Saturday, 20 October 2018

H-1B visa tweak may hurt IT firms

The Donald Trump administration has proposed changes to the H-1B registration process, which could lead to more permits being given to those with US master’s degrees, impacting Indian IT firms that rely on the work visa to service clients in that market.

The US General Services Administration said in a note that it was looking at a modified selection process in tune with the ‘Buy American and Hire American’ policies of the US government in a rule that was first proposed in 2011 to improve the intake and selection process of H-1B petitions. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the agency mandated to issue visas to immigrants.

“This regulation…would increase the probability of the total number of petitions selected under the cap filed for H-1B beneficiaries who possess a master’s or higher degree from a US institution of higher education each fiscal year,” it said. The US offers 65,000 standard H-1B visas for skilled workers and an additional 20,000 visas for workers with a US master’s degree or higher.

Typically, the agency processes the master’s pool and then sends petitions that are left over to the general pool. “Under the proposed rule, USCIS would first put all applicants in the general 65,000-visa pool. If that cap were reached, any additional US advanced degree holders would be redirected to the 20,000-visa pool,” US political news site Politico reported, citing sources at the Department of Homeland Security. “The administration expects the change could lead to a 15% increase in H-1B visa holders with US advanced degrees.”

For Indian IT companies, which predominantly employ people with bachelor’s degrees, the move could reduce the number of visas that are available for those without the advanced degrees. Some companies are already facing margin challenges as a result of tighter visa rules that require them to hire US citizens and sub-contract work when they cannot hire quickly enough.

“Increase in our sub-contractorcost, on-site localisation and investment impacted the margins by 50 basis points,” Infosys told analysts after its second-quarter results. The company’s margin was flat even as the rupee weakened significantly, which generally results in higher margins.

The company said it expects its sub-contractor costs to remain elevated, until it could staff projects with its own employees. Last year, Infosys said it would hire 10,000 American workers by 2020.

Despite the issue of tighter visas, IT CEOs do not believe the Indian talent model will fade away soon. “The fact is that the sheer demand for talent and the supply for talent is going to be met from places like India because demand far outstrips supply in those markets. But we have to be cognisant of the politics of it, so we need to be broad-based,” TCS CEO Rajesh Gopinathan said in an interview last week. “But I don’t think the demand for Indian talent is going to be outdated anytime soon.”

The US has issued over 19.07million of the 34.7 million H-1B visas issued in the decade to 2017 to applicants with post-graduation qualifications, the USCIS disclosed on its site. It did not, however, disclose whether the applicants had advanced degrees from US universities.

During the same period, those with bachelor’s degrees got 15.43 million work permits. The Trump administration is also looking to terminate by end of this year an Obama administration plan that allowed spouses of H-1B visa holders to work in the US.

The National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) said the Trump administration had said last year that it would begin making these changes to the programme and that the industry lobby would only be able to comment once an actual change was made. “We have always maintained that changing regulatory issues relating to the employer-employee provision, or the wages would simply increase the costs to the US companies that use the services of the industry to innovate and grow,” said Nasscom vice-president Shivendra Singh.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

RBI Wants to Enable Seamless Transfer Between Mobile Wallets Using UPI

The Reserve Bank of India on Tuesday laid out guidelines that would allow for seamless payments between different mobile wallets, in a move that could further boost the use of digital payments in the country.

Mobile wallets such as the one run by SoftBank and Alibaba-backed Paytm have become popular in India after a ban on high-value currency in late 2016 pushed people to pay digitally. Mobile wallets currently do not allow users to send or receive money from a wallet run by another firm.

Digital wallet companies, if they so desire, can now use a state-backed payments network UPI that makes peer-to-peer payments instant, to make wallets inter-operable, the Reserve Bank of India said on Tuesday.

"It's going to increase the growth rate of digital payments in India even faster and, of course, create more business opportunities," said Upasna Taku, co-Founder of fintech firm MobiKwik, which operates a wallet.

Digital payments in India are projected to grow five-fold to about $1 trillion (roughly Rs. 72 lakh crores) by 2023, according to Credit Suisse.

Huawei launches machine learning chips to power AI strategy

Huawei has unveiled an AI strategy and a portfolio of supporting products built on two new microchips, which the telecoms giant claims is the world’s first AI IP and chip series designed for a full range of deployment scenarios.

The Ascend 310 is designed for the low-power computing needs of smart devices and the Ascend 910 for cloud computing. Huawei’s rotating chairman Eric Xu said the Ascend 910 has “greatest computing density in a single chip,” but denied that it was designed to provide direct competition for the likes of Qualcomm and Nvidia.

Huawei’s full-stack portfolio of AI products and cloud services. These are designed to adapt to public clouds, private clouds, edge computing, industrial IoT devices, consumer devices, and any other deployments, providing optimal efficiency for any scenario, whether the priority is minimising energy consumption or maximising computing power.

“‘Full stack means that Huawei is able to provide AI application developers with unparalleled computing power and a strong application development platform,”

Huawei’s AI strategy

Huawei has historically focused on building chips for its smartphones but is now developing them to power other enterprise applications.

Huawei’s AI strategy aims to increase adoption by offering faster model training, affordable computing power, AI deployment and user privacy, new algorithms, AI automation, practical applications, a real-time, closed-loop system, multi-tech synergy, platform support and talent availability, according to the company.

The products that will support these objectives include the Ascend chips series, a chip operators library and development toolkit, a training and inference framework, and application enablement for devices, edge and cloud computing through full-pipeline services, hierarchical APIs and pre-integrated solutions.

In September 2017, Huawei released Huawei Cloud EI, an AI service platform for enterprises and governments. In April 2018, Huawei announced HiAI, its AI engine for smart devices. The company’s full-stack, all-scenario AI portfolio is designed to provide powerful support for Huawei Cloud EI and HiAI.


Wednesday, 17 October 2018

What is inventory management? A system for streamlining operations

What is an inventory management system?

An inventory management system tracks purchases, keeps count of goods and supplies in stock, and reorders supplies when levels get low. More sophisticated inventory management systems can track stock location and will even predict the optimum time to reorder supplies, drawing on a variety of data, including past sales and weather forecasts.

Inventory management systems integrate with — or may potentially replace — purchasing and sales systems, and they provide tools to reconcile stock levels calculated from purchasing and sales with real-world counts taken from warehouses via barcode scanners or RFID readers.

There are small business inventory systems you can run on a single PC, bigger software suites that run on premises or in the cloud, and inventory management modules for enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.

Inventory management vs. ERP

In tracking inventory, an inventory management system provides a subset of the functionality of an ERP system, which also takes orders from customers, bills them, places orders with suppliers, pays them, pays your staff, and reports on how your business is doing. As such, inventory management is just one of the modules in a typical ERP system. That module may be enough, depending on the size of your ERP vendor and how much they know about the market you’re in, or you may want to turn to a specialist inventory management software vendor.

The benefits of inventory management software

If your business buys and sells goods and materials, inventory management can provide an essential overview of your operations, beyond simply tracking what you’ve bought and what you’ve sold. A good inventory management system can benefit your business by ensuring that you never have to tell a customer you’re out of stock, which can hurt your sales and reputation. An inventory management system can also help minimize levels of raw materials, work in progress and finished goods, enabling your organization to avoid tying up capital in unnecessary stock and save on warehousing costs by renting just enough space and no more.

Tracking how long perishable — or fashionable — goods typically hang around in your warehouse can also save you money, enabling you to limit stocks to just what you can sell before they go out of date or out of style.

Plus, inventory management isn’t just a good idea, it’s the law: Disclosing total inventory is a financial reporting requirement in many jurisdictions.

How does inventory management software work?

At its simplest, inventory management software adds up stock as it comes in and subtracts what gets sold, stolen or discarded. To ensure you don’t run out of stock, or space to store it, the software will make forecasts about how quickly stock will go out the door, and how long it will take to get new stock in, based on past performance data, such as recent sales, seasonal sales performance, and how long it typically takes your suppliers to deliver.

More sophisticated systems can use additional factors — weather reports, store schedules, anything you can turn into a number — to fine-tune those forecasts.

Inventory management features

An inventory management system can offer a lot more functionality than simply counting your inventory, depending on how much you're willing to pay, where you're running it, and what other applications you're willing to integrate with it.

Scanning barcodes is almost a given these days, even at the corner store, allowing the software to automatically update stock levels from the point of sale. Processing RFID tags takes things to the next level, allowing you to track not just which product, but which instance of a product, has been shipped or sold.

The software may be able to generate reports on inventory variations or forecast seasonal demand, allowing you to order raw materials and plan production to maximize sales. It may also automate elements of your business, automatically reordering when stock levels run low — especially useful for irregularly selling items you don't pay much attention to — and generating purchase orders and invoices, perhaps by integrating with your accounting software.

If you take orders or prepare estimates for clients on site, you'll want remote access to your inventory so you can promise realistic delivery dates: A system with a tablet or smartphone interface is a must.

The ability to track inventory across multiple locations is important if your company has warehouses around the country or makes intra-company sales.

Finally, an inventory management system that can perform "kitting" will make it easier for you to track the whole bills of materials for a finished product, whether it's a car or just the deluxe widget kit (complete with widget, spare battery and cleaning cloth).

Inventory management offerings

It needn't cost the earth to start managing your inventory. If your needs are modest, then there are free cloud systems out there that can help.

Delivrd, for example, will manage up to 10 product lines at a single inventory location. Pay $49.99 per month to manage unlimited products at unlimited locations, or twice that to integrate it with your e-commerce or order-picking systems.

Also in the cloud, Zoho has added an inventory management module to its CRM and collaboration platform. It offers features such as kitting and automatic reordering for free, but if you want to process more than a handful of orders a week or get a centralized view of multiple warehouses, you'll have to pay anywhere from $29 per month (for 10 users and 100 online orders) to $249 per month (for unlimited users and 30,000 online orders).

There are open source systems too, typically modules within broader open source ERP systems such as OpenBravo, Apache's OFBiz, or Odoo. OpenBravo and Odoo charge for support services around their software; Apache leaves that to third parties.

Further up the scale, several major enterprise software vendors also offer inventory management for their platforms. For example, Oracle Inventory Management integrates with the company's purchasing, manufacturing and supply chain software, and is available in the cloud or on premises. SAP offers many inventory management functions in its sprawling ERP system, and with its move to the S/4HANA in-memory platform much of that inventory analysis can be performed in real time.
AI in inventory management

Predictably, artificial intelligence is being used to enhance predictions or check that inventory records match reality. It’s being used to spot trends in what sells when, identifying the perfect weather for barbecue, and to improve inspection of goods in, ensuring orders match deliveries.

For more on the use of AI in inventory management, see “How AI will revolutionize inventory management.”

IoT in inventory management

Inventory management is fertile territory for the internet of things (IoT) to grow. Goods are now routinely tagged with RFID, allowing machines to track not only how much stock is on hand but where it is with ever-increasing precision. But the falling cost of sensors is making it easier to record not just where something is, but at what temperature it’s been stored and how hard it’s been dropped, at an increasingly granular level.


Google may open eStore by November in India

Google is eyeing the e-commerce market in India. Except, it won’t be doing any direct commerce there.
Come November, Google plans to launch an online storefront for all its branded hardware products, ET has learnt. These would include its flagship smartphone Pixel, Chromecast, Google Home smart speakers, and virtual reality headset, Daydream.

The storefront, similar to Apple’s storefront for the India market, will be a website where Google will merely display its branded and licensed hardware products. But it will also be able to gain access to customer data and have a stronger influence over the buying experience.
“We are looking to launch a Google-branded online store for all hardware launched in India, with an authorised partner who will operate and manage the fulfilment,” a company spokesperson confirmed in an emailed statement.
Google, sources say, is in talks with several third-party partners for this, including Ingram Micro.

“A storefront allows Google to access info on the premium users looking to buy its phones. Second, it also helps the brand to control the end-to-end selling experience and have the ability to cross-sell other products and offerings, like bundling Google Home or accessories, or even, in the future, extended warranty plans or upgrade programs like Apple does well with Apple Care,” said Neil Shah, partner at Counterpoint Research.
In 2017, Google’s market share in India was 0.07% of the overall smartphone market, while in the premium category (smartphones above $600), it was 3%, according to market research company Counterpoint Research. In the first nine months of 2018, those numbers fell to 0.03% and 1.6%, respectively.

Google’s move comes at a time when other smartphone companies such as Samsung and Xiaomi have been coming up with their own ecommerce offerings. Manu Jain, the country head of Xiaomi, in an earlier interaction with ET had stastated that, the company’s ecommerce website, had become “the third-largest (ecommerce website) in India” in terms of overall gross merchandise value (GMV), a proxy for gross sales.

Google’s pre-launch version of its India storefront ( allows users to find both online and offline retailers where they could purchase its products from. That will change in November, with users getting an option to purchase, with a redirection to the partner’s page, upon which the transaction can be completed. This is unlike Google’s home market, the United States, where Google’s store is managed and fulfilled by the company.