September 27, 2005

 

7 years..

"As long as we're 80 percent as good as our competitors, that's good enough. Our users don't really care about search."
7 years ago, that's what CEO of a portal told two guys who were looking for partners.

The two guys were Page and Brin. No surprises when "Great just isn't good enough" finds place in Google philosophy.

Happy Birthday, Google!

Update:
Somebody on Slashdot pointed to this cached page, which clearly says 7th September as its birthday. Point to be noted: He used Google's cache to reach this page.

September 25, 2005

 

PM raps pink media

The mild-mannered and soft-spoken PM's following words express his deep anger and anguish on the manner in which PMO was pulled in an imaginary news story.
"‘How many mistakes must a journalist make, how many wrong stories, how many motivated columns before professional clamps are placed? How does the financial media deal with market moving stories that had no basis in fact? Investors gain and lose, markets rise and fall, but what happens to those reporters, analysts, editors who move and make the markets?"
The news media (print and TV) published a report that Prime Minster's Office (PMO) is investigating the meteoric rise of stock markets. Sucheta Dalal says, this sensitive issue was handled in a style similar to the Salman Khan-Aishwarya Rai tapes.

We already know, the state of ethics and integrity in journalism. Dr Manmohan Singh has just added accountability in that long list.

BTW, the hottest celeb of last few weeks is Sensex with every single newspaper (including the tabloids) covering its movement with same alacrity as they would cover a spicy story of celebs. Sensex is no longer the sole property of the business section occupying an inconspicuous corner. Does it have anything to do with the word "sex" in it? Apart from making the petty observations like how it added 1000 points in 'n' days, the authors of these articles, pretend to be experts and liberally dish out equally trite advices in a paternalistic way. (Extra credit if the story mentions fundamental analysis, Warren Buffet and Benjamin "God" Graham.) As if it is their duty to save all the lesser-mortals who are going to enter the market with stars in the eyes and greed on the mind!

I remember the oft-repeated cliche in stock markets - "Get out of the stock market when the shoe-shine boy starts giving market tips."

Update:
Indian Express carries an edit titled "News, Sen-sexed up".

 

You can preach. Shamelessly!

From past couple of weeks, an ad appears on third page of Indian Express in a fixed format. The bottom line of all these ads say (in verbatim - capitalization not mine)
If we are not part of the SOLUTION, then we are the PROBLEM.
Every ad carries a sentence, which, presumably, author wants to convey as message. These lines change everyday. Here are a few.

A minor detail, which can be missed out, is a © mark for all these sentences indicating they are copy-righted.

Then the author signs with a grandeur - Shiv Khera, International Educator.

Oh...wait. Isn't he the same guy whom Outlook tore apart for his sophisticated plagiarization? After being exposed for indulging in such a shameful act, how can somebody pronounce to hold high moral and ethical ground? Hm... I smell a politician in the making.

When I read You can win for the first time I was impressed. Blame it to my teenage nature! (Those were the days when I liked Titanic.) But now, the only category I classify these self-help and inspirational books, albeit little charitably, is utter crap. (Same goes for Titanic.)

Read somewhere. In India, copy-right means right to copy.

September 19, 2005

 

Sale

India was up for sale in 1970s! The to-be-released book The Mitrokhin Archive II: The KGB and the World would like to tell the world about our politicos.

Though the Left would like to tell us that this "Book is no more than a spy thriller penned by an English writer who wants to make money", Indian Express tells us that the book is "based on classified material smuggled to the West in 1992 by Soviet defector Vasili Mitrokhin."

Read the extract from the chapter on India. I am resisting the temptation of putting some of the quotable quotes from this.

Update:
CPM plans to sue the author of the book and Indian Express - for the article linked above, I think. Also, the CPM wants a revised edition of the book before it hits stand. Alas, they were the history text books which could be modified, altered beyond recognition, tainted with current idealogy, with the power of 60-odd MPs in Parliament.

It was just yesterday when Mr Bardhan of CPI said, "There will be no demand to ban the book. Let this book come, let people read political thrillers." 24 Hrs defintely long time in politics!

Today's editorial in Indian Express asks [the Govt] to face this shameful event.

September 16, 2005

 

Great scoop. Now what?

When Hindustan Times launched their Mumbai edition in mid-July, they created hoopla with story of Salman Khan tapes. It generated good amount of publicity for the newspaper and the we-are-here word was passed around. Now the forensic lab says the voice samples of the Salman Khan and Aishwarya Rai did not match with the recorded call.

Will HT go an extra mile to prove their credibility? Or the whole of purpose of the scoop was to generate (cheap and free) publicity, which has, now, been achieved and the story doesn't hold any value in it?

Update:
"I am ordering a high-level probe to find out who had doctored them and from where they were procured," - Mumbai Commissioner of Police, A N Roy.

Google news for any "Salman tapes" from Hindustan Times shows zero results. HT in the hiding or silently putting on their gloves?

 

Pollution

A few years back Australian cricket team refused to play in Delhi citing the abnormally high pollution level of the city. This time, it is our own athlete taking about pollution.

Long jumper Anju Bobby George is moving to Australia for training. Reason?

"The allergy problems with which I struggled earlier in the year stem from the dust in India, so I have to avoid that and stay in top form," Anju told IANS.

September 15, 2005

 

May I....

The bar dancer, who is under the scanner for cricket betting said,

"I bought my Versova bungalow, Tanishq, last year for Rs 27 lakh from my own hard-earned money. I don't know why they're now saying it''s worth Rs 1.5 crore."

Thanks for the information! May see your PAN card and last 3 years' tax returns, please, Ma'am?

 

Why India needs privatization?

This can be one of the strongest reasons for privatizing the PSUs - including the profit making Navaratnas. Indian Express reports - "Autonomy Aiyar style: pack oil PSUs with Cong men, women." [1]

The Ministry is firing[2] all the independent directors, which includes IIM professors, FICCI Chairman, former bureaucrats from oil PSUs, who were inducted in NDA regime. The proposed list of directors given by Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) has been shown the dustbin. And who all were in this list? Professors, Directors from Ivy League management schools, ex-MD McKinsey, senior bureaucrats!

And who all the Ministry plans to rope in? Former Ministers, AICC Secretary, ex-MPs, Presidents and Secretaries of various state units. All belong to Congress, quite obviously.

What qualifications do these folks possess that they should be the directors of the firms which are valued as follows?


Company Market-Cap (in Rs Crores)
ONGC 1,40,005
IOC 50,200
BPCL 10,788
HPCL 9,920
GAIL 19,712
The National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP)[3] is admirably eloquent about the autonomy of PSUs. (Emphasis mine)
The UPA government is committed to a strong and effective public sector whose social objectives are met by its commercial functioning. But for this, there is need for selectivity and a strategic focus. The UPA is pledged to devolve full managerial and commercial autonomy to successful, profit-making companies operating in a competitive environment. Generally profit-making companies will not be privatized.
Hey, but, since when politicians started delivering on their promises?

Predictably, this is not the first time Petroleum Ministry is being used to award the cronies and sycophants. The earlier predecessors Ram Naik [4] and Satish Sharma [5] are still licking their wounds. Little wonder that when it comes to oil PSU privatization, Mani Shankar Aiyar and Ram Naik both share same thought - strong opposition.

As for Mr Aiyar, who has been recently featured in 25 leaders of Asia by BusinessWeek [6], this petty act could have been avoidable.

Now lets see how friends in Left protest and how media follows it up.

Updates:
Indian Express carries an edit[7] and a follow-up[8] story on this today. Cornered with solid evidence, the Ministry is now trying the face-saving exercise. And Left friends have shown token displeasure on this issue.

Since the appointment of Congress cronies violates the guidelines, Govt is planning to change the rewrite the guidelines. In a PTI report[9], Govt plans change guidelines to make politicians and trade union leaders eligible for independent directors. Hmm... Trade union leaders. Do I smell conflict of interest here?

Updates 2:
Express makes a dent! "In an unprecedented decision ...the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) today rejected the Petroleum Ministry's proposal to foist Congress functionaries as independent directors on boards of all oil navratnas and miniratnas," reports Indian Express [10]

Sucheta Dalal gives details[11] of how every single party takes PSUs for a ride and criticizes the silence (hypocrisy?) of the Left. Didn't we read earlier that trade union leaders may become eligible for independent directors?


References:

[1] Autonomy Aiyar style: Indian Express
[2] Govt plans to sack independent directors : Indian Express
[3] NCMP : The Holy Book everybody swears with
[4] Ram Naik in trouble
[5] So is Mr Sharma
[6] "Pretty good work for a guy who didn't even want the job" : BusinessWeek
[7] Crony Socialism : Editorial from Indian Express
[8] Caught trying to pack oil PSUs with Cong men and women, Petro Ministry now fudges facts : Indian Express
[9] Govt moots appointing politicos on PSU boards : PTI
[10] Govt's own dept spikes Cong list for oil directors : Indian Express
[11] Corporate governance and PSUs : Sucheta Dalal in Indian Express

September 14, 2005

 

And the forward said....

A recent forward comparing Mumbai rains to Katrina, with very little insightful info, but lots of catchy and selective statements, landed on multiple discussion forums I am subscribed to. (Thanks to all my friends who thought it was not worth forwarding.) Some people even debated that stupid piece. It mindlessly boasted how Mumbai situation was handled better than Katrina. At the end it remarked,
USA...world's most developed nation
India...third world country..

oopss...did i get the last fact wrong???
Of course, not. We are, indeed, a third world country. Some 700 children died of a deadly virus outbreak in UP with the State responding with criminal apathy. Washington Post reports,
The toll is all the more heartbreaking because the disease can be prevented by several vaccines, including one made in India and another, more effective version developed in the 1970s in China, where mass vaccinations have largely contained the virus.

In that regard, the latest outbreak shows how bureaucratic inertia, skewed priorities and what some health experts say is a nationalistic aversion to importing medicines are undercutting efforts to improve India's shaky public health system, to the detriment of its poorest citizens.

Last week in its annual human development report, the United Nations faulted India for falling behind on key public health goals, noting that its infant mortality rate is now higher than that of Bangladesh. One in 11 Indian children dies before the age of 5.
Another report by Reuters concurs.
It could have been prevented, or at least minimised, with an early and thorough vaccination campaign for children, more susceptible to infection because their immunity levels are low.

But Uttar Pradesh neglected vaccination drives despite smaller outbreaks nearly every year for more than two decades, experts said. Thousands of vaccine doses are now arriving but they are of little use for the hundreds already infected.

And Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav, CM, UP is busy in handling the land scam issue.

Déjà Vu? When Mumbai was drowned, Mr Deshmukh, CM was busy awarding the newly-inducted-defected-from-Sena leader, Mr Rane.

The Washington Post article goes on to point the irony and the inertia, which can only ignite rage.
In some respects, India should be well-equipped to contain the threat. Its cutting-edge pharmaceutical industry supplies life-saving medicines -- including measles vaccine and anti-retroviral drugs used to fight AIDS -- to much of the developing world; a government research institute has made a Japanese encephalitis vaccine for years.

But the Indian vaccine is expensive, time-consuming to produce and relatively short-lived in its effectiveness. Because the government has resisted importing better versions from China and elsewhere, or licensing their production at home, India has adopted what Julie Jacobson, a virologist, calls a "firefighting approach" to Japanese encephalitis, ramping up domestic vaccine production in response to each outbreak, by which time it is often too late.

"It's just amazing that with that kind of technical capability, the problem of Japanese encephalitis has not been solved" in India, Jacobson said in a telephone interview from Seattle, where she directs a $27 million Japanese encephalitis initiative for the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health, a nongovernmental group. The effort is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Yes. With such politicians ruling, we will be a third world country.

Where are the NHRC folks, who are so vocal when terrorists are shot down? Where is the Journalism of Courage (TM), which devotes pages and pages on unemployment of bar dancers? Where is our imaginative Union Health Minister who wants to control cancer by banning smoking on silver screen?

PS: Yeah, you can accuse me of arm-chair activism.

September 10, 2005

 

Election days are here

With Bihar elections just few weeks away, Laloo is back to his tricks. He waived a letter from PM congratulating him on remarkable improvement in Railways' performance. He announced a 61-day bonus, highest ever, to all the Railway employees. Will Election Commission consider this a violation of code of conduct - in spirit, if not letter?


September 08, 2005

 

Remembering Beslan

It's been a year Beslan happened. An interesting column on the anniversary of this incident questions the government actions. This incident is at the one extreme of countering the hostage crisis. Brazen display of an aggression almost criminal in nature! Mosco dealt this incident in almost same manner in which it responded to the Moscow theatre hostage crisis 3 years back. Another end of the spectrum is the hijacking of Indian Airlines flight from Kathmandu in 1999. The government gave in so meekly that it amounted to mockery of all the soldiers who laid their life to capture the terrorists, who were released to end the crisis.

September 06, 2005

 

Give away the razor, Sell the blades

Mr Finance Minister wants to cut the duty on cars, but the fuel will be expensive.

September 05, 2005

 

What is what?

From Rediff.com

Personal computer major Acer has announced the launch of its TravelMate 2312 NLCi (TM2312NLCi) with integrated wireless LAN connectivity and available at Rs 29,999 (plus taxes).

TravelMate 2312 uses an Intel Celeron M360 processor. Using a Linux-based operating system with Windows; the TravelMate 2312 has a 15-inch display and a combo CDRW/DVD drive.


September 01, 2005

 

When headlines tell different story

Event: ABN Amro Bank awards a € €1.8 billion (US$ 2.2 billion) contract for IT services to five vendors. These vendors, in alphabetical order, are Accenture, IBM, Infosys, Patni Computers and TCS. Now here are 3 headlines for this event.
Details of the event: Out of this $2.2 billion IBM gets $ 1.8 billion, TCS $ 246 million, Infosys $140 million, Rest remaining $$.

The first headline is outright misleading. This brazen lie wants you to convey that TCS and Infosys have walked away with a deal worth half-their annual revenue. You will not get any prize for guessing the source[1] of this news.

Second headline[2] is an honest assessment and epitomizes the event. IBM is going to make the big bucks from right now, even as ABN Amro expects it will save €€ 600 million from 2007 onwards[3].

Third one is clearly from an Indian news source[4]. Who else will put a giant, which will make 75% of money, as "others" and belittle its achievement? Pseudo patriotism at its best.

All said and done, it is great to know that the Indian companies are slowly picking up large contracts.

References:

[1] Yellow journalism on pink paper

[2] ZDNet News

[3] Reuters

[4] Hindu Business Line

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