Author Archives: Sunil Tewari

Oddbods: Capturing kids’ imaginations around the world

Editor's Note: As part of our series of interviews with people across the Asia-Pacific who use the internet as a tool to create, connect and grow, we spoke with Sashim Parmanand, CEO of One Animation studios, based in Singapore. One Animation is the creator of “Oddbods,” a multi-award winning cartoon that follows the shenanigans of seven quirky, adorable characters that has over a million subscribers to its YouTube channel. In 2017, Oddbods received its first Emmy nomination for Best Animated Series. In the last four years, One Animation has become a global business spanning over 150 countries, with revenues doubling year on year.  


Tell us about “Oddbods.”

“Oddbods” is a globally loved, non-dialogue comedy featuring seven very different, always adorable pals. Together, they survive the perils of everyday life, turning ordinary situations into unexpected, extraordinary events, with lots of fun and laughter for everyone along the way. 

We’ve received a few industry awards, but there was a collective gasp of excitement in the office when we got an Emmy nomination for Best Animated Show last year! All of the blood, sweat, heartache and tears that went into Oddbods completely paid off in that moment. We also reached a major milestone of 1 million subscribers on our YouTube channel. We’re really happy that “Oddbods” has found passionate viewers among the young and the young at heart all over the world. 

Oddbods5

We love the fact that the seven characters have unique “oddities” and that children are taught to embrace their own quirks. What was the inspiration behind the characters? 

Richard, our creative director, watched cartoons obsessively as a child—“Snow White” and “Tom and Jerry” were favorites. He loved the distinct personality of each of the seven dwarfs and the underlying message that despite Tom and Jerry’s ongoing feud, they were the best of friends at heart. These themes of friendship and individuality inspired the creation of “Oddbods.” The Oddbods teach kids and people of all ages to be true to yourself and accept others’ differences.


What has your experience with YouTube been? 

YouTube is a great platform for creators to quickly engage a global audience. Since we’re constantly refining the content of our episodes, we’re able to appeal to different consumers and have driven 3 billion views in just over 18 months! YouTube has also helped us engage our viewers directly and build in fun features in our videos that are not possible in other formats.

While “Oddbods” is one of the fastest growing YouTube channels in the kids' space globally, what really excites us is our fans’ love for the content. They’re reposting it on their own YouTube channels so quickly that user-generated content growth is faster than our channel’s. This is the biggest accolade we could receive for the show!

Oddbods4

How has the show’s success helped grow your business?

 We set up a secondary production location in Jakarta in 2015. The influx of new talent from Jakarta combined with the incredible expertise of our R&D team has ensured that our content is of the highest quality. Meanwhile, our commercial team has grown three-fold over the same period, helping us build and diversify new revenue streams across digital, TV, gaming and merchandising. The show’s success has also helped us forge strong partnerships with industry giants such as Ferrero, Carl's Junior, the Australian Football League and National Express.

 

What advice would you give to aspiring creators in the family entertainment content field?

Our shows have always been about creating magical and immersive stories brought to life with the very latest animation techniques. A large part of this is accomplished by creating characters that audiences can empathize with, regardless of culture or language. As a non-dialogue show, “Oddbods” is perhaps the best example of this. They are zany, quirky and funny. But most of all, despite being colorful, non-human characters, they are very “real.” 

Oddbods2

What’s next for “Oddbods” and One Animation?

“Oddbods” has captured the imaginations of kids around the globe over the last three years and the brand has been on a journey of rapid development. 

We just launched toys in Singapore, the Philippines and across Europe.  We plan on launching more products globally for our fans, including a suite of apps and games. We expect an “Oddbods” game to be available in AR and VR in the next couple of months!

AGDATA Australia: from family farm to global partners

Editor’s note: As part of our series of interviews with entrepreneurs across Asia Pacific who use the internet to grow, we chatted with Glenn Skerman, who, together with his brother Brendan, are directors of AGDATA Australia, a farming accounting software company. Founded in 1984, their working family farm has grown into a software business that employs 18 team members with over 10,000 customers. AGDATA products are used by farmers all around the world, from the Falkland Islands to Papua New Guinea.

Keyword: Can you tell us a bit about yourselves, what inspired you to become entrepreneurs and create this platform for farmers? 

Glenn Skerman: Actually, our father founded the business back in the 1980s. Originally, he was only trying to solve a problem for himself on the family cattle and grain farm. He was tired of trying to make existing accounting products meet our farm business management needs. Once word got out, others wanted what he had created. And so we formed AGDATA Australia. Business is thriving—we have more than  22,000 active software licenses. We offer solutions that allow farmers to organise their data on crops, livestock and land.

Our Phoenix software integrates farm production and financial data to provide farmers with a cost-effective solution that was previously only available to larger manufacturing industries. This levels the playing field a bit more for small and medium businesses.

We’re very proud that we’re still a family-owned business. 


Glenn and Brendan Skerman
Glenn Skerman on the left with his brother Brendan on the right at AGDATA’s office.

What difference has the internet made for your business?

It has completely changed the way we do business.

 We continue to manage our product development, helpdesk support and administration functions locally, providing jobs for the local economy. Thanks to the internet, we can share data that our customers would otherwise be unable to access. For example, we’re able to share government spatial data directly with users. This provides them information to help them make farm planning decisions.

 We’ve got greater access to customers all over the world thanks to Google. Our customers once had to learn about our products in person. Now, they can access our products anywhere by jumping onto Google Search, or finding out more about us on YouTube. They can also try our products immediately online, and communicate directly with us.

The internet has also allowed us to become more environmentally-friendly. We used to deliver our software on physical disks. Now our customers can access our software online. People used to write cheques as a payment solution; now they’re paying online. We use a lot less paper products and packaging today. We now also deliver online training to our customers around the country.  This is more efficient for both the customers and AGDATA.

Can you tell us how AGDATA has helped your customers?

Customers benefit from our software in many ways. One said that by using our software, she was able to better monitor her business finances, saving over A$16,000 in interest payments on her loans. Another customer saved over A$30,000 in equipment and labour costs by planning out the irrigation and piping on her farm by overlaying Google Maps using the 3D capability in our Phoenix Mapping software. 

We’re also proud to help the community. We have an active “Community Involvement Program” and provide software to not-for-profit groups in Regional Australia, which includes all the areas that lie beyond major cities. Last year we were recognised at one of the Regional Australia Institute and Google’s regional online heroes.

 

What’s next for your business?

We see greater use of the Internet of Things, and building on the connectivity of devices to the primary database we have. Ultimately, we want to provide a single database for the farmer to manage their farming enterprise more effectively.


How Android helped Dalmia Bharat go digital and grow their business

Editor's note: Today’s post comes from Sunil Tewari, Head of Technology and Business Services for Dalmia Bharat Group, one of India’s largest cement manufacturers. Read how Dalmia Bharat Group uses Android to increase sales, optimize cement delivery, and better connect their workforce.

Dalmia Cement is a leader in the Indian cement industry, producing over 9 million tons of cement for its customers every year. Founded as a division of the Dalmia Bharat Group in 1939, we’ve consistently innovated our manufacturing and production processes, pioneering specialty cements used for oil wells, railway sleepers, and air strips.

We’re quick to embrace solutions that make our business more efficient and responsive for our customers. So when it came to mobility, we turned to another powerhouse of innovation—Android. Our analog record-keeping system wasn’t keeping up with our needs: our customers are spread far and wide across India, so many of our employees spend their work hours largely on the road, making sales calls and deliveries. We have between 15,000 and 18,000 trucks delivering cement to cities and remote areas, and 600 sales representatives visiting customers every day.

In a business that relies on strong personal relationships between sales reps and customers, keeping track of contacts, purchases and deliveries with so many employees while on the go is difficult. Sales reps need to be able to get information quickly while they’re at a customer site or in the office. Managers need to make sure drivers are taking the quickest delivery route to where the customers are. And we need to track successful deliveries so we know when to bill the client.

Dalmia Android team

To make all of this a smoother process, we built three Android apps so that sales reps, dealers, and truck drivers could have the information they need most at their fingertips. Our [email protected] app gives our sales force the ability to place and track orders. Our SUVIDHA app is used by customers to place orders without needing to contact the sales team, and DriverSathi tracks deliveries and makes billing more efficient.

Android’s secure and flexible platform was the right choice for our company’s apps. We were able to build and deliver apps to our team in six weeks, which are used by more than 4,000 employees and customers.

We are using the Enterprise Mobility Management capabilities in G Suite to manage the devices we provide for our sales force. Employees can also bring their own devices to access resources like Gmail and our company’s apps—we use Android’s device policy controller to manage the work profile, keeping company data secure on these devices. Dealers use their own Android devices to access our apps and place orders.

Since our sales reps began using our [email protected] app, sales have increased, with 60 percent of all orders now placed digitally. Our sales team uses the app to get quick access to product information from a customer site, while managers use it to check when the rep last visited that customer and to see what other stops the rep has that day.

Going mobile with Android has been a key piece of our growth, as we’ve become one of the fastest-growing cement brands in India. Sunil Tewari
Dalmia Bharat Group

We have more than 8,000 active users of our SUVIDHA app, which allows our customers to place orders anytime. Prior to this, they had to call into our sales team. We now see more than 1,000 orders placed each day with the app, which accounts for 35 percent of total sales.

With our third app, DriverSathi, we can track cement deliveries. Drivers get electronic proof of delivery, so we know exactly when each delivery was made, leading to on-time payment for our delivery drivers. Orders are filled 10 percent faster now because the process isn’t paper-based. Customers and dealers know when they will be receiving orders so they can manage their own sales pipelines.

This app also streamlines billing. Previously, invoices were often delayed by up to a month and a half because everything was done via hard copy, and it sometimes took weeks for drivers to hand in the paper invoices. Now the invoicing process starts as soon as the delivery is made because the app verifies exactly when delivery is completed, triggering the payment process.

Building custom apps on Android helped improve every part of our business, starting with the sales process, going all the way through delivery and invoicing. Going mobile with Android has been a key piece of our growth, as we’ve become one of the fastest-growing cement brands in India. Our Android applications enabled us to provide service to more customers in a quicker fashion because our employees have information they need when they need it most—on the road. And by giving the most efficient routing information, workers spend less time driving and more time talking with customers. With Android, it’s a win-win for everyone.

New ways to make trip planning easier and cheaper

Everyone loves a good deal—especially when it comes to travel. That’s why last year we added tips on how to save money to Google Flights and hotel search on Google. Being flexible on travel dates and where to stay helps save money when planning a trip—so now we’re adding more ways to explore dates, airports and hotel locations to help you save when you have a bit of wiggle room in your itinerary.

Pick travel dates that are less expensive

Three out of five people who have planned a vacation in the last year said they’d be open to changing travel dates if it would save them money.1 We already show tips when it’s possible to get a lower price by shifting dates slightly; in fact, almost 10 percent of the time that a Google Flights user sees a tip, they choose to change their original travel dates.2

In order to make flight prices—and potential savings—easier to find for a wide range of dates, we’ve added more price insights to Google Flights. Tap on “Dates” to see the calendar view of date combinations with the cheapest prices highlighted in green and the most expensive in red. Or if you have a certain length of trip in mind, the price graph allows you to see how airfare varies over time. Just swipe left to see more dates.

Flight insights dates and price graph

These new flight insights are now available on mobile and will be rolling out to Google Flights on desktop later this year.

We’ve also added new features to help you find the cheapest dates to reserve a hotel. When choosing dates for a specific hotel, you’ll now see the nightly rate in the calendar view. Or you can check out price trends for a hotel to see how rates change over time.

Hotel search price trends

Consider nearby airports or hotel locations to decrease costs

Did you know that there are 10 major airports within three hours of New York City? Sometimes just changing the airport you’re flying through can make a big difference in the price you pay. In fact, for more than 25 percent of flight searches you can get a better price by choosing an alternate airport.3

Now you can see all nearby airports on an interactive map, view the distance between each one and your final destination, and select the most convenient airports to include in your results. This shows you all your airport options, offers more flights to choose from, and might save you a few dollars, too.

Flight insights airports tab

When you’re trying to choose a hotel, you can now see hotel prices on a map to quickly identify the best areas and hotels for both your budget and itinerary needs. You may find that a hotel just around the corner from a museum you’re interested in is available at a great price.

Hotel prices in maps

When it comes to travel planning, flexibility pays off. Search for flights and hotels on Google to save time and money planning your next trip, so you can focus on the journey ahead.


1Google Surveys n= 467 U.S. people 18+ who planned a vacation in the last year, July 2017.
2Google Flights data, Global, July 2017.
3Google Flights data, Global, July 2017.


Source: Travel


How machine learning in G Suite makes people more productive

Email management, formatting documents, creating expense reports. These are just some of the time-sinks that can affect your productivity at work. At Google, this is referred to as “overhead”—time spent working on tasks that do not directly relate to creative output—and it happens a lot.

According to a Google study in 2015, the average worker spends only about 5 percent of his or her time actually coming up with the next big idea. The rest of our time is caught in the quicksand of formatting, tracking, analysis or other mundane tasks. That’s where machine learning can help.

Machine learning algorithms observe examples and make predictions based on data. In G Suite, machine learning models make your workday more efficient by taking over menial tasks, like scheduling meetings, or by predicting information you might need and surfacing it for you, like suggesting Docs.

Time spent chart

Source: Google Data, April 2015

Eliminating spam within Gmail using machine learning

One of the earliest machine learning use cases for G Suite was within Gmail. Historically, Gmail used a rule-based system, which meant our anti-spam team would create new rules to match individual spam patterns. Over a decade of using this process, we improved spam detection accuracy to 99 percent.

Starting in 2014, our team augmented this rule-based system to generate rules using machine learning algorithms instead, taking spam detection one step further. Now, we use TensorFlow and other machine learning to continually regenerate the “spam filter,” so the system has learned to predict which emails are most likely junk. Machine learning finds new patterns and adapts far quicker than previous manual systems—it’s a big part of the reason that more than one billion Gmail users avoid spam within their account.

See machine learning in your favorite G Suite apps

G Suite’s goal is to help teams accomplish more with its intelligent apps, no matter where they are in the world. And chances are, you’ve already seen machine learning integrated into your day-to-day work to do just that.

Smart Reply, for example, uses machine learning to generate three natural language responses to an email. So if you find yourself on the road or pressed for time and in need of a quick way to clear your inbox, let Smart Reply do it for you.
Smart Reply GIF

Explore in Docs, Slides and Sheets uses machine learning to eliminate time spent on mundane tasks, like tracking down documents or information on the web, reformatting presentations or performing calculations within spreadsheets.

Explore

Quick Access in Drive predicts and suggests files you might need within Drive. Using machine intelligence, Quick Access can predict files based on who you share files with frequently, when relevant meetings occur within your Calendar or if you tend to use files at certain times of the day.

Quick Access

To learn more about how machine intelligence can make your life easier, sign up for this free webinar on June 15, 2017, featuring experts from MIT Research, Google and other companies. You can also check out the Big Data and Machine Learning blog or watch this video from Google Cloud Next with Ryan Tabone, director of product management at Google, where he explains more about “overhead.”

Source: Gmail Blog


How machine learning in G Suite makes people more productive

Email management, formatting documents, creating expense reports. These are just some of the time-sinks that can affect your productivity at work. At Google, this is referred to as “overhead”—time spent working on tasks that do not directly relate to creative output—and it happens a lot.

According to a Google study in 2015, the average worker spends only about 5 percent of his or her time actually coming up with the next big idea. The rest of our time is caught in the quicksand of formatting, tracking, analysis or other mundane tasks. That’s where machine learning can help.

Machine learning algorithms observe examples and make predictions based on data. In G Suite, machine learning models make your workday more efficient by taking over menial tasks, like scheduling meetings, or by predicting information you might need and surfacing it for you, like suggesting Docs.

Time spent chart

Source: Google Data, April 2015

Eliminating spam within Gmail using machine learning

One of the earliest machine learning use cases for G Suite was within Gmail. Historically, Gmail used a rule-based system, which meant our anti-spam team would create new rules to match individual spam patterns. Over a decade of using this process, we improved spam detection accuracy to 99 percent.

Starting in 2014, our team augmented this rule-based system to generate rules using machine learning algorithms instead, taking spam detection one step further. Now, we use TensorFlow and other machine learning to continually regenerate the “spam filter,” so the system has learned to predict which emails are most likely junk. Machine learning finds new patterns and adapts far quicker than previous manual systems—it’s a big part of the reason that more than one billion Gmail users avoid spam within their account.

See machine learning in your favorite G Suite apps

G Suite’s goal is to help teams accomplish more with its intelligent apps, no matter where they are in the world. And chances are, you’ve already seen machine learning integrated into your day-to-day work to do just that.

Smart Reply, for example, uses machine learning to generate three natural language responses to an email. So if you find yourself on the road or pressed for time and in need of a quick way to clear your inbox, let Smart Reply do it for you.
Smart Reply GIF

Explore in Docs, Slides and Sheets uses machine learning to eliminate time spent on mundane tasks, like tracking down documents or information on the web, reformatting presentations or performing calculations within spreadsheets.

Explore

Quick Access in Drive predicts and suggests files you might need within Drive. Using machine intelligence, Quick Access can predict files based on who you share files with frequently, when relevant meetings occur within your Calendar or if you tend to use files at certain times of the day.

Quick Access

To learn more about how machine intelligence can make your life easier, sign up for this free webinar on June 15, 2017, featuring experts from MIT Research, Google and other companies. You can also check out the Big Data and Machine Learning blog or watch this video from Google Cloud Next with Ryan Tabone, director of product management at Google, where he explains more about “overhead.”

Source: Gmail Blog


Making travel planning less stressful this holiday season

Whether you’re heading home for the holidays or escaping to some exotic destination, one of the most time-consuming and stressful parts of travel planning is finding the right flight and hotel. Sixty-nine percent of U.S. leisure travelers worry that they're not finding the best price or making the best decision while booking a trip — making this kind of purchase more worrisome than financial investments, home improvements or electronics purchases.*

This holiday season we’re making travel planning less stressful by updating you when flights are likely to increase in price, helping you find good hotel deals, and making travel planning easier on mobile.

Making it easier than ever to choose the right flight

Google Flights can now help you be more confident that you’re booking your flight at the right time to get the best price. We now show you when prices are expected to increase for some specific flights and routes you’re interested in.

After selecting a specific flight, a notification may appear letting you know when the current fare is expected to expire and how much you can save if you book now. For example, this flight to San Diego is likely to cost more in eight hours — and you would likely save $87 if you book before then.

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If you’re looking at a certain route like New York to San Diego, but haven’t selected a specific flight yet, you may see a notification bar with multiple tips showing how to find the best price for this route. Tips can include things like recommendations for alternate airports or dates. You may also see a new tip telling you about an expected price jump based on historic prices for that route. When you tap on the card, you’ll see more details like how much the price is likely to increase and when.

FlightImmersive_2.png

If you’re not ready to book yet, you can choose to track your flight or route and receive notifications via email letting you know when prices are expected to change. Fare expiration and expected price jump notifications will be rolling out over the coming weeks everywhere Google Flights is available. You’ll also continue to receive updates when prices actually do increase or decrease significantly for tracked flights.

FlightImmersive_3.png
                                                      Tracked flights on mobile and email notification of price change.

We’re also making it easier to find flights on the go. Next time you visit Google Flights, you’ll be able to track and manage saved flights seamlessly on your phone.

If you’re still looking for inspiration on where to travel, tap on Explore to find ideas on destinations to visit based on the type of vacation you’re looking for. For example, you can look for destinations in the Caribbean with direct flights only. 

FlightImmersive_5.png

Providing more ways to uncover deals in hotel search

We’re also making it easier to immediately recognize and find more deals when searching on Google for hotels in the location of your choice, like “hotels in new york”. We already label deals when a hotel’s price is lower than usual compared to historical pricing, or if there are discounts to the normal rate for those dates. Now if you want to only look at hotel deals — say, to ring in the new year in Paris — just tap in the upper left to filter for Deals and voilà!

FlightImmersive_4.png

We’ll also notify you when savings are available to loyalty members on a hotel’s website. 

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Don’t let travel planning stress you out this holiday season. Google Flights and hotel search on Google can help save you time and money so you can spend more time with the people you love. Wishing you safe and happy holiday travels!

* Google/Phocuswright, leisure traveler study, base: U.S. leisure travelers, n=930, Oct. 2015.

Source: Travel