After Cabs, Shared Cabs, and Shuttles, Bangalore To Get Bike Taxis

The Bangalorean commuter just got another option to try and beat the city’s legendary traffic jams. Uber, having recently launched its Uber Pool service in Bangalore, is now launching bike taxis in the city. While bike taxis already run in Gurgaon by companies like Baxi, this will be a first for Bangalore.

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Dubbed uberMOTO, this bike taxi service might well be the cheapest way for a single commuter to get around in Bangalore. At Rs. 3/km, it handily beats both cabs and shared cabs in the economy department. One possible downside could be being exposed to the many pollutants that Bangalore tends to throw your way.

uberMOTO will operate much the same way as Uber cabs do – they bike taxis will be booked from the same app, and the driver’s name and picture will be shown to riders. Both the rider and the driver will be required to wear helmets as mandated by government rules. Like Uber Pool, this service will also run from 7am to 9 pm. 

Bangalore, being India’s startup capital, has seen a slew of commute options, but they haven’t always met with support from the government. A popular shuttle service that ran in the city, ZipGo, was forced to halt its operations recently because its routes overlapped with the routes of state-run BMTC buses. Bike taxis are already a popular means to get around in South East Asia, and given how congested the roads in Bangalore are, they seem to be a good way to reduce traffic and get people around cheaply. Lets hope the Karnataka government cooperates.

After Flipkart, Ola To Shut Down Its Grocery Delivery Service

The grocery delivery model in India is tottering. Days after Flipkart had announced that it’s shutting down Nearby, its grocery delivery arm, it is now being reported that Ola is on the verge of shutting down its own grocery delivery service, Ola store. Ola Store operated in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Gurgaon.

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Ola Store had been launched in July last year and promised quick deliveries in one hour delivery slots. The company has tied up with retail chains such as PNP Retail, Topintown, and Namdhari’s Fresh, among others. 

But customers told OfficeChai that its service was erratic at best. “It never completed my full order”, said Gayathri, a regular user of the app. “I’d order a large number of items, and invariably the company couldn’t deliver a few of them. The app would show that items were available, but later I used to receive calls from their customer service representatives that they wouldn’t be able to deliver some items.”

Experts have questioned the grocery delivery model that most firms operating in India have adopted. Most firms operating in this space don’t own inventory, and this leads to razor-thin margins. The low order sizes that are common in India have made free deliveries, a service that the Indian consumer has come to expect, economically unsustainable.

In January this year, Grofers had shut down its operations in 9 cities across India. Its closest competitor, Peppertap, had laid off 400 and shut down operations in 6 cities a month later.

 

Reliance Enters Fashion E-Retail Fray, To Launch AJIO

There’s another weird 4 letter word in the Indian fashion retail space. After Aditya Birla had launched Abof (short for Aditya Birla House of Fashion) as its fashion e-retail arm, Reliance Industry has announced that it’s making an entry into the space with AJIO.com.

AJIO will be a part of the Jio brand, most famous for Reliance’s upcoming telecom unit. Reliance had earlier named its digital wallet Jio money.

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The AJIO.com domain, which is currently not live, is being tested among Reliance employees since December. It is expected be opened to all employees later this week. AJIO.com has lined up brands from the US, Russia, Turkey, Singapore, and Australia to be sold on its platform. These brands may include Holster of Australia, Gizia of Turkey and mds from Singapore, sources told Economic Times. Ajio will aim to distinguish its portfolio through a mix of curated, exclusive global and local brands besides handpicked artisanal products. 

The AJIO labels will be different from those sold by Reliance Trends and Reliance Brands. AJIO plans to leverage Reliance Jio’s digital platform as well as the 3,000-strong Reliance Retail network for deliveries and returns.

The e-retail fashion marketplace in India is dominated by Myntra, which is now owned by Flipkart, and Jabong. Jabong has has its share of troubles in the recent past, with significant churn in its management team and rumours that its parent company, Rocket Internet, looking to exit India. 

Snapdeal Protests Get Messier; Snapdeal Has 2 Days To Respond To Labour Department

The Snapdeal protests, which broke out at Snapdeal’s Sarita Vihar office 2 days ago, have just gotten messier. After the agitating employees had approached the CM Arvind Kejriwal’s office, the Delhi government has directed the Labour Department to look into the matter. Snapdeal has requested for a 2 day period to explain its stand to the Labour department.

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The protesting employees, who numbered around 200, had camped overnight at Snapdeal’s office and refused to leave despite repeated entreaties by the management. “We had no access to food or water, and they even turned the fans and AC off”, says a Snapdeal employee who’d spent the night at the office sprawled on one of the desks. Employees had spent the night in their chairs or sleeping on the floors of the office as a mark of protest.

Relief had come next morning when food was arranged from a neighbouring Gurudwara. Snapdeal had consistently refused to engage with the protestors, but managed to get them out of the office after issuing a notice to the Police. “Snapdeal really showed us how low they could sink today”, a Snapdeal employee told a news channel. “The notice claims that we’re not authorized to be at the office, but we all still have our IDs.”, he said flashing his Snapdeal badge. “We have not been issued with a termination notice, and we haven’t resigned. We have every right to be in this office.” A PCR van has been stationed outside the office since yesterday after Snapdeal said that its property was being damaged, but employees claim this is not true. “It has been a peaceful protest.”, says another employee.

The protests began at Snapdeal’s office 2 days ago when 200 employees working at its Customer Service Division had been put on a Performance Improvement Plan. Under the conditions stipulated in the Plan, employees would have to drastically improve their performance scores internally, or be fired within a month.

But employees allege that the new targets that they have been assigned are impossible to reach, and this move is designed to fire people en masse without having to pay their severance packages. “The Customer Satisfaction Scores (CSAT) at Snapdeal hover around 60-65%. Under the Performance Improvement Plan, we’re supposed to reach CSAT scores of 85%.” Employees claim that customer satisfaction scores are a function of Snapdeal’s policies, and don’t solely reflect their performance.

Snapdeal’s employee protests have taken on a colour that has been hitherto unseen in Indian startups. Employees have raised slogans against the company and its founders, and a group of protestors even created drew Kunal Bahl’s likeness on a poster and proceeded to smear black paint all over it.

Ratan Tata Invests In Home Rental Startup NestAway

Continuing with his investments in startups, top industrialist Ratan Tata has invested an undisclosed sum in home rental startup NestAway Technologies. This is Tata’s eighth personal investment in a startup in 2016 so far. 

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NestAway turns unbranded, unfurnished houses into fully furnished and managed apartments and provides them at affordable prices to verified tenants. It claims to give a hassle free online renting experience based on the customer’s preferences. There is no brokerage but two months’ rental is kept as security deposit. So far, it has provided quality rental homes to about 5,000 tenants across seven cities in India. Until recently, it catered to the requirements of single working professionals but now it has also entered the family segment. It operates in Bengaluru, Delhi, Ghaziabad, Gurgaon, Hyderabad, Noida and Pune, where a large number of young professionals are in need of accommodation.

NestAway was founded by alumni of National Institute of Technology Surathkal Amarendra Sahu, Jitendra Jagadev, Smruti Ranjan and Deepak Dhar in January 2015. Before the present funding, whose amount has not been disclosed, the company had raised over $13 million in two rounds from investors, including IDG Ventures India, Tiger Global, Flipkart and entrepreneur Naveen Tewari.

Snapdeal’s Founders Are Being Absolutely Taken Apart By Their Ex Employees

“I can’t wear my badge and walk around the stalls anymore”, Snapdeal’s founder Rohit Bansal had wistfully sighed while speaking at a startup conference in Bangalore, and the adoring crowd had laughed. “I get mobbed by people coming up to me with their startup pitches.” But as things have turned out less than 2 days later, Bansal shouldn’t wear his badge around his Snapdeal’s Sarita Vihar office either, because he risks being mobbed in a very real way.

Ever since Snapdeal had put 200 employees on the chopping block, chants of “Rohit Bansal haye haye” and “Kunal Bahl haye haye” have been ringing across its New Delhi campus. Bahl and Bansal are Snapdeal’s founders, and having built one of India’s highest valued companies, are venerated by most of the startup industry. But their former employees haven’t been holding back while trying to cut them down to size.

While on the first day of the agitation saw sloganeering against the founders, things took an ugly turn the next day when protesters drew a crude picture of Kunal Bahl and smeared black paint over it.

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The poster shows remarkable likeness of Kunal Bahl throwing little puppet sized employees into the fire (get it? get it?) as they scream PIP. Online commentators were even more brutal.  

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A Product Care (Operations) employee had this to say.

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And here’s what another employee said about his former CEO.

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Ouch.

Snapdeal, curiously, has been mum on the protests. On 26th February, as employees had laid siege to its Sarita Vihar office, Rohit Bansal had tweeted about how great products were those that come without manuals. Its Chief Product Officer, Anand Chandrasekaran, who normally tweets quite regularly about the goings on at Snapdeal, is currently tweeting about the US Presidential election.

Flipkart’s Valuation Falls From $15 Billion To $11 Billion

The world had watched as Indian startups had hit astonishing valuations over the last few years. Eight Indian startups had become unicorns, with valuations exceeding $1 billion. The flagbearer of this movement was Flipkart, the poster boy of the Indian startup industry, which had notched up a valuation of $15 billion.

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But skeptics had maintained that this rise was too fast, too quickly. Murmurs had arisen about how these companies were being valued at far greater than their economics would suggest, and venture capital exuberance was causing the Indian market to overheat. But now there’s definitive proof that the skeptics had been right – for the first time in its history, Flipkart’s valuation has been devalued. According to Morgan Stanley, Flipkart is now worth only $11.1 billion – a full 27% below its valuation of $15.2 billion at which it had raised money last year.

In a regulatory filing with the SEC, Morgan Stanley valued its Flipkart stake at $58.93 million (Rs 405.03 crore) in December 2015, as compared to $80.62 million (Rs 567.84 crore) in June 2015. 

And critics have been quick to pounce – longtime Flipkart skeptic Mahesh Murthy warned of “more bloodshed.”

Flipkart is undergoing a management reshuffle as longterm CEO Sachin Bansal stepped aside to make way for his cofounder Binny Bansal. Several longterm executives, including Mukesh Bansal and Ankit Nagori have quit the company to start their own ventures. Yesterday, Flipkart had shut down its grocery app, Nearby, citing low demand from consumers.

 

Jabong CMO Quits Less Than 5 Months After Joining Company

Jabong’s Chief Marketing Officer Saurabh Srivastava has quit less than 5 months after joining the company. Srivastava had joined Jabong in October last year, and had replaced Praveen Sinha, one of Jabong’s co-founders, who had quit to start his own venture.

“As a company policy, we do not comment on individual departures,” said Sanjeev Mohanty, CEO & MD, Jabong. “We are focused on building an experienced and professional management team that can help turn Jabong into India’s first profitable ecommerce venture.”

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Jabong has seen a large amount of management churn over the years. In 2014, two of its cofounders, Manu Jain and Mukul Bafana, had left the company. Last year, its other co-founders, CEO Arun Chandra Mohan and MD Praveen Sinha had also quit.

Jabong has had a tough quarter as it battles other e-commerce players for a slice of India’s fashion e-retail pie. Myntra, its biggest competitor from 2 years ago, now has the financial muscle of Flipkart behind it, and several other players have also stepped into the fray. There were reports that Jabong was looking to be acquired by a bigger e-commerce player, such as Amazon, but those deals never materialized. 

Jabong’s parent company, Rocket Internet, is also having a tough time with its India portfolio, and there have been reports that it’s looking to exit the country.