India

Andrew Hill

Million-dollar endorsement: Honus Wagner teaches lessons to modern celebrities (Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art via Bloomberg)

In the strange world of celebrity endorsements, it is usually the brand that dumps the celebrity – as happened, say, when Nike dropped cycling cheat Lance Armstrong in 2012 – rather than vice versa. So it stood out last week when Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan revealed he stopped endorsing Pepsi some years ago, after a young girl asked him why he was advertising a drink her teacher said was “poisonous”.

“The Big B’s” declaration, during a talk with Indian business school students, coincided with a controversy that took the more predictable route. Actress Scarlett Johansson maintained her endorsement of SodaStream, the Israeli fizzy drinks company, and severed ties with Oxfam, the charity for which she had been a long-standing (and, people in the NGO world tell me, interested and involved) goodwill ambassador.

But his wider comments shed light on the other side of such endorsements and how celebrities can limit the risk of cross-contamination. Read more

Ravi Mattu

When US businessman Victor Kiam tried a Remington electric razor, he liked it so much he “bought the company”, and spent the rest of his life telling the rest of the world about it. But for some entrepreneurs a bad customer experience can be an equally powerful spur.
This was the case for Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Käärmann, co-founders of London-based money transfer start-up TransferWise, which announced this week that Valar Ventures, the fund launched by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, had made the company his first European investment.

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Andrew Hill

I’m fascinated by the first part in a new FT series on manufacturing, led by our expert Peter Marsh, who has a new book coming out on the topic.

In particular, I love the bar chart in this interactive graphic about the “seven ages of industry“ (click on the “chart” tab when it opens). Read more

John Gapper

Chairperson of the Congress-led UPA government Sonia Gandhi (L) talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Getty Images

Chairperson of the Congress-led UPA government Sonia Gandhi (L) talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Getty Images

India does not get a lot of love compared with other Bric countries – particularly China and Brazil. As far as many western investors are concerned, it can be a protectionist, bureaucratic market with plenty of political risk.

That was certainly the mood at the Milken Institute conference in Los Angeles on a panel of private equity investors. David Bonderman, a founding partner of TPG Capital, put it most forthrightly:

“We stay away from places that have impossible governments and impossible tax regimes, which means Sayonara to India.”

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Andrew Hill

The route to success in corporate India starts early, and it usually goes via business school. That’s one message from new research into the performance of Indian chief executives, from the same stable that brought us what claimed to be the first ranking of the world’s CEOs over their entire tenure.

Insead professors Bala Vissa, Morten Hansen, Herminia Ibarra and Urs Peyer have now produced a compelling ranking of top Indian CEOs, published on Wednesday by Business Today, based on shareholder performance since they took office. It is topped by Naveen Jindal of steel company Jindal Steel and Power (JSPL). Read more

Andrew Hill

Soon to be available in light blue

The shift of economic power eastwards from crisis-hit developed nations has another milestone: the publisher of Wisden – the annual “bible” of English cricket enthusiasts – is licensing production of an edition tailor-made for the Indian market.

A bit like Hermès, with its recent launch of a range of saris in India, Bloomsbury Publishing and its partner want to recast a western brand for enthusiastic Indian consumers.

The deal – with FidelisWorld FZ, a sports and entertainment management group – comes wrapped in the sort of biz-speak that would make John Wisden, the cricketer who founded the almanack in 1864, shudder. FidelisWorld, says the press statement, “aims to unify the fragmented sectors [of the Indian market for cricket information] into a consolidated whole… thereby achieving synergies and building value”. Read more