Convergence Plus
Sunday, April 30, 2017
Microsoft India enhances paternal leave benefits

Microsoft India enhances paternal leave benefitsMicrosoft India today said it has enhanced all types of paternal leave benefits and introduced a new family caregiver leave — which entails four weeks of paid leave to take care of an immediate family member. From April 21, Microsoft India has enhanced all types of paternal leave benefits such as paternity, adoption and surrogacy. Besides, the company has introduced a new family caregiver leave benefit, which includes four weeks of paid leave to take care of an immediate family member with a serious health condition. Definition of family in this case is spouse/domestic partner, parent/in-law, sibling, grandparent or child.

With effect from February 2016, maternity leave at Microsoft India is 26 weeks. Paternity leave at Microsoft India has been extended to 6 weeks from 2 weeks, while adoption leave for mothers has been enhanced to 26 weeks and for fathers it is increased to 6 weeks and surrogacy leave for mothers has been introduced at 26 weeks. “This move is reiteration of Microsoft’s commitment to empower its employees through a suite of benefits,” Microsoft India Director — Human Resources Ira Gupta said.

“We hope the extended parental leave benefits will further improve work-life balance for our employees, and help them transition back to the workplace at a time and pace that is more conducive to such a major development in their lives,” Gupta added. Gupta further said that Microsoft India is actively reviewing its family leave policies across the globe to ensure that all countries offer an appropriate level of paid leave to support Microsoft employees and their families. “At Microsoft, we are continually assessing, refining, and enhancing the world-class benefits we offer to ensure we are meeting the needs of our diverse employee population,” Gupta said. (Source: The Hindubusiness Line)

Snapdeal sale to Flipkart: Kalaari Capital comes on board

Snapdeal sale to Flipkart: Kalaari Capital comes on board Kalaari Capital, an early investor in online marketplace Snapdeal, has given its assent to the proposed sale of the New Delhi-based company to rival Flipkart, according to two people aware of the negotiations, which if successful, will reshape the contours of the $16-billion Indian online retail industry where America’s Amazon and China’s Alibaba are also vying for primacy. Japan’s SoftBank — the largest stakeholder in Snapdeal — has been pressing for a sale of its beleaguered portfolio company at an estimated price of $1 billion, but has faced resistance from early investors Kalaari and Nexus Venture Partners as the transaction pegs the value of Snapdeal far below its peak value of $6.5 billion, according to sources aware of the talks that have been underway for several weeks now.

“After sustained discussions, they (Kalaari Capital) are now on board… There is an understanding that they will work with SoftBank down the line,” said one person cited above. Talks between Nexus and SoftBank are also continuing.

As per the company’s shareholders agreement, SoftBank requires the consent of at least two major Jasper Infotech shareholders to push through a sale of the company. It is not yet clear whether Snapdeal’s founders — Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal — have agreed to the sale or not.

Separately, Flipkart — the country’s largest online retailer — may also bid for FreeCharge, the digital payments platform owned by Snapdeal, according to a second source, with an estimated sale price between $40 million and $75 million. People aware of the developments told ET that SoftBank’s proposed investment in Flipkart will not be contingent on the Bengaluru company buying out FreeCharge.

The proposed sale of Snapdeal to Flipkart will pave the way for SoftBank’s entry into India’s largest online retailer. As part of a two-step agreement, after the merger, the Tokyo-based investor will become a significant shareholder by making a substantial investment, expected to range between $1billion and $1.5 billion.

Second Major Bidder for Payments Platform
Flipkart’s interest in FreeCharge makes it the second major bidder for the payments platform after Alibaba-backed Paytm. MobiKwik is also believed to be in the fray. Two other players who have looked at FreeCharge before, and remain dark horses, are US-based PayPal and Naspers-backed PayU, according to a person involved in the transaction.

“There is an offer, but it could take a few months for any deal to close,” said a source.

As reported by ET last week, Soft-Bank is also considering a sizeable investment in Paytm owner One97 Communications in a deal that could value the Noida-based company at over $7 billion. SoftBank, which has so far invested about $2 billion in Indian startups including ride-hailing app Ola, hotel room aggregator Oyo and hyperlocal commerce company Grofers, is aiming to shed some flab in its portfolio

Kalaari, SoftBank, Flipkart and Snapdeal did not respond to emails seeking comment.

Kalaari’s decision to align with SoftBank is expected to go a long way in closing the deal with Flipkart, given the venture capital firm’s earlier reluctance to the deal.

Nexus and Kalaari together hold about 18% stake in Snapdeal and were believed to have been holding out for returns of around $70-100 million each.

While Kalaari has already cashed in $100 million from its investment, Nexus is yet to gain from its investment made in 2011.

Steep Fall
If a sale of FreeCharge, once described as Snapdeal’s crown jewel by CEO Bahl, does go through at the purported price, it will be a steep fall in fortunes for a company that was bought in a cash-and-stock deal of about $400-450 million, making it the largest startup acquisition in India two years ago.

Even till late last year, the asking valuation of FreeCharge ranged between $700-900 million, but the promoters were unable to close a funding round, with multiple investors, such as PayPal, Foxconn and PayU professing interest, only to walk away.

Since January, Snapdeal has pumped in Rs 420 crore into the payments platform, according to documents filed with the Registrar of Companies, and as per data collated by Tofler, a leading corporate research and monitoring platform.

“It is getting to the (valuation) range where it (FreeCharge) becomes attractive, given its integrations, product, IP and active relationships with merchants,” said an executive who has looked at the transaction. (Source: Economic Times)

IDFC Alternatives buys 33% in Ascend Telecom

IDFC Alternatives buys 33% in Ascend TelecomIDFC Alternatives has bought Ascend Telecom’s shares worth Rs365 crore and convertible debentures worth Rs220 crore
IDFC Alternatives, the private equity (PE) arm of IDFC group, has bought a 33% stake in New Silk Route (NSR)-backed telecom tower company Ascend Telecom Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd, two people involved in the transaction said. IDFC Alternatives bought Ascend Telecom’s shares worth Rs365 crore and convertible debentures worth Rs220 crore, the persons said on condition of anonymity. As part of the deal, IDFC Bank will also refinance Ascend Telecom’s loans of Rs620 crore. The development was first reported by news portal VCCircle last week.

Ascend, earlier known as Aster Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd, was established in 2002 as an independent passive telecom infrastructure company, and was renamed in 2010. It received its first round of private equity investment from NSR in 2007. In 2010, NSR bought out the promoters’ stake in the company and took over control.

In 2011, Ascend Telecom acquired India Telecom Infra Ltd (ITIL), a tower infrastructure company jointly promoted by TVS Interconnect Systems and Infrastructure Leasing and Financing Services (ILFS), adding 2,500 towers and 4,000 tenants to the existing 1,200 towers and 1,600 tenants. Currently, Ascend has nearly 5,222 telecom towers and is present in all 22 telecom circles. The company has signed long-term master service agreements for tower leasing with several leading telecom operators including BSNL, Idea, Vodafone, Tata Teleservices and Bharti Airtel Ltd. For IDFC Alternatives, this is the second transaction in telecom infrastructure. Last year, it had sold some of its stake in telecom tower operator Viom Networks Ltd.

NSR, IDFC Alternatives and IL&FS did not respond to requests over the weekend for a comment. The persons quoted above said IDFC Alternatives could further hike its stake in Ascend once NSR begins diluting its stake. “NSR is also looking to exit the company and has been in talks with potential buyers,” the persons added. “We have several options for exit available and there is significant buyer interest in the company,” a senior NSR official told Mint on condition of anonymity.

The transaction comes at a time of growing consolidation in India’s telecom infrastructure space. Several large telecom companies are looking to monetise tower assets in the wake of shrinking revenue margins in the intensely competitive mobile telephony market.
In March, global private equity giant KKR and Canadian state-owned pension fund manager CPPIB picked up a 10.3% stake in Bharti Infratel Ltd for Rs6,193.9 crore. Mint had reported in February that Idea Cellular Ltd is looking to sell its telecom tower interests in two separate deals.

In December, Reliance Communications Ltd (RCom) signed a binding agreement with Canadian alternative asset manager Brookfield to sell a 51% stake in Reliance Infratel for Rs11,000 crore. RCom will continue as an anchor tenant in the tower assets. (Source: Mint)

Idea Cellular to launch payments bank operations in June

Idea Cellular to launch payments bank operations in JuneThe company, that recently received the Reserve Bank of India's final approval to open its payments bank, is in the process of integrating its systems with those of the National Payments Corporation of India and the RBI. Joining the network will allow it to facilitate interbank electronic transactions

Idea Cellular has set itself a June target to launch payments bank operations and is signing up retailers who sell its telecom services to also double up as banking touch points to allow customers to carry out transactions.

The company, that recently received the Reserve Bank of India's final approval to open its payments bank, is in the process of integrating its systems with those of the National Payments Corporation of India and the RBI. Joining the network will allow it to facilitate interbank electronic transactions.

The company hopes a significant part of its telecom subscribers to enroll for the banking services.

“We have an existing customer base of 20 crore (for telephone services) ... hence we start off with a huge potential customer base which is a big positive for our payments business,“ said Sudhakar Ramasubramanian, the chief executive-designate of Aditya Birla Idea Payments Bank. “We will also convert our 20 lakh retailer base across the country into banking touch points to take financial services to the rural areas.“

Payments banks aren't allowed to lend, but can take deposits, facilitate remittances and dispense payments to recipients. The RBI had devised payments banks and small finance banks as tools to take formal banking to the unbanked.

For telecom companies like Idea and Bharti Airtel, this offered a new business opportunity as they already have extensive networks across the country and a huge potential customer base for the banking services in their existing users.

Bharti Airtel, the telecom market leader, launched its payments bank in January. To attract customers, it is offering an interest rate of 7.25% on savings deposits, which is more than that offered by conventional banks. (Source: ETTelecom)

Emergency Management: Oracle

Emergency Management: Oracle“Emergencies wait for no one and we have to be prepared to face it at all times. A city can face an emergency situation in the form of a flood, an earthquake or man-made forces, which may be out of the city administration’s control. Therefore, they need to be equipped not just to face these emergencies, but also to foresee these situations ahead of time. . This is where Smart City technologies are going to play an extensive role in changing the scenario. Technologies like Business Intelligence, predictive analytics and more enable city administrators to foresee emergencies and take remedial steps to keep the losses to the bare minimum.

It is unbelievable how technology is empowering the entire world to deal with some of the greatest challenges of Mother Nature and those triggered by the mankind as well. You can read about how Buenos Aires is using the same technology to monitor rainfall, river water levels to avert flood-like scenarios in the city. Oracle Open World is happening in Delhi on May 9-10, where you will get the opportunity to witness these smart technologies and how they are contributing to this change. The event is round the corner, hurry and register yourself here. (Source: Convergence Plus)

Ciudad de Buenos Aires Gains Visibility into Storm Water Runoff and Flood Preparedness Systems”

Airtel and BSNL working with Nokia to transform networks to 5G

Airtel and BSNL working with Nokia to transform networks to 5GTop telco Bharti AirtelBSE 0.00 % and state-run telco Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) are working with Nokia to transform existing networks to 5G, with the telecom gear maker defining use cases around the technology that will be relevant for the Indian market. The Finnish gear maker recently inked memorandum of understandings (MoUs) with market leader Airtel and BSNL. "Thoughts behind these MoUs would be to introduce 5G here, and what are the steps required for the same, besides identifying applications to define the target segment, which will lead to a complete 5G strategy for telcos," Sanjay Malik, head of India market at Nokia, told ET.

"It is more of a preparatory phase for getting into 5G." The commercial launch of 5G technology is likely to take place around 2019-2020 globally.

In India, field and content and application trials will start around 2018, he said. Nokia already supplies 4G equipment for Airtel’s network in nine circles -- Gujarat, Bihar, UP East, Mumbai, MP, West Bengal, Odisha, Punjab and Kerala. It recently emerged as the L1 (lowest) bidder for BSNL’s phase-8 expansion, and is currently working on an advanced purchase order (APO) for the telecom operator.

Malik added that BSNL is currently working on setting up the foundation for 5G. The Indian government is reportedly planning to auction spectrum in bands over 3,000 MHz. Amit Marwah, head, End-to-End Sales Solutioning, India Market at Nokia, termed it as a step in the right direction, adding that 3.5 GHz has been globally adopted so far for the first set of 5G.

"5G is moving very fast, so it is important to start discovering and looking at the possibility of what spectrum exists in India and start working on it… if you look at the overall ecosystem and how 5G is developing, it is not only about 3.5 GHz or 700 MHz, but also about millimetre waves and centimetre waves and gigahertz of spectrum going forward," Marwah said.

Nokia is creating an experience centre within its research and development center in Bengaluru to try to discover stakeholder requirements for 5G in India and push its efforts towards the new technology for India.

"Whole cycle of 2G took 10 years to develop in the world, 3G took less, and 4G even lesser. Today, India is sitting on par with any other place in the world in terms of technology, and we want to leverage that opportunity here," Marwah explained.

He said that the idea behind doing the collaborations with telcos in India is to try to discover what’s more relevant for the local market and look at the possibility of rural connectivity, agricultural IoT (Internet of Things) which might be more relevant for the country (Source: Economic Times)

Smart Waste Management: Oracle

Smart Waste Management: Oracle“Combating pollution is always a key concern for not just governments but citizens as well. Dealing with emissions from vehicles and factories as well as the waste generated by the latter pose an enormous challenge for civic authorities. Smart waste management is one of the key components of any smart city solution. We cannot wish away the pollution generated from vehicles or factories, but we can surely use technology to find ways to recycle waste and create sustainable solutions. Some cities are using technology to convert this challenge to an opportunity to re-use/re-cycle the waste and creating more job opportunities as well in the process.

Please join us at Oracle OpenWorld on May 9-10, 2017 in New Delhi to witness how Oracle’s smart waste management solutions can help us to keep our cities clean and pollution free. Register here today. To know more about how South Africa’s REDISA, a non profit organisation, is transforming used tires into a business opportunity and helping communities: Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of South Africa (REDISA)” (Source: Convergence Plus)

Malaysia’s Axiata eyes tower assets in India

Malaysia’s Axiata eyes tower assets in IndiaMalaysian telecom firm Axiata may increase its presence in the Indian market by picking up stakes in tower assets. Several Indian telecom operators, including Idea Cellular and Vodafone are looking to divest their tower assets in a bid to focus on the core business. Axiata’s telecom infrastructure subsidiary, edotco, is one of the largest tower companies in the region with investments in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Cambodia.
According to industry sources, Axiata may have initiated talks with Indian operators for a possible acquisition.

The Malaysian operator currently has a minority stake in Idea. But with Vodafone and Idea announcing the merger of their mobile service operations, Axiata’s stake in the combined entity will come down further.

When contacted, an Axiata spokesperson said, “The Group is currently engaged in analysing all potential impact on Axiata arising from the proposed merger. The Group’s assessment of its position as a minority shareholder of Idea will be an extension of Axiata’s ongoing evaluation and analysis of its investment portfolio in its entirety. “Axiata’s next course of action, if any, will be based on the outcome of a comprehensive analysis based on the principles above which will maximise the benefits to the shareholders of Axiata.”
According to industry experts, with mobile operators exiting the tower segment, private equity players and pure-play tower operators are expected to control the infrastructure. “American Tower Corporation is already emerging as a big pure-play tower firm. Axiata has a strong regional presence and so may find India’s tower sector attractive. This apart, we will see private equity players such as Brookfields and KKR running tower operations,” said an industry expert. (Source: The Hindu Businessline)

BSNL introduces a 10GB per day wired broadband plan at Rs 249 per month

BSNL introduces a 10GB per day wired broadband plan at Rs 249 per monthIndia’s state owned telecom service provider BSNL has announced an ‘Unlimited Broadband at 249’ plan to offer 10GB data per day for wireline broadband service which includes unlimited night calling from 9 PM to 7 AM and unlimited calling on all Sundays.
The plan is priced at Rs 249 per month. But the catch is that the speed of this plan is limited to 2 Mbps. There are no details out on the speeds that will result post crossing the 10 GB per day limit. At a top speed of 2Mbps, it seems unlikely that a regular user would even cross 10 GB per day.

So in all, you are getting 300 GB data per month at Rs 249, with calling benefits thrown in. To get this plan activated, you will need to check with the BSNL customer care center or alternatively dial 1800 345 1500. BSNL had recently introduced a lot of affordable data plans on the festival of Holi. The existing Rs 156, Rs 198, Rs 291 and Rs 549 plans are being upgraded to offer lots more data and in some cases, increased validity, reports The Economic Times.

In mid-March BSNL had announced a 2GB per day plan with a validity of 28 days. “The benefits customer will get under the Combo STV (special tariff voucher) of Rs 339 are unlimited calls in BSNL network and unlimited data with fair use policy of 2GB per day with validity of 28 days,” BSNL said in a statement. (Source:Tech2)

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