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India to record highest number of cashless transactions in the world

India is moving ahead to record the largest number of cashless transactions globally, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said at the Raisina@Sydney Business Breakfast. The breakfast was organized jointly by the Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) and India’s Observer Research Foundation (ORF) in Sydney. Jaishankar also stated that digital governance has now become the basic mechanism today to do socio-economic delivery. “India is trying to demonstrate that the country can construct a social, comprehensive social welfare system, even at the scale of income. And the scale of income is USD 2,000 per capita,” he said. Talking about the social programs, Jaishankar said that in the last four years, India has been able to cover about 500 million people in health schemes, about the same number covered by pension schemes. “So I’m giving you these numbers because it actually tells you the scale which digital backbone makes possible. We couldn’t have done this ten years ago because we didn’t have that backbone, and we didn’t have the strategic understanding to activate and utilize that backbone. And you can see this in the lifestyle of people as well today,” he added.

AI to help India become the hub of international arbitration

Speaking at an event at the Delhi high court, the Law minister Kiren Rijiju said the use of artificial intelligence coupled with the government push for digital infrastructure and capabilities of the arbitration ecosystem will help India become the hub of international arbitration. He said the system of institutional arbitration plays a crucial role in creating the ‘ease of doing business’ environment, which is much like the ‘ease of living’. While ease of living is witnessed when there is prosperity in the society, a robust court system promotes ‘ease of doing business’ atmosphere, he said. The minister stressed on the support of the judiciary in realizing the objectives of ease of doing business and ease of living. The judiciary, the minister noted, has also been receptive to the various measures which have been taken to strengthen the dispute resolution measures in the country. Rijiju said the government was amenable to all suggestions coming from the judiciary and said it is important to go paperless in promoting e-courts across the country. He underlined the Rs 7,000 crore allocated by the government for the e-courts project. The law minister said the government’s Vision 2030 is to not only to make India hub of international arbitration but to see the arbitration system remain dynamic.

With 25% revenue growth, India fastest growing market for Netflix in 2022

Ted Sarandos, Co-Chief Executive Officer, Netflix, said amongst all the markets the streaming company operates in, India witnessed the fastest growth in 2022. It recorded a 30% increase in engagement or watch time and a 25% rise in revenues in India with the help of recent movies like RRR and Gangubai Kathiawadi. “India is the fastest growing Netflix market in the world this year and because of that, we’re able to continue to invest in great storytelling. And I think when you see ‘Heeramandi,’ you’re gonna see why it has been such the honor of a lifetime to work with Sanjay and to be able to bring this to screen. And you ain’t seen nothing yet.” Addressing the Economic Times Global Business Summit, Sarandos said there will be a continued investment push in the Indian market and it will receive a larger share of the streamer’s $17 billion budget. “In India, we’ve had the best year of our existence,” Sarandos said.

Digital Assets are Becoming Mainstream Financial Products

Digital assets are becoming mainstream products in the financial world and despite setbacks such as the collapse of crypto exchange FTX, the underlying blockchain technology is here to stay, said Rosie Rios, former US treasurer and chief executive officer of Red River Associates. The underlying technologies of digital assets could be put to many effective uses, she said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that digital assets are becoming mainstream and for me it is that underlying technology that’s important,” Rios said at the Economic Times Global Business Summit. “Blockchain is not going away anytime soon. In my opinion, it absolutely is the future of commerce, whether it is real estate, whether it is art, whether it is NFTs (non-fungible tokens) — it is absolutely here to stay.” Rios also said many developing countries were looking at central bank-backed digital currencies. In India, a similar product is being rolled out by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Rosie expressed confidence that even the US will eventually have such a digital currency. “Over 80% of developing countries right now are looking at a central bank digital currency–it will happen. Even in the US it will happen, but it is absolutely going to take some time,” Rios said. “As you know, things don’t happen very quickly, especially when it comes to the central bank. Now, they are taking this very, very seriously because the US dollar is the world reserve currency. So it is important for them to get this right.” Talking about XRP–a product akin to Bitcoin that is issued by  Ripple–Rios said it has wide utility, especially in facilitating cross-border payments. Rios is on the Ripple board.

E-commerce companies offer value products to woo Bharat as demand rises

E-commerce in India is witnessing increasing demand, fuelled by a continuing rise in smartphone penetration and digital literacy. To cater to this growing market, large e-commerce firms like Snapdeal, Flipkart, and Meesho are offering value-focused products. Value e-commerce essentially refers to offering users quality merchandise at affordable prices. In most cases the price range for value products is below Rs 1,000. “Meesho has been a very strong value player since the beginning. Our business model is built for accelerating the adoption of value commerce in the country,” Utkrishta Kumar, CXO (Business), said. Around 80 percent of users on Meesho are from tier-2 and beyond. Kumar said. “Our mission statement is to democratize Internet commerce.” While Meesho was conceived with the idea of catering to the small-town audience, many players are now gearing up their play in this segment. Home-grown e-commerce marketplace Snapdeal has been betting big on the value-retail segment for a few years. Having moved its focus to exclusively value retail, the company has formed Stellaro, a subsidiary that is creating value-focused brands. Products under these brands are sold on third-party platforms. Around 86 percent of users on Snapdeal are from outside metropolitan cities, and almost 72 percent are from beyond tier-2 cities. Round 95 percent of products listed on the platform are below Rs 1,000. According to management consulting firm Kearney, the value-lifestyle segment was estimated at $4 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach $20 billion by 2026, and $40 billion by 2030. Meesho toppled Amazon to become the second-largest player in order share. During the sales season, 60 percent of the orders Meesho received were from tier-4 cities and beyond. According to a report by consulting firm Redseer, festival-season sales last year were driven primarily by tier-2 and tier-3 cities, with 64 percent of the shoppers coming from those.

Retail digi rupee finds few takers

India’s experiment with the retail digital rupee (e- ₹ R) is off to a slow start with few merchants and limited volumes, even as banks remain optimistic about the promise of a digital currency. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has issued e-rupees worth ₹2.43 crore for the retail segment and ₹115.92 crore for the wholesale segment till 20 January, according to data. The central bank launched the retail e-rupee on 1 December. According to industry experts, retail numbers of the central bank digital currency (CBDC) are somewhat low, given that it is used by a small group of people under RBI’s pilot programme. Despite its immense potential, customers need more convincing since the unified payments interface (UPI) already offers quick payments, they said. “It is not easy to get retail users on this platform because they are already used to quick payment methods like unified payments interface (UPI). They have little incentive to try another method that is yet to gain popularity,” a bank executive said. The e-rupee is a digital token representing legal tender issued in the same denomination as paper currency and coins. Also, e-rupee transactions do not require interbank settlement.

Quora launches its AI chatbot ‘Poe’

Social question-and-answer platform Quora has launched its own AI-powered chatbot called Poe. The website made the chatbot open to public access on February 8, 2023. Adam D’Angelo, CEO, Quora, announced the launch in a blog post that he made on the website itself. D’Angelo said that Poe will allow people to ask questions, get instant answers, and have back-and-forth conversations with several AI-powered bots. The feature will be initially available only on iOS, and a subsequent release on other operating systems would be made in the coming months. It becomes the third tech company after OpenAI (Microsoft) and Google to venture into the AI powered chatbot market. Poe will allow people to ask questions, get instant answers, and have back-and-forth conversations with several AI-powered bots. The feature will be initially available only on iOS, and a subsequent release on other operating systems would be made in the coming months.

Meta to test monthly subscription service – Meta Verified

Meta in a blog post has announced the launch of Meta Verified, a service starting at $11.99 a month to authenticate one’s account, which follows a similar move by Elon Musk at Twitter. Meta Verified will be rolled out in Australia and New Zealand followed by the rest of the world. Subscribers will get a badge indicating their account has been verified with a government ID, extra protection against impersonation, direct access to customer support and more visibility.

Are digital news publishers losing mobile traffic?

“Many big publishers have lost 20 per cent to 40 per cent of mobile traffic in the past few months. Possible reasons behind this drop could be a 10 per cent decline in smartphone shipments in 2022. Besides, the internet and broadband user base in India is not growing anymore,” head of a digital publication said. Drop in data & news consumption, decline in sales of mobile phones and flattening of internet growth cited as prime reasons. Digital news publishers in India may have lost 20-40% of their mobile traffic over the past few months due to a range of reasons, even as the AI-enabled chatbots are yet to become mainstream. 

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