It has been a yr of life-changing challenges, courageous turnarounds, and in some circumstances, stunning shutdowns throughout companies all around the world. The Covid-19 pandemic has left many people with a deep sense of loss. But, some good has additionally come out of it within the type of fast improvements and sustainable maneuvers. Companies and economies might not be prepared but to return to pre-Covid prosperity. However identical to the earlier years, the newsmakers have been round, bringing good tidings of progress or ugly tales of mismanagement and fall.
So, now we have determined to take a look at 9 movers and shakers, nice personalities who helm the ship, set the course, take essential selections and convey to life a enterprise imaginative and prescient nobody else has managed to attain. Many of those newsmakers lead the Indian startup ecosystem whereas others head the likes of Google, Amazon and Microsoft.
Be a part of our year-end journey as we deliver to you some well-known enterprise icons, startup heroes and some others who have been the speak of the city for courting controversies.
Jeff Bezos: Braving Good Occasions And Dangerous
“I predict that the 21st-century goes to be the Indian century. The dynamism, the power… All over the place I am going right here, individuals are thinking about self-improvement, progress. This nation has one thing particular. That is going to be the Indian century,” stated Jeff Bezos, throughout his go to to India in January this yr.
For the tech mogul, India is an important market, and he had introduced throughout the tour that Amazon could be investing $1 Bn in digitising India’s small and medium-sized companies. Moreover, the ecommerce big goals to export $10 Bn value of products from India by 2025.
However his bold plans and tall guarantees didn’t discover a clean passage to India.
For one, the world’s richest particular person is vying with Asia’s richest billionaire Mukesh Ambani. The latter had already introduced the acquisition of (some) retail companies owned by Kishore Biyani’s Future Group for INR 24,713 Cr. However Amazon, which holds an oblique stake within the Future Group, didn’t like this flip of occasions and approached the Singapore Worldwide Arbitration Centre (SIAC) to halt the proposed deal between Future Group and Reliance Industries. However a lot to Amazon’s chagrin, the Competitors Fee of India (CCI) authorized the deal on Nov 10.
This got here as an enormous blow to Bezonomics as Reliance obtained entry to Future Group’s community of 1,500 shops throughout 437 Indian cities and cities, collectively protecting 16 Mn sq. ft of retail area.
The collection of allegations raised by the Confederation of All India Merchants (CAIT) towards Amazon and its India competitor Flipkart (owned by Walmart) additionally threatens to rock the boat, which is a key cause Bezos was in India. The merchants’ physique alleges that each Amazon and Flipkart are flouting overseas direct funding (FDI) norms and providing predatory pricing.
Will Bezos Inc. get its mojo again in India or will the desi brigade rule the roost?
Mukesh Ambani: The Unstoppable
The worldwide financial system might need come to a halt, due to the novel coronavirus onslaught. However the nation’s richest man by no means thought twice about startup procuring, particularly in the event that they have been companies in misery.
Of late, Reliance Industries (RIL) acquired fairly a number of startups, together with on-line pharma market Netmeds and on-line furnishings startup City Ladder Dwelling Decor Options (the final one was a hearth sale). To be exact, the conglomerate obtained its arms on greater than 23 startups up to now three years.
However it was the flurry of worldwide funding to the tune of INR 1.15 Lakh Cr from the likes of Google, Fb, Silver Lake, Normal Atlantic and KKR that made RIL’s digital unit Jio Platforms web debt-free a lot earlier than its March 2021 goal. Even in the midst of a dark recession, Jio Platform was basking within the glory of its success – an enormous spike within the person base, due to its rising community of apps and digital companies. Then there was Reliance Jio Infocomm, the cellular arm of RIL, that crossed the 40 Cr subscriber base in October. It was the primary telco to take action in India.
The expansion story continues. Regardless of the uncertainty over 5G spectrum’s availability in India, Ambani deliberate to roll out 5G-enabled smartphones and commenced the tech trials in October in partnership with the US-based Qualcomm. Is Reliance pushing onerous for a ‘2G-mukt Bharat’ by leveraging its strategic partnership with world tech big Google? Solely time will inform.
Vijay Shekhar Sharma: Braving Large Battles
Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma has by no means hesitated to rise to the event. He did it once more when he known as out American tech big Google for its monopolistic energy in India and protested towards the ‘Google tax’.
It began with Google Play Retailer taking down the Paytm app in September. Though Google restored the app hours after eradicating it, this was a shock for Sharma, and the character of the allegation towards the Indian unicorn angered him additional. The digital funds app had allegedly violated Google’s on-line betting insurance policies, and the accusation led to a confrontation. Sharma stated Google had acted “arbitrarily”, however Google insisted that its insurance policies are “persistently” enforced.
Subsequent got here one other massive conflict when Google stated all app builders on its Play Retailer should use Google’s fee platform from September 2021 and pay 30% fee for in-app purchases. The Indian tech neighborhood was deeply sad, and Sharma led from the entrance. His firm additionally launched a mini-app retailer for Android to curb Google’s management over the smartphone ecosystem and ensure individuals can use “their most well-liked fee possibility”. Sharma and 50-plus tech startup founders have been collectively preventing towards the ability of Large Tech ever since. In the meantime, Google stated it will delay enforcement of the coverage in India till April 2022. Sharma known as the deferment an “act of contrition”.
In a separate case, Sharma moved the Delhi Excessive Court docket in Might, looking for damages value INR 100 Cr from Airtel, Vodafone and Reliance Jio and alleging that telcos ought to be responsible for curbing unsolicited industrial communications on their networks.
Kishore Biyani: A A lot-Relieved Man
Future Group’s mounting money owed have been hitting the headlines for over a yr, and proprietor Kishore Biyani was an sad man. The state of affairs worsened throughout Covid-19 lockdowns when shops and markets stayed shut, and the retail main reportedly misplaced INR 7,000 Cr in income within the first three-four months of the pandemic.
“The issue is hire doesn’t cease, curiosity (on debt) doesn’t cease… We did too many acquisitions within the final six-seven years… I assumed there was no different reply however to exit,” stated Biyani.
Promoting a controlling stake in Future Retail to Reliance Industries gave the impression to be the one possibility to save lots of his firm from chapter. However the answer didn’t work out as easily as he anticipated.
When Mukesh Ambani-led RIL lastly introduced the acquisition of Future Group’s retail property for INR 24,713 Cr after months of deliberation, the deal hit a velocity bump. The antagonist was none apart from Jeff Bezos-led Amazon that didn’t approve of the proposed deal and contested it on the Singapore Worldwide Arbitration Centre (SIAC). Amazon additionally served a authorized discover to Future Group for breach of contract. The ecommerce big has intervened because it holds a small oblique stake in Future Retail and has a ‘name possibility’, permitting it to purchase partial or controlling stake topic to prevalent FDI norms.
For some time, the case appeared to show in favour of Amazon because the SIAC put the Reliance-Future Group deal on maintain on Oct 26. In desperation, Biyani filed two caveat petitions towards Amazon in Delhi Excessive Court docket and claimed that the SIAC order wouldn’t be enforceable beneath the Indian regulation. Ultimately, Biyani did win because the Competitors Fee of India (CCI) authorized the acquisition on Nov 10.
Apparently, the Delhi HC, too, left it to regulators to determine the deal’s destiny however allowed US companion Amazon.com Inc to boost objections to it. Will there be extra bother brewing within the battle of the billionaires as Bezos and Ambani flex their retail muscle?
Karan Bajaj: Manoeuvring Progress, Acquisition, Controversies
How did a startup founder turn out to be a family identify in India regardless that his firm was lower than two years outdated? How did the corporate get acquired by a unicorn for a $300 Mn all-cash deal? Or how did he get embroiled in social-legal spats for that matter?
It just about sums up the journey of Karan Bajaj who began his profession as a advertising and marketing skilled, later labored as a administration marketing consultant on the Boston Consulting Group after which led Discovery’s India operations earlier than the startup world beckoned. Because the Indian edtech market began rising, Bajaj launched WhiteHat Jr, a coding platform for youths aged 6-14, in 2018. The thought clicked, and by January 2020, WhiteHat Jr was rising at 30-40% yearly.
The founder got here into the limelight when his startup was acquired by the edtech unicorn BYJU’S in August 2020. Bajaj advised the media “it was a deal at first sight”. Their mutual imaginative and prescient of going deep into India and world growth matched so effectively that the remainder of the process shortly fell in place.
Quickly afterwards, social media customers known as out the corporate for its continuous commercials. Software program engineer, Pradeep Poonia, and angel investor, Dr Aniruddha Malpani, have been significantly vocal towards the platform’s claims.
Round 15 complaints have been filed with the Promoting Customary Council of India (ASCI) over seven advertisements. In October 2020, WhiteHat Jr was requested to tug down 5 of them on account of a violation of ASCI code. Bajaj complied but in addition filed defamation circumstances towards Poonia and Malpani.
The decision got here in his favour, and each his critics have been requested to not publish any derogatory content material in regards to the edtech startup and take down the present ones. Poonia’s Twitter account was additionally suspended. Now, each are preventing for his or her ‘social media rights’ in regulation courts and Whitehat Jr continues to be getting trolled for its high-handed therapy of critics.
Sundar Pichai: From India, For India
When the tech chief hailing from a middle-class Indian household was named the CEO of Alphabet (Google’s dad or mum firm), celebrations have been on proper right here in India. Each startups and large company homes have been eagerly monitoring the corporate’s deep dive into India and the way Pichai would helm it to make sure a extra inclusive and democratised know-how ecosystem that might profit all.
They weren’t disenchanted.
In his first yr because the Alphabet CEO, Pichai introduced that the corporate would make investments $10 Bn within the Indian tech and startup ecosystem from its Google For India Digitisation Fund. Furthermore, Google Pay has began doing a roaring enterprise on India’s UPI platform, cornering near 43.4% of the market share, which is one other feather in his cap.
On a world observe, Pichai is a powerful advocate for variety and inclusion regardless that there are vital gaps throughout the tech conglomerate. However the CEO hopes long-term planning will work effectively in creating change and reimagining stereotypes in sync with our instances.
Nevertheless, Pichai has extra causes to fret about Google’s India operations as the corporate is dealing with a few antitrust circumstances. In November 2020, the Competitors Fee of India (CCI) opened a case towards the worldwide tech big, alleging that Google unfairly promotes its personal funds app by means of “distinguished placement on the Play Retailer”. Earlier this yr, one other case was filed towards the corporate for abusing its Android working system’s place within the good TV market.
The Indian tech neighborhood can also be up in arms towards Google’s supremacy over the Android app ecosystem. The initiative to develop an alternative choice to Google Play Retailer will likely be a vital problem for Pichai. Will he be capable of reconcile all and work out a mutually useful enterprise technique?
Satya Nadella: Decoding India’s Improvements
“The India stack is fairly spectacular. Invoice Gates is all the time speaking about how we are able to take what has been developed in India and make it accessible as a stack to all nations,” the Microsoft CEO stated on the World Expertise Summit, 2020, organised by Carnegie India.
Throughout his three-day India go to in February, Nadella additional urged homegrown tech firms to develop extra inclusive options by leveraging their tech capabilities.
Nadella has all the time insisted on Microsoft’s mission to assist companies in India work independently by means of know-how intervention. This yr too, he talked about Microsoft’s funding in India’s native entrepreneurs. In June 2020, Microsoft’s enterprise fund M12, which has invested in Indian startups akin to Innovaccer and FarEye, arrange an workplace in Bengaluru to advertise fundraising and partnership alternatives for the nation’s growth-stage startups. Nadella additionally introduced the launch of Microsoft’s programme for agritech startups to bolster these companies.
Sachin Bansal: Private And Skilled Setbacks
Since Sachin Bansal took over because the CEO of Chaitanya Rural Intermediation Growth Providers (CRIDS) in September 2019, his intention to give attention to the fintech sector turned evident. He’s now placing all his cash (or at the least what’s left after investing INR 650 Cr within the homegrown ride-hailing platform Ola) in Navi, his all-new monetary companies startup.
However this yr, Sachin made information for a number of causes. The Flipkart cofounder’s spouse Priya filed a dowry harassment case towards him, saying that the harassment began even earlier than their marriage in 2008 and her father spent greater than INR 50 Lakh on their wedding ceremony. Priya, a 35-year-old dentist, additionally stated that her father had given Sachin INR 11 Lakh in money.
However that was not the top. He was trolled on social media for tweeting “WFH (do business from home) sucks”. Many identified that enterprise leaders like him ought to contemplate themselves fortunate when thousands and thousands of day by day wage earners and retrenched individuals don’t have that alternative.
Subsequent got here a spherical of layoffs at Navi when as many as 40 staff got the pink slip. These requested to depart included the final insurance coverage division’s CEO and different senior and mid-management officers of COCO, one in every of its insurance coverage merchandise. The layoffs lowered Navi’s crew of 163-odd staff by a fourth.
Now that issues are trying up, Bansal is reportedly in talks to purchase out the insurance coverage enterprise of Liberty Normal Insurance coverage as he goals to deliver extra insurance coverage and fintech firms beneath the Navi model.
Ritesh Agarwal: Waxing And Waning
Regardless of hoteliers’ protests and big layoffs in 2019 and 2020, Ritesh Agarwal continues to be within the information. The yr began on a excessive observe, with the U.S. President Donald Trump praising the Indian entrepreneur. Throughout his interplay with Trump, Agarwal launched his firm as a younger startup with round 313 motels within the US beneath the OYO model. In response, Trump stated he already knew about OYO. “Not such a small firm, by the way in which. Good job.”
The 26-year-old founder was additionally named the second-youngest billionaire on this planet, yet one more feather in his cap.
Although the lodge trade has been badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic since March, Agarwal stored his spirits up. “I’ve all the time believed that robust alternatives and hard locations are the place the worth accretion occurs throughout companies,” he advised Inc42 in June. And to offset large wage cuts, furloughs and de-escalation of its presence in India, the corporate supplied ESOPs (worker inventory possession plans) to its workforce.
In September, Agarwal even stated that OYO motels and houses in India have been again to 40% occupancy aside from a number of states akin to Himachal Pradesh. He has additionally arrange an funding agency in Singapore known as Aroa Ventures to spend money on early-stage startups working throughout client, know-how and leisure infrastructure sectors.
Uncertainty nonetheless looms massive for the lodge trade, however Agarwal stays hopeful. He believes that contactless check-ins will likely be an enormous alternative very quickly, and entrepreneurs may experiment with meals experiences by leveraging know-how.