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Google plans global e-commerce debut from India market

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New Delhi :Sundar Pichai-led Google is seriously evaluating getting into e-commerce and India could be the first stop, it is learnt. The launch could coincide with Diwali later this year, a source said. The search giant, which was in talks to invest in Flipkart after Walmart’s $16-billion deal to buy 77 per cent in the Bengaluru firm, is now trying to enter the Indian e-commerce space on its own.
With such a move, Google could take on both Amazon and Flipkart in a sector pegged at around $38.5 billion and projected to grow to as much as $100 billion by 2020 in the country. While the American major was getting ready to invest at least $2 billion in Flipkart post the Walmart deal, it may have subsequently decided to opt for the route that Amazon had taken five years ago to launch solo in India, another source said.
‘’Google started having second thoughts as it felt that the valuation that SoftBank Group, Tiger Global (investors in Flipkart) quoted was inflated,’’ a Flipkart executive who didn’t want to be named said. After its deal with Flipkart, Walmart announced that it was hoping some other global investors would now buy stake in the firm. The impression it gave out was Google would invest at a later stage. However, Google is learnt to have backed out after witnessing how Walmart’s shareholders were getting apprehensive about the $16-billion Flipkart deal.
Google did not reply to Business Standard queries on the company’s e-commerce plan. An executive called it ‘’speculation’’.
Google plans global e-commerce debut from India market In an indication of Google’s growing interest in ecommerce, earlier this week, the California-based firm announced an investment of $550 million in JD.com, a leading Chinese e-commerce company. The two companies said in a statement that it was part of a strategic partnership to jointly develop markets. Walmart and JD.com had also entered a strategic partnership earlier.
According to people in the know, Google’s India e-commerce plans have been in the works for close to one year, but “rather secretively’’. The initiative, being spearheaded by Caesar Sengupta, who leads product management at the global headquarters, is likely to test the e-commerce launch in India before going to other emerging markets, sources pointed out.
In the run up to the likely launch of ecommerce, Google has taken steps to understand the universe it wants to get into. For instance, it has been associated with some 2,000 workshops helping the company to identify sellers on its e-commerce platform. It has also partnered with business chambers for digital programmes. Many pilots are being scaled up to meet the ecommerce target, a source pointed out. Also, more than 15,000 sellers have been identified for the Google e-commerce platform. In fact, Tez, a payment app under the Google umbrella, was launched with the idea of populating the seller database, a source said.
Leaving nothing to chance, Google has sketched out its rural plan as well. Mainly through its ‘Saathi’ initiative. Through 48,000 saathis across rural India, Google wants to offer assisted shopping till the masses are comfortable with the process.
In preparation, the tech giant has been refining Google Shopping, its paid advertisement listing service. The company plans to make it more of an omni-channel experience to encourage brick and mortar retailers to list with Google. The company has launched this service in the US where it allows offline retailers to see what is in their stores for free as well as mark on Google maps. The company plans to launch this feature along with several others to increase the number of sellers on its platform.
The estimated 18-million subscriber base of gmail will help Google’s e-commerce, an analyst said. Also, the vernacular features are likely to give the company insight into millions of shoppers, he added.
Explaining why the company waited this long, a source quoted above said Google wanted to understand the India market better. ‘’It believes that it is better to have a budgeted spend than unbudgeted and unlimited discounts that the other cash cow businesses have to fund in perpetuity,’’ he said.


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Jobs are plenty, but techies in India lack necessary skillsets: IBM chief

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Mumbai: Global tech major IBM chief Virginia “Ginni” Rometty has said Indians lack the required skillsets even as new-age jobs galore, and exhorted all to look at education beyond obtaining/giving away degrees.

“In India, you have the same issues. Open jobs, (but) no matching skillsets,” she said, speaking at a company conference in Mumbai.

“You have got to believe in a few different things than I think you believed in the past.

 

“One is to believe that skills are perhaps more important than a degree,” Rometty said, amid reports of huge unemployment among qualified engineers who when employed at the entry level are paid much lower than those semi-skilled with experience.

There have been reports that nearly three-fourths of the millions of engineers and B-school graduates are simply not employable at all, speaking volumes about the quality of both the academics as well as the admission process in the country’s education systems.

According to private economic think tank CMIE data, as of February, there were as many as 31.2 million youth actively looking for jobs.

This is in a country where over 60 per cent of the 1.35 billion population are under 35.

“It can be that you can have folks with less than a university degree, but participate well in this industry,” Rometty said.

Contrary to perceptions of jobs being in short supply, she said there are jobs aplenty and an equivalent number of people looking for them, but the skillsets are not matching, which is the real problem.

She said businesses and governments have to work together to solve the issue at hand, underlining that “we cannot have a world of the haves and the have-nots in this new world where certain people know how to work in the new technology-led era and the vast majority of others do not.”

Posing a question on whether tech will kill jobs, she said the nature of jobs will undergo a change and also spoke about her company’s social sector projects, especially those aimed at educating women.

Two years ago, the head of a leading European tech player had alluded to similar concerns as Rometty.

He had said over 65 per cent of the Indian IT staff is “just not re-trainable”, and had taken potshots at the Indian education system and also blamed the tech companies for not doing enough.

“For some unknown reasons, we call it a knowledge-driven industry.

“If you have that kind of talent, and then making them learn the existing technology itself is such a huge challenge,” he had said.

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India to post Customs intelligence officers in China to check financial frauds

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New Delhi: India has decided to post Customs intelligence officers in China in its effort to check black money, trade-based money laundering and other financial frauds, officials said.

Two posts of the Customs Overseas Intelligence Network (COIN) have been created in the Indian Embassy in Beijing and in the Consulate General of India at Guangzhou, they said.

The Finance Ministry has begun the process to select officers for the postings.

 

The move has been initiated by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), the lead agency to check Customs frauds and smuggling, to curtail incidents of trade-based money laundering and other financial frauds originating from China, the officials said.

COIN officers are usually mandated to pass on intelligence or information gathered from their respective positing stations overseas to help Indian intelligence agencies – mainly DRI – check trade-related frauds, they said.

“COIN officers play an important role in checking trade-based money laundering, black money and tax evasion by sharing intelligence with Indian agencies. Since a significant import and export is done between India and China, it was considered imperative to expand the snoop network to China,” an official said, wishing anonymity.

In the past, Customs authorities in India have detected a few cases of smuggling to and from China, he said.

COIN officers have been posted in several countries, including Nepal, Singapore, Brussels, the US and the UK, to help Indian authorities check smuggling, the officials said.

The selection process involves concurrence by the Ministry of External Affairs and final approval by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-headed Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, they said.

Giving details of the process, the officials said an evaluation committee comprising directors general of DRI, Directorate General of Goods and Services Tax Intelligence, National Academy of Customs, Excise and Narcotics and the Directorate General of Human Resource Development will evaluate the service records of concerned officers for posting.

A high-level committee comprising the chairperson, two members of the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs and the director general of DRI will interview the officers, they said.

The board will then recommend a panel of three officers for each post to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

After obtaining the finance minister’s approval, the panel will be forwarded to the Ministry of External Affairs for its concurrence followed by a reference to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet for final approval, the officials said.

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SEBI mulls reducing rights issue listing time

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Kolkata: After reducing time to list shares on the stock exchanges post-closure of initial public offerings (IPOs), markets regulator SEBI is aiming to cut down the time for listing of rights issue shares, an official said.

In September last year, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) decided on reducing the time to list shares on the bourses after IPO to 3 days from the present 6. The SEBI directive is likely to come into effect from July this year. SEBI had cited mitigating external risks such as market volatility and uncertainty of financial markets as the reason behind the move.

“SEBI aims to reduce the listing of IPO shares to 3 days from 6 days now. It is supposed to be introduced for IPOs from July 2019 onwards. Now, the regulator is working on simplifying the rights issue process,” Central Depository Services (India) Ltd (CDSL) VP (operations) Nitin Ambure told PTI. “I hope the number of days for listing the rights issue shares may come down to 8-10 days from about a month now. This may happen in phases, also depending on the regulator’s final decision,” he said.

 

Ambure was in the city to participate at a discussion on demat of unlisted shares at the Merchants’ Chamber of Commerce here. The markets regulator has involved stakeholders such as depositories and transaction advisors in the rights issue listing simplification process, just like it engaged exchanges and depositories for IPO shares, he said.

From April onwards, Unified Payments Interface (UPI) will be introduced as an alternative payment option for retail investors and SEBI has already cleared a proposal on it. National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT) is also being tested.

Analysts said the new payment mechanisms will make Applications Supported by Blocked Amount (ASBA) mechanism less attractive to investors. ASBA was introduced by the regulator so an investor does not lose out interest component on the application money.

Earlier, the process of normal allotment of shares for IPOs took almost a month. Ambure said SEBI had granted relaxation for processing Demat Request Number from the current 15 days to 30 days in the wake of unusual surge in requests for dematerialisation in recent months. As of now, the transfer of shares in the demat form is mandatory.

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