Marketing review

04 Oct 2007


Lenovo launches G Series low-cost notebooks
Computer maker Lenovo has announced the launch of its G Series range of notebook computers, which offer computing mobility on a budget to value-conscious consumers who are keen to make a transition from desktops to notebooks.

The G400 notebook features Intel''s Pentium dual-core T2080 (1.73GHz, 533MHz FSB, 1MB) processor, packaged with a 14.1" WXGA high definition glossy widescreen display, wrapped in a sleek silver cover. The laptop comes with DOS, and is equipped with Lenovo''s high touch full-sized keyboard that draws from the legendary Thinkpad keyboard design. It also incorporates the trademark One Key Recovery that lets users easily recover data in the event of a crash.

Additional features include a 4-in-1 memory card reader, a high speed 56Kbps modem, 802.11b/g wireless LAN and integrated Bluetooth v2.0. Weighing 2.35kg, the notebook has a battery life of up to 4 hrs. It also has an integrated microphone, Realtek High Definition Audio with greater than 8cc chamber design for impeccable sound, and limited edition Power2Go 5.5 multimedia software that allows users to record various forms of data.

According to Anil Philip, executive director, transaction business, Lenovo India, notebooks offering mobility and productivity at an affordable price are gaining popularity with consumers who want alternatives to desktops. The Lenovo 3000 G Series targets a new set of value-conscious consumers, at a compelling price point, which allows Lenovo to offer its range of best-engineered PCs to a new segment of users.

The Lenovo G Series notebook is available at all Lenovo authorised storefronts, at prices starting at Rs31,750, not including taxes.

BPL Mobile introduces BlackBerry Curve 8300 Smartphone
BPL Mobile, in association with Research In Motion (RIM) has announced the launch of the BlackBerry Curve8300 smart phone in Mumbai.

A single circle operator, BPL Mobile has a customer base of over a million subscribers. It has now added the BlackBerry solution to its range of wireless services in the Mumbai region.

The BlackBerry Curve 8300 smartphone''s value proposition in tandem with BPL Mobile offers a unique blend of communications, multimedia and web capabilities, appealing to a broad audience, and valuable for both business and leisure.

Aiming at popularising the smartphone and services with predominantly young professionals in the 25-35 age groups, the solution would be packaged as a way to maintain a balance between work and fun, and as a tool to enhance productivity and communication, while adding a quotient of fun to their work and personal lives.

Commenting on the BlackBerry Curve 8300 smartphone launch, S. Subramaniam, CEO, BPL Mobile said, "BlackBerry smartphones are trusted by mobile professionals globally and we are very excited to offer the BlackBerry Curve 8300 smartphone to our subscribers. From our consumer insight, it is evident that today''s young, energetic and on-the-move professionals seek a single handset that can keep them connected and productive yet help them unwind with entertainment features. Our endeavour is to cater to this demand by helping these mobile professionals manage their busy lives and maintain their ''Work Hard, Play Hard'' lifestyle. We are confident that our subscribers will benefit from this new offering."

Research In Motion''s Norm Lo, vice president, Asia Pacific, said, "We are pleased to be working with BPL Mobile to bring the BlackBerry Curve 8300 smartphone to their customers in Mumbai. The BlackBerry Curve 8300 smartphone is an exceptional choice for customers that want to stay connected to the information and people that matter most."

The BlackBerry Curve 8300 has a stylish finish, a large display, easy-to-use full QWERTY keyboard, and an intuitive trackball navigation system. The ultra-bright 320x240 display provides exceptional quality to images and video, with its innovative light sensing technology capable of automatically adjusting backlighting levels for optimal viewing in indoor, outdoor and dark environments.

Additionally, the smartphone comes with a 2 megapixel camera, complete with 5x digital zoom, built-in flash, self-portrait mirror and full screen viewfinder. Photo sharing is made easy by email, MMS or BlackBerry Messenger, and Bluetooth or USB cable.

BPL Mobile plans to offer the BlackBerry Curve 8300 to individuals and small businesses on the BlackBerry Internet Service, which will allow them to access up to ten supported personal email accounts that include most of the popular ISP email accounts, from a single device.

Corporate customers can look forward to BlackBerry''s Enterprise Server integration with IBM, Lotus, Domino, Microsoft Exchange and NovellGroupWise environments, with features and a broad set of IT policy controls that will let IT departments manage deployments.

BPL mobile customers can also use the BlackBerry Curve 8300 to access a premium range of applications at affordable monthly fees that range from Rs499 to Rs999.

The BlackBerry Curve 8300 has been priced at Rs24,990, inclusive of a free mobile tracker application that comes pre-installed.

Olympics run-up causing war in LCD segment says market researcher iSuppli Corp
according to iSuppli Corp, a market research firm, the demand for LCD TVs will most likely go through the roof as people across the world upgrade their television sets to watch the 2008 Beijing Olympics games.

Research by iSuppli indicates that 2008 will see global shipments of LCD TV panels rise to 102.5 million units, up by 27 per cent from the previous year. Other demand drivers for LCD TV sales are likely to be factors like falling prices, performance improvements and national transitions to high quality digital TV broadcasting.

The market research firm says by end 2008, newer large-sized LCD fabs will commence production, which will most probably result in greater panel output, which could be a boon or a band for LCD panel suppliers, depending on how the Olympics affect demand for LCD TVs.

Cautioning against oversupply, iSuppli said that though the LCD panel output is set to rise, suppliers are likely to face an oversupply situation if estimated sales fall short of the heightened expectations of the industry.

According to the firm, the LCD market is in the midst of a recovery, though it is still dominated by big South Korean players Samsung Electronics and LG, and by Philips LCD of South Korea, and the Taiwan-based AU Optronics Corp and Chi Mei Optoelectronics.

Samsung plans uniform brand code across operations
Samsung India is planning to rebrand its 100 stores across India, in order to have uniform in-store elements. It is also planning to take its overall store count up to 130 stores this year.

According to the company, Samsung has a single-store brand the world over, which is Samsung Plaza, with India being the only country where the company followed a two-brand model. The company has decided to follow its global practice, while simultaneously enhancing its store count by 30 per cent.

The company also plans to do away with its practice of benchmarking its stores in terms of sq ft space for Plazas and Digitall Homes. The company plans to let geography, location, and localised market size dictate the size of its uniform brand store.

Under the plan, the flagship "Samsung Digitall Home" stores will be brought under the umbrella of its existing store brand "Samsung Plaza". The company plans on transplanting the interactivity of the "Digitall Home" concepts to "Samsung Plaza" stores, so that they are upgraded to more than just a product display.

Samsung has a strong presence in the metros, and will be adding most of the 30 per cent store expansion in non-metros, with a mix of standalone and mall stores, and trade margins differing between the two. The differentiation in trade margins is to ostensibly address the higher costs incurred by mall stores in terms of real estate and housekeeping.

Samsung plans to use its stores for product demonstration, which it holds important for product display, and sees it as one of the success factors given its expanded product range. To address these requirements, Samsung decided to standardise product demonstration across its stores for solution marketing, such as a LCD TV being experienced with a home theatre system, across all its stores.

Bharti joins the global Top 10 in subscriber base; hits 50-million customer mark
New Delhi:
Sunil Mittal-owned Bharti Airtel has entered the league of the world''s top ten telecom operators. On 1 October, the company became the first Indian member of the top 10 club, with its customer base passing the 50-million mark in mobile, broadband and wireline services.

According to Bharti Airtel president and CEO Manoj Kohli, next on the company''s agenda is the 100-million mark by 2010.

Using the occasion to lobby for more spectrum space, Bharti Airtel called on the government to set aside more wireless spectrum space to help it achieve its goal of a 100 million customers by 2010. "Spectrum" is the bandwidth over which wireless communications are delivered.

Adding about 2 million subscribers a month, Bharti Airtel had 46.8 million subscribers as of the end of August, 2007. It had 10 million subscribers as of November 2004, and crossed the 25 million count in July 2006, thereafter doubling its customer base in just 14 months.

The company''s joint managing director Akhil Gupta views the bulk of subscribers for the next 50 million customers coming from rural areas. Given the enhanced base, he estimated Average Revenues Per User (ARPUs) to fall, though not drastically, owing to the consequential increase in usage and revenues.

Bharti Airtel''s 50 million customers cover mobile, broadband and fixed telephone services, with wireless segment estimated to be adding almost 96 per cent (47.99 million) of the total base. The exact statistics for mobile additions for the month of September 2007 are awaited from the Cellular Operators Association of India, which are likely to be made public in very near future.
To spearhead its rural acquisition plans, the company is planning to facilitate its rural penetration by following a slightly different strategy that could include providing local content in various languages, and simpler tariffs among other things.

Bharti Airtel plans to make sizeable investments in network expansion, to ensure a presence in all towns and over five lakh villages across India by 2010. It plans to cover 95 per cent of the country''s population.

Bharti Airtel''s Sri Lanka operations are likely to commence by the end of the current financial year in March 2008. The company is also likely to make its foray into the DTH, or direct-to-home services arena in India, around the same time.

Tata, Honda down; Mahindra up 25 per cent, Maruti up 11.4 per cent, and General Motors India up 64 per cent in September auto sales
Commercial vehicle maker and the country''s No. 2 car manufacturer Tata Motors Ltd announced that its vehicle sales in September fell 1.26 per cent to 48,347 units from 48,963 units a year earlier.

Tata Motors commercial vehicles sales in the domestic Indian market went up by 1.5 per cent to 27,036 units from 26,627 units a year ago, with sales of cars and utility vehicles falling 8.6 per cent to 17,006 units.

For the same month, the Indian arm of global carmaker Honda, Honda Siel Cars has also announced a downward slide in sales for September. Honda sales went down 5.3 per cent compared to September 2006, with the company selling 5,674 units as against 5,993 in September 2006.

Honda Seil sold 3,635 City ZXs, the flagship sedans, along with 1,392 Civics in the more premium range, and 245 Accords in more expensive segment. The company sold 402 CR-V sport utility vehicles.

The fortunes of India''s utility vehicle manufacturer, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd (M&M) seem to have taken a different path. Sales figures for the company reportedly went up in September by a substantial 25 per cent, totalling 19,871 units when compared to the same period last year, when it sold 15,920 units.

Mahindra sold 2,185 units of its Logan sedan, which is a product made by M&M as part of a a joint venture with France''s Renault.

However, tractor sales for M&M totalled 8,668 tractors in September, which is lower by 11 per cent from 9,729 units a year ago.

The company said domestic auto sales, including that of utility vehicles, light commercial vehicles and three-wheelers went up by 25 per cent to 18,569 units from 14,865 units. It said that exports in September 2007 went up 23 per cent to 1,302 units from 1,055 units during the corresponding period last year.

Maruti Suzuki India Ltd (MSIL) had fortunes similar to M&M, reporting an 11.4 per cent hike in its domestic car sales for the month of September, counting in 63,086 units against 56,606 units year-on-year.

MSIL''s exports during September 2007 grew 55 per cent at 4,362 units, as against 2,814 units in September 2006.

Sales of the people''s car M800 declined 32 per cent in September, at 5,221 units as against 7,680 units in the corresponding period last year.

Sales in the C segment that comprises multi-utility vehicles Omni and Versa, sales dipped 12.9 per cent at 6,350 units, according to a company statement.

For the A2 segment, which comprises hatchbacks Alto, Wagon-R, Zen and the popular Swift, sales grew 21.8 per cent in September, totalling 46,216 units against 37,955 units in September 2006.

Sedans Esteem and SX4, the A3 segment, gained by 43.3 per cent at 4,885 units against 3,410 units in September 2006.

In the SUV segment, the Grand Vitara and the Gypsy showed sales of 414 units during the month, compared to 272 units same time last year.

Exports during April-September period are also up 51.4 per cent at 24,236 units against 16,009 units in the same period last fiscal. Maruti is yet to publish its sales numbers officially on its website.

General Motors India has shown the largest growth of all, with a 64 per cent jump in sales in September 2007, when compared to September 2006. The company sold 5751 units in September 2007, against 3506 units in September 2006.

September 2007 sales comprise 1953 units of Chevrolet Tavera, 1559 units of Chevrolet Aveo, 738 units of Chevrolet Optra and 1501 units of Chevrolet Spark.

Yes Bank to launch new private equity funds
Private sector bank, Yes Bank, has plans to launch four private equity funds in the course of the next 12 to 24 months.

According to Yes Bank president for corporate finance and development banking Somak Ghosh, It would be a mix of domestic and overseas investors. The bank will launch an infrastructure fund of $550-750 million, a real estate fund of around $250-350 million, a distressed-assets fund of around $250-350 million, and a $150 million fund focussed on socially responsible investments.

Mitsubishi Motors launches the Lancer Evo X
Tokyo: Japan''s Mitsubishi Motors has unwrapped the latest incarnation of its iconic Lancer Evolution sports sedan.

According to reports, Mitsubishi is counting on new products like its remodeled Outlander sport utility vehicle and the Lancer sedan to drive global sales.

The 10th generation Lancer Evolution X, would be available in the overseas markets starting February 2008. The Lancer has been loaded with the latest advanced features since its launch in 1992, and this time around the Lancer Evolution X features several new technologies as well.

A six-speed automated manual transmission, the Twin Clutch SST, rivals Volkswagen AG''s a similar dual-clutch system. It uses a dual automated clutch system to deliver smooth shifting automatically, which makes for a sporty drive without manual shifting down a winding road.

The Lancer Evolution X is powered by a newly developed 2.0-litre turbocharged engine that is lighter and less polluting than a previous version. An improved brake-assist system regulates drive torque and braking force at each wheel to better reflect the driver''s intent, as well as making the car safer on slippery surfaces.

According to the company, by 31 march 2008, it expects to clock sales of 4,000 units in Japan, and 2,300 units in North America following a February launch. The car will be exported from the company''s Mizushima factory in Japan, to Europe and other markets.

The five-speed manual transmission version starts at just under 3 million yen ($26,080) in Japan, while the twin clutch version costs 3.75 million yen ($32,600).

Two-wheeler sales hit, yet again
New Delhi: The woes continue for the Indian two wheeler industry. Two wheeler majors Bajaj Auto (BAL) and TVS Motor Co have both posted huge double-digit dips in their September sales numbers, while market leader Hero Honda just about managed to buck the trend with a not-so-large 4.3 per cent increase.

Bajaj reported a decline of 23-odd per cent its total two-wheeler sales at 2,06,208 units against 2,72,271 units in September 2006. Bajaj''s bike sales were also hammered by a 25 per cent decline at 204,152 units against the 2,71,377 units in September 2006.

Showing the same trajectory, TVS too reported a 29.04 per cent drop in two-wheeler sales, counting 1,15,091 units compared to 1,62,200 units in the corresponding month last year. TVS''s bike sales also sank by 49.53 per cent 53,991 units against 1,06,972 units during the same period last year.

The reduced sales are attributed to prevailing high interest rates, and restricted availability of retail finance, according to TVS.

Market leader Hero Honda, retained an upper hand with a 4.31 per cent increase in its September sales, with total two-wheeler sales in for September adding up to 3,14,567 units against 3,01,577 units in the September 2006.
The company is upbeat about this 4.31 per cent head-start to the forthcoming festival season, where it expects to retain the momentum and build on its successes from September.

Reliance fires more retail workers
New Delhi:
According to a Chinese proverb, sometimes you need to take a step back, to take a leap forward. Reliance Industries seems to be doing just that with its retail venture, with news all around about pink slips going around. Now, it has sacked another 150 grocery workers in communist-ruled West Bengal.

Having been the extremely visible target of opposition from small traders who fear losing their livelihoods, Reliance has shelved its retail plans for the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Orissa, with West Bengal joining their ranks with the 150 pink slips. Opposition to the retail venture is especially important to politicians, who are worried about losing votes in the face of possible mid-term elections.

According to company sources, around 150 contract staff were let go. Reliance Retail had earlier suspended plans to open stores in West Bengal, given the communist government''s "strong opposition" to its plans of around 145 grocery stores and other retail operations in West Bengal.

Organised retail or chain stores accounts for just four percent of India''s 350 billion dollar retail industry and small "mom and pop" retailers fear they will be undercut and forced out of business.

What remains to be seen, is how much of a step back would be needed for the company to reverse its fortunes in the sector.

Anti-lock braking to be mandatory from 2008
New Delhi:
Starting 2008, Indian car manufacturers will more probably have to install an anti-lock braking system (ABS) in all vehicles.

ABS provides for better braking, by preventing a car from skidding if it brakes at high speed, specially on a wet surface.

Current safety guidelines do not mandate the installation of ABS on new vehicles, though the top-end variants of most vehicles provide this as an additional feature.

Say officials of the National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project, installing ABS could be mandated in coming months as talks between vehicle manufacturers, governments and other stakeholders in the auto business have moved to an advanced stage of discussion.

As part of the National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure project, a facility for testing ABS brakes is to come up at the Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (VRDE) at Ahmednagar, which will most probably be operational by 2009.

Till now, cost escalation has been the main reason for opposition by vehicle manufacturers for the mandatory upgrade to ABS. ABS is one of the mandatory safety features in European nations, which see wet weather most of the year round. For that reason, ABS has been a value-added feature for top-end variants in cars in India.

Presently the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), Pune, is the only national agency for homologation and R&D facilities, and also has frontal car crash testing facility. However, it does not have facilities for testing other crash situations like rollovers, or side impacts.

National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure project is also working towards upgrading testing, homologation and R&D facilities for all vehicles manufactured in India, and will be the agency to upgrade testing and homologation facilities to international levels. It will establish five greenfield testing facilities, besides upgrading existing facilities at ARAI and VRDE.

The absence of wet roads for most of the year is the main sticking point, which car markers advocate to discourage the mandatory implementation of ABS, as the benefits of ABS come into play mostly on wet surfaces.

Crash testing tests a vehicle''s safety under crash conditions. Homologation relates to certification of a vehicle indicating that it meets safety and other norms as needed by the country.

At an allocation of Rs1,718 crore, the National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure project will set up three regional homologation centres by the end of 2009 - one at Manesar in the north, an upgraded ARAI in the west, and a third at Chennai in the south, which would also have a full crash testing and research and development facility by 2011.

Two Blackberries for India, from Vodafone
New Delhi:
The former Hutch, Vodafone has launched two Blackberry models, in line with its commitment to bring in new handsets and services.

Vodafone Essar is India''s second largest mobile service operator, behind only Indian giant Bharti Airtel. It has a subscriber base of 34.11 million, with a market share of 20.11 percent as of Aug 31, 2007, as per data reported by the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).

Vodafone announced the introduction of the Blackberry 8310 and 8820, manufactured by Research In Motion (RIM), which are priced at Rs24,990 and Rs.31990 respectively.

Nitco Tiles lays out a strategy to boost sales and improve margins
understanding the importance of retailing to the end-consumer, Nitco Tiles has come up with a two-pronged strategy, to set up company-owned showrooms under the Le Studio Nitco brand, and talking to its existing and prospective dealers for the Le Studio Express brand that will give the company a corner of the store in the form of a niche "Nitco zone".

In its present display format, only some of Nitco''s tiles of each variety were displayed in stores. Even regular buyers from the trade community, comprising architects, builders, interior decorators, and even contractors, which hold some influence with the end-user, have not been able to access the complete range of the finished product.

For the Rs480-crore company, vitrified and ceramic tiles contribute about 70 per cent of its revenues, followed by its marble slabs business with about 20 per cent. The pavers and Mosaico divisions contribute the remaining. Nitco sees competition from the unorganised sector, which commands almost 30 per cent of the market share for tiles.

With competition in the tiles space intensifying, and a sticky hesitation by market players to stick with proven options, most of Nitco''s products were perceived as "me-too" products, and hence competing on prices as opposed to design. Despite its innovative designs, Nitco still could not command a premium on account of its existing retailing format.

According to the company, industries associated with real estate and construction, like marble and laminated flooring have been booming at a time when the tiles segment was seeing a drop in its prices, down from as much as Rs100-150 per sq. ft to Rs40 per sq ft. Overheads such as costs of display, outlet rent and maintenance, and inventory eat away a chunk of the dealers cashflows, and therefore, it becomes important to harness prices to ensure better ROI for the dealers.

Now, partnering with its dealers, Nitco assist them in creating a "Nitco zone", contributing in designing the floor space, and chipping in some part of the finances.

A decorator will design the layout, and Nitco will deploy an employee at the Express outlets to assist customers.

The company has set up 10 company owned showrooms in metros and mini-metros over the last 7-8 months, and aims to open 100 Express outlets next September.

Distiller Khodays all set to comeback
Distiller Khodays is all set make its comeback, having earmarked Rs200 crore for expansion and reviving some of its brands.

The distiller is also reportedly in talks with a distiller in Scotland for acquisition, according to Khoday India''s newly-appointed Chief Operating Officer, Satpal Chaudhry.

He added that the earlier marketing arrangement with the Baggas had been terminated, and going forward the company will do its own marketing.

Khodays has partnered with Punjabi Foods International to market its Red Knight and Peter Scot brands in the European markets. The company is also in talks with for marketing its brands in the US. The company plans to launch a vodka brand in the premium segment in India, along with a beer brand from Germany.

The company is optimistic of trebling its sales in about two years. The company has set aside Rs200 crore for capacity expansion in its five distilleries, one brewery, and 11 bottling plants. Over the next two-three years, the capacity of the brewery in Bangalore will be expanded to 5 lakh cases per year from 2 lakh cases.

Talking about exports, Chaudhry said that initially, around nine or ten containers (each containing 1,300 cases of 700 ml bottles) per month will be sent to Italy, and later to Germany and other European Union nations.

Each container will be sold at €35,000.

In the Indian market, the company''s Peter Scot brand sells about 85,000 cases annually (a case is 12 bottles of 650 ml each), and its Red Knight brand sells about 2 lakh cases per annum.

Max Life ties up with district co-op bank for rural sales
Max New York Life (MNYL) has tied up with the District Cooperative Central Bank Ltd, Mahabubnagar, for a strategic referral tie-up.

Under the arrangement, MNYL will use the branch network of the district bank to market its life insurance products, leveraging it to strengthen its rural presence in Andhra Pradesh.

The bank has a network of 120 branches.

BIG 92.7 FM rolls out campaign
New Delhi:
Big92.7 FM, the Adlabs'' radio station has announced the launch of its first television campaign that features brand ambassador Abhishek Bachchan.

Costing Rs5-crore, the campaign will run for 6 weeks during its first burst.

According to national marketing head Anand Chakravarthy, Big92.7 FM has 33 live stations, with each doing its own campaign. To enhance the overall brand awareness of the entire network, the television campaign has been launched.

Home Solutions the next hot thing for the Future Group
Bangalore: The Future Group''s Home Solutions Retail Ltd, which retails electronics, consumer goods, furniture and home improvement products, is expected to be the largest contributor to the group''s revenues this year.

Home Town is a home-making and home improvement store that markets products and services required to set up a home. Group company Future Money provides in-house financing options to the business.

Talking to the media at the launch of the Home Town at Bangalore, Kishore Biyani, Group CEO, said that E-Zone and Home Town, two of the group''s retailing brands have shown growth rates of 70-90 per cent. He added that Home Town would record a turnover of Rs200 crore this financial year.

According to the company, in the five months since the launch of the first Home Town, Future Money has financed about Rs52 lakh worth of consumer billing, with around 30-40 per cent customers opting for financing their home needs.

The Future Group currently has four Home Towns, 24 E-Zone, 62 Electronics Bazaars, 64 Furniture Bazaars and 45 Got IT outlets in the country.

According to Jacob Mathew, founder-director of Idiom Design and Consulting, the group''s in-house design venture, Home Town is not a store like the widely prevalent western chain Ikea. Instead, Home Town targets women shoppers, and has modelled itself on the ''Don''t-do-it-yourself'' principle.

PUMA unveils Cricket Gear
Sports brand Puma has unveiled its new cricket gear line, launched by Puma brand ambassador Sourav Ganguly.

The collection consists of bats, pads, gloves, apparel, footwear and will be available in the leading sports shops in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, Thane, Chennai, Jalandhar. The footwear will also be available in the PUMA stores across cities.

Prices span a huge range between Rs399 to Rs13,949, looking to over both the top as well as lower ends of the market.

According to the company, the unique concepts and innovative styles of the collection add up to make the game all the more entertaining, and making cricketers look good as they perform.

The collection from PUMA comprises four concepts, Ballistic, Stealth, Vendetta and Aeon Flux, with each having its own specific USP and focus on particular needs of the cricketers.

The Ballistic concept focuses on velocity and on providing engineered performance solutions for players.

The Stealth concept shows cricket products in a manner never shown before, including a carbon composite handle in all Stealth bats, and the balance control system provides a truly futuristic look with a massive hitting area.

Vendetta is the design element used in protective gear, to stimulate the batsman and distract their opposition.

Aeon Flux is designed for fluid motion whilst providing its user with more time to adjust to conditions.

Speaking at the unveiling, cricket star Sourav Ganguly said, "Cricketers love to have sporty gear that supports their movements on the field. I am happy that PUMA has come up with a collection that not only enhances the performance of the cricketers but also adds style to the game."

According to Rajiv Mehta, managing director, PUMA Sports India, "Symbolic of style, design and endurance, the new PUMA Cricket Gear collection is a trend setter in the cricketing world. The collection brings together the basic elements to pep up the sporting spirit of the cricketers."

PUMA is a global athletic brand that fuses influences from sport, lifestyle and fashion. Puma''s range covers sport lifestyle footwear, apparel and accessories. Established in Herzogenaurach, Germany in 1948, PUMA distributes products in over 80 countries.

Hoteliers up in arms against low-budget Andaman tourism
What started as a noble intention of reviving tourism to the tropical islands has now come full circle, with Andaman-based tour operators and hotel owners protesting against a scheme to fly-in budget tourists.

These budget tourists, they say, are proving counterproductive unlike visits by wealthier travellers, and consequently to the island''s tourism revenue.

Islanders, part of the local tourism industry, now say that these hordes of cost-conscious visitors are putting a strain on the island''s tourism resources, without generating much needed income.

Accounting largely for daylong trips, the budget travellers come, see and leave, some without as much as spending any significant amount. Estimates put the number of visitors to the islands at 150,000, with almost 80 per cent of them being low-wage state employees.

In a bid to revive tourism to the tsunami-ravaged islands, the government had opened the Andaman and Nicobar islands as a holiday destination to all level of government employees, allowing them to utilise their leave travel allowances to fly to the tropical paradise.

However, those hopping aboard the first available flight to visit the islands'' legendary beaches, forests, coral reefs and tribal cultures, once the domain of senior state employee on vacations have middle and junior level government employees.

Moreover, travel agents catering to the low-budgets block large chunks of available flights, reducing availability of tickets to up-market tourists.

A few hundred protesters chose the World Tourism Day to voice their concerns outside the tourism directorate at the island''s capital Port Blair, warning of more protests if the government pays no heed to their demands.

Sagarika Ghatge, aka Preeti Sabharwal, Reebok''s "Chak de" brand ambassador at Women''s World
New Delhi:
At the inauguration of Reebok''s first exclusive Women''s World store at the DT City Centre Mall, Gurgaon, Reebok launched its all-new women''s wear collection, with Sagarika Ghatge, the iconic sports celebrity from the movie Chak De India, sharing the platform.

Looking to strengthen its relationship with Gen Y women, Reebok India announced that Sagarika Ghatge will now be doing a "Chak De" dressing up in the all new Women''s collection from Reebok, joining the ranks of sports personalities M S Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, and Irfan Pathan as the new brand ambassadors for Reebok.

Reebok India managing director Subhinder Singh Prem said the company would aggressively focus on the women''s category, and plan to create new product lines to launch women''s only stores as a way to befriend women consumers.

Citing the need for a brand ambassador who could make a sporty fashion statement, while simultaneously command a mass appeal, he said Sagarika is known for her strong sports legacy, having been a state level champion in athletics and a hockey player during her school days at Mayo College Girls School, Ajmer.

According to Prem, Sagarika embodies the pulse points of Reebok''s brand-individuality, authenticity and ideology.

The launch was marked by an evening comprising a enthralling fashion show, with models sashaying down the mall''s escalators, accompanying the star of the show Sagarika Ghatge, who showcased the usage collection from Reebok.

The highlights of the collection were both performance and lifestyle.

According to Prem, the launch of an exclusive Women''s Collection from Reebok''s marks its entry into the rapidly growing contemporary lifestyle segment. Contemporary women love a sporty, causal look, and Reebok is ideally poised to synergise fashion and sports in a way to provide customers with the desired look and feel.

Expressing optimism about the association with its new brand ambassador, Prem said that he sees a perfect synergy between the brand and Sagarika, and believes the relationship will go a long way in defining the new line as a perfect range for women on all occasions.

Reebok''s Women''s wear line speaks of comfort, refinement and functionality, while simultaneously representing style and charisma for the wearer.

Commenting on her association with Reebok, Sagarika Ghatge said, "I have been a sportsperson myself throughout my schooling at Mayo College, and my character in Chak De India also stood for sportsmanship. Thus, it''s easy for me to identify with and truly believe in Reebok''s brand philosophy. Reebok appeals to me as a brand that stands for sportsmanship and it''s a great privilege for me to be associated with this brand. I look forward to working with one of the most trusted brand names in the country. In fact I am also very excited about joining Reebok Instructor Alliance (RIA) and undergo the fitness training to become a Reebok Fitness Instructor. "

Brand Reebok has done a series of communications targeting women, with the first one being the ''I am More'' campaign featuring Hollywood actress Scarlet Johansson. The campaign was carried forward with Indian celebrities like Bani- MTV Roadie, Isha Talwar- Dance Instructor and Tammy- fashion model.

Hyundai Motor launches diesel Getz Prime
New Delhi:
Hyundai Motor India has announced the launch of the diesel variant of its Getz Prime.

The awaited diesel variant of the Getz Prime, which the company terms as India''s first truly global car, incorporates features complying with global standards of performance and safety.

Commenting on the launch of the Getz Prime Diesel, H S Lheem, managing director, Hyundai Motor India Limited, said, "Following the success of Getz Prime in India, we have decided to add another variant to the Getz Prime range. The diesel variant will provide the much needed economy for some of our customers who travel long distances everyday."

The car comes with a state-of-the-art 1.5 litre, four-cylinder CRDi turbo charged diesel engine with VGT, which is quiet, powerful and according to the company, absolute fun to drive. Lheem says it will enable Hyundai''s customers to enjoy the performance of a power packed diesel engine.

The performance and safety features make the Getz Prime a popular car in markets abroad, specially in Europe where it is well liked for its sporty styling, performance and safety. In terms of safety, the Getz Prime meets stringent European safety norms, and enjoys a 4-star European NCAP rating.

The new Getz Prime 1.5 diesel four-cylinder Common Rail Direct Injection (CRDi) engine produces an impressive 110 PS@4000 rpm as peak power, ensuring quick response and robust acceleration. It delivers an impressive torque of 24 kgm@1900~2750rpm, providing for pick-up and performance. The car has a ground clearance of 160mm, adequate for moving around Indian roads. The engine is mated to an efficient 5-speed manual transmission.

The diesel Getz is available with new beige interiors. April 2007 had seen the launch of the new Getz Prime in two engine variants in petrol, the economical 1.1 litre and the more powerful 1.3 litre engines. The Getz Prime Diesel is the new addition to the line-up and is expected to hugely bolster the popularity of the Getz Prime.

The Getz Prime is also exported, with Europe being a favoured destination where the car has done well in the 20 odd countries that it is exported to. From March 2007 till now 13,668 units have been exported, and plans for the year include 24,000 units that will be shipped mainly to Greece, Germany, Italy and Spain. The list of the countries to which the Getz Prime is exported is set to grow substantially over the next few years, with South Africa, Israel and Turkey scheduled to be added to the list almost immediately.

With Hyundai adding production capacity in India next year onwards, the country will be the main sourcing hub for the Getz Prime, in accordance with global plans of making India a hub for small car exports.

The Getz Prime Diesel will be available in the company''s showrooms across India after the first week of October 2007, at an ex-showroom price of Rs569,900 (Delhi).

Bags packed, Reliance Retail plans to shelve UP and Orissa, along with 10,000 jobs in both states
New Delhi
: Given the negative experiences the company has had with its retail ventures at the hands of the Uttar Pradesh and Orissa governments, Reliance Industries is reportedly set to shelve its estimated Rs13,000 crore retail plans for the two states. Into cold storage along with the plans, go at least 10,000 jobs that would have been created.

Now, with the UP state government asking it to shut down shop, the company has decided to put its plans on hold, according to sources. 10,000 direct and indirect jobs in Uttar Pradesh and Orissa go into the cooler as well. Most of these jobs would have been in the company''s back-end and front-end operations.

The company is reportedly following a similar chain of thought for its ventures in Orissa, where it had planned to initially open 14 stores in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack. The estimated investment of Rs3,000 crore in the state is also expected to go into cold storage, along with the company''s Uttar Pradesh plans.

Reliance Retail reportedly had planned investments of around Rs8,000-Rs10,000 crore in Uttar Pradesh for its retail operations, which would have encompassed around 200 ''Reliance Fresh'' stores in a three year span, in addition to the back-end logistics and supply chain needed to keep these stores stocked. A few days ago, it was learnt that layoffs in Uttar Pradesh alone would total around 1,000.

The company is now planning to focus on states that have a favourable view of its retail enterprise.

M&M launches lifestyle SUV Scorpio Getaway
Utility and sports utility vehicle maker Mahindra and Mahindra has launched a lifestyle SUV Scorpio Getaway.

According to Vivek Nayer, vice president marketing and sales, automotive sector, M&M, the Scorpio Getaway is a lifestyle offshoot of the Scorpio that retains the stamped ruggedness, comfort and class, while incorporating design to provide superlative luxury and style.

The Getaway is a lifestyle product is based on the Scorpio platform, which sports a grand deck capable of carrying equipment and gear as dictated by an individual''s lifestyle needs.

The Getaway is available in four colours. The Scorpio Gateway 2WD and 4WD `double cap'' are priced at Rs713,356 and Rs818,080 respectively, (ex-showroom Bangalore).

The vehicle is targeted at the growing breed of the young and the affluent, who have a love for outdoors, adventure and sports. According to Nayer, the car was launched in Bangalore as the lifestyle SUV is ideal for the city which is an effervescent lifestyle hub.

The Getaway comes with a contemporary look, and controls designed for ease of access and operation. Security features include an alarm, immobiliser, and keyless entry. The car is powered by a 2600cc common rail diesel engine, designed in collaboration with Austrian engine designer AVL that delivers 115bhp at 3800rpm, and 28.3Kgm torque at 1800 rpm.

Cobra beer seeks local buyouts in addition to its greenfield projects
UK-based Karan Bilimoria''s Cobra Beer has three greenfield projects in the country on the anvil for the next three years, entailing an investment of upto $50 million.

The first greenfield brewery is scheduled to come up in Punjab in about two years, followed by one in Hyderabad, and another somewhere in the south west.

In addition to the Greenfield projects, the company is also seeking local acquisitions, according to Bilimoria, who was speaking on the sidelines of an investment seminar.

The company estimates Cobra beer''s sales to be at 10 million cases by 2010. Presently, Cobra sees sales of 3 million cases.

Bilimoria says that in just a year of operations in India, Cobra has been able to capture 3 per cent of the total beer market, which he plans to double to six per cent over the next three years, which would equal around Rs400 crore in terms of revenue.

No stranger to competition, he downplayed competition from established players in India, saying that in the presence of established and ancient beer manufacturers in England, Cobra Beer was still able to do good business. Bilimoria is optimistic about repeating the same feat in India.

World Phone introduces cheaper VoIP rates for international calls
New Delhi:
World Phone Internet Services Pvt Ltd has announced new unlimited internet telephony for dialling into the US, the UK, Australia and Canada. Starting at Rs1,500 per month, the plans effectively bring down costs of a minute long call to about 50 paise.

World Phone''s new service is designed to allow consumers to make international calls without using a computer.

Subscribers to the service will get a regular telephone with an international virtual number, which needs to be plugged in to a DSL/broadband Internet connection.

Unlimited international calls can then be made to the aforementioned countries by paying an upfront monthly fee that varying from Rs750 to Rs2,500.

Airtel Broadband launches Rs99 plan in South India
Airtel Broadband & Telephone Services now offers its Wi-Fi Router for a monthly rental of Rs99 to users in South India.

The offer will allow Airtel broadband customers wireless access via Airtel''s broadband experience with speeds of up to 2Mbps.

The wireless router offer comes at a non-refundable registration fee of Rs1,000.

BSNL to change colours as part of brand strategy
New Delhi:
With the erstwhile orange hues first becoming pink, and Hutch becoming an overtly red Vodafone, now state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) has decided to rework its brand strategy.

In a move to unify the telecom major''s seven brands for various telecom services under a uniform identity, the company will soon see a new brand strategy in place. Currently, BSNL has different brands for different services, such as CellOne for mobile services, Bfone for fixed line telephone, DataOne for broadband, and Tarang for CDMA-based WLL limited mobility phones.

All these brands will now come together under a unified BSNL corporate identity, with cellular services rebranded as BSNL Mobile, Bfone rebranded BSNL Fixedline Telephone, and the broadband service rebranded as BSNL Broadband.

Changing colours, BSNL''s corporate signature would change from blue to black.

Recent industry trends have seen large integrated operators converge their offerings under a single umbrella brand. Bharti provides all its services under the Airtel brand, while Tata Teleservices has all its services grouped under the Tata Indicom brand.

The new branding is scheduled to come into effect from 1 October. According to senior BSNL officials, a single identity would facilitate greater consumer-connect with the brand. They opine that while BSNL has great brand recall even in the remotest of villages, other sub brands such as Excel and DataOne were not as well known.

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