business this week

Business Briefing 26/12

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Dumped by Cars, F1 Gets Ready to Fly; and Big Award for Small Things: Nano and Human Genome

Dumped by Cars, F1 Gets Ready to Fly

Toyota, the world’s largest car maker, sees Formula 1 participation as a needless indulgence. Hitherto committed F1 participant Renault has sold a sizable stake in its racing team to a private investor. Earlier, Ford and Honda had given up F1 ‘loss leadership’ (the latter, though, only after a self-seductively Escheresque ad campaign). Cars are jittery about F1. But the challenging economic scenario and $150 million F1 team running expense aren’t much of a bother for flashy airline owners. In Kingfisher owner Vijay Mallya’s tailwind are Virgin Atlantic’s Richard Branson and Malaysian no-frill carrier Air Asia’s CEO Tony Fernandes. While Kingfisher’s financial state continues to be parlous, global aviation faces as stiff a challenge as its motoring counterpart. Airlines are expected to rack up losses of up to $5.6 billion in 2010. While their investors should worry, the entry of these colourful characters couldn’t have come at a better time for a sport that’s fast becoming an Asian favourite. And they’ve managed to whip up plenty of froth more than three months before the next season begins (yes, the pre-race parties will be three times more exciting). If rival Fernandes’ Lotus Racing finishes ahead of Virgin, Sir Richard has agreed to be an Air Asia ‘stewardess’ for a day, skirt et al. Refusing to be drawn into this challenge, the kilt-happy Mallya has apparently decided to watch from the pit lanes.

Big Award for Small Things: Nano and Human Genome

The Economist of London has awarded its annual ‘Business Process Innovation Award’ to Ratan Tata, chairman of the Tata Group. The award rec­ognises his role in launching the world’s most affordable car, Tata Nano. Among the other winners is Craig Venter, who mapped the human genome. In the corporate category, the winner was Reckitt Benckiser, which won the ‘Cor­porate Use of Innovation’ award. The company—one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of household, health and personal care products—has demon­strated strong sales and profit growth, even under such stiff recessionary conditions, ‘In large part because of the strength of its innovative and entrepreneurial corporate culture’, in the words of the London-based weekly.

Ninad D. Sheth