Friday, 29 April 2016

E-Wallet Euphoria Ends - for the moment anyway

E-Wallet Euphoria Ends. For the moment anyway.

Times of India reports that after a flurry of activity with almost two dozen companies launching prepaid wallets in the last couple of years, the initial euphoria around wallets may be dying down. Many players — with the exception of dominant Paytm or -owned Freecharge — concede that the numbers of wallet users is stagnating and companies are struggling to get existing users to transact more using their digital money.

While no one has called it quits so far, even players with significant number of wallets such as PayU Money and Citrus told ET that they are not aggressively pushing their own wallets anymore and are unabashedly aligning with rival wallet firms. "The pre-paid wallet story is an extremely weak story," Nitin Gupta, CEO of PayU Money told ET. 

The Indian financial services market is hugely underpenetrated and the opportunity is very big. "EWallet became the back door entry route for companies into financial services, but they are realising now that not many people are interested in it," said Gupta. The RBI gave licence to operate pre-paid wallets to around 26 entities and the last two years have seen a flurry of launches from organisations ranging from Ola to conglomerates such as Spice group to several banking and finance firms.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Sellers fight back against the ecommerce giants in India

Sellers fight back against the ecommerce giants in India. In India you can imagine a sort of online sellers organisation forming - sought of 'union' for ecommerce sellers?

Times of India reports that sellers on online marketplaces have written to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) demanding regulations to safeguard their rights and help resolve their issues with ecommerce giants that claim all the credit for the online shopping boom in recent years, largely on the back of deep discounting.

"We are not being called for discussion by your (government) agencies. But you are calling Bansals and Bahls of the world," said the petition by All India Online Vendors Association (AIOVA), referring to Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal of Flipkart and Kunal Bahl of Snapdeal. The PMO has forwarded the petition to the ecommerce section of the department of electronics and information technology (DeitY) under the communications and IT ministry. The petition and the action taken by the PMO have been put on the grievance redressal portal of the department of administrative reforms and public grievances.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Cyber Threats in the Global Financial System

These days even traditional havens of safety aren't safe, as recent events in Bangladesh central bank's hack have shown. Hacks in not only high profile government institutions but even leading corporates like Sony, JP Morgan Chase, eBay and Target show that firms have to be better prepared to battle more sophisticated cyber-attacks. Is Bitcoin's BlockChain technology a possible solution?

Times of India reports that SWIFT, the global financial network that banks use to transfer billions of dollars everyday, warned its customers on Monday that it was aware of "a number of recent cyber incidents" where attackers had sent fraudulent messages over its system. The disclosure came as law enforcement authorities in Bangladesh and elsewhere investigated the February cybertheft of $81 million from the Bangladesh central bank account at the New York Federal Reserve Bank. SWIFT has acknowledged that the scheme involved altering SWIFT software on Bangladesh Bank's computers to hide evidence of fraudulent transfers.

Monday's statement from SWIFT marked the first acknowledgement that the Bangladesh Bank attack was not an isolated incident but one of several recent criminal schemes that aimed to take advantage of the global messaging platform used by some 11,000 financial institutions. "SWIFT is aware of a number of recent cyber incidents in which malicious insiders or external attackers have managed to submit SWIFT messages from financial institutions' back-offices, PCs or workstations connected to their local interface to the SWIFT network," the group warned customers on Monday in a notice seen by Reuters.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Digital Disruption and Talent Acquisition in India

Two stories in the Indian media show the changes that India is going through currently. One is digital disruption mainly through e-commerce and the second is this new digital economy needs people with the right skills and employers are looking to find and retain talent. Digital disruption and talent acquisition are slowly changing the economy and employment for a whole new generation of graduates.

Times of India reports that Expansion of India's e-commerce industry will trigger innovation in payments and delivery models as well as enable better use of technology such as wearables, drones and artificial intelligence, a study by Confederation of Indian Industry and Deloitte has said. In the report titled 'e-Commerce in India: A Game Changer for the Economy,' CII director general Chandrajit Banerjee said the e-commerce industry has been directly impacting micro, small and medium enterprises and has a favourable cascading effect on other industries. "It is helping connect small merchants with customers across India. Long-term impact of this on the economy would be increase in employment, growth in export revenue, better products and services to customers and increase in tax collection by exchequers," the report said.

Economic Times reports that Reliance Industries is rolling out a cocktail of initiatives to retain talent, allowing career rotation and vertical growth within the oil to telecom conglomerate. Under its Career Acceleration Program (CAP), the group will allow employees to chart their career growth by changing their business functions after a series of tests and interviews. The 'Step Up' programme will help an employee grow within the same function, with him getting some mentoring to gear up for the next level quickly. These are part of the group's efforts to strengthen the employee-employer relationship as it gears to launch the data-focused mobile telephony business this financial year. Reliance Industries, owned by India's richest man Mukesh Ambani, had made an attempt previously to build talent at a senior level. Around four years ago, it rolled out a programme for senior management, called Reliance Accelerated Leadership Program (RALP). 

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Taming the Digital Dragon

Not for the first time have major digital tech companies faced hurdles in China over censorship and other regulatory laws. Major tech firms have been trying to crack the Chinese market with their services.

Times of India reports that Apple Inc's online book and film services have gone dark in China, after Beijing introduced regulations in March imposing strict curbs on online publishing, particularly for foreign firms. Attempts by Reuters on Friday to access Apple's iBooks Store and iTunes Movies services were met with a message in Chinese saying they were "unusable".

China's media regulator, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, demanded Apple halt the service, the New York Times reported, citing two unnamed people. The regulator did not respond to a faxed request from Reuters for comment. "We hope to make books and movies available again to our customers in China as soon as possible," said a Beijing-based Apple spokeswoman, who declined to provide further comment. This is not the first time an Apple service has been made unavailable in China.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Social Impact Investing gets Boost in India through Crowdfunding

Social impact investing gets a boost in India through crowdfunding.

Times of India reports that Singapore-based investment platform Fundnel has entered into a strategic tie-up with Indian crowdfunding platform Impact Guru to tap into philanthropic and investment capital from the Indian diaspora based in Southeast Asia and plough back investments into ventures that address social needs. This is seen to be the first time a social crowdfunding platform has teamed up with an investment crowdfunding platform to unlock investment opportunities in areas including financial inclusion, clean tech, education, water and sanitation, and healthcare.

"This partnership allows us to extend our influence beyond India to attract philanthropic as well as investment capital from NRIs and Persons of Indian Origin especially in markets where Fundnel is present -- Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Indonesia. There are 2.5 million Indians residing in these countries," said Piyush Jain, co-founder and CEO of Impact Guru. Founded in 2014, Impact Guru empowers people to give to non-profits and social causes in India.It was incubated at Harvard Innovation Lab's Venture Initiation Program and subsequently at PACT Social Enterprise Incubator Singapore.

SJP @DigitalAsian

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Your digital footprint says a lot about you

Your digital footprint says a lot about you. For years now people have been on social media leaving behind data that they may have forgotten.

Times of India reports that at Delhi-based startup HelpChat, a resume is a forgotten thing. The company, which encourages candidates to send in their LinkedIn profiles instead of a resume, has maintained it even when people walked in to the office with their resumes. As the recruitment process transforms from being a sourcing game to more of an engagement business, a bunch of startups are doing away with the resume culture.

At these companies, where CVs are not welcome, digital footprint of a candidate takes the place of the first touchpoint between the recruiter and the recruit. Vijay Sharma, CEO at which provides talent acquisition solutions, notes that among his 30-odd startup customers which include the likes of Ola, Snapdeal and Practo, 30-40% have moved away from the resume culture. The company has developed an algorithm to help its customers hire the right candidates based on their digital foot print. "A lot of data is being left behind online by the user. They are not aware what they are leaving, but this data actually means a lot," said Sharma, who himself has never gone through a resume while hiring for his company. "These data points say a lot about candidates."

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Do Authors Still have Copyright in the Digital Age?

How much fair use is allowed till an author's copyright is breached?

The US Supreme Court rules in favour of Google in its long running legal fight with the Authors Guild. The Authors Guild, had claimed that Google breached copyright laws by scanning books without permission but has now lost its appeal to the US Supreme Court. Google began scanning books in 2004, so it could include extracts in a searchable database, and was sued by the Authors Guild in 2005.

Google's database of books lets people search through millions of titles and read passages and selected pages from them. But millions of these books still have copyright. The Authors Guild had argued that the project undermined authors' ability to make money from their work. Google argued that its database was "fair use" of copyright works, saying it was "a card catalogue for the digital age".

Google may have had to pay billions of dollars of damages to authors if it had lost the case. The Authors Guild President Roxana Robinson said: "We believed then and we believe now that authors should be compensated when their work is copied for commercial purposes".

A Google spokeswoman said: "We are grateful that the court has agreed to uphold the decision of the Second Circuit which concluded that Google Books is transformative and consistent with copyright law."

Monday, 18 April 2016

Delhi by Dell

You don't normally think of Indian cities and good infrastructure together. So this report from Dell comes as a surprise.

Times of India reports that Delhi is recognized by Dell as one of 50 future-ready economies globally that are embracing technology for growth. Delhi secured 44th position and is the only Indian city to be featured in the list. San Jose and San Francisco in California along with Singapore are the top three cities around the world for embracing technology to be future-ready.

According to the Dell Future-Ready Economies Model, The cities positioned in the Global 50 ranking were evaluated along three dimensions-- human capital, infrastructure and commerce. Research for the Dell Future-Ready Economies Model began during the 2015 Strategic Innovation Summit hosted by the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard University in September 2015 and is based on analysis conducted by economic data forecasting and analytics firm IHS.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Law of Unintended Consequences: FinTech

FinTech is forcing banks to compete with and join with tech companies who have entered into financial services. Some regulators are sounding a word of caution.

Economic Times reports that a top Federal Reserve official on Tuesday warned that while financial technologies that enable online loans, digital currencies or other innovations hold great promise, they must be regulated with an eye to protecting consumers from unintended consequences. "It's not that regulators are here to call the cops on the party; we're here to make sure no one jumps off the roof," San Francisco Fed President  John Williams said in remarks prepared for delivery to the LendIt USA 2016 conference here. "And while we see the potential in innovation, we're also looking at the other side of the coin."

Williams does not write the rules for regulating new financial technologies, and did not speak to specific rules or companies. But the Fed as a whole, along with other regulators, is taking an increasing interest in them. In Williams' view, they have the potential to help the economy and financial system run more smoothly and at lower cost, but also could penalize already marginalized groups or be used to aid terrorism or make the global financial system less stable. Williams, who described his own comments as "dour" and "unfun," injected a bit of a chill into the two-day conference that featured dozens of businesses hawking the benefits of new technologies for everybody from the unbanked to small businesses and in between.  "I don't want to see fintech's positive potential hijacked to become a source of new, more powerful platforms to prey on consumers on a massive scale," he said. Nor should fintech businesses expect to escape regulation if they perform the same services as traditional financial institutions. "If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it should be regulated like a duck," he said.  

Friday, 15 April 2016

Modi Transforming Indian Agriculture with Digital India

Modi is slowly but surely transforming the Indian agricultural market under the Digital India banner. Lets hope it benefits the farmers. Getting rural communities online in this way will also boost Internet and mobile penetration in India.

Times of India the Indian government will integrate 21 regulated wholesale markets, or mandis, in eight states under an online platform on Thursday as part of the proposed National Agriculture Market (NAM).

"On April 14, on the 125 birth anniversary of BR Ambedkar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch the e-trading platform — NAM — which proposes to integrate 585 regulated wholesale market or agriculture produce market committees (APMCs) under one electronic platform," said agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh said on Wednesday.

This will ensure farmers get competitive returns and consumers get stable prices and steady availability, he said. NAM is envisaged as a pan-India electronic trading portal that seeks to network the existing Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) and other market yards to create a unified national market for farm commodities.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Global Virtual Network Operators soon to come to India

Competition in mobile communication and data services in India is getting fierce with global players wanting a share of the market.

Times of India reports that Virgin Mobile, Lebara Mobile and Tune Talk - well known globally as mobile virtual network operators (MVNO) - may shortly foray into India. Hyderabad-based Xius, a supplier of mobile infrastructure solutions and payments technology, will soon approach the three global MVNO brands to launch their services in India, chief executive GV Kumar told ET.

"Apart from initiating talks with Virgin, Lebara and Tune Talk, we will also approach large mobile carriers in the Gulf who may be keen to don the MVNO hat to enter India, especially to offer customized products to their Indian expat customers frequently travelling home," the Xius CEO added. Xius's plans come on the heels of it partnering with UK's Hebitel, a global MVNO management consulting firm, to help international MVNOs foray into India. The Xius-Hebitel partnership was announced earlier this month after the Modi government allowed MVNOs to set up shop in India. 

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Governments look to gain tax revenues from the digital economy

As e-commerce and m-commerce grow, governments are looking to gain tax revenues from the digital economy. Just as a few Indian states have tried, local and national governments find e-commerce as easy pickings for taxation.

Times of India that Israel is to start collecting value added tax (VAT) and income taxes from foreign companies that do substantial business over the Internet in Israel. Under new guidelines issued by the Israel Tax Authority on Monday, foreign companies that operate websites and sell various services such as advertising and brokerage will be subject to 17 percent VAT as well as income tax on their activities in Israel.

Companies expected to be affected include Alphabet's Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Ebay. These and other companies that do a lot of business in Israel will be required to register with authorities as an approved enterprise so that transactions are liable for VAT. Until now, a foreign company's income from providing services in Israel was only subject to tax if it was generated in Israel. A company would be liable for tax only if its activity rendered it a "permanent establishment."

Monday, 11 April 2016

Banking Mobility: Native Integration

Just as PC makers first started bundling Microsoft operating system and and other software services onto their PCs, now smartphone makers are bundling (or 'natively integrating' as the phrase goes) services such as digital wallets onto their smartphones. And companies are partnering with smartphone makers to get their services in front of the increasingly mobile consumer.

Times of India reports that domestic handset maker Micromax will now integrate a new wallet offering, powered by Visa and TranServ, for its smartphone users as it looks to beef up its services business. The Gurgaon-based firm, which had partnered TranServ in December last year, is relying heavily on payments as part of its overall service strategy.

"Payment is very critical to the overall service strategy for Micromax... Almost all the new smartphone products will have this wallet as natively integrated in them. Existing users of Micromax smartphones will also get this upgrade," Micromax co-founder Vikas Jain told PTI. He added the company has partnered Visa and TranServ to offer unique digital solutions specifically designed to meet the demands of the "mobile-first" Indian consumers.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Surge Pricing - Old Practice with a Digital Makeover

Surge pricing causes governments to take action against digital disruptors. Surge pricing, although not a new phenomenon, is more easily done by online businesses where customers book services online. Surge Pricing - increasing prices when demand exceeds supply - is an old practice that business, such as airlines and hotels have been using for years and even in some cases deliberately limiting supply to keep prices up. Digital disruptors have become convenient scapegoats despite many other businesses using surge pricing of one sort or another.

Times of India reports that Karnataka succeeded in doing to cab aggregators what even the New York mayor failed to do, despite some intense efforts for two years. The state has significantly constrained the aggregators' ability to do what is called surge pricing, raising prices during periods when demand for cabs exceeds supply -- at peak hours these could be three and four times the regular fare.

On Thursday, a day after the official announcement about capping fares at Rs 19.50 for AC cabs and Rs 14.50 for non-AC cabs, both Uber and Ola stopped surge pricing. Repeated checks by TOI during peak hours showed that prices remained stable.

Uber and Ola have so far declined to comment on the state's move, but Uber has said many times in the past that surge pricing is an essential part of its operations, that by raising prices during peak hours, it encourages its drivers to get out on the road to keep up with increased demand. It is also widely believed that these higher prices contribute significantly to the aggregators' revenues and to drivers' incomes.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Hyperlink Copyright

Can your website go viral without others displaying a hyperlink to your site? Copyright on the Internet is still a thorny issue for many.

Times of India reports that a link to a website which publishes photos without authorisation of the author does not in itself constitute a copyright infringement, an adviser to Europe's top court said on Thursday.

The opinion, by the European Court of Justice's Advocate General, is not binding but the court normally follows such advice. While European Union rules say every act of communication of a copyrighted work has to be cleared by the copyright owner, it would be to the detriment of the Internet to make hyperlinks fall under these rules, the Advocate General said.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Banks don't have it all their own way: Digital Disruption

Media reports that Barclays Bank now allows its customers to use Apple Pay in the UK. Barclays had its own digital wallet service but now appears to have conceded to customer pressure. But Barclays has indicated that it has no plans to allow its customers to use Android Pay or Samsung Pay when they come to the UK.

Barclays tried to play King Canute for a while but even multinational banks have to bow to pressure from the tech firms getting into digital payments.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Indian Public Sector Gets the Digital Craze

A number of Indian public sector undertakings (PSUs) are getting in on the e-commerce, Digital India craze. With IndiaPost making moves to helping e-commerce firms deliver goods to  Banks getting in on digital mobile payments to Doordarshan now streaming digital TV services to smartphones.

Times of India reports that aiming to attract the growing number of smartphone users, Public Broadcaster Doordarshan has started beaming free TV services to mobile phones in 16 cities, including the four metros. In a statement here, the broadcaster said Digital Terrestrial Television services of Doordarshan have started operation from February 25 in 16 cities, thereby providing mobile TV to the users.

The sixteen cities are Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Guwahati, Patna, Ranchi, Cuttack, Lucknow, Jalandhar, Raipur, Indore, Aurangabad, Bhopal, Bangalore and Ahmedabad. Mobile TV can be received in and around these cities using DVB-T2 dongles in OTG enabled smartphones and tablets, wi-fi dongles for moving vehicles, besides the TV sets having built-in DVB-T2 tuner which are called Integrated Digital TV (iDTV).