‘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)

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YourNest Looks to Hatch Rs 300-cr Egg for Second Technology Fund

Firm will invest in robotics, blockchain and IoT startups

Investment firm YourNest Angel Fund aims to raise a larger corpus that will help the early-stage fund write larger cheques and also provide growth capital for portfolio companies.

The Gurgaon-based firm, which is awaiting regulatory approval for the new fund, plans to raise up to 300 crore. It currently invests from a 90-crore fund making seed and early-stage investments.

“The investment thesis is exactly the same as that of the earlier fund. We want to back technology and technologyenabled (ventures),” said Girish Shivani, executive director at YourNest. The firm is scouting for startups in the areas of robotics, blockchain and those which offer business applications based on the internet-of-things.

With a bigger war chest, the early-stage fund hopes to provide later-stage funding capital as well.”We want to be able to write cheques of up to $1 million in the first round, and stay longer and deeper,” said Shivani.

The fund, which has so far invested in some 16 companies, has “30% of the corpus in the first fund” still left to be deployed. This will be used for follow-on investments in portfolio companies.

YourNest has mostly backed startups that provide products and services to other businesses, having stayed away from consumer-focused ventures due to a “lack of differentiation” according to Shivani.

However, the fund is seeing a clear shift amongst founders to build product-based companies. YourNest still has a timeline of about four-five years in the first fund to return money to investors but expects exits (in the first fund) to begin in the next 18-24 months.

Source : The Economic Times (Delhi)

SHORTAGE OF QUALITY OFFICE SPACE FAILS TO MEET CORPORATE DEMAND – Realtors Using Pre-Fabrication Tech to Finish Buildings Faster

MODERN APPROACH Using this technology, parts of the building are built in a factory nearby and assembled at site to finish the building

The demand for office space among corporates is rising but what is holding back leasing activity is shortage of good quality office space in top cities. While many new office projects have kicked off in the last few months to augment supply, a few builders are trying to capture demand early by speeding up construction using pre-fabrication technology which allows them to finish a building in 12-15 months as opposed to around 20-24 months using traditional methods.

Using this technology, parts of the building like the walls are built in a factory nearby and then transported to the site and assembled to finish the building.

In Gurugram, private equity fund and developer IREO is building an 11 million sq ft IT SEZ on 67 acres of land in Gurugram’s Golf Course Extension Road using this technology. In the first phase, it has started construction of a 1.2 million sq ft building that it says will be completed in just 1215 months, allowing the company to tap in to the demand for quality space that exists today among top corporates.

Builder Embassy is working on a 1.5 million sq ft building in its Embassy Tech Village on the Outer Ring Road in Bengaluru that will be completed in 13.5 months, says Mike Holland, CEO, Embassy Office Parks.

Another Bengaluru-based builder Salarpuria Sattva is exploring using this technology to building the remainder of its 6.5 million sq ft commercial complex in Hyderabad. The company has already built 2 million sq ft using traditional construction methods and plans to use pre-fabricated structures for the rest 4 million sq ft, says Bijay Agarwal, managing director of Salarpuria Sattva Group.

“We want to cut down on construction time which will help us rotate the space quickly,“ he says.

This speed, of course, comes at a cost. Using this technology is 5-10% more expensive, say builders.

“Yes it is more expensive than regular construction, but then you save almost 6-12 months of construction time which would eventually translate into savings for us and bring in rentals early,” says Ramesh Sanka, chief executive officer of IREO.

To finish the building in 12-15 months, IREO is setting up a pre-cast plant near the construction site to manufacture pre-casted walls that will have insulation sandwiched between two layers to provide permanent protection.

In 2015, India’s top seven cities saw a record 38 million sq ft of office space being leased, 18% higher than 2014, according to property advisory firm CBRE. The first six months of calendar year 2016 have seen over 17 million sq ft being leased.

Property consultants, however, say that leasing is now taking time because most key micro-markets do not have enough new supply to handle the current demand.

“The biggest challenge for builders is timing the market. With prefab, they can churn out buildings much faster and capture the demand,” says Ram Chandnani, managing director advisory and transaction services at CBRE South Asia.

He points out that in the top markets, there is nothing available that is ready to move in for corporate clients and whatever is under construction has already been pre-leased.

Chandnani says some builders are using the technology for built to suit buildings being made for corporates.

Since it started construction two months ago, Embassy has already completed two basement floors of 206,800 sq ft, compared to the average six months that traditional construction methods would require, says Holland. The company has leased 50% of the space in the property to aerospace firm Quest and is discussing with a few clients to lease another 400,000 sq ft of space.

“This technology reduces error and cost of wastage of time as well as materials,” he says.

Holland points out that prefab improve quality of finishes and use less manual labour making it a safe technology.” There is benefit of time, safety and quality with this new technology.”

The company is viewing the construction of this building as a test case and if the outcome is positive it will replace it for other projects as well.

Sumesh Sachar, CEO of offsite construction technology firm KEF Infra says this is the way forward for the real estate sector in India where cost, quality and energy efficiency are becoming a growing concern. While the time cycle for laying a floor slab in traditional construction would be 7 days, there is not wait time using prefab. It takes about 10 days to install a column on site but with precast it can be done in an hour.

Source : The Economic Times (Delhi)

Research, innovate, invent: PM’s `Mann ki Baat’ to youth

‘Use Tech To Solve Daily Problems’

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday pitched for technological solutions to day-to-day problems and exhorted the youth to go for research and innovation in a big way and use central schemes like “Atal Innovation Mission” to create an ecosystem of innovation, experiment and entrepreneurship in the country.

“If we have to create the next generation of innovators, we will have to prepare our children for that and therefore the government will set up `Atal Tinkering Labs’ in schools,” Modi said in his monthly radio programme `Mann ki Baat’.

He said if any school established such a lab, it would get Rs 10 lakh and an equal amount for its maintenance for five years. The objective of ATLs, being established under the “Atal Innovation Mission”, is to foster curiosity, creativity and imagination in young minds.

Noting that innovation was directly linked to incubation, Modi said under the “Atal Incubation Centre” programme the government plans to earmark Rs 10 crore (to each AIC for five years to cover the capital and operational expenditure cost in running the centre). Such centres will provide adequate infrastructure along with assistance to startups in their early stages.

Inviting the youth to do research and invent solutions through technology to the problems they see, the PM also referred to the “Atal Grand Challenges” and said, “The government wants to reward technology that is developed to address our problems.” Modi said the AGC drive will be the real tribute to former President APJ Abdul Kalam, whose first death anniversary was observed four days ago. “The more our young generation works for research and innovation, the more it will contribute to making of modern India of 21st century and that will be the real tribute to Abdul Kalam.”

The PM also talked about the Rio Olympics, his recent visit to South Africa and passage of a bill that aims to provide huge money to states for their compensatory aforestation programme.

During the 35-minute broadcast, he also spoke about the need to curb deaths during child delivery and said government hospitals will offer free check-up on the 9th of every month. He urged gynaecologists, who do not work in government hospitals, to devote one day for this purpose.

Source : The Times of India (Delhi)

FDI Ammo for Big Guns in Small Arms Manufacturing

No change in FDI limits, but `state of art’ tech not needed for foreign inflow of over 49% in defence

FDI Ammo

India has relaxed foreign direct investment norms in defence sector, doing away with the clause that allowed only “state of the art“ technology to be considered for stakes of more than 49% and thereby giving the government more power to decide on investment proposals by foreign entities.

Although the government kept the FDI limit unchanged ­ at 49% under the automatic route and 100% under approval route ­ it ushered in a major boost to the small arms manufacturing sector.

The decision announced on Monday to allow 49% FDI in manufacturing of small arms and ammunition under the automatic route is expected to attract major firms such as Heckler and Koch, Beretta, Colt and IWI to India, which has a huge requirement of firearms for the armed forces, paramilitary as well as police forces.

“The private sector has been striving to share the workload of the OFB (Ordnance Factories Board) for small arms and ammunition manufacture, but the ambiguity in law prevented it from doing so. Now, with this being clearly brought under the defence FDI policy regulations, it will provide a strong impetus, a definite path for the sharing of workload,“ said Ankur Gupta, vice president, aerospace and defence at EY India.

The industry, however, reacted with caution over the removal of the clause which mandated that only state of the art technology be allowed for consideration of investments for over 49% share in projects. Proposals of over 49% FDI are decided jointly by the ministries of defence, commerce and home. As per the revised rules, such proposals will be permitted “in cases resulting in access to modern technology in the country or for other reasons to be recorded”.

This has given the government more authority to decide on foreign investments, leaving overseas entities unclear about which of their proposals will be allowed.

“The ambiguity on what is modern technology remains and there is no clarity on what are the norms to be followed for investing over 49%. This has led to even more confusion,” said an executive at a foreign firm, requesting anonymity.

TRUCKING STARTUPS SET FOR LONG HAUL

Technology is driving another old-world, unorganized sector towards efficiency and agility – the trucking business. A fleet of startups is following an Uber-like model to organize truckers, track consignments and take the unreliability out of the logistics sector

Since it started operations in 2011, e-commerce logistics service Delhivery was dependent on local truck operators and drivers to transport its shipments within cities. Last year, however, its fleet manager in Bengaluru, Manobottom Jash, decided to try something different. He signed up with a year-old truck logistics startup LetsTransport to move packages. LetsTransport provided something Delhivery had been struggling to do for years: It let Delhivery track the trucks on a real-time basis and helped with invoicing. “I get a notification every time the vehicle reports to our warehouse. Most important, whenever a truck breaks down, we get an alert in half an hour” says Jash. Delhivery could now account for every minute, know about delays, and track its parcels more efficiently.

LetsTransport aggregates truck operators and uses geo-fencing location to help businesses track last-mile logistics -all about 20% cheaper than offline players. Of the 20 vendors Delhivery’s Bengaluru unit uses, half are with online truck logistics players LetsTransport and ThePorter. “If you look at the past 20 years, the trucking industry hasn’t changed much, we’re trying to fix that.” says Pranav Goel, IIT alumnus and former JP Morgan analyst, who started ThePorter in August 2014.

The unorganized trucking business in India is getting a shove from new players who are using technology to streamline the segment. “There are a lot of inefficiencies, starting from loading and unloading. A 15-minute pick up would take two hours because no one had any incentive to be on time. So trucks ended up doing one trip a day and charging a lot of money,” Goel says. On ThePorter’s platform, a truck does three trips, while ensuring that the 3,000 registered trucks are not empty on return trips.

Each company is approaching the problem differently. While players like The Porter and LetsTransport operate only within cities, companies like Rivigo, Blackbuck and Truckola cross state boundaries. Founded by former IITians Rajesh Yabaji and Chanakya Hridaya, Blackbuck works with over 150 companies, including PepsiCo, Unilever and Asian Paints. An app-based aggregator, it allows anyone who owns or operates trucks to join the platform. The corporate customer logs in, browses the availability of trucks, manages freight and tracks the trucks from the time of loading. “On the supply side, the owner can see the location of the trucks and can browse the demand pan India,” says Yabaji. Blackbuck has 35,000 trucks in 200 locations and charges a commission of 10-15% on every transaction.

Truckola operates more as a reorganizer than an aggregator. Once a customer asks for a truck, Truckola buys a trip from the 5,000-odd truck owners on its platform. It has 60 customers, and about 1 lakh trucks at its disposal.

All the platforms say they are operationally profitable although they refuse to reveal numbers. For The Porter, which charges a 20% commission, close to 75% of its revenue comes from small and medium enterprises. The rest comes from large institutions like Amazon, Flipkart, and pharmaceutical companies. The main challenge the companies face is getting truckers to adopt technology.

Blackbuck’s Yabaji says technology penetration among truckers is not high and not many operators and drivers have smartphones. “We are also trying to make all transactions cashless so that there are no cash flow issues,” he says. Its app is available in Hindi so that it’s accessible to more drivers.

Getting a return trip for an inter-city journey is another issue Yabaji is trying to solve. Currently, many trucks are forced to take longer routes on the way back as they don’t get a perfect return trip. And they carry a tenth of their capacity.

Mohan Kumar of Norwest Venture Partners believes that when the industry matures with demand and supply going online, a truck will have a better chance of getting more than half its capacity utilized on its way back to its home base.

Since many of the customers are small businesses, payments don’t always come on time. Accel-backed truck network platform 4TiGo, which launched its operations last week, is relying on its partnership with Federal Bank to counter this problem. It has implemented a B2B electronic payment platform with the bank and developed a special credit program to provide working capital support for companies.

“Unlike the other players who focus on the truck owners and end customers, we are trying to encompass the entire network, from the fleet owner to the driver to the truck financier,” says 4TiGo founder and CEO Anjani Mandal. Bread and biscuit maker Bonn Food Industry has been using Delhi-based TruckMandi’s platform since January. Narendar Singh, who takes care of logistics for its Ludhiana factory, says the company requires four or five trucks a day to send its bakery products from the factory to Jammu, Delhi, Haridwar and the rest of Punjab. It’s found that TruckMandi’s prices are 10%-15% lower than the market price. Singh says they wanted to give new players a chance. So, three months into operation when TruckMandi halted business after one of the co-founders quit, Bonn didn’t think twice before trying the services of another Delhi-based startup, TruckBulls, which operates on a similar app-based model.

“Truck logistics is a huge sector. India has 4.5 million trucks. It’s a very fragmented market, so there’s a great role to play in organizing the market. Customers get a good deal, truckers get more business,” says Nandan Nilekani, who is backing 4TiGo. Since there are so many players, there will be different business models, he says, adding: “It may not be like B2C but it’s the heart of India’s economy.”

Source: The Times of India (Delhi)