Notes from a rickshaw

The serious: News broke of one of the worst crises to have hit corporate India. Ramalinga Raju, the boss of Satyam – India’s fourth-biggest software firm – quit after revealing false accounts and more than £660m in fictitious reserves. Raju’s admission that Satyam’s balance sheets were riddled with "fictitious assets" and "non-existent" cash rocked the country and caused India’s benchmark index to fall nearly seven per cent. "What started as a marginal gap between actual operating profits and the one reflected in the books of accounts continued to grow over the years,” said Raju in a statement that was sent to the stock exchange. “It was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten.” While analysts predicted a backlash from international investors, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband remained upbeat: “I don’t believe that one bad apple means that the whole barrel is rotten.”The ridiculous: India still has no concept of political correctness. The country’s flagship carrier Air India, founded by JRD Tata in 1932, handed ten air hostesses the pink slip for being overweight. Five of the airhostesses appealed to the Delhi High Court but was told there was “no unreasonableness or arbitrariness” in the airline’s decision. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) then waded into the debate, asking Air India to help its hostesses shed weight instead of sacking them. “Go Veg, Go Slim, it’s really that simple! Meat-eaters are fatter. The only regimen that’s proved to take weight off and keep it off is a low-fat vegan diet,” said PETA chief functionary Anuradha Sawhney in a letter to Air India’s chief managing director. “The deadly epidemic of obesity can be stopped and even reversed by switching to a vegan diet, which is the best way to lose weight and keep it off for good.”

The ingenious: In a sign that India’s entrepreneurs have a head for marketing, Mumbai-based hair salon owner Mike Elsheikh cunningly changed the name of his business from Ossama’s to Obama’s Hair Salon to cash in on the US president elect’s global popularity. Revenues had plummeted 50 per cent at the salon after the 2001 terror attacks carried out by Osama bin Laden. Following the name-change, Elsheikh reports that business is booming at the newly christened salon, with old customers popping in to give their approval. The Mumbai Mirror reported that Elsheikh “hadn’t heard from Obama, but doesn’t expect him to object.”

Vist www.justgiving.com/rickshawchallenge for more details about the trip.

Wish special thanks to: Caspian Publishing; Real Business columnists John Timpson, Dan McGuire, Peter Knight, Margaret Heffernan and Richard Baister; and cover stars Robert Hurst and David Pollock for their generous sponsorship.

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