Saturday, October 13, 2001, Chandigarh, India






THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
B U S I N E S S

A-I to shut offices, retrench employees
New Delhi, October 12
Air-India Friday said it had decided to close 20 overseas offices and retrench 142 employees to tide over the current downturn in passenger volume.

SCL to provide training in VLSI design
Chandigarh, October 12
The region has aimed at cornering a pie of $200 billion chip manufacturing industry with Semi Conductors Limited in Mohali now deciding to provide specialised training in Very Large Scale Integration design technology. With this, SCL will become the only institute in the country to have VLSI manufacturing, designing, as well as specialised training in design facilities, said an official of the institute.

War to hit IT sector: CII
New Delhi, October 12
The pounding of bombs in trouble-torn Afghanistan is transmitting alarming signals across the Indian economic think-tank with concern looming large among economists and policy makers about the possibility of the country slipping into a downward spiral.

Industrial growth dips to 1.8 pc
New Delhi, October 12
Industrial growth slumped further to 1.8 per cent in August this year compared to 5 per cent in the same month last year mainly due to poor performance of the manufacturing sector.




EARLIER STORIES
 

Khadi board feels the heat of slowdown
Shimla, October 12
The Khadi and Village Industries Board of the Himachal Pradesh feels the pinch of the financial crisis plaguing the government. The financial health of the board has been deteriorating ever since the payscales were revised in 1996 but the situation has become more serious with the government has decided to cut down the grant-in-aid instead of increasing it.

Govt to introduce 5 kg gas cylinders
New Delhi, October 12
The government has decided to introduce small size cooking gas cylinders of five kg for domestic purpose, Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Ram Naik announced here today.

Export councils to meet on Oct 15
New Delhi, October 12
Worried over falling exports, Textile Minister Kashiram Rana has convened a meeting of export promotion councils on October 15 to chalk out an appropriate strategy for arresting the slide in textile exports.

Kinetic launches ‘GF125’ motor cycle
Chandigarh, October 12
Kinetic Engineering Ltd launched a 125cc motor cycle, made in alliance with South Korea’s Hyosung Motors and said it will introduce a new motor cycle in every three months over the next one year.

Industrialists’ demand conceded
Chandigarh, October 12
The Punjab Government today conceded a major demand of industrialists and directed the Secretary Local Government to amend the policy on charging of house tax from the industrial units of the focal points after these are handed over by the PSIEC to the Municipal Corporation concerned for maintenance purposes.

Indian IT firm gets Stockholm award
New Delhi, October 12
A Delhi-based company has bagged the Stockholm Challenge Award for public service initiatives in IT. TARAhaat, which began its operations less than a year ago, helps connect Indian villages to the rest of the world and empowers them using modern digital technology.

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A-I to shut offices, retrench employees

New Delhi, October 12
Air-India Friday said it had decided to close 20 overseas offices and retrench 142 employees to tide over the current downturn in passenger volume.

"Air-India management has, after a detailed study of the staff position at its online and offline stations abroad, decided to shut down 20 and downsize 10 offline stations," a company statement said here.

Air-India's overseas offices would be closed in cities such as Barcelona, Budapest, Prague, Stockholm, Warsaw, Belgrade, Lyon, Boston, Montreal, Johannesburg, Manila and Tehran, the statement said.

The airline said out of 76 employees at 34 offline stations abroad, 52 are being retrenched with immediate effect. Another 90 employees, both India-based and locally recruited foreign nationals in overseas offices, will be retrenched in two phases, it said.

The long-haul airline expects to save Rs.210 million from these cost cutting measures to battle the revenue slowdown after the last month's terrorist attacks on the USA.

Air-India's move comes close on the heels of a series of cost cutting measures such as staff retrenchment and cutting flight services announced by global aviation majors.

The global airline industry has slipped into deep recession after the air attacks on New York and Washington that saw passengers shying away from air travel.

The government plans to sell 40 per cent of the cash strapped airline to a strategic partner — 10 per cent to employees and another 10 per cent to the public and financial institutions — as part of its privatisation programme. IANS
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SCL to provide training in VLSI design
Shveta Pathak
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 12
The region has aimed at cornering a pie of $200 billion chip manufacturing industry with Semi Conductors Limited (SCL) in Mohali now deciding to provide specialised training in Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) design technology. With this, SCL will become the only institute in the country to have VLSI manufacturing, designing, as well as specialised training in design facilities, said an official of the institute.

Training at ‘Vedant’, the VLSI Design and Technology Centre at SCL will start by the end of next month. This first ever training centre in the region will cater to the ever increasing demand of VLSI engineers globally.

Semiconductors, which are referred to as Integrated Circuits, contain numerous pathways which connect thousands or even millions of transistors and other electronic components. These transistors store information on the semiconductors. Almost of today’s chips are built on silicon wafers , silicon being a natural semi-conductor. It is the VLSI design engineer who designs these chips which are later sent for manufacturing.

The last decade has witnessed a revolution in the miniaturisation of electronics — mobile phones, computers, aerospace etc. A VLSI design engineer’s efforts make this possible , thus making designing as one of the most sought after professions these days.

“Despite the global recession, the demand for this profession is increasing constantly. Infact, under the present economic situations, the demand for cheaper products with better facilities is on the rise, thereby increasing the scope for VLSI design engineers, said the official.

The almost Rs 300 crore SCL, Mohali, at present has around 200 engineers including 40 VLSI design engineers. “Atleast 10 VLSI engineers are required by us every year and we plan to absorb a few of those trained in our own institute”. Moreover, there is an ever-growing need for companies to hire VLSI design professionals who develop standard Intellectual Property (IP) cores and customised solutions for customers.

While major global semiconductor companies like IBM, Phillips, Analog Devices, Motorola, Wipro etc and many more have established their design houses in India, there are few design training centres. “Manufacturing requires heavy investment and the has only two institutes including SCL which have both designing as well as manufacturing. Now SCL will become the only one of its kind to provide training also”, said the official.

Engineers or post graduates in electronics or physics can opt for this six month course. The course will include project work and some knowledge about manufacturing as well. SCL will conduct an entrance test for admissions and the first batch will start by next month.

India, he said is preferred for VLSI designing by companies due to lower costs involved.

SCL, meanwhile has also taken up for multi chip wafer runs where upto four designs can be fabricated in a single process. This reduces the cost by four times for the companies who go in for fabrication in this manner. 
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War to hit IT sector: CII
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 12
The pounding of bombs in trouble-torn Afghanistan is transmitting alarming signals across the Indian economic think-tank with concern looming large among economists and policy makers about the possibility of the country slipping into a downward spiral.

“There will be effects, especially in the Indian IT and software sector. The years of the three digit growth in the topline of IT companies are over”, Chief Economist of the CII, Dr Omkar Goswami said during a brain-stroming session organised by the CII here.

Making a detailed presentation of the state of the US economy prior to the devastating terrorist strikes on September 11, Dr Goswami pointed out that the US economy had already slipped into a downslide with low consumer confidence as early as March 2000.

“Not eye-balling dot coms, but serious IT and telecom companies such as AT&T, Cisco and Nortell started having serious problems”, the CII Chief Economist pointed out adding that inventories had started building up by then.

Given the fact that such tendencies were likely to prevail in the largest buying economy of world ( the US) and also that of Asia (Japan), Dr Goswami said there are chances that commodity dumping might take place across the territorial frontiers and countries will seek to clear out inventories at shrinking margins.

Having said that, however, India accounts for less than 0.5 per cent of world-trade and share of trade to GDP is abysmally low.

“Therefore, if we are consistently growing at a rate of less than 5 per cent and not more, then it would be more because of poor implementation of reforms and less due to a volatile international economic environment”, he said.

Managing Director of Oxus Investment Pvt Limited, Dr Surjit Bhalla, however, argued that there was a high probability of the V shaped upturn taking place in the US economy and consequently in the Indian economy.

Director General of National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER), Dr Suman Beri projected that there was unlikely to be a significant impact on the Indian economy in the post-Sept 11 scenario.

Former Chief Economic Adviser to the Government of India, Dr Shankar Acharya, observed that “pump priming” was a dangerous tool in the current context and protectionist measures should be avoided if India were to minimise the adverse effects from the current war against terror.

Director of ICRIER, Dr Isher Judge Ahluwalia noted that a multi-trade regime with defined rules was in the best interests of the country’s economy.
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Industrial growth dips to 1.8 pc

New Delhi, October 12
Industrial growth slumped further to 1.8 per cent in August this year compared to 5 per cent in the same month last year mainly due to poor performance of the manufacturing sector.

According to quick estimates of Index of Industrial Production (IIP) released by Central Statistical Organisation (CSO), the manufacturing sector grew at a mere 2 per cent in August vis-a-vis 5.5 per cent last year.

The cumulative growth in the first five months (April-August) of current financial year also remained subdued to 2.2 per cent as against 5.6 per cent in the corresponding period last year.

In July this year, IIP had grown at 2.6 per cent.

Mining sector registered a marginal growth of 0.1 per cent in August this year as against 4 per cent in the year-ago month.

The cumulative growth declined to negative 0.7 per cent from 3.4 per cent in the April-August last fiscal.

The electricity sector, however, posted better performance in August registering a growth of 1.9 per cent compared to one per cent on the same month last year while the cumulative growth in April-August period declined to 2.6 per cent this year as against 3.8 per cent in the same period last year. PTI
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Khadi board feels the heat of slowdown
Rakesh Lohumi
Tribune News Service

Shimla, October 12
The Khadi and Village Industries Board of the Himachal Pradesh feels the pinch of the financial crisis plaguing the government.

The financial health of the board has been deteriorating ever since the payscales were revised in 1996 but the situation has become more serious with the government has decided to cut down the grant-in-aid instead of increasing it. Things have come to such a stage that employees are not getting their salaries in time.

The medical reimbursement and travelling allowance bills have not been paid for the past two years. The government has also not released the amount on account of rebate given during annual khadi sales since 1988. The arrears on this account come to Rs 2.26 crore.

The total expenditure on salaries and establishment has risen to Rs 2.20 crore this year from Rs 1.13 crore in 1995-96. However, the grant-in-aid has come down from Rs 89.52 lakh to Rs 86.92 lakh. The cumulative losses of the board will cross the Rs 7 crore mark by the end of the current financial year. The deficit during this year alone will be Rs 1.35 crore, according to the budget projection.

This is despite the fact that the number of employees is declining. As against 272 employees two decades ago the board now has a strength of only 147.

The government wants the board to bring down its staff strength to 106 for which it will provide a grant of Rs 86 lakh.

The union claimed that Mr P.K.Dhumal had assured Mr Mahesh Sharma, Chairman of the commission that the government would provide the necessary financial support to the board. However, it had not done anything to bail out the board from the tight financial situation.

The union has now taken up the matter with Chief Minister and urged him to provide a one-time grant of Rs 6 crore to wipe out the losses and increase.
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Govt to introduce 5 kg gas cylinders
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 12
The government has decided to introduce small size cooking gas cylinders of five kg for domestic purpose, Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Ram Naik announced here today.

The small size cylinders are aimed at the urban and rural poor who would find it affordable. It would also be convenient for transportation, especially in the farflung remote areas.

Mr Naik said the small cylinders would cost less than Rs 100 and people in the low income group would not have to lock up their money. Moreover, it would be easier to transport these cylinders by cycles and scooter.

The minister who spelt out the progress of the oil sector during the last two years, said the government also hoped to set up the first LPG dispensing station for motor vehicles in the capital next month.

The environment-friendly fuel would be gradually provided in other major cities including Chandigarh, Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Amritsar.

Mr Naik said the government had also drawn ambitious plans to popularise the use of gasohol, a product arrived from blending 5 per cent ethanol with petrol, in the country. Drawing from the experience in Brazil, the government had set up three pilot projects in Miraj and Manmad in Maharashtra and Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh. Ethanol was being obtained from sugarcane molasses and sugarcane juice, he added.
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Export councils to meet on Oct 15
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 12
Worried over falling exports, Textile Minister Kashiram Rana has convened a meeting of export promotion councils on October 15 to chalk out an appropriate strategy for arresting the slide in textile exports.

Talking to newspersons on the performance of his Ministry, Mr Rana admitted that the textile exports have come down by 15 to 20 per cent and the next week meeting would decide the necessary steps for sustaining the export momentum.

Dwelling on the recently approved package for the revival of the NTC mills, Mr Rana said out of the 104 mills 44 would be revived at the cost of Rs 2,933 crore.

While 60 mills would eventually be closed by giving VRS to approximately 42 surplus workers at a cost of Rs 1,030 crore, the money generated by selling land and the assets of the closed mills would go towards modernising the rest of the NTC mills, Mr Rana said.
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Kinetic launches ‘GF125’ motor cycle
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 12
Kinetic Engineering Ltd launched a 125cc motor cycle, made in alliance with South Korea’s Hyosung Motors and said it will introduce a new motor cycle in every three months over the next one year.

The new motor cycle ‘GF-125’ will cost Rs 49,999 (Ex-showroom Chandigarh), Kinetic Sr Vice-President, Mr Ajay Kapila said at a launch here today.

Mr Kapila said a 150cc variant of ‘GF’ motor cycle range will be introduced in April next year. He said the Kinetic has invested Rs 75 crore to manufacture motor cycle. The motor cycle will compete in the premium power segment with models like Hero Honda’s ‘CBZ’, and TVS-Suzuki’s ‘Fiero’.

The Kinetic group’s turnover is pegged at Rs 1200 crore during 2000-2001 and has set a target to achieve a turnover of Rs 2000 crore soon.
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Industrialists’ demand conceded
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 12
The Punjab Government today conceded a major demand of industrialists and directed the Secretary Local Government to amend the policy on charging of house tax from the industrial units of the focal points after these are handed over by the PSIEC to the Municipal Corporation concerned for maintenance purposes.

This was decided by the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, after a meeting with a deputation of Focal Point Industries’ Association here last evening. He also assured that Form A and C, required for registration of a society issued at present by the Registration of Firms, will, henceforth, be available at the district level. This will provide relief to small and tiny industrial units.

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Indian IT firm gets Stockholm award
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 12
A Delhi-based company has bagged the Stockholm Challenge Award for public service initiatives in IT. TARAhaat, which began its operations less than a year ago, helps connect Indian villages to the rest of the world and empowers them using modern digital technology.

The award, which is sponsored by the city of Stockholm and has been running for three years, gathers some of the world’s most innovative IT projects aimed at the welfare of people. Each project that competes for the award shows in practice how IT is applied in everyday life — whether it concerns social welfare and health care programmes or as an instrument for democracy in communities and regions.
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BIZ BRIEFS

Spice winners
Chandigarh, October 12
Spice Telecom today announced the fortnightly winners of the company’s latest consumer promotion scheme “Spice Apnao Australia Jao”. Mr Ranbir Singh, Fatehgarh Sahib and Mr Kuljit Singh, Ludhiana won a three day / two night five star trip for a couple to Kathmandu. The consumer promotion scheme which was started on September 27 will continue till October 26. Mr Rohit Malhotra, Vice President Sales and Marketing gave away prizes to the winners. TNS

BSNL package
Mandi, October 12
BSNL General Manager Pradeep Kumar today said at a press conference that all benefits permissible under the “Gramin Package” of 1996 would be given without any discrimination. Those deprived of the concessions could take up their cases with him. Those who qualified the conditions laid under the rules would be given the concession even if not claimed so far after filling up a prescribed form. He said the matter had come to his notice after a news item published in The Tribune. He had thoroughly examined the facts. Some subscribers had already availed themselves of the concessions granted under the package. OC

Task force
New Delhi, October 12
The All-India Management Association today said it has decided to set up a national task force comprising top professionals, administrators and CEOs for preparing a blueprint for adding one million professionals per annum to the professional workforce. TNS

Ahuja systems
New Delhi, October 12
Public address products and professional audio systems major, the Ahuja Group has celebrated its 60th anniversary. The Ahuja Group manufactures and exports its public address and audio systems to over 50 countries including the USA, Europe, Middle East and Africa. TNS
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