Last Chance for Ruling Government in Pakistan

As a result of the increasing pressure from the International Monetary Fund which is one of the most magnificent donors known to provide funds to various countries to make their economies survive, the Pakistan Cabinet finally resigned recently. IMF or International Monetary Fund has been continuously pressurizing the PPP-led Pakistani government since long ago to downsize its cabinet size at the earliest so that the government expenses can be reduced considerably. Apart from the International Monetary Fund, there was an equally strong pressure and stress coming from the main opposition party, the PML (N), to cut short the size of the ruling cabinet which could be a powerful effort to counter widespread corruption across the nation.

The Eighteenth Amendment which was recently passed also had it that the size of the cabinet should be as short as possible with a vision of reducing the government expenses at a time when it found itself in difficult straits.

Finally, the voice of these struggling bodies has been heard by the Pakistani President Asif Zardari who at last instructed Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to demand resignation from the members of the cabinet. The new cabinet of the country is yet to be announced.

Government of Pakistan has developed an overall image of being corrupt at roots and inefficient in governance. In fact, the top dignity of the PPP which is the current ruling party of Pakistan, President Mr. Asif Zardari, is the most hated figure across Pakistan. This is because of his government being accused with numerous charges of corruption.

Considering the present image of the Pakistani government, it can be predicted that if there is a re-election in Pakistan in near future, results will be in favor of PML (N) which is highly unwanted to both the Pakistani army and the United States of America, whose massive aid sustains the economy of the country. It is believed by many that if the PML (N) government comes to power in Pakistan it would have adverse impact on both Pakistan and the world. It is feared that the victory of this party would embolden the extremist forces which would be disastrous not only for Pakistan but also the entire glob.

The cutting short of the cabinet size and able governance might be the last chance for the PPP government to brighten up its image in the country, failing to which, it might have to go off power. The entire world is focusing on this initiative and hoping for the best possible results.

Spanish Fiestas

Spain is Famous for its Fiesta’s. There is no doubt that the Spanish are the most noted Nation for their parties and Celebrations of their rich cultural history and traditions. Here we have put together a list of the best ones in each region. They really are not to be missed and are great fun for all the family. There are both National Fiesta’s, celebrated all over Spain. Alongside these, there are also hundreds of smaller, local Fiesta’s in every town and village.

Here is a quick guide to the great Fiesta’s of Spain:

January: Three Kings day – Día de los Reyes Magos (5th January) – This is a Huge celebration which takes place on the evening of 4th January when the Three Kings give out Christmas presents. In most Towns and Large villages there is a street procession where many sweets are given out to the children lining the streets.

February: The Seville Tapas Fair gives you a chance to savour a feast of Spanish snacks in the world capital of tapas.

March: The Festival de Jerez is a flamenco festival with some of Spain’s top performers dancing the National dance for your enjoyment.

In Valencia there is the not to be missed Fallas de San José where there are huge street parties with incredible fireworks for a number of nights in a row accumulating in the burning of the fallas (papier-mache effigies of famous people) on the last day.

April: Some of Spain’s biggest festivals take place during April and May starting with Holy Week (Semana Santa) which is important nationwide but is especially recommended in Seville, Cordoba, Granada, Malaga and Alicante. The celebration of Holy Week is the highlight of the year, with teams of parish members carrying enormous religious floats. In Torrevieja there is a ‘international’ float carried by non Spanish Nationals, the majority of whom are English. It is a massive Honour to be asked to take part in the Semana Santa procession and to add to the Glory, the International float is the largest and heaviest float carried without wheels (carried by 100 people).

In Alcoy, Alicante it’s the festival of the Moros y Cristianos where you can see mock battles between Moors and Christians. In Seville, two weeks after Easter you can visit Spain’s biggest annual party at the Seville April Fair (La Feria de Abril).

It is also the Romería de Andújar in Andalucia, which is a mass pilgrimage to a shrine of the Virgin Mary.

May: In Granada and Cordoba there is the festival of the Cruces de Mayo where you can see large crosses adorn parishes and the locals party in the streets. Cordoba continues its parties with the Fiesta de los Patios, a competition to find the city’s most beautiful flower covered patio. Also in Cordoba, and shortly after the Fiesta de los Patios, you can watch the Feria de Cordoba, a fiesta of flamenco and all things Spanish that now rivals Seville’s April Fair in size.

The famous Feria del Caballo, Jerez’s Horse Fair is also this month. In Madrid they host the world’s largest bullfight festival plus plenty cultural events and parties throughout the month of May, as Madrileños celebrate San Isidro, the Patron Saint of the capital.

June: On the evening of June 23rd, to celebrate the summer solstice, people flock to the beaches, light bonfires, and party until dawn. The Hogueras de San Juan (midsummer bonfires and fireworks) are celebrated in the south of Spain, especially Alicante.

A little known festival is La Romería del Rocio which is a pilgrimage of up to a million people who travel on foot or by horse and carriage to the shrine of the Virgin at El Rocio in Huelva. This is a Fiesta celebrated all over the country but most notably in Toledo and Seville. In Granada you will find the International Festival of Music and Dance.

The Hogueras de San Juan (midsummer bonfires and fireworks) are celebrated in the south of Spain, especially Alicante. At the end of May the annual Sonar Festival which takes in music and art, takes place in Barcelona which attracts huge crowds.

July: The Festival de Cordoba is an International guitar festival which takes place in the gardens of the Alcazar. In Pamplona the famous San Fermin (running of the bulls) takes place which always begins on 7th July and lasts for a week. In San Sebastian you can see some of the top jazz performers at its annual San Sebastian Jazz Festival.

If you are around the South Coast area on 16th July you will come across a range of different celebrations on the Día de la Virgen de Carmen. Most commonly you’ll see a statue of the Virgin carried in from the sea by a flotilla of fishing boats often with some impressive firework displays.

August: One of Spain’s most fun and totally mad festival is La Tomatina, the Tomato Festival in Bunyol near Valencia which is the world’s biggest tomato fight. In Malaga you will find the Feria de Malaga which is a massive 10 day party down on the south coast. Cambados in Galicia hosts the Albariño wine fair where you can sample some of Galicia’s finest white wines.

The Elx (Elche) Mystery Play is held in August and dates back to the 13th century. It is one of Spain’s oldest cultural events. Even though the play is voiced in Spanish, it is great fun for all non Spanish speaking as the drama and theatre of the event plays out in front of you, you can get the gist of what is happening without having to hear the dialogue.

September: Jerez de la Frontera celebrates its wine harvest with the Jerez sherry festival which begins on the first Saturday of September every year. Known locally as the Fiestas de Otoño, this is a three week party involving sherry, horses and flamenco.

Catalunya celebrates Cava week, a festival dedicated to the fine Catalan version of champagne. The City of Barcelona celebrates the Festes de la Merce, a huge fiesta with processions, fireworks and dance performances.

In Sueca, Valencia there is a Fiesta del Arroz which is basically a paella festival – A number of local Paella Festivals also take place during September and October in the smaller towns along the coast from Valencia, through Alicante to San Pedro del Pinatar.

October: The biggest event this month is in Zaragoza with the Pilar Festival which celebrates the appearance of the Virgin Mary to St James. The event coincides with Hispanidad, a nationwide fiesta commemorating Columbus landing in the Americas.

November: This month begins with the sombre occasion of All Saints Day (Todos Los Santos) celebrated all over Spain. This day is a public holiday where all shops will be closed. Spanish people from all over the country return to their birthplaces to remember their deceased relatives.

December: The month we all know that celebrates Christmas. Christmas in Spain is a big, traditional family affair with Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) being a very quiet night when all families get together for dinner. Christmas day is not a day when presents are given, this is saved until Three Kings Day (5th January).

In Palma de Mallorca cathedral, preparations take the form of morning choruses and the Cant de Sa Sibilla (Hymn to St Sibly). This tradition, spread throughout the south of France, Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Corsica, was abolished by the Trento Council. Nevertheless, the Bishop of Mallorca decided to allow it to take place, hence its preservation.

In Murcia, the campanas de auroras (dawn bells) group perform their ancient and sober compositions. After midnight on Noche Vieja (New Years Eve) is as raucous in Spanish cities as elsewhere in Europe. You can see Fireworks filling the sky at midnight from miles around as the Spanish see the New year in in style.

Less Developed Countries and Foreign Aid

The reasons why developing nations have usually been eager to accept aid, even in its most stringent and restrictive forms, have been given much less attention than the reasons why donors provide aid. The major reason is probably economic. Developing countries have often tended to accept the proposition – typically advanced by developed-country economists and supported by reference to success stories like Taiwan, Israel, and South Korea to the exclusion of many more failures – that aid is a crucial and essential ingredient in the development process. It supplements scarce domestic resources, it helps transform the economy structurally, and it contributes to economic growth. Thus the economic rationale for aid in LDCs is based largely on their acceptance of the donor’s perceptions of what the poor countries require to promote their economic development.

Conflicts generally arise, therefore, not out of any disagreement about the role of aid but over its amount and conditions. Naturally, LDCs would like to have more aid in the form of outright grants or long-term low-cost loans with a minimum of strings attached. This means not tying aid to donor exports and granting greater latitude to recipient countries to decide for themselves what is in their best long-run development interests. Unfortunately, a good deal of aid that comes in this form has either been wasted in showcase but unproductive projects (e.g., an elaborate parliamentary building, an oversized airport) or actually been plundered by corrupt government officials and their local cronies. Much of the criticism of the historical patterns of foreign aid – that it wastes resources, that it bolsters corrupt regimes, that it is appropriated by the rich at the expense of the poor – is justified. Some LDC recipients in the past have accepted aid simply because it was there and they were not held accountable. A few leaders simply wish to leave no stone unturned in their quest for poverty alleviation, as perhaps describes Mozambique in the 1990s. They have been in the minority. The impact of the spread of democracy, press freedom, and the rule of law, including anticorruption drives, on the effectiveness of aid remains an open question.

Second, in some countries, aid is seen by both donor and recipient as providing greater political leverage to the existing leadership to suppress opposition and maintain itself in power. In such instances, assistance takes the form not only of financial-resource transfers but of military and internal security reinforcement as well. This phenomenon was clearly at work in Central America in the 1980s. The problem is that once aid is accepted, the ability of recipient governments to extricate themselves from implied political or economic obligations to donors and prevent donor governments from interfering in their internal affairs can be greedy diminished.

Finally, whether on grounds of basic humanitarian responsibilities of the rich toward the welfare of the poor or because of a belief that the rich nations owe the poor nations conscience money for past exploitation, many proponents of foreign aid in both developed and developing countries believe that rich nations have an obligation to support LDC economic and social development. They often link this moral obligation with the need for greater LDC autonomy with respect to the allocation and use of aid funds. An example was seen at the 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, where developing nations pressed for substantial increases in foreign aid to permit them to pursue environmentally sustainable development programs. Implicit was the notion that industrialized countries were the major polluters and had no business telling LDCs to slow their growth to save the planet.

In sum, while there is no doubt that the least developed countries will need more assistance to escape from the vicious circle of poverty, fresh approaches are needed to ensure effectiveness.

Spain’s Forgotten War – How the United States Aided Guerrillas

Few of the vacationers sunbathing on the more secluded beaches of Spain’s Costa del Sol realise that dramatic episodes of World War Two were played out here. Top-secret documents which are now open to public view reveal that for a time the Allies seriously considered invading Spain.

Such a move was discussed in the highest quarters in Washington and London – and a possible landing point was the Malaga-Granada coast.

Documents which can be viewed in the United State National Archives in Washington reveal details of the discussion.

Back in 1942 Allied forces had crushed General Rommel’s army in North Africa and preparations were made to launch an attack on Europe. The Nazis knew they were coming, but they did not know where.

Spain had outraged the British and Americans by its support for Germany even though it claimed to be neutral. German U-boats sneaked into the Spanish coast to obtain provisions and Spain exported tons of wolfram to the Nazi war machine.

Tungsten, which is derived from wolfram, is essential for hardening steel in armour-plating and armour-piercing projectiles. And Spain was one of the few sources.

Spies of various nationalities operated in Spain, practically tripping over one another in such locations as the stately Hotel Reina Cristina in Algeciras on the Straits of Gibraltar. There German and British agents eyed one another over the tea-cups between scanning the Straits for shipping movements.

Over in Morocco and Algeria Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE) and MI6 and France’s Cinquième Bureau liaised with America’s OSS (Office of Strategic Services), the forerunner of the CIA. The Allies feared General Franco, the Spanish dictator, might allow German troops to pass through Spain to attack Gibraltar and reach North Africa.

In a top-secret OSS memo, in the National Archives, an official suggested that the Spanish peninsula was “the slickest of all places to attack”. He proposed an invasion direct from the USA, entering all Spanish and Portuguese ports.

To obtain information about Spanish coastal defences, the British and Americans infiltrated Spaniards they had trained in the use of radio and arms. They landed on some of the beaches where tourists sun themselves today.

In the end, the Allies decided Sicily was the best spot to launch the battle to reconquer Europe. But meanwhile guerrillas, carrying American equipment, slipped by night into what is now the Costa del Sol to begin a war to undermine the Franco regime.

They were counting on continued support from the Allies, but when the Cold War started neither the Americans nor the British were willing to help a movement largely organised by Communists.

So the guerrillas were left to their fate. The brutal conflict, virtually unreported at the time, continued until 1952 in the mountains of Malaga and Granada.

Country folk in that area were caught between two fires, the repressive Civil Guard on one side and the guerrillas on the other. It was a time of tragedy and courage, heartbreak and betrayal.

Deadly NATO Attack On Pakistan – Future Of the Pakistan-US Relationship

The recent NATO attack on Pakistani border provisions that claimed 24 lives of Pakistani soldiers had been broadly condemned in Pakistan. The tragic incident has further damaged the already fragile relationship between the US and Pakistan. Perhaps, however, this ratcheting up of tensions could have the needed call for restoring that relationship and in so doing set the region on a renewed path to lasting peace.

The NATO attack has afforded a golden opportunity to the Pakistani strong military to recuperate their lost credibility, trust, and confidence with the masses. Pakistan military that once was considered as a savior of the country's national security interests and sovereignty dramatically lost their repute due to the US raid in Abbotabad, controversial drones' attacks, and number of cross-border violations by the NATO forces on Pakistan-Afghanistan border . Current various audacious actions on part of the Pakistan army clearly indicate their resolve and commitment to utilize this incident to the best of their advantage and reclaim their lost trust and respect with the masses of Pakistan.

In the wake of deadly NATO attack, Pakistan Army has very smartly tapped into the genuine anti-American sentiments that pervade the Pakistani society across the board to reclaim their lost confidence. The proactive strategy adopted by the army has dismantled the already weaker political government headed by Mr. Bush. Asif Ali Zardari who is the most disliked and unpopular political leader in Pakistan's history of an independent maneuverability in present scenario. As a result, the fragile political government of Mr. Zardari is dancing on the Army tunes. At present, the army leadership is in a better position to expand their role in an effective way in Pakistan's foreign and national security policies through a weaker political government while remaining behind the scene.

The castigatory decisions of the Pakistan's government to suspend the NATO supply line, vacate Shamsi Airbase that was used by the CIA to conduct drones' attack inside Pakistan, and boycott Bonn conference on Afghanistan would prove to be a milestone in deciding future of the Pakistan- US partnership in the ongoing war in the region. Some 80 percent of the NATO and US fuel and other nonlethal supplies for the war effort travel through Pakistan. In recent years, the coal has added more supply lines through Northern Distribution Network (NDN) passing through the Central Asian republics. However, these new routes are more expensive, but certainly the current situation in Pakistan would further make these lines costlier and challenging for the NATO forces operating in Afghanistan.

Undoubtedly, Pakistan and US are deeply co-dependent on one another. However, considering the severity of the deadly attack coupled with numerous drones' attack and previous violations of Pakistan's sovereignty by the NATO forces, the long-negative negative repercussions on Pakistan-US partnership in the war on terrorism can not be ruled out. United States truly recognizes that Pakistan is the only country that can guarantee their honorable departure and ensuring a reasonably peaceful peace in Afghanistan beyond 2014. "" We can not win the war in Afghanistan without being able to win in our relationship with Pakistan as Well, "said the US Defense Secretary, Leon E. Panetta in a recent statement while highlighting the crucial role of Pakistan in the region. On the other hand Pakistan may not be able to survive economically without direct and indirect support from the United States.

The arrival of the ongoing inquiry under Brig. Gen. Stephen Clark into the NATO attack would have greatly decided the future course of Pakistan-US partnership in the ongoing war in the region. Pakistan refused to be part of the inquiry as they claimed that in previous such inquiries where Pakistan was part of the panel, the outcome was never satisfactory and in many cases no one was penalized and Pakistan was always blamed for the loss of precious lives of their Soldiers in the NATO attacks. If the outcome of the inquiry is below the Pakistani expectations, Pakistan would seriously consider other strategic partners in the region to ensure their sovereignty, pacify domestic pressure, and support the sinking economy of the country.

Unites States should ensure an unbiased inquiry into the attack and chastise those who were responsible for this unacceptable violation of Pakistan's sovereignty that claimed 24 precious lives. Considering the severity of the attack and anticipating anger in Pakistan against the US, the US administration needs to show magnanimity in their approach towards Pakistan by giving a public apology to the people of Pakistan and giving an assurance that such incumbents will not be repeated in the Future. This would greatly help in defusing the present anger in Pakistani masses against the US and give some breathing space to the political government and the army to resume their partnership with the US in the ongoing war against extremist elements in the region. Failing to do so would have long-lasting negative implications on the Pakistan-US relationship, Political stability in Afghanistan, ongoing NATO operations in Afghanistan, and future of the region beyond 2014.

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Project Shakti – A Win Win Situation

“Our partnership with HUL offers the rural entrepreneur a profitable business model while operating i-Shakti kiosks. Also, low cost delivery and customized products will result in higher benefit through enhanced economic gains for the rural consumers.”

~ Mr. Nachiket More

Executive Director, Wholesale Banking Group

ICICI

“There’s incredible potential in rural markets. That’s where the growth will come from.”

~ Sharat Dhall, Hindustan Lever’s director of new ventures and marketing services

Sankaramma, the leader of the local Kanaka Durga self-help Group (SHG) belongs to K. Thimmapuram village’s Muddaner Mandal in the Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh. The village has 350 households with a total population of 1200. Sankaramma’s 5 hectares of agricultural land was not sufficient for six member family due to severe drought in the region. She started a business in April 2003 with the Hindustan Unilever Ltd. By 2005, she had a regular monthly turnover of Rs.10,000 per month. Initially she sold door to door, but thereafter the customers started visiting her home for products. She sees Project Shakti as a mean for the bright futures of her children. Project Shakti also enabled her to provide mid-day meals at the primary school in her village. Today, Sankaramma has become a key development figure in her village.

Usha Sarvatai, a mother of 2, traveled 32 km everyday to work. Her husband’s income was not sufficient for the two children and their old parents. But the long distance and the odd timings of the job forced Usha to quit the job. Then she got a call from the Government dept. to attend a meeting, convened by Project Shakti. Usha became a Shakti Amma and started a new venture. In a short span the good relationships she developed with the villagers helped her do good business. She says, “I am happy fulfilling my family’s requirements and people give me a lot of respect today.” And she is now very eager to grow her business in the years to come.

The list does not end here. Hindustan Lever Ltd., a subsidiary of Unilever is counting on thousands of women like Sankaramma and Usha Sarvatai to sell its products to the rural consumers it couldn’t reach before. By 2005, around 13,000 poor women were selling the company’s products in 50,000 villages in India’s 12 states and contributed for 15% of the company’s rural sales in those states . The women typically earned between $16 and $22 per month , often doubling their household income which was used to educate their children. Overall, around 30% of Hindustan Lever’s revenue came from the rural markets in India

Started in the late 2000, Project Shakti had enabled Hindustan Lever to access 80,000 of India’s 638,000 villages . Hindustan Lever’s director of new ventures proudly expressed, “At the end of the day, we’re in business. But if by doing business we can do something positive, it’s a great win-win model.” Hindustan Lever was not the only company recognizing the vast marketing potential in rural India. With the saturation of urban market, the companies started reengineering their businesses and products to target rural consumers who are poor but are rich in aspirations fueled by the media and other forces.

Unilever in India: Business and Growth

Unilever was the world’s largest Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) company with a worldwide revenue of $55 billion in 2005 . It’s Indian subsidiary, the Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) was the country’s largest FMCG company with combined volumes of about 4 million tonnes and revenues near about $2.43 billion . HUL’s major brands included Lifebuoy, Lux, Surf Excel, Rin, Wheel, Fair & Lovely, Pond’s, Sunsilk, Clinic, Pepsodent, Close-up, Lakme, Brooke Bond, Kissan, Knorr-Annapurna, Kwality Wall’s etc. These were manufactured over 40 factories across the country .

In 1931, Unilever set up its first Indian subsidiary, Hindustan Vanaspati Manufacturing Company . Thereafter the Lever Brothers India Limited and United Traders Limited were established in 1933 and 1935 respectively. In November 1956, these three companies merged and form HUL. Unilever’s share in HUL was 51.55% in 2005 and the remaining of the shareholding was distributed among about 380,000 individual shareholders and financial institutions. A foray of acquisitions followed thereafter . In 1984, the Brooke Bond joined the Unilever fold. Lipton was acquired in 1972 and Ponds in 1986 . HUL was following a growth strategy of diversification always in line with Indian opinions and aspirations.

The economic and political development in the 1990s had marked an inflexion in HUL’s and the Group’s growth curve. Economic liberalization permitted the company to explore every single product and opportunity segment, without any constraints on production capacity. On the other hand, deregulation allowed alliances, mergers and acquisitions. In 1993, HUL merged with the Tata Oil Mills Company (TOMCO) 1993 . In 1995, HUL formed a 50:50 joint venture with another Tata company, Lakme Limited .

The company had also made a string of mergers, acquisitions and alliances in the Foods and Beverages sector. Some of these were the acquisition of Kothari General Foods (1992), Kissan (1993), Dollops Icecream business from Cadbury India (1993), Modern Foods (2002), Cooked Shrimp and Pasteurised Crabmeat business of the Amalgam Group of Companies (2003) .

With 12.2% of the world population residing in the villages of India, the country’s rural FMCG market had a huge potential . The Indian FMCG sector was the fourth largest sector in the economy with a market size of $13.1 billion . The sector was expected to grow by over 60% by 2010. In 2005-2006 the urban India accounted for 66% of total FMCG consumption, with rural India accounting for the remaining 34% . However, rural India accounted for more than 40% consumption in major FMCG categories such as personal care, fabric care, and hot beverages . The Bid FMCG companies such as HLL, Nirma and ITC joined the foray to tap the huge potential.

In the 1990s, a local Indian firm, Nirma Ltd. started providing detergents to the rural poor at the lowest cost. The company had created a business system with a new product formulation, low-cost manufacturing, wide distribution channel, special packaging and value pricing. After a decade, Nirma became one of the largest branded detergent makers with a 38% market share and 121% return on its capital employed .

In 2002, ITC set up a network of internet-based kiosks, e-choupals, to help the farmers in their procurement process. The initiative began with the soya growers in Madhya Pradesh and then expanded to cotton, tobacco, shrimp etc. Starting with six e-choupals in June 2000, ITC’s Internet-based, rural initiative had linked 6,000 Indian villages with around 1,200 e-choupals by 2002. The setting up of each e-choupal entails an investment of Rs 1-3 lakh .The objectives behind e-choupals was to allow single place procurement and purchase point, allowing farmers to sell their products directly to ITC on the basis of updated current prices prevailing in the market. This eliminated middlemen and thus helped ITC to cut its costs.

In 2007, around 34% of the FMCG products sales came from rural areas . The number of households that used FMCG products in rural India had grown from 13.6 crore in 2004 to 14.3 crore in 2007 . This growth was achieved on an average 1.8% year-on-year growth in the number of households, which use at least one FMCG product. However, the growth in penetration level for the entire FMCG products was not same. According to one study by a market research firm IMRB, the monthly consumption of detergents and toilet soaps remained largely stagnant with a 92% penetration, but that of liquid shampoos grew from 68% in 2004 to 83% in 2007 . These figures revealed a shift towards higher-value products among the rural market, from toothpowder to toothpaste or from unbranded to branded products. According to the senior project director of IMRB International, Manoj K Menon, “One of the most significant changes, includes growing preference towards branded products. For example, in the food and beverages segment, penetration of branded atta has gone up year-on-year by 8 per cent and branded salt by 3 per cent. The penetration of unbranded atta has decreased by 1 per cent and salt by 3 per cent.”

The HLL Marketing Effort: Transition to Rural Market

HUL’s competitive advantage generated from three sources. First it’s strong well established brands, second, its local manufacturing capacity and supply chain and third its vast sales and distribution system. It was soon felt that HUL’s sales and distribution system which had protected it from competitors would be soon replicated by its rivals and to maintain its edge, the company had to increase its reach beyond the urban markets. So far the operations of HUL included more than 2,000 suppliers and associates. The distribution network, consisted of 4,000 stockists, covering 6.3 million retail outlets reaching the entire urban population, and about 250 million rural consumers .

Typically, the goods produced in each of the HUL’s 40 factories were sent to a depot with the help of a carrying and forwarding agent (CFA). The company had its depot in every state of the country. The CFA was a third party and got servicing fee for stock and delivery of the products. In each town, there was a redistribution stockist (RS) who took the goods from the CFA and sell them to retail outlets. By the late 1990s, the HUL management realized certain problems with the existing sales model. First, the model was not viable for small towns with small population and small business. HUL found it expensive to appoint one stockist exclusively for each town. Secondly, the retail revolution in the country changes the pattern the customers shop. Large retail self service shops were established. In the response of these problems, HUL redesigned its sales and distribution channel and the new system was known as ‘diamond model’ in the company. At the top end of the diamond, there were the self service retail stores which constituted 10% of the total FMCG market. The middle, fatter part of the diamond represented the profit-center based sales team. In the bottom of the pyramid was the rural marketing and distribution which accounted for 20% of the business .

Almost three-fourth of the total 1.2 billion Indian population resided in the rural areas and majority of them had a very low per capita income (around 44% of that of urban India) . Urban market had reached the saturation point, thus changing focus on rural India. In comparison to just 5,161 towns in India there are 6,38,365 villages in India [Exhibit I]. Moreover, more than 70% of India’s population lived in villages and made a big market for the FMCG industry because of increasing disposal incomes and awareness level.

Exhibit I

Distribution of Villages in India

Source: Kash Rangan, Sehgal Dalip et. Al., “Global Poverty: Business Approaches and Solutions”, http://www.hbs.edu/socialenterprise/pdf/3-Rangan&Rajan-Presentation.pdf

When HLL shifted to the rural India, it faced many problems. In contrast with a low per capita income comparative to the urban citizens, there were some areas with enough money but their awareness level and consumerism was very low. Secondly, rural FMCG demand was depended upon agricultural situation which was again depended upon monsoon. Transportation was also a major hindrance. Many of the rural areas were not connected by rail transport. The Kacha roads were unserviceable during the monsoon and interior villages get isolated. Besides transportation, there was a problem of distribution and communication facilities such as telephone, fax and internet. Moreover, the lives in rural areas were still governed by ethnicity and traditions and people did not simply get used to new practices. For example, even rich and educated class of farmers does not wear jeans or branded shoes. The buying decisions in villages were slow and delayed. They wanted to give a trial and buy only after being satisfied. And, finally the poor illiterate villagers viewed experience more important than formal education and they valued sales people who could provide practical solutions to their problems.

HLL approached the rural market with two criteria – the accessibility and viability [Exhibit II]. Around 40% of the accessible rural market had high business potential. To service this segment, HLL appointed a common stockist who was responsible for all outlets and all business within his particular town. In the 25% of the accessible markets with low business potential, HLL assigned a retail stokist who was responsible to access all the villages at least once in a fortnight and send stocks to those markets. This enables HLL to influence the retailers stocks and quantities sold through credit extension and trade discounts. HLL launched this Indirect coverage (IDC) in 1960s.

To cater the needs of the inaccessible market with high business potential HLL initiated a Streamline initiative in 1997. HLL appointed rural distributors and Star Sellers. The star seller purchased goods from rural distributors and distributed them to retailers in small villages using the local mean of transport. In this way around 35% of the inaccessible rural market came under the control of HLL. But a still untapped market – the inaccessible but low business potential market was left outside. The size of this untapped market was estimated to be around 500,000 villages with a population over 500 million . At this stage, Project Shakti was conceived.

Exhibit II

HLL’s Approach to Rural Market

Low Business Potential High Business Potential

Accessible Markets Indirect Coverage (25%) Direct Coverage (40%)

Inaccessible Markets Space for Shakti Streamline (35%)

Source: V. Kasturi Rangan Rohithari Rajan, “Unilever in India: Hindustan Lever’s Project Shakti–Marketing FMCG to the Rural”, http://www.caseplace.org/d.asp?d=244 – 27k

Project Shakti

HLL soon realized that although it was enjoying a greater penetration in the rural market when compared with its competitor such as Nirma and ITC, its direct reach was restricted to only 16% . The FMCG giant was desperate to increase this share. HUL saw its dream fulfillment in the vast Indian rural market. The company was already engaged in rural development with the launch of the Integrated Rural Development Programme in 1976 in the Etah district of Uttar Pradesh. This program was in tandem with HUL’s dairy operations and covered 500 villages in Etah. Subsequently, the company introduced similar programs in adjacent villages. These activities mainly aimed at training farmers, animal husbandry, generating alternative income, health & hygiene and infrastructure development. The main issue in rural development was to create income-generating prospects for the poor villagers. Such initiatives, linked with the company’s core business, became successful and sustainable and proved to be mutually beneficial to both the company ant its rural customers. However, much remained to be done. Project Shakti was conceived.

Following the pioneering work carried out by Grameen Bank of Bangladesh , Self Help Groups (SHGs) of rural women were formed by several institutions, NGOs and government bodies in villages across India. This group of usually 15 members contributed a small amount of money to a common pool and then offered a micro-credit to a member of the group to invest in a commonly approved economic activity. Partnering with these SHGs, HLL started its Project Shakti in Nalgonda district of Andhra Pradesh in 50 villages in the year 2000. The social side of the Project Shakti was that it was aimed to create income-generating capabilities for underprivileged rural women, by providing a sustainable micro enterprise opportunity, and to improve rural living standards through health and hygiene awareness. Most SHG women viewed Project Shakti as a powerful business proposition and are keen participants in it. There after it was extended in other states with the total strength of over 40,000 Shakti Entrepreneurs.

HLL offered a wide range of products to the SHGs, which were relevant to rural customers. HUL invested significantly in resources who work with the women on the field and provide them with on-the-job training and support. HUL provided the necessary training to these groups on the basics of enterprise management, which the women need to manage their enterprises. For the SHG women, this translated into a much-needed, sustainable income contributing towards better living and prosperity. Armed with micro-credit, women from SHGs become direct-to-home distributors in rural markets [Exhibit III].

Exhibit III

Structure of HLL’s Market Reach in India

Source: Kash Rangan, Sehgal Dalip et. Al., “Global Poverty: Business Approaches and Solutions”, http://www.hbs.edu/socialenterprise/pdf/3-Rangan&Rajan-Presentation.pdf

Shakti: How it works

In general, a member from a SHG was selected as a Shakti entrepreneur, commonly referred as ‘Shakti Amma’ received stocks from the HLL rural distributor. After trained by the company, the Shakti entrepreneur then sold those goods directly to consumers and retailers in the village. Each Shakti entrepreneur usually serviced 6-10 villages in the population strata of 1,000-2,000 people with 4-5 major brands of HLL – Lifebuoy, Wheel, Pepsodent, Annapurna salt and Clinic Plus. Apart from these, other brands included Lux, Ponds, Nihar and 3 Roses tea. The Shakti entrepreneurs were given HLL products on a `cash and carry basis.’ However, the local self-help groups or banks provided them micro credit wherever required. According to Dalip Sehgal, Executive Director, New Ventures & Marketing Services, HLL Project Shakti was adding up to 15% of HLL sales in rural Andhra Pradesh. He further asserted that given the largeness of the country and backwardness of its women, Project Shakti-like endeavor would place everybody in a win-win situation.

I-Shakti: Crossing the Border

Encouraged by the goodwill and success of Project Shakti, in August 2003, HLL launched an Internet-based rural information service, called I-Shakti, in Andhra Pradesh, in association with the Andhra Pradesh Government’s Rajiv Internet Village Programme. I-Shakti was an IT-based rural information service to provide vital information to the rural people in fields like agriculture, education, vocational training, health, hygiene and the like [Exhibit IV]. The objective behind the i-Shakti model was to give need based demand driven information and services in the villages.

The i-Shakti kiosk was operated by the Shakti Entrepreneur. This was expected to strengthen their relationship with their customers. HUL expected that this would improve the productivity of the rural community and unlock economic and social progress.

Exhibit IV

A snapshot of the ‘i-Shakti’ website

Source: “HUL Shakti-Changing lives in rural India.”, http://www.hllshakti.com/sbcms/temp1.asp?pid=46802256 – 41k

I-Shakti was based on an interactive discussion technology developed & patented by the Unilever Corporate Research Team, U.K. The system enabled an in-depth understanding of each user needs and thereby improved the quality of services offered to them. The APonline , had tied up with i-Shakti to launch various services. Moreover, through i-shakti, the ICICI Bank and HUL jointly provided various financial products and services such as life and general insurance, investment products (Equity, Mutual Funds, Bonds), ICICI Bank Pure Gold (gold coins), Personal Credit, Rural Savings Accounts and Remittances to the rural customer.

Redefinition Rural Distribution: Changing Lives

Having successful in Nalgonda, in 2003 HLL planned to broaden Shakti to a 100 districts in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and UP. There were other plans such as to allow other companies (except HLL’s competitors) such as Nippo, TVS Motor for mopeds, insurance companies for LIC policies to get onto the Shakti network to sell their stocks. Sehgal was looking proud when he announced, “We wanted to first stabilise the project before we can look at other companies. It requires somebody with scale and size to build a platform and then invite other companies onto this platform.” He further emphasized that Shakti was creating a win-win partnership between HLL and its consumers.

There were about 4.36 lakh women SHGs in AP with almost 58.29 lakh poor women. AP alone had about half of the SHGs of the country. By 2005 the SHGs had mobolised Rs 1500 crore had mobilised as corpus. The rural women organised themselves into `thrift and credit’ groups with a saving of Re.1 a day which created a fund of more than Rs 800 crore. While the savings was there among the SHGs, there was no channel of investment. HLL tapped this huge overlooked network to launch Project Shakti. HLL has able tp provide a window of prospect to invest and earn.

The impact of HLL was not all of a sudden. HLL witnessed 15% incremental sales from the villages of AP, which accounted 50% of the total sales of HLL products in AP. Market analysts were perceiving a huge potential in the rural foray of HLL. Nikhil Vora, Sr. Vice President of research group ASK Raymond James believed that if there was one company that could take on the onus of developing the rural markets, it was HLL. He further continued, “HLL contributes 20 per cent of the total FMCG business in the country. So, clearly, the onus is on HLL to grow the market. Returns may not happen in the next five years, but a lot of consumer understanding and insights comes from an exercise like Project Shakti, which in turn can lead to product innovation.”

HLL acknowledged that for Project Shakti to be successful for the company’s rural penetration, dealers and communicators must be well trained. It was unclear how dealers would perform in an expanded infrastructure. Although HLL’s rural initiatives incurred huge costs to the company, it was expected that with the monsoon revival and greater rural incomes could decline the payback period for projects like Shakti. Moreover, the decreasing brand loyalty among urban consumers rural market had become an imperative. According to the Concurs K.N. Siva Subramanian, Sr. Vice President, Franklin Templeton India Ltd, “The (HLL) management had recognized the impending saturation of the urban markets some time back and launched aggressive plans to capture the rural markets. However, a slowdown in the agricultural sector resulted in rural incomes remaining flat and affecting sales. We believe that by targeting lower price points and further expanding the distribution network, companies can tap the potential of rural markets. Initiatives like Project Shakti will help them in establishing and consolidating their base in rural markets.”

HLL would have to determine whether Project Shakti could be repeatable in other countries. The Indian family structure and village interaction provide a unique diffusion mechanism that is an effective vehicle for Shakti. Whether this model could be successfully implemented in other countries must be further explored. Moreover, it need to find out whether the Project Shakti or e-choupal like initiatives could be increased. There was no doubt that the regional brands, or even larger FMCG companies, did not have the kind of distribution reach that HLL had established and in the long run, that could prove a winner for HLL.

Sexual Reflexology

Sexual Reflexology moves reflexology beyond the realm of foot massage and into the realm of sexuality. It is based on the principle of using our sexual reflex points in lovemaking to heal the rest of our body. Our sexual organs are the most powerful reflex points on the body. The whole body provides the sexual organs with energy so when the sexual organs are stimulated they in turn stimulate and energize the entire body. In this way, sexual intercourse is a form of ecstatic acupressure. This means that sexual intercourse can have deep healing properties when applied intentionally and precisely.

In the pelvis are a vast number of nerve endings and channels for the veins and arteries as well as tissues that communicate with every square inch of the body. All the major acupuncture meridians that carry energy between the body and the vital organs pass through this area. Therefore, if it is blocked or weakened, as is the case with people who are sexually impoverished, then energy will leak and the organs and brain will suffer. When the pelvic and sexual organs are stimulated and strengthened through, what is known as “sex-ercises” it can charge the brain with energy, increase circulation, stimulate nerve flow, strengthen the urogenital diaphragm and tonify the energy of the sexual organs making you healthier and even more sexy.

On the other hand sexual energy can be depleted or wasted needlessly through careless and unconscious sex, improper care of the sexual organs and body, as well as practices such as men’s constant ejaculation and the imbalance in the female menstruation cycle. This means that it is important that men learn how to regulate and control ejaculation and women work on balancing the female cycle.

For those men who masturbate frequently and ejaculate wasting their sperm, (the pleasure is momentary) they loose their source of vital energy not allowing the water of life to spread to the rest of the body. Each ejaculation involves the loss of half an ounce of semen. According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the #1 cancer diagnoses for men. At least 80% of all men can expect to experience some degree of prostate trouble during their lives. Studies show that one of the causes of prostate problems is sexual excess. When a man becomes sexually excited, either by thinking about sex or by physical contact, all the pelvic reproductive organs, including the prostate, become congested with blood. When the prostate is continually subjected to this engorgement, it becomes inflamed and enlarged. This impedes the flow of urine and over time creates an unhealthy environment for disease.

Women, on the other hand, commonly believe that they can not avoid premenstrual symptoms and losses of mucus and blood which by the way contains vital substances such as iodine, lecithin, calcium, phosphorus, iron and sex hormones. The truth is ovulation need not be accompanied by painful and prolonged menstruation. Hemorrhage or rupture of blood-vessels is unnatural and not normal contrary to popular belief. Leucorrhea (discharge of white mucous material from the vagina; often an indication of infection) and excessive menstrual bleeding result from an inflammatory condition of the mucus membrane of the uterus. Frequent sex (especially if it began at an early age) can lead to various other genital complaints, which sometimes assume a malignant form, including cervical cancer.

I am frequently interrogated about my over all energy and essence by men, in particular, who are drawn to me because they sense a great deal of energy that they sometimes describe as incredible or magnetic, radiant, compelling and most times sexy. What they feel and sense is my over all sexual energy, my central vitality.

As a Holistic Health Practitioner, over the years I’ve been able to associate the overall health of my clients with their sexuality. When someone’s sexual organs are depleted or blocked, I can sense it in the fading condition of their hair, skin, eyes, lumbar spine, and often their mood and over all energy field.

There is one way of looking at sex that is negative, shameful and narrow. Then there’s another way that when done properly can take you all the way to infinity. In the book Sexual Reflexology, Mantak Chia illustrates the step-by-step process of maintaining Ejaculation and Menstruation Cycle Management while sharing 15 healing positions: 8 for men and 7 for women. These sexual healing positions use the distinct reflexology areas of the penis and vagina to target specific health issues during love making. Each position puts pressure on different parts of the sexual organs, relative to which part of the body needs to be healed. Through this stimulation related organs are rejuvenated and the orgasmic energy is guided up to the specific organs. These techniques have been tested and proved over millennia.

So if you’re one who holds sex as a dirty act or refuses to engage based on your learned fears you may want to rethink this beautiful, pleasurable and power act in which every living creature came through. For it is the pathway that we can return to for renewed life!

Hope For The Modern Filipino Heroes!

I still remember last year of May when I was in Diosdado Macapagal International Airport while I am waiting for the arrival of my Auntie and her family I saw this scenario and my heart starts to cry. I saw a Father leaving to work overseas and I know this will be the saddest day in his family life. I pity her daughter because I felt that she is very close to her father and in my mind I was quite worried that she will be upset when her daddy leaves for a long time.

In the life of a typical Filipino family, this situation is very common because parents would like to give better future to their loved ones especially for their children. Good opportunities in the Philippines are not abundant to achieve most of their dreams. Working abroad is one way of fulfilling these dreams.

But working abroad does not always give full beneficial returns for each of the Overseas Filipino Workers. Some may be very lucky to have a very kind employer but some may not. Some can get the perfect job that they really wanted, others cannot. Some gets high paying jobs, some do not. Some Overseas Filipino Workers have the opportunity to bring their families with them but some do not.

Along with financial gains from working as an OFW comes a sad-ending story, disadvantages or sometimes a permanent damage. Take for example, cases of abuse against our Filipina domestic helpers, battling illness alone in a foreign land without any member of the family to attend to your needs and homesickness.

Family relationship wise, the foundation of this relationship becomes weak because of the physical distance that is built when one leaves home for another country. Usual contractual jobs would last for two or more years. There are cases that an OFW who left his wife and children in the Philippines would be weak enough to give in to philandering. But this does not happen only abroad, it could also happen with the spouse who was left behind.

Children are not guided properly. Sometimes, both parents are working abroad and children would only be left under the guidance of one of their relatives. Sometimes the guardian cannot fully discipline them that can cause children to be stubborn. Long separation also creates gaps between the parents and children; closeness with each other is not firm or strong anymore.

For the Overseas Filipino Worker, working abroad without saving extra income for the retirement years is one of the biggest mistakes that should be avoided. This is the reason why many Overseas Filipino Workers are coming back to the country for retirement but are not successful. Finding local jobs after working abroad is also a problem for the Ex-Overseas Filipino Workers. Some companies are choosy and don’t want to accept applicants whose job experience is outside Philippines. You can be accepted in a local job sometimes, but the salary would not be the same as when working abroad. That is why, although they would like to stay at home, they are forced to leave the country again and bear the hardships of being alone and far from loved ones….and so the cycle goes on.

The sacrifices of Overseas Filipino Workers cannot be avoided as they need to struggle to fulfill their dreams and to achieve success in life. Those hardships and sacrifices should bear good fruits rather than withered tree.

Ancient Japanese Culture and Modern Japan – The Impacts Seen Today

This is a broad ranging topic that requires an exhaustive account of history and sociology. Since I live in Japan I will give you just a few points to explore based on my experience living and working here in Japan. How has Japan changed since ancient times to the present has a lot to do with the national identity and character associated with Japanese culture.

In Ancient Japan, the Japanese were an agrarian people. They toiled in their fields and farmlands yielding crops, vegetable, and fruit that they would either sell on the market, trade with others, or give to marauding samurai. In terms of wealth the Japanese were poor, but they shared what they had. They were generous and thoughtful.

There was a strong sense of community amongst the Japanese people and a strong devotion to the hierarchy. That means following socially acceptable norms of the times, and not questioning this hierarchy nor the government. You did what you were told.

Strong community cohesiveness was very important for the Japanese back then, even during the most difficult of times. Giving was more important than receiving. Trust was not earned, it was given regardless of who you were. Your word was your bond.

Virtues such as patience, kindness, mercy, and devotion to the martial spirit were common place. Letters and the arts flourished in ancient Japan and people strove to excel in these areas. There was a sense of wholesomeness and purity that transcended money and power.

Modern Japan has all but forgotten about the core virtues. Many of them focus only on their jobs and careers while caring very little about other people. Trust no longer exists outside of each person’s closed community, and people no longer greet strangers nor do they open their doors to them. The computer is the new paradigm for socializing. Young people have become more withdrawn from society, no longer able to deal with the pressures of dating, marriage, and career.

Many young working professionals have settled for mediocre positions within their companies because they have no interest in being promoted. Japanese culture has lost a lot of its appeal with the younger generation. Japanese kids are more interested in Christmas and Halloween and celebrations that have nothing to do with their own culture and history. Selfishness has replaced generosity. The ancient ways of Bushido are no longer taught in modern academia, and is considered old and outdated. Where there was trust, now there is fear. Where there was hope, now there is doubt.

What’s left are fragmented pieces of Japan’s culture. You can still see the culture in its cuisine, but little by little you see more fusion concepts being adapted into Japanese cooking. National sports such as Sumo, Judo, and Kendo are no longer considered sacred and pure, now these sports are tainted in scandal over criminal allegations of misconduct.

You can still see the beautiful kimonos being worn on special occasions. Classical theater can still be enjoyed. Japan still observes its culture, but not as much as during ancient times. Times have changed, and Japan is changing with the times.

Rich and Varied Heritage

India is always remembered as a land of diverse cultures. The geographic position, climate and the extent of exposure to foreign cultures have totally influenced the traditions and culture of the different regions at different periods. The greatness of Indian culture has been in adopting the best from all the invaders and intermingling their customs and styles with the existing and this is visible in all aspects of culture.

Indian culture have always been attached to the great river systems, the watersheds of the Indus and Ganges, the Deccan plateau and South India.

Secular India is home to Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and other innumerable religious traditions. Hinduism is the dominant religious faith followed by the majority of the population. Colorful traditional festivals are almost 400 that have been happening for centuries. Not a single day passes by without a festival in one region or the other. It is an occasion for men to put on a new traditional costumes and jewelery.

Traditional wears like the silk saris, cholis have fascinated many a traveler over the centuries. Men in villages are still more comfortable in traditional attire like kurtas, lungis, dhotis and pyjamas.

Indian literature, Indian poetry, Indian epic poetry Ramayana and Mahabharata, Painting, Sculpture, Architecture- everything is depicted and interpreted through religion and philosophy.

Well known classical styles of dancing on the Indian stage are Bharatanatyam, Kathakali, Odissi, Kathak, and Manipuri. Folk dances also contribute to the plethora of Indian dances. The common root of all classical dance forms can be traced to Natyasastra, ascribed to Sage Bharata who is believed to have lived between the 1st and 2nd Century AD

18 Indian languages with 1600 regional dialects are spoken and the linguistic lines are drawn by State boundaries Besides Hindi and English, the other popular languages are Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Oriya, Telugu and Urdu

Indian Cuisine skill lies in the subtle blending of a variety of spices to make various delicious recipes. These spices are used as home medicines too.

A typical North-Indian meal would consist of wheat. Rice is the staple diet in South Indian food. Coconut and oil are essential ingredients in all the meal. A meal is rounded off with betel leaf which holds an assortment of digestive part.

Women are the mirrors of culture of a society. Indian women are becoming increasingly visible and successful in the professional and public sphere. Whether it is Barkha Dutt, Arundhati Roy, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, they have all heralded the arrival of Indian women professionals.

Latest outsourcing of technological agility, quality, flexibility, cost control, time-to-market and competitive advantage have made India well known in the business world.

India exports software to 95 countries around the world, outsource high quality brain-power 82% of the US companies ranked India as their first choice for software outsourcing.