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Startup Digest: Marico acquires majority stake in True Elements, MFine fires 75% of its workforce: Report & Elon Musk to form a new Tesla litigation department

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Startup Digest: Marico acquires majority stake in True Elements, MFine fires 75% of its workforce: Report & Elon Musk to form a new Tesla litigation department

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Startup Digest: Marico acquires majority stake in True Elements, MFine fires 75% of its workforce: Report & Elon Musk to form a new Tesla litigation department
Here are the top headlines from the startup space.
Marico acquires majority stake in digital-first healthy food brand ‘True Elements’
Packaged-goods company Marico has acquired 54 percent equity stake through primary infusion and secondary buy-outs in HW Wellness Solutions, the parent company of Healthy breakfast brand True Elements.
“True Elements is another step towards expanding our total addressable market in the healthy foods segment. This adds another digital-first brand in our portfolio, which not only has a distinct proposition but also exhibits strong fundamentals along with a growing digital and offline presence,” said Saugata Gupta, MD and CEO, Marico.
The existing leadership team will continue to run the brand independently and build synergies, a statement said.
True Elements offers a wide range of 70+ products spanning across categories of Western breakfast, Indian breakfast, Snacks, among others. Currently available in over 90 online platforms and in over 12,000 retail outlets, True Elements is planning to significantly ramp up its offline presence over the next few years.
Maruti Suzuki to acquire AI firm Sociograph Solutions
Maruti Suzuki is set to acquire an equity stake of 12.09 percent in Sociograph Solutions for about Rs 2 crore.
SSPL is an artificial intelligence (AI) software company that specialises in visual AI platform predominantly used to help enterprises improve sales experiences and improve efficiency in their business.
"The investment would help MSI strengthen its offering to customers by creating a customised sales experiences on the web, virtual reality and augmented reality," the auto major said in a regulatory filing.
SILA acquires Forbes Facility Services from the Shapoorji Pallonji Group for Rs 42 crore
Real Estate platform SILA, has acquired Forbes Facility Services from the Shapoorji Pallonji Group for Rs 42 crore in an all-cash deal.
With this acquisition, SILA’s Facilities Management services business will strengthen its presence in North India and widen its service offerings, to include Catering. The combined entity is expected to clock over Rs 600 crores in revenue this year, a statement said.
“The incoming team’s experience, aided by our proprietary-technology, SILA Connect, will enable us to scale efficiently. This deal will also help expand our portfolio within the high-growth sectors of Industrial, Manufacturing & Warehousing across India,” said Rushabh Vora, Co-Founder and CEO, SILA.
The combined entity will be among the largest Indian-owned service providers in the industry, managing over 100 million sq ft of real estate, with 15,000+ employees across India.
Blox acquires realty sales and marketing firm Plinthstone REMA
Technology-enabled real estate buying platform Blox has acquired property sales and marketing company Plinthstone REMA. Sources told CNBC-TV18 that the deal is valued at $1.5 million.
The new acquisition will be added to Blox as an extension of its portfolio and will be known as Blox Exclusive.
Backed by Tinder founder Justin Mateen and other Silicon Valley investors, Blox allows home buyers to browse perfectly verified inventory, directly listed by developers on the platform. It claims to have clocked Gross Transaction Value of around Rs 250 crore in less than 9 months.
“Plinthstone is our first acquisition and brings us one step closer towards achieving our goal of being the biggest and best home buying ecosystem in India. We are using technology to bring eCommerce-type functionality to the home buying process and build trust and transparency with homebuyers. We want to serve millions of Indians in buying their homes over the next decade,” said Aditya Jhaveri, Founder and CEO, Blox.
Hustler Hospitality buys 31% stake in My Cloud Kitchen
Cloud kitchen franchise firm Hustlers Hospitality has acquired 31 percent stake in My Cloud Kitchen, cloud kitchen consulting firm for an undisclosed sum.
“This strategic investment helps to expand the operations of both the businesses; Hustlers Hospitality & My Cloud Kitchen, and serve the cloud kitchen market in a better way by taking leverage of our existing clientele network and already existing kitchens of My Cloud Kitchen across India,” said Krunal Oza, Founder and CEO, Hustlers Hospitality.
My Cloud Kitchen offers end-to-end support to aspiring foodpreneurs with core services like Brand designing, Kitchen setup, Licensing, Marketing, and Franchise solutions to Dark kitchen and QSR businesses.
Zomato’s net loss widens to Rs 359 crore, revenue comes in at Rs 1,211.8 Cr for Q4
Food aggregator Zomato has reported a net loss of Rs 359 crore in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2021-22. The company's revenue, during the same period, climbed to Rs 1,211.8 crore.
The net loss has nearly tripled as compared to the year-ago period, when it stood at Rs 134.2 crore. The revenue, however, has grown by 75 percent as against Rs 692.4 crore recorded in Q4 FY21.
Zomato reported an EBITDA loss of Rs 449.7 crore in Q4 FY22, as compared to a loss of Rs 153.5 crore in the corresponding period last year.
The average monthly transacting customers, however, rose to to "an all time high of 15.7 million" last quarter, growing from 15.3 million in the previous quarter.
Paytm forms joint venture general insurance firm; to invest Rs 950 Cr in 10 years
Digital financial services firm One97 Communications, which operates under Paytm brand, has formed a joint venture general insurance company in which it has committed to invest Rs 950 crore over a period of 10 years.
The proposal to set up joint venture firm Paytm General Insurance Limited (PGIL) was approved by the board on May 20, the company said in a regulatory filing.
Initially, One97 Communications (OCL) will hold a 49 percent stake in PGIL while the rest 51 percent stake is to be owned by OCL's managing director Vijay Shekhar Sharma-led VSS Holding Private Limited (VHPL). Post the investment, Paytm will hold 74 percent stake in PGIL, reducing VHPL's stake in the company to 26 percent.
The decision of Paytm board came after its group firm's transaction into a share purchase agreement to acquire Raheja QBE General Insurance Company Limited did not consummate within stipulated time frame.
In its exchange filing, OCL said that it has reappointed Sharma as its managing director for five years. Madhur Deora, the company's Group CFO and president, has been appointed on its board as a whole-time director for the next five years.
Invact Metaversity at the crossroads after cancelling its first metaMBA course
Former Twitter India head Manish Maheshwari's edtech startup Invact Metaversity is considering the option of shutting down operations after cancelling the first cohort even before the course began.
In a series of tweets, Maheshwari explained that the startup wanted 'to use metaverse to make education acccessible and interactive for students, but things didn't turn out as hoped.' He assured that any fee paid by the students for the metaMBA course has been fully refunded.
"As we started testing the early version of the Metaversity platform with students, it became apparent to us that the immersive classroom and the community experience were not getting delivered at a level that we had envisaged," he said.
"We are now standing at crossroads exploring possibilities such as (a) cutting the burn rate and pivoting to another idea, (b) letting one of the founders take full charge, or (c) returning the unspent capital to investors," he added.
After leaving Twitter in December last year, Maheshwari started Invact Metaversity with Tanay Pratap and recently raised $5 million at a valuation of $33 million from Arkam Ventures, Antler India, Picus Capital, M Venture Partners, BECO Capital, 2am VC and others.
Earlier, it had raised funds from more than 70 global corporate leaders and founders of unicorns. The round saw participation from Future Group's Kishore Biyani, ex-Infosys director TV Mohandas Pai, Innov8 founder Ritesh Malik and former Facebook MD Kirthiga Reddy among others. Besides entrepreneurs from startups like Zerodha, Razorpay and Snapdeal, leaders from global companies such as Microsoft, Meta, Google, Twitter, Uber, Amazon, Softbank among others had also participated in the round.
"The return of unspent capital is also being considered because it sets an example of how to execute fast, learn fast, and not commit oneself to building an undifferentiated product just because one has capital. We plan to take a final decision shortly," said Maheshwari.
The former Twitter India head also admitted to having disagreements with his co-founder — Tanay Pratap. "As we progressed, the differences also emerged between us on the vision (are we an education company or a metaverse company) and approach to achieving that vision," said Maheshwari.
MFine fires 75% of its workforce, lays off 600 employees: Report
Digital health platform MFine has become the lastest startup to lay off its staff due to a lack of funds to pay salaries.
According to a report by Inc42, Mfine has fired around 600 employees, comprising 75-80 percent of the workforce. It has let go of employees in data science, engineering and product departments, the report added.
Over the past few weeks, close to 3,000 contractual and full-time employees have been fired from Cars24, ed-tech firms Unacademy and Vedantu, social commerce startups Meesho and Trell, online learning platform Lido Learning and furniture rental startup Furlenco.
Oppo joins Microsoft to empower Indian startups via 'Elevate' programme
Oppo India has launched the second edition of its 'Oppo Elevate programme in collaboration with Microsoft for startups to further empower the startup ecosystem in the country.
Focused on the theme of 'Virtuous Innovation', Oppo India is looking to recruit proposals under two entry categories — Accessible Technology and Digital Health.
The company said that startups from these two categories, who are driven by the same purpose of using technology and creative inspiration to build a better world, can apply to showcase their innovations.
The proposals will be reviewed by a jury of experts, led by Tasleem Arif, VP and Head, Oppo India and Madhurima Agarwal, Country Head-India, Microsoft for Startups, among others.
The top 10 selected startups will get a chance to present their proposals to the jury during an event in August this year. These startups will also be entitled to a collaboration with Oppo for applicable technical discussion and access to facilities (Labs, spaces, Mobile devices) on mutually agreed terms and schedule, said the company.
CarTrade Tech partners with Cholamandalam for financing used cars
Multi-channel automobile buying and selling platform, CarTrade Tech has entered into a strategic alliance with Cholamandalam Investment and Finance (Chola) to offer easy and smart financing for used cars.
Under the partnership, Chola will become the preferred financier for customers purchasing used vehicles from CarWale abSure's dealers with customised offerings, the company said in a statement. CarWale abSure is the used car platform of CarTrade Tech.
"This partnership between CarWale abSure and Chola is extremely beneficial to both of our customer bases because the main goal is to provide seamless financing for used cars," said Banwari Lal Sharma, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of CarTrade Tech – Consumer Business.
PM Modi meets Masayoshi Son, recognises SoftBank’s role in India’s startup ecosystem
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday met Softbank Corporation founder and CEO Masayoshi Son to discuss the Japanese investment firm's future participation in Indian technology, energy, finance and R&D sectors.
Modi appreciated Softbank’s role in India's startup sector during his meeting with Son. "They discussed Softbank's future participation in India in key areas such as technology, energy and finance," the official statement said.
Further, various reforms being undertaken to enable ease of doing business in India were also discussed and "specific proposals were shared with Softbank where it could enhance its investments in India", it added.
Son said India is "growing very quickly with new startups coming every day and unicorns coming very quickly", becoming the number three in the world for new startups and unicorns.
"India's future is bright. Prime Minister Modi is committed to the success of India, for supporting startups, for creating more unicorns and making it the centre of high technology in the world," he added.
DealShare appoints Venkatesh Tarakkad as Chief Financial Officer
Social ecommerce unicorn DealShare, has announced the appointment of Venkatesh Tarakkad as chief financial officer (CFO).
With over 25 years of experience in enabling businesses to scale quickly, increasing efficiency, improving profitability and taking companies public, Tarakkad will be in charge of DealShare's finance function as well supply chain function.
“We are delighted to welcome Venkatesh to the DealShare family. It is an exciting time for DealShare as we rapidly scale our business, expand into new markets, and empower local communities and manufacturers. Venkatesh’s addition will strengthen the leadership team. His extensive experience will help us chart out a strategy that enables us to augment and sharpen the unit economics further while growing fast,” said Vineet Rao, founder and CEO of DealShare.
Techmint appoints Kapil Vardhan as their Chief Human Resources Officer
Edtech startup Teachmint has appointed Kapil Vardhan as their Chief Human Resources Officer.
With 20+ years of experience across leading Indian and global organisations, Vardhan will play a critical role in furthering Teachmint’s vision of building a highly competitive team to transform the education ecosystem across the world, the firm said.
Vardhan joins Teachmint from Flipkart where he spent close to 5 years expanding and strengthening the organization’s engineering, product and design teams across multiple business groups.
GitHub exec Maneesh Sharma joins LambdaTest as COO
LambdaTest, a test orchestration and execution platform, has onboarded Maneesh Sharma, former GitHub General Manager for India, as its Chief Operating Officer.
Maneesh will lead all the go-to-market functions in the company. He has also held leadership positions at top technology companies including Adobe and SAP, and was also the Java Ambassador at Sun Microsystems, where he was driving developer engagement across APAC.
LambdaTest has raised around $70 million, to date, in funding from leading investors like Premji Invest, Sequoia Capital India, Telstra Ventures, Blume Ventures, and Leo Capital, among others.
Crypto app CoinSwitch calls for regulatory 'peace, certainty'
India must establish rules on cryptocurrencies to resolve regulatory uncertainty, protect investors and boost its crypto sector, CoinSwitch CEO Ashish Singhal said.
Although RBI has backed a ban on cryptocurrencies over risks to financial stability, a federal government move to tax income from them has been interpreted by the industry as a sign of acceptance by the government.
"Users don't know what will happen with their holdings — is government going to ban, not ban, how is it going to be regulated?," Singhal, a former Amazon engineer who co-founded CoinSwitch, told Reuters at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
CoinSwitch, which is valued at $1.9 billion, says it is the largest crypto company in India with more than 18 million users. The firm is backed by Andreessen Horowitz, Tiger Global and Coinbase Ventures.
GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY & STARTUP NEWS
New York pension fund urges votes against Twitter and Meta directors over shootings
New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is calling for votes against directors at Twitter and at Facebook parent Meta Platforms at their upcoming annual meetings, saying both companies failed to enforce their standards against harmful content including from a mass shooting in Buffalo, NY on May 14.
In letters seen by Reuters and sent to each companies' boards ahead of events both scheduled for May 25, Thomas DiNapoli, who oversees New York's pension fund, cited reports the companies did not remove video clips and screenshots of the shooter's livestream, and his alleged racist manifesto, from their platforms.
Such gaps help radicalize individuals and lead to calls for further social media regulation, DiNapoli wrote. He told both boards that until they can show an "ability to successfully oversee the company’s content management policies, the Fund will continue voting against directors" and called on other investors to do the same.
Asked about the letters, a Twitter representative said it is taking steps including "removing videos and media related to the incident, as well as Tweets that contain third-party links to manifesto and videos of the attack."
Meta said it quickly designated the shooting as a "terrorist attack" that triggered a process to remove the suspect's account and other material. "We have teams working around the clock across Meta to identify, remove, and block violating content related to the shooting," Meta said in a statement sent by a representative.
Elon Musk says he's recruiting for a new Tesla 'litigation department'
Following recent sexual misconduct charges, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said he is building a "hardcore litigation department" at Tesla that will report directly to him.
He tweeted that Tesla is building a team that would "never seek victory in a just case against us, even if we will probably win." He added that the team would "never surrender/settle an unjust case against us, even if we will probably lose."
An Insider investigation published on Thursday found that a SpaceX flight attendant was paid for her silence as she accused the tech mogul of sexual harassment in late 2016. Documents and interviews procured by Insider indicate she declined the offer.
Musk said he's looking for "hardcore streetfighters" for his litigation department, adding: "There will be blood." The tech mogul also said he was not looking for lawyers who "thrive on corruption."
Apple looks to boost production outside China: WSJ
Apple has told some of its contract manufacturers that it wants to increase production outside China, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
India and Vietnam, which are already sites of Apple production, are among the countries short-listed by the company as alternatives, the report added.
Apple last month forecast bigger supply problems as COVID-19 lockdowns slowed production and demand in China. The report said that Apple is citing China's strict anti-Covid policy and other reasons for its decision.
Tether withdrawals top $10 billion as regulators raise alarm about stablecoins: Report
Investors have yanked more than $10 billion out of tether in the past two weeks amid heightened regulatory scrutiny over stablecoins.
Tether, the world’s largest stablecoin, has seen its circulating supply plunge from a record $84.2 billion on May 11 to around $73.3 billion as of Monday, according to data from CoinGecko. About $1 billion was withdrawn late Friday evening.
The cryptocurrency, which is meant to be pegged to the US dollar, temporarily dipped as low as 95 cents on May 12 after another type of stablecoin, terraUSD — or UST — plunged well below $1. That resulted in a sell-off in UST’s associated luna token, which in turn wiped out more than $40 billion in holders’ wealth.
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