Saturday, 21 January 2017

India Going Over the Top: Startup Streaming

As video streaming becomes popular in India, not only are big players like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hotstar investing in it, so also are a host of startups, reports Times of India. The broadcasting and technology business's terminology for it is over-the-top (OTT) digital content delivery of audio and video content over the internet without a multiple-system operator (like a cable or DTH operator) controlling or distributing the content. Consulting firm Frost and Sullivan estimates there are 66 million unique video viewers in India, and 1.3 million OTT paid video subscribers.That's a big market. Startup analytics firm Tracxn estimates there are at least 40 new ventures in the space, and around $30 million have been invested by venture capital firms into some of them.

Many focus on short videos. It is easy now to showcase such videos under categories like comedy that have cat videos or baby videos, or cars & bikes or style & beauty tips.Content is sourced from popular creators like The Viral Fever (TVF), Culture Machine and AIB, and funny YouTube stars and comedians like Radhika Vaz. Some apps, like Dwingloo and Spuul, show mainly Bollywood and regional movies. Mumbai-based Dekkho provides short videos of 2 to 45 minutes, from 22 content providers. Founder Vinay Pillai, whose experience includes working for Drama Fever, a video streaming website for Korean shows, in New York, has raised $2 million from angel investors. The platform is ad supported. Pillai says subscriptions may work for long form content, but for ad support, "we need to keep it short."

Veqta is an OTT platform for live sports content. It launched a free beta app last August, and will formally launch as a pure subscription platform in March. It has raised $500,000 from venture capital firm Chatsworth Management and sports management company ITW Consulting. Founder Varun Mathur says live content has the advantage that there are not enough rights available in the market for sports. "We get the feed from partners like ATP and WTA. So it all boils down to who gets the rights first. Also, while movies and music can be sold on a non-exclusive basis, sports can be sold only exclusively ," he says. Veqta is working on a virtual reality (VR) experience for some of its live content.

PressPlay also focuses on short videos, and among its most watched videos are one on why we celebrate Diwali, a TED talk on the art of seduction, and Tarla Dalal on making kala jamun. Started in 2013 by former Zomato employees George Abraham and Anand Sinha, the venture has received backing from Sequoia Capital. PressPlay has some 60 partners including travel ones like Ola Shuttle, SRS Travels, and Indian Railways, and together they provide around 3,000 hotspots across India. Travellers can connect their smartphones to the hotspot and stream videos. The Viral Fever too has come up with its own OTT mobile app called TVFPlay after it raised $10 million from Tiger Global. Delhi-based online video marketing and analytics firm Vidooly , which tracks the data of around 200 media and multi-channel networks, says OTT picked up after 2015, when traditional media came into the space. "But this space requires huge capital," says founder Subrat Kar.

Capital is required for paying licensing fees, contracting fees and royalties to content providers, for marketing to acquire customers, and because of competition from traditional media. Partly because of this, the space has seen several failures already. Live entertainment network #fame, which had raised almost $13 million, the most by any startup in this segment, shut down its services late last year. It was a free platform and charged customers only for products on the site, like gifts and stickers. "Subscription is the way forward," believes Mathur of Veqta. He plans to charge customers Rs 50 a month initially. Dekkho is betting on digital ad spends. "These spends are booming. In 2011, the FMCG digital ad budget was less than 2%. Now it's more than 20%," says Dekkho's cofounder Tanay Desai.

SJP @DigitalAsian - ShareYaar

Friday, 20 January 2017

More competition for audiobooks

In an aim to improve competition in downloadable audiobook distribution in Europe, Apple and Amazon have agreed to end an exclusivity agreement that made Audible the only seller of audiobooks inside of iTunes, reports Times of India. A subsidiary of Amazon since 2008, Audible is the seller and producer of downloadable audiobooks and other spoken-word content. Apple's iTunes store, integrated in Apple devices, allows customers to purchase and download content, including audiobooks.

"With the deletion of the exclusivity agreement, Apple will now have the opportunity to purchase digital audiobooks from other suppliers. This will enable a wider range of offer and lower prices for consumers," tech website theverge.com quoted Andreas Mundt, president, Germany's Antitrust Agency, as saying. Audible and Apple's iTunes store are two distributors of downloadable audiobooks to consumers. Audible will now be able to supply its downloadable audiobooks to third party platforms, that Apple can source audiobooks from alternative suppliers, and that publishers and content aggregators will be able to enter into distribution agreements directly with Apple.

SJP @DigitalAsian - ShareYaar

Venture Debt Grows in India

After a record 2016, India's top venture debt investors are preparing to ramp up their pace of investments this year as venture capital investments slow down, reports Times of India. The numbers say it all.Venture debt player InnoVen Capital India, which is backed by Singapore's sovereign wealth fund Temasek, is aiming to conclude at least 50 deals to the tune of $75 million-$85 Rs 500 crore-.million (Rs 565 crore) this year, up from 43 deals supported with Rs 400 crore of capital in 2016. "The last calendar year was the best year ever for us with the total worth of transactions, including 26 new investments and follow-on rounds in existing portfolio companies, being in the tune of Rs 400 crore," said Vinod Murali, managing director at InnoVen.

Trifecta, founded by former Canaan Partners managing partner Rahul Khanna, is looking to clinch at least 20 investments this year, as opposed to 17 over the past 15 months. Data from Mumbai-based IntelleGrow shows that it has grown by 75-80% in terms of from the assets under management this fiscal year. The company, which has investments in startups including Sedemac, Milk Mantra, IdeaForge and NephroPlus, is on track to register more than Rs 350 crore in disbursements for the year ending in March, up from Rs 165 crore in 2015-16.

"As equity investments become dearer, the need for venture debt is largely being felt particularly for funding capital expenditure, financing working capital requirements, receivables, funding mergers and acquisitions or financing specific projects. Acquisition financing is an emerging area of opportunity with these firms," said Khanna of Trifecta, which is looking to close up to eight new investments by March. "We are seeing a lot of inbound interest and we can potentially finance small to mid-sized acquisitions in the range of Rs 50 . 5 crore to ` crore for a deal," he said. Trifecta, which has a fund corpus of around Rs 400 crore and investments to the tune of Rs 220 crore, is eyeing series-A deals in the enterprise, internet of things, healthcare and specialised manufacturing sectors.

Venture debt firms are also eyeing growth-stage deals in established internet companies such as OYO Rooms, Byju's and Swiggy , as well as in niche online retailers that have raised equity funding but need more money for scaling up. Ticket or investment sizes for venture debt is also expected to increase this year to Rs 25 crore-. Rs 50 crore from Rs 15 crore to `. 30 crore earlier, said Khanna. "There is a lot of interest from banks for participating in the early stage ecosystem but there has been no easy of doing that since these investments are highly risky ," said Murali of InnoVen, who is presently working with four banks and intends to add to the list this year. Growth of venture debt, say experts, hinges on the growth of the venture capital industry . As per estimates, venture debt accounts for 4-5% of the overall addressable venture capital market, and thus there is headroom for growth.


SJP @DigitalAsian - ShareYaar

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

App Opportunities in India

India zipped past the US to become the top country that registered 6 billion downloads from Google's Play Store in 2016, according to analytics firm App Annie, reports Times of India. "India's app market grew massively outpacing the US to surpass it as the #1 country by Google Play downloads, from around 3.5 billion downloads in 2015 to over 6 billion downloads in 2016," App Annie said in a report. App downloads grew by 15 per cent worldwide across iOS and Google Play, with total time spent in apps increasing by 25 per cent, it added.

In 2016, publishers were paid over USD 35 billion in revenue across the iOS App Store and Google Play. When including in-app advertising, app store revenue and third-party Android stores in 2016, publishers made over USD 89 billion in revenue. Further, the report found the average consumer uses well over 30 apps per month across various markets. As technology and business models continue to evolve, apps are playing an even greater role in transforming, and creating opportunities for, companies and industries both established and new, App Annie Senior Vice President Research Danielle Levitas said.

"We're seeing major indications of this shift globally. App adoption is growing rapidly in emerging markets including India and Indonesia while mature markets are seeing apps challenge and change traditional industries including retail, entertainment and banking," Levitas added. Facebook, WhatsApp and UC Browser were the top three apps in terms of combined download on Google Play and iOS in India. Candy Crush, Subway Surfers and Temple Run 2 were the top three games downloaded.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Upwardly Mobile

Airbus might give Uber some competition one day.

Airbus Group plans to test a prototype for a self-piloted flying car as a way of avoiding gridlock on city roads by the end of the year, the aerospace group's chief executive said on Monday, reports Times of India. Airbus last year formed a division called Urban Air Mobility that is exploring concepts such as a vehicle to transport individuals or a helicopter-style vehicle that can carry multiple riders. The aim would be for people to book the vehicle using an app, similar to car-sharing schemes. "One hundred years ago, urban transport went underground, now we have the technological wherewithal to go above ground," Airbus CEO Tom Enders told the DLD digital tech conference in Munich, adding he hoped the Airbus could fly a demonstration vehicle for single-person transport by the end of the year.

"We are in an experimentation phase, we take this development very seriously," he said, adding that Airbus recognised such technologies would have to be clean to avoid further polluting congested cities. He said using the skies could also reduce costs for city infrastructure planners. "With flying, you don't need to pour billions into concrete bridges and roads," he said. Enders said Airbus, as the world's largest maker of commercial helicopters, wanted to invest to make the most of new technologies such as autonomous driving and artificial intelligence, to usher in what amounts to an era of flying cars. "If we ignore these developments, we will be pushed out of important segments of the business," he said. A spokesman for Airbus declined to say how much the company was investing in urban mobility.

SJP @DigitalAsian - ShareYaar

Getting your priorities right for video streaming

Data prioritisation for video streaming might lead to problems with net neutrality?

Streaming videos over crowded wireless mobile networks could be greatly improved by smart prioritisation of visually important data, according to a new study, reports Times of India. Video streaming is one of the most demanding tasks on mobile networks, not only because of the large amount of data that needs to be transmitted, but because even the faintest stutter or artifact in video playback can dramatically degrade the experience. There are methods for guaranteeing a certain transmission rate to maintain the quality of streaming video and audio. Known as Quality of Service (QoS) protocols, these methods work well in many cases, but generally require a large allocation of bandwidth to each user, which might not be available on crowded mobile networks.

By prioritising the delivery of rich visual data, researchers at The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) in Singapore have demonstrated that the quality of streaming video can be vastly improved on even the most crowded wireless networks. They studied how it might be possible to rate the importance of discrete video 'packets' to reduce the bandwidth needed to maintain a certain Quality of Experience (QoE). "QoE refers to the performance metric used to gauge the experience of the end user," said Peng Hui Tan, from the A*STAR Institute for Infocomm Research. "We need to translate a given QoE into a set of parameters for QoS, which is then implemented in the network communication protocol," said Tan. "We found that by passing information across the different layers of communications, from video playback application to network transmission, we could enhance the QoE through more efficient allocation of network resources," Tan added. 

The researchers developed an efficient method to derive an 'importance index' for each video packet based on the video bit rate, which varies packet-to-packet depending on how much new information needs to be displayed - for example slow scenes with little movement require lower bit rates, while fast action scenes require very high bit rates. By prioritising video packets - each a fraction of an individual frame of video - based on bit rate and other network parameters, then inserting this priority in the QoS scheme in real time, the team was able to achieve a significant enhancement in the perceived quality of streaming video among multiple users in a laboratory environment with limited wireless bandwidth. "For the end user, video quality will be improved with less distortion, while service providers can accommodate more users with the same network resources," said Tan.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Share a Thought with your Friends

Sharing a thought with your friends could become easier with Facebook.

Facebook is working on a "brain-computer interface" apparently to let people talk to each other by reading their minds, reports Economic Times. Job adverts posted in California suggest that the social network is planning telepathic technology that can read brain waves and send them between people, a way of sharing that would go far beyond liking status updates or sharing holiday photos. It is advertising for a "brain-computer interface engineer" for its Building 8 team, which will work on Facebook's most futuristic and secretive projects. According to the ad, the engineer will work on "developing advanced (brain-computer interface) technologies". That will involve using computers and artificial intelligence to work with "neuroimaging and electrophysiological data". (This could have uses in law enforcement e.g. BEAP tests, although there maybe legal obstacles to their use in court).

The idea of Facebook being able to read minds may sound like a science-fiction fantasy, and could potentially be the ultimate privacy nightmare. But it is not the first indication the company has given that it wants to make telepathy a reality. In the past, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had referred to a version of telepathy as the computer platform of the future, and the job ads suggest that Facebook is working on such a technology. In a Q and A session last year, he described how people would be able to "capture a thought... in its ideal and perfect form in your head and share that with the world".

Mind reading technology is in its early days, but researchers have made breakthroughs in decoding brainwaves. Scientists at the University of Washington last year demonstrated that they could detect whether a subject was looking at a photo of a face or of a house. Other jobs in the Building 8 team include people capable of building a "communications and computing platform of the future". It seems to make use of new forms of interacting with computers. The applicant should have experience of "speech and audio signal processing algorithms and systems", which would be used to build the new system.

Another job listing reveals that Facebook is also looking for an haptics specialist, who will help the company use touch interactions to build "realistic and immersive" experiences. All of the jobs are listed as temporary, two-year contracts.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

New Revenue Streams with Advertising and Messaging

New ways for YouTube to monetize its platform ... and also to possibly start competing with WhatsApp as a messaging app.

Google is set to launch a new service for YouTube letting users pay a few dollars to pin comments or questions to live streams broadcast by famous content creators, reports Times of India. As well as getting comments noticed, it offers YouTubers a new way of monetizing their online activities. The idea is to connect content creators and fans during live stream events broadcast on the platform, during which viewers can interact with YouTubers by asking questions or leaving comments via a chat function.

To boost visibility -- especially if there are hundreds or even thousands of people watching -- YouTube's new "Super Chat" function will allow viewers to pay a few dollars to pin a message in pride of place at the top of the chat window. "Super Chat" messages will stay pinned at the top of the chat for up to five hours for maximum visibility, grabbing the attention of other viewers, as well as creators, who can reply at their leisure. Users choose the amount they pay to pin their "Super Chat" message. The more they pay, the longer the comment will be pinned.

YouTube is already launching a beta with YouTube creators iHasCupquake (beauty, 5.2 million followers), Alex Wassabi (comedy, 2.2M) and Great Library (video games, 1.4M). The new service rolls out more widely from Tuesday, January 31 for creators in 20 countries looking to monetize their activities. "Super Chat" replaces "Fan Funding," allowing viewers to make donations to YouTubers, which closes February 28.

SJP @DigitalAsian - ShareYaar

SaaS, PaaS, IaaS ... Cloud Talk

There needs to be a highly tailored path laid out that suits a business' individual needs, regardless of where their journey to the cloud starts, reports Economic Times in an article by Chris Chelliah. Cloud computing continues to drive incredible transformation. It has changed the way we run businesses, creating whole new sectors and disrupting entire industries. We are now able to communicate, interact and share more than ever, while business models that were once impossible are now commonplace. This momentum is driven by a simple underlying proposition: provision new business capabilities rapidly and with agility - if it is successful, scale that capability up. If it is not, then fail fast and turn it off. Regardless, you are only paying for what you use, when you use it.

Incredibly, we are only at the very start of the journey to the cloud. Today depending on which reports you read, between six and 15 percent of workloads run in the public cloud, leaving the vast majority of enterprise, mission-critical and legacy workloads to make the transition from their long-standing home, on premises. For IT leaders, the challenge is onto find a pathway to accelerate the move for their remaining workloads to the cloud; one that protects existing investments and provides choice for the future. But is it as easy as it seems?

Mapping a path to the cloud
 A one-size-fits-all approach to the cloud will simply not work. Each business will be at a different point of IT maturity and have a different compelling event fuelling their move to cloud. There needs to be a highly-tailored path laid out that suits a business' individual needs, regardless of where their journey to the cloud starts. The path to the cloud also needs to support all types of workloads across a unique mix of new cloud applications, existing environments, and hybrid models. Having this type of flexibility will help businesses accelerate their transition to the cloud from their compelling start point.

Layers of cloud
As adoption matures, a new inhibitor becomes apparent. Each vendor providing a piece of cloud functionality brings with it different models for consumption, operation, data residency and jurisdiction, Service Level Agreements (SLAs), upgrade windows, security and commercial models, as well as many other factors. Agility and adoption can be rapidly compromised when organisations have to play 'integration broker' between cloud vendor offerings. So as more workloads move to the cloud, an integrated cloud platform across all three layers of cloud becomes increasingly essential, providing an approach that can remove the challenge of managing multiple vendors.

SaaS, the great enabler
Software as a Service (SaaS) unlocks measurable business value and bolsters performance by enabling employees, customers, prospects and partners to be more informed, connected, productive and engaged. Every organisation requires elements of IT to: hire and retain talent, manage a supply chain, enable a salesforce, provide service to a subscriber or install base, and run and operate their business efficiently. Looking at it like this, SaaS is a platform for enablement, empowering organizations to benefit from these business functions rapidly in bite size chunks … or as a whole suite.

Businesses that get their SaaS implementations right will find they are able to connect business functions like never before. Take Pandora, for example, an Internet radio station serving customers in the US and parts of Australia and New Zealand. They came to Oracle looking to drive global expansion and unify financial data to meet regulatory compliance mandates around.

Pandora's executives embraced an all- SaaS environment and focused on enhancing its finance function. Pandora selected Oracle Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Cloud to modernise the finance function, enabling the company to address innovative business goals for their streaming service while reducing risk. Pandora enhanced reporting and improved decision making by combining its Oracle ERP Cloud solution with Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) Cloud to simplify how it accessed and integrated real-time information to enhance reporting and improve decision making.

PaaS, a platform for change
So, if SaaS is the platform for business enablement, Platform as a Service (PaaS) is the platform for change, giving businesses the ability to integrate and extend, develop and deploy, connect and share and manage and secure their applications and workloads. Avaya is a great example of how the sum of SaaS and PaaS is greater than the parts. To serve its population of 20,000 partners worldwide, Avaya had to endure cost and resource constraints stemming from its need to maintain customisations in the Partner Relationship Management (PRM) component of its SaaS CRM application. Avaya liked the fact that PRM module in Oracle Sales Cloud delivers 80 percent of the required functionality out-the-box, and that the remaining 20 percent could be built on integrated Oracle Java Cloud Service SaaS Extensions. Avaya is projected to realise a 30 percent cost saving as a result of selecting Oracle's SaaS and PaaS.

IaaS, a platform for scale
 At the other end of cloud is Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), providing the capability to spin up computers, network and storage resources very quickly, at the swipe of a credit card! Think of the burst capacity required for end or month or end of quarter processing or any spike processing - and the ability to only pay for that on consumption. Or the vast amount of virtualised workloads sitting inside the data centre that would benefit from moving to the cloud, on a consumption basis.

IaaS is the platform for scale, enabling seamless migration, predictable performance, scalable and dedicated resources, accelerated deployments and secure connections. And ultimately cloud applications and platform need to run on something - the infrastructure layer. Any conversation about the cloud today should start with IaaS. As businesses increase their migration of workloads to the cloud, IaaS will be necessary in making these migrations simple and fast; ensuring businesses can virtualise and shift workloads to the cloud without the need for complex and time-consuming rewrites. Combining IaaS with PaaS and SaaS layers gives businesses the most compelling unified cloud solution available. One Oracle customer to benefit from our IaaS solution is Tippett Studios, a legendary American animation and visual effects company that created the incredible special effects in films like Jurassic World and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The company significantly lowered its TCO by using Oracle Storage Cloud. Tippett Studios is able to securely store and access large digital files at the most economical price points in the industry.

Cloud: Greater than the sum of the parts
As the above examples show, the key to a successful journey to the cloud is for businesses to have the confidence to pursue the path that makes the most sense for them, which most closely aligns with their business strategy. As organisations take their initial steps into cloud, they must ensure they have in place an integrated solution that spans both on-premises and public cloud solutions and allows them to complete business tasks seamlessly between both environments. This is because applications and information live on both, and will co-exist for years. Point products and disconnected services will not deliver business transformation; for that businesses need a fully integrated cloud platform. There are many different paths to the cloud; businesses must find that one that suits them best and make a start today because the journey is just getting underway.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Chips are down for nanometre tech

Invecas, a Hyderabad-based chip design startup, is said to be at an advanced stage of creating intellectual property (IP) for a 7-nanometre chip for US-based semiconductor foundry GlobalFoundries, with which it has a strategic partnership, reports Times of India. If successful, it makes Invecas the first Indian company to design such a cutting-edge and complex technology (FinFETs) that could be deployed to build high-performance data centres running complex computations with least power consumption.

Other companies that have announced working on 7nm technology include Intel, Samsung and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, or TSMC. Founded in 2014 by serial entrepreneur and former managing director of global chip giant AMD India, Dasaradha R Gude's startup has, over the past several months, added more chip designers bringing their number to 800 through a series of buyouts. "As far as we know, Invecas is the only company from India which is working on this technology with GlobalFoundries," says Invecas' CEO Dasaradha Gude. "It can be used in virtual reality cameras, for high-end computations and to build smaller devices with higher capabilities," he told ET.

According to GlobalFoundries' chief executive Sanjay Jha, 7nm technology, relative to 14nm, reduces power consumption by nearly half, apart from increasing performance by close to a third. Further, in a presentation this week in Hyderabad, he said the 7nm design also reduces the cost per transistor, making it an important node for the industry. "Lot of people in the industry went from 14nm to 10nm and then 7nm," he said. "We made a decision to skip 10nm and go directly to 7nm," said Jha, expressing confidence that they would be in volume production with 7nm chip by next year.

Experts corroborate that 7nm is among the most advanced technologies that will lead to more functionalities integrated onto the chip, reducing power consumption and reducing he size of the chip itself. "The cost of designing a chip using 7nm technology is going to be very high," says Ganesh Ramamoorthy who tracks global markets for semiconductors at research firm Gartner. "Gartner estimates the cost to be upwards of $500 million for one chip design." However, Gude says that the number would be for high-end chips and they were only working towards the building blocks. "We are into designing the IP . If a customer wants us to design the entire chip, we can do that as well," he said.

With approximately $50 million investment thus far in the company , Gude is looking at investing double of that in the next five years. "We have good customers, so that helps us with the investment. But if we are looking at inorganic growth, only then would we need external funding," said Gude, whose company has clients from the fields of Internet of Things (IoT), processors and automotives.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Digital Transaction Index

Indian Government wants to rank states according to a digital transaction index. This is sort of like a digital footprint for individuals that can affect your credit rating, employment prospects etc.

The Centre will soon rank states on a digital transaction index as part of its big push to make India a less-cash economy, reports Times of India. Government think tank Niti Aayog has begun the exercisie by reaching out to states to collate data, which will help it compile the first of its kind index. States will be ranked on the basis of this index. An official involved in the exercise told ET that the move will give a boost to the government's digital payments drive and help states improve their ease of doing business.

The government has been promoting digital transactions since November 8 when it announced demonetisation of old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the Prime Minister's Office has supported the idea. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the chairperson of Niti Aayog. "The first ranking of states on the basis of digital transactions will be out in few months," the official said. The digital transaction index is likely to be based on three parameters — total transactions in a state, proportion of cash and digital transactions, and the extent of penetration and usage of different modes of digital payments.

The government has identified five digital payment systems with the aim to make them accessible and user-friendly. These include unified payments interface (UPI), digital or e-wallets, prepaid debit or credit cards that can be used at ATMs and point of sales (PoS) machines, Aadhaar-enabled payment systems (AEPS), and unstructured supplementary service data (USSD). Besides, it has announced cash awards of up to `1 crore and `50 lakh for consumers and merchants who use digital modes of payments, an attempt to bring more and more people on to the digital platform and thus making transactions more transparent.

According to the government, there has been a spurt in digital payments across the country and the volume as well as the amount of money transacted through digital means has jumped manifold since the launch of the demonetisation drive. Digital transactions through the Rupay card have jumped 316% since November 9, transactions through e-wallets have soared 271%, UPI by 119%, USSP by 1202% and through PoS machines by 95%.

The Aayog has developed at least two different indices across key social sectors that would annually rank states on the basis of improvement in outcomes across these sectors. These include the education index and the health index. It plans to soon unveil the water and sanitation index. The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, which is under the commerce ministry, has already been ranking states over the last few years on the basis of measures taken by them to improve the ease of doing business.

SJP @DigitalAsian - ShareYaar

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Marketing Ideas using Social Media

Different ideas in using social media platforms' functionality to promote your products.

Future Group, the operator of retail stores including Big Bazaar and Easyday, is using social networking platform Twitter twice a month to offer selected products at a discount that will be set depending on the number of times its announcement is retweeted, reports Economic Times. The #DecideYourPrice initiative on Twitter will take place on alternate Thursdays. 

The group will feature a branded product at 6 pm and every time the announcement is retweeted until 10 pm that day, the price of the product will drop by Rs 1. Once the lowest price is established, the product will be offered at that price to all customers at Big Bazaar stores across the country on the following Saturday and Sunday. “Till now we have done two rounds and the response has been encouraging,” said Pawan Sarda, group head-digital at Future Group India, whose team came up with this idea.

The discount is on the selling price of the product in the store and not on the maximum retail price, Sarda said. The company sets a limit on the discount that can be offered. During the first such sale in December, a laptop bag worth Rs 1,999 that was offered in Big Bazaar stores at Rs 999 was finally sold at Rs 403 on Saturday and Sunday. 

Big Bazaar sold 10,000 bags on those two days compared with about 250 bags during the week. The second offer saw increased participation from a younger audience because the product was a pair of denim jeans, the cost of which went down to Rs 894 from Rs 1,399 after the retweets by consumers. “This kind of event helps us engage with our audiences. That’s where this platform gives us an opportunity,” said Sarda. The official Twitter handle of Big Bazaar has about 67,500 followers currently.

Kishore Biyani-led Future Group may extend the initiative to its other retail properties as well. The company has come up with sales and discount offers to counter ecommerce companies. Future Lifestyle recently held a three-day sale at Brand Factory, where customers could shop for Rs 4,000 by paying Rs 2,000 and get additional goodies and gift vouchers for Rs 2,000 more. The event generated more than Rs 100 crore for the company.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

EU Proposals Could Impact Online Advertising Revenue

Online messaging services such as WhatsApp, iMessage and Gmail will face tougher rules on how they can track users under a proposal presented by the European Union executive on Tuesday which could hurt companies reliant on advertising, reports Times of India. The web companies would have to guarantee the confidentiality of their customers' conversations and get their consent before tracking them online to target them with personalized advertisements. For example, email services such as Gmail and Hotmail will not be able to scan customers' emails to serve them with targeted advertisements without getting their explicit agreement. Most free online services rely on advertising to fund themselves.

Spending on online advertising in 2015 was 36.4 billion euros, according to the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB). The proposal by the European Commission extends some rules that now apply to telecom operators to web companies offering calls and messages using the internet, known as "Over-The-Top" (OTT) services, and seeks to close a perceived regulatory gap between the telecoms industry and mainly US internet giants such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft. It would allow telecoms companies to use customer metadata, such as the duration and location of calls, as well as content to provide additional services and so make more money, although the telecoms lobby group ETNO said they remain more constrained than their tech competitors.

The proposal will also require web browsers to ask users upon installation whether they want to allow websites to place cookies on their browsers to deliver personalized advertisements. A previous version of the proposal would have forced browsers to set the default settings as not allowing cookies which are the small files placed on people's computers when they visit a website containing information about their browsing activity. "It's up to our people to say yes or no," said Andrus Ansip, Commission vice-president for the digital single market. Online advertisers say such rules would undermine many websites' ability to fund themselves and keep offering free services.

"It will particularly hit those companies that...find it most difficult to talk directly to end users and what I mean by that is tech companies that operate in the background and sort of facilitate the buying and selling of advertising rather than the ones that the user directly engages with," said Yves Schwarzbart, head of policy and regulatory affairs at the IAB. But the CEO of advertising tech company Appnext, whose revenues come entirely from advertising spending, said the new rules would bring clarity and would not have a significant impact on business models or revenue. "There is no doubt that it is time for the entire ecosystem to become more transparent and fair to all of the stakeholders. Users want easy access to trustworthy sources of information while feeling safe with the data they share," Elad Natanson said.

Companies falling foul of the new law will face fines of up to 4.0 percent of their global turnover, in line with a separate data protection law set to enter into force in 2018. The proposal will need to be approved by the European Parliament and member states before becoming law.

SJP @DigitalAsian - ShareYaar

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Infy going in for mass-use software

Will Infosys be able to produce software for mass-use like Microsoft or Oracle have?

Infosys is considering building a software to help the firm target tens of thousands of potential clients, as CEO Vishal Sikka looks at breaking the downward spiral of prices in its core services business and reach the company's ambitious target of $20 billion in revenue by 2020, reports Times of India. Currently, Infosys has about 1,000 customers, but a lion's share of revenue comes from just 250 of them. Even though IT companies have increasingly started building platforms and products, they mostly target bagging more business from existing customers. Sikka wants to change that by building mass-use software, like he did in his previous stint at SAP. "In order for the software to be world class, you have to expose it to the entire world. It has to be a standalone software. If you just target 250 clients you will quickly run out of scope without producing a lot of revenue. So, the software has to go outside our services and outside our clients," Sikka told ET in a recent interview. 

Infosys has products such as its automation platform Mana and e-commerce platform Skava, but those are still in the process of being deployed across its existing customers. "We are in early stages, but ultimately we have to go to tens of thousands of clients. We are one year away from formulating a strategy on this, but this is the long-term goal," Sikka said. Building such a software that could stand alone and be sold without a services component will not be easy. Software takes a great deal of investment to develop internally and companies do not begin to recoup investments for several years.
At an analyst conference in November, Sikka highlighted the challenges the company would face in making such a shift. In a pure software business, the kind Sikka was in charge of at SAP, a company could fund transformation initiatives out of its existing cash-cow products. But for the IT sector, the core business is itself under pressure and the existing automation software that is being built is unlikely to help in the long term as the downward pressure on price will continue.

Sikka said he wants to continue to work on the software-plus-people model to improve the company's productivity but additionally build software for other use cases. "And in parallel, build that same software that improves our productivity, to go out there and build other use cases, which are high-margin, next-generation use cases like bitcoin, blockchain, internet of things, artificial intelligence," Sikka told the analysts in New York. "These kinds of high-margin, next-generation, intelligent applications built on the same automation platform that helps us improve our productivity. There is no other way." Analysts say while a software-led strategy has merit, executing it will not be easy. "Selling software/platforms is also very different from selling IT services. Companies have to resist the pressure to customize their product for each client," said Sagar Rastogi, an analyst with Ambit Capital. "Finally, building software requires predicting market needs, a year or more in advance. Dr Sikka might have that skill, but few IT services veterans would."

Convincing the stock market to back heavy investment that will cut into existing margins would also be a hardsell. "One approach to succeed could be to spin off the products business into a separate company like Infosys did with Onmobile in the past," Rastogi added.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Indian Government wants faster adoption of UPI Apps

Online travel agent yatra.com has introduced unified payment interface (UPI) as a paying method on its website, across all business lines, reports Times of India. UPI is a system that allows account holders of all banks to send or receive money from their smartphones without the need to enter their net-banking user id or password. "Essentially we have launched UPI as a payment option on our website, and anybody who has a virtual payment address (VPA) registered with their bank, can make a payment directly using the UPI flow," said Sharat Dhall, chief operating officer (B2C) at yatra.com.

Users can download an UPI app such as ICICI Bank's Pockets and create a VPA, linking it to their account in any bank to start using the system developed by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), the agency that handles all retail payments in India. Yatra.com is the first in the online travel agency segment to offer UPI on its platform. It has tied up with ICICI Bank for technical integration of the payment method. ET had reported last week that NPCI was getting "impatient" with merchants - especially online ones that are expected to generate the bulk of such payments - for being slow to warm up to UPI-based payments.

The system, which merges several banking features on a single mobile application to enable seamless fund routing and merchant payments, was launched in August. Yatra.com already allows customers to make online payments through net banking, mobile wallets and credit/debit cards. The government has been promoting the use of UPI, and the Prime Minister launched a UPI-based app called Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM) on December 30, which has seen over 5 million downloads so far, and is widely seen as an alternative to popular mobile wallets. Dhall said adoption of UPI by online players such as yatra.com would drive higher customer adoption of this "seamless" system. "In the case of a wallet, you need to transfer money from your bank account to the wallet and there is a cap of Rs 20,000 after which you have to provide a KYC. As adoption of this increases, you're likely to see a shift from wallets to UPI," he told ET.

While UPI as a payment option is only available on Yatra's website now, work is on to launch it on the firm's mobile app shortly. One benefit of this system is the lower merchant discount rate (MDR), or the fee a merchant has to pay a bank to access its payment infrastructure. The MDR for a UPI transaction is "significantly lower" than what is charged on credit cards and close to MDR charged on debit cards, Dhall said. MDR is not applicable on UPI until January 31. Yatra had approximately 4.4 million cumulative customers as of June 30, 2016. In the last financial year, 74% transactions were from repeat customers, and 59% customer traffic was from mobile.

SJP @DigitalAsian - ShareYaar

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Indian Banking Goes Agnostic

The country’s largest lender State Bank of India will take the lead among state-run lenders to launch branch-less banking called SBI Digi Bank, something similar to what Citi or DBS have done elsewhere in the world, reports Times of India. The Digi Bank will have a financial superstore, a market place and end-to-end digitisation for products and services. Customer transactions will be done with the help of apps, internet banking and mobile banking,” said the banker. “It will be an omni-channel, omni-device digital bank which will be available to both new and existing customers.”

The digital-only bank, which will be device-agnostic, will use the Aadhaar infrastructure for not only onboard customers but also provide them services online. “So there will not be any paper, we will onboard customers online using e-KYC and all services will be provided digitally,” the banker mentioned above said. “Completely zero assisted mode may not be possible initially, so there could be couple of our people who will help customers in our InTouch branches.” SBI InTouch is the bank’s state-of-the-art Digital Branch which facilitates instant opening of accounts, printing and issue of personalised debit card, and expert advice on investment through video-conference. The financial superstore will have products like opening of current and savings account, term deposits, loans, insurance and mutual funds. The bank also plans to offer personal financial management solutions to its customers.

SJP @DigitalAsian - ShareYaar

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Frictionless Digital Payments

The smartphone is mightier than the wallet, the one that holds cash and cards - that's what demonetisation has proved, reports Times of India. For all kinds of needs - buying candy to transferring money - there are more digital options available than paper. It's also time-saving - why stand in bank and ATM queues to get cash when a few seconds of tapping a wallet app on a mobile phone are enough to make a payment? There is an alphabet soup of options available, leaving many confused about the best way to pay. Should it be net banking, credit cards, UPI, NEFT, RTGS, IMPS, USSD, Aadhaar-linked BHIM or a combination of them?

So far, people have grabbed whatever is easily available to pay for coffee, bills, movie tickets, cab rides and just about anything, and here, m-wallet Paytm has scored over others. "In the near term, wallets will do well as they are more popular," said Niren Shah, MD of Norwest Venture Partners, an investor in technology and financial services startups.

However, as alternatives to cash payments evolve, users comfortable with mobile wallets today could shift to an easier digital platform. "Frictionless payments is the future," said R Venkatachalam, managing director for India and South Asia at FIS Global, a global provider of financial services technology. "That is, any payment mechanism which is effortless, without requiring users to remember too many passwords, PINs etc, perhaps biometrics-enabled." There's more to providing a smooth digital payment experience than aspects such as security and ability to attract customers who are used to transacting in cash and are reluctant to change. "Three things are important for any payment option - access, interoperability and financial sustainability of the operator," said Anant Bhagwati, partner, Bain & Company. "In the long term, systems like UPI stand a better chance as they enable direct transfer from bank accounts to pay," said Shah of Norwest.

Wallets Face a Wall: The winner for access to your bank account will be the one that offers the least hurdles to complete a payment. Mobile wallets are popular today - Paytm alone has 173 million users - but they have limitations. For one, they are not interoperable. Transferring money requires sender and receiver to have the same company's account - it's Paytm to Paytm, MobiKwik to MobiKwik and Freecharge to Freecharge. Besides, the money transferred to a wallet does not earn interest. Small merchants such as owners of corner shops and neighbourhood kirana stores can't draw more than Rs 25,000 a month from a digital wallet, which affects cash flow. Even the founders of some mobile wallet companies are not so optimistic about their future if challenges like interoperability persist. "That's why we don't call it a Paytm wallet - it's a Paytm account that people have with us," said Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder of Paytm. The account could be a digital wallet, UPI or anything else that is permitted, he said. "The fight is about owning consumers and merchants - protocols can change," Sharma said.

At present, wallet companies are not allowed to enable users to access UPI, which enables funds to be transferred from one bank account to another. By the end of 2017, it's quite possible that people could be ditching their digital wallets and opting for UPI or even voice commands to digital avatars to complete payments. "Wallets need to mature, evolve into something else and be interoperable to be relevant," said Bipin Preet Singh, founder of MobiKwik, a wallet company with 45 million users. "The future is about interoperable payment systems." The Ratan Watal committee constituted to recommend measures to encourage digital payments favours interoperability and other changes. However, banks are reluctant to implement "futuristic" suggestions, citing security issues and money laundering possibilities. "Banking is a very regulated sector," said the founder of a wallet company on condition of anonymity. "Traditional banks don't want too many transactions to be enabled via wallets. If that happens, it will limit their reach compared with venture-funded mobile wallet companies." Apart from lacking interoperability, digital wallets can be used only by smartphone owners.

In India, 27% of the more than 1 billion mobile phone users have smartphones - compared with 70% in China - and the rest use feature phones. Affordability, among other factors, has hindered the faster adoption of smartphones. The digital payment option for feature phones is USSD, or Unstructured Supplementary Service Data, which transmits data over GSM networks and is popular in Kenya, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Zimbabwe with their respective services, mPesa, bKash, Wing and EcoCash. Plastic Lacks Reach; UPI Fills Void If mobile wallets face multiple headwinds, one of the oldest cashless options - credit and debit cards - have limited reach. About 800 million people carry plastic (mostly debit cards, less than 10% are credit cards) and they are generally used to withdraw cash from ATMs.

"Credit cards are a largely urban-use case phenomenon," said Sreedhar Prasad, partner, ecommerce and startups, at KPMG. "Popularity of a payment system depends on merchants' acceptability; that lacked in case of credit cards." Demonetisation saw point-of-sale machine sales go up 200 times, accelerating use of cards. Usage of credit cards climbed 25% and debit cards was more than double of that. The future may be less plastic. Bhagwati explains, "Plastic money use is very niche and slow and is likely to remain so for the next five years. Why carry a card when direct transfer can be done from the mobile?" In many countries, plastic money is losing sheen with emergence of options such as Peer2Peer (P2P) in China and Europe, a fund transfer protocol that's as simple as sending a WhatsApp message. Regulations in India forbid P2P transactions.

Among the options available today, Unified Payments Interface (UPI), introduced by the Reserve Bank via the National Payments Corporation of India in 2016, looks best suited to enable frictionless transfer of money. It may boil down to a toss-up between mobile wallets and UPI. Mobile wallets have been around for more than five years and have the first-mover advantage. However, using them is a two-step process: Paying for an Uber ride requires money to be transferred first to the mobile wallet or account and then to Uber. UPI not only allows funds to be sent from one account directly to another, it is also interoperable. "UPI is the most elegant solution for anyone with a bank account," said Bhagwati. "Money is transferred directly from an account to complete a payment, unlike wallets, where it has to be transferred to a wallet company to be used." "Survivors will be those who provide merchant and user protection. Trusted payment partner is important," said Megha Tyagi, director, large merchant business, PayPal India, the operator of a global online payment system. There's more. BHIM app, launched by the government last week, also transfers money directly between accounts and is linked to the Aadhaar number, which will help to authenticate users through stored biometric records.

Today, digital wallets are popular. Tomorrow, direct payment systems will score over intermediaries such as mobile wallet and plastic money companies.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Supari Attackers: Cybercrime As A Service

If the nature of cyber attacks is any indication, experts say India is a facing an increasing threat from 'supari attackers', who provide cybercrime-as-a-service (CAAS), reports Times of India. The lack of a strong law/policy to deter this is likely to hurt the country, which is moving towards a digital economy. In the past few years, India has witnessed a series of hacks and other cybercrimes, especially by those claiming allegiance to Pakistan. Around 56% of the cases from January 2013 to May 2016 have been those of website defacement, which experts put in the harmless category, something which even amateurs can carry out. However, pointing to an increasing number of network scanning/probing cases — the first step towards detecting vulnerability in systems so that sensitive data can be stolen — experts say India should not be lax, especially since it aims to turn into a cashless economy.

Also, the number of malware propagation cases and virus/malicious codes being inserted indicate the increasing prevalence of CAAS. According to data from the ministry of home affairs (MHA) and the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), there were 1.57 lakh cybercrimes in the said period — 87,412 were cases of website defacement, including the hacking of the NSG website on Sunday. But the 6.7% (10,454) cases of network probing/scanning, 8.5% (13,364) of website intrusion and malware propagation and 17.2% of virus or malicious codes insertions (see box), point to various tools that are offered by hackers for a price, say experts.

Cybercrime expert and Supreme Court advocate Pavan Duggal said: "The figures from the government, though only representative, confirm the ground reality. The security concerns need to be addressed on a war footing. In India, CAAS came to the forefront in 2015, but the lack of awareness among probing agencies means there is no specific classification." "Last year, I remember a case where a known terror group had sought hackers and many Indians had joined the group. Our police don't categorize these as CAAS cases and book them under various sections. While we don't have the correct figure, I am sure CAAS has increased in the past one year," he added.

While no professional study has been conducted in India, according to a CIO insight report, 2016 saw a global spike in CAAS. "There has been a seismic shift in the ransomware threat, expanding from a few actors pulling off limited, smaller-dollar heists targeting consumers to industrial-scale, big-money attacks on all sizes and manner of organizations, including major enterprises," the report said quoting Rod Rasmussen, vice-president. Cyber expert Mirza Faizan Asad explained: "Network probing is people looking for vulnerabilities in systems which will eventually be breached to steal data. Amateurs don't do it; these are professionals. Also, malware propagation and web intrusion are indicators of hired tools if not services".

While hiring of hackers from other countries is one thing, many Indians are being provided ethical hacking skills by trainers, which both Duggal and Faizan say is a bigger concern. "There are such institutes in every major city. They are not regulated, charge between Rs 10,000 and Rs 40,000 for certificates and promise jobs which don't actually exist. Armed with the required skills and with no strong law in place, the candidates may stray," Duggal said. Faizan said there are at least 25-30 such training centres in Bengaluru alone. There are many in Pune too, he said.

What is it? Cybercrime-as-a-service (CAAS) refers to organized crime rings offering services like on-demand distributed denial-of-service (DDos) attacks and bulletproof hosting to support malware attacks among other things. The criminals are are gaining a better understanding of product positioning, and with whom they need to collaborate more effectively.