India can bolster Snapchat’s prospects as Facebook goes after it

Apr 26, 2017 0

By Nishant Arora

New Delhi–Founded in 2004, Facebook — on track to hit two billion active monthly users this year — is now the fifth-largest US firm by market capitalisation (exceeding $400 billion) and owns the world’s most popular apps: WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.

On the other hand, popular image messaging platform Snapchat’s parent company Snap Inc grew to $25 billion in market capitalisation after its mega IPO in March. Launched in 2011, Snapchat today has a little over 160 million active daily users.

That Facebook is going after Snapchat is not news, but the battle has now become somewhat ugly. At its recently-concluded F8 developer conference in San Jose in the US, CEO Mark Zuckerberg launched “Camera Effects Platform” to encourage augmented reality (AR) effects — a move reported by The New York Times as Facebook’s “brazen heist” over Snapchat.

It is Snapchat which has popularised animated AR selfie masks and facial filters.

Facebook has also added Snapchat-style “Stories” and camera special effects to all its core social apps: Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram.

Facebook has also added Geostickers to Instagram, offering location-specific tags in two cities (New York City and Jakarta) that users can paste over images. Snapchat launched Geofilters back in 2014.

Why does a giant need to “copy” or borrow features at all when it can innovate at will?

“Facebook is not just learning/borrowing features from Snapchat (mostly to Instagram), but it has been borrowing features from other messaging apps too. For example, Facebook Messenger learned a lot of features from WeChat (China) since last year’s F8, such as creating branded accounts and letting brands use it for customer services,” Xiaofeng Wang, Senior Analyst with US-based market research firm Forrester, told IANS.

The new group chatbot feature announced at F8 this year is also very similar to what “Line” (Japan) has already offered.

It’s not unusual in the tech industry to create similar features inspired by other companies. Line and WhatsApp picked up the idea of a voice messaging feature from WeChat too.

“Legally, it’s hard to prove ‘copy’. But Facebook has been launching new features to retain user-activity and attract younger generations as Snapchat attracts the younger generation better than Facebook,” Wang noted.

Originally launched by Snapchat, the “Stories” feature shows photos and videos shared in chronological order that disappear after 24 hours.

Facebook introduced something similar in its app Instagram last August. Today, Instagram has over 200 million people Stories daily — more than even Snapchat.

Today, Messenger, WhatsApp and the main Facebook app have all added “Stories” feature (In WhatsApp, it is called ‘Status’).

“Like other internet giants, Facebook leverages the power of the ecosystem, same as Tencent or Alibaba in China. It’s not the battle between Facebook and Snapchat, rather than ecosystem strategy vs a single-platform strategy,” Wang told IANS.

According to Anoop Mishra, one of the nation’s leading social media experts, most of the product-based companies involve their research and development team to keep a close eye specially on the features implemented by surrounding chasers.

“Features like Poke (2012), Slingshot (2014), Bolt (2014), One-Hour Messages (2015), News Feed-Only Posts (2016), Quick Updates (2016) and Instagram Stories (2016) are somehow imitated, snatched or neatly cloned in recent history by Facebook from Snapchat,” Mishra told IANS.

“This could be a part of their strategy to influence more and more active users and keep themselves ahead of the surrounding competitors which helps them gain internet ad revenue share as well,” Mishra added.

Unfortunately, the biggest irony with online e-services is that there is hardly anything from the offerings perspective to sustain differentiation.

“However, execution is what will matter in the end. In this case, if Snapchat has a better execution, it will grow big or else Facebook could make it irrelevant by looping in features on features,” Faisal Kawoosa, Principal Analyst (Telecoms) at CyberMedia Research (CMR), told IANS.

Is this open “dadagiri” on the part of Facebook or is everything fair in love and technology?

“I would like to call it a strategic ‘dadagiri’ rather than ‘open dadagiri’. Why I’m saying strategic ‘dadagiri’ is because these things not only help one gain market share but also prepare grounds for acquisition and mergers,” Mishra emphasised.

For Kawoosa, it is not about copying or “dadagiri” but what works best.

“Ultimately it’s about what makes the application more productive and meaningful, thus increasing the chances of keeping users engaged,” Kawoosa told IANS.

Zuckerberg even tried to acquire Snapchat for $3 billion in 2013, but its co-founder Evan Spiegel refused the offer. Now Spiegel is engaged in a different kind of battle with Facebook.

Spiegel, who was in the news recently for his purported disinterest in expanding business to “poor countries” like India — something that created an uproar in social media and was later refuted by the parent company Snap — must actually have a fresh look at India.

There are over 200 million WhatsApp users in India while Facebook has nearly 166 million.

Snapchat? A mere four million, according to media reports.

This is where Spiegel needs to focus as the Indian market is among the world’s largest — and growing — when it comes to social media use. Ignoring the “rich” millenials in the country will only harm Snapchat as Facebook will gobble them up. (IANS)

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Shapoor Mistry resigns from Indian Hotels’ board

Apr 25, 2017 0

Mumbai– Tata Group firm Indian Hotels Company on Tuesday reported that its Director Shapoor Mistry has resigned from its board.

Shapoor Mistry is the Chairman of Shapoorji Pallonji & Co and the elder brother of Tata Sons’ ousted Chairman Cyrus Mistry.

The company made the announcement through a regulatory filing to stock exchange NSE. The firm runs the Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces.

On October 24 last year, Tata Sons’ Board ousted Mistry as its Chairman and appointed Ratan Tata as Interim Chairman. (IANS)

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Amid visa row, US says its greatly values Indian investments

Apr 25, 2017 0

Washington– In the context of current fears about possible tightening of the US visa regime, the American administration has said that it greatly values investments by Indian companies and wants strong Indo-US economic ties.

“We want to see US-India business-to-business ties remain strong,” US State Separtment acting spokesman Mark Toner told reporters here at his daily press briefing on Monday.

He was responding to questions on the controversy following recent executive orders signed by US President Donald Trump which indicate a possible tightening of the H-1B visas.

“We greatly value Indian companies’ continued investment in the US economy, which also, of course, supports thousands of US jobs,” Toner said.

“With respect to any new requirements on visas, I’d have to check and see if that’s been updated,” he said.

“It’s important to remember that this is always a part of how our consular bureau works and our consular officers work overseas, and our embassies and missions work overseas, and that is we’re always reviewing the processes that are in place to issue these visas and finding ways to strengthen them, because we want to ensure the security of the American people,” he added.

The issue of the Trump administration mulling curbs in H-1B visas was taken up by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley with the American authorities during his just concluded visit to the country.

The issue was raised by Jaitley during his meetings last week in Washington with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, as well as with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

“Finance Minister Arun Jaitley raised the issue of H-1B visas for skilled professionals from India and highlighted the contribution which Indian companies and professionals are making to US economy,” an Indian Finance Ministry statement said.

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Green the new norm in cosmetic industry

Apr 25, 2017 0

By Nivedita

New Delhi–Going green has become the new anthem in the fashion and lifestyle categories and it’s not just designers who are promoting it in a big way through their collections, but cosmetic brands are also going eco-friendly with their range. Experts feel that “evolved high-end consumers” are helping in expanding the “natural” space in the Indian beauty industry.

According to a report, India’s retail beauty and cosmetics industry is likely to almost treble to $2.68 billion by 2020 so, it won’t be wrong to say that every new invention in the industry is setting a trend.

Rishabh Mariwala

Rishabh Mariwala, founder of a luxury bath and body care brand PureSense, says that “In the luxury segment, the high-end consumer is evolved”.

“This consumer has seen multiple brands on their travels abroad where the market is proliferated with natural brands. So, the brands into luxury premium segment will surely see a growth in Indian market,” Mariwala told IANS.

With a change in consumer lifestyle and healthier habits, the “natural” space is continuously expanding and for Mariwala one of the main reasons behind this is “formulations along with technology is helping to bridge the gap between user experience and natural philosophy”.

The growth in consumer consciousness concerning ethical and sustainable issues in the beauty industry is driving a socially responsible response internationally. Actress Drew Barrymore is case in point. She launched her eco-friendly make-up line Flower Beauty in 2013.

There are many Indian brands too that do not test on animals and are promoting a healthy way of living life. Soul Tree, The Nature’s Co., Soulflower, Aaranyaa, Just Herbs, Nature’s Essence, Kama Ayurveda, Biotique Botanicals, Khadi, SOS Organics, Sattvik Organics & Organic Therapie, Forest Essentials, Lotus Herbals and Shahnaz Husain are some of the examples.

“There is an increasing awareness about protection of the environment. Therefore, the popularity of eco-friendly products will increase in the days to come.

“Apart from the ‘back to nature’ trend, there is also a ‘total well-being’ trend sweeping the world. People are more aware about herbal healing and the harmful effects of chemicals. They will opt for eco-friendly products,” Husain told IANS.

The beauty expert also says that due to the increasing awareness, it is becoming easier to convince consumers about eco-friendly products and brands and this is the reason why the “market for eco-friendly products has been increasing with consumers displaying a preference for them”.

Aradhika S Mehta, Head Training of the British beauty brand The Body Shop, emphasises that all the products under the brand “are created using the finest ingredients sourced from the four corners of the globe which are not tested on animals and are absolutely cruelty free”.

“The Enrich Not Exploit Commitment is The Body Shop’s new global CSR strategy that underpins all aspects of brand’s operation. Under each of The Commitment’s three pillars: enrich our people, enrich our products and enrich our planet,” she told IANS.

She also feels that cosmetic brands have started making people believe that they’re worth a product that is environmentally friendly, fashionable and accessible.

“Eco-friendly beautification is the safest and most responsible way of using cosmetics and it has the potential of going a long way in forthcoming years. Lately, we have been seeing an increase in cosmetic products that are eco-friendly to cater to this desire along with real efforts involved by the loyal consumers,” said Mehta.

For these experts, the space of eco-friendly products in the current market has grown very much in the last few years and will without a doubt become the ‘norm’ in the beauty market within the next four to five years. (IANS)

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Rs 4,315-crore foreign investment proposal recommended from Gland Pharma

Apr 24, 2017 0

New Delhi– India’s Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) has recommended the Rs 4,315-crore investment proposal of Gland Pharma Ltd to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) for approval, an official statement said on Monday.

“Gland Pharma Ltd, a brownfield pharmaceutical Indian company, is seeking approval for its initial acquisition of up to 86.08 per cent by Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical (Group) Company Ltd, a publicly-listed company incorporated in China,” a Finance Ministry statement here said.

“Subsequently, Fosun also has the contractual right to acquire 100 per cent shares of Gland Pharma from other shareholders of the company in one or more tranches,” it added.

The FIPB, at its meeting here last month, deferred a decision on the foreign direct investment (FDI) proposal of Vodafone Mobile Services, the Ministry said.

The other proposals on which decision was deferred include investment proposals of Sistema Shyam TeleServices Limited, Datawind Innovations Private Limited, HSBC Securities and Capital Markets (India) Private Limited and G4S Secure Solutions (India) Private Limited.A

The FIPB approved six proposals involving FDI of Rs 84.69 crore, while rejecting five proposals.

Proposals approved by the FIPB include one of Rs 65-crore by PMC Group International, and by Crown Cement Manufacturing India Pvt Ltd worth Rs 15.51 crore, while the investment applications of PERI India Pvt Ltd, Limpkin Telecom Private Limited, LS Cable India Private Ltd, Maxaim Network Private Ltd, and Xerox India Ltd have been rejected, the release said. (IANS)

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HCL to acquire US-based mortgage fulfillment service provider for $30 million

Apr 24, 2017 0

Noida– Information Technology giant HCL on Monday announced that it will acquire mortgage business process & fulfilment services provider Urban Fulfillment Services (UFS) for nearly $30 million with 100 per cent stake.

With over 350 professionals, UFS operates out of three centres in the US.

“The acquisition of Urban Fulfillment Services strengthens HCL’s capabilities in mortgage BPO services, loan fulfillment and debt servicing space,” Anoop Tiwari, Corporate Vice President and Global Head-Business Services at HCL Technologies, said in a statement.

The total cash consideration for this transaction is up to $30 million, including contingent payments subject to certain financial milestones.

Mortgage servicing is a regulated activity in the US and the transaction would require regulatory approvals for obtaining the licenses, the company said.

“The synergies between UFS’ client focused and efficient business processing services and HCL’s technology leadership and financial strength will create an unparalleled competitor and leading provider of state-of-the-art services to the enterprise customers,” added Charles S Sanders, CEO of Urban Lending Solutions. (IANS)

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42% of CEOs have begun digital transformation: Gartner

Apr 24, 2017 0

New Delhi– Product improvement and technology are the biggest rising priorities for CEOs in 2017 and 42 per cent of them have begun digital business transformation, market research firm Gartner said on Monday.

According to the survey, growth is the top business priority for 58 per cent of CEOs, which is up from 42 per cent in 2016.

“Forty seven percent of CEOs are being challenged by the board of directors to make progress in digital business, and 56 percent said that their digital improvements have already improved profits,” said Mark Raskino, Vice President and Gartner Fellow in a statement.

Twenty two percent are taking digital to the core of their enterprise models. That’s where the product, service and business model are being changed and the new digital capabilities that support those are becoming core competencies, Raskino added.

Although more CEOs have digital ambitions, the survey revealed that nearly half of CEOs have no digital transformation success metric.

“It is time for CEOs to scale up their digital business ambition and let CIOs help them set and track incisive success metrics and KPIs, to better direct business transformation. CIOs should also help them toward more abstract thinking about the nature of digital business change and how to lead it,” Raskino said.

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Vodafone India launches unlimited roaming plans for US, UAE, Singapore

Apr 24, 2017 0

New Delhi– Vodafone India has launched an unlimited international roaming proposition for travellers to the US, UAE and Singapore in its international roaming pack, Vodafone i-RoamFREE, where customers opting for this pack will not be charged a single additional rupee for calls and data while roaming in these three countries, the company announced on Monday.

This pack is available at price points with options of Rs 5,000 for 30 days, Rs 3,500 for 10 days, Rs 2,500 for seven days and Rs 500 for 24 hours, the company said in a statement here.

“There is no cap on the number of calls or amount of high speed data that can be used. Also, calls include all incoming calls and outgoing calls anywhere in the world. This means customers travelling in the US can even make calls to Hong Kong at no extra charges,” the statement said.

Vodafone i-RoamFREE is an international roaming pack which offers home-like tariffs while roaming in 47 countries of the globe.

“This is the first time ever unlimited international roaming proposition and we are very excited to introduce it for our top three travel destinations — US, Singapore and UAE. We are making calls and data, both incoming and outgoing, while travelling in these countries completely free,” said Sandeep Kataria, Director – Commercial, Vodafone India.

“This completely eliminates the need and hassle of changing SIM cards when travelling abroad and customers can now freely use their local number seamlessly without worrying about any bill shocks or expensive charges. They can remain confidently connected on their existing Vodafone number when they travel, and be assured the best of voice and data services,” he added. (IANS)

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Tata Sons welcome order from National Company Law Tribunal

Apr 24, 2017 0

New Delhi–Tata Sons on Monday welcomed the order of an apex corporate tribunal which ruled against a petition that had alleged mismanagement by the company.

The petition by Cyrus Mistry’s investment companies — Cyrus Investment and Sterling Investment Corp. — had alleged mismanagement and oppression of minority shareholders by the company.

The order against the petition was given by the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) on April 17, 2017. It had ruled that the petitioners representing certain companies of the SP Group (SP Group Companies) failed to establish the merits of the petition.

According to Tata Sons, the order has also noted that petitioners failed to demonstrate any cause of action against the company, the Tata Trusts and Ratan N. Tata.

The company pointed out that the tribunal did not see a prima facie triable case to take forward.

“The Tata group, led by Tata Sons, has always been committed to the highest ethical standards and principles of governance. We welcome the NCLT’s order, and it is an endorsement of these values and principles,” N. Chandrasekaran, Executive Chairman of Tata Sons, was quoted as saying in a statement.

N. Chandrasekaran

“Tata Sons and the operating companies are focussed on growth to deliver value to our shareholders, and we thank all stakeholders for their continued support.”

On April 17, the NCLT had dismissed a plea filed by Mistry’s investment companies to waive off a regulatory bar on them as their original petition had been rendered non-maintainable by the March 6th order.

On March 6, the NCLT had ruled against the maintainability of the petition filed against Tata Sons, which cited governance lapses and compromise of minority shareholder interests after Mistry was ousted as Chairman of the holding company of the industrial conglomerate.

The top corporate tribunal held that Mistry’s family firms were not qualified to file a petition against Tata Sons alleging mismanagement and oppression of minority shareholders.

Under the current rules, only a shareholder with more than 10 per cent effective shareholding can file a minority interest petition with the NCLT.

However, the Companies Act empowers the NCLT to waive off this requirement for a petitioner to hold at least 10 per cent of the total issued share capital of the company to qualify for filing a minority interest petition.

Besides the waiver plea, the main company petition which was filed against Tata Sons was also rejected on April 17.

Subsequently, Mistry’s investment companies approached the New Delhi-based National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) on April 19 against the March 6, 2017 order by NCLT which had declared their main petition against Tata Sons as non-maintainable.

On October 24 last year, Tata Sons’ Board ousted Mistry as its Chairman and appointed Ratan Tata as Interim Chairman.

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Government must be enabler, not regulator: Modi

Apr 21, 2017 0

New Delhi– Stressing the importance of competition, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said that with changing dynamics, the government needs to change its role from being a regulator to an enabler.

“Things have changed vastly in the last 15-20 years. Earlier, government was everything. General public depended on the government for all their needs. But now they have alternatives,” Modi told bureaucrats on Civil Services Day here.

Citing examples of private hospitals and airlines, Modi said people have been criticising public services and tend to be more satisfied by private services.

“Moving away from the time when government was everything, we are now in an era of competition.”

Because there are now alternatives available, the government’s responsibilities have grown, he added. “Its not the work load, it is the challenge that has risen.

“The sooner we change our working style, change our way of thinking, the better. The sooner we come out of our role of a regulator and develop as an enabling entity, the better,” he said.

“While the absence of government in a sphere of activity should be perceptible, its presence… should not become a burden,” said Modi asking civil servants to focus on improving quality, and making excellence a habit.

Talking about “reform, perform and transform”, Modi said that political will is needed for reform, but the “perform” part of this formulation must come from civil servants, while transformation is enabled by people’s participation.

The Prime Minister said that civil servants must ensure that every decision is taken keeping the national interest in mind, and this should be their touchstone for taking a decision.

Recalling that the year 2022 would mark 75 years of Independence, he urged civil servants to play the role of catalytic agents in fulfilling the dreams of the freedom fighters.

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