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JUNE 3, 2007
 Cover Story
 BT Special
 Back of the Book

Trillion-Dollar Club
India has joined the elite club of 12 countries with GDPs in excess of a trillion dollars. The country's GDP crossed the trillion-dollar mark for the first time when the rupee appreciated to below Rs 41 against the greenback. According to a report by Swiss investment bank Credit Suisse, India's stock market capitalisation has risen to $944 billion (Rs 39,64,800 crore), which is also closing in on the trillion-dollar mark. An analysis of the Indian economy.

Minding The Monsoon
The India Meteorological Department's prediction that the total rainfall in the coming monsoon season is likely to be 95 per cent of the long-period average, with an error margin of 5 per cent, is good news for agriculture. But experts say there's a need to revamp monsoon prediction so that the region-wise and timing of rainfall patterns can be forecast much earlier. A look at the credibility of monsoon models and their impact on agriculture.
More Net Specials

Business Today,  May 20, 2007

Business Out-of-the-Box
How an ambitious businessman (and a clever engineer) helped change the world of shipping.
By Marc Levinson Princeton University Press
Pp: 376
Price: Rs 1,023

A long time ago, in the early 90s, when my first journalistic job landed me in a mom-n-pop merchant-shipping magazine, I used to be fascinated by ships. Whenever I got the opportunity, I would spend hours exploring the innards of a vessel, right from the ear-splitting engine room to the cavernous hold to the quiet deck. But not once do I remember stopping to admire the huge metal boxes that most of them carried. After all, what's fascinating about a 20- or 40-foot aluminium box? Well, it seems, I was dead wrong about the shipping container's sex appeal. I didn't know, for instance, that what went into its making weren't just corrugated aluminium sheets and some hinges, but the foresight and uncompromising ambition of one businessman and the brilliance of another engineer.

The Box is the improbably fascinating story of how the two merged to create modern shipping's most important phenomenon: containerisation. Published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first container voyage in 1956, The Box is the story of a man called Malcom Purcell McLean, who began his career stocking shelves at a local grocery in a North Carolina town but soon became a trucking magnate. But McLean's ambitions went well beyond owning a fleet of trucks. When business became fiercely competitive and highways congested in post-World-War-II America, McLean, always paranoid about costs, began focusing on ways to make his trucking service even more competitive. In one of his many Eureka moments, McLean came up with the idea of sending his trucks by coastal ships to cities up on the East Coast from North Carolina.

But there was a problem: The US of 1950s did not allow trucking companies to also own ships. Thanks to clever legal and financial manoeuvring, McLean was able to circumvent the rules and buy one of the largest shipping lines in the US, Waterman Steamship Corporation. As Levinson, an economist and a former editor at The Economist, says it, McLean's original plan was to create roll-on roll-off ships that would carry his trucks, and reduce costs for customers by nearly 75 per cent. However, he wasn't entirely happy with the idea because the truck tyres would eat up vertical space, besides which he wouldn't be able to stack up trucks one over another.

Hardly the one to give up on a good idea, McLean orders his team to come up with a solution, which they find in an engineer called Keith Tantlinger, a container expert. It is fascinating how many odds the two had to beat to popularise containers and create worldwide standards that would allow such boxes to seamlessly travel from any vessel to any truck anywhere in the world. Read The Box to find out more. I don't know about you, but the next time I spot a humble shipping container, I'll be looking at it with a lot more respect-and pause to think of a man called McLean.

By Michael Newman
Wiley India
Pp: 266
Price: Rs 399

Marketers have a problem on their hands: Consumers have gotten a lot smarter than they used to be. That means advertising doesn't quite work the way it once used to. Even if a consumer were generous enough to set aside her cynicism, there's just too much clutter for an ad to catch and keep her attention. So, what are the creative directors to do? First, get to know the 22 timeless 'laws' of advertising, and know when to break them. Michael Newman's book gets 22 heavy hitters from the world of advertising to spell out these laws, and tell readers when to ignore them. Ian Batey, Jean-Marie Dru, Al Ries, James Lowther are some of the people whom Newman, former Saatchi & Saatchi creative director and now head of an ideas company called brandnewman, invites to write.

Just what are these laws? They range from the Law of Simplicity to the Law of Humour, and include several others such as the Law of Nice, and even the Law of Disruption. "Humour is so powerful in advertising (when it really is funny) because it's a bridge that links the brand and the consumer," writes Batey. "Laughter, it's been said, is the shortest distance between two people." If you are in the business of making ads, it won't hurt you to read Newman.