Fall in Canada is splendid. Around September to early October, for a couple of weeks every year, the changing leaf colours attract thousands of visitors. Two years ago, Dow India chairman Vipul Shah and his wife decided to take a trip to see the sight. There is this one train that goes to this place in Ontario, where the colours are at their best. It leaves early in the morning and returns from the small town of Sault Ste Marie.
The Shah couple was staying at a hotel across from the station to catch the early train. "We went down for dinner in the restaurant at the hotel. Both of us follow a totally vegetarian diet. So we asked the waiter what they could offer us," says Shah. "Give me a minute," said the waiter.
In My Years with Boss at Gemini Studios, Ashokamitran recounts a poet's visit. "He was a tall man, very English, very serious and of course very unknown to all of us. Battling with half a dozen pedestal fans on the shooting stage, The Boss [film producer and publisher SS Vasan] read out a long speech. It was obvious he knew little about the poet."
"Then the poet spoke. He couldn't have addressed a more dazed and silent audience... The whole thing lasted about an hour; then the poet left and we all dispersed in utter bafflement... What is an English poet doing in a film studio that makes Tamil films for the simplest sort of people?"
The usual dusty small-town India greets us as a small group of people associated with the NGO Caring Friends travel over two-and-a-half days through Aurangabad and Jalna to understand the problems in the region and what help could be given. On the face of it, people seem to be going about their normal life. Where are the signs of distress that we had read in the media? Don't girls and women in many parts of rural India carry water over long distances? Aren't water tankers a common sight in many towns and cities, including Mumbai?
The feeling that all is normal is broken the moment we see the dried up, shrivelled fields of sweet lime (mausambi) and cotton planted on thousands of acres along the way. When we stop to speak to people, the consensus is that this year's drought is worse than the one in 1972. But there is one major difference: There is no shortage of food this time around. Although we hear stories of cattle perishing and migration out of villages in search of work, fodder prices have remained remarkably stable.
The milieu at Shantivan, a garden in Mumbai's tony Malabar Hill area, on February 17 was like a hangover from Valentine's Day. Placards displaying messages like 'Love is all we need' were tied to tree branches and hearts were chalked with bounty throughout the green sprawl.
Except that it wasn't an ode to Cupid. The occasion was the second monthly lunch hosted by Seva Café. Omnipresent at the venue was a bespectacled man in khadi kurta-pyjama. He, along with other volunteers, was welcoming the guests and explaining the concept of the café-here, patrons aren't charged for the food they're served, instead they are free to pay whatever they want. Or, they can walk out without shelling out a single penny.
Over the past five years, the clamour about electric vehicles (EVs) becoming a feasible transport option has become loud. "It has all come together", is the refrain. "It" means four things: The battery has evolved to a point where it is cheap and reliable; governments recognise the need to move away from oil and are willing to provide incentives for people to buy EVs; consumers want vehicles that are light on their pocket; and carmakers realise that the future lies in going electric and not incremental developments to the internal combustion engine.
So, it should be no surprise that in the past few months electric mobility has occupied some mind space in India. In January, the ministry of heavy industries unveiled its ambitious Draft Action Plan for Electric Mobility 2020, which targets almost six to seven million vehicles on the road by 2020. This is unlikely to happen if the government does not do anything to help the EV ecosystem develop.
High-fliers are picky. Bone china in business class travel is so last decade. And large carriers are working very hard to woo the first and business class traveller into ever newer, even more exclusive experiences. Millions of dollars are being spent in the effort to lure the big spenders away from the siren songs of corporate jets.
This does not require a doctorate in travel to understand: Quite simply, profits from the premium cabins are often four to five times those earned from the economy class.
Last Designation: President and CEO, GE India
Any foreign investor entering the Indian civil aviation market will know the unwritten rule before making any public announcement of his intent: Always seek the blessings of the ministry beforehand.
Jet Airways chairman Naresh Goyal and Etihad CEO James Hogan, both well-versed in the workings of the Indian system, did just that before their planned equity link-up. In late January, they did the rounds of the corridors of power-meeting not only the civil aviation minister Ajit Singh, but also the finance minister and the minister for trade and commerce for good measure.
These days, any conversation on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) tends to evoke a very strong response. That's because there is a large section of business leaders who believe that the government's move to force companies of a certain size to spend at least 2 per cent of their profits on CSR is completely out of line.
There are many reasons that are put forward to support this line of thinking. And it is hard to argue with many of their concerns. One, spends could be utterly wasted in disparate activities that yield little or no social good. Two, this could potentially take the focus away from running the core business. Three, this is a case of abdication by the government. And finally, businesses are already doing enough by creating jobs and wealth. So why force them to do more?
We've all heard tragic stories about someone dying of cardiac arrest on the football field or during a board meeting. What we've heard next are related stories about what a stressful, over-leveraged lifestyle brings along with it. The fact is there are certain genetic mutations, highly prevalent in the Indian subcontinent, that increase the risk of chronic heart failures in individuals. But, what if there was a genetic test that people in the region could take that would help them prevent such catastrophes?
This is just one of the several precision DNA tests that Strand Life Sciences plans to offer, as it completes its Series B round of $10-million financing from Burrill & Co, a global financial services firm focused on the life science industry.