Flipkart’s Sachin Bansal Says ‘Performance’ Led to His Removal Too

Flipkart's Sachin Bansal Says 'Performance' Led to His Removal Too
  • Flipkart last month confirmed lay-offs of under-performers
  • Co-founder Sachin Bansal removed as CEO in January
  • Performance affected me too, he tells employees at townhall

To reassure Flipkart employees that everyone is judged by the same standards, co-founder Sachin Bansal revealed to them that he was removed as CEO because of “performance” issues.

Bansal’s disclosure, made at a town-hall meeting at the company’s headquarters in Bengaluru on Friday, comes after India’s largest e-commerce company said last month that it was laying off at least 300 people who were non-performers, leading to concerns and questions among employees.

“The townhall that we conduct regularly is one of the pillars of this culture of openness…Anybody is free to ask any question, challenge existing norms and hold the leadership accountable for business and organisation metrics,” said a Flipkart spokesperson to NDTV about Bansal’s statement.

Sachin Bansal was replaced as CEO in January by Binny Bansal, who was promoted from Chief Operating Officer to head the company. Both the Bansals, who are not related, are former employees of Amazon.

Flipkart, set up in 2007, sells everything from cellphones to suitcases and cosmetics, competing with home-grown rival Snapdeal and Amazon’s Indian unit. But the company’s valuation fell from $15 billion to $11 billion earlier this year.

Last month, Flipkart announced that it was buying fashion site Jabong for $70 million.

Fierce competition to win customers through deep discounting has led to mounting losses for Flipkart, Snapdeal, and Amazon. Industry insiders say funding is also becoming harder to come by.

Indian Railways Said to Partner With Google to Showcase Its Heritage

Indian Railways Said to Partner With Google to Showcase Its Heritage

Indian Railways will collaborate with Google for digitising and showcasing its heritage on digital platforms.

Google has agreed to partner with the Indian Railways to digitise its heritage assets and help create a digital repository for universal online access free of cost, said a senior Railway Ministry official.

Indian Railway has a huge list of heritage assets including bridges, steam locos, buildings, artefacts, and museums which can be showcased for global audience.

An agreement in this regard will be signed soon between National Rail Museum and Google Cultural Institute (GCI). GCI is a non-profit organisation that partners with cultural organisations to bring world’s cultural heritage online. GCI builds online tools and offers them to institutions for showcasing and sharing cultural assets.

The official said collaboration will not only make NRM accessible online and offer virtual tours but also help digitise the national transporter’s entire heritage inventory which includes more than 20 museums, hundreds of steam locos, coaches, station buildings, bridges among others.

“Once these are placed online, it will act as a great tourist attraction,” he said.

GCI generally works with government organisations and not for profit groups to provide digital collection management systems and storeytelling tools free of cost.

Various ministries and institutes of the government have already collaborated with GCI for displaying and preserving India’s cultural heritage digitally.

Currently Google is working with the railways in providing free Wi-Fi service at 100 stations. Indian Railway is preparing a comprehensive conservation management plan to preserve and promote its heritage assets.

Besides, a dedicated rail heritage website under Railway Board’s website is operational for dissemination of information.

Indian Entrepreneur’s Ad Tech Startup Acquired by Chinese Investors for $900 Million

Indian Entrepreneur's Ad Tech Startup Acquired by Chinese Investors for $900 Million
  • Deal represents third largest in ad-tech industry
  • Turakhia’s Media.net is a Yahoo ad partner
  • Media.net ad tech adapts to show relevant ads to users

Advertising technology startup Media.net, founded by tech entrepreneur Divyank Turakhia, said on Monday it had been acquired for about $900 million by a group of Chinese investors.

The deal would represent the third-largest in the ad tech industry, after Alphabet unit Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick and Microsoft’s deal for aQuantive.

“We got an incredible amount of interest just because ad tech is a large and growing space and, at the same time, the number of companies that have been successful in it have been limited,” Turakhia said in an interview.

The company’s products, which are licensed by various publishers and ad networks, auto-learn and display the most relevant ads to users.

Media.net, a Yahoo ad partner, attracted seven bidders, including a publicly listed company based in the United States.

However, the bid fell through following a substantial decrease in the company’s stock value, Turakhia said.

The deal gives Media.net access to the Chinese online advertising market, which is currently the second largest in the world, Turakhia said.

Digital ad spend in China is expected to reach $40.42 billion in 2016, a 30 percent jump from a year earlier, according to research firm eMarketer.

Media.net, which is based in Dubai and New York, gets 90 percent of its revenue from the United States.

The company posted revenue of $232 million in 2015, with more than half of that coming from mobile users.

The Chinese consortium will buy Media.net from Turakhia’s Starbuster TMT Investments and has already made a payment of $426 million.

The group is led by Zhang Zhiyong, the chairman of telecom firm Beijing Miteno Communication Technology Co.

Miteno’s shares have been halted since December.

Indian Firms Must Invest More in Cyber-Security to Tackle Attacks

Indian Firms Must Invest More in Cyber-Security to Tackle Attacks: FireEye
  • Asia-Pacific organisations were breached for a median period of 520 days
  • Most breaches in the Asia Pacific region never became public
  • Organisations are often unprepared to identify and respond to breaches

While governments the world over are concerned about how to tackle growing cyber crimes, Indian firms are more vulnerable to data breach because poor investments in adopting and implementing top-of-the-line security solutions, a top executive of US-based network security company FireEye has said.

“If we had to compare countries, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute ranks India lower in cyber-security maturity than Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, China and Vietnam,” said Vishak Raman, Senior Regional Director for India and SAARC, FireEye.

(Also See: US Intelligence Still Sorting Out NSA Hack)

“It is important to see the bigger picture and not see vulnerability as a horse race between regions. The US cyber-security far outpaces India’s and yet, the US is routinely plagued by massive cyber challenges,” Ramn told IANS as FireEye released its first “Mandiant M-Trends Asia Pacific” report on Thursday.

“In some ways, India is more vulnerable to advanced attacks and in some, we are less vulnerable because cyber-security is increasingly becoming a priority for our leaders,” he noted.

The report highlighted that the Asia-Pacific organisations were breached for a median period of 520 days before discovering it, trailing European and US counterparts.

“We can all agree that 520 days is far too long for attackers to be lurking inside organisations,” Raman said.

The report shared statistics and insights from Mandiant – a subsidiary of FireEye – investigations in the region in 2015 and examined the latest cyber trends and tactics threat actors used to compromise businesses and steal data.

Most breaches in the Asia Pacific region never became public.

Unlike in markets with greater security maturity such as the US, most governments and industry-governing bodies lack effective breach disclosure laws.

According to the findings, the Asia-Pacific organisations are often unprepared to identify and respond to breaches.

They cannot defend their networks from attackers because they frequently lack basic response processes and plans, threat intelligence, technology and expertise.

“Determined attackers can do significant damage. It is imperative that organisations bring together the threat intelligence, technology and expertise necessary to effectively combat these threats,” Raman noted.

“While the RBI’s cyber-security framework, released in June this year, has emphasised the need for banks to develop a cyber-crisis management plan and prepare for zero-day attacks, remote access threats and targeted attacks, other industry sectors in India do not have similar guidelines,” the FireEye executive commented.

FireEye’s earlier research showed that about 24 percent of Indian organisations were exposed to advanced threats, compared to 15 percent globally.

CrowdStrike, Other Cyber-Security Firms Rejoining Industry Cooperative

CrowdStrike, Other Cyber-Security Firms Rejoining Industry Cooperative
  • CrowdStrike is one of the most prominent young security companies
  • It is opening up a machine-learning process for malware evaluation
  • Companies who parted with the VirusTotal ratings said no plans to make up

Some information security companies that were shut out of the leading system for sharing data on malicious software are revealing more about how their own systems work in hopes of rejoining the cooperative effort, a shift that should improve protections for customers throughout the industry.

CrowdStrike, one of the most prominent young security companies threatened with exclusion from some shared services, said it has integrated part of its system for detecting malicious software with VirusTotal, the main industry repository for disclosing and rating risks of malware and suspect files.

Alphabet’s Google runs the VirusTotal database so security professionals can share new examples of suspected malicious software and opinions on the danger they pose. In May, the 12-year-old servicesaid it would cut off unlimited ratings access to companies that do not share their own evaluations of submitted samples.

CrowdStrike is opening up a machine-learning process for malware evaluation, after discussions with VirusTotal on how to make the systems compatible.

“It will be very helpful to have the engine out so people can see for themselves how well it is working,” CrowdStrike Chief Technology Officer Dmitri Alperovitch told Reuters ahead of a public announcement on Thursday.

VirusTotal did not respond to a request for comment. People familiar with the situation told Reuters said that two other “next-generation” security companies are expected to integrate with VirusTotal by the end of next month.

More are likely, the people said, a hopeful sign that a serious rift between older and newer security companies can be healed in service of the general good.

Some newer companies disparage the way that older vendors such as Symantec, Intel and Trend Microrecognize malware based on signatures, or characteristics that have been spotted before. The younger companies say they use behavioral monitoring, machine-learning and other modern techniques to stop fast-changing malware.

Symantec, Intel, Trend Micro and other older companies say they also use similar new methods.

But some of the younger companies still used VirusTotal’s assessments from old-line companies, without contributing their own evaluations. The dispute was partly based in technological compatibility with VirusTotal’s system, an issue CrowdStrike said it and VirusTotal had solved.

Dennis Batchelder, general manager of an industry group called the Anti-Malware Testing Standards Organization, predicted that more new companies would re-integrate with VirusTotal. Machine learning systems would benefit from access to the VirusTotal database, he said.

But some of the companies who parted with the VirusTotal ratings said they had no plans to make up.

“We did make attempts early on to engage with VirusTotal with the hopes that they would find a way to take advantage of our behavior-based detection model,” said SentinelOne Chief Marketing Officer Scott Gainey. “To our knowledge, those interfaces still do not exist today.”

And Stuart McClure, chief executive of Cylance, pointed out that his company and others can still get samples of malicious software from VirusTotal, just not the opinions of other companies about those samples.

“We don’t integrate with VirusTotal,” McClure said by email. “The VirusTotal pullout has not impacted us at all.”

Snapdeal Gold Takes on Amazon Prime and Flipkart First

Snapdeal Gold Takes on Amazon Prime and Flipkart First
  • Snapdeal Gold promises next day free delivery and more
  • You don’t need to sign up or pay for this
  • Snapdeal Gold is only for 100 percent prepaid products

Snapdeal has launched a new feature called Snapdeal Gold, which promises free next day delivery, free shipping, and extended purchase protection. This follows Amazon Prime and Flipkart First, both of which offer similar features to customers.

The Snapdeal Gold Service is a little different from the aforementioned services though, as you don’t need to sign up for a service to use this. It’s automatic – if any order is found to match Snapdeal Gold requirements, it will get upgraded. As long as it’s being fulfilled by Snapdeal, and you’re paying upfront – by card, netbanking, using Freecharge, or gift cards. Cash on Delivery offers will not get the benefit. Snapdeal also allows people to use a combination of Freecharge cash and Cash on Delivery payments, but only 100 percent prepaid orders will be upgraded to Snapdeal Gold.

Where available, you’ll get free next day delivery, otherwise you’ll always get free standard delivery with Snapdeal Gold. Also, instead of the normal seven day timeframe in which you can return a product, with Snapdeal Gold, you’ll have 14 days to return the product you bought.

One of the nice features is that everything takes place automatically – for example, you don’t choose Gold as an option, just pick an online payment method. If next day delivery is available, your delivery is automatically scheduled for it. What this means is that there’s practically no barrier to entry to getting the benefits from Snapdeal Gold, provided you have an online payment solution. The automatic upgrade is where there’s also a slight catch though – not all items that are fulfilled by Snapdeal or meet the above requirements are eligible for Snapdeal Gold. All in all, Snapdeal Gold looks more like a way to move people away from cash on delivery than anything else.

In contrast, both Flipkart First and Amazon Prime require you to sign up beforehand, and charge money, which is not something everyone will be willing to do. However, it offers less by way of benefits too. For example, Flipkart First gets you priority customer support, and Amazon Prime gives you early access to deals on the site, and once Amazon launches its video service in India, you’ll have access to that as well, which could be a real game changer.

US Intelligence Still Sorting Out NSA Hack

US Intelligence Still Sorting Out NSA Hack
  • Tool kit consists of malicious software intended to tamper with firewall
  • Documents leaked by a group called the Shadow Brokers
  • CIA Directer calls cyber threats the most serious issue facing the nation

The US is still probing the extent of a recent cyber leak of what purports to be hacking tools used by the National Security Agency, the nation’s top intelligence official said Wednesday.

“We are still sorting this out,” James Clapper, director of national intelligence, said at an event at the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California.

“It’s still under investigation,” Clapper said. “We don’t know exactly the full extent – or the understanding – of exactly what happened.”

The tool kit consists of malicious software intended to tamper with firewalls, the electronic defenses protecting computer networks. The leak has set the information security world atwitter – and sent major companies rushing to update their defenses.

The rogue programs appear to date back to 2013 and have whimsical names like EXTRABACON or POLARSNEEZE. Three of them – JETPLOW, FEEDTROUGH and BANANAGLEE – have previously appeared in an NSA compendium of top secret cyber surveillance tools.

The documents have been leaked by a group calling itself the “Shadow Brokers,” although many have floated the possibility of Russian involvement.

CIA Director John Brennan, who appeared with Clapper at the event, called cyber threats the most serious issue facing the nation.

“This administration, the intelligence community is focused like a laser on this and I would say the next administration really needs to take this up early on as probably the most important issue they have to grapple with,” Brennan said.

Now, Cash Deposit Machines Become Interoperable

Now, Cash Deposit Machines Become Interoperable
  • Interoperability for cash deposits has started rolling out in India
  • It’s now available for three banks only, but more are being added
  • It’s being run by the NPCI, which also launched the UPI recently

If you have an account with Andhra Bank, Union Bank of India, or the Punjab and Maharashtra Co-op Bank, you can use the cash deposit machines at any of these banks’ ATMs to deposit money. This is part of a rollout by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) to allow you to make all deposit machines in the country interoperable, the way ATMs are for withdrawals.

The NPCI has ambitious plans. It’s behind the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), which launched in April with the goal of simplifying online payments. On the offline side of things, the NPCI runs the National Financial Switch (NFS), a network of shared ATMs in India.

If the UPI is a common platform for banks to interconnect online, then the NFS is the offline equivalent that allows you to withdraw money from any ATM, even if you don’t have an account with the bank whose ATM it is. Now, it’s being expanded to allow interoperability for cash deposits.

Until now, if you wanted to use a cash deposit machine to add money to your bank account, you had to go to find an ATM from your bank and then add the cash. It’s not always convenient, and it makes sense that if you can withdraw your money from any ATM, you should be able to deposit your money in the same way. The NPCI has added interconnectedness with three banks with a goal to make all cash deposit machines in the country interoperable, according to a tweet by AP Hota, MD and CEO NPCI.

This is one of the ways in which the NPCI has been working to modernise banking in India. While customers have gone online, banks are still largely stuck in existing systems and processes – allowing for new companies that don’t have to worry about legacy requirements to disrupt the space. The banks are evolving too – banks now have their own apps, wallets, and allow you to create accounts online – but new changes, such as the UPI or the evolution of the NFS will also go a long way to making your bank account more up to date in a digital world as closed systems start talking to each other and interconnected accounts become easier to use through new mobile applications.

Google to Start Ranking Websites With Popup Ads Lower in Mobile Search Results

Google to Start Ranking Websites With Popup Ads Lower in Mobile Search Results
  • Websites with unnecessary ads to rank lower in Google search results
  • Google says unnecessary ads hindering with browsing experience
  • Google mentions exceptions to its new advertisement rule

Google announced on Tuesday that starting January 10 next year, websites that allow intrusive interstitial advertisements that hinder immediate access to content, will start ranking lower in its mobile search results.

In its blog post to webmasters, Google said, “Pages that show intrusive interstitials provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible. This can be problematic on mobile devices where screens are often smaller.”

As a result of this change, the ranking of those websites will be lowered if they contain advertisement popups that covers the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results, or while they are looking through the page. Google has also mentioned other scenarios where the unnecessary advertisements affect users’ browsing over here.

However, the California-based company has pointed out that there are certain exceptions where the popups or messages are necessarily required by the websites and cannot be avoided. Such cases include interstitials that appear in response to legal obligations, such as for cookie usage or for age verification. Even is the advertisements use reasonable amount of screen space won’t impact the website’s ranking, Google said.

Moreover, Google also admitted that the websites where the content Is not indexable and sits behind a paywall, login dialogues are necessarily required and can’t be avoided.

Google also announced that it will be removing the mobile-friendly label from its search results as it has found that around 85 percent of the websites in its search results now meet the criteria since their introduction in 2014. The mobile friendly label was essentially given to a website that was optimised for mobile devices, for example, where the text and content was readable without zooming and the tap targets are appropriately spaced. It added that even though the label is being removed to make search results “uncluttered,” the criteria will still continue to be a ranking signal.

Pinterest Acquires Instapaper to Get Smarter About Articles

Pinterest Acquires Instapaper to Get Smarter About Articles

Pinterest is buying Instapaper, the app that lets you save an article to read later, as it works to understand the technology behind recommending stories for people.

The acquisition of Instapaper, which has expertise in saving, curating and analyzing articles, aligns with Pinterest’s goal to provide content that fits users’ interests, the company said in a statement. Pinterest declined to comment on a price for the deal.

Instapaper, started in 2008 by Tumblr co-founder Marco Arment, is known for helping people save longer-form stories they don’t have time to read. Pinterest said people use its application to save articles, though they often tend to be image-based how-to stories about recipes or from inspirational do-it-yourself blogs. Instapaper’s technology could help improve Pinterest’s ability to match content with its users’ interests. Instapaper will work with us to continue building indexing and recommendations technologies,” Steve Davis, a product manager at Pinterest, said in a statement.

It’s not the first time Instapaper has been sold. Arment sold a majority stake to the New York start-up holding company Betaworks in 2013. Pinterest, which has more than 100 million users, was last valued at $11 billion (roughly Rs. 73,800 crores) in a funding round in March 2015.