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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

Xiaomi backs Indian consumer lending startup ZestMoney in $13.4M deal

Xiaomi has continued its investment in India after it led a $13.4 million round for fintech startup ZestMoney.

The newly-public Chinese firm previously said it would invest up to $1 billion in India and Indian startups over a five-year period, and this deal follows its maiden India fintech investment in lending platform KrazyBee.

The new capital is an extension to ZestMoney’s recently closed $6.5 million Series A, and it takes the company to $22 million raised to date. Existing backers PayU, Ribbit Capital and Omidyar Network joined Xiaomi in this ‘Series A2’ round.

ZestMoney was founded in 2015 by British entrepreneur Lizzie Chapman, who moved to India in 2011 to head up payday loan startup Wonga’s division in the country. Wonga — which is reportedly close to shutting down — didn’t ultimately pursue that opportunity. After a spell consulting, Chapman reunited with her former Wonga India colleagues Ashish Anantharaman and Priya Sharma and the trio launched ZestMoney.

Despite close ties to Wonga, it’s fair to say that ZestMoney comes at the problem of consumer loans from a totally different direction.

Payday loan companies have (rightly) come under fire for restrictive terms and a business model that is most lucrative when customers pay back late or default on loans.

In contrast, ZestMoney — and other loan services across Asia — are much more consumer-centric. That’s to say that the businesses monetize when consumers pay back their loans, while terms are considerably more customer friendly.

“New age fintech is much more optimistic” than what’s come before, Chapman told TechCrunch in an interview. “The thesis is ‘Behave well and do good things and you’ll get cheaper pricing.’”

ZestMoney Founders (left to right) Priya Sharma, Lizzie Chapman, and Ashish Anantharaman

The startup also works with banks, rather than against them.

That makes plenty of sense because the idea of giving microloans runs counter to any kind of orthodox thinking at banks in India. Loans of $200-$300 are too small to yield any significant revenue, and banks aren’t in a position go out there and attract thousands of small loans customers that would make it viable.

Then there’s the issue of data. It simply doesn’t exist in the same way it does in the U.S, UK and other Western markets. Few consumers have a credit score, which in conventional banking terms would mean lenders are taking a stab in the dark backing them.

That explanation plus the low volume explains why banks don’t offer the services themselves, but it also goes somehow to understanding why startups like ZestMoney can.

They can essentially act like a funnel for banks, bringing in significant volumes of micro-loan customers by specializing on that area of financing. In ZestMoney’s case, that’s 200,000 applications per month. While by focusing on financial support for single-purchase items — Chapman said electronics, education and learning, and vacations are among the top reasons for loans — the service encourages repeat customers, which in turn provides data which can help vet potential loans.

Added to that, it is also in the common interest within the tech ecosystem to encourage more flexible financing.

Companies like Amazon and Flipkart, which are keen to tap the growth potential of India’s 1.3 billion population, acknowledge that more flexible payment solutions are necessary when the average salary is orders of magnitudes lower than say the U.S. That’s why these e-commerce companies and others work with ZestMoney to subsidize many of the costs around loans. The startup passes that on to consumers, meaning that, often, they get attractive interest-free rates on big-ticket items likes phones or computers.

Chapman concedes that this situation won’t last forever, but she said it helps gain initial reach among some new users and encourage repeat business from existing customers.

Indeed, Xiaomi and ZestMoney have collaborated in a similar way before.

The Chinese firm tapped the startup one year ago to develop its Mi Finance service for Xiaomi customers in India. That relationship, which Chapman said included reciprocal learnings on both sides, led to this week’s investment deal.

ZestMoney is eying a larger round of funding soon as it aims to ramp up its business, and particularly technology. Chapman said the firm is focusing on AI and facial/voice recognition which she believes will enable her company to go beyond tier-one cities in India and reach those who are less comfortable with English and are less experienced in using the internet and digital services.


Source: TechCrunch

Planday raises €35M Series C for its shift-based work collaboration platform

Planday, the workforce collaboration platform for shift workers, has raised €35 million in new funding. The Series C round is led by SEB Private Equity, with participation from previous backers, including Creandum and Idinvest.

The Danish startup plans to use the additional investment to further develop the cloud-based software and to expand into new markets across Europe and North America. This will also include establishing a U.K.-based technology development hub — which represents a major market for Planday — as well as to grow sales and customer support teams in its London office.

Founded in 2013, Planday has developed a flexible rota scheduling platform that is used by businesses to help manage shift workers. The cloud software enables “real-time, contextual communication” between employees, managers and co-workers in shift-based industries that have been traditionally underserved by tech.

Specifically, employees can communicate with each other, swap shifts and clock in and out. Managers can also create ‘smart’ schedule templates, measure their target revenue compared to wage costs and track hours worked.

Planday is also arguably a platform in the true sense of the word, in terms of integrating with integrating with various third-party software offerings that are used by shift-based businesses. This includes payroll/accounting software from from Intuit and Sage, and EPOS software from Lightspeed and iZettle.

“Our mission is to deliver fully integrated solutions that provide a seamless experience for our customers,” says John Coldicutt, Chief Commercial Officer at Planday.

Meanwhile, Planday says its customer base spans 39 countries, and in the U.K., where it is estimated that 26 percent of all work is shift-based, the startup is growing 250 percent annually, although it doesn’t break out actual numbers.


Source: TechCrunch

Phase One pushes photography limits with 151-megapixel IQ4 camera system – CNET

Enough people can afford a $51,990 medium-format camera to keep this ultrapremium company in business.
Source: CNET

Has Tech Ushered in a Golden Age of Long-Distance Dating?

Communicating has never been easier, but there are still limits to the intimacy we can experience with conventional technology.
Source: Wired

How to Get the Most Out of Gmail’s New Features

Master the new UI faster than you can say “automatic migration.”
Source: Wired

Why I Just Can't Quit Watching Reality Dating Shows

Social experiments like ‘Are You the One?’ meld fact and fantasy into something that’s more like the real thing than you might expect.
Source: Wired

How Technology Is Changing the Way We Love: A WIRED Investigation

Throughout the week, we’ll be reckoning with the state of romance in an on-demand world.
Source: Wired

As Christie’s auctions its first A.I. painting, the meaning of ‘art’ gets blurrier

Later this year, a painting generated by A.I. will go up for auction. Here’s why that’s actually a major milestone for machine intelligence — and its newfound ability to be creative.

The post As Christie’s auctions its first A.I. painting, the meaning of ‘art’ gets blurrier appeared first on Digital Trends.


Source: Digital trends

Google is supercharging its Tez payment service in India ahead of global expansion

Google launched its Tez paymen app in India a year ago, and now the company is giving the service major push into retail as it prepares to expand it to other parts of Asia and beyond.

The app itself is being rebranded to Google Pay — bringing it in line with Google’s global payment service, which is available in 20 countries — but there are more tangible updates on their way. Most notably, Google is plotting to turn Tez Google Pay into an all-encompassing payment app for India.

The service started out in bank-based payments before adding bill and utility payments and messaging, but now Google is planning an extended push into retail, both online and offline. Economic Times recently reported on the rebrand and expansion.

The service already supports payments with some 2,000 apps and websites, including Goibibo and RedBus, but it is adding to that number and planning ‘deep’ integration with partners such as Uber and ticketing service BookMyshow. Google is also focusing on offline, and it said it is in the process of adding in-store payment support with a range of retail brands that will include Big Bazaar, e-Zone, and FBB.

Tez competes with dedicated payment services like Paytm and Mobikwik, and also WhatsApp — the Facebook-owned service that is India’s top messaging app but has struggled to win approval to launch an upcoming payment service due to concerns around its lack of a local office.

Already, Google’s service has made progress. The Tez app has pulled in 55 million downloads, and Google said it has racked up 750 million transactions with an annual run rate of over $30 billion. That, it said, has motivated it to look at overseas expansion opportunities.

Google’s India-based Tez service has been rebranded to Google Pay

Beyond the retail push, the service formerly known as Tez will also expand to cover micro-loans, bringing it into direct competition with startups like ZestMoney — which just closed an investment from Xiaomi this week.

Google said it has partnered with a number of India-based banks — including HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Federal Bank, and Kotak Mahindra Bank — to offer “pre-approved” loans to customers “in a matter of seconds” through the Google app.

These will be smaller than typical loans, especially those in the West. Loans on services like ZestMoney typically cover one-off purchases like electronics, education fees and more, CEO Lizzie Chapman told TechCrunch in a recent interview.

Finally, Google also plans to expand Tez Google Pay overseas. That means both adding Tez features to the Google Pay service worldwide, and taking the India-based service into new parts of Asia. That’ll require plenty of localization since the Indian version is heavily based around the country’s UPI payment system — which doesn’t translate overseas — but it’s a step in the right direction.

Google isn’t saying too much about which markets it might move into but you’d imagine Southeast Asia, which as plenty of similarities with India, will be top of mind.

Note: The original version of this story was updated to correct that the integration with banks doesn’t use Tez payment data to assess user creditworthiness. 


Source: TechCrunch

The first photo of Pininfarina's 1,900 hp PF0 electric hypercar – Roadshow

The Italian design powerhouse is finally going it alone, giving us a first look at its first production car. It looks set to rewrite the hypercar playbook.
Source: CNET

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