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An Indian startup that is attempting to improve the way how millions of people in the nation lease or buy an apartment — by not paying any brokerage — just raised a significant amount of capital to further expand its business.

NoBroker said on Wednesday it has raised $ 50 million in a new financing round. The Series D round for the Bangalore-based real estate property operator was led by Tiger Global Management and included participation from existing investor General Atlantic. The five-year-old startup, which closed its previous financing round in June, has raised $ 121 million to date. The new round valued NoBroker at about $ 325 million, a person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

NoBroker operates in six cities in India: Bengaluru, Chennai, Gurgaon, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Pune. The startup has established itself as one of the largest players in the local real estate business. It operates over 3 million properties on its website and serves about 7 million users. It is adding more than 280,000 new users each month, Amit Kumar, cofounder and CEO of NoBroker, told TechCrunch in an interview.

Real estate brokers in India, as is true in other markets, help people find properties. But they can charge up to 10 months worth of rent (leasing) — or a single-digit percent of the apartment’s worth if someone is buying the property — in urban cities as their commission. NoBroker allows the owner of a property to directly connect with potential tenants to remove brokerage charges from the equation.

The startup makes money in three ways. First, it lets non-paying users get in touch with only nine property owners. Those who wish to contact more property owners are required to pay a fee. Second, property owners can opt to pay NoBroker to have its representatives deal with prospective buyers — in a move that ironically makes the startup serve as a broker.

NoBroker also offers end-to-end services such as rent agreements, home loans, and movers and packers, for which it also charges a fee. The startup says it uses machine learning to speed up the transactions and make it service low-cost.

The startup processes about $ 14 million in rent each month, Kumar said. This is increasing by 25%-30% each month, he said. NoBroker’s business in Bangalore and Mumbai, two of its largest cities, are already profitable, Kumar said.

The startup will use the fresh capital to expand its business and build more products. It recently launched a community and digital management app to keep a digital log of all the entries — say a Flipkart delivery personnel comes to your house — occurring in a society, and maintain a dialogue with other people in a vicinity. The app also allows users to exchange goods with one another and pay their utility bills, startup’s executives said.

The new financing round is oddly smaller than $ 51 million NoBroker had raised in June this year. Saurabh Garg, chief business officer of NoBroker, told TechCrunch in an interview that the founding team did not want to dilute their stake in the startup, hence they opted for a smaller round.

NoBroker is competing with a number of players including Proptiger, 99Acres, and heavily backed NestAway, which counts Goldman Sachs and Tiger Global among its investors. NestAway operates in eight Indian cities and has raised north of $ 100 million to date. Budget hotel startup Oyo, which has already become one of the largest hotel businesses in the world, also operates in NoBroker’s territory with Oyo Living.

But NoBroker’s Kumar said he does not see Oyo and other startups as competition. Instead, “these other players are some of our largest clients,” he said. India’s real estate industry is estimated to grow to $ 1 trillion in worth by 2030.

The business model of NoBroker has also created new local challenges for the startup. Brokers are unsurprisingly not happy with startups such as NoBroker and have grown hostile in recent years. In recent years, they have attacked and harassed NoBroker employees. So much so that the startup had to delist its address from Google Maps. But Kumar said the mindset of people is changing.


TechCrunch

India’s Reliance Jio, which has disrupted the local telecom and features phone businesses in less than three years of its existence, is now ready to aggressively foray into many more businesses.

In a series of announcements, the subsidiary of India’s largest industrial house Reliance Industries today said it will commercially launch its fiber-optic broadband business next month, an IoT platform on January 1, 2020, and “one of the world’s biggest blockchain networks” in the next 12 months.

The broadband service, called Jio Giga Fiber, is aimed at individual customers, small and medium sized businesses, as well as enterprises, Mukhesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries, said at a shareholders meeting Monday. The service, which will be available starting September 5, will offer free voice calls, high-speed internet and start at Rs 700 per month.

Continuing its tradition to woo users with significant offers, Jio said customers who opt for the yearly-plan of Giga Fiber will be provided with the set top box and an HD or 4K TV at no extra charge. A premium tier, which will be available next year, will allow customers to watch many movies on the day of their public release.

The Giga Fiber broadband service, which also offers access to TV channels, will bundle games from many popular studios including Microsoft Game Studios, Riot Games, Tencent Games, and Gameloft,

Partnership with Microsoft

The company also announced a 10-year partnership with Microsoft to leverage the Redmond giant’s Azure, Microsoft 365, and Microsoft AI platforms to launch new cloud datacenters in India to ensure “more of Jio’s customers can access the tools and platforms they need to build their own digital capability,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a video appearance Monday.

“At Microsoft, our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Core to this mission is deep partnerships, like the one we are announcing today with Reliance Jio. Our ambition is to help millions of organizations across India thrive and grow in the era of rapid technological change…”

“Together, we will offer a comprehensive technology solution, from compute to storage, to connectivity and productivity for small and medium-sized businesses everywhere in the country,” he added.

As part of the partnership, Nadella said, Jio and Microsoft will jointly offer Office 365 to more organizations in India, and also bring Azure Cognitive Services to more devices and in many Indian languages to businesses in the country. The solutions will be “accessible” to reach as many people and organizations in India as possible, he added.

The first two data-centers will be set up in Gujarat and Maharashtra by next year. Jio will migrate all of its non-networking apps to Microsoft Azure platform and promote its adoption among its ecosystem of startups, the two said in a joint statement.

Ambani also said Jio is working on a “digital stack” to create a new commerce partnership platform in India to reach tens of millions of merchants, consumers, and producers.

The announcement comes weeks after Reliance Industries acquired majority stake in Fynd, a Mumbai-based startup that connects brick and mortar retailers with online stores and consumers, for $ 42.3 million.

More to follow…


TechCrunch

Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries is acquiring 87.6% stake in Fynd, a seven-year-old Mumbai-based startup that connects brick and mortar retailers with online stores and consumers, for 2.95 billion Indian rupees ($ 42.33 million), the two said in a brief statement late Saturday.

Fynd, which was founded in 2012, helps offline retailers sell their products to consumers directly through its online store, and also enables them to connect with other “demand channels” such as third-party e-commerce platforms Amazon India and Walmart-owned Flipkart.

More than 600 brands including Nike, Raymond, Global Desi, and Being Human, and 9,000 stores are connected through Fynd’s platform, Harsh Shah, co-founder of Fynd, told TechCrunch in an interview. Many brands also use Fynd’s products to ramp up sales on their own respective e-commerce businesses.

Since Fynd works directly with brands, it offers a wider selection of items and newer inventories to consumers, as well as faster delivery, Shah claimed.

fynd website 1

Fynd’s website

Reliance Industries, the largest industrial house in the nation that owns the country’s biggest physical retail chain Reliance Retail, has been a customer of Fynd for more than six years, Shah said. “Reliance runs a few major brands in the country. 25 of our existing brands are owned by them. Our Find Store product has helped their stores plug a lot of sales,” he said.

Fynd, which counts Google as one of its early investors, will continue to operate its existing business and has an option to secure an additional 1 billion India rupees ($ 14 million) by end of 2021 from Reliance Industries, Shah said. He declined to reveal how much capital his startup had raised prior to this week’s announcement. According to Crunchbase, the amount was about $ 7.3 million.

“Reliance is taking the majority stake in Fynd, but at the end of the day, for us it is like any other investor coming in. We will still continue to work separately, we have our own independent roadmap, and we have own clients and products that we plan to grow. So things continue as it is,” he said.

Fynd, which takes a small commission on each transaction that occurs online, is already profitable on an operating level and expects to be fully profitable in the coming quarters, Shah said.

It will continue to build and scale its existing products, including OpenAPI that allows merchants to quickly list their products on either their own stores or third-party sites and manage their inventories and sales.

Despite tens of billions of dollars of investment in India’s e-commerce market in recent years by Amazon India and Flipkart, physical retail dominates much of the sales in the country. But e-commerce businesses are growing, too.

The nation’s e-commerce space is estimated to scale to $ 84 billion by 2021, up from $ 24 billion in 2017; compared to India’s overall retail market that is estimated to be worth $ 1.2 trillion by 2021, according to a recent study by Deloitte India and Retail Association of India.

Reliance Industries, run by Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani (pictured above), additionally has its own plan to enter the e-commerce business in what could eventually become the biggest headache for Amazon since entering the nation more than six years ago. Earlier this year, Ambani announced that his telecom operator Reliance Jio and Reliance Retail are working on an e-commerce platform.

Reliance Jio, which began its commercial operations in the second half of 2016, recently became the nation’s biggest telecom operator with more than 331 million subscribers at the end of June.

Separately, Amazon.com is in talks with Reliance Industries to buy more than a quarter stake in Reliance Retail, a person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. News outlets Reuters and Economic Times were the first to report this development.


TechCrunch

UrbanClap, a marketplace for freelance labor in India and the UAE, has raised $ 75 million in a new financing round to expand its business.

The Series E round for the four-and-a-half-year old India-based startup was led Tiger Global. Existing investors Steadview Capital, which led the startup’s Series D in December last year, and Vy Capital also participated in the current round. The startup, which has raised about $ 185 million to date, said some early investors sold portions of their stake as part of the new round.

Through its platform, UrbanClap matches service people such as cleaners, repair staff and beauticians with customers across 10 cities in India and Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The startup supports 20,000 “micro-franchisees” (service professionals) with around 450,000 transactions taking place each month, cofounder and CEO Abhiraj Bhal told TechCrunch.

Bhal said that UrbanClap helps offline service workers, who have traditionally relied on getting work through middleman such as some store or word of mouth networks, to find more work. And they earn more, too. UrbanClap offers a more direct model, with workers keeping 80% of the cost of their jobs. That, Bhal said, means workers can earn multiples more and manage their own working hours.

“The UrbanClap model really allows them to become service entrepreneurs. Their earnings will shoot up two or three-fold, and it isn’t uncommon to see it rise as much as 8X — it’s a life-changing experience,” he said. Average value of a service is between $ 17 to $ 22, according to the company.

In recent years, UrbanClap has also started to offer training, credit, and basic banking services to better support the service workers on its platform. On its website, UrbanClap claims to offer 73 services — including kitchen cleaning, hairdressing, and yoga training. It says it has served 3 million customers.

Bhal said that around 20-25% of applicants are accepted into the platform, that’s a decision based on in-person meetings, background and criminal checks, as well as a “skills” test. Workers are encouraged to work exclusively — though it isn’t a requirement — and they wear UrbanClap outfits and represent the brand with customers.


TechCrunch

Rivigo, a tech startup in India that wants to build a more reliable and safer logistics network, has raised $ 65 million as major investors continue to place big bet on opportunities in overhauling trucking system in the country.

The Series E round, which has not closed, for the five-year-old startup was led by existing investors Warburg Pincus and SAIF Partners.  The startup, which has raised more than $ 280 million to date, said it aims to be profitable by March next year.

Rivigo operates a tech platform that tracks and manages shipments and ensures that drivers are available at all times and trucks are as fully loaded as possible. The platform also automatically rotates drivers so that they can get enough rest and see their family while the trucks keep moving. Drivers use an app to navigate maps and accept assignments.

“Relay trucking is now very well established where relay truck pilots lead better life and customers gets exceptional service. With technology and freight marketplace, we now want to bring relay to every truck in the country,” Deepak Garg, founder and CEO of Rivigo, said in a statement.

Rivigo, which competes with heavily-backed startups such as BlackBuck, owns its own fleet of trucks while also operating a freight marketplace. This separates it from competitors that serve purely as an aggregator — or Uber for trucks, if you will.

The startup, which claims to have the largest reach in India, said it would use the fresh capital to further expand its network and tech infrastructure in the country. Financially, too, Rivigo has driven past many of its competitors. In the financial year that ended in March this year, Rivigo’s revenue jumped to $ 105 million at a 77% year-over-year growth rate. Its losses also widened to $ 35 million, according to disclosures it made to the local regulator.

“From building algorithmically complex models to accurately predicting the life journey of a consignment to creating a dynamic pricing engine for the freight marketplace, the company is working on hundreds of unique problems at scale,” said Garg.

India’s logistics market, despite being valued at $ 160 billion, remains one of the most inefficient sectors that continues to drag the economy.

Last month, Rivigo launched National Freight Index that shows live tariff rates for different lanes and vehicles in the country in a bid to bring more transparency to the ecosystem.

More to follow later today…


TechCrunch

With most small grocery stores in India yet to get online, startups racing to digitize them continue to see promising backing from investors. Jumbotail, an online wholesale marketplace for grocery and food items, today said it has raised $ 12.7 million to scale its operations.

The Series B financing round for the Bangalore-based startup was led by Heron Rock, with participation from Capria Fund, BNK Ventures and William Jarvis and existing investors Nexus Venture Partners, and Kalaari Capital . The three-and-a-half-year old startup has raised about $ 24 million to date.

More than 10 million grocery stores, locally known as kiranas, bridge urban cities, towns and villages in India. They control over 95% of the $ 350 billion food and grocery market in the nation, according to some estimates.

Jumbotail operates a marketplace that connects tens of thousands of these kirana stores with brands and traders. It offers a whole suite of services including supply chain logistics, a mobile app for placing orders, integration with point-and-sales devices, and credit solutions to shop owners that can’t easily get loan from banks.

Ashish Jhina, cofounder and COO of Jumbotail, told TechCrunch in an interview that the startup will invest the fresh capital in developing AI solutions to improve its supply chain network, and make it easier for brands to get started on the marketplace.

Jumbotail, which is only operational in Bangalore area for now, offers its mobile app and support in four languages (English, Hindi, Malayalam, and Kannada), something that is crucially important for their business.

“Our fundamental principle is to serve our customers in languages they are comfortable in. Many of these people are not using other apps. They are using smartphones for the first time. This is also their first experience with e-commerce,” he said.

Jhina added that even as Bangalore area is the only place the startup operates in, Jumbotail is on track to clock $ 100 million in GMV there by year-end. The startup is exploring expansion in other cities and will make moves in that space soon enough, he said, without disclosing the geography.

The startup employs about 140 people and has an additional 400 staff that work in supply chain network. It’s a small team compared to the likes of Amazon India and Walmart -owned Flipkart that are increasingly working with small retailers in the country to grow their wholesale operations. And then there is Reliance Retail, which is expanding its footprint quickly, too.

But Jhina, an alumnus of Stanford, don’t necessarily seem them as a big threat. On the contrary, he believes that since much of the market remains untapped, any player with deep pockets is helping educate the masses about the potential of e-commerce in the nation. In some ways, Jumbotail also competes with the likes of BigBasket, Grofers, Udaan, and ShopX, all of which are comparatively heavily backed.


TechCrunch

Hotstar, India’s largest video streaming service with more than 300 million users, disabled support for Apple’s Safari web browser on Friday to mitigate a security flaw that allowed unauthorized usage of its platform, two sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

The incident comes at a time when the streaming service — operated by Star India, part of 20th Century Fox that Disney acquired — enjoys peak attention as millions of people watch the ongoing ICC World Cup cricket tournament on its platform.

As users began to complain about not being able to use Hotstar on Safari, the company’s official support account asserted that “technical limitations” on Apple’s part were the bottleneck. “These limitations have been from Safari; there is very little we can do on this,” the account tweeted Friday evening.

Sources at Hotstar told TechCrunch that this was not an accurate description of the event. Instead, company’s engineers had identified a security hole that was being exploited by unauthorized users to access Hotstar’s content, they said.

Hotstar intends to work on patching the flaw soon and then reinstate support for Safari, the sources said.

The security flaw can only be exploited through Safari’s desktop and mobile browsers. On its website, the company recommends users to try Chrome and Firefox, or its mobile apps, to access the service. Hotstar did not respond to requests for comment.

Hotstar, which rivals Netflix and Amazon Prime Video in India, maintains a strong lead in the local video streaming market (based on number of users and engagement). Last month, it claimed to set a new global record by drawing more than 18 million viewers to a live cricket match.


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