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Indian Smartphone Market Likely to See 40% Recovery in Second Half of 2020: Report

After going through disruptions in supply chain and curtailed domestic production, the India smartphone market is now showing encouraging signs of revival that sets it on a potential course for market recovery for over 40 per cent in the second half this year, according to a new report. Over the short-term, the mobile market will improve in mid-Q3, spurred by early online sales festivals, setting the smartphone market on a potential path to recovery towards the all-important festive season.

During this period, smartphone brands will focus on showcasing their consumer-centric value propositions, focusing more on hyperlocal delivery models, and launching more 5G-ready smartphones, according to market research firm CMR’s ‘India Mobile Handset Market Review Report.’ CMR’s current estimates point to better performance for the India smartphone market in H2 2020, with the market anticipated to recover by more than 40 per cent in comparison to the first half.

“As a consequence of the pandemic, Q2 2020 was, in essence, a lost quarter. While the mobile handset industry faced multiple challenges with respect to their supply and demand-side dynamics, the industry looks set on the path to a potential recovery in the coming months,” said Amit Sharma, Manager-Industry Intelligence Group, CMR. The initial consumer demand in the unlock phase was driven predominantly through online channels and driven by a need for urgent replacements.

“Facing up to the pandemic, smartphone brands debuted innovative hyperlocal delivery models, some of which have the potential to gain permanence,” Sharma added. The path to potential recovery will be led by pent-up consumer demand, driven by a need for upgrades. In the run-up to the festive season, consumers will seek to go for meaningful value propositions that bring devices and compelling content ecosystem offerings, together.

“This, coupled by smartphone brands bringing more value for money offerings and backed by aggressive messaging, will potentially drive the market,” said Sharma. Thus far, a key challenge for the smartphone market in India to grow has been the inability to offer value propositions that will help feature phone users to migrate to smartphones. “We believe recent announcements, such as the Jio-Google deal, augur well for the future of the mobile handset industry in India, and in potentially enabling the migration of feature phones to smartphone users, with its focus on driving affordability,” said analyst Anand Priya Singh.


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Tech

WhatsApp Pay to Rely On Fintech Solutions Made By Indian Companies

One of the biggest milestones in India’s quest for becoming a Digital-First Nation has been the introduction of unified payments interface (UPI). Having said that, the digital payments service still has a long way to go. Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about the growth and gaps in India’s digital economy in a recent address to leaders of the US-India Business Council.

India has about 500 million active internet users, with another 500 million that are yet to come online. This means that the efforts in doubling the size of Digital India requires bridging this divide and expanding access to the tools and platforms that power India’s digital economy today. It is noteworthy that the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) recently put a cap on unified payments interface (UPI) transactions for digital payments players like Google Pay, PhonePe, Paytm and others.

Will Cathcart, Head of WhatsApp recently wrote in an article on Financial Express “More than four years ago, Prime Minister Modi launched this ground-breaking initiative to provide Indian citizens with the ability to make digital payments to one another and to the more than 60 million Indian small businesses that serve local communities and the world.”

Talking about the UPI integration with WhatsApp, Cathcart believes in doing so “we can help power a new wave of fintech innovation and financial inclusion.” The platform also has the ability to back up a broader suite of fintech applications like micro-pensions, digital insurance products, and flexible loans, something that might be seen on WhatsApp in the near future. Such custom solutions by Indian technology companies based on the UPI platform have the ability to solve large social, business and financial problems in India and then become templates for other countries to deploy.

Rapidly scaling UPI is the need of the hour and one of the best ways to strengthen India’s digital economy added Cathcart. He also says that the UPI project has proven to be ‘wildly successful’ in just four years managing a 100 million-strong user base ever since the launch.


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Tech

Gold Rush: Ban On TikTok And Other Chinese Apps Is A Big Opportunity For Indian App Developers

The decision to ban the 59 Chinese apps by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given the Indian app, or mobile application developing community an opportunity of their life time. Indigenous competitors to the likes of TikTok, which is on the banned list, could not have bargained for a better utopia. A ban on international heavy weight like TikTok, opens a growing mature market of TikTok users is no less than utopia for the Indian app developers. The TikTok celebrities and their followers are literally getting impatient in their wait for the Indian competitors to provide that international performance and quality that they have got so addicted to, over the years. The competition to gain the space shall be fierce but reaching a ‘Unicorn’ status will require a new strategy and skill sets.

The situation is analogous to the late 1970s when the leadership banished all foreign automobile makers for selling cars in the Indian market. This gave the Ambassador and Premier Padmini cars a free run to serve the ‘bound’ Indian market, till the Japan-backed Maruti Suzuki came along in mid-1980’s. The two Indian cars altered little only to reach the iconic status with their recognizable shapes being synonymous with other historic monuments of the country. While on the other hand the automobile sector of the world advanced with leaps and bounds to produce a very different breed of cars which not only looked totally different but were much safer, comfortable, and were efficient with petrol consumption, power, cruising speeds and much more. Thus when the 1990s brought back the foreign players the Indian competitors had to shut shop.

In the information technology and software sector, this generation of entrepreneurs can learn from that page in history and utilize all the resources at their disposal supported by the present leadership’s political will towards ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (self sufficient India) and transform themselves into true Unicorn status competitors to the banned apps.

Akin to an athlete who changes a coach or trainer as he/she moves up to compete from the city or state level to the national level and then the Olympics, the Indian app developers might need to re-look their strategy, technology, advisors to move up their game.

Meanwhile, the marooned user base of celebrities, followers and viewers of those 59 banished Chinese apps have international grade expectations, the indigenous app developer community. These users have by now been accustomed to a superior level of user interface (UI) and a new level of user experience (UX), which in the IT lingo is just called UI/UX, along with curation technologies at work behind the scenes.

As the New York Times noted that TikTok’s curated content database answers assertively ‘what should I post’ and with a plenty for ‘what should I watch’. An RTI revealed that in response to a Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s (MEITY) questionnaire TikTok shared it can remove any content in 3 hours and uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to curate content albeit using data whose procurement was questionable to start with.

This is the level the Indian competitor should operate at, using sophistication while staying clear of the alleged data malpractices of the Chinese apps in terms of collecting user data. Also in legal areas where the Indian framework is still evolving, it would bode the Indian makers well to garner a positive image by adopting and following self regulation practices in line with the enhanced legal frameworks of other developed countries.

Apart from the computer technologies and legal frameworks there are a lot more tangible and intangible strategies deployed by these Chinese apps to reach and maintain their multibillion dollar valuations. For example, it’s known that CEO of TikTok maker ByteDance, made it mandatory for all his employees to make and publish their own content on TikTok. And those who could not go past a specific threshold number of followers were made to do push ups in office. From a business strategy perspective though, a bit authoritarian, this strategy does make every individual employee acutely tuned to the TikTok market and totally in sync with each other. Indian competitors will also need such innovative strategies to drive that edge over their competitors.

Expectations from app makers grow so do their demands from the Indian entrepreneurial ecosystem. For example, expectations of more advanced entrepreneurial policy support in the form of other tangibles and intangibles above and beyond financial support. And higher expectations from the venture capital community to provide access to experienced advisors, board members etc. who have hands on experience with similar meteoric economic value building in the past. And in return all have an opportunity to cash in on this expected ‘gold rush’.

The onus is now squarely upon the community to out perform the other foreigners and fill the void left behind by the Chinese apps. Time and again the country has taken pride in its software prowess and the app ‘gold rush’ has begun.

About The Author

The writer is a Sloan Fellow from Stanford Graduate School of Business and specializes in creating entrepreneurial ecosystems worldwide. And the former head of business consulting in the Americas for Starburst Accelerator, the world’s largest aerospace and defense startup accelerator. He holds a US patent in semiconductors & cybersecurity and focused on research in cellphone technologies at University of California, Irvine. He has also been a panelist for the American SBIR program for almost a decade. He is presently based in India focused on the startup ecosystem after doing the same in the US for almost two decades. Twitter: @anshufellow


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Tech

California Sues Cisco For Alleged Job Discrimination Based on Indian Employee's Caste

FILE PHOTO: The Cisco logo is seen at their booth at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, February 26, 2018. REUTERS/Sergio Perez/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: The Cisco logo is seen at their booth at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, February 26, 2018. REUTERS/Sergio Perez/File Photo

Regulators have said that Cisco’s treatment of the employee, who is not named, violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.

  • Associated Press
  • Last Updated: July 3, 2020, 11:44 AM IST

California regulators have sued Cisco Systems, saying an engineer faced discrimination at the company’s Silicon Valley headquarters because he is a Dalit Indian. India’s caste system long placed Dalits at the bottom of a social hierarchy, once terming them “untouchables.” Inequities and violence against Dalits have persisted for decades after India banned caste discrimination.

The engineer worked on a team at Cisco’s San Jose headquarters with Indians who all immigrated to the U.S. as adults, and all of whom were of high caste, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The “higher caste supervisors and co-workers imported the discriminatory system’s practices into their team and Cisco’s workplace,” the lawsuit says.

It says Cisco’s treatment of the employee, who is not named, violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act. The Civil Rights Act bans employment discrimination based on race, colour, religion, sex and national origin. The lawsuit notes the employee is Dalit Indian, and that he is darker-complexioned than non-Dalit Indians.

“It is unacceptable for workplace conditions and opportunities to be determined by a hereditary social status determined by birth,” said DFEH Director Kevin Kish. Two men who were Cisco supervisors and higher-caste Indians, Sundar Iyer and Ramana Kompella, are named in the suit for discriminating and harassing the employee. The employee received less pay and fewer opportunities, and when he opposed “unlawful practices, contrary to the traditional order between the Dalit and higher castes, Defendants retaliated against him,” the lawsuit says.

Cisco did not steps to prevent this discrimination, the suit says. The suit says that Iyer told other workers that the employee was Dalit and enrolled at India’s prestigious Indian Institute of Technology through affirmative action. The employee contacted Cisco human relations, wanting to file a discrimination complaint against Iyer, and then Iyer took away his responsibilities and made other changes that reduced the employee’s role and made him feel isolated from his coworkers. The suit says Iyer disparaged the employee to coworkers and said they should avoid him.

After Iyer stepped down, Kompella replaced him, and the suit says Kompella “continued to discriminate, harass, and retaliate” against the employee, including by “giving him assignments that were impossible to complete under the circumstances.” The lawsuit says that Cisco investigated and did not “substantiate any caste-based or related discrimination or retaliation” against the employee.

Cisco Systems Inc., a major supplier of computer networking gear that makes the internetwork, said in a statement that it is committed to an inclusive workplace. It said it has “robust processes to report and investigate concerns raised by employees,” which it followed in this case, and that it is in compliance with all laws and its own policies. The company said will defend against the allegations in the complaint. Cisco spokeswoman Helen Saunders declined to say if Iyer and Kompella were still at Cisco, referring a reporter to LinkedIn.


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Tech

CamScanner Banned: Indian App 'Kaagaz Scanner' Sees 1 Lakh Downloads in a Day

CamScanner, a highly popular app for scanning and storing documents, has been banned by the government of India as part of the 59 Chinese apps that were blacklisted for data and privacy concerns. Cashing in on this so-called “app vacuum” and riding on the prevalent anti-China sentiment, Indian startup Sorted AI has seemingly built a CamScanner alternative that aims to give users an ‘Indian’ app to scan their documents. Named ‘Kaagaz Scanner’, the app has claimed over 1 lakh downloads within one day of CamScanner being banned, and is presently seeing considerable interest on the Google Play Store.

What is Kaagaz Scanner?

As the name suggests, Kaagaz Scanner aims to do exactly what CamScanner used to, only in an Indian guise. CamScanner was blacklisted in light of its ties to China. Since it was largely used to scan personal identification documents, storing of such documents on the cloud server of an app hosted in China was deemed as a security violation. It is this that Sorted AI’s ‘Kaagaz Scanner’ aims to cash in on, and fill the space left open by marketing an ‘Indian alternative’.

Talking about the app via a LinkedIn post, Gaurav Shrishrimal, the founder of Sorted AI, the company behind Kaagaz Scanner, said, “We built Kaagaz Scanner as a side project after the call of our Prime Minister for ‘Vocal For Local’ and ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’. As soon as we got the news of Chinese apps being banned, we started pushing the app in all of our WhatsApp groups and social media feeds. We were lucky to be picked by a few big influencers, which gave us the initial push. That, coupled with a simply, easy to use product, started increasing our install numbers.”

While this sounds like the perfect story of an Indian startup stepping up to innovate and fill up the gap from a better known Chinese app, it seems that Kaagaz Scanner still has some way to go.

Should I use it?

As goes the statutory privacy disclaimer, do not download and use an app until its privacy policy has been verified by independent parties and deemed adequate. While Kaagaz Scanner has been built by an Indian startup, its privacy policy must also include safeguards against any potential data breaches or other privacy mishaps.

Even beyond this, while most users have given Kaagaz Scanner a positive rating on the Google Play Store, reviews paint a different picture. Most recent reviews from yesterday appear to suggest that the app is full of bugs, and has an unintuitive user interface. It also appears to be slow at processing scans, which shows that the app has quite some way to go.

As a result, it is prudent to suggest that you should wait until Kaagaz Scanner’s makers, Sorted AI, manages to sort out their app issues. Until then, you can choose from a list of our trusted document scanning apps and services to use while the homegrown, made in India alternative fixes the bugs.


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Tech

Indian CEOs Welcome the Ban on Chinese Apps, Say Time for Homegrown Start ups to Raise Standards

Image for representation. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Image for representation. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Here’s what Indian Indian CEOs and startup gurus have to say about the government’s decision to block apps originating from China

  • News18.com
  • Last Updated: June 30, 2020, 5:06 PM IST

The government’s decision to ban 59 China-based apps has got the industry talking. The list of banned apps includes popular short video service TikTok, browser and content app UC Browser, women-specific fashion shopping app Shein, popular mobile game Clash of Kings, and many more. According to the Ministry of Electronics & IT, these apps have been penalised on the grounds of being prejudicial to sovereignty, integrity and security of the country. The ministry has also said to have received many complaints from various sources, including several reports about misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorised manner to servers which have locations outside India”.

Reacting to the order, Indian tech entrepreneurs and startup gurus are applauding the government for its decision to block apps originating from China.

Keshav R Murugesh, Group CEO, WNS Global Services said, “The ban of 59 apps is a huge opportunity for startup Entrepreneurs and Companies to create robust alternatives that are Made in India for the world. During lockdown, India (Govt, companies and education) has been enabled thanks to IT.

NASSCOM President, Debjani Ghosh quoting the order passed by the Ministry of Electronics & IT said, “No better time than now for Indian startups to raise their innovation game! Also the perfect time for gov’t and industry to amp up the “build for India n scale globally” movement with focus on Innovation, Policy, Funding, Trust and Security.”

“A bold move by the government, this gives an opportunity to Indian companies. Kudos to @rsprasad for this move. @Product_Nation” wrote Nakul Saxena, Director Public Policy at iSPIRT in a tweet.

Naveen Tewari, founder at InMobi says “The ban indicates the need to work and operate within the laws, culture and values of any country. The ban is not a reflection of India’s changing policies, but certainly showing care for its citizens. This ban creates a huge gap in the digital landscape of India, which every Indian entrepreneur should try to fulfill & let its citizens not feel any vacuum. We are making sure that with Gance and Roposo every Indian should experience a great Indian product. India has an opportunity to build the 4th tech ecosystem apart from the US, China & Russia. India’s Tech ecosystem can be massive! Calling upon all fellow entrepreneurs to take responsibility for making India.”


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Tech

Indian Apps ShareChat, Roposo, Chingari Gear Up to Replace TikTok, Helo After Chinese Apps Ban

Indian social media platforms look to see an uptick in growth in light of last night’s ban on 59 Chinese apps, as enforced by the government of India. While some claim to be seeing instantaneous growth surges, other platforms are more pragmatic about the approach, while stating that the ban on services like TikTok, Helo and Likee will definitely create ripple effects in the homegrown social media industry of India.

Speaking to News18, Berges Malu, director of public policy at ShareChat states that while the platform is well poised to make the most of the opportunity that has opened up, the growth in terms of new users will be a gradual affair. He says, “It’s not an instant process – anyone that uses an app like TikTok is likely already using other social media platforms too, such as ShareChat itself. Hence, the overall growth of users will likely reflect over the coming weeks, once the network-level bans are imposed on these apps.”

ShareChat presently has over 60 million monthly active users on its platform, making it the largest Indian social media platform. Prior to last night’s ban of these Chinese apps, Farid Ahsan, co-founder and chief operating officer of ShareChat told News18 that the vocal for local narrative has given a slight push towards homegrown services, but ShareChat’s prime focus at the moment remains in seeing the growth of organic user engagement on its platform. With apps like TikTok and Helo being banned from India’s internet, the market may open up for just that.

Mayank Bhangadia, founder of Roposo, has a far more optimistic view of things at the moment. In conversation with News18, Bhangadia says, “I am seeing the highest surge in user traffic that Roposo has seen till date. All things considered, I expect to see up to 10 million new users join Roposo today itself.”

Bhangadia says that the growth is being buoyed by creators who are leaving platforms like ShareChat and Helo to join Roposo, which promotes itself as a creator-first platform. “We built our tool over the past four years, and offer the best revenue scheme for creators to earn through. Our parent company, Glance, lets us reach over 125 million active users daily, and all of this makes Roposo among the best Indian platforms to use.” Bhangadia confirms that Roposo has 25 million monthly active users at the moment on its platform, but expects this to rapidly change in the immediate future.

Chingari, the Indian rival of TikTok that is presently going viral, has also made tall claims about instantaneous growth in light of the ban on 59 Chinese apps. Prior to the ban being announced in public, Biswatma Nayak, co-founder of Chingari, stated in a PTI report that subscriber count has spiked by 400 percent within the past few days in light of the anti-China sentiment. Sumit Ghosh, co-founder and head of product and growth at Chingari, has been posted a stream of numbers on Twitter since last night. He claimed that Chingari received 1 lakh downloads within the first one hour itself. Earlier today, Ghosh further stated that Chingari is witnessing a heavy surge in traffic, with data showing 1 million video views on the platform in 30 minutes.

ShareChat’s Malu states that the ban is going to be more effective in the long run. “Bans like these create a void in the market, where there is a demand for a service. In such a space, there is already an existing user base, which in turn leads to investors getting attracted. This can certainly boost the Indian startup ecosystem in this space, and is something that may see stronger growth of homegrown services than before,” he adds.

Sheroes, India’s women-first social network, also welcomes the move. Priya Florence-Shah, group editor of Sheroes, tells News18 that since the Covid-19 lockdown began, the platform has added 4 million users. In a prior interview with News18, Sairee Chahal, founder and CEO of Sheroes, had confirmed that the platform has over 20 million active users. Echoing positive sentiments for a push for Indian sentiments, Florence-Shah states, “We have the best minds in the world and we can definitely develop solutions that work for us.”

The over-arching sentiment is positive, and the general outlook is that this can be a tipping point for social media and internet startups in India. While platforms like Roposo state that the effect has been immediate and exponential, the likes of ShareChat look forward to a steady growth in the longer run. The effects, as Malu stated, would definitely be clearer once the 59 Chinese apps are banned from operating in India in the coming days.


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Indian Software Market to See 3.8% Growth in 2020 Due to Covid-19 Crisis: IDC

Image for representative purposes.

Image for representative purposes.

The Indian software market grew by 16 per cent year over year in 2019 compared to 2018. For 2019, the India software market achieved a revenue of $6.48 billion.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: June 26, 2020, 4:48 PM IST

The disruption caused by Covid-19 would cause a significant decline in India’s enterprise software market this year, tapering down the growth to mere 3.8 per cent (year-on-year), a new IDC report said on Friday. The pandemic has forced enterprises to relook at their IT spend. Enterprises at this point are focusing on operational resiliency, return on investment (ROI), business continuity plans, and parking aside all noncritical projects for the next three to six months at least, according to the report.

However, there has been an increase in spending on remote work enablement and cloud adoption. There will be heightened demand for collaborative applications, application platforms, security software, system and service management software, and content workflow and management applications said IDC. As per IDC’s latest Worldwide Semiannual Software Tracker, 2H19 (July-December), the India software market grew by 16 per cent year over year (YoY) in 2H19 compared to 2H18. For 2019, the India software market achieved a revenue of $6.48 billion.

“India stands as the second-largest software market in Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan and China) and also managed to keep its growth pace stronger than some of the major economies in the region,” said Mohsin Baig, market analyst, enterprise software, IDC India. “The growth was shaped by demand for a cloud application, application modernization, increasing IT spend by the small and medium-sized business (SBM) segment, cloud-native software start-ups, and government initiative for data localization,” he added.

The majority of India enterprises have digital transformation (DX) initiatives in place or plan to implement in the next 12-24 months. Modernising legacy applications, using as-a-service model, and harnessing emerging technologies to enhance customer and employee experience are some of the key DX initiatives, which are acting as the driving factors for the software market in India.

The ongoing pandemic has pushed many enterprises to implement work-from-home (WFH) policies for the first time, and this has created a demand for collaborative applications as well as an increase in security threats. The IDC expects a rise in demand for technologies such as VPN, authentication, endpoint security, encryption and application security.

“The outbreak of Covid-19 have resulted in the partial/complete transformation of working models with the use of collaborative platforms. New software implementations, upgrades, or migrations will be delayed by a few quarters, unless extremely critical,” said Shweta Baidya, senior research manager, enterprise software and IT services, IDC India.


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Tech

How Indian Startup Wysa Built an Empathetic AI Bot to Offer Mental Support to Millions

While artificial intelligence continues to take on every avenue, one aspect that most big tech companies around us have been trying to teach its computers is emotion. Couple that with the Covid-19 pandemic, and you have many companies also trying to solve mental health issues by bringing technology to the fore. Indian startup Wysa, founded and spearheaded by entrepreneur Jo Aggarwal, has taken on both these roles to see people through difficult times.

“Creating empathy is a combination of science and art,” says Aggarwal, in an interview with News18. “The science is focused on building strong AI models using our 100 million-odd conversations to understand user inputs (we have more than 100 of these), to recognise a gamut of emotions like anger, grief, sadness, or anxiety. The art in this is about writing content in a way that is robust, is based on evidence-based techniques, and driven clinical input and review. Yet, it should feel accessible and friendly, and use colloquial language that is easy to understand,” she adds.

Creating empathy is a combination of science and art.

Aggarwal’s Wysa has had over 1.7 million people reaching out to its platform for some form of help or the other. This, as she explains, has created over 100 million interactions with its AI service, which in turn has helped the startup build its own algorithm from the ground-up. While it has human experts and psychiatrists extending therapy sessions and journaling advice to Wysa’s users, this humane AI model is one of its key offerings. To build confidence in its users, Wysa further pledges complete anonymity for any information that anyone shares with either its doctors or its chatbot. “Both (AI and human) layers are anonymous, which is really important as it builds a safe space for people, who need support during these difficult times,” she adds.

Talking about the difficult times of the Covid-19 pandemic, Aggarwal says that there has been a clear and definite uptick in users coming to Wysa for help. As she says, “In the first three months of 2020, we saw an 80 percent increase in installs versus the same period last year. We’ve also seen a big spike in the usage of Wysa’s digital self-management toolkits related to Covid-19, such as those for anxiety, isolation, loneliness and sleep. Also, starting from nearly zero, references to the pandemic have now gone to around 60 percent of all conversations with the mental coaches or therapists.”

ALSO READ | Inside PregBuddy, an Indian Startup That Built a Social Network for Pregnancy

Through all the progress, Aggarwal states that Apple’s app developer ecosystem has played a strong role in Wysa’s growth story. “We have taken their help at multiple points in our journey – raising Wysa’s profile using their startup and entrepreneurship platforms, thinking through challenges in growth and user acquisition, or even improving the product with early access to Apple features like dark mode, accessibility for visually challenged users and voice integration with Siri,” she says. In 2019, Aggarwal and Wysa were part of 42 women-led companies across 13 countries that featured in the first year of Apple’s Entrepreneur Camp.

While Aggarwal did not disclose active user numbers, she confirmed that the platform has so far raised $3.3 million in funding. As for its revenue model, it has both consumer and enterprise approaches. The former offers companies with co-branding, custom content and resources in exchange for a fixed licensing fee and user-dependent charges. As for the consumer model, Wysa offers a basic freemium model for people to reach out, and subsequently follow up with paid subscriptions.

With its custom, empathy-driven AI chatbot technology at the centre, Wysa is one of the most innovative startups that are using big tech platforms to come into limelight. Going forward, it will be interesting to see its growth trajectory, and the eventual shape that the product can take.

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Tech

Inside PregBuddy, an Indian Startup That Built a Social Network for Pregnancy

Social networks come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes in today’s world. It is this notion that PregBuddy, an Indian startup founded by entrepreneur Sivareena Sarika, took on to create a network dedicated to pregnancy. The platform, which is now about three years old, caters to the very specific and crucial needs of women as they navigate through the trysts of pregnancy. True to a social medium’s nature, PregBuddy offers a host of articles that Sarika states is doctor-verified, aimed at relieving the stress and concerns that women undergo during pregnancy. That, though, is not all – PregBuddy also takes the old-school community approach, and fuses it with new technologies to create a platform that can be deemed unique.

Speaking to News18, Sarika says that two particular aspects of her platform are important in shaping its identity – Live Chat and Health Feed. Live Chat, she says, helps women to connect with each other in the same trimester, location, vernacular languages and medical conditions, which helps create a deeper connect than what general social media interaction might enable. HealthFeed, as she states, is also used extensively by PregBuddy’s members in order to get answers to frequently asked questions, which creates a Quora/Reddit-like platform, but customised to pregnancy.

“We also organise live classes with doctors from top hospitals like Apollo, Motherhood etc, so that expecting women can get their clinical or symptomatic queries in real-time from these health experts,” says Sarika, describing the key offerings of her platform. Direct doctor consultations are also a key part of what PregBuddy offers. “Whenever she has any doubts or a report to share she can easily reach out to her doctor via our platform. We also make sure that a gynaecologist can also reach out to her, whenever she has tracked any abnormal symptoms or vitals on our platform, enabling proactive care for women which she deserves especially during this phase of their journey,” she adds.

Sivareena_Sarika_PregBuddy_WWDC 2020

Sivareena Sarika, the founder of PregBuddy. (Image: Sivareena Sarika)

To keep their doors open, Sarika’s PregBuddy has a direct consumer revenue model where users pay for services availed. Alongside, the platform also offers doctors a mobile customer relationship management platform for doctors, which helps them keep in touch with their patients even while on the move. Describing this part of PregBuddy’s revenue model, Sarika says, “This helps hospitals stay connected, and educate and monitor their expecting patients throughout the entire journey of their pregnancy. Most of the top hospital chains and hundreds of doctors have been using it, and we charge it on a monthly usage basis.”

Sarika also underlines that being part of Apple’s App Accelerator ecosystem has significantly benefitted her startup. “We’ve got constant feedback and support from Apple’s experts in technology and design, to improve our UI/UX or technical scalability for our users. They have always been easily approachable and they go the extra mile to help us at the time of need,” she adds. PregBuddy also offers an Apple Watch app that helps its users keep track of their pregnancy, making for an intuitive experience. While PregBuddy’s iOS app remains live, its website and Android app have been taken down, as of publishing the story.

While Sarika did not furbish details about her monthly active user base, she revealed that her platform has raised initial seed funding rounds from Rajan Anandan, Jayant Kadambi, Rekha Menon and a “few other HNIs”. As for the company’s employees, she says that about 40 percent of her total employees are women. This, she believes, is encouraging, and also has space to grow.

“The community of women entrepreneurs and networks that I’ve been part of so far have always been helpful in overcoming any hurdles I’ve come across so far. I would encourage any women in the technology space to connect with fellow women and help each other out,” she adds.


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