‘Trump is a Blessing for Indian IT’

RIL chairman says Trump will make Indian talent focus on India and find solutions for issues here
Even as election of Donald Trump as the US President has raised the hackles of the Indian IT industry , Mukesh Ambani, the chairman of India’s largest private sector company Reliance Industries said that it may instead prove to be a blessing in disguise for the $155billion industry .”Trump will be a blessing in disguise. He will make Indian talent focus on India and find solutions for India,” said Ambani at the Nasscom India Leadership Forum. He added that the India market is huge and has the potential to become the largest software market in the world. He, however, cautioned the country against adopting any retaliatory protectionist policies.

“The world will try to build a wall.But, we should not be influenced by that. It is very important to be open and have partnerships,” he said.

Talking about the potential for technology use in the country , Ambani said that we are at an exciting time in human history and data is the new oil. “The fourth industrial revolution is all about convergence of physical, digital and biological sciences… At the foundation of the fourth industrial revolution is connectivity and data. Data is the new natural resource, this has to be processed to intelligence for it to be useful but I do believe that we are at the beginning of an era where data equals oil.” He added that India will have a competitive advantage here with its population of 1.3 billion people and huge amount of data generated by them.

Ambani’s latest venture Jio shook the telecom industry sparking a wave of consolidation. He said that Jio covers almost 95% of the people in the country and as the world digitises, the next step will be partnerships.

Ambani hailed out to Nandan Nilekani, the founder-chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) for building Aadhaar, which has enabled real-time customer authentication for registering new telecom connections.”Without Aadhaar, we wouldn’t have been able to enroll one million people a day ,” he said.

Ambani also spoke about how new technologies such as artificial intelligence and natural language process could empower millions of people. “What happens to millions of Indians when they can speak to their mobile phones in their languages and get answers. It will redefine the quality of information and services, that is an opportunity that was impossible before,” he said.

Addressing the country’s booming startup ecosystem, Ambani said that they should focus on solving real problems, which do good to people in some way and not focus on financial returns alone.

Source : The Economic Times (Delhi)

Angels, VCs Analysed Data Rs 50 crore in Flutura

Flutura Business Solutions, an IoT (Internet of Things) focused data analytics firm, has raised $7.5 million, or Rs50.13 crore, in a fresh round of funding led by Vertex Ventures, the venture capital arm of Singapore Government’s investment company Temasek Holdings. One of the largest rounds recently raised in the IoT sector, it also saw participation from private investment fund Lumis Partners and the startup’s existing investor The Hive, a Palo Alto-based seed fund.Flutura specialises in decision analytics for the energy and engineering sector, leveraging the industrial IoT technology and counts Henkel, Siemens, and Philips Solar among its clients. The Bengaluru-based company will utilise the funds for global expansion.

This is Vertex Ventures’ second investment in India in the past six months, after it led a round of $6 million for customer analytics startup CloudCherry in September. Vertex Ventures’ investments in India are made out of its South Asia fund, which also looks at opportunities in Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

What sets the company apart is the confluence of IoT and data analytics in a manner that it can change the way very large companies function globally, says Ben Mathias, managing director of Vertex Ventures, India. The startup’s data science solution offers assistance to large industrial manufacturers in the form of predictive maintenance to predict possible failure in machines and also to increase operational efficiency by monitoring various signals through sensors.

Flutura has also partnered with large machine manufacturers such as, Hitachi, Dell, Intel and SAP to deliver its analytics solution over cloud and on-premise. It specialises in providing edge intelligence and central intelligence to machines, meaning that large equipment can be trained to react in certain ways in given situations. An example of Flutura’s analytics is the intelligence it can provide to disengage a certain part of a machine that indicates likely failure, and to send an alert to replace the faulty part.

“The industrial IoT sector, that we are targeting, has a huge untapped opportunity and our existing solution of providing analytics to predict machine failure is only the beginning of what could be done,” says Flutura CEO Krishnan Raman.

With backing from Vertex Ventures, Flutura will expand geographically in the UK, and extend product offerings to its existing set of customers, Raman said. The startup has a strong presence in the US, India and Japan.

Source : The Economic Times (Delhi)

The poor health of india’s start-ups

A Mint analysis of the financial statements of 41 large Indian consumer internet companies makes for worrying reading for start-up investors or anyone optimistic about the state of the consumer internet business. These 41 companies together posted losses of Rs16,000 crore on revenue of Rs23,753 crore in the year ended March 2016.

Source : Mint (Delhi)

Flipkart still India’s top start-up

Flipkart accounted for 75% of revenues but only 46% of losses at India’s Internet start-ups in fiscal 2016

For all its well-documented troubles, Flipkart Ltd remains India’s outstanding Internet company. A Mint analysis of the financial statements of the country’s top 41 consumer Internet start-ups and companies highlights why Flipkart continues to be the torchbearer of India’s start-up ecosystem. The analysis also makes for a worrying read for start-up investors or anyone optimistic about the state of the consumer Internet business.

Flipkart accounted for 75% of the revenues but only 46% of the losses at these companies for the year ended March 2016, the latest for which numbers are available. The online retailer, which was valued at $15 billion in its last funding round in the middle of 2015, also accounted for nearly 40% of the valuation of the companies.

None of the 41 start-ups is an early stage company; all have raised at least two rounds of funds from institutional investors, or Series B rounds as they are called in start-up jargon. More than half of these start-ups have raised many more rounds of funds. The numbers exclude those at ANI Technologies Pvt. Ltd that runs cab hailing service Ola, which hasn’t yet reported its results for the financial year 2016. In the previous year, Ola had reported a loss of Rs755 crore on sales of Rs418 crore.

The analysis reveals why funding has slowed considerably for Internet start-ups over the past 15 months. There’s an unmistakable mismatch in the valuations and revenues of Internet companies. On a cumulative basis, the revenue-to-valuation multiple of these 41 start-ups was 11 times, which for older start-ups (especially inventory-based start-ups) is a relatively high ratio. The loss numbers are shocking. The companies together reported losses of nearly Rs16,000 crore to generate revenues of roughly Rs24,000 crore in the given period. Only one company, Bigtree Entertainment Pvt. Ltd, which runs ticket seller BookMyShow, showed a profit.

If Flipkart were to be removed from this list, the multiples would get considerably worse. Not that Flipkart numbers are flattering by themselves. The company’s various entities, which include its logistics unit as well as fashion retailer Myntra, reported a net loss of roughly Rs5,770 crore on revenues of nearly Rs18,000 crore.

To be sure, Internet businesses prefer to be valued on gross merchandise value (GMV), or the value of goods sold on the platform, rather than on revenues. Many of the start-ups in the list are set up as marketplaces, which take a cut on every transaction rather than sell goods directly to customers. Still, revenue is a more reliable number than GMV. And, most of the 41 start-ups including Flipkart, Snapdeal (run by Jasper Infotech Pvt. Ltd, Zomato Media Pvt. Ltd, Grofers India Pvt. Ltd and hotel aggregator Oyo have cut monthly losses since the beginning of 2016. These companies have become leaner, slashed spending on discounts and advertising, avoided thoughtless expansion and generally tried to find less unsustainable business models.

But given that the e-commerce market showed little growth in calendar 2016, the numbers reinforce the precarious state of India’s Internet start-ups and their venture capital (VC) backers. The unforeseen weakness in the consumer Internet means the revenue-to-valuation multiples are bound to look even more unsustainable as valuations are based partly on growth projections, which have taken a big hit. Downrounds and distress sales and look inevitable. Flipkart’s co-founders Sachin Bansal (in January 2016) and Binny Bansal (January this year) have both lost their CEO position in the past 13 months; Snapdeal is a shell of the company it once was; and Ola is facing a so-called down-round. VC firms have largely avoided punishment.

No wonder then that some of the best-known entrepreneurs and VCs are calling for government protection from companies (Amazon and Uber) that can still afford to operate in the freewheeling way Indian start-ups did in the go-go years of 2014 and 2015.

Source : Mint (Delhi)

This app can create a dress based on your personality

Google has teamed up with H&M’s digital fashion house Ivyrevel to create dresses inspired by phone users’ personal data.

The project, called `Coded Couture’, uses an Android app designed to monitor multiple aspects of a user’s lifestyle, including travel routes, dinner spots, daily routine, and the weather around them. This information is gathered over the course of a week, and used to create a ‘Data Dress’ starting at $99 (approx. Rs 6,670).

The app, which isn’t yet available, uses the Awareness API Google unveiled at its IO developer conference last year.It gathers data from a phone’s sensors, and is capable of working out whether the user is walking or driving, and if their headphones are plugged in, as well as their location.

However, users will be able to specify what style of dress they want, such as one for formal events, parties or work.The app is currently in a closed beta stage, but will be launched later this year. However, with Google recently being ordered to comply with FBI search warrants for Gmail users’ data stored outside the US, consumers might want to be wary about how much of their personal information they share.

Source : The Times of India (Delhi)

Techtonic shift in phone tapping?

Secret Project, In Final Stages, Will Help Special Cell Overhear 120 Calls Simultaneously
In a major revamp of the way it eavesdrops on phone chatter, the Special Cell of Delhi Police, which primarily deals terror cases, is enhancing its call interception system. Officers have confirmed that the highly secretive project is being executed on a priority and the force is in the final stages of the process to procure advanced law enforcement monitoring facilities (LEMF).The new LEMF will allow the cops to overhear 120 calls simultaneously , sources said.What is being set up is not just a central monitoring system, but an entire network of aro und 100 computers and highspeed servers, equipped with powerful 128GB DDR4 RAMs.These are expected to run up bill running into crores of rupees, officers privy to the plans confirmed.

The New Delhi range of the Special Cell will get a major portion of the acquisitions with 36 computers and servers. The south-western and northern ranges, which focus on organised crimes, will get 20 each, while the southern range will bag 15. A set-up of five computers and the central server will be installed at Police Headquarters and will be overseen by the DCP (Special Cell).

However, though a central monitoring system is expected to check any misuse of the facility, it is unclear if the Union ministry of home affairs has given the project a goahead. Last year, it had objected to the increasing demands for interception approval made by Delhi Police and sought a detailed actiontaken report on the hundreds of numbers that it had approved in a six-month period.

Under the phone-call intercept protocol, the Delhi Police commissioner, DGPs of states, and eight other agencies -Intelligence Bureau, Research & Analysis Wing, Narcotics Control Bureau, Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investi gation Agency , military intelligence of the defence ministry and the Central Board of Direct Taxes are authorised to intercept calls with the prior approval of the home ministry .

The Special Cell is the nodal agency in Delhi for call interceptions. It can give extensions upon approval to police stations. On average, the union home ministry okays around 5,000 requests made by these agencies.

In 2014, the government notified a fresh set of procedures for legal interception of calls under Section 5 (2) of the Indian telegraph Act. However, rule 419A of the Indian Telegraph Rules allows for lawful interception of phones without prior approval under unavoidable circumstances. However, such interceptions have to be approved within seven days.

Lawful interception of calls aids enforcement agencies in obtaining network communications in a clandestine manner. The intercepted data, called handover interfaces, is categorised in three levels, with the one codenamed HI3 being the most critical, an officer explained, because it contains the content of the intercepted communication and can be used by law enforcement agencies as leads or evidence against a suspect.

Source : The Times of India (Delhi)

PEs, VCs Get Tax Breather for Startups

Income from transfer of unlisted shares to be treated as capital gains & not as biz income even on transfer of control or mgmt
Private equity (PE) and venture capital (VC) funds investing in startups have got a tax relief. Income from transfer of unlisted shares by them would now be treated as capital gains and not as business income even if there is transfer of control or a management change.A number of funds had received show cause notices from income-tax authorities on this issue, prompting a spate of representations from them as well as startups to the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT).

The relief is available to Sebi-registered Alternate Investment Fund (AIF), both category I and II.

The board has now sent out a letter to the field saying this change in control or management should not be applied in case of such investments as AIFs typically invest in unlisted shares of ventures, many of which are startups, making some form of `control and management of underlying business’ necessary .

This issue had its origin in the long-standing debate on treatment of transfer of shares as business income or capital gains.

The CBDT had in February 2016 through a clarification settled the debate that income from transfer of listed shares and securities which are held for more than a year would be taxed under the head ‘Capital Gain’ unless the taxpayer himself treats these as stock-in-trade and transfer thereof as its business income.

For determining the tax-treatment of income from transfer of unlisted shares for which no formal market exists for trading, the CBDT said the income would be considered as ‘Capital Gain’, irrespective of period of holding, but with some exceptions.

These included a situation when genuineness of transactions in unlisted shares itself was in question, transfer of unlisted shares was related to an issue pertaining to lifting of corporate veil or the transfer of unlisted shares is made along with the control and management of under lying business.

The board has now dropped this condition that impacted startup investments by VCs and PEs as their funding usually implies some form of management control.

Tax experts say the CBDT clarification helps remove any uncertainty and risk that gains from sale of shares in such cases could be taxed as business income.

“Taxing them as business income would have been a big blow since they invest for a longer duration and would have lost out on indexation benefit or full capital gains exemption (in cases of favourable treaty countries like Mauritius, Singapo re, the Netherlands, etc),” said Amit Maheswari, partner at Ashok Maheshwari & Associates LLP.

“The clarification addresses the concern and ambiguity caused by the exception to the broad principle laid out by the earlier guidance issued by the government that income arising from transfer of unlisted shares should be considered as capital gains,” Vikas Vasal, national leader ­ tax, Grant Thornton India LLP .

Tax experts have now sought further certainty in the Budget.

“It is common for AIFs to acquire management control of the investee companies… This is a very important clarification also considering that business income does not get pass through status. Investors in such AIFs can therefore get the benefit of lower tax rate on capital gains,” said Rajesh Gandhi, partner, Deloitte Haskins & Sells LLP. “The Budget 2017 should in fact remove the differential tax treatment between capital gains and business income and simply give pass through status to all types of income of AIFs,” he said.

Source : The Economic Times (Mumbai)

Taxed Angels Set to Form United Front

Industry and investor bodies come together to submit list to DIPP
Angel investor networks and startup industry bodies have come together to form a unified startup coalition, seeking the removal of the “angel tax” through recommendations to the department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP).There is a growing concern after the income tax department ordered about 100 startups to pay tax on their marked down valuations in recent funding rounds in November and December last year. ET had on January 4 reported that most of these startups are looking to challenge these tax orders.

The startup coalition, which in cludes Nasscom, Indian Angel Network, Mumbai Angels, IVCA and TiE, has asked the DIPP to carve out angel investor groups while defining such networks and creating specific norms for such investments to exempt them from the angel tax including retrospective exemption.

“For investors, taxing at fair value is collateral damage. We are the only country to tax angel investments,“ said Saurabh Srivastava, cofounder of IAN.

The tax demands have been made for the assessment years 201314 and 2014-15. Experts believe that Section 56(2)(vii)(b) of the Income-Tax Act, 1961, under which these notices have been sent, was originally introduced to curb money laundering and is now being levied on startups.

“This (slapping of tax notices) is due to past actual cases where the tax department has deducted fraudulent transactions, but it is unfortunate that this rule has several unintended consequences on legitimate investments in the startup investing community,“ said Gopal Srinivasan, chairman of TVS Capital Fund.

Investors believe that there should be a level-playing field for both publicly listed as well as unlisted entities, in this case, startups -with a government body such as the DIPP recognising angel network groups in India, similar to VC funds registered with Sebi.

Apart from converting disallowed capital investment to inco me, experts feel that the tax levied further stresses the cashflow of the startup resulting in the company raising further rounds at an even lower valuation.

The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) had on June 14, last year, issued a clarification exempting government-registered startups from the tax.

In several cases, however, the tax demand has been made in earlier years.

Industry trackers say that some of the startups may consider moving their base outside India if clarity is not provided. “Re-domiciling will only increase with this. I would recommend (that startups) leave India and re-domicile outside if they are further pained. We have worked to keep startups in India but moves like this make us helpless and frustrated,“ tech investor TV Mohandas Pai told ET in an emailed response.

Source : The Economic Times (Delhi)



The company:

Vidyartha The idea: An online platform to help build academic profiles of students through data-insights and aptitude tests

How it struck:

Indian School of Business alumnus Priya Mohan was a financial auditor. In her role, she interacted with entrepreneurs, helping many to raise funds. “Their train of thought excited me,“ she says. Inspired, she debated on a few ideas for herself and chose education. “I took science in school. But I felt if I had access to data about my skills, I would have tried something else.“

When it started:

March 2011

How it started:

In late 2010, Mohan teamed up with her husband’s friend Navin Balan to start Vidyartha. They spent six months chalking out a business plan. “We spent a lot of time in Domino’s and coffee shops.“ The big break came when a Hyderabad-based school decided to partner them in 2011.


Vidyartha partners with over 2,000 schools and has created profiles for over 2 lakh students. CBSE has asked it to develop online aptitude tests.


The company:

3Dexter The idea: Experiential learning by integrating 3D printing tech with school curriculum

How it struck:

Raunak Singhi and his friends were sitting in a tuition centre when they noticed two students cramming definitions. “When we asked one for a definition, he gave us a thorough definition, but when we asked him the concept behind the definition, he couldn’t answer.“ Singhi started 3Dexter to enable students to understand concepts better.

When it started:

June 2015

How it started:

Singhi got together with six of his friends from school and they spent 6-7 months researching the idea. They did a threemonth trial in a Delhi school which ended in February 2016. In April, they went live.


3Dexter has tied up with several schools in Delhi, Gujarat and Mumbai and leading school boards. It recently received Rs 1 crore from Ica Edu Skills, a training organization.

The Times of India (Delhi)