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Friday, July 20, 2018
WhatsApp may back payments from UPI apps

WhatsApp may back payments from UPI appsWhatsApp has updated its privacy policies with regards to safety of user data and is looking to offer interoperable payment transactions from other BHIM-UPI applications to address multiple controversies around its payments service and allay fears over data safety.

In a statement to ET, a spokesperson of the California-based instant messaging app confirmed that it uses parent Facebook’s infrastructure for offering payments in India, but ensures that the data stored is encrypted and is not used for commercial purposes.

“We have permission from NPCI (National Payments Corporation of India) and our bank partners to use Facebook as a service provider,” the spokesperson said. “WhatsApp is using Facebook payment infrastructure to enable the payments feature. Facebook does not use WhatsApp payment information for commercial purposes, it simply helps pass the necessary payment information to the PSPs.”

WhatsApp is working with ICICI Bank to offer mobile payments through Unified Payments Interface (UPI) system developed by NPCI to facilitate interbank transactions in India. It is also in the process of partnering with Axis Bank, HDFC Bank and State Bank of India for payments.

With Facebook being embroiled in user privacy and data safety scandal, WhatsApp, a part of the Facebook family, having access to payments in India had become a cause of concern. Even the ministry of electronics and IT, which manages all the digital initiatives of the government, is said to have written a letter to NPCI regarding this matter.

Allaying such fears, WhatsApp said the data that flows through its systems during a transaction include the likes of user name, payment address, receiver and senders’ account status, balance sufficiency and others. Few of this data is retained for future reference and all transaction information is stored in an encrypted format, it said. With respect to the user’s debit card details, UPI pin, card expiration date, these are taken by WhatsApp at the time of on boarding for customers who do not have any prior UPI registration, but these are not retained, it said.

Bankers in the know of the matter said WhatsApp as a third-party service provider gets only limited access to the financial data of the user. It will be able to track customer payment behaviour and might be using it for their own marketing offerings.

WhatsApp, which is thought to have more than 250 million active users in India, is currently operating a test function of its payment offering with ICICI Bank. They have been permitted by NPCI to run the beta testing of their payments product till they reach 1 million customers.

WhatsApp spokesperson did not confirm the date when its payments offering will be available for all its customers in the country. It would not also provide the exact timeline within which other partner banks will go live on WhatsApp Payments.

With respect to storage of payments data within India that has been mandated by the Reserve Bank of India, WhatsApp said its partner ICICI Bank will be in a better position to address such concerns since they are the regulated entity. ET had previously reported that WhatsApp’s payments offering is getting delayed due to privacy concerns raised by various stakeholders post the Cambridge Analytica incident with Facebook. (Source: Economic Times)

MobiKwik invests Rs 2 cr in Pivotchain Solutions

MobiKwik invests Rs 2 cr in Pivotchain SolutionsMobiKwik, a full stack fintech platform, has invested Rs 2 crore in Pune-based data science company, Pivotchain Solutions. This is the first-ever investment for MobiKwik in a data science company and will further strengthen MobiKwik's fintech offerings, said Bipin Preet Singh, Founder & CEO, MobiKwik.
Pivotchain is a Predictive Analytics company with expertise in Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI). It has built exclusive AI and deep learning models for MobiKwik. These models will be instrumental for MobiKwik as it rolls out numerous lending products to address the credit requirements of its user base.

"Pivotchain is doing incredible work in alternate data scoring, predictive modelling and risk management. This investment will give us an edge over competition. We will continue to invest in companies that can add value to our business," Bipin said.
Deepak Rao, Founder & CEO, Pivotchain Soultions said: "We are glad to be part of MobiKwik family. We look forward to working with MobiKwik and deliver the right lending solution across the user base". (Source: The Hindu BusinessLine)

Hike Messenger lays off 25% of its workforce

Hike Messenger lays off 25% of its workforceHike Messenger has begun laying off 20-25% of its workforce, with a significant portion of the affected employees coming from its two acquisitions — hardware maker Creo and social networking venture InstaLively — that it announced last year.

According to a source with knowledge of the matter, the total number of retrenchments could range between 50 and 75 employees across locations. When contacted by ET, Hike Messenger spokesperson confirmed the layoffs but did not comment on the numbers.

“We made a few acquisitions last year that skyrocketed the team size, mostly in Bengaluru. We’re integrating and streamlining these teams. Just business as usual,” a company spokesperson wrote in response to an email from ET. The layoffs are expected to be across functions, including human resources, accounting and finance, among others.

Employees, according to the source cited above, are being provided with a severance package, starting with two months salary and upwards. Hike had announced its acquisition of Creo, the maker of Teewe, a HDMI media streaming device in August last year, for an undisclosed sum, but which was widely reported to be an acqui-hire. At the time of the announcement, Creo was reported to have 50 employees.

Prior to that, in February 2017, it acquired social networking app Pulse, which was owned and operated by InstaLively, also for an undisclosed sum.

The latest developments come about five months after the Delhi-based company, founded by Bharti Airtel scion Kavin Mittal, unveiled a brand new mobile operating system, Total, that offer services, such as, messaging and recharging without using data, targeting the lower end of smartphone users to take on leader WhatsApp in a better way. (Source: Economic Times)

E-wallet will address GST refund issue of exporters: Prabhu

E-wallet will address GST refund issue of exporters: PrabhuExporters say about Rs 20,000 crore is stuck on account of delay in refund of duty claims under the new indirect tax regime.

Introduction of e-wallet mechanism will effectively address the woes of exporters who have been complaining of delays in refund of taxes under the GST regime, commerce and industry minister Suresh Prabhu has said. Under the e-wallet mechanism, a notional credit would be transferred to exporters’ accounts based on their past record and the credit can be used to pay taxes on inputs.

Prabhu said that secretaries in the commerce and finance ministries are working on the matter. “The only way it can be addressed properly is through e-wallet (mechanism). Finance ministry has to take a call on this. E-wallet will actually address the issue because then you (exporters) do not have to pay and seek refunds,” he told PTI.

According to exporters, delay in refund of taxes is blocking their working capital and impacting shipments. The issue of refunds to exporters has been delayed for over eight months now. The revenue department, on the other hand, has argued that there are discrepancies in the forms submitted by exporters with the customs department and those with the GST Network (GSTN).

As per exporters, about Rs 20,000 crore is stuck on account of delay in refund of duty claims under the new indirect tax regime.
Before GST, exporters used to get ab-initio exemptions from duties. But now they have to pay first and then seek refund.
The Prime Minister’s Office had earlier called a meeting of top officials of commerce and finance ministries to discuss the issue of GST refunds.

The GST Council in its meeting earlier this month decided to implement e-wallet scheme for refunds to exporters by October 1.
Meanwhile, the CBEC field formations have launched ‘GST refund fortnight’ to quickly sanction pending refunds to exporters.
Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) had stated that e-wallet could help resolve the problem of liquidity. Exporters may use it like a running account where money will be debited from e-wallet when duty paid supplies have to be undertaken and the amount is credited when the proof of exports is made available. (Source: Hindustan Times)

Mera Hoardings launches mobile app

Mera Hoardings launches mobile appMera Hoardings, an outdoor online booking company launched a mobile app ‘Mera Hoardings’, which gives access to billboard- advertising marketplace.

Available on Android and iOS platforms, the app allows agencies to set up their own marketplaces. Different hoarding companies and agencies can sign up and register themselves to sell their vacant billboard and hoardings for their customers.

“The Mera Hoardings OOH Multi Agency board- booking module is a one-stop solution for billboard space buyers. They can access billboard spaces from different firms,” Saikrishna Gajavelly, Founder and Chairman of Mera Hoardings said.

The firm has operations in 20 States with an aggregate offering of over 10,000 billboards and hoardings from over 5,000 vendors. (Source: The Hindu BusinessLine)

Festive spirit keeps e-wallets on a high

Festive spirit keeps e-wallets on a high When the call of duty kept a soldier in Jammu and Kashmir this Diwali, he used his Paytm digital wallet to transfer a gift of Rs 1,001 to his family in Raipur. A government official posted in the Andaman Islands sent digital cash as a gift along with a personal message to his sister for Bhai Dooj through Paytm Lifafa. The festive week throughout Diwali, Dhanteras and Bhai Dooj this month saw a jump of three-four times in peer-to-peer payments through digital wallets, according to e-wallet companies. As online payments become mainstream in India, 'shaguns' (gifts) are also going the digital way and designer envelopes are making way for custom electronic messages.

"We registered 40 million peer-to-peer transactions during the Diwali week, including Paytm Lifafa, which is the highest ever," said Kiran Vasireddy, chief operating officer of Paytm. "We saw a four-time year-on-year surge in transactions during Bhai Dooj (alone)." Paytm Lifafa allows users to transfer money using Paytm wallets along with a short personal theme or message.

Instant money transfers through e-wallets have gained traction in recent months as more merchants have begun accepting payments through this mode, making these more commonplace. Mobile wallet MobiKwik reported a 300% jump in peer-to-peer transactions during this festive season as compared to last year's. MobiKwik even branded the money transfer option in its application as 'Shagun'.

"Both on Diwali day as well as Bhai Dooj we saw around 500,000 extra peer-to-peer transactions on the MobiKwik wallet as compared to normal days," said Daman Soni, vice-president for growth at MobiKwik.

Interoperability to boost use
PhonePe, the payment arm of ecommerce major Flipkart, has registered a jump of 25 times in payment volume so far this financial year over 2016-17, boosted by a significant surge during the latest festive week.

"We have seen a 30-40% spike in transactions through wallets this festive season. On an average, we see around 600,000 transactions per day through our platform," said Bhavik Vasa, chief growth officer of ItzCash, a Mumbai-based payments company.

Industry observers say that with multiple use-cases created for mobile wallets, consumers are finding it more convenient to use these for buying movie tickets, paying bills and shopping online. With digital wallets set to become interoperable, this trend will only strengthen, they said. "Indian families are getting more dispersed nowadays and with the country being so geographically vast, wallets are emerging as a quick and reliable mode of money transfer for small values," said Bhavik Hathi, managing director of Mumbai-based consultancy Alvarez & Marsal.

In China, where cash was a major mode of social gifting, around 46 billion electronic red packets—digital versions of envelopes stuffed with cash—were sent on Tencent-owned We-Chat messaging platform during the previous Chinese New Year celebrations. India is way behind in volume terms but could catch up, say industry experts.

"With the popularisation of digital transactions coupled with wallets becoming more user-friendly, I believe this trend will grow further in the coming years," said Hathi. "People have also started using wallets as a replacement for wedding gifts, which shows that this trend of using wallets for social gifting is catching on." (Source: Economic Times)

WhatsApp confirms group voice calls in latest update

WhatsApp confirms group voice calls in latest updateGiving its over one billion users more power to connect, WhatsApphas confirmed group voice calls in its latest beta version of Android. According to WaBetaInfo, a popular website that tests new WhatsApp features early, the 2.17.70 beta WhatsApp update has confirmed group calls. "The 2.17.70 iOS update has very hidden references to group calls! Before it was an internal news, now it's all confirmed. "There are a lot of hidden references about group voice calls, but there is only one reference about group video calls. So group video calls are partially confirmed at the moment," WaBetaInfo tweeted on Sunday.

It was earlier reported that the Facebook-owned messaging app was working on a group voice calls and could release the feature next year. Facebook already has a similar feature on Messenger.

"WhatsApp 2.17.70 sends a request to the server to ask if the user you are calling is in another group call!" WaBetaInfo tweeted. "Note that these references we found are very strong (but they aren't visible for you at present) and they have allowed us to understand what WhatsApp is going to add in the application, as we did for WhatsApp for iPad," it added.

The newest beta version of WhatsApp for Android has several updates, including a smaller app size and a feature that would notify your friends when you change your number.

According to technology website Teknepolis, one major update is that when you change your phone number in WhatsApp, your contacts would receive notification of the update. The feature would work every time you change your phone number.

WhatsApp has also announced advanced features for improved group management, including a tool that will prevent the group creator to be deleted from the group by other administrators. The administrators on WhatsApp groups will also be able to choose if other participants can modify the subject of the group, its icon and its description.

Reports said recently that WhatsApp's much anticipated "unsend" feature will be soon rolled out to all users. According to WABetaInfo, the messaging app is finally testing the "Delete for Everyone" feature. "The server finally works and it successfully recalls the message. It will be remotely enabled later and seen that WhatsApp 'enabled' their servers for the Delete for Everyone feature, it may really be enabled soon," said WABetaInfo in a tweet recently.

With this feature, the users will be able to recall or unsend texts, images, videos, GIFs, documents, quoted messages and even status replies within a five-minute window. WhatsApp will also facilitate instant money transfer via the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) transaction system soon. With over 1.2 billion monthly active users, WhatsApp is available in more than 50 different languages around the world and in 10 Indian languages. (Source: ETTelecom)

Mobile app to make Aadhaar verification easier

Mobile app to make Aadhaar verification easierTransactions using Aadhaar authentication rose to nearly 150 crore in September from just over 100 crore the previous month. This big spike in the use of the biometric ID has prompted the government to make Aadhaar authentication easier through a mobile app. At 148.3 crore, the number of Aadhaar authentications last month was more than the country’s population, a senior government official told ET. This is a phenomenal increase from just 17 crore in December and suggests that, on an average, every Aadhaar holder used the ID at least once in September to avail of benefits or other government services, the official added.

With nearly 118.5 crore people having Aadhaar, the government has decided to enable its recently launched mobile app, mAadhaar, to do all Aadhaar authentications based on OTPs. About 31 crore transactions in September were executed using OTPs. A major issue before the UIDAI was poor mobile network and signals causing delays in the delivery of OTP to the registered mobile number.

At times, the passwords don’t even get delivered. The new mAadhaar app, which has seen more than 1 million downloads since its launch in July, will eliminate dependence on mobile networks. The mAadhaar app will have a time-based OTP (TOTP), so that people do not have to wait for the OTP to arrive on their mobile. A TOTP will always be available on the app on the mobile phone for 30 seconds before being refreshed to a new number.

“TOTP addresses OTPrelated shortcomings, like residents’ dependency on mobile network,” UIDAI DG Ajay Bhushan Pandey said. (Source: ETTelecom)

Snapchat struggles in 'rich people gate'

Snapchat struggles in 'rich people gate'Southern California-based social media company Snap Inc., which highly publicised IPO in March with value at $24 billion, faced backfire as CEO Evan Spiegel was accused of claiming that Snapchat was an app "only for rich people".
Southern California-based social media company Snap Inc., which highly publicised IPO in March with value at $24 billion, faced backfire as CEO Evan Spiegel was accused of claiming that Snapchat was an app "only for rich people". Snapchat, which was labeled by business analysts as the strongest rival to Facebook, had to start damage control urgently, saying Spiegel never made such remarks and "these words were written by a disgruntled former employee", Xinhua n ews agency reported on Sunday.

The quote, which Snapchat called "ridiculous", came from a recently unredacted court complaint by Anthony Pompliano, who was hired away by Snapchat from Facebook then served as the company's growth lead for a few weeks in 2015. Pompliano's lawsuit filed in redacted form in Los Angeles Superior Court in January. Snap Inc. dropped its efforts to keep the unredacted complaint under seal and released it in a public filing last week.

In the complaint, Pompliano recounted an exchange he said he had with Spiegel in a September 2015 meeting about the app's international growth plans. He said he presented methods to address the issue, but Spiegel abruptly cut him off. "This app is only for rich people," Spiegel said, according to Pompliano. "I don't want to expand into poor countries like India and Spain."

These words sparked outrages from all around world, especially in India.Hundreds of thousands users voiced their disapproval via social-media posts and one-star reviews in Google and Apple's app stores."Mr. CEO of Snapchat, we may be poor but we have bigger hearts than you," a user named K.P. Naik said in a recent one-star review in Play store.

Another tweet posted by Shreyas Singh on April 15 said: "I am very poor so uninstalled #snapchat but thanks for entertaining for this many days. @evanspiegel @Snapchat don't mess with India.""This is ridiculous," as statement released by Snap argued, saying those words were written by "a disgruntled former employee".

"We are grateful for our Snapchat community in India and around the world," the statement said. However, Snapchat would face huge challenge in this lawsuit more than PR works as Pompliano also claimed that he learned the company had exaggerated its user data and that top executives were "completely misinformed" about key metrics.

According to report of Variety, in the lawsuit, Pompliano said that on his second day of the job he met with two data analysts, who confided to him that Snapchat had "an institutional aversion to looking at user data", and its efforts in that area were marked by "utter incompetence." Pompliano said he found Snapchat's daily active users (DAUs) was much less than the company's boasted number, 100 million DAUs at the time, moreover, the user base increased only one to four per cent per quarter, far less than the double-digit month-over-month growth the company was claiming.

Pompliano also claimed that he was fired because Spiegel determined that he "presented a risk to Snapchat's IPO". (Source: ETtelecom)

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