Business Today

People, places and products

Here is a take on people, places and products doing the rounds these days.

     Print Edition: August 8, 2010

A Heady Mix

When the London-based The Antique Wine Company, which trades in exceptionally rare vintages, finally decided to come to India, it turned to Sonal Holland, 37, a wine educator and independent consultant. An MBA from the University of Mumbai, she has advised hotels, restaurants and international wine companies on the Indian market, and also organised wine-tasting sessions. "The Antique Wine Company stocks some of the world's most sought after wines like Château Margaux and the 2009 vintage wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy, which are known to appreciate in value.'' says Holland, whose husband Andrew Holland is CEO, Institutional Equities, Ambit Capital. She wants to help her clients widen their wine portfolio not only for consumption, but investments, too - both for profit and pleasure. Why not?

- Anumeha Chaturvedi

Second Helping

Sam Pitroda, 68, played a critical role in bringing about a sea change in the telecom space in India some 25 years ago when he pushed for the creation of thousands of public call offices (PCOs) across the country. These PCOs not only gave millions of Indians connectivity, but also huge funds to what is today Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL). But these days, Pitroda is attracting the ire of BSNL employees. A government panel he heads has suggested hiring a CEO from the private sector, voluntary retirement for a third of BSNL's 300,000-plus employees and a 30 per cent divestment. By calling for BSNL to be more independent, he has also irked Communications Minister Andimuthu Raja. With the state-owned operator in a rut and losing market share every passing day, the panel's suggestions could well give the telecom giant a second life.

- Kushan Mitra

Lessons for B-schools

When Bala V. Balachandran says that business education is at a crossroad, you pay heed. After all, Balachandran, 73, has been instrumental in steering top business schools of the world. He continues as the J.L. Kellogg Distinguished Professor of Accounting, Information and Management, and Director of Accounting Research Center even today. He has, of course, founded Great Lakes Institute of Management at Chennai. Says Balachandran: "The fundamentals of education need not change, but it's time to rope in new values. Greed must go out of the system." And Balachandran has decided to make this change happen. A business school at Kolkata will be the first to take off. Business schools such as these will be corporate excellence centres and will focus on just one stream of management. "Uncle Bala", as his students at Great Lakes call him, has been involved in setting up management institutes in India, including Indian School of Business, Hyderabad; Mumbai Business School; and the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs, being set up by Ministry of Corporate Affairs in Manesar, Haryana.

- Saumya Bhattacharya

The Last Hope

This phone has been dubbed as Nokia's last hope in the smartphone category, following the failures of the Nokia N97 and N900, which came late into a market full of iPhones, Android phones and BlackBerrys. The N8 will feature Nokia's new Symbian^3 platform and will be the first phone from the Finnish company to feature a capacitive 'multitouch' screen. Yet, with a launch time of October, a measly 680 megahertz processor, compared to competitor devices running gigahertz class processors, an unproven operating system with not enough independent applications, it might be a case of too little, too late. We do like the 12-megapixel camera, though. PRICE: Rs 25,000 plus

- Kushan Mitra

Prague Unveiled

More than 20 years after the fall of Communism, the popularity of Prague as Europe's premier tourist destination shows no signs of abating. The combination of a thrilling history and glorious architectural achievement remains as compelling as ever. While the city centre is a mélange of stunning architecture, beyond the medieval lanes of the Old Town and the Castle District lies an entire other cosmopolitan city to explore. Search out the riverside parks, lively bars and beer gardens, music clubs, museums and art galleries. You'll probably even wish you could stay longer.

- N. Madhavan

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