Also in this letter:
Ecommercefirms plan huge hiringsprees
- Indians are ditching Bitcoin for
Ethereum Byju’sacquires exam prep platform Gradeup
Shiprocket, a logistics operator, is in talks with Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek to lead a new, $200-million funding round, sources told us.
The round, which is being finalised, is expected to value the company at more than $800 million. It may also include other overseas investors and existing investors, they said. So far, the company has raised around $94 million.
Founder Saahil Goel, however, said the funding information was “not accurate”. “We haven’t finalised our round construct and haven’t signed any terms yet,” he said in an emailed statement to us. “The final set of investors, fundraise amount and valuation are all in the works right now.”
What it does: Shiprocket collects goods from direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands, micro-entrepreneurs and local brands, and sends them to logistics players such as Delhivery and Ecom Express. It also helps retailers integrate their websites on platforms such as Shopify.
The growing interest in Shiprocket is due to increased demand from small businesses going online, and online-only D2C brands, amid the pandemic. In July, it had around 60,000 active merchants on the platform, of which around 10,000 were D2C brands.
Tie-up with Razorpay: Shiprocket is now working on strategic initiatives with Razorpay, which was among the investors that participated in its July round, sources told us. The companies are working on an arrangement in which Shiprocket will offer its services to Razorpay’s merchants and offer Razorpay’s services, including lending, to its customers.
If successful, this could significantly increase Shiprocket’s shipment volumes, given that Razorpay has more than five million merchants on its platform.
Financials: Shiprocket claims it has an annual revenue run rate of $80-90 million and 1.3 to 1.4 lakh yearly active merchants on its platform. Last week, it appointed Atul Mehta as chief operating officer. He will head its logistics platform in India, the company said.
Incentives galore as ecomm firms begin festive-season hiring
Ecommerce companies are on a hiring spree again, offering various incentives as they look to bring on board thousands of delivery workers and warehouse personnel ahead of the festive season.
These incentives include higher pay for the duration of the festive season, joining bonuses, and attendance bonuses.
Alok Kumar, senior director at ManpowerGroup India, said “Companies are giving joining bonuses ranging from Rs 1.5k to Rs 3k for early joiners. In addition, there are special incentives for 100% attendance and [other] performance-linked incentives.”
Which companies? Executives from Amazon, Flipkart, Ecom Express, Shadowfax, Swiggy, Transport Corporation of India and Pickrr told us they were increasing manpower ahead of the festive season.
Cricket is a festival, too: The two months of cricket — the IPL and T20 World Cup — are also expected to increase the demand for food delivery riders.
Who’s doing what: Ecom Express, a logistics firm, plans to hire 35,000 delivery associates, apart from 12,000 people across its hubs, fulfilment and sorting centers. Last year, it had hired 30,000 people before the festive season.
- Shadowfax Technologies, which currently has about 65,000 delivery agents and on-ground staff, is looking to increase this number by 25,000-40,000, said chief executive Abhishek Bansal.
- Amazon, which added over 100,000 seasonal jobs before the festive season last year, said it would add even more to its delivery and warehouse fleet this year.
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Indians are ditching Bitcoin for Ethereum
Indians are flocking to Ethereum, which has seen a surge this year. Ethereum is a decentralised, open-source blockchain with smart contract functionality that was invented in 2013 by programmer Vitalik Buterin. Its native cryptocurrency is Ether (ETH), which is second only to Bitcoin in market capitalisation.
What’s happening? The past few days have seen a spurt in Indian investors and traders buying the cryptocurrency on local exchanges and those that offer services in the country. Many investors are buying it after partially or fully liquidating their bitcoin portfolio, experts said.
The top exchanges say that of the money pumped into cryptocurrencies, about 70% has been directed to Ethereum in the past 15 days.
“We have seen growth of over 150% in the number of ETH orders placed in the last six months on our platform,” said Nischal Shetty, CEO of WazirX, a cryptocurrency exchange.
Move over, Bitcoin: Over the past few years, Indians have mostly bought Bitcoin, the biggest and the most well-known cryptocurrency. They are now hedging their bets and buying others, leading to a spurt in volumes at exchanges.
High demand: “Long-term buyers and highly vested traders were the first ones to liquidate their positions in other assets to buy ETH, following new-age millennial and new investors,” said Shivam Thakral, CEO, BuyUcoin, a cryptocurrency exchange.
Flipkart launches programme to find and build D2C brands
Flipkart said it has launched a programme, called Flipkart Boost, to spot direct-to-consumer brands on its platform and help them grow.
How it works: For a fee, Flipkart will offer its expertise to early-stage brands in areas such as planning, advertising, cataloguing, logistics, quality control and mentoring.
Through the programme, Flipkart will shortlist brands on certain criteria such as growth potential, revenue run-rate and customer focus. They will then be invited to pitch their ideas to sector-focused venture funds such as A91 Partners, DSG Consumer Partners, Fireside Ventures, Matrix Partners India, Sequoia Capital India and Stellaris Venture Partners.
Flipkart said it tested the programme with a few brands earlier in the year and will pick 100 brands to participate in it this year.
Other D2C ambitions: Flipkart is also an investor in Thrasio-style venture Goat Brand Labs, which was launched by its former executive Rishi Vasudev.
Thrasio, a US company, is the world’s largest acquirer of third-party private label businesses on Amazon.com. Many startups in India, including Goat, Mensa Brands and GlobalBees, are trying to replicate this model and have raised significant sums in the past few months.
D2C’s Big Bang: D2C brands are finding growing acceptance among consumers, and it shows. We reported last month that the broader D2C space has seen a funding boom, with 146 firms raising a combined $500 million since the start of 2020. That’s almost the same amount they raised in the previous five years.
NPCI, Fiserv to launch API for RuPay credit card products
The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has tied up with Nasdaq-listed fintech firm Fiserv to launch an application programming interface (API) platform for startups and banks looking to build credit card-based products on top of the RuPay rails. API is a software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to each other.
The collaboration will help faster and cheaper onboarding of customers and merchants by banks and help fintech firms build new digital interfaces for customers using RuPay credit cards.
Quote: “We are trying to expand the credit ecosystem in India, where a lot of great work has happened on the debit side,” Rishi Chhabra, head of India and Sri Lanka at Fiserv, told us.
This comes at a time when card networks Mastercard and American Express have been barred by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) from issuing any new cards for not complying with Inda’s data localisation rules. As a result, a clutch of card-issuing banks have migrated their networks to Visa and RuPay.
Byju’s acquires exam prep platform Gradeup
Byju’s founder Byju Raveendran
Edtech startup Byju’s said it has acquired online exam preparation platform Gradeup.
What’s the plan? Gradeup will be rebranded as Byju’s Exam Prep and will cater to students preparing for over 150 examinations over 25 categories covering government jobs and postgraduate entrance exams such as IAS, GATE, CAT, defence, UGC-NET, etc.
Byju’s has been on an acquisition spree, having bought four companies in the past six months. In July, it announced the acquisition of professional and higher education platform Great Learning in a $600 million cash-and-stock deal. Earlier this year, it acquired Aakash Educational Services for $1 billion, in what was said to be the most expensive acquisition in the edtech industry in India.
In other deal news…
■ GoKwik, an e-commerce enablement platform, has raised $5.5 million in a funding round led by Matrix Partners India, in which RTP Global and several angels also participated. The ecommerce platform will use the money to expand into the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast Asia, and to hire for its technology, data and product engineering teams.
■ Zoho Corp, India’s largest SaaS company, has invested $5 million in Voxelgrids, an Indian startup that builds Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanners to foster the development of deep technological capabilities and intellectual property in the country.
■ Gigforce, an on-demand staffing platform providing pre-screened and pre-trained gig workers, has landed $3 million in pre-Series A funding led by Endiya Partners. Existing backer Unitus Ventures and other angel investors participated in the round.
■ Flipspaces, a tech-enabled interior designer, has raised $2 million from a consortium of family offices and high networth individuals led by former IIFL AMC CEO Prashasta Seth. The capital will be used to grow the US business, where the Mumbai-based startup claims to have seen 25X growth, and expand its newly launched software-as-a-service vertical.
■ COGOS Technologies, a Bengaluru-based enterprise logistics company, has secured $2 million from investors led by Dubai-based global shipping and logistics player Transworld Group and New York-based deeptech fund Worldquant Ventures.
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