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Friday, May 30, 2008

Research enables rapid HIV tests for pregnant women

New Delhi: A study has shown that pregnant women can be rapidly tested for HIV in labour wards of rural hospitals — and antiretroviral therapy (ART) can be delivered effectively to prevent transmission of the virus to their children.

The research, published in PLoS Medicine, tested the feasibility of providing round-the-clock rapid HIV testing and counselling in labour wards in resource-poor settings.

In 2007, about 2.1 million children were infected with HIV, 85–90 per cent of whom contracted the infection from their mother.

The rapid tests helped doctors quickly decide on whether to start ART as a precautionary measure, before test results came in, usually one to three days after delivery.

Research findings

Of 1,222 women admitted for delivery at a rural teaching hospital in Sevagram, western India, 15 were found to be HIV positive, 11 of whom did not previously know their status. Of those 15 women, 13 had children that tested negative for HIV.

The researchers used two different rapid tests, based on saliva and blood samples, which give results in 20 minutes.

They also carried out conventional HIV testing. If women tested positive in both the rapid tests and conventional tests, the scientists confirmed infection with a further test that detects HIV antibodies and gives results in two days.

"These findings are relevant to PMTCT [prevention of mother to child transmission] programmes in developing countries. Controlling HIV infection in women and children is crucial for changing the trajectory of the global HIV epidemic," the researchers write.

The rapid tests are awaiting approval in India. Nitika Pai, a postdoctoral fellow at the division of infectious diseases at Canada's McGill University, told SciDev.Net that it should be possible to train counsellors to run the tests and provide round-the-clock counselling at primary healthcare centres — often the first or only point of healthcare for pregnant women.

Only nine per cent of pregnant women currently receive ART, says Pai.

In many rural areas, women fear HIV testing due to social ostracisation. In addition, many women cannot access or afford antenatal care to receive preventative therapy. "The labor and delivery period is the last window of opportunity to prevent HIV transmission," says Pai.

"Without ART, the probability of transmission is 30–35 per cent; with ART it is reduced to 10–15 per cent," she says.

Monkey Thinks Robot into Action

In a dramatic display of the potential of prosthetic arms, a monkey at the University of Pittsburgh was able to use his brain to directly control a robotic arm and feed himself a marshmallow. The research, published today in the journal Nature, is the first to show that an interface that converts brain signals directly into action is sophisticated enough to perform a practical function: eating. Researchers who led the work have just begun human tests of a related technology.

"It's the first time a monkey--or a human--is directly, with their brain, controlling a real prosthetic arm," says Krishna Shenoy, a neuroscientist at Stanford University who was not involved in the research.

People who suffer from strokes or spinal cord injury, or from some neurodegenerative diseases, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), are often left paralyzed. But their cerebral cortices--the parts of the brain that control movement, planning, and other functions--may remain largely intact. Scientists hope to capitalize on that with the development of brain machine interfaces--devices that convert brain activity into action, such as movement of a cursor on a computer screen.

People who are completely paralyzed can now use brain machine interfaces that noninvasively measure signals recorded from the surface of the scalp, but the devices are slow and require sustained concentration to operate. To create a prosthesis that works like a real arm--the user thinks about moving his arm, and it moves--will most likely require that electrical activity be recorded directly from the brain.

That has become possible in recent years, thanks to advances in the tiny arrays of electrodes used to record neural signals. In previous research, John Donoghue and his colleagues at Brown University showed that electrodes implanted into the brain of a paralyzed man could be used to move a cursor on a computer screen and even make a simple movement with a robotic arm. But that and other research have been limited to one- or two-dimensional movements, and, other than a few cases using a mechanical arm or gripper, were performed virtually, on a screen.

In the latest research, headed by neuroscientist Andrew Schwartz at the University of Pittsburgh, the monkey was able to perform a more complicated task. "Andy has taken this one step further, to a practical device that could be of use in the real world," says John Kalaska, a neuroscientist at the University of Montreal, in Canada, who wrote a commentary accompanying the publication. "The animal can simply, through a kind of mental practice, get the robot to move toward where the [food] is, close the hand, and bring it back to the mouth and let him eat it."

To achieve the feat, two monkeys had a grid of microelectrodes implanted into the motor cortex, part of the brain that controls motor planning and execution. The animals had previously been trained to move an anthropomorphic robotic arm, with moveable joints at the shoulder, elbow, and wrist, using a joystick. To learn to control the prosthesis with their minds, the monkeys had their arms temporarily restrained as they watched a computer move the arm through the required motions--to extend the arm to the piece of food, grip it, bring it to the mouth, and release it. "They imagine themselves doing the task, like athletes do for sports," says Schwartz. "The neurons are active as they observe the movement, and then we can capture the [neural signals] and use them for our own control."

Ailments can be avoided by proper lifestyle

Speakers at a seminar on yoga therapy at Mangalore University on Tuesday said that the practice of “asanas” and pranayama will not yield the desired results unless yoga practitioners controlled their food habits.

Modern lifestyle is responsible for many ailments. They can be avoided by adhering to a proper lifestyle, they said.

K Krishna Bhat, chairman, Department of Human Consciousness and Yogic Sciences of the university, cautioned parents against allowing their children watch television programmes till late in the night. “Such children sleep late and get up late in the morning. They are prone to developing obesity,” he said.

Bhat said that consuming food while watching television is not a healthy practice. It diverts one’s attention. One should concentrate on the food while eating. Fast consumption of food, nibbling between meals and certain eating habits caused obesity.

He said that to reduce weight some persons stopped taking lunch or dinner suddenly. It was not correct. The quantity of food being consumed should be reduced gradually.

Bhat said that his department was conducting “chandrayana” course (from full moon day to new moon day) for people with obesity to reduce their weight. It is a 15-day course, involving regulation of food and doing prescribed “asanas” and pranayamas.

Subramanyam K, a student of yogic sciences of the university, said that yoga therapy will reduce problems of varicose veins.

Varicose veins refer to stagnation of blood in the vein in the lower extremities of the body. He placed details of a study conducted by the department on a group of people suffering from varicose veins and how yoga therapy helped in reducing their problem in a month.

Jayasettiaseelan, a research scholar of the department, spoke on treating rheumatoid arthritis by yoga therapy.

Udayakumara K, another research scholar of the department, spoke on management of sinusitis by yoga therapy.

K Siddappa, former Vice-Chancellor, Bangalore University, said that the practice of yoga helped growth of spiritual quotient. Yogic science is a precious treasure.

Times-sponsored speller knocked out of national spelling bee

Until one second from now, you probably couldn't spell "deuterocanonical" either.

That word - a seven syllable Latin-rooted doozie referring to Biblical books not contained in the Hebrew canon - stumped local spelling champion Keertan R. Kini, 14, on Thursday, ending his run as the Times-sponsored speller in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C.

Kini, of Schererville, beat many of the hundreds of spellers in the contest to enter the quarterfinals before he misspelled the word on stage. Kini, a Kahler Middle School eighth-grader, was characteristically professional about his loss Thursday. He said he was happy to advance further this year than he did in last year's national bee. But he said he will be haunted by "what-ifs."

"It's a let down. It's a little bit of a relief," he said.

"Most of all it's just something that I have to deal with."

Kini and his father planned to stay for the rest of contest, Kini said. He hoped Thursday for a victory from one of the other Indiana spellers. He said they seem like "pretty nice people."

Kini said he made some friends in two years at the bee. He might like to work for the bee later, as some bee alumni do. He learned from the bee, he said.

"It taught me a lot about how much motivation can play a role in how well you do," he said.

Konkani telefilm to be telecast on Doordarshan

Chand Bhang, a Konkani telefilm and a production of Goa Doordarshan, Panaji will be soon presented on Goa Doordarshan.

The telefilm is being directed by Mr Udai Kamat and is written by the well-known, all round artist and Konkani poet, Mr Milind Harishchandra Kakodkar of Vasco under the banner ‘Shri Damodar Kala Mandal’, Vasco-da-Gama.

The cast of “Chand Bhang” consist of Mr Santosh Khorjuvenkar, Mr Shekhar Kalangutkar, Mr Padmakar Govekar, Mr Jagdish Durbhatkar, Mr Milind Kakodkar, Mr Subhash Rao, Ms Priya Volvoikar, Ms Mohini Korgaonkar, Ms Ujwala Halarnekar and Ms Shradha Shetgaonkar.

“Chand Bhang” has a message that greed is bad.

Wockhardt meets growth requirements

Left : Suresh Shenoy

For a pharmaceutical major having extensive operations across different locations in the world besides India, the implementation of SAP ECC 5.00 has made all the difference. SAP ECC 5.00 has not only met its growth requirements but has also helped it achieve added productivity across its operations be it at different branch offices or the company’s manufacturing plants (The company has manufacturing plants in India, USA, UK, Ireland and France and more than 65% of its revenue comes from the US and European markets.)

Shortcomings in the legacy system

Wockhardt, which was running an ERP system from Avalon, was facing a number of issues with it. Suresh Shenoy, Senior Vice President –IT, Wockhardt Limited explains, “Avalon was not meeting our added growth requirements and had lived out its life. It was not meeting the reporting requirement and also required a lot of customization. Added growth meant exposure to multiple currencies, locations and languages and Avalon just could not handle the change. Moreover consolidation of data across locations was difficult and there was also duplication of work and reconciliation would happen at every stage. There was also the lack of a structured information system which led to delayed decision making, and consequently was having a negative impact on the business.”

Changes were not being carried out effectively and the legacy system could not adhere to the regulations related to the pharmaceutical industry. Moreover there was no integration across business processes. Account closures after every quarter were delayed as many things had to be compiled on Excel sheets and there were inaccuracies in accounting as there was a lot of manual work involved. The company looked for integration across business functions, faster information availability, and better control of operations, which were not been met by Avalon.

Zeroing in on SAP

The company decided to carry out a thorough evaluation before closing in on SAP ECC 5.00. Packages from Oracle, Microsoft and JD Edwards were evaluated besides SAP. A careful study of the product demonstrations by the SAP team and a thorough evaluation of the SAP implementation project at Lupin (another pharmaceutical major) led to Wockhardt finalizing on SAP. Shenoy, said, “With Wockhardt going global, the need of the hour was a robust IT infrastructure and an efficient information system in place and we found that SAP was suitable not only to meet our requirements with regard to the pharmaceutical industry but would also be helpful in consolidating our operations across multiple countries and currencies. We also found that the package would cater to global business requirements, while handling country-specific requirements and introduce best practices of the Life Science industry at all locations.” Wockhardt also found that the SAP ECC 5.00 package would offer a single technology platform and business data analysis capability and provide a high level of security with role and authorization control.

The implementation

The SAP implementation was completed in a matter of eight months from May 2005 to January 2006 when all the modules went live. IBM India was chosen as the implementation partner for the project as it had the requisite experience in the pharmaceutical domain. The major challenge was to gather a lot of functional people during the implementation and these were from different departments like the finance, production and planning department. During the implementation there was a strong in-house team comprising of 50 plus people and the IBM team, which was close to 22 people. Modules such as Materials Management, Production Planning, Quality Management, Plant Maintenance, Sales & Distribution, Customer Service, Human Resources Financials & Controlling and Product Life Cycle Management were implemented with a big bang approach and all of them went live together in January 2006 across locations. Now the solution has also been extended across foreign locations such as the US, UK and Ireland. Now the SAP extension work is going on in France and expected to be completed by January 2009.

Making a difference

Prior to the SAP implementation Wockhardt’s business processes were not integrated and data lacked consistency and accuracy, which led to ineffective decision-making, lack of flexibility and inefficient use of resources. This resulted in higher incidence of data entry errors, higher costs of error processing and paperwork. Moreover there was late closure of accounts after every quarter. The legacy system was unable to meet the growth requirements. However, the SAP implementation has brought in a unified data platform and standardized business processes have eliminated data entry errors and saved valuable administrative time. Since the SAP system works in real time the staff at Wockhardt can update, retrieve and manage data in real-time, which enables them to execute their tasks more efficiently. While enhancing overall efficiency across the organization, the centralized system ensures that information across the business is available to the management, not just as raw data, but also in the form of detailed reports. Reports can be quickly produced and without logistical headaches. Moreover, access to accurate information enables the company to evaluate options and make well-informed decisions, on a timely basis.

BoI plans representative office in Qatar

DUBAI: Bank of India (BoI), India's third largest lender, is seeking the Qatar Central Bank's (QCB) permission to open a representative office at Doha.

On his visit to Qatar, BoI Executive Director, Mr K R Kamath met Qatar QCB Governor Mr Sheikh Abdullah bin Saoud al-Thani to seek permission to open up the office.

Mr Kamath said the bank had already received the Indian banking regulator's permission to set up a representative office in Qatar.

"I have met the QCB Governor and submitted our application for the Doha representative office. I am hopeful the Qatari authorities will consider our application favourably," he was quoted as saying in Gulf Times.

Mr Kamath said the bank was not looking at the possibility of entering the Qatar Financial Centre.

"That's not the kind of business we are looking at in Qatar. We wish to do retail business here," he said, adding that it would open its first representative office in the GCC region in Dubai next month as it has already received a licence for the Dubai office.

BoI has online remittance facility to some 2,000 branches across the country. Indian expatriates in Qatar can avail of speed remittance facility to these and another 30,000 branches of other Indian banks through Almana Exchange's two Doha branches.

The bank has access to Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS), a nationwide computer link owned by Reserve Bank of India.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Idea Star Singer 2008 Aishwarya Rao Comments

1st Round Comments (And she is selected)

Idea Star Singer 2008 Aishwarya Rao 1st Round

See our new GSB in Idea Star Singer 2008 singing Tamil, Marathi fluently :

Monday, May 19, 2008

Ganesh Bhat wins title

KOCHI: Ganesh Bhat, with 7.5 points, won the Ernakulam District senior chess championship which concluded at the Vinotha Library Hall, Thammanam, on Monday evening.

Ganesh Bhat and U.C. Mohanan finished level at the end of the nine-round event but the former had a superior progressive score.

Final placings: 1. Ganesh Bhat (7.5 pts), 2. U.C.Mohanan (7.5), 3. C.R. Raveendran (7), 4. K.R. Dhanulal (7), 5. M.V. Ratheesh (6.5), 6. K.A. Unas (6.5).

Scion of Pabba's Ideal family: Mukund Kamath

By U. Mahesh Prabhu, Mangalore

Mangalore May 15, 2008: In this hot summer season in Mangalore there is but one place where people of all ages love to spend their time for escaping the heat with an ice cream in an air-conditioned environment - Pabbas. The very name of 'Pabbas' is capable of instigating your taste buds and make you to, miserably, shed water from your tongue - my tongue has begun to drip, in actual, already! Such is the legacy of this ice cream joint started by Prabhakar Kamath (Pabba) a few years ago, whose success was, yet again, replicated with IDEAL' brand of Ice creams. If there has to be named a legend in Mangalore worthy of an admiration for having that sheer perseverance, that has to be him - Pabmaam as he is affectionately known.

He, I am told, had lost in several businesses he had begun earlier. But still he wasn't that kind of a man who would give up. The commendable success what he has made in the region is so much that 'Ideal', their brand of Ice Creams, has been almost gone synonymous with the members of their family.

'Ideals ve? To re amgele pabmamma le!' is how Amchis take the brand recall, puffed with pride. Mukund, only son of Pabmaam, is the one, who is currently heading the, now a very successful, venture.

I had met Mukund, at a Conclave of a local news magazine, almost an year back, where he, along with other young entrepreneurs of the region, had been invited to present their papers on their experience in Mangalore as entrepreneurs. More than his style of speaking, I suppose, audience was keen to know as to what he had to say about his family's enduring journey, from nowhere to the world of fame.

I haven't had much of interactions with Mukund except for, thanks to, GTALK. But he's a very sensible man - I can say with hell bent confidence. He has a very special place for his family and friends, and his wonderful baby' daughter - Manya. Mukund is also a man with smiles and full of life. He's a businessman by profession, but hardly has something in him akin to a businessman, yet he is successful, perhaps that's owing to his heart full of compassion. He is smart, handsome and also shy at the same time. He is a genius in his own sense, and is thus incomparable to any.

Now at 32 Mukund is more than accomplished person. His ambitions and futurist endeavors are clearly visible. Since the very day Ideal made its way into the market not a single national player has been able to penetrate in the market. And even if penetrated, I am pompous to say, had little success. Such is the legacy of Ideals & Pabbas.

Their twin brand, in which every Mangalorean today pride upon, has a potential, I can say this with my over a decade long experience as Management man, to grow to the national level. I am sure Mukund knows this too and is keenly working in this direction.

How will Mukund steer his brands to the top is what is to be waited and watched at. But Until then we wish a very best of luck to Mukund, the Pabbas 'Ideal' family and their large employee fraternity, in their futuristic endeavours.

A Russian rendezvous in Hyderabad

A heady interplay of comedy, fantasy and wisdom makes Dramanon's production, 'Fools', a contemporary theatrical classic.

The story is set in the Ukraine when it was still part of Russia in the 1890's, in a town called Kulyenchikov when it was put under a curse, rendering its inhabitants stupid.

A young schoolteacher Leon is sent to this town on a mission to break the curse on the village. On his way, Leon meets many of the inhabitants, such as "Something Something Snetsky," and Yenchna, the vendor who tries to sell flowers claiming they are fish! Directed By R.K Shenoy, the play was a hit among the growing fraternity of young theatre enthusiasts in the city.

Potomac Valley Hospital purchases new equipment

KEYSER, W.Va., U.S.A - Potomac Valley Hospital, 167 S. Mineral St., recently acquired a new and improved endoscopy system.

The Evis Exera II has been in use for more than two months and the staff and Dr. Suratkal Shenoy are pleased with the product.

High-definition television and narrow band imaging have provided new levels of imaging quality. The combination of HDTV and NBI allow Shenoy to see the most minute details and variations of the lining of the patient's stomach and intestine. This will allow subtle changes to be discovered earlier than with previous systems.

The scopes themselves are designed with the patient in mind. They are equipped with a tensioning device that allows them to pass through the loops of the intestines easier, providing the patient with a greater reduction in discomfort during the procedure.

Katrina flown in to cheer Vijay Mallaya's IPL team

Busy shooting schedules and tight agenda has made Katrina Kaif the busiest actress in town. So much so that in a bid to keep pace with her hectic schedule the actress missed her flight to Bangalore. Katrina had to be there to cheer for business tycoon Vijay Mallya's IPL team. But alas she could not make it on time to the airport.

But that did not prove to be stumbling block for Katrina. Remember she is brand ambassador of none other than Vijay Mallaya's IPL team. And on learning about Katrina's plight, the ace businessman quickly made arrangements and flew her down to Bangalore in his private jet. "That's the advantage of being a brand ambassador for Vijay Mallaya's Royal Challenge IPL team. Otherwise I don't think I would have made it on time. You know they will make sure that you reach despite the maddening schedules," Katrina laughed.

Katrina had such a packed schedule that she had to make her presence felt in three different cities in a span of twelve hours. She adds, "I was shooting in Goa which I finished and had to rush to catch a flight to Bangalore and had to rush to another city from there." Few know that Katrina has been a great fan of the cricket game since her childhood. "I love watching one day and T20 matches. People in England are crazy about them. People in India are crazy about the game too. But besides watching the game, I am enjoying cheering for the team too."

Katrina, who shot a music video with Sanjay Gupta for Vijay Mallya's Royal Challengers, said that she enjoyed that experience too. "I have started enjoying the experience of dancing especially after the success of RACE. Earlier it was not so! But today whether it is to dance to cheer for the IPL team or do it for the movies, I have begun to enjoy it. It helps me unwind on screen and on stage. Yes, I have recently started enjoying dancing on stage too. I realized that when I performed for the Zee Awards. Earlier I did not have the songs or the confidence to perform on stage. Now I have a bit of both," she says smiling.

Child prodigy predicts BJP majority, Yeddy as CM

Shimoga- A wonder kid aged about nine years, living in Shimoga, has predicted that BJP would come to power in the State with absolute majority winning 126 to 132 seats and Yeddyurappa becoming the Chief Minister.

In a special programme Vismaya telecast by E-Tv today the boy said that nobody can prevent it.

The kid Shyamshankar, son of Nagesh Bhat and Geetha, was exceptional with an uncanny power to make predictions and to perform Homa and Havana as per scriptures right from his birth. Ringing of the puja bell would lull him to sleep when he threw a tantrum. If taken to a temple, the ambience there would silence him immediately, narrated Nagesh Bhat.

As he grew up Shyam showed exemplary interest and knowledge in performing pujas at home. His rendition of Sanskrit verses were flawless which had mesmerized even adult purohits who were unable to pronounce those difficult words properly. Shyam even began predicting future. He became a cynosure of all the eyes of the town and people started inviting the boy to their houses to performs pujas and homas. His predictions were so precise and accurate he did not spare even the family members, said Nagesh.

Barring his unusual spiritual excellence, Shyam is a nice lovable boy attending school and plays with his friends in a normal way. However, Shyam vows to work for the betterment of the society using his extraordinary skills and he is a God-sent gift for us, say the parents.

He had earlier predicted the fate of Yeddyurappa saying he could be the CM only for a week and he had written it down without telling anybody.

Flop Film Festival


AS part of the Goa lament's series, the response to the state film festival and the 'state' of Konkani films in general was expanded upon with great emphasis, vigour and tears. But what was touched upon was not whether things were done right for the film festival and for the promotion of Konkani films in general.

Where was the promotion in the media for the film festival? But for an advertisement and a few press releases much before the event, no buzz was created for the event and it was but natural that it would flop.

Film festivals of this kind are promoted firstly through the film clubs in the city or state, and thereafter, through the colleges and university to make our youth aware by simple posters telling them of the kind of films being shown and emphasising that the screening of all films would be free. The distribution of passes at the various colleges could also be another measure to encourage people to visit the film festival.

Further through the media -- be it print or TV -- there needs to be a build-up for the film festival. Print media should have over the week leading up to the festival carried a synopsis of the films, the director and the principal actors, so that people are made aware of the films to be screened. Similarly, a small promo of the festival and the films should have been prepared and shown on television so that more people are exposed to the fact that there is a film festival to be held in the state.

In contrast, the approach was clearly very governmental and the thinking seemed to be along the lines of – ‘We are holding a festival. Let people come if they want. Moreover, we will be screening Konkani films and the local people should surely come for it. The Goa state film festival is a small festival and we having managed the IFFI, this is small stuff for us.

These are not the correct attitudes since today even for small functions you need to promote them to get sizeable participation from the public. And when the festival flopped, it was easier to blame the public since it is an unnamed or unidentified entity and cannot talk back directly.

The question is -- Did the organisers look inward and see where they themselves failed? If not, why? Because they think they know everything and they are always right? For them, all successes are theirs and for all failures they look for a scapegoat. This kind of attitude does not help in promoting art events like cinema etc. There needs to be more knowledge, more involvement, and more commitment on the part of the organisers.

As regards Konkani films and the poor audience turnout they face whether at festivals or at the theaters, the problem to be attacked is two-fold. First, there should be a government fiat that Konkani films should be compulsorily shown in the state's theaters and at concessional exhibitor's rates and further time slots for this should be set. This ensures that the films will be shown.

The second is that Konkani film producers/directors should realise that as far as the audiences are concerned, there are no free lunches. Meaning that they need to compete with other films that are popular, both Indian and foreign, and which attract audiences. If they are competent with their art and make good films, then people will surely come to watch them. The government as it is has programs for financial assistance for filmmakers and when coupled with mandatory screenings, good Konkani films will come up in due course.

In conclusion, I would like to say that if the entertainment society of Goa is unable to organise a small-scale state-level film festival, then when the IFFI is dumped into their lap fully, I could just imagine how big of a mess they will make.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

interview with Colors CEO Rajesh Kamat

Rajesh Kamat, CEO of Viacom18's Hindi GEC Colors, has a clear mandate - to ensure his upcoming channel a position amongst the top 3 players in the category within a year of launch.

In a genre where Colors is the 10th entrant, Kamat has his task cut out and will have to bring to bear all the experience he garnered in earlier stints as MD of Endemol India and senior VP commercial & business planning at Star India.

What would you term as the core TG for Colors?
While we propagate programming that appeals across, if I have to specify a core TG, 15 to 34 is a number I would peg ourselves on.

In a GEC, the 15 to 34 is what gets you your first one third. The 25 + is where the loyal audience starts. What we're doing is, we're getting the early adaptors and the initiators in the first phase. Once we get that, we've made our entry into the single TV households. That's when you start consolidating. And the consolidation phase is actually your 25+ female. Though males would come in, that consolidation phase would focus on the female.

That aspect of your programming focus is not reflected in either Fear Factor or in Mohe Rang De, the two shows that have been showcased thus far?
Not right now. What happens is, with these differentiated and disruptive programmes is that you lock in your first eyeballs. With big movies as well.

So you will have a big band for movies?

But where will they come from? Isn't the market more or less locked in as far as movie titles are concerned?
These will be new ones. Now the market is moving towards syndicated movies - first airing, second airing, third airing… So there are quite a few lots floating around.

Your entry into viewer mind space will therefore be with these tent pole shows and movies?
I would not say entry into mind space. But the invitation card to viewers, if I can put it this way, would possibly have highlights on these. Because these are the ones that will actually draw the attention of the early adaptors and initiators.

But while doing this, we will have the conventional shows that we believe will compete in the long running rating game.

Will you be putting out your big movie titles in this six month window?
Absolutely. Be it big ticket reality shows, be it events, be it movies; that's where you'll get the sampling. As for differentiated content, it would be a Mohe Rang De, typically.

We see it that 300 GRPs is the target. But it is all this activity in the initial six months that will give us the 100 GRPs (base to build on).

How will you crack the balance 200?
Once you cross 100, it is all about adding 3, 5, 10 GRPs week on week That is what will take time. This is not a T20 game.

Isn't that's something that all the channels in the chasing pack (to Star Plus and Zee TV) have failed to crack? How to cross the 100?

Imagine is three-four months old. I take it as a compliment (to them) when somebody tells them that they can't go beyond a 90 or a 100. To get to a 90 was not simple. A Star One with all the clout of the Star network behind it opened with a 19 GRP, 9X was 20. Imagine opened at 55, and went to 89 in a short time. But from now on, the growth will be slow.

Which raises the question for you? These past three months has seen Imagine make a fast take-off and 9X slowly and surely build its story. That means among the new entrants two have already succeeded and are fighting it out for the third position. And way above them we have the strong number 1 and 2. Is that how you're looking at it in terms of the distance you have to cover?
Not quite. It is not necessarily going to be a 2 + 2. It could well be a 1 + 3. If that becomes the game, the difference between a 300 and a 150 might grow larger. And Star might gain back whatever its premium was, if at all. That remains to be seen.

But if we have such a scenario, the balance three, 150 and 300, or 150 and 100 or 150 and 120 there's a game. Two players at 120 each and one player at 80, is better than one player at 150.

Again, this whole game is about sustenance. It's financial investors versus strategic investors. What is the mindset? Are you looking at 'first year I have to extract this much money'?

You've identified six months as the time frame to embed yourself in viewer mind space. That all three new entrants might succeed is not a scenario that most experts have even considered, let alone thought possible?
If you take the US as an example, three networks used to account for 90 per cent eyeballs. Today the same three networks get 35 per cent eyeballs.

Even in India, where people used to talk about 70 per cent of the audiences flowing from one show to another, is a thing of the past. Now, there is nothing like saying I go from this show to this show on the same channel. It doesn't go vertical. You actually migrate between channels based on the shows you like. That's how the viewership pattern is going.

And it's not also as if the same person in the same household is watching. You're aggregating different types of eyeballs. There is no linearity in terms of audience flow.

Audience flow at an earlier point used to be from a Kasautti… to a Kahaani… and then on to a Kyunki. Because they (the majority) liked the same kind of shows. Those days are gone.

So whether addressability kicks in or not to a significant extent in the next two years is not a deterrent to any of you?

See, there is no GEC that has shut down. Can you beat that?

Which brings me to the point that in today's scenario we have carriage and placement costs as a more than significant overhead, which all of you now club as part of marketing expenditure. There is pure marketing expenditure, ground marketing expenditure…?
Distributor cost. Technically, if we were an FMCG, it would be the distributors' charge.

In today's market, just for these two elements, we're talking of a Rs 1.2 billion budget. And it's even more than that in your case. So let's say Rs 1.5 billion is set aside for marketing and distribution. Now you have your Fear Factor, which is a 26-episoder, right?

Ok, 16 episodes. The cost of which, in that case, would be nearly Rs 400 million; all of which appears to be adding up to the most expensive GEC launch India has ever seen?
That is with Akshay (Kumar)'s value. And that too, Akshay's quoted value in Mumbai Mirror. That's not the real value. What I will say is that it is higher (per episode) than what others in his league are getting but it is not something that we've bound ourselves with.

You must understand that this is not one of those 100 episode deals. We've done a clear series deal. So the values are also cost effective. It's not something that is over the top.

You talked of a launch cost. I see it a bit differently. How much would you buy a movie for. Typically in today's market something like a Welcome would cost Rs 7-8 crore (Rs 70-80 million) - for one plus 12 airings. You buy three Welcomes, you air it over three weekends, game over. And you've already sunk in Rs 24-25 crore.

Now let's examine our investment in Akshay for Fear Factor. Akshay is not just the host of the show, but also the face that will break through the clutter and get viewers to notice our channel when we launch. That is what an Akshay does for us.

In that sense this is not just a programming investment, but a marketing investment as well. This kind of a launch stunt, actually lasts you and first things first - you've entered the house, you've entered the mind space.

Akshay's coming on TV was the first one. He's coming on Colors is the second one. These are overlaps. Distribution overlapping with marketing; marketing overlapping with content.

When you launch in July, how many hours of prime time programming will you have?
Three-and-a-half to four hours is what we'll be having.

So you're launching with a four hour prime time weekday strip, a solid weekend line-up and a strong movie slate. That's really big bang.
Weekend would not be out and out blast but more in a phased manner. But yes we would have weekend offerings.

So you will more or less have a complete menu offering from Day 1?
Correct. We're not going in with a pistol, we're going with a cannon.

Doesn't an all or nothing approach leave you that much more vulnerable? A phased build up does allow more room for manoeuvre one would think.
Let me flip that at you. A typical investment plan for a Hindi GEC launch would be what? Some Rs 4-5 billion? A tighten the belt, so-called smart investing plan versus a lavish, exorbitant entry would be what? A Rs 250-300 million gap, or a Rs 500 million gap, broadly?

More like a Rs 1 billion gap.
Not that much. Because you'd have phased up investment later on rather than in the six-month time frame that we're looking at for Colors. Now let's take a perspective of a typical business. It looks at a three to five year break even. Over a five year period, will that Rs 500 million hurt you? That's where the strategic investor comes in.

And if you are the tenth player and you have to make a mark and you have a parentage of a Network 18 and a Viacom, will it hurt you? I don't think so. That's the mindset.

What we're saying is that I don't push my (operational) breakeven, I don't push my cumulative breakeven. I smartly manage the phasing (of investments).

You must understand that we're in this for the long haul. This is our bread and butter, so the extra Rs 500 million should be viewed keeping that perspective in mind.

So your medium term target would be to aim for the number 2?
A formidable player among the Top 3 is what we're aiming for within 12 months of launch. That's our target.

Speaking of programming, when will your bread and butter offerings roll out?
That will start from Day 1. We're giving enough time for the consumer to latch on to our offerings.

Of course, we'll be adding on a few shows as we go on.

So if we were to draw a one liner on why players like yourself believe you are not too late getting into this game, it would be because linearity in terms of watching scheduled are a thing of the past?
Absolutely. People will watch shows and come in and go out. That's what it is and that's what we're moving into as a market.

Trusting Dravid, Charu was a mistake: Mallya

LIQUOR BARON Vijay Mallya has a penchant for making news. Victory or defeat, the owner of the Bangalore Royal Challengers manages to stay in the thick of limelight and controversy.

Mallya rocked the Indian Premier League (IPL) yet again on Monday (May 12), when he almost attributed the loss of his team to skipper Rahul Dravid and former chief executive Charu Sharma.
He claimed that it was a mistake to trust the duo for team selection, while he kept himself away from picking the squad.
The cheerful owner of the the Bangalore team told media persons that his non-involvement in the selection of the team had proved counterproductive.
“My biggest mistake was to abstain from the selection of the team. Though I watch a lot cricket whenever possible, I am no cricket expert at the end of the day,” Mallya said.
The flamboyant businessman said that he had his own list of players, whom he wanted to include in the team but refrained from doing so as Dravid and Sharma had prepared their own list.
He said that he backed the former Indian skipper as he was an iconic player, despite the fact that the team looked like a test team.
Referring to the second auction, where Dravid was absent, the tycoon said that he had his own set of players but Sharma did not support his list. “It was I who brought Misbah-ul-Haq in the team,” he revealed adding that he wanted his team to do its best under the circumstances.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Bangalore Royal Challengers CEO Charu Sharma sacked

The poor run of the Bangalore Royal Challengers has started to take its toll. Sources have told CNN-IBN that five losses in seven games has meant that owner Vijay Mallaya is now taking some tough decisions.

The first man to face the sack is CEO Charu Sharma who has been asked to leave his position. He will be replaced by Brijesh Patel, secretary of the Karnataka State Cricket Association and former India batsman.

Also on the chopping block is coach Venkatesh Prasad who is likely to be sent packing. Prasad is the bowling coach of the Indian team, the final straw for Mallaya was said to be Tuesday's game against the Kings XI when they were bowled out for a mere 126 at home.

Now, gum swab to spot HIV

A simple gum swab in place of an invasive blood test can now tell whether you are HIV positive. What's even better, the test results will be out in just 10-20 minutes.

In a breakthrough that could replace the present day HIV antibody test through blood taken from the finger or the arm, a team of Indo-Canadian scientists has successfully tested the world's first saliva-based HIV test, with an accuracy rate of nearly 100%.

The final results from the study, conducted in Maharashtra in 2006, by a team from McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), Canada, and Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (MGIMS), Sevagram, were published on Tuesday in the international medical journal ‘PloS Medicine'.

This test is based on oral mucosal transudate (OMT), a fluid that is secreted at the base of the gums before it becomes saliva.

Scientists found that the level of antibodies in OMT is comparable to that of blood plasma, making it an excellent sample for HIV testing.

Lead author Nitika Pant Pai from MUHC's division of infectious diseases, said this new technique would do away with blood collection, which scares away patients from undergoing HIV test. The team now hopes that this research will pave the way for widespread use of oral HIV tests available over-the-counter.

Rai conducted clinical trials on vulnerable pregnant women in the labour ward of MGIMS. She said that extracting blood in field settings poses a logistical problem because it needs injecting syringes and trained personnel. Now, all that one has to do is rub the stick against the gum twice to collect oral fluid.

"The applicator on the stick, a strip of synthetic proteins, then detects HIV antibodies in 20 minutes or less.

Standard blood test for HIV takes up to two weeks," Dr Pai said. She added that in India, it is vital to determine the HIV status of mothers very quickly to prevent transmission to the child during delivery.

"Over 50% Indian women do not receive prenatal care and therefore don't get tested for HIV during pregnancy. Testing in the labour ward is the last chance to prevent HIV transmission to the newborn baby. Also Indian patients often refuse blood collection in fear of social ostracization, while saliva collection poses no problem.
Thanks to this test, women were enrolled, received counselling, their test results confirmed and referred for treatment when found positive, within 40-60 minutes," she said.

Globally, in 2007, about 2.1 million children were detected with new HIV infection - 90% of them having acquired it via maternal fetal transmission.

Without rapid and accurate detection of HIV, no delivery of available PMTCT interventions (prevention of mother to child HIV transmission) is possible. Without anti-retroviral drugs, the probability of transmission is 30-35%. With ART, it is reduced to 10-15%.

"In the labour room, due to inconsistent supply of blood-based rapid tests, they are often not available. Thus, many fail to get tested. In India, 4,755 infants were detected in 2005 attributed to mother-to-child transmission," Pai added.

Says proposal in Goa’s interest

Efforts by Konkani lovers to include Karwar and Joida talukas of Karnataka in neighbouring Goa have received a major boost, with Goa’s Public Works Department Minister Churchill Alemao strongly favouring the merger.
“I personally feel the merger of Karwar and Joida talukas with Goa is a good proposal in the interest of Goa,” Alemao told Herald, after inaugurating the tile factory of a Goan entrepreneur at Agsur-Ankola on Tuesday.
Claiming that people from Goa and Karwar share a common language and common culture, the minister opined that a merger of these two talukas would significantly increase Goa’s territory.
“At present, we have 13 lakh people in Goa spread across 3,702 sq. kms. If the people of Goa accept this idea of a merger, Goa could get an extra territory of about 1,800 sq kms to house its growing population,” said Alemao.
“Apart from this, the two talukas are rich in flora and fauna. They have immense tourism potentials, which could significantly boost Goa’s economy. We could even reconsider the idea of SEZs, if these talukas are included in Goa and we can think of further development of industries,” said Alemao.
Claiming that the merger is a “good proposal”, the PWD minister said: “What is now needed is to educate the people of Goa to create awareness on the benefits of the merger. If the people of Goa accept the idea and demand the merger, I would support the merger.”
Inspired by Goa’s pace of social and economic progress, a growing number of Konkani lovers in Karwar and Joida talukas of Karnataka have been demanding the inclusion of the two talukas into neighbouring Goa since the past 160 years.
Konkani speaking people of these two talukas form the majority linguistic group in the area, with over 60% of the population affirming Konkani as their mother tongue.
In 1992, Konkani lovers in the region had formed ‘Samyukth Gomantak Manch’ and since then, have sent various representations to the president, prime minister and chief minister of Goa, seeking merger with Goa.
To give a stronger fillip to the movement, Konkani lovers of Karwar and Joida met at the Konkan Maratha Bhavan at Sadashivgad on September 1, 2006 and formed the Goa Konkani Rajya Ekikaran Manch (GKREM).
“Our campaign has begun since 1992, when Konkani language got recognition in the 8th Schedule, said GKREM Convenor Asha Palankar.
“This is a genuine ground for our demand to merge Karwar and Joida with Goa because these are Konkani speaking places,” Palankar added.
Palankar has insisted that the merger of Karwar and Joida with Goa would boost all round development of the region, besides being a win-win situation for both Goa as well as Karwar and Joida.
Other Konkani protagonists also claim that Karwar has enjoyed close kinship and religious links with Goa down the ages. Kuladevatas (family God) of the people in Karwar and Joida can be located in the various parts of Goa.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Kamath asks industry to 'introspect' on prices

Responding to charges of cartelisation against the industry, newly-elected CII President K V Kamath on Thursday said corporates must ask themselves whether their actions in a demand-driven market was causing distress to others.

"The government is sending a clear signal. We have to respond," he said when asked to comment on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's veiled warning against cartelisation.

Kamath said his predecessor Sunil Bharti Mittal has already said that CII abhors cartelisation. "That's our response."

However, industry must respond to the call given by the government to join it in the fight against inflation, he said at CII press conference today.

The Prime Minister, while addressing the CII annual session on yesterday, had said that the industry, "particularly in sectors characterised by significant market power in the hands of a few producers have a societal obligation to assist the government in moderating inflationary expectations".

Few sectors like cement and steel are facing charges of forming cartels to make profits from high demand. Steel prices have gone up by close to 50 per cent in the last 12 months forcing the government to take several administrative and fiscal measures to rein in prices.

Responding to the Prime Minister suggestion of sober compensation for the industry leaders, Kamath said sharp wage increase was responsible for corporate lifestyles. He said the increase in salaries, particularly of white collar personnel, would not be sustainable if India has to maintain its competitive advantage.