Showing posts from May, 2015

World without Websites: App-centric World

With some startups going to App only models and not even with a mobile website, with Google announcing Google Now and its Buy button in its adverts, are we moving more towards mobile apps and away from websites? Mcommerce with Apps rather than websites. Is Google Now aimed at trying to retain Google's dominance in a more App-centric world?

SJP @DigitalAsian

Paying the Piper: Credit and Debit Cards being Edged Out

Times of India reports that Google on Thursday unveiled its pay-with-a-phone system for Android devices, ramping up its challenge to Apple in mobile payments. Android Pay, unveiled at the Google's I/O developer conference in San Francisco, brings together mobile carriers, payment networks, banks and retailers to allow smartphone users to use their handsets instead of payment cards. "We are at the start of an exciting journey, we are working closely with payment networks, banks and developers,"
Credit and debit card companies are being slowly edged out by these new mobile payment systems and digital currencies. You can now leave home without your American Express card :)
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 …

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 o…

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…

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, Gma…

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 b…

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 eBa…

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 c…

Don't Get Horny in Mumbai - Mumbai Photo Library

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SJP @DigitalAsian

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 …

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 bu…

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…

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 operat…

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, engag…

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 f…

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,"…

Follow the Digital Road: Postal Services Go Digital

In Asia, India's postal service IndiaPost and Sigapore's SingPost are now setting up services to cater for the e-commerce boom by providing tailored services to e-commerce companies. The nature of postal services is changing in Asia with e-commerce and m-commerce slowly beginning to dominate. Governments are looking to their postal services to provide new sources of income in the Digital Age.
SJP @DigitalAsian

Automating Logistics in India: E-commerce Hub-ris?

Times of India reports that at courier firm DTDC's Delhi hub, a 25-arm monster sorts packages in lightning speed: 3,600 items an hour, or one in every second. The robotic sorter is one of the highlights of eight automated hubs DTDC is setting up in the country for Rs 50 crore over the next year and half, executive director Abhishek Chakraborty said in a recent interview.
The DTDC initiative is an example of machines increasingly replacing humans at logistics operations as they try to keep up with demand from the fast growing e-commerce segment.
E-commerce companies need third-party support to deliver almost all products they sell, and in a segment where cut-throat competition is the norm, packaging quality and the time taken to deliver the product play a major role in customer stickiness. Companies such as Flipkart, Gojavas and DTDC are investing hundreds of crores to modernize logistics.
These automated hubs are good for e-commerce business but not for job creation in India. Wha…

Indian E-commerce Suppliers Dominated by Online Marketplaces: Tesco Law

Indian online retailers Flipkart and Snapdeal expressed their apprehension at a government meeting called to review if foreign investment in e-commerce should be allowed. "The government must tread this issue with caution to ensure that there is no adverse impact on the growth of (micro, small and medium enterprises) in the country as a result of any policy change," said a spokeswoman for electronic marketplace Snapdeal. 
US-based Amazon, on the other hand, argued for 100% foreign direct investment, or FDI, in online retailers. India does not allow foreign investment in online retail companies that own inventory and sell directly to consumers, a policy that forced firms such as Flipkart to abandon their earlier inventory-based model to become electronic marketplaces. Amazon, too, follows the marketplace model in India. The BJP government is examining whether allowing FDI in e-commerce will give a backdoor entry to foreign multi-brand retailers. 
The present administration i…

Investors Leave Startup Founders with Little Skin in the Game

Economic Times reports that when the contents of Housing CEO Rahul Yadav's caustic resignation became public, the young founder of another successful startup wondered if his edgy behaviour was rooted in his insignificant stakeholding in the online property classifieds company. 
Yadav's letter, questioning the intellect of Housing's venture capital investors, topped months of turmoil at what was considered to be among India's most exciting technology startups, mostly triggered by similar behaviour. Yadav, 26, subsequently apologized and his investors reposed their faith in him, but the incident has trained the spotlight on a festering issue in India's startup industry: Do founders with scant ownership grow to care less about their companies? Just how much stake should they dilute to investors? 
Following eight rounds of capital raising, the latest in October, Housing investors own about 90% of the company, leaving Yadav with 4.57% ownership and chief operating offi…

Digital Content Control

Times of India reports that  in late November, Twitter CFO Anthony Noto accidentally sent a public tweet he'd rather have kept private. "I still think we should buy them," his tweet, which has since been deleted, read. "He is on your schedule for December 15 or 16 - We need to sell him. I have a plan." Noto was most likely trying to send a direct message to Twitter CEO Dick Costolo. And the company he was interested in buying was Mic, tech industry sources tell Business Insider. Mic is a media start-up that has received more than $10 million in financing to become a publication of choice for millennials. 
The sources say Twitter made a loose verbal offer to buy the start-up late last year and that a dollar amount nearing $90 million was discussed. But Mic wasn't interested, and the brief talks never went any further. Mic isn't the only media company Twitter has been interested in. Twitter is in talks to buy the news application Circa, Business Insider …

Digital Voice: Digital Disruption in Telecoms

Times of India reports that growth in data traffic is far from compensating top telecommunications operators for their floundering voice business, even as increasing usage of apps to make calls and Reliance Jio Infocomm's imminent launch further add to their woes. In an industry where competition seems to be returning in full fury, the companies are unable to raise tariffs to cushion the impact. 
Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular both posted higher year-on-year net profit in the fourth quarter ended on March 31. But the former, India's No. 1 telecom operator, posted its first sequential profit fall in six quarters while missing estimates by a long way. Idea, the country's third largest, met the lower end of analyst estimates. 
The standout theme for both was the struggling voice business, which accounts for more than 80% of overall revenue. Revenue per minute (RPM) for Airtel and Idea continued to drop sequentially, this time dropping by 2.4% and 3%, respectively. Revenue f…

Indian IT: Way Forward remains Clouded

India's IT industry is in the news regularly these days. Companies such as Infosys, Wipro, TCS, Tech Mahindra and others are being watched closely. Indian IT industry has seen great success since liberalisation took in India in the 1990's. Now India's software industry is trying to remain relevant in the very fast changing, chaotic, digital mobile world where startups are disrupting major industries. India's software industry needs innovation and ideation to avoid being left behind. New technologies such as cloud computing are one of the ideas being put forward where Indian IT should get involved. At the moment the best way forwarded for the industry seems clouded and unclear.
SJP @DigitalAsian

Lord of the Forms: Ease of Doing Business in India

Economic Times reports that entrepreneurs keen on setting up new enterprises will be able to incorporate one by filing just one form starting Friday against eight separate forms earlier, as part of the government's drive to make it easier to do business in the country. The corporate affairs ministry will from May 1 have an integrated company incorporation form to make compliance and reporting easier and convenient for corporates. "Name availability, allotment of Director Identification Number (DIN), company incorporation and commencement of business will now be possible through a single form," said a senior ministry official who sought anonymity. 
The new form, called INC-29, will be available on the MCA website. This is part of the government's drive to improve India's ranking on the globally tracked parameter of ease of doing business. This is a priority area for PM Narendra Modi, who has made it a personal mission to improve India's scores on this paramet…

Evolving Law on E-commerce Marketplaces

Times of India reports that Mumbai-based saree distributor Shree Meena Creations is dragging Flipkart, Amazon, eBay and about two dozen sellers on these e-commerce platforms to court, accusing them of selling replicas of its copyrighted sarees. The lawsuit, filed in the Bombay High Court towards the end of March, has yet to be considered by a judge to decide whether or not to admit it, according to the court's website. 
Shree Meena, a nationwide distributor of sarees and other Indian ethnic wears, says its Joh Rivaaj-branded sarees are priced between 3,600 and 4 lakh but their copies are available online for as low as 1,200 to 2,700. The company's sarees are retailed by top southern retailers including Chennai-based Pothys and Kumaran Silks, RS Brothers in Hyderabad as well as many dealers in Delhi's Chandni Chowk area. Amazon, eBay and Flipkart sell replica sarees and other designer clothing, including those worn by Bollywood actors. For example, Amazon sells replicas of…

The Future for Landlines in a Mobile India

Indian media reports that BSNL and now MTNL, both state telecom businesses, now are offering free landline calls to any network at night.
Landline operators are feeling he heat in India from mobile networks and are trying to fight back. A lot of people are going straight to mobile without getting a landline.
Do landlines still have a future in a mobile world?

SJP @DigitalAsian