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How COVID-19 is reshaping online pharmacy in India

While medical stores were categorised as essential services, online pharmacies still emerged as the one of the biggest beneficiaries of the pandemic-induced lockdown in India as people chose to buy medicines online to reduce risk of contagion. Now, some of India’s largest conglomerates and multinational e-commerce firms are looking to gain a foothold in the sector, which is also witnessing a wave of consolidation among existing players. Amazon is currently evaluating a potential investment of nearly $100 million in Apollo Pharmacy, India’s largest branded pharmacy chain. Earlier in 2020, Reliance Retail acquired a majority stake in Chennai-based Netmeds for Rs 620 crore, while Tata Group is reportedly in talks to acquire a majority stake in 1mg. Separately, Pharmeasy acquired smaller rival Medlife in August. US-based private equity arm TPG is looking to acquire a minority stake in Pharmeasy’s parent API Holdings at a valuation of $1.2 billion. South Africa’s Naspers is also said to be interested in investing $100 million.

Home grown apps’ popularity, user base surge

Social platforms brimmed with user-generated content this year despite lockdown challenges and the growing popularity of homegrown short video platforms promises to make 2021 even more engaging and entertaining for netizens. With the world’s second largest internet user base and the highest data consumption, India is a big bet for domestic and international digital companies as a growth driver and money-spinner. Around mid-year, the Indian government banned 59 apps with Chinese links, including the hugely popular TikTok and UC Browser, saying they were prejudicial to sovereignty, integrity and security of the country.Another set of 118 apps were banned in September, while 43 more apps were added to this list in November.Blocking of these apps came as a boon for homegrown startups like Moj, Chingari and Kaagaz Scanner that saw downloads and usage zoom almost overnight.A big crowd puller was the fact that many of these creators are using local languages to connect with their audiences.According to a report by ShareChat, over 750 million user-generated pieces of content were uploaded onto its platform this year, with Hindi users accounting for 26 per cent contribution.Even giants like Google and Facebook jumped onto the bandwagon with ‘Shorts’ (Google) and ‘Reels’ (by Facebook-owned Instagram). These services were piloted in India, offering creators innovative tools to create short videos and sharing them with not just friends but also public at large.

OTT trends to look out for in 2021

Video content gained much importance in the past year, and digital streaming and over-the-top (OTT) platforms got a bigger seat at the table as movies began to be released directly on some top platforms. Personalisation of content will play a major role in 2021.Reports say that the India OTT content market will reach $5 bn in size by 2023. OTT’s growth has been accelerated due to the pandemic. Regionalisation of content in the true sense: 5-6 platforms of the big platforms have been making sporadic inroads into the non-Hindi market with original content. The explosion of growth in video consumption is already coming from regional markets as per most reports – it is now time for quality supply to show up.Films direct to OTT: Again the lockdown has seen a plethora of movies across sizes and languages, otherwise planned for theatrical release, going direct to OTT, but expect this to become a permanent trend starting immediately.Interactive, real time content: With terms like AR and VR becoming more and more prevalent, and with interaction on social media playing a key added role, content is likely to go more real-time and interactive – in terms of co-creation, on-the-go dynamics, multiple endings and even reward based shows.Opening up of genres: The success of intense grim dramas like ‘Mirzapur’, ‘Ashram’, ‘Patal Lok’, etc.  has forced most platforms to create similar offerings.

RBI comes up with Digital Payments Index

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said it has constructed a composite Digital Payments Index (DPI) with March 2018 as the base period to capture the extent of digitisation of payments across the country. “The DPI for March 2019 and March 2020 work out to 153.47 and 207.84, respectively, indicating (an) appreciable growth,” it said in a statement.Going forward, RBI-DPI will be published on the central bank’s website on a semi-annual basis from March 2021 onwards with a lag of four months. The RBI-DPI comprises of five broad parameters that enable measurement of deepening and penetration of digital payments in the country over different time periods. The parameters are payment enablers (weight 25 per cent), payment infrastructure-demand-side factors (10 per cent), payment infrastructure – supply-side factors (15 per cent), payment performance (45 per cent) and consumer centricity (5 per cent). Each of these parameters have sub-parameters which, in turn, consist of various measurable indicators, RBI said.

Google’s Localisation Agenda

Google outlined a 3-point strategy to truly digitize India:

  • Invest in ML & AI efforts at Google’s research centre in India, to make advances in machine learning and AI models accessible to everyone across the ecosystem.
  • Partner with innovative local startups who are building solutions to cater to the needs of Indians in local languages.
  • Drastically improve the experience of Google products and services for Indian language users.

It is now easier to toggle Search results between English and four additional Indian languages: Tamil, Telugu, Bangla and Marathi.

Snapchat looks to broaden its eCommerce push

Snapchat’s looking to broaden its eCommerce push by providing a range of new clothing options for users’ Bitmoji characters, which would essentially enable you to dress up your Bitmoji avatar in your choice of the latest fashion items from a range of retailers.The new information comes from a patent filed by Snap, which goes into specific detail on how the new process would work. The process would essentially see Snap partner with fashion retailers to provide Bitmoji versions of their items. That would then provide a range of new clothing options for your avatar in the app, while also giving the brands opportunity to showcase their latest products in an engaging, interactive way.

PhonePe doubles FY20 rev due to uptick in MF, insurance offerings & earnings in ad dollars

Walmart-owned Flipkart’s digital payments service PhonePe has more than doubled its revenue from operations to Rs 371.76 crore for the fiscal ended 31st March 2020 compared to Rs 184.22 crore in FY19. The revenue growth has come on the back of a massive uptick PhonePe has seen for its Mutual Funds and Insurance offerings. Also the ad dollars the company earned as a result of the distribution of coupons and banner ads have contributed to this growth.

Snapchat Partners with Google for Immersive ‘Year in Search’ AR Experience

Google brought its Year in Search to augmented reality in the form of a Snapchat AR portal lens. The lens gives Snapchatters a way to fully immerse themselves in the biggest stories of 2020, transporting them to national protests and introducing them to frontline workers, all to the tune of an original track from Chance the Rapper, the Chicago Children’s Choir, Peter CottonTale, Cynthia Erivo and The Matt Jones (Re Collective) Orchestra. When Snapchatters open the lens in world view, they will be prompted to turn their camera forward, after which they will be surrounded by 360 degrees of hovering images in AR. Moving the camera around and tapping on individual images will bring up statistics and insights from Google’s Year in Search report, as well as related images and video. Once an image has been viewed, it moves from greyed-out to full color so they user knows they have already viewed it. Google will also run Year in Search video as ads on Snapchat, marking the first time Year in Search has been featured as vertical video on the platform.

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