Friday, March 21, 2008

D. Sundar

Q: Is there scope for innovation in the industry? Is cost reduction a focus area? Are modern concepts of relevance to SMEs?

A: “The scope for innovation is available but limited. Since, we get continuous contracts and orders that are spread over months, it provides us with very little time to innovate. Moreover in small and medium business (SMBs), much of the time is spent in scheduling, designing and executing manufacturing processes.”

“Designing is a costly affair which most SMBs don’t venture upon. Although innovations should be the ideal path for growth, we are particularly limited due to the lack of resources such as workforce ability, time and capital.”

“Cost reduction is absolutely on the charts. In our company, we employ a variety of lean manufacturing and six sigma concepts. SMB entrepreneurs need to be really lucky to get people with such backgrounds. In my case, my daughter, a Masters graduate in Industrial Engineering from the University at Buffalo, New York with two years experience in lean manufacturing in the US, moved back to India to join me in improving management and growth processes.”

D. Sundar, MD, Mahalakshmi Tools & Machinery Pvt Ltd.

In an e-mail interview.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Kiran Bhandari

Q: On the geographical pattern of interest towards Singapore, globally, and in India, more specifically, South India. Which of the cities and towns are showing the largest growth rates for tourism?

A: "While the overall growth from India last year was around 14%, we saw more than a 25% growth from Tier 2 cities such as Tiruchirapally, Kochi, Coimbatore, Madurai and Trivandrum. This is a reflection of the increased wealth and spending power of these cities, as well as increased connectivity between these smaller cities and Singapore. All of the above mentioned cities, except Madurai, now have direct flights to Singapore. This is a trend that is likely to continue going forward, and we have already upped our efforts in growing these Tier 2 markets."

Kiran Bhandari, Area Director - Southern India, Sri Lanka & Maldives, Singapore Tourism Board

In an e-mail interview.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Ranjini and Rajeshwar, Global Adjustments

Q: Your insights on the generational differences of adaptability.

A: "When Indians travel abroad and settle down there, they typically tend to want to sponsor their parents and enable their reunion with the family. This is again driven by the cohesive forces that operate in a typical Indian family unit, regardless of where it may be. Under such circumstances, when elders migrate to foreign shores, there are usually more serious adaptability challenges that they face and have to overcome in order to live comfortably. Some examples are - fluency in the local language, being comfortable wearing clothes that suit the weather conditions in that country, changes in cuisine, lack of independence in local transportation outside home, etc. All these factors tend to put a lot of stress on the senior folk who travel abroad to settle down for the sake of living with their children. These need to be carefully considered before making such significant decisions by the families concerned."

Ranjini and Rajeshwar, Global Adjustments.

In an e-mail interview.

C.L. Ashok Kumar

Q: Your views on the state of medical education in the country.

A: "Medical education has picked up well now. Earlier the student would get a medical degree by any and many methods and also reaped the harvest of blunders when he became a consultant. Now the postgraduate is a married man with two children to support; so, where is the time to do research or go into the subject and understand? Gradual awareness is dawning nowadays that only hard work during their PG days will be of moral support in practice.Currently, good teachers are a rarity. The so-called professors now are there by virtue of their ‘seniority’ or there are intelligent teachers who have time to read only foreign literature and grind it into the minds of the students, as we do not have genuine statistics of our own. The postgraduate examines an Indian patient and prescribes a drug recommended by a foreigner (doctor). Today’s postgraduate is better than his teachers in many aspects, who can impart only practical experience but not theory."

Dr C L Ashok Kumar, Consultant Urologist.

In an e-mail interview.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Bharathan Prahalad

Q: What are the component activities of modern HR?

A: "It starts from the BP (Business Plan) then MP (Manpower planning), Recruitment, T&D (Training and Development), RM (Resource Management), EE (Employee Engagement), PM (Performance Management), TM (Talent Management), Exits, Statutory Compliance and SHR (Strategic HR). Today HR does link up with the business and the service excellence teams in driving projects that help continuous process improvement with tangible benefits."

Bharathan Prahalad, Head – Human Resources, KLA-Tencor Software India Pvt Ltd.

In an e-mail interview.

Muthu Logan

Q: Why WiMAX? What difference does it make for a user?

A: "WiMAX is a next generation, standards based technology specifically developed and optimized to provide cost-effective convergence services (Data, Voice and Video) for the masses globally. An end user can subscribe for ONE secure and reliable service that will provde high speed data, voice and video services in the ubiquitous IP (Internet protocol) standard. Currently, almost all end users subscribe for separate voice and data services and they are typiclaly narrowband as opposed to Broadband. In essence, the end user gets the benefit of cost, speed, reliability and instant access to all IP applications (Web access, VoIP, etc). More importantly, WiMAX offers mobility-- which means the user can be talking as well as accessing the net while on the move."

Muthu Logan,CEO and Founder, BroVis Wireless Networks (

In an e-mail interview.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Thyagesh Baba

Q: Do you feel that the spirit of entrepreneurship and risk management can be taught or is it a mere gut feeling? Also, kindly suggest areas that a wannabe entrepreneur can look at.

A: "In my opinion it is more a gut feeling than something that can be ingrained through practice. However, a sense of disciplined thought-process to assess opportunity and risks, might become a necessary overlay to the gut, if one seeks to be successful in the long run."

Thyagesh Baba, Director, Spark Capital.

In an e-mail interview.

Suresh Jain

Q: Do you see re-development happening in a big way in cities like Chennai? Will we need the right laws and policies to facilitate the same?

A: "Re-development has to happen in Chennai and it is happening and will happen in the future as well. For this the policies and the laws need amendments to ensure development. I am sure that all over the country – re development has to happen to improve quality of living and this is only possible with the active participation of the Housing Board and the Slum Clearance Board. Just in order to mention, the fact is that there are many areas where the SCB tenements were established long time ago thinking that they are on the outskirts of the city, but today the same area is forming the heart of the city. Steps need to be initiated to ensure that these areas are beautified, laws and policies amended and the same areas are beautified – Singara Chennai – the dream becomes a reality."

Suresh Jain, MD, Vijay Shanthi Builders.

In an e-mail interview.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sugata Sanyal

Q: India is predominantly seen as an IT services country. Do we have IT products, too, to showcase to the world? Are we creating enough IP (intellectual property), compared to other countries?

A: “I would like to provide one example, MiLeap from HCL Info systems.”

“This is just an example, which has really taken a leap in to future. Quoting from available technical details, the ultra portable MiLeap weighs less than a kilogram, features a 7-inch screen equipped with an Intel processor. It has impressive features like a Navigational Pad that offers multiple features like touch screen, thumboard, stylus, keyboard, mouse and one touch buttons. It has a swivel 7-inch display cum notepad, helps in making input using a stylus and handwriting. All these come at a price of sub-Rs 15,000. Thus HCL has shaped the future of computing and it has the vision of empowering every Indian with a PC.”

“This is one available example. I would request you to do a survey of what all are happening in the Indian IT scene, similar to this. Also, we need to assess what IP is being created here. One observation is that we in India are not much aware of creating IP, though we are as good. Formalities and jargons are mostly non-Indian.”

Sugata Sanyal, Professor in the School of Technology & Computer Science at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai.

In an e-mail interview.

H.R. Srinivasan

Q: Has the listing changed the way you work? Or, in retrospect, do you think life was better before?

A: “Yes, listing has changes the way one works. A lot of my time is now involved in dealing with financial markets – analysts, investors, etc. It is with good cause though. This would mean a bit of time compression on the earlier method of work. We have addressed this by expanding leadership levels in the organisation. In some sense the no. of compliances are more, and rightly so, as you have access to public monies and propriety must be maintained.”

“I will not say life was better before. Both environments come with their set of opportunities and responsibilities. We are now in an aggressive growth phase and being listed is a logical progression. No regrets on this decision.”

H.R. Srinivasan, Vice-chairman and Vision Holder, Take Solutions Ltd.

In an e-mail interview.

K.O. Isaac

Q: Since you are manufacturing in some of the excise duty free areas, do you think the excise cuts announced in the recent Budget impact the economics in your company?

A: "Yes they do, to a limited extent. At ABL, excise duty benefits are passed on to our customers. With a reduction in duties, the economic benefits for pharmaceutical marketing companies needs to be reviewed especially when taken in conjunction with the directive from the Ministry of Chemicals, that retail prices must be reduced correspondingly.”

“In addition, Excise Free Zones suffered from other problems like intense competition, lack of qualified personnel, logistical issues, slow release of drug licences and delays in getting products out. Therefore, for the majority of pharma companies based in the South, I don’t think the EFZs are an interesting and worthwhile proposition anymore.”

“Also, the expected announcement from the Ministry of Chemicals enhancing the list of products under the Drug Price Control Order (DPCO) will make viability of these products being manufactured at EFZs, even more questionable as they are tax-exempt.”

“I therefore believe that these units in the EFZs are going to be impacted very severely.”

K.O. Isaac, MD, ABL Biotechnologies.

In an e-mail interview.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Pinakiranjan Mishra

Q: What is impeding the development of a robust back-end supply chain, in India?

A: "The most significant challenge in developing a smooth supply network is the lack of adequate infrastructure particularly road infrastructure, reliable power supply, insufficient investments in alternate modes of transport (marine, railways, air transport), a well-connected cold chain & warehousing infrastructure. Lack of technology usage, a fragmented supplier base and a multi-layered tax structure pose significant challenges to the evolution of a streamlined supply network. Local, regional and national regulations pose major hurdles for retailers in obtaining permissions to establish supply chain infrastructure."

Pinakiranjan Mishra, Partner, Retail & Consumer Practice, Ernst & Young.

In an e-mail interview.

Seerkazhi G. Siva Chidambarm

Q: How far do you think that students can benefit by learning music along with their other studies?

A: "Music is a finer version of discipline training. Any form needs rigorous training techniques and practice to master it. That by itself, brings in a subconscious discipline and mental stability. A student who learns music especially, has the benefit of relaxation in combination with a stable clear mind to approach his curriculum. There is nothing to beat music, especially Classical music. Film music also helps. Especially the older songs with a sentimental lyrical touch and philosophies about success and examinations do have an impact on students preparing for examinations. It is a pleasure to study with music on."

Dr Seerkazhi G. Siva Chidambarm, musician

In an e-mail interview.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bharath Mahadevan

Q: On what areas of cost do you focus, on a continuing basis?

A: "The bulk of our operating costs worldwide is fuel costs, accounting for almost a third of our costs. Hence savings in fuel costs would be of prime importance to us, especially with the cost of fuel escalating steadily. Currently we pay three times for fuel as compared to what we paid three years ago! Maintaining and renewing a young fleet of aircraft is the first thing we do to achieve trimming of costs. The average age of our passenger aircraft is around 6 years, which is one of the youngest in the world for an airline which has been around for 60 years. We also hedge a certain proportion of our fuel, to help protect against wild swings in the fuel prices. Our technical teams continually focus on the routes which our flights take to reach their destinations, and try and shorten these routes to bring about savings in fuel costs."

Bharath Mahadevan, Manager, Southern India, Singapore Airlines

In an e-mail interview.

R. Balaji

Q: Who is buying now into real estate: investors or end users? And what are their preferences?

A: "Both. But today, we can classify the buyers as big investors and small investors, instead of investors and end users. End users have become small investors primarily in Tier I and Tier II cities. But both big as well as small investors do not prefer long term. Both prefer short to medium term appreciation. And both look at land as the most preferred investment option. "

R. Balaji, CEO, Propmart

In an e-mail interview.

G.R.K. Reddy

Q: The origin of MARG, the name.

A: "MARG is an abbreviation for MAdhusudhan Reddy G, my younger brother who expired very young. In his memory I started MARG Securities and MARG Constructions. MARG also means 'PATH' or 'Direction', and we are leading the way into the right direction for infrastructure democracy in the country."

G.R.K. Reddy, Chairman & Managing Director, MARG Ltd

In an e-mail interview.

Ashish Dehade

Q: Is there any geographical pattern visible in the cases that come up?

A: "We haven’t seen a very visible ‘geographical pattern’ in the cases that we have handled. We do however see a relatively larger number of fake ‘employment experience letters’ emanating from cities like Hyderabad and Bangalore!"

Ashish Dehade, MD West Asia, First Advantage

In an e-mail interview.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Michael M. Bala

Q: Among the many services you offer, which have been the most popular ones?

A: "The most popular use of Snapfish is for Printing, Sharing and Storage, in that order. This is because Snapfish has a everyday low price of Rs. 2.95. The top selling product has always been prints. During festival seasons it is the mugs, Calendars and other gift items."

Michael M. Bala, Country Manager, Hewlett-Packard :, Chennai

In an e-mail interview.

Jim Rogers

Q: What, according to you, are the most important ten Chinese words/phrases that any businessman should know? And why?

A: "Buy low. Sell high."

Jim Rogers, author of 'A Bull in China' (

In an e-mail interview.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Amitava Roy

Q: On the impact of the US woes.

A: "There is a lot of media talk about the oncoming slowdown in US. Any slowdown expected in the US market is a challenge and an opportunity for us. Like in 2001-2002, when a number of Indian IT companies, especially the large ones, benefited from the slowdown, we believe that our innovative business models will help our customers to address such a situation and thereby provide an opportunity to strengthen our leadership position. As margin pressures increase, a number of companies will seek to optimize their R&D costs. This is where Symphony with it’s proven track record stands to gain."

Amitava Roy, President, Symphony Services

In an e-mail interview.