CoWin Boost


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India is bulking up its vaccine registration portal to handle increased demand as the government opens up its inoculation drive to those above the age of 45 from April 1. The online response has been muted so far with only a tenth of those being vaccinated having pre-registered on the CoWin platform, according to official estimates. Will the trend change in the coming days?

Also in today’s letter:

💰 Firstcry funding
🚨 MNCs’ return-to-office plans derailed
💳 Soon pay your Visa bill in cryptocurrency


Govt ramps up daily registrations on CoWin portal

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The central government is augmenting the Covid-19 vaccine registration portal (CoWin) to process as many as 10 to 20 million registrations per day.

What’s new? The user interface on the platform has been improved while existing features have been further simplified to cater to a larger proportion of the population expected to pre-register in the coming days.

  • “We are expecting 4-5 million daily vaccinations in a week’s time and about 25-30% should happen through the CoWin platform,” a senior official told ET.

Why it matters: This comes days before the next phase of the vaccination drive opens for those above the age of 45. Currently, daily vaccination in the country is estimated to be between 2.5 million and 3 million. Bookings on the platform have so far been low as more people chose the walk-in option at local health centres and hospitals. But this could change as the number of people seeking vaccinations rises exponentially in the coming weeks, as those requiring a second jab also start seeking appointments.


PE firms pump $315 million into Firstcry

FIRSTCRY

A consortium of private equity investors – TPG, ChrysCapital and Premji Invest – has invested around $315 million in Firstcry. The deal values the omnichannel children’s retailer at around $1.9-2.1 billion and involves a $300 million secondary transaction.

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ET was the first to report the company’s plans on January 8.

Why it matters: The transaction would double the company’s valuation in less than 24 months. SoftBank Vision Fund had picked up a 40% stake in the company in 2019, valuing it at about $1.1 billion. FirstCry received $400 million in fresh equity from the Masayoshi Son-led fund as part of a Series E funding round.

  • As per Statista, India’s apparel market is expected to grow at 11% to $85 billion by 2021. The kidswear segment accounted for about 20% of that in 2018 and is predicted to reach nearly Rs 1.7 lakh crore by 2028.

The omnichannel startup had acquired BabyOye from Mahindra Retail in an all-stock deal worth Rs 362 crore in 2016. In the same year, co-founders Maheshwari and Amitava Saha spun off their logistics division, XpressBees, into a separate company. They subsequently raised capital from Jack Ma-owned Alibaba Group. XpressBees raised $110 million in Series E funding from private equity firms Investcorp, Norwest Venture Partners and Gaja Capital in November.

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Byju’s valuation soars to over $13 billion

Byju’s, India’s largest edtech firm, has raised Rs 3,328 crore (about $460 million) as part of its ongoing Series F round, led by MC Global Edtech Investment Holdings along with participation from Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin’s B Capital, among other investors.

On March 25, ET reported that Byju’s was in talks to raise as much as $500-600 million from a group of investors including B Capital, which will likely be used to fund the acquisition of Aakash Educational Services.

Why it matters: The investment values the Bengaluru-based company at a little over $13 billion. This is the first investment in Byju’s this year, after it raised over $1 billion in 2020, fuelled by the Covid-19 pandemic which caused a surge in online learning. The edtech unicorn said it was able to acquire 20 million customers in the first four months of the pandemic. It took the company four years to acquire its first 40 million users.

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Following the latest funding, the holding of the promoters’ group in Byju’s which includes founder and CEO Byju Raveendran and his family has fallen to 26.09%, which is still far higher than the founder shareholding in many other new-age Indian internet companies that have raised significant capital to grow their businesses.


Second wave derails MNCs’ return-to-office plans

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A sudden spike in Covid-19 cases in India has forced several tech multinational companies to rethink their return-to-office plans. Some MNCs are looking to extend their work-from-home (WFH) policies until September while others have done so already.

SAP in India opened its offices mid-February for up to 10% of its employees and plans to continue with this arrangement until the pandemic situation gets better. The company is awaiting government directives to decide on the next steps. IBM said work from home would be extended until the end of April after which it would take a call based on the situation.

By the numbers

  • Around 10-25% of employees are currently working out of office depending on the nature of work.
  • As per LinkedIn, 60% of Indian professionals had felt lonely at some point while working remotely.

Infographic Insight

Byjus On A Fundraising Spree

Visa allows use of cryptocurrency

Visa will allow the use of the cryptocurrency USD Coin to settle transactions on its payment network, Reuters reported. The company had launched the pilot program with payment and crypto platform Crypto.com and plans to offer the option to more partners later this year, the report said.

Why it matters: This comes weeks after Mastercard Inc. and Bank of New York Mellon Corp. made it easier for customers to use cryptocurrencies. Last week, Tesla Inc chief Elon Musk said the company’s electric vehicles can now be bought using bitcoin and the option will be available outside the United States later this year.

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Meanwhile, several cryptocurrency exchanges operating in India plan to jointly reach out this week to the country’s top financial decision makers, including Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and the central bank, to suggest solutions aimed at establishing the investment credentials of an asset class that faced stiff regulatory resistance in the past.


Facebook, Google plan new undersea cables

Facebook is planning to lay two new undersea cables to connect Singapore, Indonesia and North America, Reuters reported.

The project includes Google and other regional telecommunication companies to boost internet connection capacity.

“Named Echo and Bifrost, those will be the first two cables to go through a new diverse route crossing the Java Sea and they will increase overall subsea capacity in the trans-pacific by about 70%,” Kevin Salvadori, Facebook’s vice-president of Network Investments, told Reuters.


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Amazon union vote: Nearly 6,000 Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama, are deciding whether they want to form a union, the biggest labor push in the online shopping giant’s history.

Suez Canal blockage: Indian marine insurers will have to contribute toward the big bucks spent to rescue the Ever Given from the Suez Canal and the costs incurred to repair the damage to the container ship if a process known as General Average gets invoked.


Global Picks We Are Reading

  • Zoom, other WFH tech darlings, risk user exodus as the world reopens (Bloomberg)
  • The startup enemies of Wall Street are booming (NYT)
  • Google aims to be the anti-Amazon of e-commerce. It has a long way to go. (NYT)





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