India’s open e-commerce network expands to B2B transactions

The Indian government-backed open e-commerce network has been expanded to facilitate business-to-business (B2B) transactions — months after enabling transactions between consumers and merchants over the open network protocol and widening its reach to the mobility sector.

On Monday, the Open Network for Digital Commerce — commonly called ONDC — launched B2B transactions on its interoperable network. Rapidor, a business automation platform based in Kerala, and SignCatch, a SaaS payments startup based in New Delhi, have come on the network to start B2B transactions between them.

During the testing phase that began last month, both startups conducted about 160 cross-transactions on the open network. The ONDC team said it has some other startups in the pipeline for its B2B expansion, including Noida-based rural fintech company Spice Money.

“One of the biggest challenges in digital commerce is even if you help enterprises to digitize, how do we help them to reach across the market? Each of them has to have a separate buying application or a portal they use to call. So now, we are trying to create a standard, which will make all these things a big possibility,” said T Koshy, chief executive officer and managing director at ONDC, during the launch.

The Indian government established ONDC as a non-profit firm in 2021 to “democratize” digital commerce in the country — replicating the success of its interoperable mobile payments platform UPI which helped Google and Walmart to take on the competition from existing wallets that each leveraged their own closed ecosystem. The e-commerce network started its alpha testing in April last year and kicked off its beta version in September.

Koshy said the open e-commerce network was making about 50,000 daily transactions related to groceries and food deliveries. It expects to manage 100,000 daily transactions in the next few months.

ONDC expanded to the mobility sector in March by introducing the on-demand auto rickshaw booking app Namma Yatri on its network. It is also open to collaborate with Uber and Ola to further expand the network.

“B2B has its own nuances because the buyers are different, their priorities are different,” said Koshy. “A pure contractual relationship between the buyer and seller. Everything is different, and there will be some negotiation.”

The Indian government is quite bullish on making ONDC a mainstream system for digital commerce in the country. The government even recently warned e-commerce giants by saying it would have to “cut off those who are left behind” and urged them to join the initiative before it is “too late to join the train.”

India’s open e-commerce network expands to B2B transactions by Jagmeet Singh originally published on TechCrunch

NestAway, once valued at over $225 million, sells for $11 million

PropTech firm Aurum is acquiring NestAway, a once high-flying Indian startup operating in the same space, for up to $10.9 million, in a deal that marks a near complete erosion in value for the startup’s investors.

Eight-year-old NestAway raised $115 million over the years and was valued at $227 million in a funding round in 2019. The startup counts Sequoia Capital India, Tiger Global, Goldman Sachs, Yuri Milner and Chiratae Ventures among its investors.

Aurum, which earlier acquired a unit of NestAway for about $6.8 million, said it will invest $3.6 million to stabilize NestAway’s business. “This capital infusion in NestAway is a testament to Aurum PropTech’s conviction in India’s $20-billion Rental Housing market,” Aurum said in a stock exchange filing.

NestAway’s revenue shrank to $3 million in 2022, down from $9.5 million two years earlier.

The erosion in NestAway’s value can at least be partially attributed to Covid. The home rental platform NestAway features 18,000 properties on its platform, down from 50,000 before the pandemic.

“When we started NestAway, our vision was to revolutionize the way people live in cities by providing them with convenient, affordable and hassle-free housing solutions,” said Jitendra Jagadev, founder of NestAway in a statement. “Over the years, we have grown and expanded, serving thousands of customers, becoming a trusted brand in the PropTech industry.”

NestAway, once valued at over $225 million, sells for $11 million by Manish Singh originally published on TechCrunch

Puneet Chandok, AWS India and South Asia head, has resigned

Puneet Chandok, the head of AWS in India and South Asia, has resigned, according to two sources familiar with the matter, a surprise move just weeks after the cloud giant pledged to invest over $12 billion in India by 2030.

Chandok, who served as the President of AWS India and South Asia, joined the e-commerce group four years ago, according to his LinkedIn. His last day at Amazon’s cloud unit is in August, one of the sources said. A broader group of Amazon executives were informed about the move on Tuesday, the source said.

Chatter among industry executives is that Chandok plans to join a rival firm. Sources requested anonymity to talk candidly about non-public information.

India, the world’s second largest internet market, has witnessed a considerable surge in cloud adoption across various industries in recent years, reflecting the sector’s robust growth. Amazon’s cloud division holds a dominant position within the market, boasting a roster of prominent customers.

Google, which like Amazon has two cloud regions in India, and Microsoft, which maintains three, have also expanded their cloud businesses in the country in recent years. The overall India public cloud services market is expected to reach $13 billion by 2026, according to researcher IDC.

Update: After the publication of the story, AWS confirmed Chandok’s departure. Vaishali Kasture, head of enterprise, mid-market and global businesses at AWS India & South Asia, is taking on the role of interim leader of commercial business at the unit effective immediately.

Story updated with confirmation from AWS. 

Puneet Chandok, AWS India and South Asia head, has resigned by Manish Singh originally published on TechCrunch

Indian SaaS startup Capillary Technologies grabs $45M to expand globally

Capillary Technologies, an Indian SaaS startup that offers solutions for loyalty management and customer engagement, has raised $45 million in a funding round, as it plans to expand into global markets and widen its reach through mergers and acquisitions. The funding arrives at a crucial time amidst the prevailing market slowdown, where startups, particularly those at the late stage, are facing a capital crunch.

Capillary’s Series D funding round was led by Avataar Ventures and its LPs Pantheon, 57Stars and Unigestion. It also saw participation from Filter Capital and Innoven Capital. The round comprises $40 million in equity and about $5–$7 million in debt. With the latest capital injection, the startup has raised nearly $150 million in capital to date.

Founded in 2012, Capillary Technologies initially focused on the retail vertical in India and Southeast Asia. In recent years, it has broadened its offerings and launched in more markets including the Middle East and South Africa, and since early 2021, the U.S.

Capillary is carving a distinctive niche in the market with its emphasis on gamification to bolster customer loyalty, a strategy it says it has been able to deploy across commerce, retail, aviation and hospitality sectors.

The Bengaluru-based startup’s suite of technology-driven, cloud-native solutions has helped it attract a number of clients. Already, it has collaborated with over 250 brands across 30 countries, powering more than 100 loyalty programs. High-profile clients include Domino’s, Tata Group, Puma, Shell, Petron and Marks & Spencers. Capillary’s tech reaches over a billion customers and clocks over 5 billion transactions annually.

“The way most of our competitors in the U.S. and elsewhere have built in as like a services business where customers ask you something, and you build it. On the other hand, we have taken a very product view to it,” Capillary Technologies founder and managing director Aneesh Reddy said in an interview.

Just over a couple of years after entering the U.S. and acquiring the customer experience startup Persuade, Capillary’s business has grown by 3.5x, the startup said, without disclosing specific numbers. It also says the U.S. now accounts for more than a third of its revenues.

The startup has made five acquisitions in the U.S., with the last one of Texas-based loyalty solutions provider Brierley from Nomura announced in April this year. These acquisitions have helped it to introduce solutions to clients operating in wider verticals.

Reddy told TechCrunch that Capillary is seeking to leverage the fresh funding to expand its presence in the U.S. and Europe through actively pursuing strategic acquisitions, as part of its growth strategy.

“The core business is profitable and growing by itself, so most of the funding is going to be used for acquisitions,” he said. “As you would guess, if you have the money, this is a great time to buy.”

In late 2021, Capillary Technologies filed its draft papers to go public in India. The startup has, though, delayed that plan due to the ongoing market slowdown. Reddy said the idea of filing an IPO in India is still being considered and he may executive that within the next three years.

“The good piece of Capillary is it’s profitable. With this fundraise, we have a lot of excess cash also on the balance sheet. So, it’s not like I have a gun to my head to list,” he said.

Capillary has a headcount of over 750 people, including 200 contractors, and has offices in Dubai, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, apart from India and the U.S. It counts Sequoia Capital and Warburg Pincus among its existing backers.

“It has been truly remarkable witnessing Capillary’s business transformation over the past four years,” said Mohan Kumar, Managing Partner at Avataar Ventures, in a statement.

“The strategic decision to diversify from Asia into the US and Europe, encompassing various consumer verticals beyond retail, has been nothing short of impressive. This move has catapulted Capillary into a leadership position in Loyalty software and this has been recognized by external mentions like the Forrester Wave. Given the expanded addressable market and the immense potential that lies ahead, Avataar is wholeheartedly committed to supporting Capillary in its pursuit to become a global market leader.”

Indian SaaS startup Capillary Technologies grabs $45M to expand globally by Jagmeet Singh originally published on TechCrunch

India kicks off a pilot to become electronics repair capital of the world

After expanding its footprint in manufacturing smartphones and other tech devices, India is looking to become the electronics repair capital of the world, taking the crown from China and Malaysia, which currently dominate the industry.

On Wednesday, the country’s Ministry of Information and Technology launched a pilot project called Electronics Repair Services Outsourcing (ERSO) to test electronics repair outsourcing, initially for a three-month pilot in Bengaluru. Flex, Lenovo, CTDI, R-Logic and Aforeserve will participate in the program.

New Delhi aims to generate revenue of up to $20 billion and create millions of jobs over the next five years through outsourced repair services carried out by the participating companies.

The pilot project is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Mission LiFE (Lifestyle for Environment), which was announced in October last year to work on environmental sustainability, said Ali Akhtar Jafri, director general of IT and electronics manufacturer industry body MAIT.

“It will enable the extension of device life globally by providing cheap and reliable repair of ICT [Information and Communications Technology] products for the globe,” he said.

Indian industry players are already in talks with companies with operations in Singapore, Brazil, Vietnam, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Mexico, Thailand and the U.S. to take on their repair needs.

Currently, China and Malaysia dominate the market for repair outsourcing. Nevertheless, India has started to attract firms such as Apple and Samsung to build hardware in the country both for India’s domestic market and for export. Taking on repair services would be a logical next step.

The Indian government began a pilot program last year to decrease the time it takes to test and approve electronic devices for safety. That too will help boost the country’s profile for repairs, potentially attracting more manufacturers over time.

India kicks off a pilot to become electronics repair capital of the world by Jagmeet Singh originally published on TechCrunch

New regulation in India seeks to stub out tobacco glorification on streaming platforms

India’s health ministry has unveiled stringent guidelines for on-demand video streaming services, necessitating warnings about smoking and the use of other tobacco products when such activities are portrayed on screen. The new regulations, termed as the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products Amendments Rules, 2023, will come into effect in three months.

The updated policy mandates the incorporation of anti-tobacco health spots, of at least half a minute in duration, at the opening and midpoint of the programme. It also necessitates the prominent display of a health warning in the form of text at the lower end of the screen during sequences that depict tobacco consumption.

In addition, an audio-visual disclaimer detailing the harmful impact of tobacco consumption, lasting no less than 20 seconds, will be required at the outset and halfway point of any programme. This clause is a key part of the health ministry’s concerted efforts to ramp up its anti-smoking campaign.

Tobacco consumption in India is significant, with the country being one of the largest consumers of tobacco worldwide. Over 260 million adults in India use tobacco in some form, with smokeless tobacco being the most prevalent form.

In a further attempt to curb the glamorisation of smoking, the policy stipulates that streaming platforms are prohibited from displaying the branding of any cigarettes or other tobacco products. The same products can also no longer be used within any promotional material for the platform’s content.

The new rules give authority to representatives from both the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Electronics and IT to take punitive action if any streaming platform fails to comply with the regulations.

New regulation in India seeks to stub out tobacco glorification on streaming platforms by Manish Singh originally published on TechCrunch

Coupang says no plans to enter India

Coupang doesn’t plan to enter the Indian market, the company said, refuting a local media report that claimed that the South Korean e-commerce firm had expressed interest in entering the South Asian nation.

“Coupang has no plans to enter the Indian market,” a company spokesperson told TechCrunch in a statement.

India is one of the fastest growing e-commerce markets and is estimated to be worth $150 billion in three to four years, according to wealth management and research firm Bernstein.

The Indian conglomerate Reliance is poised to outpace incumbents Amazon and Walmart-backed Flipkart in the race for the country’s e-commerce market, Bernstein projected in a scathing report to clients this month.

Coupang, the largest online marketplace in South Korea, has expanded to Japan and Taiwan in recent years.

Coupang says no plans to enter India by Manish Singh originally published on TechCrunch

Blackrock, a minority investor in Byju’s, cuts startup valuation to $8.4 billion

Blackrock, a minority investor in Byju’s, has yet again cut the valuation of its holding in the Bengaluru-based startup, this time to about $8.4 billion, even as the most Indian valuable startup continues to raise capital at a better price.

Blackrock cut the value of Byju’s share by 62% in the quarter ending March this year, from a year ago, it disclosed in a filing.

Nonetheless, a series of qualifications merit attention: Blackrock is not a substantial stakeholder in Byju’s, and owns less than 1% equity in the startup.

A similar move from Prosus, one of the more prominent investors in Byju’s, would have raised greater alarms for the Indian edtech leader. Additionally, it’s worth noting that valuation methodologies may vary across different investors. Thus, other portfolio investors could potentially hold vastly contrasting views.

Furthermore, Byju’s recently secured a $250 million in fresh funding at a valuation cap of $22 billion earlier this month, indicating that the startup continues to be valued higher by other backers.

Blackrock’s price adjustment is the latest in a series of valuation markdowns for the Indian startup ecosystem. Invesco has cut the valuation of Swiggy by half, and Pine Labs and Pharmeasy have also seen their values being cut by some investors.

Blackrock, a minority investor in Byju’s, cuts startup valuation to $8.4 billion by Manish Singh originally published on TechCrunch

Amazon is testing dine-in payments in India

After shutting down its food delivery business last year, Amazon India is now experimenting with dine-in payments. The company has initiated a limited introduction of bill payments at restaurants using Amazon Pay.

The facility is currently active in select areas of Bengaluru with a limited set of restaurants. Users can head to Amazon Pay > Dining in the Amazon app to make payments using credit/debit cards, net banking, UPI, or Amazon Pay Later. At the moment, Amazon India is offering discounts on bill payments at almost all listed restaurants.

Image Credits: Amazon

It’s not clear if the e-commerce group is testing this in any other city. Amazon India spokespeople did not respond to a request for comment.

Image Credits: Amazon

Food delivery bigwigs Zomato and Swiggy both offer in-restaurant payments and discounts as they attempt to attract more customers. Earlier this month, Zomato launched its own UPI service in partnership with the ICICI bank for quicker checkout and bill payment.

The National Restaurant Association of India, a consortium in the hospitality sector, last year warned against dining payment products from food delivery firms in an advisory to its members.

Amazon’s new experiment is another attempt at finding ways to engage customers in India. It is facing challenges in India and has struggled to make inroads into smaller towns in the country, according to a report from investment firm Sanford C. Bernstein. The e-commerce giant insists that 85% of its customers are from tier 2/3 cities/towns.

Bernstein’s report also noted that the company is facing a tough regulatory environment and as a result falling behind Walmart-backed Flipkart. Notably, Amazon omitted India mentions for the first time since 2014 from its Q1 2023 results.

Earlier this year, Amazon joined Open Network for Digital Commerce, an initiative set up by India’s ecommerce ministry, in limited capacity to create an “interoperable” network for sellers. ONCD’s aim is to let retailers join a digital network that doesn’t rely on central marketplaces like Amazon and Flipkart.

Amazon is testing dine-in payments in India by Ivan Mehta originally published on TechCrunch

Krafton’s popular Battlegrounds Mobile India, successor to PUBG, returns

Krafton’s Battlegrounds Mobile India, the once chart-topping mobile game in the South Asian market, is now available to download on Android nearly a year after being ousted due to national security concerns.

The South Korean developer said on Monday that BGMI is returning with version 2.5 update, which features a fresh map, called Nusa, and upgraded weapons.

BGMI is returning to India as part of a three-month trial, the Indian Ministry of Electronics and IT said earlier this month. The ministry will be watching the game for any sign of disruptions, including its addictive nature. In response, Krafton said it will cap the gameplay at three hours daily for players under 18 and six hours for adults.

The reemergence of the game offers respite to the teeming millions of gaming enthusiasts in India who once crowned its predecessor, PUBG, as the nation’s favourite. That game was banned in mid-2020 amidst escalating geopolitical strains between India and China.

The resurgence of BGMI could open doors for some 300 other apps seeking re-entry into the Indian market. In a similar vein, Chinese fashion giant Shein has disclosed a new partnership with Indian conglomerate Reliance for its own market re-entry.

As for BGMI, Krafton said Nusa’s resort island features a new navigation mechanism, the ability to recall certain players who have died in certain conditions, and new vehicles including a two-seater.

Krafton’s popular Battlegrounds Mobile India, successor to PUBG, returns by Manish Singh originally published on TechCrunch