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MARCH 25, 2007
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Mobile Security
Today, it is all about information and how the right information is sent to the right people at the right time and right place. Uncertainty about how to secure mobile phones in the face of increasing threats is slowing individual adoption of mobile applications. There are many facets of mobile security, including network intrusion, mobile viruses, spam and mobile phishing. Analysts expect big telecom companies to develop security solutions on various security platforms.

Rough Ride
These are competitive times for the Indian aviation industry. As salaries zoom, players are scrambling to find profits. Even the state-owned Indian is now seeking young airhostesses to take on the competition. It is planning to introduce a voluntary retirement scheme for airhostesses above 40 years. On an average, they draw a salary of Rs 5 lakh a year. The salaries of pilots, too, are soaring. According to industry estimates, the country needs over 3,000 pilots over the next five years.
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Business Today,  March 11, 2007

Pitching For Baseball
Major League Baseball is taking the initiative to popularise the game in India. And it has chosen Manipur as its first stop in this country.

Forget cricket, it's all about baseball in Manipur: Cricket is, by far, the most popular sport in the country, but that certainly doesn't seem to be the case here; more and more youngsters are taking to baseball in Manipur

It is 8 a.m. on a sunny Sunday morning in a nondescript town (which, sadly, for all its scenic charm, has become a garrison town); a bunch of around 20 boys, mostly still at school, is out practising a game of baseball. If this were Middle America or Cuba or even Japan, chances are, you wouldn't be reading about them, at least not here. We're talking about them not only because of the unlikely setting but also because, if Manipur's capital Imphal capitalises on a us-led initiative, this quaint little strife-torn town could carve a niche for itself as the centre in India for one of the world's wealthiest sports.

This story has its origins in a visit back home, in 2005, to Manipur by an expat from New York City (NYC). "I always wanted to initiate a process that could help develop baseball in the state," says L. Somi Roy, a documentary filmmaker. Roy went back and, along with a couple of other baseball enthusiasts, founded First Pitch (FP), with the objective of facilitating the promotion of the sport in the state. Result: "Manipur Project" was born. FP succeeded in getting Major League Basketball (MLB), the governing body of the sport in the US, and a couple of other bodies on board. "We really did not know much about Manipur, but it sounded like a good opportunity and we got interested," explains Jim Small, VP (Market Development), MLB, whose annual ticket revenues from over 60 countries are estimated at over $3 billion (Rs 13,200 crore). The first camp, a 10-day event, was held in Imphal in November last year and trained 30 local coaches. MLB's coaches held two more camps at Goa and New Delhi, the only other centres in India for baseball.

To be sure, Manipur, which frequently outperforms other states in national sporting events, has for long been home to the sport. "Imphal, with a population of just under 5 lakh people, has at least 22 registered baseball clubs; up to 300 boys play the game seriously here," informs Roy, adding: "but the state association, and, indeed, others nationwide, has rudimentary facilities and old and inadequate gear."

One step at a time: Many believe that Manipur can actually be a good launch pad for baseball in India. The sport is already a part of popular culture there

Baseball first came to India in the early 80s, and the first "official" match at the national level was played in 1985. And, this will surprise many, the country even has a national team, but it fares insignificantly at the global level (why does this sound familiar?). "We have associations in almost every state, and there are up to 600 players playing the game at the national level, but there isn't enough money in it for players to subsist on it," laments P.C. Bhardwaj, Secretary, Amateur Baseball Association of India, which sustains on government grants. What ails the sport in India is not very different from what hinders most non-cricket sports activities in the country, but baseball, say experts, is uniquely positioned as the only viable alternative to cricket in India, primarily because of its format. "The fact that Indians are familiar with a bat and ball sport is very helpful," says Small. "Moreover, Indian students constitute one of the largest foreign student groups in the us. We're confident that when they return, they'll take some of their interest back with them."

This is not to suggest any impending threat to cricket, but such a scenario cannot be ruled out in future. "If you were to pit the two sports against each other, you'd find that in relative terms, baseball has grown faster than cricket in the country," says Bhardwaj.

For a new sport to take root in any society, say experts, it needs to be helped along by two inextricably conjoined factors. First, there has to be an appetite for the sport among the local people, which in turn can be kindled and nurtured by sustained government support. On the first count, Imphal has an inherent advantage, as the sport is a part of popular culture there. "Even the militants do not object to it; so Manipur can actually become the launch pad for baseball in India," says Geet Lairenjam, FP's local Convener in Imphal. But for it to gain popularity nationwide (and it remains alien to most Indians), it will have to enter people's drawing rooms. "We currently broadcast up to five games a week in India on ESPN-star," says Small, "and are already in talks with Doordarshan on terrestrial telecast of the games."

Publicly, all stakeholders claim that the government, both at the state and national levels, has pitched in with monetary, infrastructural and institutional support, but privately, they admit that not enough has been done. The first dedicated baseball stadium is soon slated to come up in Goa; the equipment (all of it imported), however, is hard to source (see Know Your Baseball Kit). "We have been lobbying with the government to reduce duties on gear, but for prices to really come down and become more easily available, the equipment will have to be made in India," says Bhardwaj.

As of now, though, FP and MLB are unwilling to talk about how much money is being invested in the game and via the "Manipur Project" and where it's coming from. "It's early days yet," says Roy, "so, we are treading carefully."