IN THIS ISSUE
Amar Bose is best known as a sound whiz. But Project Sound is not about new-fangled acoustics. It is a research project that took all of 24 years which would never have survived in any publicly-held company driven by quarterly profits and run by bean-counting accountants. It also promises to revolutionize the conventional auto ride, because the product of Project Sound, the Bose suspension system, replaces automotive shock absorbers with ultra fast linear electromagnetic motors. The system isolates the passenger compartment from bumps and dips and eliminates pitching and rolling during braking and turning.
The motors move so quickly and forcefully that they can extend downward to roll the tire through a deep rut and then retract fast enough so that the car’s occupants perceive nothing more than a mild stirring. Our cover story has details.
Bose Breakthrough: Electromagnetic Auto Suspension A Siliconeer Report
The name of Amar Bose has become synonymous with hi-fidelity sound. But Project Sound is something completely different. The 24-year-long secret project has developed a revolutionary auto suspension system that offers a magic carpet ride, thanks to some dense mathematical research and use of electromagnetics. Siliconeer presents a report on Bose’s latest breakthrough that has experts spellbound and reflects on its progenitor Amar Bose, the amazing septuagenarian wunderkind.
Entrepreneur and engineering whiz Amar Bose can at last look back with a pleasing sense of vindication at 24 years of research on a revolutionary auto suspension system which seemed like a pipedream when he began. Here’s what Automobile magazine has to say about his latest scientific breakthrough: “We have just returned from The Mountain (aka Bose Corporation headquarters in Framingham, Massachusetts) where we witnessed the first mega-breakthrough in car suspensions since the gas-pressurized shock. Is that hyperbolic enough for you?”
Supplanting almost 100 years of traditional spring-and-shock-absorber suspension systems, this new system from Bose uses electromagnetic motors in place of traditional shocks.
The system also improves handling, virtually eliminating body roll in tight turns and minimizing pitching motion during braking and acceleration. “This is the first time a suspension system is the same for a sports car and for a luxury car,” says Amar Bose.
The premise was simple, as Automobile magazine put it: “Develop a suspension system that would offer the magic carpet ride of a fine luxury automobile, yet provide the crisp handling of a high-performance sports car.” Easier said than done. Luxury automakers like Lotus, Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz have tried and failed.
In 1980 he decided to work on it. As is his wont, he ignored the 100-year-old beaten track of automakers who had perfected fluid-based suspension hardware. He threw away the hardware model, and along with it the limitations.
A shock absorber can only absorb energy. Fluid inertia makes hydraulic systems too sluggish.
Bose focused on figuring out mathematically what kind of performance was theoretically possible. Five years of mathematical analysis revealed a tremendous performance gap. There was no way any adjustments to existing shock-absorber technology could close it. So Bose engineers focused on an electromagnetic solution. All they needed was four things: (a) high-efficiency, high-power linear motors and (b) amplifiers, (c) extremely complex control algorithms to stabilize the motors and (d) superfast microcomputers to run the system. So what if none of this stuff existed? Bose decided to tackle the first three and hope the industry came up with the fourth.
Bose’s suspension team took on the challenge of designing high-speed linear motors, control algorithms and high-efficiency amplifiers. They expected the computer industry to get to the point after a while on their fourth essential item, high-speed processing. They began testing designs and software. By 1989, the team developed a prototype ready to be tested on the road.
In place of traditional shock absorbers, the prototype had linear electromagnetic motors installed at each wheel. Based on technology Bose pioneered at MIT, power amplifiers deliver electricity to the motors in response to signals from the control algorithms. The nimble motors are so quick and forceful, they can extend downward to roll the tire through a deep rut and then retract so fast that the all a motorist senses is a mild stirring. On the far side of the pothole, the motor operates as a generator, so the suspension requires less than a third the power of a typical car air- conditioning system.
So what is this wonderful suspension system actually like? Proud Bose engineers have been taking people on test runs, and those who have experienced it are dazzled.
“Next, in Bose mode, we attacked the same horrid road, but inside the passenger compartment, we were sailing along on a cruise ship. The teensiest of cradle rock. “Looking at a mirror on an adjacent wall of the garage, we could see our LS400’s tires chattering and bashing along, as if they belonged to another car, not the one in which we were blissfully rocking along. It was mind-boggling, unbelievably astonishing, no less than earth shattering.”
There you have it. An amazing technological breakthrough that is remarkable not just for its intrinsic value, but also because of the way it was done: 24 years of faith in innovation and research. In today’s age of tight-fisted bean counting executives with one eye constantly on stock prices, how the on earth is it possible?
For the answer you have to look at one mana trailblazing septuagenarian who at a very frisky 75 still manages to have the insatiable curiosity of a toddler.
Throughout his life, Amar Gopal Bose has had the avid curiosity of a child, the tenacity to follow it through, and the gumption to flout conventional thinking.
By the time he was 13, he could fix radios, and when his father’s business went belly-up during World War II, young Amar helped support the family by fixing radios after school.
At his alma mater MIT, when he was hired to teach network theory, he threw away the syllabus and confronted his students with nine blackboards. He urged students to ask tough questions, expected section leaders to think out loud to illustrate the problem-solving process, abolished exam time limits and allowed open books.
His classes developed a cult following. One was described as Life 101. Many classes drew mathematicians, physicists, biologists.
William H. Brody, now the president of Johns Hopkins University, says of him: “He would walk into a lecture to 350 students, and you could hear a pin drop. He commanded a lot of respect, because of the force of his intellect and his total dedication to the students. His class gave me the courage to tackle high-risk problems; it equipped me with the problem-solving skills I needed to be successful in several careers. Amar Bose taught me how to think.”
“I would have been fired a hundred times at a company run by MBAs,” he told Popular Science magazine. “But I never went into business to make money. I went into business so that I could do interesting things that hadn’t been done before.”
So number crunchers’ myopic obsession with the bottom line was out, a commitment to pure research was in. There have been instances where Bose has allowed a project to continue even when he thought it may not succeed.
In 1983 engineering graduate student Ken Jacob enrolled in Bose’s acoustics class during his final semester at MIT. Jacob planned to design sound for Broadway productions. “Within 20 minutes of the start of that first lecture,” Jacob said, “all my plans had changed. Professor Bose connected everything I had learned and put all the pieces together. I said, I’ve got to work for this guy.’”
Jacob was true to his word. He became director and chief engineer of Bose’s Live Music Technology Group. In 1994 he unveiled the Bose Auditioner program, a software tool that allows acoustic engineers to hear precisely what a proposed audio system will sound like from any seat in a large venue even before building construction begins.
Bose says it’s the principle of allowing bright minds to search for answers that was more important to him. “I thought the computational power wouldn’t be there,” he says. “But the problem was tough enough and the team was talented enough that I thought their research would yield something good.” The funny thing was that Bose was proved wrong: The program works today.
The program has been used to design public address systems at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the Sistine Chapel, and even Masjid al-Haram, the grand mosque at Mecca, a challenging environment, full of reverberating marble, with a history of failed audio solutions.
Popular Science, in a long, admiring essay, sums it up best about the merit of Amar Bose’s mindset and contribution.
“The value of Amar Boseand by extension, his companyisn’t so much in the things he has invented, but in the sense of possibility he inspires,” the magazine wrote. “Bose reminds us that we could all afford to be much more skyward-looking, far-fetched and curious, and that we could all believe more strongly in our own potential to create.”
Among Asia’s Best ... Grid Computing ... Secondary ADS ... Tata Indicom in Tirunelveli ...
FDA Approval ... Veritas Hires 400 Engineers ... More BPL Cell Sites ... Tata Steel, IIT Tie-up ...
IT-enabled Agriculture ... Global Center for Research ... Israeli Arms Maker Plans Plant ...
Inputs to Cryptology Sought ... Outsourcing Aids U.S. Here is the latest on information technology from India
Among Asia’s Best
The Indian Institute of Science, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur and the University of Kolkata have figured among top 100 Asia Pacific universities in a study. While the Indian Institute of Science ranked 22nd, both Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur and the University of Kolkata were ranked 67th, according to rankings released by China’s Institute of Higher Education, Shanghai Jiao Tong University.
The top two positions were held by Japan, followed by Australia. In the group ranked 67th are 89 institutions from various countries of Asia Pacific.
However, not a single Indian university or institute of higher education ranks in the world’s 100 best universities, the Chinese university said.
Over 50 percent of the best are American. The top ranked is Harvard University, followed by Stanford University. The two American universities are followed by the University of Cambridge, U.K., ranked 3 in the list.
Countries where universities are mentioned apart from the U.S. and U.K. in the list are institutions of Japan, Canada, Switzerland, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Sweden, Australia, Denmark, Russia, Norway, Finland and Austria.
G.B. Prabhat, director, consulting and enterprise solutions, Satyam Computer, said, “We have established a grid computing facility in Chennai and are in the process of collaborating with leading product vendors to reach our business. We are also discussing partnerships with other leaders in the world.”
“Satyam had made substantial investments in setting up grid computing facilities and developing prototypes,” he said, adding that the Chennai facility will have a strength of 100 persons in the next couple of years.
Grid computing is the new age technology that helps an organization maximize the utilization of its computational resources without additional investments.
The key application sectors that can use this practice include life sciences, government, financial services, geo sciences and manufacturing. Satyam has developed half a dozen prototypes for these application areas.
“We will soon have customized grid computing tools for various application areas,” Prabhat added.
The Infosys board received the nod at an extraordinary general meeting in Bangalore. Infosys chairman and mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy spoke to share-holders over videoconference from Bangkok.
He said the value of shares on offer for ADS is over $ 1 billion at the end of trading Dec. 16, even as some minority shareholders expressed reservation for the sponsored issue.
Bangalore-based Infosys was the first Indian firm to list its ADS on the NASDAQ stock exchange in 1999.
Infosys managing director and CEO Nandan M. Nilekani told reporters that the company would soon hold road shows in various countries to attract foreign institutional investors to buy the shares. In Japan, the stock would be allotted to retail investors.
Indian shareholders will have an offer to sell their stock at a premium over the price at which it is being traded on the Indian stock market.
Infosys shares closed at Rs. 2,105 Dec. 17 end on the Bombay Stock Exchange, while it was traded at $68 on the NASDAQ Dec. 16.
The promoters hold 22 percent of Infosys equity, FIIs 40.58 percent, and the Indian public 20.77 percent, and the remainder is held by mutual funds and private bodies.
Tata Teleservices, which has invested Rs. 840 crore in Tamil Nadu for setting up its telecom infrastructure, will invest another Rs. 260 crore in the state before this fiscal ends, said Madhusudan, its chief operating officer in Tamil Nadu.
Tata Indicom’s offerings in Tirunelveli will include CDMA mobiles (both post-paid and pre-paid), fixed wireless telephones and public telephone booths, he said in a press release here.
“This launch marks a significant step in providing quick and cost-effective fixed and mobile services to customers of Tirunelveli,” he said.
With the launch, Tata Indicom’s coverage has extended to 90 cities in Tamil Nadu.
“Tata Indicom is planning to extend its present footprint in the state from 90 to 145 cities in Tamil Nadu by March 2005,” Madhusudan said.
The expansion plan was in line with the company’s strategy to further penetrate the markets in its existing circles on one hand and to establish a nationwide footprint on the other, through the rollout in 12 new circles, he said.
Of the Rs. 1,100 crore that Tata Teleservices had planned to invest in the state, the company has already invested Rs. 840 crore and the balance would be invested during the course of this financial year, he added.
Fluoxetine is indicated for the treatment of major depressive disorder and obsessions and compulsions, it said.
The product is also indicated for treatment of binge-eating and vomiting behaviors in patients with moderate to severe bulimia nervosa, it said.
Total annual market sales for fluoxetine capsules and tablets were $534 million, with 40 mg capsules totaling $176 million, it added.
“We hired 400 people at our engineering centre at Pune this year. Last year the number of engineering staff the company had in India was 600,” said Agendra Kumar, country manager for India at Veritas.
The company has also acquired a 10 acre plot in the western Indian city of Pune to build an integrated facility, he said.
Veritas’ engineering facility in India accounted for 28 percent of all patents filed by the company last year, though the team here is just one-fourth of the total worldwide.
The company’s revenues from India have grown more than 60 percent year-on-year since it started selling in India five years back.
Apart from engineering staff working on new technologies, Veritas also has a technical support center in Pune.
The new sites, to be set up with an investment of Rs. 75 crore, would enhance the coverage and capacity on highways and in peripheral areas where large communities live. By March 2005, Tamil Nadu would have about 300 cell sites, K.A. Muhammad Salim, COO of the company in the south, told reporters in Coimbatore.
Despite increasing competition, the company has registered a 100 percent growth in subscriber base, from 1.90 lakh in November 2003 to 3.82 lakh till November 2004. The capacity expansion would help double the subscriber base within six months, he said.
R. Suresh Kumar, COO of Tamil Nadu circle, said the overwhelming response to the “one second billing and 99 plan” on post-paid connections had clearly indicated customer confidence in the company.
Elaborating on the course, Muthuraman stated that the course will start from the year 2005-06 with a student strength of 20 to 25 and in due course, the strength will be increased. The course will provide ample training both in the academic arena and in the industrial front.
Muthuraman inaugurated the international symposium of research students on materials science and engineering at IIT-Madras.
Dr Baldev Raj, director, IGCAR, urged the student community to study metallurgy, as metallurgy plays an important role in the day-to-day life.
A total of 203 papers were presented during the symposium, with 169 national participants and 34 international participants.
About 28 overseas institutes of the U.S., U.K., Germany, Australia, Japan, China, Korea, Malaysia, Turkey and Sri Lanka besides 43 Indian institutions participated in the first of its kind experimentation in the world.
The total project cost is estimated at about Rs. 71 crore to be implemented in two phases during 2005-06 and 2006-07, Tamil Nadu IT Minister D. Jayakumar said at a meeting attended by Agriculture Minister K. Pandurangan and other top officials of the state IT and Agriculture departments.
The first phase of the project TN-Agrisnet, which is estimated to cost Rs. 26 crore, will see the establishment of an IT network infrastructure at the state agriculture commissionerate and the 28 offices of joint director of agriculture, he said.
In the Rs. 46 crore second phase, the TN-Agrisnet nodes will be established in all the 384 offices of agriculture development officer in the block levels, said Jagmohan Singh Raju, Commissioner of Agriculture, Tamil Nadu.
“If the means are provided, we shall usher in a knowledge-based agriculture in the state in three years from now,” he said.
The project, which was aimed at the two crore agriculture laborers and 87 lakh agriculture families in Tamil Nadu, would also assist the farming community to use ICT to know about water-management, weather forecast, price information and crop production, said Vivek Harinarain, IT secretary, Tamil Nadu.
Low-cost location and fast research had enabled India to become a global hub for research, he said while delivering a public lecture on discovery, development and delivery, organized by the M.V. Hospital for Diabetes as part of its golden jubilee celebrations.
Over 100 major companies had set up their research and development centers in India during the past five years, bringing in more foreign investments besides providing job opportunities, he said.
Citing a reversal of the brain drain trend, he said over 750 Indians, who had migrated to other parts of the world, had returned to the country to head research and development units.
“Our Indian partner will be the majority shareholder in the company with our subsidiary, International Technologies Lasers holding 26 percent of the shares. We will sell our produce in India and also export to other countries globally,” Soltam Systems chairman Avraham Gilat told PTI.
“Our share is the maximum a foreign company can hold under Indian rules,” Gilat emphasized.
The new plant to manufacture night vision systems, digital compasses and military binoculars is aimed at utilizing the low manufacturing cost environment in India that will give the company a better competitive edge.
“India has been recognized by us as a key partner and we intend to enhance cooperation,” he said.
The Soltam Group is said to have sold more than $100 million worth of artillery systems to the Indian Army, which is an important customer of its products.
The company is also competing for a tender worth $1 billion with companies from Sweden and South Africa for the supply of 1,500 155 mm howitzer guns to India.
The plant to be set up in Bangalore will get a license to manufacture components and parts that the company anyway purchases from foreign firms, Gilat said, adding that calculations made by ITL show that a plant in India will significantly reduce costs.
Inaugurating a three-day international conference on cryptology here, he said because of the minimal inputs from Indian scientists, cryptology research had not developed to the level as desired.
“Apart from its scientific aspects, cryptology has assumed social, political, commercial and strategic connotations,” he said.
Widespread use of the Internet had made flow of information easy but at the same time also made it vulnerable to attack, he said.
Secured access to the Internet and securing information flow over the Internet would be vital for operations depending on such access and information, he said.
The state-of-the art cryptology was the only know-how that the technology community of the world possessed to secure the information flow over open networks like the Internet.
President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who addressed the seminar through video conferencing, called upon participants to come up with authenticated and assured mechanisms of evolving encryption with provable security. India should find a pride of place in the information security world, he added.
The study by AMR Research said the cost savings from offshore outsourcing will create an additional $30 billion per year in new investments for U.S. companies.
By then, the Indian IT labor force will be larger than three million, and half of the workers will be performing jobs for U.S. Companies.
Outsourcing to India will aid the U.S. economy if the savings from outsourcing continue to be reinvested in new strategic projects. The impact of these new projects can be huge. According to the research into Demand-Driven Supply Networks, investments that allow companies to improve just 10 percent of their ability to fulfill orders that are complete, accurate, on time, and in perfect condition can result in additional earnings of 50 cents per share, a result that stockholders will applaud.
Companies effectively outsourcing to India can slash by 40 percent to 50 percent the cost of application management and development, data center operations, help desk support, and other non-strategic activities.
With the cost of average U.S. IT “fully loaded” labor approaching $80,000 per worker per year, a worker in India represents a $36,000 savings per year, and 1.5 million workers represent $54 billion in savings each year.
The AMR research shows that companies reinvest 60 percent of savings from outsourcing in IT or business unit projects that’s $30 billion per year.
Companies, on average, invest $2.5 million per year for a strategic project. Depending on the specific project category, average investments per year break down as follows: Supplier facing projects worth $1.8 million, product lifecycle management projects worth $2.3 million, Customer-facing projects (the most expensive) worth $3.4 million.
Hi Tech Porn: Sex, Cell Phone and Baazi - By Siddharth Srivastava
The recent brouhaha over a sex video circulating on the Internet shows that when puritan values, an adolescent obsession with sex and high tech meet, it’s a highly combustible mix, writes Siddharth Srivastava.
It’s scandalized everybody in India: two twelfth-grade students of a posh private school in Delhi indulged in an intimate sexual act in the chemistry lab. In this age of adolescent sex and uninterrupted Internet access, this isn’t really a surprise even in a conservative society like India, except for one detail. The boy happened to possess a camera cell phone and without the knowledge of the girl, he recorded the proceedings, passed it on to a few friends to show off his exploits, who in turn forwarded it to a few more, forming an endless chain, with the 90-second clip now being sold on the Internet and the hottest selling CD at Delhi’s Palika Bazaar where all such stuff is sold. The CEO of Baazi.com, India’s reply to Ebay, (in fact Ebay now owns it) was whisked off to jail to calm a public outcry.
This is hardly the first time teenagers have indulged in sex, but the fact that everybody can see it happening has created a furor. The knee-jerk reaction is to look for a scapegoat. The boy and girl in question have been suspended from school, so have the boy’s friends who received the video clip. Others have blamed the school administration for allowing students to carry cell phones and that, too, fitted with a camera. Parents who indulge their wards by buying them cell phones are also being considered culprits. The government, which has been lax in coaxing schools to keep students in check, has been blamed, too. Most importantly, it is the use and abuse of technology that progresses at a rapid pace, opening young minds to detrimental effects, that has come under critical scrutiny.
Many observers have talked about the decadence of Indian culture and values and the mindless aping of the West, which does not set the best example to youngsters around the world. Then there is the all encompassing satellite television and the film industry where the finger can be pointed. Everybody is lashing out at somebody else.
In the seamier world at Palika Bazaar, Delhi’s municipal market, business is brisk, as there are more and more porn clips in circulation. There are reports of employees having caught their colleagues in the act, a manager and his secretary purportedly from GE, bathroom and bedroom scenes, honeymooning couples….the school episode has opened a virtual Pandora’s box of sexually explicit clips doing the rounds, recorded on the sly by youngsters and amateur cameramen out to make a fast buck.
A prominent newspaper asks: “Is it all just pandering to our basic instincts, and our fascination for pornography? Have we become a nation of voyeurs? And every time a sexual escapade comes out in the open why should it or our interest in it be so scandalously shocking? Are we a nation of repressed sexuality? After all, sex always sells and it is one of our most basic urges.”
The fact of the matter is that sex and sexual peccadilloes exist in every society and it seems to get younger with each generation, but can obscenity be stopped, eliminated, checked? It is not just about sex. In a survey of television viewers in the U.S., 81 percent of adults thought reality TV shows pander to our worst instincts: deriving pleasure in watching others frightened or humiliated. Yet, reality TV is the most widely viewed in the U.S. and catching on quite fast in India and accounts for four out of the five most expensive shows to advertise on for the 2005-2006 season.
Indian laws dealing with latest technologies are in place, yet it has been difficult to implement the rules. In the case of the school boy and girl police have not acted, as there has been no complaint so far.
The broaderand darker question is whether youth are being sent mixed messages. It is difficult to make a case for abstinence and chastity in a society where sex is used to sell everything from boot polish to detergent and Bollywood starlets are all too keen to shed what little stands between their birthday costume and the lascivious viewer.
Nor should technology per se be blamed. The real trouble lies in the schizoid Indian mindset when it comes to sexualitysex is both taboo and endlessly titillating. Consequently teenagers lose respect when they see the adult world of paradox. The most sensible and mature way of dealing with the prickly issue of sexual mores is to come clean; hiding under the cozy blanket of Puritanism serves nobody.
The latest gadgets have only brought this issue to a head.
- Siddharth Srivastava is the India correspondent for Siliconeer. He is based in New Delhi.
Siliconeer presents of the latest news from the world of outsourcing.
Double Staff ... Now, Pathology Services BPO ... India Meets Global Standard: Survey ...
VCs on India Trail ... Speech Technology: A Threat ... HR Outsourcing Next Big Opportunity ...
HCL Ireland Center to Grow ... BenQ to Make India Software Hub
Intelenet Global Services, the 50:50 BPO joint venture between Housing Development Finance Corporation and Barclays Bank Plc, is looking at more than doubling its headcount, to around 10,000 employees, by January ’06.
The company plans to be listed on the stock exchanges in the next 2-3 years.
Talking to the media here on Monday, Barclays CEO (UK Banking) Roger Davis said the concerns over data security is more of a red herring used by some U.S. companies, politicians and media to oppose outsourcing.
Intelenet currently employs 4,700 people and service 18 clients, including 6 banks, financial institutions and insurance companies. Over expanding its BPO facilities abroad, the British bank has entered into an agreement with its trade unions, which entail redeployment and training of staff rendered surplus.
HDFC had bought 50 percent of Intelenet’s stake from Tata Sons some months ago for Rs. 161 crore. This stake was later sold to Barclays for Rs. 164 crore. Intelenet posted a profit of over Rs. 10 crore on a turnover Rs. 117 crore for the ’03-04 fiscal year. In the first six months of this fiscal the turnover was at Rs. 116 crore.
The firm has also completed a trial with a Saudi Arabia-based hospital. Shivinder Mohan Singh of SRL Ranbaxy said India could provide pathology services 30 to 50 percent cheaper.
Britain’s National Health Scheme spends £2.5 billion on pathology every year. There are three accredited pathology laboratories that carry out tests in India.
India is already being projected as a destination for patients seeking quick and inexpensive health care, given the waiting periods in British hospitals. This was relevant to surgical procedures in particular, he added.
Former U.K. health minister Margaret Jay said IT was already playing a major role in tele-medicine where pathology samples were sent from remote areas to cities for analysis.
According to a study on the Indian healthcare industry by SKP Crossborder Consulting, the Rs. 4,000 crore (Rs. 40 billion) diagnostics and pathology laboratory testing business is growing at a compounded annual growth rate of 20 percent.
While the industry has around 20,000 laboratories, only few prominent ones have any international accreditation inspiring international confidence. The industry however, could underline quality control standards here. To import blood samples for testing purposes, laboratory testing companies have to acquire a license from the Drug Controller General of India, in addition to approval from the Director General of Foreign Trade.
The Nasscom-QAI report, titled Operational Excellence Challenges in ITES/BPO, benchmarks performance of Indian industry on key operational issues with global benchmarks provided by over 600 audited reviews in 35 countries worldwide.
Conducted across captive and third parties, MNCs and Indians covering 50 firms and about 90 respondents, the report also deconstructs some of the key operational issues facing the industry. These include key process challenges, quality and accuracy, retention, process improvement initiative and responsiveness.
The report findings then compare the Indian performance with its international counterparts. The findings indicate that the range of end-user satisfaction ratings for Indian BPO firms is 82-100 percent.
VCs like New Enterprise Associates, CMEA, IFC, Chrys Capital) who have invested in NewPath Ventures are on a Delhi-Bangalore-Hyderabad-Pune-Mumbai circuit looking for new investments.
Endorsing Vinod Dham’s penchant for manufacturing, these VCs are treading the manufacturing realm by visiting Moser Baer (a firm manufacturing DVDs) and telecom equipment companies apart from meeting Sunil Mittal of the Bharti group.
Tushar Dave, co-founder, managing member, NewPath Ventures said this is the first time that the VCs who have invested in another VC ( NewPath Ventures) are coming here and using them (Newpath) as a partner who would recommend interesting companies with exciting technologies to them.
Apart from looking at hardware companies closely coupled with high-end software applications, this VC camp will also be visiting Sasken Communications, Satyam Computers, Dr Reddy Labs and a couple of animation studios in Mumbai.
NewPath Ventures has invested in three Indian companies, Insilica, Telsima (both based in Bangalore) and Nevis, Pune. which are into silicon design and development.
Interestingly, Promod Haque, the world number one VC, NorWest Partners. was in town a few months ago with portfolio companies looking at niche companies in India where his companies could partner with.
Later, it was Nokia Ventures, armed with its companies on an India trail and looking at wireless technologies which would synergize with its invested companies.
Then came a VC delegation from Israel scouting for innovative companies, followed by the IndUS Entrepreneurs led VCs from the Silicon Valley and Boston.
Call center operations “are facing a competitive threat from speech-enabled self-service technology,” Datamonitor PLC has said; adding that the use of such technology over the telephone is 15 to 25 percent cheaper per transaction than a call agent.
As a result, enterprises have become more sharply focused on improving and automating phone-based customer-service transactions through speech-recognition technology, Datamonitor said.
Large enterprises that have become early adopters of the technology include Bank of America, Citigroup, CIBC Oppenheimer, Verizon, Qwest, MCI, T-Mobile, American Airlines and Continental Airlines.
“As the early adopter companies exhibit tangible success with speech-enabled self-service, other companies will follow suit,” Datamonitor analyst Daniel Hong said in a statement.
“This is leading to a greater uptake of speech solutions as the market awareness and visibility of speech-recognition technology increases.” Spending on speech-enabled self-service technology in North America is expected to more than double by 2008 to $1.2 billion from $480 million this year, Datamonitor said.
The popular offshore call-centre markets, such as India and the Philippines, are maturing rapidly, which means wages are increasing and turnover rates are higher, Hong said. As a result, the savings in opening an offshore call centre is decreasing, making speech automation more attractive.
“HR BPO comes to about 33 percent of the outsourcing pie. India has immense potential as more than 80 percent of Fortune 1,000 companies will discuss offshore BPO as a way to cut costs and increase productivity,” said V. Chandrasekaran, cofounder of Secova eServices Ltd, the first Indian HR BPO.
Sensing the potential, global BPO players including Fidelity, Exult and Hewitt have begun setting up operations in India. However, most HR BPO players had not leveraged the offshore advantage as yet, he said.
Research firm Gartner has forecast HR BPO to reach $51 billion and represent 39 percent of all BPO revenue by 2004-end.
“HR opportunity is absolutely new. It is a sunrise opportunity with huge potential,” Chandrasekaran, who formed Secova eServices to tap this potential, said. “Our initial focus will be only on HR administration, benefits and payroll, in the midmarket which accounts for $13.2 billion.”
In HR BPO, revenues depend on the number of employees the clients have. This is in sharp contrast to a typical customer care centre, where bills are charged on the workers servicing a client in the BPOs. Despite huge potential, not many companies have leveraged the offshore strategy. “The main reasons for not leveraging the offshore benefit have been companies being undercapitalized or not knowing enough about the offshore business,” said Chandrasekaran.
Addressing reporters here, Ranjit Narasimhan, chief operating officer, HCL Technologies, said that having a near-shore centre in Belfast would help the company in garnering business from clients in Europe, who were otherwise reluctant about outsourcing work to offshore locations like India.
HCL Technologies already employs 1,100 people at its Belfast centre, an operation it took over from British Telecom in 2001, retaining the company’s 290
employees. In 2001, HCL Technologies through its U.S.-based subsidiary had acquired a 90 percent shareholding in BT’s Apollo contact centre in Belfast. The company is now in the process of acquiring the remaining 10 percent stake held by BT in the contact centre.
HCL Technologies is the largest Indian employer in the U.K. in the IT sector. While talking the advantages of Northern Ireland, Narasimhan said that the wage cost in Northern Ireland was at least 15 percent lower than mainland U.K.
Earlier, a delegation from Northern Ireland, led by its economy minister Barry Gardiner, had a meeting with officials from HCL Technologies. Speaking to reporters, Gardiner said that Northern Ireland would become the first region in Europe to have 100 percent broadband access by next year.
Said BenQ Corporation director (branding development) Nancy Chen: “The objective behind the move is to make India one of the top 10 emerging markets for highly digital ‘BenQ’ products. We have recently done brand-building exercise in countries such as China and Europe and this year we are strongly focusing on the Asia-Pacific countries to further enhance our brand-building program for ‘BenQ’ products. In fact, we believe that the new global HR initiative will give a boost to our global brand-building strategies.”
Said BenQ India Pvt. Ltd country manager-India Ashish Bakshi, currently, 70 people are handling BenQ India’s software operations and as part of the global software development program, the company hopes to triple its software services employee strength.
Plans are also on the anvil to introduce the concept of “Environment Branding” in India which means creating in-shop promotions within ‘BenQ’ corners and ‘BenQ’ spots studying consumers’ preferences for products in different regions. At present, globally there are around 26 to 30 ‘BenQ’ Enjoyment Space and BenQ Corporation is planning to expand them extensively, Chen said.
Rising IT Wages - By Siddharth Srivastava
Rising wages in India coupled with a depreciating U.S. dollar will make the global IT market more challenging for India, writes Siddharth Srivastava.
India has shown the highest average salary increase in the Asia-Pacific region during 2004, beating China, Korea and Japan, according to a survey by global human resources firm Hewitt Associates. Analysts are worried, however, that such high increases in wage costs may result in the exit of business that is sought in this country for the very same reason low overheads. What is particularly worrying is that the highest rise in wages has occurred in the Information Technology sector where India bids to be the number one player in the world due to a combined advantage of low cost and high quality manpower at its disposal. Combined with the news that the rupee has appreciated in the face of a depreciating dollar, IT firms that rely heavily on export revenue fear a resource crunch.
According to the report, India showed the highest average salary increase in Asia followed by China, Philippines and Korea. While India reported an 11.6 percent overall pay hike, in China salaries grew by 6.4-8.4 percent, 7.4-7.7 percent in Philippines and 6.4-6.8 percent in Korea for the year 2004, the survey said. The hike during Phase I of the survey in India was marginally higher than 11.45 percent in 2003, Hewitt’s Asia Pacific Business head for talent and organisation, Nishchae Suri said, adding that Phase II for the Indian market would be completed by February 2005.
Employers in the region reported a more positive outlook in terms of salary increases in 2004 largely due to a region-wide economic upswing, Hewitt said, adding the trend was expected to continue next year as well with very few companies reporting the need for pay freezes in 2005. “The economic upswing is clearly reflected in the overall increases experienced by countries in Asia. Considering the global attention drawn by India, Philippines and China, it is not surprising to see the highest salary increases in these countries,” Mick Bennet, Hewitt’s managing director for Asia-Pacific, said.
What is worrying analysts in India is that the IT industry in India witnessed the highest average salary increase at 14.5 percent though as many as 89 percent of participating companies linked salary hike to performance ratings. The rising wages coupled with an appreciating rupee in the face of high U.S. fiscal deficit and the no-tax promise by President George Bush to plug it, will end up eroding the basic comparative advantage that India enjoys vis-à-vis other low cost centers of the world such a Vietnam, China and the Philippines, which are beginning to focus on the software sector. In an interview, Vivek Paul, vice-chairman and president at Wipro’s global IT arm, has warned of an end to the low-wage culture that has been at the heart of India’s software boom.
Indian software engineers typically earn one eighth of the salaries of their counterparts in the U.S. and Europe, with average monthly salaries of engineers here being $ 700 compared to over $5,000 in the U.S. Paul also said that the rupee was, in “purely economic” terms, 20-30 percent undervalued on international currency markets. The rupee has risen only 1 percent against the U.S. dollar over the last six months, during which the greenback has plunged against major currencies such as the Euro. Paul warned that India’s cost advantage would “fritter away as salary costs go up and, as the rupee continues to appreciate.”
The fear is that an appreciating rupee in consonance with rising salaries could result in the considerably lessening the purchasing power difference between the rupee and the dollar. Though the exchange rate between the dollar and rupee stands at over Rs 45 to a dollar, $1 is considered to be equivalent to Rs. 9 in terms of its purchasing parity. That is, a similar bundle of goods and services can be purchased for $1 in U.S. and Rs 9 in India. This is the equation that is also generally worked out by software companies when they pay equivalent salaries to engineers who seek work in India back from the U.S.
The concerned software company books profits as the exchange rate between the dollar and rupee are much higher than the difference warranted by cost of living. With appreciation of the rupee, however, the exchange rate advantage is narrowed while rising salaries negates the purchasing power parity, which makes it a lose-lose situation for Indian exporters.
India’s software exports have surged by 30 percent this year. Revenue from India’s IT exports was $12.5 billion in the year 2003-4 (March ended), which in turn has resulted in a 10-15 percent annual rise in wages in India’s software and back-office services industry.
According to research firm Gartner Group, the global IT services market is worth $580 billion, of which only $19 billion is outsourced, but India has 80 percent of this offshore market. The figure for outsourced IT services is expected to grow at a very rapid pace.
However, industry observers also say that there may be no immediate threat as Indian firms have incorporated elaborate plans to circumvent the rising wages. Most Indian IT firms that operate in the global scale have begun implementing backward linkages to cheaper locations to deliver on business generated from Europe and USA. IT giants such as Wipro, Infosys; Satyam and TCS have set up operations in China, given the lower wage cost of software engineers due to excess supply of trained manpower. Indeed, Indian firms facing competition will have to take the cue from the Indian model of low cost, friendly exchange rates, to further their business interests.
The going is definitely not going to be easy. The Hewitt survey has also warned against the high attrition rate in Asia. The highest turnover was reported in India, where the average rate was 15.4 percent, in a reflection of the rampant job hopping that happens in the Indian corporate world, especially the IT sector. Other markets with high attrition rates include Australia with 15.1percent, China 12.6 percent and Hong Kong 12.1 percent, the survey said. The respondents also projected greater salary increases for 2005, it said, adding there was a stark reduction in the number of companies projecting pay freezes next year. None of the companies in India, China, Australia, Malaysia and Singapore anticipated a pay freeze, it said. Over 1,000 companies from IT, banks, chemicals, construction and engineering sectors in Australia, China, Korea, India, Japan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand took part in the survey.
-Siddharth Srivastava is India correspondent for Siliconeer. He is based in New Delhi.
Farewell, Carnatic Nightingale: An Ode to M.S. Subbulakshmi
A Siliconeer Report
Few performers can match the prestige and devoted following of Carnatic vocalist M.S. Subbulakshmi, who died last month. Siliconeer offers a respectful tribute.
For a singer who had never ever given a press interviewshe preferred to let her music speak for itselfand it certainly did so eloquently, the media coverage M.S. Subbulakshmi had received has been nothing short of phenomenal. In personal life an extremely traditional and conservative woman of her generation, she was also a trailblazer. The first woman recipient of the Sangita Kalanidhi title (1968) from the Music Academy, Madras, she created history by playing the male role of Narada in Savitri (1947) at a time when men played female roles in theatre.
She did it to raise money to launch Kalki, her husband Thiagarajan Sadasivam’s nationalist Tamil weekly.
And as far as awards and honors go, she is probably the most recognized Indian performing artist. She won the Bharat Ratna, the Magsaysay award, her admirers ranged from Mahatma Gandhi to Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, who called her Suswaralakshmi Subbulakshmi. Jawaharlal Nehru hailed her as “Queen of songs,” Sarojini Naidu gave her the title “nightingale of India.”
She was perhaps the only Carnatic musician who was enormously popular in north India.
Her vast, still-increasing repertoire in many languages and in several musical forms, ran the gamut from Telugu kritis to Marathi abhangs, all of which bear witness to the great care in diction, breath control and thoughtful modulation that makes her vocal performance transcendent.
Even in her seventies, she learnt new songs and recorded them.
“Music is an ocean and I am a student. For a vocalist, voice practice is important. It has been my habit to learn the meaning of songs I have to sing and the correct pronunciation of each word,” she once wrote in a magazine, when she was 73.
Madurai Shanmukhavadivu Subbulakshmi was born in Madurai Sept. 16, 1916. Her childhood name was Kunjamma. Intrigued by the gramophone records, Kunjamma would roll a piece of paper and sing into it for hours. She cut her first disc at the age of 10. The songs were “maragatavadivu” and “Oothukuzhiyinile,” performed in an impossibly high pitch. It was through the Columbia Gramophone Company records she was first noticed in the city of Chennai before she was in her teens.
When she was 15 or 16, she was invited to sing at a wedding. She sang for two hours. The audience was mesmerized. By 1932 MS had become a sort of cult figure for a whole generation of young music lovers. Her mother, Shanmukhavadivu, who played the veena, had decided to come to Madras in 1932 and gave her first concert in Soundarya Mahal.
In 1933, film director K. Subramaniam arranged for a concert of MS in Kumbakonam and she took the town by storm. The approval of Kumbakonam gave MS a chance to give a concert at the Music Academy in Madras.
“My first important performance as a singer was at the Music Academy in Madras,” Subbulakshmi had later reminisced. “It was to be a full-fledged, three-hour concert there before an audience of musicians, critics and music lovers. I was 18. I shivered and trembled before the event. Trying not to look at the listeners, I went up to the stage, sat down, checked the tuning of the tambura, and began.
“Suddenly, my fears fell away. I sang with joy. Chemba Vaidyanath Bhagavatar, a well-known singer, had been sitting at the back. He got up and came to the front row, loudly expressing his approval. Others too were quick to say ‘Bhesh! Bhesh!’ and ‘Shabhash!’ I treasure the words of the great veena player Sambasiva Iyer. He said, ‘Subbulakshmi? Why, she carries a veena in her throat!’
“That concert at the Music Academy was a very big step for me a step towards a lifetime of singing. And of devotion and service through the pursuit of music.”
Magazines like Ananda Vikatan began reviewing her performances regularly and she was constantly referred to by the press as “Nightingale.”
Subbulakshmi’s first movie Sevasadanam was released in 1938 in which she played a poor girl married to a rich old man. This was followed by Shakuntalai in which she played the lead and glamorous role teaming up with G.N. Balasubramanian.
She maintained her glamour queen image until the release of Meera in 1945. When Meera was released in Tamil and Hindi, it catapulted her to all-India status as a musician. Subbulakhmi gave up films turned wholly to concert music.
Subbulakshmi continued to give concerts even at age 80.
“She can still hit the gandhara in the upper octave and make you soar with her,” her granddaughter Gowri Ramnarayan wrote of her illustrious grandmother. “Yes, grandaunt Kunjamma is an inspiring role model, not only for the miracle of her culture: humility, compassion, consideration for others and unwavering principles of conduct.
“Her quest for perfection, sincerity of effort and concentration are not reserved for the stage. They are visible in the camphor light that she circles around the gods and gurus in her puja room. That is why she fills you with the same rapture when she sings a prayer at home, as she does on the concert stage with her eyes-closed final, Kurai onrum illai (Lord, I have no regrets).”
Fighting Flu: Healthy Habits - By Dr. Steve Black, MD
As we brace ouselves for flu in winter, the best way to combat it is to learn how it works, says Dr. Steve Black, MD.
Every year as fall comes around, the headlines start talking about the flu. This year the vaccine shortage has many families worried their kids and elders won’t get the protection from illness they need. Vaccinating against the flu virus is an important way to avoid illness, but there are many ways to combat the virus before and after becoming sick.
The best way to combat the flu is to understand how it works. The flu is a viral illness that comes on suddenly, usually in late fall and winter. Symptoms include fever, shaking chills, body aches, headache and fatigue. The most straining symptoms usually last for three to four days, then turn into a cough, scratchy throat and a runny nose.
If you have had the flu before, your body developed antibodies. These antibodies help your body fight off the virus the next time you come in contact with it. Why does anyone get the flu twice, you ask? Because viruses evolve constantly. When there is a shift in the virus’s genetic makeup, the natural resistance most people have against the flu may not be effective against the new strain. Today, the “avian flu” recently discovered in Asia could signal another shift, and doctors and scientists are working hard to prevent it from spreading.
The vaccine works in a similar way, getting your body to produce antibodies, but the advantage is that doctors develop the vaccine to combat the latest types of flu circulating.
The flu can lead to more severe illnesses like pneumonia or worsen heart disease and diabetes. Respiratory viruses like the flu thrive on cool temperatures. The flu season in the southern hemisphere is the opposite of the winter months in the northern hemisphere.
The supply of the flu vaccine this year in the United States about half what is needed. This makes it even more important for everyone to take steps to prevent getting sick.
The average healthy adult recovers from the flu easily with home remedies. Doctors recommend vaccination especially for people with compromised immune systems, such as the elderly or people with a pre-existing condition like diabetes.
During the flu season, follow these good health habits:
If you get the flu, there are many ways to keep the illness at bay. Antiviral medicine is effective but only if started within a day or two of becoming sick. It can reduce the symptoms and length of your sickness.
Most importantly, take care of yourself. Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol. Drink a lot of water and get plenty of sleep.
For more information, visit the Center for Disease Control Web site (www.cdc.gov/flu/) where you can read about the flu in Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Thai, French, Japanese, Korean, Russian and Romanian.
Published in association with NCM and Kaiser Permanente.
HEALTHCARE & LANGUAGE:
Community Health Centers:
Where Communication Counts - By Dr. Alice Chan, MD
Good health care is about being an active participant in the entire healthcare experience, for which an interpreter is essential for patients with limited English, writes Dr. Alice Chan, MD.
I recently decided to accept a new job at a San Francisco hospital. One of the most difficult parts of that decision has been telling all my patients at the community health clinic in Oakland where I currently work that I will be leaving.
“Where are you going?” is usually the first question, although some venture a guess: “Are you opening your own private practice?” “Are you getting married? Having a baby?” Many of them ask whether they can or tell me that they plan to switch over to my new practice.
I’ve developed close relationships with many of my patients over the years, the vast majority of whom don’t speak much English. Because I speak Mandarin, I am able to communicate directly with my Mandarin-speaking patients.
And thanks to trained medical interpreters, I also have close relationships with patients who speak Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Mien, Cambodian and Arabic. I was reminded of this recently when I ran into one of my Cantonese-speaking patients on the street. She lit up when she saw me, took my hand, and started talking animatedly. I mustered the only reliable Cantonese I know, reminding her, “I don’t speak Cantonese!”
It’s about being an active participant in the entire health care experience: From making an appointment with the receptionist over the phone, to understanding the nurse who asks whether you need a flu shot, to discussing your diet with the nutritionist, to asking the pharmacist how to take your medications. It’s about being able to understand your diagnosis and treatment, and being able to advocate for yourself.
Many hospitals are highly committed to serving their patients who speak limited English. They hire medical interpreters, translate written documents, and post signs in different languages. But because they serve a larger, more diverse population with a wide range of linguistic, cultural and medical needs, they often cannot provide the seamless access for a specific population that a community health center can.
Asian Health Services, the community health clinic where I work, was established 30 years ago with the specific mission to serve the immigrant community here. To better ensure culturally and linguistically appropriate care, the clinic tries to hire people from the community. Nearly all the staff from receptionists to doctors speak an Asian language, with some staff members speaking up to six different language and dialects. In addition, the clinic has trained medical interpreters for the most common languages so there is typically no more than a few minutes’ wait for an interpreter.
Across California, community health clinics provide health care services to 3.12 million patients, according to 2002 data collected by the Office of Statewide Health Planning & Development. A recent survey of the state’s community health clinics found that services are being provided in 32 different languages. Spanish is by far the most common language, representing 90 percent of surveyed clinics. Among Asian languages, Tagalog is spoken in 23 percent, Vietnamese in 20 percent, Mandarin in 13 percent and Cantonese 11 percent of clinics. Nationwide, 95 percent of community health clinic patients report that their doctor speaks the same language they do, and for those who do not speak the same language, more than half say that someone on staff at the health center interprets. Because of their smaller size and community-based care philosophy, community health clinics have been uniquely successful in adapting their services to the cultural and linguistic needs of the communities they serve.
A report released in 2004 by ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, shows a very different picture for hospitals. In their study, testers called 70 different hospitals and visited 15 different hospitals located in urban centers around the country to see how easy it was for a Spanish-speaking patient to access care. In more than 50 percent of the calls, no Spanish speaker was available; in one case, the caller was told that due to the lack of interpreters, the caller should seek treatment at a different hospital. When they visited hospitals, they found even less interpretation services available. In nearly 60 percent of the visits, no Spanish speaker could be found. A number of the testers were asked to use their children as interpreters, while others were asked to try back later.
Hospitals in California are aware of this gap. Many are exploring ways to improve language access for their patients, including increased hiring of bilingual staff and use of innovative technology to increase access to interpreter services. But when my patients tell me they want to change to my new practice, we discuss what it would mean for them to change from Asian Health Services to a health care system where language may be a barrier at every step. Though I wish I could continue seeing them, I advise my patients to stay at the community health clinic, because clear communication is the basis for all good medicine.
Published in association with New California Media.
Sending Money Home: Wells Fargo, ICICI Plan - A Siliconeer Report
Wells Fargo and India's ICICI banks have joined hands to launch a remittance program where U.S. clients can send up to $3,000 a day for as low as $6-8 per transaction. A Siliconeer report.
Seen at the launch of the Indian Remittance Program are (from l) Wells Fargo community banking district manager Micky Randhawa, Wells Fargo branch manager Usha Bhambani, Wells Fargo community banking president Bob Ceglio, head of non-resident Indian business at ICICI Bank in Mumbai Gopakumar P., ICICI Bank U.S. regional manager Amit Dhawan, Wells Fargo product management manager Daniel Ayala and Wells Fargo product manager for cross border payments Gene Gutierrez.
What happens when two banking heavyweights one from the U.S. and another from India come together to introduce a program for remitting money to India? Life becomes a lot easier, say representatives of these banks. Wire-transfer firms currently charge exorbitant fees for transferring money, as non-resident Indians here discover painfully every time they send money home. Now there’s an affordable alternative.
Wells Fargo, a bank with $422 billion in assets with 6,000 stores in North America and abroad, announced in December that they have teamed up with India’s second largest bank, ICICI Bank, to begin a new remittance service that allows U.S. customers to send up to $3,000 a day from their U.S. accounts in India. “The Asian-Indian community is a fast-growing, thriving market segment in the United States,” said Daniel Ayala, head of Wells Fargo’s Cross Border Payments group.
“Reaching out to the India market the world’s second most populous nation is an important part of our global consumer remittance strategy, and further extends our ability to meet the financial needs of our diverse customer base in the United States.”
For Wells Fargo account holders, the procedure is simple and inexpensive. Transactions can be made through a banking store, phone, online banking or ATM machines. Once the transfer is complete, funds are available the following banking day in India. And each transaction costs $8.
The U.S.-India remittance program is Wells Fargo’s third international program launch in the last nine years, and the second in the Asia Pacific region.
On the Fast Track: Ferrari, TCS TieUp - By Siddharth Srivastava
Indian software companies deal with the world's biggest corporate names like American Express, Boeing and IBM. Ferrari is one more feather in India's IT cap, writes Siddharth Srivastava.
It is the meeting of two of the biggest players in their respective fields, but also a pointer of the kind of progress that India has made in the one sector that it remains at the cutting edge: Software.
“This is no ordinary recognition. We are delighted that Ferrari has chosen TCS technology and solutions to retain its pole position,” said TCS CEO S. Ramadorai. “The F1 car is the most complex and advanced car platform in the market, packing research in aerodynamics, engine technology, brakes, tires and modeling to name just a few,” said Ramadorai in a media release. “This collaboration is a tribute to our work, to the solutions we provide and to our engineers who strive ceaselessly to make this company what it is today,” he added. The F1 family consists of an extremely limited number of companies from around the world selected for their excellence and market position, it said.
Ferrari is the best known marquee on the Formula One racing track and is driven by the redoubtable Michael Schumacher who has been scorching race tracks across the world and has won 13 of the 19 Grand Prix titles this year and has already clinched his seventh championship title long before the end of the 2004 season. The closest anyone has ever come to this record is Juan Manuel Fangio, who won five world championships back in the 1950s. Schumacher has a contract with Ferrari that runs till 2006, though it is widely believed that he will continue with the carmaker and flag down more world titles.
N. Chandrasekharan, the executive vice-president of TCS who led the negotiations with the Italian company, said: “When the season begins in March 2005 and the famous red car wins Formula One races, we will know that we have contributed to that success. It is a significant win for us and it will help us expand our market presence in different parts of Europe.” Many Indian Information Technology companies are targeting European customers to help ease dependence on the U.S. market, which accounts for about two-thirds of sales.
A statement by TCS said: “The TCS products will help in tracking the speed, fatigue of both driver and the car. It will be part of the whole exercise that is involved in a car race. The specifics cannot be shared due to the non-disclosure clause. The first group of Tata’s engineers has already reached Maranello, Ferrari’s headquarters, to start work on the project,” it added. TCS has a wide experience in the automotive industry, and in April 2004 announced the opening of an Automotive “Center of Excellence” in Detroit. TCS counts Ford and DaimlerChrysler among its customers, as well as several of the automotive industry’s leading level-one suppliers, including Johnson Controls and Eaton.
According to a trade journal: “Glamour and speed is what attracts millions of viewers to the races, but a lesser-known fact is that increasingly an F1 car is a feat of engineering in many domains. It has more in common with a jet fighter than it does with a normal car. Experts compare it to a moving solutions platform that tests not only the stamina of the drivers but also mechanical and electronic systems that have to perform under levels of extreme stress. Goalposts shift dramatically every moment and pressure to deliver is a constant. From car electronics to safety, aerodynamics to trouble-shooting, TCS will work with the F1 team to provide IT-based solutions before, during and between races. With 19 Grand Prix races in 17 countries on four continents and an average 250 millions viewers per race, an F1 presence for any company on this large international canvas speaks to its dynamism, performance, teamwork and stamina for vertiginous competition and power.”
“The F1 family consists of an extremely limited number of companies from around the world selected for their excellence and market position. We only work with excellent companies because that is what makes Ferrari what it is today,” said Ferrari managing director Jean Todt. “TCS has what it takes to help us retain our pole position.” Echoing that confidence, said Antonio Calabrese, Chief Information Officer, Ferrari, “We have great expectations from our relationship with TCS we know they are the best and we look forward to working with them in the years ahead.”
Indian software companies such as Infosys, Wipro, Satyam, HCL deal with the biggest corporate names the world, such as American Express, Boeing and IBM to name some. Ferrari is one more feather in India’s IT cap.
- Siddharth Srivastava is India correspondent for Siliconeer. He is based in New Delhi.
Desi Radio, 24/7: Radio India
Want a Desi touch whenever you switch on the radio? If you are in the Bay Area, Radio India might just be the ticket, writes Arun Chauhan.
Indian radio shows are mostly a weekend affair. If your heart is crying out for the latest Bollywood hit or a golden oldie Hindi gem, there is no way you can get it on a radio during weekdays.
However, if you are in the Bay Area, there’s good news. Radio India has begun broadcasting in the San Francisco Bay Area since July 2004. The station has been started by Neeti Prakash Ray, with staff reportedly hired with previous experience with All India Radio and Vividh Bharati.
However, conventional radios will not be able to receive the signal, because the show is broadcast on FM2 frequency, which requires a FM2 receiver.
“The price of AM stations has been constantly going up by millions every year, this was our best bet,” Ray says. “FM signal can be tricky but it covers a greater area than the current local AM stations.”
FM2 receivers are available in Bay area Indian grocery stores, he said.
Ray moved to the Bay Area after years of living Toronto Canada. Initially a student of English, he never thought he would end up doing a radio show for the Indian community in Hindi. His show on AM radio grew to become a 11-hours-a-day and 7-days0a-week job. At that time he decided to hire sales staff and go full time with a new concept called FM2. FM2 is actually a unused frequency in between left and right channels of a regular FM station.
“We have been an affiliate of the BBC and the Voice Of America for the last 15 years,” he said. “Radio India will be incorporating news programs in the near future.”
- Arun Chauhan presents “Saaz Aur Awaaz,”
COMMUNITY NEWS IN BRIEF:
Prayer Meet Raises $12,000 ... Math Lab: MathThink ... Washington Mutual - IVACC Yearend Party ... Congressional Briefing ... Pakistani Scholar ... Film Fest in New York ... Talent Showcase ... Dental Award
Prayer Meet Raises $12,000
Over 300 people gathered at the Hindu Temple and Community Center in Sunnyvale, Calif. at a prayer meeting Jan. 2 to express their support for victims of a devastating earthquake and tsunami swept over coastal areas in South and South East Asia Dec. 26. According to temple treasurer Raj Bhanot, $12,000 was raised at the meeting, with plans for another fundraising musical evening the following weekend Jan. 8.
The meeting began at around noon, with Ushma Vahia presenting bhajans, followed by brief speeches by representatives of the various organizations. Temple priest Narayana Swami conducted a prayer, which was followed by aarti and priti bhoj.
Representatives of various organizations sat in a meeting and set up a committee with one representative from each Bay Area organization, which is organizing a musical evening to raise funds for tsunami survivors.
The musical evening, scheduled for Jan. 8 at the temple here, will include dinner, which will begin at 6:30 p.m. The show will begin at 8:00 p.m. Suggested donation is $25 per person.
The Metacognition Math Lab for 6th to 10th grade students is the first of its kind in the United States. The goals of this lab are to teach students to: Develop strategies to increase power thinking; Find creative solutions; Explore and investigate patterns, not just memorize formulas
Learn from classmates in a group environment.
According to MathThink official Phil Puthumana, “This release will meet the needs of students excelling in math as well as helping struggling students. What is important is to give students the understanding of their thought process when addressing problems they don’t readily know. This skill is becoming even more evident every day in our rapidly changing information and technology age.”
Puthumana said that recent studies soundly demonstrate that the highest paying jobs in the United States require strong analytical and creative problem-solving skills. “The key to the Metacognition Math Lab is gaining insight into how a student is reasoning and giving him/her the tools for developing critical thinking skills,” he added.
MathThink has recently partnered with the India Community Centers of the South Bay, the California Community Center of Fremont and the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.
Interested readers can find more information about the Metacognition Math Lab and MathThink on the Web at www.MathThink.com
IVACC is a business organization of South Asian Americans. IVACC supports the economic development of the Indus Valley American community and provides access to information and programs offered by various groups to start or improve their businesses.
IVACC helps members in keeping them informed on and provide input into legislations that affect your business and help them develop new business contacts.
Regina Yin, keynote speaker at the party, said that Asians are more than six percent of the population of the United States and if members of the ethnic group unify and struggle together, it can make a difference in American politics
“Today, I am so thrilled to see all Asian and South Asian brethren gathered to celebrate this occasion under one roof,” she said.
The party at Sher-E-Punjab restaurant in Sacramento, was hosted by Kamran Amin, a loan consultant for Washington Mutual. Amin said he is here to help the desi community in fulfilling their American dream of pursuit of a happy life.
After a few brief speeches, Poonam Malhotra entertained the crowd with songs.
A kids group also entertained the audience with their dance.
Lodi De Motera presented Gidda dance, a Tibetan group presented Tibetan dance, and a Chinese group presented folk music and dance.
By Talat Sattar
|Return to Community News Index| |TOP|
“Today, hundreds of languages are spoken in urban, suburban and rural areas of the United States,” the release said. “Estimates of LEPs approach 22 million. Fifteen states recently experienced more than 100 percent growth in their LEP populations: Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Washington.”
Health care providers from across the country have reported that language difficulties and inadequate funding of language services create major barriers and a serious threat for both access to and the quality of care received by LEPs. “The systemic failure and delay in addressing the issue of quality healthcare for LEPs has the unintended consequence of treating people like second class citizens. Hopefully, today’s briefing helps in addressing the barriers around language so people like Mrs. “J” get the care they deserve,” said Juliet Choi, NAPALC staff attorney for language access.
The chair is named for Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the leader who founded Pakistan and is known by the title Quaid-i-Azam or “father of the nation.”
The University of California, Berkeley’s International and Area Studies program teamed up with the government of Pakistan and established a new Pakistan studies professorship at UC Berkeley in 1999. The position was called the Quaid-i-Azam Chair of Pakistan Studies. Its establishment was announced May 20, 1999 by the then ambassador of Pakistan, Riaz Khokhar and David Leonard, dean of international and area studies. “We are flattered that the government of Pakistan has honored us in this way; it is a tribute to the length and quality of the relationships we have had with Pakistani students and scholars over the years,” Leonard said on the occasion.
A roadblock came in October 1999 when Gen. Pervez Musharraf assumed power. The Quaid-I-Azam Chair project was shelved. However, in 2002, the Pakistan government relented and released the funds.
By Talat Sattar
Over 5,000 moviegoers attending the screenings, panel, and parties. The South Asian International Film Festival is the first festival in New York showcasing contemporary cinema and talent from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. The five-day festival opened Dec. 1 with a sold-out gala screening of Miramax Films’ Bride and Prejudice at the 1,200-seat Ziegfeld Theater. Attendees included the ambassadors and consulate generals of Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, representatives of U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton’s office, director Gurinder Chadha, Whitney artist Shazia Sikander and Bombay Dreams star Anisha Raganathan.
Films that received the best reception included Nasreen Kabir’s The Inner Life of Shah Rukh Khan; Starkiss: Circus Girls of India from Nepal; Saroja from Sri Lanka; The Clay Bird from Bangladesh; and Ye Dil Aapka Hua from Pakistan.
The Closing Night film, Shwaas, India’s 2004 nomination to the Oscars, screened to a full house at Chelsea’s Clearview Theater. SANA is the largest South Asian social organization in the United States.
Currently 435 students are enrolled in over 100 classes in music, dance, art, cooking, sports instruction, language, academics and more in Milpitas and Sunnyvale. Registration is now open for India Community Center’s Winter Session which begins Jan. 9. ICC’s Early Registration Discount offer ends Jan. 3. Prospective students may register online at www.IndiaCC.org, by phone at (408) 934-1130 or at ICC Milpitas located at 555 Los Coches Street, Milpitas, CA 95035
Pannu was recognized as a “ 2004 Invisalign Innovator” by Align Technology, the manufacturers of Invisalign, at a recent annual meeting of the American Dental Association in Orlando, Fla..
Invisalign is a high tech, clear, removable way to straighten teeth in about one year. Only top 100 doctors who have done the most cases nation wide received this recognition, according to the release.
Pannu said that the secret to his success has been his extensive experience in cosmetic dentistry. “Many of my patients are looking for a conservative and natural way to gain a beautiful smile, and Invisalign is the answer,” he said.
Mom Explores Hummer: 2005 HUMMER H2 SUT By Sally Miller Wyatt
After years of curiosity about the Hummer, Sally Miller Wyatt decides to take this 81-inch-wide vehicle on.
Through all the years that my family and I have been riding around in test cars, I’ve noticed many people will stop and ask us questions about the cars and the job itself. Inevitably, the conversation always gets around to one same question: “Have you driven the Hummer yet?” Being asked that question even now after the Hummer has been around for a while always surprises me, because it appears curiosity about the Hummer has far outlasted the novelty or curiosity that surrounds the launch of many new vehicles.
The truth is, I hadn’t purposely sought out the opportunity to test drive this ultimate off road machine. As a Mom, I am supposed to be focusing on sedans and minivans, right? Okay, that was the argument I tossed around when I was unwilling to admit the vehicle’s size and width intimidated me somewhat. Well, enough is enough. This Mom has finally decided to take this 81-inch-wide vehicle on.
Well, color me surprised.
People also want to know about the Hummer’s appetite at the pumps. Well, with a 32-gallon gas tank, you can do the math. Fill-ups, particularly these days, can get mighty expensive.
The curious also asked how the Hummer rides. Honestly, I’ve test-driven some luxury sport utility vehicles that couldn’t come close to the Hummer’s smooth ride. It has an undeniable road presence.
People were also curious about the new configuration of Hummer we had this week: It was the SUT, which is an acronym for Sport Utility Truck. It’s a new body style available for 2005 models, and offers the adventuresome a truck-bed option with an enclosed passenger cab. I’ve long felt this “crew cab” configuration can be a real bonus for families, because of its versatility for seating and cargo-carrying abilities.
Also new for 2005 Hummers is increased horsepower and torque from the Vortec 6000, 6.0-liter V8 engine. A touch-screen navigational system and On-Star is also available for 2005 models. And, for those who simply must have it all, a luxury interior is also available. Leather seating, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, rear seat audio controls and second row seats with a heating feature complement the “luxury” package.
Hummer’s designers also added some new colors for the 2005 models: an appropriately named Stealth Gray and Desert Sand.
On the road, we found the leg and head room was more than generous and that visibility for driver and all passengers was good in all directions. Seats were comfortable and everyone commented on the vehicle’s unexpectedly smooth ride.
Overall, having this opportunity to drive the 2005 Hummer H2 SUT was worth the wait. For those who live or play frequently in areas that experience bad weather and awful road conditions, or for parents who want to provide the ultimate in protection for their families, the Hummer H2 offers some peace of mind.
- Sally Miller Wyatt is a freelance writer
All of Bollywood is in a tizzy after the photographs went into print. Mid-Day has regretted hurting the feelings of the stars but editor-in-chief Aakash Patel says in self defense in a front-page statement in the paper: “Our intention was simply to show two young celebrities in love, unconcerned about their very public display of affection.”
Yeah, sure. The fact that the hot pics helped sell papers like hot dosas was probably incidental, huh?
He was quick to yelp tauba, tauba after Kareena claimed Rs. 200 million in damages.
Kareena, meanwhile, is maha gussa. She’s slapped a legal notice on the tabloid. “I am completely emotionally and mentally traumatized by what has taken place. It is really terrible that a leading newspaper could do this. My lawyer will be taking legal steps,” Kareena told a TV channel earlier.
Well, one doesn’t know what to make of that. Did she expect everybody to close their eyes while she was in a public smooching session? Apparently the lovebirds were at it in an upmarket restaurant, Rain, and in this age of high-tech Mumbai, somebody with a camera phone got the pics.
Matters get curiouser as Kareena claims the pics are fakes. She says the newspaper’s claims that the video from which the photographs came had been shot while she was in a restaurant aren’t true because she was shooting at Ooty in Tamil Nadu.
Not so, says Mid-Day’s Aakash.
”We haven’t doctored any picture. We have even got the video clippings to show that,” he says. Patel said a friend of his took the pictures with a mobile camera phone in an upmarket restaurant. “My friend was sitting at a table close to them and he took the photos,” he said.
“We found (Shahid) Kapoor and Kareena (Kapoor) lip-locked at a party at Rain the other night,” according to a brief note carried by the newspaper accompanying the pictures.
It wasn’t as if there wasn’t any warning. Rumblings were heard days before the scheduled Bollywood star show that Buddhist monks were angry over the choice of date, Dec. 11, which marks the death anniversary of a Buddhist monk. It wasn’t an appropriate day for a Bollywood bash, irate monks had said.
Organizers, however, said it was too late to change dates, but a minute of silence was observed in respect of the monk at the show, and Shah Rukh appears to have managed to calm down the monks.
In a three-page letter handed over to India’s High Commissioner to Colombo Nirupama Rao, monks said the bombing was the work of extremists.
They said the Buddhists had nothing to do with it although some monks did protest the timing of the ‘Temptation 2004’ show.
“We accept you as our own brothers and sisters,” the monks said in their letter to Khan and his troupe which escaped unhurt in the blast.
“Please do not harbor any ill feeling towards Sri Lankans.”
The Shah Rukh charm, it appears, works just as well on Sri Lankans on monks as it does on millions of Bollywood buffs.
Not just that. Rumors are making the rounds that she has signed a prenuptial agreement with Anil Ambani worth several million rupees.
“I sit back and wonder why my name is used all the time to garnish something,” Aish fumes. “When I learnt of it, I went through a mixture of emotions. I rarely meet him. The last we met was at Bharat Shah’s birthday bash, and we were sitting at a table with Tina and others. I was taken aback.”
As if that’s not bad enough, some pesky reporters are asking if her romance with Bollywood stud Vivek Oberoi is over? Now here Aish seems a bit cagey.
“Have I ever spoken about my personal life? People want me to react to their assumptions and I shall not be a partner to this,” she retorts. Fair enough.
But reporters are nothing if not persistent. One piped up if the two are considering marriage.
“I’m living the moment now. Life will unfold what it has in store,” she replies enigmatically. Now that sounds a bit like the Delphic oracle.
Plenty, a little bird in Bollywood tells us. For starters, Hrithik is going to play a villain. That too, in a sequel. Remember last year’s hit Dhoom with Aishwarya Rai? Well Aditya Chopra is planning a sequel, and Hrithik has just signed the dotted line. Hrithik and Aishwarya, now if that’s not sensational casting, tell me what is.
But just because Hrithik is playing a villain, don’t expect him to don ridiculous blonde wigs and mouth cheesy one-liners. Our Hrithik is going to be a slick, suave villain with the classy glamour of James Bond in this Yash Chopra production, with a star-studded cast of Abhishek Bachchan, Uday Chopra, Rimi Sen, all repeated from the original hit film.
John Abraham, who played the slick villain so well in the original film, is absent. How come? Insiders say the villain had to be a different face and character. Call us cynical, but we think Hrithik doesn’t want another slick villain cramping his style.
So Hindi film buffs, get ready for a rollicking ride with a classy villain played by Hrithik dressed to killwho probably then goes ahead and does just that.
Leggy starlets have been crawling out of the woodwork, all too keen to shed their clothing for fame and success.
Mallika Sherawat, Neha Dhupia, Sameera Reddy, Amrita Arora, Koena Mitra, Udita Goswami, the list just goes on and on.
Of course, notwithstanding their come-hither looks and itsy-bitsy dresses, they are quick to affirm their dislike for showing too much skin.
“I’m tired of the sex symbol tag and I want to do a hit film,” wails Amrita. “I can’t keep seducing the hero, play town tease or be the sexually unhappy wife in film after film. Nothing matters once you have a hit, and that’s what I want.”
Sameera says her sex symbol image “was a one-off for Musafir. I am not going to consciously mould myself as a sex symbol. I think Madhuri (Dixit) was the sexiest star in Bollywood and she didn’t have to take off clothes for it.”
Koena, who makes her debut in a two-song and three-scene role in Musafir would like to get rid of the sex symbol tag. “Of course Jism must have triggered off the trend of these sexy films but it would be stupid for an actress to keep doing the same stuff,” she says.
Meanwhile, Bips is beginning to wise up as she is realizing that silky smooth thighs go only so far.
“Once you’ve flaunted yourself before the camera there’s no novelty left. I have started working out with a vengeance and I’ve decided that I can no longer be laidback about my career. So next year you’ll see a new improved me,” she says. Does that mean we are actually going to see her act? Just asking.
Bollywood celebrities are making a beeline to join the grand event, a little bird tells us. After all, it is the first time that a film has premiered at the august Royal Albert Hall, and local NRI tycoon Akbar Asif, son of the filmmaker K. Asif who originally directed the film, is leaving no stone unturned to make sure the event has all the pomp and grandeur befitting this opulent saga of Mughal-era love.
The film has already received praise from newspapers which compared it to the Hollywood classic Ben Hur, which reportedly piqued Al Pacino’s interest. It’s also getting praise for the technical quality of the film given the limited financial and technical resources available in the 1960s.
But what if that angel is Bollywood starlet Mahima Chaudhry? Maybe that chicken leg is going to stick in your throat, huh? Mahima actually looks like an angel. Walking in the clouds and holding a basket of flowers and fruit as the tag line comes on screen.
“Being vegetarian, I feel better physically, but even more importantly, I feel better spiritually, knowing that I haven’t needlessly taken a life”, says Mahima. “Billions of animals are slaughtered for food worldwide, and I shudder to think how they are treated in factory farms. What better way to celebrate this festival season than by being an angel for animals and putting compassion on your plate.”
Mahima wants her legions of fans and all Indians to know that they too can be “angels” by adopting a healthy and humane vegetarian diet.
The captivating ad was shot by photographer Atul Kasbekar. Credit for Mahima’s stunning wings made without feathers and outfit goes to acclaimed designer Hemant Trivedi, a conscientious vegetarian who was a finalist in PETA’s annual “Hottest Vegetarian Alive” contest this year. “I respect our planet too much to eat animals or use their skins in my creations,” says Hemant.
“I urge everyone who cares about good health, animals or our precious planet to discover the pleasures of a sensible and delicious vegetarian diet,” says Mahima. It’s uncertain how many hardcore carnivores will change their minds, but the ad will certainly give many of them pause.
The public spat between Anil and Mukesh Ambani has been the talk of the town, as has the latest news of their latest attempts at reconciliation. While the story is gradually being eased out of headlines, it could well be making its appearance on celluloid.
Filmmaker Jai Prakash, who made Market, is set to launch a film on the Ambani duo. Expect a lot of masala, gentle reader, because the star cast to play Tina Ambani is the how do we put this courageous star Mallika Sherawat.
“We are still working on the script,” Prakash said recently. “But yes, I do plan to approach Mallika Sherawat to play the role of Tina Ambani.”
One only wonders what the sedate Ms. Ambani thinks of her being portrayed by the daredevil Sherawat, who has a great dislike of letting clothes getting in the way between her performance and the viewer.
But yesteryear’s star Tina needn’t worry too much. Prakash’s previous film Market, disappeared without a trace after the release.
They wanted to meet Sanjay Dutt aka Munnabhai, star of the eponymous zany comedy Munnabhai MBBS, and what’s more they were thrilled to bits when their wish actually came true.
“This goes to prove the power of cinema that how it can transcend and cross all borders and barriers,” says Bollywood character actor Boman Irani. “When Munna Bhai was selected, we were very happy but I wasn’t surprised. When these children were asked whom they would like to meet when they are in India, their obvious choice was Sanjay Dutt.”
“What do these children know about conflicts between the two countries?” Irani asked. “If peace has to come, it’ll come through children and they have already brought the prescription.”
“Children are the foundation of both the countries. We are happy that children have initiated the efforts of friendship between both the countries.”
“We want both the countries to spend money on the development of their villages rather than spending money in weapons and artillery. The education and health of children should be looked after. Like Munnabhai MBBS, a film should also be made on the condition of women,” said Nabila, a Pakistani girl.
“We have to clear our mind of all those issues. We should know that the fights between the two countries would not benefit anyone. We have brought the peace message to India. We have come here to befriend with Indians,” said Shehzad, a Pakistani boy.
Hindi Film Review: Lofty Premise, Boring Film
Produced, directed and co-written by: Ashutosh Gowariker
Music: A.R. Rahman
Starring: Shah Rukh Khan, Gayatri Joshi, Dayashankar Pandey, Kishori Ballal, Smit Seth, Rajesh Vivek, Peter Rawley and Makarand Deshpande
Sometimes, a big achievement can be a huge cross to bear. Lagaan, though not perfect, was a milestone in Bollywood in its technical excellence and genuine cinematic appeal, and Ashutosh Gowariker alas, has had to carry the burden of huge expectation. Swades unfortunately shows that he is ill prepared to carry it.
The film puts any reviewer in the most difficult of dilemmas. After all, Gowariker has done what this reviewer, and many others, have been begging Bollywood to do for ages use its awe-inspiring power on millions to educate and edify rather than use cinema as a tool for mindless escapist entertainment, often in poor taste.
Gowariker’s intentions are honorable, but the end result, unfortunately, fails to click precisely because he has failed to grasp the rules of commercial cinema in general and Bollywood in particular: At the end of the day, nobody will go to the cinema for a civics lesson. Consequently, no matter how lofty a film’s premise, it also has to fulfill the criteria of a good, absorbing film that tells a ripping good yarn. Otherwise it’s like offering a kid a dose of cod liver oil. No matter how good it is for the kid, it’s just not going to be taken.
Here’s the story in a nutshell: Mohan Bhargava (Shah Rukh Khan) works as a project manager with NASA. He works on a rainfall monitoring project called Global Precipitation Measurement which can get accurate weather predictions and has finished the first phase of the project and is all set to start the important second phase which will launch a satellite into space. However, like every other NRI who is painfully aware of the personal price one has to pay for expatriate success, he feels the pain of leaving the old country.
There’s a touching scene of homecoming as Mohan arrives in a godforsaken village in northern India. The train chugs to a halt at a nameless station. A little boy sprints to the train, crying, “Water for 25 paise.”
Mohan, who refuses to touch anything but mineral water in India, buys the water. Its probably awash in germs, but what the heck, it’s still water that belongs to his soil, his country.
Mohan locates Kaveriamma in a village called Charanpur, where he also meets Gita (Gayatri Joshi), a teacher in the village school who takes care of Kaveriamma.
The school where Gita teaches was founded by his parents. Kaveriamma is Gita’s only family apart from her younger brother. Bhargava, not unexpectedly, duly falls in love with Gita.
Things get sticky when Mohan wants to take Kaveriamma with him to the U.S. Gita wants her to stay. Meanwhile, Mohan gets more involved with the lives of the villagers as he spends more time. He works on bringing electricity to the village, and the task isn’t easyhe has to deal with India’s answer to red tape, the sarpanch, panchayat and the caste system.
But he makes friends, too. Mela Ram (Dayashankar Pandey), wants to start a chain of restaurants in America and wants Mohan to help him. Local postmaster Nivaran (Rajesh Vivek), is old fashioned and traditional but befriends Mohan.
Mohan realizes that the children of the village hold the key to the nation’s future. He decides to puts his scientific temperament to use by solving a village needcheap electricity, and engages the villagers in his project as he works within the constraints of hidebound social mores.
Village elder Dadaji (Lekh Tandon) tells Mohan in his death bed to continue the good work the way he has given electricity to the village.
It could almost be a Films Division documentary, and apparently it’s based on a real life story. But that doesn’t mean its fun to watch. Cinema thrives on a gripping story, conflict, anticipation, building up of tension, and a climax that brings a cathartic release. Very little of this is evident here, with the result being a lofty premise resulting in a deeply unexciting film.
A curious coincidence begs a questionbut first, the coincidence. Filmmaker Farhan Akhtar, after his superb debut with Dil Chahta Hai, similarly failed with Lakshya. Now the question: Does the fact that Aamir Khan played the lead role in both successesGowariker’s Lagaan and Akhtar’s Dil Chahta Haihave anything to do with the eerie similarity of how both subsequent attempts without the great Khan have fallen apart?
The conclusion seems inescapable: Aamir’s canny skills were the formative influences in both Lagaan and Dil Chahta Hai, and without his touch, both directors have been a bit lost.
Which isn’t to say Swades doesn’t have flashes of excellence. Cinematographer Mahesh Aney’s splendid camera makes you feel as if you have actually entered a village, and for once, thank heavens, Shah Rukh eschews his penchant for trademark histrionics and offers a low-key performance that’s compelling.
In the end, that’s not enough. Even if it’s a true story, the overlong film ultimately fails to engage the audience. Sadly, the director has buckled under the weight of his previous mega success. But still, go see it for yourself. It’s like a bowl of oatmealit may not taste so great, but it’ll do you good.
Rating: **1/2 (Average)
Tamil Film Review: Satire on Film, Politics
Director: S. Chidambaram
Cast: Satyaraj, Mumtaz, Namita, Ramesh Khanna,
P. Vasu, Raj Kapoor, Manoj Bharati, Mallika
Amaithipadai was a brilliant take on the political system with Satyaraj playing the unscrupulous protagonist. Now the actor has yet another film to showcase his inimitable talent. This time it’s a satire on the film industry and its nexus with politics, with the story of how a junior artist gains the reins of the state. It’s a light-hearted satire narrated with rare insight and with some hilarious caricatures by Sakthi Chidambaram.
Satyaraj plays with élan the unscrupulous, immoral and shrewd Satya, who uses the failings of others as a stepping stone for his own advancement both in films and later in politics. It’s a brilliant caricature by Satyaraj as he enacts each stage of his character with commendable assurance. His cocky demeanor, ability to poke fun at himself even as he mocks others, and his inimitable style of dialogue delivery, all contribute in bringing to life the character of Satya. Satya’s punch lines are innumerable, delivered with flair by Satyaraj.
Satya’s first step to success comes when he, a junior artist on the sets, uses his wits to get the hero of the film (Ramesh Khanna is a joy to watch here) thrown out of the project and maneuver himself in the ejected actor’s place. Next, Satya manipulates situations to turn his debut flop film into a roaring success at the box office. Never mind that he pushes his heroine almost to death’s door in the process!
Pitting his two warring heroines against each other even as he uses them both to promote his own ends, making a simple finger-fracture seem like a major accident while shooting, and earning sympathy, are some of the ways he grabs the limelight.
Not surprisingly, he’s wooed by politicians who plan to make him a pawn in their struggle for power. But beating the politicians at their own game is an easy task for Satya, who has an ace up his sleeve even as his day of reckoning draws near.
A slim Mumtaz is easy on the eye, while Namita fits in well. In brief roles, Manoj K. Bharati as Satya’s ardent fan and Mallika as his gutsy girl friend impress.
The solution given at the end, though too idealistic for practical politics, does offer food for thought. As he weaves his way with his well paced narration, spicing his script with anecdotes taken from real life (like the midnight arrest of a former CM), some sparkling one-liners and some home truths, taking pot-shots at the idiosyncrasies and survival tactics of industry folks and politicians, Sakthi Chidambaram takes the audience through a hilarious journey no one will regret.
Spicy Tomato Soup: Winter's Warm Reprieve - By Seema Gupta
As chill winds blow in the winter, there’s nothing like a warm cup of soup. Seema Gupta presents a delicious recipé.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Garnish with coriander leaves and grated cheese. Serve hot with toasted bread rolls or noodles.
- Seema Gupta is a homemaker. She lives in Elk Grove, Calif.
2005 Yearly Forecast By Pandit Parashar
ARIES (March 21 to April 20): You will be able to plan things carefully once Rahu moves away from your sign around Feb. 22. Career woes will diminish and you will experience good luck. New contracts and offers will make way in the months to come. Saturn’s in third until May 25 looks poised favorably. You may get sued but immediate settlement is assured. People involved in communications will benefit during such transition. You will have good fortune once Jupiter moves in the Kendra in September. It will neutralize the transit of Saturn in fourth which could have caused concerns. You may move into a new home towards the end of 2005. Career-wise you will make remarkable progress. There will be an air of celebration in the family as an eligible bachelor ties the knot this summer. Jupiter will bring you close to influential people who will be the turning point in your life around September. You will become very ambitious and materialistic once Rahu moves into twelfth after Feb. 22.
TAURUS (April 21 to May 20): It will be a great year. You will beat all odds and achieve major goals in career in first six months of 2005. You will be rewarded for your hard work and patience by Raj Yoga Karka planet Saturn. You will make money through legal channels during this period. You will build long lasting fruitful partnerships in March or May. You will make several distant trips that will bring prosperity in life. Some of you may also move to another state before August. Combination of Venus and Mercury in the first week of April and again towards the end of May will help you in achieving your goals. It will be a good year for brokers and agents. You will receive blessings from a holy person. Jupiter and Ketu, the planet of salvation, will make you more religious and content. You may join a short term course. All new ventures will bring immediate profits. It is a good time to explore new business opportunities. You will have some overseas visitors this summer.
GEMINI (May 21 to June 20): There will be major changes in career. You will be tired of routine lifestyle and may try something different. Results might be slow in the beginning but will suddenly pick up after May. Early months of 2005 call for a lot of hard work, dedication and patience. Business partners will be strong and motivating. Your assets will multiply as you make several intelligent investments. A person born overseas will help you and bring good luck. There will be financial turbulence. At times you will have surplus and then again they will turn in to deficits. Retail, liquor or overseas trading businesses look favorable. Jupiter’s transit into fifth after Sept. 27 will give a sudden boost to career. A business started in early 2005 should take off like a bullet. You may buy another property before May 25 and do some remodeling before you move in. There is strong indication that a new member will be added to the family towards the end of 2005. You will go on several long distance trips with and without family. It will be a creative and fruitful year.
CANCER (June 21 to July 22): Saturn will test your patience but once Mars moves into Capricorn in March, things will be under control and you will make progress in career. There could be some disturbance in career again between April 22 and June 3. Some of you may switch jobs during this period. Jupiter’s aspect on its own house will be helpful and you will make progress in life against all odds. You will be overwhelmed with issues at all times. Long term investments in property can be profitable once Jupiter moves into fourth house after September. Your social activities will help you make multiple friends. Expect major changes in career after June 3. Your wishes will be granted. A new member will be added to the family towards the end of 2005. The period between March and May 14 is good for financial speculation and stocks. You will travel overseas at least twice this year. You will be actively involved in religious functions.
LEO (July 23 to August 22): People prone to litigation should be careful as Saturn’s 7 ½ year cycle is on. Progress will be less than expected but better than the year before. Money will change hands rapidly. You will spend money on family. Eligible child will find a suitable life partner. You will have numerous occasions to celebrate this year. Though the year starts slow, it will pick up after Jan. 28. There will be big changes in partnership towards the end of 2005. If you plan to venture into a partnership, be careful and keep your emotions aside. Since Saturn would be in transit in twelfth, a lawsuit is not the way to go, as you will have to settle barely making enough to cover your legal expenses. Do not make big investments as Saturn will get tricky in coming years. Investing in property or a retail business will be a good idea. Spouse may not be very supportive, though there may be a slew of intelligent ideas from the other side. You may have to deal with a government agency around May or June. You will have overseas visitors this summer.
VIRGO (August 23 to September 22): Jupiter’s transit in first will help you take the right decisions. You will be content with life. Jupiter will give you wisdom while dealing with business associates. Long term progress is on the cards. You may have to give up on something to improve your health. Western medication will not help but change in diet and meditation will. Family will force you to buy a bigger house. You will donate money and time to charity. You may reduce visits to holy places. There is a strong chance of an addition to the family. Financially you will do well after September. Some very fortunate changes will occur in the first week of April or last week of May. You might buy an expensive car in the first quarter. You will be overwhelmed with work and may not have enough time to spend with kids as in the past. You will go on a family vacation this summer. There is a strong chance of sudden windfall around October.
LIBRA (September 23 to October 22): All obstacles will be over, you will see things more clearly and have better control over mind and emotions once Ketu moves out around Feb. 22. Saturn the Raj Yoga Karka planet will bring new opportunities. Since Saturn will stay strong in ninth and then tenth you will enjoy all luxuries of life with a peaceful mind. Your assets will multiply, you will make wise investments and spend money on yourself. You will make tremendous progress in career and income will multiply too. There will be very fortunate developments in life in first week of April as well as in last week of May. You will become very religious and do some charities. Do not neglect health in the process as when Jupiter enters Libra, it could cause concerns, though nothing that cannot be corrected with the help of diet and exercise. You will have to keep an eye on weight and sugar levels from the beginning of 2005 in order to avert complications after September. Financially, the second half of the year is very favorable. You will be simultaneously involved in several big.
SCORPIO (October 23 to November 22): Saturn will start transit in eighth from January. Check facts and figures before you make an investment. People prone to litigations should be extra cautious. Trouble will come from people you did not deal with directly. You will manage to recover only a third of your total dues. Energy levels will be high as you deal with situations from time to time. Do not fall for too-good-to-be-true schemes. The only way to make money is slow and gradual. Planets will cause fluctuations in finances but without any real threat. Children will do well and there is a strong chance of another addition in the family. You might appear in some competitive exam before summer. Expenses will shoot up after September because of new commitments towards children and family. You may have to face very strong business competitors after June who will slowly fade out after August. Some of you will find great opportunities at far off places and probably accept them during June and July. You will also recover fast from some unexpected health problems in October.
SAGITTARIUS (November 23 to December 22): Expect major career moves. Jupiter in tenth can create unsatisfactory working conditions forcing you to look else where which will be a daunting task. Desired change could occur after August. A big financial gain is possible after May. Value of assets and stocks will appreciate considerably towards the second half of 2005. Cash it and invest in long term projects. Stress and pressure at work will increase as the year begins. Social fame and popularity is on the cards. You will have few fortunate opportunities in April and May. Do not miss it. Pending issues with the government will get cleared this year. You will travel overseas to attend an important occasion. Do not purchase old vehicles or you will end up spending heavily on repairs. A property sale will bring huge profits towards the end of 2005. It may not be one of the finest years for a new relationship. An old contact will come to your rescue.
CAPRICORN (December 22 to January 19): You will benefit from people living overseas and other overseas project in a very big way. Competition will subside in between Jan. 11 and May 25. You may be awarded a prestigious project during this period against heavy odds. You will be away from home for most part of 2005. Jupiter in ninth will cause major changes in your religious beliefs and you may become a strong follower of a spiritual dignitary. You will have money and heart to donate to charity. March and April are slightly negative for health, people with blood pressure problem should be extra cautious. Financial pressures will multiply in May. You may spend money towards construction. Financially you will do extremely well after May 25 through the rest of 2005. Major breakthroughs are possible in first week of April and then towards the end of May. Spouse will be under pressure and have health concerns after June. Maha Mritunjaya Jaap and donating black objects will help. It will be a much better year since 2002.
AQUARIUS (January 20 to February 18): As Venus and Mercury stay strong for most of 2005, it will be a better year for finances and professional matters. You will make huge investments and diversify. Time is favorable until May 25 to make big attempts and take risks before things slow down again and you may have to settle for a little less. Competition in business will grow and some of you may find another job out of state. Increased liability and new commitments will reduce financial liquidity. You will start new ventures this year and may also make money through stocks. You will earn respect for your courageous actions. You will be constantly concerned about the health of an elderly person. A bad debt from 2004 will be fully recovered soon. Issues pending with government will get resolved quickly by April and chances are you will gain money through legal procedure towards the end of 2005. You will have some health issues in May because of transit of Mars, which will get resolved with minor medication and physical exercise.
PISCES (February 19 to March 20): A project started in 2004 will drain you financially in 2005. You will borrow heavily and may go under huge debt if you try to expand beyond your limit. Chasing material wealth can hurt family life once again. Saturn’s transit in fourth until May 25 is adverse for domestic life, avoid anything to further aggravate it. Be content, you will do well in career and your job will be stable. You will be assigned an important task in June, it may not bring financial gains but it will have a long term positive impact on your resume. A child may move away for further studies after September. Rahu’s transit over your sign will be slightly disturbing and you may have to control your emotions. Do not take decisions yourself, confide in someone if you wish to avoid pressure. Some of you may enter into the hospitality business for the first time. Close relatives will visit this summer. Miscalculations may cost you dearly, but other than that, this will be a good year for career or business.
Bay Area-based astrologer Pandit Parashar can