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Startup Digest: Chalo makes second acquisition with Vogo, Shopee to shut down India operations, Apple cuts production of its new iPhone SE by 20%: Nikkei

Startup Digest: Chalo makes second acquisition with Vogo, Shopee to shut down India operations, Apple cuts production of its new iPhone SE by 20%: Nikkei

By Aishwarya Anand   IST (Updated)

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Here are the top headlines from the startup space.

Here are the top headlines from the startup space.
Chalo makes second acquisition with scooter rental startup Vogo
Mobility startup Chalo has acquired two-wheeler rental platform Vogo in a strategic move. The buyout will fuel its bus technology services by powering first and last-mile rides at major bus stops and other public places, Chalo said in a statement.
“This acquisition offers Chalo key strategic gains. Now we will be able to offer a convenient and cost-effective option for bus passengers to travel to and from bus stops, solving the door-to-door daily commute. This will increase bus ridership and serves our core purpose of making travel more convenient and reliable for all,” said Vinayak Bhavnani, Co-Founder and CTO, Chalo.
As a part of this acquisition, Vogo is switching to electric vehicles across its fleet. It will also expand beyond two-wheelers and offer other types of electric vehicles to suit market needs, the firm added. According to Vogo, it would continue to be known under the same brand name and maintain its own app after the acquisition.
Chalo had raised $40 million Series C funding round in October 2021, taking its total funding to $62 million. It had also acquired Shuttl shortly after.
Sea's e-commerce arm Shopee to shut down India operations
Shopee, the e-commerce arm of Southeast Asia's Sea, said is closing down its India operations "in view of global market uncertainties”, as per Reuters.
The Singapore-headquartered technology group launched in India in October 2021 as part of an international push that saw it expand into Europe.
The retrenchment comes weeks after Shopee announced it was pulling out of France and after India banned Sea's popular gaming app "Free Fire".
After the ban, the market value of the New York-listed Southeast Asian firm dropped by $16 billion in a single day, leading some investors to cut its holdings.
Shopee said in its statement it would work "to support local seller and buyer communities and our local team to make the process as smooth as possible"
EaseMyTrip partners with DBS Bank India to launch green debit card
Online travel platform EaseMyTrip has partnered with DBS Bank India to launch an environment-friendly international debit card made using 99% recycled polyvinyl chloride (PVC) material.
The digibank EaseMyTrip Green Debit Card will provide exclusive travel-related offers to customers and reward them for adopting eco-friendly practices while encouraging them to reduce their carbon footprint, a statement said.
This card allows withdrawal up to Rs 1,50,000 per day from any bank's ATM in India and overseas and allows purchases worth up to Rs 1,50,000 in India and up to Rs 1,00,000 across merchant outlets globally.
“Through this collaboration with digibank by DBS, we look forward to creating a positive impact on our industry and the environment and will look at further integrating sustainability-focused methods across our offerings,” said Nishant Pitti, CEO and Co-Founder, EaseMyTrip.
T-Hub awards Rs 15M to three startups through T-Fund initiative
Startup ecosystem builder T-Hub has disbursed Rs 15 million to three startups through T-Fund. The selected startups, Perspect.Ai received Rs 1 crore, Millet Bowl and Lauriko received Rs 25 lakhs each, the firm said in a statement.
The funds will be utilized by the startups for market entry, commercialization, and growth to ensure that they scale from their current stage. A substantial proportion of funds will be diverted towards marketing efforts, hiring good talent and expansion, the statement added.
The startups will focus on achieving their next milestone set based on their projections and T-Hub will extend all the support in terms of mentoring, access to potential clients, distribution networks and corporate connections to help the startups achieve the same.
The Telangana government has appointed T-Hub as the Investment Manager for this fund and allocated Rs 15 Crore in the budget of 2021-22 to initiate the T-Fund operations. T-Fund plans to fund 15-20 startups each year with an average ticket size of Rs 25 lakh to 1 crore to each startup, with an aim to support around 100 startups over the course of five years.
Snapdeal ties-up with Cashfree Payments to enable instant refunds for CoD orders
Value commerce platform Snapdeal has partnered with payments and API banking solutions company, Cashfree Payments, to enable instant processing of refunds against cash on delivery (CoD) orders.
With the integration of Cashfree Payments’ product ‘Cashgram’, Snapdeal will be able to process refunds with only the customer’s mobile number or email address, with credits automatically flowing to the customer’s UPI-linked bank account, or wallet, it said in a statement.
“Through our integration with Cashfree Payments, we offer our buyers the convenience to directly add the required details to their “Cashgram" and receive their refunds when and how they want, including on weekends and also outside banking hours,” said Sarvartha Kanchan, vice president-supply chain management and customer experience, Snapdeal.
A recent RedSeer report commissioned by Snapdeal has highlighted this rapid growth of online customers in India’s 2+ cities and towns, who are expected to triple in size from about 78 million in 2021 to nearly 256 million by 2026.
Vahdam India becomes first Indian Wellness Brand to be part of Oscars Goodie Bag
Bala Sarda’s Vahdam India has become the first Indian Teas & Superfoods brand to be a part of the coveted 2022 Oscars goodie bag.
The goodie bag will feature Vahdam’s sustainable drinkware, Rover Bottle, which is an everyday on-the-go functional drinkware that keeps beverages hot or cold for hours, the company said in a statement.
They will be delivered exclusively to the A-listers who are nominated in the Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Director categories. This year’s top acting and directing nominees include Will Smith, Andrew Garfield, Denzel Washington, Jessica Chastain, Olivia Colman, Kristen Stewart, J.K. Simmons, Jesse, Plemons, Ariana DeBose, Kirsten Dunst, Jane Campion and Steven Spielberg.
“We’re thrilled and humbled to have VAHDAM India as a part of the prestigious 2022 Oscar goodie bag.We have always strived to take the best of India to the world under a home-grown brand. It is a matter of honor to have gotten this spot in the bag with a host of exclusive brands from around the world.” says Bala Sarda, Founder & CEO, VAHDAM India.
Hero Vired and LaLiga introduce ‘eLaLiga Trophy’ in India
Edtech startup Hero Vired has announced the launch of eLaLiga challenge in India titled ‘eLaLiga Trophy powered by Hero Vired’.
Inaugurated by Spanish Legend, Luis Garcia at a grand event in Delhi, registrations for the eSports championship have been opened starting today. The tournament will be held between 9th and 26th April 2022, with the national finale hosted LIVE on 8th May 2022, the firm said in a statement.
As per the firm, the tournament is brought to India, for the first time, as an extension of the partnership between Hero Vired and LaLiga. Headquartered in Madrid, LaLiga is Spain’s top division football league and one of the world’s most popular professional sports leagues. As its Official Knowledge Partner, Hero Vired will help LaLiga connect with its premium audience base ensuring a wider reach through this high-impact association in India, it added.
“eSports is rapidly gaining popularity, and as per a report, India will have over 1.5 million active eSports players by FY25. We are delighted to contribute to this fast-growing ecosystem by bringing this challenge to India. From K-12 through higher education, eSports provides an inclusive environment where students can thrive and expand their talent. Our exclusive collaboration with the League and the eLaLiga Trophy provides Indians and Hero Vired learners with an incredible opportunity to access global experience and opens up pathways to new possibilities,” said Akshay Munjal, Founder and CEO, Hero Vired.
“This launch and partnership were always meant to be, football blends seamlessly with data science and finance markets, and gaming with developers. In addition, this is our first step to launch the one-of-a kind gaming program in India soon”, Munjal further added.
Indian tech startups bags $74Bn from PE/VC firms in 2021: Praxis Global Report
Indian tech startups have raised $74 billion worth of investments from private equity and venture capital firms across 1,123 in 2021, according to the India Investments Pulse report by Praxis Global Alliance.
Ecommerce, Consumer platforms, and IT services sectors were favourites among investors, recording 56 percent of total deal value in 2021, the report highlighted. 41 companies were added to the unicorn club in 2021, marking a record 3x increase over previous years.
As per the findings, the fastest-growing startup ecosystem in the world after the USA, VC/PE investments in India grew 80 percent by deal value in 2021.  Record fundraising happened through IPOs at around $18 billion (3x compared to 2020 figures). 33 percent increase in average deal size driven by large deals (165 $100M+ deals vs. 85 in 2020), the report claimed.
2021 was also the breakout year for Tech and internet investments with around $40 billion infused across 816 deals. Tech and internet investments accounted for 53 percent of total deal value in 2021.
Meanwhile, the report highlighted that e-commerce and consumer platforms were the top-funded sectors last year. The eCommerce segment saw record level of investments of $16 billion (4x 2020, five $ 500M+ deals), meanwhile consumer platforms witnessed $13 billion (3x 2020, four US$ 500M+ deals).
As per the report, significant growth in new investors in India underlines belief in India growth story. 158 new domestic and international investors in India in 2021 (95 percent increase vs. 2020), the report added.
“2021 has been a record year for tech and internet investments with US$ 40 billion deal value. While this sector has grown rapidly, other sectors like IT services, healthcare, and manufacturing are doing well too,” said Madhur Singhal, Managing Partner and CEO of Praxis Global Alliance.
“Investors will remain bullish over the India opportunity in 2022 as Indian tech startups will continue to attract capital from both private and public markets. We also believe that SaaS, Consumer, B2B tech, and Healthcare to become darling of investors this and the next few years driving the growth of the overall ecosystem,” Singhal added.
Glamyo Health clocks 25% M-O-M growth in user base
Glamyo Health, an asset light healthcare startup has announced reaching a mark of 300 surgical centers pan India. The brand said it has been recording 25% month-on-month growth in the user base.
The top services on the portfolio gaining maximum traction includes Proctology and Circumcision. Glamyo Health has been operating across 10+ surgical categories providing over 50 individual treatments, it added.
“We are on an aggressive expansion spree in tier 2 cities across the country. In a very short span of time, we have penetrated in 10 states, and now we are driven to take this number up to 30+ cities and 45 states in the new financial year,” said Archit Garg, Co-founder, Glamyo Health.
5 startups compete for funding at the 11th Edition of YT Tie The Knot
Building on its mission of facilitating growth and scale to budding startups, TiE Delhi-NCR, recently hosted the 11th edition of its anticipated initiative – Young Turks TiE The Knot at the 2 Day online conclave, Unstoppable India : TiEcon Delhi 2022.
Startups that made it to the finals included Habbit Health, Clear Dekho Eyewear, Pension Box among others.
Post an intensive jury round, startups that competed for funding this year included Mindpeers, Keto India, PMaps, beyDest, YelloSkye. All of them have received funding commitments from investors.
“At TiE Delhi-NCR we are committed to highlighting and encouraging innovative ventures, driving large-scale disruptions across sectors,” said Geetika Dayal, Executive Director, TiE Delhi NCR.
Former Aramex COO joins Shipsy's advisory board
SaaS-based smart logistics management platform provider Shipsy has onboarded Iyad Kamal, former Aramex COO, to the advisory team.
The development comes after Shipsy raised Series B funding of $25 million. The company said accelerating geographic expansion and driving rapid technology innovation are Shipsy's two key focus areas now.
Kamal will play a crucial role in enabling Shipsy to continue its growth in the Middle East and Southeast Asian markets and accelerate expansion in Europe and the US, the company said in a statement. He will also advise the company to drive rapid logistics innovation by further strengthening its AI, ML and Blockchain capabilities. Helping businesses across the globe to build sustainable logistics operations is another area Kamal will be advising on, the firm added.
Kamal has over 29 years of leadership experience with Aramex, a global provider of transportation, logistics, e-commerce, data and analytics, and sustainability solutions. He was instrumental in driving the company's global expansion and double-digit growth during a multi-year period of significant technological change and market disruptions.
"We see growing demand for Shipsy's game-changing logistics management products and services across multiple geographies. Therefore, having advisors with in-depth industry knowledge is critical to our growth. We are fortunate to have Iyad Kamal, an industry leader, on our Advisory Board," stated Soham Chokshi, Shipsy's Co-Founder & CEO, Shipsy.
83% of Indians believe asking females their marriage plans during hiring inappropriate: Betterhalf.ai Survey
A majority of Indian corporations and recruiters ask feminine candidates about their marital standing. Questions like “Are you married?” or “When are you planning to get married?” are posed earlier than feminine candidates however not often earlier than male candidates.
Many corporations defend that since society mandates a lady to depart their properties and never males, corporations wish to insulate themselves towards the shift.
As per a survey by Betterhalf.ai, 83 percent of the respondents consider that recruiters asking feminine candidates questions on their marital standing is inappropriate.
The findings disclosed that 89 percent of the respondents consider that each women and men ought to be financially unbiased earlier than getting married. However, 6 percent may agree that males ought to be the only bread earner. Moreover, 5 percent of the respondents believed that ladies will be breadwinners.
Bollywood singer Kumar Sanu partners with soon-to-be launched NFT marketplace, Flamingo
Bollywood singer Kumar Sanu has partnered with soon-to-be launched NFT marketplace FlamingoNFT to launch his NFT collection.
The popular melody king’s NFT series will include exclusive video and audio of his unreleased songs, clips from his first audition, a narration in his own voice about his struggles and wins as an artist, autographed digital memorabilia and collectibles, behind the scenes of some of his most popular songs, a walkthrough of his house, and much more, a statement said.
Commenting on the curation of his NFT collection, Kumar Sanu said, “NFTs have opened up a new way to engage with my fanbase and introduce them to some of the most defining moments of my personal and professional life. As an artist, I have always been keen to find newer ways and new mediums to express my music and connect with my fans. I am thrilled to take this journey forward through NFTs and digital art.”
Five percent of proceeds from the sale of Kumar Sanu’s NFT collection will be donated to an NGO, the statement added.
Postman invests Rs 2 Cr for API lab at BITS Pilani
SaaS startup Postman announced its plans to invest Rs 2 crore to open an application programming interface (API) Lab at the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani (BITS Pilani) to promote API literacy amongst students and aspiring developers.
Set to open in December 2022, the API Lab at BITS Pilani will cultivate interest in APIs and provide a space for students to build new skills through ideating, innovating, and tinkering with new projects, the company said in a statememt.
As part of Postman’s Student Program initiative, which is designed to promote API literacy amongst students and educators, the new API Lab at BITS Pilani will provide a space for students to explore this emerging technology. Through this, students can build new skills and capabilities that give them a competitive boost before they even graduate and seek full-time employment.
Postman’s ongoing partnership with BITS Pilani also includes a classroom programme designed to train and support educators incorporating APIs into their curriculum.
In August last year, Postman raised $225 million in a funding round led by existing investor Insight Partners along with participation of new backers such as Coatue, storied Silicon Valley investor Mary Meeker’s Bond Capital and Battery Ventures.
GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY & STARTUP NEWS
Deal on rules forcing tech giants to police content possible in April, EU's Vestager tells Reuters
A deal between EU countries and EU lawmakers that would require tech giants to do more to police content on their platforms could be agreed next month, EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said.
Vestager proposed the Digital Services Act, (DSA) which forces tech giants to do more to tackle illegal content or risk fines up to 6% of their global turnover, just over a year ago.
EU countries and EU lawmakers are now thrashing out the details, with debate over the definition of an online marketplace subject to the rules and the criteria for banning targeted advertisements.
"There is a very strong momentum to get things done. And the leadership of the French presidency may allow us to finalise the Digital Services Act before the end of April. But if we work hard, and we're lucky, it may be possible," Vestager told Reuters in an interview.
Vestager last week secured the green light from EU countries and EU lawmakers for her other landmark proposal, called the Digital Markets Act (DMA), targeting Google, Amazon, Apple, Meta and Microsoft.
Apple to cut iPhone, AirPods output: Nikkei Report
Apple is planning to lower iPhone and AirPod production due to a demand slowdown caused by the Ukraine crisis and rising inflation, the Nikkei newspaper reported.
The company plans to produce 20% fewer iPhone SEs - or about 2 million to 3 million units - next quarter than originally planned, the report said. It added that Apple has also reduced 2022 orders for AirPods by more than 10 million units.
The news of weaker demand mirrors forecasts from analysts who have warned that COVID-19 lockdowns in Chinese cities and a surge in inflation due to the Ukraine conflict could hurt smartphone demand this year.
Apple is expected to launch a brand new iPhone lineup later this year, but analysts say it was too early to forecast any impact on the upcoming range.
HP seeks to ride hybrid work boom with $1.7Bn Poly buyout
HP said it would buy audio and video devices maker Poly for $1.7 billion in cash as it looks to capitalise on the hybrid work led boom in demand for electronic products, Reuters reported.
The company has offered $40 for each share of Poly, formerly known as Plantronics, which represents a premium of about 53% to the stock's last closing price. Including debt, the deal is valued at $3.3 billion.
"The rise of the hybrid office creates a once-in-a-generation opportunity to redefine the way work gets done," HP Chief Executive Officer Enrique Lores said.
The transaction is expected to close by the end of 2022.
With the global healthcare crisis boosting the need for hybrid work, the market has seen several acquisitions, including business software maker Salesforce.com's $27.7-billion purchase of workplace messaging app Slack Technologies last year.
Israeli startup to test brain-activity gear on space mission to ISS
Israel's Brain.Space, a four-year-old startup that studies data on brain activity, is set to put its gear to test on astronauts in space next week during a SpaceX shuttle flight to the International Space Station (ISS).
Three astronauts on the planned private space-flight firm Axiom Space's mission to the ISS will use a special electroencephalogram (EEG)-enabled helmet made by Brain.Space, the company said.
The 10-day mission, the first-ever private trip to the space station,will set off on April 3 with four astronauts.
"We actually know that the microgravity environment impacts the physiological indicators in the body. So, it will probably impact the brain and we would like to monitor that," Brain.Space Chief Executive Yair Levy told Reuters.
Data has continuously been collected on heart rate, skin resistance, muscle mass and others in space but not yet on brain activity, he said.
Brain.Space joins 30 experiments that will take part in the so-called Rakia Mission to the ISS.
Three of the four astronauts -- including Israeli Eytan Stibbe -- will wear the helmet, which has 460 airbrushes that connect to the scalp, and perform a number of tasks for 20 minutes a day, during which data will be uploaded to a laptop on the space station. The tasks include a "visual oddball" one that the company says has been effective in detecting abnormal brain dynamics.
Brain.Space, which also said it raised $8.5 million in a seed funding round, bills itself as a brain infrastructure company and is working with the cognitive and brain sciences department at Israel's Ben Gurion University to transform terabytes of data into usable insights.
Tesla to seek shareholder approval for stock split
Tesla will seek investor approval to increase its number of shares to enable a stock split in the form of a dividend, the electric-car maker said, sending its shares up about 5%.
As per Reuters, the proposal has been approved by its board and the shareholders will vote on it at the annual meeting. The stock split, if approved, would be the latest after a five-for-one split in August 2020 that made Tesla shares cheaper for its employees and investors.
Following a pandemic-induced rally in the technology shares, Alphabet, Amazon and Apple too have in the recent past split their shares to make them more affordable.
Tesla has delivered nearly a million electric cars annually, while ramping up production by setting up new factories in the Austin and Berlin amid increasing competition from legacy automakers and startup companies.
Meanwhile, Tesla on Monday notified its suppliers and workers that its Shanghai factory in China will be closed for four days as the financial hub said it would lock down in two stages to carry out mass COVID-19 testing.
Apple TV+ makes history as first streamer to win best picture Oscar
Apple TV+ made history on Sunday as the first streaming service to win a best picture Oscar for "CODA,” a heartwarming drama about the daughter of deaf parents who pursues her passion for music.
The streaming service purchased "CODA" for a record $25 million following its debut in 2021 at the Sundance Film Festival, and it has gathered momentum throughout the awards season, winning top honours from the Producers Guild, Screen Actors Guild and Writers Guild awards.
"CODA" faced intense competition from Netflix's critically acclaimed western, "The Power of the Dog," which collected a dozen nominations. The film's director, Jane Campion, received an Academy Award.
The best picture Oscar also marks a milestone for Apple TV+, which launched in November 2019 with a handful of original series and no library of movies and TV shows.
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