Brazilians Indians Greenest

first_imgBrazilians and Indians are the world’s most environmentally conscious consumers and Americans are the least. A survey on global attitudes toward the environment by the National Geographic Society generated a “Greendex,” which ranked India and Brazil at the top with an index of 60 points.They were followed by China (56.1), Mexico (54.3), Hungary (53.2) and Russia (52.4).Great Britain, Germany and Australia each had a Greendex score of 50.2; Spain scored 50.0 and Japan 49.1.US consumers had the lowest Greendex rating, at 44.9. According to the report, Americans were least likely to use public transportation, walk or bike to their destinations, or to eat locally grown foods.  Related Itemslast_img

Indian Rebound

first_imgIndia’s industrial output grew 10.4 percent in August from a year earlier, with consumer durables surging 22.3 percent. A research and rating analyst Soumendra Dash commented: “This growth has surpassed the industry’s expectations. We get a strong indication that India’s economy is recovering very fast.”  Related Itemslast_img

No No To Nano

first_imgOn Dec. 17, almost two years after the Nano was launched, Tata Motors aired the car’s first television commercial. Set in small-town India, it shows a young girl repeatedly asking her grandmother, “When will it arrive?” Finally, after narrow lanes, rocky terrain and compliments from passers-by, the sunshine-yellow Nano arrives. The little girl excitedly hugs the car. Then she notices a gathering of admiring neighbors, and dabs a little dot of kohl on the car to ward off the evil eye.It may not be that easy for Tata Motors, the manufacturers of the Nano, to wish away the evil eye. When it was launched in March of 2009, the Nano was regarded as the hottest thing on four wheels. “The design language is in the same space as the Mercedes Smart,” said BusinessWeek. Reported the Financial Times: “If ever there were a symbol of India’s ambitions to become a modern nation, it would surely be the Nano.” Cut to the end of 2010. “India’s Nano becomes a no-no for car buyers,” says The Washington Post. Last November, Tata Motors dispatched only 509 units of the Nano to retailers, according to SIAM (Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers). In a year that the Indian auto industry grew close to 32% (based on SIAM data), Nano’s dispatches declined steadily from a high of 9,000 units in July. (There was a pick up, however, in December.)Even before the first car hit the roads, the Nano brought controversy. In October 2008, work at Tata Motors’ Singur plant in West Bengal came to an abrupt close because of political pressures. The company announced plans to move the factory across the country to Sanand, Gujarat. (This started operations in June 2010). In the interim, it rolled out only 50,000 units (as opposed to 300,000 units at Singur) from its Pantnagar plant, in Uttarakhand. “As a result, instead of an open sales launch, we had to launch the car through the booking route in April 2009 and could begin deliveries only in July 2009 — that, too, in a staggered manner,” says Tata Motors spokesperson Debasis Ray. (The company’s executives and channel partners have been instructed not to interact with the media.)Big Boom for BookingsNonetheless, the Nano remained a modern-day symbol of India’s ingenuity. The public euphoria secured Tata Motors more than 200,000 bookings, from which a computerized program shortlisted 100,000 “lucky” customers for deliveries through 2010. Of the remaining, 55,000 chose to retain their bookings for the second lot of deliveries. The rest were refunded their entire booking amount ($1,800 for the Nano base model; $2,400 for the Nano CX; and U$2,800 for the Nano LX).By the end of the year, it was a different picture. As of December 2010, there were about 77,000 Nanos sold — a far cry from the one million units group chairman Ratan Tata had been talking about in 2005. This figure includes open sales (that started in August 2010) and some deliveries to the second batch of applicants. That would imply that at least 78,000 (23,000 from the first batch plus 55,000 from the second) have cancelled or “delayed delivery” (where customers opted to take delivery later).“We’ve always said that whenever there is a product launch through a booking route, there are cancellations,” Ray notes. “There are also people waiting to take delivery at a time of their own volition. But we are not disclosing the numbers in the public domain.” Ray also denies that the declining deliveries are related to diminishing demand. “In fact, demand has been picking up with open sales,” he says. “Also, we were nearing the end of the year, so you have to look at your stocks in a manner that they match what you’re supposed to deliver during the year. You do not carry a lot of stock into the new year, because people will want to purchase cars that are produced in the new year.”“Overconfidence and Arrogance”According to Gautam Sen, editor of Auto India, the real problem behind the declining sales is “a total marketing failure. Even during the bookings, it was the banks (giving auto loans) who were advertising (and not the company). In 2009, the Nano won the ‘Indian Car of the Year’ award, but the Tatas did not leverage this at all. They have not leveraged anything. I think there has been a sense of overconfidence and arrogance on the part of the company. They thought the car would sell itself because it was ‘the Nano’ and (because of) the kind of coverage it received around the world. They just took their eyes off the ball.” The Nano had received unprecedented global media coverage thanks to its size, a $2,000 price tag, and the “halo effect” of being a Tata product. That may have made it even more difficult for the company to manage people’s expectations. “Those who start with lot of buzz have to deal with the aftermath of disappointed consumers. Those who have a quieter launch are better equipped to alter the product and the plan as they go along, away from the glare of the media,” says Sudipt Roy, professor of marketing at the Hyderabad-based Indian School of Business (ISB).A case in point: the incidents of fires in a few cars in mid-2010. It is not uncommon for cars, especially in the hot weather conditions in India, to have initial safety concerns. But in the case of the high-profile Nano, these concerns made waves. Instead of using this as an opportunity (see opinion piece by Wharton’s John Paul MacDuffie), the Tatas went into denial. “They should have taken strong measures to convince people the car was safe. They could have handled it much better,” says Sen.Tata Motors released a statement saying that the fires were caused by “additional foreign electrical equipment having been installed or foreign material left on the exhaust system.” They also offered “enhanced features” to all those who had purchased the car, but insisted it was not a “recall.” Tata’s Ray says their customer satisfaction studies with current Nano owners indicate that more than 80% are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the car.The Tatas may well have taken the right approach in the Indian environment. Consumer protection is in its infancy, and to recall a product might well stigmatize it for life. “We came to the conclusion that this car would go into the hinterlands, so we should make a robust car even more robust. That’s (the reason for) the upgrades. A ‘recall’ happens when there is an engineering defect and you want to correct that defect. With the Nano, there is no engineering defect; we are simply adding features,” says Ray. But concerns about the car’s safety persist, and many question whether that effort was aggressive enough to erase the image of a Nano engulfed in flames from consumers’ minds.Communication Complacency The communication complacency was evident elsewhere. Once demand started to fade, Tata Motors might have helped sales had it disclosed the easy availability of the Nano (because of the cancellations and delays). The general perception was that consumers would have to wait two years for delivery. This would not have been an easy choice for the company. After the huge pre-launch hype, it would have caused public embarrassment to admit the car was not moving. But this has resulted in an ironic situation, observers have noted: New buyers are not coming forward because they feel they don’t stand a chance of getting delivery until the company sets up additional capacities.Ray, however, defends the Tata’s approach. “(The Nano) was not available off the shelf until we started open sales,” he says. “There is no question of sluggish sales. Until August (2010), we were only delivering pre-booked cars. I was not selling openly because I did not have the capability to. Despite that, had I started advertising, would I not be wasting money? So in classical marketing style, I have brought in advertising only when it was required — initially print and now, television.”What really happened to the original 200,000 bookings? Industry observers say there are no clear answers. Some orders were cancelled initially. Others were cancelled later. But there is a large percentage that falls under “delayed delivery.” Indian consumers have a lottery mentality: People apply for things they don’t want, expecting to sell them at a premium when they get delivery. “Dealers expect early-bird owners (of the Nano) to command a hefty premium of Rs. 30,000 (nearly one-third the price of the car) because of the initial shortage in supply,” reported economic daily Business Standard, a few days before the launch. “We cannot comment on speculative buying. There is no way for me to know what the intentions of people buying the Nano are,” says Tata’s Ray.Experts concede that part of the problem was not of the Tata’s making. Because the Nano plant had to move from West Bengal to Gujarat, production timelines were difficult to maintain. With not enough cars being made, the company felt it didn’t have to advertise or even set up efficient distribution channels. Butthe hype about the car died down, and the stories about the fires gained prominence.Trouble with the Mother PlantIn fact, Abdul Majeed, leader (automotive practice) PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) India, believes the core problem was the initial lack of a mother plant. “The root of all (of Tata Motors’) problems is that they didn’t have the capacity right to go all over the country from day one. With such an initiative, the most important thing is to have the mother plant up and running. They probably had a plan in place that they couldn’t execute, because they just weren’t ready for a whole roll out.”Sumit Bali, CEO of Kotak Mahindra Prime (which makes auto loans), cites yet another reason. “Since the exit of Rajeev Dube (president, Tata Motors, passenger car division), the whole passenger car division was restructured. Hence, most of the team responsible for the marketing was no longer involved. The new team, with diverse backgrounds, took time to understand the issues.”One of those issues was the product’s positioning, believes ISB’s Roy. “The positioning of the car was entirely wrong. There was a great disconnect in the kind of people they were reaching out to and the kind of people they wanted to sell to,” he says. That the target segment for the Nano was two-wheeler owners and first-time buyers from small towns and rural areas was evident from the oft-chronicled story of Ratan Tata’s inspiration for the Nano: On a rainy day, Tata saw a family of four on a scooter — the father driving it, the son in front of him, and the wife behind him holding a baby. Tata intended the Nano to be bought by those graduating from two-wheelers.  With over 11 million two-wheelers sold in India last year (according to SIAM), the market clearly exists. But instead of reaching out to the intended segment, understanding their purchase behavior, Tata Motors seemed to be consumed by the pressure on margins. They relied heavily on non-conventional methods: They created a special Nano website where one could design their own Nano and play games; used social networking sites such as Facebook and Orkut; leveraged blogs; and purchased online advertising. “The online medium was hardly the right way to sell to their target segment. It should be around shops, bazaars, where they can create buzz around the car through word of mouth,” says Roy, “They ended up selling 75% of the cars in five major cities in India. For 50% of the people, it was a second car.”Tata’s Ray concedes that during the booking phase, the company had no control on who applied. “Eventually, most bookings were from those who were familiar with cars,” he says. The attractive price tag — the cornerstone of the Nano mania — turned out to be a double-edged sword. “There is a great challenge in telling people that this is an economical car, because a car is an aspirational product,” Roy says. “That is something the Tatas have to crack. You can’t say, ‘Here is a car that’s cheap, so buy it.’ That will not work; the car has to connect with the right customer segment emotionally. They have to win the battle of the mind.”The Way ForwardWith the spate of media articles, print, television and even radio advertising, as well as other targeted initiatives, the Nano’s marketing has recently taken off. 2010 ended on an upbeat note, with December sales to dealers bouncing back to 5,784 units (according to SIAM). Tata’s Ray predicts that the numbers will only increase and production schedules are being gradually ramped up. “Now that we have begun open sales (available across the country since early January) for the first time, we are proactively going to those (consumers) for whom the car is meant,” he says.That is exactly the path forward recommended by Kevin Freiberg, co-author of Nanovation, a book that uses the Nano as an analogy to “teach the world to think big.” “We think the way forward for Nano is to help villagers in rural India and those at the bottom of the pyramid (to) get financing and make the process of buying their first car less intimidating…. Perhaps another way forward for the Nano is to get back to focusing on the people for whom the car was originally intended,” Freiberg said.The channels are being scaled up and tailored to the customers. Ray says that most of the Nano’s targeted customers felt intimidated by flashy showrooms. So in addition to the 874 regular sales outlets, 289 Special Nano Access Points have been set up for customers to test-drive or test-ride the car. Some 1,200 salespersons have been recruited and trained to work out of these dealerships. As a further purchase incentive and a confidence-boosting measure, Tata Motors has more than doubled the Nano’s warranty to four-years or 60,000 km (whichever comes earlier) at no extra cost. Customers can also purchase a maintenance contract at $2 per month.The company has undertaken a massive outdoor campaign across 104 towns in five states. The message to Sanjay Pareek, president of marketing services firm Percept Out-Of-Home, was clear. “They want to get two-wheeler owners who wish to upgrade to a four-wheeler in tier two and tier three towns,” says Pareek. Accordingly, the communication that went out clearly stated that the Nano is now easily available with an easy-payment scheme. “The dealers have said the selection of sites is correct. And the proof of the pudding lies in the fact that they (Tata Motors) have just indicated that they will roll over the campaign for another month-and-a-half or two,” he adds.Financing Is CriticalThe financing might prove vital, especially since the car is now more expensive. The base model is now $2,700 and the top variant as much as $4,000 (Mumbai prices). PwC’s Majeed warns that “from $2,000, you can’t go to a $4,000 car, because if the price differential between the Nano and the next best alternative — the Maruti Suzuki Alto (starting at $4,000) — comes down, (the Nano) won’t be very attractive to people. The segment they’re targeting is very cost competitive; they need to keep their cost structure very tight.”To soften the blow, Tata Motors has set up financing arrangements with 29 banks and non-banking finance companies, with almost 90% assistance at “easy rates.” Additionally, Tata Motors Finance, a subsidiary of Tata Motors that helps finance their vehicles, will process the loan of applicants with unclear documentation (a rampant problem with customers in that segment) in just 48 hours. The Nano has had its share of challenges. But is that not typical for many new product? S. Ramesh Kumar, professor of marketing at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, believes that “any company attempting an innovation with regard to high-involvement durable categories, especially at the level of disruptive innovation at the lower end of the market, faces unexpected risks as the brand has to strike a competitive balance between several aspects of the offering and the price.”But the Nano now seems to be well poised to overcome its early setbacks, experts say. PwC’s Majeed expects increased competition in the small car segment. “But as long as the Nano gets its act together, it will be able to get good market share and create a new segment.”There will be new challenges and fresh competition. Auto India’s Sen points to the Alto with the twin cylinder engine that Maruti Suzuki is planning to introduce in 2012. It will be priced close to the Nano. And there is another positioning problem coming up as the Tatas add bells and whistles — a more powerful engine, power steering, power windows, five-speed gearbox and even an airbag.Power, in all its forms, will come at a price. Will the new strategies — some still on the drawing board — work? “We don’t know,” says author Freiberg. “But we do know this: Tata Motors is a great company with a deep culture of commitment to the needs of the customer. We can’t wait to see how they handle this situation.”   Related Itemslast_img read more

Qatar Cabinet Approves Draft Law on Foreigners Owning Property in Qatar

first_imgQatar has approved a draft law allowing regulation of ownership and usage of properties by non-Qataris in the Gulf nation, Qatar News Agency reported on April 19.Foreigners can own and use properties in Qatar in accordance with conditions specified by a decision of the Cabinet and based on suggestions of the commission for regulating non-Qatari ownership and use of real estate, as per the report.In all cases, the “right of usufruct granted to a non-Qatari shall not expire with his death and shall be transferred to the heirs unless both parties agree otherwise”, according to the draft legislation, QNA report said.The decision was approved by the Cabinet chaired by Qatar Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani and has been referred to the Advisory Council.The provisions of the draft law applies to land space, buildings and residential units, as well as detachment units in residential complexes, the report stated. The policy change be beneficial to the robust Indian diaspora living in Qatar.The Cabinet also approved a joint work mechanism for the Ministry of Finance and the Qatar Fund for Development to determine what kind of scholarships are to be offered to non-Qatari students through the adoption of the Qatar Scholarship Program.Qatar has a robust Indian diaspora with almost seven lakh Indians. It is also the largest foreign worker community in the country. “We are the largest expatriate community in Qatar with the number of Indians reaching 691,000 as of now. The Indian community would like to express our gratitude to the leadership of Qatar for the great patronage given to the country,” Indian ambassador P Kumaran said on the occasion of ‘Bharat Utsav – A Journey through Festive Celebrations of India’ on April 13.Qatar also announced in 2017 that Indians and people of 79 other countries can live in the Gulf nation visa-free for up to 60 days to boost tourism.“Nationals of 47 countries (including India) will not require prior visa arrangements and can obtain a visa waiver upon arrival in Qatar. The waiver will be valid for 30 days from the date of issuance and entitle its holder to spend up to 30 days in Qatar, during either a single trip or on multiple trips. This waiver may be extended for a further 30-day period,” Qatar Airways had said, echoing the government’s policy change, in 2017, according to Times of India.The changes can be seen as a bid to rejuvenate the economy in Qatar, after multiple Gulf nations boycotted it over alleged support to terrorism. The boycott has affected the Indian migrants in the country as well Related ItemsIndiaQatarlast_img read more

2017 Rogues’ Gallery: Indian Americans Who Made News for Wrong Reasons

first_imgThe year that just went by propelled many ordinary people into limelight for their alleged notorious acts. While the death of 3-year-old Sherin Mathews brought her parents Wesley and Sini Mathews into headlines across the world, Abhishek Gattani’s ill-treatment of his wife spurred discussions on the prevalence of domestic abuse in Silicon Valley. Bikram Choudhury grabbed attention once again for his failed “hot yoga” empire, and disgraced businessman John Kapoor brought into public eye the ills pervading the pharma industry in the United States.Little India recaps some of the Indian Americans who were in the news for wrong reasons in 2017:Wesley and Sini MathewsWesley MathewsOn Oct. 7, 2017, 3-year-old Sherin Mathews went missing at Richardson, Texas. Two weeks later, the police found her body in a culvert near her house, following which the police arrested her father Wesley Mathews.Wesley said that Sherin choked on the milk that he was forcing her to drink. He changed his statements in the following days, eventually saying that he took her body along with the trash, and disposed it in the culvert. Wesley is charged with child endangerment and faces a life sentence.Sherin MathewsSini Mathews also faces charges of child endangerment and abandonment. Charges against her were pressed after it was found that the couple and their biological daughter went out for dinner on Oct. 6, leaving Sherin at home without any supervision for an hour and a half. The child was placed “in imminent danger of death, bodily injury, or physical or mental impairment,” Detective J Farmer wrote in Sini Mathews’ arrest warrant.Sherin was adopted from an orphanage in Bihar 18 months before her death. The parents are currently fighting for custody of their biological daughter who was taken by Child Protective Services after Sherin went missing.John KapoorJohn KapoorOn Oct. 26, Pharma billionaire John Kapoor, the founder of Insys Therapeutics Inc., was arrested on charges of using bribery and fraud to promote prescription of an opioid pain medication to patients. Launched in 2012, the medicine was meant for stage-end cancer patients but was allegedly prescribed to non-cancer patients as well. According to prosecutors, Insys is an example of American pharmaceutical companies prioritizing profits over public health.Kapoor, 74, who stepped down as the company’s CEO in January 2017, pleaded not guilty to these charges and of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and conspiracy to violate the anti-kickback law in November.On Dec. 21, 2017, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein filed an unfair trade lawsuit against the already embattled company for allegedly bribing doctors to prescribe Subsys, the oral spray meant for cancer patients.Bikram ChoudhuryBikram Choudhury, the founder of a California-based yoga organization that promoted his “hot” yoga practice, was heaped with accusations of sexual assault by many women, including his students and instructors. After an arrest warrant was issued against him in May, the 73-year-old yoga practitioner fled the United States and is currently absconding. His “hot yoga” practice required people to perform yoga in a room heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, which was perhaps meant to simulate Indian weather conditions.Choudhury’s former lawyer wrote in a lawsuit against him in 2013: “Bikram Choudhury created a hyper-sexualized, offensive and degrading environment for women by, among other things, demanding that female staffers brush his hair and give him massages.”In court filings made on Nov. 9, Bikram Choudhury Yoga Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after multiple court judgments made the company liable to pay $16.7 million to multiple women for sexual assault.Zain JafferZain JafferZain Jaffer, the co-founder of San Francisco-based startup Vungle, a mobile ad company, was arrested in October, over charges of sexually abusing his children. Jaffer, who has a three-year-old son and one-year-old daughter, was accused of felony assault, lewd act upon a child, and other related charges. The 29-year-old entrepreneur was “charged with two counts of child abuse, against his son and daughter, as well as oral copulation of a person under 14, lewd act upon a child and assault likely to produce great bodily injury,” Forbes reported citing Steve Wagstaffe, the San Mateo County District Attorney.Jaffer was also charged with misdemeanor battery upon a police officer and emergency personnel. Jaffer pleaded not guilty, according to his attorney who spoke to Forbes magazine. Jaffer was part of Forbes 30-under-30 list in 2012.Abhishek GattaniAbhishek GattaniThe case of domestic abuse involving two Silicon Valley techies Neha Rastogi and Abhishek Gattani blew open early in the year, and shook people for the shocking incidents in their 10-year marriage. Rastogi said Gattani began abusing her shortly after the marriage, and he was even arrested four years ago when the mailman saw him beating her on the sidewalk. Rastogi had then bailed him out in hope, according to her statement, that he would change for the better for the sake of their three-month-old daughter.When the abuse began again, she started recording his acts in audio and video clips and went to the same police in July 2016. Gattani faced charges of felony assault and domestic violence.However, a plea deal was reached between the prosecution and defense despite Rastogi’s protests. The District Attorney’s Office wrote a memo defending the plea agreement, talking about the difficulties prosecutors would face if the case went to trial. The memo also said that by the time Rastogi went to police, she only had two faint bruises, which does not meet the “traumatic condition” required to prove a felony.The prosecution came to an agreement with him for “felony accessory after fact” and “offensive touching.” The case was rescheduled after Rastogi read out a statement questioning the reducing the 10 years of abuse to “offensive touching.” In June 2017, the judge upheld his sentence of letting Gattani serve only 13 days in jail. Related ItemsIndian Americanlast_img read more