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STARTUP DIGEST: Ola GMV crosses pre-COVID levels, Flipkart launches D2C initiative, Swiggy begins hiring

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There were several important developments in the startup space during the day on Tuesday. Here’s a wrap of all top startup headlines.

STARTUP DIGEST: Ola GMV crosses pre-COVID levels, Flipkart launches D2C initiative, Swiggy begins hiring
There were several important developments in the startup space during the day on Tuesday. Here’s a wrap of all top startup headlines.
Ola GMVs grow 3x pre-pandemic levels: CEO Bhavish Aggarwal
Ola co-founder and chief executive Bhavish Aggarwal has said Ola cabs gross merchandise value (GMV) crossed pre-COVID levels last week, and the recovery from the second COVID wave is three times faster.
“Clearly India is up and about!” the founder of the IPO-bound taxi startup tweeted.
According to Aggarwal, 10 million people used Ola for the first time in the fiscal ended March 31. “As people move, they want to feel safe so they’re switching to personal or shared mobility instead of public transport,” he said.
The CEO also said Ola's auto business has risen almost 150 per cent of pre-covid levels, thanks to its 'safety first' approach. Aggarwal also said over 3 lakh Ola drivers have been vaccinated and soon, over 100 per cent of people will be vaccinated.
Ola claims to be India's largest mobility platform, serving over 250 cities across India, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. The ride hailing aggregator has plans to go public sometime next year.
Ola Electric ties up with banks, financial institutions for loans to customers
Ola Electric on Monday said it has tied up with leading banks and financial institutions, including HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Kotak Mahindra Prime and TATA Capital, for providing loans to customers for its S1 electric scooter that will be available for purchase from September 8.
“We have tied up with all the major banks and (financial) institutions…we will have many of them live starting September 8 and then others will be live soon after,” Ola Electric Chief Marketing Officer Varun Dubey said.
The banks and financial institutions that Ola Electric has tied up include Bank of Baroda, Axis Bank, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, IDFC First Bank, IndusInd Bank, AU Small Finance Bank, Jana Small Finance Bank, Kotak Mahindra Prime, TATA Capital and YES Bank.
The company, which had last month launched the Ola S1 electric scooter in two variants — S1 and S1 Pro — at prices Rs 99,999 and Rs 1,29,999, respectively, said it will start deliveries in October.
On August 15, the company announced its foray into the green mobility space with the launch of its first electric scooter, Ola S1. The company had stated that it would initially start with 10 lakh annual production capacity and then scale it up to 20 lakh, in line with market demand, in the first phase.
Capillary Technologies ramps up Loyalty Game with the acquisition of Persuade
Global customer loyalty and customer engagement solutions provider, Capillary Technologies has announced the acquisition of Minneapolis-based customer experience company, Persuade. This marks the company’s first US acquisition and fourth globally.
Capillary’s enterprise-ready AI-powered SaaS platform offers consistent business growth and today has over 500 million customers across multiple industries including apparel and fashion, luxury and lifestyle, food and beverage, supermarkets, hospitality, retail, and consumer goods and durables. Capillary works with 10 Global Fortune 500 companies like GSK, HP to name a few.
Capillary’s acquisition of Persuade, a brand with over thirty years of expertise, further extends Capillary’s presence in North America and strengthens its position as the global customer loyalty and engagement leader.
Persuade’s expertise in digital capabilities and its advanced loyalty platform will complement Capillary’s capabilities to raise the bar of customer loyalty programs and deliver solutions for new verticals like airlines, automotive, and healthcare benefiting customers across the globe.
“We are absolutely thrilled to join a global industry leader like Capillary,” said John Tschida, Founder and Managing Partner of Persuade. “Our shared commitment to reimagining loyalty will expand our combined market reach and sharpen our joint technical capabilities, delivering impactful and always-engaging solutions to customers.”
Post-pandemic, companies worldwide are busy reinventing loyalty strategies, and this especially involves adapting to the meteoric growth in digital and online customers sparked by rolling lockdowns and less accessible brick-and-mortar business.
To meet this need for change and adaptation, the Persuade acquisition enables Capillary to turbocharge curated actionable insights across the customer’s entire journey for both in-store and online experiences.
Sitics Logistic Solutions acquires cold chain startup Udgam Logistics
Third-party logistics firm Sitics Logistic Solutions on Tuesday said it has acquired Delhi-based cold chain and distribution start-up Udgam Logistics, paving its entry into the USD 25-billion cold chain space besides tapping into new markets.
The company, however, did not disclose the acquisition amount.
This is the second buyout for the Palakkad (Kerala)-based technology-enabled supply chain company in the recent past. In early-May this year, it acquired Quifers, an innovative logistics tech start-up.
Sitics Logistic Solutions has acquired Udgam Logistics for an undisclosed amount, the company said in a statement.
Founded by Shailendra Singh and Rahul Mathur, Udgam caters to segments such as quick service restaurant (QSR), pharmaceuticals, agriculture, dairy, fruits and vegetables, retail and marine products. It currently offers primary and last-mile solutions.
The latest acquisition of Udgam Logistics has driven Sitics up the value chain in the global third-party logistics market, it said. The company added that while it places the company among the unique integrated supply chain service providers, it also gives entry into the $25-billion cold chain market.
The market positioning of Udgam, with its state-of-the-art temperature-controlled solutions, will expand the footprint of Sitics and help it tap into new markets and significantly boost its revenue, Sitics said. The combination would unlock tremendous cross-selling and up-selling opportunities for both the companies as a combined entity, it added.
With core capabilities in supply chain planning, freight forwarding, transportation, warehousing and e-commerce logistics, Sitics also provides solutions such as direct-to-customer (D2C), direct-to-retailers (D2R), and cross-border e-commerce.
Flipkart launches D2C initiative ‘Flipkart Boost’
Flipkart has announced the launch of ‘Flipkart Boost’, an integrated programme for digital-first consumer brands to move into the next phase of growth.
Through a service fee model, Flipkart Boost will provide Made in India brands, Rajneesh Kumar, SVP & Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at Flipkart said on Twitter.
The Flipkart Boost programme will shortlist brands based on a clear set of pre-decided objective criteria, which covers their growth potential, sustainable revenue run rate, focus on quality, commitment to building a long-lasting brand, strong product mix and customer orientation.
Through a ‘pitch day’ facilitated by Flipkart, the selected brands will also have the opportunity to secure potential funding from a network of leading venture capital funds and active investors in the D2C space, including A91 Partners, DSG Consumer Partners, Fireside Ventures, Matrix Partners India, Sequoia Capital India and Stellaris Venture Partners.
According to a report by Avendus Capital, the pandemic has accelerated the uptake for D2C brands, with an almost 88 percent rise in demand over 2019. The D2C sector in India is worth $44.6 billion (end of FY 2021), and is expected to be worth $100 billion by 2025.
US-based CrossTower launches crypto trading platform in India
US-based trading platform and digital asset investment firm CrossTower has launched its crypto trading platform in India on Tuesday.
The platform was methodically built on a robust, scalable, and resilient infrastructure with best-in-class safeguards, services, and capabilities, the company said in a statement.
“As a part of its launch, CrossTower is offering its first 1,000 Indian customers an opportunity to earn extra Bitcoin up to ₹500 on their first trade on the exchange," the company added.
As per the company, CrossTower is ranked fourth out of 152 global exchanges by CryptoCompare. The ranking was based upon asset and market quality, data, security, KYC, regulations, and the team.
The Indian cryptocurrency market grew from $923 million in April 2020 to a staggering $6.6 billion in May 2021, which is an average of over 50% monthly growth.
Kapil Rathi, co-founder and CEO said, in the last couple of years, India has seen a revolution in crypto-investing and the new generation of investors in India has welcomed cryptocurrencies as a tool for financial freedom.
“For India, CrossTower has built a business that permits everyone, from young adults to business tycoons, making investing in cryptocurrency easiest and safest. Any individual in any village, town or city in the country can start cryptocurrency trading with the trusted CrossTower platform using Indian rupees and access over 40 cryptocurrencies (tokens)," the company said.
Swiggy begins hiring for new development centre in Gurugram
Online food aggregator Swiggy said it is set to scale hiring across technology functions as it prepares to open a new development centre in Gurugram.
The Gurugram centre follows development teams based in Bangalore and Hyderabad.
The centre will focus on building platforms and applications that will work on updated experiences for Swiggy’s over 1,50,000 restaurant partners across 500 cities and towns in India, the company said in a statement.
The move comes as markets open up and mobility normalises leading to a pickup in restaurant business, the company added.
Swiggy said it was rapidly scaling its technology teams, with hirings across engineering, product, design, analytics, and data science functions spread over the next two quarters ahead of opening up of the new centre.
The centre will begin operations with a small team of highly skilled engineers, operations at the centre will scale over time, the company said in a statement.
The Gurgaon development centre will augment Swiggy’s Restaurant Technology Platform capabilities and allow the food tech platform to experiment with new service offerings, said Dale Vaz, chief technology officer, Swiggy.
In July, Swiggy raised $1.25 billion from investors, including SoftBank and Prosus
MSME businesses are willing to invest despite the pandemic: Kantar's Study
The pandemic has had a strong impact in changing the business landscape of the MSMEs in India as per Kantar’s ITOPS 2020 study.
Number of ‘Safe players’ (Businesses that do not see any benefit in investing if the economic condition is not at par) had significantly increased - from 35 percent in 2019 to 91 percent in June 2020. This means that during COVID, more than 9 out 10 businesses were not ready to invest further in their business, the report claims.
Meanwhile, business in the ‘Fighter’ segment (Businesses that are willing to invest despite a poor economic condition in the country) increased by 4 times within 5 to 6 months (from June’ 20 to Nov/ Dec.’ 20). The report said this indicates that businesses are now ready to fight in this scenario so that they can stay competitive and grow.
According to the study, amid nearly 40% of the MSMEs in 2020, as compared to 34 percent last year, are looking towards launching new products and services in the coming next one year. This indicates a sharp recovery as more businesses today are looking to offer something new to their customers.
As per the latest ITOPS data, hiring is one of the major business plans in 2021 for every 1 out of 3 MSMEs in India.
“MSMEs are becoming aggressive post COVID. They have started believing that playing safe is the riskiest proposition. Thus, they are no longer doing things just to survive. More number of businesses today are investing in multiple activities to stay afloat and looking for growth as well. This provides a strong opportunity for tech and digital players to help MSMEs to make them understand the potential of technology in their business growth,” said Indranil Dutta, Associate Vice President, Insights Division at Kantar.
Organisations in India project 9.4% salary increase in 2022: Aon survey
Notwithstanding the COVID second wave hitting the nation hard, Indian organisations have displayed resilience, and the salary increment is being projected to grow from an average of 8.8 percent this year to an estimated average of 9.4 percent in 2022, according to a survey.
As per Aon's 26th Annual Salary Increase Survey released on Tuesday, most businesses have an optimistic view going into 2022, with 98.9 per cent of companies intend to give salary increases in 2022, as compared to 97.5 percent companies in 2021.
There is positive sentiment across most sectors, and India Inc is firmly on the path to recovery, with most firms projecting salary hikes back to FY 2019 levels by FY 2022, the report added.
The survey further noted that the pandemic has accelerated the digital journey for organisations and this has led to an unprecedented war for digital talent in the short term and is driving up salary increase budgets and attrition numbers across sectors.
“Businesses will have to redefine their talent strategies to keep pace with the war for talent”, Roopank Chaudhary, a partner in Aon's human capital business said.
The top three sectors with the highest salary increase projected for 2022 for India are technology, e-commerce and IT-enabled services. "Sectors such as Hi-Tech/Information Technology, E-Commerce and Professional Services have projected greater than 10 per cent," the study that analysed data from 1,300 companies in 39 industries said.
The sectors with the lowest salary increase projected for 2022 are hospitality, engineering services and energy. While salary increments indicate strong recovery, attrition has shot up to 20 percent, driven by buoyancy and demand and highlights a renewed war for talent.
Math learning deteriorates due to the Pandemic: Cuemath Report
One in every 4 parents of younger students believes Math understanding has worsened due to the pandemic, according to a report by Cuemath, an online math-course provider backed by Google parent Alphabet.
The study also highlights that 44 percent of parents have reported fear of math as a prominent factor for learning loss. This is one of the reasons why 1 in every 3 parents of children from Grade 1 to Grade 3 feel additional pressure while teaching their kids.
Furthermore, 6 out of 10 parents feel that enhanced classroom teaching methods such as interactive videos, game-based learning, and DIY activities by either schools or EdTech platforms are lucrative solutions to address this learning loss.
This finding is supported by the fact that online learning platforms are preferred over offline neighbourhood tuitions by a whopping 150 percent, the report claimed.
The report also highlighted that Math anxiety and confusion are cited as significant concerns of learning loss for parents in cities such as Mumbai (40%), Bangalore (37%), Kolkata (35%), and Chennai (43%).
“Math has predominantly been directed rather than self-taught. With schools shut due to COVID, student progress has fallen sharply during the pandemic. Parents’ concerns are valid in such scenarios, and their increased confidence in EdTech platforms for learning Math is very encouraging. School syllabus will need to be supplemented by smart teaching methods offered by EdTech platforms going forward,” said Manan Khurma, founder & CEO, Cuemath.
The report further adds that 87 percent of the parents surveyed in the study also feel that edtech will continue to stay relevant in a post-pandemic world, and that the future of education will be hybrid i.e. a physical classroom and an edtech platform.
GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY & STARTUP NEWS
El Salvador makes Bitcoin its official currency
El Salvador has become the first country in the world to adopt bitcoin as legal tender.
El Salvador bought 400 bitcoin worth about $20.9 million, CNBC reported. El Salvador is the first country to accept bitcoin as legal currency, which will work alongside the U.S. dollar. Proponents and critics around the world will be watching to see how this unprecedented experiment plays out.
El Salvador also launched a wallet app called Chivo which citizens can sign up to with a national ID in order to transact using bitcoin.
Beijing city denies it is advising companies to invest in Didi
Reports that China's Beijing city government is advising state-owned companies to invest in embattled ride-hailing giant Didi Global are untrue, the city government told Reuters in a faxed statement.
Bloomberg News on Friday reported that China's capital city is considering taking Didi under state control and has proposed that government-run companies invest in Didi.
Didi had issued its own denial of the report on Saturday.  Beijing-based Didi completed a New York initial public offering in June but has been caught up in China's regulatory crackdown on technology companies in the past year to improve market competition, data handling and their treatment of employees.
Didi is controlled by the management team of co-founder Will Cheng and President Jean Liu. SoftBank Group Corp, Uber Technologies and Alibaba are among investors in the company.
China's esports powerhouse status undermined by tough new gaming rules for under 18s
China is the world's biggest esports market with an estimated 5,000-plus teams, but the government's tough new rules aimed at curbing gaming addiction are set to make careers hard to emulate, Reuters reported.
Provoking an outcry from many Chinese teens, the changes task gaming companies with limiting online games for under 18s to just three hours a week. Even before the changes, minors were restricted to 1.5 hours on weekdays and three hours on weekends.
Top esports players are typically discovered in their teens and retire in their mid-20s, and experts compare the intensity of their training to that of Olympic gymnasts and divers.
One of the world's most well-known players of Riot Games' "League of Legends", Wu Hanwei, also known as Xiye, began playing at 14 and joined a club at 16.
"The new regulations almost kill young people's chances of becoming professional esports players," said Chen Jiang, associate professor at Peking University's School of Electronics Engineering and Computer Science told Reuters.
In doing so, the rules also undermine the big business of esports in China, where tournaments are often played in billion-dollar stadiums and livestreamed to many more.
Chinese esport fans are estimated to number more than 400 million, according to the state-run People's Daily, while the domestic esports market was worth some 147 billion yuan ($23 billion) last year, says Chinese consultancy iResearch.
An executive at another major Chinese club said the new rules will mean many talented people will miss out on being discovered.
The new rules are not laws per se that punish individuals but place the onus on gaming companies which will be compelled to require logins with real names and national ID numbers. Experts note that determined Chinese teenagers can still circumvent the rules if they have their parents' support and are able to use adult logins.
Chinese prosecutors drop case against former Alibaba employee accused of sexual assault
Chinese prosecutors have dropped a case against a former Alibaba Group employee accused of sexually assaulting a female colleague, according to Reuters. The prosecutors said they had determined he had committed forcible indecency but not a crime.
The employee, identified by his surname Wang, was detained by police last month after a female Alibaba employee posted an 11-page account on Alibaba's intranet saying a manager and a client sexually assaulted her during a business trip to eastern China's Jinan city.
She said superiors and human resources did not take her report seriously, triggering a fierce public backlash against the e-commerce giant, which later fired Wang and suspended other executives.
Prosecutors, however, have approved the arrest of the client who has been identified by his surname Zhang.