We bring to you the latest edition of News Roundup: Indian Startup Stories Of The Week!
As India continues to debate the extension of the countrywide lockdown, the technology is being leveraged across divisions. The government announced the deployment of geofencing through mobile phones to track Covid-19 patients and alert users to stay safe at home or indoors. Similarly, several state governments including Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh among others are also tracking patients.
A similar contact tracing app has been launched by the government— Aarogya Setu, which recorded over 15 Mn downloads in four days.
To further popularise the use of Aarogya Setu, the government has directed social media companies to promote it. Further, social media companies have been reminded of their responsibilities to regulate content and curb the spread of misinformation or fake news related to the pandemic. To this, the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) suggested that any requests to take down online content need to come through the legal process, regardless of the situation.
Amid this, the Indian startup ecosystem continues to wait for the financial relief package. The new package is expected to be similar to the INR 1.70 Lakh Cr package announced last month. It will be focused on interest rate subvention on all outstanding bank loans of SMEs for a year.
Also, the Income Tax Department announced that it will be issuing all pending income tax refunds up to INR 5 Lakh immediately to taxpayers. The refund will help companies and individuals to meet the fixed cost and disperse salaries to its employees.
Here are the other top stories of the week.
OYO Asks Employees To Go On Leave
OYO has asked thousands of its employees to go on temporary leave. In a video message, the founder and CEO of OYO Ritesh Agarwal said that the company’s occupancy rate and revenue have dropped by more than 50-60% and its balance sheet has come under severe stress. During this period, the company will look after the medical and health benefits of all employees across regions, he added.
OYO had laid off several employees in the US and other regions, who were working in departments such as sales, business development and human resource around mid-March.
After Grocery, Swiggy And Zomato Have New Plans
The foodtech unicorn Swiggy rolled out a wellness programme called ‘Built Around You’ for people who are quarantined. Under this initiative, the company will be providing a range of teleconsultation sessions with health and wellness experts, including doctors, dieticians, counsellors and psychologists among others.
Godrej Consumer Products Limited has partnered with Zomato, ShopKirana and Zoomcar to boost the logistics network for grocery supply. On the other hand, Flipkart has also partnered with Spencer’s retail to keep its supply chain intact.
Quikr Launches Retail & Medical Supply Platforms
Online classifieds unicorn startup Quikr recently launched two new listing platforms, StillOpen and HelpHospitals to keep the supply of all essential goods and services. HelpHospitals offers the medical community to connect with suppliers of medical equipment and tools for the treatment of Covid-19 patients and the safety of the medical staff. Currently, the service is available in Telangana, Delhi and Karnataka among others.
StillOpen is an offline retail discovery platform which allows users to track stores nearby, and check for essentials. In the coming days, the company will also be listing hospitals, pharmacies, ATMs, milk booths and Covid-19 testing centres among others. The app is currently available in 23 cities across the country, including Delhi, Thane, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Pune among others.
Google Pay And PhonePe Dominate Global Digital Payments In February
According to the Sensor Tower’s Store Intelligence platform, in February 2020, Google Pay and Phone Pe dominated the global payments space. It estimated that Google Pay recorded 15.6 Mn installs, which is almost a 2x year-on-year (YoY) spike. Out of this, 83.6% of the downloads were from India, amounting to 13.04 Mn downloads.
Flipkart-owned PhonePe, on the other hand, recorded more than 6 Mn downloads, witnessing a 39.5% YoY growth. In other words, it recorded 99.3% downloads from India alone. The duo was followed by PayPal, Cash App and Alipay among other digital payments apps.
NPCI Chief Talks Lockdown Effect On UPI
Talking about the drop in UPI transactions in March, National Payments Corporation of India’s CEO Dilip Asbe said that the dip in the volumes is due to near-zero discretionary spends such as on ecommerce, travel and online.
He further said that the UPI which is now at 75% of the overall volumes, is expected to pick up in the coming months. It has to be noted that UPI had recorded 1.25 Bn transactions in March, against 1.33 Bn in February 2020.
Flipkart, Paytm Launch Covid-19 Insurance Products
Flipkart has partnered with ICICI Lombard and Digit Insurance to launch an insurance product on its platform which covers Covid-19. The ‘Covid-19 Protection Cover,’ provides insurance worth INR 25K to Covid-19 positive tested patients. Further, the product also provides health assistance benefit, virtual and teleconsultation benefit and ambulance assistance among others.
Similarly, another product called the ‘Digit Illness Group Insurance,’ offers customers to avail a hospitalisation cover up to INR 1 Lakh with an annual premium of INR 511. Fintech giant Paytm has also launched Covid-19 Benefit Insurance Policy in collaboration with Reliance General Insurance. This plan offers customers a maximum of INR 2 Lakh, which covers Covid-19 treatment, 14-day quarantine, loss of pay/job and others.
Flipkart, Delhivery Step Up To Provide Protective Gear
The ecommerce giant Flipkart recently launched medically-certified hand sanitizers and surgical masks under its private label — Flipkart SmartBuy’s Health+ range. With this, Flipkart aims to provide access to locally manufactured essentials as the demand surges by consumers amid coronavirus pandemic. Ecommerce logistics delivery startup Delhivery, on the other hand, has provided 6000 masks for Delhi police personnel.
In addition to this, logistics company Blue Dart Express has reduced its retail tariff prices by 25%, which will be applicable to all local retail customers as well as MSMEs.
Ecommerce Giants Seek Extension Of Curfew Passes
At the brink of lockdown extension, ecommerce players such as Amazon, Flipkart, Bigbasket among others have urged the government to extend that curfew passes of its delivery fleet to meet the demand for essential goods. In addition to this, ecommerce companies have urged the government to come up with a facility to offer digital curfew passes. Furthermore, they have also requested the government to provide complete state curfew passes instead of district-wise passes.
Traders Stepped Up In Hours Of Need As Ecommerce Struggled, Says CAIT
The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) said that ecommerce portals have behaved in a condemnable manner and all stakeholders should actually assume responsibility and come forward to help the country. It further said that ecommerce majors such as Flipkart, Amazon have shrunk their responsibility which has been fulfilled by offline traders and retailers.
Further, it alleged that ecommerce players have abandoned the operations during the time of crisis as it is not a profitable endeavour for them. The traders’ association claimed that out of 1.25 Cr traders supplying essential goods, about 25% of them were able to operate on the ground amid various lockdown restrictions and movement hassles.
Google Maps Lists Food, Night Shelters In India To Help Stranded Citizens
Tech giant Google in collaboration with the state and central government authorities has started listing locations of shelters to help people stranded away from home due to the nationwide lockdown. It is listing places where there is the availability of food and accommodation. Google Maps has added locations in more than 30 cities across the country. It is also planning to add more in the coming months.
Facebook Wanted To Buy WhatsApp Spyware, Claims NSO Group
Israel-based security firm NSO Group had said that Facebook had shown interest in buying the Pegasus WhatsApp spyware. NSO Group CEO Shalev Hulio mentioned that two representatives from Facebook had approached the company in 2017 with an offer to buy exclusive rights for using certain features of Pegasus.
It has to be noted that Pegasus is the same spyware which was being used to spy on a dozen users, including academics, lawyers, social activists and journalists.
TikTok, Facebook Asked To Remove Covid-19 Fake News
The Indian government recently wrote a letter to TikTok, Helo and Facebook asking them to remove fake news and misinformation from the social media platforms, especially those which provokes religious sentiments and its affiliation to Covid-19. Further, the government has urged social media platforms to remove any videos trying to influence religious hatred and circulation of false Covid-19 news.
Stay tuned for the next edition of Roundup!