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Monday, December 18, 2017
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)

WhatsApp denies existence of ‘backdoor’ for government snooping

WhatsApp denies existence of ‘backdoor’ for government snooping WhatsApp has vehemently denied having a backdoor for governments in its encryption system, putting to rest questions raised by a recent report that claimed the messaging platform had a vulnerability that could be exploited by governments to gain access to user conversations. “WhatsApp does not give governments a “backdoor” into its systems. WhatsApp would fight any government request to create a backdoor. Since April 2016, WhatsApp messages and calls are endto-end encrypted by default.

WhatsApp also offers people a security notifications feature that alerts them when people change keys so that they can verify who they are communicating with,” said Brian Acton, WhatsApp co-founder, in a post on social networking platform Reddit. A news report in the Guardian on Friday claimed that a security vulnerability allows access to encrypted messages. The vulnerability had been reported to Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, by Tobias Boelter, cryptography and security researcher at the University of California, Berkeley.

WhatsApp introduced end-to-end encryption on its platform last year, which means that only the intended recipient (person or group) communicating with each other can see the message that is being sent over thec messaging service. The report was also denied by Moxie Marlinspike, the man behind Open Whisper Systems, the nonprofit software group that has built the encryption system for WhatsApp and the open source messaging application called Signal. He explained that the issue of informing a user when their encryption key changes in the event that a person they are communicating with either changes their device or re-installs WhatsApp was one of design and in now way constitutes a backdoor.

“WhatsApp gives users the option to be notified when those changes occur,” he said in a blogpost on Open Whisper Systems’ website. Marlinspike further said “under no circumstances is it reasonable to call this a ‘backdoor’, as key changes are immediately detected by the sender and can be verified”. One solution is going to WhatsApp Settings->Account->Security and turning the “show security notifications” on. This way, a user gets a notification every time a contact’s security code changes when they change a device or re-install WhatsApp.

“Your calls and the messages you send are encrypted regardless of this setting, when possible,” the setting claims. Some security expert’s advice switching to open source apps such as Signal. (Source: Economic Times)

Regional language apps all the rage, to have 250 million users in next 3 years

Regional language apps all the rage, to have 250 million users in next 3 yearsAbilash Gopi Vavakkadan, a Kochi-based environmental engineer, spends over four hours every day sharing pictures of his son cultivating vegetables, reading up posts on Kerala’s politics and sharing jokes on social networking app ShareChat. Nothing unusual about that, except that it’s in Malayalam. “I have friends who have found jobs through networking on ShareChat. More importantly, I have made friends with over 150 people all over Kerala who speak the same language and have similar viewpoints.

This is a great outlet when one is forced to speak in English at the workplace,” said Vavakkadan, who has used the app for one year now and is one of 400,000 daily active users on Lightspeed Venture Partners-funded ShareChat.
Regional language networking and content publishing apps are increasingly gaining popularity and stirring investor interest as a market they estimate will be worth over $1billion by 2020.

From ShareChat, which enables users to create content ranging from demonetisation issues to astrology readings and jokes in their own language, to Hindi social networking app Shabd Nagari and publishing apps like Matrix Partners-backed Dailyhunt, Pratilipi and Valmeeki, these tools empower people to create content in their own languages – Malayalam, Telugu, Bengali, Bhojpuri and Marathi, among others.

According to entrepreneurs and investors, about 250 million Indians from smaller towns and cities will come online in the next three to four years to create content and converse in regional languages through these apps. “The focus on Bharat in the startup ecosystem is gaining prominence. When we look at the local language industry and combine online and offline potential, the space is worth over $10 billion. The digital ad spends alone will be worth $1.5 billion by 2020,” said Virendra Gupta, CEO of Dailyhunt, an app that focuses on publishing ebooks and aggregating news in 17 languages.

The platform, backed by Matrix Partners and Sequoia Capital India, recently raised $25 million in a Series D funding round led by ByteDance, a global tech company. The funds will be used to improve the publishing technology. Dailyhunt has over 28 million monthly active users and uses optical character recognition (OCR) and machine learning techniques for translation and e-publishing of books.

“The OCR is run across scanned images for converting a printed book into an ecopy and the machine learning converts a printed character into electronic text in whichever language is required,” said cofounder Umesh Kulkarni. Translating a 150-page book with 20,000 words would take up to four hours, which the company plans to reduce to two hours. The platform works with more than 10,000 authors from 1,500 publishing entities. Over half a million paid books and 2 million free books are downloaded on the platform every month. It’s targeting paid downloads of 1million books by the first quarter of 2017. Select books are free and others range from as low as Rs 5 to Rs 800.

While technology upgrades are integral, improving social interaction between readers and content creators is equally important. Nexus Venture Partners-backed self-publishing platform Pratilipi, which has over 6,000 authors in eight Indian languages, is increasingly focusing on enabling authors and writers to engage with each other. “We are working on building tools for social interactions such as following your favourite authors, custom notifications and a more personalised recommendation for readers, a detailed author dashboard for writers. Right now, feedback is shared via reviews, comments or by calling and emailing the author in certain instances,” said Ranjeet Pratap Singh, cofounder of Pratilipi.

QUESTIONS OF CONTROL, REVENUES
When the power to create content is provided, questions about regulating it arise easily.

“Strong content regulation is likely to come in within India at a later stage. Right now, we have algorithms which identify hate speeches or pornographic content and then we bring that down. But there’s a limitation to how much one can impinge on a user’s freedom of expression. For instance, Hindutvacentric viewpoints can’t be curtailed if they are not inciting anyone,” said Farid Ahsan, cofounder, ShareChat.

Generating revenue in the social networking app space largely ranges from advertising to in-app purchases and subscriptions. Many Indian companies are focusing on user acquisition for next few years before looking at revenue options. The apps are designed to be light on devices.

“The content is stored on cloud memory so the number of users that come on board through cheaper smartphones is only going to rise, after which monetisation will become the key focus,” said Mayank Khanduja, principal investor at SAIF Partners, who led Sharechat investment. Dailyhunt, which has an early mover advantage, expects to break even in the next two years.

“The local language app industry will take around four to five years to mature and at least eight years before investors can expect returns.

The winners in this space will be those who keep improving the user experience through customisation and personalisation based on individual languages. From upcoming local comedians, singers and writers to political parties like the Samajwadi Party, one is going to see diverse kinds of users gaining a fan following,” added Khanduja. (Source: Economic Times)

Free national roaming from Deepavali: Vodafone

Free national roaming from Deepavali: VodafoneWith an aim to counter threats from Reliance Jio free phone call offer, Telecom operator Vodafone India on Friday has announced that it will be making incoming calls free for customers on national roaming. Starting this Diwali, Vodafone customers travelling anywhere out of their telecom circle will be able to receive incoming calls toll free without having the need to get special roaming packs.

“Even though outgoing charges while roaming had become comparable to home charges, consumer research has shown that incoming charges while roaming have been a hindrance to worry free usage,” Vodafone India, Director – Commercial, Sandeep Kataria said.

This move is a part of the company’s ongoing 200 million customer celebration, providing free incoming on national roaming will ensure that our customers do not think twice while traveling out of town, Kataria added.

Earlier, the company had announced that it will double the monthly data for its subscribers on Vodafone Red plans. In addition to the increase in data, users can also get a free subscription to Vodafone Play for a limited time. A Vodafone Red plan allows postpaid subscribers to create a group of up to six people who share voice, SMS and Internet data. (Source: Newindianexpress)

Free Wi-Fi at many locations in Etawah

Free Wi-Fi at many locations in EtawahEtawah, the native district of chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, is gearing up to get free Wi-Fi facilities. "The infrastructure is in place. The government will inaugurate the project on August 25. People will get free Wi-Fi services at various locations, including Kali Vahan temple, Nagar Palika premises, Pakka Talab, the bus stand and Bais Khwaja locality," said district magistrate Nitin Bansal. "It will be the first district in the state to provide free Wi-Fi service," he added.

Though the authorities have not confirmed the duration of the free service, sources said people will be able to get free Wi-Fi service for reasonable amount of time. "The service will be free for a reasonable amount of time and the initial trial and installation testing at the sites is complete," said a senior district officer. (ET Telecom)

Free Wi-Fi hotspots launched in Gurgaon

Telecom Ministry clears Airtel-Aircel 4G spectrum trading dealHaryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar today launched public Wi-Fi hotspots to provide internet connectivity to users in the city. People visiting MG Road, Sadar Bazaar, Sector 29 market and Sarhaul Village can enjoy free Wi-Fi sessions on their devices. Users will be able to enjoy a free daily quota limit of 30 minutes per day per device, Airtel said in a statement. Airtel had won the mandate for the Wi-Fi launch from Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon last year making it the most preferred partner to enable residents in the Millennium City to enjoy a world-class internet experience.

The Wi-Fi is open to all users, who have a compatible device. When in proximity to the Wi-Fi, a user has to just enable Wi-Fi in his/her device settings and search for 'MSG powered by Airtel', Airtel said. One can continue to use the Wi-Fi services post 30 minutes also, however they will be charged a nominal amount, it said. (Source: ET Telecom)

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