Here are the top headlines from the startup space.
Byju’s seeks more time from lenders to recast $1.2Bn debt: Report
Edtech giant Byju’s has sought more time from creditors to renegotiate an agreement governing a $1.2 billion loan that is in breach of covenants, according to a report by Bloomberg News.
The creditors have until Tuesday to sign a forbearance agreement, which will give the company time till Feb. 10 to negotiate broader terms on the term loan, the report. Byju’s hadn’t met the deadline to disclose financial results for the year ended March 31.
Byju’s is scrambling to appease creditors and investors already concerned about mounting losses at the once high-flying startup. The firm has offered to raise fresh equity capital and provide creditors a so-called quality of earnings report and cash verification statements by external auditors, the report added. Reworking the agreement requires approval from a simple majority of lenders.
Some of the creditors are seeking quicker repayment of the loan using cash reserves of about $850 million from Byju’s’ US unit after the parent missed a September deadline to disclose the earnings, Bloomberg reported last month. Any accelerated repayment will be a setback for the company struggling with steep losses and meeting its cost reduction targets.
BharatPe gets RBI nod for online payment aggregator
Fintech unicorn BharatPe has received in-principle authorisation from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to operate as an online Payment Aggregator (PA). The company said that the in-principle approval has been awarded to Resilient Payments, a 100 percent owned subsidiary of Resilient Innovations.
“At BharatPe, we have been committed to empowering offline merchants and kirana store owners in the country and have already built a network of 1 crore merchants across more than 400 cities,” said Nalin Negi, CFO and interim CEO, BharatPe.
The in-principle approval, he added, “will help catapult our expansion plans and enable us to reach out to millions of more unbanked and underserved merchants, providing digital payment acceptance solutions”.
BharatPe said it will now commence work on fulfilling the said conditions within the prescribed timeline and launch the said online PA business upon the receipt of the final authorisation from RBI.
Ashneer Grover talks about his new new startup Third Unicorn, asks VCs to steer clear
BharatPe’s co-founder Ashneer Grover has teased the launch of his new company Third Unicorn, and invited people to join his new startup.
“Let’s get some work done in 2023! We at Third Unicorn have been quietly and peacefully building a market shaking business. Bootstrapped. Without limelight. And we are doing things differently. Very differently,” Ashneer said in a LinkedIn post.
He added that the team at Third venture will not be more than 50 members and the idea will be to generate $1 billion in revenue. Grover asked the Venture capital community to steer clear of his venture, saying “VCs-SheC’s, please stay away. We use only Desi/Self-earned capital.” He also added that his new startup will not have a regular board like in other companies.
Last year, Grover, along with his wife Madhuri Jain Grover, formed the new startup, which has a total paid-up capital of Rs 10 lakh and an authorised share capital of Rs 20 lakh.
BharatPe in recent days taken three legal actions against Grover – filed a civil suit in the Delhi High Court, a criminal complaint with the Economic Offences Wing and filed an arbitration for clawing back his restricted shareholding and founder title over alleged lapses and misdoings during his tenure.
UpGrad’s CEO Arjun Mohan quits
Edtech unicorn UpGrad’s chief executive Arjun Mohan has stepped down, he told Reuters, a top-level departure that comes when the sector is reeling from growth challenges.
Mohan’s statement did not make it clear why he was leaving, but three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters the executive had resigned in December, though the decision was not made public.
“I have decided to move out of upGrad after almost 3 years of service as the CEO India business. My last day of employment will be 15th Jan,” Mohan said in the statement after Reuters reached out for comment.
The departure comes as the edtech company was trying to internally cut marketing costs and become profitable, the report added.
Hitachi Payment Services receives RBI’s in-principle approval for payment aggregator licence
Hitachi Payment Services has announced that it has received the in-principle authorisation from Reserve Bank of India to act as a payment aggregator.
This will enable the end-to-end payment solutions provider’s B2B customers to provide all digital payment products along with value added services such as EMI, Paylater, BBPS and loyalty solutions to their merchants. Thus, effectively allowing them to offer one-stop digital payment services, a statement said.
The company currently powers over 1 billion digital transactions annually for some of the leading banks, payment aggregators and fintechs. Its next-gen merchant mobile platform enables innovative solutions such as SoftPOS, value added services such as Dynamic Currency Conversion, EMI and a complete digital merchant management solution including Digital onboarding among others.
Sanchiconnect join hands with T-Hub to empower the ecosystem of global investors and enterprises
Sanchi Connect, a specialised community for deeptech startups, enterprise buyers and investors, has partnered with ecosystem enabler T-Hub to enable funding, market access, and talent support in program functioning.
As per a statement, this collaboration will help them generate impact for startups, companies, and other ecosystem players and will provide T-Hub-supported startups with increased access to a worldwide investor network as well as new business opportunities.
In addition, T-hub deeptech startups will be able to use sanchiconnect’s freshly released cloudHR to assist zero-cost tech recruiting. It will also broaden the scope of each entity’s activities and accelerate the growth of the deeptech ecosystem.
T-Hub and FalconX launch second cohort of Global Immersion Program
T-Hub, an ecosystem enabler has nnounced the second cohort of ‘Global Immersion Program’ in partnership with FalconX, a US-based technology accelerator.
Global Immersion Program is focused to support Indian tech startups that are solving various business vertical challenges through their product or solution innovations, a statement said.
The programme will enable selected startups to launch their products in the US markets The three-week accelerator program will select high-impact startups and enable them to expand their businesses, it added.
The selected startups will receive an array of opportunities such as $10,000 stipend each for the selected startup, mentorship sessions with industry luminaries, pitching sessions with venture capitalists and corporate executives and networking.
Melorra launches men’s jewellery collection
DC2 jewellery brand Melorra has forayed into the men’s category with its latest collection designed exclusively for the contemporary, stylish man, the firm said in a statement.
The men’s jewellery category consists of chains, bracelets, stud earrings, pendants, and rings and will come in a range of diamond and gold, the brand added.
“This new collection marks our expansion into the men’s jewellery segment and is among the many milestones we have achieved since our inception. The jewellery is styled keeping the contemporary wardrobe in mind and is ideal for everyday wear. We are looking forward to helping our male customers find the right piece of jewellery that best suits their style, personality, and preferences,” said Saroja Yeramilli, Founder and CEO of Melorra.
Dozee partners with UK’s BII to transform public healthcare in India
AI healthcare startup Dozee has partnered with British International Investment (BII), the UK’s development finance institution (DFI) and impact investor, to upgrade 6000 hospital beds in approximately 140 public hospitals across India and in other regions to transform the public healthcare landscape.
Backed by BII’s capital, Dozee will upgrade regular beds to step-down ICUs through the MillionICU initiative – established in 2021 to install one million step-down ICU beds across India – and bring about a rapid, long-term transformation in India’s public healthcare infrastructure.
“The goal of Dozee’s partnership with BII is to improve access to healthcare across India and alleviate the workload of healthcare workers, reduce nurse burnout and fatigue in hospital wards. Dozee’s pioneering contactless remote patient monitoring and Early Warning System (EWS) in India saves around 2.5 hours of nursing time per patient per day,” the statement said.
The MillionICU initiative has already benefited 46 such hospitals across 15+ districts with more than 10,000+ patients being monitored and having saved 25,000+ nursing hours, the company claimed.
DailyObjects join hands with Smartsters to launch home accessories range for kids
DailyObjects, a homegrown lifestyle accessories brand has partnered with Smartsters, a child development-informed and design-led, home spaces brand, to introduce a Kids’ home accessories range.
In a statement the company said that the brands came together to build a range of intelligent, comfort-led and mobile solutions for children’s indoor desk and storage spaces.
The strategic collaboration will aid both brands in terms of consumer outreach and serving complementary, fresh, new yet relevant product categories to existing audiences, it added. With this collaboration, the brands intend to explore the potential of this category and scale up the business to the next phase of growth.
India’s PE investment down by 42% in 2022: Refinitiv Report
Private Equity (PE) investments in India fell by 42 percent across sectors in 2022, as compared to the previous year, according to a report by Refinitiv, a global provider of investment and financial data.
The sum of equity investments in 2022 was only worth USD 23.3 billion, the lowest annual PE investment in India since 2019’s USD 15.8 billion, Refinitiv said in its report titled ‘India Private Equity Snapshot for 2022’.
The report also showed that PE investments in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2022 totalled $3,613 million, an 8.1 percent decline from the third quarter (Q3) of last year, when the investment had been $3,933 million.
Total number of PE deals in Q4 of 2022 also reduced from that in the previous quarter. According to the report, a total of 333 deals took place in Q4, as compared to 443 in Q3.
“This is the lowest annual period for PE investments in India since 2019 ($15.8 billion), but still relatively elevated compared to historical levels. There is growth in number of deals and number of companies receiving investment injections compared to a year ago, as deals were made in smaller sizes and investors increasingly shift their focus into other high-growth markets such as India,” said Elaine Tan, Senior Analyst at Refinitiv.
Meanwhile, fundraising activity for Funds located in India has seen a 163.2 percent increase to $13,696.75 million in 2022 from $5,202.97 million in 2021.
Zoomcar names Ashu Singhal as chief tech and product officer
Zoomcar, a car-sharing marketplace has appointed Ashu Singhal as its new chief technology and product officer.
In his new role in Zoomcar, Singhal will lead user research and analytics as well as product vision, strategy, design, development, and marketing, a statement said.
Singhal was previously the head of the fulfillment and marketplace team at Grab. During his tenure at the listed firm, he helped in growing its marketplace from 800,000 to over 10 million daily bookings.
GLOBAL TECHNOLOGY & STARTUP NEWS
Microsoft in talks to invest $10Bn in ChatGPT owner: Report
Microsoft is in talks to invest $10 billion into OpenAI, the owner of ChatGPT, which will value the San Francisco-based firm at $29 billion, Semafor reported.
The funding includes other venture firms and deal documents were sent to prospective investors in recent weeks, with the aim to close the round by the end of 2022, the report said.
This follows a Wall Street Journal report that said OpenAI was in talks to sell existing shares at a roughly $29 billion valuation, with venture capital firms such as Thrive Capital and Founders Fund buying shares from existing shareholders.
Amazon plans to shut three UK warehouses, impacting 1,200 jobs
Amazon has said it plans to shut three UK warehouses in a move that will impact 1,200 jobs, PA Media reported.
The Seattle-based online retailer last week said it would cut more than 18,000 roles, impacting its e-commerce and human resources organizations – the latest in a series of layoffs to affect the tech industry.
Separately, Amazon’s UK business has also faced demands for better pay from its warehouse staff, about 300 of whom plan to go on strike on January 25.
US Supreme Court lets WhatsApp pursue ‘Pegasus’ spyware suit
The US Supreme Court let WhatsApp pursue a lawsuit accusing Israel’s NSO Group of exploiting a bug in the WhatsApp messaging app to install spy software allowing the surveillance of 1,400 people, including journalists, human rights activists and dissidents.
The justices turned away NSO’s appeal of a lower court’s decision that the lawsuit could move forward. NSO had argued that it is immune from being sued because it was acting as an agent for unidentified foreign governments when it installed the “Pegasus” spyware.
President Joe Biden’s administration had urged the justices to reject NSO’s appeal, noting that the US State Department had never before recognized a private entity acting as an agent of a foreign state as being entitled to immunity.
Meta, the parent company of both WhatsApp and Facebook, in a statement welcomed the court’s move to turn away NSO’s “baseless” appeal.
New Jersey, Ohio join other states in banning TikTok from state devices
New Jersey and Ohio said they were joining other states in banning use of the popular video app TikTok on government-owned and managed devices.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, said in addition to banning the short-video app owned by Chinese technology conglomerate ByteDance from state devices he also was banning software vendors, products, and services from more than a dozen vendors including Huawei, Hikvision, Tencent, ZTE Corporation and Kaspersky Lab.
Murphy’s office said “there have been national security concerns about user data the Chinese government might require ByteDance to provide.”
TikTok said it was “disappointed that so many states are jumping on the political bandwagon to enact policies that will do nothing to advance cybersecurity in their states and are based on unfounded falsehoods about TikTok.”
Disney asks employees to work from office four days a week: Report
Walt Disney’s top boss Bob Iger told employees to return to corporate offices four days a week starting March 1, CNBC reported, citing an email.
The pandemic prompted companies across the world to turn to work-from-home or hybrid work models to prevent the spread of the virus.
However, with the rise of vaccinations and fall in severe cases that require hospitalization, Disney’s move mirrors other companies like Snap, Tesla and Uber in asking employees to return to office.
The move also comes after Iger returned as chief executive officer replacing Bob Chapek in November, a surprise comeback that coincided with Disney’s attempt to boost investor confidence and profits at its streaming media unit.
Bitcoin digs in for a bumpy new year
The overall global crypto market cap has risen 5 percent to $871 billion since January 1, but it’s still down over 57 percent from this time last year.
Bitcoin itself has gained 4.3 percent since the start of 2023, though stuck in a narrow range between $16,500 and $17,300. The world’s biggest cryptocurrency is eerily subdued, with its 7-day volatility dropping to levels not seen since October 2018, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.
Cryptocurrency spot trading volumes remain similarly muted after slumping about 48 percent in December versus the previous month to $544 billion, their lowest level since December 2019, CryptoCompare data showed.
First Published: Jan 10, 2023 7:14 PM IST