LAVA launches its first 4G-enabled tablet ‘IvoryS 4G’ at Rs 8,799

Indian mobile handset company LAVA on Friday unveiled its first 4G tablet “IvoryS 4G” that can be used for both work and entertainment purposes.

The Rs 8,799 device packs 7-inch HD display, 1 GHz quad-core processor paired with 1GB of RAM to provide lag-free experience to the consumers.

“As per industry reports, India will have over 300 million 3G and 4G subscribers by 2018. With our vision to empower people, we are committed to drive the 4G adoption in India and ‘IvoryS 4G’ is a step further in that direction,” said Raman Sharma, vice president and head of tablets and IT, LAVA International Ltd, in a statement.

The device supports bands GSM 900 and 1800 MHz, HSPA, offers dual SIM (4G+3G/2G) connectivity and houses 3,000 mAh battery.

“IvoryS 4G” has 16GB internal memory expandable up to 32GB via microSD card. The tablet runs on Android Lollipop 5.1 operating system.

It is equipped with 5MP auto-focus rear camera with a flash along with 3.2MP front camera. Additionally, the device features full HD (1080p) video playback and recording.

It will soon be available at retail stores, multi-brand outlets and online platforms.

Tata Group enters e-commerce market with apparel, electronics website

Tata Group enters e-commerce market with Tata Cliq

India’s biggest conglomerate Tata Group launched an e-commerce venture on Friday, as it seeks to cash in on rising purchasing power in a market dominated by deep-pocketed international retailers and startups backed by global tech investors.

The group said it developed its Tata Cliq website over a year-and-a-half at a cost of “several hundred million dollars” to be a marketplace for in-house and partner companies to sell apparel and electronics.

The move is in line with a second phase in Indian e-commerce development, with the some of the country’s oldest and largest corporations entering an industry established in the last five years by startups Snapdeal and Flipkart Online Services Pvt Ltd.

The market also welcomed global e-commerce firm Inc (AMZN.O) in 2013, which has invested over $2 billion for growth.

Local conglomerates only lately entered the fray. Reliance Industries Ltd (RELI.NS) started an online apparel shop last month, while Aditya Birla Group and Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd (MAHM.NS) recently launched online retail platforms.

For big business houses, e-commerce is an opportunity to capitalise on middle class growth and rapid internet adoption. By 2025, online merchandise sales will hit $220 billion in India from $11 billion last year, Bank of America Merrill Lynch estimated.

But the market has fostered cut-price competition, with the top three players incurring millions of dollars in losses due to heavy discounts.

Tata said its focus was profit margins and unit economics, and not just growing sales via discounts.

“We don’t want to get into the discount wars, we want to serve customers with great products and build a sustainable business,” said Chief Executive Ashutosh Pandey of Tata Unistore, parent of the operator of Tata Cliq.

To keep costs in check, Pandey said Tata would use its money establishing a large number of warehouses like other e-commerce players have done, and would instead build inventory networks around existing store locations owned by group partners.

The group, whose businesses include steel production, tea packaging, information technology services and automobiles, has bet on new businesses in recent years with mixed success.

Its retail businesses including sellers of gold ornaments, sunglasses, apparel and electronics have successfully expanded, but its mobile phone venture Tata Docomo is a marginal player.



Normal monsoons can boost farm income by 20% in FY17: Report

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A normal monsoon this year is expected to provide 20 per cent boost to the income of farmers, whose debt leverage has touched 22 per cent following two years of droughts, domestic brokerage JM Financial has projected.

“A good monsoon can provide better yields, and boost farm income by 20 per cent while the total rural income may grow at 12 per cent in FY2017 while higher rural spending by government should support non-farm income,” JM Financial said in its third annual rural survey titled Rural Safari.

On an average, farmers’ income has come down by 3 per cent in 2014-15 and by 4 per cent in 2015-16. During 2014 and 2015, monsoons were lower by 12 per cent and 14 per cent from the long period averages. The Met department had projected a 106 per cent rainfalls this year.

The survey warns however that given the massive spike in indebtedness of farmers, which rose to 22 per cent in 2014-15 from 18 per cent in the previous year, coupled with lower prices of farm produce, a full-blown recovery looks bleak this year.

“Given the rise in their leverage, which jumped 4 percentage points in FY2016 to 22 per cent and still very weak real estate markets, we expect the initial savings to go into deleveraging and small ticket purchases, thereby by whittling a full recovery of the overall economy,” it said.

The share of the rural credit rose 20.3 per cent by end 2015 from 16.8 per cent in December 2010, growing at 24 per cent CAGR, against urban credit CAGR of 12 per cent during 2011-15, it added.

“The high growth of rural credit signifies the increasing leverage taken by rural India along with the event of declining income levels in agri households. As of December 2015 total credit outstanding stood at Rs 70 trillion (Rs 70 lakh crore) a growth of 10.9 per cent with rural credit standing at Rs 14 trillion a growth of 12.8 per cent and urban at Rs 54 trillion, up 8.6 per cent. Farm credit grew 13.2 per cent in FY2015”.

An average farmer’s debt requirement has increased from 7.5 per cent in 2013-14 to 9.8 per cent in 2015-16 due to falling income levels leading to for borrowing more for consumption and income mismatch.

The report is based on the brokerage’s analysis of 14 districts across eight states — Andhra, Bihar, Karnataka, Maharashtra, MP, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and UP — which account for 52 per cent of the nation’s farm GDP.

The survey finds that two years of successive droughts have yanked down farm incomes fallen further, apart from bringing down the real estate values, while debt/assets of farmers have risen massively.

Noting that farm income profitability has struggled in the past three years due to low MSP hikes, low productivity and high production costs, the report said this may reverse in the upcoming monsoon season with per acre profitability increasing sharply by 10-12 per cent.

“Even though the past four crops (including Rabi 2016) have been weak, a good monsoon would increase farm income on the back of improved productivity and probable higher net sown area. Even though MSP growth in the past three years have been weak, due to inflationary reasons MSP hike for upcoming Kharif season would be supportive rather than sharp,” it said.

The monsoons are very critical as over 50 per cent farmers do not still have irrigation coverage. Even in regions where there is irrigation, monsoon impacts indirectly as lack in rainfall reduces watertable level and tube-wells which are dug at higher levels. Net irrigated area rose from 18 per cent at time of independence to 46 per cent by 2012.

Despite declining share of farm income in the hinterlands, agriculture continues to be one of the major drivers of rural economy as farming still employs around 50 per cent of labour force.

Therefore, farm income is of critical importance for any recovery in rural spending as 36 per cent of the rural income still come from farming.

Non-farm income which constitutes 64 per cent of rural income will lend support to total income driven by government spending while wealth effect has completely waned in the past three years.

As per the NSSO Survey 2013, the average outstanding loan of agri household stood at Rs 47,000 with loan of higher income group increasing to Rs 290,000.

According to NSSO data, 19 per cent of rural households depended on non-institutional sources of credit as against 17.2 per cent for institutional credit in 2011-12.

During the past four years, show the NSSO data, farm income for an average farmer (land holding of 2.7 acres) has fallen 7 per cent each in 2014-15 and 2015-16 even as non-farm income grew 2 per cent in 2014-15 and neutral in 2015-16.

Since MSP prices were low and wage growth was high, farm income was also affected in 2013-14 when it de-grew 1 per cent. With the assumption of a good monsoon providing better yields, we predict farm income to grow at 20 per cent as total income grows at 12 per cent.

RBI to lower rates by another 50 bps in FY17, says Morgan Stanley

RBI to lower rates by another 50 bps in FY17, says Morgan Stanley

The Reserve Bank is expected to keep key rates unchanged in the next policy meeting on June 7, but might lower rates by another 50 bps during the current financial year, says a report by Morgan Stanley.

According to the report, retail inflation is likely to moderate going forward and is expected to decelerate to 4.5 per cent by March 2017.

“Based on our CPI forecast and RBI’s stated real rate target of 1.5-2 per cent, we expect RBI to lower rates by another 50 bps in FY2017,” Morgan Stanley said in a research note.

Retail inflation soared to 5.39 per cent in April on higher food prices, reversing a downward trend seen in recent months.

In terms of pace of rate cuts, the global brokerage firm expects the Reserve Bank to wait for the onset of monsoon to see the trend in actual inflation, and hence expects the RBI to keep rates unchanged in the next policy meeting on June 7.

“We see a higher chance of RBI reducing rates in the October meeting. However, there is a possibility of RBI cutting rates in the August meeting if the rainfall arrives in time and is significantly above normal by end of July,” the report said adding “post that, we expect RBI to move in December or February meeting, with the key event to watch being Fed monetary policy action”.

Earlier in April, RBI reduced its policy rate by 0.25 per cent to 6.5 per cent. While this was the first rate cut after a gap of six months, RBI has lowered its rate by 1.5 per cent cumulatively since January 2015.

However, the industry still wants further rate cuts from RBI to boost investment.

Regarding the growth outlook, the report said that the macro environment has been on a steady improvement in the past two years; however, the pace of growth recovery has been “slower than anticipated”.

“We believe the recovery in this cycle will be led by domestic demand, i.e. consumption, public capex and foreign investment. We believe this will be a longer duration expansion cycle with GDP growth expected to accelerate and inflation expected to remain at or below 5 per cent over the next two years,” Morgan Stanley said.

SoftBank’s investments in India may surpass $10 billion

SoftBank's investments in India may surpass $10 billion

Having made a string of technology investments in India, Japanese telecom and Internet giant SoftBank has said its investments in the country will top USD 10 billion in 5-10 years.

SoftBank, which owns one of Japan’s biggest mobile carriers and a controlling stake in US-based Sprint Corp, will make its first USD 350 million investment in a solar project in India, its Chief Executive Masayoshi Son told PTI here.

“We have already invested USD 2 billion and we are interested in investing more,” he said. “India has a great future. We are interested in investing in Internet companies and also in solar energy. We would make strong commitments.”

Son said SoftBank is looking at accelerating the pace of investments in future.

“We also made a first move on solar energy. We are making USD 350 million investment in first project in solar (in India). We will expand. In next 5-10 years, we will definitely make probably around USD 10 billion of investments,” he added.

In June last year, SoftBank announced a joint venture with Bharti Enterprises and Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology Group to generate 20 gigawatts of renewable energy. This would entail the three partners investing about USD 20 billion.

Son said achieving the electricity generation target would depend on power purchase agreements being signed with offtaker states, adding that “we will support it”.

SoftBank’s investments in the past two years include USD 627 million in online-retailing marketplace Snapdeal and leading a USD 210 million funding round in taxi-hailing app Ola Cabs.

It paid USD 200 million for a 35 per cent stake in InMobi, an Indian mobile-advertising network.

SoftBank also has a JV with the Bharti Group, Bharti SoftBank, the investments of which include the mobile application Hike Messenger. Its other investments cover real estate website, hotel-booking app Oyo Rooms and Grofers.

Son said India’s market is poised for massive growth, making it an important destination for investors.

Asked whether concerns about high valuations would lead SoftBank to cut its planned investments in the country, he said, “We are very very confident about India, so we will increase investment. I am not worried. I am very very excited about the opportunity.”

Son, who had previously predicted that India’s e-commerce industry would become a USD 500 billion business in the next 10 years, is confident that it will grow exponentially.

“And it will become like China and become worth hundreds of billions of dollars,” he said.

Though India has lagged China on development of the Internet, SoftBank believes the country will grow strongly over the next decade.

On consolidation in the e-commerce space, he said, “We always thought that whenever there is an opportunity to win, I am sure there will be lots of co-operation.”

Asked what he wants from the government on renewable energy push, Son reply was “just support international standard” for paying for electricity generated and consumed.

“On making investment, there is international stand on the rules. For example, if we make investment, then we want payment… there are international rules and standards and as long as India provides (that), we don’t need any advantage. As long as there is parity with international standards that is enough,” he said.

SoftBank, Bharti and Foxconn plan to invest in the joint venture called SBG Cleantech.

India is targeting generation of 100 gigawatt of solar power by 2022, up from around 5 gigawatt today.

Rupee extends losses, hits intraday low of 67.34 vs dollar post Janet Yellen’s comments

Rupee depreciates 25 paise to 67.28 vs dollar post Janet Yellen's comments

Snapping three session long gaining spree, the rupee on Monday depreciated by 31 paise to 67.34 against the US dollar after comments by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen enhanced the prospect of a near-term US interest rate hike.

The domestic currency on Friday appreciated by 14 paise against the American currency to end at one-week high of 67.03 on the back of robust dollar inflows in equities.

The Fed chair said on Friday a rate increase in the coming months “would be appropriate,” if the economy and labor market continued to improve.

Yellen’s rate hike endorsement was just what the currency market was looking for to take the already-bullish dollar yet higher after a recent run of upbeat US economic indicators and comments from top Fed officials that supported a near-term tightening.

The dollar index, which tracks the value of dollar against a basket of six major currencies, added to Friday’s gains to touch 95.828, its highest in two months.

The American currency stood tall against major Asian currencies with yuan, won, ringgit and rupiah sliding against the greenback.

Jolla announces Jolla C and a new Sailfish Community Device Program

The phone is part of the new Sailfish Community Device Program meant for developers, who will get access to exclusive live community sessions, invitations to community events, and the phone itself.

The phone will come with a stock version of Sailfish OS 2.0 with no third-party applications installed. On the hardware side you get a 5.0-inch 720p IPS LCD, quad-core 1.3GHz Snapdragon 212, 2GB RAM, 16GB storage with microSD support, 8 megapixel rear/2 megapixel front cameras, and 2500mAh battery.

Only 1000 of these devices will be made for the program members.

HTC One M9+ Prime Camera Edition goes official with MediaTek Helio X10 SoC, 5.2-inch display

After announcing the One M9 Prime Camera Edition earlier this month in Germany, HTC has made official a new variant of the device – dubbed One M9+ Prime Camera Edition. The new phone is currently listed on HTC’s India eStore.Specs-wise, the One M9+ PCE is powered by a MediaTek Helio X10 SoC, and sports a 5.2-inch full HD display. It comes with 2GB RAM and 16GB expandable internal memory, and packs in a 2,840mAh battery.

The camera department is handled by a 13MP rear unit and an HTC UltraPixel front shooter. Measuring 15.09 x 7.19 x 0.96cm and weighing in at 168g, the handset runs Android (said to be version 5.0) with Sense UI on top, and also features a front fingerprint sensor.The One M9+ PCE carries a price tag of INR 23,990 (around $355), but isn’t officially available for purchase yet. Apparently, it’s on sale at third-party retail stores in India.

Windows 10-powered Alcatel Idol4 Pro receives wifi certification

The Alcatel Idol4 Pro, which has been the subject of a handful of leaks already, has now received Wi-Fi certification from the WiFi Alliance (WFA), suggesting that the Windows 10-powered phone will launch soon.

What’s worth mentioning here is that the device that has been certified is a T-Mobile variant. This could mean that the handset will only be available in the US, at-least at launch.

It’s rumored spec-sheet currently reads SD820 SoC, 6-inch full HD display, 20MP rear camera, and 64GB storage. There’s currently no information on how much it will cost.

Asus ZenFone 3 series specs leak ahead of today’s announcement [Update: renders leak as well]

The Zenfone 3 and Zenfone 3 Deluxe

The Zenfone 3 Ultra

Original story follows:

We already know that Asus will unveil the ZenFone 3 series today (May 30), and it will consist of three devices namely the ZenFone 3, ZenFone 3 Deluxe, and ZenFone 3 Max. But before that happens, some key specs of these devices have been leaked.

The leak comes in the form of an alleged internal document which was shared by tipster Roland Quandt on Twitter.

The doc reveals that the Zenfone 3 is powered by a Snapdragon 625 SoC, and sports a 5.5-inch full HD display. RAM is 3GB, while the camera department is handled by a 16MP rear unit and an 8MP front shooter. The phone packs in a 3,000mAh battery.

Moving on, the Deluxe variant is powered by a Snapdragon 820 SoC, and sports a 5.7-inch display. The handset comes with a whopping 6GB RAM and a 23MP rear camera unit.

And finally, the third device whose specs the doc reveals is the ZenFone 3 Ultra, which is powered by SD652, features a 23MP rear camera, and packs in a large 4,600mAh battery. RAM is 4GB, and the phone also features a fingerprint sensor. There’s currently no information on whether or not the ZenFone 3 Ultra and the the ZenFone 3 Max are same devices.

Quandt notes that the document is from February and because it’s old, final specs could be a bit different.