Business Today


Print Edition: April 14, 2013

The Italian (Snow) Job
The Italian government left India sputtering with rage with its announcement that two Italian Navy marines, who had been jailed for killing two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast in February 2012, but who were allowed to return home to cast their votes, were not in fact being sent back. Finally, after a fortnight-long standoff, Italy relented. The marines will return to India. A look at India-Italy relations:

History: There are few historical ties between the two countries. Though Indian prime ministers have routinely visited Italy and vice versa, especially since the 1980s, Italy has no special significance for Indians, barring the fact that United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi is of Italian descent.

Controversies: The Bofors scam piqued Indian interest in Italy after Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, known to be close to Sonia Gandhi, was named by the Central Bureau of Investigation as one of the conduits for the Bofors' kickbacks.

Finmeccanica, in the eye of a new kickback storm involving AgustaWestland helicopters which broke earlier this year, is also a leading Italian industrial group.

Trade ties: Italy is among India's top five trading partners in the European Union, bilateral trade between them amounting to €8.52 billion in 2011/12, an increase of 18 per cent over the previous financial year. Around 140 Italian companies, including brands such as Fiat, Perfetti, and Piaggio, have invested in India. TCS, Wipro, Larsen & Toubro, and Mahindra & Mahindra are among the Indian companies active in Italy.

People ties: It is a little known fact that after Britain, Italy is the European country with the highest number of Indians, around 140,000, most of whom moved there in the 1990s when they were welcomed following a severe labour shortage. The majority are from Punjab and work in the countryside.

Magic Shoes
It is a footwear upgrade beyond imagining. Google has outfitted a pair of shoes from German sportswear giant Adidas with a computer, a speaker, an accelerometer, a gyroscope and a pressure sensor. The shoe, which utilises Bluetooth technology to connect to the Internet, can provide directions, increase the speed of the wearer's walk and can even dish out amusing small talk if the wearer has downloaded the requisite app

Through the Roof
Contrary to popular belief, neither Mumbai nor Delhi figures in the list of the 10 most expensive housing markets in the world. Heading it is the tiny principality of Monaco in Europe, where land prices range from $5,350 to $5,920 per square foot. Then come Hong Kong and London, followed by Geneva, Paris Singapore, Moscow, New York, Sydney and Shanghai.

Blocked Corridor

The construction of the third phase of the Mumbai Metro from Colaba to SEEPZ via Bandra, announced with much fanfare a year ago, may stretch well beyond 2019, the current deadline. Work has not even begun on the Rs 24,500-crore, 33.5 km, 27-station project, because of clearance delays. An empowered committee under the Cabinet Secretary has to still approve it, followed by an empowered group of Central ministers.

Compiled by Roopali Joshi

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