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This is how the great LeEco India story went bust

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LeEco

New Delhi, March 3 : After arriving in India in January last year, Chinese internet and technology conglomerate LeEco fast became the “true disrupter” in the evolving Indian smartphone market with its huge marketing spend — and the announcement of a state-of-the-art assembling/manufacturing unit.

News that the company has fired 85 per cent of its India staff across the sales, marketing and distribution departments — and confirmed by a company source to IANS on Friday — has effectively punctured a mammoth dream just within a year.

The source also confirmed to IANS that both Atul Jain, Chief Operating Officer, Smart Electronics Business, and Debashish Ghosh, Chief Operating Officer for Internet Applications, Services and Content, were “asked to leave” and had not quit as reported.

Speculation is also rife that LeEco may finally exit the country after spending millions on promoting its ecosystem of “superphones” and “super TVs”.

“LeEco is in serious financial trouble and has, as a consequence, practically ceased India operations. The staff layoffs are a direct consequence of this. Even in the previous quarter, their shipments were close to zero,” Jaideep Mehta, Managing Director, IDC South Asia, told IANS.

After its entry into India, the company launched five superphones, a LeEco membership of content and internet services, its e-commerce platform LeMall and, most recently, “SuperTVs”.

“LeEco, as the name suggests, was built on the premise of an ecosystem. The device would open a user to an ecosystem and it was not just a smartphone. However, for a country like India, and even for many countries globally, this ecosystem isn’t ready yet. Paid content consumption hasn’t become big enough for a company to survive while earning nothing on the device itself,” Faisal Kawoosa, Principal Analyst, Telecoms, CyberMedia Research (CMR), told IANS.

On the contrary, if you see other handset brands, to an extent they too make money from content, but as value-added earnings — which is just a fraction of the actual earnings out of the device. For them, it is akin to average revenue per user (ARPU) of a telecom operator where the operator wants to earn more per user by offering additional services.

“LeEco came in to disrupt this business model and make the secondary streams of earnings as their primary. For that to happen, the ecosystem hasn’t arrived yet. So their positioning as well as proposition went wrong. It dismayed a user to see nothing extraordinary in terms of Device+ strategy,” Kawoosa added.

In August, LeEco announced a $7 million manufacturing unit in Greater Noida in the presence of IT and Electronics Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

“As the market size for electronics is expected to grow to $400 billion by 2020, it is imperative to promote indigenous manufacturing. LeEco is a name of global reputation and it is heartening to see it align with ‘Make in India’ after entering India just eight months earlier,” Prasad had told the gathering.

LeEco planned to ramp up the production to approximately 200,000 “superphones” per month by the end of 2016, before a severe financial crunch caught up with the company.

“I think there was a disconnect with their go-to-market strategy. Being an online player they spending was almost like a player with an offline distribution strategy. Although their products were good, it was the overall marketing strategy that led to quick cash-burn,” Tarun Pathak, Senior Analyst, Mobile Devices and Ecosystems at New Delhi-based Counterpoint Research, told IANS.

According to Kawoosa, for few years, LeEco should have positioned itself as a brand offering better specs of hardware at affordable prices.

“Eventually, as the ecosystem would have matured, they could have played the LeEco card,” Kawoosa told IANS.

For assembling/manufacturing in India, LeEco had partnered with the US-based company M2i which will continue to manufacture for others if, by any chance, LeEco doesn’t continue to manufacture in India.

“I would say, these experiments will go on and we may see brands coming in and out for manufacturing in India. For ‘Make in India’, I wouldn’t consider this as a blow yet,” Pathak noted.

Given the LeEco experience, other smartphone players need to look at their scale of operations and play to their strengths.

“Since India is a such a diverse market, one strategy doesn’t lead to guaranteed success throughout the country. With the smartphone segment being so competitive, and amidst razor-thin margins, brands need to watch their campaigns and invest wisely,” added Kawoosa.

“It is simply a case of an over-ambitious company going under,” Mehta noted.

By : Nishant Arora

(Nishant Arora can be contacted at [email protected])

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Truecaller hits 100mn daily active users globally

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TRUECALLER

New Delhi, April 19: Popular communication app Truecaller on Thursday announced that in less than a year, the app has leapfrogged from 100 million monthly active users (MAUs) to 100 million daily active users (DAUs) globally.

“There are only a handful of mobile-only services that impact as many users each and every day and we are humbled to be able to join this exclusive group,” Alan Mamedi, CEO and Co-founder of Truecaller wrote in a blog post.

From simple beginnings as a Caller ID and spam blocking app, Truecaller has now become a full-fledged communications platform with calling, SMS, Flash Messages and payment services.

“We could never have predicted that Truecaller would become a resource for women’s safety in many countries; or that it would be used for e-commerce and courier services around the globe to facilitate the difficult last mile of delivery, or allow more people to experience a data-only product in offline mode,” Mamedi added.

In January, the Stockholm-headquartered Truecaller launched “Truecaller Backup” feature for Android devices which allows users to backup and restore their contacts, call history, block list and settings to Google Drive.

“‘Truecaller Backup’ has been one of the most requested features by its users and will simplify a user’s transition to a new phone or SIM card by securely backing-up their contacts and settings and stored on your Google Drive,” the company said.

The “Airtel Truecaller ID” service now has over one million paying subscribers across India.

With this subscription-based service, all feature phone users with Airtel mobile service can use “Airtel Truecaller ID” to see who’s calling.

IANS

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Third-parties abusing ‘Facebook Login’ to steal users’ data: Report

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San Francisco, April 19: Several third-party trackers are abusing Facebook Login, exfiltrating users’ data including name, email address, age range, gender, locale and profile photo, a new security research report has claimed.

The unintended exposure of Facebook data to third party JavaScript trackers is not owing to a bug in Facebook’s Login feature.

“Rather, it is due to the lack of security boundaries between the first-party and third-party scripts in today’s web,” said the report prepared by Steven Englehardt, Gunes Acar and Arvind Narayanan, researchers at Freedom to Tinker — a digital initiative by Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy.

“We report yet another type of surreptitious data collection by third-party scripts that we discovered: the exfiltration of personal identifiers from websites through “login with Facebook” and other such social login APIs,” the trio wrote.

Meanwhile, Facebook told the technology website Tech Crunch that they were investigating into the security research report.

The researchers found two types of vulnerabilities: Seven third parties abusing websites’ access to Facebook user data and one third party using its own Facebook “application” to track users around the web.

British political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica was found misusing users’ data collected by a Facebook quiz app which used the “Login with Facebook” feature.

“We’ve uncovered an additional risk: when a user grants a website access to their social media profile, they are not only trusting that website but also third parties embedded on that site,” the report noted.

The researchers found seven scripts collecting Facebook user data using the first party’s Facebook access.

“These scripts are embedded on a total of 434 of the top 1 million sites, including fiverr.com, bhphotovideo.com, and mongodb.com,” they wrote.

The user ID collected through the Facebook API is specific to the website (or the “application” in Facebook’s terminology), which would limit the potential for cross-site tracking.

“But these app-scoped user IDs can be used to retrieve the global Facebook ID, user’s profile photo, and other public profile information, which can be used to identify and track users across websites and devices,” the researchers warned.

“While we can’t say how these trackers use the information they collect, we can examine their marketing material to understand how it may be used,” they noted.

OnAudience, Tealium AudienceStream, Lytics, and ProPS all offer some form of “customer data platform”, which collect data to help publishers to better monetise their users.

Forter offers “identity-based fraud prevention” for e-commerce sites while Augur offers cross-device tracking and consumer recognition services.

Hidden third-party trackers can also use “Facebook Login to deanonymise users for targeted advertising”.

“This is a privacy violation, as it is unexpected and users are unaware of it,” the researchers said.

There are steps Facebook and other social login providers can still take to prevent abuse.

“API use can be audited to review how, where, and which parties are accessing social login data. Facebook could also disallow the lookup of profile picture and global Facebook IDs by app-scoped user IDs,” the report emphasised.

“It might also be the right time to make Anonymous Login with Facebook available following its announcement four years ago,” the researchers added.

IANS

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Reliance Jio tops 4G availability, Airtel scores best speed: Report

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New Delhi, April 18: Reliance Jio pipped its rivals in 4G availability and the mobile network operator was able to provide an LTE signal to testers more than 95 percent of the time in every single region in India, a new report said on Wednesday.

With a download speed of 6 Mbps, Airtel emerged as the clear leader in OpenSignal’s speed metrics across 4G providers in the country.

London-based OpenSignal, which specialises in crowdsourced wireless coverage mapping all over the world, said that Jio won its national 4G availability award by at least 27 percentage points.

“Our testers were able to find an LTE signal on Jio’s network 96.4 per cent of the time in our latest test period, up from 95.6 per cent in our October report,” the report said.

“Jio remained the closest contender in overall speed due to its high level of 4G access. It was able to deliver typical everyday download speeds of 5.1 Mbps in our tests, compared to Airtel’s 6 Mbps,” it added.

Vodafone had the fastest mobile data connection response times and it got both 3G and 4G latency awards with the lowest ping scores.

Lower latency means web pages load faster and consumers experience less lag time when using real-time communication apps like video chat.

On the regional level, Vodafone and Idea made their mark in several circles.

“Our results show Idea had the fastest 4G connections across Uttar Pradesh. Vodafone took our 4G speed awards in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. Both were also tied for first place in speed in several other regions,” the report showed.

While India is making big strides in 4G availability, the same thing can’t be said about 4G speed.

“Even the best LTE speed score in India was well below the global 4G download average of 16.9 Mbps recorded in our ‘State of LTE’ report,” OpenSignal said.

In the “State of LTE” report, India moved into the 85th percentile in LTE availability where it joined high-performing 4G countries like Sweden, Taiwan and Australia.

IANS

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