India Insight

Wedding photographers in India beat economic gloom

Rising costs and a slowing economy haven’t darkened the mood of wedding photographers in India. More couples than ever are willing to spend thousands of rupees on photo albums, pre-wedding shoots and videos, allowing photographers to take a bigger slice of India’s $30 billion weddings business.

“People are willing to spend more money now compared to what they were spending three years back,” said Delhi-based photographer Vijay Tonk, who charges around 100,000 rupees for clicking pictures at a two-day function, 10 times more than what he charged in 2010. “It’s a status symbol now to spend money and have good (pictures).”

Professional photographers, some of whom charge as much as 100,000 to 300,000 rupees ($1,600 – $4,800) for a single day, have not seen any slowdown in client queries. With 20 confirmed wedding assignments in the next three months, 26-year-old Tonk has been forced to say no to some couples.

People increasingly are looking to pay premium prices for photographers who can capture the essence on their subjects through candid shots. Sonal Kalra, who hired Tonk for her December wedding functions, said such pictures “help capture the mood better”.

Some of the price rise comes as photography supply costs increase. Much of it, however, comes from an increasing willingness on the part of Indian families to not only spend big on weddings as they have always done, but to spend even more on higher-quality photos and other aspects of the ceremonies.

from Photographers' Blog:

Left teary-eyed after an onion attack

Onions have been a very important part of Indian history. Governments have fallen here over the price of onions. So last week when our commodities correspondent Rajendra Jadhav suggested a story on the skyrocketing prices of vegetables, onions seemed the natural peg. The idea was to do something simple around the price of a vegetable as it changes from the field to the dinner table. Our destination was the wholesale onion market in Nashik, Maharashtra, one of the highest producers of onions in the country. Nothing had prepared us for what we were about to encounter.

Female labourers work in an onion field in Pimpalgaon, 215 km (133 miles) north of Mumbai January 23, 2010.  REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

On Monday, prices of onions nose-dived over a ban on exports by the government and the arrival of new stock through imports. Unaware of this, we went to the onion market in Lasalgaon.

Upon reaching the location, both Rajendra and I got busy. I photographed the way onions were being loaded on small tractors. We then moved to the other side of the market where the auction was to take place. But here something unexpected happened - we were greeted by angry farmers who accused us, the media, of pushing prices down; we were the only two there at the time.

Forget journalistic ethics. The Radia tapes have wider implications

British press magnate Lord Northcliffe once stated: “News is something someone wants suppressed. Everything else is just advertising”.
Ratan Tata, Chairman of the Tata Group, attends the annual general meeting of Tata Consultancy Services in Mumbai July 2, 2010 REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/Files
It’s interesting, then, that in a season of multi-billion dollar scandals that has seen India’s 24/7 news machine at its probing, questioning, investigative best, one — perhaps bigger and more serious than all the rest — has failed to make the hourly bulletins.

Taped conversations involving corporate lobbyist Niira Radia, anonymously leaked from a reported set of around 5,000 recordings made by India’s Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax authorities, appear to reveal the unholy nexus between India’s business leaders and the political policymaking machine.

But due to the embarrassing proximity that the Indian media elite have to the most controversial dialogues amongst her web of business, political and journalism sources, full-blown coverage has not been seen.

Survey says doing business in India is tough

A big banner of of U.S. President Barack Obama is pictured on a building in Mumbai November 6, 2010. REUTERS/Fayaz Kabli

Even as India Inc celebrates U.S. President Barack Obama’s recognition of the country as a world super power, a recent study by the World Bank presents a contrasting view.

India ranks 134 among 183 nations in a survey called “Doing Business 2011″  — that gauges the ease of doing business in a country — and is ranked behind countries like arch rival Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Singapore leads the pack, while Hong Kong grabs the second position in the list.

Could Obama’s loss be India’s gain?

As the pundits predicted, India will have the inauspicious honour of being the first country to host U.S. President Barack Obama following the largest shift in public support away from an incumbent President’s party in over 60 years.
U.S. President Barack Obama attends a DNC Moving America Forward Rally at Cleveland State University in Ohio, October 31, 2010. REUTERS/Larry Downing

But if the results show a clear message of dissatisfaction at Washington from U.S. voters, the fallout once the dust settles on Capitol Hill could well result in good news for India.

Here are three ways that a shift in Washington politics could play into India’s interests:

Going global in India’s chaotic way

Labourers walk on a flyover in front of the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi September 25, 2010. REUTERS/Krishnendu Halder

India is globalising, but not the way much of the world wants.

That rather contradictory thought nagged at me one morning during the chaotic Commonwealth Games here in New Delhi.

On the road to the media venue’s gate, I trudged past a squatter’s family living in a tarpaulin. The mother was helping her son pee on my left. Rubbish, the smelly, sickly kind, lay to my right. My shoes sunk in mud from an unfinished pavement.

Hardly the stuff of a showcase international event meant to rival China. But after four years in India, the scene appeared normal. So was news during the Games that stocks had hit a near three-year high and that the Economist had predicted India’s economy would soon outpace China.

BA’s Kingfisher deal ups pressure on India’s airline regulators

Willie Walsh, Chief Executive of British Airways, is not afraid of conflict. Having tackled investors who have seen the airline struggle through two years of substantial losses and stared down continued industrial action from his cabin crew, he’s now set his sights on India’s civil aviation regulators.

A British Airways passenger jet taxis past parked BA jets at Heathrow airport in London July 30, 2010. REUTERS/Luke MacGregorWith the ink barely dry on BA’s merger with Spain’s Iberia, the recently-announced code-share agreement with India’s Kingfisher Airlines marks the UK flagship carrier’s first tentative step into the Indian aviation market. While current rules do not permit any foreign ownership of Indian carriers, he has made it clear that reforms are needed.

“If the rules change, not just British Airways, all airlines around the world will look at the possibility to invest in Indian carriers. I have no doubt Indian carriers would welcome such foreign investment because airlines are looking at strengthening their financial position. Also, consolidation will help. We will be looking at opportunities in the future. We are sponsoring Kingfisher Airlines into Oneworld (a global grouping of airlines) because India is such an important growth market and we want to participate in this growth,” Walsh told India’s Mint newspaper in an interview.

Peddling reforms for street vendors?

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has taken a step towards unshackling the poorest of entrepreneurs — the street vendors.

In a letter to chief ministers, this week, Singh called for a “new deal” for urban street vendors and implementation of the National Policy on Urban Street Vendors, 2009 — which would enable vendors to ply their trade without harassment.

These include hawkers, sidewalk traders or even the people selling clothes or utensils at the weekly market.

from Global News Journal:

Giving in to Ali Baba

I once paid a cop 30 ringgit (about $10 then) for making an apparently illegal left-hand turn in Kuala Lumpur. Scores of drivers in front of me were also handing over their "instant fines", discreetly enclosed within the policeman's ticketing folder. It was days ahead of a major holiday and the cops were collecting their holiday bonus from the public.

Malaysia opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim holds a disc he says contains evidence of judge-fixing in Malaysia 

I felt bad about this, of course. What I was doing was illegal, immoral and perpetuating an insidious culture that goes by many names in the East -- "baksheesh" in India, "Ali Baba" (and his 40 thieves) in Malaysia, "swap" in Indonesia (means "to feed").  But the policeman pointed out I would have to take off the good part of a day to go to court and pay 10 times as much to the judge. So I rationalised: "When in Rome..."

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