We are back with the Tech Ticker and more interesting titbits from the tech space. July saw a lot of activity and the ones around the Union Budget, the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018 (PDP Bill) and GAFA particularly caught our eye.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman proposed to scrap merchant discount rates (MDR) for merchants with an annual turnover of over INR 50 crore who provided low-cost digital payment options like UPI, inviting considerable opposition. Digital payment firms are now waiting for the new finance secretary to discuss this proposal while some firms have proposed that the centre should reimburse them for their losses on account of the MDR being scrapped.
There was some action on the PDP Bill with a high-level government panel recommending to do away with the requirement of foreign firms storing a copy of all personal data within India. However at this point all of this is conjecture and nothing has been set in stone.
Overseas, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee’s anti-trust panel summoned Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon (GAFA) for a meeting to discuss their growing monopoly in the digital arena and its effects on innovation. The US Department of Justice (DoJ) also hinted at an investigation of leading tech companies for anti-trust practices. Back home, India ratified the ‘Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting’ to check tax evasion, which is certain to impact the balance sheets of the GAFA.
Here is some other news from the world of tech that piqued our interest.
Tencent Holdings from China is looking to expand its portfolio of Indian startups, which already comprises companies like Dream 11, Swiggy, Ola, Flipkart, BYJU’s and Hike among others and Azim Premji’s backed start-up ‘Icertis’ raised USD 115 million to become India’s latest unicorn.
B. Emerging technologies
The health ministry may ban the manufacturing, import and sale of e-cigarettes in India. It seems that immense lobbying and counter-lobbying has left the e-cigarette ecosystem in a limbo. An Indian high-level panel recommended banning all private cryptocurrencies citing possible misuse for money laundering, terror financing, frauds etc. in India. This may lead the central government to consider a complete ban on cryptocurrencies as opposed to simple regulation. If you believe Dr. Joseph Stiglitz (economist, professor and public policy analyst) Facebook’s Libra will be a new vehicle to launder money and nurture illicit activities. On the flipside, the introduction of Libra is leading central banks and the Bank for International Settlements to consider creating their own cryptocurrencies based on Facebook’s model.
C. Data governance
The Adani Group announced plans to invest around INR 700 billion to set up data storage centres in India. Privacy concerns over Google’s voice-activated assistant caused it to temporarily stop audio transcriptions in the EU. Amazon tried to get creative and offered a USD 10 coupon to shoppers on its Prime Day sale if they added Amazon’s web browser add-on, ‘Amazon Assistant’ inviting substantial criticism. Meanwhile, ByteDance announced plans to invest USD 100 million to establish an Indian data centre to store Indian users’ data, in light of concerns raised by several lawmakers. WhatsApp’s global head, Will Cathcart announced that WhatsApp Pay should be rolled out by the end of 2019. This indicates WhatsApp’s willingness to toe the RBI’s line on localization of payments data; PayPal is already taking steps to comply with the same, which could set a precedent for the industry at large.
D. Digital competition
The Competition Commission of India decided to conduct a market survey to better understand the modalities of the e-commerce space, indicating that it realises the novelty of challenges posed by emerging business models, which is a definitely a welcome development.
That’s all from us this month. We will be back with more interesting news soon.