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APRIL 22, 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,  April 8, 2007

Moving Pictures
UTV is betting big on world cinema.
UTV's Srewvala: New show

If UTV has its way, you won't need to wait for the next film festival in town to catch films made by maverick directors Akira Kurosawa and Francois Truffaut. The Mumbai-headquartered media and entertainment major has set up UTV Palador, a 360 degree initiative in world cinema under the brand name of 'Olive Collections' with three verticals: A television channel, a DVD label and theatrical releases. "We are investing $15 million (Rs 70 crore) over the next three years to acquire 1,000 titles across 20 countries that have won over 3,000 (cumulative) awards. Initially, we will invest $3-3.5 million (Rs 13-15 crore)," says Ronnie Screwvala, Chairman, UTV.

Screwvala estimates the non-Indian language movie segment to be worth Rs 1,500 crore by 2009, and UTV Palador could grab 20 per cent of that pie with its focus on world cinema via its three prongs. "The main revenue source for us will be dvds and the channel. We plan to launch the TV channel in 6-8 months. The theatrical release will be mainly a marketing tool," adds Screwvala. Come April, 20 theatres across the country will release the Olive Collection films with two shows daily that will account for nearly 15,000 shows per annum. The Olive DVD Collection will be released in a phased manner. UTV will be releasing 15-20 titles each month and they will be priced at Rs 799. The TV Channel will take six-eight months to launch.

Meantime, UTV has cemented a relationship with Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra (who directed the UTV-produced Rang De Basanti), by tying with his production house titled Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra Productions (romp) to co-produce four films with a total outlay of Rs 280 crore.

Friedman Will Approve
FlatWorld spots overseas targets, and funds their buyouts!

FlatWorld's Gupta: Dealmaker

If you're a private equity firm in India but can't find any reasonably-priced assets around, what do you do? Well, you could wait for valuations to cool off. Or, like FlatWorld Capital, a firm that traditionally invests in North American services companies, you could take the cross-border route and try spotting overseas targets for Indian promoters. Raj Gupta, Partner at FlatWorld, explains that the firm first identifies potential Indian businesses, then goes with them to the US to do the due diligence of the US asset and then funds the acquisition. The last step is to ultimately merge the foreign entity with the Indian company. "In the US, we have two entities in the IT services space: The first with $104 million (Rs 457.6 crore) in revenues is part of a conglomerate and the second is an independent company with $43 million (Rs 189.2 crore) in revenues. I am talking to Indian it companies (in the top 25) for the acquisitions," he discloses.

FlatWorld Capital plans to invest $200 million (Rs 880 crore) a year to assist the Indian companies (primarily by financing acquisitions). Apart from it and BPO services companies, FlatWorld is looking at companies in the human resources, marketing and healthcare services sectors. The PE firm says it looks at over 500 deals globally a year, and in 2007, it plans to close between two and five transactions in India.

Googling India
The domestic operations are off to a flying start.

Google's Cassidy: It's going great for her

Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, vice-President, Asia-Pacific, Google, has at least two good reasons to feel smug about India. For one, Google's research and development team in Bangalore has launched new products like Google Finance and Blogger's new Hindi transliteration tool. For another, the global operations team in Hyderabad is growing (though, Google did not disclose headcount numbers), and its sales teams in Delhi and Mumbai are selling more and more adverts as India's online economy starts to boom. Third party estimates reckon the size of the 'AdWords' market in India at Rs 100-150 crore (Google would not disclose figures).

Google has now appointed Shailesh Rao from its Mountain View, California office as Managing Director of its Indian operations. Rao, who previously headed Google's burgeoning local search business, is expected to also give Google India a slightly more local focus. Cassidy is cagey about revealing whether Google is about to unveil a local search product in India. "We have the product and we will bring it to India, but I can't disclose when," she shrugs.

However, Google's largest rivals Yahoo! and msn (now Windows Live) are both about to launch local search services and city-specific websites (Yahoo! is beta testing Yahoo! Ourcity). And with several Indian web entrepreneurs too entering the space (Burpp and Guruji), Google's local services for India might be on the horizon sooner rather than later. At the same time, the company is also populating its Google Maps service with Indian Geographic Information System (GIS) information.

Google has never projected itself as an overarching company that dominates the internet; Cassidy believes Google is a company that spurs innovation. "Look at the number of companies that have sprung up that use Google, companies that use mash-ups of Google Maps and Google Earth to offer location-based services, and companies that have seen their business improve thanks to our AdWords advertising programme. At the same time, Google has helped online publishers monetise their content through our AdSense publishers' programme. In India, we have used resellers to sell ad space on our advertising service and the programme has been a huge success. I would like to believe that Google is an enabler of companies."

Along with a host of new services, Google is also setting up a parallel R&D centre in Gurgaon. "India has a huge pool of talented people and we realise there are people in the Delhi region as well whom we want on board," Cassidy says. The company also plans to slowly increase the number of services it offers in Indian languages. "With the rising number of people accessing the internet in India, it is quite obvious that some of them will want services in their own languages," Rao says. "We already offer search services in several Indian languages and the new Hindi transliteration tool on Blogger is hopefully the first of many tools we will develop for India," adds Cassidy.

But Google has also had its fair share of problems in India, not least of which was the controversy surrounding Google Earth where anyone could see satellite imagery of what the Indian government classified as 'sensitive' locations such as Rashtrapati Bhavan and nuclear power facilities. Andrew McLaughlin, Senior Policy Counsel, Google, points out that the company has faced this problem in other countries as well (including the US). "You have to remember there are 20 companies from where anybody can buy such images and that is what we tell governments. We have democratised the process, but, yes, we are working with governments." (Google has blurred out images of places like the White House on Google Earth).

As the Indian internet economy grows, Google, unquestionably the world's largest internet company, with a market capitalisation of $145 billion, wants to be part of the Indian internet boom. It's made a dream start.