Monthly Archives: April 2016

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How Hindi social networking site ShabdaNagari acquired 20,000 users in India, USA, UAE and Canada in one year

Imagine a platform where users can connect with like-minded people and share thoughts in the form of posts, blogs, and forum questions using the Hindi language as a medium? With 500 million Hindi-speaking people living world over,  Amitesh Misra, Kaplnesh Gupta and Nikhil Tiwari realised generating content for Hindi Internet surfers would definitely be a viable business idea. So, the trio launched a social networking site in Hindi called ShabdaNagari last January.

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They had at first contemplated launching a Hindi blogging platform. But they soon realised that social media would be a more familiar concept, given the popularity of Facebook and Twitter.


Shabdanagari Team

ShabdaNagari was showcased at the first-ever Indian Language Digital festival, Bhasha, on March 11 in New Delhi, supported by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, and exclusive language partner Reverie Language Technologies. 

In safe hands

ShabdaNagari is incubated at SIDBI Innovation & Incubation Centre, IIT Kanpur (SIIC-IIT Kanpur), which helped them with an initial loan to start operations. This January, ShabdaNagari raised Rs 1.2 crore from Kanpur Angels and other investors, as well.

Kanpur Angels, which has been closely associated with IIT Kanpur and other top colleges in Kanpur, had decided to set aside a corpus of Rs 10 crore to provide angel investment to some of the promising startups in the city and help them grow. ShabdaNagari was their first investment.

Before ShabdaNagari, Nikhil and Amitesh has worked on another venture called Sociota under the umbrella of IIT Kanpur. Sociota is a social media management, monitoring, scheduling and analysis tool that helps one manage Facebook and Twitter campaigns efficiently.

Amitesh is an alumnus of IIT Bombay and Nikhil is from Vishveshwarya Institute of Engineering & Technology, Ghaziabad.

The duo roped in Kaplnesh to take care of the marketing for ShabdaNagari. Kalpnesh (45) comes with over 20 years of experience in the field of marketing and advertising. Amitesh (33) works on business operation and Nikhil (27) on product development.

Initially, the concept of ShabdaNagari was taken to colleges and schools of Kanpur via multiple workshops. And that is how it started gaining popularity in the form of feedback on various parameters from students. Today, ShabdaNagari boasts of more than 20,000 registered users on its portal.

We have grown up with a mindset that Internet means English and we should learn English if we want to be connected in a digital world. Our vision is to establish that Internet or any online platform should speak to users in their language,” says Amitesh.

How to leverage the platform

A free platform, ShabdaNagari has come up with a handful of tools for users to post articles, pictures and videos in Hindi, and includes creating a user profile, follower/friend management and messaging/chatting. The platform allows users to type Hindi words in English, which automatically translates into Hindi. Its algorithm allows real-time transliteration and provides users with different Hindi input options.

In one year, the platform has seen more than 7.5 lakh visits with average session duration being more than five minutes per user. More than 80 percent of the traffic comes from Mumbai and Delhi and 10 percent from countries like USA, UAE and Canada.  The ShabdaNagari Android app, which was launched last September, has witnessed 1500-2000 downloads.

In terms of user demographics, nearly 50 percent of our users are in the 18–24 years age bracket; young Indians who are perceived as English speakers. Twenty percent of our users are below 35 years of age, and the remaining are 35 and above,” says Amitesh.

ShabdaNagari has a team of 15 members- six developers, three designers and the rest in marketing and operations. Currently based out of SIIC-IIT Kanpur, it plans to set up offices in Mumbai, Bengaluru and Lucknow.

The target is to achieve a five-lakh user base in the next four to six months and 1.5 million by 2018. The new version of ShabdaNagari (which is scheduled to be launched next month) is likely to have advertisements, paid promotions and a marketplace for buying and selling Hindi books as revenue streams. Moreover, the new version will provide five options to input Hindi text, including two separate keyboards – Inscript and Remington.

We are also planning to offer Hindi input options in the form of APIs so that users can also use them for their own website. Going forward, we plan to provide digitised versions of vernacular books, in association with various government and educational institutes,” says Amitesh.

Digitised Hindi content- a huge opportunity

With 93 percent of the time spent on videos in Hindi and other regional languages, Indian consumers’ preference towards regional content has seen a continuous upsurge. According to Google India, online Hindi content consumption is growing at a rate of 94 percent year on year compared to the 19 percent for English content. Google has also announced that its mobile and web advertising network Google AdSense will support Hindi content now.

To address the needs of non-English speakers in India, startups have started providing solutions for both B2B and B2C customers. A few startups have even attracted the attention of investors. Reverie Technologies, a Bengaluru-based company that offers local-language technology solutions, raised $4 million in its Series-A funding from Aspada and Qualcomm Ventures. Formerly known as FirstTouch, Indus OS raised $5 million from Omidyar Network.

source: / 15 April 2016


A husband-wife duo is building a platform that can handle textbook preferences of 20 million students

Do you remember those college days when you had to buy those expensive academic books? The books were hardly used only for two months before the exams, or when panic was struck, in our minds, by firm teachers. After the exams, they become part of the homefurniture. Worse, although they are not even coffee table books, they last in to your adulthood and manage to remind you of the sweaty nights of hard work that you train your mind to forget. What if there was a startup that made sure your future was secure and these books did not remain in your hands for life. Wouldn’t that be a good thing? Shachindra Sharma and Ruchi Sharma built Pustakkosh, an online text book rental company, around a social network for used books. Founded by the husband and wife duo, Pustakkosh aggregates curriculum books from publishers and rents it out to graduates. It also buys used books from students to add to the collection. The process is very simple. All a student has to do is to get on their platform and rent a book, which will be delivered to their campus at a convenient time.

PureCircle to make India a regional export hub for stevia

PureCircle, the largest producer of the zero-calorie sweetener globally, is currently undertaking field studies.

Malaysia-based PureCircle is planning to make India its regional production and export hub for ‘Stevia’, a sweetener extracted from the leaves of a plant called Stevia rebaudiana, in the next five years.

The company will invest Rs 1,300 crore ($200 million) in the country to set up a manufacturing plant and procure raw material locally, Magomet Malsagov, chief executive of PureCircle, told Business Standard.

PureCircle, the largest producer of the zero-calorie sweetener globally, is currently undertaking field studies.

PureCircle supplies to nearly 300 food and beverage manufacturers in around 100 countries. It also supplies to fast-moving consumer goods majors such as Nestle, Coca-Cola, and Pepsi.

The recently-launched 7UP Revive from PepsiCo is the first stevia-based drink in India. The launch came months after India’s apex food regulator Food Safety and Standards Authority of India had allowed the use of stevia into processed foods and beverages in November 2015.

“We’ll procure 15,000 tonnes of dry stevia leaves locally, for which farming has to be done in 5,000 hectares of land. This will benefit 15,000 farmers directly,” said Malsagov.

The proposed Indian plant will cater to the south-Asia region, he added.

Globally, stevia has a Rs 1,300-crore market. After entering India, PureCircle aims to replace 20 per cent of the 20-million tonnes of sugar consumption in India.

“We are in talks with all major Indian companies to cut deals,” said Ajay Chandran, senior director (south Asia), PureCircle. The company has identified six states  including Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand and Punjab for farming of stevia plants.

source: Business Standard April 13, 2016

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India ready to invest $20 bn in Iran: Petroleum minister

Pradhan expressed India’s interest in setting up an LNG plant and a gas cracker unit in the Chabahar port

India is willing to invest as much as $20 billion in setting up new petrochemicals, fertiliser and liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities in but requires land and cheaper natural gas for this, Petroleum Minister has said.

The minister, who is currently in Iran along with key officials of his ministry and a delegation of industry representatives, discussed with his counterpart many outstanding issues related to the petroleum sector.

“Pradhan conveyed to the Iranian side that Indian companies could invest up to $20 billion and were interested in setting up petrochemical and fertiliser plants, including in the Chabahar special economic zone (SEZ), either through joint venture between Indian and Iranian public sector companies or with private sector partners,” the oil ministry stated.

“In this regard, he requested Iran to allocate appropriate and adequate land in the SEZ. He also requested the Iranian side for favourable treatment in the pricing of gas for India and also supply of rich gas at a competitive price and on a long-term basis for the life of the joint venture projects that Indian companies are interested in setting up,” the statement added.

Pradhan expressed India’s interest in setting up an plant and a gas cracker unit in the Chabahar port.

He said the country is keen to import liquefied petroleum gas from Iran. The two sides discussed the award of rights to develop Farzad-B gas fields to Indian firms as well as the pending payment by Indian refiners toward oil purchases from Iran.

The ministry said the two nations are trying to cement ties, following the lifting of some sanctions in January. Iran wants India to ramp up crude import from Iran, while India is seeking attractive terms of purchase to continue.

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source: Business Standard / BS Reporter  |  New Delhi April 11, 2016

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Delhi-based VegFru takes fruits and vegetables trading online, raises funds from Wingify

Delhi-based enterprise software company Wingify has invested an undisclosed amount in an online B2B marketplace for fruits and vegetables, The funds will be deployed for team expansion and develop mobile apps for both buyers and sellers.

Founded in June 2015 by Anil Chopra and based out of Delhi, VegFru connects farmers, suppliers, retailers and buyers on a single platform. It also serves as a third-party for suppliers and buyers to agree to an Escrow payment until supply is received. It has tied up with various transportation, packaging and export advisory firms for logistics.

Anil Chopra, Founder and CEO, VegFru
Anil Chopra, Founder and CEO, VegFru

Anil Chopra, Founder and CEO,, said,

It is surprising that the same Mangoes that are sold in Vijaywada for Rs 7000 per quintal are sold at Rs 10000 per quintal at New Delhi Azadpurmandi.  Even after accounting for transportation and packaging costs, that is 20 per cent increase in wholesale price from South India to North India.”

In the past, Anil managed agri-businesses for organizations like NDDB, Safal, Reliance Retail and Subhiksha. He gained hands on experience on different aspects of running a company in this sector,  including sourcing, crop planning, retail operations, wholesale markets, cold chain, frozen foods, merchandising, procurement, warehousing, logistics, sales & marketing and business development.

He mentioned that farmers in developed nations get 50-60 per cent of final consumer price of fruits and vegetables(F&V) produce while an Indian farmer just gets 20-30 per cent. The reason for all these inefficiencies is that the F&V markets and marketing infrastructure in India are not linked with each other. There is a huge knowledge gap between sellers, buyers and farmers in terms of prices and best practices.

How VegFru works?

Vendors, suppliers and sellers can register themselves on and list their products or services for free. Buyers from all over the world can connect with these sellers to enquire about prices and trade terms and trade with a suitable provider. VegFru assists in all trades and ensure quality and efficiency. The company boasts of 5000 registered vendors  on that caters to over 100 different kinds of fruits and vegetables.

Anil said, catered to about 60 wholesale orders in the month of March, which is double  the number of orders for February.We see 350 transactions per month. Currently, we have 50 product clusters across India where farmers directly supply vegetables and fruits.”

With 15 employees, is planning to on-board 50,000 vendors from all over India with expansion to all the major clusters and belts in India.

Founded in 2009 by Paras Chopra in partnership with Sparsh Gupta, Wingyfy has offices in Delhi, New York and Pune and had recently acquired US based Navilytics, a visitor analytics solution platform for websites. Earlier in 2014, the company had also acquired Concept Feedback, a leading US based web design and user experience community startup.

Market Overview

With more than 100 million cultivators in India, the market size of fruits and vegetables trading is almost $200 billion dollars. This is more than half of the $383 billion food and grocery industry in India.While in B2C segment, we have Big Basket, Zopnow, Grofers, Peppertap, and Jugnoo leading the online grocery market, the B2B marketplace is not explored a lot. Y-Combinator backed Kisan Network  is an integrated service platform working in this domain. The top five online grocery startups in India have raised over $173.5 million, whereas B2B marketplace model is still looking for VCs validation as none of the players have shown the scale yet.

For an agrarian economy, it’s a good news and with our farmers facing tough times, hopefully VegFru and Kisan Network can contribute positively. The impact along with the scale remains the key in this sector.

Source: / 11 April 2016