Weekly Focus APAC: India Moots Policy to Keep E-Commerce Data Local

In this edition of Weekly Focus APAC: India Moots Policy to Keep E-Commerce Data Local; JD.com Partners with Rakuten to Bring Drone Delivery in Japan; McDonald’s Delivers on GrabFood in Philippines; and Singapore Visual AI Firm Secures £15.3m in Series C.

India Moots Policy to Keep E-Commerce Data Local

The Indian government has released a draft e-commerce policy that regulates the movement of cross-border data, ensuring that such information is stored locally and its benefits will enrich the local economy.

Describing data generated in the country as a “national asset”, the document stated that India’s data should be used for its development and its citizens and companies should reap the economic benefits from the monetisation of such data.

More data centres and server farms should be set up locally to store the data, which would further drive the Indian IT industry and create local jobs, according to the draft policy. It added that foreign market players would be given three years to build up the necessary infrastructure needed to comply with the regulation.

Data collected and processed in the country would be prohibited from being shared with foreign governments and businesses outside India.

The 41-page report also recommended that a government agency be set up to oversee legislations governing user data generated on e-commerce sites, social media, and search engines, as well as collected via Internet of Things (IoT) devices deployed in public areas.

In addition, foreign e-commerce operators would have to become registered business entities in India to continue selling their wares to local consumers.

Driven by technology and data, the document noted that the e-commerce sector was continuously evolving and India needed a regulatory framework to “empower” local businesses, enable data access, and connect traders of all sizes. It also was necessary to ensure consumers were able to retain control of the data they owned and generated.

“Business models of companies are increasingly centred around data. Targeted advertisements, personalised recommendations, and data strategies as a means to attain competitive advantage by corporations are some ways that value has been attached to data. As much as these mechanisms are beneficial to the companies, the importance of ownership of data must not be undermined.”

The report also called for a review of current policies that did not impose custom duties on online transactions.

“Governments are finding existing regulations and structures inadequate to deal with issues brought to the table by the digital economy. The presence of customs duties provides a tool in the hands of governments in case they want to control access to domestic markets. However, the same cannot be said for digital transmissions that travel into the country online. Given the moratorium on custom duties on electronic transmissions, the issue of taxing ‘additive’ manufacturing emerges.”

The Indian government early this month introduced Foreign Direct Investment regulations that banned online marketplaces and their group companies from selling products from merchants in which they had equity and from controlling the inventory sold on their retail platforms.

JD.com Partners with Rakuten to Bring Drone Delivery in Japan

Chinese e-commerce operator JD.com is partnering with industry peer Rakuten to share their expertise in drones and autonomous delivery and facilitate such operations in Japan.

JD.com introduced commercial drone deliveries in rural China in 2016 and since has expanded the delivery option to other provinces such as Jiangsu and Shaanxi. To date, its drones have chalked up more than 400,000 minutes in flight time.

Rakuten launched its own drone delivery service in 2016 and, in 2018, flew its first delivery trial using a combination of drones and autonomous delivery robots in Japan.

The new partnership would tap JD.com’s experience in developing drones and autonomous delivery robots to support Rakuten’s domestic drone delivery service operations, including its shopping apps.

Rakuten’s group managing executive officer, Koki Ando, said: “By utilising JD.com’s drones and UGVs (unmanned ground vehicles) with the unmanned delivery solutions created by Rakuten, we hope to accelerate innovation in the Japanese logistics sector and contribute to building a society that can offer greater convenience to all citizens.”

JD.com’s unmanned delivery robots currently are used in China’s urban areas, including university campuses and office parks.

Last month, it completed a government-approved drone test flight in Indonesia, paving the way for potential drone deliveries in the Asean market.

JD.com’s president of JD-X logistics lab, Jun Xiao, said: “This is one way we are innovating to make logistics more accessible, reliable, and cost-effective. In Japan, there are many opportunities for drones to make deliveries in mountainous areas, remote islands, and in emergency situations. As we push the bounds of what our autonomous delivery technology can do, and explore its use in a wide range of applications from e-commerce to humanitarian support, we believe it will continue to bring significant benefit to people around the world.”

McDonald’s Delivers on GrabFood in Philippines

Filipinos craving for McDonald’s can now have their fast-food fix delivered to their doorstep through GrabFood.

Grab’s food delivery service will be able to deliver Happy Meals, amongst other items on McDonald’s menu, from more than 60 of the fast food chain’s outlets in Metro Manila and Metro Cebu.

McDonald’s currently accepts and delivers orders through its hotline, website, and mobile app. Its partnership with Grab now would enable its customers to place orders directly through the GrabFood app.

The fast food chain’s Philippines managing director, Margot Torres, said the company hoped to provide a “frictionless experience” for consumers by tapping digital tools.

Grab Philippines’ president, Brian Cu, said: “With food delivery as one of our most important business focuses for 2019, we will continue to bring innovative and rewarding food experiences to our consumers, while helping our partners reap the benefits of participating in the Philippines’ digital economy.”

Singapore Visual AI Firm Secures £15.3m in Series C

Singapore-headquartered ViSenze has secured USD$20m (£15.31m) in Series C funding, pushing its total funds to USD$34.5m (£26.41m)

The artificial intelligence (AI) software vendor said the new funds would go towards enhancing its visual commerce technology for retailers, brands, and media organisations, as well as platforms for smartphone manufacturers with the aim to improve “visual shopping”.

The latest funding round included investors such as Gobi Partners, Sonae IM, 31Ventures Global Innovation Fund, and Rakuten Ventures, said ViSenze, which was founded in 2012 and has offices in China, South Korea, Japan, and the UK.

Its co-founder and CEO, Oliver Tan, said: “Visuals have incredible power and influence over buying decisions; therefore, having visual search capabilities within mobile devices delivers a modern, smarter way to ensure discovery by consumers.”

According to ViSenze, more than 300 million shoppers use its software and more than three million image searches are queried a day through its enterprise applications.

Sonae IM’s CEO, Eduardo Piedade, said: “With more retailers and brands offering visual search capabilities as an option for consumers to accelerate the time to purchase and improve the buying experience, we see the technology continuing to shape the future of retail.”