Cheering on Indian startups for contributing to the fight against Covid-19 NITI Aayog chief Amitabh Kant noted that Bharat Biotech has been leading the vaccine efforts and is commencing human trials. “It has a distinguished record in pioneering “Make-in-India” vaccines – rotavirus, cheapest hepatitis vaccine etc. All power to them,” Kant said in a tweet.
Kant also praised Flipkart-owned digital payments app PhonePe for enabling more than 2 Bn digital payment transactions worth INR 3.5 Lakh Cr since March. Kant added, “Zero payments service disruption for merchants throughout lockdowns. India’s digital payment infrastructure has proven to be world leaders.”
The digital payments startup has partnered with logistics firm Shadowfax to pilot hyperlocal deliveries for its offline kirana merchants in Bengaluru. The company has added a delivery feature on the ‘PhonePe for Business’ app, through which offline stores can now book for hyperlocal deliveries and deliver essentials to a customer’s doorstep.
PhonePe expects merchants to bear the cost of deliveries or even pass it on to customers, for low margin items like groceries. The company is yet to decide on the average cost per delivery, which will be subject to factors including distance and is working with Shadowfax to explore the same.
Amitabh Kant Cheers On India Inc, PhonePe
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday announced the new Digital India Atmanirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge aimed at improving the Indian app ecosystem. The project was launched by the IT ministry in partnership with the Atal Innovation Mission and NITI Aayog.
The challenge has been launched in eight categories, ranging from ‘office productivity and work from home’ and ‘health and wellness’ to ‘news’ and ‘games’. There might be several sub-categories within each category, surmised in some of the problem statements, one of which reads, “A robust indigenous anti-virus software for mobile devices.”
PM Modi also reviewed the progress of agriculture research, extension and education in India, and pitched for promoting startups and agri-entrepreneurs to ensure innovation and using of technology in farming and allied sectors. He underlined the need for developing forward and backward linkages to assure better returns to farmers, an official statement said.
The PM also directed that startups and agri-entrepreneurs need to be promoted to ensure innovation and use of technology in agriculture and allied sectors. He highlighted the need to leverage information technology to provide information on demand to the farmers.
For a boost to agriculture, the ministry of chemicals and fertilisers (MoCF) has directed over 250K fertiliser retailers to accept UPI payments at their distribution points soon. This comes amid the crucial kharif cropping season and is aimed at promoting digital payments in the largely cash-dominated agricultural trade markets.
Startup Valuations May Take Covid-19 Hit
A report by management consultant Duff and Phelps said that the ripple effect of the Covid-19 pandemic will hit valuations of ongoing deals impacting Indian startups. According to the report, disruptions in economic activity caused by the pandemic have led to many businesses losing major chunks of their revenue. And without clarity on when these revenue streams and growth patterns will revive, “risk premiums are expected to go up significantly, warranting a re-evaluation of valuation multiples.”
Inc42 in its report, ‘Startup Graveyard: $760 Mn Worth Venture Capital Lost In Indian Startup Shutdowns’, took a deep dive into the bloodbath. Out of 3.1K Indian startups funded between 2014 and June 2020, 385 startups have shut down operations.
BillDesk Plans To Sell Off Business
Visa-backed domestic payments gateway BillDesk is reportedly looking for buyers to sell-off its entire business amid rapidly growing competition in the digital payment services space and thriving ecommerce industry in the country.
A Livemint report said that at least eight investment bankers have been called by BillDesk promoters and the company’s single largest shareholder General Atlantic for discussions on shortlisting a suitor. This comes two years after its promoters attempted to sell it unsuccessfully.
BillDesk has the largest roster of business clients in India and handles 50-60% of billing transactions. The company was founded by MN Srinivasu, Ajay Kaushal and Karthik Ganapathy in 2000. Backed by investors such as Clearstone Venture Partners, State Bank of India, Visa and others, the startup hit unicorn valuation in 2018.
India’s Commerce Policy To Tax Foreign Companies
India’s draft ecommerce policy stipulates that ecommerce players must ensure they have an integrated system that connects customs, the RBI and India Post to track imports of product shipments coming from other countries, as per a TOI report.
The draft has made other proposals for the online retail sector, including measures to thwart the monopoly or duopoly in ecommerce, which would create an unfair data advantage. The government has also highlighted that growth in ecommerce should not “unnecessarily disrupt” the offline retail trade, which provides jobs and livelihoods to millions. There should be hand-holding to bring offline sellers online, it has recommended.
This comes at a time when the income-tax department has introduced changes to the form used to pay an equalisation levy, to include the option of paying up the new 2% levy on digital transactions conducted in India by foreign ecommerce companies. The new levy was introduced in the Union Budget and was made effective from April 1, with the first instalment payment due on July 7. The approval comes after several discussions where even the United States has opened an investigation into evaluating whether the digital taxes imposed by India and nine other countries, discriminates against US-based companies.
Facebook Ties Up With CBSE For AR, Digital Safety Curriculum
Union Minister for Human Resources Development (HRD) Ramesh Pokhriyal announced that the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and Facebook have partnered to launch a curriculum on digital safety and online wellbeing and augmented reality (AR) for students and educators.
With the objective of ensuring online well-being of students and preparing them for the future of work, the learning modules are targetted at secondary school students. This partnership is led by Facebook for Education, a global initiative by Facebook, to build diverse learning communities and bring the world closer together.
The curriculum will cover aspects such as safety, privacy, mental health and building healthy digital habits on various online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The module has been designed to guide students to become responsible digital users, identify and report threats and harassment as well as report misinformation. At least 10K students will be covered in the training which will be imparted by the Centre for Social Research (CSR).