Feb 16, 2009

New Home - spoonfeedin.wordpress.com

Hi All,

We have moved to a new address - spoonfeedin.wordpress.com.

The friendly guys at the IT team in office blocked blogger.So can't access/post articles on this site anymore from workplace ( & most of my reading happens at workplace :-( ....).So please do check out the new webpage.Have successfully transferred all our archive articles to the new webpage too ,so that ensures the fact that all of you won't have to browse through both webpages anymore.So without further adieu , click on spoonfeedin.wordpress.com

take care

Feb 7, 2009

Business - Google brings e-books to mobiles

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Google is making its vast online library of books available for mobile phones.
"We are excited to announce the launch of a mobile version of Google Book Search, opening up over 1.5 million mobile public domain books in the US (and over half a million outside the US) for you to browse," the company said.
The Internet search giant, in a post on Thursday on the Google Book Search blog, said mobile versions of the books could be read on devices such as the Apple iPhone or T-Mobile G1, which is powered by Google's Android software.
"These new mobile editions are optimized to be read on a small screen," Google said. "With this launch, we believe that we've taken an important step toward more universal access to books."
To access the mobile version of Google Book Search a user needs to type http://books.google.com/m into the Web browser of their iPhone or Android phone.
Google's announcement comes just days ahead of the expected unveiling by Amazon of a new generation version of its popular electronic book reader, the Kindle, at a New York press conference on Monday.
Amazon is also planning to make its online store of e-books for the Kindle available on mobile phones, the New York Times reported on Friday.
"We are excited to make Kindle books available on a range of mobile phones," Drew Herdener, an Amazon spokesman, told the Times. "We are working on that now."
The Amazon spokesman did not provide any further details.
Google will initially only be offering books in the public domain -- those which are not under copyright -- for mobile phones.
Amazon, on the other hand, offers the latest releases and 230,000 titles in all, including 103 of the 112 current New York Times bestsellers.

Sport - Michael Phelps says 3-month suspension is fair

David Ginsburg

BALTIMORE – Michael Phelps says it's fair for USA Swimming to suspend him for three months, the latest fallout from a photo showing the Olympic great inhaling from a marijuana pipe. Phelps was back training at his regular pool Friday, a day after his suspension.
"It's not my decision. It's theirs," Phelps said of USA Swimming's decision. "I have nothing to say, but if that's they want to do, that's their choice. It's something that USA Swimming came up with. It's fair. Obviously, for a mistake you should get punished."
Phelps won a record eight gold medals in Beijing and returned to America as one of the world's most acclaimed athletes. He made headlines of a different kind, however, in the wake of the photo, published Sunday by News of the World, a British tabloid.
"It was bad and stupid judgment, and something I'll always live with," Phelps said, minutes before diving into the pool at the Meadowbrook Aquatic Center, where he has trained since he was 7.
Although the fallout cost Phelps his Kellogg Co. sponsorship, Subway announced Friday it still supports him.
"Like most Americans, and like Michael Phelps himself, we were disappointed in his behavior," the statement said. "Also like most Americans, we accept his apology. Moving forward, he remains in our plans."
The fallout from the picture has been much greater than in 2004, when an underage Phelps was arrested for drunken driving three months after the Athens Olympics. He pleaded guilty and apologized to his fans, saying he wouldn't make the same mistake.
Phelps wasn't sure how the negative publicity might influence his decision to compete in the 2012 London Olympics.
"I'm taking it step by step, day by day. There's still a long way between now and then," he said. "But I'm back here, I'm training for who knows what yet. But I'm back in the water, doing the thing I love."
That's a welcome diversion from the attention he's getting outside the pool.
"From waking up to megaphones outside your house at 7:30 in the morning to still photographers out there every day for the last four days from 7:30 to when I left for a workout, I can just do what's normal for me," he said. "And right now that's me coming to the pool every day."
His coach, Bob Bowman, said the suspension will alter his plans for Phelps, who recently resumed serious training with the goal of qualifying for this summer's world championships in Rome.
"It takes away some options from our planning. You know, we had a plan of meets to kind of get us ready for the end of the summer and now we'll have to adjust that," Bowman said. "That kind of comes with this territory."
With the three-month suspension he won't be able to take on any rivals until early May, which would give him a little more than two months of competition before July's world championships in Rome.
The U.S. team for Rome will be chosen at the national championships July 7-11 in Indianapolis.
USA Swimming's decision to suspend Phelps didn't surprise Bowman.
"As a member of USA Swimming, I expected them to take action," Bowman said. "I think that we'll abide by it. I think it sends a very strong message to Michael and to others. I understand the disciplinary action."
And Phelps was thankful for those who have supported him.
"I've been getting messages on Facebook, both good and bad. E-mails, both good and bad. Text messages, all good," he said. "This is time when you need support. To have support from the majority of my sponsors, probably 90 percent, it means a lot. And it's something I'm very thankful for."
And what about his mother, Debbie Phelps?
"Mom wasn't happy," Phelps said. "She's been supportive through it, but wasn't happy."
AP correspondent Pete Kerzel contributed to this report.

Tech - Lenovo to refocus on Chinese market

Now that the leadership of Lenovo is back in the hands of Chinese executives, the PC maker says it plans to pay more attention to its home market of China and other emerging markets, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
It cut ties with its American CEO Bill Amelio earlier this week after a dreadful financial quarter in which the company lost $97 million. Chairman Yan Yuanqing has taken over as chief executive and company co-founder Liu Chuanzhi is returning to become chairman of the board.
Liu blames the company's current woes on the worldwide financial crisis and Lenovo's heavy investment in the commercial computing space with long lists of corporate customers. Though the company has made huge strides to become the fourth-largest PC maker by volume in the world, its presence in the consumer market outside China has been minimal until recently. A year ago the company introduced a line of consumer laptops and desktops, and more recently, a Netbook.
Now Lenovo will renew its focus in its home market and emerging markets to include individual and smaller businesses customers, Liu told the Journal.
The company will remain an international company and plans to keep its dual headquarters in Beijing and Morrisville, N.C., according to Liu. But what's unclear is what this means for the company's nascent consumer business.

Lifestyle - Playing violent video games has risks: study

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Among young college students, the frequency and type of video games played appears to parallel risky drug and alcohol use, poorer personal relationships, and low levels of self-esteem, researchers report.
"This does not mean that every person who plays video games has low self-worth, or that playing video games will lead to drug use," Laura M. Padilla-Walker told Reuters Health.
Rather, these findings simply indicate video gaming may cluster with a number of negative outcomes, "at least for some segment of the population," said Padilla-Walker, an associate professor at the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
She and colleagues examined the previous 12-months' frequency and type of video game and Internet use reported by 500 female and 313 male undergraduate college students in the United States.
The students, who were 20 years old on average and mostly received course credit for their study participation, also recounted their drug and alcohol use, perceptions of self-worth and social acceptance, and the quality of their relationships with friends and family.
The findings, reported in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, showed "stark gender differences in video game and Internet use," Padilla-Walker said.
For example, compared with young women, young men reported video gaming three times as often and reported playing violent video games nearly eight times as often.
Young men were also more likely to use the Internet for entertainment, daily headline news, and pornography, while young women more often used the Internet for email and schoolwork.
However, regardless of gender, clear correlations were seen between frequent gaming and more frequent alcohol and drug use and lower quality personal relationships, as well as more frequent violent gaming and a greater number of sexual partners and low quality personal relationships.
The investigators linked similar negative outcomes with Internet use for chat rooms, shopping, entertainment, and pornography, but a contrasting "plethora of positive outcomes" with Internet use for schoolwork.
Padilla-Walker sees these findings as a starting point for future research. Continued analyses of video game and Internet use should improve the overall understanding of health and development among emerging young adults, she and colleagues note.
SOURCE: Journal of Youth and Adolescence, January 2009

India - Poor planning keeps millions in India's slums, AS

NEW DELHI (AP) Millions of Indians are forced to live in squalid slums, not because they are impoverished, but because city planners have failed to build low-cost alternatives, a government report said Tuesday, warning the problem was getting worse. As India's economy has boomed in recent years, India's predominantly rural population has flocked to the cities hoping to get a slice of the growing prosperity.
A massive shortage of affordable housing has left many no choice but to live in makeshift tenements with few if any basic utilities, according to the country's first report on urban poverty. Housing projects would provide residents properly constructed homes, linked to basic infrastructure like sewage, electricity and running water.
That kind of housing would be in sharp contrast to the slums that dot most major India cities, with their endless warrens of small houses and shops built of corrugated metal, cement and tarpaulins, public latrines and tangles of electric wiring, often illegally linked to the main power lines. "The pace of urbanization in India is set to increase, and with it, urban poverty and urban slums," said Kumari Selja, India's Minister for Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation said before releasing the report that was supported by the United Nations.
India's slums have been in the international spotlight recently since the success of the Oscar favorite "Slumdog Millionaire," the rags-to-riches tale of poor boy rising from the slums of Mumbai. While the film has won accolades overseas, it has been criticized in India for focusing on India's slums the country's ugly side.
But these slums will only grow unless significant steps are taken to build millions of low-cost homes for those flocking to the cities who are "unable to procure shelter through legal market transactions," the report said. The report estimates by 2030, some 50 percent of Indians will live in cities, up from 28 percent currently.
With the population already touching 1.1 billion, the challenge is huge. Already, about one quarter of city dwellers are living "in slums amidst squalor, crime disease and tension," the report said.
The report, commissioned to try and provide a strategy for urban development, said the major problem until today has been one of vision, not resources. "There has been no political or bureaucratic will to utilize the available land for housing slum dwellers," the report said, noting the only work done in regard to slums had been occasional demolitions during city beautification drives.
But, unless there was a clear change in policy the gaps between the urban rich and poor would only grow, officials said. "The challenge is to provide basic services to the urban poor and slum dwellers without letting the elite capture all the benefits," Selja said.

Business - Skoda changing tacks to suit India, cheap cars likely soon

Skoda India, a part of the Volkswagen Group, is changing tack and one could soon see new cheaper small cars on Indian roads. Next week, the Skoda India management would be in the company's headquarters in Europe to discuss the nitty gritty of the new small car, as well as a way forward in India, where Skoda is number nine among car manufacturers.
"We believe that a better customer experience and a smaller car, where we can provide customers with an affordable Skoda and at the same time, generate volumes for the company is the way forward," said Thomas Kuehl, member of the board and India head, Skoda Auto. Though the company's leadership position in the C segment is firm with a 55 per cent marketshare, the overall sales figure have been seeing lukewarm growth.
The company sold 16,046 cars in 2008, up 32 per cent from 12,170 in 2007. In comparison, Honda Siel sold 50,468 cars as against 57,024, a drop of 11 per cent.
Kuehl says the solution is not to cut jobs, but to create a portfolio of products and customer service, which would push brand Skoda closer to the pockets of India's vast middle-class.

Sport - Cricket;India attains second spot in ICC ODI rankings for first time

Dubai, Feb 6 (PTI) India today attained the number two spot for the first time in ICC's One-Day Rankings history displacing Australia from that position after New Zealand defeated the world champions by six wickets in the second ODI in Melbourne. India, who have made steady progress after its winning streak of nine consecutive ODI triumphs, now have 122 rating points to perch to the second spot for the first time since the ODI rankings were launched in October 2002.
India are now three points behind top rankers South Africa. The Proteas recently climbed to the top of the table at Australia's expense.
Australia (121) have been pushed to the third place while New Zealand follow on fourth rung with 117 points. Pakistan is further down the ladder at fifth while England and Sri Lanka are sixth and seventh respectively.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni's side, already 4-0 up in its ongoing series against Sri Lanka, can close the gap to the Proteas to two points if it secures victory in the final ODI in Colombo on Sunday. But Australia can regain second spot if it wins back-to-back matches against New Zealand in Sydney on Sunday and Adelaide on Tuesday.
And if Australia can string three wins together to take out the series then it will draw level on points with South Africa, although it will still lie second when the ratings are calculated beyond the decimal point. PTI.

Sport - Tennis;I am focussing on singles: Yuki Bhambri

New Delhi, Feb. 6, (ANI): Young tennis sensation Yuki Bhambri on Friday said that he is focussing on playing singles for the time being.
Sixteen-year-old Yuki Bhambri became the first Indian to win the junior boys title at the Australian Open. He was speaking at a store launch here.
Bhambri was presented a shoe shaped memento on the occasion, which was attended by former tennis great Ramesh Krishnan.
"Currently I'm focusing on singles and doubles for me mean a lot of fun and learning experience because in doubles we can practice our volley and serve which is very helpful in playing singles," Yuki said.
Bhambri has become the third Indian junior to win a title after Ramesh Krishnan (French and Wimbledon junior champion in 1979) and Leander Paes (Wimbledon junior crown in 1990 and the US Open title in 1991). (ANI

Tech - Transmitting data 16 times faster @ 640 billion bits per second

Washington, Feb 3 (IANS) Every second, millions of phone calls and cable TV shows are dispatched through fibres as digital zeros and ones formed by chopping laser pulses into bits.
This slicing and dicing is generally done with an electro-optic modulator, a device for allowing an electric signal to switch a laser beam on and off at high speeds. Reading that fast data stream with a compact and reliable receiver is another matter.
A new error-free speed-reading record using a compact ultra-fast component - 640 gigabites (billion) per second or Gbps - has now been established jointly by scientists from Denmark and Australia.
New technology and new ways of doing business require new approaches to old procedures. Conventional readers of optical data depend on photo-detectors, electronic devices that can operate up to approximately 40 Gbps.
This in itself represents a great feat of rapid reading, but it's not good enough for the higher-rate data streams being designed now. Sometimes to speed up data transmission several signals are multiplexed: each, with its own stream of coded data, is sent down an optical fibre at the same time.
In other words, 10 parallel streams of data could each be sent at a rate of 10 Gbps and then added up to an effective stream of 100 Gbps. At the receiving end the parallel signals have to be read out in a complementary de-multiplexing process.
Reliable and fast multiplexing and de-multiplexing represent a major bottleneck in linking up the electronic and photonic worlds.
In 1998 researchers in Japan created a data stream as high as 640 Gbps and were able to read it back, but the read-out apparatus relied on long lengths of special optical fibre. This particular approach is somewhat unstable.
The new de-multiplexing device demonstrated at the Technical University of Denmark, by contrast, can handle the high data rate, and can do so in a stable manner.
Furthermore, instead of 50-metre-long fibres, they accomplish their de-multiplexing of the data stream with a waveguide only five cm long, an innovation developed at the Centre for Ultrahigh Bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems, or CUDOS, in Australia.
Another benefit of the new device with the compact size is the potential for integration with other components to create more advanced ultra-fast functional chips. The dynamics involved in the CUDOS device could even allow for still higher data rates approaching terabits/second (Tbps, or trillion bits per second), said a CUDOS release.
Danish scientist Leif K. Oxenløwe, study co-author said that the record speeds of de-multiplexing represented by his tiny glass microchip is a boon to circuit designers and opens the door to faster network speeds. In the near future, the Danish and Australian researchers hope to achieve 1 Tbps Ethernet capability.
These findings were published in Optics Express, the Optical Society's (OSA) open-access journal.

World - Khan's release regrettable;US

Washington, Feb 6 (PTI) The US today said Pakistan's disgraced scientist A Q Khan still posed a "serious threat" with regard to nuclear proliferation and expressed regret over his release from house arrest. The US State Department said if the news reports regarding the release of Khan from house arrest is true then it is regrettable.
Khan remains a serious threat with regard to nuclear proliferation, the department said. The US had last month slapped sanctions on Khan, 12 associates and three firms and barred them from doing business with the American government or private companies while pledging to work for squeezing out the entire network.
Khan was put under house arrest in February 2004 after he spoke on state-run PTV about running a proliferation ring that supplied nuclear equipment and know-how to countries like Libya and North Korea. He was pardoned in 2004 by then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and he retracted the confession last year, saying it was made under pressure.

India - Liquor bottles, condoms in temple trust guest house spark row

Hyderabad, Feb 6 (IANS) A controversy erupted Friday involving Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), which manages the affairs of famous Tirumala temple, after empty liquor bottles and used condoms were found in the temple trust's guest house here.
The activists of the opposition parties took to the streets demanding immediate sacking of D.K. Adikeshavulu Naidu, the TTD chairman.
They gathered outside the TTD guest house at Himayatnagar here, raising slogans against the ruling Congress party and the TTD chief. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders alleged that the government had hurt the sentiments of Hindus by allowing immoral activities in a sacred place.
Camerapersons of several news channels rushed to the guest house after somebody alerted them about the empty liquor bottles and used condoms on the premises. These were allegedly recovered from a room, in which two activists of the Congress party were staying on a recommendation from Adikeshavulu Naidu. Naidu is also member of parliament from Chittoor.
Angry activists of the opposition parties staged a sit-in and alleged that prostitutes were brought to the guest house.
'This is a very serious issue. This act has hurt the sentiments of Hindus,' said BJP legislator G. Kishan Reddy.
Telugu Desam Party president and Leader of Opposition N. Chandrababu Naidu demanded stern action against those involved and immediate sacking of the TTD chief.
Interestingly, the incident came to light only a couple of days after Baba Ramdev demanded removal of Adikeshavulu Naidu as the TTD chairman as he was a liquor trader.
'Persons with a clean image and good character should be given the responsibility to manage the affairs of the sacred temple,' Ramdev said during a yoga camp here.
Adikesavulu Naidu was suspended from the TDP last year after he defied the party whip and voted in favour of Congress-led UPA government at the centre during a trust vote in parliament. He later joined the Congress party, which rewarded him with the post of the TTD chairman.
The TTD manages the affairs of Lord Venkateshwara temple, the famous and richest temple in India. Over 60,000 devotees daily visit the temple, located atop Tirumala Hills.

Health - Cell phone use linked to brain tumours: Russian scientist

Moscow, Feb 6 (RIA Novosti) A leading Russian scientist has said, citing a Swedish study, that the use of cell phones from an early age could lead to brain tumours.
'We have a very cautious attitude as regards children, our future generation. There is data suggesting that brain tumours could develop,' Yury Grigoryev, a leading scientist at the Burnazyan medical biophysical centre said Thursday.
Grigoryev cited Swedish research data, which he said showed that if a child uses a cell phone from 8 to 12 years, then the risk of developing a brain tumour by the age of 21 increases fivefold.
He also said that every person in Russia is subject to electromagnetic radiation from cellular base stations. He said people use mobile phones too often, which means the dose of radiation they get is comparable to that received by workers whose profession involves dealing with radiolocation equipment and transmitters.
Grigoryev said there is as yet no reliable Russian research proving cell phones are harmful to health. However, he said that according to the World Health Organisation, Alzheimer's disease, depression and a greater risk of epileptic reactions could be the possible consequences of mobile phone usage.
The head of the medical centre's radiobiology and non-ionizing radiation hygiene lab, Oleg Grigoryev, said that in line with Russian sanitary norms, the use of cell phones is not recommended for minors.
'The brand or price of a cell phone doesn't matter. The dose of radiation is defined by the network operation mode and phone use intensity,' he said.
Oleg Grigoryev also said that a wire or wireless headset would make the distance from a person's head to the phone over 0.5 meters, a distance believed to be safe. He also advised cutting down on calls.

Science - How gut bacteria prevents cancer, inflammatory bowel disease in humans

Washington, Feb 6 (ANI): In a new study, researchers have found that bacteria present in the gut can release substances that may protect the body against colon cancer and inflammatory bowel disease.
Scientists at the University of Aberdeen Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health and from the MTT Agrifood Research Institute in Finland showed that bacteria in the human gut convert linoleic acid, a naturally-occurring fat in the diet, into a form called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which is absorbed by the gut wall.
Dr John Wallace of the Rowett Research Institute said that there exist different types of CLA, out of which only a few have beneficial effects, and that "good" form of CLA is present in dairy foods such as milk and cheese."
"But eating lots of dairy foods won't necessarily help our gut health as most of the fats are digested in the small intestine before they get to the large intestine, where most of our gut bacteria are found," he said.
The findings indicated that gut bacteria produce several different forms of CLA, most of which are of the "good" kind.
Bit Wallace stressed that more extensive studies are needed, as one subject produced small amounts of a CLA whose effects are much less clear.
Thus, the researchers deduced that if small quantities of dietary linoleic acid could be delivered to the large intestine, the effects on gut health would be generally beneficial in most people.
"The results are of special interest for individuals using anti-obesity treatments that prevent the small intestine from absorbing fats. This means that those fats - including linoleic acid - will pass into the large intestine and the gut bacteria will produce CLA. It has to be the correct CLA, so it is important to understand how individuals produce different CLA. This must depend on which types of bacteria are present," said Wallace.

Entertainment - Drew Barrymore blames tongue piercing for being single

London, Feb 6 (IANS) Hollywood actress Drew Barrymore says she has been unlucky in love ever since she got her tongue pierced.
The 'Charlie's Angels' star got her tongue pierced after splitting from her ex-boyfriend, comedy actor Justin Long, last summer and now fears potential suitors are turned off by it, reports thesun.co.uk.
'I have had it for nine months, I got it and I have been single ever since. I don't know what the deal is with that,' Barrymore said

Entertainment - Johnny Depp to appear in 'SpongeBob SquarePants'

London, Feb 6 (IANS) Hollywood star Johnny Depp will do a cameo on the 10th birthday episode of animated TV series 'SpongeBob SquarePants'.
The actor will voice a surf dude called Jack Kahuna Laguna, who gets stranded on a desert island with the characters Bob and Patrick in the feature-length episode to be aired this spring, reports mirror.co.uk.

Entertainment - Aniston dreads turning 40

London, Feb 6 (IANS) Actress Jennifer Aniston says she has been dreading her upcoming 40th birthday ever since she discovered a grey hair amongst her blonde highlights.
Aniston will touch 40 on Feb 11 and insists she is never normally upset about getting older. But the former 'Friends' star recently admitted that she broke down when she realised her prized locks were beginning to show signs of ageing, reports contactmusic.com.
'I did have a moment over the weekend, my first like 'Huh…I don't want to (turn 40). I found a really long grey hair and it kind of flipped me out. It's not my first but it's the fact that it was so long,' she said.
'I was like, 'Oh that's been there. How many others are there, and what does that mean?' It actually brought me to tears slightly,' Aniston added

Entertainment - A R Rahman hopes to win at least one Oscar

London, Feb 6 (PTI) Indian music maestro A R Rahman, who has bagged three Academy Award nominations in two categories for his compositions in 'Slumdog Millionaire', believes he will win at least one Oscar with "God's blessings". "I hope, we get at least one (Oscar).
I cannot wait for the announcement," Rahman was today quoted in The Daily Telegraph as saying. Only two Indians have ever won an Oscar -- costume designer Bhanu Athaiya for Gandhi (1982) and renowned filmmaker Satyajit Ray who received a lifetime achievement award in 1992.
However, with three Academy Award nominations this year for Slumdog Millionaire - one for overall score and for two songs - the Chennai-based composer looks likely to be the third, the report said. He is also up for the Best Music award at Sunday night's Baftas.
"We've been waiting for this for 80 years," said Rahman. "I believe that whatever comes at a particular time is a blessing from God," he said.
While Rahman first came to the attention of Western audiences with his film music for Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007) and stage shows Bombay Dreams and The Lord of the Rings, his already stellar profile will go into overdrive should be win the Oscar on Feb 22. PTI.

India - Nutrition labelling a must from March 19

Bringing India in line with the developed world, all processed food made or sold in India will have to carry nutritional labelling from March 19, health minister Anbumani Ramadoss said on Wednesday. "Apart from a list of ingredients and the weight, it will become mandatory to list nutrition information, including total calories (energy value), amounts of protein, carbohydrate, fat, sodium (salt), sugars, dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals.
Labels will also have to list the amount of trans fat," said Ramadoss at a conference. Artery-clogging trans fats are used extensively in processed food to extend shelf life and preserve flavour.
Health secretary Naresh Dayal said the food-processing industry has had time to conform to the new packaging requirements. "The manufacturers were given six months to comply with the new labelling requirements, as required by WTO regulations.
The six-month deadline gets over on March 19, so manufacturers have to comply by March 19," Dayal told Hindustan Times.

Sport - Cricket;England fight back after Gayle and Sarwan tons

West Indies had a lead of 34 runs with three first-innings wickets in hand against England at the close of the third day of the first test at Sabina Park, a day when neither side was able to get the upper hand.
Just 192 runs were scored as West Indies moved to 352 for seven.
The hosts had hoped to create an imposing total from the impressive foundations built by centurions Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan in their 202-run partnership for the second wicket.
But England, thanks to three wickets from seamer Stuart Broad, made the home side work for every run.

Sport - Cricket;Pakistan to host Australia ODI series in UAE

Karachi, Feb 6 (IANS) Pakistan will host Australia in a one-day series from April 24 to May 7 at neutral venues in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the PCB said here Friday.
PCB chairman Ijaz Butt told reporters on his return from Australia that the series has been moved away from Pakistan to offshore venues - Abu Dhabi and Dubai - because of security reasons.
'Pakistan will play the five-match one-day series against Australia in Dubai and Abu Dhabi,' Butt said.
The PCB chief said the decision was taken after the Aussies raised security concerns about touring Pakistan.
According to the schedule, the first two matches will be played in Dubai followed by the next three ODIs in Abu Dhabi. The two teams will then return to Dubai for the Twenty20 international.
Butt also revealed that Pakistan may be forced to play a home Test series against Australia in England because of security reasons.
'If Australia do not play the Tests in Pakistan, there is a possibility of playing the Test series in England,' said Butt who added that the PCB has carried out negotiations with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) about hosting its matches in England.
Australia refused to tour Pakistan in 2008 because of safety fears but later agreed to tour the country in 2009 for one-dayers and 2010 for Tests. However, in spite of repeated requests from the PCB, the Aussies declined the invitation to tour Pakistan.
Butt said Cricket Australia has no problems in sending its team to Pakistan but acted on the advise of its government. 'The Australian government believes that since its soldiers are fighting in (neighboring) Afghanistan, their cricketers might be at risk in Pakistan,' said Butt.

Sport - Cricket;Clarke's Lara theme affecting Oz team unity

Melbourne, Feb.6 (ANI): Australian vice-captain Michael Clarke's desire to spend as much time as possible with his fiancee Lara Bingle is creating heart burn within the team, and rumor mills are agog with reports of him engaged in scraps with mates over the issue.
Reports suggest that so deep are the fissures within the squad; that questions are now being asked whether Clarke is up to the job of leading the side, a position that he has been wanting for most of his cricketing life.
According to Daily Telegraph and Fox Sports, his altercation with opener Simon Katich in the SCG dressing room, reported on the back of today's newspaper, is the latest incident that questions his credentials for the job.
It came after he gave teammates the hurry-up during the rendition of Under The Southern Cross I Stand. He had an appointment he wanted to keep with Bingle.
The Australian team is fracturing because of ongoing catfights among wives and girlfriends. A blue between wives and girlfriends on the 2005 Ashes tour splintered team harmony, the unspoken undercurrent to Australia's stunning series loss.
In India this summer, a tour when Australia needed its vice-captain to get in and help pull the team up, rumblings instead went around about Clarke's absence. He was having prolonged breakfasts and lunches with Bingle. He spent the night at the Allan Border Medal kissing Bingle like a love struck teenager.
His distraction highlights his immaturity for the captaincy job, and the fact it is coming at the cost of performance exacerbates it.
So his disrespect for team protocol following the SCG Test, to hurry up the celebration so that he could leave and join his girlfriend, has angered many.
It destroys the dressing room culture that has been so vital to Australia's ethos.
As every recent player is not allowed to forget, it was on the back of this restoration in pride - Under The Southern Cross I Stand - that Australia rebuilt itself from the horror years of the 1980s.
Clarke is media-savvy, with the cool looks and the hot girlfriend, the tattoos, the slick image and flash car. Together, the package is near perfect for the job.
Former Test captains are openly appalled by Clarke's desire for Ricky Ponting's job. They believe it is disloyal to Ponting, some even believing he should be sacked as vice-captain because of it.
After a particularly long day in the field against South Africa in Melbourne, for instance, he was asked why Australia didn't bowl Katich.
"Ask the captain," he said, "I don't make the bowling changes."
A weak-willed response, it was seen by former greats as a deliberate affront to Ponting.
Little instances all, together they suggest Clarke has not shown he is ready for the role.
Still enough remains of the guy who was in a dust-up at Northies, with former Parramatta halfback Tim Smith, to cause concern.
The guy who labelled West Indian Chris Gayle a "second-class citizen", which had enough racial undertones to provoke Gayle to action. They had to be separated.
In the Australian culture, the Test captaincy is second only in esteem to the office of Prime Minister.ome put it above that, and not because it pays better.
Clarke is the boy most likely, there's no doubt.
But as Australia faces a sensitive decision as to wives and girlfriends for the upcoming Ashes tour, it might finally be time for him to lead the way. (ANI)

Feb 6, 2009

Mktg - Film Marketing;Reeling them in

Meera Mohanty
It isn’t that farfetched to expect two versions of Shah Rukh Khan’s next release. In one he would play a Tag Heuer-sporting NASA scientist, meet girl, woo her over Diet Pepsis, flex a few muscles and sing a few songs. In the other he̵ 7;d play a Dish TV dealer, meet the same girl, woo her with Pepsis and Sunfeast biscuits, and flex the same muscles and sing the same songs.
Just possible, considering the increasing importance of marketing in deciding the fate of a film. And in-movie placements are just one aspect. Today, marketing spends can account for almost half of the cost of production of a small movie. The spends are very flexible, but they can even be as much as the movie itself if the producer decides it’s worth ploughing the money back, explains UTV Motion Pictures’ Shikha Kapoor.
Because a steady stream of releases has freed exhibitors from running half-empty halls, dwindling performances can be replaced with newer releases. “Movies have become extremely perishable,” explains Big Pictures COO Mahesh Ramanathan. With week after week of films for the exhibitor to choose from, the ability to draw in the crowds in the first weekend has become a crucial determinant of a film’s fate.
“Everyone today understands the importance of owning their films,” says UTV’s Kapoor, pointing to the very media-savvy stars today. They are willing to take part in media interactions, cast engagements and road trips. Thus is explained the stripping of Aamir Khan, the clinical documentation of flab to pectorals, and his generous billboard appearances in the bizarre Ghajini haircut. It certainly paid off, says Nitin Sood, Chief Financial Officer, PVR, with due respect to the contents of the movie. The movie was the biggest hit in recent months.
Marketing has also become very sophisticated. The earlier approach, the noisy marketing that bombarded audiences with television and print ads, is passé, says Ramanathan.
In a fragmented environment it’s difficult to capture audience mindshare for a film. “It calls for marketing campaigns in which movies are treated as a consumer product; it’s marketing carried out once audience profile and message has been fine tuned,” he says.
Producers are micro-engaging. DevD, UTV’s modern-day version of Devdas, launched a line of tattoos in Mumbai’s Al’s tattoo parlour, and a ‘Lustline’ has been opened for callers who can talk to key actors in the urban interpretation of Devdas. The initiatives are targeted at its key audience, the urban youth.
The plans are different for the highly awaited Delhi 6, directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, which has a more pan-Indian appeal, says UTV. A caravan will take stars to 10-15 cities across the country, including Indore, Surat and Nagpur. A mela, recreating the gullies of Old Delhi, is being planned for Bangalore and Kolkata.
For its latest release Luck by Chance, Big Pictures arranged programming alliances, now a norm. Stars made appearances on Oye! It’s Friday, the talk show on NDTV Imagine (hosted by lead actor Farhan Aktar himself) and at the grand finale of the singing contest show SaReGaMaPa.
Big Pictures is leveraging Reliance ADAG’s other entertainment businesses such as Big Adda, Zapak (with a microsite) and Big Flicks (with ground promotions at its stores) as well as rolling out online promotions on portals such as Yahoo!, Rediff, and Google. The movie opens across 900 screens and is believed to have had a marketing support of about Rs 8 crore.
It all starts at the script level, where audience, message and brands, and how effectively and smoothly they fit are worked out. Traditional FMCG products are now also on board. Brand alliances also amplify the noise of the film, says Kapoor. For its movie Fashion, UTV tied up with RPG Cellular, Kimaya and Sunsilk. Both Kimaya and Sunsilk launched a range after the film.
Lead actors Priyanka Chopra and Kangana Ranaut walked the ramp for Sunsilk at Lakme Fashion Week, helping buzz reach peak at the time of launch.
A Vogue photo shoot was roped into the storyline; Priyanka Chopra had already featured on the magazine’s cover by the time the film released.
As brand endorsers stars can extend the association. Samsung launched special Ghajini-model handsets and Tata Sky ran a continuous feature on how Aamir Khan (its brand ambassador) worked to get the Ghajini look and hosted an interactive quiz.
While it’s one thing to build expectations, it’s quite another to oversell; that can be detrimental. A case in point is Drona. Marketing is to raise expectations to the exact level that will eventually be met by the movie.
Some films do well for themselves by word of mouth. For example, Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! which picked up pace purely on its own merit. Almost by itself, with some backing from marketing. UTV says it knew the movie would be talked about and decided to push the movie just around the time of release rather then weeks in advance.
Producers are counting on paid previews/premiers. It’s a new phenomenon; Chandni Chowk to China had them, and Luck By Chance ran a “paid preview” before its release.
The Hollywood studios’ foray into Hindi movies has demonstrated how the big studios do the marketing. But the hype only did that much for the movies Saawariya (Sony) and Chandni Chowk to China (Warner). Eventually it’s all about the content.
Appreciate, however, that theatrical revenues contribute to only half of a producer’s earnings. TV broadcast rights, international territories, musical rights and brand associations make up for the rest.
You may no longer hear of a 100-day-run for a Hindi movie. At a time when life cycles are counted in days and not weeks, Rock On! ran for 75 days, points out Ramanathan. However, a 50-day- and 100-day-milestones are still important in establishing a film’s success in the Tamil film industry.
UTV, Fox Studios, and Big Pictures have all announced projects in Tamil. It’s both a sentimental and a commercial landmark since they release with fewer prints. Today, while weekend collections can contribute about 50-60 per cent of a movie’s revenues, they make up for 30-40 per cent of that of a Tamil movie. But this could change soon, says Swaroop Reddy, Director, Sathyam Cinemas.
At multiplexes, movies go from 10-12 shows a day in the first week to four in the second. The payout, or share of theatre’s tickets sales, to a producer also reduces week-on-week, explains Reddy. Sathyam often works with the presenter to market the movie. A movie lives by its content, says Reddy.
Slowdown or no slowdown, filmmakers believe nothing will keep audiences away from an essentially good movie.
With a few exceptions, last year hasn’t been good. “The silver lining is that there is a slate of projects. But four bad films, and an audience will get cautious about the fifth,” says Sood.
Things will have to be done differently in 2009 when money will be tighter for both film makers and film viewers. UTV sees the marketing window of 60- 45 days coming down to 35 days before the release. “People may be choosy at best, but they won’t give up on films. But a bad film stands to be completely wiped out,” says Ramanathan.

Lifestyle - How women are handling recession

Ramesh Menon

How long will this recession last, is the question everyone asks. Experts say the worst is yet to come! This has ignited a lot of concern among working women, many of whom are seeing a downturn in their workplaces. Unchartered territory for most people, women are learning to negotiate it the hard way by tweaking their expenses and altering their lifestyle like never before.
India is one of the countries relatively less affected by the global economic crisis but millions of families here have acted quickly to slice their spending habits. Of course, leading the new conservative trend are women who are, more often than not, responsible for managing home finance. Many are putting on hold all spending that can wait.
In the new scenario, women are counselling paranoid husbands to be more cautious of new ventures. They are largely investing family money in good old bank deposits that are more dependable and putting off expensive vacation plans.
Many are also trimming family spending by cutting down on entertainment, eating out and buying new clothes, and using fuel and electricity cautiously. Says Delhi-based Sridevi Sunderajan, 46, a public relations executive with an international NGO, “With recession and jobs cuts, there is uncertainty about the immediate future. I have put a stop on any big buys. I had planned the renovation of my house, which is long pending and for which I have already saved up, but now I would rather wait. I am doing an audit of my family’s expenditure to see where I can cut costs. I now look for cheaper options everywhere, though we are just a family of two.”Salary worries
Suddenly, the Indian middle class dream seems to have become just that, a dream. Every year, employees wait eagerly for their annual increments. Things are different this year. In fact, from small enterprises to the big guys, salary cuts are now the norm. Recently, a television channel’s head wrote to employees saying that the top management had agreed to take a 20 per cent cut in salary. The inference: soon they too would have to follow suit.
Another effect of the crisis has been that women haven’t got carried away with the year-end sales — something that is usually the highlight of the festive season and the New Year. Financial discipline is a concept that many more are diligently following as they prepare for tough days ahead.
Rajni Pradhan, 27, Senior Manager, Knight Frank, real estate consultants in Pune, has started using her landline more than the cell phone. She has cut down on eating out, socialising, let go of the cook, got her husband to call his business associates home for dinner instead of entertaining them in restaurants, and so on. Her husband, Alok, had three mobile phones, two of which he hardly ever used but got billed for every month. Rajni has got rid of those two.
“It was not easy asking the cook to leave as it put additional burden on me, but we all have to learn to cope,” she says. It is not just at home that she is battling the recession. At work, she ensures that computers are switched off when not in use. She has also taken on new job roles to hone her skills and, more importantly, to keep the spectre of the pink slip at bay. Then there are the other small switchovers; when she travels on work to Mumbai, she hops on to a bus or a train instead of the more convenient taxi.
Sulina Menon, 44, a media and brand consultant in New Delhi, is upset seeing so many of her friends losing their jobs, as downscaling takes place. She knows that it is only a matter of time before she too gets affected. As a freelancer, projects will be fewer and far-between in the months to come. “All of us will have to tighten our belts,” she warns.Consumer survey
The Nielsen Online Global Consumer Survey, conducted by Nielsen Consumer Research a few months ago in the US on 28,663 Internet users, showed that only 11 per cent of women felt that there would be an end to recession soon, as compared with 27 per cent of men. There has been no similar survey in India, but the situation here is no different. Women appear to be more concerned and anxious than men.
Another recent study by Cambridge University suggested that if there were more women in positions of power, the global financial crisis might have been less severe. Dr Gita Piramal, author of Managing Radical Change, would agree: “Thinking things through, being authentic, ready to get your hands dirty and get down to the frontline yourself, being nurturing and supportive, these are traditionally a woman’s traits but they rise to the fore in a crisis situation.”
Women are heralding subtle lifestyle changes and know that a salary cut is not far away. There is, however, no unnecessary panic. They know that all it takes to control a money crisis is to increase financial discipline, consult experts before making investment plans and upgrade skills so that they do not become redundant in the office.
Some like Sridevi are even exploiting the recession, making smart investments right now. She could not get any blue-chip company shares during the boom, so now she is getting her husband to research on what to buy as the prices are low.

Mktg - Seeking more bang for the buck

Purvita Chatterjee
Recently Jaideep Bhattacharya, Chief Marketing Officer, UTI AMC decided to use the services of the 5,000-odd dabbawalas in Mumbai to sell his new Wealth Builder Fund. The slowdown in his industry has led to ad budgets getting slashed. Using this below-the-line (BTL) activity was thought to be a surefire way to touch potential customers rather than invest in fragmented mass media to do the same. Using the dabbawalas as ‘relationship managers’, Bhattacharya believes, will serve as a direct marketing tool for the launch of the new mutual fund.
“The dabbawalas would be wearing our branded T-shirts and are being trained in how to hand the mutual fund forms to the officegoer to whom he delivers the dabba. We realised in this case that the direct hits through a newspaper ad would be much lower compared to the potential users who would be directly approached through the dabbawalas. There would be a bigger bang for the buck spent through direct marketing,” says Bhattacharya. Using the 5,000-odd dabbawalas serving Mumbai’s officegoers was seen as a less expensive and viable marketing tool.
In spite of being an unorganised segment BTL as an industry is possibly growing faster than ATL (above the line) today and ad agency heads concede this fact. As Subhash Kamath, Managing Partner, BBH, observes: “In spite of being unorganised BTL has been growing faster than ATL. This year it has grown at 25 per cent while ATL has grown between 12 and 15 per cent over last year. For clients mass media has not been the only expenditure. This whole space of activation under BTL ranging from events to promotions has grown much faster.”
In fact, both independent and affiliated BTL agencies belonging to bigger advertising networks have experienced a sudden spurt in their business. “From the conversations that we are having with some prospects, yes, we see quite a few requests for proposals for BTL marketing programmes, to address some of the marketing challenges that brands and clients are facing. There is a caution that clients are demonstrating when committing ATL budgets. But as there is an ongoing need to fuel demand or retain customers, these brands are looking at achieving these goals through focused, phased and targeted measurable BTL activities. It is thus not that the ATL budgets have shifted to BTL, it is more that expenditure on BTL compared to a few months ago in absolute quantum is perhaps increasing, says Rajesh Ghatge, Executive Director & COO, 141 Sercon (a BTL agency for Bates) .
In the case of Arc Worldwide, a marketing services agency affiliated to Leo Burnett, too there has been spurt in business of late. According to C.V. S. Sharma, Senior Vice-President and Director, Arc Worldwide, “There has been a 30 per cent growth compared to last year in the business of the agency. There is definitely a spurt in BTL activity. Most companies, especially in consumer durables using mass media, have increased their spends on areas such as trade marketing channels. The marketing mix is now favouring BTL activities and there is measurability in the ROI in such cases.”
To give some broad trends across industries using BTL, cosmetics and durables brands are doing more of in-shop promotion and activation to induce trials while telecom service providers, education segment, banks, insurance and automobiles are carrying out location-based or segment-based targeted online and offline campaigns. Industries such as automobiles are doing significant CRM (customer relationship management) and loyalty activity to cross sell, up-sell and retain their existing customers to reduce churn and increase per customer realisation while FMCG, durables and IT (consumer products) are investing in and consolidating their channel management and incentive programmes to win in the last mile. Besides, in the case of IT products — telecom and auto companies - investing in comprehensive digital marketing programmes has become more prominent in recent times.
According to Srikant Sastri, Managing Director, Solutions Integrated (servicing the Publicis Groupe agencies), “Clients are gradually realigning their marketing mix to embrace a more integrated strategy which allows them to reach a fragmented audience comprehensively and also to make a greater impact with better experience and interactivity. Marketers across industries and verticals are focusing on experimental and digital media to engage customers more deeply with brands. This, in turn, is enabling them to address individual customer/channel demands and customise their interaction, thus generating specific and result-oriented response from the campaigns.”
At the same time it would be not be fair to compare the effectiveness of BTL over ATL but in times of slowdown in ad spends, the former does help. As Ghatge of 141 Sercon observes, “Both ATL and BTL have different objectives, generally speaking, in terms of relevance. ATL strategy is driven towards awareness and brand building goals, ‘counting your reach’. BTL strategy is driven towards creating relevant brand and product experiences, interaction, engagements, ‘reaching those who count’. When there is a general squeeze on the ad spends, brands may resort to more of BTL as it tends to be measurable and importantly, may give some immediate results. Also, as the programmes are targeted there is lesser wastage.”
Adds Rajesh Menon, Managing Director, Impact Marketing Services, “It would be unfair to directly compare ATL with BTL and there can never really be a trade-off between the two. ATL is a required input in order to build a brand while BTL is primarily used to give that needed push in terms of converting a desire into an actual experience and a purchase. BTL activities are measurable. ATL, unfortunately, cannot be measured.”
New technologies and services are also emerging, such as online video advertising in the BTL space. Jivox, an international company, was recently launched to provide an integrated service that allows an advertiser to create, publish and closely monitor/refine the performance of a video advertisement on the Internet. According to Diaz Nesamoney, Founder & CEO, Jivox, “The slowdown has forced companies to try out new media which cost less. Online videos ads have already been adopted by our clients such as LG, Fiat and Tata Sky who believe in achieving optimum results through such videos.”
Lesser wastage and measurability are probably the two factors which make BTL activation more popular in times of a slowdown. As Sastri of Solutions claims, “A measurable positive response will instantly yield return for the campaign. More than the cut in ad spends, marketing managers are embracing experiential and digital techniques to ensure ROMI (return on marketing investment) and a direct interaction with their customers. When you measure the direct impact of a sustained BTL marketing campaign on your business results, the cost of acquiring/retaining a customer obviously proves to be much more effective.”
The cost of reaching the customer is also not always a consideration in the case of BTL. “The reason for the shift from ATL to activation is not as much to do with lower costs as it is to do with is superior quality of contact. The sheer impact a brand is able to make with the overall lower ticket spend is superior to ATL spends which tend to be inflated,” says Atul S. Nath, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Candid Marketing.
However, for BTL it is measurability of the medium that is working for clients facing a slowdown in the business. “The prime reason for the shift to BTL is because marketers are waking up to the fact that BTL is measurable. With increasing pressures on performance on a monthly/quarterly basis, simply advertising and waiting for a brand to move from the shelf days are over. The need of the hour is a ‘here and now’ approach. And BTL activities provide that ‘here and now’, adds Rajesh Menon of Impact.

Mktg - The Crossword bookstore story

Prasad Sangameshwaran

In the late-1980 s, a college student threw caution and a destined engineering degree to the winds and landed a job with the Landmark bookstore
in Madras. He thought he would last there for all of three months. But as the line goes ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans’ , and he went on to build one of India’s most successful bookstore chains. In the case of R Sriram, the former founder CEO of Crossword, fact is stranger than the fiction that lines the bookshelves at Crossword. Today, the chain that he helped set up is perhaps India’s biggest book retailer . Before Crossword, there were wellknown bookshops — HigginBothams in Bangalore, Strand in Mumbai, Om in Delhi to name but a few. However none of them had a national presence. The chain was born from the recognition of the fact that like many other categories in those days, even this had plenty of potential. Says Sriram, “Book retailing had served, underserved and unserved customers. We saw a huge opportunity in the underserved and unserved segments.” Today that goal has been achieved and standardisation is one of the biggest reasons for their success. Sivaraman Balakrishnan, marketing head, Crossword points out that today a consumer irrespective of the city that he visits will be treated to the same shopping experience . He says, “Across formats our brand experience of educate, entertain and enlighten are the same.” Back then, though, in a scenario where books were sold through outlets that were tiny and consumers bought them much like they bought medicines at drugstores (going with a prescription), there was a lot of ground to be covered. Attractive display was a far-fetched concept and the only bookstores that gave customers room to free their arms were the ones in five star hotels. To be successful, therefore, a national chain would have to reinvent and remarket the very idea of a bookshop as consumers saw it. Luckily for Sriram, he found a backer for the concept in publishers India Book House putting the seed capital and more importantly give him real estate in the form of their vacant first floor office space in Mumbai at Mahalaxmi. The name was supposed to be Crosswords , because it signifies fun and learning. However legend has it that a numerologist said that the name was unlucky and there was talk of a name change. Sriram though intervened and suggested the dropping of the ‘s’ , and so the name Crossword came into being. The store was launched on August 15 in 1992. In many ways, right from its inception the chain broke the rules. The property was not on the ground floor, not easily accessible, no parking space and was a ‘U’ shaped space with many pillars. The entrepreneurs decided to look at the advantages rather than moan about the deficiencies . It was on the same street that housed iconic Mumbai stores like Amarsons and Benzer and hence likely to attract upmarket shoppers. It was decided that consumers would be treated to unique shopping experience in a shop that was trendy and hip. The bookstore decided to appeal to mothers and children.
It set up dedicated sections for children, a concept that was unheard of in the bookstores that were around. That risk paid off, with children contributing about 35 per cent of sales and 25 per cent of the volumes. The store also took some innovative steps like keeping the children’s section at the farther end of the store. As a result, parents accompanying children would end up viewing the entire range of offerings while taking children to the section . Also introduced was the concept of book reading sessions for kids. The investment has paid off and today the kids section has grown bigger and better . Says Sukanya Kripalu, CEO, Sukanya Consulting, a Mumbai-based brand consultancy, “With other avenues like television and gaming fighting for the child’s attention, there’s a feeling among mothers that reading has got compromised. By addressing concerns like these, the brand has become much more than a bookstore.” It also was the first bookstore to have seating spaces where customers could actually sit and read an entire book with no questions asked — a welcome break from the surreptitious reading at bookstores that customers were used to. To ensure that customers spent more time, Crossword set up a coffee store within the outlet and also provided space for rest-rooms . And on the customer’s bill, it offered a term that surprised many: ‘Books once sold WILL be taken back’ . Over the years more innovations have taken place such as free home delivery, flexible gift vouchers (consumers could get credits on the remaining amount of their gift vouchers) and a thriving loyalty program. As a conscious policy, the store does not offer discounts , other than at the time of its annual sale. It further put its neck out with the ‘Sriram recommends’ (now called Crossword recommends ) section, wherein consumers could buy the book and avail of a refund if they did not like the book, no questions asked. Book reading sessions with authors have now become commonplace inside the store. All this summed up in creating a brand experience that could be solely associated with the brand. Now, with Shoppers Stop owning a majority stake in the chain, it’s now spread across 12 cities with 52 outlets in three formats. So while it does have a national footprint, there is still some distance to go before it can emulate say a Barnes and Noble. “The concept and the execution have been good. The trick is how to bring scale to this model,” says Kripalu. Crossword for its part is innovating on store size to gain further ground. While the flagship store of Crossword in a city is above 12,000 sq ft, brand stores are in the 5,000-7 ,500 sq ft range and corner stores set at gas stations are in the 500-2 ,000 sq ft range. It has also chosen to set up a shopwithin-shop inside Shoppers Stop outlets . Balakrishnan believes that the various formats help the brand get closer to consumers. He points out that a market like Mumbai has 17 Crossword’s , while Pune has 11 stores. Says Balakrishnan, “The formats make Crossword a neighbourhood store.” Market observers however feel that there is still some way to go. They argue that Crossword has to offer more than one flagship store in big markets like Mumbai as the belief is that the brand’s equity among customers shopping at the flagship store might be quite different from others shopping at the suburban outlets. One could also argue that in cities like Kolkata and Chennai, it’s Oxford and Landmark respectively which are the big boys of the bookworld. Either ways it would seem that we are a long way from reading the last word in this book saga

India - Younger India;greying politicians

What’s common between Kerala’s Chief Minister, Mr V. S. Achutanandan, and the Union Minority Affair’s Minister, Mr A. R. Antulay? Both the politicians created embarrassment for their parties and the common ailment that afflicts them is their age and long stay in politics.
India is the only democracy where there is a stark contrast between the average age profile of the citizens and that of politicians at the helm. While 70 per cent of India’s population is below 40 years of age, 80 per cent of India’s politicians are over 70 years.
Senior politicians in different parties have acquired larger-than-life images, simply because of their length of stay and not for any sacrifices made by them. For fear of losing power, such politicians never allow their junior colleagues to take centre-stage in their own organisations and governments.
Our Constitution makers, guided by the fact that there is no age limit in the Westminster model, did not prescribe an age limit for politicians to hold office. But, by convention all mature democracies have assiduously promoted younger leaders, generally in their early to late forties, in preference to older politicians.
Tony Blair was just 43 when he assumed the office of prime minister in 1997 and Bill Clinton was just 46 when he was elected president of the US in 1992.
These two examples are not exceptions to the rule, but rather the general norm in the West. The US President, Mr Barack Obama, is just 47 and one of the reasons voters elected him is because his rival McCain, at 72, was considered too old for office. Fix retirement age
Notwithstanding public disdain for older politicians, established parties are generally in no mood to select younger people to run for office.
The younger leaders are, in fact, at the mercy of their seniors, for being given any responsibility and, hence, cannot raise their voice against them, even when they may personally endorse the public mood. There is, however, a case for fixing the retirement age for occupying party posts and constitutional positions.
First, a person’s ability to judge and respond quickly degenerates with age. There is also the the overall lack of fitness, higher prevalence of serious diseases relating to heart, kidney, lungs, brain, and so on. In the Indian context, older leaders carry two serious disadvantages.
Leaders, over the years, become more and more greedy and second, they carry a lot of baggage. Greed among Indians is in their DNA, right from the Mahabharata days. Duryodhana preferred fighting a Mahabharata war to parting with just five villages demanded by the Pandavas.
Greed among Indian politicians now manifests in many forms: an octogenarian leader in Haryana starts an entirely family-based party; an ex-Prime Minister remains active only to ensure that his two sons are chief ministers and important position holders in whichever party and government.
In fact, a new race has started within his family to grab public office by his two daughters-in-law. Another nonagenarian leader in the South wants all his children to occupy important public or party offices and for achieving such an objective, he is ready to break the party, which he has done on several occasions.
The situation is even worse, in some of the regional parties, which are tightly controlled by the families at the helm. Memberships of the legislature can be grabbed easily by the patriarch’s children and the real fight is then for ministerial berths in the coalition governments. Time for change
The older leaders choke fresh ideas and from election to election carry the same agenda at heart. This has created a huge gap between what the younger generation wants and what older politicians can deliver.
The biggest problem is for the political parties themselves. All major parties are facing serious problems with senior politicians and do not know how to get rid of them, since they refuse to leave active politics. They keep fighting for pelf and power, mostly for their children and other family members till the last.
A time has come to change the rules of the game in Indian politics for an emerging India, aspiring to become part of the developed world. Indian politicians need to be generous and they should look at role models elsewhere.
Our older leaders should be guided by people such as Nelson Mandela, who voluntarily demitted office of the President in South Africa. He could have easily remained President for life, but instead chose Thabo Mbeki to succeed him.
In the US, the 13th Constitutional amendment set term limits for the offices of the President and governors. This ensures that the leaders are not for life and the same leaders are not hanging around, whenever the party comes back to power. In the UK and other parts of Europe (except Italy), well established conventions have ensured that the defeated leaders do not come back in the next elections. Ditto for Australia, New Zealand and Canada, where sometimes leaders in the leading parties have come and gone at such speed that it is difficult to even remember their names.
Hindu philosophy divides human life span into four t ime periods. A 75-year-old, in his Vanprastha period (last stage) belongs to no one and is expected to devote himself entirely to serving the society. But that rarely happens in Indian politics. A case for age bar
Thus, there is a serious case for the age bar for public offices. But the most important question is who is going to do it. It is unlikely that the Government on its own will introduce an amendment to the Constitution to fix age limits for various offices.
Should the Election Commission take the initiative for amending the relevant provisions for fixing age limits for the party office bearers of recognised parties?
The maximum age limit for holding any office in the party should not be more than 75 years. This will be possible, if simultaneously, there is another amendment for term limits for holding various positions within the parties.
No person should hold office within the party organisation for more than 6-7 years. This will ensure that younger elements within the party get a chance and there is infusion of fresh ideas within the organisation.
The other issue of fixing age limits for offices in the Government could also be taken up before the Supreme Court, which through interpretation of the relevant Constitutional provisions within the framework of equality before law guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution could set age limits. A petition before the apex court is worth trying.
If the Election Commission and Supreme Court could initiate measures on the suggested lines, peoples’ faith in the political process would be restored and the larger public demand to have younger leaders at the helm of affairs may fructify. (The author is a practising advocate and President of an NGO, Innovative Radical Reforms Organisation. http://www.irro.org/. blfeedback@thehindu.co.in)

Mktg - Critical to get consumption back

Swetha Kannan
A slowdown is actually good for the economy. But how? The think-tank at the media agency Mudra Communications believes a slump forces an organisation to review itself, get rid of fluff and bring in the much-needed efficiency in operations.
As Madhukar Kamath (Managing Director and CEO), Pradeep Bose (Chief Operating Officer) and Sandeep Vij (Executive Director) get talking on the current economic crisis, more interesting insights emerge.
“A slowdown once in a while is good for any industry. It cleans the company. It’s a great time to take stock of where you are,” says Vij. Whether it is rejigging of businesses, weeding out frills or just finding ways and means to do the job better, it all points to packing in efficiency into the system.
Kamath says it was virtually like a party the last five years for many companies. “Every entrepreneur and company talked of major growth. But the minute you start looking at things closely, you discover pockets that need to be cleaned.”
The advertising industry is also on a cleaning spree. There is certainly no room for under-performers, the three say almost in unison. A market which is on a downturn has to maintain efficiency standards and cannot afford people who fall below par. “It is essential to value people who are good, and ensure people get better. Underperformers are being dispensed with,” says Vij. Having said that, the industry has not shut its doors on talent. This is also a good time for good people. A talented person will certainly be picked up, he adds.
Marketers have reacted differently to the downturn. While some have gone about it making logical cuts in spends, some have illogically slashed their marketing spends. (Measured media spend has dropped by 20 per cent month-on-month from November.)
Mass media being the larger medium has seen the biggest cuts. Pradeep Bose says brand advertising has seen the maximum cut — unless it’s a tactical decision or there is a marketing objective such as a car launch.
Sure, there has been a slowdown, but companies cannot defer what they have started off. Caution and rationalisation apart, marketers also have to spend when there is an absolute need. Capital-intensive projects have to go on. For instance, (Maruti) Zen Estilo had to be launched … Fiat too had to launch Linea. You can’t hold them back, says Kamath.
So it’s irrational to indiscriminately slash ad spends. There is empirical data to suggest that those who invest in advertising in a downturn actually do well. This is the best time to increase one’s share of voice simply because lesser people are advertising.
Says Vij: “Advertisers have to keep advertising. There is nothing beyond the old fashioned truth that if you invest in your brand when times are tough, it will stand you in better stead in the future.”
While some marketers may shy away from visibility, the brave ones are fighting for survival. And the fittest will indeed survive. Bose says finance as a category was the worst affected with everyone cutting spending, but you had the “bravehearts” in the form of public sector companies. Almost every public sector bank upped its ad spends.
Take the case of LIC and Union Bank, which are successful case studies in the downturn — in terms of growth, asset management and deposits, says Kamath. “LIC keeps on investing in brand building. Its recent policy had a mega sale. Union Bank’s third quarter results show an 84 per cent growth.” A stronger value proposition
It’s true that there is a decline in consumption and buying, although not in all categories. People may not go on a fancy holiday and may postpone big purchases. One may hold back on salon visits but not on buying soaps and toothpastes. But overall, the market sentiments are low.
“The feel-good sense is not there. It’s all psychological, everywhere people are concerned. There was an entire generation of people living off on tomorrow’s income. But all that is coming down,” says Kamath.
So marketers will have to dangle a strong value proposition to woo consumers. Explains Vij: “During a downturn, most marketers globally look at investing in today and spend slightly less in brand building that is long term. Marketers have to divert money into stuff which works quicker rather than in the long term. They have to create a competitive edge by showing value. They must launch product categories that are value-endowed. Where people sentiments are low, it is critical to see that consumers get adequate value for the price they are paying. I’m not saying marketers must look at stripped-down products but they must ensure consumers find greater value than before.”
And here is where the role of communication changes to prove a competitive edge. “Advertising now must be competitive, showing differences vis-À-vis competition,” says Vij.
But marketers cannot completely ignore the long-term relationship. Even in a downturn, they must keep investing in the long term, “because whenever life becomes happy and rosy again, they will have to get back into relation building. You cannot completely ignore long-term goals; it’s only a question of how much money will you move from A to B to look at short-term goals.”
Vij says money will also move into the online space. “The expectation globally is that the online space will grow as this medium is critical for product comparisons. Experiential marketing and in-store communication will also grow for evaluation of results and accountability.”
He says it’s going to become a “wonderful game where marketers will try and enhance value proposition and consumers will desire to own that. Marketers will keep ploughing in with value propositions. The day the marketers win the war, the downturn is over. As consumers start spending, you have got back the cycle. So, it’s critical for any economy — whether it’s the US or Indian economy — to get consumption back.”
Recession or slump?
So, right now consumerism is low … there is less money flowing. All right. But is it right to call it an economic ‘recession’ as yet? “One can feel the recession. It’s recession if shutters are down, nobody is in shops, there are lesser cars on the road and everything is on 90 per cent sale. That is recession. India is not in ‘recession’,” argues Kamath, who believes the word has been much abused and over-used.
Vij agrees. He says in the Indian context, it’s just a slowdown. “The rural economy and small towns are least affected by the downturn. Sentiment is almost as normal as before. And India lives in small towns and rural areas. There is buoyancy in the agricultural economy, telecom is booming because small town and rural economy is booming.”
An economy with a 7 per cent growth projection cannot be said to be in recession. “Money flow is the key issue right now. But you must spend your way out of it. You have to just get used to lower rates of growth. That’s all,” sums up Kamath.

Mktg - Unilever's Dilemma;What about the logo?

What do fans of Persil and Pot Noodle have in common ? It sounds like the start of a bad joke, but the brands’ owner, Unilever, reckons it has the
answer. Last week the FMCG company announced it is to begin featuring its corporate logo in British and Irish consumer ads. Although it has previously done so in Asian and Latin American markets, this marks a change in strategy for the UK. The rationale is to create a ‘halo effect’ across the company’s portfolio. According to a Unilever spokesman, people buying one product from the company are likely to buy other of its brands if they are made aware of the link. Yet the question remains whether it is fair to claim that buyers of brands as diverse as Flora, Dove and Peperami share a number of traits. David Haseler, strategy director at branding agency Smith & Milton, believes it is. “Unilever has more of a focus than was the case 10 to 15 years ago, when it was a much more faceless organisation,” he says. “It will help bring the company together and Unilever might even grow to become a powerful marque of quality, as M&S used to be.” CLARITY OF STRATEGY Unilever is not alone in having hitherto avoided drawing attention to its corporate structure in ads. Procter & Gamble and Mars are among others to have taken this approach . The most successful proponent of the opposite strategy is SC Johnson, which displays its logo and strapline ‘A family company’ when advertising its brands, which include Mr Muscle, Pledge and Glade. Opting for a clear corporate strategy is one of the most important factors when looking to link up brands. In the 90s, for example , Danone decided to align itself more closely with its healthier brands and sold those that did not fit this image, such as beer brand Kronenbourg 1664. Unilever, however, may struggle to promote its brands as sharing a common set of values. This is despite its self-proclaimed focus on vitality, and a ‘mission to meet everyday needs for nutrition, home hygiene and personal care’ . For example, its Dove ‘Campaign for real beauty’ has been labelled hypo-critical since Unilever also owns Lynx, which uses sexist imagery in its ads. Stephen Meade, planning partner at Mc-Cann Erickson, believes Unilever must decide what its corporate logo represents. “If you are going to allow a corporate expression , you had best make sure that the corporate brand means something,” he says. “I’m not convinced that as a totality Unilever is completely consistent.” Another problem, as suffered on numerous occasions by fellow FMCG giant Nestle is that of corporate scandal . Recurring reports that Nestle markets powdered milk over breast milk to Third World countries have led to consumer boycotts of its entire product line-up . Similarly, Unilever is opening itself to the risk that one of its brands, if involved in a PR scandal, may taint the entire portfolio . However, Joe Hale, a consultant at branding specialist Dragon Brands, believes it should be lauded for embracing the public’s desire for corporate transparency . “There is more scrutiny now than ever, and even if Unilever were not doing this, people would still pick away. It’s quite a refreshing move, because it is a positive statement of intent,” he says. Unilever’s initiative is likely to mark the beginning of a long-term process to establish it as a major ‘House of Brands’ in the UK. Whatever its intentions, though, one cannot help but feel it must iron out any corporate discrepancies before expecting consumers to buy into the Unilever brand.

Entertainment - Slumdog Millionaire: Was the buzz enough to pull the crowd?

Tarana Khan

Article tools sponsored by Slumdog Millionaire, the rags-to-riches story of a boy from the slums of Mumbai, has been picking up armfuls of awards in the US and Canada, and has even been nominated for 10 Oscars. In India too, the movie generated a lot of hype and debate, along with a lot of pride about AR Rahman composing the soundtrack. The film released in India on January 23, much later than its premiere in the US in November 2008. Fox Star Studios (FSS), the distributor for the film in India, claims that the film has earned Rs 13.5 crore in its opening weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday). As on February 2, which includes the following weekend, the film’s revenues stood at Rs 21.5 crore. To put things into perspective, a mass movie, such as Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi or Ghajini, grosses around Rs 60-70 crore in the opening weekend. However, when it comes to multiplex movies – Slumdog Millionaire is also part of the same genre – Rock On earned revenues of Rs 22 crore in the first three weeks.In fact, Raaz 2, which also opened on the same weekend as Slumdog Millionaire, is estimated to have collected Rs 21 crore in the first weekend. Without comparing it with the rest, it can be said that Slumdog Millionaire has had an average opening. But for one moment, could we say that the movie would have done better—especially after the buzz it generated?
afaqs! spoke to a few industry observers, and marketing experts to find out why the movie was an average grosser, despite the media coverage and word of mouth publicity, it received. A few among them were of the opinion that the movie could not have made it as a mainstream movie as it is more suited to the English-speaking, urban multiplex audience.A similar kind of opinion was voiced by Rensil D'Silva, executive creative director, Meridian, an O&M agency, who has also penned the screenplay of Rang De Basanti and is currently working on his directorial debut. “The film is intrinsically a white man's perspective about India, which is what the Western audiences want to see. But the Indian audience get to see poverty every day, and they live with it,” he says.A source from the Indian film industry reasons that the game show format of Kaun Banega Crorepati, which has been used in the film, has lost its old charm. “Besides, while we are all used to seeing poverty in this country, in the West, the audiences saw an India which they had not seen so closely; for Indians, it was ‘been there-done that’. However, the film distributors seem to be quite satisfied with the movie’s performance. Vijay Singh, chief executive officer of Fox Star Studios, says, “We were aware that the Indian audience prefers Hindi movies over English ones, because Hollywood movies make up only five per cent of the box office. This is why we presented Slumdog Millionaire as a Bollywood movie, though it cannot be compared to a mass movie such as Ghajini,” he says.
Like any other Hollywood movie, Slumdog Millionaire also had two language feeds running in the theatres – English and Hindi. FSS claims that 68 per cent of the box office earnings were contributed by the Hindi feed. The movie was launched with only 351 prints in India, 75 per cent of which were of the Hindi version, Slumdog Crorepati. In comparison, Farhan Akhtar's Rock On released with 600 prints worldwide. The Hindi title of the movie was a straight translation of the English one – Slumdog Millionaire to Slumdog Crorepati. Does this make the Hindi title unusual for the Indian audience. Nabeel Abbas, CEO of movie marketing firm, Epigram, says, "A film with an English title comes with some baggage. When two versions of an Indian film shot in the English language are in play - one called Slumdog Millionaire and the dubbed one called Slumdog Crorepati - with dual and combined advertising driving awareness and information like show timings, it creates further confusion.”“I feel that dubbing an English language Indian film adds to this chaos, especially when you have slum kids and game show hosts, whom the nation has seen speaking in Hindi, suddenly start speaking fine English in the original version,” he adds.However, Singh of FSS clarifies, “We didn't want to give it (the Hindi version) a totally different title. For that, we would have had to have separate marketing plans. In small towns, we thought that it would help audiences be clear about which version they wanted to watch.” The biggest marketing promotion for the film was the publicity it got when it received 19 awards and the 10 Oscar nominations. However, the coverage was mostly via the Western media, until the premiere of the film was held in Mumbai on January 22. Also, whether that buzz reached small-town India is debatable. According to Singh, the film was promoted in India through TV promotions, print ads and OOH. Harish Bijoor, a prominent marketing consultant, says about the promotion of the film, “The film has certainly done well among the SEC A crowd, who was really the TG. But it hasn't been marketed as well to the rest of the Hindi film audience. Also, the middle and lower socio-economic classes do not really want to see such a realistic film, because they go to the theatres to be entertained.” Bijoor adds that it is not enough to have a single promotion for the film. It should showcase the variety in the plot, because people go to watch films for different reasons. “There are aspects of cruelty, romance and triumph in the film, but that kind of verticalisation was not seen in the promos,” he says. Another analyst says that a film deserves a certain amount of “content showcasing” and that “the heart of the film was not fleshed out in the campaign”, adding that it is the Western audiences who saw the story of triumph in the film. The soundtrack of the film, which received great reviews, was also not promoted as strongly. The audio album did not see a high-profile launch, which is usually done six to eight weeks before the release of a Hindi film. Another crucial factor affected the outcome of Slumdog Millionaire at the Indian box office. Since the film was released in India three months after its US release, pirated DVDs and illegal downloads were rampant in the Indian market. "There were a lot of people who couldn't wait to see the original film. As the campaign peaked early, with pirated DVDs available and the film not in play in cinemas, it worked against the film's Indian box office. When you peak a campaign, you should be able to sell tickets too," adds Abbas. Responding to why there was such a long gap, Singh says, “It was a conscious decision to go for a deferred release. We released the film worldwide once we established its credentials in the US.” But Singh admits that piracy is bound to happen and that it may have had an impact on the collections of the English version of the movie. Though the film has done reasonably well in India, one does wonder if it could have done better as a ‘mass’ movie, made in Hindi by a Bollywood director, and of course with a pure Hindi title (not a translated one). What do you think?

Mktg - Piyush Pandey on Ideas

Ideas are everywhere, they are omnipresent but it takes practice to develop an idea. Anybody can get a good idea but whether it’s a big idea is not
known. A good idea is like a diamond, which has to be polished continuously , to give it the right shine and to make it shine from every angle. When the idea goes out there, it should look its best, just like the diamond looks its best in the showroom and to make an idea the best is a challenge. When someone is suggesting an idea, hear it patiently and attentively — never confuse him or the idea he has maybe lost. Hear the idea as it is, nurture it and something that appeared like a good idea in the beginning with the right amount of polishing could become a big idea. Respect every idea, shape the idea, implement it and choose a way of expressing it in a way that shows it in the best light. It is very important to encourage people, because only when a person is unafraid to think of ideas will he dream big. If there is lack of encouragement, then young people may fear voicing their ideas and the fear of unknown may result in many ideas not seeing the light of day. When I was young I was encouraged to come up with ideas and as far as possible those ideas were kept intact. That motivated me to come up with more and better idea each time. The world is full of ideas, they are everywhere. I see a guy with a PSP on the road, it was an idea which has taken this form today; mobile phones, iPods, the internet are all big ideas. They probably started as a germ of an idea in somebody’s head, someone pursued it, improved upon it and now it is in front of us in its best form. If it wasn’t for ideas then life would have been the same over the centuries. We would still have been living like the people back in the 14th century. Atleast right now we have no fear of expressing our ideas, but people in the past would get killed or butchered for their ideas. There is no such fear now. I cannot point out a single favourite idea, I like so many of them. I am sitting in a car now, so I like Henry Ford and his idea of the car, when I am in a plane I like Wright Brothers’ idea of an airplane. Good ideas are everywhere, they just need to be spotted and polished to make it a great.

Business - India;Retailers continue to see liquidity pressure: Fitch

Indian retailers would continue to see liquidity pressure in 2009 due to slowing sales, margin pressure and poor economic conditions, Fitch Ratings said today.

‘’Slowing sales resulting in lower inventory turnover and increasing working capital requirements have resulted in liquidity pressure for many domestic retailers,’’ said Fitch in a release.
The rating agency blames the economic slowdown for the continuing financial woes of the retailers. “‘Retailers are facing the heat of high leverage and already stretched balance sheets, due to the combination of a debt-led capex and capitalised lease rentals,’’ it said.
In a bid to tap the big opportunity in organised retail, corporates such as Aditya Birla group, Reliance Industries among others have entered into the retail sector and opened hundreds of stores across the country in the last 2-3 years. Organised retail, which currently accounts for around 5 per cent of the estimated $350-billion Indian retail market, is expected to expand its share to 14-18 per cent of the total market by 2015, says a McKinsey report.
Food and grocery retailer Subhiksha, which runs nearly 1,600 stores, recently said its operations were at a standstill due to shortage of liquidity. Subhiksha said it was working with the financial stakeholders, lenders and investors to inject liquidity and get the company back on track.
Fitch expects the liquidity pressure to continue as inventory levels are expected to increase. “New stores will generate good run rates only after 12 to 15 months and sales will remain slow at the existing stores,” it said.
India’s largest listed retailer Pantaloon Retail’s same store growth in December fell 4 per cent in the value segment, followed by 14 per cent drop in lifestyle retail segment and slipped 10 per cent in home retail. These are the highest drops in same store growth in December in the last four years.
“Across the board, we are seeing lower numbers in same store growth than last year. Overall, there is a pressure on consumption which is impacting retailers,’’ said Priyamvada Balaji, an analyst with Fitch in a teleconference.
Fitch expects retailers’ free cash flows to remain negative during the current year, which coupled with large short-term debt maturities could also expose them to refinancing risks.

Mktg - Nestle seeks consumers design advice

Kenneth Hein

NEW YORK Who needs a design firm? Apparently not Nestle Confections and Snacks. The candy maker is asking consumers to pick the latest packaging for its Goobers, Sno-Caps and Oh Henry! brands. To come up with the finalists it used the Web-based shop MarketSplash by HP.Participants are invited to go to Adeliciousdilemma.com to vote through March 6. For their trouble they are entered to win one of five $100 candy prize packs. Online marketing including a YouTube video supports.The brand package redesign that receives the most votes will be on shelves by year’s end.The Hewlett-Packard Company is piggybacking on the contest to launch its MarketSplash by HP services for small business. The promotion communicates the service's marketing message “that professional design services that meet the standards of a big businesses are now accessible and affordable to small businesses,” per a statement. The company has partnered with Staples to offer users same-day pick up for products ordered. First time customers get 100 free business cards for trying the service.

Mktg - Kellogg Won't Renew Phelps' Contract

Elaine Wong

Brandweek NEW YORK On the heels of Michael Phelps' now famous bong hit photo, Kellogg has decided not to renew its contract with the Olympian after a six-month stint.The company confirmed the decision via e-mail late Thursday: “Michael’s most recent behavior is not consistent with the image of Kellogg. His contract expires at the end of February and we have made a decision not to extend his contract,” Kellogg rep Susanne Norwitz wrote.Phelps appeared on special-edition boxes of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, Corn Flakes and Rice Krispies Treats Marshmallow Squares following his winning streak at the Beijing Olympics last year. The Olympic gold medalist has been in the hot seat since news reports about him smoking marijuana first appeared in Sunday’s edition of the News of the World, a British tabloid.Kellogg said the move follows the company’s decision not renew its Olympic Team sponsorship, which ended in December. “We originally built the relationship with Michael, as well as the other Olympic athletes, to support our association with the U.S. Olympic team,” Norwitz said.Speedo and Omega watches have rallied in support of the athlete while others including Subway and AT&T have remained mum.Kevin Adler, founder of Engage Marketing, a sports-marketing firm in Chicago, said Kellogg’s decision comes as no surprise. While others may not have gone public in their stance towards Phelps, it’s imperative that Kellogg do so because after all, the cereal maker is heavily perceived a kids’ brand, he said.“Athletes are brands. That’s the most important umbrella concept we have to understand is if you do something that runs contrary to your brand image, it will affect your ability to monetize that brand image. It really kind of is that simple,” said Adler.While other advertisers may follow suit, Adler said it’s also possible Phelps’ remaining sponsors will keep Phelps-related marketing initiatives under the radar for now, and amp up efforts as 2012 approaches. If anything, history is an indication that “people seem to have a very short memory of transgressions from athletes who perform well on the field of play.”

Mktg - YouTube Viewers Crown Doritos SB Champ

Brian Morrissey

NEW YORK Sunday's Super Bowl might be nearly forgotten, but advertisers are still mulling the effectiveness of their pricey investments. YouTube has weighed in by crowning Doritos the big winner with the video site's millions of visitors. The Pepsi snack brand had two spots crack the top-five tally in YouTube's Ad Blitz, a special section it created to showcase Super Bowl commercials. The "Free Doritos" commercial took top honors with voters. (YouTube declined to say how many votes it received.) It was also named a favorite 4,700 times by viewers, garnered over 800,000 total site views and drew more than 1,200 comments.

Food - Cracking the coffee shop puzzle

Anoothi Vishal

Hotel coffee shops tend to be generally overlooked when it comes to serious food talk — even though they contribute about 25 per cent of a hotel’s F&B revenue, second only to banqueting, and ahead of gourmet restaurants. A coffee shop in a hotel in an Indian metro, I understand, may earn anywhere upwards of Rs 3 lakh over a 24-hour cycle. More successful ones go up to earning Rs 5-6 lakh apparently.

But ask diners about their attitudes to these spaces and it is likely to be one of indifference. A hotel coffee shop is, after all, primarily utilitarian — somewhere where you go for a business meeting over quick lunch or coffee, or, for a convenient bite, post-midnight, after you’ve done with heavy duty “cocktails” elsewhere.
There are exceptions, of course. There are some people I know (including myself) who make their holiday bookings based on the lavish breakfasts offered here. And, then, there are places that get popular with local guests for other reasons. A couple of years ago, The Oberoi’s ThreeSixty in Delhi redefined the concept and continues to draw in huge crowds despite the downturn.
Other people have other faves, and many of these lists are likely to feature the Yellow Brick Road at the Taj Ambassador in Delhi for its charm, value-for-money menus and just for old time’s sake. Then, there is Baywatch at the Sheraton in Saket that I’ve always liked for its great emphasis on Indian regional cuisine. The buffets here, at one time, would enable you to sample the specialities of ITC stalwarts like Imtiaz Quereshi and Kulsum Begum.
But there are newer picks too. In Mumbai, a colleague, whose only requirement otherwise is a WiFi connection, is partial to one because of the freshly-ground coffee they offer. Guests can apparently smell and choose their own beans and see the coffee made. In Delhi, 24/7, at the The Lalit is becoming popular because it offers not just a 24x7 food menu but also 24x7 bakery and bar.
To this, I must add the newly redone Café at the Hyatt, New Delhi, now. The hotel had a winner some time ago with its superb The China Kitchen, possibly the best Chinese restaurant in the country today apart from The China House at the Grand Hyatt in Mumbai, on similar lines. And now, it has another plus in its coffee shop. I went there last week for a buffet lunch and liked particularly the way the space was broken up to give you various counters or “kitchens” — like island bars, facilitating easy movement —dedicated to things such as salads and desserts, a delicious mezze spread, grills, international cuisine and regional Indian food.
This is an infinitely more informal and interactive arrangement and adding to the sense of “being at home” is the fact that main courses are served in smaller cook-and-serve type of vessels that you may use at home. What I will go back for is the salad bar. Instead of having the usual spread of 4-8 pre-tossed salads that you find on any buffet menu, this one has a chef tossing your greens fresh. The greens are fresh — lettuce and whole baby carrots (tempting enough for one to pick them up and chew a la Karamchand jasoos) and the lot coming from the owners’ organic farm.
Finally, what do people look for in a hotel coffee shop? Here’s a list put together after random conversations with friends, colleagues and frequent travellers:
1. A wider selection of convenient “combos” — pav bhaji, fish and chips.
2. A good view
3. Comfort food, old favourites — remember that Taj innovations, the Bull’s Eye dessert?
4. A hint of novelty by way of frequent food festivals or changes in the décor
5. Interactivity
6. Wireless internet
7. Affordable pricing
That pretty much covers it. Work that out and you’ll have a formula for F&B success in these hard times.