Wed. Mar 3rd, 2021

Credits: www.economictimes.indiatimes.com

Swiggy is in talks to close a $700-800 million funding round, even as Zomato IPO plans take shape. Contours of India’s Cryptocurrency Bill may trigger legal tussle. Carmakers are scouting Mahindra Electric for the powertrain that will go into XUV 300 EV.

Before we begin, Koo, the Made-in-India Twitter clone, is already fighting allegations that its app leaks private data of its users. On the plus side, it has new, non-Chinese, investors.

But today’s top story is Swiggy, or rather the giant chunk of change that’s about to land in India from Qatar, Singapore and others. Elsewhere, we take a closer look at the government’s long-and-widely rumoured plan to ban all “private” cryptocurrencies in India while launching its own “public”—i.e., state-owned—version at the same time. But the difference between “private” and “public” crypto isn’t simply one of ownership. The two are actually two very different things in practice.

1. Swiggy awaits $800 million delivery

Swiggy is in advanced negotiations to close a mammoth $700 million to $800 million funding round led by Qatar Investment Authority, the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation and Falcon Edge, multiple sources have told ET.

If successful, it could raise Swiggy’s valuation to around $5 billion (Rs 36,350 crore) from $3.7 billion last February, when it raised $158 million in a round led by Naspers, its largest backer.

  • It would also help the company “build a war chest of a little under $1 billion,” said a source.

FY20 results: At the end of January, Swiggy reported revenue of Rs 2,776 crore in 2019-20, a 115% jump from the previous year.

  • Expenses rose 80% to Rs 6,544.9 crore from Rs 3,637.6 crore.
  • However, net loss also increased 61% to Rs 3,768 crore.

Meanwhile in Zomatoland: Swiggy’s chief rival is expected to go public in the next few months. We reported earlier this week that Zomato has restructured its capital base to create 8.8 billion new shares. On January 27, we reported that Zomato was finalising a $500 million pre-IPO round, which would value it around $5.5 billion.

Industry snapshot: Then by the end of 2020, both Swiggy and Zomato were reporting a strong surge in demand. Both the companies said they had seen highest ever levels of daily orders on December 31, bolstering restaurants that otherwise saw a slump in dine-in customers due to local covid curfews implemented in many states. Online food delivery is expected to be a $12-billion market by 2025, growing at a 20% to 35% a year.

2. Bye-bye bitcoin?

In India we mean “public” and “private” to mean “government-owned” and “owned by private citizens”, respectively. But who owns bitcoin? It is “public” in the sense of government-run? Certainly not. So it’s private? Again, no.

Thus comes the collision with our basic, time-tested vocabulary. The government, which according to persistent rumours and leaks, is seeking to regulate cryptocurrency in India by banning all “private” cryptocurrencies and only allowing “public” ones, starting with its own.

The problem here isn’t one of semantics, however. “Public” and “private” cryptocurrencies are in reality two very different things, and most cryptocurrencies — including bitcoin — don’t fall into either category.

Apples and oranges

Cryptocurrencies fall on a spectrum between decentralised and centralised.

centralised cryptocurrency is one that relies on a third-party cryptocurrency exchange — a platform where you can buy or sell digital assets.

With a decentralised cryptocurrency such as bitcoin, the exchange, is built into the system. These cryptocurrencies run on distributed-ledger technology, meaning that multiple devices all over the world are constantly verifying the accuracy of transactions, not one central hub.

What the government is planning to introduce is a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) and not, strictly speaking, a cryptocurrency at all. Armed with the status of legal tender, it is a different beast altogether.

So this is where the private/public distinction crumbles. Truly decentralised cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin aren’t — or rather, can’t be — controlled by any entity, private or public.

And this is exactly the argument that crypto exchanges in India, which would be badly hit by a blanket ban, are likely to make — that none of the decentralised cryptocurrencies are ‘private’ assets as they don’t have an owner or an issuer.