Match Winning Second Innings

31 08 2008


When Bill Gates relinquished his job as the Chairman of Microsoft to take a full-time job as the head of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he set off his encore career.


Well, Mr.Gates is not alone. Seeking a socially purposeful new career among the baby boomers has become a tidal force. Some trend watchers have dubbed this phenomenon as the biggest change in the American workforce since the large scale entry of women.


As their numbers begin to swell, those who are opting to seek vocations based on their deep interests – not just to earn a living, hold the potential to transform the nature of work and create a society that works better for everyone.




Mark Freedman in his recently published Encore: Finding Work that Matters in the Second Half of Life  has chronicled and commented on the growing trend of professionals embracing the second career.



In India too, high-pressure jobs, often leading to burn-outs, are forcing many professionals to question untenable trade-offs between bank balance and mental balance.


On the other hand, life expectancy is rising and the length of useful productive life is increasing. As a result, the need to have different careers at different phases of one’s life is heightening.


No wonder, a growing number of well qualified and experienced professionals are responding to their inner call for finding meaning in their work by breaking free from the prison made of others’ expectations of them.


– G. Mohan.


Why India is Lucky to be a Banana Republic

24 08 2008

When I buy my weekly requirement of fruits and vegetables at a relatively upmarket superstore in Hyderabad, I see there are atleast four to five varieties of apples – red, green and what have you. But  there are no bananas.


Occasionally, one does see speciality bananas from Kerala, which are nearly five times more expensive than the normal bananas. For bananas, I look out for a hand-cart vendor who sells only bananas. I see his customers are daily laborers, lower middle class families or servants of the rich and upper-middle class.  


It makes me conclude that apples are for the rich while bananas are for the poor. In a super market an apple costs approximately Rs 25. A banana costs Rs 1.50. For the price of one apple, one can buy a dozen bananas.


Why should apples be so expensive and banana be so inexpensive ? Is the apple nutritive contentwise superior to the banana ?


 My desktop research produced results conclusively in favor of bananas. 100g of a banana is equivalent to 95 kcal of energy whreas the corrresponding figure for the apple is  47 kcal. Bananas have more carbohydrate, protein and fat than apples. Apples scores over banana only on fiber content. On both Vitamin B6  and Vitamin C  count bananas are superior to apples. Besides, the banana is a proven source of instant energy.


 A manual laborer works hard physically, he needs more calories which he gets in a banana, whereas the  weight watching rich go for apples.


Bananas suffer  from one disadvantage though. Their shelf life is much shorter than  apples.


If nutritively,  the banana is  such a wonder fruit,  why are they priced so low?


I found one answer in the fruit statistics released by Indian horticulture database. In terms of supply, the banana is the number one fruit in India,  accounting for  32.9 % of total fruit production, whereas apple accounts for just 3.5 % . The yield/hectare of banana is 4 times more than the apple.Yield/hectare for apple is 7,538 kg  and banana is 30,631 kg. Other input costs being equal, an apple is four times more expensive to produce than a banana.


So it is just supply-side economics at work!


– G. Mohan

The Changing Industrial Landscape of Hyderabad

15 08 2008



Hyderabad, the city of Nizam, is a historical city. It is home to various businesses and business-houses. Unfortunately, the city does not have a single business-house or company that has been a blue-chip for an extended period of time.



In the last 25-30 years, the industrial and business landscape has changed a great deal in the city. In the 1970s and ’80s, Hyderabad was home to a number of Public Sector Units (PSU), some state and several central PSUs.


Hyderabad Allwyn was a large state PSU. Allwyn refrigerators and furniture were quite popular all over the country. Allwyn, also had a watch unit in collaboration with Seiko. Later, Allwyn got into LCVs in collaboration with Nissan. Hyderabad Allwyn became sick and it no longer exists. The LCV unit has been sold to Mahindras.


Andhra Pradesh Government had set up a scooter unit in collaboration with Piaggio. They came up with Vespa PL170, when Bajaj Auto used to have long waiting lists. Once, Bajaj Auto increased its capacity, AP Scooters failed to survive.


HMT and its subsidiary Praga tools was another large PSU. Although, HMT still exists, it is a pale shadow of its former self. BHEL and HAL existed then, they exist even today. They may not be hot, but they are steady companies. IDPL was a PSU with a large bulk drug unit in Hyderabad. IDPL is often credited with the pioneer status and the nursery of all the pharma units in Hyderabad.


In the private sector, VST with its Charminar brand of cigarettes was a prominent company. VST’s brands no longer have the market shares they used to command in the past and has now become virtually a small unit of ITC/BAT. There are several ITC group companies and divisions which operate from Secunderabad. ITC Agrotech was a hot company in the 1990s, with its Sundrop brand of edible oils. ITC sold this division to ConAgra. Other ITC Group companies in Hyderabad include ITC Bhadrachalam Paperboards and ITC Agri-business division.


In the 1980s, the Nagarjuna Group created waves. It set up quite a few companies in diverse industries. Nagarjuna Steels was the most high-profile among them. Nagarjuna Fertilizers, Nagarjuna Finance, Nagarjuna Construction and Nagarjuna Signode being the other companies in the group. Nagarjuna Steels has folded up. Nagarjuna Signode has since become ITW Signode. Nagarjuna Finance became insolvent resulting in lakhs of depositors losing their savings, giving Nagarjuna a bad name. Nagarjuna Fertilizers and Nagarjuna Construction (NCC) have survived. NCC has availed the infrastructure boom and its stock is now considered a good one. The Pennar Group, came up alongside the Nagarjuna Group, copying their strategies and business plans. Most of their businesses are defunct today.


Bakelite Hylam and IDL (now Gulf Oil) were the other big industries of the 80s, which exist even today. Bakelite Hylam, a pioneer in laminates, became sick in 2004 and is slowly recovering under a BIFR package. Gulf Oil is a fringe player in the lubricants and explosives market.  



In the 80s, the pharmaceutical industry grew rapidly in Hyderabad. Cynics often attribute its rise to the theft of intellectual properties and processes from IDPL. Standard Organics and Dr. Reddys Laboratories were the big pharma companies that were set at that time. Standard Organics and its sister company SOL Pharmaceuticals, no longer exist. But Dr Reddy’s has become a large company through acquisitions. It was considered a blue-chip until recently. However, Dr Reddy’s stock was removed from the Nifty index  recently.


Aurobindo Pharma, Matrix Laboratories, Divi’s Laboratories are some of the other large public listed pharma companies from Hyderabad. Aurobindo Pharma, a widely tracked company among equity analysts, is losing favor among investors and was recently removed from the Nifty Junior index.


Hyderabadi entrepreneurs suffer from a dangerous herd mentality. Businesses like aquaculture, mini-cement plants, granite, ceramic tiles, financial services etc. have either folded up or on the verge of closure. Most of these companies raised money through IPOs and large number of small investors have lost their savings in these companies. This has caused a great deal of harm to the image of Hyderabadi entrepreneurs.


If there is one big blotch in recent industrial history of Hyderabad, it is the collapse of Global Trust Bank (GTB). Although, the bank got eventually taken over by Oriental Bank of Commerce, its miserable failure still rankles in the mind of many a  Hyderabadis.


Hyderabad experienced a major shift under the leadership of the then Chief Minister – Chandrababu Naidu. His efforts in making Hyderabad a center of IT industry and knowledge economy resulted in the city being known as Cyberabad.


Satyam Computers is the biggest name in the Hyderabad IT industry. The company has grown from strength to strength and is the biggest employer in the city. In keeping with the Hyderabadi herd-mentality several software companies came up, particularly during the dot-com, Y2K era. Most of these companies were body-shoppers, sending half-trained programmers with doctored CVs, seducing them dollar-dreams of USA. Most of them have shut their shops.


Unlike other industries, in IT, Hyderabad has a large number of MNCs operating here. Microsoft and Oracle with their large development centers are big employers. There are several MNC BPOs in the city such as Dell, Genpact, HSBC, Deloitte etc.


Hyderabad is home to two reasonably big media companies viz. Deccan Chronicle and Eenadu.


As IT industry’s gloss started fading, the Hyderabad entrepreneurs entered the booming power and infrastructure sector. Notable among the big players in power and infrastructure sector include Lanco Group, GVK, GMR Group, IVRCL and several smaller companies.


Real estate, an offshoot of the construction business, is also fairly big in the city. Post-2003, Hyderabad like the rest of India, saw a huge construction boom. Maytas ( a company belonging to the Rajus of Satyam), IVR Prime, NCC, Prajay and several small builders have built a sizeable business constructing  in and around the city. Several of the construction companies have also entered construction and operation of retail malls.


Cut to 2008, the industrial landscape of Hyderabad is now dotted by companies belonging to the service sector. IT and ITES sectors are the largest employers and the drivers of the city’s growth. For pharmaceutical industry, Hyderabad continues to be an important hub, but with the industry itself facing pressures, the outlook is not bright. A number of mid-size companies in a variety of industries are showing good promise. Some of these companies, in no particular order, include Bartronics, Alpha Geo, ICSA India, Rain Commodities and DQ Entertainment. Time will tell whether they can emerge as blue-chip companies.


Unarguably, Hyderabad is a big market and therefore a big trading centre. It has been unable to become a big industrial centre. Among the capitals of southern Indian states, Hyderabad lags behind Bengaluru and Chennai in this respect; it is only ahead of Thiruvananthapuram. The stunted vision and the get-rich-quick philosophy of the Hyderabadi businessmen are largely to be blamed for this state of affairs of Hyderabad.


– G. Mohan.

Words that have Spoken to Me – I

10 08 2008


“It is one of the most beautiful compensations in life…that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”  –   Ralph Waldo Emerson.


“Of the many lessons I learnt…one lives on with me – actually do what you think, do not just think what to do.” –  Robert L. Flood.


“Knowing oneself following a system of thoughts, will simply create a result, i.e. oneself, produced by that system of thought – not knowing oneself.” –   Robert L. Flood.


“Philosophers live finally from their own intuitions. And those intuitions are not acquired by reading philosophic texts. They are acquired in certain particular individual experiences while growing up — rather negative experiences of violation, indignation and Krankung.”  –   Juergen Habermas.


“The barrier to change is not too little caring; it is too much complexity.To turn caring into action, we need to see a problem, see a solution, and see the impact. But complexity blocks all three steps.” – William H. Gates III a.k.a. Bill Gates


 – Compiled by Rajeev A. Paranjpe.

Business Quiz on the Beijing Olympics

10 08 2008



Q1. This company has been a long-standing sponsor of the Olympic Games. Its name attracted a lot of controversy during the Olympic torch relay. It is the sponsor of the China’s biggest sporting icon, NBA superstar Yao Ming. This company gave away 5.7 million bottles of its own brand of water as a part of the Sichuan Quake relief program. Name this US company.


Ans : Coca Cola.


Q2. This US conglomerate has been involved in the construction of all 37 venues for the games. This company was the only company which figured in the Dow Jones Index in 1900 as well as 2000. Name this iconic company.


Ans: GE.


Q3. This global brand is also one of the sponsors of the torch relay and will have a pavilion in Beijing for concerts and other events. Its Indian subsidiary has appointed shooter Manavjit Singh Sandhu as its Olympic brand ambassador and will also be presenting sponsor on DD.


Ans : Samsung.


Q4. This company has been associated as a sponsor since the first Olympics in 1896 at Athens. Beijing will be its last Olympics as a sponsor. This company is one of 12 sponsors in “The Olympic Program,” the top tier of business corporations that each spend tens of millions of dollars for rights to market the Olympic logo.  This US company, is often referred to as the Big Yellow.


Ans: Kodak.


Q5. The design and development of the telecommunications system for the Beijing Olympics village was done by a team of 100 engineers at their Bangalore centre. Name the company.


Ans: Huawei Communications


Q6. Name the only major Chinese brand sponsoring the Beijing Olympics. The Olympic Torch was designed by this company’s design team.


Ans: Lenovo


Q7. Who is the official provider of sportswear for the Chinese Olympics team as well as for the organizing committee.

a) Nike       b) Adidas     c) Reebok   d) Puma


Ans: b) Adidas.


Q8. Which car brand is associated as the official supplier for the torch relay, providing 5,000 green vehicles to the Chinese organizers? Hint: This is one of the largest selling foreign cars in China., having been in China  for the last 25 years.


Ans: Volkswagen.


Q9.  “I eat at ___. I’ve always eaten  at____. I even worked at ___. It was my first job,” said Carl Lewis, (winner of nine Olympic gold medals) in Beijing as a part of the promotional tour for this Olympics sponsor. Name the brand.


Ans: McDonalds.



Q10. Not directly linked to the Beijing Olympics, but definitely linked to the Olympics movement. Which Indian industrialist was behind sending the first team of athletes from India to participate in the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp.


Ans: Dorab Tata, son of Jamsetji Tata.


– G. Mohan.

New International Airports in Bengaluru and Hyderabad – Which One is Better?

10 08 2008



Last month, I had the opportunity to experience the new international airports in Bengaluru and Hyderabad.


What follows is a quick comparison.


Both these airports commenced operations within a span of few months. Both these projects are based on the Public-Private-Partnership model. Interestingly, both the airports have been constructed at a cost of approximately Rs. 2500 crore (USD 600 million).


Both are larger and swankier than the old AAI airports they have replaced. Also, these airports are built on huge tracts of land away from the city. Devanahalli where the Bengaluru International Airport is located is 40 km from the city center. Hyderabad Airport (RGIA) is at Shamshabad , almost 25 km from the city center


BIAL looks much smaller than RGIA. You can’t fail to get impressed with the huge ceilings and the large expanse of space RGIA indulges you with.  BIAL with its lounges already full most of the time looks more like a cute glass box, in comparison.


If one does look at numbers closely, the difference leaps at your face.


Air- passenger traffic in Bengaluru is almost 50 % higher than Hyderabad. Hyderabad had air-passenger traffic of 7 million in 2007-08, whereas Bengaluru had nearly 12 million passengers. Both the new airports claim that they have a capacity of handling 12 million passengers annually.


Hyderabad airport has a terminal area of 107,000 square meter; BIAL is much smaller at 71,000 square meter.  Hyderabad can handle 3200 passengers per hour, whereas BIAL can handle only 2733 passengers per hour. 


Clearly, BIAL has been designed to barely meet its current full load while RGIA has been designed for the future.


The architecture of BIAL has been fashioned after the minimalist Zurich airport look. RGIA on the other hand, has been influenced by the Kuala Lumpur airport.


As a passenger, I would certainly rate the Hyderabad airport far superior to the Bengaluru airport


– G. Mohan.


First Families of Indian Auto Industry and the Economy of Scope

3 08 2008


Till a few years ago, large Indian business houses active in the automobile sector were ensconced in their clearly demarcated turfs. Tata Motors (TM) has been a clear leader in the commercial vehicle market; Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) has been a dominant player in both utility vehicle and tractor markets while Bajaj Auto (BA) has been a reigning colossus in two-wheelers and auto rickshaw markets. 


The business houses of the Tatas, Mahindras and Bajajs did avoid any direct competition In industry meets, they were seen as friends and usually expressed similar views from the same platform. Anand Mahindra and Rahul Bajaj, often came together to speak on issues related to manufacturing sector in general and automobile industry in particular. Keshub Mahindra, Chairman of Mahindra and Mahindra, has been on the board of Tata Steel for a long time.


This cosy arrangement was laid to rest when the opportunities started reaching global scale along with the opening up of the domestic market to foreign behemoths.


Years ago, TM launched utility vehicles Sumo, Sierra and Safari in direct competition to M&M. Now, Mahindra Scorpio and Safari are slugging out in the same segment of the SUV market.


M&M entered the BA turf by launching three-wheeler carrier vehicles.


TM launched Tata Ace (four-wheeler carrier vehicles) a category killer which cause considerable headache to both M&M and BA.


M&M with the purchase of Kinetic Motors (KM) this week has now stepped into BA’s two-wheeler market.


But the mother of all battles will now be waged in the passenger car segments.  TM’s soon-to-be launched Nano will have to lock horns with BA’s ( in collaboration with Renault) sub – $ 3000 car expected to be launched next  financial year.


M&M’s Logan (manufactured by a JV between M&M and Renault) is already busy battling with TM’s Indigo.


Clearly, while seeking competitive advantage, the first families of the Indian auto sector have decided to go beyond the economy of scale in their respective territorial confines.The economy of scope seems to be the new frontier in balancing production efficiencies, range of products, dstribution clout, consumer preferences and price points. 



That day may not be far off when tractors from BA, motorcycles from TM and buses from M&M will grace Indian roads. 


– G. Mohan.


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