drone pilot industryOla E-Scooter Delivery Starts, Amazon Crosses 1 Mn Sellers In India & Google To Fire Staff Flouting Vaccine Rules

December 15, 2021by helo-10

Here are the top headlines from the startup space.

Ola begins deliveries of electric scooters

Ola on Wednesday commenced deliveries of its electric scooters. The company organised special events in Bengaluru and Chennai to deliver both S1 and S1 Pro trims to the first 100 customers.

“Today is a landmark day for those who have joined the revolution with us as we begin our deliveries of Ola S1. We are working hard to ramp up production at the Ola Future factory to get the scooters in the hands of our customers as per their delivery windows,” Ola Electric Chief Marketing Officer Varun Dubey said in a statement.

The company said it had last month rolled out the largest-ever direct-to-consumer experience initiative in the history of automotive retail, offering customer test rides across India.

To fulfill the overwhelming reservation and purchase response received across the country, priority deliveries are based on an automated scientific approach that decides the delivery handover as per their purchase date, variant, location, colour, and other factors, it added.

The company rolls out the Ola S1 scooter from its Tamil Nadu-based manufacturing plant. The company plans to go public in the first half of 2022.

Amazon crosses 1 million sellers-mark in India; 450K added since Jan 2020

Amazon India now has over 10 lakh sellers on its platform with more than 4.5 lakh new merchants joining the platform in the past two years.

More than 90 percent of the sellers on Amazon.in are local small and medium businesses (SMBs) and over half these sellers on the marketplace come from tier-II and -III cities, according to the company.

Since January 2020, over 4.5 lakh new sellers have joined Amazon.in. Of these, over one lakh are local offline retailers and neighbourhood stores that have been onboarded on the Amazon marketplace through the Local Shops on Amazon programme, it added.

“As we look forward, we remain committed to our pledge of digitising 10 million SMBs, including the ubiquitous dukaans. We strongly believe that Amazon can play a significant role in fueling India’s digital economy to its $1 trillion ambition,” Amazon India Vice-President Manish Tiwary said.

Swiggy, ANRA conduct over 300 drone-led delivery trials of food, medicine

Foodtech major Swiggy and integrated airspace company ANRA Technologies have jointly conducted over 300 drone-led deliveries of food and medicines in India.

A total of 352 drone trials were conducted for 100-plus flight hours covering 1,100 kilometres of incident-free operations. The flights consisted of multirotor drones operating on ANRA’s SmartSkies CTR and SmartSkies DELIVERY software platforms, delivering products from Swiggy, the company said in a statement.

The trials were conducted in support of a project awarded by the Directorate General of Aviation (DGCA), and Ministry of Civil Aviation (MOCA) to prepare the next set of drone rules for commercial Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations.

“The recently concluded pilot will help pave the way for usage of commercial drones in enabling the middle and last-mile journey for our consumers,” said Dale Vaz, Chief Technology Officer, Swiggy.

Bewakoof launches marketplace on its platform

D2C fashion brand Bewakoof is adding a marketplace business to its platform. The firm will host around 150 brands like Chumbak, Clovia, Noise, Boat, Campus Sutra, among others, on its platform.

The marketplace is live with categories like fashion, innerwear, personal audio, beauty and accessories. Bewakoof plans to launch home decor in FY22, it said in a statement.

“The D2C wave is birthing lots of very interesting alternate exciting brands but they don’t necessarily get relevant visibility or are presented in the right ambience. Regular marketplaces are very algorithmic, price-driven generics. Our focus is brands that speak to consumers’ hearts and niche, focussed at meeting unmet but important gaps in the market,” said Prabhkiran Singh, founder-CEO, Bewakoof.

The startup said it plans to curate over 500 such brands on the marketplace in the next 12 months and aims to generate Rs 500 crore in brand sales from the marketplace.

Unisys acquires CompuGain for $87.3 million

Pennsylvania-headquartered IT solutions company Unisys has acquired Hyderabad-based CompuGain, a cloud solutions provider, for $87.3 million.

CompuGain’s cloud and hybrid cloud data management, capabilities in application modernization, and cloud-native agile application development will deepen Unisys’ cloud offerings, the company said in a statement.

“Acquiring CompuGain will enable Unisys to enhance the delivery of rapid and agile cloud migration, application modernisation and data-value realiaation to our clients,” said Peter Altabef, chairman and CEO, Unisys.

CompuGain is also designated an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Advanced Consulting Partner. It claims to have generated a revenue of $58 million for FY21.

Eve World acquires Femcy

Eve World announced the acquisition of Femcy, a femtech brand focused on personalised menstrual wellness solutions.

This acquisition allows Eve World to move closer to presenting its users with an experience across entertainment, infotainment, knowledge series, and much more on its tech-enable utility platform, the company said in a statement.

It added that this acquisition is backed by the endeavour of Femcy to empower conversations where users will activate technology as an enabler to optimise their cycle through personalised nutrition, exercise, and stress relief plans.

WhatsApp adopts 500 villages in India to promote digital payments

Meta-owned WhatsApp has announced its pilot programme of adopting 500 villages across Karnataka and Maharashtra aiming to empower people with access to digital payments through ‘payments on WhatsApp’.

The announcement was made at ‘Fuel For India 2021’ — Meta’s annual event in India that showcases positive impact and socioeconomic transformation delivered by its family of apps.

The programme aims to cause a behavioural transformation to digital payments at the grassroots, the company said.

“We have started this pilot programme in 500 villages across Karnataka and Maharashtra as part of our mission to onboard the next 500 million to the digital payments ecosystem,” said Abhijit Bose, Head of India, WhatsApp.

Further, to push digital access, WhatsApp recently also placed the rupee symbol in its chat-composer. In addition, WhatsApp has equipped its main camera to scan QR codes, adding another layer of convenience for users of payments on WhatsApp, to enable access to 20 million QR-accepting stores in the country.

Manish Maheshwari quits Twitter to work on edtech venture

Former Twitter India head Manish Maheshwari has quit the company to work on an ed-tech venture. Maheshwari, who had been transferred to the US in August this year, shared the development via a tweet.

“After close to three years, I am leaving Twitter to dedicate myself to #education and #teaching. While it is with a heavy heart that I leave Twitter, I am excited about the impact that can be created globally through education,” he tweeted.

Maheshwari said he is partnering with Tanay Pratap, who has worked as a Senior Software Engineer with Microsoft.

FireSide to shut down; live audio to be integrated with parent app: Report

Clubhouse clone FireSide, launched in May this year, will be shut and its live audio feature will be integrated with parent app Chingari by January 2022, a top executive told Moneycontrol.

The move comes at a time when the company has shifted its focus to crypto and Web 3.0 with the launch of GARI tokens, even as its larger rival Clubhouse is seeing a steep decline in the number of users.

Now, Chingari is integrating FireSide with its short video platform. With the integration, the company expects more users to utilise audio rooms on the platform for conversations.

Edtech firm Hero Vired & NSDC partner to upskill the youth

Edtech firm Hero Vired has teamed up with National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) to offer internships, industry projects and financial support to professionals and higher education aspirants.

The collaboration aims at developing innovative training programmes in technologies such as drone deployment, game designing and others. Hero Vired will support NSDC by creating a digital platform to host learner certifications, the company said in a statement.

This strategic alliance will also help in creating a workforce through advance skill training across sectors. The collaboration will allow institutions and businesses to access its range of courses and learning programmes available through Hero Vired’s integrated platform, the firm added.

The edtech startup will provide a loan guarantee for the duration of 6-11 months to the first 300 learners during the financial year 2021-22 and NSDC will also be a hiring partner.

Cuemath strengthens leadership ahead of global expansion plans

Online mathematics learning startup Cuemath has announced new appointments in its leadership team as part of its reorganisation process.

The edtech firm has appointed Samir Kulshresth as Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Nisha Popli as Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO), Janardan Singh as Chief of Sales, and Anushray Gupta as Chief Product and Technology Officer, the company said.

Cuemath said the appointments come ahead of the company’s international expansion plans, and it aims to double the number of students on its platform in 2022.

Stellapps enters into partnership with Nutreco

Dairy tech startup Stellapps has announced a five-year partnership with Trouw Nutrition, the animal nutrition division of Nutreco.

Stellapps currently impacts 2.8 million farmers in 36,000 villages in India with its technology, and with this partnership, the Trouw Nutrition products will impact its entire customer base, the company said in a statement.

In addition to high-quality feed products, Stellapps will benefit from Trouw Nutrition’s experience, innovative tools and farm management expertise, the firm added.

The partnership follows a successful 10-month pilot with 5,500 farmers across Uttar Pradesh and Kolar (Karnataka), which saw the use of Trouw Nutrition products, alongside mentoring and training, and resulted in an improvement on farm outputs such as milk yield and profitability.


Zoom has joined tech industry counterterrorism group

Video-conferencing platform Zoom has joined a counterterrorism organization formed by major US tech companies including Meta Platforms, formerly known as Facebook, and Microsoft Corp, Reuters reported.

The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) is an independent group through which member companies share information to combat terrorism and violent extremism on their sites.

Zoom which saw usage explode during the COVID-19 pandemic but has faced slowing growth in recent months, has come under scrutiny over how to police content and abuses on its platform.

GIFCT’s founding members were Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube. Other members include Meta’s Instagram and WhatsApp, Pinterest, Amazon, chat platform Discord and file-sharing service Dropbox.

GIFCT also said on Wednesday it has designed a new membership structure based on company revenue, with suggested annual contributions ranging from $0 to $1 million. It said membership was not contingent on a company’s revenue.

Google says employees flouting vaccination rules will eventually be fired: Report

Google told its employees they would lose pay and eventually be fired if they do not follow its COVID-19 vaccination rules, CNBC reported.

A memo circulated by Google’s leadership said employees had until December 3 to declare their vaccination status and upload documentation showing proof, or to apply for a medical or religious exemption, according to the report.

After that date, Google said it would start contacting employees who had not uploaded their status or were unvaccinated and those whose exemption requests were not approved.

Employees who have not complied with the vaccination rules by January 18 will be placed on “paid administrative leave” for 30 days, followed by “unpaid personal leave” for up to six months and termination, the report added.

Earlier this month, Google delayed its return-to-office plan indefinitely amid Omicron variant fears and some resistance from its employees to company-mandated vaccinations. It earlier expected staff to return to office for about three days a week from January 10.

Uber looking to sell Didi, China market has little transparency, CEO says

Uber Technologies is looking to sell its stake in non-strategic assets including its holding in Beijing-based Didi Global.

According to Reuters, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi also described the China market as a tough one with little transparency.

The US firm pulled out of China in 2016 after burning through more than a billion dollars a year due to a price war with Didi. It eventually sold its China operations to Didi in exchange for a stake.

Uber owns 12.8% of Didi, according to a filing in June by Didi. Uber had roughly $13.1 billion tied up in investments in other companies as of the end of the third quarter, including $4.1 billion in Didi.

US to add more Chinese firms to investment, export blacklists: FT

Shares in Chinese healthcare and technology firms tumbled on Wednesday after a report that the United States would add more Chinese firms, including the largest commercial drone maker and biotech firms, to investment and export blacklists this week.

Citing two sources briefed on the plans, the Financial Times said the United States would add eight Chinese firms, including drone maker DJI Technology Co Ltd to an investment blacklist on Thursday.

The US commerce department is also set to place more than two dozen Chinese firms, some of which are involved in biotechnology, on an “entity list” restricting exports to them by US firms, the newspaper cited the sources as saying.

The Financial Times said the US treasury department would put eight companies including DJI on its “Chinese military-industrial complex companies” blacklist because of their alleged involvement in surveillance of the Uyghur Muslim minority.

US investors are barred from taking stakes in companies on the list, which now comprises about 60 firms.

In Beijing, responding to questions on the FT report, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a news briefing that China was opposed to US’s “suppression” of its companies and would pay close attention to how the situation developed.

US lawmakers call for sanctions against Israel’s NSO, spyware firms

A group of US lawmakers is asking the Treasury Department and State Department to sanction Israeli spyware firm NSO Group and three other foreign surveillance companies they say helped authoritarian governments commit human rights abuses.

Their letter, sent late Tuesday and seen by Reuters, also asks for sanctions on top executives at NSO, the United Arab Emirates cybersecurity company DarkMatter, and European online bulk surveillance companies Nexa Technologies and Trovicor.

The lawmakers asked for Global Magnitsky sanctions, which punishes those who are accused of enabling human rights abuses by freezing bank accounts and banning travel to the United States.

The lawmakers said the spyware industry relies on US investment and banks. “To meaningfully punish them and send a clear signal to the surveillance technology industry, the US government should deploy financial sanctions,” they wrote.

In November, the Commerce Department put NSO on the so-called Entity List, prohibiting US suppliers from selling software or services to the Israeli spyware maker without getting special permission.

FT names Elon Musk its ‘person of the year’

The Financial Times newspaper has followed the Time magazine in naming Elon Musk, the chief of Tesla, its “person of the year”, commending him for the work done in transforming the electric vehicle industry.

Tesla, the global EV leader, has pushed many young consumers and legacy automakers to shift focus to electric vehicles.

In a column, the FT’s editor, Roula Khalaf, credited Musk for demonstrating that EVs could replace cars fueled by gasoline, and called him a revolutionary in the industry.

Musk is the world’s richest person and Tesla is worth about $1 trillion, making it more valuable than automakers Ford Motor and General Motors combined. Over the last few weeks, Musk has sold nearly $13 billion worth of Tesla shares.

Grindr fine cut to $7 mn in Norway data privacy case

Norway’s Data Protection Authority has handed dating app Grindr a reduced 65 million Norwegian crown ($7.14 million) fine over illegal disclosure of user data to advertisers, saying the company had moved to address issues regarding its practices, Reuters reported.

The DPA’s initial plan last January was to fine Grindr 100 million crowns, but it said that it had reduced the amount because of new information on the company’s finances and changes Grindr has made “to remedy the deficiencies in their previous consent-management platform”.

US-based Grindr, which describes itself as the world’s largest social networking app for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people (LGBTQ+) community, said it still strongly disagreed with the decision.

“Our conclusion is that Grindr has disclosed user data to third parties for behavioural advertisement without a legal basis,” Tobias Judin, head of the DPA’s international department, said in a statement.

Grindr said it was considering lodging an appeal of the decision.

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