NTT has elevated its India chief executive Kiran Bhagwanani as senior vice-president of its newly formed Go-to-Market business in the Asia Pacific, as part of a larger restructuring at the Japanese technology services company to drive faster growth.
Bhagwanani will lead the Go-to-Market business in the region, after a merger among NTT subsidiaries into one company.
He will have broad accountability for sales performance, solution practices and alliance partnership across Asia Pacific, the company said.
“There are different pieces of this organisation… We felt that bringing all these functions under one umbrella was important to make the approach cohesive,” said Bhagwanani.
Amid salary cuts, layoffs and downsizing of businesses, a new set of micro entrepreneurs – including freelancers and individual-run businesses — are on the rise.
Fintech platforms tracking the space, such as Instamojo and Razorpay, said they have seen a 20-25% growth in payments from microentrepreneurs over the last one month.
Instamojo, which helps small businesses set up online shops along with facilitating payments, has added a new merchant on its platform nearly every minute in the past one month, which is almost 25% of the overall added annually.
These online stores, run by micro-entrepreneurs, have mostly been selling pet essentials, e-books on religion, retail and food during the lockdown period.
Sampad Swain, co-founder of Instamojo, said micro-businesses that go online every year usually clock around $3 billion in gross merchandise value or sales each year.
He expects the growth to further increase even after the Covid-19 outbreak is contained.
Vidit Aatrey, co-founder and CEO of social commerce platform Meesho, also said that micro-entrepreneurship will be up post Covid-19, especially in a scenario of mounting job losses.
“They will start looking for opportunities which are economically viable,” he said.
ET reported in April that more than 600 businesses have downsized staff in the past one month, while a further 660 have cut salaries.
“Before the outbreak, I earned around Rs 80,000-Rs 1 lakh per month. Now, I am earning over Rs 2 lakh. I will continue to work as a freelancer at least for the next 6 months, as none of the companies would be willing to pay me as much as I can through freelancing at the moment,” said Arindam Raha, a 28-year old product designer based in Bengaluru.
Professional networking platforms like LinkedIn and Dribble have helped Raha scout for good projects. He said many of his former co-workers and friends have started freelancing over the past month.
There is maximum demand for designers, programmers and content writers among freelancers, according to experts. Certain roles, however, where employees need to take ownership or are handling sensitive information, cannot be handed over to freelancers, they said.
“The first 20 days (of the lockdown) were slow, when brands were coping with the crisis and paused all projects. But it picked up in April when these brands realised that their customers are home and content would be the way to reach out to these netizens, their target audience,” said Anirudh Singla, co-founder of Pepper Content, which engages with over 2,000 content-writers and designers.
“We have grown over 100% in revenue…,” he added.
There has also been a surge in demand for regional language content from startups and brands. “80% of vernacular content is usually outsourced,” Singla said.
Startups and traditional companies have already begun working with freelancers as they have embraced remote-working, experts said.
“Many companies, although they are laying off, are continuing to work with their employees as freelancers,” said Naman Sarawgi, founder of Refrens, a Bengaluru-based invoices and payment system firm for freelancers.
On average, billing for freelancers has increased over 20% compared to numbers in February, he added.
“Going forward, large businesses and startups are likely to continue specific roles with freelancers as these companies have now started building processes around it and managing these employees, which were not done so far,” Sarawgi said.
While this economy is likely to see a boost in the coming months, businesses around it, including payments and insurance, will also grow, experts said, adding that banks and insurance companies have been working on policies for freelancers and contractual employees.
IT services firm Hexaware Technologies said net profit jumped 18.3% year-on-year to $23.4 million (about Rs 177.84 crore) in the quarter to March.
Revenue for the quarter was up 17% at $210 million, and up 18.2% in constant currency terms. In view of the uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the company said it was suspending the guidance provided earlier for FY20.
“As digital transformation becomes imperative in the current environment, I am confident that our strategic focus and robust execution capabilities will drive our growth going forward,” said Atul Nishar, chairman at Hexaware Technologies.
The company reported new deals with a total contract value of $69 million during the quarter, making it one of the best quarters for the firm, it said.
The company’s Europe business grew 654% during the quarter, led by high-tech and professional services (29.8%), healthcare and insurance (28.6%) and travel and transportation (21.9%). However, on a quarter-on-quarter basis, travel, healthcare and the manufacturing and consumer verticals were down by over 5%.
The total headcount at the company stood at 19,998 at the end of Q12020, with attrition reduced to 15.1%. Total utilisation during the quarter was at 76.5%.
“We have been best-in-class in keeping our employees safe and servicing our customers fully during these abnormal times. Our flawless execution has helped us further strengthen our trusted relationships with customers and will help us grow with them during recovery,” said R Srikrishna, CEO & executive director, Hexaware Technologies.
The company said Meera Shankar ceased to be an independent director with effect from April 10. It also said the board of directors has approved the appointment of Milind Shripad Sarwate and Madhu Khatri as additional directors in the capacity of non-executive independent directors for three years subject to shareholders’ approval.
At a time when consumers are looking for low-cost options and as products from large FMCG players have become scarce on online platforms, players such as BigBasket, Grofers, Amazon and Flipkart have seen sales of their private labels in essential categories grow strongly.
Industry executives and analysts told ET that private brands in categories such as pulses, detergents and personal care have received a boost over the past five weeks as the country went under lockdown to stem the spread of the outbreak.
Consumers are preferring to buy lower-cost alternatives to tried and tested brands as spending is hit due to the uncertainty surrounding the economy in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, experts said.
For instance, Amazon’s Presto brand floor cleaner is 25% cheaper than rival Reckitt Benckiser’s market leading Lizol. A similar product from BigBasket is priced at least 15% lower, while Flipkart’s Supermart-branded floor cleaner is 50% cheaper than Lizol.
BigBasket and Grofers said they have been able to directly work with manufacturers to make staples and hygiene products available faster than traditional FMCG channels.
This momentum is expected to continue in the mid- to long-term, with India’s largest e-grocer BigBasket expecting the contribution of private labels to overall sales to rise to 45% from 35% in the next six months.
“Certain categories like health, bakery, organic milk, ghee, chocolates, snacks will drive this growth,” said Hari Menon, CEO of BigBasket.
Rival Grofers is also looking at private labels accounting for 60% of sales, up from 40% in the same timeframe.
“We plan to invest $15 million in our owned brands over the next year and are looking to invest $25-$50 million in the supply chain and owned brands combined over the next two years,” Albinder Dhindsa, co-founder and CEO of Grofers told ET.
Grofers wants to increase the availability of its private brands from 350 corner stores to 2,000 in the next six months, he added.
“Our goal is to provide customers with more choices and we work closely with local manufacturer, brands and sellers to fill selection gaps with products that they are searching for,” an Amazon spokesperson told ET.
Flipkart did not respond to ET’s queries seeking comment.
E-commerce firms have also been able to scale up supply of private labels more meaningfully than that of products from third-party brands amid the ongoing lockdown.
“We were in talks, and continue to be in talks, with all large FMCG brands, but even they have been facing challenges in terms of opening up factories and getting back labour,” said a senior executive at a leading e-commerce marketplace. “So, it was much easier for us to scale our own brands to meet consumer demand.”
It is a good opportunity to scale up private labels at a time when consumers have limited options and are sometimes forced to buy whatever is available, the executive, who did not want to be named, added.
Amazon.in, Snapdeal and four Indian shopping complexes have figured in the US’ 2020 edition of the ‘Notorious Markets’ list for counterfeiting and piracy.
The US trade representative’s (USTR) office listed Amazon’s web domains in India, Canada, France, Germany and the UK, along with four markets in India -Tank Road in Delhi, Heera Panna in Mumbai, Kidderpore in Kolkata and Millennium Centre in Aizawl. Amazon meanwhile termed it an act of political vendetta.
“We strongly disagree with the characterisation of Amazon in this USTR report. This purely political act is another example of the Administration using the US government to advance a personal vendetta against Amazon,” an Amazon spokesperson emailed when asked for comment.
“We are an active, engaged stakeholder in the fight against counterfeit, and we call on lawmakers to increase funding and resources for law enforcement agencies so we can hold the real criminals accountable,” the spokesperson said.
In all, the USTR annual list has 38 online markets and 34 physical markets that are reported to engage in or facilitate substantial trademark counterfeiting and copyright piracy.