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Good morning,

No numbers can capture the extent of the suffering Indians are experiencing right now. If you know someone who’s struggling with Covid, our thoughts are with you, and them. Please mask up and stay safe.

Our top story today is on the various ways startups are pitching in to vanquish the virus.

Also in this letter:

  • 💰 upGrad bags $120 million
  • 📱 Why govt blocked social media posts
  • 📹 Paytm’s videos for young investors

Startups leverage strengths in Covid battle

Entrepreneurs, investors and startup collectives are donating money, using their logistics chains to help hospitals procure oxygen and other essentials, and aggregating information for people in need as Covid engulfs india.

Action Covid-19 Team Grants (ACT Grants), which many founders are rallying behind, has already raised Rs 50 crore in less than 24 hours. It plans to raise Rs 75 crore for health management at home, oxygen solutions, vaccinations, and supplementing the medical workforce.

ACT Grants was founded last year, when 34 founders and 44 investment funds including Accel, Sequoia Capital, Matrix Partners, Kalaari Capital and LetsVenture joined hands to create a Rs 500-crore philanthropic fund.

Who’s doing what: Ashish Singhal, cofounder of crypto investment platform Coinswitch, pledged $1 million to ACT Grants while Pravin Jadhav, founder of Raise Financial Services, pledged $50,000.

  • Paytm said it has raised Rs 2 crore internally to source 10,000 oxygen concentrators. It has invited donations from users and said it will match these.
  • Logistics and supply chain startup Delhivery is providing subsidised logistical support to import oxygen concentrators from China
  • Online travel company EaseMyTrip said it has started to import oxygen concentrators.
  • Pharmeasy plans to use its network of 80,000 retailers and 5,000 distributors to speed up vaccinations.

VC ready to fund oxygen imports

Venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, one of the most prominent Indian American names in Silicon Valley, said on Twitter that he wanted to help hospitals in India tide over the oxygen shortage.

  • “I’m willing to fund hospitals in India that need to import planeloads of oxygen or supplies into India to increase supply. Public hospitals/NGOs also pls reach out,” he tweeted. In a follow-up tweet, Khosla said that he has already donated to the cause.

Vaccine plea: Khosla also urged the US government to consider releasing stockpiles of unused AstraZeneca vaccines to India. “The AZ vaccine is unlikely to be ever approved in the US given current alternatives here. @Potus (President of the United States) should absolutely release all doses and future commitments for US supply since Moderna and @pfizer can supply US needs,” he tweeted.

Tweet of the day

upGrad bags $120 million from Temasek

ED tech

Education technology startup upGrad has raised $120 million from Singapore’s sovereign fund Temasek in its first external fundraising.

Unicorn in the making? The six-year-old company, promoted by media entrepreneur Ronnie Screwvala, is expected to be valued at $575-675 million after the funding. Screwvala declined to comment on the details during an interaction with ET. “We are not a unicorn yet. But we are not too far behind,” he said.

  • The online education segment, both K-12 and higher education, has seen a rush of risk capital following the Covid-19 epidemic. upGrad works in the post K-12 education space, offering online courses from universities around the globe.

What’s the plan? “The proceeds will be used for mergers and acquisitions to complement our ecosystem in higher education and working professional bases,” Screwvala told ET. Besides acquisitions, the fresh infusion of capital will go into expanding upGrad’s presence into the US, UK, Middle East and the Asia-Pacific.

Blocked social media posts to ‘prevent obstructions’, says govt

facebook twitter

The government directed social media platforms such as Twitter to block around 100 posts over the weekend in order to “prevent obstructions” in the fight against the pandemic and avert the escalation of crimes, officials told ET.

  • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) ordered the blocking of the posts on a recommendation from the Ministry of Home Affairs.

‘Misinformation’: The officials said some users were using social media platforms to spread fake or misleading information and create panic about the situation in India by using “unrelated, old and out of the context” images or visuals, communally sensitive posts and misinformation about the Covid-19 protocols.

Criticism: The move has been criticised on social media, with people saying that instead of dealing with the Covid-19 crisis, the government was busy censoring tweets. On Saturday, it was reported that Twitter had removed around 50 tweets critical of the central government’s handling of the pandemic.

What’s next? Industry insiders said orders were issued under the emergency blocking powers and therefore had to be complied with immediately. However, platforms like Twitter are in discussions with the government and are conducting their own internal review to decide whether to keep them blocked, they said.

Infographic insight

Twitter Censorship

Paytm rolls out videos to tap young investors


Paytm is launching a series of videos as part of its digital wealth management platform.

What’s the plan? Paytm Wealth Community is looking to tap young users interested in investing in the capital markets. The community will showcase videos from experts and content creators on a variety of financial subjects in multiple languages. While in beta, the community will run on Paytm Money.

  • The company plans to add 500-750 creators this year across regional languages.

Why now? Several fintech companies have recently launched video-based communities and tapped online influencers to expand their user base.

Broking platform Groww has built a YouTube presence to attract millennial investors Stockbroking platform Upstox has leveraged social influencers to sell products like digital gold.

Also Read: Groww gets unicorn tag after raising $83 million from Tiger Global, others

Booking is a better metric to show demand, says HCL CEO C Vijayakumar

HCL Technologies CEO C Vijayakumar told ET in an interview that being transparent in order booking due to the increased demand is a better metric than guiding specific numbers for the year ahead.

  • “Over the past five years, we’ve been giving guidance and have met it. We (earlier) used to only share qualitative information on booking. We have decided to share more precise booking numbers. You do booking and there is a certain execution plan. Instead of focusing on precisely what the number will be, we thought it is a better metric to provide a booking kind of an outlook, rather than getting to be very precise and guiding the streets. So that we can focus more than booking in this market condition where there is a lot of demand.” – C Vijayakumar

The company expects continued demand from clients across sectors for shifting their applications to the cloud and for cybersecurity solutions.

Top Stories We Are Covering

Elon Musk adding SNL hosting job to his to-do list: Technology mogul Elon Musk has a lined up a new gig in addition to his jobs as CEO of electric car maker Tesla and spaceship maker SpaceX. He is going to host the iconic TV show “Saturday Night Live.” Musk’s scheduled May 8 appearance builds upon his recent run of success.

CarDekho plans expansion across Southeast Asia: Automotive platform CarDekho Group is pressing ahead with its international expansion plans with an aim to be present across Southeast Asia in the next two years. The company will enter Malaysia this year followed by Thailand and Vietnam next year.

Global Picks We Are Reading

■ Apple, Spotify and the new battle over who wins podcasting (WSJ)

■ How many layers of copyright infringement are in Emily Ratajkowski’s new NFT? (The Verge)

■ Amazon is loosening its grip on customers and letting some sellers reach out to them (CNBC)

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