year, the Indian economy will grow by an estimated 6.5 per cent.
Not too many economies in the world will see that kind of growth.
Indian industry, meanwhile, is on a high, with some of its more
prominent representatives having just registered their largest profits
ever. The Indian services bandwagon continues to roll on, and multinationals
are rushing to either offshore entire processes to the country,
or set up a base here. And in the middle of September, the country
boasted foreign exchange reserves of $86 billion (Rs 3,95,600 crore).
Put everything together and the result is a nationalistic, yet accurate
conclusion: Circa 2003, India is no rollover when it comes to economic
The government seems to have arrived at the
same conclusion. It is increasingly using its diplomatic power to
open markets for Indian goods and attract foreign investment. ''This,''
reckons A.N. Ram, a former secretary of economic relations in India's
Ministry of External Affairs, "should further both its economic
and strategic interests.'' Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is
of a mind to agree with Ram. He has constituted a six-member committee
under super-bureaucrat N.K. Singh, currently a member of the Planning
Commission, to suggest a framework to extend credit for infrastructure
projects in poor countries in the neighbourhood. India's diplomatic
missions, the pm's thinking runs, should undertake more commercial
and economic work. That's the kind of thinking that would do a First
World nation proud.
|INDIA'S BILATERAL TRADE OFFENSIVE
Evident in the recent aid of $350 million to IMF to bail out
Brazil and the $10 million soft loans extended to both Cambodia
Towards Trade Blocs: Work
towards the proposed agreement with ASEAN; the preferential
agreements with Singapore and Thailand; and the agreement with
the Gulf Co-operation Council.
Continue to nurture relationships with South
Africa and Brazil and present a common front at WTO
the core of this strategy lies a free trade agreement with the 10-member
Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), a process that
began in November 2002. In an effort to facilitate such an agreement,
India is discussing the possibility of differential trade agreements
with individual ASEAN members. Such discussions with Singapore and
Thailand are reported to be close to fruition. And Vajpayee recently
visited Laos and Cambodia and offered both countries soft loans
worth $10 million (Rs 46 crore).
A free trade agreement with China would take
the cake, but that could take some time, although the two countries
have agreed to initiate a study on economic co-operation. Senior
officials in India's commerce ministry attribute this delay to a
fear among Indian corporates that cheaper Chinese goods will put
them out of business. However, since ASEAN is busy negotiating a
trade agreement with China, Japan, and South Korea under Malaysian
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed's ASEAN-plus-three formula, the
idea of a larger trade bloc that includes all these countries and
India isn't merely in the realm of trade-fiction. "It is not
impossible to visualise an Asian trading community comprising Japan,
ASEAN, China, India, and South Korea (JACIK), that can be compared
with the expanded European Union," explains B. Bhattacharyya,
the Dean of Delhi's Indian Institute of Foreign Trade.
Then, there's the preferential trade agreement
the country has with Afghanistan, the fact that the Gulf Co-operation
Council (a West-Asian trading bloc in the making) is keen on signing
a trade agreement with India, and the decision of India, South Africa,
and Brazil-India recently gave $350 million (Rs 1,645 crore) to
the International Monetary Fund as aid to the last-to explore common
economic interests and present a united front in the World Trade
Organization. Multilateralism may have its advantages, but India
does have a Plan B in place should WTO go out of business.
For The Road
Tata group isn't speaking-it refused to comment on the issue-and
the business dailies were preoccupied with the volatility of the
stockmarket, the Cancun meet of WTO, and the scotched divestment
of HPCL and BPCL. And so, the group's application for four more
basic telephony licences last fortnight went largely unnoticed.
This, at a time, when every other TELCO in the country is in a wait-and-watch-mode;
it doesn't, the logic goes, make sense to do anything while the
regulatory regime is still fluid and the debate on whether basic
telephony companies can provide cellular services is still open.
Cellular companies use GSM technology, while
some basic telephony providers use the CDMA one on a wireless platform
to provide mobile telephony services.
The Tata Group has one foot in the GSM arena-through
Idea, which operates in Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh,
Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Delhi-and another in the CDMA one,
through Tata Teleservices that operates in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh,
Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Delhi. By committing to invest
Rs 320 crore (that's Rs 60 crore as entry fee, plus bank guarantees),
Tata Teleservices, the company that has made the application, has
indicated that the Tata Group has decided to throw in its lot with
the CDMA brigade. And the timing of the application-the telecom
licensing landscape is likely to be redone with the government pushing
for a unified licence-suggests that the group expects the emerging
regulatory regime to favour basic telephony companies. Smart move!
What You Really Really Want
|Office vs the E240: Tough!
the choices that confront a harried CEO. On the one hand we have
Microsoft's new Office 2003. Your old Office was a suite of applications
that helped you crunch numbers or write reports. This is Office
that has been warpfolded into a sophisticated integrated system
that lets you manage work flows, access and security, collaborative
teams, web-based operations and much more.
Its power is astonishing. But, by the time
you've finished putting together all the software you need from
Microsoft to run Office 2003, you'll be down approximately Rs 35
lakh, at current suggested official prices for a 100-user installation.
Which might be a bit much if your employees
mostly write reports or send mail. After all you were used to getting
that for free until not so long ago.
So, on the other hand we absolutely must consider
an alternative symbol of corporate excellence, at comparable cost.
Such as the finest Stuttgart steel.
The Mercedes-Benz E240 will cost you just a
couple of lakh more. For that money, you get one of the finest cars
in the world. You won't be the only one with an E-class, but in
India owning one still conveys Learjet-level snob value.
Let them use Linux, I say.
It means hurry in Spanish and is part of the
|Andale's Shah: eTrade: NYSE:: Andale:eBay
fits the profile of the archetypical dinosaur of the internet age:
its software is targeted at micro-merchants-a term that owes its
birth to the internet-and its revenue model, by the admission of
its Co-founder, President, and CEO rolled into one, Munjal Shah,
is similar to that of a cellular telephony company. And Shah is
only 30. Oh, oh!
Not quite. Andale is a provider of auction
management tools and services and its fortunes are linked inextricably
to those of eBay, the world's largest online retail market-some
195 million items were up for sale on it last quarter-and a profitable
one at that. In 2002, the value of transactions on eBay was nudging
$15 billion (Rs 70,500 crore). And Andale powered 75 per cent of
At the core of eBay's success lies the phenomenon
of micro-merchandising, where individuals and small companies that
cannot afford their own marketing infrastructure sell through the
auction site. According to Shah, this is nothing short of a retail
Andale's software helps merchants merchandise
items, manage inventory, track sales, analyse finances, and manage
customer relationships across online marketplaces. It can even tell
sellers how many XL-sized Ts were sold on eBay, which colour is
most popular with buyers, and when (which time of the month or year)
most sales happen. Andale-Shah has raised $64 million (Rs 294.46
crore) to fund it from various venture capital firms-has an exclusive
arrangement with eBay; it is the only software available to sellers
on the eBay marketplace.
Andale (it is cash-positive, claims Shah) isn't
the first company to try and tap the micro-merchandising boom. Unlike
the others that tried and failed, however, it uses a subscription-based
model where buyers can subscribe to the plan that best suits their
needs. For instance, a seller, says Shah, "can subscribe for
a sales analysis report for around $1 a transaction." And since
everything is online, Andale spends next to nothing on reaching
and servicing customers. Shah says Andale has 60,000 billable customers
with an additional 2,000 signing on every week. And competition?
"Our biggest competition are pen-and-paper and Excel,"
Of Andale's 215 employees, 175, including the
development and sales teams are based in Bangalore. "All our
software is developed here," says Shah. "Our India play
is strategic." That's a line we've heard before.
Accelrys Is Here
|Accelrys' Patel: India Inside
Accelrys is one of the world's largest providers
of simulation and computing software to R&D organisations in
the pharma, biotech, and chemical industries.
What exactly does this software do?
According to Harsha Patel, the company's Vice
President in charge of R&D, "They (Accelrys' customers)
must manage and exploit data, information, and knowledge in a complex
environment. This is where our proprietary tools and software help.''
What kind of people does it employ?
Largely Ph.Ds, so you get the picture. Patel
says the company looks for people who understand information technology
and biosciences. That's not an easy combination to find.
How big is the Indian operation?
Right now, about 30-strong, but Shane Dodd,
Director, Accelrys India, says, "Our goal is to have a 100-man
operation here by 2004."