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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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RBI asks banks to grout ATMs to wall, floor for security by September-end

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Mumbai: The Reserve Bank asked banks to ensure their ATMs are grouted to a wall, pillar, or floor by September-end, except those installed in high secured premises such as airports, to enhance security of the cash vending machines.

In 2016, the RBI had st up a Committee on Currency Movement (CCM) to review the entire gamut of security of treasure in transit.

Based on the recommendations of the panel, the central bank has now issued instructions aimed at mitigating risks in ATM operations and enhancing security.

 

As part of the security measures, all “ATMs shall be operated for cash replenishment only with digital One Time Combination (OTC) locks”.

Also, “All ATMs shall be grouted to a structure (wall, pillar, floor, etc.) by September 30, 2019, except for ATMs installed in highly secured premises such as airports, etc. which have adequate CCTV coverage and are guarded by state/central security personnel”.

Further, banks may also consider rolling out a comprehensive e-surveillance mechanism at the ATMs to ensure timely alerts and quick response, it said.

The new measures to be adopted by banks are in addition to the existing instructions, practices and guidance issued by the RBI and law enforcement agencies.

The RBI also warned the banks that non-adherence of timelines or non-observance of the instructions would attract regulatory action including levy of penalty.

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SBI refuses to disclose communication from RBI, govt on electoral bonds

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New Delhi: The State Bank of India has refused to disclose any communication it received from the government or the Reserve Bank of India on electoral bonds, terming it “personal information” and held in “fiduciary capacity”.

Responding to an RTI filed by Pune-based activist Vihar Durve who had demanded copies of all letters, correspondence, directions, notifications or e-mails received from the RBI or any government department between 2017 and 2019, the SBI said it cannot be provided by it.

The bank cited two exemption clauses under the RTI Act to deny information — Section 8(1)(e) which pertains to information held in fiduciary capacity and Section 8(1)(J) which pertains to personal information of a person which has no link to any public activity.

 

“Information sought by the applicant cannot be disclosed as it is in fiduciary capacity, disclosure of which is exempted under Section 8(1)(e) and 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, 2005,” the Central Public Information Officer of the bank said in his reply.

The bank also refused to give any details of action taken by it on such communications from the RBI and the government.

The electoral bonds, for giving donations to political parties, are being sold through SBI only. The sale opens in SBI branches when the Finance Ministry issues a notification of their sale for a given period.

The scheme of electoral bonds notified by the Centre in 2018 has been challenged in the Supreme Court.

Only the political parties registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (43 of 1951) and which secured not less than one per cent of the votes polled in the last general election to the House of the People or the Legislative Assembly of the State, shall be eligible to receive the bonds.

The bonds may be purchased by a person who is a citizen of India “or incorporated or established in India,” the government had said in a statement last year.

The bonds remain valid for 15 days and can be encashed by an eligible political party only through an account with the authorised bank within that period only.

A voluntary group working in the field of electoral reforms, Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), has demanded a stay on the sale while the CPI(M) has challenged it before the Supreme Court in separate petitions.

ADR recently filed an application in the Supreme Court seeking a stay on the Electoral Bond Scheme, 2018 which was notified by the Centre in January last year.

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Walmart’s Flipkart, Indian startup GOQii settle dispute over sharp discounting

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New Delhi: Walmart unit Flipkart has settled a legal dispute with an Indian startup that alleged it suffered losses because its products were sharply discounted on the global retailer’s website.

GOQii, a seller of smartwatch-type health devices, sued Flipkart last month in a Mumbai court, alleging its devices were discounted by around 70 per cent to the retail price, much more than the two sides had agreed. The court had, as an interim measure, ordered device sales to be halted on Flipkart.

In a joint statement , the companies said the dispute had been resolved and GOQii health devices would again be available on Flipkart. They didn’t say how the settlement was reached.

 

Vishal Gondal, CEO of GOQii, told Reuters the company would withdraw the case against Flipkart. The e-commerce retailer’s “team worked on a resolution benefitting the brand and the customers”, Gondal said in the statement.

The legal spat was seen as a test case of the giant retailer’s operating strategy in the country.

Small traders and a right-wing group close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party have raised concerns about large e-commerce companies, saying they burn billions of dollars deeply discounting some products to lure customers onto their sites, in the expectation that they will also buy other goods.

GOQii said it signed an agreement last year with a Flipkart unit to sell two of its devices at a price not below 1,999 rupees (USD 28.63) and 1,499 rupees. It later found the devices were being sold for 999 rupees and 699 rupees, calling it “unauthorized” discounting.

In response, Flipkart said it reserved “the right to institute actions for defamation, both civil and criminal”, arguing it wasn’t responsible for any discounts which are determined by third-party firms which sell via its website.

The two companies struck a friendlier tone in their joint-statement on Friday as they brought the legal battle to an end.

“We have ensured constant engagement with GOQii to resolve any differences,” Flipkart said in the statement.

With a 19 per cent market share, GOQii was the second-biggest player in India’s so-called wearables market last year, data from industry tracker IDC showed. The market is dominated by China’s Xiaomi, with Samsung a small player.

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