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Tech Radar

Will an Indian alternative to Play Store and App Store emerge?

The recent Google Play Store fiasco with PayTM and the emerging controversy over Google’s 30% fee demand for using the Play Store seem to be leading to the inevitable: A plea for setting up an Indian digital app ecosystem. According to multiple reports, a number of prominent technology entrepreneurs in India are joining forces in a bid to create an indigenous app store and reduce the dominance of US tech biggies Google and Apple. A bunch of Indian technology entrepreneurs have had a meeting this week and discussed ways and means to set up a platform that will host apps, especially Indian ones and not be at the mercy of companies like Google and Apple. Tech companies are doubtless concerned at the monopolistic approach of both Google and Apple. Google under fire for its monopolistic ways The issue has been brewing for nearly a year or so. But when Google temporarily removed India’s dominant digital payment app PayTM from the Play Store, the matter came to a head.  And it further got vitiated with the move by Google to increase the commission on purchases made on its app store. This has a brought of clutch of influential Indian firms together and petition the Indian government to help create an Indian digital ecosystem. And with the mood still dominated by ‘Make in  India’, there seems to be plenty of takers to the idea. According to a report in Economic Times, “Paytm’s Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Yashish Dahiya of Policybazaar and Murugavel Janakiraman…Continue readingWill an Indian alternative to Play Store and App Store emerge?

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TechCrunch

Indian startups explore forming an alliance and alternative app store to fight Google’s ‘monopoly’ – TechCrunch

Google, which reaches more internet users than any other firm in India and commands 99% of the nation’s smartphone market, has stumbled upon an odd challenge in the world’s second largest internet market: Scores of top local entrepreneurs. Dozens of top startups and firms in India are working to form an alliance and toying with the idea of launching an app store to cut their reliance on Google, five people familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. The list of entrepreneurs include high-profile names such as Vijay Shekhar Sharma, co-founder and chief executive of Paytm (India’s most valuable startup), Deep Kalra of travel ticketing firm MakeMyTrip, and executives from PolicyBazaar, Sharechat and many other firms. The growing list of founders expressed deep concerns about Google’s “monopolistic” hold on India, and discussed what they alleged was unfair and inconsistent enforcement of Play Store’s guidelines in the country. The conversations, which began in recent weeks, escalated on Tuesday after Google said that starting next year developers with an app on Google Play Store must give the company a cut of as much as 30% of several app-related payments. Dozens of executives “from nearly every top startup and firm” in India attended a call on Tuesday to discuss the way forward, some of the people said, requesting anonymity. A 30% cut to Google is simply unfeasible, people on the call unanimously agreed. Vishal Gondal, the founder of fitness startup GOQii, confirmed the talks to TechCrunch and said that an alternative app store would immensely…Continue readingIndian startups explore forming an alliance and alternative app store to fight Google’s ‘monopoly’ – TechCrunch

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TechCrunch

Amazon adds support for Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu in local Indian languages push ahead of Diwali – TechCrunch

More than seven years after Amazon began its e-commerce operations in India, and two years after its shopping service added support for Hindi, the most popular language in the country, the American giant is embracing more local languages to court hundreds of millions of new users. Amazon announced on Tuesday its website and apps now support Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, and Telugu in a move that it said would help it reach an additional 200-300 million users in the country. Localization is one of the most crucial — and popular — steps for companies to expand their potential reach in India. Netflix added support for Hindi last month, and Amazon’s Alexa started conversing in the Indian language last year. (Amazon’s on-demand video streaming service, Prime Video, also supports Hindi, in addition to Tamil and Telugu.) The company said the usage of Hindi, which it rolled out on its website and apps in India in 2018, has grown by three times in the past five months, and “hundreds of thousands” of Amazon customers have switched to Hindi shopping experience. Amazon’s further language push comes months after its chief rival in India, Walmart -owned Flipkart, added support for Tamil, Telugu and Kannada, three languages that are spoken by roughly 200 million people in India. Like Flipkart, Amazon worked with expert linguists to develop an accurate and comprehensible experience in each of the languages, the American e-commerce firm said. But simple translation is not enough to make inroads with users in India. YouTube and…Continue readingAmazon adds support for Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu in local Indian languages push ahead of Diwali – TechCrunch

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TechCrunch

Twitter flags Indian politician’s years-old tweet for violating its policy – TechCrunch

Twitter has flagged a post from Indian politician T. Raja Singh for violating its policy days after TechCrunch asked the social giant about the three-year-old questionable tweet. In a video tweet, Singh urged India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and others citizens in the country to move Rohingya Muslim immigrants, including those “who supported terrorism,” out of the nation as he feared that they would become a “headache for the nation” in the future. “#Deport RohingyaMuslims,” he tweeted. Singh, who belongs to India’s ruling party Bharatiya Janata Party and has made hateful speeches in public appearances in the past, also urged his followers to make his tweet “viral” on the platform so that every “Hindu and [other] Indians” see it. He did not respond to a request for comment. It’s a similar message that Singh had also posted on Facebook, which ultimately led the Menlo Park-headquartered firm to permanently ban him from the platform. Facebook has received some of the harshest backlash it has seen to date in the country in part for its initial inaction on Singh’s posts. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that a top Facebook executive in India had decided to not take action on Singh’s posts as she feared it could hurt the company’s business prospects in the country. In a statement to TechCrunch, a Twitter spokesperson said that Singh’s tweet was “actioned” for violating its hateful conduct policy. “Twitter has zero-tolerance policies in place to address threats of violence, abuse and harassment, and hateful conduct.…Continue readingTwitter flags Indian politician’s years-old tweet for violating its policy – TechCrunch

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Mashable

Indian students collect diplomas as avatars in VR graduation ceremony

As the coronavirus pandemic put the kibosh on in-person graduation ceremonies, the faculty and graduating students at one of the top technical universities in India still found a way to earn (and showcase) their technical stripes. On Sunday, the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT Bombay) held a “virtual reality” convocation ceremony for over 2,000 graduates. This wasn’t your normal virtual occasion: The university created avatars for each student, faculty member, and speaker.  Student avatars walked across the stage to receive their diplomas, and later even got to schmooze with classmates and colleagues as they virtually explored campus. In a statement, the university said it didn’t want to deprive students of the “pride” of graduating because of the pandemic, so it created the virtual effort. “Providing a virtual reality experience to all our graduates needed not only highly innovative steps but also a tremendous effort by our professors and staff,” Prof. Subhasis Chaudhuri, the director of IIT Bombay, said. “They did it for the students. Hopefully this will enthuse our graduates as well as other engineers in the country to think big and think innovatively.” Twitter highlighted the occasion in a Twitter moment, and IIT Bombay broadcasted the whole thing on Indian television channels, Facebook Live, and YouTube. Students, faculty, and family members happily shared clips and gifs from the ceremony on Twitter. The personalized graduating avatars are strangely endearing. They may look like Sims characters, but the customized outfits, proud walks across the stage, and final handshakes convey a…Continue readingIndian students collect diplomas as avatars in VR graduation ceremony

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VentureBeat

With first female general partner, game VC fund focuses on Indian startups

Lumikai unveiled its early-stage venture capital fund this week with a focus on India’s fast-growing gaming and interactive markets. That’s a first in terms of its focus on Indian game startups, but it is also unique as it has a female general partner in Salone Sehgal, a former London Ventures Partners investor. Sehgal is a New Delhi native who grew up playing games but knew very few other female gamers. That helped her prepare for this week’s announcement, but so did 15 years of working with startups and venture investments, she said in an interview with GamesBeat. Part of her motivation is to see strong female characters embedded in Indian culture in a video game. To make that happen in today’s game business, Sehgal realized that she would have to do something about it. “I never used to find anybody who looked like me in a game world,” she said. “Years later I founded a game company. I always believed that if I wanted to see an Indian female protagonist in a game, I’d probably have to build it myself. And still years later, I discovered that I probably also had to finance it myself.” She added, “Even when I look at myself, I don’t self identify as a gamer. Even though I’ve built a game company, and I am an investor. I see that word as [representing] a 13-year-old boy sitting in his basement playing. There is this disconnect between what the word represents and who I am and…Continue readingWith first female general partner, game VC fund focuses on Indian startups

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The Next Web

WhatsApp Pay moves one step closer to Indian launch

WhatsApp’s much-awaited payments launch in India has hit many regulatory roadblocks in the past. However, the company has moved a step closer to launch, as the National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) has certified that WhatsApp is now in compliance with data-localization norms. As per a report by Times of India, in a court filing last month, NPCI told India’s top bank, Reserve Bank of India (RBI), that the Facebook-owned app is now complying with all norms. Last year, RBI had asked NPCI to ensure that WhatsApp meets all requirements. WhatsApp started its payments services as a trial more than two years ago in India, and has since been in the test mode with a million users. [Read: WhatsApp’s new payments service is suspended in Brazil] Now, the company will have to wait for the final nod from RBI and the government to kick off its payment services for its 400 million users in India. It has already started a new project on exploring ways to make financial services such as credit and insurance available to WhatsApp users. We’ve reached out to WhatsApp to know more, and we’ll update the story if we hear back. According to a TechCrunch report published in June, Google Pay is India’s leading mobile payment app with more than 75 million users followed by Walmart-owned PhonePe. Both these apps rely on Unified Payments Interface (UPI); WhatsApp’s system is based on same the protocols as well. Last week, WhatsApp India’s head, Abhijit Bose, said that the platform can bring…Continue readingWhatsApp Pay moves one step closer to Indian launch

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Mashable

The problem with ‘Indian Matchmaking’ is deeper than one Netflix show

In the two weeks or four years since Indian Matchmaking debuted on Netflix (I just checked: It’s 10 days), I have watched my fellow South Asians do what we do best: Rip it apart. The Netflix reality show follows Mumbai matchmaker Sima Taparia as she takes on various clients looking to settle down. It has been called casteist, colorist, regressive — all the adjectives my generation of allegedly progressive Desis use to describe things we criticize or reject about our culture. It is being maligned, in short, for doing exactly what it meant to: Presenting a multifaceted depiction of Indians around the world through the lens of our collective obsession: Marriage. Let’s start with one note: Matchmaking is not the same as arranged marriage. The most irksome critiques I’ve seen of Indian Matchmaking say that it glorifies an ancient practice which sold child brides to wealthy older men or trapped people in toxic marriages. Taparia’s role is nothing of the sort; paradoxically, she functions as a human dating app, taking each client’s characteristics and desired traits in a partner and then looking for someone who might fit. No one is under any obligation to marry or even keep dating their matches — in fact, none of them ultimately did. What makes this so interesting is that the characters are not characters at all, but real people, flawed and romantic and three-dimensional. Just as racism has layers and levels, so too do casteism and colorism. They don’t go away just because…Continue readingThe problem with ‘Indian Matchmaking’ is deeper than one Netflix show

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Tech Radar

Online tutoring platform Vedantu raises $100 million – Indian ed-tech booms

All that students require to pursue their education is a good laptop and an online tutor. And post the Covid-19-led lockdown, ed-tech  is booming across India as is evident from the venture funds that the sector is attracting. The latest to benefit is Bangalore-based Vedantu, which received $100 million in a Series-D round that doubled its valuation within three months.  US-based Coatue was the lead participant in the latest funding round in Vedantu, which was launched in 2014 as an online tutoring platform by IIT graduates, Vamsi Krishna, Pulkit Jain, Saurabh Saxena and Anand Prakash. The new round values the company at $600 million, which is up from $275 million in February when it had closed Series-C.  The company, whose name is derived from the Sanskrit words Veda (knowledge) and Tantu (network), said in a prepared statement that existing investors Tiger Global, GGV Capital, Omidyar and Westbridge Capital also participated in the latest round.  Barely weeks ago, Byju’s had achieved the decacorn status when Mary Meeker’s Bond Capital pumped in an estimated $100 million into the company, which is also based out of Bangalore. This investment took Byju’s valuation to $10.5 billion, taking it to second place in the list of most valuable startups in India, right next to payments firm PayTM.  Following the Covid-19 lockdown since March 24, online education has received a major boost as schools and colleges have remained closed and left students and their parents with no option but to go the digital way in academics. …Continue readingOnline tutoring platform Vedantu raises $100 million – Indian ed-tech booms

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TechCrunch

Indian online tutoring platform Vedantu raises $100 million – TechCrunch

Investors are becoming more bullish on online education platforms in India as startups demonstrate growth at the height of a global pandemic that has severely impacted other industries. Bangalore-based startup Vedantu said on Thursday it has raised $100 million in its Series D financing round, just five months after it closed its Series C funding. U.S. based Coatue led the six-year-old Vedantu’s new financing round, with participation from some existing investors. The new funds valued Vedantu at $600 million, up from $275 million in February this year when the startup closed its extended Series C round. Vedantu has raised about $200 million to date. Vedantu offers live and interactive courses for students in grades 6 though 12 — and in recent months it has expanded its catalog to serve students in grade one to five as well, said Vamsi Krishna, co-founder and CEO of the startup, in an interview with TechCrunch. Students who have enrolled for the interactive sessions are required to answer questions every few minutes by tapping on their smartphone screen or on the desktop. They also can raise their doubts at the end of the session. Some of these sessions are free for students, but a selection of it requires a subscription, said Krishna. Vedantu today serves 25 million students each month. The startup has amassed an additional 2 million students in recent months as schools closed across the nation after New Delhi enforced a lockdown. Krishna said Vedantu is adding more than 20,000 paying subscribers each month to the…Continue readingIndian online tutoring platform Vedantu raises $100 million – TechCrunch