Neither the Niira Radia tapes nor the 2G spectrum scam is of any significant interest to net surfers, according to data available. But is it likely that there are many who are inadequately informed about these issues because a majority of the media has chosen to blank out the information to protect their own?
It's a strange world. The 2G spectrum allocation scam and the Niira Radia tapes have thrown the law enforcers in a tizzy, causing serious embarrassment to the government. But amidst this entire buzz, how much of this has the public taken in? Or rather, how much has the media really offered?
It may come as a shock, but many people-some of them from eminent walks of life-are only vaguely familiar with these issues that have dominated the headlines over the past couple of weeks.
A former diplomat, with an HR consultancy in Kolkata, says he knows that Niira Radia is a corporate lobbyist and that she was in touch with some prominent people; but he was not aware that she is being investigated. A financial analyst, this journalist spoke to, had no idea how Ratan Tata was connected to Ms Radia, and he was equally vague about what the two have to do with the 2G spectrum case.
There are some more examples, which only underline the question as to why so many people appear to be ignorant about such serious issues? Besides, they are not the sought who would be satisfied with cursory page 3 and cricket stories. So, what is it that has kept them from knowing?
The answer might be the very medium that's responsible for disseminating news-the media.
In India, much of the news consumption is through TV channels and an estimated 12-15% of news consumers depend on newspapers for information. A miniscule percentage read news online. As some prominent journalists figure in the conversations with Niira Radia, most TV channels and newspapers seem to have decided to leave out the sour part. If these journalists are seen to be guilty of misdemeanour, it would lead to a drop in viewership/readership and consequently, a loss in business. So it seems that many publishing houses simply chose not to write about it.
The most disappointing revelation is from the internet where, according to Google, during the last 30 days the number of web/news searches for "Nira Radia" or "2G spectrum" have been very low-apart from Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, the search volume for the rest of India has been miniscule.
Searches for "Outlook Radia" and "Open" have increased, but the volume has not been enough to generate trend results. And what have been the most searched items during the past month? "Cricket" and "Pamela Anderson"! (Outlook and Open magazines have published transcripts of some of the conversations on the Radia tapes.)
Why is it that internet users, despite the vast potential for the media and availability of the tapes online have not been looking for this news? A representative of the Internet and Mobile Association of India says, "Generally, on the internet, people go for the kind of news they like. Today, many follow their friend's recommendations and likes on Facebook and Twitter, and read only select pieces. Also, many information portals online track the readers' preferred pages, and offer them customised news content, which is more suited to readers' tastes."
Ms Radia or Mr Tata is not the issue. But when media houses and publications, for their vested interests misinform or withhold information, where does it leave the public? Without an informed citizenry there is little hope for transparency and an even narrower room for change.
The hitherto little known company, which is believed to be operating for the past 10 years, is selling IT educational packages through the MLM format, even as the content of its courses is available on the Internet free of cost
Over the past few years, Moneylife has regularly reported on how multi-level marketing (MLM) companies are duping gullible people with new, innovative schemes. Here is one more company which we discovered is offering a computer course on the internet, free of cost, and claiming that it has been doing this social service for many years! That's fine, only till the subscriber is asked to make an upfront payment of Rs7,446.
The company is eBIZ.com.Pvt.Ltd and it is the brainchild of Pawan Malhan. According to sources, Mr Malhan is a non-resident Indian (NRI). Some say he was a director of BITS, Pilani, while others inform that he was head of the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) for nearly a decade. Some blogs even suggest that Mr Malhan was founder of a US-based MLM company SkyBiz, which was fined $20 million by the government. Sources among IIT alumni say they have not heard about Mr Malhan and that they have no clue about his credentials.
eBIZ sells online self-learning educational packages that contain courses on operating systems, programming languages, database and some capsules on MS Office, computer hardware and internet surfing. The catch is that the subscriber is expected to learn all these courses online at his/her own cost. eBIZ.com says, "Please note: All our courses are designed for self-learning only by using computer and Internet at the cost of the learner."
The CD containing the package provided by the company has some animated tutorials. The fact is that anybody can create such animated tutorials using software like Screen Casting which is available on the Internet free of cost. (Screen Casting captures all the movements on the screen and saves it as a flash file.) What is more astonishing is that neither eBIZ nor its educational module is registered with any university or technical board; so whatever certificate is given would have little or no value in the market.
As eBIZ claims it is offering educational packages-mostlly related to information technology-many students are attracted to this. Students and their parents believe they are getting a good offer at a lower rate than other computer education institutes are charging, but they fail to understand that there is no value in such self-education, unless it is endorsed by a government recognised technical education board or university.
The business module is equally interesting. There are some cycles and orbits. The first six cycles make the first orbit that the associate has to complete within a year. To complete the first orbit the associate has to sell this educational package to 50 people in the ratio of 1:2 and he may receive a commission of around Rs26,000. In case he cannot maintain the 1:2 ratio he will not get the commission. This is about the income an individual can earn. But how does the company earn its revenue?
When a person becomes an associate he pays Rs6,550 to eBIZ. (The balance from the total of Rs7,446 goes towards service tax and cess on service tax.) To earn a commission of Rs2,000 he has to enrol two more people as his left and right legs. eBIZ's total earning works out to Rs19,500-Rs2,000=Rs17,500. The company keeps about 30% from this as its revenue.
In the next cycle, the person has two associates who each add two people down the line (in the ratio of 1:2). eBIZ's total earnings now works out to Rs6,550 x 7 = Rs48,850 - Rs6,000 (commission paid to the initial subscriber and his two associates) = Rs39,850. Let's say the subscriber's business continues in the required ratio of 1:2 till there are 25 members in the left and right down lines, then eBIZ would have to pay him Rs8,000 and the associates would each get Rs8,000 in the next cycle.
This assumes that the business continues in the required ratio. However, if eBIZ has to pay out each eligible member the commission from the 70% it gets, it could begin to pinch. That's why MLM businesses seek to register more and more people, but would like to see less and less subscribers achieving the 1:2 ratio. This explains why there are very few people (less than 2%) who joined up early and earned money and the majority end up losers.
eBIZ has been active in the northern states, where subscribers are now finding it difficult to add new candidates to the fold. So, the business in moving to other states. The target group is the same-gullible students. Why does one have to pay for something that is otherwise available free of cost over the Internet?
Toyota Kirloskar Motor has launched the Etios sedan, marking the company's entry into the highly competitive B Segment in India.
The Etios sedan will be available in four variants, J, G, V and VX, priced between Rs4.96 lakh and around Rs6.86 lakh in ex-showroom Delhi. The product highlights include innovative styling, best-in-class cabin and luggage space, superior comfort, impressive fuel efficiency and the legendary Toyota QDR.
To roll out the car, the company is setting up its second manufacturing facility in the country, investing Rs 3,200 crore. At the launch, Sandeep Singh, deputy managing director of Toyota Kirloskar Motor Pvt Ltd said that the company is aiming to sell 70,000 cars based on the Etios platform in 2011.