Monday, March 24, 2008

'Organisations can promote the culture of exercise woven into routine'

An AMC for well-being

We take annual maintenance contracts (AMCs) for almost all the gadgets we use. “Why not, then, look at the need for a similar contract on a daily level, say, a DMC or daily maintenance contract, to ensure good health?” asks Dr B. S. Tiruvadanan, a Chennai-based consultant surgeon, specialising in gastroenterology.
“Today’s life is characterised by speed. In fact, so much speed that we don’t have time for ourselves,” he rues. “The ‘contract,’ therefore, is essentially about giving oneself the time. Time to take the mind off worries, to exercise and keep fit, and to think what really one wants to pursue,” explains the doctor, during an interaction with Business Line.


'We are at the world level in the IT remuneration generation'

Time for new look at research areas

Among the research interests of Sugata Sanyal, Professor in the School of Technology & Computer Science at TIFR (Tata Institute of Fundamental Research) are: ‘multi-factor security issues, security in wireless and mobile ad hoc networks, distributed processing, and scheduling techniques.’
However, it is not about the security-related projects at TIFR that Sanyal speaks with vigour; what seem dear to him are scientific projects with societal value. ‘Jaipur Foot’ is a classic example of this thought process, he says, during a recent interaction with eWorld over e-mail.


'The need for more incentives for encouraging the digital media cinema has not been addressed in the Budget 2008'

Entertainment & Media: Demands that await a break

A not-so-entertaining post-Budget hangover the E&M (entertainment and media) industry has to live with is that its demands have not been fully met by the Finance Minister.
“The industry, represented by the Indian Broadcasters Federation (IBF), had been appealing for a reduction in import duty on set-top boxes and modems, which are used for cable, direct-to-home (DTH) and IPTV (Internet protocol television) and oth er broadcast equipment, to be at par with Customs duties that IT (information technology) equipment enjoys,” says Mr Govardhan Purohit, Executive Director, PricewaterhouseCoopers.


'The factory output on Sundays is typically low'

Power-starvation, with ‘captive’ denied

That power shortages cripple the industry is no news. But it may come as a surprise to many that the power-starved industrial units have been prevented from using their captive power facilities on the designated days of weekly holiday.
“We have been instructed by the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board not to use generators on Mondays, the new ‘official’ holiday from last month, instead of our usual Sundays,” informs Mr D. Sundar, Managing Director, Mahalakshmi Tools and Machinery Pvt Ltd, Chennai. He has a unit in Padi.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

'In any organisation, procurement faces the risk of supplier kickbacks'

Kickback is the most prevalent form of fraud

Inducement, backhander, enticement, carrot, sweetener, and kickback are all among the synonyms that Microsoft Word suggests for `bribe.' The word gets rarely uttered, even when the `demand' is tall, nor does one find tariff cards mentioning the going rates, possibly because speed money is part of our ecosystem.
Therefore, it may not come as a rude shock to most of us that a majority of a survey's "respondents quite candidly stated that coporates in India pay bribes or facilitation payments to conduct business," as Mr Deepankar Sanwalka, Executive Director and Head of Forensic, KPMG observes.


'The education system needs to be examined now with a view to supporting the growth of the nation over the next 50 years'

‘IT growth entering maturity phase’

You don’t normally expect case studies on ‘the Arctic Monkeys rock group and Hollywood actor Samuel L. Jackson’ in a book on outsourcing, but that’s what Mark Kobayashi-Hillary and Richard Sykes have done in Global Services: Moving to a Level Playing Field, from Viva (, as an Indian edition, with a foreword by Sir Howard Davies, Director of the London School of Ec onomics.
“A very approachable look at some of the ways technology and the globalisation of services is changing our lives, and it’s not a typical ‘dry’ read on outsourcing,” assures Kobayashi-Hillary (, during the course of an e-mail interaction with eWorld, when he was recently in India, during the Nasscom summit.


Monday, March 17, 2008

'You need to learn with an open mind'

Every child can become a good human being

During the 1970s, Sugata Sanyal was part of the teams that worked on some of the early computer applications in the country, be they in weather forecasting, or defence. Currently, he is Professor in the School of Technology and Computer Science at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai (
“Looking back, we did go through a series of experiences spanning a long period of time,” he reminisces, over a telephonic and e-mail interaction with Business Line, talking about his tryst with high-level research and development work.


'WiMAX is the answer to blanket the whole country with broadband Internet connectivity'

‘WiMAX can help bridge the digital divide’

One quick way to bridge the digital divide can be a wide implementation of WiMAX, says Mr Muthu Logan, President and CEO of BroVis Wireless Networks.
“WiMAX is going to revolutionise the acceptance of broadband and bridging the digital divide. It is a sure bet in our opinion,” he observed during an interaction with Business Line.
Dispelling a common myth that WiFi/WiMAX is typically used for last-mile and extended enterprise applications within cities, Mr Logan says that the technology lends itself to rapid adaptation in rural areas.


‘Buy low and sell high’

I have sold all emerging markets except China: Jim Rogers

The 21-per cent year-to-date decline of the Shanghai Composite Index notwithstanding, American investor and investment guru Mr Jim Rogers remains optimistic on the prospects of China.
When Business Line queried him over the e-mail about his views on India emerging as a strong competitor to China as a major manufacturing hub, Mr Rogers said, “I can see little reason anyone would open in India, instead of China.”


'Different car segments call for different levels of customer satisfaction'

How Nano can affect ‘B’, ‘C’ segment car sales

The Budget 2008 has reduced the excise duty for small cars and two-wheelers from 16 to 12 per cent, so a Maruti-800 customer should benefit by around Rs 10,000, reasons Mr Sanjay Nigam, Director-Automotive Business, Trilogy India, a US based company providing business solutions to auto OEMs.
“From the manufacturer’s point of view, it’s good news for Maruti, Tata and Hyundai and all those planning to launch small cars in the near future,” he adds in a recent e-mail interaction with Business Line.


Monday, March 10, 2008

The 5 Rs of memory, or learning

Keep pushing your brain

The 5 Rs of memory, or learning, are Reception, Registration, Reinforcement, Retention, and Recall, says Prof K. Ganapathy, President, Apollo Telemedicine Networking Foundation, Chennai.
“Learning is directly proportional to one’s interest in the subject, how much one is motivated, how badly one wants to achieve the goal set for oneself,” he elaborates, when recently interacting with Business Line.


“Innovation and experiments hold the key”

‘BPO is here to stay’

The general perception is that the US slowdown will hit the software and BPO (business process outsourcing) industry. “I have a different view,” avers S. Shivakumar, CEO of iSource IT Enabled Services (
“US corporates can afford to hold on to and defer decisions on software projects. But BPO work ought to continue because it is an essential service,” he explains. “In fact, it will gather further momentum as the squeeze tightens on cost. More corporates will start thinking of outsourcing their administrative support services,” adds Shivakumar, during the course of a recent lunch-hour interaction with eWorld.


The provisions of Section 201 of the Act cannot be extended to apply to a person who has not withheld taxes

Is the ‘assessee in default’ amendment aimed at Vodafone?

Does Vodafone have something to worry about in the latest Finance Bill? Seems so, according to tax experts, who cite the proposed amendment to Section 201 of the Income-Tax Act, 1961 about ‘assessee in default’.
Significantly, the planned tax change is to be retrospective, travelling backwards by more than five years.
“A noticeable trend which has been observed in the last few annual Budgets is the introduction of amendments to the I-T Act, most often with retrospective effect, with a view to overrule rightful technical arguments adopted by tax assessees, or certain legal precedents favouring the tax assessees,” observe N. C. Hegde and Surojit Ray, Partner and Deputy Manager, respectively, in Deloitte Haskins & Sells, Mumbai.


Drilling at an oil field may yield crude oil, natural gas or a combination of both.

Oil & gas cos mystified by ‘mineral oil’

Oil and gas companies have been bamboosled by an observation in the Memorandum and the Notes on Clauses accompanying the Finance Bill, 2008, says Mr Pritin Kumar, Senior Manager, Deloitte Haskins and Sells, Mumbai. And, at the core of their problem is ‘mineral oil.’

Oil and gas companies engaged in exploration and production activities are currently entitled to claim 100 per cent tax holiday for a period of seven years under Section 80-IB of the Income-tax Act, 1961; this tax holiday is the subject matter of the controversy, elaborates Mr Pritin.


Dividend Distribution Tax

Peeling the layers of DDT relief

Chennai, March 6 Much has been written about the Budget proposals relating to DDT (dividend distribution tax), more specifically, about the set-off of the tax paid by subsidiary on dividends declared to its parent. “Is it really a relief?” wonder Ms Saloni Singhal and Ms Vandana Ahuja, tax professionals with KPMG.
As you may be aware, a domestic company, in addition to the income-tax payable on its taxable profits, also pays DDT on dividends declared, distributed or paid to its shareholders.


The demographic dividend (that is, the increasing numbers in the age group 15-65) is a strong trigger for saving and consumption

Financial infrastructure + debt waiver = financial inclusion?

The overall burden on the banking sector, of the loan write-offs of Rs 60,000 crore proposed in Budget 2008, is yet to be analysed fully, says Mr Robin Roy, Associate Director, Financial Services, PricewaterhouseCoopers (P) Ltd.
“This is almost 25 per cent of total rural credit disbursements of last year. On the other hand, SCBs (state cooperative banks) and RRBs (regional rural banks) have been asked to look at total credit needs of farmers, by using ex-bankers as business facilitators and counsellors,” he adds, in a recent e-mail interaction with Business Line.


The adjustments in the income-tax slabs have been taken as revenue neutral.

Unfortunately, FRBM is not a fiscal transparency Act

Fiscal deficit really amounts to 3.11 per cent of GDP, not 2.5 per cent as professed. Surprised? "Don't be, as these are fiscal costs of budgeting for elections," explains Dr D. K. Srivastava, Director of the Madras School of Economics, in a tˆte-…-tˆte with Business Line, a few hours after the Union Budget 2008-09.
While we regale amongst the newfound tax incentives doled out by the Union Finance Minister on February 29, it may be worth sparing some time to look at the financial health of the Government itself, stirring up the `everyday economist' that resides within each of us.


What has been the direction of policy with regard to power?

‘Power projects should be exempted from service tax’

Chennai, March 4 Given the growth being witnessed by the economy and the need for cheap and clean power across all segments to sustain such growth, it is imperative to revisit some of the ‘power’ issues, so that the consumer comes out as the real winner – which is perhaps the stated objective of the Government, says Mr Sujit Ghosh, Executive Director, BMR & Associates.


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

' the Government is relying on huge investments from the private sector'

‘Removal of double tax on dividends boost to infrastructure sector’

The biggest benefit that the latest Budget has conferred on the entire infrastructure sector is the removal of double tax on dividends, says Mr Kuljit Singh, Partner, Ernst & Young.
“As infrastructure projects are typically developed through SPVs (special purpose vehicles), removal of double taxation can lead to a saving of at least one level of dividend taxation (in the existing level of 16.995 per cent, including surcharge),” he explains in an e-mail interaction with Business Line.


'The introduction of a car priced at $2,500 later this year will certainly boost sales volumes'

Aam aadmi to ride the auto sector

Chennai, March 3 Excise reduction, combined with a more liberal credit availability should see, over the next few quarters, a reversal of the recent slowdown in demand, says Mr Kapil Arora, Partner – Automotive sector, Ernst & Young. He even sees an eventual return to positive growth and profitability, as price concessions are passed on to customers.

“For now, the aam aadmi must be smiling,” he observes, in an e-mail exchange with Business Line hours after the presentation of this year’s Budget.


'The current market structure for coal has been skewed'

Why coal needed a regulator

Chennai, March 3 This year’s Budget proposes to institutionalise coal regulatory mechanism, which is a welcome step, says Mr Dipesh Dipu, Principal Consultant, PricewaterhouseCoopers.
“The debate on coal regulator has been continuing since long, which primarily focuses on the roles the regulator has to play in the industry,” he adds.
There exists a case for regulation of coal block allocation process, which needs to be made more objective and transparent, reasons Mr Dipu, in an e-mail exchange with Business Line, post-Budget.


'The year 2007 will go down as the year of big-ticket mergers and acquisitions for India'

Budget 2008: Lagging behind M&A appetite

While there are many misses in the Budget 2008, from an M&A (merger and acquisition) perspective, there is one area where a lot of thrust can get diverted, say Mr Amrish Shah and Ms Falguni Shah, Executive Director and Senior Manager respectively, in PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Yes, the focus is now on R&D (research and development) companies. For, the Budget says that any sum paid to an approved R&D company for scientific research would be eligible for 1.25 times weighted deduction.


`The RBI decides on merger of banks'

Factors at play in the HDFC Bank-Centurion deal

Chennai, Feb. 26 With the Boards of Centurion Bank of Punjab and HDFC Bank having approved the share swap ratio for the largest merger thus far in the Indian banking sector, at nearly $2 billion, the deal clears an important milestone towards the process of completion, which is expected to take about four months.
“The recommended swap ratio takes into account financial performance and position of the two banks, their relative physical infrastructure and their traded share prices over a long term,” says Mr Sanjiv Agrawal of Ernst & Young (E&Y), in an e-mail interaction with Business Line. “As against the usual company merger cases where High Courts decide , the RBI decides on merger of banks,” he adds.