There were several important developments in the startup space during the day on Thursday. Here are the top stories that made headlines in the startup space.
Jio-bp partners with BluSmart to set up EV charging infra in India
Jio-bp, the fuels and mobility joint venture between Reliance Industries Limited and bp, has announced a partnership with BluSmart, an all-electric ride-hailing platform, to set up a network of commercial large-scale EV charging stations.
As part of the partnership, Jio-bp will set up these stations for passenger electric vehicles and fleets across the country.
BluSmart, through its all-electric fleet, provides zero-surge and zero-tailpipe emission ride-hailing service in the Delhi NCR. Running the largest fleet of EVs, the company now plans to expand its network into other major cities across India.
“Leveraging bp’s learnings from the UK with bp Pulse, where they have the country’s largest EV charging network, from Germany through their Aral brand, Jio-bp intends to bring in the latest in EV technology to our consumers," said Harish C. Mehta, chief executive officer, Jio-bp,
Mehta added that in line with the New Energy vision of RIL, its advanced mobility teams are working tirelessly to create cleaner and smarter ways for Indians to travel.
"Our partnership with BluSmart is a significant milestone in our vision of offering new age low-carbon emitting, cleaner and more affordable options," Mehta said.
Through the partnership, both companies will collaborate in planning, development and operation of EV charging infrastructure, at suitable locations across cities where BluSmart operates.
With the first phase rollout in NCR, these EV charging stations will be capable of accommodating a minimum of 30 vehicles at each station and will be concentrated in urban areas.
"BluSmart operates large EV charging Superhubs powering the burgeoning EV fleet. EV superhubs are the future of EV charging as it provides seamless charging access to consumers and ride-hailing fleets and we will be jointly building some of the largest EV Superhubs in the world," said Anmol Jaggi, co-founder and CEO, BluSmart.
Jio-bp is looking for active partnerships with leading OEMs, technology, and platform players for setting up its EV fixed charging stations with a format-specific approach for all vehicle categories. The company will leverage bp’s global learnings in electrification and apply them to the Indian market.
The joint venture will use RIL's presence across 21 states through the Jio digital platform.
BeatO acquires Novique Health to provide programme for reversal of diabetes
Healthtech platform BeatO on Thursday said it has acquired Pune-based Novique Health for an undisclosed amount to provide a programme for reversal of Type 2 diabetes.
Through this acquisition, the company will augment its services of combating diabetes through clinically proven management, reduction, and reversal of diabetes by addressing the condition''s root cause, BeatO said in a statement.
Novique Health is an online speciality medical clinic focused on a scientific approach for the treatment and reversal of Type 2 diabetes.
Notion acquires Automate.io; gets its first engineering hub in India
Work collaboration company Notion has acquired Automate.io, a SaaS company based in Hyderabad. The financial details of the deal have not been not disclosed.
The San Francisco-based company will absorb Hyderabad-based Automate.io’s entire 40-member team, which will continue to operate in the city, the company said in a blog post.
With this acquisition Notion gets its first engineering hub in India. Automate's home in Hyderabad will also become Notion's fifth global office, joining existing locations in Dublin, Tokyo, New York, and San Francisco. It will be Notion's first engineering hub outside the US, where the company will continue hiring key engineering talent, while supporting their community of passionate local users.
Notion is an all-in-one workspace for teams to share documents, manage projects, and collaborate using notes, tasks, databases. It counts among its customers large companies like Cred and Byju as well as startups like Figma and Slack.
Fisdom forays into tech-led HNI wealth space
Wealth-tech startup Fisdom has announced the launch of its new venture — Fisdom Private Wealth, which will cater to the investment needs of high networth individuals (HNIs).
Fisdom Private Wealth will be offering differentiated investment products to its clients — mutual funds, portfolio management schemes (PMS), alternative investment funds (AIFs), unlisted private equity, bonds, FDs, structured products, Insurance as well as international products, the company said in a statement.
This new arm of Fisdom also plans to launch various other proprietary products in the due course.
Fisdom Private Wealth aims to bridge the gap of underserved HNI markets in the country with a robust tech-platform augmented with dedicated support by experienced wealth managers, the company claimed.
StoreKing unveils Smart Stores in Rural Markets
Rural retailer StoreKing has launched its smart stores in Kadur, Kolar, Hassan, Chittoor, Gokarna and plans to have over 100 stores in South India by this year end.
All of these stores offer a wide range of national and regional brands at reasonable costs. The objective is to offer rural customers the experience of shopping at a high-end supermarket, hitherto restricted mostly to metros, the company said in a statement.
Through its Smart Stores, StoreKing will be offering competitively priced products from diverse brands such as Hindustan Unilever Limited, Dabur, Wipro, Marico, Dettol, Bikaji, Godrej, Prestige, Samsung, VIVO and the latest New Age challenger brands covering over ten essential categories.
The Stores will also serve as a one-stop shop for its customers’ Financial Inclusion needs, such as Loans/EMI, bill payments, insurance premiums, banking/ATM facilities and so on. It also supports local store owners by educating them on modern-day retail practices, thus enhancing their future prospects, the company said.
Commenting on the launch, Sridhar Gundaiah, Founder, StoreKing said, “We have developed a unique business model backed by supply chain to empower entrepreneurs in rural markets to set up retail businesses. Our Smart Store is a new age supermarket with unique features that include facilities like applying for a loan, banking facilities, bill payments, EMI for big and small appliances and many more along with uniquely positioned King COINS as a loyalty program for small town consumers. We look forward to revolutionizing the e-commerce segment in the small towns of India”.
StoreKing claims to have run-rate of Rs 300 crore in products and enabling
Marketplace purchases worth Rs 600 crores with over 1000 super franchises.
The platform currently empowers 22,000 Kirana stores in rural India. US-based Qentelli to foray in Indian market with $1Bn valuation by 2023
US-based technology company Qentelli is planning to expand its operations in Hyderabad.
The company is currently hiring for more than 500 vacancies for full-stack developers, product managers, automation engineers and other roles by the end of 2021. It is also aiming for a $1 billion valuation by the end of 2023.
The company has a dedicated innovation lab working on technologies from 2016 onwards that were considered experimental until the pandemic hit in 2020. Qentelli claims to have developed a suite of AI-infused frameworks and products that help accelerate transformation by improving the time-to-market to realise ROI sooner.
The company plans to leverage the large pool of tech talent in India with the remote / hybrid model.
WhatsApp says user reports on spam do not undermine end-to-end encryption
WhatsApp on Wednesday said reports sent to it by users flagging spam and abuse do not undermine end-to-end encryption of the messaging platform.
The messaging giant’s clarification came in response to a report by non-profit newsroom ProPublica that said even though WhatsApp says it does not see user content, the Facebook-owned company has an extensive monitoring operation and regularly shares personal information with prosecutors.
"WhatsApp provides a way for people to report spam or abuse, which includes sharing the most recent messages in a chat. This feature is important for preventing the worst abuse on the internet. We strongly disagree with the notion that accepting reports a user chooses to send us is incompatible with end-to-end encryption," a WhatsApp spokesperson said.
The spokesperson added that in India, in accordance with the government's IT rules, it also publishes monthly reports that contain details of how WhatsApp keeps users safe and prevents abuse on the platform on the basis of these user reports.
In the past too, there have been instances when concerns were raised about privacy of conversations on WhatsApp. The company, on its part, has always maintained that all messages and calls on the platform are end-to-end encrypted and that it has no visibility on the content.
WhatsApp in its latest compliance report said that it has banned over three million Indian accounts, while it has received 594 grievance reports in the June 16-July 31, 2021 period.
GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY & STARTUP NEWS
Sea looking to raise $6.3 bn in SE Asia’s biggest fundraising
E-commerce and gaming company Sea is looking to raise $6.3 billion in a share and convertible bond sale in Southeast Asia’s largest ever capital raising, Reuters reported.
This is the second major fund raising in less than a year for the $185 billion company, which is seeking to scale up its global expansion by testing out possible new markets, and the latest among a slew of deals in Southeast Asia.
Sea, known for its Shopee e-commerce platform, is looking to sell 11 million
American Depository Receipts with the option to offer 1.65 million more as part of a so called greenshoe option, the Singapore-headquartered company said in a regulatory filing on Thursday.
It is also raising $2.5 billion in a convertible bond that has a $375 million greenshoe attached. At Sea’s closing stock price of $343.8 in New York on Wednesday, the share sale could raise up to $3.8 billion.
The combined deal would be the largest ever capital raising for a Southeast Asian company, according to Refinitiv data.
Sea plans to use the proceeds for general corporate purposes, including strategic investments and acquisitions. Sea’s Shopee is planning to expand into Europe and India, Reuters has reported. Late last year, Sea also secured a full digital bank licence in Singapore.
Chinese government summons gaming firms, says it will crack down on ride-hailing
China's government on Wednesday summoned gaming firms including Tencent and NetEase to ensure they implement new rules for the sector.
As per Reuters, it also said it would crack down on illegal behaviour in the ride-hailing industry. Gaming firms were told by the government to implement measures such as curbing minors' hours of access to their video games to protect their physical and mental health, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Those that are found to have "inadequately" implemented the regulations will be severely punished, it said, adding that the firms present were also asked to resist engaging in improper competition and should instead focus on driving innovation.
Xinhua named the authorities involved as the ruling Communist Party's Publicity Department, the National Press and Publication Administration, the Office of the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
Beijing last month moved to ban under-18s from playing video games for more than three hours a week in a tighter set of regulations for gaming as it looks to strengthen control over sectors of its economy such as tech, education and property.
Separately on Wednesday, the Transport Ministry said it would intensify a crackdown on illegal behaviour in the ride-hailing industry and deal with online platforms that are still using noncompliant vehicles and drivers.
The statement comes after Chinese government regulators launched a cybersecurity probe into ride-hailing giant Didi Global in July.
Meanwhile, the Cyberspace Administration of China said it has shut down and banned 1,793 so-called self-media accounts on online platforms since August 27 when it announced a probe into the illegal release of financial information and badmouthing of financial markets.
Chinese startup WeRide develops self-driving vans
WeRide, a China-based autonomous driving startup will start developing self-driving vans for urban logistics service, with automaker JMC and delivery firm ZTO Express, according to Reuters.
The startup is pursuing what is known in the auto industry as a level 4 autonomous standard, in which the vehicle can handle all aspects of driving in most circumstances with no human intervention.
WeRide is currently testing autonomous passenger cars and mini-buses.
Backed by Nissan Motor, WeRide said that it would jointly develop self-driving vans with JMC, in which Ford Motor has a stake, and ZTO. A pilot test will take place near the airport in Guangzhou city, as per Reuters.
Microsoft warns Azure customers of flaw that could have permitted hackers access to data
Microsoft has warned some of its Azure cloud computing customers that a flaw discovered by security researchers could have allowed hackers access to their data.
In a blog post from its security response team, Microsoft said it had fixed the flaw reported by Palo Alto Networks and it had no evidence malicious hackers had abused the technique.
It said it had notified some customers they should change their login credentials as a precaution.
In an earlier interview, Palo Alto researcher Ariel Zelivansky told Reuters that his team had been able to break out of Azure's widely used system for so-called containers that store programmes for users.
The Azure containers used code that had not been updated to patch a known vulnerability, he said. As a result the Palo Alto team was able to eventually get full control of a cluster that included containers from other users.
Palo Alto Networks reported the issue to Microsoft in July. Zelivansky said the effort had taken his team several months and he agreed that malicious hackers probably had not used a similar method in real attacks.
Still, the report is the second major flaw revealed in Microsoft's core Azure system in as many weeks. In late August, security experts at Wiz described a database flaw that also would have allowed one customer to alter another's data.
In both cases, Microsoft's acknowledgment focused on those customers who might have been somehow affected by the researchers themselves, rather than everyone put at risk by its own code.
Twitter tests 'Communities' feature for tweeting to groups
Twitter on Wednesday launched a global test of a tool it calls Communities, a feature similar to Facebook Groups that gives users a way to tweet to people with similar interests. The feature is currently being tested on iOS and Web, with Android users set to get it soon.
In a blog post, Twitter said certain users can create Communities and more will be added in the coming months. The company did not disclose the number of users who can create Communities in the test, but any user can participate in a group if invited.
Communities are publicly visible, though at this stage people need to be invited to join by a moderator or another member.
The social media company has in recent months rolled out a bevy of new features including subscription-based "super follows" and live audio chat rooms, aiming to turn around years of business stagnation.
Twitter said it would adapt its rules and enforcement actions to keep people safe in Communities, including developing ways to proactively identify groups that could be problematic.
Users will act as Community moderators, setting and enforcing standards for their groups. During the test, the company is approving the moderators and will work closely with them.
A Twitter spokesperson told Reuters that the company had done research and consulted experts over the past year "to better understand how Communities may be used and abused."