Politics & the Nation
  • CWG blame game begins in right earnest
    • The probe into irregularities in organising of the Commonwealth Games has unleashed a blame game with Delhi chief minister Shiela Dikshit and Suresh Kalmadi pointing fingers at each other.
    • A day after Ms Dikshit sought to paint Mr Kalmadi as the villain of the piece, the chairman of the organising committee hit back saying that bulk of the games money was spent by the Delhi government.  He hopes that the Shunglu committee's terms of reference will include not just the work undertaken by the organizing committee at a cost of Rs. 1620 crore but also the Rs. 16,000 crore money spent by the Delhi government.
    • He also went on the offensive and said that the PMO also cannot wash its hands off the responsibility.  Because he says that all decisions in the organizing committee are made by the executive board, which includes two representatives each of the Central and Delhi governments.
Finance & Economy
  • New concept in retail: the pop-up store
    • Pop-up stores are are temporary shops that usually sell goods for a limited period of time. Designed to generate buzz and lure shoppers with a get-in-while-you-can appeal, pop-ups allow brands to move quickly, opening up shops to test a new product or market, and closing them without much fuss.
    • These stores are erected within existing malls / big retail stores.  
    • It’s a win-win-win situation. A comparatively low-overhead option for the brands, pop-up store allows them to step outside their traditional walls and meet a broader audience; it results in a surge in rental income and more traffic (footfalls) for the mall owners; and it gives an opportunity to shoppers to touch and feel a product, sometimes even before it is available in the market.
    • Brands such as Nokia, Singapore Airlines, Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, Canon, Acer and Dell are hopping onto pop-up store bandwagon.
    • The importance of the last mile and its influence, not only on purchase decision but also on brand visibility and recall, has become top priority. It is here that pop-up stores play their part for a better consumer bonding. The enhanced infrastructure of shopping malls is also triggering this trend.
    • However, Pop-up retail is still a nascent concept in India.  Globally, many brands and retailers have explored this concept. This includes iconic toy retailer Toys R Us, which plans to open 600 pop-up stores during the Christmas-New Year to boost sales. Even discount retailer Target has seen huge success with pop-up stores.
  • Governement mulls reform for giving VGF
    • You might remember that VGF (Viability Gap Funding) was introduced in the 2005 budget.  The idea was to make economically unviable projects viable for promoters.  Many projects suffer from low economic returns.  Hence not many people come forward to take up the projects.  In such cases, the government can pitch in and meet a portion of the cost, making the project viable. This method is known as viability gap funding.
    • VGF is typically provided in competitively bid projects. Under VGF, the Centre meets up to 20% of capital cost of a project being implemented in PPP (Public Private Partnership) mode by a central ministry, state govt, statutory entity or a local body. The state govt, sponsoring ministry or project authority can pitch in with another 20% of the project cost.
    • The government has, in the first four months of FY11, approved VGF of over Rs. 3,000 crore for 23 projects.
    • The government is reportedly considering a proposal to reduce the up front capital subsidy it provides to road projects to make them viable for private participation, as it looks to use available public funds to execute more projects and to create lasting developer interest in such projects.
    • The proposal seeks to limit the up front viability gap funding to 10% of the total amount while the balance will be paid later. This will also ensure that developers pay enough attention to the maintenance of such projects. At present up to 40% of VGF is paid up front.
    • The balance VGF will be converted into annuity that will be paid in equal installments over the next 20 years. The toll will continue to be managed and collected by the developer.
  • Peepoo maker looks to strike gold here
    • Peepoo is a single-use toilet-pouch that weighs less than 10g.  Remarkably slim, measuring 14X39 cm, the Peepoo bag, essentially a bioplastic bag containing urea powder, sanitises human excreta shortly after defecation. It requires no water, as after use the bag breaks down and disintegrates, and the treated faeces become fertiliser with a high market value.  
    • The product is the brainchild of Anders Wilhelmson, a Stockholm (Sweden) based professor who got the idea to make it when he visited Mumbai and Kolkata in 2005
    • as part of a global tour to study urban development issues. His interaction with women living on Mumbai’s pavements inspired him to design Peepoo.  
    • A regular one-time-a-day user of Peepoo has to shell out as little as $10 a year, he says.  But why should an Indian slum dweller spend that much if he can defecate in the open? Because the womenfolk largely prefer to keep their environment clean and also because the slum dwellers can sell their excreta which Peepoo sanitises, before it becomes fertiliser, reasons Wilhelmson.
    • According to reports, of the 2.6 billion people who relieve themselves outdoors, more than 600 million live in India where more people have access to cell phones than toilets. And lack of sanitation due to various reasons, including displacement, kills thousands of people every year.
Language Lessons
  • suss: Verb
    • Examine so as to determine accuracy, quality, or condition
    • eg: There is always an important place for sophisticated machinery in hospitals to suss out hard-to-identify problems, but traditional techniques can often provide answers in many cases, too.
  • lowball: Verb
    • Make a deliberately low estimate
    • eg: In an interview shortly after he unveiled Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 7 mobile software on October. 11, chief executive officer Steve Ballmer declared a new era for Microsoft. “This is a big launch for us—a big, big launch,” he boomed.  Ballmer, never known for understatement, may be lowballing this one.
  • throw out the baby with the bath water: idiom
    • to lose the good parts when you get rid of the bad parts of something
    • eg: You can't close the airport because one airline has problems - that's just throwing out the baby with the bath water.
  • shibboleth: Noun
    • A favourite saying of a sect or political group; A manner of speaking that is distinctive of a particular group of people
    • Synonym: motto, catchword, slogan