Monday, December 30, 2013

The American-style startup takes root in India

India has built a reputation as a notoriously tough place to do business, one that has stymied even giants like Wal-Mart. And unlike Silicon Valley, where a decent idea can attract funding, investors in India are much more reluctant to risk their money on startups.

Despite such challenges, some American technology entrepreneurs are seeking to pursue the country's untapped opportunities, even without the clout of a multinational corporation backing them.

Peter Frykman, 30, of Palos Verdes, Calif., found his network of support at Stanford University, where he was a doctoral student in mechanical engineering. With the help of an angel investor in the United States, he created a pilot study in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu in 2008 for his agricultural startup, Driptech, which makes affordable, efficient irrigation systems for small-plot farmers.

The idea for Driptech had its origins in Ethiopia, where Frykman traveled with a team in 2008 as part of the Extreme Affordability program at Stanford, in which students tackle real-world problems. But he found that for all its flaws as an investment destination, India had much less political risk than African nations and had better infrastructure. The nation also had more subsistence farmers than all of Africa.

In 2011 Frykman moved to Pune, India, after Driptech closed a funding round led by Khosla Impact, founded by the venture capitalist Vinod Khosla. "It's kind of unusual to start a company and then realize that the biggest opportunity is in India," Frykman said. "We sort of did it backwards."

India may be home to many of the largest outsourcing consulting firms, and tech-oriented cities like Bangalore have attracted global technology giants like Microsoft. But attracting American-style entrepreneurism here has happened in fits and starts.

U.S.-based venture capital firms and the Indian units of U.S. venture capital firms, like Sequoia Capital India, invested $172 million this year through mid-December, excluding joint ventures. That fell from $250 million in 2006, according to Venture Intelligence, a research service based in Chennai that is focused on private equity. In the latest World Bank rankings on the ease of doing business, India slipped three spots, to 134th out of 189 countries.

Some 42 venture capital firms based in the United States, however, have either opened offices in India or opened Indian units since 2006, according to Venture Intelligence.

Despite the challenges, the sheer potential in a country of 1.2 billion people with a stable middle class is enough to tempt entrepreneurs and multinationals alike to explore opportunities.

"In the earlier years after I moved to India, around 2008-10, there was astounding growth in the mobile market, with 20 million new subscribers being added to the telecom network every month," said Valerie R. Wagoner of Modesto, Calif., 30, chief executive of the mobile marketing firm ZipDial in Bangalore. That monthly growth was nearly equivalent to the population of Australia.

Wagoner was working for eBay when she decided it was time to shift her focus to her passion: emerging markets and technology. She did extensive networking in India with executives at mobile payment providers and joined mChek in Bangalore in 2008 as head of strategic initiatives. In 2010, she founded ZipDial, whose investors include 500 Startups, a Silicon Valley seed fund; Jungle Ventures of Singapore; and the Indian firms Blume Ventures and Unilazer Ventures.

The frustrations of doing business in India include bureaucratic hurdles in licensing and making other filings, and pressure for bribes, which Americans cannot legally give. Many startups avoid these hurdles by catering to private clients and by making products that do not need governmental approval.

Entrepreneurs have also had to adjust business plans quickly to get around complications. Sam White and Sorin Grama, co-founders of Promethean Power, won second place and $10,000 in a business plan contest at MIT in 2007 with the idea of using solar technology for rural electrification in India.

"India was the last country on my list to even visit - never had any interest," White said.

Grama, 44, a Romanian-born U.S. citizen, and White, of Boston, both eventually moved to Mumbai in 2012. They ran into problems from the start in trying to make a cost-effective solar milk chiller for villages where milk was collected for dairies.

In 2010, they spent six months building a prototype, only to have the managing director of Hatsun, India's largest private dairy, point out that the 2,000-liter thermal battery that was used to store cold thermal energy was too big for any shed found in the villages.

Finally, they let go of the idea of being a solar company. Instead, they developed a thermal battery that is able to take advantage of the intermittent power on the grid. The battery releases a cold fluid that chills milk quickly.

Now the company has Hatsun as a client and has attracted funding from clean technology investors like the Quercus Trust, angel investors and grants by the National Science Foundation and the United States-India Science and Technology Endowment Fund, which was founded by the two nations' governments.

"Eighty percent was our own mistakes - we would have faced them in any country," White said. "But we always learned from those mistakes."

A common complaint among the entrepreneurs was the difficulty in finding and keeping good employees. Even by Silicon Valley standards, Indian tech employees are restless. "The job market is so hot it's not uncommon for a young person to think they can build a career by quitting within three months to get a pay raise somewhere else," said Wagoner of ZipDial.

The tech companies have to offer salaries at the market rate or higher to attract job seekers, who prefer the stability of a conglomerate over opportunities for personal growth. In fact, Frykman said the "lack of coolness" associated with a startup was one of the biggest surprises he encountered. For this reason, Indians are less eager for stock options than their counterparts in the United States.

To increase Indian employees' exposure to such incentives, Wagoner has made stock ownership plans part of ZipDial's compensation package and will give additional grants to people without their asking if she thinks they deserve them. "I believe it is very important that people who are taking a risk in building a company see the benefits of that," she said.

Entrepreneurs, for their part, have embraced another Silicon Valley trait and learned to try again after failure. Rahoul Mehra, 42, founded Saf Labs, a biotechnology trading company in Mumbai, with his wife, Glennis Matthews Mehra, a 39-year-old neuroscientist. They originally wanted to run all operations out of New York, where they lived. "In doing business with India, we never intended for us to move to India," he said.

But in 2008, two years into the business, which they had financed on their own, Rahoul Mehra realized that deals would not be properly managed unless he was in Mumbai. Glennis Mehra reluctantly followed with their daughter, then 2.

The business managed to turn a profit and attract a private European investor so the company could expand into biotech services. But in 2012, after the Indian government delayed biotech funding for its new five-year plan, Saf Labs' business was drying up. The Mehras realized they had to move away from the Indian market and focus more on international opportunities.

Now they are negotiating a sale of the company and using their experiences to market advisory services for Indian companies that want to expand overseas or foreign companies looking to enter India.

Other entrepreneurs, too, have begun exploring expansion to other emerging markets: ZipDial has entered Southeast Asia. Driptech has sold its products in Africa, and Promethean Power is moving into Pakistan, Africa and Latin America.

"I don't know who said it, but there's a saying that what you're going to find in India are little islands of excellence: people - despite the country, despite India - who are succeeding," Rahoul Mehra said. "If you can connect those dots, you can make a real go of it here."

Monday, December 23, 2013

Tim Cook says Apple has 'big' 2014 plan


Apple enthusiasts across the globe are in for a treat as the iconic creator of iPhone smartphone and iPad tablet has "big plans" lined up for the next year.

"We have a lot to look forward to in 2014, including some big plans that we think customers are going to love," Apple chief executive Tim Cook said in a letter to its employees.

Extending greetings for the Christmas and the New Year, he said, "This holiday season, tens of millions of people around the world, from all walks of life, are experiencing Apple products for the first time."

He expressed "pride" on the stellar performance by the California-headquartered firm in 2013.

"We introduced industry-leading products in each of our major categories in 2013, showing the breadth and depth of innovation at Apple," he said.

During the year, the company extended its leadership in the smartphone market with the launch of iPhone 5s and 5c, besides, unveiling the latest version of its operating system, iOS 7.

It also released the latest version of operating system for its PCs and servers (OS X Mavericks) free to its customers, while introducing the iPad Air and the iPad mini with Retina display.

Last week, Apple began shipping the latest version of its laptop - Mac Pro - from a manufacturing facility in Austin, Texas (the US).

In 2013, Apple App Store marked its 50 billionth download, Mr Cook added.

"Together we've shown the world that innovation at Apple goes beyond our products to the way we do business... I consider myself the luckiest person in the world for the opportunity to work at this amazing company with all of you," he said.

In India too, Apple saw iPhone sales beating all expectations to soar 400 per cent in the April-June 2013 quarter.

Earlier this year, Mr Cook had hinted that Apple had lots of products lined up in 2014 including some new product segments.

In a conference call with investors following the firm's fourth quarter earnings, he said consumers would "see exciting new products from us in the fall and across 2014".

"In terms of new product categories specifically, if you look at the skills that Apple has from hardware/software and services, and the incredible app ecosystem, this set of things is very unique. No one has a set of skills like this," he had said.

"We obviously believe that we can use our skills at building other great products that are in categories that represent areas that we do not participate today. We're pretty confident about that."

Apple inks China Mobile deal, gets 760 million new potential iPhone customers

Apple on Sunday unveiled a long-anticipated deal with China Mobile, the world's biggest wireless carrier, to bring the iPhone to customers in a market dominated by low-cost Android smartphones.
The deal gives Apple a bigger entry into the huge Chinese market and China Mobile's estimated 760 million subscribers. The network is also rolling out the world's biggest 4G network.

Under the agreement, iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c phones will be available at China Mobile and Appleretail stores across mainland China starting January 17, Apple said in a statement. Pricing details were not announced.

"We know there are many China Mobile customers and potential new customers who are anxiously awaiting the incredible combination of iPhone on China Mobile's leading network," said China Mobile chairman Xi Guohua.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook stressed that "China is an extremely important market for Apple and our partnership with China Mobile presents us the opportunity to bring iPhone to the customers of the world's largest network."

He said "iPhone customers in China are an enthusiastic and rapidly growing group, and we can't think of a better way to welcome in the Chinese New Year than getting an iPhone into the hands of every China Mobile customer who wants one."

Negotiations between Apple and China Mobile took years, with one key hurdle reportedly being the US firm's demand for sales volume guarantees.

Analyst Horace Dediu at the consultancy Asymco said a conservative estimate of four percent of China Mobile customers would yield sales of some 30 million iPhones in the first year.
Cantor Fitzgerald Research estimated that 35 million to 45 million iPhones were already on China Mobile's network as of October, despite the lack of a deal between the companies.
Apple could sell as many as 24 million iPhones on the China Mobile network next year, Cantor Fitzgerald said.

However, Morgan Stanley analysts recently estimated Apple would add only around 12 million new iPhone sales in the coming year with China Mobile.
Apple drew some $25 billion in revenue from China in the fiscal year ended in September, despite some softness in the second half of the year.
IDC analyst Ramon Llamas said the deal will certainly boost sales for Apple but that what bears watching is how competitors respond.

"I don't think that they will be wiped out remember, iPhones are expensive but for those who are competing in the high end of the market likeSamsung  or some of the Chinese vendors like Huawei,ZTE and Lenovo, having a presence in the mid-range will help deflect the challenges in the high end posed by Apple," Lamas said in an email.

IDC forecast that smartphone sales in China will reach 360 million this year and, with the issuance of 4G network licenses and iPhones launched on China Mobile, top 450 million in 2014.
China Mobile has a unique 3G standard of its own that is not compatible with any existing iPhone models. Still, the California giant's handsets can be used on other networks in China.

But the Chinese government granted three state-owned operators licenses early this month to offer services on the faster and better quality 4G network, expected to usher in a new era of competition between mobile phone makers.
Apple will still have to compete with low-priced smartphones powered by Google's free Androidsoftware.
Earlier this year, Apple rolled out its iPhone 5c, with a slightly reduced cost to appeal to cost-conscious consumers, notably in developing markets.

The unsubsidized price of the iPhone 5c was $550 in the United States but higher in other countries, often due to tax and regulatory costs. In China, the 5c sells at more than $700.
Analyst Ben Bajarin at Creative Strategies said in a tweet that he expects "some kind of subsidy" for the iPhone in China.

"Carriers know the iPhone is the best smartphone on the market at helping them sell premium services. This is why it will always be relevant," Bajarin wrote.
The iPhone 5c is part of Apple's bid to counter the flood of low-cost smartphones from rivals, most of which use the Google Android operating system.
Android's market share rose in the third quarter to 81 percent, extending its lead over Apple's iOS, used on its iPhones, according to an IDC survey.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Introducing Tejas: India's interceptor, battle-ready by 2015

The indigenously built Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas got its second Initial Operation Clearance today at an event in Bangalore, attended by Defence Minister A K Antony.

For the next 12 to 15 months, the Air Force will integrate the new aircraft into the force. Tejas is expected to be battle ready by the end of 2015.

The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will work on mid-air refueling and enabling the aircraft to carry long range beyond visual range missiles. Tejas is a light weight, single engine, single seat, supersonic and multi-role, combat aircraft.

It has been in the making for almost three decades and has seen several delays and huge cost over-runs.

Tejas will be replacing the aging MiG-21 Russian made fighter aircraft and play a key role in air defence in the form of an interceptor.

As of now, Tejas is capable of carrying missiles with a limited range and bombs.

According to estimates, India has spent over Rs. 25,000 crore to develop the aircraft. But despite the delay and extraordinarily large amount of money spent, Indian scientists still haven't been able to develop an engine powerful enough to fly the aircraft. The Kaveri engine developed for Tejas failed to make the mark.

The first 20 Tejas will be powered by the American GE-404 engines; the next six Mark-II squadrons (16-18 jets in each) will have the more powerful GE F-414 engines. India will be buying 99 GE-414 engines from GE at a cost of $822-million.

Despite the delays and cost overruns, the Initial Operational Clearance for the Tejas and its induction into the Air Force is an important milestone of for India and the country's endeavour to indigenously produce military equipment and reduce its dependence on foreign manufacturers.

Tejas, India's indigenously designed fighter aircraft, a step closer to induction

The idea of an indigenously designed and built Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) was first mooted back in 1983. 30 years on, the fighter is still not part of the Indian Air Force - but Tejas, as the aircraft is called, took a step closer on Friday with the second Initial Operational Clearance certificate being handed over in Bangalore. This, after a flight witnessed by Defence Minister AK Antony and Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne. 

Tejas has had 2450 sorties - including almost 500 this year alone. But this one was special. As the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas took off from the HAL airport in Bangalore city, it was making a point - that the aircraft was ready for its second Initial Operation Clearance. But the delays in the project could not be ignored.

Mr Antony said, "During these years, there was many occasions of frustration, setbacks, all around criticism - 'Why this wasteful project should continue? It won't succeed. Abandon it - don't waste national money' - Last seven years, I also had my share of criticism. Now we can declare, we are nearing success. Not 100 per cent, some more."

The Air Chief who had expressed clear reservations about Tejas at its first operational clearance flight back in 2011, said he was satisfied now that the aircraft would soon be ready for induction into the Indian Air Force. 

Chief Air Marshal NAK Browne said, "In 2011 there were a few things we had to do to correct certain design changes. All that has been done now. Now we are fully satisfied with the Initial Operation Clearance.

The supersonic fighter has been described as pilot-friendly. One of the men who had tested the aircraft during its development, Air Commodore KA Muthana told NDTV, "I am thrilled. So far we have been the only organisation to fly this lovely machine and today we are going to dedicate it to the rest of the air warriors in this country. It's a pleasure to fly."

The final operational clearance is expected by the end of 2014 and Tejas should be part of the Air Force by 2015

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Get ready for a massive renewable energy boom


R
enewables will be the fastest growing source of energy between now and 2040, according to new projections from the Energy Information Administration.
The EIA forecasts that from 2012 to 2040, solar, wind, and geothermal production will nearly double, rising 97 percent. The next closest projection is for natural gas, which is expected to grow 56 percent.
Of course, renewables make up a small proportion of global power generation. So even after all that growth, renewables are estimated to account for a measly 3.8 percent of total energy production in 2040, compared with 38 percent for natural gas.
But this is actually an extremely conservative estimate. Renewables — and especially solar — aren't really like other energy sources. Non-renewables are energy-rich fuels, but there is only a finite supply in the ground. This means that prices are unpredictable and subject to large spikes that badly damage the economy, as occurred in the 1970s and the 2000s.
Renewables are not limited by discoveries. They are instead derived from ongoing natural processes — the sun shining, the wind blowing, the heat of the Earth's core. Their use is limited by technology — our ability to capture and store the energy. And the evidence shows that the technology is improving continuously, and fast.
That's one steep and long trend of falling prices. And there are new innovations in the pipeline that will improve the technology even more — in September a research team in Europe unveiled a solar cell with a world record 44.7 percent efficiency. Nanomaterials are being developed that may be able to boost solar panel efficiency from efficiencies typically below 35 percent to as high as 80 percent.
If the trend of falling prices continues for another 10 years, solar-generated electricity in the U.S. will descend to a price of $120 per MW/h — competitive with coal and nuclear — by 2020, or even 2015 for the sunniest parts of America. If the trend continues for the next 20 years, solar costs will be half that of coal (with the added benefits of zero carbon emissions, zero mining costs, and zero scarcity).
Obviously, generating solar or wind energy is useless if it cannot be stored for when the sun goes down and when the wind stops blowing. But new battery technologies are making it vastly easier to store the energy produced from renewables.
Lithium-ion batteries are already large and efficient enough to run a sports car, but lithium-oxygen batteries can store energy at much higher densities, giving electric cars a much larger range, and hugely increasing solar storage capacities. Graphene vastly reduces the time required to charge a battery, to the extent that an iPhone with a graphene battery could be charged in five seconds. A research team at Stanford announced this November that they had developed a self-healing battery, which does not degrade over many cycles of charge.
The promising trends in technology and cost suggest much more than renewable energy becoming the fastest growing energy source in the next 30 years. They suggest that renewables will grow to be the number one energy source in the United States and the world in the next 30 or 40 years.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

2014 could be a breakthrough year for Indian economy

With the upcoming elections and all sorts of political commentary being written on a daily basis, there seems to be a certain lurking element, that it seemingly going unnoticed by the mass media.

Whether it is intentional or not, Indians are seemingly being blind-sighted by a phenomenon that is being conceived right in front of our eyes: our nation's economy is on the brink of an unprecedented economic resurgence, one that has not been witnessed since India decided to liberalize its economy in 1991.

Specifically, all indicators are pointing towards India whose economy will grow faster in 2014 than anybody could have previously imagined, and how 2014 will be the year that India finally makes that magical jump from the ranks of a '3rd world' economy to a legitimate, economic powerhouse.

However, before we jump the gun and claim that India's economy can be considered to be at par with the likes of China, US and the rest of the West, certain changes must occur.

Firstly, our GDP must grow at a much faster rate than the highest of expectations (a notion that this author strongly believes will occur). Secondly, there must be a very real, visible change that is not only shown through numbers and statistics but is felt by every single Indian citizen.

And last but not least, the outside world must observe and respect the realities; that India is a nation on the brink of undergoing a massive re-development and must genuinely be respected, and perhaps even a little feared.

This column will explain exactly why and how, that is going to happen over these next 12 months.

The numbers don't lie

Gross domestic product, more commonly referred to as GDP, and is by far the economic indicator most referred to when one is attempting to judge a nation's economic development. It stands to reason that, without a shred of doubt, India's GDP is bound to outperform the bleak expectations being thrown around by economists.

Let's break down GDP. GDP can be calculated in three ways, but the easiest and most practical way is to calculate it using the expenditure approach, which sums up the four components of expenditure to calculate the overall GDP. The formula goes as follows:

GDP = private consumption + gross investment + government spending + (exports -- imports), or



So let's go ahead and examine, in detail, the four components and how they are bound to perform in 2014.

Private Consumption (C)

According to Orkii.com, which tracks economic development in all countries and projects future growth among different aspects of the economy, India ranks as number 6 out of a total of 136 countries where data on private consumption growth is available for the year 2014.

The 5 rankings above India, in respective order, are:

Namibia: 12%China: 9.2%Estonia: 8 per centEthiopia: 8 per centVietnam: 8%Sri Lanka: 7.1 per centGhana: 7 per centPapua New Guinea: 7 per centIndia 6.9 per cent

Needless to say, other than China, none of the other countries have an economy anywhere near the size of India's.

Furthermore, the silver lining is that consumption is normally the largest GDP component of the economy. It includes personal expenditures such as the overall purchases of such day to day expenses such as food, rent, jewellery, petrol, and medical expenses.

So if you look at the numbers closely, you realise that the largest component of India's GDP i.e. consumption -- is projected to grow 6.9 per cent next year. Meanwhile, the 'experts' (most of whom do not reside here) are claiming that India's GDP will grow at a rate of 5 per cent overall in 2014.

With a rising middle class that is on the brink of erupting into mass consumption of daily goods (think about the last time you walked into a Big Bazaar), consumer activity in India is picking up at a quicker pace than ever before. All of this translates into that "C" variable in the GDP formula.

More consumer buying = higher GDP. Indians, without a doubt, are going to have no reservations with consuming goods in the next year. Much has been written about 2013 as being a year in which India did not live up to its expectations. The middle class numbers stayed the same: around 300 million, making up around a quarter of the country's population. But GDP stalled in 2013 due to numerous reasons, many of which were outside of India's control.

However, with the US and the rest of the West making economic resurgences, the pastures will be green in 2014 for consumption activity. With a middle class that is expected to grow in the tens of millions, you can bet that consumption activity will grow dramatically.

Investments (I)

How does a business owner allow his customers to consume at a greater speed, lower costs, and higher efficiency in 2014 versus 2013? By investing in his business of course. And, with higher consumption capacity by consumers, entrepreneurs and business owners are bound to invest heavily into their businesses.

FDI (Foreign direct investment) growth is another component that is going to drive India's GDP next year. As has been fore claimed by virtually every economist, FDI activity is increasing on a month by month basis and is only bound to keep increasing over the next year.

The reason is simple: the US economy as well other Western economies have re-emerged out of their 5 year recessions, and foreign investors are actively looking at India to deploy their funds.

One needs to look no further than the story of Wal-Mart and its insistence on wanting to setup shop in India. Since 2008, Wal-Mart has wanted to enter India. For those readers that are unaware, Wal-Mart is by far the biggest retailer in the world.

Wal-Mart tried to setup shop in India by entering into a joint venture (JV) with Bharti, but in October the JV fell apart due to internal complications. Many thought that Wal-Mart would give up on its ambitious plan to setup stores across India, but it has not given up yet.

Just last week, it was announced that Wal-Mart is still lobbying persistently in the US to get US government to convince India to relax its FDI regulations, this time with no strict JV impositions.

All in all, Wal-Mart has spent a total amount of $39.42 million (about Rs.242 crore) on numerous lobbying issues in its attempts to setup a massive conglomerate of retail outlets in India.

If Wal-Mart is pursuing FDI investments so persistently, then you can be rest assured that other global retail giants will be entering India in the near future with similar, ambitious plans as well.

With the RBI insisting that it wants to make it more lucrative and seamless for FDI's to invest in the country in the next year, all signs are pointing towards a massive increase in FDI activity in the country.

Another golden lining is that residential purchase of new homes is included in the 'investment' category of GDP. With falling house prices, 2014 could be the year that a real estate bubble breaks and residential home purchases once again go on an up-climb. Higher home sales = increased GDP.

Government spending (G)

Due to it being an election year, government spending should increase in 2014 as policy makers from all political parties look to uphold promises made. So far through 2013, government spending has remained stagnant due to the insistence by the government to reduce the fiscal deficit.

All this could very well change in 2014, with the government keen on proving to its citizens that it is willing to invest in businesses and the public sector due to the simple fact that actions speak louder than words.

As elections approach, the best way a political party can back up its words is through spending on the needs of its citizens, and what India needs right now is better infrastructure. Already, the government is showing signs of willing to set aside more funds on infrastructure spending in 2014. This all leads to a higher projected GDP.

Exports - Imports (X - M)

The icing on top: with a weak rupee, all export sectors of India are bound to boom in 2014. The IT sector has already had an incredible year in 2013, with the BSE IT Index appreciating an astounding 49 per cent through 2013. With the rupee expected to remain weak due to further rate hikes by the RBI to curb inflation, we can expect the same to continue in 2014.

The export industry will drive India's GDP past any and all projections made. That is due to the fact that, not only will the aforementioned rupee remain weak (a blessing in disguise for export driven companies), but more and more countries in the West that are climbing out of their recessions will look to India for its outsourcing needs.

With the RBI liberalizing the markets through the tedious efforts of its governor Raghuram Rajan, outsourcing will play a key role in 2014 for GDP growth.

So, we have covered the four components that make up India's GDP and have shown why each component should perform better than expectations. A higher than expected GDP would lead to a surge in the stock markets and an economic resurgence. But a question still remains at large: outside of numbers and statistics, how would we know that our economy is improving?

Reality and perception

In order for the rest of the world to recognize India's economic resurgence, it will be vital for citizens to feel that economic progress is being made. In other words, reality must coincide with perceptions. If domestically, Indians feel that there is a big economic development underway, the outside world will recognize this phenomenon and India will generate the type of respect that it deserves.

Without a doubt, 2014 will be the year when India would be able to exactly do it.

With an economic surge, jobs are bound to be created. With the export sectors expected to do exceedingly well in 2014, new outsourcing placements are bound to materialise in all export driven sectors: pharma, IT, textiles, jewellery (due to higher consumption domestically as well as internationally) are a few examples.

Domestic sectors are bound to perform better in 2014 as well. For example, the banking sector is bracing itself for a big turnaround due to the RBI's liberalization of the banking industry, making it easier for banks to acquire loans and reducing the amount of red tape within the sector.

We have already touched upon the retail sector, which will not only drive consumption but will also create jobs as new entrepreneurs enter the landscape and create businesses.

As the famous saying goes -- perception is reality. When the outside world sees what India is going through, its perception of the country is bound to dramatically change. We have come a long way since the liberalization of the Indian economy in 1991, and the outside world no longer sees India the same way it did 25 years ago. It now sees the soon to be 3rd largest economy in the world.

It is about time that the world recognises India for what it truly is.

With iBeacon, Apple aims to guide you inside its stores and, soon, everywhere

GPS will tell you how to get to the nearest Apple store. With iBeacon, Apple hopes to guide you around once you're inside, whether it's to pick up an order, upgrade to a new iPhone or shop for a pair of headphones.

The implications of iBeacon go beyond Apple stores. One day, commuters might get information on subway delays as they stand on the platform, while museum visitors might get details on the painting they are standing in front of. Other retailers will be also able to offer deals or track which aisles shoppers linger in the longest.

In-store location technology does raise privacy concerns, though many shoppers have shown a willingness to be tracked if there's something in it for them.

"With any new technology, you don't know how it's going to be used until it is being used," technology analyst Rob Enderle said.

He said Apple "is pretty good" at getting people to use new technologies, but it could take years for iBeacon to mature and reach its potential. He said GoogleMicrosoft and other tech companies will likely follow suit with their own location technology.

On Friday, Apple Inc. began using the technology at its 254 U.S. stores to send you messages about products, events and other information - tailored to where you are inside, provided you have downloaded the Apple Store app and have given it permission to send notices based on your location. You must have Bluetooth turned on and have the latest operating system, iOS 7.

Using the iBeacon feature, the app will notify you if the computer you ordered is ready for pickup, for example. Show a clerk your screen with the order number, and the clerk will get it for you. Walking by an iPhone table? You may get a message asking if you want to upgrade, check your upgrade availability and see if you can get money for trading in your old phone.

Even without iBeacon, the app already lets you scan and pay for some items using your phone, get customer service help and reserve products.

Major League Baseball already plans to use iBeacon next year to customize fans' experiences at its ballparks, through the At The Ballpark app. In a demo earlier this year, MLB officials showed how the app can offer special features based on users' location in a stadium, such as coupons in the souvenir shop or a video that plays near landmarks.

Apple demonstrated the technology to The Associated Press this week at its busy, 24-hour Fifth Avenue store in New York City. At this particular store, Apple has installed about 20 iBeacon transmitters, some of which are simply iPhones and iPads, which come with the capability as part of iOS 7. The transmitters use Bluetooth wireless technology to give your phone more precise information about your location. That's not possible with GPS, which don't work well indoors and aren't good at distinguishing between locations that are just a few feet apart.

The beacons can be adjusted to specific distances, so you may get some notifications regardless of where you are inside. Others will come only when you are standing at a particular aisle, wall or product demo table. The store can also send out notifications about deals or upcoming events.

Apple is not the first to offer in-store location technology. An app called Shopkick, for example, sends users discounts when they enter Macy's, J.C. Penney and other stores. But Apple's entry into micro-location puts the nascent technology into the hands of thousands of developers and broadens its reach considerably.

Apple said iBeacon provides apps with "a whole new level of micro-location awareness, such as trail markers in a park, exhibits in a museum, or product displays in stores."

Location tracking does raise privacy worries. After all, shoppers may not want their every move watched and recorded inside a store. Apple, however, said that it does not collect information about shoppers inside its stores. The company said notices are triggered when the app senses a location beacon nearby, without Apple's beacon needing to even know you're there.

But other companies using iBeacon could go further, as long as people who download their apps agree to be tracked.

Privacy advocates have raised concerns about the various ways that retailers track shoppers, whether it's their location, purchase history or how often they visit a store. But consumers often agree to be tracked in exchange for discounts.

Tim Bajarin, a Creative Strategies analyst who's followed Apple for more than three decades, said he expects the technology to be a "little slow to take off." But he said that because all iPhones and Apple gadgets will support it down the line, iBeacon will have an "immediate built-in audience."

"It's really up to the Macy's of the world, the stadiums of the world, to fully embrace it and be creative with it for it to fully take off," he said.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Amazon unveils futuristic mini-drone delivery plan

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed Sunday that his company is looking to the future with plans to use "octocopter" mini-drones to fly small packages to consumers in just 30 minutes.

The US retail giant's ambitious project still requires additional safety testing and federal approval, but Bezos estimated that Amazon "Prime Air" would be up and running within four to five years.

A demo video posted on the company's website showed the tiny robotic devices picking up packages in small yellow buckets from Amazon's fulfillment centers and then whizzing through the air to deliver the items to customers just 30 minutes after they made their purchase on Amazon.com.

"I know this looks like science fiction. It's not," Bezos told CBS television's "60 Minutes" program.

"We can do half-hour delivery... and we can carry objects, we think, up to five pounds (2.3 kilograms), which covers 86 per cent of the items that we deliver."

The mini-drones are powered by electric motors and could cover areas within a 10-mile (16-kilometer) radius of fulfillment centers, thus covering a significant portion of the population in urban areas.

They operate autonomously and drop the items at the target locations thanks to GPS coordinates transmitted to them.

"It's very green, it's better than driving trucks around," said Bezos.

Amazon said the octocopters would be "ready to enter commercial operations as soon as the necessary regulations are in place," noting that the Federal Aviation Administration was actively working on rules for unmanned aerial vehicles.

It projected a more optimistic timeline than Bezos himself for the project to be activated, saying the FAA's rules could be in place as early as 2015 and that Amazon Prime Air would be ready at that time.

Bezos hinted that part of the motivation behind the mini-drones was to make sure Amazon remains on the cutting edge of the retail industry.

"Companies have short life spans... And Amazon will be disrupted one day," he said.

"I would love for it to be after I'm dead."