Uber Alleges Ola Employees Trying To Sabotage Its Business With Fake Accounts

There’s no love lost between Ola and Uber. Both companies are fiercely competing for a share of India’s lucrative cab hailing market, and have been engaging in price wars, advertising and the occasional jibe to get a leg up over the other. But if Uber is to be believed, things have just got a lot more serious.

Uber has approached the Delhi High Court alleging that Ola employees have been creating fake accounts on Uber to sabotage its operations. The company says that these fake accounts have been booking and immediately cancelling rides, leading to loss of revenue for the company.

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“Large number of fake accounts are being created by Ola which are then used to make false booking and cancellations using our application. This keeps our drivers busy and we have to bear the cancellation charges.” Rajiv Nayyar, counsel for Uber India told the court. Such false cancellations amounted to 8-10℅ of its total bookings, the company claimed.

Ola has denied all allegations and dubbed the move a media gimmick.

Ola and Uber have also engaged in a war of words over the last month. In March, Uber had launched its bike services in Bangalore, only to have Ola launch its own service in a city hours later. Earlier this week, Uber President Asia Eric Alexander had said the company is on the verge of overtaking Ola in India. “In January last year, we were at five per cent market share. Now, we are right at the edge of 50 per cent. Within next 30 days, we would beat them (Ola). We will surpass them very, very shortly”. Ola had shot back saying that its Micro category, which was introduced only last month, is already 50% of the sum total of Uber’s bookings in India, and it expects that the Micro category alone will overtake Uber’s entire business by the end of the month.

Abhinav Bindra Launches Fund For Sports-Related Startups

Ace shooter and India’s first individual Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra has launched a venture fund to invest in startups. Called Shooting Star LLP, the fund would have an initial investment of $2 million (Rs 130 crore), in an equal partnership with consulting firm Franchise India.

According to Gaurav Marya, president of Franchise India, the fund will invest in areas like emerging sports academies, sports injury, rehab, tech, equipment and training, health apps, child development, holistic wellness, organic foods and dairy.

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Abhinav has called this his first widespread and extensive business venture. He said, “A startup is very much like an athlete’s life…There’s no guarantee for success. There are only challenges but that’s a life I’ve lived for the past 20 years.”

Abhinav, 34, won the gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in the 10 m Air Rifle event. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2009. In 2014, he joined the GoSports Foundation as a member of their board of advisors. In collaboration with the GoSports Foundation, he will provide support to India’s up and coming talented shooters through the Abhinav Bindra Shooting Development Programme.

With this venture, Abhinav has become the second major sports personality from India to have set up his own firm to support startups. Last year, cricketer Yuvraj Singh started his venture capital firm named YouWeCan Ventures Technology LLP to support online startups and encourage entrepreneurship.

 

Twitter Users Being Paid To Show Enthusiasm For Infibeam IPO, Reports Suggest

Infibeam’s historic IPO was supposed to be a watershed moment for India’s e-commerce market. Having attracted the interest of foreign investors and Venture Funds alike, the industry was supposed to finally test its mettle in the rigorous world of public markets. It was going to be e-commerce’s coming-of-age party, where it would finally start playing with the big boys.

But an ugly controversy has put a dampener on the proceedings on the very first day. Factor Daily has reported that a large section of twitter users were being paid to show their enthusiasm for the upcoming IPO. And it turns out it wasn’t very expensive to buy some credibility online – the going rate was Rs. 150 for 22 tweets. 

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The marketing move seems to have worked. On Monday, Twitter was inundated with thousands of tweets eagerly awaiting the upcoming IPO, and the hastag #InfibeamShining also briefly trended. But quite tellingly, several tweets had the exact same line of text pasted over and over. 

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While influencer marketing is Twitter’s worst kept secret and is regularly abused by brands looking to launch a new product, it seems unlikely that it has ever been used to promote an IPO. Infibeam had issued front page ads in leading publications announcing the IPO on Monday. The Tweetstorm seems to have been an attempt to create even a bigger splash on social media.

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It seems like this marketing  campaign might’ve been a result of the events leading up the event. Days before Infibeam was to go public, two of the investment bankers involved in the deal, Kotak Mahindra Capital and ICICI Securities, dropped out citing concerns over the pricing and the timing of the issue. Response to offering also been muted in the finance world – IIFL Holdings had rated the issue as an “avoid” and said that Infibeam will find it hard to compete with existing players, and Angel Brokers had called the valuation demanded by the company “steep”.

Infibeam’s Historic IPO Subscribed 21% On Day 1

Infibeam’s IPO, the first ever by an Indian e-commerce company, has got off to a sedate start. Day 1 of the IPO, which will run from 21st to 23rd March, saw 21% of shares on offer being snapped up by investors. Infibeam is trying to raise Rs. 450 crore and dilute 20% of its equity through this stock sale.

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The IPO run into problems prior to its opening when 2 of the 4 investment banks opted out over concerns over the pricing and the timing of the issue. The company has fixed a price band of Rs. 360-Rs. 432 per share, and that translates into an Enterprise Value/Sales multiple of 4.3x-5.2x, which is being seen as steep by investors.

Like other e-commerce companies, Infibeam had been running in losses, but the company had turned profitable in the first six months of 2015-2016. The company posted a revenue of Rs.171.3 crore and a net profit of Rs.6.6 crore for the six months ended September 2015. It reported a revenue of Rs.288.2 crore at a net loss ofRs.9.8 crore for the year ended 31 March 2015.

The firm will use the IPO proceeds to set up a cloud data centre and 75 logistics centres, and compete with bigger players like Flipkart and Snapdeal which are backed by VCs and private equity funds.

 

Google CEO Sundar Pichai Is Seriously Well Paid

Being one of the most important men in technology comes with its rewards. Google CEO Sundar Pichai take home quite an impressive paycheck. After Google announced his most recent stock grant that amounted to $199 million (around Rs. 1300 crore), which was the largest in the company’s history, his total holding of Google shares has swelled to Rs. 4415 crore. And if that wasn’t enough, Pichai still earns an estimated Rs. 330 crore as annual salary.

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Image Courtesy

These may seem like big numbers, but thinking about how big they are makes the mind boggle. For instance, Pichai’s total Google stock grant is worth 12 times the cost of India’s moon mission, 10 times the cost of India’s Mars mission, 8 times the top grossing movie in Bollywood history, PK, and around 4 times the total revenues generated by the Indian premier league in 2015. In fact, his stock grant is worth more than all these items put together.

Even more surprisingly, his stock grant alone is more than the revenues of several Indian startups – much, much more. It turns out that Pichai has more money in his Google stocks than the sum of the revenues of 14 top Indian startups, including unicorns Paytm, Snapdeal and Zomato.

This nerdy boy from Chennai has sure come a long way.

Indian Handicrafts And Ethnic Wear Etailer Craftsvilla To Expand Overseas

This is the season for Indian startups to expand their wings and test international waters. After Zomato became the first Indian startup to have operations in several other countries, (22 at last count) and Oyo and Practo followed suit, now Indian ethnic products and handicrafts website Craftsvilla to extend its services overseas.

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The website, which boasts of close to 3.5 million unique products from more than 25,000 artisans and designers across the country, had seen demand from other countries. Responding to these demands, and also cashing in on a favourable foreign exchange rate, the company’s kick-starting its expansion plans beginning with the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand. The website will offer a curated list of products beginning at $20.

“There are Indian citizens in Australia who have a high demand for products like the spiritual vessel bowl Urli, among the other home products, and furnishing products like quilts and pillow covers sell well.”, Craftsvilla Founder and CEO Manoj Gupta told ET.

Indian products, especially silks and silver jewelry, have usually been coveted in the west. The audience for Indian products abroad is mainly NRIs. Many international brands have their manufacturing units in India, and the designs sometimes borrow heavily from Indian motifs and influences.  FabIndia is another Indian ethnic products brand that has a significance presence internationally.

Craftsvilla had raised $34 in funding in November last year, and had acquired many homegrown startups like Place of origin and Sendd to expand its merchandise and boost operations. With the international expansion, Craftsvilla, who aims to touch Rs 100 crore in revenue in 2016-17, can capture an ever bigger share of the international ecommerce market. 

UberMOTO Cleverly Sidesteps Bangalore Govt. Ruling By Calling Itself A Bikepooling Service

 

Uber has some great technology, world class engineers, and a truly disruptive business idea. But these are not the reasons why it’s the world’s most valued startup. What makes Uber so successful is its sheer brazen audacity.

A few weeks ago, Uber and Ola had simultaneously launched their bike taxi services in Bangalore. Bangalore’s harried commuters’ joy was cut short though – two days after the launch, the Bangalore Transport Department had declared the service illegal, and had begun seizing bikes.

While Ola had meekly complied with the Bangalore Government’s directive and taken the Bike option off its app, Uber decided to do something completely different – it has rebranded UberMOTO  as a bikepooling service.

Uber has announced that it will not charge its riders any commission for rides on UberMOTO. By operating at a no-profit service, UberMOTO bikes cease to become taxis, and hence can’t be banned by the state government.

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“In the spirit of collaborating with the government, we have had extensive discussions with the relevant authorities over the past few days. Uber will not charge any service fee for the period of this pilot”, the company said in a statement. For good measure, Uber also played up the service as a public utility. “UberMoto essentially encourages ‘bikepooling’ and will help in decongesting city roads”, it said. 

The Karnataka government’s chief grouse with the bike taxis had been that under state laws, bikes can’t be used as taxis without proper permits. The government had also expressed concern about whether insurance would cover rides on these bikes.

But with its masterstroke, Uber has cleverly sidestepped all these discussions. It might not earn the commission from its bike rides, but its bikes will still zip across Bangalore and garner marketshare, while Ola’s bikes will sit in garages waiting for governmental approval.

“Always be Jugaading”, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick had declared during his visit to India recently. And this is jugaad of the first order. 

Razorpay’s Office In Bangalore Makes Payments Look Cool

Think finance and payments, and images of spreadsheets, calculators, and credit cards come to mind. Finance is notorious for being dull and boring, and offices belonging to financial firms are no different.

However, payment gateway Razorpay is looking to change that perception. Joining the league of Koramangla startups like Lookup and Grabhouse, the company has a swanky new office in Bangalore’s startup central.

The Koramangla office is the company’s second office in Bangalore. Razorpay had started off from Jaipur in 2013, and had become the 2nd ever Indian startup to be selected for the prestigious Y Combinator program. 

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Razorpay co-founders Shashank Kumar and Harshil Mathur

Razorpay’s new office has a bold colour scheme, that pops on the white walls. It’s spread over 11,000 square feet and currently houses 28 employees. The lighting is warm and bright, and there are plenty of interesting spaces for employees to get together for a quick chat.

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The meeting rooms are sleek and sparse, with geometric patterns and straight lines. The wooden cabinets here bring a nice homely feel to this space.

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Employees also have access to the well stocked pantry, and the company provides full meals and snacks.

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The company offers an in-house gym and a nap room. There are also outbound trips every quarter for the employees to travel to.

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When Razorpay employees are not crunching numbers, they can unwind at the recreational room equipped with a TV, music system and a gaming system.

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Big Daddy’s Coming: Alibaba Group Plans To Enter India This Year

India’s e-commerce market, which is currently dominated by homegrown companies like Flipkart and Snapdeal, and an American giant in Amazon, might soon see its biggest shake up yet. Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba is planning to enter India in what could bring increased competition in an already competitive sector.

Alibaba Group president Michael Evans and global managing director K Guru Gowrappan met Communications and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Friday and underlined the company’s interest in India.

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image: Financial Express | PTI

“Alibaba is very keen on coming to India in a very big way, particularly in the ecommerce sector,” a senior government official told Economic Times. “They’re only exploring the way – whether to go on their own or set up shop with someone else.”

Alibaba already has a presence in India through investments in Snapdeal and Paytm. But the company operates at a scale that Indian e-commerce companies can only dream of. On Singles day, the company shipped 278 million orders and recorded $10 billion worth of sales in 24 hours. In comparison, Flipkart, India’s biggest e-commerce company, had sales of $8 billion in all of 2015. Alibaba processes 12 million orders a day; Flipkart does 0.3 million.

And unlike Indian e-commerce companies, which are currently mired in losses, Alibaba is profitable. It recorded profits of $5.5 billion in 2015. Amazon, for comparison, saw losses worth $241 million through its worldwide operations. 

But the company’s had a few bad quarters in the recent past. Its stock has fallen significantly over that period and has reached its IPO levels. Chinese economy as a whole is struggling. Its growth is slowing and job losses are on the cards.

This is perhaps why it’s looking at other markets. India with its growing economy and burgeoning middle class still offers scope for companies to grow. Alibaba has tons of experience of operating in a developing market with small order sizes, and it will be in a position to apply its learnings from China to India. Alibaba’s retail website Aliexpress, which has worldwide shipping, is already gaining popularity amongst Indian shoppers.

But at the end of the day, it’s great news for the Indian consumers. Indian companies had been considering rolling back their discounts after a period of sustained losses, but the Chinese giants entry into the sector might usher in a new round of price wars.