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STARTUP DIGEST: Facebook adds calling to main app, Airbnb to host 20,000 Afghan refugees

STARTUP DIGEST: Facebook adds calling to main app, Airbnb to host 20,000 Afghan refugees

STARTUP DIGEST: Facebook adds calling to main app, Airbnb to host 20,000 Afghan refugees
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By Aug 24, 2021 7:37:38 PM IST (Updated)

In today's startup news, there's some good cheer for Afghan refugees and Swiggy restaurant partners. It's bad news for Apple and Google in South Korea though.

Here are the top stories that made headlines in the startup universe on August 24.

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Facebook to bring voice and video calling to main app
Facebook is letting some users make voice and video calls within its main app on a trial basis, aiming to make it easier to place calls without opening its standalone Messenger app.
The social media giant spun out Messenger from its main app years ago, meaning users would have to download a separate app in order to send messages and make calls.
Facebook has been trying to tie together messaging across its suite of apps and first enabled it between Instagram and Messenger last September. The move enabled users of each service to find, message and hold video calls with contacts on the other without needing to download both apps.
According to Reuters, it plans to eventually integrate WhatsApp into the mix. However, a Facebook spokesperson said on August 23 that for a full-featured messaging, audio and video call experience, people should continue using Messenger.
Flipkart Wholesale rolls out credit programmes to support kiranas, retailers
E-commerce major Flipkart’s digital B2B marketplace, Flipkart Wholesale, on August 24 announced the launch of credit programmes to help kiranas manage their working capital requirements and grow their business. The programmes include ‘Easy Credit’ in partnership with IDFC FIRST Bank as well as other fintech institutions.
The credit offerings are a part of Flipkart’s initiatives to solve the problems of kiranas and make their business easier using technology. Through these offerings, kiranas can avail credit in two minutes at zero cost, through end-to-end digital onboarding.
The credit line will range from Rs 5,000 to Rs 2 lakh with an interest-free period of up to 14 days. Kiranas can also avail the benefits of flexible repayment options through cash and online transfers as well as instant refunds in case of order cancellation while keeping a tab on their credit balance and bills.
“Our new credit plan is tailored to solve local challenges that kiranas in India face and will help them manage their cash flow and improve their purchase experience on our platform, thereby ensuring that the benefits of digitisation trickle to the entire B2B retail ecosystem,” said Adarsh Menon, Senior Vice President and Head, Flipkart Wholesale.
Flipkart Wholesale serves over 1.5 million kiranas, retailers, hotels, restaurants and cafeterias as well as offices and institutions across the country. However, kiranas will continue to be the company's most important customer segment. The company also said it plans to triple its reach by December, with the aim of serving kirana stores in 2,700 cities across the country.
BharatPe forays into P2P lending with ‘12% Club’
Newly-minted unicorn BharatPe is bolstering its consumer play, foraying into the peer-to-peer (P2P) lending space with the launch of its product -- 12% Club.
BharatPe’s P2P offering will allow individual investors to invest and borrow at 12 percent interest through the ‘12% Club’ app. For the consumer product, BharatPe has partnered with LenDenClub and is in the process of onboarding Liquiloans.
P2P investors on BharatPe’s platform will be lending to its merchants, as it wants to ensure low delinquencies. Since these merchants leverage BharatPe’s payment infrastructure, the company will be able to better underwrite these loans, depending on business cash flows and help pay back this credit by even deducting a small portion from daily payouts, the company said.
The borrowing on ‘12% Club’ will be fuelled by a standard non-banking finance companies (NBFC) such as Hindon Mercantile to give loans to consumers. The company aims to achieve an investment AUM of $100 million and a lending AUM of $50 million from this product, by the end of the current fiscal.
With the same partners, the fintech had launched P2P lending for its merchants back in 2019.
Earlier this month, fintech startup Cred also forayed into the P2P lending space with the launch of a its product ‘Cred Mint’ for its members.
Swiggy launches Jumpstart 2.0 to support restaurant partners; offers benefits worth Rs 63 crore
In a bid to help the restaurants affected by the pandemic, online food delivery platform Swiggy has announced the launch of Jumpstart 2.0.
Under this initiative, Swiggy is offering Rs 63 crore to its restaurant partners and is assisting them in the recovery and revival of their business. According to the company, in the past one year, a third of the restaurants listed online have permanently shut down and a significant percentage are yet to recover fully.
As part of the Jumpstart 2.0 initiative, Swiggy is offering restaurant partners benefits such as enhanced visibility of restaurants for consumers up to 12km, bi-weekly payment to enable better cash flows particularly for small and medium restaurants and facilitation of attractive business loans for restaurant partners as part of capital assist programme.
Swiggy’s restaurant partners will also have access to additional funds through growth aids for reinvestment in ads and promotional offers to recover. They can also choose business booster packs like customised discounts, visibility plans for ads to unlock greater sales, the company said.
The initiative is an extension of Swiggy’s Jumpstart Package, launched in June 2020, which aided over 50,000 restaurants partners in recovery and growth in the post-COVID-19 scenario. According to Swiggy, so far, over 42,000 restaurant partners have already started taking advantage of the benefits offered by Jumpstart, with more partner interests pouring in.
The company also said it is onboarding at least 8,000 new restaurants on the platform every month, which includes a healthy mix of small, medium and premium outlets.
Microsoft partners with Invest India to support tech startups
Microsoft India has collaborated with Invest India to support tech startups in the country.
As part of the partnership, the Microsoft for Startups programme will work with Accelerating Growth of New India’s Innovations (AGNIi Mission) – a programme of the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, the company said. Housed and executed by Invest India, AGNIi Mission helps startups become enterprise-ready.
Microsoft has onboarded 11 startups into the Microsoft for Startups programme. These startups span various industries such as agriculture, defence and security, IT/ITeS, e-mobility, waste management, and financial services.
The startups selected will gain access to benefits like Azure credits as well as support for technology and business acceleration, focused on scaling their growth. The startups will be able to utilise Microsoft technology, including Azure, GitHub, and M365, allowing them to quickly build and run their businesses, the company added.
“The collaboration between Microsoft and Invest India affirms our commitment to the startup ecosystem in the country,” said Emily Rich, Microsoft Director of Startups” Asia Pacific.
T-Hub announces sixth batch of Lab32 programme with 22 tech startups
Startup ecosystem enabler T-Hub has announced the onboarding of 22 diverse startups for the sixth edition of its flagship pre-acceleration programme, Lab32.
T-Hub is allowing international startups to be part of this programme in order to provide a global outlook to the existing batch. The pre-acceleration programme will run until November 2021, and it will continue with its hybrid model, launched last year, owing to the pandemic.
It comprises demand driven startups that will solve challenges from emerging industries such as mobility, electric vehicles, edtech, IoT, healthtech, legaltech, enterprise tech, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and others.
Mumbai Angels Network makes successful exit from BabyChakra
Mumbai Angels Network has successfully exited online parenting platform BabyChakra, it said in a statement.
The development comes after D2C beauty retailer MyGlamm acquired BabyChakra to foray into the mother and babycare category.
“We strongly believe that BabyChakra is now in the right place and this acquisition will help both the players strengthen their existing offerings and tap into new,” said Nandini Mansinghka, Co-Founder & CEO of Mumbai Angels Network.
Teachmint partners with Dhaka-based edtech Shikho
Teaching platform Teachmint has partnered with Dhaka-based edtech startup Shikho, in order to deliver classroom solutions to students in Bangladesh, leveraging Teachmint’s live class technology infrastructure.
This partnership comes as part of Shikho’s new Live Class offering, launching later this year powered by Teachmint’s video-as-a-service (VaaS) offering for edtech organisations across the globe, the company said.
Shikho is building a hyper-localised digital learning ecosystem for Bangladesh. As per the company, Shikho’s learning app is approaching 100,000 downloads on the Google Play Store and provides students with Bengali academic courses that include affordable digital resources and tools to help them succeed in national board exams.
Meanwhile, Teachmint, which is a mobile and video-first teaching platform, has helped over 10 lakh teachers in India digitise their classrooms over the last one year, the company said.
Suumaya Industries acquires 51% stake in agritech startup payAgri
Suumaya Industries on August 24 said it has acquired 51 percent stake in agritech startup payAgri Innovations to expand its farm business. The company, however, did not disclose the deal value.
Suumaya Industries, which is in the textile business, has recently ventured into agri-commodity business through its 100 percent subsidiary Suumaya Agro. The company, through this subsidiary, has acquired a majority of 51 percent stake in payAgri Innovations.
Founded in 2017, payAgri is a tech-driven agri and food business company.
It is a farm-gate level operator with investments in primary processing infrastructure for the focused value chains such as spices and coconut. It caters to both B2B segment with commodities and B2C segment with value added products.
Mynd Integrated Solutions acquires Move78
Mynd Integrated Solutions, a finance and accounting (F&A) and human resource outsourcing (HRO) partner for businesses, has acquired Monocle Consulting platform Move78.
The AI platform Move 78 brings niche solutions like AI-based document processing (IDP), natural language processing (NLP) engine, and email BOTs. The amalgamation of Move78 platform and its team with Mynd’s technology division will bring a host of new-age digital transformation opportunities and SSC solutions to Mynd’s existing and prospective clientele under one roof, the company said in a statement.
“Mynd has been a leader in F&A and HRO business. Together, the two teams shall be accelerating their technology-led growth by offering AI & ML embedded plug & play BpaaS & SaaS solutions across industries.”, says Nand Kishore Anand, who is joining Mynd Integrated Solutions as their chief digital officer
Mynd Integrated Solutions is a leading global service provider in business process and technology management, offering a broad spectrum of services in Finance and Accounting (FAO), HRO, and IT. Their SaaS platforms like PEARL, IVAP, ACT, ARISE, and LMS are widely used in the Indian market.
Airbnb to host 20,000 Afghan refugees
Online accommodation platform Airbnb has said it will house 20,000 Afghan refugees at no charge to help them resettle across the world. The company's boss Brian Chesky said the move was in response to "one of the biggest humanitarian crises of our time."
He added: "I hope this inspires other business leaders to do the same. There's no time to waste."
The refugees will be housed in properties listed on Airbnb's platform and the stays will be funded by Airbnb, Chesky said on Twitter, without specifying exactly how much the company plans to spend on the commitment or how long refugees will be housed for.
Chesky urged Airbnb hosts to "reach out" to him if they want to host a refugee family and pledged to connect them with the right people at the company.
China regulator approves Tencent's purchase of Studio 9 stake
China's market regulator said on August 24 that it has approved Tencent Holdings' plan to purchase an equity stake in Chinese animation company Studio 9.
The State Administration for Market Regulation made the announcement on its website. As per Reuters, Tencent, which was already an investor in Studio 9, reported its plan to purchase additional shares from another shareholder to the regulator, according to a separate statement published in June.
The statements did not give financial details of the deal.
S.Korea set to curb Google, Apple commission dominance
South Korea is likely to bar Google and Apple from requiring software developers to use their payment systems, effectively stopping them from charging commissions on in-app purchases, Reuters reported.
The parliament's legislation and judiciary committee is expected on August 24 to approve the amendment of the Telecommunications Business Act, dubbed the ‘Anti-Google law,’ that takes aim at app store operators with dominant market positions.
If the Bill gets the committee's approval, it will be put to a final vote on August 25. Lawmakers in South Korea have pushed the issue of the commission structure since mid-2020.
Both companies have faced global criticism because they require software developers using their app stores to use proprietary in-app payment systems that charge commissions of up to 30 percent on in-app purchases.
"For gaming apps, Google has been forcing app developers to use its own payment system ... and it wants to expand its policy to other apps like music or webtoon," said Kwon Se-hwa, a general manager at the Korea Internet Corporations Association, a non-profit group representing Korean IT firms.
"If the new Bill becomes the law, developers will have options to use other independent payment systems," Kwon added.
Amazon CEO Andy Jassy to join executives at White House cybersecurity meeting
Amazon CEO Andy Jassy will join tech executives at a White House meeting with President Joe Biden on August 25 to discuss efforts by private companies to improve cybersecurity, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Apple CEO Tim Cook and Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella will also attend the White House cybersecurity event, Bloomberg News reported on August 23. The chief executives of other large tech companies, banks, energy companies and water utilities, including Google, International Business Machines Corp, Southern Co and JPMorgan Chase have also been invited.
In July, US President Joe Biden signed a national security memorandum, launching a new public-private initiative that creates "performance controls" for cybersecurity at America's most critical companies, including water treatment and electrical power plants. The announcement came after multiple high-profile cyberattacks this year crippled American companies and government agencies, including a ransomware incident which disrupted gasoline supplies.
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