Showing posts from April, 2015

The Idea Buying Business: Collecting Patents

Times of India reports that Google Inc said it would launch an experimental portal that allows interested patent holders to sell their patents to the company. Patent holders can tell Google about the patents they're willing to sell and the expected price through the portal, the company said on its blog. The Patent Purchase Promotion programme will remain open from May 8 to May 22, the company said on Monday.  Google said it will let the submitters know of its interest in buying their patents by June 26 and expects to pay the sellers by late August. 
The giant tech firms have the cash to buy ideas and become repositories of intellectual property.
SJP @DigitalAsian

Keeping Customers APPy: Startups Going Mobile Only

Should e-commerce firms kill the website? Times of India reports that even as a debate rages about Flipkart's decision to be available to customers only through its mobile app by next year, a growing crop of startups is considering tracing the path charted by India's most valuable online retailer. At least half-a-dozen startups ET spoke with said they are firming plans to channel efforts and marketing dollars entirely on their mobile applications. Among these are local services startups Zopper, Doormint and LocalOye; online-first restaurants Holachef and Spoonjoy; online dating startup Truly-Madly; and on-demand grocery delivery firm PepperTap.
Leapfrogging bricks and mortar and even websites and going straight to mobile only devices? Indian entrepreneurs are betting heavily on mobile devices, particularly smartphones. This will also mean digital mobile payments will get a boost.

SJP @DigitalAsian

Licence to Kill ... the Competition

Times of India reports that to have a level-playing field, telecom operators have proposed a licensing regime for over-the-top (OTT) players like WhatsApp and Skype, a view which is opposed by Internet firms and associations. This comes after all the stakeholders submitted their comments on Trai's consultation paper on net neutrality. April 24 was the last day to summit the comments.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has released the name and email IDs of over one million people who gave their comments on the consultation paper. The telecom operators said they should be allowed to offer services based on mutual agreements with the OTT players. "There is a pressing need to find a fair regulatory and commercial solution especially for VOIP telephony services, which if not addressed could endanger the entire Digital India programme of the Government," Vodafone India said in its comments on Trai's consultation paper on regulatory framework for OTT service…

Digital Monopoly: Pro-Trust or Anti-Trust?

The Gurdian reports that "Digital monopolies are growing fast. Investors demand nothing less. But shouldn’t we, as citizens, demand something, too? Shouldn’t we have some recourse if Facebook decides to manipulate an election, or Google disappears a favourite firm from its all-important rankings? Free market fundamentalists have a quick rejoinder at the ready: digital monoliths are simply too complex for regulators to understand. They believe that no one outside of big firms should scrutinise their inner workings, unless the firms have behaved in an obviously illegal way.
But suspicious things often happen on social networks and search engines – for example, the downranking of a Google competitor, or the sudden favouring of some friend of Facebook’s on its EdgeRank algorithm. Virtually any reshuffling of online life can be rationalised, post hoc, as an “attempt to improve user experience”. But what if we don’t believe it? In the United States, competition regulators have largely…

Ratan Tata investing in the Digital Economy

Economic Times reports that Ratan Tata has invested an undisclosed amount in China's largest smartphone maker, Xiaomi, making him the first Indian investor in the world's most valued technology startup, which raised $1.1 billion last year. Xiaomi, the smartphone maker that's valued at $45 billion, becomes the sixth investment in the digital economy space for 76-year-old Tata, chairman emeritus of Tata Sons. 
"Mr Tata is one of the most well-respected business leaders in the world. An investment by him is an affirmation of the strategy we have undertaken in India so far," Lei Jun, founder and CEO of Xiaomi, said in a statement on Sunday, announcing the investment.  "Xiaomi is one of the fastest-growing companies in the world. It has brought its innovative business model and high quality products to India with huge success," Tata said in a statement, which Xiaomi's India operations head Manu Jain shared with ET. 
Since his retirement, Ratan Tata seem…

Digital Payments Disrupting Financial Services

Times of India reports that more than a year ago, activist-investor Carl Icahn pushed for a split of eBay and PayPal, saying the payment business on its own could grow to $100 billion. eBay eventually agreed to the split and now some valuation estimates floating for Paypal put it at around $40 billion.
As a business, Paypal is now growing faster than eBay's e-commerce business. That's the writing on the wall that several investors are looking at in India, as action in the payments business hots up.
In India, Naspers, which has several Internet investments, backed entrepreneur Nitin Gupta to set up payment firm PayU in 2011. Early this month, mobile wallet firm One Mobikwik Systems announced a $25-million funding round, with Cisco Investments and American Express coming in as new investors. It has said it will raise another $100 million in the latter half of 2015. ET recently reported that private equity fund TA Associates would grow its holding in payment gateway firm Billdes…

Love Over Gold: Unlocking Value in India

Economic Times reports that Indians are among the world's largest consumers of gold, importing at least $34.3 billion worth of the precious metal for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2015. "The broad contours of the plan are ready. It would be made public in a week," a finance ministry official told ET. The government is keen to make the scheme attractive and a draft seeking comments from the public will be released soon. 
Under the terms of the proposed scheme, the deposited precious metals will be melted and the gold in the jewellery would be credited in the name of the depositor. The depositor would earn interest on the value of gold on the day of deposit. The investor would be paid cash equal to the value of the gold on that day if he seeks to withdraw from the scheme or it matures.
The scheme will essentially allow a depositor to earn an income from his gold holdings while his basic investment is protected. It is expected to help organisations such as temple trusts …

Marveling at the Digital Technology

Marvel Comic characters such as Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and Avengers are doing very well at the Box Office where the films are making billions of US$. This may be due in part to the digital technology that is now available to make the characters seem more realistic on screen for viewer entertainment. The digital technology now available to film producers and the avenues that they have to distribute their films means viewers are getting a better viewing experience.

SJP @DigitalAsian

Poor Service by Telecom Operators: Call Dropping in India

Times of India reports that Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said the Department of Telecom (DoT) will soon call a meeting of all service providers to look into the problem of frequent call drops being faced by customers. "I have asked my officials to call a meeting of all service providers regarding call drops faced by customers," Prasad told PTI. Operators will be asked to improve quality of service, he added. 
A group of BJP MPs have also complained to the minister regarding frequent 'call dropping', excess billing and non-transparency by some private telecom operators. The parliamentarians demanded action against the private telecom operators after proper investigation and alleged that the companies were not hearing complaints of the customers. Mobile phone users have been complaining about the call drops, but telecom operators have not lived up to their expectations to rectify the problems and provide a good communication network. Instead, the operators…

India's Doordarshan Plays Leapfrog with Digital Mobile Technology

Times of India reports that public broadcaster Prasar Bharati is experimenting with a pilot project to let people watch TV channels directly on their smartphones, without using Internet or telecom broadband, in an ambitious attempt to reach the largest number of audience ever. "When the world was moving from terrestrial to satellite, Doordarshan was only moving backward. Now the only way to leapfrog is to use the existing infrastructure along with new technologies," Jawahar Sircar, CEO at Prasar Bharati. 
To begin with, Prasar Bharati plans to create a bouquet of around 20 free-to-air channels, including top DD channels and some popular free-to-air channels operated by big private broadcasters. The idea is to catch the new age on-the-go viewers who are spending a lot of time on smartphones and tablets. According to Sircar, Prasar Bharati just needs to upgrade its existing infrastructure to achieve this goal. 
There are a large number of installed transmitters that can be us…

Digital Banking for the Unbanked

Times of India reports that the Reserve Bank of India has said that it is not averse to banks entering into joint ventures with e-commerce firms to smoothen payments or appointing them as business correspondents for acquiring new customers. Integrating e-commerce with their own platforms will allow banks to work around the two-factor authentication requirement while doing transactions.
To ensure reliability of banking transactions in the mobile space, RBI has asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to give priority to banking transaction over others while messaging. The central bank has also asked Trai to bring down the present fee of Rs 1.50 per banking transaction using the *99# Unstructured Supplementary Service Data messaging service.
Speaking at the launch of Axis Bank's Suvidhaa Prepaid Card in Mumbai on Monday, RBI deputy governor H R Khan said that there is a need to use multiple instruments to promote banking. "We need to allow many flowers to bloom,&…

And the Search Goes On: Search Engines for Smartphones

Times of India reports that Google is about to change the way its influential search engine recommends websites on smartphones and tablets in a shift that's expected to sway where millions of people shop, eat and find information.
The revised formula, scheduled to be released on Tuesday, will favor websites that Google defines as 'mobile-friendly.' Websites that don't fit the description will be demoted in Google's search results on smartphones and tablets while those meeting the criteria will be more likely to appear at the top of the rankings — a prized position that can translate into more visitors and money.
Although Google's new formula won't affect searches on desktop and laptop computers, it will have a huge influence on how and where people spend their money, given that more people are relying on their smartphones to compare products in stores and look for restaurants. That's why Google's new rating system is being billed by some search exp…

Search for Speed in India: Data Demand in India

Economic Times reports that Google is considering setting up a caching, or mirror, server in India which will enable the Internet major to throw up search results quicker and YouTube videos to load faster in the country which is going through a data explosion, thanks to surging smartphone sales. The US search giant has had initial discussions with fibre manufacturer Sterlite Technologies to co-locate the servers wherever the Indian company's fibre network is being created, Anand Agarwal, chief executive of the Vedanta Group company, told ET. 
"Google is high in search and high on videos and the fibre infrastructure is going to be very critical for videos from the bandwidth perspective and for search for the latency perspective," Agarwal said. "It would bring down costs as well." A cache server is a dedicated network server that saves Web pages and other Internet content locally. By placing previously requested information in temporary storage, or cache, the se…

Startup Ideas in India Gaining Interest

Times of India reports that 4 Indian startups — Grofers, myNoticePeriod, SilverPush and News in Shorts — are among the top 11 Asian ventures that went from seed funding to series A funding the fastest in recent times. These Asian startups outshone their European peers, going from seed to series A in an average of 427 days compared to the 465 days that the European startups took, as per data put together by research firm CB Insights. The study looked at companies that raised their last round of financing in 2014 or after.
CB Insights also looked at the startups that went from series A to B the fastest. Here, three Indian startups — Culture Machine Media, Locon Solutions and TinyOwl —were among the top 10 Asian ones. Ravi Gururaj, chairman of the Nasscom Product Council, says Indian startups are demonstrating traction early on for investors to engage with these companies. And that, he says, is happening because the Indian market has hit a critical mass of online users, because of the m…

Banking on Mobile Technology

Times of India reports technology companies pose a competitive threat to established lenders, the head of Royal Bank of Canada has said, adding he was keen to work with start-ups to improve the company's mobile offerings. RBC chief executive David McKay said he was positioning Canada's largest bank to compete with technology firms that have expanded into the money-moving business but don't "bear the financial and social costs of a deposit taking organisation, nor the obligations of financial regulation." 
"Many of these new entrants are excellent competitors - innovative, driven, and responsive to their clients, but they also may distort the financial system with unintended risks that regulators cannot clearly see," he told the bank's annual general meeting in Toronto. The CEO did not specify which companies he was speaking about. But banks in Canada and abroad took notice last year when Apple Inc launched its Apple Pay service, which allows consum…

Streaming: The Quest for Digital Content

Times of India reports that Apple Inc has approached more than a dozen musicians, including British band Florence and the Machine, in an effort to sign exclusive deals for some of their music to be streamed on Beats, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The company is in talks with Florence and the Machine to give Apple limited streaming rights to a track from their album set to be released in June, Bloomberg said. Apple has also approached Taylor Swift and others about partnerships, the report said. Apple declined to comment. 
Beats Music will be re-launched in coming months. There will be a $9.99-a-month subscription for individuals and a family plan for $14.99, according to sources, Bloomberg said. Music streaming service Tidal, launched last month by rapper Jay Z, is also trying to convince artists to sign exclusive deals for their content, to fend off competition from services such as Spotify and Google Inc's YouTube. 
Tech giants are now in the busine…

Full Rupee Convertibility on the Cards?

Economic Times reports that Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan on Friday signaled the country may be on course to have full convertibility of the currency without mentioning a time frame, a debate which commenced nearly two decades ago. The controversial base rate concept could be scrapped if a benchmark for pricing credit such as loans and bonds is established, he said. 
Speaking to students at the Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics in Pune, Rajan said, "We hope to get full capital account convertibility in a short number of years," in response to a question on the policy stance on foreign investment in India. He did not elaborate. Capital account convertibility refers to the freedom to convert local financial assets into foreign financial assets, and vice versa. It is associated with changes of ownership in foreign and domestic financial assets and liabilities.
The current regime is liberal when it comes to portfolio investments by foreigners, but ther…

Digital India a Fundamental Right?

Times of India reports that the political class jumped into the burning issue of net neutrality with Parliamentarians Tathagata Satpathy and Rajeev Chandrasekhar saying that any move to allow telecom operators to charge subscribers separately for using some apps would restrict people's access to Internet and go against the Prime Minister's vision of Digital India.
In a recent letter to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) Chairman Rahul Khullar, Satpathy, an MP from Odisha representing the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), backed the concept of net neutrality, which envisages that service providers will treat all data on the Internet equally and not impose differential pricing or discriminate among users, content sites, platforms and apps, also known as over-the-top (OTT) services. "You (Trai) have asked for suggestions about charging separately for OTT services. I see this as a detrimental move that is putting conditions on the access of Internet," Satpathy wrote. 

Street Lights and Moonlight in Mumbai

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SJP @DigitalAsian

I Want it Now Generation: E-commerce Delivery

Times of India reports that the postman will now deliver your Amazon orders a tad faster. From April 6, he'll be at your doorstep the same day that you place the order. The Karnataka Postal Circle has collaborated with the e-commerce major to deliver shipments to all Bengaluru PIN codes. They'll be handed over to the Amazon booking centre at 10am and delivered to respective addresses through nodal delivery centres by 8pm. Union minister for communication and IT Ravi Shankar Prasad inaugurated the service on Thursday. At present, the postal circle is booking about one lakh e-commerce consignments at an average value of Rs 2 crore a month. To cater to growing needs, a nodal e-commerce business centre with a built-up area of 5,000 sqft was inaugurated by the minister via video conference. 
The facility in Yelahanka, 17 km en route to KIA, enjoys good air connectivity and is accessible to e-tailers's warehouses. "With the Yelahanka facility and a few more expected in the…

Not Far from the Madding Crowd: Crowdfunding Startups in India

Economic Times reports that late last month a significant piece of legislation was passed in the US. The Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2012, finally introduced a rule that now allows anyone and everyone to invest in startups. Citizens in the US (known as non-accredited investors) are now allowed to participate in equity crowdfunding and investment in startups and small businesses. The new rules state that startups now have the option to raise either $ 20 million or $ 50 million through two alternate ways. 
The first option or, Tier I allow startups to raise $ 20 million from ordinary citizens and these companies are not required to perform formal audits and annual reporting. Tier II offerings on the other hand, allows you to raise $ 50 million from the crowd, but will need to have audited Financials and annual reporting of its statements.
With regulatory burden significantly lower, the decision to get the crowd invo…

Procuring Change in India

Times of India reports that all employment exchanges in India are expected to get linked by the end of April in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's promise of improving job prospects for young people, just over five months after the Department of Employment and Training put out a tender for the purpose. The tender was fast-tracked, the bid awarded in three weeks and the system is expected to go live much faster than could have been imagined in the past, when just issuing the request for proposal or RFP and then selecting a winning bid could take months. India's $7-billion (about Rs 43,500 crore) public sector IT market, in the doldrums for several years, is now sputtering back to life as the government pushes to speed up procurement.
"Efforts have been made to cut down the time required to procure, in two ways: one, we are working on technological solutions to avoid the need for departments to buy hardware; the other is that we have a modern RFP template which depar…