TIME Smartphones

These Budget Smartphones Sold Out in India in 4.2 Seconds

Xiaomi Smartphones Sell Out in 4.2 Seconds in India
A Redmi smartphone from Xiaomi. Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Chinese smartphone maker is trying to crack other Asian markets—and it's working

Online sales of budget smartphone maker Xiaomi’s new Android phone were gone in India before many even had a chance to click.

Known as “China’s Apple,” Xiaomi sold all 40,000 units of its low-cost Redmi 1S within 4.2 seconds on Flipkart, an online marketplace that does business exclusively in India, according to Hugo Barra, Vice President of Xiaomi Global.

Those unable to swipe one of the phones took to Xiaomi India’s Facebook Page or Twitter to vent their frustration, criticizing the Chinese firm for entering one of the world’s largest markets with limited supply. A previous flash sale of Xiaomi’s Mi 3 phone was met with similar success—and annoyance—when 20,000 devices sold out in 2.4 seconds, according to NDTV. Registrations have already kicked off for another round of online Redmi 1S sales.

In India, Xiaomi is attempting to replicate the success it achieved in China. Only three years old, Xiaomi has become explosively popular in its home country thanks to its affordable pricing and personalized design, recently outnumbering shipments of phones compared to its biggest competitor, Samsung. While Samsung claims the largest market share in India’s smartphone market, Xiaomi is attempting to stake a place with its low-priced smartphones: the Redmi 1S, priced at Rs 5,999 ($100), remains equally affordable as, if not moreso than, Samsung devices like the popular Galaxy smartphones, which tend to retail well over Rs 5,999 in India.

But Xiaomi has a long road ahead if it wants India to be its next China. Only less than 1% of Xiaomi’s global smartphone units were shipped outside China during Q2 2014, according to tech intelligence firm Canalys. And a formidable competitor is approaching, too: Google has set a Sept. 15 event in India, which many expect will mark the Indian launch of a cheap Android One, according to NDTV.

 

TIME India

Why India’s Modi and Japan’s Abe Need Each Other — Badly

India's PM Modi shakes hands with Japan's PM Abe during a signing ceremony at the state guest house in Tokyo
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a signing ceremony at the state guest house in Tokyo on Sept. 1, 2014. Shizuo Kambayashi—Reuters

The two Asian leaders are looking to strengthen ties during their meetings in Japan to counter a rising China

Cuddly is not an adjective that comes to mind when describing the prime ministers of either Japan or India. Shinzo Abe, like most Japanese politicians, often appears overly formal, while Narendra Modi has a reputation for being demanding and stern. But apparently the two feel warm and fuzzy about each other. Abe made the unusual gesture of welcoming Modi on his five-day official visit to Japan with an uncharacteristic hug. After that, the duo chatted over an informal dinner and strolled through a temple in the historic cultural center of Kyoto.

The leaders of Asia’s two most prominent democracies have good reasons to cozy up. Greater cooperation between India and Japan could prove critical in helping Abe and Modi achieve their economic goals at home and their strategic aims in the region — which means countering an aggressive China. That’s why the two have gushed about the importance of the India-Japan relationship. Modi said in a statement that his visit would “write a new chapter” in relations, while Abe in a Monday press conference said that their bilateral ties have the “most potential in the world.”

They have a lot of catching up to do. For economies of such size — Japan and India are the second and third largest in Asia, respectively — their exchange is still relatively small. Trade between the two reached only $15.8 billion in 2013 — a mere quarter of India’s trade with China. Japanese direct investment into India totaled $21 billion between 2007 and 2013, making Japan an extremely important investor for the country. But recently, the inflows have tapered off amid India’s economic slowdown. Over the past three years, Japanese firms have invested more in Vietnam and Indonesia than India.

That may be about to change. The fact is that the economic interests of the two nations dovetail nicely. Modi is looking to restart India’s slumbering economic growth by upgrading its woeful infrastructure, strengthening its manufacturing base and constructing a network of new “smart” cities across the nation — all of which Japanese money, technology and investment can help make a reality. Abe on Monday pledged $33 billion of financing and investment for India from public and private sources over the next five years. “Japanese trade and investment ties with India are set to strengthen significantly over the next decade and beyond,” Rajiv Biswas, Asia-Pacific Chief Economist for consulting firm IHS, predicted in a recent report..

Meanwhile, Abe is trying to jumpstart a Japanese economy that has been stalled for two decades, and badly needs new sources of exports and revenue for ailing Japan Inc. India, with its 1.2 billion increasingly wealthy consumers and bottomless investment opportunities, can provide just what Japan requires. That is especially the case due to Tokyo’s souring relations with that other Asian giant, China. As tensions have risen over disputed islands in the East China Sea, investment and trade between China and Japan has deteriorated.

China is pressing Tokyo and New Delhi closer together for other reasons as well. Abe is trying to forge ties with countries across the region to contain a rising and increasingly assertive China. Meanwhile, Modi, who has his own territorial disputes with Beijing on India’s borders in the far east and north, is aiming to enhance the country’s military capabilities. Much of a joint declaration signed by the prime ministers dealt with strategic cooperation. The two pledged to “upgrade and strengthen” their partnership in defense by regularizing joint maritime exercises and collaborating on military technology.

China wasn’t specifically mentioned in the declaration, but which country Abe and Modi have in mind is no secret. Modi, in fact, took a clear swipe at Beijing in a speech to businessmen on Monday. “Everywhere around us, we see an 18th-century expansionist mind-set: encroaching on another country, intruding in others’ waters, invading other countries and capturing territory,” Modi said.

None of this has gone unnoticed in the Middle Kingdom. An editorial in the state-run Global Times written in response to Modi’s comments attempted to downplay the friendly Abe-Modi summit. “The increasing intimacy between Tokyo and New Delhi will bring at most psychological comfort to the two countries,” the newspaper contended. “If Japan attempts to form a united front centered on India, it will be a crazy fantasy generated by Tokyo’s anxiety of facing a rising Beijing.”

Whether closer India-Japan ties are a fantasy will become apparent quickly. China’s President Xi Jinping is due to visit Modi in India later in September. Let’s see if he gets a hug.

TIME Photos

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TIME India

India Just Asked PepsiCo to Help Improve the Diet of the Nation’s Children

Indra Nooyi Meets Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal
PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, right, meets Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal in New Delhi on Aug. 26, 2014 Saumya Khandelwal—Hindustan Times/Getty Images

Wait, aren't they the people who make Doritos and Mountain Dew?

India’s government is soliciting the help of an improbable partner in improving the nutrition of millions of its hungriest children, reports Bloomberg. That partner is the world’s largest snack producer, PepsiCo.

Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal met PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of developing nutritious processed foods for use in school lunches across the country, Bloomberg says. The move is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s goal of upgrading the diet of the South Asian nation’s 1.2 billion people — especially that of its 440 million children.

“I suggested [that PepsiCo develop] products which will be healthy and will also contain proteins,” Badal told reporters following her meeting. “As people are becoming busy, the children will be immensely benefited if such products are launched.”

India has a poor reputation when it comes to food safety. A nadir was reached last year when 23 children in the country’s northern state of Bihar died after eating a free school meal that turned out to be laced with pesticide. In addition, some 47% of Indian children under 3 are underweight, according to the U.N.

Critics wonder if processed foods, from a company better known for its sugary soft drinks and potato chips, are really the best way to address such chronic malnutrition.

“No respectable dietitian or nutritionist will recommend processed foods over freshly cooked meals,” Vandana Prasad, national convener of the Public Health Resource Network, told Bloomberg.

PepsiCo India did not reply to Bloomberg’s emailed questions about the meeting.

[Bloomberg]

TIME Basketball

Get Ready for NBA 3.0

Is India the next international basketball hot spot?

India is renowned as a country of cricket fanatics. But that hasn’t stopped the top brass of the NBA from hoping that basketball will sink deep roots into the South Asian nation of 1.2 billion people.

The Sacramento Kings’ interest in rookie Sim Bhullar, whose parents emigrated from India to Canada, may very well prove to be the game changer the NBA is looking for. Although the 7-ft. 4-in. center is not currently on the team’s 15-player roster, owner Vivek Ranadive — the first Indian-born majority owner of an NBA team — says he’s placing big hopes on the 21-year-old.

Officials and owners are hoping that Bhullar will boost the sport’s popularity with Indians, just as the entrance of Yao Ming into the NBA in 2002 led to the meteoric rise of basketball’s popularity in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

“What Yao Ming did for China, we hope players like Sim will do for India,” said Ranadive during an interview at an NBA summer league game in July. “I have this vision — I call it NBA 3.0 — where I want to make basketball the premier sport of the 21st century.”

According to the Kings’ website, Ranadive is planning to take NBA commissioner Adam Silver on a trip to India in the near future.

However, local sports journalists say several things must fall into place before basketball reaches the level of popularity envisaged by Ranadive. At present, the majority of the nation’s domestic basketball players are semiprofessionals.

“As of now, we can’t think of basketball as a profession,” Roshan Thyagarajan, a columnist for cricket bible Wisden India but also an avid basketball fan, tells TIME. “The boards, the associations are not well-oiled. Everything is out of place. So that needs to be addressed immediately.”

Nevertheless, there’s a ton of potential, with India already proving to be a formidable opponent. China might be considered the power to be reckoned with in Asia, but the Indian national team beat the PRC squad 65-58 during a historic win at FIBA 2014 in July.

Photographer Cathy Scholl has been working in India and taking an intimate look at the growing excitement around basketball and the hoop dreams of the men and women who play it. Her images, above, capture a sport making tentative steps in a nation forecast to become the world’s most populous in less than 15 years.

TIME India

Rice, Not Ice: India’s Answer to the Ice Bucket Challenge

The movement's Facebook page describes it as an "Indian version for Indian Needs"

+ READ ARTICLE

How does India do the Ice Bucket Challenge? They don’t. Instead of pouring buckets of ice and water over their heads, people in India have been filling a bucket with rice and giving it to local people in need.

According to the Independent, the Rice Bucket Challenge was started by Manju Latha Kalanidhi, a journalist from Hyderabad, India. The first donation was made Sunday Morning and the movement’s Facebook page has more than 35 thousand likes so far.

As explained on the page, there are four steps to the Rice Bucket Challenge:

1) Pick up a bowl of rice from your kitchen

2) Go to the nearest needy person and give it to them

3) Click a picture and post it on Facebook with the hashtag #RiceBucketChallenge

4) Tag all your friends and ask them to take up the challenge

According to the World Bank, 312 million people in India live below the poverty line.

TIME India

India’s ‘Untouchables’ Are Still Being Forced to Collect Human Waste by Hand

World's Dirtiest Job
Devi Lal, a 43-year-old manual scavenger, cleans drains in New Delhi on July 13, 2012 Sagar Kaul—Barcroft Media/Getty Images

They face violence, eviction and withheld wages if they do not take on the hazardous job of emptying private and public latrines

The practice of forcing low-caste people in Indian communities to remove accumulated human waste from latrines is continuing despite legal prohibitions and must be stopped, says a leading advocacy group.

In a report released Monday, the New York City–based Human Rights Watch (HRW) detailed the practice of “manual scavenging” — the collecting of excrement from latrines by hand. The job is done by those considered to be of the lowest birth. These Dalits, or untouchables, often face threats of violence, eviction and withheld wages if they attempt to leave the trade.

“The first day when I was cleaning the latrines and the drain, my foot slipped and my leg sank in the excrement up to my calf,” Sona, a manual scavenger in Bharatpur, a city in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, told HRW. “I screamed and ran away. Then I came home and cried and cried. I knew there was only this work for me.”

Laws exist to curb this form of subjugation, yet it remains widespread across India. Dalit women typically collect waste from private homes, while the men do the more physically demanding, and hazardous, maintenance of septic tanks and public sewers. Many suffer injuries and serious health problems.

“The manual carrying of human feces is not a form of employment, but an injustice akin to slavery,” says Ashif Shaikh, founder of Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan, a grassroots campaign to end manual scavenging. “It is one of the most prominent forms of discrimination against Dalits, and it is central to the violation of their human rights.”

HRW’s 96-page report, Cleaning Human Waste: ‘Manual Scavenging,’ Caste, and Discrimination in India, is based on more than 100 interviews with manual scavengers, and documents how these wretched people are coerced to collect human excrement on a daily basis, carrying it away in nothing more protective than a cane basket.

“People work as manual scavengers because their caste is expected to fulfill this role, and are typically unable to get any other work,” says Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at HRW. “This practice is considered one of the worst surviving symbols of untouchability because it reinforces the social stigma that these castes are untouchable and perpetuates discrimination and social exclusion.”

HRW called on the administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to enforce existing legislation aimed at assisting manual scavengers to find alternative, sustainable livelihoods.

“Successive Indian government attempts to end caste-based cleaning of excrement have been derailed by discrimination and local complicity,” adds Ganguly. “The government needs to get serious about putting laws banning manual scavenging into practice and assisting the affected caste communities.”

TIME India

India Shows Off a New Warship as Its Maritime Rivalry With China Deepens

An Indian navy serviceman walks down the gangplank of the newly commissioned warship, INS Kolkata, during its commissioning ceremony at a naval base in Mumbai
An Indian navy serviceman walks down the gangplank of the newly commissioned warship, INS Kolkata, during its commissioning ceremony at a naval base in Mumbai on Aug. 16, 2014 Danish Siddiqui—Reuters

New Delhi needs more firepower to protect its stake in the Indian Ocean, defense experts say

The Indian navy will add another warship into its rapidly expanding fleet over the weekend as it seeks to counter China’s growing supremacy on the high seas of the Indo-Pacific.

The INS Kamorta, which Indian officials are lauding as the nation’s first domestically built antisubmarine warship, will be unveiled to the public on Saturday during a ceremony at a naval dockyard in the eastern seaboard city of Visakhapatnam.

Earlier this month, newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi christened the nation’s newest naval destroyer, the INS Kolkata, which in turn followed the commissioning of India’s second aircraft carrier late last year. India’s navy is currently the only Asian maritime force in possession of two aircraft carriers and is scheduled to add a third in 2017.

According to defense experts, the commissioning of the Kamorta, the first of four such antisubmarine vessels that New Delhi is building, will provide additional muscle to protect its growing stake in the Indian Ocean.

“India wants to project power into the Indian Ocean region. It wants that to be its area of influence,” James Hardy, the Asia-Pacific editor at IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, tells TIME.

To date, approximately 70% of all petroleum products and 50% of international container traffic pass through the Indian Ocean — making the body of water one of the world’s most strategically valuable maritime zones.

The waters are also highly coveted by Beijing, which has invested heavily in a network of commercial ports in the region that some politicians on the subcontinent fear may be a sly ploy to encircle India.

“India is extremely aware of the potential threat of Chinese expansion into the Indian Ocean region,” says Hardy.

“Undoubtedly China is moving into the Indian Ocean commercially because … it needs to protect those sea lanes. It needs to protect its oil routes.”

In December, China sent a nuclear submarine to the Indian Ocean where the vessel stayed for two months conducting an antipiracy patrol.

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