Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Sabeer's dream city - Nano City

Sabeer Bhatia ( Hotmail fame) dreams big . This time its really big. His next exciting project is to build a Nano city near Gurgaon. In a Q&A with Red Herring he details his plans:

In April, he announced that he will invest time (and possibly money) in a wide-reaching business venture in the state of Haryana, near New Delhi in northern India. Dubbed “Nano City,” the public-private partnership aims to build a Silicon Valley-inspired city where entrepreneurs, technology workers, and venture capitalists co-exist in a bid to spur innovation.The details are still being worked out, but Nano City will neighbor the town of Gurgaon, where more than 20 percent of Fortune 500 companies have already set up shop. Mr. Bhatia will serve as “chief visionary and rainmaker” of the project, helping with everything from conceptualization and city planning to marketing the city to the rest of the world.

Here is the URL to the interview.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Do You Want Fries With That?

Government has relaxed retail FDI norms for single brands! Though the move is a compromise, it still is a significant step forward. So far International retailers have been able to operate in India only through franchise arrangements with local partners. We sure can see many more Indians queuing up for Big McMaharaja with extra cheese, large fries and Diet Coke!!

However, it is too early to celebrate on the arrival of your favourite Mocha. The devil lies in the detail - got to wait till the policy paper is out. This may very well be just a symbolic announcement given the on-going Davos summit, which has "India Everywhere" spin to it. (What a waste of tax payers’ money). More on this sham later.

It is a disappointment not to see Wall-Mart in India. It is true that one shot liberalisation would have affected the so called mom-and-pop stores. However, government could have opened retail market, at least, in tier 1 cities. Indian leftists, together with India’s over protected industrial houses, opposed opening up. But wouldn’t Reliance getting into retail destroy mom-and-pop stores? Why should pantaloon be permitted to run its retail venture (Big Bazaar) with a 7% margin, when global margin is about 2-3%? Where are the so called "Marxists/Leninists/Maoists", who fight for the rights of Proletariats?

I am involved in running vegetarian restaurants in Mysore and I gladly welcome the new competition. Instead of customers getting "dining out" fatigue, new competition will give them more options and variety. This helps us too.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

HCL Tech bags Rs 1,500-cr deal from European co — To provide total outsourcing services to DSG

A small step for HCL but a giant leap for Indian Outsourcing Industry.Indian firms gain a foothold into the "total outsourcing services" .

BusinessLine reports, "IN what is being billed as the biggest contract won by an Indian IT company, HCL Technologies has bagged a Rs 1,500-crore ($333 million) five-year co-sourcing deal to provide total outsourcing services to Europe's leading electrical retailer, DSG International.

"This is the biggest deal signed by an Indian IT company, and is also the first total IT outsourcing deal involving the taking over of a department of a large multi-billion dollar corporation. This is also the largest infrastructure management deal ever signed," said Mr Vineet Nayar, President, HCL Technologies.

The outsourcing deal would entail system development, application delivery and infrastructure support, industry sources said.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Child rights - the first steps

The young nation finally wakes up to protect its young. If all goes well, The Child rights bill would become law with the pending presidential nod. 430 million Indians (Children) would be covered by this bill. Its incredible that it has taken us this long to formulate something like this. But at least now the intent is right. But can it be implemented ? That is another huge challenge. But If India wants to become a "superpower" it cannot ignore the young - the leaders of tomorrow.

Outlook writes, " India's future—its 430 million children—can finally look forward to being treated as individuals and granted their due rights.

This will be ensured by the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Bill 2005, passed in Parliament in December last year. The commission is slated to become functional from March this year, post a formal presidential nod. It will examine and review the safeguards for the protection of child rights and look into matters relating to children in need of special care and protection. This will include those in distress, in conflict with law, juvenile delinquents, children without family and children of prisoners. It will recommend appropriate remedial measures, all of which have been spelt out for the first time in the bill. The commission also has the mandate to examine all factors that curtail the rights of children affected by terrorism, communal violence, riots, natural disaster, domestic violence, HIV/AIDS and human trafficking.

And rumour has it that it has acted now fearing censure from the UN. Being a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on December 11, 1992, India was bound to come out with an action plan. But everyone working with children is agreed that the bill is a positive first step.Child rights activists have all along confronted the government with startling statistics on the status of Indian children. Nearly 17 million children have to work for a living, many of them in hazardous environments. Close to 30 per cent of the two million sex workers are under-age. Yet only 3 per cent of the GDP goes towards welfare schemes targeted at children. Less than half of India's 430 million children go to schools. Faced with the appalling statistics, the child development department under the Union ministry of human resources and development has finally done something."

India launches IT workers register

Will it succeed ? With demand outpacing supply, companies might tend to overlook this. But its a start.

FT reports, " Nasscom, India's software employers’ organisation, launched a nationwide register of IT employees on Wednesday, aimed at preventing security breaches.

The register, believed to be the first of its kind, will include workers’ photographs, fingerprints, signatures, passport numbers, educational backgrounds and employment histories. The database will be voluntary for workers but employers may choose to hire only those on the register.Mr Mehta said he expected 1.3m workers covering 1,000 companies to be registered within 12 to 18 months. Employee data are to be refreshed every five years.

IT companies Satyam Computer Services, Tata Consultancy Services and Mphasis have already mobilised employees to sign up. The database will be monitored by independent background checkers, such as KPMG and Quest Research."

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Mother of all Sibling rivalry ends tomorrow!

Probably one of the most complex financial engineering projects to end a sibling rivalry will be underway tommororw (18th) at 8 am (IST). Indian investment community is on the edge. If one bought 100 RIL shares before 18th, they will be getting five Reliance Energy, seven Reliance Capital and 100 shares each in the two unlisted companies - Reliance Communication Venture (infocom) and Global Fuel Management. However, many people wanted to wait till 18th to buy "pure oil" play RIL. Speculation is rife, some numbers I have noticed: RIL will correct by 200, 250, 275, 300, 350, 400. Going by hysteria and heuristics in Indian financial markets, God only knows which way RIL will go. Regardless, it should be one heck of a price discovery! Finally it will the markets that will divide & allocate wealth between Ambanis!
Log on to BSE and NSE websites to watch the market in action!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Making a Difference

To make a difference, you do not need money but definitely strong will. Outlook profiles Mr.Amit Hazra who has been striving for more than 25 years to make Kolkata a green city.

" His trees have changed the face of Calcutta's streets. Yet, he prefers to remain in the shade.He’s had to fight court cases and tolerate apathy and indifference to provide a green cover to his decrepit North Calcutta locality. And yet, twenty-six years of toil hasn’t fatigued this ‘green warrior’ who has single-handedly planted and nurtured thousands of trees that now form a green canopy over large parts of Calcutta’s concrete jungle. Especially the arterial Vivekananda Road that now sports large shade trees.

Amit Nath Hazra, 43, embarked on his mission in 1979. A grade IV employee in a private firm, he invests a large portion of his Rs 3,000 salary on Calcutta’s future. "I buy year-old saplings, plant and nurture them," says Hazra. He’s never received any monetary help and has declined awards, preferring to remain anonymous. "I have my share of well-wishers, but my detractors outnumber them," he says nonchalantly.

From the very beginning, he had to face opposition."Many people never understood what I was doing—I was purchasing saplings, digging pits along roads and planting them. For some For some unfathomable reason, people didn’t like me doing it. Under the cover of darkness, they used to destroy the fencings and uproot the saplings. People have even cut down trees that I once planted. Such incidents are painful. These trees are like my children."As Hazra saunters down Vivekananda Road, he points to every tree he has planted. Many are fully grown while others are fledglings. He has constructed concrete benches at the bases of the trees for people to take a short breather.The road is one of the very few in Calcutta that remains cool during the sweltering summer, thanks to the lush green cover courtesy Hazra.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Chidambaram voted Asia's best FM of 2005

Indian Express reports, "Finance Minister P Chidambaram has been named the Finance Minister of the year 2005 for Asia by Banker magazine for pushing reforms and reining in fiscal deficit.The Financial Times group magazine applauded Chidambaram for his determined pursuit of reforms, but said it is not just that which earned him the award.

According to the magazine, he is unapologetic for the fact that democracy--coalition partners, the Opposition and a free press that all have to be listened to and carried along--is the main reason why reform has not been swifter.In India, successfully making the case for reform is far more of a skill than knowing what reform to seek, the magazine said."