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The Indian Economy (Page 24)

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Posted: 03 November 2008 at 6:10pm | IP Logged
Tata Motors Net Drops 34% Amid Higher Material Costs
Tata Motors Ltd., Friday posted a 34% decline in its fiscal 2nd qtr. net profit as it incurred a foreign exchange loss and paid more to buy raw materials amid a decline in vehicle sales.
India's biggest auto maker by sales said net profit in the 3 months ended Sep. 30 slid to 3.47 billion Rs($70.4 million)from 5.27 billion Rs. a year earlier. Sales increased 6.6% tio 70.29 billion Rs from 65.95 billion Rs.
Tata Motors which plans to sell the world's cheapest car begining early 2009 posted a 1.1% decline in sales volume during the Jul-Sep qtr. with 135037 vehicles sold.
The co. which controls Jaguar-Land Rover had a foreign exchange loss of 2.85 billion Rs. during the last quarter. It gained 3.59 billion Rs. from the sale of a portion of its long term investments, the co. said without elaborating.

Edited by jagdu - 03 November 2008 at 6:10pm

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Posted: 05 November 2008 at 4:51pm | IP Logged

Tata Protester Widens Her Focus

Firebrand Who Fought Off Car Factory Turns to Other Projects Opposed By Rural Poor

By KOLKATA -- When Mamata Banerjee stepped out of her tiny home one recent evening, she was greeted by a wall of cameras, microphones and three dozen reporters all asking the same question: What's your next target?

It's been a month since the firebrand politician scored her highest-profile victory, forcing Tata Motors Ltd. to abandon a plant near here to build the world's cheapest car after weeks of violent protests by her supporters. Her victory in the name of farmers who say they were getting a raw deal in giving up land for the factory brought her media attention, financial support and votes.

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Mamata's Fight for Rural Indians

The firebrand politician is trying to use her newfound prominence to push her opposition to industrial projects across West Bengal.Now, she intends to use that new prominence to push her opposition to other industrial projects across her native state of West Bengal. She's also getting calls to support protests across India, raising the prospect that she could roll out her brand of disruptive populism on a larger stage.

India is preparing for a general election, likely early next year. Ms. Banerjee's activism has helped to make a key issue of whether the rural poor have benefited from India's rapid development. The ruling Congress Party has tried to counter rural disillusionment over industrialization with a huge rural job program and loan forgiveness for farmers, but the controversy over land use has only escalated.Ms. Banerjee's protests have revived her party. It won just one seat in the national parliament in 2004. But in local elections for key village posts this year, her party's share of local seats doubled to more than 40%. She can expect another jump in Parliamentary seats after facing down Tata Motors.

At the impromptu press conference outside her home, she voiced her opposition to land acquisition for a power plant, a shipbuilding yard and a technology park in the state. She made clear her disgust with rural power shortages, law-and-order problems, and a ban on painted political ads on walls her main form of advertising. She said she intends to keep up pressure on Tata and wants it to return any loans it got on favorable terms from the state. The money has to be returned and the land has to be returned she said. It's the people's money, you can't just grab it.

Ms. Banerjee is a member of the Indian Parliament and leader of the Trinamool Congress Party, the chief opposition in the eastern state of West Bengal, which has been ruled for the past 31 years by the Communist Party of India (M). It is a largely rural state but its capital, Kolkata, formerly known as Calcutta, was once an international commercial center. It has receded in recent decades to a business backwater. Much of the urban elite of West Bengal consider Ms. Banerjee an obstructionist rabble-rouser. They note that Tata quickly found a new home for its factory in the business-friendly western state of Gujarat. The usually apolitical Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Motors, blamed Ms. Banerjee for poverty in the state.

Agitation, violence and terror are overtaking the state in the name of the agricultural community, to serve political goals Mr. Tata said in an open letter to the people of West Bengal. Even Ms. Banerjee's critics concede she has tapped into a powerful undercurrent of anger in rural India. Many poor farmers aren't happy about being asked, or forced, to step aside to make way for industrialization at the hands of large Indian and foreign companies. Look, they may have the money but that does not mean we'll be their bonded labor she says. Ms. Banerjee wears a simple $5 cotton sari with little jewelry and no makeup, and lives in the one-bedroom home she grew up in with her seven siblings along a fetid canal off the Ganges River. Even her meals are poor, boiled vegetables and puffed rice mostly, say her friends.

Other populist politicians in India have amassed fortunes in the name of standing up for the poor. Ms. Banerjee's critics say her frugal living hides backing from politicians and corporate leaders that want to see West Bengal and Tata Motors do badly. Ms. Banerjee and her supporters say that's not true and that they lack funds. We have no backing from big people, we are small people she says. Ms. Banerjee likes long, loud speeches full of insults, puns and slogans. She is only around five feet tall, but has a huge presence and uses grand gestures. She started her campaign against the Tata plant with a 25-day hunger strike. On the floor of the Indian Parliament she has cried, screamed, grabbed other politicians by the collar, and even thrown documents to get attention for her causes. I have always fought on the streets she said. Now aged 53, she has been a loud leader since her teens, says Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, who met Ms. Banerjee when they were both involved with student politics. Even at 17 or 18 she was always at the front of every protest says Ms. Dastidar, who heads the women's wing of Ms. Banerjee's party.

For the Tata protests, Ms. Banerjee bused in crowds and entertained them. When they make money on SEZ or XYZ, they finish humanity is one of her common refrains. SEZs are government-backed Special Economic Zones that have been gobbling up former farmland.

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Posted: 06 November 2008 at 12:57pm | IP Logged

India's Outsourcing Industry Is Hesitant to Embrace Obama

Sen. Barack Obama's victory was met in India with amazement, mixed with hints of hesitation. Most Indians had been hoping for an Obama victory after eight years of a Republican administration few here admire. On Wednesday, that hope turned to excitement, as it sank in that the U.S. had elected a black man as President.

It's a very historic moment for America and the world Anuj Gupta, a 34-year-old factory owner in New Delhi. He didn't think they could choose a black man. But the election has clearly proved what a great democracy the U.S. is. But amid general excitement over a change in leadership in the U.S. is more than a hint of hesitation. During the long campaign, Obama took a stance against outsourcing, raising worries among people in India's flagship industry, which gets nearly 60% of its revenue from U.S. companies. On the road, and in debates, Obama repeated that if elected, he would discourage companies from "shipping jobs overseas" by taking away tax breaks.

India's Finance Minister P. Chidambaram sought Wednesday to play down fears sayig comment here and a comment there (on outsourcing) should not bother us, once Obama is in office, he will realize that it is an interconnected world, and countries have to work together. But people in the outsourcing industry here still expressed concern over Obama's earlier comments. The industry is holding its breath to see what Obama does once he's in office, says unemployment has more to do with the manufacturing sector in the US. We shouldn't mix up the issue of unemployment with tech. It's most important that the US economy gets back on track since it has such a large importance for us.

Some outsourcing companies also said they're prepared for an Obama administration. Over the last six months, Mumbai-based outsourcer Aegis Communications Inc. has doubled its staff in the US to nearly 4500. Now, we can go back to all our clients and tell them they can still continue to outsource but not take away American jobs says Chief executive Aparup Sengupta.

 
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Posted: 10 November 2008 at 11:26am | IP Logged
Indian woman to watch: Indira Nooyi
Confronted this year by high commodity prices, a downturn in U.S. beverage sales, and other consequences of the souring economy, Indra Nooyi didn't shy from some bold steps. PepsiCo Inc.'s chairman and chief executive launched an aggressive belt-tightening program this fall to generate more than $1.2 billion in savings over the next three years. Ms. Nooyi, 53 years old, says the tough measures -- including the elimination of 3,300 jobs and the closing of some plants were necessary to put PepsiCo ahead of the curve in a fast-changing economic environment. She has been pushing the Purchase, N.Y., company in new directions since arriving 14 years ago as head of corporate strategy. Her drive to get Pepsi to buy Tropicana and Quaker Oats helped shift the company's soda- and-potato-chip-dominated portfolio toward healthier drinks and snacks. Most of the savings from cost-cutting will be plowed into expanding in fast-growing emerging markets, the U.S. beverage business, and accelerating development of new beverages and snacks. Ms. Nooyi is convinced she can bring U.S. consumers back to soda, partly by finding a new zero-calorie sweetener. "People still love bubbles," she says. Visiting her native India in September, Ms. Nooyi announced a three-year, $500 million investment to expand manufacturing, improve research and development and introduce new products. Growth in emerging markets is cooling but still "robust," she says. Ms. Nooyi is also pushing for foods and drinks that offer more health benefits. An endocrinologist and internal-medicine specialist whom she tapped as the company's chief scientific officer will head a new nutrition lab.
Vikram Pandit, CEO Citibank wants to buy a US bank
He wants to secure a deeper base of deposits tied up to the world's largest economy. As financial crisis ricochets around the world, Citigroup's vast global network is becoming yet another source of pain for a company that has piled up $20.25 billion net losses in the past 4 quarters. Citigroup reported a surprising leap in 3rd quarter losses on loans to India. Pandit wants to push deeper into emerging markets. To overcome lack of credit bureaus Citigroup uses a credit scoring system it has built.


Edited by jagdu - 10 November 2008 at 11:35am
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Posted: 11 November 2008 at 12:41pm | IP Logged
India's Air Dreams Break Up
Last month Kingfisher Airlines Ltd. the country's 2nd largest airline after Jet Airways Ltd. by passenger traffic cut pay for trainee pilots by 90%. For the qtr. ended Sep. 30 Kingfisher reported a loss of $101.7 million, 90% wider than its year earlier loss.
Meanwhile Jet Airways laid off 27 foreign pilots last week in an effort to cut costs. The airline had tried to lay off 1900 pilots and flight staff last month but pulled back after meeting heavy political resistance .
It costs $845 from Delhi to Bangalore, twice last years cost. People opt to do the 1000 mile trip the old fashioned way. By rail. They end up saving $630.
State owned oil co.s cut prices for jet fuel more than 20% while the govt. also removed some of the taxes that made fuel costs 65% higher in India than in many countries that should help airlines which are spending nearly 50% of their operating budget on fule.
You can't expect economic growth at 8-9% and expect people to travel by train. It has to be by air.

Edited by jagdu - 11 November 2008 at 12:42pm
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Posted: 14 November 2008 at 9:11am | IP Logged

How to Get Free Surgery: Fly to India

IndiaThe mainstreaming of medical tourism is about to take another baby step.

Starting in January, a Wisconsin company called Serigraph will waive employees' copays and coinsurance for certain procedures ' provided the employees fly to India for the procedures.

 

For expensive, non-emergency procedures, the math is pretty simple. Knee replacement surgery that costs between $60,000 and $70,000 in the United States can be done in India for $8,000 to $10,000, a WellPoint spokeswoman told the Strib. So the company can pay to send the employee to a fancy tourist hospital in India, waive all the copays, and still save money.

The  the number of Americans actually going abroad for major medical procedures has remained small, and it is easy for the hype to get ahead of the reality. Still, when we read reports like this one, it is hard not to think that more companies will look to offshore some employee health care.

Serigraph, a specialty graphics company with 650 employees, is self-insured, and WellPoint manages the company's benefits. UnitedHealth is investigating adding medical tourism to benefit packages, the Strib says.

'Slumdog' Finds Rare Riches in Poor Boy's Tale  

"Slumdog Millionaire" is the film world's first globalized masterpiece. This perfervid romantic fable is set in contemporary Mumbai, the former Bombay, but it draws freely, often rapturously, from Charles Dickens, Dumas p're, Hollywood, Bollywood, the giddiness of Americanized TV, the cross-cultural craziness of outsourced call centers and the zoominess of Google Earth. It's mostly in English, partly in Hindi and was directed by a Brit, Danny Boyle, with the help of an Indian co-director, Loveleen Tandan. The young hero, Jamal Malik, is a dirt-poor orphan from the Mumbai slums. "Is this heaven?" Jamal asks after tumbling from a train and looking up to see the Taj Mahal. I had the same feeling after watching the first few astonishing scenes: Was this movie heaven? The answer turned out to be yes.

 

Dev Patel and Freida Pinto in 'Slumdog Millionaire'

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video 

Yes because of what "Slumdog" does -- gives the movie medium a jolt of cyclonic power -- and yes because of what it is, a timeless story of unswerving love that's been married to a madly extravagant Hindi version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" Simon Beaufoy's screenplay was inspired by "Q & A", a modest though ingenious first novel by an Indian diplomat named Vikas Swarup, and inspiration is the right word. Nothing else could explain the daring and sweep of Mr. Beaufoy's writing, which takes off from the book's premise, leaps from genre to genre with a parkour athlete's agility, and evokes the rags, riches, horror, hope and irrepressible energy of Third World life with a zest that honors "Oliver Twist." (A lovely coda heaps icing on the layered cake.)

The premise is simple. As a plucky quiz-show contestant -- a slumdog underdog -- Jamal keeps giving correct answers to obscure questions and winning more rupees. This raises the question of how he could know what he seems to know, since the 18-year-old has grown up in grinding poverty. For the show's producers, and the police, the answer is he must be cheating. That's the wrong answer, and the wrong question. The right question is whether poverty and knowledge are mutually exclusive, and the answer given by Jamal's example is no, they are not, provided the knowledge is based on experience. This quiet, passionate, whipsmart kid has lived almost every answer he gives; the questions he needs are provided by destiny.

Danny Boyle seems to have enjoyed an equally happy fate. Many of his previous films, from "Shallow Grave" through "Trainspotting" to the beguiling and under-appreciated "Millions," are infused with the sheer joy of filmmaking, and all aswirl with ecstatic techniques. (A now-infamous scene in "Trainspotting" is all aswirl with the same stuff that makes for a hideously funny sequence in "Slumdog.") Still, Boyle had been having his ups and downs -- "The Beach" was a classic downer -- and he'd done his most distinctive work on a relatively small scale.

Then destiny, in the form of smart producers, put him together with Simon Beaufoy's screenplay -- the writer's best-known script to that point had been "The Full Monty" -- and the result will make movie history. The scale of "Slumdog Millionaire" is close to cosmic. Jamal's fate transcends the slums; it transcends India. He really is an Oliver Twist for the 21st century, just as his beloved Latika is a multinational mingling of Juliet, Lara and the Vivien Leigh of "Waterloo Bridge." (Their shared fate plays out in the midst of such crowds as to suggest that every citizen of Mumbai found work as an extra.) Jamal and Latika are also two of three Third World musketeers who banded together for self-protection in childhood. The third is Salim, Jamal's brother and the source of a harrowing sibling rivalry.

The children in the film come from Mumbai's slums, and their performances would put Hollywood moppets to shame. Jamal is played as an adult by Dev Patel, a hugely appealing young star, not conventionally handsome, who has mastered the art of suggesting by withholding -- you can almost see Jamal's thoughts in process -- along with the risky business of putting his character heedlessly out there when love or danger demand it.

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Dev Patel

Freida Pinto, an Indian model in her first prominent feature role, is exquisite as Latika, an apparently tragic heroine whose destiny is brighter than she can know. Anil Kapoor, a star of Bollywood blockbusters, plays the quiz-show host, Prem, as a supremely smarmy snake. Irrfan Khan, so heartbreakingly fine as the father in "The Namesake," is a police inspector with a heavy hand but a quick, mercurial mind.

The cinematographer was Anthony Dod Mantle. He used film cameras, digital cameras, even the video function of a small, unobtrusive still camera, and his images come at you like light itself, in waves and pulsing clusters. The production was designed by Mark Digby, the sensational music was provided by A.R. Rahman, and the film was edited by Chris Dickens. I've never seen anything like "Slumdog Millionaire," and I welcomed the spectacle with open eyes. In these worsening times for feature films, timidity and mediocrity often vie for bottom honors at the multiplex. "Slumdog" breaks through to the top.



Edited by jagdu - 14 November 2008 at 9:20am
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Posted: 16 November 2008 at 10:45pm | IP Logged

Maoist Insurgents Disrupt Start of Elections in India

Suspected Maoist insurgents triggered landmine blasts and opened fire to scare away voters in elections in a central Indian state, killing two people. Voting in some rural areas came to a halt and armed rebels blocked roads and snatched electronic voting machines in one district of Chhattisgarh state, a center of Maoist activism, officials said. India kicked off a month-long period of state elections Friday, a precursor to the general election in early 2009 that will pit the ruling Congress-led coalition against the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. An economic slowdown is emerging as a major concern for voters. In Bijapur district, more than 480 kilometers from state capital Raipur, rebels fired on a government helicopter transporting material for a local election, killing one crew member. One policeman was killed and four others were wounded in landmine blasts triggered by rebels in Bastar district. Rebels also opened fire in 15 different places to scare away voters. The rebels, who say they are inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, have fought for more than three decades in several Indian states, demanding land and jobs for agricultural laborers and the poor. The guerrillas accuse authorities of plundering the region's rich natural resources with little benefit to the locals. Called Naxalites, the Maoists have frequently targeted police and government officials.

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Posted: 18 November 2008 at 12:31pm | IP Logged
Indian Airline Cites Interest form Investors
Kingfisher, which operates full-service carrier Kingfisher and budget airline Kingfisher Red, had a net loss of Rs. 6.41 billion($13.4 million) in the fiscal first half ended September and defered its overseas expansion plans because of the global economic slowdown. The losses led the airline to form an unexpected cost cutting alliance on Oct. 13 with Jet Airways(India)Ltd. Kingfisher operates a fleet of 85 Airbus planes.Singapore and Virgin atlantic are not those speculators.
U.S. Slowdown Dulls Sparkle Of India's Diamond Capital
8/10 finished diamonds in the world are cut and polished in Surat, Gujarat before export markets such as the US. The US accounted for 50% of Sanghvi group's $400 million revenue for the year ended March 31. At its peak 3 years ago, the industry generated exports of about $12 billion a year.
Some 250000 workers 1/3rd of the city's diamond cutting and polishing work force have left the industry in the last 3 years winnowing those employed in the trade to about 500000.
Surat's exports grew at an average of more than 20% a year in $$$ terms from 2002-2005. In 2006 growth fell to 6%. After cutters and polishers went on strike in July the Surat Diamond Association an industry body of manufacturers and traders agreed to a 20% wage increase. The first in a decade.


Edited by jagdu - 18 November 2008 at 12:45pm

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