We bring to you the latest edition of News Roundup: Indian Startup Stories Of The Week!
As the lockdown has been extended to May 3, 2020, the Karnataka government launched ‘Bengaluru Smart City Covid-19 War Room’ to track Covid-19 patients and their contacts. This platform will now act as a single source for all pandemic-related actions and measures in the state, and it will help the authorities in collecting data, effectively.
Under the Digital India initiative, the IT Ministry has invited startups to develop teleconferencing tools as a measure to enable smooth, safe and secure operations between agencies and state governments.
This comes in the wake of a major data leak involving Zoom video conferencing tool. Several media reports had also pointed out that over 500K Zoom accounts were being sold for less than INR 1 per account. As a result, the ministry of home affairs has now termed Zoom as unsafe and has also released an advisory.
The IT Ministry has requested the Home Ministry to allow more digital kiosks to resume their operations in rural areas to facilitate disbursal of essential services. Accordingly, the ministry has specified that there are over 3.7 Lakh digital kiosks or common service centres across the country. Now, only 50K of such centres are operations due to the restrictions under the lockdown.
In another update, the Prime Minister’s Office has set up a high-powered committee to find tech solutions for its contact tracing Aarogya Setu app. The committee will cover all the aspects of the app, including reachability and traceability of Covid-19 patients and quarantined individuals.
Further, the impact of lockdown has raised concerns in the startup ecosystem. In a survey conducted by 100X.VC, only 12% of the founders are of the belief that the economy will come back to normal in the next three months, while 24% of the respondents expect it to revive within three to six months.
Also, the psychological impact of Covid-19 is expected to result in weak demand in hospitality, travel and tourism, shared mobility and real estate. At the same time, discretionary spending on luxury goods and appliances is also going to get hampered in the aftermath of this pandemic.
OYO Accused Of Faking Hotels On Booking.com
Gurugram-based hospitality unicorn OYO has been accused of submitting ‘invalid’ no-objection certificates (NOCs) from about 70 hotels to change the ownership listing of properties to OYO from Treebo on Booking.com. These hotels were earlier OYO partners but had joined Treebo recently.
Zomato Under Spotlight After Brush With Covid-19
On Tuesday, April 14, 2020, multiple reports suggested that a pizza delivery boy from a South Delhi-based restaurant was tested positive for Covid-19. Zomato acknowledged the fact that the rider had delivered some orders placed on Zomato to 72 families residing in Malviya Nagar. The Delhi administration has now put these families in South Delhi under quarantine.
As a measure to gain the trust of customers amid the ongoing pandemic, Zomato will be showing body temperatures of rider-partners on its mobile app. The user can see the temperature of the delivery-partner only after the order has been picked up from the restaurant. The Zomato-partnered restaurants have been provided with thermal sensing devices, where they check the body temperature of the delivery-partners before they pick up the order.
Ola Offers CONNECTS Technology Platform To Government
Cab-hailing unicorn Ola has announced that it is offering its technology platforms and capabilities to government and public service organisations to tackle Covid-19. The company has launched the Ola CONNECTS (Comprehensive Navigation, Networking, Control and Tracking Solution) initiative to support the efforts on the ground.
Will Ecommerce Bounce Back Once The Lockdown Is Over?
Ecommerce players such as Flipkart and Amazon have planned to start a mega online sales event in May to mitigate the revenue impact caused due to the lockdown. For this, both the companies have asked their partner brands and sellers to stock up on products such as smartphones, laptops, office equipment, AC and others as there will be a resurgence in the number of orders for non-essential items once the lockdown is over.
Also, the ecommerce players have shared concerns with the government to allow the supply of non-essential goods as many consumers are facing problems due to work-from-home and self-quarantine requirements.
States Allow Ecommerce To Supply Non-Essentials
As the Centre extended the lockdown period, the ministry of home affairs has now permitted the delivery of non-essentials after April 20. In response to MHA’s response, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Odisha have now issued notifications to enable ecommerce delivery of both essential and non-essential items after April 20. Meanwhile, Karnataka, Telangana and Haryana are also finalising their decision to allow the delivery of non-essential goods.
Online And Offline Retailers Seek Clarity From The Govt
Despite the government saying that complete ecommerce services will be allowed, small vendors and offline retailers are seeking clarity from the government to avoid any hassles with local authorities. Also, several vendors have raised complaints that while large players can convince the authorities, shopkeepers and other businesses are still facing disruptions with no clarity on lockdown guidelines.
CRED To Foray Into Digital Lending
CRED will be launching a digital lending platform to enable rent payments via credit cards and other lending offerings at a time when demand for liquidity is high. CRED founder Kunal Shah had said that the company was planning to add these financial services by the end of 2020. However, given the increased demand for lending products at a time when job security is low and layoffs are common, the entry into the lending market comes at the right time, he added.
Will SEBI’s Extension Of UPI Mechanism Pose IPO Troubles For Startups?
Given the prevailing uncertainty caused due to the coronavirus pandemic, the securities and exchange board of India (SEBI) in a circular dated March 30, 2020, said that it will continue to look into the timeline for implementation of Phase II of Unified Payments Interface (UPI) as an alternative payment option for retail investors buying shares in an initial public offering (IPO) again at the end of FY20.
RBI Announces Relief For NBFCs & Others
Reserve Bank of India (RBI) recently announced much-needed relief of INR 50K Cr for small and medium-sized financial institutions, including non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) and microfinance institutions (MFIs), which have been struggling to operate in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. RBI’s governor Shaktikanta Das said that this move will help in refinancing banks and financial institutions to maintain healthy cash flow to support the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and startups.
Apple’s Covid-19 Self-Assessment Feature Now In India
Apple has now enabled its voice assistant Siri to answer queries related to Covid-19 on Indian devices. Apple’s Siri will now allow users in India to self-assess their symptoms. Apple has launched a new Covid-19 mobility tool which allows users to get a rough estimate of the movement across the cities.
With this new feature, Apple aims to help healthcare professionals and the government to get access to anonymous data of the movement of people in specified regions. This tool has been integrated into Apple Maps and it collects data based on the number of requests made to Apple Maps for directions.
Google Aggregates Edtech Content On YouTube
YouTube India recently launched a new category called the ‘YouTube Learning Destination’ to supplement curriculum learning for students and also support skill development. Under this category, Google India said that it will contain resources across various topics, including curriculum-relevant topics in physics, maths and biology among other, to language skills and interest-based content such as photography, yoga and more.
Google News has launched a Journalism Emergency Relief Fund to financially support small publishing and news organizations, globally. The fund is open to all news organisations that are producing original content for local communities.
Facebook And Reliance Set To Create Super App
Ambani-owned Reliance Industries Limited and Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook are exploring a possibility to create a multipurpose app by leveraging WhatsApp platform and user base. The duo is looking to pool capital, technical nuances and domain expertise for the project.
Once launched, the users will be able to communicate, shop groceries online via Reliance Retail or Jio Mart or Reliance Fresh, and purchase clothes and accessories through Ajio, backed by JioMoney payments. Additionally, the super app will also have features like social media, gaming, entertainment, flight and hotel bookings among others.
Stay tuned for the next edition of Roundup!