Walmart invests in self-driving startup Cruise

Walmart invests in self-driving startup Cruise

Enlarge (credit: Walmart)

Walmart is investing in self-driving startup Cruise as part of a massive $2.75 billion investment round in the company—an expansion of the $2 billion round announced in January. That original announcement featured three other big names: GM, Honda, and Microsoft.

Cruise was originally an independent startup but was acquired by GM in 2016. GM has poured billions into the company and has increasingly sought additional financial support from outside investors.

Recently, Cruise has been signaling that it is just a couple of years away from launching its technology commercially. Earlier this week, Cruise announced that it would launch a self-driving taxi service in Dubai in 2023. Cruise CEO Dan Ammann then told Bloomberg that he expected to launch a commercial service in San Francisco prior to launching in Dubai.

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#cars, #cruise, #self-driving-car, #walmart

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Walmart helps push Cruise’s latest investment round to $2.75B

Cruise, the autonomous vehicle company aiming to deploy robotaxis in San Francisco and Dubai, has added Walmart as an investor in an extended fundraising round that has grown to $2.75 billion.

The company said it has a post-money valuation of more than $30 billion. Walmart and several unnamed institutional investors added capital to a $2 billion equity round announced back in January that was led by Microsoft. The companies didn’t disclose Walmart’s exact investment. Cruise, the autonomous vehicle subsidiary of GM, is also backed by Honda, Softbank Vision Fund and funds managed by T. Rowe Price.

Cruise has long been viewed — and described itself — as a company solely focused on launching a commercial scale robotaxi service. However, comments from Walmart CEO John Furner in a blog post published Thursday suggest that laser focus continues to widened beyond robotaxis and San Francisco.

“The investment will aid our work towards developing a last-mile delivery ecosystem that’s fast, low-cost and scalable,” Furner wrote in a blog post published Thursday morning. He later wrote “this investment is a marker for us.”

Cruise has experimented with delivery over the past several years even as its efforts around robotaxis took most of its attention and resources. For instance, Cruise and DoorDash completed in 2019 a delivery pilot in San Francisco. And when the COVID-19 pandemic swept into North America, prompting government lockdowns, Cruise paused its testing in San Francisco and started delivering prepared meals for two food banks.

Walmart and Cruise also already have a relationship. The companies announced in November 2020 plans to test grocery delivery in Scottsdale, Arizona. Under the pilot program, the companies said that customers will be able to place an order from their local Walmart store and have it delivered via one of Cruise’s autonomous, electric Chevy Bolt cars. While the vehicles will operate autonomously, a human safety operator will always be behind the wheel.

Cruise is not Walmart’s only autonomous dancing partner. The retail giant has partnered with a handful of autonomous vehicle developers, including Waymo, to test out how the technology might eventually be used at a commercial scale. The retailer signed a deal in 2019 with startup Udelv to test the use of autonomous vans to deliver online grocery orders to customers in Surprise, Arizona. Autonomous delivery startup Nuro launched a pilot program with Walmart in Houston in 2020.

The retail giant participated in a pilot with Postmates and Ford in the Miami-Dade area and last year the retailer tapped AV startup Gatik to deliver customer online grocery orders from Walmart’s main warehouse to its neighborhood stores in Bentonville, Arkansas.

#automotive, #autonomous-vehicles, #cruise, #microsoft, #tc, #transportation, #walmart

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Best Buy takes aim at Amazon Prime with its own membership program

Little cartoon people explain the advantages of Best Buy membership.

Enlarge / Extended warranties and unlimited tech support—including on things you didn’t purchase from Best Buy in the first place—are bigger potential value-adds to Best Buy Beta than the ubiquitous free shipping. (credit: Best Buy)

Best Buy is floating a new membership program called Best Buy Beta in some test markets. The new program, somewhat like Walmart’s Walmart+, takes aim at Amazon’s immensely popular Prime membership service—but does so while focusing on Best Buy’s own corporate strengths, in addition to the usual free shipping perks.

For $200 per year—or $180, for Best Buy credit card holders—Beta members get unlimited Geek Squad tech support, included extended protection (up to two years) on most purchases, free standard shipping, and free installation for most products and appliances. There’s also a 24/7 “concierge” service available exclusively to Beta members by phone, chat, or email.

The details Best Buy’s corporate announcement provides about the concierge service are slim, but it sounds like a sort of generic “niece or nephew who’s good at technology” who can can answer questions. (Nibling as a Service?)

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#amazon-prime, #best-buy-beta, #best-buy, #tech, #walmart

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Investors get a rise out of Walmart’s agreement to stock more Beyond Meat

Beyond Meat shares soared today on the heels of an announcement that Walmart is beefing up its relationship with the purveyor of meatless protein patties, sausages, and balls.

900 stores will now be stocking Beyond Meat’s hot Italian sausages and its party packs of beefless burgers — those grilling delectations for the omnivores, vegetarians and vegans who no longer want to ask “Where’s the beef?”

Beyond Meat’s increased distribution at Walmart stores is the second jump in production over the past year and part of the company’s efforts to lock down the market for plant-based meat substitutes.

The company’s foods are now sold in over 28,000 stores, and it’s also pulling ahead in the food service industry, where it recently announced deals with Yum Brands and McDonalds.

Shares of the company’s stock ended the day up 3.16% or $4.28 as investors ate up the news.

 

“We are thrilled by the continued growth with Walmart and the opportunity to offer Walmart customers increased accessibility to a larger selection of our delicious and better-for-you plant-based products,” said Chuck Muth, Chief Growth Officer, Beyond Meat. “As more households continue to buy our products and buy them more frequently, we’re excited to satisfy the growing demand through increased product offerings and distribution.”

The partnership with Walmart, which dates back to 2015 is significant, but not nearly as attention grabbing as the company’s elaboration on recent agreements with McDonalds and Yum! Brands — the brains behind KFC and the two franchises that launched America’s greatest fast food hip hop anthem.

In late February, Beyond Meat opened up about its deals with Yum! Brands and McDonald’s that would see the company work to co-create plant-based protein menu items for KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell along with the famous golden arches fo McDonald’s.

That details of the agreement withYum! included the expansion of testing the company’s Beyond Fried Chicken in other U.S. cities with KFC. And the launch of the Beyond Italian Sausage Pizza and the Great Beyond Pizza nationwide, becoming the first national pizza chain to introduce a plant-based meat pizza coast-to-coast, the company’s said in a statement at the time.

The McDonald’s announcement fleshed out the meatless details of a partnership that was previously announced when the fast food giant unveiled its McPlant sandwich — a kind of face plant for Beyond given that it couldn’t confirm the details of the agreement at the time.

Now, other plant-based menu items — including options for chicken, pork, and egg products, have been unveiled as part of the broader McPlant platform, the companies said in February.

“Our new McPlant platform is all about giving customers more choices when they visit McDonald’s,” said Francesca DeBiase, McDonald’s Executive Vice President and Chief Supply Chain Officer, said at the time. “We’re excited to work with Beyond Meat to drive innovation in this space, and entering into this strategic agreement is an important step on our journey to bring delicious, high quality, plant-based menu items to our customers.”

It’s been a busy year for the branding geniuses at Beyond Meat, who also inked a deal with Pepsi to develop protein enhanced snacks and beverages under the tragically named PLANeT Partnership.

 

#america, #beyond-meat, #companies, #kfc, #mcdonalds, #meat-substitutes, #pepsi, #pizza-hut, #restaurants, #taco-bell, #tc, #united-states, #walmart, #yum-brands

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Walmart to host a new live stream shopping event on TikTok, following successful pilot

In December, Walmart partnered with TikTok on the first pilot test of a new livestreamed shopping experience in the U.S. on the video platform. That test seemingly performed well, as today Walmart announced it will return to TikTok to host another livestream shopping event, the “Spring Shop-Along: Beauty Edition,” which will feature TikTok creators and influencers in an hour-long livestream.

The retailer didn’t disclose to what extent its first TikTok live shopping event drove sales, but noted that it netted 7x more views that it had anticipated, and was able to grow its TikTok follower base by 25%. These metrics were encouraging enough to send Walmart back to the platform for another go — this time, to promote beauty products instead of apparel, which had been the focus of the holiday livestream.

The new Spring Shop-Along will run this Thursday, March 11 at 9 PM EST on the Walmart TikTok channel. Like the prior holiday event, the new livestream shopping event will see various TikTok creators joining to talk about and demonstrate their favorite items. One participating creator has already been announced: Gabby Morrison (@GabbyMorr) who has over 3.5 million TikTok followers.

Image Credits: Walmart

Gabby and others will demo their skincare, makeup and hair routines and reveal the Walmart beauty products they’re using during the 60-minute live event. Featured beauty brands will include NYX, Maybelline, The Lip Bar, Bliss, Kim Kimble, and Marc Jacobs fragrances.

Viewers watching the event will be able to get beauty tips as well as shop the products featured directly in the TikTok app by tapping on product “pins.” This will allow them to add items to their cart that they can then check out either during or after the event.

“Brands have found a unique home on TikTok to create content that speaks to the community and inspires engagement, whether it’s participating in trends or discovering new products,” said Blake Chandlee, President of TikTok Global Business Solutions, in a statement about Walmart’s plans.

“With the shoppable livestream experience, it’s exciting to see how the TikTok community loves engaging with their favorite creators and discovering new products. We look forward to continue building innovative ways to power the path from discovery to purchase, and seeing brands like Walmart bring their creativity to users,” Chandlee added.

Walmart had already signaled its interest in leveraging TikTok for e-commerce ahead of the holiday livestream. Notably, it had planned to invest in TikTok when the video app was threatened with a ban under the Trump administration, unless it sold its U.S. operations to an American company. That forced sale, which would have spun out TikTok’s U.S. business to new owners Oracle and Walmart, is shelved for the time being as the Biden administration reviews the agency action under Trump.

Image Credits: Screenshot of Walmart’s TikTok channel during the 2020 holidays

Livestreamed shopping is an area of increasing interest and investment in the U.S. The trend has seen a number of startups enter the market, including NTWRK and recently funded Bambuser and Popshop Live, among others. Larger tech companies are also taking part — including across mobile video and live video shopping.

Google’s R&D project for mobile video shopping Shoploop was integrated into search. Facebook acquired a video shopping startup Packagd to build out live shopping, and heavily invested in video shopping across Facebook and Instagram. Amazon runs live shopping through its QVC-like Amazon Live. Alibaba (AliExpress) JD.com, Pinduoduo, WeChat and TikTok’s Chinese sister app, Douyin, all support mobile video shopping, too.

Walmart had said its plan to partner with TikTok on livestream shopping wasn’t a result of its deal talks, however — it’s been an active brand on TikTok’s platform for well over a year. The retailer even tasked its employees to make TikTok videos, in addition to running its own TikTok channel.

Reached for comment, the retailer declined to provide further metrics about its first livestream on TikTok, but felt the pilot test delivered above expectations.

“We were happy with getting 7X more views than anticipated and the 25% increase in TikTok follower growth after the first event. We were also pleased with the smooth checkout experience,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We aren’t able to share sales numbers, but can share that we hit the projections we set ahead of the event.”

Following this week’s live shopping event, Walmart says it plans to bring more shopping experiences to TikTok in the months to come, by continuing to partner with creators to highlight different products via different formats.

#ecommerce, #live-e-commerce, #live-mobile-shopping, #live-shopping, #livestream, #livestreaming, #mobile-video, #shopping, #social, #tc, #tiktok, #video, #video-shopping, #walmart

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YL Ventures sells its stake in cybersecurity unicorn Axonius for $270M

YL Ventures, the Israel-focused cybersecurity seed fund, today announced that it has sold its stake cybersecurity asset management startup Axonius, which only a week ago announced a $100 million Series D funding round that now values it at around $1.2 billion.

ICONIQ Growth, Alkeon Capital Management, DTCP and Harmony Partners acquired YL Venture’s stake for $270 million. This marks YL’s first return from its third $75 million fund, which it raised in 2017, and the largest return in the firm’s history.

With this sale, the company’s third fund still has six portfolio companies remaining. It closed its fourth fund with $120 million in committed capital in the middle of 2019.

Unlike YL, which focuses on early-stage companies — though it also tends to participate in some later-stage rounds — the investors that are buying its stake specialize in later-stage companies that are often on an IPO path. ICONIQ Growth has invested in the likes of Adyen, CrowdStrike, Datadog and Zoom, for example, and has also regularly partnered with YL Ventures on its later-stage investments.

“The transition from early-stage to late-stage investors just makes sense as we drive toward IPO, and it allows each investor to focus on what they do best,” said Dean Sysman, co-founder and CEO of Axonius. “We appreciate the guidance and support the YL Ventures team has provided during the early stages of our company and we congratulate them on this successful journey.”

To put this sale into perspective for the Silicon Valley- and Tel Aviv-based YL Ventures, it’s worth noting that it currently manages about $300 million. Its current portfolio includes the likes of Orca Security, Hunters and Cycode. This sale is a huge win for the firm.

Its most headline-grabbing exit so far was Twistlock, which was acquired by Palo Alto Networks for $410 million in 2019, but it has also seen exits of its portfolio companies to Microsoft, Proofpoint, CA Technologies and Walmart, among others. The fund participated in Axonius’ $4 million seed round in 2017 up to its $58 Million Series C round a year ago.

It seems like YL Ventures is taking a very pragmatic approach here. It doesn’t specialize in late-stage firms — and until recently, Israeli startups always tended to sell long before they got to a late-stage round anyway. And it can generate a nice — and guaranteed — return for its own investors, too.

“This exit netted $270 million in cash directly to our third fund, which had $75 million total in capital commitments, and this fund still has 6 outstanding portfolio companies remaining,” Yoav Leitersdorf, YL Ventures’ founder and managing partner, told me. “Returning multiple times that fund now with a single exit, with the rest of the portfolio companies still there for the upside is the most responsible — yet highly profitable path — we could have taken for our fund at this time. And all this while diverting our energies and means more towards our seed-stage companies (where our help is more impactful), and at the same time supporting Axonius by enabling it to bring aboard such excellent late-stage investors as ICONIQ and Alkeon – a true win-win-win situation for everyone involved!”

He also noted that this sale achieved a top-decile return for the firm’s limited partners and allows it to focus its resources and attention toward the younger companies in its portfolio.

#adyen, #axonius, #ca-technologies, #companies, #crowdstrike, #datadog, #enterprise, #iconiq, #iconiq-growth, #information-technology, #leader, #management, #managing-partner, #microsoft, #palo-alto-networks, #proofpoint, #tel-aviv, #twistlock, #venture-capital, #walmart, #yl-ventures, #yoav-leitersdorf

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Bank of America is bringing VR instruction to its 4,000 banks

As consumer VR begins to have a moment following years of heavy investment from Facebook and other tech giants, corporate America is similarly beginning to find more utility in the technology, as well.

Bank of America announced today that they’ll be working with Bay Area-based VR startup Strivr to bring more of their workplace training into virtual reality. The financial institution has already used the startup’s tech in a pilot effort with about 400 employees, but a wide-scale rollout means scaling the VR learning platform to more of the company’s 45,000 employees and bringing thousands of VR headsets to its bank branches.

Bank of America exec John Jordan has plenty of ideas of where it will be able to implement the technology most effectively, but is open to experimenting early-on, noting that they’ve developed VR lessons for everything from notary services to fraud detection. Jordan also says that they’re working on more ambitious tasks like helping employees practice empathy with customers dealing with sensitive matters like the death of a relative.

Jordan says the scope of the company’s corporate learning program “The Academy” is largely unmatched among other major companies in the U.S., except perhaps by the employee instruction programs at Walmart, he notes. Walmart has been Strivr’s largest customer since the startup signed the retail behemoth back in 2017 to bring VR instruction to their 200 “Walmart Academy” instruction centers and all Walmart stores.

Virtual reality is a technology that lends itself to capturing undivided attention, something that is undoubtedly positive for increasing learning retention, which Jordan says was one of the central appeals for adopting the tech. For Bank of America, VR offers a platform change to reexamine some of the pitfalls of conventional corporate learning. At the same time, they acknowledge that the tech isn’t a silver bullet and that are plenty of best practices for VR that are still unknowns.

“We’re just taking it slow to be honest,” Jordan says. “We already feel pretty great about how we’ve made investments, but we view this as a way to get better.”

Enterprise VR startups have seen varying levels of success over the years as they’ve aimed to find paying customers that can tolerate the limitations of the technology while buying in on the broader vision. Strivr has raised over $51 million, including a $30 million Series B last year, as it has aimed to become a leader in the workplace training space. CEO Derek Belch tells TechCrunch that the company has big plans as it looks towards raising more funding and works to build out its software toolsets to help simplify VR content creation for its partners.

 

 

#america, #bank, #bank-of-america, #ceo, #facebook, #leader, #retailers, #strivr, #tc, #united-states, #virtual-reality, #vr, #walmart

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Walmart drops the $35 order minimum on its 2-hour ‘Express’ delivery service

In a move designed to directly challenge Amazon, Walmart today announced it’s dropping the $35 minimum order requirement for its two-hour “Express” delivery service, a competitor to Amazon’s “Prime Now.”  With Walmart Express Delivery, customers can order from Walmart’s food, consumables or general merchandise assortment, then pay a flat $10 fee to have the items arrive in two hours or less.

The service is useful for more urgent delivery needs — like diapers or a missing ingredient for a recipe, SVP of Customer Product, Tom Ward, noted in an announcement. They’re not meant to sub in for larger shopping trips, however — Express orders are capped at 65 items.

Today, Express Delivery is available in nearly 3,000 Walmart stores reaching 70% of the U.S. population, Walmart says. It builds on top of stores’ existing inventory of pickup and delivery time slots as a third option, instead of giving slots away to those with the ability to pay higher fees.

Like Walmart’s grocery and pickup orders, Express orders are shopped and packaged for delivery by Walmart’s team of 170,000 personal shoppers and items are priced the same as they are in-store. This offers Walmart a potential competitive advantage against grocery delivery services like Instacart or Shipt, for example, where products can be priced higher and hurried or inexperienced shoppers aren’t always able to find items or search the back, having to mark them as “out of stock.”

In theory, Walmart employees will have a better understanding of their own store’s inventory and layout, making these kind of issues less common. It will also have direct access to the order data, which will help it better understand what sells, what replacements customers will accept for out-of-stocks, when to staff for busy times, and more.

In addition to grocery delivery, Express Delivery competes with Amazon’s Prime Now, a service that similarly offers a combination of grocery and other daily essentials and merchandise. Currently, Prime Now’s 2-hour service has a minimum order requirement of $35 without any additional fees in many cases — though the Prime Now app explains that some of its local store partners will charge fees even when that minimum is met, and others may have higher order minimums, which makes the service confusing to consumers.

Walmart’s news comes at a time when Amazon appears to be trying to push consumers away from the Prime Now standalone app, too.

When you open the Prime Now app, a large pop-up message informs you that you can now shop Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh from inside the Amazon app. A button labeled “Make the switch” will then redirect you. Meanwhile, on Amazon’s website touting Prime’s delivery perks, the “Prime Now” brand name isn’t mentioned at all. Instead, Amazon touts free same-day (5 hour) delivery of best sellers and everyday essentials on orders with a $35 minimum purchase, or free 2-hour grocery delivery from Whole Foods and Fresh.

When asked why Amazon is pushing Prime Now shoppers to its main app, Amazon downplayed this as simply an ongoing effort to “educate” consumers about the option.

Walmart, on the other hand, last year merged its separate delivery apps into one.

After items are picked, Walmart works with a network of partners, including DoorDash, Postmates, Roadie, and Pickup Point, as well as its in-house delivery services, to get orders to customers’ doorsteps. This last-mile portion has become an key area of investment for Walmart and competitors in recent months — Walmart, for example, acquired assets from a peer-to-peer delivery startup JoyRun in November. And before that, a former Walmart delivery partner, Deliv, sold to Target.

This is not the first time Walmart has dropped order minimums in an attempt to better compete with Amazon and others.

In December, Walmart announced its Prime alternative known as Walmart+ would remove the $35 minimum on non-same day Walmart.com orders. But it had stopped short of extending that perk to same-day grocery until now.

To some extent, Walmart’s ability to drop minimums has to do with the logistics of its delivery operations. Walmart has been turning more its stores into fulfillment centers, by converting some into small, automated warehouses in partnership with technology providers and robotics companies, including Alert Innovation, Dematic and Fabric.

And because its stores are physically located closer to customers than Amazon warehouses, it has the ability to deliver a broad merchandise selection, faster, while also turning large parking lots into picking stations — another thing that could worry Amazon, which is now buying up closed mall stores for its own fulfillment operations. 

Walmart today still carries a $35 minimum on other pickup and delivery orders and same-day orders from Walmart+ subscribers.

#amazon, #ecommerce, #food, #grocery-store, #instacart, #prime, #prime-now, #retailers, #shipt, #target, #united-states, #walmart, #whole-foods

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Atlanta startups have another venture fund to tap as Silicon Road Ventures closes on $31 million

Atlanta startups can now add another name to their rolodexes of venture firms operating out of the Big Peach with the close of Silicon Road Ventures new $31 million fund.

Silicon Road invests across the U.S. from its base in Atlanta, the firm said with a focus on e-commerce, retail, and consumer packaged goods.

The firm said it’s focused on in-store retail and technology for shoppers, the multi-channel commerce world, supply chain and logistics technologies and financial technologies and payments.

Founded two years ago, the fund invested in ten startups over the course of 2020 and is targeting another twenty for its first fund.

The firm hopes that entrepreneurs find its “corporate connect” program to be a key differentiator, which relies on founder and managing partner Sid Mookerji’s experience in e-commerce, retail and consumer packaged goods to link corporations to relevant startups and research, according to a statement.

Silicon Road is already working with the upstart retail chain Citizen Supply, which provides a highly curated marketplace to showcase new consumer brands.

Mookerji previously founded Software Paradigms International Group, which was one of the first retail IT companies offering a suite of products designed to optimize omni-channel strategies. The company’s clients included Macy’s, Walmart, Carrefour, and NAPA.

Joining Mookerji is managing director and partner, Ross Kimbel, a former co-founder of Be Curious Partners and a global director of innovation and entrepreneurship at The Coca-Cola Company. curated engagements between portfolio companies and major retailers and brands.

The company’s current portfolio includesPerchToucan AIWeStockSoftWear AutomationPatronPull LogicTurnSymTrainEveryware, and Wripple.

#atlanta, #carrefour, #co-founder, #e-commerce, #entrepreneurship, #macys, #managing-partner, #private-equity, #retail, #retailers, #startup-company, #supermarkets, #supply-chain, #supply-chain-management, #tc, #united-states, #walmart

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Walmart’s Flipkart to deploy over 25,000 electric vehicles in India by 2030

India’s Flipkart said on Wednesday it will deploy more than 25,000 electric vehicles in its supply chain by 2030 as the Walmart-owned e-commerce giant looks to achieve a 100% transition to electric mobility in the next 10 years.

The Bangalore-headquartered firm said it has partnered with leading EV makers including Hero Electric, Mahindra Electric, and Piaggio to build vehicles for its first and last mile delivery fleets across the country.

The announcement comes a day after rival Amazon said it had partnered with Mahindra Electric to develop “close to hundred” electric three-wheeler in India. The American e-commerce giant last year pledged to deploy 10,000 electric vehicles in the country by 2025.

Flipkart said its electric fleet will include two-wheeler, three-wheeler, and four-wheeler vehicles, all of which will be designed and assembled in India. The company said it has already started to pilot two-wheeler and three-wheeler electric vehicles in “multiple locations” in India including Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Guwahati.

In recent years, New Delhi has pushed to replace gasoline and diesel vehicles in India with environmentally friendly electric vehicles. Reuters reported in 2019 that the Indian government was planning to order ride-hailing firms such as Ola and Uber to convert 40% of their fleets to electric by April 2026.

“Electrification of the logistics fleet is a key part of Flipkart’s larger sustainability goal and in line with our commitment to the Climate Group’s EV100 initiative,” said Amitesh Jha, SVP of Ekart and Marketplace at Flipkart, in a statement.

“In this journey of making our logistics fleet completely electric by 2030, we will collaborate and work with leading local players to procure and deploy electric vehicles while supporting the required infrastructure growth. We understand the relevance of electric mobility in achieving both business and sustainability goals and are committed to paving the way for greater adoption of EVs across the country,” he added.

The company said over the past year it has worked to create a network of ecosystem partners across charging providers, skill development agencies, aggregators, and original equipment manufacturers.

The company, which is expected to publicly list later this year, identified three models that will feature in its electric vehicles fleet: Nyx series by Hero Electric, which offers extended driving range of up to 150 kilometers (93.2 miles) per charge; Treo Zor by Mahindra Electric, which features “highest-in-class payload of 550kg (1212.5 pounds)”; and Ape’ E Xtra FX by Piaggio.

#amazon, #amazon-india, #asia, #flipkart, #piaggio, #transportation, #walmart

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With a reported deal in the wings for Joby Aviation, electric aircraft soars to $10B business

One year after nabbing $590 million from investors led by Toyota, and a few months after picking up Uber’s flying taxi businessJoby Aviation is reportedly in talks to go public in a SPAC deal that would value the electric plane manufacturer at nearly $5.7 billion.

News of a potential deal comes on the heels of another big SPAC transaction in electric planes, for Archer Aviation. If the Financial Times‘ reporting is accurate, then that would mean that the two will soon be publicly traded at a total value approaching $10 billion.

It’s a heady time for startups making vehicles powered by anything other than hydrocarbons, and the SPAC wave has hit it hard.

Electric car companies Arrival, Canoo, ChargePoint, Fisker, Lordstown Motors, Proterra and The Lion Electric Company are some of the companies that have merged with SPACs — or announced plans to — in the past year.

Now it appears that any company that has anything to do with the electrification of any mode of transportation is going to get waved onto the runway for a public listing through a special purpose acquisition company vehicle — a wildly popular route at the moment for companies that might find traditional IPO listings more challenging to carry out but would rather not stay in startup mode when it comes to fundraising.

The investment group reportedly taking Joby to the moon! out to public markets is led by the billionaire tech entrepreneurs and investors Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn, and Mark Pincus, who launched the casual gaming company, Zynga.

Together the two men had formed Reinvent Technology Partners, a special purpose acquisition company, earlier in 2020. The shell company went public and raised $690 million to make a deal.

Any transaction for Joby would be a win for the company’s backers including Toyota, Baillie Gifford, Intel Capital, JetBlue Technology Ventures (the investment arm of the US-based airline), and Uber, which invested $125 million into Joby.

Joby has a prototype that has already taken 600 flights, but has yet to be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration. And the success of any transaction between the company and Hoffman and Pincus’ SPAC group is far from a sure thing, as the FT noted.

The deal would require an additional capital infusion into the SPAC that the two men established, and without that extra cash, all bets are off. Indeed, that is probably one reason why anyone is reading about this now.

Alternatively powered transportation vehicles of all stripes and covering all modes of travel are the rage right now among the public investment crowd. Part of that is due to rising pressure among institutional investors to find companies with an environmental, sustainability, and good governance thesis that they can invest in, and part of that is due to tailwinds coming from government regulations pushing for the decarbonization of fleets in a bid to curb global warming.

The environmental impact is one chief reason that United chief executive Scott Kirby cited when speaking about his company’s $1 billion purchase order from the electric plane company that actually announced it would be pursuing a public offering through a SPAC earlier this week.

“By working with Archer, United is showing the aviation industry that now is the time to embrace cleaner, more efficient modes of transportation,” Kirby said. “With the right technology, we can curb the impact aircraft have on the planet, but we have to identify the next generation of companies who will make this a reality early and find ways to help them get off the ground.”

It’s also an investment in a possible new business line that could eventually shuttle United passengers to and from an airport, as TechCrunch reported earlier. United projected that a trip in one of Archer’s eVTOL aircraft could reduce CO2 emissions by up to 50% per passenger traveling between Hollywood and Los Angeles International Airport.

The agreement to go public and the order from United Airlines comes less than a year after Archer Aviation came out of stealth. Archer was co-founded in 2018 by Adam Goldstein and Brett Adcock, who sold their software-as-a-service company Vettery to The Adecco Group for more than $100 million. The company’s primary backer was Marc Lore, who sold his company Jet.com to Walmart in 2016 for $3.3 billion. Lore was Walmart’s e-commerce chief until January.

For any SPAC investors or venture capitalists worried that they’re now left out of the EV plane investment bonanza, take heart! There’s still the German tech developer, Lilium. And if an investor is interested in supersonic travel, there’s always Boom.

#adam-goldstein, #airline, #baillie-gifford, #canoo, #chargepoint, #co-founder, #corporate-finance, #e-commerce, #economy, #evtol, #federal-aviation-administration, #finance, #fisker, #intel-capital, #investment, #jet-com, #jetblue-technology-ventures, #joby, #joby-aviation, #lilium, #linkedin, #lordstown-motors, #marc-lore, #mark-pincus, #private-equity, #proterra, #reid-hoffman, #reinvent-technology-partners, #software-as-a-service, #spacs, #special-purpose-acquisition-company, #tc, #the-adecco-group, #the-financial-times, #toyota, #transportation, #uber, #united-airlines, #vettery, #walmart, #zynga

0

TikTok’s forced sale to Oracle is put on hold

The insane saga of a potential forced sale of TikTok’s US operations is reportedly ending — another victim of the transition to methodical and rational policymaking that appears to be the boring new normal under the Presidency of Joe Biden.

Last fall, the U.S. government under President Donald Trump took a stab at “gangster capitalism” by trying to force the sale of TikTok to a group of buyers including Oracle and Walmart.

While the effort was doomed from the start, with TikTok’s parent company ByteDance winning most of the legal challenges to the government effort, a Rubicon had effectively been crossed where the U.S. government appeared willing to spend political capital to stymie the growth of a successful foreign business on its shores for the flimsiest of security reasons.

Now, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the efforts by the U.S. government to push the deal forward “have been shelved indefinitely”, citing sources familiar with the process.

However, discussions between TikTok and U.S. national security officials are continuing because there are valid concerns around TikTok’s data collection and the potential for manipulation and censorship of content on the app.

In the meantime, the U.S. is taking a look at all of the potential threats to data privacy and security from intrusions by foreign governments or using tech developed overseas, according to Emily Horne, the spokeswoman for the National Security Council.

“We plan to develop a comprehensive approach to securing U.S. data that addresses the full range of threats we face,” Horne told the WSJ. “This includes the risk posed by Chinese apps and other software that operate in the U.S. In the coming months, we expect to review specific cases in light of a comprehensive understanding of the risks we face.”

Last year, then-President Trump ordered a ban on TikTok intending to force the sale of the Chinese-owned, short form video distribution service to a U.S.-owned investment group.

As part of that process, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. ordered ByteDance to divest of its U.S. operations.

TikTok appealed that order in court in Washington last November as the U.S. was roiled by the presidential election and its aftermath.

That case is still pending, but separate federal court rulings have blocked the U.S. government from shutting TikTok down.

#bytedance, #donald-trump, #oracle, #oracle-corporation, #president, #tc, #tiktok, #u-s-government, #walmart

0

Forget winning, can Amazon survive in India?

During a visit to India in 2014, Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos made a splashy announcement: His firm was investing $2 billion in the South Asian nation, just a year after beginning operations in the country.

Amazon’s announcement underscored how far India had come to open up to foreign firms. The nation, which had largely kept doors shut to international giants between its independence in 1947 to liberalization in 1991, has slowly transformed itself into the world’s largest open market.

In a televised interview in 2014, Bezos said that there was a perception about India not being an easy place to do business. But Amazon’s growth in the country, he said, was proof that this belief is not accurate.

“Are there obstacles? There are always obstacles. Anywhere you go, every country has its own regulations and rules,” he said.

Six years, and more than $4.5 billion of additional investments later, Amazon today appears to be facing more obstacles than ever in India, the second-largest internet market with more than 600 million users.

Long-standing laws in India have constrained Amazon, which has yet to turn a profit in the country, and other e-commerce firms to not hold inventory or sell items directly to consumers. To bypass this, firms have operated through a maze of joint ventures with local companies that operate as inventory-holding firms.

India got around to fixing this loophole in late 2018 in a move that was widely seen as the biggest blowback to the American firm in the country at the time. Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart scrambled to delist hundreds of thousands of items from their stores and made their investments in affiliated firms way more indirect.

Now the nation is set to further toughen this approach. Reuters reported last week that New Delhi is considering making adjustments to some provisions that would prevent affiliated firms to hold even an indirect stake in a seller through their parent.

The Confederation of All India Traders, an Indian trade body that claims to represent over 80 million businesses, told the publication that Indian Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal has assured the organization that it is working to shortly address concerns about alleged violations of current rules.

The forthcoming policy change is only one of the many headaches for the world’s largest e-commerce firm in India.

Offline retailers in India have long expressed concerns about what they allege to be unfair practices employed by Amazon in India. Last year, during Bezos’ visit to the country, they held several protests. (Photo by SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP via Getty Images)

Amazon is aggressively fighting a battle to block a deal between its estranged partner Future Group and Reliance Retail, the two largest retail chains in India.

Last year, Future Group announced that it would sell its retail, wholesale, logistics and warehousing businesses to Reliance Retail for $3.4 billion. Amazon, which in 2019 bought stakes in one of Future Group’s unlisted firms, says that the Indian firm has breached its contract (which would have given Amazon the right to first refusal) and engaged in insider trading.

Despite technology giants and investors ploughing more than $20 billion to create an e-commerce market in India in the past decade, online retail still accounts for only a single-digit pie of all retail in the country.

In recent years, Amazon, Walmart and scores of other startups have embraced this realization and sought to work with neighborhood stores that dot tens of thousands of cities, towns and villages in India.

With Reliance Retail and telecom giant Jio Platforms, two subsidiaries of one of India’s largest corporates (Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries) entering the e-commerce market, and receiving the backing of global giants including Facebook and Google last year, cornering a big stake in Future Group is one of the few ways Amazon can accelerate its growth in India.

The American e-commerce firm has had little luck so far in overturning the deal between the Indian firms. Last year, Amazon reached out to Indian antitrust body Competition Commission of India, and market regulator SEBI to block this transaction. Both the bodies have ruled in favor of Future Group and Reliance Retail.

Amazon must have foreseen this outcome because it initiated the legal proceedings at an arbitration court in Singapore. It’s no surprise that the firm chose to also pursue its legal argument outside of India.

Most cases that reach the Singapore International Arbitration Court have come from India in recent years. Vodafone, which has invested more than $20 billion in India, and has been dealt with billions of dollars in unpaid taxes by the country, is another high-profile name to have knocked on the door in Singapore. After losing in India, it emerged victorious in the Singapore arbitration court last year.

Amazon on Monday filed a new petition in Delhi High Court in which it is seeking to enforce SIAC’s ruling (which ordered last year that the deal should be temporarily halted) and prevent the Indian firm from going ahead with the deal based on CCI and SEBI’s judgements.

The company alleges that Future Group “deliberately and maliciously” disobeyed the international arbitration ruling from SIAC. In its petition, Amazon is also seeking detention of Kishore Biyani, the founder and chairman of Future Group.

“Vocal for Local”

As India grappled with containing the spread of the coronavirus last year, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the 1.3 billion citizens to make the country “self-reliant” and “be vocal for local.”

The move to turn inwards contrasts with his major promise in the first few years of assuming power in 2014 when he pledged to make India more welcoming to foreign firms than before. In recent years, India has proposed or enforced several regulations that hurt American firms, though none appear to suffer as much as Amazon.

Last year, New Delhi started to enforce a 2% tax on all foreign billings for digital services provided in the country. The U.S. Trade Representative said earlier this month that India was taxing numerous categories of digital services that are “not leviable under other digital services taxes adopted around the world.”

The aggregate tax bill for U.S. companies could exceed $30 million per year in India, USTR’s investigation found. In conclusion, it found India’s digital tax move to be inconsistent with international tax principles, unreasonable and burdening or restricting U.S. commerce.

Modi’s new way of life for India will be music to the ears of Mukesh Ambani, the chairman of Reliance Industries, an ally of the prime minister and India’s richest man.

Before selling stakes worth over $20 billion in Jio Platforms and more than $6 billion in Reliance Retail to marquee foreign investors, Ambani famously made a speech in 2019 in which he urged the need to protect Indians’ data in patriotic terms.

“We have to collectively launch a new movement against data colonization. For India to succeed in this data-driven revolution, we will have to migrate the control and ownership of Indian data back to India — in other words, Indian wealth back to every Indian,” he said.

Why so many international firms have invested in one of Reliance’s properties remains a big question. A senior executive at an American firm told TechCrunch on the condition of anonymity (out of fear of retribution) that the investments in Jio Platforms, which is India’s largest telecom network with nearly 410 million subscribers, and Reliance Retail is a déjà vu moment for the nation, where a few decades ago one of the only ways to do business in the nation was to partner with a local firm with massive political clout.

In a series of tweets, Raman Chima, a former policy executive at Google and who now works at nonprofit digital advocacy group Access Now, alleged that the Android-maker had weighed in 2011-12 partnering and investing in a firm like Reliance to “turn-the-page on Indian political risks.”

The idea prompted concerns about Google’s values, he claimed. “More than one executive involved in those discussions flagged concerns around Reliance’s reputation, particularly around problematic approaches towards gaining influence with policymaking civil servants and politicians, money, ethics in govt-business relationships.”

Amazon itself was rumored to be interested in getting a multi-billion-dollar stake in Reliance Retail last year, but it appears the two firms have stopped engaging on any matter.

BJP MLA Ram Kadam and his party workers protest against the Amazon Prime web series Tandav outside Bandra-Kurla Police station, on January 18, 2021 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Pratik Chorge/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

While Amazon sorts out these issues, last week delivered another blow to the firm. A senior executive with the firm as well as Indian makers of a mini-series for Amazon Prime Video are under threat of criminal prosecution in the country after Modi’s ruling party deemed the show offensive to the country’s Hindu majority.

A Hindu nationalist group, politicians with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, and a BJP group representing members of India’s lower castes, were among those who had filed police reports against the nine-part mini-series “Tandav” and Amazon. The company bowed to the pressure and edited out some scenes.

“The true reason for the complaints against ‘Tandav’ may be that the show holds up a mirror uncomfortably close to Indian society and some of the problems blamed on Mr. Modi’s administration. In the opening episode, the show features protesting students and disgruntled farmers, echoing events that have taken place in recent months,” The New York Times wrote.

“Mirzapur,” another show of Amazon, also attracted a criminal complaint in India last week for hurting religious and regional sentiments and defaming the Indian town. The Indian Supreme Court has issued notices to the makers of “Mirzapur” and has sought responses.

In the aforementioned interview, Bezos said Amazon’s job was to follow all the unique rules various countries require it to comply with and “adapt our business practice to those rules.”

In India, the company is increasingly being asked how far it is willing to adapt its business practice. How far is it willing to bend that it’s no longer the Amazon people cared for.

#amazon, #amazon-india, #amazon-prime-video, #apps, #asia, #ecommerce, #entertainment, #flipkart, #government, #india, #jio-platforms, #reliance-industries, #reliance-jio, #reliance-retail, #walmart

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Flipkart doubles down on rewards program, partners with 5,000 retail outlets in India

Flipkart on Monday launched SuperCoin Pay that its customers will be able to use across thousands of retail stores across the country as Walmart-owned e-commerce giant bets on its loyalty program to win and sustain its user base in the world’s second largest internet market.

The Bangalore-headquartered e-commerce giant said it had partnered with over 5,000 retail outlets including TimesPoints, Peter England, Cafe Coffee Day and Flying Machine across India to give its customers a “greater value and choice” to cash in on their Flipkart loyalty program, called SuperCoin Rewards. Flipkart customers earn these SuperCoins when they make purchases on the e-commerce platform.

Customers will be able to pay up to 100% of the bill value through SuperCoins, Flipkart said, pointing out that traditional loyalty programs have struggled to gain traction because they locked customers to their platform and made it difficult to convert reward points to cash.

Its retail partners operate in a wide-range of categories including fashion, grocery, food and beverages, travel, health and wellness. These retail partners will offer a QR code to make it easier for Flipkart customers to redeem their rewards points.

The move comes as giant e-commerce firms in India aggressively partner with physical and digital stores across the country. Amazon, too, has broadened its offering in recent years to offer coupons and discounts that Amazon Pay customers can redeem when making purchases at Urban Company, Domino’s, BigBazaar, More, Oyo Rooms, Licious, BookMyShow, Swiggy, and RedBus, for instance.

“The lines between online and offline shopping are becoming increasingly blurred, and our intention is to make the consumers’ shopping experience more rewarding, no matter where they shop,” said Prakash Sikaria, Vice President of Growth and Monetization at Flipkart, in a statement.

“Being a part of the SuperCoin programme enables our partners to reap the benefits of Flipkart’s 300 million customer base through a truly integrated rewards initiative,” he added.

Flipkart said customers on its platform have earned over a billion SuperCoin to date.

#amazon, #apps, #asia, #ecommerce, #flipkart, #india, #walmart

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Marc Lore leaves Walmart a little over four years after selling Jet.com for $3B

Marc Lore, the executive vice president, president and CEO of U.S. e-commerce for Walmart, is stepping down a little over four years after selling his e-commerce company Jet.com to the country’s largest retailer for $3 billion.

Lore’s tenure at the company was a mixed bag. Walmart instituted several new technology initiatives under Lore’s tenure, but the Jet.com service was shuttered last May and other initiatives from Lore, like an option to have customers order items via text, was also a money-loser for the Bentonville, AK-based company.

“After Mr. Lore retires on January 31, 2021, the U.S. business, including all the aspects of US retail eCommerce, will continue to report to John Furner, Executive Vice President, President and Chief Executive Officer, Walmart U.S., beginning on February 1, 2021,” Walmart said in a filing.

Walmart has continued to push ahead with a number of tech-related initiatives, including the launch of a new business that will focus on developing financial services.

That initiative is being undertaken through a strategic partnership with the fintech investment firm, Ribbit Capital and adds to a startup tech portfolio that also includes the incubator Store N⁰8, which launched in 2018.

“Reflecting on the past few years with so much pride – Walmart changed my life and the work we did together will keep changing the lives of customers for years to come. It has been an honor to be a part of the Walmart family and I look forward to providing advice and ideas in the future,” Lore said in a statement posted to Linkedin. “Looking forward, I’ll be taking some time off and plan to continue working with several startups. Excited to keep you all up to date on what’s next.”

 

 

 

#alaska, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #financial-services, #jet-com, #linkedin, #marc-lore, #retail-ecommerce, #retailers, #ribbit-capital, #tc, #united-states, #walmart

0

Walmart partners with smart box maker HomeValet for grocery delivery pilot

Walmart announced today it will soon begin to pilot a new solution that could eventually allow the retailer to deliver groceries to customers’ homes 24 hours per day. The company is partnering with HomeValet, the maker of a temperature-controlled smart box that’s placed outside the home. Customers’ groceries can be delivered, contact-free, to the secure box and kept cold at any time — even if the customer isn’t at home.

The smart boxes will be tested initially with customers near Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, starting this spring. There won’t be a way to sign up for the service. Instead, Walmart will conduct outreach to its current delivery customers in Northwest Arkansas to learn of their interest in participating.

The HomeValet boxes themselves are an internet-of-things platform which offer three temperature-controlled zones, making them capable of storing frozen, refrigerated and pantry items. The boxes communicate with the delivery provider’s device, which gives them secure access to the smart box at the time of the delivery to place the items inside.

According to the HomeValet FAQ, the boxes also disinfect the exposed surfaces of delivered items as well as the inside of the box itself, in between deliveries, using UVC light.

This could appeal to customers who have been trying to reduce their exposure to the novel coronavirus by wiping down all their groceries before putting them away. (The HomeValet website, however, makes no specific claims about COVID-19. Instead, it simply says the UV-C LED disinfection method it uses can create “inhospitable environments to microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, molds and other pathogens.”)

HomeValet notes that Walmart customers will be the first to gain access to its boxes, as the product is just now going to market. The general public will be able to pre-order boxes for themselves later this year, with pricing still to be announced. HomeValet intends to eventually sell to both consumers and retailers.

HomeValet, a D.C. Metro area-based startup, was founded by father and son team, John and Jack Simms, years before the COVID-19 pandemic with the goal of offering more secure home deliveries. However, the pandemic created a new sense of urgency inside the company to get their product to market as consumers’ needs transformed overnight and continued at an accelerated pace, they’ve said.

As a result, HomeValet acquired an Indiana-based engineering firm, Envolve Engineering LLC, founded by former Whirlpool engineers, back in September. The company touted the deal at the time as a way to bring the capabilities of a Fortune 500 organization to its faster and more nimble startup.

“Consumers want convenience and peace of mind now more than ever. HomeValet’s safe, temperature-controlled Smart Box and app, can enable 24/7 secure deliveries whether customers are occupied at home or receiving remotely,” said John Simms, HomeValet co-founder and CEO. “We’re excited for Walmart customers to be some of the first to enjoy contactless, unattended home delivery,” he added.

Though Walmart envisions how a smart box could allow it to expand its delivery hours, it won’t be offering 24/7 deliveries during the pilot. Instead, the focus of the pilot will be to learn more about if and how its customers like to interact with this technology and how Walmart might incorporate it into its operations going forward.

HomeValet is one of many solutions to date that Walmart has tested to make grocery delivery more efficient. Not all those tests have rolled out broadly. For example, Walmart in 2019 began to trial an in-home grocery delivery service that allows Walmart delivery drivers to enter the home through a smart lock system and, in some cases, put groceries away in the customer’s fridge. Following the COVID-19 outbreak, Walmart pulled back on the in-kitchen program, which is still only operating in Pittsburgh. (InHome delivery is also offered in Kansas City, Vero Beach and West Palm Beach, but groceries are left inside the door.)

Walmart didn’t disclose further details about the nature of its partnership with HomeValet, but said there’s no cost to the customers during the pilot period. More information will be available as the program goes to launch in the spring.

#delivery, #ecommerce, #food-delivery, #grocery-delivery, #grocery-store, #retailers, #walmart

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From India’s richest man to Amazon and 100s of startups: The great rush to win neighborhood stores

After spending more than a decade disrupting the neighborhood stores in the U.S. and several other markets, Amazon and Walmart are employing an unusual strategy in India to face off this competitor: Friending them.

Walmart and Amazon, both of which face restrictions from New Delhi on what all they could do in India, have partnered with tens of thousands of neighborhood stores in the world’s second-largest internet market this year to leverage the vast presence of these mom and pop stores.

In June this year, at the height of the pandemic, Amazon announced “Smart Stores.” Through this India-specific program, for instance, Amazon is providing physical stores with software to maintain a digital log of the inventory they have in the shop and supplying them with a QR code.

When consumers walk to the store and scan this QR code with the Amazon app, they see everything the shop has to offer, in addition to any discounts and past reviews from customers. They can select the items and pay for it using Amazon Pay. Amazon Pay in India supports a range of payments services, including the popular UPI, and debit and credit cards.

The world’s largest e-commerce giant also maintains partnerships that allow it to turn tens of thousands of neighborhood stores as its delivery point for customers — and sometimes even rely on them for inventory.

India has over 60 million small businesses that dot the thousands of cities, towns and villages across the country. These mom and pop stores offer all kinds of items, are family run, and pay low wages and little to no rent.

This has enabled them to operate at an economics that is better than most — if not all — of their digital counterparts, and their scale allows them to offer unmatched fast delivery.

Krishna Shah, a New Delhi-based doctor, on paper is one of the perfect customers of e-commerce services. She lives in an urban city, uses digital payments apps and her earnings put her in the top 5% income level in the country. Yet, when she needed to buy food for her cats and needed it as soon as possible, she realized the major giants would take hours, if not longer. She ended up placing a call to a neighborhood store, which delivered the item within 10 minutes.

That neighborhood store, which employs fewer than half a dozen people, was competing with over a dozen giants and heavily funded startups including Grofers and BigBasket — and it won.

At stake is India’s retail market, which is estimated to be worth $1.3 trillion by 2025, from about $700 billion last year, according to Boston Consulting Group and the Retailers’ Association India. E-commerce, by several estimates, accounts for just 3% of the retail market in the country.

If that figure wasn’t small enough already, consider this: Some of the biggest customers of Flipkart and Amazon are these small retail stores. An executive with direct knowledge of the matter told TechCrunch that during some sales, as high as 40% of all smartphone units are bought by physical stores. The idea is, the executive said, to buy the devices at a discounted price, sit on them for a few days and when Amazon and Flipkart are done with their sales, sell the same phones at their standard prices.

Sujeet Kumar, co-founder of Udaan, a Bangalore-based startup that works with merchants, said that even as smartphones and the internet have reached all corners of India, e-commerce hasn’t been able to disrupt the retail market.

“The problem is that it is very difficult for e-commerce companies to build a supply chain and distribution network that is more efficient than those established by neighborhood stores. These mom and pop stores operate on an insanely different kind of cost economics. E-commerce companies are not able to match it,” he said.

#amazon, #apps, #asia, #bigbasket, #ecommerce, #facebook, #finance, #flipkart, #food, #google, #grofers, #india, #instamojo, #khatabook, #mobile, #online-lending, #payments, #paytm, #phonepe, #udaan, #walmart, #whatsapp

0

Walmart to pilot test live-streamed video shopping on TikTok

Walmart and TikTok announced this morning they will be partnering on the first pilot test of a new shoppable product experience on TikTok’s social video app. Walmart, as you may recall, had planned to invest in TikTok when the app was being threatened with a ban from the U.S. market unless it sold its U.S. operations to an American company, per a Trump administration executive order —  a ban that’s now on pause after multiple legal challenges. Walmart’s interest in TikTok, however, has not waned. The retailer, though seemingly an odd fit for a social network, had seen the potential to attract a younger online consumer through video and, in particular, live streamed video.

This is what the new test on TikTok will involve, as well.

During a Walmart live stream, TikTok users will be able to shop from Walmart’s fashion items without having to leave the TikTok app, in a pilot of TikTok’s new “shoppable product.” The fashion items themselves will be featured in content from ten TikTok creators, led by host Michael Le, whose TikTok dances have earned him 43+ million fans. Other creators will be more up-and-coming stars, like Devan Anderson, Taylor Hage, and Zahra Hashimee.

All will be participating in a special event hosted on TikTok called the “Holiday Shop-Along Spectacular,” which will take place on Friday, Dec. 18 at 8 PM ET on Walmart’s TikTok profile.

Image Credits: Walmart

During this special, the creators will show off their favorite Walmart fashion finds in their own unique ways. For some, that will mean giving fans a peek inside their closet. Others may do a living room runway or even a fashionable “dance off,” Walmart says.

There are two ways TikTok users can shop for the fashion items featured.

As products are shown on screen, pins will pop-up which users can tap to add the item to their cart. They’re then directed to a mobile checkout experience. Alternately, customers can choose to tap on a shopping cart pin at the end of the event to look through all the items featured and select what they’d like to purchase.

And for anyone who misses the event, they’ll still be able to shop the items from Walmart’s TikTok profile when the Shop-Along event is over.

“We’re constantly looking for ways to innovate the shopping experience for our customers,” said Walmart’s U.S. Chief Marketing Officer, William White, in an announcement. “We’re moving faster than ever to find new and improved ways to better serve our customers and meet them where they are. We created this event for, about, and by our community, reflecting the lives, passions and styles of a diverse set of creators so everyone watching will feel represented, no matter who they are or how they outfit their closet,” he added.

Walmart said the idea to partner on mobile shopping didn’t emerge as a result of the recent deal talks, as it’s been an active brand on the platform for over a year. (In fact, it’s even tasked its employees with making TikTok videos, a recent report from ModernRetail detailed.)

The retailer also told TechCrunch there’s not a revenue share with TikTok on the sales it makes through the app, nor any fees, as this is considered a joint test.

Image Credits: Walmart’s profile on TikTok

This is not TikTok’s first foray into shoppable video.

The company has been exploring this space for some time, including with last year’s launch of the Hashtag Challenge Plus which added a shoppable component to a hashtag, directing video viewers to shop a site from within TikTok. This year, brands like Levi’s leveraged TikTok’s “Shop Now” buttons that allowed consumers to make purchases through links posted on TikTok. And in a significant deal just this fall, TikTok formally partnered with Shopify on social commerce by allowing Shopify merchants to create, run and optimize their TikTok marketing campaigns directly from the Shopify dashboard.

Live-streamed shopping is also a fast-growing and lucrative market, as younger users are turning to influencers and online video to both be entertained and to shop.

All the major tech companies have invested in this space as well, to varying degrees, including not only Facebook (in an aggressive push across Facebook and Instagram), but also Google through its R&D arm, Amazon through its QVC-like Amazon Live, Alibaba through AliExpress, JD.com, Pinduoduo, WeChat, and even TikTok’s Chinese sister app, Douyin.

The trend is also fueling startups, like Bambuser and Popshop Live, which have raised new rounds in 2020 for their own live-streamed shopping products.

For TikTok, however, is more of a natural evolution of its product where influencers are already showing off their favorite items, their fashion and style.

“At TikTok, we’re constantly exploring new ways to inspire creativity, bring joy and add value for our community,” said Blake Chandlee, Vice President, Global Business Solutions at TikTok. “Creators and brands have found a creative outlet to connect with audiences through TikTok Live, and we’re excited to further innovate on this interactive experience to enable our community to discover and engage with the brands they love,” he continued.

“Brands have had an incredible impact on the community throughout this year, and we’re thrilled to see Walmart embrace the creativity of TikTok and this first-of-a-kind experience to meaningfully engage with their community,” Chandlee said.

 

 

 

 

#apps, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #online-shopping, #shopping, #social, #tiktok, #video, #walmart

0

Nokia launches a laptop with India’s Flipkart

Nokia, the 155-year-old iconic firm that has manufactured a range of items from rubber to cables to phones and telecommunications equipment, is ready to expand to a new category.

The Finnish firm on Monday launched the Nokia PureBook X14 laptop in collaboration with Walmart -owned Flipkart for the Indian market.

The Nokia PureBook X14, which is priced at Indian rupees 59,990 ($815), features a 14-inch full-HD display and is powered by Intel’s 10th generation quad-core i5 processor with up to 4.2GHz turbo speed.

The laptop, which ships pre-installed with Windows 10 Home, sports a 512GB NVMe SSD and 8 GB DD4 RAM.

Its other specs include: 86% screen-to-body ratio and 178-degree viewing angles, matte black finish, Dolby Atmos-powered speakers, Face Unlock with Windows Hello, Intel UHD 620 Graphics with 1.1GHz Turbo GPU, Bluetooth 5.1, two USB 3.1 ports, one USB 2.0 port, and one USB Type C port as well as dedicated ports for HDMI and ethernet. The Nokie PureBook X14, which weighs about 1.1kg, will last up to 8 hours on a single charge.

Flipkart, which has grown its private label and brand ecosystems in recent years, is the design and manufacturing partner for the new laptop. Like it does with Motorola, Flipkart has inked a licensing agreement with the Finnish firm, a representative of Flipkart told TechCrunch.

The laptop will be exclusively sold through Flipkart in India, which is also the only market for this particular device.

“Launching the Nokia brand into this new product category is testament to our successful collaboration with Flipkart. We are excited to offer consumers in India a Nokia branded laptop which brings innovation to address a gap in the market, as well as the style, performance and reliability that the Nokia brand is known for, said Vipul Mehrotra, VP for Brand Partnerships at Nokia, in a statement.

The Indian laptop market has attracted several new firms in recent years, including Xiaomi, which launched a range of affordable laptops in the country this year.

#asia, #flipkart, #hardware, #nokia, #walmart, #windows-10-home

0

LabCorp COVID-19 test kit has just been approved for sale over-the-counter

LabCorp has now become the first company to receive approval to sell its COVID-19 test kit over-the-counter without a prescription, according to a statement form the company.

One of the largest diagnostics testing companies in the U.S., LabCorp could be a significant competitor to companies like EverlyWell, which received approvals for its at-home testing kits in May; MyLab Box, which announced a partnership with Walmart earlier this week to sell COVID-19 test kits with the giant retailer; or LetsGetChecked, which has its own at-home test.

LabCorp was actually the first company to receive approval from the FDA for its test kit, and now the company can sell the product through retail channels without a prescription.

“With the first over-the-counter at-home collection kit ever authorized by the FDA for COVID-19, we are empowering people to learn about their health and make confident decisions,” said Dr. Brian Caveney, chief medical officer and president of LabCorp Diagnostics, in a statement. “With this authorization, we can help more people get tested, reduce the spread of the virus and improve the health of our communities.”

It’s pretty inarguable that anything that reduces the friction consumers face in getting tested for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is a good thing. It’s also in line with a broader push to increase healthcare access for consumers in an effort to reduce costs.

When customers purchase the COVID-19 test kit, they register the kit on the company’s website and then follow the instructions given there. Tests results are delivered through a corporate portal and a healthcare provider is available to assist customers who test positive on how to proceed with a course of treatment.

The company said its kit should not be viewed as a substitute for visits to a healthcare professional and is intended for use by adults 18 or older.

It’s important to note that the LabCorp PCR test has not been cleared or approved by the FDA and is being authorized under an emergency use authorization.

#articles, #covid-19, #fda, #food-and-drug-administration, #healthcare, #labcorp, #life-sciences, #medicine, #retailer, #tc, #united-states, #walmart

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Facebook adds carts to WhatsApp to make shopping easier

WhatsApp said on Tuesday it is adding a new shopping feature to its app as the Facebook -owned instant messaging service looks to court more merchants and invite a larger portion of its 2 billion userbase to shop.

The instant messaging platform, where business accounts already process messages from more than 175 million people, said it is adding carts to WhatsApp around the world ahead of the holiday shopping season.

Carts are aimed at making it easier for consumers to buy multiple items from a business, and for merchants to keep better track of order inquiries and manage requests. WhatsApp said it is adding the new feature after early positive response from some businesses who tested it recently.

On WhatsApp, users will now see the option to add items to the cart. When done, users will be able to send the order request as a message to the business. WhatsApp said carts are going live for users across the globe today. (You can read the complete how-to flow here.)

In recent months, WhatsApp has added a number of features to supercharge the commerce experience on its app. It has added QR codes and the ability to share catalog links in chats. The platform is also offering free storage to merchants to host their business’s messages.

For WhatsApp, success with commerce is crucial. Despite its gigantic reach, it currently makes little to no money. The messaging app is available to users at no charge and also remains free of ads. But it stands to become a viable challenger to giants like Amazon and Walmart in at least emerging markets like India where e-commerce is still at a nascent phase.

In India, which happens to be WhatsApp’s biggest market by users, several businesses have kickstarted their journey on the Facebook-owned app. On Tuesday, DealShare, an Indian e-commerce startup, said it had raised $21 million in a new financing round. DealShare began its life on WhatsApp.

But one element that remains missing from WhatsApp’s shopping experience is support for payments. As of today, when a user places an order with a business on WhatsApp, both parties are left on their own to figure out how money will exchange hands.

WhatsApp hasn’t had much luck with adding payments to its app so far. It was only recently that India permitted WhatsApp to roll out payments on its app to a larger subset of users. Brazil is the other market where WhatsApp rolled out payments this year, though the South American nation took no time in suspending the new service. Perhaps, Libra is the answer?

#amazon, #apps, #asia, #facebook, #walmart, #whatsapp

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DealShare raises $21 million to expand its e-commerce platform to 100 Indian cities and towns

DealShare, a startup in India that has built an e-commerce platform for middle and lower income groups of consumers in the world’s second largest market, said on Tuesday it has raised $21 million in a new financing round.

WestBridge Capital led the Series C round of the three-year-old Bangalore-headquartered startup. Alpha Wave Incubation, a venture fund managed by Falcon Edge Capital, Z3Partners and existing investors Matrix Partners India and Omidyar Network India also participated in the round, which brings DealShare’s to-date raise to $34 million.

DealShare kickstarted its journey the day Walmart acquired Flipkart, the startup’s founder and chief executive Vineet Rao said at a recent virtual conference. Rao said that even as Amazon and Flipkart had been able to create a market for themselves in the urban Indian cities, much of the nation was still underserved. There was an opportunity for someone to jump in, he said.

The startup began as an e-commerce platform on WhatsApp, where it offered hundreds of products to consumers. But in the early days itself, it became clear that people were only interested in buying items that were selling at discounted rates, said Rao.

Over time, that idea has become part of DealShare’s core offering. Today it incentivizes consumers to share deals on products with their friends. The startup, which has since launched its own app and website, now operates in over two dozen cities in India.

Consumers wanted products that were relevant to them and they wanted to buy these items at a price that instilled the most value for their bucks, said Rao. “We focused on locally produced items instead of national brands. “Even today, 80% to 90% of items we sell are locally produced,” he said.

“We started building a network of these suppliers. It was very tough because none of these guys fancied joining modern retail like e-commerce. Some of them had tried to work with e-commerce firms before but the experience left a lot to be desired,” he said.

Sandeep Singhal, Co-founder and Managing Director of WestBridge, said in a statement, “Majority of Indian population is currently residing in the non-metros and there is a huge business opportunity in these regions. The buying pattern of low and middle-income group is different especially in smaller markets and DealShare seems to have understood the nuances very well. We are very impressed with how the team has scaled up in the last 2 years, while retaining a sharp focus on low cost, high impact model,” said

The startup says it spent the last 18 months to improve its finances and is nearing profitability. Now it plans to invest in its technology stack and expand its platform to 100 cities and towns in five states of India in the next one year.

More to follow…

#apps, #asia, #dealshare, #ecommerce, #falcon-edge, #flipkart, #funding, #india, #matrix-partners, #omidyar-network, #walmart, #westbridge-capital, #whatsapp, #z3partners

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PhonePe raises $700 million, becomes a separate entity

PhonePe, the crown jewel in Flipkart’s acquisition by Walmart, is “partially” spinning off, the Bangalore-based financial services firm said on Thursday. To kick off its new journey, the firm said it has secured $700 million in a new financing round.

This round, the name of which was not disclosed, was led by Walmart with participation from some existing investors, PhonePe said. The new round gave PhonePe, which was founded by a former Flipkart employee, a post-money valuation of $5.5 billion.

Today’s announcement is a big boost to the confidence investors have on PhonePe. The startup has been engaging with investors for new capital for several quarters and had struggled to raise capital at a $3 valuation earlier this year, TechCrunch reported earlier.

The partial spin-off, which had been in the works for more than a year, means that Flipkart’s stake in PhonePe will reduce from a 100% to 87%. “This partial spin-off gives PhonePe access to dedicated long-term capital to pursue our vision of providing financial inclusion to a billion Indians,” said Sameer Nigam, founder and chief executive of PhonePe, in a statement.

PhonePe currently leads the mobile payments market in India, by some metrics. In October, it surpassed Google Pay to become the top UPI payments app. UPI is a four-year-old payments infrastructure built by India’s largest banks. It is the most popular way people transact money digitally in India. PhonePe reported 835 million UPI transactions in October, ahead of Google Pay, which processed about 820 million transactions that month.

“As Flipkart Commerce continues to grow strongly serving the needs of Indian customers, we are excited at the future prospects of the group. This move will help PhonePe maximize its potential as it moves to the next phase of its development, and it will also maximize value creation for Flipkart and our shareholders,” said Kalyan Krishnamurthy, CEO of Flipkart Group, in a statement.

More to follow…

#apps, #asia, #flipkart, #funding, #google-pay, #india, #paytm, #phonepe, #walmart

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Walmart+ takes on Prime by dropping $35 minimum on Walmart.com purchases

Walmart+, the retailer’s lower cost alternative to Amazon Prime offering same-day delivery of groceries and other items, is making its service more appealing with today’s launch of a new perk. The company says that starting on Friday, December 4, it will remove the $35 shipping minimum on orders from Walmart.com for its members. However, this doesn’t apply to the same-day orders of groceries or other items fulfilled by Walmart stores, but rather online shopping where orders are placed through Walmart’s traditional e-commerce channels.

That means there’s no longer a minimum order requirement on the next-day and two-day shipping that’s offered on items shipped from Walmart.com, no matter the basket total. The change, arriving only a couple of months after Walmart+’s launch, positions the new program as more of a true alternative to Amazon Prime, as Prime’s biggest perk has always been its free fast shipping service that encourages consumers to shop online without worrying about minimum order sizes.

Meanwhile, Walmart+’s biggest perk until now had been its same-day delivery service, with a particular focus on groceries — similar to Instacart or Amazon Fresh. The service didn’t charge fees on same-day grocery if the orders were at least $35, and this aspect continues today.

The Walmart+ program itself grew out of Walmart’s Delivery Unlimited, an earlier version of the service that had also involved having Walmart store staff pick orders which are handed off to delivery partners. In the past, those partners have included Postmates (now acquired by Uber), DoorDash, Roadie, and Point Pickup, among others. More recently, Walmart acquired last-mile delivery operation JoyRun, to bring more of its delivery logistics business in-house. 

Unlike some grocery delivery services, Walmart’s advantage in same-day is that it could also fulfill orders of other everyday items from its store shelves, not just food and household goods. When Walmart+ launched in mid-September, it promised same-day delivery of over 160,000 items.

The program also includes a small handful of other perks like fuel discounts at nearly 2,000 Walmart, Murphy USA and Murphy Express stations and access to Scan & Go to skip the checkout lines when shopping in-store.

Today, Walmart said it’s also expanding the fuel savings to over 500 Sam’s Club gas stations, too.

While Amazon Prime has expanded over the years to include all sorts of benefits, like free music and streaming video, e-books, audiobooks, gaming perks, and more, Walmart+ so far remains focused on its core features — like shipping benefits and cost savings. And coming in at $98 per year (or $12.95/mo), it’s cheaper than Prime’s $119 per year membership, which could appeal to consumers only interested in free delivery.

Walmart, like many large retailers, has benefitted by the acceleration of e-commerce driven by the pandemic. The company, in its third quarter earnings, reported U.S. e-commerce sales were up by 79% in the quarter, with earnings of $1.34 a share on revenue that was up 5.2% year-over-year to $134.7 billion.

So far, Walmart has declined to share how many customers have signed up for Walmart+ much to investors’ dismay. (One third-party estimate puts it at 19M members, however). The retailer notes the program is available at over 4,700 stores, including 2,800 stores that offer delivery — the latter which reaches 70% of the U.S.

#amazon-prime, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #online-shopping, #retail, #retailers, #sams-club, #united-states, #walmart

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U.S. shopping app downloads on Black Friday reached a record 2.8M installs

Many U.S. consumers spent this year’s Black Friday sales event shopping from home on mobile devices. That led to first-time installs of mobile shopping apps in the U.S. to break a new record for single-day installs on Black Friday 2020, according to a report from Sensor Tower. The firm estimates that U.S. consumers downloaded approximately 2.8 million shopping apps on November 27th — a figure that’s up by nearly 8% over last year.

However, this number doesn’t necessarily represent faster growth than in 2019, which also saw about an 8% year-over-year increase in Black Friday shopping app installs, the report noted. This could be because mobile shopping and the related app installs are now taking place throughout the month of November, though, as retailers adjusted to the pandemic and other online shopping trends by hosting earlier sales or even month-long sales events.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

The data seems to indicate this is true. Between Nov. 1 and Nov. 29, U.S. consumers downloaded approximately 59.2 million shopping apps from across the App Store and Google Play — an increase of roughly 15% from the 51.7 million they downloaded in Nov. 2019. That’s a much higher figure than the 2% year-over-year growth seen during this same period in 2019.

Another shift taking place in mobile shopping is the growing adoption of app from brick-and-mortar retailers. During the first three quarters of 2020, apps from brick-and-mortar retailers grew installs 27%. This trend continued on Black Friday, when 5 out of the top 10 mobile shopping apps were those from brick-and-mortar retailers, led by Walmart.

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Walmart saw the highest adoption this year, with around 131,000 Black Friday installs, followed by Amazon at 106,000, then Shopify’s Shop at 81,000. Combined, the top 10 apps saw 763,000 total new installs, or 27% of the first-time downloads in the Shopping category.

Because the firms are only looking at new app installs, they aren’t giving a full picture of the U.S. mobile shopping market, as many consumers already have these apps installed on their devices. And many more simply shop online via a desktop or laptop computer.

To give these figures some context, Shopify reported on Saturday it had seen record Black Friday sales of $2.4 billion, with 68% on mobile. And today, Amazon announced its small business sales alone topped $4.8 billion from Black Friday to Cyber Monday, a 60% year-over-year increase, but it didn’t break out the percentage that came from mobile.

Sensor Tower and rival app store analytics firm App Annie largely agreed on the top 5 shopping apps downloaded this Black Friday. They both saw Walmart again beating Amazon to become the most-downloaded U.S. shopping app on Black Friday — as it did in 2019. The two firms reported that Amazon remained No. 2 by downloads, followed by Shopify’s Shop app, then Target. However, Sensor Tower put Best Buy in 5th place, followed by Nike, while App Annie saw those positions swapped.

Image Credits: App Annie

The rest of Sensor Tower’s top 10 included SHEIN, Sam’s Club, Klarna, then Offer Up, while App Annie’s list was rounded out by SHEIN, Sam’s Club, Wish, then Offer Up.

The pandemic’s impact may not have been obvious given the growth in online shopping this year, but the recession it triggered has played a role in how U.S. consumers are paying for their purchases. “Buy Now, Pay Later” apps like Klarna were up this year, even breaking into the top 10 per Sensor Tower’s data. The firm also noted that many new shopping apps launched this year focused on discounts and deals and retailers ran longer sales this year, as well.

#amazon, #app-annie, #app-store, #apps, #best-buy, #black-friday, #business, #cyber-monday, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #google-play, #klarna, #marketing, #mobile, #nike, #online-shopping, #sams-club, #sensor-tower, #shopify, #shopping, #target, #united-states, #walmart

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Walmart is buying JoyRun assets to add ‘peer-to-peer’ product delivery

The last time we wrote about JoyRun, it was raising $10 million. Today, the Bay Area startup has some very different news to share, as it becomes part of Walmart as Walmart has purchased select assets in a bid to enhance its supply chain. The mega-retailer announced today that it has acquired “select assets – including the talent, technology platform and IP” from the company, in a bid to incorporate its peer-to-peer food and drink delivery service into its own last-mile logistics.

Walmart EVP Srini Venkatesan notes that the app has amassed a network of 540 third-party merchant partners and north of 30,000 people who have delivered goods with the service since its launch half-a-decade ago. JoyRun’s service is a bit of twist on more standard delivery apps like Seamless and Uber Eats.

As we described it back in 2017, “The company’s app lets people find out who, nearby, is already heading out to a restaurant that they like, then tack on an order of their own.” It will be interesting to see how Walmart integrates this technology into its existing chain, though from the sound it, Walmart would essentially be relying on non-professionals to delivery goods like groceries.

The system would likely operate in a manner like Amazon Flex — a kind of Uber/Lyft gig economy-style approach to delivery.

“This acquisition allows us to further augment our team and ongoing efforts to explore even more ways to deliver for customers in the future,” Venkatesan adds. “For instance, Runners could complement our SPARK program and 3rd Party delivery providers. Our goal is to deliver as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Walmart expects the deal to close “in the coming weeks,” which will incorporate JoyRun into its Supply Chain Technology team. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

#apps, #delivery, #joyrun, #ma, #walmart

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KKR, Rakuten to acquire most of Walmart’s stake in Japanese supermarket chain Seiyu

Walmart announced today it will sell most of its shares in Seiyu, the Japanese supermarket chain it acquired 12 years ago, to KKR and Rakuten. The deal values Seiyu at about $1.6 billion and means Walmart will almost completely exit its operations in Japan.

Under the agreement, investment firm KKR will buy a 65% stake in Seiyu, while Rakuten, Japan’s largest e-commerce company, will take a 20% stake through a newly created subsidiary called Rakuten DX. Walmart will retain a 15% stake in Seiyu.

After struggling with strong competition in Japan and low margins, Walmart reportedly considered relisting Seiyu or its holding company, Walmart Japan Holdings last year.

Rakuten is already familiar with Seiyu’s business because it formed a strategic alliance with Walmart in 2018 that included launching an online grocery delivery service in Japan. Called Rakuten Seiyu Netsuper, the online delivery service includes a dedicated fulfilment center, in addition to inventory picked up from Seiyu’s supermarkets.

After the deal, Seiyu will be part of Rakuten DX, which is intended to bring more brick-and-mortar stores online through Rakuten’s e-commerce and cashless payment channels.

Japan’s online grocery delivery market has trailed behind other countries, due in part to the reluctance of shoppers to purchase fresh food online. But the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a rapid shift in consumer habits. According to a July 4 report from the Japan Times, internet sales accounted for about 5% of total grocery sales, compared to 2.5% before the pandemic.

Rivals to Rakuten include grocery delivery services run by Aeon (in partnership with Ocado), Amazon and Ito-Yokado.

#asia, #fundings-exits, #japan, #kkr, #on-demand, #online-grocery, #rakuten, #rakuten-dx, #seiyu, #tc, #walmart

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Reliance Retail buys Urban Ladder for $24.4 million

Reliance Retail has acquired a majority stake in furniture and decor platform Urban Ladder, making a broader push into e-commerce as the largest retail chain in India gears up to fight Amazon and Flipkart.

In a filing to the local stock exchange, Reliance Retail said it had acquired a 96% stake in Urban Ladder for about $24.43 million. The Indian retail giant, which retains the option to acquire the remainder stake in the seven-and-a-half-years-old startup, said it has proposed to invest up to $10.06 million more in Urban Ladder by December 2023.

Founded in early 2012, Urban Ladder sells home furniture and decor products online. It also operates a chain of physical retail stores in several Indian cities. The deal size suggests that it was a fire sale.

The startup had raised about $115 million from Sequoia Capital, SAIF Partners, Steadview Capital, and MIT and other investors, according to Crunchbase and Tracxn. In the financial year that ended in March, the Indian startup reported a loss of $6.63 million on a turnover of $58.2 million.

Reliance Retail said (PDF) the investment “will further enable the group’s digital and new commerce initiatives and widen the bouquet of consumer products provided by the group, while enhancing user engagement and experience across its retail offerings.”

Urban Ladder is the latest acquisition for Reliance Retail, which earlier this year said it had entered into a $3.4 billion deal with Future Group to buy several of India’s second largest retail chain’s businesses. In August, Reliance acquired a 60% stake in pharma marketplace Netmeds’ parent firm Vitalic for about $83.2 million.

Reliance Retail, which is part of Reliance Industries (India’s most valued firm), has raised about $6.4 billion in recent months after its sister subsidiary, Jio Platforms, secured over $20 billion this year from Facebook and Google among other high-profile investors.

Reliance Retail, which serves more than 3.5 million customers each week through its nearly 10,000 physical stores in more than 6,500 cities and towns in the country, entered the e-commerce space with JioMart through a joint venture with Jio Platforms. JioMart now has a presence in over 200 Indian cities and towns, and it also maintains a partnership with Facebook for WhatsApp integration.

#amazon, #amazon-india, #asia, #ecommerce, #flipkart, #fundings-exits, #india, #reliance-retail, #urban-ladder, #walmart

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ByteDance asks federal appeals court to vacate U.S. order forcing it to sell TikTok

In a new filing, TikTok’s parent company ByteDance asked the federal appeals court to vacate the United States government order forcing it to sell the app’s American operations.

President Donald Trump issued an order in August requiring ByteDance to sell TikTok’s U.S. business by November 12, unless it was granted a 30-day extension by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). In today’s filing (embedded below) with the federal appeals court in Washington D.C., ByteDance said it asked the CFIUS for an extension on November 6, but the order hasn’t been granted yet.

It added it remains committed to “reaching a negotiated mitigation solution with CFIUS satisfying its national security concerns” and will only file a motion to stay enforcement of the divestment order “if discussions reach an impasse.”

Security concerns about TikTok’s ownership by a Chinese company were at the center of the executive order Trump signed in August, banning transactions with Beijing-headquartered ByteDance.

The executive order claimed that TikTok posed a threat to national security, though ByteDance maintains that it does not. But in order to prevent the app, which has about 100 million users in the U.S., from being banned, ByteDance reached a deal in September to sell 20% of its stake in TikTok to Oracle and Walmart. With the Biden administration set to take office in January and ByteDance’s ongoing legal challenge against the divestment order, however, the future of the deal is now uncertain.

The new filing is part of a lawsuit TikTok filed against the Trump administration on September 18, seeking to stop the ban from going into effect.

In a statement to Bloomberg, TikTok said it has been working with the CFIUS to address its national security concerns.

“In the nearly two months since the President gave his preliminary approval to our proposal to satisfy those concerns, we have offered detailed solutions to finalize that agreement—but have received no substantive feedback on our extensive data privacy and security framework,” it said.

With the divestment order set to go into effect on Thursday unless the CFIUS grants an extension, TikTok said it made the filing “to defend our rights and those of our more than 1,500 employees in the U.S.”

TechCrunch has contacted ByteDance for comment.

TikTok asks U.S. federal appeals court to vacate U.S. divestment order by TechCrunch on Scribd

#apps, #asia, #bytedance, #china, #oracle, #tc, #tiktok, #u-s-government, #walmart

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