Wharton India Economic Forum, India’s largest student-run biz conference, showcases startups in …

The panel included names like Padmaja Ruparel of India Angel Network, Prayank Swaroop of Accel Partners, Rajinder Balaraman of Matrix Partners, …

The Wharton India Startup Challenge received 500+ applications, of which top 10 finalists were chosen. The three winners earned a cash prize of $20,000 and other rewards from AWS, DigitalOcean, ThinQbate, and LetsVenture.

The 23rd edition of the Wharton India Economic Forum (WIEF) was held in Mumbai last week. WIEF is the largest student-run, India-centric business conference hosted by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. It brings together entrepreneurs, leaders, professionals, academics, and students from across the world to discuss India’s growing presence in the global economy. The event was attended by more than 400 people.

WIEF 2019 was led and co-chaired by Wharton School students Juhi Bhatnagar, Kartik Das, Swati Ganeti, Khushboo Goel and Sonal Panda.

One of the top attractions at WIEF is the Wharton India Startup Challenge (WISC), which is in its sixth year now. In the past, now-successful startups like BabyChakra, Zostel, Haptik, Zoomcar, Bizongo, and Ketto have presented at the WISC. The Startup Challenge has grown 20X since it began. Past winners of the challenge have gone on to raise over $50 million from more than 20 institutional investors.

startup challenge

WISC zeroed in on 10 startups from a pool of more than 500 applications. These 10 finalists were given the opportunity to pitch in front of an investor panel at WIEF. The panel included names like Padmaja Ruparel of India Angel Network, Prayank Swaroop of Accel Partners, Rajinder Balaraman of Matrix Partners, Sakshi Chopra of Sequoia Capital and Badri Pillapakkam of Omidyar Network.

This year, the 10 finalists included GoComet, Nuo, Lifepage, CashPositive, AgroWave, Reculta, MyPetrolPump, Wink & Nod, Credenc, and ItiLite.

The startup pitches were evaluated on the basis of four parameters: strength of the founding team, product market fit, financials, and WIEF mission alignment on impact.

The winning startups were:

  1. 1st Prize: MyPetrolPump (on-demand fuel delivery service)
  2. 2rd Prize: ITILITE (a business travel agent for corporates)
  3. 3nd Prize: Credenc (edtech platform offering student loans)

Ashish Gupta, Co-founder & CEO, MyPetrolPump, said: “Participating and Winning WISC is another milestone in our long journey. WISC ‘19 has provided us with huge visibility across the startup ecosystem in India and abroad. We are looking to raise pre-series A investment to the tune of $2 million to scale up further.”

(Second from left) Ashish Gupta, Co-founder, MyPetrolPump at WIEF 2019

Mayank Kukreja, Founder, ITILITE, said: “At ITILITE, we have built a smart platform for the modern corporate traveller and WISC was a great opportunity to showcase it to a large audience. Winning the startup challenge is yet another validation that our product is the much needed technology boost to this sector stuck in old school processes. We are strengthening our presence in the top 10 cities to serve the large void in the corporate travel industry.”

Mayank Kukreja, Founder, ITILITE

Avinash Kumar, Co-founder, Credenc, said: “The WISC journey through the different stages helped us improve our pitch and see ourselves more objectively. To be one of the winners for this year is a great feeling, and beyond the cash prize, it gives us further validation and steam to keep pushing the boundaries. Our ambition is to open up a very large lending segment which is currently ignored, enabling students across India to pursue education and careers of their choice by removing the financial barrier.”

Avinash Kumar & Mayank Batheja, Co-founders, Credenc

Wharton India also roped in several partners to aid the winning startups.

The top three earned cash prizes of $10,000, $6,000 and $4,000, respectively. They also got $10,000 in Amazon Web Services and DigitalOcean credits. Additionally, the three winners received prizes from ThinQbate(a Mumbai-based startup accelerator) and LetsVenture (a platform for angel investing).

Juhi Bhatnagar, Co-Chair of WIEF, said: This has been a record-breaking year with unprecedented attendance and more than 500 quality startup applications. The top three had incredible pitches and energy, and we are so excited for what they plan to build. We are certain that the winners are going to benefit greatly from the value addition in terms of the network, validation as well as reach that winning WISC will provide.Some pitchers have already started getting inbound interest from investors.”

Kartik Das, Co-Chair of WIEF, said: “This year WISC witnessed a diverse range of startups and the organising team worked hard to collaborate with the nation’s top VCs to narrow down the list of applications to the top 10 finalists. In addition, we have also launched the WISEMENTORS initiative for startup mentorship, and an inspiring podcasts series capturing insights from leading business professionals.”

VCs gathered at WISC weighed in as well.

Commenting on the evolution of India’s overall startup landscape, India Angel Network’s Padmaja said, 

“When we started out as investors, we only saw services being offered. There were no product startups. That was where we were. That has changed now.”

Rajinder of Matrix Partners concurred. He said, “India has always had outstanding entrepreneurs. Finally, we have a market that is right.” Prayank of Accel Partners added, “The big change is the speed at which startups are beginning to scale now. I hope the perception will change, and there will be a global deep tech company out of India.”


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OYO Rooms acquires Chennai-based Novascotia Boutique Homes

… said it was looking for acquisitions. The startup is backed by SoftBank and secured a funding of $250 million (Rs 1600 crore) in a Series D round led by the SoftBank Vision Fund. Other investors in the brand include Sequoia India, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Greenoaks Capital and Hero Enterprise.

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Hotel aggregator OYO Rooms has acquired service apartment operator Novascotia Boutique Homes, in its first major purchase. Negotiations for the deal began in October 2017 and concluded last month.

While OYO did not reveal the size of the deal, media reports have predicted that the buyout was worth nearly US $1 million or about Rs 6.71 crore. The Chennai-based Novascotia has a presence in Chennai, Coimbatore, Hyderabad, Kochi and Trivandrum, and OYO will expand the offering post-acquisition. It caters to the corporate sector and reportedly has an EBITDA of 14%.

OYO plans to expand rapidly, and the company’s chief executive had earlier said it was looking for acquisitions. The startup is backed by SoftBank and secured a funding of $250 million (Rs 1600 crore) in a Series D round led by the SoftBank Vision Fund. Other investors in the brand include Sequoia India, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Greenoaks Capital and Hero Enterprise.

Clash with Zo Rooms

Last month, another hotel aggregator Zo Rooms dragged OYO’s parent company Oravel Stays to court alleging that OYO stole ZO Rooms’s data about employees, assets, hotel properties, etc. while conducting due diligence in a process of acquisition. The said acquisition did not eventually take place.

ZO Rooms alleged in its petition that OYO obtained certain confidential information, and “in fact acquired the entire business of the petitioner (ZO Rooms) and is now refusing to pay the dues owed to the petitioner”. In 2015, OYO was exploring the acquisition of ZO Rooms, and this was even confirmed by SoftBank. However, the deal was later called off by OYO.

On the matter, OYO said that ZO was “blackmailing the company” and had filed the legal case as part of their ‘counterblast strategy’. And on February 16, OYO filed a criminal complaint against the founders of Zostel pertaining to Criminal Breach of Trust, Cheating and Misrepresentation of data.

Other competitors

Some other competitors of OYO in the sector are Treebo, FabHotels, MakeMyTrip-GoIbibo, Paytm, Booking.com, Hotels.com, Yatra, Airbnb, and others.

Last month, OYO struck a deal with MakeMyTrip to list OYO’s inventory of hotels across India, Malaysia and Nepal will be listed on MakeMyTrip and its brand Goibibo. A similar deal was signed between Yatra and OYO in 2017. The three online travel agents had delisted OYO from their platforms in 2015.

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OYO Moves On From ZO Rooms Battle, Plans Acquisitions In India And Outside

Fighting off “once burnt, twice save”, OYO rooms is back in the game. Moving on from a fierce court battle with ZO rooms, the company is looking for some new acquisitions in the space with the backing of its deep-pocketed investors like SoftBank. In a conversation with ET, Ritesh Agarwal, CEO of OYO, …

Fighting off “once burnt, twice save”, OYO rooms is back in the game. Moving on from a fierce court battle with ZO rooms, the company is looking for some new acquisitions in the space with the backing of its deep-pocketed investors like SoftBank.

In a conversation with ET, Ritesh Agarwal, CEO of OYO, informed that for its prospective acquisitions the company is exploring various companies including hotel companies to IoT(internet of things) based technologies.

He also informed that OYO is looking at mature bootstrapped companies, regardless of their revenue, and is in talks with some such companies. Without revealing further details, Agarwal informed that the OYO’s corporate development team, headed by Maninder Gulati, Chief Strategy Officer, is leading these discussions.

OYO plans to use a significant portion of its Series D funding of $250 Mn from SoftBank. A few weeks after that in September 2017, the company raised $10 Mn from China Lodging Group Limited.

Rationalising the choice of national or international acquisitions, Agarwal added, “Wherever we see someone who can add to our stack, and make OYO more valuable to our asset owners, or customers, we will be interested, in India or outside. We will definitely look at companies in international markets, but for the core capabilities they have created, and not just for market share.”

An email query sent to OYO didn’t elicit a response till the time of publication.

A Look Back At OYO

A failed acquisition by OYO has caused huge troubles for the company. At present, OYO is entangled in a fierce legal battle with ZO Rooms. Recently, a Gurugram-based district court rejected an arbitration petition filed by budget hotel aggregator ZO Rooms against the company on the grounds that it lacked jurisdiction.

In 2016, OYO had signed a term-sheet to acquire the assets of ZO Rooms. However, after a long delay, OYO called off the deal. In February, OYO filed a criminal case against ZO Rooms stating alleging continuous inconvenience and harassment by Zostel founders.

Despite this, the company is engaged in strengthening its foothold and expanding its services in the industry. A success came in the form of partnership with MakeMyTrip, which after two years of delisting OYO, has added the company back to its portfolio of services.

Under the partnership, OYO’s chain of hotels will be listed and available for booking on MakeMyTrip and GoIbibo portals.

In a media statement, the companies claimed that the partnership will add momentum to India’s rapidly growing travel sector by bringing together OYO’s economy, mid-segment and vacation rental assets and MakeMyTrip’s travel customer base, along with GoIbibo and RedBus.

As the company tries to enter the Chinese market, it launcheditsAsset Management in August last year, which will help the company build a nationwide network of hotels through a partnership with real estate asset owners.

In October 2017, it also partnered with online hotel and travel booking platform Yatra Online to widen its access to customers.

On the business front, the company has seen a steady growth.

As per company’s regulatory filings, the company incurred losses of $77.35 Mn (INR 496 Cr) in FY 2015-16. However, it recorded a decrease in its losses in FY 2016-17 to $54 Mn (INR 363.7 Cr). The company recorded revenue of $19.2 Mn (INR 125 Cr) in FY 2016-17.

As the company works on strengthening its portfolio with the upcoming acquisitions, the fierce battle with ZO Rooms will still keep us hooked. However, we look forward to the companies OYO will decide to onboard in its growing portfolio.

[The development was reported by ET.]

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OYO and ZO trade barbs via legal counsels

In October last year, OYO had stated that it had decided not to acquire Zo Rooms, more than 20 months after SoftBank Group had indicated that a deal had been concluded, or was imminent. At the time, Zo Room representatives had told ET that the company would take all steps to protect its interests, …
NEW DELHI: Online hotel aggregators OYO and Zostel Hospitality, which owns the Zo Rooms brand of budget hotels, traded barbs through their legal representatives on Sunday, with the former claiming that a court had rejected the startup’s suit alleging data theft, and reneging on an earlier agreement to acquire it.

OYO, in a statement, said that Zostel had filed a “frivolous arbitration petition in District Court, Gurugram earlier on February 2, 2018, as a counterblast to OYO’s rightful legal case”. “This arbitration petition filed by Zostel against OYO has been rejected for want of jurisdiction with the court as per order pronounced by the court on Friday, February 23,” it further added.

According to the company-issued missive, OYO will continue to pursue its criminal cases under various sections of the Indian Penal Code filed in January earlier this year, and other implications under IT and Copyright Acts with the Economic Offences Wing and Cybercrime department, filed in 2015, against senior employees of Zostel for stealing data and other assets including laptops.

“OYO had raised two questions primarily, in response to the petition. One, we had challenged the jurisdiction of the court, and that none of the issues raised by Zostel were arbitrary. We had requested the court to decide the issue of jurisdiction first… the district court has found it in our favour,” a legal counsel for OYO, told ET.

OYO’s statement followed an earlier communication from Zo Rooms, in which the firm alleged that OYO, in October last year, had failed to honour its commitment to acquire the latter, even after conducting rigorous due diligence and agreeing in writing to the all-stock transaction. Zo, through a statement sent by Amit Kumar Mishra, partner P&A Law Offices, has also claimed that OYO was using its “strong public relations and financial muzzle to muzzle its voice and hide behind technicalities”. Zostel Hospitality has alleged that OYO has acquired data of employees, assets, and hotel properties under the pretext of accelerating the process of acquisition and is now refusing to pay the dues for the business acquired. “…in the garb of obtaining certain confidential information, (OYO) has in fact acquired the entire business of the petitioner (Zo Rooms) and is now refusing to pay the dues owed to the petitioner,” according to the petition, which was reviewed by ET.

In October last year, OYO had stated that it had decided not to acquire Zo Rooms, more than 20 months after SoftBank Group had indicated that a deal had been concluded, or was imminent. At the time, Zo Room representatives had told ET that the company would take all steps to protect its interests, and OYO had acted in bad faith.

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