Considering the recent demonetization initiative by the government of India, ToneTag has introduced mobile payments through feature phones. The technology enables anyone with a standard phone to make cashless payments seamlessly without having to download an app or worrying about internet connectivity.

India is home to more than a billion active mobile phone subscriptions with an overall tele-density of 81.18% as of May 2016, according to TRAI. Mobile is the one technology that has permeated across all geographies and strata of the Indian society. Despite this the smartphone penetration in India was less than 30% in early 2016.

Most Indians living in tier II or tier III cities and villages in India have limited access to smartphone based services and mobile internet. Apart from that, according to RBI data, there are 665 million cardholders in India who are served by only 1.24 million POS terminals that accept card payments, majority of which are found in larger stores within urban India. In the wake of demonetization, therefore feature phone users in villages and rural areas are unable to avail digital payments, resulting in a severe cash crunch. There is an immediate need to solve this issue, through accessible solutions.

Though certain technologies such as USSD can be used to transfer funds between feature phones, the solution is not frictionless and there is a steep learning curve to perform these transactions which has affected adoption in India. Also, the digital payment companies have to ensure that this shift to cashless payment is not momentary as a result of demonetization but a long term behavioral shift and the user should not fall back to cash payments post the demonetization effect is normalized. To make digital payments mainstream, the entire experience of making digital payments should be better than paying by cash to bring user stickiness.

ToneTag is built on technology which is frictionless, interoperable and built on an open architecture that enables cashless payments to be made from feature phones. Now a cashless payment transaction can be as simple as making a telephone call, something all feature phones users are adept at doing. This means that small town and rural consumers will become part of the digital payment ecosystem by just dialing ToneTag toll free number 180030101887. They are able to deploy this technology to support the national agenda for financial inclusion and cashless payments.

Mohandas Pai, Vice chairman of Manipal group & a ToneTag investor said

This launch of an open platform to enable feature phone users to access the benefits of a cashless digital economy that’s being driven by our PM’s vision-driving financial inclusion for 70% of Indian phone users.

Arvind Gupta, Fintech Innovator & Co-Founder-DigitalIndiaFoundation said

I think that ToneTag sound-based technology will enable consumers in small towns to go cashless with minimal digital literacy. This will also be a boon in rural India where there is a huge need for accessible and easy to use digital payments to replace cash usage. It is heartening that start-ups such as ToneTag will help bridge the digital divide and enhance financial inclusion among feature phone users.

Kumar Abhishek, CEO of ToneTag said

By enabling feature phones to pay, we are removing hardware costs and the steep learning curve many Indians had associated with mobile payments. With this accessible technology ToneTag is sure to include many into the digital financial ecosystem especially as demonetization has disrupted the formal cash economy.

How the ToneTag technology works

ToneTag’s breakthrough technology uses audio signals or ‘tone tags’ for data exchange between devices. Payment instructions can be transmitted, using a sound signal, through a traditional phone line, without any additional hardware or software requirements. This makes highly inter-operable cashless payments possible from any mobile phone to another phone or computing device.

A feature phone user just needs to call an IVR number and bring the phone close to the merchant’s ToneTag enabled phone or other computing device, that is enabled to accept payments. The merchant will transmit the billed amount and transaction details by sending an audio signal or ‘tone tag’ which is captured on the IVR server.

Security and Compliance

The customer’s unique mobile number serves as the first factor of authentication. The customer then enters a PIN from the dial pad on his/her feature phone, as a second factor of authentication, resulting in an easy and secure cashless payment transaction from a regular feature phone. Processing takes place through IMPS or existing IVR banking infrastructure in real-time. This makes ToneTag the fastest, easiest and most secure solution available in the market for cashless, digital payments, bridging the last mile in financial inclusion.

About ToneTag

ToneTag is a sound based proximity communication provider that enables contactless proximity communication, location based services and customer engagement services among a multitude of other solutions. Backed by Reliance VC among a host of investors, ToneTag has enabled contactless, offline, proximity communication on any device through sound and their team continues to innovate and transform the way devices will communicate with each other in the near future. For more information, please visit ToneTag

In line with its strategy to catalyze shift from offline to online and keeping the recent development (demonetization) in consideration, MakeMyTrip, India’s leading travel company today launched a special cashless travel sale The Cashless Travel Carnival.

The sale, scheduled to be held from Tuesday, 06 December 2016~Thursday, 08 December 2016, focuses on the upcoming high travel season and provides jaw-dropping offers and attractive discounts across flights, hotels and holiday packages across platforms-desktop, mobile app and m-site. With the aim to provide the widest range of travel options at best prices, MakeMyTrip has partnered with Axis Bank and Citibank as exclusive banking partners for this event.

Commenting on the launch of the sale, Rajesh Magow, Co-Founder & CEO-India, MakeMyTrip said

As a company we have been focused on driving customers to shift from offline to online for their travel bookings. In line with the recent demonetization drive, we have designed this three-day long event to help customers realize the benefits and convenience associated with making bookings online. We are thankful to all our partners joining us in rolling out this mega travel carnival.

With over 27.5 million downloads till date, our app is the most widely used travel app in India and we are strongly focused on strengthening our mobile technology and have been constantly enhancing our systems to offer a seamless booking experience to our customers. We look forward to a positive response and constructive feedback from our customers.

Given the under penetrated and fragmented nature of online accommodation segment in the country especially hotels where online penetration currently stands at around 14%, the Cashless Travel Carnival offers lucrative deals on online bookings panning a wide range of hotel properties across the country.

Led by aggressive integrated offline and online marketing campaign, The Cashless Travel Carnival has been built on strong partnership alliances & exclusive supplier participation including Taj Hotels Resorts & Palaces, Amazing Thailand, Air France, KLM, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways, Mailndo Air, Turkish Air, Ginger Hotels, Country Inn and Suites, Lemon Tree Hotels, Sarovar Hotels and Resorts, The Lalit, Sterling Holidays, Neemrana Hotels, Pride Hotels and Resorts, Citrus Hotels, Keys Hotels, Bookmyshow, Croma, Myntra and Ola among others.

With the growth in purchase of smartphones, laptops, PCs, tablets and increasing internet penetration, Indian customers are increasingly buying various software products online to enhance and protect their electronic devices. Amazon India has a selection of over 10,000 products in the software category and is India’s largest online software store with nearly 900 sellers selling software products. Here are a few trends in the software category seen over the last one year.

Mobile Software

One of the fastest growing sub-categories, Mobile Software, witnessed a growth of over 100%. Some interesting trends seen in the mobile software growth are

Top products sold in this category are Multi Device/Android protection software by popular brands like Kaspersky, K7 and Quick Heal. Antivirus protection kits were the most sought after product across the country. Mumbai leads in the purchase of mobile software, followed closely by Bangalore and Delhi

Tier II and III cities are close in terms of demand for mobile software products. Ahmedabad and Chandigarh witnessed high demand for mobile software such as Kaspersky Android security and Quick Heal Android Security. Bhopal too has emerged as a growing market for this sub-category.

Single User Subscription

This sub-category has seen a lot of traction with more than 80% growth with maximum demand from customers. This category is divided into two sub-categories, non-educational software and educational software.

Non-educational software which comprises of products like Antivirus, Internet Security, and Total Protection and other office use products saw a phenomenal growth of over 85% in the last one year

Top selling brands under this category are-Kaspersky, Quick Heal, McAfee, Eset, K7 and Microsoft.

Microsoft witnessed a growth of over 75% and saw a nearly 4x spike in sales during Diwali.

There was high demand for non-educational software from tier II and tier III cities, with Ahmedabad and Chandigarh topping the charts once again.

Educational software this sub category comprises of topics across school subjects to Engineering, medical and even post graduate subjects. The software available caters to all age groups from class I mathematics to competitive exam preparation of JEE, IIT as well as learning new languages. E-Learning is one of the main growth driver’s for this sub-category and saw good traction with growth of over 35%.

Top selling brands include Byjus, Comprint, Average2Excellent, Idaa and Practice Guru.

Tier II and Tier III cities follow closely with Pune and Ahmedabad seem to be the most academically inclined.

Selection for Educational software grew with new Educational brands  like WizIQ and Plancess that have recently tied up with Amazon.in

Multi device software (accessing multiple devices like phone, laptop, tablet etc. with a single key)

Has seen a growing inclination by customers. The category over the past one year grew over 2.5x. This can be attributed to the fact that a lot of customers have one account connected to multiple devices, and there is a growing awareness of the convenience of installation and consistency in protection that is provided by multi device software kits.

Overall customers are increasingly aware of the different types and brands of software programs available in the market and are conscious of avoiding pirated software. Overall popular brands in demand include Kaspersky, McAfee, Quick Heal, Eset and K7. Amazon.in also witnessed healthy demand for the exclusively available McAfee’s 3-year subscription products.

In case you didn’t know, social media is still the primary method used by marketers to boost sales and keep people engaged. Marketing has relocated to the online environment completely, and if you haven’t started using the web to promote your brand and product, you should start right away. The competition is fierce, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for companies to stand above the crowd. Yet, it’s not impossible to make yourself noticed, if you know how to do it. According to a report issued by Fast Company, nearly 93% of marketers today use social media channels to promote their startups.

Social media-a powerful marketing tool

It’s no longer a secret that the key to success in business is guaranteed if you know how to use social media. For the average marketer, social media is a channel that opens a lot of possibilities. Platforms like Google+, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest have millions of users. More than a half use the online environment to get information and buy things. We want to stay connected, and we use advanced technology every day. This means that the best way to increase brand awareness is to go online.

Craft a marketing plan

The best way to settle on a marketing strategy is to set up a plan first. Make a website, connect it to social media platforms, and start promoting your business. But don’t focus on selling too much. In the beginning, it is smarter to center your attention on building a target audience. Write quality content people can relate to, and stick to organic likes and shares. Don’t opt for paid ads just yet. You need time for your content to be indexed in Google, and the more patient you are the better chances you have to boost engagement.

Targeted customers

Before doing anything else, you need to have a target audience for your business. What’s the purpose of your brand? To whom you’re addressing your products? It is fundamental to be disciplined and craft a plan first. For example, if your business sells anti-wrinkle beauty products, then you need to target your audience at mature women with ages between 25 and 40. Teens won’t have an interest to buy, and to men, your products are useless. Plan very carefully, and stay focused on your brand’s mission and end goals.

If you focus on spending money and time on marketing, but your attempts are not driving sales, then you’ve probably targeted the wrong audience. Narrow down your search and focus on your niche. Write content that directly links to your products and mission, and learn to say NO. Your brand will eventually become popular on the web, and companies will want to pay you to place ads on your site. But if your brand targets anti-wrinkle products for women, ads on men’s products won’t bring any value to your brand. Learn to prioritize!

Assess the competition

Assessing the competition is yet another efficient way you can use to boost sales and increase brand awareness. Sadly, many marketers today don’t even bother looking at the competition, and they wrongfully assume that their strategy is the best. How do you know that? It is frustrating and infuriating to see that people would rather buy from others than you. But why? There must be a reason. Perform a thorough analysis on your main competitor, and check to see what they can offer that you can’t. For example, they might have better prices and package deals. Maybe they offer better discounts, or maybe their products are more visually appealing than yours. Have a look on their website, and find a way to stand out. Offer incentives that they haven’t thought of yet.

The world of marketing has changed a lot in the past 10 years. With the advent of technology and social media, exposure is no longer achieved offline. The online world is the future of marketing. You might be tempted to believe that conventional ads, banners, and even a membership card print are powerful marketing methods. You’re right, they are. But for a seamless experience, you need to blend offline marketing tactics with online approaches to appeal to a wider, more focused target audience.

This is a guest article by Denny Averill

Messaging is so much more fun when you can converse in a language that is natural to you, a language that allows you to express the real you. As more and more non-English speakers get online, Google is focused on making their experience better, easier and more relevant. Towards that, Google is introducing Hindi language capabilities to the Assistant and Smart Reply in Google Allo. Starting today, these new features will begin rolling out on Google Allo on Android and iOS and they will be available to all users over the coming few days.

Google Assistant is your personal assistant and can get you any kind of information you want, can help you accomplish tasks, chat with friends, play games and do lots more-all in one chat window, without you ever leaving the conversation. So whether you want to pull up a YouTube video of your favorite SRK song or simply want to pass time by with your favourite game, Google Assistant is your constant companion. With today’s launch, the Google Assistant in Allo will now understand and respond in Hindi. Chat one-one-one with your Assistant in Allo, or just type @google to bring your Assistant into any group chat. To start using the Assistant in Hindi, just say ‘Talk to me in Hindi’ or adjust the language setting on your device.

Talking about the launch, Amit Fulay, Group Product Manager, Google said

Since it’s launch, Google Allo has received tremendous response, especially in India, which has one of the highest number of Google Allo users. The Google Assistant, in particular, is one of the most loved features in Google Allo-one in every 12 messages in group chats are messages to the Google Assistant. We are enthused by this and today’s launch enables us to extend these features to the next millions of users in a language of their choice.

Another unique Allo feature is ‘Smart Reply’, which make it easier for users to respond quickly, even when on the go. Powered by Machine Learning, Google Allo not just understands text, but can also help with suggested responses to images sent by friends and family-all in Hindi.

Smart Reply will recognize the language you are chatting in and begin to show suggested responses in that language. If you are chatting in English, it will continue to show English responses. But if you start chatting in Hindi, it will show you suggestions in that language. You can also adjust the language through your device settings. So, now you can respond to your friends question kya haal hai with Sab theek Hai with a single tap.

Google Allo is a smart messaging app available on Android and iOS. Launched in September this year, Google Allo allows you to say more and do more right within your chats including making plans, finding information, and expressing yourself more easily.