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MAY 6, 2007
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Web Censors
Internet censorship is on the rise worldwide. As many as two dozen countries are blocking content using a variety of techniques. Distressingly, the most censor-heavy countries such as China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar and Uzbekistan seem to be passing on their technologically sophisticated techniques to other countries of the world. Some examples of censorship: China's blocking of Wikipedia and Pakistan's ban on Google's blogging service.

Temping Trend
Of late, temporary staffing has become a trend in India Inc. In industries such as retail and logistics, temporary hiring has become a business strategy as it enables them to quickly ramp up teams. It is becoming increasingly important for the survival of Indian firms, given the growth rates and talent shortage. Although the salary gap between temporary and permanent jobs is narrowing, temporary staff in India earn lower salaries than permanent ones, which is contrary to the global trend.
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Business Today,  April 22, 2007

Live On A River
Floatel, a hotel on a ship off Kolkata, is the first such in South Asia, and opened its doors to the public in March.

One of its kind: Floatel at night (above) and guests waiting for their meal (bottom)


The view is to die for-seeing the sun rise over and set on the Hooghly from 80 feet above the river, while sipping a cup of tea or your favourite tipple. No, you don't need to hire a chopper or spend time atop the Howrah Bridge to do so. Manor Floatel has recently launched a floating hotel on the river, christened Floatel, just off Kolkata's Central Business District, that allows you to do these and more. Says Rajib Roy Choudhury, gm, Floatel: "We are positioning it as an urban resort. Our catchline is 'Take a break from the city without leaving the city.' Where else can you sleep on the water (which is believed to rejuvenate one's body and also improve concentration levels)?"

Besides wonderful views of the sunrise and the sunset, the 4-star hotel, which is actually a 180'x50' ship, also offers guests jogging and meditation facilities at the adjacent Millennium Park on Strand Road, colonial cuisine at The Bridge, its 24-hour coffee shop, and kebabs and other North West Frontier fare at The Compass, its restaurant. Also on offer are river cruises and angling. An invitation weekend package, which has just been launched, costs Rs 2,400 (plus taxes).

Floatel, only the sixth in the world and the first in South Asia, is not yet fully operational. Only 24 of its 61 rooms are functional, but these are running at 100 per cent occupancy. The other rooms will be thrown open within the next six months. There will eventually be 58 deluxe rooms, called The Sunrise Rooms and The Sunset Rooms and three suites-The Owner's Suite, The Columbus Suite and The Vasco da Gama Suite. The Sunrise Rooms come for Rs 7,500 plus taxes, The Sunset Rooms for Rs 8,000 plus taxes and the suites for Rs 13,000 plus taxes.

Floatel has two banquet halls-The Promenade Deck (capacity: 300) and The Concourse Deck (capacity: 700). Besides, one can have outdoor conferences at The Bridge Outer Deck and The Compass Outer Deck, overlooking Hooghly, and discover the different moods of the river. "Wonderful" and "Most fascinating" are the two common expressions in the Guests' Comments Book, which has signatories like Ian McCartney, British Trade Minister, Anthony Leggett, Nobel Laureate for Physics (2003) and David Green, Head, British Council, London. The hotel doesn't yet have a bar licence. The Compass Bar will open in May and serve the usual range of drinks.

Truly wonderful: (From top to bottom) Be it the suites, the bathrooms or the food

Another attraction is the staff's navy-inspired uniform-complete with epaulettes. "The whole idea is to give guests the essence of a ship-from the decor to the names of the restaurants, conference halls and virtually everything else," says Manab Pal, MD, Manor Floatel.

The Floatel, incidentally, was designed and built in Singapore and then towed to its current position. And Pal adds, with a touch of pride, that it is the first Ecotel floatel in the world; it has been certified by HVS International, us, a global consulting and services organisation.

Pal also claims that it is a Zero Garbage Property. "We spent a lot on vermiculture (artificial rearing or cultivation of earthworms), vermicompost (the end-product of the breakdown of organic matter by earthworms), water conservation and preservation. The Floatel uses bio-degradable tissues and we ensure that all our vendors' cars are PUC (Pollution Under Check)-compatible," he informs.

The management team is cooking up some novel ideas and value additions to attract clients. Says Roy Choudhury: "We plan to conduct gourmet cooking classes on board. Then, if you catch a fish while angling, you can have it cooked by the chef and have it too (that sounds exciting). Besides, we are also planning to start a Chai Bar (tea bar), a library, adda (chat) sessions and Saturday night jam sessions with an open-air dance floor; we will also host movie sessions."

Pal, on his part, is burning midnight oil over his next move. He is working out the logistics and the technical and commercial viability of launching another Floatel and has shortlisted Varanasi, Mumbai and Goa. "The final decision is still some way away, but we will have to keep the idea afloat," says Pal.