April 13, 2024


Unlimited Technology

Ola plans IPO in first half of 2022, PB Fintech may bid for Start Health IPO & Uber allows ride-booking on WhatsApp in India

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Here are the top headlines from the startup space:

Ola plans IPO in first half of 2022, prepares ‘super app’

Ride-hailing giant Ola plans to go public in the first half of 2022, chief executive officer Bhavish Aggarwal said, undeterred by the recent volatility and lacklustre listing of some startups in the country.

Ola, backed by Japan’s SoftBank Group, is also gearing up to create something of a “super app”, with plans to broaden its services beyond mobility to include personal finance and micro insurance, Aggarwal told the Reuters Next conference.

“We are not a company that takes a short-term view on anything. Short-term, there might be volatilities in the market but that has never informed our decisions,” said Aggarwal, who founded the company in 2010.

Indian companies have raised a staggering $9.7 billion through initial public offerings (IPOs) in the first nine months of 2021, according to accountants EY, but the dismal stock market debut of digital payments firm Paytm last month has caused worries among some bankers.

Ola, which has a majority share of India’s ride-hailing market, where it competes with Uber, has plans to raise up to $1 billion through an IPO.

Aggarwal also plans to list Ola’s separate electric vehicle business in the future, and is currently building it out starting with its electric scooters, for which it has received 1 million reservations, he said.

It plans to launch an electric car in 2023 and is looking at setting up local battery cell manufacturing.

Paytm gets first ‘buy’ rating after lukewarm IPO: Report

Paytm, whose parent firm One97 Communications made a weak market debut in November, has got its first ‘buy’ rating from the brokerage Dolat Capital Market Private Limited, a report said on Thursday.

Dolat Capital Market is the third brokerage to initiate coverage on the digital payments platform after Macquarie Capital Securities and JM Financial Institutional Securities. JM Financial has a sell rating on the stock, while Macquarie has rated it as underperform.

According to the brokerage, Paytm’s transition to a “manufacturer” of financial services from an agent, cross-selling of services, and strong growth in the number of users will help the company.

Dolat analysts are of the view that Paytm’s “super app” has emerged from a pure “want” category to reach the “need” status. It positions the company as “one of the strongest digital brands to garner a significant share of opportunities that will evolve in the Indian internet ecosystem,” they said, according to the Bloomberg report.

The brokerage has set a target price of Rs 2,500, which is 16 percent higher than the company’s issue price.

PB Fintech likely to bid for Start Health IPO under QIB category: Sources

PB FinTech, which owns brands like Policybazaar, Paisabazaar and got listed just a couple of weeks ago, is set to bid for shares of Star Health and Allied Insurance Company under the qualified institutional buyer (QIB) category, say sources to CNBC-TV18.

The QIB category is 53 percent of the total issue size, which makes it about Rs 3,840 crore. The QIB section has been subscribed about 28 percent so far. PB FinTech is in the business of aggregation of insurance products and is trying to invest in a company that sells insurance products.

The issue size of Star Health Insurance is large and it is the last day of subscription for the Rs 7,250 crore IPO. Although the issue size is impressive, the subscription is not. Overall, the issue has been subscribed to just about 37 percent so far.

Uber to allow users book rides via WhatsApp in India

Ride-hailing platform Uber will soon allow users in India to book a ride via WhatsApp, the company said, announcing a partnership with the Meta Platforms-owned messaging service.

A global first for the ride-hailing giant, users can book an Uber ride by sending a message to the Uber WhatsApp chatbot, instead of downloading the app.

This partnership will allow users to register on Uber, book a ride, and get a trip receipt, all within WhatsApp. This service is currently available to Uber riders in Lucknow as part of a pilot, a press release said.

Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber, had previously informed CNBC-TV18 of the company’s plan to launch this global-first feature in India. “We are excited about partnering with WhatsApp to allow riders in India to book a ride on WhatsApp, which is a global first,” he had said.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for all Indians to take an Uber trip and to do that we need to meet them on platforms they are comfortable with,” said Nandini Maheshwari, senior director of business development, Uber APAC.

Bounce launches Infinity E1 at starting price of Rs 45,099

Electric mobility firm Bounce has launched its maiden consumer e-scooter ‘Infinity E1’ in dual options at a starting price of Rs 45,099 (ex-showroom Delhi), heating up the competition in the fast-expanding domestic EV industry.

The scooter with battery and charger is priced at Rs 68,999 (Ex-showroom Delhi) while the one without battery comes with a price tag of Rs 45,099 (Ex-Showroom Delhi) plus subscription to battery-as-a-service. The offer of ‘battery as a service’ option with the e-scooter is a first-of-its-kind initiative in the domestic market, it said.

Customers can pre-book this smart scooter by paying an initial refundable payment of Rs 499, the company said, adding that its e-scooters are FAME-II eligible. The company said pre-bookings for its maiden offerings begin on Thursday, while deliveries are expected to start pan-India from the end of March quarter next year through its dealership network and its online platform.

The Bengaluru-based e-scooter rental company Bounce had earlier this year acquired 22 Motors, including its manufacturing unit in Bhiwadi (Rajasthan), in a deal valued at $7 million.

It also announced its plans to invest $100 million in manufacturing of e-scooters and expanding the battery-swapping infrastructure over the next 12 months. Considering the potential in the Indian market, the company is planning to set up another plant in southern India.

Drone solutions startup AUS acquires Algopixel

Drone solutions startup AUS has acquired Algopixel Technologies, a software solutions provider for drone operation management and cloud-based data processing, for an undisclosed amount.

This acquisition will accelerate AUS’s journey towards building robust and scalable end-to-end solutions for sectors like mining, infrastructure, land records, and precision farming, the firm said in a statement.

‘Algopixel team has the clarity and capability to help us build the future roadmap that we have planned. We are actively seeking more such partnerships with like-minded companies, investors, and people globally,” Vipul Singh, Co-founder, and CEO, AUS said.

AUS has recently bagged major contracts from Survey of India, Tata Steel, and a few other known enterprises. As per the company, the acquisition will enable AUS to further strengthen its end-to-end solution pipeline and make it future-ready for large-scale impactful solutions for global markets.

LinkedIn launched in Hindi, bid to expand Co’s reach in India

LinkedIn has marked a new milestone with its in launch of Hindi, the first Indian regional language on the professional network.

This would provide greater access to professional and networking opportunities to Hindi speakers in India and around the world, it said in a statement. LinkedIn now supports 25 languages globally.

Starting Thursday, as part of the Phase 1 roll-out of LinkedIn in Hindi, members will be able to access their feed, profile, jobs, messaging, and create content in Hindi on desktop, and on Android and iOS.

As its next step, LinkedIn will work towards widening the range of job opportunities available to Hindi speaking professionals across industries, the firm added. The platform will also continue to add more Hindi publishers and creators in the coming weeks to boost member engagement and conversations in Hindi, it stated.

As per the company, India is a core market for growth at LinkedIn and the second largest market in terms of members after the US, accounting for 82 million members as part of a global community of 800 million members.

Oyo on-boards former SBI chief Rajnish Kumar as strategic group adviser

IPO-bound hospitality startup Oyo has roped in former State Bank of India (SBI) chairman Rajnish Kumar as a strategic group adviser.

Kumar will advise the company’s management on short and long-term strategies, regulatory and stakeholder engagement besides enhancing the brand of the company globally.

“Technology innovations are exciting for both Kumar and us at Oyo. His experience of digitisation and technology-led initiatives for the customers is critical for us as we make a difference to our stakeholders’ lives,” Oyo founder and chairman Ritesh Agarwal said in a blogpost.

In October, Oyo filed draft documents for $1.2-billion public listing. The company, which was last valued at $9 billion, is targeting a valuation of around $12-14 billion through the IPO.

WhatsApp banned over 2 million Indian accounts in October, as per compliance report

More than 2 million Indian accounts were banned by WhatsApp while 500 grievance reports were received by the messaging platform in October, according to its compliance report.

In its latest report released on Wednesday, WhatsApp said 2,069,000 Indian accounts on the platform were banned in October. An Indian account is identified via a ‘+91’ phone number, it added.

In accordance with the IT Rules 2021, WhatsApp has published the fifth monthly report for the month of October.

“This user-safety report contains details of the user complaints received and the corresponding action taken by WhatsApp, as well as WhatsApp’s own preventive actions to combat abuse on our platform. As captured in the latest Monthly Report, WhatsApp banned over 2 million accounts in the month of October,” a WhatsApp spokesperson said.


Grab’s $40 billion NASDAQ debut to set tone for Southeast Asian tech listings

Grab, Southeast Asia’s biggest ride-hailing and delivery firm, makes its market debut on Thursday after a record $40 billion merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), in a listing that will set the tone for other regional offerings, Reuters reported.

The backdoor listing on NASDAQ marks the high point for the nine-year-old Singapore company that began as a ride-hailing app and now operates across 465 cities in eight countries, offering food deliveries, payments, insurance and investment products.

The biggest US listing by a Southeast Asian company follows Grab’s April agreement to merge with US tech investor Altimeter Capital Management’s SPAC, Altimeter Growth Corp and raise $4.5 billion, including $750 million from Altimeter.

Southeast Asia’s internet economy is forecast to double to $360 billion in gross merchandise value by 2025.

Video platform Rumble to go public via $2.1 bn SPAC deal

Canadian video platform Rumble said on Wednesday it would go public by merging with blank-check firm CF Acquisition Corp VI at an initial enterprise value of $2.1 billion.

The deal is expected to provide about $400 million in proceeds to Rumble, according to Reuters.

Upon the deal’s closing, Rumble said founder and CEO Chris Pavlovski will retain voting control.

The combined company will be called Rumble and is expected to list on the Nasdaq.

Trump’s social media venture seeks $1Bn raise, sources tell Reuters

Former US President Donald Trump’s new social media venture is seeking to raise up to $1 billion by selling shares to hedge funds and family offices at several times the valuation it commanded in a deal with a blank-check acquisition firm in October, sources told Reuters.

Trump Media & Technology Group, which has yet to roll out the social media app it says it is developing, already stands to receive $293 million if its deal to list in New York through a merger with blank-check firm Digital World Acquisition Corp is completed.

The deal valued Trump Media at $875 million, including debt. Trump Media is now seeking to raise up to an additional $1 billion at a valuation of close to $3 billion, to reflect Digital World’s share rally after Trump supporters and day traders snapped up the stock.

Trump has said he is launching his own social media app to stand up against the companies that have barred him from their platforms. He had 89 million followers on Twitter, 33 million on Facebook and 24.5 million on Instagram at the time he was blocked, according to a presentation on his company’s website.

TRUTH Social is scheduled for a full rollout in the first quarter of 2022, and is the first of three stages in the Trump Media plan, followed by a subscription video-on-demand service called TMTG+ that will feature entertainment, news and podcasts.

Tesla launches electric quad bike in US for kids

Tesla has launched an electric quad bike for kids in the United States for $1,900, two years after the electric-car maker introduced the all-terrain vehicle (ATV) along with its pickup vehicle Cybertruck, Reuters reported.

The four-wheel ATV — “Cyberquad for Kids” — is inspired by the Cybertruck model and will begin shipping in 2-4 weeks, according to the company website.

The bike, however, cannot be shipped to Hawaii, Alaska or Puerto Rico, Tesla said.

Musk had tweeted in 2019 that an electric ATV will arrive as an option for Tesla’s much-anticipated and yet-to-be-launched Cybertruck, whose production has been facing challenges due to supply chain problems.

Twitter removes 3,000+ accounts related to state-linked information operations

Twitter said on Thursday it has removed more than 3,000 accounts which were operating as foreign state-linked information operations.

The Twitter accounts that were removed were linked to operations attributed to six countries, including Mexico, China and Russia, Twitter said in a blog post. Of the 3,465 accounts removed, 2,160 were linked to operations attributed to China.

As per Reuters, the company also said it will start the Twitter moderation research consortium in early 2022 to study platform governance issues.

Dorsey-led Square rebrands to Block in nod to blockchain

Square, the payments company led by Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey, is changing its name to Block as it looks to expand beyond its payment business and into new technologies like blockchain.

According to Reuters, the name ‘Square’ had become synonymous with its seller business. The new name would distinguish the corporate entity from its businesses, Square added, a strategy similar to Meta Platforms rebrand last month.

The company said there would be no organisational changes and its different business units — Square, peer-to-peer payment service Cash App, music streaming service Tidal and its bitcoin-focused financial services segment TBD54566975 — will continue to maintain their respective brands.

The move comes days after Dorsey stepped down from his role as CEO at Twitter. The digital payments giant’s Square Crypto, a team “dedicated to advancing Bitcoin”, will also change its name to Spiral.

China fines social media firm Douban for ‘unlawful’ release of information

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) had summoned and fined social media company Douban over unlawful release of information, as Beijing steps up efforts to control and “clean up” the internet space, Reuters reported.

The internet watchdog said in a statement that Beijing authorities fined Douban’s operating entity 1.5 million yuan ($2,35,000) and regulators demanded “immediate rectifications” from the company.

Douban, an online platform where tens of millions of Chinese users review films and discuss various social topics, said its reply function had been suspended on Thursday and would be resumed on December 17.

The CAC did not give other details on the reason for the fine. But it added that it would “seriously handle” relevant representatives of Douban and said the company had been fined a total of 9 million yuan in November.

Disney names Susan Arnold as board chair, replacing Bob Iger: Report

Susan Arnold is taking over as Disney’s chairperson of the board, CNBC reported.

Arnold will succeed Bob Iger, who stepped down as Disney CEO early last year. Iger has served as chairman of the board since 2012 and is set to leave the position effective December 31.

Arnold has been on Disney’s board for 14 years and has served as the independent lead director since 2018. She was an operating executive at The Carlyle Group until this year. She served as president of the global business units of Procter & Gamble from 2007 to 2009 and was also a member of the board at McDonald’s from 2008 to 2016.

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