Startup news and updates: daily roundup (Mar 07, 2022)

YourStory presents this daily roundup of the latest startup news and updates from the Indian startup ecosystem and beyond. Here's the roundup for Monday, March 7, 2022.
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Clix Capital plans to lend more than Rs 4,000 Cr in FY 2022-23

Gurugram-based Clix Capital Services, a digital-lending NBFC, on Monday announced that it will disburse more than Rs 4,000 crore in FY 2022-23. It also announced that the company has crossed the Rs 15,000 crore disbursement milestone since its rechristening from GE Capital five years ago.

 

Clix Capital claims to have been servicing individual borrowers and MSMEs, and has given out more than 50 lakh loans to date. A majority of the company’s disbursements have gone to MSMEs which have received about 48 percent of these funds. 

With a month-on-month targeted disbursal rate of more than Rs 350 crore, the NBFC is well on its course to disburse over Rs 4,000 crore in the next fiscal.

 

Rakesh Kaul, CEO, Clix Capital, said,

“We have set a target of disbursing over Rs 4,000 crore for FY 2022-23 and we are very much on course for that. Ever since our inception, we have been redefining the lending space in India by creating products and services that meet the financial needs of our customers. Today, Clix Capital has created history by disbursing Rs 15,000 crore to individuals and businesses since we started five years ago.”

“Our vision lies in simplifying lending and enabling financial inclusion for all people. We have succeeded in this mission having touched over 50 lakh customer lives in our journey till date,” Rakesh added.

 

The startup follows a proprietary AI and data analytics-enabled underwriting model for segmentation and due diligence to determine customer eligibility within minutes. It offers a range of lending products to a varied spectrum of customers across the MSME and consumer segment, including personal loans, MSME loans, healthcare loans, and mortgage finance.

Plum appoints Aditya Bagarka as Head of Strategy and Innovation

Bengaluru-based employee health insurance platform Plum on Monday announced the appointment of Aditya Bagarka as Head of Strategy and Innovation. Bagarka joins from ICICI Lombard, where he spent over a decade and last served as Deputy Vice President – Wholesale Products, building their startups and affinity business. 

In his new role at Plum, he claims to focus on product innovation and will work with insurer partners to simplify and digitise the customer experience.

Abhishek Poddar, CEO and Co-founder of Plum, said,

“We aim to insure over 10 million lives by 2024. We believe our leadership and team is a moat. Aditya has been our mentor when it comes to the insurance industry and we have known him even before Saurabh and I started Plum.”

The startup recently announced the appointment of six new leaders in marketing, sales, account management, partnerships and people success and is aiming to grow to 1,000 employees by 2024.

“I am inspired by Abhishek and Saurabh’s vision of making health insurance accessible to thousands of companies. They have not only revolutionised the way group health insurance is bought and consumed, but have also expanded its reach to the smallest of organisations. I want to be a part of this disruption and enable quality healthcare for businesses to make the lives of their employees safer and better,” said Aditya Bagarka, Head of Strategy and Innovation, Plum.

Founded in 2019 by Abhishek Poddar and Saurabh Arora, Plum enables real-time insurance design and pricing to enable companies to buy insurance in three clicks, besides offering employees hassle-free claims experience through an integrated digital process. 

The startup is backed by Tiger and Sequoia and its customers include Unacademy, Groww, Simpl, Epifi and 1,000+ startups that think insurance-first.

Kristal.AI launches ESOP liquidity programme worth over $1M on blockchain 

Kristal.AI, a digital-first global private wealth management platform, on Monday announced an Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP) liquidity programme worth over $1 million on blockchain for all eligible existing and former employees. Employees with vested Kristal.AI shares were given the option to partake in this exercise and opted for liquidity in exchange for their shares. 

According to an official statement, Kristal.AI plans to conduct such liquidity exercises on a yearly basis to facilitate wealth creation opportunities for both existing and former employees. This opens a dedicated route to help employees unlock liquidity and optimiSe their financial assets. 

Kristal.AI's private markets vertical, Kristal Private Markets (KPM), facilitated the demand for this transaction by allowing investors to participate in the company's growth story. In comparison to a traditional fundraise, this allowed investors to access the company's shares at a lower minimum price. 

The startup claims that the overall demand for investing in Kristal.AI has exceeded the total supply of shares within 10 days of launch.

In December 2021, it acquired over $400 million as assets under management (AUM). Since January 2020, the platform quadrupled its AUM and its user base has expanded seven-fold, resulting in a 22 times increase in its annual recurring revenue. 

Asheesh Chanda, Founder and CEO, Kristal.AI, said, 

“We also plan to roll out the ‘ESOP Liquidity Programme as a Service’ to companies who are looking to provide such liquidity options to their employees and early investors. Stakeholders in an unlisted company no longer have to wait for the company to go public or for a major investor to come in. With Kristal’s ESOP liquidity service, early phase to late-stage companies would be able to provide easy liquidity solutions to their employees or shareholders without cluttering their cap table.”

Airtel and Axis Bank announce partnership to bolster India’s digital ecosystem

Communications solutions provider Bharti Airtel and a private sector bank Axis Bank on Monday announced a strategic partnership to strengthen the growth of India’s digital ecosystem through a range of financial solutions.

 

In a bid to accelerate the adoption of digital payments in the country, over the coming months, Airtel and Axis Bank will bring to market a range of innovative financial offerings and digital services exclusively for Airtel’s 340 million-plus customers.

 

These will include co-branded credit cards with benefits, pre-approved instant loans, Buy Now Pay Later offerings and many more. The alliance, with its significant reach across the country, will help penetrate tier-II and tier-III markets by enabling higher adoption of digitized payments.

 

Gopal Vittal, MD and CEO (India and South Asia), Bharti Airtel, said,

“Through this win-win telco-bank partnership, Airtel customers will get access to Axis Bank’s financial services portfolio and exclusive benefits, while Axis Bank will benefit from Airtel’s strong digital capabilities and deep distribution reach.”

The partnership was kicked-off with the launch of the first-of-its-kind ‘Airtel Axis Bank Credit Card’ that will offer a host of attractive benefits such as cashbacks, special discounts, digital vouchers and complimentary services to Airtel customers.

  

This credit card will be exclusively available for eligible Airtel customers through a seamless digital journey on the Airtel Thanks app.

 

Additionally, Axis Bank will leverage Airtel’s suite of digital services such as its C-PaaS platform - Airtel IQ which spans voice, messaging, video, streaming, call masking and virtual contact center solutions, to enhance digital capabilities.

 

The bank will also use various cyber security services from Airtel. Going forward, the companies will further explore collaborating across Cloud and Data Center services.

Hero Electric and SUN Mobility partner to deploy 10,000 electric swappable two-wheelers this year

Hero Electric, an electric two-wheeler manufacturer, partners with Sun Mobility, the provider of energy infrastructure and services for electric vehicles (EVs), to deploy electric 2Ws integrated with the latter’s smart-swappable battery technology. As part of the partnership, Hero Electric and SUN Mobility jointly will start deployments in the next three months with a target of around 10,000 electric 2Ws by the end of this year.

This is in line with the Honorable Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s announcement to introduce a battery swapping policy during the Union Budget and recognise battery as a service to accelerate EV adoption in India.    

Hero Electric and Sun Mobility would create an ecosystem where the customer has access to the latest battery technologies throughout the product lifecycle without incurring repetitive costs of purchase. They would also collaborate on innovative financing options making it easier for customers to go electric.

SUN Mobility’s battery technology and the interoperability of battery swapping infrastructure will enable Hero Electric’s customers to own electric 2Ws without having to worry about battery and charging infrastructure. The company’s global interoperable smart mobility solution involves modular Smart Batteries that is connected, safer, robust, and efficient. It also addresses the issue of extensive charging times and range anxiety, as the batteries can be swapped in a matter of minutes.

The network of Quick Interchange Stations (SWAP POINTS) allows for a ‘refuelling’ infrastructure that is faster, cheaper, and more convenient than the conventional petrol and diesel pumps for ICE vehicles. This solution also works on a Pay-Per-Use model that empowers individuals, ecommerce companies, and fleet operators to easily adopt electric mobility for last-mile connectivity.

Hero Electric caters to a varied rider requirement with products, including Photon, Optima, and Atria under City Speed and Low-speed categories. It is now expanding its existing R&D facilities to manufacture the next generation of low-speed, city speed and high-speed vehicles for discerning consumers. 

Microsoft announces intent to establish India datacenter region in Hyderabad

Microsoft today announced its intent to establish its latest data centre region in Hyderabad, Telangana. This strategic investment is aligned with Microsoft's commitment to helping customers thrive in a cloud and AI-enabled digital economy and will become part of the world’s largest cloud infrastructure.

Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship and Electronics and Information Technology of India said, 

“Today’s commitment to the people and businesses of India will position the country among the world’s digital leaders. A Microsoft datacenter region provides a competitive advantage to our digital economy and is a long-term investment in our country’s potential. The cloud is transforming every industry and sector. The investment in skilling will empower India’s workforce today and into the future.”

The Hyderabad datacenter region will be an addition to the existing network of three regions in India across Pune, Mumbai, and Chennai. It will offer the entire Microsoft portfolio across the cloud, data solutions, artificial intelligence (AI), productivity tools, and customer relationship management (CRM) with advanced data security, for enterprises, startups, developers, education, and government institutions. 

To support customer needs for high availability and resiliency, Microsoft launched Azure Availability Zones in December 2021 in its Central India datacenter region. This forms the most extensive network of data centres in the country with disaster recovery provisions and coverage of seismic zones. 

In Hyderabad and across the state of Telangana, Microsoft will enable opportunities for local businesses to innovate with Microsoft Cloud services. Microsoft is partnering closely with the government of Telangana to accelerate the adoption of cloud, AI, IoT and cybersecurity solutions for governance. This includes efforts to upskill government officials in next-generation technology, supporting young girls to build careers in cybersecurity through the CyberShikshaa programme, and partnering on skilling programmes like DigiSaksham with the Ministry of Labour and Employment to equip job seekers from rural areas with technical skills.

Ninety One Cycles appoints Bhairav Shah as its Chief Operating Officer 

Ninety One Cycles, an active lifestyle brand, has announced the appointment of Bhairav Shah as the Chief Operating Officer of the company. 

The leadership addition is part of Ninety One’s strategy to scale up operations, invest in manufacturing facilities and further accelerate entry into international markets. Bhairav will play a central role in the execution of the company’s growth plans while overseeing the finance function and leading the company’s expansion into the Middle East, Europe, and North America.

An alumnus of the Indian School of Business and a Chartered Accountant, Bhairav has 15 years of experience across private equity and consulting. Prior to joining Ninety One, he held leadership positions with Bain and Company and Everstone Capital. Bhairav spent the initial years of his investing career with Warburg Pincus and brings onboard significant experience in scaling organizations and shaping their strategic direction.

  

Sachin Chopra, Co-founder and CEO of Ninety One Cycles, said,

“We believe his experience of fifteen years and passion for mobility space will be instrumental for Ninety One to meet its growth plans. We share the common vision of bringing in a revolution in one of India’s oldest mobility medium – cycles, with an innovative, research and engineering-led approach. His valuable insights and seasoned business acumen will help Ninety One develop into a strong institution.”

Ninety One has recently closed its Series A funding of $30 million from marquee investors such as Avaana Capital, Titan Capital, A91 Partners, and Fireside Ventures. The amount will be invested towards the state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities in Gujarat, e-cycles portfolio, and expansion into global markets.

Following the capital injection, Ninety One, the make in India, made for the brand from AlphaVector (India) Pvt Ltd, is now valued at Rs 1,000 crore.

Founded in 2015 by Sachin Chopra and Vishal Chopra, Ninety One Cycles is an active lifestyle and sustainable mobility brand with 1,000+ retail stores across 500 cities in India.

 

The Gujarat-based startup claims to have a range of bikes including electric cycles, performance bikes, mountain bikes, fat tyre bikes, hybrid bikes, and kids bikes.

KnowledgeHut offers Career Reboot Programme to support women resuming work after a career break

KnowledgeHut, a short-duration technology skills provider, has announced the launch of a Career Reboot Programme for women, which is curated through scholarships, to enable them to adapt to the new paradigm of the business ecosystem, as they return after the career break.

Through this programme, KnowledgeHut aims to provide training to help women improve their skills so that they can transition back to work effectively and add value to achieve the business goals of the company. 

The global IT industry is faced with a severe labour shortage, which has been further exacerbated by the exit of women from the workforce due to the pandemic. A recent report from the World Economic Forum found that women were already underrepresented in STEM-related professions, and the pandemic led digital transformation has led to further reduced gender diversity in the workforce.

 

Subramanyam Reddy, CEO, upGrad KnowledgeHut, said,

“Gender gaps are estimated to cost our economies a very significant 15 percent of GDP. It has been observed that women are apprehensive about returning to work after a break due to the lack of confidence in skill sets and evolved workplace trends. Not only does upskilling create a great opportunity for women to fill crucial talent and skills gaps, but it also creates opportunities to dispel scepticism in the workplace and build credibility.”

The edtech company claims to have trusted skills transformation partners to over 250,000 professionals and 1,200+ enterprises in over 100 countries, that organisations and individuals count on to innovate faster and create progress. 

The startup was acquired by Ronnie Screwvala-promoted upGrad in August 2021.

Mensa Brands announces partnership with digital home storage solutions brand, Pretty Krafts

Mensa Brands, a digital tech-led house of brands, has announced its partnership with home storage solutions brand, Pretty Krafts

Pretty Krafts is known for its contemporary aesthetic designs coupled with high functionality. Its product line-up comprises closet organisers, laundry bags, shirt stackers, hanging storage units and a host of other home storage products that are popular on Amazon and Flipkart. 

Mensa’s association with Pretty Krafts comes at a vital phase in the home storage brand's odyssey, preparing it for a stage of accelerated growth and expansion within both existing and new markets. It is set to propel the brand to greater heights by strengthening its bond with customers. 

Prateek Siyal, Co-founder, Pretty Krafts said,

"We started Pretty Krafts with an aspiration to make people’s life convenient, decluttered, and organised by providing affordable and innovative products. Mensa's tech-based, data-driven expansion prowess in the digital space and our experience in the space, is a winning global combination". 

Founded in 2003 by Kamal and Pratibha Siyal, Pretty Krafts was bootstrapped by the couple in their backyard by employing local women. Claiming to have served more than 30 lakh customers across India with over 5,000 SKUs, the brand excels at in-house innovative product development. 

Ananth Narayanan, Founder and CEO of Mensa Brands added,

“The home storage solutions category continues to register strong growth, both in India as well as globally, giving an impetus to Pretty Krafts to scale, with the right mix of product, marketing, logistics and inventory management. This is where Mensa comes to the fore with a vision to scale the digital-first brand exponentially.”

Zeta, Mastercard partner to power next-gen credit processing for banks and fintechs

Zeta, a banking tech unicorn and provider of next-gen credit card processing to banks and fintechs, and Mastercard have announced a five-year global partnership.

As part of the agreement, the firms will go to market jointly to launch credit cards with issuers worldwide on Zeta’s modern, cloud-native, and fully API-ready credit processing stack. Mastercard has underscored the partnership by making a financial investment in Zeta.

Bhavin Turakhia, Co-founder and CEO of Zeta, said,

“With Zeta’s next-gen credit card processing platform, we are fundamentally rewiring how issuers launch credit card programs by offering new paradigms over legacy mainframe systems.” 

“Amongst other benefits, our stack allows issuers to increase the lending book by composing contextual upsells using our extensive APIs and SDKs; reduce costs via pay-as-you-go SaaS billing; improve customer satisfaction by launching rich, self-serve experiences for card holders; and launch and iterate faster using our infinitely scalable cloud-native deployment,” Bhavin added.

With Mastercard’s support and the integration of its capabilities in digital issuance, fraud and risk, loyalty solutions and more, Zeta aims to take the credit card processing industry from the age of fragmented, multi-vendor systems to an age of nimble, composable, single-vendor systems that are truly responsive to changing cardholder needs and preferences.

“Mastercard is partnering with Zeta to provide issuing banks and fintech innovators with modern credit card processing capabilities at scale that will maximise the safety, security and convenience of ecommerce, online banking, and contactless transactions. By deploying Zeta’s credit processing stack, issuers will have an opportunity to grow their user base, drive higher usage and enter new geographical markets, all while accelerating the cashless revolution around the world,” said Sandeep Malhotra, Executive Vice President, Products and Innovation, Asia Pacific, Mastercard.

Entropik Tech wins the 12th Aegis Graham Bell Award for innovation in retail 

Entropik Tech, an emotion AI, announced that it has been named a winner at the 12th Annual Aegis Graham Bell Awards (AGBA), an initiative of Aegis School of Data Science, Cyber Security, and Telecom. The winning entry was in the innovation in retail for its offering, interactive shopper insights, which enables retail brands to test in-store experiences for emotion-driven consumer insights.

The jury of the 12th Aegis Graham Bell Awards, along with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India; and Skill India’ NIC (National Informatics Centre, office under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology), conferred the award to Entropik Tech. 

Entropik Tech’s Interactive Shopper Research offering as a part of its Shopper Insights solution is a first-of-its-kind that enables retail brands to test in-store experiences for emotion-driven consumer insights. 

With the ongoing pandemic, this offering empowers retail organizations to understand their customers' needs with features like virtual interactivity with consumers and 2D and 3D planogram testing. 

Ranjan Kumar, Founder and CEO, Entropik Tech said,

"We are delighted to receive this award for our Shopper Insights product that helps retail businesses test product packages and store layouts. Retail brands leverage our interactive virtual planogram design technology to design better store layouts and product arrangements in line with the evolving consumer behavior and preferences.” 

Bhupesh Daheria, CEO of Aegis School of Data Science, Cyber Security and Telecommunication and Founder of AGBA commented, 

"The AI-enabled emotion recognition technology used in the innovation is one of its kind which sensitises with human emotions and helps elevate the entire shopping experience. Such technology would not only boost the entire shopping experience for the consumer but also help brands to channelizs their marketing strategies to align with the needs and demands." 

Uber gender sensitises over 100,000 drivers, expands safety initiative to train non-Uber drivers

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, Uber announced that it has gender sensitised over 100,000 drivers on its platform. As an industry-first initiative, it now plans to expand this drive to non-Uber drivers in partnership with various state governments. This initiative is part of the company’s continued commitment to enhance safety while helping #BreakTheBias by making public spaces safer for women. 

 

Uber has partnered with the Manas Foundation, a Delhi-based NGO working in the field of mental health, gender equity, and justice, to run gender sensitization sessions since 2018. These sessions help drivers understand, and be sensitive, to the needs of women riders. Drivers on the Uber platform across 34 Indian cities have benefited from this initiative. 

 

The sessions are delivered by experts from Manas Foundation to educate drivers on how men and women use public transport systems, the extent of harassment women face in public spaces, and highlight the role of drivers in addressing the issue. They also learn how to modify their professional behaviour to make women feel safer and commit to being a part of the solution.

 

Prabhjeet Singh, President, India, and South Asia, Uber India said, 

“Everyone needs to participate in making transport and public spaces safer, particularly for women. Our partnership with Manas Foundation has been a great success, and we have received a positive response from drivers who have taken part in gender sensitisation sessions.”

Monica Kumar, Co-founder, Manas Foundation added,

  

“Our partnership with Uber has helped enhance safety on the platform by resulting in behavioural change. The 100,000 mark is an important milestone in our partnership and we hope to positively contribute towards scaling this programme further to non-Uber drivers in the near future.”

Edited by Kanishk Singh

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