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FEB. 25, 2007
 Cover Story
 BT Special
 Back of the Book

Trading with ASEAN
In the recent Indo-ASEAN summit, ASEAN was, for the first time, on the defensive. India has agreed to bring down its negative list of imports to 490 items in the free trade agreement with the 10 ASEAN nations. But India’s step towards free trade was not matched by the ASEAN nations, as more than 1,000 items still figure in the negative list of the ASEAN. In 2005-06, India’s total trade with ASEAN was at $22 billion (Rs 99,000 crore), against just $7 billion (Rs 31,500 crore) in 2000-01.

Exchange Deal
Indian markets are on a roll. Global stock exchanges and financial institutions’ interest in the Indian stock exchanges goes to show the long-term growth potential of India Inc. The year has started on a positive note. The NYSE and three global financial institutions have each picked up a 5 per cent stake in the NSE. The deal will open exciting vistas in global co-operation for the NSE, and at the same time could improve the fortune of smaller exchanges in the country.
More Net Specials
Business Today,  February 11, 2007
Sherpalo’s Shriram: Pumping capital into the internet
Even if he had not made a single successful investment after Google, Ram Shriram, 49, would still be a legend. He got into Google by investing early and becoming a board member. Even after selling $442 million (Rs 1,900 crore) worth of Google equity in February 2005, he still owns 3.4 million shares worth $1.63 billion (Rs 7,335 crore). Now you know why he appears on the Forbes list of billionaires.

For Shriram, business has never been just about money. He was a part of the pioneering Netscape team that defined the internet dream for a generation, founded in 1996 and sold it to for $200 million (Rs 900 crore) in August 1998 and, since then, has invested in winners like 24/,, Paymate and Plaxo. Little wonder that in Forbes' 2007 listing of Top 100 people with the Midas touch, he has emerged as the top-ranked Indian (beating seven other fellow Indians on the list) and the fourth overall.

Number of Note

His company is called Sherpalo (from the Nepalese Sherpa) Ventures; and he has repeatedly said that he is not an investment banker who comes with a cheque book and little else, but more of a technology and operations expert who assists entrepreneurs build sustainable businesses.

The other remarkable thing is how consistently he has believed in the power of the net. Even during the dotcom bust, Shriram never waivered in his belief in the online companies he had invested in. That has paid him handsome dividends. Now, other investors have found an easy way of picking winners; they simply mimic his investment strategies. Isn't there a saying that "imitation is the surest form of flattery"?


Rs 52,455 crore: The amount India Inc. raised through overseas issues during 2006

$250 million (Rs 1,125 crore): The current size of the Indian animation industry. The figure is expected to grow to $950 million (Rs 4,275 crore) by 2009

$10.5 billion (Rs 47,250 crore): The net overseas lending by Indian commercial banks

23,265: The number of employees hired by the top 5 Indian IT companies-TCS, Infosys, Wipro, Satyam and HCL Technologies-in the Oct-Dec 2006 quarter. This brings the collective strength of the country's five biggest firms to 291,830

Rs 6-9 lakh: Average annual salary offered by Indian companies for an IIM graduate in 2006. The figure for foreign companies is between $60,000 (Rs 27 lakh) and $225,000 (Rs 1 crore)

85 per cent: Share of world diamond trade controlled by Indians

70 per cent: Share of small cars in India's 1 million-a-year car market

100 megabytes: Data transmission speed provided by 4G mobile system per second. This is 10 times more than the 10 megabytes per second provided by 3G technology

28 per cent: Share of the US in global gross domestic product; it accounted for one-fifth of worldwide growth between 2000 and 2006

$2 billion (Rs 9,000 crore): The total digital music sales to PCs, portable devices, and mobile phones in 2006

148,781: The number of cars exported by India from April to December 2006, according to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers

27 million: Total number of people the $21.6-billion (Rs 97,200 crore) McDonald's feeds every day, an increase of 1 million per year since 2003


INCREASED: By Maruti Udyog, the prices of most of its cars by Rs 2,000-12,000. Prices of Baleno and Gypsy King were increased by Rs 12,000 while WagonR and Zen Estilo saw a hike of Rs 3,500. Maruti 800, Omni, Alto, Swift (Petrol) Vxi and Esteem prices have risen by Rs 2,000.

UPGRADED: By Standard & Poor's, India's sovereign rating to "investment grade". This will allow corporates to raise cheaper loans from overseas money markets. This will also lift the credit ratings of several Indian banks and financial institutions. With this, for the first time in 15 years, all three global rating agencies, including Moody's and Fitch, have India in the "investment grade".

LISTED: By Global Services magazine, 36 Indian IT and BPO firms among the 100 best it and BPO companies in the 2007 Global Services list. In the 2006 list, only 26 Indian companies made the grade (a steep drop from 40 in 2005). In the latest round, the United States came second with 32 companies. Chinese firms also made their mark; eight of them made it to the 100.

PLANNED: By consulting major Accenture, a 30 per cent hike in its India headcount to 35,000 this year, making this country its largest centre in the world. The US operations, currently its largest, will have around 32,000 employees by then.

APPROVED: By RBI, the appointment of Naina Lal Kidwai as the Chief Executive of HSBC India (she will continue as a member on the global board of Nestle SA, the world's largest food firm, albeit with restrictions). RBI had earlier held back her appointment on the ground that CEOs of banks in India are not allowed to hold board positions in any other company.

SLIPPED: By 3 positions, public sector giant ONGC to #21 in the 2006 PFC Energy 50 list from #18 the previous year. The list includes companies from 18 countries, led by the US (14 companies), European Union (13), Canada (7) and Russia (5). PFC Energy 50 ranks the top 50 publicly traded companies in the oil and gas industry, based on year-end market capitalisation.


Banks are offering lifestyle-related incentives to woo high net worth customers. Last fortnight, India's third largest private sector bank, UTI Bank, opened priority bank branches in Mumbai and Kolkata; it plans to roll out six more branches nationally over the next seven months. Any client with a minimum average quarterly balance of Rs 1 lakh in his savings account or a minimum average quarterly balance of Rs 5 lakh in the bank's term deposits schemes is eligible to avail of the services in UTI Bank's priority branches.

These have a business centre, art gallery, conference room, internet facilities and a children's playroom stacked with toys and books; customers can use these facilities free of cost. "The idea is to provide value to our customers. The cost is certainly higher, but these customers, who account for 3.5 per cent of our customer base, bring in 30 per cent of the saving account balances for the bank," says P.J. Nayak, Chairman & Managing Director, UTI Bank, adding: "If it works, we will scale it up." Foreign banks like Citibank give free tickets for movies and art exhibitions and organise events on investment and networking for its Citigold customers. Customers must have a minimum Rs 30 lakh in their savings account to qualify for these.