technology

Capital under lockdown


Good evening,

Delhi on Sunday recorded its highest single-day jump in Covid-19 cases, prompting the state government to call for a six-day lockdown. This comes as another huge blow to e-commerce companies, already smarting from similar restrictions in Mumbai.

Also in this letter:

  • SoftBank in talks to fund Whatfix
  • Paytm to handle LIC e-payments
  • After virtual art, virtual realty

Essentials only, Delhi tells e-tailers

Arvind Kejriwal

E-commerce platforms were put in another fix on Monday after the Delhi government announced only the delivery of essential goods would be allowed until Monday, April 26. There was no mention of restrictions or lack thereof on the movement of non-essential goods.

Rules and regulations: The Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA), in an order dated April 19, said it would allow the movement of people engaged only in “delivery of essential goods including food, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment through e-commerce”.

There will be no restrictions on inter-state and intra-state movement of essential goods, the order stated, without specifically addressing the movement of non-essential goods.

  • Moreover, all delivery agents will need to procure e-passes from the authorities.

Seeking clarity: E-commerce companies have argued that the categories of “essential” and “non-essential” goods are subjective, and that they should be allowed to ship all products given the restrictions on people’s movement. Restricting the sale of any kind of products puts immense pressure on their supply chains, which then take months to recover, they said.

  • “If the clarification doesn’t come, from tonight we might have yet another situation at the borders where trucks carrying non-essential goods will not be allowed to pass, holding up thousands of crores of inventory,” an industry executive said.
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SoftBank in talks to fund Whatfix

Whatfix

SoftBank Vision Fund is in talks to lead $100 million financing in Whatfix, a Software-as-service (SaaS) -based digital adoption startup founded in 2014. The deal values the company around $500 million, a jump from $150 million valuation when the startup raised funds last year, three people with knowledge of the development told ET.

Eyeing SaaS deals: SoftBank has been actively scouting for SaaS deals in the country, especially for firms which have an annual recurring revenue (ARR) of $10-15 million. It had led a $100 million round in sales enablement platform MindTickle in November last year.

Read: SoftBank Vision Fund will invest early; back enterprise, SaaS companies: Rajeev Misra

SoftBank Vision Fund is also finalising a $450-million investment in food delivery app Swiggy, which could value the Bengaluru-based startup at $5 billion prior to the investment. This will be SoftBank’s first bet in the sector after more than three years of flirting with both Swiggy and IPO-bound Zomato. Read our explainer on why SoftBank chose Swiggy over Zomato here.

In other deals news…

Druva, a cloud data protection and management firm, has raised $147 million in a funding round led by Canada’s CDPQ, with significant participation by investment management firm Neuberger Berman.

HCL Technologies Ltd. has signed a multi-million-dollar deal with UD Trucks Corp. to accelerate the digital transformation of the Japanese commercial vehicle solutions provider.

Venture Catalysts has led a $1.8 million funding in Optimized Electrotech, marking its first investment in the defence sector. The defence tech startup will use the funding to design new-age surveillance systems and build more prototypes to be used in railways, and smart city and border projects.

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Tweet of the day


Paytm to handle LIC’s e-payments

Paytm

Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) has tied up with Paytm to facilitate digital payment of premiums.

Why it matters: The state-run insurer has seen a significant uptick in digital payments amid the pandemic. It collects Rs 60,000 crore in premiums via digital channels, not including banks, via 8 crore online transactions.

But why Paytm? According to sources, 17 payment platforms were in the fray for the LIC contract, but Paytm was chosen due to its ability to straddle multiple payments services.

The new contract requires a smoother payment process, wider variety of payment options and adding more players (banks, wallets, etc.) to payment channels.


Smartphone makers smarting from Covid-19 restrictions

smartphones---agencies

Smartphone sales in India are taking a beating because of pandemic-induced restrictions, while a shortage of key components and a depreciating rupee are raising their prices.

  • Xiaomi said a price hike was ‘inevitable’, and Samsung, Vivo, Oppo and Realme are also likely to pass on certain costs to consumers.
  • Lava and Micromax said that entry-level smartphones and feature phones would be the worst hit, as components costs are high and margins relatively low.

Devices that cost under Rs 15,000 account for 80% of smartphone sales in India.


After virtual art, virtual realty

Avatar used by Vignesh Sundaresan, also known as Metakovan, who is the financier of the Metapurse fund

When Vignesh Sundaresan, aka Metakovan, bought Beeple’s ‘Everydays: The First 5000 Days’, he in a way opened the doors for non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to enter the mainstream. But that barely scratches the surface of what’s happening with NFTs.

New world order: Art is just one part of a new economy of blockchain-based virtual worlds where land, buildings, avatars and even names can be bought and sold as NFTs, often fetching hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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In these environments, referred to as the metaverse, people can wander around with friends, visit virtual buildings and attend virtual events.

Take, for instance, Decentraland, or Crypto Voxels, Somnium Space and The Sandbox.

  • Decentraland has seen over $50 million in total sales, including land, avatars, usernames and wearables like virtual outfits. A patch of land measuring 41,216 virtual sq mt sold for $572,000 on April 11, which the platform said was a record.

Bulls: Online environments are going to be “very very big”, regardless of fluctuations in the price of bitcoin, said Frederic Chesnais, head of Atari’s blockchain division and the firm’s former CEO. NFT-based virtual real estate could one day be worth millions of dollars.

Bears: Investors caution, however, that while big money is flowing into NFTs, the market could represent a price bubble, with the risk of major losses if it all proves to be little more than hype. There could also be opportunities for fraudsters in a market where many participants operate under pseudonyms.





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