Thursday, 30 July 2015

Digital Disruption of Labour

Times of India reports that the on-demand labour model is all but flourishing in India. Recognizing the power of a marketplace to bring on disorganized supply and demand, following the success of the cab aggregation model, various products and services ranging from laundry to last-mile delivery are also adopting a log-in, log-out approach to bring on suppliers and service providers.

And yet the touted model is showing its first signs of flounder where it all started. In the Bay Area and across the US, on-demand startups have been slammed by worker classification lawsuits from part-time contractors demanding employee benefits. Home services marketplace Homejoy, backed by Google Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz among others, shut down amid such allegations; while Uber was most recently charged with a $7.3 million fine in California. With startups on this side of the world increasingly providing protection and benefits to lure on more providers onto their tech platforms, will the model be at risk?

UK has had similar concerns with its zero hours labour contracts, Digital disruption is disrupting labour practices also.

Is there Light at the End of the Tunnel for Calais Migrants?

News of the Migrant situation in Calais, France is causing huge concern in Britain. Probably no-one expected the Channel Tunnel would be used like this when it was built. Calais has changed drastically in the last decade or so with more and more migrants gathering there to get to the UK. Lorry drivers face daily challenges. But most likely the governments of France and Britain will be unable to tackle the root cause of this problem.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

IT Without the IT Personnel: Will HR Become Obsolete?

Economic Times reports that India's $146-billion information technology (IT) industry is consistently haemorrhaging more people than ever before, even as the sector and large companies such as Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Infosys achieve greater size and scale with each passing year. Over the last four quarters, India's largest software exporters TCS, Wipro and Infosys combined have lost roughly over 100,000 people between them, ET's analysis shows.
According to at least two CEOs of India's top 10 outsourcing firms, metrics like gross addition of employees are becoming increasingly irrelevant and companies are also strategically starting to manage attrition, amid the advent of automation and emergence of newer technologies such as cloud computing. 

Avoiding Digital Dementia

BBC News reports "A new kind of memory technology is going into production, which is up to 1,000 times faster than the Nand flash storage used in memory cards and computers' solid state drives (SSDs). The innovation is called 3D XPoint, and is the invention of Intel and Micron. The two US companies predict a wide range of benefits, from speeding up scientific research to making more elaborate video games. One expert described it as a "huge step forward". "There are other companies who have talked about new types of memory technology, but this is about being able to manufacture the stuff - that's why they are making such a big deal out of it," says Bob O'Donnell, from the consultancy Technalysis."

Faster memory technology will benefit m-commerce also.

SJP @DigitalAsian

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Reducing Uninstalls: Getting Indian Consumers to Go Mobile

Times of India reports that whenever Jafer Khan, a 22-year-old student in Chennai, runs low on money for mobile data, he sends his two cents' worth to the country's largest e-commerce firms. He makes a quick buck filling surveys on which mobile application introductions failed to convince him or by reviewing new app features. Khan may not know it but he is essential to the mobile strategies of online marketplaces, which onboard people like him through tech startups for a raft of services such as feedback on demand and Big Data-driven push notifications that nudge cart-abandoning consumers to complete their purchases. 

At least half a dozen ventures have emerged around the estimated Rs 94,500-crore ($15 billion) Indian e-commerce industry, capitalizing on its bid to fuel transactions on mobile phones and reduce app uninstalls and find ways to push consumerism as the small screen becomes the dominant portal for online shopping. Airloyal, which runs customer engagement for e-retailers with its nearly 70 lakh users including Khan, helped ShopClues retain more of its app users. "By running interesting surveys about a retention campaign, we were able to help increase their usual retention by over 50%," said Raja Hussain, founder and CEO of Airloyal, which has earned Rs 30 crore in revenue in its first year of business. 

The growing Indian e-commerce sector is trying to find news ways to connect with the consumer. At this stage its all about retaining the consumer and attracting new ones onto the mobile platform through apps.

Laundered London: Shelling Out for a Home?

BBC News reports "Homes in the UK are being bought by foreigners with "plundered or laundered cash", David Cameron is to warn. The prime minister will vow to expose the use of "anonymous shell companies" to buy properties. His comments will come in a speech in Singapore about corruption where he will urge the international community to "step up and tackle" the problem. Mr Cameron will say they UK "must not become a safe haven for corrupt money from around the world". The prime minister is on a four-day tour of South East Asia, also visiting Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam."

London's financial centre is a magnet for the wealthy from abroad. These people need homes in London.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

American Sport of Extreme Lobbying: Going over to the Dark Side

New legislation is passing through the American Legislature dubbed the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 which will not require genetically modified food to be labelled as genetically modified.Its critics are calling it the Denying Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act.

Its amazing how corporate lobbyists in America manage to get legislation that does virtually the exact opposite of what the name of the act suggests.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

What Tech Company will upstage Amazon?

Times of India reports that it's official: Amazon is bigger than Wal-Mart.  Amazon shares surged almost 10% on Friday after the e-commerce powerhouse reported a surprise second-quarter profit and a better-than-expected 20% jump in revenue.  The sharp increase in shares brought Amazon's market value to $247.77 billion, more than its biggest rival, Wal-Mart Stores Inc, signaling a sea change in retailing. Amazon, which just turned 20, is now valued higher than the world's largest retailer.

Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart Stores is valued at about $230.53 billion. The company, with 11,767 stores worldwide, still has much higher sales, $485.65 billion in the year ended January 31, compared with Amazon's $89 billion in annual revenue last year.  But investors applauded Amazon's ability to keep costs in check while growing its revenue. Amazon credited the profit to continued strength of its cloud-computing business and strong revenue growth both domestically and abroad. That came as it held costs for marketing and package delivery in check.

A company's market value is calculated by multiplying the number of shares of stock it has in circulation by the current price of one share.  It was the second usurper in two months to Wal-Mart's value. Last month Facebook became more highly valued than the world's largest retailer, knocking it out of the top 10 list of the highest-valued companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 index.
This shows the change in consumer habits from going to your local supermarket to buying online. Some years ago the talk was of Microsoft upstaging IBM. Now firms like Amazon upstage Wal-Mart. What technology will upstage Amazon next?

Friday, 24 July 2015

COD Wars in India: Cash on Delivery E-commerce

Times of India reports that city-based Gurudatt Nadiger started selling containers, vessels and other home requirements on major e-commerce platforms this February. After five months and over 15,000 units sold, Nadiger realized that he had lost more than he had gained, particularly when product after sold product was returned to him.

"If a consumer orders a product and then returns it, I have to pay for the logistics for both ways, plus commission, plus tax. For a product costing as less as Rs 200, if the customer returns it, we incur Rs 80-100 on all this," he said. Cancellations and returns are a big problem that all online sellers face. The risk is especially high in sales made through cash on delivery (COD) mode of payment, which has been one of the defining pillars of India's e-commerce boom. 

While the number of mobile wallet users is estimated to jump five-fold from the current 3 crore to 15 crore by 2019, COD still accounts for 60% of all e-commerce orders, according to financial advisory firm Motilal Oswal. "In COD, a customer is not committed to the purchase, but the seller still ships the product. Consumers today are not willing to wait longer than two days and might buy the product elsewhere and reject the delivery," Nadiger said.

E-tailers are subject to the terms of the digital marketplace on which their goods are sold. Digital marketplaces such as Flipkart and Amazon are working very hard to attract the maximum number of e-tailers to their marketplaces. But e-tailers should read the small print in the terms and conditions.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Digital Dangers for Drivers

BBC News reports that "Several car infotainment systems are vulnerable to a hack attack that could potentially put lives at risk, a leading security company has said. NCC Group said the exploit could be used to seize control of a vehicle's brakes and other critical systems. The Manchester-based company told the BBC it had found a way to carry out the attacks by sending data via digital audio broadcasting (DAB) radio signals. It coincides with news of a similar flaw discovered by two US researchers. Chris Valasek and Charlie Miller showed Wired magazine that they could take control of a Jeep Cherokee car by sending data to its internet-connected entertainment and navigation system via a mobile-phone network. Chrysler has released a patch to address the problem. However, NCC's work - which has been restricted to its labs - points to a wider problem."

Digital dangers for drivers. People will begin ordering cars with old-fashioned analogue radios.

An Apple a day does not keep the lobbyists away

Times of India reports that Apple is looking to hire a government affairs officer for India, a first for the iconic maker of iPhones that is focusing on the South Asian market more keenly in 2015 as sales have soared on the back of discounts and buybacks, while demand for its latest devices has surpassed expectations. The new hire will represent Cupertino-based Apple's position on key issues with policy makers and within trade associations, besides developing and maintaining relationships with key stakeholders. Apple has a team of about 200 people in India but doesn't have anyone liaising with the government.

The Delhi-based senior manager will "support government and institutional engagement in India, representing Apple on key policy issues. The role necessitates an understanding of the regulatory and policy environment and its impact on Apple," it said in a job post on on Monday night. There was no response to queries emailed to Apple as of press time on Tuesday. India has become a crucial market in which the iPhone maker has been rapidly pushing sales, offering discounts and increasing its retail presence with plans to create smaller-sized stores. The firm even started midnight sales in India when it launched the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in October the previous year.

An Apple a day does not keep the lobbyists away.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Credit Where Credit is Due: Asian Financial Services

With the launch of the new BRICS bank, the Washington based IMF and World Bank will face some competition.

Next most likely arena for competition will be the credit rating agencies. Economies like China will want a greater say in how the credit rating agencies are run or they may start their own.

Asian economies are growing and want further involvement and say in international financial services which are predominantly American and European based.

SJP @DigitalAsian

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Turning the Tables on Walmart: E-commerce in India

Times of India reports that after starting a business-to-business e-commerce site, Walmart Stores is now eyeing the sale of fashion products directly to Indian consumers. Walmart is exploring the possibility of selling its 'George' brand of clothing and home products on third-party e-commerce sites, according to a person familiar with the development. "Walmart is in a very early stage of exploring the market for George," the person said, asking not to be identified.

"George is Walmart's largest private label and is a more than $2 billion brand." The person said the world's biggest retailer wants to capitalize on the growth of the fashion market in India. George is owned by Asda Stores, the UK retailer that Walmart acquired in 1999.

"I'm afraid I don't have any details to share. We're constantly reviewing markets where we believe George will perform well, but there's no more to it than that," Jo Newbould, a Bentonville-based Walmart spokesperson, said in an e-mailed reply.

Walmart, which posted consolidated net sales of $482.2 billion in fiscal 2015, is trying to get a toehold in India's e-commerce market, where its biggest US rival Amazon is making waves. India's e-retailing segment has been growing at 56% a year, swelling to Rs 13,900 crore annually in 2012-13 from Rs 1,500 crore in 2007-08, according to Crisil.

Now Walmart is supplying its goods through a third-party digital marketplace in India rather than being the marketplace itself which sells goods of suppliers. Turning the tables on bricks-and-mortar supermarkets.

Gissajob India

The Vyapam Scam that is in the news may be just the tip of the iceberg in India. Corruption surrounding the awarding of qualifications, jobs and posts is notorious in India. This reduces the faith people have in professionals being properly qualified to do their jobs.

The Prime Minister Narendra Modi's programme Skill India should address this problem.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Digital Diagnosis: Your Smartphone Says a Lot about You

Times of India reports that the more time you spend on your mobile phone, the more likely you are suffering from depression, says a study. According to researchers, depression can be detected from your smartphone sensor data by tracking the number of minutes you use the phone and your daily geographical locations. The team from Northwestern University found that the average daily usage for depressed individuals was about 68 minutes.

For non-depressed individuals, it was about 17 minutes. Spending most of your time at home and most of your time in fewer locations was also linked to depression. Also, having a less regular day-to-day schedule, leaving your house and going to work at different times each day, for example, is also linked to depression. "With phone sensor and GPS data, we can detect if a person has depressive symptoms and the severity of those symptoms without asking them any questions," said senior study author David Mohr from Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. Phones can provide data unobtrusively and with no effort on the part of the user.

With facial recognition software developing fast and news that Facebook's Oculus is going to buy gesture-recognition firm Pebbles Interfaces, our  mobile phones can tell a lot about us. This information would be very useful for employers and insurers.

Friday, 17 July 2015

India Begins to Address the Problem: Location, Location, Location

Times of India reports that as e-commerce and last-mile delivery services are making their way into the daily lives of urban India, the holes of the country's largely incomplete address system are starting to show. Any end customer can relate to the lamentable experience of trying to communicate directions to a government employee or a delivery boy armed with jewellery, a letter from a loved one, or the day's lunch.

Seeing this, startups such as Zippr and wWhere have come up to 'revolutionize' the location data industry, overwriting obsolete addressing systems with specific short codes that, if all goes according to plan, are to be shared with governments and delivery providers alike to facilitate hassle-free and efficient services.

Zippr lets users create random four-digit, four-number codes that identify any dwelling, slums included. "We want to produce a standardized form of address, and then integrate services from both the private sector as well as the government to provide services for citizens," said Parikshith Reddy, marketing and partnerships director.

The company, which has raised Rs 6 crore from the Indian Angel Network, has already run pilots with governments in Hyderabad and Vijayawada to roll out its coding system, and is in talks with governments in Delhi and Mumbai.

India is beginning to address the problem of location data. In e-commerce it's all about location, location, location.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Banking Empire Strikes Back: Battle for your Digital Dollar

Economic Times reports that shaken by the online shopping frenzy, a string of high-street banks like SBI, Axis and Yes will launch mobile wallets to take on pre-paid issuers like Paytm and MobiKwik who lure customers with easy payment option and attractive retail offerings. 

M-wallets — electronic saving accounts that can be used for shopping using mobile handsets — would help banks overcome the edge that pre-paid users have. Till now, banks have been pushing products like Internet banking and credit or debit cards as more and more customers turn familiar with online transactions. 

But even as card spends rose, banks were with competition from a new animal - m-wallets. These new breed of service providers had an advantage over banks: while a bank customer using debit or credit card for online payment has to key in details like the 11-digit card number, the card's expiry date and card verification value, a m-wallet user can close a transaction by keying in a single 4- or 5-digit password. 

Banks and the finance industry are fighting back against the tech companies for your digital dollar.

300: Greece and Iran Deals

News of the Greek and Iran deals is dominating the media. While the bailout deal for Greece is being condemned, the nuclear deal for Iran is getting a better response. Both deals have risks that they will unravel in the future for various reasons. Both countries have been in the hot seat. Greeks are very unhappy at their deal while Iranians see a brighter future.

SJP @DigitalAsian