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Industry News

  • PM Meets US Senators, Calls for a Balanced View on H-1B: Prime Minister Narendra Modi pressed on the United States for a "balanced and farsighted perspective" on the movement of skilled professionals amid US visa curbs that threaten to wreak havoc on Indian software services companies. "Both countries can work even more closely, including in facilitating greater people-to-people linkages that have over the years helped contribute to each other's prosperity," the Prime Minister said in a statement after engaging with a 26member bipartisan delegation of US lawmakers.

    The delegation, which also met Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology, in the Capital on Tuesday, said the two countries were willing to work together to sort out trade and economic issues. Their conversations were peppered with references to the proposed changes to the H-1B visa programme, a work visa that Indian IT companies use to send employees to the US. At least four US lawmakers have proposed changes to the H-1B or skilled workers immigration process.

    Prasad told the delegation he respected America's efforts to "reassess and reappraise" policies between the two countries, but urged it to "keep in mind the value the Indian talent has contributed in making the American economy more competitive".

    He also emphasized that India is expected to become a $1-trillion digital economy in five to seven years, holding much potential for US companies, such as Amazon, Microsoft and Google, in areas such as ecommerce.

    The US delegation, which included eight Congressmen and women from the states of Texas, Missouri, Rhode Island, Georgia, Michigan, and North Carolina, jointly addressed reporters following a 45-minute long discussion with the Indian minister and officials.

    Bob Goodlatte, the House Judiciary Committee Chairman leading the delegation, said the two sides took note of the fact that Donald Trump was the first US president without political or government experience. "He is a businessman and he likes to do deals and he also wants to do deals with India and other countries around the world. He is also assessing what deals the United States has done in the past that are good and which ones he thinks may be not so good," Goodlatte told reporters.

    The delegation wants to make sure it provides the right inputs that would benefit both the US and India as well as other countries, he said. An estimated 300,000-350,000 Indian engineers are in the US on H-1B visas. They include employees of India-based IT companies such as Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys and Wipro as well as those employed by American multinationals including Accenture and IBM.
    (ET, Feb 22, 2017)
  • I'm optimistic about the American dream: Nadella (Microsoft CEO stresses need to work within constraints, praises India's digital drive) : Microsoft chief executive officer Satya Nadella said "an enlightened immigration policy" has enabled him to live the American dream, even as he emphasized that governments had the right to determine immigration and trade policies.

    "American values have always been about inclusion and diversity. It's a land of immigrants," said Nadella, who was born in Hyderabad and completed his bachelor's degree in engineering from the Manipal Institute of Technology, before moving to the US in 1988. "American technology reaching me in India is what made it even possible to dream the dream. And then, the enlightened American immigration policy is what led me to live the dream. and I think those are things we will always advocate for... the American dream and the American enlightened immigration policy, especially for high-skilled workers, is something that I'm optimistic about," Nadella told ET in an interview.

    Recent actions of the Trump administration -notably the attempt to stop immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries -have raised concerns about America's continuing commitment to attracting the best talent from across the world.

    "The overall labour mobility in the world is going to be defined by every country's immigration policy, every country's trade deal or protectionism. Every country , rightfully so, should think about their own national interest first," said Nadella, was visit to India "It's going to be India first in India, UK first in UK, America first in America. Our job is to operate in all of these countries with these principles of local opportunity creation," he +said. Nadella also gave a thumbs-up to the Indian government's digital drive.

    "India Stack's vision of having a presence less, cashless, paperless vision -which is fundamentally about bringing down transactional costs in the economy -so that every citizen, small business and large business can all benefit, is a grand vision," said Nadella.

    Nadella allayed fears that the dawn of artificial intelligence will lead to large-scale unemployment in heavily populated countries like India.
    (ET, Feb 21, 2017)
  • Reliance Jio ties up with Uber for JioMoney rollout: Reliance Jio Infocomm has tied up with Uber for the roll out of JioMoney as one of the payment options for the taxi aggregator's services in India.

    The agreement will enable Uber riders to pay for their rides using JioMoney, the two companies said in a joint statement.It will soon allow Jio Money users to request and pay for Uber rides from within the JioMoney app. Starting Monday, Uber will gradually roll out the JioMoney payment option for its users across the country.
    (ET, Feb 21, 2017)
  • A report from Washington says new method to charge devices wirelessly anywhere in a room: Scientists at Disney have developed a new method to wirelessly charge several electronic devices in a room, eliminating the need for electrical cords or charging cradles.

    The method makes it possible to power several cellphones, fans and lights simultaneously. "This new innovative method will make it possible for electrical power to become as ubiquitous as WiFi," said Alanson sample, principal research scientist at Disney research in the US.

    "This in turn could enable new applications for robots and other small mobile devices by eliminating the need to replace batteries and wires for charging," Sample said.

    "We've demonstrated room-scale wireless power, but there's no reason we couldn't scale this down to the size of a toy chest or up to the size of a warehouse," said Sample. According to Sample, wireless power transmission is a long standing technological dream.

    Inventor Nikola Tesla demonstrated a wireless lighting system in the 1890s and proposed a system for transmitting power long distances to homes and factories, through it never came to fruition.
    (FE, Feb 19, 2017)
  • Record surge in FDI (Overseas investment in April-Dec rises 22%, expected to cross FY16 mark of $40 b in full year): Overseas investment in India is likely to surge to a record in the year ending March despite temporary growth hiccups ascribed to the currency swap programme. This underscores India's status as an island of economic stability, especially as foreign direct investment (FDI) flows worldwide slumped 13% last year amid uncertainty thanks in part to a backlash against globalization.

    India's FDI in the April-December period rose 22% to $35.8 billion from the year earlier. With three months to go for the fiscal year end, the government expects fresh inflows into equity to top the $40 billion India got in FY16.

    Total FDI -which includes in flows into unincorporated bodies reinvested earnings and other capital -in the nine months to December is pegged at $48 billion against $55.5 billion for the whole o the last fiscal year. Services topped the list, accounting for 18% of total FDI in the nine-month period, followed by construction development, telecommunications, computer hardware and automobiles.

    The government has liberalized the country's FDI policy in the last two years to bring several sectors under the automatic approval route as part of efforts to encourage overseas investment. "Foreign investor interest is continuing to grow in India. We have a lot more queries from them than ever before," said Ramesh Abhishek, secretary, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP).

    Invest India, the government's official investment promotion and facilitation agency, is shepherding proposals worth $62 billion spanning 295 deals, of which $3 billion has already come in.

    "The investor has shown confidence in the Indian economy, "said Devraj Singh, executive director, tax and regulatory services, EY. "Over 90% of FDI is coming in through the automatic route, which has expanded in its scope over the last two years." According to data released by DIPP, Mauritius, Singapore, Japan, the UK and US were the top five contributors to FDI inflows.

    The surge comes even as the government expects growth to slip to 6.5-6.75% in the current fiscal year from 7.9% in FY16 due to global factors and demonetization.
    (ET, Feb 18, 2017)
  • S Korean defence firm ties up Samtel Avionics: For the first time ever, a South Korean defence major, Hanwha Systems, is entering the Indian market after entering collaboration with Samtel Avionics, a leading manufacturer of high-technology products for avionics and military applications. The new partnership is designed to bring in synergies of both the companies for guided missile, EOIR, radar and laser-guided bombs (LGB).

    Talking to FE on the sidelines of Aero India 2017, Samtel Avionics MD and CEO Puneet Kaura said, "Besides following Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'Act East' policy, this tie-up the top South Korean defence company Hanwha Systems will enable us to reduce the gap that is currently existing in guided weapon, electronic warfare (EW) and future combat systems."
    (FE, Feb 16, 2017)
  • Maharashtra Offers to Offset Foxconn's Import Duty Burden: In what looks like a last-ditch attempt to get manufacturing giant Foxconn to invest in Maharashtra, the state government has offered to compensate the Taiwanese company the 11.5 % import duty levied by the Centre.

    State government officials met senior officials of Foxconn and have given a proposal that it could compensate the import duty imposed by the Centre either by giving a grant or a subsidy to offset the losses suffered by the company if it is charged the import duty.

    Those in the know said that the state was forced to give this assurance as Foxconn was reluctant to fund the setting up of a manufacturing facility in Maharashtra, or for that matter, anywhere in India unless the government charged import duties that were cheaper than the duties in China.

    Foxconn was keeping a close eye on the inter-ministerial panel formed by the central government after American technology company Apple, which also wants to manufacture in India, asked for similar du ty exemptions and tax concessions to manufacture their products in India.

    Sources in the Maharashtra government said that if the inter-ministerial group heeded to Apple's concerns and waived off the duty and offered tax exemptions, then even Foxconn would have benefitted. But since nothing much has happened on the front, the Maharashtra government has taken the initiative by offering to compensate Foxconn for the 11.5% import duty levied on it.

    However, there are questions as to whether Maharashtra can give such concessions under GST. "From a manufacturing point of view, the revenue generated can be incentivised to state GST, but only for the products consumed within the state. If they think that manufacturing activity is generating employment opportunity and other benefits to the state, they can offer other incentives, but for that they will have to dip into their own pockets," said Bipin Sapra, an indirect tax expert at consulting firm EY.

    A year back, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis managed to get the Taiwan firm to commit an investment of $5 billion in the state.
    (ET, Feb 16, 2017)
  • 104 Satellites Shot in One Go (ISRO's record Satellite launch) : The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Wednesday scripted history by successfully launching 104 satellites, including India's weather observation Cartosat-2 Series, in a single mission onboard its dependable Polar rocket from here.

    Bettering Russian space agency's feat of launching 37 satellites in a single mission in 2014, ISRO injected the Cartosat-2 Series satellite and 103 nano satellites into precise orbit after a textbook lift-off from this spaceport, about 100 km from Chennai. The previous highest number of satellites launched by ISRO in one mission was 20 in June 2015, the agency said.

    Cartosat-2 Series satellite, a remote sensing spacecraft with a five-year life span, would send images that would be utilised in coastal land use and regulation, road network monitoring, distribution of water, creation of land use maps among others, ISRO said.

    PM Narendra Modi congratulated ISRO for the successful launch, saying, "This remarkable feat by @isro is yet another proud moment for our space scientific community and the nation. India salutes our scientists."

    The complex mission has once again proved ISRO's capabilities in undertaking commercial launches with the PSLV achieving its 38th consecutive success.
    (ET, Feb 16, 2017)
  • 'America First' not a concern for 'Make in India', says Parrikar : The government said the 'America First' call of US President Donald Trump was not a concern for India or the 'Make in India' programme.

    Responding to media queries if Trump's 'America First' would come in the way of 'Make in India' and stop US firms from participating in the programme, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said "You should have put this question to Boeing, they are here at the exhibition- Boeing, Lockheed Martin etc. What I will say is what I want.. I want you to make in India; if someone wants to shift production to someplace else, it is his choice.".

    "I am not concerned," he said, adding that he has so far just heard of it, and there has been no official communication from the US Government.

    Explaining it further, the minister said: "The OEM (original equipment manufacturer) helping a strategic partner will need their government's approval. If they are proposing something, their government will give them in-principle approval so that they can quote. The company will not be able to quote, maybe their some other branch will quote."

    Defence Minister Parrikar was speaking at the opening ceremony of Aero India 2017.
    (FE, Feb 15, 2017)
  • India not impacted by protectionism talk, global slowdown: FM: The rhetoric protectionism in developed economies and unpredictable global showdown have not affected India and it is determined to grow with focus on investments, says finance minister Arun Jaitley.

    "What strikes us today is two important factors - unpredictable global slowdown and the rhetoric slowdown and the rhetoric of protectionism in developed economies - have not affected India," he said at 'Make in India—Karnataka Conference' here.

    Not a single sound or even 'whisper' of protectionism is being heard in India and such talk is there only in the developed economies, he said, adding that this itself is a tribute to the fact that the country is willing to accept investments and tune its policies.

    Jaitley said there is tremendous pressure on government policy makers because of people's impatience to see India grow at a faster rate and get rid of poverty, among other things.

    He said the environment supporting reform has never been as supportive in the past as today and so it is the responsibility of both the central and state governments 'to put themselves together' and look at the road map of continuing this path of growth.

    The minister also said that in spite of India's growth being pegged a 7 to 7.5% growth rate, it is not a satisfied nation and has hunger to grow even faster.

    "We are not satisfied with the tag of being the fastest economy in the world. We thing we have a potential to do better," he said.
    (FE, Feb 14, 2017)
  • Xiaomi goes for retail to revive China sales: After pioneering online flash sales in China to reach the top of the smart phone market, Xiaomi is turning to old-fashioned retail to arrest is slide.

    The phone maker will roll out a chain of about 1,000 brick-and-mortar stores under the Mi Home banner over the next three years, as Co-Funder Lei Jun mimics a strategy that's helped the Oppo and Vivo brand leapfrog Xiaomi to the top of China's smartphone market. The new target accelerates plans outlined just last month to open 200 stores in 2017.

    Xiaomi, which was valued at about $45 billion in 2014, is resorting to traditional selling techniques to make inroads into the next generation of smartphone buyers who eschew buying online. While Oppo and Vivo use a network of resellers to reach consumers in rural areas, Lei's strategy would be more akin to Apple's, with plans to own and operate its own signature outlets.

    "This is Xiaomi's biggest problem: How we can overcome the obstacles of our business model," Lei said in a video clip from a business forum posted by CCTV. "Our model can no longer be online; it has to be new retail." "We have a chance to 60 to 70 billion yuan tin business" from those stores, Lei said without specifying a time frame.

    Xiaomi is overhauling its approach to try and regain its perch atop the world's largest smart phone arena. While it's expanding globally, particularly in India, plugging all manner of household appliances and deepening research into artificial intelligence and online finance, the company still gets much of its revenue from its first hit product.
    (FE, Feb 11, 2017)
Information Technology
  • India's Cyberspace Intelligence Agency to be Functional from June: In wake of the unprecedented rise in the digital transactions in the country, the government is fast-tracking its efforts to build a robust cyber security ecosystem. The country's apex cyberspace intelligence agency, the National Cyber security Coordination Centre (NCCC), will become functional in June this year while sector specific computer emergency response teams (CERT) for industries such as power, communications etc, will also be created, says Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Minister for Electronics and IT.

    Prasad said that India is on the path of becoming one trillion dollar digital economy over the coming years and will need to have strong cyber security to facilitate it. Prasad said that while the ministry has already launched a division for digital payments under CERT and a financial CERT is also being set up, states will be encouraged to set up their own CERTs. Among the other measures announced were 10 more Standardisation Testing and Quality Certification facilities to be set up and testing fee for any startup that comes up with a digital technology in the area of cyber security to be reduced by 50%.

    Prasad also said that designated forensic labs will be empowered to work as the certified authority to establish cyber-crime.
    (ET, Feb 22, 2017)
  • Right technology a must for employees: Equipping employees with the latest digital technology, having accessible leaders and strong company values are important factors that reflect on an employee's success or failure within the company, says a global engagement study released by Oracle Corporation.

    Technology is enabling companies to connect with employees in more ways than ever to create a more modern and customized learning experience. However, findings from the study indicate low marks when it coms to companies capitalizing on this - only 49% respondents say that their company uses the latest technology to enable them to effectively perform in their role, says the study that includes feedback from nearly 5,000 full-time employees at organizations with 250 or more employees.

    "The all-digital world is changing how we live, how we work and how business is conducted," says Yazad Dalal, head of human capital management (HCM), Oracle APAC.
    (HT, Feb 21, 2017)
  • Govt. to Play Active Role in Making India A Global Semiconductor Hub (Govt. considers making the initial investments to attract private companies): The ministry of electronics and information technology (Meity) is revising its policy framework towards making India a global semiconductor hub, which will see the government taking a more active role, including initial investment, in a bid to attract private sector players. The existing policy has not worked as it offered little commercial viability for the private sector.

    Earlier, a Jaypee-led consortium pulled out midway from a project for setting up of a semiconductor wafer fabrication manufacturing facility.

    Recently, another consortium, led by Hindustan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation (HSMC) including ST Microelectronics and Silterra Malaysia, which had also received approval to set up a fab unit, has been facing challenges in tying up the funding. The two projects were worth `51,000 crore.

    Admitting that the government's earlier approach of inviting two private parties for the project -in which it was ready to subsidise as much as 40% of the project cost -had not worked, Meity Secretary Aruna Sundarajan told ET that the new approach will be more broad and have the government taking "a strategic and central role".

    "Instead of just inviting the private sector, we are looking very closely at an approach where government makes a strategic investment (complete initial funding), and then at a suitable point in time, dilutes equity to bring in private sector partners," Sundararajan said.

    While allowing alterations to make the policy more compelling to investors, the government may also "look at overseas acquisition of assets", she added, without specifying.

    Chip-level manufacturing is core to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ambitious Make in India programme that may attract big-ticket investment with the entire ecosystem including design and research & development, and potential job opportunities. Research firm Frost & Sullivan estimates that India's semiconductor demand would bring economic opportunity worth $50 billion by 2020 across segments that include $30.3 billion from telecom products and equipment alone.

    The electronic chipset accounts for a major cost of mobile phones and other electronic devices. But there has been little commercial viability for multinational firms to set up units in India, Additional secretary Ajay Kumar said. He added that the department is closely working with the sole consortium led by HSMC, which is still trying hard.

    The government has given all the requisite clearances to the HSMC-led consortium and the group is now mobilising its resources and getting investors. In 2016, the consortium was given more time to submit documents for setting up the facility.

    Since the government believes that having its own ecosystem is important enough, it is looking at building the local capabilities in some areas like gallium nitrate-based fabs.

    The government is also considering promoting some of the more promising approaches that have come from Indian Institute of Science, along with a consortia. In January 2015, the government re constituted an empower (EC) under the chairman's red committee (EC) under the chairmanship of NITI Aayog member VK Saraswat to set up fab projects.

    The EC is working towards stimulating the fab segment, which is capital intensive with niche technology expertise, available with only a limited number of players worldwide. "An incubator has been set up with financial support from the MeitY at IIT Hyderabad to promote fabless chip design industry in the country," Kumar said.
    (ET, Feb 21, 2017)
  • Indian IoT market value to touch $9 bn by 2020: The number of units under Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to grow exponentially to 1.9 billion units in India by 2020 or about $9 billion, says a report. A rapidly growing hub for IoT solutions, the country's IoT market size in this area is expected to increase about seven times - from $1.3 billion last year to $9 billion by 2020, said consultancy firm Deolitte in its TMT Predictions 2017. IoT refers to the devices, other than computers and smartphones connected to the internet.
    (BS, Feb 20, 2017)
  • Half of Indian IT workforce may become irrelevant in three years: Indian Information Technology services players may have to reskill significant chunks of their workforce to drive the digital technology transformation.

    Global advisory firm McKinsey & Company says in a report, presented at the Nasscom India Leadership Forum, nearly half the workforce n the IT services firms will be "irrelevant" over the next three-four years.

    The report suggests that they must turn around their businesses in five major ways such as explosion of new service lines and solutions, investment to build new capabilities, coexistence of digital transformation and traditional services, acquisitions and re-skilling employees with emerging technologies.

    McKinsey India Managing Director Noshir Kaka says the bigger challenge ahead for the industry for the industry will be to retrain 50-60 per cent of the workforce, as there will be a significant shift in technologies, It employs 3.9 million people and the majority have to be retrained.

    Industry players such as Tata Consultancy Services and Infosys have said they will look at re-skilling and leveraging the experienced workforce at the same time to drive the digital transformation.

    The $150 billion IT services sector is passing through an uncertain time. The growth in digital technologies like cloud-based services is not adequate to offset the decline in the traditional technology business.

    Many believe the change in technology service demand is happening at a "much faster" pace.

    "One part of digital is about the technology. The other is about the context ad the environment, and other things like leveraging the experience of people who know the industry. The skills we are looking for today are different, it is important to learn some of the new technologies and re-skilling is important. It is a combination of things,:" said Pravin Rao, Chief Operating officer, Infosys.

    "A lot of the workforce is re-skillable. I am not very pessimistic but there a challenge," said Srinivas Kandulla, country head, India, Capgemini.

    Rao said Infosys had already taken initiatives to train its employees in digital technologies and started platforms like Zero Distance to drive innovation.
    (BS, Feb 18, 2017)
  • 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 digitizes, 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 on 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.
    (ET, Feb 16, 2017)
  • Twitter set to `Amplify' India focus: Twitter is ramping up its focus on advertising tool Amplify in India.

    Twitter is joining hands with Filmfare and Reliance Jio, offering publishers and advertisers a vehicle to monetise their real-time video content carried on the social medium. Amplify is a revenue-share model based on partnerships, allowing advertisers to run video ads against premium content automatically based on their preferred content categories.

    "For India, we are pursuing our Video and Live ambitions in 2017 with a heavy focus on Amplify . In the first 45 days, we have brought two major properties One in entertainment and the other in the news category on the platform Filmfare and Union Budget," said Maya Hari, managing director, Twitter Southeast Asia and India. Apart from Amplify , the four sec tors that Twitter is focused on driving monetization in India are government, mobile, auto and FMCG. The Twitter Amplify partnership with Filmfare and Jio for Filmfare Awards is a first for the entertainment industry in India. The partnership will feature exclusive Filmfare content produced for users on Twitter, prior to the official TV broadcast scheduled February 18th. Jio will run pre-roll ads alongside the premium Filmfare content on Twitter
    (ET, Feb 16, 2017)
  • Making an Indian Internet: (as creation and consumption of regional content becomes easier, internet is set to explode): The country is finally entering an era of a truly Indian internet. While Google's increased focus on Indian languages is driving this, there are a bunch of other stakeholders who are making both consumption and creation of content easy. The internet in India has clearly broken the web of English and is going to explode, bringing down the barriers to access for millions of people. Google estimates that while 150 million of the 350 million internet users now are using local languages, this number is expected to become a majority when the number of Indians online goes up to 650 million in 2020.

    Shashidhar Thakur, VP Engineering at Google Search, says their investments in voice search, Indic keyboards and auto complete have started helping Indians find what they want in the comfort of their native languages. The search giant has witnessed a 10% growth in local language queries over the past 15 years since when it made it easier to search in local languages. The Indic keyboard is now available in 11 Indian languages. For those who can't type even in local languages, there is voice search. It has never been easier for a local language user to exploit the true potential of the internet.

    Thakur says the amount of leapfrogging done in search over the past few years has been possible because of advancements in artificial intelligence. "Similarly, machine transactions from one language to another would not have been possible without machine learning," Thakur explains.

    While Google is doing its bit with the web, Indus OS is helping smartphones go local with what it calls the first regional operating system. Its Android-based OS, developed by bunch of IITians and available through India's top smartphone brands, helps users operate their smartphone in 12 Indian languages. And the OS offers much more than a keyboard, even translating incoming messages t the language of the user's choice. Indus is also making it easier for app makers and services to integrate regional languages much more naturally, thus making their products far more relevant.

    Meanwhile, Google is also doing its bit to bring down the other barrier, that of connectivity, by ensuring that the cost of search also goes down for the Indian user. Thakur says search pages are lighter now, loading faster and consuming lesser data. Google has been pushing AMP or accelerated mobile pages that load 4x faster, in less than a second, and consumes 10x less data as its research shows 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load.

    Another big piece of the puzzle is content. Local languages internet is still very small - less than 0.1% of sites are in local languages. So, Google is using its Newslab to help local language publishers understand the medium better and create more engaging stories for the internet user. The very fact that Google search now works for local content has prompted publishers to turn their focus towards regional language sites, so far limited to traffic from social media and direct readers. As more and more people search and find content in their language, more and more content will be created to inform these new readers. That should be able to fix the gap between regional and English content in the near future.
    (FE, Feb 14, 2017)
  • Smartphones bounce back after note ban: With the adverse effect of demonetization slowly wearing off, the fast-growing smartphone market in the country is set to regain its vigour.

    After the government had banned the old series Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 notes on November 8, the severe cash crunch in the economy had hit sales ad led to a near freeze in launches of smartphone. With the demand reviving, launches restarted in late January.

    About 80 new devices would come into the market by June, as sales have also started to pick up, said analyst Tarun Pathak.

    HTC has launched U Ultra (priced at Rs.59,990) and U Play (Rs.39,900). "While the fortnight after demonetization was tough, India continues to remain in the growth trajectory. We have launched the first flagship of the ear and plan to introduce another eight new handsets this year." Said Faisal Sddiqui, President, South Asia, HTC.

    They are not only once padded up to take advantage of the recover. Sources said, Samsung, the largest handset maker in the country, is planning to launch 15-20 smart devices by June, and by the year-end.

    Others - Panasonic, Xiaomi and Karbonn - are preparing for launches as well. Korean electronics major LG is also ready with two devices.

    Experts said launches would pick pace from mid-March, once the global annual extravaganza at Barcelona, Mobile World Congress, gets over.

    During the five-day event, starting February 27, global handset companies are expected to showcase flagship devices. Finnish firm Nokia, which used to dominate the handsets market globally as well as in India, is expected to make a comeback with android smart phones.

    Pankaj Rana, head, mobility division, Panasonic India, said the firm had to cut down its orders last years, but sales had normalized in February. The company is getting ready to launch two smartphones in next two weeks.

    "We plan to launch four handsets by March-end and some 11 smart phones within the first half of 2017," he said.

    Shashin Devsare, executive director, Karbonn mobiles, said his firm had already launched six new handsets and plans to introduce more in coming months.
    (BS, Feb 22, 2017)
  • Telecom price war hotting up: India's mobile-telephony companies are headed for a fresh round of price wars after the country's richest man said his carrier, Reliance Jio Infocomm, will charge its subscribers from April 1, but at sharply discounted rates.

    After six months of offering all services for free, a plan that helped Reliance Jio net 100 million subscribers in a record time, Chairman Mukesh Ambani said that Reliance Jio would not levy fees on calls. For the next financial year beginning April 1, the company's existing users and those coming on board this March will continue to get 1 GB of data a day and all of Reliance Jio's apps for Rs.303 a month and a one-time cost Rs.99. By contrast, market leader Bharti Airtel offers unlimited calls and 1GB of 4G data at Rs. 345 for 28 days. Airtel also offers 30GB of data for 90 days at Rs 349, Bharti's Rs 1,495. For ` nearest rival Vodafone offers unlimited calls and 50 MB of 3G or 1GB of 4G data, also for 28 days.
  • Big 3 Telcos may Have to Take a Call on Data Rate Cut to Counter Jio Offer : India's big telecom companies, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, will be forced to slash data rates soon to hold on to their upper-end customers with Reliance Jio Infocomm's decision to offer unlimited voice and nearly 30 GB of data at a modest monthly charge . 303 from April 1, analysts and industry experts said.

    Jio's latest move, they said, is clearly aimed at luring Airtel, Vodafone and Idea's top-end customers, among whom a section is reckoned to be already using Jio as a second SIM. "Holding on to these upper-end customers will be pivotal for the big three to remain profitable in the coming quarters as these users generate over 60% of their revenues," a senior industry executive, who did not wish to be named, told ET.
    (ET, Feb 22, 2017)
  • Local Telecom Gear Cos to Get Access to .Rs 6,700 cr Fund `: Indian telecom equipment makers may finally get access to a $1billion (Rs.6,700 crore) line of credit to promote digital connectivity between India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said a top government official. In November 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had proposed in Kuala Lumpur a $1 billion line of credit to support digital connectivity and undertake network-driven initiatives. The group includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam that are keenly looking at India for telecommunication-centric partnerships.

    "$1billion line of credit was committed at the 13 the ASEAN summit in 2015. Now, we can use this fund to start implementation," telecom secretary JS Deepak said at an industry event on Monday, adding that partnerships between regional countries could be mutually beneficial.

    The government is exploring the possibility on how the current fund can be used to enhance cooperation with the ASEAN.

    Deepak, supporting the local telecom equipment manufacturers, stressed that Indian companies, based on extensive R&D and a robust product portfolio, can provide `unique proposition' well suited to the needs of developing countries.

    The official also said that the Southeast Asian countries should also look at leveraging solar-backed systems. One of the local gear firms, Vihaan Networks Limited (VNL), has implemented solar-powered telecom towers in Rajasthan's Alwar district to facilitate Internet connectivity in the area.

    "The products designed are affordable and give value for money," he said, adding, "We encourage and allow our companies to share technology and take joint manufacturing initiatives with other countries."

    The potential of partnerships in the telecom space, according to the official, is huge and the cooperation in specific areas is possible with previous discussions around GSM and broadband technologies, optical fibre cable design and rural broadband network.

    The projects with ASEAN are at different stages of formulation that broadly encompasses e-education, defense and disaster management segments as well as capacity building.
    (ET, Feb 21, 2017)
  • By 2020, 40% of Voice Calls will be on VoLTE : About 40% of the total voice calls will be riding on Voice over LTE (VoLTE) technology by 2020, though traditional voice service through circuit switched technology will remain relevant and dominate the local market, Aircel chief technology officer Sameer Dave said. He said in the next three to four years there will be a large number of VoLTE handsets, along with large 4G sites, that will make VoLTE more popular.

    "The trend is customers are getting a bundled package where voice will be free. As voice will be free, all the VoLTE handsets will start consuming more data, whether you're using a voice call or a data call," Dave said.

    And as VoLTE handsets and data become cheaper, the consumption of video will go up, he said.

    Telecom operators in India have started integrating VoLTE technology with their systems but it is yet to become the mainstay. While Mukesh Ambani-run Reliance Jio Infocomm, the new entrant in the country's telecom business, has built a pan-India VoLTE network and is depending on this technology to deliver voice services, Bharti Airtel, the country's leading telecom operator, is planning to move to the technology in key markets in the next 12-18 months. Airtel currently offers calling on the legacy circuits witch technology.

    Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, the country's second and third largest telecom carriers that are currently involved in merger talks, could also join the VoLTE race soon, having bolstered their 4G spectrum holdings in the recently concluded auctions.

    Vodafone is already trialing VoLTE. In VoLTE voice, the speech is broken into and carried as small packets using a technology known as IMS, while circuit switched voice calling requires a dedicated circuit to be set up and reserved for the duration of a voice call.

    Dave said that India will quickly embrace the 5G technology, but telecom operators here first need to optimally use both 4G and 3G networks. "5G is coming in and the tests are going on globally... In India, there's a lot of relevance. The amount of spectrum and spectrum efficiency will give us higher speeds, which will be very exciting in the near future largely for the consumers," Dave said.
    (ET, Feb 21, 2017)
  • Tata Tele in Early Talks to Join RCom-Aircel-MTS Combine: Reliance Communications and the Tata Group are believed to have initiated talks to explore a possible union that could see Tata Teleservices join forces with the merged RCom-Aircel and MTS, persons familiar with the matter told ET. Such a move could create a strong No. 3 telco behind the pro strong No. 3 telco behind the proposed Vodafone-Idea combine and Bharti Airtel, amid intense competition triggered by Reliance Jio Infocomm's entry .

    Anil Ambani, chairman of the Reliance Group, is believed to have approached N Chandrasekaran, the newly anointed Tata Sons chairman to discuss the matter, said people aware of the development.
  • Vodafone, Idea Likely to Seal Merger Pact Within a Month : UK's Vodafone and Aditya Birla Group firm Idea Cellular are likely to finalise within a month the mega merger deal that will create India's largest telecom firm, according to sources.

    "The companies are likely to announce a definitive signing agreement soon says a source. "They are almost ready to sign the agreement and should not take more than a month to announce it," according to another source. However, both Vodafone and Idea declined to comment on the matter.

    The British telecom major has brought its ex-India unit chief Marten Pieters to work on the proposed merger.

    Vodafone Group Chief Executive Vittorio Colao is also likely to brief all business heads of the Indian arm on a conference call next week about the proposed merger.

    If the deal is successful, the combined entity will create India's largest telecom firm with a revenue share of around 40% and a subscriber base of over 380 million, according to India Ratings and Research.

    The proposed merger of Vodafone India and Idea will create an entity with a revenue of around Rs.77,500-80,000 crore, besides eliminating duplication of spectrum and infrastructure capex, the rating agency said in its report.

    Further, the spectrum of Vodafone India in seven circles and that of Idea in two, whose permits are expiring in 2021-22, is together valued at around Rs.12,000 crore as per last auction price. These permits are not in common circles, and hence there could be potential spectrum capex synergies between the two companies, the report said.

    However, given the present spectrum holding, revenue and subscriber base, both the companies need to work on synergy to comply with rules. According to the merger and acquisition rules, an entity should not hold more than 25% spectrum allocated in a telecom circle and 50% on spectrum allocated in a particular band in a service area.

    The merger entity should also not have more than 50% revenue and subscriber market share.
    (ET, Feb 20, 2017)
  • iPhone SE Starter on Apple's India Menu (Tech giant set to kick off local plans by assembling 3-4 lakh units of the model at Wistron plant): Apple will kick off its India manufacturing plans by initially assembling 3-4 lakh units of its iPhone SE model at the Karnataka plant being set up by contract manufacturer Wistron, as the maker of the iconic iPhones looks to take a deeper bite of a key market amid slowing global smartphone growth.

    The Cupertino-based tech giant is likely to go ahead with the Bengaluru assembly plan without waiting for the government's nod for the list of tax concessions that it had sought along with other demands. The company wants to "experience manufacturing in India", a person familiar with the company's plans told ET. "It is Apple's first such venture in India...The demands they have made are for the larger plans of the company to really scale up manufacturing in India," a senior government official told ET, requesting anonymity .

    A person in the contract manufacturing industry said Wistron is ready to start assembling the phones. "The duty concessions are not connected to the plant," the person added. Wistron's facility is set to begin assembling locally from April. Apple and Wistron didn't comment on queries seeking confirmation of production plans.

    The biggest hurdle preventing Apple from cornering a larger slice of the Indian smartphone pie is its price points which, typically , for a new model start at over Rs. 50,000 in a market where 70-80% of the devices are sold in the under-. Rs.10,000 segment. This has led to Apple falling way short of its target of selling 10 million mobile phones in India by 2016-17. Starting local assembly and scaling it up to full manufacturing will help the company price its products competitively and corner a bigger portion of the market where nearly 700 million mobile phone users still use feature phones.

    The iPhone SE, launched amidst much fanfare in April 2016, was widely anticipated to be aimed at emerging markets, including India, as it was priced lower than all other iPhone models. But even the lower price tag of Rs 39,000 for a basic model of SE was too much for the mass market. The handset is currently retailing at less than Rs 30,000 in India and would become cheaper still if produced here.
    (ET, Feb 17, 2017)
  • Telecom Industry revenue impacted by Jio free services : Indian telecom industry lost an estimated fifth of its revenue due to the disruptive free services offered by Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio Infocomm, India Ratings and Research (IndRa) said in a report where it also revised its FY18 outlook for the sector to negative from stable-to-negative.

    In a report, the agency said that a redistribution of market share among the existing telcos is underway as Jio gained a quick subscriber base of 72 million by January 2017 and that could cross 100 million by March 2017.

    Indian telecom industry lost an estimated fifth of its revenue due to the disruptive free services offered by Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio Infocomm, India Ratings and Research (IndRa) said in a report where it also revised its FY18 outlook for the sector to negative from stable-to-negative.

    In a report, the agency said that a redistribution of market share among the existing telcos is underway as Jio gained a quick subscriber base of 72 million by January 2017 and that could cross 100 million by March 2017.
    (ET, Feb 17, 2017)
  • Handset Makers Can Join Chinese Cos to Stay Afloat (Experts say local cos could leverage Chinese rivals' strengths in design & mfg): Most Indian handset makers, faced with survival challenges, have few options to get back into the reckoning. Industry experts said one way could be to tie up with rival Chinese companies and leverage their strengths in design and full-scale manufacturing. Another could be to raise funds to build local capabilities and marketing might, although it may be a difficult option.

    Handset makers Intex Technologies, Karbonn Mobiles and Lava International - pushed out from the top rung by Chinese rivals - said the Indian market still holds potential for smartphones. That, combined with their local manufacturing capabilities, could give them a price edge and provide opportunities to bounce back. They added that the fall in market share rankings is temporary, primarily due to demonetization, which was announced in November.

    "We don't have to fight them (Chinese brands), we have to work with them. If you look at devices or retail stores, we're partnering with them," said Dilip Modi, chairman of Spice Mobility, referring to its partnership with China's Transsion Group, which sells the brand of feature phones and smartphones in Africa. Spice is a small-sized handset vendor.

    Navkendar Singh, senior research manager, client devices, at IDC India, backed the view, saying to fight Oppo, Vivo and Samsung Electronics without their scale of marketing and distribution spending, Indian companies must strategically combine with them.

    Itel entered India in January last year as part of the joint venture and Transmission became the No. 2 brand in the quarter ended December with a 7.5% market share, mainly due to its feature phones, according to IDC.

    In the same quarter, all Indian brands were pushed out of the top five smartphone ranks by Xiaomi, Lenovo, Oppo and Vivo.

    "The trade partnerships have to give way to joint ventures, where Indian companies leverage their market presence in terms of distribution, brand awareness and get the Chinese to come and partner with them, who then benefit from the strength of the Indian companies and Indian companies get Chinese design and manufacturing capabilities," Modi said. Coming off growth of as much as 161% in 2013, the expansion of India's smartphone market has slowed to 18% in 2016 and is expected to see marginal to flat growth in 2017.

    Migration to smartphones may slow further as low-cost 4G feature phones enter the market. Indian companies, which have traditionally dominated the feature phone market, now face challenges from Chinese players in this segment, too.

    The option of Indian handset companies raising funds to take on Chinese rivals appears difficult, analysts said.

    "Apart from widespread sales and distribution network into the lower-tier cities and towns, they lack enough ammunition to command high valuations," said Singh of IDC. "Raising money is not impossible but tougher than earlier because this market has become more unforgiving now."

    Lava has held talks to raise funds but put those plans on hold due to the slump in sales following note ban, said a person familiar with the matter. Analysts at IDC expect some Indian brands to be weeded out completely this year. While some agree that this may happen, they're quick to point out that there may be mergers or tie-ups among lesser-known local brands.

    "There are over 80 mobile phone brands currently importing smartphones in India. With the smartphone growth slowing down, it is natural for consolidation to happen but that would be by the way of exit by smaller local players and not necessarily consolidation among local Indian players or with Chinese players," a Karbonn Mobiles spokesperson said.
    (ET, Feb 17, 2017)
  • Spectrum auction Unlikely before Telcos recover (Bleeding in fierce competition telcos have no appetite for airwaves) : The government won't hold any spectrum auction until there is a turnaround in the fortunes of telcos currently struggling to make profits due to cut-throat competition triggered by Reliance Jio Infocomm, two officials familiar with the matter said.

    While the telecom department (DoT) is keen to sell airwaves that remained unsold in the previous auction last October, officials said it will be done only after the industry returned to profitability.

    "The current state of the sector, where we are seeing profitability erode is only a matter of time. We expect this to subside in sometime and profitability to return to the sector. Until then, there is no case for holding any spectrum auctions," said a senior government official.

    Another official said it's difficult to say at this time if an auction could be held in the next fiscal year starting April.

    The sentiment is echoed by the industry. The current situation of intense competition is already leading to consolidation and at this point of time telcos would not want to spend thousands of crores on spectrum.

    "Look at the latest quarterly filings of telecom operators. They need to brace themselves and consolidate to face competition," a senior industry analyst told ET. "Telcos have bought enough spectrum in the last few auctions and neither is there a need for more bandwidth nor financial resources to purchase more bandwidth," said the person who requested not to be identified.

    Reliance Jio made a disruptive entry into the telecom sector last year, offering free voice calls throughout the country and offering 4G data at almost one-fifth of existing market prices. The company also announced free data for the first three months as an introductory offer. Since then, it has extended the free data offer till March end.

    This forced incumbent telcos such as Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular to slash prices to retain their customers and attract new ones, which took a toll on their profitability.

    Market leader Bharti Airtel reported a 55% year-on-year fall in its net profits for the quarter ended December 2016, a period in which Idea Cellular reported its first ever net loss since listing in 2007. Vodafone India's service revenue also fell on year in the third quarter. And all the three reported sharp dips in data revenue growth.

    Rajan Mathews, director general of GSM industry body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), said telcos are looking to consolidate their positions and put resources to battle the intense competition rather than pile up more spectrum.

    "Small players have either consolidated or are in the process of consolidating their operations with bigger operators and even big ones are now merging. This itself will lead to efficiencies of spectrum holding, negating any further requirement of airwaves," Mathews told ET.
    (ET, Feb 16, 2017)
  • Apple Topples Samsung as No 1 in Smartphone Mkt: Gartner: Apple toppled Samsung as numerouno player in the global smartphone market with 17.9% share in the December quarter, research firm Gartner said.

    The October-December quarter of last year -which clocked 7% year-on-year growth in overall sales to 432 million units -saw Samsung finish second with a market share of 17.8%.

    For 2016 overall, smartphone sales to end users totalled nearly 1.5 billion units, an increase of 5% from 2015.

    "This is the second consecutive quarter in which Samsung has delivered falling quarterly smartphone sales. Samsung's smartphone sales declined 8% in the fourth quarter of 2016 and its share dropped by 2.9 percentage points year on year," Gartner Research Director Anshul Gupta said.
    (ET, Feb 16, 2017)
  • Mobile technology for hiring: The use of mobile phones has changed not only the way we shop and transact, but also the way organizations hire, according to a report.

    More than 85% of business across India use mobile phones for talent acquisition, as per a study by Team Lease titled The New Hiring Landscape.

    The study reveals that small businesses seem to be warming up to the concept of mobile-based hiring, faster than established corporates. More than 44% of the small medium enterprises use mobiles phones for hiring.

    Further, the adoption of technology for hiring is not just restricted to usage of mobile phones. There is a growing acceptance for tech tools like analytics and machine-based hiring as well.

    According to the study, around 77% of recruiters use the help of technology to fill their manpower requirements.

    Hiring managers say that apart from saving costs, decreasing the time-to-hire period, it also improves the ratio of candidates selected through interviews, with a 55% increase in interview-to-select proportion.

    Further, the dependence on technology also helps them to cut down the bias that dominates the traditional hiring system. Machine-based hiring offers them a 20% to 25% higher yield.

    As per the study, technology usage sis not just restricted to searching, it is also extensively used in building the employer brand. The talent acquisition dilemma faced by managers, for the immediate future, is whether to trust intuition for trust machine intelligence in hiring.
    (HT, Feb 14, 2017)

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