NOVEMBER 9, 2003
 Cover Story
 BT 500
 Personal Finance
 The Other 500
 Back of the Book

Gates Against Malaria
Bill Gates, who claims
to watch the efficiency
of each dollar he spends, has put down $168 million to
combat malaria.

Age Discrimination
The UAE wants to kick
all expats above 60 out
of their jobs. A fine
start to the IMF/ World Bank meet in Dubai, eh?

More Net Specials
Business Today,  October 26, 2003
A Rich Crop
The server farm business is booming.
A server farm: Take our word, this business is fertile

They can withstand seismic shocks up to 8 on the Richter scale, boast motion and thermal detectors, video surveillance, biometric sensors, the finest fire detection equipment money can buy, and enough backup telecommunication links to reassure a schizoid paranoid. They are data centres, or server farms, hi-tech warehouses that are into the business of internet and enterprise hosting; in layspeak that means they host the websites of companies and provide outsourced data management solutions. Given the information-heavy nature of today's businesses, the business of data centres is a lucrative one with margins touching 70 per cent in some cases.

India's Never-ending Telecom Story
"We Are Sitting On A Growth Opportunity"
Metro Is Here

A senior executive at Tata Indicom Enterprise Business Unit (the Tata Group inherited VSNL's server farm business when it acquired the company) claims that the data centre business has grown at a cumulative average growth rate of 50 per cent over the past three years. Expectedly, the company is increasing the number of its data centres from four to six. Across its server farms that occupy 40,000 sq ft of space, the IT serves customers such as Akamai and Rediff (internet hosting), and Asian Paints and Global Trust Bank (enterprise hosting). Sify completes the Big Three of India's data centres business: it has two server farms that occupy 17,000 sq ft. With the rest of the world looking for disaster recovery centres far away from their HQs, and with the Indian telecom boom well and truly on-bandwidth is key to the business-this is one crop that could do well in Indian climatic conditions.

India's Never-ending Telecom Story
Episode X: Basic operators go to court.

The telecom tangle: I'm not roaming, just re-registering

India's telecom saga-the one concerning the legality of basic telephony companies providing full-fledged cellular services-has more twists and turns than a K-weepy on Star Plus. One reason for that is economics: For, while the market is booming-around 2 million Indians go mobile every month-most cellular telephony companies are bleeding. They would love to raise prices, but competition from companies such as Reliance Infocomm (which provides mobile telephony services without having paid a licence fee for the same, they point out) prevents them from doing so.

With a Group of Ministers now considering the legality issue, and with the pink dailies replete with pieces on how the government plans to curb the mobility of services offered by basic telephony companies, thereby making them operational only within a limited area, the Association of Basic Telephony Operators (ABTO) has filed a plea before the Supreme Court, asking the court to ensure that India's telecom regulator gives them a fair deal (read: no licence fee, and no change in the licence agreement). The ABTO argues that its members provide a full-fledged mobile service (roaming across circles) by offering subscribers the option of re-registering in the new circle they go to, something similar to cellular telephony subscribers who opt for pre-paid cards when they move across circles. This, it adds, is legal and doesn't violate any of the terms of their licence agreement. This may be the first time that basic telephony companies have gone to court (surprised?), but it can only ensure to exacerbate an already messy situation.

"We Are Sitting On A Growth Opportunity"

Phaneesh Murthy: Encore

In a first of sorts, palm's new handhelds, Tungsten E, Tungsten T3 and Zire 21 were launched at the same time in India, as they were in other parts of the world. Palm's chief evangelist Paul D. Leeper and Daren Ng, Sales Director for South Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, were in India for the mid-October launch. They spoke to BT's about their view on the Indian market and global trends in the portable computing space. Excerpts.

This is the first time India is part of a global launch of an entire range of products. Have you seen any specific rise in numbers in this market?

Daren Ng: We don't break the numbers, but India is a huge market opportunity and recent quarters have seen a demand for price sensitive products like the Palm Zire and the Palm M500. We don't treat India as a market for obsolete products, which is why we are here with our latest range.

Do you see anything unique about the Indian market's adoption of handhelds?

Paul Leeper: We see a specific trend towards usage of mobile devices to bridge the gap between the laptop and the desktop across the APAC (Asia Pacific) region. Overall, APAC and Europe have adopted wireless technologies much faster than the US.

Palm has been in a spot of bother with competitors launching lower priced products in the market...

Leeper: The growth areas exist, we are sitting in one of them right now! We simply maintain that we have the best products.

Ng: Fighting goliaths like Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft is not easy. All I can say is that we are focused only on the handheld market, it's all we do.

Metro Is Here

Even before the scheduled launch of its Indian operations-slated for around the time this magazine hits the stands -Metro Cash and Carry, the world's fourth largest retail chain has got the competition talking. Most Indian retailers aren't wishing it luck. One alleges that it violates Indian law. Fact is Metro-each of its two distribution centres in Bangalore is spread across seven acres and stocks 17,000 stock keeping units including food, fast-moving consumer goods, jewellery, garments, and consumer durables-will sell only to retailers (government regulators prohibit transnationals from retailing). ''We will cater to professional customers such as hotels, traders, offices, and other institutions; purchasing power and it systems will help us provide quality products at the lowest possible prices," says Harsh Bahadur, Managing Director, Metro India. Traders used to credit from distributors may think twice before shopping at Metro, but we see nothing but anti-competitive sentiment in the allegations of competitors.