Monday, June 30, 2008

Is The Cycle Rickshaw Making a Comeback?

Ever since nursery school, I had a rickshaw driver, Arjunan, who would
pick me up each morning and drop me back at home. To him this was not
just a job, I was almost another daughter to him. He would always be
on time and would get upset if I was running late for school,
nevertheless, my security and safety was of primary concern to him.
Each time I visit India, I make it a point to look him up and talk
about the good old days, he is 80 something years old now.

With cars and two wheelers crowding the Indian roads, it seemed as
though the rickshaws were a dying breed. However, with rising fuel
costs, it sounds as though they are making a comeback. This article
about cycle rickshaws was a very interesting read for me.

An article in the Washington Post says, "The bicycle rickshaws that
weave through New Delhi's narrow lanes have long been scorned by
authorities here for congesting the city's already fierce traffic. The
creaking carriages crawl alongside luxury sedans, book hawkers,
horse-drawn carts, hulking buses and cows.

In this city and the other quickly modernizing capitals of South Asia,
governments have called the rickshaws backward, embarrassing symbols
of the Third World.

Now, however, in a time of $7-a-gallon fuel in New Delhi and growing
concerns about pollution, environmental activists and transportation
experts are pushing back against rickshaw critics. And rickshaw
cyclists are seizing the moment to tout the virtues of their trade.

"My rickshaw is my life. It's very cheap for my passengers," said
Saurabh Ganguly, a 27-year-old rickshaw cyclist whose shirt was sticky
with dirt and grime. He proudly observed a knot of traffic where about
50 rickshaw cyclists were jangling their bells, pressing their horns
and zigzagging past lumbering buses belching plumes of black soot. "We
don't even pollute," Ganguly said. "We should be allowed to survive."

Read the full article at--

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Growing Unrest in Darjeeling

Kashmir, one of the prettiest regions in northern India has been
ravaged by unrest and border troubles with Pakistan, now Darjeeling
another beautiful hill station is seeing growing unrest, ethnic
clashes and violence. These are places I have always wanted to visit.
Friends tell me Kashmir will never be the same serene beautiful place
it once was, will the same be true of Darjeeling?

The New York Times reports--
"A long-brewing separatist movement in the Darjeeling hills had, until
recently, receded into the past so thoroughly that it became fodder
for fiction, setting the backdrop for Kiran Desai's 2006 Booker
Prize-winning novel, "The Inheritance of Loss." Earlier this month, it
burst out into the open again, chasing away tourists, signaling the
prospect of ugly ethnic clashes and prompting the Indian government to
send in paramilitary forces.

By Indian standards, the violence has been limited, with sporadic
clashes between the Nepali-speaking ethnic Gurkhas, who seek an
autonomous state in the hills of West Bengal, and Bengali-speakers,
who dominate the plains. In early June, the separatist group Gorkha
Janamukti Morcha called for a strike in Darjeeling and told tourists
to leave. An official in Siliguri, an ethnically mixed town and an
important transport hub in the plains, told The Press Trust of India
wire service that 10,000 tourists had done so as of mid-June.

To make matters worse, groups representing Bengalis called for a
retaliatory strike, shutting down Siliguri for several days this
month. The Indian government deployed the Central Reserve Police Force
to try to quell the ethnic conflict, while the governor of West
Bengal, Gopalkrishna Gandhi, the grandson of Mohandas K. Gandhi,
called for both sides "to maintain communal harmony." The Gurkha
group, though, resumed its strike in Darjeeling, shutting businesses
and schools."

Read the full story at--

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A New Cure For Diabetes?

A New Cure for Diabetes? Reuters reports that, "Indian scientists say cow urine can reduce blood sugar levels. Scientists at Bangalore Veterinary college say a new study shows that cow's urine may lower blood sugar levels."

Indian American Donates $11 Million To Alma Mater

"An Indian American, a native of Amritsar, has become the top
individual donor to a US university, his alma mater, by gifting it
nearly $11 million. John P Kapoor, a pharmaceutical entrepreneur,
bequested the money to the State University of New York at Buffalo,
which had offered him a graduate fellowship in the 1960s when the
Bombay University graduate could not afford to pay. The gift will
support construction of a new home for the Buffalo university's
nationally ranked pharmacy school, as well as to fund research,
student financial aid and an emerging-technologies fund. While making
the bequest, Kapoor said, "I owe so much to this university.
Fortunately, I am in a position to help, and the university is on the
top of my list." The Amritsar-born Kapoor earned his doctorate in
medicinal chemistry in 1972 at the university and went on to become an
entrepreneur in the pharmaceutical industry. But he never forgot his
alma mater. In 2000, he gave it $5 million, and increased it to $10.8
million last month," reports SIFY.

"John B Simpson, President of the university, and Wayne K Anderson,
Dean, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, thanked Kapoor.
"It's a point of substantial pride for us that our pharmacy school
provided the foundation for Dr Kapoor's remarkable career in the
pharmaceutical industry. It is very significant to our university that
he has chosen to honour his alma mater with another truly
extraordinary gift that will help us take the school to even greater
heights of excellence," Simpson said. Kapoor began his corporate
career on Grand Island, New York as general manager for Lyphomed, a
unit of Stone Container Corp. He was named president of the division
in 1980, and in 1981 he bought it for $2.7 million. He took the
company's sales from $4 million to $172 million, before eventually
selling it. With the profits, he formed EJ Financial Enterprises Inc,
which invests in healthcare startups.

Kapoor and his late wife, Editha, a Grand Island native, ran the John
and Editha Kapoor Charitable Foundation to support children and youth
services, higher education, hospitals and other causes in India. Since
1986, the Foundation has funded research, a state-of-the-art
instrumentation core and graduate fellowships at the Buffalo

Kapoor remembered that without the university's support "it would have
been impossible for me to come to the US to pursue higher education. I
received tremendous support and encouragement from the faculty at the
school as I tried to adjust to a different system of education. I also
learned a great deal about this country at the university," adds SIFY.

Read the full article at --

Bollywood Shakes Hands With Hollywood

With Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks and Reliance inking a $500-600
million dollar infusement, they have been in the global news radar,
with every major media outlet covering this story. Why not, when there
are more and more marriages occuring between Bollywood and Hollywood

From the New York Times--
" Steven Spielberg and other top executives at DreamWorks SKG may get
a boost from an ambitious Bollywood player, but their planned alliance
could be less grandiose than dreams past.
After a drawn-out tussle with the boutique film studio's owner,
Paramount Pictures, one filled with perceived slights over respect and
credit, Mr. Spielberg and his partner, David Geffen, are now in
discussions with Reliance Big Entertainment of India about a cash
infusion of $500 million to $600 million, say several executives
briefed on the negotiations.
That investment, and access to a revolving credit line of about $400
million, would allow them to split from Paramount, a unit of Viacom,
and make about six major movies a year. Yet for all the turmoil, they
could conceivably remain in business with Paramount, by having it
distribute their movies.
Any deal is still at an early stage, these people cautioned, and it
may be several weeks before an agreement is signed, if at all. The
talks were first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
While $500 million is not a lot of money in Hollywood, executives
briefed on the negotiations said the commitment was favorable to the
DreamWorks team. Reliance, without gaining much control over the
enterprise, would be paying for a grand introduction to the United
States movie business.
"Why the Indians? It is all about terms," said one of the executives
who had been briefed. "These people are willing to pay a lot of money
for little more than the right to go sit at a premiere with Steven

From the Economist--
"BOLLYWOOD'S songs are hummed in Morocco, its films are rented in
California and its stars are cast in wax at Madame Tussauds in London.
But India's new money has an appeal even its melodrama cannot match.
On June 17th the Wall Street Journal reported that one of India's
biggest conglomerates, Anil Ambani's Reliance group, was in talks to
form a film-making partnership with Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks
studio, owned by Viacom, a media giant. Mr Spielberg and David Geffen,
the studio's co-founders, want to regain their independence when their
contract with Viacom ends, and are looking for funding.
Reliance had already announced at the Cannes Film Festival in May that
it would provide funding to eight film-production houses headed by
some big Hollywood stars. It hopes to develop some 30 scripts, and put
perhaps ten into full production. "We are re-enfranchising the
talent," said Amit Khanna, chairman of Reliance's entertainment
division and a talented Bollywood songsmith, last month. "We will
allow full creative freedom, but we won't allow creative anarchy.
Sometimes they just go crazy.""

From AFP--
"India's Reliance-ADA Group is in talks with Steven Spielberg's
DreamWorks on a tie-up that could help the director break free of
Paramount and boost Bollywood's presence in Hollywood, a source said
on Thursday.
A deal would give Spielberg money to assist in financing DreamWorks
SKG's exit from Viacom Inc's Paramount Pictures and refashion it as a
company that again owns the films it makes.
"It is well known Paramount and Spielberg have a problem. It is well
understood DreamWorks is looking for new partners," said the source
close to the discussions, saying the Indian company was looking to
invest "hundreds of millions of dollars."
The source declined to say when the talks between Reliance-ADAG, based
in India's entertainment and financial capital Mumbai, and DreamWorks
might conclude. Some reports have said a deal is near. But another
industry official with knowledge of the talks told AFP they were still
at a "preliminary stage."

Read the New York Times article at--

Read the full Economist article at--

Read the full AFP article at--

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

FIve Indian Americans Among Presidential Scholars

Indolink reports that, "Five Indian Americans are among 139
outstanding high school seniors selected as the 2008 prestigious
Presidential Scholars for demonstrating academic achievement, artistic
excellence, leadership and contribution to school and community. They
will be honored in Washington DC from June 23 to 27. Announcing the
awards, US Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said the scholars
represent the great gift "we have in our nation's youth. Their
academic achievement and their spirit of leadership and service will
ensure their success in the 21st century knowledge economy.

The 139 Presidential Scholars include one young man and one young
woman from each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico , and
from US families living abroad, as well as 15 chosen at-large and 20
Presidential Scholars in the Arts. A 29-member Commission on
Presidential Scholars appointed by President George W Bush selected
the scholars based on their academic success, artistic excellence,
essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as evidence of
community service, leadership, and demonstrated commitment to high

This years Indian American scholars are as follows: Ravi N. Shankar,
Trinity Preparatory School, Winter Park, Florida; Pranoti Hiremath,
Ishna A. Sharma, Roswell High School, Roswell, New Mexico; Mythili K.
Iyer, Lawrenceville High School, Kendal Park, New Jersey ; Ruchir F.
Shah, Barrington High School. Barrington, Rhode Island and Anisha
Gulabani, Eastlake High School, Sammamish, Washington. The Washington
DC program to honor the 2008 Presidential Scholar is hosted by the
Presidential Scholars Association."

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Time on India's Deadly Chemical Addiction

"India's rural activists for years have blamed the overuse and misuse
of pesticides for a pervasive health crisis that afflicts villages
like Jhajjal across the cotton belt of Punjab. Evidence continues to
mount that the problems are severe. Last month, a government-funded
study revealed that chemical fertilizers and pesticides have seeped
into the groundwater in four Punjab districts and are causing an
alarming array of ecological and health problems including cancer and
mental retardation. A June 2005 study by the new Delhi-based Centre
for Science and Environment found residues of between 6 and 13
pesticides in blood samples of villagers from Mahi Nangal, Jajjal and
Balloh villages in Bhatinda district. Recent research by Punjabi
University at Patiala established evidence of DNA damage among
agricultural workers exposed to pesticides; damaged genes can give
rise to a range of cancers as well as neurological and reproductive
disorders. Bala, a 24-year-old day laborer, worked for two months in
the fields during the spraying season four years ago. Not long after,
her second child, a boy, was born with a neurological disorder and has
recently been diagnosed with hydrocyphalis. "His treatment is so
expensive that we have had to borrow large amounts of money...I know
he won't survive" she says. Surinder Singh, the executive director of
the rural NGO Kheti Virasat, says, "Punjab is paying with its life for
a dubious promise of prosperity," says an article in Time Magazine.

It is very sad to see that this began a very long ago with the "Green
Revolution"!! As the article says, "Punjab's lethal pesticide legacy
can be traced to the Green Revolution of the 1960s and '70s, when
high-yielding varieties of cotton were introduced in the region's
relatively arid Malwa belt. Initially the move was successful as
yields and prices were good. But farmers soon discovered that the
cotton was highly susceptible to pests, and ended up spending huge
amounts on pesticides. As the pests, such as pink bollworm and aphids,
became increasingly resistant to chemical spraying, farmers reacted by
laying on even more, sometimes mixing two or more products against all
scientific evidence. The region virtually became a chemical
laboratory. The expense of spraying put many farmers deep in debt, yet
they remain vulnerable to outbreaks such as a mealy bug attack last
year that destroyed 70% of the crop. "Earlier, we used less water,
traditional crops and organic manure. Now, it's all chemicals," says
Sarmukh Singh, a 93-year-old patriarch in Jhajjal. "We've got our land
addicted, but we don't know how to fight this addiction."

"The health impact on the region is shocking. A daily passenger train
that runs from Bathinder to Bikaner in neighboring Rajasthan is
nicknamed the "Cancer Express" because it routinely fills a dozen cars
with patients and their attendants on their way to a charitable
hospital. Despite the high incidence of cancer, there is no
government-run cancer hospital in the Malwa region, although the
government announced plans to build one last year. "Officials
sometimes visit our village, but they never seem to do anything," says
Santosh, a 35-year-old resident of Jhajjal who was diagnosed with
leukemia three years back and goes to Bikaner every six months for a
blood transfusion," says the article which was quite an eye opener for
me. As the article asks, can Punjab play with the lives of it's next
generation, really?

Read the full article at --,8599,1813081,00.html?xid=rss-world

The Tale of Mukesh Ambani

"In the last century, Mohandas K. Gandhi was India's most famous and
powerful private citizen. Today, Mr. Ambani is widely regarded as
playing that role, though in a very different way. Like Mr. Gandhi,
Mr. Ambani belongs to a merchant caste known as the modh banias, is a
vegetarian and a teetotaler and is a revolutionary thinker with bold
ideas for what India ought to become. Yet Mr. Gandhi was a scrawny
ascetic, a champion of the village, a skeptic of modernity and a man
focused on spiritual purity. Mr. Ambani is a fleshy oligarch, a
champion of the city, a burier of the past and a man who deftly — and,
some critics say, ruthlessly — wields financial power. He is the
richest person in India, with a fortune estimated in the tens of
billions of dollars, and many people here expect that he will be the
richest person on earth before long," says a profile of Mukesh Ambani
one of the world's richest people in the New York Times today.

Wow to be compared to Gandhi, that is something, isn't for a man who
is building the worlds most expensive, extravagant, and elaborate home
in Mumbai. (See my earlier post

""Can we really banish abject poverty in this country?" he mused aloud
in a rare interview at his headquarters here. "Yes, in 10, 15 years we
can say we would have done that substantially. Can we make sure that
we create a social structure where we remove untouchability? We're
fast moving to a new India where you don't think about this caste and
that caste."

As millions of Indians graduate from burning cow dung for energy to
guzzling oil, Reliance is plowing billions of dollars into energy
exploration and is building the world's largest oil refinery. It has
also opened a chain of nearly 700 stores selling food and various
wares; Mr. Ambani promises that it will funnel money from the
flourishing cities into the struggling agricultural heartland. He
envisions Reliance, with $39 billion in revenue, as providing incomes
to 12 million to 30 million Indians within the next five years by
buying from farmers and employing new workers in its stores.

And as Mumbai, Mr. Ambani's hometown and the commercial and
entertainment capital of India, has grown ever more populous and ever
less livable, he has proposed that Reliance simply build a new,
improved city across the harbor," says this very interesting article
about an even more interesting man.

Read the full article at--

Sikhs in New Jersey

"To wear a turban in America — even in a state that has absorbed as
many waves of immigration as New Jersey has — is to subject yourself
to judgment by strangers, not all of whom have warm and fuzzy feelings
about diversity.

"You get these looks all the time, especially after Sept. 11," said
Rajinder Singh, 57, who holds two doctorates, works as a chemist for a
pharmaceutical company, has never cut his hair, following the
requirement of his faith, and wears a turban. "You could see people —
their lips inside their car — that this person is swearing at me."

Muslims have absorbed much discrimination in the United States in
recent years, but also caught in the crossfire have been Sikhs,
members of a religious minority from India whose men happen to wear a
similar head covering, and who have endured similar suspicions since
the terrorist attacks and the subsequent wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan," says a touching article in the New York Times about
Sikhs in the Tristate area.

Read the full article at --

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Dumping US Toxic Waste in India...

The port city of Tuticorin, where my maternal grandfather is from, is
one of the loveliest towns I have been to. With it's salt pans and
period housing and charming people it is a laid back little town, and
now here we go polluting it with toxic waste.

The Times Of India reports that, "Thousand tonnes of hazardous
American waste have been dumped at Tamil Nadu's Tuticorn Port, where
almost 35 large containers conceal the waste, that has been lying
untouched for the past three years. There is reportedly an amount of
890 tonnes of harmful waste that has been brought all the way from New
Jersey. The biggest question though is if it is a case of civic apathy
or a classic case of the West treating India as a dumping ground.

Since the past three years, contaminated municipal waster such as
polythene bags, crushed soft drink cans, pesticide containers, used
batteries, metal wires and others more have been rotting away at the
port. The cargo reportedly reached India as a part of wastepaper
imported by an Indian company back in 2005. However, during the
routine checks, port authorities -- much to their shock -- discovered
that the cargo did not have only paper but carcenogenic waster
discarded by America.

However, the fact that has been interesting is that in September 2007,
a committee constituted by the Madras High Court had certified that
the American garbage posed a threat to the people of India and the
environment. Following this, the Madras High Court demanded that this
trash be sent back to New Jersey immediately. But, much to the horror
of environmentalists, the scrap still lies around the area and the
Indian company is unwilling to take responsibility of the cargo. The
Americans also are refusing to take the waste back. BP Shukla, Zonal
Officer - South Central Pollution Control Board said, "This
consignment has municipal waste that cannot be allowed inside India."

In all probabilities , most of the townsfolk, innocent and naive as
they are would probably not even be aware of this and would have been
affected by the toxic waste already! Earlier a similar incident
occurred when toxic waste from New York was dumped in another charming
port city, Kochi!!!

Read the full Times of India article at--

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Economist's Angry old Man

An excerpt from The Economist's review of the divisive Hindu leader
L.K.Advani's book says--

"A hale octogenarian, Mr Advani's political career spans India's
independent history. But he is best known for his part in the calamity
that helped fuel the BJP's rise: the destruction of the Babri mosque
in Ayodhya by Hindu fanatics in 1992. This outrage—which sparked
communal massacres in which some 2,000 people died, most of them
Muslims—was instigated, at least in part, by a BJP campaign for a
Hindu temple to be built on the site of the mosque. The campaign was
spearheaded by Mr Advani, who led a ram rath yatra, or chariot
procession, halfway across India to rally support for the temple. Mr
Advani calls this the "most decisive, transformational event" of his

This is a person who was born in Karachi, which is now of course part
of Pakistan, and is a staunch Hindu fundamentalist whose political
career divided India's religious groups into sharper niches than they
were ever in... Interesting person, controversial behavior, and a very
provoking book, surely.

Read the full article at--

Padma Laskhmi, Supermodel, Chef, TV Personality and Author

India born, Padma Lakshmi, is even more in demand now than when she
was as a supermodel. Her cookery shows and books are more popular than

"The newly single Lakshmi -- she divorced novelist Salman Rushdie last
summer after three years of marriage -- is using her break to tend to
more business: She's still settling into the New York apartment she
bought in January and on the horizon are more cookbooks, another
cooking show, her own brand of bottled chutneys, perhaps a jewelry
line and a memoir," says an article in the LA Times, "If I don't
conquer the world, that's fine," said the Indian-born former model
with a few acting credits to her name, including Mariah Carey's
"Glitter" and a memorable turn on "Star Trek: Enterprise." "I want to
teach people about things and places and foods they don't necessarily
know. I think in America it's very important to sample and taste what
the rest of the world is about. Maybe it comes from being an immigrant
child and wanting others to understand me."

Read the full article at--,0,5647612.story

Monday, June 09, 2008

Swallowing Live Fish For Health

In Hyderabad where I grew up, every June after the first rain there would be a flood of people coming to the city for this treatment.

Reuters reports that, "Thousands throng to swallow a live fish "wonder cure" in southern India. In India's southern Hyderabad city, people gather to receive a traditional treatment believed to cure asthma and other respiratory ailments. Patients buy a two-inch-long Murrel fish, and swallow it live after it has been stuffed with a herbal mixture. And for people finding the remedy a little hard to swallow, there are doctors on hand to help the fish on its way."

Two Worlds, Just Across The Street

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer saga continues... What
better place to see this today, than in the booming techno towns of
India. "India has always had its upper classes, as well as legions of
the world's very poor. But today a landscape dotted with Hamilton
Courts, pressed up against the slums that serve them, has underscored
more than ever the stark gulf between those worlds, raising
uncomfortable questions for a democratically elected government about
whether India can enable all its citizens to scale the golden ladders
of the new economy, says an article in the New York Times.

According to this article, "In India, poverty has also dropped
appreciably in the last 17 years of economic change, even as the gulf
between the rich and poor has grown. More than a quarter of all
Indians still live below the official poverty line (subsisting on
roughly $1 a day); one in four city dwellers live on less than 50
cents a day; and nearly half of all Indian children are clinically
At the same time, the ranks of dollar millionaires have swelled to
100,000, and the Indian middle class, though notoriously hard to
define and still small, has by all indications expanded.
For those with the right skills, the good times have been very good.
Mr. Chand, 34, a business school graduate who runs the regional
operations for an American manufacturing firm, has seen his salary
grow eightfold in the last five years, which is not unusual for upper
class Indians like him."

This widening gap became very obvious to me when I visited Bangalore,
a little over a year ago. Rising sky scrapers, huge wallets,
increasing poverty and lack of infrastructure to keep with the
phenomenal growth. Similarly according to the article, "Gurgaon, a
largely privately developed city and a metonym for Indian ambition,
has seen a building frenzy to satisfy people like the Chands. The
city's population has nearly doubled in the last six years, to 1.5
million. The skyline is dotted with scaffolds. Glass towers house
companies like American Express and Accenture. Not far from Hamilton
Court, Burberry and BMW have set up shop. State services, meanwhile,
have barely kept pace. The city has neither enough water nor
electricity for the population. There is no sewage treatment plant
yet; construction is scheduled to begin this year."

"India has long lived with such inequities, and though a Maoist
rebellion is building in the countryside, the nation has for the most
part skirted social upheaval through a critical safety valve: giving
the poor their chance to vent at the ballot box. Indeed, four years
ago, voters threw out the incumbent government, with its "India
Shining" slogan, because it was perceived to have neglected the poor.
It is little wonder then that the current administration has seized on
"inclusive growth" as its mantra, and as elections approach in less
than a year, it is spending heavily on education, widely acknowledged
as a key barrier to upward mobility for the poor," says this article.

Read the full article at --

Thursday, June 05, 2008

How Restaurateurs Cope With Soaring Food Prices

Less than six months ago the price of rice was $9.99 for a 20 lb bag.
Tday it is flirting at almost $30.00 for the same 20 lb bag! For the
residential domestic consumer it is one thing, what do restaurateurs
who have to maintain the quality of their menu, manage with the
soaring cost of ingredients, I kept wondering.

This question was answered by a New York Times article which says,
"All across New York City, cooks, chefs and restaurateurs are
struggling to cope with soaring costs of many of their basic
ingredients, including flour, eggs, rice and cooking oil. "Everything
is going up at once" is a universal complaint among them, so they are
devising all sorts of strategies to avoid having to pass the brunt of
the price increases on to their customers. Some are cutting back on
waiters and kitchen help, others are staying open longer or expanding
their offerings to increase sales. One sheepishly admitted that she
had started adding the sales tax to customer's bills rather than raise
the prices printed on her elaborate, laminated menus."

"Suvir Saran, the owner and a co-executive chef of Devi, an Indian
restaurant in the Flatiron district, said he was weighing whether to
pare down portions, because he did not think he could raise prices.
Devi already charged $65 for its "chef's tasting menu" before the cost
of rice and chapati flour doubled over the past few months. A 30-pound
sack of rice has risen steadily this year to $43 from $22, while a
15-pound bag of flour has gone to $22 from $8 and a 4.6-gallon
container of canola oil is up to $34, from $18 or less at the start of
the year, Mr. Saran said.
"Rice is such an important part of our business," he said. "We've been
getting battered by these huge price increases." Mr. Saran said that
he earned little profit on a dinner of tandoor-grilled lamb chops
priced at $30, but that in the past he had been able to make up for
that by selling rice dishes. No longer. "This year we're not making as
much money selling rice," he said," to the New York Times.

Read the full article at--

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Now An Indian Napa Valley?

First it was the city of Bangalore, becoming India's Silicon Valley,
now is the city of Nasik in the state of Maharashtra becoming the
Indian Napa Valley?

According to this article in the New York Times, "Eight years ago, Mr.
Dhuru, who made his fortune in the software business, bought land
outside Nasik, a city about 100 miles northeast of Mumbai that has
become the center of India's rapidly expanding wine industry.

This year, with the help of a consulting oenologist from Bordeaux, Mr.
Dhuru expects to produce about 300,000 bottles of white and red wines.
By next year, he estimates that a million bottles will bear the
Chateau d'Ori label.

The aggressive optimism of entrepreneurs like Mr. Dhuru is easy to
understand. In Maharashtra state in central and western India, where
Nasik is, more than 40 wineries are in varying stages of development.
Government officials say that investment in wine increased by 74
percent over the last year.

"In the next 10 years there will be 300 million upwardly mobile
Indians who can afford wine and for whom it will be a lifestyle
choice," Mr. Dhuru said. "A lot of them will be drinking Indian

Read the full article at--

Indian Biz Schools Not Upto Par

"Business education is booming in India, but the bulk of rank-and-file
programs in the country suffer from outdated textbooks, professors who
don't keep up with economic trends, and narrow curriculums, according
to a recently released report by an Indian business group," says and
article in Business Week.

According to the article, "The Business Barometer study was issued
last month by the the Associated Chambers of Commerce & Industry of
India (Assocham), the country's leading chamber of commerce
organization. It found that beyond the top 30 institutions, most
business school professors and lecturers in India's business schools
are ignorant of the world's major economic trends and key
developments, such as the subprime crisis in the U.S. Few read
business publications.

The study's author, Jyoti Bhutani, called the findings "shocking,"
adding that Indian businesses are finding it difficult to get
top-quality graduates. She said there is "a huge gap" between the pay
packages offered to grads of top Indian business schools
(, 4/13/08) and those provided to grads of the lesser

Also it is very interesting to note that even the top cadre IIM's are
not accredited, "John Fernandes, president of the U.S.-based
Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International
(AACSB), said his agency is working with four or five of the top
Indian business schools that are seeking AACSB accreditation. Most are
members of the "elite" business school cadre in India, known as India
Institute of Managements. None of the top Indian business schools has
accreditation from AACSB, one of the leading business school
accrediting agencies.

Setting a high standard for Indian business schools by satisfying a
quality accrediting agency is an important step for Indian business
schools, said Assocham's Bhutani. An improved accreditation process
would have a ripple effect on all Indian business schools, he
continued, forcing them to improve the quality of teachers, materials,
and professional development."

Read the full article at --

Where Wealth is Health!

While India's economic growth is on the media radar, and articles
about how Americans and other westerners are going to India for it's
high quality, yet relatively cheap healthcare get written, the truth
is that there are many millions of Indians who are getting poorer and
are unable to receive proper healthcare. Capitalism is on the rise.

From a New York Times article, titled, "Royal Care for Some of India's
Patients, Neglect for Others" -- "Mr. Steeles, 60, a car dealer from
Daphne, Ala., had flown halfway around the world last month to save
his heart, at a price he could pay. He had a mitral valve repaired at
a state-of-the-art private hospital here, called Wockhardt, and for 10
days, he was recuperating in a carpeted, wood-paneled room, with a
view of a leafy green courtyard.

A dietician helped select his meals. A dermatologist came as soon as
he complained of an itch. His Royal Suite had cable TV, a computer, a
minirefrigerator, where an attendant that afternoon stashed some ice
cream, for when he felt hungry later. Three days after surgery, he was
sitting in a chair, smiling, chattering, thrilled to be alive.

On his bed lay the morning's paper. Dominating its front page was the
story of other men, many of them day laborers who laid bricks and
mixed cement for Bangalore's construction boom, who had fallen gravely
ill after drinking illegally brewed liquor. All told, more than 150
died that week, here and in neighboring Tamil Nadu State.

Not for them the care of India's best private hospitals. They had been
wheeled in by wives and brothers to the overstretched government-run
Bowring Hospital, on the other side of town. Bowring had no intensive
care unit, no ventilators, no dialysis machine. Dinner was a stack of
white bread, on which a healthy cockroach crawled while a patient,
named Yelappa, slept.

Wockhardt has 30 ventilators, including some that are noninvasive, so
the patient does not have to have a tube rammed down his throat. At
any one time, a half-dozen are in use. An elderly woman had been in
its intensive care unit for a week, on dialysis; her family wanted to
do whatever possible to keep her alive, no matter the cost.

At Bowring, one of the young doctors, named Harish, said a ventilator
and a dialysis machine would have allowed him to keep half of his
patients alive. The most severe case, Mohammed Amin, was breathing
with the aid of a hand pump that his wife squeezed silently. Dr.
Harish sent the relative of one man to get blood tests done at the
nearest private hospital; there was no equipment to do the test here.
Then the doctor rushed to the triage section in Bowring's lobby, where
the newest patient, writhing, resisting, disoriented from the poison
in his gut, had to be tied down with bedsheets."

Universal healthcare is not just needed for the US, it is required for
other capitalistic societies like India as well.

Read the full NYT article at--

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Age of Innovation

Yet another book from Management Guru C.K. Prahalad, titled "The Age
Of Innovation"

"Every so often, a book comes along that demands to be read --
sometimes because of the author's great reputation; in other cases,
because the subject is so important. In the case of "The New Age of
Innovation," both are true," says the Los Angeles Times, "Professor
C.K. Prahalad of the University of Michigan, whose previous books
include "Competing for the Future" and "The Fortune at the Bottom of
the Pyramid," is sometimes described as one of the most influential
thinkers in the world. And the book deals with a pressing issue for
managers today: how to compete in a time of rapid and unpredictable

According to The LA Times, "Prahalad, who recently was appointed a
non-executive director by Pearson, owner of the Financial Times, and
co-author M.S. Krishnan, also a professor at Michigan, start by
telling us, "There is a fundamental transformation of business
underway," which will radically alter the very nature of the company
and how it creates value. "No industry is immune from this trend."

"All this might seem like common sense. Sadly, common sense is not
taught at business schools, nor do consultants offer seminars on the
subject. Management teams will continue to fail if they continue to
confuse technology with the potential value that technology can
create; if they think of customers as a mass rather than individuals;
and if they fail to realize that how they manage is as important as
what they manage. On all three of these failings, Prahalad and
Krishnan offer advice that managers need to get back on the right
track," says the LA Times.

Read the full review at --,0,2234984.story

The Asian Monsoons

The recent monsoons have devastated Burma, last year and the year
before Mumbai relled from catastrophic monsoons, the pattern is slowly
becoming clearer. "GLOBAL warming could cause a major Asian famine and
result in the toppling of governments, an Aberdeen expert has warned
in a new book. Monsoons are likely to become stronger and stormier and
lead to catastrophic flooding before they reach a tipping point and
give way to severe drought within decades," according to an article in
UK's The PRess And Journal.

The article says that, "The predictions have been made by Professor
Peter Clift, Aberdeen University geosciences lecturer, in his book The
Asian Monsoon: Causes, History and Effects. He warned that sudden
"weakening" of monsoon rains and subsequent drought had been
considered partly responsible for seismic historical events such as
the collapse of imperial dynasties in China and India. If current
trends continue, he predicted disaster would hit in the next 50-200
years, but he argued that paying more attention to environmental
issues and lifestyle changes such as riding bicycles to work and
burning less fossil fuels may delay or even prevent it. Mr Clift said:
"The monsoon is linked to the rest of the world. "What happens to us
makes a big difference to what happens to them."

Read the full article at --

Monday, June 02, 2008

The Upside Down World

"Developed", "Developing", and "Underdeveloped" countries. I wonder
who coined these terms and how they came up with the classification.

A country which was once very rich and well matured, with some of the
best in education, science, business and trade is plundered by various
foreign invaders and is left limping to fend for itself. This nation
whose limbs have been cut-off and is now struggling to grow again, and
is called a developing nation. The foreign nation that was the
plunderer takes the term developed nation. It is all very confusing to
me, and not convincing.

To this effect Roger Cohen's editorial in the New York Times says,
that the world once again has become upside down. He says, "For a
while the world was flat. Now it's upside down. To understand it,
invert your thinking. See the developed world as depending on the
developing world, rather than the other way round. Understand that
two-thirds of global economic growth last year came from emerging
countries, whose economies will expand about 6.7 percent in 2008,
against 1.3 percent for the United States, Japan and euro zone

Citing Indian examples he emphasizes, "That's also a good position
from which to view India's Tata Motors agreeing to buy Land Rover and
Jaguar from Ford for $2.3 billion, or Tata Steel's acquisition last
year of the Anglo-Dutch Corus Group steel company for $12 billion.
Globalization is now a two-way street; in fact it's an Indian street
with traffic weaving in all directions."

"A shift in economic power is under way to which the developed world
has not yet adjusted. Of course the G-8 and the permanent membership
of the U.N. Security Council need to be expanded to reflect this
change. The 21st century can't be handled with 20th-century
institutions.That's obvious. Less obvious is how the United States,
which underwrites global security at vast expense, begins to share
this burden, so that the new multi-polarity of wealth is reflected in
a multipolarity of security commitments. Headstands are in order for
the next U.S. president," writes Cohen.

Read the whole commentary at --

Don't throw It Out...

One of my pet peeves has been food wastage. I am appalled at the
portions served in restaurants and the amount of food wasted,
considering how many people and children are going hungry each day.

A really concise commentary in the Hartford Courant today emphasizes
this, "We obviously have no way of getting that softening head of
lettuce in the back of the fridge to a Third-World country, and if we
could we still wouldn't halt global warming. But we can be more
careful about what we buy and eat. In most major cities, food rescue
organizations save and refrigerate food from participating cafeterias
and restaurants. Cities such as San Francisco compost organic wastes.
Some restaurants are offering smaller portions.

These are relatively easy steps, useful in themselves and helpful in
informing larger decisions on food. Is the subsidy of corn ethanol
substantially hurting the production of food? Do U.S. agricultural
policies hurt local farming around the world? Can we continue to spend
hundreds of billions on wasteful farm bills?

If we remember that food is precious and not to be wasted, perhaps we
can make better decisions across the board."

Read the full commentary at --,0,3258854.story