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RBI says India's growth could fall below 5.8% in 2012-13

The Reserve Bank of India on Monday said India's growth in 2012-13 was likely to fall below its baseline projection of 5.8 per cent and stressed that the balance of macroeconomic risks suggested that monetary policy needed to be calibrated in addressing growth risks as inflation turns sticky.
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The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today said India's growth in 2012-13 was likely to fall below its baseline projection of 5.8 per cent and stressed that the balance of macroeconomic risks suggested that monetary policy needed to be calibrated in addressing growth risks as inflation turns sticky.
 
In its Macroeconomic and Monetary Developments : Third Quarter Review 2012-13 released today, the RBI said that, however, output gap may start closing in 2013-14 although at a slow pace on the back of some revival in investment and consumption demand.
 
The document serves as a backdrop to the Third Quarter Review of Monetary Policy Statement 2012-13 to be announced tomorrow.
 
It said inflation was likely to moderate below the RBI's baseline projection of 7.5 per cent. "However, suppressed inflation continues to pose a significant risk to the inflation in 2013-14. As some of the risks materialises, inflation path may turn sticky," it said.
 
The review referred to various surveys showed that business confidence remained subdued. It said a survey sowed that forecasters outside the Reserve Bank anticipate growth to recover from 5.5 per cent in 2012-13 to 6.5 per cent in 2013-14. Average WPI inflation is expected to moderate from 7.5 per cent in 2012-13 to 7.0 per cent in 2013-14, it said.
 
On the global economic conditions, it said fiscal risks are likely to keep global recovery muted in 2013. While the immediate risk of the fiscal cliff in the US has been averted, risks to global growth emanating from euro area remain significant. There are some signs of growth bottoming out in Emerging Market and Developing Economies (EMDEs), it said.
 
"Growth slowdown in India continues with growth remaining below potential for the fifth successive quarter. Policy initiatives of the government are yet to show up fully or definitively in data. Revival may take some more time," it said.
 
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The review said rabi crop is expected to be normal despite deficient rains, but is unlikely to fully compensate for kharif deficiency. Sowing under rabi crop has been broadly the same as the level in the previous year.  
 
It said weak industrial performance is likely to persist. Subdued external demand and lack of reliable power supply amidst coal shortages are constraining capacity utilisation. Lead indicators of service sector and the Reserve Bank’s Service Sector Composite Indicator signal moderation.
 
The RBI said demand conditions remained tepid, with private consumption continuing to decelerate and with investment yet to recover.
 
"Investment intentions in new projects improved marginally in Q2 of 2012-13, but investment is held back by project delays. Coal supply issues facing power sectors are yet to be fully resolved. Road investments have stalled due to issues relating to environmental clearances, land acquisition and financial closures," it said.
 
"Quality of fiscal adjustment remains a concern, even as fiscal risks have reduced in 2012-13. Government is working towards achieving revised fiscal deficit target of 5.3 per cent of GDP by restricting both plan and non-plan expenditure during the last quarter of the year, even as significant shortfall in tax revenue is likely. 
 
"Increased public investment to crowd in private investment along with removal of structural impediments that is slowing private investment is needed to pull the economy out of the current slowdown," it said.
 
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The review said the widening current account deficit (CAD) had emerged as a major constraint in easing monetary policy. With the likelihood that CAD/GDP ratio may exceed 4 per cent of GDP for the second successive year in 2012-13, prudence is necessary while stimulating aggregate demand, it stressed.
 
"The CAD/GDP ratio reached its highest ever peak of 5.4 per cent of GDP in Q2 of 2012-13. Early indications are that it may increase further in Q3 of 2012-13. CAD has widened mainly due to worsening trade deficit," it said.
 
The RBI said that, since the start of 2012, it has worked towards easing monetary and liquidity conditions in a calibrated manner without jeopardising moderating inflation. With consequent moderation in inflation, the Reserve Bank took measures to combat tight liquidity conditions, it said.
 
The review said improved global liquidity and recent policy reforms have aided FII inflows, leading to a turnaround in equity markets and revival of the Initial Public Offering (IPO) market. 
 
It noted that headline inflation moderated in Q3 of 2012-13 with significant moderation of core inflation, but CPI inflation edged up to double digits. 
 
"Going forward, risks remain from suppressed inflation, pressure on food prices and high inflation expectations getting entrenched into the wage price spiral. The inflation path for 2013-14 could face downward rigidity," the RBI added.
 
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Mumbai Indians appoints John Wright as head coach

Mumbai Indians today announced the appointment of John Wright as the head coach ahead of the IPL 2013 season, while Robin Singh will continue to lend his services to the team.

One of the most highly regarded coaches of the game, Wright has to his credit successful stints as coach of the Indian team (2000-2005) as well as his home Black Caps.
 
During his time in India, Wright was instrumental in India’s rise up in the international table including finishing finalist in the 2003 World Cup. In the relatively brief period he had been in charge of the Black Caps, the Kiwis improved upon its performance reaching the semi-finals of the last World Cup.
 
Ms Nita Ambani of Mumbai Indians said, “It’s a great pleasure to have John on board with Mumbai Indians. John is immensely respected and I am sure his cricketing knowledge and experience will be of enormous help.”
 
Mumbai Indians is the Mumbai-based IPL franchise owned by IndiaWin Sports Pvt. Ltd, a group company of Reliance Industries Ltd, headed by Mukesh Ambani.
 
The team finished as a finalist in IPL 2010, a semi-finalist in IPL 2011 and followed it up with a scintillating performance to win the Champions League T20 trophy the same year.
 
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India’s forex reserves dips by $ 580.3 million to $ 295.672 billion

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India’s foreign exchange reserves dipped by $ 580.3 million to $ 295.672 billion in the week ended January 18, 2013 from $ 296.252 billion in the previous week, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has said.

In its weekly statistical supplement, the central bank said yesterday that foreign currency assets had declined by $ 646.8 million to $ 261.629 billion in the week. Foreign currency assets expressed in US dollar terms include the effect of appreciation or depreciation of non-US currencies such as the euro, pound and yen, held in the reserves, it said.

Gold reserves remained unchanged during the week at $ 27.220 billion, the bulletin said. Special drawing rights (SDS) were up by $ 2.3 million to $ 4435 billion.

The country’s reserve position in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) went up by $ 64.2 million to $ 2.388 billion, the bulletin added.

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What’s wrong with Apple?

Apple iPhone. Image courtesy Apple Inc.
Apple iPhone. Image courtesy Apple Inc.

For those of you who do not follow a company’s fortunes or are more interested in the particular product or service that it sells, this news around Apple Inc. may come as a huge surprise, although the stories have been hitting the headlines regularly for the last few days.

To begin with, Apple’s iPhone appeal is fading, to quote The Guardian’s headline today. Shocked? Better believe it. And because of this, Apple seems to be actively looking at China as a primary market. Even more shocked? Well, if Chinese companies can sell their products in the USA, why not the other way round, right?
 
Anyway, Apple released its quarterly results earlier this week, but I am not here to bore you with `the financials’. Hidden somewhere in that Excel sheet though was the fact that Apple products, especially the iPhone 5, are really not pulling in the big bucks anymore. Maybe that’s overstating it but it is a fact that many of the Apple products sales have dropped, or to put it in another way, the heart-pounding growth rate that once was associated with Apple seems to be over. Period.
 
Some analysts blame it on the overall downturn of the economy of the past few years, others say the products themselves no longer retain the exclusivity tag they once sported. The first hypothesis does not fly in the face of smartphone sales booming for all other major players, so also the Android operating system created by Google, vis-à-vis Apple’s iOS.
 
Apple reported no rise in profits and slightly missed revenue estimates, confirming Wall Street
fears that its period of hyper-growth may be nearing the end. As against an anticipated sale of 50 million iPhones, Apple sold 47.8 million over the Christmas quarter, a period which is dominated by festivities and shopping. What’s more, even its revenue growth was at 18 per cent, year-on-year, against below market expectation, and profits were flat as compared to the previous year’s, at US $13.1 billion. Even Mac machines this Christmas sold 18 per cent less than the 2011 Christmas.
 
Except for the US markets, Apple seems to be taking a hit every place else – Europe, Asia, Middle East. Guess who is eating into its market share? No guesses for that – Samsung. The one market where Apple did perform well – China, where sales increased 67 per cent to US $6.8bn.
 
Besides the fact that the results pushed Apple shares down, almost every analyst is of the opinion that the company needs to do something drastic to get back its impetus.
 
From here, where?
 
Apple needs to do two things straightaway. Launch an entirely new series of products, which can trump the ones by competitors like Samsung; the other is start selling even more competitively in China.
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The post launch buzz around the iPhone 5 is missing (you must have read one of my earlier columns on this website itself where I had predicted it not doing as well as its predecessors). The iPad, though doing well, (sales were nearly 23m, up on 15.4m) is facing some serious competition from other makers, and even the cheap Chinese ones. Everybody wants a cheap Tablet, and the iPad does not fall in that category.
 
Apple seems to have already started initiating a corrective course. The first was to introduce the iPad Mini to meet the cheap tablet competition, headon. Unfortunately, it has got the pricing wrong on that one. In India, it costs approx. Rs 22,000, and that’s not cheap if you compare it to others which sell at even sub-10,000 levels.
 
The other thing is Apple has quickly realised that China, with the highest number of Internet and smartphone users, provides it with just the market for its products.
 
Last week, in an interview to a Chinese news site, Sina Apple CEO Tim Cook had acknowledged this when he had said he expected China to overtake the US as the iPhone’s biggest market. Tim’s interview was in turn reported in the prestigious Financial Times of London.
 
But wait. The problem in China, for Apple that is, is that there are many local manufacturers, not to mention top brands like Lenovo and Huawei, which are already doing very well. Apple products, with their steep price tags, do not stand much of a chance in the long run, especially given the fact that the Chinese love buying the local, cheap stuff.
 
Like I said, something is cooking at Apple. Will it be a course correction in its products pricing, or the products themselves, remains to be seen.
 
Previous columns by Sorab Ghaswalla
Sorab Ghaswalla
Sorab Ghaswalla
Sorab Ghaswalla is a journalist with near three decades of experience and has worked in well-known Indian and international print and television media organizations such as The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, The Economic Times, The Indian Express, United News of India (UNI), The Gulf Today and India TV. He has founded a Knowledge Services firm called New Age Content Services LLP, that leverages on the inherent strengths of the digital world. He also edits the website, www.whatsnewonthenet.com.
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India's Sarthak Dasgupta among four winners of Sundance Institute-Mahindra awards

Sarthak Dasgupta and other winners of the 2013 Sundance Institute-Mahindra Global Filmmaking Awards
Sarthak Dasgupta and other winners of the 2013 Sundance Institute-Mahindra Global Filmmaking Awards

Sarthak Dasgupta from India, who directed The Music Teacher, is among the four winners of the 2013 Sundance Institute-Mahindra Global Filmmaking Awards in recognition and support of emerging independent filmmakers from around the world.

The other winning directors Jonas Carpignano from Italy-US for A Chjana; Aly Muritiba from Brazil for The Man Who Killed My Beloved Dead; and Vendela Vida and Eva Weber from the UK-Germany-US for Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name.
 
The awards were presented at a private ceremony at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, U.S.A., by Rohit Khattar, Chairman, Mumbai Mantra, Michelle Satter, Founding Director, Feature Film Program, Sundance Institute, and Paul Federbush, International Director, Feature Film Program, Sundance Institute.
 
"The Sundance Institute | Mahindra Global Filmmaking Awards are part of a multifaceted collaboration that exemplifies a commitment to and support of world cinema by the Mahindra Group, one of the largest industrial conglomerates in India known throughout the world for its dedication to excellence and to social responsibility, and the nonprofit Sundance Institute, one of the world’s leading cultural organizations," a press release from Mahindra said.
 
This is the third of the three-year collaboration between the two organizations, the release said.
 
“At a time when there is no dearth of issues around the world that are crying out to be heard, the Global Filmmaking award recognizes independent film-makers who give expression to those voices. The Mahindra Group is proud to assist the Sundance Institute in this endeavour, which, in line with the Group’s ‘Rise’ philosophy, aims to drive a positive change in communities across the world,” said the Chairman & Managing Director of the Mahindra Group, Anand Mahindra.
 
"We are grateful to the Mahindra Group for building with us, this multifaceted program, which embraces our joint global commitment to nurturing new storytellers and getting their voices out to the widest possible audiences," said Sundance Institute President and Founder Robert Redford.
 
Said Rohit Khattar, Chairman, Mumbai Mantra, “These are exciting times for Independent cinema in India and across the world. We feel privileged to help support Sundance Institute in its mission of nurturing and honing emerging talent. We congratulate this year’s four Award Winners and look forward to hearing much more about their incredible work in the future.”
 
Michelle Satter, Founding Director, Feature Film Program, Sundance Institute, and Paul
Federbrush, International Director, Feature Film Program, Sundance Institute, said, “As we
enter the third year of our collaboration with Mahindra, we are very excited about supporting
emerging international filmmakers who are telling stories that will resonate for audiences worldwide. The Award winners announced today represent filmmakers with singular vision and projects of quality and distinction. Sundance staff and advisors will continue to provide creative and business resources needed to get their films made at critical moments in their journey.”
 
The Sundance Institute | Mahindra Global Filmmaking Award Nomination Committee for the Indian Award winner included Anil Kapoor (Actor), Anjum Rajabali (Screenwriter, Film Professor), K. Hariharan (Film Academy Head), Ira Bhaskar (Film Professor), Rajkumar Hirani (Writer - Director), Ramesh Sippy (Director-Producer), Sharmila Tagore (Actor), Shabana Azmi (Actor-Activist) and Shyam Benegal (Director).
 
The Sundance Institute and Mahindra Group collaboration also includes the Mumbai Mantra -Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab in India, which provides an annual opportunity for eight screenwriters from India to develop their works under the guidance of accomplished international screenwriters in an environment that encourages storytelling at the highest level. 
 
The first Mumbai Mantra-Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab took place in March 2012 and was an overwhelming success. The distinguished group of 11 Creative Advisors included Guillermo Arriaga, Marcos Bernstein, Michael Goldenberg, Asif Kapadia, Kasi Lemmons, Jose Rivera, Howard A Rodman, Audrey Wells, Shekhar Kapur and Anjum Rajabali. The second edition will take place in March 2013 in India.
 
Each of the four winning filmmakers will receive a cash award of $10,000, attendance at the
Sundance Film Festival for targeted industry and creative meetings, year-round mentoring from Institute staff and creative advisors, participation in a Feature Film Program Lab, and ongoing creative and strategic support. This is the second year that one of the four award recipients is an Indian director.
 
Last year, the Indian recipient for the Global Filmmaking Award was Shonali Bose for her project, Margarita. With A Straw.
 
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Eight judges appointed to Bombay High Court

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The President has appointed Mr Justice Filomeno Manuel Lopo Sales Rosario Dos Reis, Mr  Justice Rajesh Govind Ketkar, Mr Justice Ravi Krishnarao Deshpande, Mr Justice Sanjay Vijaykumar Gangapurwala, Mr Justice Tanaji Vishwas Nalawade, Mr Justice Madatali Noormohammed Gilani and Mr Justice Madan Trymbak Joshi, Additional Judges of the High Court of Bombay, as Judges of that High Court.

The appointments, in that order of seniority, will be with effect from the date they assume charge of their office, an official press release said.
 
The President has also appointed Mr Justice Madanlal Laxmandas Tahaliyani, Additional Judge of the High Court of Bombay, as a Judge of that High Court with effect from February 26, 2013, the release added.
 
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L&T secures additional defence order for 18 interceptor boats

The first indigenously designed and constructed high speed interceptor boat delivered by Larsen & Toubro to the Indian Coast Guard at Porbandar on December 20, 2012.
The first indigenously designed and constructed high speed interceptor boat delivered by Larsen & Toubro to the Indian Coast Guard at Porbandar on December 20, 2012.

Infrastructure major Larsen & Toubro (L&T) today said it had received an additional order valued at Rs 447 crore from the Ministry of Defence for the construction of 18 high-speed interceptor boats for the Indian Coast Guard.

This follows the earlier contract, valued at Rs 977 crores, for 36 similar vessels, a press release from the $ 13.5 dollar company said here.
 
With this order, L&T is positioned as the foremost Indian shipyard in terms of capability to 
indigenously design and construct the largest number of interceptor boats for India’s 
Ministry of Defence, the release said.
 
Designed and constructed by L&T entirely through in-house capability, the first of these boats has already been delivered to the Coast Guard.
 
The boat is a "planing craft", capable of achieving speeds exceeding 40 knots. Built with a full aluminium-alloy light-weight hull, it is powered by a twin water-jet propulsion system to enable quick response - crucial for coastal surveillance. These boats are expected to significantly enhance India’s coastal security, the release added.
 
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Reliance Industries reports 24% rise in net profit in Q3 at Rs 5502 crore

Energy and petrochemicals major Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) today reported a 24 per cent rise in its net profit in the third quarter ended December 2012 to Rs 5,502 crore from Rs 4,440 crore in the same quarter of the previus year on the strength of higher yields from its petroleum refining and petrochemicals businesses.

The company said its turnover had increased by 10.1 per cent to Rs 96,307 crore in the third quarter from Rs 87,480 crore in the same quarter of the previous fiscal.
 
However, for the nine months ending December 2012, the company's net profits dipped by 2.5 per cent to Rs 15,414 crore from Rs 15,804 crore in the corresponding period of the previous year.
 
For the nine month period, RIL said its turnover increased by 12.9 per cent to Rs 284,500 crore, while exports had gone up by 14.6 per cent to Rs 179,581 crore. The gross refining margin for the period was $9/bbl, it said.
 
In the third quarter, turnover was up 3.3 per cent over the previous quarter to Rs 96,307 crore, while exports went up by 16.6 per cent to Rs 66,915 crore.
 
RIL Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh D Ambani said the company's performance had improved in the third quarter with margin expansion in petrochemicals and record earnings in the refining business.
 
"We are investing  over Rs 100,000 crore by expanding our petrochemical capacities and adding value to our refining business. These investments will secure a significant change in RIL’s earning capacity on commissioning of these projects. It will also provide employment opportunity for thousands of young Indians and support India’s economic growth," he said.
 
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Online Search is mutating

Image courtesy: Facebook
Image courtesy: Facebook
Social network Facebook’s new Search called Graph Search was the hot topic of discussion of the past few days. First was the anticipation as everybody and his dog waited to see what Facebook was going to announce on January 15. After all, anything and everything that these major online players – FB, Google and Apple – do becomes news.
 
Once the suspense was over, up next for debate was – (1) What exactly is Graph Search (2) Need Google worry?
 
Before I go on with the rest of this column, for those of you who have still not fully understood what the new Search by FB is, here’s an explanation: As all of us have realised, Facebook can no longer be confined within the definition of a social network. It’s grown to be more than that because of what its members have been doing since its inception many moons ago. I won’t go into the details here but ask readers to just try and digest this one nugget of information acknowledged by none other than the Chief Executive Officer of FB, Mark Zuckerberg himself. Over 300 billion photos have already been uploaded so far by the over 1 billion users around the world; and the figure is climbing.
 
Any organisation that’s sitting on such a huge data bank will be tempted to do something about it. FB already had components of Search before launching Graph Search; you could, for example, search for friends or people you know but are not connected to. So Graph Search is a mere culmination of a process that exists within the innards of the social networking site.
 
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In fact, that’s what Graph Search is all about. Eventually, this search will start covering everything on FB, from posts to applications, every tiny bit of data that exists within the servers of FB can be searched for by members. So once Graph Search is under full steam, a FB user can search for location-based details like the best Italian restaurants in Los Angeles (of course, the data would have already been inputted by some other FB users), the weather in April in New Delhi, and so on.
 
Now comes the crucial part. Graph Search is NOT web search or organic search (read Google search). As a precaution, just in case your query on Graph Search throws up nothing, FB has gone and tied up with Microsoft’s Search Engine Bing. This will then give you your answers.
 
And so we come to the next question – should Google be afraid of Graph Search? I sense it’s too early in the day to answer that question. But here’s a thing – there are already early signs that organic search, as we know it, has become “old”. Online users now want search to be more sophisticated.
 
Coincidentally, barely a week before the launch of Graph Search, online monitoring agency
comScore released a report that made search engines sit up. It said its research had shown that the total core organic desktop search was down on a year over year basis for the fourth straight month in December 2012. Now how’s that! Imagine. Clearly, not as many people are using search engines as they were a year ago.
 
So have people become wiser, cleverer or plain lazy. The answer is that online search is getting to be more vertical, just like Graph Search. In layman’s terms, users are no longer content getting random answers based on a few keywords they have put in to get replies to their questions. They want search to get more specific.
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To cater to this new segment, there are many applications out there that provide you vertical
search. I shall illustrate with example. Let’s say you are hungry right now and feel like calling for a Chinese takeaway. Say you are located in Karol Bagh, New Delhi, and want to know the takeout joints in your area. One way of doing it would be keying in the keywords – Chinese + Karol Bagh, in your organic search engine, and then leave it to the gods of search to throw up the results. You may get your answer finally but perhaps after scanning through a multitude of web pages.
 
This is where vertical search engines come in. Let’s say you have an application on your smartphone that caters to just eateries around the world. You key in the same search terms here and the chances are high (as compared to an organic search engine) that you will hit pay dirt almost immediately. That’s what vertical search engines do.
 
Again, coincidentally, two days before FB announced Graph Search, my website wrote of a new smartphone app called Grokr, which does exactly what Graph Search does, and more. If you have Grokr on your phone, be it where you are located, you can check out the traffic and weather conditions in your locality, the locations of cinema halls, museums, and even restaurants serving specialised cuisine.
 
So here we are. Search is increasingly going from global to local. Just like news. It’s getting more intelligent. And search is also finally factoring in the one most crucial element – you, the individual.
 
Previous columns by Sorab Ghaswalla
Sorab Ghaswalla
Sorab Ghaswalla
Sorab Ghaswalla is a journalist with near three decades of experience and has worked in well-known Indian and international print and television media organizations such as The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, The Economic Times, The Indian Express, United News of India (UNI), The Gulf Today and India TV.
 
He has founded a Knowledge Services firm called New Age Content Services LLP, that leverages on the inherent strengths of the digital world. He also edits the website, www.whatsnewonthenet.com.
 
You can write to him at newagecontent@gmail.com
 
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Hilton opens first leisure property in India near Mumbai

Hilton Hotels & Resorts, the flagship brand of Hilton Worldwide, today announced the opening of Hilton Shillim Estate Retreat & Spa, near Mumbai, its first leisure property in India.

Operated by Hilton Worldwide and owned by Writer Lifestyle Pvt. Ltd., the retreat is nestled in the landscape of the Sahyadri mountain range in the Western Ghats. 
 
Located approximately 100 km or 30-minute helicopter ride from Mumbai and 80 km from Pune, the property is spread across 320 acres within the 3,500-acre private Shillim Estate. 
 
A press release from Hilton said the retreat features ecologically designed all-villa accommodation with butler service, extensive dining options, one of the largest wine cellars in India and among the largest and most comprehensive spa facilities in Asia that encompasses 70 acres and offers more than 150 treatments. 
 
"The retreat is designed, built and operated with sustainability as its core commitment," the release said.
 
With the opening of the retreat, Hilton Worldwide has extended its Hilton Resorts portfolio to 80 resorts across 29 countries.
 
“Hilton Shillim Estate Retreat & Spa is an exceptional addition to our fast growing portfolio in India. Given the facilities and services on offer, we expect the property to become the favorite gateway for guests travelling on leisure in the region. We now operate 11 hotels in the country and, at the current pace of rapid growth, we hope to increase our portfolio to 50 hotels in the next five years," Martin Rinck, president, Asia Pacific, Hilton Worldwide, said.
 
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The 99 villas at the retreat, set amidst rice fields, bamboo plantations and virgin forests, feature private decks or balconies, dedicated treatment areas and valley or forest views. The Spa Pool Villas and Presidential Pool Villas additionally include private gardens and swimming pools.
 
The six exciting on-site restaurant, bar and lounge venues primarily utilise organic and locally sourced ingredients.
 
The Shilim Spa has dedicated spa villas, treatment suites, consultation rooms, relaxation terraces, a Yoga Pavilion, Meditation Cave, a spa restaurant, an outdoor heated spa pool, conventional and infrared saunas, steam, outdoor hot tubs and hydrotherapy tubs. 
 
Recreational opportunities include yoga, meditation, and cooking, dance, music and pottery classes as well as treks, picnics, mountain-biking, horse-riding, fishing and excursions to the nearby Maratha forts of Tungi, Tikona, Lohgad and Visapur and ancient Buddhist rock caves of Karla and Bhaja.
 
“The opening of Hilton Shillim Estate Retreat & Spa is a significant milestone in our expansion. Not only is it our first leisure property in India, it is a very unique addition to the brand’s global portfolio. With this launch, we now operate five hotels in India. The other brand hotels in the country include Hilton New Delhi/Janakpuri, Hilton Mumbai International Airport, Hilton Chennai and Hilton New Delhi-Noida-Mayur Vihar”, said Rob Palleschi, senior vice president and global head, Hilton Hotels & Resorts.
 
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CG signs MoU with Gujarat govt. to set up manufacturing facility in state

Power transformer manufacturers Crompton Greaves (CG) today said it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Gujarat government to set up a state-of-the-art manufacturing unit in the state.

The plant will manufacture power transformers and reactors upto 1200 kV for both domestic and international markets, the company said in a press release said.
 
The MoU was signed between Chief Executive Officer & Managing Director, CG, Mr. Laurent Demortier and Mr G I Desai, Joint Industries Commissioner, Government of Gujarat.
 
This will be CG's second manufacturing facility in Gujarat, the first one being its modern lighting factory, operational since August 16, 1994, the release said.
 
Mr Jayant Kulkarni Executive Vice President & President, Power Business, CG said, "As a global enterprise, CG actively supports initiatives that encourage global power generation, transmission & distribution in the electric grid systems. Furthermore we distinguish Gujarat for its conducive, stable & sustainable business enabling climate for robust industrial growth."
 
Mr. Demortier said, " I laud Mr. Narendra Modi's commendable leadership and vision in bringing global and local inclusiveness in the country's economic progress. We thank the Government of Gujarat for reposing trust in our capabilities. Our state-of-the-art power equipment ensures highly reliable transmission systems which will help meet the ever-rising demand for power and enable further economic growth in the country."
 
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RBI introduces swap facility for expansion of export credit in foreign currency

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In order to enhance the flow of credit to the export sector, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has introduced a US Dollar-Rupee swap facility to support incremental Pre-shipment Export Credit in Foreign Currency (PCFC) by banks. 

Scheduled banks (excluding Regional Rural Banks (RRBs)) will have the option to access rupee refinance to the extent of the swap with the Reserve Bank under a special export credit refinance facility, a press release from the RBI said here yesterday.
 
It said the swap facility will be available to scheduled banks (excluding RRBs) from January 21, 2013 till June 28, 2013 for fixed tenor of 3/6 months. During any particular month, the maximum amount of US dollars that banks would be eligible to avail of from the Reserve Bank through swaps would be equal to the incremental PCFC disbursed with reference to a base date (November 30, 2012), subject to a limit. 
 
The limits would be communicated to eligible individual banks separately. The limits would be reviewed periodically based on actual utilisation and other relevant factors. The overall cap for the banking system works out to US $ 6.5 billion, the release said.
 
Under the swap arrangement, a bank can buy US Dollars up to its eligible swap limit from the Reserve Bank and simultaneously sell the same amount of US Dollars forward as per the term of the swap at the prevailing market rates for swaps of similar tenor. At the end of the swap term, the bank will exchange with the Reserve Bank, the US Dollars against the rupees. The Reserve Bank’s decision regarding the pricing of the swap shall be final and no request for any modification/revision to the same would be entertained.
 
The swap facility will be operationalised by the Financial Markets Department of the Reserve Bank at Mumbai. Depending upon the prevailing market conditions, and other relevant factors, the Reserve Bank would exercise the right to decide on the day of operation, the number of banks that can avail of the facility on any particular day, the maximum amount of swap that the Reserve Bank would undertake with the banks on any particular day and the maximum quantum of swap that each bank can do on any particular day.
 
The new facility comes into effect on January 21, 2013. Eligible banks can approach the Financial Markets Department by e-mail with their request for US Dollar swaps indicating the amount of US Dollars and tenor (3 month or 6 month).
 
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Urjit Patel takes over as Deputy Governor of RBI

Urjit Patel
Urjit Patel

Economist Urjit Patel took over yesterday as the Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) after he was appointed to the post for a period of three years from January 11, 2013.

Dr Patel, 49, has joined the central bank in place of Subir Gokarn, whose tenure as Deputy Governor ended on December 31.
 
He will be the fourth Deputy Governor, the other three being Dr. K. C. Chakrabarty, Mr Anand Sinha and Mr Harun R. Khan.
 
Prior to this appointment, Dr. Patel was Adviser (Energy & Infrastructure), The Boston Consulting Group.
 
Born on October 28, 1963, Dr. Patel is a Ph.D. (Economics) from Yale University (1990) and M. Phil. from Oxford (1986). He has been a non-resident Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution since 2009.
 
Dr. Patel was with International Monetary Fund (IMF) between 1990 and 1995 and worked on the U.S., India, Bahamas and Myanmar desks. He was on deputation (1996-1997) from the IMF to the Reserve Bank of India and provided advice on development of the debt market, banking sector reforms, pension fund reforms, real exchange rate targeting and evolution of the foreign exchange market. 
 
He was a consultant (1998-2001) to the Ministry of Finance, Department of Economic Affairs, New Delhi.
 
Some of his previous assignments include as President (Business Development), Reliance Industries Limited, Executive Director and Member of the Management Committee, Infrastructure Development Finance Company Limited (IDFC) (1997-2006), Member of the Integrated Energy Policy Committee of the Government of India (2004-2006), and Member of the Board, Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation Limited.
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Between 2000 and 2004, Dr. Patel worked closely with several central and state government high level committees, such as, Task Force on Direct Taxes, Ministry of Finance, Government of India, Advisory Committee (on Research Projects and Market Studies), Competition Commission of India, secretariat for the Prime Minister’s Task Force on Infrastructure, Group of Ministers on Telecom Matters, Committee on Civil Aviation Reforms, Ministry of Power’s Expert Group on State Electricity Boards and High Level Expert Group for Reviewing the Civil & Defence Services Pension System, Government of India.
 
Dr. Patel has authored technical publications, papers and comments in the areas of Indian macroeconomics, public finance, infrastructure, financial intermediation, international trade and the economics of climate change.
 
A press release from RBI said that, consequent to Dr Patel's appointment, the portfolios of Deputy Governors had been reallocated.
 
Dr Patel will look after, among other functions, monetary policy, financial markets, economic and statistical research and communication in the Reserve Bank.
 
The reallocated portfolios of the Deputy Governors are:
 
Dr. Chakrabarty: Customer Service Department, Department of Banking Supervision, Department of Currency Management, Financial Stability Unit, Human Resource Management Department, Rural Planning & Credit Department, Secretary's Department and Co-ordination Work.
 
Mr Sinha: Department of Banking Operations & Development, Department of Expenditure & Budgetary Control, Department of Information Technology, Department of Non-Banking Supervision, Legal Department, Premises Department, Urban Banks Department and Risk Monitoring Department.
 
Mr Khan: Central Security Cell, Department of External Investments & Operations, Department of Government and Bank Accounts, Department of Payment & Settlement Systems, Foreign Exchange Department, Internal Debt Management Department and Inspection Department.
 
Dr. Patel: Department of Communication, Department of Economic Policy and Research, Department of Statistics and Information Management, Monetary Policy Department, Financial Markets Department, Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation, Rajbhasha Department and Right to Information Division.
 
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Reliance Life Insurance appoints Anup Rau as new CEO

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Reliance Life Insurance Company (RLIC), a part of Reliance Capital, today said its Board of Directors had appointed Mr Anup Rau as the new CEO of the company, subject to the approval of the Insurance Regulatory & Development Authority (IRDA).

Mr Rau will succeed Mr. Malay Ghosh, President and Executive Director, Reliance Life Insurance, a press release from the company said.
 
 “Mr Malay Ghosh has played a pivotal role in building the company in challenging times. He also played a key role in forging our relationship with Nippon Life Insurance, the largest private life insurer in Japan, as a strategic partner in the company. He will continue to guide the company as a member on the Board,” said Mr. Sam Ghosh, CEO, Reliance Capital.
 
“I am happy to announce the appointment of Mr. Anup Rau as the new CEO of Reliance Life Insurance with immediate effect. Mr. Rau has extensive experience in the Indian life insurance industry and we look to strengthen our leadership position in the life insurance business with him at the helm”, he said. Mr Rau will also be on the Board of Reliance Life Insurance.
 
Mr. Rau, 39, has joined RLIC from HDFC Life Insurance and brings with him over 17 years of industry experience. As the Head of Sales and Distribution in HDFC Life he was responsible for managing Sales Commercials, Distribution Operations and Sales Support.
 
RLIC is one of India’s top private sector life insurance companies with business premium, including renewal premium, of over Rs. 5,498 crore for the year ended 31st March 2012.
 
The company has sold over 1 million policies during 2011-12 and has assets under management of more than Rs 18,700 crore (as on 31st March 2012).
 
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Use your mind to control devices, track lost luggage: gadgets galore at the CES

Image courtesy: InteraXon
The Muse. Image courtesy: InteraXon

While net surfing these days, you may have often come across the acronym – CES. If you did not dig deep, and if you are a digital world aficionado, you don’t know what you are missing (I would say even if you are not a tech-freak, you could do well by reading up on CES). 

The international Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2013 has started, and at the time of the writing of this column, we are right in the midst of it.
 
Actually, the CES has grown far beyond the world of electronics; it’s become a venue where almost anything goes – electronics, hardware, software, and then the downright bizarre. 
 
Technology across all sectors virtually – from consumer goods to health to gaming to cars. Held in Los Angeles, USA, since the late 1960s, this is the event to go to if (a) you are an electronics/ IT/tech company (b) if you are a consumer (c) if you are a retailer (d) if you are into tech research (e) if you are simply plain nuts about everything D (digital).
 
The International CES is owned by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), a trade association promoting growth in the US $195 billion U.S. consumer electronics industry. It has over 2,000 companies as its members including those that are into legislative advocacy, market research, technical training and education, industry promotion, standards development and the fostering of business and strategic relationships.
 
So what if you can’t fly all the way to LA, there are thousands of websites and new sites that track developments at the CES, every minute. I have been reporting on some unique products that will surface at the on-going CES 2013 on my blog Always Above The Fold, for example. And believe you me when I say this, I am not using the word ‘unique’ loosely here.
 
The CES is a place where companies launch their products after years, even decades of research and development. Most are on the cutting edge of technology, and will disrupt our day to day lives in the years to come. That’s what makes the CES so special.
 
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Everything about the CES is big. Take the 2013 edition that started on January 8. There are more than 3,250 exhibitors across 1.9 million net square feet of exhibit space, and over 20,000 products will be launching during the five days of the exhibition. Over 350,000 people would have gone through its four gigantic exhibition halls by the end of those five days.
 
Big or small, every company in the digital world, from Samsung to LG to Razer to the smaller ones have set up stalls at the CES or launch their products from this platform. Why? Because it means instant publicity around the world.
 
So what’s up at the CES 2013? Obviously I can’t report on all the 20,000 products but I can certainly talk of a few that have grabbed my attention, to tantalise you enough to go look for more yourself, what say mate?
 
‘Read your brain’ headband
 
This gadget is mind blowing (sorry for the pun). And the guys behind this gadget drew my personal attention to it, thank god for that or I would have missed it in the clutter.
 
InteraXon is a Toronto, Canada based tech company that has shown off the Muse, described as a “Brain Sensing Headband”, at the CES in the Digital Health Zone.
 
What does this gadget do? Eventually, it will help control all your devices with your mind, that’s what.
 
It's a sleek, four-sensor headband that seems right out of a Star Trek movie, and for now allows you to control games, reduce stress and improve memory and concentration.
 
Muse measures your brainwaves in real-time. It sends those brainwaves to your smart phone or tablet showing you how well your brain is performing; and also translates your brainwaves into instructions to interact with content on your iOS or Android device.
 
Track your luggage
 
A company called GlobaTrac is hoping to literally cash in on the fact that airlines are regularly misplacing passenger luggage.
 
GlobaTrac, based in Los Angeles, is showing off the Trakdot at the CES 2013. This is a small, battery-powered device that sits in your suitcase and tracks your luggage. The device works using GSM and sends messages directly to your cell phone. So if you're flying to New York but your luggage instead makes its way to New Delhi, you'll get a message on your phone telling you what has happened.
 
One gigantic, flat TV
 
Both, Samsung and Panasonic showcased their plasma TVs this year. Panasonic showboated its TC-PZT60 series, available in, hold your breath, two sizes: 65 and 60 inches.
 
The company said this flagship product has the thinnest gas layer yet seen in any Plasma TV, which the company says will remove dim and double images. There's a newly developed red phosphor, and it offers faster switching than ever, THX certification for both 2D and 3D, and improved 3D performance.
 
Spectacles go ‘Smart’
 
The Vuzix M100 Smart Glasses is a wearable Bluetooth/Wi-Fi headpiece with a built-in HD camera and movable eyepiece display. These run on Android and later also on the Apple iOS and be available by summer 2013.
 
Previous columns by Sorab Ghaswalla
Sorab Ghaswalla
Sorab Ghaswalla
Sorab Ghaswalla is a journalist with near three decades of experience and has worked in well-known Indian and international print and television media organizations such as The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, The Economic Times, The Indian Express, United News of India (UNI), The Gulf Today and India TV.
 
He has founded a Knowledge Services firm called New Age Content Services LLP, that leverages on the inherent strengths of the digital world. He also edits the website, www.whatsnewonthenet.com.
 
You can write to him at newagecontent@gmail.com
 
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Coming in 2013: New iPhone, flexi-screens & new Xbox Gaming system

Image courtesy: Microsoft Corporation
Image courtesy: Microsoft Corporation

Today, I shall talk of all the new things that may be introduced in the digital world in 2013. It’s been less than a week into the new year but there’s already a buzz around the new things to come, some in the range of speculation, others confirmed.

I think this year will see hardware taking a major leap ahead. Don’t be surprised if, by the end of the year, you find the displays of your smartphones or tablets suddenly turning into flexible ones. Mould them to the shape of your wrists or twist them anyway you want. The world has already seen some early prototypes, work on this front has been on for 20 years now, but if things pan out according to plan, 2013 might well turn out to be the year which will see the start of the commercial production of flexi-screen display products.
 
Basically, flexi-screens are not made out of glass, the traditional material used in all display screens, but out of a certain type of plastic. Embedded in between are the film transistors and other tech stuff that make the display functional. There are many advantages to such flexi-displays – it will make the devices slimmer, lighter, more user-friendly, less prone to scratches and breakages….the list is long.
 
By all reports coming in, electronic giant Samsung may well become the first kid off the block on the commercial production of devices with flex-displays, although almost all the major electronic companies are competing in this race. Samsung has already showcased prototypes last year. It now promises to show off some more such products at the global Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2013, coming up soon. I am told that the first product that Samsung may introduce with a flexi-display could well be the Samsung Galaxy S4.
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A new iPhone and iOS coming?
 
While Samsung goes about its business comes news that could gladden the hearts of Apple product lovers. There are reports doing the rounds that Apple Inc. is definitely working on a new iOS (operating system), which may be numbered the iOS 7. Not only that, the company is said to be working on a new iPhone, (iPhone 6?).
 
How is all this known?
 
Well, a little bit of old-world sleuthing seems to have gone into arriving at this conclusion. According to this report in The Next Web, the software developers’ logs showed up the first hints of Apple working on a new iPhone and iOS software. One developer, says the report, showed TNW that Apple had been testing hardware ‘related to the new iPhone 6,1’. The last product from the Apple stable was the iPhone 5, and these had turned up in developers’ logs as ‘iPhone 5,1’ and ‘iPhone 5,2.’ Plus, as further proof, the developers’ logs have been traced back to the Apple software development teams in its Cupertino campus. 2+2=4.
 
If you were to ask me, the global response to the iPhone 5, launched in September last, was lukewarm except in certain parts of the world like the United States. Regular readers would remember my column in this very section when the phone had been launched. There has been talk post the iPhone 5 that Apple, reacting to consumer feedback, would come out with a new version, soon. Hard luck to those who bought the iPhone 5?
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This one, as they would say in the good old world of print journalism, is hot off the press. News is just filtering in that software giant Microsoft, fresh from its success of the Windows 8 software, may introduce a new version of the Xbox Gaming system mid-year.
 
Online reports point to a countdown timer (a promotional gimmick) posted on his blog by the Director of Programming, Xbox, Larry Hryb. Larry is also popular as Major Nelson. Though the blog post does not say anything more, the countdown is timed towards a popular video gaming global conference, the E-3 held in June. What else can it be if not a new Xbox, question gaming experts.
 
So, there it is. Looks like 2013 may have something for everyone. And if the above products do come online, remember, you read it here first.
 
Previous columns by Sorab Ghaswalla
Sorab Ghaswalla
Sorab Ghaswalla
Sorab Ghaswalla is a journalist with near three decades of experience and has worked in well-known Indian and international print and television media organizations such as The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, The Economic Times, The Indian Express, United News of India (UNI), The Gulf Today and India TV.
 
He has founded a Knowledge Services firm called New Age Content Services LLP, that leverages on the inherent strengths of the digital world. He also edits the website, www.whatsnewonthenet.com.
 
You can write to him at newagecontent@gmail.com
 
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Jet Airways says in stake sale talks with Etihad Airways of Abu Dhabi

Private sector carrier Jet Airways today confirmed that it was in discussions with Etihad Airways of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for a potential stake sale, but made it clear that no terms had been firmed up yet.

Reacting to a media report that Etihad might take a 24 per cent stake in Jet Airways for upto Rs 1800 crore in ten days, the airline said in a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange that the two airlines were in a discussion regarding a potential investment by the latter in the former.
 
"These discussions have commenced recently pursuant to the liberalized FDI Policy which permitted foreign investment in the shares of an Indian airline. The discussions are in progress but no terms have been firmed up at present," the statement said.
 
"Various structures are being explored by the legal and commercial teams and care being taken to ensure that all the Indian regulatory requirements are fully complied with," it said.
 
"By its very nature, there cannot, at this stage, be a firm time line as to the progress of these negotiations, considering the complexity of trans-national transactions such as this, and the complexity of the legal requirements of the regulatory structure.
 
"Since no agreement has been reached with Etihad as yet, no regulatory approvals have been sought at present.
 
"An appropriate announcement shall be made upon finalization of the terms of the investment with Ethiad as per legal and regulatory requirements," the statement added.
 
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Portfolios of RBI Dy. Governors reshuffled, Deepali Pant Joshi is new ED

The portfolios of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Deputy Governors have been re-allocated after the end of the tenure of Deputy Governor Subir Gokarn on December 31.

A press release from the RBI said here yesterday that, in addition to existing portfolios, Dr K C Chakrabarty will now also look after DICGC, Rajbhasha Department and Right to Information Division.
 
Mr Anand Sinha will look after Department of Communication and Risk Monitoring Department and Mr H R Khan after Financial Markets Department. Department of Economic and Policy Research, 
 
The Department of Statistics and Information Management and Monetary Policy Department will report directly to Governor D Subbarao till further orders, it said.
 
Meanwhile, Dr. Deepali Pant Joshi has taken over as the new Executive Director at the RBI. She will look after Customer Service Department and Rural Planning and Credit Department. Dr. Joshi will also be the Alternate Appellate Authority under the Right to Information Act.
 
Prior to her appointment as Executive Director, Dr. Joshi was the Regional Director of RBI, Rajasthan.
 
A doctorate in political economy of development of South and South East Asia 1975-1980 from the University of Allahabad, Dr. Joshi also holds a bachelor’s degree in law with specialisation in Administrative Law.  She has written extensively on rural credit and financial inclusion, the release added.
 
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Ashwani Kumar takes over as CMD of Dena Bank

Ashwani Kumar
Ashwani Kumar

Mr Ashwani Kumar, a veteran banker, took over here today as Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) of the public sector Dena Bank for a period of five years. 

Mr Kumar has a rich banking experience of over 31 years serving in Allahabad Bank and Corporation Bank.
 
Prior to joining Dena Bank,  he was the Executive Director of the Corporation Bank since December 1, 2010. 
 
Mr Kumar, who has a post-graduate degree in Chemistry, is a Certified Associate of Indian Institute of Bankers. He had joined Allahabad Bank in 1981 as Probationary Officer at Lucknow. 
 
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The business of Poking, Snapchatting & Sexting

Image courtesy: Snapchat
Image courtesy: Snapchat

Yet another war has broken out in cyberspace. The warring sides, this time, are photo sharing applications, Snapchat and Poke. Never heard of them? Then, before getting into the meat of things, allow me to give you a brief introduction.

Both, Snapchat and Poke are almost similar photo apps. Poke is a born-again avatar of a previous feature of Facebook, while Snapchat is a brand new, California, USA-based, Android & iOS device app. 
 
What makes both of them "unique" is what they claim to deliver – messages, images, videos – all of which self-destruct within a stipulated time frame. Yes, you heard right. Self-destruct, go poof, absolutely no record left behind. That’s what makes both these apps special.
 
Such a service is known by many names – impermanent photo messaging, ephemeral messaging, and the very popular one –sexting. No prizes for guessing why. Since the average lifespan of each message is about 10 seconds, you can send across a ‘private’ image (read naughty) you want without worrying about its consequences or fallout like the photo falling into the wrong hands, or being retained on servers (which makes the possibility of them being leaked by hackers quite distinct).
 
Snapchat and Poke messages can be set to self-destruct within a few seconds, the maximum allowed being 10 seconds. Poke images, though, ‘remain’ on the servers for a slightly longer duration (till the time of the writing of this piece). An image remains on FB servers for 2 days after the recipient’s last view just in case of any abuse allegations that may come up. After that, the encryption key is destroyed but it is still possible to retrieve the message for 90 more days from logs, etc.
 
Facebook has said it was working in reducing this period. Also, the minute you try to take a screenshot of such pictures on either app, the sender is alerted.
 
The enormity and consequences of such apps is still being figured out. Let me put it this way –sexting is still being digested across the Internet. But by now, readers would have got a fair idea of what Snapchat and Poke are into.
 
Now, coming to the war. Poke re-launched barely a few days ago, raising howls of protests from Snapchat and its users. Snapchat was available in October this year so it is but natural that copycat accusations are being hurled by the latter against the former. 
 
Facebook, which also bought over the very popular photo sharing app, Instagram, in April this year, is thus using two weapons in its arsenal against Snapchat, Poke and Instagram. But the guys at Snapchat and it millions of users do not seem like giving in to the competition easily.
 
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Online publications are reporting on this full-fledged war on a day-to-day basis. Partly because it’s getting murkier, partly because the year’s coming to an end, and it’s being a relatively slow news week, what with the holiday season, and all.
 
Take this story in the Business Insider, for instance. The report talks of the users’ review and comments on the Poke page. ‘Stolen’, ‘Should be sued for copyright violation’ are some examples. But according to the report, some users have agreed that Poke is a better version of Snapchat.
 
One of Snapchat’s co-founders, Evan Spiegel, also got on to this band wagon when Poke was launched. In identical statements to The Verge and TechCrunch, Evan had said, ‘Welcome, Facebook. Seriously.’ 
 
This was a play on an old Apple newspaper advertisement published in the Wall Street
Journal in 1981 titled, ‘ Welcome, IBM, seriously.’ Apple had run this ad after IBM had introduced its 1st PC.
 
The other measure of popularity being deployed by Poke and Snapchat users is which of the two apps is more popular on the Apple Store. Barely 24 hours after it was launched, Poke had taken over the No:1 slot, only to plummet to as low as No:36 in the next few days. Snapchat, on the other hand, was sitting at the No:4 slot, till the time of the writing of this column.
 
Previous columns by Sorab Ghaswalla
Sorab Ghaswalla
Sorab Ghaswalla
Sorab Ghaswalla is a journalist with near three decades of experience and has worked in well-known Indian and international print and television media organizations such as The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, The Economic Times, The Indian Express, United News of India (UNI), The Gulf Today and India TV.
 
He has founded a Knowledge Services firm called New Age Content Services LLP, that leverages on the inherent strengths of the digital world. He also edits the website, www.whatsnewonthenet.com.
 
You can write to him at newagecontent@gmail.com
 
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Entries invited for Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards 2013

The Mahindra Group has invited entries for the eighth edition of the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META) to be held in March 2013.

The awards celebrate excellence in theatre and stage craft and entries are invited from theatre productions across the country for original or adapted plays, in any language, staged between January 1, 2012 and January 10, 2013.
 
"Recognizing and rewarding all aspects of theatre production and stage craft, META is one of the Indian theatre industry’s premier awards," a press release from META said.
 
It said META provides a concrete platform to celebrate and promote theatre’s varied elements like playwriting, set design, costume and light design, direction and performance.
 
Instituted by the Mahindra Group, as part of their commitment to promoting the arts, META 2013 aims at bringing together the best of Indian theatre from the year gone by. 
 
The awards consist of a specially designed trophy and a cheque of Rs.100,000 for the Best Production, Rs.75,000 for Best Original Playwright and Rs.45,000 for all other award categories.
 
“The Indian theatre industry, with its myriad languages, indigenous styles and rich cultural diversity, has a lot to offer and META is a national award dedicated to celebrating all aspects of this industry. Every year, we witness increasing enthusiasm from theatre companies as well as audiences across the country. With its finger on the pulse of Indian theatre, META 2013 hopes to continue this celebration on a grander scale," Mr Ravi Dubey, Creative Director of META 2013, said.
 
“Our commitment to theatre as an art form over the past eight years has been a truly gratifying experience. Each year, as we see artists from remote areas of India give talented performances for a discerning yet appreciative audience in the nation’s capital, we enact our own Mahindra script of enabling people to Rise," Mr Jay Shah, Head – Cultural Outreach, Group Strategy Office, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd, said.
 
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Govt. to disinvest 12.5% of equity in Rashtriya Chemicals & Fertilizers

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The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) today approved the disinvestment of 12.5 percent paid up equity capital of the Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers Ltd (RCF), that is 6,89,61,012 shares each of face value of Rs. 10 each, out of the Government of India’s shareholding of 92.5 percent, in the domestic market, as per SEBI Rules and Regulations. 

The paid up equity capital of the company is Rs. 551.69 crore having 55,16,88,100 equity shares, each of face value Rs.10, an official press release said.
 
RCF is a Schedule `A` listed Mini-Ratna Central public sector enterprise (CPSE) under the administrative control of the Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers.
 
It is engaged in the business of manufacturing and marketing fertilizers, industrial chemicals such as methanol, methylamines, ammonium bicarbonate, ammonium nitrate and so on from its two operating units at Trombay and Thal in Maharashtra and marketing of these products.
 
The company has one subsidiary, Rajasthan Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers Ltd. and three joint ventures, with shareholding ranging between 33.3 percent and 50 percent. 
 
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Sachin Tendulkar announces retirement from one-day internationals

 
Sachin Tendulkar retires from ODI cricket

India's batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar announced his retirement from one-day internationals (ODIs), bringing the curtains down on a 23-year career in the limited overs format of the game.

A statement from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said Tendulkar spoke to its president N Srinivasan and conveyed his decision to retire from the one-day format of the game.
 
“I have decided to retire from the one day format of the game.  I feel blessed to have fulfilled the dream of being part of a World Cup wining Indian team," a statement from Tendulkar, distributed by the BCCI, said.
 
"The preparatory process to defend the World Cup in 2015 should begin early and in right earnest.  I would like to wish the team all the very best for the future. I am eternally grateful to all my well wishers for their unconditional support and love over the years," he added.
 
Universally acknowledged as one of the greatest and most complete batsmen of all time, next perhaps only to Sir Don Bradman, Tendulkar, 39, is the leading run-scorer in both Test and one-day cricket.
 
He is the only cricketer to have scored a hundred centuries in international cricket, including 49 ODI centuries and 51 Test hundreds. He is the first batsman to score 15,000 runs in Test cricket and has played the highest number of Test and ODI matches.
 
The Government had honoured Tendulkar with the Padma Vibhushan, the nation's second highest civilian award, in 2005. He is also a recipient of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, India's highest sporting honour.
 
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In June this year, Tendulkar became a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of Indian Parliament, the first active sportsman to serve as one.
 
Born on April 24, 1973, the dimunutive top-order right-hand batsman has played 463 one-day internationals and scored 18426 runs from 452 innings, for an average of 44.83 and a highest score of 200 not out -- the first double century by anyone in this format of the game.
 
He has also played 194 Tests so far and made 15645 runs from 320 innings for an average of 54.32 with a highest score of 248 not out.
 
He has also taken 154 wickets in ODIs with an average of 44.48. He played only one T20 International, against South Africa at Johannesburg on December 1, 2006.
 
Tendulkar made his ODI debut for India against Pakistan at Gujranwala on December 18, 1989. For the record, he scored a duck in that match.
 
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Remembering passwords may soon be a thing of the past

 

Two things caught my eye amidst all that clutter of year-end “best” lists. The first is a soon-to-be-released smartphone application that has the potential of ridding us of one of the biggest painpoints of digital life – passwords.

The other was that photo sharing application, Instagram, which has been in the news for the past one month or so, for one reason or the other, was reportedly planning to sell photographs uploaded by its members.
 
In a sense, it’s the story of two smartphone apps. The first is about to happen, the second, though denied by the app in question, is linked to a larger issue. I shall talk of the first, first.
 
I am sure if a snap poll were to be taken on ‘Name the top 5 problems you face in digital life’, a password-oriented online eco-system will find its way to top of that list. Almost everything that we do in our lives today is linked to a password. By that I mean any transaction, online or offline. Online bank transfers, use of social networks, email accounts, bank accounts, for that matter, any form of online payment system….I could go on. 
 
Well, the next thing that all of us were grappling with – how do we remember all those dashes, upper cases, asterix, not to mention, numbers and other assorted zombie characters.
 
One does realize that passwords are for secure transactions and in our interests. But how many can a single human brain retain in its inner, memory recesses? There are some services and applications that provide you with a “secure” digital vault where you can store all your passwords…and to operate this account, you need….yup, one more password. A kind of single passwords to “recall” all your other passwords. But what happens if some hacker gets through this account, you are jacked.
 
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Now, a team of young entrepreneurs have decided to do something about this .Wow. Possible? Not many would have thought so before these guys thought up of LaunchKey, an application for iPhone and Android devices. Actually, passwords will remain under this but the way you use them to verify your account, shall change.
 
LaunchKey proposes to do away with the keying in of passwords in the login section. Instead, it gets down to physically verifying you are who you claim you are, and the true owner of the account you are trying to access.
 
Here’s how LaunchKey will work – Once you have downloaded the app on your phone, every time you try to log in into any of your online accounts, be what they may, you will get a message on your smartphone asking you to physically authenticate that transaction. All you then need to do is press the ‘Launch’ tab, which in turn, shall send a message to the account you are trying to login to, verifying your identity, allowing you to login. Simple.
 
I see many advantages to this: No need to remember any more passwords, a much more secure method of conducting your business ( since all the passwords, in a sense, will be on the phone you carry in your pocket) and instant alerts when some hacker is trying to get into your account.
 
These guys have already won some awards and got funding and promise that the app will be coming in the market soon. Till then, anyone who wants to read more or keep track of what I think could turn out to be a game-changer, can go to the LaunchKey website.
 
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While my website was reporting on LaunchKey came the news that another photo sharing
smartphone app, Instagram, was reportedly planning to sell photographs uploaded by its users. I am not too sure how this bit of news started doing the rounds, online. Here’s one such report by www.beforeitsnews.com . Quoting CNET, it says that a new intellectual property rights policy put into place by social network, Facebook, which acquired Instagram, some three months ago, and which will come into effect from January 16, 2013, allows Instagram and FB, perpetual rights to licence all public Instagram photos to companies or any other organizations, including for advertising purposes. This means, Instagram would instantly turn into one gigantic stock photo agency.
 
These reports were enough to cause a furore, and rightly so, I feel. Let us understand what Instagram is all about. To cut a long story short, it’s all about using filters on the photographs you shoot using your phone’s in-built camera. This app allows you to add different digital layers to make your photo look as if it’s shot by a professional. That’s the sum and summary of it.
 
Instagram publicly has denied any such more. But if you were to ask me, the entire controversy is linked to a larger question – the implementation of privacy, copyright and intellectual property laws. At the heart of the debate is – who owns the content that is uploaded on to such platforms, say Instagram or Facebook or Twitter? 
 
This column may not be the right platform to discuss a problem of this magnitude but suffice to say, with the advent of social networks and applications such as Instagram, this is not the first time, or even the last, that we will hear of such a move.
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These kind of sites have been a challenge to laws pertaining to intellectual property, pushing the boundaries, every passing day. For example – why are the Terms & Conditions (T&C) written in such a way that the ordinary user understands none of it. How many of us even bother to look at the T & C posted on every website. Of that, how many of us understand the legalese? What choice do users have, at the end of the day? If you want to be on say a Facebook or Twitter, you must agree to their T&Cs, or else, not have an account. That’s hardly a choice.
 
Leave alone privacy, what, for example, is the status of all that content like images uploaded on social sites? Does it belong to the user or the network? Can anyone who is reading this column, answer that? If so, write in to us with your reply.
 
Previous columns by Sorab Ghaswalla
Sorab Ghaswalla
Sorab Ghaswalla
Sorab Ghaswalla is a journalist with near three decades of experience and has worked in well-known Indian and international print and television media organizations such as  The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, The Economic Times, The Indian Express, United News of India (UNI), The Gulf Today and India TV.
 
He has founded a Knowledge Services firm called New Age Content Services LLP, that leverages on the inherent strengths of the digital world. He also edits the website, www.whatsnewonthenet.com.
 
You can write to him at newagecontent@gmail.com
 
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L&T delivers first high speed interceptor boat to Coast Guard

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Engineering and construction major Larsen& Toubro  (L&T) as delivered its first indigenously designed and constructed high speed interceptor boat (IB) to the Indian Coast Guard (ICG).

A press release from the company said the IB, capable of achieving maximum speed of over 40 knots, was designed and constructed entirely through in-house efforts. 
 
This is the first of 36 such boats being constructed by L&T under a contract worth Rs. 977 crore from the ICG.
 
The IB has a full aluminium-alloy construction for reduced weight and is powered by twin water-jet propulsion systems to enable quick response which is vital for coastal surveillance activities. The  interceptors have the ability to operate in shallow water which will be critical for near- shore action. These boats are expected to significantly enhance India’s coastal  security.
 
The first boat was commissioned into  service yesterday at  Coast Guard District Headquarters at Porbandar under the command of COMCG (North-western Region).
 
Using the latest 3D software at L&T’s  state-of-the-art Marine  Design  Centre, the boat was first  developed as a virtual vessel in the office environment to ensure compliance with operability, maintainability and buildability, before issuing the drawings to the shop floor, the release said.
 
"During the recently concluded sea trials, the boat has achieved the stringent performance parameters of speed and endurance, which is a testimony to L&T’s sound ship design and construction capabilities.It also opens up avenues for possible export of such boats," the release added.
 
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