Google’s new spending binge shows Alphabet Inc running after biggest rivals

The company also spent at historic levels, nearly tripling capital expenditure for the quarter to $7.7 billion

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Alphabet Inc.’s first-quarter results came with a clear message to Wall Street: The company is embarking on a new spending binge to chase its biggest rivals.

Google’s parent posted the strongest sales growth in almost four years on Monday, indicating marketers kept flocking to its services amid rising scrutiny of digital ads. But the company also spent at historic levels, nearly tripling capital expenditure for the quarter to $7.7 billion.

Almost all of that spending went to buttress newer cloud and consumer-device businesses that lag behind leaders Online Shopping for Electronics, Apparel, Computers, Books, DVDs & more Inc. and Apple Inc. After neglecting these markets for years in favour of its main ad businesses and riskier moonshot bets, Alphabet is now splurging to catch up.

“The big story from the results was the significant rise in expenses,” Brian Wieser, an analyst at Pivotal Research Group, wrote in a note to investors.

Other tech giants are spending prodigiously, too, as they hunt for new markets. In the fourth quarter, Amazon’s capex rose 50 percent and Facebook Inc.’s spending nearly doubled.

Alphabet’s rising first-quarter investments partly reflected a $2.4 billion real-estate deal. But even without that, capex more than doubled from a year earlier. Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat cautioned investors to expect more of the same. “I wouldn’t suggest a one-off in terms of the investment we’re making,” she said. “We’re really building out to support the growth that we’re seeing.”

Porat ticked off the items that are opening her wallet: data centres; three new undersea cables; processors, networking equipment and other machinery to power Google’s sprawling artificial intelligence efforts.

Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai told investors that Google’s nascent hardware unit, which builds smartphones and speakers rivalling Amazon and Apple, is two to three years from “the scale that we want to see.” The investment required for this includes custom chips designed in-house, an expensive skill that Apple has been developing for years. Click Here

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Kapil Mohan, the man who kept traditions alive at Mohan Meakin passes away

Mohan, chairman of Mohan Meakin, the maker of Old Monk rum, passed away on Saturday following a cardiac arrest at Mohan Nagar, near Ghaziabad

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Kapil Mohan hardly ever downed a peg. Yet, the dark rum in a fat bottle his company brewed was the favourite evening companion for millions cutting across age, class and continents.

Mohan, chairman of Mohan Meakin, the maker of Old Monk rum, passed away on Saturday following a cardiac arrest at Mohan Nagar, near Ghaziabad. He was 88. He was the man behind famous brands like Old Monk, Solan No.1, and Golden Eagle, before age and competition caught up.

The teetotaller, who drew strength primarily from other spirits — of the holy kind — ran the company under his watch for over four decades. Only a year ago, he passed on the executive control to his nephews Hemant and Vinay, though he continued to be the chairman.

Pushed to the helm, following the death of his elder brother V R Mohan in the early 1970s, Kapil saw the emergence of the dark rum packed in the iconic squarish hard glass bottle as a global brand.

Till the mid 2000s, it was the largest-selling liquor brand in the country, with heavy patronage from military canteens. Old Monk held its own even as other brands such as Golden Eagle Beer were weathering the onslaught of Vijay Mallya-led United Breweries group and other competitors.

Yet, much of that market dominance seemed to have been achieved by word of mouth, than through conscious marketing efforts. “We do not advertise. I will not, and as long as I am in this chair, we will not (advertise),” Mohan had said in an interview in 2012. “The best way of my advertising is the product: When it comes to you and you taste it, you look at the difference and ask what is it. That is the best advertisement.”

Mohan was the president of the municipal committee in Himachal Pradesh’s Solan, where the company had its distillery and brewery. In fact, one of the secrets of the success of Old Monk and other brands was the fact that the water was sourced from the same natural spring in Solan as it was 150 years ago, when the facilities were first set up. People close to him say the Padma Shri awardee was averse to change and wanted things done the traditional way.

But the younger generation had other ideas. In mid 2000s, the family saw a separation with Rakesh ‘Rocky’ Mohan (son of V R Mohan), Kapil’s nephew breaking away. He eventually sold the company’s Lucknow facility to the Wave group of Ponty Chadha. In a short span of time, Chadha, who was seen close to the then chief minister Mayawati, brought under his control the liquor business in Uttar Pradesh and other Northern states.

The slide in Mohan Meakin’s fortunes coincided with the rise of Chadha. Meakin’s, which was once listed on the Calcutta Stock Exchange, has since been delisted.

The Apple iPhone X vs iPhone 8: What are the big differences?

As the dust settles, it’s time for a comparison of the new iPhones’ key features, from size and screen to biometrics and battery

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If you follow Apple, you know by now that the company just made its biggest phone announcement in years. There’s the iPhone 8, a pretty update to the line that began with the iPhone 6 in 2014. Then there is the iPhone X, a major overhaul that Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook called “the future of the smartphone.”

Let’s go over the major differences:

More job cuts in India? Cognizant to expand local hiring in US

Firm to prune domestic costs through initiatives such as voluntary separation

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Cognizant Technology Solutions plans to sharply increase local hiring in the US this year with increased demand for co-innovation and on-site presence from clients. The Nasdaq-listed technology services major said it would look at talent across local community colleges to big management universities to man different projects in the US.

Last month, when the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services opened the window for applications, Cognizant applied for “less than half” H1B visas compared with last year.

“We are evolving our workforce and delivery in the United States. Cognizant hired 4,000 US citizens in 2016, and in 2017 and beyond, we expect to significantly ramp up our US based workforce by hiring experienced professionals in the open market and by making more use of university programmes. We are shifting our workforce largely in response to clients’ increasing need for co-innovation. But we still seek visas for highly-specialised and skilled talent…We expect to further reduce our need for these visas going forward. As part of our shift, we continue to expand our US delivery centres,” Rajeev Mehta, President, Cognizant told analysts on Friday.

At the same time, the company has taken up initiatives such as the voluntary separation package, which was announced last week, for senior employees to optimise costs.

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“We are looking for opportunities to further optimise cost structures…We just launched earlier this week a voluntary separation package that programme will go till the end of Q2 and we will see the benefit of that in Q3,” said Karen McLoughlin, chief financial officer, Cognizant.

The company is the second software provider after Infosys to announce increase in local hiring in the US. Cognizant, however, has not disclosed any numbers. Beyond the business shift towards digital, Donald Trump-led US administration’s moves towards H1B visa restrictions have resulted in companies focusing on local hiring there.

Cognizant saw a 26 per cent growth in net profits to $557 million for the quarter ending March 31, 2017, while revenues grew by 10.7 per cent to $3.55 billion. ReadMore

Samsung to launch Galaxy S8 in India on April 19: Key facts to know

Samsung revealed Bixby, a smart voice assistant to rival Apple’s Siri at the US event.

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Almost three weeks after its initial launch in the US, South Korean giant Samsung will launch its flagship device Samsung Galaxy S8 in India on April 19.

Samsung launched S8 and S8 Plus on March 29 in the US. The devices come in two variants with different screen sizes — the 5.8-inch Galaxy S8 and 6.2-inch Galaxy S8 Plus.

On Monday, the company said in an invitation: “Samsung India cordially invites you to the launch of its next Galaxy series”.

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Samsung revealed Bixby, a smart voice assistant to rival Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant at the US event.

The device has a bezel-less curved edge “infinity display” covered with pristine glass and a 12MP rear camera with multi-frame processing and optical image stabilisation. It has an 8MP auto-focus front shooter.

The device is IP68 rated, meaning it is water and dust resistant. The company has also upped the security feature with iris scanner, face recognition and fingerprint scanner – moved to the back of the device – to unlock the device.

The home button has been shifted beneath the “infinity display”. (readmore)

Netflix, YouTube & more: Airtel Internet TV launched at Rs 7,999 annual pay

It comes preloaded with Netflix, YouTube, Google Play Music, Google Play Games, Airtel Movies

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Airtel Digital TV, the direct-to-home arm of Bharti Airtel, on Wednesday launched ‘Internet TV — powered by Android TV, which brings online content to the TV screen along with a bouquet of over 500 plus satellite TV channels, the company said.

Airtel ‘Internet TV’ transforms any TV into a Smart TV and enables users to switch seamlessly between online and linear TV content with a single device.

It is priced at Rs 4,999 with three month Digital TV subscription. Also, for a limited period, customers can pay Rs 7,999 and get the Airtel Internet TV with one year subscription.

Airtel ‘Internet TV’ will be available exclusively on Amazon India starting on Wednesday.

It will be available through Airtel Digital TV touch points — retail stores/website/contact centres soon after online launch, a company statement said.

“Customers can stream and cast their favourite content directly on to their TV as well download their favourite apps and play games. All of this along with the best satellite TV experience with 500 plus channels offers the complete Home entertainment experience,” the statement said.

“Growing broadband penetration is driving the popularity of online content, particularly in urban homes, and with Airtel ‘Internet TV’ we are bringing world-class content from the web and much more to the TV screen,” said Sunil Taldar, CEO & Director of DTH, Bharti Airtel.

Airtel ‘Internet TV’ comes preloaded with Netflix, YouTube, Google Play Music, Google Play Games, Airtel Movies and more. It also comes with access to Google Play Store that allows users to download their apps, content and games on to their TV.

“This latest innovation has been designed keeping in mind the needs of Indian homes and it bridges the gap between online and offline worlds to enable an end-to-end entertainment experience with the convenience of a single device.ReadMore

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Eicher CEO downplays Bajaj claims, says not easy to unseat Royal Enfield

Enfield enjoys almost the entire 250-350 cc motorcycle market in country

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Royal Enfield, well known for its bullets, said it is not going to be easy for any new entrant to unseat the company. Bajaj Auto, which entered the 350-500cc motorcycle segment in December, claimed to have overtaken Royal Enfield in February in volumes.

“If you look at the 250 cc plus motorcycle market in India, every 19 of 20 products are sold by us…that is a reality. It is not that easy to unseat someone who is doing this,” Siddhartha Lal, managing director and chief executive officer of Eicher (which owns Enfield) told Business Standard. Bajaj’s claim was based on one month’s performance of the Dominar, its new 373cc premium sports motorcycle.

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Japanese two-wheeler major Honda is also reported to be working on a motorcycle to cater to this segment. “It is very clear. There will be people entering. There is no doubt about it. Just that it is still a very small segment. If more players enter it may help grow the segment,” said Lal.

Enfield enjoys almost the entire 250-350 cc motorcycle market in the country, estimated at close to 50,000 units a month. This is where it gets the lion’s share of its sales. It controls 80 per cent In the 350-500 cc market (data for the first 11 months of FY17). This is a much smaller segment, with monthly volume of 5,300 units.

Lal added that the company is doing lot of things on and off product. “Our dealerships are unique and don’t cater to mass products. It is not like a factory shop. We are working to improve and enhance the experience. And on the product side lot of things will happen. I am sure there will be good and interesting motorcycles from others. But we don’t want to cater to everything. If somebody comes and creates a new segment, good for them. We want to stick to our core and do what we do well,” said Lal. (readmore…)