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MARCH 25, 2007
 Cover Story
 BT Special
 Back of the Book

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.
More Net Specials

Business Today,  March 11, 2007

The Biggest Newsmakers
Who were the CEOs that the business press wrote, wrote and wrote some more about?
Compared to some other groups, brothers Mukesh and Anil manage fewer companies. But in terms of sheer activity, there's no one to beat them
As an executive duo, N.R. Narayana Murthy and Nandan M. Nilekani must seem unique. There's no other pair, either in the tech circles or outside of it, that gets mentioned or talked about in the same breath as this one does. At Microsoft, it's about Bill Gates; at Intel, it's about, er (who, Craig Barrett or Paul Otellini?), one doesn't quite know. And at the Tatas, Birlas, Ambanis or Wipro, there's always one name that comes to mind ahead of others.

So, what makes Murthy and Nilekani the most written about corporate honchos? It's possibly the clear (or clever?) positioning that the two enjoy with respect to their company and industry. Nilekani is perceived as the poster boy of Indian it (thanks to, no mean extent, New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman-of The World is Flat Fame), while Murthy is the eminence grise, whose opinion is sought on just about everything from governance to poverty to education. In fact, Murthy swaps places with Arcelor-Mittal's Lakshmi Niwas Mittal this year (see The Top 25).

But one name that didn't figure at all on our last year's list, but storms in this year at #8 is Indra Nooyi, CEO and Chairman-designate, PepsiCo. That should surprise no one. Nooyi made waves last year when she became the first woman CEO in the history of PepsiCo, and a woman of Indian origin at that. What's also heartening about this year's top personalities list is that there are four women in the top 25, compared to just one last year (Biocon's Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw had that distinction). No one can blame the media for not doing its bit to shatter the glass ceiling in the corporate world.

K.V. Kamath-led ICICI Group is the only pure financial services group to feature on our list of top 10 groups, and ICICI Bank the only bank on our overall list of top 25 companies
Front Page Heroes
Companies of Anil and Mukesh Ambani hogged Page One, but surprisingly two state-owned telcos weren't too far below the fold.

Companies covet it as much as reporters: space on Page One, or the cover of a magazine such as this one. It's this space that tells one news from another, one company from another, and one reporter from another. So, who got the most Page One mentions last year? Predictably, these were the companies owned by brothers Anil and Mukesh Ambani. What was not so predictable was the emergence of BSNL and MTNL as #4 and #5 companies, respectively. One reason was, of course, the mammoth tender that BSNL floated for adding 45.5 million lines at a cost of $5 billion (Rs 22,000 crore). The other reason was the spat between BSNL and MTNL over the national long-distance arrangement that the former had with the latter. Eventually, MTNL not only did launch its own NLD service between Delhi and Mumbai, but also offered calls between the two cities at local rates.

Two other groups not used to getting space on Page One of national dailies ended up under the arc lights as well. We are talking of GMR and GVK. And you know the reason. These two southern groups surprised everyone early last year by winning the bids for modernisation of airports at Delhi and Mumbai.

The Top Groups
ICICI Group stormed into the top league, right behind the Tatas and the Mukesh Ambani Group.

In terms of coverage, there are two groups that have steadily lost in the BT-Cirrus study of biggest newsmakers. These are the Aditya Birla Group and the (Rahul) Bajaj Group. While the former didn't figure on our list of top five last year, the latter barely made it at #5. This year again, the Bajajs have just made it-but on an expanded list of top 10; sadly, the Birlas haven't made it again.

The Tatas and the Reliance Group continued to be the #1 and #2 groups, respectively, but there was a surprise #3 this year-the K.V. Kamath-led ICICI Group, which includes everything from ICICI Bank to ICICI Prudential Life Insurance Co. to ICICI Venture to ICICI OneSource (now called Firstsource). At ICICI Bank, its efforts at creating beachheads overseas continued to attract media attention (Sri Lanka, Russia, Belgium, and Malaysia were some countries where it opened branches last year), while the Shikha Sharma-led ICICI Prudential got into a bit of a tussle with Bajaj Allianz over industry leadership. The latter claimed to be #1 in terms of received premium, but the former said it was the top dog in terms of annualised premium. In fact, the ICICI Group isn't just the only financial services group in the top 10, but also ICICI Bank is the only bank to make it to the overall top 20 list. That's quite an achievement.

Lakshmi Niwas Mittal's LNM Group also grabbed a lot of headlines for the stunning Arcelor deal. First rebuffed by the Anglo-Dutch steel major, Mittal's steel company went on to sweep shareholders off their feet with a sweetened offer, making Arcelor-Mittal the largest steel company in the world. Y.C. Deveshwar's cigarettes-to-hotels-to-paper-apparel group, ITC, came right behind LNM, followed by Bharti Enterprises and Anand Mahindra's Mahindra Group. The dapper Mahindra, of course, had everything going his way last year, including the deal with Renault to make cars in India, and Tech Mahindra's IPO.

The Top Ministers
Surprise, It's not Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, but Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav who gets more of media.

Last year, it wasn't just the Indian railways that turned around. Its political master, Lalu Prasad Yadav, emerged as a turnaround artist and a management guru, too. Perhaps, that's why, Yadav beat his Cabinet colleague and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram-who ought to win hands down if only the business media were to be considered-to emerge as the most written about Union minister in charge of an economic ministry. This is a new category that the BT-Cirrus study considers this year, therefore, there are no comparisons available from the previous studies.

There's a simple reason why the popular media (excluding the pink dailies and business magazines) loves Yadav. He makes for entertaining copy. So, be it his run-ins with Bihar Chief Minister and his political rival Nitish Kumar or his vocal support to controversial yoga guru, Baba Ram Dev, or simply a matter of vacating his official bungalow in Patna, Yadav knows how to work the media to his advantage.

Information and Broadcasting Minister, Priyaranjan Das Munshi got plenty of media exposure too, but mostly for the wrong reasons. For example, after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh clarified his statement on Muslims having the first right on resources of India (he meant to say all minorities), Munshi stepped in to say that the clarification was uncalled for. He also banned Arab channels, and stopped the screening of the movie The Da Vinci Code. Since then, he has gotten into more controversies, including the banning of AXN channel early this year (this, however, doesn't reflect on his score, since the study only looks at 2006 reports).

In contrast, Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel got relatively less visibility, but his quality of exposure was vastly better than Munshi's. Dayanidhi Maran, Union Minister of Communications & it, did even better, notching up a QoE of 130. Next year, when BT-Cirrus conducts its fifth study, it will be interesting to see how fortunes have changed for India's top economic ministers.