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Startup Digest: Paytm plunges in market debut, Zomato a good investor in us: Grofers CEO, Google’s new initiatives for India & Alibaba profit falls 81%

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Here are the top headlines from the startup universe.

Startup Digest: Paytm plunges in market debut, Zomato a good investor in us: Grofers CEO, Google’s new initiatives for India & Alibaba profit falls 81%
Here are the top headlines from the startup universe.
Paytm plunges in market debut; VSS says share price not a true reflection of Co's scale
Even as shares of One97 Communications continued to trade sharply lower after a weak market debut, Paytm Founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma said that today's stock price is not a true reflection of the company's opportunity and scale.
"Today’s share price or any day's share price will actually never be a true reflection of our opportunity and our scale. It is simply an opinion of few buyers and sellers of that day," Sharma said in an interview with CNBC-TV18.
The CEO said that while people know about the Paytm 'product', they may not necessarily understand the company's business model.
"People will take time to understand the business model. The fact that a payment company can do financial services like private insurance and wealth is something new to the Indian stock market... Over the period it will show up what this business model and scale is," Sharma said.
Paytm shares fell sharply after they made a weak market debut at a discount of 9 percent to the issue price. At the time of writing, the stock was trading 26.37 percent lower at Rs 1583.10 on the BSE.
Zomato a very good investor, will always keep dialogue open, says Grofers CEO Albinder Dhindsa on merger reports
E-commerce firm Grofers’ co-founder and CEO Albinder Dhindsa tells CNBC-TV18 that “Zomato is a very good investor in us and will always keep the dialogue open (on potential merger).”
Dhinsa’s comments come amid reports of food delivery giant Zomato investing approximately $500 million in the e-commerce firm.
The investment will likely value Grofers at around $1.5 billion, up from $1 billion when Zomato first invested in the startup earlier this year with a $100 million cheque, ET reported.
The big bet on Grofers comes after Zomato CEO Deepinder Goyal a few weeks ago announced the company's investments in startups such as Curefit, Shiprocket and Magicpin, and said the company will invest another $1 billion into more companies over the next couple of years.
Cryptocurrency should not end up in wrong hands, can spoil youth: PM Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that democratic nations need to work together to ensure that cryptocurrency does not go in the wrong hands. The remarks came during his keynote address at The Sydney Dialogue on the theme of India's technology evolution and revolution.
"It is important that all democratic nations work together and ensure it does not end up in wrong hands, which can spoil our youth," PM Modi said on cryptocurrency or bitcoin.
Modi said India is building the world's most extensive public information infrastructure, adding that the country has created a robust framework of data protection, privacy, and security.
PM’s speech comes as the government is considering a regulatory framework to manage and oversee investments made in cryptocurrency.
Google steps up product focus to drive digital inclusion in India
Google on Thursday announced a slew of new product features and partnerships as part of its efforts to drive digital inclusion in the country.
The tech giant announced the first-ever Google Assistant-enabled, end-to-end vaccine booking flow in India which will guide users through the process of booking a vaccination appointment on the Co-Win website with voice guidance in English and eight Indian languages at each step. This feature will be available in Chrome on Android and will begin rolling out in early 2022.
In order to help local language speakers find high-quality information by translating the best results from across the web, Google launched a new feature in ‘Search’ that will give users an option to access web pages from other languages and view it in their preferred local language.
It also announced the launch of 100,000 Google Career Certificate scholarships and joins hands with leading companies to drive the hiring of Google certified professionals.
The announcements underline Google’s growing focus on product innovations that will help new Internet users in India.
“Last year, we launched the USD 10 billion Google for India Digitisation Fund. Today’s announcements aim at bridging more gaps and further broadening the inclusive base of India’s digital economy so that the advantages of this crucial transformation are accessible to everyone,” said Sanjay Gupta, Country Head & Vice President, Google India.
Accenture, Microsoft expand Project Amplify to support 10 startups, social enterprises in India
Accenture and Microsoft will support 10 startups in India that focuses on social impact and sustainability, by helping them to scale their emerging solutions and business models. The joint initiative 'Project Amplify' is Asia Pacific-wide and accelerates the growth of 33 startups from across the region.
The initiative extends activities launched in South Asia in 2020 welcoming business ventures from Singapore, Australia, Japan, Sri Lanka, and other countries.
The initiative has a long-term goal of accelerating Asia’s potential and improving millions of lives in the region and globally, by addressing diverse societal challenges, the companies said in a statement.
Purpose-driven startups from India participating in Project Amplify include Jaljeevika, eKutir, Everwell, Fluxgen, Docturnal, BrainSight AI, Fresh On Table, FreshR, Rocket Learning and Blink Foundation, it added.
Through Project Amplify in India, all 10 startups will have the opportunity to access the latest technologies, as well as know-how, expertise and mentoring from both Accenture and Microsoft. The companies will help startups test and validate proof-of-concepts to re-envision and expand the impact and social benefit of their solutions.
Antler launches fellowship programme worth $20K for student founders in India
Global venture capital firm Antler India has launched a fellowship programme in the country that will provide student founders an equity-free grant of $20,000 to turn their startup ideas into a business.
The fellowship aims to fuel the growing entrepreneurial talent by providing a platform for experimentation, building, and scaling with the support of equity-free capital, mentors, and a peer network. The grant will be equity-free, the company said in a statement.
Fellows can use the grant to scale their startup idea or pay off their student loans should they choose to pursue entrepreneurship full-time. They can also gain access to a hands-on programme by domain experts and founders, spanning idea validation, user research, product, engineering, and marketing, the firm said.
Antler India will select 10 student founders for the 16-week programme that will offer workshops, mentorship with top founders, and a peer community for them to lean on during and after the programme.
Nandini Vishwanath, Programme Director, Antler India said that the organisation spoke with hundreds of college students in the past year and realised the immense potential of student entrepreneurs that is yet to be unlocked. “Indian students want to start up but end up not pursuing their ideas because of the lack of guidance and mentorship," Vishwanath added.
Post the programme, fellows will be provided an opportunity to raise pre-seed funding from Antler India and will receive support in raising subsequent funding rounds thereafter.
Social commerce platform Frontier Markets partners with U.P govt to promote rural women entrepreneurship in the state
Uttar Pradesh State Rural Livelihood Mission (UPSRLM) a registered society promoted by the state government, mandated to implement the National Rural Livelihoods Mission has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Rajasthan based social commerce company Frontier Markets to support rural women with livelihood and income generation.
UPSRLM collaboration with Frontier Markets will help rural women entrepreneurs earn enhanced income as sahelis. The partnership will focus on institution and capacity building with technical and implementation support to promote women entrepreneurship, accelerate financial independence through job creation at scale and facilitating door-step delivery of rural friendly products and services.
The partnership also aims to onboard 2000 rural women as Frontier Markets Sahelis with Self Help Groups (SHGs) and train them to leverage technology through the Frontier Markets e-commerce platform “Meri Saheli” and generate an income of Rs 50,000 - Rs 60,000 per annum, a statement said.
Leveraging Banking Correspondent Sakhi (BCs), the organic part of the SHGs trained in conducting financial transactions will be trained to generate sales leads and data collection. These women entrepreneurs will also support the implementation of government's schemes and programs in the catchment areas.
“We are on a mission to onboard 1 million sahelis. Rural women are trusted influencers of the community driving change and development and through this expansion we are focusing on enhancing livelihood with our gender centric approach,” said Ajaita Shah Founder and CEO Frontier Markets.
Northern Arc Capital partners with Dutch entrepreneurial development bank FMO
IPO-bound debt financing platform Northern Arc Capital has partnered with Dutch entrepreneurial development bank FMO.
Through this deal, Northern Arc Capital will support FMO by providing services including research on macro trends, assessment of the financial landscape, transaction monitoring, performance reporting, and modelling support for securitisation of transactions in sub-Saharan Africa and countries neighbouring Europe, for all transactions guaranteed by FMO under the NASIRA programme, the company said in a statement.
NASIRA is a risk-sharing facility provided by FMO for local financial institutions lending to underserved segments. The programme aims to allow local financial institutions to provide loans to young women and COVID-19-affected and migrant entrepreneurs, who financial institutions normally would perceive as too risky.
Northern Arc Capital filed its DRHP with the market regulator Sebi to raise funds through an IPO. The company will issue fresh equity shares of up to Rs 300 crore and an offer for sale (OFS) of up to 36.52 million equity shares by existing shareholders and promoters.
Mumbai Angels Network collaborates with FreeFlow Ventures as a part of The Co-investment Program
Startup investment platform for early-stage venture investments Mumbai Angels Network has partnered with FreeFlow Ventures, a startup incubator and accelerator to co-invest in select startups that display a high growth potential.
Startups chosen for the co-investment program will receive benefits, including being a part of Mumbai Angels Network’s outreach for next-level investment conversations with eminent VCs, Strategics, and Family Offices. Additionally, the startups will be included in Mumbai Angels Network’s Multiplier Program, a new, exclusive marketplace for its portfolio companies. The co-investment program will also offer startups the chance to raise their next round of funding from Mumbai Angels Network, depending on their performance and capital efficiency, the company said in a statement.
“This partnership will offer an unrestricted pass to startups for co-investment deals from both Mumbai Angels Network and FreeFlow Ventures, allowing them to scale their business and reach greater heights,” said Nandini Mansinghka, Co-Founder & CEO - Mumbai Angels Network.
Entropik Tech launches beta version of its conversational intelligence platform ‘Decode’
Entropik Tech,a  SaaS-based Emotion AI company, has announced the beta launch of its new conversational intelligence platform, Decode.
This new platform gathers conversation data and creates a layer of intelligence on top to turn conversations into actionable insights that will increase the efficiency and productivity of organizations, the company said.
Users will be able to host, record and upload conversations, avail playback with transcription capabilities, index videos, tag conversations and get access to Emotion AI and sentiment analysis. Additionally, users will have the ability to integrate with video conferencing platforms, including Zoom, Google Meet and Teams, the firm added.
Entropik Tech helps brands understand their customer experience from the lens of their emotional behaviour. It tracks their facial expressions and eye movements as they scroll through and record engagement levels as well as reactions like happy, sad or excited.
The firm’s clients include Procter & Gamble, Flipkart, Tata Consumer Care, Accenture and ViaCom18 to name a few.
92% SMBs in 48 countries reported jump in cloud usage during peak of pandemic: DigitalOcean Survey
65 percent small-to-medium sized businesses (SMBs) have reported an increased dependency on cloud solutions due to Covid-19, as per a report by Cloud computing company DigitalOcean.
The finding was based on the company’s research report involving 2,400 interviews in 48 countries, including 300 from India. The report added that 92 percent respondents who switched to cloud solutions reported a jump in cloud usage during the peak of the pandemic that continued to increase in 2021.
The report noted that apart from the challenge of having limited technical staff to manage cloud solutions, cost, technical training and education, and time required to manage services were the barriers to cloud adoption. Lack of cloud knowledge among SMBs was also reported in the report.
For example, 48 percent of respondents from traditional SMBs were not familiar with the term “cloud-native,” compared to the 5 percent of respondents from enterprises who are not familiar with the term. Also, 56 percent of respondents from traditional SMBs were not familiar with the term “digital native,” compared to 18 percent of respondents from enterprises who are not familiar.
As per the report, the Covid impact has led to an increased reliance on the cloud. Of the respondents who reported increased cloud usage in 2020 due to Covid-driven digital acceleration, 82 percent of traditional SMBs, 82 percent of tech SMBs, and 92 percent of enterprises said their cloud usage has continued to increase this year. 69 percent percent of respondents believed the cloud has helped their business recover from the ongoing pandemic.
GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY & STARTUP NEWS
Alibaba says profit falls 81% as China tech crackdown bites: Report
Chinese e-commerce leader Alibaba Group said that its profit for the most recent quarter tumbled 81% as a government crackdown on the country's big tech champions bites.
According to AFP, Alibaba said its profit came in at 5.37 billion yuan ($833 million) for the July-September period.
The company's revenues, generated mainly by its core e-commerce operations, reached 200.7 billion yuan, up 29 percent, roughly in line with previous years' growth rates.
Alibaba's earnings results have been keenly anticipated for a gauge of how one of the country's highest-profile companies was faring under the government's drive to rein in big tech.
US FTC says court should allow antitrust lawsuit against Facebook to proceed
The US Federal Trade Commission said that a federal court should allow an antitrust lawsuit it filed against Facebook to go forward as the company has "interfered with the competitive process by targeting nascent threats through exclusionary conduct."
In August the FTC refreshed its antitrust case against Facebook, now Meta Platforms, adding detail on the accusation the social media company crushed or bought rivals and asking a judge to force it to sell Instagram and WhatsApp.
As per Reuters, in a filing with the US District Court for the District of Columbia, the FTC said that for more than a decade, Facebook's market share - for example, more than 70% of daily active users - exceed the levels needed to establish monopoly power.
It said that Facebook sought to maintain its monopoly position by buying photo-sharing app Instagram and secure messaging app WhatsApp. However, Meta disagreed.
"The FTC has once again brought a monopolization case without a monopolist. Its claims ignore the reality that people have more choices than ever before in how they share, connect, and communicate, and its second complaint should be dismissed just like the first," a Meta spokesperson said in a statement.
Apple to sell spare parts to consumers to repair iPhones, Macs
Apple said it will for the first time start selling spare parts and tools to the general public to perform their own repairs on some iPhones and Mac computers, according to Reuters.
The self-service repair program comes after years of pressure from consumer groups have resulted in Apple providing greater access to repair manuals and genuine parts.
In 2019, Apple started a program where independent repair shops can buy its parts, tools and manuals. Apple said there are now 2,800 independent shops in its program in addition to its 5,000 directly authorized repair providers.
Under the self-service program, Apple customers will be able to buy those parts directly to perform their own repairs after reading a manual. Apple said the online store will start with about 200 parts and tools aimed at fixing the most common issues with displays, batteries and cameras on iPhone 12 and 13 models.
The program will eventually extend to Mac computers that use Apple's M1 chip and later to less common repairs. Customers will be offered the same pricing on parts and tools as independent repair shops and will be able to return their used parts to Apple after completing a repair to receive a discount.
Apple said the program will begin early next year in the United States and expand to more countries later in the year.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk exercises more options, sells $973M for taxes
Tesla boss Elon Musk sold another $973 million in stock to pay taxes after exercising options on Tuesday, Reuters reported.
Musk acquired 2.1 million shares worth $2.2 billion at the Tuesday closing price and sold 934,091 for $973 million to pay taxes, the SEC filings showed.
In a sector surge spearheaded by Rivian Automotive Inc and Lucid Group Inc, Tesla Inc rose 4.1% to close at $1,054.73, leaving its market capitalization down about $187 billion since before Musk began selling shares last week.
Over the past week, Musk has sold about 8.2 million Tesla shares for around $8.8 billion. Those sales fulfill almost half of his pledge on Twitter to sell 10% of his stake in Tesla.
Musk began selling shares last week after floating the idea in a Twitter poll.
With electric-car makers increasingly in demand on Wall Street, Tesla's stock has surged more than 150% in the past 12 months.
Bezos’ Blue Origin hires lobbyist with ties to Obama administration after space tax proposal: Report
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ space tourism company has hired a lobbyist with ties to former President Barack Obama’s administration after a Democratic congressman proposed a tax that could make traveling to space a little more expensive, according to CNBC.
Bezos’ Blue Origin recently hired Mac Campbell from Capitol Counsel to lobby on behalf of the company to “monitor and evaluate proposed changes to the Internal Revenue Code being considered by Congress as part of the budget reconciliation process,” according to a lobbying registration form. Campbell registered to lobby for the company in October.
Campbell was an assistant U.S. trade representative for congressional affairs while working in Obama’s executive office before moving on to the powerful Senate Finance Committee. His other clients include Lockheed Martin, Las Vegas Sands and Pacific Mutual, as per data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Blue Origin has already spent over $1.3 million on lobbying this year alone. In 2020, the space company invested nearly $2 million trying to influence lawmakers.
China's WeRide to launch robotaxis on GAC's Ontime ride-hailing app
China-based autonomous driving startup WeRide plans to make its robotaxis available for booking by the public on Guangzhou Automobile Group's Ontime ride-hailing app by next year, as per Reuters.
Backed by Nissan Motor, WeRide said in a statement it plans to offer test rides for the public at the Guangzhou Auto Show, which begins in the southern Chinese city on Friday. It added that its robotaxi has been integrated into the Ontime platform and they were conducting testing.
Automakers and technology firms are investing billions of dollars in autonomous driving, aiming to take an early lead in what many consider the future of mobility.
On Tuesday, Chinese autonomous vehicle startup AutoX, which is backed by Alibaba Group said it had expanded its robotaxi zone in China's southern city of Shenzhen to become the country's largest fully driverless robotaxi zone, at 65 square miles (168 square km).
China’s Baidu wants to launch its driverless robotaxi service in 100 cities by 2030: Report
Baidu plans to launch its driverless taxi service in 100 cities by 2030, as the Chinese search giant looks to diversify its business beyond advertising.
According to CNBC, currently, Baidu operates its Apollo Go robotaxi service in five Chinese cities. Users can hail an autonomous car via an app. The company wants to expand Apollo Go to 65 cities by 2025 and then 100 cities by 2030, Baidu CEO Robin Li said in an internal letter that was made public.
Baidu’s driverless car announcement comes after the company reported revenue of 31.92 billion yuan ($4.95 billion) for the third quarter, which was ahead of market expectations.
Amazon may drop Visa as partner on US credit card
Amazon is considering dropping Visa as partner on its US co-branded credit card after earlier confirming it would stop accepting Visa credit cards in the United Kingdom as a dispute over payments intensified, Reuters reported.
The e-commerce giant is in talks with several payment networks including Mastercard Inc, American Express Co and Visa as part of what it called its standard process for reviewing its co-branded credit card agreement, a spokesperson said.
Earlier, shares of Visa closed 4.7% lower after Amazon said it would stop taking payments from Visa credit cards in the UK from January 19, 2022. In a statement, it said such charges should be "going down over time with technological advancements, but instead they continue to stay high or even rise."
In recent months, Amazon has introduced surcharges on customers using Visa credit cards in Singapore and Australia, citing high fees, as the relationship between the two firms deteriorated.
Amazon customers can still use Visa debit cards, Mastercard and Amex credit cards, and Eurocard, in the UK, Amazon said in a note to customers.
EU lawmakers agree on rules to target big tech- FT
European Union lawmakers have reached a deal on how to target big tech companies, as part of a move to limit anti-competitive practices in the digital economy, the Financial Times reported.
The European Parliament's main political parties agreed to a deal that would apply to companies with a market capitalisation of at least 80 billion euros ($91 billion) and offering at least one internet service, such as an online search.
The rules would draw more companies than previously thought into the EU's planned Digital Markets Act (DMA), the newspaper said, adding that the EU plans to implement the act next year.
The DMA, proposed by EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager last year, aims to curb the powers of big tech companies with a list of dos and don'ts.
The act will also help national competition authorities scrutinise tech companies' acquisitions of smaller rivals, amid fears of them acquiring competitors cheaply, according to the FT.
Companies including Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft would fall under its scope, along with China's Alibaba Group Holding and Netherlands' Booking.
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