Monday, June 9, 2014

Nasscom wants government to set up technology entrepreneurship mission

NEW DELH: Aiming to replicate the Silicon Valley story in the country, IT-BPO industry body Nasscom has asked the government to set up a technology entrepreneurship mission in India to handle needs of startups like financing, infrastructure, ease of business, among others.

According to the industry body, which represents the over $118 billion Indian IT-BPO industry, the country has showed promising prospects for developing technologies and solutions and many large multinationals are reporting that 70% of their emerging markets solutions are coming from India.

"Over the last 2-3 years, it (startups scene) has really widened. All the key elements of this ecosystem are there in terms of venture capital, private equity, angel investors, mentors," Nasscom President R Chandrashekhar said in a statement.

Even the presence of large companies, which actually encourage this ecosystem by way of incubators, accelerators and looking at them as possible partners or possible targets of acquisition, are also here, he added.

"Most of the large multinationals are reporting that 70% of their emerging markets solutions are coming from India. So, I think all in all this is gaining huge amount momentum and traction as well as recognition in different parts of the world," Chandrashekhar said.

Stressing on the need of a Technology Entrepreneurship Mission, the former Telecom Secretary said there are several issues that need to be addressed to sustain and enhance the startup eco-system in India. "I think we still need to do many things to build up this ecosystem and actually in a sense, replicate the Silicon Valley story in India and make sure that this ecosystem is actually able to nurture, grow and deliver breakthrough innovative products, services and solutions," he said.

Nasscom has identified 4-5 different areas and is taking these recommendations to the government. Many states have actually funded and partnered with bodies like Nasscom to set up incubation centres and provide infrastructure support, which lowers the cost of entry, he added.

"There is also the need to ease the flow of capital into this ecosystem because the normal banking and financial set up don't work. This industry is not an asset based industry, it is basically based on the value of an idea and on value of technology," Chandrashekhar added. He said these issues are not recognised by the domestic financing system, which is more focused on assets and collaterals.

Another element is to leverage the domestic market to encourage the growth of such firms as a lot of them also look at the domestic market. The innovation and products and services are also based on domestic market needs, he added.
Chandrashekhar further said: "Spreading this ecosystem to different parts of the country is important because there many places which can support this ecosystem, so we need to grow it beyond just Bangalore and Delhi NCR and places like that," he said.

While Nasscom launched the 10,000 startups initiative, the organisation believes that there is potential to do much more, especially when there is a comparison with other much smaller countries like Israel, he added.

Stressing on the ease of doing business, Chandrashekhar said: "How do you ease the regulatory environment? How do you make it easier for a company to start up? Can you make it possible for a company to be set up in a day or even three days? Five or 10 member companies, that is the usual size of a startup, cannot spend all the time in compliance."

Citing an example, he said small companies that have not even started making revenues, face a tax deduction the moment they make a sale.

Even though the firm is making a loss, finding it difficult to get financing, it has to pay taxes and then claim refund which typically takes 18 months and that further aggravates the financial problem, he said.

"You are not providing financing and on top of that you are extracting taxes where there is no profit. These are some areas we felt some changes are required," Chandrashekhar said.

Today, a lot of firms choose to register outside India and consequently the value that is created dose not accrue to the country, Chandrashekhar added.

"Why should that happen? There is no way you can control it because the nature of the product is such that it can go anywhere. So if we have the people and workforce is here, which is doing all of this, then we must go into the question of why this value creation is not happening within the country," he explained.

The industry body also urged the new government make the regulatory environment more predictable, legal provision more transparent and remove ambiguity.

"And therefore, we have suggested as a very key element of our recommendations to the government that India Technology Entrepreneurship Mission should be set up, which will look at each of these areas that what do we need to do in areas like finance, IT, infrastructure, ease of business and then continuously address those issues," Chandrashekhar said.

Friday, May 23, 2014

How startups are helping employers attract and retain employees

A new breed of hiring portals are offering employers a variety of methods to attract and retain employees.

These ventures offer techniques to identify candidates most likely to leave their current jobs, scout for the right hire on social media and aggregate referrals by friends. At least half a dozen such startups have been set up in recent years that are competing with established jobs portals in the fast-growing recruitment market.
"India is one of the few large markets where the notice period for hiring runs as high as three to six months. In the United States, employees are free to go the same day they resign," said Manjunath Talwar, co-founder of MyNoticePeriod, a portal which scouts for candidates who are serving a notice period for final exit.

Set up earlier this year by 38-year-old Talwar who was earlier head of products at Yahoo Travel along with his colleague Abhijeet Khasnis, the company has signed up clients such as Infosys, TCS, Paytm, Flipkart and Myntra.
The Bangalore-based venture charges a flat monthly fee of Rs 5,000 and is planning to raise funding of Rs 1.5 crore this year.

"The recruitment market has evolved. People are far more connected now with social media and know a lot about a company before joining it," said Vivek Madhukar, COO of Times Business Solutions Limited, which runs TimesJobs, an online jobs portal.

Madhukar has started a section Tech-Gig on TimesJobs which runs coding contests. "Recruiters are now able to identify the top 1% of coders in a city through such contests," he added.

To solve the problem of finding an internal referee for a job application, Insead MBA graduate Nishant Mathur, 30, set up RoundOne, a recruitment marketplace. Those aspiring to join a company can ask an existing employee for a referral for a fixed price.

RoundOne arranges a teleconference between the two parties. "Getting a referral increases one's chance of being hired ten-fold," said Mathur who claimed his portal has about 1.5 million registered users. The company counts clients such as Accenture, TCS, IBM, Capgemini, Cognizant and Infosys, who also use his platform to find the right employees.

Using social circles to identify potential hires is another avenue that new hiring firms are exploring. To make the process a fun one, 32-year old Sudarshan Ravi, a former Deloitte consultant has started Ripple Hire, a company that uses gamification for recruitment.

Candidates are set a minimum number of goals, which could be gaining a referral. On achieving the target there are rewards of cash and kind. The company has clients such as Adobe, Real Image, and Social Wavelength. "Gamification is fun, engaging and drives business results," said Ravi.

Source : TOI

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Google to offer store alerts for products you searched online

NEW DELHI: You often look for products on the internet, but soon forget about it. Google aims to change this.

The latest Google Now update for Android will ensure that the app alerts you if a shop around you is selling the goods you searched for on the internet.

With the new update, Google Now cards will show "the product and price to remind you that you wanted them," the company said in a Google+ post. Therefore, you just need to step into the store and see if it is in stock at the moment.

Google Now recently added another feature that users may find beneficial. The digital assistant will use the smartphone's motion sensors to identify if the user has left the vehicle and then keep note of the location you last left it at. Therefore, car owners can easily locate where they parked their cars in case they are unable to find it; Google says that users' parking location data will not be shared with anyone.

However, this feature is not foolproof and if you travel by bus, it will assume that the point you got off is the location you parked your car.

Google Now also recently got offline mode, where the app will show relevant cards even in the absence of an internet connection.

Source: Times Of India

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

With HD Voice, better call quality is coming

Cellphone calls sound terrible. And the quality of the calls over the years has grown worse, in contrast to the evolution of other modern technologies, degrading into bad digital shouting matches, stutter starts and misunderstandings.

The reasons for these bad calls are many and complicated and basically come down to lousy audio technology that breaks up and squeezes the sound of your voice into little bits and pieces. Then, as those bits get transmitted over a bad or congested carrier connection , some get tossed away or lost and what comes out the other side is garbled or incomplete, sort of like a game of telephone.

Hope always seems to be near. In 2010, next-generation phone networks were supposed to route calls without delays and require less of that squeezing. In 2011, those high-speed LTE (Long-Term Evolution, sometimes called 4G) networks were even closer, and they'd be combined with better phones that would, this time, really truly improve call quality.

But all that turned out to be a lot more expensive and difficult than the carriers had anticipated, and so they haven't done it yet.

Now, there's yet another call quality fix looming: HD voice. While the technology has some promise, I'm not sure it will arrive before most of us switch to Skype, Google Voice or give up calling completely.

HD voice is an industry term for a combination of better audio compression (the act of squeezing digital data to make it take up less space), a wider range of audio frequencies and phones meant for better sound and noise cancellation. HD voice expands the sound of a cellphone call from about four octaves to more like seven. That's closer to the sound of an actual human voice and to what we can actually hear, which is about 10 octaves.
The result is better-sounding calls, less background noise and hopefully less delay — quality as good as a landline , or better.

T-Mobile was the first American carrier to introduce HD voice on its network, first announced at the 2013 CES conference. It's running now, but with some major caveats. Both sides of a call have to have T-Mobile service, for one thing, and both must have a phone that supports HD voice. Oh, and it can't just support HD voice, it has to support the specific compression program the carrier is using.

Phones that have all that technology include the iPhone 5 and newer iPhones, the Samsung Galaxy S3 and new versions, the HTC One line and a few others. That's a popular lineup, so if you have a family plan on T-Mobile and you all have newish phones, you can enjoy high-quality calling, and you maybe already have.

Source: TOI

Friday, May 2, 2014

Facebook is new classroom teacher: Study

Facebook may not be all that bad for your kids. According to a study, university students who used a Facebook group as part of a large sociology class did better on course assignments and felt a stronger sense of belonging.

"Although some teachers may worry that social media distracts students from legitimate learning, we found that our Facebook group helped transform students from anonymous spectators into a community of active learners," explained Kevin Dougherty, an associate professor of sociology at Baylor University's college of arts and sciences.

"The study has implications for the challenge of teaching large classes - a matter of growing concern for higher education," Brita Andercheck, a doctoral candidate in sociology at Baylor University, added.

The Baylor research focused on a class of 218 students in an introductory sociology class.

Students who participated in the Facebook group scored higher on quizzes, wrote stronger papers and did better on exams than classmates who did not take part, the study reported.

Both students and teaching staff provided a steady stream of content to the Facebook group.

Teaching staff posted discussion questions, links to relevant online material and photos and videos of in-class events such as guest lectures and themed skits.

Students, meanwhile, posted their own photos and videos related to course concepts, engaged in discussions and sought solutions to questions and problems.

"Again and again, we saw students helping one another on the Facebook group," Dougherty noted.

As final exams approached, students were especially helpful to each other, swapping definitions and examples and organising informal study sessions.

A Facebook group extends the classroom in time and space, Dougherty said.

"It allows students to interact with one another and with the subject matter wherever and whenever they choose. It makes them more active learners," he concluded in the study published in the journal Teaching Sociology.

Source: Times of India

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Trai to soon fix minimum internet speed for mobiles

NEW DELHI: Sick of dead slow internet connection on mobile? Relief is on the way as regulator Trai will soon fix the minimum download speed the telecom operators will have to deliver for wireless data services. 

"The Authority (Trai) has been receiving a number of complaints from consumers regarding the poor download speed experienced by them. The Authority after examining the issue felt that there is now a need to mandate the 'minimum download speed' for the wireless data services," Trai said in its latest consultation process. 

At present, there is no binding regulation on telecom operators to deliver wireless service at a particular minimum speed. 

3G operators promise mobile Internet speed in the range of 7.1 megabit per second (mbps) to 21 mbps. At 7.1 mbps speed, a mobile user should be able to download a full-length movie in around 12-14 minutes. 

But invariable, it takes around 40 minutes to download a a file size equivalent to that of a movie on the best network. 

The minimum speed reported by operators to Trai lies in the range of 399 kbps (minimum broadband speed is 512 kbps) to 2.48 mbps. 

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has found the minimum speed delivered by an operators doesn't even qualify to be called broadband. 

The wireless data services include mobile internet and broadband services like 2G, 3G and those offered using dongles. 

The regulator is of the view that the minimum download speed for 3G and CDMA EVDO service should be 1 megabit per second with 95% success rate. For GSM and CDMA 2G the minimum speed should be at 56 kilobit per second and for CDMA high speed data it is 512 kbps. 

Trai has sought public views on its consultation by May 5 and counter comments on it by May 12

Monday, April 21, 2014

How brands are leveraging Facebook's 100 million users in India

MobiKwik , a Gurgaon-based start-up that offers mobile payment services, has been on Facebook for two years. About a year back MobiKwik started paid advertising on Facebook targeting Android phone users, the most popular operating system on smartphones. Besides, a lot of the new users of MobiKwik coming on Android devices were in the 25 to 30 age group, and MobiKwik found that Facebook enabled it to target ads at this group. Says Sachin Gupta, digital marketing specialist, MobiKwik: "Being on Facebook helped us drive traffic to our app and get new users."

From start-ups like MobiKwik to Pigtails and Ponys, a Bangalore-based hair accessory label, more and more brands are finding it difficult to resist the lure of the world's largest social network in their bid to connect with customers. Facebook now boasts 100 million users, a base the likes of HDFC Bank, PepsiCo India, Lufthansa, Tata Docomo, Nokia, Vodafone, Idea Cellular and Pernod Ricard have woken up to.

Around end of 2013, Samsung launched the Galaxy Note 3 on Facebook, using a different creative to target men and women. And last year, through Facebook , Nokia was able to target feature phone users for its Nokia 205 entry-level smartphone model. Last month the Nokia X (Android phone) campaign on Facebook resulted in two lakh conversations, not just creating awareness for the brand but also resulting in the Finnish handset maker getting some muchneeded consumer feedback.

Says Kirthiga Reddy, head, Facebook India: "There are over a million advertisers globally on Facebook. We are conscious that every dollar spent on Facebook is a dollar that advertisers can spend anywhere else. Our USP is the ability to do effective and efficient targeted ads." While companies have multiple social media platforms to advertise on, including Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google+ besides banner ads across popular websites, what makes Facebook attractive is the 100 million milestone it reached on March 31.

Says Kartik Jain, head of marketing, HDFC Bank: "It [the user base] reflects Facebook's increasing role in online social chatter." Agrees Jitender Miglani, social media analyst at Forrester Research: "100 million Facebook users are valuable for any marketer. It will attract a lot of share of internet market spending." It is particularly valuable for those brands that are following, what Rishi Dogra, head of digital marketing at PepsiCo India calls, a "consumerled strategy" .

Facebook for feedback

While for start-ups the Facebook user base is a quick access to customers and, hence business growth, for large companies it's a multi-step platform, starting with using Facebook as a listening board before any business can be transacted . Says Jain: "We use Facebook to listen to our customers, build our image and crosslink across social media platforms." For example HDFC Bank has 90 videos on YouTube that talk about aspects of banking in simple terms (simplifying fixed deposits, mortgages and the like), which it promotes on Facebook.

Wines and spirits maker Pernod Ricard has Facebook pages to do surrogate messaging like promoting the Blenders Pride Fashion Tour. At the other end of the spectrum, the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), which has a mandate to skill 150 million people by 2022, uses Facebook as a communication platform. And Pepsi has been on Facebook since 2009 and uses it to engage with brands and fans. Says Dogra: "It's a continuous engagement model. We have created and executed campaigns including Pepsi T20 and launched our 'Oh Yes Abhi' positioning. The Pepsi brand page has 31 million users." Adds Ronita Mitra, senior vice-president , brand communication and insights,

Vodafone India, which has brought back the Zoozoos for the Indian Premier League (IPL) that began on Wednesday: "We have 17.8 million fans on the Vodafone Zoozoos page. Facebook allows us high measurability and targeting and we aim to use the medium in line with its strengths."

Facebook knows the user

The USP of social media and Facebook lie in their ability to know the user — age, city location, what device she is using, what she likes and so on. For instance Nokia targets the 18-24 year olds routinely with its new launches. Says Viral Oza, marketing director, Nokia India: "From a creative and engagement perspective this is our target audience. Social media and Facebook are high-involvement platforms, where youth converge. Ability to target helps get the message to right people, while scale creates the impact." That ability to know the user enables Facebook to customize ads. For instance, Facebook has a custom audience feature, where a company's data base of emails can be matched with those of Facebook users and messages can be sent out on the social network to the targeted user base. Another tool, generate a 'look alike audience' , helps companies on

Facebook finds people with a similar profile to its existing customers. Explains Gupta of MobiKwik: "If I want to target 25-30 year olds in Pune who drink vodka and use an Android phone, I can get such a user base from Facebook." About 40% of MobiKwik's ad spend is on Facebook, 10% on Twitter, 20% on banner ads across websites, and the rest on traditional media.

Online marketplaces are also using Facebook to drive traffic to their sites. For example, online fashion retailer Myntra uses Facebook logout ads — the ad that a user sees on logging out from Facebook . Says Vikas Ahuja, chief marketing officer , Myntra: "Facebook can help do age segmentation — we target 18-27 year olds, as that's the internet-savvy population and key contributor to our business. We can do gender-specific targeting and by location as well. Around 35% of our business comes from women."

Facebook controls the algorithm and hence has the power to target users. Says Senthil Anand, head of account management at KRDS, a Paris-headquartered social media agency: "Half of the Facebook user base comprises 18-24 year-olds and 30% are 25-34 year-olds . On Facebook, companies can target people who have their birthdays on a particular day. And videos go viral via Facebook. It gives more visibility to brands." KRDS started operations in India three years back, in Chennai.

A young user base is attractive not just to internet startups and brands like Nokia and Pepsi, but for brands in more traditional categories, too. Like banking, for instance. Says HDFC Bank's Jain: "Our follower profile on Facebook is similar to the user base of Facebook — a large number are below 25 and may have just started banking. The idea is to engage with them. We use Facebook to listen to customers and build our image." For a brand like HDFC, being on Facebook helps in listening to customer issues, complaints and resolving them.

However if the strategy is to only target fans, then companies are really missing the point, insists Facebook. Says Reddy: "We have studies that show fans buy 1.9 times more than non-fans . But fans are a small percentage of the target audience. Fan engagement is valuable in itself, but brands can do a lot more than that."

Start-ups see a great return on investment (RoI) on Facebook — like MobiKwik has seen cost of customer acquisition reduce and new user sign up increase via Facebook. For the bigger companies returns are slower to come by. Says Mitra of Vodafone: "A lot of the best practices for Facebook are still evolving and that makes it challenging to put a definite RoI on our spends." KRDS believes its early days and at present its more about engagement than RoI.

From users to buyers

Engaging with the user base is what attracted companies to Facebook, but now they are keen to know RoI as well. Says Jain of HDFC, "RoI on social media is tough. It started as a listening board and the next step is lead generation. Our objective this year is to look at RoI from social media."

RoI essentially involves converting Facebook subscribers into buyers. Say for instance a bank launches a home loan product, can it sell it to users of the social network? With no easy answers on that front yet, despite their presence on social media, most brands still dedicate a bulk of their advertising budgets to traditional media. Says Jain: "As of now, 1-2 % of our total marketing spend is on social media. Bulk of the spend goes into direct marketing, onground efforts and digital campaigns."

For Pepsi, RoI is an ongoing calculation. Says Dogra: "If you create an engaged community RoI will continue to accrue over the years whereas the investment on customer [or follower] acquisition is a one-time spend." Facebook argues that the platform's ability to target ads in itself creates better RoI than on any other platform. Says Reddy: "It's the ability to drive a message in a particular way with zero-spillage that drives RoI. We are results-focussed. We are measured on business objectives and what we deliver fuels the next stage of growth."

In the expanding world of internet — India has over 200 million users, expected to triple by 2016 to 600 million — Facebook dominates the social media play. Most of the online population (around 84 million) uses the Net via their handsets, and these mobile users may not find the ad intrusions on Facebook a pleasurable experience. Also, when it comes to mobile internet, advertisers have Twitter, YouTube and other social media platforms to pick from. Says KRDS' Anand: "Brands want to invest in YouTube as well. Video content grabs better attention. That's why Facebook now allows videos. At present YouTube is second most popular for advertisers after Facebook."

Adds Dogra of Pepsi: "Organic reach [on Facebook] has been consistently dropping over the past three years. While this is a function of the larger network effect, it limits the ability to sustain a continuous engagement model as reliance on paid reach increases." Organic reach is the number of people who would see anything you post without any paid media push.

Facebook's 100 million users will have the brands following it, as that's where the young consumers are. Even as companies search for RoI, Facebook will look to monetise that user base fast given that the social media platform gets just $40-50 million (according to Forrester Research) of its $7.87 billion global business from its second largest user market after the US.

Source: Times Of India