Tag Archives: Pick

Monica Dogra can afford to pick and choose

MUMBAI: US-based Indian origin singer and actor, Monica Dogra, anxiously awaits the release of her forthcoming movie Fireflies,  and is of the view that as an artist, she can afford to be choosy about the projects she is offered.

She tried acting as a full-fledged actor with Dhobi Ghat, which was released in 2010. Since then she has had only one release, David.

“I don’t really consider me not doing films as something bad,” she commented when asked why she’s not seen more frequently on the big screen.

“I am choosy about the projects I do because I can afford to be choosy, because I am an artist. I create work. I don’t really rely on someone else to give me the opportunity to be an artist,” Dogra said  in an interview.

The 31-year-old, who had shared screen space with superstar Aamir Khan in Dhobi Ghat, is not so concerned about acting in big films or being in the limelight.

“I’m not really concerned about working in commercial films and being a mainstream actor,” she said, adding that her name is “quite known” for what she is and what she does.

“I prefer to be an individual than something sellable. That’s kind of my ethos,” she said.

She plays a writer In Sabal Singh Shekhawat’s directorial debut film Fireflies.

Set for an October 31 release, the film’s story revolves around two estranged brothers – portrayed by Rahul Khanna and Arjun Mathur – and how fate brings them together after 15 years.

She is not only acting in Fireflies, she has also penned two songs for the film and will be seen in a bolder avatar in the movie.

“My character in Fireflies is named Michelle. She is a writer and she experienced success with her first book but is experiencing what all creative people experience after one project is successful, which is writer’s block and finds it difficult to turn out work. She goes on a journey to find inspiration and that’s how she finds Raunaq (Arjun Mathur),” she said. 

Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2014.

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Australia pick pacemen for South Africa ODIs in Perth

SYDNEY: Seamer Josh Hazlewood was one of six speedsters named Wednesday in Australia’s initial one-day squad against world number one South Africa in November, as selectors look to the 2015 World Cup on home soil.

The 23-year-old, who has played only two ODIs for Australia and has struggled with injuries, has earned rave early season reviews for New South Wales.

“We are continuing to keep a close eye on players we feel could have a significant role to play in the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup,” said national selector Rod Marsh. “And many of these players have been rewarded with selection.
“At this stage, the squad is only for the first two matches of the series and balances out player preparation for long and short form of cricket as we build into a big summer.”
Ashes avenger Mitchell Johnson leads the six pacers in Australia’s 13-man lineup, but there is no specialist spinner for the two games on the fast and bouncy WACA track.
“Nathan Coulter-Nile has returned from injury after missing the Zimbabwe tour and along with Josh Hazlewood, finished in the top three wicket-takers in the [domestic] Matador Cup,” he said.

Mitchell Starc and James Faulkner, who were in the side that won the ODI series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates earlier this month, have been left out of the initial squad to face South Africa.

Wicket keeper Matthew Wade was called in to replace Brad Haddin who will be rested following the UAE tour.

Australia are expected to include only one keeper in their 15-man squad for the World Cup, which gets underway on February 14, and selector Trevor Hohns suggested Test vice-captain Haddin remains first choice.

“I’ve got the opportunity to play two more games for Australia and then Haddin will probably come back so I’ll just take it for what it is,” said 26-year-old Wade.

Selector Marsh also praised the batting lineup.

“It has great balance with the likes of David Warner, Aaron Finch and Shane Watson at the top of the order complemented by players such as Michael Clarke, George Bailey and Steve Smith.”

Clarke, who missed the ODI whitewash of Pakistan with back problems, returns as captain while all-rounder Shane Watson has also been included at the expense of Phil Hughes.

Before the ODI series, South Africa first play three Twenty20 games against Australia on November 5, 7 and 9 after a warm-up against a Cricket Australia XI on Friday at North Sydney Oval.

Australian squad:

Michael Clarke (capt), George Bailey, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Aaron Finch, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Shane Watson.
ODI fixtures: Australia v South Africa
Nov 14: Ist ODI Perth
Nov 16: 2nd ODI Perth
Nov 19: 3rd ODI Canberra
Nov 21: 4th ODI Melbourne
Nov 23: 5th ODI Sydney


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Slowing down: Car sales hit speed bump in July, may pick up later

KARACHI: Domestic auto assemblers sold 6,948 units including light commercial vehicles, vans and jeeps in July this year, down 34% from the corresponding month of previous year when 10,579 units were sold, shows data released on Tuesday.

Sales were even worse when compared with the previous month as they dropped 42%. In June, the number of vehicles sold was 12,081. Sales hit a 67-month low in July.

“The decline in sales was expected in July. However, we see an improvement in coming months,” said research house Topline Securities in a report.

The sales dropped following an abnormally high demand in June before the end of previous fiscal year on 30th of the month because of increase in advance motor vehicle tax and imposition of advance income tax on the transfer of motor vehicles in the federal budget for 2014-15.

This increase in the tax and the new levy came into force from July – the beginning of the new fiscal year.

Other factors that had their share in the weak demand included expectations about the arrival of new Toyota Corolla model, reduced trading activity due to Ramazan and a long Eid break.

According to the breakdown, sales of Pak Suzuki Motor Company – the country’s largest carmaker with over 50% market share – fell to 4,317 units in July, down 24% against 5,697 units in July 2013. Month-on-month, sales dived 44% compared to 7,742 units in June.

The company recorded a steep decline of 50% in Mehran sales while demand for Ravi, Bolan and Wagon R dropped 46%, 33% and 54%, respectively.

Indus Motor – the second largest carmaker – sold 1,106 units in July, 62% lower year-on-year and down 26% month-on-month. In June, Indus had sold 1,499 units.

The major decline was recorded in the company’s flagship car, Toyota Corolla, as its sales stood at 673 units compared to 970 units in the previous month. Hilux sales also dipped to 363 units as opposed to 525 units in June.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2014.

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Gearing up: Business likely to pick up for Eid


As Eid approaches, traders are hopeful business will pick up. According to vendors from different markets in the twin cities, business has been slow this Ramazan as most people prefer to stay home.

Kashif, who works at Le Balto restaurant in F-11, said it was only a matter of days before things got back to normal. “Business for us has dropped by almost 50 per cent this month. Most of our customers only come in after iftar for a drink or tea. No one wants to eat after they have had a hearty meal at home.”

Restaurants which do not offer a special iftar buffet suffer the most, such as ours, he stated. “We often have to keep our restaurant open till sehri to be able to serve more customers and meet our target.”

Abdul Ghaffar, a florist in Rawalpindi’s Lalkurti Bazaar, said that they had been unable to meet their financial target this month, despite having better turnover than last Ramazan. “A large variety of flowers bought at wholesale rates does not help us reach our goals or make the required profit.” There has been a recent increase in sale by people who are now gearing up for the festive occasion of Eid, he added.

Superstores have also seen a loss of business this month. The store manager at D Watson F-10 stated that only wheat, rice, sugar and edible items had been selling out this month. He remarked that the store timings had to be extended often till after 2am as customers usually came in to buy grocery items late at night.

“The sale of chocolates and sweets has also been on the rise as people have begun to stock up for Eid now that prices are comparatively low. Eid brings a lot of business for us and helps us return to normal profit levels.” Sale of drinks and snacks has been stagnant ever since Ramazan started, he added.

Street vendors are also hopeful of good returns. According to Mohammad Akram, owner of a shop selling fried items for iftar, sellers celebrate the spirit of Ramazan by increasing the prices of their goods by a large margin. Faisal who works at a shop selling fried snacks for iftar in the capital, stated that business had approximately dropped by 40 per cent since last Ramazan and hoped to make up for it before Eid.

It is a different story for consumers, however. People are increasingly finding it difficult to provide for their families. Khurram abid, a labourer, sits on a green belt in G-9, in the hope of getting food from a kind passerby. He said that times were not as tough last year, when it was possible for him to provide for his family.

According to Sajid Hussain, customers would soon have to resort to window-shopping for food if prices were not controlled. He said that his kids loved mangoes but he was now unable to buy any.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2014.

Cement sales likely to pick up further this year

KARACHI: Thanks to the uptick in domestic demand, cement sales have remained robust in line with expectations of the industry and analysts in fiscal year 2013-14 (FY14) as they have eclipsed the previous peak recorded in 2009-10.

With this, what is important to see is that the analysts are predicting even further pickup in sales in the new fiscal year in the face of growing construction activities as the government focuses its energies on building major dams and highways.

Overall, cement sales (domestic and overseas) jumped a healthy 2.51% in FY14, standing at 34.27 million tons compared to 33.43 million tons a year earlier.

“The increase of 2.5% in cement sales is a healthy growth and it will further rise in the next 12 months. I think demand will touch 35.5 million tons in 2014-15, recording a jump of 3.6%,” Saad Hashmi, analyst at Standard Capital Securities, told The Express Tribune.

“Only the recently inaugurated Dasu Dam is going to create a demand for one million tons of cement over the next five years,” he added.

On June 20, just before the close of the fiscal year on the 30th, the All Pakistan Cement Manufacturers Association (APCMA) – the lobbying group of all cement-makers in the country – expressed the hope that overall dispatches in FY14 were expected to remain at an “all-time high”.

Though sales hit a record high, they were just marginally higher than the previous peak touched in 2009-10. Sales in FY14 stood at 34.27 million tons compared to 34.24 million tons in FY10, up just 0.08%.

A gradual improvement in economy and growing construction activities, especially in the wake of higher allocation by the government for the Public Sector Development Programme, are the reasons behind the expected rise in cement demand over the next 12 months.

In FY14, the federal and provincial governments set aside over Rs1 trillion for development schemes with the Centre alone targeting to spend Rs525 billion.

The growing construction schemes are mainly visible in large cities. According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2013-14, the construction sector posted an exceptional growth of 11.3% in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014 compared to a negative growth of 1.7% in FY13.

In the same way, analysts say, domestic cement demand, compared to overseas sales, will primarily support overall dispatches in the current fiscal year.

Based on local demand, prospects of the cement industry look better and this comes at a time when exports are dropping on the back of a sharp appreciation of the rupee against the dollar in the past six months.

Apart from growing appetite for cement, the local market is also offering improved profit margins to the companies in stark contrast to overseas markets where they face stiff competition from cheap Iranian and Chinese cement.

Another major reason why industry officials and analysts are upbeat is the increasing capacity utilisation in the industry over the years. It is touching 80%, a six-year high, something that the manufacturers had achieved in FY08.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 7th, 2014.

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