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Tata Sons In No Hurry To Call Board Meet To Decide Chairman Chandra’s Second Term

With rumours flying thick and fast, it is now reliably learnt that the Tata Sons, the holding company of the Tata Group, is in no hurry to call a board meeting to decide on the second term for its Chairman N Chandrasekaran. This means that Tata Sons is unlikely to hold a board meeting before September 14, 2021, the date of its virtual annual general meeting (AGM). Generally, a company’s board takes a call on providing an extension to its top brass, and then puts it to vote at AGMs.  According to sources in Bombay House, the headquarters of the Tata Group, Chandrasekaran’s tenure officially ends next year — February 2022 to be precise. Between now and then, there is a lot the chairman is entrusted with, and hence this won’t be an appropriate time to decide on his second term. Tata Sons’ board has the luxury of time on its hand, another six to seven months to decide on Chandra’s – as the 58-year-old is fondly called – second term. With many insiders and industry watchers expecting some announcements on September 14, however, the virtual AGM would be a keenly awaited event.
PK Puruvar

PK Purwar

Beleaguered BSNL’s 4G Plans Stuck In Limbo As Rival Telcos Rev Up For 5G

State-owned telecom behemoth Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd’s (BSNL) plans to launch 4G, at a time when private operators are on the verge of rolling out 5G services, seems to be jinxed. While the latest in the series is a Tata Consultancy Services-led consortium seeking changes in product specifications, in July BSNL’s board did not approve upgradation of its base transceiver stations (BTS) in two zones. The proposal to upgrade BTSs, supplied by Nokia in southern and western zones, did not get approval at the board meeting held on July 23, 2021, which was chaired by BSNL chairman and managing director PK Purwar. This was despite the proposal, which was estimated to cost a modest Rs 550 crore, was approved by BSNL’s management committee on July 1. However, its board, including two members from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and directors of BSNL, did not agree to the proposal and the agenda has been deferred to the next board meeting, which should take place before September 30, sources said. The mini-ratna firm was expecting the launch of 4G services, along with the Union Cabinet-approved revival plans, to help in its turnaround. For BSNL unions, this is a feeling of déjà vu, as there was a string of rejections to the PSU’s 4G equipment procurement and upgradation plans, the prior one being in December 2019.

DoT Yet To Get A Formal Call From Vodafone On BSNL Merger

Among its many attempts to stay afloat, beleaguered telecom operator Vodafone Idea Ltd (VIL) has offered to merge the firm with state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), another debt-laden company. Further, in an attempt to keep it afloat, VIL’s UK parent Vodafone Group Plc is also ready to offer its stake in the Indian company to BSNL for free. If a merger or stake exchange happens, VIL – which provides telecom services under the brand ‘Vi’ – would become a government entity, a move that would help it buy more time for raising funds. The company also hopes its spectrum dues would be kept in abeyance, giving it a much-needed lifeline. While the merger would bring in a number of synergies, including BSNL being able to provide 4G services, it also comes with a number of pitfalls. BSNL in itself is a loss-making firm, and a revival package approved by the Union Cabinet in 2019 is yet to bear fruit. Worse, the public sector unit is finding it difficult to pay salaries on time. Importantly, a formal communication from VIL or its promoters is yet to reach BSNL or its parent the Department of Telecommunications. “We might take a call depending on the contours of the offer, but we are yet to get a formal call,” a source in the telecom ministry said.

Now, BSNL Seeks Rs 39,000 Crore DoT Dues For Turnaround

On the brink of a collapse, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) was expecting the Union Cabinet approved 2019 revival package – which included a Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS), monetisation of assets and 4G rollout – to nurse it back to health. While the State-owned telecom behemoth implemented the VRS scheme in 2020, letting go of nearly 79,000 employees, the other plans in the package are yet to materialise. Forget being profitable, BSNL is now finding it difficult even to pay salaries on time. According to sources, the company is now seeking arrears of about Rs 39,000 crore from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to tide over the financial mess, rather than waiting for the implementation of the revival plan. This, according to the various unions and associations of the public sector unit, is under various heads such as salaries and pension contribution of officers deputed to BSNL by DoT, financial support to be provided for rural telephony services and cost of surrendered CDMA spectrum among others. Last week, the representatives of BSNL’s various unions and associations met Communications Minister Devusinh Chauhan and apprised him about the dues, and the delay in crediting of salaries and 4G rollout among others. The minister had assured to look into the issue, a source said, adding, “fingers crossed”.


Editor’s Note: Big Punch In Small Pack

It is the Third Anniversary of Short Post and as a news media startup launched during the Covid-19 pandemic it certainly feels better than good to find ourselves where we are today. Here, I must cite the unstinted support of our seasoned contributors, all senior editors in the country, who brought a great degree of maturity and sagacity to the Short Post newsroom. But for them, our tagline “Authentic Gossip”, an Oxymoron, would not have matured viably. Our user numbers may be small but our stories have created the desired impact among people who matter — decision makers and influencers. We offer a big punch in a small pack and Short Post with its 225-word stories has been punching above its weight category. Having posted close to 3,000 stories in the last 36 months, Short Post, I feel, is an idea whose time has come.
And this is vindicated by our two marquee advertisers – IDFC FIRST Bank and ICICI Lombard. Both believed in our story and have supported us from Day one. A big thank you to both.
If you look at the media landscape – print, TV and digital — it is a mixed bag. There are job losses as some outfits have closed down while a lucky few were bailed out by large corporate houses. Yes, there is a lot of action in the digital space. However, the entry of corporate houses has raised the question of independence of news media outfits. Sadly, there are just a handful of independent media outfits in the country that are highly respected for their neutrality. At Short Post, our credo is not to take sides, prejudge issues or be biased but, informing readers of behind-the-scenes happenings. In essence, Short Post strives to be a neutral editorial platform — neither anti-establishment nor pro-establishment.
As I said last year, disruptions in the media world are moving at a fast and furious pace. Technology is playing a very big role in how content is generated and consumed. But, we are neither alarmed nor perturbed as it is all a part of the evolution process. What gives us comfort is that AI is unable to create original gossipy content. And that is the news arena where we have achieved a distinction.