PM Modi’s US Visit: ‘Make in India’ to Dominate First Full Day

When Thursday dawns in New York, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to launch a full day of economic diplomacy, cajoling titans of industry, finance and media to invest in his hallmark “Make in India” programme.

Modi, who arrived in New York Wednesday evening local time to a rousing welcome from members of the diaspora, has a double agenda for the five-day visit spanning the nation’s two coasts: High-level diplomacy as he attends UN summit of heads of state and government, and promoting his “Make in India” and “Digital India” initiatives.

Outside of the UN, Vikas Swarup, the external affairs ministry spokesman, told reporters in New York Wednesday, “Startups, innovation and manufacturing are the thrust areas of this visit.”

Ambassador to the US Arun Singh said that the focus on the economic dimension in the visit follows the strategic and commercial dialogue that ended this week in Washington. Having developed political and strategic ties, it was time for the commercial dimension, especially with the goal of expanding bilateral trade to 500 billion per year that was set by President Barack Obama during his Republic Day visit, he added.

After an evening of informal meetings on Wednesday with community members from several places, including New York and Chicago metro areas and Georgia, Modi switches gears Thursday focusing on his economic agenda.

Modi’s manufacturing agenda will have a special place in his meetings on Thursday. Singh told reporters that his meetings will be with leaders in the finance, infrastructure and manufacturing sectors.

His first meeting of the day is a roundtable with many leaders of the finance sector at Hotel Waldorf Astoria where he is staying.

In the evening he is to meet Marillyn Hewson, the CEO of Lockheed Martin, the aerospace, defence and security company. India has bought giant C130 Super Hercules transport planes from Lockheed Martin.

That is to be followed by a meeting with Mike Burke, the CEO of AECOM, an infrastructure engineering and design company that works on an array of projects ranging from construction to transportation, and from environment to mining, oil and gas.

Modi caps off the day with a dinner with 40 CEOs of major Fortune 500 companies, mostly in manufacturing and infrastructure areas, Swarup said.

Earlier in the afternoon, he has a round table with media industry leaders that is hosted by Rupert Murdoch, the executive chairman of News Corp. and 21st Century Fox which owns Star TV. The theme of the meeting, which will include executives from other companies, is “Media, Technology and Communications – Growth Story for India”.

He also meets in the evening with Michael Bloomberg, who owns the news and financial information and media company that bear his name. Bloomberg, who is United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, visited India earlier this year to promote sustainable development and international investments in the renewable energy sector.

Ajay Banga, the CEO of MasterCard, who is also the chairman of the US-India Business Council, is also scheduled to meet Modi.

The only diplomatic meeting of the day scheduled as of Wednesday is with Guyanese Prime Minister David Granger, whose country’s population of about 800,000 is 43 percent of Indian descent.

On Friday, Modi turns to high-level diplomacy. He is to address the first session of the UN Summit, which celebrates the 70th anniversary of the founding of the world body and undertakes a massive programme to eradicate poverty and hunger through sustainable development. It is called Agenda 2030 for the deadline to achieve the programme’s 17 goals that include protecting the environment and empowering women.

India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Asoke Kumar Mukerji said that India is the broad canvas for the programme and it relies a lot on India for its success.

Modi has scheduled bilateral meetings with King Abdullah II of Jordan, Bhutan Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades.

He starts off Saturday on the East Coast with a summit of the G-4, a grouping of India, Brazil, Germany and Japan that works for UN Security Council expansion and mutually supports one another for permanent seats. Mukerji said this is the first time in more than a decade the G-4 was meeting at the level of prime ministers and presidents.

Mukerji said they will focus on building on the recent UN General Assembly endorsement of a negotiating text on Security Council reform and decide on the way to go forward. The negotiations are scheduled to start in the first half of November. The General Assembly overcame the first major hurdle earlier this month by endorsing the document on which to base the discussions.

Modi then flies off to the West Coast, where the focus will shift from high-level diplomacy to high-tech.

He has meetings scheduled with CEOs Tim Cook of Apple, Satya Nadela of Microsoft, Shantanu Narayen of Adobe, and Sundar Pichai of Google, executive chairmen Paul Jacobs of Qualcomm and John Chambers of Cisco, and Venkatesh Shukla, the president of The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE), a non-profit organisation.

On Sunday, he is scheduled to visit Facebook, where social media’s role in development will be the topic.

At Google, another stop in the Silicon Valley, Modi will look at their health care and grid programmes. A highpoint of the visit will be a 24-hour hackathon during which programmers at Google and in India will try to develop apps or programmes relating to the “Digital India” project.

Modi is to meet US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and participate in a round table at Stanford University on renewable energy.

Others on his agenda of meetings there are California Governor Edmund Brown and Salman Khan, the founder of the Khan Academy, the online education service.

With Nasscom, Modi will discuss creating an ecosystem for start-ups. Singh noted that Indian-origin entreprenurs are responsible for 15 percent of start-ups in the Silicon Valley and said that he would seek ways to create a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in India.

In an attempt to recreate the glamour and popularity of his Madison Square Garden event last year, a massive Indian community meeting is planned at the SAP Center, a sport arena in San Jose where 20,000 people are expected.

Back in New York on Monday, he plunges into diplomacy meeting President Barack Obama, their third encounter in a year.

He also has bilateral meeting on his agenda with presidents Francois Hollande of France, Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico and Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine Authority and the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

He will also attend a peacekeeping summit convened by Obama. Mukerji said that India is the largest contributor of troops to UN peacekeeping missions, with the cumulative total expected to reach 185,000 this year. “The time has come for peacekeeping to take into account India’s concerns,” he said. Modi has asked that the Security Council consult with troop-contributing countries in accordance with the UN charter, he added.

Protection of civilians has emerged as a major task of peacekeeping operations and India has the most experience on which it can be built, Mukerji said.

Practo Acquires Hospital Appointment Scheduling Platform Qikwell

Bengaluru-based healthcare platform Practo announced Thursday the acquisition of Qikwell, an appointment scheduling platform for hospitals. The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Qikwell will continue to be led by the co-founders, Practo said in an emailed statement.

Founded in 2011 by Krishna Prasad Chitrapura and Raghavendra Prasad TS, Qikwell has over 100 employees and a presence in 250 hospitals in 19 cities. The platform lists over 6000 doctors from hospitals like Manipal, Fortis, Cloudnine, and Narayana Hrudalaya, the company said.

Practo will use Qikwell’s key proprietary technologies and algorithms to improve the booking experience across the entire Practo platform, reducing waiting times and enabling contactless payments.

Practo claims that the acquisition, its fourth in the last five months, makes it the world’s largest appointment booking platform, with nearly 40 million appointments managed every year. Shashank ND, Founder and CEO, Practo said that the firm was looking to aggressively expand and build the world’s leading healthcare technology platform.

Earlier in September, Practo acquired Insta Health for $12 million (roughly Rs. 80 crores), outsourcing firm Genii in June, and digital fitness solutions firm Fitho in April.

In August, the firm had had raised $90 million (approximately Rs. 594 crores) in a series C funding round led by Tencent.

US Spies Can Rifle Through Facebook Data, EU Lawyer Warns

American spies have almost unfettered access to information about European users of Facebook and other social media thanks to an illegal trans-Atlantic pact on data- transfers, an adviser to the EU’s top court warned on Wednesday.

Secret US orders forcing technology companies to hand over personal data linked to EU citizens can’t continue under an “invalid” data-transfer accord struck 15 years ago, Advocate General Yves Bot of the Luxembourg-based tribunal said in a non- binding opinion. The EU court follows such advice in a majority of cases.

EU citizens “who are Facebook users are not informed that their personal data will be generally accessible to the United States security agencies,” said Bot. National data privacy watchdogs have the power, “where appropriate,” to suspend the transfer of such data to servers located in the United States, including in the case concerning the data of European Facebook users, he said.

The EU Court of Justice should scrap the 2000 Safe Harbor decision because it doesn’t protect citizens from the 28-nation bloc enough from an “unwarranted interference” with their rights and a “large-scale collection of personal data,” he said.

The EU-US data-sharing accord gives US intelligence services “wide-ranging” access to EU citizens’ data that “must be considered to be particularly serious, given the large number of users concerned and the quantities of data transferred,” said Bot.

Those factors and “the secret nature” of the US agencies’ access to such data via the servers of companies based in the US “make the interference extremely serious.”

The EU’s top court has been weighing the validity of the data-sharing accord following revelations by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden about US government surveillance activities and mass data collection. An Irish judge last year called on the EU’s tribunal to decide whether the deal still protects privacy and whether national regulators have the power to suspend illegal data flows from the EU to the US.

Bot criticized the European Commission for having neither “suspended nor adapted” the decision even though “it was aware of shortcomings” all along. The commission has been in negotiations with the US for two years in a bid to address its concerns with the Safe Harbor decision of too lax sharing of people’s personal data.

The Brussels-based EU executive arm said it “has been working tirelessly with the US on the final details of a deal in the last weeks and we are confident that we can reach a positive conclusion soon,” according to an e-mailed statement Wednesday.

Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems triggered the case with a complaint he filed against Facebook with the privacy watchdog in Ireland, where the US social network company has its European base. He alleged that Facebook’s Irish unit illegally handed over data to US spies. Schrems had previously filed 22 complaints against the Menlo Park, California-based company.

Facebook, like other tech giants Google and Yahoo, have been reeling from the effects of the Snowden revelations in 2013. The companies have been trying to assure their users or customers that their products are secure and that they don’t willingly turn over data to the government.

If followed by the court, it would mean that Facebook’s European branch in Ireland “would be barred from processing its data in the US, but would have to process its data in a place where those data are not subject to NSA mass- surveillance,” Herwig Hofmann, a lawyer representing Schrems, told reporters at the EU court today. All US companies would have to follow the same rules, he said.

Facebook “operates in compliance with EU Data Protection law. Like the thousands of other companies who operate data transfers across the Atlantic we await the full judgment,” said spokeswoman Sally Aldous.

“We have repeatedly said that we do not provide ‘backdoor’ access to Facebook servers and data to intelligence agencies or governments,” she said.

All US companies that are certified under Safe Harbor there are more than 4,000 such companies will be affected by the EU court’s decision, which should follow in the next four to six months.

DigitalEurope, a trade group that represents companies such as Apple, Google and Microsoft, said it is “concerned about the potential disruption to international data flows if the court follows today’s opinion,” according to a statement by John Higgins, its director general.

“If the safe harbor system is gone, it is very likely that the data protection authorities in the 28 EU member states will not allow data transfers to US companies that are subject to mass surveillance laws,” said Schrems in an e-mailed statement. “This may have major commercial downsides for the US tech industry.”

Facebook Adds 360-Degree Video to News Feed

Facebook on Wednesday began rolling out 360-degree viewing at the leading social network, letting people change their perspectives in specially created videos.

“We’ve seen that people enjoy more immersive content in their News Feeds,” video engineering director Maher Saba said in a blog post.

“We’re excited to take it a step further with 360-degree video.”

Synched rings cameras are used to capture video in a way that lets viewers virtually look around as if they are in the middle of a scene.

In desktop computer browsers, changing angles can be done using on-screen cursors. On mobile devices, shifting perspectives can be done by dragging fingers or just turning handsets, according to Saba.

“You’ll be able to hold up your phone and the 360-degree video will follow you as you turn, looking around, to experience things from all over the world like never before,” Saba said.

Publishers sharing 360-degree video at launch included GoPro, Discovery, and Saturday Night Live, according to Facebook.

Disney and Lucasfilm will debut a 360-degree video focused on its upcoming film “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” Saba said.

The immersive new feature being added to News Feed was being rolled out to Web browser and mobile devices powered by Google-backed Android operating systems. Facebook planned to get it onto hardware powered by Apple iOS software “in the coming months.”

Governments in India to Spend $6.88 Billion on IT in 2015

Governments in India will spend $6.88 billion (roughly Rs. 45,415 crores) on IT products and services in 2015, an increase of 5.2 percent over 2014, according to market research firm Gartner.

The forecast includes spending on internal services, software, IT services, data centre, devices and telecom services by local, state and the union government.

IT services, which include consulting, implementation, IT outsourcing and business process outsourcing, is expected to grow 10 percent in 2015 to reach $1.6 billion (roughly Rs. 10,562 crores) – with the business process outsourcing sub-segment growing by 21 percent, the firm said.

“Government spending on software will total $869 million (roughly Rs. 5,736 crores) in 2015, a 10.6 percent increase from 2014,” said Anurag Gupta, research vice president at Gartner.

“The software market will be led by growth in vertical specific software (software applications that are unique to a vertical industry). These are stand-alone applications that are not modules or extensions of horizontal applications,” he added.

The research firm also predicts that telecom services will also be a $1.6 billion market, with the mobile network services sub-segment recording fastest growth of 3 percent in 2015 to reach $787 million (roughly Rs. 5,195 crores).

According to Gartner, internal services will grow 8.8 percent in 2015 to reach $1.6 billion. Internal services refer to salaries and benefits paid to the information services staff of an organization. The information services staff includes all company employees that plan, develop, implement and maintain information systems.

“The investments in the ‘Digital India’ initiative, led by a focus to allow access of government services on mobile devices (part of the mobile government), expansion on broadband and planning for smart cities, will be a stimulus for Indian governments ICT initiatives,” Gupta said.

Google Case Final Decision to Take Quite Some Time, Says CCI

google_logo_redesign_2015_newest.png

Fair trade regulator CCI said on Wednesday it would take “quite some time” before reaching a final decision on the case related to Internet major Google’s alleged anti-competitive practices.

The Competition Commission of India’s investigative arm has submitted its report on the matter.

“It is going to take quite some time before there is any finality on the matter,” CCI Chairman Ashok Chawla said.

He was responding to a query about the status of the Google case and speculations surrounding it.

“There is always speculation in high-profile cases. The short point is it (the case) has to go through the process as prescribed in the Competition Act… The parties (concerned) have to be heard and then the Commission will come to a decision,” Chawla said on the sidelines of a summit in New Delhi.

The investigation report has been sent out to parties on both sides and their comments are awaited. The regulator refers cases to its investigative arm’s Director General (DG) for a detailed probe.

The DG report is believed to contain comments and inputs from a host of entities present in the Internet business, including some well-known e-commerce firms and Web portals.

While submissions from some of them appear to suggest violations on part of Google, others have sided with the US-based global giant.

“We are currently reviewing this report from the CCI’s ongoing investigation. We continue to work closely with CCI and remain confident that we comply fully with India’s competition laws,” a Google spokesperson had said in August.

CCI, which first received a complaint against Google back in 2011, has been looking into allegations that the company abused its dominant position in the search engine space for well over three years.

Participating in the Skoch summit on ‘Transformative Governance’, Chawla said transformative governance is critical as it helps to ensure efficiency, transparency as well as strengthen institutions

Dropbox Says No Immediate IPO Plan

Cloud storage firm Dropbox, one of the best-known Silicon Valley startups, has no imminent plans for a public share offering, founder and chief executive Drew Houston said Monday.

“We don’t have any plans right now,” Houston said during a question-and-answer session at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco.

“We raised some money at the end of last year. We’re really enjoying having that flexibility.”

Dropbox, a popular application which allows individuals and businesses to access documents, photos and data from multiple devices, has a valuation estimated at some $10 billion (roughly Rs. 65,654 crores), according to the research firm CB Insights.

Speculation has been swirling around an initial public offering (IPO) by Dropbox for months, fueled in part by the hiring of chief financial officer Vanessa Wittman, who was a key executive at Motorola Mobility.

But enthusiasm over Dropbox may be cooled by the experience of rival storage firm Box, which went public in January.

After an initial jump, Box’s share price has fallen below its IPO price of $14 a share, amid intensive competition in cloud computing from Google, Amazon, Microsoft and others.

Dropbox, launched in 2007, has some 400 million users worldwide including some 130,000 companies which pay for enterprise services.

Facebook Shouldn’t Intimidate You, Privacy Watchdog Tells Court

Belgian regulators urged a judge not to be intimidated by Facebook Inc. as they sought an order forcing the U.S. company to change its privacy policies to comply with local law.

The Belgian Privacy Commission is one of several European regulators that have taken issue with Facebook’s handling of user data.

The European Union’s 28 privacy watchdogs are coordinating national probes into possible violations of EU law by Facebook’s revamped policy for handling personal photos and data. Dutch regulators were the first to step in after Facebook alerted its users in November of changes effective in January.

“Don’t be intimidated by Facebook,” Frederic Debussere, a lawyer representing the Belgian privacy commission, told a Belgian court at a hearing in Brussels Monday. “They will argue our demands cannot be implemented in Belgium alone. Our demands can be perfectly implemented just in this country.”

Facebook’s “disrespectful” treatment of users’ personal data, without their knowledge, “needs tackling,” Willem Debeuckelaere, president of the Belgian commission said in May. The watchdog is suing Menlo Park, California-based Facebook for failing to respond to its demands, threatening a daily fine of EUR 250,000 (roughly Rs. 1.8 crores).

Facebook said that it should only be subjected to privacy laws in Ireland, where the U.S. company has its European headquarters an argument it has used in other countries, including Germany.

“How could Facebook be subject to Belgian law if the management of data gathering is being done by Facebook Ireland and its 900 employees in that country?” asked Paul Lefebvre, a lawyer representing the U.S. company.

The Belgian regulator said it has the power to investigate possible violations of its citizens’ privacy rights.

“When it became known that the NSA was spying on people all around the world, everybody was upset,” said Debussere, referring to revelations by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden about U.S. government surveillance activities. “Well, this actor is doing the very same thing, albeit in a different way.”

The Belgian regulator earlier this year cited concerns over how Facebook can track customer behavior from their use of so- called social plugins such as the “like” button, the “share” button, comments and other tools on the Facebook page.

“Why does Facebook use these data cookies?” asked Facebook’s Lefebvre. “They allow Facebook Ireland to identify bad faith attempts to gain access via the browser being used. If this would no longer be possible, Belgium would become a cradle for cyber terrorism: just the opposite of what the privacy commission strives for.”

German Booksellers Seek Action on Amazon Audio Books

The association of German book sellers accused Amazon and its subsidiary Audible on Monday of building a monopoly in the audio book business as it lodged complaints with the German competition authority and the European Commission.

The association said in a statement that Amazon and Audible were abusing their dominant market position to force publishers to accept “unreasonable conditions” for the marketing of audio books.

It said more than 90 percent of all downloads of audio books in Germany were made via the Audible orAmazon sites, or via the iTunes store, which is exclusively supplied by Audible.

“The business model of Amazon and Audible is aimed at destroying the excellent book trade structure in Germany.

These companies are avowedly on the way to establish a monopoly,” said association head Alexander Skipis.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The European Commission said it would assess the complaint, noting it worked closely with national competition authorities like the one in Germany on antitrust matters.

The German association said its complaint meant it was now formally a party to ongoing European antitrust proceedings against Amazon.

In June, the European Commission opened an investigation into Amazon’s ebook business, examining whether clauses in its contracts prevent publishers from offering more favourable deals to competitors.

ebooks are a fast-growing industry and Amazon, which popularised the product, is Europe’s biggest player.

The company could be fined up to 10 percent of its global turnover if found guilty of breaching EU rules.

The investigation is one of two against Amazon. It is also in the European Commission’s crosshairs for deals with Luxembourg which allow it to pay extremely low taxes.

France Rejects Google Appeal on Cleaning Up Search Results Globally

google_employee_ap.jpg

French data privacy regulators took a step towards sanctioning Google by rejecting the company’s request to drop a case against it for refusing to clean up information from its search engine results.

Under Europe’s so-called right to be forgotten, individuals can ask search engines such as Google and Microsoft’s Bing to remove information that appears under a search of their name if it is incorrect, out of date, irrelevant or inflammatory.

Since the European Court of Justice ruling last year that granted this right to European residents,Google has fielded nearly 320,000 requests, granting about 40 percent of them. But it only de-lists the links on European versions of its sites, such as Google.fr or Google.de not globally, meaning the information remains available.

The French authority, the CNIL, in June ordered Google to de-list on request search results appearing under a person’s name from all its websites, including Google.com.

The company refused in July and requested that the CNIL abandon its efforts, which the regulator officially refused to do on Monday.

“The President of the CNIL rejects Google’s informal appeal against the formal notice requesting it to apply delisting on all of the search engine’s domain names,” the watchdog said.

France is the first European country to open a legal process to punish Google for not applying the right to be forgotten globally.

But an umbrella group of European data protection watchdogs took a similar position in December on the issue of cleaning up search results globally, saying that it was the only way to ensure the “effective and complete protection of data subjects’ rights and that EU law cannot be circumvented”.

A CNIL spokesman said Google was required to comply immediately and begin de-listing information about French residents from all of its sites.

If it refused, the CNIL will spend the next two months preparing sanctions that can include up to EUR 150,000 ($169,000) in fines, climbing to EUR 300,000 for repeat offences.

Google said it had worked hard to implement the right to be forgotten ruling “thoughtfully and comprehensively in Europe” and would continue to do so.

“But as a matter of principle, we respectfully disagree with the idea that a single national Data Protection Authority should determine which webpages people in other countries can access via search engines,” said a spokesman for the company.

In July, Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel, called France’s request to clean up global results “troubling” and said it could risk “serious chilling effects on the web”.

“While the right to be forgotten may now be the law in Europe, it is not the law globally,” Fleischer wrote.