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December: Despite Pandemic, Opportunity in Retail Remains ‘Exceptional’

The second trend, according to Stewart, is consumer/retailer emphasis on physical health. “COVID-19 brought fear and panic to the retail landscape. The closure of non-essential retail stores to stop the spread of the virus, while mandated for public health, brought intense financial ramifications,” Stewart explains. “At the same time, the focus on health accelerated the development and application of technologies to allow consumers to shop safely. While many innovations were in the development pipeline, the pandemic greatly compressed the application timeline. In part, these technologies include those that facilitate touchless retail, including customer interfaces, virtual testing and try-on of …

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Waresix acquires Trukita to connect more of Indonesia’s fragmented logistics chain

Andree Susanto, CEO and co-founder of Waresix, left, with Ady Bangun, CEO and co-founder of Trukita
Waresix, one of Indonesia’s largest logistics startups, has acquired Trukita, a company that focuses on the “first mile.” The term refers to the part of the supply chain where goods are transported from ports to warehouses.
While Waresix’s platform digitizes all parts of the supply and logistics chain, its current focus is on mid-mile logistics services, or transportation from warehouses to distributors. Trukita has an extended network of over 10,000 trucks, and the combination of the two companies means it is “now one …

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Indonesian logistics platform Logisly raises $6 million Series A to digitize truck shipments

Indonesia’s logistics industry is very fragmented, with several large providers operating alongside thousands of smaller companies. This means shippers often have to work with a variety of carriers, driving up costs and making supply chains harder to manage. Logisly, a Jakarta-based startup that describes itself as a “B2B tech-enabled logistics platform,” announced today it has raised $6 million in Series A funding to help streamline logistics in Indonesia. The round was led by Monk’s Hill Ventures.

This brings the total Logisly has raised since it was founded last year to $7 million. Its platform digitizes the process of ordering, managing and tracking trucks. First, it verifies carriers before adding them to Logisly’s platform. Then it connects clients to trucking providers, using an algorithm to aggregate supply and demand. This means companies that need to ship goods can find trucks more quickly, while carriers can reduce the number of unused space on their trucks.

Co-founder and chief executive officer Roolin Njotosetiadi told TechCrunch that about “40% of trucks are utilized in Indonesia, and the rest are either sitting idle or coming back from their hauls empty handed. All of these result in high logistics costs and late deliveries.”

She added that Logisly is “laser focused on having the largest trucking network in Indonesia, providing 100% availability of cost-efficient and reliable trucks.”

Logisly now works with more than 1,000 businesses in Indonesia in sectors like e-commerce, fast-moving consumer goods (FCG), chemicals and construction. This number includes 300 corporate shippers. Logisly’s Series A will be used on growing its network of shippers and transporters (which currently covers 40,000 trucks) and on product development.

The startup’s clients include some of the largest corporate shippers in Indonesia, including Unilever, Haier, Grab, Maersk and JD.ID, the Indonesian subsidiary of JD.com, one of China’s largest e-commerce companies.

Other venture capital-backed startups that are focused on Indonesia’s logistics industry include Shipper, which focuses on e-commerce; logistics platform Waresix; and Kargo.

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Uber Eats faces discrimination allegations over free delivery from Black-owned restaurants

Uber says it has received more than 8,500 demands for arbitration as a result of it ditching delivery fees for some Black-owned restaurants via Uber Eats.

Uber Eats made this change in June, following racial justice protests around the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man. Uber Eats said it wanted to make it easier for customers to support Black-owned businesses in the U.S. and Canada. To qualify, the restaurant must be a small or medium-sized business and, therefore, not part of a franchise. In contrast, delivery fees are still in place for other restaurants.

In one of these claims, viewed by TechCrunch, a customer alleges Uber Eats violates the Unruh civil Rights Act by “charging discriminatory delivery fees based on race (of the business owner).” That claim seeks $12,000 as well as a permanent injunction that would prevent Uber from continuing to offer free delivery from Black-owned restaurants.

“We’re proud to support black-owned businesses with this initiative, as we know they’ve disproportionately been impacted by the health crisis,” Uber spokesperson Meghan Casserly said in a statement to TechCrunch. “We heard loud and clear from consumers this was a feature they wanted—and we’ll continue to make it a priority.”

The website soliciting customers says eligible people can make up to $4,000 in compensation if they have paid a delivery fee in California since June 4, 2020.

The arbitration demands are not super surprising, given that Sen. Ted Cruz said he expected Uber to face discrimination lawsuits from restaurants without Black ownership.

It’s also worth noting that the representative for the customer listed in the complaint is Consovoy McCarthy, whose partners include President Donald Trump lawyer William Consovoy and others.

TechCrunch has reached out to Consovoy McCarthy and will update this story if we hear back.

These complaints are reminiscent of one Microsoft is facing, though not at as high of a level. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Labor essentially accused Microsoft of “reverse racism” (not a real thing) for committing to hire more Black people at its predominantly white company.

Meanwhile, this is just one of many legal battles Uber is facing these days. On the worker side of Uber’s business, a California appeals court judge recently upheld a ruling granting a preliminary injunction to force both Uber and Lyft to reclassify their workers as employees. However, that has yet to go into effect. That means all eyes are on Proposition 22, a California ballot measure backed by Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Instacart that seeks to keep gig workers classified as independent contractors.

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India’s WareIQ raises $1.65M for its Amazon-like delivery platform for sellers

Despite e-commerce firms Amazon and Walmart and others pouring billions of dollars in India, offline retail still commands more than 95% of all sales in the world’s second largest internet market.

The giants have acknowledged the strong hold neighborhood stores (mom and pop shops) have in the country, and in recent quarters scrambled for ways to work with them. Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man, has made the dynamics more interesting in the past year as he works to help these neighborhood stores sell online.

But the market opportunity is still too large, and there are many aspects of the old retail business that could use some tech. That’s the bet WareIQ, a Bangalore-headquartered, Y Combinator-backed startup is making. And it has just raised a $1.65 million Seed financing round from YC, FundersClub, Pioneer Fund, Soma Capital, Emles Venture Advisors, and founders of Flexport.

The one-year-old startup operates a platform to leverage the warehouses across the country. It has built a management system for these warehouses, most of which largely engage in offline business-to-business commerce and have had little to no prior e-commerce exposure.

“We connect these warehouses across India to our platform and utilize their infrastructure for e-commerce order processing,” said Harsh Vaidya, co-founder and chief executive of WareIQ, in an interview with TechCrunch. The company offers this as a service to retail businesses.

Who are these businesses? Third-party sellers, some of whom sell to Amazon and Flipkart and use WareIQ to speed up their delivery, e-commerce firms, social commerce platforms as well as neighborhood stores, and social media influencers.

Any online store, for instance, can send its products to WareIQ, which has integrations with several popular e-commerce platforms and marketplaces. It works with courier partners to move items from one warehouse to another to offer the fastest delivery, explained Vaidya.

The infrastructure stitched together by WareIQ also enables an online seller to set up their own store and engage with customers directly, thereby saving fees they would have paid to Amazon and other established e-commerce players.

“The sellers were not able do this on their own before because it required them to talk directly to warehousing companies that maintain their own rigid contracts, and high-security deposits, and they still needed to work with multiple technology providers to complete the tech-stack,” he said. WareIQ also offers these sellers last-mile delivery, cash collection, and fraud detection among several other services.

“In a way, we are building an open source Amazon fulfilment service, where any seller can send their goods to any of our warehouses and we fulfil their Amazon orders, Myntra orders, Flipkart orders, or their own website orders. We also comply with the standard of these individual marketplaces, so our sellers get a Prime tag on Amazon,” he said.

WareIQ is free for anyone to sign up with any charge and it takes a cut by the volume of orders it processes. The startup today works with over 40 fulfilment centres and it plans to deploy the fresh capital to expand its network to tier 2 and tier 3 cities, he said. It’s also hiring for a number of tech roles.

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