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Sambhar Mafia - Cooked To Kill!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

So much fuss over a Mookuthi

We have read many stories about European universities banning religious headgear (like turbans), but this is the first time I’m coming across a story where an educational institution has opposed the wearing of a Mookuthi (nose-stud).

A South African school student of Indian descent has been waging a legal battle with her school (Link in Tamil) in order to uphold her right to wear the mookuthi. The school didn't allow the mookuthi as it was not permitted under the school's code of conduct.

A young Tamil-origin woman in South Africa is sticking to her contention that wearing of a nose stud is a time-honoured tradition and that it’s her constitutional right to do so.

Pillay stood her ground since 2004 when the school demanded that she stop wearing the nose ring. But her mother, Navi Pillay, contended from the start that wearing of a nose stud was a right for passage for adolescent girls whose lineage can be traced to south India. The school, however, banned the girl from wearing the nose stud and the Pillay family took the case to the Durban High Court, which ruled in favour of the school. [Link]

Let’s hope Sunali Pillay succeeds in her battle and the school appreciates and understands the feelings of people from different cultures and religions.

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An Early Bird

An absent-minded passenger seems to have flown Air Sahara one week ahead of his scheduled departure date and this discrepancy has not caught the eyes of the airport authorities and the airline officials. (via)

Mr Srinivas told the BBC it all began with his getting the date wrong.

"I had fixed a meeting in Kochi on 18 February. My tickets were booked accordingly. But somehow I thought I was leaving a week earlier on 11 February."

No one at Delhi airport picked up his error.

"The security at the airport entrance looked at my e-ticket and waved me in. Another security man looked at it too," Mr Srinivas says. [Link]

The poor guy might have ended paying one more time for his travel (flight tickets) as per his original schedule. The only other option for him would have been to stay back in Kochi for one week.


Monday, February 26, 2007

Q&A with TR

Gabtun Vijayakanth and Vijaya T Rajender are favourite topics for people making fun of Kollywood. Any news / videos concerning these people are interesting subjects which can be instantly turned into blog posts. This video on Kumudam.com (registration required) also falls under the same category. Kumudam has a 7-part interview with TR in which TR talks at length about his film career, political ambitions, hunger to succeed and also about Simbhu.

TR says that he can only provide direction to Simbhu and it is the Little Super star who has to take the final decision. TR’s natural voice is quite loud, so please listen to the interview at a moderate volume level :-)


Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Boon for Tamil and Hindi Music lovers

S Anand has developed a search tool which combines the information available in Music India and Raaga and delivers the results in a single page. The tool also accommodates intelligent search which throws up the search result even if you spell the query slightly differently. Do check out the Tamil and Hindi search tool and also read the story behind the development of this tool.

Friday, February 23, 2007

A Demanding Job

An extract from an ad on a popular Indian job site:

The physical demands described here are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.

While performing the duties of this job, the employee is regularly required to talk or hear. The employee frequently is required to sit. The employee is occasionally required to stand; walk; use hands to finger, handle, or feel; and reach with hands and arms. The employee may occasionally lift and/or move up to 25 pounds. Specific vision abilities required by this job include close vision, and ability to adjust focus.

Although it might sound like position on the shop floor, it is actually for a Director in an ITES company.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Sun TV runs out of ideas

Sun TV seems to be running low on creativity and is making all out efforts to ape other channels. On the other hand, Vijay TV has been making some rapid strides in non-fiction programming whereas Sun TV has been sticking religiously to mega-serials. Sun TV has shamelessly copied the popular Kalakka Povathu Yaru (Tamil version of The Great Indian Laughter Challenge) from Vijay TV and repackaged it as Asatha Povathu Yaaru. Sun TV has even poached the same artistes from the Vijay TV Show and roped in one of the judges (Madan Bob) from the original show. Right from the costume to the set design, everything looks very similar. I haven’t watched the new show and can’t comment on the content as of now. Going by the promos, I can tell you that the Sun show will be very similar to the original show.

This is not the first time Sun TV is showing its high-handedness. When Vijay’s Jodi No. 1 had just concluded, there were reports that Sun TV is putting pressure on the serial producers to remove Jodi No. 1 winners (Prem and Pooja) from Sun TV mega-serials. Let’s see who has the last laugh.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Sun Network moves closer to The Hindu

The close relationship between Sun Network and The Hindu is widely known. If rumour mills are to be believed, Sun Network is eyeing a stake in The Hindu (an unlisted entity). It’s not very clear whether The Hindu is actively scouting for investments. As fas as I know, The Hindu doesn’t have any immediate plans of tapping the equity markets either.

Media circles are abuzz that influential representatives of the Maran family have already sent feelers to Editor-in-Chief N. Ram for a stake-sale in The Hindu. (For the record, Sun is flush with money. Its scrip issued at Rs 875 through the book-building process is now hovering around the Rs 1,700 mark.)

Well placed sources say Sun’s initial overtures have been grandly rebuffed by the family owned newspaper. But given the manner in which the group muscled its way into the cable TV market with Sumangali, and the impunity with which it used Dayanidhi Maran’s position as Union Information Technology minister to obstruct the Tata DTH project (because the Tatas refused to give a stake to Sun), observers say the last word on the subject has not been said. [Link]

Although this can be dismissed as a rumour, I wouldn’t be surprised if this turns out to be true.

Singapore pulls up Indian MBA grad for fudging CV

We usually hear such stories at the junior level, but it is not very common to come across such fudging at the senior levels. The only incident that I can recollect is the case of Radioshack where the CEO David Edmondson had lied about his college degrees.

An Indian national who lied several times about having a degree from a top US university was let off with a 6,000-Singapore-dollar (3,870-US-dollar) fine, news reports said Saturday. Mahesh Narayan, the managing director of a consultancy firm, originally faced up to five years in jail and a 20,000-Singapore-dollar (12,903-US-dollar) fine.

Senior Counsel Philip Jeyaretnam, representing Narayan in district court on Friday, said he had been hired for his work experience and not his degree, The Straits Times said. [Link]

Mahesh Narayan has an MBA from Osmania Unversity, but he apparently told the Ministry of Manpower (during the Employment Pass Application process) that he holds an MBA from Syracuse University. Since Mahesh now runs his own consultancy firm, he does not face as much public scrutiny like the CEO of a public company and hence there wouldn’t be any pressure on him to step down from the helm.

Comments are closed. You can email me at sambhar[.]mafia[@]gmail[.]com to share your thoughts.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Flying High with Public Money

Not so long ago, Sun TV tapped the equity market and the issue received an overwhelming response. The IPO catapulted Kalanidhi Maran into the Forbes Billionaires list as he owns about 90% of the listed entity. At the time of the IPO, Sun TV had declared that they are planning to raise Rs. 700 – 800 crores. The objective of the IPO was explained in the Red Herring Prospectus.

The issue proceeds will be used to beef up Sun's subsidiaries, launch more TV channels, construct its own corporate office, set up studio facilities and up-linking infrastructure, purchase new equipment and upgrade the existing ones.

Sun TV estimates that its plan to launch three regional channels would entail an investment of Rs 113.68 crore; the new office and studio facilities would need Rs 62.3 crore and the new equipment/up-gradation would cost Rs 31.26 crore. [Link]

When I read the news about the acquisition of a corporate jet by Kalanidhi Maran, I was under the impression that he is buying the aircrafts in his personal capacity. However, it has come to light that the aircraft is being bought by Sun TV Limited and will be used by Sun TV’s top management for business purposes.

Regional broadcaster Sun TV will join the elite club of corporates, which own private jets, when it imports two Bombardier aircraft at a cost of Rs 236.94 crore to fly senior executives and directors.

The company, promoted by Communication Minister Dayanidhi Maran's brother Kalanithi Maran, would join the select club of corporates who own private jets. [Link]

During the IPO, the management had given investment plans for about Rs. 200 crores. Now, they are going to spend Rs. 237 crores towards purchase of corporate jets. From a cursory glance, it shows that the aircraft investment plan was not mentioned in the Red Herring Prospectus. Sun TV can always take refuge under the fact that their board approved this investment and it is purely for business purposes. From an investor’s perspective, one would definitely feel cheated if a company raises public funds and channelizes that to fund aircraft purchase for its senior management. For a business empire which is largely focussed on South India, one wonders whether it is worth spending more than one year’s profit (Profit After Tax for year ending 31st Mar 2006 stood at Rs. 130 Crores) on private jets. If there is a genuine need to acquire such aircraft, they should have mentioned the same in the offer document. The prospectus is anyway up for public scrutiny and the investing public can decide whether it is really worth investing in such a company.

Given the political clout the family commands, don’t expect the business press to raise such issues in the public domain.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Kili Josiyar comes to Trisha's rescue

(Image Courtesy: Sify)

Will I continue to be No. 1 in the Telugu film industry?

Will Mallu actresses continue to rule Kollywood?

Will I get more offers to do national level ads?

Will my salary touch the Rs. 1 crore mark?

Will my mom grab more attention than me in public functions?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Moto Blogging

In the Indian context, corporate blogging is yet to pick up steam. At the moment we have people like Basab Pradhan and Nandan Nilekani (occasionally) blogging about their companies and their industry segment. The blogging efforts of Padmasree Warrior, CTO of Motorola have not really been noticed by the Indian blogosphere. Padmasree is one of the highest ranked Indian executives globally and she has been blogging silently over the last few months. Her thoughts on telecom and technology would definitely be of interest to a large segment of the readers.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Chennai on Yahoo! Our City

On the lines of the recently launched Bangalore and Delhi editions, Yahoo has launched city specific pages for Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata and Hyderabad. The Bangalore and the Delhi mastheads contain some of the landmarks in the respective city. I guess the same concept will be extended to the 4 new cities as well. There is a lot more they can do with this platform (I know that this is a BETA launch). Their local blog page (including the Delicious links) is not too impressive. Like other cities, they have given links to the local Metblog. The Tamil page includes Tamil blogs and contains links to Thenkoodu and Desipundit Tamil. The podcast section links to the Podtech India site as they don’t have too many other quality podcasts in India.

Yet Another Tamil TV Channel in the offing

After Sun TV’s successful IPO other Tamil TV channels are taking the same route and the latest to join the bandwagon is Raj TV. Raj TV plans to use the funds from the IPO to launch a new Tamil channel and also to build a production studio.

Raj Television Network Ltd, the second-largest Tamil media and broadcast company, is eyeing the youth market with a channel due for a June launch.

Raj is hoping to attract a different audience than its current viewership in Raj TV and Raj Digital Plus channels.

Although Raj has not disclosed the name, it will focus on the 14-30 age group, providing them content primarily in Tamil, mixed with some Hindi and English to appeal to today’s diverse young generation. The paid channel will also include short films by popular directors, talk shows, live news and sports. [Link]

Another phenomenon to be noticed is the acquisition of corporate jets by the new age businessmen. Last heard that Kalanidhi Maran & Co. are buying two private jets. C Sivasankaran (Sterling Group) already has a corporate jet, but he probably spends most of his time outside Chennai. Traditional industrialists in TN have shied away from flaunting their wealth and never really fancied owning private jets. It would be interesting to see if this trend pushes more corporate chieftains to acquire private jets.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Spot The Difference

Indiaplaza (formerly known as Fabmall) has come out with a price challenge where users can report instances where Indiaplaza’s competitors (online and offline retailers) are selling at lower prices and pocket gift certificates worth twice the difference. This challenge currently covers only books and mobile handsets. This shows that Indiaplaza has become aggressive and wants to prove that they mean business in the etailing space. With new players like Futurebazaar and A1Books entering the fray, it is quite natural to see the aggressiveness displayed by existing players like Indiaplaza.

Indiaplaza already offers more than 20% discount on most books and hence the price differential between them and other players is not very significant. Such price challenges have existed in the offline space where retailers usually say that they will give you the product free if you spot a cheaper product at any other retail shop. This initiative will also help Indiaplaza in cleaning up all their prices. It would have anyway cost them a lot (in terms of manpower) if they had undertaken this exercise internally.

Tip: If you have the time and the inclination, do a comparison between Landmark (SifyMall), Rediff, Prakash Books, Strand Book Stall, Indiatimes and Indiaplaza. Don’t waste your time looking at books which are priced below Rs. 500. Concentrate on expensive books like Coffee Table Books, Business / Management Books and other Hard cover editions. I’m sure you can spot some cheaper prices. I have already done some research and submitted my response to Indiaplaza. I’ll let you know in a week’s time whether Indiaplaza really sent me the Gift Certificate. Multiple Gift Certificates can’t be combined to buy a book and hence it makes sense to spot a huge difference and use it to buy a book.

Related posts: Let’s Go Book Shopping

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Nandan meets Nooyi

Economic Times features an interesting chat between Nandan Nilekani and Indra Nooyi. Nandan plays the role of an interviewer and he quizzes Nooyi on the challenges she has faced in her career. It is definitely worth a read if you can put up with ET’s poorly designed website. ET’s sick system presents this interview over 24 pages :-(

Monday, February 05, 2007

Can Luxury Car Brands Boost Book Sales?

Coming up with an innovative title is one way of ensuring that a book catches the attention of potential buyers. This style is very prominent with authors who write on self-improvement and motivation. "The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari" did very well in this aspect. We have yet another addition to this list. An Indian author has come out with the book: “Mercedes & The Missing Clock”. Any takers for a motivational book containing the name BMW?

Related Posts: Book Titles That Impress

Staying Clear of Serious Stories

One of the problems 24-hour news channels face is the shortage of quality content. The news crew needs to continuously scout for new stories to keep the channel running. The TV journalists start ‘inventing’ news when the news flow dries up. One natural outcome of this quest if the dip in quality content.

You can tolerate a bit when a journo does an offbeat story once in a while. How can we put up with a journo when he/she churns out only inane offbeat stories? IMHO a particular journo from CNN-IBN’s Chennai desk falls under this category. Her latest story is on food items named after Kollywood movies and celebrities. One of her earlier stories on Christmas mood at a Chennai bakery was equally boring. She also made another story on how Trisha is losing the numero uno slot in Kollywood. That report was probably good quality material for Sun News and not for CNN-IBN. These kinds of reports are really artifical and boring. Who would want to know whether a Khushboo idli is still popular or whether the Khushboo temple is still patronized by devotees. If you want to portray the current trend, atleast do stories on Namitha :-)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

A Concept That Works

Annalakshmi restaurant in Singapore is quite famous for its unique concept. The restaurant is run by a charity organization and their menu card doesn’t carry the usual price list. They let you pay what is appropriate for the quantum of food you have consumed. Since they trust you, they don’t really monitor whether you have paid appropriately. IMHO, their model works because lot of people (affluent clientele) pay more thereby cross-subsidizing the crowd which might pay less. Most of the people who work at the restaurant are volunteers (usually well-qualified) who are associated with the charity organization. The charity also makes some money by selling paintings, arts and crafts which are prominently displayed at the restaurant. A recent Reuters article talks about how they manage to run the show.

Annalakshmi has three outlets in Singapore, and eateries in Malaysia, Australia and India. Staff range from retired civil servants to women from broken homes to executives and doctors who believe serving and preparing food is the ultimate blessing.

The flavorsome food -- and unique concept -- attracts hundreds of tourists, expatriates and Singaporeans every day. The restaurants serve north and south Indian specialities such as tamarind soup, chickpea curry and savory lady's fingers.

Lunch is served buffet-style at the Chinatown bistro or at the stall in the bustling Lau Pa Sat downtown food center. The main restaurant offers the most choice with a dinner menu that changes with the seasons. [Link]

I have found that Annalakshmi’s service is a bit sloppy at times (personal experience based on few visits in the past). If you go to a regular restaurant, you can demand a certain level of service for the kind of money that you pay. By going to a restaurant which is run by volunteers, you are in a way expected to behave in a diplomatic manner. Do you feel that we should tone down our expectations while going to such concept restaurants?

It’s quite strange to note that Annalakshmi has not followed the “Pay As You Wish” concept for their Indian operations. Back in the 90s, a meal at their Chennai outlet (opposite LIC in Mount Road) used to be priced at Rs. 150. I’m sure the price would have gone up now. I have nothing against the restaurant or the charity but I somehow feel that if the restaurant can trust its customers in Singapore, Malaysia and Australia they should also trust the Indian clientele by following the same concept back in India. Do you really think this concept will succeed in India?

LiveMint Goes Live

Hindustan Times just launched it's new pink paper. Mint is currently available only in Mumbai and Delhi. The closest I can get to it is the online edition – LiveMint. Although the design looks refreshingly different (when compared to the clutter of most other Indian business sites), my excitement stops there. The site requires you to register (free) before you can read any of the articles. Although they have something called RSS feeds, it doesn’t seem to be working. Even if the RSS feeds start working, I’m not sure how they can make RSS readers login to LiveMint everytime somebody wants to read the full article from the RSS feed.

Mint’s tabloid-style print layout would be a viewed as a welcome change. Tehelka (weekly) and Tamil Murasu are others who offer their print editions in such a format. It makes it that much more easier to take it to the loo :-)