Archive for May, 2008

Life without IPL for a day

Posted on May 30, 2008. Filed under: Cricket |

Yesterday, there was no IPL match. I felt really odd with myself without watching IPL. I felt like I have lot of time after I went home in the evening. Though all the matches in IPL are not very exciting, but cricket is a great addiction to most of our countrymen. Whatever may be the quality and the calibre of the players, you still end up watching these Twenty20 matches as everything gets over by 3 hours flat. When I deliberate on why Twenty20 is a success, it is not that people like to see big hitting alone but also they are able to know the result. Without knowing the result and just watching some big hitting, would the IPL be exciting? It would look like match highlights rather than a match!

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Raising petrol prices

Posted on May 27, 2008. Filed under: General |

I used to buy fuel from Shell outlets even though it was couple of rupees more a litre. Recently, I noticed that the price differential between Shell outlets and other PSU outlets have increased to Rs8 per litre of petrol. Typically I fill 30 litres of Petrol and if I fill in a Shell outlet, I have to spend an additional Rs240 per filling. For that Rs240/- I can buy further almost 5 litres of petrol. Of course, I know there is a question mark on quality but the additional 5 litres will help me to get that additional mileage. From being a loyal customer of Shell, I have started buying petrol from other outlets.

I am also seeing the once “always busy” Shell outlets almost vacant nowadays. The patronage of Shell outlets have fallen to very low levels in chennai city. With a very high cost differential between PSU petrol pumps and Shell pumps, Shell is finding it difficult to sell retail fuel in India. The Government owned outlets are selling fuel at a lower price and incuring huge cash losses but they are compensated by the Government in the form of oil bonds. Reliance Industries, which has close to 1400 outlets in India, tried its best to get the Government subsidise the private retailers as well but Government has not accepted their request. It is very unusual to see a Reliance’s request turned down by the Government in India. Reliance has taken a very bold and drastic decision that it would close down all their 1400 outlets across the country since it cant continue to subsidise petrol to end customers when it doesnt get any subsidy from the Government in the form of oil bonds.

Soon Shell may also close their retail outlets. Already I have seen couple of outlets in Chennai which are completely ready but not opened by Shell due to the adverse price situation in the retail market. I dont think Shell owns these outlets. These outlets are run on a Franchisee model similar to PSU outlets. Imagine the plight of a franchisee who has invested couple of crores of rupees in obtaining a Shell Franchisee but left in the cold.

There are newspaper reports already indicating that the Government is actively planning to increase the petrol prices as well as reduce the duty structure to enable the oil marketing companies to reduce their losses. You cant really blame the government for increase in the price of petrol. The crude has moved beyond 130 dollars a barrel and we still continue to enjoy a litre of Petrol at Rs49.51, the rate which was fixed by the Government when the crude was quoting at 85-90 dollars a barrel. I personally prefer the rates for Petroleum products to be determined as per the market prices rather than being administered by the Government. When we talk of liberalisation and opening up the economy, then we should also allow the prices to be determined by the market. It would be tough on me as person but lets accept the reality. Bad times ahead for consumers!!

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Chennai Super Kings or Chennai "Sothapal" Kings

Posted on May 26, 2008. Filed under: Cricket |

The last two matches for CSK in the IPL was a nightmare to say the least. They were displaying very poor cricket quality and you can’t expect positive results for that. The situation now is that they have to win their match against Deccan Chargers to seal their place in the semi-finals.

The match against Bangalore RC was a easy one, at least, thats what I thought when they were restricted to 130 or so. CSK was cruising along at 85 for 1 after 14 overs and the victory was very much in sight. I cant believe that finally Chennai lost by good 15 runs. The bowling was not that very great and CSK made heavy weather of that. The most irritating point I noted was as follows:
1. When the going was good, I cant understand why Dhoni got himself promoted up the order and threw his wicket carelessly. There was no need for him to go up the order and if at all he comes at no.3 or 4, then you expect him to guide the team to victory.
2. When there were 18 balls left and 36 runs to score with 4 wickets in hand and Suresh Raina on the other end, you would expect batsmen like Manpreet Goni and Lakshmipathy Balaji to take a single and give the strike to Raina. But neither of them did that and they went about making huge heaves without any success!! Very poor cricketing sense.

The match against Rajasthan Royals was a different story altogether. The CSK bowling, always weak, was pathetic on that day. No bowler could bowl a single decent over and you hardly made the ball beat the bat. It is very annoying. More so, to see it happen live at the ground after paying Rs1200/- for 2 tickets! Since I was at the stadium I could see how Dhoni reacts to the various situations and I have to say that Dhoni hardly reacted. You may not get to see it on the small screen the Captain’s reaction for every stroke, but while at the ground, you can continually watch what Dhoni does or does not do. On that day, Dhoni looked completely out of sorts and his mind wasn’t there, I guess. You can understand it from the body language where he hardly bothered to talk to the bowlers even after being butchered by Royals batsmen. Definitely, it is not cool captaincy but absolute lack of responsibility. There was not innovation either from Dhoni until the 15 over or so when Suresh Raina was asked to bowl couple of overs. Dhoni could have used Suresh Raina, Badrinath (who can bowl medium pacers) effectively when your regular bowlers go for runs. I dont know why he persisted with Ntini and Balaji when they were smashed around the park.

On the other hand, when Royals bowled you can see Shane Warne being involved completely. Let it be field settings, bowling change or reading the mind of the batsmen, Warne is definitely a class apart. Aptly, Time of India wrote the next day that Dhoni has been out-thought by Warne. Dhoni’s cup of woes doesn’t end with this captaincy but also continued with his batting. He promoted himself up the order above Badrinath and wasted precious balls. Finally, he gave away the wicket cheaply to a soft dismissal.

Chennai Super Kings are in must win situation which they could have very avoided. They are not Super Kings but Sothapal kings.

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Two advertisements which caught my attention

Posted on May 22, 2008. Filed under: General |

Recently while watching TV, I came across two interesting advertisements. One is from a high profile company and other one is from an educational institution.

The high-profile ad:

The advt is that for Hyundai Accent car. For a long time, Hyundai Accent is considered to be in the phase out stage. That is, Hyundai will stop producing the cars. On that pretext probably, Hyundai also donated 100 Hyundai Accent cars to Chennai Police in 2007. At that time it was written that Hyundai is clearing off the unsold stock and at the same time earning some brownie points from the Government. It seems Hyundai continued to manufacture Accent and sold it throughout 2007. Now it has started a high decibel ad campaign in TV media for the same old car and it is priced at Rs4.99 lacs. I guess, Hyundai would have phased out Accent but for the successful launch of Mahindra Logan, Swift Dzire and Indigo LS from its competitors in the same or lesser price. Hyundai would have probably felt that it is not having a Sedan to offer to the customers at this price range while the competition is going gung-ho about “low cost sedans”. I believe considering the proven design and engineering, Accent stands a better chance to succeed in this price segment if Hyundai reduces price by another Rs50,000/- or so.

Ad by an educational institution:

The second advt is from GKM Engineering College. It is for the first time in my life that I have seen a commercial for an educational institution. Since it is the time for admissions to engineering colleges, GKM Engg college has come out with an advertisement. Though the advt doesnt talk about what advantages it has compared to other engineering colleges, it conveys the message that it is very important to choose the right college.

After a quiet thought, I realised that I have seen advertisements for Amity University as well before in T.V.

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Back from Valparai

Posted on May 19, 2008. Filed under: Places |

I took a week off to go to Valparai, a hill station on the Anaimudi range and couple of other places over the last week. Valparai is close to Coimbatore and it is one of the lesser known tourist places when compared to Kodaikonal, Ooty, Yercaud etc., Valparai is 3500 feet above sea level and dominated by tea estates.

Top-slip – why somebody should visit?
We took the Cheran Express from Chennai and got down at Tiruppur. We have arranged for a pick up vehicle from Tiruppur to take us to Valparai. Enroute to Valparai, we covered couple of places like Masaniamman Koil and Top Slip. Top Slip is highly over-rated tourist spot, I guess. Absolutely there is nothing to see, no good restaurants for food. But everyone keeps telling that Top-slip is a fantastic place. I don’t know why somebody should visit Top-Slip.

Mudi’s club – where we stayed:
We stayed in a company’s Officers club of Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation (BBTC), which is called as Mudi’s club. Valparai is still lives in the British Raj style with clubs for officers/managers who are working in the tea estates. The companies which owns tea estates in Valparai and surrounding places are Tata Coffee, Jaishree Tea (BK Birla Group), BBTC (was told that it is still owned by an Englishman partially!!), Karamalai tea estate etc., As we stayed in the club which belonged to BBTC, we found out that there are more than 10000 employees of that company in Valparai and surrounding areas.

The place were we stayed has a beautiful view of tea estates. In spite of being peak summer season, the climate was very pleasant. Mudi’s club, provides you with a kind of dormitory facility. There are no separate rooms but couple of big rooms where all are accomodated. It is suitable if you go in a group of say 10 to 15 people and who can stay together. The club has decent size cricket ground and where the company’s managers/officers play cricket. When I said that they still British Raj style prevails is because of the fact that these officers/managers are still referred as “management” by the locals and labourers.

Valparai doesnot boast of tourist attractions similar to Kodai or Ooty. Couple of places to visit in Valparai includes the Balaji temple, Sholayar Dam, any tea processing factory (which we did), Cincona falls etc., It is an ideal place for somebody to go and relax for a couple of days.

We stayed in Valparai for couple of days and moved to Udumalaipet and then Coimbatore for a day each. On the way down from Valparai, we visited places like Tirumurthy Falls, Monkey falls, Aaliyar dam, Oneness Temple at Aaliyar (Vazhga Valamudam group). We stayed at Udumalaipet for a night. A family room at Udumalaipet costs Rs500/- with 2 extra persons accomodated. Quite a decent bargain, I guess.

The last leg of the tour is towards Coimbatore visiting places like Pattiswaram, Echanari Vinayagar Temple, Isha Ashram (Jaggi Vasudev’s) and a private Balaji Temple at Karamadai run by the owners of KG Denim group.

We were really worried if we would be able to make in time to Coimbatore after the Balaji Temple for our train at 10.00 PM. Karamadai is some 35 kms from Coimbatore and by the time we left the temple, it was already 8.15 PM. Luckily there was no big traffic snarls on the Coimbatore – Mettupalayam road and we could reach the station in time for the train.

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Watching cricket at Chepauk

Posted on May 11, 2008. Filed under: Cricket |

Yesterday, I was at Chepauk to watch the IPL match between Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Kings XI Punjab (KXI). The match started at 8.00 PM and it is a totally different experience to watch the match at the ground. It has its own charm as well as its inconvenience.

For the match starting at 8.00 PM, I have to leave home at 5.15 PM, a good 2.45 hours before the match. The reason being that I have to reach Chepauk after completing my dinner (!!) as I was advised that the food was not good at all inside the stadium and very costly as well. So I started at 5.15 PM went for a dinner at Hotel Sangeetha on Ethiraj Salai, Egmore. This is becoming one of my favourite restaurants nowadays. I love the Gobi Manjurian, however bad it is made, but here in Sangeetha I simply love the way they make it. So by the time we finished the dinner it was 6.45 pm. We have already arranged with my friend that I would come and park my two-wheeler at their house, which is incidentally a stone throw away from the Chepauk stadium.

I didn’t explore the option of taking my car and bothering myself with finding a parking place inside or near the stadium. Later I found out that the best place to park your car is to park it inside the MLA Hostel (Omandurar Government Estate) on the Mount Road corner. You may have to walk upto the stadium, a good km or so away. Try it out!!

The gate 11 is on the Bells Road and when we entered it there are at least two levels of security check. There is a metal detector as well as physical frisking of males. I don’t know why females are exempted. There are strict rules of what you can carry inside the stadium. You are not allowed to carry camera, lighter, water bottles, handbags and many other stuff. The detailed terms and conditions are given at the back of the ticket. Another thing you have to careful when you go is to ensure that your ticket has a hologram sticked on to it. There is a possibility that the hologram sticker may fall off from the ticket and you would be denied entry. Tickets without holograms are not allowed entry. Finally when I entered the Stadium it was 7.10 or so and a good 50 minutes before the start of the match. IPL matches have entertainment before the match and yesterday it was Vikku Vinayakram, a world renowned Ghattam artist. I was in E stand from where you get to see the mid-wicket angle. After Vinayakram’s Ghattam, tamil film songs were played before the toss. The toss happened at 7.30 PM and Kings XI won and decided to field.

The match was entertaining as for every ball, the crowd starts cheering. It was unbelievable to see the energy levels displayed by the crowd in the stadium. You probably don’t realise it as long as you watch it on the TV but the noise of the crowd is really deafening in the stadium. I really wonder how the players are able to concentrate and play in spite of loud noise from the crowd. In addition to the noise of the crowd, IPL matches also has the filmi music going on between the overs. The stand I was sitting, E Stand, had its own set of cheer-groups who danced for every boundary or a wicket. But the energy levels went down for these un-official cheer-group after the first innings.

Chennai started well and slowly built their innings. I prayed that Badrinath come good atleast in this match and he truly delivered yesterday. Badrinath played a beautiful innings of 60+ and Dhoni ably supported him throughout. Chennai finished with a decent score to bowl at.

During the break, we went out and found that the corridors are fully occupied. You can hardly move without hitting against the person coming on the opposite side or one who is standing in front of you. I dont know why the organisers have to allow drinks, coffee and other things to sold in that narrow corridor.

Kings XI started with a flourish. Chennai desperately needed a break-through and Hopes didnt dash my hope. He got out and slowly started taking control. L Balaji who has started playing after a 3 years break, bagged a hat-trick and sealed the fate of Kings XI. When the match was almost in CSK’s hands, Irfan Pathan and Piyush Chawla made one last attempt to wrest the initiative. Irfan and Piyush hit a flurry of boundaries and sixes but luckily CSK held on to their nerves and won the match comfortably in the end.

After the match got over, there was a mad rush to exit the stands through one of the gates. We patiently waited in the queue only to find out that it is a spectators exit but an exit for vendors. It was really uncomfortable navigating through heavy logs on the ground. I again wonder why no clear exit signs are not pasted in the corridors. There is no light in the urinal and as usual it stinks. The apathy of the organisers towards these basic necessities is really appalling. The tickets are sold at very high rates and you end up having no basic amenities.

Overall, I really enjoyed a day out watching the IPL match. Having dinner before the match was the best thing to have happened as we were able to enjoy every bit of cricket and entertainment without worrying about food. It is a good way to begin your annual holiday and I plan to wrap up my holiday with another match on May 24. Lets see, if I am able to make it.

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Thriller of a game in IPL Twenty20 – CSK wins!!

Posted on May 8, 2008. Filed under: Cricket |

After a series of boring and one-sided matches in the IPL Twenty20 league, today’s match between Chennai Super Kings and Delhi Daredevils was a close encounter. The match went to the last ball and CSK managed to win with 4 wickets in hand.

I managed to watch the last 5 overs of the match thanks to a TV in our office. Delhi Daredevils paid dearly in the absence of the 5th specialist bowler. It has to rely on Shoaib Malik and Virender Sehwag to complete the 5th bowler’s quota and those 4 overs costed Delhi 58 runs!
After a bout of 3 straight losses after the Australians went home, CSK desparately needed a win and Dhoni was under pressure to deliver today. He promoted himself up the order and played sensibly for 33 ball 33 runs. CSK also got a good start from Vidyut and Stephen Flemming. Parthiv Patel was dropped along with Makaya Ntini.

Local Chennai boy and former India Cricketer, Lakshmipathy Balaji made his debut in Twenty20 and has done reasonably well claiming 2 wickets for 35 runs in 4 overs. I didnt see him bowl but heard people saying that he mixed up deliveries very well. Good for Chennai Super Kings!!

With this victory, CSK would be charged up and back in the reckoning for the semifinal berth. I have started to support Chennai Super Kings and Shane Warne’s Rajasthan Royals is my other favourite team.

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Citibank is on a selling spree

Posted on May 8, 2008. Filed under: Banking |

We all know how desperate is Citibank to shore up its capital and owned funds on account of the significant write-offs on their sub-prime portfolio. Vikram Pandit, CEO of Citibank is working on revitalising the company by selling off non-core assets in this hour of need. During this crisis period, Citibank may also let go, few of its prized assets which has taken years for it to build.

Citi Financial, the NBFC arm of Citibank is rumoured to be on the block. Economic Times carried a front page article a week ago in this regard. Citi Financial has also fired more than 400 staff in the last couple of months. It was also looking at selling many of its US assets to raise capital.

The latest sale by Citibank is the sale of prime real estate. Today’s edition of The Hindu carried an advertisement by CB Richard Ellis, property management consultant advertising about the sale of prime (really prime!!) commercial and residential properties in Chennai. Citibank is selling 5 flats ranging from 1700 to 2200 sq.ft each in posh areas of Chamiers Road, Alwarpet and Bishop Wallers Avenue, Mylapore. It is also selling more than 48,000 sq. ft of commerical space in Spencer Plaza, Phase III where the Citi’s back office processing entity, e-Serve operates.

Bad times for Citi.

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Drive down the OMR

Posted on May 2, 2008. Filed under: Real Estate |

Last Sunday out of nowhere, we decided to go for a drive on the Old Mahabalipuram Road to have a glimpse of the latest developments on that road. We started little late in the evening around 5.00 PM and by the time we reached Madhya Kailash, it was already 5.30 PM. Luckily, due to the summer, the natural light was on and we decided to drive down the road.

We were of the opinion that the road would be bad but to our surprise we found that the 6 lane road is almost complete for the entire stretch of 30 kms from Madhya Kailash. There were patch works and median work pending in few areas but overall the road has been laid and it made the drive hassle-free. I was surprised to see the large scale developments happening on the road through the entire stretch of 30 kms. I remembered some author writing about China. Their national bird is the huge cranes used for building construction. You find it everywhere on OMR too.

After driving for more than 30 kms on the OMR we decided to turn back and then we saw the board of “Chennai Pattinam“, a housing project promoted by CEEDEEYES. Since our intention was not for visiting any particular real estate projects, we deliberated for few minutes whether to go and see Chennai Pattinam or drive back. Having come all the way, we decided to visit the site to get first hand information. Chennai Pattinam is a good 6.5 kms from OMR. The road is a narrow 20 feet road winding through vacant lands but the good thing is it is a metal road. There were road signs put for Chennai Pattinam so we didnt ask anybody for directions.

Chennai Pattinam, is a residential project coming up on 55 acres of land near Tiruporur on the OMR. Actually the site is on the foot of a small hill so when completed it would be a pleasant site to watch the verdant hills. There is no development close to Chennai Pattinam site except for a reasonably big Shiva temple within 500 metres of the site. At the time we went, there were no project guys in site and we could not expect it as well. We were at the site at 6.30 PM on a sunday evening and reached unannounced. The construction work has started on the site and we could see pillars being raised.

CEEDEEYESS is offering Chennai Pattinam at Rs2075 per sq.ft all inclusive. They have already raised the prices by Rs100/- per sq. ft since the time they launched couple of months ago. Price wise it is one of the cheapest projects which is getting advertised. Since it is a good 7 kms from OMR and 13 kms away from GST road, CEEDEEYES is planning to offer shuttle services to OMR and GST, of course, at a charge.

We started back and reached Ascendas IT park where we planned to go for the dinner. Since Mcdonalds have opened their outlet in the food court, we went there to find a huge crowd. Honestly, I didnt expect that crowd on a sunday evening. Mac is a big hit in Chennai and we saw a queue of around 50 people to order food at Mac. When we turned around we saw a similar number waiting to order at KFC. We patiently waited for 10 minutes to order our food and I have to admit the systems at Mac are very efficient and we got our veg. burgers, potato widges and french fries in less than 5 minutes.

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