Mahindra Forays Into E-Commerce With Launch of M2ALL Marketplace

The Mahindra group on Monday announced its debut into the e-commerce space with the launch of M2ALL.com, an e-marketplace for Mahindra products and services.

The online marketplace has begun taking bookings for the new compact SUV — Mahindra TUV300. “The new digital platform will offer customers an enhanced buying experience that combines speed and convenience of e-commerce transactions with the trust and reliability associated with the Mahindra group,” said VS Parthasarathy, Chief Financial Officer of the Mahindra group.

While Parthasarathy did not reveal the capital that has gone into the venture, he said the operations began with “frugal investments”, and will incrementally go up as the business scales up.

M2ALL will enable all the Mahindra businesses to sell products at the marketplace, and going forward, also offer other manufacturers and sellers of complementary products a platform, he added.

Currently, five of Mahindra Group’s 31 brands will have virtual stores at the marketplace, and all the brands will be available within the next two years, “as and when their technical back-end is sound”, Vijay Mahajan, head of E Market Place, Corporate IT, said.

E Market Place is a 100 per cent subsidiary set up by Mahindra in June this year to look after the e-commerce business, Parthasarathy said. “We want to bring the brick-and-click together. E-commerce is not being seen as a separate channel, but as one of the other channels along with dealers and distributors, to work as a complementary network,” he added.

He further said E Market Place has 10 employees and is in the process of expanding its team. M2ALL also offers the group companies and external sellers e-commerce technology, including online catalogue management services, integration with payment gateways, back-end integration, and support services such as digital marketing, data analytics, logistics and call centre services, the company said.

Excessive use of Wi-Fi can trigger headaches, allergies

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Should you worry about ‘wireless allergies’? Addressed with skepticism by most, the term electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) or wireless allergy or gadget allergy, is ascribed to a range of non-specific symptoms like headache and fatigue apparently due to heavy use of wireless communicating devices, especially those that emit electromagnetic radiation (EMR).

Common sources of this Wi-Fi tsunami include mobile phone signals, Wi-Fi hotspots, Wi-Fi enabled devices like tabs, cellphones, laptops and a plethora of other gadgets. The controversial issue was recently thrust in the limelight when a French court in a landmark ruling granted disability allowance to a 39-year-old woman who claimed to be experiencing discomfort from alleged EHS. She was forced to live in a countryside barn far away from the Wi-Fi and the Internet.

Despite such examples, the legitimacy debate rages on – is it a real thing or cooked up – fueled by the absence of hard evidence and conclusive research. According to WHO, EHS has no clear diagnostic criteria and there is no scientific basis to link its symptoms to EMF (electromagnetic field) exposure, but it also says: “The symptoms are certainly real and can vary widely in their severity. Whatever its cause, EHS can be a disabling problem for the affected individual.”

Experts in India who have been studying such emerging problems (for example, the link between EHS and cellphone usage) say that with the introduction and expansion of wireless communication technologies, complaints related to mobile phones, base stations and gadgets have become more prominent. ”The radio frequency electromagnetic radiation (RFR – a type of electromagnetic radiation) exposure levels have amplified manifold because of the extensive use of mobile phones and other devices,” Neeraj Kumar Tiwari, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Computer Science and Engineering, SRM University, Lucknow, told IANS in an e-mail interview.

“Very common symptoms and sensations of EHS are irritation, headache, stammering, hearing loss, dizziness, ringing delusion, disrupted sleep, stress, fatigue and restlessness,” he added. Further at the genetic level, electromagnetic radiation from mobiles cause damage if their exposure time and level are high, said M. Y. Khan, Dean, School for Biosciences and Biotechnology, Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University (BBAU), Lucknow, who has extensively dealt with the issue as a scientist.

In fact, he said, the situation in India compared to the West is worse. “Because we tend to use cheap mobile sets made by companies which do not follow the standard norms about the radiation safety,” Khan, Professor and Head, Department of Biotechnology at the varsity, said in an e-mail interview. The electromagnetic fields produced by mobile phones are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as possibly carcinogenic to humans.

Tiwari added that children may be more vulnerable than adults to EMF effects due to their “developing brain, greater absorption of energy in brain and a longer span of exposure over their lifetime”. But all said and done, the fact is Wi-Fi, mobile phones and the internet are a necessity today, so much so that the number of internet connections in India has swelled to 300 million. And, in a population of 1.25 billion, there are 980 million mobile connections, as per the latest data released by telecom regulator TRAI. Factor into this Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Digital India’ initiative which will be driven by mobile technology.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) states EMFs produced by the antennae on mobile towers and mobile phones are at the lower end of the electromagnetic emission spectrum and are ‘non-ionizing radiations’, which means that the energy carried by them is not enough to break the chemical bonds between molecules. ”The Indian government has adopted one of the strictest global safety norms for EMF, which is one tenth of the emission levels (recommended by WHO) followed by most of the countries in the world.

“The government’s support and guidance in allaying the misplaced fears regarding EMF emissions from towers in the minds of the people would be paramount in addressing the issue of misplaced EMF fear psychosis, and help develop and deliver the Digital India dream of the government,” COAI Director General Rajan S. Mathews told IANS. While EHS battles an existential crisis and as teenagers get more and more hooked to gadgets, Tiwari and Khan suggested ‘green communication’ – an approach to minimize the risks or defects associated with wireless communication systems.

Madhumita Dobe of the All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health stressed on more research on EHS in India. As for now, following simple tips like texting instead of talking, keeping cellphones and gadgets at a distance and not placing cell phones under pillows is the way to go.

Lower prices, hassle-free purchasing sees a surge in online grocery shopping

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Shopping for vegetables, fruits or bread wasn’t fun – not as a regular chore in the least. But online grocery marketplaces are fast changing the habits and mindsets of people, especially the young urban professional, on what was once mundane into fun. Plus, no more scurrying around for parking space, small change or wading through dirty marketplaces.

In the past year or so, India has seen a virtual mushrooming of such online grocery portals – with some even promising free delivery on the same day, if ordered within the first half, not counting the attractive discounts and promotional offerings they excite you with. ”This was almost the last piece of the parcel that was left,” said 23-year old, Harvard-educated Pratik Jindal, chief executive of SRSGrocery.com, speaking about the online market. “The main reason behind grocery portals is: People are getting more tech-savvy,” Jindal told IANS.

ALSO READ: CCI to oppose rebate on entry taxes on online shopping

Names such as Zip.in, SeaToHome.com, AaramShop.com, LocalBanya.com, EkStop.com, BigBasket.com, AtMyDoorSteps.com, MyGrahak.com, ZopNow.com, Omart.in, RationHut.com and SeaToHome.com are just a handful of such stores that have set up shop — some with deliveries at multiple locations. Let’s take the case of Zip.in, which New Jersey-based Kishore Ganji started in December 2014. “We ventured into this area as the food business in India is very large but fragmented as well. Our main operation is in Hyderabad. But now we have also started in Vizag,” Ganji told IANS.

The numbers and the growth potential also seem to add up in favour of such stores. As per the latest data released by the Internet and Mobile Association of India, the online food delivery market saw an impressive 40-percent growth in 2014 and reached Rs.350 crore by the end of December. ”The online grocery market garners six percent of the total online services pie.” It’s also not that big physical retailers or the small kirana shops in the neighbourhood are scared. This is primarily because the online stores need them. ”We already home-deliver goods to our customers in the locality – only that we take orders over the phone. If the big chains or online portals tieup with us, then I think that will help in our business,” Yadav Kumar, who runs a kirana store in Mayur Vihar in east Delhi, told IANS.

Even big retailers like Future Group, which owns Big Bazaar, are planning to go online sometime soon. To converge its digital and physical channels, Big Bazaar it has roped in SAP company Hybris, which helps transform businesses to meet the demands of the digital age. With Hybris solutions, it plans to give customers thje flexibility to buy anywhere, pay anywhere and get things delivered anywhere. It had also launched Big Bazaar Direct where it is partnering with mom-and-pop shops and even individuals.

With this, the franchisees can sel both their own and Big Bazaar products, through a tablet provided to them. So far, there are some 700 franchisee uner this concept. Globally, as per a Nielsen Global E-commerce and the New Retail Survey released a few months ago, a quarter of the respondents said they were already ordering groceries online for home delivery and more than half were willing to use it in the future. The majority of the 30,000 respondents in 60 countries felt physical shopping had its charm. But the study added: “Research also shows clicks do lead to bricks and this is an important take-away for retailers and manufacturers who must engage the consumer early on the path to purchase.”

A study on online grocery done by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) also predicts strong growth. “The availability of multiple payment methodologies such as online banking, credit cards, debit cards, and cash-on-delivery have meant that it is convenient for urban Indian consumers to shop online while saving both time and money,” the study said. Navneet Singh, chief executive and co-founder of PepperTap, told IANS that growth has been rather good for his portal. “We are now present in 12 cities and will be present in 35 cities by year-end. It is a capital-efficient model. Logistics is provided by us,” he said.

In January, Singh said, the company saw only 50 orders a day, which is now touching 12,000-15,000 orders. He said, their mantra was to partner with local stores and put their catalogues online. “We have tie-ups with 140 retailers so far.” Jindal of SRSGrocery said the venture — which is a part of SRS Grocery stores spread across the Delhi NCR region in the name of Value Bazaar — started in January this year. The company has 45 stores. ”Our thought was why not provide everything to the customers at their doorsteps? We have added two crucial things to our existing retail business — procurement technology and a logistics team,” he said, adding: “We do not have any minimum order specs and no delivery charges.”

Stakeholders like Jindal also explained there were also attractive captive shoppers in working couples and even old people. Plus, another attraction is that the number of products available in the online format is much higher than neighbourhood mom and pop shops. ”We have a wide range of products. Now we have our own logistics team. We follow the hybrid model – where we have tie-ups with large retailers, wholesalers and vegetable markets. Capital cost is less since we don’t hold inventory. We pack products well and ensure quality,” Ganji added. But the final say in all this, the stakeholders concede, has to be the price.

Ganji says it is but natural for online grocery stores to be cheaper. “We are not into price war with other portals. But things are much cheaper online. We don’t have to set up a shop in a high street mall. We don’t have decoration cost or any such recurring costs.” The USDA report also gave a risk-benefit analysis. ”Compared to these (physical) stores, online retailers will need to overcome delivery challenges (traffic, poor roads, greater distance, cost). Nevertheless, online retailers enable consumers to bypass parking and traffic congestion in most Indian cities while providing better selection than a neighborhood store.”

Researchers Enable Internet Protocol Connectivity for Light Bulb Networks

Disney researchers have created a novel networking technology that makes it possible for LED lights not only to communicate with each other but to do so in a way that is compatible with internet and its technical protocols.

Transmitting signals via light is nothing new. Scottish innovator Alexander Graham Bell showed that speech could be conveyed with light in the 1880s, years before speech was first transmitted via radio.

“Communication with light enables a true ‘Internet of Things’ as consumer devices that are equipped with LEDs but not radio links could be transformed into interactive communication nodes,” said Stefan Mangold who heads Disney Research’s wireless research group.

The new technology is called Visible Light Communication (VLC) which promotes the idea that objects can communicate with each other and share information to create smart environments.

“We are not just talking about sensors, smartphones and appliances. This easily could include toys that have LEDs, creating an ‘Internet of Toys’ in which toys can be accessed, monitored and acted on remotely,” Mangold said.

“The ubiquitous presence of LED-based light bulbs that can be enhanced with VLC functionality, and the availability of LED-equipped devices, unleashes a wide range of opportunities and applications,” the author said.

Mangold and his colleagues presented their findings at VLCS 2015, the ACM workshop on visible light communication systems in Paris, France, last week.

Practo Acquires Insta Health for $12 Million

Bengaluru-based healthcare platform Practo announced on Monday that it has acquired Insta Health Solutions, a provider of cloud-based hospital information management solutions that powers over 500 hospitals across 15 countries, including India, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Practo acquired Insta Health for $12 million, or approximately Rs. 80 crores.

According to Practo’s announcement, Insta Health will continue to operate as a separate division, run by Ramesh Emani, the founder and CEO of the company. Practo has so far been divided into two parts: the Practo app, which functions like a Zomato for doctors; and Practo Ray, a practice management software tool that is sold to doctors, who can use it to manage appointment bookings, billing, and more. Ray is targeted towards individual doctors, and with the Insta Health acquisition, the company will now also have a strong presence in clinics and hospitals.

Insta Health is used by clinics, hospitals, and diagnostic labs for automating their clinical, operational, and financial processes such as scheduling, registration, out-patient and in- patient management; billing, electronic medical records (EMR), ward and bed management; diagnostics, advanced insurance, and lab equipment integration; operation theatre, pharmacy and inventory management; as well as speciality modules like dental, dialysis, IVF, Paediatrics, and other specialities.

“This is the third of several acquisitions we’ve been evaluating as we continue our mission to help simplify and digitise healthcare around the world and make Practo your health app,” says Shashank ND, Founder and CEO, Practo.

In June, Practo acquired outsourcing firm Genii, and in April, it acquired digital fitness solutions firm Fitho. Practo had not revealed the size or structure of either of these deals, but in August, it had raised $90 million (approximately Rs. 574 crores) in a series C funding round led by Tencent .

Practo had raised $30 million (roughly Rs. 191 crores) in its Series B funding round led by Sequoia Capital and Matrix Partners earlier this year bringing Practo’s total funds raised to $125 million (roughly Rs. 797 crores). The firm plans covers 35 cities in India and plans to expand to 10 countries across Southeast Asia, Latin America, Middle East and Eastern Europe.

Practo said that it has a database of 200,000 healthcare practitioners, and logs over 10 million searches every month, and a growth rate of 6x in the last six months.

Obama Promotes Online Search Tool With College-Specific Data

President Barack Obama on Saturday debuted a redesigned online tool with college-specific information about student costs, loans and potential earning power, scaling back a planned ratings system that critics derided as too subjective and unworkable.

The College Scorecard – at https://collegescorecard.ed.gov – provides a snapshot of what former students of each school might earn, how much debt they leave with, and what percentage can repay their loans.

“Everyone should be able to find clear, reliable, open data on college affordability and value,” PresidentBarack Obama said in his weekly radio address. “Many existing college rankings reward schools for spending more money and rejecting more students – at a time when America needs our colleges to focus on affordability and supporting all students who enroll.”

The department’s original scorecard had allowed users to search schools by majors offered, ZIP code, size and campus setting, among other things.

The updated site provides fresh data to help students choose the right college, with an emphasis on cost and post-graduate results, department officials said in promoting the changes.

For example, the scorecard offers the first comprehensive look at after-college earnings for students who attended all types of undergraduate institutions, based on tax records.

Someone heading to college could see the proportion of students at a school who earned more than they would have had they entered the job market right after high school. Also available: the median earnings of former students who received federal financial aid, at 10 years after entering the school, with a comparison to the national average.

Searches also show graduation rates and typical student debt and monthly payments a student would owe for each school.

“Students deserve to know their investment of resources and hard work in college is going to pay off,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

He kicks off a seven-state, back-to-school bus tour on Monday; Obama is set to appear at the first stop, in Des Moines, Iowa. The two will host a town hall meeting on college affordability and access.

The updated scorecard falls well short of the president’s original plan, proposed two years ago before a crowd of 7,000 at the University of Buffalo.

Obama had said the government would design a college ratings system that would judge schools on affordability and return on investment. Many in higher education quickly criticized the idea and worried that the rankings would be arbitrary and unfair. GOP opponents in Congress called it government overreach.

The administration ultimately scrapped plans to use the ratings as a basis to parcel out billions of federal dollars in financial aid, and decided against rating the more than 7,000 colleges and universities in the country.

Instead, the government said earlier this summer it would take a different approach, offering students and families more data to help them make better choices – and draw their own conclusions.

Leaders in higher education who opposed the ratings system cautiously welcomed the new approach.

Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education, acknowledged the interest in having accurate data about earnings for college graduates, but she said the revised scorecard still needs work.

“Developing a system of this size and scope is a complicated and nuanced endeavor and the department has done so without any external review,” she said.

Significant data limitations exist, she said, such as one single earning number for an entire institution – regardless of whether the student studied chemical engineering or philosophy.

College search sites, such as ScholarMatch and StartClass, are using the new scorecard data to develop customized searches for students on their websites.

Obama Says Cyber-Attacks From China ‘Not Acceptable’

US President Barack Obama on Friday warned that cyber-attacks from China were “not acceptable”, a message he is set to deliver when President Xi Jinping visits the White House this month.

Obama said state actors needed to agree rules of the road in order to stop cyber crises from escalating.

“There comes a point at which we consider this a core national security threat and will treat it as such,” he said.

Ahead of Xi’s state visit, Obama said “we have been very clear to the Chinese that there are certain practices that they are engaging in, that we know are emanating from China and are not acceptable.”

(Also see:  US Urged to Tighten Cyber-Security to Counter Chinese Hacking)

In a notably tough and confrontational tone, Obama said states could “chose to make this an area of competition.”

But, he warned, if that path was chosen it would be a competition that “I guarantee you we will win if we have to.”

“Alternatively we can come to an agreement in which we say this isn’t helping anybody, lets instead have some basic rules of the road.”

Following a spate of hack on US companies and government agencies that have been widely blamed on China, administration officials have pointedly let it be known that Chinese firms and individuals could face sanctions.

The move appears to be triggered in particularly by a recent breach of US federal government personnel files that left exposed millions of officials including some at the very top levels exposed.

A year ago, US prosecutors unsealed indictments leveling spying charges against five Chinese military personnel they believe hacked into US networks to profit Chinese firms.

But beyond indictments Washington has struggled to build an effective deterrent against a wave of increasingly damaging cyber-attacks.

Calibrating which attacks warrant diplomatic protests and which require a more forceful response has proven fraught.

Any broad move by the world’s biggest economy to punish the second largest could have global political and economic consequences and would likely trigger retribution.

US intelligence has also been accused of mounting cyber-attacks to scoop up Chinese data accusations reportedly supported by documents leaked by fugitive contractor Edward Snowden.

Facebook Mentions now available to journalists with verified page

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Facebook has released its live streaming app called Mentions an iOS app, which will now be available also to the journalists with verified Facebook profiles or pages.

The iOS app was exclusive earlier only for the celebrities. According to the Verge, only high-profile public figures like actors, athletes, musicians and politicians were earlier permitted to stream live video to the users through the Mentions app.

The replays of the stream are available once the initial live stream was complete and Facebook also allows comments and likes alongside broadcasts like YouTube and Periscope.

Vadim Lavrusik, the product manager for Mentions, said that they want to make Facebook a better experience for journalists whether it is used for news gathering or better connecting with their readers or to drive distribution to their content.

11 great IFTTT recipes for tracking NASA news, photos and space exploration

nasa image aug 25 2015 kjell lindgren fruitSure, IFTTT can be useful, making you more productive and helping you get work done faster. But it can also be fun—a lot of fun, in fact, especially if one of your hobbies is outer space. I’m going to highlight some of my favorite IFTTT recipes that let you know just what’s going on outside of the Earth’s orbit.

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The IF mobile app gives you an ISS heads-up.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane…

Look, up in the sky! It’s the International Space Station (ISS), just passing by. Seriously. This recipe will deliver an alert to IF (IFTTT’s mobile app for Android and iOS) when the ISS passes overhead.

You will need the free IF app installed on your mobile device, and you should check this recipe before assuming it works correctly: It had my location set to San Francisco, clear across the country from where I currently sit. That was an easy fix, though.

I like that this recipe alerts you ahead of time, giving you time to get outside and look to the skies. It also tells you how long the ISS will be in view, just in case you have something more important going on (though I can’t imagine what that would be).

If an alert is too fleeting of a notification for you, fear not—IFTTT has you covered. This recipe will create an entry in a Google spreadsheet every time the ISS passes overhead. Again, you should check the location IFTTT has for you, and correct it if necessary.

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Space enthusiasts who use Google spreadsheets will appreciate the details this recipe offers.

You can direct it to a specific spreadsheet, which will be created if it doesn’t already exist, and tell it how much detail to enter. It defaults to the time the ISS appears and disappears, and how long it was viewable for.

Still not enough information on the ISS for you? If you really want to stay up to date on all of the latest happenings, why not read the ISS’s On-Orbit Status Reports? This recipe will send you a weekly digest of these reports on the day and time of your choosing. A word of warning: These reports are not always riveting reading, as they detail activities like collecting saliva samples from astronauts. But if you really, really want to know what’s going on up in space, they’ll keep you thoroughly informed.

Astronaut Updates

Where did you go today? If your travels haven’t taken you far enough—especially not all the way to outer space—you can live vicariously through astronauts around the world. That is, if you have these IFTTT recipes, which promise to alert you when astronauts enter or exit outer space. IFTTT will tell you the astronaut’s name and country, and delivers the alert to your mobile device, which must have the IF app running with these recipes enabled.

Amazing Images

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NASA’s stunning images arrive directly in your inbox.

Sitting in front of a computer, it’s easy to forget just how vast and amazing the universe is. Until NASA’s image of the day arrives in your inbox, thanks to IFTTT.

Every day, NASA shares a stunning photo of something, somewhere in the universe, from the International Space Station traveling in front of the sun to views of the Curiosity Rover on Mars. They’re awe-inspiring and offer a welcome respite from when they arrive.

Additional IFTTT recipes let you do even more with these royalty-free NASA images, including posting them directly to Facebook and saving them as the wallpaper on your Android device.

Breaking News

Last, but not least, all true space aficionados will want to stay informed on the latest news from NASA and outer space. IFTTT will email it directly to you or deliver it to your Android or iOS device via IF. Want to share that news with the world? IFTTT can tweet NASA’s breaking news for you. You may want to customize the text it tweets, however, as it defaults to tweeting simply the article title, its link, and the phrase “via NASA.” It could stand to be livened up just a bit.

China Tells US to Stop ‘Groundless’ Hacking Accusations

China reacted angrily on Friday following a call by America’s top intelligence official for cyber-security against China to be stepped up, and said the United States should stop “groundless accusations”.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said the United States must beef up cyber-security against Chinese hackers targeting a range of US interests to raise the cost to China of engaging in such activities.

Clapper’s testimony adds pressure on Beijing over its conduct in cyberspace weeks before President Xi Jinping visits the United States.

China routinely denies any involvement in hacking and says it is also a victim.

“Maintaining cyber-security should be a point of cooperation rather than a source of friction between both China and the United States,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing.

“We hope that the US stops its groundless attacks against China, start dialogue based on a foundation of mutual respect, and jointly build a cyberspace that is peaceful, secure, open and cooperative.”

(Also see:  US Urged to Tighten Cyber-Security to Counter Chinese Hacking)

The Obama administration is considering targeted sanctions against Chinese individuals and companies for cyber-attacks against US commercial targets, several US officials have said.

Chinese hackers were also implicated in extensive hacking of the US government’s personnel office disclosed this year.

China’s top diplomat took a softer line in an interview published on Friday in the state-run China Daily, saying China and the United States can cooperate and work with other countries on global cyber-security rules in a spirit of respect.

“China and the United States actually can make cyber-security a point of cooperation,” State Councilor Yang Jiechi said in the interview, which focused on Xi’s state visit to America.

“We hope China, the United States and other countries could work together to work out the rules for cyber-security in the international arena in the spirit of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit,” said Yang, who outranks the foreign minister.

Yang noted, as Chinese officials regularly do, that China was itself a hacking victim and said suspected cases should be investigated and handled “on a solid, factual basis”.

His comments were not a direct reaction to Clapper’s.

On another point of friction between the United States and China – territorial disputes in the South China Sea – Yang said he hoped the United States would stay on the sidelines because it was not part of the disputes.

He added, though: “It is important for both countries to stay in close touch even if they have different perceptions and views.”