Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Flipkart Gets Record Funding, Aims to Become $100 Billion Firm

Flipkart, India's biggest e-commerce player, on Tuesday announced it has raised $1 billion or Rs. 6,000 crore ($1 = Rs. 60) in fresh funding, the biggest ever by an Indian internet company in a single round. And it is aiming much higher.
Young IITians Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, who set up Flipkart in 2007 with an investment of four lakh rupees, announced the new funding in Bangalore today, saying, "India can produce a 100 billion dollar company in five years - we want to be that company."

IT major TCS is India's highest valued firm with market capitalisation of nearly $83 billion, or Rs. 5 lakh crore.
Flipkart is now expected to be valued at $5 billion (Rs. 30,000 crore), according to some estimates. The company has seen a turbo-charged growth, hitting an annualised sales mark of $1 billion (Rs.6,000 crore) in 2014 - a year ahead of its target.

Co-founder Binny Bansal said that the company is not contemplating an initial public offer (IPO). "With this fund raising, our IPO plans have been put on the back burner," he told NDTV.
Flipkart said said Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC participated in the fundraising along with existing investors Tiger Global Management LLC and the South African media company NaspersLtd.
Flipkart co-founder Sachin Bansal said the funding would help the e-tailer to invest more into e-commerce ecosystem like logistics and payment systems. Sachin Bansal is also optimistic that India can produce dozens of billion dollar internet companies. "India's internet ecosystem is going to be one of the most vibrant in the world in the future with half a billion internet users," he told NDTV.
The company had earlier raised over $700 million (Rs. 4,200 crore) in previous rounds. In May this year, Flipkart had raised $210 million (Rs.1,260 crore) in funding from a group of four investors led by internet-focused investment group DST Global.

Besides looking at fresh acquisitions, Flipkart could use the fresh funding for expanding its operations. Also in May this year, Flipkart acquired the country's biggest fashion portal Myntra for around $300 million (Rs. 1,800 crore). "Acquisition will be an important part of our growth strategy," Binny Bansal told NDTV.

For Flipkart, the competition is also hotting up. Besides Amazon's expanding presence in India, world's largest retailer Wal-Mart too has begun online sales in the cash-and-carry segment in some cities. Reliance Retail, India's largest retailer by revenues, is also expected to significantly increase its online presence.

The Indian e-commerce market was worth $13 billion (Rs. 78,000 crore) in 2013, with online travel accounting for over 70 per cent of consumer e-commerce transactions. Online sales of retail goods totaled $1.6 billion (Rs. 9,600 crore) in 2013, according to research firm Forrester, and are expected to reach $76 billion (Rs. 4.5 lakh crore) by 2021, Technopak said.

24-Karat Gold iPhone 6 Is Already up for Pre-Order

Apple's rumoured iPhone 6, expected to be launched in two variants - 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch, might be still months away from its official launch. However, this has not stopped a luxury accessory maker, Brikk, to start taking pre-orders for the 24-karat gold iPhone 6.

The official Brikk site lists the yet-to-be-announced iPhone 6 in Black and White colour variants for the seams, different precious metals for the body, and choice of a diamond-covered or plain Apple logo. Interestingly, the official listing (first reported by Gizmodiva) of the company's Lux line of Gold, Platinum and Pink Gold iPhone 6 models notes, "The Lux iPhone 6 will be released in September or October. It has a thick layer of pure 24 karat yellow gold covering all areas of the iPhone 6."

Prices of the Lux iPhone 6 range from $4,495 (Rs. 2,70,000) of the Yellow Gold variant without Diamond logo, up to $8,795 (Rs. 5,29,000) for the Platinum variant with Diamond logo.

As for the specifications, the 24-karat gold iPhone 6 from Brikk is listed with a 4.7-inch display and 128GB inbuilt storage. Both of these details are in-line with the leaks and rumours regarding the next iPhone models.

Reports had tipped that Apple could introduce a 128GB storage variant with the next iPhone, and woulddump the 16GB storage variant.

"Images and information cannot be guaranteed and is subject to change based on the actual release of iPhone 6 by Apple Corporation," further notes the official Brikk's listing.

Earlier this month, GooPhone, the Chinese clone handset maker, announced its own iPhone 6 version ahead of Apple.

A report on Tuesday suggested that the alleged iPhone 6, which is rumoured to come in two variants, might be launched at separate events. In addition, Apple is also reportedly planning to debut its long-rumoured iWatch, alongside the rumoured bigger 5.5-inch iPhone 6 (also rumoured to be called the iPhone Air), in December.

On Monday, new internal components from Apple's next generation iPhone made yet another appearance.

An earlier report even tipped that the massive order Apple is said to have placed with suppliers, believed to be between 70 million and 80 million units, could lead to a price hike of 5 to 10 percent by other handset OEMs (original equipment manufacturers).

Monday, July 28, 2014

Why I Want to Be Chipped

Technology is (or was?) meant to help humanity simplify certain tasks. You know, make us lazier our lives easier. But given our current trajectory, we may end up like the piles of putty in Wall-E that represent the fleshy future of humanity as a sedentary race.
That is unless, we all get chipped. So let’s do it.
Technology embedded in our bodies is currently the only means of gathering completely accurate health data. Diabetics, for example, have been using embedded sensors like the Dexcom Seven Plus to track glucose levels for years.
Sure, it may seem a little too extreme to get chipped for purposes of tracking our heart rates at the gym. The average 5ker doesn’t have the same functional necessity that the diabetic does, but we can certainly benefit from such a technology. Embedded chips will help us actively monitor our own health. We’ll know if we’ve gained a pound, or if our blood sugar is low, or even if we’ve hit a personal best while running. The smartphone will act as our new doctors (or trainers, or moms) that help us translate what our bodies are telling us into cold, hard, readable data.
We’re already moving in that direction. Though it might not know it, Nintendo has been the conduit for making healthy consumer tech a sexy and profitable thing with the introduction of the Wii. No longer do we solely depend on tech to make our lives easier, but we depend on it to enhance our lives through things like fitness, exercise, health, and fun.
After the Wii, Microsoft and Sony followed suit with their own motion-controlled gaming peripherals and rightfully so. But companies like Nike and Jawbone, who are moving fitness away from the TV and back into the real world, are on the fringe of making this particular scene the next big thing.
Companies like Withings and Fitbit have learned from Nike, Jawbone, Nintendo, and Microsoft, and are attempting to move the ball forward by way of gamification. Why else would you ever share your weight or how fast you ran a mile through social networks? The most glaring issue, though, is that they're all so far from being perfect that it's laughable.
Having religiously worn a Nike FuelBand since its launch, I came to the sudden realization while on a SXSW stroll through Austin that the data being collected and presented was inaccurate. Does it take into account my body temperature, the outside temperature, or elevation? Of course not, it's little more than a glorified pedometer.
For this burgeoning consumer health tech industry to really have a long-term positive effect on humanity, it's imperative that we get a little mad scientist.
The proliferation of smartphones has made it easier to monitor data in real-time, but for the majority of the world, the smartphone has acted as little more than a means to occupy idle time throughout the day. But imagine having an embedded chip in your wrist, for example, that could relay vitals or body temperature and heart rate straight to your iPhone. Wouldn't that make you more active?
One startup that’s attempting to bridge that gap between standard wearable fitness monitoring tools and something a little more potentially, ahem, drastic, is Misfits Wearables. Formed last year by the co-founders of Agamatrix and former Apple CEO John Sculley, the company promises a wearable device that integrates seamlessly into the user's life. The company, named after the late Steve Jobs, says that these devices “shouldn’t compete with fashion and [have] to have functions outside of sensing.”
If that doesn’t sound a bit mad scientist, I don’t know what does. The most interesting part is that they believe what they're building will be so critical to a user that if it were left at home, they would have no choice but to go back and get it.
I see this as the first step towards a chipped existence where we’re so in tune with our bodies (and our phones) that it’s almost second nature to know personal vitals and health statistics.
But until that day comes, I need to go for a run. I'm not even close to hitting my Fuel score for the day.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Defence Minister Arun Jaitley Ends Public Sector Monopoly in Aircraft Production, Woos Private Sector

Defence Minister Arun Jaitley today ended the monopoly of the public sector over aircraft production in the first meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council after the BJP-led government came to power in May.

In a bold move -- which was incidentally first proposed by the United Progressive Alliance government -- the minister today cleared the manufacture of 56 transport aircraft in India and debarred public sector giant Hindustan Aeronautics Limited or HAL from participating in the process. 

The 56 aircraft will replace the vintage AVRO aircraft that still play a critical role in transporting man and material over short distances and combat support. The British-built AVROs were first manufactured before World War -II. 

By barring HAL - which has failed to meet delivery schedules of several projects and which is also handling multiple orders - the government hopes to provide an impetus to the private sector to enter defence equipment production. 

The civilian spin-offs of manufacturing a light-transport aircraft is expected to be lucrative for the private sector. The manufacturer will be allowed to use the platform for civilian purposes like ferrying passengers and cargo over short distances.

Nearly eight manufacturers including Russia's Illusion, Ukraine's Antonov, European Consortium EADS CASA, (Airbus Industry associate), Italian Alenia Aermachhi, Unites States' Boeing and Lockheed Martin have responded to the tender. 

According to the tender, the foreign manufacturer is required to tie up with an Indian partner and establish a production facility with an airfield adjacent to it in India to win the contract. 

"This is a significant project in which the private sector will be the sole player and will lead to capacity building," said Mr Jaitley.

The policy to allow only the private sector to participate in this process was framed by Mr Jaitley's predecessor A K Antony. But he could not go ahead with it after his Cabinet colleague, and Minister for Heavy Industries Praful Patel, objected to the exclusion of HAL. 

The newly-formed BJP government cleared the policy after legal opinion overruled Mr Patel's objection.

Several Indian private companies are also eager to enter defense aerospace; foremost among them are Tata, Reliance and Mahindra & Mahindra.

In another crucial policy decision, Mr Jaitley also cleared the manufacture of five fleet support vessels in India for the Indian Navy. Each vessel will cost nearly Rs. 1,800 crore for the exchequer. 

The fleet support vessels -- also called auxiliary support ships -- provide long legs to Navy warships for Blue-water operations carrying fuel, spares and ammunition for the fleet.  

Sources told NDTV that the Navy expects to induct the five vessels over the next decade. 

All the five vessels will be built in India and the private sector will also be allowed to compete for the tender. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

What's Making US Economy a World Beater ?

How does the US economy do it?
Europe is floundering. China faces slower growth. Japan is struggling to sustain tentative gains.

Yet the US job market is humming, and the pace of economic growth is steadily rising. Five full years after a devastating recession officially ended, the economy is finally showing the vigour that Americans have long waited.

Last month, employers added 288,000 jobs and helped reduce the unemployment rate to 6.1 per cent, the lowest since September 2008. June capped a five-month stretch of 200,000-plus job gains - the first in nearly 15 years.

After having shrunk at a 2.9 per cent annual rate from January through March - largely because of a brutal winter - the US economy is expected to grow at a healthy 3 per cent pace the rest of the year.

Here are five reasons the United States is outpacing other major economies:

An Aggressive Central Bank

"The Federal Reserve acted sooner and more aggressively than other central banks in keeping rates low," says Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at the Economic Outlook Group.

In December 2008, the Fed slashed short-term interest rates to near zero and has kept them there. Ultra-low loan rates have made it easier for individuals and businesses to borrow and spend. The Fed also launched three bond-buying programs meant to reduce long-term rates.

By contrast, the European Central Bank has been slower to respond to signs of economic distress among the 18 nations that share the euro currency. The ECB actually raised rates in 2011 - the same year the eurozone sank back into recession.

It's worth keeping in mind that the Fed has two mandates: To keep prices stable and to maximize employment. The ECB has just one mandate: To guard against high inflation. The Fed was led during and after the Great Recession by Ben Bernanke, a student of the Great Depression who was determined to avoid a repeat of the 1930s' economic collapse.

Janet Yellen, who succeeded Bernanke as Fed chair this year, has continued his emphasis on nursing the US economy back to health after the recession of 2007-2009 with the help of historically low rates.

Stronger Banks

The United States moved faster than Europe to restore its banks' health after the financial crisis of 2008-2009. The US government bailed out the financial system and subjected big banks to stress tests in 2009 to reveal their financial strength. By showing the banks to be surprisingly healthy, the stress tests helped restore confidence in the US financial system.

Banks gradually started lending again. European banks are only now undergoing stress tests, and the results won't be out until fall. In the meantime, Europe's banks lack confidence. They fear that other banks are holding too many bad loans and that Europe is vulnerable to another crisis. So they aren't lending much.

In the United States, overall bank lending is up nearly 4 per cent in the past year. Lending to business has jumped 10 per cent.

In the eurozone, lending has dropped 3.7 per cent overall, according to figures from the Institute of International Finance. Lending to business is off 2.5 per cent. (The US figures are for the year ending in mid-June; the European figures are from May.)

A More Flexible Economy

Economists say Japan and Europe need to undertake reforms to make their economies more flexible - more, in other words, like America's.

Europe needs to lift wage restrictions that prevent employers from cutting pay (rather than eliminating jobs) when times are bad. It could also rethink welfare and retirement programs that discourage people from working and dismantle policies that protect favoured businesses and block innovative newcomers, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has argued.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has proposed reforms meant to make the Japanese economy more competitive. He wants to expand child care so more women can work, replace small inefficient farms with more large-scale commercial farms and allow more foreign migrant workers to fill labour shortages in areas such as nursing and construction.

Yet his proposals face fierce opposition.

"Europe and Japan remain less well-positioned for durable long-term growth, as they have only recently begun to tackle their deep-rooted structural problems, and a lot remains to be done," says Eswar Prasad, a professor of trade policy at Cornell University.

China is struggling to manage a transition from an economy based on exports and often wasteful investment in real estate and factories to a sturdier but likely slower-growing economy based on more consumer spending.

Less Budget-Cutting

Weighed down by debt, many European countries took an axe to swelling budget deficits. They slashed pension benefits, raised taxes and cut civil servants' wages. The cuts devastated several European economies. They led to 27 per cent unemployment in Greece, 14 per cent in Portugal and 25 percent in Spain. The United States has done some budget cutting, too, and raised taxes. But US austerity hasn't been anywhere near as harsh.

A Roaring Stock Market

The Fed's easy-money policies ignited a world-beating US stock market rally. Over the past five years, US stocks have easily outpaced shares in Europe, Japan and Hong Kong. That was one of Bernanke's goals in lowering rates. He figured that miserly fixed-income rates would nudge investors into stocks in search of higher returns. Higher stock prices would then make Americans feel more confident and more willing to spend - the so-called wealth effect.

Most economists agree it's worked.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Trillion Dollar project grounded. 'US Grounds Entire F-35 Fleet For Engine Probe'

The United States military is grounding its entire fleet of F-35 fighter jets as it completes additional engine inspections following a fire aboard an aircraft in Florida last week.
The US Air Force and Navy issued directives Thursday to halt all F-35 flights after the June 23 fire at Eglin Air Force Base. The cause of the incident remains unclear and is under investigation.
Although preparations are still underway for the F-35 to participate in air shows in Britain the Royal International Air Tattoo starting July 11 and the Farnborough International Airshow beginning July 19  the Pentagon said a final decision on the aircraft's participation would be made next week.
Last week's fire was only the latest in a series of technical problems and delays for the much-vaunted Joint Strike Fighter, the costliest weapons program in Pentagon history.
Last month, an in-flight oil leak prompted a mandatory inspection of the entire fleet.
Engine maker Pratt & Whitney, a division of United Technologies Corp., said it was working closely with the Air Force Safety Investigation Board to determine the cause of the problem and inspect all of the fleet's engines.
"Safety is our top priority," spokesman Matthew Bates told AFP, declining further comment due to the ongoing investigation.
Engine inspections are estimated to take about 90 minutes per aircraft.
In a short statement, Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said "additional inspections of F-35 engines have been ordered, and return to flight will be determined based on inspection results and analysis of engineering data."
The Defense Department's leadership supports this approach, he added.
The F-35 has been touted as the ultimate stealth-attack plane able to evade radar detection.
But it has suffered one setback after another, putting the project seven years behind schedule and vastly over budget.
The program's price tag is estimated at nearly $400 billion on 2,443 aircraft, with each plane costing a staggering $160 million. But additional delays could raise costs even further.