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BUSINESS | News Briefs

Citi-Anchin Indian Initiative Marks First Year | Indian Start up to Challenge Apple with its Own Tablet | Sister Cities | Being Frugal | GM's Beat | High Attrition

Citi-Anchin Indian Initiative Marks First Year

(Above): At the Citi-Anchin Indian Initiative one year anniversary Dec. 9 at Anchin’s New Work offices (l-r): Ali Hirji (Citi), Neal Thapar (Citi), Glen Celetano (Citi) Kuldeepak Acharya (Anchin) , Neeta Bhasin (ASB Communications), Joe Goldberg (Hodgson Russ LLP), Devika Kewalramani (Moses & Singer LLP), Eric Horn (Anchin) and Vipul Mallick (AXA Advisors). PHOTO: ASHWIN PARI

The Citi-Anchin Indian Initiative celebrated its one year anniversary Dec. 9 at an event hosted by Anchin at their offices in New York. The initiative is a consortium of financial and business advisors dedicated to promoting growth for middle market Indian-American businesses. Established in 2008, the initiative is part of Citi Commercial Banking’s “One-Citi India Initiative," a marketing platform developed to service the banking needs of the Indian business community in the United States, in partnership with Anchin, one of the largest and fastest-growing accounting firms in the country, providing a wide range of traditional and non-traditional advisory services.

In spite of the snow and rain earlier in the day, over 100 Indian businesspeople attended the event, representing middle market business owners, financial officers and consultants from as far away as Pennsylvania and Virginia.

The celebration was the third event held by the Citi-Anchin Indian Initiative. At the event, Kuldeepak Acharya of Anchin focused on the needs of middle market businesses during difficult economic times. Ali Hirji, vice president at Citibank and Acharya lauded the contributions of the initiative’s board of directors in making all three events successful, and in particular, identified the contributions of Moses & Singer, AXA, ASB Communications, Hodgson Russ, Kelley Drye, and the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. The event included a presentation on the Top Ten Tax Issues to consider before the end of 2009.

The first event, held in April of this year, was a charitable fund raiser for the March of Dimes. The second event, held in June at Citibank’s offices in midtown Manhattan, featured a panel discussion about state and local government incentives for Indian owned and operated companies.


Indian Start up to Challenge Apple with its Own Tablet

A tiny Indian startup called Notion Ink hopes to steal at least part of Apple's thunder by unveiling its own tablet weeks before its bigger rival, reports BusinessWeek’s Douglas MacMillan.

Notion Ink will introduce its device in early January at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Boasting a 10.1-inch touchscreen, Notion Ink's tablet is larger than a mobile phone but smaller than a traditional laptop. It's designed for people who want easy access to the Web, online videos, and a wide range of other applications without having to boot up a bigger, more powerful computer.

Notion Ink CEO Rohan Shravan says he plans to show off the first prototype of the device in early January, partly to entice consumers who might otherwise hold out for Apple's long-awaited device. "We are pushing to launch before Apple," Shravan says.

A host of other hardware and software makers with the same strategy in mind are expected to showcase their own tablet computers at CES, which gets under way on Jan. 7. Microsoft, Dell, Lenovo, and Asus may be close to unveiling their own tablet computers. Several could use the CES stage to try to steal the spotlight from Apple.

Analysts say tablets will become a big business this year. By the end of 2010, tablets could make up a $3.5 billion market, says John Jacobs, director of notebook market research for Austin-based DisplaySearch. "We're talking about a brand-new market," he says.

Notion Ink CEO Shravan isn't fazed by the prospect of an Apple tablet. Notion Ink has landed promising partnerships with the makers of the Android operating system, Qualcomm, and Pixel Qui, which makes touchscreens that use natural light to prolong a tablet screen's battery power. He admits his device looks a lot like the one Apple is expected to unveil, but believes he has the Cupertino company beat in one important area: price. "When you buy an Apple product, you pay a big premium on it because the Apple name is there," Shravan says.

Still, it may take a lot more than a lower price to distinguish a tablet that's intended to go head-to-head against one from Apple.


Sister Cities

The San Francisco Bangalore Sister Cities delegation led by Mayor Gavin Newsom returned from Bangalore in December after a successful visit that garnered media attention, interest in business opportunities in the Bay Area and led to the signing of several agreements between groups in Bangalore and the Bay Area. These agreements will drive business to the Bay Area as well as a cultural exchange at many levels between the two regions, organizers say.

To maintain the momentum created by the San Francisco delegation’s visit, Indian industrialist Vijay Mallya has said he plans to bring a delegation of civic and business leaders from Bangalore to the Bay Area.

“There is too much common ground between all of us in humanity to be able to converge. And I think that as far as India and the U.S. is concerned, the Bangalore and San Francisco Sister City Initiative is truly a monumental milestone in that direction,” said Mallya, chairman of the United Breweries Group and Kingfisher Airlines.

He said that he and other business leaders from Bangalore would visit San Francisco to reciprocate the visit of the San Francisco delegation to Bangalore.

While the delegation was in Bangalore, its members met B.S. Yeddyurappa, the chief minister of Karnataka. They also visited the campuses of technology giants Cisco and Infosys, the Indian Institute of Science, UB City, and Indus International School, a sister school to the French-American International School in San Francisco.

“The highlight of the trip was to see our delegation understand firsthand the explosive growth and transformation that is taking place in India, sense the tremendous opportunities for the Bay Area to be a valued partner in this historical development--and be moved by the warmth and enthusiasm of our hosts in Bangalore,” said Madhav Misra, co-chair of the San Francisco-Bangalore Sister Cities Initiative.


Being Frugal

In this vulnerable economy, consumers are looking for ways to cut costs and save while maintaining a comfortable lifestyle. MetLife is educating consumers on effective and creative ways to save.

“Saving doesn’t have to be difficult; consumers can begin by cutting back on everyday spending. For example, if gas prices continue to increase, a person could take the train or car pool with a neighbor or a friend,” MetLife said in an announcement.

Here are some tips from MetLife:

Frugal Food. The grocery bill is one of the easiest places to cut costs. According to an October 2009 Consumer Reports article, some store brands are manufactured by the same big-name companies that make national brands — but cost 27 percent less.

Frugal Fashion. Instead of heading to the local mall, consumers could save by shopping at an outlet mall. Outlets have the same fashion finds without the hefty price tags.

Frugal Fix-It. Those people with a knack for building, repairing or growing things should put these skills to work. Labor charges are usually the most expensive part of any repair. Consumers can easily learn to change their own oil or spark plugs, for example, and reduce the cost of maintaining their vehicles.

Frugal Fitness. Exercise is a key to good health, but can hurt consumers’ wallets. The International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association reports that the median yearly cost of a gym membership is $775. If the gym or a trainer is a must, consumers should make sure they get their money’s worth and go regularly. If not, there are economical ways to exercise at home.


GM's Beat

The excitement is palpable among General Motors India officials. The Indian arm of the struggling American carmaker has just launched what it considers a “game changer” in the largest market for small cars in the world.

The company expects the Beat, its new small car launched Jan. 4, to be among the five best-selling cars in India this year.

“We are not taking any chances with Beat’s pricing,” GMI president and managing director Karl Slym said.

GMI expects to close the current fiscal year with a total sales of 70,000 cars. “Beat would double our sales in India,” said Slym.

Faced with troubled times after its U.S. parent General Motor Corporation declared bankruptcy, GMI has been facing sagging sales, but an unexpected pickup in Indian car market gave it fresh hopes.

The Indian subsidiary weathered the storm by gaining customer confidence and increasing sales. Its small car Spark has been consistently selling well, while the newly launched premium car Cruze is among the top three best-selling brands in its segment. Other cars like the Tavera and Captiva SUV also contributed substantially to the revival. The company sold 55,363 cars till December.

GMI is counting on its latest offering to beat the challenge posed by established players such as Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai and Tata Motors and gain volume in the domestic market. The sporty hatchback carries a host of features that are absent in rival models such as automatic climate control, tilt steering and the multi-functional integrated music system. GM expects to sell over 5,000 Beats per month initially.

Beat’s 1.2 liter petrol engine has been pegged as a value for money car with a price tag of Rs 334,000 for the base variant, much lower than rival Hyundai’s i10 and Maruti’s A-Star and Swift.


High Attrition

With the revival of the job market India Inc is all set to witness a significant jump in attrition levels as well, especially in sectors like aviation, information technology and business process outsourcing, executives search firm GlobalHunt India said Jan. 4.

"Attrition is a sign that there is a growth in the industry. Attrition will go up, the moment the job market picks up," GlobalHunt India director Sunil Goel said, adding that sectors such as BPO as well as IT and aviation were likely to see the maximum attrition.

The year 2009 was one of the worst years in terms of job market as terms such as “layoffs,” “pink-slips,” “right sizing” became hot topics in household discussions.

The later part of 2009, however, saw signs of revival reflecting improving sentiment in India. The International Labor Organization also reported that as many as 500,000 jobs were created in the third quarter following the government's stimulus measures.

Besides, according to global staffing services firm Manpower, recruitment pace is expected to return to the pre-recession level this year and corporate India's hiring outlook has risen across all sectors.

Job seekers in the services, public administration, education, mining and construction, finance, insurance, real estate, and the wholesale and retail trade sector, could look forward to the most favorable hiring environment in 2010, Manpower had said.

The year 2010 is likely to be a good year in terms of company growth perspective, industry growth perspective and hence attritions are expected. However, it would be lesser than the levels of 2007, when attrition reached its peak.

Goel added: “Increase in hiring across different sectors will lead to increase in attrition as well. Employees who fall under 25-30 age group bracket and hold less than 5 years of experience will cause maximum attrition."

A sector-wise analysis shows that BPO, ITeS and aviation sectors will witness attrition level of as much as 40-45 percent this year, followed by retail and telecom (35-40 percent), IT (30 percent), pharma and infrastructure (20-25 percent), while research and development will see 15-20 percent of attrition.



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