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Sunday,23-January-2022

Business

Uber India plans free doctor access, micro loans for drivers

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Global ride-hailing major Uber on Wednesday rolled out a driver rewards programme called “Uber Plus” in India that will let drivers earn points for rides so that they can win free doctor consultations, concessions on education modules, access to micro loans, faster airport pick ups and savings on vehicle maintenance costs.

These points will be earned by the driver partners in 13 cities over a fixed period of every three months and can be then accumulated to unlock higher rating tiers such as blue, gold, platinum and diamond which, in turn, will let them access better rewards, informed the company.

“Under the programme, the Uber drivers get access to four tiers. To unlock these awards, they need to maintain a certain threshold rating and keep a low cancellation rate to unlock access to these benefits,” Prabhjeet Singh, Head of Cities, Uber India and South Asia, told IANS.

“We have always worked towards prioritising their welfare and making them feel valued, respected and appreciated. ‘Uber Plus’ is an effort in that direction and will enable our driver partners to access greater benefits during their everyday journeys,” he added.

The rewards and offers are only available to drivers who use the Uber driver app, are participating in Uber Plus and meet applicable criteria.

Asked if this initiative will help in bringing down the number of cancellations, Singh replied: “We encourage riders to flag such cases if the driver cancels because the mode of payment is not cash, etc. That will help us take strict action against such drivers.

“We want to encourage behaviour which helps improve the marketplace reliability. Less the cancellation, the chances of the trip getting completed goes up and, overall, the network efficiency increases.”

An initial pilot phase was carried out in Delhi-NCR, Chandigarh and Mumbai and now, Uber Plus is being rolled out across 10 new cities, including Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Pune, Kochi, Guwahati and Jaipur.

“We also want to reward drivers who have lower cancellations,” said Uber.

Under the driver programme, Uber has partnered with “Ayushman Bharat” to provide access to free healthcare to its drivers, wherein they have access to free healthcare of up to Rs 500,000 in empanelled hospitals.

Business

IBM sells its Watson healthcare assets to Francisco Partners

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IBM has announced to sell healthcare data and analytics assets from the company (currently part of the IBM Watson Health business) to Francisco Partners, a leading global investment firm.

Although financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed but previous reports pegged the value at around $1 billion.

The assets acquired by Francisco Partners include extensive and diverse data sets and products, including Health Insights, MarketScan, Clinical Development, Social Program Management, Micromedex, and imaging software offerings.

The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of this year, IBM said in a statement late on Friday.

“The agreement with Francisco Partners is a clear next step as IBM becomes even more focused on our platform-based hybrid cloud and AI strategy,” said Tom Rosamilia, Senior Vice President, IBM Software.

“IBM remains committed to Watson, our broader AI business, and to the clients and partners we support in healthcare IT.”

Watson was one of IBM’s highest-profile initiatives in recent years and a big bet on the growing healthcare sector.

IBM currently has a market value of $108 billion, way behind its Cloud-computing rivals like Amazon and Microsoft.

In its fourth quarter, cognitive applications revenue, which includes Watson Health, came to $1.5 billion, a decrease of 2 per cent year over year.

IBM Watson was one of the “strategic imperatives” under former CEO Ginni Rometty.

“We have followed IBM’s journey in healthcare data and analytics for a number of years and have a deep appreciation for its portfolio of innovative healthcare products,” said Ezra Perlman, Co-President at Francisco Partners.

Under the terms of the agreement, the current management team will continue in similar roles in the new standalone company, serving existing clients in life sciences, provider, imaging, payer and employer, and government health and human services sectors.

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Confirm willingness to fund debt owned to lenders: FRL independent directors to Amazon

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 Future Retail’s independent directors have asked e-commerce giant Amazon if it is willing to fund Rs 3,500 crore to repay the retail company’s lenders.

Notably, the question to Amazon was posted after the e-commerce giant in an earlier letter to independent directors objected to the sale of Future Retail Ltd (FRL)’s small-format stores.

“FRL is in need for cash infusion urgently in order to repay its lenders. FRL is required to pay its lenders Rs 3,500 crore by January 29, failing which it will be classified as an NPA,” said the letter dated January 21.

“Since you are objecting to the sale of small-format sales, the proceeds of which were to be used to repay lenders and thereby avoid NPA classification, please confirm that you are willing to fund this amount by Monday through an unsecured, long-term loan, subordinated to FRL’s existing lenders or any other mutually suitable and legally acceptable structure.”

Besides, the letter to e-commerce giant said, “If you do so, FRL will use such funds in order to repay FRL’s existing lenders. Alternatively, you are also free to engage with the lenders so that we do not fall foul of our OTR process or obligations.”

Accordingly, the independent directors asked the e-commerce giant to provide the confirmations for such funds by January 22, 2022.

“Once you have provided these confirmations in writing and agree to infuse Rs 3,500 crore in order to repay FRL’s lenders by January 29, 2022, we would be happy to assess a detailed proposal and meet Amazon India Head Abhijeet Muzumdar.”

Furthermore, the letter asked Amazon, “Coming to the specific aspects of your proposal — we note that your letter refers to a potential transaction between Samara Capital and FRL as a ‘solution’.”

“In this regard, you are requested to confirm if Amazon can act on behalf of Samara Capital and has the authority to negotiate and finalise such transaction on its behalf.”

It asked Amazon to confirm the structure for the proposed transaction, and that the Manager of Samara Capital is owned-and-controlled by resident Indians.

“As you know, FRL is in the multi-brand retail sector and FDI in this sector is restricted. You are also aware that Amazon’s transaction in Future Coupons, has resulted in regulatory scrutiny, including by the Competition Commission of India, as well as enquiries by the Enforcement Directorate.”

“It is therefore critical that any investment being proposed is in compliance with all applicable laws, including FDI laws, CCI regulations and SEBI regulations, and that any such transaction should not raise further regulatory scrutiny.”

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Vodafone Idea’s net losses widen YoY in Q3FY22, ARPU improves sequentially

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Telecom service provider Vodafone Idea’s net losses widened year-on-year to Rs 7,230 crore during the Q3FY22.

In the same quarter last fiscal, it was Rs 4,532 crore. In Q2FY22, it was Rs 7,132 crore.

Revenue from operations during the quarter declined to Rs 9,717 from Rs 10,894 crore in the same period in the corresponding fiscal.

However, Average Revenue Per User during the quarter stood at Rs 115, as against Rs 109 in Q2FY22, an increase of 5.2 per cent quarter-on-quarter.

“We remain focused on executing our strategy to improve our competitive position and win in the marketplace. Separately, we have opted for upfront conversion of interest arising from deferment of spectrum and AGR dues into equity,” MD and CEO Ravinder Takkar said.

“Revenue for the quarter was Rs 97.2 billion, a quarter-on-quarter improvement of 3.3 per cent, aided by several tariff interventions including the recent tariff hikes taken by all operators in November 2021.”

The telecom company continued to invest in 4G to increase its coverage and capacity, it said in a statement.

“During the quarter, we added 4,000 4G FDD sites primarily through refarming of 2G/3G spectrum to expand our 4G coverage and capacity as well as continued to upgrade our core and transmission network,” the company said.

In late November 2021, Vofafone Idea, along with Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio, raised tariffs on prepaid customers by around 20 per cent.

The upward revision in tariffs helped Vodafone Idea in increasing its ARPU by five per cent in Q3FY22, it said.

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