Cash Is Culture in India, but It’s Not Going to Be the Future

Cash Is Culture in India, but It’s Not Going to Be the Future

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Cash is not just the norm but also embedded in culture
  • New systems like mPOS terminals are making digital more convenient
  • Apps like BHIM help bring payments from India to Bharat as a whole

In India, cash is culture. It’s everywhere, inspiring Hindi film songs, being doled out by loving grandparents, occupying a key role in religious rituals, and even fuelling a parallel economy. So resistance to any alternative method of payment is only to be expected.

This is amply evident from the way digital transactions, which had spiked from 672 million in November 2016 to 958 million in December 2016 because of demonetisation, plummeted to 763 million (February 2017) once the new currency came back in circulation, as per RBI data. The latest numbers show some growth, but it’s a far cry from the peak in December even now.

It’s a challenge that Digital India is up for. Driving the shift from cash to digital payments are a host of factors – a huge population of young, aspiring people embracing the digital lifestyle, the “India Stack” of four technology layers (presenceless, paperless, cashless, consent), and a robust real-time payments infrastructure in which the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is the crown jewel. But beyond doubt, policies such as banning the use of cash for transactions amounting to Rs. 200,000 or more are also making an impact. In his budget speech this year, the Minister of Finance announced a mission tasked with achieving 25 billion digital transactions in the year 2017-18 through various means including Aadhaar Pay, UPI, USSD, IMPS, and debit cards.

payment systems

That’s a tall order for an economy where 98 percent of consumer payments are still made in cash. Before this can happen though, several barriers lie in the way. The “cash habit” is at the top of the list, followed by the complexity of using digital payment methods.

Cash is easy
The second factor is telling. A huge reason why cash still rules as a medium of exchange is that it is simple and convenient. Digital payment mechanisms, which might be convenient in some ways – (they save a trip to the bank and are easy to carry around) – are actually less convenient at the point of use. To understand this, visualise the process of using a mobile wallet – log in, authenticate yourself, scan code, enter amount, authorise payment – and now compare it to the ease of handing out cash.

Currently, there is friction on both sides of the digital payment transaction. The abundance of payment options with their different POS hardware and procedures is confusing merchants, who don’t know where to draw the line. This isn’t making life simpler for consumers either.

Clearly, digital payments must become frictionless before they can find mass acceptance.

mpos machine eze

Technology and innovation can do much to facilitate that. For instance, Ezetap has introduced a mobile-based payments acceptance device that merchants can use for all types of digital payments. Another good example is Tonetag, one of our partner firms, which has found an alternative solution to NFC technology with a communication mechanism that uses sound waves. Merchants can even accept cards in much the same way as before; customers need to authorise the payment like they do with NFC, with a swipe, password or OTP.

Ezetap, Tonetag, and others like them reduce the friction in payments, but they don’t eliminate it altogether. Some other forces need to come together to make digital payments as convenient as cash.

Bharat, and not just India
One of these is the digitisation of low-income consumers, which received a shot in the arm when the BHIM app was launched a couple of months after demonetisation with the goal of enabling those with a bank account but no cards, to make digital payments. Another factor is the growth of e-commerce players, who, by accepting card or wallet payments on delivery, have eased even reluctant cash customers into digital payments. The next level of e-commerce, namely smart commerce, will drive digital payments even higher, using AI and analytics to spur consumption.

bhim full

To see what that looks like, you need only look to Amazon, which has mastered the use of consumer analytics to anticipate needs, personalise recommendations, or simply remind customers of something they had shown interest in.

These forces are still brewing at present. When they take firm hold, India will make more meaningful progress towards digital payments. While the timeline for that is uncertain, once the conditions fall into place, the shift from cash to digital will be swift and irreversible.

Venkatramana Gosavi is Senior Vice President and Regional Head, Infosys Finacle, and has been working with Finacle for over 15 years now.

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

Cash Is Culture in India, but It’s Not Going to Be the Future

Cash Is Culture in India, but It’s Not Going to Be the Future

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Cash is not just the norm but also embedded in culture
  • New systems like mPOS terminals are making digital more convenient
  • Apps like BHIM help bring payments from India to Bharat as a whole

In India, cash is culture. It’s everywhere, inspiring Hindi film songs, being doled out by loving grandparents, occupying a key role in religious rituals, and even fuelling a parallel economy. So resistance to any alternative method of payment is only to be expected.

This is amply evident from the way digital transactions, which had spiked from 672 million in November 2016 to 958 million in December 2016 because of demonetisation, plummeted to 763 million (February 2017) once the new currency came back in circulation, as per RBI data. The latest numbers show some growth, but it’s a far cry from the peak in December even now.

It’s a challenge that Digital India is up for. Driving the shift from cash to digital payments are a host of factors – a huge population of young, aspiring people embracing the digital lifestyle, the “India Stack” of four technology layers (presenceless, paperless, cashless, consent), and a robust real-time payments infrastructure in which the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is the crown jewel. But beyond doubt, policies such as banning the use of cash for transactions amounting to Rs. 200,000 or more are also making an impact. In his budget speech this year, the Minister of Finance announced a mission tasked with achieving 25 billion digital transactions in the year 2017-18 through various means including Aadhaar Pay, UPI, USSD, IMPS, and debit cards.

payment systems

That’s a tall order for an economy where 98 percent of consumer payments are still made in cash. Before this can happen though, several barriers lie in the way. The “cash habit” is at the top of the list, followed by the complexity of using digital payment methods.

Cash is easy
The second factor is telling. A huge reason why cash still rules as a medium of exchange is that it is simple and convenient. Digital payment mechanisms, which might be convenient in some ways – (they save a trip to the bank and are easy to carry around) – are actually less convenient at the point of use. To understand this, visualise the process of using a mobile wallet – log in, authenticate yourself, scan code, enter amount, authorise payment – and now compare it to the ease of handing out cash.

Currently, there is friction on both sides of the digital payment transaction. The abundance of payment options with their different POS hardware and procedures is confusing merchants, who don’t know where to draw the line. This isn’t making life simpler for consumers either.

Clearly, digital payments must become frictionless before they can find mass acceptance.

mpos machine eze

Technology and innovation can do much to facilitate that. For instance, Ezetap has introduced a mobile-based payments acceptance device that merchants can use for all types of digital payments. Another good example is Tonetag, one of our partner firms, which has found an alternative solution to NFC technology with a communication mechanism that uses sound waves. Merchants can even accept cards in much the same way as before; customers need to authorise the payment like they do with NFC, with a swipe, password or OTP.

Ezetap, Tonetag, and others like them reduce the friction in payments, but they don’t eliminate it altogether. Some other forces need to come together to make digital payments as convenient as cash.

Bharat, and not just India
One of these is the digitisation of low-income consumers, which received a shot in the arm when the BHIM app was launched a couple of months after demonetisation with the goal of enabling those with a bank account but no cards, to make digital payments. Another factor is the growth of e-commerce players, who, by accepting card or wallet payments on delivery, have eased even reluctant cash customers into digital payments. The next level of e-commerce, namely smart commerce, will drive digital payments even higher, using AI and analytics to spur consumption.

bhim full

To see what that looks like, you need only look to Amazon, which has mastered the use of consumer analytics to anticipate needs, personalise recommendations, or simply remind customers of something they had shown interest in.

These forces are still brewing at present. When they take firm hold, India will make more meaningful progress towards digital payments. While the timeline for that is uncertain, once the conditions fall into place, the shift from cash to digital will be swift and irreversible.

Venkatramana Gosavi is Senior Vice President and Regional Head, Infosys Finacle, and has been working with Finacle for over 15 years now.

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

Google Arts and Culture Team Launches Virtual Exhibition to Showcase 3,000 Years of Fashion

Google Arts and Culture Team Launches Virtual Exhibition to Showcase 3,000 Years of Fashion

HIGHLIGHTS
Project We wear culture is in collaboration with 183 cultural institutes
The project will showcase 3,000 years of the world’s fashion and style
It can be accessed via website & Google Arts and Culture app
Technology giant Google’s Arts and Culture arm on Thursday launched a new virtual exhibition project that will showcase 3,000 years of the world’s fashion and style, the company said in a statement.

The project ‘We wear culture’ is in collaboration with 183 renowned cultural institutions from around the world, including India, and will let people explore the history of clothes dating as early as 3,000 years ago from the ancient Silk Road, to the courtly fashion of Versailles, to the unmatched elegance of the Indian saree.

“We invite everyone to browse the exhibition on their phones or laptops and learn about the stories behind what you wear,” said Director of Google Arts and Culture Amit Sood in a statement.

“You might be surprised to find out that your saree, jeans or the black dress in your wardrobe have a century-old story. What you wear is true culture and more often than not a piece of art,” Sood added.
The online project includes collections from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) and varied weaves from across India, from Gharchola to Patola to Temple to Ikat sarees, as it traces the story and importance of Indian textiles from ancient sculptures, the company said.

It also showcases designs from north-eastern India including the weaves of tribes such as the Nagas, Meitis and the traditional attire from Meghalaya called ‘Dhara’ or ‘Nara’ worn by the Khasi women.

The project also includes icons and trendsetters like Alexander McQueen, Cristobal Balenciaga, Audrey Hepburn, Christian Dior, Helmut Newton, Irving Penn, Yves Saint Laurent, Manolo Blahnik, Gianni Versace, Oscar de la Renta, Pierre Balmain, Miyake Issey among others.

Fashion and textiles enthusiasts can explore over 400 online exhibitions and stories sharing a total of 50,000 photos, videos and other documents on world fashion, on the project’s website and through the Google Arts and Culture app on iOS and Android.

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Tags: Google, Google We Wear Culture, Internet, Apps

[“Source-ndtv”]

Tech Startup Culture Gaining Momentum in Pune, India

Made in India startups are definitely gaining ground, and among them Made in Pune holds an increasingly important place. To further illustrate the success of Pune-based startups, we shall address a select few as a collective, while we hope for many more.

Sapience Analytics

Let us begin our discussion with Sapience Analytics, creator of an award-winning enterprise class product designed to increase productivity and create ‘automated work visibility’ across the enterprise hierarchy – with no added managerial responsibility.

Sapience is intended to transform delivery output and capability in companies with employees dependent on the use of computers, allowing them to achieve up to a 20% gain in work output. By supporting automated deployment and upgrades, it connects to an organization’s existing internal applications, such as ERP and HRIS, to create maximum benefit without any additional effort.

Sapience makes detailed analytics of work time available on multiple enterprise dimensions:

  • verticals
  • domains
  • technologies (for projects and business units) roles
  • skills and locations (for employees and teams)

In making possible this data and delivering these actionable advisories, employees and whole teams are assured that work hours are reasonable, and can therefore focus more time on key activities and thus optimize company productivity and output.

Founded in 2009, Sapience Analytics is the combined effort of four serial entrepreneurs with considerable experience in technology and management at global software companies. Primary founder and CEO Shirish Deodhar, after a series of successful ventures in software entrepreneurship, began work with In-Reality Software, which successfully exited to Symphony Services in 2004 and scaled operations in Pune to just over 700 employees. It was here that Deodhar was introduced to his three Sapience co-founders – one of whom, Swati, would also become Deodhar’s wife.

The Sapience team decided to develop a solution to improve the productivity of organizations working with remote teams. In mid-2009, Swati Deodhar completed the prototype that addressed their fundamental and universal problem: how teams assign and execute their work. At that time, Sapience found no competitors, which left them the added challenge of creating a new market and educating its buyers.

Their closest competitors today are RescueTime, oDesk, ManicTime and Cyclops 360 – none of which offer automated time and effort analysis, and team insights are limited. Most difficult for the founders, then and now, has been to highlight the fact that Sapience is not an employee monitoring tool, but is intended only to provide further insight into the quality and efficiency of collective work.

After bootstrapping for the first year and a half, Sapience Analytics received funding first from the Indian Angel Network in the amount of $350,000 in July 2010, followed by another $1 million in Series A funding from U.S.-based Seed Enterprises; the firm has money in the bank, but they are considering another round to fund aggressive sales in the U.S. With a total addressable market of $600 million, Sapience has crossed the $1 million annual revenue mark.

Sensible Softwares

A second Pune-based company of note is Sensible Softwares and their flagship product, BootStrapToday. An application life cycle management platform, BootStrapToday both ensures that software development teams can begin work on their projects in just 60 seconds, and minimizes the amount of time spent chasing down software bugs to increase cost and improve code quality.

Writing completely bug-free code is a nearly impossible task, thus a significant amount of any software developer’s time goes into identifying, tracking and fixing bugs: nearly 30-40% (with an even higher percentage of time in maintenance projects). And with approximately 50% of these bugs found in advanced stages of development, it’s a costly enterprise, as well as a time-consuming one.

However, if a bug is detected during construction time unit testing, the fix takes no more than an hour – which is why BootStrapToday set out to create a solution that would do just that. Its platform offers intelligence and automation based on data mining techniques and social network-based analysis of developer contribution to assist in detecting bugs earlier.

Sensible Softwares was launched in 2009 by three co-founders Anand Agarwal, Nitin Bhinde and Vishwajeet Singh. Agarwal comes to Sensible after more than 10 years managing large-scale product lifecycle management initiatives with Geometric Ltd. Bhinde and Singh, his colleagues in previous organizations, join Agarwal in experiencing problems in the project execution stage and shared a collective desire to rid the tools for the software development life cycle of their inefficiency.

Together, they founded Sensible Softwares with the intention of bringing value through intelligence and automation.

Though some competitors existed at the time of BootStrapToday’s creation, price points proved to be a deterrent – while some were expensive, others offered only a pay-per-user model. None integrated intelligence to reduce overall project cost by identifying bugs earlier in the development process. In response, Sensible offers a series of four packages based on number of users. Today, their closest competitors remain Assembla, Unfuddle, Codesion (recently acquired by Collabnet), and GitHub.

Taking advantage of web 2.0 to provide near-desktop performance on mobile devices, Sensible Softwares believes they can capture their share of an $867 million market. After investing $12,000 of personal funds, Sensible received $250,000 in seed funding in 2011 from a Pune-based independent investor and currently has paying customers.

Persistent Systems

Third on the list is a much larger company that develops software products in Pune but does not market them: Persistent Systems, self-titled “Partners in Innovation.” Persistent offers outsourced software product development services, partnering with pioneering startups, enterprises and large technology brands.

Persistent focuses on four key areas:

  • Cloud Computing
  • BI & Analytics
  • Collaboration
  • Mobility

Given the launch date and budget, as well as a “wish list” of product features and specifications, the firm sets about creating by the given deadline. Though it is primarily large product companies that make up the bulk of Persistent’s business, about 30% of their clients are startups.

Founder and CEO Dr. Anand Deshpande founded Persistent Systems after an 18-month stint working for HP in Palo Alto in 1990 – after which time he found his visa expired and he required a way to occupy his time once back in India. Deshpande claims

Persistent is his response to three key concerns he discerned when speaking with CEOs: a primary focus on management bandwith, a preoccupation with growth over cost, and a deep-seated interest in solving customer problems.

Now at 4,500 employees, with a small percentage still residing in the U.S., the company has grown substantially. The firm went public in April 2010.

IndiaCakes

Finally, let us examine briefly examine entrepreneurship of another kind: IndiaCakes, an online cake delivery shop. The site consolidates the menus of hundreds of cake shops throughout India, allowing users all over the world to browse and order from one convenient location.

Similar to those previously mentioned, the company identified a market gap and sought to fill it. Founder, Manit Nagri, created a means for consumers anywhere could send high-quality cakes – and in some cases, flowers as well – for any occasion to friends and family in 250 Indian cities. IndiaCakes offers added conveniences such as 5-hour delivery, and the possibility to have cakes delivered by midnight.

Since its inception in 2007, the company has taken off. It aims to have over 400 stores across India, and through a combination of storefront purchases and online ordering, is already past the elusive $1 million revenue mark.

I have been to Pune several times and spent time with large numbers of entrepreneurs on each occasion. The city currently has a special kind of energy brewing in its belly, and I am excited to see where these entrepreneurs lead the country.

India Photo via Shutterstock

[“source-smallbiztrends”]