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[Turning Point] Why ShopX is betting on the consumer to discover value through offline purchases

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In September 2021, retail software venture ShopX introduced the ShopX app for consumers in one neighbourhood of Bengaluru, which it has since expanded to all parts of the city.

The purpose of the pilot: to help consumers find savings and cashbacks from shops and brands in their neighbourhoods.

The user sign-ups increased 10x in the four months, with the app touching 100,000 monthly active users in December. It currently has 230,000 users, 64 percent of whom engaged through the gamified activites on the app, according to the company.

“The journey we are supporting is of a person visiting a shop, and buying something,” says Amit Sharma, Co-founder and CEO of 10i Commerce Services, which runs ShopX.

“The reality is most of India’s retail economy is still about going to shops and picking up things,” Amit says, adding that 94 percent of retail in India entails offline pickups.

It’s a startling observation for a seven-year-old company that has already built a robust B2B technology platform to link shops with brands across retail categories.

Building the B2B platform

Founded in 2015, ShopX has scaled up its B2B platform that connected brands with 200,000 retailers in more than 500 towns in 24 states. It has active relationships with the top 20 brands in the country across consumer-electronics and FMCG categories, Amit says.

Between 2018 and 2020, its operational revenue grew at an astonishing compounded growth rate of 715 percent, simply by becoming a marketplace for retailers and electronics brands. It clocked Rs 2,963 crore in FY 2020.

But with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the core team at ShopX reflected on whether it really wanted to continue building a parallel supply chain and logistics system, which took it away from their main strength — technology.

“The level of friction in the ecosystem when you build a parallel supply chain is quite high,” Amit says. “This is manifesting in the distributors’ revolt against eB2B players.”

During the first wave, FMCG companies like HUL scaled up their efforts to reach retailers directly through their app like Shikhar.

Distributors and wholesalers then feared that the direct connect between FMCG brands and retailers will sideline their role in the value chain, even as more consumers were shopping online than ever before.

“Brands are facing the dilemma that 90 percent of their business goes through distributors and wholesalers, while they work with ShopX and other companies,” Amit explains. “They have to reconcile the margins, and the product mix between these channels (trade and digital).”

ShopX has cultivated deep relationships with brands whom they charged a commission, and retailers who were the users of its eB2B platform.

What founders Amit and Apoorva Jois proposed to their clients (FMCG and electronics brands) was a SaaS platform that would do three things.

One, the B2B technology platform would now be the place for brands to place their messaging and trade schemes to retailers, and customise it by region, depending on the goals and targets.

The brand could send a trade scheme with a video of the marketing-person attached to it on the eB2B platform, which can be viewed in real time by up to 10 lakh retailers.

This feature would help brands save time (four days to a week), and take decisions based on performance of schemes and loyalty programmes.

Two, the brands could use the B2B platform to deposit their incentives to retailers instantly. ShopX has developed the payments stack for that facility.

And three, the retailers can place their orders digitally on the ShopX platform, which would be assigned to the distributor by territory.

For the 250,000 retailers on ShopX, it makes sense to have one app with many brands, rather than the app of each brand across categories.

“Post COVID-19, every brand realises that they need a digitised eB2B supply chain. But their preferred path is to use their existing distributors and wholesalers, with the power of technology,” Amit says, adding that the wholesalers and distributors are good and efficient with last-mile distribution to retailers.

ShopX charges the brands a subscription fee, with pay-per-use for any API-enabled features they need. The venture has thus moved from the transaction-based commission model to a SaaS-based pricing model.

At the backend, ShopX has assigned a lean team only for eB2B, and platformised the system to take the number of retailers from 200,000 to 2 million.

ShopX’s shift to B2C

Even as the B2B platform scales, the founders and core leadership team trained their focus on the B2C business, which took off in September 2021.

Since the pandemic began, the number of online shoppers has shot up. India has 140 million online shoppers, according to consulting firm Bain & Co. A Kearney Research estimate pegs India’s retail market to touch $1.4 trillion by 2026, but online retail is expected to be $140 billion at the most by then.

Players like Dunzo, Swiggy, Zepto, and BlinkIt (erstwhile Grofers) are doing last-mile delivery of orders, even as the first wave of ecommerce companies — Flipkart, Bigbasket, and Amazon— are doubling down on delivery of provisions, staples and groceries.

“There is a lot of action in warehousing-led quick commerce, and direct-to-consumer (D2C) home delivery,” Amit admits.

Even in this competitive landscape, Amit says ShopX is looking at the opportunity for shops and kirana stores to have a digital storefront on its platform. They posit that India’s value-driven consumers will shop from physical stores.

In early 2021, the core team at ShopX reflected if they could digitise the offline transactions, and have an offline checkout process that rewards consumers for every purchase they do, while providing sales and marketing benefits (from brands) to the small retailers.

So, the brands will transfer the cashbacks to retailers through ShopX, a percentage of which it keeps. The shop or brand can advertise the cashbacks on the ShopX app to attract customers to the shops and stores in their neighbourhoods.

“The D2C wave in India also has an offline component,” Amit points out. Brands like Bewakoof are already on the ShopX app.

For the customer, the engagement on the app involves quizzes to win cashbacks from shops and brands in their vicinity. There is also an optional step to keep track of savings and offers through WhatsApp.

“We run the marketing programmes to onboard consumers who can log into the app, discover where value lies in the offline world across categories, and redeem that value by transacting using ShopX,” Amit says.

The customer can locate the shop, call them, or see its microsite on the ShopX app. He visits the shop to buy for the cashback, which the retailer makes available.

For brands, it is an opportunity to plan their marketing programmes and incentives based on how each of the schemes are faring with end-customers.

“We understand offline retail really well,” Amit says. “We want to build on our core competence and multi-year experience in the space, and carry on the mission of digitising millions of retailers.”

ShopX continues to believe in the millions of shops driving retail in India.

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These are the 12 big bets of future disruptive technologies

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The 12 big bets on future technologies as per Nasscom report

The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) and Boston Consultancy Group (BCG) have identified 12 big bet technologies that can potentially disrupt markets in the next 3-5 years.

A report titled “Sandboxing into the Future: Decoding Technology’s Biggest Bets”, has identified these technologies of the future: autonomous analytics, Artificial Reality and Virtual Reality, autonomous driving, computer vision, deep learning, distributed ledger, edge computing, sensortech, smart robots, spacetech, sustainability tech, and 5G/6G.

AR VR concept image

The report noted that these 12 technologies will unravel in diverse ways, giving way to regional and vertical-specific big bets. While buyers in North America and Europe are betting on technologies such as autonomous analytics, APAC is likely to focus more on 5G/6G technologies, sensortech and smart robotics. Overall, technology buyers anticipate that investments in emerging technologies will account for 70%- 80% of tech spending by 2030.

“Going forward, it will be interesting to see how businesses will put their bets on emerging technologies and how they would be taking ahead the tech revolution for the larger good of the society,” said NASSCOM President Debjani Ghosh.

Cognizant acquires Utegration

Leading technology services company Cognizant has said it bought Houston-based Utegration LLC, a full-service consulting and solutions provider specializing in SAP  technology and SAP-certified products for the energy and utilities sectors.

Cognizant will gain approximately 350 employees in North America and India upon the close of this acquisition.

“We believe Utegration’s rich industry expertise and differentiated portfolio of energy and utilities-focused products and accelerators is a perfect complement to our SAP practice,” said Rob Vatter, Executive Vice President of Cognizant’s Enterprise Platform Services.

Utegration serves over 50 North America-based clients in the energy and utilities sector with solutions across four domains aligned to market needs: customer experience, billing and advanced metering infrastructure, managed services, data science and analytics, and finance and asset performance management.

HCLTech partners with Intel and Mavenir for 5G solutions

HCLTech, a leading Indian technology services company revealed a new collaboration with Intel Corporation and Mavenir to develop and provide scalable private 5G network solutions for communication service providers (CSP) and broader cross-vertical enterprises.

Through this new collaboration, the companies will work closely on a range of projects and activities across enablement, go-to-market and sales acceleration, with the goal of delivering more 5G solutions to CSPs, Internet of Things (IoT) and enterprise verticals, a statement said.

HCL

The three companies will work cross-functionally to add new offerings and help generate greater value for enterprises. The companies will develop a cloud-native enterprise-to-enterprise (E2E) architecture of an Intel Xeon processor-based 5G solution leveraging Mavenir RAN, Intel SmartEdge and HCLTech’s management, orchestration and automation services.

“There is currently a great need for scalable, reliable 5G solutions across nearly every enterprise and industry,” said Kalyan Kumar, Chief Technology Officer, HCLTech. “This need represents a major opportunity to innovate and deliver solutions that will have a major impact on business operations and outcomes.”

Collins Aerospace to expand operations in India

Collins Aerospace, which is part of Raytheon Technologies has announced that it will be expanding its operations in India. The company inaugurated its Global Engineering & Tech Centre and a new India Operations Centre to mark its 25th year in Bengaluru.

Collins Aerospace has also pledged significant capital and manpower investments over the next five years given that the Indian aerospace & defence (A&D) market is projected to reach $70 billion by 2030.

The team at Collins India is actively collaborating with Indian R&D organisations like NAL, CMTI, DRDO for study into materials, additive manufacturing, pre-qualification tests and other important projects.

Wipro bags top honour for workplace inclusion

Wipro Limited, a leading Indian technology services and consulting company, has been recognised as a ‘Gold’ employer by the India Workplace Equality Index (IWEI) 2022.

Awarded to the top employers by IWEI, the gold employer is the highest of 3 levels, where an organisation is credited with ‘embedding inclusion in the workplace.’ Highlights of Wipro’s efforts in this journey include recognition of Wipro’s leadership in India to advance LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace, from organisational policies to external communications.

wipro

It also demonstrates a long-term and in-depth commitment towards LGBTQ+ inclusion, where Wipro has implemented several initiatives enabling its employees to become active allies for the community.

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Corraling Kafka: New ecosystem simplifies, democratizes event-streaming data for enterprises

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Aiven, a cloud-data platform based in Helsinki, has fleshed out an open-source ecosystem for Apache Kafka, a popular event-streaming platform. The new offerings promise to help enterprises consolidate their Kafka infrastructure using open-source components. 

“Event streaming is transitioning toward the main stack of the IT infrastructure,” Filip Yonov, director of data streaming product management at Aiven, told VentureBeat. “At Aiven, we have witnessed the fastest growth in the event-streaming domain compared to all other products.”

Apache Kafka provides the infrastructure for wiring streams of data together from databases, apps, IoT devices, and third-party sources. Kafka helps organize raw data into event streams that reduce data size and are easier to integrate into event-driven apps and analytics. Enterprises use it to improve customer experiences, build the industrial metaverse and monitor patients. 

However, building out a Kafka infrastructure involves a lot of moving parts. Aiven has consolidated all the necessary tooling into one place to simplify this process. Key new enhancements include support for Apache Flink and data governance. These complement existing tools for connecting services, replicating data and managing schemas for Kafka deployments.

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The need for simplicity

LinkedIn originally developed Kafka to integrate data across its large microservices infrastructure and open-sourced it in 2011. Over the intervening years, large enterprises have customized the tooling for their own needs, and several vendors have rolled out proprietary enhancements to fill in gaps around governance and integration. Many organizations use Kafka for various data pipeline scenarios, such as transferring data between applications in real-time or moving data from a database to a data warehouse.

Yonov told VentureBeat that as Kafka clusters become larger and more complex, they require additional tooling and governance to ensure proper operation and management. “Unlike existing Kafka solutions, Aiven’s offering does not require organizations to choose between proprietary tools and vendor lock-in or open-source technologies without support,” he said.

Improving the developer experience with event streaming

One essential aspect has been to democratize the experience for working with event-streaming data. The open-source tool, Klaw, provides a self-service interface for managing Kafka clusters. Kafkawize, which develops Klaw, recently joined Aiven’s open-source development office in September to help integrate their tools together. Now they are working together to improve self-service, simplify user management and enforce data governance. 

Another significant development was to connect streaming data to SQL queries familiar to data engineers. The new Aiven for Apache Flink tools allows teams to process larger volumes of events and run real-time analytics using SQL. Aiven provides this as a fully managed service that reduces the complexity of deploying a Flink cluster. It also simplifies the integration with Aiven for Apache Kafka to filter, enrich and aggregate events on the fly. 

Aiven hopes to replicate the success of other open-source frameworks like PostgreSQL, Kubernetes and Linux, built by a healthy mix of contributions from various communities. 

“We truly believe that fostering an open-source, community-driven and inclusive ecosystem of technologies around Apache Kafka can drive further innovations and new developments in the data-streaming domain, ensuring the long sustainment of the technology in the future,” Yonov said.

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How do tech layoffs impact PERM and the green card process? • TechCrunch

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Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

TechCrunch+ members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie,

I handle HR and immigration at our tech company. We filed a PERM for one of our team members about five months ago for her EB-2 green card, and we’re awaiting certification from the Labor Department. We’ve been gearing up to start PERM for another employee.

Will the layoffs in the tech industry affect the PERM process for EB-2 and EB-3 green cards? What will happen to my team members’ green cards if our company has to do layoffs?

— Pondering in People Ops

Dear Pondering,

It’s wonderful that you’re steadfastly supporting your team with green card sponsorship. This can provide unfathomable peace of mind for people still on non-immigrant status in the U.S. through the green card process. We’re here to help ease the holiday season with education on the options for both companies and individuals.

Let’s dive into the winter wonderland of PERM and employment-sponsored green cards.

Will tech layoffs impact the PERM process?

For the permanent labor certification application — or PERM — your company is currently working on, the short answer is yes, the layoffs may have several different effects depending on where your company is in the process.

The PERM green card process is a multistep and time-intensive one involving a labor market recruitment test requiring employers to demonstrate to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) that there are no qualified U.S. workers (U.S. citizens and green card holders) who are qualified, willing and able to fill the EB-2 or EB-3 PERM position. PERM also aims to ensure that the opportunities, wages and working conditions of U.S. citizens and green card holders are protected.

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

If you are in or will soon start the PERM recruiting phase, you may receive a larger number of job applicants for your job posting due to the recent layoffs in the tech sector. With an uptick in potentially qualified applicants, it could prove more difficult to demonstrate that there is no qualified U.S. worker to fill the PERM role. If a qualified U.S. worker is ready, willing and able to fill the PERM role, the labor market test fails and the DOL will not grant the company’s PERM labor certification.

Keep in mind that unemployment is a big concern for the DOL. During the last recession, when millions of jobs were lost, DOL increased its scrutiny of the adjudication of PERMs, particularly within the financial sector, to ensure displaced U.S. workers were considered for positions before international talent.

At the moment, the U.S. unemployment rate is under 4%, so we have a ways to go before we match the 10.6% unemployment rate in 2010. Although there have been many layoffs in tech, I remain optimistic, as there are other indicators that the economy is still strong and there are many job requirements in and beyond the tech sector.



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