MIG

Bali – The Exotic Island

By Neha Singla and Akanksha Goel Posted On: September-October 2016 in 5 Things to Do 

Also known as the Island of Gods and the Island of love, Bali in Indonesia is perfect for Indians looking for something of everything like heritage, culture and tradition, adventure, relaxation, shopping as well as clubbing. With‘free visa on arrival’, you just have to pack your bags and get there.

1 Feel very much at home

As you step out, the grand statue of Arjuna and Krishna (characters from Mahabharata) just outside the Denpasar International airport is a treat for the sore eyes. From the traditional attires to the way people greet each other, everything seems similar to India. You cannot help but notice the beautiful long curved bamboo Penjor poles outside almost every house during the Galungan celebrations – a festival where Hindus celebrate the victory of good over evil – just like Diwali is celebrated in India, giving a close hint how deep rooted Balinese people are in their tradition.

2 Stop at the rice fields

In the town of Ubud, the     highland of Bali, you will find rice terraces that are one-of-a-kind attraction for the tourists. Stopping your vehicle at one of the high roadside spots and gazing at the impeccable rice paddies from the top is something you wouldn’t want to miss. It makes for a perfect frame to capture those beautiful moments having the rice paddies sprawling across the valley in the backdrop. There are numerous eateries and cafes around where one can nibble on some exotic snacks or gorge on a full-fledged meal as the time permits. Rice is considered as a goddess and is worshipped by the Balinese people.

3 Visit the Pura Luhur Batukaru Temple

An early morning drive to this serene Hindu temple gives a perfect start to your day. Located on the southern slope of Mount Batukaru, the temple, with lush green trees and a beautiful lake inside, is nothing less than a paradise. Thousands of temples in Bali have the same set of four courtyards. You have to be careful about your attire as women and men alike are supposed to enter the temple draping a sarong on their waists in order to maintain the sanctity of the place. You will witness some amusing moments; men, around 50 years old with bulging bellies in sarong, obliviously enjoying the beauty of the temple.

4 Stay at Beach Resort Towns

Seminyak, a beach resort town on the southern end of Bali, gives you an urban feel in the otherwise traditional Bali. It is home to some of the most luxurious hotels, shopping complexes, spas and clubs and lively bars for a perfect night out. They are part of a high street that youngsters will immediately fall in love with, and provide unlimited options to have a drink, eat local food, and buy essentials from the local supermarkets. Nusa Dua, in the southern part, has five-star hotels lined up in a territory surrounding the beaches. No matter which of these hotels you choose for your stay, you will have a private beach adjacent to the resort. You can also entice the adventurer inside you by picking up from numerous water sports on offer; be careful about the timings as they close water sports quite early in the evening. At Bali Convention Centre, find souvenirs for all age groups.

5 attractions Go for the local

Located in the centre of Ubud, the art market is the place to look at the rich Balinese arts and crafts famous for its wide range of handicrafts, majority of which are made of bamboo. You will find numerous options for bags, scarves, accessories, home ware, sarongs, t-shirts, paintings, wooden toys and much more – all with a tinge of local craftsmanship. Also consider the nearby royal palace of Ubud, where the royal family, that used to govern the area, still lives. Another interesting element nearby is the Museum Puri Lukisan that houses traditional Balinese artworks. Entry to the museum is paid, however, the outer surroundings inside premises are free for the tourists to roam around and click pictures.

> Original article

“Mother’s Absolute Affection”

Actress Madhuri Dixit Launches MAA, “Mother’s Absolute Affection”
An Indian Campaign to Promote Breastfeeding

By Neha Singla Posted On : August 12, 2016 in News – India & You , Social Vibes


“MAA-Mother’s Absolute Affection”, is an initiative by the Indian Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW), that is supported by UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund) and by legendary Indian actress Madhuri Dixit.

Amidst a large and prestigious gathering, the “MAA-Mother’s Absolute Affection” was launched last week at Hotel Hyatt Regency in New Delhi. The crowd went berserk on witnessing Madhuri Dixit, 1990s diva of Bollywood (Hindi film industry), who is also UNICEF’s celebrity advocate for MAA, entering the hall along with Jagat Prakash Nadda, the Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare.

The event started off with lighting of the lamp followed by a short film that highlighted the statistics related to breastfeeding. UNICEF is supporting Indian Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW) in planning and launching an intensified pan-India campaign for the promotion of breastfeeding in the month of August 2016.

Lending his support to the initiative, UNICEF representative to India, Louis-Georges Arsenault stated, “It’s a commendable effort and I think not only government but everybody should come forward to promote breastfeeding as it’s a collective social responsibility.”

All the keynote speakers emphasized the three important and basic facts about breastfeeding in their respective speeches. First and foremost is ‘initiation of breastfeeding in the first hour of the baby is born’, second is ‘exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months’, and third is ‘continued breastfeeding after six months up to two years with other foods’.

Anupriya Patel, one of the ministers of state for Health and Family Welfare asserted, “Mothers should be guided, motivated and supported to breastfeed as it also prevents the child from becoming obese and reduces infant mortality rate.”

The campaign not only highlighted the numerous benefits of breastfeeding for the child but also brought to light the importance of breastfeeding for the mother herself. Community workers who work in villages to improve the conditions for breastfeeding were also invited to share their experiences.

Reduce the possibility of cancer

“It not only gives good health to the mother and the child but is also cost effective,” said Vimla Devi, one of the community workers, while listing the benefits of breastfeeding. She effectively and in the most humorous manner asserted that how breastfeeding saves buying milk from the market and also saves gas that would otherwise be used to boil the milk, hence the cost analysis. She had the audiences in split when while trying to highlight the power of mother’s milk she recited the famous Hindi movie dialogue – “Agar maa ka doodh piya hai toh saamne aa,” which means “step ahead if you have drank your mother’s milk”. For a nation that is obsessed with Bollywood, this was a sure shot winner.

In today’s day and age when women are independent and do not want breastfeeding to come in the way of their careers, one of the community workers rightly advised that women while leaving the house should store their milk for their newborns as it will not get rotten before eight hours. It was indeed a useful piece of information.

On expressing his concern over the dire need to promote breastfeeding, Faggan Singh Kulaste, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare said, “Figures for breastfeeding have been showing a diminishing trend. We thus have to build an environment to promote it.” He also affirmed that the effect of breastfeeding can be seen for a lifetime and that it reduces the possibility of cancer as well.

On expressing her happiness to be a part of such an initiative, Madhuri Dixit said, “Breastfeeding is very important for the mother and the child and if my voice can encourage the community workers and the media to spread a word in any way, then I feel humbled.” She laid special emphasis on the word “support”.

“We often think that breastfeeding is natural, it will happen automatically but it’s not always like that. There could be problems and many mothers stop to breastfeed because of sheer disappointment,” affirmed Dixit. She further insisted that in such circumstances, it becomes the duty of family members to support the mother as she said, “Somebody from the family should very closely discuss the issues the mother is facing in breastfeeding, it could be her mother or mother-in-law or her husband and then get her the right counseling that would help her overcome those problems and continue with the breastfeeding.” She also praised the efforts of all the community workers who are working in the villages to spread the awareness about breastfeeding and urged the media to write about the campaign.

“Healthy children, healthy India”

However, Union minister of Health & Family Welfare Jagat Prakash Nadda got everybody thinking when he said, “One thing amuses me – something that is there since humanity and is deemed natural was made unnatural by the market forces and it’s an irony that we have to do a campaign to promote breastfeeding.” He stressed upon the need to find the issues that need to be addressed at the grassroots. Finally, he signed off by saying, “Healthy children, healthy India.”

The tag line of the campaign – Stanpaan Vikalp Nahin, Sankalp Hai (Breastfeeding is not an option but a commitment) truly reflected in the mood of the event and will surely hit the right chord with the general public alike.

> Original article

Interview with Micky Irfandi

Interview with Micky Irfandi  – Garuda Indonesia

By Neha Singla Posted On: May-June 2016 in From the Cockpit,

“Perfect Time to Focus on India”


With lack of direct flights from India to Indonesia becoming a major roadblock for the airline’s growth in the Indian market, the future is yet to unfold in the coming months.

What is the connectivity like to Indonesia?

As far as the connectivity is concerned, it’s huge. We have 44 flights daily to Denpasar airport (Bali), out of which 12 are international and the remaining are domestic. All these flights connect to almost all the tourism places. The packages are in combination with the connectivity and are in line with our programmes of 2016 to improve the number of tourists, which last year was around 260,000. Garuda Indonesia is one of the seven five-star airlines in the world.

Apart from Bali and Jakarta, do you have any other international gateways?

Other then Bali and Jakarta we have Surabaya and soon we will have Medan as well. In total we have around four international gateways to Indonesia.

Garuda is in talks to start direct flights from India to Indonesia, what is the status?

At the moment I cannot divulge details on this aspect but yes, things are in progress and we are hoping that something will happen soon. Currently, India is our main focus because it is showing tremendous growth after China. So we want to do the same thing we did with China but there are a few obstacles and we are trying to fix these problems.

Most of the times it’s in the news – there are always some promises from the consulate general. So let the big news break and when we are ready we will make the announcement.

Ministry of Tourism, Indonesia emphasises on how much the country has to offer as a tourist destination to Indian travellers. What role you think an airline plays in promoting a destination?

Airline is definitely an important part, it does play a role, however, an airline also has a lot of processes and permits to look after. And then the first and foremost concern is the filling up of the seats in the aircraft. So coming back to the relationship and partnership we need a lot of support from the travel industry of India to be able to give Garuda the confidence to take that flight.

What had kept you away from India until now?

We have been operating offline since the last three years. Earlier we were focussing on China, however, India has grown by 35-40 pc every year for the past three years. So these are good reasons for Garuda to now focus on India.

Travel industry is really counting on us to fly direct. So the sooner, the better it will be for all the stakeholders. The ministry of tourism has set a target of 350,000 Indian arrivals this year to Indonesia. If the flights start early, say in August, the target can be achieved, thanks to the grounds laid by the travel industry of engaging some of the big corporates. These corporates already have a line up of close to about 100,000 people willing to come to Indonesia until the months of October and November. Hence with direct flights we can easily reach a growth rate of 40-50 pc as compared to 35-40 of last year.

Which aircraft do you plan to fly from India if things fall into place?

Initially, we plan to use the Airbus as we already have a new aircraft but yes everything is in progress. We hope we can fly it as early as possible.

What kind of food you plan to have on the direct flights once operational?

Currently I can’t elaborate on that but definitely we will focus on the market we are operating from.

Original article

Interview with Guldeep Singh Sahni

Interview with Guldeep Singh Sahni
President, Outbound Tour Operators Association of India (OTOAI)

By Neha Singla Posted On: May-June 2016 in Insight,

OTOAI: Streamlining Indian Outbound Tourism


The Outbound Tour Operators Association of India (OTOAI) was created in 2011 to help the outbound tour operators even as outbound tourism from India continues to boom, says guldeep singh sahni.

What was the idea behind the formation of OTOAI?

It was conceptualised in 2011. There was no organisation that was looking at the issues of outbound tourism. Also we experienced that a lot of overseas vendorscoming to India were not able to find a consolidated platform to reach a recognised outbound tour operator – they would either end up visiting 20 offices, out of which 18 would be inbound operators or car rental guys or visa guys.

In a way a lot of things were coming up where a real outbound tour operator was not being recognised.Government is not doing much in this regard as the sector is already doing well on its own. It’s like when one child is doing well; they would want to focus on the other one – which is okay. Our intention was to recognise the right kind of tour operators and bring them together on this platform where they can actually demonstrate who they are, the kind of work they produce and then the stakeholders will get a platform where they can work with us. In the process we put them on the list of active members and impart education to foray better in the competitive world.

How you think outbound tourism can help the country?

The more Indians travel, the more will be the awareness about India – it automatically complements the inbound travel, if you look at countries like UK where Indians have been travelling for quite a long time now, we have good numbers coming in from these countries as well. So we can look at how outbound tourism can be used for inbound,for example, when a tour operator goes to country he can do some sort of branding for India and become the brand ambassador – we can look into that.

Why you didn’t look at the support from the Bali tourism for the convention there as you had for the first edition in Philippines?

First we wanted to do it on our own and then ask for support; also it was a very short notice, a lot of tourism boards had this issue that it is going to be the end of the year. But this was not the main intention – the idea was to show that we are the tour operators; we can create our own convention and then looking at the results people can come forward willingly and support us and that’s what has happened. We managed to have around 240 delegates – that happened because of the sheer commitment.

How do we differentiate between a tour operator using his social media platforms and an Online Travel Agent (OTAs)?

There’s no way that you can differentiate. B2C will not look into that, they will only look at the cheaper option because for them it’s the same product.

I think it becomes media’s responsibility to educate the customer that they should check the reality of who’s the one who’s in the background. So we can’t say that OTAs are a threat, no, they are a reality because they are there. A lot of people say that more than 53 pc of business goes to OTAs, but I think they are also including the B2B sellers in this number who are doing online bookings. So if you cut that figure out, you will see it’s the tour operators behind those numbers, OTAs are doing their bit but there are still people who want to have that human touch so I don’t think that there’s a threat.

There are still people who want to do their own research and book their holiday themselves because they feel that packages are like school trips, so how do you break that mindset?

It is again the same thing that we educate the customer. When you go on an organised series tour then you are bounded like a school kid. But there are agencies that do customised packages and you will really get the value of it. What happens is that when the young generation will start travelling a lot more and will have hundred other things on their mind then they will not have the time to organise their trips and they will definitely need a tour operator.

> Original articles

Interview with Taufik Nurhidayat

Deputy Director International Marketing, Ministry of Tourism, Indonesia

By Neha Singla Posted On: May-June 2016 in Strategy,

Indonesia: Islands Beyond India


Indonesia has been emerging as the travel hotspot for Indians pertaining to the cultural similarity between the two countries and a wide range of itineraries on offer. Other aspects such as free visa-on-arrival come in handy.

How important is India for you?

India is an important market for Indonesia. According to the data, tourists from India are increasing every year. Lately we are doing well in terms of weddings as well and not only leisure. It is such a wonderful place for weddings to take place as it is well connected. Also, there is so much India and Indonesia interrelate with in terms of culture, history, religion and language. Look at certain words from the Hindi language such as swami (Hindu religious master), khushi (happiness) – these are also present in Indonesia. The way of greeting each other – Namaste – that is also similar.

A lot of Puja ceremonies (worshipping rituals) that take place in Indonesia and also the gods that we revered such as Brahama and Vishnu – all this comes from India. I want to quote two big examples – Indonesia has a big Muslim population and India has the Taj Mahal, which is a tomb of Muslims, on the other hand in Indonesia we have the most beautiful temple Borobudur. The most beautiful Rmayana dancers and the most beautiful part of the Mahabharata is depicted in Indonesia. If you travel around Bali there are so many sculptures of Arjuna (a character from Mahabharata) – there is one right outside the airport in which he is riding the horses and protecting Krishna (Hindu God). Even if you go to the art and crafts market, you will find the statues of Ganesha and dancing Shiva (Hindu Gods) – there’s so much similarity.

All this was already a part of the Indonesian culture?

Indonesia means islands beyond India – so it is already a part of India. When the great earthquakes happened these islands occurred. But we are the same. For example, the Java Island has a huge Hindu population and still has Hindu names such as Gatokatcha (a character from Mahabharata). Even the way of wearing clothes has the same interpretation for example in India sari is a draped garment, similarly we have a blouson with a sarong. The classical dance mudras (postures) of the Balinese dance forms and the Indian dance forms are the same.

So to say we are two different countries but start with the same letter ‘I’, follow the letter ‘n’, then follow the letter ‘d’ and even end with the same letter ‘a’.

Which destinations are you focusing in Indonesia for Indian travellers?

We are mainly focusing on Bali and Jakarta. Indians love coming down to Jakarta. They must visit the Borobudur and the Brahmananad temples. Lately weddings can also be organised in Yogyakarta (also called Jogjakarta) and have the permission to keep these temples in the background – the statues of Vishnu, Saraswati, Brahma and Parvati in the background look absolutely mesmerising and make for a perfect Indian wedding. There’s so much of amalgamation from India and Hinduism – it doenst feel there is any difference as such. However, Indonesia supports every religion, it doesn’t matter which religion you are from.


Borobudur stupas overlooking a mountain. For centuries it was deserted

How has the growth been in terms of number of tourists from India?

Last year we had 272,000 Indian travellers to Indonesia, out of which 118,000 were to Bali and the rest were beyond Bali. This year we are expecting close to 350,000 Indian travellers. Growth is double digits and its flowing upwards.

What kind of visa process you have for Indians and what is the status of direct flights?

We now give visa on arrival, which was announced on October 12 last year by the ministry. Regarding the flights, we have been working with Garuda Indonesia on direct flights from India – hopefully that will start soon, initially we will look at a test run of three times a week and then maybe we will expand further. We have a few airport entry points open for all whether it is from Delhi to Jakarta, Mumbai to Denpasar (Bali), Medan, Surbaya, Batam or Bintan – entry from these points will be free. We are not only targeting people coming from India but we are also looking at a huge section of NRIs (Non-Resident Indians), PIOs (Persons of Indian origin) and OCIs (Overseas Citizens of India), who all are coming through Batam. Most of the Indian visitors are used to luxury hotels and facilities and Batam has amazing facilities.

Do you collaborate with Bollywood?

Two years ago, we had the entire Mahabharata serial protagonists coming to Indonesia. This year, we are againg looking at two or three other popular daily soaps coming to Indonesia. Their costumes are the representation of India and Indonesians can connect easily with them. Every day on the Indonesian television at least five Indian films dubbed in Indonesian languages are being played – you go to any corner of the country and people are huge fans of Shahrukh Khan and Kajol, the famous Indian film actors.

Any special itineraries for Indian travellers?

The majority of Indians coming to Indonesia are honeymooners who are looking at packages, which are about exploring the islands, have big bath tubs, a little bit of wedding photography with Bali traditional dresses etc. These packages are really doing well for us. Then we have families coming in groups, which require 3-4 rooms in their packages. And since the families comprise of mother, father, kids and even grandparents, the packages we offer include something for all the age groups for example for elderly people we look for activities related to culture and prayers, for youngsters we have activities related to adventure sports, treetop climbing etc. Here you will find activities for 6-month-old baby to a 80-year-old grandpa. So we cater depending on the groups coming in.

What are the top two segments you are looking at from India?

Meetings Incentives Conferences and Exhibitions and honeymooners are the top two segments. Other then this, we are targeting families, weddings and also Bollywood shoots. Though Bollywood is not easy right now in terms of taxes, excise duty and subsidies, we are hopeful. If we can encourage more of these segments then nothing better. For example, the direct flight has taken us more than four years.

Nevertheless, we have noticed that every month huge delegations are coming from India, every month there’s an Indian wedding, so by the end of this year the atrets will be achieved.

How does the OTOAI convention 2016 work for Bali Tourism?

Of course when the delegates of OTOAI (Outbound Tour Operators Association of India) meet in Bali, it gets promoted as a destination by various segments of the industry – media, tour operators, hoteliers etc. The exposure is there and it is quite an honour for us to have such a delegation here in Bali.

> Original article

Interview with Shweta Tripathi

“Script is My Hero”

Shweta Tripathi with her Masaan colleagues at Cannes Film Festival 2015

She is the young face of Indian cinema who made waves last year with her debut performance in Masaan, an Indo-French co- production that opened to a standing ovation at the 68th Cannes Film Festival. The 30-year-old opens up about her aspirations and asserts it’s a great time to be in the industry.

It has been a year since your film Masaan premiered at Cannes, how was the feeling on receiving the five-minute long standing ovation?

When the film received a standing ovation, I couldn’t believe it. It was the most beautiful experience.Everybody got teary eyed and I didn’t know what to do. There were so many thoughts running through my mind. Those were the best 10 days of my life. Masaan was indeed a good film, I don’t have to be modest about that. I tell people to go and watch it not because it’s my film but because it is actually a good film. When I and my colleagues of Masaan think about the film – the entire shoot and travel – it makes all of us smile. We all are very fond of each other even now.

How’s life after Masaan ?

The thing is I am very sure about the kind of work I want to do. I knew one film can change my life but I also knew that since I don’t have a godfather, it might take more than a film to prove myself.Masaan has been the best launch for me; I wouldn’t credit it to anything else. Earlier maybe I was getting one script a month and now I have started getting two or three a month. It is always better to wait for something exciting and sometimes the wait is worth it – in my next film Haramkhor directed by Shlok Sharma, Nawazuddin Siddiqui is my co-actor, after that I am working with Shashank Arora of the Titli (2015) fame. All of them are amazing actors and bring the best out of me. Haramkhor has already been to over 15 film festivals across the globe. I was awarded the best actress trophy at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, Nawaz received the best actor award at the New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF) and at Jio Mami Mumbai Film Festival, the movie got the Silver Gateway award. Wherever it has been screened, people have loved it. The response has been tremendous.

How bold is the concept of Haramkhor, where a 15-year- old falls in love with her teacher, keeping in mind the Indian audiences?

I think we underestimate our audiences. Many times people are not aware about the kind of cinema that is there. For example, a movie like Titli that had even gone to Cannes, goes off theatres in just a week as there are 100 other Bollywood films lined up for release.So there would be only a few people who would know about it. Cinema is a creative process, I hate labelling it. If you give your audiences a good product, people will watch it.

In Indian cinema people categorise movies in two sections – mainstream films and art films. A movie like Masaan will be put under the category of an art film. What kind of cinema you aspire to do?

I want to do the kind of cinema I would like to watch and that would mean all the genres. It’s not that I would only like to watch Margarita with a Straw (2014), an Indian film based on a rebellious young woman with cerebral palsy who leaves India to study in New York,but I also love watching mainstream films such as Dil Dhadkane Do (2015), Kapoor and Sons (2016) because they are good films. If the script excites me, I will do a film. After a narration I take into consideration certain parameters – do I like my character, will it excite me enough to wake up at 5 or 4 in the morning – so there’s no deep analysis. Also I don’t want to get bored doing the same kind of roles; I shouldn’t feel that I am repeating myself. I love acting and as far as I am bringing something new and challenging, I am at peace.

But do you think a movie like Masaan labels you and you are not approached by mainstream Bollywood directors?

I think one label that all of us have got after Masaan is that we all are actors, which is a label I would love to live with. In fact, people who do mainstream films they are also type cast and directors wouldn’t approach them for a film like Masaan. For me, the script is my hero, everything else will fall into place. If you are good then I would like to believe that you should be choosy and make sure there’s a certain kind of quality that is attached to your work and people will come to you. Even if you are doing an advertisement, it should create a desire amongst the viewers to buy the product after they see the commercial.

Many finest directors have appreciated my work in Masaan. This feeling is incomparable. So it might take long but I have to be patient. Look at Bryan Cranston, he is almost 60 and got recognition only after Breaking Bad (American drama series, 2013) and then did an award winning film Trumbo (2015), which was nominated for Oscars. For him everything has fallen into place after 50. If you love your craft and that’s what you would want to do, then there are no second thoughts.

From Delhi to Mumbai and then to Cannes – how did this journey happen considering the fact you are not coming from a cinema background?

Since I was a child, I wanted to advertise for Maggi (instant noodles brand). It might sound like a cliché but I have been on stage doing either dancing or theatre since childhood. My parents would also go to watch plays and musicals. So we might not had any direct connection with the film industry but we used to appreciate cinema. My parents also were very encouraging, they let me do whatever I wanted to – I mean I was free to learn anything that would made me grow. I have learnt Indian classical dance forms as well. And then I shifted to Mumbai for a full time job but I still wanted to remain in touch with this side of theatre and art. Then Disney Channel India’s show ‘Kya Mast Hai Life’ happened. I had to eventually leave my job as the show makers wanted me to be on the sets for 12 hours. My parents asked me if I was sure of what I am doing but I had no second thoughts about it. It was paying me more than my job and I was getting to do what I am passionate about. After that I never went back to Delhi and now Mumbai is home.

You started your career with Disney Channel India’s ‘Kya Mast hai Life’ in 2009. Internationally Disney has produced names like Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears, you think it did the same for you?

No, I don’t think that it has done that for anybody in India. But yes it gave me a platform. Kids who used to watch that show, they recognise me till today by my character in the show. In India we don’t make shows like Games of Thrones or Breaking Bad. We do have some really good shows such as Sarabhai Vs Sarabhai, so again it boils down to quality.

Why you think so much attention is being given to what Indian actors are wearing to Cannes?

There is obviously a pressure because you are on a world stage. At Cannes everybody is so glamorously and beautifully dressed, it feels great. All around, you see women in gowns and men in tuxedos. Of course people will talk about fashion and it’s fine. If you are there for the premiere of a film, people write more about the film. However, if you are there for a brand endorsement than what else they will write about if not your outfit and makeup.

Do you expect any Indian film to be featured at Cannes this year?

Anurag Kashyap’s Raman Raghav should definitely make it to Cannes. I have read the script and I think it’s absolutely brilliant. Anurag is one director I would live to work with and plus the film has Nawaz and Vicky, my co-actors from the last films, so I really hope and wish that it makes it to Cannes.

Do you also aspire to work with the Khans of Bollywood?

More than working with the Khans, I would love to work with directors such as Vishal Bhardwaj, Vikramaditya Motwane, Anurag Kashyap, who have carved a niche for themselves in the Indian cinema. If I get to work with such directors then it doesn’t matter who my co-actors are because if an actor is a part of their projects, he or she sure has calibre and everything is sorted.

> Original article

‘Chakra The Invincible’

Stan Lee’s Indian comic superhero to make its Bollywood debut

Stan Lee’s Indian Super Hero – Chakra The Invincible

The legendary comic book writer Stan Lee is all set to conquer Bollywood as his Indian superhero ‘Chakra The Invincible’ gets a live-action theatrical film.

Super heroes such as Spider Man, Iron Man, X-Men and Hulk have an indelible impression on the childhood of many. So much so that even kids in India follow them. They have captured the imagination of teens so well across the globe that subsequently films have been made on these characters and needless to say those movies have become iconic. The man whose creativity has shaped these superheroes is Stan Lee. Born in Manhattan, now 93, this comic book writer even created an Indian super hero – Chakra – in 2013. So far an animated film on Cartoon Network India along with comic books, games, toys and other merchandise have been released. Lee though had been eyeing Bollywood since then.

The character was conceptualised in association with Sharad Devarajan who has co-founded Graphic India that is owned by U.S. comic book Company, Liquid Comics and CA Media LP, the Asian investment arm of The Chernin Group, LLC (TCG). The animated movie was produced by Graphic India and POW! Entertainment that is chaired by Lee himself.

Debut on the big screen

Finally, Lee’s Indian superhero is going to be in a Bollywood film that will be produced by Graphic India and POW! Entertainment in partnership with Mumbai-based Phantom Films. The film will be directed by Vikramaditya Motwane, the Indian film director whose directorial debut Udaan (2010) was featured in Cannes under the ‘Un Certain Regard category’, who’s also a co-founder of Phantom Films. Lee is very excited about Motwane directing the film and says, “Vikramaditya is an amazingly talented filmmaker who I have no doubt can make the Chakra film a massive hit in India and around the world. I only hope he remembers to include my cameo.”

He is equally excited about entering Bollywood (Hindi film industry) that is loved by a majority of people in India. “I am a fan of Bollywood films and am really excited about launching ‘Chakra the Invincible’ as my first Bollywood superhero movie,” says an enthusiastic Lee.

The animated version of Chakra had also been a hit as Gill Champion, president and CEO of POW! Entertainment says, “We have always been proud of our global fan base and the reception for the animated Chakra series has been overwhelming and we couldn’t be more exciting about the prospect of bringing a real-life Chakra film to fans everywhere on the big screen.”

Chakra is based on a young Indian boy ‘Raju Rai’ with Mumbai in the backdrop and shows his journey of battling the super villains of the city by weaponising his. For its big screen debut makers are moving away from showcasing a young boy and would rather feature a young man in his 20s. Motwane believes that with Chakra they hope to take comic film making to the next level. The budget and releasing date for the film, though, have not been disclosed until now.

> Original article

Community-driven hospitality

Airbnb Partners With Times Group

Satyan Gajwani, Managing Director, Times Internet and Nathan Blecharczyk, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Airbnb join hands

In a move to have a greater penetration in the ever growing Indian market, world’s leading community-driven hospitality company, Airbnb, has joined hands with India’s leading media conglomerate, The Times Group.

Airbnb, which is already big elsewhere in the world, has only a small presence in India. By partnering with Times Group, the San Francisco-based company aims to spread awareness about its accommodations and have a more localised presence in the emerging Indian market. It is being reported that Times Group will also invest in the sharing economy platform, though the amount has not been disclosed.

Times Global Partners, that focuses on partnering with established and emerging global digital companies for building their business in India, is the entity that has brought about this collaboration. Their digital arm Times Internet will help Airbnb expand in India by growing their audience, adoption, distribution and monetisation.

“We are excited to partner with Airbnb to transform the way Indians travel”, said Satyan Gajwani, Managing Director of Times Internet. Talking about the strategy, he added, “We will provide support on operations, hiring, strategy and advertising, to make Airbnb’s entry and operations in India as effective as possible.”

A sharing economy platform like that of an Airbnb can penetrate the Indian market more effectively with a partner like Times Internet, which was reported to reach more than 200 million Indians across its digital, print and TV channels a year ago.

Similar thoughts were echoed by Nathan Blecharczyk, the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Airbnb as he said: “We are excited about the opportunity that India presents, and to have one of the most respected partners in The Times Group. We are working on adapting our product for the Indian market so that Indian travellers can live like a local anywhere in the world.”

Recently, United Nations and WTO (World Trade Organisation) reported that by 2020, the number of Indians travelling abroad will increase up to 50 million. It is this travel market that Airbnb eyes to capture, as it believes that outbound travel from India has grown by almost 185 pc in 2015.

The company that was founded in 2008 has already reached a milestone in Europe with the continent alone representing half of company’s business. It would be interesting to see if it can capture the opportunities offered by the Indian market and its fast growing number of clients and travellers.

> Original article

Business Jets

Sky Luxury

Business Jets, Sky Luxury

The market for charter jets in the country is going through a rough patch, thanks to high maintenance cost and stringent government policies. However, innovations and a change in import duty can bring in the much needed respite.

Nearly eight years ago, when Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries, India’s richest man as stated by the recent Forbes report, gifted his wife a private luxury jet for her 44th birthday, it indeed made headlines. The Airbus 319 Corporate Jet was reported to cost over INR 4 billion (USD 60 million) having a sky bar, fancy showers, master bedroom and what not. Such is the allure of billionaires in India and business jets alike. Riches and private jets go hand in hand. Having a private jet is a sym- bol of the wealth you own. And for a country having nearly 100 billionaires, the love and passion of owning jets as personal toys never goes unnoticed.

India and its business jets

According to the list compiled by Forbes, China almost has double the billionaires than India, however, when it comes to the number of private jets, India still beats the former. Ambani is the unprecedented hero in this fragment. He owns three private jets – Falcon 900EX, Boeing Business Jet 2 and the Airbus 319 Corporate Jet (the one he gifted his wife). While Falcon, designed by Dassault Aviation of France, is more compact, Boeing business jet can fly up to 78 passengers. Then there’s Ratan Tata, the ex-chairman of Tata group, a Mumbai-based conglomerate. Though Tata’s philanthropist work speaks volumes about his low profile lifestyle, he doesn’t shy away from keeping a personal jet at his disposal. He’s known to fly his Dassault Falcon 2000 himself and make a statement in the sky. Chairman of engineering and construction group for energy and infrastructure Punj Llyod, Atul Punj, is another Indian business tycoon who owns a Gulfstream IV that is powered by twin Rolls-Royce Tay 611-8 engines and is said to cost him nearly INR 2 billion (USD 33 million). Likewise there are a handful of other businessmen who own private jets to fly in the luxury of sky and time such as Reliance’s Anil Ambani – Bombardier Global Express XRS, Raymond’s Gautam Singhania – Bombardier Challenger 600 and DLF’s KP Singh again with a Gulfstream IV.

Apart from owning private jets, there’s a commercial market for this segment, wherein private jets are provided by companies as a luxury service. In India a couple of such companies are TajAir, Business Jets India and Deccan Air. These companies can work on two models – aircraft management company or a fractional ownership one. For example, TajAir provides only the aircraft it owns, maintains and operates. So far it has Dassault Falcon 2000, Dassault Falcon 2000LX and Piaggio P.180 Avanti II in its fleet of aircrafts. The fleet of private jets offered by these companies can fly you anywhere depending on the parking space and refuelling of the aircraft. Most of the charter jets can fly upto 6-9 hours non- stop before getting refuelled. Anybody who has the luxury of unlimited money at his disposal can choose to take these services for a number of events – corporate meetings, marriages or simply a luxury holiday.

Challenges

For the Indian business jets market, infrastructural limitations pose a great challenge. As David Vellupilai, managing director, Airbus Corportae Jets, adds “Today, India like many countries is little constrained by the infrastructure. For example, it doesn’t have enough landing and takeoff slots. Like in the UK, London Heathrow is already busy, it is almost impossible to get a landing and take-off slot.” Emphasising the significance of good infrastructural facilities Vellupilai says, “Aviation business is a little bit like chicken and egg. It needs the infrastructure – the airports, the business aviation terminals, and the maintenance facilities. If it exists then it attracts corporate jet customers. Vice versa, if the customer demand exists, the infrastructure develops.”

Not only infrastructural challenges, Indian private jet market also faces a downturn because of the heavy import duty levied since 2007, which is a staggering 21 pc. In the recent past the market of business jets has been witnessing a slowdown. What is being touted as the first plunge in 25 years, the market dwindled by 2 pc in 2015. Similar is the case with China where the business jet fleet grew only by 6 pc last year – slowest in 10 years, as stated by Embraer SA, one of the largest business jet manufacturers.

 

Metro Jet Gulfstream G650: A favourite steel bird of the riches

Industry insiders report that Business Jets India owned by Tata sons is planning to wrap up its operations in the country. Club One Air, India’s oldest and largest air charter company that offers both fractional ownership and charter services, has also witnessed a negative net worth for the year 2015 as per the documents filed.

In comparison to the heavy import duty, when a plane is imported for charter operations under a non- scheduled operators license (NSOP), it attracts a tax of only 2 pc. This entices individuals and companies to buy aircraft under NSOP and then divert it for personal use. To tackle this prob- lem government plans to put a cap on NSOP and also lower the wide variance between the import of private jets and the tax paid under NSOP. Such moves by the government will definitely give a boost to the corporate jet market. Emphasising on government’s support Vellupilai adds, “Whenever a govern- ment is friendly towards business, it helps to ensure economic growth. This benefits everybody in the society from top to bottom. We see potential for many companies and billionaires in India to use corporate jets.” Elabo- rating further on the significance of corporate jets, he says, “Although the taxpayers in India want the govern- ment to spend money on hospitals and roads rather than corporate jets, the same taxpayers will also criticise if a head of state falls asleep at a state banquet or if a minister fails to negotiate the best trade deal. You can’t have it both ways. Governments in big countries, can justify corporate jets. It’s a false economy not to have them.”

However, the recently announced Union Budget for the fiscal 2016 by the finance minister Arun Jaitley, doesn’t offer much for the aviation industry, apart from reviving 160 underserved airports that will boost the regional connectivity.

Capitalising the jets

Making the process of renting out a charter jet for special occasions hassle free, Kanika Tekriwal, 27, came up with an idea of a market place for private jets. JetSetGo – the online aggregator – gives you a service of booking a charter very much the same way as Uber or Ola offer for booking a cab in the country. The Delhi-based start-up acts as a platform that brings together the available charter planes by multiple aircraft operators and gives the freedom from the tedious process of booking through traditional brokers and operators, that generally involves a great deal of time, which anyone with unlimited money is always short of. Launched in 2014, JetSetGo already has around 77 aircraft listed on its portal and turned profitable in September last year. Since it majorly taps the empty leg charter space, it is able to offer great discounts to its customers, who approach this market place for a range of activities from proposing the loved one in the sky, to a pre-wedding shoots, a birthday party, shuttling between the venues, product launches and the list is endless. Charting a plane saves time and gives the comfort of unwinding while still travelling, increasing the productivity to manifolds.

With the young blood of the country fuelling the business jet industry with innovative ideas along with a little ease on part of the government, India might be able to pull out from the sluggish phase and scale to a better standing globally.

> Original article

Turmeric

The Queen of Indian Spices

The age-old Indian spice serves as a herb, a spice, a dye and has magical properties beneficial for health, facial skin and many other ailments.

India is a country rich in myriad of herbs and spices. Interestingly, all these herbs and spices have their own relevance and benefits. One such spice is bright yellow-coloured turmeric or curcuma, known as haldi in India, a tropical plant with origins in southwest India. It belongs to the ginger family and can be found in three forms – fresh turmeric root, dried turmeric root and ground turmeric powder. Fresh turmeric root looks very similar to a ginger root. It is being used in India since ancient times and has become indispensable to the Indian cuisine.

Haldi is the main ingredient you will, without a doubt, find in every Indian kitchen. It is added in almost all the Indian curries to give that extra flavour and the blazing yellow colour. Yes, almost all Indian curries are yellowish in colour because a tinge of turmeric is deemed imperative. It also has a special place in Indian wedding celebrations. Before the final wedding day, as part of Indian culture, the bride’s family applies turmeric paste on the legs, arms and specifically the face of the bride to make her skin glow and mark a new beginning of her life.

Home Remedies

The spice is considered to be very useful for a flawless skin. Indian households use it in many variations and with various other ingredients to make numerous face packs depending on one’s needs. For skin exfoliation, mix turmeric powder with honey and apply this paste on your face and neck – it will take care of your pores. It can also be used to treat acne – add a few drops of lemon to turmeric powder, mix it well and apply on the affected areas of the face. Leave it on for 15 minutes and then smoothly scrub it with plain water.

For dry skin, simply mix a dash of turmeric powder to the paste of 1 egg white, rose water, 2 drops of olive oil and fresh lemon juice. Apply this mixture to all the dry skin areas including the face and let it dry. To remove the dry paste use lukewarm water – this remedy is especially useful during extreme cold as human skin tends to dry often with prolonged exposure to chilly breeze.

If you are dealing with increasing fine lines and wrinkles and are too weary of spending extensively on chemical-heavy cosmetics, turn to turmeric for its antioxidant properties, which help in reducing the effects of aging. You just have to mix turmeric powder, rice powder, raw milk and tomato juice – apply the blend on your face and also the neck, leave on for 30 minutes and then wash it off with slightly warm water.

Turmeric has many medicinal benefits as well. Drinking milk mixed with turmeric powder has healing properties for all kinds of internal wounds especially for muscle or bone injury. Externally, when applied on open wounds and cuts, it works as an antiseptic because of its anti-bacterial properties. Simply adding a tablespoon of turmeric to warm water and taking it just before going to bed, acts a great healer for a person suffering from cold, cough or high body temperature. It is because of the fact that turmeric contains a chemical agent, curcumin, which has antiviral and anti-fungal properties and thus helps in building immunity.

Since it has a strong yellow-orange colour, it works pretty well as a natural dye. When dying with turmeric, one doesn’t need to heat the water—cold water is enough. However, for darker shades, it is advisable to heat the water pot used for the dying process. When used without any mordant (material that fixes the dye to the fabric) for dying processes, turmeric is non-toxic and thus it is even safe to put your hands inside the mixture. Although one has to be careful of getting one’s hands coloured. With countless benefits, turmeric indeed proves to the queen of Indian herbs and spices that can enrich your life with everything natural and that too without burning a hole in your pocket.

> Original article