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This Week’s News Roundup: Sellers Await Payments From Club Factory, Talk Financial Crisis, & More

This Week’s News Roundup: Sellers Await Payments From Club Factory, Talk Financial Crisis, & More

Indian sellers served a legal notice to Club Factory demanding the company to pay their pending dues

TikTok is moving to resolve its issues in India and the US, even as an impending ban on the app in the US looms large

Facebook India Public Policy executive Ankhi Das apologies to Muslim colleagues for a derogatory post from her account where she labelled Muslims as ‘degenerate’

We bring you the latest edition of the news roundup: Indian startup news stories of the week!

This week, Inc42 reached out to Indian sellers who are waiting on payments for goods sold through banned Chinese ecommerce store Club Factory, which was one among 59 Chinese apps banned in India on June 29 to safeguard data privacy of Indian users. What was captured in our report was a harrowing tale of the financial crisis which seems to have befallen these sellers after Club Factory suspended payment of pending dues to these sellers last month, by invoking the ‘Force Majeure’ clause. 

Two sellers, Amit Singh Sengar and Manav Gaba talked about their pending dues — both are waiting on payments worth more than INR 2 lakhs each — and how they are now unable to pay off their loans, as well as payments they have to make to manufacturers of the items they used to trade on Club Factory. Subsequently, some Indian sellers, who are collectively waiting on payments worth INR 2.58 Cr from Club Factory, sent a legal notice to the Chinese ecommerce store, saying that the ‘Force Majeure’ clause stands null and void in times when the Indian government has invoked the Disaster Management Act. 

Another banned Chinese app, TikTok, was reported to be moving quickly to resolve its issues in India, as well as the US, where scrutiny over its links with the Chinese state continues to mount. The statement came from ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming, in a letter he wrote after TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer quit the company, just three months after he had joined. While TikTok tries to resolve its issues, US-based tech giant Microsoft is reportedly in talks to buy out the app’s US business, even as the government mulls a possible ban on the Chinese app, similar to what India did.

With TikTok’s exit from India, the short video sharing segment has been thrown wide open, with a host of apps competing for the Chinese app’s market share. TikTok’s US-based rival Triller has also started to aggressively tap into the Indian market, and this week, announced a partnership with Reliance Jio’s music streaming app JioSaavn. According to the terms of the partnership agreement, JioSaavn would embed Triller videos into its streamer ‘front and centre’. Further, JioSaavn would also display a button on its main screen that would help its users make a Triller video. 

In other news related to Jio, the company is reportedly targeting West Asia, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia regions for its indigenous 5G network connectivity solution. The company may take the technology to countries which are expected to be late in migrating to the technology, after scaling and testing the 5G solution in India. More news on Jio — Reliance has warned customers about fraudulent JioMart websites which have hit the market. The Mukesh Ambani-led company has informed that it wasn’t operating any dealership or franchise model, or hired any franchise or agent to do so.

Meanwhile, one of the strategic investors in Jio, Facebook, also made the news in India due to the ongoing fracas over hate speech allegations on the platform made in a The Wall Street Journal story published on August 14. Ankhi Das, director of Public Policy for Facebook India, South and Central Asia, has reportedly apologised to her Muslim colleagues in the company for a post last year which had labelled Muslims as a “degenerate community”. 

In other Facebook news, RTI activist Saket Gokhale is planning to file an injunction against the social media platform in the Bombay high court, seeking directions for removal of his private contact details from Facebook pages. Gokhale has alleged that he was made the target of a hate campaign, after he filed a petition last month, seeking postponement of the bhoomi pujan ceremony for the Ram Temple in Ayodhya due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Gokhale said that he would make Ankhi Das a respondent in the injunction plea he files.

Other Developments

  • The National Health Authority (NHA), on Thursday (August 27), announced on Twitter that the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) Sandbox was live, for testing new products and technologies in a contained environment for a defined period of time to ensure successful full-scale deployment of tried and tested products in the market.
  • The Khatabook-Growthpond ( battle over plagiarism and IP theft that came to light last week has seen plenty of twists and turns. Inc42 captured the entire story in a detailed investigative piece. Read the full store here.
  • Drivers working with cab aggregators, Ola and Uber are planning to go on strike from September 1, to protest for various demands such as fare hike, increase in commissions from cab aggregators and extension on moratorium for repayment of loans.
  • After launching three new brands – Bowlsome, Paratha Experiment, and Meal Kits and expanding its selection under Khichdi Experiment, Ola Foods is planning to launch 8-10 brands and look beyond the metros to smaller cities in the coming year.
  • Walmart-owned digital payments platform PhonePe is reportedly working aggressively to go public by 2023 as a separate entity in the US or India, eyeing a valuation of $7 to $10 Bn. PhonePe will finalise between India or US initial public offering (IPO), based on the market conditions. However, the company’s recent advertisement featuring Alia Bhatt and Aamir Khan has seen  #UninstallPhonePay (Uninstall PhonePe) trending on Twitter due to the involvement of the two actors, with separate controversies fuelling the trend.
  • Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba holds less than 3% stake in India-based Snapdeal and has no role in its operations or governance, the homegrown ecommerce platform Snapdeal’s cofounders Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal clarified this week.

As for the funding and acquisitions this week, overall, $42.4 Mn was invested across 27 Indian startups this week. 

Among movers and shakers, Ankit Parasher, the cofounder of tech-enabled logistics startup LetsTransport, decided to move away from the company to launch a fintech platform called Salt. Also, Instant messaging app Hike recently announced that it has appointed Suvesh Malhotra as VP and head of engineering.

Stay tuned for next week’s edition of News Roundup!