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Startup Digest: SC to hear appeal against tribunal's Oyo order on October 21, Urban Company’s women gig workers protest & Ola acquires GeoSpoc

Startup Digest: SC to hear appeal against tribunal's Oyo order on October 21, Urban Company’s women gig workers protest & Ola acquires GeoSpoc

Startup Digest: SC to hear appeal against tribunal's Oyo order on October 21, Urban Company’s women gig workers protest & Ola acquires GeoSpoc
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By Aishwarya Anand  Oct 9, 2021 12:40:18 AM IST (Published)

Here are the top headlines from the startup space this week.

Attempts of blackmail to prevent IPO, says Oyo in SC as creditor's case adjourned to October 21

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Oyo hit out at some hotel owners and its operational creditors who are seeking to reverse the NCLAT's decision to close an insolvency proceeding against the IPO-bound company's subsidiary. On Friday, the Supreme Court briefly heard the case by a Siliguri-based hotel owner who has filed an appeal to overturn the relief offered to Oyo by the NCLAT which closed an insolvency case against an Oyo subsidiary in July after the original complainant had settled the matter with the hotel aggregator.
The case has now been adjourned to October 21. However, before the matter was adjourned, both parties made heated arguments, with Oyo's counsel KV Vishwanathan accusing the other side of "threats of blackmail" and "attempts to stop Oyo's IPO".
Urban Company’s women gig workers protest; allege exploitation: Report
Urban Company’s women gig-workers went on strike against the company on Friday. As per Entrackr, more than 100 women working with Urban Company as beauticians and spa workers protested against low wages, high commissions collected by the firm and poor safety working conditions for them.
The protesters said that Urban Company has hiked the commissions it charges from them to as high as 35%, the report added. They also alleged that they are not offered any kind of insurance from the company and often are assigned to work at night.
Urban Company also mandated that these women purchase beauty products from the company and not from outside, these women alleged. These women said the products have a significant markup compared to market prices, according to the report. These women allege they are charged Rs 2,000 if they do less than 30 jobs in a month. Urban Company also sent a message to these women warning them against striking.
Ola acquires GeoSpoc to build next-generation location technology
Ride-hailing giant Ola has acquired GeoSpoc, a provider of geospatial services in an undisclosed deal. With this buyout, GeoSpoc co-founder Dhruva Rajan and his team of scientists and engineers are expected to join Ola to develop technologies that will make mobility accessible, sustainable, personalised, and convenient across shared and personal vehicles, Ola CEO Bhavish Aggarwal said in a blogpost on Tuesday.
According to Aggarwal, accurate and rich maps with high user context should be available to the population beyond the first 100 million users. The Ola-GeoSpoc deal comes when the Bengaluru-based startup is looking to launch an initial public offering (IPO) early next year.
GlobalBees acquires femtech startup andMe
Thrasio-style investment venture, GlobalBees has acquired women health startup andMe for an undisclosed amount. Recently, GlobalBees had announced the acquisition of home care products company The Better Home. In July this year, GlobalBees had announced raising $150 million (about Rs 1,123 crore) in funding from Lightspeed Venture Partners as well as FirstCry and some of its investors.
This marks the foray of Globalbees into the femtech sector that was valued at over $22.5 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 16.2 per cent from 2021 to 2027.
BetterPlace acquires Oust Labs to digitally upskill 100 million workers
Blue-collar workforce management platform Betterplace has acquired a US-based micro-learning SaaS platform tailor Oust Labs in an all-cash deal. This development comes after BetterPlace’s recent Series C fundraise of $24 million from CX Partners, Jungle Ventures, CDC Group, Capria Ventures, 3One4 Capital among others. The startup will use Oust Labs' expertise to digitally upskill about 100 million workers, according to the company.
The Good Glamm Group acquires The Moms Co.
Content-to-Commerce group, the Good Glamm Group has acquired Mom and Baby DTC brand, The Moms Co. to further strengthen its growth across South Asia. With this acquisition, The Moms Co. aims to grow to a Rs 500 crore revenue run rate in the next two years.
While the company has not stated the size of the acquisition, it claims, this acquisition marks India’s largest DTC transaction in the beauty and personal care segment. Sources tell CNBC-TV18 that the size of the deal was close to Rs 500 crore.
The Moms Co. will continue to work as an independent entity. Over the last four years, the brand has catered to over two million customers across 20,000 pin codes in India. The founders Malika Sadani and Mohit Sadaani will work closely with Naiyya Saggi and Priyanka Gill, Co-Founders, Good Glamm Group to accelerate The Moms Co.'s presence not just in India, but across the world.
Swiggy rolls-out $35-40 million ESOP liquidity programme
Foodtech startup Swiggy on Wednesday announced that it will allow employees to liquidate their stock options worth $35-40 million over the next two years -- in July 2022 and 2023. The programme is based on its current valuation of $5.5 billion and comes as it looks to help its staff create wealth. All employees with stock options will be eligible to participate. The value of the stock options will increase in tandem with the company’s valuation.
The latest buyback decision follows the company raising $1.25 billion from Softbank and Prosus in July. Swiggy is in talks with existing and new investors to raise close to $1 billion, for a valuation of above $10 billion, sources had told CNBC-TV18.
DealShare set to become unicorn with new funding
Social e-commerce startup DealShare is set to turn into a unicorn with a new round of funding that will value the company at $1.7 billion, as per sources. DealShare is raising over $150 million at a valuation of $1.7 billion and the round is expected to close soon. With this, Dealshare's valuation will more than treble and will catapult the company into the unicorn club.
The company was last valued at under $500 million in July when it had raised $144 million in its Series D round. It counts among its investors, Tiger Global, WestBridge Capital, Alpha Wave Incubation, & Z3Partners, partners of DST Global, Matrix Partners India & Alteria Capital. It is not clear who the new investors in the new round will be.
Mensa Brands to turn unicorn; picks majority stake in 10 digital-first consumer brands
Thrasio-style startup Mensa Brands is in talks to raise funds at a billion-dollar valuation, less than six months after it launched, sources told Moneycontrol. Mensa is in early-stage talks to raise $200 million from investors, including Accel Growth- the US-based fund. Another new investor may join the round in addition to existing investors Accel India, Norwest Venture Partners, Falcon Edge Capital and most recently Tiger Global Management.
The round may value Mensa at a billion dollars, making it India’s fastest startup to become a unicorn- surpassing blue-collar worker hiring platform Apna, which took a little less than two years to reach the mark, the report added. The e-commerce rollup startup has also acquired a majority stake in 10 brands across fashion, home and beauty. Mensa targets digital-first brands that have revenue between $1 million and $10 million and claims to close end-to-end acquisitions within 4-6 weeks.
Google removes 93,550 content pieces in August in India, shows compliance report
Google has received 35,191 complaints from users and removed 93,550 pieces of content based on those complaints in the month of August, the tech giant said in its monthly transparency report. In addition to reports from users, Google also removed 651,933 pieces of content in August as a result of automated detection.
Google had received 36,934 complaints from users and removed 95,680 pieces of content based on those complaints in July. It had removed 5,76,892 pieces of content in July as a result of automated detection.
Investcorp eyes capital boost for online retailer FreshToHome
Bahrain-based Investcorp aims to more than double its private equity investments in India over the next few years and is currently looking to raise new capital for online retailer FreshToHome, in which it invested last year, an executive told Reuters.
Investcorp is currently managing around $300 million of private equity investments in India, a large majority of which was made over the past 18 months, said Gaurav Sharma, head of private equity at Investcorp India.
The firm, which focuses on private equity, real estate, credit management and absolute return investments, plans to more than double that amount as it seeks to capitalise on India's digitalisation drive, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Byju's announces launch of innovation hub
Edtech giant BYJU’S on Tuesday announced the launch of BYJU’S Lab- an innovation hub based out of the UK, the US, and India. BYJU’S Lab will redefine the role of technology in learning and transform powerful ideas into solutions. It will create an exciting and fulfilling environment for machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) professionals, both experienced as well as new graduates, the company said in a statement. To date, Byju’s has announced ten acquisitions in the edtech space including Tynker, Gradeup, TutorVista, Edurite, Math Adventures, Osmo, Whitehat Jr, Aakash Education Services, Epic, and Great Learning.
BharatPe forays into Buy Now Pay Later segment with launch of ‘postpe’
Fintech company BharatPe has announced its foray into the ‘Buy Now Pay Later’ (BNPL) segment, with the launch of ‘postpe’. Customers using the postpe platform can download the app from Play Store and avail interest-free credit limit of up to Rs 10 lakh.
The company said that postpe is not only limited to big-ticket purchases but can also be used for micro-purchases, making it the first of its kind. BharatPe stated that it aims to facilitate a loan book of $300 million on postpe in the first 12 months for its lending partners.
Burgrill India and Greenest launch plant-based chicken burger – The Green Meat Pounder
Burgrill India, which serves gourmet grilled burgers and other healthier alternatives has launched The Green Meat Pounder in association with Greenest Foods. As per the company, with this launch, Burgrill becomes the first homegrown QSR Chain to introduce plant-based meat burgers for their patrons in India. The company aims to capture the Indian market in the next 4-5 years.
24SEVEN launches plant-based sausages made by BVeg Foods
In another push for the rapidly increasing ‘smart protein’ category, 24Seven, a twenty-four-hour convenience store chain has announced the launch of plant-based hot dogs and sausages, in association with plant-based meats manufacturing company BVeg Foods. The launch will make plant-based sausages available across 90+ locations in Delhi-NCR and Chandigarh.
BVeg Foods is also working on a variety of other product categories such as burger patties, nuggets, kebabs, and many more. The company said in a statement that an integrated plant-based meat processing facility will be equipped with the latest high moisture extrusion technology from Europe, capable of creating a variety of different textures such as chicken, lamb, fish, and more.
Biomoneta demonstrates 99.9999% efficiency against COVID-19
C-CAMP COVID-19 Innovations Deployment Accelerator C-CIDA cohort Biomoneta, has shown that their innovative air decontamination technology, ZeBox can eliminate airborne COVID-19 virus with 99.9999% efficiency in any closed setting. The biotech startup aims to reduce the risk of airborne infections through its patent-pending indoor air decontamination device, ZeBox, which traps and kills viruses, bacteria, fungi, and spores.
A validation analysis from IISc Bangalore found that the device showed an efficiency of 99.99999 percent in five minutes, which means the device could remove 10 million live COVID-19 viruses in five minutes, the company said in a statement.
Gaming industry to move court against Karnataka online gaming ban
After the Karnataka government notified the ban on money based online gaming, the industry is looking at legal recourse to wiggle out of the ban. The gaming industry will move Karnataka High Court and seek legal recourse against the online gaming ban in the state. All India Gaming Federation, The Online Rummy Federation are evaluating legal challenges.
Gaming associations while speaking to CNBC-TV18 cited favourable verdicts in Madras HC, Kerala HC that overturned a similar ban on gaming apps. Real-money gaming startups have started blocking access to residents in Karnataka after the state government notified the online gambling law with immediate effect on October 5.
Gaming platform Mobile Premier League (MPL) was among the first few gaming startups that began blocking access to users in Karnataka on Wednesday following a ban on online gaming.
Fantasy sports major Dream11 was still operational, but Paytm First Games was not. The law, which came into effect late on Tuesday, bans online games involving betting and wagering, and "any act or risking money, or otherwise on the unknown result of an event including on a game of skill".
Indian gaming market is poised to reach $3.9 billion in value by 2025: IAMAI Report
The Indian gaming market is poised to reach $3.9 billion in value by 2025, according to a report by IAMAI in collaboration with OnePlus and RedSeer. The report also highlighted that 40% of the gamers pay for their games with an average spend of Rs 230 per month.
The report states that the sector is attracting huge investment interest, with nearly $1 billion being invested in the sector in the last six months. India is currently home to over 430 million mobile gamers and the number of gamers is estimated to grow to 650 million by 2025.
Currently, mobile gaming dominates the Indian gaming sector, contributing more than 90% to the $1.6 billion gaming market and is expected to further grow to generate $3.9 billion value by 2025, the report added.
Major boost to small players in e-retail market due to pandemic: Unicommerce Report
India’s online retail market, dominated by electronics and apparel products until the coronavirus outbreak, has seen blazing growth in other smaller and emerging categories since then, a new report said. According to Unicommerce, e-commerce focused supply chain SaaS technology platform, fast-moving consumer goods, beauty and personal care products, health and pharmaceutical items, home decor and sports equipment are among the categories finding new buyers online.
Unicommerce analyzed online purchases during January to August 2021 and last year with a sample size of over 40 million orders for its Emerging E-commerce Segments 2021 report, which highlighted segments that had a limited online presence pre-pandemic but have grown in the last 18 months.
55% of India's employed professional report feeling stressed: LinkedIn
More 55 percent of India’s employed professionals are feeling stressed at work as well-being measures become a luxury for many, said a report by LinkedIn. The Workforce Confidence Index revealed that India’s overall workforce confidence remained steady with a composite score of +55 from July 31 to September 24, 2021, despite drastic transformations in the world of work.
The findings indicate that flexibility and work-life balance will serve as critical talent drivers across the Indian professional landscape going ahead. While nearly half of (47 percent) employed professionals wish to end work at reasonable hours, only about one-third (36 percent) were actually able to do so. And while 41 percent planned for time-off, only 30 percent could take time off in the past two months.
Findings reveal that millennials were 2x more likely to take time-offs, while Gen Z professionals were 1.5x more likely to take breaks during the day when compared to baby boomers.
White House says reforms should happen given concerns about Facebook
The White House said more needs to be done and reforms should happen given privacy and trust concerns raised about Facebook Inc. White House press secretary Jen Psaki made the comments a day after former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen testified before Congress about concerns that the social media company harms children's mental health and stokes divisions.
Facebook has denied wrongdoing. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has hit back at claims the social media giant fuels division, harms children and needs to be regulated, saying the claim the company puts profits over safety is “just not true”.
Chinese central bank boss vows to further fintech crackdown
China will strengthen supervision of the online payments industry and continue its anti-monopoly crackdown, the governor of the central bank said, indicating Beijing will press ahead with a regulatory crackdown on the country's technology giants.
Authorities have for about a year targeted a range of homegrown tech behemoths, including e-commerce titan Alibaba and food delivery giant Meituan, for alleged monopolistic practices and aggressive harvesting of consumer data, as per AFP. The drive is part of a wider policy by the government to tighten its grip on the world's number two economy, including targeting private education, property and casinos.
Dutch watchdog finds Apple app store payment rules anti-competitive
The Dutch antitrust authority has found that Apple’s rules requiring software developers to use its in-app payment system are anti-competitive and ordered it to make changes, sources told Reuters. Apple's app-store payment policies, in particular its requirement that app developers exclusively use its payment system where commissions range between 15 percent and 30 percent, have long drawn complaints from developers. The Dutch investigation into whether Apple's practices amounted to an abuse of a dominant market position was launched in 2019 but later reduced in scope to focus primarily on dating market apps.
Crypto exchange Binance says Ireland is part of its HQ plans
Major cryptocurrency exchange Binance sees Ireland as part of its plans to establish a number of headquarters across the world, its CEO told Reuters on Thursday. Regulators across the world have in recent months scrutinised Binance, the world's largest exchange by trading volumes. Some have banned the platform from certain activities, while others have warned consumers that it was unlicensed to operate.
In response, CEO Changpeng Zhao said in July he wanted to improve relations with regulators and would break with its "decentralised" structure and establish regional headquarters. Last month, Binance registered three firms in Ireland, corporate registry documents show.
Trump asks US judge to force Twitter to restart his account
Former US President Donald Trump asked a federal judge in Florida to ask Twitter to restore his account, which the company removed in January citing a risk of incitement of violence. According to Reuters, Trump filed a request for a preliminary injunction against Twitter in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida, arguing the social media company was “coerced” by members of the US Congress to suspend his account. Twitter and several other social media platforms banned Trump from their services after a mob of his supporters attacked the US Capitol in a deadly riot on January 6.
Jeff Bezos makes first-ever investment in Southeast Asia's e-commerce: Report
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos participated in an $87 million Series B funding for Indonesian startup Ula, marking his first-ever investment in Southeast Asia’s e-commerce space, Bloomberg News reported. Bezos Expeditions, Northstar group, AC Ventures and Citius joined the round co-led by Prosus Ventures, Tencent and B-Capital. The previous fundraising included $10.5 million seed round in June 2020 and an additional $20 million Series A round in January this year.
The startup that offers technology solutions to small retailers is seeking to expand its base to include more cities in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, explore overseas expansion across the region, develop the buy-now-pay-later offering, as well as building local supply chain and logistics infrastructure.
Tesla ordered to pay over $130 million to Black former worker over racism: WSJ
A federal jury on Monday has ordered Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) to pay more than $130 million in damages to a Black former worker, finding he was subjected to a racially hostile work environment, the Wall Street Journal reported. The jury determined that the company failed to take reasonable steps to prevent Owen Diaz, a contract worker who was employed as an elevator operator at Tesla's Fremont factory in 2015 and 2016, from being racially harassed, the newspaper said.
In a message to employees that Tesla posted on its website, the automaker noted the trial concerned racial slurs heard on the factory floor and racist graffiti in the bathrooms. It also said the three times that Diaz complained about harassment, Tesla stepped in and made sure action was taken by staffing agencies. The jury awarded Diaz $6.9 million in compensatory damages and $130 million in punitive damages, according to WSJ.
Amazon CEO Andy Jassy says the company could do more to treat workers better
Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said the company could do more to treat employees better and acknowledged one of its approaches to worker safety during the coronavirus pandemic fell short. "I think if you have a large group of people like we do — we have 1.2 million employees — it’s almost like a small country,” Jassy said on stage at the GeekWire Summit in Seattle. “There are lots of things you could do better.”
When asked what Amazon could do better, Jassy pointed to the company’s processes around pandemic leave in its warehouses. Amazon told workers it would provide up to two weeks of paid sick leave for employees who showed symptoms, had the virus or were in quarantine. But that process did not work perfectly. Amazon employees told CNBC last April they experienced issues getting paid while they were out on leave.
Additionally, the company’s highly automated human resources systems became so overloaded with workers requesting Covid-19 leave that some employees were mistakenly denied sick leave or threatened with termination, Bloomberg reported.
Google to invest $1 billion in Africa over five years
Google plans to invest $1 billion in Africa over the next five years to ensure access to fast and cheaper internet and will back startups to support the continent's digital transformation, Reuters reported. The unit of US tech company Alphabet made the announcement at a virtual event where it launched an Africa Investment Fund, through which it will invest $50 million in startups, providing them with access to its employees, network and technologies.
In collaboration with not-for-profit organisation Kiva, Google will also provide $10 million in low-interest loans to help small businesses and entrepreneurs in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa get through the economic hardship created by COVID-19.
Pinterest launches new ad features to drive shopping
Pinterest will roll out new features for brands to promote products and ideas to users, the digital pinboard as part of an effort to grow online shopping on its site.
The features come as social media rivals including Facebook, TikTok and Snap compete for the lucrative e-commerce market with in-app shopping or virtual clothing try-ons. Brands can now upload their product catalogues and Pinterest will automatically pull items into a slideshow advertisement that will be tailored to users based on their interests, as per Reuters.
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