Saturday, December 6, 2008

Hong Kong to create 250K jobs through infra projects

Hong Kong's government aims to create 250,000 jobs by launching 10 big infrastructure projects in 2009, its financial secretary said on Saturday, in an effort to slow the growing jobless rate in an economic downturn.

"(The) Hong Kong SAR government will facilitate the launch of 10 major infrastructure projects next year, hoping to bring in 250,000 jobs," John Tsang said in a radio programme, adding he had urged all government departments to propose ways of creating more jobs.

He gave no time frame for the 250,000 job target. Tsang had said earlier this week that he expected Hong Kong's economy to worsen in coming few months. The government recently cut its 2008 GDP growth forecast to 3 to 3.5 percent from 4 to 5 percent.

The unemployment rate rose to 3.5 percent in August-October, from 3.4 percent in July-September quarter. The government said the jobless rate was a lagging indicator and had yet to truly reflect the impact of the global financial crisis.

Economists see it topping 4 percent within a few months as Hong Kong is now in recession and as a trading and financial hub is being hit by the global economic downturn. The jobless rate has come down from a record 8.5 percent in the past five years as the economy has rebounded, but it now looks set to rise sharply in the next year as a global economic downturn hurts Hong Kong businesses.

Source: Agencies

3M to cut 1,800 jobs globally in Q4

3M Co is cutting 1,800 jobs in the fourth quarter and ordering some workers to take vacation or unpaid time off for the last two weeks of the year.

3M spokeswoman Jackie Berry told the Star Tribune for a story posted Friday night that the worsening economy forced the cuts. She told the newspaper she didn't have a dollar amount on how much the company expects to save. The company is also postponing merit pay for next year, she said.

The Maplewood-based manufacturer had earlier announced 1,000 job cuts in the third quarter, which ended Sept. 30. The 1,800 new layoffs will come from the U.S., Western Europe and other developed nations.

Berry didn't say where specific cuts would be made, but told the Star Tribune "several hundred" will be in the United States.

Berry and other 3M spokespeople did not immediately return phone messages left by The Associated Press.

Along with the job cuts, 3M is pushing hundreds of workers to take vacation or unpaid time off for one to two weeks this month, the newspaper reported.

Berry said merit pay is normally distributed annually in April.

"What we have done is delay that merit increase," she said. "It's not part of the 2009 plan. However, that could change if the economic conditions are better than expected."

Source: Agencies

No raise for Hewlett-Packard employees

If you are a Hewlett-Packard employee, you don’t have a raise coming your way. According to an internal memo, the company plans to use the funds meant for raises and bonuses to fund pension plans and other benefits. Interestingly, the memo also indicates that the upper management has nothing to worry.

Employees have been notified by e-mail that they won’t receive a salary increase in fiscal 2009, which began in November. The world’s largest personal-computer maker is freezing salaries as part of Chief Executive Officer Mark Hurd’s efforts to contain costs. The company has already gone ahead and cut jobs, closed offices and merged data centers to lift profit. It is also limiting travel, curtailing hiring and eliminating “favorite science projects” to save on research costs in 2009, Chief Financial Officer Cathie Lesjak said last month on a conference call.

Hewlett-Packard, which has 320,000 employees, declined to confirm the salary freeze. “In this difficult macroeconomic environment, we believe it is prudent and responsible to reduce costs where possible,” said spokeswoman Emma McCulloch. “HP has a longstanding and disciplined approach to managing costs in order to invest in the company’s growth.”

Hewlett-Packard, based in Palo Alto, California, the shares have dropped 34 per cent this year.

Hurd, who became CEO in 2005, received $25.3 million in total compensation in fiscal 2007.

Source: Economic Times

No raise for Hewlett-Packard employees

If you are a Hewlett-Packard employee, you don’t have a raise coming your way. According to an internal memo, the company plans to use the funds meant for raises and bonuses to fund pension plans and other benefits. Interestingly, the memo also indicates that the upper management has nothing to worry.

Employees have been notified by e-mail that they won’t receive a salary increase in fiscal 2009, which began in November. The world’s largest personal-computer maker is freezing salaries as part of Chief Executive Officer Mark Hurd’s efforts to contain costs. The company has already gone ahead and cut jobs, closed offices and merged data centers to lift profit. It is also limiting travel, curtailing hiring and eliminating “favorite science projects” to save on research costs in 2009, Chief Financial Officer Cathie Lesjak said last month on a conference call.

Hewlett-Packard, which has 320,000 employees, declined to confirm the salary freeze. “In this difficult macroeconomic environment, we believe it is prudent and responsible to reduce costs where possible,” said spokeswoman Emma McCulloch. “HP has a longstanding and disciplined approach to managing costs in order to invest in the company’s growth.”

Hewlett-Packard, based in Palo Alto, California, the shares have dropped 34 per cent this year.

Hurd, who became CEO in 2005, received $25.3 million in total compensation in fiscal 2007.

Source: Economic Times

Slowing economy forces Tata Motors, M&M to shut plants

Indian auto makers Tata Motors Ltd and Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd are closing plants for up to 6 days in December as demand for vehicles is hit by tight financing in a slowing economy.

The country's top vehicle maker Tata Motors plans to shut its heavy vehicle plant in east India for six days, a spokesman said. It said earlier this week it would to shut a commercial vehicle plant in west India for three days.

Tata Motors', India's top bus and truck maker, November vehicle sales dropped 30 percent to 32,696 units. The country's biggest utility vehicle and tractor maker Mahindra said most of its automotive plants will be shut for up to 6 days in December due to easing demand.

"Taking into account the slowdown in demand for the company's products it has been decided to align the company's production plan with the expected demand for the month of December," Mahindra said in a statement.

Mahindra, which also makes the Logan sedan in a venture with Renault, earlier this week said vehicle sales in November fell 39 percent to 11,273 units. Carmakers in India have cut prices and are offering freebies to woo back buyers as sales slide after nearly five years of rapid growth.

Source: Agencies

Can a software predicts pollutants' path?

Researchers in Australia claim to have developed a software that can predict which way airborne odours and pollutants, from farms or factories, will actually blow.

According to them, the software package predicts local meteorology and assesses the likely pathway and concentration of pollutants as they disperse.

Lead researcher Dr Peter Hurley of CSIRO said: "The Air Pollution Model (TAPM) increases our ability to pinpoint pollutant behaviour in a wider range of atmospheric conditions.

"Over the coming years the new model will continue to fill a gap between simple air pollution dispersion models and the much more complex earth system models."

In fact, earlier versions of the software are widely used throughout Australia by researchers and consultants, as well as internationally by 190 customers in 25 countries.

From a one-dimensional model created by Dr Hurley's team in the mid-1990s, the software has now evolved into a complex environmental modelling tool with meteorological and air pollution components that will suit most local-scale environmental applications.

In Australia, the model has recently been used in Launceston where strong temperature inversions trap particulate emissions from wood fires, burning-off, vehicles and industry.

Some new research directions are also emerging, such as the use of TAPM coupled with CSIRO's complex chemistry model by CSIRO scientists Drs Martin Cope and Sunhee Lee. Applications include urban planning under future climate scenarios.

Source: Agencies

Will the slowdown benefit BPO industry?

Indian industry will feel the real impact of the current meltdown in the US and other developed economies in the first quarter of 2009, with the business process industry likely to see job losses of up to a quarter of a million, said Samir Chopra, President, Business Process Industry Association of India (BPIAI).

Addressing delegates at a session on 'Surviving US Recession- Developing & Transforming Policies', Chopra, however, saw a silver lining in the ongoing recession for the BPO sector, saying that it would compel more companies in the US and Europe to look at outsourcing as a way cut their costs and improve efficiencies.

He said that urgent government measures were needed to boost the domestic business process industry, specially the medium and small enterprises. These included both fiscal and administrative measures, like extending the tax relief for the IT sector for another 5-10 years and export promotion steps, including a market development fund. The session was organised here today by BPIAI in association with Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

According to him, the current situation had been impacted further by the recent terrorist carnage in Mumbai, which had hit sentiments across the board. "It has led to widespread cancellations of visit and even forthcoming international events. The government must now take suitable remedial steps to boost homeland security and the emergency response system."

For Anand Pillai, the current meltdown was an opportunity for the Indian BPO sector to add value to its services. This, he said, was important if they were to retain and expand their client base. Taking an optimistic view of the current slowdown, he said that a positive response and attitude would help shorten the recession cycle. "For this, it was important workplaces should engender learning, preparing employees for the turnaround, when it happens.

Citing the example of his company, HCL Technologies Ltd, Pillai said that "the core asset in any IT industry were its staff and cost-cutting through retrenchments was not the right policy to follow. The savings resulting from such job cuts are miniscule when compared to the damage they cause in terms of employee satisfaction and service delivery."

Disagreeing with Chopra that the current slowdown was temporary, Praveen Sengar, Head-Software, Services & Industry (Vertical Reserach), IDC India Ltd, said recovery from the last slowdown in 2001 had taken six quarters when the sectors affected were much less. "This time, I see a recovery only around the first half or the third quarter of 2010."

According to Sengar, the current slowdown was likely to slowdown expansion in the BPO industry, with the time taken for signing up new clients taking a longer period of time. "It will also result in greater consolidation and promote diversification into areas hitherto considered as non-core activities."

On his part, S N Zindal, former Director-General, Software Technology Parks of India, said that "it was not true that the Indian IT industry was in recession, though he agreed that there could be substantial decline in its growth rate. This is a period when the Indian IT industry, specially the BPO units, should build on their advantage by improving manpower, developing suitable infrastructure and having the right government policies in place."

Agreeing that the SMEs were the most vulnerable to any downturn, Zindal said that the right policies could help such units move up the value chain. He said that even as the slowdown continued in the US and other developed countries; such units could help tide over the crisis by expanding the domestic market.

Emphasizing the need for more reforms, Kiron Prabhakar, Partner, PAV Law Offices, said that amendments had been proposed several times to the Information Technology Act 2000, "but these are yet to see the light of the day". According to her, the other areas needing reform were Incomes Tax Act and the Stamp Duty Act apart from changes in the immigration laws.

Prabhakar also advocated doing away with the cap on royalty and knowhow fees, saying that were impeding technology transfer to Indian companies.Industry has been seeking a change in the labour regulations for quite some time and the government must ensure that these promote outsourcing, she added.

Proposing the vote of thanks, Deepak Ohlyan, Managing Committee Member, BPIAI, and Director, Dell International Services BPO, said that the recent terrorist incidents in Mumbai were a matter of great concern to Indian industry. He said that it was time for the domestic BPO industry to consolidate on its recent growth and prepare for the turnaround by upgrading both staff and services.

A panel discussion on the impact of the recent terrorist attacks on the business process industry was also organized on occasion, with participants seeking stronger government action and greater political will to tackle the situation.

Some participants in the discussion like Col K C Goswami, Consultant, Special Projects, G4S Security Services; Sanjog Gupta of NDTV, and Arjun Wallia, Founder & Chairman, Managing Director, Walsons -- A Securitas Partner Company, felt that the attacks were a wake-up call for the Indian industry to take immediate steps to improve physical security of their establishments. There was no time for complacency, they added.

Other speakers like Srinivas Pingali, EVP, Quatrro BPO Solutions Pvt Ltd, said that the BPO industry had been directly impacted by the attacks and "any such attack in the future could severely dent the prospects of the domestic industry. The immediate business impact has also been minimized by the forthcoming Christmas and New Year holidays."

Responding to a suggestion, Chopra agreed on the need for the association to come out with its own security standards for the BPO sector. This, he said, would reassure potential overseas investors and clients, even as they would enable domestic companies to be prepared for ongoing security audits and checks.

Source: Times of India

Do Internet users want more languages?

Which is the one language that the people of India aspire to learn? Which is the one language that most Indians use while communicating on the Internet?

The answer is English. But you obviously knew that.

At the Internet Governance Forum being held in Hyderabad, Ajit Balakrishnan, CEO of, said that there is no evidence from the last ten years of the Internet business that users want Indian languages. Rediff has email in 11 languages, and 99% of the users prefer to use email in English, says a report.

Balakrishnan believes that a majority of Indians use the Internet for non- or little language skill associated activities like sending send messages, download music, view pictures or videos. These activities hardly require text input/usage.

Interesting comment from the Rediff CEO so is he trying to say that the investment he made to make those 11 languages available for its users was futile?

Not really; in fact, it could be called future-ready. In the coming years when Internet penetrates into large sections of rural India, that's when the regional languages will come handy, perhaps?

Source: Techtree

Oil could plummet down to $25 a barrel!

Oil prices are likely to keep falling until well into next year and could reach $25 a barrel before recovering, US bank Merrill Lynch. In a research report published on Thursday, it said oil prices should begin to rally in the second half of 2009.

Merrill Lynch recently cut its forecast for the average price of US crude oil futures and North Sea Brent crude oil to $50 a barrel from a previous estimate for both crudes of $90.

"With demand vanishing across all key oil consuming regions, benchmark crude oil prices continue to plummet," it said. "In the short-run, market participants will focus on both OPEC and perhaps even non-OPEC producer responses to balance the market."

"A temporary drop below $25 is possible if the global recession extends to China and significant non-OPEC production cuts are required," it said.

"In our view, oil prices could find a trough at the end of Q1 2009 or early Q2 2009 with the seasonal slowdown in demand. Then, as economic activity starts to strengthen, we see oil prices posting a modest recovery in the second half of 2009."

Oil prices hit a peak above $147 a barrel in July but have fallen more than $100 since then as the severity of the global economic downturn has become clear.

Merrill Lynch said a combination of high oil prices and high leverage had proven dangerous for the global economy.

"On October 1, we lowered our average crude oil price forecast in 2009 to $90 per barrel based on a global GDP growth forecast of 3 percent. Since then, our economists have revised their 2009 global GDP growth forecast down to 1.3 percent, a scenario consistent with a global recession.

"As a result, we are now lowering our average WTI and Brent crude oil price forecast to $50 per barrel for 2009."

It said the major downside risk to its price forecast would be a revision of economic growth assumptions for China, which are currently at 8.6 percent for next year.

"In the short-run, global oil demand growth will likely take a further beating as banks continue to cut credit to consumers and corporations," it said. "We now expect an outright contraction in global oil demand in 2009."

Source: Economic Times

Desi 'open source' software a big hit

Open source software is breeding entrepreneurships worldwide. Playing a key role in this blooming industry are several Indian developers. With their open source software solutions, these developers are taking computing to millions of people across the country and globally.

In fact, many of these have emerged as best with names like Hindawi, Zmanda and Dhvani or KDE Hindi. These products are helping an entire new generation of software developers.

Hindawi ( is a multilingual programming language tool that allows users to write computer programmes in languages other than English. In other words, Hindawi breaks the English language barrier and lets users do programming in their mother tongue.

These include equivalents of C, C++, lex, yacc, assembly, BASIC, LOGO etc in Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Assamese and other Indian languages.

These languages are called Hindi C or Hindi assembly or Bangla C or Bangla assembly etc for common understanding. They even have different names; such as, the equivalent programming language of C in Indian languages is Shaili Guru, Indic C++ is Shaili Shraeni, Indic yacc is Shaili Vyaakaran and so on.

However, these languages are syntax-compatible with their traditional English counterparts and can, therefore, utilise the existing libraries such as glibc etc. In a manner similar to the way C++ is syntax compatible to C and hence can use most of the C libraries.

WANem is a Wide Area Network Emulator, meant to provide a real experience of a Wide Area Network/Internet, during application development/testing over a LAN environment.

Typically application developers develop applications on a LAN while the intended purpose for the same could be, clients accessing the same over the WAN or even the Internet.

WANem thus allows the application development team to setup a transparent application gateway which can be used to simulate WAN characteristics like Network delay, Packet loss, Packet corruption, Disconnections, Packet re-ordering, Jitter, etc.

WANem was developed by three software professionals Manoj Nambiar, Hemanta Kumar Kalita and Debadatta Mishra all from India's largest IT company TCS.

The software was built to provide WAN access to the entire team since other WAN emulators were hardware-based, expensive and available to only a select few in test labs.

Zmanda Recovery Manager
Zmanda is an open source backup and recovery solution. Zmanda Recovery Manager aims to simplify the life of a database administrator with a simple-to-use yet robust recovery manager for the MySQL Server. It is a perl-based utility.

With ZRM for MySQL, network adminstrators can schedule full and incremental backups of their MySQL database. And also start immediate backup or postpone scheduled backups based on defined thresholds.

Network administrators can choose to do more flexible, logical or faster raw backups of their database, backup remote MySQL database through a firewall, get email notification about the status of backups and receive MySQL backup reports via RSS feeds and monitor and browse backups.

They can even define retention policies and delete expired backups, recover a database easily to any point in time or to any particular transaction, eg just before a user made an error.

Zamanda was founded by Chander Kant who is the company's CEO. A Masters in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a BS in Computer Science from the IIT, Kanpur, Kant was named one of the "Top 20 Linux Luminaries" by Linux World Magazine in 2004.

Dhvani is text-to-speech system for Indian languages. It is a framework to develop Indian Language text to speech system. It can serve as a backend for speech synthesisers in Indian Languages, in conjunction with a language-specific text-to-phonetics module.

The software uses images in conjunction with voice output in local languages to make the computing device accessible to a larger section of the Indian population.

Currently, Dhvani has a phonetics-to-speech engine which is capable of generating intelligible speech from a suitable phonetic description in any Indian language. In addition, it is capable of converting UTF-8 text in Hindi and Kannada to this phonetic description, and then speaking it out using the Phonetics-to-Speech engine.

Current C- GNU/Linux implementation supports Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Gujarati, Bengali, Telugu, Punjabi, Tamil and Oriya. The project was started by Simputer project head Dr Ramesh Hariharan, IISc, Bengaluru.

MayaVi is an open source tool that allows easy and interactive three-dimensional visualisation of data. It is written in Python and uses the Visualization Toolkit (VTK) for the graphics.

In 2000, Prabhu Ramachandran, then an IIT Madras aerospace engineering student, started work on the MayaVi project with his colleagues to visualise computational fluid dynamics data.

"Popular tools available for the purpose at that time were proprietary and prohibitively expensive," noted the Linux For You magazine, published from Delhi, which has announced its FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) India Awards for those involved in a "saga of innovation".

MayaVi is a scientific data visualiser. It is written in Python and uses the Visualisation Toolkit (VTK) for visualisation.

MayaVi2, the next generation of MayaVi, is currently under development.

JTrac is a customisable issue-tracking Web-application written in Java. JTrac can be installed in a few minutes without having to type any commands.

Designed to be generic, users can customise fields to track items (like bugs) and allocate tasks etc. It's a lightweight J2EE application built on the Spring Framework.

It has support for file-attachments and email integration. JTrac also offers customisation options, especially in the areas of workflow and field-level permissions and compares well to even commercial tools.

Another from the Indian winners is TuxType which five students of the Government Engineering College at Thrissur built Unicode Malayalam support.

It is an educational typing tutor for children. It features several different types of gameplay, at a variety of difficulty levels.

TuxType ( became the first FOSS typing tutor to bundle Unicode support for Indian languages at a time when Indian language solutions in computing were eagerly awaited.

TuxTyping is an educational typing tutorial game featuring Tux, the Linux Penguin. The player guides Tux to eat fish which are falling from the top of the screen. The game is intended for children learning to type. Also, it has higher difficulty levels which even experienced typists may find challenging.

DeepOfix features claim to be one of the quickest and simplest operating system installers written for Dhvani. According to the software developer, users don't need to have any prior experience on GNU/Linux for this. A user can complete the server installation with just 15 simple questions and within 25 minutes.

DeepOfix is one of the few GNU/Linux operating systems to ship with built-in and pre-integrated support for LDAP.

LDAP support in DeepOfix goes beyond installation -- in DeepOfix LDAP is not just installed, but also configured as the default store for user account data and password information.

Source: Times of India

2.5 lakh may lose jobs in BPO sector

Business Process Outsourcing firms are likely to see 2.5 lakh job losses by the first quarter of 2009 in the wake of downturn in the US and other developed economies, BPO industry association said.

Though the industry is likely to see thousands of job losses, the silver lining is that the recession would compel more companies in the US and Europe to look at outsourcing as a way to cut costs and improve efficiencies, the Business Process Industry Association of India (BPIAI) President Samir Chopra said.

Praveen Sengar, Head-Software, Services & Industry (Vertical Reserach), IDC India Ltd saidthe slowdown is likely to impact expansion plans of the industry, as the time taken for signing up new clients is taking longer time.

"It will also result in greater consolidation and promote diversification into areas hitherto considered as non-core activities," Sengar said.

Chopra said that urgent government measures are required to boost the industry, specially for the medium and small enterprises.

Both fiscal and administrative measures like extending tax relief for another 5-10 years and export promotion steps, including market development fund is need of the hour, Chopra said.

He further said the terrorist attacks in Mumbai has led to the widespread cancellations of visits and forthcoming international events.

Source: Times of India

Friday, December 5, 2008

As crisis drags on; layoffs mount globally

Credit Suisse and Nomura Holdings announced big job cuts on Thursday, further evidence the global financial crisis is unrelenting for an industry battered by heavy losses and weak markets.

The 5,300 layoffs by the Swiss bank and a further 1,000 in London by Japan’s biggest broker are the latest in the global financial sector which has now seen over 150,000 jobs culled since September when Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy.

Of these, more than 50,000 were at Citigroup, which has made more writedowns than any other bank in the world during the crisis.

While the axe had been falling for months in the industry, Lehman’s fall sparked carnage in financial markets and reshaped the industry landscape, resulting in job losses from New York to Singapore to Mumbai. “I don’t think people really know what’s next. It depends on sentiment, which will in turn drive credit markets, which in turn will weigh on banks or not,” said a London-based equities trader.

From the United States to Asian export giant Japan to European powerhouse Germany, the world’s top economies are now in recession as the global crisis deepens.

They are not the only ones with Singapore, New Zealand and Hong Kong also joining in. The losses at banks are increasing. Credit Suisse said on Thursday it made a net loss of about 3 billion Swiss francs ($2.5 billion) in October and November.

It has already cut 1,800 jobs this year and said this week it would cut 650 investment banking jobs in Britain. “Investment banking had a significant pretax loss, reflecting the challenging conditions in the financial markets in the quarter and the costs associated with risk reduction,” the bank said.

Credit Suisse’s shares jumped 8% in European trade in a broader market up 1.6%.
In Asia, Nomura, Japan’s biggest brokerage, said the decision to cut as much as 22% of its London staff followed an internal review after the purchase of the Asian, European and Middle Eastern assets of Lehman Brothers.

Nomura had said the purchase of parts of Lehman Brothers would help the Japanese brokerage achieve its profit target despite poor financial market conditions. “This is a natural move,” said Azuma Ohno, a brokerage analyst at Credit Suisse Securities in Japan.

“Once Nomura bought Lehman, it cannot continue Japanese-style life-time employment. It needs to be flexible in costs to be profitable.”Australia’s top investment bank, Macquarie Group, is cutting 10 to 15% of its jobs in Asia, two sources said last week.

Banks are axing jobs across Asia and even in countries such as India, where investment bankers were snapped up feverishly in the last few years in anticipation of strong initial public offerings and M&A markets. “The layoffs will come in phases and will stretch into 2009,” said Singapore-based Will Tan of Webbe International, an executive search firm specializing in the financial sector.

The job cuts from Nomura and Credit Suisse came a few hours after a report of layoffs at Bank of America. Bank of America CEO Kenneth Lewis said the bank is in the “final stage of our analysis” for planned job cuts following its purchase of Merrill Lynch, the Charlotte observer said on its website on Wednesday. Layoffs have also gathered pace at fund management firms.

State Street, one of the world’s biggest institutional money managers, said on Wednesday it plans to lay off as many as 1,800 people, or 6% of its staff, in the first three months of 2009. Private equity firm Carlyle Group is cutting about 100 jobs — around 10% of its staff — a source familiar with the situation said. The reductions are the first major cuts made by a large US private equity firm since the global economic crisis hit.

Middle market investment bank Jefferies Group will slash nearly 15% of its employees worldwide and close offices in Dubai, Singapore and Tokyo as it contends with heavy losses for 2008.

Source: Reuters

AT&T likely to cut 12,000 jobs

AT&T, the largest US phone company, will cut 12,000 jobs, striving to trim expenses as the US economy falters. The reductions amount to about 4% of the workforce, Dallas-based AT&T said on Thursday in a statement.

The company plans to record $600 million in expenses for severance this quarter. The reductions would bring AT&T’s total job cuts to more than 25,000 this year. The carrier and its smaller competitors are grappling with slowing consumer spending and a jobless rate at its highest level in 14 years.

AT&T fell 18 cents to $28.90 in early trading after closing at $29.08 on Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange. The carrier also plans to reduce spending next year to cope with the slowdown, with plans to give specific forecasts for 2009 spending plans in late January.

The carrier said its still adding jobs in its wireless and video units. In July, the company said it would eliminate 10,000 jobs to reduce overlap in some departments after its 2006 purchase of BellSouth Corp. Before that, the company announced 4,650 cuts, some in its home-phone business, which has lost customers to cable operators and wireless competitors.

Source: Agencies

Recession times, HP freezes on pay hike!

Hewlett-Packard, the world’s largest personal-computer maker, is freezing salaries as part of chief executive officer Mark Hurd’s efforts to contain costs, people familiar with the plan said.

Employees have been notified by e-mail that they won’t receive a salary increase in fiscal 2009, which began in November, according to two people who asked not be identified because the message was confidential. The only exceptions will be in countries where pay freezes are illegal, the two people said.

Hurd has cut jobs, closed offices and merged data centers to lift profit, even as he expands through acquisitions. Hewlett-Packard also is limiting travel, curtailing hiring and eliminating favorite science projects to save on research costs in 2009, chief financial officer Cathie Lesjak said last month on a conference call. Hewlett-Packard, which has 3,20,000 employees, declined to confirm the salary freeze.

In this difficult macroeconomic environment, we believe it is prudent and responsible to reduce costs where possible, said spokeswoman Emma McCulloch. HP has a longstanding and disciplined approach to managing costs in order to invest in the company’s growth.

Hurd, who became CEO in 2005, received $25.3 million in total compensation in fiscal 2007. Worldwide technology spending growth will slow to 2.6% next year, less than half the rate initially predicted, research firm IDC said last month. Growth in the US will decelerate to 0.9%, the Framingham, Massachusetts-based company estimated.

Hewlett-Packard’s PC sales, which account for about a third of revenue, rose 10% to $11.2 billion last quarter, beating some estimates. Demand for notebooks offset declining printer sales in a shrinking economy. Last month, Hurd forecast a rise in profit to as much as $4.03 a share this fiscal year, more than the $3.89 anticipated by analysts in a Bloomberg survey. Investors took that as a sign the company is prepared to squeeze more profit out of sales as customers reduce spending.

It will be a challenging environment and were planning on such, Hurd, 51, said on a November 23 conference call with reporters. We can only control the things we can control, which is our cost structure and the competitiveness of our products.

Also in India
A HP employee in Bangalore said that employees in India too had received a mail from the company saying there wouldn’t be any salary increase in fiscal 2009. Salary increases in India’s technology sector have been amongst the highest in the world in the past few years. If HP does not hike salaries in fiscal 2009, this would be the first time in many years that a major technology company in India would be avoiding a salary increment.

Source: Agencies

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Infosys Technologies will freeze new recruitments

Infosys Technologies will freeze recruitment after meeting this fiscal year's target of hiring 25,000 staff, a telling sign the Infosys global downturn is hitting India's $52 billion outsourcing sector.

India's second largest software services firm however has no plans to cut jobs and is sticking with its third quarter outlook, CEO Kris Gopalakrishnan told reporters.

He said the outsourcing sector's growth rate would halve next year as some customers delay orders.

"Last year the IT industry grew more than 30 percent, this year it is looking at somewhere in the region of 15 percent," Gopalakrishnan said.

India's export-driven IT sector, used to a scorching pace of growth, has been hit by the financial crisis and recession in the United States, which contributes more than half their revenue.

In the last few years, the outsourcing industry has created tens of thousands of jobs, mainly attracting young workers, as global companies look to trim labour costs.

Infosys hired 16,000-17,000 employees in the first half of the fiscal year that began in April and would honour commitments to 6,000 under training, Gopalakrishnan said.

Infosys, which counts Goldman Sachs and Philips Electronics among its clients, cut its full-year dollar revenue outlook in October due to the worsening global downturn.

Gopalakrishnan said on Thursday the company would freeze fresh recruitment, apart from meeting specific skill needs.

"We will have to look at controlling our cost, controlling our expenses making sure that we run an optimised business. We will have to look at what are things we need to do in order to prepare ourselves for the recovery."

"Growth is coming more and more from emerging markets so hese are the things we need to prepare ourselves. We should not lose momentum in this slowdown," he said.

But Infosys still expects its strong client base and a weakening rupee to help it meet a forecast for December quarter earnings of $0.57 a share. The rupee has fallen nearly six percent so far this quarter against the dollar.

"Infosys is seeing further degradation of the demand environment, with headwinds from leadership changes at customers, a shrinking large deal pipeline .... Pricing pressure has emerged," CLSA Asia-Pacific said in a report this week.

Billionth mark for Logitech mouse

Even as the discussions are on whether the technology called 'mouse', which is celebrating its birthday on next Wednesday (December 10), would soon be an extinct species in another couple of years, leading mouse manufacturer Logitech announced that it has shipped its billionth mouse.

"We've just done something that makes us all very proud at Logitech – we've shipped our one billionth mouse. How cool is that!?," read a blog posting by Rory Dooley, senior vice president, Control Devices, Logitech. "When all of this started for Logitech back in the early '80s, the mouse was primarily a tool for CAD (computer-aided design applications). Since then, the mouse has become something much more – it is truly the key to the kingdom – the device that unlocked the power of the computer."

He said the mouse opened up computing to the average person by providing a simple, intuitive way to interact with the computer.

Logitech has enthusiastically driven nearly every major innovation in mouse technology – persistently refining this ubiquitous interface between people and their digital experiences, said a press release.

With more than a billion people currently using computers worldwide and another billion expected to begin using computers by 2014, according to a report by analyst firm Gartner, Logitech continues to pursue compelling innovation to delight users of the next billion mice and input devices of the future, it said.

Founded in a farmhouse in Apples, Switzerland in 1981 and shortly thereafter establishing strong ties in Silicon Valley, Logitech introduced its first retail mouse in 1985 and reached the 100 millionth mouse mark in 1996, the company said.

"Since the first click of the Logitech P4 mouse in 1982, Logitech mice have played an indispensable role in the evolution of the personal computer," said Gerald P. Quindlen, Logitech president and chief executive officer.

"During the last few decades, the way people use computers has changed dramatically – what was once strictly a business tool has become highly integrated into our personal lives," he added.
Quindlen said Logitech has continually pursued innovations to meet those changing conditions, introducing – in the last five years alone – the world's first laser mouse, hyper-fast scrolling and the nano-receiver.
In celebration of its billionth mouse, Logitech is launching a worldwide contest that invites people to follow the travels of this notable mouse – from the manufacturing line to its final destination – and to try to figure out where in the world it will end up.

Logitech also said that the mouse's journey will be chronicled on Logitech's blog, Blogitech (

Here is how Google is cutting costs!

Feeling the pinch of the global economic slowdown and the US recession in particular, Google, the Internet search engine giant, is resorting to austerity measures, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Prominent among them include cutting new projects, ratcheting back spending, chipping away at perks and reducing employee strength. Such measure from Google, which is known for its generous perks, has come as a surprise to many industry watchers.

The latest Google measures are understandable as its revenue growth has slowed down dramatically over the past one year.

“We have to behave as though we don't know what's going to happen,” Google chief executive Eric Schmidt was quoted as saying by The Wall Street Journal.

The company will curtail the “dark matter,” Schmidt said, projects that “haven't really caught on” and “aren't really that exciting.”

Schmidt said the company is “not going to give” an engineer 20 people to work with on certain experimental projects anymore. Popular social networking site Orkut was a product of this experiment by Google. Schmidt, however, promised to get this back when things improve.

Google executives had started preparing for the slowdown about a year ago, but things have now accelerated. In recent weeks, Schmidt has held meetings with top executives to determine where to focus investment more narrowly, the Journal said.

Top priorities include display ads, which use graphics and appear on Web pages; advertising on mobile phones; and the company's online business software.

Schmidt says the company is shifting more engineering and sales resources to those areas, and away from less-promising projects. Teams on projects the company is merely "fiddling with," he says, will get "naturally smaller as people get plucked off,” the report said.

The Wall Street Journal said the financial crisis has created a new sense of urgency within the company. Top executives say they remain committed to projects they believe hold long-term potential, but are prepared to “starve” lesser ones.

40pc of large businesses cut their IT budgets

More than 40 percent of large businesses have cut their IT budgets this year due to the global economic slowdown, according to a new survey by Forrester Research. The Forrester Business Data Services report surveyed nearly 950 senior IT managers across North America and Europe regarding their IT services spending and overall services strategies and priorities.

The economy’s affect on IT spending is evident in some specific data points contained in the report: Forty-three percent of firms have already cut their overall IT budgets in 2008 in reaction to the slow down in the global economy, while 24 percent of firms have put discretionary spending on hold. Twenty-eight percent of respondents said the economy has had no impact on their IT budgets.

Asked how the economy will affect IT services spending, 70 percent of respondents said they will likely negotiate lower rates with suppliers, and 16 percent said they have already cut their IT services spending.

IT departments in the financial services industry were hit hardest — 49 percent of IT shops in the financial services sector have cut their budgets. At the other end of the spectrum is the media, entertainment, and leisure industry, where only 39 percent of respondents said they have had to reduce spending.

IT departments in North America have been affected by the economy more than their European counterparts: 49 percent of North American firms have cut their IT budgets compared with 31 percent of respondents in Europe; although it should be noted that the Forrester survey was fielded in Q2 2008 prior to the deteriorating economic conditions in Europe.

“This is not an across-the-board spending slowdown; the impact of the economy on IT budgets varies widely by industry and geography,” said Forrester Research vice president and principal analyst John C. McCarthy, who is in India at present for a workshop. “With regard to the services sector, the slowdown has firms renegotiating rates, being more selective in choosing vendors, and examining spending plans more thoroughly, but they are still expecting to pay more for services. The demand for enterprise IT services has not dropped significantly.”

Regarding the state of spending on enterprise IT services, the report illustrates a number of trends: The demand for services holds steady. Forty-five percent of firms plan to increase their use of applications outsourcing, while 43 percent of firms are increasing their use of infrastructure outsourcing. Forty-three percent of respondents said they are moving more work offshore.

Infrastructure outsourcing expects to grow. Convergent telecommunications and network management is a hot area of growth as 20 percent of firms will outsource this service in 2008.
Few firms have fully tapped into offshore resources. Only 9 percent of firms use offshore resources wherever and whenever possible. A growing number of firms are interested in exploring more offshore work, with 14 percent ramping up use, 19 percent piloting, and 22 percent not using offshore but actively tracking developments. Of those firms not sending work offshore, a majority cite the questionable quality of the work done.

Satisfaction with outsourcing remains low. While overall firms are satisfied with their decision to use a third party, 52 percent say their biggest challenge with existing IT services and outsourcing relationships is that cost savings are lower than expected. Other noteworthy challenges include inconsistent or poor service quality (40 percent) and the inability of the vendor or contract structure to respond rapidly to changing business needs (35 percent).

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

US slides in slowdown in December 2007; Longer than average

The United States economy officially sank into a recession last December, which means that the downturn is already longer than the average for all recessions since World War II, according to the committee of economists responsible for dating the nation’s business cycles.

In declaring that the economy has been in a downturn for almost 12 months, the National Bureau of Economic Research confirmed what many Americans had already been feeling in their bones. But private forecasters warned that this downturn was likely to set a new postwar record for length and likely to be more painful than any recession since 1980 and 1981.

The Dow Jones Industrial average plummeted 443.80 points (5.03%) to 8,385.24 at 1807 gmt after five winning sessions. The techheavy Nasdaq slid 94.57 points (6.16%) to 1,441.00 and the broadmarket Standard & Poor’s 500 index dropped 53.86 points (6.01%) to 842.38. Part of the drop may have reflected profit-taking after last week’s surge in stock prices,but it also came in response to new data showing that manufacturing activity dropped to its lowest point in 26 years.

Both the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben S Bernanke, and the Treasury secretary, Henry M Paulson Jr, vowed to use all the tools at their disposal to restore a measure of normalcy to the economy.

Bernanke, speaking to business leaders in Austin, Tex, said it was “certainly feasible” to reduce the Fed’s benchmark overnight lending rate below its current target of 1%, signaling that the Central bank would lower the rate at its next policy meeting in two weeks.

Investors reacted to Bernanke’s remarks by pouring money into longer-term Treasury bonds, which briefly pushed already-low yields on 10-year and 30-year Treasuries to new record lows. Investors appeared to be reacting mainly to the clear signal from Bernanke that the Fed was preparing to pump money into the economy by buying up longer-term bonds.

Paulson, in a speech in Washington on Monday, vowed to look at new ways to use the $700 billion bailout fund that Congress approved in October. In Congress, Democratic leaders are drawing up a huge new fiscal stimulus plan that could total more than $500 billion. Democrats said they planned to have the measure ready as soon as Congress convened with a strengthened Democratic majority in January. Meanwhile, Democrats could take up legislation next week that would provide financial assistance to the automobile industry.

President Bush, increasingly the odd man out in the last weeks of his term, said his administration would do whatever was necessary to safeguard the system.

Many analysts said they saw no signs yet that the economy was nearing a bottom. American consumers, who for decades have been the country’s tireless source of growth when all else failed, have cut back on their spending more sharply than at any time since the early 1980s.

In officially declaring that the current recession began in December 2007, the National Bureau of Economic Research paid little heed to the fact that the nation’s GDP product actually expanded slightly in the first and second quarters of 2008.

Source: Agencies

Fourteen Indians commit suicide every hour!

Fourteen people commit suicide every hour in India due to various reasons, ranging from failure in relationships, bankruptcy, illness and social disrepute. One among every three suicide victims is a youth and one among five is a house wife.

These are some of the findings of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) which came out with the latest figures on accidents and suicides in the country.

According to the 'Accidental Deaths and Suicide in India – 2007' report, the country witnessed an increase of 3.8 per cent in the incidents of suicide with 1,22,637 people ending their lives last year. The number of women was 43,342.

Maharashtra has reported the highest number of suicides with 15,184 cases accounting for 12.4 per cent of such incidents followed by Andhra Pradesh with 14,882 (12.1 per cent). The report said 264 deaths came under common pact of mass or family suicides consisting 118 men and 146 women.

The highest number of such cases were reported from Kerala (39), followed by Andhra Pradesh (34) and Madhya Pradesh (12).

Family problems and illness were other causes for suicide, accounting for 23.8 per cent and 22.3 per cent respectively. Failure in relationships (2.8 per cent), bankruptcy (2.7) and dowry dispute (2.6) were other major factors.

Ending life due to ideological affiliations and hero worship, a disturbing trend witnessed in the late 1970s and early '80s, claimed 261 lives.

Out of a total of 27,332 people who committed suicide due to illness, 952 had AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases while 794 had cancer and 496 were paralysed. Among AIDS or STD patients who committed suicide, 334 were women. The maximum number of people who took their life in this category were in the age group of 30 to 44 years.

Seven boys and three girls below 14 years also "committed suicide" as they had AIDS or STD, the report said.

Consuming poison and hanging were the means mostly adopted by those who committed suicide. While 34.8 per cent of the total victims chose to consume poison, 31.7 per cent preferred hanging.

The report said housewives accounted for 55.7 per cent (24,162) of the total female victims which are nearly 19.7 per cent of total who committed suicide.

While government servants were merely 1.5 per cent, private and public sector personnel have accounted for 8.2 per cent and 2.2 per cent respectively.


Is the computer mouse on the verge of extinction at 40?

The computer mouse, which was invented back in 1968 by Doug Engelbart and his team at the Stanford Research Institute in California, is facing extinction since the new technology might replace it. The computer mouse, which is now 40 years old, was developed after the team realized that there was a need for a simpler way of controlling computers than the standard light pen which had been used since the Second World War.

The mouse got its name since it quite resembled the animal and it was termed such by one unnamed researcher.

However, sadly it comes to light that on the eve of its 40th birthday, which is being celebrated next week when Engelbart returns to Stanford, the mouse could be facing death at the hands of new technology. The future is quite certain with the control methods of both the Wii and iPhone creeping in.

It is a well known fact that many laptop users already choose to use the built-in touchpad rather than a mouse. Moreover, touchscreens are now a reality rather than a science fiction. So sadly we may say that the mouse would be no more around us, since it would be replaced with a much more natural and user-friendly way of controlling the technology we use every day.

Severe shortage; Canada woos skilled Indian workers!

Here's good news for engineers, technicians and other skilled workers wanting to work abroad. Canada is trying to attract young talent from countries like India by relaxing norms for visas in this category, says a Canadian immigration expert.

'There is an acute shortage of skilled workers in Canada and the situation will worsen in the next 5-10 years unless the government makes an effort to attract talent from a young country like India,' said Curtis Panke, director of global operations for the Ontario-based Global Placement Services.

Pointing out that the retirement age for most occupations in Canada is 55 years, he said in the next five years, more than 20 percent of the country's engineers, doctors, professors and geologists would retire.

'This huge void cannot be filled with domestic talent alone. If we do not attract the talent from outside, there will be a talent vacuum of up to 70 percent in the next 10 to 15 years,' Panke told the media.

Keeping all this in mind, he said, the Canadian government has made vital changes in its immigration policy and relaxed certain norms for a Canadian visa in the skilled worker category.
The latest fast track processing of visa applications in the federal skilled worker category ensures a Canadian visa in a shorter period of just 6-12 months, pointed out Panke.

The Canadian government has issued a list of 38 high-demand occupational categories, including health, finance, engineers, heavy-duty mechanics, industrial technicians, food service managers and other skilled trades.

Panke is in Punjab to gauge the talent pool available and to conduct seminars all over the state in collaboration with the city-based World Wide Immigration Consultancy Services (WWICS), which has sent over 60,000 families and around 250,000 individuals to Canada till date.

'There are thousands of Punjabis in Canada, who are doing extremely well in their professions and contributing to the country's economy. Comparatively, we have more applicants from this region if we compare it with other states in India,' stated Panke.

Asked about the impact of global recession on the Canadian economy, Panke said a majority of the organisations and companies there would be unaffected in the long run. 'There is some impact but all this is a temporary phase and will pass very soon. Moreover, there is no impact on the openings available under skilled category there and Canada is looking forward to employ skilled workers in a big way.'

Talking about Canada's federal investor category for permanent residency in the country, Lt Col (retd) B.S. Sandhu, chief managing director of WWICS, said: 'An investor is only needed to invest Rs.5 million in some flourishing trade in Canada and can relocate there under the Canadian Investor Program.'

The applicant, under this category, only needs to have a work experience of two years and no language proficiency test like IELTS is required, he added.

Source: Agencies

AIG to sell its Swiss unit

Troubled insurance giant American International Group will be selling its Swiss arm AIG Private Bank to an Abu Dhabi-based global investment firm.

In this regard, AIG has entered into an agreement with Aabar Investments PJSC (Aabar) to sell its subsidiary, the insurance firm said in a statement.

According to UK daily ‘The Telegraph’, the Swiss subsidiary would be sold for about $254 million.

The move is one of the major sale of asset by the battered AIG, after receiving a lifeline worth $153 billion from the Federal government.

The statement noted that under the new ownership, AIG Private Bank would become an independent financial institution, headquartered in Switzerland along with branches and representative offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore and Dubai.

Source: Agencies

A lot more job cuts coming?

We are witnessing the worst of financial services job cuts in history? Well, here's one way to look at it: If banks were bent on maintaining their compensation ratio--that is, their compensation costs as a percentage of revenues--they would have to lay off many, many more employees, says a financial analyst.

It says the results of its analysis "range from the farcical (Merrill Lynch) to the disturbing (Credit Suisse), and the reassuring (Goldman and Morgan Stanley)." More specifically, Merrill Lynch would have to lay off more than 58,000. Credit Suisse would have to lay of 16,000. JPMorgan would have to layoff more than 5,000. Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley would not require any additional layoffs, adds the analyst.

Source: Agencies

Credit Suisse, HSBC to axe 1,150 jobs

Switzerland’s Credit Suisse AG Britain’s HSBC Holdings are axing hundreds of banking jobs as the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression continues to bite.

The cuts are the latest in a wave of job losses in which around 90,000 jobs have been axed at major global banks since September. Of these, more than 50,000 were at US bank Citigroup.
Credit Suisse said on Tuesday the bank was cutting 650 jobs, equivalent to roughly 3% of its investment banking workforce of about 21,300. “The cuts will be made mainly in investment banking,” a spokesman for the Swiss bank said.

The bank, which employed around 50,000 people globally at the end of September, has already slashed 1,800 jobs this year.

HSBC, Europe’s biggest bank, said it was cutting 500 jobs at its UK banking business following a review of the business. The bank employs 58,000 people in Britain.

“We deeply regret taking this step, but we consider it essential to ensure our business is operating as efficiently as possible and that we are best placed to deal with the economic downturn and maintain our levels of customer service,” HSBC UK Managing Director Paul Thurston said.

JP Morgan Chase & Co has said it will cut a total of 9,200 jobs at Washington Mutual, which it acquired September 25 after Washington Mutual became the largest US bank to fail amid the ongoing credit crisis.

Of the 9,200 jobs being eliminated as JP Morgan integrates Washington Mutual, 4,000 will be cut by the end of January. The remaining 5,200 employees will remain with JP Morgan through a transition period, but will lose their positions by the end of 2009. ArcelorMittal, the world’s biggest steelmaker, also plans to cut 1,400 support jobs at its French operations. The job cuts will take the form of voluntary redundancies, Daniel Soury-Lavergne, head of the steelmaker’s French business, said in an e-mailed statement.

European steel maker Corus, which was acquired by the Tatas, has said it will cut 146 jobs at one of its units. Corus in a statement said as part of the reorganisation process, the decision has been taken to reduce employment levels at Corus Tubes, a business division of the company, 146 jobs would be at risk.

Citi cuts package
American behemoth Citigroup, which is axing over 75,000 jobs this year to help cut costs and fight financial crisis, is now slashing the severance package, that too for staff having put 10 or more years with the bank.

Source: Agencies

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Wipro BPO recruitments; Techies protest

Hundreds of students in West Bengal, protesting IT company Wipro's decision to recruit engineers as business process outsourcing (BPO) employees, met state IT Minister Debesh Das to air their problems.

The students, who were earlier selected for engineering jobs by the IT major, say the company is now recruiting them as BPO employees.

“We met the IT minister and he told us that he will look into the matter,” Sayantan Mukherjee, a student of Bengal Institute of Technology said.

"We were promised jobs in the company after we complete our engineering courses in 2009. But last week we were asked to join as BPO employees," he said.

Mukherjee got Wipro's offer in March 2007 for the post of project engineer, but was later asked by the company to join its BPO division.

"Moreover, the company is asking for a bond money of Rs 75,000 for the BPO job, which is unheard of in the industry. Usually project engineers are asked to deposit money, not BPO employees," he added.

However, when contacted, a Wipro official told the media that the decision was taken to give opportunity to graduates to start their work without any delay.

"Every year campus joining is spread out over the four quarters. This is done for logistical reasons of training and seating. Due to current business scenario we estimate delays in joining dates of some batches of recruits," Pradeep Bahirwani, VP (talent acquisition), Wipro, told from Bangalore through an email.

"We are providing them an option of a technical support role in our BPO division. The objective is to let engineering graduates commence work without delay," he said.

Bahirwani added that the employees would have an opportunity to move into the technologies business in 12-18 months based on business demand. "The annual compensation will remain unchanged as per the original offer letter and those not wishing to exercise this option would have to await their joining dates for the technologies division."

Mukherjee said similar things were happening in other states like Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. The students over there were also protesting against the decision, he said.

Source: Agencies

SBI to hire 4,280 employees for associate banks

The country's top lender, State Bank of India, said it is looking to hire more than 4,200 employees for its associate banks -- a development that comes within days of its plan to recruit 25,000 people.

SBI said in a public announcement today that it plans to recruit 4,280 clerical staff at its various associate banks for operations across the country.

The recruitment drive for its associate banks follows SBI saying earlier last month that it would hire 25,000 people in the current fiscal -- a move that comes at a time when banks across the world are mostly trimming their workforces in the backdrop of a global financial crisis.

The various associate banks for which SBI is looking to recruit the staff include State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur, State Bank of Hyderabad, State Bank of Mysore, State Bank of Indore, State Bank of Patiala and State Bank of Travancore.

There are more than 1,000 vacancies each with State Bank of Hyderabad, State Bank of Patiala and State Bank of Travancore, between 240 and 440 employees would be recruited for each of State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur, State Bank of Indore and State Bank of Mysore.

SBI Chairman O P Bhatt said on November 16 that SBI was hiring 20,000 clerical staff and 5,000 people in supervisory positions in the current fiscal. In its previous major hiring spree, SBI had announced, about a year ago, plans to increase its as well as the associate banks' headcount by about 10,000 people.

Last month, another state-run lender IDBI Bank said it was looking to hire about 650 people for its retail banking and SME finance businesses.

However, foreign banks have been mostly cutting down their payrolls, with biggest of them, Citigroup, recently saying that it plans to trim down its headcount by over 50,000 employees across the world, which reportedly includes about 1,000 employees in India.

Citi, which has already laid off over 25,000 people so far this year, plans to bring down its headcount to below 3,00,000 in the next few weeks, from more than 3,75,000 at the end of 2007.

American Express also recently said that it would lay off about 7,000 employees globally, which includes about 100 employees in India.

Global recession; Wipro customers cancel contracts!

Indian IT outsourcing company Wipro is seeing a few customers cancel contracts and more delaying or downsizing deals as a result of deteriorating global economic conditions, its joint chief executive said.

Girish Paranjpe added that Wipro, India's third-biggest software services exporter, was feeling minimal impact from last week's attacks that killed almost 200 people in Mumbai, and reiterated that the company expects business to improve next year.

Referring to the Mumbai attacks, he told Reuters in an interview on Monday, "I don't see any operational impact of that ..."

When asked about cancellations by Wipro's customers -- who include Cicso, Credit Suisse and Nortel -- he said: "Some few, but much more delay, postponement, resizing -- a few cancellations."

Paranjpe said he remained hopeful that business would pick up in the company's first quarter beginning in April next year after a slowing that began about a quarter ago. Customers cannot sustain constrained spending indefinitely, he said.

"About six months you can manage with compression, three to six months you can manage with compression. Beyond that, you have to start thinking longer-term," he said.

"I'm still kind of optimistic that we would have gone past the bottom some time in the first fiscal quarter" next year, he added.

Sector leader Tata Consultancy Services and fellow large Indian outsourcer Infosys have recently expressed cautious optimism about the market, but like most peers they face at least short-term uncertainty.

Wipro makes about half its revenue in the Americas, and about a quarter globally from the financial services sector -- a fairly typical business split among Indian outsourcers, whose large English-speaking workforces gave them an early advantage.

Asked how tough price negotiations were becoming, Paranjpe said Wipro was trying to help customers cut costs in other ways than lowering prices. "There is a discussion about how we can alleviate the pain that they are going through. Our discussion has been about how we can help them with cost, rather than focused on price."

"That's what clients ultimately care about: Given the downturn, how much has my budget gone down and to what extent can you contribute to help me bridge the gap?" he said.

Paranjpe argued that big players like Wipro stood to gain market share as customers looked for reliable partners. "You want fewer people you can bet on, who are going to survive the downturn as well. So there is an almost automatic flight to size and quality," he said.

Although consolidation in the financial sector would undoubtedly make for a tougher market, Paranjpe said it would also bring opportunities in the medium term as customers would have to integrate and streamline their operations.

It would also bring chances to make acquisitions as valuations dropped -- possibly large ones, after last year's $600 million buy of Infocrossing -- and to make selective hires of personnel who might have been unaffordable in better times.

"I think we have gone past the small-budget acquisitions, which is not to say that we will never do a small one, but which is also to say that big dollar signs don't scare us," he said.

"We would like all the acquisitions to be made outside India so we can globalise our workforce."
Asked about the effect of the weakening rupee and stronger dollar on Wipro's results, Paranjpe said, "It's dizzying, actually. It's completely roller-coaster, on the currency side."

"So what we have decided is that we will simply go hedge, for a certain duration, and let our treasury worry about that, and the business will really focus on generating profits from operations," he said.

Wipro will be more cautious about spending but does not plan a hiring or travel freeze, Paranjpe said.

"Building our new facilities we're kind of watching more carefully, hiring lots more people. We're kind of being circumspect about spending on marketing ... being more cautious about travel."
"Full-page ads are out," he added. "Any business which has been in full growth mode for five years does accumulate a certain amount of excess baggage."

Source: Reuters

Now hear inaudible phone calls too

The new Jabra BT530 from innovative headset solutions provider GN Netcom, features Noise Blackout, an exciting noise cancellation technology that eradicates all ambient sound, but does not compromise on voice quality – it's the perfect balance between noise elimination and the delivery of a natural sounding voice. This state of the art solution makes you feel like you're talking to friends and relatives directly from the phone!

Noise cancellation technology:
Exclusively developed by GN Netcom, Noise Blackout uses dual microphones to capture sound whilst intelligently filtering background noise to offer premium audio quality. Used together with advanced DSP technology and Audio Shock Protection that monitors incoming audio volume, sound is innovatively balanced to block out background sound, leaving both sides of the call with a natural sounding voice quality that's second to none.

Great for all day use:
The Jabra BT530 has auto-pair technology which means that it's intuitive and user-friendly, great if you're busy and need to get set up quickly. Its multiuse capability means the headset can connect to a mobile phone and PC at the same time, making it the ideal companion for both in and out of the office.

The Jabra BT530 is light and comfortable to wear and comes with a selection of 3 sizes of Jabra Eargels (an innovative device that enables the headset to sit in your ear) and a removable earhook allowing you to wear the headset throughout the day. Attractive, but unassuming, it features an attractive mesh strip detail that runs along its sophisticated curved form, demonstrating an understated style.

Source: CIOL

Retailers tighten belts at Dubai shopping festival

Some big Dubai retailers, accustomed to giddy spending in the Gulf Arab tax-free haven, are grappling with a drop in sales as consumers worry about the impact of the global financial crisis on their wallets.

The Gulf has not been as heavily hit by the credit crisis as Europe and the US, but the contagion has led to stock market routs, tight lending conditions and a range of government and central bank attempts to mitigate its impact.

In the United Arab Emirates, home to the glitzy financial hub of Dubai where shopping is virtually a national sport, a frisson of fear has seeped into consumers' minds.
"Business is 20 per cent down in the last week in retail," Mohi-din Bin Hendi, president of Bin Hendi Enterprises, told Reuters.

"In the beginning, people did not take it seriously. When they start to get their ATM cards refused from the bank, that's when sense come back ... that this is serious."

Bin Hendi, whose retail-based conglomerate operates in the Gulf Arab region and India and offers everything from jewelry to sofas, said the firm would take steps to ready for a further decline in consumer spending and would "cut the desirables, go to the essentials."

Asked whether he would cut jobs, he said: "Absolutely. We have not come to a figure as yet."
"People with wise moves won't suffer as much as those who think this is only a cloudy day and it'll clear up tomorrow. It won't clear up tomorrow that easily.

"We have to sit tight, cut down our costs and be smart."

Dubai consumers have begun to see uncomfortable signs on the crisis' toll on the city, long known for spending excesses.

Companies are quietly shedding jobs or not hiring, according to recruiters, while the Arab world's biggest listed developer, Emaar Properties EMAR.DU recently gave buyers more time to pay for new homes given difficulties in obtaining mortgages.

The UAE's biggest bank has stopped lending to foreigners who work for top Dubai property firms on fears a slowdown could jeopardize their jobs and income and an Islamic mortgage lender, Amlak AMLK.DU, has suspended new loans altogether for now.

Less spending per person
"There is less footfall in the stores, people are tightening their belts," said a retail manager who declined to be identified. "It's never been like this before."

The global financial meltdown came just as the world's biggest mall opened in Dubai and nearly each week has seen the announcement of one lavish retail exercise after another.

This week, British luxury retailer Burberry said it had created a new firm with its UAE franchisee, Jashanmal, that would manage all its retail and wholesale operations in the Gulf Arab region.

Jashanmal Group President Gangu Batra said forming the joint venture made business sense given its long ties to the British firm but the timing could have been better.

"Now all we can say is I hope it doesn't affect us too much. There will be some effect and we will see that effect in the course of time," he told Reuters.

Batra said same-store sales on a yearly basis were steady at the retailer, which operates department stores, booksellers and franchises for brands like Calvin Klein, but the firm was bracing for a slowdown in the wider economy in coming months.

"People are still there but spending per person has gone down," he said. "I don't think our country will be immune to these problems.

"I can see some slowdown when I go to restaurants and hotels. The view is, so far, there's no reduction in the tourists but then when they do the booking, they do so months in advance."
According to a 2007 annual country report, visitors to Dubai represent 69 per cent of all luxury retail and leisure spending.

Batra said spending levels were likely to decline even further once the current wave of vacationers head home.

Caution has seeped into every aspect of consumer spending. One Dubai-based dentist said business had fallen about 40 percent this year. "People see it as cosmetic rather than essential," she said.

Source: Reuters

India ranked fourth with 81 mn Net users

India has been ranked fourth among the top 10 nations in the world with 81 million Internet users. United States leads the chart with 220 million Internet users followed by China (210 million) and Japan (88.1 m).

Brazil comes next to India with 53.1 million users, UK 40.2 million, Germany 39.1 million, Republic of Korea 35.5 million, Italy 32 million and France 31.5 million.

The Internet Governance Forum has released these statistics on the eve of its third four-day global conference that begins at the Hyderabad International Convention Centre on December 3.
From about 70 million people (1.7% of the world population) who had access to the Internet at the end of 2007, the figure crossed 134.8 crore by 2007. Asia has the highest number of Internet users with an estimated 568.7 million people followed by the Americas with 377.9 million.

Europe ranks third in this list with 335.9 million users and Africa and Oceania close the rank with 51.8 million and 14 million users respectively, according to the IGF. India, however, does not find place among the top ten nations in terms of broadband connections where too the US stands first with 73.2 million connections.

China has 66.4 million, Japan 28.28 million, Germany 19.6 million, UK 15.6 million, France 15.5 million, Republic of Korea 14. 7 million, Italy 10.8 million, Canada 9 million and Spain 8 million broadband connections. While there were a total of 13.5 million Internet subscribers in India, representing 1.15 per 100 people, broadband subscribers accounted for five million among them.
However, the number of users, who have online access but do not themselves subscribe, is a whopping 81 million or 6.93 users per people.

Source: PTI

Monday, December 1, 2008

Is Google a threat to telcos?

Google's influence and market power with key telecommunications industry stakeholders is having a significant impact on the industry, says research firm Gartner.

According to Alex Winogradoff, research vice president, Gartner, Google will continue to be a market disruptor and disintermediator, especially in the communications market. "Carriers should selectively partner with Google rather than trying to compete, especially in areas where they don't have differentiated and core assets," he said. "However, carriers should also find common ground with Google (for example, on network neutrality) and, if necessary, look for creative ways to oppose Google on issues critical to their survival."

Gartner said that coming late to the operating-system and mobile markets has not been a problem for Google and that its Android and Open Handset Alliance (OHA) activities have already had a profound effect on the mobile industry. In addition to disrupting the traditional telecom ecosystem, Google's actions are diluting the market potential and the service providers' ability to profitably monetise their investments in new markets (such as entertainment and software as a service (SaaS) applications).

The research firm highlighted six critical actions by Google that have already had, or will have, the greatest impact on the telecom industry. Google pressured the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to set aside the "C" Block (22MHz to 11MHz in the uplink and 11MHz in the downlink within the US 700MHz spectrum auctions) as an open-access spectrum. All winning "C" Block bidders would be required to provide open access to applications (which cannot be blocked) and devices (which cannot be locked).

Google's primary motivation was to encourage the development of open broadband network platforms to ensure they will be able to deliver bandwidth-intense over-the-air services and applications.

On November 5 2007, several technology and wireless companies jointly announced the formation of the OHA and the development of Android, a new software platform for mobile devices that includes an operating system (OS), middleware and key applications based on the Linux OS and open-source principles.

This was quickly followed on November 12 2007, with a preliminary release of the Android SDK, as part of Google's $10 million developer challenge. This will help ensure that application and access openness is maintained on the mobile Internet as effectively as on the wired network to enable Google's ad model to spread as successfully as it has on the wired Internet; to open up the "closed" mobile industry ecosystem to Google's applications; and to enable Google to exert a strong influence over the development of the next-generation mobile OS.

Since the US regulator (FCC) adopted four network neutrality principles designed "to encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet," Google and other Web-centric companies have been lobbying the US Congress to codify these rules in favour of something called non-discrimination in network design between the public and private Internet.

In short, Google wants regulation to ensure that the public Internet remains free from potential discrimination and content blocking but also wants equality between the public and private Internet at no cost to customers or Web companies (in essence, no quality of service).
Google has been investing heavily to develop the world's most complete storehouse of geographic and mapping data supported by innovative applications that can detect mobile devices.

Google wants to be "the most-trusted source" and the best at matching up unique geographic location-based data so it can take advantage of just-in-time advertising opportunities derived from location-aware applications and bypass device manufacturers and carriers as the gatekeepers of location data.

Known as "white space" in the US and "interleaved spectrum" in the UK, this is the underutilised 800MHz spectrum that can be used to broadcast TV through the airwaves but also has highly favourable propagation characteristics for wireless broadband.

A powerful industry lobby backed by Google, Microsoft, Philips, Dell, HP, Skype and others (known as the Wireless Innovation Alliance) has been urging the FCC to develop rules to unlock the potential of TV white spaces.

Google's interest in white spaces is another effort to ensure that there are viable broadband options available for their services. The spectrum, which will likely be released as an open spectrum in 2010, would become another means for bypassing the carrier access network. Google is looking to engage enterprises by getting them hooked on using its applications and cloud computing infrastructure. Making it easy for users to download Google applications and giving them free space on Google's cloud infrastructure.

This will give Google great marketing insight to help it develop a presence within the SMB market. With eventual migration to larger enterprises where enterprises will come to Google for all their back-office SaaS needs.

The impact on carriers looking to generate revenue from the SaaS business model within the SMB market will require carriers to clearly differentiate their applications from Google or partner with it.

Source: Indiatimes

No global impact; ACS to hire 1,000 in India

Amid gloomy scenario in the global job markets, hiring in India is continuing at a strong pace with world's largest business process ou tsourcing firm Affiliated Computer Services planning to recruit 1,000 people in the next 6-8 months in the country.

"We are looking to increase our headcount by 1,000 employees in India in the next 6-8 months, out of which about 500 would be employed in our new facility at Noida, which is in the process of being set up," ACS India Country Head and Vice President Aman Mustafa said.

The company is in the process of setting up a new facility in Noida, while it already has offices in Bangalore, Kochi and Chennai and the total employee strength of the company is around 5,000 in the country. Bangalore operation has a capacity of about 2,800 people and around 1,800 people are stationed in Kochi.

"Despite the global economic crisis our business has not been affected and our existing and new clients have been approaching us for services to reduce their costs," Mustafa said.

Mustafa further said that ACS Inc's balance sheet is stable with strong cash flows amid the economic downturn, even as its shares have taken a beating at the New York Stock Exchange. The global firm has a market capitalisation of over 3.86 billion dollar.

Recently, a host of firms, including Metlife India, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, State Bank of India, Larsen and Toubro are planning to recruit over 70,000 people in the country.

Mumbai attack: A mixed bag for insurers

The bottomlines of insurance companies that have insured the terrorist-attacked hotels in Mumbai will not be affected by property damage claims as the loss will be met from a terrorism risk pool, managed by the state-run General Insurance Corp of India (GIC), say industry officials.

The claims for property damage as well as loss of profit will be met from the Rs.7.5-billion ($153 million) terrorism risk pool, they said.

However, insurers who have issued public liability policies to the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel and the Trident-Oberoi hotel, the targets of terrorists, and personal accident policies to employees with the risk of terrorism extension may have to face sizeable claims from the kin of the dead and the injured.

Though major portion of that could be reinsured, some part of the loss might have to be borne by the primary insures.

'Our liability policy covering the Trident-Oberoi hotel covers damage owing to acts of terrorism,' United India Insurance general manager A. Asthana told the media.

He said all these are reinsured with GIC.

The overall liability is around Rs.100 million ($2 million) and the risk is reinsured. The maximum net impact on the company will be around Rs.50 million, Asthana said.

Sitting comfortably among the insurers of the terrorist attacked hotels is the Mumbai-based New India Assurance that has insured only the properties of the Trident-Oberoi hotel.
Since the property damages will be met from the terrorism pool, New India would remain unscathed.

A long time insurer of Taj Mahal hotel property and employees, New India this year escaped as the account was bagged by three private insurers - Tata AIG General Insurance (65 percent share), ICICI Lombard General Insurance (30 percent) and IFFCO Tokio General Insurance (five percent).

According to industry officials, it will take at least two weeks for the insurance surveyors to assess the actual financial damage as the police and other investigating authorities have first to complete their job.

What will be tricky for the insurers are the liability claims that might be filed by the kin of the dead and injured guests at the hotels.

According to sources, the companies that will be in a spot are United India and Tata AIG, which have issued public liability policies covering terrorism risk respectively for Trident-Oberoi and Taj Mahal hotels.

The two insurers will have to deal with sizeable claims under this policy as hundreds of hotel guests and visitors were killed and injured.

While United India is the sole seller of the Hoteliers Liability Policy to Trident-Oberoi, it is unclear whether Tata AIG has a co-insurance arrangement with other non-life insurers for this risk. Tata AIG officials could not be reached.

Source: Agencies

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Industry welcomes Manmohan Singh taking FM charge

Industry on Sunday welcomed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh taking charge of the Finance Ministry after P Chidambaram was appointed Home Minister, saying Singh as Finance Minister is known as architect of reforms that transformed the Indian economy.

Prime Minister directly involved himself in tackling the impact of the global credit crisis on the Indian economy. Amidst pressure on the exchange rate and crash in the stock market in the wake of the developments in Wall Street, Singh had appointed a committee under his charge to find a way out of the economic challenges.

"At the recent HT Leadership Summit, the Prime Minister had listed several initiatives under consideration of the government. These include fiscal measures like expenditure on infrastructure and monetary steps such as interest rates. All these relate to the Finance Ministry, which has come under his charge directly," Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry Secretary General Amit Mitra said.

Mitra said Singh is the only one in the government who has served as Finance Minister, RBI Governor and Chief Economic Adviser.

Singh was also Secretary (Economic Affairs) and Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission.

Assocham Secretary General D S Rawat said the "industrial confidence would get a boost" with the Prime Minister retaining the charge of the Finance Ministry.

Singh had gone to Washington to attend the G-20 meeting called by US President George W Bush, where he sought increased role of the developing countries in the new financial architecture after the global downturn.


India's markets seen relieved; PM to caretake finance

India's markets will likely react positively on Monday when a cabinet reshuffle sees the prime minister take on the finance portfolio, just days after the nation was rattled by the deadly attacks on Mumbai.

India's economy showed its slowest pace of growth in nearly four years in the September quarter, and its rupee and stock markets have been pummelled by the global financial crisis.

Now, after three days of attacks by gunmen in the heart of its financial capital, Mumbai, in which nearly 200 people died, analysts say security and confidence will be the top priority.

With Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram moving to the Home Ministry following the resignation of the home minister, analysts say Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, architect of early 1990s economic reforms, is probably the man for the job.

"There are serious concerns on the economy and the big challenge is going to be rebuilding confidence of investors," said Mahesh Rangarajan, political analyst in New Delhi.

"And there is a greater confidence in Singh because of his midas touch."

India's financial markets stayed shut on Thursday as security forces battled gunmen holed up in three locations in Mumbai's financial district.

The benchmark share index .BSESN gained 0.7 percent to 9,092.72 points when trading resumed on Friday, with expiry of options contracts leading investors to buy back shares.


The index has plunged 55 percent this year, with foreign investors withdrawing a net $13.7 billion as the global market turmoil widened, and equity analysts criticised Chidambaram, saying he had not managed to keep the economy stable.

"But probably markets should open in the positive," said Deven Choksey, chief executive of brokerage KR Choksey.

Bond yields fell on Friday, as dealers anticipated interest rate cuts to shore up confidence and bolster the economy.

The central bank has slashed its key lending rate by 150 basis points to 7.5 percent since the global crisis swept through India's markets in October and the benchmark 10-year bond yield closed down 2 basis points at 7.07 percent.

"The market continues to anticipate rate changes," said Arvind Sampath, head of bond trading at Standard Chartered in Mumbai. "We are expecting the 10-year bond yield to trade in a 7.07-7.12 range."

Only the rupee came under pressure, shedding 1.2 percent to 50.09/12 per dollar, not far off a record low of 50.60 set earlier in November.

"Whatever has happened over the last few days is pretty serious. The first priority has to be that," A. Prasanna, analyst at ICICI Securities, said.

"I think the market will take a more big picture view and it is a positive development only. Nobody needs to second guess the PM's credentials, in his ability to run the ministry."

With only a few months likely to go before national elections, analysts were sceptical whether much could be done to shore up growth, which slowed to an annual 7.6 percent in the September quarter, a far cry from the 9 percent seen in the whole of the 2007/08 fiscal year.

Some expressed concern with the security issue and whether the prime minister's focus would be distracted, but others said Singh has already been more involved in running the economy as the financial crisis deepened.

Source: Reuters

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