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Weekly Startup Highlights

skyroot aerospace

News Highlights

It has been an eventful week for the Indian startup ecosystem. So, let’s get down to it and take a look at some of the major highlights of this week.

Skyroot Aerospace becomes India’s first private space company to successfully test an upper stage rocket engine

First up in the news, let’s talk about Skyroot Aerospace. It is now the first Indian company to successfully test an upper stage rocket engine called Raman. It has been named after the Nobel winning Indian physicist C.V. Raman.

For those who don’t know, what an upper stage engine is, it is the engine that provides the final thrust to the spacecraft in space so that any payload satellite can be placed in the correct orbit. Since Raman is capable of multiple restarts, it can place multiple satellites in different orbits, which would make it an affordable choice for many countries that want to launch their own satellites in space but don’t have their own rockets. And there are a lot of them.

Talking about the economics of the engine, Raman is also the first fully 3-D printed upper stage engine in India. Thanks to this, the company has managed to reduce the mass of the engine by 50%, which means lesser components are needed for its construction and its lead time for manufacturing has also decreased by 80%.

While this is just the upper stage engine, the company is looking to launch its own rocket named ‘Vikram I’ in space by the end of next year. They are all set to test the other two stages of its three-stage engine in the next six months. If things go as planned, Skyroot aerospace is looking to manufacture an entire family of rockets named Vikram.

Founded by Pawan Kumar Chandana and Naga Bharath Daka in 2018, Skyroot Aerospace is making rockets using the latest technologies to make access to space more reliable and economical. The company has already raised $3.9 million and in the process of raising another $15 million to make its vision a reality.

Flipkart launches its own accelerator program Flipkart Leap

Indian e-commerce giant Flipkart has launched its own accelerator program called Flipkart Leap to support local entrepreneurs who are building startups in the technology and consumer internet space.

Startups participating in Flipkart Leap will get the opportunity to win an equity-free grant of $25,000 (18.7 lakh rupees) and the finalists will also have the opportunity to pitch their ideas to investors on the demo day at the end of the program.

It will be a 16-week long virtual program, where entrepreneurs will be provided all the training to help them scale their ideas and take them to the next level. Throughout the program, participants will be exposed to hands-on workshops, one-on-one mentor sessions, masterclasses from industry experts and networking events.

The company has already started the process of inviting applications from entrepreneurs and is looking to select 4-6 startups for its first cohort.

Swiggy launches InstaMart

Swiggy is doubling down on online grocery delivery with the launch of InstaMart in Gurugram. Swiggy Instamart will be available to its users from 7 am to 12 am and it will deliver more than 2,500 items including instant meals, ice-creams, snacks, fruits and vegetables within 45 minutes.

This news comes weeks after Flipkart launched its own 90-minute grocery delivery service Flipkart Quick.

Swiggy has partnered with numerous dark stores to offer quick delivery service using its own fleet and it will be expanded to Bengaluru in the next few days. Unlike retail stores or kirana stores, dark stores are only available on Swiggy’s app and do not have a physical store. They will be used to facilitate quick deliveries.

With the introduction of instant grocery delivery, Flipkart and Swiggy are looking to challenge established players in the online grocery market like BigBasket, Grofers, and JioMart.

India’s online grocery market which is currently pegged at around $2 billion (15,000 crore rupees) is expected to become a $29 billion (2.17 lakh crore rupees) market by 2024. With the online grocery market growing at such an unprecedented pace, it is no surprise that every major online retailer is eyeing a piece of this market.

Zomato introduces period leaves

Zomato has grabbed the headlines by introducing paid period leaves of up to 10 days for its women employees. This move not only tackles the stigma attached to menstruation but is also necessary for a country like India where participation of women in India’s labour workforce stands at a low 23.4%. This number is lower than in other developing countries like Pakistan, Lebanon, and Libya.

Period-related pains also known as dysmenorrhea, is common among women and it can affect their workplace performance. Not only that, but painful periods can also affect almost 20% of women’s daily activities.

While period leaves are still not common among many large companies, this move by Zomato could help in driving the change and make it easier for women to remain a part of the working economy without any added burden or stigma.

However, Zomato is not the first Indian company to introduce period leaves. Digital media company Culture Machine and digital marketing company Gozoop had introduced their period leave policies back 2017.

Paytm Money launches stock trading services

Indian payments giant Paytm has introduced stock trading on its wealth management platform Paytm Money enabling its users to invest directly in the Indian stock markets. While the stock trading service is only available for Android users at the moment, the company is working to expand it to iOS users in the coming weeks.

Paytm Money supports fully digital KYC which means that its users will be able to open their account, finish their KYC compliance and start trading within 24 hours. The charges associated with transactions are also low with long term investments being completely free and intra-day trades costing as low as 10 rupees.

With the introduction of stock trading service, the company is now looking to become a comprehensive wealth management platform enabling its users to seamlessly invest across multiple products like equity and mutual funds.

ByteDance in talks with Reliance for investment in TikTok

China’s most valuable startup ByteDance, which is the owner of TikTok, is now in talks with India’s most valuable company Reliance Industries in order to get its backing for TikTok’s India business, reported TechCrunch.

TikTok was banned in India in June, along with 58 other Chinese apps due to data security and privacy issues raised by the Indian government. With over 200 million (20 crore) users, India was TikTok’s largest market outside of China. The company also has more than 2,000 employs in India, whose jobs hang in the balance at the moment.

An investment by Reliance could possibly help ByteDance to save its business in India and also the jobs of its employs. According to TechCrunch sources, TikTok’s business in India is valued at $3 billion.

ByteDance has assured its employees that it does not plan to layoff its employs and is already in talks with the government to resolve the issues. If ByteDance can’t get the government to remove the ban, it might even consider selling its business. There are already numerous reports of Microsoft talking with ByteDance to acquire its businesses in multiple markets including the U.S, Europe and India.

Funding Highlights

Eduvanz raises $5 million

Digital lending startup Eduvanz has raised (37.4 crore rupees) in its series A round from Sequoia Capital India and Unitus Capital.

Started by Varun Chopra and Raheel Shah in 2016, Eduvanz is a Non-Banking Finance Company (NBFC) that aims to make education affordable and accessible by offering interest-free loans to students who want to acquire new skills and seek better opportunities. Since its inception, the company has provided loans worth 150 crore rupees ($20 million) to more than 10,000 students. Over the next two years, the company is looking to disburse loans worth 400-500 crore rupees ($53-$67 million).

It will be using fresh capital to build its technology using artificial intelligence to make the process of lending and collection easier for the borrowers. Also, they will be looking to create new credit products for borrowers in tier 2 and tier 3 cities.

BigHaat raises $2 million

Agritech startup BigHaat has raised more than $2 million (15 crore rupees) from Beyond Next Ventures, Rockstud Capital and Ankur Capital.

Founded by Sateesh Nukala and Sachin Nandwana in 2015, BigHaat wants to revolutionize India’s agricultural inputs ecosystem. The company is doing this by offering quality agricultural inputs through its online marketplace. It also uses data-led information to help the farmers get the best advice in order to improve their crop yield. BigHaat wants to help more than 10 million farmers in the next two years.

The company will use fresh funds to scale its technology platform and marketing efforts by hiring talent across its technology and marketing teams.

ZipLoan raises 15 crore rupees ($2 million)

Digital lending platform ZipLoan has secured 15 crore rupees ($2 million) in debt funding from Stride Ventures.

Founded by Kshitij Puri and Shalabh Singhal in 2015, ZipLoans is empowering small businesses by providing them easy access to working capital in order to build and grow their business. The company uses its technology platform to let the business owners get unsecured loans up to 7.5 lakh rupees in just 3 days without the need for any offline documentation. Till date, the company has disbursed loans worth 400 crore rupees ($53 million) to more than 10,000 businesses.

Chingari raises $1.3 million

Short video sharing platform Chingari has raised $1.3 million (9.7 crore rupees) in its seed round from AngelList India, Utsav Somani’s iSeed, Village Global, LogX Ventures, and NowFloats co-founder Jasminder Singh Gulati.

Founded by Biswatma Nayak and Siddharth Gautam in 2018, Chingari is a TikTok-like short video sharing platform. The platform rose into prominence after the ban of TikTok and has quickly emerged as one of the top video sharing social media platforms in the country with more than 25 million users and three million daily active users. It also emerged as the top winner in the social category of the “AatmaNirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge” which was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 4th July.

The platform will use the latest funds to boost product development by hiring more talent and boost its technology platform to offer a seamless short video entertainment experience and reach a wider audience.

CityCash raises $1 million

Digital payments startup CityCash has raised $1 million (7.5 crore rupees) in seed funding from Orios Venture Partners.

Founded by Vineet Toshniwal in 2017, CityCash wants to simplify payments for millions of low and middle-income consumers in India who use public transit and make small retail transactions. The company is offering near field communication technology (NFC)-based smart cards so that the consumers can make digital microtransactions on the go. CityCash has already partnered with Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) to issue 3 million cards and its payment solution is being accepted in 20,000 buses across Maharashtra.

The company will use the funds to expand its market presence by getting more merchants to join its payment ecosystem.

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