Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China
1. Xi Jinping as Chinese Premier
“The pause in his rise notwithstanding, Xi is still believed to be the chosen one,” we wrote last year. Hu Jintao stepped down as the general secretary of the Communist Party of China and Xi Jinping took over. Xi will also take over as head of the nation’s government in March as per tradition. While some doubts were raised last year when Xi was not made the vice-chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, his rise never really stopped. In fact, he has been given charge of the military ahead of schedule. The Chinese transition is more radical this time as the number of members of the Standing Committee has been brought down by two, concentrating power even more.
2. Hero versus Honda
We had written about the expected rivalry between former partners Hero and Honda in the motorcycle business. It has pretty much turned out that way. Let’s look at the numbers first: With the launch of Honda’s 100 cc motorcycle, Dream Yuga, Honda’s sales in the segment in the April-October period more than doubled. In this period, Honda sold 171,162 motorcycles compared to 83,990 in the previous year. Hero, on the other hand, hasn’t had a great year. In the same period, in the 100 cc segment, its sales fell to 2,639,365 compared to 2,786,206 the previous year. Add to this the fact that Hero’s new launches in 2012, like the Ignitor and Impulse, haven’t really done well. Bajaj Auto, on the other hand, has had a fabulous year with the new Pulsar 200 NS.
3. The Return of Barack Obama
Last year we wrote, “…the question is whether the people will give Obama another term. So far, no contender has shown political acumen and charisma rivalling Obama’s.” No one was able to call the American elections until the votes were actually cast. Mitt Romney won the Republican nomination and managed to put up a fight against Barack Obama. In fact, Romney’s ratings inched up towards the end of the campaign. But Obama’s charisma and Romney’s muddled thinking on critical issues decisively won over voters to the Democratic Party’s side.
4. New Brew in Town
Last December, we’d written about the imminent entry of Starbucks in India. A month later, John Culver, their man in Asia, formally inked a joint venture with RK Krishna Kumar of Tata Global Beverages. There was also an agreement with Tata Coffee to set up a roasting facility. By then a joint team had been doing their homework across the country and had zeroed in on properties in Delhi and Mumbai from where the iconic Seattle-based chain would begin its India march. By October, Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz was in Mumbai to launch Starbuck’s flagship 4,000-sq-ft store in the tony Horniman Circle neighbourhood. He’d ensured that the store design reflected Indian culture. In addition to coffee and tea, desi food also finds a place in the menu. The brand plans to plant its flag in Delhi’s Connaught Place by early 2013.5. Vladimir Putin’s Comeback
We had said, “In Russia, former president and current PM Vladimir Putin is expected to make a comeback albeit with diminished power.” Putin returned to power in Russia. And, as expected, with a diminished mandate. In fact, the polls were believed to be rigged and after Putin’s election, unrest broke out across the country. Youth in Moscow became particularly militant. Putin has managed to curb the dissent and is slowly establishing his authority over the country. He is expected to make his first state visit to India in December.6. The Hottest Startups
Last year, we wrote about PubMatic and Zomato. Given the state of global financial markets, PubMatic didn’t go for the expected IPO. Instead, it raised another round of funding—$45 million—in June. It also claims to be the third-fastest growing internet company in Deloitte’s Fast 500 ranking. As for Zomato, the company has expanded outside India into markets like the UAE, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Dubai. In India, it continues to do well and claims to be just a few months away from breaking even.7. Calling the U.P. Elections
“The joker in the pack, however, could well be Akhilesh Yadav, son of Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh, who has been on a hectic campaign across the state,” we wrote. Well, the Yadav scion was indeed the joker in the pack. Akhilesh Yadav led from the front and used his young-and-progressive image to bring the SP to power in Uttar Pradesh. By the time the results for the last seat were declared, Yadav was the toast of the nation. Though his father Mulayam Singh Yadav was expected to be the chief minister, party supporters forced the top brass to anoint the son to the throne. However, the remote control of the government is still said to be with the wrestler from Etawah.Images: Obama: Gary Cameron / Reuters; Putin: Ria Novosti / Reuters; Yadav: Getty Images
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(This story appears in the 11 January, 2013 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)