Like with the previous orders, India cited cybersecurity concerns to block these apps. “This action was taken based on the inputs regarding these apps for engaging in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order,” said India’s IT Ministry in a statement.
The ministry said it issued the order of blocking these apps “based on the comprehensive reports received from Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Center, Ministry of Home Affairs.”
The apps that have been banned include popular short video service Snack Video, which had surged to the top of the chart in recent months, as well as e-commerce app AliExpress, delivery app Lalamove, and shopping app Taobao Live.
Cashfree kickstarted its journey in 2015 as a solution for restaurants in Bangalore that needed an efficient way for their delivery personnel to collect cash from customers.
Akash Sinha and Reeju Datta, the founders of Cashfree, did not have any prior experience with payments. When their merchants asked if they could build a service to accept payments online, the founders quickly realized that Cashfree could serve a wider purpose.
In the early days, Cashfree also struggled to court investors, many of whom did not think a payments processing firm could grow big — and do so fast enough. But the startup’s fate changed after Y Combinator accepted its application, even though the founders had missed the deadline and couldn’t arrive to join the batch on time. Y Combinator later financed Cashfree’s seed round.
Fast-forward five years, Cashfree today offers more than a dozen products and services and helps over 55,000 businesses disburse salary to employees, accept payments online, set up recurring payments and settle marketplace commissions.
Some of its customers include financial services startup Cred, online grocer BigBasket, food delivery platform Zomato, insurers HDFC Ergo and Acko and travel ticketing service provider Ixigo. The startup works with several banks and also offers integrations with platforms such as Shopify, PayPal and Amazon Pay.
Based on its offerings, Cashfree today competes with scores of startups, but it has an edge — if not many. Cashfree has been profitable for the past three years, Sinha, who serves as the startup’s chief executive, told TechCrunch in an interview.
“Cashfree has maintained a leadership position in this space and is now going through a period of rapid growth fuelled by the development of unique and innovative products that serve the needs of its customers,” Udayan Goyal, co-founder and a managing partner at Apis, said in a statement.
The startup processed over $12 billion in payments volumes in the financial year that ended in March. Sinha said part of the fresh fund will be deployed in R&D so that Cashfree can scale its technology stack and build more services, including those that can digitize more offline payments for its clients.
Cashfree is also working on building cross-border payments solutions to explore opportunities in emerging markets, he said.
“We still see payments as an evolving industry with its own challenges and we would be investing in next-gen payments as well as banking tech to make payments processing easier and more reliable. With the solid foundation of in-house technologies, tech-driven processes and in-depth industry knowledge, we are confident of growing Cashfree to be the leader in the payments space in India and internationally,” he said.
Karan Bajaj, an Indian entrepreneur who teaches meditation and in a recent book guides others on how to avoid noise, is going after the most vocal critic of his startup.
Bajaj, founder of coding platform aimed at kids WhiteHat Jr, has filed a defamation case against Pradeep Poonia, an engineer who has publicly criticized the firm for its marketing tactics, the quality of the courses on the platform, and aggressive takedown of such criticism.
In the lawsuit — in which Bajaj is seeking $2.6 million in damages — Poonia has been accused of infringing trademarks and copyright of properties owned by WhiteHat Jr, defaming and spreading misleading information about the startup and its founder, and accessing the company’s private communications app.
Broadband communication satellite company OneWeb has emerged from its Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection status, the company announced today. It’s now also officially owned by a consortium consisting of the UK government and India’s Bharti Global, and Neil Masterson is now installed as CEO, replacing outgoing chief executive Adrian Steckel, who will remain as a Board advisor.
OneWeb seems eager to get back to actively launching the satellites that will make up its 650-strong constellation – it has set December 17 as the target date for its next launch. The company has 74 satellite already on orbit across three prior launches, which occurred prior to its bankruptcy filing in March.
OneWeb’s acquisition by the combined UK government/Bharti Global tie-up was revealed in July, providing a path for the financially beleaguered company to get back to active status with $1 billion in equity funding. The UK-based company will continue to operate primarily from the UK via this new deal, and it’s being positioned as a key cornerstone in positioning the UK as a space sector leader and innovator.
The company also announced that its joint-venture manufacturing facility with Airbus has resumed operation in Florida, and will continue to produce new spacecraft for future launches. The plan is to launch additional satellites throughout next year and 2022, and then begin offering commercial service in select areas late in 2021, with a global service expansion intended for 2022.
Starting a new phone brand in 2018 might seem too late in an already crowded market, but Sky Li was convinced that consumers between 18-25 years old were largely under-served — they needed something that was both affordable and cool.
A few months after Li founded Realme in May that year, the smartphone company organized a product launch at a college campus in India, the world’s second-largest smartphone market. It brought its own production crew, built a makeshift stage and invited local rappers to grace the event.
“I was amazed. No one was sitting down and it felt like a carnival, a big disco party,” Chase Xu, Realme’s 31-year-old chief marketing officer, told me at the firm’s headquarters in Shenzhen.
“No foreign company had ever entered the campus. They didn’t think it was possible. Why would a university let you do a launch event there?” Xu, clad in a minimalist, chic black jacket from a domestic brand, recounted with enthusiasm and pride.
“Realme became widely known thanks to the event. People found it very interesting that it was mixing with students. It didn’t just launch a product. It was showing off a youthful, flamboyant attitude.”
Within nine quarters, Realme has shipped 50 million handsets around the world with India as its biggest market, even larger than China. The target this year is to double last year’s target to 50 million units, a goal that’s “nearly complete” according to Xu. It’s now the world’s 7th biggest smartphone brand, trailing only after those who have been around for much longer — Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi, Apple, Oppo and Vivo, according to a Q3 report from research firm Canalys.
Realme didn’t accomplish all that from scratch. It’s yet another smartphone brand rooted in BBK Group, the mystic electronics empire that owns and supports some of the world’s largest phone makers Vivo, Oppo, OnePlus, and now Realme.
In 2018, former Oppo vice president and head of overseas business Sky Li announced he was resigning from Oppo to start Realme as an independent brand, similar to how OnePlus started in 2013. Today, Realme, OnePlus and Oppo all belong to the same holding group. That entity, together with Vivo, sits under BBK, which started out in 1998 selling electronic dictionaries in south China and has been diversifying its portfolio ever since.
While Realme and OnePlus operate independently, they get access to Oppo’s supply chain, a model that has allowed them to have lighter assets and consequently fewer costs.
Realme’s pop-up store in India / Photo: Realme
“Realme has an advantage because we share a supply chain with Oppo. We are able to get very good resources from the supply end, stay ahead globally and obtain what we should have,” said Xu.
For instance, the nascent phone maker was among the first to get Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 865 chips and put four cameras into a handset. Priority isn’t always guaranteed, however, because “there is definitely competition between us and our peers to fight to be the first,” Xu admitted. “Of course, it also depends on the progress of each team’s research and development.”
The light-asset strategy also means Realme is able to offer competitive technologies at relatively low prices. In India, its 8GB RAM, 128GB phone cost less than 1,000 yuan ($152) and its notch screen one was under 1,500 yuan ($228).
Realme isn’t concerned about increasing margin in the “growth stage,” Xu said, and the firm has “been profitable from the outset.” On the other hand, the phone maker is also introducing a slew of IoT gadgets like smart TVs and earphones, categories with higher markups.
The smartphone-plus-IoT strategy is certainly not unique, as its siblings in the BBK family, as well as Xiaomi and Huawei, have the same vision: smartphones and smart devices from the same brand will form a nicely interconnected ecosystem, driving sales and data collection for each other.
Another way to cut costs, according to Xu, is to avoid extravagant outdoor advertising. The company prefers more subtle, word-of-mouth promotion like working with influencers, throwing campus music festivals and fostering an online fan community. And the strategy seems to be clicking with the young generation who like to interact with the brand they like and even be part of its creative process.
The most enthusiastic users would sometimes message Xu with pencil sketching of what they envisioned Realme’s next products should look like. “They have very interesting and excellent ideas. This is a great generation,” the executive said.
Chinese brands go global
A Realme event during Diwali / Photo: Realme
Realme’s India chief executive Madhav Sheth is equally adored by the country’s young consumers. A former distribution partner of Realme, he made an impression on Realme founder Li, who “understands the Indian market very well despite not speaking fluent English,” according to Xu.
“Sheth is very charismatic and good at public speaking. He knows how to excite people,” Xu spoke highly of Sheth, who is an avid Twitter user and has garnered some 280,000 followers since he joined in the spring of 2018.
Against all odds, Realme is seeing robust growth in India. In Q3, it grew 4% from the previous quarter and currently ranks fourth in India with a 10% market share, according to research firm Counterpoint.
“During the start of the quarter, we witnessed some anti-China consumer sentiments impacting sales of brands originating from China. However, these sentiments have subsided as consumers are weighing in different parameters during the purchase as well,” the researcher wrote in the report.
“Of course the India-China conflict is not something we want to see. It’s a problem of international relationships. Realme doesn’t take part in politics,” Xu assured. “There will always be extremist users. What we can do is to expand our fan base, give them what they want, and leave the extremists alone.”
Next year, Realme is looking to ramp up expansion in Europe, Russia and its home market China. None will be a small feat as they are much-coveted markets for all major phone makers.
Realme’s onion-inspired model designed by prominent Japanese designer Naoto Fukasawa
Part of Realme’s effort to associate itself with what Gen-Z around the world considers “cool” is to work with prominent designers. Xu’s eyes lit up, raising his hand in the air as if he was holding a ball. He was mirroring Naoto Fukasawa, the renowned Japanese industrial designer who came up with the onion-inspired color and pattern of the Realme X model.
“The afternoon sunlight slanted through the large windows. [Fukasawa] gave me a playful look, took an onion from beneath the table, and told me that was his inspiration,” Xu recalled. “He slowly turned the onion in the sun. I was dumbfounded. The veins, the pink, gold color, the texture. It was so beautiful. You wouldn’t think it was an onion. You’d think it was craftwork.”
South Korea-based PUBG Corporation, which runs sleeper hit gaming title PUBG Mobile, announced last week that it plans to return to India, its largest market by users. But its announcement did not address a key question: Is India, which banned the app in September, on the same page?
The company says it will locally store Indian users’ data, open a local office and release a new game created especially for the world’s second-largest internet market. To sweeten the deal, PUBG Corporation also plans to invest $100 million in India’s gaming, esports and IT ecosystems.
But PUBG’s announcement, which TechCrunch reported as imminent last week, is treading in uncharted territory and it remains unclear if its efforts allay the concerns raised by the government.
New Delhi says it enforced the ban over cybersecurity concerns. The government had received complaints about the apps stealing user data and transmitting it to servers abroad, the nation’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said at the time. The banned apps are “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India,” it added.
KRAFTON, the parent firm of PUBG Corporation, inked a deal with Microsoft to store users’ data of PUBG Mobile and its other properties on Azure servers. Microsoft has three cloud regions in India. Prior to the move, PUBG Mobile data concerning Indian users was stored on Tencent Cloud. In addition, PUBG said it is committed to conducting periodic audits of its Indian users’ data.
At face value, it appears that PUBG Corporation has resolved the issues that the Indian government had raised. But industry executives say that meeting those concerns is perhaps not all it would take to return to the country.
Here’s where things get complicated.
Not a single app India has blocked in the country has made its comeback yet. Some firms such as TikTok have been engaging with the Indian government for more than four months and have promised to make investments in the country, but they are still not out of the woods.
PUBG Corporation, too, has not revealed when it plans to release the new game in India. “More information about the launch of PUBG Mobile India will be shared at a later day,” it said in a statement last Thursday. According to a popular YouTuber who publishes gameplay videos on PUBG Mobile, the company has privately released the installation file of the new game and has hinted that it plans to release the game in India as soon as Friday. (There’s also a big marketing campaign in the works, which could begin on Friday, people familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.)
True Balance, a South Korean startup which runs an eponymous financial services app aimed at tens of millions of users in small cities and towns in India, said on Wednesday it has raised $28 million in a new financing round and expects to turn a profit next year.
SoftBank Ventures Asia, Naver, BonAngels, Daesung Private Equity, and Shinhan Capital financed the five-year-old startup’s Series D financing round. The startup, which has headquarters in Seoul and Gurgaon, has raised about $90 million to date.
In an interview with TechCrunch, Charlie Lee, founder and chief executive of True Balance, said the startup has disbursed over $13.5 million in small loans to consumers. The size of these loans vary from $6.75 to $675, he said.
Its customers don’t have a credit score, which makes it complicated for them to get a loan from financial institutions such as banks. Lee explained that True Balance, which formerly operated as Balancehero India, looks at alternative data to determine a user’s credit worthiness.
Hundreds of millions of Indian today don’t have a credit score, and without this, they can’t avail a range of services from banks. Scores of startups in India and Southeast Asia are experimenting with alternative data such as a phone a consumer owns and the transactions she makes and hundreds of other data points to determine these users’ credit worthiness.
Lee did not reveal how many users it has lent money to have returned the amount, but said the figure was so high that the startup is open to engaging with other firms who are looking to make use of alternative data but don’t have the tech stack.
The startup told TechCrunch last year that it was nearing profitability — a milestone it now hopes to reach by the second quarter of next year. Lee said the coronavirus, which has severely impacted the financial services sector, also hurt True Balance’s business.
Payments business in India remains a category that has yet to fully recover from the coronavirus pandemic and the sector at large won’t be profitable for at least another three years, analysts at Goldman Sachs wrote in a report they sent to clients earlier this month.
“Before the coronavirus, our business was growing very fast,” said Lee. “The coronavirus and moratorium (enforced by the nation’s central bank) hit us. We utilized this time to improve our collection process and other aspects of the business.”
In the last three months, True Balance has started to grow again, Lee said, claiming a 300% surge. The startup continues to run a range of other services including the ability to book train tickets and e-commerce and is also working on insurance.
“We will continue focusing on non-online payment users, non-credit score users, people who deserve our help, but need a way to get to it,” he said.
The fresh capital will be deployed to make the startup reach a breakeven and then profitability, he said.
Google today announced an update to Google Maps that includes a number of new COVID-related features, as well as the ability to see the live status of your takeout or delivery orders, as well as the launch of the long-expected new Assistant driving mode.
In addition, the company shared a few new stats around Google Maps today. The company says that it makes 50 million updates to Maps each day now, for example, though that includes user-generated content like user reviews, photos and ratings. The company also now features “popular times” information for 20 million places around the globe.
Image Credits: Google Maps
As far as COVID is concerned, there are two announcements here. First, Google is updating the COVID layer in Google Maps on Android and iOS with some new information, including the number of all-time detected cases in an area and links to COVID resources from local governments. Second, Google Maps can now tell you, in real time, how busy a given transit line is so you can avoid packed trains or busses, for example. That’s based on real-time feedback from Google Maps users and will feel familiar if you are aware of how Google Maps can already show you how busy a given store or restaurant currently is.
Image Credits: Google Maps
Semi-related — delivery services are booming during the pandemic, after all (even as they continue to struggle to make a profit) — Google Maps on mobile will now be able to show you the live delivery status of your takeout and delivery orders in the U.S., Canada, Germany, Australia, Brazil and India. To do so, you have to book your order from Google Maps on Android or iOS.
For Google Maps users who don’t have an Android Auto-compatible car, the new Google Assistant driving mode in Maps has long been something to look forward to. The company first talked about this set of new features at its I/O developers conference in May 2019, but as is so often the case, features announced at I/O take a while to get to market. Originally, this was supposed to launch last summer.
Image Credits: Google Maps
The idea here is to allow drivers to get alerts about incoming calls, have the Assistant read out text messages and control your music right inside of Google Maps. Using the Assistant ideally reduces driver distractions. For now, this new mode is only coming to Android users in the U.S., though, and the number of features it supports remains limited. Google promises to support more features over time, but it’s not clear which features it plans to add to this mode.
Turtlemint, an Indian startup that is helping consumers identify and purchase the most appropriate insurance policies for them, has raised $30 million in a new financing round as it looks to reach more users in small cities and towns in the world’s second largest internet market.
The new round, the five-year-old Mumbai-headquartered startup’s Series D, was led by GGV Capital . American Family Ventures, MassMutual Ventures and SIG, and existing investors Blume Ventures, Sequoia Capital India, Nexus Venture Partners, Dream Incubator and Trifecta Capital also participated in the round, which brings Turtlemint’s total to-date raise to $55 million.
Only a fraction of India’s 1.3 billion people currently have access to insurance. Insurance products had reached less than 3% of the population as of 2017, according to rating agency ICRA. An average Indian makes about $2,100 a year, according to the World Bank. ICRA estimated that of those Indians who had purchased an insurance product, they were spending less than $50 on it in 2017.
Another major reason why existing insurance firms are struggling to sell to consumers is because they are too reliant on on-ground advisors.
Turtlemint co-founders Anand Prabhudesai (left) and Dhirendra Mahyavanshi pose for a picture (Turtlemint)
Instead of bypassing these advisors, Turtlemint is embracing them. It works with over 100,000 such agents, equipping them with digital tools to offer wider and more relevant recommendations to consumers and speed-up the onboarding process, which has traditionally required a lot of paperwork.
These advisors, who continue to command over 90% of all insurance sales in the country, “play a critical role in bridging the gap in tier 2 and 3 towns and cities, where low physical presence of insurance companies greatly impacts seamless access to insurance products and information,” the startup said.
Turtlemint works with over 40 insurance companies in India and serves as a broker, charging these firms a commission for policies it sells. The startup said it has amassed more than 1.5 million customers.
“By developing products for the micro-entrepreneurs and the rising middle class, Turtlemint has an opportunity to have a positive impact on India’s economy,” said Hans Tung, Managing Partner at GGV Capital, in a statement. “Dhirendra, Anand, and their team built an incredible platform that enables over 100,000 mom-and-pop financial advisors to serve consumers’ best interests with digital tools, helping middle-class families in India get insured with the best products available.”
In an interview with TechCrunch, Turtlemint co-founder Anand Prabhudesai said the startup will deploy the fresh capital to grow its network of advisors and improve its technology stack to further improve the experience for consumers. The startup today also offers training to these advisors and has built tools to help them digitally reach potential customers.
“Continuous education is a very important aspect of being a successful financial entrepreneur. To this end, we have created an online education product with a wide range of courses on financial products, advice-based sales techniques and other soft skills. Our content is now available in seven regional languages and over 20,000 learners are active each month on our edtech platform. A lot of these are first-time advisors who are taking their first steps towards starting their advisory business. Our target is to create a million successful financial entrepreneurs over the next 3-5 years,” he said.
Ride Vision, an Israeli startup that is building an AI-driven safety system to prevent motorcycle collisions, today announced that it has raised a $7 million Series A round led by crowdsourcing platform OurCrowd. YL Ventures, which typically specializes in cybersecurity startups but also led the company’s $2.5 million seed round in 2018, Mobilion VC and motorcycle mirror manufacturer Metagal also participated in this round. The company has now raised a total of $10 million.
In addition to this new funding round, Ride Vision also today announced a new partnership with automotive parts manufacturer Continental .
“As motorcycle enthusiasts, we at Ride Vision are excited at the prospect of our international launch and our partnership with Continental,” Uri Lavi, CEO and co-founder of Ride Vision, said in today’s announcement. “This moment is a major milestone, as we stride toward our dream of empowering bikers to feel truly safe while they enjoy the ride.”
The general idea here is pretty straightforward and comparable with the blind-spot monitoring system in your car. Using computer vision, Ride Vision’s system, the Ride Vision 1, analyzes the traffic around a rider in real time. It provides forward collision alerts and monitors your blind spot, but it can also tell you when you’re following another rider or car too closely. It can also simply record your ride and, coming soon, it’ll be able to make emergency calls on your behalf when things go awry.
As the company argues, the number of motorcycles (and other motorized two-wheeled vehicles) has only increased during the pandemic, as people started avoiding public transport and looked for relatively affordable alternatives. In Europe, sales of two-wheeled vehicles increased by 30% during the pandemic.
The hardware on the motorcycle itself is pretty straightforward. It includes two wide-angle cameras (one each at the front and rear), as well as alert indicators on the mirrors, as well as the main computing unit. Ride Vision has patents on its human-machine warning interface and vision algorithms.
It’s worth noting that there are some blind-spot monitoring solutions for motorcycles on the market already, including those from Innovv and Senzar. Honda also has patents on similar technologies. These do not provide the kind of 360-degree view that Ride Vision is aiming for.
Ride Vision says its products will be available in Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain, France, Greece, Israel and the U.K. in early 2021, with the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Australia, Japan, India, China and others following later.
Reliance Retail has acquired a majority stake in furniture and decor platform Urban Ladder, making a broader push into e-commerce as the largest retail chain in India gears up to fight Amazon and Flipkart.
In a filing to the local stock exchange, Reliance Retail said it had acquired a 96% stake in Urban Ladder for about $24.43 million. The Indian retail giant, which retains the option to acquire the remainder stake in the seven-and-a-half-years-old startup, said it has proposed to invest up to $10.06 million more in Urban Ladder by December 2023.
The startup had raised about $115 million from Sequoia Capital, SAIF Partners, Steadview Capital, and MIT and other investors, according to Crunchbase and Tracxn. In the financial year that ended in March, the Indian startup reported a loss of $6.63 million on a turnover of $58.2 million.
Reliance Retail said (PDF) the investment “will further enable the group’s digital and new commerce initiatives and widen the bouquet of consumer products provided by the group, while enhancing user engagement and experience across its retail offerings.”
Additionally, the company said it plans to make investments worth $100 million in India, one of the largest markets of PUBG Mobile, to cultivate the local video game, esports, entertainment, and IT industries ecosystems. “Thanks to overwhelming community enthusiasm for PUBG esports in India, the company also plans to make investments by hosting India-exclusive esports events, which will feature the biggest tournaments, the largest prize pools, and the best tournament productions,” it said in a statement.
The company did not share exactly when the new game would be released in India.
New Delhi has banned over 200 apps including PUBG Mobile and TikTok in recent months over cybersecurity concerns. To allay concerns of the Indian government, PUBG Mobile has cut ties with Chinese internet giant, Tencent, which is its publisher in many markets. The company last week announced that it had inked a global deal with Microsoft to move all PUBG Mobile data — as well as data from its other properties — to Azure.
In a statement on Thursday, PUBG Corporation said, “privacy and security of Indian player data being a top priority for PUBG Corporation, the company will conduct regular audits and verifications on the storage systems holding Indian users’ personally identifiable information to reinforce security and ensure that their data is safely managed.”
Prior to the ban in early September, PUBG Mobile had amassed over 50 million monthly active users in India, more than any other mobile game in the country. It helped establish an entire ecosystem of esports organisations and even a cottage industry of streamers that made the most of its spectator sport-friendly gameplay, said Rishi Alwani, a long-time analyst of Indian gaming market and publisher of news outlet The Mako Reactor.
Jio Platforms is planning to launch as many as 200 million smartphones in the next three years, according to a pitch the telecom giant has made to several developers. These smartphones, as is the case with nearly 40 million of Jio’s feature phones in circulation today, will have an app store with only a few dozen apps, all vetted and approved by Jio, according to one developer who was pitched by Jio Platforms. An industry executive described Jio’s store as a walled garden.
The Indian watchdog, Competition Commission of India (CCI), was said to be interested in reviewing the data sharing agreement between Google and Jio, Indian newspaper Economic Times reported last month, citing an unidentified source.
The announcement today comes days after the CCI announced it had directed an in-depth investigation into Google to verify the allegations of whether the Android-maker promotes its payments service during the installation of an Android smartphone (and whether phone vendors have a choice to avoid this); and if Google Play Store’s billing system is designed “to the disadvantage of both i.e. apps facilitating payment through UPI, as well as users.”
The call for this in-depth investigation was prompted after the CCI concluded in its initial review that requiring Google Pay to be used to buy apps or make in-app payments was an “imposition of unfair and discriminatory condition, denial of market access for competing apps of Google Pay and leveraging on the part of Google,” the watchdog said.
India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, which oversees programs beamed on television and theatres in the country, will now also regulate policies for streaming platforms and digital news outlets in a move that is widely believed to kickstart an era of more frequent and stricter censorship on what online services air.
The new rules (PDF), signed by India’s President Ram Nath Kovind this week, might end the years-long efforts by digital firms to self-regulate their own content to avoid the broader oversight that impacts television channels and theatres and whose programs appeared on those platforms. (Streaming platforms may be permitted to continue to self-regulate and report to I&B, similar to how TV channels follow a programming code and their self-regulatory body works with I&B. But there is no clarity on this currently.)
For instance, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting currently certifies what movies hit the theatres in the country and the scenes they need to clip or alter to receive those certifications. But movies and shows appearing on services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video did not require a certification and had wider tolerance for sensitive subjects.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has previously also ordered local television channels to not air sensitive documentaries.
India’s Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology previously oversaw online streaming services, but it did not enforce any major changes. The ministry also oversees platforms where videos are populated by users.
Officials of India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting have previously argued that with proliferation of online platforms in India — there are about 600 million internet users in the country — there needs to be parity between regulations on them and traditional media sources.
“There is definitely a need for a level playing field for all media. But that doesn’t mean we will bring everybody under a heavy regulatory structure. Our government has been focused on ease of doing business and less regulation, but more effective regulation,” said Amit Khare, Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, earlier this year.
The move by the world’s second largest internet market is bound to make players like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney’s Hotstar, Times Internet’s MX Player, and dozens of other streaming services and web-based news outlets more cautious about what all they choose to stream and publish on their platforms, an executive with one of the top streaming services told TechCrunch, requesting anonymity.
Digital news outlets and platforms that cover “current affairs” will now also be overseen by India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Over the years, the Indian government has pressured advertisers and indulged in other practices to shape what several news channels show to their audiences.
Information and Broadcasting minister Prakash Javdekar is expected to address this week’s announcement in an hour. We will update the story with additional details.
Bucking the slowdown in most of the power sector caused by responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, renewable energy actually grew in 2020, and will represent about 90% of the total power capacity added for the year, according to the International Energy Agency.
A surge in new projects from China and the US led the charge for renewable power, which will account for almost 200 gigawatts of additional power generating capacity around the world, according to the IEA’s Renewables 2020.
Big additions came from hydropower, solar and wind. Wind and solar power generating assets are expected to jump by 30% in both China and the US as developers take advantage of incentives that are set to expire.
The agency predicts that India and the European Union will also jump in and add an additional 10% of renewable capacity — marking the fastest period of growth for the industry since 2015.
These supply additions are in part due to the commissioning of projects delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted supply chains and put a stop to construction.
“Renewable power is defying the difficulties caused by the pandemic, showing robust growth while others fuels struggle,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director, in a statement. “The resilience and positive prospects of the sector are clearly reflected by continued strong appetite from investors – and the future looks even brighter with new capacity additions on course to set fresh records this year and next.”
Throughout the first ten months of the year, China, India, and the EU have boosted auctioned renewable power capacity by 15% over the year ago period. Meanwhile, shares of publicly traded renewable equipment manufacturers and project developers have been outperforming most stock indices and the overall energy sector, the agency noted.
Much of this success, the agency noted, will require continued political support to work. Expiring incentives could reduce demand, but if governments provide some certainty around the continuation of subsidy programs, solar and wind additions could jump by another 25% by 2022. With the right policy, solar photovoltaic installations could reach a record 150 gigawatts by 2022, which would be a 40% increase in just about three years.
“Renewables are resilient to the Covid crisis but not to policy uncertainties,” said Dr Birol, in a statement. “Governments can tackle these issues to help bring about a sustainable recovery and accelerate clean energy transitions. In the United States, for instance, if the proposed clean electricity policies of the next US administration are implemented, they could lead to a much more rapid deployment of solar PV and wind, contributing to a faster [decarbonization] of the power sector.”
If the agency’s predictions hold, renewable energy could become the largest source of electricity worldwide by 2025, according to Dr. Birol.
“By that time, renewables are expected to supply one-third of the world’s electricity – and their total capacity will be twice the size of the entire power capacity of China today,” Birol said in a statement.
Xpressbees, an Indian logistics firm that works with several e-commerce firms in the country, said on Monday it has raised $110 million in a new financing round as online shopping booms in the world’s second largest internet market.
The Pune-headquartered startup’s Series E financing round was led by private equity firms Investcorp, Norwest Venture Partners and Gaja Capital, the five-year-old startup said. Xpressbees, which concluded its Series D round three years ago, has raised $175.8 million to date, according to research firm Tracxn. The new round valued the startup at more than $350 million.
Xpressbees helps more than 1,000 customers — including financial and e-commerce services giant Paytm, social commerce startup Meesho, eyewear seller Lenskart, phone maker Xiaomi, online pharmacy NetMeds and online marketplace Snapdeal — deliver their products across the country. It has presence in over 2,000 cities and towns, and it processes more than 2.5 million orders a day — up from about 600,000 daily orders last year.
“We have been truly impressed by their strong customer centricity and capital efficiency which has resulted in exceptional feedback from top players in the e-commerce sector!” said Niren Shah, managing director and head of Norwest Venture Partners in India, in a statement.
Xpressbees started its journey within FirstCry, an e-commerce for baby products, in 2012. But in 2015, it became an independent company with Amitava Saha, co-founder and chief operating officer of FirstCry, moving out of FirstCry to become chief executive of Xpressbees. Supam Maheshwari, who co-founded FirstCry and serves as its chief executive, is the other co-founder of Xpressbees.
The startup said it plans to deploy the fresh capital to further automate its hubs and sorting centres, and expand its delivery footprint to cover the entire country. “I am delighted to see the impact we are making in the logistics ecosystem in the country,” said Saha in a statement.
At stake is India’s growing logistics industry, which NVP’s Shah estimated to be worth $200 billion. “We continue to believe that new age technology led logistics players such as Xpressbees will continue to play a pivotal role both in the growth of the e-commerce sector in India,” he added.
E-commerce sales, which account for less than 5% of all retail sales in India, skyrocketed during the pandemic after New Delhi enforced a two-month nationwide lockdown. During their festival sales last month, Amazon India and Walmart-owned Flipkart reported a record surge in their sales. The firms have created more than 150,000 seasonal jobs to accommodate the growing demand of orders. Xpressbees works with over 30,000 delivery staff.
Xpressbees competes with a handful of established firms and startups, including SoftBank-backed Delhivery, which became a unicorn last year, and Ecom Express, which has presence in about 2,400 Indian cities and towns.
India’s antitrust watchdog has opened an investigation into Google for allegedly abusing the dominant position of its app store to promote its payments service in the world’s second largest internet market.
In its Monday announcement (PDF) about opening an antitrust case against Google, Indian watchdog Competition Commission of India said it would review claims whether Google “unfairly” skews the search results on the Play Store in favor of Google Pay app over others; prominently promotes Google Pay during the setup of an Android smartphone, and if Play Store’s billing system is designed “to the disadvantage of both i.e. apps facilitating payment through UPI, as well as users.”
The informant, who has not been identified, alleged that Google “rigs its feature app lists such as ‘Editor’s Choice Apps’, ‘User Choice Apps’ and ‘Top Free apps’ … demonstrating clear bias in favor of its own app; by manipulating the search advertisements algorithm on the Play Store in favour of Google Pay; and by pre-installing and prominently placing Google Pay on Android smartphones at the time of initial set-up resulting in a ‘status-quo bias’ to the detriment of other apps facilitating payments through UPI as well.”
If the allegation provided by the informant, who has not been identified, is found credible, Google’s practices could be in violation of various provisions of Section 4 of India’s Competition Act of 2002.
Google Pay, formerly known as Tez, is one of the most popular payments services in India. It competes with Walmart’s PhonePe, Paytm, and a range of other apps. As of last month, Walmart’s PhonePe was slightly ahead of Google Pay in India. Both the apps individually process roughly 40% of all transactions on UPI, a payments infrastructure built by large banks in the country. UPI is the most popular digital payments solution in India.
Google Play Store supports a range of payments methods, including credit cards, mobile wallets, internet banking, and UPI. But, as the informant alleges, “UPI based digital payment apps are more convenient, secured, economical, etc. over other digital payment solutions.” Based on such distinct features, the Indian watchdog said, “the Informant has averred that the market for apps facilitating payment through UPI is a separate relevant market as users do not regard apps facilitating payment through UPI as interchangeable or substitutable with other modes of digital payment.”
The new antitrust case is the latest headache for Google in India, its biggest market by users. In recent months, the dominant position of Android — which powers roughly 99% smartphones in the country, according to research firm Counterpoint, has also irked many startups in the country, who have formed an informal coalition to fight back the Android maker.
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Amazon will invest about $2.8 billion in Telangana to set up a new AWS Cloud region in the southern state of India, a top Indian politician announced on Friday.
The investment will allow Amazon to launch an AWS Cloud region in Hyderabad city by mid-2022, said K. T. Rama Rao, Minister for Information Technology, Electronics & Communications, Municipal Administration and Urban Development and Industries & Commerce Departments, Government of Telangana.
The new AWS Asia Region will be Amazon’s second infrastructure region in India, Amazon said in a press release. It did not disclose the size of the investment.
“The new AWS Asia Pacific (Hyderabad) Region will enable even more developers, startups, and enterprises as well as government, education, and non-profit organizations to run their applications and serve end users from data centers located in India,” the e-commerce giant said.
“Businesses in India are embracing cloud computing to reduce costs, increase agility, and enable rapid innovation to meet the needs of billions of customers in India and abroad,” said Peter DeSantis, Senior Vice President of Global Infrastructure and Customer Support, Amazon Web Services, in a statement. “Together with our AWS Asia Pacific (Mumbai) Region, we’re providing customers with more flexibility and choice, while allowing them to architect their infrastructure for even greater fault tolerance, resiliency, and availability across geographic locations.”
The investment illustrates the opportunities Amazon, which has poured over $6.5 billion in its India operations to date and leads the cloud market in the nation, sees in the world’s second largest internet market.
“This is a big win for the state government of Telangana for attracting this level of investment,” said Jayanth Kolla, chief analyst at consultancy firm Convergence Catalyst. He told TechCrunch that the move will also help Amazon better comply with India’s data localization policy. “We could see states launch their own similar laws in the future.”
AWS has courted several high-profile businesses as customers in recent years. Some of these include automobile giant Ashok Leyland, life insurance firm Aditya Birla Capital, edtech giant Byju’s, Axis Bank, Bajaj Capital, ClearTax, Dream11, Druva, Edelweiss, Edunext, Extramarks, Freshworks, HDFC Life, Mahindra Electric, Ola, Oyo, Policybazaar, Quantela, RBL Bank, redBus, Sharda University, Swiggy, Tata Sky, and Zerodha.
PUBG Mobile, the sleeper hit title that was banned in India two months ago over cybersecurity concerns, is plotting to make a return in the world’s second largest internet market, two sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.
The South Korean firm has engaged with global cloud service providers in recent weeks to store Indian users’ data within the country to allay New Delhi’s concerns about user data residency and security, one of the sources said.
The gaming giant has privately informed some high-profile streamers in the country that it expects to resume the service in India before the end of this year, the other source said. Both the sources requested anonymity as they are not authorized to speak to the press. PUBG Corporation did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
The company could make an announcement about its future plans for India as soon as this week. It also plans to run a marketing campaign in the country during the festival of Diwali next week, one of the sources said.
In recent weeks, PUBG has also engaged with a number of local firms including SoftBank-backed Paytm and telecom giant Airtel to explore whether they would be interested in publishing the popular mobile game in the country, an industry executive said. A Paytm spokesperson declined to comment.
With more than 50 million monthly active users in India, PUBG Mobile was by far the most popular mobile game in the country before it was banned. It helped establish an entire ecosystem of esports organisations to teams and even a cottage industry of streamers that made the most of its spectator sport-friendly gameplay, said Rishi Alwani, a long-time analyst of Indian gaming market and publisher of news outlet The Mako Reactor.
PUBG Mobile’s return, however, could complicate matters for several industry players, including some that are currently building similar games to cash in on its absence and their conversations with venture capital firms over ongoing financing rounds.
It would also suggest that more than 200 other Chinese apps that India has banned in recent months could hope to allay New Delhi’s concerns by making some changes to where they store their users data. (That was also the understanding between TikTok and Reliance when they engaged in investment opportunities earlier this year.)
National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), the body that operates the widely popular UPI payments infrastructure, said on Thursday evening that it has granted approval to WhatsApp to roll out UPI-powered payments in India.
Like Google, Samsung, and a number of other firms, WhatsApp has built its payments service atop UPI, a payments infrastructure built by a coalition of large banks in India. NPCI said WhatsApp, which has amassed over 400 million users in India, can expand payments to its users in a “graded manner” and to start with, it can only roll out the payments service to 20 million users and has to work with multiple banking partners.
A WhatsApp spokesperson in India did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Google and Walmart currently dominate the mobile payments market in India with roughly 40% of the UPI market share. UPI has emerged as the most popular digital payments method in India, thanks in part to New Delhi’s abrupt move to invalidate more than 85% of the paper cash circulation in the nation in late 2016.
Google and Walmart have a new challenge ahead of them as they race to expand the reach of their payments apps in India: They won’t be permitted to grow beyond a limit.
National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), the body that operates the widely popular UPI payments infrastructure, said Thursday evening that it will enforce a cap to ensure that no single payments app processes more than 30% of UPI transactions in a month.
The payments body said the move is aimed at addressing the “risks” and “protecting the UPI ecosystem as it further scales up.” The change goes into effect in January 2021.
UPI is a payments infrastructure built by large banks in India and is backed by the Indian government. It has become the most popular digital payments method in the country in recent years.
The cap of 30% will be calculated based on total volume of UPI transactions processed in the preceding three months, it added.
The move, described by an industry executive as the most absurd thing they have heard in months in India, will severely impact Google and Walmart, whose respective apps already process more than 35% of UPI transactions each.
It remains unclear how any payments app will comply with this limit. Let’s say PhonePe or Google Pay has already processed about 650 million transactions in three weeks. Would it just switch off UPI payments on their app for the remainder of the month?
UPI transactions will also drop. A banker just messaged: 'We are good at screwing ourselves'. https://t.co/HgcypgcTln
The sovereign wealth fund is investing $1.3 billion in Reliance Retail for a 2.04% equity stake in the largest retail chain in India. The investment values Reliance Retail, which was founded in 2006, at $62.4 billion (up from about $58 billion last month), the Indian firm said.
Reliance Retail, which serves more than 3.5 million customers each week (as of early this year) through its nearly 10,000 physical stores in more than 6,500 cities and towns in the country, has now raised over 6.4 billion since September this year.
“We at Reliance have a long-standing relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. PIF is at the forefront of the economic transformation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I welcome PIF as a valued partner in Reliance Retail and look forward to their sustained support and guidance as we continue our ambitious journey to transform India’s retail sector for enriching the lives of 1.3 billion Indians and millions of small merchants,” said Ambani, who runs Reliance Retail’s parent firm, Reliance Industries, in a statement.
UPI, a four-year-old payments infrastructure built by India’s largest banks, surpassed 2 billion transactions last month, exactly a year after hitting the 1 billion monthly transactions milestone.
Driving the transactions for UPI — which has become the most popular digital payments method in India thanks to its open architecture that allows interoperability among all participating payments apps — are Walmart’s PhonePe, Google Pay, Paytm, and Amazon Pay.
But for the first time in more than a year, Google Pay did not drive the most volume of UPI transactions. PhonePe recorded 835 million UPI transactions in October, it said, while Google Pay hit about 820 million, according to people familiar with the matter.
Paytm recorded about 245 million transactions, while Amazon Pay settled with about 125 million, the people said.
In a statement, PhonePe confirmed that it assumed the “market leading position” with about 40% of all UPI transactions last month. Google and Paytm did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
TechCrunch could not determine how many unique monthly transacting users these payments firms have amassed in the country. In May, Google Pay had about 75 million transacting users, ahead of 60 million of PhonePe and 30 million of Paytm.
Unlike Google Pay, both Paytm and PhonePe also operate a wallet service. The wallet service is not powered by UPI. PhonePe said overall it processed 925 million transactions last month and had over 100 million monthly active users.
PhonePe has recently seen a surge in its transactions as more offline shops open and merchants and consumers opt for a digital alternative to complete transactions. The app has also added a range of financing services, including 600,000 insurance policies, it said.
“We are on a mission to make digital payments a way of life for every Indian citizen, and our next target is to cross 500 million registered users by Dec 2022. In line with our brand ethos of ‘Karte Ja. Badhte Ja,’ (Hindi for keep working and growing) we continue to launch new and innovative products for every strata of Indian society, as well as enable digital payment acceptance across every merchant in every village and town in India,” said Sameer Nigam, chief executive and founder of PhonePe, in a statement.
India’s mobile payments market is estimated to reach $1 trillion by 2023, according to Credit Suisse. More players are expected to join the race. WhatsApp, which has over 400 million users in India, started testing UPI payments on its app in 2018. It remains stuck in a regulatory maze, however, which has prevented it from rolling out WhatsApp Pay to most of its users in the country.
Reliance Jio Platforms, the telecom venture run by India’s richest man (Mukesh Ambani), had 405.6 million subscribers in the quarter that ended in September, becoming the first operator outside of China to cross 400 million subscribers in a single country market.
The Facebook and Google-backed telecom operator said its finances has improved, too, despite the pandemic. Its EBIDTA run-rate crossed $1 billion in the aforementioned quarter, while net profit jumped to $409 million. The average revenue it clocks per user now stands at Rs 145 ($1.94), up from $1.88 the quarter before. In the past two quarters, the company has expanded its workforce by 30,000 people, it added.
Jio Platforms also operates a range of services including JioTV, JioMusic, and JioMoney. Kiran Thomas, President of Reliance Industries (parent firm of Jio Platforms), said in an earnings call Friday that the company has proven that its services can be feasibly built in India, and the company plans to expand them outside of the country. However, he did not share a timeline for this expansion.
A slide from Reliance Industries’ quarterly earnings call (Reliance)
Reliance Industries, the most valuable firm in India, announced some more investments in its businesses, continuing its eye-catching funding spree at the height of a global pandemic.
The oil-to-retails giant announced that Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund will invest $1.01 billion in the company’s digital fibre business as the Indian firm makes further push in deploying its broadband line across the country.
Abu Dhabi Authority and Saudi Arabia’s PIF are also an investor in Jio Platforms, which this year has raised about $20 billion. A Reliance Jio spokesperson told TechCrunch that the investment announced today are separate and not part of the two firms’ previous deals.
PUBG Mobile, the sleeper hit mobile game, will terminate all service and access for users in India on October 30, two months after New Delhi banned the game in the world’s second largest internet market over cybersecurity concerns.
These apps were “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order,” the country’s IT Ministry said on both the instances.
But unlike other affected apps that became unavailable within days — if not hours — PUBG Mobile apps remained accessible in the country for users who already had them installed on their phones, tablets, and PCs. In fact, according to one popular mobile insight firm, PUBG Mobile had retained more than 90% of its monthly active users in the country, a mobile-first market where 99% of smartphones run Android, in the weeks following New Delhi’s order.
(Following the ban, Google and Apple pulled PUBG Mobile apps from their app stores in India. But soon enough, guides on how to workaround the ban and obtain and install the apps became popular on several forums.)
PUBG Mobile had about 50 monthly active users in India, tens of millions of users ahead of Call of Duty: Mobile and Fortnite and any other mobile game in the country.
“PUBG Mobile kickstarted an entire ecosystem — from esports organisations to teams and even a cottage industry of streamers that made the most of its spectator sport-friendly gameplay,” said Rishi Alwani, a long-time analyst of Indian gaming market and publisher of news outlet The Mako Reactor.
“Granted Tencent did a lot of the heavy lifting in building it out, but the game’s quality itself was heads and shoulders above what most Indians were used to on smartphones. And that’s a reason many kept coming back, some eventually monetising as well,” he added.
South Korea-headquartered PUBG Mobile attempted to assuage New Delhi’s concern by cutting ties with Tencent, the game’s publishing and distribution partner in India.
“We deeply regret this outcome, and sincerely thank you for your support and love for PUBG Mobile in India,” it added.
But the market opportunity is still too large, and there are many aspects of the old retail business that could use some tech. That’s the bet WareIQ, a Bangalore-headquartered, Y Combinator-backed startup is making. And it has just raised a $1.65 million Seed financing round from YC, FundersClub, Pioneer Fund, Soma Capital, Emles Venture Advisors, and founders of Flexport.
The one-year-old startup operates a platform to leverage the warehouses across the country. It has built a management system for these warehouses, most of which largely engage in offline business-to-business commerce and have had little to no prior e-commerce exposure.
“We connect these warehouses across India to our platform and utilize their infrastructure for e-commerce order processing,” said Harsh Vaidya, co-founder and chief executive of WareIQ, in an interview with TechCrunch. The company offers this as a service to retail businesses.
Who are these businesses? Third-party sellers, some of whom sell to Amazon and Flipkart and use WareIQ to speed up their delivery, e-commerce firms, social commerce platforms as well as neighborhood stores, and social media influencers.
Any online store, for instance, can send its products to WareIQ, which has integrations with several popular e-commerce platforms and marketplaces. It works with courier partners to move items from one warehouse to another to offer the fastest delivery, explained Vaidya.
The infrastructure stitched together by WareIQ also enables an online seller to set up their own store and engage with customers directly, thereby saving fees they would have paid to Amazon and other established e-commerce players.
“The sellers were not able do this on their own before because it required them to talk directly to warehousing companies that maintain their own rigid contracts, and high-security deposits, and they still needed to work with multiple technology providers to complete the tech-stack,” he said. WareIQ also offers these sellers last-mile delivery, cash collection, and fraud detection among several other services.
“In a way, we are building an open source Amazon fulfilment service, where any seller can send their goods to any of our warehouses and we fulfil their Amazon orders, Myntra orders, Flipkart orders, or their own website orders. We also comply with the standard of these individual marketplaces, so our sellers get a Prime tag on Amazon,” he said.
WareIQ is free for anyone to sign up with any charge and it takes a cut by the volume of orders it processes. The startup today works with over 40 fulfilment centres and it plans to deploy the fresh capital to expand its network to tier 2 and tier 3 cities, he said. It’s also hiring for a number of tech roles.
Juganu, the venture-backed Israeli company that makes lighting systems capable of emitting light at specified wavelengths, is now selling a product that it claims can disinfect surfaces and deactivate pathogens in an attempt to provide buildings with new safety technologies that can prevent the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
The company claims that its J.Protect product was clinically validated through a study conducted by Dr. Meital Gal-Tanamy at the Bar-Ilan University Faculty of Medicine (although Dr. Gal-Tanamy’s research typically focuses on the Hepatitis C virus, which has a different transmission vector than airborne viruses like Sars-Cov-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19).
Juganu said that the new product has been registered with the US Environmental Protection Agency in 46 states and is currently working with Comcast, Qualcomm, and NCR Corp. to bring its lighting disinfectant and deactivation technology to markets around the country.
The lighting technology uses two kinds of ultraviolet light — A and C — to render viruses inert and kill bacteria on surfaces, according to the company’s claims.
When people are present in a room, the company’s system uses UVA light which can render viruses inert after eight hours of exposure. If the room is empty, the lighting system will use UVC light, which is more potent as disinfectant and more harmful to people, to disinfect a room in under an hour.
The company tested its technology on surfaces, but did not conduct any tests involving their lighting system’s effects on aerosolized viral particles, which have been determined to be the main cause of infections from the novel coronavirus.
“We got an exemption from the FDA and are approved for distribution by the EPA in 48 states,” said Juganu chief executive, Eran Ben-Shmuel in an interview.
The company has already pre-sold the lighting technology in Israel and in India, according to Ben-Shmuel, and is now taking orders for installations in the US.
Juganu, which has raised $53 million to date from investors including Comcast Ventures, Viola Growth, Amdocs, and OurCrowd has offices in Israel, Brazil, Mexico, and the US, has already sold lighting systems to municipalities and businesses around the country.
The new hardware opens up a new line of business in the booming market for technologies targeting the reopening of businesses in the nations that have been hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Smart lighting will be one of the biggest areas of opportunity for physical spaces. We are evolving from lights simply illuminating spaces to disinfecting and securing them, as well as promoting well-being by recreating natural light shifts based on sunrise and sunset,” said Ben-Shmuel, in a statement.
According to estimates from marketing research firm Counterpoint, Samsung commanded 24% of the Indian smartphone market in the quarter that ended in September this year, ahead of Xiaomi’s 23% share. (For context: during Q3 2019, Samsung assumed 20% of the smartphone market in India while Xiaomi captured 26%.)
Counterpoint’s finding is in contrast to what research firm Canalys reported last week. According to Canalys, Xiaomi held the top spot in India with 26.1% of the market share in Q3 2020, ahead of Samsung’s 20.4%.
But both the firms agree that India’s smartphone market saw a sharp rebound during the quarter. According to Counterpoint, more than 53 million smartphone units shipped in Q3 2020 at a 9% year-over-year growth. (Canalys pegged the figure to be about 50 million.)
The volume of units Samsung shipped in Q3 2020 was up 32% year-over-year, Counterpoint said. The company has benefited from its recent aggressive push in online sales and launch of several affordable smartphone handsets in recent months, Counterpoint analysts said.
Xiaomi, which entered India in 2014 and for several years sold exclusively through e-commerce platforms, is still the top online brand in India, Counterpoint said. But the company, which identifies India as its biggest market outside of China, is struggling to grapple with a growing anti-China sentiment in India among consumers as tension between the two neighboring nations have escalated in recent quarters.
This tension may lead to some more changes in the market in the coming months. Micromax, an Indian smartphone vendor which once ruled the market, said earlier this month that it was gearing up to launch a new smartphone sub-brand called “In.” Rahul Sharma, the head of Micromax, said the company will invest $67.9 million in the new smartphone brand.
In a video he posted on Twitter earlier this month, Sharma said Chinese smartphone makers killed the local handset makers but that time had come to fight back. “Our endeavour is to bring India on the global smartphone map again with ‘in’ mobiles,” he said in a statement.
It’s worth pointing out that long before Chinese smartphone makers, who command more than 70% of the local smartphone market in India, arrived to the country, they engaged closely with Chinese phone makers. Chinese firms manufactured the phones and sold it to Indian firms under a white-label agreement.
Indian firms then sold those phones to consumers in the country. Eventually, Chinese smartphone makers cut the middlemen and started to sell better smartphone models at much better prices to Indian directly, said Jayanth Kolla, a smartphone industry veteran and chief analyst at consultancy firm Convergence.
India also recently approved applications from 16 smartphone and other electronics companies for a $6.65 billion incentives program under New Delhi’s federal plan to boost domestic smartphone production over the next five years. Foxconn (and two other Apple contract partners), Samsung, Micromax and Lava (also an Indian brand) are among the companies that will be permitted to avail the incentives.
Missing from the list are Chinese smartphone makers such as Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, OnePlus and Realme.