Tata group’s B2B digital push; banking agents expand into credit, insurance

Happy Friday! Attention is back on Tata Sons’ B2B digital growth platform entity, Tata Business Hub, amid an upswing in business volumes from SME players. This and more in today’s ETtech Morning Dispatch.

Also in the letter:

■ Walmart reports strong GMV and sales for Flipkart
■ After Myntra, Flipkart targets GenZ shoppers with Spoyl
■ Delivery staff in demand ahead of festive rush


Tata Sons to commit more funds for growth of B2B digital unit

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Salt-to-software conglomerate Tata Sons has renewed its focus on its B2B digital growth platform entity, Tata Business Hub. Operating under the Nexarc brand, the platform offers business solutions to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), helping them scale up.

Recent upswing:
Incorporated in 2020, the business initially drew modest attention. Yet, an impressive surge in SME participation has now piqued the interest of Tata Group’s holding company. Leading the charge is Venguswamy Ramaswamy, a seasoned executive from Tata Consultancy Services, renowned for scaling up the segment substantially as the head of TCS Ion. Other directors of Tata Business Hub include Aarthi Subramanian, Modan Saha and Indroneel Dutt.

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Nexarc’s offerings: Tata Nexarc provides SMEs with comprehensive procurement solutions and cost-effective logistics services, besides facilitating access to business loans. These offerings cater to working capital needs and the demands of government tenders.

Quote, unquote: “Several small companies are not able to access credit or good technology or proper marketplaces to showcase their products. This will be a platform to enable that,” said an executive close to the company.

Digital push for SMEs: Amidst the ongoing digital transformation of SMEs, the business of digitising these enterprises saw a significant surge, growing multi-fold post-pandemic. Notable B2B startups such as OfBusiness have emerged, focusing on bridging connections between buyers and suppliers across sectors. This leads to the need for capital on both sides where platforms through their own non-bank finance companies or partner banks lend to the SMEs and earn an income.


Banking agents take credit and insurance offerings to last mile

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Business correspondents (BCs), who run last-mile banking agents in the country, are expanding beyond providing basic banking services like account opening, payments and balance enquiry. Credit and insurance are the next two major financial products being sold through these channels now.

Government push:
The finance ministry constituted a committee last year to look into the issues around the BC industry. Among its major recommendations was expanding the services of this channel to help drive financial inclusion.

Now many large BCs have already started offering complex financial products like insurance and credit to their customers. Primarily public sector banks are pushing it while private lenders are still mainly offering payment services.

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Beyond basic financial inclusion: The government used the BC channels to push the Jan Dhan Yojana to get people to open bank accounts. Its success has led to the thinking that the same channel might be employed to distribute complex financial products to the last mile.

BCs say they want to graduate into a full-service branch banking system. They are therefore keen to expand into newer product areas, which will help them attain higher valuation and, eventually, investor interest.

Reach is critical: The BC industry reaches deep into the country. Data from industry body BCRC shows that there are 1.8 million BC outlets in Indian villages. In December 2022, they supported 2.7 billion transactions settling Rs 7.3 lakh crore.

Industry insiders believe that this massive network, if trained well and paid properly, can be used to distribute financial products effectively to the masses.


Walmart reports strong GMV and sales for Flipkart, transaction growth for PhonePe

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Walmart CFO John David Rainey

Walmart, which now owns nearly 80% in Flipkart, on Thursday said the Indian ecommerce business unit delivered strong GMV and net sales growth during the July quarter.

Selling well: Walmart’s international segment sales were up 11%, helped by double-digit growth in India, among other geographies, said John David Rainey, executive vice president and CFO at Walmart. “Flipkart’s consistent progress and performance reinforces our confidence in the long term value of this business,” he added.

Transactions tick up: PhonePe also showed strong growth, with annualised total payment volumes (TPV) surpassing $1.15 trillion. The firm also processed 5 billion transactions in a single month for the first time in this quarter, Rainey said, without giving further details.

The future arrives: Walmart on Wednesday announced the retirement of its longstanding president and chief executive of Walmart International, Judith McKenna. She will be succeeded by Kath McLay.

McKenna had led the international business that spans 19 countries, including India, China and Mexico, since 2018. She will be in a transitional role before retiring on Jan. 31, 2024, and will continue to serve on the boards of Walmart Mexico, Flipkart and PhonePe, the company said.


After Myntra, Flipkart targets GenZ shoppers with Spoyl

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Ecommerce major Flipkart on Thursday unveiled Spoyl, a new offering aimed at GenZ users. It will be inside the main Flipkart app and available as an ‘app-in-app,’ the firm said. About a quarter of Flipkart’s shoppers are GenZ users, born between 1997 and 2012.

Tell me more: Spoyl will focus on this segment, offering over 40,000 products, across categories such as westernwear, accessories, and footwear. The drive for GenZ customers comes as Flipkart tries out a number of other experiments on its platform, such as live commerce and an AI assistant. Though they’re yet to make a sizable impact, the ventures are intended to increase customer engagement with the platform.

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Following Myntra: In May, Flipkart-owned fashion platform Myntra launched its own GenZ-focused app-in-app shopping vertical, FWD. Myntra has also undertaken a restructuring in its private labels business and cut at least 50 jobs.


Delivery staff in demand as ecommerce, logistics firms gear up for festive rush

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Ecommerce and logistics companies have kicked off preparations for the upcoming festive season and have stepped up hiring of first-mile and last-mile delivery personnel, anticipating a surge in demand.

Rising demand: Companies across all segments of ecommerce and logistics are planning to hire two-three times more staff every month from September to November compared with a year earlier, said Pravin Agrawala, cofounder of frontline workforce management platform Betterplace. These will be pickers, packers, loaders, and warehouse and delivery personnel. The estimate is based on the hiring demand already coming in.

Who will be hiring? Ecom Express plans to hire an additional 40,000 delivery partners and associates to handle an expected increase in orders. A Myntra spokesperson said the company will “scale its efforts to keep up with the anticipated surge.” The likes of Amazon, Flipkart, Blue Dart Express and Delhivery will all be ramping up their last-mile manpower, said an industry executive.

Behind the surge: Executives attributed the surge in hiring demand to increased sales by ecommerce platforms that have seen the momentum picking up.

“With the upcoming festive season, there is expected to be an increase in demand for delivery associates and workforce across our operations to cater to the surge in orders,” said Prashant Khullar, chief human resources officer, Ecom Express.


AI to replace up to 5% full-time technology roles annually over next 4-5 years

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Analysts have predicted that artificial intelligence (AI) will replace up to 5% FTE or full-time technology roles annually over the next four-five years.

No jobs or more jobs? Tech experts, however, expect that while basic jobs will be replaced with AI-based automation solutions, a higher level of jobs will be created which will involve less support roles and more decision-making and strategic roles. They added that roles in AI ethics and sustainability practices will also come in demand.

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Word for word:
ServiceNow CTO Pat Casey had told ET in July that whenever a groundbreaking new technology is introduced in any sector, it just leads to a lot more new work. “If you look at the larger tech ecosystem, there is always a dearth of engineering talent. So if certain jobs are automated, it will not mean that people will become jobless, just that they work on more value-added work elsewhere,” said Casey.


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Micro loans, family health insurance part of Rapido Auto’s Bengaluru plans: Ride-hailing service Rapido on Thursday announced unlimited cancellations, customer cancellation incentives and a transparent fare price policy as part of its Auto Dost initiative to benefit over 5 lakh auto captains based in Bengaluru.

TPG-backed Planview opens capability centre in Bengaluru, to invest $125 million: Enterprise software company Planview has opened a global capability and innovation centre in Bengaluru and earmarked $125 million for expansion in the region. The investment will go into hiring and centre operating expenses over the next four years, the company said.

Don’t want consumers, industry to be hit by artificial timeline for setting up DPB: MoS IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar | In an interview with ETtech, the minister said that since the privacy law is a new regime, the government wanted an orderly transition. “Companies have asked for some time. Some companies have asked for a longer time. We also have a duty to ensure that citizens’ rights are not delayed too much,” he said.


Global Picks We Are Reading

■ Use of AI Is Seeping Into Academic Journals—and It’s Proving Difficult to Detect (Wired)

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■ The rise of the tech ethics congregation (MIT Technology Review)

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