Startup news and updates: daily roundup (Feb 24, 2022)

YourStory presents daily news roundup from the Indian startup ecosystem and beyond. Here's the roundup for Thursday, February 24, 2022.
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SUN Mobility ties up with cKers Finance to accelerate MaaS for decarbonising last-mile delivery

cKers Finance, an NBFC-focused on financing sustainability and clean energy in India, has provided a debt financing facility to Sun Mobility to accelerate the deployment of electric vehicles integrated with SUN Mobility’s swappable batteries as part of the company’s MaaS (Mobility-as-a-Service) model.

As part of the partnership, SUN Mobility has already started deploying hundreds of high capacity Piaggio Ape e-Xtra electric three-wheelers with third-party logistics (3PL) service providers. 

It launched e3Ws that allegedly offer them a high payload (500 kg+) and unlimited battery range (two-minute swaps). The MaaS model allows customers to onboard vehicles with no upfront capital cost or the need to own the vehicle. 

Customers only pay a monthly rental where the vehicle is provided to them with unlimited battery swaps, extending the vehicle range and operating hours. Fleet operators can scale up their business in an asset-light manner while utilizing SUN Mobility’s offering.

The demand for last-mile delivery decarbonisation is driven by ecommerce companies that are opting to replace their existing fossil fuel-based last-mile delivery fleets with EVs with a cumulative target of deploying over 50,000 EVs in the next three years.

India’s BNPL market set to touch a staggering $40 billion by 2025

BNPL or Buy Now Pay Later is all the rage in India’s fintech space — research conducted by management consulting firm RedSeer state that this fintech subsegment is moving at a 65 percent year-on-year (y-o-y) growth and is all set to touch a staggering $40 billion by 2025.

The 9X funding growth and massive adoption that we witnessed in 2021 is a testimony to this fact, said Redseer in its recent report.

The report went on to say that the current BNPL use cases are skewed towards ecommerce, and

consumers primarily use this option for online shopping, food delivery, bill payments, online travel, e-health, edtech, and ride-hailing; close to 73 percent of this segment use BNPL for online shopping. 

Companies are actively trying to diversify their use cases with wider merchant partnerships. This has paved the way for a huge headroom for future BNPL growth basis use case diversification.

Google-backed Silicon Valley’s AI English coach ELSA, marks 3M users in India

Silicon Valley-based personal virtual pronunciation coach ELSA witnessed a rapid growth in its users, marking over three million downloads in India, resulting in more than 25 million users globally. 

The app saw maximum downloads from cities such as Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, and Delhi. ELSA envisions expanding its user base up to 2x by the end of December 2022. In addition to growing its user base, the company has partnered with more than ten enterprises from diverse industries, including hospitality, airlines, higher education, and edtech such as Uolo, Stones2Milestones, Sahi.ai etc. 

In India, ELSA has a significant market share of users in Tier II and III cities, with 37 percent in Tier I and 63 percent in Tier II and III cities across more than 3,000 Tier-III cities, towns, and villages.

CollegeDekho Group acquires Getmyuni and IELTSMaterial

CollegeDekho Group has acquired Getmyuni and IELTSMaterial to become the "largest student enrollment platform in India" in a deal valued at over Rs 50 crore.

In a statement, the company said that the acquisition enables CollegeDekho Group to hit a 4x revenue run rate growth over its last year’s numbers and scale further to maximise its growth this year. 

It added that CollegeDekho and Getmyuni collectively cater to 50 percent of all college searches in India. With this partnership, CollegeDekho and Getmyuni collectively become the largest student enrollment platform in the country, driving more than Rs 25 crore annual student traffic and facilitating 30,000+ enrolments across almost 2,000 partner colleges.

WealthDesk launches Embedded WealthDesk Gateway

WealthDesk, an investment technology platform that’s building the Unified Wealth Interface (UWI) for the wealth management ecosystem on top of broking, announced the launch of Embedded WealthDesk Gateway (EWG). EWG aims to enable unprecedented integration with brokers and transaction systems with an intuitive and simple interface built to fit inside any Website or Application.

Like UPI increased the number of digital payment transactions in India by expanding coverage across hundreds of millions of Indians, EWG has the potential to increase the participation of Indians in capital markets by making it easy to invest in stocks, ETFs and other asset classes in a few clicks, the company claimed in a statement.

Curefoods acquires franchise rights for US-based Sbarro

Cloud kitchen company Curefoods announced its acquisition of the South India franchise rights for US-based legacy pizza chain Sbarro.

Sbarro first entered India in 2012 in an attempt to familiarise people with the pizza-by-the-slice concept.

As part of Curefoods, Sbarro aims to see greater expansion across South India. Curefoods plans to open around 50 Sbarro outlets in the next three years, starting with Karnataka. The expansion will consist of a mix of walk-in outlets and cloud kitchens to ensure maximum customer reach. As a result of this partnership, the first Curefoods-owned Sbarro outlet is set to open in Bengaluru within the next quarter.

Sbarro, which specialises in New York-style pizzas, is currently present in 630 locations across 28 countries. The company's India master franchise rights are operated by Upper Crust Foods Pvt. Ltd. 

Seeds Fincap completed 1st Rs 50 Cr disbursement in just 8 months

Seeds Fincap Private Limited (SEEDS), a Gurugram-headquartered NBFC startup, announced that it has completed loan disbursement of its first Rs 50 crore. While the company had received its license from the RBI in April 2021, it could commence its full-scale operations only in July 2021 owing to the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

SEEDS has now chalked out a plan to disburse Rs 250 crore in the next financial year (2022-23). The bootstrapped startup has also tied up with two reputed financial services companies in some pockets on a business correspondent model basis.

IKEA India appoints Susanne Pulverer as its first woman CEO and CSO

IKEA (part of Ingka Group) announced the appointment of Susanne Pulverer as its new and first woman Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) for its India business, taking over from the outgoing India CEO Peter Betzel. 

Prior to her role as IKEA India CEO and CSO, Susanne Pulverer held the position of Group Business Risk and Compliance Manager at the Ingka Group.

Susanne joined IKEA in 1997 and has worked across different roles within the company. This is her third stint in India. In her last role in India, she led market development for Delhi-NCR, where she also drove the sustainability agenda and local community initiatives crucial to IKEA’s vision and mission to become a climate-positive business by 2030.  

CellStrat announces new platform launches with Quantum Computing and AI API marketplace

CellStrat, an artificial intelligence (AI) startup based in the US and India, and a YourStory Tech50-2021 winner, has launched Quantum Computing Project Pack and AI API Marketplace on its AI platform CellStrat Hub. 

The company claims that the CellStrat Hub, an AI development platform hosted on the cloud, is used by more than 13,000 global developers, 35+ universities, and several enterprises for accelerated AI skilling and development. 

Co-founder Vivek Singhal said, “This pack will accelerate the Quantum learning journey for scores of global developers as well as help in creating a growing workforce in this cutting-edge new technology.”

Hallo launches in India, aims to democratise English learning with Agora’s real-time engagement

Hallo, a US-based real-time English learning platform for speaking, has announced its launch in India to help Indians learn English from native teachers and practice speaking with other students from around the world anytime, anywhere. 

Hallo enables virtual interactions between English students and native English teachers through live and one-on-one classes coupled with interest-based English courses and AI proficiency tests to assess progress. Hallo currently has over 200,000 users in India and primarily caters to users from ages 18-35.

Clovia strengthens its presence in Tier II and III cities with launch of 10 new stores in India

Clovia, a brand for women’s activewear, innerwear, loungewear, and personal care, forayed into new markets with the launch of 10 new stores. It is entering Tier II and III markets like Moradabad, Faridabad, Sri Ganganagar, Haridwar, Dehradun, among others. 

The startup claims to be witnessing an inventory turnaround of six times a year. It now plans to add 50 more stores across the country in the next six months.

However, in this post-pandemic era, Clovia has prepared itself for any sudden drop in footfalls due to precautionary lockdowns and is now scaling fast with the revised store projections.

Twitter India announces Samiran Gupta as new head of public policy

Microblogging platform Twitter announced Samiran Gupta as its new head of public policy in India. Samiran will lead the company’s public policy and philanthropy efforts in India and across South Asia.

Prior to this, Samiran was the head of Public Policy, South Asia at The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

 

Mahima Kaul, who earlier headed public policy for Twitter in India, announced that she was stepping down from her role in February 2021. 

CoinSwitch launches Recurring Buy Plan for crypto purchases

Crypto platform CoinSwitch announced that it has launched Recurring Buy Plan, a simple and planned way to purchase Crypto assets in India, to enable users to beat market volatility and avoid making impulsive buying or selling decisions.

"At CoinSwitch, we want to help users across their crypto journey. Crypto is an emerging but attractive asset class and has a higher degree of volatility in comparison to traditional assets. The CoinSwitch Recurring Buy Plan will allow users to purchase crypto in a planned manner and enable the user to avoid the impulse to time the market and make emotional trading decisions. It will also empower users to explore this new asset class in a more structured and disciplined manner," said Ashish Singhal, Founder and CEO, CoinSwitch.

Through Recurring Buy Plan (RBP), users can set aside a fixed amount of money to purchase a Crypto asset every month over a long period of time, allowing them to focus on a long-term strategy rather than timing the market.

Gig economy sees 3X surge in participation from women in H2 2021 and trend to continue: Taskmo

According to Taskmo, in a month, around 10,000 to 12,000 women apply for tasks on the platform, whereas before six months, it was only 200-4,000 women participants. Additionally, industries like fintech, edtech, ecommerce, fashion tech, and healthtech are showing maximum job allocation for women gig workers.

“As the concept of gig popularises, there is a surge in the participation of women who are willing to take up a gig job. This exponential increase can be attributed to the awareness and convenience that the gig industry offers to their participants. Women candidates, who had applied at Taskmo are mainly preferred for job roles such as – Customer support, Content monitoring & moderation, Tele-sales, Audits & Surveys” said Prashant Janadri, Co-founder, Taskmo.

Recruiters at Taskmo are from companies like Jiomart, Zomato, Amazon, SBI, BYJU'S, Swiggy, Ola, Uber, Grofers, Meesho, Rapido Bike Taxi, Bounce, Zepto, Wakefit, among others. Taskmo serves more than 300 brands and completes 10,000+ tasks in a day.

IIT Delhi startup "Nanoclean" launches Naso95 - "world's smallest wearable air purifier"

NanoClean Global has launched the "world's smallest wearable air purifier", which is allegedly at par effective to an N95 grade face mask. At the launch ceremony at IIT Delhi, Rajesh Kumar Pathak, IP and TAFS cadre, Secretary Technology Development Board, Government of India was the chief guest and Dr M C Mishra, former Director AIIMS, Delhi was guest of honour. 

The company claims that the product can also be used by kids, without any discomfort, who are more prone to airborne infections and air pollution.

Upstox onboards three senior executives to strengthen its leadership team

Investment platform Upstox announced the addition of three senior executives to its leadership team. The company has appointed Harish Narayanan as Chief Growth Officer, Saurabh Agarwal as Vice President - New Initiatives, and Jayant Chauhan as Senior Vice President - Finance. 

With this hiring, Upstox aims to extend operations, as well as move closer to its broader goal of encouraging more equity participation in India.

Ravi Kumar, Co-founder and CEO, Upstox, said, “It gives us great pleasure to welcome Harish, Saurabh, and Jayant to Upstox's leadership team. They bring with them immense experience and expertise. I'm confident that with them onboard, we will succeed in our endeavour to take Upstox's products and services to the next level and fulfil our drive of encouraging equity participation across the nation.”

Edited by Kanishk Singh

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