Monday 30 September 2019

7 internet companies join hands to check online fraud

7 internet companies join hands to check online fraudBENGALURU: Seven leading internet companies are banding together to save their consumers from the rising menace of cyber frauds being carried out by duping innocent users, where the money is being siphoned off from their accounts.

The companies taking action include travel majors MakeMyTrip Group and Oyo Hotels & Homes, mobile payments firm Paytm, online food delivery aggregators Swiggy & Zomato, besides ride-hailing giant Uber.

7 internet companies join hands to check online fraud

Three people aware of the matter said these companies met the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) last week to make a joint representation on the issue and how to curb these online frauds — engineered via fake toll-free numbers and serial bank account generators, among other methods. About 4,000 SIM card numbers and 350-400 bank account numbers have been shared with the RBI, State Bank of India (SBI) and the telecom companies, whose services are used to fool the unsuspecting consumers.

These tech companies have also reached out to Google about how its search engine is used by cybercriminals to make their fake toll-free numbers appear on top of search results. This leads to some of the consumers believing the fake number to be the legitimate number of the company. Some even go on to set up fake websites mimicking the original ones.

Over the past couple of weeks, executives from these internet companies met senior officials of SBI, Airtel and other stakeholders, sources added. Among the companies that are part of this council, MakeMyTrip, Swiggy, Zomato and Paytm have confirmed the development to TOI. Going forward, more online firms are expected to join the group to share their fraud data to counter such online frauds.

In a letter addressed to SBI, the online companies have raised the issue of large-scale fraud being attempted, using accounts in the bank. People involved in the discussion said due to the sheer scale of SBI, most of the miscreants fooling consumers to send money or share their sensitive bank details have accounts with the largest public sector bank. Emails sent to the RBI, SBI, Google India and Airtel did not elicit any response on the matter.

“People from non-urban markets or even senior citizens are common victims. These frauds are typically done by sending SMS from accounts sounding similar to the original company and would have an extra alphabet in the name of the company (say, an extra ‘a’ in MakeMyTrip). This could go unnoticed and people can fall prey to the messages,” a person aware of the modus operandi said. What then typically happens is that these messages would promise attractive rewards. For example, an expensive car or Rs 20-30 lakh cash, with a helpline number mentioned in it. A customer would dial to claim the rewards and that’s where the cyber crooks share their bank details, to which users are supposed to send an amount like Rs 5,000-10,000 to claim the reward.

“Setting a toll-free helpline is not the most complex task if you have a basic structure ready. Then an account in a public sector bank adds another layer of credibility. Following this, based on our trends, there is the success rate of seven out of 100 calls — meaning one can get as much as Rs 70,000 after making 100 such calls,” the person from one of the earlier mentioned companies added. These efforts are followed up on WhatsApp to nudge the consumer to share more details like one-time password (OTP). With more details, the scope of the damage is bigger.

This is why the SIM card database and account numbers often used to scam consumers of the online platforms have been shared with the authorities. As a next step, the council of companies would share this information with the cyber wings of police in Delhi and Mumbai — the two largest cities in India.

“To propagate such fake websites and customer care numbers, fraudsters rampantly bid on the key words for certain brands on Google Ads or do search engine optimisation on such brand names and hence these websites usually come up in the first few search results when any customer searches for the brand on Google. By virtue of their top placement in the search results, customers consider these links to be genuine websites and then the customers eventually get duped through phishing means,” the communication to Google read. Thus, online firms believe they cannot solve the problem on their own through customer education alone.

“While we are taking all necessary steps to educate our customers and spread awareness about these phishing attempts, this fraud can only be contained with pro-active support, viz timely detection, suspension of accounts and expeditious action by telecom companies, banks, social media platforms and search engines,” said a spokesperson of MakeMyTrip group, which also houses Goibibo and redBus.

Flipkart claims strong demand coming from tier-II, III cities for ongoing sales

Flipkart claims strong demand coming from tier-II, III cities for ongoing salesNEW DELHI: Walmart-owned Flipkart on Monday said it is witnessing strong demand from tier-II and III cities for products such as mobile phones and large appliances in its ongoing festive sales.

"This Big Billion Days, we witnessed the growing appetite of Bharat (tier II and III cities) for mobiles, large appliances and consumer electronics," Flipkart Group CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy said in a statement.

As consumers from these cities upgrade, they are coming at par with the metros showcasing unique needs and spending patterns across these categories, he added.

"With more first-time shoppers from small towns than ever before and tens of thousands of small sellers across India already seeing success, we are excited by how India loves Amazon's commitment to offer largest selection, great convenience and exceptional value to its customers," said Amazon India Vice-President (Category Management) Manish Tiwary.

Both companies, however, remained mum on the total business generated so far in the sale. The ongoing sale is to close on October 4.

While there have been concerns around slowdown in demand in some quarters, both and Flipkart have been upbeat about clocking strong growth in the festive sales.

According to Redseer, overall e-tailing expected to clock gross sales of USD 3.7 billion (Rs 24,000 crore) between September 29 to October 4, a year-on-year (y-o-y) growth of 60-65 per cent.

Total online shoppers during the event expected to be 32 million, up 60 per cent y-o-y, primarily driven by shoppers from tier-II and III cities, it added.

E-commerce companies, which see a large chunk of their sales during the festive season, start preparing for festive sales months in advance ramping up logistics and hiring thousands of temporary workers to ensure timely delivery of products. Other players such as Snapdeal and Club Factory are also running festive sale on their platforms.

Flipkart said the electronics category on its platform witnessed a growth of over 70 per cent from tier-II cities, with a 100 per cent increase in women shoppers from smaller towns.

Sales galore as Indian web giants woo reluctant festive shoppers

Sales galore as Indian web giants woo reluctant festive shoppersNew Delhi -E-commerce giants Amazon and Walmart-backed Flipkart kicked off a crucial battle for shoppers on Sunday ahead of India's massive festive season as retailers search for a much-needed boost to sales amid a slowing economy.

October and November -- when much of India's 1.3 billion population celebrates several major Hindu festivals and consumers traditionally go on spending sprees -- are critical for retailers, with some raking in almost half of their annual sales during the period.

But sales this year have been hit by falling consumer demand as a liquidity crunch crimps personal loans and unemployment soars to its highest level since the 1970s.

"Things are difficult," Rakesh Kumar Yadav of the Federation of Sadar Bazar Traders Association, which represents some 40,000 wholesale traders in the capital New Delhi, told AFP.

Even aggressive pitches by Amazon and Flipkart, which have heavily invested in India's budding e-commerce market, did not stop online consumer spending from slipping by around 20 percent in the six months to June compared to last year, the Economic Times reported citing market research firm Kantar.

"The festival season is around the corner... and a lot of these corporates are coming up with various schemes to prop up demand and woo the consumers," India Ratings principal economist Sunil Sinha told AFP.

"But my own sense is that despite all the efforts, overall consumer sentiment is so down-and-out that we won't see similar kinds of spending that we have seen in the past."

- Sales wars - With their deep pockets, Amazon and Flipkart are taking on India's local family-run stores, known as "kirana" shops, that have dominated streets for decades.

Less than five percent of India's $600 billion retail market is online, but the sector is expected to expand to 8-9 percent of the market by 2022 thanks to smartphone adoption and a rising middle class, according to RBC Capital Markets.

Amazon -- which recently opened a massive campus for 15,000 employees in the southern city of Hyderabad -- has taken out full-page newspaper ads to promote its "Big Indian Festival" sales and is offering discounts of up to 90 percent.

Flipkart has Indian mega-star cricket Virat Kohli as the face of their "Big Billion Days" sales campaign and has slashed prices on fashion items and home appliances.

The two platforms -- which have almost 75 percent market share of the e-commerce market -- hope to attract cash-strapped shoppers with financing options, and have hired hundreds of thousands of temporary staff to cope with expected increased demand.

Their six-day festive sales are estimated to reach $3.8 billion, up from $2.9 billion last year, despite the wider economic slowdown, Forrester Research senior forecast analyst Satish Meena said.

Bricks-and-mortar retailers are also ramping up their visibility to keep pace with the online behemoths.

"These are difficult times and consumer sentiment has been tilted towards the negative for some time now," J. Suresh, the managing director of Arvind Lifestyle Brands, told the Economic Times about why the 1,300-store owner was increasing ad spending by up to 20 percent this year.

Meanwhile, economists said a raft of recent government measures to revive the flagging economy, including a corporate tax cut, would improve sentiment in coming years.

"It's a good beginning... The likelihood is that we've almost reached the bottom and if the government continues to do its bit and corporates remain upbeat because of these announcements, things will start looking up," Sinha said.

CAIT says e-commerce portals avoiding GST during festival sales; seeks probe

CAIT says e-commerce portals avoiding GST during festival sales; seeks probeNew Delhi: Traders body CAIT on Sunday alleged that e-commerce portals during the festive sales are causing huge loss of revenue to the government by levying GST on the discounted price rather than on the actual market price of the commodity.

The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) in a communication sent to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday charged that the e-commerce companies particularly Amazon and Flipkart through their festive sales are depriving the government with huge amount of GST revenue, a CAIT statement said.

CAIT has urged the Finance Minister to order an investigation into the business model of these companies.

"Its irony that if a trader makes even a slight mistake during the course of his business, he is subjected to several penalties and even prosecution. However, these e-commerce companies which are authorised to do only Business to Business (B2B) activities are conducting Business to Consumers (B2C) sales right under the eyes and nose of the government and no action has been taken so far against them for such a blatant violation of FDI Policy," it said.

CAIT National President B C Bhartia said during festive sales of e-commerce companies a large number of commodities are being sold at a much lesser price than the actual price thanks to deep discounts from 10 to 80 per cent which is nothing but a "predatory pricing".

Moreover, the GST which is supposed to be charged on the actual market price of the commodity in normal case is now being charged on the price after deducting the discounts offered and this is nothing but underpricing of the commodity by these e-commerce portals thereby causing huge loss of GST revenue to the government, he added.

Bhartia said that its an open fact that deep discounts offered by these e-commerce companies are funded by their investors and in actual terms they are not the losers, the ultimate looser is the government in shape of revenue which it ought to have received on actual market price but due to open manipulations of these e-commerce companies, the government is denied of its due revenue.

It is very astonishing that these companies are running into losses since last so many years but still they are continuing with their business operations and holding festival sales and other sales round the year from time to time, he added.

Bhartia clarified that traders are not against e-commerce business and have a firm view that e-commerce is future mode of business in the country. But there has to be a level-playing field where there should not be any element of predatory pricing or deep discounting.

Saturday 28 September 2019

Amazon’s cloud biz revenues up 121% to Rs 2,740cr

Bengaluru: Amazon Internet Services, which is the reseller for Seattle-based technology majors’ cloud business AWS in India, saw its revenues jump by 121% to Rs 2,740 crore in the financial year ending on March 2019, according to filings with RoC obtained from Tofler.

The net profit for the business also increased by 150% to Rs 71.2 crore as the company continued strong growth momentum in the sector which has also attracted the interest of India’s top conglomerates as the government is enacting laws to store data locally.

Adani Enterprises had said earlier this year that it plans to invest Rs 70,000 crore to set up data centers over the next two decades while Mukesh Ambani’s Jio plans to set up data centers in partnership with Microsoft’s Azure. Other players competing in the space include Google Cloud besides Chinese internet giants Alibaba and Tencent’s cloud units.

For Amazon Internet Services revenues include money earned from sales of compute, storage, database, and other cloud-related service offerings (including training) for start-ups, enterprises, government agencies, and academic institutions. Amazon Data Services is another unit in India which operates the data centers.

Globally, AWS is fast becoming the biggest money-making business for Amazon with 5-6 times the margins of flagship online retail business. For the calendar year 2018, AWS had operating income of $7.3 billion on net sales of $25.65 billion.