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Zoho launches Arattai, a private messaging app to counter WhatsApp

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Zoho headquarters in Chennai

Zoho, the Chennai-based Software as a Service (SaaS) unicorn launched a secure ‘made in India’ messaging app – Arattai.

The app, which has been under beta testing with its employees for the past few weeks, is now available for public download on Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store.

Arattai (which means chit-chat in Tamil), is an end-to-end encrypted private messaging app. It will replicate almost all the features of WhatsApp. With the added benefits of having group chat with 1000 people and group video-chat with 6 users.

The recent public outcry against the new compulsory data-sharing policy of WhatsApp, has forced many users to switch to other options like Telegram and Signal. Even companies including PhonePe, has made its employees to move over to Signal for their business communication.

And what seems like a natural progression, Zoho has entered the direct-to-consumer market with an attractive messaging application.

Also read: Lava stages a comeback with the world’s first customizable smartphone

Indigenous software powerhouse

Zoho is a multi-national platform development company which provides online office suites, customer relationship management (CRM) softwares and over 50 business applications to its customers worldwide.

Founded by Sridhar Vembu in 1996, it now has more than 50 million clients in 180 countries. Zoho has independently strived to become the ‘operating system for businesses’.

It has developed a whole software and hardware stack and runs on its own data centers. Even most of the coding required to develop and run these platforms, are done in-house.

Data will remain in India

Founder and CEO Sridhar Vembu announced their project Arattai on his Twitter handle. Though he says it will be officially launched in a few weeks, more than 10,000 people have already downloaded the app from the Play Store.

Arattai has stated that customer’s privacy is its first concern, and the app would not sell its user’s data to third parties. However, basic information like the name, phone ID and contacts number will be shared with the company.

User will also need to permit the app an access to photos, videos, calendar, camera and audio recorder for the ideal functioning of the app. These permissions remain common for most of the apps used on a smartphone. 

The app will have an option for permission on each of these steps through ‘specific consents’.

The user data will not be used for targeted ads of any kind and most importantly all the data will be stored in India. All these features, in addition of being a ‘made in India’ brand, makes Arattai, a serious contender to WhatsApp in India.

And at this moment, Arattai seems like a great move at the greatest time for Zoho.

Also read: Cyber-attack on Juspay server leaks data of over 100 million Indian users

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Cold chain startup Inficold raises $900,000 in Series A funding

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Inficold

Cold chain startup Inficold has raised $900,000 (₹6.5 crore) from RVCF and other undisclosed High Net worth Individuals (HNI).

This was Series A funding of the Noida-based Inficold which provides cold-storage solutions for the agriculture and diary sector.

Solar cooling solution

The startup was founded by Himanshu Pokharna and Nitin Goel in 2015. They have developed a retrofittable thermal energy storage technology for storing and cooling in a low-cost medium such as water to ice.

Inficold’s technology uses solar energy to make ice, which is then used for cooling processes. Without making any major changes to the existing hardware, Inficold’s product can be used for many cooling needs, such as milk, cold storage, air conditioning, and vaccine refrigeration.

For the last four years, Shell Foundation – an independent UK-registered charity organization has supported the company.

Also read: Cloud based logistics startup Pickrr Technologies raises $4 million

Rapid expansion

Speaking about the development, Gaurav Chowdhry, Vice President at RVCF said, “Inficold is focusing on energy-efficient cold chain solutions across India and other markets and has developed innovative products catering to the persistent problem of food wastage and distressed sales. We are excited to collaborate with Nitin and Himanshu in their journey”

Currently, the company has installations in more than 17 states of India, including a strong presence in Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura.

With the fresh capital, it aims to launch its operations in the international market, while it has already debuted in the African continent.

Inficold will also expand its portfolio to include products for horticulture, poultry, meat and cold logistics. It will ramp up the production capacity by over 10 times and sell over 1,000 units in the next two years.    

Also read: Food and meat delivery startup Licious plans to raise $80 million

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Edge AI startup AlphaICs raises $8 million in Series B funding

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Alphaics

Bengaluru-based edge AI startup AlphaICs has raised $8 million (₹58 crore) in Series B round led by Endiya Partners and Emerald Technology Ventures.

Existing investors including ReBright Partners, 3one4 Capital, KARSEMVEN Fund, Aaruha Technology Fund, IREON Ventures, Canal Ventures, JSR Corporation, CBC Co Ltd, and the Whiteboard Capital, also participated in the round.

A new architecture

AlphalCs was founded in 2016, by Pradeep Vajram and Vinod Dham. It specializes in making AI chips for edge computing, which enables machine learning algorithms to process data generated by a hardware device at the local level.

The startup has not shared much information about its technology so far, but its proprietary architecture called Real AI Processor (RAP) makes use of a specialized Instruction Set Architecture (ISA).

New applications

Michal Natora, Investment Director at Emerald Technology Ventures, said “We observed a big need in the industry for machine learning applications at the edge. AlphaICs’ technology offers significant performance advantages for edge inference as well as for edge learning solutions.”

The startup will use the fresh funding for launching their first inference co-processor for vision applications with low latency requirement. It is also working with strategic partners in the industrial, automotive and surveillance sectors.

Speaking about the development, Pradeep Vajram, Chairman and CEO of AlphaICs said “AlphaICs innovative architecture will empower system integrators to create AI solutions, with a short time-to-market; while staying within the systems cost and thermal constraints.”

Also read : HR Management startup Darwinbox raises $15 million from Salesforce Ventures

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Fireside Ventures announces final close of second fund at $118 million

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Early-stage investor Fireside Ventures has raised $118 million (₹863 crore) by final close of its second fund.

This is following the fund’s first close at $60 million (₹439 crore) in November 2019. Among the investments with the first fund, boAt and MamaEarth have already crossed over ₹100 crore ($13 million) in revenue.

Digital First

Fireside was started in 2017 by Kanwaljith Singh, a former partner with Helion Ventures. In four years it has invested in 22 direct to consumer (D2C) brands.

For the Fireside Fund II, major investors have taken part including Fund of Funds for Startups ( FFS), operated by SIDBI, Investment Corporation of Dubai, Nippon India Digital Innovation AIF, Bajaj Holdings and Investment Limited, ITC Limited, L’OREAL, Pidilite Group and Premji Invest.

“We are now eager to go all out and partner with young Indian entrepreneurs who are creating exciting new digital-first brands across the consumption spectrum, and are consciously building brands that focus on good for consumers and good for the world,” said Kanwaljit Singh, Founder and Managing Partner.

The fund will invest in 15-20 consumer brand startups focused on digital platforms.

According to a report by Avendus Capital, D2C brands could have a market worth $100 billion (₹7,31,725 crore) in the next five to seven years.

Also read: Venture Catalysts to invest Rs 1,000 crore in 150 companies in 2021

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