India withdraws data privacy bill; Uber sells Zomato stake for $392M

As recently as March, minister of state for IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar brushed aside tech companies’ concerns that India’s data protection bill “ran counter to global standards”, saying it would be tabled “very soon”. But on Wednesday, IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw withdrew the contentious bill and said the government was working on a new one.

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Also in this letter:
■ Uber sells 7.8% stake in Zomato for $392 million: report
■ Y Combinator slashes startup batch by 40%
■ Govt plans app for finding EV charging stations


India withdraws data privacy bill, working on new law

Ashwini Vaihsaw.

Ashwini Vaishnaw, IT minister

India on Wednesday withdrew a data protection bill that has been under consideration for several years.

Why? IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said the government had received 12 recommendations and 81 amendments from a Joint Committee of Parliament that studied the bill. It will now work on a “comprehensive legal framework” and present a new bill, he added.


Catch up quick: The Data protection Bill, 2021 has alarmed big tech companies and privacy advocates, who’ve said it could restrict how companies manage sensitive data while giving the government broad powers to access it – not to mention several exemptions from its own rules.

It was first introduced in 2019 and referred to the Joint Committee. The committee tabled its report in Parliament in December 2021.

The latest version of the bill included both personal and non-personal data, and called for the creation of a Data Protection Authority. The move to include non-personal data also drew widespread criticism.

We reported in February that the government may set aside the current version of the bill and draft a new one.

Backlash: In March we reported that global technology groupings had come together to express their “strong concern” over the Joint Committee’s recommendations on the bill.

The associations – whose members include Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Google and Dell – said in a letter to Vaishnaw the recommendations “run counter to global standards” for data protection and competition”.

The Internet Freedom Foundation has said the bill “provides large exemptions to government departments, prioritises the interests of big corporations, and does not adequately respect your fundamental right to privacy”.

India has blocked 348 apps: Meanwhile, minister of state for electronics and information technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar said in Parliament on Wednesday the union government has blocked 348 mobile applications that were collecting users’ data and transmitting it in an unauthorised manner to servers abroad for profiling.

Some of these apps were developed by China, he added in his response to a question from BJP MP Rodmal Nagar.


Uber sells 7.8% stake in Zomato for $392 million: report

Uber

Uber Technologies has sold its 7.8% stake in Zomato for $392 million via a block trade on local exchanges, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The deal was executed at Rs 50.44 a share, they said.

Reuters reported on Tuesday the offer size of the block deal was set to be 612 million shares, according to its term sheet, which did not disclose the seller.

As per Reuters calculations, Uber’s stake sale was worth Rs 3,087 crore ($392 million).

The news comes as Indian startups are struggling to raise fresh capital amid a global market slump and criticism of sky-high valuations, after raising a total of $35 billion in a blockbuster 2021.

Buyers: One of the sources said the stake was bought by around 20 global and Indian funds, including Fidelity, Franklin Templeton and ICICI Prudential.

Stock see-saws: Shares of Zomato dropped as much as 10% during early trade on Wednesday but recouped most of the losses to close 0.10% down at Rs 55.45 on the NSE.

According to data from BSE, 66.58 crore shares of Zomato worth Rs 3,377.23 crore were traded as of 9.35 am.

Another 17.96 crore shares worth Rs 974.66 crore exchanged hands on the NSE, data showed.

Losses: Uber on Tuesday reported a net loss of $2.6 billion for the second quarter of 2022, of which $1.7 billion was related to its equity investments, including its Zomato stake.

Zomato said the previous day it had recorded more orders and narrowed its loss for the June quarter by almost half to Rs 186 crore from Rs 356 crore a year earlier.

The Indian food delivery company is also considering reorganising its management so its individual businesses would each have a CEO, while the parent company would be renamed ‘Eternal’.


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Y Combinator slashes startup batch by 40% amid economic uncertainty

Y Combinator

Startup accelerator Y Combinator has cut its summer startup batch by 40% as rising inflation and simmering geopolitical tensions continue to weigh on the macroeconomic environment, The Information reported.

The accelerator’s Summer 2022 cohort will now have about 250 startups compared to 414 in the previous batch. Despite the reduced count, head of communications Lindsay Amos claimed it’s still large “relative to the last five years”.

Alarm bells: Earlier this year, Y Combinator issued an advisory note to its portfolio companies, warning them of a “funding slowdown” and detailing steps for navigating the current economic climate. Several VC firms like Sequoia and Beenext have also issued similar notes.

Tech companies, including giants like Microsoft, have already laid off over 32,000 workers in the US this year, while over 11,500 startup workers have lost their jobs in India in 2022, according to data from Crunchbase.


Govt plans app for finding EV charging stations to boost adoption

EV Charging station

To boost the adoption of electric vehicles, the Indian government is working on launching a one-stop-shop app that will show the location and availability of charging stations across the country.

Details: The app, scheduled to go live in the next four to six weeks, will detail charger availability, types, and tariffs. State-owned Convergence Energy Services Limited (CESL) will collect information from the private sector to develop the app.

Quote: “Apart from information on the network of public charging stations, the app will reflect information shared by [manufacturers], enhancing visibility and traffic at private charging points,” said Mahua Acharya, managing director, CESL.

CESL plans to aggregate demand and establish 10,000 charging stations in the next three years under the FAME II Initiative.

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Startup funding

■ Embedded credit finance startup Credit Fair has raised $10 million in funding – a mix of debt and equity – led by LC Nueva Alternative Investment Fund. The round also saw participation from venture capital fund Capital A and angel investors. Credit Fair plans to use the funds to augment its technology and launch new wealth-tech products.

■ Finance operations automation platform Bluecopa has raised $2.3 million in funding led by Blume Ventures. Launched in 2021 by Raghavendra Reddy, Satyaprakash Buddhavarapu and Nilotpal Chanda, Bluecopa will use the funds for hiring and to increase its customer base.

Today’s ETtech Top 5 newsletter was curated by Zaheer Merchant in Mumbai and Ruchir Vyas in New Delhi. Graphics and illustrations by Rahul Awasthi.