Sunday, May 2, 2010


Naveen Patnaik: Switching sides

Orissa Chief Minister and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leader Naveen

Patnaik is known for his concern for probity in public life. His

drive to weed out corrupt elements in his administration has a

measure of ruthlessness not seen in state politics before.

In his nine years as chief minister, Naveen Patnaik has dropped

10 ministers. If there is even the smallest allegation of

corruption or misdemeanour against a minister, he is dropped

immediately, considered unworthy of holding public office. No

wonder, this has earned him a lot of applause and has

contributed to his image as a clean and firm administrator.



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In 2003, when the BJD and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) went for a "friendly" fight in the

municipal elections in Orissa, the BJP did so well in Cuttack that it managed to appoint its

own Mayor. It got a sizeable section of the seats in Bhubaneswar too.

In 2008, however, it was a fierce battle for supremacy in the elections to Bhubaneswar and

Cuttack municipal corporations which saw the BJD sweeping the elections, with the BJP

getting just a handful of seats — presumably the voters' way of letting their leaders know that

they appreciated the accountability of politicians introduced by the BJD.

The recent parting of ways between the BJD and BJP is part of the same pattern. Every time

BJP leaders from Orissa came to Delhi to complain against the peremptoriness of Naveen

Patnaik, party leader in Delhi, LK Advani, dismissed their complaints out of hand. He did so

again when leaders said Patnaik was not honouring the coalition dharma in seat allocation.

Patnaik's relations with the BJP had gone frosty in recent times. When communal violence

erupted in Kandhamal following the killing of Swami Laxmanananda, Patnaik shrugged off

all blame, passing it on to the BJP's lack of control over the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).

Naveen Patnaik has, in the last 12 years since he first joined politics, travelled a long way. He

used to be interested in gentlemen's pursuits: Writing, drawing. 'A Second Paradise: Indian

Country Life'; 'A Desert Kingdom: The People of Bikaner'; and 'Garden Life: An

Introduction to the Healing Plants of India' are the books he has written. No longer. Now,

Naveen Patnaik, as he heads for a third term as chief minister, revels in being unpredictable,

possibly even opportunistic.

Ajit Jain: Buffett's heir apparent

Ajit came to Berkshire in 1986. Very quickly, I realised that

we had acquired an extraordinary talent. So I did the logical

thing: I wrote to his parents in New Delhi and asked if they

had another one like him at home. Of course, I knew the

answer before writing. There isn't anyone like Ajit.—Warren

Buffett, in his annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway

shareholders, in 2009.

In 1986, Ajit Jain left McKinsey to work on insurance

operations for Buffett. Like many of his brilliant stock picks,

Buffett can be relied on to identify the right person way

before his potential is realised. With Buffet singing praises of Berkshire Hathaway

Reinsurance Group head and India-born Jain, there has been intense speculation that he is the

heir-apparent to the 'Oracle from Omaha'.



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So what is it in Jain that attracted the attention of the legendary investor? The answer is

simple: He prevents "foolish losses" through his extraordinary discipline. And that's the key:

Buffett believes insurers produce outstanding long-term results primarily by avoiding dumb

decisions, rather than by making brilliant ones.

Jain was born in 1951, in Orissa. He graduated from IIT Kharagpur in 1972 with a bachelor's

degree in mechanical engineering. After working in IBM, India between 1973 and 1976, he

moved to the US, where he did MBA from Harvard and joined Mckinsey & Co. He returned

to India in the early eighties to get married. According to Robert P Miles' The Warren Buffett

CEO: Secrets from the Berkshire Hathaway Managers, Jain confessed to his friends he would

not have returned to the US, but for his wife who wanted to move there.

Jain specialises in mega-catastrophe coverage, that is, he takes risks that rivals avoid. For

instance, he insured the Sears Tower in Chicago, America's tallest building, after the

September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. He also underwrote the Winter Olympics at Salt Lake

City in 2002, when big groups shunned the games as too risky after the attack.

A Bloomberg report in 2006 said that after joining Berkshire, Jain placed advertisements in

industry publications, which read something like: "We are looking for more — more casualty

risks where the premium exceeds $1 million. The Berkshire Hathaway Insurance Group

currently has $2 billion in surplus — that's right, $2 billion. And, because we retain the entire

risk ourselves, instead of laying it off in the uncertain world of reinsurers, we have the

flexibility to respond to your specific needs."

Meanwhile, the speculations continue.

Anil Manibhai Naik: Looking for an IT-edge

The CMD sees Satyam was a good buy for scaling up L&T's IT business

Anil Manibhai Naik, chairman and managing director of

Larsen & Toubro took over as CEO and managing director

in 1999 and thereafter assumed the chairmanship in 2003.

Since then his company is involved in almost every large

project of note — from the modernisation of the Delhi

airport, the Delhi metro, and a host of highway projects, to

name just a few.

L&T is one of the front-runners to buy Satyam. The tainted

IT company may appear an odd choice for a company that's

strongly focused on engineering and construction.



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The company has unofficially said the interest is strategic because of its two-digit stake in the

company — some of it acquired after Raju's confessions.

Experts say L&T's interest isn't so out of synch with Naik's vision for the company. He's

long seen IT and human resources as core to the company's growth. Besides, there are

synergies with L&T Infotech, the engineering conglomerate's wholly-owned subsidiary.

L&T Infotech, in fact, is a fairly large outfit. It was set up in 1997 and now has 10,000

employees and a turnover of $425 million (Rs 2,000-odd crore) with clients such as Hitachi,

Lafarge and Chevron. Like Satyam, it has expertise in enterprise resource planning (ERP)

solutions which could prove a useful springboard for growth.

Still, given that no one has a fix on the depth of the accounting fraud to which Satyam's

promoter Ramalinga Raju confessed January 7, L&T's interest can certainly be called bold.

Even assuming a buyer will not acquire Satyam's liabilities (once a forensic audit figures out

what they are), regaining global client confidence will be just one of many challenges they'll

be up against.

But then, no one would accuse Naik of lack of confidence in his own abilities. Indeed, as he

admitted in an interview to the media last year, it was one of the reasons that nearly did not

get him his first job in L&T in 1964 as assistant engineer. The Danish general manager who

interviewed him found him "over-smart" but luckily for Naik, his immediate Scots boss

decided to take a chance on him.

Naik took charge as managing director of a company with a turnover of just under Rs 7,000

crore and grew it to almost Rs 25,000 crore by 2007-08, making it a model of the virtues of

professional management. In many ways, it's now pretty much on auto pilot. Reviving

Satyam, therefore, may well be the new challenge he'll relish.

News in brief-Sports

Mahela Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera smashed double hundreds during a

world record stand of 437 runs in tests for the fourth wicket in the first inning of the

opening test at National Stadium, Karachi. The previous best fourth-wicket stand of 411

was between England's Peter May and Colin Cowdrey against the West Indies at

Birmingham in 1957.

West Indies drew the fifth and final test at Port of Spain to win the series 1-0 and

regained the Wisden Trophy for the first time since 2000. The home team, set a target of

240 to win off 66 overs, preferred to defend and just avoided defeat at 114 for eight.



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Shah Rukh Khan and former India test captain Saurav Ganguly have announced a

talent hunt to choose new cheerleaders for Kolkata Knight Raiders (KKR) through a

television show called 'Knights & Angels' to be aired on NDTV Imagine.

Chennai Super Kings has stitched deals with STAR Vijay for two reality shows/ talent

hunts— Chennai Super Kings Juniors (CSK Juniors) and Chennai Super Kings

Cheerleaders (CSK Cheerleaders).

Lalit Modi's reign as the president of the Rajasthan Cricket Association came to an

end after he lost an acrimonious election to Sanjay Dixit, an IAS officer, by five votes in


Former test batsman Gundappa Viswanath was presented the Col. C.K. Nayudu

Award for lifetime achievement at the BCCI Awards function for 2007-08, in Mumbai

recently. Viswanath received a trophy, citation and a cheque for Rs. 15 lakh. Viswanath

scored 6080 runs in 91 tests at an average of 41.93

Other BCCI Award winners for 2007-08 include Virendra Sehwag (Indian cricketer for

performance in international cricket), Cheteshwar Pujara (best batsman) and Sudip

Tyagi (best bowler).

Former West Indies cricketers Vivian Richards, Andy Roberts and Michael Holding

were presented the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame caps to formally induct them into the

exalted honour list of the world governing body in Dubai recently.

Richards, Roberts and Holding are among 13 West Indies legends and 55 players

worldwide who were inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame, which is being run in

association with Federation of International Cricketers' Associations (FICA).

The IPL Drug Tribunal has imposed a 12-month ban on seamer Mohammad Asif from

IPL activity for consuming a banned substance, Nandrolone during the inaugural season

last year.

Manchester United beat Tottenham in the penalty shoot-out to win the English League

Cup Soccer final in London.

The Brussels based International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) is

launching a "Diamond League"' of at least 12 international meets in 2010, seeking to pit

the sport's biggest stars against each other on a more regular basis.



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Japanese automaker Honda announced the sale of its Formula One team to Ross Brawn

rescuing it from collapse and allowing it to compete in the upcoming World

championship. The new outfit is called Brawn GP team.

Vijay Mallya promoted Force India's new Mercedes-powered Formula One car

'VJM02' made its track debut recently. The car will be driven by Italian Giancarlo

Fisichella and Germany's Adrian Sutil in the forthcoming racing season starting in

Australia on March 29.

Force India failed to score a point last season but has since agreed a five-year deal with

McLaren and Mercedes to use their engines and gearbox as well as the new KERS

energy recovery system.

Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton collected the prestigious award – Member of

the Order of the British Empire, or MBE, from Queen Elizabeth II at the Buckingham

Palace recently. Hamilton became the youngest driver at 23 and first black racer to win

the F-1 championship last season.

Alexander Grischuk of Russia has won the Linares Chess tournament in Spain while

India's Viswanathan Anand, champion for the last two years, finished fourth.

India's Jyoti Randhawa has won the Thailand Open at the Laguna Phuket Golf Club.

Welshman Rhys Davies was runner-up in the $500,000 event.

The 73rd edition of the National Badminton Championship at Indore threw up two new

champions — Arvind Bhat in the men's and Sayali Gokhale in the women's — here on

Wednesday. Bhat beat his Petroleum Sports Control Board (PSCB) compatriot P.

Kashyap while Gokhale of Air India got the better of P.C. Thulasi of Kerala in the finals.

The Petroleum Sports Control Board (PSCB) stamped its authority by lifting both the

Rahimatoola Cup for men and the Chadha Cup for women for the tenth year in-a-row

in the National badminton championship in Indore. Their men's team defeated

Railways 3-0, while the women accounted for Karnataka 2-0.

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