How 2006 will be best remembered for India

first_imgGoing MobileGOING MOBILE The seeds of the mobile revolution, sown way back in 1995, are now bearing fruit. Today India has over 130 million mobile phone-users, a growth of almost 80 per cent over last year. Teledensity has shot up to 16 per cent from11 per cent in 2005. Delhi,,Going MobileGOING MOBILEThe seeds of the mobile revolution, sown way back in 1995, are now bearing fruit. Today India has over 130 million mobile phone-users, a growth of almost 80 per cent over last year. Teledensity has shot up to 16 per cent from11 per cent in 2005. Delhi, in November, entered the elite international club of cities with over 10 million cellphone-users. Telecom operators focused on the B and C category regions such as Kerala and West Bengal, and J&K and Assam, respectively. The year 2006 also saw operators moving into the Rs 75,000-crore mobile retailing business. Two more operators, Hutch and Idea, were allowed pan-India roaming services. Calling rates hit rock-bottom. Slowly, but surely, the regional players were losing ground and national operators grew in strength and market share through their value added services. India surpassed China in the number of new cellphone subscribers added every month (six million every month against five million in China), and with new services such as 3G and WiMax on the anvil, the growth trajectory could only get sharper.GLITZ AND BIZ: The Gala Soiree at the 2006 meeting of the World Economic Forum in DavosDANCING IN DAVOSIndia Incorporated. India Everywhere they said, and India everywhere it was. For the five days of the World Economic Forum’s annual summit, the skislopes of Davos reverberated with the calls and colours of India’s most ambitious, artful and extravagant branding exercise ever. With India’s corporate stalwarts Nandan Nilekani, Y.C. Deveshwar, Anand Mahindra, S. Ramadorai and Mukesh Ambani as well as the Government’s A-team P. Chidambaram, Kamal Nath and Montek Singh Ahluwalia taking the lead, the extravaganza proved that India were the hosts, rather than the guests, at global business’ annual party. With billboards and beer-kegs, DJs and dance troupes, and an assortment of gifts-from pashmina shawls to iPods with Indian music, that all delegates found in their hotel rooms-it was the new India on display. But this soft-sell was backed by the largest and most high-powered Indian delegation to ever land on Davos. The 115-member team, which included India’s biggest success stories, was at its extrovert best, the stiff upper lip of yesteryear now waxing effusive and eloquent. Most importantly, on show was an India sans the China hyphenation, one that was ready to take on the world.SIGNING OFF: US President George W. Bush speaking at the White House before signing the Indo-US nuclear billNUCLEAR BUDDIESThe landmark agreement that promises to lift India out of 35 years of diplomatic isolation, would be a showpiece in the prize cabinets of both US President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The deal, pushed aggressively by both sides, found as many voices against it as it did for. The Henry J. Hyde United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006, as it has come to be known, sailed through despite the watering down of a number of potentially deal-breaking agreements. The final bill, initialled by President Bush, may still not be to the full satisfaction of of the Indian Government. But, the endorsement for the proposed bill around the world, and the offers for technology and fuel being hinted at, is evidence enough of how seriously the world considers India’s case. For India, a pariah in the international nuclear community till recently, it is a significant achievement.MODERN MASTERPIECE:Kiran Desai with her novelA GAINFUL INHERITANCEIronic that a book titled The Inheritance of Loss should be redemption for the Desais, whom Salman Rushdie calls the ‘first dynasty of modern Indian fiction’. Kiran Desai, in winning the 2006 Man Booker Prize for her second novel, did what her mother, Anita, couldn’t despite being shortlisted thrice. In the process, she also became the youngest-ever woman, aged 35, to be graced with the honour. With a story that leapfrogs between misty Kalimpong, musty colonial England and murky modern New York, she unwittingly became the voice of a new crop of Indian writers who look past the clichs of East and West and narrate the new globalised world as the seething cauldron of cultures it has become.Economy on a HighECONOMY ON A HIGHLooking at India’s 9.2 per cent GDP growth rate between July-September 2006, one would be inclined to agree with Finance Minister P. Chidambaram when he says, “It is a moment to savour”. India is now the second fastest growing economy, in the long-term perspective. This spurt in economic growth, reflected amply in the stock markets, has been propelled by not just the IT/ITES sector, but also financial services, tourism and hospitality and now, even manufacturing. After BPO, the new buzzwords are KPO and high-technology research in pharmaceuticals. While agriculture and mining continue to put the brakes on the economy, new efforts like the Indo-US Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture and a revision of policy on mining promise to help these sectors catch up with the rest. Much capital and hope is being invested in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, aimed at raising employment and consequently, standards of living, in rural India.The untapped potential of the middle-class consumer flexed its muscles this year, with disposable income rising fast, owing to a 22 per cent rise in salaries. Consumer giants, anticipating a saturation of demand in the metros, began scouting for opportunities in the untouched hinterland.BANG ON TARGET: Abhinav Bindra at the World Championships at Zagreb, CroatiaSHOOTING STARSMore than the Indian cricket team or its rising tennis stars, Indian shooters made the year their own, finally nailing the bulls eye that counted-the World Shooting Championships. In March, as expected, they dominated competition at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games with 16 golds in a total of 27 medals. Samaresh Jung’s five golds, one silver and one bronze made him the athlete of the Games. But Indian shooting was to enjoy its finest hour in Zagreb, Croatia, as Abhinav Bindra and Manavjit Singh Sandhu broke India’s long drought at the World Championships. Bindra, the 10m air rifle man, became world champion and was followed three days later by trap shooter Sandhu. Sandwiched between the two seniors was Navnath Farthate who took gold in the junior men’s air rifle event. The Asian Games success of veteran Jaspal Rana only reiterated a current sporting truism: put the Indian shooters in any competition any where, and someone is bound to come back firing. Even if they don’t win the best athlete award.STEEL DEAL: (L TO R) Tata Steel CEO B. Muthuraman, Chairman Ratan Tata, Corus Chairman Jim Leng and CEO Phillippe Varin in LondonTAKEOVER TIMESWith the Indian economy riding high, the domestic market seemed too small a playing field for Indian corporate players. This year, for the first time ever, India’s FDI outflows-primarily in the form of acquisitions-exceeded inflows. What made the news even sweeter was that the average value of acquisition deals rose five fold, to $150 million. After Laxmi Mittal’s takeover of Arcelor for $32 billion in June 2006 and Tata Steel’s $9-billion bid for Corus in October, Indian companies are now acknowledged as global corporate raiders. Corporate India is becoming hungrier, and is ever-ready to move in for the kill, in what is being called “reverse globalisation”. Case in point: Tata Coffee’s buyout of Eight O’clock Coffee of USA, a company 2.5 times its size, while wind energy firm Suzlon bought out Dutch firm Hansen International for $565 million. Indian business took on its ‘takeover tycoon’ avatar with newfound wealth, sky-high ambition and international managerial expertise.advertisementadvertisementlast_img

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