Follow by Email

Monday, October 31, 2011


Your Next Computer Intel’s Ultrabook

A new type of laptop is headed our way. It’s ultra-thin, ultra-light, ultra-desirable and not that expensive either.

Worldwide PC shipments are expected to grow by just 2.8% in 2011, a downgrade from the previous forecast of 4.2%, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC). This is worrying for PC makers and especially Intel, the world’s largest manufacturer of PC chips. This is why Intel devised a whole new platform of notebooks, designed from the ground up to be sleeker, lighter and more desirable.

The word Ultrabook is an Intel trademark. Ultrabooks are ultra-light and sleek notebooks with Intel's Core i5 and i7 processors, they weigh less than 1.4kg and are less than 20 mm thick.
The form factor was devised by Intel as a strong competitor to Apple’s Macbook Air, but at a cheaper price point. Paul Otellini, Intel’s president and CEO sums it up nicely; “The Ultrabook is our most satisfying and complete computer experience. It's lighter, sleeker and lasts long with a single charge so that you can carry it almost anywhere.”

Not only does the Ultrabook form factor have to compete with the MacBook Air, but also with the tablet, which a lot of consumers are seeing as a viable, everyday alternative to a bulky notebook computer. Other desirable features include a lower power consumption (Ultrabooks use ULV or ultra low voltage Intel processors) and a design that has to be at least 20mm or less. “We’re fairly optimistic about Ultrabooks and have noticed an increased demand for this sort of form factor,” said Rajesh Thadani, director - consumer, Lenovo India. “It’s an evolution of the traditional laptop and a potential game-changer,” he added. “With an evolving IT market in India, we are confident that Ultrabooks will be a worthwhile investment for any consumer,” said S Rajendran, chief marketing officer, Acer India, in a conversation with ET.

“Intel's focus is to make Ultrabooks capture about 40% of the worldwide laptop market by next year”, said Mooly Eden, vice president and general manager of the PC Client Group at Intel. This was at Intel’s Developer Forum 2011. “The market share of Ultrabooks will increase more in 2013, when Intel plans to launch its ‘Haswell’ processor. Haswell will offer more than 20 times reduction in connected standby power," Eden said. In 2012, Ultrabooks will come with Windows 8, Microsoft’s newest operating system which uses a grid of live tiles as the start menu. Since the OS is optimised for touch, Ultrabooks with touchscreens or those with detachable screens (an Ultrabook-tablet hybrid) are being developed. Going forward, Ultrabooks will offer a built in anti-theft technology from McAfee. A stolen or lost Ultrabook will be unusable by anyone other than the actual owner. Prices are also expected to drop further to $800 from the current $1,000. Acer Aspire S3 Review Officially the first ultrabook to launch in India, the Aspire S3 is a handsome, wellbuilt machine. It has a super-bright LED backlit display, multi-touch trackpad, 6 hour battery life and all the features you would expect. Acer pulled off a neat trick with the S3 – by including a 20GB SSD and 320GB hard drive, it manages ultra-fast boot & wake from sleep with extended storage for all your files while keeping costs low. Thanks to the Core i5 processor, 4GB RAM and Intel HD graphics, the performance on tap is more than enough for all your HD multimedia and office needs. Compared to the Lenovo, the Acer has better build quality with tighter shut lines. However – and this could be a dealbreaker for some – the tapered design, black bar above the keyboard, the keyboard itself and the overall shape itself is very similar to the MacBook Air. The brushed aluminum on the lid is beautiful, but we wished there was more of it, especially on the palm rest and underside. Plus the cursor keys are absurdly small. Overall a solid device if you don’t mind the physical similarity with the Air. Lenovo IdeaPad U300s Review The U300s marks a new design language for Lenovo’s IdeaPad – and it is refreshing. Unlike the Acer, the U300s has an even thickness throughout and clad in sandblasted aluminium (both top and bottom). With the lid closed, the machine resembles a book or folder. For storage, it includes a 128GB SSD – so not as much space as the Acer, but it is faster, and there are no moving parts, so your data is more secure. Hands down, the U300s also has a better keyboard than the Acer – layout, key size and general feel of the keys is better. Performance and battery life is similar to the Acer – since most of the specs are the same. Unlike the Acer which has all ports at the back, the U300s is more conventional and has ports on both sides. However, the U300s scores extra points for including a USB 3.0 port for faster data transfers. It’s not all good though — some of the aluminum edges are quite sharp and the airflow design is noisy – air is sucked through the keyboard and blown out the back, but with the fan on full tilt, it sounded like a mini jet engine. Plus, the keyboard is not backlit, something which the Acer S3 could do with as well.
( Harsimran Julka and Hitesh Raj Bhagat ET24OCT11)

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Bengali vegetarian food is an acquired taste.

First you hate it, then you love it.

Most patrons of Bengali restaurants I know order the same things every time they visit - shorshe maachh (fish in mustard sauce), kosha mangsho (mutton), fried bhekti and paturis of chingri and illish (prawn or hilsa steamed in banana leaf). I once suggested a friend walk the road less travelled by ordering the hilsa in a sauce of mustard and cucumber - the restaurant was trying to be experimental - and was ignored.

Vegetarian is rarely considered except for beguni (batter-fried brinjal) or mochar ghonto (banana flower sabzi). For a newcomer to Bengali cuisine, this is quite a misleading list. These items top every poll, they are the vanguard, the cavalry of Bengali food. But there's an army of foot soldiers that goes unnoticed by most non-Bengalis. And this army is largely vegetarian.

A few years ago, when I didn't pay serious attention to what I ate, I would have said that Bengali vegetarian food is better left unnoticed. Bongs eat practically every leaf, tuber, root and vegetable that grows.

They're particularly fond of fleshy vegetables (pumpkin, raw papaya, squash) that tend to disintegrate unattractively when cooked and mucilaginous ones (all the gourds) that, to the eyes of a young Bong, acquire a sickly, ectoplasmic quality.

Take kumro (pumpkin) and pepe (papaya), vegetables that are particularly dear to Bengalis as they are sweet. Pumpkin is a key ingredient of charchari (a mixed veg spiced with paanch phoron), it's made with shrimps, diced pumpkin is cooked with spinach and it's cooked to a pulp in bontis. B, our cook and resident neurotic, likes making bontis. Spiced with paanch phoron, the pumpkin is cooked till it melts into an orange puddle that has the consistency of hummus. Boiled red chana is added for some extra flavour and texture. Till recently I could get myself to eat this with only the greatest difficulty. It's awfully sweet because of the vegetable's natural sweetness and the seasoning of sugar and has the goopy texture of baby food. But my family would, unbelievably, dig into kumro bonti with the gusto of hungry infants.

Then there's peper dalna. If you've had a bad day, the sight of this soupy, dun-coloured gravy in which pieces of papaya bob like sorry icebergs will make it abysmal. The sky will seem darker, inklings of imminent ruin will assail you. Naturally B, whose mental contents are pretty dark, is fond of peper dalna. She prefers to cook it with a phoron of methi seeds, though many use jeera instead. Olkopi (kohlrabi), squash and chichinga (snake gourd) prompted similar reactions. For one, all these vegetables, except kumro, have an unsettling translucence. I'm not entirely sure what's disturbing about this quality. Their ambiguous nature perhaps - they seem firm but offer little resistance to teeth. The only interest chichinga generated was from the knowledge that the gourd is used to make didgeridoos. Not that the trivia made it any more appetising. Secondly, like most Bengali vegetarian food, they're cooked with a light hand. That means there's little masala to mask the flavour of the vegetables themselves. Usually the only masalas used are smatterings of ground dhaniya, jeera, turmeric and ginger. That's a problem when you're a kid because the last thing you want is to try to appreciate the natural flavours of pepe and kumro. That's too academic an exercise for a minor or even a young adult. Kids of certain other communities are less rebellious I think when it comes to the same vegetables. Coastal communities, for instance, prepare the same items with chilli and coconut, ingredients that can elevate the dullest food. Now much has been said about the subtlety of Bengali food. In the megalomania that surrounds the cuisine, it has been compared to French food in this respect. But for those growing up in the tradition, it can be too subtle. So subtle that you miss the point. That's probably why a lot of these items aren't served in restaurants. That's also why Bengali vegetarian is often a taste that's acquired with age. It seems that the more experienced the palate gets, the more receptive it becomes to nuances of taste. Like a satellite picking up remote signals, the palate receives the subtleties of light gravies and the intrinsic flavours of vegetables that were once reviled. It's only recently that I've begun probing my way around the universe of Bengali taste and appreciating the experience. Though it will probably be light years before I can eat peper dalna without feeling that the world has suddenly become a cheerless place.

Pronoti Datta TOICREST 16J0711


Get Constructive, Keep Anger at Arm’s Length
Listing irritants & delights is a must and equally important is discussing them with those around you
In today’s times of exceeding professional pressures from office and home, it would require super human emotional control not to lose your cool when things don’t go as expected. “I am so irritable at work that now being angry and impatient has become a part of my nature. I hate it,” one participant complained to me at the end of the workshop.
“How do I remain calm and graceful when my team delivers mediocre results despite my repeated attempts to correct them? How can I not get angry when they do the opposite of what was promised, or they do the work badly, or they don’t do it all?” He was at his wits end with his failing attempt at anger management.
I know one thing for a fact that no one likes to get angry. Even the person who is angry, really doesn’t want to be. Anger causes a lot of pain physically and emotionally when it does surface. If you find yourself angry, then you are already too late for anger management. Here are some tips that I have found useful in my life to not only keep one’s cool, but also to protect one’s image as a leader.
Often people discover what gets them angry when they actually get angry. Step back. Think about all the instances that provoked the devil in you and list them. “I get angry when people forget their responsibilities and pretend that they didn’t know about it.” “I get angry when people delay projects and don’t even bother to inform me in advance about it.” “I get angry when I have to keep repeating the same instructions and enforcing them.” Just making a list of these danger zones provides a great relief. Then one can ‘see’ the problem rationally before handling it irrationally when angry.
Once you know what makes you angry, let it be known. It would be reasonable to tell your colleagues about it. “This is your area of responsibility. We are both professionals and I would not like to constantly remind you or check on you for it. In case there is a delay, let me know well in advance so that I can look for other options to keep the client calm. I lose my cool when people don’t take ownership and I have to leave my job to make sure that they are on theirs. Let’s work together as a team so we all are happy.” It is very important that people know what will get them in trouble with you. If they know it, then if they still goof up, they ‘expect’ your outburst. So they don’t behave like victims and make you the villain.
It is equally important that you let people know how to win your heart. “I like people who are punctual.” “I like people who deliver projects on time and with excellence.” “I like people who are creative and committed.” You need to see both sides of your expectations. It is a relief to know that you do have a pleasant and rational edge to your personality and that needs to be broadcasted.
Make it known to your team and colleagues on how they can get in your good books. If they know it, then they can do their work with that awareness. Make sure that when things are done in accordance with the excellence that you expect that you empower them with the same intensity with which you would have reprimanded them. Holding a position of leadership does not mean that you become a saint and never get angry. It only means that you are expected to strike a healthy cord between empowering people and reprimanding them. When you turn your anger into something constructive, you won’t lose respect even when you do lose your cool.
- PRIYA KUMAR, CEO / chief facilitator of PKTS ETCD 21OCT11

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Five Ways To... Get Back to Work after a Big Break
INDIA INC MAY BE a lot more receptive in welcoming back women after a break, but the executives have a different story to tell. A lot of firms still show bias in hiring pros with career gaps, which explains why there are fewer women at middle and senior management-levels.
Suggested ways to make a smooth comeback.
1 Redraft Resume
The resume needs to be written differently. It should include a strong statement of objective, saying the candidate is serious about making a long-term impact in the job. Also, candidates should showcase their past achievements. “A properly drafted resume can work wonders. Highlight achievements and experience upfront. And give a reference contact,” says Smitha Baksi, a 34-year-old banking professional who recently resumed her career after a 3-year break to raise her child.
Try not to be Idle
Don’t stay idle during a career break, unless it’s for maternity or reasons beyond one’s control. It is better to enrol for part-time, weekend or distance course. Some engagement in non-committal work, like the social sector, can also reflect positively. “It will enhance skills, show the ability to multitask, and the candidate’s commitment towards work and career,” says Max India group director (human capital) P Dwarkanath.
3 Find a Mentor
HR experts say getting back to work is more of a mindset for such professionals. And in such cases, a senior colleague can play the role of a mentor. “A mentor can guide such professionals back to work, keep them updated about the latest scenario and help them move up the corporate ladder faster. Our experience suggests professionals who join from a career break are much more committed to work and a mentor who they look up to can make the transition smoother,” says Schneider Electric director (HR) Shalini Sarin.
4 Don’t Lose Network
The biggest mistake is not to stay in touch with one’s colleagues and seniors. Network through social networking sites, occasional calls and at times even by dropping in at the office. “Generally, senior colleagues are happy to help if they are satisfied with the professional’s work. Even if such people may not have any immediate vacancy in their organisation, they can refer the professional to their network. Such references lend the professional credibility,” says Edelweiss Capital group HR head Shaily Gupta.
5 Be Flexible
Experts say women should be flexible to get back into work through part-time jobs, work which can be done from home or consultancy, which may not require long hours of work or travel. “This way, they would have a fair idea of how much time they can contribute for work and accordingly plunge into a fullfledged career. This also becomes a good launch pad to get back into the work life,” says Deloitte India chief people officer Dhananjay Bansod.
(Writankar Mukherjee ET18OCT11)

Friday, October 28, 2011


IBM’s Rometty is Co’s First Female CEO

Virginia ‘Ginni’ Rometty to succeed CEO Sam Palmisano in January

International Business Machines' (IBM) Virginia ‘Ginni’ Rometty has grown throughout her career by taking on challenges she’s never faced before. Now she’ll tackle something no one has ever done.

Rometty, 54, will become the first female chief executive officer in IBM’s 100-year history.

The Armonk, New York-based company said she will succeed Sam Palmisano in the role effective January 1. Palmisano, who has been CEO since 2002, will remain chairman.

In an interview, Rometty said she has grown the most in her career through “experiential” learning. “I learned to always take on things I'd never done before,” she said. She takes the reins as steady profit growth pushes IBM shares this year to the highest level since the company went public in 1915. Her experience in sales, services and acquisitions fits with the strategic direction set by Palmisano, who said last year the company will add $20 billion to revenue between 2010 and 2015 by expanding in markets such as cloud computing and analytics.

Rometty made it clear she would follow the road map the company has laid out because she helped construct it. “I've been head of strategy at IBM and together with my colleagues built our five-year plan,” she said. “My priorities are going to be to continue to execute on that.”

The 30-year IBM veteran caught Palmisano’s attention in 2002 when she helped integrate the $3.9-billion acquisition of PwC Consulting, IBM’s largest deal ever at the time. Rometty, then a general manager of the consulting unit, said she knew from the start the acquisition would be challenging. “It was the first and only time a professional services firm of that size has been integrated into another large company,” she said.

Rometty is credited with helping retain PwC’s principal consultants, who didn’t always mesh with IBM’s cost-cutting culture. When Palmisano wanted to cut travel budgets, making consultants stay at Holiday Inns, she helped them fight — and win, said Ric Andersen, a former PwC consultant who joined IBM in the deal.

Palmisano promoted her to senior vice president of the group in 2005, and she boosted profit at the unit 42% in her first two years on the job. During her three decades at IBM, she became known as a polished executive who can close a sale, expanding relationships with companies from State Farm Insurance to Prudential Financial.

“She’s an engaging woman — great with customers,” said Fred Amoroso, who was her boss in the financial-services consulting division during the 1990s. “Customers just love Ginni.” Amid the recession, Palmisano put her in charge of running the company’s almost $100 billion in sales.

Last year, she added marketing and strategy to her responsibilities.

“She is more than a superb operational executive,” Palmisano said in the statement. “With every leadership role, she has strengthened our ability to integrate IBM's capabilities for our clients.”

The succession at IBM has been the result of careful, long- term planning by the company’s board, said Rosabeth Kanter, a Harvard Business School professor who knows Rometty and other IBM executives. Rometty not only held many key positions at IBM during her career, she also has received mentoring and exposure to global leaders important to IBM’s future, she said. “In contrast to other companies that have abruptly named new CEOs recently, such as Hewlett-Packard, IBM handled this very smoothly over several years,” Kanter said in an interview.

Palmisano turned 60 in July, the age at which three of the past four IBM chiefs have stepped down. He's IBM's longest- serving CEO who doesn't share the surname of the company's founder, Thomas J. Watson. He will leave a business vastly different than the one he took over. In his first year at the helm, he bought PwC Consulting, and two years later, he sold off the PC business. Those moves coupled with more than $25 billion in software acquisitions helped Palmisano realign what was once the largest computer company into a services and software powerhouse. The maneuvers made the company predictably profitable, boosting per-share profit for more than 30 straight quarters. Since 2001, Palmisano's boosted sales by 20%, while keeping costs of the 4,26,000-employee behemoth little changed.


Play mix and match with tadkas.
Flavour fish fillets with Gujarati vaghar or stir-fry Brussels sprouts in Maharashtrian phodni.
The ghee shimmered in the pan, calm on the surface, intensely hot just below. In went the spices: asafoetida, cumin, garlic. When the sputtering and frothing of bubbles slowed down and the spices gave their souls over to the hot fat in a cloud of aroma, I added a tablespoon of orange zest, took the pan off the flame and poured the contents into split masoor daal. With a last splutter of protest it blended in, carrying the flavours of the spice to every drop of the dish in a sigh of orange-scented steam.
Yes you read right. I just put orange zest in a daal tadka. While working on an article on zest recently, I learnt that we discard the best part of the citrus fruit in India - the skin. Full of aromatic oils, it is incredibly rich in phytonutrients and vitamin C. That makes zest ideal to help the body absorb the iron and protein in daal.
We usually do things a certain way because that's what we have been taught. Adding a tadka, which you may know as chhaunk, bagar, vaghar, phodni, poppu or phoron depending on which part of the country you come from, is one of the first cooking techniques we learn in the Indian kitchen. Applied to just about every dish, except dessert, this technique involves frying a selection of whole spices in hot fat (ghee or oil) to liberate their essential oils and flavours. What is even more fascinating is this unifying concept is incredibly diverse. Yet the tadka hasn't moved beyond its role as a tempering for traditional dishes.
A simple tadka for mattha, a yogurt-based drink, got me thinking about experimenting with tempering.
In the North, yoghurt is considered too cool a food for the winter so its inherent cooling properties are warmed up by tempering it with cumin, garlic and sometimes chilli. As I added cumin, garlic and green chillis to hot ghee to temper buttermilk one day, it struck me that garlic-flavoured buttermilk would be incredible to poach chicken in. I was right. My chicken turned out wonderfully soft, delicately redolent of garlic and cumin and packed a subtle kick of green chilli. It's now a regular on our menu in myriad ways - hot, cold, in sandwiches, wraps or on salads. That successful experiment turned my attention to other spice combinations in tadkas.
These change as you travel through India. And each has potential for new combinations.
A Maharashtrian phodni of asafoetida, cumin, curry leaves, garlic and chillies makes a wonderfully aromatic, spicy start for a stir-fry of Brussels sprouts, taking away the sulphurous smell the sprouts have.
And at the risk of upsetting my Gujarati ancestors, I have to share that the vaghaar of asafoetida, mustard, kokum, curry leaf and chillies used for the legendary Gujju sweet daal is amazing to cook fillets of fish in. Simply temper oil with the spices and lay the fish over, pressing gently so the spices stick. Flip over when the pan facing side is evenly cooked and cook the other side till done. Serve over hot rice so that the flavoured oil of the tadka trickles down to the bottom of the bowl.
South Indian sambhar tadkas can be used to make an exceptionally smoky, spicy stir-fried chicken or sprinkle for potato wedges.
And Bengali paanch phoron, the legendary Bengali five-spice mix of fenugreek, nigella, cumin, fennel and radhuni makes a fabulously crusty rub for lamb. The tadka has evolved as it travelled to adapt itself to what was locally available in the region. Which is why everything from the fat used to the spice combinations varies as one travels through the Indian subcontinent.
And abroad, to places that have Indian diasporas such as South Africa, West Indies and the UK. In fact in Trinidad, pigeon peas are 'chunkayed' (a derivation of the word chhaunk) with sliced garlic and whole jeera (cumin) even today.
However some spices are extremely local and haven't made it to the larger culinary map. Like Uttaranchal's jambu grass. This grass has a chive-like flavour and is used in its dried form in Pahari chhaunks for daals. I use it very successfully to smoke fish and chicken. The result is a hauntingly smoky, garlicky flavour.
Tamils like to temper dishes with channa and urad daal. These daals, when roasted in oil, take on a wonderfully nutty flavour and texture that makes an ideal crust for coating meat and vegetables along with spices prior to roasting. As controversial as my suggestions might sound to purists, my experiments are not about creating bizarre combinations. Experimenting is fun and can lead to delicious discoveries.
But one does not always need to reinvent things to cook well. It is possible to play with flavours without going against traditional practices - a tadka of whole spices added to a meat dish prior to cooking ensures the flavours infuse through the dish as it cooks. It is a practice that no new experiments can better. I don't try to. But I find adding a few sprigs of rosemary to the tadka results in fabulously aromatic results, lacing the smoky spices with dark green notes. That rosemary also helps in digesting meat dishes, especially lamb, beef and pork, makes the herb an even more appealing ingredient.
I am not doing anything that has not been done before. As new ingredients arrived, cooks included them in tadkas. A classic example is the chilli. It's not an indigenous ingredient, arriving in India with the Portuguese in the 16th century. But it was used later to spice tadkas as a cheaper option to pepper. So why stop innovating ? With all the wonderful ingredients we have access to today, there are a host of things that can be added to enhance tadkas.
Take a few leaves from Thai cuisine: use lemongrass or Kaffir lime leaves and zest in a tadka for rassam or even moong or masoor daal. Add citrus zests to tadkas for anything from daals to pulavs and curries to uplift the dish and stir in valuable nutrients.
In short, go forth and indulge in some tadka lagana as spicing up, albeit of a different sort, is known in Bollywood.
----Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal TOICREST September 17, 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Learning and Earning

Lupin Pharmaceuticals and Dr Reddy’s have found an innovative way to match the research needs of their units in small towns with aspirations of local class X11 pass outs.

Foot soldiers in the war against disease can come from unexpected places. In 2008, when the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) launched its ‘open source drug discovery’ movement, it invited stakeholders — scientists, researchers, industry representatives — to participate in formulating new drugs to combat ailments like TB. The most surprising contribution came from students, mostly graduates. Today, of the 4,000-odd people registered with OSDD, a little over half are students, engaged in activities from advocacy to lab work. “It has been a big discovery for us,” says OSDD project director Zakir Thomas. “We thought we [at OSDD] were dealing with sophisticated problems that required input from sophisticated sources, like established institutes,” he says. “But the students really surprised us.” They did not just come from the metros. Having worked closely with scores of youngsters, Thomas has some advice for pharma companies. “If you are looking for new, innovative solutions, reach out to students, especially those in rural India,” he says. “There’s a huge talent base out there.” For pharma giants Lupin Pharmaceuticals and Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, this merely confirms what they already know. Both companies run work-cum-education programmes for fresh-out-of-school youngsters from rural and smalltown India. Essentially, class XII graduates join the company as interns; alongside, they also study for a BSc degree in industrial drug sciences, offered by the companies through tie-ups with universities. The students attend classes over the weekend, while working at regular jobs in the companies’ plants through the week.


Divakar Kaza, president (HR) at Lupin, says his company’s Learnand-Earn programme is a two-way street. It gives youngsters from economically-depressed families the chance to study further and skill themselves — and take home a stipend of 7,000 per month. It helps Lupin close a crucial talent gap: finding capable people to take care of some basic, but key, tasks. “The BSc and MSc graduates who join us prefer to become researchers or move to high-end lab work,” says Kaza. “We find it difficult to source people as lab assistants, backroom staff and/or teams to carry out quality control. These are less glamorous, but crucial, jobs that keep the plant working smoothly.” Ganesh Nikam, director of Biojobz, a bio-pharma staffing company , says that many pharma companies are struggling with this talent gap. “The BSc and MSc graduates who come in at the entry-level think of themselves as scientists, who would rather work from the comfort of the lab and do production,” he says. “They feel regulatory tasks like quality control are beneath them.” Vijay Kothiwale, vice-president (works) at Lupin, says: “Finding people and making them employable is a challenge. With the Learners [the youngsters enrolled with Learn-and-Earn], we can train them up and create our own talent base, and also be sure of a high calibre of employees.” Farooq M Shaikh, deputy general manager (HR) at Lupin’s Tarapur plant, adds that in some cases the youngsters, with minimal training, handle certain divisions on their own, like the solvent recovery unit. “About 70% of our Learners function as back-up staff. When someone is absent, they step in,” Shaikh adds. In their first two years, the Learners are rotated through every department . Eventually, says Kothiwale, this kind of captive talent brings stability to the organisation. In the last six months, Lupin has recruited more than 300 youngsters for its plants in Tarapur, Goa and Indore; next year, it plans to extend this programme to plants its Mandideep (near Bhopal) and Aurangabad. A few months ago, the company organised its first recruitment drive for Learn-and-Earn, and invited applicants to walk-in interviews at a central location — Sholapur town for the Tarapur plant; Kolhapur for Goa.


Lupin believes in spreading the net wide. “There is talent in every corner of the country,” says Kaza. “If we limit ourselves to metros, we will lose out on good people.” One criterion for selection, however, is that the candidate should live within a 500-km radius of the plant, and never be more than a six-hour journey from home. That way, the youngsters will feel close enough to their families, and be persuaded to return to work when they go on leave. Jobs are harder to come by in the hinterland, which is why Lupin’s recruitment team has to sift through 10-15 times the number of applicants per position. For the 108 jobs in Tarapur, the team screened over 3,000 applications. Youngsters who live in the catchment areas of these plants are mostly children of poor farmers, factory workers and labourers who can only dream of a career, given their financial situation. Like brothers Sanjay and Ashok Kholya, who moved to Tarapur from Uttarakhand two years ago when a strike shut down their father’s factory. Last year, they scored in the high eighties in their Class XII finals. “Between our father losing his job and our mother sick with diabetes, there was no way we could have continued with our studies,” says Sanjay, 18. So when they heard about Learnand-Earn, they jumped at the chance. Today, Sanjay works in the quality assurance department, while Ashok helps with research on new drugs. Every month, they take home almost 12,000 between them. At the end of three years, they will not only have a permanent position at Lupin, but also a BSc degree. “We see ourselves building a talent pipeline for all pharma companies with this initiative,” says Kaza. “If, after being trained, some youngsters want to join another company, that’s ok.” Rohit Pandit, 21, sees Learn-and-Earn as his shot at becoming a microbiologist. Pandit’s mother has asthma, his aunt and uncle have high blood pressure and diabetes. So, while he spends his days at Tarapur culturing bacteria, Pandit dreams of finding alternative cures. His colleague, Aarti Dadmani, 19, sees her Lupin stint as an escape. Her parents wanted her to marry and pulled her out of college. “I wanted to study further, and make a career for myself,” she says. “But my parents have no source of income. Now, besides studying, I also send money home.”


At Dr Reddy’s, the self-managed team (SMT) is a multi-skilled entity of mainly high-school graduates which, with some handholding by a group of mentors, runs the plant with minimal supervision. The youngsters, aged 17-19 years, take their own decisions — whether about plant operations, or how they would like to juggle work and classes. “The idea is to increase efficiency in manufacturing by reducing the number of layers [of hierarchy] in the organisation,” says Atul Dhavle, senior director, HR. “Your success in the marketplace depends on how swiftly you respond to the customer. Having a lean organisation helps reduce delivery time.” It also helped cut the workforce by a third — from 120 to 40 — and reduce overheads in the company’s plant at Baddi, Himachal Pradesh.

The company first started an SMT in the Yanam plant (near Pondicherry) in 2002, and later at Baddi. Both have been setting new productivity records. Dhavle says a good production target is 240 people producing 100 million tablets a month. A year after it was set up, the Yanam plant produced 160 million tablets a month, with a 40-50 member SMT. Baddi recently reported a 10% drop in overheads and a zero-accident year. Now, Dr Reddy’s plans to introduce SMTs in all its new plants, starting with Vizag later this year.

Like Lupin, Dr Reddy’s focuses on creating local employment as well. Youngsters for the SMTs are drawn from places within a 100-km radius of the plant. They spend the first two years understanding the pharmacy business, both through weekend classes and stints with every department at the plant. Typically, they handle packaging, warehousing, quality control and assurance functions, besides helping with technology transfer. “After two years of training, they are absorbed into the company as regular employees,” adds Dhavle. Some become mentors for the next batches of youngsters coming in. “The idea of the SMT appealed to us because it empowers first-level people,” says KB Sankara Rao, head of Integrated Product Development Organisation at Dr Reddy’s “When there are four or five layers, people don’t feel ownership. With the SMTs, the youngsters feel responsible, accountable and, therefore, a sense of ownership.”

-----------Labonita Ghosh ET 20OCT11

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


If you wanted to learn to make tiramisu at home, there was a time not so long ago when you would have had to sign up at a fancy, expensive confectionery class. Now, you can just visit any of India's extremely polished food blogs and learn how to make the base of mascarpone cheese from scratch, where to get your ingredients and exactly how to set your Indian oven before you bake.
The recipes are first-rate, with the writers having gleaned tips from their travels around the world, their chef friends in the F&B world and their favourite global magazines.
So you're getting the best advice, and it's free.
There are similar blogs on everything from how to invest your money to how to plan your next vacation, your next high-fashion outfit, even what to do on the weekend.
So, in a world where everything from mother's day to mourning has been commercialised, what makes people give away expert advice at no cost?
For many, it is the sheer thrill of being part of the open-source internet community and of sharing their passion for their favourite hobby.
At least, it starts out that way.
Eventually, the blog -if it is really good -gathers a momentum of its own and begins to turn the amateur expert into a household name, leading to workshop and seminar invitations, book deals or, at the very least, a self-sustaining website generating revenue through a cycle of hits and advertisements.
Travel blogger Aparna Roy, for instance, began her blog ( after she quit her brand management job in 2008 to backpack across Latin America. “I just wanted an easy way to keep in touch with family and friends,“ she says.
Roy returned nine months later to a blog with 500 followers and offers of advertisements and paid links. A year ago, when she hit 5,000 followers, Roy decided to accept some google ads and text links. “The money is not great,“ she says. “It's enough to buy me good beer on the road or a gigantic burger.But that's about it.“
Instead, what Roy has got from her blog are invitations to write for travel magazines and other publications -and paid trips or junkets where she has been invited on the strength of her audience figures, by organisers whose only demand is that she blog about their fivestar hospitality.
The really popular blogs are usually in the food, travel, marketing and personal finance segments, where there is utility value for readers, says social media expert Gaurav Mishra. For the blogger, meanwhile, the blog becomes a personal branding tool. “About 20% of India's 26,000-odd bloggers explore monetary avenues such as authoring a book or conducting workshops,“ says social media expert Moksh Juneja.
Take Mansi Podar and Kanika Parab.When they launched their popular lifestyle blog, BPB or Brown Paper Bag, in October 2009, Parab quit her job with a daily newspaper and Podar gave up a job with a PR agency in New York.
Today, on the strength of its roughly 15,000 subscribers, the duo gets exclusive invitations to events and openings and earns through content syndication for websites. They are also working on a guidebook on Mumbai. A travel site, a café, a dream come true In 2007, Ajay Jain took a break from his freelance writing and set off on a road trip to Lahaul-Spiti in Himachal Pradesh. A former sports manager, IT engineer and business journalist, he had always dreamed of being a travel writer, so, upon his return, he started a blog,, named after the Kunzum Pass near Manali.
“I knew I could never afford to set up a travel magazine, but a blog seemed feasible,“ says the 41-year-old.Today, in addition to about seven travel posts a week, Kunzum -now a fullfledged website -offers in-depth hotel reviews and detailed travel routes and distance charts.
“We try to keep operating costs as low as possible, around Rs 30 lakh a year,“ says Jain, who now employs a full-time editorial assistant and designer. “I am proud to say that revenues now exceed operational costs.“
With some of the revenue from the website, Jain and his wife Anubhuti Rana, 39, have set up the Kunzum travel café at Hauz Khas, Delhi, where they display their photographs and Jain's books. With no set prices and visitors invited to pay what they think they owe, the relaxed owe, the relaxed mood is ideal for weary backpackers looking for a bite, some new friends or a way to join the Kunzum network. A fashionista's blog blooms into a brand Malini Agarwal, former head of digital content for Channel [V], quit her job in February to focus on her blog, and she has no regrets.
“I just go to parties and events with my little digicam and I end up making Rs 3 lakh a month,“ she says.
With no office yet, Agarwal, 34, operates out of her Bandra home, using only a slim laptop, a smartphone, a swanky digicam specially built to take high-resolution photographs in low-light conditions, and the services of six freelancers and a manager.
“Office space would increase operational costs,“ she says, “though I'm sure I would still make profits.“
A former radio jockey and newspaper columnist with no real business experience, Agarwal has nonetheless mastered the art of niche brand ing, creating a blog that is a must-visit for her target audience -women aged 18 to 35 with no children, who therefore have higher disposable incomes.
Given her target group, and her page views, international luxury brands have been lining up for ad space since her blog first hit two lakh page views a month in November. Now, even Bollywood stars want some of the Miss Malini action; earlier this year, Agarwal interviewed Shahid Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra for her blog.
“They are starting to take this medium seriously and recognise its wide reach,“ she says. “Eventually, my plan is to develop Miss Malini into a consolidated brand with merchandise, a fashion line and a fashion and modelling academy.“ Nothing fishy about these gourmet tips A t work, Kalyan Karmarkar, 37, is known as much for his gastronomic skills as for his number-crunching abilities as a qualitative research executive.
“Colleagues often ask me, `Where should we go for Thai in Colaba?' or `How should I go about making tiramisu at home?'“ he says.
But that's not what drove him to start his blog. “Finelychopped was triggered by the plugs I saw in mainstream media, in the form of food and restaurant reviews,“ he says. “For a foodie like me, such plugs are a complete turnoff. So I decided to use my free time to do my own reviews, totally unpaid, totally unsponsored.“
Karmarkar spent about Rs 1 lakh setting up a home office space and investing in a camera for his food photographs and a sturdy laptop.
In addition to reviews, his blog features cooking adventures, shopping trails for exotic ingredifor exotic ingredients and tales of cultural cuisines from his frequent travels.Two years and lakhs of page views on, he steadfastly refuses all offers to commercialise.
“I am not looking for money from this,“ he says. “Instead, it is the good will the blog has earned me that has been most gratifying.“
Invitations to exclusive tastings, new dishes on a popular restaurant's menu sent to his home for feedback...Karmarkar believes it's all recognition of the fact that his opinion annot be bought.
“I never accept free goods for review,“ he says.“I am out there for myself and for my readers who are fellow foodies. I plan to keep my blog sacrosanct and ad-free.“
The word blog is a combination of `web' and `log'. A blog is a type of website or part of a website usually maintained by an individual or group of individuals and offering regular entries of commentary, opinion and analysis. A free guide to finance R anjan Varma had been working in the life insurance sector for 16 years when a mishap on a local train forced him to take three months off from work. Chatting with a friend at home during this forced vacation, he realised that the average life insurance holder had nowhere he could get the fine print of his policy explained and the technical clauses discussed.
That's when he launched Within 18 months, he was getting 20,000 hits a month and earning revenue from advertisements. Four years on, his blog has become a comprehensive personal finance resource, a rarity in cyberspace, offering information on everything from banking and filing returns to insurance claims paperwork and managing multiple credit cards.
Last September, with his project still growing every month, Varma, 44, decided to opt for voluntary retirement and devote all his time to the blog. With questions steadily pouring in, he also launched RupeeCamp, one-day workshops on personal finance, which Varma conducts at the IMC Building at Churchgate. And he has been approached by a publisher to write a book on personal finance.
“It wasn't easy to make the transition from a PSU to a startup, especially at my age,“ says Varma, “but blogging is addictive“.
HT 18SEP11


Campus Contests Offer Jobs in Prize


Corporates chart out competitions around their businesses and management practices to vie for top talent in campuses

Priyata Modi, 24, was in her second year of MBA at MDI, Gurgaon, in 2010 when she received an email notification of a competition by JP Morgan for management students. Though this economics graduate from St Xavier’s College, Kolkata, had always aspired to make it big in investment banking, she had no clue the competition would help her become the frontrunner for a dream job in the IBank six months later. Modi, at present, works as an analyst in JP Morgan and does number crunching with its top investment bankers. Modi is not the only one who got to showcase her talent and kickstart her career through a competition. Management students every year are joining companies through the ‘competition’ route, after proving their abilities. In the war for talent, companies are reinventing hiring. And it’s win-win for both the companies and the students.

Companies, such as JP Morgan, PepsiCo India, CEAT, Schneider Electric and GSK Consumer Healthcare, are all taking this course to hire young managers. The inter-B school contest that Modi enrolled for was titled DEAL.

The contest has been created to gauge the research and analytical abilities of students from across various premier management institutes. The students, including Modi, were provided with a case study, in which, Company A is planning to acquire Company B. These management students are supposed to present a case whether this alliance is possible and if yes, how would Company A present its case to Company B, in order to crack the deal. While students get job offers, corporates get to identify and recognize the desired managerial talent and recruit them. “The Deal is a platform which helps JP Morgan identify and recruit high potential candidates across target premier B-School campuses. Additionally, the competition will also showcase and build awareness on the firm’s Investment banking business, to this audience,” said a company spokesperson. “By the end of the competition, each participant has a self-assessment of his potential and interest to become a successful Investment Banking professional,” he adds. For students, contests are also an opportunity to learn about the potential employer. Garima Pathak, HR head at CEAT said, “The basic design of the competition is always woven around the latest that is happening in the organisation. The contest simulation itself gives the student a fair idea of what is the kind of business the company is into and what it expects in terms of solutions. A lot many times students can see correlation between the organisations and their own professional interests, which we believe, does help them in making prudent career choices.”


Puneet Malhotra, another student from MDI, who joined Religare Finvest through a competition, says such contests also help employers analyse and understand potential employees better. “When you present a plan to a boardroom filled with top management executives, you know they are taking you seriously and you get a chance you present yourself accordingly.” Malhotra and his teammates presented a strategy on how to take the firm’s revenues from . 10,000 crore to . 25,000 crore. Kamlesh Dangi, group chief people officer at Religare, says that such competitions help corporates get more eyeballs from the students. Religare has already organised Traders Trophy, wherein participants trade one or more securities in a fictive market, with each other and fictive market players at IIM-A .

Stratospear, a case study competition wherein participants were expected to present ways and means to drive up the firm’s revenues, at NMIMS, Mumbai, in the last two years. It plans to organise another contest at Indian Institute of Foreign Trade this year. Recruiting through such a process not only improves the quality of hiring, but such candidates are also likely to remain longer with the company, claims Dangi. “This is because it is a well-informed decision for both the sides. While the company has reviewed the candidate at various stages of the contest, the candidate too gets to understand the company’s businesses and practices a lot better,” he says. Dangi compares hiring through contest with summer internships candidates, wherein the situation is quite similar and both the parties get to know each other well. “That’s why a summer intern who performed well is very much likely to get an interview or a job offer with the same company,” he added.

Religare hired two students in its group of companies through contests last year, but plans to add many more as it expands its exposure on campuses.

Most of these competitions are at the moment limited to around 15 management schools, including the IIMs, MDI, XLRI, Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies and Symbiosis Institute of Business Management.

While for PepsiCo India, the campus programs help the company enhance its employer brand proposition on campus, GSK Consumer Healthcare EVP-HR Arun Sehgal said it also gives the company an opportunity to showcase its brands and products to the students and understand their ideas for growth for the company. Mili Kapoor, who is currently working with PepsiCo India, had won the ‘Become Indra’s Advisor’ contest, along with two other members of her team from Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, last year. Kapoor describes such contests as ‘a mini reality check’. “Such contests are a platform to interact with corporates, an experience that is essential before students step into their world. Students get to know where they stand and what they might need to work on academically and otherwise,” she says. “As an organization, we have continuously engaged with campuses by taking a multi-pronged approach to ensure that we remain visible, relevant and top of mind. Our interventions include high impact pre-placement talks on campuses, fun days and our flagship contest,” said Samik Basu, chief people officer at PepsiCo India.

All of this together has helped create impact with key campuses and students and left a strong impression of our employee value proposition, our growth story and the world of infinite possibilities in PepsiCo, according to Basu.

Little surprise then that more and more companies, including multinationals are assessing young managers through contests. For students, the reward goes much beyond cash prizes and sometimes is a gateway to the dream job. Strategies to Attract Talent PepsiCo Be Indra’s Advisor


competition is focused on providing solutions to live challenges being faced by the business. The winners are taken to PepsiCo’s headquarters in New York and given a five-star treatment CEAT Wheels on Web

THIS MARKETING campaign competition is focused on creating an online business promotional strategy for CEAT, along with giving the participants a fair idea of the kind of business the company is into and what it expects in terms of solutions Religare StratoSpear A CASE study competition where participants are expected to present ways and means to drive up the firm’s revenues in the years to come JP Morgan The Deal

THIS INVESTMENT-BANKING competition focuses on a possible merger and acquisition between two companies. Participants are expected to present a case on whether a company should go for the acquisition, and if yes, how GSK Consumer Healthcare StratEdge A SALES and marketing competition, it is aimed at providing strategic solutions to the challenges that organisations today face in a dynamic business environment.


Monday, October 24, 2011


Why B-school Applicants Need to Keep it Clean
Business schools frequently check out applicants online before deciding who makes the cut
Many MBA applicants think if they turn in a polished application and perform well at the admissions interview, they will be a shoe-in at top business schools. What they fail to realize is that their online reputation—everything from their high school blog to their Facebook page to their Twitter feed—is fair game when admissions committees are considering applicants. In fact, 27% of B-school admissions officers say they Googled applicants to learn more about them, and 22% say they visited their Facebook pages and other social networking sites for the same purpose, according to a survey recently conducted by Kaplan Test Prep.

Employers have been checking the online reputations of potential hires for years, and because admissions committees are interested in the employability of the applicants they accept, it is only natural they are following suit, says Linda Abraham, president of the admissions consultancy

Times have changed, she adds, and MBA applicants have to realize their online reputation matters. And it could matter a lot. No one wants to get rejected from a school or job opportunity because of something juvenile or unsuitable on the Internet.

“Photos of you drunk or scantily clad are not appropriate for the public, and anything digital is public,” Abraham says. It’s a challenge to keep everything on the Internet positive. “You can’t paint over the graffiti on the Internet as you would the bathroom wall,” says Abraham, who advises clients to clean up their online presence.


Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business has no official policy on tracking a prospective student’s online reputation. Still, if an issue arises that prompts admissions committee members to conduct a Google search or something similar of a prospective student, they will do it, says Kelly R Wilson, assistant dean of MBA admissions at McDonough. She adds that business schools might assess all public behavior, which means applicants should refrain from being rude to the assistants in the admissions office when they visit campus, as well as conduct themselves appropriately online. “Someone presenting themselves in a negative way or a way that will have a negative impact on the school and the brand we’re trying to live is a deal breaker,” says Wilson. Obviously, the overwhelming majority of applicants today have had some sort of online presence, probably dating back to long before they wanted to apply to business school. Perhaps their friends tagged them in photos at a wild party they would rather forget. Or they used foul language in a blog entry when they were 15. In more serious cases, there could be news stories with their names linked to criminal acts, such as underage drinking. Regardless, they can repair their online reputation, says Todd William, founder and CEO of Reputation Rhino, an online reputation management company.


Clients who sign up for Reputation Rhino’s service can have the company help them conduct an online reputation repair, which means getting negative content removed whenever possible or highlighting positive content, so it moves the negative onto the second or third page of search results. They can also hire Reputation Rhino to help them create a positive, professional online presence and monitor their reputation by keeping tabs on what is being said about them and responding to it. There are helpful hints and strategies that business school applicants can implement on their own. For starters, they should search their name (and any nicknames) on Google to see what comes up and take inventory of their social networking profiles. If there is inappropriate content, they should remove it whenever possible. If they cannot remove it themselves, they should contact those who can, such as a Web administrator or a friend who has posted content or photos of them, says Abraham.


Applicants should also beef up their professional presence on the Internet. Flaunting the positives should eventually override negative content in search results if it cannot be removed. Creating a profile on LinkedIn is a must, says Wilson. But even Facebook can be used in more professional ways. Applicants often can connect with schools via their Facebook pages, as is the case with McDonough. Recently, launched BeKnown, an app that allows Facebook users to create a professional network separate from their personal identity on the site. Bloomberg Businessweek

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Free websites that can help you bring some order to your ever-expanding virtual life


Download the Evernote software to your computer to organise your notes, files, folders, photographs, memos and bills in one place. If you ever think of an idea, capture it and Evernote will keep it safe and easy to find the next time you want it. The best part is that it makes the printed or written words in your photographs searchable too. Evernote apps can be downloaded for the iPhone, iPad, Android phone and Windows phone and hence can be accessed while on the fly. Use it when you are travelling: Save your itinerary, weblinks, scanned copies of travel documents and access it whenever you need to.


Pinterest is a virtual pin-up board that doubles as a social networking site. Pin up pictures, websites, articles you like and organise them on a board that you can share with your friends. You can create several pin boards and organise them by category. If you like boards by other users you can `re-pin' or share them on your page.The website is still in testing mode.Write to them to get an invitation to join. Log in to take a look at boards dedicated to comics, pumpkin craft and poster designs


This website helps you personalise your web experience. You can store in one place newspapers and magazine links, blogs, weather reports, email accounts, videos, photos, podcasts, games and applications. Each time you sign into your netvibes account, all the portals get automatically updated without you having to sign into your accounts or go looking for them. You can also access this website from your smart phone.


Springpad helps you quickly organise and store anything you spot and like on the web. It also helps you create easy shopping and to-do lists that you can access on your smart phone. You can share this information on your social networking site or directly email it to your email address. You can also set alerts and reminders that will pop up on your computer screen or your phone.But what sets Springpad apart is that it adds useful links and relevant offers to your information. For instance, if you save a picture of bananas, Springpad might link you to the best banana bread recipes. Or if you save a picture of an iPod it might link you to the best offers available online.
-Radhika Raj & Humaira Ansari


Say It With Flowers
The simplest way to show love, affection and respect, the wrong flower can muddle up the true intent.
Blame it on Hollywood. As with every other trend that burns a hole in your pocket, it’s the Hollywood movies that have fed an almost insatiable appetite for flower gifting — and the more expensive, the better. From the days of Audrey Hepburn to the days of Meg Ryan — the standard romcom has built a fetish for flowers. And as Tom Hanks hands over daisies to Ryan in You’ve Got Mail or Mr Big sends an arrangement of long-stemmed roses to Carrie, you want to get flowers too. Unfortunately the Indian film industry hasn’t done much for the cause of flower gifting. Given our flower movie moments are typical suhaag raat, stage and puja scenes. Flower gifting has never been a priority for us Indians. However, if the roadside flower shops sprouting everywhere in your colony is any indication, ‘saying it with flowers’ is a language we are learning fast. Agrees Pawan Gadia, chief executive officer of Ferns N Petals (FNP) — one of the leading flower boutiques in India. The culture of gifting flowers has seen a lot of change from the early ’80s and ’90s. “But the concept of ‘saying it with roses’ is relatively new,” he says. Over the years, FNP has seen customers’ tastes evolve from loud arrangements of roses with fillers packed in coloured papers to state-of-the-art arrangements by designers using imported posies.

Fancy Flowers

Now if you have to say it with flowers, make sure they are fancy. As American television actress Delta Burke had once commented, “If you want to say it with flowers, a single rose says: I’m cheap!” If your bouquet doesn’t have any statement flowers, chances are it might not survive another day. Lilies, carnations, hydrangea and orchids have now come to stay, other than the plain gerberas and roses. People now demand exotic varieties and also request specific arrangements. “Customers don’t think twice about spending a few thousands on a bouquet or flower arrangement today,” Gadia says, adding that “while quick fixes are for last minute deliveries, it is not uncommon for customers to ask for customised arrangements.”

Weddings, birthdays and anniversaries are still the key drivers for gifting flowers. People are now sending flowers to even business associates to build networks and stay in touch. From an occasional purchase, gifting flowers has seen a change. As Rishi Sachdev, owner of Aryan Florist that runs an online florist company, claims that he gets requests to deliver flowers in villages as far flung as Sangrur in Punjab. Flowers at Work? While in the West, flowers are suited for every occasion from funerals to the workplace, in India, flowers are relegated to personal occasions and almost never at funerals. But in the Indian offices, it’s now okay to gift your boss or a colleague flowers on their birthdays.

However, there’s a separate flower-gifting etiquette code for that. While deciding to gift flowers in the office always pick a mildly scented arrangement that doesn’t assail the senses. And this even when your colleague might love fragrant flowers, as the office mates might not be okay with a heavy smell — however pleasant — hanging in the air. Play it safe.

Of course, steer clear of the long-stemmed red roses, which hint at stronger feelings and are liable to send the wrong signals. Instead choose a standard mix — seasonal flowers with a blast of colours is the best choice.

Any dominating colour scheme and your bouquet can be open to interpretation: red for love, pink for secret love, yellow for friendship, etc. Or gift a potted plant. Just make sure it is low maintenance, else it is most likely to die in the office. But Gadia claims that flowers in India don’t hang heavy with imbued meaning. In the West, since flowers are extremely personal there’s one for everything and every moment. Case in point: give a flowering cactus to someone you know who has endured a lot in life. If you want to show loyalty, gift them a bamboo plant, while woodbine is the perfect flower to give to your brother. “In India, men [the prime pickers of flowers] look for trends and bestsellers to aid them in the purchase process,” Gadia says.


Who: Newly-Weds Send: Roses (red and pink), lilies, tulips — all signify love, bird of paradise signifies prosperity

Who: Lover Send: Long-stemmed red roses or lilies, both signify love

Who: Grandpa, mom or teacher Send: Orchids to imply nobility; evergreens say long life; and jonquil says youth

Who: New businessman Send: Yellow chrysanthemums, bird of paradise represent wealth and prosperity

Who: Someone in the hospital Send: Any light-scented ones like carnations Never send a potted plant — depicts finality

Who: Friends Send: Chinese roses, chrysanthemums or yellow roses all are flowers of friendship

Who: Secret Love Send: Pink roses — the flowers of secret love — will help you confess your love
( :: Nupur Amarnath ET16OCT11)


India Inc may not have too many women CEOs but when it comes to the financial services space, there suddenly appears to be a surfeit of women at the helm.

Vishakha Mulye, MD & CEO of ICICIVenture,the venturecapital arm of the ICICI group, is among the names that have started popping up every timewomen CEOs get counted. A chartered accountant by training, Mumbai-girl Mulye has been a banker for most part of her 19 years within the ICICI group, first with ICICI and then with the bank. She took up the new assignment at the helm of the venture capital fund arm two years ago, overseeing about $2 billion of investors’ money under six funds.

Did the fact that she was a woman makeher riseup thecorporate ladder any different? “I came in when a lot of women were already there and being a woman was never a challenge,” Mulye,an avid traveller,who also loves to watch films with her family, said. The work culture in the bank, where family-related issues are given equal importance, also helps.“For instance,if a lady or a man went for a PTA, it’s not counted differently,” says Mulye, who has two kids to look after – one 14 and the other 9. It was no different when it came to the challenges as well, she says taking a sip of a Diet Coke. She counts the $5-billion fund raising (equity) issue for ICICI Bank in a record time of just 50 days as her biggest challenge. It was in 2007, just before the global financial crisis of 2008, that the ICICI Bank board approved a fund raising plan that no Indian bank had done before. For Mulye, who was the chief financial officer (CFO) of the bank then, another challenge was that 26% of the total fund raising had to be in the Indian market. Her prior experience of raising $1.8 billion in 2005 came in handy. That was in terms of scale. In terms of complexity, however, the most challenging assignment was the merger of the erstwhile ICICI with ICICI Bank in 2001, which involved combining a project finance company with a full-fledgedbank. “It was something that nobody had done before. And the RBI had told us that from Day 1, the bank had to be fully compliant with all the regulatory parameters, like CRR, SLR etc.” As the head of the core group that worked on the merger, Mulye was always on her toes.

Mulye was put on the current job soon after one of the investments at ICICI Venture went into a loop—the one involving the investments in Subhiksha, a southbased retail company which went bankrupt. Despite the controversy around that investment, ICICI Venture apparently made money on that transaction. Mulye, however, doesn’t want to talk about that one since it’s sub judice; but on a more philosophical note, she says making good decisions and bad ones are part of the VC/PE game.

“For every five good decisions, there would be one bad decision,” she says. So, does the volatile market put more pressure on her? “Creating value in a volatile market is very challenging and exciting. Downturn gives us opportunities.. And God has been very kind to me,” says Mulye, whose office in Prabhadevi in central Mumbai is just about five minutes walk from the famous Siddhivinayak temple.

Setup originally as a JVwith UTI in 1988, it came under the exclusive ICICI fold in 1998. “We have returned about $350 million to investors,” she says proudly. As for the current investment trends, urban infrastructure, healthcare, education and financial infrastructure plays are the ones Mulye is bullish on. In addition, consumption-related opportunities and strong regional plays are alsohighon her investment list.


Venture Career

A chartered accountant, she has been with the ICICI group for 19 years;

was the CFO of the largest private sector bank before moving to head I-venture.


A $5-billion FPO for ICICI Bank in 50 days in 2007;

reverse merger and integration of ICICI, the erstwhile holding entity, with ICICI Bank

(TOI 22 OCT1)

Thursday, October 20, 2011


You could be turning deaf because of your headphones.

A guide of what you should avoid while listening to your favourite tracks on the go

Is music your safe haven from the hellish traffic jams you travel through everyday? You might need to re-think this strategy. Drowning out incessant honking on our potholeridden roads with Comfortably Numb, might just be numbing your eardrums for life. Like Rajeev Khandelwal who loses his hearing in Soundtrack, thanks to his constant use of headphones as a DJ; the actor’s on-screen nightmare can actually become your reality. In today’s world of iPods and phones that can play music, most people are plugged in constantly. Our expert Dr Nishit Shah, ENT consultant at Bombay Hospital tells you what you can do to avoid losing your sense of sound.


Listening to music at half the volume your player is obviously not damaging. It all depends on the volume and how long you are listening to it. Shah says, “There are guidelines laid down by World Health Organization as to what decibels are permissible. Most workplaces and music player manufacturers adhere to these guidelines. But constant exposure is still a problem.” Cranking up the volume for longer periods of time is very dangerous, and can lead to partial deafness. The higher the volume gets the lesser amount of time the ear can take it.


Unlike people who go deaf during a bomb blast or hearing the sonic boom of a plane, deafness caused by headphones creeps on you and if not checked, the effects can be adverse. “I have seen people who show no obvious signs of deafness when they are young, can hardly hear anything when they reach their 60s.” Studies show that this is common among people who go for a lot of concerts and clubs. Shah says, “Deafness caused due to listening to music does not happen overnight. The ear warns you before things can get really bad with tinnitus. You get a ringing sound in your ear, which means hearing loss is imminent. When you exit a club, your ears feel relieved and you can’t hear too well immediately. That’s because your ears are adapting to the new environment.” In fact, Shah says that moving from an extremely loud place (like a club) to an extremely quiet place can be more damaging than exposing yourself to higher decibels for longer.


Studies have shown that other than musicians and people in studios who want to listen to intricate sounds of a particular track, most people listen to music on headphones loudly to drown out background noise. The standard ear piece or even normal headphones are no good. Shah recommends using in-ear headsets or noise reduction/cancellation headphones that naturally drown out background noise. He says, “People who use these headsets have a tendency to listen to music at a lower volume anyway. So, if you want to listen to something throughout the day this would be the best way to avoid loss of hearing.”


The scariest part about losing your hearing ability is that there is nothing you can do to regain it. The strongest preventive drug doctors prescribe is “common sense”. Shah says, “Most people don’t buy headphones because of quality, they buy it because it is loud enough. How do you tell people otherwise? You have to be aware of what is happening to your ears. As soon as you feel any discomfort, take a break. You cannot listen to music loudly for eight hours in a row. This will obviously affect your hearing.” If you feel like you are losing your sense of hearing, head to an ENT immediately. In the first few days of being affected, your hearing can be repaired with the help of steroids, but very few people actually spot the impediment so soon. Then, of course, there are hearing aids. These are used when the damage is already done though, and you want to avoid that altogether.


RESEARCH suggests that risk of permanent hearing loss goes up with just five minutes of exposure a day to music at full volume. Traffic noise is at about 70 to 80 decibels. If you're trying to drown this out, you will hit dangerous decibel levels. Listening to earbuds, or in-ear headphones, for 90 minutes a day at 80 percent volume is probably safe. However, different brands have different volumes and that needs to be factored into the decision to buy headsets.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Any frequent user of the internet has a frighteningly large amount of data stored online — all accessed with simple passwords. Here are some tips to stay safe online
For all the avid users of multiple email and social networking accounts, there’s one important thing you need to do before you depart this world — apart from your will, that is.

Log on to and leave all the password clues to all your financial documents so that your relatives and next of kin can access it. Questli (, the company which hosts the site, will hand over your ‘Password Will’ to them, after confirming that you’re no more and that your relatives are the rightful successors. Danil Kozyatnikov, founder of Questli, who started the service just a few weeks ago, told ET that the response was “unbelievable. It was about a tweet a minute for the past 24 hours.” With online assets becoming as important as physical ones, the need to have proper passwords to protect them is very important.

Not only do you need to have secure passwords, but you also need different passwords for all your different email accounts, bank accounts, social networking websites and forums.

ET analysed a few easy steps which can help you create strong passwords, manage them well, store them in password vaults and even avoid the common mistakes people make while creating passwords.


The first security check that needs to be done is to find out whether your password has been compromised. Some services like can help you determine this. Visit this site and just enter your email address. The site scans through a number of databases that have been released by hackers to the public. If your email ID has been compromised, it will give you more details and tips on creating a stronger password.


Testing the strength of your password is very important as it shows how vulnerable it is to hacking attempts. One way of doing this is through the Microsoft Password Checker ( Once you type in your password in the box, it analyses it and tells you whether it is weak, medium, strong or very strong. If the password checker advises that it is a weak password, you should change it to a stronger password immediately.


Some argue that the era of passwords is over. Nowadays, security experts will advise you to create pass ‘phrases’ — to ensure that hacking your data becomes even more difficult. Sanjay Bahl, chief security officer, Microsoft India, offers a simple solution to this. “Think of a sentence that you can remember. For example: My daughter Maya is two years old. Enter this into your online system to see whether it takes this pass ‘phrase’. If it does not, pick the first letter of each word of the sentence and create a new, nonsensical word, like ‘mdmityo’. To make this more complex, mix the letters with uppercase and lowercase letters and numbers. (for instance, mdMi2yo). For added security, pepper this with some special characters. You can also use symbols that look like letters (eg: mdMi2y0).”


Remembering all those nonsensical passwords can be cumbersome and this is where password managers can help. One of the recommended sites for this is Once you download the free software provided, it integrates with your system and web browser. You will first have to create a LastPass account with your email address and a single, master password. Once you log in, import all your passwords to this account. Each time you open an account or webpage that requires authentication, the password will get filled in automatically. An interesting feature here is that it can even create a strong password for you and store it. The passwords are not bound to one PC either — you can log onto the website from anywhere and access your passwords. The software works across browsers like Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and platforms such as WebOS, Windows 7, Symbian, BlackBerry and iOS. Roboform ( is another efficient paid service you can consider.


Password vaults are an option if you have difficulty remembering multiple passwords. Most browsers have their own vaults. If you use Windows 7 for instance, you can use the Credential Manager to store credentials like usernames and passwords that you use to log on to websites or other computers on a network. Credentials are saved in special folders on your computer called vaults. To access it on Windows 7, simply type ‘Credential Manager’ in the start menu. Mozilla’s Firefox also has its own master password vaults. If the option in enabled, a message will appear each time you login to a website using Firefox, asking you whether it should remember the password. If you choose yes, the password is saved in the vault and will automatically appear each time you log in. For Apple fans, there is the Keychain Access in Mac OS X. Some of the other popular vaults are Password Safe ( and KeePass (


A process similar to creating a will can be done with passwords as well. If you log into sites like, you can enter names and email addresses of friends or relatives you wish to share your password with in case of death. These friends are given clues which lead them to the password. The company ascertains whether you are dead, either through Twitter, Facebook or other social media sites where you have been active. Once it ascertains that a user has passed away, it distributes the ‘clues’ to the people mentioned in the will.


Password vaults and managers are not immune to security breaches. Infact, had recently asked all its users to change their master password (though more as a precautionary measure rather than due to an actual breach). Although the passwords are stored online in an encrypted form, your master password is not stored anywhere. Make sure you remember your master password because without that, there is usually no way to regain access of the vault.


In areas with shared computers like cyber cafés and libraries, there is a much higher risk of your password being hacked. If you must use a shared computer, use an online password manager/vault, a complicated password and an on-screen keyboard. If you regularly access the internet at cyber cafés, make it a habit to change your password frequently.


In the battle against hackers, it is best to update the virus protection software on your PC regularly. Here are some tips from Sanjay Bahl of Microsoft India: Keep close watch on e-mails, especially phishing lotteries and gifts.

If you receive an e-mail asking you to share personal information, do not do so. Never assume that default settings are safe and make sure that you change them in such a way that you do not share any information inadvertently. Scamming individuals can get your ID information by exploiting programming weaknesses found in websites. What appears to be a professional, secure website may in reality be a front used to collect personal information for identity theft purposes. The basic rule here is to use a secure web browser and check the website’s business reputation.
- Neenu Abraham ET12OCT11


If you're child's been 'acting up' of late and his grades have nosedived, we'd suggest you check what he frequently munches on. An expanding waistline is no more the only tell-tale sign of unhealthy eating habits.
Food that is low in nutrients and vitamins can affect your mental well-being as well, claim experts.Dr Harish Shetty, a renowned city-based psychiatrist, said excessive consumption of junk food, especially those high in additives, can lead to low haemoglobin and Vitamin B12 levels as well as iron deficiency.
Simply put, it affects the entire psychological make-up."Increased restlessness, sadness, bouts of anger, low levels of concentration and even depression can be the result of an insufficiently nutritious diet," explained Dr Shetty.He added that 5% of all attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) cases are caused due to the over-consumption of additives.He recounted the case of a schoolboy, who suffered from anxiety attacks and depression, which affected his performance in school. When repeated therapy and counselling sessions didn't help, a blood test was ordered. It revealed very low levels of Vitamin B12 — so severe that he had to be injected with the vitamin to get the levels up to scratch. Eventually, he recovered and is now completing his dentistry studies.
Don't dismiss this as a one-off case. Mental illnesses among school and college children are on the rise. And poor eating habits are one of the major contributors. Sure, your kid gets nutritious food at home. But who's keeping a close eye on school and college canteens?
Food there is often extremely low in nutrition, deep-fried and made of stale and unhealthy ingredients.
The Delhi HChad recently come up with a sure-all plan to nip the problem in the bud: a blanket ban on all junk food in schools and colleges. But, Dr Jagmeet Madan, president of the Indian Dietetic Association and dean of the SVT College of Home Science, SNDT Women University, has a different take: ban such food on campus and the kid will get it from outside.
"We have to introduce some new healthier options."Dr Madan is currently involved in the gathering of data from various canteens across the city to evaluate their nutritional value, based on which she will make recommendations on the kind of food to be made available to school and college students.
And if you're worried that your child will push that plate of healthier food away, arguing that you must have compromised with taste for health, Rajdeep Kapoor, executive chef of ITC Maratha, sets your mind at ease.
Besides, healthy food does not pinch your pockets as well.
"It's just a general lack of awareness that leads people to think this way," said Kapoor. "There are simple things you can do to increase the nutrition quotient of the food without compromising on taste. People think using whole grain bread is an expensive proposition. In our country, we have been making atta from grains such as jowar, bajra, ragi for ages. It's infinitely more nutritious than normal maida because it contains healthy fibres. And it's cheap to procure as well."Invest in a teflon-coated, non-stick pan to reduce the quantity of oil for cooking food. "There is no need to deep fry a vada pav patty. You can just grill it and it won't be as bad for you. And, the taste will remain just the same," assured Kapoor.
---Rito Paul

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


THE COMMON ADMISSION test for aspiring MBAs, which starts later this month, is already giving those nailbiting moments to the over two lakh applicants. In the run-up, alumni, friends, philosophers and guides troop in to advise the candidate about the do’s and don’ts in this big-ticket exam.

1 Pass Over Weak Areas

Moinak Bagchi, a senior research analyst at a Gurgaon-based consulting firm, made the mistake of attempting too many questions in the quantitative section three years ago. He thought the more he attempts, the better it will be for him. “There were negative marks and because of my errors, the mathematics score plummeted,” says Bagchi. He advises, one should attempt only a few problems, especially in the section one is weak in, and try to make up for it in the subject one is strong at, like English or logic.

2 Difficult Questions Last

The exam will not grade candidates on the basis of difficulty level so there is no point in trying to answer a question that requires work. Sriram Mohan, a CAT aspirant, says he will spot those that require time and not bother solving them at all. There are sitters cocooned between tough questions in every section and one should solve those rather than waste time on the tough ones.

3 Draw a Quick Blueprint

Taking a quick note and figuring out a way to solve of the question right in the beginning helps, says Ajay Antony, national coach and director for IIT-JEE training at TIME. He says pondering on a question later wastes up to 30 seconds. A small formula, or method scribbled in the rough notes helps get started on the problem easily.

4 Next Question, Please

This is one thing coaches often find students doing: Getting stuck in solving a problem that they think is within reach, but lose track of time. They would rather solve the question instead of leaving it and getting on with the others. Despite finding the answer, the student has lost out on the possibility of answering questions that could have been easier and less time-consuming.

5 It’s Just Another Exam

The biggest fear: Giving up after feeling the exam is not going on the expected lines. A seat lost at the IIMs, or secondary career options, are best ruminated over later on. CAT is one of many examinations and is best attempted that way.

(Devina Sengupta ET 14O1011)


Five Ways To... Tell Your Boss He is Wrong
“No sir! I don't agree”. Often, you gulp these words to avoid offending your boss. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn't try. If you present the right case with the wrong attitude, it will fall on deaf ears. When done the right way, your boss will value you as a trusted guide. Anand Altekar shows how you can get there.

1 Be Discreet

You do not want to embarrass or humiliate your boss in public. “ I make sure that I talk to my boss in person or on the phone if a one-on-one meeting is not possible,” says Siddharth Tamhankar, Senior QA Engineer at Cybage Software. Also, try to avoid emails since your boss might want to keep the discussion of his errors off the record. “I make sure I speak only what I think, I never say ‘Sir, others are saying the same thing’ that only leads to an argument,” remarks Siddharth.

2 Be Sure of Yourself

“We encourage spontaneity in our company. As long as it is for the company’s benefit, it really doesn’t matter who the advice comes from. I am more responsive when my junior is honest and has no fear,” says Josy Paul, chairman and chief creative officer, BBDO. Be certain about your judgment. Double check. And once you are sure, don’t waste any time. “Though I normally discuss a problem with my boss, there have been times when she did not respond properly. When I was new in the company, I was not introduced to certain processes and I was not receiving the right support from my boss. Since I was sure of what I wanted I escalated my complaint to her boss and had the problem solved soon,” says Priyanka Sonawane, HR executive at iResearch Services.

3 Empathise with Boss

There is no reason to relish the fact that the boss is wrong. Everyone makes mistakes, even those in charge. Acknowledge your boss’ authority. Always remember, you are only in a position to suggest, so try not to dominate the conversation. Your agenda must be the betterment of the company. Focus on the effect the mistake will have on the business, not your boss’ shortcomings. “I always explain my point to my boss as if he is a customer. I usually think to myself, if a customer had a wrong product and I wanted to sell him my company’s product, will I say, ‘It was a really stupid move to buy that product in the first place?’says Karan Pandav, sales and marketing engineer at Forbes Marshall.

4 Start on Positive Note

You can start with asking permission to speak. Compliment your boss for a strategy that was his or her initiative. This adds a positive tone to your feedback. “When I start on a positive note in telling my boss that she is wrong, the conversation turns out much more constructive,” says Sonia Malani, assistant manager, HR at Bajaj Allianz.

5 Keep an Open Mind

“I never start in an ‘I told you so’ manner. That results in an unproductive argument. I also make an effort not to approach my boss assuming the 'I am right and you are wrong' attitude. My boss and I share a friendly relationship," says Vikhyat Karumanchi, technology manager at Uniken Systems. But unless you share a similar relationship with your boss, trudge with care — avoid getting aggressive.


Monday, October 17, 2011


No flight of fancy: This aircraft uses cooking oil as fuel
London: A British plane, carrying 232 passengers and crew members, has created aviation history by flying from Birmingham to Lanzarote using cooking oil. In fact, the Thomson Airways flight last week was the first commercial bio-fuels flight ever from a UK airport. One of the engines on the twin-engined Boeing 757 flight was operated on a 50% blend of “hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids”, produced from used cooking oil, and 50% Jet A1 fuel, the ‘Daily Mail’ newspaper reported.
The cooking oil used for the Thomson flight is collected from the kitchens of hotels and restaurants, and it then goes through a special processing treatment.
Carl Gissing, director of customer service at Thomson Airways, has said that the bio-fuel cost around five to six times the price of aviation fuel, but said the airline was prepared to “put its money where our mouth is” because it believed in sustainable bio-fuels. Gissing said: “We are proud to be leading the way with the first commercial bio-fuel flights and we hope it will make people sit up and take notice.”
He said the move was designed to make a statement which it was hoped would lead to industry and governments investing in developing fuels which would reduce carbon emissions. Thomson plans to start a full programme of bio-fuel flights in 2012 from Birmingham airport, the airways said. Dirk Konemeijer, managing director of skyNRG, which supplies the bio-fuel, said it made sense to utilise used cooking oil because it was a waste product which couldn’t be used for anything else.
It was not economically viable at present to supply the whole of the aviation industry with the fuel and that was why government support was needed.
Long-term other technology was necessary and in four years, a new fuel could come along.
However, environmental protesters stripped naked and covered themselves in red body paint to disrupt the launch. Joe Peacock, from Birmingham Friends of the Earth, said: “We can’t ignore the massive environmental and social problems caused by trying to feed our addiction to fossil fuels with plant-based alternatives.” PTI (TOI 10OCT11)


PC chip that saves energy, is 60% faster
Washington: Indian-American Raj Dutt, an IIT-Kharagpur alumnus, has developed a next-generation energy-efficient computer chip that has caught the attention of the Pentagon, which is testing its application in the ambitious F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. The breakthrough technology by Dutt, chairman and CEO of privately-held APIC Corp and Photonic Corp, helps computer processors consume up to 90% less energy and run up to 60% faster. “The significance of the technology is that information transfer on the semiconductor chip as well as between components, will now be done using light — photons — instead of just electrons (electronics),” Dutt said. There are many advantages in size, weight and especially power consumed, he explained during his recent trip to Washington. Photons do not generate heat, thus they do not need to be cooled. For electronics, cooling is one of the largest cost components. “Photonic interconnects do not generate heat and use less size than electronic copper interconnects, so more transistors can be put onto a chip. Most significantly, we have figured out how to do this using the same economical process used in manufacturing semiconductor chips today, enabling them to be stamped out by the millions,” Dutt said. Well aware with the potential of the computer chip, the US department of defence is fully supporting Dutt and his company. The Pentagon is testing the chip’s application in the ambitious F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. There are several benefits to the computer and defence industry, Dutt said. “First, for military platforms there are tremendous savings in size, weight and power required, while it simultaneously brings much more capability in bandwidth, processing power and speed,” he said. Now, tens or even hundreds of separate signals (frequencies) can be passed through a single fiber optic cable less than a 10th of the diameter of a human hair, rather than one signal through a copper cable, he said. PTI (TOI 10OCT11)


It’s not just malls, high streets and kitschy neighbourhood markets laying down the red carpet for consumers in the festive shopping rush. The walls of the physical marketplace are being demolished and the festive shopping action is as much exciting on the world wide web.
With online shopping witnessing a strong take-off stage with most online shopping portals claiming high quarter-on-quarter growth rates, they are leaving no stone unturned in offering a plethora of offers, discounts and even lucky draws, just like your friendly neighbourhood shopping mall. And why not? With industry sources pegging the festive season sales (October-December quarter) at as much as 35-40% of their total sales annually, the overdrive on their part is all but expected.
“It’s a phenomenon that has set in only in the last two to three years and seasonality is now emerging as a major determining factor in online shopping as well. This has been the case in developed online shopping markets like the US for a long while now, and the closest that the Indian landscape can get to it is around the Dussehra-Diwali festivities.
We expect to have 30-35% of our annual sales in the October-December quarter, and a 15% month-on-month growth in October specifically over September, riding on the festive shopping rush and the phenomenal growth being witnessed by the sector anyway,” says Abhimanyu Lal, director (marketing) eBay India. eBay’s Dussehra promotion is on till October 4, after which the Diwali promotion is slated to take over. Lal adds that they will be expanding their special weekly deals property, and will be offering a broad range of free gifts and, of course, discounts, ranging from 15-20% to even 90% for a few products.
Atrash Aman, director-marketing and strategy, Homeshop18, speaks in similar vein. “The overall investment for our online festive promotions is R1 crore. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a growth of about 40-50% over our sales in September.
For the online shopping landscape in the country, this quarter contributes to as much as around 40% of the total annual sales. As for us, around 35% of our annual sales come from this quarter. We’ve been coming out with aggressive festive offers around Diwali not only on television but online as well in a big way, and it is now in its fourth year,” says Aman.’s festive promotion promises 100% assured gifts with every purchase, along with weekly and bumper lucky draws with prizes like sedans, LCD televisions and iPods, to name a few. Along with that, discounts are in the range of 25-75%.
But it’s not just the biggies of online shopping that are going all guns blazing into October and the new quarter.
Smaller but rapidly growing shopping and deals portals, which have been mushrooming over the Indian online landscape are pretty gung-ho about the festive season, too. Quintessential Diwali gifts, ranging from the good old home appliances to snazzy tablets and cell phones, and even deals and discounts on dry fruits and chocolates, the virtual marketplace is abuzz. And, of course, these new age fashion and deals dotcoms are doing whatever it takes to attract the discerning Indian consumer with attractive deals on almost any and every product or service. Navratri thalis, gold coins, jewellery, candles, Diwali gifts, home appliances and beauty packages for garbha nights, you name it and websites like Fashion and You, SnapDeal, Mydala, Deals and You and 99 Labels are selling it. In fact, it’s keeping in mind the DNA of the Indian consumer and the array of festivals that the websites are chalking out their marketing strategies. “Right now it’s the lead time for Diwali offers. We are doing jewellery and saree sales in the run up to the Karva Chauth. We intend to have a special page on our website dedicated to Diwali sales,” explains Anisha Singh, founder and CEO of Mydala. The website has more than 4 million subscribers. She adds that since people spend during Diwali season they are taking all the initiatives to ensure that people spend online and expect transactions to go up by 50% during festive season.
Daily deals website SnapDeal’s chief marketing officer Sandeep Komaravelly adds, “We are adding many travel products on our website as many people travel during holidays.” SnapDeal, which has about 10 million subscribers and gets 2 million unique visitors, is targeting a turnover of R150 crore for the fiscal ending 2012. As per industry estimates, for any shopping site, the sales are expected to go up by around 20% month-on-month during October.
The business head of e-commerce portal Naaptol, Sachin Singhal, says that they are expecting an increase of 30% in traffic and 15-20% hike in the number of transactions for the month of October.
Similarly Fashion & You and Deals & You are looking at doubling their number of transactions and revenue during the festive month.
99 Labels has projected an increase of 30-35% in traffic and transactions in the month of October over September. The website is already offering express delivery to consumers so that the goods can reach on time for consumption during the festival season.
And what is attracting consumers to buy online rather than going the traditional touch-feel-and-buy way?
It’s the big discounts, lucky draws, attractive prizes and, of course, the convenience factor.
Log onto any website and you will see banners screaming special offers for Diwali. The price conscious consumer will certainly be scratching his palms to buy cheaper products online with just a click.
Aman adds that the phenomenal growth being witnessed by the online shopping segment is evident from the daily number of shipments by Homeshop18’s portal. “We had hit the 10,000 shipments a day mark a few months ago, and we expect it to reach half-a-million shipments daily in a few more months. We have been growing almost 200% quarter-on-quarter for about 12-15 months now,” he says.
Industry estimates peg the number of online shoppers at around 10-11 million, just about one-tenth of the total number of Internet users in the country. Obviously, the opportunity is tremendous.
And what about back-breaking inflation and fears of a repeat of 2008 global slowdown having an effect on the spending power of the consumers?
“In a high inflationary environment, we are hoping that people will turn to online shopping in a big way this year to save big bucks,” says Singh of Mydala.
For festive season it’s getting bigger and better for netizens. For instance, luxury goods portal 99 Labels is offering free shipping in October and during the week prior to Diwali, goods on the website will be sold at a discount of 80-90%.
Abhimanyu Lal of eBay India says that though the threat of a major global slowdown yet again is very real, online shopping business has been counter-cyclical to such developments in the past. “Big ticket purchases might go down for obvious reasons as the pockets of consumers will be under heavy stress. But apart from that, most of the product categories in which online shopping sites mostly deal will see a reverse trend as consumers will move to online portals as they more often than not get much better deals and discounts online. Online shopping sites suit the consumer perfectly well in a recessionary environment,” he says.
For portals, innovation is the key when it comes to marketing during festive season. After all offline channels are extremely tough competition.
“We have weekly offers. For instance, we are dedicating one week to home decor products, another to women.
Similarly, there is a week for jackpots, as it’s the season for gamble. Besides there are also exciting days of sale, for example, in the run up to Diwali there will be a 24-hour loot sale,” explains Trivikram Thakore, CMO, Fashion & You.
Fashion & You and Deals & You (owned by the same company) together have around 5.2 million registered members of which half are active buyers.
With practically minimal real estate and logistical costs, the new age shopping portals can offer huge discounts to consumers.
Of course, there are other benefits too of being online.“People are opening up to the idea of buying online. Interestingly, during the inauspicious shraadh months, while sales at retail stores dipped, online retail didn’t get impacted,” points out Ishita Swarup, CEO, 99 Labels. The website has around 6.5 lakh registered members.
On the overall online shopping landscape in the country, Nitin Khanapurkar, partner-management consulting at KPMG, predicts that over time, regular, small and mid-ticket purchases will be increasingly bought online, while big ticket buys and purchases, which are more about the customer experience will still stay in the marketplace.
“Online shopping has seen a phenomenal rise in the country and will continue to do so given the great potential and the huge segment of population which is still not net savvy. As for the festive season, or even otherwise, purchases for which the retail experience is important will still be more attractive at the marketplace.
However, online shopping has its obvious advantages and an e-fulfillment model can really take care of many logistical and inventory issues, which do become a problem for retailers during the festive season rush. It’s still a long way to go for online shopping in the country,” says Khanapurkar.
So while making that long shopping list for splashing money over the most awaited buys of the year, an online check of those products just might end up being quite useful. And if the purchase is more about experience, then the real marketplace is anyway waiting with a red carpet as well.
Vishakha Talreja, Sukalp Sharma
FE Sunday, 9o1011