Startup news and updates: daily roundup (June 12, 2023)

YourStory presents the daily news roundup from the Indian startup ecosystem and beyond. Here's the roundup for Monday, June 12, 2023.

Startup news and updates: daily roundup (June 12, 2023)

Monday June 12, 2023,

10 min Read


Skills Caravan raises seed funding from angel investors

Delhi-based technology startup Skills Caravan has raised an undisclosed sum of seed funding from angel investors, including Abhishek Poddar, Country Head of Macquarie Group; Paras Berwala, Head of TMT and EDtech at Investec India; and Deep Bajaj, Co-founder of Sirona.

The SaaS B2B platform will use the funding towards expanding Skills Caravan's operations in the US, according to Co-founder Sarita Chand.

Founded by Sarita Chand and Dinesh Chaudhary in 2022, the startup provides a Learning as a Service platform that uses AI to deliver individualised educational resources, optimising learning roadmaps for organisations.

Kyte Energy raises Rs 3 Cr from ah! Ventures, others

EV two-wheeler brand Kyte Energy has raised Rs 3 crore in its first funding round from ah! VenturesAngel Platform, Soonicorn Venturesand others.

The company said that the recent funding injection will help it to boost its growth trajectory and accelerate its mission to revolutionise the electric two-wheeler market. It plans to strategically allocate the funds towards expanding its distribution channels and strengthening its marketing efforts.

“As of 2022, India's overall EV penetration, including 2W, is 3% and although the electrification of mobility in India is still at a nascent stage, there is massive headroom for growth. Kyte Energy is very placed in the 2W EV segment given its product innovation and early success in Maharashtra and Gujarat,” LV Sastry, Deal Lead - Kyte Energy and Venture Partner - ah! Ventures,  said in a statement.

Pepper Group to invest $150M to start a fintech in India

Consumer finance company Pepper Group has said it will invest $150 million over the next four years to establish a fintech in India under its Pepper Money brand. 

The fintech will be spearheaded by former FlexiLoans Co-founder Abhishek Kothari. With plans to launch in the second half of 2023, Pepper Money India will target 15 crore households in Tier II and III cities.

“We are extremely confident about the Indian economy, which has been amongst the high growth performers in recent years,” Mike Culhane, Group CEO of Pepper, said in a statement. “India has the potential to become one of the largest markets for us in the next five years. Abhishek’s fintech experience and deep understanding of the consumer will be instrumental in building the Pepper Money brand across India.”

Pepper Group has $21 billion in assets under management (AUM) of self-generated loans via its Pepper Money brand, and a further $55 billion in AUM of third-party loans under credit management via its Pepper Advantage brand, according to the company.

The group has an existing presence across Australia, the UK, Europe, South Korea, Japan and South-East Asia, the company said, adding that the launch of Pepper Money India signifies a long-term commitment to the Indian market.

The firm aims to hire a 200+ team to deliver consumer finance products that embed a localised approach to the market. Pepper Money India also plans to build a network of strategic partnerships, including co-branded card partnerships and collaborations with co-lenders.

Abhishek Kothati Pepper Money
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CouLoot opens first offline store in Mumbai

Coutloot, an online non-grocery retail aggregator, has expanded offline with its first store in Mumbai.

The company said it plans to open 50 stores by the end of this year in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Delhi—where it will standardise the existing small retail shops selling unbranded merchandise, which are already part of CoutLoot’s platform.

“This move is aimed at creating a large-scale impact both offline and online helping partner seller stores source better, sell faster, and market wider, ultimately growing into bigger scale businesses at the same time serving India’s mass consumer segment,” Jasmeet Thind, Co-founder of CoutLoot, said in a statement.

CoutLoot said that its decision to transform existing stores into branded outlets is part of its larger vision to provide end-to-end services to its partner network of stores creating a vertical technology company in the non grocery retail space. 

The company aims to provide services at each layer of the business through technology, ultimately creating a more seamless and connected ecosystem for retailers and customers alike.

Founded in 2016 by Jasmeet Thind and Mahima Kaul, Coutloot started as a platform to enable users to buy and sell pre-owned clothes, accessories, and shoe brands. In 2019, it pivoted to an ecommerce platform aimed to standardise the small fragmented retailers across the country with its tech stack. 

Punjab National Bank launches IVR-based UPI solution

Punjab National Bank (PNB) has introduced IVR-based UPI solution—UPI 123PAY, aligning with the Digital Payment Vision 2025.


“India’s large population resides in rural and semi-urban areas. Such population still relies on cash for their daily needs,” Atul Kumar Goel, MD and CEO of PNB, said in a statement. “To facilitate such people, who do not have access to smartphones or internet connectivity, we are delighted to introduce the functionality of UPI 123PAY.”

UPI has been accessible through smartphones or through Unstructured Supplementary Service data (USSD) service and is dependent on good internet connectivity. The UPI 123PAY solution would extend the functionality and facilitate the feature to any phone users and those in low internet connectivity zones to perform UPI transactions.

Gupshup UPI

Uber’s India-based Eats Engg team enables voice order tracking

Uber announced that its Eats Engineering team, based out of Hyderabad, led the integration of Amazon’s Alexa with the Eats app, now enabling voice-assisted order tracking for eaters.  

The new voice-activated tracking feature unlocks real-time, hands-free order tracking for Echo users. Uber Eats consumers in the US can now use their Amazon Echo devices to track the status of their orders.

“Making the food delivery experience a seamless and reliable one is of paramount importance for Uber Eats and this goal led us to a collaborative exercise on exploring ways to make the Uber Eats Order experience a magical one, the outcome of which ended up in Uber Eats’ integration with Alexa,” Jaiteerth Patwari, Director-Eats Engineering at Uber, said in a statement.

Amazon is Uber's third partner in the voice-activated space, after announcing partnerships with Google Assistant and Apple's Siri for voice ordering integrations within the last year.

MetaStudios, AjnaLens partner to build immersive experiences in XR

AjnaLens, an extended reality hardware manufacturing company, and MetaStudios, a metaverse and gaming studio, have joined forces to build immersive experiences and training programmes targeted at upskilling the global youth and adult fraternity.

AjnaLens aims to solve the problem of unemployment at the grassroots level in India through the world of AR and VR technologies. With their new AjnaXR Glasses and immersive learning platform AjnaVidya, users can learn all kinds of skills inside the virtual space. 

By harnessing the principles of humanising virtual experiences, MetaStudios curates content that fosters active participation and enhances knowledge and learning. It is a part of the MetaEngine group—the team behind building the infrastructure layer for over 500 games for the last 20 years.

The duo noted that the new innovations in the digital age, including these immersive training programmes produced by the MetaStudio and AjnaLens partnership, will provide new avenues for the development of a skilled and employed pool of individuals, irrespective of their economic situation.

SpiceXpress partners with Ekart for cargo delivery 

SpiceXpress and Logistics has partnered with supply chain services provider Ekart to strengthen its door-to-door delivery capability in India.

As part of this partnership, Ekart will provide first-mile pickup of cargo shipments and will also help deliver them through last-mile connectivity across all serviceable pin codes in the country. 

The partnership will enable SpiceXpress to significantly expand its reach and offer value, speed and transparency to its customers. With Ekart’s extensive network, SpiceXpress will offer an end-to-end service to its customers across all major industries.

“We are excited to embark on this journey, where value, speed, and transparency converge to unlock new possibilities and drive business growth. Through our tech-enabled solutions and logistics expertise, we aim to continue to enhance and strengthen the last mile delivery services nationwide,” Mani Bhushan, Chief Business Officer of Ekart, said in a statement.


OYO to open 300 hill-station hotels

Travel technology firm OYO is expanding the number of hotels across key mountain getaways in India. It is on course to open 300 new hotels by August 2023.

The new hotels will be in cities like Manali, Mussoorie, Nainital, Srinagar, Shimla, Dalhousie, and Haridwar in the North; Ooty, Munnar, and Kodaikanal in the South; Gangtok, Darjeeling, and Shillong in the East; and Lonavala and Mahabaleshwar the West. OYO noted that it has already opened more than 180 hotels in the said cities since March 2023. 

With an increasing number of travellers seeking domestic getaways, the company said it is witnessing a significant surge in demand across major hill stations.

As per the company, Manali has emerged as the most booked hill destination, followed by Haridwar and Gangtok. The other top destinations in terms of bookings are Ooty, Nainital, Srinagar, Mussoorie, Munnar, and Darjeeling.

In addition to expansion across hill destinations, OYO is also aiming to add 1800 new hotels to its portfolio in 2023 as part of its ongoing bid for premiumisation.

Fintech lending volumes, value grows by 130%: Report

Fintech lending volumes and value have more than doubled since FY 21-22, according to a report released by the Fintech Association for Consumer Empowerment (FACE).

Digital lending volumes grew by 131% from 3.10 crore loans disbursed in FY21-22 to 7.26 crore loans disbursed in FY 22-23, the report noted, adding that the growth was witnessed six months after the implementation of the digital lending guidelines.

“Digital Lending Guidelines enable responsible growth with companies equally focusing on customer protection, risk management, compliances, and governance. A continuous wholesome investment by companies in these business aspects is an extremely promising sign for the industry’s future. It will progressively lead to a sustainable industry delivering better customer outcomes,” Sugandh Saxena, CEO of FACE, said in a statement.

Moreover, the total value of loans disbursed increased by 129% as compared to FY 21-22, growing from Rs 35,940 crore to Rs 92,848 crore, the report noted.

It added that fintech lending companies also defied layoff trends and increased their total number of employees from 10,779 in FY 21-22 to 15,326 in FY 22-23, an increase of 42%.

Games24x7 elevates Saroj Panigrahi as COO

Games 24x7 has announced the elevation of Saroj Panigrahi as its Chief Operating Officer (COO). 

As COO of Games24x7, he will drive operational excellence, ensuring the seamless execution of key initiatives towards overall growth. Panigrahi will spearhead marketing and operations across all existing and upcoming platforms including RummyCircle and My11Circle.

Panigrahi has been a part of the Games24x7 team for over 15 years and has held multiple positions within the organisation playing a pivotal role in shaping the company’s product strategy. 

“His dedication and unwavering commitment to delivering extraordinary user experiences has not only elevated our platform but has also inspired our entire team. We are proud to have Saroj in this new leadership role, and excited about the limitless possibilities of innovation and growth that lie ahead,” Trivikraman Thampy, Co-founder and Co-CEO of Games24x7, said in a statement.

Games24x7 was founded by Bhavin Pandya and Trivikraman Thampy in 2006. It is backed by marquee investors including Tiger Global, The Raine Group, and Malabar Investment Advisors.


Accenture unveils winners of its Ventures Challenge 2023

Accenture has concluded the fifth edition of its Ventures Challenge, one of the biggest annual open innovation events in India to recognise leading B2B deep-tech startups. 

The Accenture Ventures Challenge 2023 focused on the theme of ‘Tech Next’ and identified winners across four categories: Science-tech – Aganitha; Metaverse and Web3 – bitsCrunch; Advanced Computing – Aible; and Space-tech – Heliware.

The winning startups will join the Accenture Ventures Open Innovation partner programme in India and co-create innovative solutions for clients worldwide. As part of this programme, they will also receive $15,000 to build disruptive solutions.

(The story will be updated throughout the day with the latest news.)

Edited by Megha Reddy