Bengal offers four projects to NHPC
Durgapur Projects hurtles towards Rs 65 crore loss
WBSEB bond offering evokes tepid response
Textile fund may cover yarn industry
Druk to launch pickles
DSQworld seeks allies for update
Relish the crowning moment

 
 
BENGAL OFFERS FOUR PROJECTS TO NHPC 
 
 
FROM M RAJENDRAN
 
New Delhi, July 23: 
The West Bengal government has offered four hydro power projects with a potential to generate 500 megawatt to the National HydroElectric Power Corporation (NHPC).

The state government has approached the ministry of power to formalise a deal, raising hopes that a memorandum of understanding (MoU) will be signed soon between the Centre and the West Bengal government.

The West Bengal State Electricity Board (WBSEB) has written to NHPC saying it proposes to develop projects under it on the condition that the entire power generated is supplied to the board. “In view of the poor hydro-thermal mix in the state, we are asking the ministry of power to allocate the entire bulk of power to West Bengal,” WBSEB said in a communication to NHPC.

Among the projects West Bengal wants to hand over are Teesta Stage I, which will produce 40 MW, Teesta Stage II, which will generate 60 MW; stage 7, 8 and 11, of the Teesta project, with an estimated capacity of 50 MW each, are also expected to be given to the central public sector unit for execution.

In addition, WBSEB has submitted a pre-feasibility report on Teesta Stage III, and the 100-MW Low Dam projects. Similar reports on the 132 MW stage IV power project will be submitted to the central government by the end of this month.

“Since the two projects are to be executed along the border between West Bengal and Sikkim, they are inter-state projects. We would request NHPC to consider taking up these schemes as well,” WBSEB has said in its letter to NHPC.

Yogendra Prasad, chairman and managing director, NHPC, confirmed that the proposal from the West Bengal government had been received, and said his company is in touch with the board on the issue. “We will finalise the details soon. There has been a sudden increase in requests from states to take up hydro projects. West Bengal’s would be discussed with the power ministry and the MoU will be signed soon,” sources in NHPC said.

Recently, the Jammu and Kashmir government signed an agreement with the Centre for the implementation of seven hydro-electric projects which would generate 2,798 MW.

Meanwhile, NHPC recorded net profit of 96.45 crore during the first quarter of the current financial year as against Rs 54.55 crore in the corresponding period last year. Turnover from its power stations increased to Rs 360.32 crore compared with Rs 332.51 crore in the same period of last year. The unaudited financial results for the three-month period was approved by its board of directors on July 20.    


 
 
DURGAPUR PROJECTS HURTLES TOWARDS RS 65 CRORE LOSS 
 
 
BY PALLAB BHATTACHARYA
 
Calcutta, July 23: 
Durgapur Projects Ltd, the sick state-owned power generation company, is set to report a loss of over Rs 65 crore for the year ended March 31, 2000.

This will increase the accumulated loss of the company to over Rs 260 crore, completely wiping out its net worth which stood at Rs 163 crore.

Although the erosion of its net worth makes the company a clear case for the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR), the state government is yet to take a decision on the issue.

The state power minister Mrinal Banerjee, however, was not available for comments despite several attempts.

DPL sources said the unviable cokeoven plant and the closure of five of the plant’s six power generation units were responsible for the company’s huge losses last year.

“The cokeoven plant, which has five batteries, has a coal washing capacity of 1.8 million tonnes per annum. But it could produce barely 20,000 tonnes in two units, which are running,” they said.

The company’s power generation has also been drastically reduced since only the sixth unit with a 110 MW capacity was available for generation.

“The other five generation units have been undergoing overhauling at an investment of Rs 363.45 crore and the project will be completed in 29 months,” they added.

Durgapur Projects is in the process of producing low ash coke through an effective admixture of indigenous and imported coking coal.

A senior official said the company was currently looking at the marketability of such coke in the local market.

“We are in talks with a couple of marketing organisations in this regard and hope to taking a decision soon,” he said.

The official, however, refused to divulge the names of the organisations and the size of investment required for this project.

The state government is at present contemplating various options to bring the company out of the red.

Sources said the conversion of a part of the government loan into equity was also being considered to shore up the capital base of the company.

Further, the government is also weighing the option of merging DPL with the West Bengal Power Development Corporation. However, no decision has been taken yet, the official said.    


 
 
WBSEB BOND OFFERING EVOKES TEPID RESPONSE 
 
 
BY SUTANUKA GHOSAL
 
Calcutta, July 23: 
The Rs 200 crore bond floated by West Bengal State Electricity Board (WBSEB) has received lukewarm response even after extending the subscription period by one month.

Sources said that, till date, WBSEB has been able to mop up only Rs 90 crore through private placement of its bonds.

WBSEB had floated this bond to repay National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC). It owes Rs 800 crore to NTPC.

The issue carries a coupon of 12.75 per cent per annum, opened on June 1. Initially the issue remain opened for a month. But since it failed to attract investors, WBSEB decided to extend it by another month.

The arrangers to the issue are SBI Capital Markets, United Bank of India, RR Financial Consultants and Srei Capital Markets.

The interest on the bond has to be paid twice a year. The redemption can be done after seven years from the date of allotment. The bond has a put and a call option after the fifth year.

When contacted by The Telegraph, WBSEB chairman G.D. Gautama said, “Till last month we have been able to mop up Rs 60 crore. We are hopeful that we will get full subscription for Rs 200 crore.” Gautama further added that they are now paying NTPC regularly.

WBSEB is saddled with a dues’ burden of Rs 4000 crore. “We are fully aware that only securitisation of our dues will help us to get out of this situation. We are eagerly waiting for government notification,” he said.

It is learnt that for marketing its bonds, WBSEB has also approached UTI Bank. However, when contacted the UTI Bank management said that they are not aware of such developments.

Market sources said that the lukewarm response towards the bond is a result of the general perception in the market that the structure of WBSEB will be totally changed after the Electricity Bill is passed.

However, a section of the market feels that institutions, too, should come forward to bail out WBSEB.    


 
 
TEXTILE FUND MAY COVER YARN INDUSTRY 
 
 
FROM VIVEK NAIR
 
Mumbai, July 23 : 
The ministry of textiles is planning to draft detailed norms to enable synthetic fibre and yarn industry including the tyre cord sector to avail of the textile upgradation fund scheme. The scheme was announced by the Union finance minister in his previous budget.

Sources in the industry said that the ministry has called a meeting of industry representatives in New Delhi. The meeting would chalk out norms for consideration of the sector under the textile upgradation fund.

It is learnt that it would also take into account the views of financial institutions while framing the regulations. The response from the institutions would be crucial as they have sunk huge amounts in lending the companies that have put down the shutters.

While the Centre had initially excluded these sectors from the fund, an in-principle decision to bring them under the scheme was taken last year.

However, industry circles mention that since then the financial institutions have been insisting on a unit title clearance from many of these companies.

These units had earlier mortgaged their plant and machinery and any further assistance from the FIs will be cleared only if the title is clear.

The fund will provide a substantial interest incentive of 5 per cent on loans availed by the textile units from FIs and banks. It will cover weaving, knitting, processing and finishing units, garment manufacturing, jute industry, and cotton processing. The scheme was extended to include spinning industry also.

However, after announcement of the scheme, the government omitted the synthetic fibre and yarns.

The reason being as both synthetic fibre and yarn are derived from petrochemicals they cannot be classified as textile items. The industry then opposed this view , saying that both synthetic fibre and yarn are vital ingredients for the textile industry.

The sectors omitted were polyester staple fibre, polyester filament yarn, nylon filament yarn and acrylic staple fibre.

Sources say that if some crucial issues are sorted out in the present meeting, it would come as a relief to players in the synthetic fibre and yarn industry.

Many of them are crisis-ridden and are looking forward to the government for some assistance. Conservative estimates presently suggest requirement of at least Rs 1,000 crore for modernisation of such units.    


 
 
DRUK TO LAUNCH PICKLES 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, July 23: 
Druk, the Bhutanese food products brand, is ready to tickle the tangy taste buds of consumers in India with its range of lick-your-finger, sweet-n-sour pickles.

Part of the Rs 750-crore Tashi group, which makes the Druk jam, juices and tinned vegetables, the company has been under attack from an aggressive Hindustan Lever, whose newly acquired Kissan label is squeezing traditional players. As Druk — a much smaller player with no more than a 10 per cent share in the Rs 300-crore market for jam and marmalade — slugs it out with Kissan, it is losing out in fruit juices, its mainstay, to soft drink companies that have broken into its niche area.

The pickle foray, therefore, is part of Druk’s effort to steady itself from its battles in the jam market and losses in the juice segment. Also, the market for pickles is growing at a fast rate. “The pickles market is growing at the rate of 30 per cent annually and is largely concentrated in the unorganised sector,” Dipankar Lahiri, marketing head of Tai Industries, Tashi group’s marketing arm, said.

Mother’s Recipe and Priya are the two key players in the pickles market, though Nestle’s Maggi is racing hard to catch up. Despite the stiff competition, Druk feels it can emerge as the market leader in a small, but fast-growing, market worth Rs 100 crore.    


 
 
DSQWORLD SEEKS ALLIES FOR UPDATE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Mumbai,July23: 
DSQworld.com Ltd, a start-up promoted by Dinesh Dalmia, is planning to rope in strategic investors to fund Rs 250 crore expansion project of the company. This would finance its core business as application service provider (ASP) and internet service provider (ISP).

Speaking to The Telegraph, C Mohan Ram, chief operating officer of DSQworld.com Ltd, said that while the present equity capital of the company stood at Rs 25 crore with most of it being brought by the Dalmias, it would be expanded to Rs 100 crore in association with certain “strategic investors”.

Apart from this amount, another Rs 150 crore is scheduled to be brought in as a combination of debt and venture capital funds.

DSQworld, which is positioning itself as a “one-stop IT solution provider”, is planning to offer an entire gamut of services such as ASP, portals and ISP.

The ISP service, according to officials, would be categorised into consumer ISP, corporate ISP and corporate network services.

The company today tied up with Philips Speech Processing to develop a voice portal service. For the first time this service will be available in India.

The user will have to call a single number to access information like news, weather, sports results, horoscopes.    


 
 
RELISH THE CROWNING MOMENT 
 
 
BY NITHYA SUBRAMANIAN
 
New Delhi, July 23: 
It’s too early to call it the Consumer’s Century. At least, in India, where companies cajoled buyers into shelling out his hard-earned money for a product, but then banished them from the minds and records. Sceptics used this to scoff at the idea the consumer has finally arrived, that he is calling the shots and finally giving producers a run for his money.

But, the cynicism is gradually wearing off. Even in India, he is emerging as the long-ignored king, who is not bound by brand loyalties. With multinationals swamping the market with their wares, the Indian consumer has much to choose from. And companies — both Desi and Videshi — are trying to work out new strategies to retain consumer loyalties.

But that is not an easy task. The problem, experts say, is the lack of response to consumers. In the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) recent ‘Global Competitiveness Report’, India was ranked 43rd of the 49 nations surveyed in terms how well they are oriented to customers. Clearly, the Indian industry has a lot of catching up to do, say marketing gurus, especially since it is the world’s second largest market.

According to a survey carried out by CRM Foundation, a forum set up by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and a clutch of Indian companies and multinationals, 38 per cent of the firms reckon customer relationship as their first priority.

Companies which recognise the need to build relationships are trying different methods to improve their ties with consumers. For example, Maruti Udyog’s managing director Jagdish Khattar recently wrote letters with caricatures to chief executives of companies like Sony India and the Tata group, requesting them to test-drive the Baleno, and even buy it. The effort appears to have paid off with a company like Sony placing instant orders.

“Customer relationship is very important to Sony India, and we are now focusing on it through our after-sales service and call centres. We are also working on innovative concepts and may try an experiment similar to Maruti for our top-end, premium products,” said Aruna Shankari of Sony.

The Japanese electronics company is planning to aggressively promote its free-service campaign. This will coincide with the Sony Vision roadshows, which will travel to small towns and cities across the country. It is also planning to expand its Sony Star Club membership, which will give members a 10 per cent discount on service and spares.

The USP of a product is not the differentiating factor any more, but the customer wants to know whether he is held in high esteem. Credit card companies, for example, send greeting cards on birthdays and anniversaries of their clients; members of five-star hotel chains get goodies on their big days. Car clubs, too, organise meetings, picnics and even rallies for their members.

Even public-sector companies, known to be stodgy and frigid to consumers, are now waking up to the virtues of bonding well with consumers. Senior executives of SAIL, the loss-ridden steel maker, met its customers individually to find out their specific requirements and to tailor their products accordingly. Similarly, Indian Airlines had its top executives meet corporate houses to get feedback on the performance and shortcomings of the carrier. “The airline also meets customers through the association of various travel agents and brings out a list of consumer demands,” said R. Pathak, director, Indian Airlines.

Internationally, companies like GE Systems monitor their equipment around the world to help customers tackle problems.

In the case of FMCG products though, the focus is on the retailer. Therefore, companies like Pepsi work hard to keep retailers happy. “Our first customer is the retailer,” Pepsi spokesperson Deepak Jolly said. The company has a separate division, which not only draws up incentive schemes for retailers but also looks into their specific problems.

The Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Foundation represents one of the many initiatives companies have to accord customer relationship management a greater priority. The Foundation’s members include MNCs like Nokia, Tata Telecom, GE Capital, Motorola, AC Neilsen, Braun and Escotel Mobile, apart from an array of Indian companies.

The organisation will provide consultancy services, data and research findings to individuals, companies and the government. “The foundation will help companies adopt CRM strategies, help in their implementation and create global practices which can be benchmarked against the best. The idea is to help companies retain customers who would come back again,” C.V. Rao, chief executive of the foundation, said.

It will look at customer behaviour, the reasons why they buy a particular product and the factors which keep them loyal to a brand.

With retailing becoming more important than ever, the foundation will help equip the army of salespersons to interact with consumers, improve their skills to sell and to train the frontline employees. The retail staff play an important role in getting new customers and even retaining them.

Experts say that the future belongs to firms which value relationship with customers. “So companies should invest in innovative strategies,” said Shankari.    

 

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