Sunday, 31 May 2015

Snapdeal to expand payment by credit, debit cards on delivery

E-Commerce major Snapdeal will allow its users across 200 cities to pay through their credit and debit cards when they opt for pay-on-delivery option.

"The solution has been developed in partnership with GoJavas. Now customers can select the pay by card on delivery option, just like they would for COD. We are rolling this out in 120 cities," Snapdeal vice-president operations Ashish Chitravanshi told PTI.

In the next few months, the facility will be available to customers across 200 cities, he added.

The service is already available across metros and cities like Agra, Ahmedabad, Ajmer, Aligarh, Bareilly, Chandigarh, Darjeeling, Gorakhpur, Hisar, Kanyakumari and Ooty.

"Many times, customers complained about lack of change or not having enough cash handy, asking the delivery boys to come at a later time. We expect this facility to help them in this regard," he said.

Though he declined to comment on the volume of shipment the company handles on an average, its co-founder and COO Rohit Bansal said the company is looking at a 10X growth in the next 2-3 years, which will translate into delivery of about 80-100 million packages a month. 
 SBI chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya with Kunal Bahl, CEO, Snapdeal signing an MOU in Kolkata on May 21. (PTI photo)
Snapdeal had also said it will invest $150-200 million (about Rs 940-1,250 crore) by March next year on expanding its delivery operations as the competition in the booming Indian eCommerce market heats up.

In March, it acquired a minority stake in logistics firm GoJavas.

Under the service, GoJavas will equip its delivery staff to carry POS (transaction) machines to allow users to pay using their credit and debit cards.  

Sale of electronic cigarettes labeled illegal in Maharashtra

Sale of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) containing nicotine has been officially labeled 'illegal' in Maharashtra.

To rein in the rampant use of the battery operated device which is currently available everywhere from departmental stores to paan shops, the state Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued show-cause notices to its importers, distributors and dealers for selling the product without mandatory permission from Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) which is in direct contravention of Drugs and Cosmetics Act and makes the trade illegal.

"As per Rule 122 (E) of Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940 and Rule 1945, every new drug product should be sold in the country with the prior approval of the DCGI. However, import, distribution and sale of e-cigarettes containing nicotine are not approved. Since e-cigarettes are being sold in market without permission, this is contravention of section 18 (b) and 18 (C) of Drugs and Cosmetics Act. Hence, its sale is illegal," state FDA commissioner Harshadeep Kamble told TOI.

He added that importing, manufacturing, selling and distributing e-cigarettes without permission from DCGI and licence from state FDA is illegal and may result in imprisonment of three to five years. Mumbai alone has 23 importers and sellers of e-cigarettes who were issued notices by the FDA on Saturday.

Nicotine is approved for use in de-addiction based chewing gums and lozenges containing less than 2 milligrams of the ingredient. In e-cigarettes, the nicotine levels are very high.

"Permission to sale lozenges, gums containing nicotine less than 2mg are already given by the DCGI. Nicotine products above 2mg are sold only with prescriptions from registered medical practitioners," Kamble said.

The sale of e-cigarettes containing nicotine is on the rise and it is being sold as an alternative to the original cigarettes and mostly marketed to college students.

"Considering that e-cigarettes are addictive and their ill effects on the health of the younger generation especially college students, FDA Maharashtra has decided to curb the illegal trade," Kamble said

As per the Drugs and Cosmetics Act there are certain set of rules and regulations for manufacturing of various drugs and such quality control does not exist for e-cigarettes. Therefore, the quality of e-cigarettes cannot to be ascertained. Smoking of e-cigarettes also leads to addiction and it affects the health badly. There have been demands from various social quarters, NGOs and doctors that e-cigarettes should be banned.

FDA has appealed to the public that smoking of cigarettes, e-cigarettes and products containing tobacco lead to addiction and is very harmful to the health therefore they should refrain from use of such substances to lead a healthy life.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Rs 63k crore chip unit projects hit roadblock

Two critical projects for setting up semiconductor wafer plants, being pushed by the government, have run into rough weather on account of "several deficiencies", as pointed out by a high-level official committee. The projects — by consortiums led by Jaiprakash Associates Ltd and HSMC Technologies India Pvt Ltd — involved an investment of over Rs 63,000 crore.

The development may act as a roadblock in the government's plans to kick-off large-scale manufacturing of electronics in the country, including that of mobile phones. Although the two fab units, were cleared by the Congress-led UPA government in February 2014, the Narendra Modi administration too has been pushing for local manufacturing of chips and electronics, given the high level of imports. Electronics and chip making are integral part of the government's ambitious 'Make in India' project.

The official-level panel has, however, found the detailed project reports (DPRs) submitted by the two consortiums "non-satisfactory", said sources familiar with the development. "The two consortia have not been able to fulfill the conditions required to begin the projects," an official source told TOI. "They are yet to submit some 'other documents', which are considered essential to demonstrate their commitment to the projects."

Apart from the DPR, the Letter of Intent (LoI) issued to the two consortia had asked them to furnish additional documents related to incorporation of a special-purpose vehicle (SPV), injection of 25% of the equity funding by the promoters in the Phase I, providing proof of legal possession of adequate and suitable land, and furnishing performance guarantee agreements with the government. The two consortia have not complied with these additional requirements.

Jaiprakash Associates had partnered American giant IBM and Tower Semiconductor Ltd of Israel for its project which was to come up near the Yamuna Expressway in Uttar Pradesh at a cost of over Rs 34,000 crore. HSMC Technologies had partnered ST Microelectronics and Silterra Malaysia for the Rs 29,000 crore project, which was to come up in Gujarat.

The sources said the two consortia have not been able to provide a response to the queries raised by the government. The Jaiprakash Associates-led group has sought certain changes in the terms and conditions of the LoI, while the HSMC Technologies consortium has requested that they may be given time till the end of July to respond to the government's queries. The last date for submission of the documents as well as a response to the queries was till March 31, 2015.

Establishment of fab manufacturing units is seen as a pre-requisite for having a full-fledged electronics production set-up in the country. These will have a big impact on the development of electronics system design and manufacturing eco-system. Also, their local production is seen as crucial in order to stimulate the flow of capital and technology, create employment opportunities, help higher value addition in the electronic products manufacturing and reduce dependence on imports.

A delay in these two projects could be a blow to government's 'Make in India initiative that banks on promotion of local manufacturing of components.

The government had offered many incentives to encourage companies to enter fab manufacturing business. These included a 25% subsidy on capital expenditure and tax reimbursement as admissible under Modified Special Incentive Package Scheme (M-SIPS) Policy. It also allowed an exemption of basic customs duty for non-covered capital items as well as 200% deduction on expenditure on R&D. The incentives also promised an interest-free loan of approximately Rs 5,124 crore.

As per government projections, the proposed FAB units were to create direct employment of about 22,000 and indirect employment of about 1 lakh.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

A single message can crash your iPhone

Apple's iMessage platform has been subject of a new bug that shuts down your entire iPhone after receiving a particular message.

The message, whose second half is in Arabic, can send your phone into a reboot no matter what task it is performing -- it's proved very frustrating for some users and it's not certain what the long term effects are.

Here's the fix: head into your Settings app, then the Notifications tab, Messages and then switch off the slider called "show on local screen and under "alert style when unlocked" choose "none".

It's a pretty simple fix but it means if you're sent any more pesky iMessages you're not going to be sent into the reboot again. 
 Over and over
We contacted Apple for some comment on the matter and the response suggested Apple can't see the problem on their end, but that's apparently not the case for many people who have taken to the internet to confirm the bug,.

Hundreds of forum users are reporting the issue. JoeyTheBoey on Reddit said, "I have an un jailbroken iPhone 6 and it resprings my phone, but only if I'm not in the messages app, then it will show the message notification badge when I get back in."

Jjc123cj on Reddit said, "Don't test this on your iPhone 6! I sent it to myself and now my messaging app crashes when I try to open it ):"

Apple News on Twitter has spoken to Apple's senior engineers who admitted they know there is a problem and said that they are hard at work trying to fix it. 

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Uber’s run rate in India touches Rs 400 crore

Taxi hailing app Uber's run rate of gross transactions in India is close to Rs 400 crore now, and estimates made on the basis of figures sourced from Paytm—Uber's sole payment channel in the country — indicate that this run rate will cross Rs 1,000 crore by the end of this year.

Run rate is the annualization of the last month's revenue, and is a measure that fast growing transaction-based startups use. Sources in Paytm that TOI spoke with said the taxi sector contributes around 5% of the gross merchandize value (GMV) of the transactions on the company's platform, and that Uber accounts for 80% of the taxi sector transaction value. Paytm on Tuesday announced that the digital wallet's annualized GMV run rate has crossed $1.5 billion (around Rs 9,450 crore). A back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that Uber would account for about Rs 400 crore of that.

Paytm sources also said the taxi segment was one of the fastest growing segments for the company, and was expected to grow to 10% of the GMV by the end of 2015. Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma has been maintaining that the Noida-based firm will hit $4 billion in GMV by the end of the year. Uber was Paytm's first taxi customer, but it has since signed on several more —Savaari, Bookmycab, MegaCabs. On Tuesday, it also signed on TaxiForSure. So Uber's share in Paytm's taxi collections could drop from the 80% now. But even if it drops to just 40%, its run rate of gross transactions will cross Rs 1,000 crore by the end of the calendar year. For cab aggregators, transaction value is not the same as revenue. Aggregators get 20% or less of the collections, with drivers getting the rest. That would mean Uber's revenue is less than Rs 80 crore.

Asked about the run rate of gross transaction value, Uber's communications lead for South Asia Karun Arya said, "We don't ever share this type of data externally. All I can tell you is that the figure you have is grossly inaccurate."

Monday, 25 May 2015

Domino’s aims to ramp up online business share to 50%

While food-search startups such as Zomato and Foodpanda are rushing to establish themselves as tech companies, the largest foreign-food chain in India, Domino's Pizza, might give them tough competition. The American restaurant chain has been investing heavily in technology here and currently around 30% of its business, around Rs 250 crore, comes from online, up from 16% last year. What's more, the company is aiming to ramp up the contribution from its online business to 50%, which will allow it to reduce telecom and manpower costs at its stores.

"The biggest competition for us is food tech startups like Zomato and Foodpanda. They have managed to increase the reach of many restaurants," said Harneet Singh Rajpal, senior VP (marketing) at Domino's Pizza India.

The pizza maker wants a large slice of social media too. While in the US, it is in talks to launch a Twitter store, in India it will roll out a Facebook store that will allow 6.5 million of its fans to order food directly from Facebook without being directed to a parent website. "At present, if you have to order on Facebook you will be taken to the Domino's e-commerce page. But the idea is why take someone away, when somebody on that platform is already engaging with you," said Rajpal. "In the future, we will try Twitter too."

At present, home-delivery is just 18% of the entire food services market in the country, while the rest is dine-in. In contrast, Domino's business is equally split between both. Rajpal said Domino's goal is to convert its home-delivery orders into online orders because data shows consumers not only order more online, they order more frequently too. "Online, the consumer can look at the whole menu and see the total bill size. This helps him make correct choices, which is sometimes not possible over the phone," said Rajpal.

Domino's digital marketing spends have increased significantly over the last two years, from around 5% to 25%. Its budget for social media, within digital, has risen to around 22% from under 5% three years ago. On the flipside, increased digital spends have helped the pizza chain optimize returns on marketing investments and trim down discounting spends. "Earlier, whenever we didn't get good sales, we thought sending out discount coupons will get us more orders. But now we know better. For instance, during snacking time, a customer who is hungry and orders a subway is not even looking for a discount," said Rajpal.

Domino's India has gathered data of around 20 million consumers and bucketed it into 570 categories, based on parameters of consumer behaviour. "I know the buckets I need to be investing in to drive business. Around 20% of my customers give me 80% of my business. So, on the day I launch a new pizza, it makes more sense for me to go to only those two million people with the new product instead of sending discount coupons to everybody around the country," said Rajpal. "There's a program which runs all the data across 900 restaurants, across the 570 customer profiles and would create targeted marketing programs for each set of consumers. So, today, when we do our direct marketing it is actually one on one."

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Free Wi-fi in Delhi: Access to be on limited data usage basis

The Aam Aadmi Party government has decided to provide free Wi-Fi internet to city residents on the basis of limited data usage instead of setting a time limit.

Government plans to make free Wi-Fi functional by February of next year. Free Wi-Fi in Delhi was among the prominent pre-poll promises made by AAP.

According to a senior official, government will release Expression of Interest (EOI) for the project by the end of this month followed by Request for Proposal (RfP) in June with the work to be awarded by July.

Around 150 companies from around the world have expressed interest in the project, the official said.

Senior officials said that website browsing, social media websites (Facebook/Twitter), e-mail and Whatsapp and other basic services will remain free while a user will have to pay for watching videos, video chat and downloading content.

"We will work on ensuring a minimum speed of 512Kbps to each user to make it a better experience. We will be very strict on user experience and uninterrupted service," said the parliamentary secretary to minister of IT, Adarsh Shastri.

The government is considering fixing the data usage to 50MB per day but a call is yet to be taken in that regard.

"We will not fix a time but will restrict bandwidth. Internet will be charged on the basis of data usage per day. Once the data limit is exhausted, users can avail the service by paying for extra usage. Every day the system will be reset," Shastri said.
The Information Technology department is in the process of identifying 1,000 places along with the Ground Water Survey and Development Agency (GSDA) for setting up hotspots in the first phase of implementation. Officials said they have also studied the existing system in place in cities like Stockholm, Barcelona, Shanghai and Singapore.

"International projects were state-sponsored models but ours is dynamic so the government can get revenue from the services," Shastri said.

Talking about the revenue model, Shastri said, "This will be a first-of-its-kind project to be tested on such a large scale. In Delhi, there are around 2 crore wireless devices which can access Internet. If at any point, 25-30 per cent people access Internet, it means approximately 50 lakh users.
"At present, Shanghai has the largest model which caters to 4.5 lakh people. But with 50 lakh users, we have large avenues for monetisation. We can also categorise the content being accessed, etc, which provides a big scope for targeted advertising," said Shastri.

The government plans to set-up 50,000-80,000 hotspots across Delhi as part of the free Wi-Fi endeavour.

"Delhi is spread across an 1,463sqkm area, we will cover markets, parks, metro stations and high density areas. We will cover 60 per cent of Delhi.

"Residential areas, green belts, farm belts and rural belts will not be covered.

"As it is a public Wi-FI, it will be available only at public places. An access point (AP) covers a 50sqm area, so multiple APs will be installed in one area," added Shastri.

Wear fitness on your sleeve

In a market hot for fitness apps and wearable devices, the ones developed by Indians for Indians are giving imported devices a run for their money.

Finding fitness is like finding religion.

There you are, adrift in a sea of im moral carbohydrates and fats, knowing that you need saving but are not able to do anything about it. Half-hearted at tempts at recovering your soul from its inertia, resolutions to be a better person that go up in smoke at the first sight of a bowl of ice-cream -nothing is able to offer you the hope of permanent redemption. And then, suddenly, you find fitness, or fitness finds you. Things fall into place, your life has purpose, and you look back with a shudder at your ungodly days when you would sleep till 9 am instead of going for a run.

For Vishal Gondal, the founder of fitness technology company GoQii, which is based out of California and Mumbai, the moment came a few months after he had sold his successful start-up Indiagames to DisneyUTV Digital. "I used to be a national volleyball player in school. But the startup life, with its irregular hours, stress and junk food got to me and I became completely unfit. After I sold Indiagames, I realized I had to do something about it, and got into fitness devices," says Gondal. He tried several wearable fitness and activity trackers from global brands like FitBit and Jawbone, but he realized that they only started working for him when he used the data collected by the devices to get personalized diet and exercise advice from a friend, who was a running coach in California. "I was travelling a lot at that time, and I would send him all the data and inputs, and he would give me feedback, "says Gondal. It worked, and today he has run 10 half-marathons and four ultra-marathons.

His personal journey inspired Gondal to start GoQii, and he took the lesson from his experience -that data means nothing without somebody trained to interpret it -pretty seriously. GoQii is subscription-based and once subscribed to, you get a band and a personal coach. Users can also download the app on their smartphones and sync it with the band, which monitors physical activity as well as sleep patterns. This is recorded by the band while a coach at the back-end keeps tabs and suggests diets, exercise routines and changes in sleep patterns. The brand aims to have 1,000 experts on its platform by the end of the year.

Poised for a fit India movement

GoQii is just one of the Indi an brands at the convergence of fitness and technology an area global experts say is one of the biggest consumer technology sectors today. Apps and wearable devices are being used by millions of people around the world to monitor everything from the number of calories consumed versus those burnt, heart rate, blood pressure and even menstrual cycles and ovulation days. India, where the fitness fever is just India, where the fitness fever is just about catching on, presents a huge market for these apps and devices, and several entrepreneurs have taken the leap into creating startups that provide technology-based fitness solutions.

"Yes, I'd say India is on the brink of a fitness revolution. The kind of energy and enthusiasm I can see on our platform shows that Indians are getting serious about fitness. It's not just about morning walks around the park anymore," says Roshini Gilbert, director of services and training at HealthifyMe, a Bangalore-based startup that provides fitness solutions through a free app that monitors calories and activity, and a pro version that connects users to fitness trainers and nutrition experts.

HealthifyMe was started by Sachin Shenoy and Tushar Vashisht, a former investment banker who quit his job in the US to join the Unique ID project with the GoI. During the project, Vashisht gained around 18 kg. While trying to reverse his lifestyle, he started tracking his diet -this ultimately led to the birth of HealthifyMe. Shenoy and Vashisht realized that for Indians, it is virtually impos sible to track calories on Western apps because home made Indian food is not calorie-defined, and feeding the number of calories into trackers becomes a matter of guesswork.

With the help of nutritionists, the company first created a huge data base of Indian food and defined the number of calories by serving size, making it easier for users to log the number of calories consumed in a day .

The next step was to connect users to experts, such as Gilbert and her team, who engage with users on a daily basis and provide training and diet advice keeping in mind the user's routines, habits, likes and dislikes, and are available via in-app messaging, audiovideo chats, and textWhatsApp communication. "For Indians, personal interaction is of paramount importance. We, as Indians, like assisted models, not self-service models," says Vashisht.

"Unlike in the West, where fitness enthusiasts are largely self-motivated, Indians like group activities, or want to be told what to do. The personal touch is important to them," says Gilbert, which is where the Indian-developed apps may have an advantage over early entrants like global brands FitBit, Jawbone, Garmin and Misfit. At this point, the market is also being flooded by inexpensive fitness trackers from Chinese brands such as Xiaomi. How can Indian brands distinguish themselves?

Good karma and brownie points

Innovation and personalization are key, says Gondal. For instance, not only does GoQii connect users with experts, it also offers a Karma points system. "The activity monitored by your Goqii band converts into Karma points, which are converted into cash that are donated to a charity partner. The more you exercise, the more money you can give to the needy ," explains Gondal.

Another Bangalore-based fitness-tech company, 2mpower Health Management Services, also offers a points-based rewards system for working out to clients who sign up with its GetActive platform and use its device. Users get something called `GetActive currency' which is added to their accounts, so that the more they exercise, the more points or currency they have to redeem against purchases at designated stores.

The GetActive fitness and sleep tracker band, which is customized for each user depending on his or her BMI, was developed by the company in 2011, and has the largest presence among corporates in cities such as Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, and the NCR region. The company , which has seen 50,000 sign-ups, of which almost 40,000 are active users, has tied up with more than 35 corporates clients including Intel, Wipro, GE, Cisco, KPMG, E&Y, SAP , and IBM, to provide employees of these companies with GetActive bands. "The bands benefit not only employees, who are motivated to remain active, but also the employers as they want their employees to be healthy and seek more efficiency in the workforce.Also, if you have a large number of users in one company , it helps individuals to reach fitness goals faster," says M Hussain Naseem, co-founder and CEO of GetActive. Indian devices have a distinct edge over foreign-made ones, says Naseem. "For example, if you wear a foreign device and travel by car on an Indian road, it adds a certain number of steps that you have not covered because of the condition of Indian roads. Those products are simply not suited to the Indian environment."

At the end of the day, however, technology can only do so much for you. Companies can create the most sophisticated fitness devices -but you still have to wear them and run. "Wearables are fun to have but I am yet to see a device that has actively helped anyone stick to their goals over a sustained period of time," says lawyer Rahul Matthan, a self-confessed gadget freak. "I have pre-ordered the Apple Watch, prima rily for the fitness features, but I doubt the watch will create a significant improvement in my fitness-related activities. All the devices that I have tried offer little more than an incentive to keep fit -but none of them have lifted to the level where they offer true and effective motivation to stick to your fitness goals," says Matthan.

After all, you can't get religion if you don't go to church.

How do wearable fitness trackers work?

Almost all of today's fitness bracelets are based on a three-component accelerometer that enables measuring acceleration against the three axes, i.e. start and end of the motion, and its intensity. A regular accelerometer used in Jawbone UP! consists of two electrically charged plates and a small counterbalance in-between. When the sensor is still, the counterbalance is located right in the middle.However, once you start moving, the counterbalance moves from one plate to another and the sensor registers the motion. Gathering data about the motion is only one task. The device should process this data so that users are able to view it on the screen. To ensure accuracy, makers such as FitBit test the data against that received by other devices. The ways wearables are synced with a smartphone are different, too. For instance, Shine and FitBit sync via BlueTooth -the most popular method. In order to save battery life, Jawbone UP! syncs with an iPhone via an embedded mini jack and earphones slot.

Source: Vik Bogdanov,

The gym glove

A one-year-old Bangalore-based tech startup, Oxstren, is developing a product that it claims will put India on the wearable tech map. The team at Oxstren is developing a `smart gym glove', which identifies exercises, evaluates exercise forms, measures force, analyzes grip and seamlessly tracks all fitness activities, while providing useful biometrics such as Real Time Heart Rate, Respiration Rate, Hydration Levels, along with an inbuilt Diet Tracking app. "These gloves analyze the grips in different exercise forms and calculate the forces exerted and resisted, and identify the exercises done by the user, be it a bicep curl or a bench press. This not only converts into the most extensive fitness tracking, but also aids the user during a workout to analyse and evaluate exercise forms via our algorithms," says founder and CEO of Oxstren, Pratik Saraogi

High on demand

We have seen wearable fitness devices consistently rising in popularity since we launched the category on last year. In the recently concluded Amazon India Great Summer Sale, we had participation from various brands (Garmin, GOQii, Mymo) for a wearable tech store-specific promotion and it performed extremely well. We saw the first boom around Diwali last year, when we launched GOQii. This was followed by the Polar Loop, which became the most popular item on the sports page in January.Brands like GOQii and Polar consistently figure amongst top brands in sports. With recent launches from Garmin, ERI, Mymo and a few other products in the near future, this is a category bound to grow at a fast pace Pankaj Jathar | Category Leader, Sports, Amazon India

Friday, 22 May 2015

FB blocks user over 'nudity' , he seeks $20,000 in damages

Frederic Durand-Baissas says Gustave Courbet's oil on canvas of a woman's genitalia deserves to be shared. But Facebook disagrees and has removed his profile for breaching the social network's nudity ban.

And so the battle over Durand-Baissas's right to posting an image of the painting on the social network has continued for almost four years. Other Facebook users have posted Gustave Courbet's 'The Origin of the World' — only to be told to take down the painting.

Now Durand-Baissas is demanding 20,000 (£14,000) in damages and the right to have his profile reinstated.

Key to the battle is where the case is heard. Durand-Baissas wants it to be in Paris, where the Musee d'Orsay, which houses the work is located. Facebook has sought the case be heard in California, appealing an earlier ruling ordering a French hearing.

Facebook disabled Durand-Baissas' profile after receiving a complaint in 2011. The artwork, painted in 1886, was part of a link he shared, redirecting to a documentary on the history of 'The Origin'.

The teacher told Europe 1 radio station that he was "fighting to defend Courbet, condemned by the Americans". His lawyer, Stephane Cottineau, said his client felt he was a victim of "prejudice" and had been treated "like a pornographer". Securing a French hearing, he said, was the "first of David's victories over Goliath".

SBI ties up with Snapdeal, PayPal

Country's largest bank SBI has signed pacts with e-commerce player Snapdeal and digital payments firm PayPal for providing cheaper loans and cross-border transaction facility to small and mid-sized businesses.

Under the 'Snapdeal-Capital Assist' programme, sellers or manufacturers on its platform will be able to access liquidity at attractive rates from SBI, with women entrepreneurs getting a further concession of 0.25%. Besides, no collateral will be required for loans up to Rs 1 crore.

"It is a partnership of the equals in which the bank will provide financial assistance to sellers on e-commerce platform," said SBI chairperson Arundhati Bhattacharya, who was present at the MoU signing with Snapdeal.

She said SME sellers were being constrained by liquidity problems and were not being able to ramp up their businesses.

"Even if a business is good, if liquidity is not there then it will not survive," Bhattacharya told reporters here.

Snapdeal CEO Kunal Bahl said the deal will help small businesses as they find it difficult to provide adequate collaterals while seeking loan through the normal route.

"Under the scheme, no collateral would be required for loans up to Rs 1 crore," he said.

Nearly 65% of SBI's business is from alternate channels including digital.

The bank also tied up with PayPal for facilitating secured and convenient cross-border transactions for SBI's 9 lakh SME customers.

State Bank of India managing director B Sriram said the MoU with PayPal will be for cross-border transactions and it will also look at domestic payments matter in future. It will also explore opportunities in e-governance areas.

Country manager of PayPal Vikram Narayan said the company was operating in 203 countries and handles 11.5 million transactions a day.

In future, PayPal would explore opportunities in e-commerce and m-commerce space in India, he said.

Yesterday, SBI had signed an MoU with Amazon to develop payment and commerce solutions for customers and small businesses.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

After 18 yrs, Igate to delist from Nasdaq

IT services company Igate is going to delist from the Nasdaq less than a month after French major Capgemini agreed to acquire it in a $4.04-bn deal.

The US-based company, with most of its workforce in India, said it will apply for termination of registration of the company common stock under the Exchange Act after the merger and will cease to make filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The merger is expected to take place during the third quarter of this calendar year. Igate retained BofA Merrill Lynch as financial advisers, who informed the company's board of directors that Capgemini had confirmed an all-cash offer price of $48, despite certain negative findings in due diligence, but proposed a termination fee of 4% of equity value.

TOI was the first to report on the acquisition, and the possibility of Capgemini taking Igate private in its April 23 edition.After delisting, Igate will become a subsidiary of Capgemini North America. Igate will cease to exist as a publicly traded company after nearly two decades of having gone public in 1997.

Founded by two Indian-Americans - Sunil Wadhwani and Ashok Trivedi - Igate was born under a different name Mastech. In 2000, during the dotcom boom, the founders rechristened Mastech as Igate and followed it up with business model changes to become a $1.2-billion IT services firm with 33,000 employees.

"Under the terms of the merger agreement, the company's shareholder would receive $48 per share which is 22% premium over the closing price of shares of company common stock on February 19, 2015, the last trading day before our board of directors received Capgemini's initial indication of interest," the company said in a recent filing with the SEC.

The merger consideration will be paid in cash. Shareholders would not have equity interest in parent company.

Capgemini said it will buy the 25% stake held by the two founders, and the 29% stake held by Apax Partners, which financed the Patni acquisition. The founders get $1 billion, and Apax, which had invested $380 million, will take home around $1.2 billion.

Capgemini and Igate together will have 12.5 billion euros in revenue this year, an operating margin of 10% and 1.9 lakh employees. Capgemini gets 70% of its revenues from Europe, unlike most global IT services companies that get much of their revenue from the US, the world's biggest outsourcing market.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Twitter-Google deal puts tweets in search results

 Google and Twitter have announced a partnership to display tweets in search results, renewing a tie-up that ended in 2011.

The move will allow Google to get more real-time results in its search queries, and help Twitter boost engagement after a period of sluggish user growth which has weighed on its stock price.

"We're excited to team up with Google to bring Twitter's unique, real-time content to Google's search results," said Twitter vice president Jana Messerschmidt, yesterday.

The deal will start with search results within the Google app and mobile Web, with a desktop version coming, said Messerschmidt, adding that the feature is due to reach more countries "in the coming months."

"For example, if you're interested in hearing more from Taylor Swift, a quick search on Google will pull up her most recent tweets," she said in a blog post.

"Or, if you're a TV buff, a search for #Madmen will bring up the most relevant news and Tweets about Sunday's series finale."

The two firms had a similar arrangement dating back to 2009, but tweets disappeared from Google search results in 2011.

"It's a great way to get real-time info when something is happening," Google product manager Ardan Arac said in a separate post.

"And it's another way for organisations and people on Twitter to reach a global audience at the most relevant moments."

Microsoft's Bing search engine has a similar function of integrating Twitter messages.

Danny Sullivan of the tech blog Search Engine Land said the deal calling for a graphical display of tweets may give Twitter more traffic, if not revenue.

"It's important to note that this is NOT tweets coming into Google for the first time, or the first time since the last formal deal ended," he said in a blog post.

"Tweets have continued to be in Google since that last deal. The new deal just allows for more of (that) and with deeper integration."

Monday, 18 May 2015

Modi is a social media wizard, says US study

 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," the paper says, adding that or the first time in its history, "the BJP leader emerged as more central to the public discourse than the ideology he stands for."

Pal says the gentle tenor of Modi's "twitter banalities" on global events, carefully crafted and global public thank-you notes, and consistent reinforcement of national development themes suggest no shadow of a man who was once-rejected by the international community and was banned from entering the United States for gross violations of religious freedom.

"The young demographic of Twitter users in India are from a generation that has grown up with little memory with the riots of 2002. The enduring memory of Modi for them will be the political maverick who talks directly to the people, whether through Twitter or via his popular radio and YouTube missives called MannkiBaat. For a party long branded as appealing to constituents of traditional Hindutva values, the use of technology in the party's reimagination has been particularly salient," Pal writes.

Analyzing Modi's social media approach and postings, Pal, an assistant professor at UMich's School of Information, says he has evolved significantly from the time he used it as a chief minister, and has been quick to adopt latest tech updates, such as taking advantage of the video feature on Twitter almost as soon as it as available. He also gives the appearance of composing messages himself unlike Obama, whose messages make it evident it is being managed on his behalf.

During his tenure as prime minister, Modi's tweets have also changed. He posts fewer political statements and more casual messages, such as greetings, condolences and updates of his addresses. ''Modi uses Twitter as a personal signal than for issues, per se. For instance, he goes between 'karyakarta' to a 'mai baap style' (worker to a benign ruler). This is different from say Obama who has kept up with agenda-based tweeting,'' Pal said.

If he keeps it up, Pal says, Modi will overtake Kim Kardashian on Twitter, "and we won't be able to say that we didn't see that coming." Kardashian (in 65th place) has 14.2 million followers compared with Modi's 12.3 million (85th place). At the top are entertainers Katy Perry (69 million) and Justin Bieber (63 million), followed by Barack Obama with 59 million followers.

Mobile app tech is the new promised land

For Rajesh Lodha, a Chennai-based businessman into real estate and financing, building a mobile application all by himself was a little off his core expertise, though a passable interest in enterprise mobility had always been there.

But, as mobile application development platforms evolved to require just the basic of computing skills - writing functions in an Excel field - to create apps, he quickly jumped on the wagon to build a private Facebook for his schoolmates to organize a reunion coming up this month. The cloud-hosted application, shared on Google Play Store, can ascertain who is coming for the get-together, collect their addresses, phone numbers and current professions.

"A simple Facebook invite is limited in the sense it can only find out if a person would come. With this application, data about their whereabouts and current professions can also be collected. And as a downloadable app, it can be shared on Whatsapp too, helping us reach out to as many alumni as possible," says Lodha.

Lodha is among a growing legion of novice software developers, freelance code-writers, and non-technology business owners who are showing interest in mobile application platforms that had originally begun as tools by product software companies for enterprise clients to build features to their software.

Companies such as GoDB, ZOHO Corporation, Freshdesk, OrangeScape, and Noida's Appy Pie have platforms that can be used to build applications. Now, these platforms have diversified from niche enterprise relevance to next-door applications such as telling the neighbourhood gym owner, kirana store manager, and pharmacist that getting on the mobile to connect with distri-butors and clients is the key.

Lodha turned code-writer because of XLapp, a platform of GoDB. With its core focus on enterprise mobility, 15-year-old GoDB launched the XLapp in April to offer a Do-It-Yourself application builder for smartphones. "The XLapp works in two ways," says Mahavir Chand, founder of GoDB, It hosts on the cloud applications built on a simple Excel sheet.

The app creator needs to upload the Excel sheet onto the XLapp server, which converts the MS office file into a downloadable application.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Axis Bank to facilitate 'contactless' payments at 50,000 PoS terminals

After State Bank of India announced its nationwide rollout of contactless payment cards using Near Ffield Communication (NFC) technology, Axis Bank has said that it will start incorporating NFC technology in credit and debit cards and upgrade 50,000 point-of-sale terminals to enable acceptance of 'tap and pay' feature.

Reacting to the Reserve Bank of India's move relaxing two factor authentication norms for NFC based payments below Rs 2000, Jairam Sridharan, president - retail lending and payments, Axis Bank, said, "NFC-based tap-and-go payments have the potential to revolutionize small ticket transactions in the country and can help payment digitization. Axis Bank is committed to catalyzing this new ecosystem on both sides -- by enabling a large number of merchant terminals for NFC, as well as starting to issue NFC cards."

He added that over 60% of transactions on credit and debit cards are today below the threshold of Rs 2,000 and this is likely to increase with the new guidelines. Axis Bank, which is also one of the top 5 issuers of credit and debit cards in the country, will roll out NFC-enabled credit and debit cards immediately and help build NFC-based card acceptance in the country.

Internationally, 'tap and pay' cards have caught on in quick service restaurants, department stores, campus payments ad for cab charges as they facilitate faster check outs. Increase in acceptance of NFC-based payments is also expected to reduce cash withdrawals at ATMs.

All NFC-based cards will be issued on EMV platform and appropriate risk/fraud mitigation rules will be put in place to ensure security of transaction and hassle free customer experience. Customers will continue to have the option of using their card as a normal chip-based card and to transact in a 'contact' mode even on the contactless enabled terminals, Axis Bank said.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Funds race off starting block

When Aditya Rao, 27, set out to raise his first institutional round of funding for LocalOye, a home and local services marketplace, he was confident getting investors wouldn't be tough. Rao raised $5 million in a Series A round of funding from New York-based investment firm Tiger Global and Lightspeed Venture Partners earlier this year. LocalOye is a part of a new tribe of earlystage startups, in hyper-growth categories, which has mopped up millions of dollars at never-seen-before valuations in a remarkably short period of time.

In the past year, young Indian startups, some of which are not even incorporated as companies, have raked in $3-5 million in funds as investors lay very early bets in search of the next unicorn - those billion dollar companies which are not so mythical anymore.

Overnight doubling of valuations, competitive bids and the use of funds to lock out rivals are the new normal for the fledgling Indian startup ecosystem which has attracted unprecedented capital of late.

Early-stage round sizes doubled in a year

Says Rao, who started LocalOye back in 2013, "Startups which boast of either of these three things are able to command a higher valuation at Series A- multiple term-sheets and hence VCs to choose from, riding a wave (being part of a hot industry) or having great traction."

According to startup data collector Tracxn!, the average size of Series A and B rounds combined more than doubled from $6.68 million in the first quarter of 2014 to $14.29 million in the same period this year, with a big bump up taking place in Series B rounds. What used to be historically a Series A round at $2-3 million is raised at the seedstages buoyed by an upcoming group of active entrepreneurturned-angel investors and pureplay VCs entering the ecosystem at the idea stage, backing teams and not the business.
 Says Albinder Dhindsa, co-founder of express delivery venture Grofers, which raised $45 million in little over two months from Sequoia Capital and Tiger Global earlier this year, "We are one of the first in what is going to be a long list of early stage companies that achieve $100 million plus valuation within a couple of years of starting. Investors are a lot more willing to bet aggressively early now as the market is very competitive, both for new companies and for investors to get access to these companies."

Competition fuels soaring valuations

Aggressive fund-raising abilities, shorter time gap between funding rounds and a go-for-broke attitude of the founding teams are some of the cachets that distinguish a potential winner from the rest of the flock. Investors say they are sanguine about the success of a few of these startups, justifying their expensive deal making, which will offset the losses made on the ones who fail."VCs are hungry for such deals because of the large market that exists here. Indian consumers are responding very quickly to any new service that's better than their current options. With the entry of newer Series A investors like Tiger, the competition has increased significantly, again driving up the valuation. Almost all VCs are clearly chasing only the potential number one or two in any space," says Anand Lunia, founder of early-stage fund India Quotient. Over the past two years, as many as 120 startups have raised more than $3 million without having done a seed or angel round. Seventeen startups have raised more than $10 million in their first round of funding without raising any seed capital.This signals that institutional investors are willing to wager on ventures right at inception."As an investor, if you have to play in this market, you need to pay up. The best founders, however, target a valuation that is at least 10 to 12 times the total capital raised in prior rounds. This ensures that the business is growing in a capital-efficient manner and there is sufficient value creation between rounds," says Tarun Davda, director at Matrix Partners, which has invested in Ola, TinyOwl and Practo among others.

Getting to the capital efficiency stage though is still some time away for a majority of these startups. The immediate goal is to take a leadership position, for which founders say they need capital and that, too, in abundance. Harshvardhan Mandad, 25, co-founder & CEO of Mumbai-based fooddelivery app TinyOwl, says if given a chance he'd like his company to grow in a stable way and without having to raise funds every two months, a sentiment echoed by many other young entrepreneurs. But the reality is starkly different for this fast-growing company which is having to fiercely fight competitors like Zomato, Food panda and a swarm of other food delivery startups. TinyOwl will need to build a gargantuan war chest, says Mandad. "We would raise another big round soon if we have to achieve our milestones like that of being in 50 cities by the year-end." The one-year-old Mumbai-based venture has in all raised $20 million already.

Echo-effect on later rounds

Another crowded category is the branded budget hotel marketplace where OyoRooms is one of the well-funded players. Says Ritesh Agarwal, 21, its founder, "Expensive early rounds do impact future valuations. Having gone through a couple of rounds, my learning is that investors know what they are investing in--which is to build a 20x or 40x company . In that case, a few million dollars extra don't matter since your conviction is that it'll be a way larger company ." Founders should, however, consider potential downside risks because of unjustifiable valuations and also quick dilution of the founding teams' shareholding.

Says Rao of LocalOye, "I've seen many startups raising impractically large rounds at steep valuation. This can make life difficult for the startup in the next round because they will have to maintain that exponentially fast-growing valuation in the next round. And most times, between Series A and B, the startup hasn't solved every problem out there, especially that of scale. This results in a down round next time."

Lunia of India Quotient takes a crack at the future: "What may happen going forward is that we'll see below-par companies shut or pivot to a niche model to survive instead of down rounds which value the company lower than its previous round." Young founders need to know that the game begins with Series A; it's not even a milestone, and definitely not the end," he says.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Apple iMessage more secure than Google Hangouts

End-to-end encryption is the mot du jour when it comes to digital privacy. In layman's terms it means that when you send a message from your computer, it is encrypted from the moment you sent it until the moment it is received. This means, in theory, that no third parties can intercept the message.

Apple says it uses end-to-end encryption. Google, however, is another story. The company has been notoriously vague about its privacy practices, and a recent Reddit AMA explains why.

Two Google security executives, Richard Salgado and David Lieber, took to Reddit late last week to answer any and all questions. The American Civil Liberties Union's principal technologist Christopher Soghoian seized this opportunity.

He asked, "Why has Google refused to be transparent about its ability to provide wiretaps for Hangouts? Given Google's rather impressive track record regarding surveillance transparency, the total secrecy regarding the company's surveillance capabilities for this product is quite unusual."

Salgado responded, "Hangouts are encrypted in transit."

This is an important admission, because it shows that Google can get access to whatever it is that you're sending. Redditor reddit_poly explained:

"For non-technical readers, this means that Hangouts are only encrypted on their way between your computer and Google's servers. Once they arrive at Google's end, Google has full access. In short, this is confirmation Google can wiretap Hangouts."

Motherboard reached out to Google, which "confirmed that Hangouts doesn't use end-to-end encryption."

This is a questionable policy to say the least, one that shows huge privacy limitations for Hangouts. And it's especially telling when you pit Google's policy next to Apple's end-to-end iMessage encryption.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Apple CEO meets with Chinese vice premier

Apple CEO Tim Cook met with a top Chinese official in Beijing while touring a country that has become the tech giant's biggest driver of sales growth, state media reported.

Cook met with vice premier Liu Yandong in the Zhongnanhai leadership compound, the official Xinhua News Agency said. They reportedly discussed how to promote greater scientific and educational cooperation between China and the US.

Xinhua said Cook also visited an elementary school in Beijing earlier Tuesday to talk about innovation. A day earlier, Cook announced cooperation between Apple and the environmental group the World Wildlife Fund to responsibly manage Chinese forests and minimize the company's environmental impact.

After trying to break into the Chinese market, Apple has seen spectacular success over the past year, particularly with iPhone sales in the country. China accounts for 30% of total Apple revenue, with Chinese sales growing by 71% in the last quarter.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Nikesh Arora appointed SoftBank President, likely to succeed CEO Son

Japan's SoftBank unveiled a management reshuffle on Monday, appointing investments head Nikesh Arora as president and naming him as a potential successor to CEO Masayoshi Son, as the telecoms conglomerate steps up its overseas expansion.
The move comes as Son and SoftBank are battling to make their 2013 acquisition of US carrier Sprint Corp for more than $20 billion profitable. A sluggish Japanese economy, though, has forced the company to increasingly look overseas for growth.
Announcing Arora's appointment at SoftBank's earnings conference, billionaire Son, who is relinquishing the president's post, said the former Google Inc executive was a "strong candidate" to lead the company in future.
"Yes. He's 10 years younger than me, and he has more abilities than me," Son told reporters, when asked if Arora was a potential candidate to succeed him.
"The last nine months I've spent with him have made me sure of that, but I'm not going to retire soon," Son said.
Arora was hired in July to run a newly created unit called SoftBank Internet and Media Inc, reporting directly to Son. He became one of the most powerful Google executives, and the highest paid in 2012, when he made $51 million in cash and stock.
Arora will assume his new role on June 19.
SoftBank has been weighed down by the costs of trying to
turn around Sprint, which has been in intense competition with larger U.S. rivals AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc.
Sprint, in which SoftBank owns 80%, has undergone a long-haul revamping of its network, shedding thousands of jobs and triggering a mass exodus of subscribers.
SoftBank has made a string of other investments in recent years, including $250 million in privately-held Hollywood movie studio Legendary Entertainment, and $600 million in Travice Inc, the operator of Chinese taxi hailing app Kuaidi Dache.
As well as being the largest investor in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, SoftBank has plans to invest $10 billion in India's potentially huge but under-developed online retail market.
"We expect more investments and acquisitions, even more so than now," Son said. "Going forward, the overseas market will be the main factor for SoftBank."
SoftBank posted a 9% fall in operating profit for the year ended March to 982.7 billion yen ($8.2 billion), hurt by the absence of one-time gains enjoyed the year before.
That compared with its own forecast of 900 billion yen and was a shade better than the 980.87 billion average estimate of 20 analysts, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine.
The company did not issue a forecast for the current fiscalyear, saying it was difficult to provide estimates due to alarge number of uncertain factors.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Google Launchpad Week to mentor 16 startups

Search giant Google is flagging off the second edition of its popular mentoring programme — Launchpad Week — on Monday. Google has identified 16 Indian startups for the five-day mentoring programme, focused on areas like product strategy, user experience (UX) and user interface (UI), technology, marketing, business development and presentation skills.The event will conclude with a demo day where the startups will make a pitch to VCs and investors.

Google Launchpad Week, the flagship programme of the Google Developers Launchpad Program, is designed to support the local startup ecosystem and to add value to existing accelerator and incubator programmes. This is the second Launchpad Week to be held in Bengaluru this year as part of its annual four-part series. Launchpad's weeklong events are held on a regular basis in locations including Tel Aviv, Barcelona, Paris, Berlin, Singapore and London. Last August, Launchpad Week debuted in Bengaluru, inducting 20 local startups to the programme, which included iReff Technologies that allows you to find the best prepaid mobile recharge plan for your needs and Smart Pocket that manages all your loyalty cards on the phone.

This time, the mentoring programme is opened to startups outside Bengaluru — three each from Mumbai, National Capital Region (NCR) and one from Hyderabad — to support entrepreneurial diversity. Some of the startups who have made it to the programme include Bengaluru-based furniture rental startup Furlenco, Gurgaon-based contextual news startup Newsbytes and Delhi-based mobile travel marketplace SeekSherpa. "We have taken only startups that have dealt with real experiences on ground. The cost it incurs to the founders is minimal but they get validation from real customers," said Sunil Rao, country head - developer relations and startup ecosystem at Google India.

Rao said that selection process was more stringent this time with over 150 startups being evaluated to shortlist the final 16. This was twice the number of startups evaluated previously. "We have identified startups that have validated their ideas much more thoroughly this time. They have used the classic product management approach with step-by-step iteration to validate their ideas. Even before the prototype, they have done a market study to assess the interest levels among 200-300 potential customers. The pedigree of entrepreneurs is very good," he added.

Take Hyderabad-based ride-sharing app Zify for instance. Its founder Anurag Rathor, went to Ireland to participate in a global ride-sharing app developers' conference to understand and gather insights about alternative commuting options that are comfortable and affordable.

Mahesh Vorkady, the 41-year-old founder of city-based startup Talkative Solutions, created a communication app dedicated solely to parents of school-going children. "It encourages interaction among parents about tuition, school activities and the challenges they face at school," said Vorkady. He said the startup is looking to tap into neighbourhood communities or alumni network to create a social network of sorts.

The Bengaluru event has a roster of 40 mentors that includes Cisco's UX lead Muthu Rajamani, Adobe Systems consumer group's design lead Sharad Baliyan, Redbus co-founder Phanindra Sama, Google's programme manager and member of its developer relations team in India Amrit Sanjeev and JPMorgan Chase vice-president Saurabh Chandra. Seedfund's managing partner Bharati Jacob and Srijan Capital's partner Ravi Trivedi would be mentoring startups on the go-to-market strategy.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Now, book a priest online for pooja at home

Having been born into a family of pandits who organize religious rituals, Ashutosh Tiwari had grown up seeing the difficulties faced by those in this extremely unorganised profession. It was with the aim of bringing a semblance of organization in it that he and his friend Yogesh Dubey set up a website that enables booking of pandits online for ceremonies. It also explains the rituals and lists ingredients needed for them.

The Mumbai-based start-up, set up by 25-year-old engineers Ashutosh Tiwari and Yogesh Dubey, is being mentored by city-based innovations firm Lemon Ideas. Its services are at present available in four cities— Mumbai, Nashik, Nagpur and Varanasi— but plans are afoot to expand them.

"My father was a priest and I saw from close quarters how the seemingly simple task of having poojas performed somewhere was often not so easy for both the devotees and the priests. There was also some amount of mistrust among people about the need for certain things. From childhood itself, I had thought I would do something to organize this sector," said Ashutosh. In fact, he had registered the domain name as an engineering student for Super Pandit way back in 2010, when he had no idea about how this would be done.

A well paying corporate job followed college but a year later, the entrepreunial urge became stronger. It resulted in the formal launch of Super Pandit in June 2014 with Ashutosh and Yogesh at the helm. At first, it operated as an e-commerce site, selling eco-friendly Ganesha idols and sweets from famous shops around Mumbai. At this juncture, they met Deepak Menaria from Lemon Ideas and the journey into realizing the actual aim behind setting up the website started. 
 'Fake pandits mint money due to people's ignorance'

Ashutosh Tiwari and Yogesh Dubey launched the website an year ago to provide online booking of pandits. It has only been a month since the new, improved version of services started and it has already attracted attention of the priests as well as devotees.

"Such initiatives would help us propagate knowledge of our religious rituals. People don't usually realize what to look for in a pujari, no questions about his qualifications are asked. Fake pandits are misusing this ignorance as a means of making money," said Acharya Raviraj Mishra, one of the empanelled super pandit from Mumbai.

One of the very first customers of the portal, revenue manager Shrikant Sharma is very happy with the service. "Searching for pandits and pooja ingredients myself now feels like having to stand in line to buy a train ticket. This service was like booking a ticket online," he said adding that it is part of a natural progression that took surprisingly long for someone to come up with.

Co-founder Yogesh, himself from a Brahmin family, said, "Hinduism is the only religion that doesn't believe in promoting itself which is leading to many youngsters becoming agnostics. It is important to explain to them basics most which have scientific basis and rational explanation." He informed that the next stage was to launch in Bangalore, Haridwar and New Delhi.

Telcos must not block, de-grade net: Trai

Trai chief Rahul Khullar on Friday said there should be "no blocking" and "throttling or de-grading" of the internet by telecom operators, a statement coming at a time when the regulator is firming up recommendations on the crucial issue net neutrality and ways to manage over-the-top (OTT) services and internet applications.
 Khullar said "there can be no debate" on areas which affect the delivery of internet to the masses. Speaking at a debate on net neutrality and the future of digital India, organized by the O P Jindal University, the Trai chief — who will demit office by middle of this month — pitched for "transparency" in managing of internet traffic by telecom operators. "If you do traffic management, there must be public disclosure and transparency so that you are not abusing authority in the garb of traffic management."
 The issue of net neutrality took centre-stage after Trai issued a consultation paper on managing OTT operators. Bharti Airtel's aborted attempt to charge higher for applications that provide voice services and a plan to create a special platform that provides preferential treatment for applications that pay for it further intensified the debate.

The regulator has received numerous petitions that have pitched for neutrality over the internet and equal access to all types of services and applications.

Industry lobby grouping Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has said that internet applications that provide voice services, such as Skype, Viber and WhatsApp, should be brought under a licensing regime just like the telecom operators, or else data prices would need to go up manifold.

Apart from Trai, the issue of net neutrality is also being studied by an internal committee of the Department of Telecom. Telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has already thrown his weight behind ensuring the maintenance of net neutrality. "We feel that Internet is one of the finest creations of the human mind. It should have linkages with the common man in a non-discriminatory manner," he has said earlier.

Khullar said Trai's consultation did not have any intention to look at ways to control the internet. "Anybody in their right mind would not try to regulate and police the internet... But there are problems and issues that you need to grapple with."

Some of the areas which are being actively looked at include the issue of having some regulatory regime for applications that are providing voice and SMS services, Khullar said. "They are in the same business as the telecom operators... If they are no different, then should be a level-playing field?"

Khullar also questioned the government's ambitious digital India programme (national optical fibre network or NOFN) through which it aims to connect as many as 2.5 lakh villages over the internet. "We could not provide power and water in 40 years, how can you provide broadband?" the Trai chief said, terming the plan as "good for dreams".

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Infosys co-founder backs speech company

Uniphore Software Systems, a Chennai-based speech recognition solutions company and incubated at IIT-Madras, concluded an undisclosed fund-raise from Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan along with existing investors.

Umesh Sachdev, co-founder and CEO of Uniphore, said the funding would be used to fuel Uniphore's global expansion plans, especially in the US market and also to develop their core technology. He added that the company would like to hit $20-million revenue mark by 2017-18 and the plans to establish operations in the US would help achieve the target.

With six patents to its name, Uniphore's solutions include voice bio-metrics, virtual assistant and speech analytics.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Flipkart looks to woo global talent

Punit Soni, the recently appointed chief product officer at India's largest e-commerce player Flipkart, is a man with a mission. Just three weeks into his new job, Soni — who had an eight-year-stint at Google launching various products and helping turnaround Motorola Mobility — wants to position Flipkart as not only a global tech powerhouse but a company which attracts the best global talent in the years to come.

"I'm coming to the future," Soni said while talking to TOI in his first media interaction, referring to his return to India after having spent his entire professional career in the US. With a focus on enhancing Flipkart's mobile commerce experience, Soni is already at work and said consumers will start to see changes on the mobile front very soon.

"We are focusing on getting amazing talent which is global in nature. Now we are at an inflection point and the world is looking at India as the big opportunity. Just like younger startups look up to Flipkart as a role model, now I want Flipkart to do the next thing — bring large number of people from across the globe to work here and live happily, both professionally and personally. This should then seep into the rest of the ecosystem. I think it will happen, it's just about us evolving ourselves into a more thoughtful international employer than an Indian employer," Soni said.

Soni's addition to the leadership team at Flipkart, along with another Google veteran Peeyush Ranjan who was hired as the head of engineering, is in line with the e-commerce major's thrust on sharpening its technology play as it taps into talent from Silicon Valley's fabled tech giants like Google. As one of the world's most valued privately-held tech companies at over $11 billion, Flipkart's focus will be on mobile, as outlined by its co-founder Sachin Bansal, even as it competes with a new set of mobile-first startups.

Admitting to the downside of Flipkart's legacy as a desktop-driven internet play, Soni said he was watchful of these younger startups. "It is a challenge. I understand that disruption most likely comes from a smaller startup. Their agility to do things is phenomenal and that is what makes them the prime disruptor of large companies."

Flipkart and fashion e-tailer Myntra, which it acquired last year, have been pushing their mobile apps as smartphone penetration in India skyrockets. TOI reported earlier this year that Myntra plans to shut its website altogether with Flipkart following suit as the online retailers morph into pure-play mobile outfits.

"The conversation is what truly is a true mobile commerce experience — no one has really cracked it yet," Soni said. "Today any mobile app is basically a website condensed into a small little phone with some ability to tap and swipe. Now compare that to the idea of shopping. I'm trying to build what is a true mobile commerce experience. If I can build that up in any geography, it is here in India."

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Mobile app to monitor status of school toilets

In its effort to go hi-tech, the school education department has launched a mobile application to monitor construction of toilets across the state.

The app 'Swachh Patasha la', launched on Monday, will keep a check on the status of 8,583 new toilets being built at a cost of Rs 1.07 crore.

The app will help to monitor not only the construction of the new toilets but also the dysfunc tional toilets. As soon as the app is launched, the user has to enter the de tails of the school, including name, code, management and the head master's mobile number. The appli cation, available in Google Play, works in three stages. In each stage, the status of toilets is monitored by uploading pictures. In stage one, the officials have to upload the photo of the area selected to construct the toilet. After the foundation of the toilet is laid, the officials have to upload the picture in stage two. In the final stage, image of the constructed toilet is to be uploaded.

"Our aim is to monitor the status of the toilets through technology. In three stages, the higher authorities can super vise the work without any has sle," said T Chiranjeevulu commissioner of school educa tion in Telangana.

The funds for the toilets won't be released until the final image of the constructed toilet is not uploaded, said officials from Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan (SSA). "The application will avoid any mismanagement of funds since payments will only be released once the toilets are constructed," said Veeru Pakshi, executive engineer at SSA.

Across the state, especially in districts, most schools do not have toilets. As a result, many girl students, mostly in higher classes, dropout of school.

While the education officials would know, common public may face certain issues in registering dysfunctional toilets," added Pakshi.

The school education department has instructed officials to complete the construction of toilets by June 30.

Monday, 4 May 2015

SIM card maker Gemalto to tap expanding finance business

The world's largest smart card producer Gemalto is seeing a growing trend of banks using contactless mobile technology, or near field communications (NFC), which is not dependent on telecom companies. Operator-independent payments are possible because of a technology called Host Card Emulation (HCE) where cardholder information is stored remotely in a cloud instead of within a secure SIM card provided by a telecom provider.

The cardmaker's stance on contactless payments is significant considering that Gemalto sells billions of SIM cards. It shows that there are rising opportunities for the company in the finance space outside the mobile world. In the first quarter of 2015, the company reported revenues of 686 million euros (about $830 million). Revenues from payment and identity segment overtook mobile revenues for the first time at 369 million euros (over $445 million), or 54% of the total company's revenue.

One big revenue generator for the company in the banking space is the shift in payment cards from magnetic swipe to EMV (chip cards). In the US, close to 10 crore cards are being replaced while in China there are around 50 crore cards being replaced with EMV. "In India, too, replacement of magnetic swipe with EMV has begun with credit cards and is also slowly happening in debit cards," said Atul Singh, director, Gemalto India, in charge of banking, transport and telecom solution.

The move from mag-stripe to EMV and to have smart cards for government-based ID programmes has meant that Indians are likely to hold multiple Gemalto cards and not just one in their mobile.

Compared to until a year back when Gemalto was strongly supporting NFC payments where the mobile operator plays the role of a 'trusted service manager' (TSM) and manages details normally present in a payment card, the company is now fully supporting HCE by providing tokenization solutions. Tokenization enables transactions to be completed without transferring cardholder information through the network.

"Until last year, if you were talking about NFC payments, you needed your mobile operator to provide the special SIM that could store the Visa or MasterCard applet. We were the leaders in this service and we had built data centers to support this," said Singh. The company has enabled several banks across the world to move to NFC payments using this platform.

Singh added that the game had slightly shifted after MasterCard and Visa started support for HCE. "Banks are now looking at this solution where they can still offer tap and pay using the mobile but without depending on the operator," said Singh. He added that while a hardware-based security was the best HCE had picked up over the years, perhaps both technologies would survive.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Net Neutrality: COAI's campaign garners support of 40L people

Telecom lobby group COAI on Sunday claimed that 40 lakh mobile subscribers have supported its 'campaign' that calls for Internet-based communication services such as WhatsApp and Skype be subjected to similar norms that apply to mobile operators.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) said that the "support" has come through SMSes and voice calls made as part of this campaign over the past week and "the entire mobile number database of supporters is auditable on request by the appropriate agency".

This comes in the backdrop of a raging debate over 'net neutrality' and allegations that telecom operators are hurting this concept of free Internet access to all by giving preferential treatment to a select few service providers on their respective platforms.

Last week, the COAI had launched a campaign with the slogan 'Sabka Internet, Sabka Vikas', seeking a level playing field with net-based services like Skype and WhatApp.

The industry body said if the telecom operators are not offered a level playing field with net-based services, then their businesses would be viable only by raising data prices by up to six times.

Such high rates, they said, would become unaffordable for a large number of people, denying them access to the Internet.

"The campaign championed the cause of customers choosing what they would like to access in the web space, benefiting from affordable Internet packages and with the same rules being applicable to services as well.

"COAI started the outreach effort to ensure mobile customers have the freedom to benefit from the power of the Internet in the way they would wish to, including the choice of platform, device and technology," COAI Director General Rajan S Mathews said.

The debate on 'net neutrality' was triggered in India by mobile operator Airtel introducing an open marketing platform 'Airtel Zero', and TRAI's consultation paper on whether telecom firms can be allowed to charge different rates for different uses of Internet data like e-mail, Internet browsing and use of apps like Whatsapp, Viber and Skype.

Friday, 1 May 2015

New CBI lab to decode data from Apple, Linux devices

The Central Bureau of Investigation Friday got a new specialized forensic lab to decipher and recover data from Apple devices seized from suspects during investigation of cases. The new lab, inaugurated at the CBI academy in Ghaziabad, will be fully equipped with latest workstations and software to decode the digital information stored in Apple devices, said sources.

So far, the agency had limitations in deciphering Apple and Linux-based devices, which are becoming extremely popular nowadays, with the training of forensic experts emphasizing on Windows-based software.

The specialized lab is focused on extracting information from Apple devices using forensic software from devices such as iMac, MacBook Pro, iPad, iPhone and iPods as well as from Linux devices which are basically Android-based devices.

The laboratory has been given forensic tools for cloning, imaging, password recovery, forensic analysis, internet artifacts recovery to enable speedy probes, said an official.

CBI director Anil Sinha, who inaugurated the facility earlier, addressed newly inducted sub-inspectors at the agency's training academy.

"Today, we are expected to be specialists in the investigation of not only anti-corruption offences but also in investigation of conventional crimes, economic crimes, complex financial crimes and bank frauds, high-tech and cyber-crimes and crimes having transnational ramifications. This academy has imparted the basic skills and now the onus is on you to improve upon and sharpen these skills further," he said.