Also in this letter:
■ Ecommerce enablers bag big bucks amid D2C boom
■ Deplatforming is a violation of fundamental rights: Chandrasekhar
■ Vedanta in talks with Oppo, Vivo for chip deals
Flipkart, Reliance and Amazon in talks to join ONDC
Ecommerce giants Amazon, Flipkart and Reliance Retail are in talks to join India’s ambitious Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC), sources told us.
The news comes as the network’s pilot program to onboard kiranas and other small and medium businesses gets underway in Bengaluru and four other cities.
On board: Flipkart’s logistics arm Ekart and Reliance Retail-backed Dunzo have already integrated with ONDC for logistics services.
- PhonePe, which is also owned by Flipkart and Walmart, is in advanced stages of integration with ONDC, according to people briefed on the matter.
- Payments major Paytm is already a part of the network, they added.
What’s ONDC? In a nutshell, it’s a decentralized platform that will allow buyers and sellers to connect and transact with each other online irrespective of which ecommerce portal (s) they are listed on.
Still at a nascent stage, ONDC is being pitched as a solution to the dominance of large ecommerce firms in India, which makes it all the more significant that these firms are looking to join the platform.
“ONDC will enable all the buyers on the network to be discoverable by all the sellers. Therefore, existing platforms (also) have an incentive to be part of ONDC, ”Thampy Koshy, CEO of ONDC, told us.
Rollout: Koshy said the ONDC aims to be available in about 100 cities by August and across the country by the end of the year. It will also be opened up to the wider public in the five cities where it is being tested – Bengaluru, New Delhi, Coimbatore, Bhopal and Shillong.
Ecommerce enablers bag big bucks amid D2C boom
Several early-stage startups that provide software tools to fledgling direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands and online marketplaces, are catching the attention of risk investors.
What’s happening? On Wednesday, two such platforms – Shopflo and GoKwik – said they had raised fresh funds. GoKwik bagged $ 35 million in a round led by RTP Global and Think Investments – its third fundraise in less than year.
Shopflo picked up $ 2.6 million in seed funding led by Tiger Global and TQ Ventures.
Both startups help merchants improve conversions at checkout.
In March, Commerce IQ, which provides software to brands to help them increase their sales online, racked up $ 115 million led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 at a valuation of more than $ 1 billion
Several venture capital funds told us that the growth of online-only brands and omnichannel plays by fast-moving consumer goods brands has created a huge market for the software tools these companies provide.
Companies that provide software tools for ecommerce mopped up close to $ 496.3 million in equity funding last year, a five-fold jump from $ 94.4 million in 2019.
|2019||$ 94.4 million|
|2020||$ 181.6 million|
|2021||$ 496.3 million|
|2022 (YTD)||$ 475.6 million|
The challenge: “The thesis behind this sector is that the share of non-marketplace business for D2C brands is growing very fast and new vertical commerce players are also emerging globally. To compete effectively with the horizontal marketplaces, these brands and vertical players need to offer a similar or better shopping experience to consumers, ”said Rajat Agarwal, managing director, Matrix Partners India.
Deplatforming is a violation of fundamental rights, says Chandrasekhar
Minister of State for Electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar has called deplatforming “a violation of fundamental rights of users”. This comes after Twitter founder Jack Dorsey backed Elon Musk’s plan to reinstate former US President Donald Trump’s Twitter account.
“Deplatforming is a big deal – It’s a violation of fundamental rights of users. It must have force of law behind it for any platform to exercise and must never ever be done arbitrarily,” Chandrasekhar tweeted on Wednesday.
“This is clearly an expression of the government’s belief that deplatforming or taking down any elected head of government or senior government official is a no-no, as far as India is concerned,” Prasanto K Roy, a cyber and tech policy expert told us . “And it’s probably also a veiled warning to Twitter or Facebook or anybody not to dream of doing that in India.”
Earlier, Musk had said at an event that Trump’s ban “was a morally bad decision” and “foolish in the extreme”. Soon after, Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey backed his plan to reinstate Trump’s account and even called the platform’s decision to ban the former US president “a failure”.
Vedanta in talks with Oppo, Vivo for semiconductor deals
Vedanta Group is in talks with smartphone brands Oppo and Vivo, laptop makers and other electronics manufacturers for the chips it plans to roll out of its soon-to-be-announced semiconductor plant in India, business unit chief Akarsh Hebbar told us.
In January, Vedanta had announced a tie-up with Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn for a multi-billion dollar semiconductor manufacturing plan that would draw on the Center’s $ 10-billion incentive package unveiled late last year.
While Hebbar qualified these conversations as “preliminary”, he said brands such as Oppo and Vivo and some in the automotive sectors have shown significant interest in semiconductor wafers.
Having an end customer for its chips will give the government more confidence as it evaluates Vedanta’s proposal, sources in the government said.
The group is currently in talks with several states, including Gujarat, Maharashtra and Telangana, to set up its semiconductor plant.
Uber plans to hire 500 techies in Bengaluru, Hyderabad
Uber Technologies will focus on building the technology for targeting its next 100 million users globally and plans to hire 500 tech employees in its Bengaluru and Hyderabad centers to fuel its growth, company officials told us.
The company is running the Uber Bus – a service for daily commuters – on a pilot basis in New Delhi and Cairo. Its India team has been crucial in building the back-end technology and data-based iterations necessary for global scalability, executives said.
The hiring will be across functions such as back-end support, artificial intelligence and machine learning for pricing, product managers to strategize the plans, data scientists for user insights and designers to execute new features, the company said.
The ride-hailing company has 1,000 engineers currently across the two centers in India and 11 such tech centers around the world. It currently has about 100 million monthly active users.
Ola Electric’s chief marketing officer Varun Dubey resigns
Ola Electric chief marketing officer Varun Dubey has resigned, multiple people sources told us. An Ola spokesperson later confirmed Dubey’s departure, saying he has moved on for personal reasons.
Dubey, who has been actively involved in Ola’s customer engagement events, was not seen at an event in Bengaluru on Sunday, a source said.
His departure comes amid a flurry of exits from the company over the past few weeks. We reported on May 6 that Ola Cars CEO Arun Sirdeshmukh is also leaving the company.
Two days later we reported Dinesh Radhakrishnan, who handled critical engineering functions across Ola Electric and Ola Cabs, had also quit. Dubey’s exit is noteworthy as he was seen as a confidante of Ola founder Bhavish Aggarwal.
This spate of exits comes at a time Ola Electric is facing a backlash from customers for selling allegedly substandard electric scooters. An Ola Electric scooter caught fire in Pune on March 26 and the company has since recalled over 1,441 vehicles.
Other Top Stories By Our Reporters
Coinbase CEO on RBIs ‘informal pressure’: Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong has said that the crypto exchange disabled Unified Payments Interface (UPI) payments on its platform in India because of “informal pressure” from the Reserve Bank of India.
Google Translate now includes Sanskrit: Google has added eight Indian languages including Sanskrit to Google Translate. The seven other Indian languages are Assamese, Bhojpuri, Dogri, Konkani, Maithili, Mizo and Meiteilon (Manipuri), taking the total number of Indian languages supported by the service to 19.
Global Picks We Are Reading
■ The iPod is finally dead. Long live the iPod. (WSJ)
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■ Could Terra fall prove to be Lehman Brothers moment for cryptocurrencies? (The Guardian)
Today’s ETtech Morning Dispatch was curated by Zaheer Merchant and Aishwarya Dabhade in Mumbai. Graphics and illustrations by Rahul Awasthi.