Venture Capital

Profits over lives

Read more at economictimes.indiatimes.com

Good morning,

A few companies in cities with strict restrictions on movement are still forcing their employees to travel to the office using fake essential-worker IDs and stickers.

Also in today’s letter:

  • 🚨 CERT-In advisory over FB leak
  • 🛒 E-grocers see surge in demand
  • 🦄 India’s latest unicorn

When jugaad becomes lethal

Despite strict Covid restrictions, some companies in Mumbai, Pune, New Delhi and Bengaluru are not only insisting that their employees come in to work but also looking for ways to get around curbs.

These include issuing fake essential-worker IDs or fraudulent permission letters to their employees, and not disclosing Covid-19 cases to the authorities.

ET received information on 25 such companies, big and small, and was able to independently verify a few of the major ones. The companies are not being identified at the request of those who provided the information.

  • Mumbai: An employee of a real estate group said they were given fake essential-worker IDs and told to report to the office. “[The company] has told us to put a yellow sticker on our vehicles (implying they are involved in essential services) while coming to the office,” the person added.
  • Delhi: An employee of a company that sells organic products online said they have all been given fake permits on office letterheads. “Some of us were caught by the police recently and told to return home. But the practice continues,” the employee said.
  • Pune: Employees of an international ITES firm have to go to office despite work-from-home guidelines “because their manager refuses to let them work from home,” said the close relative of a staffer. “Two people from the team tested positive recently.”
  • Bengaluru: At a prominent Bengaluru startup, going to the office is not mandatory “but the founder keeps calling for meetings so everyone ends up going,” said an employee.


‘Violation of rights’: K Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India, said, “If companies are compelling non-essential workers to work behind closed doors, not only are they flouting laws but they are also exposing employees to avoidable risk. It’s a violation of human rights.”


CERT-In issues advisory after Facebook data leak

Facebook 1

India’s cybersecurity organisation CERT-In has asked Facebook users to secure their profile information on the social networking platform.

What happened? Reports earlier this month said that personal data of 533 million Facebook users, including 6.1 million in India, was allegedly leaked online and posted for free on hacking forums.The exposed data includes email addresses, profile IDs, full names, occupations, phone numbers and birth dates.

Now, the Computer Emergency Response Team has put out an alert and asked users to make sure their accounts are safe.

What’s Facebook saying? According to the social media giant, the scraped information does not include financial information, health information or passwords. The company has also claimed that based on its investigation, threat actors scraped this data before September 2019, using Facebook’s “contact Importer” feature, which allows users to find other users by using their phone numbers, the public advisory said.

CERT-In’s recommendations: It suggested that users change their profile settings to “private” or “friends” only as data scrapers can use “public” information of an individual to “match and combine with data from other breaches to access even more of their personal information and accounts”.

Another FB scam: Meanwhile, researchers at Singapore-based cybersecurity firm Group-IB say that cybercriminals harvested users’ login credentials by baiting them through ads on Facebook that purportedly promoted a fake update for Facebook Messenger. This scam targeted millions of users from 84 countries, including India.

Tweet of the day


Follow @ETtech for all the breaking news, insights and smart analysis on the business of technology and startups from the newsroom of The Economic Times.


E-grocers see surge in demand

grocery

Moments before Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his address to the nation over rising Covid-19 infections, more than 6 lakh carts were awaiting check-out on Grofers in anticipation of another nationwide lockdown, the online grocer’s co-founder Albinder Dhindsa tweeted.


While the PM didn’t announce a countrywide lockdown, stricter curbs on ‘essential’ offline stores in Maharashtra are expected to increase the demand for e-grocers. Both BigBasket and Grofers said they were hiring more workers in anticipation of a surge in orders.

Why now? The Maharashtra government on Tuesday said shops selling groceries, vegetables, fruits, dairy products, confectionaries and meats would be allowed to be open only from 7 am to 11 pm, though deliveries would be allowed until 8 pm.

Seen this before: “We are already seeing a surge in demand in cities deeply impacted by the second wave. With the announcement of new guidelines in Maharashtra today, we are expecting a further surge in demand,” said a spokesperson for Grofers.

  • The company added that it had seen a similar, almost two-fold, surge in orders in Delhi after the government there announced a week-long curfew on Monday.

BigBasket chief executive Hari Menon said the platform has been seeing more orders since Maharashtra introduced restrictions earlier this month, and that demand from the state was currently almost 40% higher than it was last month.


Chargebee is Tiger’s latest unicorn

Indian startups turned unicorns

Billing startup Chargebee has become the latest startup to get the unicorn tag thanks to Tiger Global. The company has bagged $125 million in funding, catapulting its valuation to $1.4 billion.

  • New investor Sapphire Ventures and existing investors Tiger Global and Insight Venture Partners co-led the round. Steadview Capital, which already backs the company, also participated.
  • The valuation of the Chennai-based company, which provides a subscription billing and revenue management platform, has trebled in six months. It had raised $55 million in October.

Year of the unicorn: Prior to Chargebee’s announcement on Tuesday, at least half a dozen Indian startups had already entered the unicorn club this month and 10 since the beginning of the year.

In other deal news…

TrulyMadly has raised $2.1 million in a pre-Series A funding round, as the homegrown online dating app looks to carve itself a niche between industry heavyweights Tinder and Bumble and matrimonial websites in India.

Qapita, a SaaS startup that provides ESOPs and cap table management solutions to private companies, has landed $5 million in a funding round led by MassMutual Ventures.

Fitterfly has picked up $3.1 million in a funding round led by venture capital firm Fireside Ventures, which will now hold a significant stake in the two-year-old health-tech startup. Other venture capital funds—such as 9Unicorns and Venture Catalysts—and a clutch of angel investors also participated in the round.

CoLearn has secured $10 million in a Series A funding round co-led by Alpha Wave Incubation and GSV Ventures, as the Indonesia-focused edtech startup looks to build presence in the world’s fourth largest education ecosystem.

Mobile Premier League has acquired New Delhi-based esports platform GamingMonk. GamingMonk’s acquisition will allow MPL to bring to market key national, regional and global esports tournaments and develop a full suite of esports and broadcasting capabilities.

Infographic Insight

Indian Startups

PayPal’s Venmo launches crypto trading

crypto

Giving further validation to cryptocurrencies, PayPal-owned Venmo on Tuesday started allowing users to buy, hold and sell cryptocurrencies on its app. The move could inspire more mainstream adoption of virtual currencies.

  • Venmo users will be able to buy bitcoin, ethereum, litecoin and bitcoin cash for as little as $1 and publish transactions on the app’s feed, the company said.

Why it matters: With over 70 million customers, Venmo is one of the most popular payment apps in the US, especially among younger consumers who use it to pay friends and family. It processed around $159 billion in payments last year.

In related news, office-sharing startup WeWork said it would begin accepting payments in select cryptocurrencies and partner with Coinbase Global Inc and payments app Bitpay for transactions in cryptocurrencies.


De-index Indian, Delhi HC tells Google & Co.

The Delhi High Court has directed internet search engines such as Google, Yahoo Search, Microsoft Bing and DuckDuckGo to remove and de-index globally an image of an Indian whose photograph was stolen from her Facebook and Instagram account and published on a pornographic site.

It has also ordered the Delhi police to provide information of the offending content of the person from the pornographic site as well as search engines. The court said not complying with its order would attract charges under the Information Technology Act.


Top Stories We Are Covering

Google Pay creators launch neobank Fi for millennials: Co-creators of Google Pay, Sujith Narayanan and Sumit Gwalani, are launching Fi, a neobank for salaried millennials in partnership with Federal Bank. Neobanks are virtual banks that work online and do not have physical branches. Founded in 2019, Fi raised $13.5 million in its seed round led by Sequoia India and Ribbit Capital.

Twitter India hires Uber’s Apurva Dalal: Twitter Inc. is expanding its engineering team in India and has hired Uber Technologies Inc.’s Apurva Dalal to lead it. The move underscores the focus that the microblogging platform has on one of its fastest growing markets globally.

Flipkart expands 90-min deliveries: Flipkart has sensed an opportunity amid the uncertainty brought on by localised lockdowns in India and is expanding its hyperlocal delivery services to six more cities to cater to the increased demand for essentials.


Global Picks We Are Reading

■ A global tipping point for reining in tech has arrived (NYT)

■ Kleiner Perkins raises $750 million for new investment fund (Bloomberg)

■ Amazon to open first-ever hair salon in London (CNBC)

Read more at economictimes.indiatimes.com

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