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6-11-2017 To 11-11-2017



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With highs and lows, investments and major redesigns, the second week of November was filled with both good and bad news updates. Flipkart’s valuation was marked down and Ola will be seen collaborating with Microsoft! If you’ve missed the major news of this week, here’s our weekly wrap up!

Mutual investor fund based in USA, Valic Co, marked down the valuation of India’s biggest ecommerce company Flipkart to $ 7.9 billion from $ 11 billion. Critics claim this move signifies some of the smaller investors of Flipkart are still divided over its previous valuation. However, the markdown comes as a surprise because Flipkart recently raised $ 3 billion from SoftBank, Tencent Holdings, Microsoft and eBay. Despite the continuous influx of money, Flipkart’s valuation has been decreased thrice before by Morgan Stanley, Fidelity Investments and mutual fund investor T. Rowe Price.

One of India’s largest private sector lender banks, HDFC Bank, is launching an investment fund, SmartUp Zone, to support early stage ventures. The fund will have a corpus of about $ 25 million to $30 million and will also provide legal services to the selected startups. The bank is looking to tackle specific pain points of the startup community and harness the potential of the startups and fintech ecosystem using a multi prolonged approach. Through the fund, HDFC Bank aims to invest in about 65 startups across 30 cities in India.

India’s largest digital payments platform, Paytm, will be investing close to Rs. 5000 crores in its payments arm over the course of the next three years. Established in 2010, Paytm has already more than Rs. 5,000 crores in its mobile payments sector till date. Founder of Paytm, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, in a recent interview said the company will continue to be the largest investor in digital payments in the country. One97 Communications, Paytm’s parent company, recently posted a record revenue of $ 126 million for the fiscal year 2016 – 2017 and a net worth of Rs. 2,376 crores.

On a small visit to India, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced the technology giant will be collaborating with homegrown taxi hailing startup Ola. The partnership will allow Ola to leverage Microsoft’s cloud, artificial intelligence and productivity tools to help car manufacturers integrate the platform with vehicle systems, enhance rider experience and for predictive maintenance of the cars. At the India Today Conclave Next 2017, Ola’s founder Bhavish Agarwal along with Nadella outlined the broad contours of the alliance. The platform will be designed to continuously collect, analyze and learn from high volumes of data and user behavior along with enhancing the safety and security features and driver assistance services.

In an attempt to encourage electric vehicles in India, the Indian Government is working on creating a policy that would facilitate and expedite electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing. The Indian Government held talks with both local and foreign companies in an attempt to raise investments to turn India into a manufacturing hub. The government has doubled down its efforts to increase the EV ecosystem in India and make the country a truly electric vehicle nation by 2018. In recent years, there has been a 37.5 % rise in the sale of EVs in India.

Image sharing social media app, Snapchat, will soon undergo a major redesign in an attempt to reach a broader audience. Snap Inc., Snapchat’s parent company earned just over $ 207.9 million in revenue with a loss of $ 0.14 per share in the latest quarter. This California based firm’s earnings dropped by 20% in after hours trading, closing at $ 15.12 and lost $ 443 million while their capital expenditures also rose up to $ 25.9 million. The company plans to integrate premium video and search based content in a manner similar to the social media giant Facebook to open the app to a huge audience of new users. According to Snapchat’s founder, Evan Spiegel, the app is exploring new ways of surfacing its content in a personalized and more relevant way, while still maintaining the exploratory nature of the service.

In an advertisement worthy of awards, Korean technology giant Samsung trolled its fiercest rival Apple for always being a step behind the company. Samsung took the viewers on a trip down memory lane beginning in 2007 with the first generation iPhone and criticizing all the major iPhones released since then. The advertisement mocked Apple’s phone running out of storage, not being waterproof, not having a stylus or a headphone jack and the lack of a wireless charging support. At the same time, the ad portrayed Samsung always leading the tech world. This is not the first time Samsung took a dig at Apple and the rivalry between both the technology giants dates back decades.

A dedicated platform for startups called iStart was launched by the Rajasthan Government in a bid to facilitate entrepreneurship and job creation. Managed by Applyifi, iStart will include three major components namely QRate, Challenge For Change and Rajasthan Stack.The programs will be structured with very clear and measurable deliverables to ensure that more startups can succeed. Based on an “access improve access” model, startups will undergo customized group skill building and mentoring programmes and will be provided with a detailed assessment report and Applyifi scorecard to help them strengthen their venture in areas that need improvement.

The travel review website, TripAdvisor will now be placing badges against hotels and restaurants that have been identified to be unsafe for women. This move comes after the company faced harsh criticism for deleting a review which highlighted the maltreatment a tourist faced in a Mexican resort. TripAdvisor, which claims around 455 million people use their portal, apologized for deleting the comment saying it was deleted under an older policy that allowed only “family friendly language” on the site.

The China based ecommerce website, is seeking the permission of Competition Commission of India (CCI,) to buy stake in the online grocery startup, BigBasket. Alibaba Group Holding’s subsidiary Singapore ECommerce Pvt., Ltd., will infuse the funds in Supermarket Grocery Supplies Pvt., Ltd., which owns BigBasket. At present, the Indian Internet food retail industry is on track to hit $1 billion in 2017 and may even be valued at $ 1.2 trillion by 2020 and the online grocery market currently accounts for 48% of India’s total retail consumption. This investment by Alibaba will help BigBasket keep the big companies like Flipkart and Amazon at bay.

India’s largest ecommerce platform, Flipkart is all set to launch its own smartphone Capture+ this month. Armed with a dual camera and a Qualcomm SD625 octa core processor, Capture+ will be available for sale from November 15, 2017. The phone also packs a 4GB RAM and runs on stock Android Nougat with support for turbocharging its 3,500mAh battery. Currently, Flipkart owns 70% market share of the online smartphones market in India and is the exclusive launch partner of smartphone brands such as Xiaomi, Samsung, Vivo and Oppo. Priced at Rs. 10,999 for the 32 GB model and at Rs. 12,999 for the 64 GB model, the phone will be launched under Flipkart’s ‘Made In India’ private label arm ‘Billion.’

China’s biggest ecommerce firm Alibaba launched the ninth edition of its annual Single’s Day sale on 11 November 2017. Surprising people world over, Alibaba’s sales hit a record $ 16 billion by mid morning on Saturday trumping the sale of Black Friday and the Cyber Monday sales combined. Within two hours of the launch, the company generated nearly $ 11.9 billion worth of total Gross Merchandise Volume (GMV) and processed closed to 256,000 payment transactions per second. According to a few sources, Alibaba’s 11.11 Global Shopping Festival can even touch the $ 20 billion mark.

The Delhi Government recently announced plans to restart the odd even car policy in the capital in an attempt to reduce pollution. Taxi aggregator Ola, in consolidation with the government’s decision, announced there will be no surge prices once this rule has been implemented in Delhi. The company also added the base price will also be slashed to Rs. 35 to further help the citizens of the city. According to media reports, the government is also in talks with Uber for the implementation of a similar scheme. The Government is working hard to ensure there is a combined agreement with both Ola and Uber on this issue.

That’s all for this week! Subscribe to our portal to never miss updates from the startup world! If your startup has an exciting announcement coming up, you can even write to us at [email protected]. Catch up with the highlights of the week with our The News This Week section.

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Leher Versus Clubhouse: Which Audio Listening Startup Would You Choose?



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Clubhouse is a new type of social networking platform which is an audio only platform.  This means every conversation takes place through audio where users speak to let their thoughts known.  Users can create and host rooms where speakers will talk about a particular topic.  Originating in the Silicon Valley, Clubhouse attracted some major names onto its platform like Elon Musk, Evan Williams, Reddit co founder Alexis Ohanian, former Y Combinator President Sam Altman, AngelList co founder Naval Ravikant, Ashton Kuthcer, Oprah Winfrey, Drake, Kevin Hart and many others are some of the influential personalities who are on Clubhouse.  There is however a catch as Clubhouse is currently limited to iOS.

Leher is an Indian made alternative to Clubhouse and is a similar audio sharing and listening startup.  Leher also has video support unlike Clubhouse and is also available for both Android and iOS.  However, Leher does not have the biggest names in the world on its platform but it does have significant micro influencers and is growing at a rapid pace.  Within 180 days of its beta version launch, the company claimed to have its users spend about 44 minutes every day and 250,000 minutes per month for live video sessions.

We at Startup Stories are curious to see which among Leher or Clubhouse would our readers choose to take part in a virtual discussion.  Please let us know your answer in the poll below.

Which Audio Listening Startup Would You Choose?

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Why Are Ads On Digital Media Failing To Reach The Right Audience?



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If you are a regular user of social media platforms and also a fan of consuming content on the digital medium, then there is a very high likelihood that you have seen ads on pages you are reading or watching something.  There would be times when you have been targeted by an ad which feels like it was wrongly targeted at you.  Imagine if you are a vegetarian by choice and while browsing online, if you are targeted by a food delivery app which shows ads about chicken dishes.  The ad would only serve to spoil the mood of the online user instead of serving its actual purpose which is to push the user to buy a chicken dish.

These wrongly targeted ads might be the side effects of performance marketing or a weak brand marketing.  Performance marketing means advertising programs where advertisers pay only when a specific action occurs. These actions can include a generated lead, a sale, a click, and more.  Inshort, performance marketing is used to create highly targeted ads for a very specific target audience at a low cost.  Performance marketing usually means high volume for a very specific cost.  

Brand marketers on the other hand believe in narrowly defining target audiences but end up spending a lot of money on ad placements.  Gautam Mehra, CEO, Dentsu Programmatic India & CDO, Dentsu International Asia Pacific said, “You’ve defined a persona, you know the emotions you want to elicit, but then you buy a YouTube masthead and CricInfo sponsorships because IPL is up.  If brand advertisers look at audience-based buys more deeply than just placements, you will see more relevant ads (sic.)”  

ALSO READ: How Digital Marketing Is Impacted Due To The COVID-19 Pandemic

Performance marketing is more of a sales function rather than a marketing function and is about meeting the cost of acquisition.  This is a reason why budgets are usually high for performance marketing.  Mehra goes on to add, “the fact is that an engineer can out-beat FMCGs on performance marketing.  Advertisers who have cracked this are spending 10x and are on an ‘always on’ mode (unlike time-bound brand campaigns.)”

There is always the case of supply and demand, with the supply usually exceeding the demand on digital platforms.  Ultimately, it boils down to the choice between no ad versus low relevance ad and it is quite easy to guess that having a low relevance ad is better.  

Arvind R. P., Director – Marketing and Communications at McDonald’s India (West and South,) said “McDonalds’ for instance, has seen its share of spends on digital grow from 20% levels a couple of years back to over 40% at present.  Outcomes of this journey have been encouraging, proven by our media-mix-modelling and other key metrics.  We have seen best results from an optimal mix of Television plus digital (sic.)”  Moreover, Arvind also believes performance marketing only approach could turn out to be more suited to short term, versus a more consistent full funnel effort.  The latter ensures adequate emphasis on building consideration, as well as growing transactions.  Arvind feels digital is a complex medium which needs investment in the right talent who could use the right tools.  Brands which underestimate the need for the investment are often disappointed from the return on investment from the digital medium.

With the constantly changing consumer dynamics marketers are now shifting to unscripted marketing which frankly needs more insights into the consumer mindset.  The lack of marketers to do the proper research is why digital medium is plagued with irrelevant ads.

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Facebook Launches BARS For Creating Raps To Counter TikTok’s Growing Popularity



Facebook Launches BARS For Creating Raps To Counter TikTok’s Growing Popularity

Facebook is leaving no stone unturned to tackle the surging popularity of the Chinese video making app TikTok.  As part of its redoubled efforts Facebook is launching a new app named BARS which could be used to create and share raps.  The core idea behind the app is rappers could focus on creating content without having to worry about investing heavily in production and equipment.

Facebook said, “Audio production tools can be complicated, expensive and difficult to use. With BARS, you can select one of our professionally-created beats, write lyrics and record yourself dropping bars (sic.)”  The company also added, “BARS auto-suggests rhymes as you’re writing to keep your flow going.  You can also jump into Challenge mode and freestyle with auto-suggested word cues.  Choose from a variety of audio and visual filters to take your creations to the next level (sic.)” 

The app is now available in the Apple App Store in the United States of America.  The invites for using BARS would be sent out in batches beginning in the USA and then expanded worldwide.  

This would be the second app which Facebook is launching to counter TikTok’s growing popularity.  Instagram Reels was the latest offering from the photo sharing platform Instagram (owned by Facebook) and was launched as a replacement for the video sharing application TikTok.  TikTok was enjoying an unrivalled popularity in India as it became a means to keep boredom at bay during the nationwide lockdown which was imposed in light of the COVID-19 virus. However, the Indian government announced that it would ban 59 Chinese applications in which TikTok was one, along with WeChat, Helo, Cam Scanner and many others.  This left a sudden void in video making applications, and Instagram realised the need for urgency to capitalize on this void.  Therefore, Instagram immediately pushed their latest feature Instagram Reels which lets its users create 15 second videos with music from Instagram’s database.  These videos look very similar to the ones made on TikTok and has gained a lot of popularity in India where Tik Tok continues to be banned.

ALSO READ: 4 Things To Know About Instagram Reels

Google also took advantage of the Indian Government’s ban of the viral application TikTok.  Google introduced a new feature on YouTube called YouTube Shorts.  The feature for all intents and purposes mimics the same features TikTok used to provide.  The new feature mimics many of TikTok’s most popular features, allowing users to make and post 15 second videos with built in creative tools encouraging them to add licensed music and more.

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