs. 425. Given that the book targets only readers from a particular state (or who are interested in the affairs of a particular state), I feel that the book should have been priced much lower to make it attractive to the discerning reader. At this kind of pricing, I would be surprised if they manage to sell a few thousand copies.

Vaasanthi’s new book is called “Cut-outs, Caste and Cine Stars: The World of Tamil Politics”. Vaasanthi has been the editor of the Tamil edition of the India Today for a reasonable period and she has observed TN politics from close quarters. So, this book holds lot of promise.

Tamil Nadu is a state very different from the rest of India, both culturally and historically. It has retained a fundamentally separate identity for itself in language and caste structure, and this is most evident in its politics.

Cut-outs, Caste and Cine Stars: The Word of Tamil Politics tells a political story that has all the elements of a blockbuster film, where ironies and larger-than-life characters abound: Periyar, a Kannada-speaker, who introduced the notions of Tamil self-respect and regional pride, yet dismissed Tamil as 'a barbaric language'; the matinee idol MGR, a Malayalee born in Sri Lanka, who became Tamil Nadu's most popular mass leader; the Dravidian movement which, by its own ideology, should have helped the Dalits but has instead supported only the upwardly mobile middle groups; and parties that rose to power by propagating anti-Hindi and anti-Brahmin sentiments but have now allied themselves with the BJP. It is fitting that this reel-like scenario is presently dominated by the electoral politics of Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa, one a scriptwriter and the other a former actress. Through all this, the author discusses the successes and pitfalls of politics in the state, from the free-meal scheme for students and the elevation of leaders to a divine status to the anti-conversion law and the rising importance of the Dravidian parties in national politics.

Degrees of Plagiarism

The Hindu talks about plagiarism, but doesn’t wan’t to do anything about it:

Plagiarism is a nasty word and offence — and literary plagiarists, when caught, tend to be subjected to long-lasting shame. The Oxford English Dictionary offers this working definition: "the wrongful appropriation or purloining, and publication as one's own, of the ideas or the expression of the ideas ... of another ... a purloined idea, design, passage, or work." Tom Lehrer wrote a wonderful mathematician's song about it. The practice apparently being widespread, especially in journalism, academia, and the professions, some writers on the subject speak of degrees of plagiarism. The worldwide spread of the Internet has made plagiarism easier to commit than ever before — and incomparably easier to detect. The defences against the charge of plagiarism are predictable: a photographic or computer-like memory, or the habit of taking notes from many sources and then failing `inadvertently' to acknowledge the sources.

Are they saying that what Gautaman Bhaskaran did was of a lesser degree than that of Kaavya?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Maran-gate: New Indian Express keeps up the pressure

Dayanidhi Maran’s defamation suit generating machine should have created one for Gurumurthy by now:

Yes, it is Maran, the Minister, who grants licenses to Marans the Promoters of Sun TV and it is he who delays and denies them to those who compete with his business and who he is not inclined to. The functions of Maran the Minister and the interests of Marans the Sun TV promoters seem harmonious. The conflict is only between his function as the Minister and the interests of the public. In short the Telecom Ministry is run by Dayanidhi Maran for Sun TV and against those who are not for Sun TV.

Play It Safe

You know what to expect when you see Pavan Duggal’s name in an article. Almost every article on cyber law needs to have a quote by Pavan Duggal. This one is no different:

Does a blogger get to shrug off questions on propriety of content and the like? Journalists never get to do that. The difference perhaps lies in the fact that while a journalist is backed by the newspaper/ channel/ magazine he works for, a blogger has only his own name to hide behind (sometimes not even that-- although a pseudonym is an advantage at times). Journalists are out in broad daylight. Bloggers can choose to stay in the shadows and do the good (or dirty) work. None of this however means that a blogger is beyond the reach of the law.

India has a surprisingly low number of regular bloggers. About 40,000 people, by a rough estimate, post at least three times a week to their blogs. A majority of them are diarists chronicling their own lives. The few who do the journalist thing on their blogs are more or less off the media watchers' radar.

Trust and Trends in Media

BBC has come out with a series of reports on the level of trust people have in the media. The report also throws some light on what forms of media are more popular and trustworthy in the various countries. Although India has been included in the report, the general trend has not impacted India because of the low levels of Internet penetration. Hence Indians (atleast the sample of 1000-odd people) still rely on TV and newspapers for their news. The report touches upon the impact of blogs and also the growing importance of Internet based news sources. In case you are interested in reading the full report, you can download the PDF file here.

I have just listed some points, which might be of interest to you:

* Most trusted news brands in India: Aaj Tak, Doordarshan and Dainik Jagran. Surprisingly, Sun TV is the 4th most trusted news brand in India with 5% of the votes. English news sources like STAR News, NDTV and ToI make up the rest of the pack. One of the reasons for this could be the fact that the English media doesn’t have the same reach (viewership / readership) as the media in Indian languages.

* 59% of people believe that the media covers too many bad stories.

We The Media

Reuters and BBC are co-hosting a high-profile Media Conference in London. A glance through the participant list will give you an idea about the heavyweights who are attending the two-day conference. Our very own pundit blogger is a panelist in the discussion on South Asia. Sunil Lulla (remember Indya.com?) of Times Broadcasting will be another panelist who will be joining via satellite from Delhi. BBC and Reuters are providing live streaming of the event.

How to Pronounce Kaavya Viswanathan?

NYT has some tips:

Viswanathan (prounounced Kah-vee-uh Viss-wahn-uh-thon), who was just 17 when she signed the deal, did not immediately return calls for comment Tuesday.

Skypecasts Just Got Better

The limitation on the number of participants put a ceiling on the number of bloggers who could participate in an online blogger meet. With Skype increasing the cap to 100, these limitations will be a thing of the past.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Chennai goes to the polls

When everyone can become a psephologist, why should I be left behind? Here is my prediction for the 14 Assembly constituencies in Chennai:

DMK: 10 – 11 seats
ADMK: 3 – 4 seats

Sure shot win for DMK alliance: Chepauk, Thousand Lights & Anna Nagar. DMK also has a high likelihood of victory in T. Nagar, Egmore, Triplicane & Harbour constituencies.

ADMK alliance should fancy its chances in Mylapore, Royapuram, Saidapet and/or R K Nagar. Other constituencies not listed above: Park Town, Perambur and Purasawalkam.

Eventhough ADMK came to power last time, DMK managed to win 7 seats in Chennai. My hunch is that DMK will improve on that and end up with a minimum of 10 seats this time. It is often said that Chennai is DMK's fort and it looks like DMK would be able to retain that tag.

Do let me know whether you agree with the above assessment.

Word Verification with a Voice

Most of you would agree that genuine commenters find it difficult to crack Blogger’s Word Verification. I think Blogger realized this and is offering an additional option of Audio Verification. Let’s hope things change for the better.

Gilli - A Tamil Treat

The Tamil aggregator Gilli has been around for 4 months now and has already made a significant impact. As part of their monthly guest article series, I have written a piece (in English) on how English and Tamil blogs can work together on topics of common interest. Do take a look.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Thus spake Amma

Excerpts from an NDTV interview:

NDTV: Have you also thought about decisions you've taken, which you've felt were not well received and you've had to reverse them?

Jayalalitha: I told you, I had no other choice.

NDTV: What about some of the criticism that's made of you that you are a very autocratic leader? You're not allowing the second rung of leadership in the AIADMK to come up?

Jayalalitha: That is not true. It's not true at all.

NDTV: Who is the second rung? One never sees anyone else. It's always you.

Jayalalitha: When the time comes a leader will emerge.

Time 100: The People Who Shape Our World

Time has come out with its list of 100 people who are transforming this world. As always, the list is divided into various categories. Two Indians figure in the list. The first one is Infosys CEO Nandan Nilekani. They couldn’t have got somebody better than Thomas ‘Flat’ Friedman to write about Infosys. The second Indian to figure in the list is Vikram Akula. Vikram helps rural poor in the microfinance space. I might be ignorant here, but I have heard very little about Vikram in the Indian media.

Some of the new-age celebrities who have made it to the list include:

Steven Levitt of Freakonomics fame
The Flickr Founders
Myspace Duo
The Skype Guys

Iconic Tam and Battle for TN

CNN-IBN has put up a show, which will analyze the TN election situation just before the polling date. This show will be aired on 6th May at 9.30 pm (IST). People living outside India can catch the live streaming on CNN-IBN either through their site or through or through the streaming offered through Sify Max. The quality of IBN’s streaming has been pretty inconsistent over the last couple of months.

Jayanthi Natarajan (one of the panelists in the debate) seems to be a permanent fixture in most of the English news channels. Her impeccable English could be one of the reasons why the Congress fields her so often in televised debates. I won't be surprised if Jayanthi Natarajan receives a paycheck for her regular appearances on TV :-)

Among other topics, one of the issues that came up discussion was the choice of the iconic Tamilian:

The mandate for the iconic Tamilian vote was divided equally among President Abdul Kalam, Kamaraj, Periyar, Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, Subramaniya Bharathi, C.N. Annadurai, Periyar and cancer specialist Dr. Shantha, with Mr. Jothi casting a vote for Ms. Jayalalithaa.

The IBN site also has an online poll on TN's biggest icon (the list contains only people who are still alive). The current nominees are Rajini, Kamal, Dr. Shantha, APJ Abdul Kalam and Vishwanathan Anand. Rajini is leading the pack with 31% of the votes.

Update: A R Rahman's name has been added to the list. Rajini still leads the pack (25%), but others have improved their percentages.