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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Mahashivratri celebrations

A priest offering pooja at the Shiva Temple on Airport Road, Bangalore on the occasion of Maha Shivarathri.

Ramanavami celebrations

Priests performing Snapana Thirumanjanam to Lord Rama at Srivari temple in Tirumala.

ISRO-ASI annual awards

India's top space scientist P.S. Goel, who is also a secretary in the union ministry of earth sciences, has been selected for the Aryabhata award by the Astronautical Society of India (ASI).

Prior to his current posting, Goel was director of the satellite centre of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in Bangalore.

According to an ASI statement here Tuesday, the Aryabhata award carries a citation and Rs.100,000 in cash.

The ASI was set up in 1990 to foster development of astronautics in the country through dissemination of technical and other information related to the subject. It instituted awards to recognise talented Indian scientists who make significant contributions to astronautics.

Each of the other ASI awards and women scientist award carry Rs.25,000 in cash. The Teach Achievement Award carries a citation and Rs.100,000 in cash.

The other ASI awards were bagged by P. Vardaraj, a scientist at the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), Hyderabad, in rocket-related technology, V.K. Agarwal of ISRO in spacecraft and related technologies, S.K. Shivakumar of ISRO telemetry, tracking and command network, Bangalore, in space systems management, and R. Sridharan of space physics laboratory at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Thiruvananthapuram, in space science and applications.

For the ISRO-ASI annual awards, sponsored by ISRO, the scientists selected are T.R. Chidambaram of VSSC, B.N. Baliga of ISRO and S.B. Sharma of Space Applications Centre, Ahmedabad, in rocket and related technologies, B.S. Bhatia, director (retired) of the Developmental Education Communication Unit, Ahmedabad, in space systems management, P.S. Roy, deputy director of the National Remote Sensing Agency, Hyderabad, and V.K. Dadhwal, dean of the Indian Institute of Remote Sensing, Dehradun, in space science and applications.

Kalpana Arivind of Electro-Optic Systems, Bangalore, and Shefali Agarwal of National Remote Sensing Agency were selected for the women scientist award.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Summer treat for mentally challenged children

State-level summer camp for mentally challenged children will be conducted from March 31 to April 2 at Ashakiran Residential School for mentally disabled children, School president Dr K A Ashok Pai informed.

Speaking to reporters here on Thursday he said that here onwards Ashakiran School will conduct such free summer camps every year.

Mentally disabled children aged between 6 and 16 years from Ranebennur, Koppal, Kolar, Mysore, Hasan, Shuntikoppa, Hubli, Bangalore, Davanagere, Mangalore, Sagar, Sirsi, Honnavar, Kumata and Madikeri will participate in the camp, he said.

The camp will be conducted in association with Rotary Club, Rotary 75th Annual Endowment Fund, Inner Wheel Club, Canara Bank, Syndicate Bank, UTI Bank, Mathura Paradise, Manasa Educational Foundation for Mental Health, Manasa Medicals, G R Prabhu Orchid, Ganapathi Temple, Family Planning Association of India, he informed.

Minister for Higher Education D H Shankaramurthy will inaugurate the camp at 9 am on March 31. Participants will also be taken to a visit to Sakrebylu and Lion Safari on April 2, Pai said.

UAE offers banks robust opportunity

CICI Bank’s KV Kamath speaks about the bank’s operations, its growth strategy and an overview of the banking sector, in an exclusive interview

K.V. Kamath, Managing Director and CEO, ICICI Bank Limited, India’s second-largest bank, began his career in 1971 and has been mainly responsible for the bank’s phenomenal growth in recent times. He has introduced new systems, strategies, services and leadership into the organisation and leveraged technology to turn ICICI into a banking giant.
ICICI Bank is listed on the Bombay, National and New York stock exchanges. It offers services in the areas of corporate finance, commercial banking, investment banking, asset management, non-banking finance, investor services, broking and insurance.

How is the banking and financial sector development in the UAE?
In any country, the banking sector reflects what is happening in the economy. We all know that the UAE economy has been witnessing a robust growth and I hope this boom will mirror on the banking sector too.
Our experience in several countries indicates that financial services typically grow at a two to two-and-half times the economic growth. So, whatever is the economic growth in a country if you multiply it by two to three times it gives you the banking opportunities available in the country. The UAE has been a high growth economy and the banking opportunity here is very robust.

Many Indian companies are acquiring firms overseas. Is your bank advising any such companies?
Indeed, as of this year, we are the largest in terms of providing syndication from India for Indian companies in the global context. We have been involved in almost all the major deals that have happened. These acquisitions are expected to be a growing business and we think this is going to be one of the fastest growing sides of Indian business. Indian companies will look at global opportunities and would like to capitalise on it.

Now that you have opened an office at Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) what is your area of focus?
The DIFC office, which started operations two months back, offers wealth management activities to high net worth individuals. In fact, we are the first Indian bank to open an office at the DIFC. The main activity here is private wealth management. We can serve any customer with a net worth of over $ 1 million.

How is the remittances’ business?
The remittance market in India is worth $ 25 billion a year and is growing at 25 per cent annually. It is one of the fastest growing markets in the world. And the Gulf is one the major contributors to this market. One quarter of the remittances into India come from the Gulf countries.

What about your presence in other GCC countries?
Our operations in the Gulf are at the UAE and Bahrain. In the UAE, besides a rep office we have the DIFC branch. We started our Bahrain operations some three years back and very recently have received a licence to start full-fledged banking activity there. And today, Bahrain is the largest international activity branch that we have. This reflects the tremendous potential and opportunity that the Gulf presents. We expect a couple of more licences in the near future.

What are your services provided to NRIs?
There are several things that we are doing with our NRI customers. Our primary product is remittances. Then through our arrangement with Emirates Bank, we distribute Indian product, to be used in India, to our customers here.

Is there any difference in the type of operations you have here and in Bahrain?
Yes. Bahrain is our full-fledged branch where we are offering the entire banking requirement to the citizens. Here in the UAE, the bank provides wealth management activities to high net worth individuals only but in Bahrain we offer our banking services to both locals as well as expats. Also, through the Bahrain office we work on the bigger syndications that I talked about earlier. We raise money from Bahrain and international markets.

How do you plan to face competition from other foreign banks at the DIFC?
Our strategy has been to work with Indian customers who may not be of interest to large major wealth managers. While, global wealth managers want to look at large amounts of money and we are willing to look at customer with smaller base. That is why we are looking at customers with $ 1 million base whereas large wealth manager wants to handle only multi-million dollar customers.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

South Indian NRI docs head home

An increasingly large number of non-resident Indian doctors is returning home to south India, giving a third leg to the reverse brain drain phenomenon that mostly involved software engineers and corporate scientists.

A trickle of NRI doctors returning home has been there all around the country for decades now (that is how Apollo Hospitals started), but what marks out the present phase is the accelerating pace and the peninsular focus. The latter is only to be expected since more doctors from the south left India in the first place.

"We get enquiries on a daily basis from NRI doctors wanting to come back," says K Hari Prasad, CEO of Apollo Hospitals, Hyderabad.

On an average, Manipal Hospital, Bangalore, gets five to six resumes every week from NRI doctors in the US and UK. Corporate hospitals in Kerala are seeing a similar inflow of applications.

A good 15 per cent of the doctors at the Kerala Institute of Medical Sciences are former NRIs. Wockhardt hospitals have 28 specialists who have returned to India from abroad. Around 15 former NRI specialists are working with Image Hospitals in Hyderabad and they keep receiving enquiries from doctors seeking jobs in the group.

Says A John Punnoose, CEO, Madras Medical Mission, "Around 80 per cent of the doctors at our hospital in Chennai are former NRIs. I receive around two or three applications from NRI doctors every week, which shows that the trend is on the rise."

"Though it is just over a year since Lifeline Hospitals started operations on Chennai's IT corridor,we already have 13 former NRI doctors, making up a good 24 per cent of the total strength," says M Baskaran, chief executive officer, Lifeline Clinics & Multi-Specialty Hospitals.

Why is this happening? There is both a pull and a push factor. Things are changing rapidly for the better in high-value private health care in India and for the worse for doctors in general in the US and NRI doctors in particular in the UK.

As the economy booms, corporate hospitals are mushrooming all over the country. These are bringing in the latest equipment and their practices and standards are increasingly conforming to globally accepted levels, driven partly by the desire to attract medical tourism.

First, the push factor. V K Kamath, CEO, Apollo Hospitals (Bangalore), says the status of doctors in the US is not what it used to be. Doctors, once among the most respected of professionals, are no longer in that category.

The relative salary of doctors in the US today is not very high as compared to the seventies and eighties when, on an average, they earned much more than those in most other professions.

As for the UK, it is the glass ceiling that has prompted many to return to India.

"There is only a certain level to which a non-White can reach in the UK. The glass ceiling starts to act from then on," said Shabeer Ahmed, a laparoscopy surgeon who had been in Britain since the early 1990s and is now with Wockhardt Hospital. "Here I can use my knowledge in laparoscopy to build something big."

Now the pull factor. According to Dr M I Sahadulla, chairman and managing director of Thiruvananthapuram-based Kerala Institute of Medical Sciences, a premier corporate hospital promoted by NRIs based in the Gulf, "In the past, doctors opted to work in UK and US hospitals as they offered better incomes, top-class medical training and greater job satisfaction. With the Indian healthcare scene now ensuring these aspects, NRI doctors are keen to return. The most important phrase for them is job satisfaction, which they know they will get by working in present-day India's healthcare sector."

Dr A Marthanda Pillai, veteran neurosurgeon and chairman of the Thiruvananthapuram-based Ananthapuri Hospitals and Research Institute, also lays emphasis on the job satisfaction aspect.

"Corporate hospitals in India, particularly those in the south, offer quality standards that are better than those of many western hospitals. NRI doctors returning to India today come home to good salaries, better facilities and, most importantly, greater job satisfaction."

What sort of money are they returning to? Prabhakar V Reddy, MD, heading the emergency medicine and trauma care set-up at Wockhardt's Bannerghatta Road facility, who returned after over a decade in the US, feels most of these doctors make a big sacrifice on their pay packages.

"But, it's the job satisfaction that's the key." Kamath is equally categorical. "It is the recognition in society that is a major factor in drawing the expatriate doctors back."

"The quality of professional and personal life has improved dramatically in India in recent times. Doctors who have worked in the US want to return as they feel they have already made enough money and now is the time to return," said R Basil, managing director and CEO, Manipal Health Systems. Dr Sahadulla adds that the respect that doctors get in India is beyond description.

According to C V Rao, chairman and managing director of Image Hospitals, which operates three hospitals in Hyderabad, "Many of these NRIs have already earned a fortune abroad, and are returning as their roots are still in India. Moreover, salaries to specialist doctors too have shot up in India, offering a lifestyle which they could not afford in the US, plus a flexible work environment."

This flexibility offered by hospitals on compensation packages really helps. It could be a "fee-for-service" or a "guarantee money" model.

Doctors have the option of shifting from one format to another. Most often doctors initially opt for guaranteed income and when they realise they have quite a few patients, they shift to fee-for-service.

Who returns? A majority of them are in the age group of 35 to 40 and want to bring up their children in India. This feeling is stronger in the case of those with daughters.

This reverse brain drain has been a windfall for India. "It has helped bridge the gap in specialities in healthcare in the country," said Vishal Bali, CEO, Wockhardt Hospitals.

For example, Manipal Hospital in Bangalore has a few high-end specialists who have returned from the US and elsewhere whose expertise is being used to start new disciplines, like a department of gerontology.

Additional reporting with Praveen Bose, Sanjeev Ramachandran and Vidhya Sivaramakrishnan.

IT will make newspapers extinct: Kamath

Predicing a gloomy future for the global newspaper industry, eminent journalist and Prasar Bharati Chairman, M V Kamath, on Thursday said newspapers might lose their relevance in the next decade and even become extinct due to the explosion of Information Technology.

Already the circulation of newspapers, including the popular New York Times and The Washington Post, had gone down considerably while the London Times in the UK had now become a tabloid, he said at the inauguration of the three-day 'Print Congress-2007', an International Conference on print and media technology here.

He cautioned that even books would also become irrelevant as the number of book-lovers was drastically coming down and a day would come when everything would be heard and nothing would be seen.

"The IT may change your lifestyle in future so that you may not require paper...just information and not knowledge."

The conference is being organised by the Department of Printing and Media Engineering of Manipal Institute of Technology (MIT).

Gunther Keppler, the General Manager of Heidelberg India, who inaugurated the Congress, said contradicting the views of Kamat that the argument that IT would lead to be paperless offices had been found to be false. "We could find today more paper in the offices than before."

He said the application of know-how of printing education would be decisive in the printing production investment projects. Training and education was most important in print media segment, he added.

Dr S S Pabla, Director of MIT, said that the institute was one among the seven engineering colleges in the country offering B.Tech degree in print and media engineering.

It was also seriously considering commence PG course in print-related subject as there was deep dearth of qualified personnel to meet the increasing needs of ever growing printing and graphic art industry.

He said he had taken iup the issue of reducing the fees for Masters Degree and Phd with both the Management and the Manipal University with which the institute was associated.

Scientific Verification of Vedic Knowledge

Check this video out....

Monday, March 26, 2007

Annual Innovation Forum brings together inventors and investors

It's nearly dinnertime at the Friend Center, and Princeton University's newest inventors are serving up appetizers. Eleven teams of scientists and engineers are offering the community a taste of their potentially marketable creations, each in three minutes flat.

While that's not a great deal of time to unveil new ideas on defending computer networks or employing lasers in medicine, the quick presentations at this year's second annual Innovation Forum on Feb. 27 whet the appetites of the audience, which included several potential investors from Jumpstart New Jersey.

"For the most part, these ideas are not fundable yet -- they're pretty raw," said Ken Kay, the chairman of Jumpstart New Jersey, which sponsored the forum with the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the University's Office of Technology Licensing and Intellectual Property. "But on the other hand, a few of them are so powerful that a venture capital fund might want to invest some money now."

The forum is part of a larger effort on campus to match potential commercial products with outside funding. Each year the University files dozens of patent applications, and existing companies bring the majority of these inventions to market. But there also are many people on campus who are thinking about starting their own companies, and the Innovation Forum is largely for them.

"We see people from all disciplines wanting to participate, and at various levels of experience in terms of developing and commercializing their technologies," said John Ritter, director of the Office of Technology Licensing and Intellectual Property in the University's Office of Research and Project Administration. "Some of them are first-timers, while others are more experienced. A lot of them are looking for general assistance in setting up a company."

Initiating a dialogue between inventors and investors, Kay said, is an important part of developing an idea. Following the opening large-group presentations, the audience and inventors walk across the hall, where each of the teams can talk informally next to a poster outlining the details of their creations.

Following are brief descriptions of some of the projects presented during the Innovation Forum.

Video by Web

When Donna Liu established the Woodrow Wilson School's University Channel -- a downloadable feed of lectures by distinguished speakers -- it became so popular that it quickly was using its maximum bandwidth.

So when she learned about a research project at Princeton called CoBlitz, which can handle the distribution of rich online content like video without overloading University servers, "it was a real life-saver."

As a research project, CoBlitz has been powering not only the University Channel but also the Mozart Museum's website, which allows users to download the composer's orchestral arrangements, as well as Fedora Core Linux software releases. Now CoBlitz is about to go commercial.

The CoBlitz team brings formidable expertise to the content-distribution table. Vivek Pai, an assistant professor of computer science at Princeton, was a co-founder of iMimic Networking, for which he helped design the fastest Web proxy server in the world. Larry Peterson, chair of Princeton's computer science department, is the director of PlanetLab, a networked global testbed of computers, as well as chair of the planning group for GENI, a National Science Foundation-backed research initiative whose mission is to make the Internet more trustworthy. KyoungSoo Park just finished his dissertation at Princeton focusing largely on CoBlitz. And Marc Fiuczynski and Patrick Richardson are research computer scientists who work closely with Peterson on PlanetLab.

CoBlitz fills a different niche than Akamai, one of the giants in the world of content distribution which has as customers companies like Apple and IBM and which was co-founded by Princeton engineering graduate Tom Leighton.

According to Akamai’s financial statements, customers pay between $12,000 and $24,000 a month to Akamai for server capacity. CoBlitz is designed for customers who need to accommodate hard-to-predict bandwidth spikes but don't want, or can't afford, to pay for a huge amount of bandwidth.

"We're really looking at a new market of consumers who would never go to Akamai," said Fiuczynski. Peterson calls CoBlitz "bandwidth insurance."

Like BitTorrent, a popular peer-to-peer file sharing program, CoBlitz works by splitting files into pieces and sharing them across a network of machines. But CoBlitz is different in that its logic is implemented on the network itself, meaning that CoBlitz can operate seamlessly with a Web server or browser without requiring any special software modifications or installations.

Because of this, Pai said, CoBlitz is incredibly easy to use. "It's a five-minute, do-it-yourself operation," Pai said.

Pai contends that CoBlitz is poised to capture a large, as-yet untapped market just as the appetite for online video is ballooning. Liu suspects that he may well be right.

"There is an explosion of online video and a lot of institutions don't recognize what it is going to do to their bandwidth," said Liu. "They are going to need solutions like CoBlitz."

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Everybody loves a good summer

It’s that time of the year again when the sun never seems to set. With global warming pushing up the mercury every year, most people dread the onset of summer. But there are some, to whom sunny days mean a superb business opportunity. No surprise that beverage majors are gearing up for the hot and humid season with a vengeance with a slight twist. While colas used to be big earlier, health drinks are currently in.

The Indian soft drink market is worth about Rs 6,000 crore per annum. But here too, innovation is the key if you have to capture a share of the consumer’s throat. Coca-Cola has big plans for the oncoming summer and is all set to roll out a radical concept,

The Red Lounge experience, in Pune. Coca-Cola officials say: “Red Lounge is a one-stop destination for the youth to hangout, surf the net, chat, watch TV and experience our entire portfolio, all under the same roof.” Other plans include beefing up their online presence with a one-stop interactive, online destination for Coke consumers in India.

The innovative Internet platform has over 4 lakh plus registered users in the age band of 19-24 years. Coca-Cola has also launched new campaigns for each of its brands. Venkatesh Kini, VP- marketing, Coca-Cola India, says: “Over the years, we have made ‘thanda’ and refreshment synonymous with Coca-Cola. The new campaign ‘Sabka Thanda Ek’ strengthens the universal appeal of the brand. It offers a higher order of emotional benefit of bringing people together.”

The cola giant has also launched a juice brand Minute Maid Pulpy Orange supported by a 360-degree marketing communication plan involving road shows, extensive experiential sampling sessions in markets, offices, malls, colleges, and a range of contests. “The roll out of the naturally refreshing, orange beverage with real pulp has been designed to extend the company’s market leadership in the juice drink segment,” adds Mr Kini.

If Coca-Cola is there, Pepsi can’t be far behind. PepsiCo India has also launched its new drink Mirinda Sorbet and is planning to follow it up by reaching out to its consumers through radio tie-ups and activation plans across Modern Trade & BPOs. Pepsico officials say, “The sampling activation, planned across 22 cities will aim at targeting nearly a lakh consumer across channels. Mirinda Sorbet is a premium offering targeted at young consumers, ranging from students to first jobbers.”

Dabur Foods is also going into overdrive with its summer preparations. Sanjay Sharma, GM, sales and marketing, Dabur Foods also reveals his company’s plans for summer: “We have reinvented our ‘Real’ brand to create a stronger differentiation from competitors’ products. In the juice segment 10 years back there was only one flavour that is mango.

Borivali resident goes on hunger strike

Kamath is protesting against BMC’s failure to comply with HC order to start work on plots reserved for school

She doesn’t have the political clout of Mamata Banerjee, but Borivali resident Meera Kamath has been staging a hunger strike for the past four days against what she calls “commercial use” of public property.

Kamath is protesting against the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) failure to comply with the Bombay High Court orders to get the work started on two plots reserved for a higher secondary school and a playground in Borivali.

“I am going to fight till the issue is sorted out. Even after the BMC was given the plots to construct a school and a playground, members of the gaothan continued to occupy the place. It is only after I went on hunger strike that the BMC demolished the shed and opened it for public. It is a public space and should be put to use for the public,” said Kamath.

In 1994, Kamath had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) to ensure that the plots in Shimpoli allotted for the construction of a secondary school building and a playground was not taken over by a local club. The court had observed that the reserved plots were being used by a club to run their services, thus encroaching upon public property.

In an attempt to appease the electorate, the newly elected corporators of the area met Kamath and assured her that they would do everything possible to resolve the issue.

“I assured Kamath that we will take up the matter in BMC and also with the government, if required,” said Sarika Gracias, a corporator from Ward no 44.

“We will not allow anyone to bend laws. We will support her cause by raising the issue in the BMC,” said Vidya Chauhan, activist and NCP leader as she requested Kamath to back out of the strike.

The BMC in their defence said that they have followed the court’s order and had taken over the plot from the club. “She has now called off the strike. As far as the ward is concerned, the encroachments have been removed and the possession of the plot has been given to the BMC. The action will be taken in case there is a violation of the court’s order,” said Vishwas Shankarwar, ward officer of R/Central.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

From design to fabrication

As analysts debate India’s chances of hosting a fab, a look at what goes into setting up a state-of-the-art unit

A new chip game is on cards. Having made it big on the global semiconductor design map, this could be India’s last chance to host a fabrication base. Even as analysts await the fine print of the much talked about semiconductor policy, talks of $10 billion investments are already doing rounds.

Early signs are encouraging. While SemIndia has already announced its $3 billion plans, Nano-Tech Silicon India, NeST and Hindustan Semiconductor Manufacturing have also expressed their desire to set up a fab. Many more might be in the offing. “ISA is getting enquiries from countries like Singapore and Japan for greater details on the policy…But it would be very difficult to comment when these units will actually start functioning. Global players will take a call on investing in India only after seeing the policy documents,” says Poornima Shenoy, president, Indian Semiconductor Association (ISA).

Though there is no final word yet on our readiness for state-of-the-art fabrications, a closer look at the current infrastructure status gives vital clues. The first and the foremost thing a fab needs is adequate capital. A basic 300-nanometer fab requires a minimum investment of $3 billion. This could go up to $5 billion for a relatively modern 130-nanometre (nm) fab. Going by the initial interest shown by multinational chip majors, insiders are confident of attracting enough capital.

“State-of-the-art fabs are estimated to cost anywhere between $3.5-5 billion. However, these produce cutting edge technology devices. Fabs that are a notch below will be available for a fraction of these costs,” says Sunil Shenoy, senior manager, Ernst & Young.

According to the ISA, a fully functional fabrication facility requires about 2,000 employees. Of these, 55% should be technical (diploma holders), 35% professional, and the rest 10% administrative. Above that, nearly 500 indirect employees are required on site to provide security, maintenance and amenities like cafeteria.

India’s traditional advantage of lower labour costs are offset by the fact that new fabs are capital-intensive and do not really need a huge manpower. All they require is top quality PhDs. And this is where countries like Israel and US get an edge over India with their world-class universities. A recent ISA-Ernst & Young study reveals that in order to maintain its lead in the semiconductor design industry, India needs to improve the quality of its talent and technical education. “Nearly 15% of the skilled technicians are working in the Asia Pacific semiconductor industry that is from India. They are estimated to be about 4,500-5,000 people. The growth of the semiconductor industry in India could help attract them back,” says Shenoy.

Fabs also need stable power to the tune of nano-seconds (billionth of a second) and millions of gallons of clean water. While electric requirements can go up to 40 mega watt, a 1,75,000-sq ft clean room (an area where the environment is controlled to eliminate all dust) will need two million gallons of water a day. “The mega fab facility needs uninterrupted power and water supply and waste efficient management system. Constant high-quality power and water supply is critical as even the smallest production downtime could result in substantial losses,” says Ganesh Guruswamy, country manager, Freescale Semiconductor India.

Likewise, solid waste generation like concrete, metal, wood, plastic and glass is about 4,000 tonne a year for a fully ramped fab facility. During construction efforts, solid waste can be expected to reach 15,000 tonne a year. As regards fuel requirements, a fab needs about 200 gallons of diesel to power emergency back up generators. It also needs a specifically designated room to house the many gases required in fab processing. Acreage required for a single fab could be anywhere between 150 to 200 acres, and 600 to 800 acres for a multi fab campus, which allows for additional growth planning.

Despite the huge domestic market, fabs need to be export-oriented too. “The silicon business, apart from the high technology obsolescence, is very cyclical, so the entire investment has to be recovered in the upswing. The domestic market, though growing, doesn’t justify the scales, therefore exports are imperative,” says MAIT executive director Vinnie Mehta.

Freeze frame: The look of Gen-Now

Horses sweat, men perspire, ladies glow. Well, that’s for dummies. Move on and capture the look of Gen-Now. Although we’re still a long way off from finding the fountain of youth, medical science is breaking new ground each day in this exciting field to help the beauty conscious stop the clock, albeit just for a while.

But aren’t you as young as you feel? That’s a tad clich├ęd. While there’s nothing wrong with a few wrinkles, nobody wants to look old before their time. In fact, you can change the look and shape of your face, lips, eyes, breasts, thighs and almost every part of your body. While a bevy of cosmetic treatments can help you feeling and looking good, right attitude, clothes, expressions and mannerisms can do wonders for changing your look to one more that’s more youthful.

Get the modern day mantra — ‘Don’t lie about your age. Defy it’. Which explains why more people today — cutting across the barriers of age, gender and income brackets — are changing their lifestyle and opting for newer treatments and procedures which intelligently promise health benefits and help them stay fit and young for a longer period. In fact, their quest for the fountain of youth is already producing a flood of products, services and advice to delay the ageing process. Moving in tandem, the sales of skin creams, suntan lotions, hair colouring, cosmetics, vitamins and nutritional supplements are also soaring.

But do these miracle salves really work? Is it possible to stay young forever? Trust Dr Jamuna Pai, one of India’s best-known beauty gurus and the name behind Blush Skin Clinic in Mumbai, to peel off the facts. “You can see the changes yourself. Most of the celebrities and executives look at least 10 years younger today, thanks to an ever-increasing awareness about health. Just by changing their lifestyle and food habits, and taking to regular exercises, yoga and nutritional support, they are leading a better and mentally relaxing lives. These really help give you a healthy and glowing skin.”

Dr Pai has a pulse on the problem. Arguably, in an age of electric steamers, electro magnetic currents, alpha hydroxyl creams, cosmetic surgery and others, the emphasis is on finding fault with outer beauty. But skin is not an isolated part of the body. It is well connected — intellectually, physically, sensually and spiritually. “If your diet is deficient in skin-friendly foods and you have a bad lifestyle, any external treatment will work only for the short term,” points out Dr Pai.And you thought beauty is just skin deep?

Actually, at a time when we’re assaulted by an array of fabulous faces and figures and as lotions and potions abound, awareness is a key issue in staying young and beautiful. Take, for instance, the case of Sanskriti, an executive with an MNC. “I was using three lotions from different companies and ended up with a rash on my face. I was sure it was the cleanser and threw it away. But I found out that I was wrong in a hurry. The next time I put on the moisturiser. Ouch! I ended up losing the cleanser and moisturiser that day, and that cost me quite a bit of money.”

Sanskriti is not alone. Dr Simal Soin, consultant dermatologist, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi, sees a growing number of patients at his clinic who fall into such traps. “Products like skin creams, gels or lotions are a mixture of chemicals that have a biological action and are applied topically to the skin. So the effectiveness depends on whether the active ingredients work, and whether they are absorbed properly into your skin. Your skin’s temperature, hydration, environment and other factors will influence your skin’s ability to absorb the active ingredients in a product,” he explains.

So much for the outward appearance. But there’s more to it. More Indians are going under the knife in their pursuit of perfection. Trimming, filling, contouring, enhancing — Indians are no more shunning the scalpel and as Dr Pai observes, “the mindset is changing.”

Plastic surgery, botox, fillers, cheek implant, lip plumping, breast augmentation, liposuction, rhinoplasty (nose job), laser treatments for hair removal, and what have you! Thanks to newer breakthroughs in medical science, better and more effective solutions are being used in India for enhancing your cosmetic appearance and giving you that extra confidence. Says Dr Rashmi Taneja, senior consultant, department of plastic and reconstructive surgery, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi: “These procedures are largely driven by people’s aesthetic desire. There’s a growing tendency to reverse or stop the clock and there’s a strong western influence.

The most common minimally invasive procedures are fillers, botox and chemical peels. As for surgery, we’re seeing more people coming for treatment of eye bags, thread lift, breast augmentation, rhinoplasty and liposuction.”

That’s scratching beyond the surface. But what’s more important, say experts, since the skin renews itself every four weeks, it is very responsive to what goes inside the body. Therefore, complimenting your diet with nutritive supplements, particularly when you’re forty-something, will help overcome nutritional deficiencies and make your skin healthy and radiant, says Dr Pai.So why look your age? Try to be the youngest old person you can be. That’s the bottomline.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Good marketers recognise and pay for great work’

It is not easy to throw him off balance. Madhukar Kamath, who has spent more than two decades in advertising, has the right combination of cool and aggression to fend off both difficult questions from journalists as well as challenges that his profession has hurled at him. And the challenges have been many for Kamath, managing director and chief executive officer, Mudra Communications. A management degree holder from XLRI, he proved his mettle early on when he was hired by Mudra to be part of an aggressive growth plan. He quit the agency in 1999, when he was called upon to set up Bates’ India operations. That was when Bates Worldwide was reconfiguring its India operations and Bates Clarion was being merged with its parent. Back in 2003, he had to live up to the legacy of founder AG Krishnamurthy, while struggling to retain some key clients and people. In this interview to Alokananda Chakraborty of The Financial Express, Kamath talks about the way ahead for Mudra.

Mudra Marketing Services (MMS) claims to have recorded a 100% billings growth in the last two years. Do you see non-advertising services contributing a larger share to Mudra’s billings in the medium term?

Our intent has always been to create a distinctive marketing services offering. And we are committed to growing each of our competencies in line with our objective of offering what we call ‘total branding solutions’. All our investments over the last three years have been in line with this. I am happy that the marketing services businesses have shown outstanding growth. While Brand Therapist will soon be christened Mudra Health & Lifestyle, you will see a couple more lines of businesses or as I would call it, growth engines added on under MMS.

These are not mere add-ons to the advertising business. Each one of them conforms to two basic criteria, namely, ‘best in class skill sets’ and ‘scalability’. Yes, we have recorded 100% billings growth and yes, we will have a situation where 50% of the Mudra Group’s top line will come from what you refer to as mainstream advertising with the balance coming from Mudra Marketing Services. Incidentally, the journey to this milestone has been achieved in just three years.

OMD is ready to enter India with Jasmin Sohrabji at the helm. But if industry speculation is anything to go by, all of Omnicom’s earlier attempts to have a consolidated media outfit in India fell through due to lack of understanding among the participating agencies, especially Mudra.

For all practical purposes, OMD is already in India. Jasmin Sohrabji is a good hire and I wish her all the best. I cannot speak much about OMD’s plans in India, except that the current arrangement is definitely different from how it works in all other parts of the world. Fundamentally, they have come in as a standalone agency. My own view is that they will, like all other brands coming into the industry, help grow it. Rather than dwelling on what could have been the discussions in the past, I would be keen on understanding what the OMD gameplan for the future will be. I am yet to meet Jasmin in her new avatar and I look forward to it.

Mudra’s association with DDB dates back to 1989. Yet, Mudra has underplayed the DDB connection. Why?

We believe in all forms of growth, collaborative, competitive and acquisitive. It would be incorrect to say that we have ‘underplayed’ the DDB connection. If anything, we are incredibly proud of our relationship with DDB. They are a marvellous agency with an admirable culture and approach to communication and business. We have networked very closely with DDB Worldwide. Incidentally, the involvement of DDB has only been increasing in the last few years. Today we have three DDB brands in the Mudra Group—RappCollins India, TribalDDB India and DDB Mudra, the dedicated unit for handling the J&J skin care businesses.

In line with the growing importance to India, not just for DDB, but also for their clients, the pace of interaction, exchange of personnel, training and development agendas etc, have all been stepped up. I am a part of their recently constituted Asia Operating Committee. It’s also co-incidental that several DDB clients are now poised to enter India. You will see increasing DDB visibility in the next few years.

Mudra is known for associating with ‘Indian’ brands. Is this to cushion the agency from the aftershocks of global realignments? Or is it way to ensure you are not too dependent on DDB?

Good question. It’s a fact that Mudra has been associated with Indian brands; in fact 80% of our business today comes from Indian clients. However, we are equally proud of our past associations with Nestle, Samsung, McDonald’s, Electrolux, HSBC, IBM, Compaq, HP etc. We have had excellent growth stories with each one of them. Today, the Mudra Group works with Philips, J&J, Pepsi (Kidstuff), Unilever and Intel (also Kidstuff) and a host of other multinational brands with equal ease. Along the way, we have also had our own share of successes and disappointments as far as global alignments and realignments are concerned.

What is more important is that virtually all DDB businesses that are present in India, work with Mudra. We are also actively working with two extremely large global clients in formulating their India strategy. I am hopeful of announcing three significant additions to the Mudra roster in the next three to six months.

The Mudra growth story has been based on truly excellent Indian brands like Godrej, TTK, LIC, Big Bazaar, Dabur, Paras, Madura Garments, RMKV, McDowell’s, Reliance, and in the past, Vimal and Rasna. However, we are equally at ease handling both Indian and multinational businesses. But yes, as far as the agency health is concerned, it is obviously good to have businesses that are immune to global alignments.

Mudra has been a springboard for some of the better known advertising professionals we have today. What is it about the agency that has helped produce so many talented individuals?

It’s true some of the most spanking talent in the industry has schooled at Mudra. It has to do with the culture of the agency. We have been entrepreneurial—no unnecessary hierarchy, no politics. That’s a good environment for young talent to bloom—to try things and take on more responsibility early in their career. Also, we didn’t have the benefit of large global alignments and businesses falling into our laps. We had to slog for every piece of business, and our salaries depended on our clients’ merchandise moving off the shelf. These are all conditions in which good people thrive; marry that with the culture of the agency and I think you’ll have your explanation.

Talking about talent, does advertising still draw top talent or do youngsters prefer more glamorous sectors like IT and finance?

No, I don’t think we draw the best. But I also think we tend to exaggerate the extent of the problem and are rather harsh on ourselves. The fault is as much with marketers as it is with agencies. Good marketers inspire bright people to do great work; they also recognise the value of it and will pay for it. I don’t know how many clients can put their hands up and say they do. So we lose people to what you’re calling the more ‘glamorous’ sectors. I’m not too sure about the ‘glamour’ argument, if anything advertising has a bigger reputation for glamour than many other careers. The problems have to do with the demands we make of our people and how we value them. Having said that, I still meet some incredibly bright people in the business, and I don’t think there is anything fundamentally wrong with our business that we can’t attract good talent.

Indian advertising has as many awards as perhaps the number of industry associations. Would you say Indian advertising is self-obsessed?

No, not self-obsessed. A little vain may be, but so what! Life would be so boring without it. Having said that let me add that it would help, if the awards sought to develop distinct identities and niches for themselves. On the other hand, I would say Indian advertising is perhaps under-rated and under-valued. The industry is replete with success stories where the advertising agency has been a valuable partner—in building both brands and corporate identities. Brands today feature in the balance sheets as valuable assets. A fact that all of us can be proud of.

I would like the advertising industry to celebrate business solutions or as my new friend Bobby Pawar calls it creative business solutions rather than mere ads and commercials. To this end, my respect for the Effies and Emvies is immense.

Philippines set to source generic drugs from India

The Philippines, which needs drugs worth $2 billion every year, is opening up its government procurement to generic drugs from India. A team of officials from Philippines’ food and drug authority and the government’s procurement arm — the Philippines International Trading Corporation — told the chemicals ministry earlier this week that Manila wants to import inexpensive generic drugs from India. At present, the country does not allow imported generics to participate in government procurement.

The delegation has also informed India that Philippines is amending its food and drug law to open a window for Indian generics, official sources told ET. The delegation, comprising government and industry representatives, held buyer-seller meets in Delhi and in Mumbai over the past few days, said pharmaceutical export promotion council’s Raghuveer Kini. Philippines has a pharma industry that is one-third the size of India’s pharma industry.

For India’s pharmaceutical sector, government procurement by some of the nations is an attractive opportunity, while countries like the US that spend significantly high amounts on healthcare, are yet to let Indian firms to participate. India too does not allow foreign firms to participate in state procurement, as there is no consensus between rich and poor countries under WTO on opening up government procurement. The matter remains sidelined along with a host of other outstanding WTO issues.

In India, the greatest beneficiary of government procurement would be PSUs like Hindustan Antibiotics and Bengal Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals as the government has reserved more than 100 products for purchase from them. With a 21.9% increase in the budget allocation for health and family welfare spending this year, and the government’s commitment to increase spending on healthcare to 3% of GDP, state-owned companies have reasons to cheer. Besides, with the government’s commitment to expand its immunisation programme to more diseases, private sector firms also stand to benefit.

Coke & Pepsi's plans for summer

The summer months are here and Cola giants are pulling out all the stops to keep you cool. Coca Cola gets ready to paint the town red with its lounges and Pepsi puts it money on fitness. So, what's bubbling under the fizz?

Frequent management changes may have taken the fizz out of Coke's India plans but the company is ready to hit back. Coca-Cola will soon paint the town red with its experiential lounges, and India will become the second market after the US to adopt Coca-Cola's experiential marketing strategy.

Vice President, Marketing, Coca-Cola India, Venkatesh Kini told CNBC-TV18, "We are test marketing it in Pune, it should launch nationwide soon." It will have a nationwide presence but only mall-centric. Coke's Red Lounges will be open air youth corners with comfortable couches, iPod stations, gaming options and your ticket to lounge in luxury will cost you a bottle of coke! Coca-Cola is also hoping to tap the high-end water market with the nationwide launch of Shweppes and arch rival Pepsi, is obviously not sitting pretty!

Executive Director, Innovation & Business Development, PepsiCo India, Geetu Verma said, "There will a spate of innovations from February to July - new themes will be aired soon and there will also be consumer promotions."

Both Cola giants will hit screens with new commercials for their carbonated drinks, but with fitness occupying consumer mindspace, companies are pumping in significant investments towards juices this year.

Pepsi has doubled the investment in Tropicana and Coca-Cola will launch Minute Maid across the country in the second quarter.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Monkey see, monkey do, monkey messes up

If a basketball player is flummoxed by his foul shooting, he might turn to a Stanford professor for a little solace.

Experiments on rhesus monkeys by Stanford electrical engineering professor Krishna Shenoy suggest that the brain may not be wired to duplicate the same movements time after time.

Mr. Shenoy and his colleagues trained the monkeys to reach either quickly or slowly to touch a dot on a computer screen, depending on its color, to get a juice reward.

The experimenters measured not only the monkey's muscle movements, but the activity of their brains before they made their moves. They discovered that about half the variations in the monkey's movements were caused by muscle problems, and half were caused by the brain's neurons firing in different patterns before the motions.

"Let's say you're at the free-throw line, and you know you want to extend your hands in the same way and release the ball at the same point each time, but the real problem is the speed with which you do that," Mr. Shenoy said.

"You're trying your very best to reach that exact speed each time, but our experiments show the brain doesn't always permit that."

One possible reason is that our brains may have evolved to be flexible.

"It could well be we evolved because we mostly have to confront novel situations with a huge variability in how we need to move," Mr. Shenoy said.

"As fans," he said, "we tend to overly focus on the fact that players can't make all their free throws, but what's amazing is that they make any of them at all, and even more so, that they can make all these shots from all over the court."

Securitisation to help banks to free funds

Securitising existing loans can render funds to banks for further lending and help them deal with shortage of capital, a Crisil study said.

Funds raised, therefore, will not require equity dilution and will be free from constraints of additional deposits, the rating agency said in a release.

“Contrary to popular perception, the process of securitisation need not be data-intensive and complex. Banks could make a beginning by securitising highly-rated single loans, which could release capital to the extent of 9 per cent or more of the loan, and also remove the provisioning requirements, which could be as high as 2 per cent,” said Ramraj Pai, director handling structured finance ratings, in the release.

“Funds raised would not be subject to cash reserve ratio and statutory liquidity ratio, resulting in a more efficient use of funds. Over time, the bank could evolve to more complex transactions and use securitisation more centrally from a funding perspective,” he said.

The CRISIL study attempts to give solution to the capital shortage problem faced by the banking system.

Over the last year, banks’ credit grew at about 30-35 per cent.

Banks have resorted to issuing equity capital and raising hybrid capital to fund the rapidly growing credit.

However, there are limits to the extent to which hybrid capital can be raised and continuous equity dilution is also not possible due to high cost of equity and government’s majority holding in public sector banks, the release said.

Banks have also hiked their deposit rate by 50-150 basis points in Jan-Feb to mobilise funds, which has in turn raised their respective cost of funds.

“CRISIL’s analysis also reveals that securitisation can provide incremental profitability of 80 basis points vis-a-vis wholesale deposits,” the release said.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Achieving financial inclusion

Banks these days have been trying every trick in the book to mobilize deposits, financial inclusion being one of them. But Syndicate Bank recognized its importance in the 1920s.

BANKS ARE RUNNING short of loan funds. While all banks vie for the deposit pie in the urban and the semi-urban areas, the rural areas sadly remain relegated, probably on account of underestimation of the potential by banks. But it did surprise me when I learnt from the media that the public sector Syndicate Bank had decided to launch a newer version of the 80-year old Pigmy 1928 (a deposit scheme under which the bank’s agent calls on the customer everyday to collect deposit). The newer version is called Pigmy Plus 2007. I was surprised because we Indians begin to appreciate the value of our own invention only when it comes back to us through the American or European route. Don’t we see this happening in respect of Yoga, Bharatanatyam, Ayurveda, to name just a few?

The man who introduced this product was none other than the visionary banker TMA Pai, the founder of Syndicate Bank. He had to overcome teething problems, but he plodded on, nevertheless. The great man knew where there’s muck there’s brass. Pygmy 1928 achieved two things for the bank: It generated deposits and facilitated a higher level of financial inclusion. It provided employment to semi-skilled local people (from whom agents were appointed) and inculcated the saving habit in them. The agent would accept even 25 paise (I am talking of the 1970s; the floor may have been much lower, say 10 paise, earlier). After all, as they say, tall oaks from little acorns grow. Pygmy 1928 eventually became a hit and the rest, as they say, is history. The bank, which was personified as a Pygmy, became a giant. None but Mr Pai could have foreseen that financial inclusion would make all the difference to the bank.

Ms. Usha Thorat, Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India, in her address circulated at the Annual Bankers’ Conference 2006, in Hyderabad on November 4, 2006 admitted, “…The barriers to access to formal banking system have been identified as relating to culture, education (especially financial literacy), gender, income and assets, proof of identity, remoteness of residence, and so on. Efforts are being made by the authorities- especially banking regulators- to improve access to affordable financial services through financial education, leveraging technology, and generating awareness……In developing countries, the added dimension, and the main difference is that the focus of financial inclusion is on promoting sustainable development and generating employment for a vast majority of the population especially in the rural areas.”

She further suggested, “RRBs and well functioning cooperatives can be supported by banks to increase outreach. …Unlike other parts of the financial system, the RRBs with nearly 14,500 branches are concentrated in regions that are relatively backward and populous but where the incremental prospect for business and banking penetration is high…” But I would like to add commercial banks to the list suggested by Ms Thorat.

She also quoted from the speech of the Chairman of the Fed Reserve Board Ben. S. Bernanke at the Opportunity Finance Network’s Annual Conference at Washington DC on November 1, 2006. Mr Bernanke had remarked, “……. in dealing with scale and using technology, banks tend to adopt highly standardized and automated processes. But financial inclusion requires substantial efforts in understanding the needs of the customer, counselling, financial literacy, screening and monitoring…….”

Pigmy Plus 2007addresses all these requirements – the agent is a local man and he can be relied upon to dismantle barriers of the kind Ms Thorat has cited. It will leverage technology – the bank will equip the agents with a hand-held device (computer). The locally-appointed agent is better placed to understand the needs of the customer, counsel him, screen his requirements, etc.

I don’t think our IIMs or other reputed institutions of higher learning have undertaken a case study of the role played by the Pigmy 1928 in the growth of Syndicate Bank. Probably they will, once somebody at the Harvard Business School does it! Right now they seem to be more interested in listening to politicians who have serendipitous achievements to show against their name!

Principals urged to work for cultured society

T.M.A. Pai Foundation president K.K. Pai said on Monday that education should result in the creation of a cultured society.

He was inaugurating the workshop for principals of government pre-university colleges at the Sharada Residential School, here.

Mr. Pai said education should not be meant merely for securing degrees and getting jobs, it should result in all-round development of personality of students. It is necessary to teach discipline to students.

Educational institutions had an important role to play in shaping the character of the students. Education experts should have broad-minded approach to education, Mr. Pai said.

Singing doctors enthral cine buffs

A houseful audience in Kalamandira here last evening experienced city doctors' healing touch without the rigours of painful tests and costly drugs — the doctors cast a magic spell on their listeners even as they sang soulfully in the exclusive annual programme Geeth Gaatha Chal.

The singers of the medical fraternity of Mysore, among whom the names of Dr. A.L. Hemalatha, Dr. M.S. Natashekar and Dr. P.A. Kushalappa have been known to be star performers, rendered lilting lyrics from old movies keeping the audience, largely made up of doctors and their families, spell bound for more than three-and-half-hours of the evening.

The listeners went into raptures on being treated to the rendering of that highly enduring lyric Amara Madhura Prema, nee baa bega chandamama... from the movie Ratnagiri Rahasya by Dr. Hemalatha.

Dr. M.S. Natashekar, the ENT specialist, took his listeners to the period of nearly fifty years ago when he sang the Hindi lyric Suh-aana safar aur mousam haseen... from the movie Madhumathi.

Dermatologist at JSS Hospital, Dr. P.A. Kushalappa sang the lyric Pal pal.. dil ke paas drawing thunderous applause from the audience. The doctors rendered the old film lyrics of famed music directors that have not diminished in their appeal to the listeners even after decades, enriched by their melodious voice creating a lasting impact.

No less impressive than the seasoned doctor-singers was Sparsha Shenoy, daughter of Dr. U.G. Shenoy, with her rendering of the lyric Kitanaa pyaara vaada hai himmatwali ankhoka.

Dr. Hemalatha cast a magical spell on her listeners even as she rendered the lyric Hum pyar mein jal newalonko, sung for the movie by the famed playBack singer Lata Mangeshkar with the legendary music director Madan Mohan.

The audience reached dizzy heights of happiness on listening to the lyrics Jawani jaane man Haseena dil jawan and Tere mere Milan, Geeth Gaatha Chal.

Dr. M.S. Natashekhar rendered the lyric Olavina... Priyalathe Avalade Chinte... Avale Maathe... Madhura Geethe... Avale Nanna Devathe originally sung by Dr. P.B. Srinivas with melody that triggered highly appreciative applause from the audience.

Young talents Apoorva Natashekhar, Preethi Prabhu, Sparsha Shenoy, Radhika Vishweshwara and Puja Prabhu too earned the approbation from the audience by their rendering of songs.

Doctors of the city and their families made the evening a great change from their hospital routine. The event was sponsored by industrialist M. Jagannath Shenoy. Police Commissioner Praveen Sood was the chief guest. Dr. C. Umesh Kamath, Medical Superintendent, Kamakshi Hospital and Dr. M.S. Vishweswara, who were in charge of organising the event, also took active part in the Geeth Gaatha Chal event and welcomed the audience.

Deputy Superintendent of Police J.B. Rangaswamy of Karnataka Police Academy and Syed Aftab Ahmed compered.

Dr. C.G. Narasimhan, surgeon and Dr. Gururaja Rao, were felicitated on the occasion in recognition of their yeoman services in the medical profession. Among the audience were Dr. S. Bhaskar, Dr. Raghotham Rao, Dr. K.R. Kamath, Dr. C.D. Sreenivasamurthy, Dr. S.B. Vikram, Dr. D. Venkatesh and others.

Cabinet nod to include Konkani in curriculum Konkanis thrilled over decision

The Cabinet decision to introduce Konkani as third language in school curriculum has thrilled Konkani speaking people in the coastal region.

While a few learnt about the Cabinet decision through television channels, many others learnt it through word of mouth.

Karnataka Konkani Sahithya Academy President Eric Ozario, whose top priority was to introduce Konkani in school curriculum ever since he took over the reigns of Konkani Academy way back in 2005, was thrilled to hear the news.

Terming the Cabinet decision as historic, Mr Ozario said the Cabinet nod has increased the “value of the language.”

In fact, the Academy had introduced Konkani in school curriculum on experimental basis last year and as many as 1,586 students (in 6th std) are learning Konkani in about 55 schools in Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Uttara Kannada districts. The final exam for the same has been scheduled on March 3, he informed.

Meanwhile, he also said that the experimental classes will be stopped from this year, as the Cabinet has given its consent to introduce Konkani as third language (optional) in school curriculum.

Mangalore Diocesan Bishop Rev Dr Aloysius Paul D’Souza said that the Cabinet decision would help Konkani further flourish. “The language will grow if it is taught in schools,” he said.

When contacted, Konkani Bhas Ani Sanskrithi Pratistan President Basti Vaman Shenoy said that it does not matter in which language Konkani is taught (Kannada or Devnagari script). “The fact that Cabinet has given its consent to introduce Konkani in schools is joyful,” he said and hoped that Konkani literature will develop in future.

Meanwhile, State Linguistic Minority Educational Institutions Secretary Dr Kasturi Mohan Pai said that the he was happy with the Cabinet move as the decision to learn Konkani in Kannada or Devnagari is left to the students.

The order states that Konkani may be introduced in schools (6th std to 10th std) in Kannada script or Devanagari script as third language (optional) from June 2007 itself.

Education, not money can strengthen heritage

“Education could strengthen human heritage, but not money or muscle power”, opines Sri Vidydhiraja Tirtha Swamiji of Sri Parthagali Jeevottama Mutt of Gokarna.

Speaking after presenting Canara Ratna award to managing director and chief executive director of ICICI Bank K V Kamat at a programme organized by the Canara College Society here on Monday, he said that Mr. Kamat was a role model to achievers at global level. Let the Canara Society scale greater heights with building society through education being its objective.

Receiving the award, Mr. Kamat said that people in the age group of 20-25 years were called as great achievers. The country would definitely be safe in hands of youngsters in future. Out of 10 million fresh graduates emerging in the country, only 2 million were getting jobs. The ICICI Bank was recruiting 10,000 qualified candidates, thus finding its own way to address unemployment problem.

Former minister R V Deshpande lauded the achievements of Mr. Kamat and termed that he was son of India. MLA Mohan Shetty, vive president R S Bhagwat, chairman V R Nayak, Canara Society president S V Pikale, secretary L V Shanbhag, Principal Dr S V Kamat, Mr. H N Kamat, Ms Preeti Bhandarkar, Ms Anita and Ms Shantala were present.

CLP move stirs protests

The Congress Legislature Party’s pre-election move to include Romi Konkani (Konkani in the Roman script) and Marathi as Goa’s official languages has stirred a wave of protests.

In trying to please all segments of voters, the party has ended up pleasing no one, least of all its alliance partner the NCP which said it would oppose any move to elevate Marathi to official language status in Goa.

Konkani in the Devnagari script has been Goa’s sole official language from 1987. In the past months the Congress has been trying to quell fresh dispute over Goa’s official language after the Romi Lipiechi Chollvoll (RLC) led by a group of Catholic priests and Konkani drama artistes insisted that Konkani in the Roman script get equal recognition.

The RLC now sees the CLP decision as a “conspiracy” to give Marathi a backdoor entry to official status. The Goa Konkani Academi (GKA) is not pleased either. Differences over the script could be easily sorted out within the Konkani community, says GKA president Pundalik Naik. Marathi has already been given too many benefits in Goa. Granting it equal status is out of the question, he says.

For the Congress and the NCP the language issue could turn into a serious political challenge in the election due in May. While half the Congress MLAs want Marathi accorded official status to please some of their North Goa constituents, MLAs from the Christian areas in south Goa could face a backlash from the anti-Marathi sentiment.

Goa’s Opposition parties the MGP, United Goans Democratic Party (UGDP) and the BJP are likely to cash in on the Congress’ discomfiture. The BJP which was in power here for over four years made no attempt to tinker with Goa’s Official Language Act, even though it claims publicly to favour equal status for Marathi.

The Church runs over 100 Konkani medium schools in Goa which began to use the Devnagari script after 1987. It is unlikely any script changes would be made on the education front. Within the Congress, any concessions to Marathi would be resisted by the intellectual cell, party sources said.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Cabinet nod to include Konkani in curriculum - Konkanis thrilled over decision

The Cabinet decision to introduce Konkani as third language in school curriculum has thrilled Konkani speaking people in the coastal region.

While a few learnt about the Cabinet decision through television channels, many others learnt it through word of mouth.

Karnataka Konkani Sahithya Academy President Eric Ozario, whose top priority was to introduce Konkani in school curriculum ever since he took over the reigns of Konkani Academy way back in 2005, was thrilled to hear the news.

Terming the Cabinet decision as historic, Mr Ozario said the Cabinet nod has increased the “value of the language.”

In fact, the Academy had introduced Konkani in school curriculum on experimental basis last year and as many as 1,586 students (in 6th std) are learning Konkani in about 55 schools in Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Uttara Kannada districts. The final exam for the same has been scheduled on March 3, he informed.

Meanwhile, he also said that the experimental classes will be stopped from this year, as the Cabinet has given its consent to introduce Konkani as third language (optional) in school curriculum.

Mangalore Diocesan Bishop Rev Dr Aloysius Paul D’Souza said that the Cabinet decision would help Konkani further flourish. “The language will grow if it is taught in schools,” he said.

When contacted, Konkani Bhas Ani Sanskrithi Pratistan President Basti Vaman Shenoy said that it does not matter in which language Konkani is taught (Kannada or Devnagari script). “The fact that Cabinet has given its consent to introduce Konkani in schools is joyful,” he said and hoped that Konkani literature will develop in future.

Meanwhile, State Linguistic Minority Educational Institutions Secretary Dr Kasturi Mohan Pai said that the he was happy with the Cabinet move as the decision to learn Konkani in Kannada or Devnagari is left to the students.

The order states that Konkani may be introduced in schools (6th std to 10th std) in Kannada script or Devanagari script as third language (optional) from June 2007 itself.

Konkani Ekvott adopts strong anti-CLP stand

Adopting a very strong stand against the Congress Legislature Party (CLP)’s decision to accord equal status to Marathi and Konkani in Roman script,

Konkani Ekvott – an umbrella organization of various Konkani bodies – today said they would publicly oppose and defeat any politician or political party – Congress in the instant case- if they are a party to any amendment to the Goa Official Language Act.
If the Act is amended, the powers that be would have to face dire consequences including political opposition to their candidatures in the forthcoming assembly elections, warned KE Convenor Serafino Cota.
Stating that KE is disgusted with the CLP for the recent reported decision to rake up the long-resolved language controversy, spokesperson Shridar Kamat said they want to send a clear warning to the Congress party that no such attempts would be tolerated and would be opposed tooth and nail.
Arvind Bhatikar (Asmithai Pratisthan), Rev Fr Mousinho Ataide, Prof S M Borges, Jaime Couto and Fr Lino of Goan Catholics for Devnagri (GCD), Nityanand Naik (Konkani Bhasha Mandal), Nagesh Karmali (Konkani Parishad), Prashant Naik (Hitrakhan Manch), Dr Susrut Martins ((Vision India and ex-KBA president), Fernando Rego, Sanjay Talwadkar, Teotonio Costa were also present for the press conference.
Konkani is the only thread which binds together all the Goans irrespective of caste, creed and religion and that the social and secular fabric of Goa is already under tremendous threat owing to the myopic decision of CLP, Kamat said.
The CLP’s reported decision has only exposed the bankruptcy of the Congress for being ignorant of the history of the 1987 legislation which had come through following a sustained 555 days agitation.
Replying to queries as to how they react to some ministers saying they are not aware as they were not present for the CLP meeting, Shridar said as responsible CLP members they cannot shirk their responsibility on such important matters.
The disastrous effects of any amendment would have direct bearing on the very existence of Goa as a state and its identity, are for all wise and rational thinking people to know, the speakers said.
Couto suggested that the KE should write to Congress president Sonia Gandhi informing her of the strong opposition and the disastrous implications CLP decision would have for Goa.
KE, Kamat said, has decided to work towards the implementation of the Official Language Act so that the interests of Goans are safeguarded in jobs and employment opportunities and preservation of the unique identity of Goa.
Arvind Bhatikar said the use of Konkani in Devnagri script in education and administration which has already begun and has started taking roots, should continue unhindered. He said most of the debates in the assembly are held in Konkani and similarly court hearings in lower courts also in Konkani but the orders are in English. This needs to be changed, he emphasized.

Health check up camp for women

As part of the Well Women Week, Dr T M A Pai Hospital, Udupi is organising a free health check up camp for women from February 26 to March 3.

Chief Administrative Medical Officer of the Hospital and Head of OBG Unit Dr Parvathi Bhat said that the camp is so designed that women can have a heart to heart talk to a lady physician whenever required during this camp hour (9 am to 1 pm).

Papsmear test, Hb (Hemoglobin) test, consultation by Gynecologist and Physiotherapist, dietary advice by Dietician will be offered free in the camp. All women who are not pregnant can avail this facility.

The press release also requested the women to be better informed about menopause in order to enjoy living. For registration call Ph: 2526501.