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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

Angry Doctor

Union health minister Anbumani Ramadoss is angry, but not at AIIMS director P. Venugopal (he's already removed the noted heart surgeon as head of the hospital's Cardio Thoracic Surgery Department). This time around, his ire is aimed at Swiss drug giant Novartis, which has challenged India's patent laws that do not recognise incremental improvements in existing drugs, a tactic also derisively known as 'evergreening'. "I have asked Novartis to desist from such action. India has not used compulsory licensing so far, but in case of such moves we might as well consider that," he told reporters recently. What the minister and other advocates of cheap generics fear is that a successful challenge of the anti-evergreening laws could affect generic copies of other life-saving drugs such as anti-retroviral drugs that fight aids. But with billions of dollars at stake, drug makers such as Novartis are unlikely to give up the fight so easily.

Farmer's Best Friend

At 83, Prof. M.S. Swaminathan is tireless. When BT contacted him soon after his nomination to the Rajya Sabha, the father of India's Green Revolution was on a train to Koraput in Orissa, where his foundation is setting up a centre to research on traditional plant medicines used by tribals. "We have been working with these tribals for the last 10 years, trying to provide a sustainable livelihood for them with their traditional bio-diversity," says the Chennai-based Swaminathan. The research centre ultimately hopes to put on mass cultivation plants that would interest the pharmaceutical industry. But agriculture, understandably, remains his first love. "I would like to give agriculture its next big push through SAZs (Special Agriculture Zones)," he says. He's got the right ideas, and now a more powerful platform, too.

Like Uncle, Like Nephew

His uncle fought wars with giant business rivals and didn't just survive but flourished, and now the nephew will take on well-entrenched competitors and try to win. We are talking of 32-year-old Anirudh Bhuwalka, who isn't just the CEO of Asia MotorWorks (AMW), but also a nephew of Essar Group Chairman Shashi Ruia. "He has been everything to me apart from just a mentor," says the Boston University alumnus, whose company recently launched a 49-tonne truck in Mumbai that will compete with trucks from Volvo, among others. "Whatever I am today, it's due to my uncle, mentor and guide Shashi Ruia," he told reporters at the launch. Bhuwalka is no business greenhorn, though. His Kolkata-based family has interests in tea gardens and financial services. But what may have added to the young man's awe of his uncle is Vodafone's recent purchase of Hutch-Essar, which values the Ruias holding in the company at a whopping $5.7 billion (Rs 24,510 crore).

NRN for President?

With president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam's term running out in three months, and with him having expressed no interest in a second term, the buzz around N.R. Narayana Murthy's much-speculated nomination for the apex office has grown louder. Although no political party has yet come out openly in support of the Infosys Chief Mentor, a section of intelligentsia and bloggers is rooting for him. Murthy, 61, himself, in the past, has ruled out running for the post, though he had expressed interest in becoming India's ambassador to the US. But whatever his chances may have been, they've possibly become slimmer thanks to a recent controversy over his alleged disrespect to the national anthem. Handling Indian politics isn't as straightforward as writing software codes.

Citi's 'Star' Banker

If you read any of the Asian editions of international business magazines, then you must already recognise the photo below. After all, Deepak Sharma is Citi's private banking face in Asia and the Middle East quite literally-he appears in the bank's ads. Now, he will probably go on to more editions, given that Citi has enlarged his role and made him head of global wealth management for all markets, except the US. In his new role as Chief Executive Officer of Citi Global Wealth Management International, the Singapore-based Sharma will now oversee five continents and 2,500 executives, serving about 400,000 high net worth individuals. "I am very excited about the opportunity to grow this business at a time when there is tremendous optimism about the wealth management industry in many of these emerging economies," Sharma said in a release. The emerging HNIS in India and China will surely be on Sharma's radar.

Second Time Unlucky

Two years ago, when UTI bank's parent, the mutual fund giant UTI, decided to split the chairman and Managing Director title, incumbent P.J. Nayak threatened to quit. The Finance Ministry in Delhi stepped in to let Nayak keep his combo title and the job. But he seems to have run out of well- wishers at North Block. This time around when the Reserve Bank of India has ordered a similar split, Nayak has had no choice but to quit rather than settle for just half the title. So, come July 31, Nayak, 59, will bid goodbye to a bank where he has spent seven years. The Cambridge University alumnus' career at UTI Bank has been eventful also for the controversies he has been able to generate. His initial days at the bank came under RBI's scanner after the abortive merger with Global Trust Bank led to charges of insider trading. But the big question is, who will step into Nayak's shoes, as he has not groomed anybody within the private sector bank.