Oct 3, 2008

India - Card firms may up fees to skirt rate cap

Anirudh Laskar
Leading credit card companies are busy working out a back-up plan in case the Supreme Court turns down their petition against a consumer court decision to cap the annual interest rate at 30 per cent.
WHAT’S ON OFFERAnnualised interest rates on credit cards
Interest rate (%)
ICICI Bank 15-40.8
Citibank 18-42
StanChart 23.88-40.8
HSBC 33-38.4
Note: The rate could be higher in cases of late payments or defaults
The apex court is expected to deliver its judgment in the matter in a few days’ time. Leading bankers said they would have no option but to impose a steep annual fee in case the Court agrees with the consumer court’s opinion.
In their rush to grab market share, most banks had waived the annual fee on credit cards. “We will have no option but to impose a hefty fee if there is a cap on the interest rate. In the process, the business itself would become unviable, forcing many of us to withdraw,” said a leading banker.
Many banks have already started “upgrading” their customers to platinum or titanium cards with a few freebies in return for an annual fee. But the numbers are still too small and banks have been wary of pushing this hard in fear of losing customers.
Bankers say the credit-card business is not profitable in India due to the high administration costs and the small ticket size of transactions.
“The average ticket size is just Rs 1,500 and the administration costs are too high. Besides, the default rate in this segment is also pretty high. Thus, it doesn’t make sense to cap interest rates at 30 per cent,” a foreign banker said.
Another banker said high rates also ensure lower mis-selling and raise the entry barrier. But others say banks themselves to blame for this mess. The default rate on credit cards is 8-15 per cent and has been going up mainly due to the practice of issuing free cards.
“Too many credit cards prompted many borrowers to spend beyond their means leading to delinquencies,” admitted a banker.
A few weeks ago, a clutch of foreign lenders including Citibank, HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank and American Express Bank had moved the apex court challenging a consumer court’s judgement that a bank cannot charge beyond 30 per cent annually on credit cards, even in cases of defaults.
The banks argued that capping of interest rates on credit card payment was contrary to the Reserve Bank of India policy giving banks the freedom to fix rates on non-priority sector personal loans, regardless of the loan size.
The court had given the banks three weeks’ time for their explanation and feedback on the high credit card rates, which range from 35 to 50 per cent.
At present, Citibank has over 3.7 million credit-card holders in India. HSBC, which manages about 2.8 million credit-card accounts here, levies annual fees in the range of Rs 750 to Rs 4,000 according to the category of the card. ICICI Bank levies annual fees in the range of Rs 1,500 to Rs 25,000 depending on the features of the card. About 50 per cent of the bank’s card-holders hold free cards.

Entertainment - India;Recession?Not in filmdom

Ashish Sinha & Madhusheel Arora

The prospects of an economic slowdown loom over most sectors of the economy. The mood amongst businessmen is sombre and none has any appetite left for risks. Except filmdom where producers have put large bets on the coming festive season.
This month, which started with Id, will see Dusshera celebrations in a few days and will end with Diwali, Bollywood is ready with a slew of releases. First off the block will be the Abhishek Bachchan and Priyanka Chopra starrer, Drona, Sanjay Dutt’s Kidnap and the much-awaited and critically-acclaimed Ramchand Pakistani.
Closer to Diwali, there will be five more — Roadside Romeo (animation), Fashion, Golmaal Returns, Heroes and EMI. Trade experts say Rs 150-Rs 180 crore is riding on these five releases alone.
Indian film producers plan to time their blockbusters for release around the festive season every year. Schools and colleges shut down for a break, employees get bonuses and the weather improves in the North. And there is a dash of superstition as well. “Bollywood producers believe that if the film does well during this time, it will help their business all around the year,” says a Mumbai-based film-trade analyst.
This year is no different. Analysis of past releases around festive season show that only one in three films has gone on to become a commercial hit, while others have not even managed to recover their costs.
The season of 2006 saw two high-profile releases –Akshay Kumar’s Jaan-e-Mann and Shah Rukh Khan’s Don. While Don became a hit with 60 per cent returns on investment, Jann-e-Mann lost money. The 2007 season too belonged to Shah Rukh Khan as his home production Om Shanti Om became the biggest grosser of the year and ultimately made about Rs 100 crore worldwide. But Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s melodrama in Sawariya failed to strike a chord with the audience and the producers lost money, experts say.
But never before has the list of festive season releases been as long as this year. A few months ago, some large film exhibitors had told Business Standard that they expected a drop in footfalls because of the rise in inflation – people are expected to spend less on entertainment when prices of essential commodities go up and when there is an economic slowdown.
To be sure, the early part of 2008 was not too good for the film industry. After the initial success of Jodhaa Akbar and Race earlier this year, Bollywood was struggling. “Then, towards the middle of the year, the Indian Premier League cricket tournament adversely impacted the business of multiplexes,” says a senior executive of PVR Cinemas, a leading chain of multiplexes.
Thins took a turn for the better in the second half of the year with four smashing hits – Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, Singh is Kinng, Bachna Ae Hasino and Rock On. Clearly, the slowdown is still some distance away from the movie theatres.
Trade pundits are hopeful that things will look even better this month. “There are big expectations from EMI, Fashion, Roadside Romeo and Golmaal Returns — all of which will appeal to the youth. Even if people curtail their spends on other goods, they always tend to spend on watching movies and we are hoping for the same this Diwali,” says an executive from Popcorn Motion pictures, the producers of Sanjay Dutt starrer EMI that will be released a day after Diwali

Mktg - Revisiting Prof Levitt

How valid today are the views expressed in Prof Theodore Levitt’s classic article, The Globalization of Markets?.
A youth in India is using a Nokia mobile phone, a Lenovo laptop, Nike shoes, pulls out a Coke can from a Whirlpool refrigerator, wearing Levi jeans, hops on to Honda Motor cycle wearing Rayban sunglasses ... But in one critical element Prof Levitt was wrong. Most of these products were possibly developed for the Indian market and may not be available in any other part of the world.

Ambi M.G. Parameswaran
Given what is everywhere the purpose of commerce, the global company will shape the vectors of technology and globalisation into its great strategic fecundity. It will systematically push these vectors towards their own convergence, offering everyone simultaneously high-quality, more or less standardised products at optimally low prices, thereby achieving for itself vastly expanded markets and profits. Companies that do not adapt to the new global realities will become victims of those that do.” Those were the closing sentences in the marketing classic The Globalization of Markets by Prof Theodore Levitt in the Harvard Business Review published exactly 25 years ago (May-June 1983).
Prof Theodore Levitt is no more but his article continues to be compulsory reading for all managers around the world.
Now that 25 years have gone by, are all that he said in his article still true?
Prof Levitt had made some prophetic pronouncements and let us look at some of them:
“Gone are accustomed differences in national or regional preferences. Gone are the days when a company could sell last year’s models — or lesser versions of advances products – in the less developed world.”
“A powerful force drives the world towards a converging commonality, and that force is technology.”
“Global competition spells the end of domestic territoriality, no matter how diminutive the territory may be.”
In fact, Prof Levitt had also propounded the theory of a flat world. He had said ‘The earth is flat.’ “The earth is round, but for most purposes it’s sensible to treat it as flat. Space is curved, but not much for everyday life here on earth.”
Prof Levitt had used the case of several consumer durables, such as washing machines, to build a case for one product for one world. He had denounced the need for localisation and customisation of products, especially if such customisation also adds to the cost of the final product.
Management experts have expressed doubts about the longevity of his tenets. Some such as Alan Mitchell have expressed a view that Ted Levitt wasn’t totally wrong about globalisation with his observation: “Globalisation is a hugely important trend, but it is not the only trend” and “…. he probably overestimated the speed and extent of market convergence. And certainly, at times, he seems to equate globalisation with Americanisation” (Marketing Week, June 26, 2003)
In his article The Post-Global Brand, Prof Jean Noel Kapferer (Journal of Brand Management, June 2005) had issued a warning that “Global brands should never forget that the business must also be local: this is the post-global brand”. Prof Kapferer indicates that brands such as Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Microsoft have all attempted to sell one product promise across the world. But the same cannot be said of many other industries: “The car industry provides a good illustration of why the concept of the global product is in fact a myth”.
Prof Kapferer also says that “the time has, in fact, come to recognise the post-global brand — the brand that no longer tries to adhere unreservedly to the model of total globalisation, which is no longer perceived as ideal. Of course, globalisation at the upstream or production stage remains a priority in many sectors.” So while parts could be standardised on a platform across the globe, individual markets may still command customisation, is Prof Kapferer’s view.
Prof Pankaj Ghemavat in his article in Harvard Business Review (October 2006) makes a point about globalisation not being the apocalypse it is made out to be. Using international trade data Prof Ghemavat says: “… Most types of economic activity that might cross borders are still largely concentrated domestically. Levels of internationalisation of phone calls, management research, charitable giving, investment and even trade cluster much closer to 10 per cent than to 100 per cent”.
The book Bound Together by Nayan Chandra traces the origins of global trade back to the origin of civilisation itself. His view is that globalisation of markets is as old as human civilisation and trade.
With liberalisation, we in India, have had a flurry of new products entering the market over the last 17 years. And if we look around, what Prof Levitt said is possibly more true than ever before. A youth in India is using a Nokia mobile phone, a Lenovo laptop, Nike shoes, pulls out a Coke can from a Whirlpool refrigerator, wearing Levi jeans, hops on to Honda Motor cycle wearing Rayban sunglasses ...
But in one critical element Prof Levitt was wrong. Most of the abovementioned products were possibly developed for the Indian market and may not be available in any other parts of the world.
We are, therefore, not seeing a levelled-out global market but a multi-tiered global-local market structure emerging around the world.
Prof Levitt, if he was alive, would have possibly written a new piece on the ‘multi-globalisation’ of markets. And I would have had to wait another 25 years to write a review. A sobering thought indeed.
(The writer is Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, Draftfcb Ulka Advertising.)

Mktg - India;A phone of many parts

Janani Krishnaswamy
It’s touted as the iPhone killer. It’s feature-rich and the firsts it claims for itself are many: As much as 24GB memory space, a 2.8-inch-wide screen, a dual LED flash and a dual-band HSDPA are among a few of them. The much anticipated handset from Nokia, the N96, which is also the most advanced multimedia device from the iconic Nseries range, is finally out. And efforts to promote this started months before the product was launched.
The typical users would be “gadget freaks, people who believe in social networking, those who use the Internet too often and people who consume a lot of multimedia”, says Vineet Taneja, Head-Go To Market (GTM), Nokia. They also tend to be younger men in the “elite” class of society.
Efforts to promote the N96 started two to three months prior to its launch. “Much of our preliminary marketing was through the Internet, where we identified key technology bloggers and used their feedback to further alter our marketing and selling plans.”
The device is preloaded with popular audio albums, the Bollywood blockbuster Om Shanti Om, detailed maps of three countries and three N-Gage platform games. “This is also part of our marketing plan – an effort to indirectly make the user try all the features available in the handset,” adds Taneja.
Nokia will run a complete 360-degree campaign in the next few weeks from now, as it is a flagship launch for the industry leaders. There will be a lot of television advertising, a lot of activity in the Internet and in print. Events both online and offline will constitute a major part of the campaign.
“We also had a pre-booking advertisement to check for interest levels in the market, and to our surprise, we found great response. A lot of people pre-booked the handsets, which we consider something phenomenal,” says Taneja.
Nokia banks heavily on experiential marketing and hence a major part of the marketing spend is allotted to retail. “We have a strong presence in retail – both branded retail, and multi-brand outlets. We have our concept stores in specific cities, where we have a set of well-trained promoters to guide the buyer through his purchasing decision,” he added. “Doing just television advertising doesn’t add value.” Nokia believes in getting the user to experience the gadget before actually buying it. “What we do is equivalent to a test drive.”
On September 15, Nokia announced a consumer initiative; the Nokia N96 24 Gig is Big! Challenge, a contest inviting users across India to discover the enormous memory space of the device. Devinder Kishore, Director (Marketing), Nokia India, said, “The Nokia N96 will set new industry parameters for mobile handsets across all categories.” Nokia is involving the student community in a big way. The Nseries ‘ConvergExpress’, a special wi-fi coach showcasing Nokia’s converged devices, will go around Delhi University.
Starting the fourth or fifth month from the launch, Nokia plans to begin a reinforcement campaign. “We will start reinforcing and start generating positive word of mouth.” Nokia already has a consumer interaction platform – MyNokia, where the users of Nokia get to write about their experiences with the gadget.
With its reputation of iPhone killer, it was expected to be priced cheaper than the iPhone. While the iPhone is priced between Rs 31,000 and Rs 36,000, this Nokia handset is priced at Rs 34,999, a price level similar to its predecessor, N95. “The pricing strategy is not any different and is not altered to suit competition,” adds Taneja.
Elaborating on the comparison drawn with the Apple iPhone, Taneja says, “We welcome competition as it helps us. We have a really strong range unlike our competitors. The N96 is our top end device at the moment. However, we have a lot more to offer to our consumers.”
Another important area that Nokia concentrates is on ‘range planning.’ “Range is an important part of our strategy,” he added. Being market leaders, Nokia believes a wide range helps the company hold its position. “We need it as market leaders. We can’t afford to leave any gaps.”
Elaborating on the creative product strategy, Taneja explained one key technology that has come to play in the handset — the DVB-H, which expands as Digital Video Broadcasting-Handheld. Though the device is currently enabled with the technology, due to various reasons, it is available only in New Delhi and only Doordarshan can be screened at the moment. Nokia expects Mobile TV technology to be the next big thing, though.
Taneja says the device is N-Gage compatible, like other Nseries handsets. Going forward, Nokia also plans to launch its Music Store in India. There could also be an Application Store in the near future.
Listing features in the device, in the order of user preference, Taneja said music comes on top, followed by Web browsing. That would be followed by gaming for the gadget freaks followed by the video capabilities of the phone. So, where does the basic functionality of calling come into place?

Mktg - Looks can sell

Meera Mohanty Bindu D. Menon
Sleek. Nifty. Stylish. Spiffy. Practical too. In a day and age when looks rule as much as substance, packaging is having its moment in the sun. It may be unfair to judge a book by its cover, but when it comes to biscuits, oil, cola and even common salt, it’s the packaging that can convince the consumer to pick one product over another, maybe even drop a trusted old brand.
Santosh Desai, CEO, Future Brands, puts it succinctly when he says, “If the content is prose, than packaging is the poetry.” Ever more sophisticated today, packaging decodes and glorifies what’s inside of it. Packaging, the silent and most important salesman, is critical to products weighing down long retail shelves.
It has the ability to provide great disruption and engagement with the consumer, says Punita Lal, Executive Director (Marketing), PepsiCo India. “We are seeing the emergence of a discerning consumer who is increasingly looking for premium offerings and value-added products. This means that we have to constantly tantalise the consumer with new offerings, whether it is through packaging or communication,” says Lal.
In today’s market there is no way packaging can do without absolutely top class work. It is as much about material as about graphics and design. With the wide number of choices that every brand has to break through, packaging is gaining importance. And brands across sectors are acknowledging that it’s a specialist’s job. “The pack is the first point where the consumer makes contact with the brand,” says George Mathew, Founder Director of Bangalore-based consultancy Icarus which specialises in two areas, Industrial Design and Branding. There is much sophistication that’s going into the packaging even of ready-to-eat goods, processed meats and commodities such as sooji that have so far rarely been branded, says Mathew.
Sometimes the packaging, in cosmetics, for example, becomes a functional part of the product, adding a lot more to the experience, says Future Brands’ Desai. Structural packaging, where shape meets usability, aesthetics and the technical aspects of design, is also an area that is seeing a lot of activity. Talcum powders, toilet cleaners (Harpic’s a great example of structural design, says Icarus’ Mathew) and shampoo bottles are being redesigned with great care and cleverness. Packaging can be a great branding exercise, says Coca-Cola, which would like to claim its contour bottle as one of the “best examples of the power of packaging”. Its message should be instantly recognisable. “We envisage packaging variants playing a major role as consumers become more discerning about usage options. We are open to looking at varied clutter-breaking packaging options in the near future,” said a Coke spokesperson.
Plastics are a lot more accepted. “There is a whole generation that has grown up seeing plastic around them, and are not worried about buying their food products in plastics. The rule that whisky or beer has to be served in glass bottles, for example, no longer exists. New companies such as CavinKare and Paras have skipped glass completely,” says Udit Seth, Vice-President (Sales and Marketing), Pearl Polymers.
Canned products are also likely to be more visible. Rexam Hindustan Tin Works (HTW), the joint venture between the world’s second largest consumer packaging company, the UK-based Rexam Plc, and HTW has seen a 30 per cent growth in the can market from last year. It recently organised a ‘Can School’ for leading breweries and carbonated soft drink (CSD) players that are its clients. “Cans as packages is growing. With greater disposable income, and changing lifestyles, cans are now perceived as a package to be seen with,” says Atit Bhatia, Vice-President (Business Development), Rexam HTW. The price point had been an issue, but with local manufacturing beer makers avoid a 32 per cent import duty and CSD makers save themselves 12 per cent.
When Pepsi’s Rs 15 cans picked up, competition also adjusted prices. Cans still account for less than 1 per cent of CSD sales, compared to 30 per cent globally. (For beers it’s 6 per cent in India, against 30 per cent globally.) Rexam HTW, which provides for more than 50 per cent of canned units sold in India, is betting on cans picking up as they also work out to be more affordable to stack on retail shelves where space is sold by the sq. cm.
“We are also seeing interest from fruit juice companies. If you are looking at non-returnable packaging, the convenience and trendy nature of cans is unmatched,” says Bhatia. There are great possibilities, such as the smart can with a temperature indicator that will change colour to indicate the temperature of the beverage, he adds. As innovations go, Pepsi points to its sleeker My Can launched last year. “The youth are very expressive of their individuality and style. They are not emulative in their approach. They are creators of their own unique style and they proudly wear it on their shoulders. My Can emerged out of a clear need — the youth needed a new, stylish ‘on-the-go’ format,” says Pepsi’s Punita Lal.
Packaging is also becoming more communicative, with context and seasonality (special launches, celebrity packs, collectors’ items) finding space on the package. “It’s becoming the map of the brand,” says Future Brands’ Desai. “Once considered an appendage to the manufacturing value chain and not a core activity, packaging increasingly is being acknowledged as a crucial segment of any economy in proportion to the growth,” says Sanjay Sachdeva, Director (Marketing and Product Management - India and South Asia Markets), Tetra Pak.
The packaging industry is itself reeling under margin pressures essentially caused by rise in raw material prices. “The rising cost of paper, which is the basic raw material for the industry, is eating up the margins,” says Amila Singhvi, President, Indian Carton Manufacturing Association (ICMA). Manufacturers have passed on 3-7 per cent of the cost to their clients. The reduced excise duty on paper mills in the last Budget, from 12 per cent to 8 per cent, however hasn’t been passed on to the packaging industry. A rationalisation of tax structure, says Rajiv Dhar, the Director of Indian Institute of Packaging, can bring in robust growth for the highly fragmented Rs 8,000-crore industry. Big players such as Reliance and the Jindals have entered the industry, which has been seeing an annual growth rate of 22-25 per cent.
Raw material costs have gone up 20-40 per cent from last April to August, say those in the plastic business. According to Pearl Polymers’ Seth, the company has passed on about 30 per cent of the cost increases to its clients, and some of them have passed it on to consumers. A recent drop in demand and lowered crude prices have helped, though. Any significant change in packaging could cost Rs 6-10 lakhs for just the research, design and packaging work. A cautious FMCG industry is holding back some of its launches, say industry sources. “Things are bit in a flux right now. There is a demand, despite the market being overstocked. How long this demand will last will depend on this Diwali season,” says an industry insider.
Packaging accounts for just 5 per cent of a product’s cost, and is hardly the most urgent cost concern to be tackled. Yet, in the face of rising costs, companies could consider refreshing tired and existing brands rather than revamping the brand completely. “Certainly the emphasis is not on introducing too many products as it was last year. There is more a certain tuning, a refreshing of a look,” says Icarus’ Mathew. Lightening the weight of the bottles is a constant R&D effort, adds Seth. “Bigger FMCG players are very stringent on quality and will not take such shortcuts for existing lines. However, we are considering lighter materials for some newer projects. It has also been done for secondary packaging, for example, bottles of confectionery,” says Seth.
Things are, however, looking up these days, certainly for those involved with plastics. Though fluctuating prices will need to stabilise, raw material prices have gone down in the recent past. The implementation of new food safety standards is also expected to bring along with superior standards and norms, new packs, says Satybrata Mishra, Assistant General Manager (Sales and Marketing), Indian Dairy Machinery Company Ltd, the NDDB-promoted company. It will also make the sector more competitive, ultimately passing on the valuable benefits to the end consumer, he adds.
And then there is modern trade. “Unlike in shops, most of which are just large cupboards, modern trade allows the consumer tactile stimuli, where they can pick up products that speak to them directly — that makes packaging the immediate link, most critical,” says Desai. Retail chains are also expected to revamp their own offerings, predicts Icarus’ Mathew. Currently most retails chains offer their own private labels in basic, undifferentiated packs. They will be soon a thing of the past once retail chains invest in a more exciting packaging. There is, however, only that much that anyone can do. At the end of the day the product will have to clinch the game.

India - France plans to sell large 1,600 MW reactor to India

K. Venugopal
Paris, Oct 2 France’s nuclear energy establishment is delighted at the prospect of dealing again with India. It did not matter that the US Senate had not formally voted for the Indo-US nuclear deal; the French were raring to go and their agreement with India was signed during the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh’s stopover in Paris on September 30.
“We have been waiting ten years for this,” said a senior industry executive, who did not wish to be quoted.Preparatory work
France is likely to be among the first off the block as the world’s nuclear industry tries to bid for a piece of the action which will see India adding up to 40,000 MW of capacity with imported reactors in the next decade.
Although negotiations over the deal took many months more than anticipated, a lot of preparatory work has been done in the meantime. Time was not really lost, aver industry executives. Yet, nuclear plants take time to build; even if the contracts are signed today by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India with a supplier such as Areva of France, it would take at least six to eight years before the project can start supplying electricity.
What France plans to sell to India is the large 1,600 MW reactor, indeed, the largest of kind in commercial operations in the world. The biggest reactor working in India is the 540 MW model that debuted in Tarapur, Maharashtra, a couple of years ago. All other domestic reactors are 235 MW or smaller.
Although there has been no formal agreement to the effect, the understanding is that Areva, the French company the majority of whose shares are owned by the Government, and the one that has built all the 56 nuclear power reactors working in France, will supply equipment for the four reactors that NPCIL will set up at Jaitapur, a greenfield site in Maharashtra. The French have already seen the site.
France is confident of its nuclear power prowess: over three-fourth of the country’s electricity is provided by nuclear power stations that were pressed into service in the 1970s as a strategic move to rid itself of dependence on imported energy.Areva exports
France has not added much to its nuclear capacity in the past few years but Areva has exported four reactors to China and is helping the local company there to build several more.
And it is not just nuclear power plants that France hopes to sell. With uranium mining interests in many parts of the world, Areva could also be there bidding to sell natural uranium to power India’s home-made reactors which are currently low on fuel and, therefore, operating far below their capacity.
The French do not make the kind of fuel that India’s heavy water reactors use. But they can supply the natural uranium that India can fabricate the fuel with. The fuel can start coming in a few months of the contracts being signed, said Dr S.K. Jain, Managing Director, NPCIL, in an interview to Business Line recently.
The French touch may be felt in months rather than years.

India - Metro:Whose line is it anyway?

Oineetom Shah
After Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad, six more cities—Chennai, Kochi, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Chandigarh and Pune—are expected to launch metro rail systems in the near future. But the stir created by Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) chief Ellatuvalapil Sreedharan’s missive to the Centre over perceived risks stemming from the Hyderabad project being awarded to a private developer could throw a spanner in the works.
With an estimated $13.5 billion required to construct the five metro rail systems in Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Mumbai, the question of how these projects should be financed has become a bone of contention between the urban development ministry (the nodal department for metro projects) and the Planning Commission (which advises the government on infrastructure projects).
The differences centre on whether or not private players roped in for metro projects should be allowed to develop real estate along metro lines to help pay for the overall project and keep passenger costs low. Though all concerned, including the finance ministry, agree that the ultimate decision lies in the hands of the respective state governments, the urban development ministry seems to favour a Centre-state partnership as that would ensure better service quality. It also feels that lack of resources should not be the only consideration.
While Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata are being taken up on a joint-ownership pattern with the Centre and concerned state as project promoters, the metro projects in Mumbai and Hyderabad have been taken up on a PPP basis. Chennai is also hoping to go the DMRC way. But the Planning Commission is pushing to award the project to a private bidder and is making a similar case for Kochi.
“In my view, the Centre and states should not get into the running of metro rail projects because they will not be able to handle the liabilities. However, the metro being an urban amenity, the Centre should extend some funds through the viability gap funding route,” Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia told FE.
The commission, which has framed the model concession agreement (MCA) for the Mumbai and Hyderabad metro projects—the only two to have so far been auctioned out to private players—feels the government’s resources are not sufficient to fund all infrastructure projects and actively makes a case for awarding projects to private bidders. In such cases, real estate development by the concessionaire helps make the project viable.
The finance ministry, which stamped its approval to the Hyderabad metro project, is willing to provide up to 20% as a viability gap fund grant for PPPs, if states opt for that route. But it admits there is room for greater debate on land use as well as valuations. “There is need for an informed discussion on whether land should be parcelled out for a metro project. The issue of land valuation must also be looked into,” a senior finance ministry official said. “We cannot make predictions on the Hyderabad metro at a time when it is not even operational,” he added.
“Whatever the funding pattern, our objective should be to provide a sound system with a reasonable fare structure, which can be used by the common man,” M Ramachandran, secretary, urban development ministry, said, stressing that the primary concern should be to provide an effective metro rail system, not realty development.
Incidentally, the urban development ministry had asked the Planning Commission to draft a concession agreement for metro rail projects, just as the think-tank had done for ports and highways. But while it is yet to clear the document, it has been used successfully for Hyderabad and Mumbai.
“The Hyderabad MCA has been approved through an inter-ministerial process in the government. It is a standard document based on international best practices and allows for a transparent bidding process,” Gajendra Haldea, principal advisor (infrastructure) in the Planning Commission, said while laying to rest any possible fears of misuse of land in Hyderabad.
Analysts point out that internationally, metro rail systems are sustained by property development, as in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore, Taipei and even for homegrown DMRC. The funding model for DMRC is at sharp variance with that in Hyderabad. For Phase-I of the Delhi Metro, which stretches over 65 km, funds amounting to Rs 10,571 crore were spent. While the Japan Bank of International Cooperation provided 60%, the Centre and the Delhi government chipped in with the balance.
As far as Hyderabad is concerned, the Andhra Pradesh government opted for the PPP model. It awarded the project to Nava Bharat Consortium last month. As a sweetener, it also gave the concessionaire rights to develop a part of the 269-acre land used to operate the metro rail. The 71-km Hyderabad metro is estimated to cost Rs 12,132 crore. None of the four consortia that eventually submitted financial bids wanted viability gap funding as they felt real estate development would be a sufficient revenue stream.
The Nava Bharat Consortium—comprising of Nava Bharat Ventures Ltd, Maytas Infrastructure Ltd, Italian-Thai Development Plc and Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd (IL&FS)—will undertake the project on design-build-finance-operate-transfer basis. The consortium has actually offered to pay the state Rs 30,311 crore during the 35-year concession period. NVS Reddy, managing director Hyderabad Metro Rail Ltd (HMRL), said, “Metro projects are not financially viable and so realty development helps cross-subsidise losses to the private bidder.”
DMRC’s Sreedharan, who was advising the HMRL project until his recent outburst to Ahluwalia led to a severance of ties, noted in his plaint: “It is apparent the BOT operator has a hidden agenda which appears to be to extend the metro network to a large tract of his private land holdings so as to reap a windfall profit of four to five times the land price…. State governments will not be able to achieve standardisation and uniformity, which is essential to reduce the cost and encourage equipment vendors in the country.”
Hemant Sahai, the legal consultant who drafted the Mumbai and Hyderabad concession agreements, said, “The Hyderabad concession agreement is similar to the one drafted for Mumbai. There is no separate piece of land being given to the concessionaire for development,” Only the airspace above the maintenance depot and stations is being given, he noted.
Interestingly, as a consultant to the Hyderabad project, DMRC had pointed out the efficacies of financing it through the PPP route. It has made similar recommendations for Kochi and Mumbai as well. DMRC, although run in partnership with the Centre and Delhi government, is itself roping in private players to construct select routes like the airport express link in the capital.
Moreover, real estate development is the main money-spinner for the rail operator. It has developed properties in prime areas of the Capital, including Shahdara, Seelampur and Khyber Pass, some of which have been given on 90-year lease. In six years of operations, DMRC has earned over Rs 600 crore from realty development. In 2006-07, DMRC generated Rs 542.78 crore in revenue. It earned Rs 222.66 crore from operations, Rs 6.6 crore from consultancy and Rs 61.71 crore from other income. But the highest revenue came from real estate--Rs 251.81 crore.
On being contacted, DMRC declined to comment on the issue.

India - Income ceiling of Rs 4.5 lakh for OBC Creamy layer

NEW DELHI: The Union Cabinet on Friday decided to increase the income limit of creamy layer of OBCs from Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 4.5 lakh per annum.Nationa
l Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) had recommended the same. The NCBC had submitted a report in this regard to the government. The report reviewed the income criteria for exclusion of "socially advanced persons or sections" among OBC from 27 per cent reservation benefits in posts and services under Government of India. The Commission took into account views expressed by the representatives of the various state backward class commissions and secretaries in charge of the related departments of the states and union territories.
Where does Apple go from here? The question lies at the heart of the media and industry buzz that so often surrounds a company adept at surprising and confounding even the most jaded observers. It's particularly pressing in light of the oblique reference to a "new product transition" made by Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer during a July conference call with analysts. So I am left wondering, what might Apple have under its belt to surprise and delight customers over the next 6 to 24 months? Indulge me while I consider the prospect that at least for the foreseeable future, Apple has done virtually everything it could reasonably be expected to do, given consumer needs and the current state of tech and the economy. There are only so many world-changing moments that even Apple can create. Apple has had quite a string of them in the past several years. The launch of the first iPod, for example, occurred seven years ago this month. The rest, as they say, is history. The iPod for Mac users begat the iPod for Microsoft Windows users, which begat the iTunes store, AppleTV, and the iPhone

The Next Big Thing Now the Web is rife with rumors that Apple will next introduce a device that bridges the gap between the iPod touch and the Mac—a machine that's one part mini-mobile PC and one part media and entertainment device. The idea seems obvious to anyone who's used the iPod touch for e-mail and Web-browsing but wants a larger screen. While other PC companies like Dell and Asustek build mini-notebooks, Apple could best them all, or so the argument goes. But then what? As obvious as the path to a tablet device seems now, I have trouble imagining the next obvious path that Apple might follow in 2009 and 2010. In fact, the company may very well be nearing a product plateau. And here's the real kicker: That may not be a bad thing. Make no mistake. I see the potential for developments with established Apple product lines. Perhaps as soon as next year, the iPhone will evolve into a family of phones. Much like the iPod now comes in four flavors—touch, nano, classic, and shuffle—it's fair to expect that the iPhone will come in more than one model. The iPhone nano, for example, might appeal to those who think the current model is too big or too expensive.

Revving Up AppleTV And something important has to happen to AppleTV, which still seems to be little more than the "hobby" Apple CEO Steve Jobs said it was last year. I see the potential for hardware and software enhancements, including TiVo -like DVR features, a DVD player slot, and so on. Apple could take the features of AppleTV and pack them into an actual TV set—but that's unlikely. Selling TVs is a cutthroat, low-margin business better left to the likes of Sony, Panasonic, and Sharp. But I see less potential for radical new lines of products. There simply aren't many to choose from. Sales of Macs are growing at rates that are the envy of the PC industry, the iPhone is now making its debut all over the world, and the iPod is closing on the sale of its 200 millionth unit. That's three very healthy business lines, and I'm not sure Apple necessarily needs another. In his keynote at the Worldwide Developers Conference in July, Jobs said there are "three parts to Apple now"—the Mac, the music business including the iPod and iTunes, and the iPhone. He used the image of a three-legged stool to make the point. I prefer to think of it as a tripod, and I think Apple can and will do very well to enhance and grow these three legs without the need for building a fourth. Consumers Concerned With Credit And would that be such a bad thing? With the economy heading into certain trouble, consumers around the world are paring discretionary spending. The marketplace for new products that might change the world may have hit a saturation point, and consumers are more concerned about lowering the balances on their credit cards than on maxing them out on new stuff. Apple's in a very different place than it was seven years ago. On the eve of the iPod introduction, Apple had just emerged from debacle of the Mac G4 Cube and for most of 2001 had been reporting financial results that were unimpressive by today's standards. Less than a week before the introduction of the iPod, Apple reported a $25 million net loss on sales of $5.4 billion for the fiscal year. Sales for the quarter that ended September 2001 quarter were less than $1.5 billion. Analysts expect that Apple will finish its September quarter this year with $8 billion in sales, and end the fiscal year with $32 billion in revenues.

Press the Offensive Now, Apple and its customers would be well-served if the company concentrates on making everything better, faster, and cheaper. While the Mac is in the minds of many already a better personal computing platform than Microsoft's Windows, it's time to press the offensive. There is no reason that better Macs and better Mac operating system software can't push Apple's market share in the U.S. north of 10%, from 8.5% in the second quarter. Continued software upgrades will add new and improved features and functionality to the Mac and iPhone, increasing the appeal to new customers and keeping existing users happier longer. It's also time to get things working right that haven't. Case in point: MobileMe, which illustrated that Apple overreached by trying to launch too many products at once. And for all its relevance in North America, I think the iPhone gives Apple an important opportunity in international markets. As I've argued befor, the iPhone establishes a beachhead Apple can use to introduce itself and its other products, especially the Mac, in markets where it hasn't participated strongly. Markets like China and Russia come to mind. No Time for A Breather I'm not suggesting that Apple should slow down and take a breath on the innovation front. Not at all. The company now operates within substantially wider borders than it did when it unveiled the first iPod in 2001. Rather than widening those borders even further, there lies within them plenty of room for important, even if not world-changing innovations—not to mention scope for expanding Apple's business.

Hesseldahl is a reporter for BusinessWeek.com.
Copyright 2000-2008 by The McGraw-Hill Companies Inc. All rights reserved. Provided by BusinessWeek

World - US says not contemplating a nuclear deal with Pakistan

WASHINGTON: The US has said it was not contemplating any deal with Pakistan similar to the Indo-US nuclear agreement, insisting that New Delhi's cas
e was "unique" because of its past record on non-proliferation. "At the moment, I'm not aware of a contemplation of a similar such (nuclear) deal at this time with Pakistan," State department Spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters here. He disagreed with the suggestion that after cutting a "special" deal with India, others would seek civil nuclear cooperation. "... of course, some may ask for similar treatment. The India case, however, we believed was unique and was unique in the respect of a long history of Indian behaviour that was there for all to see," McCormack said. The spokesman replied in the negative when asked if the issue was raised by the Pakistan leadership during recent bilateral meetings. "In the most recent meeting with the Secretary (Condolezzaa Rice), that's the only one I can personally speak to at this point. That issue did not come up. I know that the issue has come up periodically in public. I think I've had to answer questions about it before and our position is the same" he said. Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani yesterday day indicated that the country may seek a similar arrangement with its close ally China. "Pakistan will now make efforts for a civil nuclear deal and they (the world community) will have to accommodate us," Gilani told reporters in Multan, soon after the Indo-US nuclear deal was approved by the US Senate.

Entertainment - Playboy looks for bare market in Wall Street

NEW YORK: Playboy magazine is offering a new way to lose your shirt on Wall Street. The adult entertainment magazine, long famous for its photo spre ads of nude women and lessons in living the urbane life of the well-heeled bachelor, is launching a search for models to pose for its upcoming feature, ‘Women of Wall Street’. Playboy came up with the idea for the feature after the onset of the global financial crisis, which has vaporised fortunes and left Wall Street reeling. It is planned for the February 2009 edition of the monthly magazine and on its website. “When the news gets bad, then maybe that’s a chance to make people smile by coming up with something that puts a different twist on it,” said Gary Cole, Playboy’s photo editor. Playboy and Playboy.com frequently run specials such as “Girls of Olive Garden” and “Women of Home Depot”, but in the past it has garnered attention for big business news themes. It published ‘Women of Enron’ and ‘Women of WorldCom’ after the companies’ spectacular failures. The magazine ran a ‘Women of Wall Street’ feature nearly 20 years ago. Playboy is seeking current and former employees of the financial world, and is especially interested in those with more senior job experience. “It would be more interesting to have someone who’s a financial analyst,” said Cole. Models must work for a financial institution or have recently worked for one, and prove that they are at least 18 years old. “How many attractive women do you think there are working on Wall Street and the affiliated companies?” Cole said when asked how much success he thought Playboy would have in finding candidates. “There has to be thousands and thousands.” Playboy likely will photograph about 20 women, he said, adding that compensation would depend partly on how many women apply. “Whether you offer them $500 or $1,000 or $2,000 a piece, that’s probably not going to change anybody’s mind,” he said. “The reason they do this is because they want the attention, the opportunity, the experience of doing it. It’s not really for the money.”

Travel - Presence of Sri Aurobindo in Pondicherry


Kerala, the land of serene backwaters, is now known as God's own country. A drive from Chennai to Pondicherry on the East Coast Road is sure to give you a feeling of déjà vu, though. Once you reach Pondicherry, stay there for a day or two and soak into the place, one is bound to feel the all-encompassing presence of Sri Aurobindo. First thing I was advised to do (like all visitors to this charming French enclave) after a customary walk by the seaside on Goubart Road, is to visit the Aurobindo Ashram on Rue de la Marine.

That entails a very pleasant walk through the French sector. If it's in the evening, the best option is to hire a bicycle and peddle through the bylanes of the picturesque French quarter. By the way, taxi and auto drivers don't expect tips but nor are fares uniform, so use your judgement! Philip Castelino a Frenchman I met who was on the trail of French colonies around the world told me, "I have come here after visiting Chandannagar in West Bengal. Interestingly, I found out that the Guru had stayed for some time after he decided to take up meditation, after his participation in India's freedom struggle and jail term. It was after Chandannagar that the Guru moved to Pondicherry and stayed here forever.” Chandannagar, incidentally, is another erstwhile French colony, like Pondicherry." The Ashram was actually set up in 1926 by Aurobindo Ghose, one of India's greatest philosopher-poets, who originally came to Pondicherry to escape persecution by the British. It was after arriving here that he was drawn into the spiritual realm and discovered the power of yoga. His philosophy, and that of The Mother, is deeply rooted in yoga and their writings have inspired many followers from around the world.

Getting to Pondicherry isn’t difficult actually, despite its relatively tiny size and perch on the south east coast of India. The closest airport is Chennai, around 135 km from Pondicherry, with the option of either road or rail. It’s on the rail map with Villupuram in Tamil Nadu as the nearest station. But the best, and by far the most picturesque, way to reach is by road. There’s AC/non AC bus services every 10 minutes from Chennai's Koyambedu bus stand, very reasonable priced too. The preferable (scenic!) route is the East Coast Road via Mahabalipuram. For a brief stopover to see the great Shore Temple at Mahabalipuram, the best option is to drive down in a car or hire a taxi. It just adds a couple of very pleasant extra hours to an already pleasant drive! The ashram is one of the most well known and wealthiest ashrams in India, with devotees from India and all over the world flocking to it for spiritual salvation. I learnt that I could enter the ashram with my shoes on, but no cellphones, cameras or handbags were allowed.

Once inside, the aura of everything "Auro" is uinmistakeable. Followers of the Guru line up around the samadhi, which is in the central courtyard under a frangipani tree and is covered daily with flowers.

There's pin-drop silence and strangely enough there is not even an urge to talk to anyone, such is the calmness of the place. Besides the Guru's and the Mother's samadhis, I saw Aurobindo's living room, study and meditation foyer. I even bought literature by and about Sri Aurobindo from an in-house bookshop. I could feel the ashram's influence in most of Pondicherry. Some of the ashram's facilities like the library, playground and the main building are housed in other buildings, most of them walking distance from the ashram. As I browsed through rest of Pondicherry, I stopped to have a peep inside the Ashram Art House, do some shopping at Boutique d' Auroville for Auro clothes, Auroshika for incense sticks and Auroshree medicine products. The climate in Pondicherry is generally humid, so I found cottons to be the most practical in the summer; light sweaters and jackets are needed during the short, mild winter. I would also recommend hats and sunglasses, as the sun can be pretty harsh in those parts despite the lush greenery and the breezes blowing in from the Bay of Bengal. Of course, during the monsoon, umbrellas are crucial! A limited number of rooms are available in Ashram guest houses for those on short visits to Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Since rooms are limited and often fully booked, I found it’s better to make reservations well in advance. One can enter the main Ashram freely during visiting hours, but some sections require passes that are available at guesthouses or Bureau Central. Serenity divine Auroville, the global settlement, which is 40 years old now and still going strong, is a place that simply cannot be missed on a visit to Pondicherry. Auroville, meaning the City of Dawn, is an experimental township which actually falls in Viluppuram district of the adjoining state of Tamil Nadu but it’s just 10 km off Pondicherry. Described as a 'new age metropolis conceived as an alternative exercise in ecological and spiritual living', the township stands out as starkly different from the surrounding traditional villages and farms. Especially the crowning glory of the settlement, the Matrimandir, which nestles in its midst. The striking mandir looks like a giant golf-ball-like globe covered with golden discs. As I near it, I’m told "silence is compulsory” and the cult-like atmosphere is reinforced by volunteers who wordlessly motion me to pass them. My efforts to meet their gaze are greeted with complete impassivity. Although originally intended to house 50,000, the actual population today is a mere 2,000 (800 of whom are of Indian origin) seemingly consisting of pony-tailed men riding motorbikes. The best way to move within the settlement, by the way, is by motorbike or a bicycle although rickshaws and taxis can be ordered

Inside Auroville, there are a host of activities to engage in, ideal for a four-hour schedule, like yoga, Tai-Chi, Watsu, different kinds of alternative healing and courses. The variety is wider during the visitors' season, December to March. Besides, it’s a very good idea to dig into some great organic food at the Auroville cafeteria. Pondicherry may have now been christened ‘Puducherry’ officially, but there are some things there that will never change....

Travel - A Journey to New York

Indulekha Aravind

The thought of going abroad for the first time — that too, to the Big Apple – sure was exciting. But I was also apprehensive. My fears ranged from getting trampled on by busy New Yorkers at traffic signals to being too jet lagged and disoriented to realize that I had accidentally stumbled onto a gangsters' huddle and getting coshed in the bargain– the last courtesy an imaginatively optimistic colleague. I was thankfully proved wrong on all of the above. I had the time of my life! First of all, what better way to fly into the epicentre of finance (currently a bit quaky I admit!) and the high life than in the lap of luxury— a business class seat on the inaugural flight of the brand-new Emirates A380 from Dubai. For a cattle-class type, it was a revelation to see how The Other Half (read Fendi-toting, Chanel-wearing)lives – and jets around. The airline’s business class lounge at Dubai airport set the tone, with its lavish spread of Arab and Western fare, liquor and comfy pre-flight couches. Needless to add, its Delhi lounge paled in comparison. The super jumbo took off around 20 minutes late, to the applause of passengers and relief of tense Emirates topshots also on board. The seats were oh-so-roomy, lots of place to stow bags and the like (do we Indians travel light anywhere, let alone trans-Atlantic?) and a 17" TV screen to while away the hours, partaking of refreshments from Evian water to beer and juice placed on a little shelf. Besides a nice choice of movies, music and news channels, there was even a bar and 'lounge' though the latter comprised just two longish couches! Though the much-touted shower and spa is only for First Class passengers, I was still left wondering how I could ever contemplate sitting further back on airplanes any more after this club class flight!. Even the landing was a never-before and never-again experience: the media-magnet A380 touched down at JFK Airport (in just 13-and-a-half hours instead of the usual 14!) to be greeted by sprays of water from a ceremonial guard of New York fire engines! So, with a slightly bumpy landing, there I was—in New York! Then came the dreaded US immigration process. I whiled away time in the seemingly never-ending queue just observing the sheer variety of people standing with me and hearing the cacophony of different languages. That, by the way, was something I came to love about New York: it's amazingly cosmopolitan, melting-pot nature. I was prepared for a grouchy, harried interviewer but the officer turned out to be polite, friendly even, and waved me through in a few minutes. Then came one of the only hitches in the trip. My luggage – that was supposed to come on the business class conveyor belt — was nowhere to be found. It finally appeared with the economy luggage but by the time I retrieved it, the people was to go with to the hotel had left. This was not something I wanted after a long flight and that too in an 'alien' place.

Finally, after many calls, two hours of waiting and some help from a friendly New Yorker, I managed to reach my hotel on Broadway,right next to Times Square. When I saw the bright lights and buzz of the 'cross-roads of the world' I pretty much forgot that I was tired and disgruntled. I just stood and stared... The neon lights, the crowds converging and then dispersing to and from all corners, the skyscrapers—it was all exactly like I'd pictured it and seen countless times in movies and on TV.

One of the best ways to see New York seemed to be by the ubiquitous, double-decker, hop-on, hop-off buses. Tour operators run quite a few of these. I found them to better than normal tours because they gave me more freedom to decide how much time I wanted to spend, where. When I was done with a spot, I just went to the stop I got off from and waited for the next one to continue the tour at my own pace. I chose the downtown loop tour on the Gray Line (which, paradoxically, runs those red buses seen in movies!) because it had quite a few of the must-sees. Unfortunately, it began to pour the moment I stepped out, and I was entirely unprepared for rain. Luckily, the tour operators thoughtfully provided raincoats — more like giant plastic sheets with a hood and sleeves – but at least it kept me relatively dry. Beginning from Times Square, the bus took me to all the places I'd heard, read and seen (vicariously till now) from Broadway and the Empire State Building to Macy's, SoHo, Greenwich Village, Ground Zero, the Financial District, Bowling Green, Battery Park (the stop for the Statue of Liberty), the Seaport area, Central Park and back. I realize now that it's best to decide all your stops beforehand so that time can be budgeted – which is something I didn't do. I hopped off at the Empire State Building, which was a bad idea because that's something one should see separately as the queues will take at least an hour – if you're lucky. My wait was shorter because there was a sudden announcements that elevators were being stopped due to bad weather. I suppose rain is worse when a building literally scrapes an overcast sky! So, I went on to wander through parts of SoHo (thinking all the while, "Omigod, I'm in New York") ending up at Ground Zero. That turned out to be another waste of time because, well, there's nothing much to see except construction work. The St Paul's Chapel near the site, which is supposed to be Manhattan's oldest public building in use, was very charming, though. I also got off at Battery Park, to see the Statue of Liberty. It was too late for the boatride to the statue, but the Staten Island ferry is a perfect alternative if you don't actually want to get off on the island to see the statue close up. A nd the best part is that it's free – which was important considering I automatically converted everything into rupees despite being warned of the perils of doing so! The ferry chugged past the statue onward to Staten Island – where I had to compulsorily get off there and take the next ferry back. They even had guards check to see that everyone got off, their reasoning being that it was a ferry, not a cruise ship! I enjoyed the bus ride through the Financial District, especially seeing the famous "Charging Bull" near Wall Street. For some curious reason, rubbing its testicles is supposed to bring good luck and our tour guide pointed out the number of people who obviously seemed to believe this! I barely had time for Central Park after this and had to be content with just a small walk and the resolve to come again for a more thorough look-see. Since it was summer, it would get dark only after 8:30 and I didn't much fancy testing if New York really was safe for women at night, so it was back to the hotel. Over the next two days, I packed in a Broadway musical (Rent at the Nederlander Theatre which was excellent!), a trip to the 88th floor of the Empire Street, a walk over Brooklyn Bridge and through China Town, Grand Central Station and Lower East Village. I also notched up a trip to a quaint Swedish restaurant in the Lower East Village with a friend, my first experience of that cuisine. I was quite clueless about food from that part of the world (apart from meatballs) so I let my friend do the ordering. He had traditional meatballs, which came with sweet jelly and mashed potatoes – a surprisingly good combination. I had a yummy halibut, with jacket potatoes and a citrus sauce. Excellent German beer, which came with a slice of lemon, added to the flavour of the afternoon. The meal ended with freshly-brewed Ethiopian coffee at a nearby café. Aaah cosmopolitan New York! My first NY subway experience was from Brooklyn Bridge to Grand Central. While another passenger was explaining how I could buy the token (simply put money into the right slot), another decided to save time by swiping me through! Though the Delhi metro is sleeker, bigger and cleaner (how nice to be able to say that in an awesome place like the Big Apple!), the sheer extent of New York's network is admirable. It's definitely the cheapest and fastest way to get around the city. New York, incidentally, is quite an easy city to navigate, even for someone like me with the double handicap of having the worst sense of direction and an inability to read maps! The city is divided into streets and avenues, crossing at right angles so it's easy to find a place on the grid. I was also lucky enough to run into only friendly New Yorkers when asking for directions. They seemed more than willing to give me the right directions – instead of trampling me! My last day was reserved for that promised second visit to Central Park. How could I leave without paying tribute to Lennon? Negotiating the park was not as easy as walking through the city but every bit as enjoyable. The never-ending expanse of greenery was refreshing and there were lots of things to see from the avenue of elms to the Shakespeare Garden, the Swiss Marionette Theatre (closed then), Belvedere Castle (used by the meteorological department), the beautiful Bethesda Fountain – and Strawberry Fields. The actual memorial to Lennon was a grove of trees contributed by different countries and planted in the shape of a teardrop. There is also a huge circle with 'Imagine' written in the center and apparently decorated every day with flowers by a person who, to me, looked like Hulk Hogan. I also loved the way people playing music at different spots, from a lone flautist to an entire orchestra! Three hours in the park meant I had very little time left for my last stop, the New York Metropolitan Museum. I had just two hours instead of two days so as soon as I got the map I marked what I had to see- the Impressionists. I headed straight there after a quick dekko of the Egyptian, African, Roman and Greek sections. I could hardly believe that I was standing before the masterpieces I'd seen only in pictures—from Van Gogh's self-portrait (I took a photo standing next to it) to Renoirs, Manets and Monets. That was truly a high point of the trip but I had to leave after seeing only a fraction of the Met. Next time....!. I had a strange melancholy feeling as I left New York, not sure that I'd get a chance to visit again. So on my flight back, I watched that Cary Grant-Deborah Kerr classic, An Affair To Remember—to stretch the amazing NY experience just a little longer!

Lifestyle - Postprandial drinks

COGNAC: Named after the region in France, Cognac is a spirit of unparalleled complexity and the gold-standard against which all other brandies are judged. A grape-based brandy, Cognac is aged in special casks which mellow it and lend it its famous aroma. It is priced according to the age of the brandies in it and the skills of the master blender. Served in a brandy snifter, it is swirled while gripping it with the palm of your hand to warm the drink, releasing the aroma. Try the stem less cutting-edge Swivel Cognac glass, which adds to the romance associated with this drink. A symbol of luxury across the world, this old-fashioned spirit continues to be a favourite after-dinner drink.

GRAPPA: An Italian grape-based colourless pomace brandy, it is a fiery spirit, whose flavour is dependent upon on the grape quality and variety. It is served in a uniquely-shaped extremely thin glass, either by itself or poured into postprandial coffee. In fact, the famous Italian Café Corretto is espresso which has been ‘corrected’ with Grappa!

ARMAGNAC: Among the oldest brandies with a rustic flavour, it is similar in style to Cognac but more intense.

EAUX-DE-VIE : French for ‘water of life’ , it is a colourless fruit brandy with a dry taste. It is served chilled in a tulip-shaped glass. The most popular are Poire William (pear), Framboise (raspberry), Kirsch (cherry) and the French Calvados (apple).

PORT: A traditional sweet dessert / afterdinner Portuguese fortified wine, it can be either bottle-aged or wood-aged . It is sipped in a small wine glass, filled only halfway, helping it to release its distinctive aroma.

SHERRY: Made in and around Jerez in Spain, sherry is wine that has been fortified with brandy. The taste ranges from bone dry to sweet and is served in the traditional copita (tulip-shaped glass). After a fine meal, if the conversation continues to be stimulating and the music’s still playing , go ahead and ask the sommelier to get the ‘after-dinner carte’

World - Google unveils $4.4 trillion Clean Power by 2030 plan

WASHINGTON: Search engine giant Google has unveiled a $4.4 trillion plan dubbed Clean Power by 2030 that calls for all energy in the US to come from renewable sources. The web giant in a release posted on its site said: "While this plan will cost $4.4 trillion (in undiscounted 2008 dollars), it will ultimately save $5.4 trillion, delivering a net savings of $1 trillion over the life of the plan". The three basic elements of the clean energy plan are new transmission lines and policies like national renewable portfolio standard, new generation vehicles running on non-oil fuels and greater energy efficiency by installing smart meters and real time pricing.

Under the new renewable energy plan, wind power is envisioned to generate 380 gigawatt (gw) and solar power would provide 250 gw. Geothermal source of energy would produce 80 gw and is expected to take a greater role as technology gains in maturity. A gigawatt is equal to one billion watts. This unit is sometimes used with large power plants or power grids. Google also calls for more than 32,000 km of new transmission lines to support renewable energy generation. The web giant visualises 22 million plug-in vehicles by 2030 that would make up half the total estimated vehicles on American roads. Vehicles of traditional technology need to improve fuel efficiency at 72 km per gallon by 2030. "We should offer incentives to get older inefficient vehicles off the roads," it says. "When homes are equipped with smart meters and real-time pricing, research shows that energy use typically drops. Google is looking at ways that we can use our information technology and our reach to help increase awareness and bring better, real-time information to consumers," the website said. "Energy efficiency is the area where Google has been the least vocal, but could potentially offer the most support, by providing a lot of important communications data," the release said.

Entertainment - Drona Movie Review

Gaurav Malani

Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra, Kay Kay Menon

Rating: * ½

Drona claims to derive its roots from Indian mythology but actually ends up falling in the standard template of those frequent fanciful films where the villain desires to gain immortality through magical potions and the hero (or is it superhero) has to stop him from achieving eternity. Aditya (Abhishek Bachchan) has a Harry Potter hangover being orphaned by birth and neglected by his caretakers. He actually happens to be descendent of a royal family who are entitled to safeguard Amrit (the immortality concoction) from the demons. Sonia (Priyanka Chopra) reveals Aditya his real identity of a Drona, the guardian of Amrit. Enter a madcap magician Riz Raizada (Kay Kay Menon) who is bizarre enough to create his clone and kill him, play with a puppet pair and he still keeps saying, ‘Gustakhi Maaf’ (pardon me). Alas his torment is unpardonable. While he is no Joker who matches up to The Batman, he surely is a Clown to compete with the desi-Drona. Riz has identified Drona who can lead him to Amrit. He assigns his troupe of black-robed faceless men to get hold of Drona. Drona has a female bodyguard in the form of Sonia but ironically it’s him who saves her from situations most of the times. As Drona meets his mother (Jaya Bachchan), Riz petrifies her and the son pledges to rescue momma dear amidst some Mummy styled special effects. Now Drona has to unveil secrets, fight demons, ride a horse and win the battle. Drona essentially is designed as a superhero film but sadly his superpowers seem to be nothing more than delivering punches. The film starts on a dull note and as it progresses it starts resembling an Arabian Nights fable of the 80s in the likes of Hatim Tai (to tacky effect), with a protagonist who has to overcome obstacles to complete his mission. Unfortunately the blockages in his path are so bland that the lackluster screenplay loses its audience midways. Everything from the car-chases to the sword fights have been witnessed before and don’t impress. If the cheesiness wasn’t enough, a Gandalf look-alike is added towards the end inciting unintentional humour. Abhishek Bachchan is a good actor but certainly doesn’t have the poise, polish or personality to grace a superhero. He lacks both, the bulk and the body language to carry off his larger-than-life character. Add to that, he carries a single jaded expression throughout the film much to your annoyance. Kay Kay Menon adorns a gayish and garish character and enters the league of caricatured villains. Drona keeps repeating his primary concern through the film saying, “humey shrishti ko bachna hoga”. There’s an implausible pun involved therein as I realized that the producer of this film is called Shrishti Arya. Evidently Drona’s outcome is rona.

India - TRAI removes rural levy on incoming international calls

Five years after the access deficit charge was introduced in the country – to compensate the state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) for its expenses on fulfilling social obligations — the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has decided to completely remove the levy.While the charge was abolished on all domestic telephone calls in April, it has now been taken off for incoming international long distance calls as well in line with the earlier announced plans. BSNL officials claimed that TRAI’s decision will make it difficult for the company to sustain its rural obligations. The company has filed an appeal with the Telecom Dispute Settlement Appellate Tribunal seeking a stay on decision to abolish ADC. Fund for subsidy ADC was a levy imposed on operators to collect a fund that could be used to finance the subsidy being offered by the Government to rural telephone subscribers. The mechanism was introduced in 2003 by the telecom regulator despite strong opposition from the private players. The PSU has received more than Rs 15,000 crore over the five years.The money collected through this levy was passed on to BSNL since it owns most of the fixed telephone lines in rural areas. TRAI’s move to abolish the charges on incoming ISD calls will not have any direct benefit for Indian consumers. However, this will help the Government address the problem of illegal calls, since a zero ADC means lower arbitrage for grey market operators. Private operators pay 50 paise a minute to BSNL on incoming ILD calls. Some of the private operators were earlier caught routing their incoming ILD calls through illegal exchanges to avoid payment of this fee. Grey market accounts for about 25 per cent of the Rs 16,000 crore ILD market. Companies such as AT&T, Cable & Wireless, Sprint and Verizon, which bring in international traffic into the country, will benefit.

Business - Nokia's unltd music service on sale from Oct 16 in Britain

Nokia will start offering unlimited music through mobile phones in Britain on October 16, the Finnish company said Thursday, as it seeks to muscle in on a market dominated by Apple's iPod.The new service, named "comes with music", allows people owning a special device to download unlimited music for free through their mobile telephone or computer for up to 18 months - after which they can also keep the music. "It's about changing the way we consume music," said Tero Ojanpero, executive vice president and head of entertainment and communities business at Nokia, the world's leading mobile phone maker. Britain will be first to offer the service through the Carphone Warehouse dealer. It will be initially available on 5310 Xpress Music phones, which cost 129.95 pounds (165 euros, 229 dollars), but other phones will then be added. The service will then be rolled out to ten other countries including France, Sweden, Spain and Singapore where the online Nokia Music Store is available. The store in Nokia's answer to the iTunes store from Apple, and it has signed deals with Universal Music, Sony BMG, EMI, Warner and a host of independent labels to give customers a wide range of music to choose from. Sony-Ericsson said Wednesday that it would also be launching an unlimited music download service by the end of the year, but it would be part of a mobile phone package, PlayNowTM, and customers could only keep up to 300 songs. In another challenge to Apple, Nokia said it would launch its first touch-screen phone in Taiwan, Spain, Russia, Indonesia, India, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates later this year, and France and Britain in 2009. Nokia performs well in emerging markets such as China, India and Latin America, but has been struggling in the United States, where Apple's iPod, iPhone and related iTunes store have made it the world leader in digital music.

Business - Nokia CEO vowed by iPhone,sights on Blackberry

The chief executive of Nokia, the world mobile phone leader, gave credit to new competitors from the computer world, but said his company was set to respond to all challengers.Nokia President and CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo said emerging rivals Apple Inc, Google Inc, Research in Motion Ltd and Microsoft Corp have helped to accelerate interest in using the Internet on mobile phones. "Suddenly you have the mightiest companies in the world there as your competitors. That is a little mind-boggling," Kallasvuo said in an on-stage interview at the Churchill Club, a speakers' forum for Silicon Valley civic leaders. Nokia sells more than 400 million phones a year and counts a 40 per cent share of the conventional global mobile phone market, where it competes with Samsung, Motorola, LG Electronics and Sony Ericsson, among others. He said he was impressed by the strategy of Research in Motion (RIM), maker of the BlackBerry e-mail phone popular with business professionals, to sell not just devices themselves but whole solutions for managing corporate e-mail securely. "Multiply what RIM has been doing here," the Nokia executive said of his own company's strategy to provide e-mail not only to business users but also consumers and a category of avid users in between the two markets, nicknamed "prosumers."

Nokia to take on Apple in music, touch-screen phones Nokia recently struck a deal to use Microsoft e-mail software on its more than 80 million Series 60 phones sold so far. This should help Nokia quickly overtake RIM in terms of the numbers of phones running corporate e-mail, he said. "We will exceed the RIM client (BlackBerry) in some months with a very good e-mail system," Kallasvuo promised. RIM recently reported it had 19 million BlackBerry subscribers. He singled out the positive impact that Apple has made on the industry with its iPhone over the past year, saying the Cupertino, California computer and consumer electronics company had done the mobile phone industry "a big favor." "We have a new, credible competitor in this business. You know I need to take my hat off," he said of how the iPhone has raised expectations for phones. He added: "Of course we need to be able to respond to any competitor and we will." Of Google, the Nokia executive said it was too early to tell what impact the leading Internet company might have on the mobile phone business: "They are a newcomer here. I think the jury is still out: What is the new thing they bring here?" Thinking back to nearly a year ago to when Google introduced its rival mobile Internet software system, Android, Kallasvuo said Nokia had been working toward similar goals for a far longer time. "I realized that we could have made the same announcement 10 years ago," he said. The first Android phones were introduced last month by T-Mobile in the United States, to be followed shortly by several T-Mobile markets in Europe. They feature an iPhone-like touchscreen and lots of software from independent developers. Europe helped propel the global rise of mobile communications in the 1990s but Silicon Valley created and continues to dominate the Internet, he said. As the Internet moves onto phones, the United States is poised once again to lead that convergence, the leader of the Finnish company said.

Business - India;Maruti Suzuki to launch A-Star by month end

Maruti Suzuki India is expected to launch its new small car — the A-Star — by the end of this month.But, unlike in Europe, where the car will replace the current Alto and take over that nameplate, in India, Maruti will continue to retain all of its current small car models. Speaking to a selection of Indian mediapersons at the sidelines of the Paris Motor Show on Thursday, Mr Toshihiro Suzuki, Board Member and Senior Managing Executive Officer, Suzuki Motor Corporation, Japan said that the company will continue to market all of its current small cars that are in its portfolio in India, including the Alto, Wagon-R and Zen Estilo.Positioning He said that there are a variety of customers with varied expectations and having a wide range of cars enables the company to cater to the market’s various price segments. Mr Suzuki also mentioned that the company will position the new A-Star just below the Suzuki Swift. Speaking about the future of the Maruti 800, he said that it would be difficult to comment concretely on the future strategy of the company for its entry-level small car. However, he mentioned that the company will take into account the market situation and take a decision about the positioning for the M800. Different Segments Mr Suzuki ruled out the possibility of the company taking the Tata Nano head on with a product of its own, since the Tata Motors cars is addressing the two-wheeler buyers segment, which is not the target buyers of MSIL’s cars. Talking about the competition from Hyundai Motors cars, including the soon to be launched i20, which will take on the Swift, Mr Suzuki said that the company is studying the possibility of launching the Suzuki Splash, another global strategic model from the Japanese small car maker.Currently, there are no plans for Suzuki to come up with small diesel engines for its small cars in India, said Mr Suzuki. He,however,said that the economies of scale, lower shipping costs and the synergies that the Indian subsidiary offers were the reasons for the selection of the Manesar plant to be the hub for producing and exporting the new A-Star. He also mentioned that the company is aware that its performance in the Indian market will also be affected, since the global economic crisis will have a bit of effect there too.

Entertainment - Dreamworks announces 'Kung Fu Panda' sequel

DreamWorks Animation SKG has announced plans for a sequel to ``Kung Fu Panda'' to be released in 2011.The movie, like all DreamWorks Animation films starting in 2009, will be produced with 3-D technology, the company said in a statement Wednesday. Actor Jack Black will return to provide the voice of Po, a panda in ancient China who becomes an unlikely martial-arts hero. Actress Angelina Jolie is also slated to return as the voice of Tigress. The computer animated comedy has brought in more than $200 million in U.S. box office and more than $600 million worldwide since its release in early June, making it DreamWorks Animation's most successful original film ever. It will be released on DVD on November 9, along with a new companion short, ``Secrets of the Furious Five.''

Business - Sony Electronics,studios in digital cinema deals

Sony Corp reached a deal for three studios to back its cinema technology in the latest example of Hollywood's ramped up efforts to swit ch to digital projection.News Corp's Twentieth Century Fox, Viacom Inc's Paramount Pictures, and Sony's Sony Pictures on Thursday agreed to promote Sony's digital systems in theaters one day after five big studios reached a separate deal with a theater chain group called the Digital Cinema Implementation Partners (DCIP) to upgrade 20,000 screens in the US and Canada. Sony was not one of the studios involved in the deal by the DCIP, comprised of Regal Entertainment Group, Cinemark Holdings Inc and AMC Entertainment Inc, as the Japanese electronics maker attempts to get theaters to adopts its own digital technology and integration services. About 5,000 of the 37,000 cinema screens in the United States are now digitally equipped and the ultimate aim is to transform all 125,000 screens worldwide. Mike Fidler, senior vice president of Sony's Digital Cinema Solutions and Services group, said Sony expects to deploy its equipment on 9,000 screens in North America, Europe and Asia. Fidler said Sony was in discussions with exhibitors and offering them everything from installation to maintenance, alternative programming, security and advertising. Under its deal with the studios, Sony Pictures, Paramount and Fox would pay virtual print fees when their films play on Sony digital systems. It would not disclose the fees, but sources familiar with the matter said they typically range from about $800 to $1,000 per movie. Sony is among a field of companies now seeking to become digital cinema middlemen or integrators who secure financing via "virtual print fees" from studios to advance the deployment of digital equipment in theaters. Eastman Kodak reached a deal on Wednesday for Paramount to finance deployment of its digital cinema technology, while Access Integrated Technologies has been a leading digital cinema integrator with commitments from studios to provide movies to up to 10,000 digital cinema systems in the US and Canada over the next three years. Because of the large theater chains involved in the DCIP deal, DCIP bypassed the use of a middleman or integrator to cut its own deals with studios. Hollywood and exhibitors hope the digital conversion will boost attendance, cut down on printing and delivery costs and pave the way for more theaters to upgrade to 3-D, which commands premium pricing. Hollywood has a lot riding on the conversion since many of them plan to roll out 3-D films starting in 2009 and need enough 3-D screens to support their slates. There are around 1,300 3-D screens in the United States, but another 1,000 are expected by March 2009, analysts said.

India - Ad Industry likely to be freed from Press Note 1

Mergers and acquisitions (M&As) involving foreign companies in the Indian advertisement industry would soon turn easier. The government is planning to exempt the advertisement industry from Press Note 1, which makes clearance from local partners mandatory for a foreign company to start a new business.The move would make mandatory no-objection certificates (NOCs) from joint venture partners redundant for new investments in the advertising industry. The government is keen to do this since there are various sub-sectors within the broad categorisation of advertisement industry and there is no clash of interest in several cases. The IT industry has already been exempted from Press Note 1. The government was earlier planning to do away with this requirement for all sectors, but a segment-by-segment approach is being adopted now since some departments did not back the idea of scrapping Press Note 1. Senior government officials said the department of industrial policy (DIPP) is considering the relaxation for advertisement companies, as its sub-sectors are independent of each other. For example, advertisement in the print media is considered to be different from advertisements in the television. Similarly, there are companies specialising in advertisements for radio or internet. Outdoor advertising is also considered a specialised segment even though it falls within the broad description of advertising. The Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) has discussed the issue, sources said. The DIPP has been asked to prepare a proposal for exempting advertising companies from Press Note 1 restriction and the issue is likely to considered soon, they added. Scrapping the requirement would boost foreign direct investment (FDI) in the advertisement sector and send the right signals, going a long way in attracting FDI in other segments as well. The move is part of a number of measures the government is planning to boost FDI in view of the challenges faced due to the financial sector crisis in the US. The government is also considering FDI in retailing of electronics and sports goods.

Entertainment - India;TV Industry grinds to a halt

Ashwin Pinto

MUMBAI: Television and film production schedules have been hit with around 200,000 workers affiliated with the Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) going on an indefinite strike from 1 October.

Speaking to Indiantelevision.com FWICE president Dharmesh Tiwari says that this is a non-co-operation move. The strike affects all 22 crafts including actors, technicians, and musicians.
"Last year we had signed an MoU with the four film producer associations. Despite that there are difficulties," he pointed out.

He notes that television producers shoot for as much as 30 hours at a stretch. This is despite the fact the fact that the limit is eight to 10 hours. Then there is the fact that payments come in after 120 days. "In the interim we pay money for conveyance from our own pocket. There are also agents involved when we have told producers that workers should be paid directly." Another grouse is that often workers not affiliated with the FWICE are employed by producers. These workers are paid less than what is stipulated in the MoU.
The key question is how have television producers been affected? Producer Rajan Shahi who has the number one show Bidaai on Star Plus admits that he is badly affected by the strike. "I had to shoot this very important scene and had erected a very costly set. Now with the cine employees going for a strike I will have to bear a major financial loss."
He adds that some of his actors are going out of Mumbai for a week tomorrow evening about which they had informed him beforehand. "Now with the shooting coming to an idefinite halt I don’t know how I will shoot the sequence. Had I been in the loop I could have extended the shooting. I have not been informed officially about it.
"What does a producer like me do who abides by all the laid down rules? I have strictly asked my people to hire only those who are the members of the association be it art director, associate director or anyone for that matter. Also I have no outstanding payments and I have often been commended for this. To top it all I have not got the correct picture of the whole thing."
He says that the stakeholders need to work in an organised way. One must look at every aspect other than the payment and hours of working. The association and the federation need to sit across and solve the issues amicably.
"But one has to understand that the solutions and rules have to be practical and not hypothetical. Something that looks good on paper might not be practical and logical. One has to consider and take into the account the current view of the market and how it functions. What would happen to those who run their houses on daily wages or need money for an emergency?
"Had they told me about such an outcome I would have worked pro-actively and made a proper account. Generally, I have four episodes in the bank but with the shooting coming to a halt for two days it would definitely affect the telecast. In case of Bidaai, either my script will be altered or the episodes will have to be changed."
Associate producer of BR Films Surinder Malhotra who has a daily show Sujata currently on air says, “We have only tomorrow’s episode and no further bank. I feel that this strike is a fight against the channel.”
Creative Eye Producer Dheeraj Kumar who has five shows on air (Betiyaan, Veeranwali, Maayka, Jai Maa Vaishnodevi, Waqt) says, “We have a bank of 3-4 episodes for all our shows but it is not a relief. With the help of the television federation, we should ensure that the matter gets resolved. It is a loss to the production house as well as to the workers.”
Shakuntalam Telefilms' Shyam Bhattacharya says that the production house has a bank of two days for its shows such as Dulhann (Zee), Bandhan (Colors) and Santan (Star Plus). "However, thereafter it will be trouble for us. No channel is keen to show a repeat telecast. We spent Rs 5 lakh to create a set in Kamalistan studio for Dulhann. The shoot was to commence today but there is nothing we can do now."
He adds that a meeting between the channels, production houses and FWICE is likely to take place on 4 October 2008. On his part Tiwari says that if a meeting is called between the different parties then the FWICE would be willing to come to the table.(With inputs from Mayur Lookhar, Anjum Farookhi, Neha Maheshwri)

Sport - Cricket;Q&A Michael Clarke

Anand Vasu

Just as Michael Clarke’s future ascension to the Australian captaincy is a foregone conclusion, his eminence as a batsman was widely predicted by experts well before he made his debut in Bangalore in 2004 with a bubbly 151. But it was not all smooth sailing as he lost his place and had to prove himself again.
When Clarke returned for the 2005-06 Ashes, it was as a thoughtful batsman and an intelligent decision maker, and it was only natural that he be appointed Ricky Ponting’s deputy. Clarke’s big test came recently when, Andrew Symonds preferred a fishing expedition to a compulsory team meeting. The tough decision to send Symonds home was taken but as Clarke revealed, the call was not his alone.
Excerpts from a chat:
On him being the man to send Symonds packing
(Laughs) It certainly wasn’t a decision I made on my own. It was a decision made by the decision group in the team. It was done in the best interests of the team and in the best interests of Symonds. It’s great to see Symmo back playing cricket now and in time he’ll be back in the Australian team. He is still one of my great friends. I love not only playing but also having him around.
On his success in India
I’ve had some success here in the past and I’m looking forward to getting back to Bangalore, where I made my Test debut, and making some more runs. Obviously, we will be playing against guys who love playing in their conditions, a great team in any conditions. There are a lot of challenges playing Test cricket in India, but that’s a great part of being an international cricketer. India is a great place to learn about the game and its history.
On whether expectations of him have increased
I don’t think so. It’s about making sure I train hard, whichever form of the game. I like playing positive, aggressive cricket. Every Test series has a lot riding on it; the Australian team wants to win every game and I don’t think anything will change here. We’ve got a very good squad with a lot of guys looking forward to playing their first Test match in India.
On the inexperience in the Australian team
Youths in the team is a great thing for us. So many fresh faces brings energy to the game. Yes, the Indian team is very experienced, but I still feel we have a lot of experience in our squad as well. Our captain has played so much cricket and so has Matthew Hayden.
On the inaugural IPL
The reason I didn’t play in the first season was because my fiancee’s father passed away, and my father was diagnosed with cancer. I wanted to spend time with him. I’d love to part of the IPL in years to come. It’s great for cricket as a whole. The IPL helped a lot of guys with Indian conditions and playing T20 cricket. It was great for relationships.

Science - Of two papers and an elusive particle (G.Read)

A. Rangarajan

Interview with Professors Francois Englert and Robert Brout .

When you start talking about the massive scalar boson and the phenomenon of spontaneous symmetry breaking, Professors Francois Englert and Robert Brout of the Free University in Brussels, both in their seventies, acquire a child-like glow in their faces. It is as if the wonder they stumbled upon 45 years ago has never ceased to fascinate them. Professor Brout recalls with awe the profundity of the moment when realisation dawned on them that they were on new frontiers of theoretical physics. The results of their collaborative research made them look into the origin of massive particles associated with fundamental fields mediating short-range interactions. In contrast to the massless photon associated with the electromagnetic field mediating long-range interactions, they were on new ground, defying established notions. This was path-breaking. While at the Free University in Brussels they were wrestling with the mathematical equations that could give them insight into short-range interactions encountered in subatomic structures in terms of fundamental forces, unknown to them another Professor at the Tait Institute of Mathematical Physics attached to the University of Edinburgh was working on the same problem. That was Peter Higgs. While the Brussels-based pair used a scalar field pervading the universe and in so doing constructed a mechanism capable of generating short-range interactions, remarkably Professor Higgs came to the same conclusion and even concurred on spontaneous symmetry breaking as the underlying explanation. His paper followed in a month. Then, somehow, the scalar field, the associated massive particle and the mechanism all came to be named after Professor Higgs, and not all three of them. The other two say Professor Higgs himself has always been fair in acknowledging that their contributions were equal and that the publication of their work preceded his. They attribute it to circumstances, where terms employed by the early users gained currency.
The work of Brout, Englert and Higgs is now in focus because there is an opportunity to experimentally verify the existence of the BEH boson. It is to be one of the main experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Europe. The detection of the BEH boson, dubbed rather dramatically as ‘God Particle,’ will be a breakthrough in our understanding of physical reality. It will also ground the Standard Model on a firmer foundation. (The name boson itself stands in honour of Indian physicist Bose who along with Einstein developed the Bose-Einstein statistics in quantum mechanics.) The Standard Model unifies three of the four forces known in nature — the electromagnetic, the weak nuclear and strong nuclear — leaving out only gravitation. Further, the profundity of the idea of the BEH field assumes significance in the light of the fact that it talks about a kind of mysterious presence permeating space, in some key sense even remaining indistinguishable from it. Building on this concept, more ambitious theories could try to account for how the universe burst forth from a kind of nothingness.
All three physicists shared the 2004 Wolf Prize for the experimental verification of the BEH mechanism. If the scalar boson is detected at the LHC, they could come together again to share the Nobel Prize. Professor Englert and Professor Brout, could you tell us about the significance of your work and that of Professor Higgs’ in terms of the important questions in theoretical physics and within the context of the progress we have made?
Englert: Physics as we know it is an attempt to interpret diverse phenomena as particular manifestations of general testable laws. Galileo, Newton, Maxwell, Einstein, and scores of others have taken us along this journey, raising hopes gradually of a possible unified theory. In this quest we encounter two phenomena, long-range interactions (gravity and electromagnetism) and short-range interactions encountered only within the nucleus of the atom. In the 1960s, theoretical interpretation of short-range fundamental interactions posed certain insurmountable problems. The breakthrough came from the notion of spontaneous symmetry breaking wherein short-range interactions are generated from long-range ones. Our work and then independently that of Higgs, thus allowed the theoretical analysis of short-range forces by unifying it in a common framework for both kinds of interactions. This was explained in terms of the BEH mechanism where both kinds of forces are transmitted by the so-called gauge field. In the case of short-range forces the gauge fields acquire mass from spontaneous symmetry breaking, making use of the scalar boson. On the contrary, the photon which is massless is associated with the electromagnetic interaction that occurs over large distances. This discovery thus permitted the application of laws known at the macro level to the sub-nuclear world.
[ Interviewer’s note: Actually there are two known short-range fundamental interactions: the weak and the strong forces. The BEH mechanism is applicable as such to the former and an alternative mechanism is applicable to the latter. Nevertheless, the alternative mechanism can also be put in the BEH framework using the so-called “dual” description.]
Brout: We were inspired by the work of Professor Nambu, who first suggested that spontaneous symmetry breaking already known in solid state physics could be applied to particle physics and fundamental interactions. That was deep insight and we started from there. The later work of Weinberg and Salam that led to the discovery of W and Z bosons and the formulation of the Electroweak theory (for which they won the Nobel Prize with Glashow) is confirmation that we are looking in the right direction. W and Z bosons are heavy particles associated with short-range weak nuclear forces. Their work was also a landmark moment in the quest for unification as it brought electromagnetism and weak nuclear forces on a common frameworkWe know both of you and Professor Higgs came to the same conclusions. Was there any difference in the approach?
Englert: We based our analysis and mathematics on quantum mechanical methods, and in Professor Higgs’ work the model he discusses is in the classical limit of Lagrangian field theory. There are also certain distinctions in terms of abelian and non-abelian frame-works – this might require a longer explanation, but essentially the conclusions reached along the two paths are identical. In a way both papers complement each other. That brings us to the question of how physicists communicate their work and findings to ordinary people. Is this not getting difficult progressively?
Brout: I think one needs to qualify the progressive element here. If you look at the assumptions Newton had to make to explain the principle of conservation of momentum in terms of the assumptions implicit on space and time, that too was difficult to follow. Even in the pre-relativity era. Galileo’s inertial principle was also hard to follow in the beginning. We need to resort increasingly to mathematics because of the precision and economy it offers as a language when we deal with scientific questions. It may be hard, but nevertheless it is possible for ordinary people to understand the issues in theoretical physics.
Englert: The physicist and the interested larger audience need to take a lot of effort and then these ideas can be communicated, at least at the conceptual level.Can the theory of spontaneous symmetry breaking in the context of the BEH field be seen as a theory of mass as well?
Englert: The work of all three of us essentially involves understanding a mechanism that could give rise to short-range forces from long-range forces through spontaneous symmetry breaking. More precisely, it comes through the fact that the fields which are responsible for the interactions give rise to short-range forces under spontaneous symmetry breaking by acquiring mass. Now not only do these vector gauge fields acquire mass but certain elementary particles like fermions [do so] as well. That is why it sometimes is seen as a theory for mass in very general terms.
Brout: We are only talking about the mass of a certain class of particles, not all. That other elementary particles also acquire mass is part and parcel of the symmetry breaking scenario and is most easily and naturally implemented by appeal to the scalar boson.Now what happens if this boson is not found at the LHC? Professor Hawking’s wager on this is in the news. What will be the consequences for physics?
Englert: Maybe Prof. Hawking has an intuition, we do not know. We have no predictions to offer. Let us wait and see. If the scalar boson is found, it means that we have the most simple and elegant expression of spontaneous symmetry breaking. If it is not found, we have to continue our search for a more complex expression. Also, if the scalar boson is found to be an elementary particle (a non-composite) then it may have wider consequences for our understanding of super-symmetry. This goes beyond the issues we have been discussing here.
Me - I didn't understand much of it,but hope you liked the post.