By Trisha Jalan and Sneha Johari

Amazon has reduced its seller commissions by 35% for fashion sellers and 50% for some FMCG categories to increase sales from independent sellers, reports the Economic Times. Last week, we reported that over a dozen small sellers had exited or suspended their accounts on Amazon since they were unable to manage deliveries and logistics on their own, after the new FDI in e-commerce policy came into effect on February 1.

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Swiggy has launched Swiggy Stores, a service through which users can buy fruits and veggies, groceries, flowers, health items and supplements, pet food, meat etc, and get it delivered in an hour, reports the Economic Times. This service is piloting in Gurgaon with 3,500 stores. Swiggy claims to do 28 million orders monthly and has a fleet of 125,000 ‘active’ delivery personnel.

Swiggy has also acqui-hired Kint.io which uses ‘deep learning and computer vision’ to identify objects in a video to boost its own capabilities. The founding members of Kint.io – Pavithra Solai Jawahar and Jagannathan Veeraraghavan – will join Swiggy.

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The RBI is looking into bringing payment gateways under its regulation, RBI governor Shaktikanta Das said last week. The central bank will release a draft of these regulatory guidelines for consultation.

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Uber India users and drivers can now call each other without a mobile network, over VOIP using an internet connection, reports BGR. This option is in addition to the regular cellular calls that both can make. This, of course, masks the caller’s and the receiver’s numbers. This service was launched in the US in October last year.

It is unclear what (cloud telephony) service Uber will be using to offer this service, as well as whether it would record the calls for monitoring purposes.

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Opera is extending its web VPN service to the mobile web on Android.

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Spotify updated its terms of service to state that users using ad blockers would no longer be allowed to use the service. It also warned that it could delete the user account if they found traces of adblocking. It said that about 2 million users were using an adblocker or a modified app to skip ads, and that this number was 2% of its free monthly users.

Spotify has also acquired Gimlet Media, a podcast producing company, and Anchor, a podcast tools company, to get into podcasting.

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Shuttl has started offering meals on its buses, after a pilot on 50 buses in October last year. It will also foray into selling everyday items and groceries in the future. 80% Shuttl’s business comes from Delhi NCR, and it claims to do 60,000 rides daily.

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ToneTag has appointed Anil Kumar as chief technology officer, per a company statement. Founded in 2013, ToneTag is a sound-based proximity communications and payments provider. It has been backed by Amazon, Reliance Capital and MasterCard.

Funding & investments in February so far

Matrix Partners has invested an undisclosed amount in local news video platform Awaaz. Founded in 2018, Awaaz is a sourcing platform for hyperlocal video content across news, entertainment and general, and targets non-English speaking internet users. Subodh Kolhe and Firsata Durrani lead the product and content verticals at Awaaz respectively.

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Flipkart co-founder Sachin Bansal has invested $7 million in his new venture BAC Acquisitions, reported Inc42. BAC Acquisitions had earlier raised Rs 7,500 crore in December 2018. The company will:

  • acquire, develop, and/or make available new technology platforms for innovation in data sciences, healthcare, energy, media and entertainment.
  • Develop platforms to optimize business automation and computerization of processes in the above sectors

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Indonesian ride-hailing company Go-Jek has announced the first close of its Series F round at a reported $920 million, per TechCrunch. The round was led by existing investors Google, JD.com, and Tencent, with participation from Mitsubishi Corporation and Provident Capital.

Go-Jek plans to invest the funding in Indonesia and to grow its presence in Vietnam, Singapore, and Thailand, with work ongoing to enter Philippines, where it had an operating license request rejected.  Its Indonesia business includes transportation, food delivery, payments and financial services.

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Early stage investor 3one4 Capital is raising Rs 350 crore for its new ‘Continuum I’ fund, reports Mint. The fund has seen its first close at Rs 150 crore with backing from an American university and Japanese conglomerate Sojitz Corp.

The firm is managed by former Infosys executive TV Mohandas Pai’s sons Pranav and Siddharth Pai. Continuum I will invest in growth stages of 3one4’s portfolio companies across automation, media and content development, fintech and health.

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Zomato has raised Rs 284 crore from US investor Glade Brook Capital Partners for 13,000 Class I preference shares, reported the Economic Times. The investment is part of its Series I funding round, which began with Ant Financial’s Rs 1539 crore investment in November 2018. Zomato is now reportedly valued at $2 billion.

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Logistics startup Rivigo has raised $35.6 million in a Series E round from existing investors Warburg Pincus and SAIF Partners, reports Inc42. The company has issued 9,134 compulsorily convertible preference shares at a premium of $3,897 per share. SAIF Partners invested $14.65 million, and Warburg Pincus invested $20.94 million. Rivigo was founded in 2014, it owns and operates 2,100 trucks, and has a pan-India network across 150 locations.

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Bangalore-based concierge app Dunzo has raised $3.1 million in a Series C funding round from Cognizant co-founder Lakshmi Narayanan, Blume Ventures, Raintree Family Office, and Monika Garware Modi. Dunzo issued 4,251 compulsorily convertible cumulative preference shares (CCPS) at a premium of Rs 52,872 each. This was reported by Inc42. Specific amounts invested:

  • Lakshmi Narayanan – Rs 7 crore
  • Blume Ventures – Rs 6.9 crore
  • Raintree Family Office – Rs 5 crore
  • Monika Garware Modi – Rs 3.49 crore

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British fintech company OakNorth Holdings has raised a $440 million from the Softbank Vision Fund and Clermont Group, the company said in a statement. OakNorth works on loans for small and medium enterprises, and the technology behind these giving out these loans.

  • OakNorth has loaned $3.7 billion to British businesses without a single default or late payments since its September 2015 launch
  • It has helped in creation of 9,500 new homes, and 11,000 new jobs in the UK
  • It also runs 34,000 savings accounts

Other banks in Asia, North America and Europe also use OakNorth’s analytical intelligence platform for their own loan provisions. Netherlands-based NIBC Bank, which participated in OakNorth’s $100 million round in 2018 also uses its platform.

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Bangalore-based Smallcare Technologies has raised $8 million in a Series A round led by Sequoia India, with participation from Blume Ventures, Straddle Ventures, Beenext, WEH Ventures, and DSP Adiko. This is per the Economic Times.

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Last week, the Telecom Commission rejected TRAI’s proposal to offer free data to the poor. The regulator had proposed providing 100MB per month of free data to people in remote/rural areas, and had submitted its suggestions to the Department of Telecom.

The Telecom Commission, which is an inter-ministerial body, did not find merit in the proposal since a) data tariff is already low across the country, and b) internet penetration is high across subscribers

TRAI had suggested that the program be delivered via Universal Service Fund (USOF) which was created to spread telecom services in rural areas. It also suggested a model where data aggregators could offer free data via telco-agnostic schemes. The government, however, did not support the idea of setting up data aggregators.

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YouTube will improve its recommendations for US users by improving its system to take into account likes, dislikes, surveys, and time well spent, and recommending clickbait videos less. It will also reduce recommendations of borderline content which could misinform users – such as medically inaccurate or ‘phony’ cures for illnesses, false claims about science and historic events like 9/11. To improve its system, YouTube will use machine learning and real people.

YouTube says that this change may effect just one percent of YouTube users in the US. It said that the improvements will not affect which videos are available, but only which videos get recommended to viewers.

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ITC has set up its own e-commerce operation called ‘itcstore.in’, reports the Economic Times. ITC will sell both food and non-food FMCG items online, where it is currently running a pilot to sell gourmet chocolates. ITC executive director B Sumant said that the e-store’s operations would be limited to Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Kolkata.