From the Flipkart & Amazon's pushing ahead with their EV plans to the new OTT & social media guidelines and Facebook's deal with three local Australian publishers as it restored news feed in the country, here’s a wrap of all the news this week.
It has been a busy news week for the startup ecosystem – from the Flipkart & Amazon's pushing ahead with their EV plans to the new OTT & social media guidelines and Facebook's deal with three local Australian publishers as it restored news feed in the country, here’s a wrap of all the news this week.
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Flipkart to deploy over 25,000 EVs in supply chain
Walmart-owned Flipkart plans to deploy more than 25,000 electric vehicles (EVs) in its supply chain to completely transition to electric mobility by 2030. The company has partnered with key players including Hero Electric, Mahindra Electric and Piaggio to procure EVs through logistics partners for specific vehicles to be deployed for its first and last-mile delivery fleet across the country.
This is in line with Flipkart’s public commitment to transition to EVs across its city logistics fleet and help set up charging infrastructure around delivery hubs and offices to fast-track the adoption of such vehicles in India, a statement said. In August last year, Flipkart had said it will transition completely to the usage of EVs by 2030 as part of its sustainability efforts and had announced joining the Climate Group’s global electric mobility initiative, EV100.
Flipkart has already started piloting and deploying 2-wheeler and 3-wheeler EVs in multiple locations for delivery across the country, including in Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Guwahati and Pune, among others. Flipkart’s electric fleet will include 2-wheeler, 3-wheeler, and 4-wheeler vehicles designed and assembled in India, helping boost local innovation and the economy, the statement said. The company said it will also place requirements in service contracts, install charging infrastructure close to its 1,400 supply chain facilities, conduct awareness programmes, and encourage delivery executives to use EVs.
Amazon India and Mahindra Electric enter EV pact
Amazon India and Mahindra Electric have entered a partnership for the deployment of electric three-wheelers for last-mile delivery. Amazon has purchased at least a hundred Treo Zor cargo vehicles from Mahindra Electric and is set to acquire several more for its fleet of last-mile delivery vehicles. The e-commerce giant had announced last year that by 2025 its delivery fleet would include 10,000 electric vehicles. Amazon has made a global commitment to acquire 100,000 electric vehicles for its delivery fleet by 2030.
"We continue to work with several OEMs to build a fleet of ‘Made in India’ electric vehicles that ensure sustainable and safe deliveries of customer orders, and this partnership with Mahindra Electric is a testament of our commitment,” Akhil Saxena, VP, Customer Fulfilment Operations, APAC at Amazon. Amazon has deployed the Mahindra Treo Zor in seven cities so far, including Bengaluru, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Indore and Lucknow.
IPO-bound Zomato raises $250 million, valued at $5.4 billion
Food delivery firm Zomato has raised $250 million led by existing investor Kora Management. Fidelity Management, Tiger Global along with new investors Bow Wave Capital Management and Dragoneer Investment Group. "The transactions valued Zomato at a post-money valuation of $5.4 billion," the company's early investor InfoEdge said in a regulatory filing.
While Kora Management invested $115 million, Fidelity Management pumped in $55 million in the company. The foodtech platform plans to launch its initial public offering in 2021. Zomato last announced a $660 million fundraise in December with ten new investors including Tiger Global, Kora, Luxor, Fidelity (FMR), D1 Capital, Baillie Gifford, Mirae, and Steadview, participating in the round that valued it at $3.9 billion.
Zomato revises Delivery Partner remuneration to accommodate the fuel price hike
The dramatic increase in fuel prices has led to a direct impact on the net earnings of Zomato delivery partners. Over this past month, Zomato has taken multiple steps to ensure that this increase in the running costs for delivery partners does not impact their net take-home earnings. Zomato has introduced a revised pay structure for its delivery partners which will now include an additional component of distance pay. This component will be applicable over and above the existing remuneration, and will automatically be pegged to adapt to any changes in fuel prices in the future. It has also introduced long-distance return pay where for every long-distance order completed, its delivery partner would either receive another order within 15 minutes that would bring them back closer to their base areas of working or they will receive an additional payout for travelling the extra distance.
New IT rules: Definition of 'significant social media' soon; focus is on self-regulation, grievance redressal
The government will decide which platform will come under the 'significant social media' category, based on the number of users, and these companies will have three months to comply with the norms under new IT rules, said union IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. Announcing the new IT rules to be followed by social media companies, digital media and OTT players, Prasad said the government is classifying social media into two - significant and non-significant social media. “Significant social media companies may be those with more than 50 lakh users or so. We have not decided. We will notify what is a significant social media soon,” he said. It is likely that top social media companies will have to comply with it. India has 53 crore WhatsApp users, 44.8 crore YouTube users, 41 crore Facebook users, 21 crore Instagram users and 1.75 crore Twitter users.
As Prasad pointed out in his media briefing, while the country welcomes social media platforms to do business in India, "they need to follow the Constitution and laws of India." “Focus is self-regulation by social media majors with soft-touch oversight mechanism,” he said. According to Prasad, it is important for ordinary social media users to have a forum to raise grievances against the misuse of social media like spreading fake news and inciting violence.So, these companies will have an additional compliance burden under the new IT rules. This includes having a Chief Compliance Officer of Indian origin to be appointed. They will also have to publish monthly compliance report. These companies will also have to disclose the originator of the information, which affects the security of the nation, defamation and inciting violence.
"This is only in cases where punishment is more than five years like rape and hence there are proper safeguards in place,” clarified Prasad. The new rules will now require digital media companies to follow Norms of Journalistic Conduct of the Press Council of India and the Programme Code under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act, thereby providing a level playing field between the offline (Print, TV) and digital media.
Ola is racing ahead to build the world’s largest two-wheeler factory
Mobility company Ola has commenced construction of the world’s largest two-wheeler mega-factory on its 500-acre site. The company announced a Rs 2,400 crore MoU with the Tamil Nadu government in December 2020 and has completed land acquisition in January this year. The company is now working to operationalize its factory in the next few months.
According to a statement, an estimated 10 million man-hours have been planned to bring the factory up in record time, with the first phase becoming operational in the coming months. Ola’s factory will have an initial capacity of 2 million units a year in phase 1 and will serve as the company’s global manufacturing hub for its range of electric-powered scooters and two-wheelers across India and international markets including Europe, UK, Latin America, Asia Pacific, Australia and New Zealand.
BigBasket notice to DailyBasket on ‘basket’ in name
Online grocer BigBasket has issued a ‘cease and desist’ notice to Coimbatore-based startup DailyBasket, alleging infringement and passing-off of the trademark and brand of BigBasket and misuse and violation of the trade dress of company’s online platform bigbasket.com. BigBasket in the notice has asked DailyBasket, to ‘cease and desist’ from any acts under any brand, that contains the term ‘basket’ as its prominent feature. BigBasket has threatened legal action against the startup. DailyBasket, via a blog post has claimed that its app and website are not similar to BigBasket and that there are “no similarities or trademark violations in the brand logo." BigBasket did not offer any comments.
Sachin Tendulkar picks up stake in Unacademy; also roped in as brand ambassador
Online learning platform Unacademy announced the signing of a strategic partnership with Sachin Tendulkar. The users of the platform will now be coached and mentored by the cricket legend through a series of live interactive classes, which everyone can access free of cost. The platform has also roped in the iconic cricketer to serve as a brand ambassador.
"Sachin’s life and journey are a beacon to the values of resilience and determination in the face of insurmountable odds. With this partnership, we are creating an unmatched learning experience by having Sachin share his life lessons with our learners and coach them,” said Gaurav Munjal, co-founder and CEO, Unacademy Group. The company further said in a press release that they are developing deeper content-led integration with Sachin Tendulkar in the sports learning category, which will be unveiled in the next few months as part of the deal.
Fund raising this week:
M&A action this week:
Vedantu acquires doubt-solving platform Instasolv
Edtech company Vedantu has acquired Instasolv, a doubt-solving app for students from Class 6 to 12 for science, mathematics, IITJEE and NEET for an undisclosed amount. This is Vedantu's first acquisition as the live-learning platform moves to strengthen its position in the instant doubt-solving space and reinforce its presence in tier 2 and tier 3 markets. CNBC-TV18 learns that Aditya Singhal, co-founder and CEO of Instasolv could join Vedantu’s board. In 2020, Vedantu invested $2 million as part of a pre-series A funding in Instasolv.
VerSe Innovation acquires AI-startup Cognirel Technologies
Local language technology platform VerSe Innovation that runs DailyHunt and Josh has acquired Cognirel Technologies, an AI solutions provider. VerSe will bring on board Cognirel Founder Ram Prakash to head its newly instituted AI Lab according to a company statement. The AI Lab will focus on enhancing and developing state of the art models through computer vision and Deep Learning innovations for understanding video content in terms of their visual, audio, semantic and socio-linguistic aspects to enable better user recommendations and experiences on existing platforms, the statement said.
PayU-backed Fisdom acquires IT return filing startup Tax2win
PayU-backed wealth management company Fisdom has acquired Jaipur-based online income tax return filing platform Tax2win for an undisclosed amount, according to a Moneycontrol report. The deal marks Fisdom’s entry into tax solutions segment, as part of the company’s plan to offer financial services for its customers and partners. Tax2win enables customers to plan and file income tax returns. It offers tax filing and post filing services to individuals as well as small businesses. Besides PayU, Fisdom also counts investors such as Quina Capital and Saama Capital.
Agritech startup DeHaat acquires Farm Guide
Agritech startup DeHaat has acquired FarmGuide, a business-to-business (B2B) Software as a Service (SaaS) platform. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed, according to the Mint. While the size of the deal was not disclosed, co-founder and CEO Shashank Kumar said Farm Guide’s spatial technology and data science platform would be integrated with DeHaat’s existing digital tech and physical platform to build a full stack platform for farmers and agri-businesses in India. Post this acquisition, DeHaat will be able to provide more customised crop advisory services to farmers based on the tagged land parcels.
Clover Goes D2C with the Launch of New Brand ‘Deep Rooted.Co'
Agri-tech start-up, Clover has launched its direct-to-consumer brand "Deep Rooted. Co" with a consumer app available as “Deep Rooted" on the Andriod and iOS platform. Deep Rooted.Co is a demand-backed supply chain solution for fruits and vegetables focused on quality, consistency, traceability and a high degree of predictability. Catering to a growing market opportunity, estimated close to $100Bn in the B2B and B2C segment for vegetables and fruits, starting with Bengaluru and Hyderabad, Clover will invest over $2 million in creating farmer-facing input-output technology, investing in supply chain and cold storage capacities and communication to grow the brand Deep Rooted.Co.
T-Hub Calls for Applications from Startups for the Fifth Batch of its Lab32 Program
T-Hub, which leads India’s pioneering technology innovation ecosystem, today called for applications to the fifth batch of its flagship pre-acceleration program, Lab32. It comes after the successful closure of its third and fourth batch of 41 and 13 startups, respectively. Startups across India have been a part of this program and have raised Rs 100 crore over the past 12 months.
Social Alpha and SIDBI join hands to set up Swavalamban Divyangjan Assistive Tech Market Access Fund
Social Alpha and Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) have joined hands to set up the Swavalamban Divyangjan Assistive Tech Market Access (ATMA) fund, a first of its kind inclusion fund offering financial grant to Social Alpha-incubated startups working in the Assistive Technology sector. Each start-up will have access to implementation support of up to Rs 20 lakh. The fund aims to promote innovation and reduce out-of-pocket expenditure for persons with disabilities and will finance up to 50% of product price for the initial users improving the access and reducing the out of pocket expenditure for procuring new technologies.
Rapido launches rental services for multi-point trips in six cities
Bike taxi platform Rapido has announced the launch of rental services for multi-point trips in six cities - Bengaluru, Delhi NCR, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata and Jaipur. Rapido Rental can be booked under selected package duration of one hour, two hours, three hours, four hours and six hours, and a dedicated 'Captain' (Rapido driver partner) will be available with the customer throughout the trip, it said in a statement. The company plans to expand the rental service in the 100 odd cities that Rapido is present in.
Aavishkaar Capital exits Kottaram Agro Foods
Aavishkaar Capital announced the completion of its 34th exit with the conclusion of the transaction in which Tata Consumers Products acquired 100 percent of Kottaram Agro Foods. Kottaram markets a range of healthy, tasty and convenient packaged food products with millets as their key ingredient under the brand name ‘Soulfull’.
Space startup Pixxel delays launch of satellite on PSLV C51 mission due to software issues
Satellite imagery firm Pixxel announced a delay in the launch of its satellite on the PSLV C51 mission, scheduled for February 28, as it re-evaluates software and “tests it rigorously." The PSLV-C51 is the 53rd mission of the Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle program. Having Pixxel's satellite aboard the mission would have marked India's first commercial satellite launch into orbit. In a statement posted on Twitter on February 23, Pixxel said, “Due to certain software issues that surfaced during the final satellite testing, we have decided not to proceed with our launch on the PSLV C51 mission scheduled for the 28th of this month."
The company noted that rushing the launch did not make sense “given the time and effort that has gone into making the satellite” and while they do not have “complete confidence at this time." “We have thus decided to push our launch by a few weeks, re-evaluate the satellite software, and test it rigorously over the next few weeks as we look for the next closest launch opportunity,” the statement said. "We'll keep you posted as we gear up for the launch,” the statement said.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella bats for global regulation on privacy
Describing privacy as a human right, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on Tuesday said he is hoping for a global regulation on safety and privacy of data that would make sure that tech products and services are safe to use. In a virtual interactive session with Telangana IT and industries minister KT Rama Rao in BioAsia 2021, Nadella said the COVID-19 pandemic across the globe accelerated digital transformation.
"So I look forward to a world where we do have, just after all we have food safety laws we have drug safety laws, there will be similarly I think rules and regulations (on data). Hopefully there is a global norm around," he said replying to query on whether the security and privacy concerns can be regulated. "One thing that I would hope for is that we don't fragment. We are able to whether on privacy or safety, bring together a set of global rules that will allow all of us to both comply and make sure that we know what we build is safe to use," Nadella said. He said regulations are in place and initiatives such as General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) are spreading worldwide. He suggested that companies should design and build products keeping in mind the privacy of the user and no lackadaisical attitude in this regard should be tolerated.
Citing data pertaining to patients healthcare data, he said it should ultimately benefit the infirm. On the post-pandemic working conditions, he said the situation has pushed for more flexibility in terms of work sites and collaboration. "I think collaboration, learning and well-being are fundamentally the things that are going to transform how we think about work while giving people lot more flexibility," he said. The startup category has already shown tremendous potential in bringing in digital enablement in the medical industry and it is not just benefiting any specific segment but every possible individual in the country across cities and villages, he added.
SoftBank, Temasek-backed Policybazaar may pick Kotak, Morgan Stanley, I-Sec, Citi as i-bankers for mega 2021 IPO: Report
Online insurance aggregator Policybazaar, which is backed by global investment giants like Softbank & Temasek, is likely to shortlist investment banks Kotak Mahindra Capital, Morgan Stanley, ICICI Securities and Citi as advisors for its IPO, one of the most eagerly anticipated listings in 2021 from the booming consumer internet space, Moneycontrol reported quoting sources. "These 4 advisors may come on board post the recent pitches. Currently, the plan is for a domestic listing,” one of the individuals cited above told Moneycontrol. Three other individuals also confirmed the same.
MobiKwik hires investment banks, law firms to kickstart IPO process: Report
Fintech company MobiKwik has appointed investment banks ICICI Securities and IIFL and a few law firms to begin working on its draft red herring prospectus, according to a Mint report citing two anonymous sources.
Other than MobiKwik, several other fintech companies including Paytm, PhonePe are planning to go public. "The IPO will help the company raise fresh funds to continue its growth trajectory, but also provide an exit for its earlier investors. A large part of the IPO is expected to be a sale of shares by existing investors," said the second person cited above. The IPO is expected to come out in 2022. To prepare for the upcoming IPO, the company had appointed its senior vice president Chandan Joshi as one of the co-founders, besides Bipin Preet Singh and Upasana (Taku) in September. Chandan was also handed the position of CEO for its core payment business.
Advertising body ASCI frames guidelines for influencer advertising on digital media
The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has released draft guidelines for influencer advertising on digital media to enable consumers for easily recognizing promotional content on digital platforms.
Draft Guidelines for influencer advertising on digital media are as follows:
1) Advertisements must be obviously distinguishable by the average consumer from editorial and independent user-generated content, to prevent the audience from being confused between the two. Therefore, a disclosure label must be added from the list of approved labels. Only permitted disclosure labels will be considered as adequate as consumers may not be familiar with various creative ways in which advertisers and influencers may wish to convey that the said communication is an advertisement. Examples of such advertisements could be paid music promotion in a video, promoting a store or a brand through a post on the influencers media handle.
2) The disclosure label used to highlight advertising content needs to be upfront (within the first two lines of any given platform, such that a consumer need not click on see more or have to scroll under the fold), prominent (so people don't miss it), appropriate for the channel (what can you see and when) and suitable for all potential devices (it needs to be visible regardless of the device used, or platform such as website or app etc.).
3) The disclosure label must be in English or translated into the language of the advertisement in a way that it is well understood by the average consumer who is viewing the advertisement.
4) Blanket disclosures in a profile/bio/about section will not be considered adequate because people visiting the site might read individual reviews or watch individual videos without seeing the disclosure on another page.
5) If the advertisement is only a picture post such as Instagram stories or Snapchat, the label needs to be superimposed over the picture and it should be ensured that the average consumer is able to see it clearly.
6) In the case of video not accompanied by a text post, the disclosure label should be superimposed on the video in a manner that is easily visible to the viewer. For videos that last 15 seconds or lesser, the disclosure label must stay for a minimum of 2 seconds. For videos longer than 15 seconds, but less than 2 minutes, the disclosure label stays for 1/3rd the length of the video. For videos which are 2 minutes or longer, the disclosure label must stay for the entire duration of the section in which the promoted brand or its features, benefits etc are mentioned. In live streams, the disclosure label should be placed periodically, for 5 seconds at the end of every minute so that users who see part of the stream can see the disclosure.
7) In the case of audio media, the disclosure label must be clearly announced at the beginning and at the end of the audio.
8) Filters should not be applied to social media advertisements if they exaggerate the effect of the claim that the brand is making- eg. makes hair shinier, teeth whiter etc.
9) The influencer must do their due diligence about any technical or performance claims made by them such as 2X better, effect lasts for 1 month, fastest speed, best in class etc. Evidence of due diligence would include correspondence with the advertiser or brand owner confirming that the specific claim made in the advertisement is capable of scientific substantiation.
10) It is recommended that the contractual agreement between advertiser and influencer carries clauses pertaining to disclosure, use of filters as well as due diligence
Ready Reckoner for Social Media Platforms
Instagram: Disclosure label to be included in the title above the photo/beginning of the text that shows. If only the image is seen, the image itself must include the label.
Facebook: Include the disclosure label in the title of the entry or post. If only the image/video is seen, the image/video itself must include the label eg FB story.
Twitter: Include the disclosure label or tag at the beginning of the body of the message as a tag.
Pinterest: Include the disclosure label at the beginning of the message.
YouTube and other video platforms: Include the label in the title / description of the post.
Vlog: Overlay the disclosure label while talking about the product or service.
Snapchat: Include the disclosure label in the body of the message in the beginning as a tag.
Blog: Include the disclosure label in the title of the post.
According to digital marketing agency AdLift, India’s influencer market is estimated at $75-$150 million a year as compared to the global market of $1.75 billion. The guidelines for influencers advertising on digital media will be available for all stakeholders, including industry, digital influencers as well as consumers for feedback till March 8, 2021. Based on the feedback and inputs, the final guidelines will be issued by ASCI by March 31, 2021. This guideline will be applicable to all promotional posts published on or after April 15, 2021.
Facebook switches news back on in Australia, signs content deals
Facebook Inc ended a one-week blackout of Australian news on its popular social media site on Friday and announced preliminary commercial agreements with three small local publishers, according to Reuters.
The new law makes Australia the first nation where a government arbitrator can set the price Facebook and Google pay domestic media to show their content if private negotiations fail. Canada and other countries have shown interest in replicating Australia’s reforms. “Global tech giants, they are changing the world but we can’t let them run the world,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday, adding that Big Tech must be accountable to sovereign governments.
Facebook, whose 8-day ban on Australian media captured global attention, said it had signed partnership agreements with Schwartz Media, Solstice Media and Private Media. The trio own a mix of publications, including weekly newspapers, online magazines and specialist periodicals. Facebook did not disclose the financial details of the agreements, which will become effective within 60 days if a full deal is signed.
Zash acquires TikTok rival Lomotif
ZASH Global Media to acquire an 80 percent stake in Singapore-based top video-sharing social networking platform Lomotif. Upon completion of the merger between ZASH and Vinco, ZASH will become a public company and controlling shareholder of Vinco, making Lomotif one of the top global, pure play video-sharing social networking platforms to be owned by a US publicly traded company, competing with TikTok and Kuaishou in the space, the company said in a statement.
ZASH believes that Lomotif is one of the fastest growing video-sharing social networking platforms in its category over the last three years and in Latin America, Asia, Europe and West Africa, Lomotif has increased its average monthly community by over 400 percent in this time span, the statement added. Historically, over 10 billion times atomic clips (User Generated Content (UGC)) have been used to create more than 740+ million videos on the platform since launch.
WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann nears settlement with SoftBank: Reuters
WeWork co-founder and former chief executive officer Adam Neumann is nearing a settlement with SoftBank Group Corp that could include a nearly $500 million cut in his payout from the office space-sharing company's new owner, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke to Reuters. The settlement would put to rest a prolonged legal battle between Neumann and Softbank, which dates back to 2019 when WeWork's IPO plans fell apart.
SoftBank declined to comment. WeWork was not immediately available for comment. The talks were reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal.
Spotify plans to launch in over 80 more countries
Audio streaming service Spotify is planning to almost double its geographic footprint and launch into 85 more countries, adding 36 languages to its platform in the process, CNBC reported. The Swedish firm announced the international expansion at a livestreaming event that featured Justin Bieber, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Spotify said the expansion, into what are largely seen as developing countries across Asia, Africa, the Pacific and the Caribbean, will enable an additional billion people to use its platform.
In the next few days, Spotify will launch in countries like Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Samoa, Jamaica, Bahamas, and Belize. "These moves represent Spotify’s broadest market expansion to date,” Spotify said. Following the expansion, Spotify will be available in over 170 countries. Spotify launched in 2008 just a year after the first iPhone was released and it has amassed 345 million monthly active users across 95 countries. Of those, 155 million are premium paying subscribers.