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FEB. 11, 2007
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Taxing Times
The phase-out of central sales tax is yet another move towards ushering in the national goods and services tax (GST). The compensation to the states, in lieu of CST phase-out, will include revenue proceeds from 33 services currently being taxed by the Centre as well as 44 new services of an intra-state nature that will be traded by the states. However, VAT is the way forward, though much needs to be done to iron out the anomalies in the current VAT regime.

India, Ahoy!
Indian investments overseas are growing and how. For instance, total Indian investment in Latin America and the Caribbean has topped $3 billion (Rs 13,500 crore) so far. The latest investment is by ONGC Videsh, which acquired an oilfield in Colombia for $425 million (Rs 1,912.5 crore). Earlier, ONGC bought an offshore oilfield in Brazil for $410 million (Rs 1,845 crore).
More Net Specials
Business Today,  January 28, 2007
Interpreting India
Most expat CEOs consider themselves lucky if they manage to wrap up their India stint without losing an arm and a leg (figuratively, of course). So, picking up the pen to interpret the strange new market is not something most of them would dare do. But Perfetti India's Chairman Stefano Pelle loves to dare. Which is why he not just accepted the India assignment eight years ago, but has created a Rs 600-crore confectionery major in the country. Perhaps that's why it didn't seem too pretentious when the 42-year-old Italian unveiled his first book, called Understanding Emerging Markets-Building Business BRIC by Brick. "It took me six months to write the book, but it is based on my experiences over the last 22 years," says Pelle, whose wife is from Kerala and a dentist to boot. Evidently, Pelle, a one-time opera singer, conductor and pianist, enjoys writing as much as running Perfetti. He's already begun work on his second book.

Infrastructure Cheerleader

Last year, Vinayak Chatterjee, 47, chairman, Feedback Ventures, managed a small victory when Planning Commission's approach paper to the 11th Plan (2007-2011) put in a small mention of something he had been lobbying for a while-an estimate of the gross capital formation in infrastructure in India as of now. Thrilled, Chatterjee is now lobbying for bigger things-like an entire Infrastructure Ministry. Why? To serve infrastructure investors 'cooked' projects-his friendly term for bankable projects. However, this mission may turn out to be tougher than he expects. The 20-odd line ministries that could possibly be merged into this over-arching ministry will not let go so easily. "When will these Kumbhakarns decide to wake up?" asks an exasperated Chatterjee, an alumnus of Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. He's been asking that question for years now. And the government's answer to that seems to be, well, infrastructure is a long-haul story.

The People Guy

When mercer human resource consulting asked its new Asia head where he would like to be located, he picked not Hong Kong or Singapore, but Chennai. Don't be too surprised. Rajan Srikanth, 44, is a native of the city. But more importantly, the former Walter A. Haas School of Business (University of California) assistant professor and consultant (he's worked with KPMG Peat Marwick and Bain & Co, among others), who spent 22 years in the US, hopes to as much learn as teach in Asian markets. "Mercer offers me an opportunity to work from a CEO's agenda-to look at leadership issues and blend them top down," he says, explaining his move from Accenture. Srikanth, whose wife is a Bharatnatyam dance teacher, is also in charge of Mercer's Human Capital Advisory Services in Asia. Given Asia's talent crunch, Srikanth will have plenty of advising to do.

Surprise Frontrunner

Leading the race to become the petroleum regulator is Labanyendu Mansingh, 60, who recently retired as Secretary, Consumer Affairs. A career bureaucrat who worked in economic ministries ranging from trade to industry, Mansingh, however, did not serve in the petroleum sector. The only other contender, Sushil Tripathi, interestingly, recently retired as Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum. So, why does the government's recruitment panel seem to prefer Mansingh over Tripathi, who would arguably take less time to kick off mature regulations? The reasons aren't apparent but wags in the bureaucracy point to one of Tripathi's key decisions during his tenure as Petroleum Secretary, and which was to get Reliance Industries to bear the subsidy burden in the petroleum sector. Last year, RIL forked out close to Rs 750 crore. That Mansingh is a close family friend of Petroleum Minister Murli Deora is also no secret. Surely, the minister could take no chances. After all, oil is slippery.

Taking the Plunge

For 15 long years, B.V. Naidu was the first port of call for any tech company wanting to set up shop in Bangalore or Hyderabad. And in those years, the 42-year-old Director of Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) watched as many of the entrepreneurs he helped and advised went on to strike pay dirt. Finally, Naidu has decided not to merely watch, but take the plunge into the heady industry. He has joined SemIndia as the Managing Director to execute its $3-billion FabCity (to make semiconductors) coming up in Hyderabad. "I had achieved all I could at STPI," he says. "Although I would be lying if I didn't admit that the lure of a private sector pay packet was also a reason," he adds with a grin. With the semiconductor policy far from clear and plenty of lobbying still to be done by SemIndia, Naidu seems like the perfect man for the job.

The Unlikely Geek

For someone who didn't study at school but privately at home, Rishab Aiyer Ghosh isn't just literate, but erudite. The 31-year-old founder and Managing Editor of First Monday, a widely-read, peer-reviewed online international journal about the internet, is also an open source advocate, and is based in the Netherlands. But he makes a trip to India every year for 10 days to conduct workshops and do research work. Ghosh is actively involved in initiatives related to government policy on FLOSS (Free/Libre Open Source Software) in Europe and Asia. "We have to realise that there is a very tangible market dynamic to the free economy of the internet, and money is not the prime motivator of most producers of the net's free goods," says the Delhi boy, who can sing dhrupad and play the cello. He is currently writing a book based on his weekly column, Electric Dreams, on information society.