The FB-Jio deal

Buzz of the week: Will FB–Jio deal create magic?

by | Apr 26, 2020 | Buzz of the week, Deal, Industry News

The deal ignites an already hot payments arena and also the attractiveness of India’s telecom sector too.
Share to lead the transformation

The recent announcement made by Facebook to invest ₹43,574 crore for a 9.9% stake in Reliance Industries Ltd.’s Jio Platforms has created enormous interest in the Indian market (see details of the FB-Jio in this RIL release).

The coming together of Reliance Jio, with nearly 400 million telecom subscribers; and Facebook, with about 300 million Indian users, is a significant market development by all measures. It has the potential of giving restless nights to their rivals. At the same time, it could raise the interest of Facebook’s rival digital behemoths such as Google in RJio’s rival telcos such as Airtel. Consequently, the attractiveness of India’s telecom sector may be expected to go up in terms of valuation, global partnerships and capital raising.

No wonder, while Reliance Industries’ shares jumped 10% on the deal, Airtel’s shares too rose by a notional 1%. As part of the agreement, WhatsApp is expected to strengthen Jio’s new retail business on the JioMart platform while Jio Platforms will support small businesses on WhatsApp.

Though onlookers see the FB-Jio deal largely disrupting India’s retail sector, it is also expected to revolutionize many future ideas. After all, a key challenge that India has been facing to take its digitization efforts to the next level has been the absence of a cohesive ecosystem, which the partnership could help address.

The path, however, is not without some tough challenges.

Today, the industry offers several fragmented channels to telecom and digital users—from payment services to collaboration tools and entertainment. Both small businesses and consumers have multiple choices to opt from. While this is great for users, not many people like the idea of using multiple mobile apps for different purposes. There was a brief period when, after demonetization, Paytm was emerging as the de facto player, but that is no longer the case. Today, it faces strong market competition from giants such as Amazon and Google, as well as from homegrown players such as PhonePe.

Facebook, thanks to its incredibly popular WhatsApp messaging services, is sitting uniquely in the world’s fastest growing marketplace. And by collaborating with Reliance Jio, country’s largest telecom player, they together have the potential of creating a one-stop digital shop that India has long been waiting for.

It is worth noting that while Reliance Jio already has a license for its JioMoney payments platform, WhatsApp is yet to receive a license for rolling out a payment service for all its users in India (it has got the clearance to do a phased rollout, while the final approval remains subject to meeting compliance all requirements set by the government).

With the FB-Jio deal in place, the duo could leverage each other’s capabilities for mutual benefits and compete with existing payment providers in a major way

Besides retail and payment services, if executed precisely, this alliance could also pave the way for Jio to offer exclusive services such as virtual education, premium mobile conferencing, food delivery, digital entertainment among others instantly using WhatsApp.

It is significant that just two days after the deal, Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg announced new collaboration and conferencing features and capabilities for WhatsApp.

WhatsApp, being the favored mode of communication for a majority of smartphone users in India, indeed has the potential to drive Jio’s ambitions of becoming the largest mobile digital player in the world. More so, with most of the population expected to stay indoors even after the lockdown is gradually phased out, the market will need innovations and digital products that can meet consumer need at their convenience. It is not mere coincidence that the FB-Jio deal has come through when the world is still adjusting to the social distancing conditions triggered by Covid-19.

On a concerning note, this deal also proposes a risk of monopoly, and may invite scrutiny from authorities such as Competition Commission of India.

MORE FROM BETTER WORLD

Contact tracing apps have room to build more user trust

Contact tracing apps have room to build more user trust

Technology has been indispensable in dealing with disasters with increased efficiency, expediting relief measures, and providing humanitarian support. Now, when the world is reeling under a massive outbreak of the coronavirus, Covid-19 contact tracing apps have emerged as a key recourse for governments.

These Bluetooth-enabled apps and platforms have the capability of tracking even small movements of people in a bid to secure lives from this dangerously contagious respiratory disease.

India among early movers

Australia, Singapore, Ghana, Israel, India, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia are among the countries that have already launched their respective coronavirus tracing apps. Many others are working to create similar tools. Apart from individual countries, global internet giants such as Apple and Google are also marshaling their resources to build tools to locate any potential virus carriers.

India launched its coronavirus contact tracing app Aarogya Setu on 2 April 2020. Better World spoke to Dr. Pavan Duggal, one of the top cyber law experts in the country and security and cyber law consultant Anuj Agrawal in this regard. They generally agree with the view that India has made a good start and taken some key steps in the right direction.

Dr. Pavan Duggal: Good intentions, but it’s work in progress.

Anuj Agrawal: Data is only for Covid-19 control.

Dr. Duggal is of the opinion that it is a work in progress. “The overall intention of everyone is noble. It’s about defeating coronavirus. The earlier approach adopted by the government was neither prudent nor feasible (launching an app that was insecure and had concerns about privacy). Now, by taking these steps, the government has shown that they are taking criticisms seriously and are constructively trying to identify how to make it better. Making it open source is just a first step toward transparency. By announcing the Bug Bounty program, the government is also encouraging people to come forward and share the app vulnerabilities,” he observes.

Security and cyber law consultant Anuj Agrawal also feels that the new approach is definitely in the right direction. “Initially, many people were skeptical to use this app as they feared that this might put them under the government’s surveillance radar. But the government has made it clear that their intentions are truly wise, and they are concerned about user privacy as well. One also needs to remember that users are incidentally at risk of sharing their data with almost every downloaded application, and here the government has promised that they will only use this information to combat a severe disease,” he emphasizes.

More questions than answers?

The app development efforts globally, for tracing and containing the spread of the virus, are prima facie, laudable. However, critics allege, there is more to these apps than meets the eyes. The big worries are that these apps have started gathering the humongous amount of confidential data of billions of people worldwide, keeping track of their every movement and leaving their crucial information vulnerable to misuse.

Concerns around privacy and security are raising eyebrows and many industry experts have noted that these contact-tracing applications could end up putting sensitive personal information at risk. Some key questions in this regard are: Are these apps efficient to serve the intended purpose? How will the government process user data? What will be done with the data once the pandemic is over? Is there a surety that user data cannot be hacked and used for fraud and identity theft?

Contact tracing apps

Privacy and security concerns

Amnesty International, a UK-based non-governmental human rights organization recently disclosed a critical lacuna in the configuration of Qatar’s Ehteraz contact-tracing app. It says that the bug could be exploited by cyber attackers to access highly sensitive personal information, including the names, national IDs, health status, and location data of more than a million users.

“Currently more than 45 countries have, or plan to, roll out Covid-19 contact tracing apps. Governments around the world, including Australia, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and the UK, are rushing to embrace digital tools which undermine privacy, have not yet been proved to be effective, and could put individuals’ security at risk,” it adds.

Besides, critics say it is not proven that these apps are helping authorities to restrict the outspread of Covid-19. Since the success of such apps is highly dependent on correct responses submitted by an individual user, one cannot be fully sure whether the information shared is veracious.

Moreover, these apps are not designed to work on the basis of sample denominators and require a large population to download and use it for accomplishing effective results.

For instance, Singapore’s TraceTogether, which was initially considered one of the best contact-tracing apps in the world, failed to highlight the revival of Covid-19 cases in many localized areas because only 20% of the country’s population was using it. Most of the smartphone users in Singapore cited data privacy as a major concern which was prohibiting them to use the application.

Clearly, a significant amount of effort is required to address the challenges related to ailing security architectures of such apps to encourage people at large to use them.

India setting an example?

India launched the Aarogya Setu mobile app as part of its efforts to limit the spread of Covid-19. According to the Government of India, the app has already been downloaded by over 114 million users as on 26 May, surpassing any other contact tracing downloads in the world. India has also made the usage of this app compulsory for all its citizens while using public transport or going to offices.

The Aarogya Setu app too has invited criticism from many corners because of its mandatory information collection diktat by seeking continuous Bluetooth access and location data from users. Moreover, incomprehensible terms and conditions escalated fears that the government was trying to take advantage of the Covid-19 situation and use data for other purposes, which could compromise the freedom of individuals.

The Indian government has said that all data will remain anonymous and used only for the purpose of identifying positive Covid-19 cases. However, it could not give satisfactory answers related to the possibility of data theft and proceedings of collected information in the post-pandemic situation.

Facing criticism and backlash, the authorities went back to their boardrooms to address some of the issues. Recently, they have come up with a slew of improvements. Not only has the government rolled back the mandatory directive, but it has also opened the source code of the app’s Android version, thus enabling developers to inspect the source code and suggest modifications. Countries like the UK, Australia, Singapore and Israel also have open-source apps, making them transparent and verifiable.

In a first, the Government of India has also launched a ‘Bug Bounty’ program with the aim of identifying any security loopholes that may be exploited by potential hackers. (Read: Govt opens source code for Aarogya Setu, launches rewards program)

Dr. Duggal, however, adds that in spite of these positive steps, a lot still needs to be done to make this app truly secure. “This app still hides more than it speaks and when you read the terms and conditions, it clearly states that it is capturing data every 15 minutes and only sending the data to the server if the user is found Covid-19 positive. The question is: where does the sensitive personal information go if the user isn’t established as a Covid-19 patient?”

Steps ahead

There is no doubt that digital technologies offer whopping benefits and could play a strong role in identifying and controlling Covid-19 cases. However, none of these benefits could be translated into success if people start fearing these apps and see them as the government’s way of intruding into their private lives.

Throughout the world, we’ve witnessed numerous instances of cyberattacks on government databases. For example, recently, it was widely reported that hackers leaked on the dark web sensitive details of 18 lakh Indian citizens, including Aaadhar card numbers. Well-informed citizens cannot be allured to share crucial information on the pretext of a crisis. They need a strong assurance and concrete plan with respect to the privacy of their data.

Hence, countries need to find a way out to collect data anonymously and store it in a way that it does not get leaked to hackers or marketers.

Authorities also need to update their citizens whether and how these apps are helping them flatten the Covid-19 curve. Else, they will continue to be criticized as tools that could be exploited easily by hackers. To effectively utilize the benefits of technological innovations, governments need to safeguard the privacy of their citizens.

Govt opens source code for Aarogya Setu, launches rewards program

Govt opens source code for Aarogya Setu, launches rewards program

In a press notification released by Press Information Bureau (PIB), the Government of India has made the source code open for its Covid-19 contact tracing app Aarogya Setu. The government has also launched an Aarogya Setu rewards program, called ‘Bug Bounty,’ with the aim of identifying any security loopholes that may be exploited by potential hackers.

The twin announcements could be seen as trust-building exercises to make end users more comfortable with downloading and using the app. The move also comes in the wake of a spate of criticisms of the app on issues related to privacy and security. There are an estimated 114 million users of the app.

The decision to open the app’s source codes is in line with India’s policy on open source software. The source code for the Android version of the application is available for review and collaboration at https://github.com/nic-delhi/AarogyaSetu_Android.git. The iOS version of the application will be released as open source within the next two weeks and the server code will be released subsequently, the PIB release said. Almost 98% of Aarogya Setu Users are on Android platform.

Of the more than 114 million registered users, two-thirds have taken the self-assessment test to evaluate their risk of exposure to Covid-19. The app could not just recommend an affected user to go into self-quarantine but also send alerts to the concerned health authorities in the area. This could lead to very timely and targeted responses by the healthcare officers as well as the local administration (see How smartphones could be Covid-19 testing game changers.)

The process of supporting the open source development will be managed by National Informatics Centre (NIC). All code suggestions will be processed through pull request reviews. Aarogya Setu’s source code has been licensed under Apache License.

Any reuse of the source code with changes to the code requires the developer to carry a notice of change. More details can be found in the Frequently Asked Questions document available at https://www.mygov.in/aarogya-setu-app/.

Through the Bug Bounty program, the government aims to partner with security researchers and Indian developer community to test the security effectiveness of Aarogya Setu and also to improve or enhance its security and build user’s trust. Details of the Bug Bounty Program is available on the innovate portal of MyGov at https://innovate.mygov.in/.

The Aarogya Setu app was launched on 2 April 2020, and is available in 12 languages and on Android, iOS, and KaiOS platforms. The key pillars of Aarogya Setu have been transparency, privacy, and security.

The app has helped identify about 500,000 Bluetooth contacts. So far, the platform has reached out to more than 900,000 users and helped advise them for quarantine, caution or testing. Amongst those who were recommended for testing for Covid-19, it has been found that almost 24% of them have been found Covid-19 positive.

Analytics of Bluetooth contacts and location data has also helped identify potential hotspots with higher probability of COVID cases allowing State Governments and District Administration and Health authorities to take necessary steps for containment of the pandemic, early, which is critical for controlling the spread of the pandemic.

The Aarogya Setu data, fused with historic data, has shown enormous potential in predicting emerging hotspots at sub post office level and around 1,264 emerging hotspots have been identified across India that might otherwise have been missed.

Vodafone Idea’s universal cloud earns it Red Hat award

Vodafone Idea’s universal cloud earns it Red Hat award

An old proverb is that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. In the challenging times of Covid-19, it applies well to the telecom sector at large and Vodafone Idea Limited (VIL) in particular. The latest feather in VIL’s cap happens to be the ‘Innovator of the Year’ title. It’s a well-earned accolade that has its roots in Vodafone Idea’s universal cloud deployment announced on 21 October 2019 in a Red Hat release. (The actual work is understood to have started much earlier.)

Vodafone Idea Limited claimed the top honors at the Red Hat Summit 2020, for orchestrating the vision of a single, universal cloud into reality. The telco now owns the largest cloud deployment of its kind in India, linking its IT, network, and third-party applications using open source infrastructure.

The initiative

This cloud initiative, which VIL had kickstarted around 18 months ago, had started bearing fruits even before the pandemic had hit the scene. It had helped VIL transform its network infrastructure by a great measure and made it highly scalable and agile. The pandemic merely tested its limits.

When it did, VIL’s network seems to have responded quite impressively. Not only was it able to accommodate a multifold rise in traffic but also managed to handle the overnight shift in demographic patterns.

It is a known fact that after the pandemic-induced lockdowns, a majority of enterprises rushed to enable their employees to work from home. This amounted to near-zero traffic demand originating from the business clusters while a massive surge in demand happened from residential areas.

Moreover, as communication and entertainment became the lifeline for netizens during lockdowns, VIL’s network experienced a year’s worth of traffic growth within a week of lockdown. With the cloudifaction carried out over the past several months, the telco was able to scale up elegantly enough.

Not surprisingly, the company’s stock rose 86% between 1 April and 20 May, from Rs 3.04 to Rs 5.65 a share. On the day of writing this analysis, the stock traded had last traded at Rs 5.53 a share on the BSE.

The build-up

Vishant Vora

Vishant Vora: Driving cloud transformation

Vodafone Idea says it took on the challenge of transforming its network to make it future ready and building a ‘Universal Network Cloud’ that is workload agnostic from core to edge. The cloud enables Vodafone Idea to better serve its more than 300 million subscribers by simplifying and transforming its IT and telecom network operations. The new platform is deployed across many distributed Vodafone Idea cloud microsites across India, as well as its central IT operations.

Vodafone Idea’s universal cloud initiative was to rapidly transform the 100-plus data centers of the erstwhile Vodafone and Idea entities, through a shared software platform. The Red Hat OpenStack Platform was used to design efficient ‘pods,’ which could be geographically distributed and taken closer to the end- users, helping to reduce latency and enable an optimal user experience.

Better World sees these ‘pods’ as akin to microservices that leverage containerization techniques and could be orchestrated using the open-source Kubernetes container-management system.

Recognition a shot in the arm?

Vodafone Idea considers the Red Hat award to be a recognition of its early adoption of emerging technologies for enterprise and retail customers. The cloud deployment has helped the telco in reducing latency in carrying multiple workloads and optimizing costs.

VIL is now also gung-ho about its future potential, especially with regard to next-generation services like internet of things (IoT) and blockchain.

Vishant Vora, Chief Technology Officer, Vodafone Idea said, “A distributed universal cloud centrally orchestrated is an ambitious project for us, representing a vision for the telco future where “pods” could be geographically distributed across the country. Our vision is to build a universal cloud that will not only carry the traditional telco workloads but also carry IT and enterprise offerings for our customers. This will also position VIL very well for the nextGen services like IoT, Blockchain etc. These capabilities need to be accommodated with a versatile and scalable platform offering flexibility and control as an organization. We are extremely proud of receiving this prestigious award.”

Chris Wright, senior vice president and chief technology officer, Red Hat, noted, “We want to extend congratulations to Vodafone Idea Limited for receiving the 2020 Red Hat Innovator of the Year award. Vodafone Idea’s journey in building a Universal Cloud, hosting both Network and IT workloads, based on open standards, is truly impressive. By adopting Red Hat OpenStack Platform, Vodafone Idea Limited and its customers can more quickly adapt to changing market conditions. We are proud to be working with Vodafone Idea Limited on this shared vision and we look forward to continuing our work with them as they look to build out additional offerings on this flexible platform.”

As part of Red Hat Innovation Awards each year, a panel of industry expert judges select the top five winning projects from a pool of global nominations. These five projects are selected based on the set of criteria for outstanding and innovative usage of Red Hat solutions. From the five winners, the Red Hat Innovator of the Year is selected by the community through online voting.

Will Facebook Shops shake up marketplaces?

Will Facebook Shops shake up marketplaces?

Facebook is making yet another attempt for a bigger push into e-commerce. The company has announced the launch of Facebook Shops, an initiative that would enable many small and large businesses to display and sell their products directly to Facebook users across its ecosystem, including Instagram. The initiative will begin rolling out in a phased approach across the world this year. With this Shops launch, the social media giant is trying to capitalize on the massive virtual marketing opportunity to drive user engagement and revenue generation.

Facebook Shops is yet to go live in India, but the company has already been preparing to go into the e-commerce battle by taking aggressive collaboration routes. It has recently announced to invest ₹43,574 crore for a 9.9% stake in Reliance Industries Ltd.’s Jio Platforms, with an aspiration of creating a one-stop digital shop that India has long been waiting for.  (See: Will FB–Jio deal create magic?)

In the wake of ongoing Covid-19 crisis, where social distancing and remote working norms are being followed, many SMEs are facing tremendous pressure to survive and reach out to their potential customers. For them, the announcement could come as a boon. For Facebook too, this initiative would be a big chance to resuscitate its e-commerce aspirations that had gone haywire earlier. Its endeavors such as Facebook Marketplace had failed to take off.

“Right now many small businesses are struggling, and with stores closing, more are looking to bring their business online. Our goal is to make shopping seamless and empower anyone from a small business owner to a global brand to use our apps to connect with customers. That’s why we’re launching Facebook Shops and investing in features across our apps that inspire people to shop and make buying and selling online easier,” said Facebook in its official blog.

Will this be as easy as it sounds?

Lessons learned from past

For the beginners, Facebook had launched Marketplace for local buying and selling with much fanfare in 2016. The initiative, however, failed to capture the imagination of its users because of issues such as misleading ads, ineffective filters, and a poor search experience. At that time, Facebook Marketplace was a pure-play effort to increase user engagement and the social media giant had stayed away from facilitating payments or earning commissions from transactions.

The internet giant seems to have learnt some hard lessons from its previous failure. It is now providing businesses an opportunity to set up a full-grown shop for free and is facilitating transactions through payment gateways. It has also bettered its search algorithms. In growing markets like India, this new initiative is expected to get significant eyeballs as many brick-and-mortar shops are struggling to survive and reach their potential customers amidst lockdown and pandemic-induced concerns.

The company seems to have put in lot of efforts for improving search results. It would let users find Facebook Shops on a business’s Facebook Page or Instagram profile, or discover them (Shops) through stories or ads. The company has provisioned businesses to put their entire catalog of products and services, which could be browsed easily by users either on the business’s website or within the app if the checkout has been thus enabled. Facebook would charge a commission in case the checkout happens through the app.

“Just like when you’re in a physical store and need to ask someone for help, in Facebook Shops you’ll be able to message a business through WhatsApp, Messenger or Instagram Direct to ask questions, get support, track deliveries and more. And in the future, you’ll be able to view a business’ shop and make purchases right within a chat in WhatsApp, Messenger or Instagram Direct,” the company said.

The company said it was having partners like Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, ChannelAdvisor, CedCommerce, Cafe24, Tienda Nube, and Feedonomics to give small businesses the support they needed during these unprecedented times.

Challenges aplenty

While it may look like a game-changing initiative for the social media behemoth, the road is not that easy. Historically, Facebook users have not shown much interest in shopping or responding to ads marketed to them. People don’t use Facebook or Instagram the same way they use Amazon or Flipkart. They primarily look to socialize and share updates with friends and family. Many others just want to play games or read/view trendy information about a celebrity or a hobby say cooking. No wonder, Facebook ads cost less than what other online marketing channels charge.

Many onlookers may feel that since the company now owns three versatile social media channels—Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp—it is a reasonable gamble to cash in on the online shopping trend and make a big splash in the market. However, there are many questions that still need to be answered. Will it be able to change the behavioral pattern of its own users, across the globe? Will it be easy to earn their trust and compete with e-marketplace giants like Amazon and Flipkart? In the long run, will users accept the refreshed identity without being wary of protecting their privacy?

In an interaction with Better World, the CISO of a leading professional services company, said that the new features would make Facebook and related social media channels more vulnerable to attacks and that his company would be watchful of the new features. It could also revisit security policies to prevent any unauthorized access to enterprise data. The executive did not wish to be named.

According to Brand Phishing Report for Q4 2019, released by a leading security solution provider, Checkpoint, cyber criminals imitated Facebook the most for phishing attempts to steal individuals’ personal information or payment credentials during October–December 2019. Two years ago, by his own admission, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged the security breach that allowed hackers to control Facebook accounts of up to 50 million users. Facebook will need to take stringent measures to assure its users and businesses that their Shops accounts are safe and cannot be compromised.

One does need to remember that Facebook has often failed when it has attempted to replicate a competitor’s features without any reasonable strategy.  For instance, in the past, it hasn’t achieved much success by rolling out otherwise popular features such as trending topics, high-profile user verification checkmarks and hashtags.

Facebook also has a reputation of revisiting its marketing and collaboration strategies quite often. Though setting up a shop may look as easy as stealing a candy from a baby, businesses may like to watch before they commit their efforts and monies setting up presence on Facebook Shops.

Going by the history of Facebook and its perseverance for making an impact, it would be too early to label this new initiative a success or a failure. As Facebook Shops rolls out in coming months, the amount of traction it gets from users will be worth watching.

Accenture fortifies AI know-how with Byte Prophecy buy

Accenture fortifies AI know-how with Byte Prophecy buy

Global professional services major Accenture has acquired Byte Prophecy, an automated insights and big data company based in Ahmedabad in Gujarat. The move is clearly aimed at gearing up to meet the growing demand for enterprise-scale artificial intelligence (AI) and digital analytics solutions in the Asia Pacific region. The financial details of the deal, with which Accenture fortifies AI know-how, have not been disclosed.

In the last few years, several global technology firms are seen taking aggressive acquisition routes to boost their AI and Digital Analytics capabilities, which demonstrates how valuable data has become for organizations to understand consumer preferences and expectations to grow and compete.

Accenture is no exception either. Under its Applied Intelligence unit, the global consulting giant has taken rapid strides recently in its bid to capitalize on the AI opportunity. It has made several acquisitions in Australia (Analytics8), Spain (Pragsis Bidoop), North America (Clarity Insights), and the UK (Mudano) to enhance its tech-portfolio that helps clients scale up AI capabilities in these markets.

The acquisition of Byte is further testimony to the industry-wide adoption of analytics-based solutions. Through Byte Prophecy buyout, Accenture will add about 50 data science and data engineering experts to its Applied Intelligence team, with a focus on insight automation. The buyout will further strengthen the existing consulting and technology capabilities of Accenture, which help clients in areas such as data foundations and advanced analytics.

Byte Prophecy was founded in 2011, and has worked closely with Accenture Ventures since 2018 on open innovation efforts. It has collaborated and co-innovated with Accenture and its clients in Asia Pacific on advanced data and analytics projects.

An area of growing focus

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, organizations have no option but to continue to follow social distancing and remote working norms unabatedly. With most of the consumers and employees spending much of their time online for work and leisure, getting insights from advanced analytics and artificial intelligence has become even more important to gauge customer priorities and ensure business continuity.

Forward-looking enterprises are looking for intelligent analytics and AI applications to make business decisions and diversify the product offerings to support business continuity. Accenture’s massive focus on these domains enables it to support customers in taking effective business decisions by unifying big data from multiple sources and offer actionable insights. Notably, only in its 2019 fiscal year, Accenture invested nearly US$1.2 billion on 33 acquisitions globally to acquire critical skills and capabilities in strategic, high-growth areas of the market. With these acquisitions, Accenture fortifies AI know-how and other digital consulting skillsets. These would help it get more deals to meet new-age digital needs of the organizations.

The post-pandemic world is expected to be quite different and AI driven big data insights could help businesses reduce costs and make processes more robust. “Across industries, decision making has become more complex, and businesses are increasingly relying on advanced analytics and AI to ensure insight driven, rapid decision making. Beyond advanced technology capabilities, Accenture brings our clients a co-innovation mindset, and in Byte Prophecy we found a partner with the right mix of technology and consulting skills, and a client-centric innovation culture,” said Piyush N. Singh, Accenture’s market unit lead for India and sales lead for growth markets in the official press release that announced the acquisition.

Along with Accenture, tech-behemoths like IBM, SAP, Microsoft, Oracle, Capgemini, Adobe Systems, Google, Dell, and Cognizant are entering into M&A and research to expand their data-driven digital transformation offerings.

Airtel launches Work@Home for business continuity

Airtel launches Work@Home for business continuity

Airtel Business, the B2B arm of telecom major Bharti Airtel, has launched new Work@Home solutions to provide business continuity for enterprises. These enterprise-grade solutions are designed to enable employees operate efficiently and securely from their homes.

The solutions comprise a range of connectivity options, including wired and wireless. Also bundled are security solutions and a host of immersive collaboration tools such as Google Meet, Cisco Webex, and Zoom. Better World sees this as a cost-effective means for enterprises to enable work-from-home (WFH) solutions for their employees, without the need for procuring additional VPN licenses separately.

With work from home becoming the new normal, enterprises are facing several issues to pause and rethink their existing work and workplace models. (Read: Work-from-home even after Covid-19 and What it takes to secure IT in Covid-19 era?). Robust internet connectivity remains a primary concern for all companies that have allowed their employees to work from home for an indefinite period.

“These are unprecedented times and businesses are adapting to the evolving environment with new way of working. For a large proportion of employees, working from their homes is set to become the new normal. Airtel Work@Home is yet another innovation to ensure that our B2B customers are able to empower their people with best-in-class connectivity and digital tools to drive business continuity,” said Ajay Chitkara, Director and CEO-Airtel Business in an official statement.

Airtel has said that the new remote working solutions would be available as essential and add-on bundles and allow businesses to customize their own plans. Users are provided with an option to select ultrafast broadband with up to 1Gbps speed, high-speed 4G corporate Mi-Fi devices with complimentary G Suite pack, corporate postpaid mobile plans with complimentary G Suite Pack, 4G data SIM with complimentary G Suite, and MPLS over Airtel 4G. The solutions suite also includes a host of immersive collaboration tools such as Google Meet, Cisco Webex, and Zoom.

According to Airtel, Work@Home solutions provide the flexibility to bundle a wide range of services based on employee-specific remote connectivity requirements and bulk procurement on a company paid model. All its corporate customers are well supported by a dedicated call center and fault resolution teams

From a price standpoint, Airtel Corporate Broadband starts at Rs 799, Priority 4G Data SIM with Free G-Suite at Rs 399, and Corporate Mi-Fi with Free G-Suite with 50GB 4G data per month starting Rs 399 plus Rs 2,000 (one-time device cost). Interestingly, the company is also offering priority 4G network to all its platinum corporate postpaid customers and cutting-edge voice over Wi-Fi (VoWifi) technology for superior indoor coverage.

Airtel is not the first telco to repackage its solutions to make it more suitable for remote workers. Earlier this month, Reliance Jio had rolled out a new quarterly work-from-home plan, starting from Rs 999 with 3GB per day data benefit for 84 days and unlimited calling within its network. In the yearly category, it launched Rs 2,399 plan offers which offers 2 GB of high-speed internet data per day for validity of 365 days.

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