Leisure, Lifestyle & Wellness
Madurai man's spicy success story in Moscow

No, his Russian customers are not cooking Indian food at their homes, but buy the spices for their medicinal properties


At P. Jeevanantham's chain of retail outlets selling Indian spices and other food items in Russia, Russians are his major customers and not Indians.
No, his Russian customers are not cooking Indian food at their homes, but buy the spices for their medicinal properties.
"When I started the Indian Spices Shop in early 1990s, my customers were largely Indians-students and others-who bought the items for cooking. But with the reduction of Indian population due to economic reasons, the ratio of Indian-to-Russian customers reversed," Jeevanantham told this visiting IANS correspondent.
"The Russians do their research on the internet on the natural remedies for some ailments and come here to buy the spices. Recently, a Russian asked for gymnema leaves having anti-diabetic properties which were shipped to him from India," he added.
Born and raised in Madurai, Jeevanantham owns and runs a chain of seven Indian Spices Shop outlets-five of them in Moscow, one each in St. Petersberg and Tver.
He has also promoted a hotel by name Amil in Rajapalayam in Tamil Nadu.
"The retailing business growth is good. We clock around 20 percent annual growth. The Indian hotel is also picking up business with occupancy going up at a steady pace," he said.
Jeevanantham landed in Moscow then the capital of undivided Soviet Union for a masters in agriculture.
"As the education was in Russian language we had to study the language for a year and then join the main course," he recalled.
According to him, vacations were spent in London working in retail outlets there.
"I used to see many Indians in London buy spices and other things at the retail outlets. Though at that point of time there were many Indians living in Moscow and in other parts, there was no outlet catering to our needs," Jeevanantham said.
During early part of the 1990s there used to be around 12,000 Indians in Moscow. Indians also lived in other parts of the then Soviet Union.
"It was then I wondered about the business opportunity for selling Indian spices and other food items for the Indian community in Russia. In order to cook our food we used to bring the ingredients in bulk from India. At that time there were other Asian nationals in Russia apart from Indians and other foreigners," he said.
According to him, at that time India mainly shipped pepper and curry leaves to Russia for industrial/bulk users and not for retail customers.
The idea of starting an Indian store started gaining roots in his mind and partnering with his friend M. Athimoolam set up his first store in Moscow at the People's Friendship University in 1994.
The initial investment was around $300 and the outlet catered to the Indian and other Asian students.
While the break-up of the Soviet Union impacted the business initially with the size of the Indian community in Russia going down, the sales started to pick up after some period.
"Russians turned out to be our major customers now. Post the break-up of the Soviet Union, many Russians started going out to other countries and started tasting different cuisines. And on their return to Russia they started looking out for ingredients," Jeevanantham said.
But life was not easy for Jeevanantham after the Soviet Union break-up, the following ruble devaluation in 1998.
"My bank collapsed and along with that went my savings. I also suffered a big loss due to burglary at my home," he said.
His partner had gone back to India and settled there much earlier.
In face he contemplated quitting Russia.
"I even went to London and saw a store. But the locality did not promise good business. I was also advised by my close friends to come back here," he said.
Focussing his energies he stabilised the operations and started expanded his product range by including items bought by Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Mexicans and others.
Along the line the number of outlets too started to increase.
Looking back, Jeevanantham recalls fondly his first full container load import from India that got sold out immediately.
"That was a big event in my life. I was bit tense," he recalls.
While he imported assorted items earlier, today at times he imports a container load of single item.
After selling third party brands, Jeevanantham last year started selling products under his own brand called Amil.
Speaking of business dynamics, Jeevanantham who is cagey in sharing financial figures said an outlet similar to his would need an investment of around $300,000 and would break even in around three years time.
Agreeing that there further growth potential, he is bit reluctant to expand his chain or opening a departmental store.
Jeevanantham follows a strange policy of being debt free and expanding the outlets through internal accruals and own funds.
"Somehow I do not like to borrow from the banks. I had to resort to borrowing only for the hotel project in Rajapalayam as the cost exceeded the expectations," he said.
The 52 room star hotel in Rajapalayam a field that is entirely new to him.
"I hired a consultant who chalked out the path. I wanted to have a hotel and decided to venture into this segment," he remarked.
The hotel involving an outlay of around Rs.20 crore opened last December and is fast picking up.
Jeevanantham is married to Karina a Russian by birth and the couple now takes care of the business.


4 Challenges facing Modi

When Modi spoke of better days, it was hugely appealing to a population that had only seen the Indian economy slide for five years. In the biography of individuals, five years can be an interminably long period


Prime Minister Narendra Modi has started his second year with a reasonably positive track record. He, however, faces four clear challenges that he needs to urgently address if he aspires for a second term.
First, the biggest challenge he faces is with regard to the aspirations and expectations of domestic constituencies, business and industry - and from the international community. This is unprecedented in terms of both scale and speed. UPA 2 had regrettably earned the tab of 'stand-still governance'. Both within India and abroad, there was clear frustration at the manner in which UPA-2 demonstrated utter disregard for India's future.
When Modi spoke of better days, it was hugely appealing to a population that had only seen the Indian economy slide for five years. In the biography of individuals, five years can be an interminably long period.
Consequently, expectations in terms of what better days meant were considerable in terms of both scale and speed. Five years of inactivity had made people impatient. They needed to catch up on lost time. This was fast-forward aspiration. The demand was to cut red tape, create a forward looking budget and to put in place incentives that would spur economic activity and create jobs. But more importantly, the demand truly was to get all of this done overnight.
As the past one year has demonstrated, this is a Herculean task and constitutes a significant challenge for the prime minister and his cabinet.
If the second year of his governance does not show a positive turnaround, the Opposition and the international community would, most certainly, dub him as being high on intentions and low on delivery. He is confronted with a genuinely serious challenge.
The second challenge is with regard to the bureaucracy and this is, to a considerable extent, a consequence of his personal style of functioning. Known to be a person who makes up his own mind, he has so far only succeeded in springing surprises on the bureaucracy and clearly leaving them out of the loop when he makes public announcements. While this might win him applause from crowds in Madison Garden and the Sydney Olympic Stadium that he appeared to revel in, it does not necessarily translate into approvals.
The yardstick of good governance is verifiable translation of promises. Today, there appears to be - at least in terms of perceptions - a serious shortfall between promises and delivery.
Consider, similarly, the strong manner in which the government has made its intentions clear with regard to zero-tolerance towards corruption. With the repeated allegations of corruption during the previous regime, this anti-corruption move has been largely welcomed. However, corruption cases, as we all know, are difficult to prove and where, indeed, traps have successfully ensnared officials and others, these are few and far to have any significant impact in curtailing prevalent levels of corruption. Focus on Swiss bank accounts, while important, ignores how deeply corruption has become an integral part of our everyday biography.
The third challenge is from his cabinet and party colleagues. At one level, clearly irresponsible statements by many of his party members have been a cause of serious concern because of the manner in which they have been perceived as imposing a Hindutva agenda and challenging the secular fabric of India. The prime minister has chosen to keep silent on every occasion and opted for an alternative course where he has, through his own public statements and personal meetings, sought to assuage fears among minority communities. While this is good, it is not good enough because it does not unambiguously demonstrate clarity on how the prime minister himself thinks.
More serious is the manner in which chest-thumping took place after the Special Forces' action in Myanmar, especially because words of bravado and public boasting, including threats to neighbouring countries, were made by those who were clearly not directly in the know of the things. The army, the NSA and the Prime Minister's Office did precisely what they needed to do: they did not comment or issue long-winded statements. Every country that has carried out such operations issues a bland statement: 'An operation was carried out successfully by the Special Forces, which suffered no casualties.' The media and others are then left to draw their own conclusions. Bizarrely, however, this became a media circus with wild statements and hypothetical threats. Modi needs to recognize that his cabinet colleagues lack maturity and understanding. Unless he is able to curb their enthusiasm for making press statements, his own credibility is likely to be seriously undermined.
Modi has given sufficient evidence to demonstrate that he possesses all the tools to be a master tactician and strategist. But as Capablanca, the great chess genius advised, 'Play chess backwards; start from the endgame.' Strategies and tactics or 'the how' works only when you first have clarity on 'the why' and 'the what'.
After a year of governance, sadly, the prime minister appears to have been so fascinated by his own style that he has mistaken it for content. This is his fourth challenge and one which is self-imposed.



tapan sur

1 year ago

living in Delhi knowing many top politicians,North India is a different ball game, unlike west. Bureaucracy not easy to control,you just cannot push them as they are being done.Governing India is different from governing a state in the west or south.Hypes & rhetoric have brought clapping's from the harassed masses,& now if they don't get answers expect them 2 hit back? Metals,infrastructure,foundation of growth, never did well in last one year,so where is the growth, one needs to answer.A good article by you.Keep fingers crossed markets may adjust the hype factor & fall to March 2014.Dangerous time's?

Cairn India to merge with Vedanta

Cairn shareholders will get one equity and one redeemable preference share of Vedanta


Industrialist Anil Agarwal on Sunday announced the merger of two of his group companies -- the oil and gas exploration major Cairn India with the natural resources arm Vedanta Ltd. Cairn shareholders will get one equity and one redeemable preference share of Vedanta.
The transaction is intended to be completed by the first quarter of 2016, the group said.
"The merger of Cairn India and Vedanta Ltd consolidates our position as India's leading diversified natural resources champion, uniquely positioned to support India's economic growth," Vedanta chairman Agarwal said.
"The independent directors, at both Vedanta and Cairn India, unanimously recommend the proposed combination. This marks a significant step towards achieving our stated long-term vision of a simplified group structure with alignment of interests between all shareholders for the creation of long-term sustainable value."
The group, in a filing with stock exchanges on Sunday, said the strategy remains unchanged to continue focus on delivering attractive growth, sustainable development, long-term value for shareholders and to sustain strong dividend distribution.
"Approximately 752 million each of equity shares and redeemable preference shares will be issued to the minority shareholders of Cairn India by Vedanta Limited pursuant to the merger," it said, adding: "No shares will be issued to Vedanta Limited or any of its subsidiaries for their shareholding in Cairn India."
Vedanta Limited itself was created with the merger of Sesa Goa, Sterlite and Vedanta Aluminium.
Cairn said on Saturday in a stock exchange filing: "A meeting of Board of Directors of the company will be held on June 14, 2015, inter alia, to consider and evaluate amalgamation of the company with Vedanta Limited." 
Vedanta took majority control of Cairn India for $8.67 billion in 2011 and holds 59.9 percent in the latter through its various units.
Merging Cairn India with itself would provide Vedanta access to the oil explorer's cash and help reduce its debt burden. At the end of March this year, Vedanta had total liabilities worth over Rs.99,000 crore on a consolidated basis.
The Anil Agarwal-led Vedanta earlier this month hiked stake in its oil and gas exploration subsidiary Cairn India by nearly five percent for $315 million from a wholly-owned subsidiary -- Twinstar Mauritius Holdings (TSMHL).



Dr Anantha K Ramdas

1 year ago

Please refer to your article on the Cairn-Vedanta merger proposal.

Shareholders of Cairn India must oppose this move as it is not a fair and equitable proposal. They have invested money in Cairn because of the gas and oil sourced by the firm and the long term prospects it has. In any case, both the items are in short supply in the country. Shareholders expect Cairn to grow as big as Reliance and ONGC and reward the shareholders for years to come.

What is the compromise solution to this merger proposal? Here are some suggestions:

a) first Cairn shareholders be rewarded with a 1:1 bonus

b) this should be covered in the dividend payout for the current year

c) then the 1:1 merger with Vedanta can be considered

d) the carrot of 1:1 preference share of Vedanta offered and to be redeemed after 18 months should not be accepted, unless, this is allowed to remain, pari passu with the Vedanta shares

e) the Vedanta shareholders also must demand that the Company makes moves to invite China to come in as a joint venture partner in Goa to convert the low grade ores mined there and use the technology of mixing it with high grade ores, obtained from Brazil, Australia or elsewhere, including India. The finished steel can be shipped back to China or exported, thus "make in India" a reality.

Why not Moneylife take the lead in starting a campaign to oppose the merger unless better terms are offered to shareholders?

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