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India’s app ban paves the way for Dragon’s digital downfall



For years the Chinese Dragon viciously guarded its economic turf and never allowed foreign players to enter and grow within it. Not only China sealed all economic opportunities for itself in the age of globalisation, but also nurtured key players like Bytedance Ltd, Tencent Holdings, etc, to grow in an ecosystem where online giants like Facebook, Google or Microsoft had no say. But with the Indian government banning 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok, UC Browser and WeChat, following the violent face-off between the Chinese and Indian troops at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh on 15-16 June, in which 20 Indian bravehearts died, tech watchers say China has made a big mistake and the Xi Jinping government should brace for a big digital downfall.

The importance of these digital companies could be gauged from the fact that despite Covid-19 pandemic which crippled the economy worldwide, ByteDance Ltd’s (TikTok’s parent company) valuation crossed more than $100 billion. Similarly, Tencent holdings (one of the most valuable companies in the world), which develops apps like WeChat, QQ Messenger, League of Legends, etc, earned a revenue of over $500 billion this year. Sources say the ban is likely to make a major impact on three fronts — data security, economic blockade of China and opportunities to Indian companies.

With this ban, Bytedance Ltd likely to suffer the most. TikTok h a s b e e n removed from world’s third-largest digital market with 611 million downloads (30% of TikTok’s total users). It is estimated that this will make the Chinese giant lose revenue of half a million per day. This ban has also given the US an edge over the Dragon in global tech market. With this, American companies like Facebook, Google, etc, are expected to see a boost. The sting will definitely hurt the Chinese for long as they are expected to lose around $110 billion.

Meanwhile, the government has also tightened its grip around Chinese companies like Huawei and sources say these companies might lose India’s 5G bid as well. The government is also thinking about a possible ban on Chinese companies, especially telecom operators and mobile companies soon. Apart from this, rules are also being formulated to reduce import of Chinese products.

 India is the 3rd largest digital economy, and without access to this market, Chinese companies’ valuation will go down significantly. Even if they come back in the future, their customer acquisition cost (CAC) is going to skyrocket, many will simply surrender and fold back to China. Ankit Prasad, CEO and founder, Bobble AI, said, “This ban can have a domino effect as well, encouraging other democratic markets to make similar bans. Though the impact is going to be both ways. The pro-active investments from China that have been happening over the last couple of years are going to reduce drastically. Indian startups would be left with fewer choices and sometimes onerous terms to raise funds from, and many ideas might not see the light of the day.”

 Sources also say that the ban will also give opportunities to Indian players to build a network of home-grown world-class mobile apps for 1.3 billion Indians. Boxengage. com, which was launched as a Indian alternative to Tiktok during the lockdown, saw a massive 10X surge in activeuser mark within 24 hours. Short video content app Woovly too gained 2,000 followers within a short span. Similarly, VideoMeet app for video conferencing too picked up and is now seen as a possible alternative to video conferencing apps.

Industry watchers believe this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for desi companies to cement their place at a time when nearly 300 million Indians are on Facebook, another 400 million on WhatsApp, and over 120 million on Chinese app TikTok — not to forget the millions who are hooked to Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Ironically, despite such a big market, there has not been a single Indian social media platform with a global standing.

Amid all this, the regional language social media platform ShareChat is showing the way. ShareChat has a user base of over 60 million monthly active users spread across the country and available in 15 languages including Hindi, Tamil and Bengali. The Bengaluru-based regional language social platform has become so popular that even Twitter came onboard when the four-year-old company raised $100 million in its Series D round of funding last year.

Public is a video-only social platform and has already registered 50 million users, with more than one million videos being created every month. “It is now on our entrepreneur on how well we can utilise this as an opportunity and build solid businesses. It may not fly that well if we don’t get the right and timely support system for scale, most important would be capital. Indian companies with less capital access also may sustain and flourish now and provide better opportunities to create great products not just the copycats of those Chinese app substitutes,” said Sumeet Verma, CEO & co-founder, KopyKitab.

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Why there is so much protest against farm laws

Surinder Kumar & Kulwant Singh Nehra



Amidst strong protests by Opposition parties and farmers’ organisations, the Central government got the three farm bills passed in Parliament. With the assent of the President of India, these bills have now become Acts or the laws of the land! The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act 2020 implies that private traders can now bypass Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis and purchase agricultural produce to sell it anywhere in India. The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act 2020 means freedom for contract farming and price negotiations and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020 provides freedom to agribusiness and trades to stock any agricultural produce in as much quantity as they would like to. In effect, it means that the corporate sector has been given free hand to enter in agriculture, contract farming on ‘mutually agreed terms and conditions’, purchase, storage, processing and other market operations, with little legal protection to the farmers. Even the constitutional validity of Central acts in a federal state of India, where agriculture is a state subject in the constitutional scheme, is being questioned. 

The Central government has claimed that this move has liberalised agricultural markets and will facilitate improvement in market’s efficiency, attract private investment in agriculture and would ensure better prices to farmers for their produce with high transparency. This would mean farmers will get out of the clutches of the monopoly of APMC mandis and evade the rent-seeking behaviour of the traditional intermediaries (arhtiyas). The polar opposite viewpoint of the protesters is that this move, towards greater play of free markets, is a ploy by the government to get away from its traditional role of being the guarantor of Minimum Support Prices (MSPs). For this, farmers argue that the government should have provided for statutory guaranteed MSP for their marketed surplus. 

Farmers, especially in Punjab and Haryana where MSP for their two major crops is almost assured, are suspicious of what the markets will offer and how the “big companies” will treat them, where they may be minor players and incapable of bargaining effectively. There are many structural problems like lack of information with farmers which inhibits their ability to make informed decisions. Even if they have market information, their capacity to bargain or hold their crop is very limited, forcing small and marginal farmers for distress sale and getting further into debt trap and pushed out of their agricultural occupation and be landless labour.

 It is nobody’s case that agriculture market reforms were not required. There have been many problems with APMC mandis. They were getting inefficient, opaque, politicised and often controlled by cartels. Need of the hour was to clean the system than to make it defunct. Two parallel systems of marketing, one operated by private corporates where there will be no government charges and the other APMC mandis, where mandi boards and ‘ahrtiyas’ charge a fee, a dual price structure will encourage unregulated trade detrimental to providing access to farmers for better price recovery and assured prices. Soon APMC mandis will become defunct and it will pave the space for withdrawal of MSP rendering farmers more vulnerable to unregulated market operations. Corporatisation does not reduce the role of middle-men, they will now have a new role as market integrators between corporates and farmers without any government regulation, rendering farmers more vulnerable to exploitation of the middlemen and corporates. Provisions of Agricultural Marketing Acts are highly skewed in favour of private capital, with no limit on stock holding and with restrictions on the government interventions, there is limited recourse to any independent grievance redressal mechanism as SDMs/DCs are prone to pressures from the state and corporates, without judicial review.

 Very little attention has been paid to the implications of amendment to the Essential Commodities Act. Even recently, when onion prices shot up, the government was forced to ban its export to protect the interests of the domestic market. With amendment to the Essential Commodities Act, policy space for government intervention will get reduced, rendering domestic consumers to be more vulnerable to the operations of the market mechanism. These agricultural market reforms are consistent with neo-liberal macroeconomic policy regime being adopted by the Government of India since 1991 in general and 2014 in particular. But the moot question is how they will impact small and marginal farmers, rural employment, distribution of income, food security and consumer protection?

 Experience, of the advanced capitalist countries of Europe and the US, shows that unregulated markets always lead to pushing the small farmers out of agriculture. In India, about 80% farmers have a holding of less than 5 acres, they will have no option but to become wage labourers. Crisis will deepen further when there is no alternative strategy to generate employment to absorb farmers’ rendered surplus from agriculture. During 2011- 19, India had a jobless growth. Post Covid-19, Indian economy is in a very bad shape which reveals falling GDP and worse employment situation. Crores of semi-skilled labourers have got unemployed. It is reported that 2.1 crore salaried jobs have been lost and people are in great stress. This has been no time to tinkle with a relatively smooth-running machine of APMC mandis, further aggravating the worsening state of the economy. These agricultural market reforms, in the name of safeguarding the interests of farmers, are out and out structural changes to give free play to the corporate sector with little protection to the farmers.

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How brands turned Covid crisis into an opportunity



The over two month long nationwide lockdown which was put in place to slow down the spread of the Covid-19 infection has led to several brands re-strategising their business models in order to recover from the sweeping losses they had faced during the lockdown. Some of the brands include Gem Selections, India’s biggest gemstones brand; 750AD Healthcare Pvt Ltd, an online healthcare platform which was launched around the same time when the pandemic hit the world; Gympik that launched a virtual gyming platform amongst others. 

Some brands also turned this pandemic from a crisis to an opportunity. Illumnus is such a company that has changed completely through Covid-19. Post-lockdown, when 99% of the institutes were looking for some steady solution for online learning and were striving to conduct online examinations, Illumnus brought in a new solution for all these problems and helped bring entire schools online. The brand added new features like online examination, video lecturing, prearranged assignments, smart attendance, content suggestion, institute library, and in-depth analytics to aid the process of online education for institutes across the country, during lockdown. 

While the well-known and very popular online jewellery brand Gem Selections incorporated an augmented reality & 3D hologram imaging technology for its complete inventory at their flagship stores so that the customers can try all the products physically, rather than trying them virtually before purchasing. This, according to the company, was roped in so that the customers can try these jewelleries without having to physically touch them again and again.

 As for 750AD Healthcare Pvt Ltd, which was launched just ahead of the global lockdown, it re-strategised its policies and branding to help people during the lockdown with online doctors, counselling and many other features. The brand also launched multiple campaigns during the same period which included their awareness campaigns like ‘Together We Can Help Prevent Suicides’, ‘Thankyoudoctors’, ‘Health is True Independence: Independence Day Campaign’, ‘Thankyounurses’, ‘HospitalReviewProgram’, among others. 

Owing to the pandemic all gyms were closed for the longest time as compared to any other business. Gympik, a fitness brand, took this opportunity to launch an online portal for the fitness enthusiasts and integrated virtual training in its club management software. It developed a scalable model to endure in the changing landscape and this was done through its newly developed interface, live streaming feature that was integrated seamlessly to make training sessions interesting through virtual experience that is controlled and implemented from one platform.

 However, for TAA Music Label, a music company that works with talented musicians and singers from across the country, the lockdown came as a blessing in disguise. The brand made a radical shift from focusing on generic music towards discovering and honing every artist’s unique skills and produced EPs based on the same. Also, there was a shift in the marketing model. While earlier social media was one of the major promotion platforms, the pandemic opened the gates for radio shows like RedIndies shuffle show (A 93.5 Red FM, all independent music show). 

Additionally, the brand has also developed new and innovative ways of saving video production costs through ‘Mobile Shoot’ and ‘Graphical Videos’ saving the cost for shoot, travel, crew which is now being invested into promotion.

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We need to stand with our farmers today

The Americans and Europeans—both the public and the
governments—have never ceased to support their farmers.
We should also come forward in support of them.

Ajay Shukla



With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the majority of companies laid off their workforce, while others made cuts in their salaries. The question is: Did it help them tide over the problems created by the pandemic? The answer is no. 

This question was raised by renowned industrialist Ratan Tata. He opined that companies should be compassionate towards their workers. It is neither a remedy nor an act of humanity to discard their workers in distress who have toiled hard for the success of their companies. Instead, the management of companies should work towards possibilities of resolution of distress. 

Companies are formed not by their assets, but by their workforce. This is the reason that Tata, without any support from the government, has maintained a name which has immense goodwill and faith, even in these times. The government should also work towards possibilities and policies dedicated to better public welfare. The Governments of Canada and China have worked on these issues, and as a result, these countries have fared well and proven themselves better than others in these times. 

However, there are only a selected few like Tata, and our country is in dire straits. The corporate sector is working only for its self-interest and is not bothered about the lives of others. It works on a system, and not on compassion, and those who run this system work only for their selfinterests and walk away with heavy perks and packages. In a democracy, the citizens form their own government and the responsibility of such a government is to work, keeping the interest of its citizens over any other interest. But, nowadays, corporates are powerful because everything runs on their funds.

 Today, the country is facing unrest over the passing of the three bills which will regulate agriculture and farmers. The unrest is expected and accepted as it is for a public cause. For the last few days, farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and western Uttar Pradesh have been agitating, while there is not much of an agitation to be seen in the other states. The reason is obvious: in these States, there are sufficient markets as well as avenues for the farmers. Bihar and other states do not have such arrangements for their farmers, on account of which their farmers are neither capable nor have reasonable earnings. The government claims that they have opened up and provided better avenues for the farmers by promulgating these laws. Farmers can now stock their produce and sell it at a good price anywhere, which will reduce the profits made by middlemen/agents. At the first glance, the stand of the government appeared to be reasonable, but on pondering over the matter deeply, I was forced to question myself about why farmers are the only one protesting over it — instead of all of us? 

I am also from an agrarian family and we do not go to the markets to sell our produce. We sell the produce to the agent/ middleman as a standing crop in the fields, for a price lesser than the MSP, which in return provides us with the better service of the agent/middleman, who procures the produce from our farms and takes the responsibility of saving the produce from the rains and stocking it. The agent/middleman also tenders payments in advance when it’s required.

 In our home, a young man comes to deliver milk from a village, and on asking him, he told us that he had sold the wheat produce at the time of harvesting at a rate of Rs 18- 19 per kg and, at present, the rate of wheat is prevailing at Rs 22-23 per kg, and that he easily manages his household through animal husbandry. At his time of need, the agent/ middleman helps him, and in return, he sells him his wheat. I recollect how, back in 2012, Arun Jaitley, the Leader of BJP in the Rajya Sabha, had stated that corporates can never work for the welfare of farmers. He had cited the examples of farmers in Europe and the Americas while addressing the Parliament, to make its Members understand how corporates there get cultivation done but farmers are in dire straits, and that the governments take care of the farmers by way of subsidies and grants. Sushma Swaraj had also said that the market and the agents are the bankers for a farmer and the reason for ‘celebrations in his house’. 

It is sad that the interests of corporates are being lobbied by their party now after assuming power. Farmers are being mesmerised with sweet dreams, while the Parliament has stamped its approval for turning them into labourers for the corporate. And this has been done by those representatives whom they had elected with the hope of seeing better times. This is the reason why farmers of half a dozen states are protesting on the roads today and the intellectuals of the country along with the chief opposition party, Congress, are battling for the rights of the farmers. The question rises again: why is this battle being waged by the farmer alone, and not by all of us? We all are busy watching the monkey business of Deepika, Sushant and Rhea on the news channels, which is not helping the nation in any manner. 

If you remember, when the produce of potatoes and onions had hit the markets, farmers had not been able to get even Rs 2 per kg for that produce. The farmers who had taken their produce to the Nasik market, after paying heavy fares, had become victims of devastation on reaching the market and had to throw their produce of potatoes and onions on the road before leaving emptyhanded. Today, we are buying potatoes and onions at Rs 40 per kg. Tomatoes also suffered from the same fate and now are selling for a price higher than Rs 100 per kg. So, who is actually earning from the produce of the farmers? Is it the trader? The answer is, yes, because he is in a position to stock the produce and to tender advance payments to the farmers. Farmers in Punjab and Haryana are prosperous and their average yearly income is around Rs 2.40 lakh, whereas that of the farmers in Bihar is Rs 44,000 only. It is even lesser in Odisha and West Bengal. The reason for this is that the farmers in Punjab and Haryana earn well with the help of the markets and the middlemen/agents, whereas in Bihar and other states, there are no such arrangements and the government does not affect the whole purchase on the MSP. 

With the promulgation of this law, the agricultural produce shall be captured by the corporates. They would purchase and stock the produce as per their whims and fancies and would further sell it at their dictated prices. They would also capture the farm fields with the concept of corporate farming and the farmer would be compelled to be their labourer. This way, corporates would rake in money after looting from the farmers’ produce. This is not an apprehension but rather a bitter truth because corporates work only for their own profits and interests. We have witnessed how they did not even blink an eyelid before laying off those employees who had founded and established their companies through their dedicated hard work.

 We have to understand that the farmer neither has the resources nor the capacity to take his produce to other states by hiring freight transport. He is also incapable of holding to his produce or stock it as he seeks the help of the middleman/ agent to sow his fields by getting the cost of the sowing and, thereafter, asks him to procure his produce. The trader does benefit, because he has the capacity and resources to procure, stock and transport the produce, but it is also true that the trader/middleman/agent has a friendly bond with the farmer. When the corporates’ system would be applied in the farms, then only the profitability of the produce would be harvested. The hopes of the farmers would be dashed down, as they would pay the farmer only according to what profits them.

 Corporates would also sell the agricultural products at a high rate to us, after stocking the same, because there is no legal regulation over the pricing of the products anymore. If we are to feed ourselves, we would be forced to buy the products from the corporates at a higher price with folded hands and stare at a food crisis in the future. This is the reason why we should not leave the farmer standing alone today. The Americans and Europeans — both the public and the governments — have never ceased to support their farmers. We should also come forward in support of them. This is not a political fight but a battle for public interest.

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Housemaid’s murder: TRS leader arrested under Nirbhaya Act

Lokeswara Rao



TRS leader Madhu Yadav was arrested in a sensational case of murder and rape of a domestic help. Of late, a domestic help died in the TRS leader’s house and previously it was treated as a suicide case but after the complaint of the victim’s sister it was converted as murder and rape. 

Both the family of the deceased and the Opposition have raised suspicions on the way in which the Moinabad police handled the investigation. The locals are demanding that he should be handed over to them for quick punishment or police should do what they did in Disha case. 

Several Congress leaders visited the victim’s family and demanded justice for the victim. 

The DCP of Shemsabad said, “The victim’s sister stated that the accused Madhu Yadav used to come home after consuming alcohol and would take her elder sister in a room and rape her. On the night of 25 September, the accused came home and as usual, took her elder sister to his room and in the early morning, he left the house and came back in a while. When the complainant girl went into the room on the first floor, she found her sister hanging by the ceiling fan.” Leaders from several political parties, the Congress, AIMIM and MBT, visited the family to offer support. 

Former Chevella MP Konda Vishveshwar Reddy called the incident a clear case of child labour and murder. “They immediately deleted the Facebook page of TRS leader Madhu with pictures of him in TRS Khandwa with party leaders. Officials took away the victim’s Aadhar card age proof. It was an attempt to show her as a major,” he tweeted. Amjed Ullah Khan, lawyer and spokesperson for MBT party questioned the police. In a tweet, he said, “The police have booked only one person. They have not even checked if there are any accomplices. They are not investigating properly. In the Disha murder case, everyone visited the family and consoled them but here, no one from the TRS party has even made a comment condemning the incident.” Meanwhile, Home Minister of Telangana Mohammed Mahmood Ali convened a meeting regarding the Moinabad incident. 

All police officials such as Cyberabad CP V.C. Sajjanar, Prakash Reddy, D.C.P, Shamshabad, etc were present in the meeting. The Home Minister enquired in detail regarding the death of the woman. The case has been registered at Moinabad Police Station. Officers told the Home Minister that based on the statement of the victim’s sister, the Police altered the sections of law and the accused TRS leader Bathuku Madhusudhan alias Madhu Yadav has already been arrested under Nirbhaya Act and Juvenile Justice act and sent to Judicial Custody. 

They said the accused was reported to be a Rowdy Sheeter having a criminal history of involvement in 3 land related cases. Ashok Chakravarthy, ACP, Rajendra Nagar has been appointed as an inquiry officer.

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Goa CM Pramod Sawant meets PM Modi to resolve mining issue




:Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant on Wednesday met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi to discuss several issues, including the resumption of iron ore mining that awaits a decision by the Supreme Court. Sawant, who is in Delhi on a two-day visit, also met Union Mines Minister Pralhad Joshi.

 Sawant in his tweet said, “Called on the Prime Minister in New Delhi today. Had a fruitful discussion on various matters, including mining.” “Later, met the Union Minister of Mines to discuss the mining matter at length. We are hopeful of a positive outcome in the coming days,” the Chief Minister tweeted.

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Vijay Vardhan appointed Chief Secretary of Haryana



In a significant bureaucratic reshuffle, the Haryana government on Wednesday appointed senior IAS officer Vijay Vardhan as the state’s new chief secretary. 

Vardhan, 58, replaces Keshni Anand Arora, who retired on September 30. He will be the 34th chief secretary of Haryana since it was carved out as a separate state in 1966.

 The 1985-batch Haryana cadre IAS officer will also hold the charge of general administration, personnel, training, parliamentary affairs, vigilance and administrative reforms departments and secretary in-charge of plan coordination, the order said. 

He is due to retire in November 2021. Currently, Vardhan is the Additional Chief Secretary (ACS), Home, Jails, Criminal Investigation and Administration of Justice Department. He was also the Financial Commissioner, Revenue and Disaster Management; and Consolidation Departments. 

The Haryana government also issued orders of transfers and postings of five more IAS officers. Among them is Rajeev Arora, Additional Chief Secretary, Health and Family Welfare Department, who will also hold the charge of Home, Jails, Criminal Investigation and Administration of Justice Department besides being the Nodal Officer for COVID-19. Sanjeev Kaushal, ACS, Agriculture and Farmers’’ Welfare Department, has been posted as the ACS and Financial Commissioner, Revenue and Disaster Management and Consolidation Departments; and the ACS, Cooperation Department, relieving Vijai Vardhan of the charge. Alok Nigam, Additional Chief Secretary, Forests and Wildlife Department, has been posted as the ACS, Public Works (B&R) and Architecture Department; and Forests and Wildlife Department. Devender Singh, ACS, Irrigation and Water Resources Department, has been given the additional charge of the ACS, Agriculture and Farmers’’ Welfare Department. Dharamvir Singh, Municipal Commissioner, Yamunanagar, has been posted as the Deputy Commissioner, Charkhi Dadri.

 It is worth mentioning that both Arora and Kaushal have been in the good books of Chief Minister Manohar Lal and hail from the Punjabi community. But both the officials have much experience by virtue of holding key positions in different governments.

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