Brick and Martyr: E-Tailers Race Ahead

Flipkart, Snapdeal & Amazon post Rs. 1,000-crore loss in FY14 in hunt for customers
Online retail seems to be rapidly coming of age in India -in the financial year ended March, Flipkart’s sales challenged those of its nearest brick-and-mortar rivals, according to filings with the Registrar of Companies, although the segments that they operate in aren’t strictly comparable. Meanwhile, the marketplaces operated by Flipkart and Amazon India posted losses. Amazon, which entered India a year ago, logged a net loss of . 321 crore while Flipkart saw this ` more than doubling to ` . 400 crore, according to October 31 filings.Due to restrictions on foreign investment in selling directly to consumers, Flipkart and Amazon run their websites as marketplaces -connecting buyers and sellers.Hence, the figures relate to commissions from sellers and revenue from advertisements on their ecommerce sites. In this respect, Amazon Seller Services posted revenue (commissions) of ` . 169 crore. Flipkart Internet, which manages the portal, had total income of ` . 179 crore. However, Flipkart India Pvt Ltd, the website’s wholesale arm, said sales amounted to ` . 2,846 crore in the year ended March, more than double the `. 1,180 crore a year ago.

Rival Shoppers Stop posted revenues of . 2,713 crore through its 73 department ` chain stores that mostly sell apparel and lifestyle products. On a consolidated basis though, including electronics chain HyperCity, sales amounted to ` . 3,771 crore. Kishore Biyani-run Future Lifestyle Fashion posted total income of ` . 2,743 crore from its department store formats Central and Brand Factory besides its own labels such as Indigo Nation and John Miller.

Amazon Wholesale didn’t disclose a comparable total. It posted a total income of ` . 1.4 lakh with a net loss of `. 3.71 crore for the six months ended March. CEO Jeff Bezos had said previously that it exceeded gross merchandise sales of more than $1 billion within a year of launching in India.

Online retailers typically burn through cash as they battle to acquire customers by offering goods at cheaper rates.

“At this moment, most companies are building market share rather than having a phase of harvesting their business model.Lots of money is being spent on building share and cost of acquiring customers has certainly gone up since last year,“ said Devangshu Dutta, chief executive at retail consultancy Third Eyesight. “In addition, online players are investing by building supporting infrastructure, which in turn affects profitability.“

According to a report by consulting firm Technopak, the $2.3-billion e-tailing market is expected to swell to $32 billion by 2020 and account for 3% of the total Indian retail sector. With Snapdeal reportedly posting a net . 264 crore, the combined loss, along loss of ` with Amazon and Flipkart, now stands at more than ` . 985 crore for the last fiscal year.


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Markets for Cybercrime Tools and Stolen Data

The research described in this report was sponsored by Juniper Networks and
conducted within the Acquisition and Technology Policy Center of the RAND
National Security Research Division

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E-comm E-ad Spend to Nudge Google Past the $1-billion Mark

In the great Indian ecommerce race, the real winner is a company which isn’t even on the race track–Google, the USbased search giant. The California-based company , sources said, is on its way to clocking over $1 bil `6,000 crore) in revenue from lion (.India in the year to March 2015, helped along by heavy spending by ecommerce firms.According to company filings, Google crossed ` . 3,000 crore in revenue for the year ending March 2014, up 47% from the year before.Globally , the Google’s revenue in 2013 was $58 billion.

“Marketing budgets have gone through the roof. It’s highly competitive these days and whoever pays the most for a keyword wins the race,“ said Vasudevan T, a former head of digital marketing at Myntra who is now the CEO of online coaching firm Coatom.

For companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter, India has been a paradox. While their largest user base outside of the United States lives in India, making money in the market has been tough.

However, with cash-rich e-commerce companies like Flipkart and Amazon looking to acquire more customers, online advertising has seen a significant increase. “There will be a surge in the digital ad spends by these companies, and we are already seeing this,“ said Nilotpal Chakravarti, who heads media and research at the Internet and Mobile Association of India.

E-commerce companies are already one of the top spenders in the digital advertising market. Of the total digital advertising spend, nearly 18% came from ecommerce, according to IAMAI.“When I saw our online spends the first time, I almost fell off my chair,“ said Ruksh Chatterji, who ran the apparel business for Jabong until February 2014. “Google is a large player in display and search engine marketing that are the key pillars of ecommerce advertising,“ said Chatterji, who is now vice president of India Operations at digital media network Komli Media.

For e-commerce companies, search is the biggest marketing channel along with social media.Typically , online businesses spend close to 25% of their topline on marketing. But in case of ecommerce, it could go up to 50%, said Vasudevan.

Google, which considers India as one of its fastest-growing markets, is also making large investments. Recently , under an ambitious Android One initiative, Google brought local manufacturers together to bring down cost of mobile phones. Google declined to comment on its revenue from India.

While revenue is growing, Google is also entangled in tax disputes. The company booked at total of `. 311 crore as “income tax paid under protest“ for assessment years 2007-13 as it continues to litigate tax claims made by Indian authorities. “Google India has been paying taxes in India on the aforesaid business activities in accordance with the applicable laws of India,“ Google said in a statement.

Tax authorities have made an additional claim of ` . 751 crore between assessment years 2006-13.


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Zuckerberg in Capital

Facebook’s billionaire founder Mark Zuckerberg is in New Delhi today . One of the big engagements on his itinerary will be his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a keen supporter of social media as a means of reaching out to people. For the social network, India is the second-largest market outside the US in terms of users but one that generates little revenue. Zuckerberg would certainly be looking to correct that. ET looks at his India pages…


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Infographic: The Cybersecurity Lives of Millennials

cyber security

Infographic: The Cybersecurity Lives of Millennials

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`Anti-Facebook’ social network creates a buzz

In a matter of days, the new social network Ello, described as the `antiFacebook’ for its stand on privacy and advertising, has become perhaps the hottest ticket on the internet.Created last year as a `private’ social network, Ello recently opened its doors on an invitation-only basis.

Because of the limited supply and strong demand, the invitations have been selling on eBay at prices up to $500. Some reports said Ello is getting up to 35,000 requests per hour as a result of a viral surge in the past week.

Ello appears to have caught on with a simple message that seems to take aim at frustrations of Facebook users. “Ello doesn’t sell ads. Nor do we sell data about you to third parties,“ the company says. Its “manifesto“ states: “We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce, and manipulate -but a place to connect, create, and celebrate life.You are not a product.“

Ello’s policy states that the practice of collecting and selling personal data and mapping your social connections for profit “is both creepy and unethical.“

“Under the guise of offering a `free’ service, users pay a high price in intrusive advertising and lack of privacy.“

Based in Vermont, Ello was launched by a group of artists and programmers led by Paul Budnitz, whose previous experience include designing bicycles and robots.

Budnitz says on his page that Ello was designed to be `simple, beautiful and adfree’. Nathan Jurgenson, a social media researcher at the University of Maryland, welcomed Ello’s fresh approach.

“I love these moments of new social media when conversation explodes, moved to imagine how social media can be different, questioning core assumptions instead of just fretting and complaining -all before this paint even dries,“ he said on his Ello page.A San Francisco protest is planned against Facebook supporting “drag queens“ who lost their Facebook accounts. Ello does not require real names.

Ello’s rise comes amid complaints against Facebook from the gays that the social network began disabling accounts using stage names instead of real names.


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Power boost for mobile devices

Scientists have developed a new technology that could lead to gen-next wearable computers with self-contained power sources and smartphones that do not die even after hours of heavy use.The technology could reduce energy consumption in mobile devices and computers by tapping into the power of a single electron to control energy consumption inside transistors, which are at the core of most modern electronic systems.

Researchers from the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Texas at Dallas found that by adding a specific atomic thin film layer to a transistor, the layer acted as a filter for the energy that passed through it at room temperature. The signal that resulted from the device was six to seven times steeper than that of traditional devices.Steep devices use less voltage but still have a strong signal.

“The whole semiconductor industry is looking for steep devices because they are key to having small, powerful, mobile devices with many functions that operate quickly without spending a lot of battery power,“ said Dr Jiyoung Kim, professor of materials science and an author of the paper.

“Our device is one solution to make this happen,“ said Kim.

Tapping into the unique and subtle behaviour of a single electron is the most energy-efficient way to transmit signals in electronic devices. Since the signal is so small, it can be easily diluted by thermal noises at room temperature. To see this quantum signal, engineers and scientists who build electronic devices typically use external cooling techniques to compensate for the thermal energy in the electron environment.


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Study finds retailers cautiously optimistic about 2014 holiday sales

Sept. 11, 2014

Nearly one quarter (24 percent) of retailers expect a significant increase (five percent or more) in year-over-year sales during the 2014 holiday season, while another 70 percent are predicting sales will be on par with the 2013 season. That’s according to the eighth annual retail seasonal hiring survey released by global management consultancy Hay Group, which polled retailers collectively representing more than one million employees and nearly $183 billion in revenues last year.

According to the poll, the cautious optimism around sales is reflected in companies’ seasonal hiring plans. While most retailers (70 percent) plan to hire staff at 2013 levels, the emphasis has shifted from seasonal to permanent workers, with 24 percent of companies planning to hire more permanent staff in 2014, compared to just 13 percent last season.

“Retailers have their fingers crossed for a strong 2014 holiday season,” said Craig Rowley, vice president and global practice leader for Hay Group’s retail practice. “In the meantime, however, they”re acting prudently. Though we’ve seen GDP jump by more than four percent in the second quarter, the same economic bump hasn’t yet translated to the retail sector. Foot traffic remains slow, and back-to-school shopping had a slow start this year, so retailers are being careful in their holiday season planning.”

The most significant shifts for retailers in the 2014 holiday season can be found in omnichannel, which is changing the landscape for companies and impacting their holiday staffing strategies.

Omnichannel strategies are in place and mobile is expected to drive sales: Nearly half (47 percent) of retailers surveyed in 2014 have a clearly articulated omnichannel strategy, compared to only 14 percent in 2013. Furthermore, only six percent of companies say they do not have a strategy, compared to 22 percent last year. The majority of retailers (71 percent) will be relying, at least in part, on their mobile platform to help drive holiday sales.

Staff qualifications and training adjust for omnichannel environment: Retailers are paying more attention this season to hiring seasonal staff who align closely with their brand culture, with 18 percent of respondents indicating they’re placing a greater emphasis on brand-culture alignment when evaluating seasonal candidates, compared to only four percent that said the same in 2013. Additionally, 59 percent of retailers said their omnichannel strategy has impacted the training they provide to their sales staff. “Retailers can no longer settle for point-and-sell stockers when it comes to staffing their stores,” said Maryam Morse, national practice leader for Hay Group’s retail practice. “Consumers now expect a seamless shopping experience across channels. To respond to this demand, retailers must have well-trained and nimble in-store employees who can serve as true brand ambassadors, leading customers to the point of sale, regardless of where the product resides.”

Hiring shifts to provide support across multiple channels: Further demonstrating the impact of omnichannel on 2014 holiday staffing decisions, nearly three times as many retailers (24 percent vs. 9 percent in 2013), are focusing on hiring seasonal staff to provide support across multiple channels. To meet needs from increased e-commerce sales, 29 percent will increase seasonal staff levels in distribution centers.

Promotions expected to come early, even before Halloween: Reflecting retailers’ prudent attitudes toward inventory, staffing and holiday promotion strategies, many companies are shifting their promotions earlier in the year. Most retailers (53 percent) will begin promotions in either September (18 percent vs. 13 percent in 2013) or October (35 percent vs. 22 percent in 2013) this year. “Shoppers can expect to start seeing holiday sales early this season, as retailers work to get customers in the door sooner, rather than later,” Morse said.


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A Year on, This Startup Joins Yahoo for Rs 50 cr

PRODUCT COS CATCH GLOBAL FANCY City-based Bookpad is internet major’s first Indian tech acquisition
Bangalore: Bangalore-based Bookpad has become the first Indian technology startup to be bought by Yahoo, going from creation to acquisition in just one year. The deal comes some eight months after Facebook snapped up Bangalore’s Little Eye Labs.The US internet giant, which is in line to reap about $9.5 billion `57,000 crore) from Alibaba’s ini(.tial public offering, has bought the firm in a deal worth around ` . 50 crore ($8.3 million), say two people with direct knowledge of the development. Yahoo has so far bought over 100 companies.

“The deal is done. The team will be moving to Silicon Valley soon,“ said a person directly familiar with the on-going talks. “Large firms like Autodesk and Dropbox were also eyeing Bookpad.“ Founded by IITGuwahati alumni Niketh Sabbineni, Aditya Bandi and Ashwik Reddy–friends in their early twenties–Bookpad is competing with large companies like Google and Crocodoc in document viewing.

The talks started in May when Sabbineni met Yahoo officials during the InnoTrek trip, organised by industry body Nasscom, to the Silicon Valley in the United States. “In fact, he (Sabbineni) even did not have a visa and he got it at last moment,“ said a person who is privy to the talks. An email query sent to Yahoo remained unanswered while Bookpad founders declined to offer comment about any such deal.

In January, Bangalore-based Little Eye Labs became the first Indian firm to be bought by Facebook. Google India MD and top angel investor Rajan Anandan referred the acquisition of firms like Bookpad and Little Eye Labs as a warm-up exercise towards bigger deals.

“It is day one of the test match. The team has just stepped on the field and is warming up,“ said Anandan. “The game is about to start and it will be an explosively exciting game.“

Anandan said there are already billion-dollar product companies like Zoho and InMobi. And India will create many more billion-dollar product companies and hun `60 dreds will be in the $10 million (.crore) to $100 million (.`600 crore) valuation range. Like Google Docs, Bookpad enables customers create and format text documents online and also collaborate with other people in real time.

But what differentiates the firm from global competitors is that it allows enterprises to modify the product as per their needs and promote their brand. “It (Bookpad) is like a baby born to us. We have been nurturing them. They have technology, talent and traction,“ said Ravi Gururaj, chairman of the Nasscom Product Council, which mentored and incubated the fledgling venture through its 10,000 Startups initiative and startup warehouse facility.

“This acquisition validates that large companies are willing to do a deal, when the technology is useful for them,“ said Nasscom senior manager Ashok Madaravally who has closely worked with Bookpad team from beginning.

Bookpad, which has a team of eight, earns revenue of around `. 1 crore per annum and is fo cused on the US mar ket. “Getting ac quired by Yahoo puts Bangalore on the global startup map,“ said Karnata ka state’s secretary for information technology and biotechnology, Srivatsa Krishna. “We will do everything it makes to match Silicon Valley and become the world’s favourite startup hub.“

Gururaj of Nasscom said Yahoo has a reputation of a voracious appetite for startups.

“And now with Alibaba’s cash warchest, we hope there are going to be more deals like Bookpad,“ said Gururaj. Unlike a typical startup in India which has to face issues such as mentoring and funding, Bookpad’s received nurturing from the beginning.

While working at technology firms Amazon and Symantec, Sabbineni and Bandi would spend five hours every alternate day at Café Coffee Day in Hyderabad building the prototype.

Last year the founders quit their jobs to launch Bookpad with the money they had saved.

The firm shifted to Bangalore, after it got selected for the Startup Warehouse programme, a co-working space provided by Nasscom and Karnataka government. Bookpad was in the first batch of the startups in the warehouse.

Bookpad pivoted its business model by focusing on enterprises rather than consumers. It bagged customers ranging from e-Learning firms to cloud storage companies. Last October when Bookpad made a pitch at the Nasscom product conclave, the Microsoft Ventures director Ravi Narayan got impressed and selected them for the company’s accelerator programme.

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