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Jaguar slips into fast lane

A rare bright spot in the British economy was highlighted in an interview conducted last Thursday by Simon Jack, a business correspondent on Today, BBC Radio 4’s flagship morning programme.

Excerpts:

Jack: Let’s have some good news: three years ago car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover was in talks with the government to secure state aid. Sales of their luxury cars had collapsed and the firm needed help but yesterday Jaguar Land Rover reported record profits in 2011-12. The group made profits of 1.5 billion — that’s 34 per cent higher than the year before. The company employs 21,000 people in the country. Joining me now is Jeremy Hicks, MD of Jaguar Land Rover UK. Good morning to you. Ford (of America) must be kicking themselves they sold you in 2008!

Hicks: We are enjoying a really good time — (with) global profits (up). I am here to talk about the latest (popularity) survey which has put Jaguar at number one.

Jack: Is there something that Tata Motors, when they bought you back in 2008, did which no one else could do because... sales figures... are particularly strong in China (and) in India?

Hicks: It is about having a good global footprint... the UK is still very, very strong for us. We are a very relevant manufacturer here in the UK and we produce here in the UK. And that’s great for Britain!

Jack: You have created quite a few more jobs in your plants around in the country. Are you now fully staffed up or is there further expansion we can expect here in the UK?

Hicks: For Jaguar... we see future opportunities. We have announced a new estate version of the XF... we have announced the F type small sports car... (there’s) already huge interest in both... We are in the course of making very, very heavy investment in our R&D for the future. Jaguar Land Rover sales (are) up 20 per cent this year. That is on the back of lot of new products... we sold 60,000 cars here last year.

Wouldn’t it have been nice had Jack’s introduction been: “Four years ago Bengal was in the doldrums. But Tata have now created 2,50,000 new jobs in Singur alone. Restaurants, offices, homes have been built in the area. A new engineering college, a local airport and an eight-lane expressway to Calcutta are coming up — plus a state-of-the-art cricket stadium. Joining me now is Mamata Banerjee, widely regarded as the heroine of West Bengal. Good morning to you.”

Medal man

Yusuf Hamied, chairman of the pharmaceutical firm Cipla, and his wife, Farida, were last week awarded the Chancellor’s 800th Anniversary Medal for Outstanding Philanthropy in Cambridge.

The chancellor, Lord (David) Sainsbury, presented the medal after the citation was read by the vice-chancellor (VC), professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz.

The latter listed numerous ways in which Yusuf had helped Christ’s College, where he had gained admission in 1954 to read natural sciences.

Yusuf launched a new boat, Todd of Trumpington — named after Lord Todd, one time Master of Christ’s — at the college boathouse on the river Cam with a bottle of champagne.

“Dr Hamied has been instrumental in strengthening Cambridge’s relationship with India,” said the VC.

He also pointed out: “Through his pharmaceutical company, Cipla, Dr Hamied has pioneered the manufacturing of affordable drugs to fight diseases such as cancer and AIDS.”

Yusuf acknowledged: “There has always been a deep bond between myself, the college, the chemistry laboratory and the university. One often wonders if one could have received a finer and more rewarding education than that... inspired by the likes of Darwin, Milton and (Jagadish Chandra) Bose.”

“We share an exceptionally close relationship with the Master, professor Frank Kelly, and his wife Jackie,” said Yusuf. “This is as good a time as any for us to reiterate our commitment to Christ’s College and the university for the development of future interesting projects, particularly those that involve India.”

“I feel 18 again,” Yusuf told me.

Holy cow

It is a lovely gift. Natasha Kumar, 36, a British artist, has given a screen-print of her painting of an Indian cow to her brother, Dr Alexander Kumar, 29, who has taken it to the South Pole.

The children have an Indian father, Shant, who is married to Patricia, an Englishwoman. Once, when Natasha was 17, her painting was included in the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition along with those of her grandfather Peter Todd and her uncle Pip Todd Warmouth, both distinguished artists.

Natasha’s paintings of chhatris and jalis from Bundi in Rajasthan are currently on view at an exhibition, A Sense of Place, at the Royal Geographical Society in London.

“All my work comes from original on-site drawing and watercolours,” emphasises Natasha, who is learning Hindi. “I back that up with photographs because light moves very quickly in India. I want to dig deeper into India. I tend to go back to the same places.”

Pole position

Alexander Kumar, the resident British doctor at Concordia, the European Space Agency Research Centre in Antarctica, tells me: “You are probably the furthest away from our heritage of India — sights, sounds, colours. Bringing the Holy Cow down here, not only reminds me of these distant lands, but also brings with it memories of the best times of my life spent in India.”

Antarctic art: Dr Alexander Kumar with his sister’s painting

The temperature dips to minus 80 degrees Celsius in a region now in permanent darkness.

The crew of 12 other Europeans all like the cow, says Alexander. “Recently we had an Indian themed dinner night — with photos of India projected, the Indian flag hanging, Ravi Shankar’s sitar music in the background, mango lassi and, of course, the Holy Cow on show.”

Loyalty test

For cricket fans in the UK, especially Indians, the choice last Sunday was between the England-West Indies Test at Trent Bridge and the KKR-CSK final from Chennai.

Determined to remain faithful to Test cricket, I vowed not to watch the IPL final when Gautam Gambhir was bowled for two. Why be masochistic? But unable to resist, when I turned on the TV again, expecting CSK to have won, KKR were 150 for two. The result went down to the last three balls.

Over in Nottingham, despite almost everyone willing them to put up more of a fight, the West Indians ended the day at 62/6. The “back to the pavilion routine” was reminiscent of India’s tour of England last summer.

I hope the crowds in India turn out this winter for the England-India Tests but the children of the IPL may not be easily persuaded. After last Sunday, it is useless to pretend that Test cricket is always superior to the IPL.

Tittle tattle

Chennai-born Anglo-Indian singer Arnold George Dorsey (better known as Engelbert Humperdinck), 76, came second in the Eurovision Song Contest in Baku, Azerbaijan, last week with his quite pleasant ballad, Love will set you free.

Second from the bottom, that is. Humperdinck got 12 points, compared with 372 for Sweden, the winner.

Many Brits say “the humiliation is too much” and the UK should pull out from the contest.