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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bangalore gets an official guide

A new guide has been launched to help tourist guides show travellers taking a holiday in India the best places to see.

Guides in Bangalore have traditionally worked independently, often taking tourists to predestined shops and restaurants and often missing some of the city's real attractions.

All of this is about to change with the introduction of a guide for guides which was put together by 21-year-old student Mihir Nayak.

'I always had a passion for writing. My mother used to read Enid Blyton to me when I was very young and as a result, I developed a great interest in literature,' Mr Nayak told the NewIndpress.

'My father was the first journalist in Bangalore to cover the eating out scene 25 years ago. So I suppose writing is probably in my genes.'

The guide, entitled Bangalore A Time Out India', is said to have come about after Mr Nayak witnessed a tourist trying to find someone to show him around.

'He was presented with a guide and generally left to himself to figure out where to go and what to do,' he said.

The book features a number of hot-spots in Bangalore and Mr Nayak says he intends to update it every year and will soon release a German language version.

KV Kamath is BS Banker of the Year

Kundapur Vaman Kamath, managing director and chief executive officer of ICICI Bank, has been chosen Business Standard’s Banker of the Year for 2005-06.
The choice is based on his track record, a perception audit in the industry, and a poll involving senior editors of the newspaper.
Business Standard’s Banking Annual, being distributed with today’s edition, features the success story of ICICI Bank.
It also covers a round table discussion that took place earlier this month, involving the CEOs of eight leading banks and the secretary, financial sector. The subject of the discussion was: “Can the banking system support India’s growth?”
While admitting that there was stress and issues ranging from human resource, technology, and skill to resources, capital, and consolidation, all bankers participating in the round table exuded confidence that the banking system could support India’s growth. The CEOs were all for consolidation to build scales.
Vinod Rai, secretary, financial sector, assured the bankers that the government would support the move for consolidation.
As for Kamath, he has not only brought back the old ICICI from the brink of collapse under the burden of bad loans and growing asset-liability mismatches by converting itself into a bank through a reverse merger with ICICI Bank four years ago, but also made it a retail powerhouse by building a retail portfolio of over Rs 1,00,000 crore.
In percentage terms, retail assets now account for 69 per cent of ICICI Bank’s total assets. Out of this, 51 per cent is mortgages. With over Rs 68,000 crore of market capitalisation at present, ICICI Bank is way ahead of the country's largest commercial bank, State Bank of India. It accounts for close to 23 per cent of the total market capitalisation of all listed Indian banks.
The compounded annual growth rate of ICICI Bank’s assets for the last three years stands at 23.86 per cent.
Though it is a very distant second to the State Bank of India in terms of asset base (Rs 2,51,389 crore against Rs 3,93,870 crore on March 31, 2006), the gap has been narrowing fast.

Monday, November 27, 2006

M.R. Pai: citizen extraordinary

Allwyn Fernandes; M.R. Pai Citizen Extraordinary, M.R. Pai Foundation; 105 pp.

The book is rightly named. Shri M.R. Pai was not a violent revolutionary or an ivory tower philosopher. He was just a citizen, but an extraordinary citizen, because he not only was aware of his rights and duties, but also was a struggler who innovatively helped fellow citizens in realising their rights. He was extraordinary, for unlike others, he neither gave up the struggle nor resorted to violent means by losing patience. He just moved on firmly and honestly, victories just followed him.

The author, Allwyn Fernandes, is an experienced journalist. He showed his research skills by successfully exploring the essential part of Shri Pai’s life, while respecting his privacy. The author’s skill lays in the way he encapsuled the significant part of Shri Pai’s struggle in a lucid way, that the book has significant information for multiple stakeholders such as students of law and governance, bureaucrats, businessmen, rights activists, development professionals, journalists and more importantly common men and women.

The book elaborates different instances where Shri Pai creatively fought with the state monopolistic system and emerged victorious. Whether it is Smt Jayalakshmi’s struggle with Provident Fund Commission or Smt Shanta Wagh’s complaint against MTNL or K.B. Shetty’s case of lost jewellery from a bank locker operated by Punjab National Bank or the frozen bank account of Shri A.N. Parekh, Shri Pai had answers for all. He supported the struggle by showing them the ways and means to fight the powerful system. The struggle was hard, but the message is very clear—take an honest step forward, think innovatively and stand firmly, success will be yours. The book is an inspiring account for those who give up even before the first step.

The book is divided into two sections. The first section is an account by the author of the significant struggles that Shri Pai was part of. The author has put a lot of efforts in exploring various cases. He has also detailed some personal but critical part of Shri Pai’s life. The second section includes various reminiscences offered by close friends and colleagues of Shri Pai. Cumulatively, the two sections provide an inspirational message to the readers.

The film, Lage Raho Munnabhai, was a hit because it caught the pulse of a large section of the Indian society for whom changing the system is synonymous with violent revolution. This book reminds us of the film. The author here describes various instances where Shri Pai intervened peacefully but strongly aiming at fighting with the system and not the individual, despite the fact that system here was state monopolistic institutions.

(M.R. Pai Foundation C/o Forum of Free Enterprise Peninsula House, IInd Floor 235, Dr D.N. Road, Mumbai-400 001.)

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Lakshmi Vilas Bank to double customer base in two years

Lakshmi Vilas Bank (LVB) is planning to double its customer base in two years by opening new branches in unrepresented areas and states.
Talking to the media here, R M Nayak, chairman and CEO of LVB, said the bank had already commissioned five new branches during the current fiscal.
It was awaiting clearances from the Reserve Bank of India for setting up another 25 braches, which would be opened before end of this fiscal, he said.
The 25 new branches would come up in Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana. The management had decided to strengthen its marketing team by appointing guardian executives to monitor cliental growth in each of the eight divisions of the bank.
Besides, the bank would appoint two business development officers each at every branch in order to enhance its customer base, Nayak said.
The bank was also in the process of seeking the help of field officers of the agriculture department and agriculture universities with a view to identitying the actual requirement of banking services among farmers and in rural areas.
It also plans to launch new services in the agriculture sector with special focus on rural marketing.

Siemens India wins $900m Qatar deal

A consortium of Siemens India Ltd and its German parent, in which the Indian unit holds 90 per cent, has bagged a record Rs 4,000 crore order for a comprehensive turnkey project for the installation of power transmission lines.

This was from Qatar’s ministry for electricity and water distribution in the face of intense competition from international players in the transmission and distribution equipment business.

Industry officials consider the contract, scheduled for completion by February 2009, as a vote of confidence for the Indian unit of the global giant.

This is the biggest order won so far by the either PTT Germany, the power transmission division of Siemens' German unit, or its Indian counterpart.

Anil Kamath, VP in Siemens India’s power and transmission business, said that the contract was of critical significance. "It is a major breakthrough for India as it brings the Indian unit into the limelight and on to the world stage," Kamath said.

He said this was the third instance where the 90-10 consortium with the Indian unit in the lead had bagged an order from Kharamma, the local name for the Qatar ministry. But the earlier two orders were worth only Rs 2,000 crore, Siemens officials said.

Under the contract, the Indian unit would supply control and relay panels.

A boost for Konkani literature

Goa Minister for Education Luizinho Faleiro inaugurated the Vishwa Konkani Sahitya Akademi on Saturday. He called upon Konkani language enthusiasts the world over to unite to develop their mother tongue.

Basti Vaman Shenoi, president of Konkani language and Cultural Foundation, said the foundation had taken the initiative to take Konkani language, art, culture and folklore to national and international arenas.

Setting up of the Akademi was the first step in that direction, he said.

Ernakulam favourite

MANJERI: Defending champion Ernakulam will start favourite in the men's section as the 51st Akbar Travels senior State basketball championships get underway at the GBHSS ground here on Wednesday.

Ernakulam, effectively the Customs and Central Excise team, will be without the services of its star player Subash Shenoy, who is currently attending the Indian camp, but that will not diminish the side's chances as it has better all-round players to make up for Subash's absence.

Thiruvananthapuram, which will be loaded with players from KSEB, will be hoping to take advantage of Shenoy's absence. Thiruvananthapuram, drawn in Pool `B', barring any upset, is likely to meet Ernakulam in the final. Thrissur, Kottayam and Idukki are the sides capable of creating an upset.

Konkani festival from December 1

MANGALORE: Mandd Sobhann, an organisation dedicated to the promotion of the Konkani theatre and culture, will organise a heritage exhibition and youth festival at Kalaangan, Shaktinagar, from December 1 to 3, Eric Ozario, president of the Karnataka Konkani Sahitya Academy, said.

Mr. Ozario told presspersons here that the festival was being organised to commemorate the completion of 20 years of service by the organisation. The exhibition would feature traditional artefacts, implements, instruments and household articles. Quizzes would be held for different age groups and prizes would be distributed, he added.

A youth festival will be conducted in the amphitheatre, and will involve singing, dancing and skit competitions. The first day's events will be open to students of pre-university and the second day will be open to degree students. On December 3, the competitions will be open to all.

The first three winning teams will be given prizes of Rs. 5,000, Rs. 3,000 and Rs. 2,000.

The winning teams from the youth festival will perform on December 3 evening. The best team will be given an award of Rs. 5,555.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Wires for a Wired World

Chaitanya Kalbag, Editor, Reuters Asia-Pacific, Singapore ur, Germany

Far from being suspicious of the Internet, Reuters has embraced it – and the Internet has returned the favour: The news service says Internet subscribers account for more than 80 percent of its revenue on the media side. Articles from Reuters attract 350 million page views and 50 million unique users during a typical month, says Chaitanya Kalbag, editor of Reuters Asia-Pacific.That translates into a reach spreading across 15 percent of the Internet universe, Kalbag said during a roundtable at the World Editors Forum. Much of that usage comes via portals such as Yahoo, which uses an automated system to pump out Reuters’ text and photos.As time goes on, the online offerings from Reuters will become more targeted, Kalbag said, with customised news services and Olympic-specific Internet packages on the way. Reuters is also investing close to 30 million British pounds in a new protocol for wire distribution called NewsML, he said.Even though Reuters is thoroughly part of the online world, Kalbag said the news service still holds to the values it prized at its founding 150 years ago: speed, accuracy and freedom from bias.“One of the big challenges is to go to the people with news of the highest quality,” he said.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


The famous Dindi Festival of the Hari Mandir Devasthan, Margao was celebrated on November 3, amid much pomp and splendour, with thousands of devotees from all over Goa attending the feast. The entire city looked colourful with buildings and shops and houses decorated. The festival started in the year 1909 and is being celebrated in Margao for the past 96 years. The main attraction of the festival was ‘Sangeet Bhaitakas’ staged by famous singer Ramdas Kamat. The Dindi procession of Lord Vithal Rakumai which was accompanied by Dindi groups.

Vishwa Konkani Sahitya Academy to be inaugurated in Panaji

MANGALORE: The Vishwa Konkani Sahitya Academy, one of the main components of the plan for the total revival of Konkani art, literature, music, folklore and theatre; will be inaugurated in Panaji on November 18.

The Konkani Language and Cultural Foundation, headquartered here, has also initiated construction of the World Konkani Centre at Shaktinagar in Mangalore.

Speaking to The Hindu here on Tuesday, president of the foundation Basti Vaman Shenoy said the Vishwa Konkani Sahitya Academy would have representatives from four States — Goa, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala, where Konkani speaking people were concentrated.

Artistes would have a centre for performance at the World Konkani Centre, Mr. Shenoy said. The foundation was also planning to set up World Konkani Sangeet Nritya Academy, Word Konkani Nataka Academy, World Konkani Lokaveda Academy (for folklore and performing artistes), World Konkani Library Committee, World Konkani Museum Committee and Vishwa Konkani Bhasha Samsthan, he added.

The foundation has nominated the first batch of 15 members for the academy. They were Uday Bhembre, Pundalika Nayak, Tanaji Halrankar, Madhavi Sardesai and Prakash Vazarikar from Goa; J.B. Moraes, J.B. Sequeira and N.D. Sonde from Maharasthra; Mark Walder, Edwin J.F. D'Souza, Eric Crasta and Jayashri Shanbhag from Karnataka; and Gokuldas Prabhu, R.S. Bhaskar and Sunita Bai from Kerala, he said.

Bennet, Coleman picks up 6.42% stake in Premier Tissues

Bennett, Coleman & Co (BCCL) has picked up 6.42% stake in Premier Tissues India, manufacturers and exporters of tissue paper, reports Economic Times.

GG Shenoy, chairman and managing director, Premier Tissues, said the investment will be utilised to expand the existing market and in brand-building efforts.

Premier Tissues was set up in 1998 in technical collaboration with Premier Tissues of Malaysia.

It now has a sales revenue of 350 million, of which up to 25% comes from exports. Premier exports to Australia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and countries in Europe and the Gulf.

Shenoy added that the company has recently signed a contract with European company PPI, for the export of tissues of value of Euro 2 million and are also soon signing a 1 million export contract with UK-based Maxima group.

Premier is one of the largest tissue paper manufacturers in India. It caters to the hospitality and healthcare industries and also major IT firms. The tissue paper range includes facial tissues, toilet paper and kitchen towels.

Rare Heart Procedure Conducted On One-day-old at Manipal Hospital

A team of interventional cardiologists at Manipal Heart Foundation has performed a rare procedure called Balloon Valvuloplasty on a one-day-old baby.

During the routine ultrasound examination at the time of pregnancy, the patient's baby was diagnosed with a critical narrowing of aortic valve (Critical Aortic Stenosis). After the parents learnt of the complexity, the baby was brought at Manipal Hospital. The baby's heart condition was poor, had breathing difficulty and his blood pressure was not recordable. He was quickly admitted in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and was put on mechanical ventilator. He had continuous convulsions due to the poor heart condition, which was managed medically.

On the second day, Dr Anand Shenoy, Interventional Cardiologist, Manipal Heart Foundation, decided to conduct a procedure called balloon valvuloplasty to save the baby's life.

"In this procedure, the aortic valve was opened with a balloon and we achieved excellent procedure results," says Dr Shenoy. Twenty-four hours after the procedure, the baby's clinical condition drastically improved. BP was normal, ventilator taken off, and the heart function improved drastically. "He was discharged after seven days in a stable condition," Dr Shenoy adds.

Both surgery and balloon procedure can be done for such cardiac conditions. Balloon procedure carries very high risk, but this procedure was the only way to save the child. "This procedure is performed usually when the child is at least one-week-old. I must admit it was a difficult case, as the mortality risk was around 60 per cent," says Dr Anand.

Intel-based Supercomputer Supports Cambridge Research

The University of Cambridge has deployed a cluster of Dual-Core Intel Xeon Processor 5160-based Dell PowerEdge servers to create one of the top two fastest supercomputers in the United Kingdom. The system is also among the fastest supercomputers in the world and the most powerful non-classified machine in the U.K. based on the latest Linpack benchmark results released this week at Supercomputing 2006 in Tampa, Florida.

"This result underscores Intel's commitment to driving power efficiency without compromise on performance. It also signals a real stake in the ground for the University of Cambridge's performance and energy savings, and demonstrates an outstanding job of marrying best in class technologies with best in class system commissioning," said Arun Shenoy, director, UK and Ireland Business Group, Intel UK.

The supercomputer, which will be used to conduct scientific research across a range of areas, achieves a peak computing performance of over 28 teraflops. The system was a collaboration among software and hardware experts from ClusterVision, a specialist in Linux supercomputer clusters, Dell, Intel, Qlogic and SilverStorm Technologies.

"Our environment is extremely compute-intensive and requires a robust system that provides the outstanding level of price performance capability that Intel-based systems deliver. This supercomputer will play an important role in advancing several areas of research as diverse as the understanding of the origins of the universe to the creation of modern materials," said Paul Calleja, director of the Cambridge High Performance Computing Facility.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Canara Bank chronicles a century in hardback

Canara Bank, which turned 100 recently, may count among India’s largest state-run banks with a global business of over $44bn and a listing among top 2,000 companies in the world. But its beginnings were modest — just four employees operating from a rented apartment in Mangalore.

Staring operations in 1906, it was then known as the Canada Hindu Permanent Fund Ltd, and the man who pioneered it was A Subba Rao Pai, an enterprising Saraswat Brahmin and the youngest of four sons of a lawyer in a munsif’s court.

“The bank’s early years were markedly modest,” says The Story of Canara Bank, a Banking Odyssey, a book written by veteran writer M V Kamath to mark 100 years of one of India’s largest commercial banks that was nationalised in 1969.

“Furniture was meagre. The first safe was lent by a director! It had a staff of four — a secretary, a clerk and two bill collectors. The monthly establishment charges amounted to Rs45 ($1 going by today’s exchange rate). Salaries were low.

“As the fund was started in the middle off the rainy season when trade was generally slack and as it took some time for the people to come to know of its existence, it did little business till about the beginning of November 1906.”

But business steadily increased soon, so much so that on some days the Fund was unable to grant all the loans applied for.

“The prospectus of (the) Fund was quickly printed and an enthusiastic Subba Rao personally went to many places in a hackney coach and bullock cart, explaining the benefit to ordinary people and collecting shares as he went along,” says the 499-page book, recalling in minutest detail the company’s growth path.

Within the second year of operations, its deposits exceeded Rs100,000 and advances were a little less than Rs200,000. On the suggestion of a well wisher, the Fund reconstituted itself as the Canara Bank Ltd in 1910, the paid-up capital rising to Rs200,000 within a few years. And advances increased even faster than deposits.

The bank’s double key system came into vogue in 1920, but the bank had to wait for four more years before it decided to go for its first typewriter!

The living conditions in 1937 were such that the salary of an office boy was fixed at Rs8 a month and that of a peon slightly more. An attendant clerk started on a salary of Rs15, a probationary clerk at Rs20, a clerk at Rs25, an accountant at Rs30 and an agent at Rs40.

When India attained independence in 1947, the bank paid a bonus to its staff to commemorate the event.

Deposits touched Rs10m in 1942, deposits had risen to Rs500m in 1962, and in 1968 Canara Bank crossed the one million mark under deposit accounts. After its nationalixation along with 13 other banks in 1969, the bank’s deposits soared to over Rs.2,000 crore in 1980 and over Rs.7,000 crore in 1987. In 2003-04, the Forbes magazine listed it among the top 2,000 firms worldwide.

Succour for haemophiliacs

The Haemophilia Society of Kerala, which is providing a lot of medical and psycho-social support to haemophiliacs, is celebrating its silver jubilee.

Twenty five years ago, it was the plight of poor patients struggling to cope with this debilitating disease and the huge financial burden it imposed that prompted K.N. Pai, the then Head of the Department of Medicine at Medical College, to set up the society to help out haemophiliacs.

A haemophiliac himself, Dr. Pai, knew how difficult it was to live with the disease, given the bare minimum treatment facilities and the lack of awareness about haemophilia and its management among the medical fraternity themselves.

Twenty-five years hence, the plight of haemophiliacs remains the same. The cost of medicines and clotting factors remains expensive for patients. There are also absolutely no Government programmes to lend financial assistance to haemophiliacs, who have to spend a fortune on buying blood products.

Haemophilia is a genetic bleeding disorder in which an essential clotting factor in the blood - Factor 8 or Factor 9 - is either partly or fully missing. In such patients, even the most minor trauma or injury can trigger severe internal bleeding. Unless multiple infusions of the clotting factor are administered, the patient can die of uncontrolled bleeding.

Most hospitals do not stock this essential clotting factor. A haemophiliac coming with a bad bleeding episode to any Government hospital is managed by administering plasma and cryo precipitates as these contain the clotting actor in small proportions.

The prohibitive cost of blood products - factor concentrates cost about Rs.8 to 12 per unit and each patient would have to be administered at least 250 to 1,000 units twice a day - is a heavy burden on the families of haemophiliacs.

The society has been trying to help out poor patients by acquiring factor concentrates from the World Haemophilia Federation. The need for frequent blood transfusions also poses an increased risk of blood-borne infections like hepatitis for the haemophiliacs.

The society is lobbying with Governments and hospitals to augment the treatment facilities for haemophiliacs. It is in the process of setting up a haemophilia care and research centre in the capital.

Freedom fighter Subramaniya Shenoy cremated

The mortal remains of the veteran freedom fighter and long time communist leader N Subramaniya Shenoy were cremated with full State honours at the CPI(M) office premises in Maavicherry near here at 10 a.m. on Wednesday. Shenoy was known for his struggle for the poor and his simple life. He passed away at a hospital in Payyannur on Tuesday afternoon.

Subramaniya Shenoy's life was closely associated with Congress after organising a meeting attended by Jawaharlal Nehru in Payyannur as part of the freedom struggle.

He led a students protest march to condemn the death sentence of Bhagat Singh in 1931.

In 1934, he was elected Payyannur Comgress Committee joint secretary.

Later he became a founder member of the Communist party when it was formed in 1939 and led many struggles for the uplift of agriculture and beedi workers and economically backward people in the state.

The 93-year old Shenoy is survived by his wife, three sons and five daughters.

Tata Elxsi for bigger presence in Thiruvananthapuram

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The technology arm of the Tata Group, Tata Elxsi, is expanding its operations here by setting up its own campus at the Technopark, the company's chief for worldwide marketing Nitin Pai said here on Wednesday.

The new campus will have working space for 500 engineers by June 2007 and another 1,500 engineers by June 2008. The expansion is planned in three phases, Mr. Nitin Pai added.

Tata Elxsi is presently functioning from the Gayathri Block on Technopark campus, employing nearly 300 engineers. The company proposes to retain this facility even after opening its own campus on a three-acre plot within the Technopark zone.

Head of the Thiruvananthapuram centre of Tata Elxsi R. Natarajan, who too addressed the press conference, said the company considered Technopark an ideal place to locate its expansion programme.

Quality manpower was one reason and the low cost of living when compared to cities such as Bangalore, another. Young engineers working in other cities in India and even abroad were beginning to prefer moving out to Thiruvananthapuram nowadays. "A lot of Keralites working elsewhere want to come back," he said. He said the company had plans to recruit 500 engineers and specialists in the next 12 months. This Bangalore-headquartered company has four divisions engaged in software and hardware development, styling and mechanical design and animation special effects, he said.

Have faith in yourself, Uncle Pai tells children

The man behind Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle was in the town on Tuesday to celebrate the Children’s Day with his little admirers. Fondly called ‘Uncle Pai,’ Anant Pai presented himself as a perfect friend to his little peers at an interactive session, cracking jokes and telling stories, yet maintaining a sweet fatherly figure who had bags full of nice words for the young world.

The children listened to him in rapt attention, clapping and clamouring for more. And Pai did not disappoint them. He had won over the kids hundred times over. So much so that one wanted to know, ‘‘Why don’t they call you ‘Mama Pai.’

In his perfect inimitable style, Pai called upon the children to believe in themselves to be successful in life. Parents should also encourage their wards in realising this.

When asked why he took to writing comics, he said, stories narrated through pictures have a lasting impact on the children. It gives a dose of fun and also helps children value the pleasure of writing and reading books. And when a four-year-old sought to know ‘‘if children should watch serials, he asked him,’ Are they telling you good things?’’

Anant Pai is currently engaged in producing animation series of his characters. And like always, he is devoting a good deal of time imparting personality development programmes.

The function was organised by Rotary Club of Bhubaneswar and was attended by several Rotarians, schoolteachers and parents.

The Children’s Day celebrated by Shanta Memorial Rehabilitation Centre was a special one.

It provided lip-smacking delicacies free of cost in the fair which was organised to integrate the children with disabilities with the mainstream. About 350 children participated in the competitions.

While the differently-abled took centrestage to perform, others played the role of enthusiastic audience. It created a kind of magic.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Info Tech cannot protect India: RSS leader

Information Technology cannot protect India, but agriculture and protection can, said Vidyanand Shenoy, RSS leader at a Hindu conference which was held here in Sirsi on Saturday to celebrate the birth centenary of Guruji. He urged Hindus to pledge against untouchability and cooperate to make India strong for World service.

The conference was held to realize Sri Guruji's dream of Akhand Bharat. Conversion, terrorism and protection of cows dominated his speech.

The huge crowd listened in rapt attention as he recounted the life of Guruji. Guruji always strove for the cause of Akhand Bharat and was worried about the nation's decline. India’s exploitations had not stopped even after Independence, with conversions in India. He blamed instances of conversion on the social set-up of India. To stress that India was tolerant, he said that perhaps Jesus Christ would have had a less painful death if he was born in India.

Swarnavalli Sri Gangadharendra Saraswati called for the inclusion of Hindu dharma in the Indian constitution. In entire Karnataka, conversion was taking place, most in Uttar Kannada district. People in the district must wake up. They must protect cows, he stated. The slogan of unity in diversity was the reason for many problems, he reasoned. Sri Shivling Swamiji of Bannad Mutt regretted that people were becoming culturally poor.

Customs notice to Ash for cash in mail

Mumbai Customs has issued a notice to actress Aishwarya Rai in connection with the recovery of foreign currency from a postal packet addressed to her last week.

Rai is required to present herself to the New Customs House at Ballard Estate in Mumbai during this week and give her explanation, said a senior officer heading the Special Investigations and Intelligence Branch (SIIB) (Import) department.

The notice was issued by the Customs Superintendent of SIIB on Monday. A parcel, apparently sent from South Africa, containing 65,000 Euros in cash (around Rs 37 lakh) concealed in an electronics item had been intercepted on the basis of specific intelligence received by Customs Superintendent S S Shenoy. A senior Customs official said that the onus of proving the case lies on the Customs as anybody could send anything in a postal packet and the recipient need not necessarily be involved in the matter.

The officer said that after obtaining an explanation from Aishwarya, the department would trace the sender from South Africa and try to get that person’s statement.

Aishwarya could not be reached for comment. But her lawyer Girish Kulkarni said: “The envelope was addressed to her old address. We do not know the sender of the envelope. Nor have we ever met or spoken to the source of that envelope. It could be anyone doing it for mischief, to defame her or it could be just another fan.”

The recovery of the money is being investigated for violation of Section 111 M of the Customs Act and Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).

Freedom fighter Subramaniya Shenoy passes away

KERALA: Veteran freedom fighter and long-time communist leader N Subramaniya Shenoy, known for his struggle for the poor and leading a simple life, died at a hospital at Payyannur near here this afternoon.

Ninety three-year old Shenoy is survived by his wife, three sons and five daughters.

Born in 1913 at Payyanur, he was attracted to the national movement from his student days, inspired by works of 'Harijan Seva Kendra' run by social reformer Swami Anandatheertha.

His association with Congress grew closer after organising a meeting attended by Jawaharlal Nehru in Payyannur as part of the freedom struggle. He led a students protest march to condemn the death sentence of Bhagat Singh in 1931.

His close association with veteran communist leader A K Gopalan and other socialist visionaries drew him closer to leftist and socialist movements.

He became a founder member of the communist party when it was formed in 1939 and led many struggles for the uplift of agriculture and beedi workers and economically backward people

He led the Morazha Resistance Movement in September 1940 and absconded for 12 years, striving to strengthen the communist movement in Kerala, including in Kochi. When the party split in 1964, he switched to the Marxist faction.

He was elected to the assembly in 1977 and 1980 from the constituency.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Bank of India to spend $10m on its new Dar branch

The Bank of India will open a new subsidiary in Tanzania in a move to spread its overseas operations in the East African market.

The bank, which has a branch in Kenya, will put in an initial investment of $10 million in the Tanzanian operation mid this month.

The bank's executive director, Ramchandra Kamath, told The EastAfrican from Mumbai, India, that the bank would set up a subsidiary in Tanzania and open a new branch in the country as well. The Tanzania subsidiary was earlier expected to be operational in September this year.

Mr Kamath said the bank would also set up an office in Johannesburg that will have substantial exposure in the diamond and jewellery business for which the Belgium office will become a major facilitator.

"We plan to open representative offices in Doha and Tanzania and upgrade our already existing representative offices in Shenzhen in China to a branch office," he said.

Almost 20 per cent of Bank of India's business turnover comes from its international business. It has 23 branches and offices abroad, including major centres such as London, New York, Paris, Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong, Nairobi, Vietnam, Shenzhen and Jakarta.

The bank is raising funds to meet its global credit needs, external commercial borrowing requirements and also expand overseas balance-sheet. It also plans to raise around $250 million to fund its international operations.

Last year, the bank raised around $300 million for international operations in Asia, Europe, Africa and exploring options in the Middle East.

Branch expansion and capital raising aside, the bank is also tweaking its operational efficiencies in its foreign offices.

The core-banking platform will provide the bank with a unified view of its international business, with better risk management capability, enhanced MIS and a uniform customer experience.

The bank has opted for this technology solution at a time when it plans to open 16 new overseas branches.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Laser Soft bags order from The South Indian Bank

The Chennai-based banking software company Laser Soft Infosystems Limited, has bagged an order from The South Indian Bank Ltd for its browser-based credit appraisal and monitoring solutions Loanflo.

Speaking about the order, Laser Soft's managing director B Suresh Kamath, said, "Loanflo would help banks to automate the complex corporate loan processing function. This would be useful in processing loan proposals for big, small and medium enterprises."

According to him the product is a workflow-based solution, integrated with credit appraisal and document imaging. This product can be integrated with any core banking solutions of the banks.

"Loanflo will be implemented in The South Indian Bank in three months," says Kamath.

Rerouting Brain Circuits with Implanted Chips

A new brain chip being tested in monkeys could one day reconnect brain areas damaged by stroke or spinal-cord injury.

A new, implantable and wireless brain chip can create artificial connections between different parts of the brain, paving the way for devices that could reconnect damaged neural circuits. Scientists say the chip sheds light on the brain's innate ability to rewire itself, and it could help explain our capacity to learn and remember new information.

"We have a chance of manipulating and repairing [specific] regions of the brain that might be damaged," says Joseph Pancrazio, director of the neural-engineering program at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, MD. "To be able to repair these kinds of lesions on a neuron-by-neuron basis is extraordinary."

In stroke and spinal-cord injuries, neural circuits may be damaged, leaving patients with profound problems in movement or speech. In recent years, scientists have begun developing brain-cognitive interfaces, which record neural signals and transmit them either to a computer, to another part of the brain, or to another body part in effort to get around the neural blockade.

In the new study, researchers from the University of Washington, in Seattle, showed for the first time in live animals that an implantable device could record signals from one part of the brain and transmit that information to another part, reshaping neural connections in the process. "We essentially set up an artificial-feedback loop between two different parts of the cortex," says Eberhard Fetz, the scientist who led the study.

The device, built entirely of off-the-shelf parts, consists of tiny wire electrodes surgically implanted into a monkey's motor cortex. (Neurons in this area are active when an animal makes a voluntary movement.) The wires record activity from these cells and send the signals to a tiny printed circuit board, which amplifies and processes the signal. That information is then sent to a neighboring circuit board and electrode, which uses the signal to stimulate cells in another part of the motor cortex. The entire apparatus is encased in titanium and attached to the monkey's head, allowing the animal to go about its normal daily activities.

According to research published online in Nature, the device was able to reshape the neural circuits that control muscle movement. At the start of the experiment, neurons at the recording sites triggered movement of the wrist in a different direction than when neurons at the stimulating site were activated. After running the record-stimulate sequence for 24 hours in freely behaving monkeys, researchers found that underlying neural circuits had changed: the wrist movement associated with neurons at the stimulating site more closely resembled the movement associated with neurons at the recording area, indicating that the neural connections between these two areas had strengthened.

The findings support a long-held theory in neuroscience: that activating different brain cells at the same time strengthens connections between those cells. Scientists believe this concept underlies our ability to both learn new information and recover some motor and cognitive function after strokes and other brain injuries. "The findings show that the current conception of long-term strengthening is very much on the right track," says Krishna Shenoy, a neuroscientist at Stanford who is also developing neural implants.

Panel backs English from Std I

The Madhav Shrinivas Kamat Committee has strongly recommended introduction of English in Std I, terming the Goa government decision as “progressive” and said the decision has to be backed with strong political will and well-planned road map for execution.
The Committee, however, strongly suggested introduction of easy and children-friendly English books published by the Maharashtra government in Std I and use of the Marigold English book for orientation of teachers.
Moreover, the Committee called for an embargo on opening of new schools till the government completes educational mapping by May 2007.
The committee headed by educationist Madhav Shrinivas Kamat submitted the report to the Education Minister, Luizinho Faleiro here on Wednesday.
Kamat told newsmen that the findings of the committee was unanimous except for a dissenting observation by member Gurudas Sawal, who felt that the English subject should be introduced from Std III instead of Std I of the vernacular medium primary schools.
The committee has mooted a 15-point remedial programme, including amendment of the Goa School Education (Amendment) Act 2006 restoring status quo ante regarding opening of new schools and condition of distance between schools.
Moreover, the Committee has strongly recommended a road map for long term development, including discouraging English medium schools and encouraging vernacular schools.
Kamat said that good and effective teaching of English subject at primary level is a bulwark against demand for primary education in English medium.
“If the vernacular medium primary schools fail to provide for teaching of English, the parents will vote against them and enroll their students in English medium private schools. That is the writing on the wall. If that happens, vernacular schools will languish and eventually perish. English is a powerful prop to save vernacular primary schools”, Kamat said.
He maintained that if vernacular schools die, the sufferers will be not only the learners and teachers, but the entire society at large will also loose as the product of English medium schools will be devoid of any linkage with the local culture; they will be rootless and robbed of an identity and be aliens in their own land”, the committee noted.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Tejas networks raises $20 mn in new equity funding

Tejas Networks, a next-generation optical networking products firm, today said it has raised $ 20 million in new equity funding to fuel the company's growth in global markets and invest in research and development.

The funding was led by Sandstone Capital, an India-focussed fund based in Boston, USA, Tejas Networks Co-Founder and CEO Sanjay Nayak, told reporters here.

Existing investors Gururaj Deshpande, Battery Ventures and Intel Capital also participated in the round, along with a new co-investor, Sun Technologies, he said.

The company would use the proceeds of the financing to expand its international business and invest aggressively in R and D for developing new "packet-aware" optical products.

Tejas, which has customers in the telecom sector, would also increase its headcount to 400 persons next year from 300 now, Nayak said.

The company is eyeing Rs 250 crore in revenues this fiscal, up from Rs 130 crore during 2005-06, he said.

NICE works for welfare of people

CHIKMAGALUR: ‘‘We are not doing BMIC for money. For past 11 years, we are working without a rupees gain,’’ said Managing Director of NICE Ashok Keni.

Talking to reporters during his visit to Rambapuri Mutt on Sunday, he said that many companies from Mumbai, Chennai and other places venture into Bangalore and earn money. ‘‘But, we are working for development and welfare of the people,’’ he said.

Totally, 20193-acre land was required for BMIC.

About 90 percent of roadwork was completed in 7,000 acres of land. Still, government has to sanction 13,000 acres land, he informed.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A book of poems in konkani on V R Krishna Iyer

KOCHI:A book of poems in Konkani is being brought out on former judge of the Supreme Court, V R Krishna Iyer.

Written by N Purushothama Mallaya, Secretary of the Konkani Bhasha Prachar Sabha, here, the poems cover the life and achievments of Iyer.

The book will be released on Nov 15, when Justice Iyer will turn 91.

Mallaya has enriched Konkani literature by writing 'Satakams' -- poems in hundred verses each in Konkani. So far he has written 7 satakams, a sabha press release said.

Friday, November 03, 2006

This Mumbaikar’s tale has global vision

Ever since he remembers, Nishikant Kamat has wanted to be a director. However, nobody would give him a film to direct, as he was essentially involved in directing television serials. He then wrote Julie in 2004, which gave him recognition.

His directorial debut, Dombivli Fast, portraying an individual’s fight against the system and corruption, was screened at the London Film Festival, which ended on Thursday. He talks to DNA about the success of his film and its response in the international arena.

How did the idea of the film come about?
Having been born and brought up in Mumbai, it was easy for me to relate to the problems of the city. I wanted to make a film, which would identify the universal middle-class set-up, irrespective of the city or country. I had this fantasy where somebody would retaliate against injustice and that’s how the idea of Dombivli Fast came about.

Tell us about the budget and getting finance for the film.
The budget was like that of any other Marathi film — 50 to 60 lakhs. We completed shooting in 32 days but post-production took four months. I met nearly 10 producers with the script. They felt it did not have commercial sensibility. Finally we got a producer and managed to make the film.

The film has been screened at the London film festival. How does it feel?
It is a fantastic honour. There are very few Indian films that are selected, so I am happy that my film belongs to the top bracket.

What has been the international reaction to the film?
They had a packed show at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles. The goras cried while watching my film with popcorn and alcohol in their hands. There was a question-answer session after the screening, which lasted for 90 minutes.

They had so many questions, how is Mumbai, how are the trains, etc. When I told them that I was inspired by Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and Joel Schumacher’s Falling Down, they said, “No, don’t say that. This is your film about your city.”

It was the only film, which was forced to have a repeat screening by the audience. A 400-capacity theatre filled quickly and half the crowd had to go back. They were forced to have a second screening on the last day. I got a similar response in Dubai and Italy. In Stuttgart, Germany, the film got a standing ovation. There are also several blogs talking about the film.

Did you expect such a response?
I made a film without trying to create history. The response that I go worldwide made me realise that language is not a barrier. I just made an honest film and never thought it would become such a big hit. The set of problems might be different in different countries, but society and the common man remain the same.

Do you believe Marathi cinema is going global?
I believe you are on the world cinema scene if you are at film festivals in Berlin, Cannes or Venice. The effort has certainly begun. People realise we exist, but we haven’t created our own space as yet. We don’t have an audience.

It finally boils down to numbers and business. It would be wrong to portray that we are going global.

Any future plans?
I am planning on directing a few Hindi films. After winning 32 awards at all levels for Dombivli Fast, I am over the excitement.

I can’t keep sitting on my laurels. I have to start working ahead. Thankfully, I am better placed today.

Thousands attend Dhindi festival

Thousands of devotees from all over Goa attended the famous Dhindi festival which was celebrated with great pomp today at Margao.

The main attraction at the festival was ‘Sangeet bhaitakas’ staged by famous singer, Ramdas Kamat from Mumbai. Besides Kamat noted singer Mugdha Samant from Pune also performed. Sai Baker and Djhanjay Puranik from Mumbai and Abhijet Ekavade from Goa were on tabla while Rajee Paranjmpe from Pune and Mahesh Dhamsker from Goa accompanied them.

The organisers had also invited several other famous singers and musicians. A large number of the music lovers attended the bataikas held in the heart of Margao city. They were held at three places; in front of the Hari Mandir, near UCO bank and at the municipal square. Local artists who attended Dhindi festival also participated in the Dhindi utsav. Special buses and other vehicles were hired by the devotees from rural areas to come to Margao.

In the morning various religious activities were held at the temple, which were also largely attended. Special arrangement was made in order to for devotees entering the temple. Policemen were also posted at various places. The South Goa SP, Mr Shekhar Prabhudessai said that the police had made special arrangements at both the temples to ensure the safety of the devotees.

The Dhindi procession of Lord Vithal Rakumai, which was accompanied by Dindi groups from various part of Goa, was taken out in the evening. Margao city looked colourful with buildings, shops and houses decorated. The Margao municipal garden, besides several buildings were also illuminated.

On November 4 in the morning Dhindi procession after taking a big round will return to the Hari Mandir where religious ceremonies will be held.

Young Scientist misses top prize, wins face time

Kushal Naik, 14, didn't finish in the money last week in the four-day Young Scientist Challenge near Washington, but he beat out hundreds of other students just to make the finals.

He qualified by winning first place in biochemistry and third place overall among eighth-graders with an experiment that showed what causes sliced apples to turn brown. That experiment was part of the regional Delaware Valley Science Fairs event held in March in Fort Washington, Pa.; at the time, Kushal was an eighth-grader at H.B. du Pont Middle School near Greenville.

Out of 1,900 people who responded to the challenge for grades five through eight, 400 semifinalists were chosen in August, and the list was culled to 40 in September, said Katie McCormick, a spokeswoman for the event.

The competition is meant to get students excited about science at an age when programs for them begin to wane, she said.

Kushal, now a freshman at the Charter School of Wilmington, said the polymer experiment that was part of the competition was simple: He got all the ingredients and directions in the mail. The challenge was explaining it to others.

"They just want to see how I communicate the process to people, how the glue molecules and the Borax interact, atomically speaking, to create the polymer," he said before the competition. "They want the best young scientists, but also the best young science communicators who can communicate science to an audience."

Although he did not win a top prize, Kushal, along with six other finalists, was selected as a host for the Young Scientist show, which will air on Discovery Channel, Science Channel, and Discovery Kids early next year; a date is to be determined.

Glue that holds family together -- science

The Naik family -- Ulhas (from left), Meghna, Kushal and Tejal -- spends time in the parents' lab at the University of Delaware.

When a family bonds, other good things sometimes stick.

The Naik family probably would refer to that process by some scientific name -- after all, it is a family of scientists. It starts with parents Ulhas and Meghna Naik, who work in the same Wolf Hall lab at the University of Delaware. And it trickles down like a solution into a test tube to their children, Tejal and Kushal, both science fair veterans who are making names for themselves through their own discoveries.

In the family's spacious basement in Hockessin, rows of framed plaques line the walls, and a bookcase is filled with science fair trophies. The accomplishments spring from exposure to science from a very young age.

The Naik children could have easily excelled in reading or math instead. Or this could have been some other diligent family, anywhere else. Anywhere, like the Naik home, where parents fulfill the crucial role they play in their children's early development, providing them with the springboard they need to succeed.

"I think it's in their blood or genes," Ulhas Naik said of his children's love of science. "But I think it's more than that. It's the exposure."

Sharon Bryant, a guidance counselor at the Charter School of Wilmington, agrees.

"I think, in most cases, it is of the utmost importance that the parents instill a love of learning early on. It creates a thirst for knowledge," she said.

In the Naik family's case, exposing their children to science included some on-the-job training.

"We didn't leave them with a baby sitter, but we took them to the lab when we were working," Ulhas Naik said. "And they were playing with the computer sometimes, and once they were big enough, they began to help out."

Known on international circuit

Naik, 51, and his wife, Meghna, 42, are on a team of 17 scientists studying blood-clot formations in relation to strokes. He heads the team. Their sons are often at the Wolf Hall lab, cleaning out beakers and helping in other small ways. Tejal also comes to the lab to work on his science fair projects.

"I feel very proud," Meghna Naik said. "They are very hardworking, good kids."

Younger brother Kushal, 14, a freshman at Charter School, participated in the four-day Young Scientist Challenge near Washington last week. Although he didn't win, qualifying as one of the 40 finalists from 1,900 applicants nationwide was noteworthy. The discovery that earned his spot also involved bonding: He worked with a compound of glue and Borax to create a rubbery polymer that resembles Silly Putty.

Tejal, 17, a senior at the same school, won third place last year in the medical category of the International Science and Engineering Fair in Indianapolis. He credited his father for providing the building blocks for his ambitious project: Discovery of a Gene That Blocks Breast Cancer Cell Metastasis.

For his experiment, he used the principles of a gluelike substance called JAM-A, which was discovered a dozen years ago by his dad during his work with cardiovascular diseases.

Two decades in the making

Today, education and industry leaders worry the United States doesn't crank out as many engineers and scientists as countries like China and France. In 1987, when the Naiks immigrated here from Goa, India, the United States was known for its better facilities and cutting-edge research. That reputation brought the couple here from Bombay University, where Ulhas Naik had just received his doctorate in microbiology and Meghna Naik got her master's in chemistry.

They worked together even before they had children. They started at Cornell University in New York in 1987 and moved to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1994, before coming to UD in 1998.

Despite their professional credentials, they say they offer only encouragement and an occasional suggestion when it comes to their children's science fair projects, including the one that recently earned Kushal a chance to become a top young scientist.

"Since they're scientific themselves, you might think they would've done it for me and tell me what to do," Kushal said of his parents. "But because they're scientific, they wanted me to try to do this by myself."

A holistic approach to education

Attending a school that nurtures young scientists also helps the Naik children. Charter School is focused on math, science and technology, and recognized statewide for student achievement.

"They're both exceptional students," said guidance counselor Bryant. "But they already came to us excited about science, and that came from home."

Family is important. But the formula for high achievement also includes other key components. And the Naik children have an advantage there as well.

"They have the resources to do so: the lab, the funding, the opportunity to travel," said Mary Maslar, college counselor at the school. "There are other kids who love science, but they don't have the opportunities."

The Naiks do bring their children when they travel to foreign countries for International Society of Thrombosis and Hemostasis conferences.

"They went around and talked to other scientists and exhibitionists about science," Ulhas Naik said. "They would solve trivia questions that were actually meant for the scientists, and they'd win prizes."

The culture at school is another factor, said Maslar, who has counseled Tejal. He is interested in going to Harvard University and would like to be a surgeon, perhaps a heart surgeon.

"He's within this peer group that just nurtures each other," she said. "I'm talking about the students at Charter. There's so much brainpower there that they feed each other, they push each other to learn and achieve. And then he has that home environment. That helps. Tejal's got the best of both worlds."

Entire universe to explore

Another important component both boys possess is the love of scientific discovery.

"The thing I like the most is how everything works together, how everything is complementary to each other," Tejal said. "That whole problem-solving thing in science, that's another thing I like."

Kushal, who is leaning toward astronomy as a vocation, likes that science is everywhere.

"You learn in school why a light bulb works, and you look up, and I know how it works, and I never knew it before," he said, gazing at the ceiling light in his dining room. "I can look around and see it all around me in life."

The best advice Ulhas Naik could give his sons is to be patient, because science requires lots of patience.

"You ask a question, and you try to find an answer," he said. "And instead of getting an answer, you find a few more questions, and it sucks you like a [black] hole. You think you're getting closer. Maybe if I solve the next question ... but you never get closer.

"There are small milestones," he said. "But the big picture is far away from you, and that's what drives you to do more research."

Fortunately, the young Naiks have time on their side, and a thirst to know.

Just a call away

PUNE: If you are away from home and are craving for some maa ke haath ka khana, there is good news, as restaurants around the city have come up with the concept of tiffins. It promises to be a treat for executives and students who want food that doesn’t compromise on taste and quality and tastes just like it’s from home.

This service was started a month ago by Sahil restaurant, located on Tilak Road. The restaurant offers a spread of authentic vegetarian food in the tiffin, which includes two subzis (Punjabi, Maharashtrian or Gujarati), farsan like samosa, kachodi, dhokla, rice, three chapattis, a sweet (either rasmalai, gulabjamun or halwa), pickle and saunf. With a strong emphasis on quality, management at Sahil ensures that the tiffins are neatly packed and covered with a plastic sheet. Plus all tiffins are complemented with a paper napkin, spoon and toothpicks and come at a cost of Rs 50.

“We have designed a complete meal keeping in mind the young IT professionals and other executives who have come to Pune from other cities. They don’t need to bother about any kind of preparation of meals in their tight schedule. All they need to do is call us and sit back and enjoy a hearty meal,” says Nitin Naik, owner of the restaurant. The tiffin service is available only between 11.30 am and 3.30 pm.

Those who are working in and around Camp can order lunch boxes from Sahare, which is located close to GPO. Ordering from them everyday could prove to be slightly heavy on your pocket as the lunch box costs around Rs 150 with Rs 30 being levied as delivery charges. The tiffin includes four subzis, two kinds of dal, rice, rotis, bhakri, two sweets and snacks.

Another outlet that delivers lunch boxes is Rajdhani, located in Kalyani Nagar. Known for its authentic North Indian thali, the restaurant receives around 15 orders daily from clients located within two kilometres. According to manager Kevin De Cruz, the orders increase during the evenings. “We make it a point to never compromise on the quality and have designed a menu that is not very heavy, yet is sufficient for one person,” he says. The spread includes two kinds of vegetables, dal, rice, farsan, a sweet and five rotis, all costing around Rs 73. Also try the tiffin from Rasoi Dining Hall, as part of which you get six rotis, a dal, one dry vegetable and one curry accompanied by salad, priced at Rs 105.

The USP of all these restaurants is their delivery system, as within 15 to 20 minutes of calling, the food reaches the client. The concept has clicked well with MNC and IT company employees. Ritin Chowdhari, client manager of Locuz Enterprises Solutions, Koregaon Park says, “We are so loaded with work and seldom have time to go out and have a good meal. These tiffins are not just of good quality, but also save a lot of our time.”

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Bankers Unanimously Rule Out Interest Rate Hike For Now

The bankers have unanimously agreed not to hike the interest rates for the time being, despite a quarter percentage point hike in the repo rate by Reserve Bank of India in its mid-term review of the credit policy. The repo rate is at which the RBI infuses liquidity in the system. The central bank raised the repo rate to 7.25% but left the reverse repo and bank rates unchanged at 6%.

O.P. Bhat, chairman, State Bank of India, said the current rate of credit growth was not sustainable for the fourth year in a row and liquidity in the banking system was meant for sectors like exports, infrastructure and capital expenditure in the manufacturing sector. He also added that at the moment rates would not be raised.

K.V. Kamath, MD and CEO, ICICI Bank, was also of the view that rates would remain stable for the time being and there was no concern from the market on rates going up. However, V.P. Shetty, chairman of IDBI, felt that in the short term, rates would go up in the aftermath of the repo rate hike, although the stable interest rate environment would not be disturbed in the longer term. None of the bankers felt that there would be any drastic slowing down of credit growth, even as they felt that very high growth momentum might not be maintained.

Some of the bankers indicated that in their annual business budget, the target for annual credit growth had already been brought down to 20%, while others said growth would veer around 25%. Non-food credit growth was 30.5% year on year till mid-October on top of 31.8% growth a year ago.

Aircel's plans to roll out national brand

Even as it is pining to become a Pan-India player, mobile phone service provider Aircel is gearing to roll out a national brand strategy.

As a prelude to this exercise, Aircel has commissioned a study to facilitate a national brand strategy.

Jagdish Kini, the newly appointed Group Chief Executive Officer, said, "we are currently doing a research to understand the brand and what Aircel means to people in various parts of the country." The ongoing research, he said, would help the company decide on whether it would be ideal to continue with the Aircel brand for its foray into North and North-East India or introduce a different one. While being cautious on the brand issue, Mr. Kini, however, said, "the positioning of the brand has to be national."

Aircel is a predominant player in Chennai and Tamil Nadu circles. It has got licence to operate in seven other circles (West Bengal, North-East, Assam, Orissa, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal pradesh and Bihar). It has already commenced operations in West Bengal, North-East, Assam, Orissa, Jammu and Kashmir. In Bihar and Himachal Pradesh, the roll-out would happen by December, Mr. Kini added.

The new group CEO said Aircel had also applied for licences for the remaining 14 circles. Aircel has a subscriber base of about 3.80 million, with Tamil Nadu and Chennai circles constituting about three million. The North-East circle has a customer base of around 7.50 lakh.

Mr. Kini said Maxis Communications, the parent company, was committed to making the necessary investment to fund Aircel's expansion.

To a question, he said, "we don't want to play the price game." Nevertheless, he felt that Aircel might have to play the price game in some markets.

If the roll out went according to plans, Aircel could overtake its parent in a couple of years in terms of the subscriber base. Maxis has a customer base of about seven million in Malaysia. The Indonesian market, it is pointed out, is almost saturated. Though cell phone penetration level is low now, India is likely to see escalating growth in mobile phones in the coming years. This would ensure that Aircel's current subscriber base was more than doubled in the next two years, Mr. Kini said. "It is the growth prospects in India that had made Maxis invest here," he added.

KVP. Bhaskar, CEO (South), said Aircel would introduce GPRS and e-mail features in the next couple of months.

Though the company was ready with the hardware some months ago, the need to put in place monitoring equipment had delayed the launch of GPRS, he added.