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Sambhar Mafia - Cooked To Kill!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Arasi and Anni battle it out in Thirumangalam

For both Radhika Sarathkumar and Premalatha Vijayakanth, it is more than a mere whistle-stop tour to draw voters towards their parties – the All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi (AISMK) and Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) – headed by their star husbands.

Clad in their best and bright traditional attire, they became instant hits when they hit the dusty roads of Tirumangalam. Radhika and Premalatha, the star performers, held the women in rapt attention. Each in their individual style vividly symbolised the contrasting approach to campaigning. While Radhika became Selvi, her lead role in the mega serial Arasi, Premalatha was ‘anni’ (brother’s wife) to her husband’s fans. Both seemed to relish their roles.

Arasi was the topic of discussion among the wide-eyed women. “What will happen to Arasi? Will the mother and daughter unite?” These questions nagged Radhika wherever she went. Even men were inquisitive to know about Arasi’s fate in the TV serial. ‘See the serial to know the answer,’ she would reply patiently and then move on, clad in a traditional saree. (Link)

Radhika might be crowd puller, but it would be difficult to convert her on screen charisma into votes. Not sure what sort of an impact Vijayakanth's wife can create.


Friday, December 26, 2008

Matchmaking For The Well-heeled

The people behind Bharat Matrimony have launched a new matrimony website targetting the HNI (High Networth Individuals) segment. 

Elitematrimony.com, launched by Consim Info Pvt Limted, formerly known as Bharat Matrimony group, is all about the elite read money getting married. With a membership fee of Rs 1 lakh for six months, it considers only people with deep pockets and entry is by invitation only.

Giving details, Murugavel Janakiraman, founder and CEO, Consim Info, said: “Once the applicants send in their requests, the team will verify the details, check their background and see if they fulfil the criteria.” The criteria is simple. You need to be either from a rich and established business family or a celebrity, a sports star, an IAS officer or a socially well-known person. Another category is high net-worth individuals - people with a more than healthy bank balance and an enviable portfolio. (Link)

To be considered as Elite, people need to justify why they think they are elite. Looks like Relationship Manager is the new word for what was commonly referred to as "Marriage Broker". My guess is that the HNI segment is more likely to be well connected and hence the need for them to seek an arranged marriage through EliteMatrimony.com would be lesser. Further, whenever middlemen are involved in the matchmaking process, there is a high likelihood that half-truths and lies would come in as the middlemen are incentivized when they strike a deal. It is probably cheaper and more effective to search for suitable brides and grooms directly through BharathMatrimony.com than paying Rs. 1 lakh and entrusting the search to a Relationship Manager. It remains to be seen whether having RM's similar to that in the Private Banking industry can succeed in the Matchmaking market. Let's see if Murugavel Janakiraman can come up with a winner this time.  

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DMK Effects Changes At The Top

It looks like MK Stalin is set to become DMK Treasurer while MK and Anbazhagan will retain their party positions.

Top DMK sources told HT that DMK president and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, citing his advancing age, had wanted to hand over the party presidency to K Anbazhagan, who has been general secretary for over three decades. (Link)

If MK is serious about his point about old age, he should have actually handed over the baton to a younger person and not even considered K Anbazhagan. This is because Anbazhagan is two years older than MK.

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Testing Times For The Textile Sector

It is not just bankers and techies who are losing jobs during this financial crisis. WSJ has an article how the recession is impacting India's textile and garment export sector which is the backbone of the Tirupur - Coimbatore belt.

So far, most of the textile industry's job losses are among its least-skilled and lowest-paid workers at spinning mills, dyeing houses, and stitching and embroidery factories. Employees in such operations, mainly women, earn about $2 a day. It isn't unusual to spot child workers in such factories, although it's illegal to employ them.


That is evident in the small city of Tirupur, 37 miles from Coimbatore. Tirupur used to be a thriving center for the Indian garment trade, with almost 3,500 apparel makers. Locals call the city "little Japan" for its dependence on exports. Half of the garments made there are shipped to the U.S.

Now, trucks delivering raw cotton to Tirupur factories are half-empty, reflecting slumping orders. Workers who have had their shifts eliminated or shortened sit idly on the stoops of their garment plants. (Link)

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TN Snippets

Pushpa Iyengar of Outlook has come up with an interesting collection of snippets related to the state of affairs in TN (mostly political). Her round-up covers MK, Jaya, Vaiko, Vijayakanth, Marans, Azhagiri, Kanimozhi etc. 

Chennai was a late bloomer on the real estate front and today is saddled with 50,000 potential flats down the Old Mahabalipuram Road alone being built by builders from Delhi/ Mumbai/ Bangalore that are in varying stages of construction. Nearly four million square feet of commercial space are going abegging while software companies are tightening their belts by withdrawing snacks, soft drinks, toilet paper, etc. But those who have flats to rent are still kings getting away with increasing rents anywhere from 40-100 per cent. (Link)

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Watch Out For Mirror Blogs At OneIndia

Indian internet firms are upto different dirty tricks and the recent one which struck my eye is OneIndia. It is mirroring various blogs including mine without the author's permission. They have an FAQ section which says that they are not stealing content. I don't know how they can mirror other blogs under the guise of attracting more traffic to the author's contribution.

Is Oneindia-Blogs stealing my content?

No, Oneindia-Blogs is not stealing your content. Oneindia is just giving an opportunity for the users to read your blog, email your blog to friends, comment and rate it, which in turn will help popularise your blog. Since your blog is listed in our URL, there is greater possibility of listing in the search engines, which will increase traffic to your blog. (Link)

What really upsets me is the fact that they have automatically included many blogs and the blogger needs to contact OneIndia to request for removal. The only dissenting voice which I have read so far is that of Shubhspace, who put up a fight with the folks at Greynium (One India). Why aren't other bloggers putting up an united front to stop this nuisance? We need more concerted efforts to stop them from doing this. This auto-inclusion concept is no different from some MNC Banks offering free insurance for credit card holders for an initial promo period and stating that uninterested customers should call the respective bank to opt-out.

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Pongal - the latest addition to the freebie list

The New Indian Express has a hard-hitting Op-Ed on the freebie culture in TN and how the government is concentrating on such gimmicks at the cost of real development.

Inadvertently the DMK will find the scheme drawing attention to its own shortcomings. For instance, the free TV scheme highlighted the deteriorating power situation in the state (many simply sold off their TVs); the cash assistance of Rs 2,000 to those affected by the recent floods showed up the government’s perennial lack of planning with regard to natural calamities; and the gift hamper is sure to remind voters of the terrible rise in prices of essential commodities during the reign of the UPA.

More importantly, however, is the culture of freebies that the people of Tamil Nadu are getting used to. It points to the government’s abdication of its duties in ensuring that the citizens are able to provide for themselves. Would the money not have been better spent in developmental projects which have long-term multiple benefits for the voters, individually and collectively? Such freebies exemplify the feudal mindset of Tamil Nadu’s rulers. It is against democratic norms, where each individual should have an equal opportunity to work and earn for himself. (Link)

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Designer Bags For Hire

We have heard of book rentals, video rentals and car rentals. Somebody went ahead and thought of a business that rents out bags to fashion-conscious women. The next time you wan't to be spotted in a Coach, Prada or a Louis Vitton, you should probably consider Thatbagiwant.com.sg, a recently launched luxury bag rental service in Singapore whose prices are cheaper than the real purchase but not really budget. I think the primary targets would be women who want to try out different brands and bags (flippers). Given the amount of fakes and lookalikes that are in circulation, one of the challenges the business might face is the need to check whether the returned bags are original. 

At ThatBagIWant.com, you do not have to earn a 5-digit salary to carry the bag you desire. No, they are NOT your second-hand or imitation goods. In fact, all the bags are purchased from authentic boutiques themselves. So then you sceptically ask, “How come it is much cheaper?”

With the rental option, customers can rent often at half the cost of buying the bag, before moving on to another "it" bag.

Some women also use this service to check out a particular bag they're thinking about buying. (Link)

The interesting snippet here is that the bag rental business has been started by a former policeman who has personally witnessed lot of people shop lifting such bags from boutiques and retail stores.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Enthiran changes hands as credit crunch bites hard

Big production houses have been putting pressure on directors and actors to cut costs and this has created ripples in Kollywood. Few days ago, it came to light that Reliance backed out of Maniratnam's project because of budget constraints. The latest news is that Superstar Rajini's Enthiran will now be produced by Sun Pictures instead of Ayngaran and Eros. 

The market rumour is that Shankar and Karunamoorthy of AI has parted ways over the budget of Enthiren which was originally pegged at RS 120 crore. After the meltdown and global recession, the Kishore Lulla-owned Eros International which has a stake in AI, wanted Shankar to scale down the budget. (Link)

After the patch-up in MK's family, Sun Pictures is now making aggressive moves since it has the financial and political backing. If the tussle between MK and Maran's had continued, I doubt whether such a deal would have happened. With corporates slowly fading away from the Kollywood radar, expect more budget scale downs and reduction in star salaries. 

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008


The toll plaza on Old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR) seems to have started off on a negative note with complaints pouring in from various sections. It has also provided good photo opportunities to the photo journalists who seem to have had a day out capturing the long queues and the disgruntled passengers / commuters. As expected, lot of the complaints are from people who reside in that stretch where the Toll Road is located as they don't seem to have the necessary documentation to access their homes. If I remember correctly, very similar problems cropped up when the ECR Toll plaza was commissioned sometime back. 

With every vehicle taking about 3-4 minutes to cross any of the five toll plazas located on and off Rajiv Gandhi Salai, vehicles lined up one behind another closely. Due to the slow movement at the main toll plaza in Perungudi, the traffic jam extended up to almost the TIDEL Park junction. Consequentially, several employees reported late for work.

Frayed tempers and heated arguments were also witnessed with many of users, particularly autorickshaw drivers, questioning why they should pay the toll. (Link)

With employees of companies located on the IT Corridor facing more hassles it is high time companies start thinking seriously about telecommuting. (Photo Courtesty: New Indian Express)

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Fabulous news for 'Scrabulous' brothers

Kolkata boys Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla of RJ Softwares can now heave a sigh of relief as Hasbro has dropped its case against the Agarwallas for copyright infringement. I think both sides have lost because of this battle. RJ Softwares launched Wordscraper (for Facebook) and renamed their website as Lexulous.com. I'm not sure whether the response for Wordscaper would have measured up to the popularity of Scrabulous. The Official Facebook version of Scrabble has also not managed to garner a substantial audience. 

The Scrabulous site launched in 2005 and the game was added to Facebook in 2007. But a Hasbro representative told CNET News in July that the company waited, "in deference to the fans," to file its lawsuit until it launched its official Scrabble Facebook app earlier in July. That version was created by Electronic Arts and is used by a mere 8,900 daily users. (Link)

Caught in such a Lose-Lose situation, I think it was wise enough for Hasbro to withdraw the case.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

An Elephant, Not A Tiger

The word elephant is widely used by the Western media when talking about India and The Economist is no different. Their special feature on India has interesting reports on Inter-state disparities, state of the economy and the outlook for the Indian IT industry. I only hope they'll start thinking of new titles for their future stories on India.

As India’s economy grows rapidly, so will the regional disparities. Of 260 SEZs that have so far been fully approved, a big majority are in India’s richest states, including 42 in Tamil Nadu, 38 in Maharashtra and 23 in Gujarat. This trend will exacerbate Indians’ existing grievances and perhaps lead to more conflict. Managing this schism effectively would require enlightened and skilful government, of which India has too little and not much prospect of more. (Link)

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Subhiksha Sails Through Choppy Waters

Subhiksha, the retail venture of R Subramanian is facing a crisis of grave magnitude. The supermarket chain which has its roots in Chennai has grown too big, too fast in the last few years. While their model had several flaws (No frills / unattractive stores, frequent stock outs), their aggressive growth outside South India indicated that they were probably doing well. The deterioration in the equity markets put paid to Subhiksha's IPO plans. Poor sales and unavailability of easy credit might have resulted in a situation where Subhiksha is not able to pay employees, suppliers and landlords. The New Indian Express carried a cover story on Monday (8th Dec) explaining the situation. Another report in NowPublic has also mentioned similar complaints.

More than 700 employees of 97 stores run by Subhiksha, the supermarket chain in the city have not been paid their salaries for the last two months by the company, which has told them to pick up groceries from the stores in lieu of their pay packets.

However, with the shelves empty — all major suppliers of goods such as HLL have stopped supplies as the firm has defaulted on payments — the employees are in a state of panic. (Link)

Subhiksha has since denied the allegations.

I had tried Subhiksha during their initial days. Back then, the shops didn't allow the customers inside and one had to give a shopping list to the counter staff who would collect the stuff from the respective shelves. With such a concept there was no possibility of an impulse buy as Subhiksha didn't provide a shopping experience. They then tweaked this model to allow customers inside the shop. The shelves were pretty ordinary and one could notice that they had run out of stock for most of the key items. One had to visit other departmental stores to complete their shopping requirements. The only thing which drew people to Subhiksha was the aggressive pricing. They used the pricing power to enter the field of pharma retail. Their offer of 5% discount for pharma products met with strong resistance from the Pharma Distributors and Retailers Association which sensed that their trade will be affected if Subhiksha Medical shops were allowed to expand. Stock outs were another common phenomenon in the Pharma business as well. With so many problems, one could feel that Subhiksha was never among the top of the mind recall of the shoppers. 

I could sense Subramanian's ambitions when I spotted him at the Giant Hypermarket in Tampines (Singapore) sometime in 2007. The shop was teeming with weekend shoppers when Subramanian was busy observing the behaviour of the shoppers in the different sections. He came across as unassuming and hardworking. Aggressive expansion, poor back-end infrastructure, improper demand forecasting together with extremely bad credit and equity markets have dented Subhiksha's growth plans. 

This is not the first time Subhiksha has been at the receiving end. Even biggies like Reliance Retail are in retrenchment mode. The big question now is whether Subhiksha will fold up. Azim Premji, in his personal capacity, recently picked up a 10% stake in Subhiksha (the stake was acquired from ICICI Ventures). Shutting down unprofitable stores, laying off people and resolving the back-end problems would help them recover somewhat from the current crisis. The other option is to put them up for sale. Whatever be the outcome, Subhiksha has some serious rethinking to do.


Thursday, December 04, 2008

Defending Her Turf

After facing flak from different sections regarding the recent TV coverage of the Mumbai terrorist attacks, Barkha Dutt finally comes out with her point-by-point response to the various charges levelled against TV channels. While she admits gaps in the coverage especially with regard to the CST angle, she largely defends most of the other actions surrounding live coverage and reactions from affected people. I wish she had commented on things like the "exclusive footage" one-upmanship claims by the different channels at a time when the country was facing one of the worst crisis ever.

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