Cerebral Shangrila

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

AIDS - and the battle continues....

The recent UN report has confirmed what we suspected for a long time. India is officially now the country with the largest number of AIDS infections.

" The UN has said that India now has the largest number of AIDS infections, as the spread of the epidemic that has claimed 25 million lives shows no signs of letting up.The data shows that India has 5.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS, surpassing South Africa's 5.5 million.But the epidemic still remains at its worst in sub-Saharan Africa, where per capita rates in several countries continue to climb."

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which has been doing some pioneering work in fighting AIDS globally ( and in India) provides a very quick backgrounder on the disease in the country and some policy fact sheets . Particularly hard-hit are the states in the South ( Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh ,Maharashtra) and North-east.

Ignorance is no bliss for diseases. With the abysmal sex education levels even among the literate population ( and of course the illiterates) and the social stigma associated with the disease , India's case isn't easy . With an extremely low public funding for the disease, the onus is on a joint public-private partnership to combat the disease.

Apart from a war footing public education campaign at all primary health centers and hospitals , the Government should seek the help of Bollywood in ensuring that the masses in the high-risk group are educated about the AIDS disease.

1.How about a compulsory newsreel before every movie (or during the intermission) on sex education and AIDS ?

2. How about a made for TV series like the famous " Mile sur mera tumhara" but this time with a focus on AIDS starring the famous Bollywood stars ? ( or even a made for TV movie)

Let us do it before its too late.

Monday, May 29, 2006

MNC's - The race for numbers

Its like the California Gold rush of the 19th century. People are flocking to the city (and the country), there is absolute mayhem and everyone has an opinion.

The growth of IBM in India is astounding. Its grown from 9000 to 43000 employees in just 2.5 years and is on a hiring spree race with Accenture (not to forget the Indian majors). Though there are doubts on the quality of hiring , the quantity seems no signs of abating. Just how important is India to IBM's future strategy ? Sample this from BusinessWeek :

" IBM's annual investor briefing is typically held in a bland hotel conference room in New York. But this year look for something radically different. It's kicking off the event 10,000 miles away at Bangalore Palace, a sprawling Colonial-era edifice modeled on Britain's Windsor Castle, in the heart of India's Silicon Valley. Speakers at the June 6-7 extravaganza will include Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Diya Mirza, Bollywood's answer to Lindsay Lohan, who will emcee an event attended by 10,000 IBMers. What's all the hoopla about? IBM is sending the message that India and the rest of Asia are crucial to its future -- as fast-growing markets and as pools of low-cost talent that IBM must tap to fend off pesky Indian competitors who are biting into its market share. IBM's (IBM ) India staff jumped from 9,000 to 43,000 in the past 2 1/2 years, making it No. 2 behind the U.S."

With the Indian majors slowly moving up the value chain , the Global majors are facing the heat. The investors haven't been too kind either and are either pounding the stocks or most stocks have just been stagnant for a really long time.

On a different note, Robert Cringley in PBS blasts the lack of customer focus & innovation at the Big blue.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Is Agriculture the next big thing ?

The next big thing could be an age old industry which just needs some revamp. If IT,BPO,Pharma are the "in thing" today, can Agriculture be the sunshine industry of tomorrow ? The Indian farmers are a neglected lot in general (except the free power news during the elecions) who are heavily dependent on the vicissitudes of the monsoon.

But now the multinationals are stepping in to bring private investment to make Agri the next big thing. International Herald Tribune looks at this trend and sounds quite bullish about the future.Jai Kisan !

"Multinational companies from Wal-Mart to Rothschild Group to PepsiCo are wagering that India could parlay its tropical climate and the latent energies of hundreds of millions of farm dwellers into a position as an agribusiness powerhouse, exporting fruits and vegetables, spices, flowers, wine, ice cream, poultry, shrimp, fish and even pasta."The vision is to link India's small farmers to global supply chains in agriculture, just as its software writers and call-center workers have been linked to other segments of the global economy. Farmers would move from staples like wheat to higher-value crops like okra and onions, Alphonso mangoes, spices, shrimp, Darjeeling tea, long-grain basmati rice, cashew nuts, milk and buffalo meat.
Big companies, foreign and domestic, would aggregate the crops harvested from scores of small farms, process them into value-added products like sausages or fruit purées, and get them to Western hypermarket customers through a "cold chain" of refrigerated trucks, ocean vessels and cargo planes.
Because land is the only thing most farmers possess, the companies probably will be prohibited from acquiring it. Executives say they will focus on working with farmers rather than replacing them.Global investors are pouring money into ventures to export Indian farm goods, or exploring ways to do so. The trend is fueled in part by the growth of a large Indian middle class, and companies interested in serving that market are betting that they can use their foothold in India to cater to the world.

Rajesh Srivastava, managing director in India of Rabobank, said lenders now regard the Indian farm sector as the next outsourcing story after information technology. "If IT is serious business today," he said, "agribusiness will be three times as serious five years from today."

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Sabeer's dream city - Nano City

Sabeer Bhatia ( Hotmail fame) dreams big . This time its really big. His next exciting project is to build a Nano city near Gurgaon. In a Q&A with Red Herring he details his plans:

In April, he announced that he will invest time (and possibly money) in a wide-reaching business venture in the state of Haryana, near New Delhi in northern India. Dubbed “Nano City,” the public-private partnership aims to build a Silicon Valley-inspired city where entrepreneurs, technology workers, and venture capitalists co-exist in a bid to spur innovation.The details are still being worked out, but Nano City will neighbor the town of Gurgaon, where more than 20 percent of Fortune 500 companies have already set up shop. Mr. Bhatia will serve as “chief visionary and rainmaker” of the project, helping with everything from conceptualization and city planning to marketing the city to the rest of the world.

Here is the interview in Red Herring.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Naushad - The Ustad is no more

Somewhere during the long vacation that I took, Naushad ( The famous hindi music composer) decided to say goodbye to the world. Even his last musical score "Taj Mahal" which was released last year, was a gem. But unfortunately todays bollywood had little need for the Ustad . The torchbearer of the Classical music in films, Naushad's music had a royal tinge to it being steeped in classical idiom.

The first Naushad song I listened to was the unforgettable " Pyaar Kiya tho Darna Kya" from " Mughal-e-Azam" . I knew very little hindi/Urdu then but the song had a powerful magnetism which made me listen to it often though I understood very little of what it meant .I also grew increasingly fond of the sweet " Mohe Pangat" from the same movie. " Baiju Bawra", " Mother India" , " Kohinoor", " Mere Mehboob", " Leader" , " Chalte Chalte" -- all these movies are testimony to Naushad's competency over the Classical form. I have lost count the number of times I might have listened to the wonderful song" Ek Shahenshah ne Banwake haseen ( Set in Raag "Lalit")" .

May his soul rest in peace ...

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Reservation issue - Why its wrong ?

I remember the frog (or was it the earthworm) story that I read a long time ago. For every two steps that it climbs in the well , it descends by another step making the ascent a long process. The story often reminds me of India. Amidst the social and economic progress that we make a Godhra or a Mandal takes us backward to the doom again.

The inanity of caste reservation has been argued for decades by economists and it is this same ember that Mr.Arjun Singh ( the HRD minister) strives to stoke. The issue has left the entire nation divided. Belonging to a forward caste ( I care a damn about casteism anyway) , I have morbid hatred for reservations. Irrespective of whether what is wrong and right , what is definitely wrong is the reasons for which Mr.Singh is doing it. It reeks of selfishness and personal gratification.

In a hard hitting article , Rediff questions the motive for raising this issue suddenly. Mr. Singh, please don't divide a nation and make people suffer for your personal whims , fancies and selfishness and am ashamed that your name is even being broached for the future Presidentship of the country . Please step aside , retire ............

Thursday, May 18, 2006

I'm back in Spore ( and to Blogging)

“The woods are lovely,dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.” These Robert Frost words keep ringing in my ears.

Lots of things have changed suddenly for me. I went to India, got married and am now back with my wife here in singapore . The freewheeling spirit ( or the rebel without a cause) is shrouded by a veil of responsibility ,which strives to alter the way I look at life.

At the outset, I would like to thank all those who wished me /attended my wedding. My apologies are due to some friends whom I could not invite ( Blame it on the huge workload I had during the last few weeks before wedding and poor internet connection at my home in chennai) and to those whom I could not meet in person during the wedding.

So its back to life as usual and you can look forward to my usual blog blabber from now on.Btw, Happy birthday to my wife who celebrates her birthday today !