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Ratan Tata Backed Startup Niki.ai Raises Rs. 13 Crores

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Ratan Tata Backed Startup Niki.ai,Startup Stories,Startup Stories India,Inspiration Stories,Ratan Tata AI startup,CEO Sachin Jaiswal,SAP.io,AI startup founders,business news india

Bengaluru based artificial intelligence startup Niki.ai has raised Rs. 13 crores from San Francisco based fund SAP.io in a Series A funding round. Existing investor Ronnie Screwvala’s Unilazer Ventures along with Haresh Chawla, Partner at True North and Arihant Patni also participated in this round besides some US and German based investors.

The AI startup was found in 2015 by IIT Kharagpur alumni Sachin Jaiswal, Keshav Prawasi, Nitin Babel and Shishir Modi. The startup provides a conversational interface to shop for products and services and tries to make artificial intelligence accessible to everyone. Niki.ai uses a chat interface ‘Niki’ with machine learning technologies to converse with customers.

According to CEO Sachin Jaiswal, this new capital will be used to further strengthen machine learning capabilities, building voice and multilingual functionalities and expanding distribution network.

Presently the 32 member team is working with companies like BookMyShow, OYO, RedBus, Ola, Uber, JustRechargeIt and others, covering over 20 categories. The startup also raised an undisclosed amount in May 2016, from Ratan Tata.

San Francisco based SAP.io was launched by software giant SAP in March this year with an initial investment of $35 million. They seek to expand the SAP ecosystem by making early stage investments in software startups. The managing director of SAP.io Ram Jambunathan, managing director of SAO.io has stated that Niki.ai, with its innovative technical approach, is capable of building a scalable product that can change commerce industry as a whole.

In recent times artificial intelligence based startups have gained significance in the startup ecosystem. Bengaluru based Boxx.ai also raised $500,000 from Unicorn India Ventures and product discovery platform Unbxd raised $12.5 million in Series C funding round.

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Funding

Swiggy To Raise $ 200 Million From Naspers and Tencent

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Swiggy, one of India’s fastest growing online food ordering and delivery platform, is reportedly in talks with venture capital firms Naspers and Tencent to raise $ 200 million. The Bengaluru based foodtech startup initiated the discussions with Chinese investment conglomerate Tencent and existing investor Naspers for a potential investment.

A news daily reported, South African Internet group Naspers will be leading this round of funding according to three people briefed on the matter. This move to raise fresh capital comes after the company ended independent funding discussions with SoftBank and Flipkart for a $ 200 million investment. The sources also added this deal could value Swiggy at $ 600- $ 650 million before the investment. In the last Series E funding round where Swiggy raised $ 80 million from Naspers, SAIF Partners and others, the company was valued at $ 400 million.

According to sources, China based venture firm Tencent has been looking to co invest in Swiggy along with SoftBank before those discussions came to an end. However, Tencent will now be forging a strategic partnership with Naspers to join the Swiggy bandwagon as a new investor. Sources also suggest Tencent proposed to increase their investment in the startup to around $ 100 million.  

The India foodtech industry is considered to be a very lucrative sector. In November last year, Swiggy was also reported to be in talks with rival restaurant discovery and food delivery rival Zomato for a stock based merger. However, Swiggy later denied all rumors stating the company would not like to comment on baseless speculations. Swiggy was launched in 2014 by Sriharsha Majety, Nandan Reddy, and Rahul Jaimini and since then the company grew fastest in terms of revenue. For the financial year 2016 – 2017 Swiggy’s revenue grew by six times to $ 20.6 million as losses increased by 50%. In the past three years, the foodtech firm has also managed to raise close to $155 million in equity and $8 million in debt.

After the entry of global taxi hailing startup Uber launched their food delivery service UberEATS in India, Ola also recently acquired food delivery startup Foodpanda to enter the foodtech industry.

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Flipkart To Invest In Logistics Arm eKart

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Flipkart, India’s largest ecommerce site, reportedly infused another $ 257.3 million in its logistics services arm eKart. According to filings with Registrar of Companies, Flipkart raised this sum in multiple tranches between October and November last year. eKart is operated by Instakart Services Pvt., Ltd.

VCCircle reported the ecommerce firm raised close to $ 51.56 million in October last year. The company further raised the bulk of the investment amounting to $206.6 million in November 2017, in two tranches. The filings also revealed, eKart raised this capital by allocating equity shares worth Rs. 62.51 apiece to its Singapore based group firm Klick2Shop Logistics International Pvt., Ltd. Lick2Shop Logistics controls Instakart and is considered to be a subsidiary of Flipkart Pvt., Ltd.

In October last year, reports suggested eKart had earmarked $ 460.7 million in the form of a strategic reserve pool. In the RoC filings, the company said,“Considering the future requirements of the company whereby it may have to make strategic investments in other business/acquire companies for inorganic growth, extend loans and/ or guarantee to other corporates or provide security in connection with loans availed by other corporate. It is proposed to fix the limits at Rs. 3, 000 crores.

2017 was undoubtedly a good year for the homegrown online retailer. Flipkart set records and raised $ 4 billion from Japan based venture capital firm SoftBank. Despite a failed merger deal with rival Snapdeal, the ecommerce behemoth successfully relaunched their online food delivery arm Supermart in Bengaluru. The Chief Executive Officer of the ecommerce firm Kalyan Krishnamurthy told a news daily the company would now be focusing on increasing its monthly active users. 

In December, Flipkart also successfully completed the repurchase of employee stock options (ESOPs) worth $ 100 million. Krishnamurthy further added in the year 2018, the firm will also focus on developing the frequency of transactions and the number of times the Indian customer shops online in a year. Many market analysts estimate currently top online retailers such as Flipkart and Amazon have roughly 15 to 20 million active monthly customers.

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Alibaba To Invest In Logistics Startup XpressBees

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Alibaba Group Holdings, China’s online commerce giant, is looking to pick up a significant minority stake in logistics company XpressBees. The company will be investing close to $ 100 million in the Pune based logistics firm, according to three sources.

A source close to the development told The Economic Times, “The deal is likely to close in the next two three weeks.” Both the companies, according to the news daily, have been in talks for a potential investment for the past 18 months. However, the percentage of the minority stake Alibaba will be picking up in XpressBees was not disclosed.

In 2017, the Chinese conglomerate invested in multiple Indian startups including online payments platform Paytm and online grocery delivery services BigBasket. In July last year, reports suggested Alibaba was looking to invest in Gurgaon based logistics startup Delhivery along with XpressBees. Alibaba’s aim with these investments was to build the ‘iron triangle’ of businesses in ecommerce (Paytm Mall, Bigbasket), payments (Paytm) and now logistics to establish an Amazon like network in India. 

XpressBees, founded by Amitava Saha and Supam Maheshwari in 2015, spun out of baby products retailer FirstCry. The ecommerce logistics company, owned by Busybees Logistics Solutions, aims to fulfill comprehensive supply demand needs of India’s online industry. XpressBees offers services including last mile delivery, cross border services, reverse logistics, drop shipping, vendor management, payment collection, fulfillment services and tailored software solutions. The company claims their team delivers 6000+ shipments every day. The company also managed to raise close to $ 12.5 million in a Series A funding round from existing investors SAIF Partners, IDG Ventures, Vertex Ventures and Valiant Capital in 2016. 

Another source further added, “Alibaba wants to make XpressBees the Cainiao of India and over time logistics operations for all companies like Paytm Mall and Bigbasket may get consolidated under it giving it a larger captive customer base.” Post these investments in BigBasket and XpressBees, Alibaba’s total investment in India through its payments affiliate Ant Financial will be close to Rs. 11,000 crores.

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