Friday, January 31, 2014

Digital push could bring big dollars for Indian IT

MUMBAI: Digital transformation of large corporations is a multi-billion dollar opportunity, helping the companies with everything from supply chain to marketing. SMAC, as they are popularly called, will contribute "a few billion dollars over the next few years" to Tata Consultancy Services' revenue, CEO N Chandrasekaran has said. 

TCS has created a separate unit to focus on the space, and it is not the only one. In December,Accenture created a unit to focus on digital enterprises, with about 23,000 employees. Accenture CEO Pierre Nanterme also pegged digital as a multi-billion opportunity for the company. 

"Whether it is social, mobile, analytics — each of them require their dedicated or cloud-based infrastructure within the enterprise. An enterprise has to get them integrated into the existing infrastructure and this will involve consulting and implementation services, integration, management and operations, all of which will pose great opportunities for IT firms," Shree Parthasarathy, senior director at consultancy Deloitte, told ET. 

While the opportunity is huge, exploiting it is not going to be business as usual, and industry experts say Indian IT firms do not yet have a level playing field with the multinational firms. 

"While Indian firms will have some success, especially with loyal existing clients, they lack the broader scale and depth to tackle the likes of Accenture head on. "My view is they need to beef up their onshore consulting teams with acquisitions," said Phil Fersht, CEO of IT advisory firm HfS Research. Fersht added that while companies such as TCS, HCL,Infosys and Wipro have solid consulting capabilities, which are performing well in the market, their scale and size are far below the likes of an Accenture, Capgemini, Deloitte or IBM. 

"See, there will be competition from MNCs in the upstream activities like consulting but there companies bring in IT oracles to structure their digital plan. But in downstream activities like the implementation and integration, Indian firms will do well," V Srinivasa Rao, senior vice president of Tech Mahindra's digital enterprise solutions unit, said. 

Tech Mahindra said it can call on some 4,000 engineers involved in digital transformation. Rao, however, added that many of the advantages that Indian firms generally counted on — like a global delivery model — may not work with SMAC. 

"Clients want the development of these applications done in days and weeks. There is no 12-18 month development cycle. It's very quick and agile, and a lot more work is done onshore. But because you can charge a premium amount for this, the margins are also higher," Rao said. 

"Most of the competition we see are smaller US companies in the annual revenue range of just $50-100 million, but since the deals in this space are smaller, it is easier for a smaller company rather than a larger one, which are used to $20-30 million deal sizes," said Anand Deshpande, CEO of Persistent Systems

Persistent, which is an IT products and services company with customers such as Microsoft, is looking to specialise in SMAC. Deshpande added that smaller companies also specialised in niche areas and had very specific skills, which help them compete for such deals. Larger Indian IT companies are looking to combat this trend by bringing in the expertise of the smaller players in their bids. 

"We are creating an ecosystem of 12-15 partners, which will be companies from the US, Israel and India, who are experts in their spaces. We consider this the new form of systems integration. IT companies can definitely play an integrator role," said Ganesh Natarajan, CEO of Zensar Technologies.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

India to have 243 million internet users by June 2014: IAMAI

NEW DELHI: With more and more people accessing the web through mobile phones, the internet user base in the country is projected to touch 243 million by June 2014, a year-on-year growth of 28%.

According to the Internet And Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), the Internet user base in the country stood at 190 million at the end of June, 2013.

For the whole year 2013, the internet user base grew 42% to 213 million, from 150 million in 2012.

Of the total user base, mobile internet users accounted for 130 million in 2013, a growth of about 92% from 68 million in 2012.

IAMAI expects the number of mobile internet users to touch 185 million by June 2014, accounting for about 76% of the internet user base in the country.

"Year 2013 was the year of Internet. The numbers affirms the fact that internet in India is now becoming inclusive, which augurs well for the industry and society at large," IAMAI said.

The growth of Internet users has also led to a substantial growth of other digital industries such as e-commerce and digital advertising, it added.

Digital commerce market stood at Rs 8,146 crore in December 2007 and it grew to Rs 47,349 crore by the end of 2012.

At the end of December 2013, digital commerce in India grew to Rs 62,967 crore.

Digital Advertising has also been witnessing a steady growth. The study projects the online advertising market in India to touch Rs 2,938 crore by March 2014.

Source: TOI

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Google to kill Nexus range in 2015: Report

NEW DELHI: Google may be planning to discontinue its highly popular Nexus branded smartphones and tablets as early as next year. Nexus brand has endeared itself for offering quality hardware and stock Android software at affordable prices and speculation has been rife about an upcoming 8-inch Nexus tablet hitting the market soon.

However, a new report has claimed that Google will terminate the Nexus line of smartphones and tablets next year. This information comes courtesy Russian blogger Eldar Murtazin, who has tweeted: "Nexus line by Google is over in 2015 ;) Yes - this line will be replaced by Play Edition (current name, it will be rebranded)."

Google already sells the Play Edition of devices in the US, offering devices with stock Android software without any added applications or software features. At present, the Google Experience range of devices includes Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One, Sony Xperia Z Ultra and Moto G smartphones, along with LG G Pad 8.3 tablet.

On both Nexus as well as Play Edition devices, Android updates are pushed faster than they are on other devices. While Google releases them for Nexus products, whereas respective manufacturers like Sony, HTC, Samsung, LG and Motorola are responsible for it in the case of Play Edition range.

The hardware of the Google Play Edition devices is manufactured by the companies that make the original versions of the products, namely Samsung, HTC, Sony Motorola and LG right now. Google is not involved in the hardware manufacturing process of these devices. On the other hand, the internet search titan partners with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) like LG and Asus to manufacturer its Nexus devices.

While the Nexus range of devices is sold by Google as well as e-commerce sites and brick-and-mortar retailers, the Play Edition of products is only available via Google currently.

If the internet search giant does choose to discontinue the Nexus line and replace it with a Play Edition range, it will provide users with a bigger portfolio of devices to users.

However, pricing would need to be handled, as the Nexus range is priced quite low compared to devices with similar specifications. On the other hand, the Google Play Edition smartphones and tablets do not differ much from their original counterparts in terms of pricing.

Courtesy: Times of India

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

7 cutting-edge technologies coming soon

Like every year, even in 2014, phones will get smarter, computers will get faster, cameras will capture more pixels, and screens will display those clearer. We will see newer versions of operating systems. There will be better iterations of devices, and you'll probably ditch your old faithful for a new shiny one.

But this feature is not about mere upgrades. Not at all. It is about cutting-edge tech that's only been seen in research labs till now... and some of these are still prototypes. Regardless, all of it is... hot stuff.

As small as a memory card

The Edison is Intel's latest experiment in miniaturization. This Linux-based 'computer' - the size of an SD card - comprises a 400MHz dual- core processor, integrated Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0. The chipmaker even has an app store designed for the platform, making Edison a highly customizable miniature computer that can be put to myriad uses, including in wearable gadgets.

As a proof of concept, Intel outfitted baby clothing with Edison as well as sensors that could track temperature, breathing, and motion. It also kitted an LED coffee mug with Edison, and wirelessly connected both the micro computers. When the baby was happy, the sensors in its clothing conveyed the data via Edison to the coffee mug (in the parent's hand) to display a happy green smiling face, but when something went wrong, that face turned red... Expect to hear and see more of Edison this year.

Intel plans on getting it out into the market within the next few months. In fact, it has already announced a $1.3 million 'Make It Wearable' competition, including $500,000 that will be awarded to the most innovative developer.

Lots of 'Steam'

A few years ago, Valve -- developers of best-selling titles such as Half Life, Counter Strike, and Team Fortress -- envisioned a future where games could be delivered via the internet straight to computers. That was the beginning of Steam - an online distribution service that brought gamers and content together.

As part of the next step, Valve envisioned consoles - built by different vendors - that would replace PCs. These boxes would be equipped to handle all of Valve's offerings. And the concept of a Steam Box was born. These machines would not be a 'one size fits all'. Each hardware manufacturer could design its own configuration, and at different prices, so long as all those machines are optimized for Steam.

Well, recently, 13 vendors - including Alienware, Gigabyte, Zotac, Falcon Northwest and Digital Storm - unveiled their own versions of this console. And since Steam boasts of a catalogue of over 2,000 games, it is in a unique position to digitally distribute titles at a discount of up to 75% - and this can only mean good things for gamers.

So while Sony and Microsoft slug it out for console supremacy, they just might find Valve creeping up on them. As for us, we're glad Steam Box is no longer plain vapourware.

Dual-boot tablets

If you're out shopping for a tablet, you're forced to choose an operating system, whether Android, iOS or Windows Phone. But guess what? A new set of slates - ready to hit the market as early as February - will support Android (Jelly Bean) as well as Windows 8. This means, you can (at boot-up) choose which OS you want to run.

The first of these devices, interestingly, is Micromax LapTab - a 10-inch slate that's powered by a dual-core 1.4GHz Intel Celeron processor, 2GB RAM and with 32GB storage.

Similarly, Asus has also announced the Transformer Book Duet TD300 - a hybrid laptop-tablet combo that boasts of some killer hardware under its hood, including a 13.3-inch Full HD IPS display, an Intel Core i7 processor, 4GB RAM, and a choice between a 128GB solid state drive (SSD) or a 1TB hard drive.

Now the only thing left to see is whether the strange bedfellows, Google and Microsoft, are okay with the arrangement...

All about the curves

A few years ago, manufacturers glibly convinced us that we really needed flat screen TVs. And we, gullibly, believed them. But now, once we've upgraded, the same chaps are telling us that curves are the new thing.

Last year, Samsung unveiled a simple curved screen prototype. This year, they went a step further. The South Korean giant has built an 85-inch ultra high-definition (UHD) TV that looks like any other flat-panel television. But press a button, and both its vertical edges start moving forward to reveal a bendable screen. The resulting concave display is - supposedly - engineered to recreate a theatrical effect; bringing the edges closer to make the viewing experience more immersive.

And then there is Panasonic that can't quite decide whether screens should be concave or convex. It has built a prototype that curves in as well as out.

Well, we're not sure if bendable UHD screens are immersive or not. But yes, in the next couple of years, expect almost every TV maker to throw curved displays at you. And you can expect them to cost much more than the sedan in your parking lot!

Modular PCs

Putting together a computer is not everyone's cup of tea. You have to choose the right motherboard, microchip, graphic card and power unit. And that's only the beginning. Then, you have to work your way through all the cables; connecting the fans, hard drives, DVD writer and what not...

Well, Razer - a company known for its gaming hardware - has been working on Project Christine that will make assembling a personal computer as easy as playing with Lego blocks.

Need a new machine? Simply pick up the modules you want: processor, graphic card, storage, system monitors with digital readout, collection of ports, and simply plug it into a grid. Project Christine uses PCI-Express architecture that automatically syncs the components.

Each of Christine's modules is self-contained , liquid cooled and uses noise cancellation to make for a silent, but flexible computing system. As of now, Razer hasn't fixed a price or disclosed a release date for this modular set-up, but we'd definitely like to see this one hit stores in the near future.

Super bowl


All of us have that place where we drop our keys and keep our mobile phones, Bluetooth headset, and MP3 players as soon we reach home. Well, Intel is working on a 'bowl' for this purpose that will not only be a repository for your electronics, but also charge the devices. Of course, your gadgets will also need to be compliant.

As of now, Intel Smart Bowl prototype - measuring 10-inches in diameter and which uses magnetic resonance technology - only charges Intel's smart headset. But the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) - with members from industries such as consumer electronics, mobile services, automotive, furniture, software - recently announced a global certification programme called Rezence for wireless charging, so this tech might make its way to your home sooner than you think.

Master chef

They've been making waves for quite a while now, but this year, 3D printers are vying for a spot in your kitchen! Yes, you read that right. US-based 3D Systems has invented the ChefJet that's capable of printing candies, cake icings and other edibles. The printers, due out later this year, will be available in two variants. The basic model will deliver single color prints, while the ChefJet Pro will deliver full color confectionery.

Courtesy: Times of India

Friday, January 24, 2014

Facebook may fade out like a disease: Researchers

NEW YORK: Facebook is like an infectious disease, experiencing a spike before its decline, according to US researchers who claim the social network will lose 80% of users by 2017.

Two doctoral candidates in mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton University made their astonishing claims in a paper published online at a scientific research archive, but not yet peer-reviewed.

Based on the rise and fall of MySpace, John Cannarella and Joshua Spechler say that Facebook, the largest online social network in history, is set for a massive fall.

"Ideas, like diseases, have been shown to spread infectiously between people before eventually dying out, and have been successfully described with epidemiological models," they wrote.

They applied a modified epidemiological model to describe the dynamics of user activity of online social networks, using Google data that is publicly available.

It will make uncomfortable reading for the social media giant co-founded by Mark Zuckerberg, which has more than 1.1 billion users around the globe and turns 10 years old next month.

Their study said Facebook, whose shares climbed to a new high of $58.51 this week, has been in decline in terms of data usage since 2012.

"Facebook is expected to undergo rapid decline in the upcoming years, shrinking to 20% of its maximum size by December 2014," said the report posted online to peers at

"Extrapolating the best model into the future suggests that Facebook will undergo a rapid decline in the coming years, losing 80% of its peak user base between 2015 and 2017."

The new research comes amid surveys suggesting that younger users started gravitating away from Facebook in 2013.

Cannarella and Spechler told AFP they did not wish to comment publicly in person until their manuscript had completed its peer review process ahead of formal publication.

But at least for now, Facebook's fortunes are in good health. Rising share prices have made chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg the latest tech billionaire and Zuckerberg, 29, has a personal fortune estimated at about $19 billion..

Source: Times of India

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Mobile apps to generate over $77bn revenue by 2017: Gartner

Mobile apps are expected to see more than 268 billion downloads and generate revenue of over $77 billion by 2017, becoming one of the most popular computing tools, research firm Gartner said. 

"Mobile apps have become the official channel to drive content and services to consumers. From entertainment content to productivity services, there is an app for practically anything a connected consumer may want to achieve," Gartner Research Director Brian Blau said. 

As users continue to adopt and interact with apps, it is their data -- what they say, what they do, where they go -- that is transforming the app interaction paradigm, he added. 

In 2013, free apps accounted for 92% of the app downloads. App users are providing troves of data and often accept advertising or data connectivity in exchange for access to the app. 

Brands and businesses are already using mobile apps as a primary component of their user engagement strategies, Gartner said. 

As the use of mobile devices, including wearable devices, expands into other areas of consumer and business activities, mobile apps will become even more significant, it added. 

"In the next 3-4 years, apps will no longer be simply confined to smartphones and tablets, but will impact a wider set of devices, from home appliances to cars and wearable devices," Blau said. 

By 2017, Gartner predicts that wearable devices will drive 50% of total app interactions, he added.

Source: Times of India

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Data mining helps telcos create new revenue stream

Telecom service providers are apparently in a search of new revenue streams, considering flat revenues from voice services and ongoing challenges from the over-the-top players. 

While data allows them to monetize their networks and services, data mining and analytics is also enabling them explore more revenue channels and monetize their existing assets. 

Hyderabad-based start-up 3Loq is helping the mobile service providers to monetize their SMS assets through its data mining and analytics solution. In addition to that, it helps brands and retailers to reach out potential customers in a cost effective way. 

The company tries to bring telecom operators and advertisers on the same platform. 

Anirudh Shah, Founder of 3Loq says that telcos possess a lot of data about their customers, which can be analysed to make it relevant for brands and retailers. 

According to Shah, telecom operators can monetize this data by sharing with the company, while brands and retailers can reach out to most relevant customers with targeted approach through analysed data. 

"We get anonymous transaction data from telcos. The company's ARJUNA targeting engine works by analyzing valuable telecom data, to find hidden patterns in consumer behavior. Then, the engine figures out who is interested in what, when and where. With relevant information, we rope in advertisers to reach out target customers," Shah explains. 

Telcos provide data to the company on revenue sharing model. "Our solution maintains privacy of subscribers. In the whole process, we offer various incentives for telcos. Money from retailers is shared by telcos and 3Loq," the founder says. 

SMS: Best tool for mobile marketing
Shah believes that SMS is the biggest channel for mobile marketing and offers good revenue potential. However, he says, that DND has been a barrier in the growth of mobile marketing. 

Shah, however, feels that bulk SMS has impacted the mobile marketing services. 

He says that intelligent advertising adoptions by brands and retailers will help the mobile marketing space in India. 

"If we send out intelligent SMS with the help of data mining and analytics done, potential customers can be reached out. Through intelligent advertising through SMS, one on one interaction is possible as well," he adds. 

"India is in nascent stages and is set to grow. In the Indian market, the industry hasn't been aware of such analytics-based solution for mobile marketing, hence the traction is very less," Shah says. 

According to him, smaller regions can also be tapped through such solutions for mobile marketing. "Cost to enter for retailers and brands is much lesser. We have been providing, the platform free for six months to brands," Shah adds. 

The company charges brands and retailers a fee to reach out their customer base as well as find new customers. 

Shah informs that bulk SMS and banner ads are the two prevalent modes for mobile marketing in the country. "We see SMS as an important part of our story right now but over time would like to present multiple channels to brands and retailers but still powered by the same powerful insights that we use for targeting SMS now," he says. 

Operator deals in Southeast Asia
The company is expected to close deals with a couple of mobile operators and some retailers by the next quarter. The company is primarily targeting Southeast Asia market for its solutions. 

The company is in talks with telcos in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines and India. The company has pilots running in Thailand and Malaysia. 

The executive said that 3loq is in talks with the Indian telcos and one pilot is in the process of being set up. "We are expected to have 1 operator in each country by coming two quarters. Also, we plan to have a presence with at least 2 operators in each South East Asian country in the next five years," Shah says. 

He also says that 3Loq is well set financially for a couple of years and should be able to generate revenues in the second quarter. 

3Loq directly competes with Flytxt in the India market and Singtel's Amobee. Google's AdMod also competes with the company directly.

Source: Times of India

Monday, January 20, 2014

6 awesome things you can do with your gmail ID

Turn Google Drive into your jukebox 

Google Drive is a great cloud service to store all your documents, presentations and spreadsheets. But I bet you didn't know that you can also use it - in conjunction with a few third-party tools - to create your own virtual jukebox that lets you stream your songs to wherever you are as long as you have an internet connection.

For PCs...

To listen to the music you've uploaded to Drive, visit (preferably using the Chrome browser) and sign in with your Google account.

Allow Drivetunes to access your Google Drive by clicking Accept. The website automatically detects and lists all MP3 and M4A files, letting you play your tunes from any web-enabled computer.

For Smartphones...

You can install apps like CloudBeats Lite or GDrive (for iOS) or CloudAround (for Android devices).

Make your own maps 

So you've moved to a new home, or you're probably hosting your birthday party at this new pub. One of the problems you're faced with is giving detailed directions to get to the venue. Guess what? You can use Google Maps. The service lets you create custom maps, add waypoint symbols and colours; you can also annotate it with text; add snapshots for visual aids, and more...

Sign in to Google Maps, click My Places > Create Map.

Something called Maps Engine Lite will open in a new tab.

You can now use this interface to plot your route. There are four tools - to select items, add markers, draw lines, and add directions. The elements you add are represented as layers (just like in photo-editing software). This makes it easier to mask out certain annotations or routes. The map editor also includes a handy undo-redo option.

Once you are done, click the Share button to send it via e-mail, Google+, Facebook or Twitter.

Print from anywhere 

The wonders of technology. Do you know you can now use the Chrome browser and your Google account to send a printout to your home printer from anywhere in the world?

To set up on your home computer... 

First, make sure your printer is ON.

In the Chrome browser, click the menu button and select Settings.

Click the Show advanced settings... link.

Scroll down to the Google Cloud Print section and sign in to enable the service.

Select your printer in the list, click Add Printers, and you're ready to go.

To print from a remote computer... 

Ensure that your printer and the PC that it is connected to are switched ON.

Sign in with your Google account in Chrome.

Click on the menu button, and select the Print... option.

In the Print panel that appears, under Destination, click on Change... to select your remote printer. Hit Print.

It should be noted that you can only print the contents of your browser window using this method. If you want to print a.doc file, for instance, you will need to open it in a cloud service like Google Drive.

Android and iOS apps like Google Print and PrintCentral Pro can also be used to send prints using Google's cloud print service.

Source: Times of India

Friday, January 17, 2014

What will drive 4G service in India

With government's recent policy initiatives and telcos' data thrust, the India chapter of the global GSM lobby GSMA feels that mobile networks would increasingly be able to deliver rich internet access, and mobile data traffic would continue on its growth trajectory. 

"Spectrum availability and sustainable pricing are key to enabling the next wave of investments in 4G and data. Mobile is a vibrant and evolving industry at the heart of everyday life for a growing number of the India's citizens," said GSMA India director Sandeep Karanwal. 

The industry body believes that the further growth would be driven by the increased penetration of affordable smartphones. "With improved spectrum pricing and management, growth in mobile broadband service is expected to continue, with 3G and 4G adoption projected to increase by 31 per cent between 2013 and 2017. 

In India, mobile data traffic will grow 60-fold from 2012 to 2017, a compound annual growth rate of 127%, while according to Cisco; mobile data traffic is expected to reach 900,043 terabytes (0.90 exabytes) per month in 2017. 

Karanwal feels that the extent of the socio-economic benefits of mobile broadband would depend on the availability of sufficient and appropriate harmonized spectrum. Operators can only invest more in mobile data if they have the spectrum to support those investments. 

"Operators in India would need larger blocks of contiguous spectrum to cope with demand and avoid congestion, particularly in urban areas. Policy makers would also need to ensure that spectrum is made available at reasonable prices and in a timely, fair and transparent manner," he said.

Source: Times of India

Thursday, January 16, 2014

BSNL, Champion Computers team up to launch two smartphones

NEW DELHI: State-run BSNL in partnership with Champion Computers launched two smartphones for Rs 3,225 and Rs 4,499, targetted at tier 2 and 3 cities. 

"The market in tier 2 and 3 cities is ripe for such a product offering as the consumers are becoming increasingly tech-savvy and the demand for user-friendly products is very high," Champion Computers MD Kapil Wadhwa said in a statement. 

The devices come with dual-core processor and run on Android Jelly Bean operating system and have a dual SIM slot. 

"Needless to say, technology is wide-spread today and to reach to the grass-root level, we must have quality hardware, interactive content and robust and affordable carrier service," BSNL Director (Consumer Mobility) Anupam Srivastava said. 

Srivastava added BSNL also has an agreement for sale of bundled devices with Champion Computers and have launched a special 3G data plan for tablets which include 500MB free data, 50 minutes on-network voice calls per month for six months.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Website to help you find your missing things

We all have lost stuff, and not always to theft. Some things like keys and pens just drop off from the pocket. Bigger articles like+ purses, phones and even laptops get misplaced or forgotten somewhere. Someone invariably finds the lost article. But often, the finder is unable to return it because there is no way to contact the person who lost it. 

In an otherwise well-connected world, this is a missing link that stoked the imagination of Param Ram, a finance professional turned entrepreneur. He recalls an incident: "My wife and her friend were flying from Delhi to Bangalore. 

Just after passengers had boarded, there was an announcement. One passenger had someone else's laptop. Obviously there was a mix-up at the X-ray scanner. Passengers were asked to check their laptops. My wife's friend found that it wasn't her laptop in the bag. Luckily both were in the same flight." 

The incident set off an ideation process that led to the creation of (LCF), which Ram believes will be the Google of everything that people have lost. He says that the lost and found departments of airports, railway stations, malls, police stations etc are not only unorganized but they also don't talk to one another. "Our attempt is to bring them all together so that people can easily find whatever they have lost." 

The service also allows you to buy a tamper-proof tag for Rs 49, and stick it to a valuable. If it's lost, the finder can go to and key in the unique number in the tag to contact you. The website will be expanded soon by linking lost and found departments in the city. "Our aim is to rope in as many lost-and-found departments as possible," says Ram. "We are also planning to go to schools, where we want to inculcate the discipline of returning things. This is not just a product, but also a service." 

Ram is a post-grad in management from the Asian Institute of Management, Manila , and has 12 years of experience in the financial/insurance sectors. 

LCF was accelerated at Kyron. Lalit Ahuja, CEO, Kyron, says, "The product is a unique, compelling and much-needed proposition that will bring hope, predictability and structure to the ecosystem related to lost and misplaced valuables. 

By uniquely identifying a plethora of physical valuable products, LCF, through its user friendly online portal will help the owners track (and potentially recover) their valuables in an unfortunate situation of misplacing them."

Source: Times of India

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Apple wakes up to India's potential

BANGALORE: India - After deliberating for months, Abhilash Sathyendra, a 25-year-old equity adviser in Mysore, India, bought his first Apple phone. He paid Rs 9,000, or $150, upfront for a black iPhone 4S and swiped his credit card for the remainder, six no-interest monthly payments of $62.50.

"I've used Android phones forever, but the iPhone is hardier and makes a social statement," said Sathyendra, whose new phone has become a conversation opener with clients. "I think I look, not wow, but cool and corporate," he said.

Indians use the monthly payments, called equated monthly installments, to buy a variety of products and services, like branded jeans and cosmetic dental treatments. That Apple used this method too clinched it for him. "EMIs make the iPhone affordable to Indians like me," said Sathyendra, who takes home a salary of $400 a month.

In 2013, Apple wakened to the potential of the world's fastest-growing smartphone market. India also happens to be the second-largest mobile market, with 800 million active users. "Apple sees that the market is at a takeoff point. Sales numbers could get serious within a year or two," said Anshul Gupta, a Mumbai-based principal analyst for mobile devices at the research firm Gartner. Apple's shipments have doubled from 2012 and will surpass 1 million phones in 2013, Gupta said.

In a price-sensitive country where multinational corporations sell bottles of soda for 16 cents, pizzas for 75 cents and burger meals for $1.40, basic cellphones have dominated the landscape. Smartphone penetration is less than 20% of the phone-using public. But a combination of falling prices, fast 3G speeds and a thriving app ecosystem is fueling the adoption at ripping speeds.

Shipments more than doubled, to 41.4 million, last year, according to IDC, a market research firm. The smartphone market grew 229% year-on-year in the third quarter of 2013, and IDC projects shipments will exceed 129 million by 2015.

With that kind of energy, this is a market where Apple can no longer afford to be a fringe player, selling to an elite few and losing out to pushy rivals. It is also a market where 80% of smartphones sell in the range of $70 to $200, said Gupta, the Gartner analyst. High prices have kept Apple at the tail of the top 10 brands by sales, way behind No. 1 Samsung, which sells more than three-quarters of its phones for less than $400, and No. 2 Micromax of India, whose most expensive phone is $350. The cheapest iPhone costs about $525 in India.

To draw young buyers and increase its volume and market share, Apple, based in Cupertino, California, offered a number of enticements besides the payment plan. Full front-page newspaper ads and TV commercials in recent months offered bonuses for trading in certain old phones and multiple deals, but with a single carrier so far. Wary of the inevitable branding-versus-pricing dilemma, Apple carefully couched these offers to not look like discounts.

"Apple has shown great agility in their India strategy all through 2013," said Manasi Yadav, a Bangalore-based senior mobile industry analyst with IDC India.

Making the phones cheaper, without appearing to be cheap, is enticing a new category of young, brand-conscious Indians, like Chaithra Nayak, to switch to the more expensive iPhones. Nayak, 24, who studies in the bustling coastal city of Mangalore, took six months to persuade her parents to get her an iPhone. Her father, a businessman, eventually buckled when she told him she could trade in her old Sony smartphone for a discount of Rs 13,000, or $216, on the iPhone 5C, which costs Rs 41,900, or $698.

"When I use my blue-colored iPhone, I draw attention," Nayak said.

Alongside the promotional offers, Apple has widened distribution channels, especially in second-tier Indian cities.

Anith Prakash, 26, a sales executive at a premium Apple reseller, iPlanet, in a popular Mysore mall, can vouch for the results. In the city, which neighbors the technology hub of Bangalore, the store jostles with outlets of Puma and Levi's in the mall.

"A lot of younger, first-time customers are attracted to the offers," said Prakash, who added that the store had a 40% increase in sales in the past few months.

"The trade-in and EMI offers are getting an excellent response," he said. "Many are combining both, then the price does not pinch very hard."

Buyers, long accustomed to paying a phone's full price, got the first taste of carrier bundling, a sweetener that has been wildly popular in Western markets, when Reliance Communications of Mumbai began the promotion in Mumbai and Delhi. "It is a zero-bill, peace-of-mind plan that makes every Indian's affordable iPhone dream come true," the company's chief executive, Gurdeep Singh, said.

Mapping a pricing-versus-branding strategy for India has been tricky for Apple's executives. (Apple declined to comment for this article.) The initial reaction to the iPhone 5 was tepid. Contrary to the prerelease buzz that some phones would be priced for "emerging markets," Apple breached yet another Indian smartphone pricing barrier of Rs 70,000: The top-end iPhone 5Scosts Rs 71,000, or $1,180.

Mobile Unlocked's iPhone 5S price index, which compares affordability of the phone relative to a country's per capita income, finds that it is least affordable in India. The $759 price of the iPhone 5S is 22% of India's per capita gross domestic product, compared with 1.37% of per capita GDP in the United States and 10% in China.

Not unexpectedly, buyers in India were put off. Prakash, who sold Nokia devices for two years before joining the iPlanet store 18 months ago, said: "Nokia's entry-level phones cost Rs 2,000. For that amount, you can only buy iPhone screen protectors and protective cases in our store."

In Mysore, Sathyendra coveted the iPhone 5S but had to pay more than a month's earnings even for the cheaper 4S he eventually settled for. But others balk at the high price. Shashidhar Sathyanarayan, a 46-year-old software entrepreneur based in Bangalore, said he was happy with his Samsung smartphone. "It is criminal to spend 45,000 rupees for a brand name; only those who want to project a 'happening' image will pay," he said.

Source: Times of India