Monday, 22 February, 2016

University of Hyderabad 2015 Calendar gets 1st Prize in National Public Relations Awards

The wall calendar for the year 2015 published by the 
city-based University of Hyderabad (UoH) has been awarded the 1st prize at the first Public Relations Society of India (PRSI), Telangana Chapters conference titled “Bangaru Telangana: Public Relations Communication Perspective” on Sunday, 21st February 2016 at the Best Western Ashok Hotel in Lakdikapul, Hyderabad. This award was part of the National PublicRelations Awards announced by the PRSI. The award was received by the Public Relations Officer of UoH, Mr. Ashish Jacob Thomas from Shri T Harish Rao, Minister for Irrigation & Legislative Affairs, Govt. of Telangana.

Out of the various entries that were received, the wall calendar of UoH which has some stunning visuals of the wild life of the campus bagged the first prize. The theme was suggested by Prof. Ramakrishna Ramaswamy the then Vice-Chancellor.
These visuals have been shot by the students and faculty of the University and submitted as entries for the contest announced by the University. More than 300 entries were received for the contest and it was a tough task for the jury members to make final choices. Each picture was among the best and it showed the enthusiasm of the university fraternity in showcasing the wild life on the campus. The calendar also received wonderful reviews and appreciation from within and outside the University when it was published.
Receiving the award on behalf of the University, Mr Ashish Jacob Thomas, PRO, University of Hyderabad said, "This award is dedicated to the wonderful & enthusiastic students and faculty of my University. I am humbled by this honour for our publication and we continue to be inspired by our University fraternity do our best."

Monday, 12 March, 2012

No longer 'First Class First Pass'

The other day, my 10-year old son asked me “what is your job, daddy?”
“Brand Consultant,” I replied.
Pat came a dialogue. “Surya Bhai is not the name of a person, it is a Brand.” For those not in the know, this dialogue is from the latest Tollywood (nickname for Telugu film industry) movie `Businessman’ directed by Puri Jagannadh, which has Mahesh Babu playing the protagonist. It was clear the impression the film and its dialogues had made on my son.
Tollywood and Bollywood movies in the last couple of years have introduced various professions. Times have changed from the times when the hero would come rushing in to say, he has passed First Class First !
Till the last decade or so, protagonists mainly donned the role of a doctor, lawyer, painter, police officer and at times, a businessman. In fact, a widowed mother taking her son to the garlanded portrait of her husband and saying “dekhiye aapka beta Barrister ban gaya (see your son has become a lawyer)” was a common scene in majority of the films.
However in recent times, Tollywood has churned out movies like Manmathudu, Vinayakudu and recently Businessman where the stories are woven around advertising and branding. Venkatesh-starrer `Chintakayala Ravi’ had the protagonist playing a software engineer struggling to settle in the US.
In Bollywood also, movies like Wake Up Sid, Corporate, Page 3 and Life In A Metro have shown the masses the various career options that one can choose depending on their interests and academic capabilities.
While watching the current set of movies being rolled out is not all that good for growing up kids, the only silver lining perhaps is that they get to know a little bit more about career options other than engineering and medicine.

Saturday, 17 December, 2011

This ‘Chand’ deserves the ‘Ratna’ first

It is official now. Indian Sports persons are eligible to receive the Bharat Ratna the highest civilian honour in the country. The award was earlier given only for artistic, literary, scientific achievements or "public service of the highest order."

Which means two of India’s finest sporting legends, Sachin Tendulkar and the late hockey wizard Dhyan Chand are being considered to receive the honour.

Incidentally, Don Bradman, the legendary cricketer said that his wife felt that Tendulkar played cricket very much like him. But the  great Don thought that Dhyan Chand “scored goals like runs in cricket” way back in 1935 when both of them met in Adelaide.

However, I think the three-time member of the gold medal winning Indian teams at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, and the 1936 Berlin Olympics (the last of which he captained), Dhyan Chand stands first in the line to receive the much coveted award.

Not only that, for a man who was born Dhyan Singh and re-christened Dhyan Chand (The Hindi word 'Chand' literally means the moon), Dhyan Singh used to practice in the night after his duty hours. He invariably used to wait for the moon to come out so that the visibility in the field (obviously with no floodlights) improved. Hence he was fondly called Chand by his fellow players, as his practice sessions at night invariably coincided with the moon rise !

At a time where a majority of the youngsters are getting carried away by the ball being hit out of the park in the T20 brand of cricket, it is high time we restore the glory of Indian Hockey by awarding Bharat Ratna to Dhyan Chand, the magician of hockey who made the ball dance on the ground like a serpent. Even today, Padma Bhushan Dhyan Chand remains a legendary figure in Indian and world hockey for his magical control over the ball and the way he dribbled with it. 

Chand’s birthday on August 29, is celebrated as National Sports Day in India. The President gives away sport-related awards such as the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, Arjuna Award and Dronacharya Award on this day at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

India's highest award for lifetime achievement in sports is the Dhyan Chand Award which has been awarded annually from 2002 to sporting figures who not only contribute through their performance but also contribute to the sport after their retirement. Dhyan Chand holds record for the most international goals, i.e. more than 1000. The National Stadium, Delhi was renamed Dhyan Chand National Stadium in 2002 in his honour.

Anecdotes (Courtesy Wikipedia)
  • Once, while playing a hockey game, Major Dhyan Chand was not able to score a goal against the opposition team. After several misses, he argued with the match referee regarding the measurement of the goal post, and amazingly, it was found to not be in conformation with the official width of a goal post (as prescribed under international rules).
  • After India played its first match in the 1936 Olympics, Dhyan Chand's magical stickwork drew crowds from other venues to the hockey field. A German newspaper carried a banner headline: 'The Olympic complex now has a magic show too.' The next day, there were posters all over Berlin: Visit the hockey stadium to watch the Indian magician Dhyan Chand in action.
  • After seeing his prolific play at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Adolf Hitler offered Dhyan Chand, a Major in the British Indian Army, German citizenship and an offer to promote him to the rank of a Colonel (which Dhyan Chand, of course, refused).
  • In Holland, the authorities broke his hockey stick to check if there was a magnet inside.
  • Residents of Vienna, Austria, honoured him by setting up a statue of him with four hands and four sticks, depicting his control and mastery over the ball
  • On one occasion, a lady from the audience asked Dhyan Chand to play with her walking stick instead. He scored goals even with it !
(Pic courtesy :

Thursday, 15 December, 2011

Tendulkar & Ponting: A tale of two cricketing legends

Team India’s tour to Australia that starts on Boxing Day (December 26) is special for more than one reason.

It might well be the last time that we see the three top-runner getters in Test Cricket history – Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Ricky Ponting in action.

For that matter, the headline for the story should have been `A tale of three Cricketing legends’, but I will go ahead with the story since all the hype is around Sachin Tendulkar and his 100th international ton and Ricky Ponting who is not sure about playing against India in the series. As usual, Rahul Dravid remains the unsung hero.

How strange! Just a couple of years ago, Dean Jones and Ian Chappell were vociferous about Ponting being on the verge of dislodging Tendulkar as one of the greatest to have played the game after the legendary Don Bradman.

Cricket is a gentleman’s game. Not playing the game as it ought to be may be the biggest difference that sets Tendulkar and Ponting poles apart, I feel.

Leave alone comparison with Tendulkar, Ponting’s 39 centuries in Test cricket was overwhelmed by the South African all-rounder Kallis (40) and another Indian, Rahul Dravid (13094) has surpassed him (Ponting 12656) as the second highest run-getter in Test Cricket history.

Both Ponting and Tendulkar in a way endorse how cricket is played by their respective countries. Long ago, Javagal Srinath who was spearheading the Indian pace attack then bowled a bouncer to Ricky Ponting that hit him on his head. Srinath was courteous enough to go down the pitch to enquire about how Ponting was feeling, rather apologetically. To Srinath’s dismay, Ponting shot back aggressively asking Srinath to carry on with his job.

A rather similar incident occurred when India toured Australia a couple of years back. Australia was trying desperately to get rid of Sachin Tendulkar who was on the verge of getting a double century. Brett Lee bowled a beamer that hit Tendulkar on his head. There was a big hue and cry in the commentary box with Ian Chappell accusing Brett Lee of using such cheap tactics to unsettle batsman when he (Lee) is not able to dismiss them. Later in a press conference, Tendulkar went on to say that he knows Lee too well as he (Lee) would never do such a thing.

Ponting, thanks to his aggressive approach (as was evident in the `monkey-gate’ scandal and the Sydney Test in 2008 when India toured Australia) has many a critic in Australian Cricket  gunning for his head after stripping him of the captaincy. He on the other hand is in no mood to let himself go even after failing to reach the three-figure mark in the last two years making his life all the more miserable.

Tendulkar (15183 test runs) in the last two years added about 13 centuries to his kitty in addition to a record first double century by any player in one day internationals to take his tally of centuries to 99 (51 in tests and 48 in one-day internationals).

No wonder Tendulkar got accolades from across the globe as a great ambassador for the game of cricket. With due respects to Ponting the cricketer, I do not see him matching up to Tendulkar in this aspect even if he goes on to find his form like Tendulkar did.

All the best Punter !

Monday, 12 December, 2011

A haircut and a close shave

A regular haircut is an ordinary affair for most men but it wasn't for me. As a young boy, the first time I got to visit a salon alone and returned home all excited, my mother disapproved. She thought the barber had done a poor job and I was forced to go back to the salon to get my hair re-done. Being a mama’s boy, I obliged.
As I grew older, I realised that I had got used to the habit of keeping very short hair. So much so that it started resembling an `Army' haircut. 
But worse was in store. After attending an interview for a Bank in a city in Kerala, I ventured out in the evening and asked an auto driver to take me to the place where smuggled goods are sold. I wanted to buy a Sony walkman, which in the early nineties was a much sought after gadget for all music lovers. 
The driver knew Hindi and we started chatting. I had no idea which part of the city he took me to. Finally, the journey ended and the driver pointing out to an ‘adda’ (location) said “udhar aapko mil jayega (this is the place where you will get it).”
As I approached and entered the shady structure, that looked like one of Ram Gopal Varma's locations, I adjusted my short hair, that I assumed would have got messed up with all the wind, travelling in the autorickshaw. 
To my shock, in a matter of few minutes, the inmates had held me captive. They spoke and understood only Malayalam and the only thing I understood from sign language was that they won't let me go. 
For a moment, I thought they are not letting me go because I didn’t buy any item. But even I did, I wasn't a free man. I finally somehow convinced them to call the autodriver, who was waiting for me. 
A brief conversation between the auto-driver and the inmates was followed by huge bursts of laughter. I became less nervous. The auto-driver put his hand on my shoulder and said “Saab, aapke baal dekh kar yeh tumko police ka aadmi samjha (looking at your hair, they thought you are a policeman.)”
I laughed on my way back to the hotel and gave the small item that I purchased in the shop as a gift to the auto-driver.

Monday, 28 November, 2011

Time is ripe for Federer to go the Sampras way

As a fan of Roger Federer, I was happy to see him win the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals beating Jo Wilfred Tsonga 6-3, 7-6, 6-3.

I was even more happy for the fact that Federer regained that extra zest in him to win the match after he failed to seal the match on the championship point in the second set.

Ever since he lost out to Djokovic in the US Open semi-finals where he failed to convert couple of match points, Federer has been on a roll with a 17-match winning streak thanks to an out-of-form Nadal and injuries to Djokovic and Murray. At the same time, there is no denying the fact that a break from the Hong Kong and the Shanghai Masters has done a lot of good to Federer’s form.

While hoping that Federer will continue this dream run well into 2012 and win a couple more  Grand Slams, fans must be wary of the fact that ‘The Light That Burns Twice as Bright Burns Half as Long’. More so in the context of a demanding sport like tennis at its highest level and an ageing champion who has turned 30.
Federer last won a Grand Slam in 2010 at the Australian Open and has not won a single slam in 2011 and the best was reaching the final of the French Open where he as usual lost to Nadal.

While Federer has not won a single Grand Slam this year (the first time since he won his first title at Wimbledon in 2003), the cause for worry is whether he will be able to sustain his energies for five-set battles. Twice in 2011 at Wimbledon (QF against Tsonga) and at the US Open (SF against Djokovic), Federer squandered a two sets to love lead to end up as the loser.

The emergence of strong contenders like Tsonga, Berdych, Ferrer, Del Potro and Tipsarevic along with Djokovic, Murray and Nadal make Federer’s task of winning a Grand Slam all the more difficult.

In sport, seeing your idols as mere mortals and not as champions can be a torturous experience. Less than a decade ago, I went through the same kind of emotions when Pete Sampras, the greatest Wimbledon champion who won seven of eight championships between 1993 and 2000, went down in five sets to a lesser known player called George Bastl with a world ranking of 145 in 2002.

What hit me hard was not Sampras losing the match but the impact it had on the man who is known to walk with drooping shoulders.

But two months later, Sampras rose like a phoenix to win the US Open beating Agassi 3-1 and that was the last match he played as a Pro. Not many champions have had the privilege to leave Centre Court like Sampras did.

Given the current form, Federer too for all his records, both on and off the field, deserves such a `Grand’ finish.

Saturday, 1 October, 2011

Controversy is Shoaib Akhtar’s middle name

News editors often say that the headline must reflect the essence of the story. So when I heard about the book titled `Controversially Yours’ by Pakistan’s pace bowler and `Rawalpindi Express’ Shoaib Akhtar the other day, I could not help but appreciate the fast bowler and the publishers. At least for once, he had got the perfect line and length in deciding the title of the book.

But for `Controversially Yours’, what else can you expect from a fast bowler who has always courted controversies and has no major milestones in his career apart from holding the record for the fastest delivery in cricket 161.3 km/h (100.2 mph).

Throughout his career, Akhtar came across as an impact bowler in patches and has never been able to maintain consistent pace in his bowling. He could not prolong his career through proper line and length by giving up a bit of pace.

A majority of fast bowlers are temperamental and are used to hurling the ball with all speed and tenacity at the batsmen on the other end. But then, Akhtar again missed the basics here.

Unlike his seniors and ex-captains Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis who are associated with cricket through IPL and Pakistan’s cricket respectively, Akhtar has not done any good to himself through this book as he has vent his ire both at the Pakistan Cricket Board, IPL and not surprisingly on Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. By doing so, Akhtar has shut all doors of opportunity. He can now never associate himself with any cricket machinery for now.

Coming to the book sales, Akhtar should have realized by now that even those people who are not associated with cricket will vouch for the fact that every other cricketer who writes a book will talk about Tendulkar and is purely a commercial gimmick and there will be very few takers for the same.

Given his humble background and how he has made to it to the international level (as discussed in his book), Akhtar can take a leaf out of his own writing and produce fast bowlers who are not only efficient on the cricket field but adept in handling powers that control cricket.

And that is the best way that the `Controversially Yours’ man canunwind and be at peace with himself.

Monday, 12 September, 2011

Rise of Djokovic - A blessing in disguise for Federer fans

There is no denying that it was heartbreak time for Federer fans like me after his 2nd successive five-set US Open semi-final loss. That too after the great champion was leading Djokovic two sets to love. But then, most of the fans take heart from the fact that Federer lost to someone who has had an incredible year 2011 with a 62-2 win-loss record coming to US Open.

While fans of both Nadal and Federer might find it difficult to accept the rise of Djokovic (who till the end of 2010 was not perceived as a threat to either of them) as a `super player' and his dominance over the former World No.1s who shared a record 24+ grand slams between them in the last seven to eight years, Federer fans can still come to terms with Djokovic defeating their hero if the latter defeats Nadal in a Grand Slam final.   

The reason, Nadal with 10 Grand Slams in his kitty and with age on his side is a major contender to outlast Federer as the GOAT (Greatest Tennis Player of All Time).   

From a rivalry point of view or shall we call it `trivalry' (Djokovic, Federer & Nadal), while Nadal proved to be the `nemesis' of Federer, the former has one turning out in the form of Djokovic.   Although Djokovic trails the Spaniard 16-12 in their all-time series, Djokovic’s 5-0 record this year includes a finals win at Wimbledon and hard court Masters Series victories in Miami and Indian Wells, California, where he rallied from a set down against Nadal both times. The other two wins came on Clay at Rome and Madrid against of the Masters Series.   

Djokovic now gets a chance to avenge his four-set loss to Nadal in last year’s US Open final. On current form and with more than 180% win percentage (Djokovic leads Nadal 9-5) on hard courts, Djokovic is the clear favorite to win US Open 2011at Flushing Meadows.

Thursday, 14 July, 2011

Meri Awaaz Hi Pehchaan Hai (My Voice Is My Identity)

L to R: Talat Mahmood, Mukesh, Lata, Mohd. Rafi & Manna Dey.
There was a time in the Indian film industry when listeners could identify a singer by his/her voice. From great stage-cum-playback singers like K L Saigal (hindi), P Bhanumathi and S Varalaxmi (telugu) to playback singers like Mukesh, Talat Mahmood, Mohd. Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Manna Dey (hindi) and Ghantasala Venkateshwara Rao, S P Balasubramanyam (telugu), their recognition and glory was their voice.

It is for this reason alone that a song of the 70s, “Naam Gum Jayega (name might be lost), Chehra Yeh Badal Jayega (face may change), Meri Awaaz Hi Pehchaan Hai (but my voice is my identity)” was not only a soothing and popular number but was relevant to the singers of that time.

The song is however irrelevant today given the number of singers we have in the Indian film industry today. Music lovers are no longer able to identify a singer on the basis of his / her voice. One has to check the cover of the CD or the cassette if he really wants to find out the name of the singer.

A look at the current chart-busters (according to my choice) validates the point.

Ab Kuch Dino Se
Dil to bachha hai ji
Mohit Chauhan
Kurbaan Hua
Vishaal Dadlani
Mere Bina
Nikhil Dsouza
Jiyien Kyun
Dum Maro Dum
Mudhi Mudhi
Shilpa Rao
Khaabon Ke Parindey
Zindagi Na Milege Dobara
Alyssa Mendonza, Mohit Chauhan

From the above list, Shreya Goshal is perhaps the only exception who can be recognized by her voice. Be it the `Teri Ore' song in `Singh is Kingg', `Aadha Ishq' in `Band Baaja Baraat', `Saathiya' in `Singham', `Saibo' in `Shor in the City' or `Shukran Allah'in `Kurbaan', Shreya has made a mark for herself in the singing world. To my mind, Alka Yagnik was the last female singer who could be recognized by her voice in the 80s and the 90s.

To a great extent, the success of a singer also adds to his reputation and longevity but then, both reputation and longevity are based on the richness in voice.

Blame it on the fast-life or even otherwise, music lovers are less bothered now-a-days to even think of a good singer. Even the FM Radio channels seldom mention the name of the singers and much of the emphasis is on the movie, actors, music director and the directors. Credit has to be given to the All India Radio (AIR) which even today focuses on the singers before playing the song. 

Unfortunately, the number of people tuning into the AIR is very limited these days.

Saturday, 2 July, 2011

Gladiators to fight it out on grass

The Wimbledon 2011 final will be a cracker of a contest. More so, in the light of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic swapping their titles of World No.1 and 2 respectively a day before their `Battle Royale'.

Djokovic had an incredible run this year till the French Open semi-final where Federer spoiled his party before succumbing to the eventual winner, Nadal. Till then, Djokovic won everything that came his way including two back-to-back victories over Nadal on clay (Nadal’s favorite surface) at ATP Masters in Rome and Madrid.

Going by current form and as the newly crowned World No.1, Djokovic is the favorite to lift the trophy on Sunday and if he does this will be his first Wimbledon title.

Djokovic has never been in a Wimbledon final though he has made it to the semi-finals couple of times. In 2007, Djokovic lost (retired hurt) to Nadal trailing by 2 sets to 1 and in 2010 he lost to Thomas Berdych in three straight sets.

Djokovic’s overall grand slam win percentage stands at 50. Till date, he has appeared in 4 finals. While he won two Australian Open titles {against Tsonga (’08) and Murray (’11)}, he lost two US Open Finals {to Federer (’07) and Nadal (’10)}.

Nadal on the other hand has made it to the Wimbledon finals 5 times including 2011 and has won and lost the title 2 times each and has never lost to Djokovic at Wimbledon.

Nadal’s overall grand slam win percentage stands at a staggering 83.33%. Nadal is appearing in his 13th grand slam final in which he will bid for his 11th major title and third at Wimbledon.

While Nadal is struggling a bit on the fitness front, Djokovic’s temperament is not at the same level as it was before the French Open 2011. The new tag of No.1 may also add to the pressure in addition to being in his first Wimbledon final.

However, both of them hate to lose and will come hard at each other especially Nadal, having lost his No.1 ranking. It will be no less exciting than Gladiators fighting it out at a mini Colosseum with grass surface.

Like any other Tennis fan, I just can’t wait to see when the Chair Umpire announces `Play'.

Wednesday, 15 June, 2011

Tollywood Dreams!

Not long ago there was a Telugu film called `Money' that had a character called Khan Dada, immortalized by popular Telugu comedian Brahmanandam. His punchline in the film was ``Khan tho games adaku'' (Don’t play games with Khan).

In the film, Khan Dada happens to be a local goon whose ultimate dream is to become a film hero but gets duped to the tune of Rs 30 lakh by an imposter (pretender) who claims to have connections in the film industry. Khan Dada wants to take revenge on the person who has fooled him but cannot do much since the cops are after him given his track record.

While the story ends with each character hunting one another, the imposter is the ultimate beneficiary.

In the recent past, a similar story happened in real life, though the climax is still awaited. Bhanu Prakash, an aide of factionist Suri got access to funds of the latter who was serving a jail term and invested the money in Tollywood without his knowledge. When Suri was out of jail on bail after a few months, he threatened Bhanu, asking him to return the money. Fearing for his life, Bhanu allegedly eliminated Suri and is now on the run.

Like the imposter who benefitted in the reel story, small-time producers who languished in Tollywood studios for years, are the beneficiaries for now as Bhanu invested large sums of money in the film industry through these producers.

While Khan Dada could not become a hero in `Money', Bhanu certainly has become a real villain running after his Tollywood dreams.

Saturday, 4 June, 2011

The match that I wanted my favorite player ‘Federer’ to lose

I was and still a big fan of Roger Federer ever since I watched him beat Pete Sampras in a 4th round match at Wimbledon in the year 2000. However, for first time in the last 11 years, I wanted him to lose the semi-final to Djokovic at the French Open 2011.

The reason, I can’t see Nadal pulverizing Federer as has been the case in three French Open finals so far. With Nadal already having booked his berth for the final on Sunday, I wanted Djokovic to beat Federer as he (Djokovic) has bettered his game and is lot more confident facing Nadal as compared to Federer. Djokovic has proved it recently by beating Nadal in back-to-back ATP Finals at Rome and Madrid.

Even though Roger Federer is often written about as the greatest men’s tennis player of all time, it’s Rafael Nadal who is the most dominating between the two in head-to-head match-ups. In fact, even though the two men are closely tied to one another as the top players in the sport for the last decade, it’s Nadal who holds a decisive 16-8 advantage in decisions over the course of their career.

Federer, 29, is currently the No. 3 singles player in the world while Nadal is the No 1. Both Djokovic who is World No.2 and for that matter World No.4 Andy Murray face Nadal better both on Clay and Hard Courts with double-fisted backhand. One of the biggest drawbacks for Federer against Nadal is his single-handed backhand which just gets nullified against the topspin ground strokes of Nadal. Federer’s lack of footwork while playing back-hand shot against a rising topspin shot from Nadal adds to his deteriorating confidence level as the match progresses and the 16-slam champion just looks like a pedestrian on the Centre Court after an hour long battle.

Nadal has won both of this year’s match-ups and three of the last four. In fact, going back to 2008, Nadal has won eight of the last ten, including their last match-up in Roland Garros in 2008 — a straight sets victory for Nadal and a nightmare finish at the French Open for Federer that year.

Still Federer is obviously playing well and knows how to win at Roland Garros. In Grand Slam finals, Nadal holds the advantage 5-2, which makes him even more of a favorite heading into Sunday’s final. Federer wasn’t supposed to take out Djovokic, however, and did so quite convincingly. For once, Can he do it against Nadal this time at Roland Garros 2011?

Friday, 8 April, 2011

The “Lift” That Shook Parliament

As a child it was fun waving the thumb of your hand in the direction that you would want to travel and asking somebody for a “lift” and then enjoying the short ride as a pillion. Those were the times when the world around us was relatively less mechanical, less busy and more kind towards mankind. The result - eight of 10 times the ride was on.

Over the years, I first drove a bike and now commute by a car but whenever somebody asks for a “lift” a.k.a (also known as) “drop,” I invariably oblige their request and sometimes go out of my way to offer a “lift” if the person is known to me.

While giving “lift” has now become more or less part and parcel of my life, I still cannot forget the day October 9, 1996 and the “lift” that I gave. On that day as usual I was rushing to my office AP Times (a Daily Newspaper published from Hyderabad and now closed) where I was working as a Sr. Business Correspondent.

An old-man was waving his hand to get dropped and even as I was slowing my bike the old man literally fell on my bike thinking that I might not stop. His eyes were moist and with a feeble tone asked me where I was heading to. I told him that I am going towards the lower tank-bund road where my office is situated. He then asked me “can you drop me till Masab Tank (a stop mid-way).” I said “fine” and asked him to board the bike.

Barely after two minutes and after travelling a distance, I could hear the man weeping. I was not surprised but then asked him to control himself and tell me if there was any difficulty and let me know if I can be of some help.

The old-man said that his family has gone bankrupt because of his son taking a “LPG” dealership of a company which was nothing but a farce. He also said the dealership was bought with his lifetime savings and a loan taken by his son almost five years ago and today they are fighting with the company for re-fund of the dealership fee.

For a minute I was moved but then immediately sensed a “story” for my Newspaper. Without telling him that I was a Journalist, I asked him whether there are other parties who have been duped like them. The old man replied “there are 50 other dealers like us across Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal and I am now going to attend the dealers’ association meeting and discuss further course of action.”

I then introduced myself and asked him if I can attend the meeting. The old man’s joy knew no bounds and my journey took his route. I told my Editor that I am following a good “story” and might return to work with the “lead” for the day.

The next couple of days was full of hectic activity (please see the attachments) and the “fraud” having the blessings of one of the MP’s from Orissa gave our budding Newspaper the publicity it badly needed.

With an MP being involved in the “scam,” there was big hue and cry in the Parliament and an enquiry was ordered to probe the fraud.

It’s more than a decade since I have left mainstream Journalism, but still I haven’t left my habit of giving “lift” to individuals.

I haven’t had any such experience in the last 15 years but definitely narrate this story to each and everyone who gets to travel a distance with me (I mean a lift) and that is the “price” they pay whether they like it or not.

Sunday, 22 August, 2010

Truth is stranger than fiction!

Performance and arrogance go together. That is a typical "Head" of the company for you. Performance devoid of arrogance is what makes a "Visionary" like B Ramalinga Raju, the tainted ex-founder chairman of Satyam Computer Services Private Limited.
An interview with Mr. Raju when Satyam was a $21mn company in the year 1998. More than a decade ago, when he was the "God" of the IT world, Raju was talking about worldwide operations and a head count of more than 50,000 employees globally.
Nothing can deny Raju his place in the Indian corporate history including the good philanthrophic work that he has done through his brain-child the Satyam Foundation. After all, Even Gods Err!

Tuesday, 27 July, 2010

Indian Agriculture - Of productivity & use of chemical fertilizers

Home to 110 billion people, if we can provide our population two square meals per day, the global hunger will go down by half. By linear method of calculation, in the year 2020, it is estimated that India’s population will be 138 billion and the food grain requirement will be 268 million MT.

Longest day length hours diversified climatic condition, diversified soil, diversified crop, highest irrigated land, ecological condition supporting all types of crop. Over the last 40 years, food production has grown multi folds thanks to increased fertilizer usage, hybrid seeds and better irrigation facilities.

The Problem: However, productivity levels for various crops still below world average. Growing population, shrinking agricultural land, limited scope for irrigation, limited growth in mechanization primarily due to fragmented land holding, low level of agriculture extension services, stagnant food production despite increase in fertilizer consumption and neglect of organic fertilizer use are affecting farmers’ profitability. Farmers want to quit agriculture if other option is available.

Fertilizer usage and productivity: With shrinking agricultural land and the limited scope for irrigation given the long gestation periods for constructing viable dams, the onus is now more on improving the “soil health” through effective use of “fertilizers” for better productivity of food grains.

Food grain consumption crosses 250 million MT in 2010 and the challenge is to produce more from the shrinking arable land. Increased demand of food grains will drive nutrient consumption from 25 million MT to 29 million MT. In this scenario, increasing yield will be the key for future sustenance. For the last 10 yrs, Crop yield growth rate has been only 1.20% where as Nutrient consumption has grown by 3.6%. Fertilizer use efficiency is the major concern in the Indian Agriculture.

Indian Chemical Fertilizer Industry is the largest in the world and ranks second both in production and consumption. The industry produces over 50m MT of fertilizers from 28 operational urea plants, 12 DAP plants, 19 complex fertilizer plants and about 80 single Super Phosphate plants.

However, bulk availability of nutrient fertilisers is concentrated in certain regions. ‘N’ (Nitrogen) nutrient in Middle East, USA & FSU; ‘P’ (Phosphorous) nutrient in North/West Africa, USA & Jordan; ‘K’ (Potassium) nutrient in Canada, FSU & Middle East.

India contributes 16% of the Global consumption and imports of fertilizers for 2009-10 pegged at 18 MMTs. For the last 10 yrs, Fertilizer Subsidy Bill’s growth rate is 21.53%. Though Fertilizer Subsidy Bill has gone up, efficient usage of Fertilizer remains a major area of concern.

The Solution: While a right nutrient balance for optimum farm productivity and usage of other micro nutrients like Boron (B), Zinc (Zn), Iron (Fe), Manganese (Mn), Molybdenum (Mo), Nickel (Ni), Chloride (Cl) and Copper (Cu) can help the Indian farmer to improve productivity, the new Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS) Scheme where the market price of the fertilizers will be determined based on demand supply balance will help the government to contain Fertilizer Subsidy Bill.

Thus, adoption of an appropriate pricing policy for ensuring balance use of fertilizers, a pricing policy to encourage use of all plant nutrients in balanced manner followed by subsidies for Research & Development in the Soil and Technology related matters are pre-requisites for ensuring continued health and growth of the fertilizer industry in India, ensuring high level of self sufficiency in food production and at the same time sustainable development of Indian agriculture.