Here are the top headlines from the startup space.
RIL in talks to invest $250-$300 million in InMobi's Glance
Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) is all set to pick up about a 15 percent stake in lock-screen content platform Glance, which is a subsidiary of India’s first unicorn InMobi, sources told CNBC-TV18 on Tuesday. They said that Reliance is in a fairly advanced stage of talks to invest $250-$300 million in Glance and the deal could close in a month.
Reliance may get access to screen-lock content of Glance for the Jio Google 4G smartphone and it is also looking to get access to short video platform Roposo and social commerce through Shop101, the businesses that were acquired by Glance, sources said. According to Counterpoint Research, Glance has 151 million active users in India in Q2 2021 and one in every four Indian smartphone users is now active on the platform, which is available on Android phones.
Swiggy restructures Supr Daily; co-founder Phani Kishan to become CEO
Food delivery company Swiggy on Tuesday said its daily grocery delivery service Supr Daily will now operate as a separate business unit (BU) within Bundl Technologies (Swiggy). The foodtech giant also said Phani Kishan, the newly elevated co-founder, will take over the reins of the business unit as Supr Daily’s chief executive officer.
"After several discussions with the leadership team, we have decided to change Supr’s organisational structure to a Business Unit (BU) within Bundl (mirroring the structures we have with Food Delivery, Instamart, etc.), and work more closely to unlock its potential. This will help Supr with the advantages that Swiggy has access to and accelerate its journey," Sriharsha Majety, co-founder and CEO, Swiggy said in a blog post.
As per Majety, the company forayed into grocery delivery in 2018 when it had acquired Supr Daily. Supr Daily now serves over 500,000 customers monthly, delivering over 200,000 daily orders across six cities. The support functions of HR, Admin, Legal, IT and Finance from Supr will be integrated into the relevant functions with Swiggy while it will continue to have dedicated business teams.
Talking about the overall business, Majety said the food delivery business is comfortably surpassing its pre-covid peak, while also being on the path to overall profitability. "This business is 10x the size of the food services industry; I strongly believe that with the right investments and focus, we have the potential to build a category that is larger than our food delivery business," he said. The development comes at a time when Swiggy is in talks with existing and new investors to raise close to $1 billion, for a valuation of above $10 billion.
Credenc acquires content startup ObserveNow
Education loan startup Credenc has announced the acquisition of the digital content platform ObserveNow for an undisclosed amount. The company claimed that the "strategic acquisition will help Credenc enable more education loans across diverse verticals". The association with ObserveNow will help in creating new business avenues for Credenc by reaching out to colleges and students across India," the education loan firm said in a statement.
Credenc currently works with about 1,000 colleges across 17 cities. Capital India, a company that offers finance to SME and retail customers had infused $25 million in Credenc in July. It offers education loans covering K-12 school fees, online upskilling courses, higher education and study-abroad courses and is looking to lend Rs 3,000 crore by 2025.
Classplus announces ESOP buyback and ReSOPs
Edtech startup Classplus has announced its first-ever buyback for the employees. Under this buyback program, all the eligible employees with vested units of ESOPs were allowed to liquidate up to 100 percent of their vested shares by selling them back to the company. Over 30 employees participated in the buyback with an ESOP realisation pool of $1 million, the company said.
Classplus terms "ReSOPs", as a referral bonus to its employees who refer candidates that successfully get hired. As per the firm, this move is likely to encourage employees to refer suitable candidates for all existing and potential openings, thereby helping the organisation meet its talent requirements. All full-time employees are eligible for ReSOPs, which will also vest faster than ordinary ESOPs, it added.
Classplus claims to have recorded a spurred growth in the last 18 months by raising 4 rounds of funding and enabling a digital identity for 100,000 teachers who are using the platform to teach 20M+ students across 1500+ cities in India. They raised $65 million in a Series C round led by Tiger Global in June.
Delhi HC dismisses Google's plea against CCI alleging leak of a confidential report
The Delhi High Court on Monday closed the petition filed by Google India against the alleged leak of a confidential report, prepared by the investigative arm of Competition Commission of India over the company's alleged anti-competitive practices after taking on record the stand of CCI that it has no objection to accepting all requests of Google in regards of confidentiality.
Taking on record the suggestions put forth by the CCI, Justice Rekha Palli disposed of the petition with a liberty to Google for taking appropriate legal recourse in law in case it still has a grievance that the information is further leaked.
However, the court made it clear that it has not expressed any opinion on the claim of Google that it was the CCI that is responsible for the said leaks. On Friday, in a near hour-long showdown in court, Google had called the CCI a "habitual offender" in terms of leaking confidential information. The watchdog's counsel repeatedly denied the allegations and accused the US company of frustrating the investigative process.
Cryptocurrencies see 6th straight week of inflows, led by bitcoin: CoinShares data
Cryptocurrency investment products and funds posted inflows for a sixth consecutive week, as investors viewed recent regulatory challenges in the sector as buying opportunities, data from digital asset manager CoinShares showed. Inflows to the sector hit $95 million last week, led by investments in bitcoin of $50.2 million, according to CoinShares data as of September 24. Over the last six weeks, crypto inflows amounted to $320 million. For 2021, inflows were $6 billion.
Also Read: Swiggy to see valuation touch $10 billion with new round of funding in competition with Zomato
Bitcoin bore the brunt of negative investor sentiment of the last two quarters. Last week's inflows were just the fourth week of inflows out of the last 17. So far this year, inflows into bitcoin remained robust at $4.3 billion. CoinShares data also showed ether products had the second most inflows last week at $29 million, as investors looked to further improvements in the Ethereum blockchain.
Ether though on Monday was down 2.1 percent at $3,000.88. On Friday, China's most powerful regulators intensified a crackdown on cryptocurrencies with a blanket ban on all crypto transactions and mining, hitting bitcoin and other major coins and pressuring crypto- and blockchain-related stocks.
50% millennial travellers prefer culturally rich destinations: Goibibo
With normalcy gradually returning, young Indians are looking forward to visiting some of the culturally rich destinations across the country.
As per a recent market and on-platform study conducted by Goibibo, 50 percent travellers opted to explore and indulge in the unmatched cultural experiences in Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Mysore, Udaipur and Gwalior.
Amongst these, Jaipur was the most travelled to the city with 24 percent of travellers choosing a quick weekend getaway to the city of forts and Rajputana charm. The study further indicates that 35 percent of the travellers chose to holiday at beach or riverside properties in Goa, Pondicherry, Rishikesh, and Daman & Diu; and the rest travelled to enjoy the highlands of Manali, Shimla, Darjeeling, Lonavala, Srinagar, Coorg etc.
Bookings on Goibibo indicate that the premium accommodation category has seen a nearly 150 percent increase in bookings when compared to bookings made in February 2020 – further indicating that the appetite to splurge on premium and luxurious stays has increased exponentially amongst the young post the pandemic. Inching close, the mid-segment has seen a jump of 64 percent in comparison to pre-COVID days. What’s also interesting to note is that 90 percent of the bookings at mid to luxury properties were made for weekend getaways and short-haul trips.
GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY & STARTUP NEWS
Australia challenges Google's ad dominance, calls for data-use rules
Australia's antitrust watchdog called for powers to curb Google's use of internet data to sell targeted ads, joining other regulators in saying the firm dominates the market to the point of hurting publishers, advertisers and consumers, Reuters reported. The comments, in a report published on Tuesday, puts Australia alongside Europe and Britain where regulators want to stop the Alphabet unit trouncing rival advertisers by using the data it collects from people's online searches - including on maps and YouTube - to place marketing material.
The US justice department is meanwhile preparing an anti-monopoly lawsuit accusing Google of using its market muscle to hobble advertising rivals, according to media reports. "The Europeans and the UK are consulting on such laws at the moment and we're going to be trying to align with them over the next year," Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Chair Rod Sims said in a Reuters interview.
Already this year, Google said it was poised to withdraw core services from Australia over a law - also recommended by the ACCC - forcing it to pay media companies for content that drives traffic to its search engine. It ultimately inked deals with most major outlets. Google said, following the report, that its advertising arm supported over 15,000 Australian jobs and contributed $2.45 billion to Australia's economy annually.
The ACCC said in its 200-page report that Google's dominance of Australian online advertising was so entrenched that existing laws were insufficient to rein in any anti-competitive behaviour. More than 90 percent of clicks on Australian internet ads were at least partly the result of one of Google's offerings in 2020, the regulator said.
The ACCC said the US company benefited from vast amounts of internet user data from its search engine, mapping and YouTube video streaming services, and must be made to clarify publicly how it used that information to sell and display advertisements.
Google, in fight against record EU fine, slams regulators for ignoring Apple
Google has blasted EU antitrust regulators for ignoring rival Apple as it launched a bid to get Europe's second-highest court to annul a record 4.34-billion euro ($5.1 billion) fine related to its Android operating system.
Far from holding back rivals and harming users, Android has been a massive success story of competition at work, representatives of Google told a panel of five judges at the General Court at the start of a five-day hearing, as per Reuters.
The European Commission fined Google in 2018, saying that it had used Android since 2011 to thwart rivals and cement its dominance in a general internet search. Regardless of how the court rules, Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook will have to change their business models in the coming years to ensure a level playing field for rivals following tough new rules proposed by European Union antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager.
NPCI partners with Yes Bank to launch contactless solutions ‘RuPay On-the-Go'
National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has partnered with Yes Bank to launch RuPay On-the-Go. The contactless payments solutions will allow customers to make small and large value transactions using daily wear accessories. The product was launched at the Global Fintech Festival 2021, in association with fintech infrastructure partner Neokred and manufacturing partner Seshaasai.
"We are delighted to associate with Yes Bank, Neokred, and Seshaasai to launch the futuristic RuPay On-the-Go solutions which will enable seamless contactless payments for day-to-day use. The wearable tech space is an integral part of driving contactless payments, and we are working toward building a secure and inclusive payments ecosystem with our partners,” said Praveena Rai, COO, NPCI.
RuPay On-the-Go is an interoperable, open-loop solution that customers can use at RuPay contactless-enabled PoS at retail outlets and pay up to Rs 5,000 without the need to input the PIN. For payments above Rs 5,000, customers will have to tap, followed by their PIN. For online transactions, the BHIM YES PAY app will provide a virtual RuPay card to the customers that can be used for digital and e-commerce transactions, the company said in a statement.
The wearable payment solution would eliminate the need to carry a physical card, enabling instant payments with a simple “tap, pay, go” mechanism, Yes Bank said. To avail of this solution, customers can log on to BHIM YES PAY app, register themselves and apply for RuPay On-the-Go. RuPay-On-the-Go consumers will additionally be eligible for over 200 attractive offers across merchant categories as applicable on regular RuPay Prepaid cards.
Microsoft CEO says failed TikTok deal ‘strangest thing I’ve worked on’
Microsoft’s near-acquisition of social media app TikTok last year was the "strangest thing I've ever worked on," chief executive officer Satya Nadella said. TikTok had been ordered by then-US President Donald Trump to separate its US version from the Chinese parent ByteDance because of national security concerns about the collection of US users' data.
Microsoft in August 2020 began talks on the proposed acquisition but the deal collapsed by September. Trump's divestment push ended by the time he left office in January and no potential suitor ending up acquiring TikTok.
Speaking at the Code Conference in Beverly Hills, California, Nadella said he was looking forward to bringing Microsoft's security, child safety and cloud expertise to TikTok.
"It's unbelievable," Nadella said of the experience during an on-stage interview. "I learned so many things about so much and so many people. First of all, TikTok came to us. We didn't go to TikTok." "TikTok was caught in between a lot of things happening across two capitals," Nadella continued. "President Trump had a particular point of view of what he was trying to get done there, and then it just dropped off. The US government had a particular set of requirements and then it just disappeared."
Nadella said what attracted ByteDance CEO Zhang Yiming to Microsoft was the US company's services related to content moderation and child safety, developed through products included in Xbox video gaming tools and on business social network LinkedIn. Nadella said he has no idea whether the US is still pushing for a deal under President Joe Biden. The Biden administration has said it is reviewing the national security concerns. "At this point, I'm happy with what I have," Nadella added.
Alibaba apps start offering WeChat Pay option after government orders
China’s Alibaba Group has begun offering payment services from Tencent’s WeChat on a number of its apps after the government ordered major tech firms to stop blocking each other’s services and links. Local tech blog 36Kr reported on Tuesday that users of Alibaba’s food delivery app Ele.me, luxury goods app Kaola and e-book app Shuqi can now purchase goods via WeChat Pay, one of China’s most popular online payment options.
Alibaba’s used-goods marketplace app Xianyu and supermarket app Freshippo have also applied for WeChat Pay integration, the tech blog said. Alibaba confirmed the contents of the report to Reuters. Previously, the main way users could make payments on those apps was via Alipay, from Alibaba’s financial affiliate Ant Group. Earlier this month, the ministry of industry and information technology said it had asked internet companies to end a long-standing practice of blocking each other’s links and services on their sites. Such practices prevented app users from seamlessly jumping to services between rival companies.
Days later, Tencent’s WeChat messaging app started allowing users to access links to rival platforms. Previously, it had not allowed users to click on links sent via chat to, for instance, product listings from Alibaba’s Taobao marketplace.
The changes come as authorities continue to tighten regulations in the internet sector. In April, antitrust regulators fined Alibaba a record $2.75 billion for anti-competitive behaviour.
Gaming company Kepler raises $120 million from China's NetEase
Kepler Interactive, a game publisher co-owned and run by developers, on Tuesday said it got $120 million in funding from Chinese gaming firm NetEase.
According to Reuters, the group, formed with seven gaming companies including Alpha Channel and Sloclap, plans to offer game studio founders to become co-owners, share resources and financial gains, while being in charge of their own studios.
Also Read: Best of Young Turks: Sachin Bansal predicted present consumer-tech startup boom while at Flipkart
Kepler will have operational hubs in London and Singapore, with teams spread over 10 countries, and a 2022 slate of titles such as third-person action game Sifu, first-person survival horror adventure video game Scorn, and open-World adventure game Tchia. The valuation of the company remains undisclosed but NetEase would be a minority investor.
Facebook invests $50 million to build the 'metaverse' in responsible manner
Facebook will invest $50 million to partner with organisations to responsibly build the so-called metaverse - a digital world where people can use different devices to move and communicate in a virtual environment, Reuters reported.
Facebook 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 company has been criticised for its impact on online safety.
The new XR Programs and Research Fund will invest the money globally over two years to ensure metaverse technologies are "built in a way that's inclusive and empowering," Facebook said. The company said it plans to work with researchers across four areas including data privacy and safety, to allow users to get help if something they see in the metaverse makes them uncomfortable. It will also research how to design technologies that are inclusive and accessible to all users, and also "encourage competition" in the nascent industry, Facebook added in a blog post.
Facebook says it’s pausing effort to build Instagram for kids
Facebook, which faced sharp criticism from lawmakers and users for its plan to develop an Instagram for kids said it’s pausing work on the project, according to CNBC. "While we believe building ‘Instagram Kids’ is the right thing to do, Instagram, and its parent company Facebook will re-evaluate the project at a later date. In the interim Instagram will continue to focus on teen safety and expanding parental supervision features for teens,” the company said.
Instagram head Adam Mosseri said the app was meant for children ages 10 to 12. The pause comes after an explosive Wall Street Journal report showed Facebook repeatedly found its Instagram app is harmful to many teenagers. The Journal cited Facebook studies over the past three years that examined how Instagram affects its young user base, with teenage girls being most notably harmed.
TikTok hits 1 billion monthly active users globally
TikTok has hit 1 billion monthly active users globally this summer, the company told Reuters, marking a 45 percent jump since July 2020. The United States, Europe, Brazil and Southeast Asia are the biggest markets for the popular short-video app, the company said.
TikTok has experienced surges in users around the world in the past few years, despite regulatory scrutiny, it is facing in the United States and other regions. The company previously said it had about 55 million global users by January 2018. That number rose to more than 271 million by December 2018, 508 million by December 2019, and 689 million by July 2020.
(Edited by : Jomy Jos Pullokaran)