We bring to you the latest edition of News Roundup: Indian Startup Stories Of The Week!
In one of the important developments in the Indian startup ecosystem, after months of speculation, the Indian government has banned e-cigarettes in India with immediate effect. Blaming uncertain health risks and the increasing use of vapes, e-cigarettes and ENDS (electronic nicotine delivery systems), Sitharaman said India is banning any operations based around e-cigarettes. This includes “production, manufacturing, import/export, transport, sale, distribution, storage and advertising related to e-cigarettes” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said at a press conference.
In another development, India’s first legal alcohol home delivery startup HipBar might have to close down their services permanently in Bengaluru. Karnataka High Court, in a ruling, stated that the excise laws do not have the provisions to permit licensing of the alcohol delivery under Karnataka Excise Act, 1965. The verdict of banning the online sale and home delivery of alcoholic beverages in the state was delivered by HC Justice S Sujatha. The HC also dismissed a petition filed by the alcohol delivery startup.
These are tough times for Indian startups. Whether its cryptocurrency, e-cigarettes or alcohol delivery, the government should have looked for finding ways to regulate these segments rather than banning them. With this thought in mind, let’s have a look at the other important news stories from the Indian startup ecosystem.
Important Indian Startup News Stories Of The Week
Aadhaar Petitioner Wants to Verify Accounts Using Govt IDs
The petitioner, Antony Clement Rubin, submitted a request to amend the original petition to mandate verification of social media accounts instead of linking them with Aadhaar. In the request submitted, Rubin sought the removal of any mention of “Aadhaar” and allow the social media platforms to be verified using any “government approved or authorized identities”.
Google Pay Business App, Entry level Job Listing And More
- Google is looking to add support for bank credit card and debit cards in India, just like it does in the US and some other western markets. Google has now made it easier for customers to pay for goods and services even if they don’t have a UPI ID or are using international credit cards in India.
- At the Google For India event on September 19, the company announced that it is setting up Google Research India — an artificial intelligence lab in Bengaluru. Manish Gupta will be leading Google Research India.
- Google has announced a revamped Google Jobs platform today at the Google For India event on September 19. Google Jobs continues the job search feature that Google had introduced in India recently. Google Jobs will help users find jobs based on their needs and interests. Jobs will also recommend openings and vacancies to users, through machine learning algorithms.
- Google launched the Google Pay for Business app, which makes it easier for merchants to get on board the digital payments bandwagon. Besides the Google Pay Business app, the company also announced a Spot platform, powered by Google Pay which helps stores and retail outlets create online stores using Google Pay APIs.
- Google marks its entry into India’s entry-level job search market with its new platform Kormo. The app was launched on September 20 at a Google event in New Delhi.
Data Should Benefit Citizens, Not Companies
Infosys cofounder Kris Gopalakrishnan said that the opportunities provided by data should not be limited to corporations, but should also include citizens by protecting them from growing vulnerabilities in the digital space. Gopalakrishnan was appointed as the head of a committee formed by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, last week, to study issues related to non-personal data. As the committee head, he is also supposed to suggest ways to regulate such data.
Drone Powered Digital Maps, Medicine Delivery Through Drones And More
- Prof Ashutosh Sharma, secretary to the government (Ministry of Science and Technology) said that the government has initiated a project to digitally map the country with a resolution of 10 centimetres, using drones and technologies such as artificial intelligence and big data in the next 5 years.
- The government of Maharashtra has partnered with California-based medical product delivery company Zipline to launch a logistics network of autonomous drones for delivery services across the state. The drones will be used to make on-demand deliveries of blood products, vaccines and life-saving medications.
- The Survey of India, with support from Department of Science and Technology (DST), has taken up the task of digitally mapping the length and breadth of the country over the next two years. The scientific department has set up three digital centres to generate digital topographic database and create a digital map of India across terrains to aid geo-information systems.
From The Government Corridors
- The Ministry of Corporate Affairs announced the setting up of a company law committee in line with the government’s objective of providing ease of doing business.
- The ministry of industry and commerce has proposed that fees for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and startups for filing of patent applications will be reduced 60% from INR 4000 (for MSMEs) and INR 4400 (for startups) to INR 1,600 and INR 1,750. Further, for expedited examination, it will be reduced 68% to INR 8,000 from INR 25,000 currently. Similarly, for the renewal of patents, the fees will be reduced by 60%.
- The government organised a roundtable discussion with chief executives of 54 electronic companies on the theme of “India: Towards a Global Hub”. The roundtable was chaired by the minister of electronics and IT Ravi Shankar Prasad who said that the time has come to make India a big hub for the export of electronics and components.
- The consumer affairs ministry has extended the deadline to submit feedback on ecommerce guidelines to October 31 from September 16. This follows several requests from stakeholders asking for more time to make the submission, which would impact businesses across the ecommerce chain.
- Ola, LensKart and PolicyBazaar, have demanded the guidelines for a public listing on Indian stock markets be changed for tech startups, specifically the rules around promoter holdings. The startups want the rule for minimum promoter holding requirement of 20% to be removed as it poses a challenge for startups who want to list themselves for stock exchange.
- To prevent carpooling from turning into a commercial activity, the transport ministry is reportedly working on guidelines to keep carpooling by private vehicle in check.
- The Indian government has sold data from the citizen Vahan database, vehicle registration data which comprises 25 Cr vehicle registration records, along with Sarathi database of 15 Cr driving licences to over 140 private companies and public institutions. These buyers range from automobile and cab-hailing services to private banks and public banks, including Mercedes, Ola, ICICI Bank, State Bank of India, RTI filed by Medianama revealed.
From The World of Ecommerce
- The commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal recently said that his ministry is working on a national ecommerce policy, which will be ready by June 2020. Moreover, the ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) and consumer affairs are having parallel discussions to frame another set of policies for these companies.
- In a discussion paper published on September 17, The Reserve Bank Of India (RBI) proposed that ecommerce marketplaces acting as payment gateways and payment aggregators to other merchants might have to separate their marketplace business from payments vertical. This move is suggested in order to ensure a better regulatory approach. Currently, multiple ecommerce majors have set up their own payment gateways including Flipkart’s PayZippy, Amazon Pay and Shopclues’ Reach.
- In preparation for the festive season, Amazon had levelled up by expanding its furniture and furnishing category adding over 1.6 Lakh products, especially from small and medium businesses and artisan hubs from Rajasthan. The catalogue would also include mainstream brands such as Home Centre, Godrej Interio, Sleepwell and UrbanLadder. In addition, it has also enabled users to create new brands like Wakefit, Sleepycat and Deckup.
From The World Of Fintech
- The Reserve Bank Of India has asked banks and NBFCs to stop sharing consumer credit history with non-regulated entities. Such sharing of credit information is against the country’s Credit Information Companies (Regulation) Act, 2005 and may result in penalties in case of further violation.
- PhonePe announced a new service which enables users to participate in initial public offerings (IPO) using their BHIM UPI Id created on the PhonePe App.
- IRDAI has opened applications for its regulatory sandbox from September 15. The regulatory sandbox, introduced in May, provides insurtech in particular and the fintech sector as a whole with flexibility in dealing with regulatory requirements and at the same time focussing on policyholder protection.
- According to RBI, Indian companies cannot acquire or invest in a foreign entity which already has a direct or indirect investment in the Indian market. In such cases, Indian companies can approach the Reserve Bank for prior approval through their Authorised Dealer Banks which will be considered on a case to case basis, depending on the merits of the case.
Govt Forgoes $20 Bn Revenue For Corporates, FPIs
Amid flagging economy and the concerns of investors, the government has announced a new set of fiscal relief in an attempt to soothe the raging concerns. In the latest fiscal measures announced today (September 20), the government has slashed corporate tax rates to 22% for domestic companies and 15% for new domestic manufacturing companies.
Zomato And Swiggy Saga Continues
After #logout campaign, discontinuing infinity dining service, altering rules of Zomato Gold, and multiple layoffs, the company’s next trouble has brewed from its delivery partners. Around 3K delivery executives in Mumbai and another 3K in Bengaluru have logged out of the app and have been protesting since Saturday. The protesters are complaining about the change in Zomato’s payment systems.
Also, a fresh round of talks between the National Restaurants Association of India (NRAI) and online food platforms on Friday (13 September) was largely positive but failed to yield any resolution to the critical issues of deep discounting by Swiggy and Zomato.
Swiggy, on the other hand, has started focusing on its wholestore initiative. Swiggy and Dunzo have reportedly partnered with wholesale stores to power their hyperlocal delivery operations, according to a media report which cited sources close to the development.
Other Startup News Stories Of The Week
Apple To Invest $1 Bn To Export ‘Made In India’ iPhones
Foxconn’s factory in Chennai will be used as a manufacturing unit for Apple’s product. Apple’s other component suppliers will also be investing in the venture. Minister of electronics and information technology Ravi Shankar Prasad confirmed the global tech giant’s intention to ramp up manufacturing with the new unit in Tamil Nadu.
Bengaluru Hotel Association Accuses OYO Of ‘Unfair Business Practices’
The Bruhat Bangalore Hotels Association reportedly said in its letter to the commissioner, “owing to the unfair business practices of OYO receivables and losses to hoteliers in Karnataka amounts to hundreds of crores.” This development came on the heels of a police complaint filed by another Bengaluru hotelier Natarajan V R S, who alleged the OYO’s founder Ritesh Agarwal and two other company representatives of cheating and criminal breach of trust.
Gaming Platform LivePools Aims For Global Appeal
LivePools has announced a strategic partnership with social media influencer Dan Bilzerian, which is the first multi-millionaire equity partnership with an Indian startup. The details of the investment or equity have not been revealed yet. Bilzerian said he has been monitoring the Indian market for a while and backed LivePools because of its growth plan and strategy.
WhatsApps Trouble In India Continues
In a meeting held last week, Facebook representative had given government officials an alternative to absolute traceability of messages. However, the government has refused to budge. NPCI also asked the Facebook-owned instant messaging app to make changes in its policy to get the final approval. However, the company hopes to offer the service by the end of the year.
Social Media Cos Worried About Multiple Takedown Requests
Social media companies have reportedly told Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), that restrictions on social media political advertising 48-hours before the voting date should also include other internet companies. The social media companies like Facebook, Twitter, Sharechat and others, are concerned about the volume of takedown notices they might have to handle in the wake of upcoming state elections in India.
CCI To Look Into Deep Discounting On Flipkart, Amazon
The ecommerce platforms end up making up 60% of the sales during the festive season, compared to their annual sales. To give these sales a further boost, the platforms come up with extensive offers, faster deliveries and better discounts. CCI chairperson Ashok Kumar Gupta, told in a media report that deep discounting is an “unviable” option for the long run as it reduces the value of products and services in the eyes of the consumer.
Surge Price Cap: Uber Drivers May Get In trouble
The Karnataka government has capped surge pricing fares at two times the base fare (2x), which Uber claims as driven up costs for drivers. “Given the higher costs of running cabs in the city, drivers took home 22-25% less than counterparts in Hyderabad,” said Uber.
Stay tuned for the next week edition of News Roundup: Indian Startup News Stories Of The week!