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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Manipal enters healthcare retail sans partners

After failing to work out a tie-up with Kishore Biyani’s Pantaloon Retail India Ltd (PRIL), Bangalore-based healthcare and education major Manipal Group has decided to go solo for its healthcare retail venture.

On Tuesday, the Manipal Education and Medical Group (MEMG) said it would launch the first two of its healthcare outlets in Bangalore and Ahmedabad in July under the brand name Manipal Cure and Care (MCC) with an initial investment of Rs 50 crore.

Apollo and Fortis are also eyeing healthcare retail and have announced extensive plans.

During the current year there will be 10 outlets in Tier I cities including Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad. This will then be scaled to 50 outlets across India in the next four years. The group expects to generate revenues of Rs 50 crore in the first year— a very small portion of total revenues of Rs 1,300 crore.

Dr Ranjan Pai, CEO, MEMG, said MCC outlets, which would offer healthcare product and services with a focus on preventive, wellness and beauty, would have two formats - Shop-in-Shop (3,000 sq ft) and Club Class (7,000 sq ft). The Club Class would be standalone outlets on high streets, while a Shop-in-Shop would be established across malls, mega cities, health cities and hypermarkets.

MEMG is very particular about the location. One of the reasons it backed out of the PRIL alliance was because it was unable to secure a prime location.

“With the kind of experience that Pantaloon has in retail, we were very keen on partnering with them, but we did not want our outlet to be pushed to the fourth floor of a building. We wanted it in the front section of a mall or supermarket. When that did not work out, we parted ways with them,” said Pai.

The company also plans to introduce its brand of over-the-counter drugs named Cure and Care, which would be over 50% lower than established brands in the segment, in the next few months.

Manipal Group to sell half-rate drugs

The Manipal Group of Companies, the latest entrant into India’s fast-growing drugs retail business, will sell medicines at prices less than half the current market rates as part of a strategy to gain momentum in a market increasingly getting crowded by organized retailers. The group has a presence in health care and education.
The Rs1,300 crore group, which announced on Tuesday plans for its “Cure & Care”—branded chain to retail pharmaceuticals, said it would buy medicines including over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs such as common antibiotics from contract manufacturers and sell them under its own brand.
Although this is common practice among retailers in the West such as Walgreens, CVS and Rit-Aid, this will the first time an Indian pharmacy chain will be doing this.
The drugs will be sourced from US Food and Drug Administration-certified units in India. “In Karnataka alone, there are three such units and we aim to enter into an agreement as soon as we have a chain of at least 10 stores to stock these own-label drugs,” said Ranjan Pai, chief executive of the Manipal Education and Medical Group. The Cure & Care chain will grow to 50 outlets in four years, starting with one each in Ahmedabad and Bangalore in July.
The pharmacy trade in the country generates an estimated business of Rs32,000 crore, apart from about Rs18,000 crore accounted for by hospital pharmacies. Companies such as Fortis Healthworld, Reliance Retail, Reliance Health Venture (part of the Anil Ambani group) and multi-format retailers including Pantaloon and Subhiksha are among the major contenders for a share of this growing business dominated by about half a million pharmacists until now.
Analysts said the Manipal retail effort was too small in scale to make an appreciable difference in the drugs retail market. “To significantly impact the drug pricing structure, the Manipal group will need to have a larger network, significantly more than the 50 outlets that they are planning for in the next four years,” said Raman Manglorkar, head of the retail practice at consultant AT Kearney.
The outlets will offer medical services including consultation for diabetes, hypertension, cardiac and gynaecological care, as also cosmetology, paediatric care and vaccination services. Alternative medicine may also be offered at the outlets. Insurance policies in partnership with ICICI Lombard will also be on sale at the stores, said Pai.

Kamath breaks Mustangs’ season record for wins

Downers Grove, IL, U.S.A -

Downers Grove South’s Rahul Kamath entered elite territory with his 2-2 record at the state tennis meet last weekend.

Kamath finished the spring with 36 wins, setting a new Downers South record for victories in a season.

After a tough 6-4, 7-5 first-round loss, Kamath rebounded to win his next two matches (the first 6-4, 6-4, the second by default) before being eliminated in the third round of consolation play.

NRIs launch $7 mn investment fund

The Andhra Pradesh Investment Fund, a new angel investment company with a corpus of $7 million, was launched here Tuesday for specifically targeting companies in the state.

Venkatesh Tadinanda and Pradeep Shenoy, both US based entrepreneurs, and Hyderabad-based entrepreneur Indira Porwal have promoted the fund with the sole objective of investing in IT, biotechnology and other knowledge-based sectors.

Venkatesh, CEO of Andhra Pradesh Investment Fund, told journalists that the fund was being financed by philanthropic NRI investors who want to give back to their state and country.

He said the fund would be created in two phases. While $2 million would be raised by the end of the current year, $5 million would be raised next year. The funds would be raised through an 'investment club' where investors can invest amounts ranging from $25,000 to $100,000.

"The fund is a means to help Indian talent get a chance to demonstrate its potential and achievements on a world stage and derive the utmost financial advantage," Venkatesh said.

Besides funding, the budding entrepreneurs will get the necessary assistance - from concept to commercialization.

The fund has set up an office in Hyderabad to receive the proposals, which will be cleared by an investment review committee in the US.

According to Venkatesh, $350,000 had already been raised and four proposals for funding have been received.

Minister for IT and Communications R. Damodar Reddy, who launched the fund, said it would go a long way in helping small and medium enterprises and contribute to the state government's plans to create large scale employment opportunities.

Venkatesh has promoted a couple of start-ups, including Solivar Inc, a Hyderabad-based IT company, while Pradeep is an engineer and alumnus of the Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata.

India outplay Sri Lanka, meet Kazakhstan in final

The visiting cagers from India cruised into the final of their FIBA Middle Asia Zone Basketball qualifying championship 2007 when they outplayed hosts Sri Lanka by a mammoth margin of 117 to 66 points yesterday evening at Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium courts, Colombo.

The Lankans after a promising start sailed to live up to expectations and were completely beaten by a superior outfit.

The Indians took a commanding 52 to 28 points lead at half time and set a pace for an impressive victory. Before the half time the scores stood at 23 to 10 points in favour of Indians at one time.

However, the visitors dominated the play with their superior height and brilliant shooting.

Sri Lanka missed lot of scoring opportunities through their faulty shooting which opened the way for opponents to grab the ball and to collect more points.

However, lankans were trailing by a huge margin and they could not get closer to their opponents at any stage. Indians came up with a fine performance in the latter part of the game scoring more three pointers.

Shiv Kumar with a massive 23 points was the top scorer for the winners while Lokesh Yadav (16), Riyaz Uddin (17) and Jayachandra Shenoy Subash were the other chief scorers for visitors.

The Indian team was led by Muraleekrishna Ravindran and the other members of the team were Sambhaji Kadam, Dulip Kumar, Rajanna Sanjay Raj, Anoop Mukkanniyil, Roshan Thankachan Padavettiyil, Ravikumar Krishnasamy and Jayaram Jat.

Prageeth Pushpakumara (19), Randima Sooriyarachchi (10) and Shanaka Perera (9) were the main scorers for lankans. Jagath Kulatunga captained the side and the others were Harshadeva Yasaratne, Virantha Bastian, Chamath Danawansa, Gamunu Sandaruwan, Roshel Mendis, Anushka Nilakshan, Asanka Suwaris and Vajira Kumarasinghe.

On Tuesday the Kazakhstan overcame India by 88 to 40 points to secure their place in the final after leading 45 to 23 points at half time. Yevstigneyev Mikhail (17) and Ponomarev Anton (15) top scored for winners while Jayachandra Subash (12) and Riyaz Uddin (9) were the main scorers for losers.

Today, the grand final will be held between unbeaten Kazakhstan and India at Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium, Colombo commencing at 5.30 p.m. Both these teams will qualify to take part in the FIBA Asia championships which will be staged in Japan.

Monday, May 28, 2007

B-schools bring big bucks

Higher education in India is big business today. And this time of the year (April-July), there is frenzied activity in the marketplace with institutions – domestic and foreign – burning serious money in advertising to flaunt their course-ware and attract students from across the country.

The business potential is undoubtedly enormous. Almost 55% of India’s population is below 25 years–the ripe age to enroll for a post-graduate course. And do not underestimate the competition amongst institutions to get these students in. Government statistics show India has 348 universities and 17,625 colleges, the highest in the world.

And in the last couple of years, a large number of universities and colleges from not just the US and the UK, but also from Australia, Ireland, Canada, Russia, France, Germany and Singapore have been very active in India. No wonder, as many as 100,000 Indians go to study abroad every year. Over 300,000 Indian students are enrolled in courses abroad, with the US accounting for 76, 503, Australia 27, 661 and the UK 16, 227 in 2005-06, according to industry estimates.

To get a foothold in the higher education business, institutions spent as much as Rs 317.4 crore towards advertising in the print medium, says AdEx India, a division of TAM Media Research. The next year, they hiked their budgets over 15% to Rs 365.5 crore. This was next only to the booming realty business that shelled out Rs 370.5 crore.

In India, more than in most other countries providing education is very important for the middle class, the vast majority. Siddhartha Mukherjee, vice president, communications, TAM Media Research, says matter-of-factly, “Education is booming because parents feel their children need some kind of career specialisation.”

And complementing this desire of parents is the market opportunity for the private unaided colleges. Says Atul Chauhan, chancellor of the Rs 500-crore Amity University, Uttar Pradesh, “Education is among the biggest spenders in print in terms of advertising. They must be spending close to Rs 700 crore a year, mostly in print. And the prime time is April-July when students apply. Hardly any educational institution uses TV as it is used mainly for brand-building. Print advertisement is preferred since it can accommodate lot of information like courses are on offer and how to apply. Radio is very cluttered, though cheaper. Some institutions use it for event-related announcements though.”

According to a CII-ICRIER study “Towards excellence - Higher Education in India”, the household sector spent Rs 18,675 crore in higher education, more than half than the total Rs 37, 675 crore (0.4% of GDP) spent on education in 2006. Amongst institutions, private unaided colleges were more aggressive in advertising. The report noted that while government colleges numbering 4,225 were not growing, private colleges numbering 7,650 were “growing rapidly”.

Says Ramdas M Pai, president, Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE), “There has been a dramatic growth – in rupee-terms and in numbers – over the last 2-3 decades, in the higher education sector. The sector has been growing at over 15% in real terms –probably in line with or a little higher than the growth of the service sector as a whole.”

He attributes the healthy clip to the entry of private players. With depleting state investment in setting up new higher education institutions (a vast majority of budgetary allocation for higher education goes merely to the upkeep and salaries in existing institutions), the private sector has accounted for more than 90% of the growth, says Pai.

Last year, MAHE’s media spend was about Rs 5 crore, entirely on press and online media.

Government institutions too spend some money on advertisements, but mostly on professional courses. “The National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT’s) annual ad spend in print media is about Rs 60-70 lakh,” says Pavan Kaushik, head, public relations. We utilize the ticker facility in the electronic media for 15-20 days during the admission process and spend about Rs3-4 lakh in this category, he adds.

Besides private unaided colleges, advertisers say, foreign education providers spend substantial money in the Indian media to bring students to their educational fairs and MBA tours. “In 2005-06, they spent about $ 1.6 million, up 20% compared with 2004-05,” an advertiser said. In 2006-07, the advertisement earnings from foreign education providers are projected to be over 35% higher at $2.1-2.2 million.

Many parents feel it is worth sending their wards abroad by spending a little more than admit them in a sub-standard school in India. An official from a smaller European embassy says, “A large number of Indians prefer spending Rs 10 lakh to study in a major university abroad rather than spend Rs 7 lakh-Rs 8 lakh in a sub-standard varsity here, especially if they do not get into one of the top league universities here.” Another allied area is the entrance examination and training market – or the coaching classes. Industry analysts say this market is as big as $200 million or Rs 812 crore. Even this segment largely reaches out to the masses through print advertisements.

Its not just India, where education means mega bucks. World-over, the sector’s revenues top $ 2,500 billion. According to I Watch, an India-centric website, if India were to pick up even 10% of this business, it will boost the country’s GDP by 40%. “It is achievable in the next 10-15 years,” says I Watch.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

UB to launch five brands

Vijaya Mallya's United Spirits Ltd (USL), the world's second-largest alcohol beverage company, will launch five brands as part of its entry strategy for China.

Vijay Mallya, the flamboyant chairman of both USL and its parent United Breweries (holding) Ltd, says the Chinese market was a top priority. "We will offer a complete range of alcohols of different flavours," Mallya was quoted as saying by China Daily.

Among the brands for USL's initial entry in to the Chinese market is the Bagpiper Deluxe Whisky. USL markets more than 140 brands, of which 15 have annual sales of over 1 million cases, the report said.

Mallya said he was optimistic about the Chinese market as "the taste of Chinese people and Indian people are very similar. Our products will be enjoyed, especially the first five products we are going to launch.

"We are looking forward to successful business in China. We will start in Shanghai and then extend to other parts of the country," he said.

Announcing plans for local bottling operations in China, Mallaya said, "I don't think any other international companies have offered to bottle their products locally," he said.

"When you go to a market as important as China, you have to prepare to do whatever it takes... And USL is in China for the long-term," he said.

Mallya said major manufacturers in the spirits business are stocking send this article to a friend their products because they expect high demand from China and India.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

IPOs to break all records in June-ICICI

Come June, the domestic primary market may witness the highest ever capital mobilisation.

Although the exact size and date of the initial public offering (IPO) of DLF and the follow-on issue of ICICI Bank are yet to be announced, marketmen expect these offers will compete head to head for investors’ fund of over Rs 24,000 crore next month.

In that case, the total capital collection from the primary market will exceed the March 2004 level, when five companies mobilised nearly Rs 11,403 crore.

Real estate major DLF, which took four months to receive market regulator Sebi’s clearance for its public issue, is expected to hit the market by the end of June with an over Rs 13,000 crore issue.

However, marketmen expect that the public issue could be of around Rs 11,000 crore, and the remaining part might be raised from private equity investors.

The country’s second largest bank, ICICI Bank, has sought approval from Sebi to sell Rs 17,500 crore of shares to local and overseas investors. The bank has set a target of launching the issue in June. The offer may be raised to Rs 20,100 crore depending on demand, the sale document said.

Marketmen expect ICICI Bank’s domestic offer to raise over Rs 13,000 crore. ICICI Bank MD and CEO KV Kamath had said that the proposed fund raising will meet the bank’s demand for funds for three years.

The two issues are expected to inject buoyancy into the primary market which saw the last big issue in December when Cairn raised Rs 5,261 crore.

Says Sunil Srivastava, senior vice-president, SBI Capital Markets: “We expect more and more big issues to come up with rising valuation of companies. This year alone, a handful of banks will hit the market to meet their capital requirements. We hope that this year’s fund collection from the primary market will exceed last year’s total collection of Rs 27,000 crore.”

The head of equity capital of a foreign bank, who did not wish to be quoted, says a successful completion of the DLF issue may attract its peers in the real estate sector to the market.

Besides March 2004’s record mop-up, Rs 6,941.51 crore was raised in December 2005, Rs 6,574.53 crore in December 2006, Rs 5,420.49 crore in July 2004 and Rs 5,358.15 crore in October 2004.

Also, the issue will provide an opportunity for FII investment in the sector. “The market capitalisation of the DLF issue will be higher than the combined m-cap of its peers. This will definitely provide higher free float to investors. The ICICI Bank issue will not have the same kind of impact on the banking sector,” he felt.

On an Icy Moon of Saturn, Gravity Causes Plenty of Moving and Shaking

When baking a potato, the smart cook pierces the skin in several places. That allows water vapor to escape as the potato heats, avoiding a potentially explosive situation.

Enceladus, an icy moon of Saturn that is about 300 miles across, is something like a baked potato. But instead of knife cuts, it has long parallel cracks in its icy shell, near its south pole. In 2005, the Cassini spacecraft spotted plumes of vapor escaping through these cracks, informally called “tiger stripes.”

Clearly something is heating the inside of Enceladus, and something is causing the cracks to open. Now studies by two research teams suggest what that something is: gravity.

Enceladus, a mere Tater Tot compared with Saturn, is hugely affected by the planet’s pull. The moon’s orbit is eccentric but its rotation is steady, so Saturn’s gravity affects it unevenly, creating tidal forces within it.

Those tidal forces cause lateral slip along the cracks, similar to the movement of a seismic fault on Earth, report Francis Nimmo of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and colleagues in the journal Nature. The shearing action generates enough heat, the authors say, to turn the water beneath the ice to vapor.

But how does the vapor escape? A second Nature paper, by Terry A. Hurford of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and colleagues, suggests that the tidal forces periodically put the cracks in tension, forcing them open.

A Pathogen’s Movements Are Fairly Loopy And Quite Formulaic

The pathogenic bacteria Listeria monocytogenes glide through an infected cell with the greatest of ease. They take over the cell’s own protein-assembling mechanism to build a filamentous tail, bit by bit, on their surface. As the tail grows, the bacteria are pushed forward — hard enough to force them through a cell membrane and into a neighboring, healthy, cell.

Listeria have something of the grace and style of a figure skater. If you constrain the movements to two dimensions — squashed on a microscope slide, for instance — they trace spirals, figure eights, S curves and other patterns, as shown by the tails, which dissipate over time.

Vivek B. Shenoy, an engineer at Brown University who normally works on the mechanics of semiconductors, was introduced to Listeria by Julie A. Theriot, a Stanford University scientist who studies them, at a “boot camp” at the California Institute of Technology to introduce physical scientists to biology. “We were looking at all these bacteria tracks and it was pretty clear there was a pattern,” Dr. Shenoy said. “But we weren’t sure what it was.”

Applying his skills in mathematical analysis, Dr. Shenoy came up with a relatively simple model — a formula that, with only a few variables, can account for the various trajectories. He, Dr. Theriot and others published the findings in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Critical to understanding the movements, Dr. Shenoy said, is realizing that the proteins being linked together at the surface are not just pushing the bacteria but also spinning them. “It’s not just straight propulsion,” he said. “The proteins are able to impart other types of motion.”

The work should help scientists understand why the bacteria move as they do. “These bacteria don’t have much of a choice in where they’re going,” Dr. Shenoy said. “They’re basically just pushed by the tail.” Characterizing the movements, he added, “is the first step toward understanding the mechanics.”

A Fine-Art Cleaner for Those Places That Are Hard to Reach

Clogged pores. They’re the bane of teenagers, and of art conservators who work on frescoes, too. The tiny pits and pores in the plaster can become filled with contaminants, making them very hard to clean.

Piero Baglioni, a chemist at the University of Florence in Italy, has worked on alternative methods for cleaning frescoes and other works of art for years. The technique involves creating microemulsions, which consist of fine droplets of organic solvents and water, on the order of 50 to 100 nanometers wide.

In the journal Langmuir, Dr. Baglioni and colleagues report on their most efficient microemulsions yet, which they have used to remove acrylic polymers applied over frescoes during earlier, faulty conservation efforts.

Dr. Baglioni said determining the correct formula was difficult, but once it was obtained, the microemulsions formed spontaneously. They can be applied to a surface with cellulose fiber and washed off with water.

One advantage of the microemulsions, he said, is that the droplets are so small they can easily penetrate and remove the polymer inside the pores, “which pure solvents cannot do.”

Another advantage is that far less solvent can be used — as little as a gram or two in a liter of water — so the environmental impact is much less.

In the same paper, Dr. Baglioni’s team reported on using a different microemulsion to clean a heavy scum of hydrocarbons and salts from artwork damaged in the Florence flood of 1966. That’s another advantage of the technique — it can be customized for the particular restoration task.

Dr. Baglioni said art restorers tended to be a conservative bunch, but added, “In the next 10 years, probably everybody will use this approach.”

Sheela Shenoy to be exempted

T’PURAM, ,Kerala: The police team probing the alleged negligence leading to the death of scores of infants at SAT Hospital has decided to exclude Health Minister P.K.Sreemathi from the array of accused.

According to sources, the investigation team is likely to submit a report before the court in this regard on Tuesday. Gynaecology Department former head Sheela Shenoy is also likely to be exempted from the case.

The investigation team has also decided to seek the help of Director of Medical Education to constitute a panel of experts, as stipulated by law, to hear the case.

The final report of the investigation would be prepared only after consulting the panel that would comprise legal and medical experts.

The Medical College Police had registered a first information report against six hospital officials and Health Minister P.K.Sreemathi on the basis of a petition filed by local BJP leader Pongumoodu Vikraman.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The inspiring story of Suresh Kamath

Suresh Kamath, managing director, Laser Soft Infosystems Ltd

Suresh Kamath, the managing director of Chennai based Laser Soft Infosystems Ltd is an unusual man. Unlike most other entrepreneurs, he does not aspire to create a business empire; his sole ambition is to provide employment to 10,000 people. He also plans to reserve 40 per cent of the jobs for the disabled.

Suresh started Laser Soft in 1986 with just Rs 200 and five people. Today, the company is a force to reckon with in the banking software arena.

In recognition of his commitment to the disabled, President of India A P J Abdul Kalam felicitated Suresh with the Best Employer award in December 2005. He also won the Best Employer award from the Tamil Nadu government. He has been awarded the NCPEDP shell Helen Keller Award for giving equal rights and gainful employment to persons with disabilities.

Read on for the inspiring story of Suresh Kamath

Ambition as a child

I come from a poor family. We lived in a one-room-kitchen house in Mysore. Though my father struggled very hard, he did not let his penury affect the lives of his children. Unemployment, depravation, hardship pained me and right from my school days my ambition was to create employment in this country. As a child I was motivated by Mr Laxman Rao - one of my teachers at school who always advised me to do something for the country.

I heard tales of poverty and struggle from my father and grandmother. How my father could study only up to the 10th standard, as he did not have money for further education. My mother too did her schooling only till the 8th standard. But all this hardship did not stop them from encouraging us to continue with our studies. I was the eldest among my siblings and took up the mantle of setting an example. Encouraged by my performance - I was always a rank holder - my younger siblings too did very well in studies.

As far as my career was concerned, my father gave me full freedom and I decided to study engineering. I joined the National Institute of Engineering in Mysore in 1975 in electronics and then did my M Tech in computer science from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.

Life after graduation

I was keen to start my own company immediately after my post graduation. But since I did not have any job experience I was advised against any such move. So, I joined Tata Consultancy Services and worked for a year. I noticed that all the major Indian software companies were into services; they were not into creating products and it disappointed me. I was convinced that India could create excellent products thanks to the huge talent pool available here.

While at TCS I found that most of my colleagues aspired to go abroad to further their career. But I was not interested in overseas assignments.

Even at IIT, I was the only student in our batch of 20 who did not go abroad after studies. On hearing of my ambition, many of my friends ridiculed me and even called me a 'fool'! I took their scorn in my stride. However, my parents were very supportive. They encouraged me not to pay heed to what others were saying and encouraged me to strive to give shape to my ambition.

After TCS, I joined another company that was into hardware because I wanted some related experience. I worked there for three years.

Starting Laser Soft

When I was 28, my father told me to get married. I decided to marry the girl of his choice. By then I had decided to quit my job and start my own company. I told my fiancee of my plans and asked her if she still wanted to marry me. She said, 'Yes. I have faith in you.'

On May 1, 1986 I launched my company. I intentionally chose May Day as it is also labours' day.

With initial capital of Rs 200 and five technical people from NIIT the company was launched. I told them, 'I will give you whatever I can afford but all of us will draw the same salary.' I did not even try to hire any engineers, as I was convinced that they won't work for a small company like mine. Also, I strongly believe that you don't need engineers for programming. What you need is logic. I also wanted a team that would be the foundation of the company, who would remain with the company.

Why Laser Soft? Because the word laser - meaning accuracy and precision - appealed to me, and soft is of course from software. Our office was a room in my house, and our first job was to get visiting cards and letterheads printed.

First client

We decided to focus on banking and healthcare. Banking because it was a gargantuan sector and had huge potential. At that time automation of the banking system was a faraway dream. We approached the State Bank of India and Apollo Hospitals and told how our products could facilitate their work. SBI admitted that they had a six-month backlog in the DD purchase for Madras Fertiliser Ltd. Since we did not have computers, we requested SBI to allow us to work in the bank in the evening. They agreed.

First product

Our product for SBI was out in two weeks' time and the backlog was cleared within a month. Our first product was thus a big success. Both SBI and MFL were very happy and we were paid a remuneration of Rs 5,000.

Sensing that we could help them in various quarters, SBI sent us to their overseas branch -- which incidentally was their largest branch in the South doing business of over Rs 5000 crores. Everything was done manually. On any given day the branch could take only 25 bills from the exporters. Our product, readied in a week's time, was exclusively for handling export bills.

From 25 bills, they were able to handle 200 bills a day and the profit of the branch zoomed to Rs 55 crores (Rs 550 million).

End of first year

By the end of the first year, our turnover was Rs 128,000, and our staff strength had doubled to 10. With Rs 1000 as monthly salary, we could manage. After the success of the export bills, SBI assigned more work to us. As our work pressure increased, we hired more people and by the end of the second year we were 25 people and our profit stood at a handsome Rs 600,000. In five years' time, we computerised 70 SBI branches all over India.


Then one morning in 1987 Parthasarathy - we call him Partha - came to meet me. He was disabled and was not an engineer but had undergone a computer course that the government had offered in an institute. I told Partha, "I like to employ people like you."

And it was not a wrong decision. Partha had an amazing zeal and his disability did not stop him from being mobile. I thought it was the right model for any industry to follow.

I was not doing any charity by employing him because my company benefited more from Partha than vice-versa. I have noticed that physically challenged people are more committed than others but unfortunately we pay scant attention to them. Business houses talk about attrition. I tell them, 'Look at these people, they will never leave you.'

Disabled-friendly office

At that time our office was in the first floor and Partah had difficulty tackling the stairs. Seeing him struggle, I decided to make the entire office disabled-friendly. Our ground floor is now exclusively for the disabled people, and we have ramps in our office and there are special toilets for them too. We have also built houses for them near the office so that they can avoid long travelling hours.

After meeting Partha, I decided to hire more disabled people. We waited six months to get a disabled person who could be our receptionist.


I don't look at employing disabled people as charity. I look at this as my responsibility. This country has spent money to educate me and I feel it is my duty to do something for the less privileged.

It had been a great experience working with them. Seeing them work, get married, settle in life and have children is a wonderful experience.

We have 550 employees now, and 15 per cent of them are disabled. We go to engineering colleges looking for disabled people but find only one or two in each college. Parents don't send them out. The biggest challenge for the physically handicapped is the attitude of their parents. We, at LaserSoft, hire them even if they are not engineers.

Other than the physically challenged, we have people suffering from cerebral palsy too working for us. We find them good in graphics. Many of our employees are deaf and dumb.

Best employer award

I was elated when I won the award but with all humility, let me say I am doing very little. I am very disappointed to see that I was chosen when there are so many business giants in India. Seven per cent of India's population is disabled but all of us turn a blind eye to them. I realised that if I could get an award by doing so little, it means that others are not doing even this much.

I was honoured to meet Dr Abdul Kalam. He is a wonderful person, a real motivator. He asked me, 'What exactly do the disabled people do in the company? Do they do software or menial job?' I told him barring two all are involved with technology.


My ambition is to create 10,000 jobs, and I want to reserve 40 per cent of that for the disabled. We also have a light top model as far as salaries are concerned. We don't give huge salaries to those who occupy the top positions but distribute the money to all the employees.

Reservation row

Reservation based on caste is going to divide us further. Reservation should be based on economic criteria alone. We should learn to forget our past and start looking at the future. What have today's children got to do with what some people did in the past?

What difference does it make if you are a brahmin or a non-brahmin when you are poor? How many IITs and IIMs do we have? How many good medical colleges and engineering colleges do we have? We have such a vast population but not enough resources. Instead of starting more colleges, and there should be special colleges for the disabled, the government is talking about more and more reservation.

Vijay Mallya gets global acceptance, finally

In an interview to BBC in September 2005, UB Group Chairman Vijay Mallya had said, "I think that the poorest of the poor look up to wealthy and successful Indians with some degree of respect."

Respect in India is something that Mallya had already earned. He inherited his father's $100 million business in 1983, when he was just 27. At that time, many were sceptical, given Mallya's reputation as a playboy. However, in the ensuing two decades, he turned it into a multi-billion dollar enterprise.

The acquisition of Shaw Wallace in 2005, the second largest Indian liquor manufacturer at that time, made UB the dominant player in India with nearly 60 per cent share of the market.

Last year, Mallya formed United Spirits by combining McDowell & Co, Shaw Wallace & Co, Herbertsons and other liquor makers of the group.

The company, with 145 brands and 69 factories, became the world's third largest spirits company after Diageo and Pernod Ricard.

Yet, Mallya was not spoken of in the same breath as Ratan Tata, Mukesh Ambani and Kumarmangalam Birla, who had a far bigger presence overseas.

Wednesday's acquisition of Whyte & Mackay for $1.18 billion puts Mallya in this hallowed bracket and promises to enhance his position in the Forbes' list of billionaires, which placed him 746th in 2006.

More importantly, it gives Mallya what he had been missing all this while: global acceptance. The UB Group, which was founded by Scottish gentleman Thomas Leishman in 1915 and which first made an impact by manufacturing bulk beer for the British troops, has had its products panned overseas, most notably by Europe's Scotch Whisky Association, as not real whisky since it is distilled with molasses rather than malt.

On Wednesday, the same association said: "We look forward to working closely with Whyte & Mackay's new owners on matters of mutual interest to protect and promote Scotch whisky in India and other international markets to the benefit of all Scotch whisky distillers."

It seems Mallya knew the huge intangible gain that would accrue.

'As you know, Scotch whisky can only be produced in Scotland. The only missing link in our portfolio has been Scotch', he said in a statement on Wednesday.

The eponymous brand of Whyte & Mackay, founded by James Whyte and Charles Mackay on the docks of Glasgow in 1844, where they blended 35 selected malts to produce a 'special' whisky, holds around 3 per cent of the UK whisky market. The company also owns Dalmore Single Highland Malt, Jura Single Malt, Vladivar vodka and Glayva liqueur.

These will give Mallya the arsenal to take on the likes of Seagram and Bacardi overseas, mostly notably in the booming markets of Russia, for which UB has just formed a pact with Russian Standard, and China, where UB this month announced the launch of five of its brands.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Loans a boon or a curse?

An individual frequently takes a loan to start a new venture and to progress in that, but there seems to be a little change in the script as far as a loan taken from the Bhandari co-operative bank goes. Dr. Satyawan Nandoskar, (72), had applied for a loan at the Dadar branch of the Bhandari co-operative bank, to open a chemist shop at Dharavi. However, the repayment process is proving to be a greater problem than taking the loan. The Akhil Bhartiya Borrowers and Guarantors Sangh is now overseeing the issue.
The bank had sanctioned a loan of Rs. 3,75,000 in 1985. Of the total amount Rs. 2,65,000 was disbursed. The remaining money was adjusted against another borrower’s loan, for whom Nandoskar had stood as a guarantor.
Nandoskar lost his chemist shop in 1988 due to heavy flooding. His stock was completely ruined. “The bank had forgotten to insure the shop. They have now been adopting illegal ways to recover the money,” says Anil Pai, the president of the Akhil Bhartiya Borrowers and Guarantors Sangh. The problem has been referred to the Sangh, which is a registered organisation. “Nandoskar had already paid Rs. 10.5 lakhs to date. The bank is still charging him around Rs. 24 lakhs with an interest rate of 16.5 percent as of January 1,” he added.
“In 2004, the bank officials forcibly entered my premises and demanded the payment of the money. They threatened to disturb my daughter’s engagement ceremony, which was going on at that time. They forcibly took a cheque of Rs. 5.5 lakhs from me as a one-time settlement (OTS). I had requested them not to deposit the cheque right away. However, they deposited the cheque, and the non-payment of the amount saw a case being registered against me. I am still fighting that case,” said Nandoskar.
“In 2006, Ratilal Bhole, a special recovery and sales officer (SRO) of the Bhandari co-op bank barged into Nandoskar’s house in his absence. They did not have any court orders to do so. With the help of the Kidwai road police station the SRO put a Raj Mudra (a government seal), which has been banned by the central government, on the house and sealed it. The house had never been mortgaged to the bank. They evicted his mother and wife. All of the original documents with the original share certificates are in the possession of Nandoskar,” said Pai.
The SRO, Ratilal Bhole refused to comment on the issue. However, D. P. Shetye, the CEO of the Bhandari co-operative bank, claims that they have the required court orders and that they conducted the necessary legal procedures. The organisation has approached the divisional joint registrar and a case has been filed. The first hearing will be on June 19. The Kidwai road police station is investigating the issue, and has stopped the bank from taking away the personal belongings such as the furniture or consumer durables of Nandoskar. “The OTS was not granted, which is applicable as per the RBI rules and amounted to Rs. 8 lakhs. The bank is eyeing Nandoskar’s property,” said Pai. With the court hearing coming up, the issue will soon reach a decisive stage.

ndia's UB Group to announce Whyte & Mackay buy

India's United Breweries Ltd is believed to have agreed to buy Scottish liquor manufacturer Whyte & Mackay, with an announcement scheduled for Wednesday, The Financial Express reported.

W&M owners have demanded 700 mln stg for the company, the paper quoted UB Group chairman Vijay Mallya as saying.

The report said Mallaya did not indicate how much he would pay, but said the company would decide in two weeks.

Meanwhile, W&M confirmed in a statement that it was in advanced talks with UB Group, but 'no deal has been done yet'.

Separately, DNA Money, citing sources, said the company has completed the due diligence and values W&M at 500 mln stg.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Tech tonic for co-op banks

Oracle India has tied up with EBZ Online to offer a complete back-office solution to co-operative banks. This will help rural banks process loans faster.

Under the banking solution package, cooperative banks will be able to consolidate their transactions on a daily basis, and transfer it from any rural branch to the headquarters.

“This will ensure that decisions on loan requests are accurate and on time since the requisite data will be available at the nodal point,” said Krishan Dhawan, managing director, Oracle India.

Daily consolidation of transactions was earlier difficult in these banks because of their mode of functioning, geographical spread and low IT penetration.

“Information technology can help these banks meet many challenges,” said Suraj Pai, senior director (service industries), Oracle India.

“On the services side, these banks will have to start offering internet banking, mobile banking and other services such ATMs to retain their customers. For this, they will have to put in place the required IT infrastructure,” Pai added.

Co-operative banks in India are facing several challenges that can be addressed by robust information systems.

Due to increased competition, and changes in banking regulations and reserve bank rules, co-operative banks now need to ensure capital adequacy, comply with exposure norms, control non-performing assets, adopt efficient risk management and introduce good corporate governance.

Oracle's Applications and EBZ Online's unique core banking application will together provide comprehensive and integrated automation capabilities for the front-, middle- and back-office processes in these banks, helping them increase operational efficiency and reduce costs.

EBZ Online has a large installed customer base of 50 co-operative banks covering 300 branches in Maharashtra, which would use Oracle applications. They currently run BankEasy, EBZ Online's front office branch automation solution.

Giant A380 arrives in India on maiden visit

A superjumbo Airbus A380 landed in New Delhi yesterday in its first flight to the country in a trip designed to raise the profile of its only Indian customer. The aircraft flew into the country to mark the second anniversary of private domestic carrier Kingfisher Airlines, the only Indian airline and among 16 airlines globally to have ordered the plane from Europe’s Airbus Industrie.
“The plane is here on a route-proving and airport compatibility exercise,” an Airbus spokesman said.
As part of a technical drill, the massive jet will fly select passengers around New Delhi before heading off for Mumbai on Wednesday.
Kingfisher Airlines, owned by Indian distiller UB group, ordered five A380s in 2005 among 15 planes in a deal worth about $3bn.
It expects the first delivery of the aircraft in 2011 as it draws up plans for an international debut, using the A380 — which has been much delayed in production — on high-density routes such as to the United States.
“Kingfisher Airlines completes two immensely successful years of operations on May 9, and the visit of A380 to coincide with Kingfisher’s anniversary celebrations marks a major milestone for the airline and for Indian aviation,” a statement issued by the airline said.
The celebrations will be led by Vijay Mallaya, chairman of UB group, and will include John Leahy, chief operating officer for Airbus, who flew the A380 from the group’s headquarters at Toulouse in France.
Airbus officials claim that the A380, which is 73m long with a wingspan of 15m and has a capacity of over 525 seats, entails a per-seat operating cost that is 15-20% lower than rivals.
“Airbus’ A380 is simply the largest, most spacious and most economic airliner ever built,” the European manufacturer says.
Air travel in India has soared in the past five years as almost a dozen new airlines have been launched to serve demand in the fast-expanding economy.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Mallya says he's interested in Air Deccan

Vijay Mallya on Monday added fuel to speculation that Kingfisher Airlines is keen on buying into Air Deccan. ‘‘Am I interested?’’ “Yes,’’ he said at a press conference in New Delhi. ‘‘Am I imminently acquiring it? Not decided as yet..,’’ he added. Capt G Gopinath, MD, Air Deccan, didn’t take kindly to the remarks. ‘‘I’m from Mars and Vijay’s from Venus,’’ he told TOI. ‘‘We would make for a very incompatible couple. His model and mine are very different,’’ he added.

‘‘We are not for sale. We are here for a long haul. We are three times bigger (than Kingfisher) in routes and operations. He (Mallya) must restrict himself to running his own airline rather than talking about Air Deccan,’’ a visibly agitated Gopinath added.

Sources close to Mallya said the Kingfisher boss has been eyeing Deccan for a while and that he is just waiting for the right moment.

Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (India) CEO Kapil Kaul said his agency had predicted a year ago that legacy carriers would need to acquire low cost carriers for the domestic aviation business for two reasons.

‘‘Acquiring or getting a stake in an LCC would allow legacy carriers to focus on the emerging area of budget travellers. And the legacy airline could keep catering to its clientele,’’ he said, while adding a word of caution for Kingfisher. ‘‘Air Deccan has a larger fleet size of over 40 aircraft and this talked about consolidation would have to be done well.’’

Over the last two years, Deccan has accumulated huge losses and aviation analysts believe the trend is likely to continue, as competition in the skies get stiffer. The company needs funds to keep afloat and Gopinath has been looking for new sources of funds by selling stakes to private equity players. He confirmed that he has appointed two investment bankers to help the airline raise $100 million.

Reports emerged in a section of the media that Lachmandas Ladhani, one of the original investors in Air Deccan, is looking to sell his 11% holding in the company. Ladhani, however, told TOI that while 4-5 UK-based investors have indeed approached him expressing interest to buy his stake in Air Deccan. But he hasn’t taken a call on whether he would sell, or would settle for diluting his equity.

Analysts say Deccan needs money and Kingfisher is perhaps the only airline that can foot the bill. Jet took over Sahara and will take a while to extract synergies that may accrue from this acquisition. So, it seems unlikely Jet would be interested in another play. For Mallya, acquisition of Deccan is a critical step towards his dream to rule Indian skies. Deccan is the largest no-frills airlines and flies to many small towns and cities not catered to by other carriers.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

India Inc makes a beeline for future engineers -Pai

The bond year (2007) is gelling well with starry-eyed engineering graduates of Gujarat. IT companies are picking up engineering passouts from across the state and are offering record packages to boot. Infosys, TCS, Wipro and Google, among others, are vying for candidates. Not only have the highest salaries gone up by 10-15%, the young graduates also have their hands full with multiple job offers. The highest salary recorded at the Faculty of Technology and Engineering of Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU), Baroda, was from Google. It picked up two students with a package of Rs 7.5 lakh per annum.

Such was the demand from IT companies that the faculty of technology was compelled to advance the placement season from the end of the sixth semester to end of fifth semester for the 2007 batch. The placement and training officer at MSU K Baba Pai is now busy with the placement of the batch that will pass out in 2008. So far eight companies have recruited 78 students from engineering faculty.

“Almost all the engineering students with a first class in their third year and now busy with their final exams for 2007 batch of engineering have been placed. Majority of the students with a second class in the third year have also been placed. We are still expecting 15 to 20 local companies to visit the campus for rest of the students,” Mr Pai told ET. He added the average salary for the students with a first class has nearly touched Rs 3 lakh per annum. Google, Voltas, the Kirloskar Group, L&T group companies, Thermax, Alstom, Mahindra & Mahindra, Gujarat Glass, Bombardier, GSFC, HLL and GHCL are some of the prominent recruiters who visited MSU campus for engineering students for the batch 2007. Diploma students, too, are in demand. Giants like ABB, GEA Process Engineering (I), Raymond, Essar Group, L&T, Aditya Birla Group and Torrent visited the College of Polytechnic of MSU for recruitment.

Things are pretty similar at Nirma University’s Institute of Technology which has recorded highest salary ever. Two engineering graduates of Nirma Institute of Technology have been offered a Rs 6.43 lakh package by Synergy, Hyderabad. This is close to the salaries offered to freshers from the top-notch business schools in the country. The final phase of placements for the ninth batch of B Tech has just concluded, yielding exciting prospects for the Institute’s graduates. A total of 69 companies came vying for students at NIT. Over 90% of the students received offers with an average salary of Rs 2.65 lakh.

According to Sachin Sehgal, placement & training officer NIT, “There is a shift from the IT/ITeS to more diverse work-profiles. A lot of students have opted for core engineering companies for final placements.” The number of core engineering companies scurrying for students was also higher than previous years.” Huge demand was shown by IT companies, with frontline players like HP and Satyam lapping up students in large numbers.

Pai draws the highest salary at Infosys Tech

Infosys director (human resources) T V Mohandas Pai was the highest paid employee of the IT major in 2006-07. Pai, also chairman of Infosys BPO, drew $58,263, the highest remuneration in Infosys.

The company said in a filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission that in addition to the salary, Pai earned a bonus/incentive of $117,336, other annual compensation of $21,779 and $15,287 as long-term benefits.

The second-highest salary was drawn by Srinath Batni, group co-head, customer delivery. His annual package included a salary of $48,958, $100,784 as bonus/incentive, $17,263 as other annual compensation and $13,150 as long-term benefits.

Chief financial officer V Balakrishnan was the third highest paid employee. He drew $39,586 as salary, $100,512 as bonus/incentive, $28,674 as other annual compensation and $11,190 as long-term benefits.

Outgoing chief executive officer and managing director Nandan M Nilekani, who is set to become the co-chairman, was paid an annual salary of $33,319.

He also earned $65,543 as bonus/incentive. Another $10,629 came as other annual compensation and $9,652 as long term benefits. Interestingly, COO S Gopalakrishnan (Kris), the next-in-line CEO, drew $33,319 as salary.

His annual package included $65,543 as bonus/incentive, $11,462 as other annual compensation and $9,735 as long-term benefits. Another co-founder K Dinesh, who is director and head, information systems, quality and productivity, and communication design group, drew the same salary and bonus as Kris.

He also earned $10,326 as other annual compensation and $9,622 as long term benefits. S D Shibulal, director and group head, worldwide sales and customer delivery, drew $31,304 as salary, $58,571 as bonus/incentive, $8,777 as other annual compensation and $8,956 as long-term benefits.

Infosys non-executive chairman N R Narayana Murthy was the lowest paid director. His salary was $12,898. However, his bonus was high at $35,017. He was also paid $42,845 as other annual compensation and $3,868 as amount accrued for long term benefits.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Konkani academy awards to be presented today

WINNERS: Chandrasekhar Kharvi, Melvyn Rodrigues and Edolphas Coutinho

Global Indian bank with MNC standards

In 1955, seven years since India had become independent, it was also the time to rebuild the nation and industrialization was the only way forward. It was at this time that with the initiative of the World Bank and the Indian government, that the Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India, ICICI, was formed.

Sixteen years later in 1971, to give a new lease of life to its rather nondescript existence, the corporation hired a batch of young business graduates. Among them, was 24 year old Kundapur Vaman Kamath; fresh out of management school in Ahmedabad. In time, Kamath would redefine banking in India and become a legend in his own right.

Mangalore born Kamath joined the Project Finance Division of ICICI as a management trainee in 1971. A quick learner, Kamath demonstrated his entrepreneurial skills early in his career and his sheer talent caught the attention of the than Chairman of ICICI, N Vaghul. Kamath set-up new businesses in leasing, venture capital, credit rating as well as handling general management position. Taking his responsibilities a step further, he implemented ICICI's computerisation programme, which in later years would give ICICI a huge competitive advantage. For 17 years, KV Kamath looked beyond the obvious to create value for ICICI. In 1988, an opportunity came calling that would take him beyond the shores of India.

Managing Editior of The Smart Manager, Gita Piramal, told CNBC-TV18, "Kamath was with ICICI for 17 years before he decided he needed a change. He went to Manila to the Asian Development Bank, and this was an absolutely critical turning point in his career. He learnt about new processes, how emerging markets work, he learnt to deal on a global international scale and this was absolutely important when he came back to India. He was with the Asian Development Bank for about eight years before he got a call from his mentor."

Chairman at ICICI Bank, N Vaghul recalls, "Within a few months of my joining I had interacted with Kamath. Kamath was at that time in the leasing department and I had more or less made up my mind that he would be my successor."

By 1994, the impact of the economic reforms initiated by the Narasimha Rao government were beginning to show... albeit rather slowly. The same year, ICICI Limited had set up its subsidiary - ICICI Bank. Two years later, in 1996, Vaghul's protege KV Kamath rejoined ICICI as its new Managing Director and CEO.

Kamath immediately initiated strategic initiatives and structural changes across the ICICI Group that helped redraw its boundaries and take it to the next level. MD & CEO, ICICI Bank, KV Kamath says, "An organization, which is 40 years old, you need to move some people into some positions, in which you think they would be better of and that's what was on top of my mind."

Kamath's immediate priority after his return was to create new operations in the organization and more importantly, to tap new markets. He introduced flexibility in the bank's functions and shaped them to respond to new market reactions. The company was now laying the foundation to become a financial powerhouse, but Kamath had a mammoth task ahead.

Piramal explains, "Kamath had a daunting assignment to get a banking license. This was a very important moment because the Indian government had not issued licenses since Indira Gandhi had nationalized banks. But at this juncture, the government did issue licenses and there was a mad scramble for them. Amongst those who managed to get it - the Times Group, the Hindujas, Kotak and of course ICICI. But this was just the beginning - he had far bigger dreams."

The visionary banker saw an encashable opportunity in the retail banking space. ICICI's strategy and product offering recognized the changing demands of a growing middle-class.

Deputy MD, ICICI Bank, Chanda Kochhar says, "When we rolled out the retail strategy in a big way - that was again a huge change and therefore a hugely enriching experience because at that time, the entire consumer finance business was very nascent for the country as a whole. So, we really had to create a vision of what this business is going to be like for the country and of course it was absolutely new for ICICI. One was really moving in uncharted territories and taking decisions, taking a call as one moved along and learning alongside.

Retail financing in the mid-1990s was an open field, with no major players and Kamath recruited a young bunch of strikers who would score winners for him. In 1997, ICICI became the first Indian financial institution to go online. At a time when word was experiencing the dotcom boom, Kamath was quick to sense the shift in customer demands.

Fighting skeptics, Kamath went ahead with a plan to offer a multi-channel delivery system to its customers. Starting with just 5,000 online customers, ICICI today serves over 2.5 million people online. It opened the floodgates of a unique success story.

By the end of the 1990s, Kamath had chalked out ambitious plans to spruce up ICICI from within. Supported by an able group of young aspirants who believed ICICI had places to go. Impatient by the dream and brimming with confidence to make ICICI a market leader, Kamath would soon take crucial steps that would influence the fortunes of this financial institution.

In September 1999, within three years of taking over as the Managing Director and CEO of ICICI, KV Kamath drew up aggressive plans for growth. That year, ICICI Ltd got listed on the New York Stock Exchange, NYSE, the first ever Indian financial institution to go the American Depositary Receipts, ADR route. The next year, ICICI Bank followed suit and its ADRs made a debut at USD 14 on the NYSE, at a premium of over 27% over its issue price of USD 11.

Post the listing with the NYSE; ICICI had ambitious expansion plans and this time, it was through inorganic growth. The process had begun way back in 1997 and between 1997 and 2001; Kamath engineered a string of acquisitions like SCICI Ltd, ITC Classic Finance, which had a strong retail base in Eastern India and a strong base in the West. Most significantly, it acquired Bank of Madhura at a time when its own revenues stood at Rs 2,500 crore and that of the bank at Rs 100 crore, it was time for the next courageous move.

The year 2002 was the landmark year for ICICI, the board of directors of ICICI and ICICI Bank approved the merger of the parent company ICICI and subsidiaries like ICICI Personal Financial Services Ltd and ICICI Capital Services Ltd, with yet another subsidiary ICICI Bank. The entire banking and financial operations of the group was bought under one roof. It was a reverse merger and quite rare in corporate India, where a parent company merged with its subsidiary and adopted the later's identity.

KV Kamath explains, "The bank was the entity into which ICICI Ltd went backwards into. You did not then have to address the issues of regulatory clearance to do a whole lot of things because the bank already had those approvals and that facilitated the whole process and that was the critical reason. The other reason to use this route, was to clean up ICICI Ltd at the time of the merger and the only way we could do it was, if ICICI Bank was the entity into which ICICI Ltd merged."

Soon after the merger, it was time for ICICI now in its new avatar ICICI Bank to takeoff and win new markets as well as look for horizons beyond the Indian seas. In 2002, ICICI set up offices in New York and London. The very next year it established subsidiaries in Canada and also joined hands with Lloyds TSB in the UK. Offshore banking units were set up in Singapore and representative offices in Dubai and Shanghai.

Kamath's passion for growth was fanning ICICI Bank's burning ambition to grow beyond its dreams and to achieve it, he added a new weapon to his armoury - technology.

He introduced ATMs across the country using current technology as an enabler. ICICI Bank had experienced a growth rate of more then 180% in its very first year and a separate majority owned company called ICICI Infotech supported the IT operations of the banking section. But it was the innovative idea of introducing ATMs, that tips the scales in their favour.

Kamath says, "To set up an ATM, you need three-four levels of redundancies. You set up recycling, you have to have a lease line, a dial-up line and you are still not sure the ATM would work 94-95% of the time. Today, you have ATMs available 99.99% of the time. So, there were these risks but we bet on technology."

Piramal adds, "Kamath found himself sandwiched between State Bank of India and the foreign banks who had an excellent retail presence. One of the ways is to meet the shortfall of being able to offer branch facilities, and at that time ICICI had just 50 branches. To meet that shortfall, Kamath hit upon an absolutely winning strategy and that was to install ATMs across the country."

There are many who dream big and let their dreams fade.. to die forgotten deaths. But there are still a few who nurture their dreams, give them wings and then turn them into realities. These are the people who make a difference and that's precisely what KV Kamath did.

With the turn of the millennium, ICICI emerged as the largest private bank in India and fueling its growth was the untiring efforts of one man - KV Kamath. He rightsized the organisation, expanded internationally and gave a fillip to its technology driven expansion plans, and then Kamath set his eyes on making ICICI a universal bank.

He had a vision and it was to create an international banking experience in the country, which would provide complete financial services to different classes of customers. For the first time ever, the rural community was included. With the use of technology, the bank started tapping into the micro- banking space in rural India, utilizing partnerships with multinational and local agricultural institutions.

Kamath repeated his earlier success with ATMs, when he introduced cross-selling in ICICIs banking system. He recognized the inconvenience faced by busy customers and brought in direct selling agents, who would reach customers easily, identify prospects and initiate dialogue. This not only helped ICICI deliver personalized banking facilities, but also changed the banking experience in India forever.

Joint Managing Director at ICICI Bank, Lalita Gupte says, "When I look at the vision for ICICI Bank in the next 10 years, I think major changes will take place. I see a very bright future ahead and I see the aspiration has been to move into the top league in the world - in top 25-50. This in a way reflects the place India will actually find in the global economy."

"Several Indian corporates are going overseas in acquiring businesses and expanding into the global marketplace. Mr Kamath is a visionary and I do see that this will definitely have an impact on the bank, as we go forward."

Piramal says, "In all the different directions that it was growing, Kamath also had to look after the legacy of the past. He had to streamline and rightsize the organisation. It had 33 subsidiaries, he gradually brought them down step by step from 33 to 24 and then 12 and he prepared the company for an IPO. This was an absolutely critical testing time for Kamath."

In December 2005, ICICI Bank announced its initial public offer to the Indian market and amassed over Rs 80 billion. With a very well defined roadmap, ICICI Bank soon put in place, a formidable plan for its future. With its current asset over Rs 2,500 billion and a net profit of over Rs 25 billion, with a network of 614 branches and over 2,000 ATMs, ICICI Bank has left its competition years behind.

Kamath's contribution to cutting edge innovations in the banking sector will soon recommence, and as if to acknowledge the years of dedication he has put in to making sure that ICICI Bank stands at the apex - in 2001, he was named the Asian Business Leader of the Year. A fitting finale one would say....but there just might be more coming from him.

3 chosen for Konkani award

Three persons - creative writer Melwin Rodrigues, folk artist Chandrashekhar Kharvi and theatre artiste Avitas Adolphos Coutinho - would be conferred the Karnataka Konkani Sahitya Academy Awards for 2006.

Addressing a press conference here on Tuesday, Konkani Academy Chairperson Eric Ozario said the awards would be given in Shimoga on April 29. The award carries a cash prize of Rs 10,000 and a citation.

Renowned psychiatrist Dr K A Ashok Pai will preside. Bishop of Shimoga Diocese Rev Fr Dr Gerald Isaac Lobo and writer Dr Na D’Souza will also participate. The awards programme would provide an unique opportunity for people in the City to enjoy Shigmo, Phugdi, Jakai and Damam folk art. Artistes from Siddi community of North Canara district and the local Konkani community will perform on the occasion, Mr Ozario said.