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Urban Company is India's 12th unicorn of 2021 after a $188-million funding round

MUMBAI, April 27: Home services firm Urban Company has been valued at $2 billion, more than double from late 2018, after raising a $188-million round led by Prosus Ventures (Naspers), as per regulatory filings accessed via Tofler.

The deal makes Urban Company India’s latest unicorn—private firms valued at a billion dollars or more—and the 12th of 2021. India created 11 unicorns in all of 2020.

Two new investors DF International and Wellington Management also participated in the round along with existing investors such as Steadview Capital, Vy Capital and Tiger Global Management.

The Gurugram-based Urban Company is among a slew of internet startups to benefit from the COVID-19 pandemic, as people used its app-based services for haircut, massages, house-cleaning, electronics repair and pest control.

Founded in 2014 by Abhiraj Bahl, Raghav Chandra and Varun Khaitan, UrbanClap, as it was called earlier, was among a string of startups offering app-based home services. However, it seems to be the only company that has thrived. Urban Company earns a commission based on the transactions on its platform.

It is present in about 30 cities in India as well as in Riyadh, Singapore, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.

Its early investors include Accel, Elevation Capital (earlier SAIF Partners) and Bessemer Venture Partners. It last raised $75 million in August 2019, prior to which it raised $50 million from Steadview and Vy Capital and was valued at $950 million in November 2018.

The other unicorns from India this year so far include Digit Insurance, Five Star Finance, Cred, Meesho, Innovaccer, Chargebee, PharmEasy, Gupshup, ShareChat, Groww and Infra.market.

RBI bans American Express, Diners Club from on-boarding new customers from May 1

MUMBAI, April 23: The Reserve Bank has restricted American Express Banking Corp and Diners Club International Ltd from on-boarding new domestic customers onto their card networks from May 1 for violating data storage norms.

The order will not impact the existing customers of these two entities, the central bank said in a statement on Friday.

American Express Banking Corp and Diners Club International Ltd are Payment System Operators authorised to operate card networks in the country under the Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007 (PSS Act).

The RBI has imposed the restrictions on American Express Banking Corp and Diners Club International by an order dated April 23, 2021.

"These entities have been found non-compliant with the directions on Storage of Payment System Data," the RBI said.

The supervisory action, it added, has been taken in exercise of powers vested in RBI under the PSS Act.

In April 2018, all payment system providers were directed to ensure that within a period of six months the entire data (full end-to-end transaction details / information collected / carried / processed as part of the message / payment instruction) relating to payment systems operated by them is stored in a system only in India.

They were also required to report compliance to RBI and submit a board-approved System Audit Report (SAR) conducted by a CERT-In empanelled auditor within the timelines specified.

India Oxygen Export Rose Over 700% In January 2021 vs 2020 Amid Pandemic

NEW DELHI, April 21: In the huge surge in the second wave of Covid that has seen more cases of breathlessness and a rise in demand for oxygen, the oxygen exports from India doubled, government data reveals.

Between April 2020 and January 2021, India exported over 9,000 metric tonnes of oxygen.

In the financial year 2020, only 4,500 metric tonnes of oxygen were exported but inexplicably, it was doubled since.

From January 2020, when India was exporting 352 metric tonnes of oxygen, the exports increased by a staggering 734 per cent in January 2021.

The country exported 2,193 metric tonnes of oxygen in December - a 308 per cent increase compared to 538 metric tonnes in December 2019.

The export data for February and March 2021 have not been made public yet.

These details raise new questions on government policy at a time several states have flagged an oxygen emergency.

Yesterday, top Delhi hospitals said they had only a few more hours of oxygen left, when new tankers arrived late at night.

The Delhi High Court pulled up the Centre on its decision to ban oxygen for industrial use from tomorrow. "Why not do it today itself? Why wait for April 22? Lives are at stake. Are you going to tell patients to wait till April 22 for oxygen," the court questioned.

"Economic interests can't override human lives. Else we are heading for a disaster."

The Centre had argued recently that private hospitals give excess oxygen to patients for "psychological purposes", leading to misuse. All states including Delhi have been advised to rationalise the use of oxygen and not administer oxygen to patients who do not clinically need it, the Centre said.

After crisis calls from states, a high-level review meet was chaired yesterday by Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla and attended by Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, NITI Aayog (Health) member Dr VK Paul, and others.

The Home Secretary pointed out the steep growth in number of cases all across the country. From 20,000 cases reported on January 1, India has almost 10 times more cases (more than 2,00,000 cases) reported daily since April 15.

This morning, India recorded 2,95,041 fresh cases and 2,023 deaths in the last 24 hours.

Bharat Biotech to scale up Covaxin production capacity to 700 million doses a year

NEW DELHI, April 20: Bharat Biotech has announced a scaling up of its manufacturing capacity to produce 700 million doses of Covaxin annually. The vaccine has received Emergency Use Authorisations (EUA) in several countries across the globe with another 60 in process including the US.

Pricing for international markets and supplies to governments under EUAs have been established between $15 and $20 per dose.

To further increase capacities, Bharat Biotech has partnered with Indian Immunologicals (IIL) to manufacture the drug substance for Covaxin. The technology transfer process is underway and IIL has the capabilities and expertise to manufacture inactivated viral vaccines at commercial scale and under biosafety containment. The manufacturing scale-up has been carried out in a stepwise manner across multiple facilities at Hyderabad and Bangalore.

Inactivated vaccines, while highly safe, are extremely complex and expensive to manufacture, resulting in lower yields when compared to live virus vaccines. Capacity expansion in vaccines manufacturing is a long and tedious process, requiring investments of several millions of rupees and several years.

Bharat Biotech claimed it is able to expand Covaxin manufacturing capacity in a short timeline, mainly due to the availability of new specially designed BSL- 3 facilities, first of its kind for manufacturing in India that have been repurposed and preexisting expertise and know-how to manufacture, test and release highly purified inactivated viral vaccines.

Manufacturing partnerships are being explored with partners in other countries, who have prior expertise with commercial-scale manufacture of inactivated viral vaccines under biosafety containment, the statement added.

Bharat Biotech uses a proprietary adjuvant Algel-IMDG, that has now proven to be a safe and effective adjuvant, especially to stimulate memory T cell responses. The synthesis and manufacture of the IMDG component has been successfully indigenized and will be manufactured at commercial scale within the country. This is the first instance where a novel adjuvant has been commercialised in India.

The protocols for manufacturing, testing and release of inactivated vaccines have been tried, tested and validated across several of our vaccines, these also meet the requirements of WHO, Indian and other regulatory authorities. These protocols have delivered consistent results over a 15-year period with more than 300 million doses supplied globally, with excellent safety and performance record, an official statement issued today has said.

Covid-19 impact: Hero MotoCorp shuts down all factories

NEW DELHI, April 20: Hero MotoCorp has halted manufacturing at all its plants in light of the ongoing surge in spread of Covid-19 across the country. The shutdown, which is temporary and includes the global parts centre (GPC), is a first by a two-wheeler maker in this financial year.

The Delhi-based maker of Splendor stated that it will utilize these shut-down days to carry out necessary maintenance work in the manufacturing plants. Each plant and GPC will remain shut for four days, in a staggered manner between April 22 – May 1 basis the local scenario, the company said.

“The shutdown will not impact the company’s ability to meet the demand, which has been impacted due to localized shut-downs in many states and production loss will be compensated during the remainder of the quarter”, Hero MotoCorp said in a filing with the stock exchanges.

All corporate offices of Hero Motocorp are already in work from home mode and ‘a very limited number of employees are in offices on rotation basis for continuity of essential services’.

Hero’s plants are located at Dharuhera and Gurugram in Haryana, at Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh, at Haridwar in Uttarakhand, at Neemrana in Rajasthan and at Halol in Gujarat. Hero has an annual combined manufacturing capacity of nearly 10 units per annum.

Citigroup to shutter retail banking operations in 13 countries including India

NEW DELHI, April 15: Citigroup has announced that it will shutter retail banking operations in 13 countries including India and China.

The American multinational investment bank and financial services company has said that it will exit consumer/retail operations in 13 countries across Asia and Europe.

The 13 nations Citibank (the largest foreign bank in India) will pull out from are Australia, Bahrain, China, India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Notably, Citigroup’s Institutional Clients Group will continue to serve clients in the markets where it is ending consumer operations.

 

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