Monday, September 25, 2006

Dunn is gunned

Its only a fine line that separates success and failure: hero and zero: everywhere and nowhere and Patricia Dunn would only have understood that concept too well and in the process paying a very big price. Not so long ago she was voted as one of the most powerful women in the world and today she finds herself in a very miserable position, being ousted not only as the Chairperson of the Directors, but also from the Hewlett-Packard Board itself.

Everything started with the bold (few may call it arrogant) step taken by Dunn to tap the phone calls of all the directors following a leak of confidential boardroom discussions to the media. But the repercussions were very severe, with the Directors feeling agitated (may be rightly) at their private life being no longer private! One of the Directors, Tom Perkins, an associate of one Mr Hewlett and one Mr Packard, resigned in protest last week and these scandals have affected the HP shares very badly.

The $100 bn Silicon Valley corporate giant has had nothing but problems since June last year following the quitting of the then CEO Carly Fiorina. However Dunn did a grand job during the CEO transition but she too would realize in a future day that butting in the personal life of fellow employees is a grievous offence. Now that she has been asked to leave the Board of Directors, HP would only lose the services of a woman who belong to that rare breed that posses intelligence, authority and alacrity.

Quitting of Patricia Dunn from the Board of HP directors will have its impact in
1) The face value of the HP shares in the market
2) Management of HP affairs
3) Future growth of HP

The market is prone to the sentiments of the people for a company and it would be adversely affected if the company’s Chairperson is quitting after a scandalous affair. The share prices fell by 5% immediately and despite the resurgence after Mark Hurd, the "Dunn-protege" CEO taking over the incumbency, it would take at least a while for HP to reach the heights of the previous months.

Even the directors who voted in favour of ousting Dunn would accept the fact that she did a fantastic job for long as one of the Board Directors in her former years and then as its Chairperson in her later years. HP grew leaps and bounds under her tenure and her quitting would surely leave a big void, which I bet would be very hard to fill.

Of all the jobs in hands that Hurd should address to, the most important one would be maintaining the momentum of the growth of the company. He certainly has a very challenging job in his hands and it would be very interesting to watch whether he can weather the storm and reach the dizzy heights achieved by his “celebrated and yet ditched” predecessor. As they say, Time is a great Judge and we have to wait for its verdict

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Power of Screams??!!

Gurgaon industrial belt, the very heart of the Indian manufacturing market has seen unrest and turmoil in the recent past and it has hit the news once again for the same. Exactly an year ago there was “much ado about everything” with employees of Toyota and Honda indulging in strikes for the obvious fiscal reasons. Well, now the sequel of the action has happened and there has been no change in the protagonists too, the Honda employees. To be more precise, the Honda casual employees

The national scooter market was in an all-time low five years back. However it saw its revival being scripted by the Japanese auto-major, that has the power of dreams before bearing the brunt of the Honda- labour strike staged last year. A 15 % dip in the overall scooter sales allover the country catches the picture perfectly. However the wages issue was then settled after a bitter row between the management and the labour union. Now the dispute has raised its ugly head again. The casual employees who claim for an increase in wages on par with that of the permanent employees have hit back at the management, only to meet it’s reluctance.

The concept of strike was very popular in the early nineties. However it lost its importance in due course and nowadays both the management and the labour union look at peaceful measures and co-operative solutions for their problems. There has been far less number of strikes in the recent years and hence the Honda-labour strike (2005) was considered as a melodrama. The economy of the country largely lies in the hands of the foreign investors and it would see a major set-back if more such strikes are staged against the multinationals. HMSI, which suffered loss of production in the past few months, saw its June sales drop 22.4 per cent to 25,530 units. According to an industry analyst, the growth revival seen in the scooter market over the past couple of years was largely driven by HMSI. For example, in the last fiscal while the scooter market grew by 4.2 per cent to 923,566 units, HMSI and TVS Motor were the only two companies to see a positive growth, with the remaining five scooter-manufacturing firms seeing a decline in growth in the year

The Honda employees declared a strike against the management and refused to indulge in productive activities on Tuesday 19/9/2006 after the contractors refused to improve their pay scale.There has been a dichotomy however, over the proliferation issue with the management claiming that the production has not been affected and the employees saying that more 50% of the production has been stopped due to the strike. The management goes on to say that the strike is a matter of concern between the contractors and the casual employees and it has got no part to play in the ongoing strike.

Strikes like these can have profound impact on
1) The companies’ revenue and more importantly their public image
2) The welfare of the employees
3) To a certain extent, the country’s image in the world market

It doesn’t require rocket science to describe the impact of strikes in a company’s turnout. It certainly is bound to have adverse effects. The more serious problem is the negative impact that it develops on the mindset of the people. In a country like India, where the market is bound to emotional and sentimental issues, if a company is entertaining many strikes, then it is a villain affecting the welfare of its employees. Two strikes in a span of thirteen months is certainly “many”

Most of the employees who work in multinationals, as ad-hocs would earn a maximum of Rs 7000 per month and strikes certainly would cause a regress in their economic status. The conditions might improve if the strike turns successful but that is a big if.

Indian economy has been beefed-up largely by the FDI and FII of the foreign investors. If the country shows a record of two-strikes-in-thirteen-months to its investors, how encouraged they would feel!! So the country too has a part to play in curbing strikes and help in maintaining equanimity in the companies.

In short, strikes don’t augur well for developing economies like India and they should be played down at all cost. With scrupulous planning it can be achieved. The investing companies too should realize that the welfare of the employees should be their prima-facie and an optimist would only expect the other companies to learn from the unfortunate yet inevitable, ongoing dispute between the HMSI management and its casual employees.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Get! Set!! Go!!!- Indian Government becoming trendy!!

nnaThe Indian legislation, for long has been both weak and very complicated for compliance. Parochialism has infected the Indian system and the bureaucrats should think out-of-the-box to improve its status. It would take years to cleanse the entire system and the government should put forth new ideas that would make the legislation more tangible and easily compliable. The Ministry of Company Affairs has brought one such law into the picture. The law has made the filing of companies’ annual reports and the balance sheets of profit and loss accounts mandatory. The innovative part of it is that everything can be done online instead of the traditional paper work.

It’s essential for the government’s well being to monitor the companies’ progress/regress, which makes the filings of reports all the more important. In the past this law would have added to the problems of a company’s director because these filings would involve lot of paper work like adjusting the balance sheet, managing the audit report et al. Now it has become all easier with this novel way of doing it online.

The government has sought the help of various private companies like Tata Consultancy Services, IDRBT Certifying Authority, SafeScrypt CA Services, Sify Communications Ltd etcetera for certifying the filings, since the inclusion of Director Identity Number (DIN) is mandatory. Inclusion of private parties only assures quality and one can also hope that the entire process will speed up considerably.

This law of the government has implications on
1) The country’s legislative setup and
2) The companies’ readiness to make its account transparent

As aforesaid the Indian legislation is as cumbersome and inefficient as one would imagine and it needs many innovations. This e-filing mandatory law might just feed in some fuel and kick-start that process. It also means that the government has become pro- active and is ready to adopt new ideas for making its legislation more transparent and easily approachable.

Monitoring a company’s activities is very important from many angles. It helps the government to track its progress/regress and make sure that the organization is abiding the law and compliant to the government policies. An optimist would expect an organization to make its account transparent willingly and only the tedious paper work hinders it from doing so. Now the process has been made very easy with this advent and we can say nothing prevents the optimist from realizing his expectations.

Transparency in all fields is the need for the hour and it is under the jurisdiction of the country to check the activities of the corporate organizations. Law abiding and rule compliant corporate augurs well for the country’s growth. I would call this a bold and important step in the process of modernization of the legislation and in my court the lawmakers deserve a pat for their endeavor.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Reliance's road less travelled

Nothing can beat the relaxed hours one spends before a television after an office/school rigour. Be it a bloody battle between Brazil and Argentina (people call it football!!) or be it the Devil’s Advocate with Karan Thapar at his articulate best, everybody enjoys watching TV. However here and there, a middle class wife will fight with her husband around 28th or 29th of every month to cancel the cable TV subscription pointing to the ever-burgeoning cable cost and the dip in the quality due to illegal usage. Well here is an answer to all the problems abovementioned-DTH expanded to Direct To Home.

When DTH was first introduced in the late nineties by private players, the Government was not in all favours citing security problems. However the idea was revamped in 2001 and Rupert Murdoch owned iSkyb launched he first DTH service and the government too forayed with the DD direct plus. Now the market has become competitive with the entry of R-ADA into the broadcasting setup.

If one has followed the recent activities of Anil Ambani he/she wouldn’t be surprised with this move. Anil has began to expand his grip over the Indian market by including diversity in his ambit and it is evident from his investment in joint ventures with PVR and Adlabs in building multiplexes, in FM radio channels and in producing films in synergy with high network bollywood people.

A smart businessman that Anil is, has been fast in realizing the growth potentials one has in the broadcasting market. PricewaterhouseCooper has predicted a manifold increase in the number of DTH subscribers. From a mealy 3.25 millions to 15 millions in two years is a real growth if PricewatrhouseCooper is to be trusted. Further more Anil could also make his viewers subscribe to his multiplex shows or listen to his FM if he can gain a strong hand in the DTH market.

This R-ADA foray into DTH market may make profound implications on
1) The market cap of Reliance
2) The competitors’ interest and
3) The public

Despite the split of the Reliance Empire, Reliance stocks still soar high and Anil’s strategic moves have been instrumental in maintaining the momentum. The latest arrow from the Ambani quiver is Reliance Blue Magic the subsidiary, which will deal with the DTH market. With only four major private players viz IskyB of News Corp, Dish TV of Zee groups, Sky TV- an 80:20 venture of Tatas and Star TV and the South Indian major SUN Network, much is at the offering and Anil has displayed immaculate entrepreneurial skills in setting up this DTH service providing venture. With the Midas touch that he has, no doubt Reliance Blue Magic will hit the target and bring in more revenue to Reliance Energy, the parent organization of Anil Dhirubai Ambani enterprise.

The Cable TV operators’ honeymoon is going to end soon with CAS and DTH’s taking over. Zee is offering its DTH services at Rs 200/- and the package includes seventy five channels. Star offers similar number of channels for Rs 180/-. These charges do not include the setting-up charges and with the entry of RBM will only make the setting more interesting and it will be a good spectacle to watch how these competitors battle it out.

With all these private parties engaging in a gripping combat, the viewers will be promised the best of the quality, making TV watching a pleasant experience. The viewers now have a wide choice of service providers to choose from, with the package from each being more attractive than the competitor’s in one way or the other. Gone are the days of illegal usage and cable operators’ escapade from higher entertainment taxes.

Having done all the formalities and with the LoI of the government in its kitty, RBM is all set to make its presence felt in the DTH services. Anil’s strategy to win the battle will also be a thing to watch out and having seen him all these days I am sure it will be unique and successful as usual.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Its FDI festival in India

They say, “When it pours, it pours heavy”. It is indeed pouring heavily in India. Apart from the torrential rains the FDI is also pouring into the country, which is expected to quadruple in the next seven years. Gone are the days when the government was reluctant in allowing foreign companies to enter the Indian market. These days India and China are branded as the best places to invest for at least another 25 years and no surprises foreign organizations are competing big time to be a part of this FDI spree. The latest participator is the housing finance leader HDFC. The proposal of HDFC to invest a staggering Rs 3240 crore ($720 mn) into the Indian real estate business has been given an affirmative nod by the Cabinet Committee on External Affairs.

India is currently holding the position, which was formerly held by the US (in the post war years) as the best place to invest, thanks to the burgeoning economy and scrupulous economic planning. The real estate market of the country deserves a special mention, which is expected to grow from the current $12 bn market position to an Himalayan $90 bn in the next decade, courtesy Merrill Lynch. May be that will be an eye opener for those who wonder at the reason behind giants Farallon Capital Management, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and GE Commercial Finance Real Estate craving to dominate the Indian real estate space, needless to mention the local players. Now HDFC has forayed into the market by registering India Offshore Real Estate Investments, a fund raising company in Maurtius, which will invest in the Indian real estate. It has invited International Banks, Financial Institutions and high network Individuals to invest in the fund for a minimum period of three years.

This investment plan of HDFC has direct implications on
1) Its own revenue
2) The “home country” economy and
3) The market capitalization of local players

HDFC has made many smart moves in the past, joining hands with SBI, being one such and this investment plan is another strategic move, every economic pundit would say. The Indian government has signed a treaty not to tax the Mauritius investors, which will directly benefit HDFC. The stock value has already increased by 3.07% in BSE and the future looks really rosy for the organization.

The liberalization and the globalization binge has benefited the country largely with its economy growing at a breakneck speed. This approval by CCEA will attract other international players to pour in investments and thereby adding to the FDI revenue. It’s a win-win situation and surely India would cash in by making use of these opportunities.

The real problem is for the Indian players who with their already fragile investment now should meet this external pressure from the foreign investors as well. If only they stand tall in this competition, it would make the market positions more exciting and the investors more interested. Companies like UB group of Vijay Mallaya have the financial cushion and they can offer stiff challenge to HDFC and only time will decide the winner.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Kudos GOOGLE!!!

Every bibliophile around the globe would have let out a sign of joyous exclamation last Friday when Google announced that it has joined hands with its library partners in letting people download and print rare classics without any copyright. That certainly means something to go-crazy-when- find-book kind of people like me.

I'll be lying heartily if I say this is the biggest revolution in books-world since Gutenberg devised a method for printing, for a lot of e-books are now available, thanks to the internet. However most of those materials, if not all are pirated and people should answer the questions that their court of conscience would put forth and now with this great work by Google, that feeling of guilt can be done away with.

Trollope and Coelho and Ferriar and Abbot and Dante are now freely available with this advent and one would hope that the list of works made available only increases. No more hanging around and bargaining over in old bookshops or making wallets light in new bookshops, in pursuit of a rare book, for Google has made downloading and printing of classics free

VOVLO buying Stakes in Ashok Leyland

Today’s market is full of competition, with one firm trying to usurp another. Competition brings out the best in anybody and it has direct implications in all kind of markets. The partnership talks between two automobile majors, Volvo and Ashok Leyland is only a testimony for the aforesaid.

Volvo has been India for the past eight years, doing decent business by selling buses and trucks to both government and private parties. In Volvo’s perspective, entering into the medium commercial vehicle market is very crucial for its expansion. The medium commercial vehicle business has not been in its ambit as far as the Indian market is concerned and this partnership would suffice its needs to gain a stronghold. Volvo was forced to payback a sum of $2.2 bn due to recent pressure from its shareholders and this has made it inquisitive in making acquisitions and adding to its repertoire. So this alliance would and could prove to be beneficial to the Swedish giant.

On the other hand, Ashok Leyland would consider this partnership as a filling of gap caused due to the quitting of IVECO Fiat, the Italian player. With IVECO Fiat- the heavy truck arm of Italian automobile giant, having joined hands with rivals, Tata Motors after selling its 15% stake in LRLH, the Hindujas are all set to enter into a partnership with Volvo. LRLH, the holdings firm of the Hindujas family who now hold 51% of Ashok Leyland, requires technology for its own betterment and it would expect the much needed technology exchange would happen in this partnership. With global conglomerates like Daimler Chrysler, International Truck & Engine Corporation and MAN Nutzfarhzeuge vying the Indian Market and Tata Motors planning to introduce world truck range in 2008 Ashok Leyland has to try every trick to be competitive enough in the market.

Though the fiscal dealings haven’t been disclosed yet, this partnership would certainly be fruitful to both the parties. The salubrious competition would also bring the best out of the people, as said before and when two firms, best in their business, tie up, it is needless to say it would benefit the people and the nation at large.

On Samsung deciding to invest more in India

The consumer electronics market of the country is growing at a breakneck speed and Samsung India, the Indian subsidiary of the South Korean major Samsung electronics, has played a strategic move by planning to invest in another plant. The new venture will be bigger and better than the existing one at Noida, according to the consumer goods producer.

Though Samsung is doing a great job, one cannot deny the fact that there is very stiff competition existing around in the market. With LG (the current business leaders in India according to Business World) too trying to expand its market in the country, the Indian multinational Videocon vying a top spot and Haier consumer electronics, the Chinese player growing commendably, Samsung is left with no choice but to increase its investment

As major business surveys would point out, Samsung has grown considerably in this decade. With this expansion plans in the hindsight it would only tighten its grip in the market. Expansion is the mantra of all companies and Samsung has only learnt it too well, one point at which Daewoo failed miserably. It will be interesting to watch how the competitors react to this move, especially Videocon the sole Indian runner.

This new plant setup would also contribute, if not significantly, to the Indian economy by introducing new job opportunities to the localities. ‘Standard products at reasonable price’ being the market catchword one can believe Samsung to drive better with its expansion and I don’t see anybody complaining.

India-ASEAN FTA talks

The latest news, which has caught lot of attention in the South East Asian territories, is the change in the liberalization policy of India. The policy makers of the country have taken a bold step in reducing the tariff rates for the ASEAN exports to New Delhi. This, in my view would surely accelerate the India-ASEAN FTA.

The much hyped about Free Trade Agreement is only bound to improve the trade dealings, directly and hence the economy of the country, indirectly. The NAFTA-North American Free Trade Agreement signed in 1994 serves as a testimony for the FTA policies. US and Mexico benefited a lot because of this pact and the same can be expected in India’s case too.

India has not played a blind man’s game in opening up the markets, for the government has assured to protect the interests of the local farmers as well. At the same time it also has increased the concessions (from 69% to a whopping 94.6%) for the ASEAN products exported to New Delhi. Major cuts in the import duties for palm oil, crude palm oil and black tea shows the visionary thoughts behind this pact. Though the list of excluded items covered by the policy is 560 in number, it is considerably smaller when compared to previous amendments’ 850 and 1440.

ASEAN has welcomed India’s move and one can expect to see a major turn around in the India-ASEAN FTA negotiations. Well if this doesn’t kick start the proceedings, I don’t know what else will.