Hyderabad-based Anytimeloan is targeting a monthly loan disbursal rate of Rs 100 crore in the next 18 months.
  • Monday, October 15, 2018 - 16:31

Hyderabad-based online peer-to-peer lending startup (ATL) has secured Non-Banking Financial Company (NBFC) Peer-to-Peer (P2P) license from Reserve Bank of India. 

One of India’s fastest growing P2P lending platforms, ATL facilitates instant unsecured loans (personal, education and business loans) to eligible borrowers by connecting them with investors or lenders across India through a 100% digital ecosystem.  

With this certification, ATL joins a select group of fintech startups who hold the NBFC-P2P accreditation. RBI follows a very stringent due diligence process while granting this license, which involves eligibility criteria like financial stability, business continuity plan, and how the business will aid in RBI’s larger vision of financial inclusion. The startup says that recognition from RBI is a strong validation of the startup’s sharp business model, processes and compliance with the RBI guidelines.

A part of Hyderabad-based startup catalyst T-Hub, ATL has developed a proprietary algorithm that uses data science, artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics to offer instant loans by connecting eligible borrowers with listed lenders. The maximum time that it might take for a transaction, according to ATL, is 15 minutes.

ATL has a minimum net owned fund of Rs 20 million and over the past four years, it has disbursed over 57,000 loans, aggregating to over Rs 62 crore. Founded in September 2014, ATL is now targeting a monthly loan disbursal rate of Rs 100 crore in the next 18 months.

 “Our primary goal of enabling millions of Indians to experience financial independence by facilitating instant loans for them is enroute to becoming a reality. This is a very significant milestone for our company as it further strengthens the trust our investors and borrowers have on us. We are privileged to be a part of T-Hub, who has been an important catalyst in our entrepreneurial journey, helping us scale and achieve such high-end goals,” Keerthi Kumar Jain, Founder, and CEO of said.

ATL offers personal or consumer loans, as low as Rs 1000 to Rs 1 lakh, educational loans from Kindergarten to grade 12 – called K12 loans – and MSME (Micro, small and medium enterprise) business loans of Rs 30,000 up to Rs 50 lakh. Investors and borrowers are not charged any registration fee, and the company earns its revenue only when investors get their money back along with returns, which the startup says is its USP.

Srinivas Kollipara, CEO of T-Hub, has lauded this accomplishment saying, “This is a brilliant example of what a business leader can achieve when entrepreneurial aspiration is combined with a vibrant startup ecosystem. T-Hub is proud to have enabled in scaling up their business to make inroads into India’s non-banking financial market.”

Also read: In urgent need of a loan? This app can lend you money in 15 minutes flat

Oyo plans to expand to over 12,000 rooms, 150 Hotels and all 7 Emirates by 2020.
  • Monday, October 15, 2018 - 15:18

Continuing its international expansion spree, online hospitality chain Oyo has launched operations in the United Arab Emirates. It has started with over ten full-inventory franchised and operated hotels and over 1100 rooms in Dubai, Sharjah and Fujairah in the UAE.

According to a statement from the company, room rates will be starting 150 dirhams. By 2020, Oyo plans to expand to over 12,000 rooms, 150 Hotels and all 7 Emirates, across United Arab Emirates.

Oyo sees a huge opportunity in Dubai with the the Dubai Tourism forecasting the hospitality sector to experience sharp, sustained growth over the coming years. Occupied room nights are set to reach 35.5 million annually in 2019, representing a 10.2% compound annual growth rate over the next 24 months.

“With over 170 countries committing to the World Expo 2020, the hospitality sector in the Middle East, and more specifically UAE, is poised to grow substantially and with our market learnings and expertise we are ready to tap this opportunity. We’ve been at the forefront of the budget and mid segment hotels revolution in the markets we operate in and can bring in our operational expertise and technology edge to the benefit of independent hotel owners,” Ritesh Agarwal, Founder and CEO, OYO Hotels, said in a statement.

“As per a recent report, Dubai alone will host over 20 million visitors and currently records approximately hotel keys per resident at 29.9 per 1,000 people, which is on the higher side when benchmarked against international hub cities, a clear indicator of the potential of this market,” he adds.

Oyo hopes to create 4000+ direct and indirect jobs in the UAE by the end of 2019. The properties in UAE will be operated under models of manchise, lease with full - inventory control similar to other markets like India and China.

"The country is an attractive market with sizeable internet and mobile presence, which complements our approach. We've received an overwhelming response to OYO Hotels offerings in the country since our soft launch and look forward to hosting more guests in the coming years,” Vartika Goel, Country Lead, OYO Hotels, UAE, said.

Oyo is currently present in over 350 cities with over 12,000 asset partners spread across six countries including India, China, Malaysia, Nepal, the UK and now UAE in the Middle East. Oyo claims to have pioneered the world’s first full stack technology led hospitality model and has over 270,000 franchised and leased rooms as a part of the chain, delivering strong revenue yields for its asset partners.

Oyo Hotels host more than 125,000 stayed room nights every single day, a testament to its impact on millions of guests across the world, the company said in a statement.

Festive Sales
RedSeer estimates that the industry is on track to reach $3 billion by the end of the five-day festive sale period.
  • Friday, October 12, 2018 - 11:22

Festive season sales have kicked off in India and in less than three days of the sale, e-commerce companies have crossed sales worth $1.5 billion. According to a RedSeer report, while this number was achieved in the first 2.5 days of the sales, it estimated that the industry is on track to reach $3 billion by the end of the five-day festive sale period.

Flipkart and Amazon, on the other hand, have both been claiming victory, calling this their biggest sale ever. Flipkart claims that October 11, 2018 was the single biggest sales day in the history of Indian retail. During the Big Billion Day sale, Flipkart claims that there were 1 million users on the app at any given point and the overall numbers clocked during the sale last year were completed in just 26 hours this year.

According to Amazon India, its Great Indian Festival 2018, October 10, the first day of the sale, was the biggest day ever with record-breaking sales across categories. It claims that it saw a 2.7X growth in customer acquisition from Tier II and III cities. Over 1,300 sellers crossed the millionaire mark, Amazon claims.

Category-wise breakup

Overall, while mobiles clocked the highest number of sales in terms of value, fashion saw a greater number of items being sold. RedSeer estimates that mobiles clocked sales of $800 million by the end of October 11, having sold 4.6 million units.

For Amazon, smartphones led the opening day sales with three out of four phones sold in the country being on Xiaomi and OnePlus led the pack.

Flipkart sold one million smartphones an hour and over three million in a day. It claims to have garnered a market share of 85-90% with Xiaomi, Samsung and Honor leading the pack.

Large appliances also saw massive demand, clocking $170 million worth of sales and selling 0.6 million units.

Amazon claims that large appliances saw a massive 30X growth over an average business day driven by huge spike in all key categories such as TVs, refrigerators, washing machines, dishwashers among others. Brands such as BPL, LG and Bosch saw massive demand.

Flipkart, on its part, claims that 1 in 4 TVs worldwide was bought on its site on October 10, 2018.

Fashion was the other category that saw massive demand. Overall, RedSeer estimates that this category clocked sales of $120 million, having sold 10.3 million units.

Amazon claims that fashion witnessed an ‘unprecedented rush on Day 1’. While Amazon’s own brands in the fashion category saw a 400% growth in sales over last year, Apparel was the largest category on Amazon Fashion with more than double the sales compared to last year.

According to data from Flipkart, Flipkart Fashion sold more watches on day 1 than what top 5 offline retailers sell in a month. Customers reportedly bought more branded and higher value items during the sale than non-sale days.

This year also marks the first sale since Flipkart launched its loyalty program ‘Flipkart Plus’ to take on Amazon. As per a statement from the company, early access to Plus members proved to be a major attraction for customers with over 30% of all purchases coming from them.

Amazon, which has also been aggressively pushing its Prime offering, saw more than 2X members joining Prime during the early access period over last year, attracted by the deals and fast delivery promises.

The sales, however, are still going on and both e-commerce majors are expecting to double the numbers by the end of – what they claim – is the biggest sale season ever.

That pharma companies are polluting villages in Telangana is common knowledge, and activists say the state’s recent policy is making things worse.
  • Wednesday, October 10, 2018 - 18:34
Image: Nitin B

The situation was tense in Digwal village on October 4, 2018. The stage was set for a public hearing on the expansion plans of Piramal Enterprises, which has a 100-acre pharma facility in the village located in the Sangareddy district of Telangana.

But this was unlike other public hearings. There are several barricades, with locals being made to sit at least 10-20 feet away from the stage. Over 100 police personnel guard the venue. Piramal knew that there would be trouble. And there was. The hearing hardly began when locals, holding placards, started shouting slogans against Piramal’s expansion plans – “Piramal down down, collector down down, DCP down down.”

Their placards read: “Don’t we have any rights over our air, water, soil?”, “Stop pollution, save the planet” and “We are human beings, allow us to live on earth.”

The immense anger among the locals was clearly visible. Piramal Enterprises set up its facility in Digwal nearly 25 years ago. And ever since the factory came up, locals allege that the company has been polluting their air, water and soil. They claim that Piramal releases polluted discharge into the soil, contaminating their groundwater.

“I have an acre of land where I grow ginger and potatoes. But my produce has been severely affected due to the pollution. Since I handle the pump every day to irrigate the land, I have got skin rashes and boils due to the polluted water. Consuming the polluted water has given me heart ailments. I’m being forced to spend money to buy bottled water every day,” says Ramulu, a farmer from Digwal.

This is just one of the stories of hundreds of residents who have been facing problems, allegedly due to the pharma facility. And it’s not just Digwal. The district of Sangareddy is dotted with pharma facilities. Companies such as Piramal, Everest Organics, Aurobindo Pharma and MSN Laboratories have manufacturing facilities here. Ask any resident of villages in the district around these factories and they have a story to tell about the pollution.

Telangana as a pharma hub

Telangana’s association with the pharmaceutical industry began with the Indian Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Limited (IDPL), a public sector undertaking (PSU), being set up in Hyderabad in the 1960s to produce bulk drugs at low costs for the poor.

According to Prof K Purushotham Reddy, a noted activist who used to head the Department of Political Science in Osmania University, several scientists and technical experts working with IDPL began moving away and setting up pharmaceutical companies by themselves during this time. The laws in erstwhile Andhra Pradesh also facilitated setting up of industries by technical experts.

Moreover, in 1980, Indira Gandhi contested from Medak and went on to become the Prime Minister of India. With that, Medak became an attractive destination for entrepreneurs to set up industries in the area.

“Even in the Patancheru to Zaheerabad stretch and Hyderabad to Medak stretch, the government allowed entrepreneurs to buy lands to set up industries. There was no public hearing in those days. Sanctions too were given in a hushed manner, creating room for violation of laws pertaining to environmental pollution,” Prof Reddy states.

Cut to now.

According to the Industrial Policy of Telangana, the state has emerged as the pharma capital of the country, contributing to about one-third of the pharmaceutical production in India. As per the policy, one-third of the US FDA approved facilities and one-tenth of the medicines exported to the US are from Telangana. One in every five vaccines exported from India is manufactured in Hyderabad.

The TRS government has also been aggressively pushing to make the state a pharma and life sciences hub, with the state’s industries and commerce minister KT Rama Rao at the forefront.

In fact, the TRS government is in the process of building a 19,000-acre ‘Pharma City’ in Ranga Reddy district, which aims to be the largest in Asia. Through Pharma City, the government wants to make Hyderabad the destination for companies manufacturing bulk drugs.

This has been further boosted by the launch of the Telangana State Industrial Project and Self-Certification System (TS-iPASS) in 2015, through which the state government has approved around 700 investment proposals, most of them in the pharma and life sciences sector. Every new company that will be set up will enjoy the benefits of TS-iPass, which the government is betting on for ease of doing business and quick clearance processes.

TS-iPASS – Telangana’s ticket to attract investments

TS-iPASS is the TRS government’s flagship initiative, which has also fetched awards for the state. The TS-iPASS Act was passed in 2014 to facilitate speedy processing of applications to issue various clearances required for setting up of industries. Through TS-iPASS, this is done at a single point based on the self-certification provided by the entrepreneur.

Every department that is involved in establishing and operating an enterprise comes under the purview of TS-iPASS.

TS-iPASS sets time limits of approvals under each department ranging from a day to a maximum of 30 days. Under this, failing to grant approvals in the stipulated timeframe leads to an automatic approval given to the enterprise based on its self-certification. Applications for approvals from all departments are verified and processed online.

In February this year, speaking to reporters, KTR said, “Unlike other places, we don’t have multiple windows behind a single-window. Our system ensures that there are no grills in the window, ensuring a seamless approval process avoiding any room for delay and corruption. Our system is so stringent that any official responsible for a delay in issuing clearances beyond 15 days is punished with a daily fine till the clearance is given to a project, to ensure there are no bottlenecks.”

Speaking to TNM, Jayesh Ranjan, Principal Secretary of the Industries & Commerce (I&C) department, said, “The numbers we have achieved through TS-iPASS is amazing. In a year, 8,000 approvals were given and 75% of them have already commenced operations. For a state, these are big numbers. TS-iPASS has brought many companies to the state.”

However, many disagree with this analysis.

Environmental clearances ignored

There are three main laws at the central level that deal with pollution: The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1974, Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1981 and the Environment Protection Act of 1986.

Speaking to TNM, Dr Narasimha Reddy, an independent policy expert, said, “There are institutional mechanisms that come from these three Acts, along with the Pollution Control Board (PCB) and Environmental impact assessment authority (EIAA) as regulatory bodies. This has been diluted by the Telangana government under the guise of TS-iPASS and ease of doing business rankings.”

“TS-iPASS has completely undermined the existing system. Earlier it was a corrupt system that led to polluting industries being set up in violation of guidelines, but now it has been appropriated officially,” he adds.

Sources in the PCB said that since 2015, with TS iPASS coming into being, it was not exactly compulsory for a field officer to visit as they can digitally and virtually demand for information and ratify permissions. Activists also allege that prior to 2014, PCB physical inspections were mandatory but since TS-iPASS was implemented, they have not been as diligent.

The PCB, on the other hand, has denied these allegations.

Speaking to TNM, Ramesh Gupta from the PCB said, “Before setting up any unit, they first obtain environmental clearance from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF) at the Centre and the state. Only then can they even apply for the pass.”

“After this, they need a Consent for Establishment (CFE) and a Consent for Operations (CFO) certificate. As far as the PCB’s role in this process is concerned, CFE and CFO applications are received online to ensure that all environmental regulations are being followed. The board’s staff inspect the site after which they submit a report online that is placed before a committee, which takes the final call. There is no way to avoid inspections. The TS-iPASS is just a way to speed up the process,” Gupta claimed.

However, there’s a catch. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India in its 2017 report said that there was a ‘lacuna in the design’ of the policy itself, observing that, “The objective of single point approval was not achieved as the software allowed selective approvals.”

This meant that the Telangana government admitted to the CAG that it was issuing approvals only to the extent for which approvals were sought for by the company, instead of all the approvals required.

“Audit scrutiny between March and June 2017 showed that the TS-iPASS software application did not have controls to ensure that all the approvals were applied for. It also did not provide an option to ‘apply later’. The audit noted that only 9% of all entrepreneurs applied for all the approvals,” the CAG said in its report.

Pharma and bulk drugs companies generally fall under the Red Category because of their polluting nature. Data from the Commissioner of Industries that was furnished to the CAG showed that 43% or 63 out of the 148 companies that were established under the Red Category didn’t even apply for PCB clearance.

In the Orange Category, out of 441 companies, 266 companies or 60% didn’t apply for PCB approval.

Stating that the value of prescribed fees for these approvals that were not sought was Rs 9.57 crore, the CAG also said that 97% of the companies in this time period did not even apply for clearance from the Fire Department, thereby potentially violating fire safety norms.

“There was no mechanism to ensure whether the 1,764 units that applied for partial approvals had thereafter established units and commenced operations. There is a risk of such units starting operations even without all necessary approvals,” the CAG noted.

However, responding to the findings in the report, Jayesh Ranjan said that it was not entirely true that companies commenced operations without receiving approvals. “If a company decides to operate without a clearance, they will go bankrupt. The government will shut down any highly polluting company. And they will not take that risk since the government will not allow them to operate that way,” he said.

Jayesh further said that while the CAG report states that companies didn’t take all necessary approvals, the government norm is that when they commence operations, they need to have every approval in place. “From the time they get approval to set up an industry and buy the land, it takes a minimum of six months for construction and for operations to begin. It is during this time that they get all the remaining required approvals. The government will not allow a company to operate without all approvals in place,” he added.

Symptomatic of a larger problem

The problem is far from new, as various reports have been reiterating that united Andhra Pradesh and, more recently, Telangana is heading towards a disaster if it does not keep a tab on polluting pharma industries. The criticism, however, has largely been falling on deaf ears.

In a paper published recently, Prof Prabha Panth from Osmania University analysed the New Industrial Policy of Telangana and observed, “The main thrust of industrial development in the new state of Telangana seems to be the establishment of more Red industries… Red industries are being proposed to be set up in the most polluted districts of the State, which will only worsen industrial pollution therein. The greater preference given to establishment of more Red industries will only serve to exacerbate the industrial pollution impacts and ecological destruction in the state.”

Stating that it was in contravention of the rules of the MoEF because granting environmental clearance itself was a long process, the paper stated, “By hastening the environmental clearance, there is every scope of diluting environmental standards, pollution treatment, and control. With the bulk of new industries belonging to the Red category, and with the low level of industrial compliance, such a move will spell environmental disaster.”

“Cleaning up after the event is useless, as most of the pollution impacts are irreversible,” the paper said in its conclusion.

“The main question one has to ask is, why do pharma companies prefer Telangana over most other places in the world? That itself gives us a fair idea of how easily environmental norms can be violated,” Narasimha Reddy says.

Prof Reddy says, “The balance of power has shifted in favour of corporates, and political elites have started serving those interests. In Telangana, the government talks about ‘ease of doing business’, but what does this mean? What about the ease of making a poor man’s life better? They don’t take the environment into consideration.”

With the TRS government going full throttle in boosting the pharma and life sciences sector in the state and TS-iPASS being the enabler for that, hundreds of new companies are expected to set up shop in Telangana.

Pollution is already choking villages around existing factories since even before the formation of Telangana. Activists and locals fear that implementation of policies like the TS-iPASS will only make their lives worse.

E-retailers are introducing wallets and new affordability options to increase the usage of online payment methods during this festive season.
  • Tuesday, October 09, 2018 - 18:21

Battle lines have been drawn and the field is set for the biggest fight of the year in the e-commerce industry. Every year, ahead of (and during) Dussehra and Diwali, India sees its e-commerce companies rolling out a range of discounts and offers across their product categories. Every year, the sale gets bigger, discounts get higher and the product range gets wider. In fact, this period brings in nearly 10% of all e-commerce revenue in India.

For the 2018 edition of the e-commerce festive battle, Flipkart expects to generate gross sales of nearly $1.5 billion, which is nearly double the last year. Customer adoption too, is growing. Redseer, a market research firm, expects the number of online shoppers to grow at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 28% to reach the 120 million marker by 2020.

This year, a new theme has emerged. Going beyond the usual discounts and cashbacks, e-commerce companies are taking to affordable payment instruments and offers to bring more customers to the platform. They are applying a simple logic - if they cannot afford to pay for something, give it on credit and let them pay back later.

While until now, it was usually additional discounts for customers of specific banks, cashbacks, no-cost EMIs on certain credit cards, e-commerce companies are now trying to get innovative in making shopping online affordable. Flipkart reportedly expects to add nearly 2 million new shoppers through affordable payment instruments this festive season.

“Wallets and new affordability options introduced by the e-tailers will also increase the usage of online payment methods during this festive season,” Redseer said in its ‘Pre-Diwali Festive Sales – Customer Perspective’ report.

Both Amazon and Flipkart have launched card-less EMIs for customers. Amazon has launched Amazon Pay EMI, which offers no-cost EMI for three to six months and offers credit up to Rs 60,000. The idea is to enable credit access for every Amazon customer. Apart from Amazon Pay EMI, Amazon has also expanded EMI on Debit cards, to now include customers of HDFC Bank, Axis Bank and ICICI Bank.

“Customers can save more while shopping and not feel constrained by budgets this season. Our programmes such as Amazon Pay EMI, no-cost EMI on Debit and Credit cards and Exchange will make shopping on even more special and valuable. In fact, our new campaign ‘Great Indian Festival Band’ has been built around the insight that budget always comes in the way of happiness,” an Amazon spokesperson said.

Flipkart too, followed suit with a similar offering. It launched ‘Cardless Credit’, which will allow Flipkart customers to get an instant credit line of upto Rs 60,000 based on scores derived from customer behaviour on Flipkart. On check out, customers can either opt for 'Pay Later next month' or EMIs of three to 12 months. Users will have to pay it back by 15th of the following month.

According to Gagan Goyal, a partner at India Quotient, the new payment offers will serve as a huge boost in bringing in more customers. “Many people who have aspirations to buy better things cannot do so because of the price. With such offers, it helps them pay in instalments and they can meet their aspirations. When new users especially come to an e-commerce site, such options will push them to shop there. I see these offers being of great benefit to users,” he added.

While Ankur Bisen of Technopak agrees that it will help customers make high-ticket purchases, his reading is that these affordable payment instruments are not to chase new customers but to give existing customers more incentives to buy big value items.

“I don't think festive season is when they reach out to the new audience; it is about existing audience and giving them more options to come on their websites and shop. A Festive season is when we shop for white goods like home appliances and electronics, and to purchase this, customers usually look for retail destinations that can offer EMI options,” he says.  

However, what will be interesting to see is customer adoption. According to the Redseer report, 77% of online shoppers use some form of online payment while shopping. However, only 13% of customers surveyed by Redseer claim to be aware of payment offers such as Debit card EMI, while only 9% of the respondents are willing to try the new payment method.

Sri Capital is an early stage venture capital firm that invests in startups in India and the US.
  • Saturday, October 06, 2018 - 16:31

After resigning as the CEO of Hyderabad-based startup incubator T-Hub, Jay Krishnan has now joined venture capitalist firm SRI Capital’s Indian entity as a Partner.

The news was disclosed by Sashi Reddy, founder and managing director of Sri Capital to the media at a press conference on Thursday.

Sri Capital is an early stage venture capital firm that invests in startups in India and the US. It has invested in over 15 startups in the past five years. Its maiden $100 million technology focused fund was launched in July to invest in startups in US and India

“The Indian startup ecosystem in its current stage is a country with over a billion people, and a billion problems that can only be solved when its greatest minds work together and build solutions that work, not just here but arguably anywhere in the world. It is with this thesis, that I really look forward to working as an investor and roll up my sleeves and help entrepreneurs help crack solutions, garner customers, achieve new markets and achieve scale. I can't think of a better partner than Sashi and a better platform than SRI Capital to embark on this,” Jay Krishnan told The News Minute confirming his appointment.

A serial entrepreneur before his two-year stint at T-Hub, Jay has over 15 years of startup and corporate experience both in India and the US. He was appointed at the CEO of T-Hub when it was set up.

“A 5000 people, 1500 startup entrepreneurs, 1150 days, 350 organizations, 50 corporates, 40 team members, 1 city, and its people later, it is time for me to move on. I am deeply thankful to the opportunity and the wonderful platform that allowed us to build what we did in such short a duration,” he said in a post on LinkedIn announcing his exit from T-Hub.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Sashi Reddy said that Jay’s understanding of the ecosystem and network both in India and globally is unparalleled. “Jay Krishnan’s vast experience in the start-up space and proven track record as an entrepreneur makes him a clear representative of the values SRI Capital brings to the table,” reports quote him as saying.

Tech Shorts
Screen Unlock encompasses a wide array of software processes and hardware components that have been tuned to work with the OnePlus 6T.
  • Wednesday, October 03, 2018 - 17:05

With Chinese smartphone maker OnePlus’ next device, OnePlus 6T, set to launch, the smartphone maker has teased its new Screen Unlock technology which it confirmed that the 6T will feature.

Screen Unlock, according to OnePlus founder and CEO Peter Lau, is much more than a module attached to the back of the screen. It encompasses a wide array of software processes and hardware components that have been tuned to work with the OnePlus 6T.

The module has a new optical fingerprint module, which houses a small lens that can accurately register a user’s fingerprint as they press down on the cover glass. The screen is used as a light source to enhance the outline of your fingerprint, enabling the sensor to accurately read its exact dimensions and shape.

“We use a dedicated ‘Trust Zone’ found in the Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 845 to store your fingerprint information, which serves as an isolated virtual space for the sake of confidentiality. Whenever Screen Unlock is used, your fingerprint is compared to the information stored in the Trust Zone to ensure authenticity and actively defend against false patterns,” he said in a post on OnePlus community forums explaining the technology.

Screen Unlock will use several software algorithms to recognize a user’s fingerprint with higher accuracy through extended use. OnePlus claims that it has combined its latest hardware with self-learning software algorithms that will preload the user’s fingerprint information, thus making it an incredibly fast in-display unlock experience.

This technology, Peter claims, has been in development for a long time was first on the OnePlus 5T’s early prototypes, but was scrapped as it struggled to hit a high recognition rate. As a result, the 5T and 6 came with a fingerprint sensor and Face Unlock feature.

“Now, after continuous testing and refining, we are finally ready to share Screen Unlock with the world,” Peter said in the post.

OnePlus 6T is expected to be launched on October 17 in India. The teaser released by the company suggests a waterdrop notch design with the earpiece located at the top edge. The company has also confirmed that it will finally be doing away with the 3.5mm headphone jack.

It also announced that it will be unveiling USB Type-C wired earphones for Rs 1,490 in India along with the upcoming OnePlus 6T. The earbuds will sport a metal design and aramid fibre has been added to the wire to make the device more durable and resistant to stretching. Type-C "Bullets" are compatible with any Type-C USB port and pair easily with OnePlus devices.

Zostel filed an arbitration petition in the District Court of Gurugram against Oyo, which was declined due to lack of jurisdiction, following which Zostel approached the SC.
  • Wednesday, October 03, 2018 - 14:16

The legal battle between Oyo and Zostel-owned Zo Rooms has now reached the Supreme Court. After the Delhi High Court and a Gurgaon Court adjudicated the case filed by Zostel, the hospitality firm moved the Supreme Court, which has now appointed an arbitrator.

Zostel had filed an arbitration petition in the District Court of Gurugram against Oyo, which was declined on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction on February 23, following which Zostel approached the Supreme Court.

A three-judge bench comprising outgoing Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice DY Chandrachud heard the matter and appointed Justice AM Ahmadi, former Chief Justice of India, as the sole arbitrator in the matter.

“…Respondent no. 1 (Oyo) had filed a suit seeking damages and other reliefs and no steps were taken by the petitioner (Zostel) for stay of the suit. On a query being made, we have been apprised that the suit has been filed seeking injunction from the Civil Court for restraining the petitioner from making any defamatory statement affecting the goodwill of the respondents and for grant of damages. In our considered opinion, in such a suit, even if an application under Section 8 of the Act would have been moved, no stay could have been granted. On a scan of the arbitration clause, there can be no doubt that a clause of arbitration exists between the parties in the Term Sheet. Whether the claims are arbitrable or not, is within the domain of the arbitration,” the Supreme Court order dated September 19 states.

As per the SC order, the arbitrator will hold the sittings at New Delhi.

“We are pleased to share that the Hon’ble Supreme Court has now appointed an arbitrator in this case, setting the stage for the closure of this matter where OYO is prepared fully to defend these baseless claims,” Oyo said in a statement on the SC order.

“Please note, the arbitration proceedings will not have any bearing on the other suits that have been filed by OYO against Zostel. We are confident that as in the past we will be able to defend our position before the honorable arbitrator successfully and prove that these claims are unfounded,” it added.

Zostel, in a statement, said that it is relieved to get a forum to present all the facts and data related to the entire business transfer of Zo (its employees, properties, bookings, IP & data) to Oyo.

“Also, for what was touted as a Non-Binding Term Sheet under the garb of which OYO had been resiling from the promised contractual terms, the Supreme Court Bench has observed in its judgment that a binding arbitration clause exists between the two parties as per the Term Sheet post which the entire business transfer of ZO took place… We strongly believe in Justice Ahmadi's most sought-after guidance and experience in arbitration matters. Justice will prevail and the aggrieved will get its dues – no matter how many frivolous cases and other harassment tactics are used to muzzle our voice,” Zostel said in a statement.

Oyo-Zo battle background

The issue between Oyo and Zostel dates back to 2015, when Oyo initiated talks to acquire Zostel’s budget hotel segment, Zo Rooms.

In November 2015, both parties signed off a Term Sheet with Oyo to acquire Zo’s business in return for a 7% ownership in Oyo. As per the Term Sheet, the founder will also be entitled a payout of $1 million on closure of the deal. This was approved by investors on both sides.

However, in September 2016, Oyo terminated the deal claiming that it didn’t identify potential value in Zo’s business.

Zostel alleges that Oyo Rooms acquired Zo’s partner hotels across all cities, its employees, the entire customer data, future bookings, analytics, access and passwords. It further claimed that three months since the term sheet was signed, every team member of Zo Rooms worked with Oyo’s team in different cities to transfer every inch of the business.

Read: Oyo vs Zo court battle heats up: Zostel claims Oyo never filed fresh criminal complaint

Oyo filed a criminal complaint against the founders of Zostel on January 16, 2018, under Section 405, 406, 415, 420, 425 and 426 pertaining to Criminal Breach of Trust, Cheating and Misrepresentation of data. It claimed that Zostel and its directors have been inconveniencing and harassing Oyo for over a year.

Oyo also filed other criminal cases earlier under Sections 379, 414, 420 and 120B of the IPC and other implications under IT and Copyright Acts with the Economic Offences Wing and Cybercrime department against senior employees of Zostel for stealing data and other assets, including laptops, which Oyo claims are still under Zostel’s possession.

On February 2, 2018, Zostel filed a petition in the Gurgaon District Court alleging that Oyo acquired its data of employees, assets and hotel properties as part of due diligence and was refusing to pay the dues for the business acquired.

Zostel claimed that with reports of SoftBank announcing its acquisition all across the media and final agreements on the table for signatures, in February 2016, Oyo requested for a slight delay in share allocation owing to some internal investor issues. This, it claims was after it made Zo buy stamp papers to allocate shares.

In October 2017, Oyo declined to issue Zo 7% shares of Oyo as per the deal. Zostel claims that the business had been acquired 1.5 years ago by Oyo.

However, Oyo on its part claims that Zostel was not meeting its obligations to clear significant dues from vendors and owners, which was needed to move the deal forward. Oyo has further claimed in statements earlier that it is absolutely false to suggest that it benefited from talks on the deal since the Zo business had been faltering at that stage.

Also read: Oyo raises $1 billion led by SoftBank Investment Advisers for global expansion

Sabarimala Verdict
The Ready to Wait campaign was launched where several women said they would wait till the age of 50 to go to Sabarimala.
  • Friday, September 28, 2018 - 13:02
Image by Sreekesh Ravindran Nair

In a major verdict, the country’s apex court lifted the ban on women between the ages of 10 and 50 from entering the Sabarimala temple. Commenting on the judgement, Padma Pillai, the spokesperson for the Ready To Wait campaign, told TNM that, in her opinion, the rights of the deity and the temple have been missed out, but the people of the campaign would not visit the temple till the time they are allowed.

In August 2016, a campaign called #ReadyToWait was launched, where women said they were willing to wait till the age of 50 to enter the temple. The organizers of Ready To Wait, a group called 'People for Dharma', moved the court, demanding that women should not be allowed into Sabarimala temple.

“In my opinion, what has been missed out are the rights of the deity, the rights of the temple and the rights of Hindu religious institutions to manage their affairs in an autonomous manner,” she said.

“At the outset, for me personally and devotees like me, the verdict does not change anything. We will not visit Sabarimala till Lord Ayyapan’s permission comes to us,” Padma said.

Responding to the court’s observation that the devotees of Ayyappa do not constitute a religious denomination, Padma said that there are aspects they still require clarification on.

“The court has said that Ayyapan devotees don’t make a religious denomination, but has not said anything about how Ayyapan’s rights are being affected. Whether the deities in Hindu temples are going to continue to be legal individuals – that’s a doubt we still have. We need more clarifications,” she added.

Questioning why the court would need to intervene in Hindu temples, she said, “Why would a secular government need to interfere in Hindu temples? Are Hindu temples going to be considered public places? Are the rights to privacy and the legal rights of the deity going to be available? This sort of apartheid against Hindu temples really has to end. This is the start of the road for me.”

Responding to Justice Chandrachud’s observation that the ban, which says the presence of women deviates men from the path to celibacy, places the burden of the man’s celibacy on a woman, Padma said, “Women do not have the burden of keeping the man celibate. The man himself has the burden of keeping himself celibate and Ayyapan chose his own methods to keep his celibacy intact”.

“The Sabarimala temple was a path for men of a certain age to undertake, a certain penance to mould their personalities to become Ayyappan themselves. This path Ayyappan himself chose and said you follow my footsteps. The path was for men. So to now say this path must also be for women is, to me, very illogical because Ayyappan wasn’t a woman,” she added.

This was also the argument presented by the lawyer representing the People of Dharma in court. J Sai Deepak, a Delhi-based advocate, argued that Ayyappa in Sabarimala is a celibate and his individual rights should be protected under Article 25 of the Constitution. He said the rule is not discriminatory for it is neither based on misogyny nor menstrual impurity, rather Ayyappa’s celibacy here is a fundamental character of the temple.

Chandra is today a fully-funded student incubator, being mentored personally by the top guns of T-Hub.
  • Thursday, September 27, 2018 - 17:39

Hyderabad-based T-Hub, which houses 100s of startups, always wears a busy look with entrepreneurs working on making their idea the next big disruption. Old and young, there are entrepreneurs across age groups, but one person who stands out is a 16-year-old, busily engaged in conversation with mentors, working on his next big disruption – generating pure drinking water out of thin air.

Shuffling classes and his work, Nadiminti Chandra Sekhar, currently in the 11th standard at Kendriya Vidyalaya No 2 Golkonda, finds little time to visit T-Hub and work on his innovation. But that doesn’t deter the young boy from getting his prototype ready by the end of this year.

It is the same grit and determination that got him into T-Hub. Several unanswered calls, visits and mails later, Chandra is today a fully-funded student incubator, being mentored personally by the top guns of T-Hub.  

Chandra Sekhar with Jay Krishnan, former CEO of T-Hub

For Chandra, it all started in class 7, when his uncle first introduced the concept of electromagnetism for a project at his school’s science fair. Even after the project was completed, the concept and the scope of electromagnetism sparked curiosity in Chandra, who wanted to develop something on the basis of this concept.

“This resulted in my very first model, which was a ceiling fan, which works on electromagnetic induction. I had multiple ideas, I was figuring out what to work on first and pitched it to my neighbour who then told me about T-Hub. Several calls and attempts later, I was able to pitch my idea on stage during T-Hub’s first anniversary celebrations two years ago. The then CEO Jay Krishnan was impressed, took me in and T-Hub has been funding me since,” says Chandra, who was just 14 when he started working with T-Hub.

Chandra’s first idea was a mount regular ceiling fan, which also doubles up as a small size generator, thus generating electricity and being able to power other gadgets. While he started off with working on this idea, there were some loopholes and the idea failed to take off. Unfazed, Chandra moved onto another idea, which is now nearing completion.

The Wall

“I decided to start working on my second idea because that has more scope and growth potential. I named it The Wall. It basically is an atmospheric water generator,” he adds.

Chandra’s innovation seeks to solve the problem of two basic needs in rural areas – water and electricity.

The device he has built uses atmospheric air we breathe, condenses the water vapour, which is present in the form of humidity, purifies it and stores it in a container, thus generating pure drinking water out of thin air. And not just that, once the water reaches its maximum storage limit, the solar panel cuts electricity input to the machine and stores that electricity in a battery, which can be used to power other devices.

“It’s the ultimate wall you can have at your home – it stores water and electricity in a battery. So you have backup of pure drinking water, and electricity available at all times,” he adds.

The IP, Chandra says, lies in a code in the device, which senses humidity and temperature and tries to adapt itself to get maximum output. It’s like a small artificial intelligence device, he adds.

The prototype of The Wall

The Wall can generate a minimum of 15 litres of water a day and depends on atmospheric conditions. For example, humid places can generate a lot more water.

Currently in the shape of a small cake-size box with temperature humidity sensors and a small micro controller, The Wall will soon be patented by Chandra.

The Wall is currently in its final prototyping stages and Chandra hopes to be able to launch the actual model into the market by the end of the year. The final product is likely to cost around Rs 8,000-9,000.

But his vision goes beyond just making profits from the device. He wants to be able to provide this to as many villages as possible to make water and electricity easily available.

“My goal is to subsidise it through governments and push it to as many rural areas as we can and give them access to pure drinking water,” he adds.

And once The Wall is ready for sale, the next step for Chandra will be to set up a company and hire a few engineers.

“With Chandra Sekhar, what I rediscovered was a young me. A super inquisitive kid at 15. I used to love physics. My parents did the best they could. But I just didn't have an expert to guide and mentor me. Specifically, what I like about him is his imagination as opposed to bookish knowledge. That coupled with hunger can be a killer combo. What he lacked is what I have, experience. And a process driven approach to problem solving. With the right guidance he could go places and I sure hope he does,” said Jay Krishnan, former CEO of T-Hub. 

While his focus is to first get the final product out to the market by the end of this year, Chandra has several other ideas in the areas of sustainable energy and agriculture that he wants to work on next.

But the bigger challenge ahead for him to manage both his education, and his passion of entrepreneurship. “Till 10th standard it was very easy to manage. But since I came to 11th, managing classes and this is the only challenge I’m facing. The portions are so vast this year,” Chandra adds.