Rupee fall gives BPOs some relief from Philippines – Source The Economic Times

Partho Sarkar, CEO of BPO firm Hinduja Global Solutions (HGS), is among those who are happy about the rupee’s fall against the dollar. The BPO business in India has taken a bit of a knock, thanks to the growing competitiveness of the Philippines and the withdrawal of the 10-year tax holiday that the Indian government previously extended to the IT/BPO sector.

“The weakening rupee will make us more export-competitive. India has lost a lot to the Philippines,” says Sarkar. About 32% of HGS’s revenues are dollar-denominated. The Philippine peso too has depreciated against the dollar since May, but far less than the rupee. 

Philippines has over the past decade emerged as a strong contender to India, particularly in the voice BPO space. India’s BPO revenues now are at about $16 billion annually, while that of the Philippines is about $13 billion. 

The falling rupee is catalyzing growth for the export-focused Indian IT/BPO companies. And coming on top of the recovery in the US economy, the benefits are likely to be particularly good. Every percentage point decline in the rupee adds 30-40 basis points to an IT/BPO company’s operating margins. 

Reflecting that, the BSE IT index has outperformed the broader sensex and all other sector indices in recent months. And the share price increases of IT companies have substantially pushed up their market valuations. 

Abraham Mathews, CFO of Infosys BPO, said companies decide to outsource based on the value proposition and cost arbitrage. “It’s too early to say if clients are moving outsourcing work to India to take advantage of a sliding rupee. I think companies will take six months to adjust to the new cost structure,” he said. 

Nonetheless, there are signs that outsourcing is growing. Retailer Sears Canada is laying off 245 workers and is outsourcing IT positions to Wipro and IBM in India and the Philippines. IBM is laying off workers in the US and moving them to places like Brazil, India and China. 

Talking about the stock price movements of IT companies in recent times, CSS Corp CEO Tiger Ramesh said stock markets look primarily at the fundamentals of the core business and operational efficiency of a company. “They discount any benefits you get by way of forex movement,” he said.

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Facebook proposes changes in user data policy – Source The Economic Times

Facebook has proposed “updates” to its privacy policies that explain how the social networking giant would use personal data of about 1.2 billion users to deliver advertising and other personalised services.

The social network is proposing these updates as part of a settlement in a US court case relating to advertising, it said in a statement.

The website has revised its two key documents – Data Use Policy and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities — to explain how a user’s name, profile picture and content may be used in connection with ads or commercial content.

The proposed updates say: “You give us permission to use your name, profile picture, content, and information in connection with commercial, sponsored, or related content (such as a brand you like) served or enhanced served or enhanced by us.”

The earlier policy line, “you can use your privacy settings to limit how your name and profile picture may be associated with commercial..”, has been removed.

On the proposed updates, Facebook Chief Privacy Officer, (Policy) Erin Egan said: “We revised our explanation of how things like your name, profile picture and content may be used in connection with ads or commercial content to make it clear that you are granting Facebook permission for this use when you use our services.”

Facebook also said that it may use profile photos of users to help their friends tag them in photos. The proposed Data Use Policy says that choosing to make information public would allow anyone, including people off Facebook, to be be able to see it.

Also, the website would also have information about the computer, mobile phone, or other devices that are used to install Facebook applications. Other information like IP address, mobile phone number, browser and location of the user would also be accessible to the website.

“We may get your GPS or other location information so we can tell you if any of your friends are nearby, or we could request device information to improve how our apps work on your device,” says the new policy.

Facebook said that users can review and comment on the proposed updates in the next seven days and it will “carefully consider feedback” before adopting any changes.

The proposed updates came after a US court early this week granted approval to Facebook’s USD 20 million settlement of a lawsuit over its ‘Sponsored Story’ advertisements.

Twitter’s top legal executive Alexander Macgillivray steps down in surprise move – Source The Economic Times

Twitter’s top lawyer, known as a champion of free speech, unexpectedly stepped down on Friday as the micro blogging company moved closer toward a long-expected initial public offering. 

Alexander Macgillivray, known for fending off legal challenges to Twitter users’ right to express themselves in pithy, 140-character messages, himself tweeted the news without giving a reason for the move.

But Macgillivray, who became Twitter’s general counsel in September 2009, said he would continue to support the San Francisco-based company as an adviser. 

Twitter declined to comment, but said Macgillivray would be replaced by Vijaya Gadde, who has been managing the company’s corporate and international legal work. Gadde is a former senior director in Juniper Networks Inc’s legal department. 

Gadde has deep experience in corporate and securities law, while Macgillivray’s specialty is intellectual property. 

Twitter, which has more than 200 million active users, is widely expected to go public in 2014. 

Macgillivray, who has been credited with coining the motto that Twitter is the “free speech wing of the free speech party,” helped shape Twitter’s reputation as a champion for its users’ rights over the years. 

In 2012, Macgillivray’s legal team fought a court order to extract an Occupy Wall Street protester’s Twitter posts, and resisted when India’s government asked Twitter to take down tweets considered inflammatory. 

That same year, he publicly apologized after Twitter briefly suspended the account of a British journalist for posting the work email address of an executive at NBC. The journalist had been openly critical of the network’s Olympics coverage, around which Twitter had built a massive marketing initiative. 

“I think they’re really aware of themselves as being a place for discussion, news and sometimes for dissent,” said Ryan Calo, a law professor at the University of Washington, referring to Twitter. 

As a result, the company has had a longstanding commitment for free speech and privacy principles, which would not easily be shaken by Macgillivray’s departure, he said. 

Twitter’s public policy group, which previously reported to Macgillivray, will now report directly to Chief Executive Dick Costolo, the company said. 

Macgillivray said in his blog post that after four years at Twitter he was looking forward to the change. 

“I’m looking forward to engaging my various Internet passions from new and different perspectives, seeing friends and family without distraction, and just goofing off a bit. We should all do more of that,” he tweeted.

Curb overuse of mobile phones, say experts – Source The Economic Times

Experts at a panel discussion here have warned against excessive use of mobile phones, with some saying that “living close to mobile tower is like being in a life size microwave.” 

 

At a panel discussion, held here yesterday, the experts touched upon various forms of radiation, with a special focus on mobile phone radiation. They dwelt on effects that mobile phone radiation can have on people, a release said today. 

Dr Girish Kumar, Professor at IIT Bombay said, “living close to mobile towers is like being in a life size microwave.” The panel of experts also highlighted dangers of overusing a mobile phone. 

The World Health Organisation Fact Sheet 2011 states that a person using mobile phone 30-40 cm away from the body while texting and using internet will have reduced exposure to radio-frequency fields than someone holding the handset close, the release said. 

“WHO also advocates greater use of hands-free devices, as they help keep the mobile phone away from head and body during phone calls. Exposure is also reduced by limiting the number and length of calls. Using the mobile phone in areas of good reception also reduces exposure as it allows phone to transmit at reduced power,” it said. 

Film actor Juhi Chawla and activist Prakash Munshi highlighted the health hazards resulting from indiscriminate installation of mobile towers. 

Dr Anand Gokani, consulting physician, Bombay Hospital spoke about precautions to be taken to avoid these health hazards. Dr Meenakshi Thakur of Tata Memorial Centre, Mumbai spoke about radiation diagnosis, nuclear medicines and safety issues. 

The panel discussion on “Radiations: Myths and Realities” was organised to address questions and to educate and inform students, public and the media, by the Nehru Science Centre. The panel comprised scientists, social scientists and activists.

Apple launches iPhone trade-in program in US – Source The Economic Times

Apple on Friday began letting US iPhone owners trade in their smartphones for credit toward buying new models.

The California company’s trade-in program kicked off in the wake of unconfirmed reports of a September 10 event at which Apple will unveil new iPhones, with rumors ranging from a gold handset to a low-price version aimed at emerging markets.

“iPhones hold great value,” Apple spokeswoman Amy Bessette said in an email to AFP.

“So Apple Retail Stores are launching a new program to assist customers who wish to bring in their previous-generation iPhone for reuse or recycling.”

She would not specify how much Apple is paying for old iPhones, but they can fetch $300 or so depending on the model at an array of websites or US consumer electronics shops that buy handsets.

The Wall Street Journal earlier this month reported that Apple had asked its Taiwan-based supplier, Hon Hai Precision, to begin shipping two new versions of the iPhone in September, including a lower-cost model.

Speculation has centered around whether Apple will shift its strategy of focusing on premium devices priced at the high-end of the market to include a lower-cost handset appealing to people with tight budgets.

A survey by Gartner said Apple’s share of the smartphone market worldwide fell to 14.2 per cent in the second quarter, while Samsung’s rose to 31.7 percent.

Samsung has found global success with smartphones powered by Google’s free Android software, which now dominates the market.

As the smartphone market in the United States and other Western countries matures, companies may have better luck encouraging upgrades rather than reaching out to first-time buyers, according to Gartner analyst Van Baker.

Motives for Apple’s trade-in program likely include keeping iPhone users loyal to the smartphones as well as the lucrative iTunes shop for digital music, films, and books.

“Keeping people in the fold is what it is all about,” Baker said. “The question for me is whether it will be competitive with programs that already exist in the market.”

Cyber-spying fallout: Govt may restrict usage of Google’s Gmail for employees – Source The Economic Times

The government will soon ask all its employees to stop using Google’s Gmail for official communication, a move intended to increase security of confidential government information after revelations of widespread cyber-spying by the US.

A senior official in the ministry of communications and information technology said the government plans to send a formal notification to nearly 5 lakh employees barring them from email service providers such as Gmail that have their servers in the US, and instead asking them to stick to the official email service provided by India’s National Informatics Centre.

“Gmail data of Indian users resides in other countries as the servers are located outside. Currently, we are looking to address this in the government domain, where there are large amounts of critical data,” said J Satyanarayana, secretary in the department of electronics and information technology.

Snowden Fallout
The move comes in the wake of revelations by former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that the US government had direct access to large amounts of personal data on the Internet such as emails and chat messages from companies like Google, Facebook and Apple through a programme called PRISM.

Documents leaked by Snowden showed that NSA may have accessed network infrastructure in many countries, causing concerns of potential security threats and data breaches. Even as the new policy is being formulated, there has been no mention yet of how compliance will be ensured.

Several senior government officials in India, including ministers of state for communications & IT Milind Deora and Kruparani Killi, have their Gmail IDs listed in government portals as their official email.

A Google India spokeswoman said the company has not been informed about the ban, and hence it cannot comment on speculation. “Nothing is documented so far, so for us, it is still speculation,” Google said in an email response.

A senior official in the IT department admitted on condition of anonymity that employees turn to service providers such as Gmail because of the ease of use compared with official email services, as well as the bureaucratic processes that govern creation of new accounts.

“You can just go and create an account in Gmail easily, whereas for a government account, you have to go through a process because we have to ensure that he is a genuine government user.”

Last week, IT Minister Kapil Sibal said the new policy would require all government officials living abroad to use NIC servers that are directly linked to a server in India while accessing government email services. Sibal said there has been no evidence of the US accessing Internet data from India.

Sunil Abraham, executive director of Bangalore-based research firm Centre for Internet and Society, said he agrees with the government’s decision to ban Gmail for official communication and that any official violating this needs to be punished.

“After Snowden’s revelations, we can never be sure to what extent foreign governments are intercepting government emails,” he said. Abraham, however, called the government’s decision a “late reaction”, as the use of Gmail and other free email services by bureaucrats has increased in the past.

“Use of official government email would also make it easier to achieve greater transparency and anti-corruption initiatives. Ministers, intelligence and law enforcement officials should not be allowed to use alternate email providers under any circumstance.”

Narayana Murthy says Ashok Vemuri keen to be CEO early – Source The Economic Times

NR Narayana Murthy, executive chairman of Infosys, said AshokVemuri had quit the company because he was keen to be the CEO of a company as early as possible and he had got the opportunity. 

The $7-billion Infosys announced on Wednesday that Vemuri, a board member and head of its America geography and the global manufacturing and engineering services vertical, was quitting the company after 15 years. Vemuri was seen to be among the top three contenders to replace CEO SD Shibulal when he retires in 2015. 

In a response to TOI, Murthy said, “Ashok has been an important player in the growth of Infosys. We are all very grateful to him. I was close to him since he was one of my mentees. He consulted me often on many matters and we were also good family friends. I must admit he did not consult me on this decision to move on. I understand his predicament.” 

Murthy then goes on to say, “I spoke to him on Tuesday night to find out if we could do anything to retain him. He said he wanted to be the CEO of a company as early as possible and that he had gotten the opportunity now even though the company is much smaller. On the other hand, he said, the probability of his becoming the CEO at Infosys was at best 33 percent and at least 18 to 20 months away. Therefore, he felt that he must move on. I agreed with him and wished him the best since he has been a wonderful Infoscion. He and I will continue our friendly relations even though he will no more be with us.” 

Murthy’s point that Vemuri had already got a CEO opportunity at a smaller IT company will strengthen the speculation that Vemuri will head iGate. iGate BSE 0.00 % has been looking for a CEO since May, when it fired Phaneesh Murthy from that role for not reporting a relationship with a subordinate. iGate recently said it would finalize its CEO choice by September.