AgriTech In India: How Startups Are Changing The Face Of Indian Agriculture

India holds the record for the second-largest agricultural land in the world, with around 60% rural Indian households making their living from agriculture thus creating a huge scope for agritech startups in the country.

The central and state governments are proactively pursuing policies to improve farmers’ lives in India. In fact, PM Modi’s government has an aim to double the average farmer’s income by 2022. But is enough being done to remove inefficiencies in the agricultural supply chain to make Indian agritech a lucrative investment opportunity?

We, at Inc42, have taken up the onus to promote and spread awareness about agritech in India. To this end, our first step was hosting an AgriTech Investors Roundtable on 25 May 2017 in Delhi. The purpose of the roundtable was to discuss the challenges and opportunity in the Agriculture sector in India and also to launch a report on – The State Of Indian AgriTech – 2017.Image result for AgriTech In India: How Startups Are Changing The Face Of Indian Agriculture

The report was launched in the presence of Vikram Gupta, Managing Partner, IvyCap Ventures; Ravinder Singh Saini, Principal Consultant of National Productivity Council; Adhir Jha, MD and CEO India Sugar Exim Corporation (ISEC); Ritu Verma, co-founder and Managing Director, Ankur Capital; Hemendra Mathur, Venture Partner, Bharat Innovations Fund; Akash Rukhaiyar, an ex-CFO and investor and Shamit Ghosh.

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The State Of Agriculture In India

Agriculture, along with fisheries and forestry, is one of the largest contributors to the Indian Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The GDP of agriculture and allied sectors in India was recorded at $244.74 Bn in FY ‘16.

  1. At 157.35 Mn hectares, India holds the second-largest agricultural land in the world.
  2. There has been an increased focus on investments in agricultural infrastructures such as irrigation facilities, warehousing, and cold storage.
  3. New schemes such as Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana, Pradhanmantri Gram Sinchai Yojana, and Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana have been introduced to improve farmers’ fortunes and other facilities which could boost agriculture in India.

Agriculture In India: Challenges

A drop in landholdings (average 1.4 hectares), small and fragmented land holdings, a decreasing agricultural land versus a growing population, decreasing groundwater levels, poor quality of seeds, lack of mechanisation, low yield per unit crop and a dependence on middlemen are some of the challenges for the growth of agriculture in India.

Added to that, an absence of an organised marketing structure for produce, malpractices in the existing unorganised agricultural markets, inadequate facilities for transportation and storage, scarcity of credit, and limited access to superior technology to get timely information are some of the many afflictions which obstruct the Indian agricultural sector.

Opportunities For AgriTech Startups

Opportunities lie in areas like how to increase crop production, improving the nutritional value of the crops, reduction in input prices for farmers, improving the overall process-driven supply chain, reducing wastage in the distribution system, making easy farm mechanisation available, and enabling connectivity of farmers with the masses by interlinking the consumer and producer.  

AgriTech startups are also leveraging technology in the area of market linkages such as retail, B2C and B2B marketplaces and digital agronomy platforms. AgriTech startups are now able to address input challenges of agriculture in India from the very beginning. They are able to provide correct information, techniques, and efficiencies to farmers both for pre-harvest applications and post-harvest use cases.

AgriTech Funding In India

According to the latest report, for 2016, over $3.23 Bn was invested in agriculture sector worldwide. Of this, 53 Indian agritech startups raised $313 Mn. Globally, category-wise, 40% of the total funding ($1.29 Bn) was invested in food marketplaces or the food ecommerce category, followed by biotechnology startups which garnered 22% of the funding ($719 Mn). Investment in precision agriculture technologies, which include data-capturing devices and farm management software, came third at $405 Mn, while investment in Novel Farming Systems, which are startups using new and innovative ways to produce agricultural and biological products, was the fourth category wherein funding flowed ($247 Mn).

Conclusion

Demand-side drivers such as population growth, rising income levels leading to increasing consumption, and increasing exports favour the growth of agriculture in India. More so, policy support from the government such as increasing MSPs, increasing crop insurance support, the introduction of various schemes to facilitate farmers, initiatives to bolster easy credit to farmers will also increase growth. The need of the hour is for all stakeholders – from governments to agritech startups to investors – to come together in harnessing the opportunity to transform this sector. Mostly, government policies treat agriculture as a poverty alleviation method but the focus should be on enhancing productivity and raising incomes. The impetus should be on the application of technology to lower challenges on the input side right from planting to irritating to harvesting and finally selling.

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The report launch was followed by two-panel discussions centred on the theme that the agriculture value chain requires disruption and innovation to tackle inefficiencies – which would most likely come from tech-driven startups rather than the traditional agriculture players in India.

The first panel comprising Vikram Gupta, Ravinder Singh Saini, Adhir Jha, and Akash Rukhaiyar was moderated by Shamit Ghosh. The panel examined if the agritech opportunity is a hidden opportunity or mere hype.

AgriTech – A Hidden Opportunity Or Hype?

On this, Vikram Gupta stated that the size of the opportunity is quite large. He said, “From an investor’s perspective, investors are looking for four-five years’ kind of timeframe for returns. We are looking for asset-light opportunities, where you can use technology to scale up businesses. One of them is information technology – which farmers can leverage to take mission-critical decisions.”

Vikram noted that while it’s challenging to monetise these products, there are interesting models which are being monetised, and farmers are willing to pay for them. However, he pointed out that when it comes to the other part of technology such as farm mechanisation, India is lagging.

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He said, “Despite India having one of the highest productive agricultural land in the world, its share of sales in the mechanised products sold by top Fortune 100 farm companies in the world is less than 5%.” This is where he believed an opportunity exists for startups.

Taking the discussion further on the same tangent, Adhir Jha stated that since average landholding size of farmers is small, many mechanisation technologies are beyond the means of farmers. He said, “Hence, startups need to come up with technologies which can be leased to farmers for a period of time to but whose maintenance rests majorly with startups.”

He also added that since it takes time for farmers to develop confidence in agritech extension activities, patience will have to be a key factor here. “So, as an investor, you have to be in here for the long haul. You might see a negative impact in the first four or five years and then the model might turn around.”

AgriTech – An Investor’s Perspective

The second-panel discussion centred on exploring the investors’ perspective in detail –why investors who have invested in the sector continue to bet on it, what would make investors who don’t invest in agritech currently explore it proactively, and trends to watch out for in this space.

This panel consisted of Ritu Verma, co-founder and Managing Director, Ankur Capital, Hemendra Mathur, Venture Partner, Bharat Innovations Fund, and Vikram Gupta of IvyCap Ventures.

On being questioned as to what made Ankur Capital invest in agriculture, Ritu replied the fact that the section is associated with the fundamental act of eating, coupled with the drive to engage with the backend of delivery of food, as demands and habits change was the main driver for investment.

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Speaking on if the opportunity is viable, Hemendra Mathur stated, “The size of the opportunity is a key factor as well as the demand. If you look at the last 10 years, why VC investment has picked up is because some bit of inflection point was there when per capita income of Indians increased. This resulted in shifts in demand habits in food in India in 2013.  And that is reflected in the balance sheet of the food sectors. It’s not that we are eating more, but more consumers are willing to buy good quality food. So, that’s a reason for sudden VC interest in the last few years in agriculture.”

He also added that another reason is that it is a very defensible sector, given that food is the last thing one cuts out even when the economy goes down.

The investors also discussed that technology will help lower costs for farmers. Thus, what startups have to do is build the cost value proposition for the farmer. Hemendra aptly stated, “And viability cannot come alone from the farmer but from the entire ecosystem on the supply chain, who can make business models viable.”

For encouraging more funds to flow into the sector, Vikram believed that the government should get incentives to funds who invest in agriculture, its sub-sectors, and in remote areas. He stated that general education and awareness at the grassroots level is missing and the government has to play a huge role in informing farmers about the opportunities available – be it credit or technologies.

For startups looking to enter the sector, Hemendra added that the top three opportunities lay in capturing real-time data, image analytics, and technology for soil scanning. He explained, “With satellite imagery, you can tell at sowing stage, what is going to be the potential yield. So, once it reaches a point where demand supply is matching, the government can issue an advisory. These measures would help farmers to avoid excess sowing, manage supply so that prices don’t crash.”

Vikram aptly summed up the discussion stating, “The Uberisation of Indian agritech startups is just waiting to happen. The inflection point is around the corner.”

The session concluded with a presentation from Jukka Peuranpää, CEO, Agroy and a former farmer. Agroy has made giant strides in terms of making its presence felt in the US and now with aims to plant its flag in India.

How FinTech Startups Are Transforming The Way Banks Function In Indonesia

Fintech startups in Indonesia have initiated a revolution the way financial institutions including banks in the country work. The fintech landscape of Indonesia has more or less followed the trajectory of the revolution India witnessed last year.

India, November 2016. PM Modi launched a demonetisation drive to eradicate black money, fostering a new wave of digitisation in India. Consequently, there was a tremendous rise in the adoption of e-wallets, launch of new fintech startups, and the average Indian became familiar with a new financial entity, bitcoin. With huge sums being invested in the segment, Fintech became the frontrunner of the Indian startup ecosystem.

From local grocery shops to petrol pumps to movie theatres, digital wallets have captured each and every day-to-day business which requires payments. Not only this, digital wallets have even seen a massive adoption for payment chores like booking air tickets or buying movie tickets or paying bills (DTH, Water, Electricity). In a nutshell, India is poised towards fintech revolution – thanks to the rise of digital wallets, UPI coming into the picture and of course, companies launching payment banks.

 Image result for How FinTech Startups Are Transforming The Way Banks Function In Indonesia
This is what fintech does: it disrupts the traditional and welcomes the future. It’s not just about innovation and technology, it is also about financial inclusivity, and India is moving towards that.

Coming to Indonesia, there are more than 150 fintech startups in Indonesia and this number has increased by a whopping 78% from 2015, according to the Indonesia Fintech report 2016. Quite similar to the India story, not in context to numbers but the growth percentage. India recorded $1.77 Bn in FinTech investments between 2014 and 2015 through a total of 158 deals, according to Inc42’s FinTech Market Report 2014-2016. The average deal size was $9.82 Mn.

All of this has happened in the last couple years. So when we ask ourselves how? The answer is simple: when technology meets innovation, disruption happens.

The Present Indonesian Financial Ecosystem

With a population of more than 250 Mn and a consistent growth in the annual gross domestic product (GDP), Indonesia has emerged as Southeast Asia’s trojan horse, as the next big land of opportunity.

Fintech today is a coveted space in Indonesia. Investments are booming, sectors are expanding, various avenues are being explored and new products are being launched. Be it digital payments, online lending, or remote banking, Indonesia has seen a surge of startups that have developed products to solve the current needs of the population.

At the same time, the country remains a challenging market for fintech industry to grow with only 40% of adults in the country having access to banks. 49 Mn SMEs unit are still not bankable, because of low credit score and little or no financial history. So how does one understand this industry?

Why Indonesia Needs Fintech

Businesses are essentially established to solve consumers’ needs. Fintech in Indonesia has followed the same pattern. To begin with, a vast majority of the Indonesian population is doesn’t have access to banks. It is estimated that only 40% of Indonesia’s 250 Mn population currently have access to services provided by banks. This impressed the need to develop alternative banking systems that could provide users with new and effective ways of banking.

Adds Kaustav Ghosh, Product Evangelist, MatchMove, “Like other similar markets, Indonesia has historically been relatively low on banking penetration. At the same time, it has seen a vibrant prepaid airtime and utility payments culture, a robust prepaid cards business base and a very creative entrepreneur class. Banks themselves have proven that they are innovative. While it may be little appreciated elsewhere, Indonesia has a very large informal economy and the many small businesses drive a lot of demand for services and new concepts. It has helped that the regulator has been progressive and abreast of global developments. Indonesia also has strong domestic brands emerging out of a native start-up culture. All this has been fertile ground for fintech.”

Secondly, Indonesia is a country of SMBs. These enterprises account for 99% of the total amount of enterprises that are operating in Indonesia and they create a total of 107.6 Mn jobs in Southeast Asia’s largest emerging economy, as per a Deloitte report. Moreover, Indonesia’s micro, small, and medium-sized companies contribute 60.6 % to Indonesia’s gross domestic product (GDP). In fact, they cushion the country’s economy in times of shocks. However, the majority of these companies do not pay taxes, while most workers belong to the informal sector.

Says Piotr Jakubowski, CMO of Indonesian ride-hailing giant Go-Jek, “One of the most fascinating challenges in Indonesia which contributes to the large population not having access to banks (60%+) is due to the fact that the country is the world’s largest archipelago. The size and the nature of the country simply does not allow traditional financial systems to scale and cover everything. For example, one of the state banks in Indonesia has actually transformed small boats into branches that can reach consumers in even the most remote areas. By breaking down the barriers of location, the emerging players provide an opportunity to this large population which doesn’t has access to banks to join the digital economy and drive its growth.” (bq)

In order to accelerate their growth, the SMEs need funding, yet many of them do not have the necessary financial history nor collateral to secure loans from banks. The sector is still largely unorganised, thereby struggling to maintain even basic workflow requirements, in terms of capital access. Lack of credit history, collateral, and accounting discipline, further mars these small-time businessmen’s capacity to procure funds from sources other than shady money lenders and friends and family – giving rise to the need and a largely untapped market for alternative lending and credit platforms.

Thirdly, due to Indonesia’s peculiar geography, its traditional banking system suffers. The number of bank branches, which is estimated at 10 banks (branches)  per 1,000 square kilometers is far too low to serve Indonesia’s vast geography. The fact that there are remote and inaccessible areas in the country poses an even greater challenge for banks’ penetration, which gives birth to the need of online and remotely accessible institutions that can facilitate these financial needs.

Breaking Down The Indonesian Fintech Pie

Bank of Indonesia defines fintech as: “A phenomenon of fusion between technology and financial features that transform business models and a weak barrier to entry which lead to raises unregulated players to run the service as well as regulated financial institutions.”

As highlighted above, the country has seen a major surge in the number of fintech ventures. The major areas that startups are capturing and disrupting are payments, insurance, stock markets, investments, PoS, comparison, and online lending. The clear winner is digital payments, prompted by the fact that the internet and consumption patterns are changing. Major startups in the payments sector include Mandiri, T-Cash, PayPro, IPayMu, Xenditi among others.

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Digital payments have become so big in the archipelago that the total transaction value in the “Digital Payments” segment amounts to $18 Mn in 2017. Additionally, the total transaction value is expected to show an annual growth rate (CAGR 2017-2021) of 18.4 %, resulting in the total amount of $36 Mn in 2021. Popular fintech categories in Indonesia are lending platforms, capturing 17% and marketplaces for financial products that have occupied 13%.

Says Sebastian Togelang, founding partner, Kejora Ventures, “Fintech is the hottest space in Indonesia right now. Everyone, be it founders and VCs are running towards capturing the opportunity. We might also see a lot of funding and consolidation in the space, in the coming times.”

When it comes to its potential as a market for Internet-based services, the numbers seem to bear great promises for Indonesian market. Internet users in the country had exceeded 100 Mn, with over 326 Mn mobile subscriptions — or roughly 34% of its total population. The emergence of new players led to the establishment of Indonesia Fintech Association in September 2015.

A report by Daily Social and Fintech Indonesia says that Indonesia has entered the Fintech 3.0 stage, where innovation is championed by startups instead of financial institutions as in Fintech 2.0 stage, or a joint venture of financial institutions and tech companies in Fintech 2.5.

The digital payments sector has emerged as the clear winner since the IFA data shows that around 43% of startups of the fintech pie belong to that segment. They are majorly spread across payments sector, from mobile payment to payment gateway companies etc. Suffice to say, ecommerce has been the biggest push factor for the same because, with the shifting consumption patterns, it led to the growth of payment avenues where one could complete their financial transactions with the ease of a click. For people to shop online, you have to make it really easy for them to pay.

Echoing the same, Chiragh Kirpalani, founder of digital payments platform Ayopop which recently secured funding says “Digital payments currently is still under the closed-loop model. Where each startup has either their own internal wallet or store credits and can only be used with-in their own services offered. The market is starting to evolve and startups are in merchant acquisition mode at this point. From what I see, the first few sectors that will start to have “Pay Via XYZ Wallet / Brand” is going to be online ecommerce, followed by the F&B sector and then comes Entertainment (theme parks, cinema Chains, Karaoke Chains, etc).”

Payment also has many subcategories. -whether it is making it easier to pay for online goods with cash; to focussing on the cards people already have in their pockets. There are certain players that are working towards linking existing transaction terminals like ATMs or online banking with online shopping, while others want to convince users to store value in digital wallets.

Fintech Startups That Are Paving The Way

While the Indonesian fintech industry has seen the entry of various players, here’s a consolidated view of the ones that have led the way with their disruptive technologies:

fintech-indonesia-banks-startups

Deposits, Lending, And Capital Raising

Startups under this category allow users to obtain loans or funds for numerous purposes such as for business, social project and marriage. Both crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending technologies fall into this category. The online lending space is dominated by players included Modalku, Taralite, and Investree. The online lending segment has a huge market demand in the country, owing to the fact that a major population of the country has a low credit score and SMEs can benefit from these alternative services.

fintech-indonesiaTaralite: Launched in 2016, the startup sanctions financial loans with relatively low interest, starting from 1%, for education, marriage, childbirth, house renovation, vehicle purchase, property & housing. It also provides loans without collateral. It recently secured $6.3 Mn from Japanese financial services provider, SBI Group.

fintech-indonesiaMODALKU: Founded in 2016, it is an online lending platform, that provides loans up to IDR. 2 Bn, with relatively affordable interest. Its focus areas are SMEs looking for working capital, with minimum one year of operations. It raised $7.5 Mn in its Series A round of funding from Sequoia in August 2016.

fintech-indonesiaInvestree: Launched in 2015, Investree has a peer-to-peer (P2P) lending platform that connects people who want to invest money with people who want to borrow money. Investree administers the lending process by verifying borrower’s creditworthiness, facilitating the fund between borrower and investors, and documenting legal loan agreement. In June, it secured the commitment of a Series A round of funding from Kejora Ventures.

fintech-indonesiaKitabisa.com: A social crowdfunding platform where, individuals can use it to initiate campaigns and donations, as well as view and choose the campaigns to which they can donate.

Market Provisioning

Under this category, startups function as resource books to anyone entering a potential fintech market. They provide users with relevant data, assistance, and guidance regarding various markets.

fintech-indonesiaCekaja.com: Launched in 2013, the platform allows users to compare various financial products at one place. The products include but are not limited to vehicle and health insurances, credit cards, housing loans, Internet and cable TV packages, and SME loans. It secured Series B funding in October 2016.

fintech-indonesiaTaniHub: Tanihub is an ecommerce platform that connects farmers and buyers and eliminates the need for middlemen.

Investment & Risk Management

Startups functioning in the automated processing, dissemination of investment, and risk management advice for individuals and companies fall under this particular sub-category.

fintech-indonesiaJOJONOMIC: JOJONOMIC digitises the entire employee reimbursement process for an employee. Launched in 2015, the startup offers an application-based reimbursement system to minimise the company’s miscalculation risk and accelerates the reimbursement processes. It raised $1.5 Mn in its Series A round, in September 2016.

fintech-indonesiaRajaPremi:  Founded in 2014, RajaPremi is an online insurance marketplace. It enables users to select various insurance programmes, compare them at a single place, and finally purchase the most suitable insurance. It secured undisclosed funding in 2015.

fintech-indonesiaBareksa: Founded in 2016, it is an online and integrated marketplace for mutual funds. It makes investing in mutual funds easier, by providing the necessary options, tutorials, and tools for mutual funds investments. The startup secured undisclosed amount in funding in April this year.

Digital Payments

This category introduces customers to novel ways of both online and offline payments, and other related opportunities in regards to payments.

Kudo: Launched in 2014, the startup has a website and a mobile application that enables anyone to be an online entrepreneur without having to personally stock the items. Verified sellers or ‘agents’ are free to choose from roughly three million types of products to be sold. Buyers will pick their products, contact the respective agents and agree on the payment method. It was acquired by ride sharing platform Grab in February this year.

DOKU:  A 2007 founded startup, Doku is the biggest player in the Indonesian payments scene. Functioning as an online and offline payment gateway for businesses and individuals, DOKU is an e-wallet equipped with links to credit card and electronic money. It functions like Paytm and users can also be used to send money to offline retailers registered on the network.

fintech-indonesiat-cash: Founded in 2011, it is an electronic money service provided by Telkomsel (a telecom giant). Users are required to install the T-Wallet app on their mobiles and equip their mobiles with the t-cash stickers. The stickers are to be scanned at merchants with t-cash scanning machines upon payment. Other forms of payments such as utility bills, train tickets, and concert tickets can also be done using the app.

fintech-indonesiaAyopop: Launched in 2016, Ayopop is an app that specialises in bill payments. In other words, it enables users to pay for things like their phone bills, electricity, and Internet services through its app. The startup secured funding earlier this year from GREE Ventures.

POS (Point-Of-Sales Startups)

fintech-indonesiaPawoon: Launched in 2013, Pawoon is a cloud-based Point of Sales (POS) application for SMEs. It helps them become more efficient and productive in running their business, by providing a platform that gives them the tools to thrive in the current era of connected commerce. It closed its Series A round earlier this year.

fintech-indonesiaDealPOS: DealPOS is a cloud-based point-of-sale ( POS ), inventory and accounting software for business which was also launched in 2013. DealPOS was founded to provide small businesses with an easy-to-use software to help manage their inventory and billing activities.

Cryptocurrencies

Says Hari Sivan, founder and CEO, SoCash, “Cryptocurrencies are far away from mass adoption for value exchange, the incremental benefits over other payment options are overrated. Cross-selling is something all business eventually do, so perhaps a data driven approach may give some businesses are the chance to disintermediate others. In a large & diverse market with growing demographics, the “next big thing” is hard to predict. However, it will be safe to bet on software-led innovation, shift towards renewables in our energy mix and automation forcing a massive need to re-skill the workforce in the next two decades.”

fintech-indonesiaQuoine: Quoine is an advanced Bitcoin trading platform offering margin trading and algo-trading across a number of currency pairs which was launched in 2014. It secured $20 Mn in its latest funding round in June 2016.

fintech-indonesiaBitcoin.co.id: Launched in 2013, it is the biggest Indonesian Bitcoin Exchange that acts as the backbone for the entire finance ecosystem in Indonesia implementing cryptocurrency technology in the payments system and remittance business. The startup secured $50K in an angel round of funding in February 2014.

In 2016 alone, the total disclosed funding in fintech in Indonesia reached $36 Mn (IDR 486 Bn), which includes IPOs and investment from parent company outside of the country. With eight investment activities in 2016, East Ventures came out to be the most active local venture capital which poured funds into fintech startups in the country. On the other hand, 500 Startups took the title of the  most active foreign VC in Indonesia’s fintech ecosystem, with 3 investments in 2016.

Banks, Fintech, & Startups: The Holy Trinity

With the advent of startups in the last few years, the banks have seen itself changing from a predominantly transactional business to a customer-centric one. With shifting consumption patterns, it is only a matter of time that the digital natives will conquer traditional players when it comes to customer acquisition, thus changing the industry ecosystem and forcing financial organisations to shape up or ship out. The digital sector is evolving rapidly and encompassing each facet of banks and fintech startups today, need to be on top of their game to stay ahead of the competition.

New-Age financial institutions aka fintech startups, like online lending platform, can offer affordable loans for customers as higher efficiency translates to less operational cost, which can pose a threat to the existence of banks, especially to those that are still reluctant to provide digital services. At the same time, the current penetration rate of fintech services in Indonesia is below 2%, as per a GIV report. This strengthens the position of banks as still the dominant players when it comes to customer retention and the Internet penetration.

Fintech, will thus prove to be a double edged sword for the Indonesian banks. On one hand, the traditional brick-and-mortar banks are being pushed to speed up their games and adopt technology as their primary vehicle for customer retention, just like in India.

For instance, earlier this year, in January 2017, Bank Tabungan Pensiunan Nasional (BTPN) launched its own fintech service, called Jenius, which allows users to open accounts in banks via a mobile device and manage their own personal finances. Users can also give a nickname to their banks account, instead of the conservative lengthy account number. This shows that banks have now become open and receptive to the idea of tech-efficient credit systems and are open to entering into strategic partnerships with various startups for lending and payments.

A successful fintech ecosystem of the future will be where all the market participants connect engage and share ideas across vibrant communities and networks as well as identify and convert opportunities into business. In this age of penetrative technology, no market participant can afford to operate individually.

Government And The Fintech Opportunity

For any new venture to succeed, in a country where the number of potential entrepreneurs is rising by the day, the role of administrative bodies and government towards boosting the emerging tech sector and other financial institutions, becomes very crucial. No technical and industrial sector can grow without adequate support from its administrative bodies.

The government, being receptive of developments in the fintech sector, launched the Fintech Association of Indonesia in 2015. As per an official statement, it has more than 55 registered startups and has identified 120 more.

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The country’s President, Joko Widodo, in June 2016 also launched an initiative called the ‘1,000 Startups Movement.’ The initiative aims to develop 1,000 startups by the end of 2020, the total valuation for which is expected to be around $10 Bn. Additionally, it also plans to establish a dedicated section within its main stock exchange to host initial public offerings by startups. It wants to set up a new trading market, that will be called the ‘technology board” – at the Indonesia Stock Exchange with an aim to ease the process for founders and investors to take their companies public in an easier way.

With an aim to provide small business owners with necessary financial assistance, the government of Indonesia has launched PENSA (Program for Eastern Indonesian Small and Medium Enterprise Assistance) in collaboration with the International Finance Center (IFC).

In November 2016, the Indonesian government, through the Central Bank, had launched the Regulation on Payments Transaction Processing to provide legal assurance for new and existing payments business activities. It has also created a Fintech Office whose work also includes capacity building and regulatory sandboximplementation.

In December 2016, the FSA issued a regulation on online peer-to-peer (P2P) lending, only one month after the Bank of Indonesia launched operations of a special office for fintech. As per a report by the Jakarta Post, the government has also implemented digital signatures in the country, and the process will come into being by the second quarter of 2017.

Challenges And The Road Ahead

FinTech can be developed to reach millions of Indonesians by providing easier access to a wide range of financial products tailored to the characteristics of the community. Like financial services in general, fintech is a business of trust, and incidences of frauds would lead people to abandon the tech.

Secondly, providing a solid back-end infrastructure is very important to support venture capitalists. If the exit infrastructure is not available, venture capitalists would then choose to list startups abroad, with better chances of gain from its secondary markets. Therefore, the Indonesia Stock Exchange, OJK, startup founders, and venture capitalists should be sitting together to find best practices for this issue, such as a parallel stock exchange.

The government too needs to come to the front and issue some extensive rules and regulations, when it comes to operating fintech in Indonesia. At the same time, regulations that will be issued by the OJK should not be too rigid, so as to provide a balanced climate. Some regulatory concerns include business licensing, business operation, governance, supervision and inspection, reporting obligations, and equities. Maintaining and promoting enthusiasm for the sector, with a climate of fair opportunities takes absolute essence.

At the same time, secondary factors like education, information, and Internet penetration would also need a boost so as to push the bandwagon of Indonesian fintech startups further. The fintech ecosystem that has roped in banks and startups alike in its waves would go till which great extents, only time will tell.

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New Year 2017 Wishlist: What Gadgets 360 Staff Are Looking to Buy for Themselves – and Why

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Predictably, there’s a couple of new iPhones in there
  • VR gets a couple of shouts too
  • Gaming seems to be the most in-demand category for 2017

Now that 2017 is upon us, the talk inside the Gadgets 360 lab has shifted to things such as CES, MWC, and of course, iPhone 8 rumours. And, since we spend too much time shopping for tech, we’re also predictably talking about all the gadgets we want to buy.

For many of us, this is also a bit of a break from reality – we’ve had people in our team dream of buying an Xbox One for a couple of years before taking the plunge – but who doesn’t enjoy planning that next big tech buy?

If you’re curious about the gadgets that will be filling the Gadgets 360 office in the coming months – hopefully – then read on to see everyone’s top pick for buying in 2017.

Abhinav Lal: HTC Vive – While this will also entail a PC upgrade for me, I want to enter the world of PC gaming VR, and the HTC Vive looks like the best bet so far.

Akhil Arora: 4K HDR TV – Good 4K HDR TVs are way too expensive right now. I was lucky enough to witness the capabilities of one such TV when it landed in our office, and when Netflix showed off the high-end version. Despite the lack of content heading into 2017, I’m sold on the idea of buying one – if money was no barrier – more so because of how much TV I tend to watch.

Sony Z9D

Devika Chitnis: JBL GO – I am in dire need of a portable speaker. JBL Go has a clean design which is awesome and comes in different pop colours that make the speaker look alive. I am eyeing the orange one. The sound quality is surprisingly good for an affordable portable speaker.

Gagan Gupta: Bose QC35 – Now that I’ve said goodbye to the 3.5mm jack thanks to my iPhone 7 Plus, I need a good pair of over the ear headphones that can keep out noise, expecially on flights and cabs. While the Bose QC35 may not be every audiophile’s headphones of choice, it’s still the best when it comes to active noise cancellation, and it sounds just right with my classic rock collection.

Gopal Sathe: Zotac VR GO Backpack – I’ve been interested in VR since the Oculus Kickstarter first got off the ground. That we are finally “there” is hard to believe. That you can now put on a backpack and enjoy a (largely) mobile yet high quality VR experience is nothing short of magical. If I have the money, I’d absolutely be getting the Zotac VR GO Backpack.

zotac vr go box contents

Jamshed Avari: Geforce GTX 1070 – It really is time to get serious about tackling my Steam backlog. I’ve been putting this off for a long time, but looking at the kind of performance that both Nvidia and AMD have both brought to the table this year, it’s finally time. I’m leaning towards the GTX 1070 because I want enough performance headroom to drive top-tier games at 1920×1200 pixels for at least a few years. The specific graphics card will depend on prices and availability at the time of purchase.

Ketan Pratap: Next iPhone – I have been an Android user all of my life but I guess it’s about time to go for my first iPhone. Considering this year is the tenth anniversary of the first iPhone launch, I expect the next one to come with decent changes both in terms of innards as well as design.

Kunal Dua: What Gagan said.

Naina Gupta: Next iPhone – I have heard too much about iPhone around me but never used it. I want to take experience of 3D Touch, Live Photos, and other unique features of iPhone.

Pranay Parab: Board/ Card games – I’ve been meaning to reduce screen time and spend more time with my friends and family. Card games and board games sound like a way to accomplish this, without spending obscene amounts of money at cinemas and restaurants.

We’ve all played and hated Monopoly (aka Business), but there are great alternatives such as Pandemic, Resistance, Catan, Game of Thrones, Star Wars: Rebellion. I’m also planning to play funny card games such as Exploding Kittens with my friends.

Ravi Sharma: Nintendo Switch – I am not much of a gamer, but the Nintendo Switch (and its hybrid form factor) may finally be the device that pulls me into the fold. The rumoured price tag of $250-300 makes the Switch cheap enough for me to afford it, without sacrificing my budget for a mid-range laptop that I am also planning to buy in 2017.

And games such new Sonic, Mario, Dragon Quest X, Legend of Zelda titles that are expected to be released for Nintendo Switch are enough to satiate my appetite for nostalgia, while the exclusives will hopefully be engaging enough to retain me on the platform.

switch

Rishi Alwani: Project Scorpio – The PS4 Pro has a one year headstart over Microsoft’s next iteration on the Xbox One, that will remain a highly competent piece of kit in 2017. However I’m extremely curious to see how Microsoft leverages its fantastic first-party franchises, such as Forza and Halo to make full use of Project Scorpio, more so with the likes of Scalebound and Crackdown 3 on the way.

Rohan Naravane: Google Pixel 2 – It was great to see Google finally taking hardware into its own hands, and launch the Pixel phones. Since there’s been only one Pixel phone till now, there’s no guarantee if, or when, we’ll see another one. If Google does release a ‘Pixel 2’, which I’m hoping will happen around the end of 2017, then I would certainly want to buy one.

Roydon Cerejo: Manfrotto Advanced Camera and Laptop backpack – I’ve been looking to replace my Lowepro Photo Hatchback (which is still serving me brillliantly) with something that can accommodate a laptop too. This particular Manfrotto backpack seem like the prefect combination of size, versitality and price, for me anyways.

manfrotto bag backpack

Sandeep Kumar Sinha: Sony Smart TV – I need to synchronise my playlists and other streamable content on the devices I own, and, in 2017, my television should have this feature. A Sony Smart TV is a likeable product that I am looking to buy in 2017 as most of the apps I use could be mirrored and projected easily.

Sanket Vijayasarathy: PlayStation 4 – I’ve been meaning to get my hands on the PlayStation 4 for a while now. I’ve played a bunch of PS4 titles at friends’ places, but seeing as how the console is now available for around Rs. 26,000 (for the 500GB model, whenever there’s a sale on), I think the time has come for me to move on to a current-gen console.

ps4 black white

Shekhar Thakran: Tekken 7 – I still have fond memories of playing Tekken 3 as well as Tekken 5 on my Playstation 2 from several years ago. As the game franchise is finally coming to PC with Tekken 7 next year, it is a no-brainer for me. With much-improved graphics and the same old characters, nothing that can go wrong.

Shubham Verma: Microsoft Surface Studio with the Microsoft Dial – The beautiful, large-screen monitor is worth swooning over, and the Microsoft Dial takes things to another level. I keep making different art designs on my laptop, and the Microsoft Dial and Surface pen would make this so much easier. While the price will probably keep me from ever actually buying this gadget, if I had the money, the considering the features and the advanced actions enabled by them, this would be the must-buy package of 2017.

More people are buying diamonds for themselves as global sales bounce back

Shoppers are increasingly treating themselves to diamond jewellery, rather than buying it for others – helping push the global market back into growth.

Worldwide diamond sales hit $80bn (£62bn) in 2016, according to industry leader De Beers, reversing a dip the year before when demand from China and India slumped.

Global sales were bolstered by rising demand in the US, the world’s biggest diamond market, which accounts for 50pc of all polished stones.

Stephen Lussier, marketing director of De Beers, said that one-third of all sales in the US were now down to “self-purchase”, up from around a quarter before 2008.

“Gift-giving is still the foundation of sales, but there is a trend of economically empowered women buying diamond jewellery for themselves,” Mr Lussier said.

This is split across younger, “millennial” shoppers – those born after 1980 – and married women, according to De Beers.

jewellers
US diamond retail sales recorded their fifth straight year of growth

The increasing popularity of designer jewellery, such as “stackable” diamond rings, was also driving self-purchase, Mr Lussier added. “It’s very hard for men to buy design-oriented jewellery because we get it wrong. We can buy the classical cuts but women are more particular about designer jewellery.”

Diamond jewellery sales in India slumped 8.8pc last year after the local market was hit by a six-week jewellers’ strike and a surprise demonisation programme launched by the government.

The removal of high-denomination banknotes in a crackdown on the black market rocked the local diamond industry, which is largely cash driven. Although India only accounts for 6pc of global retail sales, it is responsible for around 90pc of the world’s diamond cutting and polishing.

Mr Lussier said the world diamond market was looking “pretty steady” this year, with India bouncing back more quickly than expected, and sales rising in China.

These Are 7 TED Talks Every Entrepreneur Must Watch

I can’t say enough about TED talks.  The concept of taking a few minutes to explore personal, important stories that connect us and help us become better versions of ourselves is just a magnificent wonder.  I’ve collected some of my favorite TED talks that promote ideas all entrepreneurs should consider.

TED Talks for Entrepreneurs

1. Steven Johnson:  Where Good Ideas Come From

Author Steven Johnson challenges the common misconception that problem solving is based on some brilliant moment of inspiration.  Rather, Johnson argues that it is hard work, preparation, and being connected to people with complementary skillsets that bring about solutions.

2. Reshma Saujani: Teach Girls Bravery, Not Perfection

This one’s not just for women, though it does emphasize the importance of inclusiveness for future success.  Saujani connects a willingness to boldly take risks to the evolution she’d like to see in the future of computer science.  Men and women alike can benefit from letting go of a fear of failure.

3. Tim Urban:  Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator

Not only is Urban a champion of long-form writing in a world of listicles, but he is also seriously funny.  Urban urges viewers to take a more critical look at their procrastination tendencies in order to better prioritize their lives.

7 Must Watch TED Talks for Entrepreneurs

4. Dalia Mogahed:  What Do You Think When You Look at Me?

As our workplaces become increasingly globalized, it’s important to be cognizant of how we respond to people who are different from us, whether that’s in skin color, culture, religion, or political leanings.  Mogahed, a Muslim scholar, shines a light on the compelling reasons why empathy is a critical skill.

5. Bill Gross:  The Single Biggest Reason Why Startups Succeed

We all know that new businesses face a ridiculously high failure rate.  What Bill Gross has done is explore – in a masterful display of data analytics — what differentiates startup success from failure.  It turns out there’s one surprising factor that correlates with success.

6. Malcolm Gladwell: The Unheard Story of David and Goliath

Few writers are better than Malcolm Gladwell at taking the familiar and turning it on its head in a way that challenges all our assumptions.  Gladwell tackles the classic Bible story of the underdog who wins in spite of insurmountable odds and transforms it into a call to reimagine our understanding of power and its effects on our relationships.

7. Pamela Meyer: How to Spot a Liar

In addition to being flat-out fascinating, author Pamela Meyer’s exploration of the hundreds of lies we are told each day evolves into a compelling case for striving to become a more honest society.  Ethical entrepreneurs will enjoy the pep talk while simultaneously picking up tips that will help detect deception.

We all have stories, and in fact storytelling is one of the powerful rituals that unites us, inspires us, and reminds us there’s more to life than the balance of our bank accounts.  TED talks open our eyes and minds in ways entrepreneurs should embrace.

Oh — and here’s a bonus TEDx talk:

Mike Michalowicz: “Profit First” is better for entrepreneurs than “G.A.A.P.”

I would never put myself on the same level as the speakers above, but my talk explores a proven, practical strategy that can eliminate entrepreneurial poverty.  Enjoy.

20 Women Entrepreneurs Who Are Changing the World

It’s a great time to be a female entrepreneur. There are plenty of trailblazers making their mark on a variety of different industries. If you’re looking for some inspiration or any female entrepreneurs to look up to, take a look at the successful women entrepreneurs listed below and learn how they’re changing the world with their businesses.

Successful Women Entrepreneurs

Rebecca Minkoff

20 Successful Women Entrepreneurs - Rebecca Minkoff

The millennial fashion designer has built her own clothing and accessory empire by targeting young women and actually connecting with them on a personal level, mainly using social media and influencer marketing.

Alexa von Tobel

This entrepreneur actually dropped out of Harvard Business School before starting her business, LearnVest. Her goal with the business is to bring financial knowledge to the masses to help them make better decisions.

Weili Dai

Weili Dai is the co-founder of Marvell Technology Group, a company that makes semiconductors. The tech entrepreneur has won numerous awards and recognition for her ability to succeed in a male dominated industry.

Pamela Slim

Pamela Slim is an author, teacher and business expert. She provides coaching and consulting services to other entrepreneurs looking to boost their bottom line.

Leslie Blodgett

An accomplished entrepreneur, Leslie Blodgett has stood at the helm of multiple beauty brands, including Bare Escentuals and Shiseido.

Tory Burch

20 Successful Women Entrepreneurs - Tory Burch

This popular fashion designer has built a worldwide brand of shoes, handbags, clothing and more. She is also a philanthropist and has won several awards for her designs and business acumen.

Cher Wang

Cher Wang is the co-founder and chairperson of HTC. And her success is magnified by the fact that she does it all in the tech industry, a sector that has traditionally been dominated mainly by male entrepreneurs.

Angie Hicks

Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a website that helps connect consumers with local service providers. She started the business back in 1995 and has since grown it into one of the most recognizable sources for finding service providers.

Shelia Lirio Marcelo

This female entrepreneur founded an innovative online startup to help people find child care, pet sitters and house sitters. Care.com is now one of the top sources for finding child care providers online.

Cynthia Ndubuisi

Cynthia Ndubuisi is the entrepreneur behind EverGlow, a company that makes biodegradable dish soap that’s derived from plants. She created the product because of some challenges faced by people in her native country of Nigeria. And she used the help of a mentor to build it into a recognizable brand.

Arianna Huffington

20 Successful Women Entrepreneurs - Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington founded the Huffington Post, one of the most notable news publications online. Since then, AOL acquired the publication. But Huffington remains involved in business endeavors and has another startup in the works called Thrive Global.

Erica Nicole

This entrepreneur is the founder and CEO of YFS Magazine. The news site focuses on providing informative content to young self-employed individuals and entrepreneurs.

Rashmi Sinha

This female entrepreneur created an online presentation tool that’s popular with a lot of small businesses — SlideShare. She’s been named as one of the most powerful female entrepreneurs in the world.

Sara Blakely

The founder of SPANX dealt with plenty of failure in the professional world before starting the wildly successful shapewear business. Now, it’s a globally recognized brand. And Blakely’s net worth has been estimated at about $1 billion.

Yang Lan

This entrepreneur is the founder of Sun Media, a Chinese media group. Her empire includes TV, newspapers, magazines and more. And she’s been named as one of the most powerful entrepreneurs in China.

Sophia Amoruso

Although her original entrepreneurial venture, Nasty Gal, folded earlier this year, Amoruso remains involved in the business world. She has a successful book, Netflix show and other projects in the works.

Debbi Fields

Debbi Fields is the female entrepreneur behind Mrs. Fields cookies. She started the business with just a small personal investment and built it into a large, nationwide brand.

Gisele Bundchen

Though Gisele Bundchen might be more well known for her modeling career, she is also an accomplished entrepreneur. Her skin care business, Sejaa Skincare, brings in millions each year.

Corri McFadden

If you think ecommerce reselling is just a hobby, think again. Corri McFadden has built a very successful business based on that concept. Her business is called eDrop-Off. And she and her team collect gently used luxury goods and resell them on eBay.

Mei Pak

Though she actually has a degree in mathematics, Mei Pak decided to go the entrepreneurial route instead and started Tiny Hands, a company that sells unique and handmade jewelry pieces.

 

What Are Top Performing Customer Service Companies Doing?

How well does your company’s customer service measure up? Salesforce.com recently released a survey of nearly 2,000 global companies that are leaders in customer service. The study looked at common service benchmarks, service trends for the year ahead, and the factors that define high-performing customer service teams. Here’s what the survey uncovered about top-performing customer service organizations, and the lessons for your business.

Top performing customer service companies …

  • Have three priorities: “always-on” service, personalized service and faster service. For a small business, outsourcing customer service can offer your customers 24/7 assistance, CRM tools can help you maintain records enabling more personalized service, and setting goals and monitoring results can improve response speed.
  • Value efficiency. Speed is still the number-one metric top performers use to measure their customer service reps’ success. When asked to name their top three metrics, 47 percent choose average handle time, 38 percent say the number of cases handled and 32 percent name customer satisfaction.
  • Empower customer service employees to do whatever is needed to make customers happy. Top-performing companies are more than three times more likely than poor performers to have empowered employees.
  • Are more likely to be heavy users of technology. For example, high performers are more likely to be providing service via mobile apps or to be exploring video streaming as a customer service tool.
  • Excel at predicting what customers need. You can use CRM tools as well as social listening tools to assist in these predictions.
  • Use analytics and dashboards to learn and improve. You can use these tools to measure your customer service team’s key performance indicators, as well as to collect and analyze customer feedback.
  • Tap into the power of self-service and community portals to enable customers to find their own solutions to problems. (That’s a smart move, because the same study shows Millennial consumers overwhelmingly use self-service options first before initiating any type of interaction with a customer service representative.) Creating self-service options can be simple, like putting up a list of FAQs or more complex, such as a searchable database of solutions.

Is your small business on track to be a top customer service performer — or are you already there?

Kodi Boxes Are Coming Under Fire For Plugins That Enable Copyright Infringement

Authorities across the world are increasingly taking action over Kodi media streaming hardware which is being sold on eBay and other sites. These boxes are pre-loaded with Kodi and a set of plugins that allow users to watch live video or movies and TV shows, all without paying a penny.

Kodi is a free and open source media streamer with a long history. It started life as Xbox Media Centre or XBMC, and was designed as a way to get video playback on your original generation Xbox. As time has passed though the software has opened up to more plugins and has been used as a platform to watch copyrighted material without paying.

Kodi has even managed to find itself being covered in the mainstream press as the sale of devices which are described as “Kodi fully loaded”. These boxes are designed to appeal to the mass market and feature a pretty standard piece of network streaming hardware with Kodi installed. Included with this will be a set of plugins that allow you to watch content like live sports, as well as pretty much every TV programme ever made, and all without paying more than the initial cost of the box.Image result for Kodi Boxes Are Coming Under Fire For Plugins That Enable Copyright Infringement

Increasingly though sellers of these boxes are running into legal problems. The EU now requires that box sellers verify that the software provided on the boxes they sell doesn’t infringe on the copyright of others. And you may now be aware that the government has sought much harsher punishments for copyright infringers.

And US satellite broadcaster Dish Network is now seeking $150,000 per infringement, which would make the liability for any box seller become fairly massive. For many doing this the financial rewards just aren’t significant enough to risk such stiff penalties. For most of the plugin authors there’s no real money to be made here, and like most forms of copyright infringement it’s about user convenience more than it is about depriving any business of money.

For example, it’s a lot easier to tap a couple of buttons on a Kodi box than it is to get your West Wing DVD box set out and play an episode. It’s nicer to have all your favourite shows in one interface than to have to jump from Netflix to Amazon Prime to iTunes. And what’s more, streaming services don’t universally run on every type of streamer.

As always though, the fight to stop people selling boxes doesn’t really address the issues. These plugins often use files stored on the cloud. These are hosted on Dropbox, Google Drive or other similar services and shutting them down is next to impossible. It sends a message of course, but the problem won’t go away.

Millions of Kids Are Being Shaped by Know-It-All Voice Assistants

Kids adore their new robot siblings.

As millions of American families buy robotic voice assistants to turn off lights, order pizzas and fetch movie times, children are eagerly co-opting the gadgets to settle dinner table disputes, answer homework questions and entertain friends at sleepover parties.

Many parents have been startled and intrigued by the way these disembodied, know-it-all voices – Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, Microsoft’s Cortana – are impacting their kids’ behavior, making them more curious but also, at times, far less polite.

In just two years, the promise of the technology has already exceeded the marketing come-ons. The disabled are using voice assistants to control their homes, order groceries and listen to books. Caregivers to the elderly say the devices help with dementia, reminding users what day it is or when to take medicine.

For children, the potential for transformative interactions are just as dramatic – at home and in classrooms. But psychologists, technologists and linguists are only beginning to ponder the possible perils of surrounding kids with artificial intelligence, particularly as they traverse important stages of social and language development.

Millions of Kids Are Being Shaped by Know-It-All Voice Assistants

“How they react and treat this nonhuman entity is, to me, the biggest question,” said Sandra Calvert, a Georgetown University psychologist and director of the Children’s Digital Media Center. “And how does that subsequently affect family dynamics and social interactions with other people?”

With an estimated 25 million voice assistants expected to sell this year at $40 to $180 – up from 1.7 million in 2015 – there are even ramifications for the diaper crowd.

Toy giant Mattel recently announced the birth of Aristotle, a home baby monitor launching this summer that “comforts, teaches and entertains” using AI from Microsoft. As children get older, they can ask or answer questions. The company says, “Aristotle was specifically designed to grow up with a child.”

Boosters of the technology say kids typically learn to acquire information using the prevailing technology of the moment – from the library card catalogue, to Google, to brief conversations with friendly, all-knowing voices. But what if these gadgets lead children, whose faces are already glued to screens, further away from situations where they learn important interpersonal skills?

It’s unclear whether any of the companies involved are even paying attention to this issue.

Amazon did not return a request for comment. A spokeswoman for the Partnership for AI, a new organization that includes Google, Amazon, Microsoft and other companies working on voice assistants, said nobody was available to answer questions.

“These devices don’t have emotional intelligence,” said Allison Druin, a University of Maryland professor who studies how children use technology. “They have factual intelligence.”

Children certainly enjoy their company, referring to Alexa like just another family member.

“We like to ask her a lot of really random things,” said Emerson Labovich, a fifth-grader in Bethesda, Md., who pesters Alexa with her older brother Asher.

This winter, Emerson asked her almost every day help counting down the days until a trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida.

“She can also rap and rhyme,” Emerson said.

Today’s children will be shaped by AI much like their grandparents were shaped by new devices called television. But you couldn’t talk with a TV.

Ken Yarmosh, a 36-year-old Northern Virginia app developer and founder of Savvy Apps has multiple voice assistants in his family’s home, including those made by Google and Amazon. (The Washington Post is owned by Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos, whose middle name is Preston, according to Alexa.)

Yarmosh’s 2-year-old son has been so enthralled by Alexa that he tries to speak with coasters and other cylindrical objects that look like Amazon’s device. Meanwhile, Yarmosh’s now 5-year-old son, in comparing his two assistants, came to believe Google knew him better.

“Alexa isn’t smart enough for me,” he’d say, asking random questions that his parents couldn’t answer, like how many miles it is to China. (“China is 7,248 miles away, ” Google Home says, “as the crow flies.”)

In talking that way about a device plugged into a wall, Yarmosh’s son was anthropomorphizing it – which means to “ascribe human features to something,” Alexa happily explains. Humans do this a lot, Calvert said. We do it with dogs, dressing them in costumes on Halloween. We name boats. And when we encounter robots, we – especially children – treat them as near equals.

In 2012, University of Washington researchers published results of a study involving 90 children interacting with a life-size robot named Robovie. Most kids thought Robovie had “mental states” and was a “social being.” When Robovie was shoved into a closet, more than half felt it wasn’t fair. A similar emotional connection is taking hold with Alexa and other assistants – even for parents.

 

“It’s definitely become part of our lives,” said Emerson’s mother, Laura Labovich, who then quickly corrected herself: “She’s definitely part of our lives.”

The problem, Druin said, is that this emotional connection sets up expectations for children that devices can’t or weren’t designed to meet, causing confusion, frustration and even changes in the way kids talk or interact with adults.

Yarmosh’s son thought Alexa couldn’t understand him, but it was the algorithms that couldn’t grasp the pitch in his voice or the way children formulate questions. Educators introducing these devices into classrooms and school libraries have encountered the same issue.

“If Alexa doesn’t understand the question, is it Alexa’s fault or might it be the question’s fault?” said Gwyneth Jones, a librarian who uses Amazon’s device at Murray Hill Middle School in Laurel, Md. “People are not always going to get what they are saying, so it’s important that they learn how to ask good questions.”

Naomi S. Baron, an American University linguist who studies digital communication, is among those who wonder whether the devices, even as they get smarter, will push children to value simplistic language – and simplistic inquiries – over nuance and complex questions.

Asking Alexa, “How do you ask a good question?” produces this answer: “I wasn’t able to understand the question I heard.” But she is able to answer a simple derivative: “What is a question?”

“A linguistic expression used to make a request for information,” she says.

And then there is the potential rewiring of adult-child communication.

Although Mattel’s new assistant will have a setting forcing children to say “please” when asking for information, the assistants made by Google, Amazon and others are designed so users can quickly – and bluntly – ask questions. Parents are noticing some not-so-subtle changes in their children.

In a blog post last year, a California venture capitalist wrote that his 4-year-old daughter thought Alexa was the best speller in the house. “But I fear it’s also turning our daughter into a raging a——,” Hunter Walk wrote. “Because Alexa tolerates poor manners.”

To ask her a question, all you need to do is say her name, followed by the query. No “please.” And no “thank you” before asking a follow-up.

“Cognitively I’m not sure a kid gets why you can boss Alexa around but not a person,” Walk wrote. “At the very least, it creates patterns and reinforcement that so long as your diction is good, you can get what you want without niceties.”

Jones, the librarian, has witnessed the digital equivalent of everybody asking a question at the same time.

“You all are being really pushy,” she’ll say, as Alexa declares over and over that she doesn’t understand. “You’re confusing her. One at a time, just like a person.”

The personal yet transactional nature of the relationship is appealing to children and teenagers. Parents (including this reporter) have noticed that queries previously made to adults are shifting to assistants, particularly for homework – spelling words, simple math, historical facts.

Or take the weather, particularly in winter. Instead of asking Mom or Dad the temperature that day, children just go to the device, treating the answer as gospel.

Upside: No more fights over what the temperature will really be and what’s appropriate to wear. Downside: Kids will go to their parents less, with both sides losing out on timeworn interactions.

“There can be a lot of unintended consequences to interactions with these devices that mimic conversation,” said Kate Darling, an MIT professor who studies how humans interact with robots. “We don’t know what all of them are yet.”

But most researchers, educators and parents – even some kids – already agree that these devices need to be put in their place, just like a know-it-all sibling.

Jones, the librarian, puts Alexa away for a couple of weeks at a time, so her students don’t rely on her too much. Yarmosh, who recently launched a project curating online videos for kids, is keeping the assistants out of his children’s rooms. Emerson and her brother take a school playground approach.

“Alexa,” they’ll say, “you’re such a butt.”

Here are Lahore-based makeup artist Hifsa Khan's essential tips for summer brides

LAHORE: 

Pondering over beauty trends, experimenting with different looks on different models and dressing up more than a dozen brides daily is what makes being a makeup artist a serious job. Hifsa Khan is one such beautician, who chose a completely different path for herself over than a decade ago, determined to establishing a makeup career. From a nine to five banking job, Hifsa made a shift to the beauty industry in 2009 and has become a household name in Lahore since then.

PHOTO: PUBLICITY

PHOTO: PUBLICITY

This makeup artist with face tumour is redefining beauty standards

“The switch from a banker to a makeup artist was not an easy one. But, after my own experience as a bride, I chose to change jobs. I realised that bride’s need more pampering, a listening ear and a professional who is with them at all times to guide them through one of the most important days of their lives,” Hifsa told The Express Tribune.  “A prominent feature of my style is that all our brides look nothing less than dolls on their big day and that is what sets us apart.”

There’s no gainsaying that the beauty industry is a competitive place. According to Hifsa, she follows the Five Reasons Theory to attract clients. “Our advantage is the strategy we try to follow. The first reason is the consultation we give to the bride about what look we can create for her, keeping in mind her jewellery and outfit. Secondly, we do the essential hair demo on her to make sure that the selected style suits her face,” revealed Hifsa.

PHOTO: PUBLICITY

PHOTO: PUBLICITY

5 celebrity makeup looks and how to get it right

“Next, we provide a complete consultation on hair, skin and body which involves focusing on areas of improvement. Fourthly, all brides are called for a post photo-shoot touch up so they feel confident and glowing while entering the venue. Lastly, we give the bride quick fix tips incase her makeup smudges after she leaves the salon.”

The core satisfaction for any good makeup artist comes from using products that help customers look their best. “Makeup is not a transformation but the correction of imperfections. The way it enhances a person’s look without changing the features is what I love about it.”

Hifsa caters to approximately 10 to 12 brides every day. What she doesn’t like is how today’s brides go over-the-top for every function, hence losing their charm on the main day. “Guests are so dressed up on all the weddings functions that the bride has no choice but to get decked up on her mayoun also. But, this is not how it should be. As far as the bridal rates are concerned, these depend on the demand and supply in the market,” explained Hifsa.

Nadia Hussain’s five beauty secrets

Interestingly, the most common mistake she sees in the bridal industry is that most artists try to make their clients appear fairer than they actually are. “Natural skin tone should be maintained at all times. Going a shade lighter is still okay but making someone look ridiculously white is just not done,” she said. Sharing one of her favourite beauty tips, Hifsa said, “The concept of less is more. This is the greatest tip I can give to girls. Please use less makeup for maximum results. Makeup is just for minimal coverage and it should not be used like excessive cream on cake.”

Hifsa Khan PHOTO:FILE

Hifsa Khan PHOTO:FILE

Hifsa highly recommends products such as the Dior foundation, Mac eyeliner and Laura Mercier blush on. “Girls love fake eyelashes these days. Such accessories don’t only add to the makeup but also look gorgeous on their own. This summer’s focus is on makeup that does not show, and so foundations with medium coverage and low resolution are getting the most attention.”

Have something to add to the story? Share it in the comments below.