Joined: 05 October 2007
As the top junior tennis player in the world took the stage at the U.S. Open in New York this week, even devout fans scratched their heads. Yuki Bhambri hails from India, a country whose professional tennis history is only slightly richer than America's record in cricket. Mr. Bhambri's rise through the junior tennis ranks he's the top seed at the U.S. Open's junior championship this week has already made him famous. The 17-year-old with the long arms and the hollow chest is on billboards in Mumbai. He's raw, he doesn't have the most beautiful strokes, said Nick Bollettieri, his coach and director of the IMG Tennis Academies in Bradenton, Fla. But he has a very good head, and he knows how to play. He's smart.
His success is drawing attention to the possibilities of tennis in India Rafael Nadal is starting an academy there and has many noticing that the sport's power center is drifting east. After winning the prestigious Dunlop Orange Bowl tournament in Florida the equivalent of the junior world championships and the Australian Open junior title, Mr. Bhambri won four men's tournaments this year in India and is the top seed in the boys' draw at the U.S. Open in New York. He has his sights set on one last junior title before embarking on the men's tour full time. For all his success, Mr. Bhambri is dealing with obstacles most other junior players don't have. In a culture that emphasizes study over sports, his mother, Sari, says her friends still remain suspicious of her son's pursuit. People say to me, We hear about his tennis but how are his studies? she says. We've never thought studies were that important. Everyone else does. Now tennis is becoming popular in India. The best young players in those countries are following the Eastern Europeans' playbook, seeking out the best coaches wherever they may be. Earlier this year, India sent 40 of its best junior players to train at Mr. Bollettieri's IMG Academies on Florida's West coast We don't have those tennis coaches in India, so we don't have the knowledge yet, Sari Bhambri, explained after watching her son practice in Florida this summer. And the sport keeps changing, so we have to come here. India has just one woman and no men in the top 100; Mr. Bhambri is currently 507 in the men's rankings. The changing tastes of the sporting public in these countries has as much to do with world economics and access to the game as it does with power serves and top-spin forehands. As these countries have grown wealthier, tennis clubs have sprung up and equipment has become much more affordable to a much larger segment of the population. India's Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi won major doubles titles together, and they will play against each other in the U.S. Open men's doubles final this year. But neither reached the upper rungs of the singles game. Indian players have had success at the junior level three others have won junior Grand Slam titles but they've struggled in the pros. But he never reached the upper rungs of the men's singles game. The top Indian singles players at the Open this year, Sania Mirza on the women's side and Somdev Devvarman on the men's, each were ousted in the second round. Anil Khanna , secretary general of the All India Tennis Association , says India is making great strides.In 1998 there were eight Indians ranked among the world's top 2,000 men and women players; now there are 51.
Mr. Nishikori has never been ranked higher than 56th but has the status of a rock star in Japan, where he receives the sort of multimillion-dollar endorsement deals Americans get only if they crack the top five. Tennis players in Asia are superstars, says Olivier van Lindonk, an agent with IMG Worldwide, the parent company of IMG Academies. IMG represents nearly 100 top players including Venus Williams and Mssrs. Federer and Nadal. He adds, That's why we go to the junior tournaments in Asia every year looking for the next great 14-year-old. Mr. Khanna says the lack of Indian players in the top 100 is the result of a ranking system that favors countries in Europe, like Spain, that hold a lot of tournaments and dole out big prize money. you can have the best coaches and trainers and the best courts, but unless you have a successful circuit of events in your country, no kid can be successful, Mr. Khanna said. Mr. Khanna, who is also president of the Asian Tennis Federation, says he's pushing the tennis authorities to allow India to host closed" events, so that Asian players can earn money and ranking points without competing against top foreign players."Protectionism has helped India in other sectors, Mr. Khanna said. Why not have some protection in tennis? He also wants the tennis bodies to reserve a few spots in each major tournament for certain regions of the world, regardless of their players' rankings move that would echo the affirmative action policies pervasive in Indian society. Over time, he said, Indian players will improve, if they're given a chance. Raising money for tournaments in India is a challenge. Without big Indian stars who can galvanize local interest in the events, it is hard to entice advertisers. Every time you have to go and beg, Mr. Khanna says. Some young Indian players express frustration that they don't have access to more modern facilities. Karunuday Singh, an 18-year-old who was competing last week in a futures tournament in Delhi meant for entry-level pros, said he wasn't impressed with the courts of play at R.K. Khanna Stadium. Look around, Mr. Singh said, pointing out bumps in the courts, holes in the nets, the rusty fences and rocky dirt roads surrounding the facility. What is this? Public courts in America are better than this. There isn't even a proper toilet here or a place to take a shower after a match. (He had just lost a close match, 7-5 in the third set, to Japan's Kento Takeuchi after the two suffered through the sweltering 100-degree heat.) The stadium is being overhauled for the Commonwealth Games, which India is hosting next year, but construction still has a long way to go. Like many other promising Indian players, Mr. Singh has looked abroad for opportunities to improve his game. His coach is Paul Dale, a New Zealander now based in Bangkok who has trained many India and East Asian players over the years. And he is planning to attend the University of Illinois next January. Mr. Singh has moved up several hundred spots in the rankings since signing up full-time with Mr. Dale eight months ago, though he is still at No. 1367. The most obvious gap between Indian players and the top players in the world is fitness, but Mr. Dale says they also need solid coaching to improve their mental approach and teach them to be more aggressive. The Indian game is more about defense it's about counterattacking and keeping the ball in, he said. Mr. Dale says Mr. Bhambri is a special talent who has the full package and a better shot than previous Indian stars at making it top the top of the game. Yuki's got a lot more potential he's one of those players that can make the game look easy, so long as he keeps getting the right advice, Mr. Dale said. Vijay Armritraj, the Indian champion from the 1970s, said the biggest obstacles for Indians and other Asians is their size. Since they tend to be smaller and slighter on average than people in other parts of the world, they will have trouble advancing in a game where strength and power have become integral to success, Mr. Armritraj said. His culture's emphasis on education over athletics also doesn't help. People always ask why there aren't more great atheltes coming out of India, Mr. Armritraj said. My answer is, you don't see a lot of great software engineers coming out of Spain. Ms. Bhambri, a housewife, and her husband, a doctor, encouraged their son and two daughters to play tennis as young children. Yuki's two older sisters are also professionals though neither has been able to crack the top 100 in the world rankings. For Yuki, his studies come after four hours of on-court practice, an hour in the gym, lunch, and a 90 minutes of match play. He started playing when he was five and by the time he was 14, there were only a few players in all of India good enough to hit with him. His game won't overpower anyone yet. He is six-two with broad shoulders he will grow into, but for now he is just 160 pounds dripping wet and almost gangly looking. But he floats across the baseline with speed and grace, like the old Czechoslovakian baseliner Miloslav Mecir. He is rarely out of position and swings early , taking the ball on the rise, pushing his opponents onto their heels. My strength is my court craft, my anticipation, he says.I'm working hard to put on muscle. I need to hit the ball harder. If you don't have a lot of strength, you can't survive.
Most service providers to India's domestic carriers are scratching their heads wondering where the industry is headed. It's not enough that India's airlines are estimated to have lost some $2 billion in the last financial year. The International Air Transport Association has come up with an equally worrying forecast for the coming year. The severe hike in the oil price last year brought many to the same conclusion: India's aviation industry has reached a dead end. The trouble is, India's explosive growth in air capacity had never quite matched the expansion in demand. The urge to build market share seems to have infected all carriers in the boom years. And although passengers rejoiced in cheap tickets, crimson ink has blotted the bottom lines of almost all airlines even during the so called good times.Now the trend is shifting toward low-cost service. Kingfisher Red, formerly known as Air Deccan, apparently carries already 75% of passengers that fly under the Kingfisher brand. Jet Airways is aiming to shift a similar amount of traffic to its new low cost and economy-only product, called Jet Konnect. This is a somewhat surprising development. Both Kingfisher's glamorous promoter, Vijay Mallya, and Jet Airways' Naresh Goyal have always maintained that low-cost could not work in India. The input costs such as parking and landing charges, fuel and lack of low cost airport infrastructure were deemed too high. And since these conditions affected all airlines in equal measure, the thinking went, it made the model non-viable in India. There's some truth here. Landing, parking and navigational charges are pretty uniform in the country, and aviation fuel costs tend to be substantially higher because of various state levies and taxes, but real differences are emerging. India's private airports can now choose to apply for an increase in their aeronautical charges, or reduce them. Some states limit their levy sales tax on aviation turbine fuel to 4%; others charge a whopping 30%. So from place to place, costs are beginning to diverge. Interestingly, the most ardent followers of the low-cost model, SpiceJet and IndiGo, have actually managed to fly into the black. What is more, they have achieved this while increasing seat capacity. Jet and Kingfisher, on the other hand, have been taking out capacity as quickly as they could. They've done this by deferring orders, or selling or leasing new deliveries to other carriers in Africa and West Asia. However, the conversion of aircraft to all economy configurations shown by Jet and Kingfisher translates into an increase in seat capacity. Thus, the efforts to reduce capacity are somewhat neutralized by this shift to low-cost operations. Air India has also announced that it will shift much of its domestic traffic on to Air India Express, its low-cost arm; it's also converting some of its old Airbus fleet for this purpose. Hence, the downward pressure on ticket prices is unlikely to disappear soon. Another troubling development: the management of the traditional carriers don't appear to be carrying their employees with them in this shift to low-cost operations, as shown by this week's work stoppage by many disgruntled Jet Airway's pilots. What does this all mean for the aviation sector as a whole? If recent articles in the Indian press can be believed, Jet has benefited from its change in strategy. With business passengers choosing to fly economy or low cost, Jet Konnect has been able to win back passengers. it becomes clear that one is not just talking about a business model. Running a low-cost airline involves a distinct organizational culture. While not impossible, few full service airlines have been able to make the transition successfully. In fact, most attempts by legacy carriers to start their own low-cost subsidiaries were short lived. Another unknown is whether we are seeing a true conversion of full service to low-cost operations. A number of indications suggest that rather than moving towards low cost, the industry remains stuck in low-fare mode. Indian business newspaper Mint recently quoted the managing director of Paramount Airways, M. Thiagarajan, as stating that tickets were being sold on average at least a quarter below their cost for the airline. This, in his words, was chasing bankruptcy.Ov erzealous regulation will not make life any easier for cash strapped airlines. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation, the regulator of aviation safety, is said to be prohibiting airlines from selling merchandise on domestic flights as this apparently conflicts with the cabin crew's duty to ensure safety on board. Airline catering companies have borne the brunt of this development. Their valued contracts with full service providers have turned to dust with the shift to low frills services. Airport operators will also have to take a careful look at this changing trend and take a view on whether it is a lasting one. Airport infrastructure by definition requires long term planning. Consequently, investments are of a long-term nature. Both Delhi and Mumbai airports are being designed to cater to full service hubbing operations. Luckily for them, both have and will retain substantial international traffic which requires sophisticated infrastructure such as baggage handling and ITC systems. But with the dramatic growth in low cost services, demand for infrastructure will in the future be aimed at fast and simple processes and quick turnaround times. For their slimmed down product, facilities that allow flexible allocation of check-in facilities, aircraft boarding bridges and even airline lounges will be rejected by airlines as unnecessary. Instead, many of the upcoming Greenfield airports in India will be of the low cost type: simple, efficient and without frills. Proposed projects such as a new airport in Sindhudurg on the southern Maharashtra coast and many others proposed on similar lines are unlikely to ever carry much traffic. Economic logic, therefore, should prevent anything but the most basic of infrastructure from being built. Earlier, many plans for new or upgraded airports envisaged a separate low cost terminal as has become the norm at many airports across the globe. Now full-fledged low cost airportswith perhaps a special handling zone for the premium segment might seem more appropriate. This means airport developers will have to look very carefully at their potential customer segments to decide what kind of infrastructure makes sense at a given location. They will also have to find alternative sources of revenue to make businesses viable. However, since many new and inexperienced players are entering the field of airport operations, the odd white elephant is bound to appear.
Joined: 05 October 2007
Joined: 05 October 2007
Every woman in Delhi knows the rules: You don't walk alone after dusk; you avoid eye contact; you tend to wear nondescript clothes, the more billowy the better. That's because after sundown this city's tree-lined avenues become dangerous for us. We know that, if not careful, we become targets. Sometimes precautions don't help. Last year, a 26-year-old journalist was shot dead coming from work late at night. She was driving a car, not walking. Delhi's chief minister lamented that the young lady was adventurous for staying out so late at night. Later, she blamed the woman's employer for not providing her with an escort. But she never blamed a city infamous for its unfriendliness toward women, where violence against us has become endemic. According to the crime in 35 of India's largest cities, conducted by the National Crime Records Bureau, New Delhi was one of the nation's most dangerous cities for women. It accounted for 30% of all rape cases; nearly a third of kidnapping and abduction cases involving females; 16% of dowry-related deaths; 14% of domestic abuse cases; and 21.5% of molestation cases. If women manage to avoid these assaults, it's harder to steer clear of the commonly crass behavior known as eve-teasing. That's a benign-sounding term for the cat-calls, groping and other forms of abuse that women here endure daily. It forces us to modify our behavior from walking a longer route home to wearing thick scarves in the dead of summer in ways in which men are never troubled. With next year's Commonwealth Games looming, however, Delhi's treatment is coming under scrutiny. City leaders are trying to prep Delhi for the masses of summer visitors who may descend on India's capital in shorts and bikini tops and expect perhaps naively to be treated with the same nonchalance as in other cosmopolitan capitals. Delhi officials don't seem too confident. They have convened a committee to study the issue. The new steering committee is focused on safety of women in public places. It has met three times now to implement narrow and doable changes that can be made in the next 12 months, said an official from the Delhi government's Department of Women and Child Development. These changes include beefing up security on public transportation, in markets, streets and parks. Bus drivers and metro conductors are being given tutorials on how to deal with those who harass women. Suspected eve teasers are to be given a free ride to the nearest police station. But can India's capital rid itself of gropers and cat-callers within a year? Some who study the city's culture are skeptical. Scholars have many ideas as to why the streets of Delhi are so unsafe for women wide-ranging theories about the purdah culture the seclusion of women of northern India, and the region's history of war and conquest, with all its attendant raping and pillaging. But others have simpler views. Indira Jaisingh, a senior supreme court lawyer, believes women are unsafe in Delhi because streets empty out after sundown, unlike Mumbai where there's better transportation and people commute late in the evening. Here, after 7 p.m., you're seen as a target for attack, says Ms. Jaisingh. Madhulika Mohta, a young lawyer with the Delhi Commission for Women, says that even if enforcement of eve teasing laws is improved, sexual harassment is too deeply-rooted in Delhi culture to disappear. We shout at the men, we rebuke them on the street, Ms. Mohta says, getting worked up. Calling the police after that is like a double harassment, adds Ms. Mohta, a bit deflated. First you have to deal with the eve teaser; then you have to explain it to the police, and maybe deal with the same thing again. Namrata Agarwal, a marketing manager, recalls the rare time where she got the better of an eve teaser. After a man on a motorcycle whistled at her as she rushed to a lunch appointment, Ms. Agarwal was surprised to discover that he was among the group waiting for her at the restaurant. She recounted the man's wolf whistle to her lunch group. His face turned red, says Ms. Agarwal. He couldn't look into my eyes.
The government revised the June output number from a provisional 7.8% expansion reported earlier. It didn't give any reason for revising the data. The growth in June was in line with a median forecast of a 6.9% rise. Manufacturing activity, which makes up nearly 80% of the output index, expanded 6.8% from a year earlier in July, rising for the fourth month in a row. Output at mines surged 9.9%, while power generation climbed 4.2%. Production of consumer durables in July rose 19.8% from the same period last year, while intermediate goods output was up 9% from last year. The industrial output data shows underlying signs of recovery in activity and the index is likely to continue its uptrend as global demand gradually picks up, said Sonal Varma, an economist with Nomura Financial Advisory and Securities. A series of interest rate cuts and government stimulus measures have helped boost demand at home and limit the damage to manufacturing from a sharp slump in exports. Automobile sales in July rose at their fastest pace in nearly two-and-a-half years, while the chairman of Steel Authority of India, the country's largest steel producer by local capacity, Thursday said production is expected to grow 8%-10% in the fiscal year through March 2010. A late revival in monsoon rains has also allayed concerns that a drought in the country may significantly pinch rural pockets and hurt demand for everything from motorcycles to cellphones. India's annual rains during the June 1-Sept. 9 period were 20% below the 50-year average, but the deficit narrowed from as much as 48% in June.
Joined: 05 October 2007
Joined: 05 October 2007
India's Finance Minister said he doesn't favor curbing credit and unwinding the fiscal stimulus yet, even though the government remains sensitive to rising price pressures. At this point of time, I cannot accept the 'dear money policy' or credit curbing because that will have an adverse impact on overall growth, Pranab Mukherjee said in a speech at an industry event. Mr. Mukherjee's comments come at a time when the central bank is reiterating concerns on inflationary pressures, and seem to reflect the growing tension between fiscal and monetary policies in India.The Reserve Bank of India's governor Duvvuri Subbarao said earlier this month that India would be one of the first countries to walk the exit strategy, noting that inflation has come upon us sooner than we had expected. Wholesale prices rose for the first time in 14 weeks in the latest data, with the headline inflation rate turning up 0.12% on the year in the week to Sept. 5. Economists say the rate is likely to breach 5% the central bank's estimate for March-end as early as December. Monsoon rains, which are crucial for around 60% of the country's farmland, are 21% below the 50-year average in the June 1-Sept. 14 period. Lower output from the summer-sown crop could crimp the food supply and spur prices further up. Mukherjee said the government is encouraging imports of essential commodities which are in short supply, such as sugar, edible oil and pulses. We're also requesting state governments to revamp the public distribution system to protect the poor from price impact, he added. The RBI's deputy governor Usha Thorat said that the central bank has several tools to manage liquidity, including the open market operations and its daily repurchase auctions. An increased recourse to the (banks') cash reserve ratios is also available for draining or modulating excess liquidity, Thorat said Saturday in the western Indian state of Goa. Mr. Mukherjee, meanwhile, said India shouldn't rollback the fiscal stimulus till the Eurozone economies and the U.S. show distinct recovery. We shall have to wait for some more time. I'm watching the situation carefully along with my colleagues, Mukherjee said, adding that if the economic growth in the July-September period shows a pick-up, there could be sustained recovery for the next two quarters. Over the last year, the government spent heavily to shield Asia's third-largest economy from the global downturn, waiving agriculture loans and cutting factory levies. Meanwhile, tax revenue losses could stretch over a decade as a proposed new tax rule will not immediately compensate breaks under old norms, Mukherjee said.
Concerns over a revenue shortfall are pertinent for New Delhi, which must
shrink a yawning fiscal deficit - projected at 6.8% of gross domestic product in
the fiscal year that ends March 31. Tax collections in the last financial year totaled INR3.38 trillion ($70.18 billion), short of the estimated INR3.45 trillion ($71.63 billion). The government aims to collect INR4 trillion ($83 billion) in direct taxes this year. A drop in the revenue collection is an added burden this year when the government is likely to spend more on social development plans, such as job guarantees in rural areas, to cushion the impact of deficient monsoons. The impact of drought could be an uncertain factor in meeting tax aims this year, revenue secretary P.V. Bhide said at the same event. The government in August unveiled a draft code that aims at consolidating old laws relating to a spectrum of taxes, simplifying the tax structure and moderating tax rates for individuals and companies. The new code has to be approved by the Parliament before it can replace the existing tax laws. Mr. Mukherjee stressed that the new code intends to be beneficial over a longer term, and should be viewed in the totality of its impact over the next few decades. The draft code suggests a minimum alternate tax for corporates at the rate of 0.25% of the gross assets for banking companies, and 2% for other companies. It also proposes a moderated tax rate of 10% on personal income up to INR1 million, while it retains the exemption limit on income tax at INR160,000. The introduction of Minimum Alternate Tax has to be seen as an additional revenue measure as it would help compensate for potential revenue losses due to a lowering of income taxes under the proposed code, Mr. Mukherjee said.
To get a sense of India's rural-urban union, drop in on a McDonald's restaurant in Andhra Pradesh, where hungry customers scan the brightly lit menu panel above the counter and line up to place orders. The eatery, nestled in a busy shopping mall in downtown Hyderabad, is unique: Most of the youngsters flipping burgers and taking orders are not city slickers, but employees recruited from India's rural belly. Take college dropout K. Bhargavi, 23, whose widowed mother runs a roadside sweet shop about 90 miles away, in Warangal, a district known for its granite quarries. The young McDonald's staffer had never ventured out of her village until just over a year ago, but now earns US$100 a month for nine-hour daily shifts at the golden arches an increase from the US$34 she made keeping accounts for self-help groups back home. Bhargavi wants to save enough money to go back to school in two years and then settle down in an arranged marriage. I am happy I came here, she says. I can now plan my life. For people like Bhargavi, there is no economic downturn, because they are being snapped up by India Inc. Rural recruits account for 70% of the employees at McDonald's restaurants in southern India today. Other big rural recruiters range from international firms such as IBM, Adidas and Vodafone to home-grown ones like telecoms giant Bharti Airtel, private-sector bank HDFC, and retailers Pantaloon and Aditya Birla Group. These companies are increasingly relying on rural India to staff their front and back offices in urban and semi-urban towns, but what's unusual about this rural regiment is that they are not just trained, but also placed in their jobs by a public-private partnership called the Employment Generation & Marketing Mission EGMM, headquartered in Hyderabad. The EGMM takes responsibility for the short-term training, while ensuring employment for each of its young job-seekers. Four years ago, the state government took over this project after it was launched by the World Bank, and it has since invested US$33 million to help get rural people out of poverty by providing them job opportunities outside their villages. It suits everybody: The state is able to bond with the electorate, companies get a readymade, minimum-wage workforce, and the poor secure jobs. It's a win-win situation for all the stakeholders, says Meera Shenoy, executive director of EGMM, who notes that the demand for rural labor continues to be strong despite the economic downturn. The program identifies tenth-grade youngsters in rural Andhra studying in free government schools. Their families, largely farmers, are at the bottom of the pyramid, earning less than US$2 a day. Some of the youth have been part of the assorted Indian technical institutes, the state-run vocational training entities that are often criticized for being out of sync with industry needs. In a country with a billion-plus population, an estimated 88.5 million people between the ages of 15 and 29 need to be trained. But only a very small fraction receives vocational training, according to Narendra Jadhav, a member of the government's Planning Commission. Consider what's in store for the world's largest pool of young people: Nearly 60% of India's population is under 25 years, according to a senior executive at the National Knowledge Commission, a government advisory body on higher education. For financial reasons, very few make it to college. Only 11% of those between 17 and 23 years old enroll in higher education. TeamLease, a staffing company in Bangalore, says 58% of India's youth are not prepared for work or suffer from some kind of skill deprivation. And while around 14 million people enter the workforce every year, only 7% work in the organized sector. In an attempt to cater to the demand for skilled workers, TeamLease branched out to train people in the lower-income population last year. But it soon realized that in the short term, you can't take jobs to people; you have to take people to jobs, says Manish Sabharwal, chairman of TeamLease. He notes that it is an uphill struggle: While the privatization of skills development is a key way to solve the problem, the bottom of the pyramid needs huge public policy intervention for training delivery and financing. Employers, he adds, are not ready to pay for training potential recruits, while candidates are unable to pay for training or jobs. Companies will pay fees for training only if they see value add, says Anamitra Deb, at Monitor Group.
Ready for Work
Much, then, depends on programs like EGMM that are funded by the state government, which also provides infrastructure support. We are not a human resources outfit. Our agenda is to take people out of poverty and provide jobs to first-generation workers, says Shenoy. Its priority is not to make money from placements, but to ensure that the young workers are fit for employment. Volunteers regularly trek into the deep interiors of the state to unearth youngsters who can be trained, groomed and packaged for an assortment of entry-level jobs in a range of sectors, including telecom, hospitality, manufacturing, retail and outsourcing. EGMM is more proactive; it talks to the industry and develops a curriculum which involves a lot of soft skills, says Monitor Group's Deb. This readymade labor is what global and Indian companies are happy to try. We don't have to scour local colleges to hire freshers' now, says McDonald's. So far, the Mission has set up around 280 training centers and placed over 225,000 youth and it is expected to double in size by the end of next year in the three large south Indian states of Andhra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The Mission provides a basic 75-day residential training program, which includes English and computer-skills classes, personal hygiene sessions and counseling. In Nellore district, 110 miles from Chennai, one training session has students participate in an exercise to understand the difference between a command and a request from a customer or a boss. Ashirvadam Munagapati, a teacher from a local school who conducts the exercise, believes such nuances are important if her students are training to be sales clerks in retail outlets, or manning the phones at a business process outsourcing business. We try and keep everything simple and practical, she says. Companies are impressed. When Hindustan Unilever, the Indian arm of Anglo-Dutch consumer goods company Unilever, launched its PureIt water filter in 2007 in southern India, it used local sales teams. The launch involved a foray into direct marketing, so Unilever sought youngsters who could be easily motivated to perform well in a market with entrenched brands like Philips and Eureka Forbes' Aquaguard. Using a village salesforce and providing jobs for the underprivileged also made good business sense. It's not about charity, but doing business. Doing well by doing good is more sustainable, says Yuri Jain, vice president of water business at Unilever. He declines to reveal sales figures, but says he plans to hire rural youth for other Indian markets, too. Unilever isn't unique. Pantaloon Retail, part of the Future Group stable, hired more than 500 villagers to work in their southern outlets. With 25 operating formats, the company's staffing requirement is huge 50,000 workers are needed by 2010, even as the global downturn has forced the retailer to scale back plans. Kripesh Hariharan, vice president of operations at Pantaloon, feels that training people from the bottom rung of the social ladder has a lot of benefits. They are more loyal and productive as it's a bread-and-butter job for them. These companies' hiring strategies are making a difference to their recruits too, both emotionally and financially. They not only provide them with a job, but also extricate them from their poor conditions. The rural staff earn anywhere from US$73 to US$250 a month, depending on the type of job. A familiar sight in some areas is Unilever's water filter sales force whizzing around local roads on motorbikes to close business deals. Just three years ago, V. Venkatesh, 23, and his farmer father struggled to support their family of four on a US$600 annual income in Gopalapuram village. After studying at the local technical institute, Venkatesh got sporadic work as an electrician, earning around US$44 a month. He wore flip flops, sported shoulder-length hair and had never worn a long-sleeved shirt. Thanks to Unilever, a confident Venkatesh now earns US$272 a month in pay and incentives and displays all the trappings of city life. He shares a leased apartment with friends, has invested US$1,740 in a half-acre plot in his village and pays a US$35 monthly installment for his US$1,304 Hero Honda bike. He's also ecstatic about hitting his sales target, which fetched him a reward a two-day trip to Goa a year ago. What's more, Venkatesh is hailed as a hero every time he rides into his village. With so much respect, I feel I have arrived, he says in the local language, Telugu. For people like Venkatesh, their aspirations go beyond just finding a good job. It's slipping into a new way of life as they carry their success stories back to the village, motivating others to learn and earn and drive out of poverty, says EGMM's Shenoy. Venkatesh's prosperity has inspired many of his village friends to enroll in the varied training centers set up by EGMM. The Mission guarantees jobs, which is comforting, he notes. That's one reason why this public-private partnership is working. The chances of success are bright, particularly given that the base from which these youth start is very low: They have never experienced city life, or been exposed to any kind of formal training that would make them eager to learn and earn. It is also fully funded by the state. Of the many poverty alleviation programs, this holds promise [because] it provides gainful employment to the poor, says K. Raju, principal secretary of rural development for the Andhra Pradesh government. For all the benefits, shifting from rural life to the urban glare can be a culture shock, as it's the first time most of the youngsters are away from home. When McDonald's managers went to interview EGMM recruits, none of the girls wanted to meet them because they thought McDonald's was a chain of bars. To minimize preconceived notions, the last 15 days of the program provide on-the-job training at prospective workplaces ranging from security agencies and telecom firms to pharmaceutical companies and retail outlets, to get a feel for the work environment and see what's expected of them. The familiarization helps them adapt to their new lives later. Two-thirds of India's population lives in the hinterland. The Mumbai-based Media Research Users Council, which tracks demographic data, says there are 122 million 20-to-25 year olds in India. Of these, 70 million are from the rural poor. More than 5,500 of those are employed at Apache, the Taiwanese original equipment manufacturer for Adidas shoes, sprawled over 313 acres in Tada village, three hours from Hyderabad. In the brick red and grey tiled factory, 14 production lines churn out over 400,000 shoes a month, making it one of the largest factories in India. Most of the people on the assembly line are unskilled and are provided on the job training, says Linda Shih, Apache's Chinese human resource manager. They work on shoe uppers, carve out rubber soles, quality check and even prepare shoes for export. But not everyone stays. At times, the corporate environment the monotony and fixed working hours takes a toll on workers. Shih says that the attrition rate is 35%. This puts the onus on EGMM to counsel and motivate the youngsters to hold on to their jobs. It has embarked on a campaign where supervisors at the workplace are encouraged to take their new recruits by the hand during their induction phase. There's also pressure to take the program to the next level, expanding deeper into the interiors of Andhra, including many tribal areas untouched by India's economic reform. The question now is how to scale the program and create a revolution around this, says Rama Bijapurkar, a Mumbai-based strategy consultant. For that to happen, the program has to spread its wings nationally. It also needs state government backing to fund the mission. Already, the central government has initiated programs to link rural youth to state-run organizations like the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development NABARD and Khadi Gram Commission, but their progress is far from encouraging. Middlemen and corrupt government officials don't allow the benefits to reach the unemployed, says Yuman Hussain, executive director of Kishanganj-based Azad India Foundation, a non-profit enterprise. Still, EGMM is a small but important start. According to one consultant: If other states are able to replicate the model, there could be enough ammunition [to] handle India's rural employment dilemma.
Joined: 05 October 2007
Prof. Anil Kumar Gupta, vice chairman of National Innovation Foundation (NIF) and founder of the Honey Bee Network, a knowledge network for augmenting grassroots innovation, has been diligently scouting for and documenting traditional practices as well as encouraging technologies in rural India since establishing this initiative in 1989. His efforts, which promote and cross-pollinate grassroots entrepreneurships, have resulted in more than 120,000 inventions so far. Prof. Gupta is also a top faculty at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, one of the best business schools in the country, for nearly three decades. started the Honey Bee Network in 1989. why and what your experiences have been these past 20 years
Anil Kumar Gupta
I have always been interested in the knowledge of people, but I wasn't very conscious of their innovative potential. Around 1979-80 I was a doing a study in Mahendragarh district, not far from Delhi, part of a project on action research in six drought prone districts and met a farmer, Ramnivas Sharma from Jhanjali Awas village in this regard. I remember he told me how he and other farmers understood how their crop would perform by looking at weeds and the flowering pattern of those weeds. Now that was very intriguing, that people had been able to establish a correlation between different species and that one of the species registered changes in the environment and climate much earlier than the other crop they were growing. Meaning, they were able to anticipate the manner in which the weather would unfold. Now, in a rained region understanding weather is the crux of the matter, it is like a gamble. It was not surprising that farmers had ways of identifying the weather, but for me it was intriguing. Then in 1985 I went to Bangladesh after a bureaucrat read a paper of mine on the sociology of land-use planning and spent a year helping scientists learn from poor people. I discovered such a great creativity among the tenants and landless farmers of Bangladesh that I was completely overawed. For my efforts I was paid in dollars. But when I returned home'see I was young, I come from a lower middle class frugal family, so when I was being paid in dollars, there was guilt. I asked myself the question : Did I get paid so well because I am a bright, brilliant professor, or because the people whom I wrote about were brilliant? If it was the latter, then logically my income-tax returns should have reflected the fact that at least a part of my income was a result of documenting other people's knowledge and that a share should go to them. But of course, there was no such thing. At the time, my friends used to accuse me of being a socialist-minded person interested in the exploitation of poor people by landlords and money lenders. It appeared now that I was also an exploiter. The moneylenders exploited the money market, landlords exploited the labor market, the traders exploited the commodity market, but I was an intellectual and I was exploiting the ideas market. I was taking the knowledge of people, writing about it, but very little of that went back to people because I wrote mostly in English, and people as you know, don't understand English language in villages. So, that created lot of guilt, which was traumatic for someone like me who thought he was very sensitive. A soul-searching began. I did a review of the literature on ethical dilemmas in value conflicts, I read a lot about Project Camelot. It occurred to me that while my dilemma was not unique, the solution would have to be. One day as I was returning, I don't know whether I saw a honey bee, but the thought came to my mind Honey bees do what intellectuals don't do. They collect nectar from flowers, but the flowers don't complain. In fact, flowers attract the honey bee. The bee not only connects one flower to another flower, but also does not keep the honey for itself. I realized that if I could share what I did with the people in their language, that is, give them credit and don't keep them anonymous, if I helped them learn from each other and if I did extract any rent from this effort, and if a reasonable share went back to them, then I could be like a honeybee. That would be an ethical, authentic way of living. I was already conscious about the creativity and knowledge of farmers, but the question was, how was one to frame that knowledge? So, from the first issue of the Honey Bee newsletter I wanted to create a culture where we would demystify ourselves. Instead of taking credit for other people's ideas, we would ask these people to write about their experiences
How much royalty Troika gave: Troika didn't give too much royalty, about 50,000 rupees ($1040) per year. But there was another case where six different technologies were licensed to a company in Hyderabad who dealt in herbal pesticides, where they gave advance royalty of 150,000 rupees-200,000 rupees. Some of the tribals in Dangs district (in Gujarat) had never seen a cheque of 25,000 rupees.
How many innovations today, and in what areas: We have 120,000 innovations, ideas and traditional knowledge practices in all 545 districts of India as well as in all areas energy, transport, agriculture, food processing, herbal drugs, veterinary drugs, human drugs, agricultural inputs, horticulture, utilities: All this is in the last 20 years: From 1988-89 to 1993 we had about 5000 innovations I got the Pew Conservation Scholar Award from the University of Michigan, $150,000 dollars for three years, which I used to do so many things which would have been impossible otherwise. In 1997 at an international conference of Creativity in Innovation at IIM, I asked whether Honey Bee or Sristi, another organization that we had set up, should stop documenting traditional practices because we were unable to do anything about the lives of poor people. That's when the Gujarat government came forward and we set up GIAN (Grassroots Innovation Augmentation Network). By 1998, we had reached the figure of 10,000 innovations. In 1999, I proposed to the government to set up a foundation which would scale up the work nationally. The National Innovation Foundation (NIF) came into being in 2000, but my proposal of 2,000 million rupees was whittled down to 200 million rupees, because, the government said, it had already spent a lot of money at Kargil when India and Pakistan fought an armed conflict. The idea was to scout and document, add value, do business development, fight patents, etc. Those goals are already in place. With the help of NIF we have been able to scale up many more times and innovations have gone up from 10,000 in 2000 to 120,000 in 2009. But our budget has remained constant. Then in 2003, we created the Macro Venture Innovation Fund with the help of the government-owned Small-scale Industry Development Board of India. In 2007 we started a special campaign for Children's Innovations, called IGNITE, for which we give awards away on October 15, the birthday of our former President Dr. Abdul Kalam. We have come across such wonderful ideas from children that it is mind boggling ! Meanwhile, we have a portal, www.techpedia.sristi.org, for technology projects by students, where we already have a database of 10,000 projects by students in all the major universities and colleges. The idea being to build a bridge between informal sector innovators and these students.
Able to build that bridge: Let me give you a few examples of bridging with outstanding results. We got a herbal drug for typhoid from Jharkhand which we gave to a virology lab of the Indian Council for Medical Research in Kolkata. The drug worked in patients otherwise resistant to the best drugs in the market. Now imagine what that means! It means that a typhoid organism which is becoming resistant is now being controlled by a herbal drug from Jharkhand. But how would the man who created this herbal drug ever understand the potential? So this bridge is necessary, to use the best of science to scrutinize and validate the best of informal science. If all goes well, we are on the threshold of a very good drug breakthrough.
Then there was a herbal fruit ripener from a Orissa tribal who used to use this leaf to ripen bananas. We were intrigued because this had never been recorded in literature. So, we gave this ripener to the top Central Science & Industrial Research lab in Mysore that is involved in food processing. They found something remarkable, especially since all the fruit ripening the world over is done by chemicals. The lab found that the leaf not only ripened the fruit, but also changed the ratio of reducing to non-reducing sugars. That is, good sugars like dextrose, maltose -- which our body needs, unlike sucrose and fructose which our body does not need as much -- were increased, while the bad sugars were decreased. That is, the fruit not only became sweeter but healthier. There is no report of this kind in the literature, that in the process of ripening you can also change the composition of sugar. This again is a breakthrough research. Similarly, there was a research done in the Institute of Himalayan Biodiversity Technologies , Palanpur, a CSIR lab, where they have a centre for excellence for herbal pesticides. There was a formulation of two or three plants from Gujarat having neem as one of the ingredients. Neem as we know controls pests, nothing special about that, but it is a very unstable compound. In light it decomposes very fast. So this scientist took each plant one by one. First he took 'neem,' which he exposed to ozone light for two minutes to 20 minutes. As the light exposure increased the diversion increased. But the moment he added another plant to the formulation it became a straight line, that is, it had stabilized the formulation. Now, there is no report of a herbal indigent stabilizing a chemical, a constituent of neem. This is also a first report of its kind.
Then there is the example of the Bombay Veterinary College which took up a lead from our database for mastisis, which is an infection in the udder of the cattle. We gave them a tube of this herbal formulation that we had developed based on the research that Bombay Veterinary College had done they found that it cured mastisis faster than any drug. Now a government-owned company in Karnataka called Karnataka Antibiotic is going to commercialize this drug.These examples show that the frontiers of science and technology are being pushed forward by grassroots innovators, not only in the resolution of problems but in an unprecedented manner. Our innovators have worked in veterinary medicine, food processing, herbal medicine, human medicine, as well as in several other areas, like energy in Assam, Mehtab Hussain and Mushtaq Hussain developed a bamboo windmill for pumping water only for 5,000 rupees. We brought it to Kutch (in Gujarat) to pump out salt water from the ground, as salt workers are the poorest of the poor and they had to spend 40,000 rupees to 50,000 rupees worth of diesel every season of six months. We modified the windmill, from bamboo to metal, and it now costs about 50,000 rupees, which the farmer will make free in two seasons because he will no longer need to buy the diesel. Less pollution, more renewable energy and the salt farmer becomes free of the clutches of money lenders.
The argument behind work is that small is beautiful. : Let me tell you one thing. Scale should never be made the enemy of sustainability. In other words, if some solutions don't diffuse do they become less legitimate?. Are problems of small communities less important than problems which affect a large number of people? Sustainability doesn't mean that the same solution applies everywhere, because nature is essentially diverse. But we are trying to remove diversity by scaling up solutions. When I say that one variety of a Green Revolution seed, or fertilizer or pesticide should be used everywhere, what I am really saying is that I don't recognize the diversity of the soil, the micro flora and fauna. To me everything is alike because I am treating it alike. But the truth is that it is not alike. By treating it as such, it creates more problems because what was not uniform is being treated as uniform, which means the dissimilarities and variabilities became more manifest. Today's farmers find it is so difficult to control disease because pests have become resistant to the pesticide, soils have become depleted of the micro-nutrients because we have been mining them for so long. This model is not sustainable.
how you document and disseminate the idea of diversity in a large country like ours:: We wish that every village has a Village Knowledge Register. In fact I have argued that under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, where the government is spending 390 billion rupees to give 100 days of employment to 250 million people, each person should spend 10 days out of the 100 days in mapping the knowledge of their community. Now, imagine, in a country of India's size, the mind of that society will be mapped by 250 million people every year ! Every year new ideas will come, new efforts will be made, new breeds and insects surface, other insects and birds disappear We will be able to map biological resources, the human mind, our cultural diversity, folk tales, put it on the web, create e-commerce platforms Ideally you should be connecting with private industry : Well, I went to Ludhiana for our cycle-based innovations because I thought Ludhiana was the cycle capital of the country. Young Munjal of Hero Honda was in the chair but he didn't bother, because as he said to me very honestly over dinner, Look Professor, we are doing good business and making a lot of money, where is the need for us to change? They were being honest. Their aspirations didn't imply that they needed to change the way market works because that is the right way, or because a lot of people can generate jobs by using the cycle for lot of other things. They believe that the cycle can only be used for transportation, when in fact it can be used for spraying pesticide and pumping water! They don't realize that ! We have innovations where the cycle is used for sprayers, as well as for generating energy Who is going to develop those attachments to the cycle? But it is not in the interest of big manufacturers. I was told by Munjal, you don't change gears when the going is good. I said yes, you are right. So do you want me to wish that your going becomes bad so that you listen to me? I wouldn't like to wish you that !
Big business is disinterested in small innovations: Yes. The Tatas went to France to get compressed air technology, but Kanak Gogoi in Guwahati has made a car which runs on compressed air, not fuel, and costs 0.06 rupees per kilometer . The Tatas went to France to get this technology. I wrote to the executive director of Tata Sons the same day I read about his trip in the newspapers, but he didn't reply. I felt so sad about it. Big business is simply not interested. I was on the jury of the Tata Innovation Awards last year, what can be a big honor than that? I was judging the technologies of Tata companies all over the world, Corus and what have you, along with space scientist Kasturirangan and one more person. They had asked us to invite two innovators, so I invited an automobile innovator from Guwahati, Shivshankar Mandal, who has made a modification in the three wheeler engine to make it more fuel efficient. But Tata Motors were not interested.
There was also a sanitary napkin machine innovator from Tamil Nadu. Now only 5% rural women use sanitary napkins and we know the kind of hygiene problems that exist. This man makes it for 1.50 rupees to two rupees per napkin and he has designed a vending machine for it, but he has only sold about 57 such machines to different groups in India in 7 states. Which Self-Help Group, which Federation, which women's organization, or ministry is interested? None.
Why they are not interested: Incidentally, we have sold technologies to several countries abroad My feeling is that once some of these foreign companies begin to use them, Indian companies will follow. Thing is, India is a free country but our minds are still colonized. People still feel that good technology still comes from abroad.
You have to position your work differently: Perhaps. We have so far got 57 licenses, but we have shown that even if big business isn't interested, small entrepreneurs are. In fact, several small entrepreneurs have paid large sums of money for the right to manufacture and market technologies which have not even been patented, when they could copy them. We have proved the unthinkable, that the small entrepreneur in this country are ethical men and women.: But why isn't government interested either: Well, we hope that government schools will be.The problem with government is that they are not comfortable with a diversified model like ours, they are much more comfortable with a uniform, centralized dispensation. But our day will come. We have filed 220 patents in India and have been granted 35, while 5 have been granted in the U.S. One community which has given us a lot of help is the lawyer community. Intellectual property rights lawyers don't charge us commercial fees, Boston Consulting didn't even charge us a single paisa. They have given us about $100,000 worth of time free. Perhaps, in the last 20 years we may have done a good job with scouting and innovation, but we need to do an equally great job with dissemination.
How to you make the connection from grassroots to global: A lot of institutions abroad teach what we do, at Harvard, MIT and at George Washington University. These faculties send their students to us I will be honest, our models and our strategies are taught much more abroad than at home.
How does cross-pollination works: Often technologies can have cross-sectoral applications. For example, the technology discovered by a groundnut digger from Rajasthan was bought by an entrepreneur in Visakhapatnam for making a sea-beach cleaner. The groundnut-digger collects the groundnuts, sieves the soil and keeps the nuts. Similarly, the sea-beach collects the sand, sieves the debris and moves on. The general principle is, the farther the domain of application from the domain of origin, the higher rent you can extract. Secondly, there are a lot of poor people even in developed countries. For example, Remya Jose from Palghat, Kerala has made a washing machine-cum-exercising machine, where the act of pedaling the stationary cycle runs the machine which washes clothes..We have received many queries from the U.K. and U.S. about this !
Just like high technology can be self-innovating or blended, so can grassroots entrepreneurship: Yes, our argument is very simple. We should not be heard on compassionate grounds, but on the grounds of efficiency, affordability and inclusiveness, that we are able to bring solutions to people who otherwise remain untouched by the solutions available in the market place today. Pay attention to us not because we work with poor people, and that is why you should buy our products, but because we make economic sense. We don't want compassionate buying.
The concept, technology commons or creative commons: We argue that when technology moves from person to person, then copying should not only be allowed but encouraged, but not when it moves from person to company, or company to company. We don't want intellectual property rights to prevent one farmer from learning from another farmer.
The IP system itself should be reformed: Yes, we believe we should have a shorter term, quicker protection for implemental innovations and that a lot of people can be given non-exclusive rights at very low licensing cost so that you get a polycentric model, where a large number of entrepreneurs make products in different markets for different users. It may appear utopian, you might call this a Gandhian dream. But after 20 years I have at least earned the right to dream !
Risk of sacrificing grassroots content when you go international: No, on the contrary. Question is, what can people maximize if not their knowledge and values, and what can they minimize if not their material? So we are doing what sustainability requires, that is, knowledge-intensive innovations, not material-intensive innovations. We are doing what the world needs. The world needs fewer materials because more materials cause entropy, and entropy as you know, is the second law of thermodynamics that causes disorder. All the junk in the world, all the pollution is because of materials. If you use less material you have less pollution, less junk, less load on the environment. So from the point of view of sustainability, we need to have more knowledge and not less. This is the only thing the poor have in abundance. So they maximize that and minimize the materials because that is what is scarce. You don't expect poor people to maximize material because they don't have it in the first place. Second, there is no chance of grassroots knowledge being marginalized. In areas like herbal pesticides, veterinary medicine, herbal medicine, food processing, etc, grassroots knowledge is going to provide the answer for the sustainable lifestyle of urban consumers.
Isn't this completely contradictory to the laws of economics?: No. For example, if you knew that the pain in your joints or your mother's joints is caused, among other things, by boron deficiency and boron is much more prevalent in the local varieties of maize than hybrid maize, and that the varieties of maize that are grown on dry land have more boron because the soil contains more boron'So, instead of taking action after the problem occurs, if you start eating maize from dry lands something people in Africa have known for years you will hugely reduce the incidence of joint pains which is a chronic problem in our country. It will save you the burden of costly treatment. Why should this be against the law of economics? It may be against the law of the current market-based models where the more democratic forms of health, which is preventive, is under-invested and the more costly forms of health, which is curative, is over-invested. That is true. That market will not accept what I am saying. But who cares !
Market based economics argues that you have to spend more to earn more, which basically means that your usage of materials or resources goes up: Look, go to any mall in Delhi and you will get one kind of tomato, one kind of cucumber, one kind of brinjal, because that is the best way to optimize your supply chain and display. But don't tell me that there aren't five different kinds of nutrient combinations that cannot be grown by five different communities. Problem is, all the documents on marketing only discuss verticals, but what is wrong with discussing horizontals?. For example, shouldn't one village buy products from another village, especially if that village grows more of banti, nagli or some local millet and this village grows more vegetables because it is better irrigated? Why shouldn't there be trade between the villages? Because, that will require a different supply chain ! So I say, just redesign the markets!
Against the laws of globalization: I am arguing against the laws of globalization as they have evolved so far. But I am not against globalization. Otherwise grassroots to global cannot work. I am saying that markets for niche products, nationally and internationally, need to emerge. Nature is diverse and the world should be diverse. The world is interesting because it is diverse. Wine is a good example of a product where market has favored diversity. There are wineries only 100 acres large which produce only 1000 bottles of wine a year. Similarly, with honey, which can be based on the jasmine or mango or other flowers These two are my favorite examples, where markets have reinforced diversity and small scale sourcing but with global scale consumption.
India has changed in these 20 years, we have become much more homogenous: We have become much more Westernized. Don't use the word homogenous. You are using Westernization as a proxy for homogenization. When I go to the villages I find a lot of young people who are beginning to ask questions about change, how to bring about change that will suit them most, not by simply aping others. In December 2007, I was in a village in Bankura in West Bengal and a young boy called Bappi Roy came up with the idea of producing a four-sided television set so that the village could sit around it'We have filed a patent for him and are now in the act of getting such a TV fabricated. It doesn't matter whether the idea succeeds or not, the point is that the idea came from Bappi Roy of Vasudha village in Bankura, not from Samsung or Philips.
Those are very Gandhian ideas: I would say that what is good in Gandhi is that he talked about the distributive, polycentric model of development, which means that a large number of small and medium enterprises should be involved in solving problems. I have nothing against large corporations, but I think a democracy requires large number of sources of entrepreneurial growth. Any monopolies of any kind are antithetical to democracy. I am a democrat, I want this society to remain democratic. Grassroots innovators guarantee democracy the best.
Rural India has been able to tolerate this recession in creative ways: Well, I will tell you, rural folk are more concerned about each other, and have been exchanging information, goods and services even more. There are places where the rains have failed or nearly failed, there is a very great crisis of that kind but there is also much more resilience. For us, one or two years of great meltdown shock us. For poor people, for whom droughts take place three out of five years, this is a way of life. Poor people are far more resilient and therefore they are able to somehow manage. It is true that every time there is a crisis they dispose of some of their assets and become poorer. But at the same time those who talk about the poor at the base of the growing economic pyramid as consumers'I say to these people, look at the poor as providers, many may be at the bottom of the economic pyramid, but many are also at the top of the innovation pyramid.
Here's another tall order for New Delhi ahead of next summer's Commonwealth Games: the government wants nice auto-rickshaw drivers.Earlier this month, India's tourism ministry announced that it will train 8,000 of these three-wheeled drivers to be polite to passengers. The training entails teaching of English, traffic rules and even Yoga. The first batch of rickshaw students represents a little more than 10% of the total on the road these days, so don't expect a major transformation any time soon. In fact, rickshaw drivers will tell you that English and Yoga lessons miss the point. Their bad behavior is an economic, not a cultural problem. Most will admit that they overcharge and cheat customers because what they earn from a meter doesn't come close to a living wage. That's especially true if bribes to police or officials are counted. Rickshaw drivers say they live in fear of getting fined for pollution violations, since the amount can be several times one's monthly salary. So incensed were auto rickshaw drivers about heavy fines and bribes that they recently went on strike. Also playing into the economics of rickshaw rudeness is the relatively scarce supply of these three-wheelers. Following a court order in 1997, the government froze the number of three-wheelers at 82,000. So with public transport still lacking and private cars still out of reach for many city residents the rickshaw drivers have a lot of leverage to use, and abuse. All this suggests that maybe the government's quest for kinder, gentler rickshaw drivers should start with the government's own regulations. Lift rickshaw fares so drivers go by the meter; ease caps on how many autorickshaws can be on the roads to reduce incentives for bribing officials; and strengthen licensing standards to ensure a better-quality driver on the road. Corruption, as usual, is at the core of the problem. Police and officials who are caught accepting bribes from rickshaw drivers must be punished, in ways that will make them think twice about commiting such offenses in the future. Perhaps they should be forced to join the drivers in their Yoga classes.
Joined: 05 October 2007
People spend like crazy, says Achinto Bose, has invited Indian wedding planners on junkets to such scenic locations as the beach-resort island of Langkawi. Thailand and Macau are also trying to drum up business. an events planner in Ahmedabad that helped plan the Mutha wedding in Macau, says it has arranged a dozen weddings outside India since 2006. Mr. Mutha, 49, owns food-commodity trading and real-estate companies. One of his proudest emblems of success is under glass in a corner of his living room in Pune a sculpted elephant decorated with 24-karat gold and Swarovski crystals. It was a gift from the grateful management of the InterContinental Bangkok hotel, the site of his daughter's wedding. For the marriage of his son to Niyati Karia, a 26-year-old jewelry designer, Mr. Mutha made six trips to Macau to pick a hotel for the wedding and make plans. He settled on the MGM Grand, mostly because it was willing to give the group unfettered access to its kitchen. The bride's father, Yogesh Karia, a Pune construction-company owner, also favored Macau, the former Portuguese enclave, now a gambling mecca. His daughter met the Muthas' son while shopping for shoes. They asked their parents to arrange a marriage. The engagement was finalized in August 2007, a few months before Mr. Karia visited Macau. All told, the wedding, held in July 2008, was 11 months in the planning. Once we decided about the marriage, both of us [fathers] had the destination' concept in mind, says the 57-year-old Mr. Karia. We wanted something different, something exclusive. Mr. Mutha paid for the wedding guests to fly to Macau; in-flight hand towels and toothpicks were printed with special wedding logos. The Karia family footed the bill for hotel accommodations.In India's multireligious, multicultural society, there's no set agenda for weddings. Some last a single day; others go on for many days with rounds of rituals and entertainment. Each community has its own rites. The Muthas are adherents of Jainism. Believers eat a strict vegetarian diet that excludes onions, garlic and potatoes; dietary restrictions added complexity to arranging the ceremony outside India. For the team of chefs and kitchen assistants flown to Macau from Ahmedabad in northern India, the first order of business was to sterilize the hotel's kitchen, removing any trace of carnivorous Chinese feasts. Set decorators, choreographers, hairdressers and photographers were imported. Artists who apply henna to the hands of the bride and her friends during a special party were summoned from India. A pandit was brought from New Delhi to officiate at the wedding. All told, 250 support staff, including the culinary team, were flown to Macau. The $4 million-plus price, which Mr. Karia cites, is about double the average price of an overseas Indian wedding these days. Costs can climb as high as $30 million. Relatively modest weddings start at about $300,000. A highlight of the traditional wedding pageantry is the groom's entrance on a white horse or on an elephant. Gurleen Puri, a Mumbai wedding planner who assisted with the Macau nuptials, says that because there was no elephant in Macau, the wedding party wanted to bring one in. But Macau authorities turned down the request for an import permit. Ultimately, the Muthas settled for a local horse and a brown one at that. The cost was more than $5,000 for the groom to make his 20-minute debut in the saddle. Other transportation included a white 1950s MG that was leased in Hong Kong and brought to Macau by ferry to be used in the wedding procession for about 25 minutes. The tab? Nearly $10,000. An essential ritual for Hindus and Jains is called the pheras, where the bride and groom circle an open fire seven times, symbolizing the vows a couple makes. The parents had to sign contracts indemnifying the hotel against fire damage. llowing the Macau wedding, Mr. Mutha flew to several destinations to check out possible venues for his daughter's wedding. Besides the Thai resorts of Koh Samui and Hua Hin, he visited Istanbul, Bali, Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi. Mr. Mutha and his wife settled on Bangkok for its museums and temples and good shopping close to the InterContinental. Planning the event took less time four months than for the one in Macau because Mr. Mutha knew the ropes. He won't say how much he spent on his daughter's wedding to Mukul Bafana, who lives in the U.S., but he says it cost more than the Macau wedding, mostly because of the celebrity entertainers flown from India, including the famed team Vishal Dadlani and Shekhar Ravjiani, who sing and direct music for Bollywood films. Mr. Mutha paid for the hotel rooms in Bangkok for 550 guests and 290 support staff. The families transported all sorts of paraphernalia needed for the ceremonies, including four long swords that are used in a ritual by male relatives who swear to protect the bride, and kumkum, powder for marking foreheads. A traditional white horse was found in Bangkok to perform the groom's entrance, and the open-fire ritual was observed. Wowed by the horses, marching bands and Bollywood entertainers on display at the Macau and Bangkok weddings, Mr. Karia's 23-year-old son, Mit, who recently got engaged, says: I want something like that. When you get married in your own city, the wedding becomes a fish market, he says, pointing to the weddings in Mumbai and New Delhi that bulge with 1,000 or more guests because of social obligations. And with weddings sometimes back-to-back, one celebrations can blend into another. Young Mr. Karia is considering getting married in Singapore next year. His father knows it will be time to up the ante, given a guest list with many of the same faces. And the Karias are determined to outdo themselves. Obviously, says the senior Mr. Karia, the invitees will expect more than the last one. That's basic human nature.
India bribing their way to the top
Indian companies play active role in global business, but they also routinely engage in bribery when doing business abroad, a global corruption report said. As per the annual report, 30% of the respondents indicated that companies from India are likely to bribe low-level public officials in order to speed things up, not only in India, but abroad as well.
India to get Renault car made by Nissan
French car maker Renault SA, which posted a $3.8 billion loss in the first half of this year, has decided to use the compact car platform of its partner, Nissan, to launch its compact car in India. The move will help the beleaguered company sell compact cars in India without incurring huge product development expenditures. Instead, both cars will be manufactured at the Chennai plant that is under construction and will have common production lines and component sourcing facilities.
Rising fiscal deficit not sustainable: FM
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today said the country's GDP growth might exceed 6 per cent in the current financial year, but a rising fiscal deficit was not sustainable in the long term. The government has stepped up its development outlay to the extent of 39 per cent, and we had to finance not through our own resources but through borrowed resources. But this level of deficit is not sustainable in the long run, he said at the the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry here.
Free treatment to weaker sections in hospitals on govt land
Delhi Government will soon set up a mechanism to ensure that private hospitals built on subsidised government land provide free treatmentto economically weaker sections of the society in the city. The move came a day after Delhi High Court directed Indraprastha Apollo hospital to reserve at least 200 beds for free treatment to poor patients and imposed a fine of two hundred thousand rupees on it for not complying with the land lease agreement.
UTV sends legal notices to Adlabs, UFO
UTV Software Communications has sent legal notices to Adlabs Films, an R-ADAG company, and UFO Moviez, demanding compensation of Rs 50 million each for allegedly facilitating piracy of the film What's Your Rashee. The master print of the UTV-produced film, which is scheduled to release, was earlier stolen and the Mumbai crime branch has arrested six people, including Durgadas Bhakta, business development manager, and Rajesh Chowdhry, associate VP digital mastering, in connection with it.
India urges G20 to shun protectionism, US pushes plan
India's prime minister called on Group of 20 nations on Wednesday to send a strong warning against protectionism this week as world leaders seek to shore up a tentative global recovery and prevent future economic crises. G20 host nation the United States slapped tariffs on Chinese-made tyres earlier this month, reviving fears of a tit-for-tat round of protectionist measures that risk strangling trade and plunging the global economy back into recession.
Without India there can be no deal on climate change
President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso has said there can be no global agreement on climate change without India on board. Without India we really cannot do it, Barroso said, adding that he has been in constant communication with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other top Indian leaders in this regard.
Moily's Mission: Cut case life from 15 years to 1 year
In a country where courts take decades to deliver verdicts, this is sure to sound audacious. Law minister Veerappa Moily is attempting the unthinkable reducing the life of litigation from an average 15 years at present to one year, and that too in just three years from now.
Mumbai dump gets Rs 260 million in carbon
In a landmark for carbon financing in India, the municipal corporation of Greater Mumbai has earned Rs 260 million for the scientific closure of a garbage dumping ground. The cheque from the Asia Carbon Fund of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is an advance for future delivery of carbon credits. The money essentially is for the capture and combustion of methane gas emanating from the dump which results in a substantial reduction of greenhouse emissions. Before giving the money though, the ADB had the project scrutinised by independent validators.
Nacil not to restructure deal with Airbus, will stick to original plan
State-owned carrier National Aviation Co. of India Ltd, or Nacil, which operates flag carrier Air India, has dumped its plan to restructure a deal to buy Airbus A320 planes from European plane maker Airbus SAS, and will stick to its original plan of inducting 15 planes by the end of 2010. Air India had asked us for a plan for restructuring. We presented the proposal. But they decided on the initial plan, Kiran Rao, executive vice-president for sales and marketing at Airbus, said.
Joined: 05 October 2007
Krishna goofs up on Taliban, govt denies it
Is India making significant changes in its Afghan policy? Confusion prevailed here after foreign minister S M Krishna was quoted as saying that India favoured a political settlement with the Taliban. Although Krishna was nowhere quoted as making that direct connection, he meant a settlement with the Taliban.
JLR unveils new plans for revamp, unions restive
Tata Motors-owned Jaguar Land Rover today unveiled what it called a new business plan for the next decade, under which it will invest substantially in a new range of eco-friendly vehicles. The plan, designed to increase global competitiveness, drive growth and sustain profitability, envisages an investment of 800 million over Rs 6,200 crore on environmental innovation alone, part-supported by the European Investment Bank.
Ford inks $500 million deal with Tamil Nadu govt
Ford Motor Company today signed an agreement with the Tamil Nadu government for the $500-million expansion programme at its manufacturing facility at Maraimalai Nagar a city suburb. This would help the company expand its presence in India, paving the way for volume production of the new Ford Figo which was unveiled yesterday in New Delhi.
Mamata gets Left support on land bill
Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee's demand for farmers' right to get back their acquired land has found support from an unexpected quarter her arch rival in West Bengal, the CPI(M)! Banerjee's party has decided to support the contentious Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill currently in the UPA's cold storage only if some key changes are incorporated in the Bill like legal right for farmers to get back their land and total transparency in private buying of land.
India may agree with US model on growth strategy
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived here on Thursday to attend the G-20 Summit amidst reports that the United States has succeeded in hammering out a consensus on the need for policies that are collectively consistent with more sustainable and balanced trajectories for the global economy.
Reliance Infra IPO can mop up Rs 50 billion
Reliance Infratel, the company that manages all the telecom towers of Reliance Communications, has revived its plans to list the company and filed the draft prospectus with the market regulator Sebi. Reliance Infratel is selling 156 million shares or 10% of its equity, through this IPO. Market sources said the IPO could target top mop up about Rs 50 billion. This would be the second IPO from the ADA Group in the last two years, after Reliance Power went public in early 2008.
Nissan plans compact car hub in Chennai
Japan's Nissan Motor plans to make India one of its key manufacturing locations for its compact cars, which include products such as Micra. Low operational costs and the growing importance of India in compact car manufacturing makes it an attractive proposition to make India a hub, said K Tokuyama, MD & CEO, Nissan Motor India.
Gucci exits JV with Murjanis
Luxury brand Gucci has parted ways with its Indian franchisee Vijay Murjani, which is also the distributor of premium brands Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and French Connection in India. Gucci now has a franchise agreement with investment banker Ashok Wadhwa's Luxury Goods Retail and is in the process of converting it into a 51:49 joint venture.
India says won't sign NPT
India has refused to abide by the UN Security Council resolution asking all non-NPT nations to sign the pact, saying it cannot accept the externally prescribed norms or standards on issues that are contrary to its national interests or infringe on its sovereignty. India maintained that it cannot join the NPT as a non-weapon country even as it reiterated its commitment to no testing and no-first-use besides non-discriminatory universal non-proliferation.
Airport facelift cost doubles
The modernization cost of the airports at Delhi and Mumbai is set to almost double to nearly Rs200 billion, with passengers to continue to foot the bill for the steep escalation in the privatization projects kicked off in 2006. The increased costs are disclosed in letters written by the developers to the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India Aera and reviewed by Mint. The Delhi airport upgrade is estimated to cost about Rs105 billion and could escalate further, while the Mumbai airport upgrade has been put at Rs 98 billion
Discussion_Indian serials & Indian values
Author: Bonheur Replies: 58 Views: 6339
|Bonheur||58||6339||14 January 2008 at 4:41pm by Aahaana|
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