Report: Flipkart Acquires LetsBuy

FlipkartAmazon is yet to enter India with its full force, but the ramifications of the impending launch are already being felt. Flipkart, which refused to let itself be acquired by Amazon, has made the aggressive move of acquiring – its biggest competitor.

Medianama is reporting that Flipkart paid anywhere between $20 million and $25 million for LetsBuy, which is the second largest online retailer in India. Flipkart, which reportedly raised $150 million at a valuation of around $850 million, is the undisputed leader. It sells almost twenty products every minute, and is expected to cross the $100 million revenue mark during the financial year 2011-12.

Flipkart is no stranger to acquisitions, having earlier acquired WeRead, Mime360, and However, none of its previous acquisitions were competitors. Instead, they were platforms and technologies that Flipkart believed would help in improving its core product.

At this point it will be prudent to take this news with a pinch of salt, since neither of the involved parties have confirmed it. However, if Medianama is spot on, then by acquiring LetsBuy, Flipkart is formally flagging off the consolidation phase that analysts have been predicting for a long time. Although, online shopping is rapidly gaining traction in India, the entry of a behemoth like Amazon will undoubtedly send shockwaves throughout the industry as smaller players will be hard-pressed to compete with Amazon’s inventory and pricing. LetsBuy, which is well known for its extremely aggressive pricing, will undoubtedly help Flipkart scale better. Although, it is possible that the acquisition will hurt consumers in the immediate future by reducing competition, it will probably turn out to be a good thing in the long run. The consolidation of the two biggest online retailers will enable the resultant entity to offer a more spirited challenge to the big names that will almost surely make an entry in the Indian ecommerce segment within the next couple of years.

Update: Sachin Bansal, the CEO and Co-Founder of Flipkart, has confirmed that “the rumors are true”.

Amazon Limps into India with Junglee

It’s an open secret that Amazon wants to grab a share of the rapidly growing e-commerce segment in India. Today, Amazon made its first public move by launching, which describes itself as “an online shopping service by Amazon”. Somewhat disappointingly though, Junglee is nothing like the Amazon that we are familiar with.

The bar on 100% foreign direct investment, coupled with the steep prices demanded by local players like Flipkart, has made it difficult for Amazon to come in all guns blazing. As a result, it has opted to kick off with a soft launch in the form of the revival of a brand that it had acquired almost fifteen years ago.

Junglee isn’t an online store. You can’t buy products directly from Junglee. It’s a price comparison service that pits several online retailers against each other. Junglee features 1.2 crore products and 14,000 brands from hundreds of retailers including Homeshop18, UniverCell, Hidesign, Gitanjali, The Bombay Store, Fabindia, Bata India Limited, Dabur Uveda, Microsoft India Store, Reebok, and Conspicuous by their absence are some of the biggest players like Flipkart, Infibeam, and LetsBuy, which are likely to offer the stiffest competition to Amazon India.


Junglee isn’t the e-commerce destination that consumers had been anticipating and online retailers dreading. It’s just another price comparison service that is handy, but hardly disruptive. I am certain that the full-fledged launch of Amazon India is in the pipeline. However, until then, Amazon is testing the waters with this new India oriented service. It’s a smart move as Junglee will allow Amazon to get the logistics in place, while thwarting bigger players like Flipkart by offering smaller retailers increased visibility.

Indian Government and Courts Ignore Common Sense and Laws of the Land in a Drive to Leash the Internet

Even as the anti-SOPA protests continue to gain momentum in the US, time may have come for a similar campaign in India. A Delhi High Court judge, while hearing a criminal complaint against Google, Facebook and other online services, threatened to block all such websites “like China”. This comes just weeks after Kapil Sibal, India’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology, courted controversy by asking Facebook and Google to pre-screen content.


CensorshipThe latest controversy began when, Vinay Rai, the editor of an Urdu-language newspaper, moved the lower court to prosecute 21 websites on which he discovered objectionable content. Speaking to the WSJ, Rai stated that the content he found “offends several religions including Hinduism, Islam and Christianity” and “involves pages and groups where users have mocked Hindu gods and goddesses, Prophet Muhammad and Jesus Christ”. In response, the trial court issued summons to the concerned organizations, which were approved by the Ministry of External Affairs.

“The sanctioning authority has personally gone through the entire records and materials produced before him and after considering and examining the same, he is satisfied that there is sufficient material to proceed against the accused persons under section 153-A, 153-B and 295-A of the IPC,” the Government said in its report.

Google, Facebook, and several others named in the complaint moved the High Court to seek exemption from the trial court as a similar case was already pending with the High Court. However, the HC judge – Justice Suresh Kait, not only refused to stay the trial court proceedings, but also threatened to go the China way if web-services didn’t clean up their act. He asked websites to develop a mechanism to keep a check and remove offensive and objectionable material from their web pages.

As you might expect, the court’s remark sent alarm bells ringing and have elicited sharp criticism both within and outside the country. Google’s advocate N K Kaul, remarked, “The issue relates to a constitutional issue of freedom of speech and expression and suppressing it was not possible as the right to freedom of speech in democratic India separates us from a totalitarian regime like China”. Manoj Nigam, VP-IT, Vodafone India, termed the demand to monitor and remove content “slightly absurd”, while Tamal Chakravarthy, CIO of Ericsson India believes that “Its (sic) highly improbable that such an act would come into existence”.

Microsoft India Offers Free Windows Phones to Developers and Students

Windows-PhoneThanks to the availability of cheap Android handsets, smartphone usage in India has exploded over the past couple of years. Now, Microsoft is looking to make its presence felt. As a starter it is trying to woo the developer community, who are often the early adopters and opinion makers. Earlier today, it announced the new I unlock Joy’ initiative under which developers and students can win free Windows Phone handsets and other gifts.

Mr. Moorthy Uppaluri, General Manager, Developer Partner Evangelism, Microsoft India said, India is a vibrant developer market, and we see a lot of excitement and enthusiasm around the availability of marketplace for customers in India. We believe that opening up this marketplace will provide the developer community in India with an opportunity to showcase creativity. He added, The best part about Windows Phone Marketplace is that developers will be able to use familiar development tools and technologies. They create global market opportunities for themselves and reach out to a large user base.

This program is already available to developers and will conclude on March 30, 2012. The main offer has three categories:

Submit and Receive: Developers get a chance to receive a Windows Phone by submitting three distinct, original and non-trivial Windows Phone applications.

Port 2 Apps and Receive: Developers submitting two Windows Phone applications that are ported from existing Android and iPhone applications will get to receive a Windows Phone.

Women Special: The first hundred women developers to submit one Windows Phone application will qualify to receive a Windows Phone each. The applications can be based on entertainment, fashion, leisure, sports, recreation or travel themes.

In addition to these categories there is also a special offer for students. Each student to submit a Windows Phone application will receive a Merit Certificate, a Windows Phone T-Shirt and a 2GB USB flash drive. Students submitting four apps will additionally receive a Windows Phone. Submissions for the student category will close on December 18, 2011. Any app submitted under this initiative will be considered as a valid entry only after it passes Windows Phone Marketplace certification testing.

Croma Partners with Intel to Launch Laptop Theft Protection Service in India

Croma, the mega-store chain from Tata Sons, has partnered with Intel to introduce anti-theft service for laptop users in India. Using Intel Anti-Theft Technology built into Sandy Bridge (2nd Generation Intel Core) processors, laptops can automatically disable themselves if they are lost or stolen.

Mobile PC usage in India is on the rise and we expect to further accelerate it with the new Ultrabook devices. Protecting users’ sensitive information as well as laptops themselves is paramount,said R. Sivakumar, Managing Director, Sales & Marketing Group, Intel South Asia. We are thrilled to see Croma offering Intel Anti-Theft Service for Indian laptop users.

A stolen laptop can be locked down by sending a signal over the internet, or by using intelligent hardware timers. Locking down a laptop essentially makes it unbootable and unusable. Intel also provides a secure vault in the hard disk that is cryptographically protected. If a laptop is locked, then the data in the secure vault can’t be read even by connecting the hard disk to a different computer. Even reformatting the hard drive, installing a new hard drive, or changing the boot order won’t help in circumventing the lock. However, Intel and Croma didn’t make it clear if laptop tracking with the help of GPS module will be available or not.


We are proud to be the first retailer to introduce Anti-Theft service for all the laptop users at Croma. With the launch of this Anti-Theft service, our consumers will now enjoy peace of mind while securing their laptops and their digital lives.said Mr. Ajit Joshi, CEO & Managing Director, Infiniti Retail Ltd. Croma is delighted to partner with Intel for this exceptional service that will provide our customers an opportunity to safeguard their laptops. This initiative evidently affirms the Company’s resolution of bringing world-class shopping experience to its customers.

The theft protection service will be bundled with select laptops sold from Croma. For other laptops sold through Croma, it will be as an optional feature starting at Rs. 199 for a period of 2 years.

PayPal Begins Validating Pan Numbers of Indian Accounts, Ends up Targeting Valid Accounts

PayPal has been nothing short of a nightmare for Indian users. For the past several months, it has been a story of one step forward and two steps backward. After screwing Indian users over and over again, they announced a couple of helpful measures over the past few weeks. Unfortunately, PayPal’s latest move will all but undo whatever little goodwill it had managed to garner.

PayPal has been demanding PAN card numbers from all Indian users for a long time. Many users worked around this restriction by simply providing fake PAN card numbers as PayPal didn’t do any validation. However, beginning today, PayPal will be limiting accounts with invalid PAN numbers. Limited accounts will not be able to receive payments. However, they can still be used for sending payments and making online purchases using linked credit cards.


The trouble with PayPal’s latest move is that its verification system appears to be pretty dodgy. Two Techie Buzz staff members, including yours truly, have had their accounts limited in spite of furnishing correct PAN card numbers. Given PayPal’s long standing policy of shooting first and asking questions later, it’s not surprising that they chose to act without giving the account holders any opportunity to respond. Let’s just hope that they will get around to fixing this issue soon.

Yahoo’s MoviePlex to Feature Free High Quality Bollywood Movie Streams

Yahoo! India has launched a new portal called Movieplex, which will offer high quality Bollywood movie streams for free. Yahoo will be partnering with leading movie production houses in India to periodically introduce new movies.

“Over 30 million Internet users consume 1.7 billion videos every month across India (according to comScore January 2011 figures). Movieplex is an example of how Yahoo! connects people to what matters to them the most and Indian movie lovers now have the best full-length movies available to them at their convenience, remarked Arun Tadanki, MD of Yahoo! India.


Much like YouTube’s BoxOffice channel, Yahoo Movieplex is advertisement supported. Movies available at launch included “Rock On!!”, “Dil to Bachha Hai Ji”, “Aakrosh”, “Rann”, “Lamha”, “Crook”, “Rakht Charitra”, and “Rakht Charitra 2″.

In a country like India where piracy is rampant, movie production houses have been gradually warming up to the idea of leveraging the web. Rajshri group, which is one of India’s oldest and largest Movie and TV production houses, has its own online video-on-demand portal. Other third party services like NyooTV have also been gaining popularity. Although poor broadband penetration and below par internet speeds pose a serious challenge, forward looking initiatives like these are probably the best way to tackle piracy.

Pakistani Website Hacked By Indian Hackers In Response To The 2011 Mumbai Bomb Blasts

Remember the last time an Indian hacker group calling itself Indian cyber armyhacked 35 Pakistani Government websites? The same group is back again, this time targeting a Pakistani songs website


This hack attack is in direct conjunction with the very recent Mumbai bomb blasts that occurred on 13th July 2011, killing at least 21 innocent people and injuring more than 121 civilians. Sources and intelligence agencies claim that the bomb blasts were carried out by Pakistani terrorist groups which is the reason why an unknown Indian hacker group hacked the Pakistani website. Sort of a revenge!

Here is another screenshot which reveals that the FTP server of was indeed compromised by Indian hackers:


After gaining root access to the servers, the hacker group posted this message on the homepage of

Pray for all the innocent victims of Mumbai attack .This is a small answer from All Indians. Remember we are together, you can just kill innocent people, women and children..But there is no future for you, we are coming with huge speed. Corruption will be under control, every Indian will have money and power.Then there will be no one to save you, you are a dirty stamp on pure Islam. Try to understand and respect it, just remember we are coming.Bye.Exit

India Pakistan Cyber War

India Pakistan cyber war is not a new story. We have earlier witnessed how Pakistani hackers quickly responded to the Indian aggression by hacking the Indian CBI website. The back to back hack attacks ceased after the PCA group offered a one sided ceasefire [read the media statement they sent us]. the Pakistani website which was hacked demands a little more explanation.


This site gets 80% of it’s traffic from India because what they offer is nothing but pirated downloads of Indian music albums, Bollywood songs and MP3’s. Every day, thousands of Indian users flock into the site to download pirated MP3’s because the site has a huge collection of Indian songs, which they offer as free download.

Their business model is completely different from legitimate sites. When a novice user enters to download pirated music, he is greeted with at least half dozen popup advertisements. Most of these advertisements have nothing to do with music and they are geared towards novice users who fall for lotteries, Internet scams and the other so called lucrative offers.

Pakistani hackers have created websites such as the, which are infested with software to hack data from targeted computers- an Indian cyber expert said. “Nowadays new virus and worms are detected while downloading songs from these websites, which could be just a dry run to manage a bigger attack,” he added.

With these websites being highly popular, it will take only a few minutes for the owner of a malicious site to take command of over 12 lakh Indian computers and the number of such computers can multiply. And since the website offers pirated music for free, their marketing and reach happens automatically due to word of mouth. The underlying truth – users are unaware of the fact that they can be potential victims.

If you think practically, users can’t be blamed either. Online commerce of Indian music is yet to pick up because 99% of the targeted Indian audience do not have credit cards. They are always looking for free ways to download music and movies from the Internet, which lays the welcome mat rolling for infested sites such as

[h/t Apurva Chaudhary]

Amazon Might Be Preparing to Enter India Soon

eCommercePluggd.In has uncovered compelling evidence that suggests that the American online ecommerce giant Amazon is preparing to expand to India soon. It has hired Madhu M from Landmark to head its book operations in India. It is also hiring people with earlier exposure to retails or online domain across all levels. Additionally, it is currently searching for a Manager for its Fulfillment Center.

Amazon hiring across all levels in Non-Tech, IIM,ISB good education MBA grade… earlier exposure to Retails or Online domain…Exposure de…less than a minute ago via LinkedIn Favorite Retweet Reply

Ecommerce in India is still in its infancy, but is experiencing rapid growth. If Amazon gets into the Indian market, it will face stiff competition from the likes of Flipkart and Infibeam. There is a good chance that Amazon might decide to acquire an already established player, instead of deciding to go in alone. In India, where most consumers are still wary about shopping online, reputation matters. Even more crucially, FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) caps in India make it pretty much impossible for an US based entity like Amazon to launch a consumer-facing ecommerce venture in India, unless it wants to restrict itself to the six metros.

In the past we have seen eBay acquiring, and Groupon picking up SoSasta to enter the Indian market. Pluggd.In believes that a deal with Flipkart is off the table as the buyout price demanded by it was too high for Amazon. Earlier in the month, Flipkart raised $20 million from Tiger Global, which strongly suggests that it is planning on staying independent. Infibeam, which has been criticized in the past for ripping off Amazon’s products, website layout, and even logo, was also reported to be in talks with Amazon earlier, but that failed to yield any result.

Given the success and popularity of Amazon-like ecommerce services in India, it seems a no-brainer that Amazon itself will be interested in grabbing a piece of the pie. However, when and how it will do so remains to be seen.

The State of Engineering in India

Engineering-IndiaEven as the number of engineers in the US continues to shrink, India is churning out engineers by the hundreds of thousands. Much has already been said and written about the quality of engineering graduates in India. Much more qualified people than me have penned their frustration with the state of engineers in India. Nevertheless, as a Computer Science and Engineering student who is at the brink of graduating, I couldn’t help but jump into the discussion.

In 2008, India produced 3.5 lakh (350 thousand) engineers. However, raw numbers don’t tell the entire story. When it comes to number of engineers per million people, there are only 214 engineers in India, compared to 1435 in South Korea and 765 in Japan. Of course, this isn’t all that surprising, given that the percentage of secondary and higher secondary pass outs in India is also significantly lower than in other developed nations. The real worrying statistic is that even after one year of graduation, 30% of Engineers in India remain unemployed. According to the Wall Street Journal, 75% of technical graduates and more than 85% of general graduates are unemployable by India’s high-growth global industries. The situation is so dire that leading IT Services companies like Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys and Wipro have been forced to extend their initial training program for freshers in order to impart basic skills required on the job. And these are not companies that are not known for doing a lot of real engineering work. You can imagine how hard it must be for fledgling startups and software companies to attract real talent.

While opining on the state of engineering in India, most pundits have ripped apart the Indian education system. Right from the grassroots level, India’s education system ignores all the key facets of engineering, viz. curiosity, learning by experimentation, and problem solving. The explosion in the number of colleges handing out B. Tech degrees have resulted in a dire shortage of qualified teachers. The bar for becoming a teacher at the under graduate level has been lowered so much that it has become a folklore that students who don’t get recruited are the ones who end up becoming teachers.

However, the poor quality of education is not the sole reason for the current situation in India. The other driving factor is the attitude of the society. While, in the US, students are comfortable taking up courses like Humanities and Social Studies, Communications, and Media Arts, in India, most students believe (or are forced to believe) that the only two real career options before them are to become a doctor or an engineer. As a result, students who don’t have the will or the aptitude to become an engineer enroll for an engineering degree. This increase in demand has lead to the increase in the number of colleges, which in turn has lead to the lowering of the bar. It’s the lure of an offer from TCS and Infosys, rather than the attraction of building something that motivates engineering students in India. Even the criteria for getting into these colleges is misplaced. If you can mug up a few organic chemistry formulae, and have practised enough to solve some mechanics problem in Physics, chances are that you can get into a fairly esteemed institute of engineering.

Here are three completely random observations that I have made during my interaction with other Computer Science and Engineering students from several colleges across India:

  1. A staggering portion of the graduates aren’t even capable of accomplishing basic tasks like installing Windows or Linux operating system. Yes, many of the CSE graduates being produced by the Indian colleges are technically challenged.
  2. Most of the students in colleges around India, can’t even write simple algorithms like Bubble Sort or Binary Search, even if their life depended on it.
  3. Worse still, many of the lab instructors, who have been entrusted with the responsibility of teaching programming can’t write real code.

I am not suggesting that all engineers in India are clueless, or that all of the academicians are incompetent. However, a disappointingly large fraction is. Installing an Operating System has very little to do with Engineering. However, it does exemplify a lack of willingness or aptitude for even very rudimentary problem solving.

Undoubtedly, there is a lot that is wrong about the education system in India. However, it will also be wrong to ignore the positive impact that education has already had on India. Yes, quantity currently supersedes quality in India. However, most people will probably prefer the current situation over the situation ten or fifteen years back. Sridhar Vembu, the founder of ZOHO, very effectively pointed out the positive impact that even these substandard educational institutes are having on the society. In his own words,

The education for the most part was of poor quality, but that does not matter, because of what I have called the Placebo effect of education. What it confers is confidence, while the real knowledge is gained on the job – which is why dropping out of college doesn’t do much damage to upper-middle-class kids, who presumably already have an ample supply of confidence.

Most good things in India happen in spite of the government, and not because of it. When the quality of Engineering graduates picks up, it will also be because of a combination of factors that will have very little to do with the ministry of education. It might be because some premier institute decided to lead the way by encouraging hacker culture, instead of learning by rote. It might be because of the opening up of new lucrative career paths as the Indian economy grows and flourishes, which will reduce the (false) compulsion that most students feel to get into an engineering college, which in turn will lead to new batches of engineering students who will study engineering not because it will improve their chances of getting a job, but because they truly want to understand how stuff works and they want to build things. Among those will be several brilliant minds that will be able to dream big enough to change the world.

Image via OpenClipArt