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No salary hike next year, job cuts possible: TCS

As part of cost cutting measures to tackle global economic downturn, IT major TCS on Thursday said job cuts are possible and also ruled out salary hikes next year. TCS managing director S Ramadorai said “there would be no hike in salaries in the forthcoming year” and added that “job cuts are possible if the situation worsens”. Adding further that TCS has frozen “lateral intake” he said the company is reviewing variable pay component on employee salaries. The variable pay component of TCS employees differs between 22 per cent and 35 per cent of his/her gross salary, depending on employee rank, he said. Variable pay represents eight percent of the total revenue of TCS, whose headcount is 1.3 lakh. Ramadorai said the company is also looking into all aspects of cost reduction, including capex and infrastructure.

February 27, 2009 Posted by | news | , , , , | Leave a comment

Martin Luther King III offers talks to terrorists

Martin Luther King III, son of legendary civil rights leader Martin Luther King Junior, believes in initiating dialogue with terrorists.

Speaking to mediapersons at the American Center in the city on Thursday, King III said: “We should even speak to a terrorist who has also a son or a daughter. We should open dialogue with them. That is the way we can tackle terrorism.”‘

King III, who is on the last leg of his 14-day visit to India to commemorate 50 years of his father’s visit to the country in 1959, said non-violence is the key to solutions of all conflicts. “It may be the terror at Mumbai, or the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians or the one at Sudan. I believe non-violence as a philosophy can succeed in solving all these conflicts,” said King who is the founder of Realising the Dream, an NGO that aims at promoting peace and harmony across the world as well as alleviating poverty.

Earlier in the day, King paid a visit to Mother House and offered floral tributes. Later King attended a lunch hosted by Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi. Those who attended the lunch included former chief minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray, Congress Legislature Party leader Manas Bhuniya, Leader of the Opposition Partha Chatterjee, artiste Shaoli Mitra, CPM state committee member Aveek Dutta and others.

The Governor presented books on Mahatma Gandhi to King. Later, he took him to Gandhi Memorial Bhavan at Beliaghata where Mahatma Gandhi stayed for almost one month during the 1947 partition.

February 27, 2009 Posted by | news | , | Leave a comment

High alert sounded in India Bangla border

Border Security Force went on a high alert along the Indo-Bangladesh border in the Northeast in the wake of today’s rebellion in the Bangladesh Rifles in the neighbouring country. In Shillong, BSF Director General M L Kumawat discussed the situation with border force Inspector General (Assam and Meghalaya Frontier) Prithviraj.

Constant vigil is being maintained along the border and the development in the neighbouring country is being closely monitored, BSF sources said. The sources, however, said there has been no additional deployment of forces along the border.

In Tripura, a close vigil was being maintained along the 856 km border with Bangladesh.

February 26, 2009 Posted by | news | , , , , | Leave a comment

26/11 Attacks

Militants behind last year’s attacks on Mumbai used cell phones that were activated in the United States and paid for with funds sent from Italy, an Italian newspaper reported on Tuesday.Corriere della Sera daily said India sent the intelligence information to Italy and other countries so anti-terrorism investigators could attempt to expose any ties to the network behind the November assault that killed at least 179 people.
Islamabad acknowledged for the first time this month that the November assault was launched from, and partly planned in, Pakistan.Corriere said Italian authorities were investigating a wire transfer sent to the United States from the northern Italian city of Brescia by a Pakistani-born suspect.
The suspect, named Javaid Iqbal, sent the funds via Western Union to pay for five cell phones with Austrian country codes – three of which were used by the attackers, Corriere said, citing the Indian dossier

February 25, 2009 Posted by | news | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Karunanidhi says his Govt is being toppled

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi today alleged that “there is a conspiracy” to topple his government, saying “planned incidents of violence” were being organised as part of this. In an apparent reference to the clash between police and the advocates at Madras High Court yesterday and the subsequent incidents of violence across the state, Karunanidhi said “some persons are conspiring to topple the government.but we will continue to walk the chosen path of “justice and honesty,” he said. Speaking at the inauguration of the ‘Padi grade separator’ here through video conferencing from his hospital bed where he is recuperating from a spinal cord surgery, the chief minister said he was “watching all the planned incidents of violence”.”There is a conspiracy to topple my government which is striving for the welfare of people.The conspirators are being aided by some politicians and a section of media.But it is not fair to trouble a government delivering good governance,” he said.Earlier in a statement, Karunanidhi had urged the political parties in the state “not to give room for aggravation of the High court violence.”

February 21, 2009 Posted by | news | , , , | Leave a comment

Chennai Protest

India Lawyers ClashThere was a mini-riot at Madras High Court on Thursday. A grand heritage building was turned into a war zone as lawyers turned their anger on the police in the Madras High Court, after the arrests of 2 lawyers on Tuesday. The police responded with brute force, lathicharging protestors, firing tear gas shells. Hundreds caught in the middle as Chennai’s law keepers fought a pitched battle. A judge  were among those injured. Police say lawyers stormed the High Court Police Station and set it on fire. And that’s when reinforcements, even black cat commandos, were called in. But lawyers have quite another story: S Prabhakaran, president, Bar association, says: “Policemen charged in and brutally assaulted us.” Tamil Nadu’s top cop, DGP K P Jain, chose to play it safe: “These are controversial questions. More than one version to it, so I am not commenting, but cases were registered against lawyers for what had happened over these days. policemen were eyewitnesses to these incidents. They had identified a few lawyers responsible for lawlessness. They lodged a complaint after which one lawyer was arrested. So that’s what provoked the incident.” At the end of it all, close to 75 people were injured and cars burnt. But the greatest damage is perhaps to the reputation of those who uphold the law.

February 20, 2009 Posted by | news | , , | 1 Comment

India to give Kasab’s DNA sample

India will give Pakistan another set of evidence on the involvement of Pakistani elements in the terrorist attacks in Mumbai.DNA samples and fingerprints of Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab, the only terrorist captured alive for the Mumbai terrorist attacks in November 2008, are likely to be handed over to Pakistan soon.Sources say DNA sample is admissible as evidence to determine identity in Pakistani anti-terrorism court. India is also likely to name Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Zarar Shah, leaders of the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Toiba, as conspirators of the terrorist attacks in the charge sheet.
India expects Interpol to issue red corner notice against the two Lashkar leaders.Pakistan, which has all but accepted that Kasab is a Pakistani, on Sunday said Indian investigators will “be more than welcome” to help in its probe into the terror strikes.Rehman Malik, chief of Pakistan’s Interior Ministry, said anyone found to be involved in the “heinous” attacks would be prosecuted under the country’s anti-terror laws. “All the culprits (involved in the Mumbai attacks) must be apprehended. Who will support such acts?” he said in Lahore.Earlier, during an interview with Geo News channel, Malik said Pakistan’s investigations into the Mumbai attacks are being conducted under the country’s laws and the government will not accept any foreign pressure in this regard.
Pakistan doesn’t need the assistance of foreign countries but investigators will “be more than welcome” to help in the probe. “Pakistan is very open and the inquiry officers have been bestowed with full powers to fulfill their task,” Malik said. If people were found of involvement in the “heinous” attacks, they would be prosecuted under Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Act. On January 5, India handed Pakistan a dossier of evidence that included information on interrogations, weapons and data gleaned from satellite phones used by the attackers who attacked iconic Mumbai targets such as hotels and a Jewish center.India said the material proved Pakistan-based militants plotted and executed the Mumbai attacks. Indian officials have repeatedly alleged that Pakistani intelligence agents were involved. Pakistan denies that, though it has accepted that Kasab is a Pakistani.

January 19, 2009 Posted by | news | , , , , | Leave a comment

Chennai may get 3G technology

CellOne subscribers in Chennai could be the first in south India to have a taste of 3G mobile telephony with BSNL Chennai Telephones preparing to roll out next generation communications in February.

A technical team of Chinese 3 G terminal vendor Huawei Technologies is currently engaged in installing the infrastructure to support the first tranche of 1.5 lakh 3G lines that would transform the way mobile users access the web.The projected speeds on the 3G platform are said to be at least 30 times faster than 2G technology.Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi is slated to soft launch 3G services possibly in February first week and the likely dates are being worked out.According to plan, 3G services would initially be available to CellOne subscribers in Chennai before the rollout is extended to other major cities and towns in the State.Meanwhile, reports from Delhi indicate that the auctioning of spectrum has been deferred a few weeks beyond the already revised date of January 30 to enable the Centre to fix a higher reserve price for spectrum bands.Private mobile operators have been demanding a level playing field for launching 3G to negate any early mover advantage that BSNL and MTNL might get.

It is unclear as of now as to how long the telecom department proposes to put the technology on trial before going commercial.The logistics for ringing in 3 G services featuring high-speed data, video and voice transmission involves setting up an additional 1,000 base transceiver station towers. This would go hand-in-hand with the ongoing drive to augment the 2G network through the commissioning of another 2 lakh lines.

January 16, 2009 Posted by | news | , , , , , | Leave a comment

All survive in Newyork river

US Airways jet with 155 people on board ditched in the frigid Hudson River off Manhattan after apparently hitting a flock of geese on Thursday and officials said everyone was rescued.We’ve had a miracle on the Hudson. David Paterson told a news conference, calling the pilot a hero for landing the Airbus A320 plane in the fast-moving river.”The pilot somehow, without any engines, was able to land this plane … without any serious injuries,” Paterson said.New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg lauded the pilot for ensuring all those on board, including a baby, were safe.”The pilot did a masterful job of landing the plane in the river and then making sure that everybody got out,” Bloomberg said, noting that the pilot was calm enough to walk through the plane twice after landing to ensure everyone was out.

The pilot of Flight 1549 was Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger of Danville, California. Sullenberger is a former Air Force fighter pilot with 40 years flying experience, according to the website of a safety company he founded.The Federal Aviation Administration said it was investigating reports the plane hit a flock of birds after taking off from New York’s LaGuardia airport.Witnesses saw the plane glide in low for an emergency landing, kicking up a cloud of spray in the river, which runs to the west of Manhattan island.US Airways said 150 passengers and five crew were aboard the Airbus A320, headed for Charlotte, North Carolina.

Shortly after takeoff, the pilot radioed flight controllers that he had hit birds, law enforcement sources said.Mark Wilkinson, a commercial pilot waiting for takeoff at LaGuardia shortly after the crash, said the ground controller told him the plane had sucked a bird into an engine after takeoff. He told Reuters in an e-mail that there were many geese near the runways.A passenger told Reuters that a few minutes after takeoff he heard what sounded like and explosion. “The engine blew. There was fire everywhere and it smelled like gas,” said Jeff Kolodjay, from Norwalk, Connecticut.He said the pilot told passengers to brace for impact. After the aircraft ditched, he said, “People were bleeding all over. We hit the water pretty hard. It was scary.

January 16, 2009 Posted by | news | , , , , | Leave a comment

UK PM says Pakki was unacceptable

Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Monday added his voice to those condemning Prince Harry for calling an Asian army colleague a “Paki” but said the royal’s apology was genuine and should be accepted.The 24-year-old prince issued an apology after his remarks, captured on a video made in 2006, were published on the News of the World website. He said the comments were made without any racist malice intended.”I think Prince Harry knows these comments were unacceptable,” Brown told GMTV, saying the sincerity of the apology could not be doubted.”I think the British people are good enough to give someone who has actually been a role model for young people and has done well fighting for our country, gone into very difficult situations with bravery, I think they will give him the benefit of the doubt.”Harry is set to face an Army inquiry and Brown said the prince would be meeting his commanding officer soon to discuss the comments.

January 14, 2009 Posted by | news | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Satyam waits for its new boss

The newly appointed board of Satyam Computer Services said on Monday finding a new CEO for the scam-hit company and restating its finances were its top priority. A possible merger with a rival company is also on the table.

On their first day at work, the three members of the board touched down in Hyderabad, held a quick review with company officials at Satyam’s headquarters and then addressed the media, in an attempt to talk up sentiments and restore confidence among employees and customers. They picked their words carefully.

They expressed optimism, but didn’t seek to undermine the challenges that lie ahead. They didn’t set a timeframe for putting Satyam back on track, but promised to give it their best shot.

All told, the best possible scenario for Satyam, experts said, would be one wherein the company eventually finds a buyer. Deepak Parekh, who anchors the new board for now, said the option of merging the company with a rival firm “is always open”, but gave no details.

To find a buyer, Satyam has to first come clean with its finances, which were rigged by its disgraced former chairman, B. Ramalinga Raju, allegedly to the tune of at least Rs 7,100 crore. Parekh said an independent auditor would be appointed within 48 hours to restate Satyam’s finances.

This is also crucial to raising money to pay salaries of its 53,000 employees and meeting running expenses. “There is a doubt (about financial numbers) in everyone’s mind, including ours,” he said.

“Unless we get some authenticated numbers, no bank will give money.” The board will also persuade Satyam’s clients to pay earlier for the services they have already received.

Former NASSCOM president Kiran Karnik, who is also on the new board, said the speed and decisiveness with which the government intervened had helped restore some confidence among Satyam’s stakeholders. “It’s not completely gone.

There is perception of some stability now,” Karnik said. On Monday, Satyam’s shares rose 44 per cent to Rs 34.40, on hopes of a revival.

But most analysts maintained that it would be difficult to entirely undo the company’s slide. As Parekh said himself, getting a good chief executive officer isn’t going to be easy, because “very few want to leave their job and come to a company with such uncertainty”.

Moreover, employees and customers need continuous assurance, and all of that has to be done in a transparent manner, in public glare. Already, clients are looking to switch and employees are passing on resumes to headhunters.

The board needs to be expanded, but few competent candidates are available in the market. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held a meeting of senior government officials in Delhi to review the Satyam issue.

“It’s a hell of a job,” said Omkar Goswami, economist and an independent director on the board of Infosys Technologies. “The best thing that can happen to the company is that it finds a buyer.

In the worst case, it faces liquidation, but I hope that doesn’t happen

January 13, 2009 Posted by | news | , , , , , | 2 Comments

World Bank names blacklisted Indian IT firms

The World Bank on Sunday said it plans to publish in the future the names of all companies it bans from doing work with the poverty-fighting institution, and immediately listed three Indian companies.

The Bank said the move aligns its disclosure practices for companies involved in wrongdoing that work on development projects financed by the World Bank and those that provide goods and services directly to the institution.

“This change was made in the interest of fairness and transparency,” the Washington-based lender said in a statement.

Until now, the World Bank has only published the names of debarred companies involved in Bank-financed projects, but has not listed blacklisted firms that receive direct contracts from the institution under its corporate procurement program.

“There are currently three companies that have been debarred along with their affiliates under the Bank Group’s corporate procurement program,” the Bank said.

It said it debarred Satyam Computer Services, India’s fourth-largest software company, for eight years in September 2008, and Wipro Technologies, India’s No. 3 software company, for four years in June 2007 both for “improper benefits to bank staff”.

In addition, it said it had also barred India’s Megasoft Consultants for four years in December 2007 for “participating in a joint venture with Bank staff while conducting business with the Bank”.

All three companies were involved in different contracts and their debarments are not related.

The World Bank has long been under pressure to step up its fight again fraud and corruption within the institution and in projects it finances in developing countries.

Satyam’s chairman and founder Ramalinga Raju resigned last week after revealing years of accounting fraud in India’s biggest corporate fraud. Raju admitted last week that about $1 billion, or 94 percent of the cash on the company’s books was fictitious.

The World Bank acknowledged only in December it had debarred Satyam following press reports that the company had been blacklisted three months earlier for “improper benefits” given to Bank officials.

In Mumbai, Wipro Ltd said in a statement its revenues from the World Bank were insignificant and the decision by the Bank to bar it would not affect business and earnings.

Shares in Wipro fell more than 12 percent after the World Bank said it had barred the company from its direct contracts.

January 12, 2009 Posted by | news | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Satyam head arrested

The chairman of Satyam Computer Services was arrested on Friday on charges of cheating and forgery, and the government dissolved the outsourcer’s board as authorities moved to limit fallout from India’s biggest corporate scandal.

Chairman Ramalinga Raju, who resigned on Wednesday after revealing years of accounting fraud, was expected to appear before India’s market regulator on Saturday.

In a late night development, Raju and his brother B. Rama Raju, Satyam co-founder and managing director, were arrested on charges of criminal breach of trust, criminal conspiracy, cheating, falsification of records and forgery, Reuters was told by S.S.P. Yadav, police chief of the southern Andhra Pradesh state, whose capital, Hyderabad, is home to Satyam.

Officials with India’s Registrar of Companies searched Satyam’s offices and seized papers and electronic documents, the company said late on Friday in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Earlier, Corporate Affairs Minister Prem Chand Gupta said the government would appoint 10 new members to the Satyam board, which would meet within seven days. There was no move at this time to take over Satyam’s management, he said.

“The government is considering appointment of suitable persons as directors of Satyam,” Gupta told a news conference in New Delhi. “We are determined to reach the truth but are equally concerned with the fate of employees and other stakeholders.”

A Satyam spokeswoman said the company welcomed the government’s decision, which would restore the confidence of all employees, customers and shareholders. However, she said Satyam had no comment on the arrests.

In a bid to ease investors’ concerns, the Securities and Exchange Board of India said auditors’ certification of corporate results from the December quarter would be peer reviewed.

The government barred Satyam’s board from holding its scheduled meeting on Saturday, called to consider options such as inviting a takeover or strategic investor and appointing an investment banker.

Analysts said Satyam’s very existence was threatened by the scandal, which stand-in Chief Executive Ram Mynampati said has pushed the company into a crisis of unimaginable proportions.

Satyam shares slumped to 11.50 rupees (24 U.S. cents), their lowest since March 1998 and a far cry from a 2008 high of 544 rupees, before ending down 40 percent at 23.85 rupees ahead of the board’s dissolution.

The company’s market value has shriveled to $330 million, from more than $7 billion six months ago.

January 10, 2009 Posted by | news | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Athesists strike hard at London

Ariane Sherine

Anyone who has spent a chilly half-hour waiting for a bus here may already have doubted the existence of a deity.
But for those who need further proof, a U.K.-wide advertising campaign aimed at persuading more people to “come out” as atheists was launched on Tuesday with the backing of some of Britain’s most famous non-believers.
The principal slogan — “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life” — can already be seen on four London bus routes. Now 200 bendy buses in London and 600 others across the country are to carry the advert after a fundraising drive that brought in more than £140,000, far exceeding the original target of £5,500.
The money will pay for 1,000 advertisements on the London Underground train network from next Monday and advertisements on a pair of giant LCD screens opposite Bond Street subway train station in Oxford Street.

Organisers unveiled quotes from public figures — including Albert Einstein, Douglas Adams and Katharine Hepburn — who have endorsed atheism, or at least expressed scepticism about any Creator. The words “That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet” are quoted from the poet Emily Dickinson. At the launch in a marquee next to the Albert Memorial in west London, the television comedy writer Ariane Sherine, creator of the campaign, said: “You wait ages for an atheist bus and then 800 come along at once. I hope they’ll brighten people’s days and make them smile on their way to work.”

She suggested the campaign in a Guardian Comment is Free blogpost last June, saying it would be a reassuring alternative to religious slogans threatening non-Christians with hell and damnation.

At yesterday’s launch she said the sheer number of donations, still being added to, demonstrated the strength of feeling. “This is a great day for freedom of speech in Britain. I am very glad that we live in a country where people have the freedom to believe in whatever they want.”

Joining Sherine were Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, Hanne Stinson, from the British Humanist Association (BHA), the philosopher A.C. Grayling, and Graham Linehan, who wrote the TV shows Father Ted, Black Books and The IT Crowd. There were messages of support from the actor Stephen Fry and the writer Charlie Brooker. According to the BHA, “huge numbers” of people in Britain have non-religious beliefs — between 30 and 40 per cent of the population. Among young people the figure is between 60 and 65 per cent.
Mr. Stinson said: “We all, whether we have religious or non-religious beliefs, have a right to be heard, and no one particular set of beliefs has any more right to influence the public debate than any other.

January 8, 2009 Posted by | news | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sathyam may be removed from Sensex,Nifty

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Satyam Computers may be removed from the Sensex and Nifty following the revelation of manipulation in the company’s accounts, analysts said.

Rajiv Mehta, senior analyst with India Infoline, a large brokerage house said his firm has immediately stopped covering Satyam and many other brokerage houses are also expected to do the same. There will not be any investor interest in the company anyway. The company may be removed from Sensex and Nifty, he said.

With the fall in its stock prices, Satyam has lost its weightage in the Sensex considerably over the recent past and currently has weightage of only 1.56 as of (Tuesday). While in Nifty, the weightage is only 0.63 per cent.

January 7, 2009 Posted by | news | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Apple says no jobs or big news at MacWorld

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Apple Inc said on Tuesday it was dropping copy protection from songs sold on the Internet and debuted its slimmest 17-inch laptop yet, but with no dramatic products or master pitchman Steve Jobs, the company’s final Macworld performance disappointed Wall Street.

Apple shares slid 0.7 percent, lagging by far the Nasdaq’s 1.7 percent gain, reflecting frustration over the lack of news from the trade conference that had previously introduced the iPhone to the world.

“There were some innovative products, but no true blockbusters,” said Robert Francello, head of equity trading for Apex Capital hedge fund in San Francisco. “People were bullish going into it, and now they’re kind of taking money off the table.”

Apple said its iTunes music store, which has sold 6 billion songs thus far, will offer its 10-million-song library free of digital rights management — or copy-protection — by the end of the quarter, for between 69 cents and $1.29 a song.

Songs will also be available straight to iPhones over the air, instead of through a computer.

The company decided not use Macworld to launch any major new product, as it had in past years, when it introduced such industry-changing devices as the iPhone.

In years past, the company’s Macworld product launches had produced so much buzz that they managed to overshadow events at the far larger Consumer Electronics Show. The 2009 CES show kicks off this week in Las Vegas.

Tuesday’s event produced few surprises. Apple announced a $2,799 17-inch laptop that is the company’s lightest and slimmest ever, as well as tweaks to software for home movies and photographs.

The event culminated with singer Tony Bennett crooning “The Best is Yet to Come” and “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” in a farewell of sorts to Apple, which will no longer attend the cultural event thronged annually by Mac-faithful.

Jobs, a fixture at past events, was nowhere in sight, despite some hopes for a cameo. Last month, the company said its chief executive and salesman extraordinaire would not deliver the Macworld address. That raised fresh concerns about the cancer survivor’s health and signaled to many Apple-watchers that the company had no plans to launch a major product at Macworld.

January 7, 2009 Posted by | news | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

Anil Ambani appears on Raju radar

Anil Ambani is emerging as the white knight who can spring to the rescue of B. Ramalinga Raju, promoter of the beleaguered Satyam Computer Services Ltd.

Raju clings to a small 5.13 per cent stake in the country’s fourth largest software exporter and a very shaky position as the chairman of Satyam heading into a crucial board meeting scheduled for January 10.

The Satyam promoters faced a shareholder revolt after an aborted plan to acquire two Raju-owned entities — Maytas Infra and Maytas Properties — for $1.6 billion. Angry shareholders have been clamouring for an overhaul of the board of directors and Raju’s exit from the post of chairman.

The call for change gained momentum after four of the nine Satyam directors resigned when they learnt that the Raju family had pledged their entire 55 million shares (equivalent to an 8.27 per cent stake) held by SRSR Holdings — an entity controlled by the Rajus — with lenders.

Enter Anil Ambani’s Reliance ADAG Group.

Sources say that under a quid pro quo deal that is now under negotiation, cash-rich ADAG Group can provide funds to help Maytas Infra achieve financial closure for the Rs 12,000-crore Hyderabad metro project before the March 31 deadline.
In return for the Maytas bailout, ADAG will be able to pick up a 13-14 per cent stake in Satyam, thereby emerging as the single largest shareholder of the software giant that counts 185 Fortune 500 companies among its clients.
Ambani won’t have to come out with an open offer if he doesn’t cross a 15 per cent threshold through this “friendly takeover”.

Sources say Reliance Mutual Fund and the insurance arms of the ADAG group have been scooping up Satyam shares over the past few weeks after the lenders started offloading the shares that the Rajus had pledged against loans.

Raju had failed to meet margin calls from the lenders after the Satyam stock tanked in the market meltdown since May. Lenders usually lend up to 75 per cent of the value of the shares pledged. The stock has plunged over 60 per cent since May and the lenders wanted the Rajus to compensate for the dimunition in the value of the stock.

Although the Raju family claims that it has a 5.13 per cent stake in Satyam after the sale of the pledged shares by lenders, the promoters’ position is a little more precarious.

On Friday, the promoters admitted in a filing that out of the 34.58 million shares (or 5.13 per cent) they nominally possessed, about 21.96 million shares were still pledged with the lenders. This means that the promoters actually have unfettered control over only 12.62 million shares (translating into a 1.26 per cent stake).

Sources in the Andhra government said ADAG Group had been showing keen interest in the Hyderabad metro project that had been bagged by Maytas Infra.

Maytas Infra ran into trouble of its own after its chief executive officer P.K. Madhav was arrested on criminal charges stemming from the Nagarjuna Finance payment scandal. Madhav was earlier with the Nagarjuna group.

Maytas has to pay Rs 11 crore to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation by March 31 in connection with the metro project but is unable to rustle up funds in a credit-scarce market.

Sources said both ADAG Group and L&T Infotech had been in separate talks with the Satyam promoters and the Andhra government to infuse funds into the special purpose vehicle floated by Maytas for the metro project.

Andhra chief minister Y. Rajashekhara Reddy has brushed aside suggestions that the turmoil at Satyam has jeopardised the Hyderabad metro and the Machilipatnam port projects that Maytas had bagged. “We have been informed by the promoters that there is no threat to these projects,” he told reporters on New Year’s day.

January 5, 2009 Posted by | news | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment