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23-10-2017 to 28-10-2017

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This past week was filled with multiple technology updates, investments, resignations and cybersecurity attacks. While the founder of the ecommerce firm Amazon, Jeff Bezos, beat Bill Gates to become the world’s richest person for the second time, head of Zomato’s Base operations stepped down. If you missed the major news of this week, here’s our weekly wrap up.

1. GROUP VOICE, VIDEO CALLS COMING SOON TO WHATSAPP
The most commonly used messaging service finally announced a much awaited feature to its app. WhatsApp will release new features such as group video and voice calling for the users in a future update. Along with the ability to make conference calls on the app, WhatsApp will also be giving more power to group administrators. Group admins will now be able to choose if their participants can modify the subject, icon or description of the group. These new features have already been rolled out through the Google Play Beta Programme in the 2.17.387 version of the app.

2. FLIPKART TO INVEST IN SWIGGY, URBANLADDER AND URBANCLAP?
Flipkart, Bengaluru based ecommerce firm, is planning to diversify its strategy by investing in a large number of startups. To boost its presence in India, Flipkart is planning to invest in several startups. The company reportedly, is in talks with food delivery startup Swiggy, home services startup UrbanClap and furniture retail firm UrbanLadder. In a bid to ward off any competition from Amazon India, the company raised a whopping $ 3 billion from SoftBank Group Corp, Tencent Holdings, eBay Inc., and Microsoft Corp.

3. FACEBOOK AIMS AT CREATING MORE ORGANIC AND ORIGINAL CONTENT FOR ITS USERS.
Social media giant Facebook has begun testing a major change with regards to the News Feed. Facebook is looking at creating two new sets of news feeds that will be divided on the basis of original content for friends and adverts and promoted content. This test is being carried out in six countries including Bolivia, Cambodia, Guatemala, Serbia, Slovakia and Sri Lanka. While paid promotions will not be affected by this change, promotions of pages that are not paying Facebook for advertising will be affected. The aim is to replace original content with paid content and give users more time to browse.

4. TOPPR RAISES RS. 45 CRORES IN SERIES B FUNDING ROUND
Edutech firm Toppr, based in Mumbai, has raised $ 6.92 million in a Series B funding round from existing investor SAIF Partners along with Helion Ventures and FIL Capital Management. The personalized elearning solutions provider plans to use these funds to expand their geographical footprint and accelerate their user acquisition. Founded in 2013 by Zishaan Hayath and Hemanth Goteti, Toppr provides personalized educational services for students from classes 5 to 12, across CBSE, ICSE and various other State Boards. With a strong presence in 16 cities, they also provide tailored content to help students prepare for board and competitive exams like IIT JEE and NEET, among others.

5. SAMIR KUCKREJA, HEAD OF ZOMATO BASE, STEPS DOWN
Samir Kuckreja, the head of the cloud based Point Of Sale (POS) system, Zomato Base, resigned from his post from the restaurant discovery and food delivery firm, Zomato. Kuckreja, who had joined the firm just eight months ago, decided to call it quits following the company’s decision to not follow the growth road map for Zomato Base that he had agreed with the firm originally. More than half a dozen C suite executives have recently quit Zomato within months of joining. Chief Operating Officer of Zomato Deepak Gulati, also resigned last month.

6. NEW RANSOMWARE SPREADS THROUGH RUSSIA AND EUROPE
The year 2017 has seen multiple cybersecurity attacks that have left nations crippled. The latest attempt at creating havoc was the new ransomware called BadRabbit which spread across Russia, Ukraine and other Eastern European countries. Corporate networks, computer systems for the Kiev Metro, Ukraine’s Odessa International Airport and several Russian media outlets were affected by the malware before reaching Turkey, Bulgaria and Germany. Reports suggested this ransomware attack was planned in advance and was spread using tools similar to the NotPetya ransomware. Computers affected by the malware were asked to pay a ransom of 0.05 Bitcoins or roughly $ 276 in exchange for their data.

7. EBAY INC ACQUIRES 5.44% STAKE IN FLIPKART
eBay, the ecommerce platform, has acquired a 5.44% stake in Flipkart. This deal, was in exchange for their Indian business, which was valued at $ 211 million and for a $ 514 million cash investment in Flipkart. In the quarterly report filed with the US Securities and Exchange (SEC,) the company also mentioned it gained $ 167 million through the sale of its eBay India business. The companies received approval from the Competition Commission of India (CCI) for the acquisition of 100% share capital of eBay India in June this year. eBay India could not get a stronghold in the Indian market despite being in the market two years before Flipkart.

8. SOFTBANK AND OTHERS JOIN ECOMMERCE LOBBY GROUP INDIATECH
Japan based venture capital firm SoftBank along with Matrix Partners and Kalaari Capital have joined the industry lobby group Indiatech.org. The venture capital firms will provide all the member startups with financial strategic expertise. Investors such as Tiger Global Management, Steadview Capital and Accel India were also invited to be a part of the initiative along with SoftBank and Matrix Partners. The lobby group, headed by Sachin Bansal, aims to represent local ventures seeking protection from resourceful global rivals. Indiatech will also focus on issues like job creation, skills training and providing resources to scale up Internet businesses.

9. ASIA HAS MORE BILLIONAIRES THAN USA
According to a report by Union Bank of Switzerland (USB) and PricewaterhouseCoopers, Asia has overtaken the United States of America with the highest number of billionaires. 117 people broke past the billion dollar mark in 2016, bringing the total number of billionaires in Asia to 637. Overall, in 2016, the world’s 500 richest people added $ 824 billion to the total, recording an increase of 19% in their wealth. The net worth of the world’s richest people combined is estimated at $ 5.2 trillion as of 25 October 2017. While China and India contributed to three quarters of the world’s new billionaires, US added only 25 billionaires for a total of 563.

10. WHATSAPP LAUNCHES ITS LATEST FEATURE: RECALL.
Facebook owned messaging service WhatsApp finally gave users what they have always wanted. The “Recall feature” will allow people to delete messages once sent in both the sender’s and the receiver’s phone. However, users can only delete the messages after seven minutes of it being sent. The deleted messages will be replaced with a “This message was deleted” message instead. Although the feature has been rolled out globally, only a few countries have received the update so far. But messages that are in quotes along with broadcasts cannot be deleted.

11. AMAZON TO DOUBLE DOWN ON INDIAN INVESTMENTS
Jeff Bezos, the founder of ecommerce firm had made a commitment to invest close to $ 5 billion in the lucrative Indian market. In this regard, Amazon plans to double down on its investments in India to focus on key areas such as its digital payments platform Amazon Pay and the Prime membership program. The company has already spent close to $ 2 billion to scale up its Indian business and recently pumped Rs. 260 crores in its online payments platform Amazon Pay. Both ecommerce majors, Flipkart and Amazon have been battling to claim the top position, post this year’s month long festive season sale.

12. IPHONE X SOLD OUT MINUTES AFTER PRE ORDERING STARTS
The latest smartphone released by technology giant Apple, iPhone X was sold out ten minutes after the pre orders were opened. The shipping time for the different models began to slip soon after the pre orders began at 12:01 A.M., on Friday, 27 October 2017. Consumers in Australia and UK also saw a delivery delay of five to six weeks. According to the ecommerce site eBay, there were 36,555 searches for iPhone X from midnight until 1 P.M., Eastern Standard Time. The first all screen smartphone, iPhone X, was revealed in September this year and is equipped with super retina display, Face ID scanning and wireless charging.

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

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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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