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BUSINESS | News in Brief:

Leela Investing $300 Million, Adding New Properties | NDTV Imagine Brings Hindi Entertainment to U.S. | Western Union: Global Campaign | ALLVOI: Discount Calling | STAR and AT&T Tie-up | Bollywood Piano | UTV in U.S.

Leela Investing $300 Million, Adding New Properties


Artist’s impression of The Leela Kempinski Gurgaon. 

India’s leading luxury hotel groups The Leela Hotels, Palaces & Resorts is investing $300 million and adding three new properties in the next two years, according to a press release. 

“With five properties operational, three more hotels opening this year and next, and plans for three more, The Leela aims to be a major force in the Indian hospitality industry with a presence in the country’s major resort and business destinations,” the release said.

As part of a new upscale, mixed-use development in New Delhi’s newest satellite business and shopping district, The Leela Kempinski Gurgaon, Delhi had its soft opening in January and will have 322 guest rooms and suites and 90 serviced residences. 

Later this year, The Leela will unveil its newest palace hotel, The Leela Palace Kempinski Udaipur on Lake Pichola. Designed to evoke the life and times of India’s royal past with the rich architectural detailing of a traditional Indian palace, the hotel’s 80 rooms and suites will have all the latest conveniences. 

The Leela Palace Kempinski Chennai will be the city’s largest business hotel when it opens in 2010 on seven acres of pristine seafront on the Bay of Bengal in the former Madras.  Also in 2010, in time for the Commonwealth Games, the 264-room Leela Palace Kempinski New Delhi will be built in the prestigious diplomatic enclave in the south of Delhi.

More information is available on the Web at www.theleela.com

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NDTV Imagine Brings Hindi Entertainment to U.S.


Farhan Akhtar (l) and Aamir Khan in ‘Oye! It’s Friday.’

The NDTV Group launched the Hindi entertainment group NDTV Imagine Feb. 4 in the U.S. The channel is available exclusively on DISH Network, as part of DISH Network’s 16-channel Hindi Mega Pack for $54.99 per month.

NDTV Imagine offers a wide variety of programming ranging from light-hearted family soaps to period dramas, celebrity studded music shows and glamorous entertainment industry events.

“The flood of calls from people all around has gone to show an extremely positive response,” the release said. “Popular programs include: Oye It’s Friday, presented by Farhan Akhtar; Raju Haazir Ho, hosted by India’s favorite funnyman, Raju Srivastav; Junoon, and Nachle Ve and Jassuben Jayantilaal Joshi Ki, a light-hearted drama chronicling the lives of a joint family, among others.”

The company has partnered with India's leading production houses including Red Chillies Idiot Box (Shah Rukh Khan), Balaji Telefilms (Ekta Kapoor), Sagar Arts (Ramanand Sagar), Hats Off Productions, Rajshri Films, Sphere Origins and DJ’s A Creative Unit among others.

“Television plays an important role in the lives of over 2.6 million Asian Indians expatriates in this region.  On NDTV Imagine, you can expect to get a differentiated experience,’ said Sameer Nair, CEO of NDTV Imagine.  “We recognize the need for fresh and insightful programming, and have created innovative and entertaining shows that will connect with audiences in this region. We are encouraged with the response that NDTV Imagine has received in India and other markets, and are looking forward to cementing our position in the U.S. in coming months with DISH Network.”

More information on NDTV Imagine is available on the Web at www.NDTVImagine.com.

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Western Union: Global Campaign


Representatives from Western Union Jennifer Briggs, Silvia Eliat and Arti Kumar Caprihan, sign the “Yes!” scroll at the Western Union's “Yes!” advertising campaign launch event March 18 at Hotel Sofitel in New York City.

For the first time in the company’s 150-year history, Western Union has launched a comprehensive global brand initiative, entitled “Yes!” The campaign celebrates people around the world who rely on the transfer of money across borders and oceans to help them embrace their hopes and dreams, said a Western Union press release.

“This is a very exciting time for Western Union,” said Nidhi Gupta, Western Union Marketing Manager, South Asia. “Western Union believes in and supports the needs of people who are pursuing their dreams. Even in these uncertain times, the optimism and positivity of our consumers is inspiring.  Can a son support his parents back home? The answer is Yes! Can a father fulfill his child’s hopes and dreams? The answer is yes! Western Union’s money transfer services enable these connections between South Asians around the globe.” 

With over 44,000 Agent locations in the U.S., and more than 60,000 in South Asia, sending and receiving money is easy. Dave Majumdar, product manager: “To better support the needs of the consumers, we inform them at the time of sending money, the exact amount which will be received by their loved ones back home. Western Union has been doing this for years, and this feature is very much appreciated by our consumers.”

The Yes! brand campaign elements will be translated into 40 languages, including Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Tamil, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi and other South Asian languages and will consist of several marketing elements. 

There will be print, broadcast and online advertising as well as new Point-of Sale materials for more than 320,000 Western Union Agents in 200 countries and territories. Western Union has also launched a dedicated microsite, www.wuyeseffectcom.

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ALLVOI: Discount Calling

ALLVOI, a leading  discount internet calling service to India, announced March 3 a new home phone service.  The plan is called ALL INDIA 1300 International Unlimited  ($24.99 per month), according to a company press release. 

“ALLVOI’s new plan demonstrates our unfailing commitment to affordable calling to South Asia,” said ALLVOI’s president Roman Talis. “Our customers want to call their family, friends, and colleagues back home and we believe 1,300 free minutes per month expands the comfort zone that our customers need to stay in touch with family in India.”

ALL INDIA 1300 International Unlimited is a complete replacement home service that bundles multiple features, unlimited local, long distance, and international calling service into one plan.

The new plan is designed to save consumers up to $300 per year by replacing expensive cable, VoIP and traditional home phone service.  Like ALLVOI’s other unlimited international plans, the new plan also provides unlimited nationwide calling and unlimited calling to 65 international destinations.  ALLVOI has attracted thousands of South Asian customers who like the fact that ALLVOI does not require a contract or an activation fee and customers simply need a credit card and broadband internet service to sign up on the website, www.allvoi.com/india

Talis said that “ALLVOI remains a leader to South Asia because our pricing is the best and we give a tremendous value for $25.  Call all of the U.S. and half of the world unlimited and get 1300 minutes on top of it to India for that low price is a bargain of the year.  A simple calculation shows you that the $25 dollar plan price divided by 1,300 minutes is only 1.9 cents per minute.  If you have to talk more than 1,300 minutes, go ahead, we only charge 2.2 cents per minute if you talk more in the month.”

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STAR and AT&T Tie-up

AT&T and STAR, a wholly owned subsidiary of News Corporation and Asia’s leading media and entertainment company, announced March 23 the launch of STAR India PLUS on AT&T U-verse TV in Hong Kong.

“STAR India PLUS, India’s ratings leader for over eight years, is now available to all AT&T U-verse TV subscribers via subscription on Channel 3706,” the release said. “The channel is offered a la carte for $12 per month or in the South Asian Package which includes four channels for $35 per month.

“As India ‘s No. 1 Hindi cable channel, STAR India PLUS regularly features many of the top programs in the country week in and week out. Prime time programs on STAR India PLUS include household-name soap operas such as Kis Desh Mein Hai Meraa Dil and Bidaai, as well as some of India ‘s favorite reality and game shows. Starting in May, STAR India PLUS will offer even more entertainment programming, including the premieres of Sacch Ka Saamna and Voice of India: Mama Mia.”

“We’re thrilled to bring India ‘s favorite channel to AT&T U-verse customers,” said David Wisnia, STAR’s Senior Vice President for Distribution and Sales and head of STAR’s North American and European offices. “STAR India PLUS is sure to excite viewers with India ‘s most popular dramas, reality shows and special events. Looking ahead, we look forward to working more closely with AT&T to bring subscribers even more television choice from our highly rated bouquet of Asian channels.”

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Bollywood Piano

Raj Sangeet Productions Inc., the producers of original Bollywood-style songs in the  U.S., have unveiled a book — “Bollywood Piano” — that offers an accelerated and intuitive method to learn piano, harmonium and musical keyboards such as Yamaha and Casio, according to a press release from the publishers.

“By following this unprecedented system students can start to play in as little as 30 minutes and complete the course in about 48 hours, or learn at their own pace and convenience,” the release added.

“This comprehensive book is much more informative than any other book that is available in the market today to learn music. The topics covered in Bollywood Piano are exceptionally extensive and flow so logically that the book is expected to become a paradigm in the musical arena.”

Upon successful completion, absolute beginners from ages 8 and up, will be able to read musical notation, play their favorite songs by ear, construct all major scales, minor scales and various minor modes, build chords such as major, minor, dominant seventh and many others with ease and without memorizing them for each scale, learn chords’ functions as well as a basic chord progression that is used in millions of songs, understand dynamics and many other areas of musical interest, the release said.

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UTV in U.S.

The UTV Movies Channel, which a most comprehensive library of top-rated films from South Asia, is now available on DIRECTV’s International programming service, according to a press release.

“UTV Movies is the only 24-hour premium Hindi movie channel backed by UTV Motion Pictures, one of the largest Hindi movie studios of India,” the release added. The channel’s 24-hour programming showcases a variety of latest blockbuster films such as Oye Lucky Lucky Oye, Life in a Metro and Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal. The films are available to U.S audiences for the first time through DIRECTV’s International programming platform.

Audiences in the U.S can look for to the premiere of “Fashion” in April, the story of a small town girl with big dreams and tells the tale of what happens when the price of success becomes too much to pay. The movie has bagged many prestigious award nominations including best story and best actress.

An agreement between DIRECTV, Inc., a satellite TV service provider, and UTV Global Broadcasting, India’s leading entertainment company, enables DIRECTV to be the exclusive satellite provider of the UTV Movies. 

Starting March 18, UTV Movies is available on DIRECTV's HindiDirect and HindiDirect II programming packages on channel 2012, which are part of DIRECTV’s International programming platform and are tailored toward Hindi speaking audiences within the United States.

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Click here to read the Current Issue in Pdf Format

COVER STORY
Engage, Don’t Demonize: Dealing with Obama
Given Barack Obama’s mixed record, progressives should commend him when he deserves it, and engage with him when he does not, writes Akhila Raman.


HISTORY
The Day That Shook India: Jallianwala Bagh Massacre
The British slaughter of an unarmed crowd at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar galvanized a colonized nation. Ved Prakash Vatuk reflects on its lessons.


CINEMA
Tagore on Screen:
Filming ‘Chaturanga’

In an exclusive chat with Siliconeer, filmmaker Suman Mukhopadhyay talks about why he made ‘Chaturanga,’ based on a Tagore novel.



ENTERTAINMENT
81st Annual Academy Awards
A Siliconeer Exclusive Photo Essay



ENTERTAINMENT
IIFA Awards 2008
A Siliconeer Exclusive Photo Essay


OTHER STORIES
EDITORIAL: The Promise of Obama
NEWS DIARY: March
SUBCONTINENT: The General’s Gambit
REAL ESTATE: Loan Modification
ART: Growing Value of Indian Art
EVENT: India Rising
CULTURE: CCF’s Raas Garba Fest
TRAVEL: Hellbrunn Palace, Austria
AUTO REVIEW: 2009 Kia Borrego EX 4x4
BOLLYWOOD: Film Review: Jai Veeru
BOLLYWOOD: Guftugu
RECIPE: Vegetable Pilau
TAMIL CINEMA: Kanchivaram
FESTIVAL: Rang Barse!
COMMUNITY: News
BUSINESS: News Briefs
INFOTECH INDIA: Tech Briefs
HOROSCOPE: April

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