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EV leasing picks up in India; women flock online to learn tech skills


Leasing vehicles has never been big business in India, but in the nascent electric vehicle market, many companies are betting big that it will be a game-changer. Read on to find out why.

Also in this letter:

  • Women learning tech skills online in record numbers
  • PharmEasy acquires Aknamed for $180-190 million
  • India’s IT rules undermine users’ security: WhatsApp CEO

When it comes to EVs, many prefer usership to ownership

EV

Several startups have launched leasing schemes for electric vehicles — a model that has never really picked up with traditional vehicles in India.

What’s happening? A number of startups, mobility solution providers and financiers now allow customers to have a vehicle for their personal use for a monthly fee, without owning it.

These schemes come with zero down payment and do away with the hassle of paying for insurance, road tax, registration and maintenance.

Who’s doing what: Autovert, a Bengaluru-based financing platform, was the first in India to focus exclusively on leasing EVs. It works with Ather Energy to lease two-wheelers.

  • Mahindra Finance, an old economy company, leases commercial as well as passenger EVs.
  • Tata Motors advocates leasing as a smarter way of buying its Nexon EV. It has partnered with Orix Auto Infrastructure Services for this.

Why is this happening? EVs have a high upfront cost and banks are reluctant to give loans as it is a new segment. Many customers thus prefer “usership” over ownership, industry executives said.

Leasing will help increase EV penetration significantly in the short term, said Tarun Mehta, a cofounder of electric scooter maker Ather Energy. “Since the upfront cost on EV is higher, and with consumers upgrading more often, leasing offers that flexibility of ownership,” he added.

Tiny but growing market: EV sales in India rose to 28,919 units in August, up 10% from July, accounting for 2% of all vehicles sold in India for the first time, according to data compiled by the Centre for Energy Finance at the Council on Energy, Environment and Water.


More women are learning new skills online than ever before

tech workers

More women than ever before are going online to learn new skills, especially in tech-related fields. Half a dozen upskilling firms — upGrad, Simplilearn, Great Learning, Coursera, Scaler Academy and Masai School — told us that ever since the pandemic began, the number of women signing up for part-time courses in fields such as software development has increased significantly.

The reasons? Many women are doing so because they lost their jobs, while for others, “upskilling” offers a chance to work part time from home. Another reason is that companies are keen on recruiting women in tech roles.

The numbers: At Great Learning, the share of female learners pre-Covid was 20%. It has now risen to 30%.

  • At Masai School, the percentage of women in its part-time course that started in April 2020 has increased from 15% to 20-25%.
  • At Scaler Academy, the share of women admitted has doubled to 20%, and application numbers also reflect a similar trend.
  • At Coursera, the share of Indian women learners in STEM courses shot up from 22% before 2020 to 33%, its second highest increase globally.
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PharmEasy acquires Aknamed for $180-190 million

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Online pharmacy PharmEasy has acquired cloud-based hospital supply chain management startup Aknamed in a largely stock deal worth about $180-190 million, sources told us. The transaction also involved a small cash component.
Why it matters: The acquisition, which is similar to its purchase of Thyrocare in June, is part of the Mumbai-based company’s plans to position itself as a broader online healthcare firm, not just a medicine delivery platform.

All the founders of Aknamed will get shares in PharmEasy’s parent entity API Holdings and additional stock options, the sources said.

We reported yesterday that PharmEasy was finalising a $200 million primary fund infusion from US-based and Southeast Asian investors, following which it would be valued at around $6 billion. It was valued at $4.2 billion in June.

Other done deals

Eupheus Learning, a New Delhi-based B2B edtech company, said it secured $10 million from private equity platform Lightrock India in a Series C funding round. The startup plans to use the proceeds to scale the business by expanding its product portfolio and entering new markets.

Vahan, a recruitment platform for blue-collar workers, has landed $8 million in its Series A round, led by existing investor Khosla Ventures. The funding will help the company further scale its recruitment business and build new product offerings, a senior company executive said.

GTM Buddy, a tech-enabled sales enablement platform, has picked up $2 million in a seed funding round led by Stellaris Venture Partners, an early-stage investor that recently raised $225 million for its second India-dedicated fund.

■ Healthcare startup Hexahealth has raised Rs 33 crore in funding led by impact investor Omidyar Network and Chiratae Ventures. The seed funding round, which aims to transform surgery experience for patients, also saw participation from 3one4 Capital.

Intuit Inc., known for its small-business accounting and DIY tax-filing software, said it will acquire digital marketing company Mailchimp for about $12 billion in a cash-and-stock deal. The deal, expected to close by the second quarter of fiscal 2022, is Intuit’s biggest-ever acquisition.

Zenoti, which develops software for large spas and salon chains, has acquired US-based SuperSalon, a salon management software solutions provider. The acquisition is aimed at bolstering its revenue, Zenoti founder Sudheer Koneru told ET.

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India’s IT rules undermine users’ security: WhatsApp CEO

whatsapp ceo

WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart

India’s new Information Technology rules, which require technology platforms to trace the origin of flagged messages, “undermine security that end-to-end encryption provides”, WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart told The Verge.

On May 26, WhatsApp filed a case against the IT rules in the Delhi High Court saying the traceability clause undermines people’s right to privacy.

Quote: “With the IT rules in India, the specific thing those rules would require is us to build some system [to comply] if someone comes to us and says “Hey, someone said the words ‘XYZ.’ Tell us who (is) the first person who said the words XYZ.” That’s not private. And it undermines the security that end-to-end encryption provides,” Cathcart said.

Other nations may follow suit: “The more some countries see other countries do it, or push for it, the more that they want to push for it, too,” he added.

India, which had notified the revised IT rules in February, has made it mandatory for messaging apps to comply with the controversial legislation since May 26. The new IT rules also require significant social intermediary companies, those with over five million registered users, to have compliance, nodal and grievance officers who are residents of the country.


ADIF wants India to ‘do a South Korea’ against Google

FILE PHOTO: The Google app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration

A grouping of Indian internet entrepreneurs and startups led by Atmanirbhar Digital India Foundation (ADIF) on Tuesday called for “proactive legislative action” against Google by Indian regulators.

Why now? The move comes in the backdrop of South Korea penalising the American tech giant $177 million for hampering the development of rivals to its Android OS.

A group of Indian startups has formed an industry association to liaise between government and regulatory agencies and protect what they call “freedom of choice” for domestic internet companies.

On Tuesday, the KFTC banned Google from forcing companies to sign anti-fragmentation agreements with it, which it said prevented manufacturers such as Samsung and LG from developing or using modified versions of the Android OS.

ADIF has previously taken on Apple and Google over their policy of barring developers from offering users in-app payment options that were outside their own ecosystems, while also charging developers an exorbitant fee of 30% of every in-app purchase.


Zomato cofounder quits two months after IPO

Gaurav gupta

Zomato cofounder Gaurav Gupta

A cofounder of Zomato has quit the company two months after its landmark IPO.

Who? Gaurav Gupta, head of supply at the foodtech startup, played a key role in the run-up to the IPO in mid-July.

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Gupta shared the news about his resignation in an email with Zomato employees on Tuesday, which the company published on its blog. CEO Deepinder Goyal confirmed his cofounder’s exit on Twitter.


Six-year stint: Sources told us today will be Gupta’s last day at Zomato.

He joined the company in 2015 as business head for table reservations. He was also chief operating officer for almost half of his six-year stint, and was part of the team that launched Zomato Pro.

He was elevated to cofounder in 2019 to focus on launching the company’s now-defunct nutrition business. Zomato officially shut down that business last week.


Quote: “I couldn’t have asked for more—I am so grateful for all the experiences I have had and thankful to all the folks around me for helping me become a much better person,” Gupta wrote in the email.

Shedding weight: Since the IPO, Zomato has halted its grocery delivery plans, its nutrition business, and several international subsidiaries.

Grocery deliveries: Earlier this week, Zomato cancelled its grocery delivery plans for the second time in two years. It had launched a grocery delivery pilot in July on a marketplace model, in which it helped customers buy goods from neighbourhood stores. JioMart is doing something similar, but other rivals such as Swiggy and Dunzo have a different model, in which they work with third-party ‘dark stores’ to service grocery orders in 15-30 minutes.


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