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Toyota shuts plans due to crisis

Toyota Motor Corp, reeling from its worst U.S. sales decline in more than a quarter of a century, will shut all its factories in Japan for 11 days as the global economic slump hits demand and company profits.

The news from the world’s biggest auto maker shows how the global crisis, likened to the Great Depression of the 1930s in its scope and severity, has spread from the U.S. housing and banking sectors to threaten every part of the world economy. Governments and central banks have been working overtime to try to limit the fallout of the global crisis, flooding the financial system with cash, cutting interest rates and increasing spending.

South Korea said on Tuesday it aimed to create almost 142,000 jobs this year through infrastructure and environmental projects, part of a five-year, $38 billion plan to generate almost 1 million jobs.

Chile announced a $4 billion stimulus package based on public spending on infrastructure, subsidies and tax rebates.

“Facing this crisis will be the number one priority of my government this year,” said Chile’s president, Michelle Bachelet.

China, which relies on strong growth to create jobs for its millions of migrant workers and graduates, risks a wave a protests and riots in 2009 as rising unemployment stokes discontent, a state run magazine warned on Tuesday.

Researchers at the country’s central bank forecast China’s economy will probably grow by about 8 percent this year, in contrast to some analysts who predict a much sharper slowdown.

On Monday, U.S. President-elect Barack Obama met with Republicans and Democrats in Congress seeking support for a stimulus package of up to $775 billion over two years, including hefty tax cuts.

January 6, 2009 Posted by | news | Leave a comment

Air India sacks 10 over weight Air Hostress

Air India has terminated the services of at least 10 air hostesses, who were earlier grounded, for being overweight. Confirming the decision, an airline spokesperson said the termination of their services was carried out “strictly under the terms of their appointment.

” Airline sources said the “overweight” hostesses were given sufficient opportunity to reduce their weight to the acceptable standards. They were also offered alternate jobs on ground, which they refused to accept, they said.

The sources said while 10 air hostesses were sacked in the Northern Region, there were some more across the country who have been served similar notices. The sacked air hostesses, however, said that the action of the national carrier was illegal as they were not served any notice and the decision was taken when the matter was pending in the Supreme Court.

“The action is illegal and against the natural justice. I will soon file an application in the Supreme Court against the order,” advocate Arvind Sharma, lawyer of the air hostesses, told PTI. The Air India, however, justified, its action and said that Delhi High Court had upheld its policy of taking action against overweight air hostesses and the verdict has not been stayed by the apex court.

The apex court on September last had agreed to hear the plea of the air hostesses challenging Airline’s policy of taking punitive action against them for being overweight. “If we find merit (in air hostesses plea) we will restore your service,” the court had said while issuing notice to the Airlines on the petition of the five air hostesses challenging the Delhi High Court.

January 6, 2009 Posted by | news | , , | Leave a comment

Birth of the Indian Foodie

If there’s one, defining lifestyle change in urban India this last decade, it’s the birth of the Indian foodie: someone who spends a sizeable portion of his income to satisfy a newly developed, but highly adventurous palate. Of late, novelty has become the most important flavour. In a decade of almost 8 per cent annual economic growth with India’s young professionals confidently splurging on having fun, there’s been an explosion in the number of stand-alone, fine dining restaurants in Mumbai, Goa, Delhi and Bangalore where a meal for two usually costs upwards of Rs 5000 with taxes. Food is huge business. In Delhi and NCR itself over a hundred restaurants opened in 2008, serving cuisines from far-flung areas of the world – Brazil, Mexico and Chile among them. But is the big-city consumer as willing to embark on expensive gastronomic adventures in tough economic times?

Since liberalisation, a daring new breed of Indian restaurateurs has come up, who have successfully kept pace with global trends in cuisine and fine dining. Innovations at every level of eating out have been interesting: the small plate concept, for example, where you sample smaller portions of a variety of different cuisines was a hit in Delhi. Several food courts in malls started loyalty cards. A bar in Gurgaon copied the Thailand model: of marking your bottle of whisky which you can come back and claim anytime. Sushi has become a household word. Happy Hours (half rate) ensured a crowd even at 4 in the afternoon. Till recently, the wackier the place, the snootier the restaurant, the better. It seemed like everything worked: eateries where the venue was shaped like a ship or a lounge bar, where you had to recline on a white bed and gaze at an aquarium with only white fish did just fine, despite their lousy food. There was enough business to go around, and a merry sentiment that convinced new entrepreneurs to enter this highly volatile business. Not anymore.

Gimmicks and contrived menus no longer fool the jaded consumer who’s well travelled and on a diet of Nigella Lawson and Jamie Olivier anyway. These days the chances are when you ask someone where they had their last best meal, they’re likely to recall a restaurant which combined fine dining with value for money. Since 2004, the 200 per cent growth rate of restaurants has been nothing short of phenomenal, but in the coming year, it certainly looks like the party’s close to over. A cursory visit to a well-located mall on a Saturday night at 8, that houses two of Delhi’s most exclusive restaurants serving European and Japanese food, revealed open tables and empty seats. At one of them, the hostess and other staff, impeccably attired in black, have always maintained an expression of cold aloofness with guests in an attempt to highlight how coveted reservations at their place are. They now greet the rare client with a beaming smile. Given absurd rents, high overheads and diners who haven’t been stepping out because of terrorist attacks and financial issues, most stand-alone restaurants cannot survive this economic slump – unless they slash rates and give in to the worst scenario in the restaurant trade: private parties. And alas, with corporates’ cutting back, and walk-in customers drying up, more and more places where you couldn’t get a table on a Thursday night six months ago, are turning into banqueting halls even at weekends.

Even in good times, fine dining restaurants have a high failure rate and a honeymoon period that lasts, if you’re lucky, six months. Like the movie business, diners remain wholly unimpressed by names (that explains the disaster that is Tendulkar’s in Mumbai) and why Bukhara remains the leading Indian restaurant, focused as it is solely on food almost to the exclusion of everything else. Sporting events like the IPL and the World Cup help during lean months, but unlike restaurants in hotels, which work on a combination of in-house guests and outsiders, restaurateurs are entirely dependant on word-of-mouth recommendations. They also need to spend a lot on publicity to stay in the limelight and draw in the clients. Hotels, also hit by the slowdown, still have high occupancy thanks to an alarmingly low number of branded rooms available that ultimately translates into business for their cafes. A lot of the restaurants that fold up in 2009 won’t be missed. The ones that added to India’s gourmet map, making Delhi and Mumbai truly international hubs, those with jazz singers from Cuba and the best DJs from England, will.

January 6, 2009 Posted by | news | , , , , | Leave a comment