2017. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The Indian startup ecosystem grew to become one of the biggest ecosystems of the world. Major international venture capital firms invested skyrocketing capital in multiple startup firms. Many new startups were acquired, some acquisitions failed at the finish line. But, overall, it was a very eventful year for startups in India. In no particular order, let’s take a look at some of the biggest startup moments of 2017.
Flipkart – Snapdeal Acquisition
One of the most talked about mergers that continued for more than 6 months, ecommerce giant Flipkart’s acquisition of Snapdeal would have marked the dawn of a new ecommerce era. With SoftBank’s interest in investing in Flipkart, this was supposed to be one of the biggest deals in the ecommerce ecosystem. But, minority investors such as Wipro founder Azim Premji’s investment arm PremjiInvest and others opposed the acquisition due to various issues. Ultimately, despite multiple attempts, the Flipkart and Snapdeal acquisition was called off.
Axis Bank Acquires Digital Payments Startup FreeCharge
Axis Bank, one of the biggest lending firms in India, acquired Snapdeal owned digital payments platform FreeCharge in the middle the Flipkart and Snapdeal merger talks. Launched in 2010, FreeCharge competes against other digital wallets like Paytm and Mobikwik. In accordance with the deal, Axis Bank got access to about 50 million FreeCharge consumers and the 200 member FreeCharge team joined Axis Bank.
Zomato Acquires Runnr
Zomato, India’s leading restaurant discovery and food delivery firm acquired Runnr for about $ 20 million. This acquisition helped Zomato shore up its food delivery business, amid intense competition from rapidly growing rivals such as Swiggy. The deal also gave Runnr a second life which was struggling to raise funds facing tough competition from other food delivery startups like Swiggy and Foodpanda.
Ola Acquires Foodpanda
It clearly was a year for acquisitions in the food tech industry. After the launch of UberEATS, the global taxi hailing firm Uber’s food delivery arm, the homegrown taxi hailing startup Ola acquired the online food ordering and delivery startup, Foodpanda to enter the foodtech industry. Ola invested $ 200 million in the company while Foodpanda’s parent company Delivery Hero received a percentage of Ola’s stock. It will be interesting to see how this new partnership will benefit both the companies and how it will affect Swiggy and Zomato’s domination of the food delivery industry in the coming year.
While 2017 was a great year for a few startups, not many were so lucky. Here is a list of those startups who have seen better days.
Stayzilla, homestay platform was shut down and the founder was arrested
Early this year, one of the biggest online homestay networks shut down its operations. Over a period of seven years, Stayzilla offered more than 55000 stay options across 4000 towns in India catering to both travelers as well as homeowners who are looking for unique and differentiated stay experiences. A month after the company closed up shop, its founder Yogendra Vasupal was arrested and sent to jail by the Chennai Police Commissioner after a case was filed against him by Jigsaw Advertising, accusing him of fraud. In a dramatic plot twist, Stayzilla’s co founder Sachit Singh received a box from an anonymous source containing a voodoo doll and his son’s photo inside. The package had an added message that said, “The most special way to say you care.” Not the best way to start the year. 30 days later Vasupal was granted bail by the Madras High Court and the HC Judge termed this case as “purely a dispute between two businessmen” while granting bail.
The Snapdeal Fallout
Following a failed merger and the exit of its largest investor SoftBank, which went ahead and invested in Snapdeal’s biggest rival Flipkart, to say 2017 was a bad year for this ecommerce firm would be an understatement. In addition to investment problems, the company also faced multiple expensive legal battles with Paytm Mall and GoJavas. While Axis Bank’s acquisition of FreeCharge gave the company some breathing room, Snapdeal still had to let go of most of its employees. However, the ecommerce firm is still fighting and is focused on its growth path towards building Snapdeal 2.0.
Karnataka, Kerala, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh join the Startup India Initiative
The Indian Government refused to be left behind in this Indian startup frenzy. In an attempt to help more such startups grow, both Central and State Governments launched multiple programmes, schemes and initiatives. Here are the programmes launched by the various governments in 2017. In line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Startup India Initiative, the State Governments of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh launched several initiatives to boost startups.
The Uttar Pradesh Government established the biggest incubator in India to provide assistance and funding to new businesses and startups. Chief Minister of UP, set up a Rs. 1000 crores startup fund to encourage startup schemes in the State.
Similarly, the Kerala Government allotted 12 new projects under the State Poverty Eradication Mission’s Kudumbashree program. These projects were a part of the Startup Village Entrepreneurship Program (SVEP) set up by the Union Ministry for Rural Development.
Never one to be left behind, the Karnataka Government also launched the “Elevate Program” to identify 100 of the most innovative startups in Karnataka. The selected startups received funding and mentorship to turn their ideas into successful businesses. The Government also invested close to Rs. 40 crores in the construction of a state of the art artificial intelligence (AI) and data science capabilities center in collaboration with NASSCOM. Named as the Centre of Excellence for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence, the tech hub aims to accelerate the development of artificial intelligence and data science related technologies.
The Hyderabad based startup engine T Hub also launched the Smart City/Smart Building NanoAccelerate Programme in association with United Technologies Corporation (UTC.) Five startups were selected under this program and were given an opportunity to collaborate with UTC, prioritize their solution and develop a proof of concept (POC) on the prioritized solution.
The Andhra Pradesh Government not only launched the one of its kind Blockchain Business Conference in Vizag but also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the US based company, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT.) HTT, under the agreement, will introduce the futuristic “Hyperloop” transportation system in the State Capital region, Amravati. Further, Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc., has also made an agreement with the AP Government to sell their newly developed technology in order to provide internet for millions of people without laying any cables. 2,000 boxes will be installed as far as 20 kilometers apart, on posts and rooftops to bring fast internet to connect populated areas, using laser beaming boxes which rely on Free Space Optical Communications (FSOC) tech.
2017 was a roller coaster ride filled with highs, lows and loopholes. We hope 2018 will bring more good news, greater technology and inspiring innovations that will make this world a happier and easier place to live in. Startup Stories wishes all of its readers a very happy and prosperous New Year 2018!
Daily Basket Creates BBisabully Over Being Sued By Big Basket Over Usage Of Basket
Big Basket is India’s first online shopping platform which revolutionised the way people bought groceries. It is easy to spot Big Basket’s vehicles and delivery agents all dressed in bright green colours. The ability to order quality vegetables and groceries and have them delivered at the doorstep was one of the main reasons why it shot to fame. Since then online grocery shopping has become commonplace with the arrival of Dunzo, Amazon, Flipkart and many other small scale businesses.
Big Basket found itself in a bit of news which it would have liked to avoid. News about a small two man bootstrapped startup named Daily Basket being sent a cease and desist order by Big Basket began doing the rounds on social media platforms. The whole issue began when Big Basket said Daily Basket was copying their app, user interface and their name. Big Basket claimed they came across a filing named Daily Basket when checking the trademark registry and felt it was a combination of the registered trademarks bigbasket and bbdaily.
The bootstrapped startup Daily Basket has no means to mount a legal battle against the six year old unicorn Big Basket. So, Ramesh Vel, one of the founders of Daily Basket, began a website named BBisabully to call out Big Basket’ bullying. The website gives a brief overview of Daily Basket which says they are an online grocery delivery platform based only in Coimbatore. The Big Basket notice contains the following points according to Daily Basket:
- Stop using the domain name dailybasket.com.
- Discontinue the mobile apps.
- Stop all the operations immediately.
- Transfer our domain name dailybasket.com (Which is premium btw, and costs a little fortune) to them immediately with free of cost.
- Pay their legal team of 2 lakh rupees to cover the legal notice.
- Do not use a similar domain containing “basket” as a prominent feature ever again.
The website BBisabully also lists out reasons and visual evidence as to why Daily Basket is completely different from Big Basket and how the former is not copying the latter. There are many brands in the market which have the word ‘basket’ in their names like Milk Basket and Nature’s Basket by Godrej. If going by the logic of Big Basket that Daily Basket copied their name, then Nature’s Basket predates Big Basket by six years meaning Nature’s Basket could unleash the same claims on Big Basket.
Carl Pei’s Nothing Invites Retail Investors
Carl Pei said the time came for him to leave OnePlus and focus on other interests, following which he resigned from OnePlus in October 2020. Since then, Pei had been working on his new startup in the audio hardware sector. Carl Pei unveiled the name of his startup which is now called as Nothing, on January 27th, 2021. Since the unveiling of Nothing, Pei’s startup has attracted a lot of attention from Silicon Valley and venture capitalists.
Carl Pei now seems to be emulating his success formula at OnePlus with his new startup Nothing. OnePlus is highly customer centric, because as a company they take in inputs from their consumers and adapt them to their products. Pei seems to be using the same strategy with Nothing, as he invited retail investors to invest in his new startup. Normally a startup raises Series A funding to begin product development and then goes on to Series B and so on. For a normal retail investor to invest in a stock, they could only do it at the time of an Initial Public Offering (IPO) at the time of which the company would be valued highly. However, Carl Pei is letting in investors from the beginning.
Usually the community has to wait for an IPO to invest, but by that time, the valuation is already high. We are inviting you to own Nothing from the very beginning, at the same price as our Series A, and be on board for the entire ride.🚀 https://t.co/mnQtoiJwOV
— Carl Pei (@getpeid) February 16, 2021
This lets the investors be a part of the product development process and makes Nothing more personalised. Moreover the investors would also act as promoters for the products. Currently, there are $ 1.5 million worth of shares available. Users can invest a minimum of € 50 and a maximum of € 20,000. However, the demand to invest is off the charts and was unexpected as Carl Pei confirmed there was an interest worth of $ 10 million from 8,700 users.
WOW we have just reached $10m USD of registered interest in just 7 hours from over 8,700 people! So grateful for the amazing community behind @nothing ! 🥰🥰
— Carl Pei (@getpeid) February 16, 2021
Nothing’s first wireless earphones will be unveiled in the summer of 2021. Nothing aims to build an ecosystem of listening devices which talk to each other. Initial investors of Nothing include the likes of Tony Fadell (Principal at Future Shape and the Inventor of the iPod,) Casey Neistat (YouTuber,) Kevin Lin (Co founder of Twitch,) Steve Huffman (CEO of Reddit,) Liam Casey (Founder and CEO, PCH,) Paddy Cosgrave (Founder of Web Summit,) Kunal Shah (CEO of CRED) and Josh Buckley (CEO of Product Hunt.) Alphabet’s investment arm Google Ventures was the latest investor in Nothing as they invested $ 15 million.
Startup India Seed Fund To Be Disbursed From April 1st
There is no doubt India has a strong foothold in the startup ecosystem. India currently ranks third in the world for the number of startups, next only to the United States of America and China. This was possible due to the Indian Government’s initiatives to develop the startup ecosystem and also due to a strong presence of unicorn startups like PayTM, Zomato, Unacademy and many more.
The Government of India announced it would begin to disburse INR 945 crores seed capital from April 1st, 2021 under the Startup India Seed Fund Scheme in a bid to boost the startup ecosystem in India. These funds would be distributed through select incubator partners all over the country. This scheme will be implemented by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT.)
In a gazette notification, DPIIT announced that Startup India Seed Fund Scheme will provide financial assistance to startups that have been recognised by the DPIIT and incorporated not more than two years ago at the time of application.
— Anil Agrawal (@anilarch) January 29, 2021
The Startup India Seed Fund Scheme will have a common central application on the Startup India portal for startups on an ongoing basis. An Experts Advisory Committee (EAC) will be formulated to oversee and monitor the overall execution of the scheme. The EAC will evaluate and select the incubators for allotment of the seed funds and place measures for the efficient disbursement of funds.
The government also mentioned preference will be given to startups working in the areas of agriculture, education, food processing, healthcare, social impact, waste management, water management, financial inclusion, biotechnology, energy, mobility, defence, space, railways, textiles and oil and gas.
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