PharmEasy Secures $216M despite 90% valuation cut - Business Guardian
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PharmEasy Secures $216M despite 90% valuation cut

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PharmEasy, an online pharmacy startup, has raised Rs 1,804 crore ($216 million) in a funding round primarily led by Manipal Education and Medical Group (MEMG), chaired by Ranjan Pai, along with participation from other existing investors. A report by Entrackr indicates that the funding round was completed at a valuation haircut of around 90 per cent, valuing the company at $710 million. Previously, the online drug dispenser had been valued at $5.6 billion in 2021.

The participants in PharmEasy’s latest funding round included MEMG’s family office, which contributed Rs 800 crore, while Prosus, Temasek, and 360 One Portfolios contributed Rs 221 crore, Rs 183 crore, and Rs 200 crore, respectively. CDPQ Private Equity, WSSS Investments, Goldman Sachs, and Evolution Debt Capital invested a total of Rs 400 crore. Entrackr also reports that the Mumbai-based firm has been attempting to raise Rs 3,500 crore since August 2023 to repay the debt incurred from Goldman Sachs.

In June 2023, PharmEasy defaulted on its loan terms with Goldman Sachs. Around the same period, the company’s valuation was reduced by nearly 50 per cent by its investor, Janus Henderson. This was followed by a further reduction by Neuberger Berman, who cut PharmEasy’s valuation by 21.4 per cent to $4.4 billion as of February 2023.

Pharm Easy was founded in 2015 by Dharmil Sheth, Dhaval Shah, Harsh Parekh, Siddharth Shah, and Hardik Dedhia. It was among the startups planning an initial public offering (IPO). However, it postponed its IPO plans after filing the draft red herring prospectus (DRHP) with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) in November 2021. The listing plan was later withdrawn in August 2022.

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Economic

Sitharaman calls for proactive govt-industry alliances towards developed India

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Finance Minister highlights policy stability, facilitative policies as key attractions for investors looking to India.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday asked industry to leverage opportunities at national and global levels through government-industry partnerships as the country gears up to realize the goal of emerging as a developed country by 2047, drawing attention to India’s policy stability, corruption-free decision-making, facilitative government policies, and robust legal framework which in consonance make India an attractive destination for business. “There is a big role for the private sector for making this happen and the government would be a facilitator and enabler in the process,” Sitharaman said speaking on “co-creating the future responsibly: role of business,” at the annual business summit 2024 of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

Articulating the vision for new India, the Finance Minister outlined four key opportunities for growth in India which extends to all segments of the economy. The first, she highlighted, was the compelling India growth story which is expected to contribute significantly to global growth, as recognized and affirmed by global agencies such as the IMF and S&P. The large consumer market which is expected to double by 2031, a rise in consumption spending, and a secular rise in spending on financial services are the other triggers which would ensure that the country would continue to remain the fastest growing economy in the future, Sitharaman said.

Elaborating further on the subject, the Finance Minister noted that according to the RBI and the Economic Survey, India has graduated from the twin balance sheet problem of the past to the twin balance sheet advantage which has led to vibrancy in the market thereby propelling investment expansion by corporates on one hand and willingness and capacity of banks to lend. Secondly, the demographic dividend would be with the country for the next 30 years and dependency level is at a historic low and when complemented with skill development, through public-private partnership, inclusive of areas such as artificial intelligence, big data etc., this is a sure shot measure to bring prosperity and raise consumer demand, Sitharaman observed.

The Finance Minister also highlighted India’s transition towards green energy and a sustainable future as other drivers of new markets and new demand. “The solar push by the government as well as an impetus towards green hydrogen and green ammonia would also provide significant job opportunities to the youth,” she maintained. Alluding to the pressing need to increase manufacturing competitiveness, Sitharaman called for greater sophistication and improved productivity. The government would provide supportive policies for India to be a part of the global value chain.

Sitharaman underlined India’s advantage of figuring among the top investment destinations which pitched the country in a position to take advantage of global investors who are attempting to derisk their operations as a result of the China plus one policy. This would also help the country to become self-reliant. She also referred to the PLI scheme which has contributed significantly towards transforming the mobile and electronic sectors and creating value addition in smartphones. Noting India’s role as a preferred destination with over 50 percent of global capability centers having based their operations in the country.

The industry body has also worked with the government on a range of issues such as the reduction of corporate tax rates, extending GST compliance dates during the Covid period, and adopting a capex-led growth strategy, said CII President R. Dinesh and complimented the finance minister for reining in the fiscal deficit with a laser focus. Former Chairman, ICICI and chairman, National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development KV Kamath, was conferred with the CII President’s award for 2024 for his exemplary contribution to industry and society.

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Tech

Apple under spotlight as OpenAI, Google raise AI standards

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OpenAI on May 13 announced GPT-4o, its maiden artificial intelligence model with multimodal capabilities to reason across audio, visual, and text. A day after, on May 14, Google kicked off its annual developers-centric conference (Google I/O) with announcements focused on AI integration with its platforms and services, including Android and Search. These two technology behemoths have set the bar high with AI-focused events, but all eyes are now on Apple, which has scheduled its annual worldwide developers conference (WWDC) for June 10.

Apple has been trailing in the AI space while the competition has made significant strides. OpenAI, for example, made its most advanced GPT-4o model free for all. It also announced a dedicated app for its AI chatbot ChatGPT for Apple’s macOS. While the ChatGPT app has been available on iPhones, the macOS app brings deeper integration into the desktop platform. With the macOS app, ChatGPT users will be able to take a screenshot of what’s on the display and share it directly with the chatbot for discussion. This gives OpenAI an early mover advantage in Apple’s ecosystem, especially due to the lack of a native alternative.

Apple’s exploration of the AI space, reportedly, began years ago. However, the company accelerated the development process only after the AI technology jumped onto the mainstream, fueled by OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Microsoft’s Copilot, and Google’s Gemini.

Apple is playing a catch-up game with big technology rivals in the AI space, but it may change come June 10 when it is poised to lay out a strategy for AI at WWDC. A hint of it was made at Apple’s May 7 launch event where it debuted the iPad Pro and iPad Air, with the former featuring its next-generation M4 silicon with a new 16-core neural engine. The company said this new neural engine or Neural Processing Unit (NPU) makes the “M4 an outrageously powerful chip for AI.” This was the first instance where Apple mentioned “AI” in its event.

Earlier, at Apple’s quarterly earnings call on May 2, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook pointed out generative artificial intelligence as the company’s next frontier. He said Apple continues to make significant investments in generative AI and that the company will share “some very exciting things” soon.

These instances along with the fact that researchers at Apple have been continuously publishing papers on new generative AI tools suggest that Apple is poised to enter the AI space very soon. However, if it will be able to catch up with the competition is to be seen. For context, Bloomberg has reported that Apple has been in talks with Google and OpenAI to bring AI features to iOS 18 for iPhones. A recent report from Bloomberg stated that Apple has closed in on an agreement with OpenAI to use its AI technology on the iPhone. According to the report, both the companies are finalising terms for a pact to use ChatGPT features in iOS 18, Apple’s next operation.

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Business

Paytm added to small-cap index by MSCI, attracting potential inflows

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One97 Communications, the parent company of the popular fintech brand Paytm, has achieved a significant milestone by being included in the MSCI Emerging Markets Small Cap Index. This inclusion is indicative of growing confidence among both domestic and international investors in Paytm, evidenced by substantial stake increases from foreign portfolio investors (FPIs), domestic investors, and prominent Mutual Funds such as Mirae and Nippon India Mutual Fund.

With Paytm being one of the 29 stocks included in the MSCI Small Cap Index, the move is expected to drive USD 273 million in inflows, which is crucial for benchmarking Indian companies on the international stage. The inclusion comes as part of MSCI’s routine review, aligning with evolving market conditions, scheduled for May 31, 2024. MSCI, a global leader in equity, fixed-income, and hedge fund indices, plays a pivotal role in shaping global investment trends.

During the March quarter of 2023-24, Indian mutual funds notably increased their holdings in Paytm. Mirae Mutual Funds elevated their shareholding to 2.39 crore shares (3.76 per cent), while Nippon Mutual Funds raised their stake to 1.66 per cent from 1.05 per cent over the same period. Consequently, domestic institutional investors (DIIs) witnessed an increase in stake to 6.86 per cent from 6.06 per cent.

The shareholding pattern available with the stock exchanges indicates that domestic mutual funds boosted their stake in Paytm by 1.77 per cent, reaching 6.15 per cent from 4.99 per cent at the end of the December quarter of the fiscal year. Retail investors also saw an uptick in shareholding, rising from 12.85 per cent to 14.53 per cent sequentially, while Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) witnessed an increase from 0.67 per cent to 0.85 per cent.

Simultaneously, FPI shareholding in Paytm surged by 2.49 per cent to 20.19 per cent in Q4-2023-24, with new investors including Tiger Pacific Capital, Societe Generale, and Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global investing in the stock. Notably, in February this year, Morgan Stanley Asia (Singapore) Pte. – ODI acquired 50 lakh shares of Paytm worth Rs 243.6 crore in a bulk deal, as confirmed by the company.

Abhilash Pagaria, head of Nuvama Alternative and Quantitative Research, expressed bullish sentiments on India’s equity markets, attributing it to active participation from mutual funds and High Net Worth Individuals (HNIs)/retailers. Paytm currently boasts 60.4 per cent holdings by FIIs as of the March quarter of 2023-24.

Following NPCI’s approval on March 14, 2024, to onboard OCL as a Third-Party Application Provider (TPAP) on the Multi Payment Service Provider API Model, Paytm has expedited integration with Axis Bank, HDFC Bank, State Bank of India (SBI), and YES Bank. All four banks are now operational on the TPAP, facilitating a streamlined process for Paytm to transition user accounts to these Payment Service Provider (PSP) banks.

Moreover, Paytm is directing its focus towards UPI Lite wallet, targeting users preferring wallets for low-value everyday payments. Paytm UPI Lite serves as an on-device wallet, allowing users to store funds and make hassle-free payments without requiring a PIN. It promises lightning-fast transactions that never fail, offering convenience and efficiency to users on the go.

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Economy

RBI warns NBFCs to stay alert for financial system risks

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Deputy Governor Swaminathan J of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) emphasized the imperative for Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) to bolster their governance and assurance functions while remaining vigilant against potential risks and vulnerabilities. Speaking at an interaction in Mumbai, attended by about 280 participants from over 100 NBFCs, Deputy Governors M Rajeshwar Rao and Swaminathan J addressed the attendees.

The conference, primarily targeting Heads of Assurance Functions such as Chief Compliance Officers, Chief Risk Officers, and Heads of Internal Audit of select NBFCs, focused on the critical role of these functions in ensuring the stability and resilience of the financial sector. Swaminathan J underscored the heightened exposure of NBFCs to various risks, including cybersecurity threats and operational vulnerabilities. He articulated the RBI’s expectations regarding assurance functions, emphasizing the need for independent and effective oversight mechanisms.

Highlighting specific risks such as cybersecurity threats, operational challenges, credit risks arising from rule-based credit models, and liquidity risks, Swaminathan J conveyed the RBI’s supervisory expectations from regulated entities. The emphasis was on fostering fair and transparent conduct towards customers while ensuring robust risk management practices within NBFCs.

Deputy Governor M Rajeshwar Rao also contributed to the discourse by shedding light on contextual issues relevant to assurance functions. He discussed topics such as third-party dependencies, operational risks, customer conduct, and transparency in operations. Rao elaborated on the transformative journey witnessed in the Indian financial landscape and the significant contribution of the NBFC sector to this evolution.

The conference, attended by senior officials including Executive Directors S C Murmu, Saurav Sinha, J K Dash, and Rohit Jain, alongside representatives from the Regulation and Supervision departments of the RBI, featured technical sessions on the three Assurance Functions led by Chief General Managers of the RBI. These sessions aimed to delve into the nuances of governance, risk management, and internal audit within the NBFC sector.

Additionally, presentations were made by Heads of Assurance Functions from select NBFCs, offering insights into best practices and challenges encountered in their operational domains. The overarching theme of the event, ‘Resilient Financial System – Role of Effective Assurance Functions’, underscored the pivotal role of these functions in fostering stability and resilience within the financial ecosystem.

The conference, part of a series of supervisory engagements organized by the RBI over the past year with its regulated entities, exemplified the central bank’s commitment to proactive regulatory oversight. By facilitating dialogue and knowledge-sharing among stakeholders, such initiatives aim to enhance risk awareness, promote adherence to regulatory standards, and fortify the overall integrity of the financial system.

Previous iterations of this series included a conference for Heads of Assurance Functions of Scheduled Commercial Banks held in January 2024. The recurrence of such engagements underscores the regulatory focus on fostering robust governance frameworks and risk management practices across diverse segments of the financial sector.

In summary, the interaction between RBI Deputy Governors and Heads of Assurance Functions of NBFCs served as a platform to underscore the importance of governance, risk management, and internal audit in safeguarding the stability and resilience of the financial system. Through collaborative efforts and proactive engagement, regulators and industry stakeholders endeavour to promote a sound and resilient financial ecosystem conducive to sustainable growth and stability.

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Business

Government e-marketplace records strong start in new fiscal with INR 8.57 lakh cr GMV

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GeM, launched in 2016 by the commerce ministry, aims to bridge buyer-seller gaps through a digital marketplace, enhancing procurement across sectors.

The Government e-Marketplace (GeM) has emerged as a cornerstone in revolutionizing public procurement in India, achieving a remarkable milestone by surpassing Rs 8.57 lakh crore in Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) as of April 30, 2024. This achievement marks the highest GMV recorded since its inception, underscoring the platform’s pivotal role in fostering transparent and inclusive trade practices within the country.

Launched on August 9, 2016, by the commerce ministry, GeM was conceived with the vision of establishing a digital marketplace that bridges the gap between buyers and sellers, facilitating seamless procurement processes across various sectors. The platform’s exponential growth trajectory is evidenced by its remarkable performance during the financial year 2023-24, where it surpassed Rs 4 lakh crore in GMV. As the new financial year, 2024-25, commenced, GeM witnessed a robust start with GMV soaring to Rs 60,094 crore in the inaugural month alone, according to insights shared during an internal meeting at the commerce ministry.

The significance of GeM extends beyond the procurement of goods, as it also serves as a conduit for the acquisition of services. As of April 30, 2024, the GMV of services on GeM has reached an impressive Rs 3.56 lakh crore since its inception. Notably, during the financial year 2023-24, the GMV of services amounted to Rs 2.07 lakh crore, indicating a substantial uptick in demand. The contribution of services to GeM’s GMV in the first month of the financial year 2024-25 stands at Rs 46,460 crore, reflecting the growing reliance on the platform for service-related transactions.

One of GeM’s notable achievements lies in its support for Micro and Small Enterprises (MSEs), which form the backbone of India’s economy. Over 9.26 lakh MSEs are registered on the GeM portal, having received orders exceeding Rs 4.01 lakh crore. This accounts for more than 46.93% of GeM’s cumulative orders by GMV since its inception, highlighting the platform’s role in empowering MSEs and fostering their growth in the competitive marketplace.

Furthermore, GeM has been instrumental in empowering women entrepreneurs, with 1.63 lakh MSEs led by women being registered on the platform. These enterprises have received over 9.20 lakh orders amounting to Rs 24,369 crore till April 30, 2024, underscoring GeM’s commitment to promoting gender inclusivity and economic empowerment.

In addition to supporting established businesses, GeM has also emerged as a catalyst for fostering innovation and entrepreneurship in India. The platform has played a pivotal role in supporting over 24,181 startups in establishing their presence in the Indian marketplace. These startups have successfully processed orders exceeding Rs 24,369 crore in GMV, signalling GeM’s role as a facilitator of growth and innovation within the startup ecosystem.

The success of GeM can be attributed to its user-centric approach, robust infrastructure, and commitment to fostering a conducive environment for trade and commerce. By leveraging technology to streamline procurement processes, GeM has not only enhanced efficiency but has also promoted transparency, accountability, and fair competition in public procurement.

As GeM continues to chart new milestones and facilitate greater participation from diverse stakeholders, it reaffirms its status as a catalyst for economic growth, empowerment, and inclusive development in India’s digital landscape.

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International Relations

French Summit sees tech & aero deals, TCS & Motherson invest

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The Choose France Summit strengthens economic ties between India and France through significant investment commitments by Indian companies, highlighting their growing partnership.

Indian companies made significant commitments at the Choose France Summit held in Paris this week, signaling a deepening of economic ties between the two nations. Motherson, a prominent player in manufacturing, announced its investment to acquire a French company, positioning France as the central hub for its global aerospace strategy. Additionally, IT services giant TCS pledged to establish a Global Artificial Intelligence Centre in Paris.

The French Embassy in India shared these developments on its social media platform, highlighting the importance of these investments. Overall, about Rs 1.35 lakh crore of new investments were announced at this year’s summit, with the Indian projects contributing substantially to this figure.

President Emmanuel Macron met with Indian CEOs during a special session dedicated to India, underscoring the growing partnership between the two countries. He welcomed the increasing Indian investments in France and emphasized the potential for further collaboration.

The Choose France Summit, an annual flagship business event hosted by President Macron, aims to promote France’s economic attractiveness and encourage international investment. This year, India was honored as the first-ever country of focus, with a dedicated roundtable and participation from leading Indian CEOs.

Among the Indian business leaders present at the summit were Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman of Bharti Enterprises, N Chandrasekaran, Chairman of Tata Sons, and Pankaj Munjal, Chairman and MD of Hero Cycles, among others. Their presence underscored India’s keen interest in expanding its footprint in France.

France has positioned itself as the most attractive European economy for foreign investments, with favorable economic conditions such as lower inflation, ongoing reforms, and reduced tax rates. This has made the country an appealing destination for foreign investors, including Indian companies like L&T Technology, TCS, and Tata Tech, which have already established a presence in France.

Since its inception in 2018, the Choose France Summit has played a pivotal role in promoting France’s economic attractiveness on the global stage. Convened by the President and members of the Government, the summit brings together leaders from multinational corporations to explore investment opportunities across France.

Last year’s summit witnessed substantial investment commitments totaling over 13 billion Euros for 28 projects, highlighting the event’s effectiveness in attracting international capital. With the continued success of the Choose France Summit and the deepening economic partnership between India and France, both countries stand to benefit from enhanced collaboration and investment opportunities in the years to come.

The Choose France Summit serves as a platform for fostering dialogue and cooperation between France and its international partners. With India being honored as the country of focus this year, the summit has further solidified the bilateral ties between the two nations. The presence of prominent Indian CEOs underscores the mutual interest in exploring opportunities for investment and collaboration. As France continues to enhance its economic attractiveness through reforms and favorable policies, Indian companies are increasingly looking to leverage these opportunities for growth and expansion in the European market.

The Choose France Summit plays a crucial role in facilitating this exchange and driving economic cooperation.

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