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Startup Digest: Vedantu announces first ESOP liquidity plan, Amazon-Apollo Hospitals in talks for a tie-up, & Beijing presses Didi to delist from US

Startup Digest: Vedantu announces first ESOP liquidity plan, Amazon-Apollo Hospitals in talks for a tie-up, & Beijing presses Didi to delist from US

Startup Digest: Vedantu announces first ESOP liquidity plan, Amazon-Apollo Hospitals in talks for a tie-up, & Beijing presses Didi to delist from US
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By Aishwarya Anand  Nov 26, 2021 8:13:08 PM IST (Updated)

Here are the top headlines from the startup space.

Here are the top headlines from the startup space.

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Vedantu initiates first ESOP liquidity plan worth Rs 20 Cr: Report
Edtech unicorn Vedantu has announced ESOP liquidity program worth $3 million for all eligible employees. The founders will not participate in the buyback, but the top leadership and eligible active employees who have completed the vesting period will be able to liquidate their vested ESOP shares, the company said in a statement.
“We want to enable long-term wealth creation for our employees and recognise their contribution and commitment. This is the first ESOP program to facilitate value creation for Vedans and we will continue to take more such initiatives in the future,” said Vamsi Krishna, CEO and CO-Founder, Vedantu.
Vedantu had turned unicorn in September this year following a $100 million financing round led by Singapore based ABC World Asia and participated by Coatue, Tiger Global, GGV Capital, Westbridge and others.
Licious announces “Everyday Vesting, Anytime Liquidation” ESOP plan
D2C unicorn Licious has announced a new ESOP plan “Everyday Vesting, Anytime Liquidation,” which they will be rolling out next year.
This new plan will enable its employees to have their ESOPs vested daily along with the option of liquidating their ESOPs anytime with no other attached terms and conditions, said the company in a statement.
The fresh meat and seafood brand will also set aside a pool of secondary funds every year, to enable the anytime liquidation. However, this opportunity can be availed once in a year period, as mandated by the company law.
Amazon in talks with Apollo Hospitals for partnership in pharmacy business: Sources
Online retail giant Amazon is in talks with Apollo Hospitals for a partnership in their pharmacy business, according to sources. Amazon & Apollo HealthCo are eyeing a partnership for enhancing the omnichannel focus of pharmacy business. This will give Amazon the firepower to fight big boys like Reliance & Tata who have entered the fray with acquisitions.
Sources suggest that Apollo Hospitals is in talks with several private equity funds with tech focus for a minority stake sale in the pharmacy business. Investors are keen if Amazon partners with Apollo to enhance its primarily offline model with its online reach and make it fully omnichannel, sources shared. It is not yet clear that Amazon will pick a stake in Apollo HealthCo upfront but may explore the option.
Apollo Hospitals is looking to sell up to 20% stake in their pharmacy subsidiary and wants to raise around $500 million. Sources suggest that the valuation of the business pre-money is ascribed a little lower than $3 billion.
ITC to acquire 16% stake in Mother Sparsh
Hotel-to-Cigarette conglomerate will be acquiring a 16% stake in D2C ayurvedic and natural personal care startup Mother Sparsh.
This investment is in line with the ITC’s aims to build a future ready organization with a digital first culture. One of the identified pillars of this strategy is to accelerate digital transformation by developing digital first FMCG brands. ITC has also been focusing on strengthening D2C platforms of distribution and has created an ITC eStore, the firm said.
Incorporated in 2016, Mother Sparsh focuses on the mother and baby care segment. It reported a turnover of Rs 15.44 in FY21. Revenues for FY20 and FY19 stood at Rs 3.36 crore and Rs 1.13 crore, respectively.
Bigbasket forays into offline retail; unveils Fresho store in Bengaluru
Tata-owned online grocery platform BigBasket has announced its foray into offline retail with the opening of a new technology-driven, self-service 'Fresho' store in Bengaluru.
The launch is part of the company's vision to open 200 physical outlets pan India by 2023 and 800 by 2026. The stores will offer high-quality products at extremely competitive prices, the company said in a statement.
“The stores will give access to the next 500 million customers who have not yet started buying grocery online and create a new significant growth opportunity for BigBasket," BigBasket co-founder and CEO Hari Menon said.
Newly launched Swiggy One offers free deliveries, extra discount and much more
Online food delivery platform Swiggy has announced the launch of Swiggy One membership on Monday. The upgraded plan offers comprehensive coverage of all Swiggy services like Swiggy Genie, Swiggy Meat, Swiggy Instamart and food delivery.
Swiggy One is a single-tier membership that will provide free deliveries to consumers from 70,000 popular restaurants, and on all Instamart deliveries on all orders above Rs 99. Members will also receive up to 30 percent extra discount on restaurants, with other services like pick up and drop service, which will be soon extended to Swiggy Genie and Meat too.
The membership has been priced at an introductory price of Rs 299 for the first 3 months and at Rs 899 for 12 months, with the plan being live in Lucknow, Pune, Trivandrum and Vijayawada, and expanding to over 500 cities in the next two weeks.
Strong growth continues at Prosus, Swiggy’s food delivery revenue grew 56% from April to Sept
Private equity venture Prosus Ventures (Naspers) has posted an 8% rise in first-half trading profit to $2.9 billion as revenue rose rapidly in its overall portfolio.
Swiggy delivered a “strong recovery” through the first half of the current financial year—April to September—as its revenue from food delivery grew by 56% over this period, up 91% from pre-Covid levels, its investor Prosus said in a regulatory filing.
Prosus said that revenues at its e-commerce portfolio had risen by 53% to $4.2 billion, while that segment's trading loss increased to $372 million from a loss of $214 million in the same period a year ago.
Myntra makes foray into social commerce at scale with 'M-Live'
Fashion e-commerce platform Myntra on Tuesday announced its foray into social commerce at scale with the launch of M-Live to cater to the rapidly evolving content consumption patterns and shopping preferences of consumers.
M-Live brings a first-of-its-kind, interactive and real-time live shopping experience to the fingertips of millions of shoppers in the country, according to the company. Myntra will target fashion and social media-savvy young men and women who are looking to have access to the best-in-class fashion advisory and in-demand trends, it added.
The startup’s social commerce business has three distinct propositions that add immense composite value to consumers, creators and brands M-Live, Myntra Studio and Myntra Fashion Superstar.
Singapore's Shopee clocks over 100,000 orders a day in India: Report
Singapore-based e-commerce online shopping platform Shopee, which which kick-started its operations just a month ago, has clocked 100,000 orders a day in India and has over one million app installs on the Google Play Store.
Industry sources told Moneycontrol that Amazon and Flipkart average 2-2.5 million orders per day. Shopee has tied up with Delhivery and Ecom Express as its lead delivery partners.
Open launches no-code embedded finance platform Zwitch
Open, an SME-focused neo-banking platform has announced the launch of Zwitch– an industry-first no-code embedded finance platform that allows fintechs, brands and enterprises to launch innovative fintech services using a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) drag and drop interface.
The platform is targeting an increasing number of fintech and non-fintech businesses, that are aiming to embed various fintech services in their existing products/services, through a Do-It-Yourself platform, the company said in a statement.
The suite of embeddable fintech products includes bank accounts, card issuance, payments and lending products. Zwitch takes care of the banking partnerships, compliance and technology through its network of over 14 partner banks in India.
LetsTransport partners with EVRE to provide charging, parking infra to 1,000 EV fleet
Tech-logistics company LetsTransport has partnered with EVRE, an EV Charging infrastructure provider, to provide parking and charging infrastructure for its 1,000-strong fleet across 12 cities.
Under the partnership, EVRE will set up 1,000 EV charging stations across India in the next six months, which will be utilised by LetsTransport and other EV fleet owners, the company said in a statement.
The phase-wise implementation will include EVRE setting up 200 charging stations in Bengaluru, 200 in Delhi-NCR and the rest in Chennai, Pune and Hyderabad among other cities by the end of 2022.
TechEagle delivers medicine via Hybrid e-VTOL Drone in partnership with Meghalaya Govt
DeepTech startup TechEagle has partnered with Meghalaya government and Smart Village Movement (SVM) to carry out hybrid e-VTOL Drone delivery of essential medicines.
The collaboration is aimed at transforming the healthcare supply chain for hard-to-reach population the company said.
TechEagle’s e-VTOL Aquila X2 has delivered the drugs successfully to a 25km distance in less than 25 minutes. The company is looking to improve lives of 18,50,000 citizens of Meghalaya, the firm added.
JPC adopts data privacy Bill report
After two years of deliberations, the joint parliamentary panel on the Data Protection Bill has adopted its report.
The committee was formed in December 2019 and was allowed five extensions. Several members of the committee filed dissent notes. With the adoption of this report, India could soon have a personal data privacy law as parliament is likely to take this up in the upcoming winter session which starts next week.
Members of the Congress, the BJD and the TMC on Monday gave dissent notes to the Joint Committee of Parliament on the Personal Data Protection Bill after the panel adopted its report at its meeting here.
RBI report finds over 600 illegal loan apps operating in India
A Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Working Group (WG) on digital lending, including lending through online platforms and mobile apps, has noted that more than 600 illegal loan apps are operating in India.
The RBI panel found that between January and February 2021, 1,100 loan apps were available for Indian Android users in 80 app stores. Of these, 600 lending apps were illegal.
There have been several complaints of harassment by digital lending apps as well. Most of these apps were found to be unauthorised and operated by offshore entities. Reports have emerged on borrowers committing suicide following harassment by lending companies, The Times of India reported. Reports also said digital lenders repatriated profits unlawfully outside the country.
India to ban all private cryptocurrencies in Parl's Winter session
India is set to ban private cryptocurrencies in the Winter session of the Parliament, however, it will allow some exceptions to promote the underlying technology of cryptocurrency.
The Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021, is expected to be tabled in the Winter Session of Parliament for consideration and passing. The bill will also seek to create a framework for the official digital currency to be issued by the Reserve Bank of India.
The cryptocurrency bill, however, allows certain exceptions to promote the underlying technology and its uses. The details about the exceptions are yet to be known.
GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY & STARTUP NEWS
Beijing presses Didi to delist from US over data security fears, sources tell Reuters
Chinese regulators have pressed top executives of ride hailing giant Didi Global to devise a plan to delist from the New York Stock Exchange due to concerns about data security, sources told Reuters.
China's powerful Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has asked the management to take the company off the US bourse due to worries about leakage of sensitive data. It also wants the ride-hailing giant to promise it would solve the delisting issue within a certain period of time, said the person.
The cyberspace regulator said the prerequisite for the relaunch of Didi's ride-hailing and other apps in China is that the company has to agree to delist from New York. Proposals under consideration include a straight-up privatisation or a second listing in Hong Kong followed by a delisting from the United States, the report added.
Italy's antitrust regulator fines Google, Apple over data use
Italy's antitrust regulator has fined Google and Apple 10 million euros ($11.2 million) each for "aggressive practices" linked to the commercial use of user data, Reuters reported.
The authority said that the two tech groups did not provide "clear and immediate information" on how they collect and use the data of those who access their services.
Both Google and Apple said they disagreed with the antitrust's decision and that they would appeal it.
Amazon and Apple handed $225M in Italian antitrust fines
Italy's antitrust authority has fined US tech giants Amazon and Apple a total of more than 200 million euros ($225 million) for alleged anti-competitive cooperation in the sale of Apple and Beats products, Reuters reported.
Contractual provisions of a 2018 agreement between the companies meant only selected resellers were allowed to sell Apple and Beats products on Amazon.it, the competition watchdog said, adding that this was in violation of European Union rules.
The authority imposed a fine of 68.7 million euros on Amazon and 134.5 million euros on Apple, ordering the companies to end the restrictions to give retailers of genuine Apple and Beats products access to Amazon.it in a non-discriminatory manner.
Apple files lawsuit against NSO Group, saying US citizens were targets
Apple has filed a lawsuit against Israeli cyber firm NSO Group and its parent company OSY Technologies for alleged surveillance and targeting of US Apple users with its Pegasus spyware.
According to Reuters, the iPhone maker said it is also seeking to ban NSO Group from using any Apple software, services or devices to prevent further abuse.
Apple is the latest in a string of companies and governments to come after NSO, the maker of the Pegasus hacking tool that watchdog groups say targeted human rights workers and journalists. Earlier this month, US officials placed the company on a trade blacklist. NSO has also faced either legal action or criticism from Microsoft, Meta Platforms, Alphabet, and Cisco Systems.
Several hundred Google employees sign manifesto against widened Covid vaccine mandate: Report
Several hundred Google employees have signed and circulated a manifesto opposing the company’s Covid vaccine mandate, posing the latest challenge for leadership as it approaches key deadlines for returning workers to offices in person.
The Biden administration has ordered US companies with 100 or more workers to ensure their employees are fully vaccinated or regularly tested for Covid-19 by January 4.
In response, Google asked its more than 150,000 employees to upload their vaccination status to its internal systems by December 3, whether they plan to come into the office or not, according to internal documents viewed by CNBC. The company has also said that all employees who work directly or indirectly with government contracts must be vaccinated — even if they are working from home.
The manifesto within Google, which has been signed by at least 600 Google employees, asks company leaders to retract the vaccine mandate and create a new one that is “inclusive of all Googlers,” arguing leadership’s decision will have outsize influence in corporate America. It also calls on employees to “oppose the mandate as a matter of principle” and tells employees to not let the policy alter their decision if they’ve already chosen not to get the Covid vaccine.
Amazon's Black Friday struck by climate activists, strikes in Europe
Climate activists targeted 15 Amazon depots across Europe on "Black Friday" and the world's biggest e-commerce company also faced protests by workers and delivery drivers in Germany, France and Italy.
According to Reuters, Amazon is facing criticism from climate activists who say excessive consumption harms the environment while an alliance of trade unions say the company does not pay workers enough nor enough tax to governments.
The group also said it had blocked Amazon depots in Germany and the Netherlands. Extinction Rebellion said Amazon's "crimes" included activities which emitted more carbon dioxide than a medium sized country, helping fossil fuel companies.
Amazon, which brought the traditional US Black Friday discount day to Britain in 2010, said it takes its responsibilities "very seriously".
China c.bank gives nod to set up credit-scoring JV backed by Ant, state firms
China's central bank said on Friday it had accepted the application to set up a personal credit-scoring joint venture backed by Alibaba’s fintech affiliate Ant Group and other firms.
The new venture, Qiantang Credit Rating, will become the third personal credit scoring firm in China if officially approved by regulators, Reuters reported.
It will be registered in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province with a capital of 1 billion yuan ($156.50 million), the central bank said. Ant and the state-backed Zhejiang Tourism Investment Group would each own 35% of the venture, according to a statement by the People's Bank of China (PBOC).
Other state-backed partners, including Hangzhou Finance and Investment Group and Zhejiang Electronic Port, would hold 6.5% each.
The set-up of the venture, in which Chinese state firms will take big stakes, is part of Ant's sweeping business revamp ordered by regulators who put a sudden stop to its blockbuster initial public offering (IPO) last November.
Tencent must get approval from Chinese regulators before publishing new apps and updates: Report
Tencent must get approval from Chinese regulators to send out updates for its apps, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
The move comes after regulators found several apps made by China’s most valuable technology company violated data protection rules on a number of occasions this year.
Tencent’s app approvals are currently suspended. China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology must review any new apps and updates before they can be launched. This could take seven days, CCTV reported, without citing any sources.
Zoom posts slow Q3 revenue growth due to ease in demand for Video-Conferencing tools
Zoom Video Communication’s third-quarter revenue growth rate slowed to 35% as demand for its video-conferencing tools eased from the pandemic-fueled heights last year.
Revenue was at $1.05 billion in the quarter ended October 31, after rising 54% in the previous quarter and surging 360% a year earlier, as per Reuters. Moreover, stiff competition posed by Cisco's conferencing tool Webex and Microsoft's Teams has made it challenging for Zoom to win over enterprise customers.
Still, Zoom reported an adjusted profit of $1.11 per share, beating Wall Street's estimates $1.09 per share, according to Refinitiv data. The company also forecast current-quarter revenue and earnings above expectations, and raised its full-year revenue estimate to around $4.08 billion from about $4.01 billion earlier.
Facebook Messenger, Instagram to only get end-to-end encryption by 2023
Facebook Messenger and Instagram will only get end-to-end encryption by default in 2023, according to Antigone Davis, Meta’s (formerly Facebook) head of safety.
The earlier timeline for this was 2022 which the company had announced in a blog post back in April this year. WhatsApp, which is also owned by Meta, already has end-to-end encryption by default.
The decision to delay the move is because the company wants to ensure that end-to-end encryption does not hamper efforts to stop criminal activity. Meta will “use a combination of non-encrypted data across our apps, account information and reports from users” to help keep users safe and assist authorities.
Facebook Messenger has end-to-end encrypted voice and video calls. There’s also an end-to-end encrypted chat option in Messenger, though it has to be enabled as a ‘Secret Chat’ the individual contact.
Instagram chief Adam Mosseri to testify before Congress for the first time
Instagram’s chief executive Adam Mosseri is expected to testify before Congress for the first time the week of December, CNBC reported.
“After bombshell reports about Instagram’s toxic impacts, we want to hear straight from the company’s leadership why it uses powerful algorithms that push poisonous content to children driving them down rabbit holes to dark places, and what it will do to make its platform safer,” Blumenthal, chair of the Senate Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection, said
The news, first reported by The New York Times, comes after Instagram has faced heightened scrutiny after former Facebook employee Frances Haugen released thousands of pages of internal documents from parent company Facebook (which recently rebranded to Meta) to the Senate, the Securities and Exchange Commission and several news outlets.
NASA launches test mission of asteroid-deflecting spacecraft
The world’s first planetary defense system called the DART spacecraft was successfully launched by NASA at 10:21 pm Pacific time on Tuesday (11:51 am IST Wednesday) from the Vandenberg US Space Force Base. It was carried aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.
DART will fly under the guidance of NASA's flight directors until the last hours of its odyssey, when control will be handed over to an autonomous on-board navigation system.
The target of the spacecraft is a small moonlet called Dimorphos which is about 160-metre in diameter. The spacecraft will collide with it at a speed of about 6.6 kilometres per second or 24,000 kilometres per hour. The collision is expected to take place between September 26 and October 1, 2022.
Tesla's Musk exercises more options, sells shares worth $1.05Bn
Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk sold another 934,091 shares of the electric vehicle maker worth $1.05 billion after exercising options to buy 2.15 million shares, as per Reuters.
The world's richest person had on November 6 tweeted that he would sell 10% of his stock if users of the social media platform approved. A majority of them had agreed with the sale.
Since then, he has sold 9.2 million shares worth $9.9 billion. Last Tuesday, Musk sold 934,091 shares to meet tax withholding obligations related to the exercise of stock options.
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