Sep 27, 2008

India - Terror back in Delhi

New Delhi (PTI): Terror returned to Delhi a fortnight after the serial blasts with two motorcycle-borne youth dropping a tiffin bomb in a crowded south Delhi market that exploded killing a young boy and injuring 18 people.
Riding a black motorcycle, the two men in black dress and wearing helmets, dropped a black polythene bag containing a tiffin box opposite an electronic goods shop in the flower market in Mehrauli at about 2.15 pm, Deputy Commissioner of Police (South) H S Dhaliwal told reporters.
A 13-year-old boy picked it up to give it back to the bikers. They refused and fled the place but the boy was still keen on giving it to them when it exploded killing him instantaneously and injuring 18 others.
Eleven of the injured were rushed to AIIMS where doctors said six were in critical condition. Five of them suffered serious head injuries. Three or four of the injured could be required to be operated upon, Union Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta told reporters.
The explosive shattered the window panes of several adjacent shops in the market located close to the historic Qutab Minar, which was bustling with shoppers.
The blast, which caused a crater, left a gory scene where blood was splattered on the road along with shattered glass panes and furniture.
The explosion comes exactly two weeks after the national capital was rocked by five near simultaneous blasts in which 24 people were killed.
There were reports that police in the neighbouring Faridabad district in Haryana had tipped off about the possibility of explosions on Saturday but Gupta asked the media not to speculate.
Soon after the explosion, Home Minister Shivraj Patil reviewed the situation with top officials of his ministry. Gupta, who talked to Delhi Police Commissioner Y S Dadwal, briefed Patil on the situation.
The nature of the explosives used in on Saturday's blast was not immediately known. Forensic experts of the NSG bomb data squad, who visited the spot, found the nails in the explosives were sharpened on both sides.
Immediately after the explosion, shopkeepers and shoppers rushed to help the injured people and took them to nearby hospitals.
"There was a huge sound. I came out of my shop and saw some people were injured and screaming for help," a shopkeeper said.
People in the area displayed their anger by alleging that police came late despite being called several times.
"Police were nowhere to be seen till one hour after the incident. We took the injured to the hospital," a shopkeeper, who was injured in the incident, said.
Police have cordoned off the area and senior police officials have rushed to the spot to take stock of the situation.

Business - Reliance BIG Music ties up with Paramount

MUMBAI: BIG Music & Home Entertainment (BMHE), part of the Reliance-Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, has entered into a licensing agreement with Paramount Home Entertainment of Hollywood, the company announced on Saturday.
The deal provides BIG Music the exclusive distribution rights for Paramount home video productions in India and Sri Lanka.
Paramount home video library includes productions of DreamWorks Animation SKG, DreamWorks Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Paramount Vintage, MTV Films and Nickelodeon Movies.
The library contains movies ranging from classics like "The Godfather" series, "The Ten Commandments" and "Roman Holiday" to contemporary blockbusters like "The Mission Impossible" series and "Transformers".
BIG Music had earlier signed similar agreements with Warner Home Video and Universal Pictures to market and distribute their products in India and Sri Lanka exclusively.
BIG Music chief executive Kulmeet Makkar and Paramount Home Asia Pacific regional director Zubair Hassan hailed the cooperation, saying it would work in favour of both the companies.

Mktg - Brands must be build with PR

Arcopol Chauduri

StrategiCom, a global brand consultancy, was founded in 2003 on the belief that for a business-to-business (B2B) provider, it was more important to have a strong brand than a business-to-customer (B2C) firm as B2B purchases involved more risk and are pricier.Wilson Chew, chief executive officer and principal consultant, Strategicom, leads a team of over 110 consultants and analysts spread across the globe, consulting small and medium enterprises. In India, B2B transactions have a steady rhythm, despite a global slowdown. And it’s this factor that has encouraged him to launch in India. “The timing couldn’t have been better,” Chew told DNA Money’s Arcopol Chaudhuri during his visit to Mumbai recently. Excerpts from the interview:

Why have you decided to launch StrategiCom in India?

The current economic atmosphere looks worrisome for businesses...Our decision to launch in India has got more to do with our own global growth. India is a unique economy, where the business-to-business (B2B) community runs at a good rhythm despite all the noise about a global slowdown. It shows that the Indian market is dynamic. We are in the process of opening an office in Mumbai and I think it couldn’t have happened at a better time.

What is the difference in the approach to branding a B2C company vis-a-vis a B2B firm?

The main difference is in the consumption behaviour. The fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) space sees fast-moving consumption. However, it’s slower in the luxury segment. In the B2B space, buying behaviour is generally vigorous across sectors since the per-contract transaction is of a higher value. For B2B firms, corporate branding is based on strength in the relationship between businesses, positive word-of-mouth, core competencies and credibility. Our key focus area is on positioning and differentiation.

What are the challenges that SMEs face when it comes to positioning and differentiation?

We’ve observed that for similar products, the battle is fought on pricing. Actually, there’s nothing wrong with cost-competitive pricing as long as the marketplace creates demand for it. But finding a cheaper alternative is not always a good idea because, with multiple players in the market, there will be competition always at any price point. Today, it’s about choosing the space the company wants to be in. To make this possible, brand strategy and business strategy cannot be mutually exclusive. They need to be formulated in sync.

Traditionally, it’s the large corporates that have been roping in branding consultants. Have SMEs taken branding seriously?

Are there any obstacles your consultants face in convincing clients?Well, in the kind of markets we operate in, most businesses are family-run enterprises. So, these firms, in the first 15-20 years of their existence, start chasing every business opportunity. When they reach a certain scale and size, they can no longer do that. Also, the costs increase as employees, technology and products increase and diversify. These present new challenges too, as new cost structures come in. So, internal processes also have to transform and brand building becomes inevitable. This is the reason why I say that branding is not about generating external-to-inward perspectives. In fact, if internal branding is not in place, then it will do more harm than good to the organisation. There are companies that we consulted where the reality of trying to achieve a brand strategy was not being accepted. The thought of suddenly transforming and modernising is somehow not acceptable to some.Your approach excludes advertising, which is a key branding tool.

How difficult does it become then, considering SMEs don’t spend on advertising anyway?

I think that the principle of branding and principles of marketing (of which advertising is a part) are two exclusive concepts. Business schools will tell you that marketing is a social science. Pure scientists will tell you that branding is a psychological science. But the two must go hand-in-hand. Branding, essentially, is about positioning and differentiation. Marketing is about tools we use to build awareness and relationships. I’m a great advocate of the fact that brands need to be built with public relations and sustained with advertising.

It’s strange you say that, because if you look back to the 1980s (after Marlboro Friday happened) Nike, Adidas built brands purely through advertising...

Maybe you’re right. But I’m referring to B2B brands here — they have been traditionally different than B2C brands. Even if you look at the top 1000 brands listed by Fortune or Forbes or any other organisation, consumer brands don’t make up for more than 20% of the list. In fact, its B2B brands such as General Electric, 3M, Intel, Suzlon, etc that make up for more than 800 of the list.

If you were a branding consultant to Lehman Brothers, a firm facing the consequences of the global economic downturn, what will be your advice to it?

(Laughs) Lehman (or companies similar to it) needs to go back to what made it successful in the first place. That’s where its strength lies. Brand building happens when you are focussed in what you do. Think about it. Traditionally, it’s the housing finance companies and co-operative societies that have been funding sources for mortgage loans. Never the banks. Who would have thought that banks that are global financial services would expose themselves in such a manner? Tata is a global brand, because it has stuck to its core competencies. General Electric spent the first 65 years of its existence creating things it was immensely good at making — light bulbs. Brands like Reliance, which are just a few decades old and are diversifying into so many businesses, will have to identify and stick to their core competencies.

Sport - F1;Massa storms to first floodlit pole

Felipe Massa looks to be planning a repeat of his Valencia performance after he took a comfortable pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix on Saturday evening.The Brazilian upped the ante after McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari team mate Kimi Raikkonen had set the fastest times, lapping his F2008 in 1m 44.801s. With Hamilton next on 1m 45.465s ahead of Raikkonen on 1m 45.617s, it is probably safe to assume that Massa is running to a lighter fuel strategy.McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen split the two BMW Saubers on his final run, his 1m 45.873s leaving him between Robert Kubica (1m 45.779s) and Nick Heidfeld (1m 45.964s).Monza winner Sebastian Vettel was the only Red Bull-backed runner to make the top 10 this time, taking his Toro Rosso to seventh on 1m 46.244s ahead of Toyota’s Timo Glock (1m 46.328s) and the Williams duo of Nico Rosberg (1m 46.611s) and Kazuki Nakajima (a top 10 first timer with 1m 47.547s).Q2 weeded out Toyota’s Jarno Trulli (1m 45.038s), Honda’s Jenson Button (1m 45.133s), Red Bull’s Mark Webber and David Coulthard (1m 45.212s and 1m 45.298s respectively), and the unfortunate Fernando Alonso, whose Renault quit on him in Turn 18 during his out lap.Renault’s Nelson Piquet lost out to Coulthard’s final effort in Q1, the Brazilian’s 1m 46.037s leaving him 16th in the line-up. Sebastien Bourdais didn’t get it together either, failing to push his Toro Rosso beyond 1m 46.389s. Rubens Barrichello’s weekend didn’t get any better for Honda, with 1m 46.583s for 18th.The two Force Indias were at the back. Adrian Sutil lapped in 1m 46.940s, but Giancarlo Fisichella did nothing to endear himself to his mechanics, who had worked flat out to get him running near the end of the session following his earlier practice shunt, only for him to put his repaired VJM01 off into the barriers in Turn 3.

Sport - F1;No Indian GP in 2010

Boss Ecclestone says an F1 race cannot be held in India before 2011 as there is no infrastructure
SINGAPORE: Narain Karthikeyan has got it right this time in Formula One. The A1 GP driver, who has had a rather forgettable F1 career, had recently ruled out the possibility of India holding a Formula One GP in 2010. On Friday, Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone echoed his views by saying that he plans to hold an Indian GP in 2011, a year later than what the Indian Olympic Association president Suresh Kalmadi had planned.
“Right now, there is no infrastructure to hold an F1 race,” Karthikeyan was quoted as saying.
It may be recalled that last year Kalmadi had enthusiastically announced India would be ready to hold its first Grand Prix in 2010. “The first race has been finalised for the year 2010. We’ll be signing the contract for 2010. The month is not finalised but it could be March, the first race, or after the Bahrain Grand Prix,” he had said then.
Kalmadi’s enthusiasm was based on the fact that Ecclestone had approved two sites near Delhi (Noida in UP and Sohna near Gurgaon) to build the circuit. It was left to IOA to choose one among the two.
The IOA had announced in June 2007 that they had received a letter from F1 administration to hold a race in India.
According to Kalmadi, track architect Hermann Tilke had inspected the prospective sites in September 2007 and had reported back to the F1 supremo.
Ecclestone, who is in Singapore to attend the inaugural night Grand Prix didn’t specify a reason for the delay. “Things are going as usual, but things take time,” he was quoted as saying.

Sport - Cricket;Srikanth is new Chairman of Selectors - BCCI

MUMBAI: Former India captain Krishnamachari Srikkanth on Saturday became the new Chairman of the National Senior Cricket Selection Committee, replacing Dilip Vengsarkar at the helm of affiars.
He was appointed as the chief selector at the BCCI's 79th Annual General Meeting here, BCCI sources said.
Raja Venkat (East Zone), Surendra Bhave (West Zone), Narendra Hirwani (Central Zone) and Yashpal Sharma (North Zone) are the other four selctors.
Former Mumbai and India pace bowler Abui Kuruvilla was chosen as the junior selection panel chief at the two-day meeting, the sources said.
The other junior selectors picked include Sanjay Desai (South Zone), Sanjeev Sharma (North Zone), Rajesh Bora (East Zone) and R S Hans (Central Zone).
Sharad Pawar, who stepped down as the Board President at the AGM and was succeeded by Shashank Manohar, will head the BCCI's Marketing Committee, while Rajiv Shukla was elected as Chairman of the Finance Committee.
N Srinivasan was elected as the Secretary, Sanjay Jagdale became the new Joint Secretary and M P Pandove will be the new Treasurer. The trio was elected unopposed, they said.
Also elected unopposed were the five Vice-Presidents -- Shivlal Yadav, Chirayu Amin, Arindam Ganguly, Arun Jaitley and Lalit Modi, the sources said.

Entertainment - Depp to return as Jack Sparrow

LONDON: Hollywood superstar Johnny Depp has agreed to return to his role of quirky pirate Captain Jack Sparrow in a fourth film of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise.
Executives at Disney, the studio behind the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series based on a popular theme park ride at one of its parks, are delighted that Depp has agreed to play Jack Sparrow once again. The character is said to be modelled on The Rolling Stones' guitarist Keith Richards, reports
The three films of the franchise produced by Hollywood filmmaker Jerry Bruckheimer have earned a staggering $2.6 billion at the box office.
Depp will also star as the Mad Hatter in a big screen version of Lewis Carrol's “Alice in Wonderland” and as Tonto, the Indian sidekick of the masked cowboy in a version of the 1950s TV series “The Lone Ranger”.

Sep 25, 2008

India - Divisive economic zones

The Indian government has approved the creation of 250 Special Economic Zones (SEZs) across the country. Inspired by similar zones established in China, the tax-free enclaves are seen as a way to promote trade. Big companies, including Reliance Industries and Wipro, are among those keen for SEZs to go ahead.
But farmers and landowners are not so enthusiastic, arguing that their land will be compulsorily bought at unfair prices. Debate about SEZs is heated in Maharashtra, one of India's wealthiest states, reports Prachi Pinglay in Mumbai (Bombay).

For BA Patil, a rice farmer in Vashi, a village about 80km (50 miles) away from Mumbai, it is a matter of principle, exercising his rights and safeguarding his livelihood.
He has come early to Vashi village school to submit his opinion in writing before the state government - the first time such a consultation process has taken place in Maharashtra.
The state government has carried out an elaborate exercise to seek public opinion in 22 villages that stand to lose a total of 5,700 acres of land to make way for an SEZ proposed by Reliance Industries.
This SEZ, called Maha Mumbai SEZ (Great Mumbai SEZ), is planned to spread over 45 villages and over 20,000 acres of land.
However, opposition from these 22 villages has been stiff. They say it is wrong to develop them when a nearby dam - almost complete - will ensure high quality irrigation and a double crop on this fertile farmland.

Tense atmosphere
Officials say more than 6,000 farmers have submitted their comments on the proposed SEZ. The data will be collated and forwarded to higher authorities in the coming days.
However, the mandate is not legally binding on the government.
"I had a government job. My children too may do other jobs. But we will never quit farming," said Mr Patil, who is in his early 60s.
"Before taking a decision on our land, someone should have asked us what we wanted. It is not just about more money or compensation. It is my land, my farm and something I cannot give up."
The lush rice fields swaying over several hundred acres of land cannot disguise the tense atmosphere in these villages.
As farmers took part in the consultation process, there was a heavy police presence - at least 700 personnel were deployed in the area.
"There are more police today than on days of elections. This is just to gauge my opinions about my land but see how there is at least one policeman per person," one farmer in the queue said.

'No health care'

Several activists and groups from nearby areas have been mobilizing public support for this exercise since it was first announced in August 2008.
DM Mhatre, who owns seven acres of farmland, is in favour of the SEZ, but at a much higher cost - at least $210,000 per acre - instead of an offer from the authorities of $21,000.
"Women still walk three kilometres to get drinking water," he says.
"There are no health care or education facilities. If we are getting all this and a good price for our land, why should I not want it? We have to change with times. Why should we be denied that option?"
The rehabilitation package recently offered included better financial compensation, better healthcare, more jobs and some percentage of the profits from the developed land.
But a large number of agricultural workers are sceptical about such promises.
"This exercise will show what the farmers want in this region. But it still does not include thousands of landless labourers who earn their livelihood by toiling on other people's farms," said Vaishali Patil, an activist for farmers' and tribal rights.
"Then there are several small businesses depending on the agriculture here. What will they do?" he asked.
Meanwhile, Reliance Industries has filed a petition in the Mumbai (Bombay) High Court challenging the government's decision to hold this kind of vote.
They say after the central government's approval for the SEZ, the state government cannot carry out such a public hearing.
Legal experts say that under the terms of the Land Acquisition Act, the government has powers to acquire any privately owned land in the public interest after a due process which involves notices, hearings and further official declarations.
They say that the whole process should be completed within three years.
At the same time, until the land is actually acquired, the government also has the powers to withdraw the acquisition process.
Most of farmers have not been told about - or do not understand - what they see as these tedious details of the law.
Several, who cannot read or write, have only put a thumb impression on the forms rejecting the SEZ. Nothing convinces them about the merits of giving up their land.
Many feel the same way as 68-year-old Pandurang Thavai, who has been growing rice on his three-acre plot all his life.
For him, this land is not something that can be bought, at any cost.
"I grow enough rice for my family and even more which I sell. We farmers provide food to society. We produce one of the best varieties of rice in this region. It tastes so good. Why take such a good thing away?" he asks.

Health - Designer vagina trend 'worrying'

A leading urogynaecologist has spoken out against the growing popularity of cosmetic vaginal surgery.
Professor Linda Cardozo, of King's College Hospital, London, says little evidence exists to advise women on the safety or effectiveness of procedures.
These include operations to make the external appearance more "attractive" and reshaping the vagina to counter laxity after childbirth, for example.
She discussed the issues at a medical meeting in Montreal, Canada.

A Google search showed over 45,000 references to cosmetic vaginal surgery, yet on medical databases such as PubMed or Medline there were fewer than 100.
Professor Cardozo said the most established vaginal cosmetic procedure was reduction labioplasty - a procedure to make the labia smaller - which is requested by women either for aesthetic reasons or to alleviate physical discomfort.
"Women want to emulate the supermodel. It's part of a trend. But they should know that all surgery can be risky.
"Most of the procedures are done in the private sector and it's totally unregulated."
The exact numbers of procedures carried out are unknown.
In the past five years there has been a doubling of the number of labial reductions carried out on the NHS from 400 in 2000/1 to 800 in 2004/5.
Growing trend
The evidence from existing case studies shows that the procedure, which costs about £2,000 at a private clinic, does have positive aesthetic results but it is unclear whether it resolves feelings of psychological distress or improves sexual functioning, she said.

And there was little evidence that "vaginal rejuvenation" - the surgical repair of vaginal laxity, with a price tag of about £3,000 - improved symptoms and was any better than doing simple pelvic floor muscle exercises.
She said robust research was needed so that doctors could properly advise their patients. In the meantime, she urged surgeons to remain cautious and operate only as a last resort.
In her presentation at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists 7th International Scientific Meeting, Professor Cardozo said: "Cosmetic vaginal procedures raise a number of serious ethical questions.
"Women are paying large sums of money for this type of surgery which may improve the appearance of their genitalia but there is no evidence that it improves function."

Types of cosmetic vaginal surgery
Labioplasty - to make the labia smaller
Vaginal rejuvenation - to make the vagina tighter
Hymenoplasty - to restore the hymen and make the woman appear a virgin

Health - Fish 'reduces early ezceme risk'

Adding fish to a child's diet before the age of nine months could lessen the chances of developing eczema.
The rate of the painful skin condition has risen in Western countries in recent years, and scientists believe diet may be partly to blame.
Swedish scientists tracked the health of children in 5,000 families, and said that early introduction of fish cut the risk by a quarter.
The research was published in Archives of Disease in Childhood.

The children were all part of an ongoing health study looking at almost 17,000 infants born in 2003 in western Sweden.
Some of the families involved agreed to fill in questionnaires about diet and home environment when the child was six months and 12 months old.
Any evidence of eczema was also recorded, and the results analysed. At six months old, 13% of the families said their child had already developed eczema, and this rose to 20% by their first birthday.
Genes appeared have the most powerful effect - children with a sibling or mother with eczema were almost twice as likely to be affected by 12 months.
Breast feeding, the age at which dairy products were introduced, and the presence of a furry pet in the home had no detectable influence on eczema.
However, the introduction of fish before nine months cut the risk by 25%.
Omega-3 link
The researchers wrote: "The fact that fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids could partly explain the effects found in this cohort."
However, they said they found no measureable difference between children who ate white fish, and those who ate other types of fish richer in omega-3, making it hard to say for certain.
Dr George Du Toit, a paediatric allergy specialist, said that fish had been linked to allergic reactions and eczema.
He said: "The connection between diet and eczema is complex.
"Eczema, particularly severe eczema, is commonly associated with the presence of food allergy.
"Parents of young children with eczema may therefore wish to consult with their doctor prior to the introduction of foods that commonly cause allergy, such as cows milk, peanut and even fish."
A spokesman for the National Eczema Society welcomed the study, agreeing that the genetic component of the condition was likely to be the most significant, and urging parents to avoiding harsh soaps and detergents on the skin from a young age in families predisposed to the condition.

Tech - Touring the greenest museum ever

Maggie Shiels

Claude the albino alligator relaxes in a swamp complete with a heated rock while all around him workmen battle against the clock to put the finishing touches to the largest public green building in the world.
The California Academy of Sciences, based in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, opens its doors to the public this weekend following three years of construction and 10 years of planning.
The 410,000 square foot (38,000 square metre) structure is just as big a draw as the exhibits it houses.
Designed by Renzo Piano, a winner of the most respected prize in architecture, the Pritzker, the Academy has green credentials running through every sinew and vein: from the planetarium to the aquarium and from the rainforest to the living roof which mirrors the hills the city is built on.
"People from all around the world are looking at this building," explained Chris Andrews, the chief of public programmes at the Academy and also the director of the Steinhart Aquarium

The list of sustainable design features is seemingly endless: non-toxic insulation, a passive heating and cooling system, a recycled steel structure and electricity provided by some 60,000 photovoltaic cells.
Over the next couple of months the US Green Building Council is expected to confirm its highest award on the building, a platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating.
'Science is cool'
But there is more to the Academy than its greenness, and those that run it have said they have a clear mission to "explore, explain and protect the natural world."
"One thing we desperately want to do at the Academy is start to impress upon people that science is cool, science is fun," said Dr Andrews as he wandered through the world's deepest living coral reef display complete with more than 4,000 reef fishes.
"We want to emphasise to people that we are fascinated by the natural world and that we are passionate about it."
To drive home the fun and interactive aspects of the museum, Dr Andrews demonstrated a game with a Wii-type device that visitors wave in the air to catch bugs and butterflies.

Another display employing overhead cameras and sensors lets visitors sweep their hands and feet over the ground to move food around for insects while another lets them play scientist and inspect some of the wonders stored in the Academy's vast research facility.
"We want people to touch the stuff and as far as possible we want it to be the real stuff," an enthusiastic Dr Andrews told BBC News.
'Major change'
The crowning glory of this new $488m (£262m) edifice is the living roof which unites the 12 separate buildings that once comprised the Academy, one of the 10 largest natural science museums in the world.
It boasts 1.7m native Californian plants spread over 2.5 acres (one hectare) and its undultating shape has energy conservation at its heart.
"The aerofoil structure of hills and bumps gives the air movement over the top of the building, which allows fresh air to be drawn into the exhibit halls," said Blair Parkin, chief executive and founder of Visual Acuity, one of the technical consultants on the project.
"We don't need to use air conditioning because we have skylights that use sensors and pop up and allow air and light into the building."
Inside, just as outside, a host of technical considerations have been embedded in the structure of the building to ensure it would leave a light footprint on the planet.
"It's been a major change in the way we work," noted Mr Parkin.
"In the past power was free, heat was free, cooling was free. You didn't worry about it. You just bought the equipment and plugged in

"With this building we had to set a budget for heat and energy. We've had to invent technologies and create standards that are now flowing into more modest public and commercial buildings."
To cope with the state of the art visual, audio and interactive aspects of the exhibits and the building, the company constructed several green data centres and a fibre optic network more common in a stock exchange or huge corporate headquarters.
"Everything in the museum is connected to that network and in some way, shape or form is intelligent," said Mr Parkin.
There is little doubt the Morrison Planetarium, the world's largest, will prove to be a big draw with its tilted seats and ever changing intergalactic show.
"This is a giant 3D replica of the galaxy and it's connected to the computer room in the basement," said Mr Parkin.
"It takes all the known information from a host of instutions from around the world and real time information from NASA and throws it up there for the public to see the universe we live in."

Around the corner, visitors will find a rainforest; beyond that, there are more traditional animal exhibits and the perennial favourites, dinosaurs.
Touching emotions
In the weeks running up to this weekend's public unveiling, the Academy held special open days for members and invited guests.
"I think its really great," said Linda McMullen who was there with her son Morgan.
"He's only two so it's going over his head a bit but when he's older it will be a great resource for learning."
The building's green credentials where what really interested Kumi Ishida, who said, "It's a wonderful way to make the public become more aware of what we can do as individuals."
The Academy said it hopes others take the green message to heart and that it will strive to raise a level of consciousness about the issue.
"A museum can only touch those it attracts," said Dr Andrews.
"Unless you touch people's emotions and get them excited, they're unlikely to care and fundamental to what the Academy has to do is touch people's emotions and make them care about the world we live in."

Health - Antidepressants 'may harm sperm'

Drugs taken by millions of men to alleviate depression may affect their fertility, say US scientists.
A small number of healthy men given the antidepressant paroxetine for four weeks had far higher levels of sperm with damaged DNA.
The results, reported in New Scientist magazine, do not necessarily mean these men would have serious problems becoming a father.
However, a UK fertility specialist said they were a "cause for concern".

Paroxetine, sold as Seroxat or Paxil, is one of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants in the UK.
This is the second study by a team of researchers at Cornell Medical Center in New York which points to a possible effect on sperm quality.
They recruited 35 healthy volunteers who provided sperm samples before and during paroxetine treatment.
Under the microscope, there appeared to be not much difference between the "before" and "after" samples, with the shape and movement of sperm apparently normal in both samples.
However, tests on "DNA fragmentation" produced a different result.
Some sperm with DNA problems can be found in every sample, and 13.8% of sperm cells in those produced before treatment were found to be fragmented.
However, at the four week mark, this had risen to 30.3%.
A key question is whether this change would be enough to affect overall fertility, or whether the remaining 70% of unaffected sperm would be enough to produce a viable pregnancy.
In couples undergoing IVF, studies have found that couples where the man's sperm has higher levels of DNA damage produce fewer embryos, and their embryos are less likely to implant successfully in the womb.
More work needed
Dr Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in Andrology at the University of Sheffield, said that while there had been "sporadic reports" that antidepressants could affect semen quality, more research would be needed to help scientists evaluate the risk.
"The apparent increase in sperm DNA damage is alarming, although the level at which we think the damage becomes clinically significant is controversial to many scientists.
"It is a shame that the authors appear not to have conducted a randomised controlled trial which would be the most scientific way to investigate the drugs effects, but I agree that the results are of concern and need to be investigated further."

The drug's maker, GlaxoSmithKline said it intended to review the study's findings.
Marjorie Wallace, from the mental health charity Sane, said that patients should wait for larger studies: "While these results may be worrying for people taking antidepressants who hope to conceive, it is important to note that this is a preliminary study with a small sample group.
"We would be worried if this study caused patients to stop their treatment and would urge anyone with concerns to consult their doctor.
"Antidepressants can be a lifeline for many people, and the risk of relapse must be borne in mind in balancing the risks and benefits of these drugs."
Dr Andrew McCulloch, of the Mental Health Foundation, said: "Most medications carry some level of risk, and antidepressants are no different.
"They are powerful drugs, so in a sense it is no surprise that research is discovering more about their impact on the body.
"More investment is needed in other mental health treatments such as talking therapies and exercise therapy.
"However, we should remember that SSRIs have changed many lives for the better and that any decision about changing or stopping your medication should be discussed with your doctor."

Sport - Cycling;Armstrong to return with Astana

Lance Armstrong will make his much-anticipated return to professional cycling with Kazakhstan's Astana team.
The Luxembourg-based team is run by Armstrong's friend and former sporting director Johan Bruyneel, who helped the American win all of his seven Tours.
The 37-year-old Armstrong will race in Australia in January but was cautious about aiming for an eighth Tour win.
"I will try to be as prepared as possible. I don't know that that equals victory," he said in New York.
"I have a fair bit of confidence, but not that kind of confidence. I don't know, honestly. I've been off the bike three years. I'll be nearly 38 years old, so I honestly don't know."
Armstrong also suggested he might be tempted to race in the 2010 season as well.
"I don't want to box myself in here," he said. "It's open-ended. I see one season but I wouldn't want to rule out a second season. I will take it season by season."

Armstrong, a survivor of testicular cancer, will start the six-day Tour Down Under race around South Australia, centring on Adelaide, on 20 January and is also planning a global summit to raise cancer awareness in Paris after next year's Tour.
"I look forward to 2009, I look forward to racing again," said Armstrong. "I cannot guarantee an eighth Tour victory, but I can guarantee you the 'Live Strong' message will touch all aspects of our society.
"It's not very often someone gets a chance to spend three or fours years away from something, step back, and then say to themselves, 'I sort of miss that, I'd like to go back and do that again."
With his career dogged by doping allegations, Armstrong will undergo a testing programme developed and headed up by U.S. anti-doping expert Don Catlin when he returns to cycling.
But the former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency Dick Pound demanded any testing should be conducted by an International Olympic Committee or WADA accredited laboratory.
"If it's not an (IOC) accredited laboratory the mere fact scientist X says 'I think Lance is ok' (means nothing)," said Pound.
The Kazakh-financed Astana team suffered two high-profile doping scandals in 2007 and were barred from this year's Tour de France despite a substantial overhaul in team management.
Kazakh rider Alexandre Vinokourov, the old Astana team leader, tested positive for blood doping after winning a time-trial stage of the 2007 Tour, and was subsequently sacked and banned for a year.

Astana's current leader Alberto Contador, 2007 Tour de France winner and only the fifth rider in history to win all of cycling's three major Tours when he won the Tour of Spain, has previously hinted the American's presence could cause conflict.
But the Spaniard said suggestions he would leave Astana were "too premature".
"I am going to calmly talk to the team and depending on how it goes, we will see what we do."
And Armstrong said he was looking forward to racing with the Spaniard.
"Alberto is the best rider on the planet right now," he said. "We have to understand that, have to respect that. I'm not sure I can ride that fast right now. I hope it works out."
One rider who believes there could be problems for the Astana team is the Republic of Ireland's 1987 Tour winner Stephen Roche.
"I could see (Contador) walking away. He's finally getting credibility and now next year everybody will be talking about Armstrong. It's going to be very difficult," Roche told BBC Radio 5 Live.
The 49-year-old, whose racing career spanned 13 years, was also asked whether Armstrong had a chance of winning the Tour. "I don't think so," he replied.
Bruyneel said he was honoured and looking forward to working with Armstrong again, 10 years after being asked to direct the rider's US Postal Service team.

"What we saw from 1999 to 2005 was arguably the most exciting time in professional cycling and I know Lance will bring the same level of charisma, passion and influence to the team, sport and global cancer community," he said.
Armstrong nearly lost his life to cancer before battling back to win his first Tour in 1999.
International Cycling Union president Pat McQuaid told BBC Radio 5 Live he did not think Armstrong's "primary motivation" was to win the Tour.
McQuaid said: "I think he has done as much as he can with his cancer foundation in terms of knowledge of it in the US and now he wants to globalise the foundation using the sport of cycling.
"Winning the Tour is secondary but I think he has every intention of trying to do it."

Health - Hollywood 'paid fortune to smoke'

Tobacco firms paid huge amounts for endorsements from the stars of Hollywood's "Golden Age".
Industry documents released following anti-smoking lawsuits reveal the extent of the relationship between tobacco and movie studios.
One firm paid more than $3m in today's money in one year to stars.
Researchers writing in the Tobacco Control journal said "classic" films of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s still helped promote smoking today.

Virtually all of the biggest names of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s were involved in paid cigarette promotion, according to the University of California at San Francisco researchers.
They obtained endorsement contracts signed at the times to help them calculate just how much money was involved.

According to the research, stars prepared to endorse tobacco included Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Spencer Tracy, Joan Crawford, John Wayne, Bette Davis and Betty Grable.
Big payments
Deals dated from the start of the "talkie" era, with "Jazz Singer" star Al Jolson signing testimonials stating that the "Lucky Strike" brand was "the cigarette of the acting profession".
"The good old flavor of Luckies is as sweet and soothing as the best 'Mammy' song ever written," he wrote.
One of the key documents uncovered by the researchers was a list of payments for a single year in the late 1930s detailing how much stars were paid by American Tobacco, the makers of Lucky Strike.
Leading ladies Carole Lombard, Barbara Stanwyck and Myrna Loy were handed $10,000, equivalent to just under $150,000 in today's money, to endorse the brand, as were Clark Gable, Gary Cooper and Robert Taylor.
Together, the annual price of paying actors was $3.2m in 2008 terms.
Radio adverts
In some cases, tobacco firms would pay movie studios to create radio shows which featured their stars' endorsements.
American Tobacco paid Warner Brothers the equivalent of $13.7m for 1937's "Your Hollywood Parade", and sponsored The Jack Benny Show from the mid-1940s to the mid-1950s.

The latter featured stars such as Lauren Bacall giving carefully scripted testimonials.
The researchers, led by Professor Stanton Glantz, said that the effects of the millions poured into Hollywood by "Big Tobacco" could still be felt today, despite a recent self-imposed ban on promotion within films.
They say that smoking imagery in films can influence younger people to start smoking.
They wrote: "As in the 1930s, nothing today prevents the global tobacco industry from influencing the film industry in any number of ways."
"Classic" films with smoking scenes, such as "Casablanca" and "Now, Voyager", and glamorous publicity images helped to "perpetuate public tolerance" of on-screen smoking, they said.
UK anti-smoking group ASH said that while smoking imagery could not be "outlawed completely", there was an argument for clearer warnings before films.


Actor US$ paid (2008 equivalent)

Gary Cooper 10,000 (146,583)
Joan Crawford 10,000 (146,583)
Henry Fonda 3,000 (43,975)
Clark Gable 10,000 (146,583)
Bob Hope 2,500 (36,646)
Gertrude Lawrence 1,750 (25,652)
Carole Lombard 10,000 (146,583)
Myrna Loy 10,000 (146,583)
Fred MacMurray 6,000 (87,950)
Ray Milland 2,000 (29,317)
George Raft 3,000 (43,975)
Edward Robinson 3,000 (43,975)
Barbara Stanwyck 10,000 (146,583)
Gloria Swanson 1,500 (21,988)
Robert Taylor 10,000 (146,583)
Spencer Tracy 10,000 (146,583)
Source: Tobacco Control 2008

World - How Bagram destroyed me

Martin Patience
"They destroyed me financially, mentally and physically," says Mr Ahmad, 21, wearing a traditional shalwar kameez and sporting a thin, wispy beard.
"But most importantly, my mother is taking her last breath in hospital just because of the Americans."
Mr Ahmad was detained for almost a year in the Bagram air base where US forces imprison suspected Taleban and al-Qaeda fighters. He was freed last Saturday.
The facility has a controversial past - two Afghans were beaten to death by their American guards in 2002.
'Don't move'
Jawed Ahmad was a well-known journalist in Kandahar working for Canadian TV and on occasions the BBC. Previously, he had spent two and half years as a translator for American special forces.

So, when a press officer from an American military base asked him to come for a chat, he thought nothing of it - these people were supposed to be his friends after all.
"At once around 15 people surrounded me and dropped me to the floor," says Mr Ahmad, becoming increasingly animated as he spoke.
"They shouted at me saying 'don't move' and then they take me to the prison."
Mr Ahmad says that the prison guards - he assumes they were American - then hit him and threw him against truck containers.
But he says that the abuse did not end there.
"For nine days they didn't allow me sleep. I didn't eat anything - it was a very tough time for me," he says. "Finally, they told me you're going to Guantanamo Bay."
He was accused of supplying weapons to the Taleban and having contacts with the movement.
Mr Ahmad protested, saying that as a journalist it was his job. They then, he says, shaved his head and put him in an orange jump suit.
But before leaving Kandahar - his guards had one final message.
"I will never forget it," he says. "They said 'you know what?', and I said 'what' and they said there is no right of journalists in this war."
Despite the threat of being sent to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, Mr Ahmad was flown to Bagram air base about 70km (40 miles) north of the capital, Kabul.

It's where the US military detains about 600 prisoners whom they define as unlawful combatants.
"When I landed first of all they stood me in snow for six hours," he says. "It was too cold - I had no socks, no shoes, nothing. I became unconscious two times."
He continued: "They learned one word in Pashto 'jigshaw, jigshaw' - it means 'stand up'. And when I became unconscious they were saying 'jigshaw'."
For the next 11 months Mr Ahmad was held at the facility - he says that he was unsure why he was there, and when, if ever, he would be released.
He says he and his fellow prisoners were taunted continuously by the guards.
"I thought they were animals," he says. "When they cursed me, I cursed them twice. I challenged them."
Mr Ahmad says he was sent into solitary confinement after an article appeared in the New York Times about his incarceration, which apparently irritated the guards.
He says he was chained in the cell in stress positions making it almost impossible to sleep.
But most inflammatory of all, Mr Ahmad says that other prisoners told him that the guards mishandled the Koran.
"They didn't do it only one time, not two times, they did it more than 100 times. They have thrown it, they have torn it, they have kicked it."
The day Mr Ahmad learned he was being set free was an emotional moment.
"Sometimes I laughed, sometimes I cried, sometimes I prayed," he says. " Finally, the next morning they just released me."
In a statement, the US military at Bagram air base said that there was no evidence to substantiate any claims of mistreatment.
They added that Mr Ahmad had been turned over to the Afghan government as part of a reconciliation programme.
But Mr Ahmad says that he will pursue justice for what has happened to him.
"I will fight to my last breath to get my rights," he says. " I will knock on the door of Congress, I will ask Obama, I will ask Hilary Clinton, even Bush - I will not leave any person."

Business - French restaurants feel the pinch

Hugh Schofield
Economic gloom is hitting the French where it hurts most - their tastebuds - as they rein in their eating habits to balance the monthly budget.
New figures show that the bankruptcy rate among restaurants and cafes has skyrocketed since the start of the year - because ordinary people lack the means to dine out.
A long-standing trend from the sit-down towards the take-away is now being exacerbated by financial penury, and many fear that an essential part of the nation's art de la vie is under threat.
Alarm bells were rung this week following a report by market research company Euler Hermes, which found that about 3,000 establishments went out of business in the six months from January.
Of these, some 1,790 were traditional restaurants - a 25% increase on the year before - 530 were fast-food outlets (up 19%); and 610 were cafes and bars (up 56%).
'No improvement'
"We are very worried," said Daniele Deleval, vice-president of the Union of Hotel and Catering Trades.
"Since the start of the year the number of people going to restaurants has fallen by 20%, and we see no sign of improvement."
There are several reasons for the decline.
For one thing, the move towards American-style snacking is already a long-established phenomenon - with the traditional long lunch steadily being replaced by le sandwich.
Meanwhile, the ban on tobacco in bars and restaurants that came in earlier this year has hit hard - especially in rural areas. Many customers prefer the liberty of domestic indulgence to the half-pleasure of the smokeless meal.

And in Paris and other tourist cities, the strength of the euro has frightened off the Americans - and to a lesser extent the British - who in normal times spend lavishly on French cuisine.
But the major factor is undoubtedly the French public's own money worries.
With spending power in decline, the meal out with friends or family has become a dispensable luxury.
"This is above all an economic crisis," said critic Francois Simon, creator of the Simon-Says food blog.
"Along with some other trades - like building - restaurants are the first to be hit when times are bad.
"People are going out less, and when they do go out they are consuming less. They are cutting down by not having aperitifs or coffee, or by having tap-water instead of mineral water. For a restaurateur, that can make a huge difference."

No starter
According to Simon, some restaurateurs look askance at a growing tendency among clients to order simply a main course with no starter.

For example, at the Aux Lyonnais restaurant owned by top chef Alain Ducasse, waiters pointedly warn that the main course may in that case take rather a long time in coming.
And at Au Quincy near the Gare de Lyon, two couples were recently asked to leave the establishment after they asked for just a main course.
"How do you expect me to survive?" the chef exclaimed.
Jean-Pierre Difolco, who runs the French-Italian restaurant Il Gallo Nero in Montparnasse, says that in recent months the average bill paid by a customer has fallen from more than 30 euros (£23) to under 25 euros (£19).
"Nowadays people take a carafe of house wine instead of ordering a bottle, and the vast majority order the set menu instead of a la carte," he says.
"If I hadn't introduced the set menu option, I would have gone under by now," he says.
"On the one hand, the cost of our raw materials is going up, and on the other, the disposable income of customers is going down.
"It means that we have to cut out anything that gives added value - anything that means we can charge more.
"In effect we have to lower quality in order to satisfy the customer," he laments.
"But then the whole spirit of the restaurant has changed. Ten years ago people played the game. Eating out was fun. Now it's just a way of filling up the stomach. Customers take the menu and their eyes are on the price column, not on the food. It's a great shame."

Entertainment - Metallica nominated for Rock Hall

Rock band Metallica, the Stooges and 1980s rap act Run DMC have been nominated for induction into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Guitarist Jeff Beck, singer Wanda Jackson and disco group Chic are also in the running.
The five leading nominees will enter the hall, which is based in Cleveland, Ohio, in April 2009.
Artists can be considered for the honour 25 years after their first recording.
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were the first rap act to be inducted into the Rock Hall in 2007.
Run DMC now have the chance to follow, on the strength its back catalogue of rock and rap mixes such as the 1986 cover of Aerosmith's Walk This Way.
"It truly shows it's never a closed door for any artist to be nominated," said Rock Hall foundation chief Joel Peresman.
Madonna, John Mellencamp, The Ventures, Leonard Cohen and The Dave Clark Five were last year's inductees.
More than 500 musicians, journalists and industry professionals vote on the induction.

Business - India;When 13=120

Sunil Jain

Panicky investors looking for the best investment option in today’s troubled times would do well to invest in telecom licenses, the best return money can get anywhere in the world. Eight months ago, the ministry of communications decided it would give away spectrum for 120 telecom circles across the country (since each state is a separate circle, that works out to a little over five pan-Indian licenses) for the same price paid for the fourth cellular license in June 2001 when there were 4 million mobile subscribers in the country, a number achieved in a fortnight today.

While a pan-Indian license cost Rs 1,651 crore, Swan Telecom paid a lower Rs 1,537 crore in January this year since it bid for only 13 circles. Since UAE firm Etisalat has bought a 45 per cent stake in Swan for $900mn, Swan’s licence is worth Rs 9,000 crore. So, what the government got for 120 circles, Swan got for just 13. Since Swan has yet to get any subscribers (under the license conditions, it has to cover 10 per cent of all district headquarters within a year), the entire valuation is for the licence which it got at a bargain-basement price along with 4.4 MHz of spectrum. Based on this, the effective loss of revenue to the government is Rs 43,700 crore.

Spectrum Scandal

Government equation:
Number of circles sold 120
Amount received (Rs crore) 9,000
Swan equation:
Number of circles sold 13*
Amount paid (Rs crore) 1,537
Amount received (Rs crore)** 9,000
*Swan has actually got spectrum for only 10 circles, making the equation even better from its point of view** Based on Etisalat bid of $900 mn for 45 per cent of Swan’s equity

India - Similar Technologies,Different prices

Mahesh Uppal

In an unorthodox approach to competition, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) announced on August 1, 2008, separate guidelines for two competing broadband technologies, namely 3G and broadband wireless access (BWA), like WiMax. Amendments to those guidelines, barely six weeks later, have only exacerbated the distortions. This can hurt India’s plans for broadband access at a time when many governments, recognising its importance to future delivery of health, education, entertainment and to competitiveness of their economies are fine-tuning their strategies for universal broadband access.
In developing countries like India with sparse fixed-line networks, it is cheaper and faster to deploy broadband using wireless than alternatives like copper wires or optical fibre. Mischief or mistakes in wireless rules can be expensive.
With under five million broadband subscribers, India has met only half its modest target. A recent International Telecommunication Union (ITU) report says India lags behind most of its peers in Asia and elsewhere. Closing this gap will cost several billion dollars.
Our experience with mobile telephony shows money is not a problem, if investors can compete fairly for the potentially large pie that India’s size and population represent. However, the exponential growth of mobiles and the cheap services came around 2002, after the implementation of India’s ‘new telecom policy’ of 1999 (NTP99) which revised the licensing regime, empowered regulators, affirmed and expanded competition in the sector. Any doubt about the critical role of the regulatory environment in creating and nurturing markets has largely disappeared.
3G and BWA guidelines suggest that DoT has forgotten those lessons. India’s regulators and policymakers are once again picking winners rather than allowing markets or users to do so. Indeed, in an unprecedented letter to the Business Standard, the head of Wireless Planning and Coordination wing (WPC) argued strongly that TDD technologies (like BWA) were superior to FDD technologies (typically, 3G).
3G is older and offers full mobility. WiMax, conceived as a wireless substitute for DSL broadband, is provided by operators who own fixed line infrastructure (like BSNL). New versions of BWA, the 802.16e, offer full mobility and are being deployed worldwide (in Italy, for example). While 3G has matured, the relatively new mobile BWA scores over many wireless technologies since it can provide connectivity without the receiver being direct line of sight of the base station. BWA handsets and modem, it is true, are costlier and heavier — but this disadvantage over 3G will decrease when more deployments can deliver economies of scale. Like computers running Microsoft Windows and Apple’s Mac operating systems, 3G and mobile BWA have their own strengths, but are functionally similar.
But the DoT guidelines for auction of spectrum for these two competing technologies prescribe a reserve price for BWA which is half that for 3G and a spectrum slot (20MHz) that is twice 3G’s (2x5 MHz). The BWA reserve price advantage over 3G is therefore quadrupled.
The amended guidelines have further removed important restrictions on BWA in the original. Like 3G, BWA operators are not limited to data, their obligation to cover 25 per cent of rural ‘short distance charging areas’ within two years has gone. The obligations for BWA and 3G are identical for the first five years.
Such different provisions may still have made sense till October 2007, which is when ITU included BWA services in its IMT standard for 3G. BWA stakeholders had lobbied hard with governments of ITU member countries, including India, for this outcome since it enabled them to participate in international 3G deployments and spectrum auctions. Thus, recently when United States’ Federal Communications Commission (FCC) auctioned the 700 MHz, winners were free to deploy any technology, 3G, BWA or any other.
TRAI recently revised its original recommendations following the inclus ion of BWA in ITU’s IMT standards. In contrast to DoT guidelines, TRAI wants BWA spectrum be auctioned in units of 5Hz, like WCDMA, the 3G route for GSM. (EVDO the 3G option for CDMA mobile players needs 1.25 MHz).
TRAI had recommended a lower reserve price BWA spectrum on the grounds that the average price paid for BWA spectrum in recent years has been lower than that of 3G. This linkage is flawed. Reserve price and final bids are two separate issues.
Auction behaviour is a complex matter. Even so, the final bids in an auction should depend little on a low reserve price if the number of bidders exceeds the spectrum slots. They will reflect the relative perceived value of 3G and BWA. But if the interest in bidding is low, the ‘winner’ pays the reserve price. The final price is a bargain, if reserve price is low, and a rip-off, if it is high.
And, DoT’s unorthodox guidelines will deter many bidders. Prospective foreign players face additional barriers: They must pay $400 million for a 2G licence and comply with whimsical norms for mergers and acquisitions. In many circles, spectrum slots may exceed the number of bidders and the spectrum will attract the reserve price. With 3G reserve price per MHz effectively quadruple of BWA, the latter is at a distinct advantage.
We have seen several controversial decisions recently (for example, spectrum for dual technology use or the hundreds of mobile licences awarded recently at bargain prices). We could expect some more ‘creative’ decisions after spectrum auctions allow one side to gain advantage.
Low reserve prices all round could attract more bidders. They could prevent the overpricing of a low value licence that BWA is implied to be. Markets can settle this. However, different reserve prices for fierce competitors like 3G and BWA are indefensible. In a regulatory regime that professes technology neutrality, there should have been a single auction for both 3G/BWA spectrum to be used for wireless broadband. This may be unrealistic at this advanced stage. However, it may still be possible to contain most of the potential damage. For this, the guidelines must be amended to restore parity in reserve prices. Otherwise, they can severely distort the market and bias technology choices. This is bad for competition, bad for India’s broadband plans.

World - Cities of hope (G.Read)

Barun Roy

After Beijing, it’s now Shanghai’s turn to wow the world. One and a half years from now, in May 2010, China will once again be the focus of global attention when some 180 countries and 44 organisations will flock to its largest city to mount a World Expo expected to be one of the biggest in history. And just as Beijing had its glitzy Olympic venues, Shanghai will have its dazzlers, too, including a 5.28-sq km Expo Park branded as the largest single construction project the city has ever undertaken, an unprecedented green makeover on which over $26 billion is being spent.
But that’s not the only reason why the world will be travelling to Shanghai — some five million foreigners are expected to visit during the six months that the Expo will be on show, straddling a 31-hectare area on both sides of the Huangpu River. People will go there as much to be entertained as to pick up ideas and lessons, for the Expo theme, “Better City, Better Life”, couldn’t be more appropriate for a world that confronts an urban future with which it doesn’t know how to cope.
The urban challenge is very real and indeed very complex. Half the world’s population already lives in cities and towns. By 2050, two-thirds of humanity will. And, as urbanisation expands, especially in Asia and Africa, villages are becoming half-baked towns, towns are developing as half-baked cities and cities are turning into half-baked metropolises, where living is unhealthy, unsafe, overcrowded and, for most people, sub-human. In a condition of unplanned growth, snarled traffic, polluted air, ill-disposed waste, congested neighbourhoods and a conspicuous lack of public space, it’s not at all surprising that cities, particularly in the developing world, should show disturbing symptoms of social disintegration, unrest, and criminality.
Something must be done to arrest the rot before it goes out of control and then start the healing process. Because most of the world’s population will henceforth be living and working in towns and cities, the task is all the more urgent, and several city governments around the world have taken it head on and found their own ways to mitigate the urban pain. Their efforts constitute a significant body of urban best practices that others could study, follow or draw inspiration from.
Shanghai Expo 2010 is going to present a selection of such practices and showcase what’s actually being done on the ground to deal with the urban crisis. On a 15-hectare site on the Pudong side of the Huangpu, tagged as the Urban Best Practices Area, visitors will see 55 of the world’s most innovative city projects that offer stimulating new ideas on different aspects of urban living.
There will, for example, be the “Wall of Vegetation” from Paris, a concept developed by landscape architect Patrick Blanc that covers up huge wall spaces of buildings with self-sustaining vertical gardens, creates spectacular greenery, enhances building insulation and retards atmospheric pollution. Odense, Denmark’s third largest city and the hometown of Hans Christian Andersen, will be there to show how its strict land use policies have led to compact, mixed-use developments and made possible a remarkable revival of the bicycle. Today, Odense has a bicycle roadway network of more than 550 km with ample bike parking facilities — residents use the bike for all their shorter trips.
People will find out what endows Porto Alegre, in Brazil, with the best quality of life of all large cities in Latin America and why the United Nations considers it to be the world’s most habitable city. By allowing people direct participation in municipal budgeting for all new investments, Porto Alegre has come to be a citizen-designed city, so to say, that people feel very comfortable about.
One will also learn how Mina, the holy place in Saudi Arabia, has become the first fully fire-proof city in the world; what Venice is doing to revive its dying canals; how smart cards have revolutionised people’s lives in Hong Kong; and what Shanghai is seeking to achieve with its eco-housing initiative, where ventilation, lighting, and air-conditioning get automatically adjusted according to people’s needs and electric lights are not required during daytime.
Perhaps most interesting, from a developing world point of view, is Taipei’s “Total Recycling, Zero Landfill” approach to urban solid waste management. Strict recycling, enforced since 2006, and a fee for each disposed bag of garbage, introduced in 2001, have reduced daily domestic waste in the city by one third. People must stuff their waste in government-issued bags, which they have to buy, and throw these bags directly into collection trucks every night. No trash touches the ground. Most of it is taken directly to incinerators to be converted into electricity. Only 17 per cent of the waste goes into landfill, but the goal is to cut that out, too.

Business - India 2nd preferred FDI destination

India has retained its position as the second most-preferred global location for foreign investment in 2008 and will continue to do so till 2010, lagging only behind China, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) has said in World Investment Report 2008.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows into the country will continue to show the robustness seen in the past couple of years despite the global financial crisis that many feel will impact economies across the world.
The report also mentions a survey by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), in which Japanese transnational manufacturing companies have rated India higher than China for establishing business operations.
“Going by my personal interactions with industry, it could be said that the Indian government’s FDI target of $35 billion for 2008-09 can be achieved. However, we may not see any big inflows into the country. Inflows may be low for sectors like infrastructure, but other sectors are likely to see enough growth,” said Unctad’s policy expert Premila Nazareth Satyanand, who released the report in India today.
However, other experts believe that the global liquidity crunch may impact FDI inflows into the country. “It is possible that the projected FDI inflows may not happen in 2009-09 and get deferred to the next fiscal,” said Partha Mukhopadhyay of the Centre for Policy Research.
The report also points that India has improved its ranking in the inward FDI performance index (which measures the flow of foreign investment into a country relative to its GDP) from 110 in 2006 to 106 in 2007, which is below that of Hong Kong, Indonesia and even Guatemala, but above Germany and Taiwan.
Within Asia, India received the fourth largest amount of FDI inflows in 2007 (after China, Hong Kong and Singapore), which stood at $22.95 billion, translating into a growth of 16.73 per cent over $ 19.66 billion in 2006. “Significantly, India is bridging the gap with Singapore as a destination for FDI inflows,” added Satyanand.
The growth has been attributed to further opening up of telecommunications, single-brand retail, as well as increasing cross-border merger and acquisitions. More than a quarter of 300 international retailers told Unctad that they have either opened their first store in India during 2007 or are planning to do so in the near future.
India was also recognised as the fourth-largest source of FDI in Asia, as Indian companies invested $13.64 billion abroad in 2007, as against $ 12.84 billion in the previous year, an increase of 6.23 per cent.

Business - India;Mckinsey report says Mom & Pop stores will continue to remain relevant in India

As organised retail evolves, mom and pop stores will continue to remain relevant across both large and small towns in India, said a new report. The report by the management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company projected that India is likely to be a $ 450 billion retail market by 2015. Further, organised retail is expected to grow from the current 5 per cent of the total market to 14-18 per cent of total retail in 2015, it added.The report suggests that retail in India can be profitable but not with ‘cut and paste’ global formats. Profitable retailers will need to keep four mantras in mind as they explore this high potential market, it said.First, develop innovative formats for material differentiation for which three decisions will be critical – where to participate in the retail value chain, which geographies to play in and what price points to offer. Second, craft a customer-insight driven merchandise strategy to stimulate consumption and lock in core customers.Third, create an efficient retail operating platform consisting of a self sufficient system of suppliers, logistics providers and even loyal shoppers.Finally, build an evolving organisation with an empowered front-end selling team that “owns” local catchments.Thus, the greatest challenge will be to maintain the organisation’s focus on profitability while cultivating flexibility, the report said.“Not all Indian households will shop in these new stores. Of the current 204 million households in India, we estimate that only about 13 million households are comfortable and have the income to patronise organised retail.The great news is that this relevant consumer segment will grow five fold from 13 million to 65 million households in the next 8 years,” said Ireena Vittal, Partner, McKinsey & Company and co-leader of the Retail Practice.

Business - India;Karnataka leads race for Nano project

Karnataka is emerging as the front-runner in Tata Motors' search for an alternative site for its ambitious Nano small car project, which is facing problems in Singur, West Bengal, owing to protests by unwilling land losers.
Meanwhile, goods are also being moved out of the factory site at Singur, reinforcing the view that the Nano will not be launched from West Bengal. Sources said vendors in Singur have been asked to stand by for instructions on moving out of the area.
Sources close to the development said critical components, like the die for the car, were being moved out. Officials in the logistics industry added that trucks had been booked to transport materials from the site.
As an alternative strategy till a new mother plant location is finalised and up and running, sources said limited numbers of the Nano will be rolled out both from Tata Motors' plants in Pantnagar (Uttarakhand) and Pune to meet the October deadline.
Both these sites were earlier earmarked as locations for satellite plants that were to be set up across the country to reduce freight costs.
Over the last few weeks, Tata Motors has also held talks with the Gujarat and Uttarakhand governments for a possible relocation of the project, but sources close to the development said Karnataka seems to be the most attractive location at this point.
Tata Motors Managing Director Ravi Kant had met top officials in the state including Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa a week ago. The chief minister offered 1,000 acres of land in the state for the Nano plant and said he would match the incentives provided by the West Bengal government.
The Tata group has 900 acres in the Belur industrial area in Dharwad, 425 km north-west of Bangalore, where it has a joint venture with Hitachi, a car manufacturing unit and a bus plant in joint venture with Marco Polo of Brazil.
In Pantnagar, the Mumbai-based company has over 1,000 acres, including a 350-acre vendor park, to manufacture the Ace mini-truck. Sources, however, said sufficient land might not be available for a mother plant.
Similarly, Pune, which is Tata Motors’ main plant, also does not have enough space for expansion or setting up a new car plant. Singur was to have an annual capacity of 500,000 cars.
Meanwhile, in West Bengal, government sources confirmed that goods were being moved out of the site but said the administration had no information on whether these belonged to the company or to the contractors and vendors working at the site, or even about the nature of the goods.
More than 20 containers have left the site and they included engineering material repacked into containers and pre-packed machinery that had arrived at the site and was not used. Some more containers that had arrived at the Haldia Dock System of Kolkata Port Trust and were booked to Singur had been diverted elsewhere in India, the goods transporter added. The cargo was booked under the Tata Motors name

World - Green economy can create millions of jobs,says ILO report

Aarti Dhar
Report warns that many of new jobs can be “dirty, dangerous and difficult”Too few green jobs are being created for the most vulnerable
NEW DELHI: A new study on the impact of an emerging global “green economy” suggests that efforts to tackle climate change could result in the creation of new “green jobs” in the coming decades.
The report, “Green Jobs: Towards Decent Works in a Sustainable, Low-Carbon World,” brought out by the International Labour Organisation, says changing patterns of employment and investment resulting from efforts to reduce climate change and its effects are already generating new jobs in many sectors and economies, and could create millions more in both developed and developing countries.Urgent action
However, the process of climate change, already under way, will continue to have a negative effect on workers and their families, especially those whose livelihoods depend on agriculture and tourism. Action to tackle climate change as well as to cope with its effects is therefore urgent and should be designed to generate decent jobs.
Though the report is generally optimistic about the creation of new jobs, it warns that many of these jobs could be “dirty, dangerous and difficult.” Sectors of concern, especially but not exclusively in developing economies, include agriculture and recycling, where all too often low pay, insecure employment contracts and exposure to health-hazardous materials need to change fast.
The report says that too few green jobs are being created for the most vulnerable: the 1.3 billion working poor (43 per cent of the global workforce) in the world with earnings too low to lift them and their dependents above the poverty threshold of $ 2 per person per pay, or for the estimated 500 million youths who will be seeking work over the next 10 years.
The global market for environmental products and services is projected to double from the present $ 1,370 billion per year to $ 2,740 billion by 2020, according to this study. Half of this market is in energy efficiency and the balance in sustainable transport, water supply, sanitation and waste management. Key sectors
Sectors that will be particularly important in terms of their environmental, economic and employment impact are energy supply, in particular renewable energy, buildings and construction, transportation, basic industry, agriculture and forestry. The report suggests that 2.3 million people have in the recent years found jobs in the renewable energy sector alone. Employment alternative energies may rise to 2.1 million in wind power and 6.3 million in solar power by 2030.
Renewable energy generates more jobs than employment in fossil fuels. Projected investments of $ 630 billion by 2030 will translate into at least 20 million additional jobs in the renewable energy sector.

Business - Watches;A slew of brands

Very few customers, if any at all, know that the Swatch Group manufactures and markets an awe-inspiring range of watches under some very prominent worldwide brands. At the top end, these brands include Breguet and Blancpain. In the luxury segment,the Swatch brands are Omega, Longines and Rado. Somewhere at the bottom are Tissot and Certina and in the mass market, the brand is Swatch. Not to miss out on jewellery watches — which the Swatch Group did not have till recently — Hayek has just bought over Tiffany & Co. Tiffany has been a cult jewellery brand and we are sure to see new product launches soon.
Most brand managers everywhere in the world know why the Swatch Group has so many brands. The obvious answer is that to be the world leader you need to be present in every segment of the market. What is not obvious is the reason why Hayek is not so visibly associated with any brands other than Swatch. Hayek is the most visible face of Swatch and, of course, its unofficial brand ambassador. However, he has refrained from being associated with any other brand.
The Longines brand positioning is entirely based on “elegance”. Not surprisingly, its worldwide brand ambassador is Aishwarya Rai. How would you like to see Aishwarya sporting a Tag Heuer, for example? Consistency of brand platform over a period of time holds the key to creating a strong brand. Sadly, for many brands in India, the brand positioning undergoes a change every time there is a new marketing manager or worse, a new advertising agency!
This writer asked Hayek if he would like to someday buy out the only two large independent watch brands in the world — Patek Philippe and Rolex. After some serious contemplation, Hayek finally said, “I do not need Patek Philippe (probably suggesting that Breguet could some day take Patek’s place). Then with the enthusiasm of a child he asked, “Do you think Rolex will ever be available for sale?” “If it ever gets freed up, I am certainly interested in the brand.”
The philosophy of several brands under a single umbrella ownership is not new from the Swatch Group. Two other worldwide groups, Richemont (Cartier, Dunhill, Mont Blanc) and LVMH (Tag Heuer), also have several powerful watch brands under their belt.
Many independent watch brands around the world during the last 20 years have been consolidated. The future will tell whether independent watch brands could really make a mark, or for that matter, survive at all!

Mktg - Branding the tech way

Anjali Prayag
India is a nascent retail market and use of technology in branding in retail is almost unheard of. When the Industrial Design Division of Tata Elxsi decided to try its hand at retail design (not so much in space design as in branding for products ina crowded retail store), there was no doubt that technology would dictate this creative foray too, as with everything else that the company has been doing. “In a multi-brand store, the product has to get visibility. Engaging the consumer has also become a big issue. The only way to do this is through use of technology,” says Anil Narayan Sondur, General Manager, Industrial Design Engineering (IDE), Tata Elxsi.
This essentially means engaging the consumer with one’s brand using technology. Radio frequency identification (RFID) and personal identification through biometrics, which are playing a major role in retail processes in other countries, will soon be used in Indian supermarkets too, says Sondur. RFID can help capture customer data and track material movement. Earlier, cards without RFID would work and help only when customers would come to the cashier and present their cards. With RFID, the cards can be sensed from a certain proximity and hence, interactive displays can be set up within the store that will recognise the customer and help in the buying experience. Globally, retail is tracking its customers and their buying habits through image processing that recognises people and their usage of the outlet.
Tata Elxsi has worked with the complete engineering design of one of the Marlboro point-of-sale units – storage and display across all variants. This was to design advertising and branding for its products in the automatic dispensing system seen in supermarkets.
Most retail stores abroad are unmanned and would require a centrally controlled branding system. Tata Elxsi designed various levels of advertisements for the dispensing system that Marlboro could electronically control from its offices. In India, though this kind of work is still not in demand, Tata Elxsi is now helping set up interactive kiosks for clients with Musicon, a company providing music content, where consumers can download music from a kiosk to either a mobile phone or a similar wireless device. This kiosk can then be used for branding by any consumer products or services company.
Though IDE plans for retail are yet to take off in India (Tata Elxsi is in talks with several leading retail players, says Sondur), the company’s work brand and product development services span a range of industries: FMCG (GSK, Unilever, Sara Lee, Emami), transportation (Tata Motors, Jaguar, Ford and even the Light Combat Helicopter for HAL), consumer electronics and appliances (Whirlpool, Kenstar, Unilever) and medical devices.
In fact, in several cases, Tata Elxsi’s designers have changed lab equipment into products that consumers can use. Narendra Ghate, Senior Manager at IDE, recalls the time Unilever in India showed them a large piece of lab equipment that had to be converted into a mass-use water purifier. The end product had to be affordable and user-friendly, allowing effortless cleaning and replacement of consumables.
The result was Pureit, which transformed the way Unilever viewed the “water business, and now having sold 20 lakh pieces, has made water a major business category,” says a smiling Ghate.
Similarly, IDE had a mandate to design a handheld computer to be used by the masses. The device had to be simple with touch-screens and durable batteries. The end-result was the Simputer, a rugged and robust product that enables the end-user to perform many functions with ease.
In the case of Junior Horlicks, GSK came to IDE with a proposition to ‘stir kids’ curiosity and encourage them to drink the beverage.’ After extensive research, it was decided that animal characters would excite kids tremendously and IDE designers chose elephant and lion characters. “But we used technology here to make the characters more attractive for children,” says Sondur. Through the use of ISBM (injection stretch blow moulding) technology, IDE’s designers created sculpted bodies of the animals for the packaging of the product, which, apart from being a success in the market, also won the World Star award for packaging innovation.
Across the world, FMCG and consumer product companies are trying to enhance consumer engagement in the retail point of sale and coupled with technology, this could be more effective. “The rapid development in image processing, display, and wireless technologies can be brought together to provide a completely customised experience to the consumer of a brand of products,” says Sondur.
The scenario of trying to enhance consumer engagement with a brand will also be playing out in the Indian retail space in the next couple of years, and Tata Elxsi would develop its technology-based design offering to help its customers achieve this. “We have done quite a bit of work in product design and now want to extend that capability into retail,” says Sondur.

Mktg - Never give up on the idea

Shane Warne was the ultimate celebrity of my time. He exhilarated fans and exasperated authorities and sponsors with the same ease with which he bowled the flipper. Like the great tennis player John McEnroe who was arguably Nike’s greatest flag bearer, Warne, another endorser of the brand, challenged the establishment and yet was a champion, which was the individuality that the brand portrayed and valued in its endorsers. After Warne’s phenomenal performance in the unforgettable 1999 World Cup in England, Nike produced an ad titled “Never give up”.
It was my favourite, as it showed Warne facing a number of challenges that might have seemed insurmountable to ordinary mortals, some of whom competed with him — his shoulder injury, the betting scandal, separation from his family and the ultimate insult — being dropped from the team that he was such an integral and important part of; and then the commercial ends with him making a brilliant comeback in the finals at Lords against a hapless Pakistan, which Australia won in a canter.
Like to all great work the response was extreme and not middle-of-the-road. As per Michael Simon, creative director of the Advertising agency Foot Cone Belding: “Blokes punched the air and went “Come on”. Women said I don’t care how good he is, he’s a nob.” As for me, the commercial made a profound impression on me, not only because Shane Warne was one of my favourite cricketers, but also because the idea was powerful. Warne was in the news for all the wrong reasons and had come out of the depths to the pinnacle as only he can do, and this commercial had captured that. Once again a clever scriptwriter had an idea that the celebrity had taken to the next level with his real-life story and rather than use the celebrity to prop up a weak idea as we see so often.Reel life or real life
All of us are voyeurs in some sense of the term and love to peek into the lives of celebrities. The importance index of socialites seems to be directly proportionate to the gossip that they have access to about the celebrities that we all admire and yet we must concede that these same celebrities constantly provide grist to the gossip mill with their errors of omission and commission. Thank God for that, otherwise we would all be so bored! Of course, some of these are facts and not gossip as celebrity lives are open books.
It is common knowledge that M. S. Dhoni, India’s one-day and T20 captain (and at this point of time the hottest celebrity when it comes to sponsorships), was an indifferent student at best and has just now enrolled for a graduate course years after leaving school. Of course, one can be defensive about one’s lack of education or flaunt it. Or better still, let that be the idea of a television commercial for one of the myriad brands that one is endorsing.
Dhoni and Pepsi have done just that in the new “Youngistan” commercial. Although it is likely that you would have seen the commercial too, as it has got wide exposure, the script is still worth recounting. The commercial begins with Dhoni in an unlikely setting, the classroom, where he is clearly ill at ease. The teacher seems to revel in his role of increasing the young sportsman’s discomfiture and asks him his marks in Mathematics.
I am sure there will soon be another maxim that says that like you do not ask a man his salary and a woman her age, people must remember not to ask youngsters their marks in Maths! Dhoni sheepishly says 41, reminding me of my rank in class X, but back to the script!
The film gets into monologue mode where he says he realises he did not spend much time studying in school though he did spend time studying pitches and opposition bowlers’ minds as he examines someone who at close quarters looks surprisingly like Brett Lee. But he is mortal enough to concede that he has been unable to read the mind of Sreesanth who is gyrating in the background. He ends the commercial by saying that thanks to all his studies he has already won a world cup and the secret is to have a thirst for success.
Why do I like this commercial? Is it because it is true to Pepsi’s character of being for the young and young at heart? Is it because it appeals to the popular sentiment that my children seem to reflect that you do not have to study to be successful? Is it because the brand promise of quenching thirst is so deftly woven into the script? Is it because it is the story of the lad from Ranchi who is so far from us geographically and yet so close to our hearts? Is it because of the power of the idea that builds real life into a commercial that is endearing? Yes. Once again my submission to writers is: “Never give up on the power of the idea”. That and not the celebrity will make your commercial striking.
Clever writers too know the value of the presence and charisma that someone such as Dhoni brings to the script and table. He seems to have the same poise behind and in front of the wicket as he has in front of the camera. I wish I could say the same for some of our other cricketers who seem to be as nervous in front of the camera as they have been in their nineties.Rejection is not the name of the game
There was a time when actors used to reject film scripts that were not challenging or interesting. Or so out-of-work actors claimed.
Looks like actors do not exercise the same level of restraint or judgment when it comes to choosing scripts for products that they endorse. It seems like they are guided by considerations of a quick buck. I recently had the misfortune of seeing another celebrity commercial featuring Preity Zinta of BSNL fame and you must forgive me if I do not get the script right, as the commercial made for agonising watching, much less for remembering. The action happens on a film set and we have a distraught actor saying that she is unable to concentrate on the lines of the film as her washing machine is not working. I am sure out-of-work actors do their own laundry and those that own cricket teams must do the team’s laundry as well, which explains her confusion. Preity Zinta seems to pick real losers when it comes to endorsement scripts. Given the increasing importance of actors in this entire celebrity environment one hopes that actors, who may have a limited understanding of branding, will at least have a better feel for the audience and exercise one level of quality control in the script. Well, there is no harm in hoping, is there? Cricketers, actors, who else?
Our marketers and advertising agencies, despite all the hype about thinking differently and out of the box, end up being surprisingly predictable in their thinking and execution. Cricket and (hold your breath) films or entertainment seem to be the only two genres in their horizon. Dhoni endorses 12 brands at last count. Giving him a run for his money is Saif Ali Khan. Ads which were featuring Saif appeared for about 45 lakh seconds last year leaving behind Shah Rukh Khan with 42 lakh seconds and Big B with a mere 32 lakh seconds.
Younger actors are replacing the older actors. TVS, Sonata, Titan, Brylcreem, Lays, Taj Mahal Tea, Royal Stag, Pepsi, Toshiba, Videocon are all using celebrities. Surely our agencies, marketers and communication experts are taking the easy way out. Yet, there is no denying the fact that celebrities bring instant awareness to the brands they endorse, but yet the question must be asked: How many of these celebrities are part of the long-term strategy of the brand, like the Nike brand that this piece started with? Never give up
Let me end with my familiar refrain. More and more companies are joining the celebrity bandwagon as they seem to be following the herd or getting satisfied with the awareness which is just one part of the whole buying equation. At the risk of sounding nostalgic one can only remember some long-term strategies like a continuing character that Surf Excel created in Lalitaji, Onida’s creation of the devil or Amul’s little moppet that still continues to be the longest running campaign. Maybe there is learning from the life and times of Shane Warne. In cricket and branding there can be no pain without gain.
Are you ready for the pain of the long term?
(Ramanujam Sridhar is the CEO of brandcomm and the author of One Land, One Billion Minds.)

Business - Swatch this villain

Nicholas G. Hayek, Founder and Chairman of Swatch, stands on the banks of Lake Constance before the launch earlier this month of the 007 Villain series of Swatches at Bregenz, Austria. Hayek wears on his left wrist the first-ever Swatch made; the second one is the Quantum of Solace from the 007 Villain series. The third watch on his left wrist is a high-end Breguet. On his right wrist Hayek wears an analogue-digital Omega Seamaster he has been wearing since 1992. Also seen above are two of the 007 Villain watches – the one on the left is based on the forthcoming Bond thriller ‘Quantum of Solace’, and the other on ‘Dr. No’.

Pradipta Mohapatra

Nicholas G. Hayek, Founder and Chairman of Swatch Group, otherwise known as “Mr Swatch”, celebrated the 25th anniversary of Swatch, the world’s largest watch company with annual revenues of $6 billion in Bregenz, Austria, on Septemb er 9. For a long while Hayek was the hero of the Swiss watch Industry. Like the Secret Service agent James Bond, who comes in from the cold to save the world from catastrophe in his movies, Hayek arrived from nowhere and saved the Swiss watch industry from the onslaught of Japanese ‘villains’. Like a true James Bond he re-established the Swiss watch industry and has now made Swatch the leader of the worldwide horology industry. And now it is his turn to play villain!
Hayek, who is 82 years old, has the uncanny knack of making his customers express how they feel, which is the very philosophy of Swatch’s brand positioning. The Swatch has been elegant, attractive, spontaneous, provocative, seductive, but never villainous. With the launch of 22 watches as Swatch 007 Villain collection, Hayek has given his customers a chance to take away a slice of James Bond’s life as memorabilia. In the words of Nicholas Hayek, “It’s the art of the villain that interests us. In Ian Fleming’s novels and all the Bond films, the villains play a crucial role. And if Bond is alive and well today, it is thanks in no small part to the enduring power of his enemies.”
Indeed. The Swatch 007 Villain Collection, launched with fanfare and pizzazz at a picturesque venue on Lake Constance which borders Germany, Austria and Switzerland, is a tribute to the Bond saga as a whole. It honours the art of infamy that Bond’s creators developed with perfidious cunning and cinematic flair through 22 thrilling adventures. Each model in the Villain collection evokes one or more wily evildoers. We know them all – armed to the teeth and dressed to kill: there’s Dr. No with his stylish suit and metal hands and Blofeld with his fluffy white cat purring under the sign of Spectre. Rosa Klebb has a nasty knuckle-duster, Xenia Zaragevna Onatopp with a black leather strap to match her killer thighs and deadly Red kiss. There’s a metal-mouthed monster of a man called “Jaws”, who was present at the launch as Richard Kiel, the over seven-foot actor who played the part in the movie, and scheming Soviets whose watches evoke the Empire’s glory days.
Fiendishly clever actors add lustre to the growing legend, the Villains pay tribute to outstanding performances: Christopher Walken’s malevolent Max Zorin deserves his stylish Retrograde; Richard Kiel’s menacing jaws gets a massive, polished steel Irony; Lotte Lenya’s Rosa Klebb is given a pair of knuckle-dusters welded to an Irony Lady. And in homage to Casino Royale, poker-faced master of malice Mads Mikkelsen (alias Le Chiffre) nabs an Irony Big with an Ace of Spades. There are more to come, of course, as Swatch explores the dark side of the story.
More than forty-five years have passed since Dr. No debuted on the silver screen in 1962, but the fascination that has nourished the myth of 007 shows no signs of fading. If anything, it’s growing stronger – Quantum of Solace, Bond flick number twenty-two, premieres this year – and the 22nd Swatch watch in the new collection is a fitting tribute to Dominic Greene, the latest Bond villain we are sure to hate.
How much of imagination does it take for a designer to design a Swatch? And how does the designer arrive at an emotional connect with the customers? Here’s how the Dr. No model of the Villain collection was designed:
The first Bond film features the nefarious, ever elegant Dr. No, the ‘Spectre’ agent played by Julius Wiseman who dies sinking into the bubbling vat of a nuclear reactor. Dr. No and the reactor find a suitably elegant tribute in the form of this distinctive Skin Chrono: its textured white and pale beige synthetic fabric strap evokes Dr. No’s high-collared suit, and the dial recalls the reactor’s instrument panel.
Celebrating the latest dastardly villain to take up arms against James Bond, this darkly elegant Swatch Chrono Plastic presents the distinctive mark of Dominic Greene, the villain of the movie, on a black silicon strap with ivory silicon inserts leading up to the matt black plastic case, which has ivory chrono pushers and a matt black crown. The silicon loop features the famous 007 pistol logo and the words “Green Planet” appear in ivory on the 6 o’clock side of the strap.
The audience comprising worldwide media and Swatch retailers from across the world, received some enormous branding lessons from Hayek. For a start, every new product that is launched must be consistent with the branding philosophy. Then, products are not designed by designers in isolation. The designer needs to design based on a tight brief. Lastly, if a lifestyle brand fails to make an emotional connect with the customer, it damages the brand.
Hayek, who owns 80 per cent of this closely-held company, is also a ‘guru” on low cost promotion. He knows that if a product is written about in the media, it is far more valuable than the money you spend on advertising. In the first one week since the Swatch Villain Collection was launched, the event and the products were written about in the media in about a 100 countries. This is all before the first product advertisement had been released to the media!
Prior to the high-decibel launch of the Swatch villain series, in an exclusive interview to this writer, Hayek had outlined his vision for India by stating that he would like to see a Swatch watch on the hand of every fifth Indian and to achieve a revenue of one billion Swiss francs (about $900 million), both in the span of ten years. Swatch, which has a clutch of high-end brands in its portfolio such as Breguet, Omega, Rado, Tissot and Longines, has already made moves in this direction with intentions of establishing a dedicated distribution network in the Indian market and has finalised a joint venture with an Indian partner. And, Hayek has given his daughter, Nayla Hayek, the responsibility of growing the Indian market. As Swatch would say, its time has come.
(Pradipta Mohapatra writes a regular column on watches for Business Line Smartbuy. He was at the company’s anniversary celebrations at the invitation of Swatch)