Three in race for unused flying rights to Britain
From the shade of a tree to the heat of rivalry

New Delhi, July 8 
India has just four unused flying rights to Britain but has three suitors vying for them. Virgin Atlantic Airways, Air-India and Indian Airlines�all are in the queue and, it seems, none of them are willing to give up their claims.

Virgin�s maverick boss Richard Branson made his demand for these flights clear earlier this week when he told Indian civil aviation and Air-India officials that he wanted to start a third flight out of Delhi in October and another three by March next year.

But Air-India too has plans to use up just these connections. It is planning to lease two Boeing 747-300s and a B747-400 besides half a dozen Airbus 310s and deploy some of these new on the Delhi-Manchester run.

�We are considering reviving the four days a week Delhi-Rome-Manchester flight,� confirmed Air-India�s managing director Michael Mascarenhas.

�The earlier flights were not losers. We had redeployed the planes being used on the route because our fleet was small and we needed at that time to route flights to higher profit areas. But we can go back if we get more planes.� He, however, added that there were other priorities and route allocation possibilities too.

India has rights to fly 16 flights a week to Britain. Air-India already has 10 connections and Virgin has been allowed to use two of the remaining unused flight rights.

�We have given Virgin rights to fly twice a week from Delhi. The third will be subject to negotiations,� Mascarenhas said.

Virgin wants the third flight to depart Delhi on Sunday reaching London on Monday, but Air-India has a flight early morning on Mondays and wants to negotiate so that there are no clashes between these two flights.

The Air-India MD also made it clear that his airline�s pact with Virgin allowed the latter the right to three more flights only if Air-India manages to retain its current load factor on the ten flights it now flies to London and manages to sell 65 per cent of the 30 seats it is allowed to sell on every Virgin flight over the next six months.

Air-India earns about Rs 40 crore from each flight to Britain. It naturally does not want its profits or market share get eroded by a partner which rivals it.

To make the fight more intense, Indian Airlines has also thrown its hat into the ring. It has been lobbying the civil aviation ministry to allow it use these four unutilised flight by launching its own Delhi-Manchester flight, marking its foray into Europe.

At present, IA flies to the Gulf and south-east Asia and has long been arguing, much to the chagrin of Air-India, that it should be allowed to take on European destinations which A-I is unable to service.    

Mumbai, July 8 
The Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) is in the spotlight again, this time for reasons unrelated to the numerous scrips that have their fortunes made and unmade on the bourse.

The nation�s premier bourse will kick off its birthday bash tomorrow � its 125th one � to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

From a modest beginning under the wide arches of a banyan tree on July 9, 1875, the Native Share & Stock Brokers Association exchange has widened its reach, dreaming of striking alliances with big ticket organisations like the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the Nasdaq.

While basking in the glow of a dream run in the last 125 years, the BSE has its sights firmly trained on the path ahead, with the theme for the celebrations being �Vision 2005: to be the exchange of choice globally.�

Starting as a small association of brokers, the bourse has veritably grown out of the banyan tree to be a leader in volumes, products and technology, with presence in 275 cities in the country through over 4,600 trader workstations.

The transformation from a club of brokers and investors who met to trade a few scrips under the tree, to being the mirror of the economy has on the whole been gradual, accelerated in large measure by the genie of competition that goes by the name of the National Stock Exchange (NSE).

Market pundits were proved wrong when the BSE not only withstood competition from the NSE, an exchange that had big names like the Unit Trust of India besides other leading institutions behind it, but also regained its pivotal place in the Indian capital markets.

While the NSE set the pace initially, the BSE has clearly emerged as the victor in the fight for the crown. Recalling that the BSE was the first exchange in the country to launch index futures based on the sensex last month, BSE president Anand Rathi declared that it would become the first exchange in the world to implement an exchange-level internet trading facility next month.

Aiding the bourse�s metamorphosis from a closed club to a professional body were the capital market reforms and the sops handed out by P. Chidambaram, then at the helm of North Block. Fourth and fifth generation brokers hopped on to the corporatisation bus, transforming themselves into corporate entities.

The traditional outcry system was given a quiet burial in 1997 as the now technology-savvy exchange took to screen-based trading. The progress made by BSE would be appreciated when compared with other major exchanges like the Tokyo Stock Exchange, the London Stock Exchange and the NYSE, many of which till recently stuck to the traditional method of trading.

The BSE has had an eventful 125 years, one of the most significant event in its history being the 1994 Mumbai bomb blasts which had the exchange reeling, but saw it resume work in 24 hours.

According to Rathi, the exchange has seen its market capitalisation record a phenomenal growth during the last 20 years from Rs 8-9 lakh crore in 1980 to a mind boggling Rs 5,000 crore in the year 2000.

Referring to the growing trend in formation of regional blocs to offer global trading facilities, particularly by the New York and London stock exchanges, Rathi said the BSE had resolved to lead such a movement in the region.

The year-long anniversary celebrations of this 125-year old institution promise to reflect its chequered history. The inauguration of the BSE museum, release of a pictorial history of the bourse and a commemorative stamp, leadership seminar series, lectures by international dignitaries and sports tournaments would mark the celebrations, chairman of the 125th year celebration committee Bhagirath Merchant said.    


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