We bring to you the latest edition of News Roundup: Indian Startup Stories Of The Week!
In the NITI Aayog’s first-ever India Innovation Index, released on Thursday, Karnataka topped the charts among major states in the country. Moreover, while in the union territory category, Delhi secured the first place, among the hilly states, Sikkim was ranked first. Reportedly, the index aims to examine the innovation capabilities and performance of Indian states. It is an attempt to create a substantial evaluation of the innovation environment of 29 states and seven union territories.
Only Russia and China ranked worse than India in terms of privacy and online surveillance, according to a study conducted by UK-based research firm Compritech. The surveillance index score of 2.4 out of 5 on privacy index indicates a systemic failure to maintain data privacy safeguards, the report said. The survey ranked countries based on constitutional protection, statutory protection, privacy enforcement, biometrics, data sharing and the government’s access to citizen data among other things.
Here’s a look at the other major developments in the Indian startup ecosystem this week!
Important Indian Startup News Stories Of The Week
5G Roll-Out In India May Delay Further
Deployment of the much-awaited 5G cellular services in India may be delayed further and is unlikely to happen within the next year. According to the Indian government’s recent proposal to International Telecommunication Union (ITU), it allows, as per the instructions from Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), use of only 26 Ghz band for mobile services with conditions to ensure that the 5G services will not interfere with satellite operations. The proposal, if accepted by ITU, will increase the cost of 5G services multifold as the operators will have to set up a large number of base stations now, thereby making it difficult for them to roll out 5G.
At the same time, in accordance with India’s ambitious 5G plans, Alibaba’s subsidiary Whale Cloud, on Tuesday reportedly demonstrated a 5G operation map for the country. At the India Mobile Congress, the company highlighted that the map is designed to support operators in different stages of the 5G network deployment.
Also, recently Swedish telecom company Ericsson and American telecom equipment maker Qualcomm collaborated to demonstrate the first 5G video call in the country on millimetreWave (mmWave) spectrum at the ongoing India Mobile Congress (IMC) in Delhi. The companies also demonstrated India’s first 4K video streaming and cloud-based gaming using sub-6 GHz and mmWave using 5G commercial devices.
Doodhwala Shuts Down, Uber Downsizing And More
- Bengaluru-based milktech startup Doodhwala said it will be discontinuing its services due to unforeseen circumstances. In an update on its website, cofounder and CEO Ebrahim Akbari said that FreshToHome via FTHDaily will continue to service Doodhwala’s customer base in Bengaluru.
- Uber has been downsizing its global team amid mounting losses and investor attention. The cut down has trickled down to the Indian team as well. A source close development confirmed to Inc42 that Uber India has less than 10% of 350 laid off employees. The development was first reported by ET. These are expected to impact Uber’s businesses in the country, including its online food-delivery vertical under UberEats.
- In response to Delhi High Court’s directions to take down content hinting towards Indian artist Subodh Gupta’s alleged sexual misconduct, Facebook and Google took opposing stands on Monday (October 14). While Google resisted any attempts to control the content on the platform, which hampers the freedom of speech and expression. On the other hand, Facebook followed the high court’s orders diligently and will be cooperating in the investigation. Artist Subodh Gupta had filed an INR 5 Cr civil defamation case in the Delhi HC, against an anonymous Instagram handle ‘HerdSceneAnd’ for accusing him of sexual misconduct. HerdSceneAnd is a women-focussed platform which helps victims and survivors share experiences of abuse and harassment in the Indian art world.
- As Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) employees are preparing to go on a strike on October 19, the joint action committee (JAC) of over 50K Ola and Uber employees have taken the opportunity to highlight their grievances by backing the statewide protest. The drivers demand a hike in their pay from the current payout of INR 12 to INR 22, Shaik Salauddin, chairman of the JAC told The Hindu Business Line.
From The World Of Ecommerce
- After ecommerce platforms Amazon and Flipkart sternly denied any violation of foreign direct investments (FDI) norms by offering deep discounts, the confederation of all India traders (CAIT) has demanded clarification on who is giving these discounts on the platforms. The communication was sent to all premier brands asking them about the deep discounts offered on their products.
- Cloudtail India reported a revenue growth of 25% to INR 8,945 Cr in the year ended March 2019, the Amazon affiliated company announced. Cloudtail is the single largest seller on Amazon’s India marketplace.
- During India Mobile Congress 2019, Rudra Dalmia, executive director of Paytm Mall said, “discounting in ecommerce cannot and should not exist”. Dalmia added that all products have a fair price and consumers who want to use a particular product should be willing to pay that price without needing a discount.
- Reliance-owned fashion ecommerce startup Fynd launched a direct-to-retail platform Uniket to allow shopkeepers in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities to get direct access to fashion brand’s inventory. The platform allows shopkeepers to buy complete sets like in a wholesale market with a 45% margin. Moreover, it also lets shopkeepers buy a single piece at a 15% commission on customer orders.
- As the competition between online and offline players gets intense, mobile brands have had to make promises to ensure parity between the two segments. An ET report said that smartphone makers Realme, Oppo and Vivo are unlikely to launch any online exclusive models from January. The companies have decided to stop online launches from January as they have agreements with online sellers till December. It is to be noted that these three combined own around 30% share of the Indian smartphone market till June.
From The Government Corridors
- With the corporate tax cut passed last month, the government looked to tackle the concerns about the economic slowdown. Although the decision drew cheers from foreign investors and business owners, some are still wary of retrospective policy actions that the government might take in the near future. To allay these concerns, India is currently examining how it can bring substantial changes to the policy framework to protect foreign investors from any retrospective changes. Also, the government is proposing a special mechanism under which foreign companies, looking to create a base in India, would be handheld through the tax process till they reach the groundbreaking stage.
- All India Plastic Manufacturers Association (AIPMA) has asked the government to issue clear guidelines on its short-term and long-term plans to phase out single-use plastic ban. It has asked the Centre to give clarity on how it plans to implement the ban by 2022. An outright ban would escalate costs and lead to job losses and disrupt supply chains, the companies said.
- In a bid to discourage the use of single-use plastic, the Indian government has entrusted the bandwagon to the ecommerce companies to do their part in reducing such use. A Press Trust of India (PTI) report said that the commerce and industry ministry has advised ecommerce companies to gradually slash single-use plastic in packaging of products. The companies have also been advised by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) to develop sustainable packaging material which will contribute to reducing India’s plastic footprint globally.
- At a panel discussion on the second day of the India Mobile Congress (IMC) on Tuesday (October 15), top executives from the telecom industry stressed on the importance of data localisation and security in relation to the Indian government’s plans on the matter. The Indian government is strengthening data privacy laws on how companies and organisations treat non-personal and personal data of individuals and other businesses.
- Transport minister Nitin Gadkari, on Monday, commented that the cameras at the FASTag toll booth will take photos of passengers in a vehicle, which will be useful for the home ministry as there will be a record of the vehicle’s movement. The statement has sparked a fresh round of controversy around privacy issues as it allows the government to keep a keen eye on the movement of automobiles across the country.
- The government is examining security protocols to be followed by foreign direct investors from countries that it has sensitive ties with and monitor closely. It said that the department for promotion of industry and internal trade (DPIIT), the finance ministry’s department of revenue and the home affairs ministry are holding discussions on the matter.
OYO Expansion Plans And More
OYO Hotels and Homes, has been expected to yield rich returns for the company but not through an IPO. In an interview with CNBC, Ritesh Agarwal, founder and CEO of OYO said, “OYO has no plans for an IPO because we are focused on execution.” The execution being referred to is the rapid expansion spree of OYO. Also, a group of hoteliers from Patna, Bihar, collected at Indian hotel chain OYO’s head office in the city on Monday (October 16), protesting that the company has not cleared unpaid dues. The protest which turned violent comes close on the heels of similar outbreaks in Bengaluru and Sikkim in the last one month.
Amid these, the latest product addition is SuperAgent, an online portal for travel agents. The company said that SuperAgent aims to enhance the booking experience for offline travel agents by offering a simple and quick way to book an OYO accommodation for their customers.
Upcoming Plans Of Global Companies For India
- Swedish furnishing retailer IKEA has decided to divert its strategy for growth in India. As a part of its second phase expansion plan, the company is now looking to expand in Tier 2 cities. Although the company plans to enter smaller cities, it is still developing a large format store in Bengaluru and has plans to develop one IKEA store in Delhi as a part of its first phase expansion plans.
- Facebook India head Ajit Mohan said that Facebook wants to build products that enable higher women participation on the internet. “In India, just 35% of women have access to the internet. We need to understand that there is a big gender imbalance in access to internet here,” Mohan reportedly added. Globally too, 250 Mn fewer women than men are connected to the Internet, according to the United Nations.
- Apple has finally opened the next chapter of its manufacturing in India itinerary, it seems. The tech giant has initiated commercial production of its newer model iPhone XR in Chennai. Earlier, the US-based company limited manufacturing of its older models — iPhone 6S, SE and assembling of iPhone 7 in India.
- The much-awaited launch of WhatsApp Payments in India look set to get delayed by another two months and the service might not be able to launch this year. According to a media report, the National Payments Corporation of India (NCPI) said that WhatsApp would likely take two more months to comply with India’s data localisation norms.
What Indian Companies Are Upto?
- India’s national carrier Air India earned itself a place in history today as it became the first airline in the world to use a Taxibot as alternate taxiing equipment on an Airbus aircraft. The Taxibot is a pilot-controlled semi-robotic aircraft tractor that helps in the taxiing of an aircraft from the parking bay to the runway and vice versa.
- Flipkart has announced the launch of original content called ‘Flipkart Video Originals’, which will be integrated within the Flipkart Video platform. The first creator to join Flipkart Video Originals is Academy Award winner Guneet Monga. Also, Flipkart is preparing the launch of FarmerMart, its food retail business which will sell locally-produced and packaged food products.
- Paytm said that it has achieved profitability at the contribution level. Vikas Garg, deputy CFO, Paytm said that the company’s contribution margin has grown from a loss of 30% to profit of 12% of the revenue.
- Vodafone Idea, one of India’s largest telecom operators by subscriber base, has teamed up with dairy companies to create an internet of things (IoT) platform, which will help build an intelligent supply chain for ice cream based on real-time connectivity, favourable location, temperature, logistics and more. The telecom company claims to have conceptualised the idea of a (smartcart) fridge on wheels after carrying out a lot of trials in Delhi.
- Ola has formally announced the launch of its self-driving service — Ola Drive. Earlier in September, the company was piloting its self-driving services in Bengaluru at rentals ranging between INR 300 – INR 400. The service is planned to be initially launched in Bengaluru, closely followed by other metro cities such as Hyderabad, Mumbai, and New Delhi. Also, Ola has officially launched its cloud kitchen services, beginning with Khichdi Experiment in Bengaluru. Khichdi Experiment will offer a carefully curated assortment of Khichdi in as many as 16 unique flavours.
- Amazon has announced the integration of Amazon Pay with Alexa, letting users handle digital payments through voice commands. Now, users can pay their mobile bills by saying, “Alexa, pay my mobile bill”, and the voice assistant will complete the payment.
SC Denies To Hear PIL On Aadhaar And Social Media
The Supreme Court (SC) of India on Monday (October 14) refused to entertain the public interest litigation (PIL) which sought linkage of Aadhaar with social media accounts. A Bar and Bench report said that the PIL was filed by Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay. The case was taken up by the bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose who observed that a similar matter is pending before the Madras High Court. The court bench observed that while the matter is important, everything cannot come before the SC. It said that the petitioner should approach the concerned High Court (HC).
Other Indian Startup News Of The Week
CashKaro Refutes Reports Of Breach Of Personal Data
A security research team at Safety Detectives has alleged that Cashkaro and its UK-based parent company Pouringpounds has compromised data of up to 3.5 Mn individuals. In a blog post, Safety Detectives said that the leak, found by the head of research Anurag Sen, was first spotted at the end of August 2019. The team first investigated it on September 2. On reaching out, CashKaro cofounder, Swati Bhargava, told Inc42, “We vehemently deny the inaccurate claims made in the blog post. We have repeatedly tried to contact Safety Detectives since the blog post was published and have requested to take the inaccurate blog post down, but have not received any revert from them.
CBSE Push On AI
Sharpening its focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Education) education, Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), in collaboration with Intel’s AI4Youth initiative, has finally released its Facilitators Handbooks to provide artificial intelligence (AI) based education to grade 8 and grade 9 students.
Instagram Shopping The Latest Craze Among Millennials
The report titled ‘Instagram in India: User Perspective’ shared that at least 50% of Indian Instagram consumers have purchased using the social media platform. Interestingly, it also highlighted that out of these consumers, around 75% of them hailed from Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities.
Delhi Teen Takes Amazon, Flipkart To Tribunal
The issue came under the spotlight after a sixteen-year-old boy filed a petition with the National Green Tribunal (NGT) against the Amazon and Flipkart for using an excessive number of packaging materials — cardboard boxes, multiple layers of plastic sheets and plastic bubble wrap. Sixteen-year-old Aditya Dubey, who is a class 11 student of Modern School Delhi, in the petition filed last week, asked NGT to issue directions to the companies to stop such practices.
TCS iON To Track Exams In Real-Time
TCS iON, a unit of Tata Consultancy Services, has launched an AI command centre in Chennai on Wednesday to monitor over 6K examination venues across the country in real-time. The initiative was taken to offer a better experience to exam administrators in terms of fair conduct of exams and transparency of exam operations. The command centre will monitor the exam process with parameters to prevent, predict and post incidents as alerts for management of exam.
FHRAI Supports The Zomato Log Out Movement
The Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Association of India (FHRAI) said that it supports the logout movement of NRAI and said that the fact that several city-based and affiliated bodies joining the campaign strongly indicates the pain being felt across the industry. The support was announced at a joint event held in Mumbai on Wednesday (October 16). NRAI had initiated a twitter campaign against Zomato’s Gold subscription programme in August.
Yatra Reaches Settlement With Air Travel Bureau
NASDAQ-listed online travel company Yatra said that it has entered into a Settlement and Amendment Agreement with Air Travel Bureau (ATB). The company said that on October 14, the companies agreed to settle disputes and claims arising from or relating to the certain Share Purchase Agreement among Yatra India, ATB, and the Sellers, dated July 20, 2017.
Credit Launches Scofit
Thousands of customers struggle to get a loan because they have damaged their credit history. With Scofit, Credy aims to solve this problem for the Indian consumer. Scofit offers credit report monitoring which helps customers with personalised tips, alerts for potential misreporting and a comprehensive view of their credit history and its trends. Armed with Scofit, customers can identify high priority areas of improvement and work on its personalised tips to keep their credit score fit.
Mastercard Launches Team Cashless India
This is an initiative to accelerate the acceptance and adoption of digital payments among merchants in the country. Mastercard will work together with the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), acquirer banks and fintech companies to promote digital payments acceptance infrastructure and its presence in the country.
Stay tuned for the next week edition of News Roundup: Indian Startup Stories Of The Week!