Students ride the crypto wagon; IPO is best for Ixigo, says cofounder



The number of Indian students investing and trading in cryptocurrencies has increased many times over from last year, or for that matter even a few months ago, according to data from top crypto exchanges.Also in this letter:Going public is the best option: Ixigo cofounder BajpaiNeobanking startup Open bags $100 millionSwiggy to test social commerce watersStudents hop on the blockchain bandwagon Crypto investing has always been a young person’s game, and now it looks like even college students are getting in on the action. Driving the news: Crypto exchanges have seen a spurt in students signing up to invest in these virtual assets. Data from top exchanges indicate that 15% to 20% of all users are students aged 18 to 20.All kinds: About 30% of students who invest in cryptocurrencies are either engineers or have a technology background, data from the exchanges indicated. About 20% are pursuing fashion and related courses, while 10% are studying arts, media and entertainment.“We have seen an increase of 480.78% in students buying crypto assets and with 18.2% participation from female traders,” said Shivam Thakral, CEO, BuyUcoin, a cryptocurrency exchange.15 million have bought crypto: Until last year India had about five million crypto investors. That number is now 15 million, which means India has more crypto investors than all but two countries, according to Kumar Gaurav, founder and CEO, Cashaa, an online banking platform to manage fiat money and cryptocurrencies.Industry trackers said India is mirroring a global trend in which investors are increasingly flocking to crypto assets.Record funding: The increased interest from users has drawn the attention of investors and two Indian crypto companies have become unicorns this year.We reported on October 6 that CoinSwitch Kuber, a cryptocurrency exchange aggregator, had raised $260 million from investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Tiger Global and Sequoia Capital India at a valuation of $1.9 billion.CoinDCX, which counts Coinbase Ventures as among its investors, became India’s first crypto unicorn earlier this year after a $90-million funding round.“During the slight dip [in prices] last month, crypto-related investments witnessed record inflows owing to the growing global acceptance of crypto assets. India and neighbouring countries are the main growth drivers of the crypto economy in Southeast Asia and they will continue their dominance because of the large number of active crypto investors in the region,” said Jay Hao, CEO of OKEx.com, a cryptocurrency exchange.Going public is the best option, says Ixigo cofounder Bajpai Ixigo cofounder Aloke BajpaiGoing public is the best option for travel portal Ixigo as it will not only give exits to investors but also allow customers to grow with the company by owning shares in it, cofounder Aloke Bajpai told us in an interview.Bajpai and cofounder Rajnish Kumar recently won in the Comeback Kid category at the Economic Times Startup Awards 2021. The company has filed for a $215 million (around Rs 1,600 crore) IPO, for which it is awaiting Sebi’s approval. Bajpai said that even though private investors were ready to double down with fresh cheques, tapping the public markets would give the company a longer runway and access to more liquidity in the long run.On the IPO: “Going by the DNA we built, going public was the best option for us. Even if you don’t want to exit, you want to give exit to your investors. But you want to do it in a way that in the process, you also give the overall market, who are also our customers, an opportunity to play and grow with us,” he said. On the pandemic: Bajpai described the start of the nationwide lockdown last year as ‘a mini existential crisis’ for the company. “The first few days of the lockdown were very difficult. We were rattled and had many sleepless nights. But then we were sure that as and when things improved, and the pandemic subsided, travel could bounce back,” Bajpai said.Minimal funding: In August, the company raised $53 million from investors led by GIC in a pre-IPO round that valued it at $600 million. Since inception, it has raised just $58 million in primary capital from investors and conducted secondary share sales worth $82 million. This makes Ixigo one of the lowest-funded consumer tech startups in India to tap the public markets. We had previously reported that it was seeking a valuation upwards of $850 million from its IPO.Also Read: Startups going public will turn profitable in three years, says Sanjeev BikhchandaniTweet of the dayCarDekho enters unicorn club Girnar Software-owned automobile portal CarDekho has become the latest entrant to the unicorn club after closing a $250 million round of funding led by Leapfrog Investments.The round includes $200 million Series E equity and $50 million as debt in its pre-IPO round, sources told us.Valuation soars: The new round values CarDekho at $1.2 billion, breaching the benchmark for a startup to be called unicorn.ET had on June 10 first reported the company’s plans to raise funds. Amit Jain, chief executive and cofounder of CarDekho, had then said the company will use the funds to expand its recently launched ecommerce platform for used cars.CarDekho had last raised $70 million at a valuation of $725 million in a Series D funding led by Hong Kong-based Ping An, which owns Global Voyager, in November 2019.What’s the plan? The resources will be utilised to grow the company’s used car, financial services and insurance businesses, besides expand into new markets, said people aware of the development.Neobanking startup Open raises $100 million from Temasek, Google, others Open founders (from left) Anish Achuthan, Mabel Chacko, Deena Jacob and Ajeesh AchuthanOpen, a neobanking startup, has raised $100 million in a round led by Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek. It also included:Other first-time investors such as Google, Visa, and Japan’s SBI Investment, andExisting investors Tiger Global and 3one4 Capital.The fundraising will close in the coming weeks, a person familiar with the matter told us. We had first reported in June that strategic players such as Google and Visa were in talks with the company for an investment and that a sovereign wealth fund was likely to lead the round.What is a neobank? Read our in-depth explainer here.Valuation: The new funding values Open at $500 million, a significant jump from around $150 million in its previous funding round.Anish Achuthan, cofounder and CEO of Open told us the company plans to use the fresh funds to strengthen and accelerate its new product lines:Zwitch, an embedded finance platform, andBankingStack, a cloud-native SME banking platform for financial institutions which is currently deployed at over 15 banks in India.10x growth: The new products are among the reasons the strategic investors have come on board. Before this funding round, Open said it grew nearly 10x over the last 18 months as the pandemic pushed digital adoption by small businesses.The company said it is adding 90,000 new SMEs to its platform each month and plans to expand to Southeast Asia, Europe and the US. “We are also looking to cater to over 5 million SMEs by August 2022,” Achuthan added.Open will also use the funds to firm up its leadership team and hire around 800 people across functions such as technology, product and business.Stiff competition: Founded in 2017, Open is a neobanking platform that offers tools to small businesses. It competes with other neobanks such as Jupiter, RazorpayX, and Niyo. Amazon and Paytm are also making nascent forays in this space. Revolut (which recently entered India), Chime and Banco are among the leading neobanks worldwide.Here are some recent funding rounds of India’s top neobanks.Funding boom: Neobanks in India have raised a record 196.7 million across 16 deals as of September 23 this year, according to data from Tracxn. They raised just $32.2 million across seven deals in a pandemic-marred 2020 after raking in almost $110 million the previous year.Other deal news■ Fraazo, a direct-to-consumer (D2C) brand in the fresh vegetables and fruits category, has raised $50 million in a funding round led by WestBridge Capital, in a sign of increased competition in the space.■ M2P Fintech, which provides digital banking infrastructure to other fintech firms and banks, has raised $35 million in a Series C funding round led by Tiger Global at a valuation of $335 million.■ Virtual and hybrid events platform Hubilo said it has raised $125 million (about Rs 943 crore) in funding, led by Alkeon Capital. Lightspeed Venture Partners and Balderton Capital also participated in the Series B round. With this, the company has raised $153 million so far.■ Cryptocurrency analytics firm Elliptic said it had raised $60 million from investors including SoftBank and Wells Fargo Strategic Capital. London-based Elliptic said the Series C round was led by Evolution Equity, with the SoftBank Vision Fund 2 investing for the first time.■ FloCareer, a business-to-business startup that is ‘Uberising’ white and grey collar job interviews, has raised $5.7 million in a funding round led by Boston-based Data Point Capital with participation of Uncorrelated Ventures and Orios Venture Partners.■ Edtech startup Creative Galileo has raised $2.5 million in a round led by Kalaari Capital, which contributed $2.1 million, and angel investors.■ Accenture has decided to acquire BRIDGEi2i in a deal that will see more than 800 employees of the Bengaluru-based AI and analytics firm join the world’s largest IT consultancy’s Applied Intelligence practice. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.Swiggy to test social commerce waters with group buying of groceries Swiggy is dipping its toes into the booming social commerce market. It is looking to launch a vertical called Swiggy Bazaar, which will focus on group buying of groceries and supplies, according to job postings by the company on LinkedIn and GetWork.Swiggy has been hiring new talent and redeploying existing employees to build this business. Until a month ago, it was hiring for several tech roles in Swiggy Bazaar.“Swiggy Bazaar is our latest foray in the trillion-dollar grocery market and will be a community group buying destination. Over the last year in lockdown, consumers have discovered new ways to access better foods and some of these behaviours have proved to be resilient—creating tailwinds that Bazaar will aim to ride,” read one of the job openings for a manager on Linkedin.This is in line with Swiggy’s plans to ramp up businesses other than food delivery, which collectively bring in almost a quarter of its total revenue. These include hyperlocal grocery and essentials delivery service Instamart and Swiggy Genie.The Bengaluru-based startup is also in talks to raise funds at a valuation of $10 billion from Invesco and others, we reported in September.Social commerce business models: Group buying is one of the three models typically used by social commerce platforms. The other two are the reseller model, which Meesho pioneered, and live commerce as done by Trell.In a group buying, a local influencer or community leader works with the platform and usually receives a commission for each order. They are responsible for ordering and delivering the orders in their locality and get cash incentives from the companies to do so.DealShare uses the community group buying model and Meesho, which is also backed by SoftBank, ventured into group buying for groceries earlier this year through Farmiso.Big picture: Swiggy is foraying into group buying of groceries at a time when a handful of well-funded players are trying to capture the market.We reported last month that Meesho, which raised $570 million from Fidelity and others, plans to use part of the new funds to scale its grocery business.DealShare, which recently raised $144 million from Tiger Global, is also talks to raise anywhere from $150-200 million.Flipkart has also ventured into social commerce through Shopsy, which claims to have amassed over 2.5 lakh sellers since its launch a little over three months ago. It doesn’t offer groceries as of now.Analysis by a management consulting company RedSeer pegged India’s group buying market at $50 million as of 2020.Shopify hires Bharati Balakrishnan as India head to push growth Bharati BalakrishnanBharati Balakrishnan has joined Shopify, a platform that enables ecommerce sellers, as its India head, according to a post shared by her on professional networking site LinkedIn.She has spent the past 15 years across offline retail and ecommerce and was most recently with Future Group as a senior vice president-digital commerce. She was one of the first hires by Alibaba in India in 2016 and later joined Paytm Mall, the ecommerce arm of Paytm, as its vice president and head of categories in 2018.”We are just getting started in India. I cannot wait to work with our partner and developer ecosystem, to help businesses of all sizes and types build their own stores online, and make commerce better for everyone!,” she said in the post.Focus on India: Balakrishnan’s appointment is an indication that Shopify has big plans in India as businesses increasingly go online in the aftermath of the pandemic.Another appointment: Meanwhile, BharatPe has appointed former SBI Chairman Rajnish Kumar as chairman of the board.In his new role, Kumar will be involved in formulating the firm’s short-term and long-term strategy, as well as work closely with the board and executives on regulatory matters. He will also advise and counsel the management on corporate governance.“We look forward to invaluable guidance from Rajnish Kumar as we build India’s largest digital credit provider,” Ashneer Grover, cofounder and managing director of BharatPe, said in a statement. “We are confident that under his able guidance, BharatPe will attain newer heights and build the best-in-class fintech for the New India.”Experience: Kumar became SBI chairman in October 2017 and attained superannuation in October 2020. He is currently an independent non-executive director at HSBC Bank Asia and L&T Infotech Ltd.Also Read: Making sense of BharatPe’s banking forayOther Top Stories By Our Reporters‘Businesses taking to WhatsApp in a big way’: Businesses, government institutions and entrepreneurs are increasingly launching their services on WhatsApp’s business platform, according to Abhijit Bose, head of WhatsApp India. “WhatsApp connects over 400 million users in India who trust us on messaging, audio and video calls. People today don’t want to call a 1-800 number and wait on hold, or send an email and not know whether it’s been read. They want to send a message and get a quick, personalised response,” he told us.TCS sets sights on B2B ecommerce, D2C for retail clients: Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has turned its sights on the $300 billion business-to-business ecommerce and the direct-to-consumer side of retail as an area for new business growth and to help global clients tap customer insights.Nazara Technologies eyes expansion in US, Europe: Gaming and sports media company Nazara Technologies, which recently raised about Rs 315 crore to accelerate its acquisition strategy, has cast its net as far as the United States and Europe. “We are looking at expanding our M&A team outside India. All our M&A has broadly happened in India because we are a product of the Indian ecosystem,” said chief executive Manish Agarwal.Global Picks We Are ReadingInstagram testing feature to notify users of outage or issue inside app (Reuters)Top Facebook digital currency engineers depart to join Andreessen Horowitz’s crypto fund (CNBC)As Big Tech grows in the pandemic, Seattle grows with it (NYT)



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