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Startup Digest: Ola electric scooter deliveries & test rides delayed, Swiggy announces two-day period time-off for women delivery partners & Facebook plans new group name

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Startup Digest: Ola electric scooter deliveries & test rides delayed, Swiggy announces two-day period time-off for women delivery partners & Facebook plans new group name
Ola electric scooter deliveries and test rides delayed to November
After announcing the launch of the Ola Electric Scooter in August, the company had committed to start deliveries and offer test drives for the product from October. That plan, however, has run into delays and is also likely to affect the company's next phase of sales.
Ever since the company showcased the product in August, there has been a lot of anticipation building around the product coming into the market. It is now understood that Ola Electric’s plans to start test drives, which was initially slated for October, has now been pushed to November and that may have an impact in terms of delaying the delivery timelines for the product.
The company said it will now ask the customers to make full payment only after taking a test drive. That may have an impact on the next phase of sales for the Ola Scooters, which was originally to start on November 1. The company is looking to start these test drive camps only in select metros.
Swiggy announces two-day period time-off for women delivery partners
Online food delivery platform Swiggy has said it will be offering two-day paid monthly period time-off to its regular delivery partners. "Discomfort from being out and about on the road while menstruating is probably one of the most underreported reasons why many women don’t consider delivery to be a viable gig. To support them through any menstruation-related challenges, we’ve introduced a no-questions-asked, two-day paid monthly period time-off policy for all our regular female delivery partners," the company said in a blog post.
The delivery partners can voluntarily take time off and be eligible for a minimum earnings guarantee during that time. To ensure safety Swiggy also said partners- men and women, will be allowed the flexibility to decline an order they thought the area was unsafe. Earlier the company had capped delivery hours at 6 PM for female delivery partners citing safety concerns.
This comes at a time when there is more scrutiny on the rights of gig workers in India.
Good Glamm Group buys ScoopWhoop
D2C beauty and personal care brand Good Glamm Group has acquired media startup ScoopWhoop Media in an all-cash deal. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. ScoopWhoop will continue to work as an independent brand and media house within the Good Glamm Group.
Its founders Sattvik Mishra, Rishi Pratim Mukherjee & Sriparna Tikekar will continue leading ScoopWhoop and will work closely with Darpan Sanghvi, Priyanka Gill and Naiyya Saggi, co-founders of the Good Glamm Group, the company said in a statement.
The group is also entering the men’s grooming space with the acquisition and is looking to invest Rs 500 crore over the next three years. ScoopWhoop is the fourth big buyout for the group after The Moms Co, BabyChakra and content and commerce platform POPxo, which it acquired last year.
Microsoft launches program to help Indian startups accelerate the deployment of AI
Tech giant Microsoft has launched a new programme AI Innovate for nurturing and scaling startups that are leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI). Microsoft AI Innovate is a 10-week initiative that will support startups in India leveraging AI technologies, helping them scale operations, drive innovation, and build industry expertise, the company said in a statement.
"We are committed to ensuring that every startup gets expert guidance and best-in-class tech resources for strengthening their approach to the responsible use of AI," said Sangeeta Bavi, director, Startup Ecosystem, Microsoft India.
The program will start as a quarterly cohort in November in partnership with The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE), Mumbai. Startups from all major sectors including financial services, healthcare, education, agriculture, space, manufacturing and logistics, retail, and e-commerce have been invited to participate and apply for the first cohort of the program.
Carzonrent launches EV platform to offer sustainable mobility solutions
Car rental firm Carzonrent has launched an electric vehicle (EV) platform to offer clean and sustainable mobility solutions to its clients. Under the aegis of Plug Mobility, the company plans to offer a fleet of EVs to create a consistent EV ecosystem to reduce carbon footprint, the company said in a statement.
Plug Mobility will introduce 20,000 EVs across India to service corporate, hospitality, aviation, government, PSU and SME clients with a view to saving 389 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions in the next five years. Besides offering electric cars to its clients for emission-free and noiseless commute, Plug Mobility offers Carbon/Co2 emission savings and help to achieve ESG targets, along with reduced fuel costs on extra kilometres, it added.
The company is building an eco-system of OEM’s, major financial institutions, charging infrastructure companies, pre-owned car sale players and workshop aggregators to offer special prices and benefits on fleets and funding options among others, Plug Mobility Founder Rajiv K Vij noted. Plug Mobility will provide a chauffeur-driven EV fleet for different ground mobility needs, including business travel, Airport taxi, SME services, Limo and dedicated fleet, employee transfers, crew transfer and Government & PSU official travel, the company stated.
SaaS startup LeadSquared introduces digital onboarding platform
SaaS company LeadSquared has launched a digital onboarding platform, aimed at the complete digital transformation of the customer’s journey from application to conversion. The platform provides user-friendly, mobile-optimized, self-serve application forms to help users move through the buying cycle on their own. It also generates portals to help customers manage their own profiles, apply for a product or service, check their application status, and receive approval notifications.
For a completely paperless transaction, it enables secure payment integration, the company said in a statement. It also allows for easy phygital onboarding of customers and partners, wherein the onboarding agents complete the process on the customer or partner’s behalf. The digital onboarding platform allows businesses to build a completely digital, self-serve customer acquisition process and caters to various industries such as Education, Financial Services, Logistics, Real Estate, and Healthcare, among others.
The company had recently raised an undisclosed amount in funding from International Finance Corporation for its domestic and international expansion. LeadSquared claims to already have a strong foothold in the higher education space in the US with the market contributing 20 percent of the company's revenue.
Indian startups’ salary expenditure shot up by 43% between April and September: Razorpay Report
Indian startups have witnessed a hike in salary expenditure after it rose by 43 percent from April to September, as per a Razorpay report. This comes after payroll management became the biggest expense that organizations incurred during the pandemic which served as an inflection point for startups.
According to the report, edtech, fintech, and electronics are some of the sectors that witnessed a significant increase in their salary spending during the last six months. Moreover, some startups even increased the median salary of their employees by 7 percent this year. There has been a 52 percent increase in disbursed bonuses for organisations. The amount paid out on bonuses increased by 23 percent during the past year as opposed to paying cuts and deferred bonuses last year.
Real estate, hospitality and agritech are some of the sectors that were not able to give out bonuses, the findings showed. The study also indicated that employee headcount increased by 30 percent in the last six months led by an increase in onboarding. At an individual organizational level, 57 percent saw an increase in hiring, and 28 percent saw a decrease in headcount, in the last six months. As per the findings, the e-commerce sector contributed to this growth in a major way, given that a lot of businesses and consumers have started to embrace digital.
Supply chain veteran Daniel Vanden Brink joins Locus as global VP- Product Strategy
Logistics startup Locus has on-boarded Dan Vanden Brink as Vice President Product Strategy. Daniel will lead the execution of product strategy and go-to-market for Locus’ product portfolio across geographies. He brings with him a rich experience of over 25 years in strategy, consulting and customer success, the company said in a statement.
"We are excited to have Dan join our growing team to lead and strengthen the product strategy. Locus’ is focused on investing in technology that simplifies the lives of their customers, and I am sure Dan will add immense value to the team,” said Nishith Rastogi, founder, Locus.
Mumbai Angels Network partners with SucSEED on newly-launched Co-Investment Program
Mumbai Angels Network, an investment platform for early-stage venture investments, and SucSEED, an angel investment platform have joined hands to co-invest in select, high-potential early-stage startups. This partnership announces the launch of Mumbai Angels Network’s Co-investment Program. The partnership aims to multiply the expertise and capital from both the platforms and reduce the time taken by founders to close their fundraise and help the startups ecosystem in India at large, the company said in a statement.
The chosen startups will receive a host of benefits, including being a part of Mumbai Angels Network and SucSEED’s outreach for next-level investment conversations with marquee VCs, Strategics, and Family Offices alongside being included in Mumbai Angels Network’s Multiplier Program, a new, exclusive marketplace for its portfolio companies. Depending on its performance, the startup will also have a chance to raise its next round of funding on the Mumbai Angels Network platform and with the SucSEED Indovation Fund.
GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY & STARTUP NEWS
Facebook plans new group name to revamp image: The Verge
Facebook which is under fire from regulators and lawmakers over its business practices, is planning to rebrand itself with a new group name that focuses on the metaverse, the Verge reported. The name change will be announced next week.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been talking up the metaverse, a digital world where people can move between different devices and communicate in a virtual environment, since July, and the group has invested heavily in virtual reality and augmented reality, developing hardware such as its Oculus VR headsets and working on AR glasses and wristband technologies.
The move would likely position the flagship app as one of many products under a parent company overseeing brands such as Instagram and WhatsApp, according to the report. Google adopted such a structure when it reorganized into a holding company called Alphabet in 2015.
UK fines Facebook $70 million for breaching order in Giphy deal
Britain's competition regulator has fined Facebook 50.5 million pounds ($69.6 million) for breaching an order imposed during its investigation into the US social media giant's purchase of GIF platform Giphy, Reuters reported. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said Facebook had deliberately failed to comply with its order, and the penalty served as a warning that no company was above the law.
Facebook has increasingly come under fire from regulators and lawmakers about its business practices. It said it strongly disagreed with the CMA. The regulator said Facebook had failed to provide full updates about its compliance with requirements to continue to compete with Giphy and not integrate its operations with Giphy's while its investigation was ongoing. Facebook had not provided the required information, despite multiple warnings, the CMA said, and it considered its failure to comply deliberate.
Facebook to pay up to $14.25 million to settle US employment discrimination claims
Facebook has agreed to pay up to $14.25 million to settle civil claims by the US government that the social media company discriminated against American workers and violated federal recruitment rules, US officials told Reuters. The two related settlements were announced by the Justice Department and Labor Department and confirmed by Facebook.
The Justice Department last December filed a lawsuit accusing Facebook of giving hiring preferences to temporary workers including those who hold H-1B visas that let companies temporarily employ foreign workers in certain speciality occupations. Such visas are widely used by tech companies. The case centred on Facebook's use of the so-called permanent labour certification called the PERM program.
The US government said Facebook refused to recruit or hire American workers for jobs that had been reserved for temporary visa holders under the PERM program. It also accused Facebook of "potential regulatory recruitment violations." Facebook will pay a civil penalty under the settlement of $4.75 million, plus up to $9.5 million to eligible victims of what the government called discriminatory hiring practices.
Amazon and others commit to using zero-carbon shipping fuels by 2040
Amazon and IKEA are among commercial users of container shipping that will opt for zero-carbon marine fuels by 2040 in a new initiative aimed at speeding up decarbonisation in the maritime sector, executives told Reuters. With about 90 percent of world trade transported by sea, global shipping accounts for nearly 3 percent of the world's CO2 emissions and the sector is under growing scrutiny to become cleaner.
The initiative, which was organised by the non-profit Aspen Institute and has nine signatories so far including others such as Unilever and Michelin, sets a goal for companies to only purchase ocean freight services powered by scalable zero-carbon fuels by 2040. "The time to act is now," said Edgar Blanco, director, net-zero carbon at Amazon.
Swiss court rejects Google appeal over cloud contract
A Swiss court has dismissed Google's bid to block the award of a government cloud computing contract worth up to 110 million Swiss francs ($119 million) to rival bidders, according to Reuters. "In an interim decision, the Federal Administrative Court rejects Google's request to grant suspensive effect to its appeal.
The Federal Office for Buildings and Logistics may therefore conclude the public cloud contracts with the selected tenderers," the court said. The decision may be appealed to the Swiss supreme court. The government had awarded the contract in June to Amazon, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and Alibaba, Swiss media reported.
Carbon footprint tracker CoGo seeks $20 million to fund expansion
New Zealand-based carbon footprint tracking fintech CoGo will begin raising $20 million in capital to fund growth in the United States, Europe and Asia, Chief Executive Ben Gleisner told Reuters. The firm, whose algorithms help consumers align their purchasing habits with targets such as reducing carbon emissions, is opening the fundraising to venture funds, companies and to its retail customers, Gleisner said.
"If you look at what's going on around the world you'll see why we think we'll be the world's first climate impact unicorn within three years," Gleisner said, referencing the tag given to startups worth at least $1 billion. CoGo has ramped up operations over the past year as climate change concerns among consumers and investors surge and data sharing regimes develop. It has secured partnerships with more than seven UK banks.
Global 'Squid Game' mania lifts Netflix quarter
Netflix global sensation "Squid Game" helped lure more new customers than expected, the world's largest streaming service said as it predicted a packed lineup would further boost signups through the end of the year. After a sharp slowdown in the first half of 2021, Netflix added 4.38 million subscribers from July through September to reach 213.6 million worldwide.
Wall Street analysts had projected 3.86 million additions, according to Refinitiv data. The series, made with a relatively small budget, shot to the top of Netflix viewing charts in 94 countries, kick-started sales of tracksuits and Vans sneakers, and kindled interest in learning Korean. "Squid Game" merchandise is now on its way to retailers, Netflix said.
The fervor around "Squid Game" also is expected to lift the current quarter. Netflix projected it will pick up 8.5 million new customers by year's end, ahead of industry forecasts of 8.33 million, as it releases a heavy lineup of new programming. Upcoming debuts include big-budget action flick "Red Notice" and the second season of fantasy drama "The Witcher."
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