India Insight

Indian IT finds promise in Europe as continent looks at offshoring

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)

Europe’s reluctance to send information technology and other business processing work to India might be changing, based on recent financial results from companies that specialize in handling “IT and business process outsourcing” work. It looks like this is a trend that will last more than a quarter.

Many European companies have shied away from sending work overseas, unlike American firms that jumped in feet first, seeking to cut IT costs by as much as 70 percent despite the barrier between two kinds of English. Add to that countries such as Germany and France, where the divide is between two languages altogether, and outsourcing faces a larger challenge.

Big companies that deal with IT and business process work have found that establishing a beachhead near the client seems to make a difference. By hiring small numbers of local consultants, they can send most of their work to Indian offices while presenting familiar images and voices.

U.S.-based Cognizant, which has about 75 percent of its staff in India, grew European revenue more than 7 percent quarter on quarter for the two consecutive quarters that ended Dec. 31. Cognizant provides data management services to French drugmaker Sanofi SA and manages computer systems at Dutch financial services company Rabobank N.A. Other clients include AstraZeneca Plc and Philips Electronics.

from Photographers' Blog:

A widow’s refuge offers solace to the sorrowful

Vrindavan, India

By Adnan Abidi

The sound of applause echoing in the dingy shelter forced a smile on the face of Tulshi Dasi. An expression she had almost forgotten since her world turned white. The reason: she could now write and had just finished writing the English alphabet on a blackboard. And all this at the age of 70! She had never felt this empowered and never knew that learning was so much fun. As Dasi wrote a new chapter in her life in the grimy shelter in Vrindavan, that she shares with many women like her, her companions, around 50 odd widows applauded her progress.

GALLERY: WIDOW REFUGE

Widows, either abandoned by their family members or shunned by society, find their life's last refuge in various government run shelters such as this one. They come here from all across the country, but mostly from Bengal, where they survive by begging and chanting hymns in temples.

Hindu widows are branded as inauspicious by society and are forbidden to wear any form of color or be a part of any kind of celebrations like marriage and childbirth, hence most find respite amid their own kind, and seek solace in sorrow. As I spent my day with them I realized that learning was the best part of their day. Each of them would get up early, bathe and offer prayers together in the hall before resuming their daily chores of making prayer beads and flower garlands.

Happily single in India? Don’t count on it

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)

“Are you a student or are you working?” asked a middle-aged woman who squeezed herself into the space between me and another in the women-only coach on a Delhi Metro train.

“I work,” I said, tugging a bit at my dupatta, which she was sitting on.

Fear, too busy, too ugly: why India’s famous bachelors stay single

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)

A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

This verse on marriage from the Book of Genesis in the Bible is meant for men in general.

from Photographers' Blog:

Riding India’s railways

Across India

By Navesh Chitrakar

My journey on the great railways of India began on October 23, 2012. The trip not only marked my first visit to India, it was also the first time that I had ever travelled on real trains because my home country, Nepal, does not have a proper rail network.

Everything about the trains was new to me, which made it really exciting. I started out from Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station in Delhi and headed towards Agra with the help of a railway atlas, a train map and a fixer. I had been provided with the fixer’s assistance for a couple of days thanks to my chief photographer Ahmad Masood, one of the generous people who gave me a lot of help to complete this story. It didn’t take me long to get used to train travel; I understand and speak Hindi, and most of the people on the trains were very friendly and helpful. Most of the time I was doing what I was there to do: observing and trying to capture the most significant and fascinating aspects of India’s railways.

In a country that is the seventh largest in the world by area and the second largest in the world by population, the Indian railway network reaches almost everywhere and carries commuters from one end of the country to the other. The network is a lifeline for India and for the Indians who use it. And why not take advantage of it? People prefer trains because they are a cheaper and faster way to travel. When you travel India by rail, everything is going on around you; it seems like the railway has created its own world and the running of that world depends on the running train.

Fare wars over India: You win, airlines lose

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Reuters)

Indians like it cheap — be it a car, a phone call or airfare. If that plane ticket is about 25 percent cheaper than a train ticket, you can imagine the rush to buy.

Airlines in India are doing just that. Jet Airways, until recently the biggest Indian carrier, offered 2 million tickets at nearly half price in a “goodwill gesture”. Its website crashed soon after, just as SpiceJet’s did when it offered a million tickets for just 2,013 rupees  last month. That led many to believe the offer was a hoax.

I was lucky to book a New Delhi-Guwahati return ticket for March, paying just 3,578 rupees compared to the 13,047 rupees I paid for a one-way ticket as recently as November, and 4,420 rupees for the cheapest round-trip ticket on the Rajdhani Express, India’s premier long-distance train.

Corruption trumps reforms and economics in Kejriwal’s politics

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)

The transformation of Arvind Kejriwal from taxman to anti-corruption activist and politician has been hard to ignore. He became something of a celebrity last year when he launched broadsides against rich, powerful people. That in turn gave him a platform to enter politics with his “Aam Aadmi Party” (party of the common man). Now Kejriwal, 44, must build a party in time to contest state-level elections in New Delhi this year.

After an hour-long election speech on a makeshift dais at a bus stand, the novice politician was visibly tired as he climbed into an off-white SUV for the journey home to Ghaziabad. I waited for him to stop coughing and take a sip of water before asking questions. We then had an animated, if one-note discussion about India’s economy and politics. The short story? Fix corruption and you fix everything else. Details about the economy, such as statistics and reports on inflation and economic growth? Just numbers for the media to repeat.

India ponders deficit control after the gold rush

India’s central government in January raised the tax on refined gold imports by 50 percent. This increase to 6 percent from 4 percent is the second rise this fiscal year. Why does it keep making gold more expensive, particularly as the nation enters its prime wedding season when brides will be bedecked with the metal from head to toe?

That’s part of the problem — a large part. India’s cultural attachment to gold is something that anybody who has been to an Indian wedding could tell you about. For those of you who haven’t, consider this report from CBS’s “60 Minutes” TV news program:

“India’s love for gold is almost a religion. Beyond being a symbol of wealth and status, gold is part of worship and culture – a tradition that goes back thousands of years. From birth to death, for men and women, among rich and poor – acquiring gold is a goal for the people of India. All of which has made India the world’s largest consumer of gold and thus a powerhouse in industry … Just as part of the American dream is to own a home, the dream in India is to own gold. For Indians, gold jewelry is wearable wealth, financial security that’s also a fashion statement.”

from Photographers' Blog:

Meet Miss Malini

Mumbai, India

By Vivek Prakash

Where I live is not the India of most people's imaginations or memories, and it's hardly the India I once knew as a kid.

My Mumbai has easygoing cafes, organic markets, swish malls, expensive restaurants serving great food and wine, fabulous nightclubs and raucous house parties. The idea that this India is any less "real" than bad infrastructure or the world of Slumdog Millionaire is misguided.

India has many crosses to bear - I acknowledge that. I'll be the first one to complain about crumbling roads, horrid traffic, corrupt politicians, impossible bureaucracy and the gulf between rich and poor. But you'd better get used to the idea that slowly but surely, generational change is taking place. My Mumbai is probably the India of the future.

‘Nobody can stop you if you engage in art with dignity’: Zila Khan on singing and Islam

The members of Praagaash, an all-girl band in Kashmir, split up this week after an influential cleric deemed their music un-Islamic. Zila Khan, one of India’s most popular sufi singers and daughter of sitar maestro Vilayat Khan, spoke to Reuters about how singing is closest to worship and meditation and how children should be allowed to sing.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

Questions about Grand Mufti of Kashmir and Islam are best answered by experts in the field of religion. I am an expert in music, it will be no use pondering on subjects that I am not an authority on. There will be more experts to say better things on this issue. I can, however, talk about music, on my journey as a singer and the issue of women’s rights.

Obviously, I feel children should sing.

I feel the art of music and especially singing is the highest form of art in the world and in the cosmic cycle. To have the ilm (idea) and knowledge of this art is itself a blessing because it is much higher than any other form of art or work as such.

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