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STARTUP DIGEST: Byju’s in talks to go for US SPAC listing, EaseMyTrip acquires YoloBus, Gupshup launches WhatsApp-based commerce & Reddit files for US IPO

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STARTUP DIGEST: Byju’s in talks to go for US SPAC listing, EaseMyTrip acquires YoloBus, Gupshup launches WhatsApp-based commerce & Reddit files for US IPO
Here are the top headlines from the startup space.
Byju's gets offer for US SPAC listing for $48 bn valuation
Edtech major Byju's has received an offer for a SPAC listing in the United States that could value the company at $48 billion, sources told CNBC-TV18. SPAC refers to a special purpose acquisition company that raises capital from an IPO only to acquire private companies to take them public.
Byju's has received a term sheet from Churchill Capital, an SPAC set up by former Citi executive Michael Klein, sources said. Byju's will raise between $4 -$5 billion through the SPAC. Bloomberg first reported the development.
The company has not finalized on the offer from Churchill Capital yet, and is also currently in talks with two other SPAC entities for a listing in the US. The edtech company wants to list in 2022 and is looking to complete the listing process in the 8-12 months.
Sources also added that Byju's could also consider an India listing.
Byju's current valuation has touched $22 billion, sources said, with the company recently closing a private round of $400 million from new investors. At $48 billion valuation, Byju's will be valued at a multiple of over 30 times on the projected FY22 revenues -- the company is expecting to clock revenues of $1.5 billion in the current fiscal.
EaseMyTrip acquires YoloBus to expand non-air business
Online travel platform EaseMyTrip on Thursday said it is acquiring YoloBus, a next-generation premium intercity mobility platform, for an undisclosed amount to expand its non-air business.
The acquisition includes the brand name of YoloBus, its technology, team, running business and data expertise, the company said in a statement.
EaseMyTrip will leverage YoloBus' full-stack technology-enabled platform to offer an enhanced and superior bus travel experience with safe, clean, comfortable and connected buses for seamless intercity travel, it added.
"Tech-enabled bus mobility is the future, and we are expecting to witness a phenomenal growth in the coming period,” EaseMyTrip co-founder Rikant Pittie said.
Plum partners with Razorpay Rize to offer group health insurance to startups
Employee health insurance startup Plum has partnered with Razorpay Rize to offer exclusive group health benefits to early-stage startups.
Plum aims to cover over one lakh new businesses and entrepreneurs, it said in a statement.
Razorpay Rize is Razorpay’s launchpad for first-time entrepreneurs to offer exclusive group health benefits to startup founders. This is Plum’s second partnership with Razorpay after Razorpay X Payroll.
Through this association, Plum aims to take an industry-first approach of helping startups with under 10 employees get insured and provide them with best-in-class health benefits, it added.
“Plum endeavours to insure 10 million lives by 2024 and emerge as the preferred employee health insurance provider among startups and founders,” said Abhishek Poddar, co-founder and CEO, Plum.
Zoomcar launches vehicle host programme
Carsharing platform Zoomcar has launched its vehicle host programme which will allow individual vehicle owners to share their personal car with the Zoomcar platform.
With over 5,000 cars already on the platform across eight cities, the company expects to grow to over 50,000 cars and 100 cities within the next 12 months, it said in a statement.
As per the firm, India currently possesses one of the lowest private car utilisation rates in the world. Through its host programme, Zoomcar seeks to transform this idle vehicle capacity to create better utilisation. Consequently, the company expects this programme at scale to dramatically reduce on-road congestion and urban air pollution.
Currently, Zoomcar offers individual vehicle owners a joining bonus of Rs 10,000 along with additional incentives tied to high-quality host ratings on the platform. Zoomcar also offers enhanced incentives for the host’s initial time on the marketplace.
Gupshup launches WhatsApp-based commerce solution for businesses
Conversational messaging startup Gupshup has kickstarted a WhatsApp-based commerce solution that can enable any business to create a digital "storefront" on WhatsApp.
The firm is aiming to create WhatsApp-based storefronts for thousands of businesses in 2022, it said in a statement.
With this solution, businesses can enable conversational journeys across every stage of the buying process: pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase, explained the company. The solution is based on WhatsApp's recently launched commerce capability.
The "full-featured" commerce solution also leverages Gupshup's recently launched 1-Click Bill Pay feature, which enables businesses to collect payments via WhatsApp and other messaging apps. The catalogue also enables businesses to showcase their offering through structured experience with images and organised product details.
Customers can also add preferred items to their carts on WhatsApp and interact with the businesses in real-time, and make payments through Gupshup's 1-Click-Bill Pay link, all without leaving the chat window.
CAIT writes to FM against Shopee, alleges violations: Report
The Confederation of All India Trade (CAIT) has written to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, alleging unauthorised entry of e-commerce firm Shopee in India by violating the foreign direct investment (FDI) policy, 2020, Moneycontrol reported.
The trade body said that Shopee is a China-invested company and it is mandatory for it to seek approval from the government. It claimed that the conduct of operations by the Southeast Asian e-commerce firm was in breach of government guidelines.
CAIT alleged that Shopee is now in India by using a mix of holding companies outside mainland China, and thereafter, rebranded them to maintain and/or re-establish a presence, the report added.
We Hub selects 26 women-led urban tech startups for its third Cohort
We Hub, an incubator for women entrepreneurs, has announced the launch of the third edition of its flagship incubation programme by selecting 26 women-led urban tech startups across the country for its cohort.
The selected startups offer innovative solutions for key industries like SaaS, Healthtech, ConsumerTech, DeepTech, EdTech, FMCG and the sustainable sector, We Hub said in a statement.
The startups will receive mentorship from industry experts on business growth metrics, such as revenue building, customer acquisition, sustainability, market expansion and product development roadmap, access to funds, cross border market connects and access to government.
This nine-month programme is designed with a targeted approach to provide entrepreneurs with a need-based intervention model to help them scale up.
PhonePe tokenises cards on Visa, Mastercard and Rupay
PhonePe has become the first payments platform to tokenise cards on all three major payment networks -- Visa, Mastercard and Rupay.
PhonePe's tokenisation solution, 'PhonePe Safecard', will help businesses save significant time and effort by removing the need to integrate with multiple card networks while complying with RBI guidelines, the company said in a statement.
The payments and financial services startup had earlier launched the tokenisation solution for online debit and credit card transactions. This solution enables businesses to offer tokenisation on their own platforms via a simple API integration and a minimum turnaround time. With this solution, businesses can create, process, delete and modify tokens for online card payments with customers’ consent, the firm added.
As per RBI’s guidelines that are aimed at making card payments more secure, PAs and merchants shall not store card credentials of customers in their database starting January 1, 2022.
ACT Grants launches the India Clean Air Challenge
In a bid to fight air pollution, ACT Grants has launched the India Clean Air Challenge (ICAC) in collaboration with the government and the startup community.
Early stage incubation for this challenge will be led by Social Alpha. Designed with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), state governments and Air Pollution Action Group (A-PAG), the mission of the challenge is to create pathways for wider adoption of clean air technologies, de-risking technology adoption for government and industry as well as creating a highly supportive global ecosystem to scale solutions, ACT Grants said.
Qualifying clean air startups will be eligible for over $1 million in total funding, implementation with government, corporate and investor showcases, and access to a renowned network of global partners, it added.
The sectors of interest include mobility and transport, green building and energy efficiency, waste management, agriculture and biomass burning, industrial decarbonisation, and pollution monitoring and management.
According to a recent IQAir report, India alone is home to 22 of the 30 most polluted cities in the world. Close to 1.7 million Indians died due to air pollution in 2019.
1.5 mn women lost their jobs after lockdowns last year: SOIL Report
Out of the 6.3 million jobs lost last year, women accounted for 1.5 million (23%), according to State of India’s Livelihoods (SOIL) Report 2021.
It observed that although India’s unemployment rate declined to 8.3 percent as of September 2021 compared to 10.3 percent in the same period last year, the unemployment rate was highest among the youth.
At 32 percent as of August 2021 and if observed from different age segments of 15–19, 20–24 and 25–29 years, the unemployment rate stood at 67.21 percent, 45.28 percent and 13.24 percent respectively. The report also highlighted that woman workers in the informal sector were far worse off as 71 percent of rural women lost their jobs after the lockdown, compared to 59 percent of men.
In terms of the Labour Force participation rate (LFPR), the report stated that there is a big divide between men and women.
As of August 2021, almost one-third of men and 9 out of 10 women in India are not participating in the workforce. The divide was far larger in urban areas, with 67 percent of men and 9.4 percent of women participating in the workforce compared to 68 percent of men and 10.6 percent of women in rural areas.
GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY & STARTUP NEWS
Social media platform Reddit files for US IPO
Social media platform Reddit has confidentially filed for a proposed initial public offering (IPO) with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
Reddit, known for its message boards that became the go-to destination for day traders during this year's meme stock frenzy, was looking at a valuation of more than $15 billion, Reuters had reported in September.
The company was valued at $10 billion in a private fundraising round earlier this year. The San Francisco-based company reported $100 million in advertising revenue in the second quarter, an almost threefold jump from the same period last year.
Reddit did not disclose the number of shares to be offered or the price range of the IPO in the draft registration statement with the US SEC.
SenseTime plans Hong Kong IPO relaunch Monday, sources tell Reuters
Chinese artificial intelligence startup SenseTime Group plans to keep its Hong Kong initial public offering (IPO) at $767 million as it considers re-launching the withdrawn deal as early as Monday, sources told Reuters.
A spokesperson for SenseTime, which withdrew its Hong Kong IPO on Monday after the administration of US President Joe Biden put the company on a blacklist.
The US Treasury added SenseTime to a list of "Chinese military-industrial complex companies," last week accusing it of having developed a facial recognition programme to determine a target's ethnicity, with a focus on identifying ethnic Uyghurs.
SenseTime and its advisers were working on Thursday to finalise the cornerstone investor stake in the new IPO, one of the sources said.
It was likely the cornerstone stake would be about $450 million, in line with the first IPO attempt, but the composition of investors could change, they added.
SenseTime is expected to price the deal by the end of next week and list on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange before December 31.
Facebook to win conditional EU nod for Kustomer buy, sources tell Reuters
Facebook is set to gain EU antitrust approval for its acquisition of Kustomer after offering remedies that allow rival products to function with those of the US customer service startup, sources told Reuters.
A buying spree of startups by big companies has triggered concerns on both sides of the Atlantic, with regulators worried about so-called killer acquisitions aimed at shutting down potential rivals before they are big enough to be a threat.
The world's largest social network announced the deal in November 2020, which would give it another tool to attract more sellers to its platforms.
Kustomer, which sells CRM software to businesses so they can communicate with consumers by phone, email, text messages, WhatsApp, Instagram and other channels, would help Facebook scale up its instant messaging app WhatsApp, which has seen usage soar during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Russia fines Twitter 10 mn rubles for not deleting banned content, says court
Russia is fining Twitter 10 million rubles ($1,36,173) for failing to delete content the government deems illegal, a Moscow court said.
As per Reuters, Russia has slowed down the speed of Twitter since March as a punitive measure for posts containing child pornography, drug abuse information or calls for minors to commit suicide, communications regulator Roskomnadzor has said.
Twitter denies allowing its platform to be used to promote illegal behaviour.
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