Also in this letter:
■ Ultrahuman sued for patent violations
■ ETtech Deals Digest
■ Google’s antitrust trial: The story so far
Ashneer Grover, wife stopped at Delhi airport while travelling to New York
BharatPe’s cofounder Ashneer Grover (right) and his wife Madhuri Jain
BharatPe cofounder Ashneer Grover and his wife Madhuri Jain were stopped at the Indira Gandhi International Airport on Thursday while travelling to New York on the basis of a look-out circular (LoC) issued against them, sources told ET.
Driving the news: The LoC was opened against the two at the request of the Economic Offences Wing (EoW) of the Delhi Police. In June, the EOW registered an FIR against the couple and other family members for alleged misappropriation of funds and causing losses to the tune of Rs 81 crore to Resilient Innovations Private Limited, which runs BharatPe.
The couple has been asked to appear before the EOW next week to join the probe, the sources added.
Jargon buster: An LoC is a circular letter used by authorities to check whether a traveller is wanted by law enforcement agencies. A person against whom an LoC is issued cannot leave the country.
‘Not a flight risk’: Responding to the news on X, Grover said an EOW summons arrived at his home on November 17 and he plans to cooperate in the probe “as always”. In his post, he confirmed he was going to the US, and was stopped at immigration due to the LoC.
“I found it strange as have travelled 4 times internationally since FIR filed in May – never been a problem and I had not even been summoned once,” his post read. “Flight left in meantime anyways – EOW folks directed Immigration to let us out so that we can return home,” it added.
Recap: ET reported that the EOW, in a status report to the Delhi High Court, said there were discrepancies in vendor invoices and that some human resource (HR) consultancies involved with the payments company had been set up to siphon off funds from the fintech unicorn. The EOW said the investigation is still in the early stages.
Walmart’s Q3 gross margins rise as Flipkart’s BBD sales shift to Q4
US retail giant Walmart reported an uptick in its consolidated gross margin, attributed to the delayed launch of its Indian ecommerce arm Flipkart’s Big Billion Days (BBD) festive season sale this year.
Details: “Consolidated gross margin rate up 32bps (basis points) positively affected by a slight improvement for Walmart US and timing of Flipkart’s The Big Billion Days (“BBD”) event, which flipped from Q3 last year to Q4 this year,” a bullet point in the company’s October quarter earnings statement noted.
Yes, but: Walmart acknowledged that the timing of Flipkart’s sale event, which moved from Q3 last year to Q4 this year, negatively impacted overall and ecommerce sales growth.
Its international ecommerce sales declined 3%, while advertising grew 4%, both influenced by the timing of BBD, the company said.
Walmart’s financials: The company reported a consolidated net income of $453 million for the third quarter, a significant improvement over the loss of $1.79 billion in the same period last year due to the resolution of allegations related to opioid cases.
Walmart’s consolidated revenue for the third quarter reached $160.8 billion, representing a 5.2% year-on-year growth. Adjusted earnings per share for the three months ending on October 31 were reported at $1.53.
Healthtech startup Ultrahuman sued for patent violations
Healthtech startup Ultrahuman , which develops fitness tracking smart rings and glucose monitoring software, has been sued by Finnish startup Oura Ring.
What are the allegations? Oura has alleged that Ultrahuman, which is backed by Alpha Wave and Nexus Venture Partners, copied its technology and accessed proprietary information.
It accused the Indian company of violating patents and copyrights in developing its fitness ring, which was launched in 2022.
“Ultrahuman has hired and solicited a number of Oura’s employees and engineers to assist with development of the Accused Instrumentalities,” the complaint added, referring to the product development.
Plantiff’s plea: Oura has sought damages from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Marshall Division, for the alleged infringements, including no less than all the profits realised by Ultrahuman as a result of the infringements.
Oura also sought a permanent injunction against Ultrahuman and its related parties, including officers, agents and employees.
Indian leader: Ultrahuman figured on top of International Data Corporation’s India monthly wearable device tracker category of smart rings. It led the segment with a 75.5% market share in the third quarter of 2023, ended September.
The startup, which last raised $17.5 million in 2021, reported revenues of Rs 2.12 crore in the financial year ended March that year.
ETtech Deals Digest: Weekly funding plummets over 80% to $30 million
The funding climate for Indian technology startups deteriorated year-over-year, with $29.7 million deployed across 6 funding rounds in the week from November 13 to 17. In the comparable week in 2022, startups had raised $189 million across 34 funding rounds.
The deals in the 2023 week averaged at about $4.95 million per deal, versus $5.6 million per deal in 2022.
Sequentially, the week saw a 65% decline in terms of total volume and an 87% rise in value terms. The current funding winter began to set in from September 2022, and deal-making activity is generally expected to slow down from months of November to early January.
US wraps up case against Google in historic antitrust trial: The story so far and what’s next
The US government on Thursday presented its final arguments against Alphabet’s Google in a historic antitrust trial against the online search leader, wrapping up the evidentiary phase of the legal tussle. Judge Amit Mehta of the US District Court for the District of Columbia has set closing arguments for early May. Here’s a look at all we know so far.
‘Google is a monopolist’: The US government gathered witnesses from the tech industry to make its case that Google is trying to upend a level playing field. Witnesses from Verizon, Android maker Samsung and even Google testified about the company’s annual payments—$26.3 billion in 2021—to ensure that its search engine is the default on smartphones and browsers.
Experts also pointed out Google dominated the market for ads placed alongside searches and has raised prices in the last 10 years.
Google’s defence: According to Google, it is popular because it provides high-quality and accurate searches to users, and those not satisfied are not bound to use the platform. Google also made a case that even though it paid billions of dollars to smartphone and device makers to be the default search engine, this has had limited value.
What next? Judge Mehta will rule sometime in 2024 on whether any of Google’s actions broke antitrust law. Experts believe that irrespective of Mehta’s ruling, there will be appeals in the case.
Today’s ETtech Top 5 newsletter was curated by Vaibhavi Khanwalkar in Bengaluru and Megha Mishra in Mumbai.