- Ex-IAS officer is Facebook India’s new head of public policy
- CARS24 raises $450 million at a $1.84 billion valuation
- K’taka gaming bill could hurt jobs, investments: IAMAI
Amazon vows ‘zero tolerance’ for corruption after report on India probe
Amazon said today it has zero-tolerance for corruption and will investigate all such allegations fully.The statement came in response to a report by online news outlet The Morning Context, which said, citing three sources, that Amazon has begun an internal investigation into allegations that its legal representatives in India used legal fees paid by the company to pay bribes. It said the probe began after a whistleblower within the company flagged the alleged bribery. The company issued the statement after Bloomberg contacted its local spokespeople for comment.
- “We have zero tolerance for corruption… We take allegations of improper actions seriously, investigate them fully, and take appropriate action. We are not commenting on specific allegations or the status of any investigation at this time,” Amazon said in its emailed response to Bloomberg.
Challenges in India: Amazon is targeting India for growth despite increasing competition and scrutiny from regulators. Last month, the Supreme Court allowed India’s competition regulator to proceed with its investigation against Amazon India and Flipkart for allegedly abusing their dominance by offering deep discounts and preferential treatment to some vendors.
Draft ecommerce rules: India is also tightening regulations for online retailers following years of protests by offline traders who fear that deep-pocketed global competition could push them out of business.
In June, the union government released a number of proposed changes to the ecommerce rules, including a ban on ‘flash sales’ and barring “related parties” of the companies from selling on their platforms.
In response, Flipkart, Amazon India, Tata Group and other ecommerce companies told the government they were especially concerned about this “related-party clause”, which could prevent them from selling on their own platforms.
In August, we reported, citing government sources, that the Department of Consumer Affairs was revisiting the draft rules, specifically the definitions of ‘related party’ and ‘ecommerce entity’.
Facebook India names former IAS officer as head of public policy
Facebook has appointed former IAS officer Rajiv Aggarwal as its director of public policy in India. The post had been vacant for almost a year following the exit of Ankhi Das last October.
Aggarwal, an IAS officer with 26 years of experience, was previously the head of public policy for India and South Asia at Uber. At Facebook, he will work on user safety, data protection and privacy, inclusion and internet governance. He will report to Ajit Mohan, managing director of Facebook India.
“I’m thrilled that Rajiv is joining us to lead the public policy team. With his expertise and experience, Rajiv will help further our mission to build transparency, accountability, empowered and safe communities, all of which we recognize as our responsibility,” said Mohan.
During his tenure as an IAS officer, Aggarwal steered India’s first-ever national policy on intellectual property rights and was instrumental in the digital transformation of India’s IP offices, the company said in a statement. He has also been closely associated with the India-US bilateral trade forum, and India’s lead negotiator on intellectual property rights with other nations.
Aggarwal’s appointment comes at the time when, following a few hiccups, all major social networking platforms in India are in compliance with the new IT rules.
Controversial exit: Das stepped down as Facebook India’s director of public policy on October 27, 2020, months after a Wall Street Journal report alleged that she interfered in how the platform tackled hate speech in India to favour the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Facebook denied the allegations and said it did not favour any party. Mohan was later grilled by a parliamentary committee.
CARS24 raises $450 million at a $1.84 billion valuation
Vikram Chopra, cofounder and CEO, Cars24
CARS24 said today it has raised $450 million (Rs 3,321.3 crore) in Series F funding from DST Global, Falcon Edge, SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and others, increasing its valuation to $1.84 billion. The funding was a mix of equity ($340 million) and debt ($110 million).
The round was led by DST Global, Falcon Edge and SoftBank Vision Fund 2, and also included Tencent and existing investors Moore Strategic Ventures and Exor Seeds.
Backed by marquee investors such as Sequoia India, DST Global, Kingsway Capital, Unbound and KCK, CARS24 has clocked more than 13 million monthly traffic and over 4 lakh transactions to date. It has also bagged a non-banking financial company (NBFC) license, launched a consumer lending business with CARS24 Financial Services, and entered the two-wheeler segment with BIKES24.
Other done deals
■ FloBiz, a startup that helps digitise small and medium businesses, has raised $31 million in a Series B round led by Sequoia Capital India, Think Investments and its existing investors Elevation Capital and Beenext. The round also saw participation from Vijay Shekhar Sharma (Paytm), Kunal Shah (CRED), Jiten Gupta (Jupiter), Amrish Rau (Pine Labs), Neeraj Arora (HalloApp), Nitin Gupta (Uni Cards), Ankit Tomar (Bizongo), Sayali Karanjkar (PaySense) and Krishnan Menon (BukuKas), along with 9Unicorns and Whiteboard Capital.
■ Mylab Discovery Solutions acquired a majority stake in point-of-care startup Sanskritechfor an undisclosed amount. The company, however, did not share any financial details of the stake acquisition. Sansktitech team will continue to operate as a separate entity under the aegis of Mylab.
Tweet of the day
Karnataka’s online gaming bill could hurt jobs, investments, says IAMAI
The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) today said that the Karnataka Police Act (Amendment) Bill, which was tabled in the state legislative assembly on Friday, appeared to have been drafted without considering the various legal and constitutional positions, and that its wide definition of ‘gaming’ was against various Supreme Court and high court judgements.
It said the legislation could hurt Karnataka’s position as the country’s startup hub and lead to loss of jobs and revenue for the state.
IAMAI said there are 92 gaming companies registered in Bengaluru, which employ over 4,000 people combined, and in the past three years, international investors have invested around Rs 3,000 crore in gaming and animation startups in the state.
“IAMAI requests the government of Karnataka to take a progressive view and ensure that legitimate online gaming companies which are protected under Article 19(1)(g) and Article 14 of the Constitution of India continue to operate in the State,” it added.
About the bill: The bill, tabled in the assembly last Friday by Karnataka home minister Araga Jnanendra, calls for a ban on all forms of online gambling and betting. It provides for a maximum imprisonment of three years or a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh. However, it does not ban lotteries or betting on horse races.
Gaming platform WinZO announces $20 million fund
WinZO, a regional language social gaming platform, has announced a $20 million fund for the Indian game developer ecosystem. This comes two months after the startup raised $65 million in Series C funding led by California-based Griffin Gaming Partners, a global gaming fund.
It will cut cheques of between $100,000 and $1 million in exchange for equity and deeper integration with its technology stack from its current fund.
It had announced a $1.5 million maiden fund in July 2019 and a $5 million second fund in November 2020.
Founded in 2018 by Paavan Nanda and Saumya Singh Rathore, WinZO partners with third-party developers to host games on their Android app.
Today’s ETtech Top 5 newsletter was curated by Arun Padmanabhan in New Delhi and Zaheer Merchant in Mumbai. Graphics and illustrations by Rahul Awasthi.