India's Coming Out Party

Gay Pride parades were held for the first time ever in Delhi,Kolkata and Bengaluru.Mumbai was surisingly absent from the list.
India saw the first splendid coming-out ceremony for gays in a multi-city gay pride march. Thousands marched for gay rights in Kolkata, Delhi and Bangalore — homosexuals, heterosexuals, bisexuals, transgenders, hijras. It was part celebration, part protest, the way gay pride marches have always been around the world. Curiously, India’s most gay-friendly city, Mumbai, was not part of this national gay parade. It wasn’t so much the fear of fascist forces as infighting among gay groups that kept it out.In India, the issues for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community are not different. The main issue is that of acceptance — of not being looked upon as a freak or criminal. Last week, in Kerala, two young men, Sivanarayanan and Deepak, killed themselves by setting themselves ablaze, under family pressure critical of their relationship. Weeks earlier, Christy Jayanthi Malar and Rukmani had embraced death by fire in Tamil Nadu. Although married elsewhere, they were in a lesbian relationship. The police found their charred bodies united in a death-defying hug. This week, the Delhi High Court continued its slow rumination on a PIL against Section 377, the ancient British law that clubs homosexuality with bestiality and makes it a criminal offence (“carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal”) punishable by life imprisonment. This not only allows the police and others to blackmail same-sex lovers and extract money and favours from them, it also drives gays underground, muzzles them and poses a huge health hazard, especially that of HIV/AIDS. Getting rid of this archaic law will not be easy. There are too many interest groups — religious, political, social — which are not particularly interested in sexual minorities yet. But the legal battle against Section 377 is of vital importance to change deep-seated social attitudes about ‘normal’ and ‘unnatural’ sex. Sexual preference is not always a matter of choice. It is absurd that in the land of the Kamasutra, where same-sex love is as old as the hills, we still cling to obsolete Western notions of sexuality to deny our citizens their basic right to live and love as responsible adults.


Special economic zones (SEZs) in India are expected to draw in Rs 1,00,000 crore worth of investment by the end of financial year 2008-09, according to a senior official in the commerce and industry ministry.At present, India has 467 formally approved and 230 notified special economic zones that are under various stages of development. “These are clearly the next engine of India's economic growth. Special economic zonesare here to contribute to the wealth of the nation,” the official said.
With 71 million people expected to enter the workforce by 2010, special economic zones would turn out to be the only option.The IT-ITeS sector can at best provide jobs to eight million, what about the rest? SEZs would create the required infrastructure for manufacture and service, which the government will not be able to create.
As on March 31, 2008, over 3.5 lakh direct and indirect jobs were generated in the special economic zones, which have been facing widespread protest and criticism, largely over the issue of acquisition of land belonging to farmers by private companies.An special economic zone is a demarcated area to be treated as a foreign territory for trading purposes. It is given various tax incentives to attract investments. Thus, goods entering an special economic zones outside its borders or domestic tariff area (DTA) are to be treated as exports and those coming into the DTA as imports.

Sathyam Cinemas move into F&B

The growth in the organised retail sector has encouraged Sathyam Cinemas to launch its high-end food and beverage outlets in new markets.Sathyam will launch its luxury pastry store Ecstasy at UB City — The Collection mall in Bangalore on July 13.The company also plans to set up a boutique coffee pub called Addiction and a luxury chocolate store Indulge in Bangalore, a few weeks after Ecstasy’s launch.
Sathyam Cinemas is Chennai’s entertainment destination for people from all walks of life, across a wide age group and user profile. At any time of the year, Sathyam Cinemas averages about 70 per cent occupancy at its six screens in the heart of Chennai.Ecstasy is now located within the Sathyam Cinemas complex in Chennai. All Ecstasy chocolates are homemade.The ingredients are sourced from Valrhona, the famous French chocolatier in Tain-l’Hermitage, near Lyon and Rhone river.Valrhona is a small manufacturer with only 150 workers. It is said to be the brand recognised by leading chefs and enthusiasts throughout the world as one of the finest chocolates in the world.
In addition, coffee beans for Addiction will also be imported and Indulge will look more like a luxury jewellery store. Addiction will also come up within Sathyam’s Chennai complex.Sathyam Cinemas was the first to bring the multiplex concept to Chennai.The complex now has six screens with world-class digital exhibition technology including three-dimensional equipment. Sathyam also plans to open a south Indian cuisine eatery within the Chennai complex by the middle of August. A gaming zone will also be set up in the near future.

Pune's gathering a Lion's share

Pune is gathering a Lion's share of investments chalked out for Maharashtra putting a strain on it's already crumbling infrastructure.The state government is now promoting alternative destinations like Nashik,Nagpur,Kolhapur and Aurangabad.

Have a look at the residential rates across the city.

Essar plans a Logistic Push

Mumbai-based conglomerate Essar Group plans to expand its logistics business by building a port terminal for liquefied natural gas (LNG) and a container cargo facility as well as freight stations and depots under its arm, Essar Shipping Ports and Logistics Ltd. The group is looking at setting up an LNG facility on the west coast.Expanding into LNG would be a logical extension of the group’s existing port business.Essar plans to execute the project on its own, though it may tap the technical expertise of other companies.
Essar has a port and terminal facility at Vadinar in Gujarat providing handling, storage and terminalling services for crude oil and petroleum products to refineries and traders.With LNG and container facility, Essar will have almost all types of cargo-handling facilities in its ports portfolio.
Essar Group is also setting up a 30 million tonne (mt) per annum all-weather port and jetty at Hazira in Gujarat for import of iron ore, pellets, coal, limestone and export of finished steel products. It also proposes to build an integrated terminal at Salaya for handling coal and pet coke used in power plants.
Essar’s entry into the container port and other related activities such as container freight stations and inland depots may be difficult.The container activities are mainly concentrated on Jawaharlal Nehru Port near Navi Mumbai.Essar has also expressed interest in developing a fourth container terminal at JN Port.
Port traffic in India is expected to increase to 1,009mt by fiscal 2012 and 1225mt by fiscal 2014 from 649mt in fiscal 2007, according to the shipping ministry. Sanjay Mehta, managing director of Essar Shipping, said the group is positioning itself as an “end-to-end logistics services provider” with interests in ports and terminals; logistics services; sea transportation and oil field services. Essar Shipping has committed investments of more than Rs10,000 crore over the next three years.

The India Corruption Index !

Hmmm..No comments on this one.

Retail Roundup

India's largest retailer may finally be willing to share equity with a foreign partner. In a major restructuring, Future Group CEO Kishore Biyani, is reliably understood to be working on a plan to slice Big Bazaar, the country’s largest hypermarket format into two entities.While one would be a B2C (business to consumer) front-end consumer facing entity, the other will be a back-end operationsled company. Mr Biyani is believed to be currently working on creating a huge backend entity that may enter into a joint venture with a leading international cash-and-carry retailer, sources said. Ernst & Young is understood to be working on the project.
British billionaire Philip Green is learnt to have finalised Trent a aprt of the Tata Group as partner for the India foray of his high-fashion apparel and accessory retail chains—Topshop and Topman. Topshop and Topman, which cater exclusively to young women and men, respectively, could potentially give retail giant Arcadia Group a toehold in the fastgrowing Indian retail market. Arcadia Group owns several high-street clothing retailers, including Miss Selfridge, Burton, Evans, Dorothy Perkins and Wallis, besides Topshop and Topman.
Reliance Retail is planning to open a chain of specialty stores to retail mobile phone handsets across the country.Reliance Retail stores will compete with similar stores of other major retailers, including Subhiksha, RPG and Essar-Virgin’s The Mobile Store.
Food and grocery discount retail chain, Subhiksha, will invest around Rs 1,200 crore by 2010.They plan to have around 3,000 stores by 2010 and plan to invest around Rs 1,200 crore in the period.The funds would be raised through a mix of equity and debt .At present, the chain has around 1,480 stores. Subhiksha's objective is to become a USD 5 Billion Company by 2011.
Lifestyle, a part of Dubai-based Landmark Group, will invest Rs500 crore in the country for setting up additional 38 exclusive stores in the next four years.At present, the chain has 18 exclusive stores in India.Lifestyle has also launched four new brands, including Acapa and Bossini, under franchisee system and have got exclusive rights over them in India.The new 38 stores will have an area of 40,000-80,000 sq. ft. Besides the four metros, we will also be opening stores in tier I and tier II cities such as Jalandhar and Ludhiana.

Nagarjuna Construction goes International

Hyderabad-based Nagarjuna Construction Co. Ltd, or NCC, is exploring opportunities to expand its airport development business to international markets, starting with West Asia, after a group comprising it successfully bid for two airport development projects in south India recently.NCC is also preparing for a major foray into international markets for roads, buildings and water supply projects.A group comprising NCC, Hyderabad-based Maytas Infra Ltd and a subsidiary of Austrian airport operator Flughafen Wien AG had won contracts to develop two small airports in Karnataka’s Shimoga and Gulbarga districts.NCC has decided to bid for the Ras Al Hadd airport in Oman’s capital, Muscat, with a Turkish partner. NCC has already won two road construction contracts in Oman worth about Rs1,300 crore.Another Indian firm bidding for the $680 million (Rs2,917 crore) Muscat airport project is Larsen and Toubro Ltd through its Omani subsidiary.In airport projects, NCC is keen on construction work, and not owning and operating them because the cost involved will be huge and the recovery period long. Most infrastructure projects are given on build, operate and transfer, or BOT, basis wherein the developers operate the projects for a specific period of time to recover costs.The firm will also bid for construction contracts at Kolkata and Chennai airports, called for by the Airports Authority of India recently. While Shimoga and Gulbarga projects are to be developed on BOT basis with the developers holding the right to operate them for 30 years, the Kolkata and Chennai projects are for construction works.
For the Gulbarga and Shimoga projects, the partners have floated two special purpose vehicles or SPVs, or separate companies meant to carry out the projects. The two Hyderabad companies will hold 37% each in the SPVs, while VIE India Project Development and Holding Llc., the Austrian firm’s unit, will own the rest.
NCC reported a net profit of Rs163 crore on revenues of Rs3,473 crore for fiscal 2008.
International revenues amounted to Rs291 crore during the fiscal year. It currently has an order book position of about Rs13,400 crore.NCC expects to close the current fiscal with a turnover of Rs4,500 crore with an Ebitda (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) margin of 9.5-10% and net profit margin of 4.5-5%.

Hyderabad's HUDA gets savvy

An advertisement released by HUDA inviting expression of interest...the government organisations seem to be getting their act together.

Indian Aviation flies into tough times

Carriers being battered by oversupply, falling demand, rising fares and operating costs:
Much before the raging aviation turbine fuel (ATF) prices hit the profitability of Indian airlines, overcapacity in the industry was already eroding margins.In January-March this year, one-fifth of the seats flew empty.This put immense pressure on the pricing power of airlines because they were scrambling to get as many passengers as possible onboard. This, coupled with selling tickets below cost, has pulled carriers relentlessly into a financial quagmire.Price warrior Deccan had reported a staggering net loss of Rs 213 crore in the fourth quarter ended March 31, 2007, or Rs 2.36 crores per day, when oil prices were below $70 per barrel and demand was growing at 20-30%.Operators chose to ignore the writing in the sky. Despite 20% excess capacity in January-March, airlines added 18% more in the same quarter even as passenger growth slowed to 11% from 20-30% levels.Oversupply is a prime reason for the deteriorating financial health of the carriers, and oil has only “catalysed the effect.”
ATF prices have risen 100% over the last 18 months. For Jet alone, that’s an additional monthly cost burden of Rs 90 crore. No doubt jet fuel prices have hurt, but it is not the only reason airlines are sloshing in red ink.According to Jet Airways estimates, consistent increases in fuel surcharge have led to traffic growth tapering from the peak of 40% in FY2007, leading to airlines selling at cheaper basic fares.In a presentation on its website, Jet says the industry is losing Rs 1,720 per passenger today.Now, the airlines are seeking relief on the exorbitant aviation turbine fuel levies (levies go as high as 39%), which will reduce their losses to some extent, but representations by the industry lobby to the government agencies have only fallen on deaf ears.The flawed ATF pricing mechanism makes domestic jet fuel 60-70% costlier than prices in Singapore and Dubai.Today, International carriers are paying Rs 50,000 per kilolitre of ATF whereas Indian airline operators are paying between Rs 66,000 and Rs 73,000 per kilolitre in metros.A recent Frost & Sullivan report said airlines had lost around Rs 2,100 crore last year due to irrational ATF pricing, and they could lose around Rs 8,000 crore this year.
Low-cost carriers may have to close down many routes and streamline frequencies. Even full-service carriers will have to rationalise operations.Analysts said capacity growth had slowed down to 18% year on year during the fourth quarter of FY08 compared with 22% in third quarter in the same fiscal.
SpiceJet’s Sharma says the industry will be cutting 15% capacity in the next two months.
But whatever the airlines do, they can’t seem to get out of the vicious circle: if the fares continue to rise, selling tickets becomes a problem. So, as the average load factor keeps tumbling, the load factor needed to break even keeps rising.The domestic air traffic growth has been continuously slipping since November 2007.It literally plunged from 27.1% in November 2007 to 6.2% in May this year.Experts have said that rising operating costs, falling demand and overcapacity will expand the airline industry losses to Rs 8,600 crore in the current fiscal.Will ATF prices set to rise again, there is no escaping the tailspin for now.

Corporate India's Mood

Corporate India is Nervously Optimistic at the moment .

AerenR to invest Rs.3,000 Crore in Punjab

Real estate developer, AerenR Enterprises,a venture of Aerens group, is planning to pump in over Rs 3,000 crore in various residential as well as commercial projects in Punjab.Gauging the burgeoning real estate sector in north, the company is developing projects in cities like Amritsar,Ludhiana etc. It has brought along the concept of theme destination mall in Punjab-with its upcoming project,Festival city in Ludhiana -in partnership with Israel based Fishman Group. It will be spread over 12 acres of land,the destination mall will have a covered area of 2 million sq ft and will catalyse an investment of about Rs 450 crore.Ludhiana will be introduced to the latest concept in shopping center development-‘malls within a mall'. These specialty malls within the festival city, will include the Interiorz Mall; a one stop shop to meet all your home and office improvement needs. Other specialty malls for kids, lifestyle, fashion, hospitality, entertainment and leisure are an integral part of the development.The mall will house an amphitheatre for about 1,000 people and bebased on the theme of Bollywood. There will be a multiplex with six large digital format screens of Fun republic. About 40-50 retail brands will be accommodated in the mall.
Other projects of AerenR enterprises proposed to be developed in Ludhiana are international city, Ludhiana-which will be an integrated township spread over 175 acres, comprising of 9 hole golf course, to be developed at a cost of about Rs 2,000 crore-and residential villas in queens court, whisch will spread over 11.61 acres with investment of Rs 220 crore.

Delhi plans to be Power Surplus by Jan 2010

Delhi government has drawn up an ambitious plan to make the energy hungry Capital city to a power surplus one by January 2010, almost 10 months before the city host the Commonwealth Games.'Under the programme availability of power will be enhanced from the existing 4,200 to 7,000 mw as the process of capacity building is going at a great speed.The Delhi government has allocated Rs 615 crore during the current fiscal and intends to spend another Rs 4,500 crore on power capacity building and cutting down of transmission and distribution (T&D) losses by 2012. Though the Commonwealth Games are to be held in October 2010, when the power demand is not very high, the government is not leaving nothing to chance. It has already secured a plan outlay of Rs 10,000 crore for the next fiscal.The city's peak hour demand is unlikely to cross the 6,000 mw mark in the near future, So, around 7,000 mw power capacity will put Delhi in a very comfortable zone.Over the next two years, the National Capital is expected to get additional power from Damodar Valley Corp (DVC), National Thermal Power Corp (NTPC). Dadri Power Plant and Pragati power station taking the total power output to 4,240 mw.
Besides, around 1,800 mw will be drawn from local sources in addition to the already installed capacity of 932 mw.T&D losses which were around 49% in 2007-08 against the national average of 30-31% have already been reduced to an average of % after the sector was handed over to private parties.The state government is also looking at a couple of new projects from the Centre's capacity addition programme in the 11th Plan Period.Presently, the city stands to get 750 mw from the upcoming plant at Jhajhar in Haryana.

Punjab's Expressway

The Punjab government has roped in Louis Berger, a US based space consultant to make a preliminary project report on developing a 60 km expressway between Lalru in Punjab and Baddi in Himachal Pradesh. Punjab Infrastructure and Development Board (PIDB) will be giving shape to Punjab's first inter-state express highway that will take two years to complete.The entire route will be fenced to keep stray animals out to ensure high speed.Louis Berger is already in the process of preparing the preliminary project report and plan for land acquisition. The project cost without land will be about Rs 1,500 crore and if land component was included it will be around Rs 2,500crore.The consultants were likely to submit technical report by next month and then global tenders are likely to be floated.The expressway will cater to NRI population too as an International Airport was coming up at Chandigarh shortly and the proposed expressway will provide a link to Phagwara belt, a 62-km stretch. He said to start with, the project envisages a six lane road that will gradually add four more lanes with two service roads on either side and subways to divert local traffic at intersections of towns and villages.The entire belt from Lalru to Baddi is chock a block with industries as such the proposed expressway will be a major boost to industrialisation in Punjab. In addition, the Punjab government is planning to upgrade road corridors including Balachaur-Garhshankar-Hoshiarpur-Dasua (105 km), Patiala-Samana-Patra (48.6 km), Hoshiarpur-Tanda (27.9 km), Moga-Baghapurana-Kotkapura (47.7 km), Kiratpur Sahib-Anandpur Sahib-Nangal-Una (35.7 km), Patiala-Malerkotla (60.2 km), Fazilka-Ferozepur (84.5 km), Dakha-Raikot-Barnala (57.9 km, Bhawanigarh-Nabha-Gobindgarh (55.5 km), Ropar-Phagwara (78 km) and Jagraon-Nakodar(37km).
In the second phase the Punjab government will take up five new road corridors on BOT basis including Batala-Beas road corridor (37.20 km), Amritsar-Tanda (17.89 km), Nakodar-Kartarpur (48.92 km), Hoshiarpur-Phagwara (35.5 km) and Sirhind-Morinda-Ropar Road Corridor (43.2 km). Total cost on these road corridors has been pegged at Rs250 crore.

Connaught Place Renovation

It’s a sneak peak into what Connaught Place would have looked like when it was built in the 1930s. With CP’s C-block renovation work almost complete, you just have to look at the block next to it to actually understand how one of the most important commercial hubs in the city was envisaged and what it’s condition actually is.The block, which house 39 shops, has been under renovation for a year now and is the pilot project undertaken as part of CP’s redevelopment plan. The New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) has tried to restore the facade of the building as per the original design (made by Robert Tor Russel and W H Nicholls) after extensive research through the civic agency’s archives, alongwith that of CPWD. The restoration work has cost NDMC Rs 2 crore. According to the civic agency, work began with C-block as it is the smallest block in CP.NDMC has used granite stone for the flooring and has carried out plastering and finishing of the outer facade. There will be no wires hanging out as ducting in front and two sides of the block has been carried out. The windows have been restored to their original shape and wrought iron railings have been put up. Uniform signposts have also been put up. They still have to fix the lighting in the area. CP has around 12 blocks and work in the other blocks will start simultaneously once restoration of the facade of C-block is complete.Meanwhile, NDMC is still making a plan for the parking in CP. While some areas will have surface parking, underground parking will also be made where ever it is a viable option. The plan to begin restoration was mooted in 2004 and expected to be complete by July 2010. CP will also have central air-conditioning. Designed by Robert Tor Russell and W H Nicholls, CP was built in 1931 and is named after the Duke of Connaught, a member of the British royal family, who visited India in 1920. Designed in a circular form, it is divided into blocks by seven radial clocks. The radius of the inner circle is about 947 ft. Though CP appears circular, close observations reveals that it is more like a horseshoe in design.

Delhi to get a new Sub City

The DDA's draft plan for the P-II zone pertains to a zone which today comprises 24 villages and 68 unauthorised colonies. For them, the zonal plan offers redevelopment. The eyesore that is the stinking Bhalswa landfill marks the periphery of this zone which as of now has large chunks of open land, making it much sought after for building a new township. With the authority’s clearance in hand, the draft has now been put out for public feedback. Once the objections and suggestions are in, the same will be studied and incorporated in the draft and the final document will be put up before the authority for approval again. Following the final approval, the zonal plan would be notified by the ministry of urban development.
The NCT of Delhi is divided into 15 planning zones — A to P — except one — I — in Master Plan 2021. P zone is further divided into P-I and P-II. As per Master Plan 2021, P-II zone covers an area of 8,534 hectares and has a heterogeneous character marked by villages, unauthorised colonies and a few planned areas. This zone is located in the northern part of Delhi, bound by the Delhi-Haryana border in the north, river Yamuna in the east, Outer Ring Road to the south and NH-I in the west.According to MPD-2021, urban extension areas are to be planned with a density of 250-300 persons per hectare. Based on the area under consideration, the proposed population would be 19 lakh, including the existing settlements.The population projected by MPD 2021 is 230 lakh. Out of this, the holding capacity for the present zones from A-H and the three sub-cities — Dwarka, Rohini and Narela — has been estimated at 153 lakh. The remaining population will have to be accommodated in the urban extensions including P-II zone.
At present, P-II zone looks a lot like this. The abadis of 24 villages and one census town fall in this area. The villages include Burari, Bhalswa Dairy/Jahangirpuri, Bakhtawarpur and Nathupura among others. There are a large number of farm houses as well in this zone. There are several non-conforming activities present including industries, wholesale trade godowns amd banquet halls. This zone is home to around 68 unauthorised colonies. The plan indicates sub-division of the entire urban area under P-II zone into 13 sub-zones for the purpose of development. The sub-zone plan would be further subdivided into various residential pockets containing neighbourhood level recreational and community facilities.About 3,235 hectares has been proposed for residential use, including about 1,100 hectares under existing settlements including villages. Rest of the residential land use is proposed for new development.
Plotted development is out and highrises are the way to go. The housing strategy for P-II zone incorporates development of new housing area as well as upgradation and redensification through redevelopment of existing housing areas including unauthorised colonies. In view of limited availability of land and increased requirement of housing, plotted residential development is being discouraged. The sub city when fully developed will provide housing facilities to over 4.22 lakh families from all income groups. According to DDA, this zone is suitable for helipads development as it is far away from the air funnel. Three such complexes are proposed to be developed as landmark points in Delhi. There will be one each in PSP use zone, commercial use zone and residential use zone. According to designers of P-II zonal plan, these complexes of super tall buildings will be designed in such a way so that they can effectively tackle transportation and vehicular pollution in addition to releasing land for green spaces in abundance. “This will not only change the skyline of Delhi but also facilitate international investors to develop state of the art urban design projects. These complexes will also have helipad facilities which will provide direct accessibility to various cities,” officials elaborated.
Surveys show that the zone has a very wide green coverage in the form of orchards, forest and farmlands. Besides this, about 941 hectares of land has been proposed for recreational and green use. This is made up of district parks, city parks, community parks and roadside green. The 941 hectares also includes a recreational complex with a lake, nine hole golf course and other facilities in Bhalswa Lake Complex. A city park spread over 150 hectares is proposed for socio-cultural node, housing a museum, art galleries, library, auditorium, concert hall, open air theatre, convention hall and a music centre. The existing landfill site on the corner of NH-I and outer Ring Road junction on eastern side has been proposed for setting up a zonal level recreational area which could be developed as a millennium park to enhance the aesthetic image of the sub city. An amusement park spread over 20 hectares has been proposed in the green belt. Besides this, the zone will see the development of an international exhibition cum fair ground and science city on the lines of Pragati Maidan. The zone is located along river Yamuna and development of recreational areas, sports facilities, bio-diversity park, bird sanctuaries, boulevards form part of the riverfront development plans. One of the major objectives of the plan is to create a sustainable physical and social environment.


Mumbai Snapshotz

Mumbai in various moods,settings and colours

The Infosys Story - Sudha Murty

It was in Pune that I met Narayan Murthy through my friend Prasanna who is now the Wipro chief, who was also training in Telco (Tata Motors). Most of the books that Prasanna lent me had Murthy’s name on them which meant that I had apreconceived image of the man. Contrary to expectation, Murthy was shy, bespectacled and an introvert. When he invited us for dinner, I was a bit taken aback as I thought the young man was making a very fast move.I refused since I was the only girl in the group. But Murthy was relentless and we all decided to meet for dinner the next day at 7.30 p.m at Green Fields Hotel on the Main Road, Pune.
The next day I went there at 7 o’clock since I had to go to the tailor near the hotel. And what do I see? Mr. Murthy waiting in front of the hotel and it was only seven. Till today, Murthy maintains that I had mentioned (consciously!) that I would be going to the tailor at 7 so that I could meet him…And I maintain that I did not say any such thing consciously or unconsciously because I did not think of Murthy as anything other than a friend at that stage. We have agreed to disagree on this matter.
Soon, we became friends. Our conversations were filled with Murthy’s experiences abroad and the books that he has read. My friends insisted that Murthy was trying to impress me because he was interested in me. I kept denying it till one fine day, after dinner Murthy said, I want to tell you something. I knew this as it. It was coming.He said, I am 5′4″ tall.
I come from a lower middle class family.I can never become rich in my life and I can never give you any riches.You are beautiful, bright, and intelligent and you can get anyone you want.But will you marry me?
I asked Murthy to give me some time for an answer. My father didn’t want me to marry a wannabe politician (a communist at that) who didn’t have a steady job and wanted to build an orphanage…
When I went to Hubli I told my parents about Murthy and his proposal. My mother was positive since Murthy was also from Karnataka, seemed intelligent and comes from a good family. But my father asked: What’s his job, his salary, his qualifications etc? Murthy was working as a research assistant and was earning less than me. He was willing to go dutch with me on our outings. My parents agreed to meet Murthy in Pune on a particular day at 10 a.m sharp. Murthy did not turn up. How can I trust a man to take care of my daughter if he cannot keep an appointment? asked my father.
At 12 noon Murthy turned up in a bright red shirt! He had gone on work to Bombay, was stuck in a traffic jam on the ghats, so he hired a taxi (though it was very expensive for him) to meet his would-be father-in-law.Father was unimpressed. My father asked him what he wanted to become in life.Murthy said he wanted to become a politician in the communist party andwanted to open an orphanage. My father gave his verdict. NO. I don’t want my daughter to marry somebody who wants to become a communist and then open an orphanage when he himself didn’t have money to support his family.
Ironically, today, I have opened many orphanages something, which Murthy wanted to do 25 years ago. By this time I realized I had developed a liking towards Murthy which could only be termed as love. I wanted to marry Murthy because he is an honest man. He proposed to me highlighting the negatives in his life. I promised my father that I will not marry Murthy without his blessings though at the same time, I cannot marry anybody else. My father said he would agree if Murthy promised to take up a steady job. But Murthy refused saying he will not do things in life because somebody wanted him to. So, I was caught between the two most important persons in my life.
The stalemate continued for three years during which our courtship took us to every restaurant and cinema hall in Pune. In those days, Murthy was always broke. Moreover, he didn’t earn much to manage. Ironically today, he manages Infosys Technologies Ltd., one of the world’s most reputed companies. He always owed me money. We used to go for dinner and he would say, I don’t have money with me, you pay my share, I will return it to you later. For three years I maintained a book on Murthy’s debt to me.. No, he never returned the money and I finally tore it up after my wedding. The amount was a little over Rs 4000. During this interim period Murthy quit his job as research assistant and started his own software business. Now, I had to pay his salary too! Towards the late 70s computers were entering India in a big way.During the fag end of 1977 Murthy decided to take up a job as General Manager at Patni Computers in Bombay .. But before he joined the company he wanted to marry me since he was to go on training to the US after joining. My father gave in as he was happy Murthy had a decent job, now.
We were married in Murthy's house in Bangalore on February 10, 1978 with only our two families present. I got my first silk sari. The wedding expenses came to only Rs.800(US $17) with Murty and I pulling in Rs.400 each.I went to the US with Murty after marriage. Murty encouraged me to see America on my own because I loved travelling. I toured America for three months on backpack and had interesting experiences which will remain fresh in my mind forever. Like the time when the New York police took me into custody because they thought I was an Italian trafficking drugs in Harlem. Or the time when I spent the night at the bottom of the Grand Canyon with an old couple. Murthy panicked because he couldn’t get a response from my hotel room even at midnight. He thought I was either killed or kidnapped.
In 1981 Murthy wanted to start Infosys. He had a vision and zero capital…initially I was very apprehensive about Murthy getting into business. We did not have any business background .. Moreover we were living a comfortable life in Bombay with a regular pay check and I didn’t want to rock the boat. But Murthy was passionate about creating good quality software. I decided to support him. Typical of Murthy, he just had a dream and no money. So I gave him Rs 10,000 which I had saved for a rainy day, without his knowledge and told him, this is all I have. Take it. I give you three years sabbatical leave. I will take care of the financial needs of our house. You go and chase your dreams without any worry. But you have only three years!
Murthy and his six colleagues started Infosys in 1981,with enormous interest and hard work. In 1982 I left Telco and moved to Pune with Murthy. We bought a small house on loan which also became the Infosys office. I was a clerk-cum-cook-cum-programmer. I also took up a job as Senior Systems Analyst with Walchand group of Industries to support the house. In 1983, Infosys got their first client, MICO, in Bangalore .. Murthy moved to Bangalore and stayed with his mother while I went to Hubli to deliver my second child, Rohan. Ten days after my son was born, Murthy left for the US on project work. I saw him only after a year, as I was unable to join Murthy in the US because my son had infantile eczema, an allergy to vaccinations. So for more than a year I did not step outside our home for fear of my son contracting an infection. It was only after Rohan got all his vaccinations that I came to Bangalore where we rented a small house in Jayanagar and rented another house as Infosys headquarters. My father presented Murthy a scooter to commute. I once again became a cook, programmer, clerk, secretary, office assistant et al. Nandan Nilekani (MD of Infosys) and his wife Rohini stayed with us. While Rohini babysat my son, I wrote programs for Infosys. There was no car, no phone, and just two kids and a bunch of us working hard, juggling our lives and having fun while Infosys was taking shape. It was not only me but also the wives of other partners too who gave their unstinted support. We all knew that our men were trying to build something good.
It was like a big joint family,taking care and looking out for one another. I still remember Sudha Gopalakrishna looking after my daughter Akshata with all care and love while Kumari Shibulal cooked for all of us. Murthy made it very clear that it would either be me or him working at Infosys. Never the two of us together… I was involved with Infosys initially.
Nandan Nilekani suggested I should be on the Board but Murthy said he did not want a husband and wife team at Infosys. I was shocked since I had the relevant experience and technical qualifications. He said, Sudha if you want to work with Infosys, I will withdraw, happily. I was pained to know that I will not be involved in the company my husband was building and that I would have to give up a job that I am qualified to do and love doing.
It took me a couple of days to grasp the reason behind Murthy’s request.. I realized that to make Infosys a success one had to give one’s 100 percent. One had to be focussed on it alone with no other distractions. If the two of us had to give 100 percent to Infosys then what would happen to our home and our children? One of us had to take care of our home while the other took care of Infosys.
I opted to be a homemaker, after all Infosys was Murthy’s dream. It was a big sacrifice but it was one that had to be made. Even today, Murty says, Sudha, I stepped on your career to make mine.
You are responsible for my success.

The Inspiring Infosys Story

Infosys Technologies is one of the few Indian companies that has changed the way the world looks at India.No longer is India a land of snake charmers and beggars. It is now perceived as an economic giant to reckon with, bursting with brilliant software engineers and ambitious entrepreneurs. And Infosys is an symbol of India's information technology glory.Infosys has many firsts to its name: The first Indian firm to list on Nasdaq; the first to offer stock options to its employees. . . The company crossed $1 billion in revenues for the first time in 2004. TCS, however, was the first Indian IT firm to top $1-bn in revenues.Infosys is an organisation that inspires awe and respect, globally.

The idea of Infosys was born on a morning in January 1981. That fateful day, N R Narayana Murthy and six software engineers sat in his apartment debating how they could create a company to write software codes.Six months later, Infosys was registered as a private limited company on July 2, 1981. Infosys co-founder N S Raghavan's house in Matunga, northcentral Mumbai, was its registered office. It was then known as Infosys Consultants Pvt Ltd.

Murthy borrowed $250 from his wife Sudha to start the company.Nandan Nilekani, N S Raghavan, S Gopalakrishnan, S D Shibulal, K Dinesh and Ashok Arora joined hands to start Infosys.

'Murthy was always broke. He always owed me money. We used to go for dinner and he would say, 'I don't have money with me, you pay my share, will return it to you later.' For three years, I maintained a book of Murthy's debts to me. No, he never returned the money and I finally tore it up after our wedding. The amount was a little over Rs 4,000.'
-- An excerpt from Sudha Murthy's reminiscences. She is the wife of Infosys founder N R Narayana Murthy.

Those days, Murthy wanted to do something with his life, but he had no money. Murthy was married to Sudha on February 10, 1978, while he was working with Patni Computers.In 1981, it was Murthy's idea to start Infosys. Murthy had a dream, and no money. So Sudha gave him Rs 10,000, which she had saved without his knowledge. Murthy and his six colleagues started Infosys in 1981.

No, it was not in Bangalore, but in Pune that Infosys set up its first office, in 1981. The house that Murthy and Sudha bought with a loan became the first Infosys office. As Murthy ran Infosys, Sudha took up a job as a systems analyst with the Walchand Group of Industries to support their household.In 1983, Infosys moved to Bangalore when it got its first client, Data Basics Corporation from the United States.The first mini computer arrived at Infosys in 1983. It was a Data General 32-bit MV8000. The very next year Infosys switched from mini to main frames with a CAMP application for a Data Basics customer.

When they began moving ahead with Infosys, the founders -- Murthy, Nilekani, Shibulal and the others -- took a firm decision -- that their wives would not be involved in the running of the company.So after Murthy, it was Nilekani and his wife Rohini who moved to Bangalore. But they had no house to stay. So the Nilekanis stayed with the Murthys at their Jayanagar home in Bangalore.Rohini took care of Murthy's son as Sudha helped write software programmes for Infosys. There was no luxury, only struggle, day and night. They had no car, no phone. Murthy later recalled that it was not the luxuries of life, but the passion to create something new and innovative that made them keep going on and on and on.

The first years of Infosys were not smooth. Most of the founders -- Murthy, Nilekani, Dinesh, Shibulal and Gopalkrishnan -- were into writing codes. And they wanted to make an impact in the American market.So Infosys got its first joint venture partners in Kurt Salmon Associates. Gopalakrishnan, who had spent time working in the United States, was the public face of the KSA-Infosys venture in America. But the joint venture collapsed in 1989, leaving Infosys in the lurch.Gopalakrishnan relives the memories of those days. "We had nothing after eight years of trying to bring up a company. Those who studied with us had cars and houses," he says.

The collapse of the KSA joint venture led Infosys to its first crisis. The company was on the verge of collapse. One of the founder-partners -- Ashok Arora -- was dejected with the way the company was going, and decided to quit.The others did not know what to do. But Murthy had the courage of conviction. 'If you all want to leave, you can. But I am going to stick (with it) and make it,' Murthy told them.The other partners -- Nilekani, Gopalakrishnan, Shibulal, Dinesh and Raghavan -- decided to stay.And thus began to germinate the seeds of Infosys' enormous growth.It is said that Infosys began getting big breakthroughs from the US market.

The initial foray of Infosys into the US market was through a company called Data Basics Corp as a 'body-shop' or on-site developer of software for US customers. Later, Infosys formed a joint venture with Kurt Salmon Associates to handle marketing in the United States.Even today, Infosys derives about two-thirds of its revenue from the United States, serving corporate clients like Reebok, Visa, Boeing, Cisco Systems, Nordstrom and New York Life.

Infosys is the largest publicly traded IT services exporter in India, providing services to 315 large corporations, such as GE and Nortel, predominantly in the USA.It was the first Indian company to list on the Nasdaq stock exchange in 1999.

Other Infosys group companies are:

Progeon Ltd: The Infosys BPO arm,Infosys Technologies (Shanghai) Company Limited: The company's base in China,Infosys Australia Pty Ltd: Infosys' Australian venture,Infosys Consulting Inc:The company's foray into the consulting business.Today, Infosys provides consulting and IT services to clients globally.It uses a low-risk, global delivery model to accelerate schedules with a high degree of time and cost predictability. The company has over 53,000 employees worldwide.

The Infosys corporate headquarters is located in Bangalore. Its US headquarters is in Fremont, California.Infosys has office across the globe: Atlanta, Bangalore, Beijing, Bellevue, Bridgewater, Bhubaneswar, Brussels, Charlotte, Chennai, Detroit, Frankfurt, Fremont, Hong Kong, Hyderabad, Lake Forest, Lisle, London, Mangalore, Mauritius, Melbourne, Milano, Mohali, Mumbai, Mysore, New Delhi, Paris, Phoenix, Plano, Pune, Quincy, Reston, Shanghai, Sharjah, Stockholm, Stuttgart, Sydney, Thiruvananthapuram, Tokyo, Toronto, Utrecht, Zurich.

In the last 25 years, Infosys has been growing and growing.

Today, Infosys is India's second largest software exporter. It now enjoys a strong liquidity position with over Rs 6,000 crore (Rs 60 billion) in assets, including surplus cash.During 2005-2006, the Infosys internal cash accruals more adequately covered working capital requirements, capital expenditure and dividend payments leaving a surplus of Rs 1,612 crore (Rs 16.12 billion).As on March 2006, the company had liquid assets including investments in liquid mutual funds of Rs 4,463 crore (Rs 44.63 billion). This collectively makes the liquidity strength of Infosys at Rs 6,078 crore (Rs 60.78 billion).

These funds have been deposited with banks, highly rated financial institutions and in liquid mutual funds. Infosys last year derived an average yield of 4.48 per cent (tax free) from these investments.The company received Rs 647 crore (Rs 6.47 billion) on exercise of stock options by employees and cash equivalents including liquid mutual funds increased by Rs 1,612 crore during 2005-06.

Infosys' beliefs are unique:

  1. 'We want to create wealth legally and ethically.'
  2. 'We believe a good night's sleep is worth a billion dollars.'
  3. 'A small percentage of a growing pie is better than a large part of a shrinking pie.'

These are the tenets that have helped India's largest software company grow into a well respected organisation.

Nano to have a Dussera launch

Tata Motors has announced that its ambitious Nano project could be rolled out from its Singur facility by Durga Puja.The entire project had been reworked at the plant site at Singur due to floods last year which had led to cost escalations.Despite these cost overruns, the Rs 1-lakh car was on track and on schedule. And there was no question of Nano being produced at any other Tata Motors plant.Tata Motors has received a lot of enquiries for setting up plants from countries like the US, Latin America, Europe and South-East Asia. The company’s focus would remain the domestic market for the first couple of years, Tata Motors was keen to eventually take the $2,500-car to markets in Africa and Latin America. The Rs 1-lakh wonder had taken the world by storm when it was unveiled earlier this year at the Auto Expo in New Delhi by Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata.The Nano had become a hit even at the Geneva Motors Show later, with many global firms showing their admiration for the Tatas in coming up with a cost-effective product.

Subhiksha plans to sneak into the Stock Exchange

Closely-held retail chain major Subhiksha has quietly crafted a strategy to become a listed entity even as a volatile stock market is upsetting the plans of many companies wanting to go public.
Subhiksha, India’s largest food and grocery discount retailer, announced it is acquiring a majority stake in a Chennai-based listed company, Blue Green Constructions and Investments. The company said that the boards of the two companies will meet on Monday to consider a merger. The merged entity will be called Subhiksha Limited and is expected to list its shares on NSE/BSE apart from MSE where Blue Green’s shares are currently listed.

Blue Green is a non- banking finance company promoted in the early nineties when the sector was booming. It is almost a shell company with its shares listed in MSE not actively traded. Subhiksha promoter R Subramanian said: “The acquisition will not cost us much and comes to Rs 2.5 crore without any liability. Blue Green has a paid up capital of Rs 5 crore and we will pay 50% to get majority stake. Its promoters, hailing from south Tamil Nadu, had plans to launch consumer durable stores. They had identified properties. But, it did not materialise as they could not raise funds”. By this deal, Subhiksha will be able to expand its operations including in the durable format. Post listing of shares, its valuation in terms of market cap is expected to be Rs 4,000 crore. It is said the listing will also help the private investors, who have substantially invested in Subhiksha, to have an exit route.
Apart from food & grocery, Subhiksha is also a prominent player in mobile retailing. Subhiksha is also said to be planning to raise Rs 400-500 crore from the capital market in 6-8 months.According to media reports, the company is expected to tap the markets either this year or early next year.

Yeddyurappa chants PPP mantra

The PPP model, which proved to be a success in Bangalore some years ago, was mothballed by successive governments. But it got a fresh lease of life again.Chief minister B S Yeddyurappa’s vision at an interactive meeting was clear — you can no longer afford to leave everything to the government. The responsibility of building the city’s infrastructure and dreams of elevating the city to a worldclass destination cannot be fulfilled by the government alone. Private sector participation is also needed.This was the new CM’s first faceto-face event with citizens at ongoing works and new projects were discussed at Agenda for Bengaluru Infrastructure Development 2008. A host of projects were mooted by civic stakeholders, including traffic decongestion programmes, construction of elevated corridors, augmenting water supply and upgradation of electricity supply. Yeddyurappa assured accountability to the people.
To monitor projects promised in the meet, the CM announced setting up of a high-level committee comprising officials and experts who will take stock of the situation on a regular basis. Projects will be reviewed once in three months and a report card presented to the public once in four months. “Within a year, there will be visible progress in civic services and the infrastructure in Bangalore. I want to extend such review meets to other cities of the state,’’ Yeddyurappa said.

The Big Hospitality Staff Crunch

With fears that the boom in the hospitality sector could be shortlived thanks to a severe manpower crunch, the government is now planning to encourage public private partnerships in educational institutions that offer courses related to hospitality and tourism.Rapid increase in the number of hotels, restaurants and airlines has created a huge demand for workers and experts say that the steep shortage of trained manpower is likely to rise further.According to official estimates, the annual demand for graduates trained in the hospitality sector is about 2.13 lakh while the number passing out of government-run institutions is merely around 12,000.The tourism ministry is now keen on encouraging private initiative in educational institutions that are working in the field of hospitality and tourism. “We are in the process of framing guidelines to promote public private partnerships in the sector,” tourism secretary S Banerjee said.
The tourism ministry has also written to the human resource development (HRD) ministry to ease restrictions and recognise institutions that include catering, food and nutrition courses to cope with the burgeoning demand.
The ministry is also keen that schools and colleges should introduce vocational training for children, Banerjee said. According to the ministry’s report, there are 30 institutes of hotel management comprising 21 central institutes and just five state institutes. The number of private institutes is also woefully low at four while 12 food and craft institutions offer specialised courses in hotel management and catering technology.
With the Commonwealth Games slated for 2010, the industry is expected to see an increase in demand for trained personnel in aviation, tourism, hospitality and catering. Besides these, people involved in trade, handicrafts and local art are also likely to benefit.

13 Indian firms among world’s top 500

Thirteen Indian firms, led by Reliance Industries, have made it to the list of the world’s 500 most valued companies compiled by a leading UK business daily, even as 12 of them fell down from their previous rankings amid weak stock market trends.Excluding tobacco-to-consumer goods major ITC, all the 12 Indian companies present on the list, including RIL, ONGC, NTPC, SBI, Bharti Airtel, DLF and Reliance Communications, saw their rankings drop in the latest global 500 list, topped by American energy giant Exxonmobil with a market value of $452.5 billion.The daily publishes the list based on the market capitalization of the companies at the end of every quarter and the latest rankings are based on March-end figures for this year. The previous list was based on market cap figures at the end of December 2007.
In the global list, Exxonmobil has replaced China’s Petrochina as the most valued firm, while us industrial conglomerate GE has retained its third position. Other firms in the top 10 include Gazprom, China Mobile, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Microsoft, AT&T, Royal Dutch
Shell and P&G. Among the Indian companies, Mukesh Ambani-led RIL has been ranked the highest at 80th, down 15 places from 65th earlier, with a market cap of $82 billion. It is followed by state-run ONGC at 148th (down from 115), PSU power major NTPC at 206th (down from 163), Sunil Mittal-led telecom giant Bharti Airtel at 218th (down from 193), realty major DLF at 329th (down from 195) and Anil Ambani-led Reliance Communications at 350th position (down from 252).However, ITC climbed six spots to the 484th place, with a market value of $19.38 billion. Other Indian companies include State Bank of India at 362th, state-run Bharat Heavy Electronics (364), engineering and infrastructure firm Larsen & Toubro (411).


Unitech plans a Rs.4,000 crore Hospitality push

Unitech announced plans to invest Rs 4,000 crore in hospitality business in the next five years.Unitech has planned to develop 35 hotels, comprising about 6,000 rooms, in the next five years across the country. The estimated investment construction will be about one billion dollar as they already have the land.The company would raise 350 million dollar through private equity this year, adding 26-40 per cent stake would be diluted in the hotel projects.

Rs.14,000 Crore Silicon Complex Plan in Vizag

The Bangalore-based Velankani Group will invest Rs 14,000 crore over the next seven years to set up an integrated stone-to-wafer silicon complex in Visakhapatnam, the first of its kind in India.The group, which has interests in IT, hospitality, infrastructure and telecommunications, will manufacture chlorosilanes, the intermediates used to manufacture siloxanes and silanes—the building blocks for many silicone products, polysilocon and other silicon compounds for semiconductor and photo-voltaic solar industries.Andhra Pradesh has been the hub of much activity in solar photo-voltaic investments, with the proposed Fab City in Hyderabad attracting interest from at least three-four investors.The state government has agreed to provide 150 acres to Velankani group and another 80 acres later, according to a statement from chief minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy’s office.The investment in the first two years beginning August this year will be Rs 1,350 crore.The project is expected to generate direct employment of 10,000, besides offering another 25,000 indirect jobs, Kiron D Shah, managing director & CEO, Velankani, said. The presence of the Vizag and the Gangavaram ports is the attraction to set up the project in Visakhapatnam.Velankani Renewable Energy Co, which will be executing the project, will have a capacity to produce 500 million silicon wafers per annum, 1500 mw PV cells per annum and 1500 mw of PV modules per annum during 2010-2016.The group is planning to roll out its first poly silicon product into the market by October 2009.

Maharashtra to have no load shedding by 2012

Maharashtra will see no load shedding in 2011-12, if the Managing Director of state-owned power generation company Mahagenco is to be believed.By 2011-12, the total power demand will be 23,873 megawatts (MW). At present, availability is 11,667 MW. So the difference between demand and availability will be 9,468 MW. But, within the next three years, Mahagenco will be able to add an additional capacity of 5,655 MW through various under-construction power projects and capacity addition.Through a ‘load management system’, which will be implemented fully by around this year-end, Maharashtra is expected to save around 2,742 MW.
Apart from this, the state will get another 3,255 MW from the central power pool and additional power from private players too.
Mehta also said that the technology currently in use at various ther
mal power projects is sub-critical technology, which has a 35-37 per cent heat efficiency.Mahagenco has already started measures to implement the latest ‘super-critical technology’ which has the maximum heat efficiency in the world of around 42 per cent. All three units of the Koradi Power plant, where each unit has a power generating capacity of 660 MW, will use this technology. This is expected to be commissioned by 2012-13.Last year, Maharashtra witnessed a 14 per cent growth in sales and a 7 per cent growth in the number of consumers. Around 1,25,000 agricultural connections were added and 9,12,000 households across the state were given power connection.

Japan eyes India

A recent survey conducted by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) shows that India has become the most-favoured destination for long-term Japanese investment. While nearly 70% of Japanese manufacturers regard India as the most attractive country to do business over the next 10 years, around 67% preferred China. Russia came third with a 37% rating, followed by Vietnam at 28%.During 2007, Anchor Electricals was sold out to Osaka-based Matsushita and Lumax industries was acquired by Japan’s Stanley Electric world leader in illumination products. In 2006, the Poonawala Group sold its stake in Eagle Seals and Systems to Japan’s Eagle Industry. And 2005 witnessed two acquisitions, one was the stake purchase in International Tractors by the Yanmar group and the other was the acquisition of Chennai’s SRP Tools by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
The automobile sector has been the area where the Japanese presence is the most noticeable. But their interest has now spread to various sectors like machine tools, electronics and IT. According to India Brand Equity Foundation, Japan ranks fifth in terms of cumulative FDI equity inflow into India. Japan’s FDI in India is projected to be around $5.5 billion over 5 years from 2006 to 2010.Many sectors in the developed Japanese economy, which have a negligible growth rate, do not have much scope to grow. In view of this, Japanese companies need a presence in emerging markets to grow.

Congress set to press the N-Button?

Sonia Gandhi, it seems, has decided to bite the bullet. The Congress president is understood to have given the green light to prime minister Manmohan Singh to go ahead with the nuclear deal even if it means losing the government at the Centre.The Congress is confident that the NCP and the RJD, its existing alliance partners, too would agree to its stand.This tough posturing not withstanding, the Congress has also been giving thought to the political fallout of a break up with the Left. The party looks at the current impasse as a ‘golden opportunity’ to spruce up its image. This will give the Congress a chance to present it's nationalist face.This is the second option the party is looking at. Before it rocks the UPA boat, the Congress has also decided to try to bring in more allies on board. As part of this two-prong strategy the party will try to win over Samajwadi Party and simultaneously will prepare to face the International Atomic Energy Agency with India-specific safeguard agreement. But the Congress leadership is absolutely clear that it will stay on its course “with or without SP”.Though India has agreed on a draft agreement with the IAEA, the Manmohan Singh government has not been able to finalise it due to the Left’s (Red Monkeys according to Balasaheb Thakeray) stubborn opposition.

DTH operators scout for transponders

With the DTH space hotting up, existing players are fighting it out with new entrants to rent and buy up transponder capacity on satellites. This alone determines the number of channels a DTH company can offer. Dish TV appears to have gained the first-mover advantage by buying up 7 additional transponders on ArabSat 4C and Protostar — the two satellites scheduled to be launched on July 4. Other players such as Tata Sky and Videocon are also scouting for transponders. Bharti Airtel and RCOM’s Big TV have booked their transponders too.
Dish TV would double their transponder capacity and would rent about 14 transponders with the launch of two satellites.It would help the DTH platform to offer about 350 channels from 200 channels that it currently offers. The company would have to invest about Rs 60 crore annually for this transponder capacity space.The extra channels that any
DTH company offers would also help garner additional money through carriage fee. Dish TV is learnt to be targeting Rs 100 crore through carriage fee from various television channels. Archrival Tata Sky has about 12 transponders currently. Though there is no new addition to its transponder capacity, the company is learnt to be looking for ways to increase transponder capacity in the near future to be able to carry larger number of channels.
Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group’s DTH arm, Big TV, is learnt to have booked seven-eight transponders on Malaysian satellite MEASAT-3 and claims it would be able to offer 250 channels using MPEG 4 technology. Similarly, Airtel is believed to have got six transponders and is expected to offer 175 channels.

Karnataka plans hi-tech Bus Stands

Mysore, the emerging mini-metro, is moving to acquire hi-tech bus-stands.The congested KSRTC suburban bus stand, is in for an image makeover. KSRTC also plans new facilities for passengers. The bus-stand will be converted into a four-floor, hitech bus stand, which will ease parking problems in the commercial hub. The city bus stand will have a subway to facilitate passengers to move easily between the platforms.The new bus-stand will sport a heritage look to match Mysore’s Heritage City status. Thanks to the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), funds will not be a constraint to providing infrastructure. Bus stands are also planned at Sathgalli, Kuvempunagar, Naidunagar and Yelwala to decongest the city centre.
The process of inviting tenders for these projects under JNNURM to construct/upgrade seven hi-tech bus stands is on. The projects are estimated to cost Rs 85.25 crore. Work on the proposed busstands at seven places, includ
ing the KSRTC suburban busstand, will take a minimum of 18 months from the date of commencement of works. In the wake of the increase in steel prices and the assembly elections, the tender process was delayed.The Centre sanctioned the project in October 2007 and the state government gave its clearance for its implementation in November.With this, facilities, such as, banks and ATM centres, rest rooms, cloak rooms, cyber cafes, super bazaars and parking facilities will be available under one roof.An inter-model transit centre has been planned at four bus-stands Sathgalli, Kuvempunagar, Naidu Nagar and Yelwala.

The Name Change Story

It looks like Bangalore will not become Bengaluru soon. The renaming of cities had not been approved by the previous cabinet. When it was to be done, the government fell. So the subject has to be taken up afresh by the BJP government.The state could have gone ahead on renaming the cities, excluding Belgaum. The Centre has not agreed to Belgaum as it is caught between Karnataka and Maharashtra border dispute. One of the guidelines for renaming places is the names should not hurt the people’s sentiments, have political overtones or be already in use in some other state.
Renaming of Bangalore and other cities was mooted in Dec 2005. In Nov 2006, the JD(S)-BJP government promised to get it done in 40 days flat. On August 20, 2007, former CM H D Kumaraswamy had announced that the
Union home ministry had sent him a letter giving the nod for renaming 12 cities, barring Belgaum, within a week. But the renaming did not happen as more clarifications were sought. Now, Bangalore has to wait for its rechristening.

Bangalore - Bengaluru
Mysore - Mysuru
Mangalore - Mangaluru
Belgaum - Belagavi
Gulbarga - Kalaburgi
Hubli - Hubballi
Shimoga - Shivamogga
Chikmagalur - Chikkamagalru
Bellary - Ballary
Bijapur - Vijapura
Hospet - Hosapete
Tumkur - Tumakuru
Kaup - Kapu

Kolkata's Airport revamp may cost Rs.2100 Crores

The modernization of NSCBI Airport will cost around Rs 2,100 crore, up from the estimated project cost of Rs 1,942 crore. This emerged when the lowest bidder for the principal turnkey project contract quoted a price of around Rs 2,100 crore.Airports Authority of India (AAI) has already spent Rs 100 crore on modernising the cargo complex and upgrading facilities at the domestic terminal as well extending the secondary runway and creating additional parking bays for aircraft.The Consortium ITD-ITD CEM had emerged the lowest bidder for the Kolkata airport modernisation project followed by L&T which had quoted around Rs 100 crore more. The ITD group was among the companies involved in building the new Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok while ITD-CEM is involved in the Delhi Metro Rail project. L&T has constructed the international airport at Bangalore. Others in the fray were Hervé Pomerleau Canada-Consolidated Construction Consortium Ltd and TAV Tepe Akfen Yatirim ve Isletme AS Punj Lloyd Ltd. The official announcement of the turnkey project contractor will, however, be made only after the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs clears the modernisation proposals for Kolkata and Chennai airports. The civil aviation ministry had given AAI the nod to provisionally go ahead with the tendering process to save time. The Kolkata airport modernisation project was okayed by the Public Investment Board late last month.
It would take at least four-five months for on-site activity to begin as the principal contractor has to sub-contract various works. Work may begin around December-January 2009,that is a full 12 months behind schedule as modernisation work was scheduled to begin in January 2008.
The upgrade project involves construction of a new integrated terminal building to handle 20 million passengers. Along with existing capacity of 4.942 million passengers (0.882 million, international and 4.06 million, domestic), the total handling capacity would rise to 24.942 million passengers that will be saturated by 2015-16. Subsequently, total capacity will be increased to 39.32 million in phase-II and 56.13 million in phase-III.

Ahmedabad Shining: HDFC Report

An internal report recently circulated by HDFC has profiled Ahmedabad as one of the fastest emerging and most costeffective megacities in India offering realty that is economical by 20-30% as compared to other tier-II cities.
“The city has witnessed impressive growth in real estate over the last 2-3 years with high quality infrastructure, pro-active government measures and business-friendly policies — all contributing to Ahmedabad emerging very fast with the highest rate of intra-state urbanisation. Despite the average price appreciation for new properties being in the range of 35-40% over the last year, real estate prices are economical.”
The report adds: “Ahmedabad today is a hot destination attracting a large number of pan-India developers who have either firmed up plans or are scouting for land to participate in the comparatively affordable real estate market by capitalising on its future metamorphosis.”
Thanks to lower cost of operations, the report also proj
ects Ahmedabad as a future IT/ITeS hub. Citing a recent survey conducted by retail consultant Technopak that ranked Ahmedabad as among top eight Indian cities that are slated to attract investments worth $15 billion in the next five years, the HDFC report states: “As the cost of IT/ITeS operations in Ahmedabad is lower by 40-50% as compared to tier-I cities in the country, substantial potential is envisaged for future IT/ITeS investment. Though in a nascent stage, over the next 2-3 years significant IT/ITeS supply is expected to come in.” Terming proposed mega-projects like the metro rail, bus rapid transit system, Sabarmati riverfront development, international airport and the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City as major price propellers for Ahmedabad’s realty, the report says Ahmedabad has undergone a steady transformation that is evident in its modern cityscape.
According to the report, SEZs were set to serve as engines of Ahmedabad’s growth and creators of jobs with nearly 18 of the total 64 SEZs proposed in Gujarat located within a 25-km radius of Ahmedabad.

Reasons for Ahmedabad dazzling:
1 Residential real estate prices economical by 20-30% over other tier-II cities
2 Cost of IT/ITeS operations lower by 40-50% as compared to tier-I cities
3 Over the next two years, 10 more malls are proposed in Ahmedabad adding 25 lakh sq ft space with a total investment of Rs 3,000-4,000 crore
4 A whopping 2.5-4 million sq ft of premium office space is expected to be added by 2008-end, mainly on SG Highway,CG Road, Ashram Road and Satellite Road
5 23 hotels of various categories are slated to add 1,945 hotel rooms over the next 2-3 years

FDI pours in

Despite apprehension of a slowdown in the economy, foreign investors are bullish on India. Foreign direct investment in April increased by 127% to $3.74 billion over the same period last year. FDI in April 2007 was $1.64 billion only.India attracted $25 billion FDI in 2007-08 and has set a target of $35 billion for the current financial year 2008-09.Exports have grown by 31.5% in April to $14.4 billion from $10.94 billion in the same period last year.Of the $3.74 billion FDI in April, manufacturing accounted for $1.86 billion.The major sectors receiving foreign investment were services, telecom, housing and real estate, construction, computer software and hardware, automobile, power and metallurgy.RBS, FIAT Auto Spa, Singapore Investment Corporation and Cisco of Mauritius were the major investors in April. Predictably, Mauritius continued to remain the preferred route for foreign investors accounting for 45% of the total inflows. In the last four years since April 2004, India has attracted a total of $49 billion of FDI, government data said.
India has emerged as the world's fourth most attractive emerging market for manufacturing business foreign investment, for services it has just managed to enter a top-20 list released by PwC.In PriceWaterhouseCoopers' latest emerging markets rankings EM20, based on the countries' FDI attractiveness, India has been ranked fourth, ahead of its three Bric peers China, Russia and Brazil, for the manufacturing business.However, for the services business, India has been ranked last at the 20th position in the list.

Cruise Shipping in India gets the nod

The decks have been cleared for India’s entry into the lucrative and high-profile luxury cruise business with the cabinet adopting the cruise shipping policy.This will help India carve a prominent space in world tourism.Cruise shipping will showcase India as a major destination of world tourism. It will also have spillover effect on other sectors. It will generate enormous employment opportunities.The $14 billion global cruise shipping industry is growing at 12% every year, with a passenger base of 10 million. India’s share is only 2%.

Sariska to get Ranthambore Tigers

Pictures of the tiger translocation that took place for the first time in India 28.06.08

The much-awaited relocation of tigers from the Ranthambore National Park to the Sariska Tiger Reserve, considered the first of its kind, is all set to take place. Under the joint aegis of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and the Rajasthan forest department, the trial run to shift the tiger was conducted.The Rs 1.5-crore project to reintroduce the big cats at the 881.11 square kilometre Sariska reserve after it lost all its tigers to poaching has been much debated with experts differing on whether this was a wise move. While a section has been advocating the cause, another said it was dangerous as there were still some villages in the core forest area. One tiger would be re-introduced on day one. After being brought into the reserve, the tiger would be kept in a fenced enclosure at Nayapani, an area that has been known for most tiger sightings. The radio-collar-fitted tiger would be kept under a strict watch before it would be released in the open. Later, it would be joined by another tiger, also from Ranthambore.Three tigers, two females and one male, are to be brought from Ranthambore in the first phase. 2 more tigers to be shifted in Phase-II .In the second phase, two more tigers will be relocated. The entire process is expected to take three years. The tigers to be introduced are ones with proven parenting skills.However, forest authorities are yet to relocate most of villages located within Sariska, which was a pre-condition to the reintroduction of tigers at Sariska. So far, of the 11 villages proposed to be shifted, only one, Bergen, has been relocated. Forest authorities hope to shift at least two more soon. About 100 exarmymen have also been recruited to keep vigil in the forest. They will be assisted by a 120-member squad for night patrolling.

Eco-restoration Plan underway at Adyar Poonga

While Pitchandikulam Forest Consultants have begun work on the 58-acre Adyar Poonga project at a cost of Rs 20 crore, the state government has chosen Ecosmart (promoted by Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services, IL&FS) to prepare the master plan for eco-restoration of the Adyar creek eco-system.The works on the Adyar Poonga was taken up early this month. The master plan for eco-restoration. To begin with, the consultants have started removing unnecessary debris and resorted to land filling wherever necessary. The water areas have also been deepened. In the first 25 days itself, approximately 25 % of the work has been completed, said sources. As per the project plan it will take 30 months but consultants told that works could be completed within 21 months.Upon successful completion, Adyar Poonga, with walkways, butterfly gardens, education centre, medicinal garden, patches of tropical dry evergreen forests and much more, is expected to be the benchmark for development of similar eco-parks in the state. Pitchandikulam Forest Consultants will continue to work in the park for a further two-year period for maintenance purposes as one of the main objective of eco-restoration is to bring back the original life forms, flora and fauna, into the creek eco-system that has deteriorated. In the second phase of the project, IL&FS Ecosmart has begun preparing the master plan for the eco-restoration of the remaining 300 acres, that is the rest of the estuary apart from the Adyar Poonga.

Bangalore gets a new push

An Advertisement released by the Karnataka Government showing good intent.Now hope they follow it up with action and execution.

Ahmedabad-Dholera Metro link proposed

A high-level meeting held in Delhi to finalise details of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) has identified a ‘suburban metro link’ between Gandhinagar, Ahmedabad and Dholera as an important transport connectivity plan for the proposed Ahmedabad-Dholera special investment region (SIR). The project acquires significance as Dholera — located about 110 kms from Ahmedabad — could well give it a port-city status if the port being proposed by the Adani group comes up at this location in the Gulf of Khambhat.Proper connectivity between Ahmedabad and Dholera would mean that goods being shipped from the Delhi side along the DMIC would be exported out of Dholera, instead of taking the shipments all the way to Mumbai, because of a distance shortened by almost 400 kms. An international airport has already been proposed at Fedara.
An internal note on the Delhi meeting says the metro link will facilitate passenger movement between these three locations in view of thousands of crores worth of investment likely to come up in the SIR. The state government has already written to the Centre to approve a metro rail plan for Ahmedabad city and its outskirts, which could well get linked up to this new metro plan along the SIR. The note suggests three more rail projects would be taken up on a priority basis to boost the Ahmedabad-Dholera SIR.
These are – conversion to broad gauge of the Ahmedabad-Botad rail line (150 km); new rail link from Bhimnath to Dholera (16 km); and a new rail link from Bhavnagar to Petlad via Adhelai, Dholera and Vataman (170 km). The note says these rail links will provide connectivity to Dholera and Bhavnagar ports. The corridor will also require broadening of several roads providing linkages to Dholera and Bhavnagar ports.

Sasan Power Project to be completed before schedule

Anil Ambani-promoted Reliance Power has told government it will complete the Sasan ultra-mega power project in Madhya Pradesh three years before target time set in agreement signed with the government.The company is implementing the 3,960MW project through its fully-owned subsidiary, Sasan Power Limited, and has committed to switch on at least two units aggregating a capacity of 1,320MW by March 2012 to help the government achieve its capacity addition target.Reliance Power has said it will complete the last of the six planned generators of the Sasan project by March 2013, achieving the full aggregate capacity 36 months ahead of schedule. According to the schedule laid down in the agreement with the government, the last unit was to be completed by April 2016.
To ensure timely completion of the new schedule, Reliance Infrastructure (REL Infra), which is carrying out the construction job worth Rs 12,800 crore for the project, has roped in US-based Black & Veatch as an independent project monitor. The move is
seen as allaying apprehensions in some quarters over reliability of Chinese generation equipment supplies. Reliance has zeroed in on Shanghai Electric of China for supply of key equipment such as boilers, turbines and generators for the project.Black & Veatch is globally recognised as a leader in design and engineering of coaland gas-fired power plants.It will prepare project manuals, review equipment engineering plans and installation of equipment. It will develop an information management system for project. REL Infra plans to implement and manage power projects through a real-time internet-based system and the US consultant will develop a state-of-the-art monitoring centre at Dadri in UP.

A Bear Tale

A 20-minute reunion after a 10-day hiatus said it all. Human or animal, when it comes to emotions the spontaneous overflow is difficult to control.Ramsingh Munda, his daughter Gulki and sloth bear Rani did not want to keep their emotions under check as they repeatedly hugged, caressed and cosseted each other at the Nandankanan Zoo here on Friday. The meeting between the father-daughter with their former “pet” touched many a heart, but the exchange of love and affection was short-lived, thanks to wildlife protection laws. “I felt thrilled on meeting Rani, but after meeting her, feel depressed that I cannot take care of her and can meet her only occasionally,” said a weeping Ramsingh (45).
“How can I accept that Rani, whom I treated like my daughter, is now no longer with me? I did not know the wildlife laws when I found Rani as an abandoned cub inside the jungle 18 months ago. But now I appeal one and all not to help raise a wildlife animal. Else, they would end up behind the bars like me and their families would suffer unbearable pain,” added the illiterate tribal, even as six-year-old Gulki appeared too choked with emotions to put words to her feelings.
Rani, on her part, jumped with joy on seeing her “family members”. But, after being fed with milk and biscuits when Ramsingh and Gulki came out of her enclosure, the sloth bear seemed sobbing and looking at the twin walking away in sheer desperation. Ramsingh, who hails from Rutisila village in Ghatgaon area of Keonjhar district, invited problems for himself simply because he had raised Rani in his household. Recently, he was arrested for “illegal possession” of a sloth bear and the animal was shifted to the zoo here.
Widespread criticism subsequently led to Ramsingh getting bail and the state government announcing that it would rehabilitate him. But the case against him has upset Ramsingh. “I only fed the bear and never used it for commercial gains. Yet, I am being punished,” he said, adding, “I would be happy if I am given a job to look after Rani in Nandankanan.”

The plight of Ram Singh Munda, an Orissa villager, who was jailed for his love for an orphaned bear has moved even some wildlife activists who feel the law should be applied judiciously. However, a majority of such activists — much against public opinion — feel that the law can’t make an exception. According to Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, no one is allowed to keep a wild animal without having the permission of the chief wildlife warden. Munda had no such approval and was jailed. The bear was sent to a zoo where it refused to eat and Munda’s six-year-old daughter was sent off to a state-run boarding school. Sonya Ghosh of NGO Citizens for the Welfare and Protection of Animals feels ‘‘there is no point in applying the law in a way that’s only technically correct. There are so many dancing bears in the city who have not been rescued and deer that are kept by farmhouse owners. Poaching is rampant and nothing is being done about it. In this case, the authorites have no plans to rehabilitate the bear. All you are doing is ruining the relationship between the man and bear. Since Munda lived in a remote corner and is illiterate, he might not have known about the law and is paying a price for it.’’ Samir Sinha, head of Traffic India, WWF, says that ‘‘in a situation like this, it is up to the judiciary to interpret the law. The law should be applied consistently. While this case might be different from others, the fact remains that in such cases, close human contact with the bear can lead to problems later. Abiding by the law is, therefore, necessary.’’