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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Jamuna Pai to hold seminar and treatment session in Kochi

THRISSUR: For the first time in Kerala, Jamuna Pai, India’s leading beauty consultant, will be holding a seminar and beauty treatment session at Hotel Le Meridian in Kochi, on January 4 and 5.

This will be a unique opportunity for the beauty conscious women of Kochi to meet and interact with her.

Jamuna Pai, the International Aesthetician, often referred to as the ‘Pioneering Cosmetologist’ in India, is also the official skin consultant to Femina Miss India, and the skin consultant to most of the Indian contestants who had won international titles.

Jamuna Pai is a medical graduate from Nair Hospital, Bombay. After her medical graduation, with her passion for beauty and glamour, she decided to be trained in cosmetology from one of the best beauty schools in Cheshire, England. She obtained the “ International Aesthetician” degree from Cheshire.

She believes that treating beauty and cosmetic problems with a sound medical knowledge would help her offer her clients the best solutions for their skin.

Trained with leading dermatologists in India and abroad, she holds diplomas with credit from The British Independent Examination Board, The Royal Society of Health and The International Academy of Acupuncture.

She has qualified as an electrologist, studied advanced facial treatments for normal as well as problem skin, treatment for pigmentation and other skin problems.

She made her own treatment protocols for the Indian skin.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ire-Tex to set up foam unit

Ire-Tex India Pvt. Ltd., a 50:50 joint venture between Ire-Tex Corporation Berhad, part of the $250 million Penang headquartered conglomerate, and Premier Tissues India Ltd., will invest Rs. 15 crore in phases to set up an eight tonne a day foam extrusion plant for packaging material at Sriperumbudur.

G. G. Shenoy, General Manager of the joint venture, which makes the Premier brand of paper tissues and other products in India, said that “We have already started making packaging material for computers, including laptops, peripherals and mobile phones in a facility at Ambatur Industrial Estate in Chennai. Because of the Malaysian company’s expertise in serving global computer manufacturers, we already have customers here such as Dell and aim to grow our market share to Rs. 25 crore of the total market of Rs. 100 crore in India. Many computer manufacturers want to switch over to recyclable foam packaging which we make”. The plant near Chennai was likely to be operational by April 2008.

WOMEN LAWYERS - Anitha Shenoy

Anitha Shenoy, Advocate on Record, Supreme Court. "With so many women in the Supreme Court, life is much easier."

She is winning the argument. The courtroom as a traditional male bastion is adjourned.

Anitha Shenoy is a lawyer of her time. An advocate-on-record at the Supreme Court, she is one of two state counsels for Karnataka. In her own practice, she handles headlining public interest cases, such as the ongoing trial of Dr Binayak Sen. Or she takes on pro bono clients who repay her in kolhapuri chappals and bags of bitter gourd. Other times, she makes 'decent money' from private clients. She has a four-year-old daughter. In her chambers, she sits under a picture of goddess Saraswati and seems to have as many hands.

But she isn't alone. "There are so many women who are competent and completely committed to their practice," Shenoy told Outlook, "We've reached the stage where we know we're getting there. Now that there are so many women in the Supreme Court, life is much easier for us."

In 1921, Cornelia Sorabjee was admitted to the bar, prompting a revision of the law that excluded female practitioners. Three generations and several pathbreaking careers later, a groundswell of young women is surging into the rough-and-tumble of the legal world (see box). More women are law students, practising advocates, judges and partners in corporate law firms than ever before.

Not too long ago, it was a very different story. "What has happened in the last ten years has been dramatic," says Kamini Jaiswal, a Supreme Court advocate who has been in legal practice for over three decades, "In the sixties and seventies, there were very few women lawyers. We went through really tough times, not only with the Bench but also with our colleagues at the Bar." Kamini speaks as a veteran, someone who was able to withstand the hostility that the male legal establishment poured on young women interlopers. "To sustain yourself you had to have a thick skin," she says, "I saw a lot of lady lawyers who didn't, who permanently lost their balance."

There were the inevitable efforts to undermine her reputation. "If you were a young working lawyer, you were treated as a woman of easy virtue, firstly by your clients and seniors," recalls Kamini. "Once you began to prove yourself, the talk shifted to insinuations—'What's going on in that barsati?' But there has been tremendous change—mostly because of women's strength in numbers."

Strength in numbers. It is a constant refrain from the young women advocates, in their late twenties and early thirties, who have entered the practice in the last decade.

"Just the bodily presence of women, I think, changes things," says Srimoyee Ghosh, a human rights litigator who opened an independent practice in Delhi last year. "The Bombay Family Courts is a fantastic experiment in how women's movements have made a difference to the culture of a courtroom. It's less formalistic, has more women judges and tonnes more women lawyers. "

"At one time, in fact, we were an 'all girls team' and outvoted the boys," says Kiran Khanna, a managing associate who handles mergers and acquisitions for a Bombay firm. "Corporate firms are certainly not chauvinist."

Courtrooms, however, sometimes still are. For all their mothballed conventions and antique atmosphere, the courts can be far from chivalrous. In 1997, the Supreme Court delivered a judgement referred to as Vishaka, mandating all employers to institute sexual harassment committees. But the Supreme Court Bar Association itself never formed one. In the same year, a study conducted by judges found that 65 per cent of women lawyers were often subjected to, or had often observed, sexual harassment from colleagues. Senior advocates still have a bit of a reputation for making sexual advances on female employees. "Some of my friends have faced sexual overtures from their seniors," says Anitha evenly. "It eventually forced them to leave their employment."

Last year, a Delhi High Court judge interjected while a young lawyer was in the middle of her arguments, saying he "knew how women lawyers make it"—implying that it was not by their intelligence or determination. Almost every young woman advocate recalls receiving patronising or inappropriate remarks from a judge (for obvious reasons, these statement were off the record). "The Bench still has a very sexist attitude," Kamini says. "They make rules for private workplaces to protect you, but in the courts there is no protection at all. It can be exasperating or humiliating, depending on how you choose to take it."

"Legal institutions are inherently patriarchal," says Aarti Mundkur, a founding member of Bangalore's Alternative Law Forum. "There is a feeling of being under a gaze in the premises of the court. Women friends who work in criminal law practice, especially, tell me about experiencing sexism. But you learn to deal with men in court the same way you deal with men on a bus. You find ways to tackle it and you go on."

It's encouraging to established lawyers that the face of discrimination has become less ugly in their tenure. Meenakshi Arora, who has been practising in the Supreme Court since 1985, notes, "the barriers are more subtle and hard to distinguish". Anitha has an example of subtle discrimination: clients pay her husband, also a lawyer, on time, "but they always try to shortchange me. My female colleagues have the same experience."

"I can confidently say that one cannot find a more gender-neutral territory than my chamber and the court precincts," says Aparajita Singh, a Supreme Court advocate. As junior to Harish Salve, she worked on some of the highest profile cases in recent years, such as the Uphaar cinema trial and the AIIMS reservations matter. "A client comes to you for your competence," she shrugs. "He is not bothered by your gender."

So, increasingly, young women lawyers are preoccupied only by the issues that bother young women everywhere.Such as what to wear. In Kamini's early career, judges referred to her as "the lady in pants". Ten years later, Meenakshi Arora was told she would never have clients until she switched to saris. Today, she says, "every second woman wears trousers," but the question persists. Even swanky corporate lawyers sometimes have to think twice. "There have been some hysterical moments involving older conservative male clients, whose experience of anyone with a Mrs tag implied a much older woman in a sari," says Kiran, "as opposed to someone younger in a designer suit!"

These barriers were scaled by hardy pioneers of the older generation; now they are being flattened by the march of the optimistic younger one. "There is no gainsay in saying that we have so few women judges, because there have been so few women advocates all along," says Meenakshi "With the number of advocates that this generation has, they may break through those last barriers."

But they are now encountering a barrier that may never be easy to overcome—raising a child while pushing your career. Some branches of law, such as corporate practice, make life easier for mothers. "The love for law coupled with being a corporate lawyer permits me to be a mother and a working woman," Kiran says. "Balancing both is easier than it would be for a litigator."

Anitha is discovering that herself. "It's really hard to be a driven lawyer and a mother," she sighs. "You can't have a social life—you can't even be much of a wife—and I can't give my daughter a lot of time." Reflecting for a moment on her brutal schedule, she adds, "A lot of the presently successful senior women lawyers aren't married, or they haven't had children. If the present lot do make it and we can meet the challenge of raising children as well, that might be our greatest achievement."

Eateries on High Court premises to go

BANGALORE: In just a few weeks from now, several petty shops doing brisk business around the premises of the Karnataka High Court will have to pack up and leave. These shops, which cater to hundreds of hungry people daily, including advocates, litigants and visitors, have been asked to wind up.

Many of these shops have been termed illegal by the authorities and slapped with eviction notice.


The Deputy Commissioner of Bangalore Urban district, on an application by the Registrar-General of the Karnataka High Court, has issued eviction notice to these shops and asked them to vacate in 45 days.

Ramanand Bhat, owner of one of the most popular shops in the area, told The Hindu that his father first set up the eatery on the premises of the old High Court in 1960. A few years later, the shop was shifted to its present location.

A little later, several other eateries and petty shops sprang up in the area. Today, the area near the Press Club teems with petty shops and canteens selling stationery, chaat, cut fruits, sugarcane juice, paan and other food items, catering to a large number of people every day. Their food is cheap and good and snapped up by advocates, litigants, High Court staff, policemen and even those working in government and private offices dotting the area. For an equal number, these establishments offer a rendezvous to have snacks and coffee after office hours.

While all these shops have been asked to move out, the authorities have spared the State-owned Nandini milk parlour.

Mr. Bhat, whose canteen is perhaps one of the most frequented in the area, says though he and his compatriots have carried on their business down decades, it is only in the last few months they have been facing pressure from the police to close shop early citing security reasons.

Most of the shops have obliged the police, but the first hint that they would be evicted came when the High Court proposed to construct an underground parking complex. Mr. Bhat and the owners of other petty shops say that they have been informally informed that they would have to vacate as part of the complex would come up near their shops. However, in recent days, the police and the High Court cited security reason to evict them. Mr. Bhat says though all the shop owners contested the case in the District Court, they could not get any relief. Now they plan to appeal against the order.

There has been mixed reaction to the eviction of shops in the area. Government advocates Veerappa, Satyanarayana Singh, Keshav Reddy and B. Manohar welcome the security measures, but point out that closing the shops would not only inconvenience the people but scores of advocates and High Court staff who have to work beyond duty hours.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Goa’s Inevitable Demographic Engineering

by Nandkumar Kamat

One of the concerns associated with the current debate on special economic zones (SEZs) relates to the heavy influx of migrant labour. The obvious consequences of such influx are seen in terms of demographic dilution of the Goans leading to their political and social marginalization within a few years. There are limited choices for Goa and Goans. Either they would have to reconcile to the fact that a new Goa with multiple identities would emerge inevitably or treat Goa unfairly as their private property.

However, in the coming years Goans would have to step aside and be compelled by circumstances to make space to accommodate the new settlers and their vocal leadership. Goa would no longer remain a melting pot of different cultures but in all certainty would be a distillation flask which would produce the distillate of a new Goan personality. If we become only the prisoners of poetic nostalgia then the dynamics of the transformation would be lost. The present trend clearly points to a radical phenomenon of demographic engineering about which the Goans would not be able to do anything constitutionally because they, their rulers and their misguided developmental and macroeconomic policies have made Goa a Mecca for migrants. Even if SEZs are scrapped this process would not halt. Goa’s infrastructure, economy, business, wholesale and retail trade and commerce, fisheries and tourism, telecom, shipbuilding and navigation, solid waste collection and disposal depends heavily on the unskilled, skilled or semi-skilled migrant labour force.

There are well-entrenched and well-established cartels which Goans would not be able to take over. Goa has not yet warmed up to a realistic developmental debate. All the movements in the past were based on sentimental exploitation of the masses and completely failed to predict the economic, social and ecological destiny of Goa. One of the battle cries during the opinion poll movement was pre-empting the ‘influx’ of Marathi speakers. Fears had been raised that tiny Goa would be taken over by the Maharashtrians if the pro-mergerists were to have their say. Goa retained its’ union territory status. The alleged Maharashtrian colonization did not happen. The Marathi speakers form an insignificant section of the migrant population. But migration was taking place after large projects such as the Mandovi and Zuari bridges, Anjuna and Sealulim dams were initiated. With the development and expansion of the Mormugao Port Trust the shipbuilding industry created opportunities for migrant skilled and semi-skilled workers. The tourism boom began in 1980. That caused the first major intra-state labour shift. Goans in tourism areas immediately discarded their traditional occupations and jumped on the lucrative tourism bandwagon. They did not have the vision to pursue both the enterprises simultaneously. It is comic today to read that the Lamani trinket sellers in Colva are not afraid of the local police. The Lamanis are merely occupying an economic space created by ill-planned tourism.

The 1975-95 period saw a revolution in mechanized trawling. The labour deficit in this sector was met by the migrants from southern and eastern India. The ban on coastal silica sand exploitation in 1977 served as a boon for alluvial sand mining from rivers which attracted labour from Karnataka.

The Sanjivani sugar factory was another driving force behind labour influx. The 19 industrial estates attracted migrant labour for jobs which Goans found impossible to do. The phenomenal rate of urbanization between 1981 and 2001 could also be linked to a massive expansion of the urban construction industry. According to 2001 census nearly two lakh migrants are been permanently settled in Goa. Hindus and Muslims account for a majority of them. Naturally this migration trend is seen to be jeopardizing the political, social, cultural and economic space of Goa’s religious minorities unprepared to accommodate such a large influx.

The inheritance of Goans is determined by the civil code which is not applicable to any migrant settler. Goans circumscribe their cultural and social life within institutions like the temple or parish church committees and the village communidades - privileged institutions which are presently barred to non-Goan migrants.

The exclusive cocoon of Goan identity sustained by some Portuguese laws would be now pierced by the forces of globalization. Goan society would now need an important mid- course correction. Konkani, the official langauage did not become their economic and cultural shield. Concerns had been expressed during the language agitation that Marathi speaking Maharashtrians would compete with Konkani speaking Goans in employment. This was a probably a major reason to deny the official language status to Marathi in 1987. But after 20 years Goans are still agitating over issues which have no connection to the dreams which were painted after passing of the official language act. Konkani has almost vanished from the port town of Vasco da Gama. The fear of the heavy influx of migrants were raised during the agitation for the realignment of Konkan railway route. There is no doubt that the Konkan railway route has become a vehicle of accelerated economic transformation between Roha to Mangalore. Goa failed to derive strategic benefit from this route because economic and industrial activities which could have roped in Goans were not planned simultaneously. Therefore thousands of jackfruits are allowed to rot in Goa when there was a demand in North India for this tropical delicacy. But fish from Coromandel coast are made readily available in the local market at premium price by the enterprising Telugu traders.

It is too late for Goa to undo the self-destructive model of development which is inevitably leading to demographic engineering. The visible impact of demographic engineering is the demographic transition. Even neighbouring Maharashtra is experiencing this phenomenon, if one reads the text of the address delivered by the Union Minister for Agriculture, Mr Sharad Pawar on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Marathi weekly ‘Sakal’. The text is published as a cover story in the weekly’s December 8 issue and could serve as an eye opener for all those who are debating Goa’s developmental and social problems. Mr Pawar has categorically expressed concerns over the demographic changes, labour and sectoral shifts occurring in New Mumbai, Thana, Nagpur, Pune and Nasik on account of migration. Most of the questions which he has raised in this well prepared address are also applicable to Goa.

Goa’s politicians have been avoiding these questions and have been embracing self-destructive and unsustainable models of development. Demographic engineering could happen as a deliberate state policy or it could take place as a natural fallout of economic, industrial and infrastructural development. Goa won the battles of opinion poll, official language, statehood, railway route realignment but lost the race to build a sustainable society without demographic dilution. The bitterness of defeat is stamped now on every agitation.

Award winning 'protunik'

Two students of Ramaiah Institute of Technology design a device that could ensure safe roads and end up winning the Freescale design contest.

For the two engineering students of M S Ramaiah Institute of Technology, nothing seems to be impossible. And they have proved this by winning the Freescale design contest.

Chosen from among the 200 odd contestants, Umanath R Kamath and Ashwin Bhat who are in the 3rd year of Electronics and Communication department, have designed a device that would ensure comfortable and safer driving on the roads, especially in the ‘L’ junctions.

“We had provided a microscale product QG8 - a 8 bit micro controller, for the contestants to work on and come out with a creative product plan. The contest was open to all, including engineers, industries, and also students.

But, it was these two students who came up with an innovative model that (could be of practical help) could be implemented and would be of great help to the people,” says Sanjeev Keskar, country sales manager, Freescale Semiconductors.

The Protunik Safety Detection System has two modules: One is the devise to be installed in the automobile for automatic dip and dim of head light and the second one is the system to negotiate ‘L’ turns.

Usually, high beam is required in vehicles for timely detection of objects but this poses as a threat as it impedes the vision of the oncoming vehicle in the opposite direction.

The aim of the first device is to detect if any vehicle is coming in the opposite direction (when the user is using high beam in his vehicle, so that it won’t impede the on-coming driver’s vision) at night. If the device detects any vehicle coming in the opposite direction then it automatically switches the intensity of the head lamp to normal level. The requirement of high beams are in places where the path is dark and it is difficult to commute but when another vehicle is coming from the other side (and has normally lit head lamp), then the intensity of light is sufficient for the user to travel.

The second module is to help people negotiate ‘L’ turns. This would help warn vehicles if any other vehicle is approaching on the other side of the ‘L’ junction and vice-versa.

“About 70% of the accidents occur on highways and a majority of these are at night. After much research, we noted that one of the main problems was that the intensity of the head light of vehicles was very high which was blinding the other commuter. Also there are poor signalling systems at ‘L’ shape junctions. There have been several developments in this direction but neither of them have provided a concrete solution which is easily integrate able in the present system, cost-effective and fool-proof,” say the students.

Says Umanath Kamath: “We designed both the modules with the aim of achieving a better solution for traffic problems and thereby ensure safe and comfortable driving for the people.”

“We wouldn’t have achieved this without the help of our teachers. But our real success lies only in implementing the plan in real life,” adds Ashwin Bhat.

The two will be flying to Malaysia to witness manufacturing of high-end chips that are used in mobile phones like MotoRazr etc and interact with technologists that make this happen.

They are now expecting automobile sponsors to volunteer to take up the project plan and develop them into real product.

With the zeal of pursuing higher studies in engineering, both the students feel that the contest has provided them the impetus to realise their dream.

The device ‘protunik’ (which refers to unique protection) developed by the students was showcased in the Freescale Technology Forum in the City organised by Freescale Semiconductor.

TOTO to launch 12 exclusive showrooms in India by March next

World's largest plumbing products manufacturer, Toto of Japan, today said it would be launching 12 exclusive showrooms in India by March next, including one at Kochi, which was inaugurated on wednesday.

The company offers complete line of commercial and decorative fixturers and fittings, faucets, accessories, showers and flush valves, lavatories and toilets and was targetting high end customers like Star hotels, International airports and IT parks, General Manager of Toto's India operations, Hidekazu Hata, told a press meet here.

Already showrooms have been opened at Ahmedabad and Hyderabad and Kochi is its third showroom in the country, he said. Similar showrooms at Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode are being planned by next year.

During this year,the company turnover was USD 80 million. Toto has also started supplying its products to Hyderabad International airport and to the new upcoming airport at Mumbai.

Though it does not have manufacturing facilities in India, it was importing its products from its factories at Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, China and US.

In Kochi, the company has tied up with leading South India company for all kinds of building materials-- Sree Venkateswara Agencies (SVA)--for opening the store. Toto has tied up with the same company for opening similar stores at Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram by next year, Raja Ram Shenoy, Managing Partner, SVA, said.

Importers/exporters meet held

Coproration Bank, Goa zone held a meet for importers/exporters and SME on December 10. Mr M A R Prabhu, DGM, RBI, Goa, the general manager, Corporation Bank, IIBD, Mumbai, Mr U Balakrishna Bhat, DGM, ECGC, Mumbai, Mr M K Rukdikar, director, GCCI, Mr Deepak Shenoy were present on the occasion among others. The meet was attended by a number of industrialists, importers and exporters from all over Goa.

India to announce drivers for 2008 season in two weeks

Formula One team Force India, co-owned by liquor baron Vijay Mallaya, is likely to announce its drivers for the 2008 season in the next two weeks.

Mallya denied he was disappointed when former Toyota driver Ralf Schumacher reportedly said he would not like to join the team, and said the driver had gone to the testing session in Jereze in southern Spain as a friend.

"Ralf came to test and not to compete for a seat in the team. He said what he had to and it's fine by me," Mallaya, who was in the city to launch the Kingfisher Calender, said.

"We will announce the drivers for the team in the next two weeks," he said.

Former Renault driver Giancarlo Fischella, who was present at the testing, has reportedly expressed interest in joining the Force India team and 24-year old German driver Adrian Sutil is also reported to be in contention for a driver's seat in the team.

Drivers Vitantonio Liuzzi, Frank Montagny, Christian Klien, Roldan Rodriguez and Giedo van der Garde had also participated in testing.

Speaking about the testing session in Spain, Mallaya said he was happy with his team which clocked timings which were the seventh and ninth fastest.

"We did well and were just one second behind the Ferrari team in timings," he said.

Mallaya, who had taken over the Spyker F1 team earlier this year after which it was renamed, said he would also be aiming to bring Formula One cars of the team to India for people to see them.

Mhadei Bachao Abhiyan to file contempt plea against Karnataka before SC

The Mhadei Bachao Abhiyan will soon file a contempt petition before the Supreme Court against the Karnataka government for re-starting the work on the Kalsa-Bhandura project that can seriously affect the course of the Mhadei river and damage the eco-diversity of North Goa, when the matter is sub-judice.

The convenor of the Mhadei Bachao Abhiyan, Ms Nirmala Sawant, addressing a press conference, this afternoon said that the Karnataka government had already filed an affidavit before the apex court that it would not re-start the work on the particular project until a judicial decision is reached on the matter.

“However, the Karnataka government has now re-started the project work which can be proved from a number of photographs taken by the Abhiyan and published in various newspapers, as well as footage of the same,” she stated.

The co-convenor of the Mhadei Bachao Abhiyan, Mr Rajendra Kerkar and Dr Nandkumar Kamat were also present for the briefing.

Speaking further, Ms Sawant said that the Anjunem dam in North Goa, as well as the proposed Virdi dam across the border, in Maharashtra are within a radial distance of 3 km, causing possible grave danger of earthquakes due to the intense water pressure on land in the nearby areas. “No scientific study has been carried out as regards the Virdi dam,” she alleged. Ms Sawant also informed that the height of the Virdi dam is to be increased and the Goa government has given its consent for the same.

“The Virdi dam will also affect the course of the river Valvanti, which in turn will have disastrous effect on the drinking water in Bicholim taluka, besides on the horticultural and agricultural sector in this taluka,” she predicted.

Dr Kamat maintained that the state government has given a green signal to the Virdi dam without any cabinet decision or agreement between the Goa and the Maharashtra governments.

“The uncontrolled felling of trees across the border has already resulted in massive soil erosion during the monsoons, which in turn has flooded the Keri village from time to time,” he pointed out.

Dr Kamat further displayed a number of photographs to prove his point and said that the state government should act before it is too late.

Direct Logistics appoints Mithil Pai as Group CFO

Direct Logistics a Mumbai based freight forwarding and logistics firm has appointed Mr. Mithil Pai as the Group CFO, handling company operations in India, China, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Mr. Pai has over 15 years of experience in accounting, financial and strategic management across diverse sectors such as audit, pharmaceutical and chemicals and is a qualified Chartered Accountant.

Before joining Direct Logistics Mr. Pai served in senior positions at FOSECO PLC in Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. Previously Mr. Pai had successful stints with Merind Ltd. (TATA Group), Boots Pharmaceuticals and A.F Ferguson & Co.

Said Mr. Pai, �Direct Logistics is an Indian MNC � very progressive, very professional and very people forward. I was looking at a dynamic company to work for in India where I could put my skills obtained through many years of working abroad to good use. The track record of the company is extremely impressive and the future growth plans are exciting. The company�s presence in India and China, two of the most sought after economies in the world puts it in a very advantageous position to take a big leap in the very near future. The other operations in Singapore and Taiwan are also poised for significant growth.�

The challenges at Direct Logistics according to Mr. Pai would be, �To create a financially responsible company, with best practices in and good corporate governance. The expansion plans for India and China will mean a need to not just raise but also to manage the funds optimally. The road ahead is very exciting and if we can manage to put the investor�s money in the right places that can return good yield to the stakeholders, at the same time come to be known as a financially sound and socially responsible organization, it will be a job well done.�

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Small budget Konkani film a big draw

While Goa remains largely unrepresented at the ongoing International Film Festival of India (IFFI) 2007 here, a small budget Konkani movie is making waves at the peripheral activities of the 10-day event.

'Zuzari' (The Fighter), based on Goa's freedom struggle, is produced by Suhas Sawardekar, who hails from the state.

Made at a shoe-string budget of Rs 20 lakh, the film is based on real incidents that happened in pre-Goa liberation in 1961. Shot entirely in the coastal state, it has local cast.

"We could not premiere it as part of IFFI as we got the Censor Board certificate a bit late," Sawardekar, also the writer of the film, told PTI.

"We, however, managed to get the slot in peripheral activities of the fest," he said.

The film, the first production by Sawardekar, got good response when it was screened at the Poinguini in remote Canacona taluka, Mapusa, Sanguem and Quepem as part of IFFI- related activities.

The film depicts the chasm between Goa freedom fighters' expectation of a golden era and the state's volatile politics and its turncoat politicians, who have "ruined" the tourist paradise.

"It's a strong statement on politics of today compared to our history," Sawardekar, who has penned several Konkani dramas, said.

With multiplex and theatres not keen to exhibit Konkani movies, the producer intends to showcase the film at private invitations. "After sometime, we may release the film on DVDs and CDs," he said.

New procedure for fracture of spine

UDUPI: The Department of Orthopaedic Surgery of the Dr T M A Pai Hospital has done a special procedure called Vertobroplasty on an 80-year-old female for an Osteoporotic fracture of spine.

This procedure is done under local anaesthesia, without a big incision and involves putting bone cement inside the vertebral body of spine using a small needle.

This procedure is done in selected patients with Osteoporotic fractures as well as some other pathological conditions of spine who have not responded to conservative treatment. For appointments call 0820- 4291000.

A museum for timeless beauties in Manipal

UDUPI Dec 1: A stroll through the Museum of Folk Arts at the Heritage Village near here is like taking a walk down the centuries.

The collection of artefacts, paintings, and architectural structures that provide the visitor a view of life and culture of generations gone by is the handiwork of Vijaynath Shenoy, secretary of the Hasta Shilpa Trust. He is the brain behind the Museum.

The journey starts from the shrine of Nandikeshwara, a folk deity shrine ("Daivada Mane"). The architecture belongs to Tulu Nadu and such shrines are still seen in north Udupi.

"We designed the shrine consulting ancient texts. The wooden idols in the shrine were salvaged from water bodies," Mr. Shenoy says.

Wooden idols, at least 1,000 years old, of Abaga Daraga, Kaantha Bare Booda Bare, Veerabhadra, Jettiga, Babbraya and others have been placed on naturally grown laterite boulders. The next stop is a seven-cornered mud-floored "garodi" (prayer hall) of a style that is 10,000 years old. On the left begins the sections where metal work of the Canara region are displayed. Among these are an idol of 500-year-old "Maisandhaya" and a 300-year-old hollow cast idol of Panjurli.

The third section of the museum has items from the Bastar district of Madhya Pradesh. Masks of wood that are 200 years old, 140-year-old metal statues, and stone statues of "Sharadula" (the lion), 90 to 120 years old, are displayed here.

"We penetrated deep into the jungles to get these articles," Mr. Shenoy says.

Agricultural equipment, items of daily use such as cane baskets prepared by tribal people, churning rods, and cash boxes used in ancient period occupy another section.

This has costumes used in the Tenkuthittu and Badagathittu Yakshagana in earlier times, folk instruments, costumes used in Doddatta, Mudalpaya Yakshagana, and Somana Kunitha. The most interesting of the collections are of pre-historic idols that are 3,000 to 4,000 years old.

"We found these idols in the Aganashini River Valley in Uttara Kannada district," he says.

His plan is to open Archival Museum of Raja Ravi Verma.

Kamath named businessman of the year

The CEO of India's ICICI Bank, KV Kamath, has been named Businessman of the Year for 2007 by Forbes Asia, for his steadiness at steering ICICI into one of Asia's top banks.

Under Kamath's watch since 1996, ICICI's market capitalisation has risen to $31 billion on Thursday, placing it among the region's top 10 banks. "By this measure, it is bigger than Singapore's DBS Group and Korea's Kookmin Bank, and has attracted big stakeholders such as Singapore's Temasek Holdings and CLSA and Merrill Lynch funds," a press release issued by Forbes said.

Sixty-year old Kamath's win puts him in the company of fellow countrymen Nandan Nilekani of Infosys Technologies, last year's winner, and Ratan Tata, the 2004 businessman of the year.

His addition means three Indian executives have won the accolade in the last four years. Tim Ferguson, Editor, Forbes Asia, said: "Kamath's leadership has been outstanding. His focus on serving India's growing middle class by providing First World banking service at affordable prices is largely the reason behind the phenomenal growth of ICICI."

The bank's assets have grown 40% annually in the last three years to $93 billion, propelled by a boom in Indian consumer credit where ICICI has a dominant one-third market share.

Vancouver could see a new, non-stop plane service to Delhi

A young, splashy airline from India wants to launch non-stop flights from Delhi to Vancouver that would cut travel time on this popular route by as much as 10 hours.

Indo-Canadian business leaders welcomed early news of this interest by Mumbai-based Kingfisher Airlines. In May, many of them pilloried Air Canada for ending all its flights to India so that it could boost them to China.

However, even as Premier Gordon Campbell's office said that this "building of better transportation links between B.C. and India will build on already-close social, cultural and business relationships that exist between our two jurisdictions," the timeline on when Kingfisher could launch such a service is still very fuzzy.

Kingfisher is owned by United Breweries Group, a family-run beer and liquor empire headed by Vijay Mallya, who is often described as India's Richard Branson. Forbes magazine estimates his current net worth at $1.5 billion and he made headlines this year in Europe after buying Scotch whisky maker Whyte & Mackay and becoming a joint owner of the Dutch Spyker Formula One racing team.

Mallya has always stood out in conservative corporate India, but as the country's middle class rises, his trademark love of the good life - boozy yacht parties, a collection of 250 classic cars like Rolls-Royces, some 40 residences around the world - actually meshes with the aspirations of this younger and more free-spending demographic.

Kingfisher currently serves over 30 cities in India, but it does not yet fly internationally. In filings for regulatory approval, it has expressed interest in serving a U.S. West Coast destination and has publicly named New York for a August 2008 launch.

There is, however, a possible hitch to these expansion plans. The Ministry of Civil Aviation, which governs India's airline industry, does not allow domestic airlines that are less than five years old fly internationally. Kingfisher, founded in 2005, could get around this rule by buying a rival Indian airline, Air Deccan, which is more established. Alternatively, Kingfisher might push the government to review the law. Mallya is also a member of India's parliament.

The Vancouver Sun sent an e-mail to Mallaya's direct account at UB Group as well as a media relations officer, but both were unanswered by deadline on Monday. Premier Campbell, who met with Mallya on Monday as part of his trade mission in India, was also unavailable.

Vancouver's appeal as a market is clear considering that, in 2006, it was the seventh largest source of North American passengers to India. More specifically, it was the fourth-largest source of North American passengers to Delhi, outpacing Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington.

At the moment, going from Vancouver to India involves flying first to cities in Asia (Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo) or Europe (Frankfurt, Brussels, Amsterdam) before connecting on to India.

"Whichever way you go, it can take between 22 to 25 hours to get there," said John Korenic, marketing director at YVR. "I have done it. It is quite an arduous trip."

Kingfisher's non-stop flight would mean just a 15-hour journey. "Once you start non-stop operations, you very much stimulate the market" in terms of both tourism and trade, said Korenic. "It's so much easier flying on a non-stop. There is enormous opportunity."

Other observers agree. "We found that the type of volumes that Kingfisher [or any other airline] could see would give them significant first mover advantage because of the high share of the Visiting Family and Relatives (VFR) willing to pay a non-stop premium to fly from Vancouver to Delhi," said Nizar Assanie, a vice-president at Vancouver-based IE Market Research Corp. who also sits on the board of the Canada-India Business Council's B.C. chapter.

"Anecdotally, I have talked to my network [who go to India quite often] and in all instances, they were willing to pay the extra premium to save the time it takes to fly to India."

He added: "There is a significant 'catchment area' behind Delhi and behind Vancouver. Key to the success of the route will be the ability to get connections to places like Amritsar, Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai, and other Canadian and U.S. destinations, such as Toronto."

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Arch Pharmalabs in manufacturing tie-up with DSM

Arch Pharmalabs expects to earn $100 million by 2010 from the bulk drug manufacturing deal it has entered into with chemicals group DSM, an official said on Tuesday.

DSM anti-infectives, part of the e9 billion-Dutch group, entered into an agreement with the company for the manufacturing of a wide variety of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients for generic drugs including treatments for central nervous system disorders and heart ailments, Arch’s chairman & MD Ajit Kamath said.

“We will initially manufacture statins, prills and immunosupressants for DSM, but the product range may be extended going forward,” said Mr Kamath. The two companies expect to launch the first product by 2008. DSM will keep adding new molecules to its generic portfolio and adopt the technology sharing route for commercialisation.

“DSM Anti Infectives is now diversifying its portfolio of APIs to new molecules which are used in a wide range of therapeutic areas. To make this diversification quicker and to be close to the fastest-growing generic drug markets in the world, DSM has adopted the partnership route for commercialisation of its new venture into generic APIs.

The manufacturing agreement with Arch Pharmalabs will enable us to further strengthen our innovation focus in India,” said Hans Van Nistelrooij, vice-president of new business development, DSM Anti-infectives.

Konkani Parishad meet in February

MANGALORE: The 26th session of the All-India Konkani Parishad will be held from February 1 to 3, 2008, at the Town Hall in Ernakulam, Kerala, after a gap of 21 years. The conference is being organised by the Kerala Konkani Academy. A decision in this regard was taken recently at a joint meeting of the All-India Konkani Parishad, the Kerala Konkani Academy and the reception committee set up to organise the conference.

A press release from Gokuldas Prabhu, general secretary of the parishad here, stated that the conference would be the fourth one in Kerala in three decades. While Kochi hosted the conferences in 1978 and 1986, the conference in 2004 was held in Kozhikode. The 13th All-India Konkani Literary Meet was also organised in Kochi in 1996. Delegates from Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra are expected to attend the conference.

Those interested in registering themselves as delegates for the conference may get in touch with Konkani Bhasha Mandal Karnataka, Navaratna Palace, K.S. Rao Road, Mangalore.

Details can be had on phone 9845207058. T.M.V. Shenoy, chairman of the reception committee, presided over the meeting. Paul Moras, parishad president, Sadanand Kanekar, working president, and other officer-bearers attended the meeting.

Modern society waking up to people with disabilities

Mumbai: Sandip Soparkar, a well-known ballroom dancer, recently choreographed a special Latin dance show for deaf and mute youngsters titled The World of Silence.

The youngsters, aged from 16-24, rehearsed without music, catching on to his every move. Soparkar said he understood dance in a way he had never done and thought silence was beautiful.

"This is just one instance where modern society is waking up to the presence of people with disabilities," said Kavita Shanbag, who has been associated with children with special needs and their rehabilitation for the last 13 years.

"People's awareness is indeed increasing but we have a long road ahead," she told on World Disability Day.

"What is heartening is people's appreciation of the abilities in them as well as a lot of support, especially from the media."


Her personal experience - finding herself with epilepsy during pregnancy and her newborn child having learning difficulties - was a harrowing one when she ran from pillar to post for information, guidance and remedial treatment.

It also led her to start a website in 2001 called which focuses on children with special needs, their abilities, integration and rehabilitation.

The idea was triggered by an interaction with Komal, a visually impaired telephone operator working with the Reserve Bank of India.

Komal said: "Public apathy and indifference towards persons with a handicap is harder to accept than the actual handicap.

"Visually impaired persons like me have small expectations like being told the bus number at the bus stop so that we can board it. Yet, it doesn't always happen and we have to wait hours till some empathetic soul comes along."

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Jet vs Kingfisher: The battle for No.1 slot

On October 28, at a ceremony to unveil Air Deccan's new-look aircraft in Mumbai, chairman of United Breweries [Get Quote] group and Kingfisher Airlines, Vijay Mallya, said with characteristic flourish: "We have given the full service carriers a run for their money. Now, we will give the low cost carriers a run for theirs."

Though he did not refer to any one airline, it was clear his statement was directed at Jet Airways [Get Quote] and Jetlite (formerly Air Sahara). Ever since Mallya launched Kingfisher in May 2005, making it number one in India has been a foregone conclusion; it's the world's biggest carriers he wants to take on.

Kingfisher's meteoric rise has taken rival and unquestioned number one domestic carrier in the country, Jet Airways, quite by surprise. Used to competing with only Sahara (never a worthy opponent anyway), Jet enjoyed several years of unfettered success after it had trounced Indian Airlines's monopoly and market, becoming India's premier airline since 1993.

This supremacy has now been challenged by a nimble and aggressive Kingfisher which, in just two years and following Mallya's buyout of Air Deccan, is commanding the same market share as Jet Airways and Jetlite.

He may not publicly admit it but Goyal's troubles began soon after Kingfisher took to the skies. "If Naresh Goyal had a magic wand, he'd probably wish away the last two years. Few things have gone right for his airline since the second half of 2005," says a close associate who was on his board but has since resigned.

In Mallya, Goyal appears to have found his first worthy opponent. If Goyal is well connected and knows how to keep the politicians beaming, Mallya is "not exactly an orphan".

If Goyal has managed to hire professionals and build a brand, Mallya is a past-master at building brands. And if Jet has never had a problem raising money before, Mallya has group United Breweries (with a market capitalisation of $5 billion) backing him.

In its initial avatar Kingfisher was aiming to be a low-fare carrier, but soon after its launch Mallya converted it to premium service, taking Jet head-on. Mallya is spending money like water (the airline lost Rs 400 crore in the first year) and has left no stone unturned to grab Jet's market, launching direct advertising campaigns asking Jet fliers to convert to Kingfisher, luring them with miles, better food and a slicker, cooler yet equally efficient option.

Mallya is proving to be "maniacal" about being on time; every delay is examined threadbare in a much dreaded early morning conference which he conducts over the telephone with his senior executives, no matter which part of the world he's in.

When Kingfisher started, many in the industry had questioned its survival. "Not only has it survived," says Kamal Choubey, officer on special duty to civil aviation minister Praful Patel, "one simply cannot deny that Kingfisher's product is the best in the industry."

There are few who appreciate Jet's subtle, quiet efficiency when it's up against Kingfisher's flamboyance. Gopal Sarma, CEO of Feedback Ventures, who accumulated 400,000 miles on Jet Airways' frequent flier service, says he now often chooses Kingfisher simply because its service on the ground is so superior.

He received a Kingfisher Gold card in the mail and has already accumulated 80,000 miles on it. "If I call Kingfisher and ask to be put on a flight in two hours, they give me incredible service. With the amount I travel, I appreciate things like this," he says.

Other than the corporate flyer, Kingfisher is trying to attract the young, upwardly mobile Indian who aspires to fly Kingfisher simply because he identifies with Mallya and his style statement of living life kingsize. Mallya's passion for his airline (some call it obsession) is very clear.

In 2006, Jet's initial troubles were compounded by its messy buyout of Air Sahara which many feel was simply a move to thwart Kingfisher from acquiring it. Against the advice of his senior colleagues, Goyal offered Rs 2,300 crore (Rs 23 billion) for it, a pretty high price for the airline.

"It was like a bee in his bonnet. Once he set his mind to it, he refused to back down, even though everyone warned him it wasn't a great buy," says a senior official who has since left Jet.

As was widely predicted, Jet's share price reacted adversely and has never recovered to what it listed at. The company's total market capitalisation following the announcement of the Sahara deal fell from over Rs 10,000 crore (Rs 100 billion) to Rs 4,558 crore (Rs 45.58 billion).

The moment the deal was called up, the share price recovered somewhat - a clear indication of what the market thought of the Sahara buy, but even today it is trading below the price at which it listed.

At roughly the same time the civil aviation ministry threw open international routes to private carriers. Jet saw this as a natural extension to its business (and one where it enjoys first-mover advantage) and ordered new aircraft.

With competition rising and losses deepening (in the first half of 2006-07, it totted up losses over Rs 100 crore), it needed to raise money and the intention was to do that through foreign currency convertible bonds (FCCB) of $400 million.

But with the share price languishing in the Rs 600-800 range, Goyal would have been forced to dilute a larger portion of his equity than he was willing. So, the issue was postponed.

Around the same time as Jet announced its buyout of Sahara, Air Deccan listed. By then Goyal had seen Air Sahara at close quarters and even he realised it was not worth the money he'd committed - but withdrawing proved harder than he'd expected.

"As the court battle with Sahara proceeded, it was far from evident what the final judgment would be. I think he (Goyal) chose to go in for a known position rather than an uncertain one, which could be worse," says a Jet official, who was privy to the goings-on.

These events coincided with a bloodbath in fares in the domestic market as Air Deccan cut prices to take on new competition, and the new competition cut prices to take on Air Deccan.

"All the players - full service or low-fare - were sucked into it, so obviously everyone started making losses," says Kapil Kaul, CEO of Centre of Asia Pacific Aviation. With losses on domestic operations rising and the launch of international operations - which will pay off only later - most investment firms and brokerages are maintaining a "reduce" position on Jet stock.

Says Gautam Roy, aviation analyst with Mumbai-based financial services firm Edelweiss: "We are not very optimistic on Jet's immediate prospects. It is more a long term story." It has now been two years since Jet has been trying to raise $400 million through some form or the other (earlier through an FCCB, now a rights issue) and it's proved more elusive than Goyal could have imagined.

Although Jet officials say that by end January, they should be able to raise the funds, industry sources say they'll only believe it when they see it.

Kingfisher's chief financial officer, A Raghunathan, argues that this is one of Kingfisher's big strengths vis-�-vis Jet. "Obviously, our own balance sheet is not strong enough. The group's backing is a pillar for us." He says that the airline has got Rs 500 crore (Rs 5 billion) in equity, loans and guarantees from the group to raise finances.

Jet loyalists are quick to point out that using group funds to get into a sector where you bleed is not good business sense, and that Jet has raised over $2 billion in the past from international loans on its own strength, passing the intense scrutiny of lenders.

Then, during the middle of this year, Mallya made a calculated move, buying out Air Deccan for what many feel is a "song", to deftly match Jet and Jetlite's marketshare.

So, while Jet's management has been struggling to make sense of what it inherited in the Sahara deal, Mallya is capitalising on Deccan's advantages and has entered a segment that's sure to give returns in India.

What has compounded problems for Jet is its chairman, Goyal's centralised style of functioning (according to sources he only trusts board member and confidant Vic Dungca, based in London), leading to an exodus at the middle and senior management levels over the last two years.

Often, major decisions exclude top officials, so the joke in Jet is that "whenever anything of significance happens, senior officials are the last to know"! "To be an able general, you have to carry your troops with you. That Goyal hasn't been able to do," says a former board member of Jet.

With Kingfisher and several other career options coming up, what started off as a steady trickle has become a virtual flood. Goyal's problems on this front intensified when four senior executives of the airline resigned together in April 2007, including highly trusted vice president for corporate and public affairs, Nandini Verma, who'd spent 20 years with Jet.

The latest who's planning to abandon the Jet stable and jump onto the Kingfisher bandwagon is Charles Soon, head of airport services, who after being publicly castigated by Goyal for a flight delay has been in a huff and is looking to quit.

Eight former employees that Business Standard spoke to said that the chairman's style of functioning "left a lot to be desired". (Executive director Saroj K Datta and chief executive officer (CEO) Wolfgang Prock-Schauer refused to comment on this, arguing that disgruntled employees will have grouses.) In contrast, barring erratic timings and odd schedules, United Breweries group and Kingfisher airline executives don't have many complaints against their chairman. Several Kingfisher senior officials are old UB hands who have spent 25-30 years with the group.

However, as Saroj Datta puts it, people come and people go. He says that Jet's attrition rate has been constant and that in any industry with competition and new opportunities, things like this will happen.

"We have 10,000 employees. Even if 100 people leave, it's not very significant. We had seen it and have been well prepared for it," says he. "Yes, people are leaving, but are loads falling?" asks a Jet source. Like rival Kingfisher, Jet Airways is a one-man show (without Naresh Goyal or Vijay Mallya, both companies would be rudderless), making it a shared weakness.

But unlike Kingfisher, which is yet to build a strong foundation, Jet already has one. It has a phenomenal network and will expand by 20 aircraft from April 2007 to March 2008 (it now has 70 aircraft).

According to Wolfgang Prock Schauer, the last two years have been tough for the entire aviation industry in India, not just for his airline, and he doesn't think that the rise of one airline - with India and its gigantic market - has to necessarily coincide with the fall of another.

"While things may look rosy for Kingfisher right now, Jet has been through and survived worse," says a former Jet Airways board member, his point being that Mallya should not underestimate Goyal's strengths. "I have never known a man so persistent once he's made up his mind. If Naresh Goyal wants to talk to you, no matter which corner of the world you are in, he will get you," says the former Jet board member, adding that after he's got what he wants out of you, it may be a long while before you hear from him again.

Goyal has a phenomenal network across the world, knows his business like Mallya knows liquor, and never forgets a face, name or number. A hard taskmaster, he expects a lot from his staff. The Sahara acquisition in retrospect looked better than one would imagine: the airline had ordered 10 B737-800s, which in today's market would fetch a premium, it has gained two hangars in the process (which Jet was finding difficult to get) and has entered the lower-end market segment where growth is concentrated today. Twenty-one of its 24 aircraft are up and running and a turnaround looks within reach, Jet officials believe.

The other factor in Jet's favour is a recognition of Kingfisher's strengths, especially in terms of quality. CEO Prock-Scaheur says: "We have to take the product and the quality of its service very seriously." but he maintains that none of this is reflecting on Jet's loads - "Our business class loads have not gone down and our Jet Privilege membership is expanding rapidly. Yes, instead of people saying 'I fly only one airline', they now choose. But that hasn't made any material difference to us," he says, arguing that his airline's strong brand and obsession with quality and consistency will stand the test of time.

The airline business the world over is cyclical, primarily about keeping costs in check to ensure survival. And here is where Jet Airways officials feel it has a distinct edge over rival Kingfisher. In the end, they feel, this one factor alone will separate the wheat from the chaff.

What Works, What Doesn't

Jet's Strengths

  • A phenomenal and well-developed network both of the airline and the chairman
  • Goyal's knowledge of the sector
  • A massive pool of loyal customers
  • Excellent lobbying skills and ability to leverage connections within government
  • Ability to survive downturns earlier
  • Financing raised on strength of own balance sheet
  • Has built a professional organisation

Jet's Weaknesses

  • A perceived drop in service standards when pitted against Kingfisher
  • Struggling with the carcass of Air Sahara
  • Poor people management skills of chairman
  • Inability to raise money for the last two years

Kingfisher's Strengths

  • Superior product on ground; in the air Jet business class is being equated with Kingfisher's economy
  • UB group backing for raising financing
  • Well capitalised airline, prepared to take losses
  • Better handling of employees and staff; less centralised style of functioning
  • Chairman Mallya's grand vision where it is looking to be among the best in the world
  • The Deccan deal - which gives it market share, a new market segment and was cheap

Kingfisher's Weaknesses

  • Kingfisher is yet to build itself into an organisation; structures yet to fall in place
  • Not as professionally run as Jet; yet to build a professionally competent team
  • Mallya's knowledge of the sector does not parallel Goyal's
  • Chairman's people skills are better but employees have to work very erratic hours
  • Unable to leverage connections to the same extent while lobbying
  • Kingfisher's loads are lower than Jet's, which could be a reflection of its marketing and sales ability