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Friday, 31 August 2007

Satyam Computers kickstarts digital car project

Satyam Computers kickstarts digital car project
31 Aug, 2007, 1440 hrs IST, PTI

CHENNAI: IT major Satyam Computers today kickstarted its ambitious "India's digital car" project, Hera FxV, a "technology demonstrator" aimed at attracting Research and Development in the automotive sector to the country.
B Ramalinga Raju, Chairman and Founder, Satyam Computer Services, launched the initiative at a Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) conference, titled "e-Automotive R&D 2007: The Opportunities Ahead".

The Digital car is the effort of a consortium of different players like educational institutions and auto component majors, with Satyam acting as the integrator, sources at Satyam computers told PTI on the sidelines of the conference.

"This car will be a virtual vehicle, which is a demonstration of India's technical capabilities. The project was inaugurated today and we hope to create the digital car in about two years," they said.

The model, termed a "Mathematical Model" by the sources, could be replicated into a physical product down the years, they added.
Raju, in his address, said that automotive industry was poised for "transformational changes".

"In fact, Satyam is now operating in sectors which were even unheard of in 19th century, an era of discovery, but are now some of the major revenue grossers for the company," he said while terming the subsequent centuries as those of inventions and innovations

GDP grows 9.3 pc in Q1

GDP grows 9.3 pc in Q1
31 Aug 2007, 1203 hrs IST,PTI

NEW DELHI: Continuing the upswing on the strength of the good showing by manufacturing sector, the economy grew by 9.3 per cent during the April-June quarter of the current financial year.

Even though the growth in the first quarter is marginally less than 9.6 per cent recorded during comparable period last year, the economy has done commendably well as it comes on top of high 9.4 per cent growth recorded during 2006-07.

As per the data released by the government on the performance of the economy, the manufacturing sector grew by 11.9 per cent which is lower than 12.3 per cent recorded during the first quarter of 2006-07.

Inflation at over 15 months low

Inflation declined to below four per cent for the first time in more than 15 months to touch 3.94 per cent for the week ended August 18, much less than the Reserve Bank's projection for this fiscal.

Before this week, inflation was below this level only during the week ended April 29, 2006.

Wholesale prices-based inflation is now way below RBI's projection of around 5 per cent this fiscal and even less than its target of 4-4.5 per cent in the 'medium term'.

The latest numbers also assumed importance as it was 5.12 per cent in the corresponding period of last year. Inflation was 4.10 per cent in the previous week.

Although prices of essential food items like vegetables, fruits, milks, eggs, meat and fish rose, those of most manufactured products and non-food primary articles declined.

Cartoon Corner - Week ending 31 August 2007

Cartoon is the best medium of expressing striking realities happening around. This is what cartoonist's around had to say during the week-ended 31st August 2007.








To us must you return

To us must you return
M Yusuf Khan/HINDUSTAN TIMES New Delhi, August 30, 2007

A friend called the other day, sounding pensive. He had lost a dear friend the previous day. His friend had sent a ‘friendship day' SMS to him and thirty others wishing them well and hoping to enjoy their friendship for many years.

He died that very afternoon of a massive heart attack. My friend's biggest regret was that he did not reply immediately but postponed messaging to the evening, an evening that never came.

The Quran says: Every soul shall have a taste of death … to us must you return (35:21). If there is any thing certain in this life it is death. Yet the very mention of it is considered inauspicious and unpleasant.

We are scared of so many things in life and we try to overcome the fear by rationalising. Somehow we do not apply the same approach to our fear of death.

Death, most believe, is transition from one life to another. But the next life is not the extension of the one we are living and that is the scary part.

We go to another world or life alone, not knowing what awaits us. But the Sufis look at the death differently. They long to be united with their beloved God and for them death provides the opportunity to fulfill their mission.

The uncertainty of life should never be a reason for gloom. On the contrary it should encourage us to treat every day as special, make us try and complete our unfinished tasks with a sense of urgency.

It should urge us to enjoy every moment and to be nice and kind to the people around us. When Alexander the Great, who ruled half the then known world, died, his hands were placed outside the coffin as willed by him.

This was to remind all that everyone, pauper or the king, would go from this world empty-handed. In most Sufi orders, death is remembered as a daily ritual in one form or the other. It brings humility, softens the heart and makes us humane.

India has much greater opportunity: Narayana Murthy

India has much greater opportunity: Narayana Murthy

N R Narayana Murthy, Chief Mentor, Infosys Technologies Limited said that the India growth story is a wonderful one and that it must be ensured that a majority of the poor people benefit from the 10% growth rate the country is seeing.

Commenting on the education system, he said that the needs of the poor people have to be addressed and at the same time, competition needs to be brought into the education system.

On the reverse brain drain scenario being seen today Narayana Murthy said there is much greater satisfaction in contributing to the country’s growth here today, there are newer areas where entrepreneurship is possible in India. “So yes, there are more and more people coming back and rightly so. This is the place where there is much greater opportunity,” he explained.

Talking about the strong appreciation of the rupee, Narayana Murthy said, “I feel happy that the rupee has become stronger. It shows that our currency is strong and that means India is growing faster, India is growing better and that there is greater demand for rupee than for dollars, that’s a good thing.”

Excerpts of CNBC-TV18’s exclusive interview with Narayana Murthy:

Q: The India growth story that is being written right now, everyone says that a lot of good things are happening and we are moving towards becoming a global power, and that it’s not very difficult to achieve it. In a situation like this, people like you might be seeing fault lines and challenges in a lot of areas. What kind of challenges do you see coming when we talk about achieving a 10% growth rate?

A: It’s wonderful, we have seen an 8-9% growth. But I think there are a few challenges that we have to address. First, we have to ensure that this 8-10% growth rate translates to betterment for a large majority of poor people. They have to see more money in their pockets and more and more people have to get employed.

Secondly, we have to create an infrastructure so that we can go even higher. We need to create airports, ports, roads, power plants etc. Third of course, is our education system; we need to create more and more engineering graduates, more doctors, more lawyers, scientists etc. Unless we do these things in the next few years, we may not be able to live up to the expectations of a vast majority of Indians.

Q: You talked about infrastructure and education, and education is one of your pet subjects. On one hand, we are talking about opening more IITs and IIMs, a lot of the focus goes into higher education, not on primary education. We cannot get quality education from public investment. When we talk about a lot of foreign universities coming to India and our education would improve and we would be more competitive in the world, people object to that as well. What would you recommend in education to happen at the earliest?

A: We liberalised our economy, removed licensing in the industry as early as 1991. Unfortunately, we have not de-licensed education. My suggestion is a completely de-licensed higher education and primary education.

In rural areas, where perhaps there may not be too many private sector people going into primary education, that’s where the government has to focus on primary education.

In urban areas and in higher education, in order to subsidise the poor people, they can use the voucher system that Milton Friedman espoused pretty early in the US. With that voucher system, there will be competition, good schools will progress and poor people will also not be inconvenienced.

We have to address the needs of the poor people and at the same time, we need to bring competition into the education system. Finally, there should be no licensing at all for the education system. I believe this to be the way forward.

Q: You are a global company; you have 11 offices in India, 33 outside, and you have a lot of manpower, both domestic as well as international. Are you seeing a trend where fewer Indians like going abroad and that they are getting more opportunities at home, because we keep hearing about a talent crunch in your sector?

A: That’s right. For the first time, we have seen a slowing down of people wanting to go abroad. In fact, there was an article in the newspaper that talked about a reverse brain drain, US having brain drain and countries like India and China seeing a lot of their people coming back to their country, because there are more opportunities here today. There is also much greater satisfaction in contributing to the country’s growth here today, there are newer and newer areas where entrepreneurship is possible in India.

So yes, there are more and more people coming back and rightly so. This is the place where there is much greater opportunity.

Q: I would like to talk about your business your sector. People say that because the slow down in America is eminent and there is credit crunch crisis, and on the other hand the rupee is getting appreciated, these three factors together are causing problems in the IT sector and these are now showing. Do you believe that?

A: Not really, on the issue of the market opportunity, the US economy is still growing. And even if the US economy doesn’t grow well, that is also the time when there will be even greater opportunity for companies in India because those corporations will have to become even more efficient, that’s one.

Secondly, we also have considerable business in Europe, Japan, Australia, South America and Africa. So because we have a wide portfolio in countries in our sales portfolio, I believe that the opportunity for Indian companies to grow will continue to be bright no matter whether the economy of one country is doing well or not.

On the issue of the rupee-dollar exchange rate, at one level I feel happy that the rupee has become stronger. It shows that our currency is strong and that means India is growing faster, India is growing better and that there is greater demand for rupee than for dollars, that’s a good thing.

Secondly, we must remember that we import much more than we export. So our imports will be cheaper if the rupee becomes stronger.

Third after all this is a macro economic issue. We cannot worry about macro economic issues because that’s something completely beyond our control so why worry about it.

Q: From a share holder’s perspective, the kind pressure there is on margins and manpower which was an advantage is no longer an advantage now, and other countries are also doing well in the IT sector. How do you see the IT sector going forward, because this sector was a big factor of our growth engine? What are the possibilities for a scale up form here on?

A: I look up at the issue of the rupee becoming stronger as an important opportunity for Indian companies to become even more efficient. This is time when we have to enhance our work productivity, use even greater re-usability, improve our quality, control our cost and this is the time when we have to deliver better value to our customers. In this case we will actually be able to covert what is seen as a problem into a bigger opportunity.

Q: You just talked about productivity and re-usability and you have always stressed upon innovation. Can you give us examples for entrepreneurs so that they know how to survive in this kind of environment?

A: Let’s say today that we take seven days to write a program. If we use tools, use re-useable components in our business, we can produce those programs in six days. In other words, we have saved 16% of the effort and we have done 100% of the work in something like 84% of the time. This means we can produce much more in a month, in a year, and thereby, we can earn more money per person than we were able to earlier. This how we become more profitable.

Productivity is extremely important. In fact, the difference between a poor country and a rich country is that in a rich country people are more productive than in a poor country so we have to focus on that productivity.

Q: Your business has not been much on the graph in the domestic sector. Now there are reports that USD 5 billion dollars worth of work is being done by government agencies in the IT sector and a lot of work still has to be done. What do you think, in future will Infosys work in domestic sectors?

A: We have been in the area of banking in the domestic sector, since 1986 or so. In fact, by all accounts we are the leading players in the banking sector in the domestic market. Certainly, we are looking at various other fields to add value to the domestic sector, it’s a very important thing after all, it’s a great privilege to add value to this country, it’s our country so why not.

Q: So if you have 60% plus business in America, will it change to some other file where a country like India will bring a major chunk?

A: Yes, it will happen, but it will take some time. At this point of time India contributes about 3%to the total revenue, US contributes 62% or so. So, to reverse that trend will take some time

Q: Whatever you have done is like a miracle. I had read that it is easy to convert USD 50 million to USD 100 million, but from USD 500 million to USD 1000 million, to erect a business like this takes time. In this value chain, where do you see the scalability for yourself. When I talk about Infosys, it is a trend-setter and it has also taken other industries along with itself. You have always been a conservative about acquisitions, people speculate that you will look towards business consulting, so what is the next big thing with you?

A: We have founded Infosys consulting, we have the Infosys BPO and in that sense, we have formed a full life cycle opportunity for us to serve our costumers. In addition, we are leveraging the power of the global delivery model in activities like consulting which people either too thought was not possible, in other words people sitting in India do part of the work that consultant in US were doing which means customers get better value for money, we can reduce the cycle time etc.

Similarly we are looking at new markets. We are today here growing up much faster than all other markets. We have recently acquired some businesses in Europe, we have started operations in Poland, we have just started operations in Mexico, we have our development centers in China both in Shanghai and Hangzhou, our Australian subsidy is doing well .

So in this various areas we have been focusing. I agree with you I think in terms of acquisition we are somewhat choosy. Certainly when we get a good candidate we will take aggressive actions.

Q: What kinds of companies are you are looking at, what type of businesses are you looking for?

A: Wherever there are complementary values, where ever there is an IP which will add tremendous business value to Infosys, wherever it gives us an opportunity to enter new markets, new application areas, new geographies etc we are certainly looking at it.

Q: Which other sectors like IT can grow big in India and can be a global presence, where a big story can be played out?

A: I do think that biotechnology is a very very important sector, particularly because it plays a big role in enhancing agricultural productivity. In India we need to enhance the revenue productivity in the agricultural sector so that our farmers can have better disposable income, they can send their children to better quality of schools and they can take care of the health of their children and all of that. To do that, I think biotechnology is a wonderful new area and I believe that it will be another IT sector kind of success.

Q: Are you satisfied with the way government is addressing the issues of agricultural establishment? Are you concerned or do you think something that can bring the growth projection is down is the agricultural sector?

A: I wrote an article for the India’s 60th year independence celebration. There I talked about the eight important initiatives that government took. One of them is the Green Revolution which was started by Dr M.S. Swaminathan. If we have more and more people like Dr. M. S. Swaminathan visionaries, if the can government becomes a catalyst, if the government can give them full support in the area of agriculture, in the area of biotechnology, I have no doubt at all that we will make tremendous strides. But that’s a big ‘if’. If we don’t do that, yes I would say that the efficacy and efficiency of the various initiative started by the government will be low.

Q: There has been a continuous controversy over the planned acquisition of the SEZ zone, which is not yet resolved, but then too, they have business plans over it?

A: This is the problem is we have created ourselves, first of all there is no need to provide tax exemption to exports .I have arguing this with successive finance ministers, I have talked about it with Mr Jaswant Singh, Mr Yashwant Sinha and with Mr P Chidambram too. Once you remove this tax exemption this whole big attraction for SEZ will go.

Second, we have to change our FSI rules for company’s to operate. For example, if we want to recruit 30,000 new engineers, which will be doing this year, at 200 square feet per person we need to build 6 million square feet. If the FSI is one is to one, which means we need something like 150 acres. There’s nothing I can do, if I want to recruit these 30,000 engineers and want them to use for exports and if I want to create those jobs I need 150 acres.

On the other hand, if the government were to come and say look you can have 1: 10 FSI I would need only 15 acres. Who is creating the problem here? It is not the companies, it’s the government. So the government has to take a reasonable policy decision to save these company’s can operate in high-rise buildings there can be FSI of 1:10, 1:15, then who needs large amount of lands.

Q: You have spoken about the government’s decision regarding agriculture land and FSI. I would also like to know your opinion over the current political scenario. For instance the left opposition over the Indo-US nuclear deal, how you are assisting the apprehensions of the political uncertainties?

A: First of all, I’m not an expert in this nuclear argumentation, so I shouldn’t be commenting on that. However, I would say given that we have nuclear experts in the government, given that the Prime Minister have lot of advisors, given that he is as patriotic as anybody else, given that he has consulted all the relevant experts, I as a citizen, I’m saying this only in my personal capacity, I have full confidence in our Prime Minister’s judgment. I will go with that judgment.

Having said that, after all this is a democracy, this is a system where pluralism prevails, different voices, different ideas, different opinions will have to come, they have to be discussed debate. But we have to do al of this quickly, in a manner that India is a winner. As long as all of us put India’s interest first and then say how do we say that India wins in the end very quickly, then I think this is alright. We have to have discussion debate why not.

Q: Discussions and debate are okay, but here is the question of leave it or take it, if you are going to personalize the nuclear deal then the government has to face serious consequences, this is what Left has said. Do you think the way left has handled the situation is reasonable?

A: Again, as an outsider, I’m not the right person to comment because I’m not in politics. I think you have to ask this question to the politicians, you have ask this to the left. Who I’m I to comment?

Q: Some time back, you were to become a member of the CPI, a person with a socialist view, a wealth creator a capitalist so sometimes you feel of mixing both socialism and capitalism and play a role in the politics?

A: I have never thought of entering politics, but I’m convinced about one thing, that if we want to solve the problems of poverty in the country, it cannot be done by any means other then by entrepreneurship.

Only by creating a large number jobs with high disposable income, we can solve the problem of poverty. Only by enhancing our tax payers we can ensure that the government can spend money on primary education, primary health care and nutrition for the poor children.

So I would say that left, right, center all these things are irrelevant, what is relevant is are we able to create entrepreneurship and a large number of jobs.

Q: In the field of corporate social responsibility, how much are Indian corporate doing versus the kind of examples that we see outside like Bill Gates, Warren Buffets, Is that kind of generosity being seen here?

A: It is improving. More and more corporations have followed the examples of Tata’s and Birla’s, after all they did the corporate social responsibilyt act 50 years ago 100 years ago. Tata’s have done it, clearly they are number one in this area.

But even at Infosys for example we have build hospitals in rural areas, we have build destitute homes, we have rehabilitated prostitutes, we have build libraries in 10,000 villages in Karnataka. We feed about, together with others, about 200,000 children everyday. So in our own small way we have done that. But definitely I think the awareness that the corporate have to participate is increasing, which is good.

Q: There’s a new mood in India where people say why should they think of jobs, they should become entrepreneur. For today’s entrepreneur there is lot of problems that country functions in this manner. What message you would give for this and where should we focus go from here?

A: I would say that we are at a historic time in this country when the confidence is high, when opportunities are a lot. At the same time the challenges are daunting. The external world has for the first time in the last 300 years paid attention to India and has respected India. So this is the time for our youngsters to come out with bright ideas, make sure they are market worthy, work hard, create good teams, have a good value systems and create millions of jobs so that we can remove poverty.

Source: moneycontrol

ICSI is all set to go mobile

ICSI is all set to go mobile
29 Aug, 2007, 0326 hrs IST,Gireesh Chandra Prasad, TNN

NEW DELHI: Students can now pursue the fast-growing secretarial profession even on their mobile phones. The profession’s regulator, the Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI), will soon introduce virtual classrooms, which could be accessed through internet-enabled phones.

“With this facility, one could access the virtual classroom and interact with the faculty from anywhere using a mobile phone and a headset”, ICSI president Priti Malhotra told ET. Students can enrol for the programme online.

However, one has to go to any of the 70 examination centres in the country for attending final test. Eventually, when online security systems become fool-proof, the institute will provide for attending the final exams too online. ICSI wants to reach out to potential students in far-flung areas using technology as the demand for professionals grow in a booming economy, she said. ICSI has tied up with ‘gurukulonline’, a firm specialising in e-learning, for software support.

The institute has also revamped the curriculum so that students who pass the intermediate level test are qualified for the large number of emerging job opportunities in secretarial offices of companies. “

With the compliance requirements of stock exchanges (clause 49), registrars of companies (mandatory electronic filing of documents) and competition law going up, the demand for semi-qualified secretarial professionals is set to increase significantly. Those who have passed the executive programme, but could not appear for the final (professional) programme, can look forward to these opportunities”, she said.

For becoming a company secretary, one has to pass the final test, now renamed as the professional programme. A 12th passed candidate need to appear for a foundation course first while a graduate can directly enrol for intermediate, now called the executive programme.

Now about 20,000 company secretaries are employed in various companies, while about 4,000 are in individual practice. The Institute expects the number to double in two years due to the on-line training programme. Advisory services by individual professionals is also expected to see a major boost with the emergence of a bullish small and medium enterprises (SME) segment.

Abu Dhabi Awards winners to get honours


Abu Dhabi Awards winners to get honours
By Dina El Shammaa, Staff Reporter/GULF NEWS Published: August 28, 2007, 18:43


Abu Dhabi: The winners of the Abu Dhabi Awards 2007 will be honoured in mid-December.

The nominations for '2007 awards' will be held between September 9 to October 7. The judging period will be held in October and November, which will be followed by an awards ceremony.

General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, will present an award to the ten winners at the Emirates Palace by mid-December.

The awards will mainly go to the top ten nominees recognized by residents and citizens for their humanitarian acts and contributions to the society.

"The award honors citizens and residents who have contributed to building a greater sense of community and social welfare within Abu Dhabi. Everyone is given the chance to nominate those whose goodness knows no limits and in doing so share in their goodwill," said Mariam Ameri from the Organizing Committee in Abu Dhabi.

All nominations are reviewed individually and reported by a nomination panel. This is then reviewed by a judging committee comprising senior government officials. The merit of those people nominated will determine the final number of awards given.

The nomination process requires completing a "nomination form" available at stands in 26 key locations, including malls in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. The form can either be faxed or posted back and there are no limits to the number of people one person can nominate.

"Let your voice speak of their actions, in honouring people in this way. The awards raise awareness of the value of such contributions and in turn encourage others to make similar contributions," stressed Amiri.

The 2006 awards received over 50,000 nominations, up from 42,000 in 2005. Three winners of the 2005 awards were present at the conference and spoke to the media.

"I never thought or expected to win this award. I received a call to bring along my husband and children to attend the event. They never gave me details. I only knew I was one of the winners when they announced my name that same day," said Amira Al Shaibani.

Al Shaibani received nominations for her efforts in 1982 in a project to build a sports centre for children with special needs in the UAE.

Huda Kanoo, was nominated for her efforts in establishing the Abu Dhabi Classical Music and Arts Foundation in 1996 and a music library at the National Library in Abu Dhabi.

In addition, she launched an award carrying her name as a contribution to urge students to participate and compete at the Abu Dhabi Festival for Classical Music.

Dr. B.R. Shetty known for his medical achievements established the New Medical Center (NMC) Hospital with branches in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.

He also opened the National Hospital, New National Medical Centre, NMC Specialty Hospitals and NMC Family Clinic that treats over one million patients a year.

"My father came to this country in 1973 with only 8 Dollars in his pocket. If it weren't for this country offering opportunities and opening their arms to him he wouldn't have succeeded in helping others and we wouldn't have received this award today," said one of Shetty's daughters who represented him in his absence.

About the ADA 2007 Awards

-Through the commitment of the President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi has chosen to celebrate compassionate individuals who have silently volunteered their time to build and support the community of Abu Dhabi.

-The Emirate of Abu Dhabi recognizes the accomplishments of individuals through the Abu Dhabi Awards 2007, which marks the third year of awards.

-2005 was the inaugural year of the event

Vision

To make the Emirate of Abu Dhabi a better place, where humanity and goodness are cherished and celebrated.

Mission

To encourage and motivate citizens and residents of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi to reach out and help each other live more fulfilling and rewarding lives.

Who can nominate

-Residents and citizens of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, including Al Ain and the Western Region.

-Those who know someone whose goodness has contributed to the community and spirit of Abu Dhabi.

Why Participate?

-Recognize and celebrate citizens and residents of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi who have contributed to building a greater sense of community and social welfare within Abu Dhabi.

-The awards raise awareness of the value of such contributions and in turn encourage others to make similar contributions.

The Nomination Process

-Going to any of the many nomination stations across the Emirate of Abu Dhabi including roving nomination stations

-Filling out a nomination form, these are currently being delivered to homes across the UAE and can be returned by post, fax or by placing them in collection boxes placed at the nomination stations.

-Visiting www.abudhabiawards.ae

-Filling out your nomination form and faxing it 800-333-00

Previous winner summaries

Winners 2006

Ahmad Khalifa Al Suwaidi
Dedicated his life and money to the welfare of the local community. He played an important role in the union of the UAE and was personal advisor to the Nation's late father

Shaikh Salem bin Ham Al Amri
Strong supporter of the protection and welfare of the UAE
Contributed immensely to the protection and welfare of the nation both before and after the union and contributed to the social development in Abu Dhabi through the National Consultative Council

Shamsa Hazim Al Muhairi
Active member of the Abu Dhabi Women Development Association. Al Muhairi created awareness on the importance of women's education and other social problems facing today's community. Al Muhairi also launched a health program in the Emirate in cooperation with UNICEF and was pivotal in the establishment of the UAE Women Affairs bureau in 1991

Ahmed Awad Kareem
In collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Municipality, contributed to developing several important infrastructure projects in the Emirate including the establishment of the current industrial area

Sana'a Darwish Al Kitby
Dedicated her efforts to supporting people with special needs, women in the Emirate and autistic children. She contributed to the establishment of the General Women's Union and the Abu Dhabi Women's Development Association

Dr. Izzeidein Ibrahim Mustafa
Established several cultural and social associations, including the Women's Union in the UAE

Wahida Ibrahim
Contributed to the education sector by providing free classes to special students and organized fund raising activities to support her school

Ahlam Yahya Al Shateri
Created a platform for parents, teachers and children to better use their time and better understand each others needs. Al Shateri delivers seminars to promote loyalty to the country and charitable causes

Shaikha Siddeeqa Al Qasimi
One of the first UAE women graduates and a leader in supporting education and her school is now known as being one of the best governmental schools in the country. Al Qasimi focused on educating women and helping them excel in their communities and businesses and promoted principles of equality and ethics among her students

Winners in 2005

Dr Rawdha Al Mutawa
Established the Abu Dhabi Business Women Council, Chairwoman of the Gulf Business Committee and a member of the board of directors of the UAE Red Crescent
Strong supporter of National business women

The Late Abdul Jaleel Mohammad Al Fahim
His desire to help others led him into the trading business to allow him the means and resources to fulfill his selfless goals. His activities and generosity contributed to the economic backbone of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi

Amira Al Shaibani
In 1982 Amira Al Shaibani spearheaded a project to build a sports centre for children with special needs in the Emirate.
She also launched the Olympics for children with special needs.

Colonel Edward Wilson
Supervised and trained the first defense battalions between 1964 and 1968, which evolved into the UAE Armed Forces
Established the Royal Stables, whose first cornerstones were laid by the late Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan

Major General Hamad Al Khaili
The late Shaikh Zayed civil escort until the establishment of the Special Guards in 1971. He joined many training courses and was promoted up the military ranks till he received the rank of Major General. A sleepless soldier, man of strength and careful protector of the safety of the leader

Huda Kanoo
Established the Abu Dhabi Classical Music and Arts Foundation in 1996 and a music library at the National Library in Abu Dhabi. Kanoo launched an award carrying her name as a contribution to urge students to participate and compete at the Abu Dhabi Festival for Classical Music

Pat & Marian Kennedy
Established the first hospital in Al Ain. Their efforts significantly contributed to the reduction of mortality rates, particularly among infants, and raised the birth rates during the many years they spent in Abu Dhabi. At least 4,000 babies came to life by virtue of their efforts.

Major General Khalfan Al Rumaithi
Served Abu Dhabi for 45 years and occupied many military posts from the day he joined the Trucial Oman Scouts.
Founded the Emiri Guards. This service earned him the UAE first-class medal

Sally Benge
Sally approached the Future Centre to provide help for a group of children from Central Hospital. Sally looks after them all day, every day in return for the Future Centre taking them in and giving them homes. She has since adopted and sponsored other children

B R Shetty
His sense of purpose and determination culminated in the establishment of the NMC Hospital in Abu Dhabi, the first of its kind in the country, with branches in Dubai and Sharjah following that. These hospitals along with National Hospital, New National Medical Centre, Abu Dhabi, the state of the art NMC Specialty Hospitals in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Al Ain and NMC Family Clinic, Dubai treat over one million patients a year



Thursday, 30 August 2007

Places to visit in UAE - Jebel Hafeet Mountain, Al Ain








Just have a look what they have created in a desert...

The Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the greatest driving road in the world. Stretching for 7.3 miles and climbing nearly 4,000 feet, it boasts 60 corners and a surface so smooth that it would flatter a racetrack. It could easily be described as the eighth wonder of the world, but almost nothing is known about its creation.

The road is cut into the Jebel Hafeet Mountain , the highest peak in the United Arab Emirates , the oil-rich Persian Gulf state. The mountain spans the border with Oman and lies about 90 minutes' drive southeast of the thriving city of Dubai . It looks down upon a dusty, desert landscape that belies a nation of astonishing wealth.

Jebel Hafeet (Arabic: جبل حفيت) (variously translated Jabal, Jabel and Jebal) is a mountain primarily in the United Arab Emirates on the outskirts of Al Ain. The mountain actually straddles part of the border with Oman. The mountain rises 1240 meters and offers an impressive view over the city, with what has been described as "the greatest driving road in the world" extending to the summit. Jebel Hafeet was a well-known landmark through out the area's history and is a contemporary tourist attraction. An extensive natural cave system winds through Jebel Hafeet.

At the foothills of Jabal Hafeet lies the Green Mubazarrah, a well developed tourist attraction. At the Green Mubazarrah, hot-water springs gush forth in little streams and form a lake. Swimming pools and jacuzzis are scattered all over the Green Mubazarrah. Jebel Hafeet is also home to a wide range of animals including bats, foxes, snakes, etc.

It is often incorrectly labelled U.A.E's highest mountain (as it is certainly the most well-known); this honor actually belongs to Jabal Yibir.

The Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road extends for 7.3 mi (11.7 km) up the mountain, rising 4000 ft (1219 m). With 21 corners and three lanes (two climbing and one descending), the immaculate road was called the greatest driving road in the world by Edmunds.com. The road scales the mountain and ends at a parking lot with only a hotel and a palace belonging to the country's rulers.

Jebel Hafeet Road is the challenge for cyclists who frequently come over to train. The Jebel Hafeet Mercure Challenge is a yearly road cycling competition taking place somewhere in January. National & international riders take part in climbing the 8% average ascent of the mighty mountain.


Hotels: Hotel Mercure Grand Jebel HafeetJebel Hafeet P O BOX 24476 0 AL AIN - UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Tel : (+971)3/7838888 - Fax : (+971)3/7839000 - @ : resa@mercure-alain.ae

Nearby Tourist spots:

HILI FUN CITY PARK (25.00km)
CAMEL RACE TRACK (10.00km)
Lake HOT SPRINGS LAKE (10.00km)
OLYMPIC SPORTS Centre (15.00km)


India to award world's biggest warplane deal on merit

India to award world's biggest warplane deal on merit
29 Aug, 2007, 2020 hrs IST, AGENCIES

NEW DELHI: India will award the world's biggest warplane contract on merit rather than political considerations following a landmark nuclear deal with the United States, the defence ministry said.

India on Tuesday invited bids from global defence contractors for 126 planes worth more than $10 billion, the world's largest military aircraft deal in 15 years.

"We want the best equipment and this tender is open to all and the nuclear deal has nothing to do with the defence procurement," Defence Minister A K Antony said.

"We are not influenced by anybody and it (the contract) will be based on merit only," he said late Tuesday after tender documents were snapped up by six armament firms from Europe and the United States.

The Congress party-led government is pressing ahead with the nuclear deal with the United States, which offers long-denied Western civilian technology to energy-hungry India, despite fierce opposition from its communist allies.

The agreement is seen as the centrepiece of new, warmer Indo-US ties. Russia's latest MiG-35 and MiG-29-OVT aircraft are locked in a fierce dogfight with US-based Lockheed's Martin F-16 and Boeing's F-18 for the contract.

French Dassault initially showcased its Mirage 2000-5/Mk2 in 2004 but has switched its offer with its more lethal Rafale to replenish India's depleted airforce.

Also in the race are the Gripen-JAS-39 of Saab and Eurofighter's Typhoon. Military experts say none of the aircraft in the race are in the inventory of the technology-starved Indian airforce, which flies an earlier version of the MiG-29 and some Mirage-2000s.

"The scales are very even and only exhaustive field-trials under Indian conditions will see the best aircraft win," an official from the policy-making Defence Acquisition Committee told media. A defence ministry spokesman said there would be little room for political manoeuvring in the deal.

"The exhaustive evaluation process deals with initial purchase, transfer of technology, licensed production and life-time maintenance support for the aircraft," spokesman Sitashu Kar said.

Eighteen of the fighters would be bought off the shelf while the remaining 108 planes would be manufactured under licence locally, with India holding the option of purchasing 65 more jets from the same company.

Despite the promised level playing field, industry sources say the MiG-35 and MiG-29 aircraft and the F-16 and Boeing F-18 are the front-runners.

Now, a policy that covers all medical bills

Now, a policy that covers all medical bills
30 Aug, 2007, 0925 hrs IST, TNN

MUMBAI: For the first time, a general insurer has introduced a health insurance policy that covers all medical costs. These include visits to family physician, pharmacy bills, and even dental treatment.

ICICI Lombard has introduced this new health insurance scheme, which takes advantage of tax breaks on health insurance provided in the Union Budget. In February 2007, finance minister P Chidambaram announced a hike in the exemption limit on medical insurance premium to Rs 15,000 and Rs 20,000 for senior citizens.

ICICI Lombard has worked backward from the exemption limit to design a policy with a flat pricing structure of Rs 15,000 for non-senior citizens and Rs 20,000 for senior citizens. This is much higher than what an average policyholder pays for health insurance.

To make this cover worthwhile for policyholders, the company has decided to reimburse all kinds of medical costs, including pharmacy bills and physicians and dental treatment bills, up to an annual limit ranging between Rs 5,500 and Rs 10,000 depending on the age of the insured and the sum insured and number of individuals covered.

The result of this innovative structuring is that the policyholders would inevitably be reimbursed a significant portion of their premium every year. The sum insured under the policy, which becomes relevant when the insured has to undergo hospitalisation, can be either Rs 2 lakh or Rs 3 lakh. While the premium is same for both the sum insured, the benefits for reimbursement of regular medical expense varies.

At present most insurance companies restrict the sum insured to Rs 5 lakh and the cover is restricted to hospitalisation-related expenses. As a result very few individuals are in a position to avail the available tax breaks to the full extent.

“Our research indicates that customers want to cover other medical expenses such as OPD and dental and are also looking at taking full advantage of the increased tax limits under Section 80D.

Health Advantage Plus is an innovative product that addresses these requirements along with the basic hospitalisation cover. In addition, by covering pre-existing diseases after two years and increasing the age limit for health check-up to 56 years, we have made the product even more attractive,” said ICICI Lombard General Insurance head-marketing Kartik Jain.

ICICI Lombard, currently the second-largest health insurer in the country, has provided cover to over six million individuals. The other benefits are that pre-existing diseases are covered from the third year onwards after two consecutive renewals. Also no medical check-up is required up to the age of 55 years.

The company has tied up with third-party administrators to service claims and provide cashless hospitalisation facility at over 4,000 hospitals across the country.

Venezuela wants two US oil firms to leave

Venezuela wants two US oil firms to leave
30 Aug, 2007, 1410 hrs IST, AGENCIES

CARACAS: The Venezuelan government wants two US oil giants that refuse to come under state control to leave and is not offering compensation, Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez said.

Exxon Mobil and Conoco Phillips have refused to fall in line with a law passed by President Hugo Chavez's leftist government forcing multinationals to give at least 60 percent of the capital in their Venezuelan operations to the state-controlled Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA).

Venezuela is one of the world's top 10 oil producers and a major supplier to the US, its biggest customer.

But Ramirez said late Wednesday, "We are negotiating with the companies that have not accepted our laws in order to finalize their departure from the country."

The minister said that the era of "oil openness is over" and highlighted that no compensation would be given to the US companies.

"We have been very clear since last year: quite simply, it does not interest us to work with companies that do not accept our laws," Ramirez said as he left a Venezuelan parliament debate on energy.

He added that those companies which do work with PDVSA would be allowed to stay in "the biggest oil reserve on the planet" for at least 25 years.

Venezuela is the only Latin-American member of OPEC, the main oil producers' cartel. Officially it produces about three million barrels of oil per day but the International Energy Agency has given a figure of 2.6 million.

About half of the production goes to the US. There is an estimated 230 billion barrels of oil in Venezuela's Orinoco field but 78 billion are proved.

India warns air passengers not to carry mangoes

India warns air passengers not to carry mangoes
30 Aug, 2007, 1529 hrs IST, AGENCIES

NEW DELHI: India on Thursday warned nationals flying to Japan and the US not to carry mangoes in their baggage because of newly-approved export rules for the golden fruit.

India's food export authority said the US Food and Drug Administration had reported instances of Indians carrying "mangoes as personal baggage."

The practice violates an agreement between New Delhi and Washington that "only pre-cleared and certified commercial consignments of irradiated mangoes are allowed to enter the United States," a statement said.

"Similarly, as per the agreement between India and Japan, only pre-cleared and certified mangoes are allowed," it said.

India, the world's largest producer of mangoes, began exporting the fruit to the United States in April this year following years of lobbying to overturn a 1989 ban linked to fears of pests because the fruit was not irradiated.

A similar Japanese ban on Indian mangoes, imposed in 1986, was lifted last year during a visit to Tokyo by Indian Trade Minister Kamal Nath.

The authority also noted that mango retailers had set up stalls at or near Indian airports to allow passengers to buy fruit ahead of departure.

"(The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority) would like to make it clear that passengers should refrain from purchasing mangoes even from such retail points for the purposes of carrying them to the United States and Japan," it said.

Military precision


Military precision
Kelly Crane, Staff Reporter/GULF NEWS Published: August 29, 2007, 23:46

The term "bootcamp" generally conjures up images of outdoor, military-style fitness training, with sergeants barking orders at, more often than not, unfit new recruits who, by the looks on their faces, are already totally regretting what they signed up for.

Well, you wouldn't be far wrong.

So remind me, why do people enrol to be a part of this madness? The answer is simple - it's torture, but it works.
Bootcamp training is certainly not for the faint-hearted, but advocates are effusive about the fitness benefits and the entire experience, and this style of training is growing in popularity.

But being Dubai we have to go that one step further. Instead of just a decision as to whether you'd like someone to yell at you and make you do sit-ups at a time even before you normally wake up, Dubai gives you the opportunity to pick whether you'd like to partake in this madness in either the hot or the cold. Well, sit tight for just a minute while tabloid! does the research for you by checking out boot camp in the snow and sand right here in the city.

The verdict


Admittedly, I didn't do somersaults when my alarm went off at 5.20am on a Sunday morning and I knew what lay ahead. But at 7am, when it was all over, it was worth the pain (or at least I think it was - I may have been so exhausted, I was delirious).

I reluctantly signed up for the Military Bootcamp and met Corey Oliver (who is too fit for words) at the Open Beach, behind the Village shopping mall on Beach Road in Jumeirah.

That's when it really hit me: there wasn't just one stupidly-energetic and overly-fit person to bark at me - there were four. I nearly died on the spot.




So, is it hard?


Yes, but not impossible. The thing which first struck me about bootcamp was the fact there were people of all levels of fitness involved.

From super-fit rugby players getting super, super fit in the run-up to the start of the new season, to guys and girls who have not lifted a finger nor got out of breath for years.

It was wake-up time and it happened in a flash. Somehow, these guys seem to whip you into a state of utter denial, where you really do believe in yourself and what your body is capable of.

Even the guys who said they would normally cook up a million excuses as to why they can't work out - "my back is stiff", "I'm too busy" or "too old" - found themselves immersed in the passion for the team-building exercise that bootcamps promote.

Don't be afraid

Although the team pulls together as one, bootcamp works for each individual because you all push yourself to your own personal breaking point, whether that is 10 sit-ups or 100.

Everyone encourages each other and the sessions are broken down to work on different aspects of fitness across the week, so you are never working the same muscles too much.

T-shirts are issued according to rank - solider, commando or elite - and the guys are always on hand to offer advice.
Sessions involve a warm-up and cool-down, bodyweight exercises, running, stretching, relays and exercises with a partner.

Boxing and all the old basics, like sit-ups and push-ups, lunges, along with rope running, rifle carrying and a good old run, certainly keep your heart racing throughout.

Training "al fresco" is also invigorating, especially when your team pick up penalties along the way which result in you having to do the usual routine in the puddles at the beach. Yes, be warned - Corey and the boys will ensure results but they won't let you get away with much.

Military Bootcamp


Who: Physical Advantage (fitness solutions).
Where: Open beach (behind the Village), sunset beach (next to the Burj Al Arab) and Safa Park.
When: Starting from September 2: Course One: Sunday 6am, Tuesday 6am, Thursday 6am.

Course Two: Sunday 8pm, Tuesday 8pm, Thursday 8pm.
Course Three: Monday 6am, Wednesday 6am, Friday 6am.
Course Four: Monday 8pm, Wednesday 8pm, Friday 6pm.

What: Physical Advantage, based at The Fairmont Dubai, began bootcamps in Dubai on January 29, 2007.
Military Bootcamp has been scientifically designed to achieve optimum results in the minimum time, no matter what your current fitness level is. The basic programme consists of three 60-minute sessions a week over four weeks.
Why: To lose weight, get fit and tone every muscle in your body.
Contact: Corey on 050-8487940, email corey@physicaladvantage.ae or visit www.physicaladvantage.ae
Cost: Dh950 for 12 sessions.


There's snow way

The Renegade Bootcamp team has just introduced sessions which take place in the snow at Ski Dubai. Personal trainer Ziggy Darwish said the sessions have been well received and can offer some clients welcome relief from the summer heat.

He said: "The sessions can only be described as refreshing even though they are still hard work because it is a great deal of uphill work.

"It is cold at first but the body works harder in the cold so you soon warm up."

Ski Dubai courses are priced at Dh650 for six sessions or Dh120 for one.

Nutrition

Athletes who want a winning edge should take in the right nutrition. When you drink enough water and eat a balanced diet, your body can make energy efficiently and fuel top performance. It also enables you to make the most of your athletic talents and gain more strength, power and endurance when you train. Base your diet on a variety of factors including your age, size and physical condition, and the type of exercise you are doing.

Hydration


Water is the most important factor in sport nutrition. It makes up about 60 per cent of body weight and is involved in almost every bodily process.

Your body cannot make or store water, so you must replace what you eliminate (through urine and sweat).

Everyone should drink at least two quarts (eight cups) of water each day and athletes need more. Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after sport to stay hydrated and avoid overheating. When you work out or compete, especially in hot weather, try to closely match the amount of fluid you drink with the amount you lose to sweat.

Do not disturb - Taking time off

I haven't posted any photos for quite some time. I was thinking of it while coming to my car last night. And our friend here was taking his time off. I did not waste an opportunity to capture his reactions.

It was a very hot day and it's nice to take a short cat sleep at this time before the owner comes!

Is he here alreday, too early and too short, I should have selected another car.

I think he is not the one, let me sleep for some more time.


What was that I was dreaming, this guy disturbed me.....

Hey, I told you not to disturb me now. Come back later.

And he goes to sleep again!!!

etisalat starts service in Afghanistan

etisalat starts service in Afghanistan Staff Report/GULF NEWS Published: August 29, 2007, 23:46

Dubai: etisalat's Afghan subsidiary yesterday launched its GSM service across Afghanistan, where mobile penetration has reached just eight per cent.

Afghanistan is etisalat's 14th market and third with the etisalat brand after UAE and Saudi Arabia.

etisalat Afghanistan's coverage and wide range of services are now available in Kabul, Herat, Mazar i Sherif, Kunduz and Jalalabad.

The cities and areas of Kandahar, Ghazni, Poli Khumri, Baghlan and Paghman will have coverage before Ramadan.

Minister of Communication and Information Technology for Afghanistan, Amirzai Sangin, said: "I am pleased to see etisalat as a new entrant in the telecom market, launching in Afghanistan in accordance with the laws and policies established by the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology. I wish etisalat Afghanistan success in competing to provide necessary services for the Afghan people."

etisalat Afghanistan's aim is to provide coverage in every province within the country.

The company said as a new entrant in Afghanistan, its network will be based on quality, innovative services and competitive pricing.

Long term


Mohammad Hassan Omran, etisalat chairman, said in a statement: "Our investment in Afghanistan is for the long term, which is the reason we bring to the country our values of openness; caring - both for our customers and staff; and innovation that come with it.

"We see a good opportunity in Afghanistan as mobile penetration is only 8 per cent, leaving significant room for growth and development. The country also records higher Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) than its neighbouring countries.

"This means that there is existing demand for new technologies and services. Our operation in Afghanistan will also help us to better service the large Afghan communities in our other markets such as Pakistan, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. etisalat is committed to supporting the community of Afghanistan and to working with the authorities and industry to help develop the infrastructure of the country, to help businesses, individuals and the government to extend their reach."

etisalat's services will be available through over 1,000 retailers across the country and through its own outlets.

The chief executive officer of etisalat's Afghanistan operation, Salem Al Kendi, said: "We are here to build a modern network for the Afghan people and offer world class services. etisalat looks forward to helping Afghanistan become a telecommunications hub for Central Asia."

etisalat Afghanistan will offer a wide range of services including GPRS & MMS services, ring back tones, missed call notification and a discounted "family & friends" package.

Mubadala to develop Dh4.4b city in Malaysia

Mubadala to develop Dh4.4b city in Malaysia
Gulf News Report / Published: August 29, 2007, 23:58

Dubai: Mubadala Development Company, Abu Dhabi government's investment arm, will lead a consortium of Gulf investors to develop a Dh4.4 billion ($1.2 billion integrated international city development in Malaysia's the Iskandar Development Region (IDR).

The company yesterday signed a series of Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) with partners on the project, to be developed over 20 years.

"This landmark investment will represent the single largest foreign real estate development in Malaysia, one of the largest real estate developments in the region and one of the largest single foreign investments ever in Malaysia," Mubadala said.

Growth strategy

Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak, CEO and managing director of Mubadala, said, "We believe strongly that sustainable development built upon a solid infrastructure attracts global brands and pays continuing dividends. This is an integral part of our growth strategy in Abu Dhabi and beyond. Node 1 fits well with our vision and investment objectives and Mubadala is pleased to be part of this endeavour."

Abu Dhabi-based developer Aldar Properties will act as its Master Development Manager for IDR, referred to as Node 1.

Aldar chairman Ahmad Al Sayegh, said, "Node 1 has the opportunity to be a showcase of new ideas and standards in development and Aldar is committed to its success."

The conditional agreements entered by South Johor Investment Corporation Berhad (SJIC), through its subsidiary Rim City Sdn Bhd (RCSB) yesterday were with three leading consortiums, led by Mubadala, Kuwait Finance House and Millennium Development International Company.

The consortiums will invest more than $1.2 billion of initial investment for land and infrastructure to develop three clusters, namely the Lifestyle and Leisure cluster, the Cultural cluster and the Financial District. These three clusters will consist of nine distinctly themed zones.

Node 1 is a development spread over approximately 9.02 million square metres, located in the area of Nusajaya.

Impressive show by UAE girls in karate championship


Impressive show by UAE girls in karate championship
By Alaric Gomes, Staff Reporter/GULF NEWS Published: August 29, 2007, 23:46

Dubai: The UAE girls karate team walked away with six medals at the end of the open karate meet that concluded in Grado, Italy yesterday.

Led by UAE skipper, Shaikha Maitha Bint Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the team picked up one gold, four silver and one bronze at the day-long competition.

Nearly 650 athletes from 16 countries participated in the competition that was held to mark the end of a ten-day camp.

More than 150 athletes took part in the Kata competition, while the rest participated in the Kumite competition.

The UAE's medal hunt was led by young Haya Juma, who won the individual gold in the Kata competition.

She also picked up a silver medal in the individual Kumite in the under 45 kgs category for beginners.

Inspirational role

Shaikha Maitha herself was inspirational, winning the silver in the over 60 kgs category.

Two more silver medals came from Lana Ali in the under 51 kgs Cadets category and Mai Omran in the under 70 kgs Cadets category, while Noor Nasser bagged a bronze in the under 55kgs beginners category.

The UAE team attended special training sessions with the Italian national squad at the end of the competition. The team is scheduled to arrive in Dubai today.

Selling vegetables is a different ball game

Selling vegetables is a different ball game
28 Aug, 2007, 0209 hrs IST,Prasenjit Ray,

Arrival of organised retail has given some of us an opportunity to roam about and window-shop in malls and stores and yet call it a professional engagement. In my brief career as a shopping researcher, I have come across a common concern among several of my supermarket clients both in the country and outside-that of selling fresh vegetables. It’s a high-margin, high-risk (for its perishable nature) category and nobody seems to be happy with how things are.

I am a shopper myself. I go to a supermarket close to my house to buy things for myself and my family. Every time I go there I watch people shop the refrigerated section - it has beverages, chocolates, dairy products and, of course, vegetables and fruit in one corner.

And every time I have been amazed seeing how most shoppers skip the fruit and vegetables altogether! One of our continuous studies shows that a significant portion of supermarket shoppers are regulars. That really means that though people are going to the same supermarket over and over again, but they may not be buying fresh vegetables from there.

As a student of shopping I started by looking at some of the vital parameters of fresh shopping and compared them with shopping for other products.

To begin with, the biggest component of fresh shopping at the wet market or at the door step cart is seller interaction or talking to the seller. It really means that of all the things we do while buying vegetables, we talk to the seller the most. No other product category in the fast moving segment takes in so much of seller interaction as does fresh.

Second, shopping for fresh has the highest product interaction to price ratio among all the fast moving products. In other words, for every rupee spent on buying any fast moving products, we touch and feel the vegetables the most number of times.


Now what do these two parameters tell us when put together? First, we have a great need for assuring ourselves that what we are buying is of good quality, because unlike a packet of biscuit or a can of coke or a jar of edible oil, which comes with the quality assurance of a Britannia, a Coca-Cola or an ITC, quarter kilo of green bell paper or bitter gourd doesn’t come with any of that.

So who is to be blamed if it turns out rotten or stale? This is also the reason for all that seller interaction, the fact that we are looking reassurance from the seller in his or her recommendation, for it’s his merchandise and he is the expert.

Fresh shopping also has another character about it - the variety involved in a single shopping and purchase occasion. I have observed some similarities between how we buy vegetables and snacky kind of products. In both cases, we don’t just buy all of one thing but little of many things. Imagine how it would feel to buy biscuits, from a shelf stocked with just thin arrowroot or glucose! Same goes for pumpkin, papaya or potatoes unless we are looking for a great deal and want to buy in big quantities.

The other similarity between the two is the way we shop for them - when we start shopping, we aren’t looking for something specific, so we just browse until something entice us by its looks and we stumble on it. The important aspect here is of merchandise - we like to browse a range of vegetables together in one place and we stick at something depending on how it looks.

An important parameter about fresh shopping is the timing - it’s not the first thing we buy in a supermarket when we have to shop for other things as well. I was at a Tesco store at Kuala Lumpur observing their fresh section, which was in the middle of the store and not surprisingly, it had few takers. And those who were there, were mostly hitting the check out counters straight. Most supermarkets here have got this one right - fresh section is close to the check out but not too many who have an exclusive entry to it.

Supermarket shopping is at a nascent stage in our country. We are yet to get into a weekly shopping mode - we buy most of our groceries once a month and that makes it once-a-month visit to the supermarket, if at all. As and when we start going more often to the supermarket, we will find natural reasons to shop for the fresh vegetables as well. And that’s the time when these nuances will start making differences to our lives and to the bottom line of the retailer.

Recently I had been to a Spencer’s supermarket in one of the suburban malls of Delhi and was heartened to see a replica of vegetable cart and a variety of vegetables kept on them. They looked wee bit tired but that’s ok for starters. At least, we are moving in the right direction. I am sure we will soon see all the vegetables put in such displays with a section-anchor looking after each piece of vegetable merchandised, spraying water on them and weeding out the ones that are getting tired and soggy.

The author is In-store Consulting Services founder & CEO

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Tackling a rising home loan EMI with ease


Tackling a rising home loan EMI with ease
29 Aug, 2007, 1004 hrs IST,Vidyalaxmi, TNN

The usually smiling Ravi Raman wasn’t his usual self a few days ago. He was seen walking restlessly across his office. The IT company for which he was working informed him that his salary would be credited a little late into his account.

Mr Raman was worried since it meant his home loan cheque could probably bounce. In the past few years, the Ramans have been facing the arduous task of trying to eke out a living, thanks to rising EMIs (Equated monthly Installments).

This wasn’t the case two years ago when he took the loan. Coping with higher EMIs for many is something but a bitter truth that one has to live with. ET takes you through smart measures to befriend higher EMIs.

Managing rising EMIs

There are two ways to cope with increasing home loan EMIs. One way could be to lower your consumption needs. Then you could cough up some funds to prepay the home loan. Explains certified financial planner and wealth advisor Gaurav Mashruwala,

“You have two variants in the expenses category, mandatory and voluntary. You have to spend on food but you can cut down on eating in restaurants and entertainment. The idea is to cut down on your lifestyle. Start buying a Cambridge shirt instead of a Tommy Hilfiger. There is always scope to tone down your lifestyle and expenses to accommodate the increase in EMIs. Another way to partly prepay your loan could be to liquidate your low-yielding assets.

All you need to evaluate is how much net return does your investment fetch you. If it’s lower than the interest outgo on your home loan, it makes financial sense for you to liquidate that investment to repay a part of your housing loan.

“You can look to break your bank fixed deposits or liquidate some debt-based products. Touch your equity investments only if you are in dire need,” advises Mr Mashruwala. Typically, equity earns more than 16% annually (more than home loan rates of 12% pa) and historically, has been the best performing asset.

You need not liquidate all your investments. You can liquidate around 30-50% of your low-yielding investments, which will also take care that you have a balanced portfolio of investments. However, you have to evaluate this option very carefully. You cannot liquidate those investments which have the ability to beat inflation in the long run.

Higher EMI or tenure?


Whenever a bank/HFC hikes lending rate, you either see a rise in your EMI or an extension in the tenure. Industry experts recommend increasing the EMI than tweaking the tenure of the loan. Approximately, when a bank/HFC hikes the lending rate by 0.5%, the tenure of your loan is increased by almost 25 months. If you take a housing loan at the age of 30, you would have planned to repay by the time you complete 50 years of age. The idea would have been to spend a debt-free retired life.

Now, if you postpone the termination of loan at 52 years of age, that would impact your personal finances even more, especially if you retire, says Akhilesh Tilotia, financial advisor and director of PARK Financial Advisors. Secondly, a series of rate hikes could further postpone the closure of your home loan. So it’s better to take the EMI hit right now than postpone the impact of rate hike. The idea is you are able to realise the hike in interest rates upfront.

Even the compounding effect has huge impact on long-tenure loans. For example, if you take a Rs 30-lakh loan for a period of 15 years at 12%, then your EMI works to a tad above Rs 36,000. Essentially, you will be paying close to Rs 65 lakhs on your house, including your interest outgo. The longer you extend the tenure of the loan, this number will increase. In other words, your interest outgo is another party’s income. Why do you want to earn for a third party? Settle the loan repayment at the committed tenure.

Facts you must know

Watch your EMI


Banks say they can lend up to 48 times your monthly salary. But you should see how much can you afford by looking at the EMI as percentage of your salary. EMIs should not increase beyond 35-40% of you take home salary for a housing loan. Any other loan EMI should not go beyond 25%. Banks may recommend an EMI up to 60% of your disposable income. But you have to provide for contingencies such as a job slow down, change of job or mere liquidity needs, Mr Tilotia adds.

Don’t read too much into penalty

It’s not wise to save on the 2% prepayment penalty on your housing loan. You are actually spending 12-14% on the same loan as interest cost. Even if you take into account the tax benefit, you cannot discount the forthcoming rate hikes in the years to come. Always get out of your debt as soon as possible.

Your first house is a consumption asset

You will never sell that for money. If you look at your salary as a pie, your ideal break should be 30% EMIs, 30% to the government in terms of taxes, 20% for consumption needs and the balance 20% should be savings.

Indian IT firms battle to attract talent: survey

Indian IT firms battle to attract talent: survey
(AFP)29 August 2007

BANGALORE - IT professionals are choosing multinationals over local firms, a survey shows, in a blow to the multi-billion dollar Indian industry already battling to recruit fresh talent.

Almost 3,000 IT professionals in India were asked to rank their top 20 employers for the survey which is closely scrutinised by the industry, recruitment centres and job seekers.

Overseas firms with offices in India, such as giant IBM, comprised half of the top 20, while India’s third-largest information technology company, software maker Wipro, failed to make it onto the list.

The survey released this week is bad news for Indian firms competing with global rivals to hire and retain talent amid a shortage of skilled workers.

“Multinational IT employers IBM, Capgemini, Sun Microsystems and CSC have mastered the art of managing Indian employees,” said Pradeep Gupta, whose company Cybermedia was responsible for Tuesday’s survey.

India’s biggest software maker, Tata Consultancy, which has 90,000 employees, retained its spot as the best employer to work for, followed by local rival HCL Infosystems.

But number two Indian software maker Infosys slipped four places to eight. And seven of the overseas firms were included on the list for the first time.

“Many India-based IT employers will need to balance aggressive recruitment with the warm and personal touch they used so effectively thus far, to retain people,” Gupta said.

Some 2,844 computer software, hardware and marketing professionals from 33 firms were questioned for the survey conducted by market-research firm IDC India for industry publication Dataquest.

Employees cited career development opportunities, work-life balance, organisational culture, job security and technology as the top factors that provided them work satisfaction. Pay ranked seventh.

“We take the feedback seriously,” said Pratik Kumar, executive vice president for human resources at Wipro, which has 72,000 workers. “We will try and understand the feedback and take appropriate actions.”

The survey comes as Infosys and Wipro, which are based in India’s software capital Bangalore, are scaling up with larger revenues and headcounts.

Prices of essentials poised to spiral



Cooperatives and supermarkets say they will not be able to hold on to their prices of essential commodities for much longer.

Prices of essentials poised to spiral
By Himendra Mohan Kumar, Staff Reporter/GULF NEWS Published: August 28, 2007, 23:23

Abu Dhabi: Prices of essentials in the UAE might go up in the coming months, large retailers say.

Cooperatives and supermarkets say they will not be able to hold on to their prices of essential commodities for much longer, despite efforts by the UAE's Ministry of Economy to curb inflation, as suppliers are threatening to pull out amid squeezed profitability and rising costs.

"The suppliers have restrictions from the ministry and they say they can't afford to supply at the current prices. If they increase their prices, then we have no choice but to pass them on to the customers," Abu Dhabi Cooperative Society's purchase manager N.S. Jayan told Gulf News.
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Retailers say the prices of rice, wheat, cooking oil and milk powder are under pressure as suppliers are citing increased production and transportation costs, insufficient crop and an uptrend in domestic and overseas demand as reasons for raising the prices.

Ebrahim Al Bahr, assistant general manager at Union Cooperative Society in Dubai, said they will hold on to their current prices until Ramadan.

"After that, the Ministry of Economy will sit with the suppliers and we will then get an overall picture of where the prices are headed."

Last year, the prices of food items surged dramatically during Ramadan. It became serious enough for the Ministry of Economy to interfere and issue warnings.

The situation had resulted in the establishment of the Consumer Protection Department by the ministry.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Rail staff globe-trotting to improve track record

Rail staff globe-trotting to improve track record
27 Aug, 2007, 0223 hrs IST,Ashish Kumar Mishra & Surbhi Goel, TNN

NEW DELHI: Don’t have it in you? So what, learn it from the best around the globe. That seems to be the mantra at Rail Bhavan. Taking a cue from railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, four batches of second-rung Indian Railways (IR) officials have been globe-trotting to countries like South Africa, Japan and Australia to study the developed rail systems. This approach is different from the earlier practice that used to see only top officials making such trips.

A lot of the these changes have got to do with the ambitious projects being conceived by IR, like the Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC), high-speed trains along with the increased need of modernisation and overhauling of the rickety infrastructure.

A handful of officers have just returned from Japan, after a thorough learning experience from the dedicated freight routes in the country, another trip to South Africa has been scheduled for September, 2007.

“Though a time frame of five years has been fixed for the fruition of the DFC project, the railway board has ramped up its activities and many railway officers and executive directors (ED) are being sent abroad to take lessons from the established routes of DFC in those countries,” said a senior Rail Bhavan official, who requested anonymity.

Moreover, to develop competency, a global training programme is being formulated by IR, according to which, officers of the rank of general managers, divisional railway managers and even a rung below AMPs will be be sent on a training program for two weeks, twice a year. There are almost 14,000 officers in IR.

However, the exact details of the training program is being worked out. Already, a batch of officers have made trips to business schools in Singapore and Malaysia. “This is a welcome decision which will broaden the vision of officers and enable them to come up with new ideas,” says IIM Ahmedabad faculty G Raghuram.

Venezuela to change time zone by 30 minutes

Venezuela to change time zone by 30 minutes

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has changed his country's name, redesigned its flag and rejigged its coat of arms in his drive for a socialist state.

Now the leftist reformer, highly popular for redistributing oil income, is seeking to move the country's time zone to offer a more equitable distribution of sunlight.

Venezuela in September will turn clocks back by 30 minutes as it switches time zones to boost the amount of natural light to residents, a government official said on Thursday.

Next month Venezuelan clocks will be set at Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) minus 4-1/2 hours, compared to the previous GMT minus four hours, Science and Technology Minister Hector Navarro told reporters at a news conference.

He said the measure sought "a more fair distribution of the sunrise," which would particularly help poor children who wake up before dawn to go to school.

"Very rigorous scientific studies have determined that ... the metabolic activity of living beings is synchronized with the sun's light," he said.

Navarro said the government is planning to announce additional measures to "make more effective use of time."

Venezuela, which under Chavez was officially changed to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, adopted its current time zone in the 1960s.

Yahoo Mail adds SMS, drops beta tag

Yahoo Mail adds SMS, drops beta tag

AP[ MONDAY, AUGUST 27, 2007 02:14:25 PM]

SAN FRANCISCO: Yahoo Inc. will introduce new features for its popular Web-based e-mail programme, including software that allows computer users to type text messages on a keyboard and send them directly to someone's cell phone.


The enhancements make it easier to send e-mail, instant messages or text messages from a single Web site - no need to launch or toggle between separate applications or devices. It will take up to six weeks for all the new features to become available to all 254 million Yahoo Mail subscribers in 21 languages worldwide.

The most obvious beneficiaries will be parents, who will be able to use their keyboards to type messages sent to their children's cell phones - no thumb-twisting typing on a dial pad, said Yahoo Vice President John Kremer.

"We're giving you the right way to connect at the right time with right person," said Kremer, whose two preteen sons vastly prefer text and instant messages to e-mail.

The changes come amid fierce competition among providers of free, Web-based e-mail services. Yahoo and Microsoft Corp's Hotmail have long dominated the niche, but Google Inc's Gmail has grown quickly since its introduction in April 2004.

In February, Yahoo announced that it would provide unlimited storage space, and earlier this month Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft said Hotmail would increase free storage from 2 to 5 gigabytes. Time Warner Inc's AOL, the fourth largest e-mail provider, began offering unlimited storage last summer. Google provides nearly 3 gigabytes.

Happy Raksha Bandhan


Happy Raksha Bandhan... Artist Sudarsan Pattnaik makes a sculpture of Rakhi, with a message against terrorism inscribed on it, at Puri beach in Orissa on Monday.


And this special one to all my sisters......... Please select the one you like and wish for me Good luck. Team 1 protection is all yours.

Taqa readies $4b buyout plan

Taqa readies $4b buyout plan
By Himendra Mohan Kumar, Staff Reporter/GULF NEWS Published: August 27, 2007, 23:06


Abu Dhabi: The Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (Taqa), plans to invest Dh14.68 billion ($4 billion) in new energy acquisitions over the next 12 months, the company's chief executive said yesterday.

"We are looking at opportunities in Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Norway, The Netherlands, UK, Canada and possibly, the US," Peter Barker-Homek told Gulf News.

At present, Taqa has investments, assets and operations in 10 countries - UAE, Canada, Ghana, India, Morocco, The Netherlands, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the UK and the US.

Barker-Homek said Taqa's latest upstream acquisition - Pioneer Canada - will go through the normal regulatory approval process and is expected to be completed "probably in November this year."

Taqa said last week that it will acquire the Calgary-based upstream petroleum exploration company for $540 million from Pioneer's parent - the US-based Pioneer Natural Resources Company.

Pioneer Canada, which has operations in the western Canadian sedimentary basin, would be Taqa's fifth overseas acquisition since November 2006.

Post acquisition of Pioneer Canada, Taqa's debt-to equity ratio would be 80 per cent debt and 20 per cent equity.

Talking about the company's debts, he said: "We have $3.5 billion in bonds that we have issued to the global financial community. In addition, we have, through a syndication of banks, about $6.5 in project finance in our subsidiaries in the UAE." Barker-Homek said Taqa's assets are worth $16 billion.

Output


The combined output of Taqa's upstream assets is currently a little more than 60,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day.

Even if there are no further acquisitions by the company, Taqa can sustain its current production level for several years, said Barker-Homek. "Right now, the average reserve life of our oil and gas properties is 12 years," he said.

Barker-Homek said Taqa plans to invest $300 million in 2007 to boost output at its oil and natural gas producing assets. "Since January this year, we have invested about $200 million."

Barker-Homek felt Taqa is grossly undervalued on the Abu Dhabi Securities Market.

"The earnings potential of the company is currently not reflected in the share price. I think the market is probably waiting to see if our acquisitions will add value to shareholders. We plan to maintain and increase the dividend that we established last year," Barker-Homek added.

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