Amazon plans $1bn investment in India despite trader backlash | Technology – Blog – 10 minute

Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, has pledged to invest $1bn (£776m) in small businesses in India, despite a growing backlash against the online retailer by the country’s powerful local traders.
During a three-day visit to India, where Amazon has its sights set on dominating the burgeoning e-commerce market, Bezos laid out his ambitious plans for Amazon’s investment in India over the next five years, including helping to digitise millions of small businesses.
“This initiative will use Amazon’s global footprint to create $10bn in Indian exports by 2025,” said Bezos, who was speaking at a summit for small businesses in Delhi, organised by Amazon as part of the company’s attempt to woo the country’s powerful retail lobby.

He pledged that the funding would impact up to 10m small and medium businesses in India, including manufacturers, resellers, small local shops and brands of all sizes, and “help Indian businesses grow by selling online worldwide”.
However, the pledge by Bezos came against the backdrop of mass protests against Amazon, organised by the country’s powerful retail lobby in 300 cities across India, and after news that the company was being investigated by India’s fair-trading watchdog for violating India’s strict laws around foreign business practices.
While the online commerce market in India is already worth about $39bn, and growing by the day, the country is still largely reliant on its 12m independent neighbourhood shops, which account for almost 90% of the country’s retail sales. However, there are growing fears that further opening up the market to Amazon and its competitor Flipkart, owned by the US retail giant Walmart, could put that way of life at risk.
As Bezos spoke to the Delhi summit, independent shop owners took to the streets with placards alleging that Amazon was already driving them out of business by drastically undercutting their prices and favouring large retailers.
Sumit Agarwal of the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), which represents 90% of India’s retailers and organised the protests, described Bezos as an “economic terrorist” and condemned Amazon for engaging in “predatory and competitive business which destroys small retailers”.
Amazon already has more than 60,000 employees in India and has committed $5.5bn in investment in the country, as well as building a vast new “campus” in India’s tech hub of Hyderabad to house more than 15,000 employees. However, its ambitions to fiercely dominate the online commerce market have been scuppered by new legislation. In 2018, India introduced laws barring foreign-owned e-commerce businesses from selling their own inventory and requiring them to be neutral marketplaces, forcing companies such as Amazon to only sell third-party goods from independent sellers.
As part of their current model in India, Amazon partners with small local businesses, described as “mom-and-pop stores”, and sells their goods for a small commission.
However, Amazon has already been accused of violating trade laws in India. On Monday, the Competition Commission of India, the retail regulator, ordered a formal investigation into allegations that Amazon was engaging in unfair trade practices, such as the use of deep discounts and giving preference to select sellers. Amazon said in a statement that it would co-operate with the investigation and was “confident in our compliance”.
Amazon has also denied having a negative impact on Indian retail. “If we don’t create a level playing field or have a thriving marketplace, we would not have seen so many sellers on our platform,” said Gopal Pillai, the vice-president for seller services at Amazon India. “Numbers are telling a different story. We are always open and willing to talk to anyone.”
Despite the surge in investment and growth, Amazon wholesale India continued to operate at a loss last year, reporting an 8% decline in revenue and losses of Rs 5,685 crore (£614m).

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Aston Martin’s marketing spend hurts profits, putting brand investment plans on the line- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Aston Martin has issued a profit warning driven in part by lower sales and increased marketing costs, which has led its chief executive to guarantee cost saving measures in a year earmarked for brand investment.
The car manufacturer, which is slated to publish its full-year 2019 results next month, issued the profit warning today (7 January) after its peak delivery period of December proved to be “challenging” for business.
Despite a rise in retail sales, dealer orders of its luxury vehicles fell by 7% year-on-year, with Europe in particular underperforming. The automaker now expects to report gross earnings of between £130m and £140m ($170m and 184m) in 2019, a drop from the £247.3m ($324m) it reported in 2018.
In a trading update, the company also attributed slashed estimates to “incremental fixed marketing spend to support retail campaigns, particularly in the US, leading to lower cost savings than originally planned”.
Andy Palmer, Aston Martin Lagonda’s president and group chief executive, described 2019 as “a very disappointing year” and committed to a comprehensive cost-saving program going forward.
However, the auto brand will have to handle its marketing budgets carefully with regards to any cost-cutting. Its on-screen partnership with the James Bond franchise will require a marketing push timed with the spring release of No Time to Die, while the company is looking to the unveiling of its new DBX SUV to boost cashflow throughout the year.
Back in 2019 Q3, Mark Wilson, Aston Martin’s chief financial officer, said the marketing costs associated with promoting the DBX were already “[weighing] on the numbers”.
However, he highlighted plans to put more support behind selling the Vantage model, too, stating “we’re now focused on getting the message more widely disseminated that it really is a great car”.
“I think the one thing dealers are saying to us is we need to invest a little bit more in marketing to get the story out there to tell people how good these cars really are,” he said.
After a period of financial instability and an entry onto the London Stock Exchange, Aston Martin has been focused on broadening its customer base beyond western male petrolheads. Its chief marketing officer, Simon Sproule, runs a female advisory board in order to better market to women and has handed creative briefs to the likes of Rankin and Nick Knight.
The marketer has also inked partnerships outside of the luxury automotive space with the likes of Hilton and Beats by Dre, in order to “accelerate” the brand’s own ad spend. Last year, the company also invested in an “entirely new CRM engine” that allows drivers to customize cars online.

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Rivian lands $350 million investment from Cox Automotive – gpgmail


Rivian, the adventure-minded electric automaker that plans to produce a pickup truck and SUV, has raised $350 million from global automotive services company Cox Automotive.

The two companies said Tuesday they will also “explore partnership opportunities in service operations, logistics, and digital retailing.” Further details weren’t provided. However, a statement from Rivian founder and CEO RJ Scaringe suggests the partnership will help the EV startup provide services to its customers.

“We are building a Rivian ownership experience that matches the care and consideration that go into our vehicles,” Scaringe said. “As part of this, we are excited to work with Cox Automotive in delivering a consistent customer experience across our various touchpoints. Cox Automotive’s global footprint, service and logistics capabilities, and retail technology platform make them a great partner for us.”

And Cox Automotive, as well as its parent company Cox Enterprises, has the reach Rivian is looking for. Cox Enterprises owns nearly 30 automotive brands, including Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book, Pivet, RideKleen and Manheim, which transports, services, and auctions vehicles across more than 150 global locations.

The Cox Automotive partnership follows two other eye-popping investments this year. In February, Rivian raised $700 million in a round led by Amazon. Two months later, the company announced a $500 million investment from Ford Motor.

Despite all of these big-name investors, Rivian says it will remain an independent company, a desire repeated to gpgmail on several occasions over the past year by Scaringe. Cox Automotive will add a representative to Rivian’s board.

“With the electrification of vehicles set to play a significant role in the new mobility future, this partnership opens another channel of discovery and learning for Cox Automotive,” Joe George, president of Cox Automotive Mobility Group said in a statement. “Advancements in battery technology and the electrification of fleets are two of our primary focus areas, and we believe this relationship will prove to be mutually beneficial.”

Rivian spent the majority of its life in the shadows until November 2018 when it revealed its all-electric R1T pickup and R1S SUV at the LA Auto Show. Scaringe launched the company as Mainstream Motors in 2009. By 2011, the name changed to Rivian and moved out of Florida. Today, the company has more than 1,000 employees split between four development locations in the U.S. and an office in the U.K. The bulk of its employees are in Michigan to be close to an expansive automotive supply chain.

The company also has operations in San Jose and Irvine, Calif., where engineers are working on autonomous vehicle technology. Rivian also owns a factory in the Normal, Ill. that was once owned by Mitsubishi in a joint venture with Chrysler Corporation called Diamond-Star Motors.

Deliveries of these vehicles to customers in the U.S., which use a flexible skateboard platform, are expected to begin in late 2020.


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New investment firm wants to change the way we fund early stage companies — from New Hampshire – gpgmail


The three founders of York IE have a vision about how to change the way early stage startups get funding. They have experience shattering norms, having built a successful startup, Dyn, in Manchester, New Hampshire, which is not exactly a hot-bed of startup activity.

The founders want to take that same spirit and apply it to investing, while maintaining its headquarters in New Hampshire (and Boston). In fact, the three founders — Kyle York, Joe Raczka and Adam Coughlin — launched Dyn and built it to $30 million in ARR before taking a dime in venture funding. They went onto raise $88 million before being acquired by Oracle in 2016. They believe they can apply the lessons that they learned to other early stage startups.

“We think, especially in B2B and SaaS, there is a way to build a scalable, effective and efficient business without chasing massive fund raises, diluting your company, bringing on traditional venture investors and chasing those kind of on-paper vanity metrics,” company CEO and co-founder Kyle York told gpgmail.

For the past five years, while working at Oracle after the acquisition, the founders have been testing their theories while advising startups and acting as angel investors. They believed it was time to take all of those learnings and apply it to their own firm.

“I started thinking about how to transition out of Oracle, and what I wanted to do from a career perspective and we wanted to build a modern investment firm less focused on how to deploy as much capital as possible for the limited partners, and more on working with the entrepreneurs to help coach them on a path to success,” York said.

The company still wants to act as investors, and to make money along the way, but they want to help build more solid, grounded companies. York says that they want the founders truly understand that they are selling a part of their company in exchange for those dollars, and that it makes sense to have a strong foundation before taking on money.

York wants to change this culture of fund raising for fund raising’s sake. He acknowledges that some companies with deep tech or deep infrastructure require that kind of substantial up-front investment to get off the ground, but SaaS companies are supposed to be able to take advantage of modern technology to build companies more easily, and he wants to see them build solid companies first and foremost.

“The goal shouldn’t be to raise more capital. The goal should be to build a healthy successful, scalable company,” he said.

To put their money where their mouth is, the new firm will not take management fees. “We are investing like a normal investor and coming through with an equity position, but we are betting on the future. In essence, if the startup wins, then we win.”


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The CEO of Naspers — one of the world’s most powerful, and lowest flying, investment firms — is coming to Disrupt – gpgmail


In 2001, Naspers, a media company that launched in 1915 and later evolved into a media holding company with pay TV interests, agreed to invest $32 million for a 46.5% stake in Tencent. The China-based company had been founded just three years earlier, and, as Quartz notes in a 2014 story about the deal, Tencent wasn’t a brand that many aside from users of its instant messaging platform, QQ, knew at the time.

Of course, given Tencent’s wild growth, it has largely come to define Naspers . Consider that today, Tencent is a roughly $410 billion company, and though Naspers has sold off some of its holdings in the company over the years, it still owns a little more than 30% of Tencent for a stake currently worth roughly $120 billion.

The story is not so unlike that of SoftBank, which made an early, $20 million bet on a nascent China-based company called Alibaba in 2000. Though SoftBank has sold some of its ownership in the company, including to fund an acquisition of acquisition of the British chip designer ARM in 2016, it maintains a 26% stake worth roughly $100 billion.

The bets have proved a blessing but also a challenge for both companies as they work to create valuable portfolios that correlate less closely with these home runs.

For its part, Naspers is finding a number of ways to buffer itself, including, most notably, carving out a new holding company called Prosus NV that’s due to list in Amsterdam this week and that features Nasper’s stakes in the online classifieds business OLX, the Craigslist competitor Letgo, as well as Nasper’s massive piece of Tencent.

Prosus also holds stakes in numerous social networking, food delivery, payments, online travel bookings, and other companies, packaging together its shares in roughly 20 different companies altogether.

It’s a huge deal for Naspers, which is spinning off Prosus to lessen its own dominance of Johannesburg’s stock exchange where it trades, and to minimize the valuation gap between itself and its stake in Tencent. It’s also a highly unusual listing, including because the value of the shares is largely established already (given that they currently trade within Naspers).

Luckily, CEO Bob Van Dijk is joining us at gpgmail Disrupt in early October to talk about Naspers and Prosus and to help us understand this fairly novel and important effort for the company.

Yet that’s not all we want to know.  We want to better understand how the company thinks about new investments, including how it views different sectors and different geographies.

We want to hear what Naspers thinks of the SoftBank’s investing strategy. (Among other things, the two coinvested in Flipkart, which proved a lucrative bet for both. Naspers sold an 11% stake in the company last year for $2.2 billion after investing $616 million. SoftBank sold its 20% stake for roughly $4 billion after investing $2.5 billion into the company.)

We also want to learn more about Phuthi Mahanyele-Dabengwa, the recently appointed CEO of Nasper’s South African unit — and the company’s first female and first black chief executive.

For these reasons and many others, we can’t wait to sit down with Van Dijk during our upcoming show. If you’re curious about where the big money is moving around the world, this is one conversation you won’t want to miss. Disrupt SF runs October 2-4 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Tickets are available here.


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India liberalizes foreign investment rules in a win for Apple – gpgmail


India has further liberalized its foreign direct investment (FDI) rules for many sectors, opening new avenues for global investors and giants such as Apple as Asia’s third-largest economy attempts to jump-start its years-low economic growth.

New Delhi said Wednesday evening that it is easing sourcing norms for single-brand retailers like Apple. As part of the new proposal, which has been approved, the government said single-brand retail companies will be allowed to open online stores before they set up presence in the bricks-and-mortar market.

This would allow Apple, which has yet to set up retail stores in the country, to start selling a range of products through its own online store. Currently, Apple sells its products in India through partnered third-party offline retailers and e-commerce platforms such as Amazon India, Flipkart and Paytm Mall.

Over the years, Apple has requested the government numerous times to relax the local foreign direct investment (FDI) rules. Company executives have long expressed disappointment at Amazon India, Flipkart and Paytm Mall for offering heavy discounts on the iPhone and MacBook Air to boost their respective GMV metrics.

Even as this boosted the sales of iPhones in India, the discounts diluted the brand image of iPhones in the country, executives felt.

Apple will soon explore selling its products through its online store in India, a person familiar with the matter told gpgmail. But the move is unlikely to materialize before next year, the person said, requesting anonymity.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

New Delhi previously also forced companies like Apple to source 30% of their productions locally (PDF). Now the government says it is broadening the definition to include both materials sold in India and those exported in the local sourcing law.

“It has been decided that all procurements made from India by the single brand retail trade entity for that single brand shall be counted towards local sourcing, irrespective of whether the goods procured are sold in India or exported. Further, the current cap of considering exports for five years only is proposed to be removed, to give an impetus to exports,” Piyush Goyal, Commerce and Industry Minister, said in a press conference.

Apple had urged the government previously to ease this requirement, as well.

India has emerged as one of the world’s biggest battlegrounds for smartphone vendors. As sale of smartphones slow or decline in nearly every corner of the world, Indians are showing a growing appetite for handsets.

The local smartphone market, which is the fastest growing globally and also second largest, was once commanded by local smartphone manufacturers. But things have dramatically changed in recent years with Chinese phone makers such as Xiaomi, Vivo, OnePlus, Oppo and Realme and South Korean giant Samsung together controlling 90% of the market.

Apple continues to largely focus on users looking for a premium smartphone in India. Even as the iPhone maker’s market share in India stands below 2%, per research firms IDC, Counterpoint and Canalys, Apple CEO Tim Cook has said on a number of earnings calls that the company sees major opportunity in India.

To boost sales in India, Apple has started to assemble several iPhone models locally and reached a stage where it can begin to export to overseas markets phones produced in India. Assembling phones in India allows Apple — as it does other phone makers — to enjoy some tax benefits that Narendra Modi’s government provides.

As part of today’s announcement, the government is now also allowing foreign investment in digital media to take up to 26% stakes in companies — a figure that now stands at 100% for the coal mining industry and associated infrastructure and sales of fuel.

“The extant FDI policy provides for 49% FDI under approval route in Up-linking of ‘News &Current Affairs’ TV Channels. It has been decided to permit 26% FDI under government route for uploading/ streaming of News & Current Affairs through Digital Media, on the lines of print media,” it said in a press release.

India’s move today comes as the nation grapples with a slowing of economic growth. The economic growth in the quarter that just ended stood at 5.8%, a five-year low in the nation.


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Experian makes strategic investment in location data company PlaceIQ – gpgmail


PlaceIQ is announcing a strategic investment from credit reporting company Experian.

CEO Duncan McCall said the investment is part of a growth round that PlaceIQ raised after divesting itself of its advertising business (which is being taken over by Zeta Global). He declined to disclose the size of the round, or of the Experian investment.

“It’s a multi-year, strategic partnership, where we will work together to license data [to Experian], and they also proactively become an investor in the company,” McCall said, adding that this “coincided nicely with us divesting of our media business and raising a modest growth round.”

Experian’s venture arm has backed a number of financial technology startups. Under this partnership, the company will also incorporate PlaceIQ’s LandMark location data product into its broader suite of data and measurement tools.

Asked about the direction of PlaceIQ’s business going forward, McCall explained that the company started with a focus on selling location data, and now, it’s gone back to “being a data-only company again.”

“Of course, we would have preferred to have focused on just one business model all these years, but life’s not that simple,” he said.

In his telling, PlaceIQ had to expand into the ad sales business because the infrastructure didn’t exist at the time to incorporate that data into the ad-buying process. Now that the infrastructure is there, PlaceIQ can focus once more on selling location data, which can then be used for targeting on a broad range of ad-buying platforms.

According to Crunchbase, PlaceIQ previously raised a total of $52 million in funding.


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Frontier technologies are moving closer to the center of venture investment – gpgmail


As the technologies that were once considered science fiction become the purview of science, the venture capital firms that were once investing at the industry’s fringes are now finding themselves at the heart of the technology industry.

Investing in the commercialization of technologies like genetic engineering, quantum computing, digital avatars, augmented reality, new human-computer interfaces, machine learning, autonomous vehicles, robots, and space travel that were once considered “frontier” investments are now front-and-center priorities for many venture capital firms and the limited partners that back them.

Earlier this month, Lux Capital raised $1.1 billion across two funds that invest in just these kinds of companies. “[Limited partners] are now more interested in frontier tech than ever before,” said Bilal Zuberi, a partner with the firm.

He sees a few factors encouraging limited partners (the investors who provide financing for venture capital funds) to invest in the firms that are financing companies developing technologies that were once considered outside of the mainstream.


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YC is doubling down on these investment theses in its most recent batch – gpgmail


Nearly 200 startups have just graduated from the prestigious San Francisco startup accelerator Y Combinator. The flock of companies are now free to proceed company-building with a fresh $150,000 check and three-months full of tips and tricks from industry experts.

As usual, we sent several reporters to YC’s latest demo day to take notes on each company and pick our favorites. But there were many updates to the YC structure this time around and new trends we spotted from the ground that we’ve yet to share.

CTO and HR demo days


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Sequoia leads $40M investment in mobile messaging startup Attentive – gpgmail


Attentive, a startup helping retailers personalize their mobile messages, is announcing that it has raised $40 million in Series B funding.

The startup was founded by Brian Long and Andrew Jones, who sold their previous startup TapCommerce to Twitter. When they announced Attentive’s $13 million Series A last year, Long told me the startup is all about helping retailers find better way to communicate with customers, particularly as it’s harder for their individual apps to stand out.

Attentive’s first product allowed for what it calls “two-tap” sign-up, where users can tap on a link on their phone, creating a pre-populated text that signs them up for SMS messages from that retailer.

Since then, it’s built a broader suite of messaging tools, with support for cart abandonment reminders, A/B testing, subscriber segmentation and other features that allow retailers to get smarter and more targeted in their messaging strategy.

The startup says its platform can improve clickthrough rates by more than 30%, and that it now works with more than 400 customers including Sephora, Urban Outfitters, Coach, CB2 and Jack in the Box.

The Series B was led by Sequoia, with participation from new investors IVP and High Alpha, as well as previous backers Bain Capital Ventures, Eniac Ventures and NextView Ventures. The plan for the new funding is to grow the entire team, especially sales and engineering.

“CRM is changing,” Long said in a statement. “Businesses can’t build a relationship with the modern consumer through email alone. Email performance, as measured by how many subscribers click-through on a message, is down 45% over the last five years. Rather than continuing to shout one-way messages at consumers, smart brands will stay relevant by embracing personalized, real-time, two-way communication channels.”


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