FreeCharge CEO Govind Rajan Quits as Snapdeal Announces Layoffs

Govind Rajan, the CEO of Snapdeal-owned FreeCharge, has put in his papers after less than 2 years of joining the digital payments firm.

When contacted, Snapdeal confirmed the development. “Govind has brought incredible energy and focus in growing FreeCharge. The pace of progress will continue with the strong team that he has built. I am sure he will bring the same level of passion and resolve whatever he chooses next,” Snapdeal co-founder and CEO Kunal Bahl said.

FreeCharge CEO Govind Rajan Quits as Snapdeal Announces Layoffs

Rajan had joined FreeCharge in August 2015 and was the Chief Operating Officer at the company. The former Bharti Airtel Executive was elevated to the post of CEO in May last year.

Snapdeal had acquired FreeCharge in April 2015.

The development comes at a time when the SoftBank-backed company is exploring ways to optimise its costs. According to sources, it is also laying off 600 people.

Jason Kothari will oversee the business operations of FreeCharge, as part of his overall responsibilities of portfolio management.

The former Housing.com CEO had joined Snapdeal last month as its chief strategy and investment officer.

Details of Rajan’s next assignment could not be ascertained.

“I am confident that FreeCharge will achieve still greater heights under its incredibly talented team and I look forward to facilitating the transition over the next few weeks,” Rajan said.

Rajan’s departure is the latest top-level exit from Snapdeal. In May last year, its product head Anand Chandrasekaran had quit the firm and later joined Facebook as head of platform and product partnerships.

Google’s Latest Mixed Reality Tech Reveals Person Behind the VR Headset

At I/O 2016, Google announced its Daydream VR platform cementing its focus on virtual and mixed reality moving forward. It even released Daydream View headsets alongside the Pixel phones last year. The company has been introducing several VR-centric features on its video platform YouTube as well, to promote immersive content. While few videos shot at YouTube’s VR Labs do show how spectators can view the inside world of virtual reality, the content creators are often seen wearing VR headsets – making them look emotionless. Daydream Labs and Google Research have tried to address that problem and have found a way to eliminate those big VR headsets from mixed reality videos.

Google's Latest Mixed Reality Tech Reveals Person Behind the VR Headset

The folks at Daydream Labs and Google Research used a combination of machine learning, 3D computer vision, and advanced rendering techniques, to remove the headset and show the full face of the creator. For this experiment, Google used a HTC Vive headset, a green room, and a video camera. The user’s face was scanned; an identical dynamic 3D model was created complete with blinking eyes and looking in different directions. Separately, the Vive headset was fitted with eye-tracking for understanding where the creator is looking, and then this 3D model was superimposed on the real person’s face. This superimposition didn’t completely remove the headset, but it just replaces it with a transparent version that shows the eyes and the other portions of the face that is otherwise hidden behind the headset.

This 3D designed face moves, looks, and blinks in real-time with the user, adding more credibility to the mixed reality video. It removes the valley effect that the obstruction of the headset brings, and looks to give content creators and viewers a more qualitative experience.

“The end result is a complete view of both the virtual world and the person in it, including their entire face and where they’re looking. Our initial work focused on mixed reality is just one potential application of this technology. Seeing beyond VR headsets could help enhance communication and social interaction in VR. Imagine being able to VR video conference and see the expressions and nonverbal cues of the people you are talking to, or seeing your friend’s reactions as you play your favourite game together,” Google posts on its blog.

While Apple steers clear of VR, Google, Facebook’s Oculus, HTC (with its Vive headset), Samsung, Acer Starbreeze, and Sony are betting big on the virtual reality industry. All of them have joined hands to create the Global Virtual Reality Association (GVRA) – a new non-profit organisation with a vision to build a regulatory body for the ever-rising virtual reality industry.

Snapdeal Co-Founders Kunal Bahl, Rohit Bansal to Take 100 Percent Salary Cut Amidst Layoffs

Snapdeal co-founders Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal on Wednesday confirmed that they will be taking a 100 percent salary cut amidst layoffs.

One of India’s leading e-commerce companies, Snapdeal on Wednesday announced that it is “rationalising” part of its workforce in an attempt to become profitable. The SoftBank-backed Snapdeal confirmed that it will lay off roughly 600 employees across Snapdeal, Vulcan and FreeCharge divisions in the upcoming days. The company’s latest move also saw Govind Rajan, the CEO of FreeCharge, quitting his job.

Snapdeal Co-Founders Kunal Bahl, Rohit Bansal to Take 100 Percent Salary Cut Amidst Layoffs

In a letter to Snapdeal employees, co-founders Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal confirmed the news while discussing the company’s current situation. You can read the entire letter below.

“We believe that every resource of the company should be deployed for driving us towards profitable growth and with this announcement, both Rohit and I are taking a 100 percent salary cut. Many of our leaders have also stepped up proactively and offered to take a significant cut in their compensation, which is an excellent sign of how galvanised the team feels in this shared quest for profitability,” the latter said.

In an emailed response on the layoffs, the company said, “Snapdeal will further leverage these technology assets and realign its resources to become a leaner and more efficient business.”

A Snapdeal spokesperson confirming rationalising in the company said, “On our journey towards becoming India’s first profitable e-commerce company in two years, it is important that we continue to drive efficiency across all parts of our business, which enables us to pass on the value to our consumers and sellers. We have realigned our resources and teams to further these goals and drive high-quality business growth.”

Dear Team,

Over the last few years, we’ve had a phenomenal journey, with many well-timed pivots and a constant drive to work towards our core mission of building India’s most reliable and frictionless commerce ecosystem. We’ve succeeded in many aspects of our journey, and also failed in a few. But that never stopped us from getting up and trying harder again. We probably hold the record for the company that got written off the most number of times by Internet pundits.

“When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal, you do not change your decision to get there.” Zig Ziglar

At Snapdeal, we find ourselves at an important point in our journey – we know where we want to go and now is the time to make the choices of how we will get there.

Has our company and industry been going through a troubled time? Absolutely. Did we make errors in our execution? No doubt about that. Over the last 2-3 years, with all the capital coming into this market, our entire industry, including ourselves, started making mistakes. We started growing our business much before the right economic model and market fit was figured out. We also started diversifying and starting new projects while we still hadn’t perfected the first or made it profitable. We started building our team and capabilities for a much larger size of business than what was required with the present scale.

Ambition is critical, because that’s what motivates us to give our very best every single day – to achieve the undoable. However, a large amount of capital with ambition can be a potent mix that drives a company to defocus from its core. We feel that happened to us. We started doing too many things, and all of us starting with myself and Rohit, are to blame for it.

That said, there is almost no successful company on the planet, which hasn’t gone through this phase in their lifetime – Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Tesla, Lego, Spicejet, you name it! Each one of them had painted themselves into a corner many times over before they became as wildly successful as they are today. A quick look at their stock prices over the last 15 years will show you what we’re talking about. The formula to revive the company is uncannily similar for almost all of them – focus on only your core, stop all non-core activities, reduce costs drastically, turn profitable as soon as you can, and use those profits to spur further growth and new projects. We must do the same, and there is no doubt that with the really smart folks we have in the company, we will make it something that we are all very proud of.

This also comes with some tough decisions in the short term. As part of our overall path to profitability plan that is currently in full swing, we will be reorganizing the company into a lean, focused, and entrepreneurial one. We are combining teams, reducing layers, eliminating non-core projects and strengthening the focus on profitable growth. Sadly, we will also be saying really painful goodbyes to some of our colleagues in this process. This is by far the hardest decision that we have ever taken in our lives. Our colleagues are our friends before they are co-workers, and I feel a deep sense of disappointment that we won’t be able to have them continue on this journey with us. We will do what we can to help them with their transition to their next opportunity. We take this time to express our sincere gratitude to all those who are leaving us – your contributions have helped build Snapdeal in ways big and small. With time, I am confident, that we will be able to welcome back some of our colleagues who will be leaving us at this point. And that point, we will be a self sufficient, profitable company.

Daunting as it may appear in the moment, it is important that we do this now, so that we can continue on our overall mission of building a successful, profitable business that provides incredible opportunities to our customers, sellers and partners. This also means more responsibility for the team members continuing on this journey with us.

We believe that every resource of the company should be deployed for driving us towards profitable growth and with this announcement, both Rohit and I are taking a 100% salary cut. Many of our leaders have also stepped up proactively and offered to take a significant cut in their compensation, which is an excellent sign of how galvanised the team feels in this shared quest for profitability.

These are tough times, no doubt. But, I am supremely confident, that like we have done before as a team, we will prevail. The greatest companies in the world got built in many interesting patterns – we just can’t tell the pattern while are in the midst of it. For now, we need to keep our heads down, focus all our energy on execution that delivers on our two focus areas – best customer and seller experience, and profitable growth. This will mean tough choices and a conscious departure from a me-too race to the edge of the cliff. Let’s remember – GMV is vanity, Profit is sanity.

I have seen that whenever we put our minds to a well-defined plan, which we believe in unequivocally, we make progress like nobody else can. I am glad that we have picked our path clearly – of building a profitable business over the next two years.

Twitter for Windows 10 Update Brings Tabs, Makes It More Like TweetDeck

Twitter’s Windows 10 app has now received a useful feature with its latest update as the company has now added Tabs to make it more like TweetDeck. Apart from the Tabs, with the latest update, pinned tweets can now be viewed and created inside the app, the number of replies for each tweet will now be visible, and Direct Messages can now display rich content instead of just plain text links.

Twitter for Windows 10 Update Brings Tabs, Makes It More Like TweetDeck

Even though the app still won’t be able to offer a column-like view present in TweetDeck, the Tabs feature will allow users to easily switch between their search results, profile, timeline etc. This new feature essentially lets users to browse Twitter through the Windows 10 app with much ease and serves to make the app more convenient to use.

To recall, Twitter decided to discontinue its TweetDeck App in April last year in order to “build a simpler, more intuitive experience for all Twitter users.”

Apart from the Tabs, the latest update has added emojis to Twitter’s Windows 10 app. With the latest update, users can now choose to highlight a particular tweet at the top of their profile, which will be the first tweet that people will see when they visit the profile. Protected users will now have the option to aceept follower requests while users will also be able to “browse more of Twitter without an account,” as per the update changelog on Windows Store.

The Twitter for Windows 10 update is already available and can be downloaded from Windows Store.

Uber, Ola Drivers Launch Indefinite Strike in Bengaluru

Over one lakh drivers attached to two cab aggregators began an indefinite strike in Bengaluru on Wednesday, demanding better incentives and stopping attachment of new cabs which they said affects their bookings, even as some of them ransacked a Uber office in Bengaluru.

“Over one lakh drivers attached to Ola and Uber have gone on an indefinite strike, demanding better incentives and stopping of attachment of new cabs, which affects their bookings,” Uber, TaxiForSure and Ola (UTO) Drivers and Owners Association President Tanveer Pasha told PTI in Bengaluru.

Uber, Ola Drivers Launch Indefinite Strike in Bengaluru

He said the decision was taken at a meeting called by the drivers’ association after talks with the state transport commissioner and aggregators failed last night.

Police said the protesters ransacked the Uber office at HSR Layout in Bengaluru. Furniture and some office equipment at the office were damaged, they said. Asked about the incident, Pasha said government has been silent over the issue, “resulting in the drivers losing their patience, reflected in the ransacking of the Uber office.”

“The government should prevail over the aggregators in asking them to adhere to the provisions under Karnataka On-Demand Transportation Technology Aggregators Rules, 2016.”

As per rules,rates for AC and non-AC taxis are fixed at Rs. 19.50 per km and 14.50 per km for non-AC cabs, but drivers are given between Rs. 4 to Rs. 5, which amounts to exploitation, Pasha said.

The drivers also want Ola and Uber to stop attachment of new cabs as it affects their bookings, as also immediate stoppage of penalising drivers, based on customer ratings.

“The cab aggregator penalises drivers for bad behaviour after the rider had given a low rating for them on the app,” Tanveer said.

On February 19, hundreds of drivers had staged a protest in Bengaluru against the Transport Department, asking for enforcement of the rules. The pricing strategies adopted by Ola and Uber have not only affected their drivers, but also those from other unions, Pasha said.

“A driver used to earn up to Rs. 80,000, but is now able to earn Rs. 15,000 only due to increasing number of cabs, which is causing traffic hazards, resulting in cut down of trips,” Pasha said.

Instagram Now Lets Share Multiple Photos, Videos in a Single Carousel-Style Post

If you feel constrained to share multiple photos or videos from your trip on Instagram, a new feature rolled out on Thursday will make your vacation look beautiful in a single album.

Earlier this month, photo-sharing app Instagram was testing the feature on the Android app with limited users. The new feature will roll out to Android and iOS users over the “next few weeks”.

Instagram Now Lets Share Multiple Photos, Videos in a Single Carousel-Style Post

“Now, you can combine up to 10 photos and videos in one post and swipe through to see them all,” Instagram said in a press statement.

To match the user experience, Instagram has increased carousel ad units to 10 photos or videos with a new design.

Earlier only advertisers were able to share the gallery which users could swipe through horizontally, but now the feature has made its way to all 600 million users.

To upload multiple photos, users can select up to 10 photos from their galley, slap on filters to each photo they choose, then upload the photos as an album to their timeline.

From their followers’ perspective, they will see the album and can then slide through the various shots, liking photos as they go.

Amazon Resists Request for Echo Info in Arkansas Slaying

Amazon is resisting an effort by Arkansas prosecutors to obtain potential recordings from a slaying suspect’s Amazon Echo smart speaker, saying authorities haven’t established that their investigation is more important than a customer’s privacy rights.

The issue comes in the investigation into the death of Victor Collins, who was found floating face-up in a hot tub in a friend’s Bentonville home in November 2015. The friend, James Andrew Bates, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.

Amazon Resists Request for Echo Info in Arkansas Slaying

Benton County prosecutors asked a court to force Amazon to provide data that Bates’ Echo may have collected. Echo devices “listen” for a user’s voice and respond to commands.

In a response filed Friday, Amazon said prosecutors hadn’t established the need for Amazon to violate its customers’ constitutional rights. Amazon said prosecutors must prove the information isn’t available elsewhere.

Amazon also wants the court to review the recordings before turning them over to prosecutors to ensure they’re actually relevant to the case.

“Given the important First Amendment and privacy implications at stake, the warrant should be quashed unless the Court finds that the State has met its heightened burden for compelled production of such materials,” Amazon said in the court documents.

The company had previously spoken about prosecutor’s request for the information in more general terms, but this is Amazon’s first formal legal response to the subpoena for audio recordings and transcripts from the night of Collins’ death.

“Amazon will not release customer information without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us. Amazon objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course,” the company said in a statement.

The Associated Press left a phone message Wednesday seeking comment from prosecutors in the case.

Google’s 2-Step Verification Phone Prompts Will Soon Be More Descriptive

Google, in June last year, introduced two-step verification by sending out sign-in prompts on your mobile whenever there was an attempt to access your Google account on an untrusted device. Although it was a more secure way to protect your account, it still lacked disclosure about information of the device that is used to sign-in. That’s now changed, as Google has started rolling out an update on Android and iOS, where the name and the location of the device will appear on the mobile-screen prompt.

Google's 2-Step Verification Phone Prompts Will Soon Be More Descriptive

Internet security is a concerning issue and Google did its part by introducing two-factor authentication wherein Google offers OTP to mobile number, Google Authenticator-generated codes, and backup codes. However that was a little annoying sometimes until Google revamped it in June last year with mobile prompts. With the new update, users who have opted into receiving phone prompts for 2-step verification will start receiving additional details about the sign-in request, like when and where it was made.

Google is releasing the updates in two tracks – Rapid release and Scheduled release – which simply means that it will reach a bunch of users earlier than most of the other users, while the broader rollout will continue later. The 2-step verification process is applicable to all the G Suite editions. The update will take ‘potentially longer than 3 days for feature visibility’ as it’s a gradual rollout, Google says. Users should start receiving the update in coming days, so there’s nothing to worry if you are a 2-step verification user. Those who have not opted for this can go to Google’s Account page and follow the instructions to enable it.

Mozilla Acquires Pocket, Says the Read-It-Later Service Will Operate Independently

Mozilla has announced that the company has successfully completed the acquisition of Pocket (Read It Later, Inc.). Mozilla said that this is its first strategic acquisition, and with buyout it aims to provide users with powerful tools to discover high quality web content on their terms and independent of the platform. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Mozilla Acquires Pocket, Says the Read-It-Later Service Will Operate Independently

Pocket (formerly known as Read It Later), is a popular app that allows users to save articles to read them later as per their convenience. The content is saved without the ads and in easy-to-read form. Notably, Mozilla in 2015 integrated the Pocket service into its Firefox browser.

With the acquisition, Pocket is now a independent, wholly-owned subsidiary of Mozilla and brings “a successful human-powered content recommendation system” along with its 10 million unique active users across Android, iOS, and Web, Mozilla said in its release, adding that till date 3 billion pieces of content had been saved by the service . Notably, Pocket has now become part of Mozilla Open Source Project.

“We believe that the discovery and accessibility of high quality web content is key to keeping the internet healthy by fighting against the rising tide of centralization and walled gardens. Pocket provides people with the tools they need to engage with and share content on their own terms, independent of hardware platform or content silo, for a safer, more empowered and independent online experience,” Chris Beard, Mozilla’s CEO, was quoted as saying in company’s blog post.

As we mentioned, the read-it-later service will continue to operate independently, with the entire team behind Pocket remaining the same and continuing to work in its existing office. Pocket CEO Nate has claimed that Pocket’s existing roadmap has been reinforced and is “clearer than ever.” He added that a “few major updates” can be expected from Pocket in the coming months.

Detailing Mozilla’s role in the company going forward, Nate said, “They’re adding fuel to our rocketship. We have worked closely with Mozilla as we partnered with their Firefox team, and established a deep trust with their team and vision. They have extraordinary resources, global scale, and reach to put Pocket in more places, and help us build an even better product, faster.

Uber CEO Says He Must ‘Grow Up’ After Argument With Driver

Uber Technologies Inc Chief Executive Travis Kalanick on Tuesday said it was time for him to “grow up” and get help after a video was published showing him getting into an argument with a driver for the ride service who complained about pay rates.

Uber CEO Says He Must 'Grow Up' After Argument With Driver

Bloomberg on Tuesday published a video of Kalanick, a co-founder of the company, arguing with a driver who tells him that rates have been cut and he has lost money. The 40-year-old Kalanick responds angrily that some people don’t take responsibility for their own actions.

The video is the latest in a series of challenges and embarrassments for the ride service. Last week, Alphabet Inc’s self-driving vehicle unit Waymo sued Uber for allegedly stealing designs related to autonomous vehicles, a claim that Uber has denied.

Uber also is investigating allegations of sexual harassment in its own organization. Earlier this month, a female former engineer at Uber said in a widely read blog post that managers and human resources officers at the company had not punished her manager after she reported his unwanted sexual advances, and even threatened her with a poor performance review.

In the video published by Bloomberg on Tuesday, the driver in a dash cam tells Kalanick, a passenger, that “people are not trusting you anymore,” and complains that rates for drivers have fallen.

Kalanick responds, “Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own shit. They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck!”

In his statement released later on Tuesday, Kalanick said he was ashamed for treating the driver disrespectfully, and he apologized to the driver and others.

“It’s clear this video is a reflection of me – and the criticism we’ve received is a stark reminder that I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up. This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it,” he wrote.