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STARTUP DIGEST: Karan Bajaj exits WhiteHat Jr, delivery partners up in arms against Swiggy, Zomato

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The startup space has been witnessing a lot of activities since the beginning of the calendar year, and quite a few of them entered the unicorn club this year. There were several important developments in this space during the day on Wednesday. Here are the top stories that made headlines in the startup universe today.

STARTUP DIGEST: Karan Bajaj exits WhiteHat Jr, delivery partners up in arms against Swiggy, Zomato
The startup space has been witnessing a lot of activities since the beginning of the calendar year, and quite a few of them entered the unicorn club this year. There were several important developments in this space during the day on Wednesday. Here are the top stories that made headlines in the startup universe today.
WhiteHat Jr founder Karan Bajaj quits
Karan Bajaj, the founder and chief executive officer of WhiteHat Jr, has quit the Byju’s-owned company, a year after the online coding tutor was acquired by edtech unicorn BYJU’S in a $350 million all-cash deal.
Trupti Mukker, head of customer experience and delivery, will take the helm as chief executive officer of WhiteHat Jr.
"Trupti is a leader I’ve admired for almost two decades since our time at IIM together as she’s accomplished milestone after milestone and I know her incredible competent, compassionate leadership will keep making our learning experience better while also enabling thousands of more women to enter into the mainstream economy'" Bajaj wrote on Linkedin.
Online food aggregators accused of exploiting delivery executives, Cos denies charges
Delivery partners for Swiggy and Zomato have taken to social media to protest against ‘poor treatment’ by these companies.
A number of new Twitter handles accused the online food aggregators of financially exploiting its delivery executives and not paying them enough for working in stressful conditions. The handles shared screenshots showing meager payments and tales of pressure tactics used by the company.
Both Swiggy and Zomato, however, denied the allegations. Swiggy said that the screenshot shared by the account did not reflect all the components of compensation that their delivery executives draw.
In a statement, it said: “Delivery partners are aptly compensated for the distance travelled and delivery time among many other factors and most delivery partners in Hyderabad made over Rs 65 per order last month, with the highest performing partners making Rs 100 per order. Swiggy maintains an honest approach in enabling a service fee for delivery partners that is sustainable even in the most difficult of times. Additionally, 100 percent of the tips from customers are passed onto delivery partners.”
The protest comes in the backdrop of both Swiggy and Zomato raising huge sums from investors.
ShareChat, Moj announce multi-year agreement with T-Series
Mohalla Tech, the parent of short video app Moj and social media platform ShareChat, has announced a multi- year agreement with India's largest music label T-Series.
The partnership allows ShareChat and Moj to access an extensive catalog of Indian music and provide an enhanced experience to its creator communities.
Incidentally, ShareChat and Moj were also the first in the Indian social media and short video landscape to strike a licensing agreement with T-Series last year, thereby setting the path for the rest of the industry to follow.
The collaboration will help ShareChat and Moj communities to explore sound recordings from T- Series music library and create meaningful social experiences with videos, messages, and other creative formats.
53,000 startups benefitted from DPIIT startup recognition: Govt
As many as 52,732 startups have been benefitted from the department for promotion of industry and internal trade (DPIIT) startup recognition initiative as on July 21, Central government informed Parliament on Wednesday.
'Startup India' is a flagship initiative of the government which aims at building a strong ecosystem for nurturing innovation and startups in the country. A 19-point Startup India Action Plan was launched in January 2016 which paved the way for the introduction of a number of policy initiatives.
"A total of 52,732 startups have taken the benefit of DPIIT startup recognition, as on 21st July 2021," Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Som Parkash said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.
In a separate reply, he said so far nine incubators have been sanctioned Rs 30 crore under the Startup India Seed Fund Scheme.
In another reply, he said the government is working on setting up a Single Window System for clearances and approvals of industry in the country.
"This will eliminate the need for investors to visit multiple platforms/offices to gather information and obtain clearances from different stakeholders. This will also provide time-bound approvals and real-time status updates to investors," he said.
RBI issues framework for outsourcing of activities by Payment System Operators
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Tuesday came out with a detailed framework for outsourcing of activities by Payment System Operators (PSOs) with a view to mitigate risks and ensure continuity of service.
Under the framework, PSOs will not outsource core management functions, including risk management and internal audit; compliance and decision-making functions such as determining compliance with KYC norms. Also, a PSO will be required to carefully evaluate the need for outsourcing its critical processes and activities, as well as selection of service providers based on comprehensive risk assessment.
The RBI has also clarified that outsourcing of any activity by the PSO will not reduce its obligations, and those of its board and senior management, who will ultimately be responsible for the outsourced activity.
"The PSO shall, therefore, be liable for the actions of its service providers and shall retain ultimate control over the outsourced activity," the framework said.
The outsourcing arrangements, it added, will not affect the rights of a customer of a payment system against the PSO, as well as those of a payment system participant against the PSO. The PSOs, by virtue of services they provide and the construct of models on which they operate, largely outsource their payment and settlement-related activities to various other entities, RBI said.
The framework has been issued in order to enable effective management of attendant risks in outsourcing of such activities.
Quantela acquires US firm CIMCON Lighting
Quantela, an outcomes-as-a-service firm that specialises in digitisation of urban infrastructure, has acquired CIMCON Lighting, a provider of smart lighting and smart city technologies.
The addition of CIMCON’s smart lighting capabilities would help communities reduce streetlight energy consumption and maintenance costs.
“This acquisition will help us with full coverage and access to the streetlight pole infrastructure to deploy technologies and improve societal and economic outcomes,” said Sridhar Gadhi, Quantela’s Founder and Executive Chairman.
As per the company, the cost savings realised through the deployment of CIMCON’s controllers would improve the commercial viability of the digitisation business. This, in turn, would improve Quantela’s ability to deliver better outcomes to its customers.
Quantela would use CIMCON’s Burlington office as its new headquarters for its US operations, it said in a statement.
Ziploan onboards tech veteran Ashish Goel as CTO
Fintech firm Ziploan has on-boarded former co-founder of Milkbasket, Ashish Goel as its Chief Technology Officer (CTO).
Ashish will be leading the Digital initiatives of the organization and strengthening the product for a better customer reach and experience.
The appointment by Ziploan is in sync with the company’s long-term growth strategy of strengthening its foothold in India’s growing FinTech markets by bolstering its leadership ranks, the firm said. It also aims to tap into Ashish’s in-depth tech knowledge and his experience in helping build tech first business.
GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY & FUNDING NEWS
Alibaba posts lower profit
Alibaba Group has reported an increase in revenue in the latest quarter, but profits fell as the e-commerce giant invested heavily in new business ventures and user growth.
Revenue for the Chinese tech giant for the quarter ended in June rose to 205.74 billion Chinese yuan, or about $31.9 billion, up 34% from a year earlier.
Alibaba’s profit attributes about $6.99 billion, or about $2.57 per American depositary share, a 5% drop year-over-year.table to shareholders. Ant Group, the fintech affiliate of Alibaba Group, recorded a profit of about 13.48 billion yuan in the quarter ended March, according to the Chinese e-commerce giant's filing.
The results come amid an ongoing Chinese regulatory crackdown on industry, during which Alibaba has become one of the main targets.
While Alibaba still leads the industry, e-commerce rivals such as Pinduoduo, Bytedance short-video platform Douyin and Tencent’s social-media app WeChat, have gained ground with new and innovative ways to reach consumers.
Microsoft mandate vaccinations for US workers
Microsoft will require employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus in order to enter its U.S. offices, starting in September. The software company will also seek proof of vaccination for vendors and guests visiting the campus, CNBC reported.
The move comes a week after other tech companies like Apple, Google and Facebook said they will require vaccinations for workers, as the delta variant of the virus becomes more common in the country.
Microsoft said its U.S. facilities will have a full reopening no earlier than October 4. The previous plan was to reopen on September 7. Apple and Google have also delayed returning to offices.
ByteDance rival Kuaishou to shut down video app Zynn
ByteDance rival Kuaishou Technology will stop services of its short video app Zynn, operated in the United States, on August 20, Reuters reported.
The company's other products for markets outside China will not be affected, Kuaishou said in a statement. "Our strategy for the international markets remains unchanged," it said, without providing a reason for Zynn's shutdown.
Apart from Zynn, for markets outside China, Kuaishou operates Kwai, which is mainly popular in South America, and Snack Video.
Rothschild-backed RIT co-leads funding for crypto platform Aspen Digital
RIT Capital Partners, the investment trust founded by Jacob Rothschild, is co-leading a funding round for crypto investment platform Aspen Digital intended to finance the creation of an online platform that would give wealthy investors a single portal to manage crypto investments.
As per Reuters, RIT will lead the $8.8 million fundraising round for Hong Kong-based Aspen Digital, along with Liberty City Ventures. Other investors include Chatchaval Jiaravanon and Chaval Jiaravanon - members of Thailand's richest family and owners of Fortune magazine.
This will fund the launch of the platform and its expansion to London, Yang He, co-founder and chief executive of Aspen Digital, told Reuters. Aspen will target family offices and asset managers in Europe, Asia and the Middle East who want to have a single portal from which they can build a diversified crypto portfolio. It expects to go live later this year.
WhatsApp rolls out option for disappearing photos, videos to take on Snapchat
WhatsApp users can now send disappearing photos and videos on its platform starting this week, as it looks to better compete with Snap photo messaging app Snapchat.
The feature, called View Once, will let photos and videos disappear from the chat after they have been seen, Facebook said in a blog post on Tuesday, adding that once the media content has been viewed, the message will be shown as "opened."
Snapchat, known for its Stories feature that lets users post updates that disappear after 24 hours, has grown in popularity last year as pandemic-induced curbs kept users at home. The company has also been adding new features on its messaging app to attract more users.
Twitter permanently scraps Fleets
Months after being rolled out for all users, micro-blogging site Twitter has shut down its Instagram Stories-like 'Fleets' feature.
This is possibly the shortest duration for a Twitter feature to exist on the app. Twitter started testing Fleets last year in March and made it widely available later in November.
Twitter is also experimenting with a bunch of other things; it had said earlier.