Tag Archives: India

Google debuts Tez, a mobile payments app for India that uses Audio QR to transfer money

After several weeks of speculation and leaked details, today Google officially unveiled its first big foray into mobile payments in Asia. The Android and search giant has launched Tez, a free mobile wallet in India that will let users link up their phones to their bank accounts to pay for goods securely in physical stores and online, and for person-to-person money transfers with a new twist: Audio QR, which uses ultrasonic sounds to let you exchange money, bypassing any need for NFC.

“Send money home to your family, split a dinner bill with friends, or pay the neighbourhood chaiwala. Make all payments big or small, directly from your bank account with Tez, Google’s new digital payment app for India,” Google notes in its information portal about the new app.

Tez is Google’s play to replace cash transactions and become a more central part of how people pay for things, using their mobile to do so. But it’s also a chance for the company to push out some new technologies — like audio QR (AQR), which lets users transfer money by letting their phones speak to each other with sounds — to see how it can make that process more frictionless, and therefore more attractive to use than cash itself. More on AQR below.

Tez is launching today on iOS and Android in the country and will see Google linking up with several major banks in the country by way of UPI (Unified Payments Interface) — a payment standard and system backed by the government in its push to bring more integrated banking services into a very fragmented market. There will also be phones coming to the market from Lava, Micromax, Nokia and Panasonic with Tez preloaded, the company said.


Google debuts Tez, a mobile payments app for India that uses Audio QR to transfer money

India is officially the next stop for Hyperloop transportation technologies

According to an announcement made earlier today, the Andhra Pradesh Economic Development Board (APEDB) has signed a memorandum of understanding with Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) to bring the futuristic transport pods to the Indian state. The deal took months to iron out, as India has supposedly been in talks with HTT since December of last year.

HTT’s hyperloop transportation system in Andhra Pradesh is the first planned route in India. It is designed to connect the cities of Amaravati and Vijaywada, cutting a trip of more than one hour down to just six minutes. Funding for its construction will come primarily from private investors.

hyperloop india htt
Image Credit: HTT

“We are extremely delighted to have entered into a MoU with the Government of Andhra Pradesh to bring the HTT hyperloop to India,” Bibop Gresta, chairman & co-founder of HTT, said in a press release. “In partnering with Andhra Pradesh, HTT will work with local stakeholders to build the regulatory standards necessary for safe and efficient operation.”


The agreement involves a two-phase plan. The first phase is a feasibility study set to begin in October, which could last for six months. Phase two would be the actual construction of the hyperloop, which HTT says would bring 2,500 jobs to the Indian state.


Aside from this almost immediate economic benefit, the more efficient transportation of a hyperloop system could fuel the IT industry in Andhra Pradesh, according to Nara Lokesh, Cabinet Minister for Information Technology, Panchayati Raj, and Rural Development for the State of Andhra Pradesh.


India Is Officially the Next Stop for Hyperloop Transportation Technologies

Indian firm offers ‘menstrual leave’ to beat the stigma of periods at the workplace

An Indian media company is offering “menstrual leave” to its female staff, encouraging them to take the first day of their periods off.

Culture Machine, which employs 75 women, is applying the new policy from July on, and has called on other companies in the country to implement the same policy.

The company, which makes viral videos for the internet, also produced a video of its female staff talking about the challenges they face at work while on their period, and eventually reacting to the new policy.

“Sometimes with male bosses, you have to be a little discreet,” one employee laments.

The company has also launched a petition calling for the Ministry of Women and Child Development and Ministry of Human Resource Development to implement the same leave policy across India.


Another firm in India, Gozoop, which does digital marketing, similarly introduced a paid period leave policy this year. 

The topic of menstruation is still hugely taboo in India.

Under an ancient Hindu practice called Chhaupadi practiced in some parts of India, Nepal and Bangladesh, women who have their periods are seen as “impure,” and are sometimes forced to sleep away from home during their period. 

They are also kept from taking part in normal family activities and social gatherings.

Earlier last week, an 18-year-old girl in Nepal died after she was bitten by a snake, when she was banished to a shed because she was menstruating. 

The Supreme Court of Nepal ordered an end to Chhaupadi in 2005, but the practice continues especially in many of the country’s rural areas. 

Some Asian countries, such as Japan and Taiwan, have already made it legal for women to take menstrual leave. 



Amazon wins India’s approval to invest in domestic food retail

Online retail giant Amazon.com Inc has secured approval to stock and sell food and groceries in India, potentially expanding its business in the fast-growing economy where it is in a pitched battle with home-grown rival Flipkart.

Amazon confirmed winning government approval for its plan to sell food products, but it declined to provide further details.

Separately, a source familiar with the matter said Amazon planned to invest $500 million in the food segment, over and above the $5 billion it had already committed to investing in India.

Cheaper smartphones, increasing internet penetration and steep discounts have led to a surge in domestic online shopping for everything from gadgets to clothes and food items in India.

Still, mom-and-pop stores account for the biggest share of grocery sales, offering organized players huge growth potential.

Currently Amazon offers food products in India via Amazon Pantry, where retailers including joint venture Cloudtail sell various products. It also offers same-day grocery delivery on its Amazon Now app through a tie-up with Indian retailers Big Bazaar, Star Bazaar and Hypercity.

Amazon did not comment on whether its new investments would affect any of its existing tie-ups, or its Cloudtail joint venture.

Venture-funded Flipkart, whose backers include Tiger Global, Tencent Holdings and Microsoft, also plans to move into the groceries space, company executives have said.

Amazon last month announced plans to buy upscale U.S. grocer Whole Foods Market Inc for $13.7 billion.



India plants 66 million trees in 12 hours as part of record-breaking environmental campaign

Volunteers in India planted more than 66 million trees in just 12 hours in a record-breaking environmental drive.

About 1.5 million people were involved in the huge plantation campaign, in which saplings were placed along the Narmada river in the state of Madhya Pradesh throughout Sunday.

India committed under the Paris Agreement to increasing its forests by five million hectares before 2030 to combat climate change.

Last year volunteers in Uttar Pradesh state set a world record by planting more than 50 million trees in one day. 

Observers from Guinness World Records also monitored Sunday’s plantation and are expected to confirm in the coming weeks that the effort set a new high. 


The campaign was organised by the Madhya Pradesh government, with 24 distracts of the Narmada river basin chosen as planting sites to increase the saplings’ chances of survival. Volunteers planted more than 20 different species of trees.

Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the state’s chief minister, described the efforts as a “historic day”. 

He said volunteers including children and the elderly had planted 66.3 million saplings between 7am and 7pm, adding in a tweet: “By planting trees we are not only serving Madhya Pradesh but the world at large.”



Amazon puts an additional $260M into its Indian business

Amazon has topped up its investment in its India business with another $260 million. The funding was disclosed in regulatory documents filed last month and first reported by Indian financial publication Mint.

The infusion of capital comes in time to prepare Amazon India (officially named Amazon Seller Services Pvt Ltd) for the holiday shopping season, which centers around the Dussehra and Diwali festivals in the fall. Amazon India’s chief rival for the attention of online shoppers will be Flipkart, which raised $1.5 billion at a valuation of $11.6 billion three months ago from a noteworthy roster of investors including Amazon rival eBay, Microsoft, and Tencent. Another important competitor is Alibaba-backed Paytm.

Amazon pumped $2 billion into its Indian marketplace in summer 2014 and launched Amazon Prime there last year, with annual memberships costing 999 rupees (about $15, though discounts are available for new members). Amazon India will run its first Prime Day on July 10, to coincide with the online shopping/promotional event’s timing in the U.S. and other markets.

The e-commerce behemoth is likely to continue pumping money into its India unit. CEO Jeff Bezos promised to invest $5 billion into India during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the U.S. last year, up from the $2 billion he had previously pledged. Since that amount is meant to develop India’s tech and startup industries, however, it’s unclear exactly how much will be put specifically into Amazon India.


China and the U.S. are still the world’s largest e-commerce markets, but India is the fastest-growing one, with online retail sales expected to reach $64 billion by 2021, at a five-year compound annual growth rate of 31.2 percent.

But that doesn’t mean its smooth sailing for India’s biggest e-commerce players as they struggle with high operating costs. Amazon used to count Snapdeal among its main rivals, but Snapdeal has been trying to cut costs and in January was reportedly in talks to raise a downround from SoftBank. Despite its new funding, Flipkart has also faced its own troubles, including valuation markdowns from several mutual funds.


Amazon puts an additional $260M into its Indian business

Google brings ‘Daydream View’ to India

The VR headset, which competes with the likes of Samsung’s Gear VR and HTC’s premium offering Vive, will allow users experience sports and live events in full 360-degree panoramic view.

Google’s Daydream View headset and controller will go on sale on e-commerce platform, Flipkart. The device was launched in markets such as the US, the UK and Australia in November last year.

“Swim with a pod of dolphins, stand at the edge of a volcano and even visit Pluto with Daydream View. Users can teleport from virtually anywhere to pretty much everywhere. Our aim is to make the VR experience mobile so that customers can easily carry it anywhere with them,” Google Vice-President Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, Clay Bavor said.

He added that Google is working with developers, smartphone companies, and content creators to make VR accessible to all.

Daydream View, however, works with Google’s Pixel, Pixel XL and Moto Z currently and will soon be available for Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+.

Daydream-ready phones are built with high-resolution displays, powerful mobile processors and high-fidelity sensors — all tuned to support great VR experiences, Google said.

Daydream’s controller is packed with sensors that respond precisely to a user’s movement and gestures, letting them interact with the virtual world the same way they would in the real world around them.

Some apps and games on Daydream include NYT VR, Guardian VR, The Turning Forest, Netflix VR, Google Play Movies, Within, Fantastic Beasts, The Arcslinger, Need for Speed No Limits VR and LEGO BrickHeadz Builder VR.



Alibaba to open cloud data centres in Indonesia, India

Alibaba’s cloud computing unit will open two new data centers in Indonesia and India as part of efforts to expand its footprint in the region.

To be located in Jakarta and Mumbai, the new sites were expected to be ready before the end of the company’s fiscal year, ending March 31, 2018. These would push Alibaba Cloud’s data centre footprint to 17 locations worldwide, including Singapore, Japan, Australia, Germany, and its domestic Chinese market.

The announcement followed recent plans to build a distribution and data centre in Malaysia, said Alibaba Cloud Friday at its Computing Conference in Shanghai. It added that its increased resources in Asia would enable the company to better support small and midsize businesses in the region.

The new sites in Indonesia and India would provide “a full suite of” cloud services, according to Alibaba, which added that it would be the first global cloud vendor to set up an international cloud data centre in Indonesia. The launch would be in line with the Indonesian government’s “1,000 Start-ups Movement” scheme to support 1,000 companies by 2020, with the goal to reach a combined valuation of US$10 billion, Alibaba said.

The Chinese vendor added that it had partnered Global Cloud Xchange (GCX) in India, which was a subsidiary of local telco Reliance Communications, to provide customers direct access to Alibaba Cloud Express Connect via GCX’s Cloud X Fusion platform.

In addition, Alibaba’s partnership with Tata Communications would offer similar access to the former’s cloud services via the Indian provider’s IZOTM Private Connect offering.

Alibaba in May reported a 56 percent increase in revenue to US$22.99 billion for its fiscal 2017, fuelled in part by strong growth in its cloud business, which revenue climbed 121 percent to US$968 million. Its paying cloud customer base grew 70 percent to 874,000, although, the business unit reported an operating loss of US$73 million for the quarter, on adjusted EBITA loss of US$24 million. It closed the year with a loss of 1.68 billion yuan (US$244 million), improving on last year’s operating loss of 2.61 billion yuan (US$378.1 million).



India’s electric vehicle revolution will begin with auto-rickshaws running on swappable batteries

India has floated an audacious plan to turn every car, bus, truck, and everything in between, into an electric vehicle (EV) by 2030.

To get there, according to a recent report (PDF) by India’s NITI Aayog and the Rocky Mountain Institute in the US, between six and seven million EVs will have to ply on Indian roads by 2020. But that’s a tall order considering that a mere 22,000 such units were sold in the country in the 2016 financial year.

So, to build scale, which’ll be essential to jumpstart EV adoption, the Narendra Modi government plans to roll out an EV-based public transport system with auto-rickshaws and buses running on batteries that can be swapped after a certain distance.

“We’re looking at some time towards end of this year (for the) launch,” said Ashok Jhunjhunwala, a principal advisor to the ministry of new and renewable energy who is helping with the project. He declined to provide details of the possible size of this proposed EV fleet or the cities where it could be piloted.

Jhunjhunwala, on a sabbatical from his professorship at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Madras, explained that the government asked him to scale up EVs within 2017, and without any subsidy. “It looked impossible. I was almost ready to pack my bags and go back,” he said, speaking at a Shell Lubricants global lecture series event at IIT-Delhi on June 07.


The primary roadblock was the high cost of batteries for EVs, which could not be offset without subsidies, he explained. But interacting with the automotive and EV industry, Jhunjhunwala realised that there was an opportunity to build volumes if EVs could be separated from the single most expensive component: batteries. “We said we’ll start buying vehicles without battery,” he said. “For example, if I want to buy a bus or a three-wheeler, I’ll buy it without (the) battery but with enhanced (vehicle) efficiency.”

This arrangement, Jhunjhunwala said, brings the cost of EVs (without battery) at par with conventional vehicles. By focusing on higher efficiency vehicles and batteries that can be swapped at regular intervals, the cost per kilometre can be brought down to levels comparable with diesel, petrol or CNG vehicles. Compared to larger batteries used in EVs, which typically aren’t interchangeable, these swappable batteries are smaller, cheaper, and take less time to charge. “Suddenly the whole economics was working. And once the economics work, one can scale,” he said.

With the hardware sorted out, these systems can be integrated into an urban transport system to create an EV-based network. Auto-rickshaws, for instance, travel between 80km and 130km daily, which meant that batteries could be swapped at around the 40km-mark.

When Jhunjhunwala took the idea to auto-rickshaw drivers in Delhi, the first question was how long will it take to swap batteries. “The next question they asked, how many stations will be there where I can swap? I said about 100 station in Delhi,” he said. So, the drivers figured that the blueprint could work if the infrastructure is in place.

Already there are over two dozen manufacturers ready to supply these electric auto-rickshaws and batteries, Jhunjhunwala said. Some 10 other firms can build charging units at under Rs1.5 lakh. “Everything other can than battery cells, we can make in India,” he said.

Similarly, a swappable battery-based system is being designed for city buses. Jhunjhunwala’s research found that some 95% of these buses in the country travel less than 30km per trip, which allows batteries to be swapped at the terminal point where the bus turns around for the return journey. “In 10 minutes, we can swap the battery,” he said.



Lowe’s lays off over 120 tech workers in Mooresville, will send jobs to India

Amid efforts to improve its profitability, Lowe’s has laid off about 125 corporate tech workers, primarily at its headquarters in Mooresville.

The home-improvement retailer informed affected employees Wednesday morning through early afternoon, according to people familiar with the matter.

Many of the affected information technology job functions are being sent to Bangalore, India, where Lowe’s employs approximately 1,000 people in information and technology and analytics.


Lowe’s eliminated 96 corporate tech jobs in October, then in January cut another 2,400 full-time jobs, mostly at the store level. In February, it followed with more than 500 corporate layoffs, including 430 at its headquarters in Mooresville and 70 support staffers in Wilkesboro.

“Everybody’s kind of like, ‘When’s the next wave coming?’” said one former IT employee who has been laid off by the company. He asked to remain anonymous to protect business relationships.

In a memo to IT workers Wednesday, Chief Information Officer Paul Ramsay said the staffing reductions are part of planning effort that began “several years ago” to build a more diverse, global team to respond better “in this highly competitive 24/7 retail environment” and more quickly to “evolving consumer needs.”

“It is always incredibly hard to make decisions such as these that directly impact our people and our teams,” Ramsay said. He added that the company will be providing a competitive severance package and outplacement services, including a job fair with local IT employers.

Bangalore has been described as the “Silicon Valley of India.” Other major corporations have a growing presence in the IT hub, including Oracle, Dell, IBM and GE, according to a recent Wired story. Another is Wipro, an outsourcing firm used by Observer parent McClatchy.

The latest staffing changes come at a critical time for Lowe’s. Last month, the company posted disappointing sales and earnings numbers for the first quarter. Lowe’s has been working to catch up to its larger rival, Atlanta-based Home Depot, which has consistently outperformed it.

Lowe’s recent performance is at odds with the improvements in the overall economy that should provide it a tailwind: Solid job growth has pushed the national unemployment rate down to its lowest level in a decade in April, property values are rising and mortgage rates remain relatively low.

Along with layoffs, to improve profitability, Lowe’s has been working to boost its offerings for its lucrative professional base, which includes customers such as contractors, who reliably and frequently place bigger orders than the average customer. Last month, for instance, the company purchased a Houston company called Maintenance Supply Headquarters for $512 million.

Amazon reportedly working on proper Android ‘Ice’ smartphones with Google’s apps

Amazon might be taking another shot at building its own smartphones, according to a new report from NDTV’s Gadget 360. And unlike the company’s failed Fire Phone, the new smartphones — allegedly branded “Ice” — would have access to the full line of Google services and apps, including the Play Store.


The report notes that the Ice line would be targeted at emerging markets like India, instead of the more US-facing focus of the original Fire Phone. As such, the rumored specs for one of the Ice phones fall in line with that goal: a screen between 5.2 and 5.5 inches, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, and a Snapdragon 435 processor. Gadget 360 claims that this specific model would retail for roughly $93 at launch, although that price could change before launch.

Per Gadget 360’s source, the Ice phone doesn’t have Alexa support, but, like the price, details aren’t finalized which means software, too, could change in the future.

The original Fire Phone was a failure for a multitude of reasons, including a focus on gimmicky features, an expensive price tag, exclusivity to AT&T, and a bizarre operating system. It sold extremely poorly, even with Amazon slashing prices only weeks after launch. But perhaps the biggest failure was the dearth of apps by not using Google Mobile Services, in essence leaving customers with a confusingly skinned Android phone that didn’t really run any Android apps. It sounds like Amazon is taking a different approach with the Ice line, by embracing Google’s services and targeting a different slice of the smartphone market than the Apple-and-Samsung-dominated high-end segment.


If the Ice rumors are true, Amazon could have a big opportunity in emerging market places. Google has made no secret of its desire to put Android phones in the hands of “the next billion users” with initiatives like Android Go and Android One; an Amazon hardware push would certainly go a long way toward getting Google there, while also boosting Amazon’s own user base of its own products.



Woman gang-raped in India was mutilated and left for stray dogs to eat

Shocking details have emerged of the torture, gang rape and murder of a low-caste woman in northern India.

A post-mortem of the 23-year-old revealed that sharp objects were inserted into her vagina. The attackers smashed her skull with bricks and ran over her with a car, in an attempt to conceal her identity. The body was left in a field for stray dogs to feed on.

The victim’s body was found by passersby on 11 May, two days after she went missing. The body was so badly mutilated that it could only be identified by her family by the clothes she wore at the time of her disappearance.

Findings from the post-mortem said that the victim’s “oesophagus [food pipe] was missing and gnawing effects were seen over [the] chest. Her face, tongue, eyes and ears were totally distorted. Her face was not identifiable.”

Police have arrested two men – Sumit, 24, and Vikas, 28, (only their first names were released) – in connection with the brutal sexual assault, while six others are also being questioned.


Family members of the victim, whose name has not been revealed, accuse six others of being involved in the gang-rape.


“When she said to them she would complain they hammered her skull in with bricks. The way that they brutalised her is horrific,” said senior police official Ashwin Shenvi, adding that the medical examination suggests she was drugged before the violent sexual attack.


The victim’s mother claims she filed a complaint with the local police against Sumit, the main suspect who wanted to marry the victim, three months before the attack, but it was ignored. Officials have promised to look into this claim.


Haryana police have formed a special investigation unit for the case, while the government has promised severe punishment for the perpetrators. “Culprits involved in such ghastly acts won’t be spared. Will ensure speedy justice by fast track courts,” Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said.


The incident has sent shockwaves across Haryana – the northern state which surrounds the Indian capital territory of Delhi on three sides.


The attack is a grim reminder of the Delhi gang-rape, in which a 23-year-old physiotherapy intern suffered a similar attack and later lost her life. The Supreme Court recently upheld the death penalty for the four convicts involved in the incident.



India Gang Rape

Bill Gates is helping India win its war on human waste

October, 2, 2019 is an important date for India’s government.

Coinciding with the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth, it marks the proposed finish line for “Clean India,” the country’s ambitious plan to install 75 million toilets around the country.

Right now, 600,000 of the world’s 1.7 million who die annually from unsafe water and sanitation (due primarily to open, unclean toilets) live in India. As billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates recently wrote on his blog, those kinds of conditions make a plan like Clean India worthy of both praise and financial support.

Over the past several years, The Gates Foundation has donated millions in aid and grant money to both federal governments and private companies. Some of those donations were used to created high-tech toilets for use in low-income countries.

In 2012, the Gates Foundation issued a challenge to design a revolutionary toilet that was safe, sustainable, and affordable. The four winning designs were awarded grants totaling $3.4 million, with the expectation that they could help transform underserved areas.


The largest grant, for $1.3 million, went to RTI for its Integrated Waste Treatment System. The toilets disinfect liquid waste, dry out and burn solid waste, and turn that waste into electricity that further powers the toilet. Each unit costs roughly $2,500 and can accommodate 50 people per day.

Another design is the eToilet, India’s first automatic, unmanned, electronic public toilet. Lights switch on only during use, in order to save energy. Meanwhile, voice commands help people use the toilet correctly. Each use costs only a few cents.

Gates says that the presence of toilets isn’t enough to improve sanitation. People still need to use those toilets.

“Clean India has ingenious ways of tackling that problem,” Gates wrote. In certain places, groups of children will team up to alert people defecating out in the open that public toilets are the smarter and safer option. Billboards remind people the toilets exist. Even the country’s money features the Clean India logo.

More than 30% of India’s villages have been declared free of open defecation, Gates wrote. Last year, the rate was only 8%.

The program is one of Gates’ favorites, he says, because it shows a government can make gigantic leaps in public health so long as it focuses its attention on the problem, measures it, and uses the feedback to tweak the system. Gandhi’s 150th birthday is two and a half years away, and India seems fully set on meeting its goal.

“It is a great example for other countries and an inspiration for all of us who believe everyone deserves a chance at a healthy, productive life,” Gates wrote.



Facebook’s Express Wi-Fi launches commercially in India

Express Wi-Fi is one of Facebook’s many connectivity initiatives under its internet.org umbrella. Unlike more futuristic projects like the Aquila drone, though, the emphasis here is on existing Wi-Fi technologies and allowing local entrepreneurs to resell internet access.

In India, Facebook is currently working with a number of local ISPs and 500 local entrepreneurs, but that number is about to grow quite a bit.

As the company announced today, it’s now launching the service commercially in India and has partnered with the Indian telecom firm Bharti Airtel, which plans to bring an additional 20,000 hotspots online, starting in the next few months. The other ISPs involved in the project so far are  AirJaldi in Uttarakhand, LMES in Rajasthan, Tikona in Gujarat and soon with Shaildhar in Meghalaya.

The company previously launched the service commercially in Kenya and it’s also trialing it in Tanzania, Nigeria and Indonesia.



As James Beldock, Facebook’s product manager for Express Wi-Fi, told me, the idea behind this project was always to create an entrepreneurial grassroots base for the service. That means Airtel and its other ISP partners will continue this work with local entrepreneurs who want to resell internet access to their communities. “Our strategy has always been that these programs work if they are financially sustainable for the partners we work with,” Beldock told me, and added that while Facebook provides the software, it’s the ISPs and their partners that decide what to charge, for example. “Facebook’s strategy is to enable partners to make connectivity at scale sustainable, not to dictate pricing.”

Wi-Fi, of course, is a far easier onramp to the internet than most other means of getting online, Beldock stressed. After all, you don’t need a SIM card or data plan to go online. It also offers a low-cost way of getting online (with daily, weekly or monthly data packs) and the partnership with local entrepreneurs could help the local economy.

As Beldock noted, the challenge of expanding the service to other countries isn’t so much technical as it is about understanding the local markets and needs. Chances are, though, that we’ll soon see more commercial launches in the other countries where Facebook is already testing the service.


Facebook’s Express Wi-Fi launches commercially in India

I’ve locked three Bollywood films: Priyanka Chopra

Mumbai: The press conference of Priyanka Chopra’s Hollywood film ‘Baywatch’ was held amidst enough galore in the city on Wednesday.

Priyanka Chopra, who returned from the US to the city for merely five days, was quite enthralled to interact with the Indian media.

However, the main lead actor Dwayne Johnson, who couldn’t make it physically to the press conference, was virtually present there.

The conference began with his heart-warming message through a video.

He expressed his grief of not making it to India, and said that he is missing India a lot.

Dwayne, popularly known as ‘The Rock’ further joked with the Indian media, to not ask any questions to PeeCee about Zac Efron or other ladies, but only about him.

Taking charge of the press conference solely, Priyanka was asked her opinion about the  much-in-debate Akshay Kumar’s National Award win.

To which, the actress didn’t pay any heed to let the journalist even complete her question. Squashing her question, she laughingly said, “I was in America, I do not know anything.”

Priyanka was asked the most expected and obvious question about she missing Bollywood and her upcoming films, to which the actress shared her feelings saying, “I am listening to many scripts, but once I know what my schedule is, then only I can figure out when I can do a film. I can tell you for sure I have locked three films! But I can’t announce them till I know my dates. And I don’t know when I will do it, this year or next year. Actually after June, I really don’t know what I am going to do! And I definitely missed Hindi film industry. I am meeting people here also. So yes, it feels wonderful.”

When questioned about Indians or browns being welcomed warmly and accepted by Hollywood, the ever-so-humble diva replied, “You can’t be so entitled as being from Hindi film industry. We can’t say that if we are stars in India we will be stars everywhere. I am okay to walk into a room and introduce myself as,  ‘Hello, I am Priyanka Chopra. I am an Indian actor.’ There’s nothing small about it, our achievements are quite big. Of course, people didn’t know me then. I never thought they were mean except a few. But I think American press was wonderfully accepting of me. In fact, I haven’t seen them being that good to any other Indian actor. They have been loving, friendly and encouraging of me. So, I can’t say about brown skin. I can’t generalise.”


We are all aware about filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s admiration for Priyanka, hence when asked if she would be seen in his next ‘Padmavati’ in any role, she admitted, ” No! just because I am Sanjay sir’s favourite (laughs), I am joking… We have spoken about other films, but not ‘Padmavati’.”

Priyanka’s home production Marathi film ‘Ventilator’ bagged three National Awards, on which the elated diva joked that for some reason whenever she receives an honour from the Government of India, she happens to always be in New York.

Elaborating about her happiness on the win, she further added that she was very happy as this was her first film under her production house Purple Pebble Pictures.

Daddy’s little girl Priyanka said, “I made this film for my dad. The entire sequence happening outside the ICU, while my dad was on ventilator, is the story of ‘Ventilator’.”


She was asked about the difference in freedom of speech there in Hollywood, where the celebrities are in more power to criticise the authority and perhaps, the Indian celebrities here hesitate.

“It’s a cultural difference maybe. I say what I feel. I’ve always had my opinion. When I don’t want to say anything, I just don’t. Maybe controversies get…when public figures say anything there and over here they get into trouble,” she concluded.




Bringing down the language barriers – making the internet more inclusive

There are currently over 400* million Internet users in India, but with only 20% of the population fluent in English, most Internet users have significant language barriers to getting the full value of the Internet. A speaker of Indian languages like Hindi or Tamil still has trouble finding content to read and or use services that they can use in their own languages.

To build rich and empowering experiences for everyone means first and foremost making things work in the languages people speak. Today, we’re taking a huge step forward by launching new set of products and features that will empower the Internet ecosystem to create more language content and better serve the needs of a billion Indians who’re coming online rapidly.

Neural Machine Translation: The world’s content, in your language
Starting today, when you use Google Translate, you might notice that the translation is more accurate and easier to understand, especially when translating full sentences. That’s because we’ve brought our new Neural Machine Translation technology to translations between English and nine widely used Indian languages — Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Gujarati, Punjabi, Malayalam and Kannada.

Neural translation is a lot better than our old phrase-based system, translating full sentences at a time, instead of pieces of a sentence. It uses this broader context to help it figure out the most relevant translation, which it then rearranges and adjusts to be more like a human speaking with proper grammar. This new technique improves the quality of translation more in a single jump than we’ve seen in the last ten years combined.

Just like it’s easier to learn a language when you already know a related language, we’ve discovered that our neural technology speaks each language better when it learns several at a time. For example, we have a whole lot more sample data for Hindi than its relatives Marathi and Bengali, but when we train them all together, the translations for all improve more than if we’d trained each individually.

But how does this make the whole web better for everyone — Chrome has it covered!

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That’s where Chrome’s built-in Translate functionality comes into play. Every day, more than 150 million web pages are translated by Chrome users through the magic of machine translations with one click or tap. The Chrome team and the Google Translate team have worked together to bring the power of Neural Machine Translation to web content, making full-page translations more accurate and easier to read.

Today, we’re extending Neural Machine Translation built into Chrome to and from English for the same nine Indian languages (Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil Telugu and Hindi). This means higher quality translations of everything from song lyrics to news articles to cricket discussions.

Being able to type in your language of choice is as important as understanding content on the web. Today, we are ramping up support to include 11 new languages to the list of 11 existing Indian languages —with transliteration support—including Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, and Gujarati.

Gboard has all the things you love about your Google Keyboard — speed and accuracy, Glide Typing and voice typing — plus Google Search built in. It also allows you to search and use Google Translate right in your keyboard (just tap the “G” button to get started). And—as a reminder—Gboard already has a Hinglish language option for those of you who often switch back and forth between Hindi and English.

With today’s update, we’ve also dropped in a new text editing tool that makes it easier to select, copy and paste, plus new options for resizing and repositioning the keyboard so it fits to your hand and texting style. And to top it all off, this Gboard update comes with some under-the-hood improvements including better accuracy and predictions while you type

Like Google Indic Keyboard, Gboard has auto-correction and prediction in these new languages, plus two layouts for each—one in the native language script and one with the QWERTY layout for transliteration, which lets you spell words phonetically using the QWERTY alphabet and get text output in your native language script. For example, type “aapko holi ki hardik shubhkamnay” and get “आपको होली की हार्दिक शुभकामनायें ”.

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I never knew how to travel until I visited India

Like most travelers who’ve been around the world and back again, I left my heart in India. 

I sit in Mexico as I write this, a year later and still stubbornly refusing to go home and be normal. And no matter what I do, my mind wanders back to India every chance it gets.

So I dig my toes into the powder white sand of the Mayan Riveria and indulge in the waves of memories shamelessly washing over me.  

I think of the afternoons spent riding on the back of a motorcycle in central Karnataka, my fingers full of silver rings slung around the waist of a fellow wanderer, my jeweled skirt flapping in the juicy afternoon breeze, villages of colorful boxes stacked into a green swampy landscape peeling by on either side of the horizon.

I remember squealing on the inside, thinking, without a doubt this was the happiest I’ve ever been and maybe ever will be.

Freedom, sweat, and spice oozing out of every pore.

Stopping in a tiny town, half a kilometer from running out fuel, and skipping from door to door until I come back with three new local friends, two cups of chai, and a water bottle of yellow gasoline to dump into the tank of our ancient Honda. Stealing a kiss from my beautiful blue-eyed companion and riding the bike back through emerald rice fields. Falling asleep on the roof of a hostel, the stars peeking through wisps of mosquito net.  

Fast forward to a hundred other moments of my first four months in India. Lazing in the Goan sunsets, hopping on my scooter with wet hair and skirting the south Indian coastline from one sandy cove of paradise to another. Sneaking barefoot into late night temple ceremonies, the cascades of “om” carrying me further and further from the life I used to want. 


The days of balancing a cup of chai in one hand and a fresh coconut in the other, speaking purposefully and tentatively with a lovely new traveler friend, navigating our blonde selves though an afternoon marketplace with the greatest amount of subtlety we were capable of.

(Six months later, I would fly to Stockholm to see this same traveler friend, and she would fly halfway around the world to join me on a grand adventure in California. Friends for life, I am certain, thanks to Mother India.)  

The night I met a Welsh rugby team driving a tuk-tuk across northern India and hopped in for a nighttime cruise through Agra’s narrowest back alleys, where everyone’s beloved pastime seamed to be corralling a small flock of livestock while simultaneously shopping for tomatoes, bangle bracelets, mustard seeds, and saris, their furry beasts apathetically blocking traffic.

And the absolute hilarity of wide-eyed Indian children popping their heads into the front seat of our stalled tuk-tuk and seeing four blonde heads grinning back at them, the children all collapsing into frowning laughter the way only Indians are capable of balancing two polarized expressions on one face.

Because of India, traveling stopped becoming a temporary interlude in my life plan and became a life plan in its own right. It ceased to be an outlet for another agenda and became something pure and heartfelt.

It became an exercise of utterly reckless abandon that somehow flushed my veins, cleaned out every pore, and pumped fresh oxygen into lungs that gasped for air in other parts of the world. 

I found, like nowhere else on Earth, India exerts a palpable love for everyone moving through her atmosphere. All you have to do is surrender and let yourself be carried away.




Amazon Fire TV Launches in India

The stick, which enables Amazon Prime Video and rival services, such as Netflix and ErosNow, to be viewed on TV sets, becomes available in its fifth country.

Amazon has launched its Fire TV stick in India, making it the fifth country where the device becomes available after the U.S., U.K., Germany and Japan. 

The Amazon Fire TV stick comes preloaded with apps, including Amazon Prime Video and rival OTT platforms, such as Netflix, Fox India’s Star network-owned Hotstar, Viacom18’s Voot and Indian film major Eros International’s ErosNow, among others. The device also offers access to YouTube, various gaming apps and more.

Fire TV made its U.S. debut in 2014. The Fire TV stick with remote, which allows users to put apps such as Prime Video and Netflix on TV sets, is priced at about $62 (3,999 rupees) compared with $39 in the U.S.

The higher price is due to various extra content offerings, such as six months of advertising-free music from Indian music streamer Gaana, a free ErosNow membership running for three months and one month of ad-free streaming from Voot and Voot Kids. Also included in the bundle is 100 gigabytes of free data for three months from Indian internet service provider Airtel Broadband.

The launch announcement was made Wednesday at a press conference in New Delhi that featured such Amazon executives as Prime Video India director and country head Nitesh Kripalani and Amazon Fire TV vp Marc Whitten.

“Fire TV Stick offers access to a vast selection of movies and TV shows, popular apps and features designed specifically for customers in India, including powerful voice search for Amazon Video titles in Hindi and English,” said Whitten. “Fire TV Stick also offers data monitoring and other features to help customers in India get the most from their data plan and stream more content using less bandwidth.”

Meanwhile, Amazon continues to bolster its India content offerings with the launch of animated series Baahubali: The Lost Legends, based on the epic Baahubali film franchise. Last year’s Baahubali: The Beginning was a box-office hit that reached an estimated $100 million worldwide. The sequel, Baahubali: The Conclusion, is being released April 28. Amazon Prime Video in India has also enhanced its Hollywood lineup with Suicide Squad.




Google launches Areo, a food delivery & home services app for India

Google seems to have silently launched a new food delivery and home services aggregator called Areo for the India market. The app is available as a free download on the Google Play store and is currently operational in Bengaluru and Mumbai.

Areo aggregates food dishes and home services across various local service providers, allowing users to order food or schedule appointments with a local beautician, electrician, painter, cleaner and plumber among others. The app was first spotted by The Android Soul.

At the time of the writing this article, Areo has signed up partners like UrbanClap and Zimmber for home services and Freshmenu, Box8 & Faasos for food ordering.

Notably missing from the list however are prominent players like Zomato and Swiggy in food delivery and Amazon-backed Housejoy in home services.

One can either search for any specific dish or choose any specific partner to browse through dishes and schedule deliveries by paying online or use cash on delivery. Strangely, we noticed that Google has partnered with TimesofMoney’s DirecPay for online payments on Areo rather than using its own payment solution.

“We are constantly experimenting with ways to better serve our users in India. In this case, Areo makes everyday chores and ordering food easier by bringing together useful local services like ordering food or hiring a cleaner in one place.” a Google spokesperson told in a statement to ETtech.

A Google spokesperson said they are currently not charging partners for this service but they are yet to respond to our queries on how these partners were selected or do they plan to charge these partners in the future.




$30bn of India’s fashion market to be digitally influenced by 2020, says BCG-Facebook report

India, home to a fast growing e-commerce market, is set to see $30bn of the fashion market digitally influenced by 2020, according to a Boston Consulting Group and Facebook report, Fashion Forward 2020.

Today $7bn to $9bn of the $70bn Indian fashion market is currently digitally influenced, with the numbers to quadruple by 2020. $30bn represents about 70% of the total branded apparel market.

Mobile is also set to rise, as 85% of online fashion buyers prefer mobile over any other device, mirroring other reports about mobile usage in the country.

Fashion is the gateway for online shoppers, with 30% of new shoppers likely to start their online buying with apparel and footwear. Fashion e-commerce already accounts for about 4% of the total fashion market, comparable to sales from brick and mortar outlets (3.15%). Online purchases are set to multiply by about four times to hit $12bn to $14bn by 2020, contributing 11-12% of the Indian fashion market. New shoppers will drive 40% of the growth.

The spurt of new fashion shoppers will bring with it a fundamental shift in the profile of online fashion shoppers. The 2020 shopper will no longer be the typical young, metro-residing male of today – by 2020, nearly half the shopper base will be women, more than 50% will come from lower tiers (Tier 2 or even lower) and ~37% will be older than 35 years of age, according to Rohit Ramesh, partner and managing director, The Boston Consulting Group, India.

Tier 2 refers to cities in India that have a population between 50,000 to 99,999.

Discounts may drive the online shoppers of today, but the new online shoppers will look beyond that according to the report. Women and lower tier shoppers are driven by variety while older shoppers skew towards convenience.

“This report clearly lays out the pivotal role of digital in the fashion industry, this trend is not limited to urban metros alone but is spreading across geographic and demographic segments. By 2020, 33% of all urban fashion consumers will buy online which means for a mobile first country like India we will witness a high number of purchases taking place on the mobile,” said Umang Bedi, managing director, Facebook India & South Asia.

“Mobile has become central not just to the way brands market and sell, but also how they design products, plan merchandising and engage with customers end-to-end,” he added.

Digital is now emerging as a significant channel for discovery, research and purchase according to the report. Consumers are now increasingly going online, with 24% set to carry out transactions purely online, 25% set to research online and purchase offline, 7% to do vice versa and 44% to stick to purely offline transactions.

The report calls for a shift in media spending to digital in India, as TV has reigned supreme in the sub-continent. Currently only 10% to 15% of ad spends are on digital media in India, despite the digital influence. Fashion players should take note of ‘here & now’ strategies such as leveraging digital to connect with customers across various touch points to optimizing assortment for digital personalisation to win in this digital world.



Indian Fashion Designers Take Handloom Industry Global

Indian designers are helping to revive the centuries-old tradition of handmade textiles by taking them global. The Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) is encouraging designers to revive the country’s handloom industry by incorporating handmade fabrics into high-end fashion and couture.

Working with fabrics ranging from Eastern Indian silks to cotton fabrics spun into thread on hand-powered spinning wheels, famous Indian designers like Rohit Bal, Shruti Sancheti, and Rina Dhaka, put their handloom collections on display in Amazon India Fashion Week.

Indian fashion designer Gautam Gupta says while there is an increasing awareness and demand for handmade fabrics, designers have an important role to play in popularising the industry.

India currently produces the majority of world’s handwoven textiles, and the Indian handloom industry is the second largest employer in rural India after agriculture, according to Indian Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF).

According to IBEF, in 2015-16, India exported around $360 million USD of handloom products, that’s almost a three percent increase on the previous year.

Top buyers of Indian handloom products were the US, the UK, and the UAE.



Online fashion shoppers to more than double to 130 mn by 2020

The number of online fashion shoppers in India will double from 55-60 million today to 130-135 million by 2020, and with a significant shift in the user profile. Mobile is going to be the single biggest driver for the growth of the fashion industry in India, both offline and online.

These are the findings from Fashion Forward 2020, a report launched by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) along with Facebook India. Umang Bedi, managing director, India & South Asia, Facebook; and Abheek Singhi, senior partner and managing director, BCG, spoke to Mint about the report and its insights. Edited excerpts:

Why did Facebook partner with BCG?

Umang Bedi: Why BCG and Facebook came together was around the fact that we wanted to connect businesses with the trends that we are seeing but we leaned in on fashion and selected that for three core reasons which is really the context of this report on Fashion Forward 2020, which is really a look into the future of where BCG as well as Facebook believe this industry is going to head from an Indian context in 2020.

So the top three trends are first, the consumer is evolving really fast. Second, on Facebook and externally also we found that fashion is at the forefront of the entire categories that are on fire from an e-commerce or offline perspective.

And the third thing we found that Also, the lines between online and offline were blurring due to consumer behavior that is enabled by technology.

Coming to the consumer of today, what we found at Facebook is that by 2020, 70% of all internet users in India will buy online, 76% of them would be digital shoppers, which means that may not buy online but will be digitally influenced, but 71% would be actual shoppers transacting online.

So that is the first big data point. Second, while these shoppers buy online, the rate of growth of digital shoppers in India will be the highest when compared to any other market.

If you look at developed nations like the US and the UK, they will be at 1% rate of growth in 2020, we in India will still be growing at 19.6% in 2020 and that too in a country where we only have 30% of the people connected to the Internet because there is that stark digital divide.

Interestingly while users grow, e-commerce growth in sales is also going to grow. So today we are at a humorously crazy growth rate of 76% but that’s off a very small base. Once that base becomes substantial, we believe it will settle down at somewhere 22%. Even at 22% it will be greater than the global average.

Also, today mobile commerce as a percentage of e-commerce is the highest in India. We are at 42% in India today and the global average is 34% and this is predicted to go up to 88% by 2020. So 88% of all e-commerce transactions will happen through a mobile phone or a mobile commerce interface.

So that’s the context: the market is moving fast, the consumer is evolving, mobile is causing that disruption, e-commerce will rise, rate of mobile shoppers will increase and it will drive exponential growth.

Why did you select fashion?

Umang: Here is the interesting insight. BCG and Facebook both found that one out of every three people that are shopping online or externally, buy apparel and fashion so fashion is a good logical entry point. Basis what we see, for Facebook users in India the 184 million people plus, 56% highlight fashion as an interest category, and if you break that down to the demographics it is the 18-34 year old that are driving this category.

So fashion, apparel, shopping, lifestyle, footwear all dominate Facebook—and we heard the same thing from BCG. Even Instagram users are interested in fashion and one out of two users purchase the brand they follow on Instagram.

According to BCG’s research, what are the big themes from the report?

Abheek Singhi: This report is based on the work that BCG has been doing for the last 2 years in the digital space, and is based on a sample of close to 18,000 consumers that we surveyed. The fashion market in India is currently estimated at $70 billion. Online contributes to about 5% of the total at around

$4 billion. The online fashion market is estimated to treble by 2020, to reach $12-$14 billion. This will translate to a significant 11%-12% share of the total fashion market. Also by 2020, nearly half the fashion buyers will be digitally influenced. Digital influence in fashion has grown more than 5x since 2013. 40%-50% of branded spends are already digitally influenced.

It is estimated that by 2020, 60%- 70% of the branded apparel market will be digitally influenced; that will be equivalent to 2-2.5x the consumer spend on e-commerce. Despite the magnitude of digital influence on fashion, media spends on digital have lagged behind compared to TV and print.

Digital media spends of brands and departmental stores are only 10%-15% of total media spends. Spends by e-commerce players, on the other hand, seem commensurate. In the recent past, many branded apparel players have started dialing up on digital.



Fashion tech sector flourishes amid e-commerce lull

The e-commerce sector is witnessing a lull in the country, but the fashion tech segment continues to see an influx of investments. In Hyderabad, the sector is only set to grow, with the total investments expected to touch the $2 million mark this year.

Investors have now stopped backing traditional e-commerce players and are more interested in the core technology offered by these fashion tech startups, said industry experts. “Investors have lost interest in regular e-commerce websites and mobile apps. The focus is on integrating fashion and technology to provide customized and personalized solutions to the end users,” said Karthik Venkat, co-founder of My Dream Store, which lets users create and sell custom-designed products such as coffee mugs and T-shirts.

Komal Prajapati, founder and CEO of Fabulyst, an online retail store that provides customised fashion products to users, said that personalized shopping is in demand.


“Traditional e-commerce players failed to address one of the biggest gaps between shopping online and shopping at a physical retail store — the presence of a shopping assistant or a stylist to give recommendations. Startups are now tapping into the possibility of offering personalized recommendations in the fashion tech space,” she said.


According to Sanjay Enishetty, managing director of Hyderabad-based investor group 50K Ventures, the market acceptance of ‘personalized’ shopping experiences is growing.


“Many fashion e-commerce companies shut shop as it is very hard to rake in profits using the conventional model. This has made investors reluctant to fund them. But startups using technology to offer customized shopping solutions are drawing a lot of interest. While the sector earlier catered largely to women buyers, many startups are now focussing on shopping solutions exclusively for men,” he said.


 Vinutha Ralapalli, an investment expert said, “The next boom in the fashion tech space will be the use of augmented and virtual reality. The key is to leverage technology to enrich the customer’s shopping experience.”





Internet Saathi: How Google is connecting women of rural India to the Web

The Internet in India is not just a commodity now, it has become a part of our lives so much so that it transcends from a tool to an emotion. Right from the days of dial-up connections to Reliance Jio, the Internet is something that the country has adapted to in a much aggressive way. India is among the top five countries of the world with an active Internet user base of more than 367 million and post-Reliance Jio, it has only risen.

While all these numbers hold to be true, they do not give us the whole picture. Most people in India actually don’t know the power of the Internet neither they have the means to harness it. Rural India holds an estimated population of more than 906 million but only has 17 percent active Internet users. In comparison, the urban populace has been clocked at 444 million with 60 percent active Internet penetration. Sadly, for every 10 male internet users in rural India, there’s just one woman who gets to use it. This is where Google’s Internet Saathi comes into play, which was originally announced back in 2015 by its CEO Sundar Pichai.

Google invited PCMag India to a trip down to Sewa Ka Pura village in Dholpur district of Rajasthan where it is running its Internet Saathi programme. Here we managed to capture a snapshot on how this programme is connecting the women of rural India to the world wide web.

What is Internet Saathi?

As the saying goes by, when you teach a man, you’re only teaching a single individual, but if you educate a woman, you’re empowering a family, a nation. Under Google India’s Helping Women Get Online initiative, the Internet Saathi programme was launched in July 2015 and is backed by Tata Trusts. The programme is aimed at connecting women of rural India to the Internet while bridging the digital gender divide in the country. Google provides resources such as the devices and training while Tata Trusts ensures that the programme reaches the right village and oversees its implementation.

Through Internet Saathi initiative, women ambassadors also known as ‘Saathi’, train and educate women across Indian villages on the benefits of the internet in their day-to-day life. Google says that the programme has already helped over 2 million women covering ten states and 60,000 villages where its active, get online. From teaching them about how to use a smartphone to helping them search online, Internet Saathi opens up a new window for the women in rural parts of the country.

How does the Internet Saathi programme work?

The whole process begins with the identification of potential villages where the programme can be introduced. Next, Google along with Tata Trusts identifies women who have basic reading and writing capabilities along with a curiosity to know more. After narrowing down to the potential Saathis, Google begins their training which lasts for two to three days. After the training, these Saathis begin to train other women, first across their own village and afterwards moving to the villages in the neighbourhood.

During the course of their training, the Saathis are introduced to the world of Internet and smartphones. They’re trained to hold the smartphone correctly, to power it on and off, to lock and unlock it, go about the interface, to use the camera, to use the calculator, to search for anything using Google Chrome and even text through WhatsApp.

“I saw a smartphone for the very first time during Internet Saathi training. At first, I thought, I might get an electric shock, that the phone would get damaged. I was scared and held the smartphone the wrong way, first time I picked it up,” remembers Parvati Khushwa, an Internet Saathi from Sewa Ka Pura village in Dholpur district of Rajasthan.

“Previously, my husband had a phone with buttons,” she says, referring to feature phones, “ but he did not let me touch that phone because it might get broken and said what could I do with the phone anyway?”

Google, in their training, encourages the women to learn more and more about the benefits of the Internet and smartphone in general and lets the Saathis adapt to it.

In what way do the Internet Saathis use Google’s services?

Rural areas in India are mostly focused on two things — cattle farming and agriculture with women managing the household chores as well. With Internet, there’s a whole new world out there waiting for these people. Parvati saw a paper plates making machine on the Internet and thought that as Ram Niwas (her husband) who was now recovering from his illness, couldn’t work out in the fields, maybe buying the machine would help them make some money. She sourced the plates making machine from Agra in Uttar Pradesh and bought it. Both of them learned how to make plates from the machine by watching videos from the Internet.

Parvati also taught a couple to use the internet which led them to discover about various different food recipes. The couple has now setup a food stall at their village where they sell different varieties of snacks which more than makes up for their survival.



The New Era of Ebooks in India

The ebook market in India is at the cusp of a major revolution. By 2030, India will be amongst the youngest nations in the world, with nearly 140 million people in the college-going age group, as per a report by E&Y. India has become the second biggest smartphone market in terms of active unique smartphone users, crossing 220 million and surpassing the US market, according to a report by Counterpoint Research. Going by global analytics, these numbers will lead to interesting synergies for ebook publishers in India.

The “India Book Market Report” released by Nielsen at the Frankfurt Book Fair valued the print book market in India, including book imports, at $3.9 billion. India ranks third in English language publishing, after the US and UK. And although ebooks currently account for less than 10 percent of the topline of publishers in India, this figure is expected to grow to about 25 percent by 2020.

AC Nielsen conducted a survey of around of 2,000 adults in urban cities for their India Book Market Report 2015. Interestingly, 56 percent of the respondents bought at least one ebook. According to another global survey conducted by Nielsen, 54 percent use their smartphones to read books at least some of the time. This number is up from 24 percent in 2012. The survey, released in December, also suggests that the percentage of those reading mainly on e-readers, such as Amazon’s Kindle, dropped from 50 to 32 percent over the same period.

In a 10-country sample survey conducted in early 2012 by Bowker’s “Global E-Book Monitor,“ it is estimated that 2 percent of the Indian population has purchased an ebook during the period of the study. The study also revealed that the typical ebook buyer in India is a college graduate, working full time and living in a city.

Academic and Education
Ebooks have had almost a decade-old run in India. Before the Kindle came to India, ebooks were highly limited and mostly available through local online retailers like Infibeam and The Wink Store. Although most ebooks available at that time were import titles from international STM publishers with little exposure for trade, a majority of the ebook sales in India traditionally came from the likes of Springer, Taylor and Francis, Wiley, Elsevier, Sage, and Cambridge University Press, to name a few.

Moving forward, a large part of the growth in ebooks will continue to come from the K12, higher education and academic spaces. As per data released by MHRD, India has more than 650 universities and 30,000 colleges. This segment will be the major driver of growth in ebooks.

Moreover, strategic- and policy-level initiatives, like the National Mission on Education, through ICT from the government of India to promote digital literacy and provide access to digital content at schools and colleges, are likely to drive creation of more digital content in general and ebooks in particular.

Publishers have been responding to the demand for digital content through products like “MX Touch,” a tablet-based education solution for Indian schools designed by Pearson Education India. Similarly, Cambridge University Press has designed “Hot Maths,” a comprehensive blended mathematics learning system. Compliant with the school syllabus, these platforms give students access to rich digital content.

Furthermore, there have been interesting initiatives in the B2B ebook space. Multi-publisher ebook platforms like Videeya.com provide the latest collection of ebooks to institutions to enhance the online resources available in their libraries.

There has also been a flurry of activity in the trade ebook space over the last five years. India’s leading online retailer, Flipkart, forayed into this space with Flyte. Landmark, the country’s leading retailer of books, launched an ebooks app. Leading international publishers like Pearson started their own initiatives, too. In 2012, Penguin India, announced ebook editions for more than 200 of its titles. Hachette and Random House have also been experimenting with this market, as have Rupa and HarperCollins.

Companies like Rockstand and NewsHunt are also capturing this market and eyeing the customers in the Tier 2 and 3 cities through their smartphone apps and free ebooks in English and other regional languages. There have also been some really interesting developments in multilingual children’s book publishing. Tulika Publishers and Pratham Books have rolled out e-reader apps for smartphones to facilitate this trend.

Road Ahead
With ebooks pegged at less than 10 percent of publishers’ topline in India, the projection that bets on ebooks reaching a 25-percent market share sounds a little too optimistic. However, rapid development in the area of education infrastructure in India is likely to fuel growth in academic ebooks. This, coupled with the smartphone revolution and some devices likely to be available at less than 11 USD—a key driver for fiction and regional language ebooks—does make this figure achievable. It might not be an exaggeration to say that these trends are likely to usher in a new era in ebook publishing in India.



Microsoft launches Skype Lite for India that works on slow internet and supports Aadhaar

Satya Nadella announces ‘Skype Lite’, a verion of the popular communication app that has Aadhaar integration and the abiilty to work even on slow mobile data networks.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on Wednesday announced the integration of Skype and Aadhaar to launch ‘Skype Lite’, a new communication tool aimed at slower mobile internet connections.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on Wednesday announced the integration of Skype and Aadhaar to launch the ‘Skype Lite’ for low speed mobile internet connections, which will be supported by Aadhaar and will enable technology that can empower people and organisations.

At a keynote address on day two of Future Decoded event, Nadella said that one can chat with ‘Aadhaar Verified’ users on both the regular Skype app and the new Skype Lite app while interacting for job interviews, government services and other services.

“Your next Skype Job interview might need Aadhaar verification. You can soon enter your Aadhaar number over Skype to verify yourself for an interview. The service can be extended for government services as well,” said Nadella.

“The Aadhaar data will be deleted automatically from the device once the “Aadhaar Verified” Skype chat is over,” he added.

Talking about the phenomenal entrepreneurial energy in India, which is transforming very rapidly, Nadella said, “It is phenomenal and exciting to see State Bank of India wanting to move to hybrid cloud infrastructure.”

He added that the finance sector is also undergoing digital transformation which is why the State Bank of India (SBI) has opted for the cloud, and will be adopting Office 365.

He also applauded the efforts of Andhra Pradesh, CM N. Chandrababu Naidu who has taken bold decisions to make the state a first cloud state.

“They will use cloud services to help service citizens of the state,” added Nadella.

Giving example of automobile industry and how some of these firms are relying on the Microsoft Cloud to change their business, he applauded Tata Motors who will be joining Microsoft on the cloud.

“They will build the ability to collect data, rendezvous with the Cloud, reshape the maintenance, warranty and more importantly the experience of the driver,” he said.

“I had a chance to meet an entrepreneur who is reshaping healthcare. This entrepreneur is using data to reshape diagnostic capabilities. The fact that diabetes can be monitored in a more effective manner can reshape healthcare,” he added.

However, on Tuesday, Nadella and Flipkart announced their partnership on the cloud as Flipkart will be exclusively using Microsoft Azure as its public cloud.

Nadella also met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, assuring the government of its initiatives in healthcare and education. Nadella also participated in a round table at NITI Aayog, tapping into cloud computing for good governance in the country.



India will give all its senior citizen a biometrics enabled smart health card

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has begun tabling the Union Budgets 2017-18 in the parliament. As the year 2016 approached its closing, the country grasped the sudden wave of digitization with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision of demonetization. In line with this, the implementation of Aadhaar in every process involving the government has also been given a good push. The latest development on Aadhaar is that senior citizens would receive Aadhaar-based smart cards for their health and well being.

Although details were not shared, the Aadhaar-based smart cards would contain health details of senior citizens. Jaitley further said that the pilot service of these cards would take off in 15 cities initially in India beginning this year. The announcement for this new initiative shows how the government is focusing on the path of making Aadhaar the core platform in different services. Very soon, we will be introduced to an Aadhaar-based payment system which will use one’s biometrics for transactions. The recently launched BHIM app has also been integrated with UID for Aadhaar-based transactions.

The government recently said that as of now more than 111 crore citizens in the country have an Aadhaar number, and this unit covers more than 99 percent of the Indian adult population. Post demonetization, the enrollment for Aadhaar also increased to 7 to 8 lakh per day as against 5 to 6 lakh till October 2016. The government also reported an increase of 2.69 crore transactions of Aadhaar-based enabled payments in November 2016, which increased to 3.73 crore in December 2016 and 2.06 crore transactions in the first half of January.



India wants to make credit and debit cards obsolete for payments

In its bid to promote digital economy in the country, Government of India has launched a new payment method using QR codes.

After various new payment methods like UPI payment and BHIM App for smartphones, Government of India has now launched Bharat QR code.


Bharat QR Code, the latest initiative to boost digital transactions, will make use of QR codes system for payments across merchant outlets. The solution comes as a first of its kind throughoout the globe.

As of today, QR code system is the easiest method of payment for users. However, different merchant outlets across the country use different QR codes.

Bharat QR code aims at standardising the QR code payment method through the country. For this, payment networks like MasterCard, American Express, National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) and Visa have collaborated to promote wider acceptance of the Bharat QR payment method.

The prevailing method of payment necessitates a consumer to swipe a debit or a credit card and enter its PIN code to authenticate the payment.

However, after the introduction of Bharat QR code, a consumer can simply open his or her banking app or BHIM app, scan the merchant’s QR code, enter the payable amount and enter the four digit code to authenticate the transaction.

The amount will be directly transferred to the merchant’s bank account once the transaction is complete.

In short, Bharat QR code will provide customers with an easy scan and pay option irrespective of their card type.

Both the merchant and the customer will receive instant notification after the payment is successful.

The method would eliminate the need of PoS machines on a merchant outlet.

This will help merchants in avoiding investments in PoS machines and the transaction fees charged by the banks for transactions through the PoS systems.

The merchants will now just need to avail the Bharat QR code for their outlet and display it at the payment desk.

Bharat QR code will certainly remove a lot of discrepancies in using digital money for the citizens.

Firstly, the individual payment portals like Paytm, Freecharge and MobiKwik required money to be transferred into their wallets first and then be used for further payments.

Also, to make payments through these portals, both the parties involved in the transaction must be using the same payment service to make it possible.

From the merchant’s perspective, these apps charge a transactional fee from them. Also, there is a limit to the amount of payment that can be put in these portals.

Bharat QR code will eliminate all such roadblocks as it is directly linked to the bank. The payments will go straight to the merchant’s bank account through IMPS. Also, there is no limit to the amount of money the merchant can put in the bank.

Hence digital payments will be made much easier for both the parties after this launch.

If in case a user loses his or her smartphone, all they need to do is call their respective bank and inform them of the mishap.

The initiative will also support payments through UPI Payment Address and AAdhaar Number soon.



Microsoft CEO says artificial intelligence is the ‘ultimate breakthrough’

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella kicked off a three-day visit to India in the nation’s startup hub, Bengaluru, by speaking on a number of topics close to his heart, meeting the startup community and announcing a critical partnership with Flipkart.

“First one is cloud and AI, and they kind of go together,” said Satya Nadella. The fact that you have the power of the Internet and infrastructure to read large amounts of data is what powers artificial intelligence. And India is well on its way to rolling out technologies and services powered through the cloud and magic of AI, according to Satya Nadella.

The second thing that’s exciting, according to Nadella, is the power of Cortana, which is like the third runtime when it comes to humans’ interaction with computers is concerned. Natural language processing and the ability to converse with a computer, phone, gadget or service — powered through Microsoft Azure Cloud — is the ultimate promise of Cortana. And it’s also being rolled out around several products and partnerships (Microsoft & Tata Motors, for instance).

And thirdly, just like Tim Cook spoke about this last week, Satya Nadella also believes that Augmented Reality holds a revolutionary potential in its applications through breakthrough technology — like the Microsoft HoloLens. He spoke about just how excited he was the very first time he tried on the Microsoft HoloLens, trying to go through a virtual anatomy class, something that blew his mind away in terms of the limitless potential of AR and VR technology.

On Entrepreneurship

Three years after being appointed as Microsoft CEO in February 2014, Satya Nadella — who’s an alumnus of Manipal Institute of Technology batch of 1988 — also had discussions on digital transformation in India, the need for intelligent cloud, and other topics to ensure speedy digitization of the nation. In terms of startups, Satya Nadella said there was a lot of potential for entrepreneurs to achieve great things by solving unique problems in India through the power of technology, reaffirming Microsoft’s commitment to building the relevant tools and technology platform that enables and empowers others to build great technologies on top of them.

Microsoft & Flipkart strategic partnership

Flipkart will adopt Microsoft Azure as its exclusive public cloud platform, the partnership was announced by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Flipkart Group CEO Binny Bansal at an event in Bangalore.



India starts drilling for its first undersea bullet train

Drills for India’s first bullet train has begun, according to reports. Construction of the 7-kilometres (about 4.3 miles) undersea rail corridor between Mumbai and Ahmadabad in western India is slated to begin in 2018.

The drilling will help ascertain soil conditions under water. “Soil and rocks below the 70-meter-deep see are being tested as part of the geo-technical and geo-physical investigation undertaken for the entire project,” a senior Railway Ministry official reportedly said. 

Estimated to cost about Rs 97.6 billion ($14.5 billion), 80% of the project’s funding will come by way of a loan from Japan that operates the Shinkansen bullet train between Tokyo and Osaka. India will replicate that system. The project cost includes possible cost escalation, interest during construction and import duties. 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who traveled to Japan last year traveled in the Shinkansen bullet train alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Japan’s decision to give virtually free finance for Modi’s pet program is reportedly part of its broader push back against China’s involvement in infrastructure development in South Asia over the past several years. 


Currently it takes about seven hours to travel between the Mumbai and Ahmedabad and the bullet train aims to reduce it to about two hours. Construction of the corridor is expected to be completed by 2023 provided it starts next year.

As always, Twitter users had quite a few cents to spare on the topic.

Amazon sees sales of Amazon Kindle by 80 percent to Rs 1,138 Crore in the year up to March

According to a report in Economic Times, sales of Amazon Kindle rose by 80 percent to Rs 1,138 Crore in the year, up to March. According to the report, the source is documents filed by Amazon Seller Services. The report does not mention what documents were filed, or where they were filed. The SEC filings by Amazon can be accessed here, the Annual reports and Proxy statements can be accessed here.

Amazon does not disclose specific information on revenues of its various products. We have reached out to Amazon for comments and will update the story accordingly.

The increase of Kindle sales is actually at 200 percent according to a report published in back in February 2016 on GadgetsNow. Users all over the world tend to read more ebooks than physical books once they have access to a reader. In India, users apparently consume 10 times the number of physical books after starting to use Kindle. In the US, the increase is only four times. The size of the market, the introduction of new sales channels, and the availability of local regional language content are considered to be the main reasons that Kindle does well in India.

India is a vociferous consumer of books. Indians spend more time reading books than anyone else in the world. The NOP World Culture Score keeps track of global media consuming habits, and notes that “Consumers in India are most likely to spend time reading, at an average of 10.7 hours per week, followed by consumers in Thailand and China (at 9.4 hours and 8 hours per week respectively).”

According to a report (PDF) on the market for books in India by Frankfurt Book Fair, an annual event, ebook sales and ebook reader sales are poised to grow in India. According to the Nielsen The India Book Market Report, book readership in India is poised to explode because of a massive, young and increasingly mobile population. Distribution of physical books to remote regions of the country is a logistical nightmare.

Amazon has a catalogue of over three million books. You can read any of them for a subscription price of Rs 150 per month. The cheapest Kindle available right now on Kindle is at Rs 5,999.  Amazon has a wide variety of content from Indian publishers on offer. Every month, the site puts up a selection of ebooks that are discounted by a minimum of 60 percent. These are called the Kindle Monthly Deals. The books are available in many Indian languages incluing Hindi, Tamil and Marathi. This allows Amazon to reach into the untapped regional and rural market in India. Flipkart, the only other major ebook vendor in India exited the market in 2015. Infibeam Pi, an Indian ebook reader stopped selling in 2012.



Google Play Books is Promoting Bite Sized eBooks in India

Google Play Books has been experimenting with a number of new initiatives in the past two months. They have been ironing out promotional contracts with major publishers for an e-book rental system in the US and they have just unveiled a new bite sized e-book platform in India.

The new Google Play Books system in India is the equivalent of Kindle Singles, they comprise of e-books that are too short to be a novel and too long to be a featured magazine article. Google is hoping that the 5-20 page e-books, written by A list authors, will catch on in India and are only charging a few cents for each title. Right now the only way to pay is via credit card or netbanking, although Google is working with local Telcos to introduce carrier billing.



Google in talks to help public healthcare projects in India

The company is in talks with the state government to streamline public health programs. It plans to develop apps that will reduce the time taken in data collection by making it tech-enabled as opposed to tedious paperwork. It will also create a standardized platform under which all health data across programs can be tracked, maintained and easily shared. 

It is not clear at the moment whether Google will also retain the health data that is collected by its proposed platform or not.

“It is an early stage discussion and we do not have anything to comment or add at this stage,” a Google spokesperson told Mashable India.

Google reportedly came up with this proposal after conducting a study of accredited social health activists (ASHA) — also known as community health workers — in north Karnataka and some mid-level clinics in New Delhi. They realized that workers were losing a lot of time and resources in the collection and reporting. And every program ran a different software due to which cross-sharing of data was not possible. 

Google will be piloting the project in Karnataka’s Yadgir district which has a population of about 1.2 million. The state, meanwhile, has a population of 64 million with 2,310 primary health centers and 180 community health centers, according to the National Health Mission. 

The state government runs a variety of public health programs from health protection to families living below poverty line to health assurance schemes for those above poverty line and cashless treatment for all government employees. 

Google could even provide free Wi-Fi to the primary health centers on lines of what they are doing at railway stations across the country, the report suggests.

The Silicon Valley firm has shown keen interest in India in the last few years, with a slew of initiatives and programs targeted at startups and SMBs. 



5 Indian Books That Are Now (Must-Watch) Hollywood Movies

There are a whole lot of book-to-film adaptations to watch out for this year , which we’re always excited to do. However, if you are a fan of Indian authors, there is quite the bonanza in store for you. With two major adaptations releasing this year (read a little more to see which!), we’ve put together an entire list of Indian-authored books that were made in Hollywood blockbusters. Make sure you read the books before the movie releases, and re-watch some of the other classics that have already made their mark as hit films, internationally.

Lion is inspired by the true story of Saroo Brierley (A Long Way Home), an Indian-born Australian businessman who was separated from his mother and later adopted by an Australian couple. It takes him twenty-five years to find his family again, with a lot of help from Google maps and vague childhood recollections of his hometown. The Hollywood adaption of the book stars Nichole Kidman, as his adoptive mother and Dev Patel, as Saroo.

Victoria and Abdul is the story of Abdul Karim who arrived in England at the age of twenty-f0ur to serve tables during Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee celebrations. He soon found himself as one of the closet confidantes of the Queen and their growing closeness almost causes a revolt in the British household. A Hollywood version of the story, Victoria and Abdul, is all set to release in September and it stars Judi Dench as Queen Victoria and Ali Fazal as Abdul Karim.

Salman Rushdie’s 1981-novel is about India’s transition from British rule to Independence. The main protagonist and narrator, Saleem Sinai, who was born at the exact moment that India became independent, is born with telepathic powers. He later discovers that there are many such children born between midnight and 1AM with such powers. The book was adapted on screen by Deepa Mehta and starred a huge cast that included Satya Bhabha, Shriya Saran, Siddharth Narayan, Ronit Roy, Anupam Kher, Shabana Azmi, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Seema Biswas, Shahana Goswami, Samrat Chakrabarti, Rahul Bose, Soha Ali Khan, Anita Majumdar and Darsheel Safary.

Slumdog Millionaire was one of the biggest films of 2009. A movie adaption of the novel Q & A by Vikas Swarup, the story is about a boy who is a participant of Kaun Banega Crorepati. He manages to answer all questions correctly and wins the big prize money but he is soon accused of cheating. To clear his name, he takes us back to his life and makes us understand how each question, and its answer is, or was, his reality.

The Namesake is the story of a Bengali couple, living in America, who decide to name their son Gogal, inspired by the author, Nikolai Gogol. Gogal grows up to hate the name, not realising the deep connection his father has with the author. A simple story of a boy who struggles to survive in America, caught between the modern world and age-old traditions at home, the narrative will keep you hooked till the end. The movie version starred Tabu and Irrfan Khan as the Bengali couple and Kal Penn as Gogal.





India Is The No. 1 Google Play Downloader

India made headlines when it replaced the United States as the world’s second largest smartphone market. Now, India is reported to be Google Play Store’s top country in terms of the number of app downloads, beating the United States again and Brazil for the crown.


App Annie provided the annual reports of the app market growth in 2016. India saw a massive 71 per cent app download growth. Smartphone companies have been looking to expand businesses in India for its still evolving market.

“India’s phenomenal progress over the past two years is even more impressive when considering its potential for further gains,” the report said.

Indians consumers are also reported to have the biggest average number of shopping applications installed per user on their phones. Aside from that, Indians also sat on top of charts with the most time spent on Android phones.


However, if you look at the revenues generated through Google Play, you won’t see India’s name listed in the top ten. This means that Indian users are not spending that much for apps. Japan, The United States, and Korea were placed in the top three of this list.


The report also suggests that popular social media platform Facebook, messaging app WhatsApp, and mobile web browser UC Browser were the most download. When it comes to usage, Facebook, WhatsApp and the favorite travel buddy Google Maps rule. Apps that had the most revenue based on paid downloads and in-app purchasing were the online streaming app Netflix, dating app Tinder, and business and employment app LinkedIn. India favored Candy Crush, Subway Surfers, and Temple Run 2 in terms of downloadable games in 2016. Pokemon GO stayed in the top five spot in terms of apps for worldwide revenue. Super Mario Run secured its spot as the top app in 148 countries.



Which Country Reads the Most?

According to the NOP World Culture Score Index, India is the country that reads the most, with over 10 hours per week. Thailand and China are second and third, with 9.24 and 8 hours per week respectively. Below you will find the list of the 30 countries that reads the most.

Hours Spent Per Week Reading

1. India — 10 hours, 42 minutes
2. Thailand — 9:24
3. China — 8:00
4. Philippines — 7:36
5. Egypt — 7:30
6. Czech Republic — 7:24
7. Russia — 7:06
8. Sweden — 6:54
8. France — 6:54
10. Hungary — 6:48
10. Saudi Arabia — 6:48
12. Hong Kong — 6:42
13. Poland — 6:30
14. Venezuela — 6:24
15. South Africa — 6:18
15. Australia — 6:18
17. Indonesia — 6:00
18. Argentina — 5:54
18. Turkey — 5:54
20. Spain — 5:48
20. Canada — 5:48
22. Germany — 5:42
22. USA — 5:42
24. Italy — 5:36
25. Mexico — 5:30
26. U.K. — 5:18


27. Brazil — 5:12
28. Taiwan — 5:00
29. Japan — 4:06
30. Korea — 3:06

Are you surprised at who is and isn’t on the list?



Google Play and iOS apps demand surges in India and China

India leapfrogged both the US and Brazil to become the nation that downloaded the most apps from Google’s Play Store, according to analytics firm App Annie.

It also claimed that China became the biggest source of revenue for Apple’s iOS App Store for the first time.

However, the BBC understands that Apple’s own figures contradict this.

They suggest China still lagged behind the US and Japan last year. The tech firm has, however, not commented on the 2016 Retrospective report.

A spokeswoman for Google also declined to comment.

Google and Apple both take a cut of software sales and in-app fees from third-parties that publish on their respective platforms.

Their differing successes are explained by the fact that Google Play does not operate in China, while iPhones have a much smaller share of the Indian market than they do in most other countries.

San Francisco-based App Annie’s research is widely used by app publishers and others involved in the digital industries.

“We are always confident with the data we release in our reports, attributing the estimates to a veritable degree to accuracy,” a spokeswoman said.

In total, it said more than 90 billion apps were downloaded via the two stores over the year.

Shopping apps

The popularity of Google Play downloads in India is linked to the fact that the nation became the world’s second largest smartphone market in 2016, according to the United Nations, based on the number of people with mobile data subscriptions.

Only China has more users, but because of local restrictions they mostly download Android apps from marketplaces run by local tech firms such as Baidu, Tencent and Huawei.

The report indicates more than six billion apps were downloaded in India from Google Play over the 12 months, allowing the nation to narrowly beat the US’s tally.

“An Indian smartphone user has more shopping apps on their phone than a UK user,” App Annie’s Paul Barnes told the BBC.

“Social and messaging apps have [also] been exceptionally popular – WhatsApp in particular is one of the most widely used apps in the country.

“This has created a fairly unique app market in India, where gaming is slightly less dominant than we’ve seen in other emerging markets, such as China.”

Mr Barnes added that India was likely to maintain its Play Store lead for some time to come and could top 20 billion downloads by 2020.

“I think if you look at the fact that smartphone penetration is still only 30% in India, then we expect to see that growth in downloads accelerate.”

Westward bound

App Annie’s claim that China had overtaken the US as the biggest revenue source for the iOS App Store was based in part by its success in the final three months of the year.

More than $2bn (£1.7bn) was spent locally in the last quarter, the report said, which compared to about $1.5bn (£1.2bn) in the US for the same period.

“There’s been a real surge in 2016, which has been something of a surprise,” Mr Barnes acknowledged.

“With China, local games are particularly popular. The companies NetEase and Tencent have done incredibly well.”

The report highlighted the Fantasy Westward Journey series – role-playing titles based on a 15-year-old PC game – as being particularly successful. They have generated more than $800m (£664m) for NetEase in China since it released the first title in March 2015.

The report added that Tencent’s QQ social network also made substantial gains in 2016. Its games are free to play, but the firm sells weapons and other virtual goods within them, as well as making money from adverts.

App Annie acknowledged that Japanese iPhone owners still spent more on average than any other nationality.

But Mr Barnes said Chinese users were catching up quickly.

“China has actually increased per person spending on games 10 times since 2014,” he said.

In total, Apple and Google’s app stores generated $35bn (£29bn) in revenue in 2016, according to the report, representing a 40% gain on 2015.



A New Digital Platform in India Wants to Provide Books to Every Child

In the Northern India state of Himachal Pradesh, about 45 miles from the Dalai Lama’s residence, lies a village called Suja, where Tibetan Children’s Villages is located. While the school’s library has enough books for teens in their native language, contemporary, entertaining material for younger readers is completely missing. “Books for primary grades have hardly been written in Tibetan,” says Tenzin Dhargyal, a senior English teacher at TCV School.

Six months ago, Dhargyal discovered StoryWeaver, a digital storehouse of multilingual books for kids where users can read, write, translate, modify, and even download books. He fell in love with it. “It has so many relatable stories for children,” he says. Dhargyal requested Tibetan script be added to the platform, and in no time he had translated the first story and was using it with his students.

Seeing his work, a few more Tibetan educators jumped onto the bandwagon. Today, StoryWeaver has 52 stories in Tibetan, of which Dhargyal will soon be printing three into books for his library. And this month, his secondary school students will be introduced to StoryWeaver so they can translate at least one book as part of their winter break homework.

Tibetan-language speakers are not the only ones benefiting from this first-of-its-kind open-source publishing platform.

Suchana, a community group that focuses on education and health, is translating stories on StoryWeaver in Santali and Kora, two tribal languages that lack written stories.

India has more than 800 spoken languages and dialects, many of which don’t have their own script. Typically, most children’s content is produced either in Hindi or English. Very few publishers cater to other languages, so access to stories in a child’s native tongue is limited, causing a decrease in learning opportunities.

StoryWeaver has 2,500 books in 53 languages on its platform. “The ease of our embedded story creator and translator tool is something our users love,” says Singh.

Reaching kids in cities has been easy, thanks to internet accessibility. “But it’s important that all children have equitable access to joyful reading material in their own languages to build a reading habit,” Singh says.

With its outreach partners, StoryWeaver has been able to influence children in underserved rural communities, where the digital infrastructure and connectivity can create a roadblock for reading and learning. Educators and storytellers are downloading stories and using them as wall projections, flash cards, reading comprehension modules, and activity books, as well as in local language apps and in Braille books.



India: For the love of second-hand books

Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, India – The complete 32-volume set of Encyclopedia Britannica lay strewn over the book counter at Dhananjay Pandey’s stall at the Vijayawada Book Festival. Pandey, owner of the Pratik Book Centre in Mumbai, notes that the printing of this enormous collection was suspended in 2010. One can get a digital version these days.

As customers browse through his collection, he proudly shows off a set of The Book of Knowledge: Children’s Encyclopedia, printed 100 years ago – the cover discoloured with age, but its pages in good state; a set of huge, hardbound foreign hobby books for children’s items to be made by classy moms – also a few decades old and not available any more; huge atlases, books on history, numerous yellow-paged worm-infected classics and novels.

Most are price-tagged at 50 percent below their retail value, and the aged novels are available for 100 rupees, or less than $2 each. 

In the absence of a decent library in the city, book lovers in Vijayawada, the present capital of the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh, look forward to their favourite annual fixture: the Vijayawada Book Festival which begins on January 1 every year. The festival runs for 11 days and is dotted with discussions, seminars, book releases, cultural programmes, competitions for children, walks-for-books and more.

This year, there are 328 stalls and most of the big players in the south Indian publishing scene are participating in the event.

“I started selling second-hand books some 17 years back, and I have been coming to this festival for the last seven years. Every year I see good business. Enticed by my rare collections, many book lovers here have come to know me, and they seek me out and visit my stall during this festival,” says Pandey, who has travelled to the fair from Mumbai.

However, publishers and stall owners say that this year the stalls are much smaller, offering less variety – due to the effect of the recent demonetisation policy which has resulted in financial hardships for many in India, as well as the unavailability of skilled salespersons to cater to book lovers.



Lion to Namesake: Hollywood Films Based on Books by Indian Authors

Books have always inspired a lot of filmmakers to make films globally, and not just Bollywood movies but many Hollywood movies too have been adapted from both fictional and non-fictional books. It is amazing to know there are many award-winning movies made in Hollywood which are based on books penned by India authors, some which are awaited and some which have gone on to become iconic hits for their content. Below are few of the such movies:

Lion: Lion starring Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman and an ensemble of Indian cast member is based on a true story of Saroo Brierley who lost his parents and found them after years with the help of google maps. This movie is based on a non fiction book called A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley.

Slumdog millionaire: Slumdog millionaire is a story of a boy who is a participant of kaun banega crorepati and answers all questions correctly and is accused of cheating recounts his history, illustrating how he is able to answer each question and this movie is adapted by the novel Q & A (2005) by Indian author and diplomat Vikas Swarup.

Victoria and Abdul: Victoria and Abdul starring Ali Fazal and Dame Judi Dench is based on a novel written by Shrabani Basu and is a true story of Queen Victoria and his servant Abdul and about their relationship between them and Abdu;’s journey to becoming one of the most influential court men in the Victorian Empire.

Namesake: Namesake is based on the novel of the same name by Jhumpa Lahiri, who appeared in the movie. It’s about a couple and their child and their life struggle.