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Startup digest: BharatPe attempts a clean-up; CASHe acquires Sqrrl & The Big Tech Rout: $1.5 trillion gone in 3 days

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Startup digest: BharatPe attempts a clean-up; CASHe acquires Sqrrl & The Big Tech Rout: $1.5 trillion gone in 3 days

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Startup digest: BharatPe attempts a clean-up; CASHe acquires Sqrrl & The Big Tech Rout: $1.5 trillion gone in 3 days
Here are the top headlines from the startup space.
BharatPe appoints law firm to take back Ashneer Grover's shares in the company
Without naming Ashneer Grover, BharatPe, in a statement said the company had initiated action to claw back a former founder's restricted shares following a governance review.
The firm added it would take all steps to enforce its right under the law. The changes for a more robust governance framework, as per the statement, were being undertaken due to the planned initial public offering.
In January 2022, the BharatPe board initiated the corporate governance review of the company. The company had appointed Alvarez & Marsal, a global professional services firm notable for its work in turnaround management and performance improvement, and law firm Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co to help the board and management with its governance review. It also appointed PwC to determine wilful misconduct and gross negligence by a former founder.
"After a detailed review of the above report over the last two months, the board of BharatPe has recommended several decisive measures that are being implemented," the statement said.
These include a new code of conduct for senior management and employees, a new and comprehensive Vendor Procurement Policy, blocking of vendors involved in malpractices, and regular internal audits.
"BharatPe has also terminated the services of several employees in departments who were directly involved with these blocked vendors. If required, the company will be filing criminal cases against some of these employees for the misconduct and act of cheating committed by them against the company," it said.
Swiggy temporarily suspends Genie service in 3 major cities
Food and grocery delivery platform Swiggy has temporarily shut down its pickup and dropoff service in Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad.
The suspension comes amid demand surge and shortage of delivery executives.
In a statement to CNBC-TV8, a Swiggy spokesperson said, “Swiggy Genie is temporarily unavailable in 3 out of the 68 cities. The cricketing and festive season has resulted in a surge in demand for servicing the requirements for both the food marketplace and Instamart, requiring us to prioritise these deliveries accordingly. We hope to resume Swiggy Genie in the impacted cities soon.”
Centre warns Ola, Uber: Solve customers' complaints or face penal action
Cab aggregators Ola, Uber, Jugnoo and Meru are attending a meeting called by the consumer affairs ministry to explain details on operations, fare pricing algorithm and drivers’ payment structure, sources told CNBC-TV18.
After the discussions, inputs will be incorporated to formulate guidelines for online cab aggregators to protect consumers.
The guidelines will be in addition to the already existing protocols issued by central and state transport departments. The consumer affairs ministry is likely to lay down standard operating procedures (SOPs) on addressing consumer grievances with set timelines, the sources said.
The consumer affairs ministry called a meeting after taking cognisance of complaints against cab aggregators, primarily Ola and Uber. The meeting comes after complaints from commuters, including spike in cab fares and also of instances when drivers have refused to turn on the AC in the vehicle, citing the rising oil and gas rates.
“We are engaged with the Department of Consumer Affairs and deeply appreciate the feedback provided by them and will continue to provide our inputs. We strive to be the platform of choice for riders and drivers alike and continue to invest in technology and customer support to deliver an excellent experience for them. We are committed to continually raising the bar – for ourselves, our industry, and most importantly for the people who use our services,” said Nitish Bhushan, Head of Central Operations, Uber India and South Asia.
CASHe acquires Sqrrl, forays into wealthtech Space
CASHe, a credit-led wellness platform has forayed into the wealth management space with the acquisition of Sqrrl, a wealthtech platform, in an all-cash deal (Subject to regulatory approvals).
The strategic buy-out broadens CASHe’s millennial-focused credit-led product and services suite to now cover their investment and wealth management needs as well, the firm said. The acquisition further accelerates the company’s strategic vision of building a full-stack wellness platform.
Over 20 million users of CASHe can now access a digitally enabled, mobile-first, byte-sized investing platform that will help them kick-start their investment journey with as little as Rs. 100, the firm added.
The acquisition comes close on the heels of CASHe raising Rs. 140 crores in equity funding from its Singapore-based holding company TSLC. The deal will be primarily funded from its surplus capital.
Razorpay offers $75M ESOP buyback bonanza for 650 employees
Fintech unicorn Razorpay has announced its fourth and largest employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) sale for its 650 existing and former employees as part of a $75 million transaction.
The purchase will be led by Lightspeed Venture Partners along with participation from Moore Strategic Ventures who will subsequently join the company’s cap table.
Razorpay has facilitated the ESOP sale consecutively for the last three years. Last year, the sale was worth $10 million. To date, the company has awarded ESOPs to 1,940 existing and former employees across levels.
“This year, the company looks to benefit employees across roles – be it software engineers, product managers, customer experience agents, sales, and administrative staff. Current and former employees, as young as 22 who hold vested stocks of the company, will be eligible to sell up to 30 percent of their vested ESOP shares,” the company said.
Razorpay grew over 300 percent last year and plans to achieve $90 billion TPV (Total Payment Volume) by the end of 2022, the fintech’s CEO and co-founder Harshil Mathur said. “These ESOPs are a way to give back to our Razors and a small effort in making a difference in their lives.”
Zerodha founder warns that ESOPs of many firms issued in the last three years will be out of money
Zerodha founder Nithin Kamath has warned that employee stock ownership plans (ESOP) issued by many companies and startups over the last three years would be out of money.
Essentially, the value of the shares with the employees will be worth much less than the price at which they were vested. The value of the shares have been eroded by the recent market sell-off, particularly in tech stocks, which reminds Kamath of the dot com boom in the 1990s.
“This could affect the morale of many, which will make it even harder for those running the business. 3/7," Kamath tweeted as part of a seven-tweet thread.
This is similar to what the beleaguered co-founder of the Indian fintech company BharatPe, Ashneer Grover, had cited on Twitter just a day earlier.
"It’s all about perspective. If you were a Zomato employee and exercised your ESOP at ₹140 or higher price post IPO, you probably paid more cost per share as Income Tax than what you can buy it today from market freely. At ₹56 / share price, markets are giving everyone ESOPs ;)," Grover tweeted.
CoinDCX launches CoinDCX Ventures, Rs 100 Cr earmarked to nurture Web3 ecosystem
Crypto exchange CoinDCX has announced the launch of its investment arm — CoinDCX Ventures, which will invest in early-stage crypto and blockchain startups globally.
The exchange has earmarked Rs 100 crore for CoinDCX Venture to fund such early-stage startups and nurture Web3 ecosystem (blockchain-based internet technology).
CoinDCX Ventures has already made several investments in the space, which included a wallet solution, cross-chain bridge protocol, Web3 notification protocol, Web3 social engine as well as distributed storage and computing protocol, to name a few.
"We will have nearly 30-40 percent of our portfolio from India. Also, our ability to adds value to companies from India immediately ends up being way higher. But the mandate of CoinDCX is way higher," CoinDCX Senior Vice President and Head of Ventures and Investments Rohit Jain said.
Arya.ag records $1.1Bn AUM and $270M GTV run rate in FY22
Arya.ag, an integrated grain commerce platform said it has closed FY22 with a grain AUM of $1.1 billion bolstered by a rapid surge in commerce volume with a Gross Transaction Value (GTV) run rate of $270 million.
The platform said it saw large adoption of its structured trade solutions by varied entities spanning farmers, FPOs, millers and agri-corporations.
The embedded digital lending business on the platform reached Rs 100 crore ($13.3 million), of loan disbursement amount in the month of March 22 alone.
The platform saw a 2X rise, to close the year at $65.0 million in its digitally-led fully secured loan disbursements.
Apart from lending through its own balance sheet, the startup collaborated with over 25 Banks and FIs to help them disburse Rs 2000 crore ($265 million) of secured loans in the last fiscal, a growth of over 3X in the collaborated lending book. The company also concluded over 350,000 tonnes of agri-commodity commerce.
Nothing Phone 1 to launch in India soon, will be sold on Flipkart
Consumer tech company Nothing will launch its first smartphone, the Nothing Phone 1, in India soon, possibly alongside global markets.
The company has revealed that the Phone 1 will be sold on Flipkart, just like its debut product, the Ear 1 wireless earphones.
“From selling out ear (1) in under two minutes during our first Flipkart sale to breaking into the top three brands in the premium true wireless earbud segment in our debut quarter, we have demonstrated that India is excited for a new consumer tech brand to emerge from a stagnant industry,” said Manu Sharma, Vice President and General Manager, Nothing India.
Pricing, availability, and partner incentives will be announced closer to launch which is slated for later this summer. The Nothing Phone 1 will also be available in the UK exclusively through O2 and in Germany through Telekom Deutschland, the company announced.
BYJU’S launches two-years fellowship programme
Edtech giant BYJU’S has announced an ‘Education For All’ initiative with the launch of a special two-years Fellowship Programme for aspirants in the social development sector.
The fellowship is part of BYJU’S social impact initiative, ‘BYJU’S Education For All’, launched in 2020. The programme aims to empower 10 million students from remote and underserved districts of India, with access to quality digital education by 2025, a statement said.
According to the company, the first cohort of this fellowship programme contains 45 fellows shortlisted from across the country with social development experience backgrounds, who will be trained on synergies in India’s edtech and social development sectors.
The selected fellows will be responsible for managing BYJU’S social initiatives programmes in India’s aspirational districts in collaboration with the NITI Aayog, the company said.
GuardianLink launches NFTs on the Chelsea Football Club
Decentralised platform GuardianLink has announced the launch of its Chelsea Memorabilia NFTs collection on its Web3 marketplace.
The NFTs range from collectibles dated back to 1905 when the club was formed, to the recent club milestones in the modern era. Fans can own collectibles that include tickets, match programs, autographed postcards and photographs, and menus, among others.
The first Chelsea NFT drop will auction memorabilia NFTs including the match programme of the first match played at Stamford Bridge, the firm said.
Leher achieves 2M downloads, plans to cross 10M by 2022
Former audio-visual social platform Leher has made a shift towards social distribution and claims to have garnered 2 million downloads. The company said its daily average users (DAU) rose up to one lakh.
“Today there are 467 million Indians who are active social media users and spend 2 hours on an average on these platforms. The pivot was made keeping in mind the enormity of this opportunity where the youth of Bharat can use this time doing what they like (browsing social media) and earn money on the side! We hope to bring more dynamism to social live commerce via Leher in the coming months,” said Vikas Malpani, Founder, Leher.
The firm said it has clocked 125x growth in returning users and a 100x growth in Daily Average Users.
Crypto assets shed $800Bn in market value in a month
Crypto assets bled nearly $800 billion in market value over the past month, touching a low of $1.4 trillion on Tuesday, according to data site CoinMarketCap, as the end of easy monetary policy diminishes appetite for risk assets.
Bitcoin, which makes up for nearly 40 percent of the crypto market, hit a 10-month low earlier on Tuesday, before rebounding to $31,450, just six days after touching $40,000. It was more than 54 percent below its Nov. 10 all-time high of $69,000.
Total crypto market value was at $2.2 trillion on April 2, well off of its all-time peak of $2.9 trillion in early November, as per CoinMarketCap.
GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY & STARTUP NEWS
Tech giants lost more than $1 trillion in value in the last three trading days
The world’s largest technology companies have shed over $1 trillion in value in just three trading sessions.
Stocks at large have sold off since the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate on Wednesday, but technology has endured more pain than other sectors of the economy.
As per CNBC, Apple, the world’s most valuable public company, has shed $220 billion in value since the close of trading on Wednesday. Microsoft has lost around $189 billion in value. Tesla’s markdown registers at $199 billion, months after seeing its valuation fall below $1 trillion. Amazon’s market capitalization has declined by $173 billion. Alphabet, Google’s umbrella company, is worth $123 billion less than it was last week. Graphics card maker Nvidia’s loss stands at $85 billion and Facebook parent Meta Platforms has lost $70 billion in value.
Tiger Global hit by $17Bn in losses in tech rout: Report
New York-based Tiger Global has been hit by losses of around $17 billion during this year's technology stock selloff, marking one of the biggest dollar declines for a hedge fund in history, the Financial times reporte.
The firm, one of the world's biggest hedge funds, has erased around two-thirds of its gains in four months, the newspaper said, citing calculations by LCH Investments.
Market-leading technology and growth stocks have suffered this year as investors worry that rising interest rates will dent their future earnings.
Tinder owner Match sues Google in 'last resort' to avoid app-store booting
Dating apps maker Match Group has sued Google, calling the action a "last resort" to prevent Tinder and its other apps from being booted off the Play store for refusing to share up to 30 percent of their sales.
As per Reuters, Match's lawsuit follows ongoing cases brought by "Fortnite" maker Epic Games, dozens of US state attorneys general and others in targeting Google's allegedly anticompetitive conduct with the Play store.
Google said Match was attempting to dodge paying for the significant value it receives.
"Like any business, we charge for our services, and like any responsible platform, we protect users against fraud," Google said. It has said its payment tool helps deter scams.
Match's lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in California, accuses Google of violating federal and state antitrust laws and seeks to bar such behavior.
Meta mulls reducing money it gives news organizations: Report
Meta Platforms is considering reducing the money it gives news organizations as it reevaluates the partnerships it struck over the past few years, The Information reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
The social media giant has noticed that fewer people have been clicking on links to news articles since Donald Trump left office, the report added.
Meta last week said it was slowing the growth of its workforce after recording its slowest revenue growth in a decade and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said it would scale back costs.
Meta criticises German antitrust watchdog's 'flawed' data curb order
Meta Platforms has criticised a landmark German antitrust order to curb its data collection as 'clearly flawed' and which undermines EU data protection rules, as per Reuters.
Meta's criticism of the German antitrust watchdog came after the latter in 2019 said the world's largest social network had abused its market power by collecting users' data without their consent and ordered it to stop.
Meta challenged the decision at a German court which subsequently sought guidance from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).
The German antitrust order was "clearly flawed" with its "far reaching restriction on Facebook's data processing", Meta lawyer Hans-Georg Kamann told the panel of 15 judges.
He criticised the German watchdog for not cooperating with the Irish data protection regulator which supervises Facebook because its European headquarters is in Ireland.
Content moderator in Kenya sues Meta over working conditions
A former moderator working for Facebook owner Meta Platforms on Tuesday filed a lawsuit alleging that poor working conditions for contracted content moderators violate the Kenyan constitution.
According to a Reuters report, the petition, also filed against Meta's local outsourcing company Sama, alleges that workers moderating Facebook posts in Kenya have been subjected to unreasonable working conditions including irregular pay, inadequate mental health support, union-busting, and violations of their privacy and dignity.
The lawsuit, filed by one person on behalf of a group, seeks financial compensation, an order that outsourced moderators have the same health care and pay scale as Meta employees, that unionization rights be protected, and an independent human rights audit of the office.
A Meta spokesperson told Reuters: "We take our responsibility to the people who review content for Meta seriously and require our partners to provide industry-leading pay, benefits and support. We also encourage content reviewers to raise issues when they become aware of them and regularly conduct independent audits to ensure our partners are meeting the high standards we expect.”
Glass Lewis recommends votes "against" CEO pay at Twitter
Proxy adviser Glass Lewis has recommended investors cast advisory votes "against" executive pay at Twitter and backed a shareholder resolution calling for the social media platform to add a director with human rights or civil rights expertise, Reuters reported.
In a report sent by a representative Glass Lewis also said it lacks "substantive information" to analyze the pending purchase of Twitter by Elon Musk.
Tesla recalls 130,000 vehicles in US over touchscreen display malfunction
Tesla is recalling about 130,000 vehicles in the United States following an overheating issue that may cause the center touchscreen display to malfunction, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said.
The recall covers Tesla's S and X from the 2021 and 2022 model years and its 3 and Y from the 2022 model year. The electric vehicle maker will provide an over-the-air software update to resolve the issue, according to the NHTSA.
Tesla told NHTSA it was aware of 59 warranty claims and 59 field reports received since January that may be related to the issue but no reports of crashes or injuries related to the issue, according to Reuters.
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