Asia

Apple’s partners and Samsung apply for India’s $6.6 billion local smartphone production program

Posted by | Apple, Asia, Gadgets, hardware, india, oppo, Realme, Samsung, vivo, Xiaomi | No Comments

South Korean giant Samsung, Apple’s contract manufacturing partners Foxconn, Wistron and Pegatron, and Indian smartphone vendors Micromax and Lava among others have applied for India’s $6.6 billion incentive program aimed at boosting the local smartphone manufacturing, New Delhi said on Saturday.

The scheme, called Production-Linked Incentive Scheme, will offer a range of incentives to companies including a 6% financial incentive on additional sales of goods produced locally over five years, with 2019-2020 set as the base year, India’s IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said in a press conference.

22 companies have applied for the incentive program — that also includes manufacturing of electronics components — and have agreed to export 60% of their locally produced units outside of India, said Prasad. He said the companies estimate they will produce smartphones and components worth $153 billion during the five-year duration.

The Production-Linked Incentive Scheme is aimed at turning India into a global hub of high-quality manufacturing of smartphones and support Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s push to make the country self-reliant, said Prasad.

A total of 22 companies have filed their application under the PLI Scheme. These companies will produce mobile phones and components worth Rs 11.5 lakh crore in the coming 5 years out of which products worth Rs 7 lakh crore will be exported. pic.twitter.com/3yUky3HkOC

— Ravi Shankar Prasad (@rsprasad) August 1, 2020

As part of their applications, the companies have also agreed to offer direct and indirect employment to roughly 1.2 million Indians, the Indian minister said.

The interest of Samsung and Apple, two companies that account for more than 50% of the global smartphone sales revenue, in India is a testament of the opportunities they see in the world’s second largest internet market, said Prasad. “Apple and Samsung, India welcomes you with attractive policies. Now expand your presence in the country,” he said.

Missing from the list of companies that the Indian minister revealed today are Chinese smartphone makers Oppo, Vivo, OnePlus, and Realme that have not applied for the incentive program.

The Indian government did not prevent companies from any country from participating to the program, Prasad insisted in a call with reporters Saturday noon. Chinese smartphone vendors command roughly 80% of the Indian handset market, according to research firm Canalys.

“We are optimistic and looking forward to building a strong ecosystem across the value chain and integrating with the global value chains, thereby strengthening electronics manufacturing ecosystem in the country,” he said. The deadline for applying to participate in India’s program, which began in April, ended on Friday this week.

The participation of Wistron, Foxconn, and Pegatron is also indicative of Apple’s future plans to produce locally in India. Apple’s contract manufacturing partner, Taiwan-based Wistron, first began assembling older iPhone models in 2017. Last month, Foxconn kickstarted assembly of a small batch of iPhone 11 units. This was the first time any Apple supplier assembled a current-generation iPhone model in the country.

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Apple begins assembling iPhone 11 in India

Posted by | Apple, Apps, Asia, Gadgets, hardware, india, iPhone, iphone 11, OnePlus, oppo, Samsung, TC, vivo, Xiaomi | No Comments

Apple’s contract manufacturing partner Foxconn has started to assemble the current generation of iPhone units — the iPhone 11 lineup — in its plant near Chennai, India, a source familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

A small batch of locally manufactured iPhone 11 units has already shipped to retail stores, but the production yield is currently limited, the person said, requesting anonymity as matters are private. Apple, in general, has ambitions to scale up its local production efforts in India, the person said.

The local production of current iPhone 11 models illustrates Apple’s further commitment to India, the world’s second largest smartphone market, as it explores ways to cut its reliance on China, which produces the vast majority of iPhone models today.

Apple’s contract manufacturing partner, Taiwan-based Wistron, first began assembling older iPhone models in 2017. But until now, Apple has not been able to have an assembly partner produce the current generation iPhone model in India.

Wistron, which has locally assembled older iPhone SE, iPhone 6s and iPhone 7 models in the past in its Bangalore plant, currently assembles iPhone XR units in India. Apple discontinued the local production of iPhone SE and iPhone 6s last year, the person said.

Piyush Goyal, India’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, tweeted on Friday that Apple had begun assembling iPhone 11 models in India. Apple did not comment on this story.

Assembling handsets in India enables smartphone vendors — including Apple — to avoid roughly 20% import duty that the Indian government levies on imported electronics products.

Xiaomi, Vivo, Samsung, Oppo, OnePlus and a range of other smartphone companies have inked deals with contract manufacturers across India in recent years to produce much of their locally sold smartphone units in the country itself.

Xiaomi, which has been the top smartphone vendor in India since late 2018, said earlier this month that nearly every smartphone it sells in India is produced in the country.

Apple has been exploring ways to ramp up its production in India for years, but the company has struggled to find contract manufacturers that adhere to its safety and quality standards, people familiar with the matter have told TechCrunch.

News outlet The Information reported in March that some of Apple’s other contract manufacturers have attempted to enter — or expand in — India, but have run into regulatory and local law issues. Pegatron, another assembly partner of Apple, plans to set up a local subsidiary in India and begin operations in the country, according to Bloomberg.

Foxconn, which counts India as one of its biggest markets, plans to invest $1 billion in its operations in the country, Reuters reported earlier this month. In June this year, New Delhi announced a $6.6 billion plan to attract top smartphone manufacturers.

Apple plans to launch its online store in India in a few months and open its first brick-and-mortar retail store next year, chief executive Tim Cook announced earlier this year. The online store’s launch in India remains on track despite the pandemic, a person familiar with the matter said.

The iPhone maker currently commands roughly 1% of the smartphone market in India, but is among firms that dominate the premium handset segment (phones priced at $400 or above). Apple has also been the least impacted smartphone maker in the country amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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Bangladesh regulator orders telcos to stop providing free access to social media

Posted by | Apps, Asia, bangladesh, Facebook, Free Basics, Government, india, Mobile, Social, TC, zero-rating | No Comments

Bangladesh’s regulator has ordered telecom operators and other internet providers in the nation to stop providing free access to social media services, becoming the latest market in Asia to take a partial stand against zero-rating deals.

Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, the local regulator, said late last week that it had moved to take this decision because free usage of social media services had spurred their misuse by some people to commit crimes. Local outlet Business Standard first reported about the development. Bangladesh is one of the largest internet markets in Asia with more than 100 million online users.

Technology companies such as Facebook and Twitter have struck partnerships, more popularly known as zero-rating deals, with telecom operators and other internet providers in several markets in the past decade to make their services free to users to accelerate growth. Typically, tech companies bankroll the cost of data consumption of users as part of these deals.

In Bangladesh, such zero-rating deals have been popular for several years, said Ahad Mohammad, chief executive of Bongo, an on-demand streaming service, in an interview with TechCrunch (Extra Crunch membership required) .

Grameenphone and Robi Axiata, two of the largest telecom operators in Bangladesh, enable their mobile subscribers to access a handful of services of their partners even when their phones have run out of credit. Both telecom firms have said they are in the process to comply with Dhaka’s order.

It remains unclear whether Free Basics, a program run by Facebook in dozens of markets through which it offers unlimited access to select services at no cost, will continue its presence in Bangladesh after the nation’s order. Facebook relies on telecom networks to offer data access for its Free Basics program.

In Bangladesh, Facebook struck deals with Grameenphone and Robi Axiata, according to its official website, where Facebook continues to identify Bangladesh among dozens of markets where Free Basics is operational.

Several nations in recent years have balked at zero-rating arrangements — though they have often cited different reasons. India banned Free Basics in early 2016 on the grounds that Facebook’s initiative was violating the principles of net neutrality.

Free Basics also ended its program in Myanmar and several other markets in 2017 and 2018. Facebook did not respond to requests for comment.

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India smartphone shipments slashed in half in Q2 2020

Posted by | Apple, Asia, China, coronavirus, COVID-19, Gadgets, Handset, hardware, india, oppo, Samsung, smartphone, vivo, Xiaomi | No Comments

Even the world’s second largest smartphone market isn’t immune to COVID-19.

Smartphone shipments in India fell 48% in the second quarter compared with the same period a year ago, the most drastic drop one of the rare growing markets has seen in a decade, research firm Canalys reported Friday evening.

About 17.3 million smartphone units shipped in Q2 2020, down from 33 million in Q2 2019 and 33.5 million in Q1 2020, the research firm said.

You can blame coronavirus, more than a million cases of which has been reported in India.

New Delhi ordered a nationwide lockdown in late March to contain the spread of the virus that saw all shops across the country — save for some of those that sell grocery items and pharmacies — temporarily cease operation. Even e-commerce giants such as Amazon and Flipkart were prohibited from selling smartphones and other items classified as “non-essential” by the government.

The protracted lockdown lasted until mid-May, after which the Indian government deemed that other stores and e-commerce deliveries could resume their services in much of country. New Delhi’s stringent measure explains why India’s smartphone market dipped so heavily.

China, the world’s largest smartphone market, in comparison, saw only an 18% drop in shipments in the quarter that ended in March — the period when the country was most impacted by the virus. In Q1, when India was largely not impacted by the virus, smartphone shipments grew by 4% in the country. (Globally, smartphone shipments shrank by 13% in Q1 — a figure that is projected to only slightly improve to a 12% decline this year.)

“It’s been a rocky road to recovery for the smartphone market in India,” said Madhumita Chaudhary, an analyst at Canalys. “While vendors witnessed a crest in sales as soon as markets opened, production facilities struggled with staffing shortages on top of new regulations around manufacturing, resulting in lower production output.”

Smartphone shipment estimates for the Indian market through Q1 2019 to Q1 2020 (Canalys)

Despite the lockdown, Xiaomi maintained its dominance in India. The Chinese smartphone vendor, which has been the top smartphone vendor in India since late 2018, shipped 5.3 million smartphone units in the quarter that ended in June this year and commanded 30.9% of the local market, Canalys estimated.

With 3.7 million units shipped and 21.3% market share in India, Vivo retained the second spot. Samsung, which once ruled the Indian smartphone market and has made major investments in the country in recent months, settled for the third spot with 16.8% share.

Nearly every smartphone vendor has launched new handsets in India in recent weeks as they look to recover from the downtime, and several more new smartphone launches are planned in the next month.

But for some of these players, the virus is not the only obstacle.

Anti-China sentiment has been gaining mindshare in India in recent months, ever since more than 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a military clash in the Himalayas in June. “Boycott China” — and variations of it — has been trending on Twitter in India as a number of people posted videos destroying Chinese-made smartphones, TVs and other products. Late last month, India also banned 59 apps and services developed by Chinese firms.

Xiaomi, Vivo and Oppo, which now assumes the fourth spot in India, and other Chinese smartphone vendors command nearly 80% of the smartphone market in India.

Canalys’ Chaudhary, however, believes these smartphone firms will be able to largely avoid the backlash as “alternatives by Samsung, Nokia, or even Apple are hardly price-competitive.”

Apple, which commands only 1% of the Indian smartphone market, was the least impacted among the top 10 vendors as iPhone shipments fell just 20% year-on-year to over 250,000 in Q2 2020, Canalys said.

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EU antitrust lawmakers kick off IoT deep dive to follow the data flows

Posted by | Amazon, artificial intelligence, Asia, competition, digital markets, Europe, european union, Gadgets, Internet of Things, IoT, Margrethe Vestager, Policy, privacy, smart devices, United States, Wearables | No Comments

The potential for the Internet of Things to lead to distortion in market competition is troubling European Union lawmakers who have today kicked off a sectoral inquiry.

They’re aiming to gather data from hundreds of companies operating in the smart home and connected device space — via some 400 questionnaires, sent to companies big and small across Europe, Asia and the US — using the intel gleaned to feed a public consultation slated for early next year when the Commission will also publish a preliminary report. 

In a statement on the launch of the sectoral inquiry today, the European Union’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said the risks to competition and open markets linked to the data collection capabilities of connected devices and voice assistants are clear. The aim of the exercise is therefore to get ahead of any data-fuelled competition risks in the space before they lead to irreversible market distortion.

“One of the key issues here is data. Voice assistants and smart devices can collect a vast amount of data about our habits. And there’s a risk that big companies could misuse the data collected through such devices, to cement their position in the market against the challenges of competition. They might even use their knowledge of how we access other services to enter the market for those services and take it over,” said Vestager.

“We have seen this type of conduct before. This is not new. So we know there’s a risk that some of these players could become gatekeepers of the Internet of Things, with the power to make or break other companies. And these gatekeepers might use that power to harm competition, to the detriment of consumers.”

The Commission recently opened up a consultation on whether regulators needs new powers to address competition risks in digital markets, including being able to intervene when they suspect digital market tipping.

It is also asking for views on how to shape regulations around platform governance.

The IoT sectorial enquiry adds another plank to its approach towards reformulating digital regulation in the data age. (Notably competition chief Vestager is simultaneously the Commission EVP in charge of pan-EU digital strategy.)

On the IoT front, risks Vestager said she’s concerned about include what she couched as familiar antitrust behaviour such as “self-preferencing” — i.e. a company directing users towards its own products or services — as well as companies inking exclusive deals to send users “preferred” provider, thereby locking out more open competition.

“Whether that’s for a new set of batteries for your remote control or for your evening takeaway. In either case, the result can be less choice for users, less opportunity for others to compete, and less innovation,” she suggested.

“The trouble is that competition in digital markets can be fragile,” Vestager added. “When big companies abuse their power, they can very quickly push markets beyond the tipping point, where competition turns to monopoly. We’ve seen that happen before.  If we don’t act in good time, there’s a serious risk that it will happen again, with the Internet of Things.”

The commissioner’s remarks suggest EU lawmakers could be considering regulations that aim to enforce interoperability between smart devices and platforms — although Vestager also said they will be asking about any barriers to achieving such cross-working.

“For us to get the most out of the Internet of Things, our smart devices need to communicate. So if the devices from different companies don’t work together, then consumers may be locked in to just one provider.  And be limited to what that provider has to offer,” she said.

“We’re asking about the products they sell, and how the markets for those products work. We’re asking about data – how it’s collected, how it’s used, and how companies make money from the data they collect. And we’re asking about how these products and services work together, and about possible problems with making them interoperable.”

Vestager has raised concerns about the potential for voice assistant technology to lead to market concentration and distortion before — saying last year that they present an acute challenge to regulators who she said then were “trying to figure out how access to data will change the marketplace”.

The question of how access to digital data feeds platform monopolies has been a long standing preoccupation for the now second term competition chief. Although the Commission’s work on figuring out how data access changes marketplace function remains something of a work in progress.

Vestager has an open investigation into Amazon’s use of third party data on her plate, for example. It also inked a first set of rules on ecommerce platform fairness last year. More rules may be incoming in a draft proposal for reformulating wider liability rules for platforms that’s slated to land by the end of this year, aka the forthcoming Digital Services Act.

The Commission noted today that a prior sector inquiry — into ecommerce markets — helped shape new rules against “unjustified geoblocking” in the EU, although it has not yet been able to dismantle geoblocking barriers to accessing digital services across the Single Market’s internal borders.

Last year privacy concerns raised in Europe around how tech giants operate voice assistant ‘quality grading’ programs, which involved human contractors listening in to users’ recordings, led to a number of changes — including the previously non-transparent programs being publicly disclosed, and choice/controls being provided to users.

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Google to offer loans to merchants in India

Posted by | Android, Apps, Asia, BharatPe, Flipkart, Google, Google India, india, Online lending, payments, Paytm, PhonePe, Softbank, TC, Walmart | No Comments

Google said on Thursday it plans to offer credit to millions of merchants in India through its Google Pay app starting later this year as the American technology group looks to help small businesses in the country steer through the pandemic and also find a business model for its mobile payments service.

The company said it is working with financial institutions to offer loans to merchants from within Google Pay for Business app. The Google Pay’s business app, which the Android giant launched late last year, has already amassed 3 million merchants, it said.

Google’s announcement today comes as part of its effort to share its broader initiatives for small and micro-businesses in India.

The company said Google My Business, an app it launched in India in the second half of 2017 to help mom and pop stores and other small merchants build online presence, has been used by more than 26 million businesses in the country to list themselves on Google search and Maps. India has about 60 million small and micro-sized businesses in the nation, according to government estimates.

“Every month we drive over 150 million direct connections between these businesses and customers including calls, online reservations and direction requests,” company executives said.

New Delhi ordered a nationwide lockdown in late March in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19. The move forced most businesses to suspend their operations. In recent weeks, the Indian government has rushed to relax some of its restrictions and many stores have resumed their businesses.

Last year Google launched the Spot feature in India that allows businesses to easily create their own branded commercial fronts that are accessible to customers through the Google Pay app.

Image Credits: Google

In May, Google introduced Nearby Stores as a Spot feature on the Google Pay app that allowed local businesses in select parts of the country get discovered by customers in their neighborhood. The company said it is expanding this offering across India starting today.

Thursday’s announcement also outlines the grip Google assumes on small businesses in India, and how its scale — and resources — could pose additional challenges for scores of local startups that are already attempting to serve businesses.

SoftBank -backed Paytm, Walmart’s PhonePe and New Delhi-based BharatPe have in recent years onboarded millions of merchants and offer them a range of services, including loans.

Paytm, which works with more than 16 million merchants, earlier this year launched a range of gadgets, including a device that displays QR check-out codes that comes with a calculator and USB charger, a jukebox that provides voice confirmations of transactions and services to streamline inventory management for merchants.

For some of these players, Google’s increasingly growing interest in targeting merchants means they will be facing off the search giant on two fronts. TechCrunch reported earlier this month that Google Pay had about 75 million transacting users in India, more than any of its competitors. But despite the scale, Google Pay and most other payments services in India are struggling to find a business model for their services.

Facebook, Google’s global rival, has courted more than 1 million merchants in India on its WhatsApp’s business app. WhatsApp, which is the most popular app in India, is informally used by countless additional merchants in the country.

For merchants, the more players the merrier. Small businesses in India continue to struggle to secure working capital from financial institutions, such as banks.

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China’s GPS competitor is now fully launched

Posted by | Asia, Beidou, China, Government, gps, Logistics, Mobile, Policy | No Comments

For decades, the United States has had a monopoly on positioning, navigation and timing technology with its Global Positioning System (GPS), a constellation of satellites operated by the military that today provides the backbone for location on billions of devices worldwide.

As those technologies have become not just key to military maneuvers but the very foundation of modern economies, more and more governments around the world have sought ways to decouple from usage of the U.S.-centric system. Russia, Japan, India, the United Kingdom and the European Union have all made forays to build out alternatives to GPS, or at least, to augment the system with additional satellites for better coverage.

Few countries, though, have made the investment that China has made into its Beidou (北斗) GPS alternative. Over 20 years, the country has spent billions of dollars and launched nearly three dozen satellites to create a completely separate system for positioning. According to Chinese state media, nearly 70% of all Chinese handsets are capable of processing signals from Beidou satellites.

Now, the final puzzle piece is in place, as the last satellite in the Beidou constellation was launched Tuesday morning into orbit, according to the People’s Daily.

It’s just another note in the continuing decoupling of the United States and China, where relations have deteriorated over differences of market access and human rights. Trade talks between the two countries have reached a standstill, with one senior Trump administration advisor calling them off entirely. The announcement of a pause in new issuances of H-1B visas is also telling, as China is the source of the second largest number of petitions, according to USCIS, the country’s immigration agency.

While the completion of the current plan for Beidou offers Beijing new flexibility and resiliency for this critical technology, ultimately, positioning technologies are mostly not adversarial — additional satellites can offer more redundancy to all users, and many of these technologies have the potential to coordinate with each other, offering more flexibility to handset manufacturers.

Nonetheless, GPS spoofing and general hacking of positioning technologies remains a serious threat. Earlier this year, the Trump administration published a new executive order that would force government agencies to develop more robust tools to ensure that GPS signals are protected from hacking.

Given how much of global logistics and our daily lives are controlled by these technologies, further international cooperation around protecting these vital assets seems necessary. Now that China has its own fully working system, they have an incentive to protect their own infrastructure as much as the United States does to continue to provide GPS and positioning more broadly to the highest standards of reliability.

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Apple unveils iOS 14 and macOS Big Sur features for India, China and other international markets

Posted by | Apple, Asia, China, india, Indonesia, iOS, ireland, Japan, macos, messages, Mobile, Netflix, Norway, operating systems, siri | No Comments

Apple will roll out a range of new features and improvements that are aimed at users in India, China and other international markets with its yearly updates to iOS, iPadOS, and macOS operating systems, it unveiled today.

iOS 14, which is rolling out to developers today and will reach general users later this year, introduces new bilingual dictionaries to support French and German; Indonesia and English; Japanese and Simplified Chinese; and Polish and English. For its users in China, one of Apple’s biggest overseas markets, the iPhone-maker said the new operating system will introduce support for Wubi keyboard.

For users in India, Apple is adding 20 new document fonts and upgrading 18 existing fonts with “more weights and italics” to give people greater choices. For those living in the world’s second largest internet market, Mail app now supports email addresses in Indian script.

Apple said it will also deliver a range of additional features for India, building on the big momentum it kickstarted last year.

Messages now feature corresponding full-screen effects when users send greetings such as “Happy Holi” in one of the 23 Indian local languages.

More interestingly, iOS 14 will include smart downloads, which will allow users in India to download Indian Siri voices and software updates as well as download and stream Apple TV+ shows over cellular networks — a feature that is not available elsewhere in the world.

The feature further addresses the patchy networks that are prevalent in India — despite major improvements in recent years. Last year, Apple beamed a feature for users in India that enabled users in the nation to set an optimized time of the day in on-demand streaming apps such as Hotstar and Netflix for downloading videos.

New improvements further shows Apple’s growing focus on India, the world’s second largest smartphone market. Apple chief executive Tim Cook said earlier this year that the company will launch its online store in the country later this year, and open its first physical store next year. A source familiar with the matter told TechCrunch last month that the global pandemic had not affected the plan.

iOS 14 will also allow users in Ireland and Norway to utilize the autocorrection feature as the new update adds support for Irish Gaelic and Norwegian Nynorsk. And there’s also a redesigned Kana keyboard for Japan, which will enable users there to type numbers with repeated digits more easily on the redesigned Numbers and Symbols plane.

All the aforementioned features — except email addresses in Indian script in Mail and smart downloads for users in India — will also ship with iPadOS 14. And the aforementioned new bilingual dictionaries, new fonts for India, and localized messages are coming to macOS Big Sur.

Additionally, Apple says on the desktop operating system it has also enhanced predictive input for Chinese and Japanese results in more accurate and contextual predictions.

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How Reliance Jio Platforms became India’s biggest telecom network

Posted by | Apple, Apps, Asia, bharti airtel, Extra Crunch, Facebook, india, Mark Zuckerberg, Market Analysis, Media, Microsoft, Mobile, Mukesh Ambani, payments, reliance industries, telecom, Venture Capital, vodafone, Vodafone Idea, Xiaomi | No Comments

It’s raised $5.7 billion from Facebook. It’s taken $1.5 billion from KKR, another $1.5 billion from Vista Equity Partners, $1.5 billion from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund$1.35 billion from Silver Lake, $1.2 billion from Mubadala, $870 million from General Atlantic, $750 million from Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, $600 million from TPG, and $250 million from L Catterton.

And it’s done all that in just nine weeks.

India’s Reliance Jio Platforms is the world’s most ambitious tech company. Founder Mukesh Ambani has made it his dream to provide every Indian with access to affordable and comprehensive telecommunications services, and Jio has so far proven successful, attracting nearly 400 million subscribers in just a few years.

The unparalleled growth of Reliance Jio Platforms, a subsidiary of India’s most-valued firm (Reliance Industries), has shocked rivals and spooked foreign tech companies such as Google and Amazon, both of which are now reportedly eyeing a slice of one of the world’s largest telecom markets.

What can we learn from Reliance Jio Platforms’s growth? What does the future hold for Jio and for India’s tech startup ecosystem in general?

Through a series of reports, Extra Crunch is going to investigate those questions. We previously profiled Mukesh Ambani himself, and in today’s installment, we are going to look at how Reliance Jio went from a telco upstart to the dominant tech company in four years.

The birth of a new empire

Months after India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, launched his telecom network Reliance Jio, Sunil Mittal of Airtel — his chief rival — was struggling in public to contain his frustration.

That Ambani would try to win over subscribers by offering them free voice calling wasn’t a surprise, Mittal said at the World Economic Forum in January 2017. But making voice calls and the bulk of 4G mobile data completely free for seven months clearly “meant that they have not gotten the attention they wanted,” he said, hopeful the local regulator would soon intervene.

This wasn’t the first time Ambani and Mittal were competing directly against each other: in 2002, Ambani had launched a telecommunications company and sought to win the market by distributing free handsets.

In India, carrier lock-in is not popular as people prefer pay-as-you-go voice and data plans. But luckily for Mittal in their first go around, Ambani’s journey was cut short due to a family feud with his brother — read more about that here.

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Sinch to buy India’s ACL Mobile for $70 million

Posted by | ACL Mobile, Apps, Asia, deutsche telekom, Flipkart, funding, Fundings & Exits, M&A, MakeMyTrip, Mobile, OLX, sinch, T-Mobile, Wavy, WhatsApp | No Comments

Sinch said on Monday it has agreed to buy Indian firm ACL Mobile for £56 million (roughly $70 million) in what is the fourth acquisition deal the Swedish mobile voice and messaging firm has entered into at the height of a global pandemic.

The Swedish firm said acquiring ACL Mobile will enable it to leverage the Indian firm’s connections with local mobile operators in the world’s second largest internet market, as well as in Malaysia and UAE, to expand its end-to-end connectivity without working with a third-party firm.

Twenty-year-old ACL Mobile, which has headquarters in Delhi, Dubai and Kuala Lumpur, enables businesses to interact with their customers through SMS, email, WhatsApp and other channels. In a press statement, the Indian firm said it serves more than 500 enterprise customers, including Flipkart, OLX, MakeMyTrip, HDFC Bank and ICICI Bank.

“With ACL we gain critical scale in the world’s second-largest mobile market. We gain customers, expertise and technology and we further strengthen our global messaging product for discerning businesses with global needs,” said Sinch chief executive Oscar Werner.

The Indian firm, which employs 288 people, reported gross profits of $14.2 million on sales of about $65 million in the financial year that ended in March. During the same period, ACL Mobile claims it delivered 47 billion messages on behalf of its enterprise customers.

“Although the long-term growth outlook is favorable, lower commercial activity in India due to the COVID-19 pandemic means that the near-term growth outlook is less predictable,” Sinch said of ACL Mobile’s future outlook.

ACL Mobile is the fourth acquisition Sinch has unveiled since March this year. Last month the company said it was buying SAP’s Digital Interconnect for $250 million. In March, it announced deals to buy Wavy and Chatlayer.

Sinch, founded in 2008, employs more than 700 people in over 40 locations worldwide and is increasingly expanding to more markets. Last month it said acquiring SAP’s Digital Interconnect will help it expand in the U.S. market. The company says it is profitable.

“Together with Sinch we are scaling up to become one of the leading global players in our industry. I’m excited about this next chapter and the many new opportunities that we can pursue together,” said Sanjay K Goyal, founder and chief executive of ACL Mobile.

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