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Startup Digest: Amazon plans to lay off 10,000 people, key personnel changes at WhatsApp & Meta India

Startup Digest: Amazon plans to lay off 10,000 people, key personnel changes at WhatsApp & Meta India

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By Aishwarya Anand  Nov 15, 2022 10:57:27 PM IST (Published)

Here are the top headlines from the startup space.

Amazon plans to lay off 10,000 people starting this week

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Amazon is planning to lay off about 10,000 people in corporate and technology jobs starting as soon as this week, The New York Times reported.
The cuts will focus on the e-commerce giant's devices unit, which houses voice-assistant Alexa, as well as its retail division and human resources, according to the report, which also said the total number of layoffs remains fluid.
As per a CNBC report, the company had already announced plans to freeze hiring for corporate roles in its retail business, and in recent months, Amazon has shut down its telehealth service, discontinued a quirky, video-calling projector for kids, closed all but one of its US call centres, axed its roving delivery robot, shuttered underperforming brick-and-mortar chains, and is closing, canceling or delaying some new warehouse locations.
WhatsApp India head Abhijit Bose, Meta India public policy head Rajiv Aggarwal step down
WhatsApp India head Abhijit Bose and Meta India's public policy director Rajiv Aggarwal have stepped down from the company, on the heels of the exit of Meta India country head Ajit Mohan earlier this month.
"It's been 4 years from since I joined as WhatsApp's first Country Head in India, and I'm so proud of what we have built. I'm also really excited about my next gig.
I believe that the next 5 years will be transformational for India -- with many of our current pre-IPO companies very quickly becoming the global leaders in their respective sectors. After a small break, I plan to rejoin the entrepreneurial world; you’ll see announcements on that shortly," Bose said in a LinkedIn post.
Bose added, "The decision had been planned for a while, but given the events last week, we wanted to hold this back so we could focus on supporting those impacted last week. I'm really excited about my next gig."
"I want to thank Abhijit Bose for his tremendous contributions as our first Head of WhatsApp in India. His entrepreneurial drive helped our team deliver new services that have benefited millions of people and businesses," said Will Cathcart, head of WhatsApp in a statement. "There is so much more WhatsApp can do for India and we’re excited to continue helping advance India’s digital transformation" Cathcart added.
Commenting on Aggarwal's exit, Manish Chopra, Director, Partnerships, India - Meta said "Over the last year, he has played an important role in leading our policy-led initiatives in areas such as user-safety, privacy and scaling up programs like GOAL to drive digital inclusion in the country.
He has also been leading proactive engagement with critical policy and regulatory stakeholders. We are grateful for his contributions and wish him very best for the future."
Shivnath Thukral, who is currently serving as the director of public policy at WhatsApp India, has been appointed the director of public policy for Meta India which includes Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.
Twitter engineer ‘fired’ by Elon Musk via tweet gets job offers from Reddit & other companies
Elon Musk sacked a Twitter employee via a tweet after he contested the new CEO's remark on the microblogging site being slow on Android devices. The billionaire, however, deleted the tweet later.
However, the Android developer, who goes by the handle Eric Frohnhoefer, was offered jobs by the social media platform Reddit and several other companies on the same thread. These companies assured him, "We won’t treat you like this." There were also several tweeple who called out Frohnhoefer’s "unprofessional behaviour" and urged firms to not hire him.
This comes after Musk, who calls himself a "free speech absolutist", on Sunday tweeted his apology to users for Twitter being super slow in many countries. "App is doing >1000 poorly batched RPCs just to render a home timeline!" he said.
Data Protection Bill will penalise platforms for customer data misuse: Rajeev Chandrasekhar
The proposed data protection bill will put an end to the misuse of customer data, and violators will face punitive action under the rule, minister of state for electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar said.
The minister shared his reaction in response to Google’s settlement of an investigation in the US which outlines that the internet giant misled users and continued tracking their location even after they opted out of the location tracking system. Google has agreed to settle the lawsuit for which it will pay around $392 million, according to a statement issued by the Oregon Department of Justice.
"This type of ”misuse” of custmr (sic) data violates #Privacy n #DataProtection expectations India’s #DigitalDataProtection bill will put a stop to this – & ensure that any Platform/Intermediary that does this will face punitive & financial consequences,” Chandrasekhar tweeted.
The government in August withdrew the Personal Data Protection Bill from Lok Sabha and said it will come out with a “set of fresh legislations” that will fit into the comprehensive legal framework. Government sources have indicated that the fresh data protection bill will be tabled in the winter session of Parliament.
Google Play introduces UPI Autopay payment option for subscription-based purchases in India
Google has announced that it is introducing UPI Autopay as a payment option for subscription-based purchases on its Play Store in India.
Saurabh Agarwal, Head of Google Play Retail & Payments Activation - India, Vietnam, Australia & New Zealand, said, "With the introduction of UPI Autopay on the platform, we aim to extend the convenience of UPI to subscription-based purchases, helping many more people access helpful and delightful services — while enabling local developers to grow their subscription-based businesses on Google Play."
The company also said that it has also been focused on removing complexities associated with finding and integrating local payments, including access to over 300 local payment methods supported in more than 60 countries.
SoftBank won’t hasten exit from $1.8 billion holdings in Paytm, Policybazaar, Delhivery as lock-in expiry nears: Report
SoftBank, whose holdings in Paytm, Policybazaar, and Delhivery are currently worth $1.8 billion, will pare its stakes gradually over the next two years so as to not trigger a panic selling as the lock-in for pre-IPO investors in the three companies expires over the next 10 days, according to a Moneycontrol report.
SoftBank had cumulatively invested around $2.2 billion in these three companies and offloaded shares worth $560 million at their initial public offerings (IPO). This means that it is sitting on a net gain of around $160 million from these bets.
"Although SoftBank is hardly sitting on any net gains on these investments, it is important to note that it has not lost money on a combined basis from these three investments despite a global rout in technology stocks," a source told Moneycontrol.
"It might make partial sales of some of these holdings on the counter to begin with as the lock-in expiry happens, but those will be very little compared to the large holdings in the companies," the source added.
SoftBank writes off about $100 million invested in bankrupt FTX
Japanese investment firm SoftBank has reportedly written off about $100 million it invested as part of its Vision Fund 2 in now bankrupt crypto exchange FTX. According to MarketWatch, the investment is now marked down to zero with SoftBank saying "it would not face a material markdown in the value of its stake".
SoftBank had backed FTX after the startup raised $400 million in January, valuing it at $32 billion. SoftBank has now disclosed a $100 million venture capital investment in crypto broker FTX. Softbank CFO Yoshimitsu Goto was quoted as saying that the $100 billion Vision Fund invested in FTX "as a minor stake in the company".
FTX, which last week filed for bankruptcy in the US, did not reveal how much it lost in unauthorised transactions but reports claimed the amount could be as high as $600 million.
Proptech startup Silkhaus secures $7.75 million in seed round
Dubai-based proptech startup Silkhaus has raised $7.75 million in a seed funding round led by Nuwa Capital, Global Founders Capital, Nordstar, Yuj Ventures, Whiteboard Capital, and VentureSouq.
The firm which came out of stealth mode will use the capital to accelerate its expansion across MENA, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. The company said it is building out its technology stack, led by Ashmin Varma who previously developed cutting-edge technologies for global proptechs.
Silkhaus will grow the supply of properties on its platform, with a focus on hiring extensively for technology and strategic roles, it added. The startup claims to have seen a 10X growth in 12 months while operating in stealth mode.
ReadyAssist raises $5 million in Pre-Series A round
Roadside assistance startup ReadyAssist has raised $5 million as part of their ongoing Pre-Series A round led by Howen International Fund, SPC. According to the company, the funds will be deployed to enhance the service network further to bring in speed and availability through technology across India.
The top 50 cities in India have been selected by ReadyAssist for building and nurturing the EV skill sets in mechanics, during the first phase, the statement added.
"This funding will definitely help us add wings to our service and ensure that India witnesses uncompromised 24/7 roadside assistance from ReadyAssist across the country in the months and years ahead. Support to the Indian EV ecosystem and adding speed to our services will have our special focus," said Vimal Singh SV, founder and CEO of ReadyAssist.
Instant food brand Yu gets Rs 20 crore in Series A funding
Instant meal bowl company Yu has bagged Rs 20 crore in its Series A funding round led by independent investor Ashish Kacholia, in a mix of equity and venture debt. The round also saw participation from existing investors, Asian Paints’ promoter group Manish Choksi and Varun Vakil.
The funding round also saw participation from the DPIITs Start Up India Seed Fund scheme which approved Yu under its Rs 945 crore program that funds tech-enabled startups. The startup will use the fresh capital to double its capacity and ramp up its existing offline-online distribution in India. The firm will also continue to expand its global footprint across markets like Africa, the Middle East, and the US.
SIIC IIT Kanpur and Microsoft India join hands to support startups
Startup Incubation and Innovation Centre, the technology business incubator at IIT Kanpur, has collaborated with Microsoft to launch the "Azure Society of Excellence".
The two enterprises have entered an MoU to launch this program in close partnership. Under this program, SIIC, IIT Kanpur and Microsoft will work together to support the startups by extending mentorship, employment, and entrepreneurial opportunities. The program will also enable access to ‘Founder’s Hub’- a talent-employability program for the future-ready startups in SIIC, IIT Kanpur’s incubation ecosystem.
The collaboration will help startups at IIT Kanpur to avail benefits of Microsoft Software and services, access to GitHub, M365 resources, training, and skilling on Azure, mentors network, which includes exclusive access to Microsoft leadership and expert guidance from Microsoft Valuable Professionals (MVP), Azure Influencers, and startup founders.
The Microsoft Mentor Network will also lend their support to provide expert feedback and advice on topics ranging from product roadmap to business plans and facetime with high-value VCs. and Saint-Gobain Gyproc partner to create 2000 jobs in India
Jobs and professional networking, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Gypsum leader Saint-Gobain Gyproc to support SMBs and MSMEs.
Apna and Saint-Gobain Gyproc together plan to create more than 2000 job opportunities for skilled professionals in India. Through this partnership, will support Saint-Gobain Gyproc’s partners to hire skilled workforce across professions.
Additionally, Apna will also facilitate live webinars on professional networking, and community engagement for all the candidates undergoing skilling programs by Saint-Gobain Gyproc. At present, Saint-Gobain Gyproc has around 8000 business partners in India.
Recorded placements of over 18,857 students in Oct: PrepInsta
Edtech company PrepInsta has announced a clocking placements record of over 18857 students in October 2022. Over 475 companies have hired PrepInsta Prime students, with the highest package reaching 47 LPA, the firm said.
The announcement comes after PrepInsta said its placement offers for September 2022 witnessed a significant increase of 70 percent. As per the firm, over 5,873 of its students were hired by companies such as TCS, SAP, Wipro, Cognizant and CapeGemini.
"This is the outcome of our emphasis on developing deep industry connections and thereby assisting our students in acquiring skills that are in sync with industry requirements,” said Manish Agarwal, co-founder and CMO, PrepInsta.
Fourth phase of Digital Shakti campaign to skill women in cyberspace launched
The National Commission for Women (NCW) has launched the fourth phase of the Digital Shakti campaign, a pan-India project to empower and skill women in cyberspace.
"This new phase will prove to be a milestone in ensuring safe cyber spaces for women. Digital Shakti has been accelerating the digital participation of women and girls by training them on how to use technology to their advantage and to keep themselves safe online,” NCW Chairperson Rekha Sharma said.
Digital Shakti started in June 2018 to help women across the nation to raise the awareness level on the digital front, to build resilience, and fight cybercrime in the most effective ways. Through this project, over 3 Lakh women across India have been made aware of cyber safety tips and tricks, reporting and redressal mechanisms, data privacy and usage of technology for their benefit.
Indians spend more on OTT and Travel this festive season than in 2021: PayU Report
The festive season in 2022 saw Indians spend the most on revenge travel and entertainment. The year saw a 64 percent increase in expenditure and a 31 percent increase in the number of transactions compared to the festive season in 2021, according to the report titled 'Insights Report-Festive edition' by online payment solutions provider PayU.
The report further revealed that the expenditure of Indians in travel and hospitality increased 165 percent this festive season compared to the festive season of 2021. The typical ticket size increased by 95 percent for airlines. The cost of holiday packages increased by 70 percent, and the average ticket size increased by 341 percent.
Transactions for OTT platforms saw a sharp increase due to a boost in OTT platforms and content. OTT expenditure grew by 80 percent this festive season, and transactions increased by 175 percent compared to last year's festive season.
China's Tencent starts new round of layoffs: Report
Chinese tech giant Tencent has begun a new round of job cuts targeted at its video streaming, gaming and cloud businesses, sources told Reuters. The sources said the layoffs affect three out of Tencent's six business divisions - platform and content (PCG), which comprises its video and news platforms, its gaming-focused interactive entertainment department (IEG) and cloud and smart industries group (CSIG). Two of the sources said some staff in IEG were informed last week they were being laid off.
Tencent already cut jobs earlier this year, alongside peers, including Alibaba and smaller Chinese tech companies such as Xiaohongshu. In August, Tencent disclosed its employee numbers fell to 110,715 by the end of June from 116,213 in March.
FTX in touch with regulators, may have 1 million creditors: Report
Collapsed-crypto exchange FTX outlined a "severe liquidity crisis" in US bankruptcy filings, which said the group could have more than 1 million creditors, as regulators opened investigations and lawmakers called for clearer rules on how the industry operates.
FTX's filing to a US bankruptcy court said it was in contact with financial regulators and had appointed five new independent directors at each of its main companies, including its sibling trading firm Alameda Research.
FTX founder and former chief executive Sam Bankman-Fried said he expanded his business too fast and failed to notice signs of trouble at the exchange, whose downfall sent shock waves through the crypto industry, The New York Times reported.
YouTube expands shopping features following digital ad slowdown: FT
YouTube is bringing shopping features to its TikTok-like short-form video service, as it looks to diversify its revenue stream squeezed by falling ad spending, The Financial Times reported.
Ad sales on Alphabet-owned YouTube slipped to $7.07 billion in the third quarter from $7.2 billion a year earlier, as some advertisers pulled back on their ad spending in the face of an economic slowdown. The streaming service is also testing new commission schemes for influencers who sell products through links in videos, the newspaper said.
JD.Com fintech unit aims to win Beijing approval for HK IPO as soon as year-end: Report
The fintech arm of Chinese e-commerce firm JD.Com aims to win Beijing regulators' approval to list in Hong Kong as soon as the end of the year after a first attempt failed earlier this year, sources told Reuters.
JD Technology's initial public offering (IPO) would be one of the largest listings of Chinese companies in Hong Kong since a sweeping regulatory crackdown started in China two years ago, as part of which scrutiny of capital raising outside mainland China was tightened.
The size of JD Tech's IPO has yet to be decided and could be smaller than its previous $2 billion target as demand for new share sales remains weak globally, the report added. If the listing is approved, its timing remains unclear and dependent on market conditions.
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