Citrus Pay cashback festival to encourage digital payments; cash transactions our biggest competitors, says co-founder Jitendra Gupta

Citrus Pay cashback festival to encourage digital payments; cash transactions our biggest competitors, says co-founder Jitendra Gupta

Last few years, most of us kick started the year with the Great Online Shopping Festival that was aimed at e-commerce awareness. As Google bid adieu to the shopping festival, we are seeing big players like Flipkart, Paytm and so on diving their own giant campaigns. Now, Citrus Pay has decided to take upon itself to create a platform for the next set of merchants wherein all brands can come under one roof and engage with consumers via the festival. After all, not everyone has a budget and financial muscle to drive large campaigns.

So, it’s a weeklong of cashback bonanza that started on January 4 and will continue until January 10. Citrus’ cash back week has a multitude of brands and users avail of the offers across all platforms, be it online or walking into offline stores. Check out the offers here.

In conversation with Firstpost, Jitendra Gupta, co-founder and MD of Citrus Pay tells us how the company aims at encouraging digital payments, not just online but also offline stores by empowering just about everyone from your local kirana store to a vegetable vendor. Citrus Pay is planning to bring digital payments on a broader base, and doesn’t limit to e-commerce sites or likewise. Gupta tells us that the campaign is aimed at driving traffic to merchants. On the other hand, also enable it with company products such as native app, Citrus wallet, card payments and the newest product in its kitty, Lazypay. LazyPay lets you make payments even without a banking account or cards.

He also refers to the change in pattern that has been witnessed in online payment and how easier it is getting to convince merchants to adopt digital payment options. It is very easy for merchants to go live with online payments and takes mere 30 minutes, he tells us. On the consumer front, he further explains how there has been enough awareness by bigger brands and people are accepting digital payments widely. He does mention initial hiccups, but quickly adds, it is just a circle with initial apprehensions, gradually taken over by incentives and convenience, and eventually it becomes a habbit.

Currently, Citrus Pay has teamed up with 7000 merchants. It is live on about 10000 offline stores and has roadmap that increases the number by manifolds. Citrus Pay also targets to go live on more than 30,000 online stores this year. With an average transaction of roughly Rs 1000, Citrus Pay find Android as the predominant platform with 85 percent share.

With a growth of 450 percent in 2015, Citrus pay says that the digital payment space is very promising and the market grew by 40-50 percent. This number is also driven by mobile payments as there has been a huge rise in this segment. In fact, Gupta tells us one of the biggest changes is the way and how quickly we are moving from desktop to mobile payments. Talking about its competitors, Gupta says cash transactions are its biggest competitors.

Citrus Pay’s goal for this year is to convert cash into digital wallet and working towards bringing digital payments to day-to-day acceptance.

Asus ZenFone Max with 5000mAh battery, 5.5-inch HD display launched in India

Asus ZenFone Max with 5000mAh battery, 5.5-inch HD display launched in India at Rs 9,999

Asus has introduced the ZenFone Max smartphone to its new ZenFone-series at a price of Rs 9,999. The device is now available for pre-order from Flipkart and Amazon starting today. The main USP of the device is its huge 5000mAh battery which can deliver up to 914 hours of standby time and up to 38 hours of talk time, in addition to working as a power bank to other devices.

The device was unveiled during IFA 2015 in Berlin and was rumoured to launch in October.

In terms of specifications, the smartphone features a 5.5-inch HD IPS display with a 720 x 1280 pixel resolution. It is powered by a 1GHz quad-core Snapdragon 410 processor paired with 2GB RAM. The smartphone also packs in an internal storage of 16GB which can be further expanded up to 64GB using a microSD card.

Capture

The Asus ZenFone Max runs on ZenUI 2.0 based on Android 5.0 Lollipop and comes equipped with a 13MP rear camera with dual LED flash along with 5MP front facing camera. In terms of connectivity, the device includes 3G, GPRS/ EDGE, GPS, Glonass, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi.

Mark Zuckerberg reveals 2016 plans for AI butler

Mark Zuckerberg reveals 2016 plans for AI butler

Mark Zuckerberg wants to build an artificially intelligent assistant in 2016 to help run his home and assist him at work, the Facebook founder and chief executive said.

Zuckerberg, who commits to a new personal challenge every year, revealed his plan in a Facebook post.

“You can think of it kind of like Jarvis in Iron Man,” Zuckerberg wrote, referring to an artificially intelligent butler who appears in the Marvel comic books and movies.

Zuckerberg will start the project by exploring existing technology, he wrote. He will then begin teaching the technology to understand his voice so that it will learn to control everything in his home, such as music, lights and temperature.

His plans also include teaching the assistant to let friends into his home by looking at their faces when they ring the doorbell, Zuckerberg wrote. The assistant will visualize data to support Zuckerberg at work, he wrote.

“This should be a fun intellectual challenge to code this for myself,” Zuckerberg wrote. “I’m looking forward to sharing what I learn over the course of the year.”

Other challenges Zuckerberg has taken on in recent years have included reading two books every month and learning Mandarin.

He also mentioned Internet.org that has faced a lot of criticism for violating net neutrality. “At Facebook I spend a lot of time working with engineers to build new things. Some of the most rewarding work involves getting deep into the details of technical projects. I do this with Internet.org when we discuss the physics of building solar-powered planes and satellites to beam down internet access,” he wrote.

Nokia to move swiftly after taking control of Alcatel-Lucent

Nokia to move swiftly after taking control of Alcatel-Lucent

Finland’s Nokia said it has gained control of French counterpart Alcatel-Lucent following its 15.6-billion-euro ($17 billion) all-share offer and the two telecom equipment makers would start to combine their operations next week.

The Alcatel acquisition will put Nokia into a stronger position to compete with Sweden’s Ericsson and China’s Huawei in a market for telecom network gear where limited growth and tough competition are pressuring prices.

The French stock market authority said interim results from the offer showed Nokia would hold around 79 percent of Alcatel shares.

The offers in France and the United States will be reopened this month, and the final results will be published in February.

Nokia said it will move quickly to press on with integration ahead of the formal closure of the deal, expected during the first quarter.

“As of January 14, 2016, Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent will offer a combined end-to-end portfolio of the scope and scale to meet the needs of our global customers,” Nokia Chief Executive Rajeev Suri said.

Shares in the company rose 0.6 percent by 1410 GMT on the Helsinki bourse which was down 2.1 percent.

The stock is still down about 10 percent since the announcement of the deal in April as investors have worried about the integration process and special terms negotiated by the French government.

But in October, Nokia brought forward the deal’s 900 million euro cost-saving target by a year to 2018.

“They are well on track with this deal, it seems they have calculated the deal’s ‘margins of safety’ rather carefully. Now, they can keep up a positive news flow,” said Jukka Oksaharju, strategist at Nordnet brokerage.

The deal, set to become the biggest transaction in Finland’s corporate history, follows a string of M&A moves that have restructured former mobile phone giant Nokia in recent years.

In 2013, it took control of its network business by buying out Siemens from a joint venture, and in 2014 it sold the ailing mobile phone business to Microsoft. Last year it also sold navigation business HERE.

Lenovo launches ThinkCentre X1 AIO

CES 2016: Lenovo launches ThinkCentre X1 AIO starting at $1029

Ahead of CES 2016, Lenovo has introduced an ultra slim 11mm frame desktop, which could be touted as the world’s thinnest desktops. The ThinkCentre X1 AIO will be available starting March from $1029, respectively. 

The ThinkCentre X1 AIO is said to be designed to withstand dust buildup, and has been also been reportedly tested for eight hours in a dust chamber which replicates ten years in an office environment. The design also helps eliminate dust build up which is a common cause of hardware failure in desktop PCs. On the specification front, the device features a 23.8-inch IPS FHD display along with a 1920 X 1080 anti-glare resolution.

The 7.5mm ultra-slim ThinkVision X1 is also said to be the world’s first monitor to receive theTUV Eye-Comfort certification. Featuring a 27-inch UltraHD edge-to-edge anti-glare display, the ThinkVision X1 includes connectivity options such as a USB type C port as well. 

“Lenovo’s customer-centric engineering focus enables us to design and build products where end-user needs come first. The new X1 family demonstrates our relentless pursuit of innovation that elevates the products above the norm.” said Johnson Jia, senior vice president, Personal Computing Group, Lenovo. “Optimizing our products with unique features and for greater performance, better cloud access and class-leading security and durability will help customers use technology as their secret weapon.”

Alcatel OneTouch Pixi 3 tablet, CareTime children’s watch unveiled

CES 2016: Alcatel OneTouch Pixi 3 tablet, CareTime children’s watch unveiled

Ahead of CES, Alcatel OneTouch unveiled the entry-level Pixi 3 tablet which runs Windows 10 out-of-the-box. Exact details regarding the tablet haven’t surfaced but the device is said to sport an 8-inch display and promises GPS, TV remote control, front and rear cameras and voice call support as well.

In addition, the company also unveiled a CareTime children’s watch, with which parents can call or send voice messages to their children, and children can as well, reply or make calls to pre-set contacts.

The GPS locator lets parents know where their kids are, and also includes an app that notifies parents when their children enter or leave a predetermined safe zone. The company also took the wraps off a brand-new Pixi 4 family which includes 3.5-inch and 4-inch smartphones, a 6-inch phablet and a 7-inch tablet, which are said to be premium entry-level devices offering a comprehensive user experience in design, audio, camera and battery life.

“From concerned parents to first-time smartphone users, we have a device to fit every need,” said Dan Dery, Chief Marketing Officer at Alcatel OneTouch. “Our new line will be showcased at our booth at CES. We invite everyone for a hands-on trial of the devices to experience the excellent value we offer our consumers.”

Sync brings new AppLink apps to customers; adds Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, 4G LTE to new vehicles

Sync brings new AppLink apps to customers; adds Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, 4G LTE to new vehicles

Ford is expanding its SYNC connectivity system, adding Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, 4G LTE and several new AppLink apps for consumers in an attempt to help drivers stay connected behind the wheel and even when they are away from their cars.

Starting this year, owners of SYNC 3-equipped vehicles will have more choice in how they access their smartphones in the car. iPhone users can activate Apple CarPlay, and Android users can activate Android Auto, two interfaces built specifically for those types of smartphones. In addition, the new SYNC Connect technology powered by 4G LTE gives owners the ability to remotely access features of their car. Owners can program a remote start, unlock doors, check fuel level or locate a parked vehicle via their smartphone as well. 

In North America, Ford is making Apple CarPlay and Android Auto available on all 2017 vehicles equipped with SYNC 3, starting with the Ford Escape. Owners of 2016 vehicles equipped with SYNC 3 will have the chance to upgrade later in the year too. 

“SYNC allows customers to bring the smartphone technology they’re comfortable with into a vehicle and use it without hassle,” said Don Butler, Ford executive director, Connected Vehicle and Services. “With SYNC, we move at our customers’ pace – making it easy for them to maintain a connected lifestyle no matter their choice of smartphone, apps or services inside and outside their vehicle.”

Yahoo must face class action over text messages

Yahoo must face class action over text messages: US judge

Yahoo Inc was ordered by a Chicago federal judge on Monday to face a class action lawsuit accusing the Internet company of sending unsolicited text messages to Sprint Corp cellphone users in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. U.S. District Judge Manish Shah said the users could sue as a group over messages sent in March 2013 because their claims had enough in common.

Shah rejected Yahoo’s arguments that a class action could subject it to damages that were disproportionate to the alleged harm, promote “piecemeal” litigation covering other time periods and phone carriers, and thwart Congress’ desire that claims be brought individually in small claims court. More than 500,000 cellphone users could be part of the class, court papers show. The plaintiffs accused Yahoo of sending them automated “welcome” messages when other users sent them separate messages via the Yahoo Messenger service. They said the welcome messages constituted unauthorized advertising for Yahoo services, violating the federal TCPA and subjecting the Sunnyvale, California-based company to damages of up to $1,500 per message if the violations were willful.

The case was brought by Rachel Johnson, an Illinois resident who claimed to receive a welcome message from Yahoo after being sent a spam text message from another user advertising a means to reduce high-cost debt. Shah declined to certify a separate class of T-Mobile US Inc cellphone users for welcome messages sent in April 2014. He said the proposed plaintiff in that part of the case had consented to receiving welcome messages.

Yahoo did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Keith Keogh, a lawyer for Johnson, said: “We appreciate the court’s thorough analysis.”

The case is Johnson et al v. Yahoo Inc, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Nos. 14-02028, 14-02753.

GM invests $500 million in Lyft, sets out self-driving car partnership

GM invests $500 million in Lyft, sets out self-driving car partnership

General Motors Inc said it will invest $500 million in Lyft Inc and laid out plans to develop an on-demand network of self-driving cars with the ride-sharing service. The biggest single Detroit-Silicon Valley crossover deal to date comes as automakers work out how to respond to the rush of technology companies such as Apple, Alphabet and Uber – Lyft’s biggest rival – to control cars of the future and likely reshape the global auto industry.

The No. 1 U.S. automaker’s investment accounts for half of Lyft’s latest $1 billion fundraising round. It is one of GM’s biggest investments in another company and the largest single cash injection to date by a traditional automaker into a young technology firm. The two companies said the partnership was based on the shared view that self-driving cars will first reach consumers as part of a ride-sharing service, rather than vehicles owned by drivers. “We think our business and personal mobility will change more in the next five years than the last 50,” GM President Dan Ammann said in an interview with Reuters.

The partnership will tap into GM’s work on driverless cars and Lyft’s software that matches drivers and passengers and calculates routes, to create a network of cars that would operate themselves and be available on demand.

The two companies did not set out a timeline to get the on-demand network up and running, but said they would immediately offer Lyft drivers short-term rentals of GM cars.

The announcement came as Toyota Motor Corp and Ford Motor Co said they would adopt the same software to link smartphone apps to vehicle dashboard screens. Toyota and Ford, two of the world’s biggest automakers, invited rival car companies to join them to counter the push by Apple, Alphabet, Tesla Motors Inc and others into self-driving cars, or what the industry calls autonomous vehicles.
Major automakers are trying to prevent Silicon Valley from dominating the future of self-driving cars and ride-sharing, and are also investing as a way to see whether Lyft and Uber are on the way to making money, said Matthew Stover, automotive analyst with Susquehanna Financial Group. “The only way to understand the implications and viability of this business model (Lyft and Uber) is to become an investor,” said Stover.

Last month, Ford Chief Executive Mark Fields said the No. 2 U.S. automaker would explore the ride-hailing business with a fleet of specially designed Transit vans at its Dearborn, Michigan campus. GM CEO Mary Barra last fall said that while Apple and Google – now called Alphabet – are pushing to dominate dashboard displays with their software, automakers still control “the platform” of the vehicle itself. GM’s Ammann, who will join Lyft’s board as a part of the deal, said both companies had a “really common view of the future.” Lyft President John Zimmer said the “culture and vision are very alike” in both GM and Lyft.

The deal heralds a wave of alliances of varying forms between automakers and Silicon Valley companies as both try to capture new business as transportation evolves, said Xavier Mosquet, the U.S. auto practice leader at Boston Consulting Group in Detroit. “In the next 10 to 20 years, (transportation) will be one of the biggest areas for electronic and software investments,” Mosquet said. He expects ride-sharing driverless vehicles to develop first in big cities such as Singapore, London and New York, probably between 2022 and 2025.

Lyft said the latest $1 billion fundraising round included Kingdom Holding Co, the investment firm of Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, which put in $100 million. Other investors included Janus Capital Management, Japanese online retailer Rakuten Inc, Chinese ride-hailing service Didi Kuaidi and Chinese Internet company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Kingdom and Alwaleed are major investors in U.S. tech companies. Together they own more than 5 percent of Twitter Inc .

Lyft said the latest funding round valued it at $5.5 billion, cementing its status as one of Silicon Valley’s much-prized ‘unicorns,’ or companies worth more than $1 billion without going public. Lyft does not publicly disclose its financial performance, but media reports have suggested it is not profitable, like many tech startups.

Lyft is locked in a fundraising race with rival ride-hailing app Uber Technologies Inc. Lyft said it has raised a total of $2 billion since August 2013. Uber is reportedly in the midst of a $2.1 billion funding round that would value it as high as $64.6 billion.

Nandan Nilekani’s formula is wrong; the state must stay clear of offering internet sops

Free Basics: Nandan Nilekani’s formula is wrong; the state must stay clear of offering internet sops

In all the hoopla over Free Basics, the consumer’s wish-list has already been pre-ordained by self-proclaimed saviours of the internet. Why? Because, currently, about a quarter of India’s population is estimated to have access to internet and the number is set to grow by leaps and bounds in the coming years and decades. Everyone, of course, wants a share of the pie and has huge stakes involved.

Thankfully, much has changed since April last year. Then, it was more or less a one-sided debate on net neutrality with Flipkart and Airtel forced to abort their zero-rating plans. This time, Facebook is at least putting up a fight. It has published advertisements, asked people to give missed calls, send in letters to TRAI informing it of their opinion.

Zuckerberg himself has reached out by penning a piece for an influential daily. True, those clamouring for Zuckerberg’s head may have legitimate concerns and fears. What was the need to change the name from Internet.Org to Free Basics? Why did Facebook change its privacy terms now and not then? Why is Facebook not giving free data instead? Why does it still have the option to reject websites and apps to be available on its platform unless they meet its terms and conditions? What is in it for Facebook to become altruistic and provide access to internet to millions? Why does Facebook not want to explore other alternatives?

There may be much to be cynical about Facebook and its ambition, but then it is a corporation whose sole motive, in all probability, is profit making.

But then what do we expect from the current discourse?

That such a complex issue has been broken down for the majority by a bunch of comedians and musicians is nothing but ridiculous. That most of us are sharing these videos is even more comical. That policymakers in Delhi could be influenced by such means is dangerous and worrying.

That such an important debate remained one-sided for so long says more about us than about those who are preaching us morality and teaching us economics. In their own language, all of us just got roasted.

It is hardly surprising then, that someone as respected as Nandan Nilekani has proposed analternative to the Free Basics plan in the form of a government-backed Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT) scheme for consumers.

He feels the government should offer a free data pack of 120MB annually by linking people’s SIM cards to their Aadhaar numbers. While it is true that the government may be able to afford the scheme, the larger question is why involve the government at all when private entrepreneurs are willing to do it themselves?

Someone needs to urgently remind Nilekani of the telecom revolution in India, which was brought about by private companies and not by the government. The fact that about 800 million people in India own a mobile phone with one of the lowest calling rates in the world is a testimony to what entrepreneurs can do, provided the government provides a competitive, balanced and a stable ecosystem.

Of course, issues such as call drops or internet speeds do bother us on a daily basis. And these problems exist primarily because of the limited spectrum that the government offers up for auction and the fact that we haven’t further opened up the sector to greater competition. Our demands should revolve around this and not on more government intervention.

Nilekani accuses Free Basics of “going against the spirit of openness of Internet in the guise of being pro-poor”.

Free Basics, first, is an option and not a compulsion on any consumer.

Second, there is no threat, at least for now, that it will block, throttle or create fast/slow lanes. If and when there are competition issues, any individual or a company is free to approach the Competition Commission. Nilekani is, in fact, undermining the role of CCI, which has full authority to decide on any anti-trust issues. But, to not allow any legitimate business model to operate just because we fear consumer interests “might” be harmed, is doing a great disservice to the consumer himself.

Nilekani further asks the government to enact laws protecting Net Neutrality. Fortunately, he stops short of pushing for a Constitutional amendment to include the Right to Internet as a Fundamental Right.

Nilekani is behaving like a true soldier of the Congress. In all seriousness, the Internet is dynamic and constantly changing. Nobody, least of all the regulators, can foresee what business models or circumstances might come up in the future, and such laws may only end up harming those it seeks to protect, namely, the consumers. History is a decent source of information where restrictions and regulations have only been detrimental to the industry at large.

Nilekani, himself an immensely successful entrepreneur and now one of the top angel investors in start-ups, should allow the market to play its role. There are choices that consumers may make that can surprise each and everyone. And consumers will have more choices at their disposal through the market and not through the government.

This objective of “equal and open” Internet should be replaced by a policy whose sole aim is consumer welfare. And such zero-rating or differentiated pricing plans, as long as they are not anti-competitive, deserve a chance.

But we have been bought out and brought down by so much fear that it has become fashionable, noble and even patriotic to stand up against Facebook.

Of course Zuckerberg is no saint, and is behaving just as any pragmatic businessman would. He is doing it for his own company and not for his love of India. As long as its competitive and legally contractual, Facebook will only help connect low-income consumers to internet, even if it does end up making substantial money.

But we have bowed down to online activism, which has allowed us to overestimate what Facebook can do, and underestimate what our own domestic start-ups/companies can do. That Facebook will be able to capture the entire market without any stiff competition is undermining our own entrepreneurial capabilities and strength.

So, in essence, you do not trust the private industry because you feel they will divide and fragment the Internet only for their pursuit of profit.

You do not trust credible institutions (CCI) because you feel it may not be able to prevent the creation of a monopoly on Internet services.

You do not trust the consumer because you feel he/she may be duped by various commercial interests.

You do not trust domestic entrepreneurs or start ups because how can you compete with a global giant? Your only hope is the government which may come out with another set of restrictive rules that limits competition and retards innovation. This is nothing but populism at its worst.

But then, in a country where majority of its politicians, administrators and even voters are either on the left or the right of Mao, it is exactly the kind of direction our debates around policies would take. And in that respect, it is not difficult to pick who the winner will be in this debate.