Make in India brand campaigners launch Motherland Joint Ventures

In a natural extension of its main brand, Motherland will also be involved in culture-related projects such as publishing, film, art and music. Photo: PTI

In a natural extension of its main brand, Motherland will also be involved in culture-related projects such as publishing, film, art and music. Photo: PTI

Mumbai: V. Sunil and Mohit Dhar Jayal, the men behind the fabulous campaigns for brands such as Make in India, Incredible India! Indigo and Royal Enfield have called it a day at Wieden + Kennedy, the American advertising agency they helped set up in India nine years ago. The duo, along with Rahul Bhatia, the promoter for InterGlobe Aviation Ltd (Indigo Airlines), have launched Motherland Joint Ventures Pvt. Ltd.

Motherland, an initiative which started out as a beautifully produced magazine covering Indian pop culture during the duo’s stint at W+K India, will now broaden its scope to operate in lifestyle-related product categories, including consumer products and urban regeneration projects, the first of which is already underway in Jodhpur.

Under this, the company is looking to restore some old havelis to make them into boutique hotels and retail spaces, as well as restore public spaces such as the step well. “The idea is to create spaces, and promote tourism, culture and shopping for people to enjoy. Unfortunately, like everything else in our country nothing is packaged well. So our endeavor will be to package, design and present to the world, what India has to offer,” said Sunil, director, Motherland.

In a natural extension of its main brand, Motherland will also be involved in culture-related projects such as publishing, film, art and music. The product line, which is also an integral part of this initiative, is currently in the development phase. “So, it could be anything from a toy plane to an actual plane, to even cities. Our job is to bring best in class practices from all over the world to participate and help execute projects,” said Sunil.

Between them, Motherland’s founders represent a good mix of business acumen and branding expertise: Sunil and Jayal, the former executive creative director and managing director, respectively, at W+K India, helped build India’s most successful global brands, we travel and hospitality industry such as InterGlobe Enterprises. The team will be joined by Bejul Somaia, managing director of Lightspeed India Partners, who will come on board as an advisor.

Motherland’s mission is to create globally competitive brands of Indian origin by collaborating with like-minded organisations and individuals in the pursuit of profit and social progress.


Ola, Uber launch bike taxi services in Bengaluru

Photo: Hemant Mishra/MintPhoto: Hemant Mishra/Mint

Bengaluru: Ride hailing services Ola and Uber on Thursday announced the launch of their respective bike taxi services in Bengaluru, a move that will mark their presence in almost every possible land commute option.

Uber Inc., the world’s most valuable start-up and Ola (ANI Technologies Pvt. Ltd), now offer between themselves an array of services; point-to-point drop, ride sharing, carpooling, autorickshaws and now bike taxis, which is likely to establish their grip over short-distance trips at a lower price point.

UberMOTO, the bike taxi service, will have a base fare of Rs.15, the company said in a statement. Uber will charge Rs.3 per km apart from Rs.1 for every minute of the ride time. Ola will charge Rs.2 for every km apart from Rs.1 per minute ride time charge, on a base fare of Rs.30.

According to industry experts, bike taxis may help both Ola and Uber add significantly to their consumer base, by virtue of the cheaper price points. But, a new service at a cheaper rate will lead to additional cash burn for these companies, as they will have to spend more on incentives for the riders and consumers. According to multiple industry executives, both Ola and Uber are losing money on every booking, which implies that if demand for bike taxis surges, so do their expenses.

“They will continue to work on their margins and financials but they can’t choose to not do this. For a very short distance, bike taxis are very efficient,” said Abhishek Goyal, founder of Tracxn, a start-up tracker.

Ola and Uber’s entry into the segment might put a host of fledgling start-ups under pressure. Ola and Uber have a significantly big existing user base to cultivate, hence they may not need to spend heavily to market the new service, unlike others, which might struggle to find a space in the consumer’s smartphone.

According to data provided by Tracxn, a start-up tracker, there are at least 20 bike taxi start-ups in India. Only Noida-based Now, Gurgaon-based Bikxie and local rivals Baxi and M-Taxi have raised institutional funding. Bengaluru, where Ola and Uber have launched the bike taxi services, is home to at least seven such start-ups: Mu Ride, Pilot, Streetryderr, Rapido, HeadLYT, Hey Bob and Pillionaire.

Industry experts say bike taxi service providers, including Ola and Uber, may face multiple challenges, right from creating demand to maintaining a steady supply of riders. For instance, companies may struggle to ensure a steady supply, because a multitude of riders are currently engaged as delivery personnel with e-commerce companies and hyperlocal delivery start-ups among others.

Ola and Uber may have a better chance to woo a certain section of the riders with hefty incentives to begin with, but matching that spending may be a challenge for smaller start-ups.

According to executives of several bike taxi start-ups, riders essentially come from delivery start-ups or even BPO employees looking for a quick buck on a part-time basis.

Incidentally, both Ola and Uber had earlier added autorickshaws to expand their bouquet of offerings. While Uber discontinued uberAUTO in December last year, Ola continues to expand the category. However, Ola’s interest in autorickshaw’s had taken a toll on niche autorickshaw aggregators across the country, who were struggling to retain drivers in the wake of lucrative incentives offered by Ola, Mint reported on 23 July 2015.

However, bike taxi start-ups are not deterred as they contend that bike taxi is a new category for which a market has to be created.

“The last mile or the shorter distance commute is going to be very different from point-to-point commute,” said Rana Vishal Singh, co-founder of HeadLYT.

In India, bike taxis may face regulatory hurdles as none of the states, barring Haryana and Goa, acknowledge them as a commercial passenger transport service provider.

Both Ola and Uber have claimed that they do not need any specific permit to run bike taxis. Ramegowda, commissioner for road transport Karnataka, however, said that any form of vehicle usage for commercial purposes requires a permit from the relevant authority.

In Delhi and Gurgaon, bike taxis suffer from the lack of parking places. Mohit Sharma, co-founder of Bikxie said policemen in Gurgaon do not allow bike taxi riders to park, especially around the metro stations, a key pickup point.

“Initially, we also had the issue of cops chasing us on the road. But, we have now taken a parking slot near IFFCO Chowk. Most of our fleet is operating out of here,” Sharma said. “Riders come back to this parking lot, which is used as a hub, while waiting for new rides.”

Globally, bike taxis have found significant traction in Southeast Asia. Companies such as Singapore-headquartered GrabTaxi and Indonesia’s Go-Jek are a few big companies in this segment.


NPCI to Launch RuPay Credit Card by July

NPCI to Launch RuPay Credit Card by JulyThe National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has said it will launch a RuPay credit card by June or July this year. “By June or July we will rollout RuPay version of credit cards,” said NPCI chairman M. Balachandran on the margins of a Unified Payment Interface (UPI) hackathon the umbrella organisation for retail payments in the country organised.

He later said the NPCI has escalated its paid-up capital to Rs 137 crore from Rs 100 crore by broad-basing its stakeholders from public and private sector banks as well.

As many as 56 different banks have shareholding in NPCI despite it being a non-listed entity with no dividend declarations.

“Ours is a non-profit company, and in spite of not being a listed entity and we don’t declare dividends, the enthusiasm shown by people to become shareholders in NPCI has been tremendous,” said Balachandran.

According to him, there are 241 million RuPay cards in circulation comprising 35 per cent of the total card base in India and accounting to 20 percent of all card-based transactions.

Starting September, China Union Pay and Japan Credit Bureau (JCB) foreign cards will be accepted in India, said Balachandran.

Speaking on the UPI hackathon, NPCI honorary advisor and former Infosys chief executive Nandan Nilekani said banks can use digital footprint to give customers a loan.

“As more and more payments become digital, it creates a digital footprint of your activity and you (customer) can authorise a bank to use your digital footprint to give you a loan,” he said.


The world condemns North Korea’s rocket launch and misses the point again

The world condemns North Korea’s rocket launch and misses the point again
Photo Credit: Kyodo/Reuters
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The collective global roar of disapproval that greeted North Korea’s launch of its satellite Kwangmyongsong-4 is a familiar sound by now. The universal fury at Pyongyang’s actions was similar to that which greeted its purported recent underground test of a hydrogen bomb.

As they did after that event, the US, South Korea, Russia, Japan and China (and many others) were forced into an uncomfortable diplomatic lockstep by their need to issue loud objections – though later statements on what might be done to censure North Korea were rather more uneven. And just as was the case with the size of the January 2016 test at Punggye-ri, the scale of the Kwangmyongsong-4 launch’s technological achievement has already been questioned. South Korea’s Yonhap agency was characteristically quick to suggest it had been a failure.

Business as usual, then. And as usual, the world is overlooking any context for the launch beyond the issue of nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles. As is generally the case when it comes to North Korea and technology, there’s a glaring gap between what’s actually going on in North Korea and the invective thrown back by its foes. Kwangmyongsong-4 is as much about national scientific and economic development as much as it is about geopolitical messaging.

In December 2012, North Korea launched Kwangmyongsong-3, which it described as an earth observation satellite designed to generate data to support North Korean agricultural planning (though it was also intended to broadcast the Song of Kim Il-Sung to the planet on a 470Mhz frequency). Unfortunately for Pyongyang, nothing was ever heard from it; both computer simulation and visual observation proved that whatever had been placed in orbit was spinning hopelessly out of control.

So far, North Korea has refrained from bragging about Kwangmyongsong-4’s technical capacity, and has issued no claims as to its musicality. It is once again described as an “earth observation satellite” containing “measuring apparatuses and telecommunications apparatuses needed for observing the earth”.

But this time, according to analysis of its path and orbit, the object released by the final stage of the orbital vehicle appears to be under control; in fact, its orbit has even been described by respected Dutch satellite tracker Marco Langbroek as “consistent with a remote sensing role”.

Of course, nations around the world seem determined not to accept Kwangmyongsong-4 as anything other than yet another example of provocative weapons testing. They are keen to negate Pyongyang’s assertions that this is indeed an exercise in the development of its capacity to explore space for peaceful ends.

Getting a grip

Such exploration and utilisation is of course entirely legal under the United Nation’s 1967Outer Space Treaty and the 1975 Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space – both of which North Korea acceded to in 2009.

Why indeed would it be so strange for Pyongyang to want to develop its capacity to launch vehicles into space, or to build functional earth observation devices? North Korea’s conception of 2012’s device as an element of projects focused on improving its agricultural capacity surely makes perfect sense given the historically haphazard nature of North Korean industrial planning.


If the satellite really does have remote sensing capacity, that could be a boon to North Korea’s ability to manage its forests and fisheries, and could greatly improve the country’s meteorological monitoring ability.

These are major domestic priorities. The Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-Un, quite unexpectedly and viciously denounced the country’s weather forecasting service in 2014, and in 2015, his government put a lot of work into developing the fishing industry and improving flood prevention and forecasting (especially after recent floods in the important Rason Special Economic Zone).

And aside from the obvious potential practical benefits, external commentators have paid scant attention to Kwangmyongsong-4’s place in North Korea’s charismatic political calendar.

Fascinating vapour

Western commentators certainly made mention of the North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmun’s euphoric report of the launch, which marvelled at “the fascinating vapour of Juche satellite trailing in the clear and blue sky in spring of February on the threshold of the Day of the Shining Star”. But they failed to connect the commemorative dots.

February 16, the Day of the Shining Star, was Kim Jong-Il’s birthday, what better posthumous gift could there be for the Dear Leader?

The outside world has also overlooked any connection with the impending Seventh Party Congress of the Korean Workers Party in May 2016, and the political and developmental theatrics that will accompany this year-long event.

Instead, the wider world is railing against Pyongyang using its typical themes of threat, fear and danger. The global gnashing of teeth shows us just how myopic and black-and-white the thinking on North Korea has become.

We live in a world where potentially dual-use technology is blasted above the stratosphere many times a year, and where the launch of astronauts such as the UK’s new “hero” Major Tim Peake can be lauded as manifestations of national pluck. Even in the depths of the cold war, the Soviet Air Force’s Yuri Gagarin was lionised in the West for his pioneering space voyage. And yet, for all that the domestic context for this launch is plain to see, we refuse to open our minds to the idea that Pyongyang’s space ventures may be motivated by anything other than belligerence.