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Startup Digest: India likely to regulate, not ban crypto, OLA's General Counsel quits, Policybazaar’s strong debut, Nykaa's Q2 profit plummets

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Here’re the top stories from the startup and technology space

Startup Digest: India likely to regulate, not ban crypto, OLA's General Counsel quits, Policybazaar’s strong debut, Nykaa's Q2 profit plummets

Here’re the top stories from the startup and technology space:

India Startup News

The Crypto Debate: Parliamentary Committee Yet To Form An Opinion: Chair Jayant Sinha To CNBC-TV18

A parliamentary panel, chaired by BJP leader Jayant Sinha discussed the pros and cons of crypto finance with various stakeholders, and several members were in favour of regulating cryptocurrency exchanges rather than imposing an outright ban on crypto currencies.

Sinha told CNBC-TV18 that the standing committee wanted to understand the challenges and opportunities and is yet to form a view on the matter. It is important to balance regulation and innovation, he said.

The meeting took place against the backdrop of rising concerns in various quarters about cryptocurrencies and the possible risks emanating from trading in them, especially since there is a growing interest in such assets worldwide. Currently, there are neither specific regulations nor an outright ban on the use of cryptocurrencies in the country.

“The key challenge is to ensure investor protection around these instruments,” said Sinha, highlighting the need to ensure crypto is not used for illicit finance, and further, money-laundering or other compliance requirements are met.

Representatives of crypto exchanges, Blockchain and Crypto Assets Council (BACC), industry bodies as well as academicians and other stakeholders submitted their views before the panel, whose meeting also happened days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held discussions with senior officials from various ministries and RBI on the issue of cryptocurrencies.

“We have learned a lot about the crypto industry in the legislative branch of government. The executive branch will take action accordingly,” said Sinha.

After CFO and COO, Ola's General Counsel quits ahead of IPO

Ride-hailing app Ola's General Counsel Sandeep Chowdhury has quit after a nine-month stint in the firm, people familiar with the development said.

Chowdhury's exit comes weeks after Moneycontrol reported that Ola's Chief Financial Officer Swayam Saurabh and Chief Operating Officer Gaurav Porwal also left the company.

These exits come just ahead of Ola's plans to list on the public markets and are being viewed as a red flag by experts.

Other exits in the recent past include Ola's founding member Pranay Jivrajka, Ola Electric's co-founders Ankit Jain and Anand Shah. Nitin Gupta, who was the CEO of Ola Financial Services, also resigned last year, while Ola's chief business officer Sanjay Bhan, also left the company in less than a year.

PolicyBazaar makes strong debut, shares list at 17% premium over issue price

PB Fintech, the operator of insurance platform Policybazaar and financial services portal Paisabazaar, made a strong debut on Dalal Street on Monday. Policybazaar shares began their journey in the secondary market at Rs 1,150 apiece each on BSE and NSE, a premium of 17.4 percent over the issue price of Rs 980 of its IPO, which saw a robust response from investors.

The initial share sale of PB Fintech, which was open for subscription from November 1 and November 3, saw an overall subscription of 16.6 times the shares on offer. The Policybazaar IPO received bids for 57.2 crore equity shares as against the offer size of 3.5 crore

The portion reserved for qualified institutional buyers (QIBs) was subscribed 24.9 times, and that for non-institutional investors 7.8 times. The retail investor's category saw a subscription of 3.3 times

The IPO comprised fresh issuance of shares worth Rs 3,750 crore and an offer for sale (OFS) worth Rs 1,960 crore. The SoftBank-backed startup raised around Rs 2,569 crore from 155 anchor investors prior to the public offer.

Policybazaar is the flagship platform of PB Fintech and is India's largest digital insurance marketplace. In FY20, it had a market share of over 94 percent. It has over 48 partner insurers, over 51 million consumers and over 20 million policies with 10 million unique transacting consumers.

Nykaa net profit falls to Rs 1.2 cr in Q2

FSN E-Commerce Ventures, which operates e-commerce beauty company Nykaa, on Sunday said its net profit fell 97 percent to Rs 1.2 crore for Q3FY22 on year-on-year basis. Profits fell as the beauty and fashion products platform faced a steep 92 percent increase in expenses, largely attributed to marketing and advertising costs.

Its revenue from operations, on the other hand, grew 47 percent to Rs 885.3 crore compared to Rs 603.8 crore in the year-ago period.

On advertising and marketing spends Nayar said, “The percentage marketing spend that we had for FY21 was on the lower side because half of the year was affected due to COVID. So last year was characterised by the first half being very low marketing costs, and the second half being more on normal marketing costs. As a result, this year the full-year marketing costs will definitely look higher than the previous year,” said Falguni Nayar, Executive Chairperson, MD and CEO, Nykaa.

On the business front in Q3, Nykaa's Beauty and Personal Care GMV (gross merchandise value) grew by 38 percent to reach Rs 1,185.9 crore (YoY). Fashion GMV went up by 215 percent to touch Rs 437 crore (YoY).

"We have maintained growth momentum in our beauty business, accelerated our fashion business and focused on building the brand Nykaa with strong marketing campaigns both digitally and mass media," said Nayar.

CoWIN Set to Go Global as Over 12 Countries in Talks With Govt to Borrow Technology

CoWIN, India’s tech backbone for the Covid-19 vaccination drive, may soon go global as more than 12 countries have stepped in to the final stages of discussions to borrow the technology, News18 has learnt.

A South American country is among 12 nations where the Indian government has sent the signed memorandum of understanding (MoU) awaiting the acceptance from their side. South America consists of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

Majority of the other countries, which have shown interest, are from Africa and central Asia. The platform has proven to be successful in India where it has also handled 2.5 crore vaccinations in a day, with a load of over 800 vaccinations per second.

“The progress of the initiative as well as the talks are monitored by the Ministry of External Affairs. I am told that so far 12 countries have agreed to sign the MoUs,” Dr RS Sharma, chief executive officer at National Health Authority told News18.com.

Credlix Acquires NuPhi, EXIM FinTech Start-up, Grows Supply Chain Financing Business to $100 Million

Moglix’s digital supply chain financing platform Credlix has acquired NuPhi - a Singapore based fintech start-up offering invoice factoring solutions to MSME exporters in India and SouthEast Asia.

Founded in 2019, by Pramit Joshi and Mayur Totla, NuPhi offers cross-border financing and SaaS applications to digitalise and automate EXIM workflows.

The acquisition comes at a time when Moglix, which is a B2B marketplace for industrial products, has been expanding globally while focusing on strengthening supply chain financing solutions to ensure manufacturers get easy access to cash for growth. Currently, the startup works with suppliers and manufacturers across more than 120 countries.

Through Credlix, Moglix has already provided supply-chain financing to the tune of $100 million for 2,500+ MSMEs across 120 cities. Now, with NuPhi in its fold, Moglix seeks to enhance credit access to MSMEs, which is a key bottleneck in the global manufacturing supply chain.

EdTech start-up Skill-Lync to step up hiring & expand footprint in global markets

Skill-Lync, an engineering-focussed education start-up, is planning to hire over 3,000 employees by February 2022 across markets in India and abroad.

“As Skill-Lync expands its global footprint, we plan to scale-up our appointments across various functions for skilled professionals in the sales, marketing and data science departments,” said Nikhil Mittal, Head of Growth, Skill-Lync.

Founded in 2018 by Suryanarayanan P and Sarangarajan V, Skill-Lync seeks to bridge the skill-gap in technical industries by offering over 40 Masters and 100 individual engineering courses, programs in fields such as Electric Vehicle Design, Embedded Systems and Autonomous Vehicles.

Since inception, the platform has recorded approximately 13,000 students. Currently, it has over 6,000 active students. In 2021, the startup claims to have witnessed an increase of 5X in revenue.

In August 2021, Skill-Lync raised $17.5 million in Series A funding round led by Iron Pillar with participation from Y Combinator, Better Capital and angel investors.

Thrasio-styled Powerhouse91 acquires sports & fitness brand Slovic

Thrasio-styled, e-commerce roll-up startup Powerhouse91 has announced the acquisition of sports and fitness brand - Slovic. This follows the company’s recently concluded acquisition of women-focussed wellness brand Azah.

Besides providing growth capital, Powerhouse91 aims to grow Slovic by 15-20x over the next few years by driving efforts across marketing, supply chain and operations. Slovic makes fitness strength training equipment, footwear, accessories and more.

“Our goal at Powerhouse91 is to create an umbrella of brands that have significant potential to grow and thrive. Slovic, in a span of only a couple of years, has built a loyal following among a large pool of customers through its highly rated line of fitness products. Through Powerhouse91 we intend to provide a platform to expand its reach further and accelerate its growth multifold,” said Shashwat Diesh, Co-Founder, Powerhouse91.

Myntra CFO, CMO to exit amidst leadership churn

Myntra is seeing top-level churn in its leadership, with its chief financial officer and chief marketing officer putting in their papers. This comes as the fashion portal's CEO Amar Nagaram is set to move on from the company by December.

Nagaram told employees in an internal mail on Sunday that CFO Ramesh Bafna and CMO Harish Narayanan will be leaving the company, as per sources. They will continue in their roles till January 2022.

The company did not comment.

Myntra on Friday announced the appointment of Flipkart executive Nandita Sinha as the new CEO effective January 2022.

Nagaram will remain at the company till December and may continue with the company in an advisory role, a source said.

Nagaram took over the reins of Walmart-owned Myntra from former CEO Ananth Narayan in 2019.

Global Tech & Startup News

US states file amended complaint against Google's antitrust laws

A group of U.S. states led by Texas have filed an amended complaint against Alphabet Inc's Google accusing the tech giant of using coercive tactics and breaking antitrust laws in its efforts to boost its already dominant advertising business, according to a Reuters report.

The updated allegations are the latest in an onslaught of regulatory scrutiny of Google over its practices. The tech company faces several lawsuits, including one by the Justice Department for monopolistic practices.

Earlier this week, Google lost an appeal against a $2.8 billion European Union antitrust decision. Neither Alphabet nor the Texas Attorney General’s office responded immediately to requests for comment on the lawsuit, Reuters reported.

Elon Musk spars with Bernie Sanders, offers to sell more Tesla stock

Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk got into a spat with Bernie Sanders after the U.S. senator demanded the wealthy pay their "fair share" of taxes.

"We must demand that the extremely wealthy pay their fair share. Period," Sanders wrote on Twitter. Taking a jibe at the 80-year-old senator, Musk responded by saying "I keep forgetting that you're still alive."

The billionaire CEO who had already offloaded a combined $6.9 billion worth of shares in the electric car company as of Nov. 12, further wrote, "Want me to sell more stock, Bernie? Just say the word."

Sanders' tweet comes amid the backdrop of Washington's efforts to hike taxes for the super-wealthy.

U.S. Senate Democrats have unveiled a proposal to tax billionaires' stocks and other tradable assets to help finance President Joe Biden's social spending agenda and close a loophole that has allowed them to defer capital gains taxes indefinitely.

Game over for Fortnite in China as Epic Games pulls the plug

Epic Games pulled the plug on its Chinese version of Fortnite, with its three-year effort to penetrate the world's biggest gaming market derailed by Communist Party crackdowns against online addiction and the broader tech sector, as per an AFP report.

Epic Games had announced two weeks ago that it would shut down the Chinese version of the game on November 15, noting that "Fortnite China's Beta test has reached an end" and that servers would be closed.

Chinese players said they could no longer access the game on Monday, posting goodbyes on social media platform Weibo. A discussion board on the game had been viewed 470 million times, as per AFP.

Ride-hailing service Bolt to allow drivers to set prices in three UK cities

Ride-hailing service Bolt said it plans to allow drivers to set their own prices and passengers to select their driver, starting with three U.K. cities, days after rival Uber raised prices by 10% in London, according to Reuters.

The changes would give drivers more control of their business and are aimed at addressing national concerns about driver shortages that led to longer wait times, cancellations and surge pricing, Bolt said in a statement.

Estonia-based Bolt and U.S.-based Uber are trying to woo drivers back to their platforms with the promise of more income.

"We hope to reduce waiting times on the Bolt app and have fewer driver cancellations so customers can get to their destination quickly and safely following increased demand in recent weeks," said Sam Raciti, Bolt's regional manager for Western Europe.

Funding Rundown

Wingreens raises $17 M crore from Investcorp, Omidyar

Packaged foods firm Wingreens has raised $17 million in a funding round led by InvestCorp and Omidyar Network India.

Founded in 2011 by Anju C Srivastava, the company offers fresh dips, fruit juices (under the brand RAW Pressery), healthy snacks, sauces and spreads, spice mixes, specialty bakery, breakfast cereals, non-dairy milk, protein shakes and other organic products. It has an omni-channel distribution strategy with an offline retail footprint in over 200 cities across India.

"We are passionate about building a new-age food and beverage company that continues to scale its social impact on the back end while building exciting brands that resonate with the emerging millennial consumer on the front end," said Anju Srivastava, founder and MD, Wingreens.

PetPooja raises $4.5 M led by Aroa Ventures

Restaurant management platform Petpooja has raised $4.5 million in a funding round led by Aroa Ventures (Family Office of OYO Founder Ritesh Agarwal).

The round saw participation from GVFL, Udaan, Dr Mayur Desai and other angel investors.

The funding will be used to grow business operations over 6x in the next 2 years to bring over 1.5 lakh outlets on the platform and expand its reach in the Middle East and African regions, the company statement said.

Founded by Apurv Patel and Parthiv Patel in 2014, PetPooja is a Restaurant Operating System, with a suite of modules required by food and beverage outlets, including inventory management, CRM, online ordering, payments, and analytics.

Its software currently powers over 25,000 outlets across India, UAE, and Africa, with over 1.5 million daily orders logged on the platform recording an annualized GMV of $2.5 billion.

Among the company’s clients are several large food chains such as JumboKing, Hocco, La Pino’z, Thalappakatti, Giani’s, Apsara Ice Creams and more.

Doola raises $3M led by Nexus Venture Partners

StartPack, a startup which helps entrepreneurs set-up a business in the U.S., has re-branded itself to Doola with following fundraise of $3 million led by Nexus Venture Partners.

The funding round saw participation from YCombinator, Hustle Fund, XX, Psion Capital, Translink Investment, and angels investors, including Jacqueline Reses, Dharmesh Shah, Ankur Nagpal, Rohini Pandhi, Arjun Sethi, and Prasanna Sankar.

The funds will be used to scale the team and further invest in product and engineering.

Founded in 2020 by Arjun Mahadevan and JP Pincheira, the New York-based startup services such as company formation, a US address and bank account, access to US payments, tax consultations, US tax support, a phone number, $50,000 in startup perks, and more.

“Creators and independent entrepreneurs want to focus on their crafts that they love. However, to build businesses around their crafts, they would also need to take care of unexciting but necessary backend business management functions (like incorporation, compliance, taxes, banking, payments, etc.), for which they usually do not have expertise, nor interest, nor the time those activities demand. Doola is set to address just that: so solopreneurs can do what they love and are best at, while doola takes care of the rest,” said Jishnu Bhattacharjee, Managing Director at Nexus Venture Partners.

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