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India’s Swiggy goes beyond food to offer product delivery from local stores – TechCrunch

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India’s Swiggy goes beyond food to offer product delivery from local stores – TechCrunch

Swiggy, the Indian food delivery service, has made its much anticipated moved into general deliveries today after it announced its new ‘stores’ product.

The move has been speculated since as early as 2017, but recent developments have taken the company closer towards the expansion. Last September, Swiggy picked up delivery service SuprDaily in an acquisition while the company went on to raise a $1 billion funding round in December. That round was led by Naspers, it put Swiggy’s valuation to $3.3 billion and saw Tencent, the Chinese internet giant behind WeChat among others, join as an investor.

Money in the bank? Check. Expertise on the team? Check. Swiggy now seems positioned to make this major move.

Stores will be available within the core Swiggy app, and it will cover fruit and Vegetables, kiranas and supermarkets, florists, health supplements, medicine, baby care products and more.

But the company is moving slowly first out. The initial rollout is a phased one that’s happening in Gurgaon, where it has racked up partnerships with retailers that will cover 3,500 stores in the city. Deliveries are aimed at being an hour or less, and early partners include Le Marche, Guardian Pharmacy and Zappfresh.com, the company said.

This expansion raises Swiggy’s competitive edge with food delivery rivals FoodPanda (which is owned by Ola), Zomato and UberEats by giving consumers more reasons to turn to the Swiggy service. That’s a move that the company will hope can increase revenue and engagement at the expense of the competition, which now includes Amazon.

Swiggy co-founder and CEO Sriharsha Majety said in a blog post that the company has long harbored the ambition to expand beyond food.

Starting off in 2014, we envisioned a world where restaurant delivery would be amazing and awesome. A world where you didn’t have merely a handful of restaurants that would deliver. A world without high minimum order amounts, and very importantly, where you didn’t need to call the restaurant every 5 minutes asking the dreaded “ladka nikal gaya kya” question. We envisioned a world where we could democratize 35-minute deliveries to every restaurant in the country and introduce a convenient and delightful food ordering experience for every consumer.

Four years and hundreds of millions of orders later, we can confidently say we bring convenience to the doorstep of consumers across the country. Despite millions of Indians ordering food, we believe food delivery is still in its nascent stages. So, while we continued to build out more magical realities in the food ordering space, a lot of consumers, non-restaurant merchants and retailers were asking us when we would extend this superpower (convenience) to needs outside of food ordering.

With the largest active last mile fleet in the country and a paranoid focus on consumer-centricity, we began asking ourselves the same question. We realized we could bring the food delivery like magical reality and convenience to a lot of other local commerce needs. Just like how we democratized seamless delivery across over half a lakh restaurants in the country, we can democratize convenience across millions of other merchants/ businesses in our cities.

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Google Assistant Actions up 2.5x in 2018 to reach 4,253 in the US – TechCrunch

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Google Assistant Actions up 2.5x in 2018 to reach 4,253 in the US – TechCrunch

In addition to competing for smart speaker market share, Google and Amazon are also competing for developer mindshare in the voice app ecosystem. On this front, Amazon has soared ahead — the number of available voice skills for Alexa devices has grown to top 80,000 the company recently announced. According to a new third-party analysis from Voicebot, Google is trailing that by a wide margin with its own voice apps, called Google Assistant Actions, which total 4,253 in the U.S. as of January 2019.

For comparison, 56,750 of Amazon Alexa’s total 80,000 skills are offered in the U.S.

The report notes that the number of Google Assistant Actions have grown 2.5 times over the past year — which is slightly faster growth than seen on Amazon Alexa, whose skill count grew 2.2 times during the same period. But the total is a much smaller number, so growth percentages may not be as relevant here.

In January 2018, there were 1,719 total Google Assistant Actions in the U.S., the report said. In 2017, the number was in the low hundreds in the beginning of the year, and reached 724 by October 2017.

Voicebot also examined which categories of voice apps were popular on Google Assistant platforms.

It found that three of the 18 categories accounted for more than one-third of all Google Assistant Actions: Education & Reference; Games & Fun; and Kids & Family.

The Education category topped the list with more than 15 percent of all Actions, while Games & Fun was 11.07 percent and Kids & Family was 9.29 percent.

Local and Weather were the least popular.

On Alexa, the top categories differ slightly. Though Games & Fun is popular on Google, its Alexa equivalent — Games & Trivia — is the No. 1 most popular category, accounting for 21 percent of all skills. Education was second most popular at around 14 percent.

It’s interesting that these two top drivers for voice apps are reversed on the two platforms.

That could indicate that Alexa is seen to be the more “fun” platform, or one that’s more oriented toward use by families and gaming. Amazon certainly became aware of the trend toward voice gaming, and fanned the flames by making games the first category it paid developers to work on by way of direct payments. That likely encouraged more developers to enter the space, and subsequently helped boost the number of games — and types of gaming experiences — available for Alexa.

Voicebot’s report rightly raises the question as to whether or not the raw skill count even matters, though.

After all, many of the Alexa skills offered today are of low quality, or more experimental attempts from developers testing out the platform. Others are just fairly basic — the voice app equivalent of third-party flashlight apps for iPhone before Apple built that feature into iOS. For example, there now are a handful of skills that turn on the light on Echo speakers so you can have a nightlight by way of the speaker’s blue ring.

But even if these early efforts sometimes fall short, it does matter that Alexa is the platform developers are thinking about, as it’s an indication of platform commitment and an investment on developers’ part. Google, on the other hand, is powering a lot of its Assistant’s capabilities itself, leaning heavily on its Knowledge Base to answer users’ questions, while also leveraging its ability to integrate with Google’s larger suite of apps and services, as well as its other platforms, like Android.

In time, Google Assistant may challenge Alexa further by capitalizing on geographic expansions, but for the time being, Alexa is ahead on smart speakers as well as, it now seems, on content.

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Amazon’s Echo Wall Clock is back on sale after connectivity fix

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The Echo Wall Clock was first announced by Amazon in September and started shipping just before the holidays in December. Just over a month after the clock was first made available to buy, Amazon decided to pull it because of problems with Bluetooth connectivity. That feature is essential to the device’s function, as it needs to connect to another Echo device in order to operate with voice controls. With the fix, users will once again be able to set alarms and timers via Alexa that will be displayed on the 60 LED lights around the edge of the clock’s face.

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Audi helps you avoid red lights by suggesting speeds

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Speed suggestions and TLI are available as part of an Audi Connect Prime feature on 2017 and newer models outside of the A3 and TT. You’re still limited to using them in certain areas, however. TLI is currently available in 13 urban regions, including Dallas, Denver, Gainesville, Houston, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York (White Plains), Orlando, Phoenix, Portland, the San Francisco Bay Area (Palo Alto and Walnut Creek) and Washington, DC.

The technology could become more useful in the future, though. Future TLI upgrades might use a car’s automatic stop/start system to restart the engine when a red light is turning green, and a navigation tie-in could plan routes that minimize stops. Think of this as another small step toward autonomous cars. You might still have to take the wheel, but computers are minimizing many of the little annoyances.

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