Thursday, 26 March 2015

SRT: Sachin Replacement Therapy

Despite the Cricket World Cup going on, Sachin Tendulkar is still in the news. India needs SRT - Sachin Replacement Therapy.

SJP @DigitalAsian

Future of Social Media in India

Economic Times reports that on his first ever trip to India, microblogging site Twitter's CEO Dick Costolo says India  is one of his company's fastest growing markets and a "fascinating one" because of its demographics, size and its "digital sophistication". In a conversation with ET, he speaks of the company's plans for India, Silicon Valley valuations and how Twitter will look in 2020. Edited excerpts.

In terms of pure user growth, in terms of numbers, India is the fastest growing. The opportunity is here with the explosion of the population. And the mobile first population is massive. We don't reveal our numbers by country outside the US. He (PM Narendra Modi) has been fantastic on the platform. He obviously understands its power as a way to directly connect with people. He is the second-most popular in the world in terms of popularity. And one of the most sophisticated users of it. PM Modi understands this. He is just good and authentic on the platform. I think that resonates with people. 

LinkedIn reports registered users and not monthly active users. We certainly believe we have a much larger monthly active user base. The value of a network is whether users are more engaged on the platform or less engaged. One of the things we hear from operators is that the reason we love Twitter is that there are really big users of the platform. How often the users are engaged, what they are doing, how much they are consuming, whether they are influencers on not? In the US, the other day a leading digital publisher said that we may ultimately get more referral links from some other social platforms, but it is 100% the case that when things start on Twitter, they have a much bigger cascade effect as that is where the influencers are. And when people start talking about it on Twitter, we know it will become one of our biggest stories. 

We compete with Facebook for advertisers globally. I think that the future for us and other companies like us is an entire landscape of providers of mobile services. Like our 'Fabric' of software developers, software infrastructure helps any application developer in the world to develop any end-to-end app. We will probably have competitors in that space. Native mobile video is a massive opportunity for us. We have made a number of acquisitions in the space. We will continue to invest in that space. Native mobile video that is primarily produced for consumption on mobile is going to change the face of media, the way people consume media, the way they watch programs. 

Again senior tech leaders are confirming that the future of social media and business is in mobile consumption of digital content.

Europe's Chinese Takeaway: European Asset Prices Attract Asian Investors

Economic Times reports that Chinese investors have a powerful attraction to companies in the European Union, and their targets are increasingly high profile. In recent days, they've shown interest in an 18-building compound on Berlin's Potsdamer Platz and in the Italian tyre-maker Pirelli. For some unfathomable reason, Europe considers Chinese investors, even state-owned ones, more benign than, say, Russian ones. Until 2011, China was mostly a receiver of European investment, but then the debt crisis drove down asset prices. Some governments became desperate to privatise, and venerable corporations got less picky about potential investors. Chinese buyers acquired Volvo in Sweden, a large stake in Peugeot Citroen and fashion house Sonya Rykiel in France, the Piraeus Port in Greece, Pizza Express restaurants and the upscale clothing maker Aquascutum in the UK. Chinese investment increased exponentially.

Last year—when the Peugeot and Pizza Express deals were made— Chinese merger and acquisition activity in Europe set a new record. Although Chinese investment in the US has also grown, outstripping US flows into China, Europe has proved more welcoming. China holds only about 1 per cent of the European foreign direct investment stock—not enough to worry about. But this doesn't include local booms in private Chinese investment, like those in Portuguese or Latvian real estate under those countries "golden visa" programmes. Europe is relatively cheap, it's open, and it's got things that Chinese companies are after: technology and household names. 

With Europe still not totally out of the debt crisis yet, Asian companies and particularly Chinese ones are finding the asset prices in Europe attractive.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Digital Commando in India

India's third-largest IT services exporter Wipro is setting up a "commando force" unit next month that will target clients seeking to speed up automation and do more business online, an executive told Reuters. Rajan Kohli, who will head the newly formed Wipro Digital business, said the unit aimed to generate $1 billion in annual revenue within three years, which would make it one of the company's top sources of revenue. "We believe there is a lot of opportunity and a lot of money that our clients can save and that we can make," Kohli, the former head of Wipro's financial services unit, said in an telephone interview from the company's Bengaluru headquarters.

After decades of low-margin work including server maintenance, India's $150 billion IT services industry is looking towards artificial intelligence, cloud solutions and other more sophisticated digital services for growth. Industry advisory Offshore Insights estimates automation and artificial intelligence work will grow to 25 to 30 percent of India's IT outsourcing market by 2020 from less than 5 percent now. The entire sector is expected to double in value to $300 billion by then, the national industry association says. Wipro's digital unit follows similar shift in focus towards digitisation by larger rivals Tata Consultancy Services and Infosys Ltd.

Going commando in Digital India for India's IT service companies may be necessary to move up the value chain and promote more value added services.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Content Control India: Free Speech Online

The Supreme Court of India on Tuesday declared Section 66A of Information Technology Act 2000 as unconstitutional and struck it down. This section had been widely misused by police in various states to arrest innocent persons for posting critical comments about social and political issues and political leaders on social networking sites. The court said such a law hit at the root of liberty and freedom of expression, the two cardinal pillars of democracy. The court said the section has to be erased from the law books as it has gone much beyond the reasonable restrictions put by the Constitution on freedom of speech. The Supreme Court said section 66A was vaguely worded and allowed its misuse by police. The court, however, upheld the validity of section 69B and the 2011 guidelines for the implementation of the I-T Act that allowed the government to block websites if their content had the potential to create communal disturbance, social disorder or affect India's relationship with other countries. However, the court watered down section 79 of the I-T Act making it further difficult for the police to harass innocent for their comments on social network sites.

Rohinton Fali Nariman was one of the Supreme Court Judges in this case having been appointed recently last year. The other Judge was J. Chelameswar. This will be a welcome judgment for many. Indian politicians will have one less weapon in their armoury to fight dissent and criticism. This may lead to even more requests to block websites if politicians can't attack the social media commentator. Social media websites get some of the most requests to block or remove content from India anyway. A sort of Blockers Paradise.

Digital Currencies are now going mainstream

Times of India reports that Nasdaq OMX Group agreed to provide a startup the core technology to power a marketplace for trading bitcoins and related digital-currency assets, the Wall Street Journal reported. New York-based startup Noble Markets will use Nasdaq's X-stream trading system, which is used by more than 30 exchanges and marketplaces worldwide, the Journal reported, citing a joint statement. Nasdaq will also provide marketing support. Bitcoin payments processor Coinbase, backed by the New York Stock Exchange, opened a regulated exchange in the United States for trading the virtual currency earlier this year. Launched in 2009, Bitcoin lets people conduct transactions over the Internet. The virtual currency has come under regulators' scrutiny in the United States and Europe following a series of high-profile scandals such as the bankruptcy of Tokyo-based Bitcoin exchange Mt Gox.

Digital currencies are now going mainstream and being given institutional support and credence.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Bihar Brain Bypass: Exam Cheating

Recent scenes of mass cheating in exams in Bihar state in India are incredible. How can employers have faith in the qualifications obtained by prospective employees?

SJP @DigitalAsian

Sunday, 22 March 2015

FATCA, GATCA ... GOTCHA: Tax Laws Go Global

The U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) might be replaced by a global tax information sharing agreement between countries. A Global Account Tax Compliance Act (GATCA) could be on the cards soon.

There is an unprecedented international movement towards countries sharing tax information and an assault on tax havens. Countries are setting up bilateral agreements to share tax information. 

Globalisation has led to multinationals and wealthy individuals being able to set up shop virtually anywhere that gives them the best tax advantage and this is causing finance ministers headaches in getting sufficient tax receipts. 

Globalisation has also led to countries arguing with each other to retain their share of tax receipts to fill their coffers. This is a battle between governments and corporates and at the moment it seems to be the corporates. But legislation such as FATCA and possibly GATCA may be changing this.

The issue of tax is going global and it may be that some global tax rules are on their way. 

(As an aside this might lead the way to a sort of international government which deals with tax - akin to calls for more tax harmonisation in the EU - Whether America would sign up to a GATCA type legislation remains to be seen - Remember: No taxation without representation).

It's All APPening on Mobile in India: Mcommerce May Soon Dominate in India

Economic Times reports that Dhiraj Kumar, a sales manager for a chemical company in Mumbai, spends the one hour he commutes to office in Lower Parel every day glued to his phone. Unlike his fellow commuters, the 34-year-old isn't glued to WhatsApp or talking to family; instead, he browses for furniture for his under-construction flat, checks out the latest deals on Flipkart and considers his lunch options either on Zomato, Foodpanda or the mobile-only startup TinyOwl. His iPhone is the centre of his Internet universe; he claims not to have been on an ecommerce website in at least six months and not ordered off a traditional website in a year. Startups across India's $15 billion ecommerce sector, in a desperate battle for customers, have decisively turned their attention to people such as Kumar who have ditched their laptops and desktops and use their smartphones to go deal-hunting. 

As the number of broadband connections plateaued and mobile data connections grow almost 100% annually, consumers are voting with their feet. They are opting to download apps of their favourite ecommerce ventures and use these slickly designed products rather than browser-based variants. The companies, on their part, are following their customers' lead. They are halting or slowing investments in traditional ecommerce and focusing their energies on upgrading their products in the mobile commerce, or mcommerce, sphere. 

It looks like its all going mobile in India. E-tailers and startups have caught on to this trend. India's love affair with the smartphone is showing no signs of slowing and this is changing the nature of ecommerce very quickly where mcommerce will start to dominate.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Digital Disruption: Chaos Theory of Business Ideas

Economics Times asks Ram Charan, what's bothering global CEOs these days and the renowned consultant says, "earlier it used to be execution now it's just one thing — disruption." As the troika of rising structural uncertainty, increasing complexity and new business models create havoc with industries, CEOs face the challenge of not just keeping the engines running but also looking out for the unfolding market disruptions. Charan, who has just published a new book called The Attacker's Advantage, talks about the impact disruptive forces will have on businesses and how to be future-ready. Edited excerpts: It is no longer just disruption; it is destruction and creation. When Clayton Christensen talked about disruptive innovation, he saw people come and get the lower end of the market and then disrupt the industry. Now, all industries are being actually destroyed not disrupted. So Schumpeter's destruction and creation is now in full swing. In 1800s, the internal combustion engine created more jobs before the old jobs got destroyed. Today, this destruction is not creating enough jobs to compensate for the lost jobs. And no industry is going to escape. 

Digital technology is fast disrupting businesses and making businesses converge. Established industries are facing disruption from startups and are having to compete with startups and entering new fields of business. For example banks are now getting into mobile payment technology to compete with startups. Banks are getting into digital technology and tech companies are getting into finance. Digital technology is opening up a whole new world of ideas that enable startups to challenge whole industries.

Friday, 20 March 2015

E-Commerce in India: Too much Hype?

As billions of dollars flow into India's booming online economy, some investors are beginning to fret that soaring valuations could hamper market listings and limit their options when it comes to turning paper profits into cash. India's rising number of smartphone users, cheaper Internet costs and a vast middle class have turned it into one of the hottest markets for investors such as Singaporean wealth fund Temasek Holdings, venture capitalists Accel Partners and Japan's SoftBank Corp. But several advisers and particularly later stage investors say they are concerned that optimistic estimates and already sky-high prices implied by privately sold stakes could make initial public offerings hard to pull off. 

Is there an Indian e-commerce bubble forming? E-commerce in India is moving ahead at breakneck speed with eye-watering figures for investments shown in the media. Later stage investors will remain wary if they foresee valuations are getting too high for them to invest. Are investors taking in the hype or are they seeing huge growth potential in India? Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Silhouettes in the Setting Sun Mumbai - IdeaIndia.Com

Non-Exclusive Relationships: Relationships in Indian E-commerce

Times of India reports that Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi has finally opened its online portal Mi Store in India, meaning that its products are not exclusive to the e-commerce poster boy Flipkart anymore. Xiaomi is only selling accessories on the web store as of now, not smartphones. Therefore, you can only purchase earphones and cases & covers for Xiaomi smartphones from the e-store at present. However, the company has not ruled out selling smartphones on the website in coming months. Nevertheless, Flipkart continues to be the exclusive sales partner for Xiaomi smartphones in India. Xiaomi has sold over a million smartphones in India since it arrived in the country last July. However, products like Yi action camera and Mi Band fitness tracker are yet to hit the market, along with new smartphones Mi Note and Mi Note Pro. At a press meet last week, Xiaomi global vice president Hugo Barra and India head Manu Jain said that the company will open 100 Experience Zones in its service centres starting next month, where the company's products will be available for a hands-on experience, but not purchase. 

Partners are changing in e-commerce in India. No hard feelings.

Love Me Tender: Conflicts of Interests in Government Tenders

Economic Times reports that the Narendra Modi government's ambitious smart city project has run into a hitch with the last-minute cancellation of its first major tender — to hire a consultant — amid allegations of "conflict of interest". International consultancy firm McKinsey "unofficially" helped out the urban development ministry in preparing the groundwork for the Rs 7,000-crore project and one of its consultants even authored a key tender document for the selection of the consultant, said people in the know.  However, the firm itself wasn't barred from bidding for the tender and was apparently working on a bid when the tender was scrapped on March 9, barely 48 hours before the closing date, these people said.

McKinsey's role in the project was revealed after the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA), which is responsible to implement the project, released the tender seeking request for qualification cum request for proposal on February 17. The document was uploaded on the NIUA website and a cursory look at the Word file's properties showed McKinsey consultant Amit Gupta as its author The document was also uploaded on the government's Central Public Procurement portal. 

Smart City project gets off to a bad start.

Digital Technology is Making Businesses Converge

Commercial banks are entering the mobile payments space, a market that was incubated by Airtel Money, but which since then has seen a host of players including Vodafone m-pesa, Paytm, MobiKwik and Oxigen reports the Times of India. HDFC Bank has just launched Chillr, a third party app platform that enables users to transfer money to anybody in their phone book contacts. The user only needs to know the phone number of the person to whom he/she is transferring. But the transfer happens directly from and to bank accounts. For now, only an HDFC Bank account holder can send money, but can do so to any bank account holder. Chillr expects to sign up more banks soon.

ICICI Bank launched the Pockets app last month. Pockets is a wallet model like Paytm and MobiKwik. You don't have to be an ICICI Bank account holder to use it, but account holders can use it with their internet banking credentials. The app uses a virtual Visa card and users can choose to add a zero balance savings account to it. Given the confidence people have in banks, their entry into mobile payments could dramatically grow the space. There are already more than 45 million mobile payment users, more than double the number of credit card users in the country. The apps make money transfers remarkably easy, and as more small retailers become part of these systems, carrying cash will become less and less necessary.

Banks becoming tech companies and tech companies getting into finance. Soon we will not be able to see the difference. Digital technology is making businesses converge. 

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

India Should Not Fear Forex Going Abroad

Times of India reports that the Indian investor has reasons to be happy. Experts are predicting a multi-year bull run in the stock market. With the domestic market looking so promising, there is little reason to look beyond, right? May be wrong. The need for global diversification today is critical, even with domestic markets going great guns. With the RBI recently enhancing the limit for foreign remittances under its Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS) to $250,000 from $125,000 per annum, a huge Rs 1.55 crore window of opportunity for overseas investment has opened up. Given this freedom to put your money to work anywhere in the world, we urge you to broaden your horizons. Find out how best you can take advantage of what the world has to offer for your investment portfolio.

Even the biggest fans of the India growth story will tell you that the present good times won't last forever. Even if there is a multi-year rally, there are going to be dips and shocks. History shows that no single market can remain on the top of the wealth creators' list for more than a couple of years at a go. So, when the Indian economy sputters, investors who have placed all their eggs in the India basket will be hit. Here it makes sense to have some investments that bear little correlation to the domestic market. Says Swapnil Pawar, CEO, Karvy Capital, "One can be overweight on Indian equities at this stage, but don't have 100% of the equity exposure here. Sentiment can quickly reverse, eroding any gains you have made." Those who have exposure to other markets would be cushioned against any downfall to a large extent.

Easing forex regulations and allowing Indians to invest more of their money abroad is a good thing - just as much as attracting investment into IndiaIndia has always had huge restrictions on taking money abroad as governments have feared an outflow of funds from the country. If India is to become a more liberalised economy then that should mean allowing more money to be sent abroad more easily.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Email Not Appstaged Just Yet

People in the tech industry have been digging a grave for email for more than a decade, but their predictions have always seemed a little out of touch reports the Times of India. Email, despite its terrible, horrible, no-good impact on our daily lives, is wonderfully ubiquitous, accessible, forgiving and still apparently a good business. In the last year, Amazon, Dropbox, Google and Microsoft have all announced new email initiatives. Yet despite email's admirable endurance, it's possible to envision a future in which email -- remarkably -- is supplanted by new tools that allow people to collaborate in big groups and force upon companies the sort of radical information transparency that many in the tech industry, at least, believe is essential.

The best example of that new sort of communication system comes from Slack, a start-up in San Francisco. It looks similar to several other group chat apps you've used before -- think AOL Instant Messenger or the nerdier Internet Relay Chat, better known by its initials, IRC. But Slack has a few unusual features that make it suited for work, including automatic archiving of all your interactions, a good search engine and the ability to work across just about every device you use. Because it is hosted online and is extremely customizable, Slack is also easy for corporate technology departments to set up and maintain. These features have helped turn Slack into one of the fastest-growing business applications in history.

Workplace apps that allow groups to work together across corporate offices will probably compliment email for now anyway. Email not appstaged just yet. 

Make in India then sell online in India: Getting Policy Right

Times of India reports that foreign investors setting up manufacturing facilities in India will be able to access the country's rapidly growing online market as part of the Narendra Modi-led government's plan to attract overseas capital in the languishing manufacturing sector. The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) has floated a cabinet note to implement the policy announced in the government's first full budget last month. The cabinet note explicitly defines manufacturing to prevent any misuse of the policy, an official said, adding that the move will give a big boost to foreign funded home-grown entities such as Fabindia that are engaged in manufacturing as well as retailing and are keen to expand to online platforms while making the sector lucrative for foreign investment. 

To ensure consistency in policy and prevent tax issues later, the government will pick up what constitutes manufacturing from the income tax law. The government is keen to raise the share of manufacturing in the country's GDP, for which the prime minister has launched a dedicated programme 'Make in India' to attract investments to the sector. The proposal comes eight months after finance minister Arun Jaitley announced in his first budget speech in July last year that manufacturers will be allowed to sell goods online even if they have foreign investment, provided they manufacture locally. 

Make in India then sell online will boost e-commerce and m-commerce in India. Getting the policies right will help. DIPP hopefully will be guiding the policies in the right direction to attract foreign investment needed in manufacturing.