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Amazon’s green shoots

Good morning,

E-commerce firms took a battering at the start of the second Covid wave, but with various states easing lockdown restrictions, Amazon has seen a gradual increase in customers “across categories” over the past week.

Also in this letter:

  • Twitter gives in to govt pressure
  • Zomato’s Akriti Chopra made co-founder
  • Walmart says it’s open to Flipkart IPO

Customers coming back, says Amazon India head

Amazon India

With various cities and states easing lockdown restrictions, customers are returning to Amazon, the company’s India head Amit Agarwal told us. The e-commerce giant said it has been seeing increased traffic across categories over the past week.

“We see customers coming back and shopping for the kind of things they were buying before the second wave. These lockdowns were also not very long, like the 55-day shutdown last year. As things open up, we are beginning to see customers shop for the kind of things they were buying before,” Agarwal said.

In context: E-commerce volume growth in India was down 11% in April compared to March, we had reported last month.

  • Last week, we reported that states easing restrictions would result in an increase in e-commerce sales, but that this increase may be muted due to the broader stress on the economy.
  • Over the past 10 days, large states such as Maharashtra and Karnataka lifted restrictions on e-commerce deliveries. Industry experts said this would reduce logistical hurdles and help small businesses to reopen.

The ‘essential’ debate: Agarwal also reiterated what Amazon (and other e-commerce companies) have been saying for a while — that home deliveries of all goods should be allowed during Covid lockdowns, whether through e-commerce platforms or local stores. Amazon said about 50,000 local stores have joined the platform over the past year.


Twitter gives in to government‘s demands

Twitter

Twitter on Wednesday said it has appointed officials temporarily to comply with the new IT rules and sought time to hire permanent staff. In its response to the government’s “final notice”, Twitter said it would hire a chief compliance officer within a week.

“We assure you that this is an interim arrangement and that we are already making all possible efforts to put in place a framework for employees of Twitter, Inc. to take on these roles,” Twitter wrote in the letter to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity), which was reviewed by ET. “We request you to please provide us with additional time to recruit and appoint permanent employees to these roles.”

Earlier this week, Twitter “withheld” the accounts of singer JazzyB, hip-hop artist L-Fresh the Lion, and two others in India, in response to a legal demand by the Indian government.

Tweet Of The Day


Zomato’s Akriti Chopra elevated to co-founder

akriti

Zomato has elevated long-time executive Akriti Chopra to co-founder, according to an internal email from CEO Deepinder Goyal. She has also been appointed as chief people officer. The move comes ahead of the food ordering app’s $1.1-billion IPO.

Chopra joined Zomato in 2011 as a senior manager of finance and operations. She became the chief financial officer in April 2019, before the role was taken over by Akshant Goyal last November as the company began planning for its IPO.

Started by Deepinder Goyal and Pankaj Chaddah in 2010, Zomato counts executives Gunjan Patidar, Gaurav Gupta, Mohit Gupta, and now Akriti Chopra, among its founders. Chaddah quit the firm in 2018 to start mental wellness venture Mindhouse.

Who owns Zomato

Board revamp: In April, Zomato overhauled its board, adding four new independent women directors including professional badminton player Aparna Popat, Zalora Group chief executive Gunjan Tilak Raj Soni, Airveda founder and former Zomato chief product officer Namita Gupta, and behavioural insights advisor Sutapa Banerjee. Kaushik Datta was named chairman of the board.

Also Read: How Zomato’s cap table has evolved over the years


Walmart says it’s open to Flipkart IPO

flipkart

Walmart International president Judith McKenna said the company is open to a Flipkart IPO but there was no specific timeline.

  • “From the day we made the acquisition or the investment, we made it clear we would be open to an IPO,” McKenna said in a DB Global Consumer Conference. “We will do it when it’s time for the business; it’s not an output, it’s not a target for us to do that.”

Last month, we reported that Flipkart is in preliminary talks with a clutch of new investors to raise at least $1 billion at a valuation of $28-30 billion, even as it weighs an IPO in the US around the fourth quarter of the year.

Infographic Insight

Flipkart

ETtech Done Deals

VC investment

■ Fintech startup Refyne has raised $16 million in a Series A round that included new and existing investors such as DST Global, RTP Global, QED Investors, XYZ Capital and Jigsaw VC. It had previously raised a $4.1 million seed funding in December 2020.

■ Pune-based green energy technology firm Greenjoules has raised $4.5 million from Blue Ashva Capital’s Blue Ashva Sampada Fund. The funding, a mix of debt and equity, will be used to set up commercial scale waste-to-energy plants, and R&D initiatives.

■ Education startup Masai School, which offers online courses in web and mobile app development, has acquired Design Shift Academy, an institute that provides guidance on user interface and user experience design, in a cash-and-stock deal.

■ PremjiInvest-backed primary healthcare startup Iora Health is being acquired by healthcare company One Medical. PremjiInvest had led a $126 million funding round in the US-based startup last February. The all-stock deal will value Iora Health at $2.1 billion and give shareholders in the startup a 26.75% stake in the Nasdaq-listed One Medical.


Sehwag, Sanjay Bangar launch cricket coaching app

Former India cricketers Virender Sehwag and Sanjay Bangar are taking cricket coaching online with the launch of Cricuru.

What’s the plan? A subscription-based video-learning platform, Cricuru will provide artificial intelligence (AI)-based feedback for batting and direct consulting with cricketers such as Brian Lara, AB de Villiers, Chris Gayle and Muttiah Muralitharan.

The platform has roped in 33 former and current players from around the world to create over 6,000 minutes of cricket lessons and will make them available for a subscription.

The application will primarily rely on subscriptions for revenue, but the company is also open to sponsorships further down the line, Sehwag said.

Meanwhile, Coursera Inc. doubled its India additions in 2020 as people stayed at home for work and study amid the pandemic. The US-based online education platform added 10.6 million learners from India last year, according to its Global Skills Report, 2021, compared with 5 million in 2019.


Other Top Stories We Are Covering

Facebook’s global ads chief Everson leaves: Facebook Inc ads chief Carolyn Everson is leaving the company, she said in a post on the social media platform on Wednesday. Everson, who had been at Facebook more than a decade, was vice president of Facebook’s Global Business Group.

White House drops Trump orders to ban TikTok, WeChat: The White House has dropped Trump-era executive orders that attempted to ban the popular apps TikTok and WeChat and will conduct its own review aimed at identifying national security risks with software applications tied to China

Cognizant forms new unit for Google Cloud: Cognizant has set up a new, dedicated Google Business Group (GBG) to help accelerate the cloud modernisation journeys of shared customers.


Global Picks

  • Sequoia mulls changes that could help fend off Biden tax hikes (Bloomberg)
  • LinkedIn bets on remote events, investing in $5 billion-plus virtual platform company Hopin (CNBC)
  • Amazon advertising rates soar in pandemic-fueled surge (Bloomberg)

Today’s ETtech Morning Dispatch was curated by Zaheer Merchant and Karan Dhar in Mumbai.

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