India, Pakistan look to implement trade deal

NEW DELHI: Top officials from India and Pakistan began talks on Monday to flesh out an agreement on opening up trade between the countries, part of a warming of ties between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

Pakistan's Commerce Secretary Zafar Mahmood met his Indian counterpart Rahul Khullar at the start of the two-day talks in New Delhi aimed at implementing a deal to double annual trade in the next three years to $6 billion.

The visit followed Pakistan's decision on November 2 to grant "most favoured nation" (MFN) status to India, reciprocating a move made by India to Pakistan in 1996.

"We have to fully normalise our relationship and you cannot fully normalise the trade relationship without invoking the MFN principle (and) so we will be working on that," Mahmood told reporters after reaching New Delhi on Saturday.

The status will remove discriminatory higher pricing and duty tariffs that stand as barriers to exports between the South Asian neighbours, analysts say.

The prime ministers of the two countries met last week on the sidelines of a South Asian summit in the Maldives, saying they expected to open a "new chapter" in bilateral talks.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence in 1947, two of them triggered by their territorial dispute over Kashmir, which remains a major hurdle in any future comprehensive peace deal.

A fully-fledged peace dialogue -- suspended by India after the 2008 Mumbai attacks blamed on Pakistan-based militants -- was resumed in February this year. 


Markets may remain in a tunnel for some time: Vallabh Bhanshali, Enam Securities

ET Now: If I look at global environment, after Greece it is Italy and looking at the way how Spanish and Portuguese bond yields have appreciated in last 4 or 5 days, do you think the European problem will get worst before it gets better?

Vallabh Bhanshali: I do not see things in that manner. Firstly, the globe is not facing unknown problems. Most of the problems have been identified well in time. They have been calibrated. Of course, you are looking at central solutions in terms of ECB and the governments at one end and then you are facing the problem which is very diffused and broad based such as unemployment, cutting of subsidies, cutting of jobs and so on. So it is a time process. It is a political process, but the measure of the problem is fairly under control. So, it is a very good situation to be in because that is we all know in life once you know the problem, you admit the problem, the solution starts to unfold. So, the world in the sense that the societies are seized of the problems, the societies have begun to respond.

The political response in Europe is completely unpredictable. Who could have said that people will take austerity of this kind? We kept worrying about PIGS that austerity will not be accepted by people. But people see the writing on the wall and they accept it and even more surprisingly you have politicians who are going out fairly in a civil manner which means they are ready to sacrifice their careers or they are ready to admit that they made a mistake and they must move out. Both are fantastic developments and the third one which is worth recounting is what's happening in the US. We thought that the US was a consumerist country and it had to obsessively consume, but we find the US citizen is smarter.

They are not borrowing, they are selling off homes to repay loans. They are not borrowing new money. So once a society shows a certain pattern of consumption in living, all the suppliers have a consumer, they understand and they start building solutions. So that is how innovation comes. So the innovation engine which has generally led in the US is now going to be visible in many places in the world, including Japan


Diesel, LPG prices may be hiked on June 9

EW DELHI: The ministerial panel on fuels under FM Pranab Mukherjee is expected to raise diesel and cooking gas prices on June 9. Diesel price is likely to be increased by Rs 2-3 a litre and cooking gas by about Rs 35 per cylinder. The increase in price of diesel, which is the main transportation fuel, is expected to push up cost of essential items, all goods that move on trucks as well as bus and taxi fares.

A revision in diesel and cooking gas prices was in the offing since petrol price was jacked up on May 15 by Rs 5 a litre, the steepest-ever increase. The ministerial panel was expected to meet on May 11, the day after the last phase of polling was to get over in Bengal. But the government pushed the pause button in view of a see-saw in global crude prices after Osama bin-Laden's killing.

The fluctuation in crude price in the intervening period has brought down the loss on a litre of diesel from a high of Rs 19 or so, when the price of Indian crude mix averaged nearly $121 a barrel before Osama was killed. Diesel and cooking gas prices were last revised in June 2010. The present pump price of diesel corresponds to around $70 a barrel of crude mix bought by the state-run refiners. That mix is ruling at $118 now. As a result, oil marketers are currently losing Rs 16.49 on every litre of diesel and Rs 329 on each cooking gas refill.

The oil ministry will also push for an increase in the price of kerosene, politically the holy cow of fuels. The companies are losing almost Rs 30 a litre on the poor man's fuel, nearly 40% of which flows into the black market. The panel is unlikely to tinker with fuel taxes for fear of upsetting the government's calculations. Top finance ministry officials have, over the week, categorically ruled on reducing taxes to pare increase in fuel prices.

pushpam  chaurasia
pgdm 3RD sem

Most of us deal with a single person when it comes to our investments. He/she normally informs us about company fixed deposits and bonds. When we want to invest in mutual funds, we go by what the person recommends. The same applies to insurance policies as well. All we have to do is sign on the forms and write the cheque, and the rest is taken care of by the 'advisor'.

However, all this is set to change. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) recently put out a draft proposal to segregate the role of an agent and an advisor, as there have have been numerous complaints about misselling of products by the so-called advisors.

This happens mainly because the person we call our investment advisor is typically an agent or a distributor of mutual funds or insurance products or both. Since such 'agent-advisors' don't mostly get any fee for advice, they have to earn their living from the companies whose products they sell. Naturally, this could bias their recommendations.

"As per the (Sebi) proposal, the role of an agent and advisor will be segregated. An investor will have to work with two people - an advisor and an agent. The investor will get unbiased advice but the onus of transaction will shift to the investor," says Vishal Dhawan, founder, Plan Ahead Wealth Advisors.

anima sinha
pgdm 3RD sem

IT firms Wipro, HCL look beyond software development for outsourcing

BANGALORE: When Thanga Thambi, a pastry chef, was offered a job by India's third biggest software exporter last year, a role at the company's cafeteria appeared likely. "What can I do for an outsourcing company- what is the connection?" Thambi wondered.

Thambi's role involved baking cookies, but not for Wipro's cafeteria. Wipro was looking to hire an expert chef for designing a microwave oven for a durables manufacturer in the US. "I never thought there could be any connection between what I knew and what a company like Wipro does. But I realised that my experience with ovens was what they're looking for," says Thambi.

As India's growing outsourcing firms look beyond traditional software development and maintenance business, specialised projects that range from tracking heart beats of patients, to designing the next generation of consumer products, and even developing marketing campaigns and collaterals for US automakers, mark the beginning of a shift.

Last year, NS Bala, the head of Wipro's $750-million manufacturing business unit was looking to start a new project for a customer. The customer, a consumer products firm wanted to build a high end micro wave oven that would meet the twin objectives of maintaining taste and speed of cooking. Most products baked in a microwave lose some taste, a concern the company wanted to address in its newer products. "Thambi's job for the next few months involved monitoring the colour, texture and taste of cookies and cakes and give feedback to the company to fine tune the product," Bala says.

At Aditya Birla Minacs, a company traditionally known as a low-cost BPO service provider, a team of 400 advertising and marketing professionals is helping carmakers like Honda and Hyundai US sell more vehicles. Over a year ago, Minacs helped Honda sell 33,000 more vehicles and generate an incremental profit of $ 295 million in a year.

The team makes creatives, strategy and promotions for the automak-ers. They even generate sales leads, run marketing campaigns and manage incentive programmes.

"About 25 % of our revenue comes from IT enabled BPO services such as the marketing project we do for automakers. There is an 8-10% difference in margins over the traditional BPO services. But here, we have to invest on the platform and talent." "In three years, we want IT enabled BPO services to contribute to 50% of our revenues," said Deepak Patel, chief executive officer for Aditya Birla Minacs.

In another instance, a group of nurses have been monitoring the heart beats of hundreds of American patients. The customer, a medical equipment maker, is testing a cardiac monitoring device through which a patient's heartbeat is monitored thousands of miles away in Bangalore. The patient or a healthcare provider is alerted if an aberration is noticed. As proof of the greater role technology plays in daily life Wipro's head of the medical devices division, Jyotirmay Datta, cites the example of how one these nurses saved the life of an old patient whose heart beat she was monitoring a year back.

"The nurse noticed that that the patient had not been moving at all for a few hours and realized that something was amiss as it would be the middle to the day in the US, a time when the patient would normally be active. The nurse alerted the local paramedic who in turn alerted the patient's family member. On arriving home, the family found that the patient, an old lady, had fallen in the house and fainted," Datta recalls.
PGDM (3rd)

Greece crisis: Greece exit from euro possible: France, Germany

CANNES, France: European leaders' long-delayed admission that a break-up of their cherished common currency was a distinct possibility is overshadowing a two-day meeting of the world's largest and fastest growing economies beginning Thursday in this Cote d'Azur resort.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy will welcome Barack Obama of the US, Hu Jintao of China as well as the leaders of India, Brazil, Russia and the other members of the Group of 20 leading world economies in the city made famous by its annual film festival, but the event is far from the star turn the unpopular French leader had hoped to make six months before he faces a tough re-election vote.

Sarkozy and other top EU officials have long held that it was unthinkable for Greece to quit the euro because it would be, Sarkozy has said, ``a failure of Europe.''

But in a late-night press conference with German chancellor Angela Merkel Wednesday, the leaders signalled for the first time that Greece's exit from the euro was indeed possible.

Saying that Europe had ``done everything we could'' to keep Greece in the eurozone, Sarkozy said ``now it is up to them to decide if they want to stay in the euro with us.''

That shift was prompted by the shock decision of Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou to call a controversial referendum on his country's $130 billion European bailout plan in early December that caught European leaders completely off guard and scrambling for a response.

Papandreou's stunning announcement Monday that he would stage a referendum roiled world financial markets and threw into question an ambitious and costly European deal worked out in torturous negotiations a week ago.

Merkel confirmed that Greece did not inform the rest of the eurozone about the referendum. ``This did not happen in a coordinated fashion,'' she said.

She and Sarkozy summoned Papandreou to Cannes for talks Wednesday at which European leaders expressed their anger and pressed him to hold the referendum as soon as possible.

A ``no'' vote in the referendum would have enormous consequences not just for Greece but for the rest of Europe. It could lead to a disorderly Greek default, force Greece out of the 17-nation eurozone, topple many fragile European banks and send the global economy spinning back into recession.

Sarkozy's office announced yet another round of discussions about Greece for Thursday morning, with Germany, Italy, Spain, the IMF and the European Union. The talks will notably not include Greece itself.

Playing hardball, eurozone officials said an (euro) 8 billion ($11 billion) loan that Greece needs within weeks to avoid bankruptcy was conditional on Greece backing the latest rescue deal.

Sarkozy had hoped the meeting of leaders of the Group of 20 leading world economies, in Cannes on Thursday and Friday, would be Europe's chance to assure the rest of the world that a comprehensive plan to deal with its debt crisis had finally been reached after nearly two years of half-measures and procrastination.

Papandreou's gambit ended that lofty ambition and likely derailed Sarkozy's hopes of transforming a successful summit into a boost to his own re-election chances.

The G-20 leaders are slated to discuss food security, reform of the international monetary system and the volatility of commodity prices _ none of which is expected to get much attention or produce any solid conclusions at a summit so dominated by the European quagmire.

Anti-capitalist protesters have not been cowed by the European debt drama, and have staged demonstrations demanding a tax on all financial transactions, an end to tax havens and more aid for development.


Wipro loses lead in outsourced R&D to HCL Tech

BANGALORE: Wipro Technologies, which has for years been the market leader in outsourced engineering and R&D (ERS) services in India, has just been upstaged by HCL Technologies.

In the quarter ended September, HCL Tech reported $186 million in ERS revenues, against Wipro's $184 million. HCL Tech said that two years ago, in the July-September 2009 quarter, the company was behind Wipro by $54 million (annually a difference of about $200 million).

That means HCL Tech has seen a sharp rise in ERS revenues from $117 million two years back to $186 million, while for Wipro the growth has been more modest, from $171 million to $184 million.

A Wipro spokesperson did not comment directly on the figures, but said, "Wipro continues to have a leadership position in the R&D services space. The differentiation comes from the proven hardware and software design engineering expertise across the product lifecycle in semiconductor, consumer electronics, mobile devices, telecom networks and automotive electronics industries."

Some analysts say that HCL operates at lower margins than Wipro and this enables it to become more aggressive in winning deals. However G H Rao, corporate vice-president for ERS at HCL Tech, said, "Over the last two years we have made significant investments in ERS. We have also built an ecosystem of partners in system design & manufacturing across industries, universities etc."

The company is also increasingly working with clients to develop patents and leveraging on its global delivery centres in the US and Europe where 1,500 of its 17,000 ERS team sit.

A recent Frost & Sullivan report states that a major differentiator for HCL is its "Engineering out of the box". HCL offers capabilities and solutions for not just the core product, but also its surrounding ecosystem, and user experience. For instance it enables clients to extend the reach of their core products into new markets by creating platforms using productized solutions like mobility, cloud, collaboration, etc.

Chaitanya Ramalingegowda , director for globalization advisory at consulting firm Zinnov, said that though Wipro has the capabilities to deliver similar experiences as that of HCL, it has been more focused on end-toend product development. "HCL makes greater efforts in creating better user experiences," he said.

The ERS market has slowly evolved from the days when IT companies were given product requirements and specifications by clients based upon which certain portions of the products would be engineered. Though lower-end work continues to form a major portion of the industry, clients are now handing over the entire product lifecycle responsibility as well.

This includes conceptualizing the product and its go to market strategy, designing the technology architecture and delivering the integrated product. Apart from software skills it also requires skills in areas like mechanical engineering and semiconductor.

Zinnov estimates the R&D offshoring market in India will reach $13.1 billion in 2011, a growth of 11.4% over 2010. The major sectors that outsource ERS include independent software vendors, semiconductor and telecom, aerospace & defense, and transport.

ERS contributes around 19% of HCL's and 12.5% of Wipro's overall revenues. The two companies are well ahead of the rest of the pack that includes Patni, Infosys, Mahindra Satyam, Persistent and MindTree. 


Allahabad Bank ties up with Aditya Birla Money

KOLKATA: State-run Allahabad Bank has entered into a strategic alliance with Aditya Birla Money, the broking, wealth management and retail distribution arm of Aditya Birla Financial Services Group

This will provide 27 million Allahabad Bank customers the convenience of investing in financial products online. 

With online trading gaining significant momentum, this strategic tie-up will enable Aditya Birla Money to tap the bank's customer base and provide them with online trading facilities. 

Through this tie-up the Kolkata-based bank will be able to extend its offerings beyond the realm of traditional banking, creating significant value for their customers and providing them a superior trading experience with seamless integration of state-of-the-art technology. 

The bank's account holders can benefit from Aditya Birla Money's single window interface to invest in equities, derivatives, commodities and IPOs. 

"Under the backdrop of growing financial services opportunity and the increasing surge in internet penetration levels, this tie up serves as a win-win proposition for both partners," the bank said in a statement issued on Monday. 


Hyundai Eon launched at a starting price of Rs 2.69 lakh

The wraps are off the much-awaited entry-level small car from Hyundai India. Eon, is the South Korean car maker's challenge to Maruti's Alto, the current bestseller in the segment in India.

Hyundai said Eon was conceived, designed and produced exclusively for the Indian market. It will enter the Indian roads at a starting price of Rs 2.69 lakh to Rs 3.71 lakh ex-showroom Delhi.