if you, damned if you don't. Such is the quandary that industry
faces in Karnataka, a perennially power starved state, where units
that generate power for captive consumption have been asked to pay
50 paise per unit as tax. According to the state's Additional Energy
Secretary & Chief Electrical Inspector, T. Munirathnam, the
idea is to help cross-subsidise power supplied to the agriculture
sector. The tax, which is expected to generate Rs 250 crore per
annum, has the local industry livid. Says an angry and incredulous
B.S. Arun Kumar, President of the Federation of Karnataka Chambers
of Commerce and Industry: "This is the most ludicrous proposal."
Interestingly enough, captive producers generate
more power generation installed capacity (4,300 mw) than the state
itself (4,200 mw). One reason for that, industrial consumers say,
is poor quality of supply. However, a bigger reason could be the
price: the state charges commercial users Rs 6.70 per unit, compared
to Rs 4 it costs when independently produced. Ergo, there's a lack
of demand for state supply from big users. With the government refusing
to back down, the state's power struggle may have only just begun.
Out of Favour
MCA seats in Karnataka go abegging.
|M.S. Thimappa, VC, Bangalore
University: Not surprised
The it industry's fortunes are looking
up and the top companies are hiring once again. So, the demand for
it education should be rising too, right? No, not in Karnataka.
For the 1,900 master of computer applications (MCA) seats on offer
at the Bangalore University-Asia's largest with more than 450 colleges
affiliated to it and four lakh students-there were just 600 applicants
this year. In fact, so unviable have the courses become that more
than 15 colleges have approached the University for permission to
withdraw the course. So why is MCA going out of fashion in Karnataka?
University Vice Chancellor, M.S. Thimappa, thinks the answer is
simple: "When the curriculum gets divorced from market realities
this is what happens. There is little value in the graduate or master's
programme that a lot of these colleges offer," he says.
He is right. Taking advantage of the boom in
technical education, dozens of colleges have sprung up in the recent
past. K. Balveera Reddy, Vice Chancellor of Vishweshwariah Technical
University, the nodal university for all engineering colleges in
the state, points out that engineering seats have more than doubled
to around 40,000 in the past five years. And not all of them are
as good as they ought to be. Not surprisingly, then, the colleges
with the worst infrastructure have been the hardest hit, indicating
that students have become more choosy and conscious of the value
a college offers.
Much like the IT companies that they hope to
staff, Karnataka's engineering colleges need to stay in tune with
the market demand. Otherwise, things can only get worse for them.
the Bells and Whistles
of upgrading your handset? be warned. new software and features
on the fancy new handset that you covet may be too much to handle.
That's what BT discovered with three new handsets-3100, 6600 and
N.Gage-from Nokia. The N.Gage died on us with a software glitch
before even one game was played; the 3100 hung every once in a while;
and the 6600's video camera also caused it to hang more than once.
Sure the three were prototypes, but our point holds. As handsets
vie to become PCs, they'll likely have all the desktop's problems
The Flight Gets Bumpy
Air Deccan hits an air pocket, but it's not
May Day yet.
|G.R. Gopinath, MD, Air Deccan:
Keeping his cool
For India's first low-cost carrier, the
flight so far has been extremely rough. On its inaugural flight
from Hyderabad to Bangalore, its ATR 42 caught fire in full view
of media and VIP passengers, including civil aviation minister Rajiv
Pratap Rudy. Then, Air Deccan's schedules, announced weeks in advance,
went haywire as the additional ATRs ordered did not turn up. Besides,
some travel agents have been bad mouthing the carrier because it
runs a direct booking system through the internet and a customer
contact centre, making agents redundant. Several flight cancellations
due to technical snags haven't helped either.
But ask Air Deccan's Managing Director G.R.
Gopinath if the troubles will ground the airline, and he dismisses
the question as an exaggeration. "Just because we hit an air
pocket does not mean that we abandon flight. Just a few weeks into
the show and already some people want to write us off. We are here
to stay," asserts Gopinath. As for the fire on the inaugural
flight, Gopinath says that the incident has been blown out of proportion.
According to him, it was fuel traces on the wing tips that caught
fire due to atmospheric friction and that at no point were the passengers
in any danger. And as proof of public confidence, he says that the
very next flight from Hyderabad to Bangalore flew full capacity.
Nor does Gopinath think that the no-frills
model is flawed. Explaining why his company ventured into no-frills
airline, he says that India's huge middle class offers a very big
market for an airline like Air Deccan. India currently has 380 flights
per day, with 40,000-odd people flying them. In contrast, the US,
Gopinath points out, has just a third of India's population, but
40,000 flights per day. "The amount of air travel is bound
to increase as long as it is affordable," says he. As a low-cost
carrier, Air Deccan's unique proposition is its fare. For instance,
its Bangalore-Hyderabad fare is just Rs 2,270, compared to Rs 4,900
of Indian Airlines and Jet Airways.
Despite the hiccups, Gopinath is projecting
revenues of Rs 250 crore in the first year and possibly even profits.
"Low cost airlines are the future worldwide, air pockets or
not," says Gopinath. Maybe, but he had better keep his seat
|Techbook: Thanks to Brits
The Write Stuff
Here's a new one on the outsourcing front.
The us-based Techbooks has quietly assembled a team of 1,800 at
Okhla in Delhi to remotely provide publishing support services.
Whether it's filing sec statements, applications to the FDA, writing
legal briefs, developing content for techno-medical journals, the
centre in India does everything for the $50 million company. "The
margins are more than what most make in the software business,"
says Ranjit Singh, CEO of Techbooks India, which counts McGraw Hill
and Pearson among its clients.