Bankers chase Byju’s for IPO, valuation pegged up to $50 billion

Nearly every top investment bank is chasing Byju’s and nudging the most valuable Indian startup to seriously explore the public markets as soon as next year.

Most banks have given Byju’s a proposed valuation in the range of $40 to $45 billion, but some including Morgan Stanley have pitched a $50 billion valuation if the startup lists next year, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

The startup, which has raised $1.5 billion since the beginning of the pandemic last year, was most recently valued at $16.5 billion.

The banks’ excitement comes as the Indian public market has shown a glimpse of strong appetite for consumer tech stocks. Food delivery Zomato had a stellar $1.3 billion debut on Indian stock exchanges last month. Scores of other top startups including Paytm, PolicyBazaar, Nykaa, Ixigo, and MobiKwik have also filed paperworks for their IPOs.

Byju Raveendran (pictured above), the founder and chief executive of the eponymous startup, has publicly suggested in the past that he may list the firm in two to three years. According to a senior executive, who wish to not be named as the matter is private, and an investor, the startup has not set a concrete timeline for an IPO.

In the immediate future, odds of Byju’s raising again is high. The startup has received several inbound requests from investors to raise at a valuation of about $21.5 billion, the people said.

The startup has use a significant portion of its recent fundraises to acquire firms. Earlier this year, it acquired Indian physical coaching institute Aakash for nearly $1 billion. It has also acquired Great Learning, and U.S.-based Epic, among others, for over $1 billion in cash and stock deals.

Byju’s prepares students pursuing undergraduate and graduate-level courses, and in recent years it has also expanded its catalog to serve all school-going students. Tutors on the Byju’s app tackle complex subjects using real-life objects such as pizza and cake.

The pandemic, which prompted New Delhi to enforce a months-long nationwide lockdown and close schools, accelerated its growth, and those of several other online learning startups including Unacademy and Vedantu.

As of early this year, Byju’s said it had amassed over 80 million users, 5.5 million of whom are paying subscribers. Byju’s, which is profitable, is on track to generate revenue of $300 million in the U.S. this year (per Raveendran), and as high as $1.1 billion in revenue overall by the end of the calendar year, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Byju’s declined to comment.

#asia, #byju-raveendran, #byjus, #education, #funding, #india, #nykaa, #paytm, #zomato

Ultrahuman raises $17.5M, touting a wearable blood glucose tracker

Fitness platform Ultrahuman has officially announced a $17.5 million Series B fund raise, with investment coming from early stage fund Alpha Wave Incubation, Steadview Capital, Nexus Venture Partners, Blume Ventures and Utsav Somani’s iSeed fund.

A number of founders and angel investors also participated in the Bangalore-headquartered startup’s Series B, including Tiger Global’s Scott Schleifer, Deepinder Goyal (CEO of Zomato), Kunal Shah (CEO of Cred), and Gaurav Munjal and Romain Saini (the CEO and co-founders of unacademy), among others. The latest tranche of funding brings its total raised to date to $25M.

While the subscription platform has been around since 2019, offering a fairly familiar blend of home workout videos, mindfulness content, sleep sessions and heart rate tracking (integrating with third party wearables like the Apple Watch), its latest fitness tool looks rather more novel — as it’s designed for monitoring metabolic activity by tracking the user’s glucose levels (aka, blood sugar).

Keeping tabs on blood sugar is essential for people living with diabetes. But in the US alone millions of people are prediabetic — meaning they have a higher than normal level of blood glucose and are at risk of developing diabetes, though they may not know it yet.

More broadly, Ultrahuman claims over a billion people in the world suffer from a metabolic health disorder — underlining the scale of the potential addressable market it’s eyeing. 

Having sustained high blood glucose is associated with multiple health issues so managing the condition with lifestyle changes like diet and exercise is advisable. Lifestyle changes can reduce elevated blood glucose and shrink or even avoid negative health impacts — such as by averting the risk of a prediabetic person going on to develop full blown diabetes.

But knowing what type of diet and exercise regime will work best for a particular person can be tricky — and involve a lot of frustrating trial and error — since people’s glucose responses to different food items can differ wildly.

These responses depend on a person’s metabolic health — which in turn depends on individual factors like microbiome diversity, stress levels, time of day, food ingredient and quality. (See also: Personalized nutrition startups like Zoe — which is similarly paying mind to blood glucose levels but as one component of a wider play to try to use big data and AI to decode the microbiome.) 

With metabolic health being so specific to each of us there’s a strong case for continuous glucose monitoring having widespread utility — certainly if the process and price-point can be made widely accessible.

Here, Ultrahuman is having a go at productizing the practice for a fitness enthusiast market — launching its first device in beta back in June — although the price-point it’s targeting is starting out fairly premium. 

The product (a wearable and a subscription service) — which it’s branded ‘Cyborg’ — consists of a skin patch that extracts glucose from the interstitial fluid under the skin, per founder and CEO, Mohit Kumar, with the data fed into a companion app for analysis and visualization.

Image credits: Ultrahuman

The patch tracks the wearer’s blood glucose levels as they go about their day — eating, exercising, sleeping etc — with the biomarker used to trigger the app to nudge the user to “optimize your lifestyle”, as Ultrahuman’s website puts it — such as by alerting the user to a high blood glucose event and suggesting they take exercise to bring their level down.

If the product lives up to its promise of continuous glucose monitoring made easy, lovers of junk food could be in for a rude awakening as they’re served fast feedback on how their body copes (or, well, doesn’t) with their favorite snacks…

“We use medical grade sensors that have been used in the sports technology domain for the last 6-7 yrs with decent accuracy levels,” says Kumar when we ask about the specifics of the wearable technology it’s using. (The sensing hardware is being ‘worn’ here in the sense that it’s directly attached to (i.e. stuck into/on) bare skin.)

While Ultrahuman’s platform has plenty more vanilla fitness content, the company is now billing itself as a “metabolic fitness platform” — putting the nascent product front and center, even though the glucose tracking subscription service remains in closed beta for now.

The startup is operating a waitlist for sign-ups as it continues to hone the technology.   

Ultrahuman touts “thousands” of people signed up and waiting to get their hands on the glucose tracker service — and says it’s seeing 60% week over week growth in sign ups, with wider availability of the product slated for “early 2022”.

Some of the Series B cash will be used to make improvements to the quality of the glucose biomarkers ahead of a full product launch.

On the enhancements side, Kumar tells TechCrunch the team is exploring “other form factors and other types of sensors that could help us capture glucose in a more accurate way and for a longer duration than 14 days”, as they work to hone the wearable. (The current version of the skin-worn sensor only lasts two weeks before it must be replaced with another patch.)

“We want to add more biomarkers like HRV [heart-rate variability], sleep zones and respiratory rate to help people understand the impact of metabolic health on their recovery/sleep and vice-versa,” he adds.

Ultrahuman says it decided to focus on tracking glucose as its “main biomarker” as it can be used as a proxy for quantifying a number of fitness and wellness issues — making it a (potentially) very useful measure of individual health signals.

Or provided the startup’s technology is able to detect changes to glucose levels with enough sensitivity to be able to make meaningful recommendations per user.

“Glucose is interesting because it is a real-time biomarker that’s affected by exercise, sleep, stress and food,” says Kumar, adding: “We are able to help people make lifestyle changes across many vectors like nutrition, sleep, stress and exercise vs being unidimensional. It is also highly personalized as it guides you as per your body’s own response.”

He gives some examples of how the product could help users by identifying beneficial tweaks they could make to their diet and exercise regimes — such as figuring out which foods in their current diet yield “a healthy metabolic response” vs those that “need more optimization” (aka, avoiding the dreaded sugar crash). Or by helping users identify “a great meal window” for their lifestyle — based in their body’s glucose consumption rate.

Other helpful nudges he suggests the service can provide to sensor-wearing users — with an eye on athletes and fitness fanatics — is how best to fuel up before exercise to perform optimally.

Optimizing the last meal of the day to improve sleep efficiency is another suggestion.

If Ultrahuman’s Cyborg can do all that with a (bearably) wearable skin patch and a bit of clever algorithmic analysis it could take the quantified self trend to the next level.

A simple stick-on sensor-plus-app that passively amplifies internal biological signals and translates individual biomarkers into highly actionable real-time personalized health insights could be the start of something huge in preventative healthcare.

Again, though, Ultrahuman’s early pricing suggests there will be some fairly hard limits on who is able to tap in here.

Early adopters in the closed beta are shelling out $80 per month for the subscription service, per Kumar. And — at least for now — the startup is eyeing adding more bells and whistles, rather than fewer. “[Product pricing] will mostly be in the same range but may introduce more services/premium features on top of this,” he confirms.

The (typically higher) cost of eating healthily and having enough leisure time to be able to look after your body by taking exercise are other hard socioeconomic limits that won’t be fixed by a wearable, no matter how smart.

 

#alpha, #bangalore, #blume-ventures, #cred, #deepinder-goyal, #diabetes, #fundings-exits, #gaurav-munjal, #glucose, #health, #junk-food, #kunal-shah, #nexus-venture-partners, #nutrition, #scott-schleifer, #steadview-capital, #tc, #tiger-global, #ultrahuman, #wearable-technology, #wearables, #zomato

Equity Monday: Hacks, IPOs, and the next generation of American tech giants

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This is Equity Monday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest private market news, talks about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here. I also tweet.

It’s a surreal day to talk about technology, but here we are. If you can pull your eyes away from the greater geopolitical tragedy that is our world today, here’s what we talked about:

  • T Mobile may have suffered a material breach. If this bears out, it could be a leading tech story for the week. Vice has confirmed that at least some of the data in the leak appears genuine.
  • Indian travel service ixigo is going public. The company’s IPO follows Zomato’s own domestic debut.
  • And speaking of IPOs, the Tencent Music offering in Hong Kong could be on hold until next year.
  • And a trio of American tech companies raised a raft of capital as last week concluded. Carta put together $500 million in a huge deal, as Chime raised $750 million. And as the week closed, Discord was reported to be hunting up a new round at a $15 billion price tag.

And stocks are set to open lower this morning. That’s the morning report. Equity is back on Wednesday.

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 a.m. PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#carta, #chime, #china, #data-breach, #discord, #equity, #equity-monday, #fundings-exits, #india, #ixigo, #startups, #t-mobile, #tc, #telecomm, #tencent, #zomato

Zomato’s losses widen in first quarterly earnings since IPO

Zomato’s losses more than tripled in its first quarterly earnings report since its listing last month as the company’s expenses grew and the pandemic hit the firm’s dining-out business.

The Gurgaon-headquartered firm reported (PDF) a net loss of $48 million in the quarter that ended in June, up from about $13.5 million during the same period last year.

The 12-year-old firm also reported strong revenue growth, moving from $35.7 million to $113.4 million during the aforementioned period as more people in the country began to order food online.

The firm said it delivered more than 100 million food orders last quarter and has surpassed a billion orders in the past six years.

“This is largely on account of non-cash ESOP expenses which have increased meaningfully in Q1 FY22 due to significant ESOP grants made in the quarter pursuant to creation of a new ESOP 2021 scheme. This divergence in reported profit/loss and Adjusted EBITDA will continue going forward,” a blog post signed by top Zomato executives read.

The executive said in the post that the second wave of the coronavirus, which hit the country beginning in April, “significantly impacted the dining-out business in Q1 FY22 reversing most of the gains the industry made in Q4 FY21.”

Zomato’s shares on BSE.

Shares of Zomato, which had a stellar debut on the Indian stock exchanges last month, fell 4% on Tuesday ahead of the results and ended at slightly below the original issue price of $1.68 a share on July 13, which valued Zomato then at $13 billion.

The company said it will hold one call with analysts a year — instead of the typical four — and address questions through blogs and quarterly shareholder letters.

In India, Zomato competes with Swiggy, which is backed by SoftBank and Prosus. Last month, the Indian food delivery startup said it had raised $1.25 billion in a new financing round. SoftBank Vision Fund 2 evaluated Zomato before making its bet on Swiggy, people familiar with the dealflow said.

Both the firms in recent quarters have expanded to new categories including grocery delivery.

Zomato is the first Indian consumer internet startup in the current wave to go public. India’s financial services Paytm and MobiKwik as well as online insurer PolicyBazaar and online beauty products firm Nykaa have filed the paperworks to go public later this year.

#asia, #food, #india, #nykaa, #paytm, #policybazaar, #swiggy, #zomato

Food delivery firm Zomato surges 65% in key India debut

Shares in Zomato, a Gurgaon-based food delivery company and first of India’s consumer tech startups to go public, closed up 64.7% in its debut day of trading in Mumbai, delivering a key insight into the appetite investors have for the world’s second largest internet market’s burgeoning startup ecosystem.

Zomato’s shares traded all day above the issue price of 76 Indian rupees ($1) and surged as high as 138.9 Indian rupees ($1.87). The 12-year-old firm ended day one of trading on BSE in Mumbai at 125.2 Indian rupees ($1.68), securing a market cap of $13.2 billion, up from about $5 billion valuation it had attained in private markets during the startup’s fundraise earlier this year.

The startup’s $1.3 billion initial public offering was 40 times subscribed last week.

Friday’s milestone of Zomato has equally been significant for the rest of the industry as startup founders and investors closely watched the firm’s stock performance. India’s Twitter timeline on Friday was flooded with celebratory messages from industry colleagues.

Ashish Dave, India head of Mirae Asset, a backer of Zomato, said the listing and performance of Zomato today have delivered the missing piece of liquidity in Indian startup ecosystem.

“This validates that we can generate large IPOs, which then makes our startups more attractive for global LPs. It also gives Indian investors a chance to participate in the India tech journey rather than from watching it from sidelines,” he told TechCrunch, adding that retail investors of this generation will finally find a way to get in on the action with the brands they recognize and have grown up with.

Zomato chief executive Deepinder Goyal was quick to reciprocate. In a blog post, Goyal wrote, “today is a big day for us. A new Day Zero. But we couldn’t have gotten here without the incredible efforts of India’s entire internet ecosystem. Jio’s prolific growth has set all of us up for unprecedented scale. Flipkart, Amazon, Ola, Uber, Paytm – have also over the years, collectively laid the railroads that are enabling companies like ours to build the India of the future.”

“They say it takes a village to raise a child, and we are no exception. Hundreds of people have selflessly played a part in making Zomato what it is today.”

Indian tech startups have raised a record amount of capital this year as some high-profile investors have doubled down in the South Asian market. Swiggy, Zomato’s chief rival in India, said earlier this week it had raised $1.25 billion from SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2 and Prosus among others at a valuation of $5.5 billion.

A handful of other firms are also preparing to publicly list within a few months. Financial services startups Paytm and MobiKwik filed for their initial public offerings earlier this month. Online insurance aggregator Policybazaar is expected to file its paperwork within a few weeks.

“I don’t know whether we will succeed or fail – we will surely, like always, give it our best. But I hope that the fact that we are here, inspires millions of Indians to dream bigger than we ever have, and build something way more incredible than what we can dream of,” wrote Goyal.

#apps, #asia, #food, #india, #mobikwik, #paytm, #policybazaar, #swiggy, #zomato

Indian food delivery startup Swiggy raises $1.25 billion led by SoftBank and Prosus

It took SoftBank several years, but finally the Japanese investment giant is ready to bet on India’s food delivery market. Swiggy said on Tuesday it has closed a $1.25 billion financing round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and Prosus Ventures.

The new financing round, a Series J, includes the $800 million investment the Bangalore-based startup had disclosed to employees earlier this year. (SoftBank alone invested $450 million in the new round.) The new round, which Swiggy says was “heavily oversubscribed,” gives the food delivery startup a post-money valuation of $5.5 billion.

TechCrunch had first reported about Swiggy’s engagement with SoftBank and the proposed valuation of $5.5 billion in mid-April. Qatar Investment Authority, Falcon Edge Capital, Amansa Capital, Goldman Sachs, Think Investments and Carmignac and existing investors Accel Partners and Wellington Management also participated in the new round.

Swiggy said the new financing round shows the turnaround it has demonstrated in the past few quarters. Like many other startups, Swiggy was severely hit with the pandemic. The startup said its recent bet to expand into grocery delivery, and pick-up and drop service has paid off.

“The participation of some of the most visionary global investors is a huge vote of confidence in Swiggy’s mission and ability to build an enduring and iconic company out of India. The scope of food delivery in India is massive and over the next few years, we will continue to invest aggressively into growing this category,” said Sriharsha Majety, chief executive of Swiggy, in a statement.

“Our biggest investments will be in our non-food businesses that have witnessed tremendous consumer love and growth in a short span, especially in the past 15 months of the pandemic. I believe the next 10-15 years offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for companies like Swiggy as the Indian middle class expands and our target segment for convenience grows to 500 million users.”

The new investment comes at a time when Indian startups are raising record capital and a handful of mature firms are beginning to explore the public markets. Zomato, Swiggy’s chief rival in India, raised $1.3 billion in its initial public offering last week and financial services startups Paytm and MobiKwik have also filed for their initial public offerings.

At stake is India’s food delivery market, which analysts at Bernstein expect to balloon to be worth $12 billion by 2022, they wrote in a report to clients earlier this year. A third player, Amazon, also entered the food delivery market in India last year, though its operations are still limited to parts of Bangalore. At a virtual conference ahead of the IPO, Zomato executives dismissed Amazon as a serious competitor for now. “There’s no major impact on market share from Amazon so far,” the company’s chief financial officer said.

For SoftBank, a regular fixture of India’s startup, this is the first time it has bet on the food delivery market. The Japanese conglomerate has backed Indian startups in multiple categories including e-commerce (Flipkart, Snapdeal, Meesho, Lenskart, Firstcry), ride-hailing (Uber and Ola), and edtech (Unacademy). SoftBank has invested in several food delivery startups globally including DoorDash and Uber Eats. Prosus Ventures, an early investor in Swiggy, has also backed several food delivery startups globally.

“From its early days, I have had the privilege to watch Swiggy execute on their vision to become the leader in the convenience economy. Their focus on consumer delight, product innovation, and ecosystem support has made Swiggy a compelling digital experience in India. They have the railroads in place to empower multiple businesses to reach the new age consumer on a daily basis, and food delivery is just the beginning,” said Sumer Juneja, Partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, in a statement.

Swiggy said it will deploy the fresh funds to accelerate its “multi-year strategy” of growing its core food delivery business and building new food and non-food adjacencies this year and beyond.

#apps, #asia, #food, #funding, #prosus-ventures, #softbank, #softbank-vision-fund-2, #swiggy, #zomato

The price differential for engineers is declining

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture-capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

The whole crew was here this week, with Danny and Natasha and Alex  together with Grace and Chris to sort through a very, very busy week. Yep, somehow it is Friday again which means it’s time for our weekly news roundup.

Here’s what we got to in our short window of time:

Like we said, a busy week! Chat you all on Monday morning, early.

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PDT, Wednesday, and Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. PDT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

#affirm, #ai, #apple, #artificial-intelligence, #beyond-meat, #bnpl, #china, #chorus-ai, #commodity-capital, #discord, #early-stage-startup, #edtech, #emerging-fund-manager, #equity, #equity-podcast, #fintech, #gourmey, #india, #ipo, #jianzhi-education, #klarna, #next-gen-foods, #nooks, #public-market, #reddit, #sentropy, #tc, #venture-capital, #virtual-hq, #zomato, #zoominfo

Zomato raises $562 million from anchor investors ahead of IPO

Indian food delivery startup Zomato said on Tuesday evening that it has raised $562.3 million from its anchor investors ahead of IPO opening on Wednesday.

Zomato, which counts Ant Financial  has already secured nearly 45% of the $1.3 billion it plans to raise through the IPO, the 12-year-old Gurgaon-headquartered startup revealed in a filing to local stock exchanges. The public share sale will open on Wednesday and close Friday.

Tiger Global, Fidelity, New World, Baillie Gifford, Government of Singapore, Canada Pension Plan, Mirae Asset, T. Rowe Price, and Steadview are among the investors that are backing the startup in the public markets.

The investors have subscribed the shares at Rs 76 ($1) — the upper end of the price range for Zomato’ shares — giving the Indian startup an implied valuation of $8.6 billion, up from $5.4 billion in February this year.

The oversubscription illustrates the confidence high-profile investors are placing in the world’s second largest internet market’s first real consumer internet offering.

In a virtual press conference last week, Zomato executives said the startup, which has search and discovery in nearly two dozen markets, will focus largely on India and will explore categories such as online grocery delivery in the future.

The executives also dismissed Amazon as a serious competitor for now. “There’s no major impact on market share from Amazon so far,” the company’s chief financial officer said. Amazon entered the food delivery market last year and is operational in just Bangalore for now. Swiggy, backed by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and Prosus Ventures, is Zomato’s chief rival in India.

For the financial year that ended in March this year, its revenue was down 23% to $283 million, and it also shrank its losses to $110 million, down 66% from the same period a year ago.

#asia, #fundings-exits, #india, #swiggy, #tiger-global, #zomato

Zomato targets $1.3 billion IPO at as high as $8.6 billion valuation

Zomato, a food delivery startup in India, said on Thursday it has boosted its plan to raise $1.3 billion in its initial public offering, which opens on July 14 and closes July 16.

The loss-making startup said it will price its shares in the range of 72 Indian rupees (96 cents) to 76 ($1) and is targeting an upper limit valuation of $8.56 billion.

Zomato, which competes with Swiggy — the market leader according to several industry estimates — said after a successful IPO it will have about $2 billion in the bank. It plans to list on Indian stock exchanges.

The 12-year-old Gurgaon-headquartered Indian startup — which counts Info Edge, Temasek, Tiger Global, and Ant Group among its largest investors and has raised over $2.2 billion to date — is the first high-profile tech startup in India to explore the public markets.

In a virtual press conference on Thursday, the startup executives said Zomato, which has search and discovery in nearly two dozen markets, will focus largely on India and will explore categories such as online grocery delivery in the future.

The executives dismissed Amazon as a serious competitor for now. “There’s no major impact on market share from Amazon so far,” the company’s chief financial officer said. Amazon entered the food delivery market last year and is operational in just Bangalore for now.

Zomato also revealed its latest financial on Thursday. For the financial year that ended in March this year, its revenue was down 23% to $283 million, and it also shrunk its losses to $110 million, down 66% from the same period a year ago.

#apps, #asia, #food, #india, #swiggy, #tiger-global, #zomato

Zomato’s $100 million investment to turn Grofers into a unicorn

Indian food delivery giant Zomato, which is working to explore the public markets later this year, has reached an agreement to invest $100 million in online grocer Grofers for about 10% stake in the seven-year-old startup, according to a source and multiple others familiar with the matter.

The proposed investment values Grofers, which counts SoftBank as its largest investor, at over $1 billion. (Indian regulator, the Competition Commission of India, needs to approve the investment.) Zomato’s proposed investment is part of a broader round, in which others including Tiger Global and SoftBank Vision Fund 2 are expected to chip in some capital. Zomato said it had no comment.

The leadership teams at Grofers and Zomato have long been close friends and began exploring this investment earlier this year. Both the firms are also open to the idea of Zomato acquiring a majority stake in Grofers in the coming quarters, though a decision hasn’t been reached and won’t be fully explored until Zomato becomes a publicly traded company, the source told TechCrunch.

Zomato, which acquired Uber’s Indian food delivery business early last year, has told some of its major investors that it envisions a future where the Gurgaon-based firm has expanded much beyond the food delivery category, the source said, requesting anonymity as the talks are private.

Grofers operates an online grocery delivery service in India. The startup has witnessed a sharp surge in its popularity in the past year as several Indian states enforced strict lockdown restrictions to contain the spread of the virus. The startup competes with BigBasket, which recently sold its majority stake to Indian conglomerate Tata Group.

The Indian online grocery market has seen a new player emerge in the past one year, Reliance Industries, India’s most valuable firm. Reliance, which operates the largest retail chain in India, last year launched JioMart.

“JioMart’s growth is a testament to its already loyal customer base, 80% of whom are repeat shoppers. JioMart New commerce’s aim is to transform and grow the small merchant ecosystem, so our merchant partners prosper. Over the past year, over 300,000 merchant or shopkeeper partners across 150 cities were enabled and empowered to transform their businesses both physically and digitally,” said Mukesh Ambani, the chairman of Reliance Industries, earlier this month.

In a note to clients earlier this year, Bank of America analysts estimated that the online grocery delivery market could be worth $12 billion in India by 2023.

“Competition is high in the sector with large verticals like BigBasket/Grofers and horizontal like Amazon/Flipkart trying to convert the unorganized market to organized one. Till recently the No 1 player in the space was BigBasket, with it hitting $1 billion annualized GMV & selling over 300,000 orders every day. Reliance Industries also threw its hat with the company launching its JioMart app in May-20 across 200 cites,” they wrote.

#apps, #asia, #bigbasket, #food, #funding, #grofers, #india, #tiger-global, #zomato

Indian food delivery startup Zomato files for an IPO

Indian food delivery startup Zomato on Wednesday filed for an initial public offering, becoming the first tech unicorn startup from the world’s second largest internet market to do so in recent years.

The 12-year-old Gurgaon-headquartered Indian startup, which counts Info Edge and Ant Group among its investors, has set $1.1 billion as its IPO size and will look to raise about $1 billion by issuing shares, it said in the filing.

Some key insights shared by Zomato in the filling:

    • Zomato has claimed market leading position in the food delivery market. The startup identified Prosus Ventures-backed Swiggy, as well as restraunts such as Domino’s, McDonalds and Pizza hut as its competitor. (But not Amazon, which entered the food delivery market last year.)
    • The startup clocked $183.6 million in revenue between April 1 and December 31. Its losses during this period were $91.8 million.
    • The startup said it has a history of net losses, and it anticipates increases expenses in the future.
    • Info Edge, one of the biggest investor of Zomato, plans to sell stake worth $100 million, the investment firm said in a filing.

 

This is a developing story. More to follow…

#asia, #zomato

Amazon expands its food delivery service across Bangalore

Amazon said on Monday it has expanded its food delivery service, called Amazon Food, across 62 zip codes in Bangalore, in what is the first public update since entering the new category in India last May.

The American e-commerce group said Amazon Food now reaches key localities in Bangalore such as Whitefield, HSR, Sarjapur, Koramangala, Indiranagar, MG Road, Jayanagar, JP Nagar, Frazer Town, Malleshwaram, Rajajinagar, and Vijayanaga.

At the time of the launch in May last year, Amazon Food was available in just four zip codes in Bangalore.

Even as Amazon Food remains limited to one key market in India, the company is aggressively trying to undercut the competition — heavily funded startups Zomato and Swiggy — in the city.

Food delivery is free to Prime members, while others have to pay a fee of 19 Indian rupees (26 cents) — cheaper than fees levied by Swiggy and Zomato.

The company, which has committed to investing $6.5 billion in its India operations, said it has amassed 2,5000 restaurants and cloud kitchens in Bangalore — also referred as Bengaluru. Amazon Food customers can enjoy “offers” from these restaurants as well as cashbacks from Amazon, the company said.

It, however, did not share why it has been uncharacteristically so slow with the expansion of Amazon Food in the country.

(Well, I mean, there is a global pandemic — but Amazon also makes a number of what its employees say “one-way door” and “two-way door” bets. Two-way door bets are those that the company has not fully committed to and is just attempting to test the waters before making a concrete decision. Think of Amazon Prime as a one-way door bet. So it’s not clear from day 1 how committed Amazon is to any new service.)

“With the expansion of Amazon Food in Bengaluru, we continue in our endeavor to offer unmatched convenience and value while being a part of their everyday lives. Amazon Food brings some of the city’s top restaurants including national outlets and as well as local favorites which are popular and follow strict delivery and safety protocols,” said Sameer Khetarpal, Director of Category Management at Amazon India, in a statement.

Ant Financial-backed Zomato and Prosus Ventures-backed Swiggy have established duopoly in the food delivery market in India, with analysts at Bank of America estimating their combined market share to be over 90%. (Uber exited the Indian food delivery market early last year after selling its local food business to Zomato.)

The expansion of Amazon Food also comes at a time when Zomato, which according to analysts leads the market, is preparing to file for an IPO.

India’s food delivery market is especially tough to crack because of local conditions. Unlike in the developed markets such as the U.S., where the value of each delivery item is about $33, in India, a similar item carries the price tag of $4, according to research firms. Both Zomato and Swiggy have significantly improved their unit economics in the past year.

#amazon, #amazon-india, #asia, #ecommerce, #food, #swiggy, #zomato

India’s Zomato valued at $5.4 billion in new $250 million investment

Zomato has raised $250 million, two months after closing a $660 million Series J financing round, as the Indian food delivery startup builds a war-chest ahead of its IPO later this year.

Kora (which contributed $115 million), Fidelity ($55 million), Tiger Global ($50 million), Bow Wave ($20 million), and Dragoneer ($10 million) pumped the new capital into the 12-year-old Gurgaon-headquartered startup, Info Edge, a publicly listed investor in Zomato, disclosed in a filing (PDF) to a local stock exchange. The new investment gives Zomato a post-money valuation of $5.4 billion, up from $3.9 billion in December last year, said Info Edge, which owns 18.4% stake in the Indian startup.

The new investment reinforces the strong confidence investors have in Zomato, which struggled to raise money for much of last year. Zomato, which acquired the Indian food delivery business of Uber early last year, competes with Prosus Ventures-backed Swiggy (valued at about $3.6 billion) in India. Together they work with over 440,000 delivery partners, a larger workforce than that employed by Indian Department of Posts.

A third player, Amazon, also entered the food delivery market in India last year, though its operations are still limited to parts of Bangalore.

At stake is India’s food delivery market, which analysts at Bernstein expect to balloon to be worth $12 billion by 2022, they wrote in a report to clients. With about 50% of the market share, Zomato is the current leader among the three, Bernstein analysts wrote.

“We find the food-tech industry in India to be well positioned to sustained growth with improving unit economics. Take-rates are one of the highest in India at 20-25% and consumer traction is increasing. Market is largely a duopoly between Zomato and Swiggy with 80%+ share,” wrote analysts at Bank of America in a recent report, reviewed by TechCrunch.

Zomato and Swiggy have improved their finances in recent years, which is especially impressive because making money with food delivery is very even more challenging in India. Unlike Western markets such as the U.S., where the value of each delivery item is about $33, in India, a similar item carries the price tag of $3 to $4, according to research firms.

Both the startups eliminated hundreds of jobs last year as coronavirus pandemic hit their businesses. Zomato co-founder and chief executive Deepinder Goyal said in December that the food delivery market was “rapidly coming out of COVID-19 shadows.”

“December 2020 is expected to be the highest ever GMV month in our history. We are now clocking ~25% higher GMV than our previous peaks in February 2020. I am supremely excited about what lies ahead and the impact that we will create for our customers, delivery partners, and restaurant partners,” he said.

In an email to employees in September last year, Goyal said Zomato was working on its IPO for “sometime in the first half” of 2021 and was raising money to build a war-chest for “future M&A, and fighting off any mischief or price wars from our competition in various areas of our business.”

#amazon, #apps, #asia, #food, #funding, #india, #swiggy, #tiger-global, #zomato

Google backs India’s Dunzo in $40 million funding round

Google is writing check to another startup in India. The Android-maker, which last year unveiled a $10 billion fund to invest in the world’s second largest internet market, said on Tuesday that it is participating in a $40 million investment round of hyperlocal delivery startup Dunzo, a Bangalore-based firm that it has also previously backed.

Five-year-old Dunzo said Google, Lightbox, Evolvence, Hana Financial Investment, LGT Lightstone Aspada, and Alteria among others participated in its Series E financing round, which brings its to-date raise to $121 million.

Dunzo operates an eponymous hyper-local delivery service in nearly a dozen cities in India including Bangalore, Delhi, Noida, Pune, Gurgaon, Powai, Hyderabad and Chennai. Users get access to a wide-range of items across several categories, from grocery, perishables, pet supplies and medicines to dinner from their neighborhood stores and restaurants.

E-commerce accounts for less than 3% of all retail sales in India, according to industry estimates. Mom and pop stores and other neighborhood outlets that dot tens of thousands of cities, towns, villages and slums across the country drive most of the sales in the nation. The way Dunzo has grown, it poses a challenge to e-commerce firms such as Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart, as well as local food and grocery delivery startups such as Swiggy, Zomato, BigBasket, and Grofers. Several people also use Dunzo to pick up and move random items such as a laptop charger or wallet or a lunch box from one point in the city to another.

“As merchants go digital, Dunzo is helping small businesses in their digital transformation journey in support of business recovery,” said Caesar Sengupta, VP, Google, in a statement. “Through our India Digitization Fund, we’re committed to partnering with India’s innovative startups to build a truly inclusive digital economy that will benefit everyone.”

Kabeer Biswas, chief executive and co-founder of Dunzo the startup has grown its annual gross merchandise value business to about $100 million. (GMV used to a popular metric that several e-commerce firms relied on to demonstrate their growth, however, it’s one of the meaningless ways to gauge a startup’s growth. Most firms have stopped using GMV. Additionally, when a startup speaks GMV language, traditionally it has meant they are anything but close to profitability, which happens to be true in the case of Dunzo.)

“Dunzo’s mission resonated stronger than ever in 2020. We have been amazed by everything merchants and users have started to depend on the platform for. We truly believe we are writing a playbook for how hyperlocal businesses can be built with sustainable unit economics and capital responsibility. As a team, we are more focused than ever to enable local Merchants to get closer to their Users and build one of the most loved consumer brands in the country,” Biswas said in a statement.

Google, which invested $4.5 billion in Jio Platforms last year, recently backed social news app Dailyhunt and Glance, a part of ad giant InMobi Group that is aggressively expanding ways to populate content on Android users’ lockscreen. Google is also in talks with local social media ShareChat and may alone invest more than $100 million in the Indian startup, TechCrunch reported earlier this month. Talks about Google’s interest in ShareChat has previously also been reported by local media houses Economic Times and ET Now.

#apps, #asia, #dunzo, #funding, #google, #lgt-lightstone-aspada, #lightbox, #swiggy, #zomato

Indian startups raised $9.3 billion in 2020

The coronavirus pandemic — and a handful of other factors — slowed dealmaking for startups in India this year.

Compared to their record $14.5 billion fundraise last year, Indian startups are ending 2020 with about $9.3 billion. This is the first time since 2016 that startups in India, one of the world’s largest startup communities, has raised less than $10 billion in a year, according to consultancy firm Tracxn.

The number of deals fell from 1,185 last year to 1,088 in 2020. There were fewer larger sized rounds, too. Rounds with dealsize $100 million or larger fell from 26 in 2019 to 20 (these rounds delivered $3.6 billion this year, compared to $7.5 billion last year), and similarly rounds with dealsize $50 million to $100 million fell from 27 to 13. (The figures do not include investments in telecom giant Jio Platforms, which alone raised over $20 billion this year.)

Despite the slowdown, Indian startups saw substantial rebound in the second half of this year. In the first half, startups in the world’s second largest internet market had raised just $4.2 billion from about 461 deals, said Tracxn.

Other than the coronavirus, which has impacted startups worldwide, another factor that impacted the dealmaking was absence of — or reduced participation from — some of the biggest investors.

Chinese giants such as Alibaba — and its affiliate Ant Group — and Tencent wrote fewer checks this year to Indian startups amid tension between the two neighboring nations. SoftBank also delivered less capital as many of its high-profile portfolio firms including Paytm, Oyo Rooms, and Ola did not raise money.

But the virus also accelerated growth of some startups. Byju’s is now valued at over $11 billion, up from $8 billion in January this year. Unacademy, another high-profile startup in the online learning space, raised two rounds at the height of the pandemic, increasing its valuation from about $500 million in February this year to over $2 billion.

Bond, a firm started by Mary Meeker and other high-profile investors, backed Byju’s this year. Bond believes that Byju’s will be worth over $30 billion in three years, a person who was briefed by the investment firm told TechCrunch. Several startups in India operating on a SaaS model and catering to customers worldwide also picked up momentum this year.

11 Indian startups including RazorPay, Unacademy, DailyHunt, and Glance became a unicorn this year. (On a side note, Google and Facebook wrote several checks to Indian firms this year. Google backed Glance and DailyHunt last week, while Facebook invested in Unacademy. Both the firms also invested in Jio Platforms this year.)

“I am old enough (unfortunately!) to have seen the 2001 and 2008 downturns so when Covid hit and there were stories of doom and gloom everywhere, I remembered what I saw happening in the past downturns — a beginning of a new generation of teams who built the next generation of companies,” said Vaibhav Domkundwar, founder and managing partner at Better Capital. Better Capital, which backs early stage startups in India, wrote 43 investment and follow-on checks this year.

M&A activities also accelerated this year. Byju’s acquired WhiteHat Jr for $300 million, while Unacademy acquired PrepLadder, which offers courses aimed at medical students, for $50 million in July. It also led an investment round of $5 million to acquire a majority stake in Mastree.

Reliance Industries acquired online pharmacy Nedmeds and, in a fire sale, Urban Ladder.

But for the first time, Indian startups are on the verge of seeing another kind of exit. Zomato, Flipkart, and Policybazaar are among some startups that plan to go public next year. Analysts at Bernstein have identified Paytm, Byju’s, PhonePe, and Delhivery among those who could also go public by 2022.

#apps, #asia, #dailyhunt, #flipkart, #funding, #glance, #jio-platforms, #ola, #oyo-rooms, #paytm, #policybazaar, #razorpay, #unacademy, #urban-ladder, #zomato

Indian food delivery giant Zomato secures $660 million

Zomato has raised $660 million in a financing round that it kicked off last year as the Indian food delivery startup prepares to go public next year.

The Indian startup said Tiger Global, Kora, Luxor, Fidelity (FMR), D1 Capital, Baillie Gifford, Mirae, and Steadview participated in the round — a Series J –which gives Zomato a post-money valuation of $3.9 billion. Zomato had previously disclosed fundraise of about $212 million as part of Series J round from Ant Financial, Tiger Global, Baillie Gifford, and Temasek.

Deepinder Goyal, the co-founder and chief executive of Zomato, said the 12-year-old startup is also in the process of closing a $140 million secondary transaction. “As part of this transaction, we have already provided liquidity worth $30m to our ex-employees,” he tweeted.

The startup originally anticipated to close a round of about $600 million by January this year, but several obstacles including the global pandemic delayed the fundraise effort. Additionally, Ant Financial, which had originally committed to invest $150 million in this round, only delivered a third of it, Zomato’s investor Info Edge disclosed earlier this year.

The Gurgaon-headquartered startup, which acquired the Indian food delivery business of Uber early this year, competes with Prosus Ventures-backed Swiggy  in India. A third player, Amazon, has also emerged in the market, though it currently offers its food delivery service in only parts of Bangalore.

At stake is India’s food delivery market, which analysts at Bernstein expect to balloon to be worth $12 billion by 2022, they wrote in a report to clients — accessed by TechCrunch. With about 50% of the market share, Zomato is the current leader among the three, Bernstein analysts wrote.

Zomato has eliminated hundreds of jobs this year to improve its finances and navigate the coronavirus pandemic, which significantly hurt the food delivery business in India in the early months. Goyal said the food delivery market is “rapidly coming out of COVID-19 shadows. December 2020 is expected to be the highest ever GMV month in our history. We are now clocking ~25% higher GMV than our previous peaks in February 2020.” He added, “I am supremely excited about what lies ahead and the impact that we will create for our customers, delivery partners, and restaurant partners.”

In September, Goyal told employees that Zomato was working for its IPO for “sometime in the first half of next year” and was raising money to develop a war-chest for “future M&A, and fighting off any mischief or price wars from our competition in various areas of our business.”

Making money with food delivery has been especially challenging in India. Unlike Western markets such as the U.S., where the value of each delivery item is about $33, in India, a similar item carries the price tag of $4, according to estimates by Bangalore-based research firm RedSeer.

“The problem is that there are very few people in India who can afford to place an order from a food delivery firm each day,” said Anand Lunia, a venture capitalist at India Quotient, in an interview with TechCrunch earlier this year.

#ant-financial, #apps, #asia, #food, #funding, #swiggy, #tiger-global, #zomato

YC-backed Cashfree raises $35.3 million for its payments platform

Cashfree, an Indian startup that offers a wide-range of payments services to businesses, has raised $35.3 million in a new financing round as the profitable firm looks to broaden its offering.

The Bangalore-based startup’s Series B was led by London-headquartered private equity firm Apis Partners (which invested through its Growth Fund II), with participation from existing investors Y Combinator and Smilegate Investments. The new round brings the startup’s to-date raise to $42 million.

Cashfree kickstarted its journey in 2015 as a solution for restaurants in Bangalore that needed an efficient way for their delivery personnel to collect cash from customers.

Akash Sinha and Reeju Datta, the founders of Cashfree, did not have any prior experience with payments. When their merchants asked if they could build a service to accept payments online, the founders quickly realized that Cashfree could serve a wider purpose.

In the early days, Cashfree also struggled to court investors, many of whom did not think a payments processing firm could grow big — and do so fast enough. But the startup’s fate changed after Y Combinator accepted its application, even though the founders had missed the deadline and couldn’t arrive to join the batch on time. Y Combinator later financed Cashfree’s seed round.

Fast-forward five years, Cashfree today offers more than a dozen products and services and helps over 55,000 businesses disburse salary to employees, accept payments online, set up recurring payments and settle marketplace commissions.

Some of its customers include financial services startup Cred, online grocer BigBasket, food delivery platform Zomato, insurers HDFC Ergo and Acko and travel ticketing service provider Ixigo. The startup works with several banks and also offers integrations with platforms such as Shopify, PayPal and Amazon Pay.

Based on its offerings, Cashfree today competes with scores of startups, but it has an edge — if not many. Cashfree has been profitable for the past three years, Sinha, who serves as the startup’s chief executive, told TechCrunch in an interview.

“Cashfree has maintained a leadership position in this space and is now going through a period of rapid growth fuelled by the development of unique and innovative products that serve the needs of its customers,” Udayan Goyal, co-founder and a managing partner at Apis, said in a statement.

The startup processed over $12 billion in payments volumes in the financial year that ended in March. Sinha said part of the fresh fund will be deployed in R&D so that Cashfree can scale its technology stack and build more services, including those that can digitize more offline payments for its clients.

Cashfree is also working on building cross-border payments solutions to explore opportunities in emerging markets, he said.

“We still see payments as an evolving industry with its own challenges and we would be investing in next-gen payments as well as banking tech to make payments processing easier and more reliable. With the solid foundation of in-house technologies, tech-driven processes and in-depth industry knowledge, we are confident of growing Cashfree to be the leader in the payments space in India and internationally,” he said.

#apis-partners, #apps, #asia, #bigbasket, #cashfree, #finance, #funding, #fundings-exits, #india, #payments, #paypal, #razorpay, #recent-funding, #shopify, #startups, #y-combinator, #zomato

India’s Razorpay becomes unicorn after new $100 million funding round

Bangalore-headquartered Razorpay, one of the handful of Indian fintech startups that has demonstrated accelerated growth in recent years, has joined the coveted unicorn club after raising $100 million in a new financing round, the payments processing startup said on Monday.

The new financing round, a Series D, was co-led by Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC, and Sequoia India, the six-year-old Indian startup said. The new round valued the startup at “a little more than $1 billion,” co-founder and chief executive Harshil Mathur told TechCrunch in an interview.

Existing investors Ribbit Capital, Tiger Global, Y Combinator, and Matrix Partners also participated in the round, which brings Razorpay’s total to-date raise to $206.5 billion.

Razorpay accepts, processes, and disburses money online for small businesses and enterprises. In recent years, Razorpay has expanded its offerings to provide loans to businesses and also launched a neo-banking platform to issue corporate credit cards, among other products.

Mathur and Shashank Kumar (pictured above), who met each other at IIT Roorkee, started Razorpay in 2014. They began to explore opportunities around payments processing business after realizing just how difficult it was for small businesses such as young startups to accept money online less than a decade ago. There were very few payment processing firms in India then and startups needed to produce a long-list of documents.

The early team of about 11 people at Razorpay shared a single apartment as the co-founders rushed to meet with over 100 bankers to convince banks to work with them. The conversations were slow and stuck in a deadlock for so long that the co-founders felt helpless explaining the same challenge to investors numerous times, they recalled in an interview last year.

To say things have changed for Razorpay would be an understatement. It’s become the largest payments provider for business in India, said Mathur. Razorpay accepts a wide-range of payment options including credit cards, debit cards, mobile wallets, and UPI.

“Razorpay has established itself as a clear leader, with its strong focus on customer experience and product innovation,” said Choo Yong Cheen, Chief Investment Officer for Private Equity at GIC, in a statement. “GIC has a long track record of partnering with leading fintech companies globally and is delighted to partner with Razorpay in its journey to transform payments and banking.”

Some of Razorpay’s clients include budget lodging decacorn Oyo, e-commerce giant Tokopedia, top food delivery startups Zomato and Swiggy, online learning platform Byju’s, ride-hailing giant Gojek, supply chain platform Zilingo, caller ID service Truecaller, travel ticketing firms Yatra and Goibibo, and telecom giant Airtel.

The startup expects to process about $25 billion for nearly 10 million of its customers this year, said Mathur.

He attributed some of the growth to the coronavirus pandemic, which he said has accelerated the digital adoption among many businesses.

On the neo-banking and capital side, Mathur said, Razorpay expects RazorpayX and Razorpay Capital to account for about 35% of the startup’s revenue by the end of March next year.

Mathur said the startup’s payment processing service continues to be its fastest growing business and does not need much capital to grow, so the startup will be deploying the fresh funds to expand its neo-banking offerings to include vendor payment, and expense and tax management and other features.

The startup, which aims to work with over 50 million businesses by 2025, may also acquire a few firms as it explores opportunities around inorganic expansion in the neo-banking category, said Mathur.

“We will continue to make an impactful contribution to the growth of the industry, aid adoption in the under-served markets and drive new practices and a new thinking for the industry to follow. And this investment fits perfectly with our growth strategy,” he said.

#airtel, #asia, #byjus, #finance, #funding, #gic, #india, #oyo, #razorpay, #sequoia-capital, #sequoia-capital-india, #swiggy, #tokopedia, #truecaller, #zomato

Blume Ventures’ Karthik Reddy on Indian startup ecosystem, geo-political tension with China and coronavirus

Despite the coronavirus outbreak, which has slowed down deal-making across the world, dozens of startups in India have raised considerable amounts in recent months. Unacademy, which raised $110 million in February, closed a new round of $150 million this month.

These large check sizes, and the frequency at which they are being bandied out, were almost unheard of in India just 10 years ago. The list of problems these local startups were solving then was also quite smaller back in the day.

Karthik Reddy has seen this change very closely.

He co-founded venture capital firm Blume Ventures, where he also serves as a partner, 10 years ago. Blume Ventures is the largest Indian venture capital firm. In a wide-ranging interview at Disrupt 2020, Reddy talked about the state of the startup ecosystem in India, some of the challenges it is confronting today and what lies ahead for the market.

“Fifteen years is what you should consider the active VC build-out in India. For the first five to seven years, we were kind of faking it till we make it. We sold the idea that we can replicate what the U.S. and China have done,” he said.

The breakout moment in India happened when low-cost Android smartphones flooded the market. A handful of startups with consumer-facing services such as Flipkart, Paytm and Zomato emerged to serve the first tens of millions of smartphone users in the country.

“The Hail Mary moment there was Reliance Jio’s arrival in the market,” he said. India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, entered the telecommunications market in the second half of 2016 with the world’s cheapest mobile tariff.

Moreover, for several months, Ambani simply did not charge Jio subscribers anything for access to 4G data. So India at large, once conscious about each megabyte it spent on the internet, suddenly started consuming gigabytes of content everyday. “It democratized data and smartphones at a scale that we have not seen in countries other than China,” said Reddy.

Karthik Reddy is the co-founder of Blume Ventures, the largest Indian venture capital firm

As hundreds of millions of users in India arrived on the internet, scores of startups in the country started to solve more complex problems: Bangalore-based startup Meesho today is helping millions of women sell products digitally; Classplus, a Blume Ventures-backed startup, has built a Shopify-like platform for teachers and coaching centres to serve students directly.

As India grew into the world’s second largest internet consumer, it has also attracted American and Chinese technology groups, all of which are looking for their next billion users. Several major investment firms, including Silver Lake, Alibaba Group, Tencent, GGV Capital, Tiger Global, General Atlantic, KKR, Vista, and Owl Ventures have also arrived and become aggressive in their investments in recent years.

But the geo-political tension between India and China have slightly complicated matters. In April this year, India amended its foreign direct investment policy to China to seek approval from New Delhi for their future deals in the country. Chinese investors have ploughed billions of dollars into the Indian startup ecosystem in recent years.

It’s a sensitive topic, given the involvement of the government, that most VCs in India are not comfortable addressing it even off the record. But Reddy weighed in.

“If not an arm or limb, it cuts off a finger or two for your choices. You are a little handicapped,” he said. “But there’s a caveat to that. It’s limited to certain segments of the market. I don’t think China and Hong Kong investors, even though they were very familiar with Chinese VC success story, were really interested in India’s deep tech and cross-border tech,” he said.

Today those areas account for more than a third of the robust ecosystem in India, Reddy argued. “If you look at the entire ecosystem collectively, there’s a single-digit influence of Chinese capital. […] If you ask me personally, 40% of my portfolio is not even remotely affected by it,” he said.

But several large consumer-facing Indian startups, such as Paytm, Zomato and Udaan, do have Chinese investors on their cap tables. Reddy said they would be impacted as uncertainty looms over when — and if — India would offer any relaxation to its current stand.

He said he is hopeful that the government would provide some distinction to VC-managed fund money that is not necessarily Chinese just because it’s run by someone who originated there.

Reddy also spoke about why he thinks early-stage startups, despite the proliferation of VC firms in India focusing on young firms, continue to receive less attention. We also spoke about how the coronavirus is impacting his portfolio startups and the industry at large and what advice he has for startup founders to navigate the turbulence times. You can watch this and much more in the interview below.

#alibaba-group, #asia, #blume-ventures, #china, #disrupt, #disrupt-2020, #india, #karthik-reddy, #startups, #techcrunch-disrupt, #unacademy, #venture-capital, #zomato

India’s Zomato raises $100M from Tiger Global, says it is planning to file for IPO next year

Zomato has raised $100 million from Tiger Global and said it plans to file for an IPO next year.

Tiger Global financed the capital through its investment vehicle Internet Fund VI, according to a regulatory filing. Infoedge, a major investor in Zomato, confirmed the development Thursday evening, adding that the new round valued Zomato at $3.3 billion post-money.

In an email to employees earlier today, Zomato co-founder and chief executive Deepinder Goyal said the startup had about $250 million cash in the bank and several more “big names” investors would be joining the current round, increasing its cash reserve to about $600 million “very soon.”

“Important note — we have no immediate plans on how to spend this money. We are treating this cash as a ‘war-chest’ for future M&A, and fighting off any mischief or price wars from our competition in various areas of our business,” he added in the letter, reviewed by TechCrunch.

Zomato, which acquired the Indian food delivery business of Uber early this year, competes with Prosus Ventures-backed Swiggy in India. A third player, Amazon, has also emerged in the market, though it is currently servicing food delivery in only select suburbs of Bangalore.

Goyal told employees that the 12-year-old startup is also working for its IPO for “sometime in the first half of next year.” (It’s unclear how Zomato plans to achieve this target, but it is likely looking at listing in the U.S. or some other market. Current Indian law requires a startup to be profitable for at least three years before they could publicly list in India — though there has been some proposal to relax this requirement.)

The new pledge from Zomato is the result of a major economic improvements in its business in recent quarters. Until mid-last year, Zomato was losing more than $50 million a month to win and sustain customers by offering heavy discounts.

The Gurgaon-headquartered firm, which like Swiggy eliminated hundreds of jobs in recent months as coronavirus ruined the appetite of Indians ordering food online, said in July that its losses for the month would be less than $1 million.

The startup also faced obstacles in raising new capital. It kickstarted its financing round a year ago, but had secured only $50 million as of a month ago. The startup had originally anticipated closing this round, at about $600 million, in January this year.

In an emailed response to TechCrunch queries in April, Goyal had attributed the delays to the spread of coronavirus and said he expected to close the round by mid-May. He wrote to employees today that Tiger Global, Temasek, Baillie Gifford, and Ant Financial had already participated in the current round.

#apps, #asia, #finance, #india, #info-edge, #tiger-global, #zomato

The Station: Yandex spins out self-driving biz, Ike takes the SaaS road and a solid-state battery startup strikes SPAC

The Station is a weekly newsletter dedicated to all things transportation. Sign up here — just click The Station — to receive it every weekend in your inbox.

Hello and welcome back to The Station, a newsletter dedicated to all the present and future ways people and packages move from Point A to Point B.

As summer comes to an end, deals have lagged a skosh ahead of what promises to be a busy fall. And while the news cycle continues, there has been a slight dip in intensity. Sounds like a good time to take a break, no? Yup, it is. Next week, there will not be an issue of the newsletter. Don’t worry, it will return Sept. 19.

Email me anytime at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share thoughts, criticisms, offer up opinions or tips. You can also send a direct message to me at Twitter — @kirstenkorosec.

Alright let’s get to it. First up, deals!

Deal of the week

money the station

Deals, we got em. And this week, a new SPAC stands out. Yup, you knew it. I knew it; we all knew another SPAC was coming. Some SPAC merger announcements feel like a desperate attempt by young unproven companies to access capital. That’s not the case this week.

QuantumScape, the solid-state battery company backed by Volkswagen Group, agreed to merge with a special purpose acquisition company Kensington Capital Acquisition Corp. The merger will give QuantumScape a post-deal market valuation of $3.3 billion.

QuantumScape is not a fledgling startup. It’s been around for decade, attracting attention and capital early on from high-profile venture firms like Kleiner Perkins  and Khosla Ventures. Volkswagen entered the picture in 2012 and has invested a total of $300 million in QuantumScape, including $200 million this year.

QuantumScape is going after the capitally intensive goal of attempting to commercialize solid-state batteries for electric vehicles. Solid-state batteries use a solid electrolyte and not a liquid or gel-based electrolyte found in lithium-ion batteries. Developers claim that solid electrolytes have greater energy density, which translates into squeezing more range out of a smaller and lighter battery. Solid electrolytes also are supposed to be better at thermal management, reducing the risk of fire and the reliance on the kinds of cooling systems found in today’s EVs.

Other deals that got my attention … (seems a little light this week, no?)

Geely Automobile Holdings plans to raise 20 billion yuan ($2.93 billion) from a public share sale on Shanghai’s STAR Market, funds that will be used to invest in new car models and technologies, Reuters reported.

Zomato, the Indian food delivery startup, has raised $62 million from Temasek, resuming a financing round that it originally expected to close in January this year. Singapore’s state investment arm Temasek financed the capital through its unit MacRitchie Investments, a regulatory filing showed.

AV spotlight: Yandex

the station autonomous vehicles1

Coverage of automated vehicle technology companies tends to focus on U.S.-based efforts. Rest assured, there is action elsewhere. Yandex, the publicly traded Russian tech giant that started as a search engine, is one of those companies.

The company has expanded into a number of other, related areas (similar to U.S. counterpart Google) including automated vehicle technology. In January, I rode in their self-driving vehicle (with no human behind the wheel) during a demo on public streets of Las Vegas during CES. I’ve never been a huge fan of demos as it can help companies hide problems with their tech. Yandex’s demo was notable however. The vehicle moved confidently, maybe even aggressively, as it maneuvered around a bus that had stopped in the roadway, it handled left turns as well as a parking garage with ease. (this GIF from Yandex is of a drive in Moscow, fyi)

I mention all of this background because Yandex said this week it is spinning out its self-driving car unit from MLU BV — a ride-hailing and food delivery joint venture it operates in partnership with Uber. The move comes amid reports that Yandex  and Uber were eyeing up an IPO for MLU last year. At the time, the JV was estimated to be valued at around $7.7 billion.

As part of the spin-out, Yandex is investing $150 million into the business, a sum that will include $100 million in equity, plus $50 million in the form of a convertible loan. Yandex is buying out some of Uber’s shares in this process and will now have a 73% stake in the spun-out business, with Uber owning 19%. The remaining 8% will be owned by Yandex self-driving group (SDG) management and employees. Yandex said it has invested some $65 million in the business up to now.

Spinning out the unit could help improve the unit economics and cost base of the MLU unit, as TechCrunch editor Ingrid Lunden noted in her report. But Yandex says that it’s being done to double down on a more focused investment in self-driving.

A different kind of EV startup

the station electric vehicles1

This isn’t an electric vehicle startup; it’s more like EV adjacent. And it’s an app!

A number of apps have popped over the past several years — in step with Tesla’s rising popularity. Most aim to let drivers track and plan their routes and often have a social component. Tezlab is a good example, and I’ve written about them before. 

The one I want to introduce you to is called Nikola. The app launched in 2018 as a hobby project of David Hodge, who founded a mass transit app called Embark, which Apple acquired in 2013. Hodge stayed at Apple for several years and then went to Stripe. But the Nikola app compelled him to go out on his own again.

This week, Hodge launched Nikola 2.0. Here’s the gist: Nikola 2.0 is a subscription-based app that provides health monitoring of the owner’s Tesla (just Teslas for now, but Hodge aims to expand).

Nikola app - EVs

Image Credits: Nikola

The app, which is only in iOS right now, gives the user information on battery level trends, efficiency, energy consumption, top and average speed as well as stats on weekly ghost drain and driving and charging history, which can be exported for tax or expense report purposes. Users can also check their battery level with the Nikola Apple Watch complication and compare their performance to other Tesla drivers with Nikola Fleet Stats.

What I am interested in is this other new feature called the Nikola report. It is like a Carfax report that an EV owner can share with prospective buyers when they go to sell their electric vehicle. The data collection for the Nikola report feature is just now getting started.

Notable reads and other tidbits

the-station-delivery

Welcome to the roundup section of the newsletter …

Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART, is selling personal hand straps that can be quickly thrown onto poles in the train car for folks would rather not touch any surfaces.

GM and Ford have fulfilled their separate multi-million-dollar ventilator contracts — together delivering 80,000 of the devices to the U.S. government.

GM and Honda signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding to establish an automotive alliance in North America. The deal brings together two automakers that have a long established history of working together. The companies will share vehicle platforms, which will be sold under their respective and distinct brands, as well as cooperate in purchasing, research and development and connected services.

Ike, the automated trucking startup, had some big news this week. Ryder, DHL and NFI have chosen Ike as their automated driving technology provider. These fleets, and some others the company has not yet announced, have collectively reserved the first 1,000 trucks powered by its technology.

The startup also lifted the hood, so to speak, on their business model. Ike is taking a SaaS approach to automated vehicle technology.  The company explained in a blog post this week that it will sell a Software as a Service subscription to fleets. Customers will buy trucks equipped with Ike’s validated automation system from its OEM manufacturing partners. Automated trucks will be owned and operated by fleets and “Powered by Ike,” the post read.

REMINDER! Nancy Sun, the co-founder and chief engineer of Ike, will be on our virtual stage for the TC Sessions: Mobility 2020 event October 6 and 7. If you’ve never heard of Sun, or listened to her, be prepared to be impressed. The event is shaping up to be pretty great and we have a few more speakers left to announce.

Lucid Motors, which is set to reveal the Air on September 9, keeps dropping bits of info on the luxury electric vehicle. This time, Lucid announced that the Air is capable of a 9.9-second quarter mile. That’s faster than a Tesla Model S and faster than most production cars on the market.

Metromile, a pay-per-mile insurance company, said it’s teaming up with Ford Motor to provide owners of Ford vehicles equipped with built-in connectivity with personalized car insurance.

Tesla didn’t make it into the S&P 500 as so many had predicted. Tesla fans took to Twitter on Friday to gripe about the decision that welcomed Etsy, Teradyne and Catalan into the S&P.

Torc Robotics and its parent company Daimler Trucks, announced plans to expand their joint self-driving truck on-road testing to New Mexico this month and establish a test center in the Albuquerque area.

The U.S. government rolled out a new online tool designed to give the public insight into where and who is testing automated vehicle technology throughout the country. The official name of the online tool is the Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for Safe Testing Initiative tracking tool. While the design is simple and straightforward, it’s incomplete since it is based off of information that companies have volunteered. Let’s hope this is the beginning of what will become a comprehensive one-stop shop of all automated vehicle technology in the country.

VanMoof, the e-bike company is opening a store in Seattle — its third in the United States. The expansion illustrates the company’s growth, which has accelerated since March as sales of e-bikes in the U.S. popped 85% compared with the same month a year earlier.

Volkswagen released teaser images of its upcoming all-electric ID.4 compact SUV that shows what might just be a nice balance between tech and old timely toggles and buttons. Could this be the Goldilocks story of the EV world? I will find out later this month. Stay tuned.

#automotive, #ford, #gm, #ike-robotics, #lucid-motors, #tesla, #torc-robotics, #transportation, #volkswagen, #yandex, #zomato

India’s Zomato raises $62 million from Temasek

Indian food delivery startup Zomato has raised $62 million from Singapore’s Temasek, resuming a financing round that it originally expected to close in January this year.

Singapore’s state investment arm Temasek financed the capital through its unit MacRitchie Investments, a regulatory filing showed. Business intelligence firm Tofler shared the filing with TechCrunch.

A Zomato spokesperson in India did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Zomato kickstarted its new financing round about a year ago, a person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. The company has met with several investors but talks have not materialized.

The food delivery startup, which has improved its financial performance in recent quarters despite the coronavirus outbreak, announced in January that Ant Financial had committed to provide it with $150 million.

But Ant Financial has yet to deliver two-thirds of the committed capital, Zomato investor Info Edge said in late July. In its IPO prospectus late last month, Ant Financial cited regulatory changes in India as a reason for it not being able to invest.

In April this year, India made a change to its foreign investment policy that requires Chinese investors — who have ploughed billions of dollars into Indian startups in recent years — to take approval from New Delhi before they could write new checks to Indian firms. It’s very common for investors to finance their committed capital to startup in several tranches.

Reuters reported last month that Alibaba Group and its affiliates including Ant Financial will not invest in Indian startups for at least six months.

In January, Zomato chief executive Deepinder Goyal said the company expects to close a round of up to $600 million by the end of the month. In the same month, Zomato acquired the Indian food delivery business of Uber. In early April, he told TechCrunch that he was expecting to close the round by mid-May, attributing delays to the coronavirus outbreak.

#asia, #food, #funding, #india, #swiggy, #temasek, #zomato

China’s Alibaba won’t invest in Indian startups for at least six months, report says

Chinese internet giant Alibaba Group has put on hold plans to invest in Indian startups amid geo-political tensions between the two countries, Reuters reported Wednesday, citing two unnamed sources.

The Chinese group, which has invested more than $2 billion in Indian startups since 2015, plans to freeze new investments in Indian startups for at least six months, the report said.

Alibaba Group, and its affiliate Ant, are major investors in a handful of unicorns in India including Paytm, the most valued Indian startup in which it owns about 30% stake, food delivery startup Zomato, grocery delivery startup BigBasket, and e-commerce firm Snapdeal.

The decision comes amid geo-political tensions between the two neighboring nations, which escalated when more than 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a military clash in the Himalayas in June. Ever since, “Boycott China” — and variations of it — has been trending on Twitter in India as a growing number of people posted videos demonstrating destruction of Chinese-made smartphones, TVs and other products.

New Delhi blocked TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps in the country in late June and extended the ban to several dozen more apps weeks later. India, the world’s second largest internet market, also amended its foreign direct investment policy earlier this year to make it difficult for Chinese investors to write new checks to Indian firms.

Zomato announced in January this year that Ant Financial had committed an investment of $150 million into the startup. The Gurgaon-based startup has only received $50 million of that capital so far.

“A change in foreign investment regulation in India led to our further evaluation of the timing of our additional investment in Zomato,” Ant Financial disclosed in its IPO prospectus Tuesday.

#alibaba, #alibaba-group, #asia, #funding, #india, #paytm, #zomato

A glint of hope for India’s food delivery market as Zomato projects monthly cash burn of less than $1M

Food delivery startups in India have been struggling to make financial sense for years. They have each lost as much as $50 million a month to win and sustain customers by offering discounts. And unlike some other markets, food delivery startups have been severely hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

But Zomato, one of the two market leading startups operating in the space, today offered a rare sign of hope for the market after it said it had severely cut its cash-burn as it looks to become profitable.

The Gurgaon-headquartered firm said it estimates it would lose less than $1 million in July, the lowest in years for the 12-year-old firm that acquired Uber Eats’ India business earlier this year.

Zomato also shared its performance for the financial year that ended on March 31, 2020, and the quarter that ended on June 30.

In FY 20, the startup said its revenue surged 105% to $394 million compared to the year before while its losses at EBIDTA-level — a popular metric used by businesses that does not account for interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization — ballooned to $293 million, up from $277 million the year before.

But the startup said the coronavirus pandemic, which has significantly reduced the number of orders customers place on the platform, has also helped it to improve its unit economics.

In the quarter that ended last month, Zomato clocked $41 million in revenue at an EBIDTA-level loss of $12 million. In the month of June alone, the startup’s revenue stood at $17 million at an EBIDTA-loss of $1.5 million.

As India eases its nationwide lockdown, which it enforced in late March, more workers are moving back to the larger cities. Zomato said this has helped the firm increase the number of orders on its platform. The startup said it expects its revenue generation this month to be at 60% of the levels before coronavirus wrought havoc to the industry.

In the quarter that ended in June this year, each order on Zomato earned it — made a contribution margin of — Rs 27 (36 cents), compared to loss of Rs 47 (62 cents) a order during the same period last year, claimed Deepinder Goyal, co-founder and chief executive of Zomato.

Goyal cautioned, however, that the current contribution margin is not sustainable and he expects it to go down to Rs 15 to 20 per order over time.

Zomato, which eliminated its workforce by 13% in May and slashed salary across the board, said it had reinstated existing employees back to their earlier pay level and its projection takes that into account.

The firm competes with Prosus Ventures-backed Swiggy, which has also eliminated even more jobs in recent months and made other efforts to improve its financials. The two firms, both of which together have nearly $2.5 billion, are struggling to find new investors as many VC and PE firms lose appetite for food delivery in India.

Several VCs have told TechCrunch in recent weeks that they are struggling to understand how food delivery firms would ever turn a profit in India. Unlike Western markets such as the U.S., where the value of each delivery item is about $33; in India, a similar item carries the price tag of $4, according to estimates by Bangalore-based research firm RedSeer.

More to follow…

#ant-financial, #apps, #asia, #food, #india, #swiggy, #zomato

What India’s TikTok ban means for China

For more than a decade, China has limited how foreign tech firms that operate inside its borders do business. The world’s largest internet market has used its Great Firewall to block Facebook, Twitter, Google and other services in the name of preserving its cyber sovereignty.

The walled-garden approach has helped homegrown giants like Tencent and Alibaba Group win the local market, while giving the Chinese government a better hold on what gets communicated on these platforms. China has even suggested that other nations deploy similar measures.

Be careful what you ask for: Last week, dozens of Chinese firms got a front-seat view to the challenges their global counterparts face in their territory. With a press release, India declared that the world’s second-largest internet market was shutting the door to dozens of Chinese firms for an indefinite period.

India said it would ban 59 apps and services, including ByteDance’s TikTok, Alibaba Group’s UC Browser and UC News, and Tencent’s WeChat over cybersecurity concerns.

New Delhi is open to meeting these firms and hear their defenses, but for now, local telecom operators and other internet service providers have been ordered to block access to these services. Google and Apple have already complied with India’s order and delisted the apps from their app stores.

India’s order is already shifting the market in favor of local firms, several of which have rushed to cash in on the app ban. A crop of recently launched short-form video sharing services have amassed tens of millions of users just this week.

But depending on how long the ban remains in place, the move could also derail a big funding source for thousands of Indian startups. The vast majority of India’s unicorns count Chinese VCs as some of their biggest and longest-term backers. New Delhi’s order could also change how American giants, many of which are already bullish on India, review the market moving forward.

Today, we will explore various ways India and China’s situation could play out and impact various stakeholders. But first, some background on how tension escalated between the two nuclear-armed nations.

#alibaba-group, #apps, #asia, #china, #extra-crunch, #government, #helo, #india, #market-analysis, #newsdog, #paytm, #security, #swiggy, #tiktok, #uc-browser, #wechat, #zomato

Indian startups diversify their businesses to offset COVID-19 induced losses

E-commerce giant Flipkart is planning to launch a hyperlocal service that would enable customers to buy items from local stores and have those delivered to them in an hour and a half or less. Yatra, an online travel and hotel ticketing service, is exploring a new business line altogether: Supplying office accessories.

Flipkart and Yatra are not the only firms eyeing new business categories. Dozens of firms in the country have branched out by launching new services in recent weeks, in part to offset the disruption the COVID-19 epidemic has caused to their core offerings.

Swiggy and Zomato, the nation’s largest food delivery startups, began delivering alcohol in select parts of the country last month. The move came weeks after the two firms, both of which are seeing fewer orders and had to let go hundreds of employees, started accepting orders for grocery items in a move that challenged existing online market leaders BigBasket and Grofers.

Udaan, a business-to-business marketplace, recently started to accept bulk orders from some housing societies and is exploring more opportunities in the business-to-commerce space, the startup told TechCrunch.

These shifts came shortly after New Delhi announced a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The lockdown meant that all public places including movie theaters, shopping malls, schools, and public transport were suspended.

Instead of temporarily halting their businesses altogether, as many have done in other markets, scores of startups in India have explored ways to make the most out of the current unfortunate spell.

“This pandemic has given an opportunity to the Indian tech startup ecosystem to have a harder look at the unit-economics of their businesses and become more capital efficient in the shorter and longer-term,” Puneet Kumar, a growth investor in Indian startup ecosystem, told TechCrunch in an interview.

Of the few things most Indian state governments have agreed should remain open include grocery shops, and online delivery services for grocery and food.

People buy groceries at a supermarket during the first day of the 21-day government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Bangalore on March 25, 2020. (Photo by MANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP via Getty Images)

E-commerce firms Snapdeal and DealShare began grocery delivery service in late March. The move was soon followed by social-commerce startup Meesho, fitness startup Curefit, and BharatPe, which is best known for facilitating mobile payments between merchants and users.

Meesho’s attempt is still in the pilot stage, said Vidit Aatrey, the Facebook-backed startup’s co-founder and chief executive. “We started grocery during the lockdown to give some income opportunities to our sellers and so far it has shown good response. So we are continuing the pilot even after lockdown has lifted,” he said.

ClubFactory, best known for selling low-cost beauty items, has also started to deliver grocery products, and so has NoBroker, a Bangalore-based startup that connects apartment seekers with property owners. And MakeMyTrip, a giant that provides solutions to book flight and hotel tickets, has entered the food delivery market.

Another such giant, BookMyShow, which sells movie tickets, has in recent weeks rushed to support online events, helping comedians and other artists sell tickets online. The Mumbai-headquartered firm plans to make further inroads around this business idea in the coming days.

For some startups, the pandemic has resulted in accelerating the launch of their product cycles. CRED, a Bangalore-based startup that is attempting to help Indians improve their financial behavior by paying their credit card bill on time, launched an instant credit line and apartment rental services.

Kunal Shah, the founder and chief executive of CRED, said the startup “fast-tracked the launch” of these two products as they could prove immensely useful in the current environment.

For a handful of startups, the pandemic has meant accelerated growth. Unacademy, a Facebook-backed online learning startup, has seen its user base and subscribers count surge in recent months and told TechCrunch that it is in the process of more than doubling the number of exam preparation courses it offers on its platform in the next two months.

Since March, the number of users who access the online learning service each day has surged to 700,000. “We have also seen a 200% increase in viewers per week for the free live classes offered on the platform. Additionally there has been a 50% increase in paid subscribers and over 50% increase in average watchtime per day among our subscribers,” a spokesperson said.

As with online learning firms, firms operating on-demand video streaming services have also seen a significant rise in the number of users they serve. Zee5, which has amassed over 80 million users, told TechCrunch last week that in a month it will introduce a new category in its app that would curate short-form videos produced and submitted by users. The firm said the feature would look very similar to TikTok.

The pandemic “has also accelerated the adoption of online services in India across all demographics. Many who would not have considered buying goods and services online are starting to adopt the online platforms for basic necessities at a faster pace,” said venture capitalist Kumar.

“As far as expansion into adjacent categories is concerned, some of this was a natural progression and startups were slowly moving in that direction anyway. The pandemic has forced people to get there faster.”

Roosh, a Mumbai-based game developing firm founded by several industry veterans, launched a new app ahead of schedule that allows social influencers to promote games on platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, Deepak Ail, co-founder and chief executive of Roosh, told TechCrunch.

ShareChat, a Twitter-backed social network, recently acquired a startup called Elanic to explore opportunities in social-commerce. OkCredit, a bookkeeping service for merchants, has been exploring ways to allow users to purchase items from neighborhood stores.

And NowFloats, a Mumbai-based SaaS startup that helps businesses and individuals build an online presence without any web developing skills, is on-boarding doctors to help people consult with medical professionals.

Startups are not the only businesses that have scrambled to eye new categories. Established firms such as Carnival Group, which is India’s third-largest multiplex theatre chain, said it is foraying into cloud kitchen business.

Amazon, which competes with Walmart’s Flipkart in India, has also secured approval from West Bengal to deliver alcohol in the nation’s fourth most populated state. The e-commerce giant is also exploring ways to work with mom and pop stores that dot tens of thousands of cities and towns of India.

Last week, the American giant launched “Smart Stores” that allows shoppers to walk to a participating physical store, scan a QR code, and pick and purchase items through the Amazon app. The firm, which is supplying these mom and pop stores with software and QR code, said more than 10,000 shops are participating in the Smart Stores program.

#apps, #asia, #bookmyshow, #coronavirus, #covid, #covid19, #cred, #ecommerce, #education, #entertainment, #flipkart, #india, #logistics, #meesho, #nowfloats, #okcredit, #swiggy, #udaan, #zomato

Uber appoints Pradeep Parameswaran as new head of its Asia Pacific business

Uber has appointed Pradeep Parameswaran, who oversaw the ride-hailing giant’s business in India and South Asia for two years, as the regional general manager of its Asia Pacific region operations.

Parameswaran, who starts his new role next week, will be tasked to improve Uber’s presence in the nine nations in the Asia Pacific region where the company currently operates.

“There is huge potential to serve more Uber customers and continue innovating across the diverse region, whether that be taxi partnerships in North Asia, new products like Uber Rent in Australia or pushing two and three-wheelers deep into the Indian heartland,” said Parameswaran, pictured above, in a statement.

Asia Pacific countries indeed offer a huge opportunity to Uber, which in recent years has retreated from Southeast Asia and China as the heavily backed, loss-making company struggled to compete with just as heavily backed and loss-making local startups.

Earlier this year, before the coronavirus began to spread widely outside of China, Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said the firm planned to expand in Japan and South Korea in the immediate future.

During his tenure as the chief of Uber India and South Asia, Parameswaran helped the firm grow and steer through some tough decisions in the world’s second largest internet market. Uber said earlier this year that in 2019, it handled 14 million rides each week in India.

But the company’s bet to win the food delivery market did not work in the country, despite spending millions each month to lure customers. Earlier this year, Uber sold Eats’ Indian business to local rival Zomato.

Parameswaran will be overseeing Uber’s ride business in Asia Pacific region, but not the food delivery category, a spokesperson said, adding that the firm is also running a selection process to determine a replacement for Parameswaran’s former India role.

He will also be moving to company’s yet-to-be named new headquarter in APAC. The company has said it wants to move its regional headquarters to Hong Kong, the semi-autonomous Chinese territory where the company operates in a legal grey area.

Uber hired and appointed Amit Jain as its India head and later promoted him to run the Asia Pacific business. But Jain left the company last year to join venture fund Sequoia Capital. Since then, the region has been managed by Uber team in Europe.

“We’re pleased that Pradeep Parameswaran will take on an expanded role as Regional General Manager for APAC. After capably leading our India and South Asia business since 2018, I know that he will continue to inspire Uber’s next phase of growth across this key region,” said Andrew Macdonald, SVP of Mobility and Business Operations at Uber, in a statement.

#asia, #asia-pacific, #china, #dara-khosrowshahi, #india, #japan, #southeast-asia, #transportation, #uber, #zomato