IN THIS ISSUE
Holy CoW! : Computers on Wheels
BY DEEPAK GOYAL
Money from Asia : Opportunities for Entrepreneurs
BY ABHIJIT KULKARNI
An Ode to Surya : Abhinaya Dance Performance
BY SHOBHA HIATT
Publishers Note Infotech India
Dot EDu Annual Bash
American Dream: The Entrepreneur's Source
Summer Travel Planning
Auto Review: 2002 Lexus GS 300 Sedan
Bollywood Tamil Cinema
Recipe: Potato Wheels
Regular readers of Siliconeer will not be surprised by our cover story this month. We acknowledge a soft corner for issues which showcase the interface between technology and broad social benefit.
The digital revolution has brought unprecedented accolades for India, and who are we to quarrel with that? However, this positive development should not allow us to forget that India also is the home of the world's largest number of poor. Consequently we at Siliconeer have always been keen to celebrate developments in India and the U.S., for that matter, for the wired world is a small place today, which brings the considerable technological benefits of information technology to bear on the real-life challenges faced by the majority of Indian citizens living in the rural hinterland.
Computers-on-wheels is such a heartwarming story. It's funded by Digital Partners, a nonprofit based in Seattle, but it benefits villagers in the impoverished Telengana region of Andhra Pradesh. Pretty much like a postman of yesteryear, a person goes to the village twice a week with a laptop in arm, and downloads all kinds of material from the Web. This can be financial information, government circulars or email.
Villagers are only beginning to take notice, but there are signs that it will catch on pretty fast. Currently only one village is targeted in a pilot project, but with enough interest, the entire Telengana region will be covered in a year.
This is exactly the kind of marriage of civic commitment with technology that can make India's digital revolution meaningful to the vast majority rather than restricting it to metropolitan areas, and we commend the project's organizers for their broad social vision.
Talk about a cow here, and villagers will think of the milk-producing quadriped that moos, not a computer.
Yet this is a new kind of CoW computer on wheels and crusty villagers are beginning to sit up and take notice. A technician visits villages on a motorcycle, carrying a laptop computer.
The villagers can then look at pages which have been downloaded from the Internet.
“Much like the post office, where the postman delivers letters once or twice a day, we are delivering the internet to people once or twice a day,” Satish Jha of the Seattle-based development organization Digital Partners (www.digitalpartners.org), told the BBC recently. Digital Partners has given seed money to fund the project.
The pilot project to create a mobile internet service has just started in the Telangana region. After a year-long trial it could be extended to cover the whole state, if the response is good enough.
Digital Partners sees it as a possible way of involving India’s millions of rural dwellers in the internet revolution.
Why should a whole section of population who don’t have telephones, who don’t have electricity, be left behind?” Jha told the BBC program Go Digital.
“70 percent of villagers do not have access to telephones or electricity so how can they use computers? We need to find ways of taking the computer to them.”
Since there are no net connections in the villages, any relevant Web pages are first downloaded on to a laptop. A technician then drives out on a motorcycle, perhaps twice a day.
Villagers are able to ask for services, like government forms or check current information such as crop prices in regional markets or the latest news from their area.
So far, the CoW project has generated a lot of interest among villagers.
“There is an element of curiosity,” said Jha. “As soon as they hear the sound of the motorbike and know the laptop is coming, between 50 and 100 people will collect around it.”
Jha said this was the way technology had often reached villagers and likened it to the early days of cinema, when villagers would crowd around a screen to catch a peek of the moving pictures.
The project is still in its early days, but the organizers are hopeful it could prove one way of overcoming the lack of a communications infrastructure in the countryside.
The CoW project is part of Digital Partners’ South Asia Initiative, an innovative initiative designed to tap technological and entrepreneurial expertise to achieve breakthroughs in the reduction of poverty in South Asia. The objective is to link the expertise of IT entrepreneurs and executives involved in technology-based market-building efforts with their philanthropic aims. The South Asia Initiative is the first in a global effort that is being adapted to Africa, China, and Latin America.
Other projects funded by Digital Partners includes:
Swayam Krishi Sangam Foundation, which will test the use of Smart-Card technology at the front end of the lending process to increase efficiency, reduce transactional errors and fraud, and lower costs. SKS is a Grameen Bank replication project in one of the poorest parts of India-the drought-prone Medak District of Andhra Pradesh. SKS is developing Smart Cards such that other Micro Finance Institutions can use them, particularly those following the Grameen methodology. The vision is to create a self-sustaining SKS Management Information System Division that will not only provide the SKS MIS/Smart Card Solution to SKS branches but also to other Grameen Replicators. In this way, the upfront investment can be justified and it is anticipated that MFIs can collectively achieve economies of scale large enough to significantly lower required hardware costs. www.sksindia.org
Self Employed Women’s Association, which is undertaking an initiative to establish Technology Information Centers in eleven districts of Gujarat to help their constituents rebuild their lives in the aftermath of the recent devastating earthquake. SEWA is the largest primary women’s trade union in India serving over 250,000 poor self-employed members in Gujarat. The SEWA Technology Information Centers will provide training to their barefoot managers, build capacity of their women organizers and leaders, and strengthen the microenterprises of their members. Further, by networking these centers the various cooperatives such as dairy, tobacco processing, weaving, gum work, leaf-plate making, and live stock raising can work more efficiently and develop new programs to support economic empowerment of their members. After the pilot phase these centers will also serve as educational nodes for supporting girls education. www.sewa.org
e-Cube Initiative in Pune district, Maharashtra, aims to promote “information electronic literacy” among rural populations, and explore the feasibility of employing information technology to stimulate local commerce and business to improve access of rural communities to essential government services.
Hazard Center in New Delhi was awarded a grant to develop an effective Web-based information resource center for social action networking by local nonprofit and community organizations.
Gujarat earthquake relief. The earthquake that struck Gujarat left more than 17,000 people dead and hundreds of thousands homeless. The Government of India estimates that a total of 15 million Indians in 7,904 villages were affected by this disaster. After raising $600,000 for immediate emergency relief, Digital Partners is now leading an effort to integrate the use of Information and Communication Technologies into the massive reconstruction efforts being developed. Coalition partners include CARE, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, United Nations Development Program, U.S. Agency for International Development, the World Bank, the Government of Gujarat and others. The effort will create ICT centers that will initially support the reconstruction logistics and supply chain processes needed to rebuild villages. In a parallel process, these centers will be used to develop new educational, health, and economic empowerment initiatives to support the rebuilding of lives.
Digital Partner’s South Asia initiative has several goals:
Activating a brain trust of expatriate entrepreneurs and their IT colleagues, social entrepreneurs, highly placed government officials, business leaders, and others that are committed to technology inspired poverty reduction. The Brain Trust is designed to:
Contribute to the Social Venture Fund designed to support initiatives that are scalable, catalytic, market-based, collaborative, and technology-driven.
Changing Public Policy by initiating high-level dialogues and bringing together key stakeholders with the Brain Trust to:
Change the current tax laws that preclude donations of used computers to nonprofits and private schools by mobilizing a high-powered campaign and working with high-level government officials to intervene on our behalf.
“The difference we make comes from the active, hands-on involvement of our Brain Trust, that combines significant venture capital and social entrepreneurial experience,” says its Web site. “We are using a proactive approach to identify capable and distinguished social entrepreneurs.”
Deepak Goyal is a freelance writer.
Installed nuclear power capacity of India may not be rising as fast as that of China or South Korea, but the country’s atomic scientists have made a breakthrough in an area that would delight housewives particularly in South India.
Now scientists at the Bhabha Atomic Research Center in Mumbai claim to have developed technology that will help preserve idli batter for a period up to one month, a great relief not only to housewives but also to thousands of restaurants in the country.
Idli, a south-Indian delicacy, is a nutritious food but the fermented batter has a shelf-life of about a day or two. BARC technology that consists of exposing the batter “to low levels of gamma radiation” will avoid the trouble of housewives preparing the dough fresh every time guests are expected.
The radiation apparently kills the bacteria and terminates the fermenting process before the batter gets too sour to steam into good idlis.
Announcing the idli preservation technology, BARC said in its annual report that it was developed as part of the on-going research on basic and applied aspects of food preservation.
The report did not mention whether BARC intends to transfer the technology to homes and restaurants.
Fish, a favorite of Bengalis, has also not escaped BARC’s attention. The report said that BARC’s irradiation technology could extend the shelf life of Ruhi fish beyond 10 days.
The radiation technology for preserving mutton kebabs, meat and meat products has also been standardized.
Intel India Expands
Intel Corporation Feb. 6 announced the expansion of its management team in India in recognition of the growing importance of the country as a global design and development center, as well as a significant consumer market.
Ketan Sampat, who has been appointed president, Intel India, based in Bangalore, told reporters that he would manage the company’s relationships with government entities in business development, site management, education programs, research initiatives and investments in India.
He will also oversee research activities at the Intel India Development Center here.
Avtar Saini, director, Intel South Asia, will focus on driving Intel’s sales and marketing activities in the region.
Describing India as an “IT powerhouse,” Sampat said the country, which, at present was the seventh largest consumption market for Intel, would become the “fifth largest by 2007.”
He said one of the company’s thrust areas would be to make computing and communication pervasive by setting foundation building blocks for a “total IT nation” and also enabling policies for balanced growth.
The second was the operation of a world-class knowledge center, IIDC, set up here in 1998, which has grown from 10 employees to 1,000 today. The center was working on hardware to drive the e-biz infrastructure, software to drive Intel business efficiency and modular computing to aid telecom, he said.
Saini said the challenges ahead of the company were increasing the relevance of PC to the consumer through local usage models and increasing community access, bringing the benefits of efficiency to small businesses and partnering with the government, since the government IT spending is going to be $8 billion by 2007, according to a survey, he said.
$5M Rolls-Royce Contract
HAL will export forgings worth $ 5million over the next three years, which could potentially grow to $10 million over the next five years, HAL and Rolls-Royce officials said.
HAL chairman N.R. Mohanty said HAL had already manufactured its first batch of ring forgings, which would be incorporated into Rolls-Royce civil aero engines under manufacture in the U.K. for worldwide operations.
Mohanty said HAL looks forward to enhanced relationship with Rolls-Royce for the supply of parts, components assemblies, repair/overhaul and servicing aero engines and industrial gas turbines.
Rolls-Royce India’s managing director, Tim Jones, said HAL ring rolled forgings would be incorporated in engines, including the Trent 800, which was now on offer to Air-India for Boeing 777.
Wiring Canara Bank
Wipro Infotech, the India, Middle-East and Asia-Pacific IT arm of Wipro Limited, said Feb. 10 it has been chosen by Canara Bank to interconnect its 835 offices and branches across 98 cities in the country, through a high-speed wide area network.
This will entail supply, installation and integration of networking equipment as well as leased line/ISDN line management and complete on-site support, a Wipro release said.
The bank had awarded the systems integration contract to Wipro Infotech during the first phase of networking of around 200 branches of Canara Bank.
The second phase of networking helps the bank in providing increased customer satisfaction, it said.
Vittal Vashist, general manager, Wipro Infotech, said, “We are committed to making this project a showcase of Wipro Infotech’s integration capabilities in the banking and finance segment.”
Through WAN connectivity, the various branches of Canara Bank will be connected via leased lines and ISDN back-up. The network will be monitored through network management tools. Wipro engineers will provide on-site as well as leased line support to the bank, the release said.
Chennai-based Polaris Software has entered into a strategic partnership with Deutsche Leasing, Germany’s leading company in moveable assets, to implement its Orbi pack of products.
The partnership agreement in this regard was signed in Chennai Feb. 12 by Arun Jain, chairman and managing director of Polaris, and Friedrich Jungling, member of the Deutsche board of management.
The 1.8 million euro deal was the largest product win for Orbi pack suite after the Polaris-Orbitech merger and was expected to act as a “beta site” for showcasing the product pack to other areas in Central Europe, where Deutsche Leasing had a presence, Jain told reporters.
He said the partnership was of strategic significance to Polaris, which was fortifying its presence in the European market. The company was also looking for similar partnerships in Japan and the U.S.
Under the partnership agreement, Orbi-lending, Orbi-collateral, Orbi-core and Orbi-reports and other components from the Orbi suite, which had been re-engineered recently, would be initially implemented at Deutsche Investitions Finanz Bank GmbH, a member of the Deutsche Leasing group.
Plant in Colombo
Chennai-based Numeric Power Systems Limited, India’s top online uninterrupted power supply manufacturer, has set up a plant in Colombo which will roll out the first product in the next two months, a top executive of the company said Feb. 12.
The Rs 12.5 million unit would mainly meet the requirements of markets for uninterrupted power supply systems in Mauritius, Vietnam and neighboring countries, R. Chellappan, managing director of the company, told a news conference here.
“We will be able to start our business from the Colombo unit in the first week of April,” he said adding that the unit had the capacity to produce 10,000 UPS units of different capacities annually.
Chellappan said the company had exported UPS units worth Rs. 50 million to Rs. 60 million last year and this year, ending September, the figure was expected to touch Rs. 100 million.
He said the demand for online UPS systems in the country was estimated to be around Rs. 8 billion of which his company’s share was nearly 15 percent.
As part of the expansion program, the company had recently put up its third unit in Pondicherry to assemble digital high performance range of systems.
The turnover of the company during 2001-02 was Rs. 1.1 billion and it was expected to go up by 15 percent during the year ending September 2003.
The Chennai-based call center solution provider, Servion Global Solutions Feb. 11 formally announced its partnership with the banking business unit of Infosys Technologies.
Under the partnership, Servion plays the role of building a ready interface for information retrieval between the Finnacle CRM developed by Infosys and RAP CTI of Servion enabling them to offer value-added and customized solution to clients, according to a Servion press release Feb. 11 Chennai.
The partnership is non-exclusive to both parties and allows each to carry on their respective businesses or through their other business partners to their best advantage, the release said.
Eyes Export Market
Eyeing the export market, particularly Southeast Asia, the public sector guided missiles manufacturer Bharat Dynamics Limited has enhanced cooperation with MBDA Missile Systems, a world leader in the field and indicated that the relationship might lead to floating of a joint venture company.
Hyderabad-based BDL and MBDA have now extended cooperation in development and manufacture of all varieties of missile systems, including anti-tank, surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles required by the Indian armed forces and those abroad.
BDL manager S. Murali Mohan told reporters at Aero India 2003 at Yelahanka Air Force station that Botswana army chief Lt. Gen. L.M. Fisher, had recently held talks with the company.
Fisher had told them that his country would place orders to buy Milan Anti-Tank Guided Missile.
He said Milan had for years been manufactured by BDL under license from Euromissile, France (now part of MBDA). The Rs.-3 billion BDL would soon come out with an improved version to make the ATGM more lethal and hostile, he said.
Mohan said Malaysia was keen on buying the improved version, which had the potential for being exported to countries in Southeast Asia. He believed BDL and MBDA might float a joint venture company in the next few months.
MBDA’s military advisor Michel Ballu said his company, which had revenues of around two billion euro for the calendar year, had now come forward to transfer technology pertaining to surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles.
India, Russia Tie-up
India and Russia have agreed to jointly design and develop a multi-role transport aircraft at an estimated project cost of $250 million to meet the requirements of their air forces.
Chairman of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited N.R. Mohanty said Feb. 9 in Bangalore HAL and Russian partners would equally share the project cost $125 million each.
The decision was taken at the Indo-Russian steering committee meeting here.
The Indian Air Force has indicated an initial requirement of 45 such aircraft and the Russian Air Force 100, Mohanty said.
The cargo aircraft would be designed, developed and certified in six years. “MTA will be produced in both countries,” he said.
Sky is the Limit
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, who has been a strong advocate of an “open sky” policy, today said efforts were on to develop Hyderabad as a transit hub between Europe and China with world-class infrastructure facilities already in place.
“We want to attract international tourists and businesses in a big way here and towards this direction a series of world class institutions and facilities are being developed,” he said speaking after the ground-breaking ceremony for the Rs. 300 crore business-cum-leisure facilities here.
Stating that Hyderabad was already enjoying the status of being the IT capital of India, the chief minister said the city was also making a mark in the fields of biotechnology, healthcare and hardware sectors.
Outlining a series of initiatives taken up by his government to develop the city as a favored international destination, he said institutes of excellence like the Indian School of Business and Indian Institute of Information Technology bear testimony to the city’s rapid transformation.
He said similar projects in public-private partnership mode would be taken up in a big way.
The Rs. 300-crore business-cum-leisure facilities project at Manikonda is being taken up as a joint venture between the AP Industrial Infrastructure Corporation and Dubai-based Emaar Properties.
In association with Chennai Online
Luck is the Key
Dot Edu Ventures, an innovative fund that bridges the ideas of academia and the rough-and-tumble world of high tech business, held their fourth annual event at the Stanford Faculty Club. The event was well represented by the venture capital community and CEOs of startups funded by Dot Edu Ventures. Keynote speaker Vinod Khosla, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems, when asked, “What makes a successful investor” answered jocularly “luck!” Amidst the ensuing laughter he clarified that luck is an element that cannot be laughed away. Khosla answered questions from the audience on the economy, ethics, business process outsourcing and revenue generating among others. The event was attended by industry stalwarts Ajit Shah (General Partner- Worldview Tech Partners), Raj Singh, Prabhu Goel, Raj Parikh (GP, Redwood Ventures), and Brent Jones (Partner, University Tech Ventures).
Dot edu ventures is a $20 million fund that was started by Asha Jadeja and Rajeev Motwani. Jadeja believes that the deep and profitable relationship between academia and business can be bridged by Dot Edu Ventures, the only venture fund that finances ideas originating from the classroom and steering it into the boardroom. Rajeev is a familiar name in academic circles as the director of graduate studies at Stanford University as well as a professor of Computer Science. Serving on several high-profile technical advisory boards including Google and Jumpstartup Ventures. Rajeev distinguished himself in academic circles with awards such as the Arthur Sloan Research Fellowship and the National Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation.
Zitin Bazaz Dhawan is director at inMedya Productions,
Money from Asia
We all know how that has changed, but that doesn’t mean good ideas need to die a painful death. Asian entrepreneurs, flush with money after successful business ventures in the Pacific Rim powerhouse nations, are raring to go.
The Indus Entrepreneurs, the mother of Silicon Valley desi entrepreneur groups, and the Silicon Valley Association of Start-up Entrepreneurs have decided to take advantage of this situation.
If you have a bright idea that you think could change the world, come and make your pitch here. Just book an exhibition table. Or even if you just want to test the waters on Asian venture capital funding, drop by and here some major players walk you through a new promising source of investment.
“Asian money is pouring into the U.S. seeking opportunities to create transpacific ventures,” says a TiE press release. “Partnering with the right Asian investors, U.S. startups can become global companies and avoid the local funding crunch.
“What advantages do these Asian partners bring to US startups? What businesses are the best candidates for Asian investment or joint ventures? Where does the money come from, and how do entrepreneurs access it? How can startups leverage Asian investors to build their businesses globally?”
Laure Wang will focus on Taiwan/US VC investments; Edwin Yeh will focus on Greater China/US joint ventures and mergers and acquisitions, Frank Kung, will focus on Asia/US VC investments in biotech; Catharina Min will focus on negotiating joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions and technology licensing deals with Asia; Yoshi Koizumi will focus on Asia corporate investments.
Does any of this actually work. Hear about an entrepreneur success story from Entone CEO Steven McKay.
Abhijit Kulkarni is an entrepreneur
The office is part of a nationwide network of business ownership consultants who work with individuals and companies considering franchising as a career alternative or a method of expansion.
Today more than ever people want to go into business for themselves; they’re just not sure how and where to start. We provide the tools, services and support system they need to become educated about their options. We assist them in defining and clarifying their career dreams and also in finding the vehicle to achieve them.
The Entrepreneur’s Source is the first place to look for guidance, training and straight talk about franchise and business opportunities, with no obligation or risk. We offer a no-cost, no-obligation educational process to prepare our clients for the world of self-employment. We are in the 19th year of operations and I recently started the first and only office in the Roseville/Sacramento area. The average person changes careers four times during his or her lifetime. They are looking for something different and hoping to gain greater control over their lives. But, the prospect of owning a business can be overwhelming, and most people end up abandoning their dream.
By using a business ownership coach they are no longer alone. We serve as the safety net that allows them to explore their options and act on their dreams. Our process allows them to safely let go of the past so they can explore the future.
Prior to opening the Roseville/Sacramento branch office I worked for 18 years as an IT professional, I have worked on several international projects, giving him a solid background in business management and development.
This is a great opportunity to expand the number of small business-owners in the Sacramento/Roseville area. The fact that The Entrepreneur’s Source is independent, with no exclusive ties to any company or franchise, makes us unique and completely focused on the success of our clients.
“Too many people shortchange themselves and fail to follow their dreams due to misinformation and myths about self-employment. Companies fail to grow and expand because they believe that their only option is to open company-owned locations. The mission of the Entrepreneur’s Source is to help people and companies grow through the exploration of possibilities, options and dreams,” said Terry Powell, founder and CEO of The Entrepreneur’s Source.
Franchising is one option many clients consider, according to Powell. “Each year more than $800 billion in goods and services are sold through franchises. While only 8 percent of all retail outlets are franchises, they generate more than 40 percent of the dollar volume for retail goods and services,” he said. “In addition, the close relationship and support of the franchiser has helped to generate a success rate of more than 92%. It’s the most successful method of business expansion today, and a ‘win- win’ situation for all concerned.”
With its Support Center located in Southbury, Conn., The Entrepreneur’s Source is America’s leading independent business ownership consulting company with more than 125 offices in the United States and Canada offering a full range of services to individuals interested in self-employment and companies searching for methods of expansion. The goal of the Entrepreneur’s Source is to help clients identify business opportunities that best meet their goals, needs and expectations.
Interested readers can reach Manish Ved by email at email@example.com.
Manish Ved, worked for 18 years as an IT Professional
Summer Travel Planning
Travel agency Thomas Cook India has launched its varied range of summer 2003 packages exclusively for the NRI market in the U.S., according to a press release from the agency. A major player in the outbound holiday segment in India, the company has a good reputation, and being part of the third largest travel company in the world, has great infrastructural support for holiday-seekers abroad.
This summer, Thomas Cook has designed six different types of packages for Europe which range from 7 days to 20 days. The Alpine Wonder is a 7 night-8 day package covering the most beautiful part of Europe Austria and Switzerland. The Best of Europe (11 nights 12 days) takes one through Switzerland, Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France and U.K. with an additional bonanza of a one night in Dubai.
A new introduction this year is the Eastern European Grandeur. Over 14 nights and 15 days one travels to Hamburg, Berlin, Dresden, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Switzerland.
“We see the NRI market as a high potential growth market. It is also a discerning market and hence it is our constant endeavor to provide varied holiday packages to an increasing number of destinations,” says Ravishankar, senior manager with Thomas Cook India. He added that the routing of the packages has been so designed so as to make it less hectic and strenuous on the traveler and yet not miss out on all the must-see sight seeing spots. The time schedule also takes into consideration the importance for shopping around for memorabilia.
Care has been taken to provide accommodation in first class conveniently located hotels with breakfast and dinners on all days. The lunch and dinners are Indian meals with special preference to vegetarian and Jain diet.
Aside from the ever-favorite Europe, other holiday offerings include a combined tour of China and Japan; three different tours to Australia and New Zealand; a Kenyan safari and South Africa.
Widely recognized and respected, the Thomas Cook Group is a leading international travel company. It is the second largest travel group in Europe and the third largest in the world, with a turnover of 8 billion euro and a staff of 28,000. The group serves 14 million customers a year and operates 30 tour operator brands, approximately 3,600 travel agencies across the world and a fleet of 85 aircraft.
Thomas Cook India, the Indian subsidiary of the group has been operating in India for over 118 years. The company has two core businesses travel related services and financial related services.
Leisure travel, foreign exchange, corporate travel, and insurance products form the company’s core activities in India. It has 54 offices in 16 cities throughout India and offers the entire gamut of travel-related services under one roof. The company’s business strategy is focused at turning itself into a leisure travel giant within the next five years. It is already the core business of the group worldwide. The leisure travel department promotes domestic and outbound holiday travel, within India and to other parts of the world and already figures as one of the top two names in outbound leisure travel in the country. It operates group inclusive tours to leading destinations in all 5 continents and also promotes free individual travel to over 44 countries around the globe. It is a pioneer in rail-based domestic tours in India.
The incoming division caters to the needs of tourists visiting India from all over the world. This division currently caters to the needs of around 50,000 foreign tourists in India and is one of the top three names in the country in inbound travel. It handles tourists in all segments: charters, individual travel, regular and ad hoc groups, incentives and conferences. In fact Thomas Cook is the top handler of charter flights in the country. The conference and convention cell provides professional expertise to conference organizers and has successfully handled a number of large international conferences in India and Thomas Cook has been recognized as the leading conference organizer in India. Through its overseas subsidiaries, the company also has operations in Mauritius and Sri Lanka and plans to expand in the Indian Ocean rim region.
Vivek D’Souza is freelance writer
Auto Review: 2002 Lexus GS 300 Sedan
The one badge they both seem to have found a meeting of the minds on is the Lexus GS 300 sedan. They marveled at the plush leather, tastefully appointed black walnut trim and the European-styled E-Shift controls on the steering wheel. These, I pontificated upon, allow the driver to let the 5-speed automatic transmission to the work for him/her or shift manually with the buttons. Neat.
I entered in the ongoing debate by taking the two on a long and fast ride through the squirrelly roads of the Trinity Mountain foothills. By playing devil’s advocate, I upped the ante by allowing that the Lexus GS 300 is so smooth and seamless the road became isolated from the driver, even on these tortuous high country roads. The 220-horsepower, all-aluminum, twin-cam, 24-valve, in-line 6-cylinder with VVT-i kept the fat 16-inch rubber on the road in concert with the optional Euro-tuned suspension. My argument is the GS 300 is so without fault there are few real messages relayed to the important parts of the driver: his posterior and hands.
“Maybe,” said John, “but as a passenger it really is a comfortable ride for tooling around these curves; rear-wheel-drive, right?” I had kept that a secret to see if they would catch it by themselves. Of course that’s the secret of any large sedan with the inspirations of Bavaria in its soul. Almost perfectly balanced at 53/47 percent, there’s no nose-diving in hard braking and minimal lean. The in-line six powers this 3,707-pound machine 0-60 in 7.8 seconds and the quarter-mile in 15.8 seconds.
First and foremost, though, the GS 300 is a luxury sedan, and the list of standard equipment is long and well distributed. Some of the more important elements are 10-way power front seats with memory, auto-dimming rear and driver’s side mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control with “Smog” sensor, all-window automatic up/down, one-touch moonroof and 7-speaker premium sound system. All that and more at a surprising $38,605. Of course, the Family Toyota sweetened the deal with the Sport Design Edition option package ($7,300) with a slew of adult toys and comfort stuff. Except the listed in-dash 6-CD changer was not in place and we had to make do with the archaic, standard 6-CD changer-box in the glove compartment.
Summing up later at the old fashion soda shop in Weaverville over two scoops of green tea ice cream in sugar cones, we all agreed the 2002 Lexus GS 300 has come a long way since its unveiling in 1990. It’s bigger, far more sophisticated and all the rough edges have been molded and smoothed out. Still, I’d like to see a bit more attitude and an attack mode in the backcountry. Still, the GS 300 is a full-blown luxury/performance machine, even with its overarching insouciance.
Al Auger, our automotive editor has been writing about cars for over 30 years.
An Ode to Surya:
In Indian mythology, Surya, the Sun God, is the source and sustainer of all life on earth. His radiance and inexhaustible power are associated with healing as well as the banishment of darkness and evil. Worshiping the Sun has always been considered an essential part of the Hindu religion and ancient Hindu texts are full of hymns describing the glory of this beneficent celestial being.
The performance will begin with one of the oldest chants in the world the Gayatri Mantra, a hymn of praise to the Sun as a representation of the Supreme Divinity also identified with the inner self of man - followed by the invocatory Surya Namaskar (the Sun Salutation in hatha yoga) in the Bharatanatyam dance style.
Portrayed as a divine being moving across the heavens in a chariot drawn by seven white horses, Surya plays an important role in the hierarchy of the Hindu Gods. Abhinaya dancers will present the different aspects of this majestic deity in a series of vignettes borrowed from several Indian mythological stories. In the Ramayana, for example, the sage Agastya urges the powerful prince Rama to gather strength from Sun worship before doing battle with Ravana, the evil king of Lanka. In the Mahabharata, Surya fathers Karna, through the maiden Kunti. The young man, abandoned at birth by his frightened mother, becomes a great warrior and ends up fighting in the war of righteousness at Kurukshetra, but on the wrong side. In another dance, the splendors of the sculptures of the great, chariot-shaped Sun Temple in Konarak is depicted in the language of Odissi dance.
“Surya: The Sun God,” highlights two styles of Indian classical dance Bharatanatyam, developed and nurtured in Southern India and Odissi, which developed as a distinct dance style in the north-eastern coastal region of India which is now the state of Orissa. A dance, choreographed to a famous poem to the Sun by Tamil icon Subramanya Bharati, will also be premiered at this performance. The finale, a fast-paced thillana, will be danced to the melodic raga Surya composed by accomplished musician Asha Ramesh. Ramesh, who will provide the vocals, has also composed the rest of the music for this production.
The performance will be directed and performed by Abhinaya’s artistic director Mythili Kumar. It will feature Odissi dancer Asako Takami as well as Abhinaya dancers Radhika Kannan, Satyasri Yendluri, Sonia Bose, Vidhya Balu, Sindhu Natarajan, Anu Ranganathan, Devika Ajaya and Malavika Kumar. Vocalist Ramesh will be accompanied by percussionist N. Narayan on the mridangam, Shanthi Narayan on the violin, and Malavika Kumar on the nattuvangam. The concept for “Surya: The Sun God” was developed by Shanta Raman.
The Abhinaya Dance Company is dedicated to the promotion of Indian dance and music in the West. Over the years, the company has presented unique dance performances in collaboration with other artistic groups. This award-winning company is funded in part by the City of San Jose, California Arts Council, Arts Council of Silicon Valley the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and individual donors.
Shobha Hiatt lives in Berkeley, Calif.
The mast mast girl has come a long way, and we wholeheartedly join her in her happiness. Raveena Tandon has made quite a splash with her debut as a producer. Her film Satta has got rave reviews. The film is not your regular masala stuff, mind you. It’s a serious look at the dark underbelly of politics, and Raveena plays Anuradha Chauhan, a politician, in the film.
And she does a pretty good job of it too, if you believe yesteryear’s heroine Jayaprada, who liked the film so much that she is planning to do a Telugu version.
How things have changed since Raveena’s mast mast days. She has gone from strength to strength, winning a national award for Daman.
Give her credit for hanging in there. It’s not been a bed of roses, and poor Raveena has gone through a really rough patch. Now things are looking up, and more power to her!
Move over, John Abraham and Dino Morea. In Bollywood, old can still be gold. Well, of course we don’t mean old old. We are talking about Dharamputra Bobby, Sunny’s kid brother who hasn’t had too much good luck lately. (Do I hear a snicker and a comment that he has never had much good luck, anyway? Well, people, let’s all try to be nice.)
Anyway, Bobby Deol, Bollywood’s debonair hunk, is on a roll after his powerhouse performance in Humraaz. No less than Bollywood big guy Subhash Ghai has his eyes on the hot Jat hero. Abbas-Mustan will direct the film. And when Bollywood’s top gun producer is looking, can others be far behind? You bet they can’t, so it should be no surprise that a long bee-line is forming at the door of Bobby. Recently spotted in the queue: Vijay Ghilani.
Now it’s all in the planning stages, remember. So who knows what will actually happen. But for Bobby’s sake let’s all hope things work out. The guy needs and deserves a break.
It’s all over for Abhishek and Karisma. Apparently their real life romance is every bit as unsuccessful as their reel-life romance (their film together tanked in the box office, if you remember).
Yet it wasn’t to long ago that the Big B announced in public that he had accepted Karisma as his bahu, and the two lovebirds were off to scenic New Zealand for a badly-need break from work and the public eye, far from the madding crowd.
So what went wrong? Now don’t get me started. Bollywood is now in its element here, with theories, laced with venom, flying thick and fast. Some say that Abhishek hasn’t grown up, and has been too preoccupied with nursing wounds to his ego following the string of tepid releases that have failed to catch fire in the box office. Others point a malicious finger at Babita, the quintessential mother-in-law from hell, who is determined to micro-manage her daughter’s affairs. Others say it’s Karisma herself, who has a pretty level head on those pretty shoulders, and who balked at the many restrictions that might have come from being a Bachchan bahu.
Hollywood, Here We Come
Vivek Oberoi is hitting the big time now. So what if his Road tanked? Hollywood beckons, and we aren’t talking about bit parts here. Oberoi has been chosen by hot shot director Roland Joffe of Killing Fields and The Mission fame both won Oscars to play the lead Indian character in The Invaders, set in the late 18th century at the time of the first Anglo-Maratha war.
That’s not all. Aishwarya “Devdas” Rai is being sounded out to play an Indian spy opposite Vivek. Aishwarya is pretty keen to take the role, but she hasn’t been signed yet.
Vivek plays Udaji, an unsung hero in the film which dwells on this complex tale of patriotism and imperialism. The $40-million project, to be shot in India (a lot of it in Goa) and Malta, goes on the floors with a 100-day schedule spread over 20 weeks from September onwards.
Actor Aamir Khan, who created history with getting an Oscar nomination for his Lagaan, has been honored with Padmashri for his service to the nation. He produced the super-hit film in 2001 and the same became a huge hit overseas, too. We couldn’t be more pleased. Aamir, with his impeccable professionalism, and spotless record in his personal life until recently, has been a role model for Bollywood and widely respected for it, too.
This year, India is trying its luck with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas. Other Padmashri award-winners include actor Naseeruddin Shah, singer Jagjit Singh, Rakhee and Danny Denzongpa. Former Sikkim Chief Minister Kaadhi Lendhup Dorji and dancer Sonal Mansingh, industrialist H.S. Singhania and Jamshed Godrej, journalist and Aaj Tak anchor Prabhu Chawla and columnist T.V.R. Shenoy are amongst the recipients of the Padma Bhushan award.
Battle of the Sisters
In real life they are sisters, but this month they were pitted against each other. Karisma and Kareena are now ready for the battle royale in the box office as Baaz: A Bird in Danger and Khushi release. Both need a hit badly, although the reasons are different.
Kareena likes to say she is the best, now the box office will tell if she is right. Is Khushi going to be a hit? Her last hit was eons ago, with Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham.
For Karisma, the reasons are more personal. She is just beginning to recover from her break up with Abhishek, and a hit in the box office could well be just what the doctor ordered. But cricket fever all over the place, will it happen?
Kareena is putting up a brave front, saying that it’s not the end of the world if Khushi tanks. She may well say that, but Bollywood insiders are saying both are biting their nails.
After all, in Bollywood’s slim memory span, you often are only as good as your last hit.
Salman Khan is many things: a beefcake hero who makes the ladies swoon, Aishwarya’s rowdy beau, and last but certainly not least, Bollywood’s enfant terrible who keeps getting in trouble. When he is not extricating himself from a barroom brawl, he is shooting endangered game. Or ramming his jeep into places where it isn’t supposed to be.
Now sensitive is not the word that comes to mind when you think of our Sallu. Well, producer Pritish Nandy begs to disagree. He is hatching a Rs. 250 million remake of Guru Dutt’s classic Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, and guess who is going to play the role played by Guru Dutt?
If your reaction is “Well, I’ll be….,” you have just read our mind. But Pritish is quite certain. He has confirmed reports that Salman will indeed play Guru Dutt’s role in that classic film. The script is almost ready, and now the producers are looking for a director.
Now that’s a tough job description, if you ask me. Pritish better get someone good, because the person who directs the film has his/ her work cut out for him/ her.
Salman playing a sensitive, delicately nuanced role ? Well, I’ll be….
Will Sunil Smile?
We have said it before, and we are saying it again: don’t allow Sunil Shetty’s violent antics on screen fool you. This is one level-headed guy. He is a family man, keeps close ties with his childhood buddies, and is a canny entrepreneur to boot.
This month his Baaz: A Bird in Danger has released, and he knows he needs a hit. He calls the film a romantic thriller. There’s a killer on the prowl. Pretty girls are kidnapped and murdered. Karisma Kapoor becomes the next victim, and it’s up to three guys Jackie Shroff, Dino Morea and Sunil Shetty to save her life. Quite a challenge.
Cut to real life, and here also, we smell suspense. The decks are stacked against him: It’s cricket world cup season, so God help him if the Indian team does particularly well.
That’s not all. Several other films are competing for the audience’s attention. There’s Khushi, Satta and Freaky Chakra.
Here’s to hoping Sunil will take care of the challenge in real life the way he does in phillums, jumps into it with gusto and smashes his opponents into pulp.
Hindi Film Review
But first, the basics. For the umpteenth time, Bollywood has given birth to a Hollywood clone, and this will only raise your eyebrows if you have been in Mars all this time.
The film “borrows” (I am trying to be polite here) from the British film Body Heat, but Western film buffs have no reason to feel superior. The British film itself was based on the classic Hollywood 1944 noir film Double Indemnity.
Here’s how the story goes: Kabir Lal (John Abraham) is a lawyer with few scruples. He works hard and plays hard: he uses his considerable intelligence to get crooks of the hook by day, at night he drowns himself in alcohol in a bar.
One fine day he sees Sonia Khanna (Bipasha Basu) stepping out of water in a bikini showing her stuff, and he is obsessed. Sonia is the ambitious wife of industrialist Rohit Khanna (Rohit Khanna) who is on a long trip, and Kabir and Sonia hit it off from the word go, both inexorably drawn to each other sexually. The heady sexual dalliance soon grows into something more; and Kabir and Sonia begin to plot the death of Sonia’s hubby .
It turns out that the murder is the easy part, it’s the tricky unforeseen consequences that prove to be a handful. Kabir, his sense and judgement overwhelmed with his passion (or is it simply lust?) for Sonia, had hatched the plot, but now he discovers that Sonia is not what he thought she was. He has qualms of conscience, his cop buddy Siddharth (Vinay Pathak) begins to ask probing, awkward questions, Rohit’s alcoholic sis appears in the scene from nowhere to claim the estate of her dead brother, and he realizes with considerable chagrin that killing somebody is not as simple as he thought it would be.
Rohit also realizes that he might have made a bad decision, and the rest of the film deals with this tension. He is saddled with a gruesome, irrevocable action and its consequences which have now spiraled out of his control. How does he resolve his dilemma? Where does the sexy Sonia fit in the final scheme of things?
Not the story isn’t half bad, to be honest. With some sensitivity and skill, you could make quite a gripping film, and the final result could be a gloomy, brooding reflection on the greed and foibles of human beings. Unfortunately, director Amit Saxena doesn’t have the gumption or the vision to go all the way. Oh, his production values are quite adequate, sometimes even superior cinematographer Fuwad Khan’s Pondicherry is breathtaking at times, M.M. Kreem’s music has snatches of genius but overall the film relies too heavily on Bipasha’s sexy curves and the bared torso of John Abraham.
One wishes Bipasha’s acting skills were as evident as her bared skin. Her previous hits have proved that she can act okay, she isn’t quite Oscar material but Jism, in the end, is aptly named. As computer nerds like to say: What you see is what you get.
Rating: ** (Mediocre)
Tamil Film Review:
Ramya Krishnan plays the dual role of both the goddess and her devotee Parvati. Except for the audience, it doesn’t seem to bother anyone that both Parvati and the goddess look uncannily alike. Anu Prabhakar plays Eashwari, Parvati’s sister and a Kaaligambal devotee. Eashwari talks to the goddess, chides her in mock anger, feeds her and does everything else that a devotee had done in earlier Rama Narayanan films. There is Baasha, Eashwari’s pet elephant, who can understand human language, dance, play musical instruments, draw colorful kolams, play cricket, and do the Rajni-salute and the cigarette-throwing bit (with a bit of help from graphics), for he’s a staunch fan of the superstar. If he’s missing, “he’s gone for the first-day first-show of a Rajni film,” conclude the villagers. For all we know, Baasha can probably speak too, though we never get to hear him. For, in a scene Parvati confides in him, and at the end of it all tells him sternly, “Now don’t you go and tell about it to everyone!”
On the evil side is the tantric who appears in the opening scene on a mission to enhance his power. He seems to have forgotten his goal, for we get to hear of him only towards the end. There’s the debauched Madhu and his wicked aunt. And a mysterious old woman Pazhayanoor Neeli who advises Madhu to marry Eashwari and not to consummate the marriage, if he wanted to ward off his impending death. The tantric appears on the scene in search of a married-virgin, for her sacrifice would enhance his powers. There being probably only Eashwari fitting the bill, the tantric finds her easily. But of course his efforts are thwarted by the goddess and the elephant, who come to Eashwari’s rescue.
Rama Narayanan’ s films are becoming monotonous and stereotyped. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. The only consolation for the filmmaker is that with the twin advantages of being shot on a limited budget and being patronized by the rural and the suburban folk, the film manages to recover the cost. So, who are we to grudge him his pretty penny?
Recipe: Delicious Cocktail Snack
Boil and mash potatoes.
Add flour, water, ghee and one tea spoon salt and mix well to make dough. Flatten the dough with a rolling pin. Spread the stuffing on the entire surface of the flattened dough. Roll it to form a cylinder. Cut cylinder at intervals of 1½ inches to get wheel-shaped discs. Press each wheel lightly on the sides to prevent the stuffing from falling out when deep frying. Heat cooking oil in a frying pan. Deep fry the wheels till golden brown. Serve with ketchup, hot sauce and relish as a delightful cocktail or tea time snack.
Seema Gupta is a homemaker
February - March Horoscope
TAURUS (April 21 to May 20): Health and personal issues will keep you occupied. Good support will be hard to find. There will be more enemies than friends. Financially, things will be better. You will sign papers that might ease your financial concerns. A meeting with an important person will go well.
GEMINI (May 21 to June 20): Financially, you will do well. Change in strategy will help reduce liabilities. Value of your stocks will appreciate considerably and it is a good idea to dispose them at this point. Spouse will stay cheerful as she wholeheartedly supports to your ideas. Watch your health.
CANCER (June 21 to July 22): You may start shedding a few pounds this month. Spouse will tend to be jittery. You will spend more time with children and the results will be astounding. A big refund may finally arrive in mail. A big trip will be finalized.
LEO (July 23 to August 22): You will feel better as you overcome your worst fears. Financially, things will improve. There might be some turbulence within the family. You will need to go through legal procedures to clear obstacles in career.
VIRGO (August 23 to September 22): You will be working on a great project. You will buy some valuables. Competition will diminish as you deal with new people in business. A close relative will try to create hurdles but it might not be the least of your concerns.
LIBRA (September 23 to October 22): Be very careful in all financial deals. Indecisiveness and restlessness will keep you on the move most of the time. You will continue negotiations with a well-known company. Watch your health, you may suffer from sinus problems.
SCORPIO (October 23 to November 22): This month will bring a true test of your patience. You have to be diplomatic or you will hurt yourself. Handle machines and tools with extra caution. You may make money through stocks. You will send out several important letters. You will visit a holy place.
SAGITTARIUS (November 23 to December 22): The opposite sex will be the root cause of problems. Try to stay within legal limits. You may get a refund from government this month. Business will soar as competition diminishes. You will meet few old friends.
CAPRICORN (December 22 to January 19): Changes in career will make you nervous. You will write a big check to the government. Problems will arise and solving them will not be easy. Consult an expert for the right solutions. A close associate from your past will make a comeback.
AQUARIUS (January 20 to February 18): Spouse will help increase your tensions. Stay calm or you may end up making big mistakes. Do not make any long term commitments. Money will be spent on changing electrical appliances at home. Avoid any possible conflicts with your spouse.
PISCES (February 19 to March 20): A stranger will come to help as a blessing in disguise. You will be working on travel plans but may not be able to finalize anything. You will hear some encouraging news about a job application. Business owners will sign new contracts and recover old dues. You will be worried about issues concerning a sibling.
Bay Area-based astrologer Pandit Parashar can