India

Amazon to invest $1 billion in India’s small businesses

Jeff Bezos is convinced it’s time to double down

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Jeff Bezos is visiting India and Amazon has organized a conference to announce their plans and goals for the regional market. Dubbed “Smbhav”, it’s a collaborative event for small and medium businesses and will see the participation of senior industry executives.

Bezos said the global online retailer will invest US$ 1 billion in digitising India’s small and medium businesses. He also said the company is eyeing scaling locally produced products from India — in line with the Make in India program — to be of US$ 10 billion size on Amazon platform by 2025.

“We are doing this now because it is working. And when something works you should double down on it,” Bezos said.

The news comes just after the Competition Commission of India (CCI), started an investigation into anti-competitive practices of Amazon and its Walmart-owned rival Flipkart earlier this week.

An Amazon executive said the company has amassed over 500,000 sellers in India and thousands of merchants in the country who are selling on 12 Amazon marketplaces around the world.

India is a lucrative market for internet companies because of extremely cheap data rates and easy availability of affordable smartphones. With a population of 1.3 billion people, the potential is unmatchable. Especially because China’s markets are closed by an internal firewall and the developed markets are highly saturated.

The country is Amazon’s largest bet outside its home market and currently at the cutting edge of digital payments. In India, Amazon is able to set up a highly scaled operations unit, ensuring lower costs and better reach.

Gaming

PUBG Mobile is making a comeback as Battlegrounds Mobile India

Will be exclusive to India

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Battlegrounds Mobile

After an excruciating wait, it’s official — PUBG Mobile is coming back to India. But this time, it’ll have a new name: Battlegrounds Mobile India with some added features, and an India-centric focus.

Krafton, the game’s developer, has announced it’ll be launching the Battlegrounds Mobile India soon. The game will bring an AAA-rated multiplayer experience alongside exclusive in-game events, tournaments, and leagues. While a launch date isn’t available, Krafton did confirm that pre-registration will be opened up soon.

The game will be free-to-play and incorporate the same battle royale concept that made it popular. Although, little detail is available about maps, guns, vehicles, and the plot (if there is any) of the game.

Furthermore, the game’s developer said that it would comply with all local laws and compliances. This includes data localization — storage of data within Indian borders. The announcement has cheered millions of players in the country who’ve been waiting for an alternative ever since the primary game was barred.

Why PUBG had to go

In mid-2020, India and China were involved in a fatal border skirmish that left many casualties on both sides. Following the conflict, India took a stringent anti-China stance and banned a host of apps that were developed or backed by Chinese companies. TikTok, owned by ByteDance, was among the first to come under the hammer.

PUBG Mobile was also included in the ban because Chinese giant Tencent was a distribution partner of the game. Following the ban, Krafton quickly removed Tencent from the agreement and announced plans to launch a new game independent of any Chinese influence.

Indian developers rode the hype wave, and many TikTok clones were touted as the next big thing. On the same lines, nCore Studios tried to bridge the gap by launching FAU-G, but it was a colossal failure. In fact, it still doesn’t have a battle royale mode, so it’s safe to assume Call of Duty: Mobile is the only practical alternative left for users right now.

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India

India finally approves 5G trials, sidelines Chinese vendors

Jio will also test its indigenous technology

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The Indian government has allowed India’s top three telecom operators Jio, Airtel, and Vodafone-Idea to carry out 5G trials in India for six months. The telcos are barred from utilizing equipment from Chinese vendors.

The Department of Telecommunication (DoT) said that the telcos can rely on technology providers like South Korea’s Samsung, Swedish Ericsson, and Finnish Nokia. It also said that Jio was allowed to use its indigenous technology to carry out the trials. Huawei and ZTE are the two major Chinese companies that are affected by the clause.

For now, the mid-band (3.2Ghz to 3.67Ghz) and millimeter-wave band (24.25Ghz to 28.50Ghz) are available. Additionally, telcos are allowed to use their existing spectrum. The companies have been warned that commercial utilization is prohibited. The tests are divided between urban and rural India, and the security of the network is of utmost importance.

“The objectives of conducting 5G trials include testing 5G spectrum propagation characteristics especially in the Indian context; model tuning and evaluation of chosen equipment and vendors; testing of indigenous technology; testing of applications (such as tele-medicine, tele-education, augmented/ virtual reality, drone-based agricultural monitoring, etc.); and to test 5G phones and devices,” the ministry said.

No to China

The exclusion of Chinese vendors isn’t surprising as the government has maintained an anti-China stance since the mid of 2020. Due to escalating border crisis, more than a hundred Chinese apps including TikTok and PUBG: Mobile were banned. Since then, state-owned telecom operator BSNL is barred from sourcing Chinese equipment in its network. Private operators have followed a similar strategy to avoid heat from the government.

5G roll-out has been delayed in the country due to the ravaging Coronavirus pandemic and lack of demand for a premium market. The average revenue per user in India lowest in the world, making it difficult for companies to sustain amid decade-long tax disputes, discount wars, and expensive spectrum. However, the industry has picked up pace in the last year as the demand for wireless connectivity boomed, providing a much-needed buffer to beleaguered telcos like Vodafone-Idea.

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Health

Google will fund 250,000 vaccine doses via an international alliance

Recipients include the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, and more

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Internet giant Google has announced it’ll be funding 250,000 doses of the COVAX vaccine via GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance. The funding shall come through Google.org, the company’s humanitarian foundation.

GAVI is a public-private partnership that aims to improve immunization drives in developing countries. It currently consists of developing economies, donor governments, World Health Organisation, UNICEF, and World Bank. Furthermore, private foundations such as Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are also a part of the alliance.

Google will also be leading an employee-giving campaign to secure more vaccine vials with the GAVI Matching Fund and Google.org matching the donation to triple the impact. The Philippines will be a prime beneficiary of the proposal, along with Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, India, and Laos.

The Mountain View-based company will also offer its technology solution to the alliance to accelerate global distribution. The announcement comes at a crucial time because India is experiencing a miserable second wave of Coronavirus. Being a top vaccine maker, the surge in local cases has prompted India to intensify inoculation of its own citizens. Many experts are worried that this could disrupt vaccine supply to other countries, in turn, extending the pandemic and its associated risks.

“Since February, we’ve been providing vaccine-related insights to help GAVI better educate communities about the COVID-19 vaccine. They’ve used that information to create educational content that reaches more than half a million people each day. We’re now committing US$ 15 million in Ad Grants to help Gavi build on these efforts and amplify their fundraising campaign,” Karen DeSalvo, chief health officer at Google Health, in a blog post.

So far, the Philippines has provided more than 1.7 million doses, and 214,000 people are now vaccinated. While masks and social distancing are temporary measures, a vaccine is touted as the safest way to ensure a normal future devoid of lockdowns and stringent border controls.

Read Also: Google will spend $150 million to promote coronavirus vaccine education

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