India Travel News

Window on India
October 25, 2006

News Bullets

Antony is new defence minister
A remarkably clean man, A.K. Antony, has been picked up to head the defence ministry as the Rs 174 crore kickback Barak scam involving George Fernandes and his favourite party associate Ms Jaya Jaitley has rocked the nation. Not known for acting under vengeance, this sworn Gandhi family loyalist from Kerala is an acknowledged man of integrity. Even his detractors feel that he would rather quit the job instead of pleasing his masters if asked to act revengefully. Antony has also to plug the holes that caused the ISI infiltration into the Indian army.

Corporate US at Indian Gurus’ feet
Corporate America is now seeking guidance from the Indian philosophical Gurus and the Bhagwad Gita on an increasing scale. White young executives are thronging a New Jersey house to learn more about the Karma and capitalism from the 80-year-old, visiting Vedic scholar Swami Parthasarathi. The Harvard and the other American business schools are showing more interest in Indian philosophy and arranging lectures of the Gurus. Venture capitalists, fund managers, CEOs and bankers are increasingly seeking advice of the business Gurus and learning more about "You are the architect of your own misfortune!’’ and the need to ‘‘Put purpose before self."

Bill opens flood-Gates of funds to fight AIDS
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has decided to pour another $ 23 million into India to effectively fight out the scourge of the AIDS. This is in addition to the $ 58 million programme that the foundation has launched with the help of the local NGOs and the government in 2003 to prevent the dreaded ailment. India has the largest number of HIV positive patients – over six million.

Jodhpur Maharaja to get WMF Heritage award
The World Monuments Fund (WMF) has decided to honour Maharaja Gaj Singh II of Jodhpur with its prestigious Hadrian Award, for his contribution to preserving cultural heritage. The Maharaja fought out the inadequacies of funds, growing urbanization and hostile climate to preserve the endangered architectural sites in the Marwad region in the desert of Rajasthan and on its outskirts.

Government Quote:

"We are living in a democracy, that too a transparent democracy. Every action of a public man, whether a minister, official or parliamentarian, is being scanned by the people. That fact everyone should be aware of."… the new defence minister A.K. Antony soon after his swearing-in ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, in New Delhi, on October 24.

Internet Quote:

"The remake of film ‘Don’ is fun if you stop being cynical."… said Arun Ganesh, a 25-year-old, Gurgaon-based employee of a telecommunications multinational company.


India Inc. on prowl - By Pratap Thorat

Leading Indian corporate house of the Tatas has finalised the $ 8 billion bid to take over the Anglo-Dutch steel company, Corus. India Inc could not have wished for a better gift to itself this Diwali. It was during the British Raj in 1917 that Jamshedji Tata set up the Tata Steel in this British colony. The same Tata Steel from a free India has now come to acquire a coveted jewel from the crown of the British Queen. Instead of indulging in the idle talk of getting back the Koh-i-Noor diamond, the Tatas have shown the way to the real objects of sparkle in the new world.

The Tatas finally take over the Corus or not will be clear by January end as other world players may come out with counter offers. Brazil's largest steel company Companhia Siderurgica Nacional (CSN) could be the major challenger. But then that is part of the game. The stronger man will win the hand of the Corus.

The Tatas were the world’s Number 56 steel-makers in size. Naturally, number 56 was always prone to be eaten up by 55 other predators that were bigger in size. But the contrary has happened. Number 56 has devoured a bigger predator. That is because the Tatas have been the lowest cost steel-makers of the world. The cost of production of the Tata’s steel is $ 160 per tonne, which is half that of the Corus. The West wants to tie up its advanced technology with the low production costs. The Corus would also benefit from the iron and coal resources to which the Tatas have access at a time when some monstrous mining giants have almost monopolised the supplies of the raw material and caused rapid price-rise. This takeover is more a world acclaim of India’s entrepreneurship and managerial skills. The pride will be hurt if the Tatas do not emerge owners of the Corus in January.

One thing is clear that India Inc is on a prowl and has started moving on the world stage with the gait of a lion. The government removed some bars of the state control during the economic reform process and the encaged lion cub managed to come out to fast develop a thick mane and intimidating challenge. Only four months back, when Laxmi Mittal acquired the Arcelor, many outside India thought it a mere accident and some gave credit to the individual entrepreneurial skills of that Indian Steel Prince. But now that another Indian corporate has jumped from the position of the world’s Number 56 steel-maker to the Number 6, it is clear that they are not monkey-jumps. India Inc takes the leaps of the lion.

The mood of the Indian corporates has been acquisitive for quite some time. Earlier this year, IT giant Wipro took over some companies from California, Finland and Portugal. Indian pharmaceutical, Ranbaxy, acquired the generic-drug-maker Ethimed from Belgium and Mundogen from Spain. Pune-based Bharat Forge, which is the world’s second biggest maker of forgings for engine and chassis components, bought as many as six companies from four countries viz: UK, Germany, Sweden and China, in the past two years. Suzlon bought windmill gearbox-maker Hansen of Belgium. United Breweries is flirting with Scotish whisky distiller Whyte & Mackay. Invading Indian corporates have bought over 131 foreign companies in the West so far this year and the shopping is worth $ 18.7 billion.

Their success stories are contagious and there is more to come from the other Indian giants. For instance, those from the petrochemicals sector, as coastal Gujarat, Karnataka, Orissa and Bengal are poised to become the petrochemical world hub. They may soon come out of the den roaring.

When you set out for shopping, you ought to have money in the purse and credit in the market. India has both. India’s economic reform was triggered off 15 years back mainly because its foreign exchange reserves had gone down below $ one billion. Today, they are fast approaching the $ 200 billion mark. To qualify for entry into a glittering shopping mall just money and credit do not suffice as you also must look fashionable and sophisticated. India is that. To become the world-class is the theme of the Indian youngsters. India has the world’s largest army of technicians and scientists even after sharing some troops with the developed West. India produces 441,000 engineering graduates, about 2.3 million other graduates and more than 300,000 postgraduates every year. But only one-fifth of them are the world-class. India is, therefore, not at all happy with the performance of its universities. But given the numerical strength, even this one-fifth does not make a small number. This one-fifth that is pouring in each year is giving a tough time to the talented western workers, who are finding it very hard to compete with the millions of brilliant Indian youth willing to do the job for a small fraction of the price. The latest trend in the youth is to stay back in India and yet make it big. That makes India a power-house of low-cost talent.

Indians have refused to borrow some complacency even after entering into the fourth year with an 8 percent growth. The question that constantly haunts the Indian mind is why not a double digit growth. The lion has come of age and with it has grown the pride and ambition. Anything less is insulting.

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