Getting tough with unproductive employees resulted that those who were not ready to put in hard work, moved away. The 14th part of a series describing the unknown triumphs and travails of doing international business in Asia in the seventies and eighties
After my return from Iraq via Kuwait, there was a lot of paper work to do and answer all the irate telexes from our Saudi customers who were still screaming for our blood. Some of them, in fact, had received their shipments, in parts, and they still had to get bulk of the cargo that were “shut out”, though they had paid for the same.
Telexes were exchanged, back and forth, but, ultimately, we still had to bank upon someone from the shipping company reporting that, in fact, all the goods have “since been loaded” on so and so vessel. Of course, we were just as sceptical as the Saudi customers and had to wait for another ten days for them to confirm that they have received the goods.
Some of the clients asked us to return back to Riyadh for new orders, and had sent us invitations, so that the embassy/consulate may release the visa for Vijay and me. Our worry was that this was period of Holy Ramadan when business, if any, would be transacted mostly after sunset, and shops and business would be open till almost early hours of the morning,
In the meantime, pig iron supplies had also suddenly improved, thanks to some imports also coming in and we had enough stocks for the next 6-8 weeks for fresh commitments. More consignments were on the way or were assured of supplies.
I cannot recall exactly when, but a week or so later, after Vijay and I worked out our strategy, we took our flights to Riyadh via Bahrain. By this time, the Concorde was in operation and they had huge lounge for their passengers. Vijay carried further shipment details, always our face saving tactics.
We did not even notice this, but had accidentally walked into the lounge, still admiring the plane, which was parked close by. A little earlier, we had seen it land and what we felt, for the famous mythological bird, Garuda was landing!! It was awesome. As we entered, the hostess offered champagne, when only we realised our folly. We apologized, and retreated, to sit outside, until our flight was announced.
The Saudi government had promised the construction of the causeway, connecting the mainland to Bahrain (the island), and the traffic was heavy of Saudis coming to Bahrain to spend the weekends.
Abdullah had more orders on hand, as he had won some tenders; he would, of course, be making a lot in his plant, but he wanted more supplies; he was really desperate, and hinted that he was willing to pay a little more to ensure prompt shipments.
We were equipped with data on international pig iron prices, and the increasing costs of shipments; besides, the labourers were asking for more, as manufacturing these special manholes were not as simple as making elbows or p-traps, for ordinary use. We spent, almost three days in our negotiations and in the end came back loaded with orders. We had to not only increase the production, but also ensure that our goods were actually loaded on the vessel for each promised shipment.
This was possible in our closed-door sessions; other clients were unavailable, and we could generally meet them later in the evenings.
During the day, we had hardly anything to do; by this time, we had an English newspaper in Riyadh, but it was no comparable to reading Khaleej Times or Gulf News in Dubai.
There was nothing else to do except watch movies on TV and whatever the hotel (I think it was called, Al Batha) would air on the cable. Vijay was a regular smoker, and I had given up a few months earlier. He would tease me, provoke me and say: “If you have such tremendous control, why don’t you keep company, have a couple of cigarettes a day and just give up when you get back to Dubai.” I think this sort of torment was going on for a few days, and, one day, just to accept his challenge; I smoked couple of them, coughed and threw them away.
We then moved on to Dammam. Dhahran International Airport was also very crowded and the traffic was very heavy. It was impossible to get seats to Bahrain, and a little less difficult to get to Dubai. We had skipped a visit to Jeddah and after meeting our clients, took the first available flight to return to Dubai, couple of days later.
Luckily, on the day we arrived we had further news of confirmed shipments which we gladly passed on to some the very clients we had met and assured, only a couple of days earlier, and they were overjoyed to hear the news, though, all of them said, that “ we have to really see the goods in the port”.
It was almost nine days on this trip; when we came to the office, it was all very quiet and we came to know that Ajay had gone hammer and tongs and got rid of a number of ‘temporary’ staff who had promised to deliver the moon, but in reality, could not even get off the ground. Many of these ‘buyers’ were actually meant for procuring supplies for our clients in Iraq and this time he had it made it clear that unless there was actual clear margin of profit, the buyers did not get a ‘percentage’ of the invoice value, but on the actual net profit made. Also, we could not give them any ‘retainers’ for their services. Thus, a lot of dead wood simply floated away.
Krishnan travelled between Hong Kong and London, stopping over at Dubai, once in a while and took care of the expenses, at the same time building strong connections with various suppliers. Khoury was doing a fine job, and all looked quiet everywhere, and it looked so on the surface.
But there were signs of discontent and lack of appreciation; I myself felt that, may be the time had come for me to move on, because for some unexplainable intuitive reasons, my sixth sense kept telling me to move out and look for a suitable opportunity. My body and mind were tired due to incessant travelling and the pressure of work all round.
I drove from the office directly to the Indian Sports Club, of which I was an active member, enjoyed a couple of drinks, and met my family before returning home. I began to seriously think on these issues.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts. From being the advisor to exporters, he took over the mantle of a trader, travelled far and wide, and switched over to setting up garment factories and then worked in the US. He can be contacted at [email protected].)
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If fundamental rights can be taken away from those who have been charged but not proven guilty, why cannot the same apply to politicians?” Chief Election Commission said at a seminar titled “Democracy at Crossroads—Need for Electoral Reforms” organised by Moneylife Foundation and V Citizens Action Network (VCAN)
“We have been asking the government to debar criminals from contesting election. People send us hate mails saying how can the Election Commission (EC) allow such candidates to contest? But this is not in our hands. The law has to do that. Our proposal to debar criminal from contesting elections is pending with government since 1998,” said Dr SY Quraishi, India’s Chief Election Commission (CEC). He was speaking at a seminar titled “Democracy at Crossroads—Need for Electoral Reforms” organised by Moneylife Foundation and V Citizens Action Network (VCAN).
He said that, “A few years back we had a meeting with the law ministry on this issue. But they all disagreed with us. This is because they all have a quota of candidates with criminal backgrounds.” The political parties argue that law of the land is—one is innocent until he is proven guilty—and so you cannot debar anybody from contesting elections just because they have a charge against them. But Dr Quraishi has an interesting argument against it. “My argument is that India has around 2.68 lakh under-trials out of the total 4 lakh prisoners. This is means they are still not proved guilty. But four of their fundamental rights—liberty, right to occupation, freedom of movement and dignity—are taken away from them despite the fact that they have not been proven guilty. If fundamental rights can be taken away from those who have been charged but not proven guilty, why cannot the same apply to politicians, especially since the right to contest elections of an alleged criminal is not even a fundamental right?”
According to EC, politicians argue that there are often false complaints filed to defame them. “To this we have certain safeguards. Firstly, we don’t look into cases of petty crimes like abusing or slapping someone, etc, but only that of heinous crimes like rape, dacoity, murder, etc. Secondly, such cases had to be filed six months before the election. It can’t be just before the day of election. Lastly, charges must have been framed charges against those candidates by the court of law. This is a bigger safeguard.”
He also highlighted that in such cases politicians argue that there is no judicial application of mind. “But I challenge this argument. As we know such cases are tried only in the district courts and then goes to high court, if appealed. If the district court, which is independent, has framed charges, it definitely has some weightage. So there is judicial application of mind even if it is prima facie at that stage. I have spoken to few judges and they agreed to it. They (judges) also say that at such a stage the case can be thrown out and many of the cases come to appeal at the HC. So it is very much legal.”
Dr Quraishi said that despite no power to debar candidates with criminal backgrounds, they are closely watched. “We always have innovative measures for such candidates. One of them is that we keep a video watch on them 24x7. And if they are caught doing anything wrong, we take strict action and can also debar them from contesting elections.”
He adds, “We have other preventive measures. Like during elections in Uttar Pradesh (UP) 27,000 people were held as preventive arrest, 17 lakh people of bad character were identified and were asked to sign a bond for good behaviour during elections and orders were given to act on the pending non-bailable warrants for many years, as these might be the possible criminals to be used for disrupting election process.
Nifty has to close above any previous day’s high for the downtrend to reverse
Weak global cues and domestic growth concerns weighed on the market, pulling it down for the second day. On an above 10-day moving average volume of 86.83 crore shares on the National Stock Exchange (NSE) on account of the futures and options expiry day, the Nifty fell marginally by 16 points. Yesterday we had mentioned that the index has to breach 5,170 or 5,275 to set a direction. Today the index fell below the lower range and settled slightly above it. If the benchmark manages to close above 5,195, the downtrend may be arrested.
The market opened lower amid weak global cues and concerns over the new taxes proposed by the finance minister in the Budget, which would come into effect shortly. On the global front, dismal economic data pulled down US stocks overnight while markets in Asia were mostly lower in early trade on worries about the slowdown in growth. The Nifty opened 49 points down at 5,146 and the Sensex resumed trade at 17,040, down 82 points from its previous close.
The market was range-bound till noon trade in the absence of any triggers and touched the day’s lows around 12.30pm. At the lows, the Nifty fell to 5,136 and the Sensex went below the 17,000 level to touch 16,921.
Bargain hunting at lower levels saw a splendid recovery in the post-noon trade, which enabled the market hit its intraday high. At that point, the Nifty was at 5,194 and the Sensex 17,109. However, the market closed negative. The Nifty settled 16 points lower at 5,179 and the Sensex finished the session at 17,059, down 63 points.
The advance-decline ratio on the NSE was tilted in favour of the gainers at 943:773.
The broader markets outperformed the Sensex as the BSE Mid-cap index rose 0.16% and the BSE Small-cap index climbed 0.70%.
Among the sectoral indices, BSE Healthcare (up 0.92%); BSE Consumer Durables (up 0.88%); BSE Auto (up 0.67%); BSE Metal (up 0.39%) and BSE Realty (up 0.35%) were the top gainers.BSE Capital Goods (down 1.61%); BSE IT (down 1.17%); BSE TECk (down 1.01%); BSE Fast Moving Consumer Goods (down 0.65%) and BSE Bankex (down 0.15%) were the key losers.
The key performers on the Sensex were Jindal Steel (up 4.42%); Tata Power (up 2.99%); Hero MotoCorp (up 1.55%); Wipro (up 1.27%) and ONGC (up 1.14%). The top laggards were Larsen & Toubro (down 2.09%); Infosys (down 1.78%); TCS (down 1.71%); Bharti Airtel (down 1.60%) and BHEL (down 1.35%).
The Nifty was led by Tata Power (up 7.11%); Ranbaxy (up 6.20%); Jindal Steel (up 3.71%); Bharat Petroleum Corporation (up 3.28%) and Jaiprakash Associates (up 2.34%). Siemens (down 3.26%); Reliance Communications (down 2.67%); L&T (down 2.08%); Bharti Airtel (down 2.01%) and Sterlite Industries (down 1.78%) settled lower.
Markets in Asia settled mostly lower on concerns about global growth and its impact on quarterly earnings of corporates. A weak trend in the US markets overnight also weighed on the markets.
The Shanghai Composite tanked 1.43%; the Hang Seng dropped 1.32%; the Nikkei 225 declined 0.67%; the Straits Times fell by 0.85%; the Seoul Composite slipped by 0.85% and the Taiwan Weighted tumbled 2.06%. Bucking the trend, the Jakarta Composite gained 0.365 and the KLSE Composite rose 0.11%. At the time of writing, the key European indices were down between 0.89% and 1.12% and the US stock futures were trading lower.
Back home, foreign institutional investors were net sellers of shares totalling Rs148.06 crore on Wednesday while domestic institutional investors were net buyers of stocks aggregating Rs73.03 crore.
Essar Oil today announced completion of Rs8,300-crore expansion of its Vadinar oil refinery in Gujarat that will boost company's turnover by 30-35%, besides improving margins. The Vadinar Refinery is now India’s second largest single-location refinery, with an annual capacity of 18 million tonnes (up from 14 million tonnes currently) and a complexity of 11.8, which also makes it among the world's most complex refineries. The stock declined 0.19% to close at Rs52.40 on the NSE.
Conglomerate Adani Enterprises may spend close to Rs3,400 crore for adding as many as 17 more ships to its current fleet by 2020. The company which owns two vessels for ferrying fuel from its overseas coal mines, recently acquired one more ship for the purpose. The stock jumped 4.50% to settle at Rs297 on the NSE.
Pharma major Lupin expects its US business will grow 20-25% in fiscal 2012-13 (April-March), helped by a strong pipeline of generic drugs. The company is also expecting over 20% growth in its India operations. The stock settled 0.51% higher at Rs519.25 on the NSE.