Digital India Bill tweaks may torpedo safe harbour; engineering colleges redraw placement strategy

The government is planning major tweaks to the Digital India Bill that will endanger the safe harbour provision given to social media companies with regard to user-generated content published on their platforms. More on this in today’s ETtech Morning Dispatch.

Also in the letter:
■ Earnings corner: Muted Q2 show from Wipro, LTIMindtree
■ Singularity announces first close of new fund at Rs 500 crore
■ India a force for good: US ambassador to India

All internet firms may not get to dock in safe harbour

The government draft of the Digital India Act_Bill_THUMB IMAGE_ETTECH_2

The Centre is planning to make a regulatory clause, which offers immunity from prosecution to internet companies — including social media firms — with regard to user-generated content published on their platforms, more “the exception than the norm”.

Driving the news: The government is planning to add a regulatory clause to the IT Act (The Digital India Bill), a draft of which shows that the default exemption for internet intermediaries currently available under Section 79 of the Information Technology (IT) Act of 2000, is likely to be provided only on a “case-to-case basis”.

digital india bill

The safe harbour: Section 79 of the erstwhile IT Act ruled that an intermediary shall not be responsible or liable for “any third-party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted” on its platform. In contrast, the proposed Digital India Bill states that this immunity will be more “the exception than the norm.”

Officials in the IT ministry are of the opinion that since all internet and social media intermediaries have the “power to influence” the content being shared through or on their platforms, they should not be “automatically eligible” for the immunity clause.

Word for word:
“Unless there is a platform which is absolutely dumb with no ability to curate or impact the content through your algorithms, there will be no protection for you. That will be a major criterion,” a senior government official told ET.

Pushback expected:
The latest move by the Centre to roll back the immunity from prosecution is expected to draw a sharp pushback from the internet industry, experts say. “One of the first things that the removal of Section 79 will trigger is over-compliance and censorship by social media and internet intermediaries,” Rohit Kumar, a founding partner at tech policy firm The Quantum Hub (TQH), said.

Experts added that smaller internet intermediaries will need to invest more in sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) tools and specialised teams to monitor content.

Also read | Digital India Bill may help users seek algorithmic accountability

Engineering colleges expand recruiters’ list


With the IT sector presenting a bleak picture, engineering colleges are redrawing their strategies to attract job offers from different sectors in a tough placement season.

On the lookout: From top-league institutes like the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and others like the National Institutes of Technology (NITs) to government engineering colleges in states, and private engineering colleges – all are expanding their recruiter list between 25% and 100% compared to previous years. They are tapping other sectors and even reaching out to alumni to seek help, placement officials told ET.

Waning hopes from IT: Many of these colleges had earlier told ET that they were expecting IT firms to step up hiring in the first half of 2024. While announcing its earnings for the second quarter, Infosys in a rare declaration said it would altogether skip hiring from colleges this year, while industry leader TCS is expected to go slow on fresher hiring.

Last year, too, these firms made comparatively lower hirings, but this year it is likely to get even worse, officials predict.

Also read | IT firms delay campus hiring on low demand visibility

Calling all recruiters: IIT Kanpur is inviting at least 1,000 new companies to its campus this year. IIT Madras has bulked up its student team in the placement cell to get more hands for chasing recruiters, while IIT BHU, on its part, is tapping into its alumni network to seek out newer firms.

Word for word: “The manufacturing sector and the semiconductor industry have seen tremendous growth this past year and these are few of the many verticals that we’re targeting for this year’s placements,” Sushant K Shrivastava, coordinator, training and placement cell at IIT BHU, told ET.

Also read | Tech winter diet: TCS, Infosys and HCLTech shed weight, reduce employee intake

Earnings corner: Muted Q2 show from Wipro, LTIMindtree; PhonePe FY23 revenue surges

Q2 results season kicks off this week.

IT major Wipro reported a marginal 0.7% year-on-year rise in consolidated net profit to Rs 2,667.3 crore for the quarter ended September 30, from Rs 2,649.1 crore in the year-ago period.

Revenue dips: Wipro’s consolidated revenue from operations for the second quarter dipped 0.10% to Rs 22,515.9 crore. The IT services operating margin stood at 16.1%, up 10 basis points (bps) sequentially, and 100 bps YoY.

Wipro Q2 results 5 key takeaways_OCT_2023_Graphic_ETTECH

LTIMindtree net profit slips 2%: India’s sixth largest IT firm reported a 2% on-year dip in net profit for the second quarter amidst a “challenging business environment” that was marked by wage hikes and muted growth. LTIMindtree, however, retained its margin guidance led by a strong inflow of cost optimisation deals. Revenue came in at Rs 8,905.4 crore, up 8.2% on year, beating estimates.

PhonePe FY23 revenue at Rs 2,914 crore: Walmart-backed digital payments major PhonePe’s consolidated revenue surged 77% in FY23 to Rs 2,914 crore. The company also said its payments business is moving towards an Ebitda-positive level.

A look at PhonePes financials_Graphic_ETTECH

Ebitda losses for PhonePe India, the standalone payments business, rose 8.8% to Rs 1,755 crore in FY23 from Rs 1,612 crore a year ago. However, excluding Esop expenses, Ebitda stood at positive Rs 159 crore in FY23 compared with a loss of Rs 455 crore in FY22.

Singularity logs first close of second fund at Rs 500 crore

Deep tech VC fund

Singularity Ventures, an asset management company, announced the first close of its Rs 1,500-crore fund, with a focus on growth-stage startups, at Rs 500 crore.

Plans with the fund The Singularity Growth Opportunities Fund II, the firm’s second fund, aims to write cheques between Rs 75 crore and Rs 175 crore, to startups operating in sectors like energy transition, consumer, financial services, enterprise software and manufacturing, founder and chief investment officer Yash Kela told ET. Singularity has earmarked about 20% of the total funds for investment in listed firms.

Current investments: The firm has so far invested in firms like caffeine-based products maker Mcaffeine, customer engagement platform WebEngage, virtual telecom firm Exotel and battery materials maker Lohum.

ETtech Done Deals

Team Neo

Neo Group leadership team (L to R) A V Srikanth; Hemant Daga; Nitin Jain, Puneet Jain

Asset management firm Neo raises $35 million: Wealth and asset management firm Neo Group has raised $35 million (about Rs 291 crore) as part of its latest round of funding from Peak XV Partners to support its growth plans. Peak XV is expected to infuse another $15 million in Neo Group over the next 12 months, subject to certain conditions, people familiar with the matter said.

Showroom B2B raises $6.5 million: Showroom B2B, a business-to-business platform for unbranded garments, on Wednesday said it has raised $6.5 million in a pre-Series A funding round led by Jungle Ventures. The round saw participation from other new investors – Accion Venture Lab, Saison Capital and ICMG Partners.

Device intelligence platform Fingerprint raises $33 million: Fingerprint, a startup that helps developers build security solutions through device intelligence application programming interfaces (APIs), has raised $33 million in a Series C funding round led by Nexus Venture Partners, taking the company’s total funding to $77 million.

India a force for good: US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti


India is generating innovative digital ideas and its initiatives like the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and other digital public infrastructure (DPI) are instrumental in making capital and healthcare accessible to people, US ambassador to India Eric Garcetti said, calling India a “force for good”.

‘Leading side by side’: The US no longer just leads from the front but also follows, Garcetti said while visiting AI research institute Wadhwani AI, which is funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID). “Take DPI… We’re learning how to lead side by side, and sometimes even leading from behind, following India’s work,” he said.

The ambassador said he was impressed by how limited resources could be used effectively in India to develop technology, particularly one that can protect people by detecting health trends, tuberculosis and disease outbreaks, and meeting human needs.

Other Top Stories By Our Reporters

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‘Small towns to drive ecommerce in India’ | Internet penetration, urbanisation and the limited variety of products available at local stores are the primary reasons for the expected growth in smaller cities, data from the report, titled ‘E-commerce Logistics: Unveiling Data Driven Shopping Patterns’ showed.

No slowing down on India investments: Celesta Capital’s Arun Kumar | Venture capital firm Celesta Capital plans to add another 15-25 entities to its India portfolio over the next 3-5 years, even as startups in India have been caught in a funding winter. “There is no slowing down or pulling back,” managing partner Arun Kumar told ET.

IBM, IT ministry ink pacts on semiconductor, AI, quantum computing: As a part of the partnership, IBM would be a knowledge partner of the India Semiconductor Mission and establish a semiconductor research centre in the country. The centre will also work on skilling Indian students and professionals by providing them access to research facilities.

Global Picks We Are Reading

■ DeepMind wants to use AI to solve the climate crisis (Wired)

■ AI could spur an economic boom. Humans are in the way (WSJ)

■ Google boss: AI too important not to get right (BBC)


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