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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”.


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.