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Has Murugappa Group Bought Out Valli Arunachalam's Stake In Ambadi Investments?

TVS and Murugappa are not just iconic names but also venerable brands in the Chennai business world. TVS has seen the four families, part of the group, go their separate ways legally. Each one of the four families in the erstwhile TVS is now chalking out its own independent business strategy. The Murugappa group, too, has many family branches. This one too appears to be letting the individual families pursue their own business interests. Still, the family holding company is intact and appears to bind the Murugappa families together. The open revolt by Valli Arunachalam, the elder daughter of late MV Murugappan, however, put the spotlight on the Murugappa group. Fortunately, both Valli and the Murugappa group have chosen to smoke the peace pipe. Coming as it does against this backdrop, the decision by Ambadi Investments (the holding company of the Murugappa group) to sell its entire 2.27% stake in EID Parry has set tongues wagging. The open market sale has fetched Ambadi Rs 190 crore. Does the stake sale have any connection with the peace pact with Valli? One tends to quickly correlate the two. Has the Murugappa group chosen to let Valli cash out? That option remains the realm of possibility with the stake sale by Ambadi in EID Parry.

IBC Has Made It Difficult For Corporate India To Keep Barbarians At The Gate

White Knights, co-option, corporate alliances and the like were quite in vogue in former times. They played handy roles in helping companies – especially of the owner-driven ones – to ward off take-over threats. Examples are dime a dozen in the corporate world of Tamil Nadu where they threw ring-fences around vulnerable outfits to check-mate raids by unwanted or undesirable entities. This had indeed helped many stressed outfits from falling into the BIFR fold, thanks to those friends in need who played Good Samaritans. The promoters of Bank of Madura (since merged with the ICICI) sought the help of Kotak Mahindra to ward off takeover threat from AC Muthiah of SPIC fame. Likewise, Pradip Kothari reached out to MV Arunachalam of the Murugappa group to stop the threat of Reliance satellite outfits from taking over of KICL (Kothari Industrial Corporation Ltd). Under new management, KICIL has now sold its fertiliser factory in Chennai to Coromandel Fertilizers of the Murugappa group! Son-in-law of late Raju, promoter of Raasi Cement, looked up to N. Srinivasan of The India Cements to stop raiders on track. Autolec, too, went to Sundaram Fasteners to ward off takeover attempts by multinational firms. In the evolving regulatory environment and following the arrival of IBC (Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code), things have gotten tougher for struggling owners to retain the ventures they have founded. The Good Samaritans of former times are either not there or wary of playing the rescue role in the changed context. Surely, that is hurting some original entrepreneurs in Tamil Nadu.
Bullet butterfly

How Eicher, Crompton Turned Bullet And Butterfly Into Big Brands

What’s in a brand? Well, brand is a powerful communicator. Often, it survives its creator and owner. A brand has the capacity to trigger universal appeal. Sometimes, a brand requires to be freed from the clutches of its owners. That’s very important for its longevity. That is easier said than done, however. It takes the owner to think and act beyond personal wishes to make an institution out of his/her brand. Indeed, an owner/creator has to have a strong sense of objectivity and courage. A couple of top brands from Chennai not only survived the test of time but have also become truly national now. In the 90s, scalability issues saw the late S Viswanathan let go Enfield, the company his family founded. His son Kapil has gone to create Krea University. Today, Enfield under Eicher has taken the iconic bike Bullet to a new height. Bullet is a global brand now. Not long ago, the owners of Butterfly had chosen to let Crompton take over the company. Butterfly is a household name in the kitchen appliances spaces in the Southern part of India. With Crompton stepping in, Butterfly has taken a national wing. Being successful in business is one thing. It’s statesmanship in them that tests the longevity of their brands.
RamCharan battery

Chennai Firm Develops And Patents Eco-Friendly Batteries

“Go Green” has become the new mantra. Countries across the globe are striving hard to ensure a cleaner environment. The key here is eco-friendly batteries. Not surprisingly, scientists and researchers alike are burning midnight oil to discover an alternative to Li-ion batteries. “Go Green” can be a realistic endeavour only if an alternative is found to Li-ion batteries. This Chennai-based firm appears to have hit upon a solution. Ram Charan Company Private Ltd has just become the first company to be granted a patent in the solid state battery using sodium as a key material. The proof of concept on solid state sodium silicate batteries has been in development since 2021. Claimed to be a breakthrough work, solid state sodium batteries are likely to be tested in real time applications by 2024-end. The breakthrough initiative could have far-reaching implications for EVs (electric vehicles), space programmes and the like. Can a fully recyclable product sans toxic residue, solid state sodium silicate battery be made commercially in an affordable manner? Ram Charan’s founder Kaushik Palicha feels he can. This Chennai firm – which is doing pioneering work in the area of waste management -rose from obscurity to national limelight when it attracted $4.1 billion investment from a U.S.-based private equity in 2021. Public sector SAIL has, in fact, roped in Ram Charan to manage waste in some of its plants. Well, “Go Green” is set for a big boost.

Driving change: Nagarajan, Ahmed and Venkatachalam

How Three Chennai-Based Companies Are Trying To Regain Their Pristine Glory

There are a few things common about these three. They are all from very illustrious groups in Chennai. All of them had their sunny years in the past. And, all of them are listed entities. WS Industries, Coromandel Engineering and Kothari Industrial Corporation (KICL) were indeed jewels in the crown of Tamil Nadu once upon a time. For assorted reasons, all of them have become a distant memory. But these are names that have tremendous brand equity. Not surprisingly, these three once-upon-a-time iconic companies – nay brands – are now getting a fresh lease of life. Well, all these three companies have seen a change in their ownership. A new management is already in position at KICL, and is trying to bring the yester-year glory back to the Kothari brand. Through a series of initiatives such as getting big into footwear, drones and the like, the new leadership is working at a frenetic pace to reignite the power of Kothari. The much revered Murugappa group, in the meanwhile, has palmed off Coromandel Engineering to affiliate-entities of a top functionary of a ruling DMK party in Tamil Nadu. Coromandel Engineering, in fact, had built some of the iconic structures in Chennai. WS Industries, a leading manufacturing company once upon a time, too, has come under the fold of a group which is into property development. All these three newcomers get listed firms through the inorganic growth route.
Kaushik Palicha

PSU Giant SAIL Inks Deal With Ram Charan For Waste Management System

Businesspersons in this part of the world are usually perceived to be quiet doers. Often, they are attached with the tag of `conservatists’ by the world outside. But these so-called `conservatists’ were pioneers in very many ways. First corporate school (Thriveni Academy), first corporate film company (GV Films), first leasing firm (First Leasing), first corporate hospital (Apollo), first hostile takeover (of Wendt India by CUMI)…. and several such firsts … all happened in Chennai. This little known company from the city of Chennai attracted $4.1 bn investment from the American fund TFCC International in December 2021 and became a talking point in the business media. Ram Charan Company Private Ltd, founded by Kaushik Palicha, has since gone quietly to pen a pact with the Steel Authority of India (SAIL) to put up a pilot project for carbon capture and utilisation. What has surprised the long-time India business watchers is the fact that a public sector undertaking of the SAIL kind has chosen to take the lead-role in striving to roll out a robust waste management system across its units. If this pilot cooperative initiative succeeds, it is bound to trigger a huge transformation in the way the Indian production environment is managed. If grapevine has to go by, a top industrial house is also picking up a cue or two from the SAIL gambit. Well, innovators and risk-takers are aplenty in Dravadian land it appears.

SICCI President Ar Rm Arun

Century Old Trade Body In Spotlight As It Sets Up Core Advisory Council

This is one of the oldest chambers in the country. This industry body is over 100 years old now. The Southern India Chamber of Commerce Industry (SICCI) is indeed an iconic association in Chennai. The SICCI was promoted ostensibly with the idea of serving the Indian business by protecting and promoting its interests at the regional, national and international levels. Indeed, SICCI was the founder-member of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). SICCI saw eminent industrialists from Chennai such as AC Muthiah, MA Alagappan, A Vellayan and like heading it at one point or the other. Ar Rm Arun, son-in-law of AC Muthiah, is now serving as its president. SICCI has chosen to change. This move put the spotlight on the century-old chamber. SICCI has decided to constitute a Core Advisory Council (CAC). More than its constitution, what has surprised many is the power vested with the CAC to oversee the induction/ replacement of the executive committee members. CAC is also sought to be vested with powers to recommend right candidates for top positions at SICCI, which has hitherto been the domain of the board members. Why CAC at all? With CAC in place, what will be the role of the executive committee? Surely, SICCI is set for interesting times ahead.
Rafiq kothari

Middle East Investor Picking Up Stake In Chennai-Based KICL?

This was one of the respected industrial houses in Tamil Nadu. Once upon a time, this group was at the forefront leading the State industrialisation. Brothers DC Kothari and HC Kothari were respected names in the Indian corporate world then. Post their demise, Kothari House was in the news for all wrong reasons. An internecine feud broke out between cousins Pradip Kothari (son of DC Kothari) and Shyam Kothari (son of HC Kothari) when Shyam (son-in-law of Dhirubhai Ambani) bought into Pradip-controlled KICL. The dispute between them took legal overtones. In the end, the case went in favour of Pradip. Several years have gone by since then. Today, KICL has changed quite a bit. A new management is in place under the leadership of J Rafiq Ahmed.  Ahmed is firmly in the saddle with his own set of professionals. He is now working hard to bring the yester-year glory back to KICL. As KICL breaks into new areas such as digital, drones, footwear et al, it is looking to attract overseas investors. A leading investor from an oil-rich nation appears to have been impressed by the initiatives of Rafiq Ahmed. A turning point in the annals of KICL appears on the cards! 

TVS Settlement Model: A Successful Template For Other Business Families To Follow

Tamil Nadu is known for its iconic business families. TVS, Murugappa, Amalgamations, Rane, Spic et al –  the list can go on and on. They are to a large extent responsible for the early industrialisation of the state. The foresight of the elders of these industrial houses has pushed Tamil Nadu into the national forefront. Of course, many multi-nationals have come into the state since then. But these traditional industrial houses have to tackle a problem of an unusual kind. When families expand, fissures creep in. How best are these handled? That is indeed a big challenge. In the not so distant past, the Murugappas have put an end to the internecine quarrel with a female member by penning a peace accord. Some months ago, the four branches of the illustrious TVS group legally went their own ways in an extraordinary arrangement. The Murugappas perhaps are likely to follow the TVS template. What is this TVS model about? According to grapevine, the key to the TVS model is the generosity of big members (in terms of their market capitalisation) who chose to adequately compensate others who were managing businesses that had inherent growth limitations. The early apportionment of businesses among different branches allowed some to get high growth fields and others not-so-high growth businesses. The appreciation to erase the initial disadvantage is the stand-out feature of the TVS model.

Daughters At Murugappa Group: A Pride Or Prejudice?

The traditional joint family system in India has the unique way of sorting out skirmishes among different branches. An informal red line defines the limit within which each member conducts himself/herself. Ostensibly the objective of this informal understanding is to foster a sense of family unity for generations to come. When a female member of a branch Valli Arunachalam, elder daughter of late MV Murugappan, chose to take the internecine quarrel public and the topic became a discussion subject in social media for long, this Chennai-based industrial group and the estranged female member smoked peace pipe for the larger good. For the elders of the Murugappa group, family unity has all along been paramount. Hence, the daughters have stayed away from the business. They have played no small role in sustaining the unity of the Murugappa family. If grapevine has to go by, daughters are never included as part of the promoters in Murugappa group. Not surprisingly, daughters’ shares aren’t considered as part of the promoters’ holdings. The shareholdings of wives, however, are part of the promoter holdings! This philosophy has worked well for the group since it was founded. No murmurs from daughters all along. The Valli episode appears to be an aberration. A closer reading of the recently-released statement on the peace proposal appears to suggest that the Murugappa family is keen to sustain family unity for generations to come.
TMB bank

One Too Many Errors In Tamilnad Mercantile Bank’s Latest Annual Report, Corrigendum Issued In Local Dailies

It is one of the oldest private banks in the country. And, this private lender is over 100 years old. A Nadar community-floated bank, Tamilnad Mercantile Bank (TMB) has consistently found itself hitting the headlines for several years. An internecine quarrel between the promoter groups saw it lose control to the Ruias of the Essar group in mid-90s. But the Ruias faced resistance and had to give it up somewhere along. In came the serial entrepreneur C Sivasankaran. But he too had to retreat. After several twists and turns, TMB went public in September 2022. TMB remains in focus for all the wrong reasons. Sometime ago, the income-tax officials conducted a search at its headquarters in Thoothukudi (formerly Tuticorin). It has returned to focus yet again now. The TMB publicly corrected itself for quite a number of errors in its annual report for 2022-23. At least half-a-dozen discrepancies – some minor and a few major – have crept into the annual report. The private lender, a few days ago, was forced to come out with a corrigendum in a local publication. The corrections related to numbers in some places. In still others, it pertained to the shareholding of the directors. Big or small, a slippage is a slippage. Is there a sense of nonchalance in preparing the annual report? Perhaps, TMB is still adjusting itself to the post IPO situation.

Is Industry Veteran Jagannathan Getting Into Cattle Insurance Space?

He is a veteran in the field. He had a successful term as the head of a public sector insurance firm. When the government opened up the industry for the private sector, he was among the first to get into the private sector space. But he chose to do differently. Star Health Insurance, the company he floated, was not the usual insurance company that a commoner comes to know. His was a daring initiative. Star Health was the country’s first standalone health insurance. Today, it is a highly successful one. V Jagannathan, who founded Star Health, has completely come out of it. An active person like Jagannathan, who has an abiding interest in Tamil literature, can’t keep idle. If grapevine has to go by, Jagannathan is seriously contemplating his next move. For a veteran in the insurance field like him, there must be plenty of options. Will he float an insurance firm yet again now that the non-compete period is over? Speculations are indeed doing the rounds. A little bird however suggests that he should be looking deeply at unexplored terrain in the insurance space. Is there any? Yes, indeed. There are possibilities beyond the subject of human insurance. Cattle insurance space offers immense scope. In a country like India which strives hard to boost farm economy, cattle insurance is an interesting subject to explore. Why not?
Valli murugappa

Murugappa Group's Out-Of-Court Settlement With Valli Arunachalam Surprises Corporate Watchers

They have been in the news for all wrong reasons.  One of their own members dragged them to the court. That member happens to be a female, adding a gender twist to a corporate feud — should we say domestic dispute. More than the legal battle, what has been hurting the group most is the negative publicity that the whole issue was getting them. To be sure, the family members of the Chennai-based $ 5-billion Murugappa Group have shown extraordinary restraint in the face of an avalanche of media reports which featured the versions of Valli Arunachalam, the elder daughter of late MV Murugappan who was the head of Carborundum Universal. Post his demise, Valli and her sisters insisted that they be accommodated in the businesses of the group. Valli even reportedly suggested that they be bought out in the group. All of a sudden on a leisurely Sunday (Aug 20), both sides have agreed to bury the hatchet and settle amicably out-of-court. This could put an immediate end to the washing of dirty linen in public.  They have a 90-day window to work out an amicable deal to part ways. Will there be a friend in need for the family to get Valli off their back? Well, interesting times are ahead at Murugappa Group.
N Srinivasan

BCG Advises India Cements To Slash Production Cost By Rs 200/Tonne

Legacy issues seem to bother this one very much. Ageing plants are a constraint for it. In a cost-push kind of situation, this is not a happy position to be in. A combination of escalating input costs and age-induced restrictions in the efficiency of plants has hit India Cements hard. This has proved a huge disadvantage for this cement maker to boost production. Caught in a pincer-like situation, this Chennai-based cement major headed by N Srinivasan is trying hard to return to normal.  Making a detailed presentation, Boston Consulting Group has indicated that it is possible for India Cements to pare cost by Rs 200 a tonne. India Cements has already engaged FLSmidth and Krupp Polysius to suggest ways and means to refurbish its old plants. All these of course need funds. At the end of June 2023, it had a debt of Rs 2940 crore. At least Rs 400 crore is required for working capital needs and CapEx programme. Well, India Cements is looking to raise at least Rs 100 crore in the next couple of weeks. No doubt, it has a huge land bank. That is like a back-up cheque. The road ahead is long. Yet, there is a sense of optimism.


Brand Dhoni Brightens Prospects For Jio Cinema!

Words such as cartel, price fixing and the like are the creation of a bygone era. Today, they have yielded a new term. Cooperative competition is the fresh name of the game. This has embraced all fields. The next edition of the popular IPL (Indian Premier League) is a few months away. Yet, there is an intense debate. Will he or won’t he? As fans were speculating on whether Mahi will come back to play the next edition of IPL, MS Dhoni indicated that he would play IPL one more time for the sake of his adorable fans. CSK owners will want their skipper to stay put. Mumbai Indians (MI) owners, too, must be nursing the same wish for their own enlightened self-interest! Streaming IPL matches for the first time in several languages, Jio Cinema, belonging to MI owners, took the rival Disney Star (Star Sports) head on with zooming viewership during the last IPL season. Looks like Ambanis are wishing that Dhoni plays IPL 2024 edition. The IPL streaming saw Jio Cinema registering record viewership across languages when Dhoni played. Revenue and valuation improved significantly for Jio Cinema. All these augur well for Jio Cinema to get ready for an eventual public float. Co-operative competition appears to be a fair game. Well, it’s cricket after all.
Neeraj Akhoury

After India Cements, CMA Inks Wage Pact With Trade Unions

Change is the only constant, it is often said. The change, however, gives a clue or two to the inner dynamics. How else could one view this? Well, the Cement Manufacturers’ Association (CMA) has welcomed a new president in Neeraj Akhoury, who is the Managing director of Shree Cements. Just before his ascension to the top slot, the CMA has managed to ink a wage pact with the unions. The industry has seen eight such national cement wage settlements in the past. A fresh pact was due in April this year when the earlier wage agreement expired. It took a long while to strike a new wage agreement since the unions were insisting that the issue of temporary workers be resolved first before deliberating on a fresh wage pact. Only 18% of the workforce in the cement industry is permanent employees. Obviously, the unions were worried over this increasing trend in the industry. Similar pay for similar jobs is what the unions were demanding irrespective of the permanent or temporary tag attached to a workman. Hopefully, the recent wage accord did manage to find a way out to this thorny issue. The latest industry wage agreement comes months after India Cements went on its own to strike an independent agreement with the unions.  Some churning is happening around the industry, it appears.

Corporate India Classifies Dead Wood As “CSR Guys”

There was a time when growth was the focus of many enterprises. Soon enough, this has given way to a new mantra. The corporate honcho realised mere growth is of no use. The growth has to be accompanied by profitability. So, the emphasis turned to growth with profitability. As the focus shifts, so much has changed in the global business environment.  Not surprisingly, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become a critical component of the corporate growth process. In fact, CSR has been made mandatory for corporations through a legal requirement. And, companies have to necessarily apportion a specified percentage of its profit process to activities related to CSR. That, perhaps, is the good thing that has happened. For, corporations have a larger responsibility towards society. Well, CSR has now come to occupy a new meaning, at least informally in the corporate world. And, the HR (human resources) team has now begun to identify a section of employees within an organisation for classification as CSR. There are dead wood. There are those about to retire. And, there are those who just come into an organisation through a quota system of recommendatory kind. These people are now termed as “CSR guys”. They are also there but don’t serve. Well, the CSR guys are a cost indeed for corporations!

Shriram Finance Ties Up With Paytm, TPG India Mulls Re-Entering The Group Via Housing Arm

The happenings in the Chennai-headquartered financial services group Shriram have been hitting the headlines ever since the mega restructuring of its ownership some time ago. Post the revamp, Shriram Finance has emerged as the country’s largest retail asset financing non-banking finance company. Shiram has hit the news yet again. It has announced a new partnership with One97 Communication Ltd, the owners of payment app Paytm.  Under the arrangement, Paytm will facilitate digital credit for merchant and consumer loans from Shriram Finance. The duo is expecting the partnership to herald a new and wholesome digital loan experience for merchants whose credit needs remain largely un-served.  The tie-up with Paytm comes even as Ajay Piramal’s company and TPG India Investments (a private equity player) cashed out of Shriram Finance by selling their holdings of 8.34% and 2.64% respectively, a few days ago. The Piramals may have to cash out its investment in the insurance business of the Shiram group in the wake of their acquiring Dewan Housing Finance Ltd, which too has an insurance arm. It is learnt that the Piramals have already been in discussion with the top leadership of the Shriram group to find an exit option for its insurance investment. In the midst of hectic happenings around the Shriram group, TPG, which has just exited Shriram Finance, is reportedly toying with the idea of investing in Shriram Housing. Well, Shriram appears to be an irresistible conglomerate!

Ajay Piramal: A Case Of Win Some, Lose Some

He came. He stayed. And, he is leaving now. Piramal Enterprises of Ajay Piramal has decided to quit Shriram Finance by selling its entire holding. Whichever way one looks at his original wisdom to get into the Chennai-based Shriram group, it is clear that his game plan has gone horribly wrong somewhere along. Surely, he would have gotten a handsome return on his investment in the Shriram. That need not necessarily crown this businessman as a wiser strategist. He must have seen in Shriram an opportunity to propel his dream of making it to the big league in the field of non-banking finance. Perhaps, he did not bargain for the deep cultural mismatch with the Shriram group. The Shriram group has remained an enigma for many outsiders. Piramal the investor perhaps discovered this only after getting into it. Maybe, he was in a hurry to overhaul Shriram. Luckily, Ajay Piramal’s group company managed to acquire Dewan Housing Finance Corporation Ltd through the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code route in September 2021. Post-Dewan, Shriram is no attraction for Piramal. One thing is clear, however. The cleaning of the shareholding cobweb at Shriram was in no small measure due to Piramal pressure. For the man who has been successful in the pharma space with spate of takeovers his calculations in the case of Shriram seems to have gone wrong. You win some, you lose some.
Valli Arunanchalam

Valli Arunachalam

Are Business Houses in Tamil Nadu Turning Gender Agnostic?

For decades business houses in Tamil Nadu have kept the business out of bounds for women members. That thinking is slowly changing. Now, the corporate world in this Dravidian land is turning gender-agnostic. With the four groups in the larger TVS family quietly going their separate ways legally, the yester-year hurdle (somewhat perceived, though) has disappeared for the womenfolk in their families. Suresh Krishna’s daughters are running the show in Sundram Fasteners. Venu Srinivasan’s daughter is also firmly in the family business. Of course, Mallika Srinivasan is driving the Amalgamation group. The iconic Apollo Hospitals is managed by Pratap Reddy’s daughters. N Srinivasan’s daughter Rupa Gurunath is well entrenched in The India Cements. Cavinkare has seen C K Ranganathan’s daughter too is getting into her father’s business. The Sengol fame Vummidi Bangaru Jewellers has already welcomed a fifth generation (four daughters) into the business. Perhaps the Murugappa group is an exception at the moment where one of the women members of the family –Valli Arunachalam — is engaged in a bitter legal wrangle with others over the denial of her right to get her due in the business of the group. Incidentally, it was the eldest daughter who alerted her father and MD of Pricol Vikram Mohan to the raid by Minda on his company! Well, women power has truly come to party in the family business.

Sengol Fame Jeweller To Open Shop In The U.S.

They have immense pride in identifying themselves as manufacturing jewellers. They are the fourth generation entrepreneurs. Their four girl children have also gotten into the business. Founded in 1900, this iconic brand from the city of Chennai has come under the national focus when the Vummidis were traced to be the maker of “Sengol” that the Adeenams had gifted to Pandit Nehru to symbolise the transfer of power from the British. The Modi Sarkar has now installed that “Sengol” near the Speaker’s seat in the new Parliament.  The installation of “Sengol” in the new Parliament is a defining moment for the owners of Vummidi Bangaru Jewellers. The “Sengol” installation in its wake has cast on Brand Vummidi an additional responsibility. Yet, it has pushed the brand equity of Vummidi to a new level. It is an ideal time for the owners to spread out into the globe. Steps are already on in this direction. If one were to go by Amarendran Vummidi, Managing Partner, Vummidi Banguru Jewellers (VBJ) will spread wings to the U.S. and set up a store in Dallas very soon. There is a significant presence of the Indian diaspora in that part of America. The American foray will be through a newly-floated Indian subsidiary, Amarendran reveals.

Minda’s Hostile Attempt To Take Over Pricol Locked In Court Battle

Coimbatore is an unlikely venue for a corporate contest. That’s why this one has come as a surprise. The out-of-blue equity buying in Coimbatore-based Pricol by its rival Minda Corporation Ltd a few months ago has stunned the traditional industrial groups in the city, which was once hailed as the Manchester of India. Minda bought a little over 15.7% shares in Pricol for Rs 400 crore.  What emboldened Minda to embark on such a hostile raid on a traditional industrial establishment in Tamil Nadu? There could be several reasons for this. The Pricol family structure, perhaps, tempted Minda to have a go at this Coimbatore-based company.  The battle is truly on now with the Pricol family doing everything – legally and strategically – to stop the raider on its track. The imbroglio arising out of this hostile takeover has already landed in courts. The Pricol-Minda battle takes one back to former times when non-resident Indians Swraj Paul and Manu Chhabria exploited a change in the rule for NRI investment in Indian companies to raid Escorts and L&T. That they did not eventually succeed is a different matter.  But Pauls and Chhabrias have taught a lesson or two to India Inc. If Minda has to be stopped, Pricol owners have to solidify their equity position. The economics of ownership has indeed become dizzy.
Drive in

Chennai’s Iconic Drive-In Theatre Makes Way For A High Rise Residential Complex

A drive-in theatre provides a viewing experience of a relaxed kind. This one perhaps was the first one to come up in the city of Chennai. Located on the ECR (the East Coast Road (ECR), one of the loveliest stretches on the national highway leading up to the Union Territory of Puducherry, this one was a favourite destination for many a cinema lover. For, it gave them the comfort of a relaxing environment and a unique movie-watching chance. Prarthana Drive-in Theatre on the ECR had for long provided young and old alike an entertaining space to unwind even while serving them sumptuously. All good things will have come to an end. So did Prarthana. The owners downed shutters on it sometime in 2021 due to administrative reasons. Founded way back in the early 90s, this drive-in theatre will disappear altogether from ECR.  Reports suggest that the land which housed Prarthana has changed hands. A leading construction company in Chennai is believed to have decided to build a high-rise residential complex in the space that measures around 25 acres. Post-Pandemic, there has been a flurry of activities around land acquisition by residential real estate developers. Chennai has already seen many iconic theatres disappear. Prarthana is the latest one to enter this list!

Global Investors Meet: Tamil Nadu Govt Ropes In Boston Consulting Group

State governments – cutting across party affiliations – jostle with each other to attract global investment. Of late, the competition has become intense among them to woo investors from across the border. Copious flow of capital from the international investing community is often seen as an endorsement of positive policies pursued by them.  Tamil Nadu chief minister M K Stalin is gearing up to hold a Global Investors’ Meet (GIM) in January. This will be the first Global Investors Meet for the Stalin-led government. The previous two investor meets took place in 2015 and 2019 when the AIADMK was in power.  Chief Minister Stalin has indicated that the upcoming Global Investors’ Meet will play host to investors from over 100 countries. The State machinery is sparing no effort to make the summit an extraordinary showpiece.  Expectedly, the DMK government has decided to appoint a global management consultant. The Stalin regime has reportedly roped in Boston Consulting Group to make the upcoming GIM a grand success. Sometime ago, the Tamil Nadu Government issued a Request For Proposal  for the ‘Selection of Global Management Consultant’ as a knowledge partner for the Global Investors’ Meet 2024. The knowledge partner will work with the stakeholders across the canvas to effectively articulate the focus fields to the international investing community. Will Boston bring a big boost to the TN GIM?

Two Districts In Tamil Nadu Attract Maximum FDI

Numbers can’t just be wished away. Often, they give a clue or two to a decisive interpretation.  A cursory reading of the FDI (foreign direct investment) equity inflows into the country has thrown up a revealing fact. In FY21-22, India recorded the highest ever annual FDI inflow of $ 83.57 billion. The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) indeed comes out with data on FDI inflows across the districts in the country. A reading of the data for the last 11 quarters clearly suggests that there is a concentration of the FDI flow into a few districts. Surprisingly enough, two districts from Tamil Nadu figure among the top 10 which were consistent in terms of attracting FDI. The two districts are Chennai and Kanchipuram. They managed to attract over Rs. 500 crore FDI in nine out of eleven quarters. These two neighbouring districts in Tamil Nadu house some of the top-notch manufacturing industries. In fact, the Chennai-Kanchipuram stretch is an iconic one. Many big boys such as Hyundai, Saint Gobain and the like dot this stretch. That these two districts have been consistently getting FDI must make the political leadership sit up and ponder. Should it not facilitate an ecosystem that allows for equitable distribution of FDI flow across the state?
Rafiq Ahmed

KICL To Set Up Greenfield Fertiliser Plant At Thoothukudi

Quietly, a lot of things are happening at this once upon a time iconic industrial conglomerate from the city of Chennai. A new management is already in place. And it is silently working to recapture the old image of this highly respected brand. For sure, the D C Kothari-promoted Kothari Industrial Corporation Ltd (KICL) isn’t going to vacate the fertiliser field though it has chosen to palm off its loss-making SSP (single super phosphate) plant at Ennore near Chennai on a slump sale basis. No doubt that would help the KICL management clean up debt. The sale move is a sensible one.  But the new management under the leadership of Dr J Rafiq Ahmed is drawing up a different game plan for its fertiliser business. Well, the KICL is toying with the idea of establishing a new Single Super Phosphate (SSP) manufacturing unit at Thoothukudi, a port city in southern Tamil Nadu. The facility – whose contours are at drawing boards – however, will have the latest technology. It will come up on government-leased land. Ever since Ahmed took charge of the affairs of KICL, he has been on a mission mode. Under his stewardship KICL has made a foray into drone production. Also, the D C Kothari group is also now in the process of setting up Phoenix Kothari Footwear Park Tamil Nadu at Eraiyur in Perambalur district. Well, Kothari brand still commands huge pull.

KICL Puts Loss Making Fertiliser Unit On The Block

You bend to grow.  So goes an old adage. Wisdom lies in a practical approach. That is what this management is doing. Rather than clinging on to a continuously losing unit, it is wiser to let it go. Well, the bosses at Kothari Industrial Corporation Ltd (KICL) have now chosen to give up its SSP (single super phosphate)-making unit in Chennai. Well, they see a clear gain in giving this one up. Production of SSP at its Ennore unit was discontinued due to scarcity of imported quality raw materials. Also, working capital has proved a big issue. Given these, this facility was leased out to one of the manufacturers of fertilizers in Chennai. The lease is still on. A comprehensive review, however, has suggested that the company will be well served by getting rid of this unit. Well, it has now decided to sell the Ennore facility on a slump sale basis. The proposal has since got the approval of the shareholders. The business environment has turned topsy-turvy of late. Also, the debt burden of the company is mounting by the day due to assorted statutory and legal compulsions. Hopefully, the sale of SSP facility will ease the debt burden of KICL which is pining to return strongly in a new avatar under a fresh management.

Ashwin Muthiah To Pass The Baton To Eldest Daughter Devaki

Sustainability of any family business is a tough challenge. When family expands, it gets even tougher. More than anything else, the challenge lies in keeping the interest alive among the GenNext in the family. The story is different here, however. A member of the fourth generation, Devaki Ashwin Muthiah has just joined the board of AM International Holdings. She is the eldest of the two daughters of Ashwin  Muthiah, the son of indefatigable AC Muthiah. As a part of the leadership team, Devaki will drive the group’s strategic growth plans across Singapore, India and the UK to accelerate its future-readiness. She had earlier interned in global luxury firms such as Joseph and Chopard in the UK. She has been a mentor and university liaison for the GAIN (Girls are Investors) charity in the UK.  Devaki is already on the boards of Penn Globe Ltd and Notedome Ltd, subsidiaries of Manali Petrochemicals. Her induction into the holding company board sets the succession line clear. Her brief is clear: to prepare the group future-ready. For a group that traces its history to the launch of the country’s first motor scooter Lambretta by Automobile Products of India (a group company then) half-a-century ago, the entry of a fourth generation member invests this iconic traditional industrial family business group with a sense of freshness and energy to move forward.

Ideas2IT Plays Good Samaritan, Provides Training For Laid-Off Tech Professionals

Sometime ago, this one did an out-of-the box innovation to reward long-time loyalist-employees. This Chennai-based high-end product engineering company distributed 100 Maruti cars to staffers who have served the company for over five years. Now, it has come out with yet another innovative idea. With tech giants such as Google, Zoom and the like dishing out pink slips, Ideas2IT has decided to play Good Samaritan.  It has now launched perhaps the country’s first proprietary up-skilling program. The idea is to help tech professionals bounce back from the adversity of recession and layoffs! “Pledge2Propel”, a career enhancement initiative, is primarily intended to help tech professionals affected by the economic slowdown and layoffs. This initiative aims to provide all the support they need to re-group and pursue new opportunities by means of up-skilling or venturing into entrepreneurship while prioritizing their mental health. To be sure, this initiative does not promise or guarantee a job. Along with IdeaRX, a HealthTech start-up, Ideas2IT hopes to help the laid-off professionals to navigate the psychological and professional challenges and guide them to reach a secure terrain. “With this association, we intend to transform the lives of many tech professionals through empathy, inspiration and empowerment,” says Gayathri, CEO of Ideas2IT.  This non-profit program is available for free to all affected tech professionals across the globe. A twice-blessed initiative, indeed.
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Cooperative Competition: Zomato, Swiggy’s New Business Model

Laissez-faire is a policy of minimum governmental interference in the economic affairs of individuals and society. This freedom is the fulcrum around the real competitive world. Yet, we have a Competitive Commission. This does not, however, prevent competitive cooperation in the business world. If proof was required, it is available in plenty in the Indian business world. Every December, car makers – one by one – come out with announcements of impending price hikes.  One can easily sense a collective design in their individual action. This kind of cooperative competition has now spread to new-age entities. Online food ordering and delivery platforms Zomato and Swiggy are highly popular in India. No doubt, they are in a competing space. These new-age organizations often give a go by to the much acclaimed dictum `profitable growth’. Faced with the reality, Zomato and Swiggy appear to have struck an informal cooperation. So much so, you can now see a Zomato boy delivering an order placed with Swiggy! This kind of order diversion appears to be quite usual these days. None would like to lose out on business due to lack of network. Indeed, it is a sensible way to optimize each other’s network. Of course, they share their commission. Well, the survival instinct is at work indeed.
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Tamilnad Mercantile Bank To Rope In External Consultant For BPR

Its financials have been strong all the while. Yet, this over 100-year-old private bank has consistently hit the headlines for all wrong reasons. After many twists and turns caused by internecine quarrels among promoter groups belonging to the Nadar community, Tamilnad Mercantile Bank (TMB) finally made its maiden foray into the capital market on September 5 last year. A new Managing Director S Krishnan took over the bank a day prior to its IPO. Krishnan has his job cut out. Having come out with good Q3 numbers – first quarter results since it went public in September last, Krishnan is on a mission to take TMB pan-India and make it a much more efficient bank to compete effectively with its peers in the industry. He is now toying with the idea of going for a business process re-engineering (BPR). TMB is looking to engage the services of an external consultant to come out with a detailed report on BPR, and recommend solutions for the bank on the way forward. The BPR initiative is intended to bring about a rethinking in the way TMB does its work. The objective is simple: to improve customer service, cut operational cost and become efficient. The BPR could focus on the analysis and design of workflows and business processes within the organisation. It’s transition time at TMB!
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CII All Set To Launch Indian Corporate Cricket League

India is a cricket-crazy country. The IPL (Indian Premier League), which followed immediately after M S Dhoni-led Men in Blue winning the World Cup in Mumbai, has now become one of the largest annual sporting events in the country. From this year we will have a women’s premier league as well.  The cricket mania is now really expanding. Industry body CII is now gearing up to hold Indian Corporate Cricket League (ICCL).  It is a national-level initiative of the industry body. This will be a pan-India exercise, done at the behest of the Sports Ministry.  It will happen across India in each state. At state-level, it will have a round-robin format. The Tennis Ball cricket will have T-10 matches at state-level in round-robin format. Post-qualifying round, it will take the T-20 format. The CII is reported to have commissioned the services of an event management organization, which will be entrusted with the job of providing end-to-end logistic and related support facilities for the conduct of the ICCL across the country. CII is hoping for a participation of 25 teams in each state in the round-robin level. If grapevine has to go by, the Union Sports Ministry is reportedly keen that this kind of a pan-India corporate initiative is spread to other sports such as kabbadi and the likes. Sports at long lost is given its importance. That’s a welcome sign, indeed.

BBB Trust: Bringing Brahmin Businessmen Worldwide On A Single Platform To Help Them Grow

A social economic forum, this one was founded in 2017.  This triple B forum is headquartered in Mysore, it has 19 chapters and claims to have a membership of over a thousand spread across the Southern states of India. They operated under a trust model. The trust acts as ‘head and shoulder’ for all chapters. It is to assist, support and monitor their engagements. The trust is intended to bring under a common fold all brahmin business entrepreneurs. The objective is to mutually share and refer businesses among the members. The Forum for Business By Brahmins – BBB Trust is a community-based entity. This is not a business body by itself, though.  It will work for business promotion and otherwise wellness of each individual in each chapter and community at large. Growing together is the chosen mantra. The objective is to build a strong global platform which will create growth opportunities for businessmen in the community. Also, it is intended to work for the improvement of the quality of life of the people in the community The BBB Forum has three chapters in Chennai. Well, it is planning to host its two-day annual conference in Chennai on February 4. The conference is expected to facilitate information sharing, relationship building, business leads and the like. A unity mantra to grow, it appears.
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Porsche, BMW To Mark Their Presence At Chennai’s Glitzy Leather Fashion Show

After a two-year Covid-induced hiatus, the Leather Fashion Show is back. Chennai is gearing up to host the India International Leather Fair next week, and the Fashion Show, as was in the past, will form a crucial component of this. This time around, the show will showcase products that are made out of recycled leather. For the first time perhaps, lifestyle car brands such as Porsche and BMW have chosen to mark their presence at the Leather Fashion Show. Such shows are often intended to woo high net worth customers. These high net worth people are the potential buyers of fancy high-end cars. Well, Porsche and BMW are finding the Fashion Show a useful platform to touch-base with their potential clients. It is unusual for these esoteric automobile brands to put their cars in a public area. A Fashion Show of international standard followed by dinner at a high-end venue like the ITC Grand Chola is an opportunity that these car majors aren’t willing to miss. They are more than happy to display their high-end cars in the Fashion Show. The association of such global car makers surely will add credence to the profile of the leather industry in India. And, the presence of various Miss India title-holders will add further spice to the upcoming Leather Fashion Show in Chennai.
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CII, FICCI, Assocham Overdrive In Tamil Nadu Gives Local Trade Bodies Shivers

State governments across the country are jostling with each other to lure investment. They spare no effort in making their state a desirable destination for investment.  Tamil Nadu, too, is keen to attract global investors. The DMK Government is gearing up to organise global investors’ meet in 2024. Even as the Stalin regime is trying hard to hard-sell Tamil Nadu, many national trade bodies such as the Federation Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Associated Chambers of Commerce (ASSOCHAM), CII, ICC and the like are vying with each other to get a prominent space in Tamil Nadu. They already have offices in Chennai. They are not willing to leave any stone unturned to gain more than toehold in Tamil Nadu.  They are bringing to bear everything they could to represent the interest of Tamil Nadu. The heightened activities of the national trade/industry bodies have thrown a big challenge to the native chambers. There are many local chambers such as Madras Chamber, Southern India Chamber, Hindustan Chamber, Tamil chamber and the like. Most of the native chambers are traditionally supported by the family business houses in this part of the world.  With the national chambers aggressively pushing their claim to represent Tamil Nadu, the local trade bodies are finding the turf hard. Perhaps, they need to re-invent their role.
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Why Is Tamilnad Mercantile Bank Always In The News?

It’s an over hundred year old bank. A solid old generation private bank, Tamilnad Mercantile Bank (TMB) became a listed entity when it entered the capital market a few months ago. TMB is a heady cocktail of an organisation. Promoted by the Nadars for the Nadars, this bank has been mired in controversy ever since the Ruias of the Essar group acquired over 65% shares by cashing in on the internecine quarrel between the promoter groups. But the Ruais had to depart by selling the investment arms that held TMB shares to Sterling C Sivasankaran for acquiring cellular licence for Delhi circle from the latter. But Siva too found the going tough and had to sell TMB shares.  While the Nadar community bought back a part of it, it couldn’t muster money to buy the rest.  Former chairman of the bank MGM Maran and other directors got into the act and allegedly facilitated a deal for the sale of 23.6% shares of TMB from Indian shareholders to unauthorised overseas persons. An investigation followed into advance remittances by certain entities for buying TMB shares through an escrow account with Standard Chartered Bank. SCB and Maran were levied hefty penalties. The Enforcement Directorate now has attached the properties of Maran – including his shares in group firms and TMB –and his company Southern Agrifurane. Well, the TMB issue never ceases to go away, it appears.

Nationalism To Regionalism: FiTEN To Host Global Tamil Start-up Investors’ Summit

What is the common consequence of Covid-19 and the Ukraine war? To be sure, they have redefined the international trade dynamics. The much celebrated policy of globalisation has started yielding ground to the protectionist policies of former times. Is it good? Is it setting the clock back? Well, a clear answer is difficult to fathom at the moment. One thing, however, is sure. Things are seemingly heading this way. How else could one view this? Well, the Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America (FeTNA) is launching the FeTNA International Tamil Entrepreneurs Network (FiTEN)! FeTNA is a not-for-profit organisation founded in 1988. In association with Tamil Nadu Start-up and Innovation Mission (StartupTN), FiTEN is organising the first Global Tamil Start-up Investors’ Summit in Chennai. It is ostensibly intended to benefit and promote start-ups and global Tamil investors. The one-day summit will be held on January 9 at The Leela Palace in Chennai. The objective of holding this summit by FiTEN is to share knowledge, debate the latest trends and bring together the global Tamil entrepreneur ecosystem. Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, M K Stalin, will be the chief guest. While the proposed summit is hailed by some, still others feel uncomfortable about it. Reason: regional chauvinism/parochialism is not healthy. It may be recalled that Saraswat Brahmin entrepreneurs from across the globe had organised a conclave in Goa in September 2022.

Employees Become Owners Of The Shriram Group Via Trust

Shriram Finance Ltd (SFL) is born out of a composite scheme of merger and amalgamation of Shriram Capital (erstwhile holding company), Shriram Transport, Shriram City Union Finance and others. Today, they are all consigned to the pages of history. The newly-born SFL, as a consequence, has become the largest retail NBFC in the country.  Shriram Financial Ventures (Chennai) Private Ltd., Shriram Ownership Trust, Shriram Value Services Ltd. and Sanlam Life Insurance Ltd are the promoters of SFL holding 25.24% of its equity. Shriram Financial Ventures (Chennai) Private Ltd. is controlled by Shriram Ownership Trust (60%) and Sanlam (40%). Grapevine has it that Shriram Financial Ventures (Chennai) Private Ltd will undergo a name change soon. In all likelihood, it will be re-named as Shriram Capital!  With the advent of SFL, there appears to be a lot more clarity on the ownership front. Interestingly enough, Shriram Ownership Trust has emerged as the identifiable owner of the Shriram group. This is a perpetual trust. The members – comprising eligible employees – exit the trust upon reaching the age of 60, and are cashed out over a period of eight years thereafter. In a way, this perpetual trust will have a dynamic composition of members (with new additions and subtractions). A four-member board of management will run the trust. A unique thing about this trust – which is the ultimate holding company of the group – is that it is filled with eligible employees! Is there a parallel in the Indian corporate world where the employees are the owners of the group!
Customers at the SPR Midnight Carnival

Midnight Carnival Sees Chennai Builder Sell Over 100 Flats In Four Days

Selling is an art. The art of selling has undergone a tremendous transformation over the years. It’s no longer selling. It’s now become marketing. Not just that. Marketing has become innovative. And, it has turned out-of-box as well!  SPR City, Chennai’s premium township developer, has hit upon a novel way to attract flat buyers. It chose to organise a unique midnight carnival, offering special rates for flat owners on walk-ins. The SPR City Experience Centre played host to the Jackpot Midnight Carnival, which was held from 8 pm to 2 am, stretching over four days. Initially scheduled for two days, SPR extended the Carnival to four days in the wake of encouraging response from customers. Over the four days, there were more than 550 customer walk-ins, resulting in over 100 plus bookings. Interestingly enough, over 350 of these walk-ins came in post-midnight and saw the maximum number of bookings.  “We are constantly launching new campaigns to attract prospective customers. This was the latest. The turnout was good and I am happy to see that such an innovative marketing programme held at midnight succeeded in attracting a large number of consumers,” said Navin Ranka, Director, SPR India. SPR India is the developer behind SPR City, Chennai’s largest integrated township. Incidentally, it is coming up on land which once housed the iconic Binny Mills.
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Rising Protests See Lecture By Just Released Rajiv Gandhi Assassination Convict Moved To Online From ACJ Venue

The National Law University in Delhi was established in 2008 under the National Law University Act, 2007 with the objective of imparting comprehensive and inter-disciplinary legal education. Project 39 is inspired by Article 39-A of the Indian Constitution, a provision that furthers the intertwined values of equal justice and equal opportunity by removing economic and social barriers. It holds annual lectures under Project 39. The 5th Annual Project 39 lecture was supposed to be held at the Asian College of Journalism (ACJ) in Chennai. ACJ is part of The Hindu Group of publications. The speaker this time around is A G Perarivalan, a death row prisoner in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.  Fifty-year old Perarivalan, arrested in 1991, is now out of prison under an order from the Supreme Court. But the decision of ACJ to provide its space for hosting the lecture drew flak from varied quarters. Assorted questions were raised over the ACJ accommodation for this particular lecture programme of Perarivalan. In the wake of rising opposition, the organisers have decided to turn this into an online lecture. The title of the lecture is “Denial of Justice and A Quest Unfinished”. Asserting their commitment to Perarivalan to share his experience in the prison, the organisers said that they were taking the lecture online in view of the threat perception over the choice of speaker. This lecture will now go online on December 17.

Mallika Srinivasan Ushers In Refreshing Change At Govt-Run PSEB

Lethargy and indecision often define any appointment in a government-run organisation. Ipso facto, none expects any quick action from an enterprise that is vested with the power to pick right people to fill up board slots in government-controlled organisations. This perception is changing now.  Coming events often cast their shadows before them. Perhaps the change was set in motion when the government for the first time chose to anoint a woman as the head the Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB). With the induction of Mallika Srinivasan, head of tractor-maker TAFE, as the Chairman in April last year, PESB is moving with a sense of purpose and clarity of thought. It isn’t just recommending names to fill slots in public sector organisations. It has gone beyond to provide incisive inputs. The idea, it appears, is to help build a robust board that is adequately populated to take quick decisions based on the evolving dynamics. The recent appointments at ONGC are a classic case. Though a new Chairman has been announced, it has been decided to dispense with the position of MD. The creation of a new position of Director (Strategy and Corporate Affairs) is seen in the context of providing flexibility to decide on emerging opportunities in the fast-changing dynamic business environment. PESB is now looking at selection in a holistic way. Well, that’s the way to go.
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This Mattress Company Reposes Faith In Sleep Solution

This one puts faith in innovation. Out-of-the-box thinking is the need of the day for business enterprises to not just grow but to also to stand out from the crowd. This Coimbatore-based mattress company is out on a mission: to promote the power of fresh thinking in the sleep solution space. The Rs 103-crore 10-year-old Repose Mattress Pvt Ltd is concerned that people take sleep for granted. That causes a lot of mental and physical health issues. Right mattress is not just a matter of luxury and comfort. Repose is convinced that the right mattress is vital for healthy living. Early this year, it introduced a smart grid mattress with patented technology from Japan. It has in its portfolio Song-Bird pillow — a memory foam pillow with in-built speakers into which music devices can be plugged into for a novel experience. It also has a Locker mattress – claimed to be the country’s first mattress with an in-built secret locker that can safely store items of value. This 400-plus employee company pines to become a pan-India player. Repose has roped in dance sensation and film star Prabhu Deva as its brand ambassador. Riding on his fan following across the country, Repose aims to aggressively get into the mind space of consumers across the country. Putting faith in a new sleep order, it appears.
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Chennai-Based Companies Gift BMWs, Swiss Holidays Plus Bonuses To Retain Talent

Talent retention is a tough art. It is tougher still in the modern business world. Ipso facto, business enterprises have to think out of box to retain the talent. Ideas2IT and Kissflow are software companies in Chennai. They were trend setters in a way for employee recognition and retention. Sometime ago, Ideas2IT and Kissflow rewarded talent at the workplace in a unique way, giving ‘moving property’ to recognise these contributions.  While Ideas2IT gifted 100 cars to 100 employees “for their constant support and unparalleled contributions to the company’s success and growth,” Kissflow gifted luxury BMW cars to its senior leadership team. Five senior executives of Kissflow were given the new 5 series BMW cars. Real estate developer Casagrand has hit upon a different route to keep its folks happy. It has chosen to take 700 of its employees for a 7-day long trip to Switzerland. The entire trip cost which includes air tickets, accommodation, sight-seeing, meals et al will be borne by Casagrand. It calls it the ‘Big Bonanza’. Each employee who has contributed her/his best effort to the company is rewarded with a trip abroad along with two months’ salary as bonus! Casagrand claims that it had arranged similar outings to its deserving employees earlier, too. Is this a sustainable formula for an enterprise to ensure that talent won’t move out?
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Tamil Nadu Electricity Consumers Resent Govt Mandate To Link Bill To Aadhaar

Aadhaar linkage has always been a hot subject of political debate in the country. The DMK government led by M K Stalin has chosen to make it mandatory for the power consumers – of common kind – to link their Aadhaar numbers. The move must help it weed out bogus connections. What has surprised many, however, is that not much time has been given to the power users to do this. Power consumers who tried to pay their bi-monthly bills are directed to a separate site for Aadhaar linkage. Unless linked to Aadhaar, the system does not allow them to pay their bills. What has irked the power users is that they are unable to execute the action as the system trips more often than not. Also, there is a lot of confusion. What if a person has more than one house and hence more than one power connection? What about power used for common facilities in a residential apartment? The government says that for commercial use, no Aadhaar linkage is required. How will the power used for common facilities in a residential apartment be considered?  How will the poor – who don’t have a computer facility in their home – get this linkage done? The Tamil Nadu government will do well to create an e-seva facility to sort out the very many glitches coming in the way of Aadhaar linkage?

India Cements Platinum Jubilee Celebrations Connect Business, Politics And Cricket

In a land where cricket has a mass appeal, it is little wonder that the game has become a connector par excellence. Well, the platinum jubilee celebrations of The India Cements Ltd (ICL) held on November 12 in Chennai saw the Union Home Minister Amit Shah grace the occasion as chief guest. N Srinivasan, vice-chairman & MD of ICL, and Amit Shah have something in common between them. Shah was heading the Gujarat Cricket Association once upon a time. Srinivasan has been a cricket administrator for a very long time – both at the state as well national level. Shah recalled their sports connection and indicated that their relationship required no thanks between them.  Shah’s rare presence at a corporate function threw a surprise of a different sort also. Former Deputy Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, O Panneerselvam was seated on the front row! Is this a signal BJP will go along with AIADMK to fight 2024 general elections? Interestingly, Tamil Chief Minister MK Stalin who is very close to Srini stayed out and instead deputed his Industries Minister Thangam Thennarasu to attend the function. And of course CSK Captain MS Dhoni was also seen hobnobbing with Amit Shah. If optics matter, there is enough to ponder over for everybody.

What Makes City Union Bank Tick?

This is one of the oldest private sector banks in the country. It was incorporated on October 31, 1904. Twenty prominent citizens of Kumbakonam joined together to sign the Memorandum of Association. Initially, it preferred the role of a regional bank and built for itself a place in the delta district Thanjavur. The first branch was opened at Mannargudi in January 1930.  It was included in the Second Schedule of Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934, on March 22, 1945. It was originally known as ‘The Kumbakonam Bank Limited’. In April, 1965, two other local banks – The City Forward Bank Limited and Union Bank Limited – were amalgamated with it. Consequently, it was renamed as Kumbakonam City Union Bank Limited. In November 1965, the bank’s first branch in Madras was opened at Thyagaraya Nagar. Its first branch outside Tamil Nadu was opened at Sultanpet in Karnataka in September, 1980. That set the stage for its foray into other states. Its name was changed to City Union Bank in December 1987. Today, it has a deposit base of over Rs. 48,770 core (in the 1st quarter). With a net profit of Rs.225 crore in Q1 FY23, the bank is on a solid ground. Unlike Tamilnad Mercantile Bank, which just went public, the journey of this one has been fairly smooth. Well, longevity lends substance to the brand.

India Cements Ka Mahotsav, Amit Shah To Grace The Occasion?

It is a pioneering enterprise of the independent era. It was born on February 21, 1946 when the World War was over and political freedom was around the country. It made a humble start with a cement factory at Thalaiyuthu, Tamil Nadu, an almost unmapped tiny village in Tirunelveli, which, over the years, grew to become a self-contained township at Sankarnagar. From a modest beginning in 1949 when Sankar Cement made its first appearance in the market, India Cements has grown in stature — from two plants with a capacity of 1.3 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) in 1989 to 10 cement plants with a capacity of 15.55 MTPA in five States. The company stood the test of time to become a strong player in the field. Well, N Srinivasan-led The India Cements has decided to celebrate 75 years of its birth. Why not? After all, the cement industry is by definition cyclical in nature. The celebrations are a testimony to its capacity – nay ability – to manage the cyclicality.  The celebrations have been delayed by a year because of Covid-19 pandemic. If grapevine has to go by, Home Minister Amit Shah is likely to be the chief guest at the event, which will be held in Chennai in the first half of next month. Since 1989, Srinivasan has been in command. Looking at its remarkable journey, a big celebration is in order.
Sriram deepti

Shriram Group’s Diwali Gift To Put Smiles On Hundreds Of Deeptis!

Corporates usually queue up to greet clients with gift hampers during Diwali. But this one has decided to do a different thing.  Shriram AMC (Asset Management Company), a unit of the Shriram group, has launched “Deepti” this Diwali. It’s a financial initiative intended to have a lasting positive impact on the lives of girl children. Through Deepti, AMC will extend its assistance to select girl students who have great visions but struggle for funds to finance them.  Shriram AMC had roped in Mumbai-based Katalyst – a non-governmental organization — to implement Deepti. Shriram AMC has identified two sets of beneficiaries under Deepti initiative. The Deepti will benefit college-goers from economically-challenged backgrounds. Katalyst will help Shriram AMC to identify and reach the target group who are good at academics but lack the relevant training and mentorship to face the corporate world. Typically, Shriam is seeking to invest in their training that will eventually help them in the future. The beneficiaries of Deepti in this category would be engineering college students with good academic profiles and a vision for their career paths. Deepti will also benefit school students who come from poor backgrounds. Deepti is a part of the Shriram group’s vision to work for the cause of women empowerment.

Is The NBFC Sector Over Regulated?

They are a supplemental channel of credit intermediation alongside banks. Over the years, the NBFC (non-banking finance companies) sector has undergone a major metamorphosis in terms of size, complexity and interconnectedness within the financial sector. The RBI has a scale-based regulatory framework to address the risk profiles of NBFCs. This covers a host of issues such as capital requirements, governance standards, prudential norms et al. The dynamics of the NBFC sector changes faster these days.  This forces the banking regulator to be on the guard, and tweak the regulation when required. The RBI has now made it difficult for NBFC groups to escape tighter oversight. NBFCs that are part of a common group or are floated by a common set of promoters shall not be viewed on a standalone basis. Henceforth, the total assets of all the NBFCs in a group will be consolidated to determine the threshold for their classification in the Middle Layer. The group may have multiple NBFCs.  If the consolidated asset size of the group is ₹1000 crore and above, then each of these companies will be classified as an NBFC in the Middle Layer, and, consequently, regulations as applicable to the Middle Layer shall be applicable to them. These guidelines have come into force from October 1. Is it a regulatory overload or a right move?
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Social Media Influencers Setting The Agenda For Brands?

Lobbyists play an important role in the political space across the globe. Their services are widely used to influence key decisions. In the world of commerce, they take a different nomenclature. Influencers are setting the game for many big brands.  Increasingly brands see influencer-marketing as one of the mainstream forms of digital marketing. The reason is simple. There are over 20 lakh content creators in India. Chennai-based Social Beat launched, a marketing platform, to help brands create quality content and amplify the reach among the target audience by leveraging verified digital influencers across Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Linkedin and the like. The platform has just released “The influencer marketing report 2022”. The report expects the influencer marketing industry to grow to Rs 2,500 crore by 2025 from Rs 900 crore in 2021. According to the survey, 61.2% of all brands recognize the power of influencer-marketing to tap into a newer audience pool to boost brand awareness.  The survey finds 36.9% of brands rely on Instagram and 20.6% on YouTube for their dedicated influencer-marketing efforts. Facebook continues to be popular, with 18.7% of brands using it. About 50% of marketers indicate that they spend up to 10% of their digital marketing budget on influencers annually. Well, they are the change-driver of a new kind!
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Revamp Moto's New Electric Two-Wheeler Can Be Modified On The Go

They don’t call themselves producers of vehicles any longer. They have now acquired a new term and status. Well, the country is witnessing the arrival of solution providers of mobility kind even as it is headed towards an increasingly greener automobile eco-system. They are coming in assorted formats – start-up, small, medium and big. Well, Nashik-based Revamp Moto is a start-up, and it came on scene in January 2021. Founded by Pritesh Mahajan, Jayesh Tope and Pushkaraj Salunke, Revamp Moto is on a unique journey.  All three co-founders had worked on prior entrepreneurial ventures before synergising to form the vision of Revamp Moto. It is on a mission to design and produce an electric two-wheeler to enable enterprising micro-entrepreneurs to conduct business “on the go”. Revamp is working on adaptable and sustainable mobility solutions that are safe and affordable for the micro-entrepreneurs. The objective is to come out with a two-wheeler that is simpler for street hawkers, delivery agents, milkmen, vegetable sellers and others. Essentially, it calls for providing them flexibility to quickly modify their vehicles to their needs. This should allow users to switch between use cases of the vehicle in a matter of minutes. Revamp Moto is looking to build an adaptable electric two-wheeler that is modular, reliable, and connected. Whole new options are emerging in EV space, it appears.


Technology Cannot Disrupt Original Content Provider: Short Post Editor

They say time flies. How true!  Today is our #SecondAnniversary. Two years back at the height of Covid-19 Pandemic when lockdown was the way of life we took a leap of faith and launched Short Post (Jan 28, 2021), the first-of-its-kind website in the country that focuses on Authentic Gossip. The Oxymoron is deliberate. Well, the response has been quite encouraging. That’s what has kept us going. Till date we have posted close to 2000 stories in the areas of Politics, Business, Entertainment and Sports. Each insightful story of around 225 words has been contributed by Senior Editors. There is a sense of satisfaction of creating a new segment in the market – authentic gossip — and in the process creating a brand (in a limited sense), creating demand (readers) and creating supply (writers). Well known advertisers — IDFC FIRST Bank, ICICI Lombard – supported us.  And that really boosted our confidence. Thank you!

So here we are raring to go.  But, when I look at the media landscape the disruption is indeed fast and furious. Technology is playing a very big role in how content will be consumed. In the past, we have seen how social media has disrupted the media world. Now, everybody is saying the same thing about ChatGPT. It has reached 1 million users in five days. Its scorching pace of growth is indeed frightening and will disrupt the media industry big time. My limited argument is can it do investigative stories, write gossip items using the digital world ecosystem. Unlikely. Clearly, the original content has to be created first — only then can ChatGPT do the magic. That’s what we promise to do – focus on original content.

Before I sign off, I am reminded of an old advertisement of the early sixties: “Avis is only No.2 in rent a cars. So we try harder”. Likewise I can say, we are two years old and we are trying even harder to be relevant to you readers.