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India’s Times Internet isn’t ceding ground to US rivals Facebook and Google – TechCrunch

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The aggressive push by Silicon Valley companies and Chinese firms to win India, one of the last great growth markets, has decimated many local businesses in recent years. With each passing day, Amazon is closing in on Walmart-owned Flipkart’s lead on the e-commerce space. Uber is fighting with Ola for the tentpole position of the ride-hailing market; and Google and Facebook dominate the ads business, to name a few. But a handful of companies in India have not only survived the growing competition, but they have built businesses that are positively thriving.

Media conglomerate Times Internet, one such company, says that its properties now reach 110 million users each day and 450 million users each month. To put this in context: Facebook and Google have about 300 million monthly active users in India. Facebook, which is mired in controversy over the spread of misinformation on WhatsApp in India (and other regions), has not revealed its growth in the nation in last two years. But in a marketing pitch, the juggernaut says its family of apps (marquee Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram) reach 350 million users in the nation each month.

In a rare industry move, Satyan Gajwani, vice chairman of Times Internet, shared an overview of the conglomerate’s business on Tuesday, revealing the ever growing tentacles of its ambitions.

If the numbers are so huge, why self-publish? Gajwani declined to comment but his company is in a unique situation. For all its scale, Times Internet remains one of the least talked about conglomerates of its size in the country. Most news organizations in India compete with its media outlets, which may explain why it is under-reported in the press.

The ever-growing portfolio of Times Internet companies

The subsidiary of 181-year-old Bennett Coleman and Company Limited (popularly known as Times Group) operates more than three dozen properties, including newspaper Times of India, online outlet Indiatimes, advertisement business Colombia, venture arm Tventures, and streaming services Gaana and MX Player . And nearly all of these properties are growing, Gajwani said.

For instance, Times Internet’s news outlets have amassed 265 million monthly active users. The Times of India, the country’s most read newspaper and news website, alone has 212 million monthly active users, up by 44% since last year. Times Internet’s regional digital periodicals such as NewsPoint, Navbharat Times, Maharashtra Times, Vijay Karnataka now have 122 monthly active users, he said.

Music streaming service Gaana, which raised $115 million from Tencent and others last year, reached 100 monthly active users in March this year, the service announced last week. MX Player, a video playback app that doubles as a streaming service that Times Internet acquired for some $140 million last year, is one of the most popular Android apps in emerging markets.

During the first month of ongoing IPL cricket tournament, one of the hottest events in India, 118 million users tuned into Times Internet’s Cricbuzz, a news and entertainment service dedicated to sports. As the ecosystem of mobile gaming begins to gain major traction in India, Times Internet says it is building a portfolio of apps in this space, too.

Its lifestyle properties such as MenXP, iDiva, and Whats Hot have 40 million monthly active users and its videos clock more than 200 million views each month. These properties are exploring an additional revenue channel by selling products directly to customers, Gajwani told TechCrunch in an interview.

Times Internet vice chairman Satyan Gajwani

Moving beyond ads

Chasing that avenue illustrates Times Internet’s growing push to grow its business beyond ads. Most of Times Internet’s properties are built on top of ads and don’t cost users anything for access. Its own advertising business, called Colombia, now supplements some advertisement on its network and is used by more than a dozen outside brands including Ola, ABP News, and Hotstar.

But online advertising still can’t compete with those of TV and print in India, Satish Meena, an analyst with research firm Forrester told TechCrunch. So in recent years, Times Internet has announced a number of subscription services across many of its properties.

“Especially for premium publishers, an ads-only business model is not likely to last or sustain in the long run,” Gajwani said. Last year, Times Internet announced Times Prime, a subscription bundle that includes access to premium version of Gaana, an ad-free experience on Times of India, and discounts on a number of third-party services such as food delivery Swiggy, retailer BigBasket, and theatre chain PVR Cinemas. Gajwani said Times Internet has hit a million customers across its subscription services.

Part of Times Internet’s push to expand its revenue channels is its growing focus on Tventures, its VC fund that made early investments in a number of startups including edtech startup Byju’s and logistics startup Delhivery, two unicorns. It has also invested in ride-hailing service Shuttl, and cricket fantasy app MPL among others.

Gajwani said Tventures looks at “use cases that can benefit from its growing network.” And that’s one of the big advantages of Times Internet’s scale. The properties they own enjoy great advertisement benefits across its sprawling network. “There are very few companies — with exception of Google and Facebook — that have our level of scale,” Gajwani said.

Times Internet, which employs over 5,000 people, also operates Times Bridge, an investment firm that ties with international brands to help them launch in India. Some of its strategic partners include Uber, Airbnb, and Coursera. It also partnered with a number of news outlets including Business Insider, TechRadar, Huffington Post (which, like TechCrunch, is owned by Verizon Media Group), AdAge, PCMag, and Gizmodo Media properties Lifehacker and Gizmodo to launch them in India.

But it isn’t all success, there have been less successful ventures particularly in the media segment.

The Indian versions of Lifehacker, Gizmodo, TechRadar, and PCMag failed to attract significant audiences in the nation and have already closed shops. Huffington Post ended its partnership with Times Internet in 2017 and it now wholly controls Huffington Post India.

Gajwani admitted that Times Internet realized working with some niche publishers isn’t so sustainable. “We have some partnerships that we maintain that are doing well such as Business Insider,” he added. Today, Times Internet is no longer primarily looking at publishers for future partnerships, and instead focusing on “platforms and technologies.”

A couple of hiccups aside, the biggest challenge for Times Internet going forward is generating sufficient revenue from ads and convincing enough users to become paying customers. Times Internet generated $202 million in fiscal year 2018 at a loss of $23 million, according to regulatory filings. In an interview last week, Gaana CEO Prashan Agarwal said his music streaming service, which dominates the market but is not profitable, will introduce a number of premium plans across a wide range of price tiers to attract users.

Gajwani said he also hopes to build Colombia into one of the biggest ad networks in India and tap 20 million paying subscribers by 2023. He said some properties within Times Network could raise additional cash from outside investors in the coming future.  These are ambitious goals, but Times Internet is one of the few firms in India that realistically has a shot at co-existing with dominant overseas tech platforms.



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Nothing’s Ear (Stick) Teaser Tells Us A Whole Lot Of Nothing

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The good news for fans of the relatively new company is that we know Nothing will be launching a new audio product by the end of the year. The bad news is that we know almost nothing about the product except for its name: the Nothing Ear (Stick). The company included a couple of teaser images with its announcement, but none of them really give us a look at the product, instead showcasing a cylindrical container (presumably the charging case) with the company’s logo on it.

Nothing calls the Ear (Stick) “the next evolution” in its own audio lineup, reinforcing the same ethos it used to hawk its smartphone: that of a simplistic device that doesn’t get in the way — possibly in the literal sense this time around, as Nothing describes the product as featuring “supremely comfortable” ergonomics and a “feather-light” design. If there’s any point that seems worth getting excited about, it’s the mention that Ear (Stick) will be “molded to your ears.”

Whether that refers to a pair of earbuds that will come with silicone putty for creating custom ear molds is anyone’s guess, but the concept itself is definitely a thing. Beyond that, Nothing confirmed the earbuds will have a “unique charging case,” so it’s safe to say they likely sport a true wireless design. Sadly, Nothing won’t tell us anything about the product’s specs and price right now, but it did say the model will arrive sometime before 2023.

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Apple Stage Manager’s iPadOS 16 Surprise Could Save You From Buying A New One

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Among the older Apple iPad models that have officially received the nod (via Engadget) for Stage Manager on iPadOS 16 include the 11-inch iPad Pro (first generation and above) and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (third generation and above). These relatively new iPad models come powered by Apple’s A12X Bionic and A12Z Bionic chipsets. Since Stage Manager was initially designed for M1-powered iPads running iOS 16 or beyond, enabling it on older hardware comes with a few trade-offs. 

While the M1-powered iPad can simultaneously open up to eight live apps on the screen, the maximum number of live apps on older models is limited to just four. In addition, older iPads running iPadOS 16 and beyond would also not be able to invoke Stage Manager while using the devices with external displays. Interestingly, Apple is yet to enable external display support for Stage Manager on even the M1 iPads. However, the company did confirm that Stage Manager for the M1 iPads will be enabled on the M1 iPads via a software update before the end of 2022. 

Apart from enabling Stage Manager on older iPads, the next version of iPadOS 16 (likely to be called iPadOS 16.1) could incorporate a lot of bug fixes. Per Apple’s current plan, the public beta version of iPadOS 16 should reach customers by October. Apple has also confirmed that Stage Manager will also make it to macOSVentura, which is also set for release in October 2022.

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How To Reset And Pair Your Roku Remote

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When your Roku streaming device is freezing up or your remote isn’t working correctly, the problem can often be fixed by simply rebooting the machine, which Roku calls a system restart. If that method doesn’t work, however, users also have the option of resetting the device, which will return it to factory settings. That means you’ll need to set the device back up as if it is new, and that’s why you should try restarting the device before resetting it. The steps to restart are identical for the simple Roku remote and the basic voice remote, both of which use standard AAA batteries:

  1. Slide the battery compartment cover off and remove the batteries.
  2. Disconnect the main device’s power cable and reconnect it after at least 5 to 10 seconds have passed.
  3. Immediately after Roku’s main interface appears onscreen, complete the restart process by re-inserting the batteries into the remote and sliding the cover back in place.

The following are steps for people who own a Roku Voice Remote Pro:

  1. Disconnect the main device’s power cable.
  2. Reconnect it after at least 5 to 10 seconds have passed.
  3. As soon as Roku’s main interface appears onscreen, complete the restart process by long-pressing the pairing button on the remote for 20 seconds.
  4. When you see a slowly blinking green light stop then switch to rapid-fire blinking, let the reset button go.

Another way to restart that works for most types of Roku remotes is by going through the gadget’s “Settings” menu. This is the option you’ll want to use if the Roku’s power cord is located somewhere difficult to reach, according to the company.

  1. Hit the Home icon on the remote.
  2. Go to “Settings.”
  3. Pick “System.”
  4. Choose “Power.” If it’s unavailable, go to the next step.
  5. Hit “System restart,” then confirm by choosing “Restart.”
  6. Immediately after Roku’s main interface appears onscreen, follow step 3 onwards for your specific Roku remote listed above.

Simple Roku remote users can instantly press buttons to check for responsiveness. Those who own voice remotes have to wait at least half a minute to check whether the system restart fixed the issue.

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