What is it? Live TV on mobile phones. "There is great
potential for delivering live TV to a mobile phone. Indian subscribers
have been quick to take up innovative mobile services and offering
the latest in infotainment and live TV will certainly address
this demand," says Sanjiv Mittal, Chief Executive of Bharti
Telesoft, which is offering this service.
Who's offering it? As of now, no one. But three different
combinations are currently in various stages of deployment. While
Nokia has begun a pilot service with Doordarshan, Reliance Communications
has tied up with Sun TV and Bharti Telesoft with Vimio, a mobile
product solutions firm. Closed group trials are underway.
How much does it cost? Reliance will charge subscribers
Rs 15 per session of five minutes, while a shorter clip of one-to-two
minutes will cost Rs 7; in addition, subscribers will pay 10 paise
per KB viewed on their mobiles. Rates for the DD-Nokia and Bharti-Vimio
services haven't been announced.
What's the catch? The service requires phones with video
playback capability, which is limited in India. Also, Indian networks
don't yet offer enough bandwidth to watch TV for extended periods
eTokens Enchance Security
What is it? An eToken is a cigarette
lighter-sized device that you plug into the USB port of your computer,
enter your username and password, and start working. It protects
owners of digital content and services from identity theft and unauthorised
Why is it needed? An eToken provides
two levels of authentication-the physical possession of it as
well as your username and password, compared to only the username
and password combination which can be stolen. Areas like internet
banking, e-commerce and e-learning need more solid authentication.
How's it implemented? The vendor,
Aladdin Knowledge Systems, imports the implementing organisation's
digital signature into eTokens and integrates it with databases
of usernames and passwords. The eTokens are then distributed to
the users. The process takes just a few days.
How much does it cost? Rs 2,000-5,000
per eToken depending on the applications to be protected and their
storage capacity; it is currently available in capacities ranging
from 256 MB to 4 GB.
DIRECT TAX MOP-UP
Status: Rs 3,44,050 crore (April 2006-February 2007).
Impact: Increased revenue mobilisation means the government
will have to borrow less from the market, freeing up funds for
other (mostly corporate and retail) borrowers. Secondly, revenue
buoyancy will allow the government to increase its spending on
infrastructure and other developmental activity.
INTEREST ON CAR LOANS
Status: Rs 1,56,848 crore (as on March 30, 2007).
Impact: There was robust appetite for credit in the economy.
However, the recent interest rate hikes are expected to lead to
a slowdown in credit offtake during the current financial year.
A bird's eye view of what's hot and what's
not on the government's policy radar.
ANDHRA COURTS INDUSTRY
|Making a pitch: Chief Minister Reddy
Having bagged several it sector investments, the Andhra Pradesh
government is now aggressively marketing the state to non-it sector
companies as well. "The total incentives extended by the
state will amount to close to 20 per cent of the project cost.
The equivalent in other states works out to around 8 per cent
of the project cost," says Venugopal Dhoot, Chairman, Videocon,
who preferred Andhra Pradesh to West Bengal for his Rs 1,000-crore
So, what's the key to attracting investments? Land, water and
power at concessional rates, says Dhoot, who decided on Andhra
Pradesh early this month. "Over the past two years, we have
been gathering information on the incentives other states are
willing to offer and have been systematically trying to better
that," says a state government official.
The thrust on non-it areas does not come at the cost of the
IT industry, though. In the case of land allotment for Infosys'
second campus in Hyderabad, the government is considering an alternate
location since the current one is caught up in legal wrangles.
Surely, non-exclusive marketing efforts will go a long way in
ensuring inclusive growth in the state.
STATE PLANS TO FILTER NEWS
Norms in the works
to define sensitive information
May be tailor-made for specific
Aimed at averting use of information
as a competition tool
Till recently, information from the government was anything
but forthcoming. Then came the Right to Information (RTI) Act,
which allowed you access to government dealings. But what constitutes
sensitive information and what doesn't is something the government
is grappling with. So expect new norms to follow shortly from
the office of the Central Information Commission (CIC), which
implements the RTI Act.
Where does it cut? Private sector interest is rampant in sectors
where state or state-brokered procurement is high- Defence, Railways,
Power, Oil & Gas sectors top the chart. The challenge: ensuring
national security; and providing information that is not used
as a competition instrument. Evidently, it's about understanding
the value of information in the marketplace. Hope, the bureaucrats
get it right.
RBI FIRES SALVO AT P-NOTES
reserve bank of India does not lose an opportunity to remind the
Finance Ministry that the use of Participatory Notes (PN) in the
country's stock market needs to be curbed. Earlier this month,
it wrote a letter to North Block suggesting an urgent need to
amend the existing regulations on short-term volatile financial
The reason: swelling foreign inflows of Rs 2,20,523 crore of
net investment in Indian equities at last count-with over 1,000
registered FIIs in India and 40 per cent of these funds relating
to PNs issued by the FIIs. RBI's aversion to PNs began a few years
ago owing to a lack of identity information of the PN holder on
an upfront basis. Governor Y.V. Reddy's objective now is two-fold-ease
the central bank's job on battling inflation by stemming availability
of funds and safeguard against any sudden pull out of "hot
money" (FII pullout could trigger a free fall for the rupee
in the foreign exchange market). Will the Finance Minister blink?
The why, what and how-to of policy making.
BACK TO BASICS, PLEASE
now and then, new controversies erupt in the Indian power sector.
Just when the ghost of the Dabhol (now Ratnagiri) project was
beginning to fade away, the behemoth 4,000 mw Sasan ultra-mega
project has gained prominence. And, for most part, it is for the
Sloppy tendering by the state-owned Power Finance Corporation
has now forced the authorities to reopen the award to the Lanco-Globeleq
consortium on the grounds of alleged misrepresentation of facts
relating to its financial abilities to execute the project.
The intensity of this controversy is understandable-the tariffs
offered are extremely competitive (Lanco has offered a tariff
of Rs 1.18 per unit while Reliance, a close second, had bid Rs
1.29 per unit) and that too from the private sector which has
shied away from participating in the power sector. The reasons
for the latter are well known-for every rupee of power sold, only
65 paise is recovered, the rest lost to theft and technical losses.
And, therein lies a larger debate flowing from the principal
question: is this tariff reflective of the promoters' willingness
to settle for lower profits, hoping that consumers will pay and
investments to reduce technical losses will happen at a fast pace?
Consider: The tariff quoted does not include profits that the
promoter can reap from selling coal (from the captive mine) to
other power companies, given that the reserves are in excess of
requirement. Hence, any comparison with the existing profile of
generation tariff from new plants, which hovers around Rs 1.50
per unit, in itself provides little justification for the government
to broker the ultra-mega projects.
A GENTLE REMINDER
Earlier this month, Essar's top management
got a taste of its own medicine, at the hands of the bureaucracy.
The issue: whether or not the Vodafone sale breached the
74 per cent FDI norms. The government's take: inspector
raj to monitor the FDI door, which continues to remain only
ajar on account of security concerns.
Naturally, resistance from the company
followed-only to be reminded about a letter that it had
written to the government against Egyptian telecom major
Orascom a year ago. The reason: security concerns.
WITH THE TIMES
Generally, interaction between the
corporate world and the government depends on the extent
of regulation. But what happens when power shifts from the
government ministries to the regulator, a phenomenon that
is on the rise? Visits to the regulator increase. And, what
better proof than the visit that was recently paid by Mukesh
Ambani to the Secretary of the Petroleum Regulatory Board-even
before the formal appointment of the members. Telling, it
There is, no doubt, a compelling argument in favour of government
intervention-with rampant power shortages of as much as 20,000
mw, the need for quick capacity addition is imperative. Furthermore,
the inadequately developed fuel sector-whether coal or gas or
hydel resources-puts off private interest in the power generation
How, then, should the ultra-mega power policy be altered? First,
ramp down the capacity of the projects (two bid out, seven more
to go) to under 2,000 mw as that will allow many more players
to qualify. Besides, they will be far more viable as the possibility
of payment default reduces. Secondly, recognise that until now,
market appetite for private power has mostly been in the region
of 500 mw projects with lenders, who meet as much as 70 per cent
of the project cost, daring no more. Clearly, if the market were
ready for more private power, in terms of the key business constraint,
payment ability, it would have happened without the Centre's assistance.
The Centre ought to go easy on steroids.