Friday, 29 May 2015

Development in Africa and Asia: FIFA and Europe

How much has FIFA spent in development in Africa and Asia over the last 20 years as compared to what the European countries have spent in their international development budgets?

SJP @DigitalAsian

Implementation India: Action on Projects needed by Modi

The Modi government, which completed one year at the Centre, is preparing for a big-ticket launch of Digital India, taking technology to the villages and block levels, through merchandise, hackathons and games spread over a week-long initiative across the country reports the Economic Times. 

The National e-Governance Division (NeGD), under the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY), has empanelled agencies for a messaging campaign, gamification, printing and merchandise, advertising and creatives, including advertising for rural outreach and social media. 

Working directly with the Prime Minister's Office, NeGD has been tasked with preparing for the launch since February. Though no formal dates have been fixed yet, the Digital India Week (DIW) is likely to take off in July, and will involve stakeholders across state governments and ministries, and is expected to be the flagship programme for the second year of the BJP government.. 

"They really want to make this the biggest programme of the second year. The idea is that many things have been done in the digital space that need to get highlighted," an individual with knowledge of the plans said.

The Modi government is getting overall good reviews for its first year in office by business leaders, now we have to see how this year progresses for one of its flagship projects. No we want to see more implementation of projects proposed by Modi and his cabinet.

SJP @DigitalAsian

Digitising India: Biometric Identification in Government Shops

Times of India reports that the Indian state of Maharashtra is planning to start biometric identification system in all the fair price shops across Maharashtra, said food and medicines minister Girish Bapat said on Friday. The move is aimed at curbing the misuse of public distribution system (PDS).

Addressing a 'trade-industries' meeting organized by the Federation of Associations of Pimpri Chinchwad at Quality Circle Forum in Bhosari, Bapat said the state government had implemented pilot projects in Jalgaon where there was 35% saving in food distribution after implementing the system. In Shirur, there was 38% saving in food distribution, while the percentage in Ashti in Ahmednagar district was 35. In the age of science, we will have to use new technologies to reduce the misuse of government schemes, he said. 

The meeting was organized for airing grievances of various trade associations of Pimpri Chinchwad and seeking a solution for them. "Black marketing of foodgrains occurs due to the connivance of the shop owners and transporters. No fair price shop owners should indulge in such activities. No one should challenge the system. We will make improvements in the system," Bapat said. 

He said the government conducted raids at various places to curb black marketing of foodgrains meant for distribution through PDS. "Foodgrains meant for the poor must reach them. If it doesn't, then we will have to take action against," he said. Bapat, who is also the district guardian minister, said efforts will be taken for increasing the commission of fair price shops. We will be sympathetic towards the rationing system while taking decisions, he said. 

This is a mammoth task for any state in India but with the Central government's desire for Digital India this is the right way to go.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Voicing Concerns about the Virtual Marketplace in India

Amazon India has set up a call centre with a difference reports the Times of India. While most e-commerce companies have call centres to connect with customers, the Indian arm of the United States-based e-tailer has come up with one to deal exclusively with merchants, as increasing the number of sellers in a marketplace becomes the next battlefront in online retail business. For Amazon, too, this is the first call centre of its kind anywhere in the world. The company has had to adopt the marketplace model to find its way around India's regulations governing foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail. 

In a marketplace model, the e-commerce firm provides just the technology platform while sellers on the site own the inventory. "In a marketplace, you need to have a large variety of merchants in order to attract customers to the site. Amazon has created an outsourced call centre with about 100 agents to deal with merchant issues,"a person familiar with the matter told ET. 

While in other news it is being reported that telecom companies could see their revenues from voice calls cut by up to 50% due to the likes of WhatsApp and Skype. Also Bricks-and-mortar marketplaces are complaining that FDI laws differ for them and for virtual or digital marketplaces and there is no level playing field. All this further underlines the growing dominance of the digital marketplace and digital disrupters. India is becoming like the Wild West of Eastern E-commerce.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Natives are up in Arms: Google and Native Apps

Google's worst nightmare is coming true: a mobile browser that blocks the ads it generates revenue from - reports the Times of India. Eyeo GmbH, the German company that developed the popular Adblock Plus extension for major web browsers, recently released the beta version of Adblock Browser, a Firefox-based Android web browser that removes mobile ads. That's bad news for Google, since a recent survey by PageFair found that 28% of online Americans already use Eyeo's Adblock Plus extension on PCs. 

Does Eyeo's new browser present a serious threat to Google or will it fail to dent the company's massive advertising network?  What mobile ads mean to Google - to understand how Eyeo could hurt Google, we should first discuss Google's mobile strategies. Google monetizes Android, a free and open-source OS, through search revenue, mobile ads, and purchases on Google Play. Google also tracks users if they browse the web with Chrome or use ecosystem apps like YouTube, Gmail, or Drive. 

However, mobile users often use companies' native apps instead of visiting their mobile sites with Chrome. This causes Google to lose potential revenue from mobile ads. In response, Google is discouraging the development of native apps by allowing mobile sites to deliver app-like push notifications through Chrome. Google could also soon launch "Buy" buttons on mobile ads to encourage shoppers to use its mobile search engine for product searches. 

The business of holding ads hostage - the use of Adblock Plus on PCs cost Google $887 million in potential ad revenue in 2012, according to research firm PageFair. That was equivalent to just 2% of Google's total ad revenue that year, but it was enough to convince Google to pay Eyeo to "whitelist" less intrusive ads. The terms of that deal were never disclosed, but The Financial Times claims that Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and others agreed to pay Eyeo 30% of the ad revenue that they would have made if the ads were unblocked. Therefore, Google might have paid Eyeo about $226 million in 2012. 

Even major tech companies like Google face the heat from smaller tech companies in this digitally disruptive age.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Digital Marketplace v IPR Owner

The Guardian reports that "The world’s biggest publisher, Penguin Random House, could block sales of its books on Amazon if it fails to resolve a contract dispute with the online bookseller. According to industry sources, Amazon, which sells around 90% of all books online, and Penguin Random House are in dispute over the terms of a new contract for online sales that could grow into a full-blown row. Penguin Random House, which publishes 15,000 books a year across 250 imprints, is the last of the “big five” publishers to renew its contract with Amazon on selling titles online. Talks are said to be ongoing, although neither side would divulge details.

Failure to reach a deal could result in Amazon freezing pre-orders or slowing down delivery of Penguin Random House titles, the hardball tactics that the online retailer deployed against Hachette last year. The bitter feud between Amazon and Hachette over the price of ebooks dragged on for more than six months and brought a wave of bad publicity for Amazon, with hundreds of bestselling writers accusing the online retailer of hurting authors and misleading customers. Hachette suffered a sharp drop in ebook sales before the dispute was resolved last November, although it said Amazon’s “punitive” tactics were only partly to blame.

Amazon’s spokesman, Tarek El-Hawary, declined to comment on rumours about its negotiations with Penguin Random House. “I can say that we have long-term deals in place already with the other four major publishers and we would accept any similar deal with Penguin Random House UK.” His remarks were first reported on Penguin Random House’s US spokeswoman, Claire von Schilling, sought to play down the negotiations. She said: “We are in continuous conversation with Amazon, with whom we have an ongoing business relationship. We have no intention whatsoever of ceasing to sell our print or digital titles on Amazon. We want our books to be accessible and available everywhere.” She denied there was any intention of ceasing to sell print or digital titles on Amazon.

A dispute would be costly for both sides, as Penguin Random House titles are a mainstay of Amazon’s bestseller lists. Some industry watchers think the world’s largest publisher has bolstered its negotiating position, following the merger of Penguin and Random House in 2013. “With so many books in their repertoire comes tremendous negotiating power,” said Michael Kozlowski, the editor of “There are not many online digital booksellers that could stay viable if suddenly all of the books published by Penguin Random House were pulled.”"

Penguin Random House and other publishing houses and their authors own the intellectual property in their titles but it is the digital marketplace that seems to be calling the shots now and disrupting well established businesses. 

Who would suffer most if Penguin pulled all its books from Amazon? Penguin or Amazon?

Financing Online Retailers: India's E-commerce Ecosystem

Times of India reports that when Samir Kazi, a first-generation Mumbai businessman, needed a working capital loan, he could not approach a bank as he had no collateral to offer. Instead, he got a short-term loan from Lendingkart, a non-banking financial company (NBFC). 

The son of an autorickshaw driver, Kazi had quit his job as quality manager at a call centre to found Gadget Bucket Online, a business that started off selling consumer electronics on e-commerce platforms. It has now expanded into home decor, gifting items and apparel. 

For Lendingkart, Kazi was the first customer. They loaned him Rs 10 lakh for a month last May. The loan was paid back in four weekly instalments, with an overall interest burden of Rs 15,000. Now Kazi is eligible for a Rs 30 lakh loan with a repayment tenure of six months and fortnightly instalments. "Working capital is the most important requirement in my business," Kazi told TOI. More than 70% of his sales happen on Flipkart, Amazon and eBay. 

About a year and a half ago, new-age NBFCs like Lendingkart, Capital Float and NeoGrowth began to address the working capital requirements of small and medium enterprises that retail through online marketplaces. Snapdeal, Flipkart and Amazon have one lakh, 30,000 and 25,000 sellers, respectively on their marketplaces. According to SMEcorner, an advisory and capital risk assessment platform for SME loan disbursements, the industry is adding around 30,000 to 50,000 new sellers every month. 

New solutions are being provided for businesses that sell online through digital marketplaces like Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal. This will give a boost to the online digital marketplaces and will put the bricks-and-mortar brigade even further behind. India's e-commerce ecosystem is evolving at an ever faster pace.

Social Media Content in the Fight Against Crime

Times of India reports that to check white-collar crimes and catch fraudsters, the Indian government's corporate fraud probe agency SFIO (Serious Fraud Investigation Office) has decided to scan social media and various other Internet platforms with sophisticated software tools to gather evidence against individuals and companies under its scanner. It will also deploy the latest software tools to analyze the banking transactions of the corporates and related entities which are under its investigation.

The SFIO is looking for a 'web crawler' software tool that would work as its 'eyes and ears' on the social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Google, the Corporate Affairs Ministry's public data on companies, news websites and other Internet forums. The software, being procured through the National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology (NIELIT), would periodically query these platforms and the websites, extract content from them, and store them in an easily retrievable way to help during the investigations.

SFIO is a multi-disciplinary organisation under the Corporate Affairs Ministry and its mandate includes detection and prosecution in cases of white-collar crimes and other corporate frauds. It has got experts from the fields of accountancy, forensic auditing, law, information technology, investigation, company law, capital market and taxation, among others.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Digital Content Media's Rise

YouTube's legacy extends beyond its pioneering role in the Internet's video revolution reports the Times of India. The 10-year-old site provided a stage for exhibitionists, narcissists and activists to broadcast their opinions, show off their talents, expose abuses or just pass along their favourite clips of movies, TV shows, music, cute kittens and other interests. The rampant sharing on YouTube quickly attracted a massive audience that loved watching what they wanted when they wanted, even if much of the material was being contributed by amateurs.

YouTube's rapid rise demonstrated that influential media hubs could be built around free content supplied by an Internet service's users. Other companies that went on to embrace a similar strategy included Facebook, which limited its online social network to college and high school students until opening up the service to anyone 13 or older beginning in September 2006. That was just before YouTube's whirlwind success culminated in its $1.76 billion sale to Google.

Now YouTube has become a channel for media, corporates and professionals to gain influence and shape opinion. Regular TV and radio are losing or have lost their edge to digital content media. Digital content now has become more influential to business and politics.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Don't Get Horny in Mumbai - Mumbai Photo Library

WaterWorld: Migrants at Sea

Migrants are regularly in the news these days whether they are being internally displaced by wars and conflict or trying to flee across the seas to safety such as the Mediterranean or Andaman seas, migrants are living their lives at sea with countries unable or unwilling to help. Numbers are growing at an alarming pace. The solutions being put forward by governments are not dealing with the root causes of the problems migrants face.

SJP @DigitalAsian

Saturday, 23 May 2015

E-commerce Evolving in India

Times of India reports on 2 news items that reveal the evolving nature of e-commerce in India:

First, leading lifestyle brands in the country are planning to launch distinct product lines for online shopping sites, hoping that the move will prevent deep discount e-commerce sales from cannibalizing their physical stores. Future Group, ITC-owned Wills Lifestyle and John Players, Puma, Turtle and Max Retail are among the companies that will launch channel-specific products over the next three months. "As a brand, it will be foolish not to acknowledge e-commerce and, hence, we plan to have a product differentiation strategy with this year's autumn-winter collection, which will reduce channel conflict," said Abhishek Ganguly, managing director at Puma India, which plans to keep nearly 60% of its merchandise exclusive for both online and physical stores.

The trend among retailers is a reversal from nearly a year ago when most brands tried to fight off e-commerce players that thrive on a deep discounting strategy. The retailers now plan to create different merchandise, perhaps priced lower, which will help create newer sets of consumers. "Since online shoppers are looking for value and the regular line is getting discounted, we will create a separate line to prevent conflict," said Amit Ladsarai, director at fast-fashion brand Turtle, which will sell products online with 10% lower price-tags. These products will be of different fabric and design than what is available at its physical stores. A lot of these exclusive online products could be made keeping in mind a younger consumer base.

Second, As on-demand, hyper-local players scale up, promising speed and convenience to consumers, online commerce as we know it is beginning to feel the early signs of disruption. These new-age startups, which co-opt your neighbourhood retailers to help make express deliveries, may be the next-gen of e-commerce. What's happening now is reminiscent of the time, not so long back, when online retailers came in as the upstarts and successfully challenged the reigning kings of modern retail by offering better selection of products, convenience of shopping from the confines of one's home and eye-popping discounts.

Today, the disruptors of brick-and-mortar retail are finding themselves becoming increasingly vulnerable to the threat of a new breed of smartphone app-based, hyper-local ventures which bring on board local retailers to service consumers in quick time. They deliver everything from groceries to mobile phones to medicines in a few hours sourced directly from the supermarket next to your home. Neeraj Jain, co-founder of Zopper, one such hyper-local marketplace for electronics and white goods, points outs that out of India's 250 million Internet user base only 30 million of them have shopped online despite facilities like cash-on-demand, attractive return policies and heavy discounting.

From companies planning unique products for online consumption to local firms providing on-demand services, Indian e-commerce is in a state of flux and evolving fast.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Equality in FDI for NRIs, PIOs and OCIs in India

Times of India reports that the Indian government on Thursday decided to liberalize foreign direct investment norms for NRIs and overseas citizens of India (OCI) as it aims to increase capital flows into the country. A decision in this regard was taken by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.The Cabinet "approved amendments to FDI policy on investments by NRIs, PIOs & OCIs. This will give PIOs & OCIs parity with NRIs in economy and education," an official spokesperson said. 

"The amendment in FDI for OCIs , NRIs & PIOs will lead to greater forex remittances & investment," he added. As per the DIPP's proposal any investment made by NRIs. OCIs and PIOs from their rupee account in India, will not be treated as foreign investment. An official said that the non-repatriable NRI funds would be treated as domestic investments. The government wants to channelize the funds of NRIs, who now have set up large businesses abroad, by treating non-repatriable investments by NRIs as domestic investment.

This is a good move forward by the Modi Government to increase investment into India from NRIs, PIOs and OCIs giving those of Indian origin abroad greater incentive to invest.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Improving Asset Quality by Investing in Indian E-commerce

Economic Times reports that the big boy of Indian banking is entering the domain of the tiny, at least for now, the e-commerce zone. In tune with changing face of the economy, the State Bank of India which has been funding large projects is getting into what it calls seller financing. From the Reliances, Essars, and the Adanis, SBI is moving to fund transactions and seller's businesses on Amazon, Snapdeal and Paypal. In a report, PWC has stated that the e-commerce market in India should touch $22 billion by the end of 2015. 

SBI, on Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding with Amazon. The bank is set to ink similar agreements with domestic e-commerce players such as Snapdeal and Paypal, three people familiar with the matter told ET. The bank will hold a conference on Thursday in Kolkata. "Today, we are in a digital age," said Arundhati Bhattacharya, chairman, SBI told media persons at a conference. "Giving people (customers) the best experience in buying and selling is what we are looking at. There are thousand ways to bring each other clients under this MoU." 

"India SMEs have great products but they don't know how to sell. They should have better selling and buying...(options)," she said. The bank sees it a multi-billion Rupee opportunity in the years ahead while the move is also aimed at securing its own asset quality. This is because, small and medium enterprises or SMEs have significantly defaulted on their bank loans in the past few years as they were worst hit by the economic downturn. By tying up with e-commerce portals, SBI can help mobilise business for its SME clients. Those companies can obtain ready sale orders placed on e-commerce portals while they can also source raw materials at discounted rates.

"Facilitating SMEs to do their business will also help secure their loan repayments to us,"  Sunil Srivastava, deputy managing director (corporate strategy and new businesses), SBI told ET. 

Investing in e-commerce, the SBI hopes to improve is asset quality and reduce NPAs. This will give a boost to digital marketplaces in India.

Digital Marketplaces are Overtaking the Supermarkets

Economic Times reports that threatened by the rapid growth of online shopping, the country's top brick and-mortar retailers have dragged the central government to court, demanding level playing field in FDI norms vis-a-vis ecommerce players. 

Retailers Association of India, which represents top retailers such as Future Group, Shoppers Stop and Reliance Retail, moved the Delhi High Court against the Union government on Monday. "We are demanding parity," said lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who represents the country's largest lobby of organised retailers. The court is expected to hear the case on Wednesday. 

Top ecommerce players such as Flipkart, Snapdeal and have made major inroads into the country's retailing business by offering unprecedented discounts, which impacted sales of brick-and-mortar retailers. While India bars foreign direct investment (FDI) in ecommerce companies selling products directly to consumers, it allows foreign companies to operate the so-called ecommerce marketplace that lends its platforms for other companies to sell their products. 

"On paper, ecommerce can't have foreign direct investment. However, a whole lot of marketplaces are effectively retailing," said Kumar Rajagopalan, chief executive at Retailers Association of India (RAI). "It is a convenient method of saying they are marketplaces, but they can get as much FDI they want. So there is no level playing field in India," he said. 

Homegrown players such as Flipkart and Snapdeal have attracted billions of dollars in funding by operating such marketplaces while US-based has set up a fully owned subsidiary here and has pledged to invest $2 billion in India. 

Multi-brand retail FDI in India is yet to be decided by the government. Walmart is facing similar pressure from online retailers in America. Digital marketplaces are overtaking the supermarkets.

Digital Branding and Social Media Monitoring

Times of India reports that mobile carriers have silently turned to cool web-crawling technologies and analytics to instantly latch on to any negative customer buzz regarding their services and brand reputation across social media circles, and take corrective action. India's No. 3 mobile carrier, Idea Cellular, said it uses analytics and web-crawling tools, to monitor and listen to customers on a 24x7 basis and provide quick resolution to their service needs.

"The tools deployed by us have the capability to scan through the feeds on Idea-owned platforms as well as in the larger space of social media," Navanit Narayan, chief service delivery officer of Idea Cellular, told ET in an emailed response. Idea's tools, he said "cover 1 billion data sources across the web and offers the best coverage for Twitter and Facebook on a real time basis."

The Aditya Birla Group's telecom arm has deployed a comprehensive social media monitoring strategy to listen, engage and service customers in this fast-growing medium. Noted brand specialist Harish Bijoor feels real-time access to live negative posts, tweets or blogs, "can be a strategic tool for mobile carriers since brand reputation is ultimately a cascade of consumer comments, experiences, a combination of positives and negatives."

Small wonder, Sistema Shyam Teleservices, the Indian unit of Russian conglomerate Sistema JSFC, said it has deployed a Cloud-based web crawler to capture in real-time all negative vibes and opinions floating across social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, private blogs, online customer fora to tech websites, and is addressing them through its pool of customer relationship managers.

Companies are able to monitor social media and even adjust and manipulate brand reputation and opinion online.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

American Tech Driving Digital India

Last fortnight, Google announced the setting up of its largest campus outside the US, in Hyderabad, reports the Times of India. The 2 million square feet facility, the first company-owned premises by the search giant in Asia, is expected to house 13,000 employees when it's ready in 2019. 

And last month, online retailer Amazon announced setting up of its 11th and largest fulfilment centre in India on the outskirts of Hyderabad. These brick-and-mortar structures reveal not just the scale of ambitions of global Internet companies but also how significantly India has changed for the Internet multinationals. 

"We are planting seeds for the future. India has been mentioned in the shareholder letter by Jeff (Jeff Bezos, founder-CEO, Amazon) and that's big," says Amit Agarwal, vice president & country manager, Amazon India. Last year, when Bezos was here, he also announced a $2 billion investment push in India. 

America's largest online retailer has been in India for more than a decade — back in 2004 it started a development centre. In 2013, Amazon entered India as a marketplace and now boasts of a catalogue of 22 million products with India being its fastest geography to do $1 billion in sales. Today Amazon has all its businesses operating in India: the marketplace, B2B business, Kindle devices and e-book store and Amazon Web Services, the cloud offering. 

American tech companies are driving India's e-commerce and digital services.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Narendra Modi: Digital Spin Wizard?

Times of India reports that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is turning out to be a savvy social media superstar whose online postings, banal on the face of it, are reshaping his public image as a technology-capable leader aligned with the aspirations of a new Indian modernity, a US study has said. 

In a paper titled "Banalities Turned Viral: Narendra Modi and the Political Tweet," University of Michigan scholar Joyojeet Pal says Modi - whose social media following is next only to Barack Obama's (but a distant second) among world politicians - has used a pro-technological discourse to reframe his political image and overcome the fusty baggage of the sangh parivar. 

"The capture of social media allowed Modi to cater to aspirations for a modernity that mirrored blueprints from the global North. The BJP no longer stood only for older Hindu men in saffron. Instead, here was a man who could take a selfie with one hand and use the other for a trident when needed," the paper says, adding that or the first time in its history, "the BJP leader emerged as more central to the public discourse than the ideology he stands for." 

Pal says the gentle tenor of Modi's "twitter banalities" on global events, carefully crafted and global public thank-you notes, and consistent reinforcement of national development themes suggest no shadow of a man who was once-rejected by the international community and was banned from entering the United States for gross violations of religious freedom.