Dec 27, 2008

Personality - Malalai Joya

Namita Kohli

Dressed in a black burqa that swamps her petite figure and high heels that don’t much add to her five-feet, Malalai Joya appears to be like any other 30-year-old. There’s nothing in her unassuming demeanour to tell you that she’s been living in hiding for years now, that she travels with 12 bodyguards, and has survived four assassination attempts in the last five years. That she is the woman the BBC once described as the ‘most famous’ in Afghanistan. “It’s all due to the love of my people,” says Joya smiling.

Despite being labelled ‘infidel’ for her tirade against Taliban warlords at the 2003 Loya Jirga (Afghanistan’s constitutional court), Joya was elected to the Afghan Parliament from Farah province with the second highest number of votes in 2005.

More importantly, she won as an independent, without any political affiliations. Two years later, she hit the headlines again when in a television interview she described the Parliament as “worse than a zoo”.

But the Afghan MP isn’t daunted. “Wherever I go, I just speak the truth,” she says. In Delhi last week for Amnesty International India’s programme on human rights, Joya says it was impossible for her to be diplomatic inside Parliament.

“How could I negotiate with criminals, warlords, those who have been accused of serious human rights violations?” But outspokenness has resulted in her being expelled from Parliament, her diplomatic passport being seized and several death threats. Joya has had to go “underground”, living away from her family, her husband of three years and the people for whom she took up the fight.

“It’s hard. But my supporters help me keep in touch with people, they get me everything I need. I survive on donations,” she says. Joya’s fishnet stockings, her multi-coloured muffler and even her black shoes are all ‘gifts’, since she can’t go to the markets herself for fear of never returning.

But Joya would rather not talk about herself, preferring the focus to remain on her war ravaged country. Rattling off facts in her broken English from a little diary, she says: “Democracy is a sham in Afghanistan. Hamid Karzai’s government is full of former warlords: Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, Burhanuddin Rabbani and Ahmed Karzai, the president’s brother and a drug trafficker. Ninety-three per cent of the world’s afeem (opium) is produced in Afghanistan. Suicide among women and rapes are the highest in many decades.”

She speaks of US-led bombings at schools and at wedding parties, and of living among the ruins of the once beautiful city of Kabul.

But once the passion recedes, weariness surfaces. “I was only four days old when my family had to flee since the Soviet army had invaded Afghanistan in 1979. We fled to Iran and then to Pakistan. We lived in refugee camps.” Her father, who was a medical student gave up his studies and took up whatever jobs that came his way. The family returned when Joya was 19, to find their country a wreck.

Joya worked with several NGOs where she got an insight into ground realities. “The US pushed us from the frying pan to the fire. After the Taliban, it’s the fundamentalists of the Northern Alliance. Women’s conditions have only worsened under them,” she says, pointing to a photograph of girls walking in skirts and scarves in 1967. “Now, we can’t roam on the streets like that.”

She shows more photographs of schools in tents, with just a basic blackboard. “Where are all the billions of dollars of foreign aid going? No one knows. Worse, the government is now negotiating with the Taliban!” The only good thing that’s come out of the war, she says, is that people have become politically conscious.

Joya couldn’t go to college, but she wants her country to get schools, hospitals and a democratic system. This is what she speaks of at all the international fora she travels to at considerable risk to herself — travelling first by road in a burqa to a safe destination and then flying out from there. “They can kill me any time, they have reached my house, my office. I know they will succeed. But I am still going to fight; now I am gearing up for the 2010 elections,” she says.

The only time when fear tinges her speech is when she says, “I wish I could go to the markets here, but I am alone here, the mujahideen might create trouble.”

India - Why war isn't an option

Barkha Dutt

I just got an email from a friend in Pakistan. He had written just five words: do something; stop this war. War? I wrote back arguing that there was no war to run scared from and that the illusion of an imminent catastrophe had been manufactured on the other side. Our dialogue collapsed in a dead-end, which may work well for TV talk but not in real life. Most Pakistanis I have been speaking to in the last one month are convinced that the

Indians are coming. And most Indians, with the inarticulateness that comes with rage, want the government to “do something”. We just aren’t sure what that “something” can or should be.

We are frustrated and angry that even a month after the Bombay attacks, there is no tangible shift in the way Islamabad is respo-nding. If anything, things have only got worse. Even the UN-pushed crackdown on the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (the ideolo-gical launchpad and political front of the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba) has turned out to be cosmetic. And Masood Azhar — the terrorist who walked free in exchange for the safety of the IC-814 passengers — has vanished, after being declared under house arrest. The flip-flops are brazen enough to destroy diplomacy.

And yet, the truth — painful as it may be to families who have suffered directly in the Bombay attacks — is this: war is not an option; it is neither practical nor desirable. First, there are the commonsensical reasons to rule it out. A military conflict will not manage to eliminate the seeds of terrorism that are sown deep into the subsoil of Pakistan’s strategic architecture. Washington cannot be treated as the automatic deterrent to nuclear conflict; the stakes are too high, the game too risky. A civilian establishment that does not trust its own institutions to investigate the assassination of Benazir Bhutto (the centrepiece of the PPP’s election campaign was the promise of a UN probe) will hardly be able to control rogue players with a mind of their own, in case of a war. Even surgical strikes (bound to escalate into a full-blown conflict) don’t have ready targets to plan with. Terror camps can be swiftly dismantled and resurrected at new locations once the conflict is over. A military conflict does not even guarantee that the Indian forces can come home with Dawood Ibrahim, Hafiz Saeed or Masood Azhar. So, what would we really achieve by risking the lives of our soldiers?

But for those who dismiss all this as arguments made by the fainthearted, there’s a more compelling reason not to consider war: India would be playing straight into the hands of Pakistan’s military regime. Talk to Pakistani commentators and they agree that a war with India strengthens the Pakistan army like nothing else has or could in the past year. Some even suggest that precision air strikes by India will present a near-perfect scenario for the Pakistan military. Islamabad will retaliate without immediately risking the fatalities of on-ground conflict; Washington will jump in within days and the military will be back in the centrestage of public approval. This, in a country, where just a few months ago, General Pervez Musharraf was pushed out unceremoniously and the army was blamed for everything from the rise of the Taliban to the price of onions.

Bhutto’s tragic assassination (blamed by her own people on elements in the security establishment) was meant to usher in a political revolution. Exactly a year back, in December, I remember sitting in the Bhutto House at Larkana, and feeling goosebumps when Bilawal Bhutto announced in a trembling voice that that “democracy” would be the “best revenge” for his mother’s murder. But we have seen that democracy being whittled down systematically. Many in Pakistan believe that sections of the ISI and the Army have moved in with quiet, but brutal aggression because President Asif Ali Zardari was moving too quickly in peace talks with India. The offer of a no-first use of N-weapons; the consent to start border trade across the line of control, the attempts to reign in the ISI and the willingness (at least on paper) to investigate its role in the Kabul bombings — none of this made Zardari popular with his own security establishment. And frankly, in the last month it has become clear that neither Zardari nor Nawaz Sharif is the author of this script any longer. The refusal to send the ISI chief to India, pushing Sharif to retract his statement on Pakistani involvement in the Bombay attacks, and now the artificial war hysteria created by moving troops and flying air force jets over residential areas — all have the imprint of a larger plan — one that goes well beyond the terrorist strikes in Bombay.

By whipping up the impression of imminent war, Islamabad’s security establishment is hoping to catapult itself back into the role of saviour. It isn’t my argument that India should be overly concerned about the inner failings of Pakistan’s experiment with democracy. Our decisions should be guided by self-interest. And so we must ask, does India want to strengthen the very section of the Pakistani power structure that it sees as innately hostile to us?

Yes, the domestic mood remains one of “enough is enough.” And contrary to the rather over-imaginative understanding of some TV-bashers that this was an exhortation to war, it’s a simple, effective phrase (first used passionately by Shobhaa De) to capture the mood of a country that is no longer willing to accept a system that lets us down and fails to protect us. But before we demand quick-fix solutions on moving against Pakistan, let us ask ourselves this: are we helping India? India must now look for an unconventional solution that lies somewhere between war and peace.

Tech - A device to pull water out of thin air

TORONTO: There is cheering news for the water-thirsty world! A Canadian company claims to have developed a device that will pull water out of thin air to end thirst around the world.
British Columbia-based Element Four said the device, called Watermill, can create enough clean and fresh water to overcome the global crisis. Each device will pull 13 litres out of air using the natural condensation process, company officials said.
It will reportedly use coils to squeeze water out of the natural humidity in the air, they said. “This is the next microwave,” said Richard Weisbeck, director of product development at Element Four. He said, “The company will sell about 25,000 devices in 2009.”
“It will take a little while for people to get comfortable with the magic of water from air, but the need is certainly there,” said company president Jonathan. The company, which presented its invention at the United Nations recently, said the device will not only make millions of dollars in revenue for it but also solve the water crisis in the third world countries.
The device adapts to the conditions where it is installed, and will do it more efficiently than anything that has been invented before it, company officials told the news channel.

World - Lashkar's all-new intellectual terrorist

NEW DELHI: As India pushes Pakistan to take action against the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the profile of the Lashkar jihadis has undergone a change with
economic deprivation and local grievances no longer the root causes for joining the terror group that is behind the Mumbai terror attacks.

Instead Lashkar’s new recruits, who reportedly hold degrees in business administration and computer science, are bound by the pull of the global brotherhood and the ideology of jihad. It is further believed that the successful call of the global jihad has also helped the Lashkar recruit from the Pakistani diaspora from different parts of Europe.

“There is evidence that the recruits are younger. Both the Lashkar and the Jaish-e-Mohammed are getting recruits from the Pakistan diaspora,’’ said security analyst B Raman.

A Kashmir-based LeT commander Abu Aqasa told a US daily that LeT jihadis also consist of young men with master’s degrees in business administration and bachelor’s degrees in computer science. “We have doctors and engineers and computer specialists working for us,” he was quoted as saying. “These people don’t necessarily fight wars with us. They mainly help us spread our message in cities and villages and also help us in our dispensaries, hospitals and other charitable works.’’

Abu Aqasa was further quoted as saying that the organisation uses educated people and especially those with good communications skills to recruit supporters in religious congregations. The report further said that a new recruit is inducted into the organisation and is then sent for further training.

This busts the theory that local grievances and extreme poverty are the root causes for young men joining terror groups. In fact, the group behind the foiled Glasgow terror plot was also another instance of the new jihadi. A group of five doctors, who were from different countries but united by the common jihadi ideology, plotted and planned the Glasgow airport attack that was ultimately foiled.

Going back to the Lashkar, security experts further believe that Lashkar is attracting recruits as it has embraced the call for global jihad and is no longer a Kashmir centric terror group. `This is a predominantly Punjabi group whose global mission is jihad. It is a myth that this is a Kashmiri separatist group,’’ said Brahma Chellaney, a professor of strategic studies at the Centre for Policy Research. He further said that recruitment in the al-Qaeda and the Lashkar included recruits from rich families.

The Lashkar is known to have increased its presence in Pakistan with the help of the ISI which has continued to provide state patronage to the group. This includes providing protection and sharing intelligence with the terror organisation. The government believes that LeT carried out the Mumbai terror attacks with the help of the Pakistani military.

World - After 30 years,a cinema in Saudi

JEDDAH: They howled, clapped and ate popcorn -- a normal cinema scene elsewhere, but revolutionary in Saudi Arabia where films have not played
publicly for decades. Massive lines snaked out from the King Abdul Aziz Cultural Centre as Jeddah residents queued up to see the first feature film open to the public for 30 years, hoping the event heralded a big change in the ultra-conservative kingdom's cultural scene.

In what took hush-hush negotiations with senior political officials and the strict religious police, the Red Sea port of Jeddah and the nearby city of Taif allowed the Rotana entertainment group, owned by powerful Saudi tycoon Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, to show its new comedy "Manahi" for nine days. "The hall was filled up till the very last seat during the two shows scheduled each day, forcing us to add a third show after midnight,” said organizer Mamdouh Salem .

Decades ago film lovers in Saudi Arabia would crowd into clubs and halls to watch the same movies enjoyed throughout the Arab world. But in the 1970s, clerics of the ultra-conservative Wahhabist version of Islam cracked down and banned cinemas as having a corrupting influence on society.

The taboo has been broken somewhat in recent years, with videos, satellite television and movies shown surreptitiously at night in popular coffee shops. But to see a movie in a real theatre, Saudis still have to travel to neighboring countries.

The local religious police, from the feared Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, inspected the hall ahead of the screenings to ensure that women and men would be separated. With women sitting apart in the balcony, and men and boys on the ground floor below them, the hall echoed with raucous laughter.

"This is a hall with 1,200 seats. It was not built for movies, and the projector is not made for 35mm films," Salem said. On hand for the opening, "Manahi" star Fayez Malki said he was pleased at the turnout. "This encourages me to play in more Saudi films and I plan to make a new one with Rotana," he said.

Roua Mohammed, an interior designer, said "she visits Cairo three times a year to check out the latest releases in the theatres." Despite the success in Jeddah, it was not yet clear whether Rotana would be able to show "Manahi" in Riyadh, where the religious police are much tougher and government officials more conservative.

Sport - Cricket;Lanka's Pak tour is on

Sutirtho Patranobis

Sri Lanka's tour of Pakistan is officially on. Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday gave the go-ahead after a detailed discussion with foreign minister Rohitha Bogollagama on the security situation in Pakistan.

Subsequently, Bogollagama recommended to the Sports Ministry that the tour should be on as scheduled. The month-long tour of Lankan cricket team would begin on January 20. Questions were raised about the tour after the Sports Ministry had dissolved an interim committee for cricket in Sri Lanka headed by former captain Arujuna Ranatunga earlier in the week. Sports minister Gamini Lokuge had told HT that it was up to the government to decide on the tour.

According to the foreign ministry here, Bogollagama was of the view that "sport is an effective means of promoting connectivity between nations and thereby enhancing friendship and mutual goodwill between countries.'

Earlier, Lokuge had told the foreign minister that since the tour would take place under the aegis of the ICC, the tour should be subject to the ICC's security clearance.

India - Alumni help B-schools take pride of place

Jessica Mehroin Irani

MUMBAI: With the slowdown adversely impacting recruitment, the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) are taking no chances. The placement season
for 2009 is just a few weeks away, and the IIMs are banking heavily on the strength of its alumni to make sure there are not many hiccups along the way.

IIM Bangalore (IIM-B) has been proactive in contacting its alumni and asking them to support the institute and its students through the placement season which will commence shortly. IIM-B’s placement committee recently made a presentation to its 1998 batch at a recent alumni reunion. The presentation outlined the recruitment process from the past and highlighted how the alumni could take part in the ensuing season. The objective is to invite past students to visit the campus during the 2009 placement season and recruit in large numbers. “Our alumni, who are with various companies, helped us with our summer internships this year. We have a large alumni network and we shall continue to look at it for support,” said a member of the committee.

Like IIM-B, IIM Ahmedabad (IIM-A) is banking on its past students. The institute, which will complete 50 years of its existence in December 2011, has sent an e-mail to its alumni — a copy of which is with ET — which summed up the mood among the students. “There is some apprehension among the current students in the institute that the forthcoming placement (March 2009) may be difficult. I would request you to individually and collectively to put in a special effort to ensure that the organisations you are with do visit the institute for permanent placement and give an opportunity to students to present their credentials for recruitment,” the mail stated.

It also touched upon the recent attacks in Mumbai and asked the alumni to contribute to the endowment fund set up by the institute. IIM-A did not respond to a query from ET.

In the midst of all this, some former students have been optimistic about how the placement season will play out. The Alumni Council head for IIM-A, V Vaidyanathan, an alumnus of the class of 1985, said that the institute would not face too many problems during the placement season. “If the bride is attractive, the suitors will come,” is how he put it. The big sectors — Banking, Financial Services and Insurance (BFSI) — have over the past few years recruited around 40% of a batch’s students. That may not be the case this time around. Likewise, information technology (IT) may go a little slow this time around. “However, sectors like infrastructure, consulting, manufacturing and consumer marketing will continue to recruit,” said Mr Vaidyanathan. It is expected that there may not be a case of students holding too many job offers compared to the scenario in the past. “Earlier, each student had 5-6 offers. This year it might be 2-3,” he added.

So far, other IIMs have not reacted to the slowdown. When ET contacted past students from IIM Calcutta (IIM-C), they said they were not in receipt of any mail from the institute. “Even if companies do go, they will make fewer offers. They would want to maintain good relations with the institute and may make a goodwill gesture by hiring a few students,” says an IIM-C graduate from the 1987 batch.

Mktg - Beckham & Pepsi no longer together

LONDON: Football star David Beckham, who was the face of the soft drink giant Pepsi for over ten years, has finally decided to give up his
money-minting contract.

The 33-year-old footballer has decided to give up the two-million-pound-a-year contract to focus on his work with brands like Vodafone and Armani, the Sun reported.

The star has appeared dressed up as gladiator, cowboy and surfer for the Pepsi's advertising campaign.

"I have nothing but good memories of my association with Pepsi. I've played a gladiator, a cowboy, a surfer, and worked alongside Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez as well as some of the biggest names in world football," Beckham said last night.

Beckham, currently playing at AC Milan after being loaned out by his US team LA Galaxy, further added, "I hope everyone who has seen the work enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed making it."

Pepsi hailed its work with Beckham as "one of the most enduring partnerships in global brand history," the paper reported.

"David's football legacy will live on, and everyone at Pepsi will continue to be passionate about his success," the soft drink company said.

India - Energy policy wants end to fuel subsidies

The government on Friday approved the Integrated Energy Policy that calls for a swift transition to a market-determined pricing of petroleum products in line with global prices.

“A phased adjustment of domestic petroleum prices to trade parity prices must be undertaken in a relatively short period,” the policy said. This means a mix of import and export prices should determine petrol and diesel retail prices, rather than being fixed by government through a subsidy regime.

At present, the government issues bonds to oil companies to ensure high crude oil prices do not immediately translate into an increase in retail prices of petroleum products.

“A monitoring committee chaired by cabinet secretary has been set up to review the progress of implementation of the policy,” Home Minister P. Chidambaram said after a meeting of the cabinet that approved the policy.

The policy also favoured market-determined prices of coal. It also called for building strategic stockpile of nuclear fuel to counter the risk of disruption of international fuel supply and suggested acquiring energy assets abroad.

The Integrated Energy Policy report of the Planning Commission, which provides the basis for these measures, however, is not so bullish about India’s nuclear development programme.

“Even if a 20-fold increase takes place in India’s nuclear power capacity by 2031-32, the contribution of nuclear energy to the country’s energy-mix is at best expected to be 4 to 6.4 per cent (of the total power produced in the country),” the report said. Currently, 17 nuclear reactors produce only 4,200 MW of a total of 1,70,00 MW of power produced in the country.

To sustain eight per cent growth through 2031-32 India needs to increase its energy generation to 8,00,000 MW, the policy said.

Business - Q&A COO Procter & Gamble (V.G.Read)

Vinay Kamath

Robert McDonald, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of consumer goods multinational Procter & Gamble (P&G), maker of several blockbuster brands such as Ariel and Head & Shoulders, among others, was listed as one of the star speakers at the Pan-IIT 2008 global conference. Zipping into Chennai in a corporate jet, McDonald, a former US Army Officer who served five years in the Army before joining P&G in 1980, spoke to BrandLine on P&G’s innovation, on competition and the Indian market.

Ask him how his military career helped him, he says, “The mission is different in the military but it’s all about leadership, its part of the same piece of cloth.” And if the techniques he learnt in the Army helped his corporate career, pat comes his reply: “Yes definitely, you get a lot of responsibility at a very young age and that usually means peoples lives and that’s a good way to learn.” Excerpts from an exclusive interview:

Your growth in China has been spectacular, perhaps mixed in India. How would you compare P&G’s performance in China vis-À-vis India?

Our Indian business is actually growing at a remarkable rate. Since the year 2000 our business has quintupled. The difference is in China too we started at the same time in 1988 when the economy opened up. Whereas, Hindustan Unilever is very strong and established in India. So, we are coming from behind but that can be a competitive advantage as well because you can leapfrog technology and infrastructure.

How would you compare the two markets — the Chinese and Indian? Are the growth rates comparable?

Our total sales would be more in China. In India, our sales would be lower, but we are in fewer product categories. Here, we are in about eight product categories; in the US we are in 21 categories. As a result, it is pretty obvious what our strategies will be going forward.

Bijoy Ghosh

How are you innovating products for the Indian market — would you say the market here is similar to markets elsewhere?

There are peculiarities to every market and we try to spend time and lot of money understanding individual consumers. When I arrived in Mumbai, the first thing I did was go to a consumer’s home — what I did was watched them use our products. I spoke to them about our products, looking for insights, nuggets of information we can use to innovate. Of course, there are lots of differences. I am visiting an Indian home after 17 years, and there are lots of changes I see. But the cultural things will remain the same.

For example, in China, every household has a washing machine, many don’t use it, but they have one. In India, I was talking to this lady, she was relatively well off, but said her husband wouldn’t buy her a washing machine because he said it would make her lazy.

So, we have to formulate our product differently since she is not using a machine, but we also have to understand her psychology because if her husband is measuring her energy levels on her washing, we have to help her be the hero of the family.

It’s fascinating, that’s one of the reasons I love my job. Can you imagine the versatility I get to see all around the world and the detective work we got to do to uncover these nuggets of knowledge that lead to innovation, and that leads to touching and improving lives, which is our goal.

Sometimes the consumer insight is blindingly simple, so what kind of insights have you gleaned from the Indian market that have helped you develop products?

One example is, in India, many of the households don’t have water supply for 24 hours, and they may have a pump and a tank, so we have to develop products, which are efficient in the use of water. And we have a product, which is available in many other international markets called Downys single rinse that allows consumers to use less water to rinse clothes thereby saving water. In some markets, the water they use is more expensive than the detergent. It’s true in Japan!

So you have to formulate for that kind of an environment.

In China, we discovered that the clothes were very dirty and because they were so dirty it was overwhelming the cleaning agents. So we took one of the cleaning agents, substituted something else and it cleaned better but if we use the formula anywhere else it would be a disaster.

I ran the Asia hair care business for five years. Asian hair is twice the diameter of Caucasian hair — if you look at the cross section under a microscope at Asian hair it’s much thicker than Caucasian hair — so, they need a lot more conditioning. If an Indian or a Japanese consumer buys shampoo in the US they won’t like it because it won’t condition your hair. Our job is to get close to consumers and formulate our products innovatively for those consumers.

So, is that why you launched Rejoice brand of shampoo in the Chinese and Indian markets?

Yes, they were specific for these markets. When we launched Rejoice in China 60 per cent of our business was anti-dandruff, which is a very high percentage to rest of the world, but Chinese consumers wash hair only once a week, so you have to take into account consumer needs.

Plus, you got such economic gradations you need a brand for people at the bottom and top of the pyramid, their habits and cultures are different.

So you have Pantene, Head & Shoulders and you also have different sizes, sachets, bottles, and the formulation will be different because the usage experience is different, you got to design it for the usage experience. It sounds complex because you have these different permutations, but it is all focused on consumer needs.

You said you are present in only eight categories in the Indian market — so do we see P&G entering more categories?

Of course, the US is our most developed market and there consumers spend $100 a year on P&G products in 21 categories so we would like to replicate that everywhere. India’s about a dollar a year, China is about $3, Mexico is about $20 and Russia is about $9 a year. So, it varies.

How do you view the development of modern trade in India?

We really haven’t seen the entry and dramatic growth of modern global retailers, even Wal Mart has small stores. We see quite a growth of small stores. Our job is to get our products to all stores.

Our largest customers globally are small stores. They would be 19 per cent of our business; Wal Mart would be 16 per cent of our business. So these small stores are critical to our business. So that’s why we set up an innovation centre in Bangalore to better understand these consumer needs.

So, you are not looking only at the premium end of the market you will look at the mass end of the market as well?

Our purpose is to improve lives. There are 6.5 billion people in the world; we are reaching 3.5 billion so we think by the end of decade it will be 4 billion. We still have 2.5 billion to go, those people tend to live in rural areas and at the bottom of the economic pyramid, so innovation is the challenge, how do we innovate for those people.

There was a time in the early part of the decade when P&G was very aggressive, took the battle to the Unilever camp, but somehow it seemed P&G withdrew from the battle. What’s your perspective on that?

Obviously if our business quintupled since the year 2000 we wouldn’t see it that way. We have lots of respect for Hindustan Unilever, Nirma and all of our competitors. This is a huge market and one that is growing quickly. There is plenty of room for everyone. So we are not fixated with any one competitor.

P&G did a lot of innovation on sanitary products and Whisper is a huge brand, would one see that kind of innovation where P&G would put its entire marketing buck behind new brands?

We put money behind all our brands. Whisper Choice has been a great innovation. Pampers is a good growing business too. We have said publicly that we are installing a diaper line somewhere in the world every two weeks.

We have two in India and adding one more.

Are you revisiting your distribution in the Indian market? You had the golden eye programme a few years ago to target the premium end only …

That is one of the things we did in India. But it is true globally we are trying to innovate in ways to reach markets so that we can reach more consumers.

We use distributors not stockists so it takes time to develop their capability but that’s the right thing to do.

P&G has major share of market elsewhere in the world, but somehow in detergents and shampoo you haven’t ramped up in India as in other markets to gain the share.

It takes time, not due to lack of investment or lack of innovation or capability. We went to Japan in 1973, we made our first profit in laundry in Japan in 1994 and now we are competing with Kao, a Japanese company, for leadership.

So it takes time, we have been around for 170 years, so we measure time in long spans. I am confident that we will do in India what we have done in other markets of the world.

The market for skincare and cosmetics has exploded around the world. But P&G, apart from Olay, hasn’t come in with its brands such as Max Factor, Cover Girl. Would you look at special formulations for the Indian market?

Something like cosmetics is very fashion oriented so you have got to be relevant to consumers in local markets — if you look at those 21 product categories and look at other eight categories in Indian market we have to get into those 13 categories and we have plans in place to do those.

In the earlier part of this decade, it seemed consumer goods giants like you and Levers were warring but now it seems that each is sticking to their markets and core strengths?

It’s good news that you are telling me that you are not seeing a war — we don’t want a war we want to go out and earn the respect and loyalty of consumers to our brands, we don’t want a war with competition.

Surprising coming from a military man, that you don’t want a war…?

Well, if you look at the history of warfare and you can decide what kind of war you want — guerrilla warfare is better for shareholders and employees!

Vicks is another huge brand for you. What plans do you have for it?

Last week, we announced a new home care strategy. Vicks has an important role in that strategy — India is one of the largest markets for Vicks. We bought Vicks in 1986-87 which gave us our first geographic footprint in Asia. If it wasn’t for that acquisition we wouldn’t have expanded as fast in Asia.

Is the great recession worrying you?

We have been around for 170 years. We have been through recessions, through currency crises.

I was in Asia in 1997 when the currency crisis exploded, I was in Japan after the Kobe earthquake, recession is part of life but you can’t lose your focus, you have got to keep innovating — if you innovate and launch great products consumers will buy them regardless of the economic conditions. Innovation is everything.

World - Bangladesh;A vote most closely watched

Haroon Habib

With the lifting of the state of emergency on December 17, the last hurdle in the way of elections to the Bangladesh parliament goes and the country is all set to elect its ninth parliament on December 29.

The elections, scheduled to be held way back in January 2007, were stalled by a caretaker government backed by the country’s military following the promulgation of emergency in the backdrop of a serious political crisis. According to analysts, the timing of these elections adds a unique dimension to the process because it is in December that Bangladesh celebrates its national Victory Day, commemorating the 1971 surrender of the Pakistan army in Dhaka.

The elections are going to be held on the basis of new electoral rolls — prepared after removing 13 million fake voters enrolled by the erstwhile Khaleda Zia regime. Armed with a digital electoral list and having issued photo identification cards to 81 million voters, the government hopes to conduct free and fair elections in a peaceful manner. It has deployed some 50,000 troops across the country.

Washington’s interests in the elections has been summed up by its Ambassador to Dhaka, James F. Moriarty, who said in last week: “there will be no more transformational election in the world this year than the parliamentary elections scheduled for December 29 in Bangladesh.”

In the fray are two opposing alliances — the secular pro-liberation alliance led by the Awami League (AL), which took part in the country’s independence war against Pakistan, and the Islamist alliance led by the Bangladesh Nationalist party (BNP), many of whose partners had opposed the independence from Pakistan. This sharp polarisation has led analysts to predict the formation of either a model Muslim democracy or a new hotbed of extremism.

The military-backed caretaker government, which is holding the election nearly two years after its rule, has promised to hold a credible election. Though initially it received the unanimous support from the common people, the interim administration failed to hold its popularity due to lack of transparency in many of its activities. Added to it was its ill-designed attempt to implement the ‘minus two theory’ of ousting the two powerful women — the AL’s Sheikh Hasina and the BNP’s Khaleda Zia — from the nation’s political scene. Moreover, the administration’s inability to contain the price spiral of essentials due to its naïve market management policy eroded its popularity further.

The people of Bangladesh are still appreciative of some pragmatic steps taken by the interim administration such as its drive against financial corruption, reformation of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the Election Commission (EC). The initiative to correct the distorted history of the nation’s independence war in school textbooks was also widely appreciated.

The Awami League (AL) and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) have announced their manifestos. They contain programmes of action to contain inflation and keep prices of commodities under check, vitalise industries and agriculture, ensure the basic right to food, shelter, clothing, education and health. While both the parties promise a range of political reforms to improve governance and counter-militancy, there are important differences in their approach.

The AL’s Vision-2021 manifesto is aimed at the young generation of voters, who got registered for the first time this year. The BNP promises poverty reduction through economic growth. Fight against corruption ranks the second in AL’s priority, and third in the BNP’s. Both talk about increased transparency and stiff penalties for corruption.

While the AL puts the need for maintaining economic stability in the face of the global financial crisis right at the top of its priorities, it is striking that the BNP merely mentions the worst economic crisis in generations half way through its manifesto.

While the Jatiya Party of Gen. H.M. Ershad promises a corruption and terrorism-free society in line with its ally Awami League, the Jamaat’s manifesto says the party will formulate blasphemy laws preventing and punishing those responsible for hurting religious sentiments. The promise of blasphemy laws by the premier ally of the BNP has come under sharp criticism.

A total of 39 political parties are contesting the election. After about two years of emergency restrictions, there is vibrancy in the country’s politics with the leaders of the two key alliances — the AL and the BNP — engaging themselves in hectic election tours, addressing meetings everyday. They are, however, under the watchful eyes of the special security personnel. The security for Ms Hasina is extremely tight because of the number of death threats she has received from Islamist militants.

A near full-time campaigner, Khaleda Zia is urging voters to give her four-party alliance another chance to complete her unfinished tasks. “Independence and sovereignty of the country is safe in the BNP’s hands and only the BNP-led alliance can solve the present crises of the country,” she tells her audience.

Begum Zia fears sabotage in the election process but cites no immediate reason. Urging voters to protect “Islam,” she alleges that the election is going to be a “managed affair” to install a “puppet” government. Ms Hasina who is said to be better positioned than her arch rival promises economic freedom, peace, prosperity and development if her grand alliance is voted to power.

Asking the people to take a vow to stop ‘war criminals’ from taking office again, Ms Hasina promises to put on trial the war criminals, who collaborated with the Pakistan army in the nation’s liberation war, and now allegedly getting political patronage from Khaleda Zia’s BNP.

Analysts say that the alliance with Mr. Ershad’s party appears to be a plus point for the Hasina-led grand alliance though the former president and military dictator still suffers from an image crisis but his party enjoys roughly a 10 per cent vote, particularly in the vast northern Rangpur region.

In 2001, the Awami League independently polled 41 per cent of the votes while the BNP-Jamaat coalition polled 47 per cent. The grand alliance has brought all the smaller Left leaning parties into its fold.

In a bid to woo the voters, both the alliances have accommodated popular issues such as arresting the commodity price hike, providing a social safety net for the poor and vulnerable groups, increasing power generation, infrastructure development, carrying forward administrative reforms, investment and employment generation, anti-corruption measures and good governance.

The AL’s manifesto says it will address terrorism originating both from the Islamists and criminals and promises to try the war criminals of 1971; the BNP is silent on war criminals but says it will curb terrorism. While Begum Zia has urged the voters to ‘save Islam and the country’ by electing her four-party alliance, Ms Hasina’s stress is on a campaign against the five years of “misrule” by the BNP and the Jamaat.

There will be over 200,000 local and foreign observers, making it the most closely watched vote in the country’s history. Whatever the outcome, everybody is eager to see a credible and peaceful exercise to help strengthen Bangladesh’s quest for a stable democracy.

World - U.S. economy — it’s business as unusual

P. Sainath

Things are not as bad as they seem for the U.S. economy. They are worse.

On average, the United States has seen the loss of nearly 14,000 jobs each day since September 1. In 90 days from that date, close to 1.3 million Americans lost their jobs. After weeks of headline-grabbing events on Wall Street, these developments tend to recede into the background. Current estimates suggest that over half a million Americans lost their jobs in November alone. Something not seen in a single month since December 1974.

Things are not as bad as they seem for the U.S. economy. They are worse. As the data flow in, even estimates for earlier months have been revised sharply upwards. The September job loss figure was recorded as 159,000 two months ago. The Bureau of Labour Statistics now says the figure is 403,000. The first figure for October was 240,000 jobs lost. Now it is 320,000. The unemployment rate for teenagers, at 20.4 per cent, is three times the claimed national rate of 6.7 per cent. (This does not include those who have given up looking for work in despair. Nor does it count those working far fewer hours than they need or would like to.) A measure that includes such factors would raise the unemployment rate to 12.5 per cent. Yet, even with this flawed measure, the rate is at its highest in 15 years. There were 10.3 million jobless people in November and that was 3.1 million more workers unemployed than just a year ago. Worse, massive layoffs continue. Even the IT sector has lost thousands of jobs.

There are other icebergs ahead. This is winter, when at least two major sectors — agriculture and construction — do not hire much. Come spring, and there will be different benchmarks to test jobless figures against. There could also be a new round of layoffs (in Retail, for instance) starting January after the last two major holidays — Christmas and New Year — get over. Things might improve if the new administration has massive programmes running by spring that help millions return to work. Circumstances might force this administration to make choices that could in America be denounced as “Leftist.” Not impossible — but on current evidence, tough. Huge job stimulus programmes, even if brought in, would take time to work through. If Barack Obama’s plan to create 3 million jobs over the next two years works, it would still barely recover those that vanished over the previous two.

The Federal Reserve has cut interest rates to between 0 and 0.25 per cent. (Leading one wit to declare that “the Fed is now the only institution truly attempting Islamic Banking.”) It believes the positive results of this will be seen in time. However, this will not solve the credit crunch — the problem of banks fearful or unwilling to lend to those who currently need it. The mortgage and other crises show no major signs of a let-up. Even if all the measures of the Bush and the incoming Obama administration work, it won’t be a return to business as usual. For tens of millions of people, life might never be the same again.

The housing mortgage crisis still burns. Six million people could lose their homes over the next two years. And the credit card crisis, already setting in, could strike sharply in a few months. That hit would encompass far more people than housing would, even if the amounts involved (and impact on the financial markets) are smaller. As Business Week puts it: “Making matters worse, the subprime threat is also greater in credit-card land. Risky borrowers with low credit scores account for roughly 30% of outstanding credit-card debt, compared with 11% of mortgage debt.” This is a country where almost everybody uses credit cards (often several of them).

If job losses continue to mount at their present pace, the card catastrophe will accelerate. Those out of work will not be able to meet their payments. They could also find it hard to purchase essentials and would likely fall deeper into debt. This was a sector already headed for crisis for quite some time. In some estimates, U.S. credit card debt grew from $211 billion in 2002 to $915 billion by the end of 2007. When this house of cards falls, it will spur further the home mortgage mess and the recession already under way. There are those making their housing payments off their credit cards — at huge interest.

Meanwhile, the emphasis right through has been on bailing out the financial giants. (An Institute for Policy Studies report notes that the U.S. and European governments are set to spend 40 times more to rescue financial firms than to fight climate and poverty crises in the developing world.) And yet, daily, new scandals emerge from Wall Street. Both from the banks and other types of operations. The billions paid out as bonuses to executives have not been reversed even when the ‘profits’ for which these bonuses were ‘rewards’ have proved illusory. Merrill Lynch, as the New York Times points out, handed out $5 billion to $6 billion in bonuses in 2006. “But Merrill’s record earnings in 2006 — $7.5 billion — turned out to be a mirage.”

It is only now that the obscene compensation for CEOs and top executives is a matter of — limited — debate. As for the hundreds of billions of dollars given to the banks in the bailout, there is no evidence of this money being used to ease the credit and mortgage crises at the level of the public. Not even a requirement that they make details of their use of the money public — though it is public money they make use of.

Meanwhile, the latest Wall Street scandal snowballing is that of the Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities. Madoff, a shining beacon of Wall Street enterprise and philanthropy, ran what has been described as “the biggest Ponzi scheme in history.” His own estimate of the fraud is in the region of $50 billion (more than three times India’s farm loan waiver). Huge charities, trusts and individuals, including billionaires, have lost massively in this rip-off. And there’s more to come. Yet again the question how such gigantic rackets thrived in Wall Street without the massive financial media ever noticing leaps up. The Madoff scam is only one among many things unravelling.

However, there is far more passion generated over the obnoxious Governor of Illinois who tried to sell the Senate seat that Mr. Obama vacated — for personal benefit. Governor Blagojevich’s action is neither new to Chicago, nor huge. It is a petty deal by a petty person, reeking of low corruption in high places. The energy it generates, though, is like focussing on the local pick-pocket when grand larceny proceeds next door. Maybe there is a need to hold businessmen to the same standards as elected representatives. Especially those dealing with untold sums of public money?

In this bleak landscape came a surprise at a factory in Chicago. “You got bailed out. We got sold out.” So read the banner at the sit-in strike of the workers of the Republic Windows and Doors factory. Having been robbed of their jobs in a stealthy shutdown, over 200 unionised workers and their families occupied the factory and demanded severance and vacation pay. They got it, too. The action drew national attention. In a sign of changed times, politicians, celebrities, and public figures turned up at the factory to declare support. Even Mr. Obama said he agreed with their demands. The media which, pre-meltdown, would have savaged the strike, were less hostile. “Prior to the economic crisis,” says analyst and columnist Carl Bloice who writes in the Black Commentator, “the police might have gone into the factory and evicted the workers as trespassers.” Post-meltdown, it was a different story. Bloice says the U.S. has not seen such a labour action in decades. Impressively, ordinary citizens went up with food hampers to help out the strikers. Could we be witnessing the start of more militant labour action in the U.S. after decades? And could we be seeing greater sympathy in the country for such actions after decades, as job losses mount?

Entertainment - The Pinteresque pause for truth

Harold Pinter, the British playwright, poet, screenwriter, and Nobel laureate who died on Thursday at the age of 78 after a long battle with cancer, was one of the most remarkable and influential voices of his generation. In a great body of work that included more than 30 plays, numerous essays, poetry as well as stage and screen direction, he captured with an unerring and often terrifying instinct the uncertainties and ambiguities of life in the post-modern era. Dominatin g English theatre from the 1950s, he infused a distinct political sensibility into a theatre scene that had, until then, been largely steeped in gentility. Beginning with plays like The Room, The Birthday Party, and The Caretaker, in which Mr. Pinter strongly signalled his engagement with oppression, the prospect of violence, and the struggle for power in a range of situations and locations, he developed an urgent political voice that made him one of the most outspoken critics of fascism and repression in recent times. Whether it was his early registration as a conscientious objector, his support to the anti-apartheid movement, his criticism of Turkey’s suppression of the Kurds, or his strong opposition to the Iraq war (for which he famously lashed out at Messrs Bush and Blair), he believed in the “compulsive” search for truth through the art of his drama. In his Nobel address in 2005, he pointed out that “as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory.”

Mr. Pinter explored other forms of power, including domestic power, and the unspecified menace that remains hidden beneath the often glittering surface of the lives of ordinary people. Many of his later plays like Betrayal and Moonlight, and his last play, Celebration, reflected the constant ambivalence of life, of memory, and of human relationships. He believed that “below the word spoken is the thing known and unspoken.” The famous ‘pause’ he injected into his playwriting became part of a genre of drama that came to be known as ‘Pinteresque.’ Apart from writing plays, essays, and poetry, he collaborated with directors on screenplays for films, and even directed the plays of others. Although known as a somewhat ‘prickly’ personality, Mr. Pinter was famous for his friendships, his love for poetry, cricket, and bridge. His biographer Michael Billington has said that “like all truly first-rate writers, he mapped out his own country with its own distinctive topography.” It is a terrain that is instantly recognisable and profoundly human.

Entertainment - The year AR Rahman scored big for emperors and slumdogs

Lalitha Suhasini

Earlier this month, I found myself roaming the streets of Dimapur, a nondescript, dusty city in Nagaland whose youth is fanatical about all forms of metal—white, death, thrash, speed; the heavier the riffs, the better. Posters of an upcoming White Lion concert were plastered all over town but there was no sign of Bollywood. Hell, the place didn’t even have a movie hall. I bumped into a mobile download store at every corner—you could even download tones at the local paan store. So it was surreal when I saw a kid blast the Yuvvraaj number Tu Meri Dost Hai off his mobile

Every year, there’s an anthem that endorses A.R. Rahman’s talent. This year there were several, including the one our young man in Dimapur downloaded. Sixteen years into his career as a composer, 2008 turned out to be a watershed with the largest number of Bollywood releases till date for Rahman. He also launched KM Music Conservatory (KMMC) to train students in Western and Indian classical music soon after he launched his label KM Musiq. The fee is hefty but the composer has made sure there are grants and subsidized packages for deserving students. Rahman even engaged KMMC faculty in film soundtracks this year. So, Kavita Baliga, who teaches vocals, did the operatic parts in Guzarish from Ghajini and V.R. Sekar with Elidh Martin, who teach the cello, are featured in the soundtrack of Yuvvraaj. I’m sure students will show up on soundtrack credits soon.
I remember Rahman sounding like an expectant dad as 2007 wound to a close—he was happy to announce that he had a slew of releases lined up for the new year. Jaane Tu...Ya Jaane Na had been held up over for a little more than a year due to production snags; Jodhaa Akbar, which was under production, had been pushed from 2007 to 2008; a Subhash Ghai project was yet to be titled (Yuvvraaj); and there was Ghajini. Dilli 6 made it to his list as well but it is still under production and is now slated to be a 2009 release. Ada: A Way of Life and Slumdog Millionaire were the two big surprises.

WithAda, Rahman, the geek that he is, opened himself up to a tech innovation: He allowed virtually anybody to remix two numbers (Gulfisha and Gumsum) off the film’s score via Nokia’s XpressMusic website. It was another first for Rahman, another leap into the future. Gulfisha, sung by Sonu Nigam, made a lot of noise but soon made way for the bigger hits in Abbas Tyrewala’s directorial debut.

Jaane Tu...Ya Jaane Na was an album cut for mass hysteria. Rashid Ali, who played the guitar in a jazz quartet at pubs in London, turned into a phenomenon with Kabhi Kabhi Aditi as did Benny Dayal, who sang the sassy Pappu Can’t Dance Saala. This year reconfirmed that Rahman is a terrific headhunter. His formula is simple: He needs to hear magic when the singers go behind the mike. Exactly the way an actor transforms a scene dynamically when he steps into the frame. It doesn’t matter if the guy has lost a talent hunt (Naresh Iyer) or is a music teacher in Suriname with no claim to fame (Madhushree).
Rahman’s range as a vocalist expanded with each film too. If he surpassed himself with his tribute to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan in Guru’s Tere Bina in 2007, there was Khwaja Mere Khwaja from Jodhaa Akbar which made the qawwali accessible again.
And he kept innovating. Who would have imagined that he would direct the Chennai String Orchestra to magnificently pull off Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony Prelude in Yuvvraaj? The script allowed for lusty Western classical departures; sometimes film-makers such as Ghai and Mani Ratnam (I can’t wait for Raavan where Rahman and Ratnam reunite—it’s as thrilling as Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson every single time) are known to tweak their films around Rahman’s music. O.P. Nayyar and Naushad commanded such respect in the 1950s and 1960s but few composers have thereafter.
Rahman has been accused several times of repackaging and re-recording his older tunes for a new audience. Even in doing so he’s managed to increase his fan base. Surely, few in the north would have picked up the soundtrack for Alaipayuthey but many must have enjoyed the soundtrack of Saathiya, the Hindi remake, as much or even more. Surprisingly, he hasn’t taken a single track off the hit Tamil OST for the Hindi version of Ghajini. Guzarish and Behka from the Aamir Khan-starrer are catchy melodies with Rahman teaming up again with Rang De Basanti collaborator Prasoon Joshi to sweep the charts.

Slumdog Millionaire was a quick, quiet release. Rahman wrapped up the project in an astounding two months for Danny Boyle, collaborating with M.I.A.—the UK-based Sri Lankan wild child. Like Rahman, M.I.A. broke into the mainstream with her inimitable vocal style and razor rhythms. She spent her early years in Chennai and returned to record parts of her smash-hit second album, Kala, in Chennai, inevitably landing up at Rahman’s AM Studios to fine-tune it. She told me last year how she, like the rest of the world, had been blown away by Rahman and hated Gwen Stefani for grabbing her idea of redoing a Rahman hit. Stefani, she says, used the rhythm section of Ottagatte Kattiko, a Tamil hit from the 1990s flick Gentleman, in her debut Sweet Escape. Slumdog was M.I.A.’s cash-in time. Not only did the soundtrack include Paper Planes, the knockout number from Kala, M.I.A. also recorded O Saya with her idol. The track is a megajam with dark tribal beats and Rahman’s chant-style vocals playing over M.I.A’s gritty rap. And Rahman rewrote music history again when he completely redid Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai as Ringa Ringa. So it isn’t surprising that the soundtrack has snagged a Golden Globe nomination.

As the world fell apart around us, Rahman raised his voice against terror with Jiya Se Jiya, a robust number that draws from Rajasthani and Punjabi folk with percussionists from across the globe, including Sivamani, in his brand new solo album, Connections. The video that shows free huggers walking around various parts of the country is as emotionally- charged yet simple. Oh, and he also did the rousing theme song for the new Champions League T20 series with some power chords and Jamaican influences thrown in. Looking back at all that’s happened this year, it’s sometimes hard to believe that Rahman is one individual at work. But every single victory of his is somehow personal for all of us. The Slumdog OST has two tracks in the Oscar longlist for Best Original Song. Can ARR win? You know the answer.
Lalitha Suhasini is a willing listener if you’re playing something original or have an original excuse to do covers. She was formerly an assistant editor with Rolling Stone India.

India - Interest subsidy for urban poor on home loans

Aarti Dhar

NEW DELHI: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on Friday approved a scheme aimed at providing a five per cent interest subsidy for the urban poor for home loans up to Rs. 1 lakh.

The subsidy has been fixed keeping in mind the repayment capacity of this section, Home Minister P. Chidambaram told journalists here.

The total subsidy, amounting to Rs. 1,100 crore, is expected to leverage an institutional finance of Rs. 3,870 crore.

The loan repayment period will be between 15 and 20 years.

3.10 lakh more units

The Interest Subsidy Scheme for Housing the Urban Poor (ISHUP) is expected to result in creation of an additional stock of 3.10 lakh houses — 2.13 lakh units for the economically weaker section (EWS) and 0. 97 lakh units for low income group households over the next four years.

Nodal agencies

The National Housing Bank and the Housing and Urban Development Corporation will be the nodal agencies for disbursement and monitoring of the subsidy.

Banks, micro finance institutions and others will have the option of availing themselves of the resources.

In 2005-06, when national housing shortage was estimated at about 24.7 million units, the government launched the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission for providing affordable houses, under which 1.5 million houses are being built for the economically weaker section.

Slums upgraded

Under the programme, slums have also been upgraded and will be given basic municipal services. This would entail around Rs. 40,000 crore, half of which will be borne by the Centre.

Lifestyle - Prisoners in South Africa embrace yoga

Andrew Walker

JOHANNESBURG: The prisoners at the Groenpunt Maximum Security prison in the Free State province are among the most violent in South Africa.

They have raped, murdered, smuggled drugs or abused children. Many are HIV-positive and can expect to die in jail.

Inside prison their anger boils over and violence is common.

But a new programme of yoga lessons is helping inmates to discover ways to calm themselves and take a more positive look at their lives, even if they never get out from behind bars.

From the deck of a rusty old boxing ring Ansuya Khoosal takes the prisoners through a series of yoga positions and breathing exercises.

“Breathe in... And let go,” she repeats.

The prisoners have their eyes shut, listening to her soothing voice. They appear at peace with themselves.

“I can’t see any smiles!” Ansuya says, and wide, honest grins appear on their faces.

They stand in their bright orange uniforms, flinging their arms up in a flurry of stretches.

Some inmates take it very seriously, others treat it like a bit of a lark, but it is clear that the lessons are popular.

It is the last day of a seven day programme of lessons, teaching the inmates basic yoga positions, as well as breathing exercises devised by yoga master Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

The organisation that provides the teaching, Art of Living, say they hope the inmates will take what they have learned and practice in their cells on their own.

The organisation cannot run classes every week, but they have identified enthusiastic inmates to carry on encouraging their cell-mates to continue.

India - A message of peace;Pakistan theatre group performs


Thrissur: Voices for peace and tolerance were heard loud and clear at the International Theatre Festival of Kerala (ITFK) when the 16-member Lahore-based Ajoka staged a play, ‘Bullah,’ here on Friday.

This is the first official tour of a troupe from across the border after the Mumbai terror attacks and assumes significance in the wake of New Delhi calling off the Indian cricket team’s tour to Pakistan.

An olive branch

The play seemed to offer an olive branch, echoing voices of sanity and making a strong pitch for a return to reason.

“The answer to bilateral problems lies in better people-to-people contact. How can two countries, with a shared history and culture several thousand years old, think of severing ties or prolonging conflict? Dialogue can solve problems,” said Madeeha Gauhar, director.

The tour has not been without problems. Two members, employees of the Pakistan government, could not reportedly secure no-objection certificates for visa requirements. Three members backed out owing to pressure from their relatives who feared that a journey to India was unsafe at this juncture. Three Indian artistes/technicians replaced them.

“For security reasons, many advised us against visiting India now. But we were confident that Indians would welcome us warmly. We could feel the warmth and support when we staged excerpts from the play at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi on Tuesday. Ajoka is not new to India. It has performed extensively in India, calling for better relations between people in the subcontinent,” Ms. Gauhar said.

In the theatre festival, Pakistan shares space with India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Iran. One cannot miss the flags of the countries aflutter at the venue, upholding the message of peace and cooperation.

Beacon of hope

The choice of ‘Bullah,’ which dealt with the life and times of Sufi poet-mystic Bulleh Shah (1680-1758) was apt. “Remove duality and do away with all disputes. The Hindu and the Muslim are none other than God,” he wrote.

He lived in an era when the sub-continent was torn by war, hatred and hopelessness. He witnessed civil and religious strife, and political chaos. His words were a beacon of hope in those troubled times.

“He was among the most liberal Muslims of his time. He did not see a conflict between his mystic beliefs and his devotion to music and dance,” said Ms. Gauhar.

The Pakistani artistes strove to convey that nothing mattered in life more than love, peace and brotherhood. If only life would imitate art.

Business - Kingfisher Airlines set to break even in December: Mallya

Ajay Sukumaran

Bangalore: Kingfisher Airlines Ltd expects to break even in December on an estimated revenue of Rs500 crore for the month, according to chairman Vijay Mallya.
“All going well, we should break even in December itself,” Mallya said after the annual general meeting of shareholders

Mallya also said Kingfisher’s plans to raise $400 million (about Rs1,916 crore) to fund operations were on track and that the company was in discussions with private equity investors.
“I think the worst is over and there’s no reason why private equity investors who had expressed interest when oil was at $100 a barrel shouldn’t be more interested when oil is $36 a barrel,” Mallya said.
Kingfisher, India’s second largest private sector carrier by passengers behind Jet Airways (India) Ltd, had reported a net loss of Rs641 crore for the six months to 30 September, following its merger with budget carrier Deccan Aviation Ltd.
Kingfisher, which had announced an operational alliance with Jet, plans to launch two flights connecting Mumbai to Hong Kong and Singapore in January, besides flights to Colombo, Male and Dubai from Bangalore.
“The fundamentals for the aviation industry are strong but the government has to recognize that the aviation industry is a very important part of India’s infrastructure,” Mallya said, a position long held by India’s private aviation companies looking for tax breaks and other concessions from the government amid a downturn in their business.
Airlines have been demanding that aviation fuel be given the so-called declared goods status that will enable it to be taxed at 4% across India, instead of an average of about 26% because of varying taxes in different states. But a committee of state finance ministers has opposed this demand.
“We can pass on pretty much majority of the savings and that would be good for the industry, make air travel even more affordable and stimulate an industry that has slowed down considerably,” claimed Mallya.
Kingfisher shares rose 0.87% to Rs34.80 n the Bombay Stock Exchange on Friday.

Business - 10 Indian MFIs in global top 100 ranking

Anita Bhoir

Mumbai: Indian microfinance institutions (MFIs) feature the most in a global list of the top 100 firms, as ranked by US-based Microfinance Information Exchange Inc. (MIX).

The annual MIX Global 100 Composite Ranking features 10 Indian microfinance institutions in the list topped by Indonesia’s MBK Ventura, which has at least 64,000 borrowers. India’s SKS Microfinance Pvt. Ltd, with more than 1.6 million borrowers, has slipped from the top slot to second position.

Cashpor Micro Credit, Sarvodaya Nano Finance Ltd, Evangelical Social Action Forum (ESAF), Spandana Sphoorty Financial Ltd, Aadarsha Welfare Society and Centre for Rural Reconstruction through Social Action are the other Indian microfinance institutions in the list’s top 50.
The MIX list selected the top 100 institutions from a sample of 652 firms based on three key attributes: outreach, efficiency, and transparency. The performance of these institutions was measured for each area relative to other firms in the sample. “Leading the South Asian contingent, India was the only country with 10 or more MFIs in the ranking, seven of which scored in the top 50,” MIX said in the report. “Five other countries posted five or more MFIs, including Cambodia, Bosnia, Colombia, Ecuador and Morocco.”

Indian microfinance institutions in the top 100 averaged above 50% growth in borrowers over the previous year, the report shows. SKS Microfinance more than tripled the number of its borrowers during the year to cross the one million mark. “Top-level efficiency also boosted their ranking, as Indian MFIs in the composite ranking kept costs to less than a quarter of the average, at 1.5% of gross national income per capita, buoyed by low labour costs and high productivity,” MIX said.
“The interest rates in select South Asian economies are higher when compared with India. This reflects on the margins of Indian MFIs,” said M.R. Rao, chief operating officer, SKS Microfinance. “Interest rates charged in Sri Lanka are anywhere in the range of 33-36%, while in India we charge an interest rate of 24-25%.” But SKS has decided to go slow on acquiring new customers because of the credit crunch. “We have also decided to go slow on branch expansion considering the existing economic environment... Once the liquidity situation turns we will begin acquiring new customers,” said Rao.
India had 216 microfinance institutions with a loan portfolio of up to Rs5,898.2 crore as at end-March, according to the Bharat Microfinance report of Sa-Dhan, an association of development finance institutions.

India - 24 hour science channel

T.S. Subramanian

CHENNAI: A 24-hour television channel dedicated to science and technology and highlighting India’s scientific achievements will be on the air in two months.

W. Selvamurthy, Chief Controller, Research and Development, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), said the channel would be a product of public-private sector partnership. Many departments of the Government of India had committed themselves to providing a certain number of episodes. They included the DRDO, the Department of Science and Technology, the Department of Space, the Department of Atomic Energy, and the Department of Biotechnology.

The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, the Indian Institutes of Technology and premier engineering colleges would also contribute to the channel with their programmes. The DRDO had committed to giving 100 episodes.

“This is a good initiative because India’s achievements in various scientific endeavours will be propagated at the global level. The programmes will be in a simple language to enable even the lay man to understand them. The channel will disseminate information from the laboratory to the land,” said Dr. Selvamurthy, who heads the Life Sciences and Human Resource division in the DRDO.

Sashi Mehta of Signet Communications Private Limited had taken the initiative in forging the public-private sector partnership for the channel, he said. He described as “a milestone” the landing of Tejas, India’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) in the rarefied heights of Leh, Ladakh, on December 13.

Dr. Selvamurthy said: “It successfully completed different trials in the cold environment in the high altitude of Leh. The trials are important for operating the LCA in cold weather close to the border. The objective of the flight trials is to expose the onboard systems to extreme low temperatures.”

Two Tejas prototypes were involved in the trials. The aircraft remained in cold weather overnight with temperatures plunging to minus 20 degrees Celsius and they were powered up the next day for operations.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) placed orders for 20 Tejas aircraft after their initial operation clearance, which was expected to be achieved in 2010. The LCA’s flight envelope, manoeuvrability, and safety would be tested first. If it passed these tests, the IAF would place orders for 20 more Tejas aircraft after their final operation clearance, the DRDO’s Chief Controller said.

Lifestyle - Japan cyber cafe offers residential address to unemployed, homeless

Tokyo: In a country where a street address is key to getting a job, an Internet cafe near Tokyo is offering the unemployed and homeless more than just a virtual, email address.

In addition to the usual Internet services, comic books and unlimited beverages offered by most Japanese Internet cafes, Cyber @ Cafe offers its residents long-term lodging and an official registered address.

This simple service is vital for the 50 semi-permanent residents of the cafe, many of whom have taken refuge here after being laid off abruptly during the current recession.

Takemitsu Karitachi, a contract worker at a nearby factory, is one of the many people who have been sleeping at the cafe every night for the past two months since he lost his office job and his apartment.

Karitachi, who used to roam the streets and hopped between various Internet cafes for months, says he is now relieved to have found a more permanent home -- even if it’s a cubicle just slightly bigger than the back seat of a car.

“Before I came here, I would sit around on chairs in front of places like supermarkets and eat rice balls during the day. But when I really didn’t have any money or work, I had to sleep on park benches at night,” Karitachi said.

Like Karitachi, many of people who frequent cyber cafes are unemployed and homeless who are looking for shelter, but unlike the residents of Cyber @ Cafe, they can’t call these places home. “Human resources agencies used to hire contract workers like me without an official address, but that has changed,” Karitachi said. “Now you need an official address and a guarantor.”

Cyber @ Cafe has a microwave and shower and lodgers pay about $20 a day, much less than budget hotels. Japan’s jobless rate is still at an enviable—by Western standards—3.7%, but according to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, about 30,000 contract workers will be laid off across the country between October 2008 and March 2009.

The economy is also in recession and analysts predict this slowdown may be perhaps the longest on record, as global demand for Japanese cars and technology dries up.

Since late October, 50 cubicles in the dimly lit Cyber @ Cafe have been packed with jobseekers, giving cafe owner Akihiro Sato a close-up look at the economic recession.

He said younger lodgers in their mid-to-late-twenties tend to stay for a couple of months before finding a home and a job, but older and poorer residents, with little chance of finding work, are almost permanent fixtures. “People who lost their jobs in this recession have absolutely no where to go so this cafe is their last resort,” Sato said.

“The government just announced that they’ll build some kind of housing for contract and temporary workers, but the process is too complicated. They need a place right now and we can offer that and that’s why there’s a great demand,” he said.

Sport - Cricket;Team of the year

Peter Roebuck

Every festive season this column chooses its Test team of the year. Our side is chosen entirely on the basis of performances in 2008. Specialists will be chosen in every position. Of course figures cannot completely be isolated from their surroundings. To that end Tests involving Bangladesh have been removed.

Gautam Gambhir and Graeme Smith will open the innings. Gambhir scored three 100s and averaged 70 in eight Tests played against strong opponents. After scoring heavily in Sri Lanka he repeated the feat against Australia and England.

Smith (1519 runs at 72) takes the second spot ahead of Virender Sehwag (1462 at 56) because he produced two fourth innings hundreds that helped to secure stunning victories. His unbeaten 154 as his team chased 281 at Edgbaston was as impressive as Brian Lara’s epic in Barbados. Considering his responsibilities, Smith has had a wonderful year. Omitting Viru goes against the grain because he played several outstanding innings.

Hashim Amla (1112 at 52) bats at first wicket down. It has been a patchy year for first drops, with Rahul Dravid and Ricky Ponting faring about as well as the hedge funds. Alone amongst them Amla has surpassed himself, averaging over 50 in a notably demanding position. He is the first cricketer of Indian extraction to play for South Africa and his success ought to inspire a somewhat insular community.

Pietersen at No. 4

Kevin Pietersen (1015 at 50) takes the second wicket down position a fraction ahead of Sachin Tendulkar (1063 at 48). A week ago the Indian was in front but the England batsman rallied in the Mohali Test. Tendulkar’s match-winning hundred in Chennai was a corker but his rival was also captaining the side and took it back to India after the Mumbai outrage.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul was the cricketer of the year. In nine matches he collected 909 runs at an average of 101. Once settled he was harder to shift than ink. Enough said. Abraham de Villiers must bat at fourth drop. In 2008 he has tallied 1054 runs at 62 an innings. His hundred in Perth was a match-winning effort and his ability to work the ball into the gaps told of a maturity beyond his years.

Dhoni to captain

Despite the achievements of several rivals Mahendra Singh Dhoni will guard the stumps. He is also captain. After missing the tour of Sri Lanka, Dhoni led his team to victory over Australia and England, along the way displaying an ability to forge a fighting unit and to pursue ruthless strategies. Although his glovework was scratchy he scored important runs, averaging 35.

Ryan Sidebottom and Dale Steyn lead the attack. Despite his patchy form in Perth, the South African speedster has claimed 66 scalps at 21 apiece. At his best he sent down fast outswingers, a delivery calculated to perturb any batsman. Until injury struck, the Yorkshireman had taken 47 wickets at 20 each.

Johnson lone Aussie

Nine players and not an Australian in sight! Mitchell Johnson has saved the day. Although his wickets were not exactly cheap at 27 apiece, he took 61 and only Harbhajan Singh (63) was more rapacious.

Ishant Sharma was outstanding but his figures (38 at 31) were not quite good enough. Zaheer Khan’s 27 wickets cost 36 runs each. Neither had the opportunity to try their luck against the Aussies at the Gabba but that is the way it goes.

Ajantha Mendis is our spinner, narrowly ousting Murali (33 at 26). Mendis only played three Tests but took 26 Indian wickets at an average of 18. Afterwards the Indians said they could pick him alright but just could not play him!

(Statistics up to the end of the first day of the Boxing Day Test)

Mktg - India;Neo Cricket bats for entertainment

Purvita Chatterjee

Mumbai, Dec. 26 Neo Cricket has decided to promote its channel on the entertainment platform in a bid to attract a new set of advertisers in addition to enhancing its subscription revenues.

Having garnered revenues to the tune of Rs 285 crore in the last quarter of this year, the cricket channel is banking on its DTH and cable subscription revenues to record significant growth by the time the channel’s fiscal year ends in March next year.

“Our cable subscription has already grown by 55 per cent while DTH subscription has recorded a 50 per cent growth in subscription,” says Mr Abhishek Verma, Vice-President (Marketing), Neo Sports Broadcast Ltd.

Positioning itself as sports-cum-entertainment channel, it has decided to tie up with cinema halls, especially multiplexes. “We are in the process of tying up with 2-3 cinema chains and there would be branding and regular interactive contests held at such venues,” said Mr Verma. Besides, the channel has decided to link itself to Bollywood in the near future. For instance, Neo Sports has decided to bring in in-film branding by associating itself with the soon-to-be-released Bollywood film Victory. It has currently also associated itself with the kids film, Jumbo.

Afro-Asian Cup

With not much international cricket happening in the beginning of 2009, the cricket channel would be waiting for the Afro-Asian Cup held later during the coming year to get a boost in its revenues.

“Even in the beginning of 2008, there was not much cricket. However, it was between October and December when revenues shot up with the Irani trophy and the Australia and England series. However, on an average, ad revenues have been growing at 30 per cent on a year-on-year basis,” says Mr Verma.

There was also a spurt in viewership during the recent producer’s strike when GEC channels’ ratings suffered. “Our ratings shot up during the strike with GRPs even higher than the IPL matches during the England-India series this year,” says Mr Verma.

Auto sector

While FMCG brands continued to be consistently advertised during the year, there are chances of two-wheelers and cars also making a comeback with their sectors reviving after the economic slowdown.

“In cricket, advertisers are looking for consistent returns. While there is expected be a slowdown in advertising in the coming year, categories like two-wheelers and cars may also start advertising again,” observes Mr Verma. eom

India - Come 2009, TV viewing to become costlier

New Delhi, Dec. 26 The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has amended the Broadcasting and Cable Tariff Order to allow for inflation-linked adjustments in the rates for cable TV services.

Broadcasters have now been allowed a 7 per cent increase in rates and consumers will have to bear a part of this increase, come Janurary 2009.

In 2004, TRAI had frozen broadcasters’ rates, at the December 26, 2003 levels. Since then, a 4-per cent increase has been implemented. Last October, the regulator had also fixed ceilings for what a consumer could be charged depending on the city he lived in.

Cable TV viewing in Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Gurgaon, or Surat will cost at least Rs 11 more. For up to 20 pay channels and 30 free-to-air channels, the operators can now ask for a maximum of Rs 171. The same will cost Rs 20 less in Asansol, Coimbatore or Puducherry, amongst others. Everywhere else, it will now cost a maximum of Rs 139.

At the other end, more than 45 pay and 30 free-to-air channels will cost consumers, in Bangalore for example, a maximum of Rs 271 a month. The ceiling for those in Asansol, for instance, will be Rs 235, and elsewhere Rs 214.

For Conditional Access System-mandated areas, individual channels will now cost a maximum of Rs 5.35 (excluding taxes) per month. The basic service of 30 free to air channels will cost Rs 82/ month, up from the current Rs 77.

STB rentals

Rentals and security deposits for set-top boxes will, however, be cheaper this coming year. Operators in CAS-mandated areas have been running two schemes, for which the regulator had fixed security deposits and monthly rentals according to the prevailing prices of STB.

Since the prices of boxes have dropped in the last two years, the TRAI wants this benefit to be passed on to consumers.

The security deposit of Rs 250 has been reduced to 200, and rentals to Rs 34 from Rs 45.

Under the second scheme, in which the deposit is Rs 999, consumers can now pay a security of Rs 750 and a monthly rental of Rs 22 instead of Rs 30.

The TRAI has reclassified cities and towns under X, Y and Z categories.

Business - Railways to float entertainment tenders

MUMBAI: The Indian railway ministry has asked all its zonal offices to call for bids through tenders for providing entertainment services on its moving trains nationally. The ministry, according to a report in a national daily, says those pitching to get the contract will have to provide hardware, networking and communication to be able to telecast the programmes and entertainment on board the trains.

The ministry additionally says that it will permit the players to use existing railway infrastructure such as its communication network, its stations to install hardware in order to be able to telecast live or delayed programming to railway passengers.

Players successful in getting the contract will be allowed to sell commercial airtime between the programmes to amortize their costs. Additionally, they could also offer also value-added services like telephony, Internet access, satellite radio and taxi and hotel booking to passengers on moving trains, the railway minsitry has said.

Entertainment - India;NDTV Good Times to premiere new chat show from 3 January

MUMBAI: NDTV Good Times, the lifestyle channel from the NDTV stable, is set to launch its new chat show, The First Ladies with Abu Sandeep, from 3 January.

Produced by Red Chillies Entertainment, the show will be aired every Saturday at 10 pm.

Designers Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla will host the show wherein a celebrity wife will appear for a particular episode to give an inside view of her private world, claims the channel.

The show will feature likes of Nita Ambani, Jaya Bachchan, Neerja Birla, Gauri Khan, Usha Mittal, Suzanne Roshan, Manyatta Dutt, Adhuna Akhtar, Anupama Chopra, Tanya Deol, Kiron Kher and HRH Padmini Devi.

NDTV Good Times channel head Shibani Sharma Khanna said, “Through The First Ladies with Abu Sandeep show the audience will get to see and hear what it's really like to be the wife of a super successful man. Anchors Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla will also manage to extract some of the most outspoken, never-been-made-before statements and confessions.”

Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla added, “It is the first time we are hosting a television show and we wanted to be sure that it’s a well-laid out format and presentation. Not only are we anchoring it, but we have also designed the sets keeping the theme of the show in mind.”

The channel has roped in LG as presenting sponsor and L’Oreal as co-sponsor for the show.

Lifestyle - UK;Nearly £2bn wasted on unwanted X’mas gifts

LONDON: While most people are yet to get over Christmas fever, some have already started selling off their unwanted Christmas presents online.

According to auction site eBay, nearly £2 billion was wasted on Christmas presents this year in Britain. Owing to the economic slowdown, the website says, consumers have already started auctioning off the gifts that they do not want, in an attempt to raise some money.

If the same pattern repeats itself as last year, thousands of jumpers, socks, saucepans, scarves, and slippers will be sold in the next few days by ungrateful family members.

A study conducted by polling group YouGov revealed that £1.7 billion was spent on unwanted Christmas presents this year, equivalent to £36 per person in Britain.

The survey of eBay customers showed that one in 10 gifts the average Briton received this Christmas would be left unloved under the tree.

"Last year on the 27th of December Brits flocked to eBay to sell an estimated two million unwanted Christmas gifts," the Telegraph quoted Carey Maguire from eBay in the UK as saying.

"This year, with the current economic climate, it's little wonder people will look to make extra cash. As a nation we are sitting on £455 million worth of untapped income from unwanted gifts alone," she said.

Last year, 1,55,000 items were sold on eBay, with the most popular categories for Christmas shoppers being 'clothing, shoes, and accessories', followed by 'video games' and 'cars, parts, and accessories'

Entertainment - Lara Dutta - 70 ft underwater-bikini-toughie ?

Prithwish Ganguly

Lara Dutta believes that no other Hindi film actress could have done the underwater action stunts that she has done in her forthcoming film Blue, which stars Akshay Kumar and Sanjay Dutt in the lead.

“I don’t think there is any actress in our industry who could have done what I went through and did in Blue," Lara told DNA. "The underwater stuff I have done was both physically exhausting and very mentally challenging. I wanted to teach myself swimming at any cost and I have learnt it finally through this film. We have done some great stuff 70 feet below. But there is a great deal of satisfaction after going through all that. The film is looking super-amazing. It is going to up the ante of how some of the stunts in Bollywood should be done.”

For those who are interested, Lara can be seeing in bikinis in the movie.

Lara revealed that Akshay Kumar offered her the animation film Jumbo during one such action sequence in Phuket, Thailand. “We were in the middle of something very serious which needed all our attention and Akshay chose that moment to offer me Jumbo. I was like, are you serious? And he was!"

Lara had never been part of an animation film, "but I had loved watching them. Jumbo has some of the elements that Lion King had.”

Lara is also part of Shah Rukh Khan’s Billoo Barber and though reports suggest that she does not have much of a screen presence in the film, Lara says she chose the film because of its content.

“Billoo Barber happened out of the blue. Shah Rukh narrated the film to me and he didn’t promise me much. He was very honest. He said it is a good film and he would be very happy if I were a part of it. I also felt it was a great film and I signed it. I believed in the story more than thinking how much screen time I would be getting.

"Actors are selfish, but when something so good comes your way, one should take it up. The film has great emotion and Shah Rukh, Irrfan Khan, and Priyadarshan (the director) have made the movie an amazing experience.”

World - Taliban in Pak threaten to kill girls attending schools

ISLAMABAD: On the pattern they followed in Afghanistan, Taliban militants in Pakistan's restive north-western Swat valley have banned girls from attending schools, warning that any violators would face death.

The move comes in the wake of a terror campaign by Taliban targeting girls' schools in the region with more than 100 such schools being blown up or torched.

"You have untill January 15 to stop sending girls to schools after which we will blow up the schools," Shah Dauran, a deputy of Maulana Fazlullah, the Taliban commander in Swat, held out the ultimatum on the militants' clandestine run FM radio channel.

Girls can no longer be enrolled by government or private educational institutions, he dictated. Dauran threatened to blow up all schools that violated the ban and said schools providing education to girls would be forced to close. Any person violating the ban will face harsh action, he said.

Prior to issuing this dictum, Taliban in several towns and villages of Swat had either barred girls from attending schools or directed teachers to ensure that they came to
schools in burqas.

Reports said dozens of schools have either been destroyed or closed through out Swat valley, where Pakistani forces are supposedly undertaking an operation against the

Not content with barring girls going to schools, the militants have also launched efforts to "Islamise" the curriculum of schools and have begun targeting state-run schools as part of their campaign.

So effective was the Taliban dictum that the NWFP government had to launch an advertisement campaign in newspapers in June-July asking militants to stop blowing up
schools. But it had little or no impact, neither did the efforts of residents of Swat, who had tried to oppose the militant campaign against girls' schools.

Taliban commanders like Fazlullah have said that female education is "un-Islamic". The militants have also targeted shops selling music and movies, barber shops and cyber cafes.

Fazlullah has been leading a violent campaign for the imposition of Shariat or Islamic law in Swat. After his followers established a parallel administration in some 60 villages in the region, security forces launched a crackdown in October last year.

According to official figures, Swat has 1580 schools registered, with most of them labelled as Pakistan's top schools.

World - CIA warns of nuclear war in subcontinent

Amir Mir

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has warned the Bush administration of a possible nuclear war between India and Pakistan.

The turmoil in Afghanistan and Pakistan could spill over into Jammu & Kashmir, prompting Indian leaders to take aggressive and retaliatory action, according to the CIA.

In assessing the security situation in the region, a CIA report observed: "Continued turmoil in Afghanistan and Pakistan will spill over into Kashmir and other areas of the subcontinent, prompting Indian leaders to take more aggressive pre-emptive and retaliatory actions.

"India's conventional military advantage over Pakistan will widen as a result of New Delhi's superior economic position… Changing military capabilities will be prominent among the factors that determine the risk of war."

The report, titled Global Trends 2015, which is now available with Pakistan's interior affairs ministry, further observed: "India most likely will expand the size of its nuclear-capable force. Islamabad has publicly claimed that the number of nuclear weapons/missiles it deploys will be independent of the size of India's arsenal. But a noticeable increase in the size of the Indian arsenal will prompt Pakistan to further increase the size of its arsenal."

On Pakistan's economic woes, the CIA said: "Pakistan will not recover easily from decades of political and economic mismanagement. Nascent democratic reforms will produce little change in the face of opposition from an entrenched political elite and Islamic parties."

Mktg - Dish TV plans to introduce advertising options

Sumantha Rathore

Dish TV, the direct to home (DTH) wing of Zee Network, is in the initial phase of discussions to exploit the advertising potential of its platform. Dish TV is eyeing a new stream of revenue and plans to make use of various services and slots for advertising in order to reach out to potential customers.

Talking to afaqs!, Salil Kapoor, chief operating officer, Dish TV, says, “Our subscriber base has reached a critical mass. At this stage, we are seeing this as an important revenue stream. Our viewership is around 25 million, which is higher than that of many other players, including print, television and portals. With number authentication now happening through industry bodies, this space is getting a lot of attention from the advertising community.”

Though Dish TV has not made any pitches for the service, it is planning to exploit sales opportunities at various levels.

For example, advertisements can be flashed on its exclusive proprietary channels, including the six movie-on-demand channels and the default landing interactive channel, 999. Branding opportunities on the interactive services such as News Active, Sports Active, Games Active, Bhakti Active, Astro Active and many other services are in the pipeline. In addition, there are branding opportunities on its electronic programme guide, and interactive advertising.

Dish TV already has an exclusive service for ICICI Bank and its products and services, called ICICI Active.

Kapoor says, “Dish TV, with a close to 50 per cent market share, is in a good position to create benchmarks and open up business in this vertical. It's an uncluttered medium where the possibility of your product getting lost is zero.”

He adds, “All the advertising can be supplemented with subscriber interactivity in terms of focused SMSes and email campaigns to our subscribers. We have just identified this space and a lot of work has to be done on it.”

Dish TV recently bagged the non-exclusive rights for the Hindi film, Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye, for a period of four weeks. It has also got the rights for the Hindi film, Oh My God, as well as the rights for several other new releases in the next three months.

Kapoor says that he hopes that apart from presenting sponsorships, a combination of spots and branding across the movie-on-demand channels, interactive channels and active services can be bundled and sold to various brands.

He says that in the last few months, Dish TV has been approached by various advertisers, including FMCG, consumer electronics and automobile players, who are keen to explore advertising options on this platform. Dish TV wants to bring national players on board for this advertising opportunity.

For the record, Dish TV offers a content bouquet of 225 channels and services, and is ramping up its capacity to offer 400 channels. It also provides live television on Kingfisher Airlines flights, and cars, buses, yachts, ships and railways

Mktg - Star World gets a new look

Sumantha Rathore

STAR World has donned a new, global look. In a bid to change its brand identity, the channel has gone for a worldwide launch of its new look, with an on-air campaign called Reface. After debuting in other parts of the world, the campaign was rolled out in India last week.

As part of the campaign, the channel unveiled its new logo, graphics and promo spots. Ink Project in Australia was commissioned for the design concept and shoot, and the footage was then passed on to STAR’s design and animation team in Hong Kong, which handled all the post-production and special effects work. The new look was revealed on November 4 in Southeast Asia and the Philippines.

Talking to afaqs! about the new identity of the channel, Prem Kamath, senior vice-president, marketing and communication, STAR India, says, "The new STAR World logo gives a modern and energetic look to the channel, matching its new, exclusive programming. Our STAR icon is well recognised in Asia and we wanted to make it an inherent part of 'World', thereby claiming ownership of 'World'."

The new logo sports a bold look, with emphasis on the word, ‘World’. It looks different from the logos of the other channels in the STAR bouquet. However, according to Kamath, there was no conscious decision to make the new logo look different; it was adopted because it matches the current programming on STAR World.

The Indian campaign for STAR World is similar to that in other countries, with some local flavour added in all the four regions of Asia. "While maintaining the same look and feel in terms of graphics and special effects, different versions with non-clichéd local characteristics symbolise the localisation of STAR World's four different feeds. This way, viewers will get the distinctive flavours without the stereotypes," explains Kamath.

The channel has also launched two new shows, 90210 and the new season of Heroes, in its primetime band