Here are the top stories that made headlines in the startup universe this week.

Facebook enters lending business

Facebook has entered the lending business after announcing a new initiative to provide loans to small and medium businesses that advertise on its platform across 200 cities and towns. India is the first country where Facebook is rolling out such a programme.

The social media giant has partnered with Indifi, who will bear the risk of the loans and decide the eligibility criteria.

Facebook, on its part, will point its advertisers towards the programme that allows businesses to apply for a loan between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 50 lakh. Businesses partly or wholly owned by women will get an additional 0.2 percent reduction in applied loan interest rate.

The company had announced a $100 small business grants programme last year, which was meant to help SMBs affected by the pandemic. Facebook’s India head, Ajit Mohan said $4 million of that has been deployed in India across over 3000 businesses.

The new Small Business Loans initiative was announced at an industry event organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), on Friday. Amitabh Kant, chief executive officer of government think-tank Niti Aayog, called the initiative a “step in the right direction".

Intel India & SINE-IIT Bombay launch Plugin Alliance, startups to play key role

Intel India and the Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE)-IIT Bombay have launched Plugin Alliance that seeks to fast-track the adoption of smart technologies by Indian industries. It primarily aims to enhance the attractiveness of Indian manufacturing globally in the digital era.

With a focus on accelerating Industry 4.0 transformation in India, the Plugin Alliance brings together members representing large enterprises, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), technology solution providers, systems integrators, and startups. The alliance currently has a total of 53 members with 25 startups figuring in the list.

The key focus will be on advancing and scaling emerging technology solutions such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine vision, augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR), robotics, cyber security, 5G & edge, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), mobility and other future emerging technologies to help accelerate digital transformation.

The Plugin Alliance’s initial focus will be on manufacturing, warehousing, and supply chain.

HealthifyMe announces ESOP, equity buyback programme worth $12 M

Health-tech startup HealthifyMe on Monday announced an equity buyback programme worth $12 million (Rs 90 crore).

The development comes close on the heels of a $75 million (about Rs 559.6 crore) fundraise by the company from investors including LeapFrog and Khosla Ventures.

"Through this buyback, the company will provide liquidity to almost 100 of its key current and former team members," the firm said.

Prominent angel investors like TVS Capital Funds MD Gopal Srinivasan and Micromax will also receive up to 15X returns on their investment, it added. The company said the shares of the investors are being bought back by its treasury.

Ola Electric incorporates a new entity and infuses Rs 250 cr: Report

Ride-hailing giant Ola has incorporated a new entity – Ola Electric Technologies Private Limited in June, Entrackr reported.

This new company has been used to receive the $100 million in debt from the Bank of Baroda. Ola Electric Mobility is the holding entity of the newly incorporated entity and it controls 100 percent stake in Ola Electric Technologies.

Ola Mobility has also infused Rs 250 crore in a mix of debt and equity round in Ola Electric Electric Technologies, the report added.

Ola Electric had turned unicorn in July the same year with a $250 million worth Series B round led by SoftBank. The company recently unveiled the features, launch, delivery and pricing of its S1 and S1 Pro scooters.

MyGlamm acquires BabyChakra to build India’s largest parenting platform

DTC beauty and personal care company, MyGlamm has acquired parenting platform BabyChakra to further expand its 3C (Content + Community + Commerce) company in South Asia.

With this acquisition, MyGlamm and BabyChakra will invest Rs 100 crore to build India’s largest Mom-Baby Content to Commerce platform over the next three years.

Naiyya Saggi, founder and CEO of BabyChakra, will join the MyGlamm group as Co-founder and President and will spearhead the Mom-Baby vertical while also building out the overall Community vertical for the Group. Naiyya will also join the MyGlamm Board.

Grofers launches 10-minute grocery delivery in 10 cities; Dunzo forays into e-grocery space

Newly-minted unicorn Grofers has planned to reduce the delivery time for groceries from 15 to 10 minutes as it expands its services to 10 cities in India.

In a blog post, Albinder Dhindsa said "As we sign up more partners and keep building out our network, we are confident we will be under 10 minutes for the majority of the customers within the next 45 days."

Grofers is offering customers 7,000 items of daily essentials in Delhi, Gurugram, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Jaipur, Ghaziabad, Noida and Lucknow.

Meanwhile, hyperlocal delivery platform Dunzo has entered into the online grocery space, with its offering Dunzo Daily in Bengaluru, through which it will deliver essentials in 19 minutes.

The firm will deliver over 20,000 products in 19 minutes. It aims to scale the service in the top 20 cities of the country.

Dunzo Daily will compete with Swiggy's Instamart and Zomato-backed Grofers.

India, Mexico markets push Walmart global business grow 13% in Q2; Flipkart continues to grow

Flipkart’s parent company Walmart saw its operations in markets such as India, China and Mexico push international business growth by 13 percent in the second quarter that ended on July 31. The company saw its total revenue rising 2.4 percent to $141 billion in the second quarter.

The revenue of Walmart International - which includes operations in markets such as India, China, Japan, Africa, UK, Mexico, Canada and Chile - stood at $23 billion in the second quarter.

Talking about Flipkart's performance, Walmart president and CEO Doug McMillon said the Indian e-commerce marketplace continues to drive strong growth in GMV (gross merchandise value) in line with its "high expectation". He added that the platform continues to see improving trends and monthly active customers and users.

Walmart said it was prioritising the holiday season in major markets including India where it is expected to launch the country's biggest e-commerce sale – Big Billion Days, around Diwali.

McMillon highlighted that the recent $3.6 billion funding in Flipkart - which saw participation from Walmart and other marquee investors valuing the company at $38 billion - has positioned the Flipkart group for future growth.

India's e-retail market to overtake modern trade in 5 years: Bain & Co

India’s e-retail market has surged 25 percent to reach $38 billion through FY21 despite the overall retail market shrinking by 5 percent and a 7.3 percent contraction in GDP, according to a recent report by consultancy firm Bain & Co and e-commerce platform Flipkart.

The report states the e-retail market is likely to grow at 30 percent per annum to reach $120–140 billion by 2026 and is expected to be higher than modern trade by that year.

According to the report, the e-grocery segment grew by as much as 80 percent as grocery, household, and personal care items saw continued accelerated growth. Electronics, on the other hand, witnessed one-time growth whereas fashion and travel products saw slower growth.

At $810 billion, the Indian retail market is the fourth largest in the world. India has the third-largest online shopper base of 140 million, only behind China and the US.

Twitter sets up new physical contact address in Bengaluru to comply with IT rules

Social media platform Twitter has set up a new physical contact address in India in Bengaluru to comply with the IT rules for intermediaries.

Twitter has changed the physical contact address in India that was mentioned on its website, and sources said this new address is meant to receive communication from users.

As per the IT rules, significant social media intermediaries that have over 50 lakh users in India need to have a physical contact address in the country for receiving communication.

Twitter had informed Delhi High Court in July that it was in the process of setting up a liaison office in India. Twitter had so far shared the address of lawyer Sajan Poovayya's office in Bengaluru on its website as its contact address.

Incidentally, Twitter's new address is in the same building as Poovayya's office, which is in the Estate Building on Bengaluru's Dickenson Road.

Earlier this month, Twitter as well as the central government had told the Delhi HC that the company was compliant under IT Rules. Twitter had also told the Delhi HC that it did not have a corporate presence in India.

Twitter allows users to report fake news

Microblogging platform Twitter is all set to take on the fake news menace with the introduction of a mechanism for users to flag such posts.

Twitter users in some countries, including the United States, South Korea and Australia, will now be able to report tweets to the social media platform that contain misinformation.

The social media giant noted that it may not take action on every post that is reported and “cannot respond to each report" in the experiment, but the company expects the experiment to “identify trends" that help scale and speed up its broader misinformation work.

Global technology and startup news

Amazon plans to open large physical retail stores in US: WSJ

Amazon is planning to open large physical shops in the United States that will operate like department stores, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, as the e-commerce giant expands its footprint in brick-and-mortar retail.

Some of Amazon's first department stores are expected to open in Ohio and California, the report said, adding that the shops will be about 30,000 square feet in size and will offer products from well-known consumer brands.

Amazon, which dominates the online shopping space, had made its biggest bet in the brick-and-mortar format with its acquisition of upscale grocer Whole Foods in 2017.

The e-commerce giant also experimented with small physical stores for books and groceries in at least 13 US states including California, Colorado, and Washington.

Apple delays office return to at least January over COVID-19 surge

Apple is delaying its return to corporate offices from October until January at the earliest because of surging COVID-19 cases and new variants, according to Bloomberg News.

The company told staff it would confirm the re-opening timeline one month before employees are required to return to the office. Apple had previously aimed for all staff to return to corporate offices by early September before delaying that until October.

When employees are required to return, they will be expected to work at the office at least three days a week — Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays — with remote work on Wednesday and Friday available.

The memo to staff added that the company does not currently expect to shutter its offices or retail stores but strongly encouraged staff to get vaccinated.

China eyes pushing US IPO-bound firms to hand over data control-sources

Chinese regulators are considering pressing data-rich companies to hand over management and supervision of their data to third-party firms if they want US stock listings, Reuters reported.

The regulators believe bringing in third-party information security firms, ideally state-backed, to manage and monitor IPO hopefuls' data could effectively limit their ability to transfer Chinese onshore data overseas.

That would help ease Beijing's growing concerns that a foreign listing might force such Chinese companies to hand over some of their data to foreign entities and undermine national security, sources told Reuters.

A final decision on the IPO-bound companies' data handover plan is yet to be made. The regulatory officials have discussed the plan with capital market participants, as part of moves to strengthen supervision of all Chinese firms listed offshore.

Chinese govt takes stake, board seat in ByteDance's key local entity: Report

The Chinese government has taken a stake and a board seat in TikTok owner ByteDance’s key Chinese entity, The Information reported.

On April 30, Beijing ByteDance sold a 1 percent stake to WangTouZhongWen (Beijing) Technology, which is owned by three state entities. The deal also allowed the Chinese government to appoint a board director at Beijing ByteDance.

The deal does not give the Chinese government any stake in the firm's hit short-video app TikTok because of ByteDance's complex corporate structure, the report added.

ByteDance told Reuters the Chinese subsidiary referenced in the report only related to some of its China market video and information platforms, and held some of the licences they require to operate under local law.

Tencent second-quarter profit rises 29%

Chinese gaming and social media giant Tencent has posted a 29 percent rise in the second-quarter profit, Reuters reported.

Net profit for the three months through June came in at 42.6 billion yuan, above an average Refinitiy estimate of 34.4 billion yuan. Revenue climbed 20 percent to 138.3 billion yuan, in line with expectations. Sales from mobile games grew 13 percent.

The results follow a number of setbacks Tencent has experienced as a result of regulatory actions Chinese authorities have unleashed on the tech industry and other sectors.

Intel discloses small stake in crypto exchange Coinbase

Intel has disclosed a stake worth less than a million dollars in US cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase Global, Reuters reported.

The chipmaker held about 3,014 shares of Coinbase's Class A common stock as of June 30, Intel said in a regulatory filing. The Coinbase shares would be worth around $788,191, based on trading price of $261.51 at 15:01 pm on Friday.

Coinbase went public through a direct listing in April, which saw its valuation rise to as high as $112 billion on the first day of trading.