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Online Home Purchase Boom in India

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Madhumita Mondal, a resident of Mumbai made a decision to buy an apartment online. A strange but appealing feeling that save time and also offers mouthwatering discount compared to tradition offline purchase. Mondal spent $ 159,000 (10.1 million rupees) on a 3 bedroom apartment located in Mumbai suburbs. According to Mondal, normally she purchases books and dresses on Snapdeal.com, but when she saw the apartment advertised with good discount, she decided to give it a try to save time and money. A decision that changed her online experience.

‘Rather than having to go through property agencies off-line, this experience is much better,’ Mondal commented.

While it seems difficult to spend hundreds of thousands of rupees online, many Indians are happy about it. Property is being sold online and huge internet sales realized. Developers are getting an easy time disposing off the excess supply while consumers find it easy to buy houses with good discounts. Over the past few weeks, both Mantri Developers Ltd and Tata Housing Development Co made sales of $ 1 million each on Snapdeal. In the past one year, Snapdeal, Housing.com and 99acres.com are sites that have been making property sales online. More than 1500 apartments of sales online are reported by Tata Housing. The online platforms promise lower prices. In an advert placed on their website, Snapdeal promises low prices, ‘obtain unbelievable discounts’ the advertisement reads.

Cost Conscious

The managing director and chairman of Mumbai-based developer Rustomjee Group had this to say, ‘Indians are very conscious on cost. They believe that online platforms and mass buying are cheap methods of buying anything.’ More than 30 apartments have been sold online by Rustomjee Group through a brokerage site where buyers are directed to Rustomjee to make the sale complete. ‘We observe traditions on most things while in India, we embrace technology and what it has to offer. I see a lot of potential in the manner in which the internet can make changes in sale of apartments.’

For a new construction, the sites for online sales work in the same manner as an offline showroom belonging to a developer. Instead of going in person to view the photos and proposed models, the potential customer only has to make a few clicks. He/she is able to view the neighborhood and see how the building and units look like. He also gets an opportunity to see the reviews and ratings from other buyers. Also available is a walk-through of the three dimension furnished apartment.

Big Discounts

A good example of a typical discount is an apartment worth 6.5 million rupee which was built in Bengaluru by Ardente Realtors. The mortgage interest payment of 800,000 rupees (12 % purchase price) was being slashed off on this apartment if the purchase is made through Housing.com.

When a down payment of $ 1,600 is made by the customer on the ecommerce platform, the buyer is contacted by the developer in order to assist mortgage financing arrangements through the bank if need be. The option of paying the balance through online banking is also available.

‘Unlike offline real estate brokers, online commissions for sellers are lower,’ said Rustomjee Irani. He didn’t give further details. Snapdeal also failed to give more information on commissions. In some markets, developers are using the site so that they can offload excess supply in the markets. In the first quarter of the year, there was a total of 192.3 million square feet of unsold homes. This was expected to take 3 years and 10 months for them to be sold at the prevailing pace in Mumbai. This is according to a research and real estate consulting firm, Liases Foras Real Estate Rating & Research Pvt. There is 8-12 months inventory required to be maintained for a healthy market.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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Jumia’s Gross Merchandise Value Drops 13 Percent in Q1 2021 Despite Lockdown

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Jumia, Africa’s leading online marketplace, recorded a 13 percent decline in Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) from €189.6 million in the first quarter (Q1) of 2020 to €165.0 million in the first quarter of 2021.

This was despite Amazon, Alibaba and other global e-commerce companies posting high GMV due to the surge in online orders because of ongoing movement restrictions in most nations.

Annual Active Consumers rose by 6.9 percent to 6.9 million in the quarter under review, up from 6.4 million in the same quarter of 2020, the leading e-commerce stated in its financial statements.

Orders grew by 3 percent year on year to 6.6 million from 6.4 million posted in the corresponding quarter of 2021.

Gross profit expanded by 10.9 percent from €18.4 million in Q1 2020 to €20.4 million in Q1 2021. While gross profit after fulfillment expense rose by 149.5 percent to €6.2 million, up from €2.5 million achieved in Q1 2021.

Sales and advertising expense moderated to €8.1 million in the quarter under review, representing a decline of 9.1 percent from €8.9 million posted in Q1 2020.

Technology and content expense stood at €6.9 million in Q1 2021, below €7.2 million in Q1 2020. G&A expense, excluding SBC improved from €24.4 million decline posted in Q1 2020 to €20.3 million decline in Q1 2021.

Adjusted Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA) also improved by 24.2 percent to a €27 million decline in Q1 2021 from €35.6 million.

Similarly, operating loss improved by 23 percent from €43.7 million posted in Q1 2020 to €33.7 million in Q1 2021.

Commenting on the company’s performance Jeremy Hodara and Sacha Poignonnec, Co-Chief Executive Officers of Jumia, said “Our first quarter results reflect solid progress towards profitability. The drivers remain consistent: selective and disciplined usage growth, gradual monetization and continued cost discipline. The first quarter of 2021 was the sixth consecutive quarter of positive gross profit after fulfillment expense, which reached €6.2 million, more than doubling year-over-year, while Adjusted EBITDA loss contracted by 24% year-over-year, reaching €27.0 million”.

“Our strategy to increase our exposure to everyday product categories continues to yield positive results, enhancing the relevance of our marketplace for consumers. We are making further inroads in payment and fintech with 37% of Orders in the first quarter of 2021 completed using JumiaPay. Last but not least, we have raised over $570 million over the past six months, strengthening our balance sheet and increasing our strategic flexibility.

“We are confident we have all the right ingredients to continue to build a growing business across both our e-commerce and fintech activities.”

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Google Wins Cloud Deal From Elon Musk’s SpaceX for Starlink Internet Connectivity

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Google announced on Thursday its cloud unit has won a deal to supply computing and networking resources to SpaceX, Elon Musk’s privately held space-development company, to help deliver internet service through its Starlink satellites.

SpaceX will install ground stations at Google data centers that connect to SpaceX’s Starlink satellites, with an eye toward providing fast internet service to enterprises in the second half of this year.

The deal represents a victory for Google as it works to take share from Amazon and Microsoft in the fast-growing cloud computing market.

Investors are counting on Google’s nascent cloud business to boost growth in the event that its advertising business slows down. While Google’s cloud business delivered only 7 percent of parent company Alphabet’s total revenue in the first quarter, it grew almost 46 percent year over year, compared with growth of 32 percent for Google’s advertising services.

It’s also an unusual type of deal for Google — or any other cloud provider — as it relies heavily on Google’s internal network that connects data centers, rather than simply outsourcing functions like computing power or data storage to these data centers.

“This is one of a kind. I don’t believe something like this has been done before,” said Bikash Koley, Google’s head of global networking. “The real potential of this technology became very obvious. The power of combining cloud with universal secure connectivity, it’s a very powerful combination.”

“They chose us because of the quality of our network and the distribution and reach of our network,” said Thomas Kurian, CEO of Google’s cloud group.

In SpaceX’s case, there is no need for cell towers. Instead, customers’ devices will communicate to satellites, and then the satellites will link up to Google data centers. Inside those data centers, customers can run applications quickly using Google’s cloud services, or they can send the information on to other companies’ services that are geographically nearby, enabling low latency so there’s minimal lag. Data then comes right back through the Google data centers to satellites, and then down to end users.

The deal could last seven years, according to a person who declined to be named discussing confidential terms.

Starlink’s service might be valuable for consumers living in places with limited internet access, as well as businesses and government organizations running projects in remote areas, Kurian said. He anticipates that having Starlink draw on Google’s cloud network will lead organizations to deploy applications inside Google’s cloud to take advantage of high speeds.

Under the partnership, SpaceX will place its Starlink ground stations within Google data center properties, which can help the service support businesses requiring cloud-based applications.

Starlink is in the process of launching its satellite broadband internet service, which can reach customers without ground-based connections and is one of several space-based systems.

“Combining Starlink’s high-speed, low-latency broadband with Google’s infrastructure and capabilities provides global organizations with the secure and fast connection that modern organizations expect,” said SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell.

“We are proud to work with Google to deliver this access to businesses, public sector organizations, and many other groups operating around the world.”

Urs Hoelzle, senior vice president at Google Cloud, said the tie-up would help ensure “that organizations with distributed footprints have seamless, secure, and fast access to the critical applications and services they need to keep their teams up and running.”

This new capability for enterprise customers is expected to be available in the second half of 2021, the companies said in a joint statement.

SpaceX is seeking regulatory approval for broadband service for both consumers and businesses around the world from thousands of satellites.

Google is not the only cloud provider to be working with Starlink. In October, Microsoft said it was working with SpaceX to bring Starlink internet connectivity to modular Azure cloud data centers that customers can deploy anywhere. SpaceX would still rely on Google data centers in that scenario, a person familiar with the matter said. (Data would travel from the customer’s Azure modular data center through the Starlink satellite to Google’s data center and then out to other cloud services — and return in the opposite direction. Microsoft didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.)

Initially, SpaceX will deploy the ground stations at Google data centers in the U.S., but the company wants to expand internationally, the person said.

SpaceX is one of the world’s most valuable privately held start-ups, having raised money at a $74 billion valuation in February, CNBC reported. Google invested $900 million in SpaceX in 2015. SpaceX has launched over 1,500 Starlink satellites into orbit, and last week the company said more than 500,000 people have ordered or made a deposit for the internet service.

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Chinese Smartphone Giant Xiaomi Shares Gains Over 6 Percent After U.S. Agrees to Remove it From Blacklist

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The U.S. has agreed to remove Xiaomi from a blacklist that would have barred Americans from investing in the Chinese smartphone maker.

Shares of Chinese tech giant Xiaomi rallied as much as 6.5 percent after the news, before paring some gains.

In January, the administration under former President Donald Trump designated Xiaomi as one of several “Communist Chinese military companies” or CCMC.

This meant the world’s third-largest smartphone maker was subject to a November executive order restricting American investors from buying shares or related securities of any companies given this designation by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).

Xiaomi brought a legal challenge against the U.S. Department of Defense.

In March, a U.S. court granted Xiaomi a preliminary injunction against the Trump-era order, saying the company would “suffer irreparable harm in the form of serious reputational and unrecoverable economic injuries.”

And on Tuesday, the DOD agreed that a “final order vacating” Xiaomi’s designation as a CCMC “would be appropriate,” according to a court filing.

Xiaomi and the DOD will “negotiate over the specific terms of the order” and provide the court with a “joint proposed order” on or before May 20.

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