Asia

India bans e-cigarettes citing youth health concerns

Posted by | Asia, cdc, e-cigarette, e-cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, Gadgets, Health, india, Trump administration, United States, world health organization | No Comments

India’s government has announced an immediate ban on e-cigarettes — citing youth-focused public health concerns.

In a news statement following a cabinet meeting today, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the ban covers production, manufacturing, import, export, transport, sale, distribution, storage and advertising of e-cigarettes.

Sitharaman suggested India’s youth are viewing e-cigarettes as a “style statement,” implying it’s encouraging them to get hooked on nicotine — whereas she noted that companies behind the vaping trend have pitched their products as a way to ween existing smokers off cigarettes.

“This decision is taken keeping in mind the impact that [e-cigarettes are] having on the youth of today,” she said of the ban order. “The data that we have largely is derived from the U.S.’ experience and it the U.S. the latest stats that I have before me states that there has been a 77.8% growth among school students who are at the 10th and 12th level.”

She also pointed to “surprising” growth in e-cigarette use among U.S. middle school students — up 48.5%, per stats she cited. 

India has some 106 million adult smokers, making it a major market for cigarette companies of all stripes. But with the e-cigarette ban, vaping startups like Juul are set to be shut out entirely — even as traditional tobacco giants are allowed to continue to operate.

According to the World Health Organization, the use of tobacco in Indian, which includes both smoked and smokeless products, kills close to 1 million people per year.

The ban on e-cigarettes will need formal approval when India’s parliament returns this fall, though this step is typically considered a formality.

Penalties for breaching the ban order include up to one year in jail and a fine of 100,000 rupees ($1,405) for first-time offenders, per Reuters. Repeat violation risks up to three years and a penalty of up to 500,000 rupees. It’s not clear whether users of e-cigarettes will risk any penalties for the act of vaping itself.

India’s ban comes at a time when the U.S. is also preparing to tighten regulation in response to concerns around youth vaping. This month the Trump administration said it’s working on a compliance policy for flavored e-cigarettes that are especially appealing to children.

The U.S.’ CDC public health agency also recently warned against using e-cigarettes — as it investigates a lung condition associated with vaping, following hundreds of cases and a suspected death in August.

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Amazon’s Alexa now speaks Hindi

Posted by | amazon alexa, Apps, artificial intelligence, Asia, india, Mobile | No Comments

Only about 10% of India’s 1.3 billion people know English. Yet, that is the only language Amazon’s digital assistant Alexa, which was launched in India two years ago, understands in the nation. That is changing today.

At a press conference in New Delhi on Wednesday, the e-commerce giant said Alexa now supports Hindi, a language spoken by roughly half a billion people in India, as the company looks to expand its reach in the nation. Bringing support for Hindi to Alexa was in the works for more than a year, company executives said, noting the unique contextual, cultural and content-related challenges that Hindi implementation posed.

Users can now ask Alexa their questions in Hindi, and the digital assistant will be able to respond in the same language. The feature, which will begin rolling out through a software update to Alexa devices starting today, currently only supports one voice type for Hindi. (For English, Alexa offers multiple voice types.) In the months to come, Amazon said it plans to add support for multilingual households, which will enable members of the family to interact with Alexa in the language they each prefer.

Support for local languages has proven immensely beneficial to customers in the past, Manish Tiwari, head of devices category business for Amazon India, said at the event. Amazon last year introduced support for Hindi language on its apps and website. It has seen Hindi usage grow on the site and app by six times in recent months, he said.

Rohit Prasad, VP and head scientist of Alexa AI at Amazon, said the adoption of Alexa in India has been phenomenal, though he did not share any figures. Prior to today’s update, Alexa supported some Hinglish words, a combination of English and Hindi, but the company said it wanted to bring full-fledged support.

“A lot of how people in India engage with their smartphones and internet services is different from those in the United States. For instance, in India, people often search the name of an actor instead of the singer or the band when they are looking for a particular song,” he added. Alexa supports variants of about 15 languages, executives said.

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Amazon exec Prasad onstage at an event in New Delhi

Today’s announcement comes months after Amazon added a Hindi voice model to its Alexa Skills Kit, enabling developers to update their skills in India to support the more popular local language. More than 500 skills on the store already support Hindi, Prasad said today. Google smart speakers gained support for the Hindi language late last year.

Amazon says it offers Alexa customers in India more than 30,000 skills across various categories, including cricket, education and Bollywood. The company’s voice assistant is available to users through its smart speakers — Echo Dot, Echo Plus and more — and over three-dozen devices from other manufacturers, including Sony, iBall and LG, the company said.

Hindi should also help Amazon’s smart speakers maintain their lead over Google’s in India. Amazon commanded the local smart speakers market with a 59% market share in 2018, according to research firm IDC. (Google launched its smart speakers in India months after Amazon. IDC has not updated its findings since March this year.)

Indian language internet users are expected to account for nearly 75% of India’s internet user base by 2021, according to a report by KPMG and Google. By same year, nine out of every 10 new internet users in the country will likely be an Indian language speaker, the report said.

Both companies are locked in a global battle to win users through their digital voice assistants. And they should be: In many markets, including India, first-time internet users are increasingly showing that they are more comfortable engaging with their phones through voice instead of typing. Search through voice queries is growing by 270% year-over-year.

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Google is bringing a data-saving feature to Android TVs

Posted by | Apps, Asia, Flipkart, Gadgets, Google, Netflix, TC, Xiaomi | No Comments

Google said on Tuesday it is bringing a set of new features to Android TVs to improve the experience of users who rely on mobile hotspots to connect their giant devices to the internet. The features, developed by Google’s Next Billion Users team, will be first rolled out to users in India and then in other countries, the company said.

Ahead of its yearly event in New Delhi on Thursday, where the company is expected to make a number of announcements, Google said it has identified and addressed a problem faced by millions of users: Their TVs are not connected to the internet through Wi-Fi or wired/Ethernet line.

Instead, these users rely on hotspots (local network) created through their smartphones or tablets. “But that presents problems,” wrote Joris van Mens, product manager at Google’s Next Billion Users team, in a blog post. “Watching HD TV on a mobile data connection can quickly drain your daily data plan.”

To address this, Google says it is introducing to Android TVs a feature called “data saver” that would reduce the data usage on mobile connections by up to three times, thereby allowing users to consume more content on their TVs. It is also introducing a “data alerts” feature to help users better monitor how much data they have consumed watching TV.

Google data saver

The data saver feature will be optional to users

Another feature, dubbed “hotspot guide,” will allow users to set up their TV with their mobile hotspot. And last, Google is introducing the ability in its Files app to allow users to cast to the TV video files locally stored on their phones without using internet data. The Files app, which Google launched two years ago, allows users to easily free up content on their phones. The company said last month that the Files app had amassed more than 100 million users.

These four features will roll out to Android TV devices starting with those manufactured by Xiaomi, TCL and Marq by Flipkart, Google said. The company expects to roll out the features globally soon.

At an event in Bangalore on Tuesday, Xiaomi unveiled a new lineup of TVs that will support Netflix and Prime Video. The Chinese electronics giant, which is the top smartphone vendor in India, confirmed that its new TV models will support Google’s Data Saver feature.

Later this week, Google is expected to make a number of announcements around its payments app and other services in its yearly Google for India event. Indian newspaper The Economic Times reported this week that one of those announcements could be the launch of Kormo, a job-discovery app that is currently available in select developing markets in India.

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InMobi’s Glance raises $45M to expand outside of India

Posted by | Apps, Asia, funding, india, InMobi, mithril capital, Mobile, Recent Funding, Samsung, Startups | No Comments

Glance, a subsidiary of Indian mobile ad business firm InMobi, said today it has raised $45 million as it prepares to scale its business outside of India and bulk up its product offerings.

The unnamed maiden financing round for Glance was funded by Mithril Capital, a growth-stage investment firm co-founded by Silicon Valley investors Peter Thiel and Ajay Royan.

In an interview with TechCrunch, Naveen Tewari, founder and CEO of InMobi Group, said the current round has not closed and could bag another $30 million to $55 million in the next two months.

Glance operates an eponymous service that shows media content in local languages on the lock screen of Android-powered smartphones. InMobi has partnered with a number of top smartphone vendors, including Xiaomi, Samsung and Gionee, to integrate Glance into their respective operating systems.

Glance, which was launched in September last year and supports English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu, has amassed 50 million monthly active users in India, its primary market. Users are spending an average of 22 minutes with Glance each day, he said.

“All the new smartphone models launched by Samsung, Xiaomi and a handful of other vendors have launched with Glance on them,” Tewari said.

In a statement, Mithril Capital’s Royan said, “We share Glance’s global vision of breaking through the constraints of application architectures and linguistic markets to deliver rich, frictionless, and engaging experiences across a myriad of cultures and languages.” As part of the financing round, he is joining Glance’s board.

Glance does not show traditional ads, something it intends to never change, but shows a certain kind of content to drive engagement for brands.

In the months to come, Glance plans to expand the platform and bring short-form videos (Glance TV), and mini games (Glance Games) to the lock screen. It is also working on a feature dubbed Glance Nearby that will enable brands to court users in their vicinity, and Glance Shopping to explore ways to build commerce around content.

As of today, InMobi Group is not monetizing Glance platform, but plans to explore ways to make money from it early next year, Tewari said.

The 12-year-old firm said it plans to expand footprints of Glance outside of India. The company plans to take Glance to some Southeast Asian markets like Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. InMobi’s Tewari said Glance has already started to find users in these markets.

InMobi Group, which had raised $320 million prior to today’s financing round, has been profitable for several years, but the company decided to raise outside funding to accelerate Glance’s growth, Tewari said.

The firm, which has three subsidiaries, including its marquee marketing cloud division, plans to go public in the next few years. But instead of taking the entire group public, Tewari said the firm is thinking of publicly listing each division as they mature. The marketing cloud division, which brings in the vast majority of revenue for the firm, will go public first, he said.

“The IPO plans remain, and we will evaluate them as we go along. The reality, however, is that the market is so big and there is so much room that we can continue to be private for a few more years,” he said.

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Xiaomi has shipped 100 million smartphones in India

Posted by | Asia, hardware, idc, india, Mobile, mobile phones, Redmi, smartphones, Xiaomi | No Comments

Xiaomi said on Friday it has shipped more than 100 million smartphones in India, its most important market, since beginning operations in the nation five years ago. The company cited figures from research firm IDC in its claim.

The Chinese giant, which has held the top smartphone vendor position in India for eight straight quarters, said budget smartphone series Redmi and Redmi Note have been its top selling lineups in the nation.

In India, the world’s fastest growing and second largest smartphone market, most handsets ship with a price tag below $200. Xiaomi, whose phones punch above their price class, has strictly adhered to the budget-conscious market from the day it began operations in India. The company says it never makes more than 5% profit on any hardware product it sells.

In a statement, Manu Jain, VP of Xiaomi and MD of the company’s India business, said the company’s milestone today “is a testament to the love we have received from millions of Mi Fans since our inception. There have been brands who entered the market before us, yet are nowhere close to the astounding feat we have achieved.”

Shipping 100 million smartphones in India alone is a remarkable feat for Xiaomi, which operates in dozens of markets. The company last year shipped 100 million handsets in about 10 months worldwide  (India included) in what was a record for the company.

As competition in its home nation intensifies and smartphone shipments slow or decline everywhere, India has emerged as the most important market for Xiaomi in recent years. When the Chinese firm entered the nation, for the first two years, it relied mostly on selling handsets online to cut overhead. But in the years since, it has established presence in brick-and-mortar markets, which continues to drive much of the sales in the nation. (India is also one of the handful of places where smartphone shipments continue to grow.)

xiaomi india

Image: Manish Singh / TechCrunch

Last month, Xiaomi said the company was on track to building presence in 10,000 physical stores in the country by the end of the year. It expects offline market to drive half of its sales by that time frame. Xiaomi says it has created more than 20,000 jobs in India, the vast majority of which have been filled by women.

Even as smartphones continue to be its marquee business in India, Xiaomi has also brought a range of other hardware products to the nation and has built software services for the local market. The company has also donned the hat of an investor, backing a number of startups, including local social network ShareChat, which recently raised $100 million from Twitter and others, fintech startups KrazyBee and ZestMoney and entertainment app maker Hungama.

In recent interviews with TechCrunch, Xiaomi executives said they have a dedicated team in India that closely looks for investment opportunities in local startups.

“We believe this is just the beginning of a brand new chapter, and we will continue to bring in more categories and products with best specs, highest quality at honest pricing for all our Mi Fans,” Jain said today.

Samsung, which once led the Indian smartphone market, has launched a handful of handset models across various price points to better compete with Xiaomi. It has also ramped up its marketing budget in the nation. Xiaomi, which spends little on marketing, remains on top.

Samsung entered India more than a decade ago and has also shipped more than 100 million smartphones in the country, research firm Counterpoint told TechCrunch. Xiaomi is only the second smartphone vendor to achieve this feat, said Tarun Pathak, an analyst with the research firm.

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India’s mobile payments firm MobiKwik reaches rare key profit milestone

Posted by | Apps, Asia, Finance, Google, india, Mobikwik, Mobile, Online lending, payments, Upasana Taku | No Comments

Indian mobile payments firm MobiKwik has reached a milestone very few of its local rivals can even contemplate: not burning money. The 10-year-old Gurgaon-headquartered firm said Tuesday it is now generating a profit excluding interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.

“We have been in an ecosystem where we have seen a lot of high-growth and several regulatory changes in the payments domain. But what we realized was that payments alone is likely not going to be a very profitable business,” Bipin Singh, co-founder and CEO of MobiKwik, told TechCrunch in an interview.

To get to the path of profitability, MobiKwik has made a number of significant changes to its business in recent years. It stopped participating in the race to aggressively acquire users and fighting with heavily backed firms such as Paytm, which has raised more than $2 billion to date.

Paytm remains unprofitable and an analysis of its financial performance shows that this is not going to change anytime soon. Google, which also offers a payments service in India, has no shortage of cash, either. MobiKwik has raised about $118 million to date from Sequoia Capital, American Express and Cisco Investments, among others.

Upasana Taku, co-founder and COO of MobiKwik, said the company has taken inspiration from Kotak and ICICI banks, both of which have about 15 million to 20 million customers — a fraction of many digital payment apps — but are profitable. MobiKwik, which employs 400 people, has 110 million users, she said.

In the last two and a half years, MobiKwik has cut down on cashbacks it bandies out to users — a practice followed by every company offering a payments solution in India — and focused on building financial services on top of its wallet app to retain customers and find additional sources of revenue.

The company continues to focus on its mobile wallet and payments processing businesses that account for about 75% of its revenue, but its growing suite of financial services, such as providing credits and insurance to customers, is already bringing the rest of the revenue, she said.

That’s not surprising, as India remains alarmingly under served. Fewer than 50 million credit cards are in circulation in the nation currently, and for people with limited income, getting a loan of any size remains a major challenge.

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“Even the population that has access to smartphones and cheap internet data can’t get a credit card in India. We found it a good match for the growth of our payments app. We started serving these users who have the discipline to repay money and have certain kind of income,” the couple said, who are now also donning the role of angel investors.

MobiKwik works with banks and other lenders to finance loans between Rs 5,000 ($69) to Rs 100,000 ($1,380). In the 18 months since it started offering this, MobiKwik has provided 800,000 loans and disbursed $100 million.

In late 2018, the company launched “sachet-sized” insurance plans to provide protection from cyber fraud, fire, accident and hospitalization. These sachets start at as little as Rs 20 (28 cents) and thousands of users buy these everyday. Similarly, it also allows users to buy mutual funds for as little as $1.30.

MobiKwik expects its revenue to hit $69 million in the financial year that ends in March next year, up from $28 million a year earlier. The company, which expects to turn fully profitable by fiscal year 2021, plans to go public in four to five years, Taku said.

MobiKwik competes with a number of players, many of which are increasingly adding financial services, such as loans, to their platforms. Since these digital platforms are able to process loans without the need of salespeople and support staff, it becomes feasible for banks to chase customers with weak financial power.

India’s overall retail credit demand is expected to grow 60% to $771 billion over the next four years, according to the Digital Lenders Association of India.

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PayPal-backed money lender Tala raises $110M to enter India

Posted by | Apps, Asia, Finance, funding, Mobile, payments, Recent Funding, RPS Ventures, Startups, tala | No Comments

Tala, a Santa Monica, Calif.-headquartered startup that creates a credit profile to provide uncollateralized loans to millions of people in emerging markets, has raised $110 million in a new financing round to enter India’s burgeoning fintech space.

The Series D financing for the five-year-old startup was led by RPS Ventures, with GGV Capital and previous investors IVP, Revolution Growth, Lowercase Capital, Data Collective VC, ThomVest Ventures and PayPal Ventures also participating in the round.

The new round, which takes the startup’s total fundraising to more than $215 million, valued it above $750 million, a person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. Tala has also raised an additional $100 million in debt, including a $50 million facility led by Colchis in the last year.

Tala looks at a customer’s texts and calls logs, merchant transactions, overall app usage and other behavioral data through its Android app to build their credit profile. Based on these pieces of information, its machine learning algorithms evaluate the individual risk and provide instant loans in the range of $10 to $500 to customers.

This model is different from how banks and most other online lenders assess a person’s eligibility for a loan. Banks look at a user’s credit score while most online lenders check the financial history.

Tala is also much faster. It approves loans within minutes and disburses the money via mobile payment platforms. The startup has lent over $1 billion to more than 4 million customers to date — up from issuing $300 million in loans to 1.3 million customers last year, Shivani Siroya, founder and CEO of Tala, told TechCrunch in an interview.

The startup, which employs more than 550 people, will use the new capital to enter India, said Siroya, who built Tala after interviewing thousands of small and micro-businesses.

In the run up to launch in India, Tala began a 12-month pilot program in the country last year to conduct user research and understand the market. It has also set up a technology hub in Bangalore, she said.

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Shivani Siroya (Tala CEO) at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2017

“The opportunity is very massive in India, so we spent some time customizing our service for the local market,” she said.

According to World Bank, more than 2 billion people globally have limited access to financial services and working capital. For these people, many of whom live in India, securing a small size loan is extremely challenging as they don’t have a credit score.

In recent years, several major digital payment platforms in India, including Paytm and MobiKwik, have started to offer small-sized loans to users. Traditional banks are still lagging to serve this segment, industry executives say. (Outside India, Tala competes with Branch, a five-year-old San Francisco-based startup that has raised more than $170 million to date and earlier this year inked a deal with Visa.)

Tala goes a step further and takes liability for any unpaid returns, Siroya said. More than 90% of Tala users pay back their loan in 20 to 30 days and are recurring customers, she added.

The startup also forwards the positive credit history and rankings to the local credit bureaus to help people secure bigger and long-term loans in the future, she added.

Tala, which charges a one-time fee that is as low as 5% for each loan, relies on referrals, and some marketing through radio and television to acquire new customers. “But a lot of these users come because they heard about us from their friends,” Siryoa said.

As part of the new financing round, Kabir Misra, founding general partner of RPS Ventures, has joined Tala’s board of directors, the startup said.

Tala said it will use a portion of its new fund to expand its footprint and team in its existing markets — East Africa, Mexico and the Philippines — and also build new solutions.

Siroya said the startup has identified some more markets that it wishes to serve. She did not disclose the names, but said she is eyeing more countries in South Asia and Latin America.

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Xiaomi launches Mi A3 Android One smartphone with 48MP rear camera in India for $181

Posted by | Asia, Gadgets, hardware, india, smartphones, Xiaomi | No Comments

Google has found a committed Android One partner in Xiaomi . The Chinese electronics giant today launched in India the Mi A3 (its third Android One smartphone in recent years) as the company looks to expand its handset offering in its most important market.

The Mi A3 features mid to high-end hardware modules and follows Xiaomi’s tradition of punching above its price class. It sports a 6.088-inch HD+ (1560X720 pixels) AMOLED display, a trio of 48MP, 8MP and 2MP camera sensors on the back to capture detailed and sharp photos and a 32MP selfie shooter.

The Mi A3 comes in two variants: one bundles 4GB of RAM and 64GB storage. It is priced at Rs 12,999 ($181). The second variant, which features 6GB of RAM and 128GB storage, is priced at Rs 15,999 ($223). Both of them are powered by the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 processor.

A lot about Android One’s future is riding on the Mi A3, which was first unveiled by Xiaomi in Spain last month. Xiaomi said the Mi A1 and Mi A2 handsets that it launched in last two years remain the most popular Android One handsets.

For Android One, a program announced by Google in 2014, the Android maker works with phone vendors closely to ensure timely software updates and a clean and “stock” Android experience without the bells and whistles that carriers and phone companies pre-install on their devices.

Android One saw significant momentum in its early years when many top smartphone vendors, including LG, HTC and Motorola, launched several handsets under the program. But until recently, it appeared that Google’s initiative was losing its momentum.

xiaomi androidone

Xiaomi, which ships MIUI Android skin on its standard smartphones, has tried to not cut any corners to make up the cost, Manu Jain, the head of Xiaomi India and VP of Global operations, said at a media conference in New Delhi Wednesday.

(Xiaomi makes a significant amount of its revenue from its services and apps, all of which are not pre-installed on the Mi A3 handset.)

On the contrary, Jain said Xiaomi has added some of the familiar features to appease users. The Mi A3 handset houses a fairly large 4030mAh battery, a 3.5mm headphone jack and supports external microSD card should you need more storage — three things that are too often too much to ask for.

Xiaomi says it has also incorporated a fingerprint sensor into the display to allow users to quickly unlock the phone. (It also supports unlocking via facial recognition.) You can check the rest of the specs here. The Mi A3 will go on sale in India through Amazon India and Xiaomi’s own online store this Friday. It will hit the brick and mortar retail stores at a later stage.

For Xiaomi, which entered India in 2014, the world’s second largest internet and smartphone market has become its most important region. The company has been the top smartphone vendor in India for eight straight quarters.

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YC-backed Lokal wants to bring local news, classifieds to 900 million Indians in their regional languages

Posted by | Apps, Asia, funding, india, Lokal, Media, Mobile, Y Combinator | No Comments

Each month millions of Indians are coming online for the first time, making India the last great growth market for internet companies worldwide. But winning them presents its own challenges.

These users, most of whom live in small cities and villages in India, can’t speak English. Their interests and needs are different from those of their counterparts in large cities. When they come online, the world wide web that is predominantly focused on the English-speaking masses, suddenly seems tiny, Google executives acknowledged at a media conference last year. According to a KPMG-Google report (PDF) on Indian languages, there will be 536 million non-English speaking users using internet in India by 2021.

Many companies are increasingly adding support for more languages, and Silicon Valley giants such as Google are developing tools to populate the web with content in Indian languages.

But there is still room for others to participate. On Friday, a new startup announced it is also in the race. And it has already received the backing of Y Combinator (YC).

Lokal is a news app that wants to bring local news to hundreds of millions of users in India in their regional languages. The startup, which is currently available in the Telugu language, has already amassed more than two million users, Jani Pasha, co-founder of Lokal, told TechCrunch in an interview.

lokal homescreen

There are tens of thousands of publications in India and several news aggregators that showcase the top stories from the mainstream outlets. But very few today are focusing on local news and delivering it in a language that the masses can understand, Pasha said.

Lokal is building a network of stringers and freelance reporters who produce original reporting around the issues and current affairs of local towns and cities. The app is updated throughout the day with regional news and also includes an “information” stream that shows things like current price of vegetables, upcoming events and contact details for local doctors and police stations.

The platform has grown to cover 18 districts in South India and is slowly ramping up its operations to more corners of the country. The early signs show that people are increasingly finding Lokal useful. “In 11 of the 18 districts we cover, we already have a larger presence and reader base than other media houses,” Pasha said.

Before creating Lokal, Pasha and the other co-founder of the startup, Vipul Chaudhary, attempted to develop a news aggregator app. The app presented news events in a timeline, offering context around each development.

“We made the biggest mistake. We built the product for four to five months without ever consulting with the users. We quickly found that nobody was using it. We went back to the drawing board and started interviewing users to understand what they wanted. How they consumed news, and where they got their news from,” he said.

“One thing we learned was that most of these users in tier 2 and tier 3 India still heavily rely on newspapers. Newspapers still carry a lot of local news and they rely on stringers who produce these news pieces and source them to publications,” he added.

But newspapers have limited pages, and they are slow. So Pasha and the team tried to build a platform that addresses these two things.

Pasha tried to replicate it through distributing local news, sourced from stringers, on a WhatsApp group. “That one WhatsApp group quickly became one of many as more and more people kept joining us,” he recalls. And that led to the creation of Lokal.

Along the journey, the team found that classifieds, matrimonial ads and things like birthday wishes are still driving people to newspapers, so Lokal has brought those things to the platform.

Pasha said Lokal will expand to three more states in the coming months. It will also begin to experiment with monetization, though that is not the primary focus currently. “The plan is to eventually bring this to entire India,” he said.

A growing number of startups today are attempting to build solutions for what they call India 2 and India 3 — the users who don’t live in major cities, don’t speak English and are financially not as strong.

ShareChat, a social media platform that serves users in 15 regional languages — but not English — said recently it has raised $100 million in a round led by Twitter. The app serves more than 60 million users each month, a figure it wants to double in the next year.

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Huawei pushes back launch of 5G foldable, the Mate X

Posted by | Android, Asia, foldable smartphone, huawei, huawei mate x, Mobile, Samsung, samsung galaxy fold, shenzhen, smartphone, tablet computer | No Comments

If you were desperately ripping days off of your calendar until you could get your hands on Huawei’s $2,600 5G foldable, the Mate X — which was originally slated to launch next month — it sounds like you’re going to have to wait a bit longer, per TechRadar which attended a press event at Huawei’s Shenzhen headquarters today. 

It reports being told there is no possibility of a September launch. Instead Huawei is now aiming for November. But the company would only profess itself certain its first smartphone that folds out to a (square) tablet will launch before 2020. So it seems Mate X buyers may need to wait until circa Christmas to fondle this foldable.

It’s not clear exactly why the launch is being delayed. But — speculating wildly — we imagine it’s something to do with the fact that the screen, er, folds.

We’ve reached out to Huawei for official comment on the delay.

Huawei’s Mate X date slippage suggests Samsung will still be first to market with its (previously) delayed Galaxy Fold — which was itself delayed after a bunch of review units broke (because, well, did we tell you the screen folds?).

Last we heard, the Galaxy Fold is slated for a September release — Samsung seemingly confident it’s fixed the problem of how to make a foldable phone survive actual use.

Of course survival in the wild very much remains to be seen with any of these foldable. So expect TC’s in house hardware guru, Brian Heater, to put all of these expensively hinged touchscreens through their paces.

Returning to Huawei’s Mate X, potential buyers may not be entirely reassured to learn the company appeared to dangle rather more information about a planned sequel in front of reporters at the press event.

A sequel which may or may not have even more screens, as Huawei is apparently considering putting glass on the back. Yes, glass. (The gen-one Mate X will have a steel back.) Glass panels which it says could double as touchscreens. On the back. As well as the front. We have no idea if that means the price-tag will double too.

This theoretical quad (?) screen foldable follow-up to the still unreleased Mate X might even be released as soon as next year, according to TechRadar’s reportage. Or — again speculating wildly — it might never be released. Because, frankly, it sounds mental. But that’s the wacky world of foldables for ya.

There may be method in this madness too. Because, since smartphones turned into all-screen devices — making it almost impossible to tell one touch-sensitive slab from another — plucky Android device makers are trying to find a way to put more screen on the slab so you can see more.

If they can pull that off it might be great. However sticking a hinge right through the middle of a smartphone’s primary feature and function without that simultaneously causing problems is certainly a major engineering challenge.

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