Messaging services

WhatsApp claimed in a blog post that its business platform ‘WhatsApp Business’ has gathered 5 million partners within a year of its launch. WhatsApp will become available on web & desktop with these features:

  1. Quick replies: Ready answers to commonly asked questions, to be accessed with a “/” to see the options
  2. Labeling contacts and chats to increase access and to organize
  3. Sort chat lists by unread messages, groups or broadcasts

**

Workplace messaging service Slack has over 10 million daily active users (DAUs), reports Reuters. Paid customers on Slack have risen 50% over the past 5 years to over 85,000. Slack’s closest competitor is Microsoft Teams, a free chat service for Microsoft Office 365’s users, which reportedly has 329,000 organizations using the service.

Tech

Google, Amazon, Facebook spent a combined $48 million into lobbying US government officials in 2018, per Recode. On the whole, the spending is up by 13% from 2017. Spending by Google increased the most by 18% to $21.2 million. Facebook’s spend grew 10% to $12.6 million, while Apple was the only company to reduce the money it spent on lobbying. Google, Amazon and Facebook spent most of their lobbying money on in-house lobby teams.

Social media

Facebook will proactively shut down fake Groups and Pages which are in violation of its community guidelines, the company said in a blog post. Users who run Pages will now see a new tab displaying content removed by Facebook, and false rated posts that have been down marked by a third-party fact-checker.

Content relating to hate speech, graphic violence, harassment, regulated goods, nudity or sexual activity, etc are not allowed on Facebook.

Facebook is also updating its recidivism policy in an attempt to prevent people/pages who have been blocked from creating similar-looking pages, accounts, groups and events again. The platform will now remove other similar Pages or Groups even if that Page/Group has not violated any standards. To do this, Facebook will look at more information while blocking a page, and look out for the same administrators or names.

Food / grocery delivery

Grofers earned revenues of Rs 319 crore in January 2019, reports the Economic Times. The company further claims that it added 2.5 lakh customers in January alone, and aims at earning revenues of Rs 2,500 in FY19.

  • Grofers said it sold 1.81 crore items worth Rs 207.5 crore in January alone.
  • Grofers also claims to have the highest customer engagement in Delhi NCR, followed by Mumbai and Bangalore, with an average order size of Rs 2640 with 20 items in the cart.

In a statement to MediaNama, the company said that during its 9-day Grand Orange Bag Days sale in January:

  • It sold goods with a gross merchandise value (GMV) of Rs 207.52 crore, logging 140,000 visits each day of the sale.
  • The sale was operational in all of Grofer’s 13 cities, including in non-metro cities Lucknow, Kanpur, Jaipur, and Ahmedabad.
  • The highest sales amounting to Rs 85.8 crore were made in Delhi, followed by Mumbai and Bangalore with sales of Rs 35.8 crore and Rs 28.2 crore respectively

Grofers said that the sale involved offering 100% cashback on goods worth up to Rs 5,000, and brought onboard 250,000 new customers.

Cabs

Ola has reduced the funding into Foodpanda by half and will focus on its private label brands, reports the Economic Times. Foodpanda will further reduce cost and focus on its in-house labels including The Great Khichdi Experiment, FLRT Brands and Lovemade. The business has cut its marketing and customer acquisition costs by 60%, and orders are expected to fall by 60% but “business will grow more efficiently.”

Ola plans to focus on payments, lending, core transportation including EVs, scooters, and the international business. Several employees who were moved to Foodpanda have now been moved back to Ola, according to ET.

**

Uber has launched an Uber Boat service in Mumbai in partnership with Maharashtra Maritime Board, providing transportation from Gateway of India, Elephanta Islands, and Mandwa Jetty, via speed-boats. The service launched on February 1, with two variants: a 6-8 seater Uber Boat and a 10 seater Uber Boat XL. The rides would cost Rs 5,700 for Uber Boat, and Rs 9,500 for Uber Boat XL for all routes. The boats would all be equipped with lifejackets, emergency contact, and safety manual, etc.

**

Asian cab hailing service Grab has entered a content partnership with VOD service Hooq, reports TechInAsia. This deal will bring 10,000 hours’ worth of Hooq’s video content to the Grab app. Grab’s group head of strategy & partnership Hidayat Liu said that the company found that video would get significantly higher engagement from its users than music or pictures. The size of the deal was not disclosed.

Grab users can pause a show/movie via Grab on their mobiles, and watch the rest of the program on a smart TV or laptop or on the Hooq app later. They will also get access to all of Hooq’s free content without any subscription free, and a free 3-month trial for Hooq’s premium content. Those who wish to sign up for Hooq after the 3-month trial runs out can do so via GrabPay.  

IoT

State-owned BSNL has partnered with Tata Motors for a machine-to-machine communications deal, reports the Economic Times. BSNL is providing the embedded SIM cards to turn Tata’s vehicles into smart cars. BSNL Chairman Anupam Srivastava said that 5 lakh SIM cards were already provided, and another 10 lakh would be supplied within a year. This would enable Tata to turn its Tiago, Hexa, and SUV Harrier into smart cars.

According to Srivastava, BSNL’s entry into the M2M market would bring in at least Rs 20 per SIM, which would become a Rs 1,200 crore annual revenue market opportunity.

Payments

The RBI has asked peer-to-peer lenders to provide details of borrowers, lenders, their financial profiles, and financial health of the platforms, per the Economic Times. The RBI has asked the players for their net owned funds, operational expenses, profit/loss, status of loans given out, and overseas investments in the companies. It asked for this information earlier in January, and gave the companies two weeks to respond.

**

Paytm is considering entering 1-2 developed markets, Paytm CFO Madhur Deora announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month. Paytm already operates in Japan with the backing of Softbank and Yahoo, and was launched in Canada in 2017.

Paytm has, in partnership with Zomato, begun food delivery services in Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Pune, and Chennai, reports the Quint. The partnership will eventually cover over 80,000 restaurants in 121 cities by the end of January, claimed Zomato.

The company further said that Paytm’s presence in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities is strong, and food & beverages is among the largest categories for Paytm both in volume and number of transactions.

Earlier in January, Paytm had announced that Zomato users would now be able to pay via Paytm in Delhi NCR, and said the feature would go live country-wide by the end of the month.

**

PhonePe is now entering financial services with the sale of mutual funds; CEO Sameer Nigam said that PhonePe has set up a new entity ‘PhonePe Wealth Services’ for the same, according to the Economic Times. The company will build its financial services business through partnerships with existing players, instead of doing a lot of work itself.

PhonePe already has 25 micro-apps for services like hotels, food delivery, and travel, within its main app. It aims to become a ‘super-app’ with 50 major apps on the main app and will eventually be open to all digital businesses.

Yuvraj Singh Shekhawat, head of the offline organised business at PhonePe, said that the company will aim to add another 5 million merchants by December 2019 to its existing 5 million merchants.

Video streaming

Netflix said that it aims to create more original content targeting global audiences regardless of their nationality or language, reports the Economic Times.

Netflix’s director of product and design disclosed that the company spent $8 billion last year to create original content. He did not, however, disclose the current allocation for production of originals. It would produce content in languages other than English, bolstered by the fact that Netflix’s international revenue exceeds its domestic US revenues.

**

Microsoft is developing a video game streaming service dubbed “Project XCloud” which is expected to go public this year, reports Business Insider. Microsoft expects the service to be the ‘Netflix for games’ and for it to enable playing high-quality, blockbuster games on any device. The project is currently being testing on an invite-only bases.

Microsoft will leverage its data centers to overcome issues of buffering and latency, and geographically match players with the connection closest to them. It may also be looking at subscription services. The streaming service has new and existing competitors in Google’s Project Stream and Sony’s PlayStation Now, with Verizon and Amazon also planning their own services.

Startup Accelerator

Rolls Royce’s Data Labs will launch a startup accelerator in April in Bangalore, reports the Economic Times. The program will provide technical support and mentors to startups in AI, IoT, and blockchain, among others. The program will be spread over 3-6 months, and will support startups in raising venture capital. It is currently running in the UK, Berlin, Singapore, and is expected to launch in the US as well. The car-maker is partnering with academic institutions, hackathons, incubators to look for such startups.

Telecom

In January, Aircel and its unit Dishnet petitioned the Supreme Court seeking that Bharti Airtel and its subsidiary Hexacom return Rs 112 crore to the defunct company, per the Economic Times. In a dispute ongoing since a year, Aircel has now accused Airtel of being in violation of earlier court orders and “unlawfully” retaining the amount.

Airtel had earlier given bank guarantees of Rs 453.7 crore and paid Rs 298 crore to the DoT. This was after adjusting the amount against Rs 3,500 crore deal to buy Aircel’s 4G spectrum. However, the SC cancelled these bank guarantees and asked the DoT to return Rs 298 to Airtel by January 25.

Hotels

Oyo has now expanded to its 7th international market – Philippines with 500 rooms in 21 franchised and leased hotels in Metro Manila, Tagaytay and Cebu, the company said in a statement. Oyo has committed $50 million over the next “few” years, and aims to expand to 20,000 rooms in 10 cities by the end of 2020. Ankit Arya is the country head of Oyo in Philippines.