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Mandi alternatives: How agri-tech startups beat lockdown blues | Gurgaon News

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GURUGRAM: While the farmers’ union protests against the Centre’s agriculture reform ordinances, now bills, the alternative path for farm produce that these legislations seek to open up — outside the mandi chain — has been evident for the past six months.
That’s how a Sonipat farmer, for instance, found a reseller in a Gurugram condominium. And another in west UP found the tomatoes and brinjals he grew being delivered by food aggregators like Swiggy and Zomato in Delhi-NCR.
It began with the lockdown, which froze all gears of the mandi machinery, setting off a desperate search for ways to sell millions of tonnes of farm produce. Some states like Haryana tapped the private sector, introducing agri-tech startups to a customer segment they had no access to. Farmers, too, signed up on directmarketing platforms in thousands (though this was a big bulk-up for these companies, it was still a tiny fraction of India’s colossal farm industry).
Asked if distribution models beyond mandis are sustainable, agriculture expert Ashok Gulati told TOI, “Yes, very much. Does milk move through mandis? Do chicken and egg move through mandis? But we get it at the doorstep. They move through alternative channels. Why shouldn’t fruits and veggies, cereals, pulses and oilseeds also move through alternative marketing channels? The basic point to emphasise is competition. It is this competition that will reduce the intermediation costs.”
How startups linked farmers and merchants
On June 5, the Centre passed the ordinance ending the monopoly of APMCs (Agricultural Produce Market Committees) and allowing farmers to opt to sell directly to private players. This got agri-tech startups — still only a handful in India — thinking scale for the first time with more confidence to invest.
In the March-August period, when the economy hit rock bottom, startups marketing farm produce all registered significant growth. Gurugram-based Bijak saw its business go up from 1,200 tonnes a day to 2,000 tonnes per day. Crofarm, another Gurugram-based startup in the farm to fork segment, registered a growth of 40%.
Bijak founder Nukul Upadhye said two weeks into the lockdown, he received requests from government agencies to procure from farmers and sell. Since it did not fit Bijak’s business model, Upadhye said he directed the departments to other startups in the space. “But we realised that no one was able to cater to the needs. We had to rethink and pivot our model to save the day,” says Upadhye. Bijak also helped NGO and civil society organisations feed lakhs of migrant workers by helping them procure.
A more organic business need had also evolved. “Farmers wanted to sell their commodities in nearby markets and aggregators were looking to source from nearby farmers but did not have the network needed for it. This is where we came into the picture. Our platform connects farmers, aggregators and merchants across the country,“ said Upadhye.
Farmers who tied up with startups saved on transportation, unlike in the mandi system where they have to carry it themselves.

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Tech chief executives to defend key law in front of U.S. Senate panel on Wednesday- Technology News, Firstpost

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 Tech chief executives to defend key law in front of U.S. Senate panel on Wednesday

By David Shepardson and Nandita Bose

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The chief executives of Twitter Inc, Facebook and Alphabet Inc will tell U.S. lawmakers at a hearing on Wednesday that a federal law protecting internet companies is crucial to free expression on the internet, according to written testimonies from the companies seen by Reuters.

Section 230, a provision of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, shields technology companies from liability for user-generated content and allows them to remove lawful but objectionable posts. It has come under heavy criticism from President Donald Trump and both Democratic and Republican lawmakers who have been concerned about Big Tech’s content-moderation decisions.

Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey will tell the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday that eroding the foundation of Section 230 “could collapse how we communicate on the Internet, leaving only a small number of giant and well-funded technology companies.”

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg warned that tech companies were likely to censor more to avoid legal risks if Section 230 is repealed.

“Without Section 230, platforms could potentially be held liable for everything people say,” he said.

(Reporting by David Shepardson and Nandita Bose; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.



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Hats off to the UK for smartphone unlocking laws, and more tech news today

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Your tech news digest, by way of the DGiT Daily tech newsletter, for Tuesday, 27 October 2020

1. UK bans locked phones, hooray!

The UK has announced a ban on the sale of network-locked phones, finally ending one of the vices that carriers try and use to keep you loyal to them.

  • The BBC reported that while it typically costs about £10 to get a locked smartphone unlocked, studies showed that’s not the full story, with half of all those who try to do so experience difficulties:
  • “These [difficulities] can include facing a long wait to receive the code needed to trigger the process, as well as then finding that the code does not work.”
  • “We know that lots of people can be put off from switching because their handset is locked. So we’re banning mobile companies from selling locked phones, which will save people time, money and effort — and help them unlock better deals,” Ofcom connectivity director Selina Chadha was quoted as saying on the regulator’s website.

Finally: 

  • This is a welcome change, with most reactions saying finally, this is long overdue, and so on.
  • While some carriers in the UK were already keeping phones unlocked, the likes of giants including Vodafone and BT were not, and will now need to comply by December, 2021. Which isn’t soon enough really, but at least it will come into place.
  • The whole practice was a great scheme for carriers but really made little sense in any other business model in the world, where consumers pay for devices they can only use while paying a certain company. Telecommunications is unique, and carriers will always wield power when they can get away with it.

Elsewhere?

  • In Europe, this is generally the case already, and in Singapore, for example, locked phones are banned.
  • In Australia phones are generally unlocked too, except in some cases with prepaid phones where phones are often affordable but made cheaper through locks.
  • In South Africa, major carrier Vodacom started adding locks as recently as a year ago, reversing previous unlocked phones.
  • And of course, there’s the US, where locked phones are much more common. Some devices may only be compatible with specific networks too. For example, some phones like the OnePlus 7T require a specific Verizon variant as the standard unlocked model doesn’t work on Verizon. Which is strange!
  • Verizon, for example, keeps a lock for 60 days after purchase before then unlocking. And it’s completely legal to unlock a phone, which leads to guides like ‘How to unlock a Verizon phone’ being popular, for Verizon’s pre-paid devices.
  • Otherwise, unlocking a phone locked to AT&T on a contract may require that you’ve paid out a 24-month plan already and jumping through various hoops.
  • It may be that moves like this commendable one from the UK regulator heaps pressure on other countries, too.

2. The OnePlus Nord N10 and N100 were announced yesterday with the leaks right on the money. They’re more affordable or budget phones with headphone jacks, and with microSD card slots for the first time for OnePlus phones. We don’t know pricing yet but it’s going to be in a battle with the likes of the Google Pixel 4a and iPhone SE for the N10 (Android Authority). And wait, wasn’t every OnePlus phone supposed to have a high refresh rate screen? (Android Authority).


3. Samsung Galaxy S30 Ultra specs leak: An S20 Ultra with a new coat? Oh, and don’t expect a charger or earphones in the Galaxy S30’s box (Android Authority).


4. Fairphone 3 Plus review: Sustainability comes with compromises (The Verge).


5. Facebook is the latest to jump into mobile cloud gaming. I had a look, the games on offer are …extremely Facebook. Plus, digs at Apple’s iOS policies (Android Authority).


6. Microsoft adds mouse and trackpad support to Office apps on iPad (Engadget).


7. iPhone 12 drop test confirms the new screen helps durability, to an extent (Engadget).


8. Roku Ultra 2020 review: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, which makes it a tough sell over the Roku Streaming Stick Plus which is half the cost (CNET).


9. AMD agrees to buy Xilinx for $35 billion in stock, which may open up 5G and automotive electronics as Xilinx invented the FGPA (NY Times)


10. “Sometimes I think of how cakes are a miracle.” (Twitter)


11. Moon holds more water in more places than ever thought — but don’t overdo it. “To be clear, this is not puddles of water,” stressed lead researcher Casey Honniball (AP).


The DGiT Daily delivers a daily email that keeps you ahead of the curve for all tech news, opinions, and links to what’s going down in the planet’s most important field. You get all the context and insight you need, and all with a touch of fun. Plus! Rotating daily fun for each day of the week, like Wednesday Weirdness. Join in!



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Apple to charge more for apps in India and five other countries

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By: Tech Desk | New Delhi |

October 27, 2020 11:43:30 am


apple app store price hike, app store price hike india, app store prices revision, apple app store controversy, apple app store tax, app store tax on developersApple App Store prices set to be increased in six countries (File Photo)

Apple announced on Monday that it will charge more apps in India, Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia, Russia, and South Africa in the next few days. This change will apply to in-app purchases as well and the developer will receive updated price tier charts informing them about the change in prices of their apps. Specifically for India, there will be an increase of two per cent in addition to the goods and services tax of 18 per cent which is already in place. On the other hand, in Indonesia foreign developers will have to bear the burden of an additional 10 per cent tax.

“When taxes or foreign exchange rates change, we sometimes need to update prices on the App Store,” the Cupertino-giant said in the announcement posted on its developer website.

There is no confirmation whether the increase in prices will be applicable or not for other services like Apple Music, Apple TV+ and iCloud. On the other hand, this increase will apply on auto-renewable subscriptions as well. Also, it is yet to be clarified as to when the App Store users will be able to see these changes.

The statement further mentioned, “You can download the updated price tier charts now. Once these changes go into effect, the Pricing and Availability section of My Apps will be updated, and your proceeds will be adjusted accordingly and calculated based on the tax-exclusive price. You can change the price of your apps and in-app purchases (including auto-renewable subscriptions) at any time in App Store Connect. If you offer subscriptions, you can choose to preserve prices for existing subscribers.”

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In the near future, the prices of Albania and Iceland as per the other markets with value-added tax selling in US dollars. However, this is not the first instance where Apple has made changes in App store prices for specific countries. The prices were revised in Japan last year. Also, the last time India prices were revised was in the first quarter of 2017.

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