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WhatsApp Image 2022-07-04 at 1.57

India Cements Leverages Cricket Brand CSK, Launches New Product Line

It did poorly in the last edition of the IPL (Indian Premier League). That has not in any way brought down its brand equity, however. Proof of the pudding is in eating it is said. If at all any proof is required, here is the latest. For the first time perhaps in the annals of the IPL team Chennai Super Kings (CSK), its original franchisee owner, The India Cements Ltd (ICL), chose to leverage the CSK brand name and launched a new product sometime in the middle of March this year.  India Cements launched on March 16, 2022, Conkrete Super King (CSK), a new brand of cement, across the country. Touted as a one-stop concrete solution – from foundation to roof, the launch of Conkrete Super Kings was followed by some aggressive digital campaigns, digital advertisements, hoardings, jingles et al. Well, the CSK brand of cement has sold one lakh tonnes since March when it was launched. The CSK brand launch has, coincidentally, seen India Cements beefing up its marketing apparatus. The N Srinivasan-led cement major has strengthened its marketing and sales force by recruiting a number of foot soldiers to give brand CSK a big push in the marketplace.  A new-found focus is certainly on to give CSK cement an all-India visibility. Well, the numbers appear to be encouraging for the ICL mandarins.
Shiv Nadar

Eyebrows Raised As Theosophical Society Leases Out 14-Acre Chennai Land To Shiv Nadar Foundation

Land is a touchy subject. Not surprisingly, any land deal in this part of the world draws more than cursory interest across the canvass. This time it belongs to the venerable Theosophical Society in Chennai. This institution at Besant Nagar in the heart of the city of Chennai has now penned a pact with an equally well-known name – Shiv Nadar Foundation. The society has decided to give the foundation 14 acres of its land on a long-lease basis to the Shiv Nadar Foundation. The Shiv Nadar Foundation is planning to set up a world-class K-12 school in Chennai, which, it claims, will be a progressive, ecologically-sensitive school with the highest international standards. Shiv Nadar Foundation is India’s leading philanthropic initiative by Shiv Nadar, founder of the HCL Group. It has established a chain of not-for-profit progressive schools in the National Capital Region (NCR) of Delhi. Today, these are among the most sought-after educational institutions in the area, and are consistently ranked among the top schools in the country. With their novel pedagogical approach, Shiv Nadar School nurtures young children into life-long learners and conscious citizens. The Society-Foundation alliance comes years after its lease pact with J Krishnamurthy Foundation-run school expired. In a state where anti-anything sentiment sprouts up at the drop of a hat, the society-foundation agreement has also come under intense focus.
Sterlite

Sterlite Copper On The Chopping Block, As Promoter Anil Agarwal Seeks To Exit Tamil Nadu

The going has been tough for this one right from the word go. This one came to Tamil Nadu after two States – Maharashtra and Goa – spurned it. Finally, it found sanctuary in the Dravidian state. And, the Sterlite Copper smelter plant at Thoothukudi had run freely for over two decades under the dispensation of AIADMK and DMK – the warring political parties in Tamil Nadu. Problem began when it went in for expansion. A protest followed. Not just that. A police firing on the anti-Sterlite protesters saw 13 people killed. A panicked government ordered the immediate closure of the plant. Well, this has caught everybody in an inextricable position. Many jobs have disappeared and thousands of crores lost in the process. And, India slipped from its pre-eminent position in the global copperfield. Virtually caught in a cobweb, Anil Agarwal, promoter of Sterlite Copper has now chosen to sell the immobilised plant. The move has taken everybody off guard. Is it a positioning strategy? Or, is it a business decision? With Ford exiting India, the proverbial sword hangs over the heads of workmen at its Maraimalai Nagar plant in Tamil Nadu? Coming as it does in the wake of Agnipath imbroglio, the Sterlite Copper sale move has surprised everybody alike, including the authorities. Well, it is yet unclear how Sterlite wants to go about selling its assets in Tamil Nadu.
Dhoni1

From Helicopter Shot To Drones, Captain Cool Plays High Stakes, In Chennai Based Garuda Aerospace

CSK is Dhoni and Dhoni is CSK. This is often reiterated by N Srinivasan, the owner of the Chennai franchisee of the IPL team. To be sure, Dhoni and Chennai have become inseparable. Not surprisingly, Dhoni has often said his last game in the highly popular Indian Premier League would be in his adopted home city of Chennai. His affinity to Chennai is all too apparent. And, his propensity to think out-of-the-box is legendary. It is no wonder that people across the spectrum view him a strategist par excellence.  How else could one decipher his investment in the Chennai-based Garuda Aerospace, which is a DaaS (drone-as-a-service) provider.  If highly-placed sources are to go by, the former Indian cricket captain has invested close to Rs 10 crore into Garuda Aerospace. Garuda has also signed up the World Cup winning captain as its brand ambassador. This is expected to fetch MSD Rs 5 crore. Besides bringing in Rs 5 crore, captain cool will be investing this fee also into Garuda. This makes his total investment into the Chennai-based company at Rs 10 crore.  The investment of Dhoni is part of the bridge round, ahead of Garuda’s $30 million Series A round. He may have quit international cricket. Yet, Captain Dhoni remains a formidable brand to reckon with.
Gopalan and Farooqui

R Gopalan and MF Farooquii

Tamil Nadu Business Houses Set New Trend, Appoint Ex-IAS Officers As Chairmen

This IAS class of officials possesses the uncanny ability to stay relevant all the time. They don’t just disappear into the sunset after superannuation but, simply don a new avatar. Their utility never dissipates and, their experience in government simply can’t be brushed aside. Probably, they are capable of bringing to the table an entirely new perspective. It is no wonder then that two leading industrial groups of Chennai have drafted ex-IAS officers as chairmen for their enterprises. Sundaram-Clayton Limited (SCL) has appointed R Gopalan, a bureaucrat who served Tamil Nadu as well as the Centre, as its chairman and, another Chennai-based company Ramco Cements followed suit onboarding MF Farooqui, a retired IAS officer to the same post. Of course, both Gopalan and Farooqui have served on the boards of SCL and Ramco Cements respectively for a while now. But their elevation to the top slot in the organisations has forced many long-time watchers of these family enterprises to sit up and take notice.  This is the first time that these industrial conglomerates in Chennai have adopted such a course. Larger benefit of having experienced bureaucrats as chairmen notwithstanding, the move is also seen as a step towards splitting the CMD post. At least in these two instances, it appears to be a case of striking two mangoes with one stone!
Murugappa Group

The TVS’ Separate Family-Business Model, Contemplated By Murugappa Group Since Its Perfectly Legal!

The South Side Story is always exciting. Family enterprises are a dime a dozen in this part of India. Some of them, especially in Tamil Nadu, are iconic names. These two industrial groups are definitely a name to reckon with, and they are trend setters in many ways. The TVS group, for instance. This venerable industrial house – comprising four families – has recently chosen to go their separate ways legally. With families expanding through fresh generational additions, the TVS group has done a remarkable job of succession planning. Now that they have separated legally, each family within the larger TVS tree has unhindered leeway to chart out their own individual paths. The Murugappa group, too, is another reputed name. It was the first to hit upon the idea of a group corporate board many summers ago, to delink the family from the management of their various enterprises. The Sanmar group under the late N Sankar took a cue from them. It was, however, a different matter that Murugappa junked the group corporate board a while ago. The Murugappa group, if grapevine is anything to go by, is now looking to emulate the TVS model of separation. Will the TVS model be the template for amicable resolution of succession planning in family businesses?
Sterlite riot

Vedanta Moves On Twitter To Revive Sterlite Copper In Tamil Nadu Using Social Media

Social media has become so powerful a communication tool these days and yet, not everybody understands the scale of its utility. None, however, can afford to ignore it. Not surprising, all and sundry have made it a point to be visible on the social media platform. Take the case of the Vedanta outfit. Mired in a local political slugfest and caught up in a legal bind, Thoothukudi-based Sterlite Copper, a unit of the Vedanta group, is stuck in a pincer-like situation, being hammered from all sides. How to fight this tricky situation? Well, a new Twitter handle was set up in January this year, created by Sterlite Support Federation, a non-government and non-profit organisation.  The federation was formed ostensibly to bring all the pro-Sterlite people across the country to “fight for the cause, thereby giving jobs to thousands.”  With over 400 followers, this appears to be a determined counter to the anti-Sterlite lobby that works relentlessly to derail any efforts to revive the Sterlite Copper plant in Tamil Nadu, ordered to close down by the previous AIADMK regime following police firing that resulted in 13 deaths. The firing was ordered to disperse the anti-Sterlite agitators in the vicinity of the plant a few years ago. Can the micro-blogging site help check-mate anti-Sterlite sentiment?
HDFC Deepak

HDFC Chairman Deepak Parekh

End Of HDFC Bank Founder-CEO Aditya Puri’s Tenure, Set The Course For HDFC-HDFC Bank Merger?

The merger talk was in the air for years but, was put on the back burner over serious differences at the top. Finally, the merger between HDFC and HDFC Bank has happened. For the first time perhaps, a challenger of a fitting kind from the private sector appears to have arrived to counter the dominating State Bank of India. To that extent, the HDFC-HDFC Bank merger move is seen to herald a massive transformation in the Indian banking space. Will that edge the non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) out of the picture? Not really, say experts. For, there are plenty in India who are still either unserved or underserved. Why did it take a long while for the two to merge? People who matter know it but, none prefers to go on record for assorted reasons. Perhaps, the merger plan was waiting for the HDFC Bank’s founder-CEO Aditya Puri to serve out his term in October 2020. If sources are to go by, some 5-6 years back Deepak Parekh had mooted the idea of HDFC merging with HDFC Bank to create a big bank but Puri was disinclined. He wanted the two entities to operate separately.  Perhaps, with his exit the whole plan was brought out from the cold storage. The merger has indeed reconfigured the banking turf in India.
Spic

A.C Muthiah

SPIC Celebrates Golden Jubilee, Ramps Up Capacity After A Chequered History

A private-public partnership saw a plant come up at Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu to produce ammonia and urea. In the 50 odd years of its existence, Southern Petrochemicals Industries Corporation (SPIC) has had a chequered history even as the A C Muthiah-piloted group became ambitious. Big investments in PFY and PTA (Spic Petro) and in a new fertilizer facility in Dubai saw money going down the sink. Things turned for the better post 2010 with a changeover at the helm. Now, Muthiah’s son Ashwin, who heads the company, has gone all out to ramp up capacity of ammonia and urea to almost global scales.  To improve margins, it moved from naphtha to natural gas for its feedstock. For fund infusion, Ashwin roped in AM International of Singapore besides talking to lenders for debt restructuring. Result: Thoothukudi-based SPIC has turned around with its topline and bottom-line looking healthy. Unfortunately, another well run plant in Thoothukudi Sterlite Industries, part of the Vedanta Group had to shut shop over environmental issues. For the nine months ended December 2021, SPIC has turned in heart-warming results with a PAT of Rs 132 crore on the back of a topline of Rs 1,600 crore, both representing a big leap from the previous corresponding period. While things are certainly looking up for SPIC, the road ahead still sports many signs of caution!
citibank_Axis bank

Citi Puts Consumer Banking Business To Sleep, Hiving Off Retail Arm To Axis Bank For Keeps

The Citi never sleeps. Citibank literally rode on this famous tag line for an increased mind share even as India was only just opening up to the world in the early 90s. The MNC bank left no stone unturned embarking on its aggressive business expansion. Somewhere along the line, however, the aggressive instinct for growth turned ugly and, Citibank went about issuing credit cards without any let or hindrance, to onboard lakhs of customers. Citibank had indeed re-laid the retail thrust in the Indian banking industry. Many in Indian industry did follow the Citi line but, somewhere along the way, Citi went overboard as an incident in the early 90s hit national headlines. In its zest to recover dues, its agents waylaid a top bureaucrat in the Central government on the Bombay-Pune Highway in a case of mistaken identity. The script went horribly wrong and Citi should have realised the `retail difficulty’ in India. It did slug it out for several seasons thereafter. Though it launched credit cards in India in 1987, Citi’s market share has slumped to 4% from 13% just a decade and, it has decided to sell its retail business to Axis Bank. After 119 years in India, Citi is restructuring and exiting the consumer banking business. Over the last few years was Citi out of sync in India?
TNCA

No President In TNCA After Rupa Gurunath, Like GCA Saw Business As Usual Post Amit Shah’s Exit?

Do you need a chairman for a company? You may not. But you need someone to chair shareholders’ meetings and to conduct the proceedings. Any board member may preside over and conduct such meetings. Nothing amiss about this. There are dime-a-dozen organisations where the top slot has remained unfilled for several reasons and, they are running quite well and this is not peculiar to any specific field. For instance, the Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA) is sans a president at this very moment. Since Amit Shah, the Home Minister of India, stepped down as its president in September 2019, the position at GCA has not been filled. As it is often said, life has simply moved on. And, the game of cricket has not stopped either! After all, cricket is bigger than individuals. There are no two views on that, however, the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) affiliated to the Board of Control for Cricket in India is the parent body governing the game of Cricket in the State of Tamil Nadu. In December 2021 Rupa Gurunath, daughter of N Srinivasan of India Cements stepped down as president of TNCA after holding the reins for over two years.  The heavens did not fall on TNCA because it is without a president.  It’s business as usual. If GCA can run smoothly as before, why won’t the TNCA?
TNCA MRC

TNCA And Madras Race Club Face Off Over Free IPL Tickets Takes Legal Turn

Since the advent of IPL (Indian Premier League) many seasons ago, the game of cricket has undergone a major metamorphosis. Cricket watching, too, has seen a whole lot of transformation. The IPL has also managed to swing on board a hitherto uninterested segment of the audience into binge cricket watching. Today, cricket watching, be it in stadiums or on television, has turned into a sort of family entertainment.  Not surprisingly, everybody wants to have a share of cricket. The humungous audience interest has triggered a tiff between the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) and the Madras Race Club (MRC). Under the old arrangement between the two, MRC was given a sizable number of tickets from TNCA. This arrangement came into force during the tenure of late MA Chidambaram when he was the president of TNCA reportedly, as part of a property pact. Was this an indefinite arrangement? MRC thinks so, however, TNCA feels otherwise. Even as the two are engaged in a quarrel over the longevity and interpretation of the arrangement, the state cricket association has decided to put an end to the ticket-sharing practice. TNCA’s move indicates that there was nothing indefinite about the practice. Well, the tiff has now spilled over into the legal playing field!
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Pradip D Kothari, Rafiq Ahmed

With Rafiq Ahmed At Helm, Will KICL Regain Pristine Glory?

Late DC Kothari was a tall name in the industrial landscape of Tamil Nadu. And, Kothari Industrial Corporation Ltd (KICL), the agro input (fertilisers and insecticides) company promoted by him, an iconic entity. After him, the onus fell upon son Pradip D Kothari but, it hasn’t been a smooth ride. He had to fend off incursions from cousin, the late Shyam Kothari (son-in-law of the late Dhirubhai Ambani). Pradip Kothari did succeed in barricading KICL. That legal battle in the 90s did make national headlines then. Much water has flown under the bridge since then. KICL now appears to have undergone a major overhaul and, sports new names on the management list. Of course, Pradip Kothari remains the Chairman. But it is driven by self-taught entrepreneur Jinnah Rafiq Ahmed, who is now the vice-chairman & MD of KICL. Parveen Roadways, his key venture, does quite a lot of work for the Southern Railways showing his experience with the contracts business model. Will this push the well-networked Ahmed to opt for contract manufacturing of fertilisers sold under the brand name Horse? This could see the company do well and get re-listed soon after internal issues saw its share trading being suspended many moons ago. Hopefully, investors holding KICL shares would soon find a window to cash out.
Chettinad cement_AC_muthiah

AC Muthiah and MAMR Muthiah

AC Muthiah Finds It Tough Going To Unlock True Share Value In MAMR Controlled, Delisted Chettinad Cement

There are certain advantages in being an unlisted, closely-held company. Owners of such firms, however, may encounter irritants coming their way. A few shareholders, with marginal holdings could prove to be an avoidable hindrance. One such unlisted, closely-held company is attempting to implement share consolidation ostensibly to ease the cumbersome procedural formalities in administration. It is also touted as a goodwill exercise offering small shareholders an exit option. In some instances, small shareholders do not see any goodwill in such an exercise. Rather, the move is viewed as an ill-intentioned initiative to get them out cheaply. The city of Chennai has seen Chettinad Cement, a well-known player in the bulk commodity space, delist its shares a few summers ago. But that has put its industrialist-shareholder AC Muthiah in a spot. If sources are to be believed, Muthiah is unable to get rid of his shares in the company at a price he considers equitable. The owner of Chettinad Cement appears to be playing it cool for now. The business, it may be recalled, is run by MAM Ramaswamy’s adopted son MAMR Muthiah who has an old score to settle with AC Muthiah, whom he had accused of usurping the company assets while his father was ailing. Alternatively, he doesn’t feel the need to acquire more shares, sitting comfortably as he is with a majority holding.
Carborundum cumi

Putin’s Abrasive Action Puts Abrasive Maker Carborundum Universal In A Spot

The world has indeed termed this as an abrasive action by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Russia-Ukraine military face-off has certainly thrown the nation states across the globe in a tailspin. The ongoing war between the two hostile neighbouring nations is bound to have far-reaching implications for the international community. Nearer home in Chennai, this business group is keeping its fingers crossed. The abrasive action of Putin has put this abrasive maker in a tight spot.  Carborundum Universal (CUMI), a Murugappa Group company, it may be recalled, acquired 84% of the ordinary shares of Volzhsky Abrasive Works (VAW), located in the Volgograd Region of Russia, through its wholly-owned subsidiary, CUMI International Ltd., Cyprus, for a consideration of around $37 million sometime in 2007. The Russian venture fetched CUMI a PBT of Rs 1,350 million during 2020-21. The company expanded the capacity of the nitride bonded silicon carbide facility at VAW. This was ostensibly done to provide the company the capability to address the increasing global requirement of nitride bonded refractories for non-ferrous and waste-to-energy applications. Well, the dynamics have completely changed now. With the two countries at loggerheads, a sense of uncertainty has gripped Indian business in Russia. An abrasive action has put this abrasive maker in a bind, it appears.
Narayan_Cyrus_FC

Photo : Fotocorp

Corporate Misgovernance Stands Exposed By Chitra Ramkrishna’s NSE Scam, Was Always The Handmaiden For The Big Boys

 The fast unfolding drama around Chitra Ramkrishna, the erstwhile MD of NSE, has pushed the issue of Corporate Governance back into focus. Breached more than it is practiced, it is the most widely abused term in the corporate world. Instances are a dime a dozen of vociferous proponents of corporate governance gave it a go by to suit their own interests. A trip down memory lane reveals this hard truth. When co-founder NR Narayana Murthy returned to head Infosys again, he brought his son Rohan along with him! A revered personality in the corporate world, he subsequently turned activist of an unusual kind. He went ballistic in public against the Infosys board, triggering the ouster of chairman R Seshasayee. In like manner, it still remains a mystery how a member of the search panel for the appointment of a chairman for Tata Sons landed the coveted job for himself. The mystery deepened when Cyrus Mistry was unceremoniously thrown out subsequently. “How could I go against the Tatas?” an independent director put it succinctly. It is easy to preach but, difficult to practice. When it came to cutting his stake in his bank the banker, who headed the panel on corporate governance, prevaricated. Corporate governance appears to follow a “heads I win, tails you lose” maxim. NSE isn’t so unique experience after all.
Sebi_002

Family Run Enterprises Heave Sigh Of Relief After SEBI Climbdown On Splitting CMD Post

This news comes as a much needed relief for many family-run enterprises.  In a sudden about-turn, SEBI decided to make splitting of the posts of chairperson and managing director (CMD) by listed entities voluntary and not mandatory. A dozen such enterprises thrive in the Dravidian land. With one too many family members within such enterprises, splitting the CMD could have triggered considerable tensions within such enterprises. The consequences for them would have been a lot severe if it was enforced with a stricter fiat from the market regulator? What made the regulator do a U-Turn? One can debate the volte-face endlessly. One thing is sure, however. Regulation by force has often proved ineffective, and hasn’t really delivered the intended result. We have seen this happening in the unfolding Chitra imbroglio in the NSE. The entire governance structure at NSE appears to have gone for a toss. Will more rules solve the problems? They won’t. Be it in the re-nomination of the Maran couple on the board of Sun TV Network or the infamous Tata-Mistry imbroglio, corporate governance has been a consistent casualty. It reflects the erosion in the value system of society. The Venu Srinivasan and R Dinesh-led wings in the now partitioned TVS group have gone for non-family members to chair some of their boards. That’s refreshing. Laws often don’t get the right result.
Kalanithi maran

Kavery andKalanithi Maran

Big Stake Marans Steamroll Institutional Shareholders For Reappointment With Big Fat Salaries

In the corporate world, the phrase ‘All is fair in love and war’ has assumed a new meaning. Well, all is fair if rules are observed is now the touted line and reasoning given to explain away an ethically and morally unjustifiable action. Institutional shareholders voted against a resolution but found themselves unable to vote out the resolution in the face of a steamrolling majority held by the promoters.  A classic case was when the resolution relating to the reappointment of the Maran couple — Kalanithi and Kavery — sailed through at the annual general body meeting of the Sun TV Network despite a majority of institutional shareholders voting against it. The Maran couple are the highest paid executives in India. They have taken home close to Rs 1,500 crore by way of managerial remunerations over the last decade.  The promoter remuneration is now the subject of intense debate.  Is it ethical for promoters to vote on a resolution pertaining to their own compensation?  The whole issue has made a mockery of the so-called SEBI-ordained tight governance system. Like the RBI does, can’t corporations be told to make public disclosure of detailed minutes of meetings that clear the compensation paid to promoters? At least that will give the minority shareholders a clue about the logic for the high pay packets.
murugappa_logo

Unique Model Binds Murugappa Group’s Extended Family, Just Compensation For Every Male Heir Is Done Equally?

What holds a business family together? Just about everything. But, when it entails an extended family, then the task become more daunting. One Chennai-based conglomerate discovered the right formula many summers ago, to navigate the business cycles smoothly while also keeping the assorted wings of the larger family well and truly satisfied. The Murugappa group employs a house-keeping entity that has largely been instrumental in fairly compensating male members of the extended Murugappa family. They may all be differently talented but, when it comes to compensation, each of them (read every male heir) is treated on par. This entity came in handy especially when the group established a Murugappa corporate board and went in for a group branding in the ‘90s. The board members and others in the family were largely paid compensation through this unlisted house-keeping entity. A public limited outfit, this house-keeping firm doesn’t include any family members as directors. It was structured in such a way to avoid action under the MRTPC lens. A little birdie tells us that female heirs in the family aren’t fortunate enough to enjoy identical benefits. That may explain the cause for the open rebellion demonstrated by Valli Arunachalam, whose father MV Murugappan, former executive chairman of Murugappa group, expired a few years ago. This family enterprise makes for a fascinating story, all the same.
Venu TVS_Ralph

Venu Srinivasan and Prof Sir Ralf Dieter Speth

Chennai’s Corporate World Action Drama: Non-Family Member Takes Over As Chairman Of TVS Motors

All of a sudden, the Chennai corporate landscape is buzzing with action. It is witnessing some significant transformation. Indeed, coming events are casting their shadows before them (read SEBI ruling on splitting the CMD post). For the first time perhaps in its annals, a TVS group company will have a non-family member as chairman. Come April 1, TVS Motor Company will see non-executive director Prof Sir Ralf Dieter Speth becoming its Chairman. Promoter Venu Srinivasan will then be designated as Chairman Emeritus. Several summers ago when the TVS group chose to dilute its majority holding in its then joint venture, TVS Whirlpool, Suresh Krishna voluntarily gave up his position as the Chairman of the joint venture. Well, much water has flown under the bridge since then. Venu Srinivasan’s son, Sudarshan, in the meanwhile, has been inducted into the board of Coromandel International, a Murugappa group company. Sudarshan has joined the board of Coromandel International as an Independent Director. In an equally significant development, Srinivas Acharya, former managing director of Sundaram Home Finance, a subsidiary of Sundaram Finance, is being roped in to join the board of Hindujas’ housing arm. An able hand with enormous experience in the field of housing finance, Acharya can provide the Hinduja housing arm with deeper insights. Indeed, the Chennai corporate world is undergoing a churn
murugappa

Informal Demarcation At Murugappa Group: Replicating TVS Model?

When NS Raghavan, one of the seven co-founders of Infosys, was inducted as the Chairman of the Chennai-based Murugappa group, it took the entire corporate world by surprise. It was hailed as a path-breaking initiative by a family-owned group. Subsequently, the group set up a Murugappa Corporate Board. The ostensible reason for setting it up was to let the myriad group firms be run professionally. In 2020, the corporate board was dismantled.  That has also taken many by surprise. Has the wheel come full circle? Tongues have, in fact, started wagging. Why was the two-decade old group corporate board dismantled after being in existence for two decades? Well, much water appears to have flown under the bridge since its formation many summers ago. The group itself has seen GenNext coming to the fore. Also, the group is under public glare with the daughters of late MV Murugappan alleging discrimination and seeking legal recourse for justice. Though the group comprises four families, there isn’t any complicated cross-holding structure in group firms. If grapevine is to be believed, there seems to be an informal demarcation of business among the varied families within. And, these sources suggest that each of them enjoys operational leeway with little cross-participation of family members in different group boards. Is Murugappa following the TVS model?
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RK Jhaver

IPO Therapy For 84-Year Old Tablets (India): Unlocking True Business Values?

The Indian pharmaceutical industry witnessed many learning curves and has come a long way since the days of controls. Today, the industry wears an entirely transformed look. In the rough and tumble of the modern-day business world, which has to contend with intense competition, only an honourable few have managed to ensure the longevity of their respective businesses. Take the case of Chennai-based company Tablets (India), one of the early pharmaceutical ventures in the country. It was founded in 1938 by Sri Krishna Jhaver, who ventured into the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry and acquired the British-owned Oakley & Bowden Company based out of Chennai. While primarily set up to serve the healthcare needs of British Colonials, it was renamed Tablets (India). It boasts of some well-documented products in the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical segments and is recognized as a pioneer in amino acids and probiotic therapy. A flagship company of the closely-held Jhaver Group, it is managed by accomplished professionals across various functions in the organization. It has five business divisions and three manufacturing facilities. How long could it have remained a family-owned enterprise? Not just that. The owners too, want to unlock value, thereby monetizing a part of their holdings. And what better way than to tap into the capital markets even as IPOs seem to be the flavour of the season.
shriram_star health

Chennai Inc Transforming Into India Inc: How's The Josh?

What’s in a name? Everything, some will say. So what, some will argue. At least in the Dravidian land of Tamil Nadu, the name and personality still count. With the business landscape undergoing rapid metamorphosis by the day, the conventional wisdom of placing faith on name and personality, however, is wrought with risk. If proof is required, you have. Take the case of the Shriram group and Star Health, the country’s first private sector stand-alone health insurance company. The Shriram group has long ceased to be a Chennai conglomerate. Known largely for truck financing, Shriram is also known for its chit business. Founded by R Thyagarajan (popularly known as RT), the group has since changed a lot. Today, it is driven from Mumbai by the Piramals. Not many know that the Shriram of today does not really belong to the city of Chennai. Star Health, too, is known by its founder V Jagannathan, an insurance industry veteran. That states such as AP and TN rolled out health cover for the citizens largely due to his connection was well known. Star too has changed. Once the IPO is over, Star will be vastly different. Perhaps the people of Chennai can’t really claim Shriram and Star to be their own!
cement_comp

India Cements Sees ‘Macho’ Rivals Rush In Tamil Nadu As Cement Prices Move North

Why is everybody eyeing the cement industry? N Srinivasan, the vice-chairman and managing director of The India Cements has an interesting take on this. The industry has something “macho” about it. That is an irresistible attraction, he says. To be sure, the cement scene in Tamil Nadu at least heads for some exciting turns. It is a market where the price is holding up – and often heads north – despite excess capacity. Surely, this can’t go unnoticed by enterprising minds. Dalmia and Ultratech have already gotten into action mode. Dalmia is planning grinding units in Coimbatore, Chingleput, and Virudhunagar districts. Well, it already has cement plants at Dalmiapuram in Trichy and Ariyalur. Ultratech, on the other hand, has a grinding unit at Arakkonam and a cement plant in Reddipalayam (acquired from Dharani several summers ago. It is now planning expansion by putting up grinding units at Karur, Tuticorin, and Ranipet. These two have indeed chosen strategic locations for their proposed grinding facilities. Their move is bound to intensify action on the ground. Product innovation and savvy marketing could hold the key for the players in this part of the world to secure their position and expand in a market that is set for intense competition. Surely, CSK and Dhoni could come in handy for India Cements in the unfolding cement turf!
CSK_chennai

Photo : chennaisuperkings.com

Tamil Nadu Politics Heat Up As India Cements & CSK Celebrate IPL Victory With Stalin

The yellow jersey, nay CSK (Chennai Super Kings), has deeply embedded itself in the heart and mind of fans across the canvass. Ipso facto, that has also become an easy target. A trip down memory lane would reveal how the CSK matches were shifted out of Chennai over the Cauvery river water dispute with neighbouring Karnataka. That a sporting event was forced out of Chennai told a tale of its own for the world investing community. Such episodes during the previous regime had had its fall-out on the investor sentiment. So much so, Tamil Nadu lost the AK47 project of the Russian company to Uttar Pradesh. Much water has flowed since then. Nothing much, however, appears to have been learnt. It is now the turn of the main Opposition in Tamil Nadu – the AIADMK – to use CSK to take a dig at the Stalin government. Using the proverbial “fiddling while Rome was burning” analogy, a top AIADMK functionary questioned Stalin’s participation in the India Cements’ function to celebrate IPL cup victory of CSK in the just-concluded edition. When the rains have engulfed the state, how could Stalin participate in a celebratory event? Life is not about this or that. It is all about this and that. Is it cricket to indulge in such diatribe?
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Saint Gobain’s Rs 2,500-Cr Bet On India To Target Booming Work From Home Segment

 Covid has changed the world upside down for many. The distance between the home and the office has, in many cases, simply shrunk drastically. One part of the house has become a regular office. And, this has thrown new business opportunities. The housing sector at least is witnessing a demand re-jig.  Safety and WFH (work-from-home) compulsions are forcing home-buyers to opt for bigger flats. Sensing this, French glass maker Saint-Gobain has trained its focus on providing downstream solutions in India. Towards this it has chalked out an ambitious capex plan of Rs 2,500 crore. It has already set up a separate business unit for home solutions to satiate the emerging needs of home buyers. And, it is promising to offer customized solutions for every individual client. This calls for a sense of agility and spirit of entrepreneurship. To be sure, a highly technology-oriented and end-to-end digitized independent entity is now anchoring Saint Gobain’s foray into this downstream exercise. A game-changing initiative, this move reflects a new strategy in thinking for this predominantly material manufacturer. The end-user-focussed unit has already hired over 300 people with diverse skill sets to grab a reasonable share in the $25 billion home solution pie. End-user, nay home-buyer, terrain isn’t going to be an easy nut to crack. But Saint-Gobain has chosen to do so. India is shining for this French group, it appears.
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Realpolitik Sobers Down Tamil Nadu’s Outspoken Finance Minister

Working in a corporate environment is one thing. But being a part of the government is quite another. Perhaps, he got a bit carried away initially. And, that got him into one controversy after another. Well, Tamil Nadu Finance Minister Dr P Thiaga Rajan, popularly known as PTR, appears to have understood the difference. He doesn’t stray into avoidable terrain now. He has chosen to be a lot more measured and focused. He made the right noises when he met the Press on October 1, 2021. A huge quantum of public money is lying outside the treasury. The task is to identify and bring it back into the Treasury. His efforts seem to be bearing fruits as close to Rs 2,000 crore of unused funds were identified by a task force set up by him. He is not against freebies (for the poor and the backward). But he is all for accounting, even the freebies. Handing out freebies without any responsibility is clearly not his way of doing things. The government order on gold loan waiver gives a clue or two to his thinking. The benefit should reach the deserving. And the system should be capable of doing this. This is what he is striving to do. Well, the thought-process is laudable.
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Harsha Viji -- Executive vice-Chairman SFL

How Sundaram Finance Strikes The Right Chord With Its Investors

What is in a name? Reputation. When this TVS firm wanted to stop accepting deposits, there was a huge public outcry. If you don’t, where will we go? That was the reaction of senior citizens then. For Chenniates, Sundaram Finance Ltd (SFL) has been a part and parcel of their life. SFL and Chennai are inseparably entwined. SFL has been hosting the annual Mylapore festival for very many years now. And, it has been holding a mikeless concert every first Sunday of a month for over a decade now at the Nageswara Park to provide kids a platform to demonstrate their skills. Covid-19 however has changed everything. In the new normal social distancing world, SFL has its job cut out. It is on a mission mode. It wants people to get fully vaccinated. It has launched a music video ‘Oosingo’, composed by singer Anirudh Ravichander and written by lyricist Arivarasu Kalainesan. Celebrity-influencers too figure in the video. “We are in the last mile in our fight against Covid,” says Harsha Viji, executive vice-chairman of SFL. Well, this TVS company has the experience in providing last-mile connectivity in the vehicle finance segment too. It has budgeted Rs 10 crore for the public service programme. Trust, thy name is SFL.
Nihar letter

ICAI President Nihar N Jambusaria

ICAI President’s Call To Adopt Hindi Upsets Tamil Nadu CAs

ICAI President Nihar N Jambusaria has stirred a hornet’s nest. In a signed message published in the October issue of The Chartered Accountant journal, he exhorted the members of India’s apex body for chartered accountants to adopt Hindi in their work and interactions with other stakeholders. For him, Hindi is a rajbhasha (official language). And, he wants his fellow CAs to promote Hindi. His appeal has virtually kicked up a row with many senior CAs, especially in the state of Tamil Nadu, warning the ICAI chief of the adverse fall-out of his action. Should ICAI be promoting a language? Or, should it be guiding the CA fraternity as a whole? The debate has already picked up steam on social media. Predictably, his move has drawn political reaction as well. A sitting MP from Madurai, S Venkatesan, has taken to Twitter to condemn the ICAI chief. “May be it (Hindi) is your mother tongue but not for all,” he tweeted. He has already dashed off a letter to ICAI, opposing the move. “Tamil Nadu would resist imposition (of Hindi),” Venkatesan asserted. The CA fraternity in Tamil Nadu is seething in anger. ICAI could live without such controversy. And, Jambusaria could have avoided playing to galleries (on September 14 being marked as Hindi Diwas). He reportedly clarified: “It (Hindi) is a choice… If you want to write in whatever language you want, there is no restriction on anybody.”
csk champs

CSK Is Sport And Never A Business For Us, Says India Cements’ N Srinivasan

Indian Premier League (IPL) has proved to be a heady mix of sports, entertainment, and business. Not surprisingly, there is quite an interest around it. Sanjiv Goenka-led RPSG group is new franchisee for Lucknow and PE player CVC Capital for Ahmedabad. Indeed, the sport has changed. Is it cricket? Well, the debate has been on for a long while now. But N Srinivasan, the indefatigable former boss of Board of Control for Cricket in India, has a different take on his IPL team. “We look at CSK (Chennai Super Kings) as a pure sport,” says Srinivasan, who is the vice-chairman and MD of ICL (India Cements Ltd). ICL owned the IPL franchise team CSK from inception in 2008 till 2014, when the ownership was transferred to Chennai Super Kings Ltd. “CSK is a sport and never a business for us,” he makes it clear. Srinivasan is the fulcrum around both ICL and CSK. “I think my personality has rubbed off in CSK,” he says. Both at ICL and BCCI, he had endured the worst. “A less strong person would have wilted,” he feels. “Our reaction to victory and loss is the same. When we win we are happy in our heart. We don’t need to go out and blow the trumpet,” he said. Indeed, CSK will remain an inseparable part of Srinivasan.
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N Srinivasan Turns To High-Performance Dhoni-CSK To Craft New Brand Strategy For India Cements

Sankar Cement and Coromandel Cement of India Cements have been part of some of the country’s iconic structures. Sankar Cement is associated with the building of Idukki Dam in Kerala, Pamban Bridge in Tamil Nadu and Swami Vivekananda Rock Memorial in Kanyakumari. Infosys Building in Bengaluru and Rajiv Gandhi International Sports Stadium in Hyderabad were built with Coromandel cement. Well, Sankar and Coromandel are trusted brands in the cement industry for many summers and belong to 75-year-old India Cements Ltd (ICL), a leader in south India. With such history behind it, the ICL management, led by N Srinivasan, vice chairman & MD, is now engaged in the process of reconfiguring the brand strategy. The time appears to have arrived now. With the Chennai Super Kings having a dream run in the ongoing edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), team ICL chose to celebrate Platinum jubilee of the company with Captain Cool Dhoni & his boys and the dealers in a live engagement. This is perhaps the first and unique exercise to leverage CSK to promote India Cements, which is the principal sponsor of Chennai Super Kings. The focus now is on creating a distinct and strong corporate brand identity for India Cements. Iconic cement brands are to be promoted around this corporate brand among dealers and influencers. Well, the pitch is clear indeed!
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RBI Turns To Ace Finance Pros From South To Turn Around NBFCs

When things are going down, this regulator too decides to head south! Well, the RBI, yet again, has chosen to look for talents in the south to reset a couple of recalcitrant NBFCs. This time around, the RBI has brought in two stalwarts from the south to assist the newly-appointed administrator of Srei Infrastructure Finance and Srei Equipment Finance. The boards of these two were superseded by the RBI on October 4, 2021. R Subramaniakumar, administrator of Dewan Housing Finance Corporation (DHFL), and TT Srinivasaraghavan, former MD, Sundaram Finance, have been included in the three-member advisory committee to help Rajneesh Sharma, ex-Chief General Manager, Bank of Baroda, as the administrator of these two companies. Since November 2019, Subramaniakumar, former MD & CEO Indian Overseas Bank, has been an administrator of DHFL. After many twists and turns, the debt resolution plan submitted by Piramal Group for DHFL has been finally approved by the National Company Law Tribunal. Subramaniakumar, in fact, was driving IOB during its critical phase. A few days ago, IOB came out of the Prompt Corrective Action framework. IOB was placed under PCA in 2015. Srinivasaraghavan is a highly respected personality in the NBFC world. And he piloted Sundaram Finance for many years with a sense of dedication and unalloyed commitment. The south has a nice side to its story after all.
TMB

100-Year Old Tamilnad Mercantile Bank To Be Listed Soon

The 100-year-old Thoothukudi-based Tamilnad Mercantile Bank (TMB) has always made for a heady cocktail.  Incorporated as Nadar Bank Limited on May 11, 1921, it underwent a name change on November 27, 1962. Since then, it has come to be known as Tamilnad Mercantile Bank Limited. Promoted by the Nadar community, the bank has often found itself at the centre of news. The community bank hit national headlines post-liberalisation in the 90s when the Ruias of the Essar group acquired TMB shares by cashing in on the internecine quarrel within the promoter-groups. But the Ruias faced resistance. And, the Reserve Bank of India, too, was cool to their entry into the banking space. The acquisition of TMB shares by the Ruias has time and again kicked up intense political battle in Tamil Nadu with parties of all hues, picking cudgels on behalf of the Nadar community to reclaim TMB. The Ruias exited by selling the TMB shares to serial entrepreneur C. Sivasankaran as sale consideration for buying the Delhi cellular licence from him. He, too, had to exit after a peace was brokered during the Vajpayee regime. Ramesh Vagal-led (former Pepsico India head) group chipped in to buy a part of TMB shares.  Still mired in legal rows, the bank has now plans to go public. A community bank is getting a new tag now.
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Photo : Venu Srinivasan and Suresh Krishna -- Wikipedia

TVS Group: The Making Of An Indian MNC

The over 100-year-old TVS group is going through a transformation of a significant kind. It just underwent a smooth reorganisation. This saw four promoter-families aligning the ownership of different companies with the arms of the family that managed them. While this caught many by surprise, something else – a big one, at that – too is quietly happening at the TVS. And this has largely gone unnoticed. Is it becoming a truly Indian MNC conglomerate? Be it manufacturing or financial services, the foreign investors’ presence is fast evaporating. Global majors have all cashed out of the group by selling their holdings to the respective TVS companies. It all began in mid-90s with Abex Corporation exiting Sundaram Abex which became Sundaram Brake Linings. Later, Suzuki quit the two-wheeler joint venture which became TVS Motor. TRW, too, went out of Lucas TVS. In the last one year, the group saw Brakes India and Wheels India buying out the stake of foreign partners. Also, foreign partners in the insurance, housing finance and mutual finance ventures of Sundaram Finance have exited. More recently, TVS Supply Solutions has bought out the Canadian pension fund, CDPQ. Now, the only prominent JV in operation is Delphi-TVS, a JV of Lucas TVS. Group patriarch Suresh Krishna always talked of Indian MNCs. Well, TVS is on track.
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Why A Flexible Corporate Debt Resolution Process Is The Need Of The Hour

Often, we tend to hold a poor view of politicians. With Parliament stalled at the drop of a hat, our misgivings about Parliamentarians and the Parliamentary systems of democracy deepen. A closer study, however, will reveal how misconceived our views are. Look at the way the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance sought to address ticklish issues in the corporate debt resolution process. Why should the resolution option be inflexible?  Why should a resolution plan result in the disposal of the entire business and operations of corporate debt (CD) under a single plan? A combination of bidders taking different business units or assets could well be a superior solution. This could be better than a single bidder acquiring the entire business from a committee of creditors (CoC). The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), it appears, doesn’t facilitate multi-plan solutions for corporate debt resolution. The rules under Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process (CIRP), however, do provide for flexible disposal of assets/business of CD to different bidders. But IBC appears to grant no such flexibility to CoC. While IBC is a Parliamentary statue, CIRP laws are subordinate legislations. Hence, the Parliamentary Committee has recommended changes to IBC so that a resolution is achieved by pursuing either of the means prescribed by CIRP rules. Indeed, Parliamentarians do a quiet job behind.
zomato

Why Non-Promoter Companies Command Cool Valuations?

It has been an inconclusive debate. Which is better of the two: Family-run businesses or professionally managed companies? In today’s world, the business dynamics have changed quite drastically.  So much so, private equity firms have come to play a dominant role in driving the destiny of any business. When a business entity aspires for growth, a quick one at that, a trade-off becomes inevitable. The founders, nay promoters, don’t hesitate to sell a perception and project to the world at large that their enterprises are professionally-managed. This statement attracts PE players in hordes and in the process drives up valuations. Hence, it has come as no surprise when Zomato founders declared that they aren’t the promoters as their holding dropped below 25%. Ditto: Paytm. The oldest example of a company without a promoter is that of L&T, an Indian multinational conglomerate which is professionally managed. In the case of ITC, it is 29.4% owned by UK-based BAT, again no owners but a professionally managed company. Likewise is Hindustan Unilever, a subsidiary of British company Unilever. Being a promoter does not entail benefits nor liabilities. But, in case of any eventualities – like we saw with Vijay Mallya or Mehul Choksi – the buck stops there. Giving up the promoter‘s tag to attract global PE players may be a new trend but will it last?
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Is Stalin Looking For Man Friday In Delhi?

With the DMK returning to Fort St George after a considerable hiatus, expectations are running high among people. After all, it is a dream come true for MK Stalin, the son of former chief minister late M Karunanidhi. Having become the chief minister, Stalin is in an ideal position. In his ascension to the chief minister gaddi, DMK has an opportunity to refurbish itself to play a decisive role in the national politics. If politics is an art, late Karunanidhi proved himself to be a fine artist. When Karunanidhi was around, he had in him an astute Murasoli Maran, his nephew and Member of Parliament for 36 years. The senior Maran was Man Friday for the former chief minister. And he played the perfect communication bridge between the then DMK government and the ruling class in New Delhi. The erstwhile combination in the DMK kept political channels open all the time. This worked well for the welfare of the state of Tamil Nadu time and again. The connecting line appears to be conspicuous by its absence now. That seems to have put the DMK government under Stalin at a disadvantage. And, that is not doing any good for the Stalin regime. You stay connected in politics. That can be done by a mature mind.  Well, Stalin has a quick job on hand.
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Spiritual Kancheepuram Mutt Launches Ad-Free Kamakoti TV

The raging pandemic has triggered in its wake a social distancing of an unusual kind. That has reconfigured the relationships. While relatives staying afar have become digital friends, immediate neighbours have become close relatives. Indeed, the world has changed so much since the outbreak of the virus early last year. Well, that has brought connectivity issues for many religious institutions. The Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam in Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu has now sought to overcome this by embracing the digital platform. It is all set to launch a web TV in the name and style of Kamakoti TV. Coming up with the blessings of the current Shankaracharya, it will go live on the auspicious Vyasa Puja Day – July 24. The ostensible objective of launching a TV is to reach the programmes and events of the Mutt to devotees across the globe. Also, the devotees are assured of an ad-free experience of watching the Mutt programmes. Mutt followers – young and old alike – can now hope for a round-the-clock spiritual delight with the advent of Kamakoti TV.  Shri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham was established by Sri Adi Sankara in the year 482 BC and has the distinction of an unbroken line of 70 Acharyas.
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Future Tense: Madras School Of Economics Caught In Political Crossfire

Problems never come singly, it is often said. It has come in two in this instance. Two think-tanks are in Tamil Nadu. And, that is one TWO many for the political mandarins to care for. Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS) and Madras School of Economics (MSE) are two eminent policy institutions in the Dravadian land. They have consistently got sustenance in the form of active support from the Tamil Nadu Government. But there is a catch. And, the catch – nay the truth – lies somewhere in between.  The MIDS was founded with the blessings of late M Karunanidhi. While he ruled the state, MIDS was in the limelight. But MSE was patronised by AIADMK founder and former chief minister J Jayalalithaa.  Even after her demise, MSE found in her successor a well-wisher and reliable supporter. The Edapaddi Palanisamy regime was favourably disposed towards MSE, and encouraged free flow of advice from its expert team. With the DMK back in Fort St George with Karunanidhi’s son MK Stalin as the chief minister, how will these two institutions be viewed?  That the present finance minister of Tamil Nadu PTR Palanivel Thiagarajan is unhappy with the erstwhile AIADMK Government’s softness toward MSE is quite on record. Well, will the balance now shift towards MIDS? Think hard!
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With Titan Europe Exiting Wheels India Eyes Bigger Pie In The Global Market

Covid-19 has indeed re-jigged the world of business. And, it has realigned relationships as well in several instances. For some, this has turned out to be a new opportunity. One of the big things that happened last year at India’s largest auto component manufacturer Wheels India was the exit of Titan Europe by selling its stake to TVS group. With its exit, Wheels India, part of the TVS Group, can now sell all its products anywhere it wants. When Titan was around, the Chennai-based company had restrictions on where it could do business. A quarter of its turnover comes from exports. Having got out of the Titan bandwagon, Wheels India, led by managing director Srivats Ram, is now feeling free and is very much keen to explore its new found-freedom internationally. It is now eyeing a bigger pie in the global space. And, it has quietly moved toward realising this. A Rs 140-crore cast aluminium wheel plant is, in fact, the result of the de-risking strategy of a U.S. customer who has already committed off-take. A windmill project is currently underway. This too is the consequence of a strategic partnership with a windmill supplier who has decided to build a global base for his product in Chennai. A good portion of its Rs 100-crore capital expenditure will go into this new wind mill plant.
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Carnatic vocalist Bombay Jayashri

18 Celebs Auction Six-Yard Saris, Raise Hope For Covid-Hurt Artistes

Covid-19 has turned life topsy-turvy for everybody. For practitioners of classical art especially, the past few Covid-hit months have been excruciatingly painful. With Sabhas in Chennai, the Mecca of Carnatic music, shut and no live concerts, the artists have been caught in a pincer-like situation. On the one hand, their income flow has stopped. On the other, their live connection with the audience, too, has snapped. More than anybody else, the disadvantaged artists are worse off. These tough times call for mutual empathy and sympathy. Well, the pandemic has seen top female artistes in this part of the world coming out to aid fellow-artists who are in distress at the moment. Funds for the folks, and disadvantaged folks, at that! This is an initiative facilitated by Panchavarnam Silks. Eighteen top female artistes from the world of classical music and dance (Aruna Sairam, Bombay Jayashri, Sowmya, Chitra Visweshwaran, Sudharani Raghupathy, Priyadarsini Govind, Nityasree Mahadevan and others) have donated a six-yard sari each to help this cause. The saris were put on auction. The money thus raised will go to support the disadvantaged artistes and their families in these stressed-out times. These aren’t yards of fabric. Well, these 18 have given yards of hope to their fellow-artistes.
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L To R: Raghuram Rajan, Aravind Subramanian & S Narayan

Is Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Stalin Wooing The Brahmins?

Dravidian politics is hard to comprehend. Often, it is riddled with inconsistencies. How else could one interpret the composition of the just-announced economic advisory council (EAC) for Tamil Nadu? The MK Stalin-led government of the DMK has set up a high-profile EAC comprising Nobel laureate Esther Duflo (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Raghuram Rajan (former Governor of Reserve Bank), Aravind Subramanian (former Chief Economic Advisor to the Centre), Jean Dreze (Development Economist) and S Narayan (former Union Finance Secretary). Who said DMK is anti-Brahmins? Well, the just- formed EAC has three Brahmins – two high-profile ones at that! Rajan and Subramanian, in particular, turned much bigger than the institutions they headed. Narayan is all too well known in the political and bureaucratic circles in Tamil Nadu. If these three have roots in Tamil Nadu, the other two are rank outsiders. Not surprisingly, tongues have started wagging. DMK is a party which has vociferously articulated the cause of reservation in higher educational institutions and government jobs. In the formation of the state’s highest policy-advisory body, the DMK regime of Stalin appears to have quietly overlooked its own relentless demand for reservation for dalits, backward classes and the like. Is there a paucity of talent within Tamil Nadu? Inconsistency is the sign of development, it said. DMK has embarked on a growth path, it appears.
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Rising Cement Price Puts Stalin Govt In A Spot As Builders Lobby Play Victim Card

The MK Stalin-led DMK government in Tamil Nadu has just finished a month in office at Fort St George. But it has already come under intense flak from Opposition quarters. The reasons are not far to seek. Escalating cement prices has put the DMK government in a tight spot. The builders’ lobby has turned hyperactive now and accused the cement makers of competitive collusion. Builders have claimed that the retail cement prices have increased by 13% to Rs 520 a bag of 50 kg from Rs 460 in May. Of course, the builders’ lobby have also come down heavily on steel makers for rising prices. Now, the rising cement prices comes as an unsolicited stick to needle the nascent Stalin regime. Put on the defensive, the Stalin government has sort of sought to correct the `recalcitrant cement industry’ through discussions. The builder lobby has always projected itself as the victim in this cement price game. Never once did the builder lobby come out with any explanation for zooming flat cost! Often, politics (read politicians) ignores the hard economics of any business. How to cement this irreconciliation? That is hard to visualise in Dravidian politics.
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Chairman Anil Agarwal

Will Oxygen Leadership, New Political Dynamics Resuscitate Sterlite Copper TN Plant?

Sometimes, bad times unexpectedly bring good tidings for some. Almost pushed to the realm of history, Sterlite Copper, part of the Anil Agarwal-controlled Vedanta Group, has suddenly started breathing. Closed for a few years now in the wake of a police firing that killed close to a dozen people outside its plant at Thoothukudi (Tuticorn earlier) in Tamil Nadu, Sterlite Copper virtually got the oxygen when the Tamil Nadu government complied to a court directive to let the plant produce medical oxygen to meet the shortage caused by the deadly Second Wave of pandemic. No doubt the environment (read political) has changed in the Dravidian land with the return of the DMK to Fort St George. But the Corona-induced health dynamics too have brought a change in the anti-Sterlite sentiment in the State. Insiders indicate that the Sterlite Copper team has all of a sudden undergone a major metamorphosis at the top. Vedanta has reportedly named an old-timer Kishore Kumar as the new CEO of Sterlite Copper. The incumbent CEO, Pankaj Kumar, who navigated the Sterlite Copper during its tough phase is believed to have called it quits. Along with him, a top functionary has also reportedly resigned. What surprises long-time watchers of Sterlite is the suddenness with which the changes are made at the top. The top-level re-jig, especially the timing and suddenness of its implementation, has taken everybody completely off-guard.
KV Ramani

After Software Exports, KV Ramani Bets On Education With Sai University In Chennai

A soft spoken person, he is now ready to demonstrate his wares afresh. Indeed, he is unfolding a new future. Well, KV Ramani of Future Soft fame is now venturing out to set up a brand new private university. Established under the name and style of Sai University, it is aimed to integrate three fundamental pillars of education – learning, research and societal impact. The 104-acre campus in Chennai has been designed with an eye on maintaining a balance between modern aesthetic and cultural heritage. Ramani, the founder and chancellor of Sai University, played no small role in India achieving a pre-eminent place in the global information technology space. He was a co- founder of the IT industry body National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM), and served as its chairman during 1997-98.  Ramani is currently the CMD of Digital Holdings and the founder and managing trustee of Shirdi Sai Trust. A hugely successful technology entrepreneur, he is a prominent philanthropist now. He joined IBM as a graduate engineer in 1970. Later, he went on to found Future Software in 1985. He also co-founded Hughes Software Systems, a telecommunications software company in India, as a joint venture with the US firm Hughes Software in 1990. The board of Sai University comprises some illustrious names. Well, a new innings has just commenced for Ramani. For a man with a kind heart, providing quality education is not just a passion but a mission too.

TRENDS & VIEWS

We Have Created A New Segment That Has Resonated Well With Readers: Short Post Editor

Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come, said Victor Hugo a long time ago. I felt likewise. So instead of waiting endlessly for the Covid-19 tide to ebb, I decided to take the plunge and launch www.shortpost.in on January 28, 2021. This website, the first of its kind in the country, focuses only on short ‘Authentic Gossip’. Clearly, content is king more so if it is short & crisp (225 words), as a large section of our society is steadily shifting to digital and mobile space. To achieve this, I was fortunate to muster editorial support of some of the most senior and respected journalists in the country to bring out credible content that involves, stimulates and entertains our highly discerning readers — from across continents. We have so far uploaded close to 1,000 posts covering areas like Business, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment. Yes, today we have crossed an important milestone in our journey – #ShortPostFirstAnniversary —  and we are confident many more will follow in keeping with our stated vision – to become a one stop site for authentic gossip. So, what next?  With the third wave showing signs of slowing down things can only look better. So as the year rolls by we promise to pack in more punches. Before I sign off I would like to thank our advertiser IDFC FIRST Bank, angel investors Anuradha Verma, Ashish Kakkar and you readers for making this journey possible.