PayPal Reports Rise in Profits, Weak Transaction Volumes

Payment processor PayPal Holdings Inc, spun off from eBay Inc reported quarterly revenue slightly below analysts’ expectations as a strong dollar hurt its transaction volumes in China and Europe.

Shares of PayPal, which listed for the second time on the Nasdaq in July, fell 5.6 percent in extended trading on Wednesday.

PayPal’s third-quarter revenue rose about 14 percent to $2.26 billion (roughly Rs. 14,736 crores), nearly half of which came from markets outside the United States.

Excluding the impact of a strong dollar, revenue rose 19 percent, but missed the average analyst estimate of $2.27 billion (roughly Rs. 14,801 crores), according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

“I think that the foreign exchange impact has been larger than expected,” Susquehanna Financial Group analyst James Friedman said.

PayPal said it expected the dollar to have a bigger impact on its 2015 revenue than previously anticipated. The company forecast a growth of 15-18 percent in full-year revenue, excluding the impact of a strong dollar.

Wedbush Securities analyst Gil Luria also attributed the fall in PayPal’s shares to likely high investor expectations after strong results from eBay.

PayPal said growth in its international total payment volumes was hurt somewhat because of weakness in China and Europe.

“When Americans buy in China or Europeans buy in the United States, PayPal makes the highest rates. So when the dollar is strong, that weakens demand from Europe and supply from China,” Luria said.

PayPal has also been facing fierce competition from payment processing startups such as Stripe Inc and Square Inc as well as Apple Inc’s Apple Pay in a market it helped create.

Square, headed by Twitter Inc Chief Executive Jack Dorsey, filed for an IPO this month.

PayPal’s transaction margin fell to 62.3 percent in the quarter ended Sept. 30 from 63.1 percent, a year earlier.

Active accounts increased 10 percent to 173 million, while total payment volume rose 20 percent to $69.74 billion (roughly Rs. 4,54,729 crores). The company’s mobile transactions rose 38 percent to 345 million.

PayPal’s net income increased 28.6 percent to $301 million (roughly Rs. 1,962 crores), or 25 cents per share.

Excluding items, the company earned 31 cents per share, handily beating the average analyst estimate of 29 cents.

PayPal’s shares were trading at $34.60 after the bell.

Google's Internet-Beaming Project Loon Balloons to Take Off in Indonesia

Google’s Internet-beaming balloons are ready to take off on the next phase of their mission to deliver online access in regions where most people live offline.

The balloons will begin hovering in the stratosphere above Indonesia in an expansion of the project announced Wednesday. About 250 million people live in the country composed of about 17,000 islands in that part of Southeast Asia, although only 42 million have Internet access, according to the CIA’s estimates.

Google’s 2-year-old “Project Loon” program aims to change that by transmitting high-speed Internet signals from clusters of balloons floating about 60,000 feet above the Earth.

Although the project is still being funded primarily by money that Google makes from digital advertising, it recently became part of an independent lab called X that is run by Google’s new parent company, Alphabet.

Alphabet frames Project’s Loon as a noble endeavor striving to get about 100 million currently unconnected people tapped into the vast reservoir of knowledge, entertainment and conveniences available online. But it could also enrich Google by expanding the potential audience that can query its search engine, watch video on YouTube, correspond through Gmail and click on digital ads.

Project Loon is still testing its technology, so there is still no estimate when it will start selling the Internet service to households and businesses within range of the balloons.

The Internet access will be sold through wireless service providers in Indonesia, where there the number of mobile phones – about 319 million – outnumber people. But most of those phones don’t connect to the Internet because users can’t afford data plans, or more frequently, live in remote or rocky terrains where it’s impractical or too expensive to install the equipment need to deliver high-speed Internet access.

If things pan out as envisioned, Project Loon will deploy hundreds of balloons that serve as cell towers in the sky, invisible to the naked eye. To pull it off, the project’s engineers must choreograph a high-altitude dance, ensuring that as one balloon drifts out of a targeted territory’s Internet-receiving range, another one will float in to fill the void.

The Indonesian expansion follows extensive testing in New Zealand, Australia and remote areas in California and Brazil. Indonesia’s sheer size and geographic sprawl makes it Project Loon’s most ambitious step yet.

Eventually, Project Loon envisions dispatching its balloons to other unconnected regions in the world, ranging from small villages in Africa to the woods of California.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin envisions Project Loon eventually creating millions of jobs around the world to raise the standard of living for now-impoverished people as they are able to get online to educate themselves and make new connections.

“The emotional distance of the world is shrinking, thanks to the communications we enjoy today,” said Brin, who oversees the X lab as Alphabet’s president.

Oracle to Build High School on Its Silicon Valley Campus

Oracle founder Larry Ellison already owns an island in Hawaii. Now, his company is building a high school next to its Silicon Valley headquarters to help fulfill Ellison’s desire to teach students more about technology and problem-solving.

The plan unveiled Tuesday at an Oracle customer conference calls for the business software maker to complete the 64,000-square-foot school by August 2017.

Although it will be owned by one of the world’s biggest technology companies, the school isn’t going to be called “Oracle High.” Instead, it will be known as Design Tech, or “,” a public school approved last year.

The campus being built by Oracle will accommodate up to 550 students and 30 teachers in the shadow of Oracle’s towering office in Redwood Shores, California, about 25 miles south of San Francisco. The school will be free and open to any student living in California.

Since starting Oracle Corp. 38 years ago, Ellison has amassed an estimated fortune of $54 billion (roughly Rs. 3,50,829 crores) that has enabled him to buy most of the Hawaiian island of Lanai, own elaborate homes around the world and bankroll two victories in sailing’s premier race, the America’s Cup.

But Ellison isn’t financing Design Tech. Oracle is footing the entire bill, though the company isn’t disclosing how much it expects to spend.

Oracle co-CEO Safra Catz stressed the company wouldn’t be getting involved if Ellison hadn’t sketched out a vision to create a school where “students learn to think.”

Although Oracle will own the high school, the company won’t be involved in the curriculum. Design Tech gained Oracle’s financial support because it “reflects Larry’s vision for a unique high school founded on principles we believe in: innovation, creativity, problem-solving and design-thinking,” Catz said.

Oracle’s commitment to Design Tech comes less than a week after Facebook’s billionaire CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, announced plans to finance a school for pre-school through eighth-grade students in one of Silicon Valley’s few least affluent communities, East Palo Alto. The Primary School will provide health care services in addition to educational instruction for up to 700 students.

Zuckerberg and Chan also have given $100 million (roughly Rs. 650 crores) to schools in New Jersey and pledged to donate another $120 million (roughly Rs. 780 crores) to other schools located in low-income communities in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Internet Freedom Falls for Fifth Year in Row

Global online freedom declined for a fifth consecutive year as more governments stepped up electronic surveillance and clamped down on dissidents using blogs or social media, a survey showed Wednesday.

The annual report by non-government watchdog Freedom House said the setbacks were especially noticeable in the Middle East, reversing gains seen in the Arab Spring.

Freedom House found declines in online freedom of expression in 32 of the 65 countries assessed since June 2014, with “notable declines” in Libya, France and Ukraine.

The researchers found 61 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where criticism of the government, military or ruling family has been subject to censorship.

And 58 percent live in countries where bloggers or others were jailed for sharing content online on political, social and religious issues, according to the “Freedom on the Net 2015” report.

In a new trend, many governments seeking to censor content from opponents have shifted their efforts to targeting online platforms, pressuring services like Google, Facebook and Twitter to remove content, the report said.

“Governments are increasingly pressuring individuals and the private sector to take down or delete offending content, as opposed to relying on blocking and filtering,” said Sanja Kelly, Freedom House’s project director.

“They know that average users have become more technologically savvy and are often able to circumvent state-imposed blocks.”

Freedom House said governments in 14 of the 65 countries passed laws over the past year to step up electronic surveillance.

Criticizing France
The report said online freedom took a hit in France from new restrictions on online content that could be seen as an “apology for terrorism” and from a new surveillance law.

It also noted France’s “sweeping legislation requiring telecommunications carriers and providers to, among other things, install ‘black boxes’ that enable the government to collect and analyze metadata on their networks.”

In Libya, Freedom House cited “a troubling increase in violence against bloggers, new cases of political censorship, and rising prices for Internet and mobile phone services.”

In Ukraine, the report highlighted “more prosecutions for content that was critical of the government’s policies, as well as increased violence from pro-Russian paramilitary groups against users who posted pro-Ukraine content in the eastern regions.”

The report said most countries in the Middle East and North Africa, where the emergence of the “Arab Spring” in 2010 and 2011 was aided in part by activists’ use of online social media, were cracking down on government critics.

It cited a case in Morocco where police detained 17-year old rapper Othman Atiq for three months after he criticized authorities in online videos and said other regimes in the region resorted to “public flogging” of bloggers.

Overall, 18 countries were rated as “free” online, while 28 were classified as “partly free” and 19 “not free.”

The most free among the 65 countries assessed was Iceland, followed by Estonia, Canada, Germany, Australia, the United States and Japan.

At the bottom of the list was China, worse than runners-up Syria and Iran in terms of a lack of online freedom. Cuba and Ethiopia rounded out the bottom five.

Freedom House voiced special concern in the report about laws and policies, like France’s, requiring Internet firms to keep so-called metadata, which includes the time, origin and destination of online communications.

“While acknowledging that these laws are often intended to assist law enforcement in investigating crimes or security threats, the UN Human Rights Committee, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, and other entities have recognized that the requirements inherently infringe on the privacy rights of all in a manner that is disproportionate to the stated aim,” the report said.

“Nevertheless, many countries – including democracies – have moved to retain or expand such rules.”

Oracle Says Fully Supports 'Digital India' Initiative

Giving a fillip to Oracle CEO Mark Hurd’s commitment to expand its base amid a positive mood in India, top Oracle executive Thomas Kurian announced that the leading cloud services provider fully supports the latest digital initiatives launched by the Indian government.

“Oracle is committed towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious ‘Digital India’ initiative. In the days to come, the world will see Oracle investing in more Indian cities to open new product development centres,” Thomas Kurian, Oracle’s president of product development, told IANS.

The announcement came at a time when Oracle’s closest rivals Microsoft and Amazon have firmed up their plans to set up data centres in India.

Kurian, who grew up in Bengaluru and has been with the company since 1996 in various product development positions, said that India is one place that has every product line from Oracle – be it dataware, middleware, analytics or business suites.

“We came to India in 1990. Today, we have 33,000 employees in India. We have been investing heavily in India as the country has some of the best talent as far as Oracle and its portfolio is concerned,” he added as five-day Oracle’s OpenWorld 2015 conference entered its third day on October 27.

Oracle has already hired 2,300 engineers in product development in India this year. The company has 12 development centres in India, including facilities in many emerging cities like Vijayawada, Thiruvananthapuram, Noida and Ahmedabad.

“You will see a robust investment drive from Oracle soon, with more and more Indian cities joining the product development plans,” noted Kurian.

Since 2008, Kurian has led development for Oracle’s family of cloud offerings, including software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS).

He is responsible for leading Oracle’s software development organisation and transitioning the company’s technology to Oracle cloud.

For several years, Kurian has been responsible for Oracle Server technologies and the Oracle Fusion Middleware family of products.

Earlier, responding to an IANS question, Oracle CEO Mark Hurd said that he is committed to expanding Oracle’s reach in the burgeoning cloud and software market in India.

“We are seriously working on the expansion plans in India. It is really a good time for this,” he told IANS, adding that Loic Le Guisquet, Oracle’s president for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region and Asia Pacific, has already initiated the expansion plan.

India software revenue totaled $4 billion (roughly Rs. 25,596 crores) in 2014, an 8.3 percent increase from 2013 revenue of $3.7 billion (roughly Rs. 24,046 crores), according to a latest Gartner report.

The five-day conference, which ends October 29, is taking place at 18 locations throughout downtown San Francisco with the iconic Moscone Centre serving as its epicentre.

Over 60,000 people including Oracle partners, customers and developers from 141 countries have gathered for the OpenWorld and JavaOne conferences.

Jabong Ropes in Benetton's Sanjeev Mohanty as CEO

Online fashion marketplace Jabong Saturday said it has appointed Sanjeev Mohanty as its CEO and Managing Director. Mohanty, whose appointment is effective early December this year, has over 20 years of experience in the fashion industry, the company said in a statement.

Prior to this, he has worked with Benetton India for over 11 years, including 8 years as Managing Director. Mohanty will play a crucial role in reviving the company’s business that has lost ground to rivals like Flipkart, Myntra and Amazon India.

Prior to Benetton India, Mohanty was associated with Madura Garments as General Manager and Brand Head for SF Jeans. He has also worked at Levi Strauss as Product Manager for the top wear category.

“His strong leadership skills and deep understanding of fashion and the Indian consumer, coupled with the continued commitment from GFG’s shareholders, will allow Jabong to further strengthen its position as the leading online fashion destination in India,” Global Fashion Group (parent company of Jabong) CEO Romain Voog said.

While Jabong has faced issues like senior-level exits, erosion in market share, mounting losses as well as speculations of a possible sell-out over the past few months, the new team under Nils Chrestin (CFO at GFG) has been working on turning around the company.

The company recently appointed Saurabh Srivastava as its chief marketing officer (CMO).

Last year, Jabong investors – Investment AB Kinnevik and Rocket Internet AG – had merged the Indian online fashion retailer with four other firms to create a new global fashion e-commerce group, GFG.

GFG has raised about $1.5 billion (roughly Rs. 9,810 crores) in capital since 2011.

“There could be no better opportunity than Jabong given its scale and consumer brand recognition… we have identified a number of growth drivers that will allow us to deliver an unparallelled experience to delight our customers and suppliers,” Mohanty said.

Lorenzo Grabau, Chairman of GFG and CEO of Investment AB Kinnevik said India is a hugely exciting market. “GFG’s shareholders and management remain committed to building Jabong to the benefit of its customers, employees and partners. We look forward to supporting Sanjeev as the company starts a new chapter this Diwali,” he added.

Flipkart Opens Its Largest Warehouse in Hyderabad

India’s biggest e-commerce company Flipkart plans to invest $2 billion (roughly Rs. 13,067 crores) in logistics and another $500 million (roughly Rs. 3,266 crores) in a nationwide warehouse network over the next four to five years, co-founder and COO Binny Bansal said on Friday.

The company, which opened its largest fulfilment centre here, is looking at opening 80 to 100 warehouses across the country.

Bansal told reporters that they will explore raising funds through IPO and private investors in addition from their own accruals.

Telangana Finance Minister E. Rajender inaugurated Flipkart’s largest fulfilment centre in the country at Gundla Pochampally on the city outskirts in the presence of Bansal.

Spread over 220,000 square feet and with a storage capacity of 589,000 cubic feet, this is Flipkart’s 17th warehouse in the country.

The automated state-of-the-art fulfilment centre is expected to ship out 120,000 items every day.

Bansal said the warehouse was designed to provide easy access to e-commerce services for sellers, while providing faster and seamless services to customers.

Bansal said the warehouse was designed to provide easy access to e-commerce services for sellers, while providing faster and seamless services to customers.

Equipped with a 1-km-long conveyer belt, which is expected to reduce motion wastage by 75 percent, the centre has automated sorters to separate shipments based on pin codes.

Offering 50 million products on its platform, Flipkart has 45 million registered users clocking over 10 million daily visits rpt visits. The company, which has 33,000 employees, delivers 10 million shipments every month.

Flipkart earlier this week announced extension of its customer-centric campaign ‘FlipkartConnect’ in Uttar Pradesh to educate and enable consumers to understand benefits of online shopping.

Internet Freedom Has Improved in India

Internet freedom has “improved” in India in the last one year due to the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on the IT Act, a US-based independent watchdog has said, placing the world’s largest democratic country under “partly free” category.

“Internet freedom improved in India for the second consecutive year in 2015, even as more governments worldwide censored information of public interest and expanded surveillance,” said the ‘Freedom on the Net 2015′ released by Freedom House in a statement on Wednesday.

In the 2014 report, India scored 42 points which came down to 40 points in 2015. More points means more restrictions on Internet freedom. For instance, China with 88 points was the world’s worst abuser of Internet freedom followed by Syria (87) and Iran (87).

Since June 2014, 32 of the 65 countries assessed in Freedom on the Net saw Internet freedom deteriorating. Notable declines were documented in Libya, France and-for the second year running Ukraine, amid its territorial conflict and propaganda war with Russia.

Iceland is the most Internet free country with six points. Freedom House attributed India’s improvement in Internet freedom to the Supreme Court’s March 2015 ruling on the IT Act, which it said provided critical improvements to the legal framework protecting Internet freedom.

“The Supreme Court’s ruling on the IT Act was a long awaited victory for free speech activists in India,” said Sanja Kelly, project director for Freedom on the Net.

In 2014, Internet penetration in India was 18 percent of the population. At the same time, network shutdowns in the name of security and a lack of transparency about blocking and surveillance are limits on Internet freedom that kept the country’s rating “partly free”, the report said.

“In 2015, India’s Internet users spoke out to defend net neutrality in record numbers, demonstrating a real commitment to equal, open access to online content,” said Madeline Earp, Freedom on the Net’s Asia research analyst.

“Shutdowns and murky information about authorities’ blocking and surveillance practices violate the same fundamental Internet freedom principles,” Earp said.

“The Supreme Court judgment in the Shreya Singhal case was a big step for Internet freedom in India but it came from the judiciary,” said Chinmayi Arun, research director of the Centre for Communication Governance at National Law University Delhi, which authored the India portion of the report.

In its report, Freedom Now said India maintained its position as the third largest Internet consumer base after the US and China, and saw positive developments in terms of the regulatory framework, declining detentions for online speech, and burgeoning digital access.

“However, increased website blocking and intimidation of Internet users threatened to hamper India’s steadily improving Internet freedom,” the report said.

Freedom Now, however rued, that Indian law remains inadequate for the effective protection of privacy. Although a privacy bill is being drafted, reports indicate the law enforcement agencies are seeking to be exempted from the law, leaving its scope and effectiveness under question.

“There were no reported instances of unlawful surveillance in the present reporting period, although this may be due to the extreme opacity of the regulatory framework governing surveillance,” it said.

News reports indicate the government is continuing to develop the Central Monitoring System, its ambitious nationwide mass surveillance program directed at monitoring individuals’ digital communications, it added.

Supreme Court to Hear Plea to Ban Websites With Sikh Jokes

The Supreme Court will look into a plea for a ban on websites carrying jokes on Sikhs, as a lawyer-petitioner told the apex court on Friday the community was projected as people of low intellect, stupid and foolish with such jokes.

As petitioner Harvinder Chowdhary urged for directions to ban websites spreading jokes on Sikhs, an apex court bench of Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice V. Gopala Gowda asked her why she wanted such a ban as “this (Sikh) community is known for a great sense of humour and they also enjoy such jokes”.

“This is only an amusement. Why you want it to be stopped,” Justice Thakur said while seeking to understand the rationale behind the ban plea.

“All jokes relating to the Sikh community should be stopped. My children are humiliated and feel embarrassed and they don’t want to suffix Singh with their name,” she argued.

Chowdhary said whenever she travelled in public transport, including Delhi metro, she came across instances where even on trivial issues people were ridiculed while citing jokes relating of the Sikh community.

Referring to a recent comment by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during electioneering in Bihar that Bihar residents were the most intelligent people, the petitioner said it reflected as if other communities were not intelligent.

As Justice Thakur responded that the prime minister would say the same thing about Sikhs if he went to Chandigarh, Chowdhary said the prime minister would not say so because the BJP was in rift with its ally, Shiromani Akali Dal.

Urging the court to direct the government to clamp down on the more than 5,000 websites like www.jokes, the petitioner said, “They are criticising one community and it should stop.”

Naming a number of websites carrying Sikh-centric jokes, Chowdhary sought directions to the Telecom Ministry to install filters to weed out jokes relating to the community.

She said these websites created public nuisance under Section 268 of Indian Penal Code and it was a crime under the cyber laws.

The court directed for further hearing of the matter on November 16 as she wanted to file some more documents in support of her plea.

Snapdeal Diwali Sale Day One Saw 'Record' Traffic, Sales

E-commerce marketplace Snapdeal said that the Electronics Monday Sale was the highest ever traffic experienced by the platform, where five mobiles were sold every second. In a statement issued on Monday evening, the company claimed that it was on track to reach $100 million in sales (roughly Rs. 647 crores).

“It has been our biggest day so far,” said Rahul Taneja, VP Category Management, Snapdeal in a phone conversation with Gadgets 360. “Compared to the Preview Sale on September 29th, where they got 6x the orders, and 10x the sales, today’s response has been even better,” he claimed, adding that Snapdeal is expecting twice the revenue compared to the Preview Sale.

“We’re trending at about 17x of sales compared to a normal day. The traffic has increased by around 6x on our platform,” he said, adding that the day had yet to come to a close.

The focus of the sale was mobiles and electronics, and Snapdeal’s top three selling categories were smartphones, personal grooming devices, and cameras. Smartphones from Xiaomi, Apple, Samsung, and Micromax where the highest selling in their category. Power banks, televisions, washing machines, and water heaters also saw a spike in sales, the company claimed.

“We’re ensured that our platform can handle 20x the traffic in general and in number of concurrent users. We had a seamless experience with no incidence of failure.” Taneja said.

Commenting on the pricing disparity and the inflated discounts, Tanjeja said that the sale prices are governed by what the sellers put in on the platform.

“Our job is to ensure that there is a high degree of quality checks to ensure that such incidents do not happen, or are minimised as much as possible. We’ve seen very few incidents today, and we’re working towards ensuring that nothing of this sort happens,” Taneja said.