Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sanjay Sharma Joins ACME Tele Power As VP

Sanjay Sharma has joined ACME Tele Power Limited as vice president and SBU Head for IT Solutions. In addition, Sharma will also be responsible for the sales and marketing function for the company's IT Solutions business globally.

Prior to this appointment, Sharma was vice president of the IT division at Samsung India.

Talking about his new assignment, Sharma said, "The ACME business is going through an exciting growth phase, where the company is looking at significantly enhancing its presence in India and overseas through Innovative energy solutions. I am happy to be associating with ACME at this time and look forward to an exciting and rewarding experience at ACME."

ACME Tele Power Ltd. (ATPL) provides comprehensive passive infrastructure solutions to wireless telecom players both in India as well as overseas. The company focuses on innovation and R&D. ATPL has developed a range of innovative products that help provide cost-effective, energy-efficient, integrated, passive infrastructure solutions to telecom companies.

Manoj Kumar Upadhyay, managing director, ATPL, said Sharma's appointment will give a fresh impetus and a new direction to the company's IT Solutions business. The company will benefit from his rich experience in India and overseas.

Sharma brings with him over 18 years of experience in the IT industry, of which the last three years were with Samsung and the pervious nine years have been with IBM Global Services. Within IBM he worked on various assignments in the solutions sales and marketing field, for the Indian and Asia-Pacific markets. Prior to his assignment at IBM, he worked with Multi Tech Computers, handling the channel sales function there.

Sharma holds a Bachelor's degree in telecommunications (1989), master of business administration (1991) and is an active member of IEEE and other computer societies. He has undergone professional training at Harvard Business School on strategy, sales and marketing methodologies.


Is Apple developing a touchscreen PC?

Apple will take third-quarter delivery of newly developed 10-inch touchscreens from Taiwan, a source said on Wednesday, amid talk the US firm is developing a touchscreen PC.

Taiwan touchscreen specialist Wintek already makes small screens for Apple iPhones, and has received orders for the larger ones that are roughly the same size as those used in mini PCs, said the source close to the Taiwan firm. He asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

He added that he did not know what the final product would be, or who would make it.

Wintek spokesman James Chen confirmed Apple was a major client of his company, but declined to comment on any new product development.

Taiwan media reported this week that Apple, which has brought touchscreens to the forefront with the success of its iPhones, is currently developing a touchscreen PC, as lines begin to blur between sophisticated smartphones and traditional PCs.

Some of those reports have said that Taiwan's Quanta Computer, the world's top contract laptop PC maker, would manufacture the actual PCs for Apple.

Apple's Hong Kong spokeswoman, Jill Tan, said the company did not comment on market speculation, while a Quanta spokeswoman also declined to comment.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Smaller, 4-gigabyte Apple iPod shuffle launched

Apple Inc. unveiled a minuscule new iPod Shuffle on Wednesday that takes its "smaller is better" mantra to a whole new level.

The third-generation Shuffle, a slim aluminum rectangle less than 2 inches long, takes up about half as much space as the previous version even as it doubles music storage space to 4 gigabytes. To achieve such a tiny form, Apple had to remove most of the buttons from the body of the $79 device and build them into the headphone cord instead.

"Smaller has tended to work very well for us," said Greg Joswiak, a marketing vice president at Apple.

The trade-off for a sub-$100 Shuffle has always been the lack of a screen to visually navigate through the music stored on the device. The first generation Shuffle, which launched in 2005, could hold about 240 songs, arguably not enough to warrant a screen.

Now that the device can carry 1,000 songs, Apple has come up with a way for people to identify the music they're listening to or find songs they want. A new feature called VoiceOver can, at the push of a button, speak the song and artist name or rattle off the list of custom mixes — called playlists — that the owner has loaded onto the device.

Here's how it works: As you synchronize a new Shuffle using an updated version of iTunes, your PC or Mac looks at each track and playlist and creates a small file of a computerized voice speaking the title, artist or playlist name. If a song is in Spanish or Chinese, say, the software figures this out and speaks in the appropriate language. Apple says the device can handle 14 languages.

The new Shuffle, which comes in silver or black aluminum with a shiny stainless steel clip, is set to go on sale Thursday. Joswiak said Apple's own earphones will be the only option for early buyers, but that other companies plan to make compatible headphones as well as adapters for regular headphones.


What is hot in the memory chip sector?

Taiwan is setting up a new company to pull together six struggling computer memory chip makers and bring in technology from Japan's Elpida or US-based Micron in a sector suffering from its worst ever slump.

The government expects the move to fend off the industry's dominant players, Samsung Electronics and Hynix Semiconductor of South Korea.

Following are answers to key questions about the market for DRAM or dynamic random access memory:

What does this mean for the global industry?

The consolidation led by Taiwan will leave the $25 billion sector with four major DRAM makers globally -- Samsung, Hynix, "Taiwan Memory Co" and one other company that would be left out of the Taiwan consolidation (either Micron or Elpida).

The reshaped landscape might help Taiwanese suppliers -- which make nearly a quarter of all the world's DRAM memory chips -- to get a stronger grip on output, especially after companies recklessly built up output in the last many years. Elpida may need funds before the Taiwan plan can be implemented.

What is the outlook for Taiwanese chipmakers?

There's likely to be no impact in the short term because it will take about six months to set up the new company, while chipmakers, including ProMOS and Powerchip are still strapped for funds.

The government did not give any specifics on how the new company can bring local DRAM makers together, but any de-listing of a company in such a consolidation could face opposition from shareholders.

In the long term, some analysts say this move might force some of the debt-ridden chipmakers to consolidate their capacity into the new company. Taiwan Memory Co could become a centralised foundry and DRAM makers would diversify into sales and marketing.

The six chipmakers to be involved in the plan are: Powerchip, Nanya Technology, ProMOS, Inotera Memories -- joint venture between Nanya and Micron -- and Rexchip, unlisted joint venture between Powerchip and Elpida.

Is this a chance or threat for Samsung, Hynix?

Benefiting from more advanced production technologies, Korean makers such as Samsung and Hynix could further tighten their grip on the industry, while Taiwan Memory struggles to slowly integrate several companies and technologies into one entity.

Taiwan Memory could end up becoming a formidable threat to No. 2 Hynix, which may have to seek more funding for technology investments. Still, analysts say whether Taiwan's government can inject more funds into Taiwan Memory remains a question.

What is the outlook for DRAM prices?

Even after the government's move, any significant recovery in memory chip prices is unlikely in the short term. So far this year, memory chip prices have been flat but slumped about 50 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year as a global economic slowdown hurt spending on personal computers and other gadgets that use memory chips to store data.

Analysts' forecasts for global PC shipments in 2009 vary, but many expect sales to fall. Research firm IDC expects PC shipments to drop 4.5 per cent this year.


Has Wipro set up new consulting R&D arm?

Technology major Wipro is planning a deep plunge into the global consulting market with the idea of competing with true-blue global consulting brands and IT consulting firms.

In preparation for this move, the company has carried out an in-depth study on select consulting majors including Ernst & Young, PriceWaterhouse Coopers, McKinsey and Bain & Company to understand what made them stay different in the consulting world.

Anurag Srivastava, head of Wipro Consulting Services (WCS) said, "The objective of the study was to gather a holistic understanding of the consulting business. We want to create differentiation in the global markets through innovation-driven consulting. Consulting will be the front-end service for most of our large business deals.''

Wipro has also set up a dedicated research and development arm, Global Research Centre, to support its initiatives in the consulting space. The R&D facility will seek to enhance the business value to clients through innovation. The company believes that consulting will work as a powerful tool during times of recession to gain customer confidence.

Wipro employs over 1,200 consulting professionals and 7% of them will now be part of the R&D team. The team will track 12 industry verticals. The research activity starts with profiling the customer, moves on to analysing industrial trends, followed by providing a macro-economic snapshot and culminating in a viable business strategy.

The job of the R&D team is to lay seeds of innovation. It will play a key role in bridging the divide between ideators and front-end workers.

"The researchers will work in tandem with consulting professionals, so that customers are increasingly benefited,'' Srivastava said. "Consulting will have a significant impact on our IT/BPO revenues. It will transform us from an outsourcing player to a transformational partner."


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Has IBM resorted to scattered layoffs globally?

Technology giant IBM is resorting to "scattered layoffs" and the total could be nearly 4,600 employees in North America even though the company has reported surprisingly strong quarterly profits in January, a media report says.

"Big companies also routinely carry out scattered layoffs that are small enough to stay under the radar... and IBM is one such company," the New York Times said.

Interestingly, after reporting strong quarterly profits in January, its Chief Executive Samuel J Palmisano in an e-mail message to employees said that while other companies were reducing jobs, his company would not. "Most importantly, we will invest in our people," he wrote.

But the next day, the New York Times said "more than 1,400 employees in IBM's sales and distribution division in the United States and Canada were told their jobs would be eliminated in a month. More cuts followed, and overall, IBM has told about 4,600 North American employees in recent weeks that their jobs are vanishing."

Quoting J Randall MacDonald, IBM's senior vice-president for human resources, the newspaper said "it was routine for the company to lay off some employees while hiring elsewhere".

IBM says it remains the largest high-tech employer in the US, with 1,15,000 workers. But IBM's American employment has declined steadily, down to 29 per cent of its worldwide payroll of 3,98,445 at the end of 2008.

However, experts have a different take on this. According to them, these unannounced cuts raise issues of disclosure and the treatment of workers.

The report cited Harley Shaiken, a labour economist at the University of California, Berkeley, as saying that "the issue becomes all the more pressing in this downward economic spiral."

Meanwhile, as part of a government filing last week, IBM said its workforce in Brazil, Russia, India and China had climbed to 1,13,000. These are markets with faster growth than the United States, and less expensive skilled labour.

"At IBM, the layoffs are coming swiftly, if with less disclosure. The estimate of 4,600 job cuts comes from adding up the itemised headcounts in information packages given to employees in each of the businesses," the report said.

NYT further added, "In its financial statements, IBM does report the cost of severance payments and outplacement counselling for layoffs about USD 400 million annually in the last five years but not head counts."

Meanwhile, IBM workers whose jobs are being eliminated have said the undisclosed cuts, and the timing, seemed to contradict the company's public statements.


Infosys to hire 20,000 engineering graduates at over 8% higher salary

India’s second-largest software company Infosys will be inducting almost 20,000 engineering graduates this year at over 8.3 % higher salary from what was offered last year, even as the company seeks to cope with a lower demand for software services in its top export markets such as the US and Europe.

At a time when other industry rivals such as TCS, Wipro and HCL Technologies are deferring the
joining dates for new hires, Infosys is holding on to its commitment and that too at better salary levels than last year.

“We have increased the pay package from Rs 3 lakh per annum to over Rs 3.25 lakh per annum for those joining in June this year,” Nandita Gurjar, senior vice-president and global human resources head, Infosys, told ET in an interview. “The idea is to get the best talent even during this slowdown, to provide better training and prepare them for the projects,” she added.

Experts such as Prashant Srivastava, managing partner of Gallup Consulting, said that top tech firms want to retain their edge as preferred employers in the industry. “Proactive companies are preparing and hiring high performers for the future, as they don’t want to run after talent once economy revives in few years,” he said.

The offer letters and dates of joining have been sent to 20,000 freshers (2008-09), and the process of joining will start from June this year. Last year, Infosys recruited almost 18,000 (2007-08) engineering graduates.

The company has also increased the training period for new recruits from the current four months to almost eight months. “It gives them better understanding of a project because the predictability of what kind of work you will get is much lower than what it was last year,” said Ms Gurjar. Infosys visits some 1,100 engineering colleges every year.

At a time when the US government is mulling stricter work permit regulations, Indian tech firms such as Infosys will need to deliver more projects from India. “We have been preparing from past three years to reduce our dependency on H1B visa, which is hiring more and more locals in all the countries, where we work,” said Ms Gurjar.


StanChart to hire 2,000 professionals in 2009, says Official

Global Banking giant, Standard Chartered on Sunday said it has no plans to freeze hiring in India despite the challenging market conditions and would recruit around 2,000 professionals this year.

StanChart had recruited 4,000 people in the last calendar year but has decided to scale down fresh recruitments in the face of financial downturn that has hit its operations globally, StanChart Human Resources Regional Head Madhavi Lall told the media here.

"We have not stopped hiring. Although, the number of new recruits may be lower in 2009 as compared to last year, the bank plans to recruit 1,500-2,000 people in the current calendar year," Lall said.

The lender already recruited 110 people in the last two months while it plans to hire 28 more people by July to strengthen its various business divisions, Lall said.

"These 28 people will be joining us from IIMs. The bank will go ahead with its hiring plans in the months ahead, which will include campus recruitments," Lall said.

Presently, StanChart has a staff strength of 19,000 in India as against its global headcount of 75,000, Lall said.

Out of 19,000 total employees, around 6,500 people operate in StanChart's retail banking division.


Monday, March 9, 2009

Has TCS extended working hours?

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has increased its working hours to 45 hours per week from 40 hours effective April 1. This effectively means that employees will have to put in an hour more every day.

The biggest software exporter has also decided to fire around 1,300 employees or 1 per cent of its global workforce this year. This roughly works around one percent of its global workforce.

These employees failed to meet performance standards, according to a company spokesperson said.

About 100 employees have already been sacked in Chennai alone in the last two weeks, sources in TCS told the media.

This comes in the wake of recent announcements by the company’s MD S Ramadorai 10 days back that variable pay of employees is being reviewed this year, to counter the tough economic situations across the globe.

The IT major has also increased working hours to 45 hours per week from 40 hours effective April 1. The TCS sources said in the last two weeks alone the company has sacked about 100 people after they were found wanting in their performance appraisal.


India next to US in anti-dumping measures, says World Bank

With protectionism emerging as a major threat to the global trade flow, data compiled by World Bank shows that India is next only to the US in terms of new anti-dumping measures imposed by their respective governments.

Besides, the number of such measures increased substantially in the second half of 2008 in both countries, World Bank has said in its background paper for the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting later this week in the UK.

The US imposed over 20 new anti-dumping measures during the July-December period in 2008, followed by 15 such measures by the Indian authorities.

As per the data compiled by the multilateral lending agency, India took more than 10 fresh anti-dumping measures in the first half of 2008 -- higher than any other country during that period -- while the US imposed less than five such measures.

Other countries where new anti-dumping measures are on the rise include Brazil and Canada, while European Union, South Korea and Egypt saw the number of such initiatives declining in the second half of 2008.


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Citi, Pepsico ranked among best cos for 'corp transparency'

Citigroup may be surviving on taxpayers money but the Vikram Pandit-led entity along with Pepsico, another firm led by an India-born chief executive Indra Nooyi, have been named among the best companies for corporate transparency by an American publication.

The 10th annual list of '100 Best Corporate Citizens 2009' by Corporate Responsibility Officer (CRO) magazine features US firms ranked for their activities in various areas including governance and employee relations.

Citi is ranked at the 35th spot while Indra Nooyi-led Pepsico is placed at the 85th spot.

Pharma major Bristol Myers-Squibb has topped the league of 100 followed by food retailer General Mills and technology giant IBM at the second and third positions, respectively.

Regarding the list, CRO noted, "when someone next asks you to define 'corporate transparency,' show them this..."

The ranking of the companies are based on activities in seven categories -- environment, climate change, human rights, philanthropy, employee relations, financial and governance.

"This list also proves that 10 years is a long time on the corporate responsibility timeline. Only three companies have made the list all 10 years: Intel, Cisco and Starbucks. Nearly 400 companies have appeared on the list over the past 10 years, including 48, by our count, that no longer exist.

"... the 100 Best List is the best-known annual snapshot of the leaders," the magazine said in an accompanying report.

Compiled by IW Financial and edited by CRO, the ranking is "completely based on publicly available information."

Other companies which have made it to the list are pharma entities Merck & Co (4th rank) and Abbott Laboratories (8), computer hardware makers HP Co (5) and Cisco Systems Inc (6), toy manufacturer Mattel (7), personal care products firm Kimberly-Clark Corp (9) and utilities entity Entergy Corp (10).

The ranking assigns maximum weight of 19.5 per cent to environment and employee relations. Climate change and human rights have a weights of 16.5 per cent and 16 per cent, respectively.

Citi has been severely battered in the ongoing financial turmoil, forcing the government to pump in billions of dollars into the financial services entity.

Already, the company has received 45 billion dollars of fresh capital apart from the US guaranteeing assets worth more than 300 billion dollars.


About 1 lakh Indians will return from US in next 3-5 years

As many as 100,000 Indians and an equal number of Chinese will return to their native countries in the next three to five years, a move that will greatly boost their economies and undermine technological innovation in America, a new US study warns.

The study on immigration by a team at Duke, Harvard and Berkeley universities led by Vivek Wadhwa, an Indian-American technology entrepreneur turned academic, says "America's loss is the world's gain".

There are no hard numbers available on how many have returned, but anecdotal evidence shows that this is in the tens of thousands, says Wadhwa, executive-in-residence for the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University and fellow at the Labour and Worklife Programme at Harvard Law School.

"With the economic downturn, my guess is that we'll have over 100,000 Indians and as many Chinese return home over the next three-five years," says Wadhwa. "This flood of western educated and skilled talent will greatly boost the economies of India and China and strengthen their competitiveness.

"India is already becoming a global hub for R&D. This will allow it to branch into many new areas and will accelerate the trend," he says.

"The US has always had the luxury of being arrogant about immigration because it has been the strongest magnet for the world's best and brightest," but as the study shows "there are other strong magnets now".

"We are effectively exporting our economic stimulus. Policies like those which the US just enacted which prevents some banks from hiring foreign workers will have the opposite effect from what they intended - they will send jobs abroad and scare away top talent," Wadhwa said.

The study released on Monday Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, based in Kansas City, Montana, indicates placing limits on foreign workers in the US is not the answer to America's rising unemployment rate and may undermine efforts to spur technological innovation.

"A substantial number of highly skilled immigrants have started returning to their home countries in recent years, draining a key source of brain power and innovation," said Robert E. Litan, vice president of Research and Policy at the Kauffman Foundation.

"We wanted to know what is encouraging this much-needed economic growth engine to leave our country, thereby sending entrepreneurship and economic stimulus to places like Bangalore and Beijing."

The report builds on an earlier Kauffman Foundation report by Wadhwa documenting a queue of one million H-1B holders and their families anxiously awaiting longer-term work visas and growing frustrated with the immigration process.

Until recently, America has been the prime destination for the world's best and brightest immigrants. "Immigrants have made tremendous personal sacrifices," said Wadhwa. "They would leave behind relatives and friends and accept second-tier status in American society.

"Now countries like India and China are providing equal career opportunities and a better quality of life. So the most highly educated and skilled are often returning home."

The two-year study covered 1,203 Indian and Chinese subjects who had studied or worked in the US for a year or more before returning home.


Is TCS likely to lay off 1,300 staffers?

India’s biggest software exporter by sales, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), will lay off less than a percent of its global workforce over the next few months, as these employees failed to meet performance standards, a company spokesperson said.

This roughly works out to 1,300. The company has a total employee count of around 1.3 lakh.

IT companies are adopting stringent appraisal, cost-trimming and productivity-boosting measures as they grapple with the global economic slow down.

TCS employees said on condition of anonymity that lay-offs have started at the company’s development centres in Chennai, where over 200 employees have been asked to leave in the last fortnight .

When contacted, a member of the TCS corporate communication team confirmed the development but did not put a number or place to it.


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