MARCH 17, 2002
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Stanley Fischer Unplugged
He has the rare distinction of having advised through the half-a-dozen economic crises of the 90s. But now economist Stanley Fischer is calling it quits at the International Monetary Fund, and joining Citicorp as Vice Chairman. In India recently, Fischer spoke on IMF, India, and the global recession.
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The Top (Watch)Dog
G.N. BAJPAI: Sebi's new chairman has hiw work cut out

Finally, it was Ghyanendra Nath Bajpai who pipped five other contenders for the first-floor corner room at the Securities and Exchange Board of India's Mittal Court headquarters in south Mumbai. But after a 37-year stint at the state-owned insurance giant, Life Insurance Corporation (LIC), just what does Bajpai think of his new role as the fourth chief of the stockmarket watchdog? ''My primary task would be to bring back public participation to the capital markets,'' the 59-year-old told reporters, the day he stepped into his new office.

Although Bajpai was more of a dark horse in the race (he had already been put in charge of the Stock Holding Corporation Ltd on February 7, 2002), this is the second time in his career that he has leapfrogged to the top post. First was when he superseded six executive directors to become LIC's Chairman in September 2000. So, what makes Bajpai tick? Apparently, his superlative people skills and a proven track-record for delivering the goods. During his stint (1984-88) as the Chief Manager of LIC's operations in Mauritius, the soft-spoken Bajpai put his company on top of the heap.

On taking charge as the Chairman, Bajpai galvanised a moribund organisation of 1.2 lakh employees and 6.51 lakh agents into action to take on the new private players. He was also at the forefront of LIC's purchase of stakes in Corporation Bank and the Oriental Commerce Bank, which was aimed at making the insurer a multi-product financial powerhouse. Part of Bajpai's success is attributed to his people-savvy management style. After all, he did once head the pr and Publicity department at the Central Office of LIC.

An avid golfer, Bajpai will have some nasty sand-bunkers and other hazards to negotiate on his new course. The outgoing chairman, D.R. Mehta, has openly complained about the lack of powers to SEBI and how big companies are almost impossible to punish. Small investors are now waiting to see if Bajpai can make stockmarkets safer and attractive for them.

On The March

LT. COL. H.S. BEDI: soft strike force

When hi-ranking army men retire, they become either defence consultants or arms dealers. But not Lt. Col. Hardeep Singh Bedi. Hanging up his boots prematurely in 1994, the Vishisht Seva Medal winner instead decided to join a software company, Tulip Software, which he acquired four years later. Today, the 320-employee strong company-probably the only software firm founded by an army officer-rakes in Rs 50 crore in annual revenues. Bedi's tryst with software began in 1979 when he was nominated for an EDP course. Barely four years later, as an instructor at Mhow, the third-generation army man was teaching other officers the mysteries of it. In fact, the VSM awarded to him in 1990 was in recognition of his role in planning and implementing the army's automation plan. In between, he also developed an innovative machine for cleaning tank guns. But how was it commanding a pack of nerds after a regiment of disciplined soldiers? Apparently, not very difficult. ''You create your own regiment when you start a company,'' says Bedi. We have just one question: is it the 20-kg backpack and 50 rounds when an engineer misses a deadline?

A Fine Fellow

LALIT JALAN: making his alma mater proud

As the man responsible for the ''fastest billion-dollar hit'' in industry-ramping up Reliance Industry's polypropylene business from zero to a billion dollars in 42 months flat-laurels are nothing new to Senior Executive Vice President (e-Business) Lalit Jalan. But he recently received what he terms as the best award so far (even better than the Dean's Medal he received at Wharton in 1982)-the Distinguished Alumnus award from his alma mater IIT, Kanpur. It's an honour that catapults him into the league of Infosys' N.R. Narayana Murthy and Pradeep Sindhu of Juniper Networks. ''Not only are they very selective in bestowing the award, but the peer group (of previous awardees) is outstanding,'' gushes Jalan (Batch of '79). But the electrical engineer would have been content tooling around with his own business in Kolkata had not Reliance's Anil Ambani (a Wharton classmate) convinced him to join the petrochem giant. A win-win deal, did you say?