Flipkart fights Amazon with Flipkart First – Free shipping and more

Flipkart is launching Flipkart First – a premium annual subscription service. It offers services like free, quick deliveries, 60 day replacement guarantee and more.

This is the first of this kind in the history of Indian e-commerce. If you are an user of Amazon, you will notice that this is exactly like Amazon Prime – a premium subscription service offered by Amazon. It offers free two day delivery service, unlimited video streaming and free access to Kindle books.

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Getting back to Flipkart First, Flipkart is yet to launch this product. A dedicated web page has already been setup for Flipkart First. There are no in depth details on when this service is launching and how much this service will cost.

Features of Flipkart First

Flipkart First is offering 5 features for now. More will be coming soon.

Flipkart First users get Free delivery on no minimum purchase, free In-a-day delivery, discounted price on Same-day delivery, 60 day replacement guarantee and higher prioritized customer support.

Similar to quick deliveries, Flipkart is limiting this service to products sold by WS Retail for now. There are no reports on whether Flipkart will bring this service to products sold by other sellers.

To get more details on Flipkart First, enter your email ID at the Flipkart First web page. You will be added to the mail list and notified when Flipkart First launches.

As an introductory offer, Flipkart is picking 75,000 users and offering 3 month free Flipkart First subscription service.

What do you think about this new service by Flipkart? Do you think you will use this? Do tell us.

Link: Flipkart First

Comparing Flipkart, Amazon, Snapdeal and Tradus One-Day Delivery Services

A few months back, Amazon announced ‘Guaranteed one-day delivery’ service and Flipkart followed suite with ‘In-a-day delivery’ service And now, here are Snapdeal and Tradus with the same.

Snapdeal’s Express Delivery and Tradus’s same day delivery services are special. They are offered for free while Flipkart and Amazon offer for additional charges.

Snapdeal-one-day-delivery

Here’s how the e-commerce giants differ in one-day delivery services :

Price

  1. Flipkart – 90 INR per item.
  2. Amazon – 99 per order for one-day delivery option and 79 per order for two-days delivery option.
  3. Snapdeal – Free
  4. Tradus – Free

Obviously, Snapdeal’s and Tradus’ free one-day delivery service is only for a limited time. They’ll start charging additional bucks soon.

Location

  • Flipkart – Offers in 13 cities for. Pune, Hyderabad, Delhi, Noida, Chennai, Mumbai, Bangalore, Gurgaon, Ghazidabad, Faridabad, Kolkata, Ahmedabad and Nagpur. Will expand to other cities soon.
  • Amazon – Offers in selected pincodes. The cities include Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Pune.
  • Snapdeal – Offers in Delhi and Gurgaon for now.
  • Tradus – Offers in Delhi and NCR for now. Other cities to join the list soon.

Products available

  • Flipkart – All products on Flipkart are eligible for In-a-day delivery service.
  • Amazon – All Fulfilled by Amazon products are eligible. No minimum purchase.
  • Snapdeal – As of now, only some products are eligible for this delivery option and such products are marked with an yellow tag on the website.
  • Tradus – Only on mobiles and tablets.

Cut-off time

  • Flipkart – You’ll have to place the order before 6 pm to receive the product the next day.
  • Amazon – Cut-off time is till midnight for Mumbai and Pune. The cut-off time is 3 pm for other pincodes.
  • Snapdeal – You’ll have to place the order before 1 pm.
  • Tradus – No reports on that.

Logistics used

  • Flipkart – Flipkart has it’s own logistics operation. So, it’s easy for Flipkart to ship the brought immediately.
  • Amazon – Amazon’s recently tied-up with India Post and guaranteed one-day delivery works well for Amazon too.
  • Snapdeal – Uses third party logistics to ship the product.
  • Tradus – Uses third party logistics to ship the product.

Snapdeal and Tradus are in a tough position because they’ll have to work a lot in the back-end with the third party logistics partners to make the delivery on time.

Payment options

  • Flipkart – All payment options are available, including cash on delivery (COD)
  • Amazon – All payment options are available, including COD.
  • Snapdeal – No reports on payment modes. But, my guess is that all payment options should be available.
  • Tradus – All payment options are available, including COD.

Refunds

  • Flipkart – For COD, additional delivery charge will be collected as per the order, but will be refunded to your Flipkart wallet.
  • Amazon – Automatic refund of the shipping charges if the product is not delivered as promised.
  • Tradus – No reports on refunds.

So, what do you think about Snapdeal’s and Tradus’ one-day delivery services. Will you use it?

Amazon’s Drone Delivery: The Future or Marketing Gimmick?

Jeff Bezos the CEO of Amazon, yesterday revealed on a television program “60 minutes” that the company was working on sending five pound packages to people using drones. This would reduce the delivery time to 30 minutes. Amazon has been disruptive many times in the past and with same day delivery might even put small exclusive stores out of business. But using drones instead of actual people to deliver a package from a warehouse to a house in 30 minutes is disruptive on a totally different scale.

Amazon Drone Delivery
Amazon’s Drone will carry 5 pound packages within 30 minutes.

Such a drone does exist and is works in a program called Prime Air. The drone will sit on the conveyor belt and pick up the relevant package. Fly over to the recipient’s house and gently place the package down. According to a Verge article, the drone will travel over 10 miles and most importantly 86% of Amazon’s packages are smaller than 5 pounds. So the scope of using this drone is huge.

The video below shows how the octo-copter or drone will work.

But will drones for delivery work?

Amazon still has some technical problems like how to ensure they do not drop packages from the sky or manage to avoid people and things while landing in the real complex world. They also need see how the drones could sense where to place the package. The video demo the package is dropped in the front yard but what happens to packages that need to be delivered to high rises. But Jeff Bezos has declared 2015 as the year when the program kicks off and 5 years to get it running at large.

But those are just technical issues, there are major political and employment issues to deal with too. Lack of an actual person delivering packages means loss of jobs. Delivery inside 30 minutes could put provision drones or specialized stores out of business. Drones with sensors and cameras scouring over neighborhoods means an almost total lack of privacy which is something that will not be very popular.

Finally would local government bodies allow hundreds of such drones to fly through their airspace and not find it unsafe? Amazon will have to work very hard in convincing people and governments to firstly make this technology really viable.

Was this just a massive PR exercise?

The whole delivery by drone thing does sound like a major PR exercise for Amazon. They can always go back and claim a multitude of reasons to say the project did not materialize but what happened yesterday almost every media outlet was giving Amazon coverage and mostly in a positive light. Yesterday was “Cyber Monday” a day traditionally people shopped online in the US. And which name is the biggest in online shopping world? Amazon.

So basically Amazon got massive publicity on the biggest day of online shopping in the US. And they got this more or less free as this was news coverage not an ad campaign which costs millions of dollars.

So what do you think about Amazon’s drone program? Think it will succeed or will it be such a proto-type that got them a lot of publicity on a very convenient day?

Do drop in your comments.

Amazon Starts Selling Kindle Tablets in India

Last week Amazon made its foray into India. I being someone who loves to read books was interested in the Kindle tablets and their official entry into India. Today, Amazon.in lists 5 Kindle tablets available.

The two premium tablets are the Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire HD 8.9. The Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ is priced at Rs. 21,999. The device has 16GB storage, WiFi connectivity, The Kindle Fire HD is priced at Rs. 15,999. This device is different from the previous one in the sense it has a smaller screen size.

Kindle in India

The other versions inclide Kindle Paperwhite 3G at Rs. 13,999, the Kindle Paperwhite at Rs. 10,999 and finally Kindle (basic) at Rs. 5,999.

Apart from the Kindle devices, Amazon India is also rolling out the e-books that can be read on Kindle devices. The Kindle store is pretty good as it also has iPad apps and Android apps to help you read your Kindle books on other platforms. This means if you buy e-books on Kindle you can read them on your iPad or Android tablets too.

I think with Kindle store in India, Amazon joins Flipkart as the only online stores that are selling e-books in India. Flipkart’s Flyte store though is being closed but that affects only the MP3 store. They will continue selling e-books.

Thanks Gaurav Singh for the tip.

Will you be buying a Kindle tablet in India? Do drop in your comments.

3 Amazon sized headaches for Flipkart, Homeshop18 and others

Amazon has entered the crowded e-retailing market of India. With Amazon.in, the website is already selling books, DVDs and CDs all over India. Amazon.in will in the future start offering cameras, mobile phone and other electronic gadgets.

The launch is innocuous enough and it hardly has enough things listed to actually get a lot of purchases at the moment. But Amazon comes to India with some big guns and these guns are going to cause some headaches to the likes of Flipkart, Homeshop18 and Jabong.

1. The Amazon Fulfillment Centers

Amazon-Warehouse

This is what usually an Amazon fulfillment center looks like. It is basically a massive warehouse with miles of conveyor belt helping with the sorting of packages. According to an interview at AllThingsD, Amazon has confirmed a million square foot fulfillment center in Mumbai, India. It plans to add more such centers in the future. Other e-retailers in India might simply not have the resources to buy up such properties especially nearer metro cities.

2. Amazon Associates

Amazon Affiliates

Amazon has a really well run affiliate program. Flipkart and others might have their own but none are extremely popular as Amazon. Though Indian webmasters might be preferring Amazon because the payout is in US dollars. Amazon India has already hit the ground running with an affiliate program. Head over to affiliate-program.amazon.in and sign up with them to register with their program.

3. The Amazon Products Universe

Amazon_Universe

Amazon has certain things that they can offer, to which Indian companies simply have not an answer to. The Amazon universe is vast and has a range of services and products. The Kindle, GoodReads social network, the self-publisher eco-system called “create space” and Amazon Web Services (AWS) are things that even the likes of Google and Apple have not really been able to dent into.

But there is hope for Indian e-retailers. Online shoppers are a bit more loyal to websites they usually buy stuff from and have had a good experience. Also vendors if they are happy might stick with companies who have been in the game atleast locally far longer than Amazon.

This will mean Indian e-commerce sites better start focusing more on how happy their current customers are and not just focus on getting newer customers. The likes of Flipkart and HomeShop18 already have a large buyer base and might not be immediately feel threatened by Amazon. But I wonder what will happen to smaller players in the sector.

India’s e-commerce sectors is set for maturing but it will not do so before a lot of churning and eventual demise of non-serious players takes place.

What are your views on Amazon India? Do drop in your comments.

Link: Amazon.in

GoodReads Acquired by Amazon

goodreads

GoodReads a popular social network for book readers and authors has been acquired by e-commerce giant Amazon. GoodReads is mainly a website that allows users to list books they have read and add reviews.

GoodReads is mainly a also social network, because users can follow the book reading activities and reviews by their friends. This really took off with Facebook integration which allows people to follow their Facebook friends and also post GoodReads activity on their Facebook timelines.

This was a great acquisition for Amazon as GoodReads would have been for interesting to Google and Apple who are also into selling books. For being a social networking product, I am sure Facebook might have been interested too.

Though GoodRead’s has a user-base of 16 million which might seem insignificant compared to the hundreds of millions of users registered on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

But these users are typically people (includes me) who buy books online (print and digital) so it will be great opportunity to sell books to these users. Also more importantly a lot of these users are authors who also keep a close eye on book reviews and ratings of their books. Overall GoodReads will be a gold mine of data for Amazon.

Thankfully according to GoodReads blog, it looks like Amazon will keep the GoodReads branding and features intact and keep it an independent platform for book readers.

Google Bids for 101 Top Level Domains which include .Google, .App and .Docs

Almost a year ago, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) allowed generic Top-Level Domain names to be made available. For example now we could have domain name ending with a .Google, .Apple, .Book, etc.

This move was criticized as tipping balance in favour of the rich, as bidding for a generic top-level Domains would be extremely expensive.

Yesterday, ICANN released the list of applications for the new gTLDs.

Large companies have all applied for gTLDs, usually starting with their company name. For example some companies like Apple have applied for .Apple. Large internet companies on the other hand have applied for many different gTLDs.

Generic Top Level Domains like .APP has received 12 companies possibly bidding for it, .BOOK has upto 8 possible bidders.

Google even though officially is opposed to such generic TLDs has bid for 101 names. It is followed by Amazon with 76 bids.

Here is a table of the four major internet companies who have bid for gTLDs.

Prominent Bidders No of TLDS Applied for Prominent TLD Names
Google 101 .Google, .App, .Docs, .Android, .Chrome, .Hangout, .Cloud, .Blog and more
Amazon 76 .Amazon, .App, .Author, .Book, .BUY and more
Microsoft 11 Azure, .Bing, .Docs, .Live, .Hotmail and more
Yahoo 2 .Yahoo and .Flickr

Interestingly I did not find the name of Facebook on it and no application for .Facebook either. Chances are it has bid for some gTLDs through another registration name.

Indian Companies on the List

There were quite a few companies based in India that have applied for gTLD names. Prominently Reliance Industries Ltd, has bid for .Indians. While most others have bid for their trademark names which they are known by like .Tata, .Airtel, .Infy etc.

Do you think gTLD names will become a headache for internet companies, who will have to keep paying up large sums of money to protect their brand names? Do drop in your comments.

Link: ICANN’s gTLD List

Amazon Kindle drops price to $299

Competition grows and Amazon drops the price of its Kindle device by $60, which means the e-Book reader is now for $299. It is believed that the 17 % slash in the price has come with the economic slowdown and stiff competition from the new players in the e-Book market.

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For instance:

  • Amazon will be facing competition from Plastic Logic and FirstPaper. Both companies are developing similar competing products.
  • Scribd had launched an e-commerce publishing marketplace in May as a complement to its free content-sharing platform. Scribd boasts more than 60 million readers a month.
  • Google is to soon enter the e-book market enabling publishers to sell digital versions of their latest titles directly to consumers.

image Google is aiming to build a “digital book ecosystem” to allow partner publishers to sell access to their titles, even if buyers don’t have dedicated book readers such as Amazon’s Kindle or Sony Corp.’s Reader. This means that with Google’s new program, you will be able to read eBooks on any device – be it a PC, mobile phone or a dedicated eBook reader. You could temporarily cache them in your Internet browsers and also read them offline.

Google will start charging users to view some full text books that they’ve indexed (this is separate from the Google Book Search Library Project). Google would allow publishers to set a list price for books, although the company will reserve the right to discount titles at its own expense.

Well, there is definite competition, however, the analysts believe that Amazon’s Kindle still has an edge over all others.

Competition for Amazon as Google prepares to sell eBooks!

image Google is looking to launch an eBook program by the end of this year allowing publishers to sell digital versions of their newest books directly to consumers through Google. This step will bring the Internet search giant into competition with Amazon, who is trying to capture the eBook department for its newly launched Kindle.

Google is already offering 1.5 million e-texts to the Sony e-Reader (biggest competitor to Amazon’s Kindle) through their Book Search Mobile, as well as mobile phones.

Building a Digital Book Ecosystem

As reported by NYTimes, Google is now aiming to build a “digital book ecosystem” to allow partner publishers to sell access to their titles, even if buyers don’t have dedicated book readers such as Amazon’s Kindle or Sony Corp.’s Reader. This means that with Google’s new program, you will be able to read eBooks on any device – be it a PC, mobile phone or a dedicated eBook reader. You could temporarily cache them in your Internet browsers and also read them offline.

Google will start charging users to view some full text books that they’ve indexed (this is separate from the Google Book Search Library Project). Google would allow publishers to set a list price for books, although the company will reserve the right to discount titles at its own expense.

How Correctly Do Speech Synthesizers Speak?

clip_image002Technology bugs sometimes lead to high-tech embarrassments. We’ve known that Text-to-Speech (TtS) synthesizers are widely used for people with visual impairments or reading disabilities to listen to written works on a computer. These days, TtS techniques are used in the entertainment productions such as games as well.

A few days back when the recently launched Amazon’s Kindle couldn’t seem to pronounce the name of the US president correctly, it made news. With Kindle being positioned as a replacement of the daily newspaper and the US President’s coverage almost a daily affair, it indeed was an awkward situation.

When Barack Obama was read by the Kindle’s computerized text-to-speech system, it sounded something like “Brack Alabama.”

Although Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon laughed over it calling the faux pas as “unfortunate,” Amazon nonetheless quickly tried to fix the problem with its text-to-speech partner Nuance.

This brings us to the question, how correctly do speech synthesizers speak?

TtS systems have moved from robotic-sounding to human-sounding over the last 20 years. But how well are the words being understood? Moreover, the challenge of pronouncing all the words correctly, text normalization, speech melody & rhythm, and problems with grammar & semantics still remain.

For example, one word can be pronounced in two different ways:

  • Lives

“it lives” vs. “nine lives”

  • Bow

“bow down” vs. “bow and arrow”

Word pronunciation is even more difficult for names.

Speech melody, rhythm, and pauses are very important to any text. Humans tend to break words in order to group words to meaningful chunks, to breathe, and to make words sound more prominent based on the importance of information that it carries.

For example:

“She gave the money to Lisa.” (Who did she give the money to?)

“She gave the money to Lisa.” (What did she give Lisa?)

She gave the money to Lisa.” (Who gave the money to Lisa?)

The system should know what should be said and how it should be said in order to match human rendering. We just have to wait and watch and see how technology improves with time and makes better Text-to-Voice services for us to use.