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VCC Startups weekly wrap: Google backs dunzo; Paytm to merge Little and Nearbuy

09 December, 2017

Google’s investment in daily tasks management app dunzo was one of the key highlights of the week as it marked the internet giant’s first direct bet in India.

The week also marked another first as B Capital Group, the venture capital firm started by Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, made its debut direct investment into an Indian company. B Capital invested $10 million in mobile point-of-sale services provider Mswipe as part of its Series D round.

Alibaba-backed Chinese bicycle sharing unicorn Ofo’s India entry is another significant highlight of the week. Ofo’s India entry is expected to intensify competition in the market as three homegrown companies such as local ride-hailing firm Ola, Ford- and Sequoia-backed self-drive car rental startup Zoomcar and InMobi co-founder Amit Gupta’s Yulu have been testing their services.

Here is a look at the movers and shakers.

Google leads $12 mn round in task management app dunzo
Making its first direct investment in India, global technology giant Google has led a $12.3 million (Rs 80.8 crore) Series B funding into Bengaluru-based daily tasks management app dunzo. Existing investors Aspada Investment Advisors and Blume Ventures also participated in the round.

Google Asia Pacific Pte Ltd invested Rs 64.58 crore, Blume Ventures put in Rs 3.75 crore and Aspada infused Rs 12.5 crore into the startup.

Google, which is owned by Alphabet Inc, usually makes its investments through its venture capital funding arms GV, formerly Google Ventures, which funds early-stage deals, and CapitalG, which focuses on late-stage growth companies.

The funding in dunzo is a rare one for Google as it is a direct investment.

Paytm merging Little, Nearbuy to create largest deal discovery platform
Vijay Shekhar Sharma-led Paytm has announced the merger between Little and Nearbuy to create the largest online deal discovery platform in India. The mobile wallet and ecommerce major will hold a majority stake in the merged entity.

The announcement comes barely three months after VCCircle had first reported Paytm’s move to acquire its investee company, Little.

Paytm held parallel discussions with Little’s rival Nearbuy. It feels that the deal discovery platforms are aligned well with its core payments business and could accelerate mobile commerce and transactions.

The company said the merger will strengthen Paytm’s presence in the offline commerce space. “This combination of Nearbuy and Little marks a great opportunity for us to reinforce our commitment to support small and large retailers in the new age of mobile commerce and payments,” Paytm founder and CEO Sharma said.

Facebook co-founder Saverin’s B Capital tops up Mswipe’s Series D round
B Capital Group, the venture capital firm started by Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, has invested $10 million (Rs 65 crore) in Mswipe Technologies Pvt. Ltd as part of the Mumbai-based mobile point-of-sale services provider’s Series D round.

Existing investor DSG Consumer Partners also put money in the top-up round. The latest investment takes the total Series D funding to more than $40 million (around Rs 258 crore).

This marks B Capital’s first direct investment into an Indian company. As part of the deal, Saverin will join Mswipe’s board.

B Capital was started in 2016 by Saverin and Silicon Valley Indian-origin investor Raj Ganguly. The VC firm invests in technology companies in the US, India, China, Israel and Southeast Asia.

Chinese bicycle sharing unicorn Ofo enters India
Alibaba-backed Chinese bicycle sharing unicorn Ofo has entered India, likely intensifying competition in a market where three homegrown companies have been testing their services.

While several Chinese publications reported Ofo’s India foray last week, local ride-hailing firm Ola and Ford- and Sequoia-backed self-drive car rental startup Zoomcar have been running pilot bicycle sharing services for over a month.

An Ofo spokesperson said in an emailed response that the company’s strategy was in line with the growing interest in bike sharing as part of the smart mobility initiatives in India. “We hope to bring our globally proven technology and operational excellence to help this sector grow.

Social media posts by its senior executives also suggested that Ofo’s first port of call in India will be Chennai. The company has also been laying the foundation and building teams for a full-fledged launch in several other cities, including Coimbatore, Indore, Ahmedabad and Bengaluru.

Ofo will import bikes into India and proposes to offer its services for free and waive deposits till the year-end, Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported, citing the company.

Ofo operates in 200 cities across 19 countries, including China, Australia, Singapore, Japan and the UK. It has a fleet of 10 million bikes, powering 32 million rides a day. The company’s entry into India is a significant development given that it is the first foreign player in the segment.

Ola Fleet CEO Shalabh Seth resigns
Shalabh Seth, chief executive of Ola Fleet Technologies, the cab leasing arm of Ola, has resigned from the firm.

Seth is expected to leave the firm later this month to pursue his entrepreneurial interests.

The former managing director of beer company SABMiller India assumed charge of Ola Fleet in January this year.

Seth’s exit is the latest of several senior-level exits from Ola this year. In July this year, Deep Singh, who was senior director of operations at the cab-hailing firm, resigned from the firm.

In February, VCCircle had reported that chief financial officer Rajiv Bansal, chief marketing officer Raghuvesh Sarup, chief operating officer of offline initiatives Anuj Bhargava, and head of engineering and senior director at Ola Innovation Labs Sriram V Iyer had quit the firm.

Flipkart rubbishes CEO exit rumours
Ecommerce major Flipkart has dismissed rumours around a likely exit of its CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy.

Krishnamurthy, a former executive at Tiger Global, an early backer of Flipkart, was appointed CEO of the company in January.

The partial exit of Tiger Global by selling a portion of its stake to SoftBank recently has given rise to speculations that Krishnamurthy, who is seen as a representative of the US fund house, may leave the company.

However, Flipkart has come out strongly denying these rumours. “This is false, malicious and completely baseless,” the company said.

Krishnamurthy was appointed CEO when waning investor confidence, long funding drought, series of top-level exits put the company under pressure as rival Amazon stepped up its challenge. Under Krishnamurthy, Flipkart steadied its business, retained its dominance and attracted fresh investors including SoftBank, Microsoft, eBay and Tencent who together put in around $3.8 billion.

Mumbai Uber, Ola drivers call for strike over falling income, rise in suicides
Drivers and car partners of app-based taxi aggregators Uber and Ola in Mumbai have called for an indefinite strike to voice their grievances against declining earnings, deteriorating business experience and increasing concerns over driver suicides.

The strike is scheduled to begin on 10 December, according to pamphlets being distributed among Uber and Ola drivers and car owners.

The aggrieved parties have complained that the cab aggregators have been providing customers with attractive schemes, but have not given benefits to their driver partners. This, they claim, has resulted in a fall in earnings and have put them under financial stress.

About 50% of the cars operating in the city are at risk of being seized by banks and other financial institutions, as most drivers are not being able to service their debts, which may result in loans defaults, the pamphlet claimed.

It said if the demands for better remuneration and improved working conditions are not met, the drivers will go on a hunger strike from 12 December before the respective Ola and Uber offices in Andheri.

According to Samir Ingale, a partner leading the strike in Mumbai, a few drivers took their own lives recently. For instance, Deepak Chaurasia, an Uber driver operating in Navi Mumbai, hanged himself two months ago after failing to pay the equated monthly instalment of his auto loan.

Similarly, two others, Ramprasad Kanojia and Deepak Palande, took their own lives due to the financial stress, said Ingale, adding that most driver partners are not being able to break even or meet the expenses.

Sequoia, Jerry Yang’s fund back expense management startup Happay
Bengaluru-based Happay, an expense management platform for enterprises, has raised $10 million (Rs 65.13 crore) in a Series B funding round led by existing investor Sequoia Capital.

While Sequoia put in nearly Rs 38.5 crore ($5.98 million), Singapore-based private equity fund Axiom Capital invested Rs 25.74 crore ($4 million). AME Cloud Ventures, the venture fund led by Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang, among others, also participated in the round.

With this investment, the startup has been valued between $53 million and $55 million, post-money.

Happay had last raised $7.2 million in July 2015 from Sequoia Capital and Prime Venture Partners, according to data available with VCCEdge, the data and research platform of VCCircle.

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VCC Startups weekly wrap: Google backs dunzo; Paytm to merge Little and Nearbuy

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