"WEEK 23"

8 - 14 Nov

Happy Diwali, everyone!! What a year 2020 has been and Diwali seems like the most apt festival to see us through to the other side of this year and to better times. Wishing everyone lots of health and happiness in the year ahead.

We are keeping out round-up today short and sweet, with the regular news updates and Anmol's take on Indian tech journalism.

Weekly Recap:

  1. Hackers put 20M BigBasket users data on sale: A US-based cybersecurity firm has said that online grocery major BigBasket has become the latest victim of the cyber attack. Over 20 million users’ data have been leaked in a potential data breach. BigBasket noted that it had lodged a complaint with the Cyber Crime Cell in Bangalore and that the company does not store any financial data of its customers.

  2. India Accelerator to support, mentor 500 MSMEs: Gurugram-based startup accelerator India Accelerator (IA) Sunday said it aims to support business growth, mentor and help in accessing formal funding to 500 micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) over a period of three to four years.

  3. Uolo raises $2.7M in a Pre-Series A round: The Indian EdTech train keeps going: Uolo (founded in 2014) raising a $2.7M Pre-Series A from Blume Ventures & Omidyar Network. Uolo is a platform that brings together teachers, students and their parents online through their mobile app and web platform. The easiest way to explain the company is that they are building a verticalized SaaS solution solely for private schools in India

  4. XpressBees raises $110 Mn in Series E round: Logistics giant XpressBees has announced that it is raising a $110M Series E from the likes of Investcorp, Northwest Venture Partners, and Gaja Capital. The new investors have acquired roughly a third of the company (31%), so the company is valued well north of $300M.

  5. FloBiz raises a $10M Series A: Invoice management startup FloBiz is raising a $10M Series A from Greenoaks, with participation from Beenext & Pantera Capital. The founders originally ran a cryptocurrency exchange company called Koinex that raised a seed round from Beenext & Pantera in 2017 and later shut down in 2019, giving rise to FloBiz.

  6. PUBG announces its plan to return to India: South Korean gaming firm PUBG announces its plans to return to the Indian market. The company's popular smartphone game was banned by the country as it was being distributed by Tencent Games (Tencent is a Chinese internet conglomerate)

  7. Rupeek is in talks to raise $100M: The popular gold loan startup Rupeek is reportedly in talks with a couple growth stage investors to raise up to $100M. One of the possible new investors in the company is Lee Fixel's fund Addition, which previously led Inshorts' last round a couple months ago.

The state of tech journalism in India

Last week, Inc42 decided to release the list of the Indian companies who have made it to the latest batch of Y Combinator- the popular Silicon Valley Accelerator. This is notable because the program starts in January of 2021 and companies are still interviewing to be a part of the batch (the list also doesn't include several companies who have gotten through and haven't yet disclosed their participation).

In my four years of following YC companies I have never seen a news publication release a list of participating companies before the program has even started, and most publications wait until YC's Demo Day to do so (there are always a couple of companies who often have already broken out who decide to announce their story before Demo Day). It's also a terrible thing for the founders as they don't get to control the narrative of the first time they're being announced in the media as Inc42 has beaten them to the punch. And moreover, it has the potential to distract both them and other YC interviewees (who are now even more anxious about their own interviews).

In India we also seem to put YC companies at a high pedestal and some these companies are currently not ready to announce themselves in the public eye, which the publication has ruined for them. But in a time where very few Indian tech publications are admired and respected, I don't think this comes as a huge surprise.

The larger Indian Tech journalism landscape can be separated into a couple of different segments. On one end you have The Ken & Morning Context - paid subscription driven high quality stories on Indian startups and businesses. And as much as I dislike some of The Ken's stories, I would never say that they lack journalistic integrity and that they actually spend a lot of time researching their stories & building a narrative around it. Then you have the Startup sections of the mainstream Indian and global publications: The Economic Times has ET Tech, and Forbes India and Mint also report on startup news. And lastly you have the startup-only publications namely Entrackr, Inc42 and YourStory.

The news reported by the latter two segments is roughly the same and largely is centered around funding announcements of companies without much context on the companies and the business itself. I think only a few publications do a really good job of being the first to report an announcement in India - I've usually seen it to be ET, Entrackr or TechCrunch break news.

The problem with the majority of these publications is that I don't see what the value in a lot of their reporting. If all your stories just about every single startup raising capital, does it even make sense to be an independent publication vs being part of a larger media organization? Even in America, a lot of the tech publications are now owned by larger media orgs (e.g. The Verge and Recode (Vox), TechCrunch (Verizon Media)).

I also can't name many journalists from these publications whose stories I still remember to this date. The only ones I can recall are probably the ones by Ashish K Mishra (ex-Mint and currently The Morning Context), Rohin Dharmakumar (ex-Forbes India and currently The Ken), Pankaj Mishra (Factor Daily) and Samidha Sharma (The Economic Times).

Covering funding announcements and uncovering scoops will always be important in the startup world, but I am becoming increasingly skeptical of the future of Indian tech publications where the stories aren't adding any value to their readers. Who knows what the future of Indian tech journalism really looks like, I'm just glad we're getting more people who aren't journalists and actually understand these startups writing about the space more.