In India, the spiritual route has always been an easy way to make money. Now, the Times Group wants to cash in on this trend by launching a weekly newspaper based on ‘The Speaking Tree’, a spiritual column that is published in the inside pages of the Times of India (TOI).
According to sources, Narayani Ganesh, a senior editor at TOI, will be editing the newspaper. Moneylife contacted the management of Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd, the publishers of TOI, but they were not willing to comment on this development.
Spirituality is a booming business in India. The Times Group won’t be starved for content as there are enough spiritual and religious entities spread across the country which lean on the media for publicity.
Sources say that the TOI Crest edition, which was recently launched by the company, has not taken off. However, supplements which are clubbed along with TOI like Bombay Times or motoring magazine Zigwheels are doing good business, as they are propped up by expensive advertorials.
“Crest is now given away free at most Crossword outlets. This means that they (the Times Group) will eventually give it away free of cost as a weekend supplement (to TOI),” said PK Ravindranath, a senior journalist. “I read three issues of Crest very carefully and found that it is as good or as bad as TOI itself. It has shallow content and mostly paid advertorials,” he added.
With one of the longest coastlines in the world,
However, here’s another bunch of statistics. Approximately 20% of the world's merchant navy personnel worldwide are of Indian nationality and origin, and to all perceptions as well as unspoken truths, over half the world's tonnage is managed by Indians located all over the world. Traditional seafaring countries like
The Certificate of Competency (CoC) earned by seafarers after multiple exams and training, issued by the Indian Government, is granted equivalency by other countries, including the developed countries, because it is recognised as one of the toughest regimes existing to acquire the privilege of sailing on board ships, worldwide. A side effect of this is that almost 75% of all candidates studying for the CoC in
So what ails Indian flag shipping, why don't the numbers add up, why is Indian surface transport by water so neglected and behind times? Why can't we have more Indian flagships, so that along with seafarers, it is also our ships that sail across the seas, dominating like our Indian seafarers do?
The answer, as always, lies in the petty and short-sighted way governance treats all forms of transport as short-term revenue generating tools, and not long-term nation building efforts. The attitude down the line with the variety of entities which control shipping in India is the same as the attitude one sees in transport offices, the place where you and I go for our driving licences which are issued—or better still, not issued—unless motivated.
That sea cargo is without doubt the most efficient way to transport goods is another given and simultaneously in India a reason for its neglect—once the ports are built and the ships are bought, there is no need to build roads or railway lines, acquire land or operate toll stations and marshalling yards. All you need to do is get the ships out and on to the seas, freedom of transit on which is guaranteed by historical conventions and modern day laws, and get a move on. On a per tonne per kilometre basis, it is cheaper to send anything over a truck or wagon load by sea from Gujarat to the east coast of India, and at a four-five day transit time, probably as fast too—and that is a fact already being recognised wherever possible. But the obstacles faced by coastal shipping are so immense, that even the best and strongest of contenders have often backed out, giving way to the entrenched road lobbies.
Putting everything else aside, that is also the single biggest reason why water-borne cargo and passenger movements by inland waterways have been put on the back-burner in post-1947 India, except in selective areas like Kerala and West Bengal. Governance and those in authority cannot make money by holding up vessels and cargo or passengers once on the rivers, as easily as they can do on roads, so it simply does not work for those who have made a fine art out of this method of generating incomes, without caring about consequences, and Bihar is a fine example of how a State self-destructs after river-borne trade is destroyed.
This is the true reason why surface transport by water, inland or coastal, has been such a flop in post-Independence
But that's a fact of life. Undivided pre-Independence
The manpower is there, the need is there, tonnage and ships have never been cheaper worldwide, and the reasons are all there. But who wants it? An Indian friend who owns and operates a leading foreign flag shipping company from one of the oldest and finest maritime nations in the world found out, when for reasons of patriotism, he tried to re-flag some of his ships to the Indian flag. Amongst other things, powerful entities in India who were capable of investing "hot money" in millions of dollars, made it very clear that it would be beneficial to all concerned if he continued running foreign flag ships, with ownership hidden in places like the Isle of Man, British Virgin Islands, Delaware, Luxembourg and similar places—instead of under the Indian flag, because the source of money would be easily traced.
In addition, and this is the really troublesome part—the whole concept and execution of owning and operating a ship under the Indian flag to work on the Indian coast is stacked against any such effort. More on this aspect soon.
The day after Moneylife exposed how the Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI) was dilly-dallying for over five months on whether trail commission would continue to be paid to the old distributor even after a customer has walked away, the fund lobby has decided to ask for a new vote on the issue. All chiefs of asset management companies got an email on Tuesday afternoon asking them to vote on three questions—whether the trail commission of a departing customer: a. should be paid to the old distributor; b. should be paid to the new distributor; c: should not be paid at all. Funds are supposed to vote a simple yes/no to each of the three questions.
It may be recalled that yesterday we had reported on the fact that there is continuing confusion about who gets the trail commission in a mutual fund transaction, where a client has moved away from one distributor to another. The confusion persists to this day, due to the inability of the fund lobby, AMFI, to implement the decision, by vote of hand, of its own members not to pay trail commission to the old distributor.
About five months ago, AMFI formed a committee with representatives from ICICI Prudential and Birla Sun Life to decide on who should be getting the trail commission. The committee argued that that the original trail should be there for life even if the client has shifted. There were major objections to this idea. In principle, trail commission is paid for maintenance of an account, not for acquisition. For acquisition of clients, fund companies were paying upfront commissions. If a distributor was not maintaining the account, there was no reason for him to get paid anymore.
The decision was debated and put to a hand of vote. It appeared that 11 funds voted in favour of the committee’s flawed decision while 17 were against. However, till date, this has not been implemented. Later, there was a lot of pressure on CEOs who voted for trail commission termination, to take back their vote.
Today’s email asks the funds to vote again on the idea. When Moneylife asked one of the CEOs why should AMFI ask its members to vote again on something that was roundly defeated, one of the CEOs replied, “It’s all a farce. I am not sure what AMFI wants to achieve and whether it will be implemented this time.” What is also a mystery is why are some funds so keen to keep paying commissions to the old distributor, which not only seems illogical but patently anti-investor. It is the investors’ money that is being paid out and it’s unjust to pay his money to a distributor he has decided to walk away from. However, this is precisely what some large funds are supporting