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Swiggy Lays Off 380 Employees, CEO Calls Overhiring Case of ‘Poor Judgement’

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Swiggy Co-Founder and CEO Sriharsha Majety said the growth rate for food delivery has slowed down versus the company's projections.

By Press Trust of India | Updated: 20 January 2023

Online food delivery platform Swiggy on Friday laid off 380 employees as part of a “restructuring exercise” citing challenging macroeconomic conditions, with its CEO Sriharsha Majety saying that overhiring was a case of “poor judgement” where he should have done better.

In an internal email, Majety, Co-Founder and CEO, also apologised to the affected employees and said the “extremely difficult decision” taken after “exploring all available options” and offered an employee assistance plan for the impacted people.

He said the growth rate for food delivery has slowed down versus the company’s projections.

“This meant that we needed to revisit our overall indirect costs to hit our profitability goals. While we’d already initiated actions on other indirect costs like infrastructure, office/facilities etc., we needed to right-size our overall personnel costs also in line with the projections for the future.

“Our overhiring is a case of poor judgement, and I should’ve done better here,” Majety said in the email.

Earlier in the morning, he had addressed a townhall of Swiggy employees.

As part of the employee assistance plan, Swiggy has offered cash payout ranging from three to six months based on the affected employees’ tenure and grade. They will receive either an assured three months pay or notice period plus 15 days ex-gratia for every completed year of service plus balance earned leave as per policy whichever is higher.

“This will assure all impacted employees with a minimum assured payout of three months. This includes variable pay / incentives at 100 percent. Joining Bonus, Retention bonus paid out will be waived off,” Majety said in the email.

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Twitter Working to Introduce Payments Feature Amid Drop in Advertising Income: Report

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Elon Musk had previously said that the Twitter acquisition would be part of a master plan to create "the everything app".
By Reuters | Updated: 31 January 2023

Twitter is working to introduce payments on the social media platform and has begun applying for regulatory licenses, the Financial Times reported on Monday, citing people familiar with the matter.

New boss Elon Musk is pushing Twitter to create new streams of revenue as it faces a drop in advertising income, following his $44 billion (roughly Rs. 3.6 lakh crore) takeover of the company in October.

The development of the payments feature is being led by Esther Crawford, a director of product management at Twitter, according to the report, which added that the executive was emerging to be a key lieutenant to Musk.

Twitter did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Musk had previously said that the Twitter acquisition would be part of a master plan to create “the everything app”, a service that would offer social networking, peer-to-peer payments and e-commerce shopping.

Prior to Musk’s takeover, Twitter in early 2021 was exploring allowing its users to receive tips, or digital payments, from their followers.

Meanwhile, Twitter announced last week that users will be able to appeal account suspensions and be evaluated under the social media platform’s new criteria for reinstatement, starting February 1.

Under the new criteria, which follow billionaire Elon Musk’s purchase of the company in October, Twitter accounts will only be suspended for severe or ongoing and repeat violations of the platform’s policies.

Severe policy violations include engaging in illegal content or activity, inciting or threatening violence or harm, and engaging in targeted harassment of other users, among others.

Twitter said that going forward, it will take less severe action, in comparison to account suspension, such as limiting the reach of tweets that violate its policies or asking users to remove tweets before continuing to use the account.

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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Amazon Increases Minimum Purchase Amount on Amazon Fresh for Prime Members

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Amazon currently offers free grocery deliveries on orders above $35 (roughly Rs. 3,000) to Prime members.

By Associate Press | Updated: 28 January 2023

Amazon is axing free grocery delivery for Prime members on orders less than $150 (roughly Rs. 12,200).

Customers who get their groceries delivered from Amazon Fresh — and pay less than $150 — will be charged between $3.95 (roughly Rs. 350) and $9.95 (roughly Rs. 800), depending on the order size, the company said in an email to Prime members Friday.

The new policy starts on February 28.

“We will continue to offer convenient two-hour delivery windows for all orders, and customers in some areas will be able to select a longer, six-hour delivery window for a reduced fee,” Amazon said in the email.

Launched in 2005, Prime has more than 200 million members worldwide who pay $139 (roughly Rs. 11,500) a year, or $14.99 (roughly Rs. 1,200) a month, for faster shipping and other perks, such as free delivery and returns.

Currently, the company offers members free grocery deliveries on orders above $35 (roughly Rs. 3,000), with the exception of New York, where it’s $50 (roughly Rs. 4,000).

Under the new policy, the company said delivery charges will be $3.95 for orders between $100-$150, $6.95 (roughly Rs. 600) for orders of $50 to $100, and $9.95 for orders under $50. Amazon Fresh deliveries over $150 will remain free.

“We’re introducing a service fee on some Amazon Fresh delivery orders to help keep prices low in our online and physical grocery stores as we better cover grocery delivery costs and continue to enable offering a consistent, fast, and high-quality delivery experience,” Amazon spokesperson Lara Hendrickson said in a prepared statement.

The company has dozens of Amazon Fresh stores across the US and has opened some abroad. Amazon has also owned Whole Foods since 2017.

The decision to impose new fees comes as the company attempts to trim costs amid a hazy economic environment. In the past few months, it has axed unprofitable areas of its business and paused hiring among its corporate workforce. It said this month that it will lay off 18,000 workers.

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US Panel to Vote on TikTok Ban Over National Security Concerns in February

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In 2020, Donald Trump attempted to block new users from downloading TikTok in the US.
By Reuters | Updated: 28 January 2023

The House Foreign Affairs Committee plans to hold a vote next month on a bill aimed at blocking the use of China’s popular social media app TikTok in the United States, the committee confirmed on Friday.

The measure, planned by the panel’s chair Representative Michael McCaul, a Republican, would aim to give the White House the legal tools to ban TikTok over US national security concerns.

“The concern is that this app gives the Chinese government a back door into our phones,” McCaul told Bloomberg News, which reported the vote timing earlier.

In 2020, then-President Donald Trump attempted to block new users from downloading TikTok and ban other transactions that would have effectively blocked the app’s use in the United States, but lost a series of court battles over the measure.

The Biden administration in June 2021 formally abandoned that effort. Then in December, Republican Senator Marco Rubio unveiled bipartisan legislation to ban TikTok, which would also block all transactions from any social media company in or under the influence of China and Russia.

But a ban of the short video app, which is owned by ByteDance and is popular among teens, would face significant hurdles in Congress to pass, and would need 60 votes in the Senate.

For three years, TikTok – which has more than 100 million US users – has been seeking to assure Washington that the personal data of US citizens cannot be accessed and its content cannot be manipulated by China’s Communist Party or anyone else under Beijing’s influence.

TikTok said Friday “calls for total bans of TikTok take a piecemeal approach to national security and a piecemeal approach to broad industry issues like data security, privacy, and online harms.”

The US government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a powerful national security body, in 2020 ordered ByteDance to divest TikTok because of fears that US user data could be passed on to China’s government.

CFIUS and TikTok have been in talks since 2021, aiming to reach a national security agreement to protect the data of US TikTok users.

TikTok said it had a “comprehensive package of measures with layers of government and independent oversight to ensure that there are no backdoors into TikTok that could be used to manipulate the platform” and invested roughly $1.5 billion (roughly Rs. 12,300 crore) to date on those efforts.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment on the bill on Friday. “It’s under review by (CFIUS) so I am just not going to get into details on that,” Jean-Pierre said.

Last month, Biden signed legislation that included a ban on federal employees using or downloading TikTok on government-owned devices. More than 25 US states have also banned the use of TikTok on state-owned devices.

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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Zomato Instant Not Shutting Down, Will Rebrand 10-Minute Food Delivery Service, Company Says

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Zomato says it is working on a new menu with partners and rebranding its Instant business.
By Press Trust of India | Updated: 24 January 2023

Zomato is rebranding Instant, its ten-minute food delivery service, and not shutting it down, a company spokesperson said. The statement has come amid reports claiming that the company was planning to close Instant, launched less than a year ago, owing to tough market conditions.

However, the spokesperson clarified that it was working on a new menu for the service. “Instant is not shutting down. We are working on a new menu with our partners and rebranding the business. All finishing stations remain intact, and no people are impacted by this decision,” the spokesperson said. The food aggregator had launched Instant in March 2022.

Earlier this month, Zomato Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer Gunjan Patidar resigned company. Patidar was one of the first few employees of Zomato and built the core tech systems for the company, it said in a regulatory filing.

In November last year, another co-founder of the company, Mohit Gupta, had resigned. Gupta, who had joined Zomato four-and-half years back, was elevated to co-founder in 2020 from the position of CEO of its food delivery business.

Zomato had witnessed some top-level exits last year, including those of Rahul Ganjoo, who was head of new initiatives, and Siddharth Jhawar, the erstwhile vice-president and head of Intercity, and co-founder Gaurav Gupta.

In November last year, another co-founder of the company, Mohit Gupta, had resigned. Gupta, who had joined Zomato four-and-half years back, was elevated to co-founder in 2020 from the position of CEO of its food delivery business.

Zomato had witnessed some top-level exits last year, including those of Rahul Ganjoo, who was head of new initiatives, and Siddharth Jhawar, the erstwhile vice-president and head of Intercity, and co-founder Gaurav Gupta.

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Elon Musk Says Higher Priced Twitter Subscription Will Not Carry Advertisements

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Musk said that ads are "too frequent on Twitter and too big," and that steps will be taken to address those issues in coming weeks.
By Reuters | Updated: 23 January 2023

Twitter owner Elon Musk tweeted on Saturday that a higher priced subscription of the social media platform will not carry advertisements.

The billionaire also said that ads are “too frequent on Twitter and too big,” and that steps will be taken to address those issues in coming weeks.

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Twitter earns nearly 90 percent of its revenue from selling digital ads and Musk recently attributed a “massive drop in revenue” to rights organizations that have pressured brands to pause their Twitter ads.

Earlier in December, Musk announced that Twitter’s Basic blue tick will have half the number of advertisements and that it will offer a higher tier with no advertisements by 2023.

Last week, Twitter said it would price Twitter Blue subscription for Android at $11 (roughly Rs. 900) per month – the same as for iOS subscribers – while offering a cheaper annual plan for web users when compared to monthly charges.

The blue check mark – previously free for verified accounts of politicians, famous personalities, journalists and other public figures – will now be open to anyone prepared to pay. It was rolled out last year to help Twitter grow revenue as owner Elon Musk fights to retain advertisers.

Google’s Android users will be able to purchase Twitter Blue’s monthly subscription for $11 (roughly Rs. 900), the same price as for Apple’s iOS users, Twitter said on its website. The higher pricing for Android users is likely to offset fees charged by Android’s Google Play Store, like Apple’s App Store. The annual plan for subscription to Blue, only available on the web, was priced at $84 (roughly Rs. 6,800), a discount to the monthly web subscription price of $8 (roughly Rs. 650).

The discount for web users would be available in countries including United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Japan, New Zealand and Australia, Twitter said.

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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Meta Fined $5.9 Million by Irish Regulators for WhatsApp Data Protection Breach

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Meta said it was opposed to the ruling and would look to appeal it.
By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 20 January 2023

Social media giant Meta has been fined an additional EUR 5.5 million (roughly Rs. 47.8 crore) for violating EU data protection regulations with its instant messaging platform WhatsApp, Ireland’s regulator announced Thursday.

The penalty follows a far larger EUR 390 million (roughly Rs. 3,429 crore) fine for Meta’s Instagram and Facebook platforms two weeks ago after they were found to have flouted the same EU rules.

In its new decision, the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) found the group acted “in breach of its obligations in relation to transparency,” the watchdog said in a statement.

In addition, Meta relied on an incorrect legal basis “for its processing of personal data for the purposes of service improvement and security,” the DPC added, giving the group six months to comply.

The fine was imposed by the Irish regulator because Meta — along with other US tech firms — has its European headquarters in Dublin.

In response on Thursday, Meta said it was opposed to the DPC decision and would look to overturn it.

“We strongly believe that the way the service operates is both technically and legally compliant,” a WhatsApp spokesperson said.

“We disagree with the decision and we intend to appeal.”

The breaches are similar to those explained in the regulator’s action against Meta earlier in January.

But the earlier decision also accused the Meta platforms of breaking rules over the processing of personal data for the purpose of targeted advertising.

In that instance the company, co-founded by social media magnate Mark Zuckerberg, was given only three months to respond to comply with the Irish regulator.

Meta announced its intention to appeal the 4 January decision, adding the regulatory ruling did not prevent targeted or personalised advertising.

The DPC said its more recent fine was considerably less because of a EUR 225 million (roughly Rs. 1,978 crore) fine imposed on WhatsApp for “for breaches of this and other transparency obligations over the same period of time”.

Thursday’s Whatsapp fine was also far lower because it did not relate to targeted advertising.

The Irish regulator had fined Meta EUR 405 million (roughly Rs. 3,561 crore) in September for failures in handling the data of minors, and EUR 265 million (roughly Rs. 2,330 crore) in November for not sufficiently protecting users’ data.

This latest round of fines follows the adoption of three binding decisions by the European Data Protection Board (EDPB), the EU’s data protection regulator, in early December.

The Vienna-based privacy group NOYB, which brought the three complaints against Meta in 2018, had accused the social media behemoth of reinterpreting consent as a civil law contract, which stopped users from refusing targeted advertising.

In reaction to Thursday’s news, NOYB criticised the “tiny” size of the latest fine — and slammed the DPC for ignoring how WhatsApp shares data within the group for advertising purposes.

“We are astonished how the DPC simply ignores the core of the case after a 4.5-year procedure,” said NOYB founder Max Schrems.

In October 2021, the Irish authority had proposed a draft decision that validated the legal basis used by the group and suggested a fine of up to EUR 36 million (roughly Rs. 316 crore) for Facebook and up to EUR 23 million (roughly Rs. 202 crore) for Instagram, over their lack of transparency.

France’s CNIL regulator and other European bodies disagreed with the draft sanction, which they considered to be far too low.

They asked the EDPB to judge the dispute with the EU data regulator deciding in their favour.

The EDPB has also asked the Irish regulator to investigate Meta’s use of personal data.

However, in its statement, the DPC pushed back saying the EU body does not have the power to “direct an authority to engage in open-ended and speculative investigation”.

The regulator said it will seek to annul the EDPB’s request before the European Union’s Court of Justice.

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