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Sharad PawarInsuring His Future
A savvy politician he always was! But 60-year-old Sharad Pawar, veteran Congressman and Maharashtra's very own son-of-the-soil, is now extending his ambit to the insurance sector where he plans to set up insurance cooperatives. Having studied the insurance sector carefully with the help of his nephew Ajit Pawar, who heads the cash-rich urban cooperative banks organisation, Maharashtra State Co-operative Banks Federation, Pawar has announced that he will set up two cooperative organisations, Indian Cooperative Life Insurance Company and Indian Cooperative General Insurance Company-to enter the life and non-life businesses. While addressing a meeting of leading cooperative associations at Pune, the Maratha from Baramati said: ''In the changing scenario, the cooperative sector should change and tap the various new business opportunities and ensure that rural farmers benefit.'' Pawar is no stranger to such endeavours. As a budding Congress activist in early '60s, much before he became a mla, he organised vegetable growers in several parts of Maharashtra so as to help them sell vegetables in mandis in urban areas. Now, 30 years later, as the head of the Nationalist Congress Party, comes this move which combines a desire to leverage an emerging opportunity with another to foster rural commercial activity. Who knows? Perhaps, another savvy politician, Andhra Pradesh cm Chandrababu Naidu, who reportedly looks upon Pawar's rich Baramati constituency as a role model, could be next in line with his announcements...

Geet SethiSportal Spontaneous
From green baize to the blue screen? Geet Sethi, the world amateur billiards champion six times over, is changing his cue. He has just launched a 'sportal', Khel, which he says, is going to make a concrete contribution to Indian sports. ''Life has more to offer than just billiards,'' says Geet, 39, a trifle ruefully.

And his sportal will certainly offer more than that. It will focus on all popular sports and generate revenues from a combination of on-line and off-line activities, including sponsorships, advertisements, e-Commerce, on-site auctions, as well as event and player management. Upbeat about his sportal, Geet expects Kheladi to break even in three years. This is the second business venture for the suave billiards star who received a Padma Shri. Six years ago, he launched a travel agency named after his son, Raag. Success, hopefully, will court him in this round too...

PritiBy The Book
Pretty Priti divides her time between London and Calcutta. But it is the Oxford Bookstore where she claims she'd rather be. That's because the book-shop is the maiden entrepreneurial venture of this hot-shot architect-turned-book seller, who as director of the Apeejay Surrendra group is following in her better-known siblings' entrepreneurial footsteps: sister Priya Paul has spruced up the Group's Park Hotels chain, and brother Karan Paul looks after the Group's major businesses of tea and finance. The store, on Calcutta's Park Street, has up-to-the-minute releases and a hi-tech cataloguing system, offset by a warm and inviting décor that includes, yes, a cosy tea-bar. Says Priti, 30, an avid book-lover herself: ''I want it to become the most happening place in town, which can cater to both serious browsers and casual shoppers.'' It already is, with high-profile shoppers like US Ambassador Richard Celeste and his wife. On the cards are another Oxford Bookstore at Mumbai's Nariman Point and the Net venture Atta girl!

Siddhartha BasuMillion Dollar Director
It fazes even him! Siddhartha Basu, veteran quizmaster and the dapper producer-director of what could well be the biggest game show in India's TV history-Star Plus' Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC)-is overawed by the response to the show. KBC is a huge show requiring that takes a lot of effort to produce. Says Basu, 45: ''It is a watershed in terms of public interactivity. The computerised telephony (call centre) has to handle lakhs of calls, the content has to have a pan-Indian appeal, and the contestants represent the most heterogenous mix possible-a PCO operator from Kapurthala to a box-wallah from Calcutta in the same forum.'' Adding to that appeal is the fixed format of the show, licensed from UK-based Celedor which holds the rights to 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire', a hit-show in 26 countries. But Siddhartha claims the Indian version is distinctive: ''The signature is in the details and in the incredible presence of Amitabh Bachchan as the anchor.'' And Siddhartha at the back end, if we may say so...


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