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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

Facebook’s Oculus Quest standalone VR headset hasn’t been out long, but VP of AR/VR Andrew Bosworth says the company is already selling a substantial amount of content for the device.

At Vox Media’s Code conference, the exec detailed that in the first two weeks of sales there has been $ 5 million in content sales. We have not gotten any details on device sales, though Facebook has never shares sales data on their VR products.

The $ 399 headset does not require a PC or phone to operate and offers camera-based positional tracking like higher-end PC headsets have in the past. At launch the company’s store had just over 50 titles available to download, with a mixture of free titles and games costing as much as $ 30.

Companies in the VR space — even Facebook — have been reticent to discuss sales because there have been so few success stories. Facebook has gone all-in on the Quest’s launch, their marketing campaigns have been substantial so it makes sense that they’re willing to detail their successes here.


TechCrunch

Pratilipi, an app that is uniting writers in India and encouraging others to try their hand at storytelling, has just raised $ 15 million to expand its network in the nation.

The Series B financing round was led by Qiming Venture Partners. Existing investors Nexus Venture Partners, Omidyar Network India, Shunwei Capital, Contrarian Vriddhi Fund, and WEH Ventures also participated in the round. The five-year-old startup has raised about $ 21 million to date.

Ranjeet Pratap Singh, CEO of Pratilipi, describes his platform as “YouTube for writers.” In an interview with TechCrunch, he said more than 100,000 writers are active on the platform and it has amassed over 5.2 million monthly active readers.

Pratilipi mostly focuses on text and audio storytelling in Indian languages, a niche space but one that also remains largely untapped. Singh said that the platform has managed to attract a very loyal reader base. An average reader spends about 53 minutes on the app, while web users spend about 15 minutes there.

As people from smaller cities and towns in India come online for the first time, there has been a huge surge in the demand for content in local languages in recent years. Ankush Sachdeva, CEO and cofounder of social networking platform ShareChat, said earlier this year that he was surprised to see how quickly ShareChat had built a community with tens of millions of users by just offering content in Indian languages.

Pratilipi currently serves no ads to its users, but writers on the platform also do not have a way to directly monetize their content. That’s part of what Singh intends to change with the fresh capital.

He said that Pratilipi will soon begin to purchase rights to some stories and help writers secure deals with movie and web series studios and publishing houses. A significant portion of the capital will go into engineering to improve stories recommendations that populate the platform.

“Pratilipi is well positioned to capture the next wave of internet users in India, who prefer to consume content in their own vernacular languages. The company has already built a strong community of readers and writers, and network effects provide strong barriers to entry,” said Helen Pei-Hua Wong, Partner at Qiming Venture Partners.

“In China, we have seen the fast growth of user-generated content platforms, some of which became the main source of entertainment for millions of internet users. We hope to share our experiences in China to help the company grow,” she added.

Pratilipi competes with YourQuote, which has raised about $ 1 million to date. YourQuote runs short stories on its app and organizes open mic events across various cities and towns for writers and poets. In many ways, Pratilipi also competes with ShareChat, Helo, and Vmate, all of which have built social networks around text and media content.


TechCrunch

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