Ola Electric Scooter Deliveries Delayed; Google Slashes Commissions For Subscription Services; Facebook Plans New Group Name And More Leave a comment

Here are the top headlines from the startup space this week.

Ola electric scooter deliveries, test rides delayed to November

After announcing the launch of the Ola Electric Scooter in August, the company had committed to start deliveries and offer test drives for the product from October. That plan, however, has run into delays and is also likely to affect the company’s next phase of sales.

It is now understood that Ola Electric’s plans to start test drives have now been pushed to November and that may have an impact in terms of delaying the delivery timelines for the product.

The company said it will ask the customers to make full payment only after taking a test drive. That may have an impact on the next phase of sales for the Ola Scooters, which was originally to start on November 1. The company is looking to start these test drive camps only in select metros.

Ola Cars eye $2 bn in GMV, to hire 10,000 people

Mobility giant Ola plans to hire 10,000 new people, as it eyes a market leadership position with $2 billion gross merchandise value (GMV) for its vehicle commerce platform Ola Cars over the next 12 months.

Ola Cars has already sold 5,000 pre-owned cars in its first full month of operation, the company said in a statement. It has commenced pre-owned vehicle sales in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad and will also expand to Chandigarh, Jaipur, Kolkata and Indore by end of this week, it added.

Over the next two months, Ola Cars will be operational in 30 cities and expand to 100 cities by next year. The platform offers innovations such as doorstep test drive, seven days no questions asked return of a purchased vehicle.

BigBasket, 1MG employees get access to Tata Digital’s new super app

As the Tata Group begins the rollout of Tata Digital’s new super app TataNeu among employees, the app is now also accessible to employees of BigBasket and 1MG, companies that were acquired by the group earlier this year, sources told CNBC-TV18.

The app is being rolled out to employees from earlier this month and Tata Group plans to roll it out to all five lakh employees in India in the next 2-3 weeks.

TataNeu has onboarded BigBasket, 1MG, Curefit, Croma, Taj Hotels, and is also in the process of onboarding other Tata Group brands onto the platform.

Reports suggest that the official launch of the super app has been delayed due to the impending e-commerce rules, the draft of which had proposed that e-commerce platforms cannot sell their own group brands and labels on the platform.

Curefoods acquires 7 food brands; aims to expand its cloud kitchen footprint

Cloud kitchen startup Curefoods, which operates brands like EatFit, announced its acquisition of multiple D2C food brands across the country.

Curefoods already has 10 brands in its portfolio, of which seven are new acquisitions featuring the likes of CakeZone and MasalaBox. Curefoods has also acquired exclusive online franchising rights for YumLane, Sharief Bhai, and Aligarh House.

The company is looking at onboarding a total of 25 brands and has already signed 15 more letters of intent (LoIs).

Zomato CEO Deepinder Goyal joins Unacademy’s board of directors

Food delivery giant Zomato’s CEO and co-founder Deepinder Goyal has joined the board of directors of edtech platform Unacademy.

Goyal invested in the edtech unicorn’s Series H funding that was announced in August. OYO boss Ritesh Agarwal had also participated in the round. Unacademy had raised $440 million led by sovereign wealth fund Temasek for a valuation of $ 3.4 billion.

Unacademy in talks to acquire Swiflearn: Report

Edtech startup Unacademy is in talks to acquire Swiflearn in a deal worth $15-20 million, sources told Entrackr.

The transaction will be a mix of cash and stock. Swiflearn’s founders will join Unacademy along with the team members, the report added.

This will be the 11th acquisition for Unacademy since its inception. The company had acquired Handa Ka Funda, TapChief, NeoStencil, PrepLadder, Mastree, CodeChef, Coursavy, Kreatryx, Wifistudy and Rheo TV.

Scaler Academy acquires Coding Minutes for $1M

Edtech upskilling platform Scaler Academy has acquired online learning platform Coding Minutes for $1 million in an all-cash deal.

This is the second acquisition for the edtech startup. In August, Scaler had acquired Coding Elements to accelerate business growth, leading to the launch of their data science & machine learning vertical.

With the acquisition of Coding Minutes, Scaler will focus on building specialised content that effectively engages beginner-level tech aspirants, the company said in a statement.

Good Glamm Group buys ScoopWhoop

D2C beauty and personal care brand Good Glamm Group has acquired media startup ScoopWhoop Media in an all-cash deal. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

ScoopWhoop will continue to work as an independent brand and media house within the Good Glamm Group. Its founders Sattvik Mishra, Rishi Pratim Mukherjee and Sriparna Tikekar will continue leading ScoopWhoop and will work closely with Darpan Sanghvi, Priyanka Gill and Naiyya Saggi, co-founders of the Good Glamm Group, the company said in a statement.

The group is also entering the men’s grooming space with the acquisition and is looking to invest Rs 500 crore over the next three years.

Stripe marks its first India acquisition with Recko

Global fintech giant Stripe has acquired enterprise financial software firm, Recko for an undisclosed amount. This marks Stripe’s first acquisition in India.

The San Francisco-based firm said in a blog post that the acquisition of Recko will help the company include payment reconciliation within its infrastructure. Recko’s team will join Stripe’s remote engineering hub, helping to build and scale Stripe’s products globally.

This acquisition comes amid Stripe’s increased investment in India, including updated data locality architecture and rapid local hiring, the company said in a statement.

Swiggy announces 2-day period time-off for women delivery partners

Online food delivery platform Swiggy has said it will offer two-day paid monthly period time-off to its regular delivery partners.

The delivery partners can voluntarily take time off and be eligible for a minimum earnings guarantee during that time.

To ensure safety, Swiggy also said partners- men and women, will be allowed the flexibility to decline an order in an area they thought was unsafe. Earlier the company had capped delivery hours at 6 PM for female delivery partners citing safety concerns.

This comes at a time when there is more scrutiny on the rights of gig workers in India.

Grofers likely to enter horizontal e-com; plans to deliver anything in 10 minutes

Online grocery delivery platform Grofers said it continues to look for local entrepreneurs who are keen on building businesses in the instant commerce space. It has so far partnered with 86 “dark store owners” in 13 cities.

In August, Grofers had started a 10-minutes grocery delivery service in 10 cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Jaipur.

The Zomato-backed company is working with local partners to power this initiative.

CrossTower offers Rs5,000 credit to Indian users to learn crypto trading

Crypto trading platform CrossTower has announced a unique feature, which offers free credit of Rs 5,000 to each Indian user’s wallet for trading on cryptocurrency on its platform.

With this feature, Indian users will be able to learn crypto trading comfortably without investing a single rupee, the company said in a statement.

CrossTower users in India will learn and also earn profits that they can withdraw for personal use, after settling the full credit amount. The users can claim and use a free credit amount of Rs 5000 and trade with multiple currencies. If the price of crypto decreases, CrossTower will bear the loss, the firm added.

Salman Khan launches Chingari’s crypto-token $GARI

Bollywood actor Salman Khan has unveiled $GARI, a crypto-token launched by micro-content, short video application Chingari.

The actor also announced his collaboration with the app as a brand ambassador for its NFT marketplace and token reward program in a tweet.

With this foray, Chingari, which currently offers customised videos, an extensive song library, hyper-realistic AR filters, and content in more than 20 languages and has around 50 million monthly active users and almost 85 million downloads to date, has reportedly become India’s first social network to issue crypto tokens.

Google to invest in Meesho?

Google is in talks to invest $50-$75 million in social commerce platform Meesho, sources told ET.

The investment is part of Meesho’s recent financing round and values the Bengaluru-based company at $4.9 billion.

In September, Meesho raised $570 million from US-based asset manager Fidelity and Eduardo Saverin’s B Capital. Google’s investment will take the round size to over $600 million, the report added.

Google slashes commissions for subscription services to 15%

Tech giant Google has slashed the commission for in-app purchases to 15 percent effective January 1 amid rising regulatory scrutiny of its and Apple’s app store practices.

Google had said last year that developers would have to pay a flat 30 percent commission on all in-app purchases but deferred its implementation to April 2022 following protests by Indian startups. For e-books and on-demand music streaming services like Spotify, Google is cutting its commission to “as low as 10 percent”, the company said.

With the latest announcement, the company will charge a 15 percent commission starting from day one. Google already has a policy where the first million dollars a developer earns through Google requires a 15 percent cut.

Amazon to hike annual Prime membership fee to Rs 1,499

Amazon is set to increase the price of the annual membership of its Prime programme in India by 50 percent to Rs 1499.

Monthly and a quarterly fee of Prime membership – which offers users access to Amazon Prime Video and one-day delivery on millions of items on the e-commerce platform – is also being hiked.

“The price of Prime memberships in India is being revised from Rs 999 to Rs 1,499 (annual plan), Rs 329 to Rs 459 (3-month plan), and Rs 129 to Rs 179 (monthly plan),” an Amazon spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that the price of Prime membership in India will be changing very soon, and the company will announce the exact date of the price change at a later time.

Microsoft launches program to help Indian startups accelerate the deployment of AI

Tech giant Microsoft has launched a new programme AI Innovate for nurturing and scaling startups that are leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Microsoft AI Innovate is a 10-week initiative that will support startups in India leveraging AI technologies, helping them scale operations, drive innovation, and build industry expertise, the company said in a statement.

The programme will start as a quarterly cohort in November in partnership with The Indus Enterpreneurs (TiE), Mumbai. Startups from all major sectors including financial services, healthcare, education, agriculture, space, manufacturing and logistics, retail, and e-commerce have been invited to participate and apply for the first cohort of the program.

LetsVenture launches ‘LV Fuel’- a founders’ syndicate to invest in new startups

Online investment platform LetsVenture has launched LV Fuel, an investment syndicate comprising founders from the early-stage investment platform’s portfolio companies to bet on new entrepreneurs.

LV Fuel will enable LetsVenture founders to give back to the ecosystem via capital, experience and skills and empower new founders from idea to scale up stages, said LetsVenture in a statement.

The syndicate currently has a cohort of over 40 founders, and it aims to have more than 200 founder investors in the next two years, it added.

Twitter announces 1st community in India for cricket fans; launches live scorecard for cricket

Twitter has introduced its Communities feature to India with the launch of a cricket-focused community called Cricket Twitter-India that will enable users to talk all things cricket in multiple Indian languages.

The micro-blogging site is also introducing live cricket scorecards that will provide users latest updates on its platform. This is Twitter’s first non-US community after the social media firm launched the product in September 2021.

The feature is now live on the web and the iOS and Android apps.

Razorpay launches TokenHQ in partnership with Mastercard, RuPay, and Visa

Fintech startup Razorpay has launched Razorpay TokenHQ, a multi-network Card-on-File (CoF) Tokenisation solution.

This will be a turnkey solution for businesses, allowing their end-customers to continue experiencing the convenience of saved card transactions, with added security and in compliance with RBI guidelines, the startup said in a statement.

TokenHQ will work across all major card networks including Mastercard, RuPay and Visa. Businesses would be able to create, process, delete and modify tokens for online card payments with customers’ consent. Almost the entire base of 5 million businesses using Razorpay’s services will be ready to support tokenised card transactions, the firm added.

Indian startups’ salary expenditure shot up by 43% between April and September: Razorpay Report

Indian startups have witnessed a hike in salary expenditure as it rose by 43 percent from April to September, as per a Razorpay report.

This comes after payroll management became the biggest expense that organisations incurred during the pandemic that served as an inflection point for startups.

According to the report, edtech, fintech, and electronics are some of the sectors that witnessed a significant increase in their salary spends during the last six months. Moreover, some startups even increased the median salary of their employees by 7 percent this year.

Indian short video-app market clocks 3x growth in ad revenue in 6 months: RedSeer Report

After the ban on TikTok and other Chinese short-video making apps, the advertisement revenue from Indian short-form space has been growing at a rapid pace and tripled in the last six months, new data showed.

According to the latest report released by homegrown consulting firm RedSeer Consulting, short-form content has grown 1.37 times in terms of monthly active users (MAU) and 1.1 times in terms of daily active users (DAU) from June 2020 when Chinese app TikTok was banned in India.


Facebook plans new group name to revamp image: The Verge

Facebook, which is under fire from regulators and lawmakers over its business practices, is planning to rebrand itself with a new group name that focuses on the metaverse, the Verge reported.

The name change will be announced next week. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been talking up the metaverse, a digital world where people can move between different devices and communicate in a virtual environment, since July, and the group has invested heavily in virtual reality and augmented reality, developing hardware such as its Oculus VR headsets and working on AR glasses and wristband technologies.

Facebook plans to hire 10,000 in EU to build ‘metaverse’

Facebook plans to hire 10,000 in the European Union over the next five years to help build the metaverse – a nascent online world where people exist and communicate in shared virtual spaces, Reuters reported.

This would be a significant step the company is taking towards the concept, something top boss Mark Zuckerberg has touted in recent months.

In September, Facebook committed $50 million towards building the metaverse, where companies like Roblox Corp and “Fortnite” maker Epic Games have an early foothold.

UK fines Facebook $70M for breaching order in Giphy deal

Britain’s competition regulator has fined Facebook 50.5 million pounds ($69.6 million) for breaching an order imposed during its investigation into the U.S. social media giant’s purchase of GIF platform Giphy, Reuters reported.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said Facebook had deliberately failed to comply with its order, and the penalty served as a warning that no company was above the law.

Facebook has increasingly come under fire from regulators and lawmakers about its business practices. It said it strongly disagreed with the CMA.

Square CEO Jack Dorsey says looking to build a bitcoin mining system

Square CEO Jack Dorsey said that the fintech firm is looking to build a bitcoin mining system based on custom silicon and open source for individuals as well as businesses.

This would add to Square’s existing bitcoin-focused projects including a business to build an open developer platform, as well as a hardware wallet for the cryptocurrency.

A team led by Square’s hardware lead, Jesse Dorogusker, will investigate requisites for Square to take on the project to build a bitcoin mining system.

South Korea targets Apple over new app store regulation

Apple was on a collision course with South Korea on Friday over new requirements that it stop forcing app developers to use its payment systems, with a government official warning of a possible investigation into the iPhone maker’s compliance.

The development comes after South Korea amended the Telecommunication Business Act in August to try to curb the tech majors’ market dominance and stop the big app store operators such as Apple and Alphabet Inc’s Google from charging commissions on in-app purchases.

The law went into effect last month but Apple had told the South Korean government that it was already complying and did not need to change its app store policy, a Korea Communications Commission (KCC) official in charge of the matter told Reuters.

Apple’s talks with Chinese battery makers CATL and BYD mostly stalled

Apple’s talks with China’s CATL and BYD over battery supplies for its planned electric vehicle have been mostly stalled after they refused to set up teams and build US plants that would solely cater to the tech giant, sources told Reuters.

The firms informed Apple sometime in the past two months that they were not able to meet its requirements, the people said. But the US company has not given up hope of resuming talks with either CATL or BYD.

BYD, which has an iron-phosphate battery plant in Lancaster, California, declined to build a new factory and team that would solely focus on supplying Apple.

Panasonic is one of the companies that Apple is considering.

Snap shares plunge as Apple privacy changes hit ads business

Shares of Snap plummeted 25% on Thursday after the owner of photo messaging app Snapchat said privacy changes implemented by Apple on iOS devices hurt the company’s ability to target and measure its digital advertising, as per Reuters.

The company, which earns the vast majority of its revenue from selling digital advertising on the app, said the issue was compounded by global supply chain disruptions and labour shortages and caused brands to pull back on their ad.

The Apple privacy updates were rolled out broadly in June and prevent digital advertisers from tracking iPhone users without their consent.

Snap added it expects the Apple privacy changes and global supply chain disruptions to linger through the fourth quarter, which is typically the highest-earning period for social media companies when brands ramp up marketing for the holiday season.

Amazon and others commit to using zero-carbon shipping fuels by 2040

Amazon and IKEA are among commercial users of container shipping that will opt for zero-carbon marine fuels by 2040 in a new initiative aimed at speeding up decarbonisation in the maritime sector, executives told Reuters.

With about 90 percent of world trade transported by sea, global shipping accounts for nearly 3 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions and the sector is under growing scrutiny to become cleaner.

The initiative, which was organised by the non-profit Aspen Institute and has nine signatories so far including others such as Unilever and Michelin, sets a goal for companies to only purchase ocean freight services powered by scalable zero-carbon fuels by 2040.

Tencent says ‘loophole’ allowed WeChat searches on Google, Bing

Tencent’s WeChat has fixed a glitch that allowed some of its content to be searchable by external search engines. This has raised questions over regulators’ latest attempt to crackdown on the internet sector.

Some of WeChat’s content, including articles on its public accounts page, was briefly searchable in the last few days on Alphabet-owned Google and Microsoft’s Bing, but not on China’s dominant search engine Baidu, Reuters checks showed.

The change had prompted speculation that Tencent was heeding a call by Chinese authorities for its tech giants to tear down “walled gardens” in the country’s cyberspace which has come amid a wide ranging crackdown on the sector.

Walmart allowing some shoppers to buy bitcoin at Coinstar kiosks

Walmart customers at some of its US stores will be able to purchase bitcoin using ATM-like machines installed by Coinstar, Reuters reported.

Coinstar, known for its machines that can exchange physical coins for cash, has partnered with digital currency exchange CoinMe to let customers buy bitcoin at some of its kiosks.

There are 200 Coinstar kiosks located inside Walmart stores across the United States that will allow customers to buy bitcoin, a Walmart spokesperson said.

Donald Trump launches ‘TRUTH’ social media platform

Former US President Donald Trump will launch his own social media app, TRUTH Social, that he said would “stand up to Big Tech” companies such as Twitter and Facebook that have barred him from their platforms.

TRUTH Social will be created through a new company formed by a merger of the Trump Media and Technology Group and a special acquisition company (SPAC), according to Reuters.

The social network, set for a beta launch next month and full rollout in the first quarter of 2022, is the first of three stages in the company’s plans, followed by a subscription video-on-demand service called TMTG+ that will feature entertainment, news and podcasts.

PayPal in talks to but Pinterest for $45Bn

PayPal Holdings has offered to buy digital pinboard site Pinterest for $45 billion, a combination that could herald more financial technology and social media tie-ups in e-ecommerce.

Acquiring Pinterest would allow PayPal to capture more of that e-commerce growth and diversify its income though advertising revenue.

PayPal has offered $70 per share, mostly in stock, for Pinterest, sources told Reuters. The online payments provider hopes to successfully negotiate and announce a deal by the time it reports quarterly earnings on November 8.

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