Jan 20, 2009

Business - Nokia says new mobile email offer doing well

HELSINKI: Nokia is seeing a good take-up of its new messaging service, the top cellphone vendor's latest challenge to Blackberry-maker Research
in Motion's (RIM) dominance in mobile email, a Nokia executive told Reuters on Monday.

RIM created the market for corporate mobile email and its dominant position has protected it from Nokia's attempts to crack the market in recent years. However, "Clearly, things are heading towards the consumer market and that's where Nokia has its strength," Tom Furlong, head of Nokia's messaging services, told Reuters. RIM has lately focused on developing its consumer offering.

Nokia -- which controls close to 40 percent of the global cellphone market -- last month opened its Ovi email offering, targeting first-time email users, and a messaging service, which enables the user to combine many different emails into a cellphone. "The service is up, people are utilising it, we are getting good traction and good follow up," Furlong said, adding the company expects to announce its first revenue-sharing agreements with operators for the messaging service within few months.

"With the Nokia messaging service, we are going after consumers; we are not going head-to-head with enterprise e-mail. We are trying to put mobile email to the masses, masses of people around the globe," he said.


Nokia dropped development of its own corporate email product last year, choosing to partner with Microsoft and IBM instead while focusing on developing phones for business users to better challenge RIM. Nokia says the two deals enable it to mobilise close to 90 per cent of corporate emails without any extra investment from corporations.

"I think that probably the dominant theme in 2009 in enterprises is going to be -- do we have to be spending that much money on that service," Furlong said. When focusing on partnering with Microsoft and IBM for corporate mobile email, Nokia last year dropped support for the Blackberry email service, but Furlong said Nokia users would in future be able to use the service again. "We are in the interim period of time when we have dropped support ourselves, and Blackberry is readying support for their service on Nokia devices," he said.

Business - LIC cover shrinks as pvt insurers grab majority share this fiscal

Paramita Chatterjee

NEW DELHI: Private insurers saw their market share rise to 62% during April-December 2008 from 45% in the same period last fiscal, as per data
available with the Insurance Regulatory & Development Authority (Irda). Although there has been a deceleration of growth in the life insurance sector in terms of the total annual premium equivalent (APE), private players recorded 38% growth over the previous year.

APE captures new premium paid every year. As per the insurance regulator, the total APE for private insurers during the first nine months of the current financial year stood at Rs 18,220 crore, compared to Rs 13,214 crore during the corresponding period of the previous fiscal. ICICI Prudential, Bajaj Allianz, SBI Life, Reliance Life and HDFC Standard Life are the dominant private players in the sector.

Broadly, the insurance industry recorded a marginal growth of around 3% during the period. Public sector insurer LIC, which is the market leader, recorded a decline of 28% in its APE collections this fiscal, although it recovered from the sharp drop in November and recorded a 10% growth over October 2008. Its total APE stood at Rs 11,025 crore compared to Rs 15,249 crore in the previous fiscal.

Those who track insurance premium collection said the industry has witnessed a reasonable growth despite the tight financial condition this fiscal. Max New York Life Insurance director & head (agency) Rajender Sud said, “Life insurance products are perceived as long-term investment and wealth creation tools that give a sense of security. Consumers have started valuing financial
protection more in the wake of the slowdown.”

Others expect a bigger collection in the current quarter. Bajaj Allianz zonal manager (north) and head (pension business) Sanjay Kumar Jha said, “Normally, 40-45% of our new premium collection comes in the last quarter of every fiscal, and we expect a good growth rate over the next two months. We registered 30% growth in December.”

There are 21 private players in the industry. With more players waiting to tap the market, the sector is expected to grow in a couple of years.

It is estimated that the penetration of life insurance in the country is 4% of the GDP compared to 8-10% in certain developed economies and the Asian markets. Around 24% of Indian households own life insurance policies and the average sum assured per household is just Rs 1,14,450 among the owner households.

Business - M&M enters retailing with Mom & Me stores

BANGALORE: At a time when most retailers are holding back expansion plans, auto company Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) has made a quiet foray
into the retail sector with the soft launch of its specialty format Mom & Me to sell infantcare and maternity products.

The company, which had announced its plans to enter the retail space more than a year ago, has launched two outlets in Ludhiana and Ahmedabad.

The company has invested close to Rs 100 crore in the venture. An email query to the company seeking details on business plans went unanswered.

Interestingly, Mahindra has been looking at hiring young mothers, as advisors in the stores for a better connect with target customers.

In this segment, Mahindra is likely to have little competition with the only other major player being British brand Mothercare, which entered India in partnership with Shoppers Stop three years ago. Most of the other stores in this segment are part of the unorganised sector.

Mahindra Retail is a part of Mahindra Intertrade, a fully-owned subsidiary of Mahindra and Mahindra.

While announcing its retail foray, the company had said it was a logical extension of its current business, as Mahindra Intertrade had tie ups with Walt Disney, Aqua, Mattel and Lego to market and distribute kids' toys, apparels, accessories in India. Some of the other diversified groups that have entered the retail space, include Bharti, Reliance and the Aditya Birla Group.

HR - India will have 85-90 mn jobs across sectors

NEW DELHI: The "India Shining" story may be under stress by the ongoing economic crisis, but some sectors and career options still hold promise
Coming to terms with lay-off
Crisis: Keep staff motivated
for job seekers this year, according to human resource experts.

Leading advisory Boston Consulting Group says India will have a demand for 85-90 million people across various sectors, and the majority of the demand will come from high-growth industries like IT, outsourcing, banking, retail and healthcare.

Similarly, a survey by HR consultancy Manpower projects hiring to rise steadily by around 18 per cent from this quarter in many sectors, signifying that jobs in India may not be entirely affected by the financial turmoil in rich nations.

"India poses a far more positive outlook as compared to what has been happening across the world," said Cherian Kuruvila, director operations, Manpower India, adding that seven per cent gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the country showed that the economy remained healthy.

"Employers in the mining and construction industries as also services sector are especially looking to scale up," Kuruvila said, but added that new jobs won't be distributed evenly through all regions and industries.

India has a work force of 484 million people, of which 273 million work in rural areas, 61 million in manufacturing and about 150 million in services, says the Boston Consulting Group that recently conducted a study on the country's services sector.

"Going forward, the Indian economy is likely to be overwhelmingly dependent on the growth of services. More than 70 per cent of India's incremental GDP and 60 per cent of new jobs over the next five years are expected to be generated by services."

A survey across the Asia-Pacific region by TNS, a market research and business analysis firm, with Gallup International, a global human resource consulting firm, also threw up interesting findings.

Sixty-two per cent of the Indians polled felt they would be able to hold on to their jobs in 2009 and the 57 per cent who expected unemployment to rise did not not consider they would be the ones affected.

"It seems, despite the slowdowns and reports of downsizing, there is an overall confidence among the employed in India that 'My job is secure! Difficulties, if any, are for others, not me'," said TNS India executive director Chhavi Bhargava.

Experts concede that the present financial meltdown has raised doubts over the performance of some industries and its impact on salaries and perks, but hope Indian businesses will come out of the slump earlier than their counterparts overseas.

"The impact on salary was felt in 2008 and it may continue till some time. The payouts were significantly lower than the 15-200 per cent bonus payouts in 2007," said Absolute HR Services chief executive Kunal Banerji.

"Gone are the days of experimentation with jobs. I would advise employees not to be adventurous checking different jobs. Stability is the mantra," said Confiar Consultants managing director Vivek Ahuja.

Apart from advising employees to keep their jobs this year, HR consultants also feel these are also the times when people will turn to age old values and ethics and play by the book.

"The old adages like no substitute for hard work and no short-cuts to success are back in vogue," Banerji said. "Stay hungry for work or stay hungry is the mantra for corporate India."

Business - Q&A Vivek Paul

There has been much speculation about you joining Satyam. Are you open to being the CEO of Satyam ?
First of all, it is not my
Vivek Paul
place to assess whether I can do the job, and neither has anyone contacted me. I am touched by the messages of encouragement I have received and appreciate the expressions of confidence. But it would be my bias that the job go to Generation Next, if not right away, then shortly after operations stabilise. Also, the great team I built at Wipro is now scattered across the industry, and many are now CEOs in their own right. Also, I have met many talented leaders across the IT industry, so many options exist.

What do you think of the Satyam situation?
Like everyone else, I am really saddened. It is an example of how someone can not only build a great business, but also bring it to its knees. Like many others, I thought of Raju as a friend, and so it feels like a personal let-down. Nevertheless, in all approbation, we must be compassionate, for we know not what compulsions drove him.

Do you think Satyam will emerge from this with only a slight damage?
I have received many calls from customers and competitors, all with the single-minded view of how fast they can exit. I am sure there is a calm in Hyderabad now, but not so in the markets, and this will only manifest itself once customers have made alternative arrangements and start pushing the eject button. Moreover, some of Satyam’s delivery managers have been seen visiting competitors, offering to bring a willing customer and all their team members en masse to the other company. Satyam immediately needs to have someone with credibility, untouched by the past, calling on customers and promising consistent delivery and safety of their data and IP, as well as settling down employees.

So the right CEO can pull Satyam out?
Any CEO will have his work cut out. He will have to do this salvage act at a time when customer demand is shrinking, and competition is very hungry, and I don’t just mean Indian competitors — Chinese and US competitors are calling on the Satyam customer base. Whoever comes in will also be swamped under the burden of the clean-up — you don’t know who is tainted, what is real and what is not, customers that may stop paying, lining up financing, dealing with all lawsuits and regulatory investigations and penalties, etc.

The costs of lawyers, lawsuit settlements and fines will add to the growing size of loans to be repaid and limit how much value can be built. Satyam needs someone who can build a great team, is willing to work long hours, and have the confidence to take on a situation that looks difficult with uncertain rewards. But if just the employment of the thousands of employees can be saved, that alone makes it worthwhile. And as I said before, there are many candidates.

What are your thoughts about the Wipro-World Bank issue? Are we going to see more industry issues?
I may be biased because of my loyalty, but it is really situational. At the time of the IPO, Wipro’s slim allocation of IPO shares to “friends and family” and also requiring a statement confirming that no conflict existed with company policy, was viewed as very conservative and out of line with the norm of other tech companies floating an issue.

Today, after nine years, the context is very different and so is the impact. I am not endorsing that it was right. It is just that the practice was very different at that time, and if anything, Wipro was very conservative. I cannot speak of all companies, but I think the industry still retains the quality of its reputation.

So what’s next for you?
For a few months now, I have been seized with what techies in India are going through right now. While companies seek to preserve their margins, employees face the burden of cutbacks in employment, salaries and deferments in joining. They now have to show themselves not just as tech experts, but as leaders, as independent thinkers and build rich profiles. I am urgently working on launching a tool by the end of February to help Indian techies do just that, while interacting and learning from each other, and also help with the growing entrepreneurial zeal.

Looking beyond, I am working to raise an investment fund that will allow me to work with many Indian companies, particularly as global ambitions rise. Fund-raising is tougher right now, but on the other hand, valuations are becoming more realistic, private funds are more in demand as public markets get tougher and investors want a say in the company’s governance rather than merely passive holdings. A few other options have also emerged since I left TPG. With so much change, this is a good time to be independent so that I can assess my options. 2009 will be an interesting yea