Thursday, May 29, 2008

Cisco Sets New Era of Business Mobility in Motion

Cisco® today announced an evolved architecture that helps empower businesses to meet and exceed mobility demands and move beyond basic wireless networking into the next generation of business mobility - transforming the way business is done by fostering broader collaboration and new levels of productivity. This announcement is part of Cisco Motion - Cisco's innovative vision for business mobility that delivers practical solutions to integrate mobile devices, applications, security and disparate networks into a unified platform.

The cornerstone of the Cisco Motion vision is the Cisco 3300 Series Mobility Services Engine (MSE). This appliance-based platform offers an open application programming interface (API) for consolidating and supporting an array of mobility services across wireless and wired networks. Cisco is releasing four initial software offerings for the MSE: Cisco Context-Aware Software, Cisco Adaptive Wireless Intrusion Prevention System (wIPS), Cisco Secure Client Manager and Cisco Mobile Intelligent Roaming. The Cisco MSE and its software integrate with the Cisco Unified Wireless Network portfolio, Cisco Unified Communications Manager and Cisco-compatible devices to expand the reach and value of an enterprise's mobility system.

Numerous application and solution partners have integrated or plan to integrate with the MSE. This partner ecosystem includes Nokia and Oracle, technology partners like AeroScout, Agito Networks and Airetrak, as well as industry-specific application partners like IntelliDOT and Johnson Controls (healthcare) and OATSystems (manufacturing).

"Today's business mobility challenges cannot be solved using only traditional wireless LAN solutions when multiple network elements are converging and need to collaborate. Cisco's Motion approach is a true services-oriented network architecture that creates a mobility network as a platform for integrating key business strategies, processes and goals," said Brett Galloway, senior vice president of Cisco's Wireless and Security Technology Group. "To meet and exceed business mobility expectations, IT must secure and manage a range of devices, integrate multiple networks, enable applications, access information with a high level of security, and help ensure a consistent experience regardless of network connection or location."

Cisco Motion: Accelerating the Evolution of Business Mobility

Information Technology (IT) departments must increasingly manage disparate networks (Wi-Fi, cellular, passive RFID, personal wireless, sensors, Ethernet), to handle a rising number of devices and more applications. The Cisco Motion approach includes the industry's first mobility architecture that addresses these challenges in the following ways:

-- Unifying networks: Extending applications to devices regardless of the connection

-- Managing the client device wave: Securing devices, centralizing client provisioning

-- Facilitating collaboration: Selecting the right media at the right time and right place

-- Opening up development: Open API supports integrated applications and services

"Cisco's mobility vision mirrors Oracle's approach to application development, which focuses on efficiently connecting users to the information they need to make better business decisions," said Jon Chorley, vice president of product strategy at Oracle. "Integrating Oracle's enterprise applications with Cisco's open mobility platform creates tremendous value for our customers."

The Cisco MSE's initial service offerings include the following software components:

Cisco Context-Aware Software captures contextual information from a full range of sensors, mobile devices and RFID tags over the Cisco Unified Wireless Network, allowing businesses to move beyond basic location tracking and gather detailed information about assets like location, temperature, availability, and the application used. Information is channeled into applications, increasing asset-management intelligence. Context-Aware Software supports enhanced received signal strength indication (RSSI) and time difference of arrival (TDOA), improving location accuracy and performance indoors, outdoors and in challenging RF environments.

SYSTIME Wins Naga Limited Contract to Implement Oracle's JD Edwards EnterpriseOne


Continuing its implementation spree in the manufacturing sector, SYSTIME, www.SYSTIME.net, has clinched yet another deal to implement Oracle's JD Edwards EnterpriseOne for Naga Limited, India. This business win further reinforces SYSTIME's status as one of the largest JD Edwards practices in India. In addition, SYSTIME is an Oracle Certified Partner.

SYSTIME has been awarded the Naga Limited contract because of its track record, functional expertise and understanding of Oracle software. SYSTIME will implement Oracle's JD Edwards EnterpriseOne finance, distribution and manufacturing applications at Naga Limited.

Established in 1962, Naga Limited has grown into a conglomerate over the years, with diversified interests that include flour mills, soaps and detergents, chemicals, minerals, windmills, entertainment and research and development. The company has manufacturing units in Dindigul, Vedasandur, Trichy and Chennai. Its list of clients includes Hindustan Lever Limited, Britannia and Parle, among others.

Midsize manufacturers continue to achieve success relying on JD Edwards EnterpriseOne based upon the integration capabilities, deep vertical functionality and industry best practices the applications provide. Furthermore, JD Edwards enables manufacturers to effectively manage core business processes and inventory, thereby reducing wastage, costs and time-to-market.

JD Edwards EnterpriseOne will enable Naga Limited to gain greater control over productivity and achieve maximum return-on-investment (ROI) at a low total cost of ownership. By embracing this new JD Edwards EnterpriseOne system, Naga Limited will gain a distinct advantage over its competition.

Maurice D'souza, Vice President - International, SYSTIME, said, "This business win is another example of SYSTIME's reputation as the most reliable JD Edwards EnterpriseOne implementation partner and our endeavor will be to ensure that the implementation results in maximum profitability to our client."

About SYSTIME

SYSTIME, a 100% subsidiary of the CMS group, is a global business solutions provider delivering high quality and reliable services for the past 33 years. Additionally, SYSTIME is one of the three largest JD Edwards practices worldwide and is a Certified Advantage Partner in the Oracle PartnerNetwork. SYSTIME has also been named the 'Oracle JD Edwards Partner of the Year for North America for two consecutive years, '2006-07' and '2007-08', as well as for India, 2007-08 and 2008-09.

Kerala Tourism Host Second International Conference on Responsible Tourism


Kerala declaration on Responsible Tourism adopted at the Incredible India Second International Conference on Responsible Tourism and fifteen papers presented at the conference are now available on internet.

The conference on Responsible Tourism, inaugurated by Mr. Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, Minister for Tourism, Government of Kerala and presided over by Mr. Shailabhadra Banerjee, Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, was attended by 503 delegates from 29 countries.

Kerala declaration was developed through a participatory process that was moderated by Dr. Venu V., Co-chair of the conference and Secretary, Kerala Tourism.

At the concluding session of the conference academicians, representatives from Government agencies, NGOs, media and the travel and tourism industry from Kerala, India and international arena participated. The delegates shared their expertise and experience to take forward the agenda of Responsible Tourism and Sustainable Tourism development across the world.

Kerala declaration on Responsible Tourism was a sequel to the Cape Town declaration, adopted at the Cape Town Conference organized by the Responsible Tourism Partnership and Western Cape Tourism preceding the World summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in the year 2002.

Besides Dr. Harold Goodwin, International Centre for Responsible Tourism (ICRT), Leeds Metropolitan University, Co-chair of the Conference, eminent persons like, Dr. Harsh Varma, Director, The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Ms. Fiona Jeffery, Chairman, World Travel Market, Mr. Adama Bah, Travel Foundation, Mr. Hiran Cooray, Secretary & Treasurer, Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), made speeches at the inaugural session of the conference.

Mr. Juan Carlos Bonilla, Mr. Felix Francis, Ms. Nicole Frey, Ms. Rachel Dodds, Dr. P. K. Manoj, Ms. Lucy Mccombes, Ms. Maria Lusia Rendon Puertas, Dr. Anna Spenceley, Mr. Prem Subramaniam and Mr. Gordon Sillence presented academic papers and Dr. Venu V., Ms. Sarada Muraleedharan, Mr. Sudhir Sahi, Ms. Yumnaa Firfirey and Ms. Archana Capoor presented International Conference papers.

NIFTEM Outlines Strategies for a Healthier India at Food for Health Symposium

The symposium on Food for Health: Functional Foods, Nutraceuticals, Organic Foods under the auspices of the National Institute of Food Technology, Entrepreneurship and Management (NIFTEM) was held from 21 to 23 May 2008 at Coimbatore.

The aim of the symposium was to sensitize entrepreneurs, researchers, academics and policy makers on global trends in the functional food, nutraceutical and organic food sectors; to identify challenges and opportunities for the growth of industry in these sectors; to create an awareness of the importance of innovative product development and the use of cutting edge production technologies; to study and develop standards to evaluate the quality and safety of products and also study regulations that govern the claims made by these products. Mr. P. I. Suvrathan, Secretary, Ministry of Food Processing Industries in his opening remarks provided a brief description of the Food for Health initiative and stated that the creation of awareness among people on the relationship between health and diet and the proper dissemination of validated information was a key requirement.

Over sixty participants who attended the symposium comprised a healthy mix of representatives from the public and private sector. They included ministry officials, academics, senior executives from private firms, and representatives from various NGOs involved in grassroots agricultural development. The participants were addressed by an eminent faculty comprising professors from the Department of Food Science at Cornell University, senior policy makers from various government bodies and also the United States Department of Agriculture, and senior consultants from Sathguru.

A key segment of the symposium was a breakout discussion by various groups comprising participants and faculty. The topics discussed were on the sourcing, development and adoption of technology for health foods; regulatory issues in functional foods and nutraceuticals; strategies for value addition, regulation and international market development for organic foods and the strategies for accelerating investment in health foods. The initiative was carried out jointly by NIFTEM and Cornell-Sathguru Foundation.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

TWB Develops User Interface for Next Generation Digital Broadcasting Products


Develops and Implements 360 degree technical communication and user interface solutions for a middleware that allows integration of traditional digital and Internet media including, video and music content over broadband to your TV

-- With the new user interface, users will be able to access all digital television services through a central, interactive environment whose functionality can be enhanced to include online community features

-- Provides key technical communication, user interface and support solutions in IPTV, digital broadcasting and convergent media products

-- Services a leading Internet media company developing software platforms that powers next generation rich media content and consumer devices

The Writers Block (TWB) has been chosen by a leading Internet Media company to develop and implement next-generation video user interface (UI) for its set-top-box (STB), which allows the users to access digital content from multiple broadcasting platforms and across formats. This will enable digital broadcasting and IPTV services to be promoted, searched and accessed through a state-of-the-art interface to deliver a superior user experience.

The user-interface integrates service providers' digital video services. These include - Video on Demand (VOD), Electronic Program Guide (EPG), Digital Video Recorder (DVR) and Interactive Applications into a centralized, user-friendly UI. This key functionality of the product user interface is:

-- Ability to integrate traditional media and broadband internet media

-- Ability to view Internet media including YouTube video's as full screen video on, high definition large format TV's with TV style remote and navigation

TWB has developed the UI to enhance the user experience by enabling personalization by viewers to match their viewing preferences along with network based community sharing, which enables friends and family members to recommend programs to one another.

Rakesh Shukla, Chief Executive Officer, The Writers Block mentioned, "TWB recognizes that an interactive, customizable and user friendly UI is essential to pleasing the customer. In future we will see further enhancements in order to create visually appealing, perceptive and smarter UIs. TWB has proven experience in the development of interactive applications and UIs. It is part of our core mission to enable a high quality UI and customer support features that need to be delivered to market quickly."

He further added, "We are committed to giving our customers the best in simple, consistent and intuitive navigation. TWB has extensive experience and domain expertise in delivering advanced applications and user interfaces for multiple platforms. We are happy to deliver world class solutions to our customers, on platforms capable of supporting futuristic technologies."

About TWB:

The Writers Block (TWB) is Asia's leading technical communication and publishing services provider and caters to the needs of technology and process driven industries. TWB provides world-class technical communication outsourcing, training and publishing services to companies globally. TWB's expertise spans industries that include IT, technology Products & Outsourcing, ITES, Financial, Aerospace, Defense, Ship Building, Manufacturing and Discrete & Process Industries.

Biofuels Markets Asia to Organize a 3 Day Pan-Asian Meet to Focus on the Development of Biofuels in Asia

Biofuels Markets Asia is organizing a 3 day Pan-Asian Meeting at the Hyatt Regency, New Delhi, India from 9 - 11 June 2008 that will bring together key players from across the globe to focus on the development of Biofuels in Asia for its 3rd annual conference. The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) will act as a strategic partner for the Biofuels Markets Asia event and provide an overview of the current and future markets for Biofuels in Asia, with specifics to the Indian scenario, policies and regulations for the biofuels industry.

The event will give an in depth understanding of the Asian biofuels markets and what are the latest biofuels business opportunities in Asia? It will also focus on how are producers deploying commercially viable projects and how can investment be secured in the region? It will also touch the question as to how feedstock supply and pricing is affecting the markets; how can sustainable biofuels production be assured; what are the latest developments in production plants & technology and what does the future hold for biofuels in Asia? Apart from this a one day masters class on 'Second Generation Feedstocks' will also be the highlight of the event.

Following on from successful editions in Thailand and Singapore, this year Biofuels Markets Asia is strategically planned in India as the government has recently implemented an ethanol blending program and is considering initiatives in the form of mandates for Biodiesel. Last year in Singapore over 450 attendees attended the Sustainable Energy Week Asia of which Biofuels Markets Asia was the lead conference.

MKU- Targets Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) Business

Projections of the UAV market are growing as rapidly to figure out the newer applications. Keeping in view the past global trends, the sales in the coming two decades is expected to be whooping trillions of dollars from the UAV industry.

In 2007, MKU with its vision decided to be a global defense solutions provider and it also understood the significance of the UAV segment to propel its growth plans. After considerable deliberations, in the latter half of 2007, MKU took the strategic decision to penetrate the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) sector notwithstanding the presence of almost every large defense company in this field. With its far sighted vision coupled with Dynamism and ingenuity, MKU within a short span of barely 8-9 months successfully developed two products which can be compared as the best in the world standards.

"MKU had attained a prominent global position and is perhaps No. 1 in the Ballistic Protection market. We have now entered the fastest growing UAV market. With the launch of our 2 new solutions, TERP and Erasmus, we are geared to catch up with the upcoming industrial growth and would look forward to command a sizeable market share" said Mr. Anurag Gupta Jt. MD, MKU, at launch of TERP in February 2008 during DEFEXPO, INDIA.

The Tactical Reconnaissance Electrical Probe (TREP) is an all composite, backpack-able UAV System that requires no tools for assembly. It is ideally suited for frontline operations and provides enhanced Tactical Situational Awareness. The system is designed to play a key role in military, paramilitary and civilian deployments.

The ERASMUS UAVS is a high performance tactical / strategic UAVS designed for frontline operations. The system is transported in 2 ruggedized containers and requires 45 minutes for assembly or disassembly. The system is equipped with an Image Exploitation System which enables ERASMUS to track or target objects based on a visual image reference.

MKU shall be exhibiting at ILA, Berlin Airshow, from 27th May-1st June 2008 with their cutting edge UAV Solutions.

Apart from, UAVs MKU has recently ventured into development of high performance drones designed for various Air Defense Target Applications. The Drone offers several flight profiles including steep climbs and dives.

Further, for Eurosatory-2008, Paris, MKU is aiming to unveil its entire gamut of UAVS solutions and disclose its future plans.

Jeevansathi.com Goes Retail with 'Jeevansathi.com Match Point'; Opens its First Outlet in Delhi at Malviya Nagar

Jeevansathi.com, India's fastest growing matrimonial site, inaugurated its first retail outlet - 'Jeevansathi.com Match Point' at Main Market Road, in Malviya Nagar. In the next few weeks, Jeevansathi.com Match Points will be opened in Lajpat Nagar and Kamla Nagar.

On the initiative, Vivek Khare, Business Head, Jeevansathi.com said, "Jeevansathi.com Match Point, our retail initiative is an extension of our online matchmaking service. A lot of Indians are unable to use the internet services, either due to inaccessibility or limitation of computer knowledge. 'Jeevansathi.com Match Point' will take the ease of internet matrimony search beyond the existing users. Our first outlet in Delhi at Malviya Nagar is all geared up to provide our users with matchmaking services."

Anyone, looking for a prospective bride/groom can walk-in to a Jeevansathi.com Match Point. Our counsellors will provide personalised guidance on the bouquet of services on offer and help in finding the right profiles based on criteria given by the member as per age, religion, caste, profession, location etc. Registered members will subsequently receive the best matched profiles on a regular basis.

"Jeevansathi.com is a leader in matrimony in the Hindi speaking belt and Delhi is a primary market for us. Our database is well populated with users from these Northern states and equips us to provide our users with valuable matchmaking services," added Swapnil Tripathi, VP, Operations & Consumer Services, Info Edge (India) Ltd.

In the first phase, Jeevansathi.com is focusing on setting up Jeevansathi.com Match Points in the North and West India. In the next 6 months, 25-30 Jeevansathi.com Match Points are planned across India.

Apart from Jeevansathi.com, Info Edge (India) Ltd, India's largest internet company owns Naukri.com - India's no.1 job site, 99cres.com - India's no. 1 real estate portal, Quadrangle - an offline executive search firm, Asknaukri.com, a career guidance website, and Brijj.com, a professional networking site. Info Edge launched Shiksha.com, an education portal recently.

About Jeevansathi.com

Jeevansathi.com, India's fastest growing matrimonial site, provides online matrimonial classified services. It was acquired by Info Edge (India) Ltd in September 2004.

Sify Launches Roam Connect International in India

Sify Technologies Limited (NASDAQ National Market: SIFY), a leader in Consumer, Internet and Enterprise Services in India with global delivery capabilities, announced today the launch of its Roam Connect International service in India.

The Roam Connect International service, powered by leading enterprise mobility provider iPass (NASDAQ: IPAS), will enable Sify customers to access a global high-speed, reliable and secure wireless Broadband service when on the move. With Roam Connect International, customers will now be able to access their data from more than 100,000 broadband locations globally, including key business-centric venues such as airports, hotels, conference centers and retail venues.

Commenting on the launch of this new breakthrough service, Mr. P.J. Nath, Executive President, Sify Technologies Limited, said "Staying connected is a business imperative in today's competitive business environment. With Roam Connect International, real time access to data has become possible for decision making on the go. We are confident that our new service offering will increase management efficiency and response to customers in real time even when users are traveling. iPass is a global leader in mobile connectivity for the enterprise and we are happy to partner with them to launch this service in India. With this launch, our Connectivity portfolio has been further enhanced to meet evolving needs".

Speaking on the partnership, Chee Leng Loy, Managing Director for Asia, iPass said "India is an important market for iPass, and partnering with Sify was an obvious choice with its strong focus on the India enterprise space and its extensive sales network in the country. Working with Sify, we are confident that we will offer India's largest enterprises a leading, secure and on-demand global connectivity solution".

The iPassConnectT mobility manager software is available for notebooks and handheld devices and simplifies user access, whilst unifying global connectivity and streamlining management and support for the end user and IT department.

About Sify

Sify is among the largest Internet, network and e-Commerce services companies in India, offering end-to-end solutions with a comprehensive range of products delivered over a common Internet backbone infrastructure. This Internet backbone reaches 348 cities and towns in India. A significant part of the company's revenue is derived from Corporate Services, which include corporate connectivity, network and communications solutions, security, network management services, enterprise applications and hosting. A host of blue chip customers use Sify's corporate service offerings. Consumer services include broadband home access, dial up connectivity and the iWay cyber café chain across 164 cities and towns. Sify is recognized as an ISO 9001:2000 certified service provider for network operations, data center operations and customer support, and for provisioning of VPNs, Internet bandwidth, VoIP solutions and integrated security solutions, and BS7799 certified for Internet Data Center operations. Sify.com the consumer portal of Sify has sub portals like www.samachar.com, www.walletwatch.com, www.sifymax.com and www.chennailive.in, www.bangalorelive.in, www.mumbailive.in, www.hyderabadlive.in the city based live video on the web. The content is available in 5 Indian languages, which include Hindi, Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada and Tamil.

Climate experts put EU case to India on emissions trading

Top European Union experts on climate change briefed Indian scientists near Berlin Tuesday on an ambitious programme to "trade" carbon-dioxide emissions round the globe so as to cut the overall pollution level.

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, a leading German scientist who works from Potsdam, argued that India would be a beneficiary for decades on end from a fair scheme, since it could earn income by selling the valuable rights.

"But if nations like India or China simply copy the development pattern of Europe, the world will end up with an utterly different climate," Schellnhuber warned after the talks, attended by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

The Indian energy and climate experts travelled to Potsdam, near Berlin to hear more about the EU proposals. Barroso and scientists had a similar meeting in April in Beijing with Chinese scientists.

In carbon trading, rights to pollute are fairly distributed round the world. By freely buying and selling the rights internationally, those who cut emissions obtain a reward by selling their rights, whereas polluters feel the pain financially.

Schellnhuber admitted that factories in India or China, which refused to use modern low-carbon technology, would lose out.

"Companies that refuse to read the signs of the times will end up the losers," said Schellnhuber, who heads the Potsdam Institute for Climate-Impact Research PIK.

After the meeting Barroso opened a two-day meeting organized by PIK and the group Action for a Global Climate Community on ways for India to achieve sustainable economic development that brings prosperity without damaging the climate.

DPA

London mission says goodbye to snaking visa queues

The Indian High Commission in London - among the busiest of diplomatic missions - bids a cheery farewell Thursday to snaking queues, complaints of graft and grumpy customers surrounding its visa section.

For as of Thursday, the task of issuing visas to Britons wishing to visit India will be outsourced to the world's largest company handling such work - fittingly an Indian firm.

To many of the estimated half a million Britons who visit India every year, the move could not have come a day sooner - inefficiency at the Indian visa section in London is legendary, and a security staff was roughed up by an annoyed female applicant earlier this year.

Launching the first of five visa offices to be opened across Britain, India's new High Commissioner Shiv Shankar Mukherjee said Tuesday the new facilities would enable people to apply online and obtain a visa without even having to turn up at the offices.

"The person who needs to travel to India is the most important customer we have," Mukherjee said, describing the Indian mission in London as "easily the largest visa-issuing mission India has."

Offices are to be opened at two locations in central London, another in Southall - a London suburb with a large ethnic Indian population - and two more in the cities of Birmingham and Edinburgh.

The work will be handled by VFS Global, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the travel company Kuoni India handling 10 million visa applications for 23 missions in 42 countries.

Starting out with about 75 employees, the company will conduct a review later this year and open more offices if needed, an official said.

The application of new technologies means visa applications can be made online, paid for by credit cards and can be tracked at each stage of the process because they will be bar-coded, Mukherjee said.

"These should help remove hassles, apprehension and suspense," he added.

Other than the 500,000 visas that are granted to Britons, the High Commission's consular section also deals with another 110,000 applications from people with overseas Indian citizenship every year.

The offices will have longer opening hours than the Indian diplomatic mission and visas can be sent by mail, saving applicants from distant towns and cities time and money, said a VSF Global executive.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Vodafone's chief executive Arun Sarin to quit

Arun Sarin stunned the world of business Tuesday by announcing he is stepping down as chief executive of Vodafone after leading the world's largest mobile phone company to record profits during his five years at the helm.

Vodafone said the Indian-born Sarin, 53, who organised the single largest deal in the Indian telecom industry by helping his group acquire majority stake in the erswthile Hutch-Essar, will quit in July after five years at the helm.

Sarin, an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, is to be succeeded by Vittorio Colao, Vodafone's 46-year-old Deputy Chief Executive and head of European operations.

The announcement came as Vodafone unveiled a 5.7 percent rise in operating profits.

Full-year figures revealed adjusted operating profits of 10.1 billion pounds for the 12 months to March 31. Underlying pre-tax profits rose 2 percent to 8.93 billion pounds, according to the group.

Although rumours of an impending departure are said to have been circulating for at least a year, some analysts said the timing of his announcement shocked the City.

Although Vodafone gave no reason for the move, institutional investors voted against Sarin's re-election to the Vodafone board in 2006, opposing his strategy of overseas acquisitions.

However, with the latest figures to back him, Sarin indicated in a brief statement Tuesday that his strategy had succeeded.

"I feel that I have accomplished what I set out to achieve, particularly in developing and implementing a new strategy," he said.

"I am very proud of what Vodafone and its 71,000 people have achieved and the good momentum we have in the marketplace. I know that the business is in capable hands with Vittorio Colao. Having worked with him for many years I know that he has the experience and vision to take Vodafone on to future success," he added

Vodafone said Sarin will be "retiring" at the end of the company's annual general meeting July 29.

Vodafone Chairman Sir John Bond praised Sarin for having done "a tremendous job", particularly mentioning his spectacular acquisition of majority stake from Hutchison in its India telecom venture for an estimated $10.9 billion.

"He has led the company with distinction and navigated Vodafone through a period of rapid change. He has developed a new strategy for the business and significantly expanded our footprint in emerging markets. The acquisition in India was very well timed and executed. The Board has a great deal to thank him for," Bond said.

Sarin became chief executive in July 2003 and over the last five years led the company through a period of significant change, both strategic and organisational.

Under his leadership Vodafone developed and implemented a new strategy to become a "total communications company", which is already delivering results, Vodafone said.

As part of its strategy Vodafone also expanded into emerging markets including Romania, the Czech Republic, Turkey, and most recently, India.

In portfolio management, during this time the company disposed of its businesses in Japan and Sweden, together with interests in Switzerland and Belgium. In Europe the new strategy has delivered innovative products, improved revenue and significant cost reduction.

Sarin's tenure also saw Vodafone's global customer base more than double from 120 million to more than 260 million.

Returns to shareholders over this period were "very positive," with dividends increasing more than 400 percent, the company said.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Microsoft offers rebates to boost its search engine use

With its share of the Internet search market in steady decline and its pursuit of an alliance with Yahoo! in doubt, Microsoft is taking a new approach to jump-start its search engine by offering rebates to people who use it to find and buy products.

Microsoft executives said the programme, called Live Search cashback, is part of a plan to come up with new approaches to areas of the search business where they see opportunities to make inroads against Google.

The new programme focuses on searches for products to be bought online, which Microsoft executives said account for roughly a third of search queries and a majority of search advertising revenue, reported New York Times Thursday.

"This is a very big part of the $20 billion search market," said Microsoft chairman Bill Gates at an advertising conference. "Make no mistake, we are about having the best search, having the best results."

Some innovations in the business model of search, like Live Search cashback, "will help drive that", he said.

Live Search cashback is essentially a marketing effort by Microsoft to promote its search service, which lags far behind those of Google and Yahoo! in popularity. On Wednesday, research firm comScore reported that Google's share of all searches in the US grew again in April to 61.6 percent from 59.8 percent in March.

Google gained at the expense of Yahoo! and Microsoft, which experienced declines in search share - Yahoo! to 20.4 percent and Microsoft to 9.1 percent.

Google has put marketing dollars into some of its services, but it has managed to dominate in search while spending virtually no money to promote its search engine. The company declined to comment on the Microsoft announcement.

Microsoft said that 700 merchants offering over 10 million products have agreed to participate in the programme. They include Barnesandnoble.com, Circuit City, Foot Locker, Home Depot and Hewlett-Packard.

"It is a great opportunity for buyers who come to eBay," said Matt Ackley, eBay's vice president for Internet marketing and advertising. "And it is all about driving demand for our sellers."

In most cases, Microsoft will determine the amount of the rebate that shoppers will get. On a Samsung digital camera that costs $90 to $107, rebates range from two percent to five percent.

"Microsoft's issue is lack of consumer share," said Bryan Wiener, the chief executive of 360i, a digital marketing agency that specialises in Internet search.

"This is an interesting effort to try to motivate consumers to use Microsoft without cheapening the process.

"Will the incentives be enough?" he said. "Time will tell."

Ezeego ties up with redBus

ezeego1.com, the travel meta-search site, has tied up with redBus ( www.redBus.in ), the largest consolidator of bus operators (over 270) to provide bus bookings on a real-time basis on its site. Customers can now book bus tickets on more than 3,600 bus routes across the country.
Speaking on the launch, Ms Neelu Singh, COO, ezeego1.com said, "We have always been pioneers in introducing new services and in redBus we found a unique opportunity as it would provide our customers one more option for their travel needs."
Re-affirming redBus' partnership, Charan Padmaraju, Co-founder redBus, stated that, "redBus found great synergy with ezeego for launching the bus service on their website because we noticed that there are many customers who fly to a particular destination and then take a Volvo bus to cover the last leg due to the lack of airport facilities in some towns. This partnership is to add value to such customers and help them plan their entire trip in one go."

The unique aspect of redBus service is that it allows a passenger the flexibility in terms of choosing the type of bus (A/C, Volvo, non A/C or Sleeper), seat preference and pick-up and drop points.

About Ezeego1.com
Ezeego1.com, is one of its kind virtual travel market-place that offers all travel related services. On one hand are the suppliers i.e. the airlines, hotels, tour operators, transporters, insurance companies, the forex dealers and on the other are the customers, both B2B and B2C. The portal is a Travel Meta Search Site where the consumer gets real time information and transaction capability online. It uses the best technology platform in the Indian travel industry.
Ezeego1.com offers a real time web based booking engine which is seamlessly integrated to the mid and back office. It also employs a unique Single Window platform for multiple services, so one does not have to enter and exit different systems. It is the only reservation system that offers a dynamic packaging of all services with real-time inventory.
Ezeego1.com has strong online and offline fulfilment systems, different modes of delivery and collections, which help cater to the customer in any part of India. The portal has tied up with various payment gateway options.

About redBus
redBus ( www.redBus.in) is India's first and largest online bus tickets company. It has a national presence, with its headquarters at Bangalore. redBus can be accessed on www.redBus.in or at any of their 9 call centers in Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Pune, Vijayawada or Vizag.
Customers get the advantage of choosing their seats online, getting tickets home delivered for over 270 bus operators and over 3600 routes in the country.

Airtel launches smart phone with HTC Corporation

India's largest private mobile service provider Airtel Thursday announced its tie-up with Taiwan-based phone company HTC Corporation to offer a new smart phone which will have PC-like functionality.

The phone - HTC Touch Diamond - is priced at Rs.27,500 and will have a wide range of features like large scale mobile broadband application for seamless Internet browsing, Youtube application for watching video content and access to Airtel live for entertainment.

HTC chief executive officer Peter Chou told reporters here that its mobile phone has extremely rich features and "the users will feel the difference".

Currently, HTC has nine smart phones in the Indian market priced between Rs.11,500 to Rs.35,000. Globally, the company sells about 10 million hand sets annually.

The HTC Corporation plans to sell 1 million smart phones in India by 2009. The company has plans for two more India-specific models within the next six months, a company official said.

"The price would be less than Rs.10,000," said the official.

According to HTC, it sells its hand sets in India either as a stand-alone product or through an association with mobile operators.

Earlier, HTC had announced a tie-up with Reliance Communications for the sales of its CDMA hand sets in the country.

"We see India as the fastest growing market in Asia. Our sales in India in the second half of 2007 went up by nearly 300 percent," said the official.

Indo-Asian News Service

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Travelguru Rolls Out 'Travelguru Holidays' Stores

With the goal of making its market-leading range of hotels and holiday options available to a wider audience, Travelguru recently launched its first retail store, Travelguru Holidays, in Mumbai at Nirmal Lifestyle - Mumbai's popular mall in Mulund (West). Subsequently Travelguru Holidays has opened in Pune, Bangalore, Indore, Ahmedabad and Ludhiana .These one-stop travel shops meet all the travel needs of the customer at one go including hotels, holiday packages, flights and car rentals.

Speaking on the occasion, Amit Kapoor, AVP - Business Development, Travelguru said, "The primary goal of Travelguru Holidays is to reach out to customers who prefer to completely tailor their packages to their needs. We intend to bring the unique Travelguru experience, including India's largest range of hotels and holiday options, to these customers. It helps do two things -

-- Guide the customer through a differentiated holiday booking experience.

-- We build customer confidence in the products especially as high booking amounts are involved.

The experience and knowledge of our retail staff will give customers the ability to maximize their benefit from our network of over 72000 hotels globally."

"Since the inception of Travelguru Holidays we have witnessed a huge demand for domestic as well as international holidays. We intend to extend the Travelguru experience to all major and tier II cities by September end. The USP of our retail outlets is the vast reach along with the facility for real-time booking of all our hotels and flights. We find that our customers love the fact that they can immediately get their travel confirmation vouchers in hand." added Mr. Kapoor.

About Travelguru

Travelguru - India's largest hotel network - offers access to over 4000 hotels in India and over 72,000 hotels worldwide. It offers travelers the opportunity to plan and purchase their travel in a transparent, easy and customizable manner with instant bookings and confirmations. Strategic partnerships and deep supplier relationships give Travelguru the edge as an aggregator of travel services. Sorting hotels by user reviews and several other criteria are some of the distinctive value-added services. In December, 2007 Travelguru fully acquired Desiya.com - a company focused on hotel aggregation, distribution and technology to further strengthen the leadership position in hotel distribution. Travelguru facilitates a wide range of travel options and recommendations for domestic as well as international travelers. The Travelguru hotel advisors guide you to the most convenient place to stay including rates, amenities, landmarks and so on across India. It promotes properties from budget to luxury, single room to serviced apartment, business accommodation to leisure houseboat.

ASSOCHAM Announces 4th Global Telecom Summit 2008

After the successful edition of International Conference on Broadband - 2007 " Connecting the Unconnected, ASSOCHAM in partnership with the Department of Telecommunications, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Government of India is organizing "4th ASSOCHAM Global Telecom Summit" on Friday 23rd & Saturday 24th May, 2008 in Hotel Shangri-La, New Delhi.

The Summit aims to understand the emergence of new growth drivers that are revolutionizing the telecom sector in India and around the world. This Global Summit will offer an opportunity to telecom experts to exchange views on a host of issues concerning telecom industry such as the challenges for growth of telecom industry. The Summit focuses on "The Era of Next Generation Wireless Revolution: Business Models for Sustainable Growth."



Hon'ble Minister for Communications & IT, Shri A. Raja, will be the Chief Guest on the Inaugural day of the Summit and Hon'ble Minister of State for Communications & IT, Shri Jyotiraditya M. Scindia will grace the occasion as the Chief Guest on second day of the Summit.

Some of the keynote presentations and panel discussions that will be led by the best industry- renowned speakers on both the days:

May 23, 2008

-- Mr. Michael Kuehner, Country Head, Nokia Siemens Network

-- Mr. R. Sivakumar, MD South Asia, Intel Corporation

-- Mr. Harit Nagpal, CMO, Vodafone India

-- Mr. Naresh Ajwani, President, Sify

-- Mr. Prakash Bajpai, President, Reliance Communications

-- Mr. Ajay Gulati, Director, CISCO

May 24, 2008

-- Mr. Uday Gharpure, COO, L&T Infotech

-- Mr. Akhil Gupta, Country Head, Blackstone India

-- Mr. Subhendu Mohanty, Country Head- Home & Network Mobility Business, Motorola, India

-- Mr. Andreas Vourloumis, Lehman Brothers

-- Prof. David Salant, Columbia University

-- Mr. Manoj Dawane, CEO Mauj Mobile

The topics to be addressed at the Summit are as follows:

-- Service Provider Track

-- Telecom Silicon Track

-- Infrastructure /Equipment/Network Track

-- QOS & Security Track

-- M& A's/Consolidation and Investment Track

-- Application and Value Added Track

-- Regulatory and Economist Track

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ctrl S signs MoU with IBM for data centre marketing

Ctrl S Data Centers Ltd, pioneer in Tier IV data center in India, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with IBM for marketing data centres across India.

The MoU with IBM will give Ctrl S a national footprint, enabling the company to provide state-of-the-art data centre services to a wider customer base, said a statement issued here.

The customers of Ctrl S will now enjoy the benefits of having a single point of contact for all their data centre needs.

"We are committed to providing the country with data centre services of global standards and this strategic tie-up with IBM reinforces our vision to provide top class solutions to companies across the country," said Reddy, CMD of Ctrl S.

"We are positive of this partnership with Ctrl S where we can bring the best of innovation and highly secured data centre solutions," said Mukul Mathur, director (channels and marketing) of IBM India/South Asia.

Ctrl S Data Centers Ltd is promoted by the Rs.5 billion Pioneer Group along with IDBI and Och-Ziff, a New-York based global fund.

The group has interests in IT and property development, and has existing relationships with 20 of the top 100 organisations in India.

Ctrl S handles the Internet data centre business. The data centre serves large multinational customers that use the Internet as the predominant delivery medium.

L&T bags electrical projects worth Rs.6.35 bn in Gulf

Indian construction major Larsen and Toubro (L&T) has bagged four electrical projects worth Rs.6.35 billion (over $145 million) from the UAE and Oman in the Gulf region, the firm announced Tuesday.

Giving details of the projects, the company said two of these orders valued at Rs.5.21 billion were granted by Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority (ADWEA) for the construction and erection of five power sub-stations, including the laying of cables for power supply.

The project also includes the construction of civil buildings, complete with utilities such as air-conditioning, lighting and fire protection systems. The time frame for these projects has been put at 18 months from the day of execution.

Apart from these orders, L&T's subsidiary L&T (Oman) LLC at Muscat has bagged two orders valued at Rs.1.14 billion.

While one order is from the Oman Electricity and Transmission Company, the other is from the Muscat Electricity Distribution Company. Both the projects comprise the setting up and commissioning of power transformers and associated civil works within 10-13 months.

Mahindra & Mahindra may co-finance Pan Nalin's 'Buddha'

Automobile major Mahindra & Mahindra, which recently created a media fund, may co-finance Indian origin filmmaker Pan Nalin's next movie "Buddha".

"Nalin told a select gathering at the ongoing Cannes Film Festival that the film on Buddha would be financed by Mahindra & Mahindra in partnership with a North America-based distribution firm," a friend said.

The company, however, has not made any formal announcement regarding its association with the Gujarat-born director's latest venture.

Nalin, who has earlier made the critically-acclaimed "Samsara", said the movie would go on the floors in October and would be shot on locations in Southeast Asia, his friend added.

The film would project Lord Buddha not as a godly figure but would trace his life's journey in the context of the contemporary strife-torn world.

Nalin had told IANS last month that he would like to cast Amitabh Bachchan and Aishwariya Rai for the movie and that he had already had preliminary talks with them.

But the movie may now have an international cast, comprising mostly Hollywood stars, industry sources said.

Scripted by Tinker Lindsay, it will be produced under Pan Nalin's production banner Monsoon Films.

Dubai firm to invest $500 mn in Kashmir tourism

The UAE-based Pride Group Holdings has announced that it would invest over $500 million in the tourism sector of India's Jammu & Kashmir while enabling the creation of up to 2,500 jobs.

"We intend to launch four mega projects in Kashmir, with standards similar to those of the best hotels and resorts around the world," Pride chairman Musadiq Shah said in a statement after a meeting with Jammu & Kashmir's tourism secretary Naeem Akhtar.

"Our intention is to help revive Kashmir's tourism and hospitality industry and portray the region as a benchmark in global hospitality," said Shah, who originally hails from Kashmir.

The four mega projects would be launched in Srinagar, Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Tanmarg, according to the statement here.

"These properties will be operated in strategic partnership with renowned operators IL&FS and Colliers International," it said.

All the projects would offer five star levels of service and facilities.

The resort in Tanmarg would be the most high-end project, with Pride Group modeling it after the best ski resorts in Aspen, Colorado, the statement added.

The first of the projects would be ready by 2010.

"In addition to the investment factor, Pride Resorts will also contribute in creating up to 2,500 direct employment opportunities in the region and at least 10,000 indirect opportunities as a result," Shah said.

Thanking Pride Group for investing in India's northernmost state, Akhtar said: "The Jammu & Kashmir Tourism Department will forward all needed support for successful completion of the initiative taken by Pride Group Holdings."

Indo-Asian News Service

Corporate conventions aboard Kerala houseboat a hit

Companies tired of hosting their conventions in hotels have turned to a new option: a spacious air-conditioned houseboat floating on the Kerala backwaters.

The double-storey, 150-foot long and 16-foot wide Jala Samrat is a fully air-conditioned houseboat which can seat around 160 executives on the first floor and is fitted with state-of-the-art communication systems.

This floating convention centre, arguably the first of its kind, was inaugurated a year ago. It cost the Alappuzha-based Pulickattil Tourism Group around Rs.8 million.

"We have had an excellent business with several commercial banks, central public sector organisations and even foreign companies holding their meetings on board," said Tomy Pulickattil, who owns Jala Samrat and a dozen other houseboats.

"We are getting bookings for the coming months. We get more and more business through word of mouth. We are working out to see if we can build one more houseboat like this," said Pulickattil.

Last month, Jala Samrat hosted two central ministers, Parliamentary Affairs and Indian Overseas Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi and Steel, Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, who held meetings with officials attached to their ministries.

When Bahraini Labour Minister Majeed Al Alawi was here an official tour last month, he too held a meeting aboard Jala Samrat.

PricewaterhouseCoopers to launch India-Africa desk

Multinational assurance, tax and advisory services company PricewaterhouseCoopers will launch an India-Africa desk here Thursday in an effort to stimulate two-way foreign investments and joint ventures.

Project leader Troopti Naik said the international desk was being launched to facilitate business linkages and joint ventures between entities in India, South Africa and the rest of Africa, and vice-versa.

Naik said a comprehensive survey report on business between India and South Africa, to be released later this month, would feature interviews with the leaders of companies from both countries. It will also look at the business trends and assess the psyche of Indian companies wishing to do business with Africa.

Chief guests at the launch of the India-Africa Desk will be Indian High Commissioner Rajeev Bhatia and Durban's Deputy Mayor Logie Naidoo, who has been recognised for pioneering Durban's trade route to Chennai over the past 14 years.

Chief executive officers of leading brands, such as Tata Steel, Mahindra & Mahindra, Dunlop Apollo, SA Breweries, McDonald Steel, Sasol, Didata, and the J&J Group are also expected to attend.

Deepak Kapoor, Managing Partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers in India, will share his experience of technology, infocomm, entertainment and media practice in India.

Stanley Subramoney, PwC's Deputy Chief Executive Officer, who is piloting this ground-breaking public-private sector initiative, said: "At PricewaterhouseCoopers, we are very excited about the India Desk initiative and at growing its relevance and profile within the business community, both in South Africa and abroad.

"To ensure that it enjoys prominence in future, our intention is to associate the India Desk with significant, high-profile individuals so that this forward-looking project becomes viable, sustainable and serves to raise the bar on our economic and trade relations with one of the fastest growing world economies."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Citi Commits US$1.5 Million to ISB to Promote Financial Inclusion for Small Investors and Enterprises

Citi India today announced a three-year programme with the Hyderabad-based Indian School of Business (ISB) to study, develop and recommend measures that will promote financial inclusion and improve capital markets access for small investors and enterprises.

Citi Foundation is committed to provide a $1.5 million grant to the Centre for Analytical Finance (CAF) at the ISB, over a period of 3 years. Under the aegis of this grant, CAF will undertake projects on a range of subjects in the financial domain. The objective of this program is to support changes that will have a positive impact on emerging financial markets and participants, including small investors, SMEs and micro entrepreneurs. CAF will formulate recommendations to support regulators, practitioners, academics, and other opinion leaders to implement financial development in the country.

Announcing Citi's support for this partnership, Sanjay Nayar, CEO, Citi India, said, "While India is witnessing unprecedented levels of economic growth, two-thirds of our population is presently unconnected to the formal banking and financial system. Government, private organisations, NGOs and individuals have undertaken several initiatives recently to extend financial inclusion and to improve capital markets access for small investors and enterprises. There exists a definite need to understand the impact these initiatives are making and to identify key issues for stimulating dialogue amidst all relevant stakeholders to induce the next level of reforms to facilitate all-inclusive growth."

"With this research program, our longstanding relationship with ISB will be further strengthened. CAF is uniquely positioned to undertake this project as it has prior experience of doing quality work in this and other related areas," Mr. Nayar added.

Speaking on the need for detailed study in this area, M Rammohan Rao, Dean, ISB, said, "In spite of the Indian economy growing at a rate of 8%, the growth in rural areas is still low. We believe that there is a critical need to ramp up financial growth in rural areas to make the economic growth more robust and inclusive. We are happy to be associated with Citi for this programme which will allow ISB to contribute towards implementing inclusive financial developments in the country."

Using the grant support, CAF will organize several major projects, international conferences, workshops/lectures, and extensive dissemination of the project findings over the next three years.

"Our focus at the CAF is to research capital markets in emerging economies, especially India. We expect our project findings to provide help and support in creating a sound financial infrastructure for those markets, and facilitate reforms to increase their global competitiveness," explained Professor Sankar De, Executive Director, Centre for Analytical Finance (CAF) at the ISB.

CAF is the first research centre of its kind in India devoted exclusively to scholarly research in finance, and the second such centre in Asia. The CAF is supported by leading academicians, top executives from national and international financial institutions and acknowledged regulators and policy makers. Over the past few years, CAF has organised several high profile international conferences/workshops/lectures by leading academicians and industry leaders. It has associated with top B-Schools for collaborative research and is working on several strategic research projects.

In 2001, the Citi Foundation gave a grant of US$1 million to the Friends of the Indian School of Business Foundation to start an Endowment Fund. The Fund's earnings have been used by the ISB for scholarships to deserving students pursuing its one-year Post-Graduate Programme. This programme, known as the Citi Scholars Programme, has benefited 30 students to date.

ISB

The Indian School of Business is a premier management institution established in 2001. In a short span of seven years, the ISB has successfully pioneered several new trends in management education in India and has established itself as a leading B-school across the world. In both its Post Graduate Programme in Management and Executive Education Programmes, the ISB invites high caliber international faculty from reputed B-schools to teach and participate in collaborative research with the strong pool of research oriented, resident faculty at the ISB. The ISB has academic associations with the Kellogg School of Management, The Wharton School, and the London Business School and was recently ranked 20 among top 100 B-schools by Financial Times, London

Citi

Citi, the leading global financial services company, has some 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 100 countries, providing consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services, including consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, securities brokerage, and wealth management. Citi's major brand names include Citibank, CitiFinancial, Primerica, Smith Barney, Banamex, and Nikko. Additional information may be found at www.citigroup.com or www.citi.com.

Citi Foundation

The Citi Foundation is committed to enhancing economic opportunities for underserved individuals and families in the communities where we work throughout the world. Globally, the Citi Foundation is focusing its giving on Microfinance and Microentrepreneurship, which helps individuals become economically self-sufficient; Small and Growing Businesses, leading to economic expansion and job creation; Education, which prepares young people for personal and professional success; Financial Education, which helps individuals make informed financial decisions; and the Environment with a focus on sustainable enterprises that generate jobs and stimulate economic growth while preserving the environment. Additional information can be found at www.citigroupfoundation.org.

Cholamandalam DBS Launches Online Share trading - CholaDBS Direct.com

Cholamandalam DBS Finance Limited, a joint venture between the Rs. 9582 crore Murugappa Group and DBS Bank of Singapore, today announced the launch of CholaDBS Direct, an online investment portal aimed at retail investors and traders. The portal, www.choladbsdirect.com, is a financial gateway for first time as well as regular investors, helping them invest safely and securely across a wide variety of financial instruments online. The portal will initially also host most of the in house research that has been hitherto available to High Net worth Individuals (HNI) clients of the firm.

Speaking about the initiative, Mr. Atul Pande, Managing Director, Cholamandalam DBS said, "With the launch of CholaDBS Direct, we expect to gain a sizable market share in the online trading space. Our partner, DBS Vickers Securities, the securities arm of the DBS Group, is a strong online player, and we have integrated our domestic and international knowledge to ensure we present a very strong platform to Indian investors. With our strong focus on customer choice and transparency, we believe we can play a pivotal role in this industry over the next three to five years. The product would now be available across all our 90 existing wealth management branches across 46 cities."

"CholaDBS Direct's trading platform offers a very user friendly interface for both active traders as well as investors. More over, we are continually going to build around technologies that allow clients to experience online trading in a very different way. We have also priced it vey aggressively and are offering a 3-in-1 account in partnership with banks" said Mr. Sandip Raichura, Head Broking, Cholamandalam DBS. "The portal was being test marketed in some key locations over the past few months and the initial response suggested that the online community would continue to not only grow substantially but also force key players to bring strength and variety in their offering. Our client service standards would continually be ramped up to ensure we retain a large part of our investor base over the years", he added.

Cholamandalam DBS will also be looking at partnering with banks and other financial institutions to offer their customer base a range of white labeled retail products including personal loans and online broking through www.choladbsdirect.com.

About Cholamandalam DBS Finance Limited

Cholamandalam DBS is a joint venture between the Murugappa Group and DBS Bank of Singapore. The Company, along with its subsidiaries and affiliates offers individual and institutional customers a range of financial services such as, Personal Loans, Vehicle Finance, Home Equity Loans, Capital Market Finance, Corporate Finance, Mutual Funds, Securities Broking and Distribution of Investment and Insurance products. The Company's shares are listed on Bombay (BSE) and National (NSE) stock exchanges.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Technology Leaders 'Intel and Acer 'Announce the Smart Workplace Awards

The time has arrived to clear out those desks, tighten those ties and make way for a 'smarter' office as Intel and Acer announce the 'Smart Workplace Awards ' for those employee friendly organizations.
The awards aim to recognize organizations that empower their employees, increase their ability to stay connected through use of technology and make life easy for employees and customers. Technology can often intimidate and confuse employees. Acer and Intel together aim to reward the organizations that use the right blend of man and machine power to increase efficiency and boost their productivity.
"Acer is proud to sponsor the Acer-Intel Smart Workplace Awards" said W.S. Mukund, Managing Director, Acer India. "These awards recognize companies that empower their employees with technology keeping in pace with Acer's mission of breaking barriers between people and technology by empowering them with the latest in technology and design innovation. We wish all the companies the best and may the Smartest Workplace win"
The Awards are targeted at organizations across Delhi (NCR), Chandigarh, Mumbai, Pune and Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Coimbatore, Hyderabad and Cochin, Kolkata. Evaluation criteria are broadly based upon Technology infrastructure, Security & Mobility, Office infrastructure and Employee engagement.


"Using the right technology is one of the surest ways to boost productivity at work. Through the Smart Workplace Awards we hope to increase awareness and usage of the latest and most efficient technologies. We are pleased to partner with Acer in this initiative." said R Ravichandran, Director - Sales, Intel South Asia.

The Smart Workplace Awards will be given to a company that provides a holistic working environment for its employees. Winning an award of this caliber will not only increase product sales but will surely attract the best talent in the country.

Entries for the awards are categorized based on six verticals- financial services, industrial markets, consumer markets, infrastructure, information-communication-entertainment and other services. They are further divided according to the number of employees in the organization. While the focus is on the use of technology, the awards recognizes that an office doesn't just comprise smart gadgets and gizmos. An office being a second home is made by its people and it is also this 'human interest' that they would like to factor into their decision making. How technology actually increases the productivity of employees and in fact facilitates their work is also an area of focus.

To participate and register for the Smart Workplace Awards, log on to www.smartworkplaceawards.com. The selection will be done an eminent panel of jury appointed by Acer and Intel. The short listed companies based on their submissions will then be visited by the jury and the final winners will be declared at a glittering ceremony in July. Price Waterhouse Coopers will be evaluating the process of selection. Business Wire India is the official news wire.

National recognition for smart offices is now just a step away.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

BlackBerry unveils 'Bold' version, to hit market soon

To broaden its 14-million customer base, BlackBerry maker Research in Motion, based at Waterloo near here, Monday unveiled a new and sleeker version of the wireless device that is a style statement among professionals and corporates around the world.

Called the BlackBerry Bold, the new smartphone comes with a variety of new features. Labelled as model number 9000, it will be priced between $300 and $400 and hit the market this summer.

This will be the first BlackBerry to support tri-band HSDPA high-speed cellular networks around the world and feature integrated GPS, Wi-Fi and a set of multimedia capabilities, the company said in a statement Monday.
``The new BlackBerry Bold represents a tremendous step forward in business-grade smartphones and lives up to its name with incredible speed, power and functionality, all wrapped in a beautiful and confident design,'' company president and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis said.

Apart from the usual BlackBerry applications, including phone, email, messaging, and organizer and browser, the BlackBerry Bold will also feature 624 MHz mobile processor for quick downloading of email attachments, streaming video or rendering web pages, 128 MB Flash memory and one GB on-board storage memory.

``With this powerful new smartphone, users can even talk on the phone while sending and receiving email or accessing the web, and download Word, Excel or PowerPoint files and edit them directly on the handset using the preloaded DataViz Documents to Go suite,'' the company statement said.

Thanks to its high-resolution, ultra-bright display and its colour LCD fused to the undersurface of the lens, users will get vibrant and razor-sharp pictures, while videos play smoothly and web pages, documents, presentations and messages snap with exceptional quality and contrast, the company claimed.

The BlackBerry Bold will make on-the-go browsing a whole new experience, with the trackball mimicking a mouse, and making it easier to navigate sites or to zoom in on specific parts of a web page.

Users can also choose between the full desktop-style HTML content and layout or the mobile version. It also features a two-megapixel camera for video recording, built-in flash and 5x digital zoom.

The device will also allow users connectivity to protected wireless networks. With its enhanced media player, users can display pictures and slideshows quickly, play movies in full screen mode, and manage their music collection.

The BlackBerry has a customer base of about 14 million, mostly corporate executives and professionals who use it for sending secure wireless emails.

However, the Canadian giant in wireless connectivity, which operates in North America, Europe and Asia, says about a third of its subscribers are non-corporate types, including ordinary consumers. To woo this market, the company is launching new devices soon.

Dubai registers 163 percent growth in construction waste

With no let up in its building boom, construction and demolition waste generated in Dubai registered a record 163 percent growth last year over the previous year, WAM news agency reported Monday.

According to the annual report of Dubai municipality's Waste Management Department, a total of 27.7 million tones of construction waste were removed from various construction sites in the city in 2007. In 2006, it just 10.5 million tonnes.

The construction and demolition waste makes up 75 percent of the total solid waste generated in Dubai every year. Dubai municipality recycles some eight million tones of construction waste through a public-private joint venture initiated last year with the Al Rostamani Group. The plant is located in the Al Lusaily area of the city.

The volume of domestic solid waste generated in Dubai registers 163 percent growth in construction wasterose by 13.7 percent in 2007, as compared to 2006 with a total of 3.34 million tonnes.

The report said around 142,816 tones of agricultural waste were generated in Dubai last year, registering a 14 percent growth over the previous year. The total volume of liquid waste was 76,456 tonnes (mainly the drainage water carried from areas that are connected to the sewage network).

The report pointed out that Dubai municipality's endeavours to recycle various types of waste are yielding good results as the gap between the treated and non-treated waste is narrowing every year, even when the total volume of waste generated in the city is going up.

Last year, the municipality treated over 31 million tonnes of solid waste, 83 million gallons of liquid waste and 347 tonnes of hazardous waste.

Apart from the recycling plant for construction and demolition waste, the civic body has entered into several other joint ventures with groups like Tadweer, Zenath Group and Al Serkal Group to recycle domestic waste, medical waste and waste edible oil. These joint ventures are currently run on a BOOT (build, own, operate and transfer) basis.

Tadweer, which was opened in March 2006, treats a total of 4,000 tonnes of solid waste daily. Tadweer is one of the biggest investment projects in the region with an estimated cost of 500 million UAE dirhams (about $136 million).

Zenath Group, the recycling and waste management arm of ETA Star Group, is currently building UAE's largest and first vertical medical incinerator plant for safe treatment of medical waste. The incinerator, which will be located in Jebel Ali, close to the existing incinerator of the municipality, will have a treatment capacity of 20 tonnes per day and will be fully operational by the end of this year.

The project assumes significance, as Dubai Municipality handled 1,188 tonnes of medical waste in 2006, compared to the 579 tonnes in 2002.

By 2017, the total volume of medical waste is expected to reach 4,030 tonnes, mainly after the full-scale functioning of facilities such as the Dubai Health Care City, which will have nine hospitals, in addition to some 300 health care operators by the end of 2008.

At present, all medical wastes generated in Dubai are treated at the Jebel Ali Medical Waste Treatment Facility. Since 2001, the facility has been using a medical waste incinerator with a throughput capacity of 500 kg/hour.

Al Serkal Group's 10 million UAE dirhams waste treatment project in Al Awir is dedicated to recycling edible oil waste from hotels, restaurants and food processing factories.

The plant now has an optimum capacity to treat and process 50 cubic meters of grease and other wastes. In its second phase, the capacity will increase to 100 cubic meters.

Tata Chemicals launches JV with Irish firm

Tata Chemicals Ltd has launched a joint venture with Irish agri-products distribution firm Total Produce, the company announced Monday.

The new business to business (B2B) firm, Khet-Se Agripoduce India, will be involved in procurement, packaging and distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables. The JV started its services from Malerkotla, Punjab.

The firm intends to open its second distribution centre in Mumbai in six months.

Tata Chemicals managing director and the JV's chairman Homi Khusrokhan said the operations of the first centre will cater to the requirements of Ludhiana and Patiala where "the centre has the facility of sorting, grading and packing of all fresh produce".

Total Produce (corporate development) managing director Eugene Caulfield said Tata Chemicals has strong ties with the Indian agrarian sector and the new firm would be using the network of Tata Kisan Sansar distribution centres. "This will help Khet Se in having an advantage of procuring fresh agri-produce," he said.

Khet Se chief executive G.R. Goves said the firm will help farmers develop their skills and wants to partner with small retailers and help them in developing competencies.

Renault-Nissan, Bajaj form JV for small cars

India's Bajaj Auto Ltd will set up a join venture (JV) with the Renault-Nissan alliance to produce and market small cars - but priced higher than Tata Nano, the companies announced Monday.

While Bajaj Auto will hold 50 percent in the new entity, Renault and Nissan will share the balance equally.

The small cars will be produced at a new plant to be built in Chakan, Maharashtra. Sales will start in early 2011 in India, the companies said.

For Bajaj Auto, the project is important as Tata Nano will be a serious threat for its three wheeler business.

In another development, a Renault official told IANS that the Renault-Nissan joint venture, set up to manufacture mid-sized cars, has started levelling the ground at its plant near Chennai.

Bulk of the required 670 acres for the 400,000-unit capacity plant at Oragadum has been acquired, said the official, who wished not to be identified.

The company is expected to do the 'bhoomi puja' early next month and start commercial production during the first quarter of 2010.

RCom signs JV deal with Alcatel-Lucent

Reliance Communications Ltd (RCom), part of the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG), has entered into a joint venture with global telecom infrastructure provider Alcatel-Lucent to offer managed network services (MNS) to telecom service providers in the domestic domain.

"This JV is a leap forward in RCom vision as it will help in bettering the competition by lessening operating expenses without sacrificing network quality," said RCom head for managed services Sandeep Biswas.

Under the agreement, a new entity will be formed with Alcatel-Lucent having 67 percent operational control.

The JV will help RCom focus on telecom services while Alcatel-Lucent will look after the infrastructure.

"We will build on Alcatel-Lucent's existing operational and multi-vendor capabilities in India to drive this innovative business model, which is an unique partnership between a leading service provider and a leading vendor in telecom space," said Alcatel-Lucent India regional unit managing director Vivek Mohan.

RCom will spend $500 million over seven years for this service. By 2009-10, the new entity will have a workforce of 2,000, with a major chunk of RCom employees.

Hyatt Corp, Lanco group sign accord on Hyatt Hyderabad

Global Hyatt Corp Monday entered into an agreement with Lanco Hills Technology Park Ltd, part of the Lanco Group, for the management of the 400-room Grand Hyatt Hyderabad.
The Grand Hyatt Hyderabad is set to open in early 2011. It will be Hyatt's second hotel in Hyderabad, following Park Hyatt Hyderabad, which is scheduled to open in early 2010.
The hotel is part of a 100-acre township being developed by Lanco Hills in Manikonda. The project is located nearly 15 km away from the new international airport at Shamshabad.

"Hyderabad is an important global destination for information technology and life science research," said Hyatt Hotels and Resorts senior vice-president for real estate and development Ratnesh Verma.

"The opening of Grand Hyatt Hyderabad is part of Global Hyatt's initiative to expand its brand presence in India. We are particularly proud to be associated with this development, with an organisation like Lanco Group and we look forward to welcoming our loyal guests to Hyderabad," added Verma.

"This is a proud moment for us since this is our first venture in the hospitality segment," said Lanco Hills director and CEO S. Pochendar.

No flying from old Bangalore airport, says BIAL

The Bangalore International Airport Ltd (BIAL), the developer of Bangalore's new greenfield airport, has told the central government that it is not feasible to operate the new airport if the existing one remains functional.

Aviation Secretary Ashok Chawla said this to reporters Monday after holding talks with BIAL officials on some of the contentious issues like operations from the existing airport and the concessions agreement.

The Supreme Court had asked the BIAL to consider allowing smaller aircraft to use the existing airport at Bangalore. This, the court said, would help citizens, who might face problems reaching the new airport 40 km away from the city.

“The BIAL officials have told us that they would meet the Election Commission this month to ensure that they start their air operations from the new airport by the month end," Chawla said.

At present, elections to the Karnataka state assembly are taking place, binding all political parties and the state administration to the model code of conduct. Ther polls get over this month-end.

Earlier, the government conveyed the decision of the apex court to the BIAL. But BIAL maintained that it was not feasible for it to operate the new airport along with the existing airport. The government also said the company would have to compromise on the concession agreement.

According to the agreement, all commercial aviation activities at the existing airport should be ended once the new airport becomes functional.

The concession agreement allows BIAL to charge an airport user fee of Rs.675 on domestic travellers and Rs.955 on international travellers. But user groups have questioned this levy and filed a public interest litigation (PIL) with the Karnataka High Court.

Bahrain Air announces exciting introductory fares

Bahrain Air's maiden flight from Kerala will take off from Cochin International Airport to Bahrain May 26.
In a statement here Monday, the company announced it would operate services from Kochi three times a week throughout the summer season.
As an introductory offer, Bahrain Air announced fares starting from Rs.2,885 from Kochi to Bahrain, Dubai, Doha and Dammam.
This will be exclusive of taxes.

Bahrain Air operates a fleet of modern Airbus 320, with 12-seat capacity in premium class furnished with comfortable leather seats and ample legroom.

All passengers can look forward for a variety of in-flight entertainment options and will have the opportunity to buy a wide choice of duty-free items.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Lightspeed Venture Partners Closes $800 Million Fund VIII

Lightspeed Venture Partners, a leading global venture capital firm, announced today the closing of Lightspeed Venture Partners VIII, L.P. capitalized with $800 million of limited partner commitments, above the firm's target of $675 million. This closing brings Lightspeed's base of committed capital to over $2 billion.

"We are pleased by the strong response from our limited partners," said Barry Eggers, managing director. "The new fund will leverage our investment platform to support the creation of industry-leading companies in India, China, Israel and the US."

Lightspeed has a global investment platform. In India and China, Lightspeed is pursuing a balanced investment program encompassing early-stage technology companies as well as growth-stage companies in a range of product and service businesses. In India specifically, Lightspeed's investment interest is in technology-led opportunities, as well as in non-technology businesses stemming from the strong growth in domestic consumption and infrastructure investment. In the U.S. and Israel, Lightspeed will continue to focus on seed and early-stage companies primarily in information technology and cleantech markets.


"Lightspeed investment professionals have been investing internationally for over 10 years, and we expect to deploy substantial capital in India given the large number of high quality start-ups and growth companies here," observed Srini Vudayagiri, a managing director at Lightspeed.

The firm has an active seed program and a strong track record of working with both repeat entrepreneurs and first time CEOs to create successful companies in a variety of industry sectors.

Delhi Metro and Citibank Launch Co-Branded Transit Credit Card

-- Pioneering initiative enables ‘tap and go’ entry into Metro stations using this Credit card

-- Reward points earned on card convertible to free Metro miles

-- Discounts on shopping, restaurants, movie tickets, beauty treatments and more

Citibank India and the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) today announced the launch of India’s first co-branded, ‘2-in-1’ transit credit card, the Delhi Metro Citibank Credit Card. The first of its kind in India, the card combines the benefits of a Metro Smart Card with the advantages of a Citibank Credit Card, and will be available to customers from today.

This new product is a pioneering initiative introduced by DMRC and Citibank India, to offer enhanced value and convenience to Delhi’s residents. In addition to the exciting features of a Citibank credit card and the existing Metro Smart card, the Delhi Metro Citibank Credit Card is also unique in several other ways. The reward points accumulated on this card can be redeemed for free Metro rides, at the Citibank point-of-sale terminals, presently installed at Rajeev Chowk, Kashmere Gate, Barakhamba, Pitampura, Rajouri Garden and Dwarka Mor Metro Stations and soon to spread across other stations as well. Additionally, it offers double reward points for Metro spending and will not require the mandatory security deposit of Rs 50.

It is India’s first credit card that doubles as a contact-less access card for the Delhi Metro stations, allowing customers “tap and go” entry into DMRC stations. In addition to convenience, the Delhi Metro Citibank Credit card will offer several benefits, including exclusive shopping deals and discounts in Delhi and the NCR, fuel surcharge waivers at Indian Oil outlets and other privileges associated with a Citibank Credit Card. The special “Delhi Delights” feature of this card offers unique deals from some of the biggest brands in Delhi, including Dominos, Fun Cinemas, Nirula’s, Bercos, India Today and VLCC.

Launching the Delhi Metro Citibank Credit Card, Mr. Surath Chatterjee, Regional Head of Card Products, Citi Asia Pacific said; “As a global leader in the credit cards business, Citi has come to be known for its innovative card and banking products, internationally and across the Asia Pacific region. Citi has successfully launched similar products in New York and Singapore, both of which have been extremely well received. We expect to launch similar products in more countries in the next few months. This is a great product for our customers and it really helps them in their daily lives. We have worked closely with the DMRC to develop a customised offering for the Indian market and are sure that this product will be a success in India. With the launch of this unique transit credit card, Citi continues its tradition of pioneering innovations in Asia”.

Commenting on the partnership with Citi, DMRC Director, Operations, Mr. Raj Kumar added: “DMRC is always looking to improve the transit customer’s experience and we are delighted to partner with Citibank, to launch this unique offering. We believe this product is the next step in providing our travellers unmatched convenience and reduced waiting times by combining an efficient payment mechanism with the Metro experience.”

Also speaking on the occasion, Mr. P. S. Jayakumar, Country Business Manager, Global Consumer Group, Citi India, said: “By pioneering co-branding in India, Citibank has brought unmatched value to customers by partnering with the best organisations in their industries. We are delighted to partner with DMRC, which has made Metro the preferred mode of travelling in Delhi. With its innovative practices and strong customer focus, DMRC continues to drive change in the field of mass rapid transportation. As the Metro extends its operations further into Delhi and NCR, and with the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in 2010, the Delhi Metro Citibank Credit Card will fulfil the need of a world-class product for hassle free travel and shopping. Citibank is happy to leverage its global expertise in the transit segment, to bring world-class products to the customers of Delhi.”

Special Privileges on the Delhi Metro Citibank Credit Card:

Privileges on the ‘2-in-1’ Delhi Metro Citibank Credit Card

-- 10 per cent discount on travel fare paid with the ‘2-in-1’ card

-- 2 Reward Points for every Rs.100 spent on the Metro, 1 Reward Point for every Rs 100 spent elsewhere

-- Facility for converting all Reward Points into Metro Points for Free Metro Rides (at the POS terminal itself)

-- An International Credit Card: accepted at over 14 million merchant outlets, in association with Visa international, across the world

-- 2.5 per cent surcharge waiver on IOC petrol pumps

-- Access to 24 hr CitiPhone Banking services

-- Five free lifetime add-on cards

-- Delhi Delights – offers from the best brands of Delhi

About Delhi Metro Rail Corporation

The Delhi Metro began operations in Delhi in 2002. The first phase of the Metro Rail covers over 65 kms in Delhi. The Phase II of the project, which extends to South Delhi, Ghaziabad, Noida and Gurgaon will be completed by 2010 and will cover about 125 kms. DMRC is also one of the only three Metros in the world, which started making operational profits from day one. The Metro is also an eco-friendly, zero-emission mode of transportation.

Currently there are 0.65 million commuters travelling daily on the Metro Rail. The ridership is expected to reach a two million by 2010 as the network expands to cover South Delhi and NCR (National Capital Region).

About Citi

Citi, the leading global financial services company, has some 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 100 countries, providing consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services, including consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, securities brokerage, and wealth management. Major brand names under Citi's trademark red arc include Citibank, CitiFinancial, Primerica, Smith Barney and Banamex. Additional information may be found at www.citigroup.com or www.citi.com

No gas to spare, Dhaka tells Tata

Bangladesh has told India's Tata Group that it does not have gas to spare for the steel and fertiliser plants that form part of its $3 billion investment proposals. Instead, Tata should await the coal policy that is on the anvil.

Allen Roseling, executive director of Tata Sons, responded by saying Sunday: "If there is no gas, we cannot go ahead with our steel plant."

The situation would be the same for the fertiliser project that was to be fuelled by the gas, analysts noted, viewing the five-hour talks as a dampener on the biggest foreign investment proposals that Bangladesh has ever received.

The talks, which resumed after two years, produced "no answer", New Age newspaper said Monday.

The Indian conglomerate will review and study the resources situation in Bangladesh before making the final decision on investment, said Roseling.

The government side informed the Tata officials about the the country's depleting energy resources and said it was not possible now to supply 200 million cubic feet of gas daily as asked by the Indian conglomerate for its planned plants.

"We told them about the resource situation, gas scenario and coal policy (in the making), which would form the basis for our discussion," said Board of Investment (BOI) chief Kemal Odin Ahmed, who led the Bangladesh side at the talks.

Roseling, too, admitted that the country's gas reserve situation was not in a state that "the investor wanted it to be in", the report said.

The Tata group will now look at the planned coal policy that will determine the mining method - either underground or open-pit - and see whether enough coal would be made available for its proposed power plant.

Neither BoI chief nor the Tata executive confirmed when the next stage of negotiations would take place.

The Tata proposals worth $1.8 billion were first made in 2003 when its chief Ratan Tata visited Bangladesh.

They were hiked to $3 billion later with more projects envisaged as part of a larger effort to utilise Bangladesh's resources to speed up industrial development.

Indo-Asian News Service

This roadside eatery gets 7,000 foodies every day

US President George W. Bush's remark of the Indian middle class consuming more than ever before certainly seems to hold true at a busy highway eatery on the outskirts of Jalandhar city that attracts over 300 people an hour - or 7,000 every day!

Clients savour everything Indian, from makki di roti and sarson-da-saag to dal tadka to sleep-inducing lassi at Haveli, a private enterprise offering five-star comforts that has changed the way people look at roadside dhaba culture.

What's more, in a state where butter chicken and tandoori chicken find undisputed favour, the eatery has succeeded by serving only vegetarian food cooked in desi ghee.

It took Haveli owner Satish Jain, 39, just a bit of enterprise and a calculated risk in 2002 to tickle the Punjabi palate and create a brand name even as thousands of dhabas line up the highways and roads.

Haveli, which means a big, traditional bungalow, is not about 24x7 food alone. Located on one of the busiest roads in Punjab - the Ludhiana-Jalandhar-Amritsar national highway (NH) 1 - it is an example of the rich and even flamboyant Punjabi tradition and culture.

Right from the actual Tata truck parked inside the air-conditioned expanse of the restaurant here to traditional household items, agricultural tools and other simple things found in villages - the décor of Haveli takes people on a virtual tour through the heart of Punjab.

As if that is not enough, another section of the sprawling 23-acre complex, Rangla Punjab, is an even better depiction of the state's rich culture and tradition.

This section is a mini-village in itself with small shops offering drinking water to 'jyotshi' (astrologer) services, a wooden wheel, a chaupal, a stage for an evening show and even a bio-scope to attract visitors.

All buildings in the Haveli complex are built from the traditional "nanakshahi" bricks (small tiled bricks which are linked to the first Sikh guru, Nanak Dev), which were accumulated by Jain and his team from villages across Punjab. Some of the bricks used here are said to be nearly 100 years old.

It is not only the traditional ambience of the place but the distinct cleanliness and discipline that make it an attraction for motorists along the highway.

"We take proper care of every need of our customers. From the kitchen to the eating areas and even the toilets - everything is nothing less than a five-star facility. At the same time, we want people to get a feel of Punjab's rich heritage and good food. Our focus is on the quality of food and cleanliness," Haveli group's general manager Khalid Siddiqi told IANS here.

The restaurant is a mix and match of regular chairs and the more comfortable 'manjas' (rope cots) with round pillows. There are 'pidis' (small stools) as well. The walls and corners of the restaurant are adorned with traditional kites and colourful 'dors', 'pankhis' (hand-held fans), swords, shields, phulkari wall hangings and 'chulhas' (earthen stoves).

Food is served in traditional plates called 'thalis' while lassi comes in big brass glasses.

"We have been sending our staff to villages across Punjab to select and purchase traditional things from there," said Siddiqi.

Buoyed by the success of this enterprise, the Haveli group is setting up two similar ventures along NH-1 at Karnal in Haryana and Rajpura in Punjab.

Besides the main Haveli restaurant and Rangla Punjab, the complex offers a fort-theme based banquet that can accommodate nearly 3,000 people in its covered and open areas.

A Kapurthala town based non-resident Indian (NRI) groom flew into the banquet two years ago in a helicopter to take home his bride after their wedding here.

The nearly 500 staff members include traditional 'maharaj' cooks and waiters dressed in typical Punjabi lungi, kurta and half-jackets. They appear Punjabi but are drawn from all over India and even Nepal. The staff comes from Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and even Karnataka.

"I and four others came here five years ago from Karnataka. We love this place," a butler said.

It is not only the variety of vegetarian food available here that attracts people, especially the NRIs, but also the low price of the items.

Mercedes-Benz races on Indian roads

Luxury car manufacturer Mercedes-Benz India Private Ltd is confident that sales will hit an all-time record in India this year. The company has already sold more than 50 percent of its 2007 sales during the first four months of 2008.

"Between January-April 2008 we have sold 1,330 units - both locally made and imported - against 2,491 units sold in all of 2007," company managing director Wilfried Aulbur told IANS.

Bulk of the sales increase during the current year is attributed to the new C class model, of which the company sold 681 units against 779 units sold in all of 2007.

According to Aulbur, Mercedes-Benz has sold 221 S-Class models, 371 E-Class, 681 C-Class and 57 CBU in January-April 2008.

Last year, the company sold 411 S-Class models, 1,104 E-Class, 779 C-Class, 197 CBU, totalling 2,491 units, a growth of 18 percent over 2006.
"Our current year's target is to sell 3,000 cars," he added.
Aulbur added that there was a rising trend of young entrepreneurs, software professionals and successful businessmen opting for Mercedes-Benz.

"We have come up with attractive finance schemes for them so that they can afford to drive home a Mercedes-Benz," he said.

With demand for luxury cars set to pick up, Mercedes-Benz is setting up a new 5,000 units per annum plant in Chakan near Pune in Maharashtra. The capacity of its existing unit at Chikhali, near Pune is 4,000 units.

The new plant is expected to commence commercial production in 2009.

The company has discarded its old name DaimlerChrysler India and boosted its marketing strategies with the new name.

This was the first time the company registered four digit sales figures in a single quarter of a calendar year in Indian market.

In the January-March quarter, Mercedes Benz sold a total number of 1,094 units. The quarter also saw the company selling more than 100 S class vehicles.

On April 9, Mercedes-Benz rolled out the 20,000th locally produced car.

The size of the luxury car segment in India is put at 5,000 units a year. However, it is expected to grow with other players like BMW, Volvo and Audi joining the race.

Volvo Car India managing director Paul de Voijis said the company expected the luxury car market size to double by the end of this calendar year.

According to him, the company's target for the year is 500 units and it will increase its model line-up and the distribution network.

BMW, which expanded its Chennai plant's capacity by 1,300 units to 3,000 per year in 2007, is targeting sales of 2,000 units in 2008 against 1,387 units in the previous year.

Indo-Asian News Service
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