We bring to you the latest edition of News Roundup: Indian Startup Stories Of The Week!
This week in the Indian startup ecosystem, while introducing the recent historic changes to Article 370, which revoked the special status for Jammu & Kashmir, the Indian government said the move would encourage private investments in the newly-formed union territories of J&K and Ladakh. And now in the first media interview since that controversial decision, India Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that he is very confident that investments will flow into Jammu & Kashmir.
The government will soon be launching a slew of developmental initiatives and infrastructure programmes for the newly reorganised union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. Also, after weeks of curfew and a communication blackout since the beginning of the month, the central government has asked Twitter to take down eight accounts for allegedly spreading fake news about J&K and Article 370. The accounts that have yet to be taken down have shared views that are contrarian to many mainstream media reports and the central government’s official press releases about the situation in the Kashmir valley.
Important Indian Startup News Stories Of The Week
Reliance Sets Eyes On Jio IPO, Foray Into Blockchain And More
- Reliance Industries plans to induct global partners in these businesses over the next few quarters and go for a public listing for both Jio and Reliance Retail by 2024.
- At the Reliance’s 42nd Annual General Meeting, Reliance announced the launch date for its optical fibre-based fixed-line broadband service, JioFiber. The service is scheduled to be launched on September 5, at the rate of INR 700- 10K per month. On top of Jio Fiber, the company is planning to launch a host of services such as Jio Holoboard, mixed reality (VR+AR) applications, 5G network, gaming set-up box and an OTT platform.
Snapchat Turns Focus To India
Messaging platform Snapchat has opened its first office in India, choosing Mumbai to set up its base in the country. The platform is looking to build a local team to understand Indian audiences better and it’s a sign that the company is moving on from its idea that India is not a rich enough market for it to monetise as successfully as it has done in the US.
Amazon Localises Customer Service In India
Amazon’s customer service chatbot just got smarter with Hindi language support. The ecommerce giant’s Automated Assistant, that lets users have natural conversations with non-human customer service agents, now supports Hindi for chats through the Amazon Android app. The chatbot powered by artificial intelligence (AI), leverages machine learning (ML) and natural language processing capabilities (NLP).
Flipkart Videos Launch, Walmart News And More
- Flipkart has now widened its horizon with the launch of Flipkart Videos and Flipkart Ideas. Both new products have gone live silently. While Flipkart Videos is self-explanatory, Flipkart Ideas is an Instagram-meets-Pinterest like a feed with links to buy products and get inspiration.
- Walmart reported second-quarter results that beat investors’ expectations as US retail sales made a strong show this season. However, Walmart’s international unit saw operating profits fall by nearly 30% to $900 Mn due to the continued investment into Flipkart’s expansion. The company also said that net sales of its international unit fell by 1.1% to $29.1 Bn.
- Flipkart-owned 2GUD, an ecommerce website that sells refurbished products, will now also host fresh products across various segments like home and electronics to attract ‘’value-conscious’ customers from smaller cities. The products will be more affordable in pricing compared to those available on Flipkart.
RBI Fintech Sandbox, Govt’s Uber For Farm Equipment And More
- India’s agriculture ministry has developed a farm equipment rental app for Indian farmers, which lets them hire tractors, rotavator and other farm related machinery on rent for with flexible tenures. The app is reportedly similar to Uber and looks to bring a similar convenience to farmers.
- To prevent red tapism and to improve the ease of doing business in the economic slowdown, government bodies have proposed ways for faster clearance of Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A). The government’s panel on antitrust regulation reviewed the framework for competition has recommended faster clearance for M&A that do not “stifle competition” in the market.
- Ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) has proposed newer incentives to boost electronics manufacturing in India. The proposals looks to offer 4-6% interest rate subsidy on loans for new investments, renewal of the electronic manufacturing cluster (EMC) scheme and waiver of collateral for loans taken to set up machinery. The proposals have now been sent to the finance ministry for consideration.
- Announcing the framework for the fintech regulatory sandbox, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has said that no legal waivers will be given to the sandbox companies and companies will also be held liable for any consumer losses that might be incurred during the testing period. RBI has also mandated companies to have insurance cover and a minimum net worth of INR 25 Lakh, among other criteria, to be accepted for testing under the regulatory sandbox (RS).
Paytm Bets On Short Videos, Rolls Out 750 Cr Expansion Plan And More
- Paytm is now looking to introduce content, news, short videos, and live television by September this year. The company has witnessed 100% q-o-q growth in its user engagement through Paytm Inbox where it offers news, cricket store, and videos.
- For the next phase of growth, Paytm has allocated INR 750 Cr to expand its monthly active users. It plans on targeting 250 Mn new customers, and onboard new merchants in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities and towns. For offline payments, it aims to enable 20 Mn retail merchants to accept digital payments through Paytm QR.
- Following the recent hyperlocal pivot and a strategic partnership with eBay, ecommerce company Paytm Mall has reportedly excluded itself from Paytm’s core fintech business. Paytm Mall is also said to have completely integrated with deals platform Nearbuy, which Paytm has acquired in 2017. This integration is expected to result in revenue boost through services such as advertising, point of sale (PoS) and marketing.
OYO Townhouse, Expansion Fund Of $335 Mn And More
- The company’s Townhouse arm will now offer delivery or takeaway from an inhouse cafe brand called the The French Press. It has launched an outlet each in Delhi and Bengaluru and will open at least a dozen more soon. This was in partnership with a leading coffee chain through a franchise model.
- OYO announces its entrance into vacation home rental business to expand its footprint in Europe. OYO will be investing $335 Mn (€300 Mn) in the new venture.
- Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI) said that over 150 Pune hoteliers gathered at OYO’s regional office on August 13 alleging that despite giving multiple reminders to settle their outstanding dues, OYO has continued to ignore their pleas.
- In response, an OYO spokesperson told Inc42 that as a “customer-first company” it has to ensure the right price point for its properties, which has upset some hotel owners. The statement said Oyo “will not bow down to the unreasonable demands of vested interest groups.”
Restaurants In Logout Mode
In a bid to challenge deep discounting practices of restaurant reservation aggregators, over 300 restaurants under the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) have started a #Logout campaign. These restaurants in Gurugram are reportedly delisting themselves from platforms such as Zomato Gold, EazyDiner, Dineout’s Gourmet Passport, Nearbuy, MagicPin among others.
Zomato Delivery Riders’ Pay Dispute Takes Religious Turn
Riders from both the Hindu and Muslim community have come out to protest against the company for allegedly forcing them to deliver beef, or pork, respectively. Although the protests and the debate around it, which began on Sunday, now have religious undertones, they actually started with a demand for pay revision, with protesting delivery executives claiming that a delivery trip that fetched them INR 80 was revised to INR 25 a trip.
Other Important News Stories Of The Week
WhatsApp Rolls Out Fingerprint Lock for Android Beta
The feature enables the user to use their fingerprint to open the app. However, users will be able to answer their calls even if the app is locked. Users can enable the feature by opening WhatApp’s “Settings”, go to “Account”, click “Privacy” and set the fingerprint lock
In another development, Facebook has filed a transfer petition in the Supreme Court on a lawsuit regarding WhatsApp traceability. The transfer petition is scheduled for hearing in the apex court on Tuesday, according to the court website. The case is currently being heard at the Madras High Court. However, Facebook has not revealed where it wants the case transferred.
Infibeam Looks To Expand Internationally
Ahmedabad-based digital payments and Platform as a Service Provider (PaaS) Infibeam Avenues has reported 129% YoY growth in consolidated profit after tax to INR 288 Mn driven by strong transaction growth in digital payments. The company is now looking to grow its merchant base and enhance its reach in the Indian market as well as increase its digital payments market share in India and UAE. There are plans to expand and launch digital payments with checkout solutions in more countries including in Saudi Arabia.
WeWork Continues Expansion In India
As US-based coworking space provider WeWork prepares for its public listing, the company has continued to further expand its business in India. It is expanding into Pune market where it has taken on lease over 1.22 lakh sq ft office space to launch 24th centre in the country. The centre is expected to be launched early next month.
India Becomes Fastest-Growing Smartphone Market in Q2 2019
India saw double-digit growth in the smartphone market in Q2 2019, making it the fastest-growing smartphone market of its size globally. The growth is expected to increase in the festive season, which lasts from Onam to January 2019, as smartphone sales — both online and offline — increase exponentially.
Zoomcar Partners With Ixigo
The partnership will enable users to avail Zoomcar self-drive services on ixigo’s platform. Catering to its 130 million plus user base, Ixigo facilitates over 200 million monthly travel searches. By getting into an in-app partnership with them, Zoomcar aims to tap into ixigo’s dominant mindshare of travellers and active users.
Pumpkart Signs INR 200 Cr MoU With HP Govt
The MoU aims at generating 1000 jobs in Himachal Pradesh. Over the next five years, Pumpkart will assist small and medium retailers in expanding their businesses.
Stay tuned for the next week’s edition of Indian Startup News Stories Of The Week!