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Startup Digest: Eupheus Learning acquires SchoolMitra, Slice completes ESOP buyback worth Rs 65 crore, Microsoft to reopen US offices from February 28

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Startup Digest: Eupheus Learning acquires SchoolMitra, Slice completes ESOP buyback worth Rs 65 crore, Microsoft to reopen US offices from February 28
Eupheus Learning acquires SaaS platform SchoolMitra
Edtech platform Eupheus Learning has acquired SaaS-based startup SchoolMitra for an undisclosed amount. This acquisition will make SchoolMitra's 21st-century school OS accessible to 20,000+ schools of Eupheus Learning, simplifying the lives of all the stakeholders, including parents, teachers, students and the school administration, the company said in a statement.
"We initially partnered with SchoolMitra with a shared vision to enable as many schools as possible with 21st century OS. During our collaboration, we have received an overwhelming response from over 500 schools, which made us cement our relationship with this acquisition. Furthering to our mission, the acquisition will be instrumental in transforming schools into 21st Century Schools,” said Amit Kapoor, Co-Founder & Director of Eupheus Learning.
SustainKart acquires homecare brand FromVedas
E-commerce marketplace SustainKart has acquired homecare brand, FromVedas for an undisclosed sum. This is SustainKart’s first acquisition after it raised $500,000 pre-seed round from India Accelerator and aims to buy seed-stage digital consumer first brands and help them scale up their business.
SustainKart said it will invest in marketing support and strategic celebrity partnerships to promote these brands across the board. The e-commerce aggregator claims to have registered one lakh orders in January 2022.
Slice completes first ESOP buyback worth Rs 65 crore
Fintech startup Slice has completed its maiden employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) buyback worth Rs 65 crore. Around 60 of both former and existing employees are eligible for the buyback, the startup said. It added that an average of Rs 1.2 crore has been paid out to eligible existing and former employees in this initiative.
Slice founder and CEO Rajan Bajaj said, "Our team's relentless passion and hard work has been instrumental in our rapid growth. This buyback plan is our little way of saying 'thank you' to our teams who have not only contributed to Slice but also to the larger financial ecosystem."
The startup currently provides a Visa card focused on millennials which allow customers to pay for their purchases in three installments. Slice's card issuance spiked from 20,000 in January 2021 to 200,000 per month currently led by the growing appetite for credit in India.
Raise Financial Services launches Investing & Trading API Stack - DhanHQ
Raise Financial Services, a fintech startup has launched its investing and trading application programming interface (API) platform, DhanHQ. With DhanHQ API, users will be able to deploy their trading strategies, build their own innovative trading platform and align their specific requirements, trade logic and execute trades through Dhan, the company said.
"With DhanHQ, we are extending the lightning-fast experience we provide to Dhan’s users to our partners via APIs. We are very excited with the opportunity as it is a step in the direction of helping trading platforms integrate with Dhan and for fintech platforms and banks to offer investing & trading in Stock Markets to their users in just a few days," said Pravin Jadhav, founder, and CEO of Dhan.
Raise Financial Services recently announced its Series A investment of $22 million by Mirae Asset Global Investments, BEENEXT, 3one4 Capital and Rocketship VC.
Zerodha FY21 profit jumps to Rs 1,122 crore, revenue at Rs 2,729 crore: Report
Stockbroking platform Zerodha has posted a profit of Rs 1,122 crore, a jump of over 164 percent from Rs 424 crore in FY20, according to a report by Entrackr.
Revenues too spiked by 190 percent to Rs 2,729 crore in FY21 from Rs 938.45 crore a year ago.
Zerodha’s active clients grew from 14.14 lakh in FY20 to around 34 lakh in FY21. About 82.5 percent of the company’s operating revenue comes from brokerage fees and the sale of tech products and this vertical saw a rise of over three times from Rs 718 crore in FY20 to Rs 2,252.5 crore in FY21, the report said. However, the company also saw a year-on-year rise in expenses by 2.4 times, which grew from Rs 517.7 crore in FY20 to Rs 1,260.2 crore in FY21.
Clever Harvey in partnership with Cult.Fit launches tech course for teenagers
Clever Harvey, a career exploration and acceleration startup has partnered with fitness company Cult.Fit to launch an industry-certified course for high school students (Classes VIII to XII).
The course, ‘JuniorMBA Technology’, will be a 15-day program aimed to give students practical exposure on how tech teams at startups work as they learn to solve an industry project provided by Cult.Fit, the company said in a statement.
"The technology program will give students real-world exposure to how tech products are developed in a business. We are excited to see the ideas for Cult.Fit that emerge from the live projects,” said Shamik Sharma, Head of Digital Initiatives, Cult.Fit.
CollegeDekho launches its latest initiative Learn
Edtech platform CollegeDekho has launched Learn, an online learning platform offering a series of live, interactive courses across multiple streams.
Students can choose from a range of preparatory courses --- such as computer programming, business, finance, and digital marketing to help students prepare for their future course of studies, and placements, based on their requirements, interest, and time.
With the increasing digitalization of education, India’s e-learning market, the second largest after the US, is expected to boom. CollegeDekho said its entry into India’s $2 billion e-learning market is aimed at helping 27.5 million undergraduates and four million postgraduate students with its specially designed courses.
CareerLabs along with SkillAssure to help 10,000 graduate engineers land high-paying jobs
Edtech startup CareerLabs and SkillAssure, a division of Pratian Learning and Consulting, will jointly facilitate over 10,000 engineering graduates and students with the opportunity to land a high-paying tech job at Fortune 500 companies, multinational IT firms, and fast-growing startups.
The partnership programme, over the next three months, will fulfil the hiring requirements of over 1,200 positions at Zensar, Eurofins, Valgenesis, Bristlecone, InfoVision, Tech Mahindra, 1Pharmacy, Ernst and Young, ATMECS, Tata ELXSI, Virtusa among other renowned industry players, the company said in a statement.
Candidates will undergo 160 to 300 hours of skill-based training before appearing for final interviews, following which they can be immediately deployed into various projects with minimal hand-holding. The salary of a trainee hired through this programme will range from Rs 4-9 lakh per annum, it added.
Automovill launches Vehicle Accidental Claims App
Full-stack mobility start-up Automovill has launched an Accidental Claims app for all Insurance agents/brokers across India. The application will help the startup build an interface with over 100,000 agents across 20,000 pin codes in India, the company said. The app will function as a complete motor insurance platform serving end-to-end connecting agents, car owners, and the brand to facilitate any motor claim, simultaneously providing transparency in terms of claims, offerings, cost, and services, it added.
"The idea behind launching this app is to reduce the claim cost by bringing in more efficiency to the system for all the stakeholders (Insurance companies & Customers). As of date, Automovill is the leader in handling Motor claims across India, providing not less than a 40% cost reduction compared to Authorized service providers,” said Mridu Mahendra Das, Co-Founder and CEO of Automovill.
Currently in phase -1 Automovill aims at onboarding at least 20,000 agents across the country, and service about 1 lakh claims in the ongoing calendar year through this app.
Addverb Technologies announces expansion plans in US
Automation and robotics manufacturing startup, Addverb Technologies, has announced its expansion in the US market. With a 100% subsidiary office in the US, the company's entry will be led by Mark Messina, who has joined as the CEO of Addverb Technologies, USA. Messina will be assisted by Luke Lee, who has joined as the head of marketing.
With a corporate office in Texas, Addverb plans to set up an experience center in San Diego. It will give the customers an immersive brand experience and help them develop automation use cases for their businesses, it said in a statement. Addverb is already present in Australia, Singapore, and European markets.
"Expansion in the US is a significant step for Addverb Technologies. We have been looking forward to this moment for some time. So far, we have witnessed a strong appetite for robotic solutions in every international market we have ventured into. We expect a similar response from the United States that caters to the world's largest consumer market.
We aim to fully exploit the potential across the US markets, providing an end-to-end product portfolio powered by AI, machine learning, deep learning, computer vision and IoT, which will streamline warehousing and factory operations," said Sangeet Kumar, CEO, Addverb Technologies.
The development comes after Reliance Retail invested $132 million in the company, acquiring a 54% stake. The company is also planning to set up a new manufacturing facility in FY 2022-23 which would have the capacity to produce 50,000 robots in a year.
Ather Energy to be 'principle partner' of IPL cricket franchise Gujarat Titans
Electric two-wheeler maker Ather Energy has signed a multi-year deal with the newly formed IPL franchise Gujarat Titans to be its principal partner. The partnership starting from this season of 2022 will see the Ather Energy brand on the front of the Gujarat Titans' official team jerseys, the company said in a statement without disclosing the tenure of the deal.
Commenting on the partnership, Ather Energy Chief Business Officer Ravneet Singh Phokela said, "The scale and reach of IPL provides a great platform for us to rapidly drive awareness and familiarity for the brand across the country, as we expand our geographic footprint."
The Hero MotoCorp-backed electric startup two-wheeler maker plans to increase its annual production capacity to 10 lakh scooters from four lakhs by the end of 2022 and install 5,000 fast chargers across India, develop new products and increase its network to 600 stores over the next three years.
Chingari launches its In-App Wallet, aims to bring 35 million active users to Solana
Chingari, a decentralised short video platform, is launching a mobile app, integrating the native $GARI token issued on the Solana blockchain.
The app launch comes after the Chingari community's successful test net launch last month. According to the company, the short video-making software will introduce an in-app wallet using $GARI as the primary token in the ecosystem.
As the primary Chingari ecosystem token, $GARI will enable users to 'tip' and 'boost' their favourite content creators' profiles and content on the Chingari app. Users may also use their in-app wallets to deposit and withdraw $GARI, as well as trade the token on some of the world's top cryptocurrency exchanges, it said in a statement.
Mosaic Wellness onboards Abhinav Mohan as chief business officer
Health and wellness startup Mosaic Wellness has appointed Abhinav Mohan as a chief business officer. In his new role, Mohan will head all categories and brand marketing while working closely with Revant Bhate, co-founder and CEO, the company said in a statement.
In his previous stint as VP and GM of monetisation at Glance (part of InMobi Group), Mohan was helping brands connect with their audience and have personalised conversations with them through AI-enabled digital platforms.
"Given his rich experience in scaling consumer first propositions with InMobi and Glance, we are looking forward to leveraging his leadership skills in navigating the next phase in our growth journey across categories and propositions,” said Bhate.
IT industry revenue to cross $200 billion in FY2022: NASSCOM
The Indian IT industry is expected to clock revenue of $227 billion in FY2022 against $196 billion last year, the NASSCOM Strategic Review report revealed.
The industry, which has a total workforce of around 5 million, is likely to register a 15.5 percent growth, the highest since 2011, the industry body said.
NASSCOM's president Debjani Ghosh said that it was a watershed year for the tech industry, which grew on the back of its persistent focus on customer-centricity. “The industry has added $100 billion in ten years; the first $100 billion took 30 years,” Ghosh said.
A total of 4.5 lakh new hires were added in FY22 so far, the highest ever in a single year, which takes the overall direct employees to 50 lakh people. Of the total, 44 percent of the new hires were women and their overall share is now 18 lakh in the industry. Export revenues grew at the pace of 17.2 percent to $178 billion this year from $151 billion, while domestic revenues clocked a 10 percent growth to $49 billion, led by growth in hardware and products.
The industry announced nearly 300 acquisitions during the year. Of the total services exports out of India, IT services exports account for 51 percent at present. Share of new-age digital services stood at $13 billion, the report added. On the talent front, FY22 saw a 10 percent estimated growth in the direct employee pool. According to Ghosh, there is a 21.1 percent demand-supply gap in India, which is among the lowest key global markets.
62% of customers' orders came from Tier 2 & 3 markets: GreenHonchos Report
Fueled by a surge of smartphone sales, COVID-19 enforced lockdowns, an increase in the overall screen time and the acceleration of internet adoption even in the rural households of in India, there has been a boom of eCommerce adoption. 71 percent of consumers research online before shopping at the store, according to a report by GreenHonchos, a full-stack D2C enabler. It also showed that consumers from Tier 2 and 3 are experimental and avid online shoppers.
The report further added that 65% of shoppers went online to buy a product they had bought in-store previously. Meanwhile, more than 53% of consumers have bought from a brand or store they've never shopped from before. In the personal care & beauty segment, the AOVs are higher in tier-2 cities compared to tier-1 cities, the report highlighted. 71% of consumers have changed their purchase behavior to reduce their carbon footprint.
In just the last few years, India has launched over 600 D2C brands, bringing the count to a total of 800. Currently, the sector is valued at approximately $44.6 billion with a projection to touch $100 billion by 2025.
Sea-owned game Free Fire unavailable in India after ban on Chinese apps
Sea-owned game Free Fire is currently unavailable in app stores in India after the Central government mulls banning 54 apps of Chinese origin over security reasons. As per Reuters, the game is not available in Google Play and iOS app stores and is not operable for some users in India, and the Singapore-based company has said it was working to address the situation.
The government is considering banning 54 Chinese apps that pose threat to India's national security. Smartphone applications, which run programs to route user data to China-based servers, facing action also include some previously banned apps that had been re-branded and re-launched. Apps that are likely to face ban include Sweet Selfie, Tencent Xriver, Viva Video Editor, include Onmyoji Chess, and Dual Space Lite.
GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY & STARTUP NEWS
Microsoft is reopening its Washington and Bay Area offices this month
Microsoft is reopening its Washington state and California Bay Area offices on February 28 as Covid-19 cases continue to ease. Those offices will be open to employees, visitors and guests. Microsoft postponed its October 4 return-to-office plans indefinitely in September, impacting more than 103,000 US employees, as per a CNBC report. The company has been operating under a phased return-to-work plan. The latest move is its sixth and final phase, and it says it anticipates reopening the rest of its US offices as conditions allow.
"For nearly two years, our hybrid workplace model has anchored each of our worksites to one of six defined stages, allowing us to quickly adjust our guidance depending on health data, local government guidance, the availability of vaccines and vaccination rates and other considerations,” Microsoft CMO Chris Capossela said in a blog post. Still, not all employees will return to the office full time. The company has touted more flexibility when it comes to working from home, a perk that could help retain employees.
Texas sues Facebook over facial-recognition practices
The Texas attorney general's office has sued Meta's Facebook, alleging that the social media giant violated state privacy protections with facial-recognition technology that collected the biometric data of millions of Texans without their consent. The lawsuit accuses Facebook of capturing biometric information from photos and videos that users uploaded without consent, disclosing the information to others and failing to destroy it within a reasonable time, according to Reuters.
"This is yet another example of Big Tech’s deceitful business practices and it must stop. I will continue to fight for Texans' privacy and security," Attorney General Ken Paxton said. Asked about the lawsuit, a Meta spokesperson said: "These claims are without merit and we will defend ourselves vigorously."
The company said in a blog post in November that it was shutting down a facial recognition system and would delete more than a billion people's information. It cited concerns about the use of the technology and uncertainty over what the rules are regarding its use. It also agreed to pay $650 million in 2020 to settle an Illinois state lawsuit that dealt with similar concerns.
The new lawsuit, which was filed in a state court in Marshall, Texas, says that 20.5 million Texans have a Facebook account.
Buffett's Berkshire bought Activision shares before Microsoft takeover
Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway has acquired nearly $1 billion of shares in Activision Blizzard before Microsoft agreed to buy the video game maker for $68.7 billion, according to a regulatory filing seen by Reuters. Berkshire said that as of December 31, it owned 14.7 million shares worth about $975 million of the "Call of Duty" maker.
Microsoft announced its plan to buy Activision Blizzard on January 18, in its largest-ever acquisition. Another prominent investor, Daniel Loeb's hedge fund Third Point, bought 2 million Activision shares in the fourth quarter.
Berkshire disclosed its Activision stake in a filing detailing its US-listed stock investments as of December 31.
Didi to cut up to 20% of jobs before Hong Kong listing
Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Global plans to reduce its overall headcount by as much as 20% as the troubled tech firm pushes ahead with plans to transfer its stock-market listing to Hong Kong, Bloomberg News reported. Most of the company’s core businesses will be affected by the cuts, which are aimed at reducing expenses ahead of the Hong Kong listing, sources told Bloomberg News.
Ride-hailing may see staff reductions of up to 15%, though drivers, gig workers who aren’t officially included in the company’s headcount won’t be affected.
The plans have not yet been finalized and could still change. The company has already pared investments in once red-hot businesses like community grocery buying, some of the people said. Some units like Didi Finance, which is expanding outside China, and its autonomous driving business will be less impacted, the report added.
Trip.com to launch hybrid work policy in first for Chinese tech sector
Travel giant Trip.com Group will from next month begin to allow staff to work from home or elsewhere away from the office for two days a week, becoming the first largest tech company in China to introduce such a hybrid work policy.
Speaking to Reuters, Trip.com executive chairman James Liang said the practice was good for morale and encouraged other Chinese companies to adopt it.
Trip.com said employees in mainland China would be allowed to work out of the office on Wednesdays and Fridays starting from March 1, adding this would be dependent on supervisor approval and that the policy would be rolled out to its overseas offices. It said a hybrid work trial it conducted last year with more than 1,600 participants over six months resulted in the staff turnover rate falling by one-third with no significant impact on performance, while nearly 19 out of 20 employees said the change helped to improve their efficiency.
EV-maker Polestar's ad ribbing Musk most popular at Super Bowl
Leonardo DiCaprio-backed Polestar's ad taking a potshot at rivals Tesla and Volkswagen topped the list of the most popular commercials during Super Bowl LVI, new data on Monday showed. The 30-second ad by the electric-car maker performed roughly 23 times better than other commercials aired during the game, according to consumer search data firm EDO, with its message of "no epic voiceovers," "no empty promises," and "no hidden agendas" aiming squarely at the idea of conquering Mars as well as the Volkswagen Dieselgate.
Five of the top 20 Super Bowl commercials that were the most searched online during and after the event were EV-focused and were made by Polestar, Kia, Nissan, Chevrolet and BMW, EDO said, highlighting the rising popularity of battery-powered vehicles in the US market. The number of electric vehicle-related TV ads have quadrupled in recent years to 33,000 in 2021 from 8,100 in 2019 and are on pace for another significant increase this year, according to the data firm. Tesla boss Elon Musk responded with a laughing emoji on Twitter, when one of his nearly 74 million followers pointed to the Polestar ad.
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