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Startup news and updates: Daily roundup (April 16, 2024)

YourStory presents the daily news roundup from the Indian startup ecosystem and beyond. Here's the roundup for Tuesday, April 16, 2024.

Startup news and updates: Daily roundup (April 16, 2024)

Tuesday April 16, 2024 , 9 min Read

Funding

IITians raise $2.5M to build AI-powered equity research platform for Wall Street

PineGap.ai, a New York-headquartered AI SaaS startup, has raised $2.5 million in a seed round led by US-based investors SVQuad and Inventus Capital. The round also saw participation from DeVC and notable Silicon Valley serial entrepreneurs Mohit Aron (Founder, Cohesity/Nutanix), Vetri Vellore (Founder, Ally.io), and Mohan Kumar (Managing Partner, Avataar Ventures), alongside Wall Street executives.

The capital will be used to expedite product development and build the engineering team in Bengaluru and the United States.

Microsoft - AI4A renews funding for Gen-AI Hindi mental health programme

IWill, an AI and digital health startup, has received funding from Microsoft's 'AI for Accessibility' programme to accelerate IWill GITA, the world's first controlled Generative-AI mental health companion in Hindi. 

IWill GITA is the world's first controlled generative-AI CBT-based model in Hindi that leverages the potential of Generative-AI. 

IWill GITA started its pilot launch in January 2024 and aims to provide access to the 615 million Hindi-speaking population with mental health support in rural and urban India. 

In 2022, Microsoft funded IWill under the same programme to accelerate and enable the development of IWill GITA in Hindi.

Other news

CASHe forays into electric two-wheeler financing 

CASHe, a credit-led AI-driven financial wellness platform, has entered the electric 2-wheeler (e2W) financing with the launch of CASHe Green. 


CASHe Green offers affordable financing options for electric two-wheelers, including flexible EMIs spreading over 20 months, affordable interest rates, and credit up to Rs 2 lakh.


CASHe Green offers consumers various finance options, such as purchasing a new electric two-wheeler. Additionally, it covers battery replacements and upgrades, with an exchange option for ICE two-wheelers. 


CASHe aims to drive wider adoption of zero-emission tech, seamlessly integrating with OEM partners to promote a sustainable future.

mPokket ropes in Rajani Jalan as its Director - CSR & People Relations

mPokket, a loan app, has appointed Rajani Jalan as its new Director of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and People Relations (PR). 


In her new role, Jalan will help develop robust CSR strategies, enhance public awareness of the company's social commitments, and steer the brand's narrative across various platforms.

 

Jalan, a textile designer from the Fashion Institute of Technology, brings a diverse background to mPokket. She has worked as an independent designer, contributing to export houses, and managed a successful cloud kitchen business.

Also Read
2 years; 10 pivots: How Pocket FM escaped death to crack audio

Two Pocket FM audio shows enter Rs 100 Cr club

Pocket FM announced that two of its blockbuster audio shows have exceeded Rs 100 crore in audience collections. Both Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To and Insta Millionaire have been trending on Pocket FM among the top 10 series.


While Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To garnered over Rs 150 crore and has recorded over 500 million plays, Insta Millionaire has clocked over 1.3 billion plays in multiple languages such as Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, and English, and garnered over Rs 120 crore grossings.

PlanckDOT raises $350,000 in bridge round funding

PlanckDOT, a technology startup focusing on edge data centres, has secured $350,000 in bridge funding, with $100,000 already secured from a leading analytics firm in the US. The valuation of the company stood at $30 million.

These funds will be used to bolster the ongoing development of PlanckDOT's Quanta AI which caters to the rising demand of data centres for generative AI applications.

Quanta offers a range of fully-loaded, self-sufficient edge data centres tailored to corporate, enterprise, and SPC requirements empowering businesses to scale their operations seamlessly.

NPST appoints veteran banker Ram Rastogi as independent director

NPST, a provider of digital banking and payments technology solutions, has appointed Ram Rastogi as an additional director in the non-executive independent category of the company.

Rastogi has worked for over 30 years in the banking and digital payments landscape. His expertise spans domains including payments, real-time decision-making, risk management, predictive analysis, and reg-tech.


Prior to this, Rastogi was the Chairman of the FinTech Association for Consumer Empowerment, a non-profit organisation dedicated to advocating the interests of consumer lending fintech companies to regulators, media, and distribution platforms.


Rastogi has also held pivotal positions at the State Bank of India and the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI). As the head of product Development at the NPCI, he launched initiatives such as Immediate Payments Service, Unified Payments Interface, Bharat Bill Payments System, and cross-border payments.

Sanjay Saxena joins CIFDAQ as co-founder and CEO for India and Southeast Asia

Sanjay Saxena has joined CIFDAQ Blockchain Ecosystem Ind Limited, a new-age blockchain company as the Co-founder and CEO of India and Southeast Asia operations.

Previously, he was the CFO at Paytm Payments Services and Paytm Payments Bank, where he led financial management and corporate strategy. Prior to his tenure at Paytm, he held key positions at the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) and the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).

During his tenure at NPCI as CFO, Saxena spearheaded initiatives including the launch of flagship products such as UPI, RuPay, Bharat Bill Payments System, and National Electronic Toll Collection. At UIDAI, he played a crucial role in the implementation of Aadhaar.

C4D Partners exits Ananya Finance

C4D Partners has exited from portfolio company Ananya Finance with "significant" returns. 


This marks the investor's third exit in FY24 and the fifth exit out of 13 equity investments in its Fund-IIndia portfolio within the initial five years of operation.


Ananya Finance is an NBFC that facilitates formal credit access to the underserved population of India.

C4D Partners has invested Rs 26.4 crore ($3.8 million) in Ananya Finance across multiple rounds. Since the investment, Ananya's AUM has grown around tenfold, according to a statement. The funding enabled the NBFC to scale its operations beyond FPO loans and wholesale lending to underserved communities, it added.


Ananya has also expanded its retail operations to serve customers directly through the acquisition of an MFI. 

Arvind Agarwal, C4D Partners

Arvind Agarwal, CEO and Co-Founder C4D Partners

Consumer survey report reveals gaps in detecting illegal loan apps

About 70% of users feel confident verifying loan apps despite a sub-optimum verification process, according to a report by the Fintech Association for Consumer Empowerment.


The report titled 'Understanding Users' Experience with Digital Lending Applications in India' also said over a third of high-confidence customers exhibit low awareness about factors to detect illegal lending apps.

Other highlights:


  • More than half show low knowledge of verification factors for loan apps and tend to only look at a limited set of parameters like partnerships with NBFC/banks, ratings, and reviews. This section of users is susceptible to fraud and scams.
  • Key verification factors include affiliation with banks (57%) and reviews/ratings (55%). 
  • Over three-fourths of users ignore downloads and data-sharing metrics when deciding about lending apps.
  • Social media ads are the primary information source, with friends and relatives playing a key role. 
  • Female users show slightly better awareness of loan products.
  • 76% of users report that loans from digital lending applications positively impact them, 13% indicate no significant change, and 11% express a subpar experience.


The report, released in collaboration with MicroSave Consulting, shared insights from a customer survey conducted by the fintech association among its members between December 2023 and January 2024.

Cropin launches akṣara, a micro language model for climate-smart agriculture

Cropin Technology, a global agtech company, has launched ‘akṣara’, a purpose-built open-source micro language model for climate-smart agriculture.


The first version of akṣara will cover nine crops, namely paddy, wheat, maize, sorghum, barley, cotton, sugarcane, soybean, and millets, for five countries in the Indian subcontinent


akṣara is a micro-language model (µ-LM) developed by CropIn and hosted on Hugging Face. It is designed to be both cost-effective and scalable, built on top of the Mistral-7B-v0.2 model. The model is compressed from 16-bit to 4-bit using a technique called QLoRA, which stands for Quantisation and Low-Rank Adapters. This compression method helps reduce the model's size and resource requirements while maintaining its performance.


It was fine-tuned with more than 5,000 high-quality question-response pairs specific to agriculture and more than 160,000 tokens in context. 

Tesla Power India, E-Ashwa Automotive launch India’s first EV with fire safety tech

Tesla Power India Pvt Ltd and E-Ashwa Automotive have launched the first electric 2W vehicle in India with a built-in fire suppressant system. This new feature is set to improve safety standards for EVs across the country.


Through this collaboration, the companies aim to offer a safer and more sustainable option for drivers across India. The partnership also ensures that the owners of these new EVs will have access to extensive sales and service networks throughout India.

(This copy will be updated with the latest news throughout the day.)


Edited by Swetha Kannan