Flipkart and FICCI to Conduct E-Commerce Workshop Series for MSMEs; PayPal Acquires Online Deal-Finding Company for USD 4 billion; E-Commerce Sites Top List of Consumer Complaints in India; Shutterstock Offers Affordable Music Licensing for Content Creators; Amazon’s Music Streaming Service is Now Free; Amazon Echo Will Now Play Spotify’s Free Music Service; Apple Finally Enters the B2B Streaming Market; Streaming Service Mubi Launches in India; Frozen 2 Release Accompanied by Record 67 Brand Deals in India and more.
Flipkart and FICCI to Conduct E-Commerce Workshop Series for MSMEs
Flipkart, the e-commerce marketplace owned by American retail giant Walmart, has partnered with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) to launch a workshop series aimed at Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME). The workshops, to be conducted across India starting with Ahmedabad in November, will be themed ‘Winning big with e-commerce’, and will aim to help MSMEs understand the e-commerce industry, how it can help them, and how they can build their business and increase brand visibility. According to Flipkart, its representatives will address specific accounting and taxation issues, access to capital, how to identify new opportunities, the importance of brand building online, how to build and scale their brands, and supply chain management and inventory planning for e-commerce. These workshops will then move to other Indian cities, including Bhubaneshwar, Chandigarh, Guwahati, and Nagpur.
PayPal Acquires Online Deal-Finding Company for USD 4 billion
PayPal, the American online payment company, is acquiring Honey Science Corporation, a company that operates a deal-finding browser add-on and mobile application, for USD 4 billion, mostly cash. Honey, which has 17 million monthly active users, tracks sales and retailers’ promo codes, provides consumers with the option to browse the best offers, and automatically selects the best cost-saving promo code while checking out on online shopping sites. The company also rolled out a price-tracking feature which informs shoppers of an item’s price history. Honey’s browser extension now works across approximately 30,000 websites, including fashion, technology, travel, and even pizza delivery sites. It claims that its users have saved a total of more than USD 2 billion till date.
With this acquisition, PayPal will now gain a giant foothold in the online shopping market, featuring earlier in the consumer’s shopping experience rather than just on the payment page, where it currently competes against credit cards or Apple Pay, for instance. PayPal has been facing increased competition from giants like Apple, Google, and Facebook, who have recently begun entering the payments market, apart from its traditional competitors in credit card companies.
E-Commerce Sites Top List of Consumer Complaints in India
According to data from the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, e-commerce companies topped the list of consumer complaints received on the government’s national helpline, with one in every five complaints directed against an e-commerce company. The list was led by Flipkart, Reliance Jio, and Amazon. More than 100,000 of the 500,000 plus complaints were against e-commerce companies, with banks following with 41,600, and telecom garnering 29,400. A ministry official said that the increase in the number of complaints against e-commerce companies was likely due to the growth in their consumer base. Most of the complaints against the e-commerce companies pertained to spurious products, problems in exchange, and delayed delivery, while those against telecom companies were related to overbilling, data deduction, and connectivity problems.
The government has responded to increasing dissatisfaction among consumers by shoring up its grievance redressal mechanism. The Ministry launched a mobile application where consumers could register their complaints, which would be redressed within 60 days. The government has also published draft e-commerce rules which focusses on e-commerce companies’ obligations and mechanisms of grievance redressal. Another ministry official claimed that companies, however, were responding well to complaints—of 565,000 complaints received last year, 555,000 were resolved, and a similar resolution rate is expected this year.
Shutterstock Offers Affordable Music Licensing for Content Creators
Shutterstock, the American provider of stock photography, is expanding its offerings to include music. It has launched an unlimited music subscription plan for USD 149 per month, giving content creators and digital marketers access to more than 11,000 tracks that can be included in web-based content, like YouTube videos, podcasts, and conference presentations. The Shutterstock Music Library, which will be searchable by genre, mood, or popularity, has been curated by professional musicians, and hundreds of tracks will be added every month. According to Shutterstock, this is a cost-effective feature for marketers lacking the budget and resources to pursue high-end music productions, and “frees them to focus on the creative vision rather than worrying about budget”.
Amazon’s Music Streaming Service is Now Free
Online retail giant Amazon is now offering its music streaming service free, with advertisements. While it previously offered free, ad-supported music streaming to owners of its smart device Echo, it is now expanding a 2 million song catalogue same to all customers. This is the same catalogue offered to those who have subscribed to Amazon’s Prime membership, albeit with advertisements.
This move won’t ruffle any feathers among major music streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music, considering Amazon’s music catalogue is much smaller, and is not supported by personalisation technology as advanced as what drives Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist, for instance. Amazon’s move, instead, is aimed at making its Prime subscription more appealing to its consumers, encouraging them to subscribe to remove ads. Amazon’s Prime subscription is one of the company’s major focuses, as Prime members will shop more often from Amazon’s e-commerce site, which is where its profits primarily lie.
Amazon Echo Will Now Play Spotify’s Free Music Service
Swedish-American music streaming provider Spotify, whose service previously worked with Amazon Echo only for premium subscribers, has now extended support on the smart device for its free tier users. Similar support will now also be available on smart speakers manufactured by American audio manufacturing company Bose and consumer electronics company Sonos. This news comes on the heels of Amazon’s announcement that its own music service would become free across devices. Though Amazon’s limited 2 million song catalogue doesn’t make it much of a competitor to Spotify, which boasts of over 50 million songs as well as powerful personalisation capabilities, Spotify’s stock dropped almost 5% following Amazon’s announcement.
Apple Finally Enters the B2B Streaming Market
Technology behemoth Apple has finally announced its much-anticipated move into the Business-to-Business (B2B) streaming market, with department store Harrods and clothing company Levi’s already using Apple’s music streaming service Apple Music in their stores. While regular Apple Music or Spotify subscriptions do not permit use on commercial premises, providing B2B streaming at additional costs has long seemed an obvious way for streaming services to generate extra revenue.
Streaming services Pandora and Sirius already offer B2B services in the US, while there are companies like Mood Media and Playnetwork whose primary business is providing music to retail clients. Apple seemed to confirm its plans to enter the market when it registered trademarks for Apple Music for Business last year, and Spotify has demonstrated interest in retail-focussed Soundtrack Your Brand, which published a study in 2018 estimating that the music industry was missing out on revenues worth USD 2.65 billion per year by not exploiting B2B streaming to its fullest.
Streaming Service Mubi Launches in India
12-year old movie streaming and rental service Mubi has launched in India. Unlike more well-known streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, Mubi’s primary selling point is its selection of critically acclaimed movies. Mubi also maintains a stark difference from its larger competitors in the market by maintaining a small catalogue of just 30 movies at any given point, with every new title being accompanied by the exit of an existing one; no movie stays longer than 30 days on the platform. Founded in 2007, Mubi initial business plan mirrored that of services like Netflix. However, realising financial constraints, Mubi rerouted itself into its current form of offering a very limited selection, focussing on lesser-known critical gems.
Having amassed 9 million subscribers worldwide, Mubi has launched in India at a much lower price point than in other countries—much like other streaming services. It has also, for the first time, launched a dedicated channel for local movies. With access to both the local and global channels, Indian subscribers will have access to 60 movies. Mubi has appointed Academy Award-winning film producer Guneet Monga, of Gangs of Wasseypur– and Lunchbox-fame, as its content advisor.
Frozen 2 Release Accompanied by Record 67 Brand Deals in India
The release of Frozen 2, Disney’s sequel to its 2013 animated blockbuster, in India has been anteceded by a flurry of merchandising as Disney India has signed sponsorship deals with a record 67 brands, the highest such number for an animated movie in the country. These partnerships involve brands like toy retailer Hamleys, fashion brands Max and Reliance Trends, clothing chain Pantaloons, and e-commerce company Flipkart.
A special Frozen collection has been launched by Pantaloons for young girls, which includes joggers, leggings, sweatshirts, sweater dresses, and footwear. Hasbro, the toy and board games company, will roll out a range of new dolls and playsets inspired by the two protagonists, Elsa and Anna, while multinational conglomerate ITC has launched a line of stationery products including notebooks, geometry boxes, and colouring sets based on the movie. Paint company Asian Paints has introduced a series of wall décor derived from the film, while Flipkart will be selling Frozen themed merchandise across categories. This amassing of deals is symptomatic of a trend of increasing localisation and marketing initiatives by Hollywood studios in India.
Authored and compiled by Neharika Vhatkar (Associate, BananaIP Counsels) and Param Gupta (Legal Intern)
The Licensing and E-Commerce News Bulletin is brought to you jointly by the E-Commerce Law and Consulting/Strategy Divisions of BananaIP Counsels, a Top IP Firm in India. If you have any questions, or need any clarifications, please write to [email protected] with the subject: Licensing News.
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