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July, 2019

Didi Chuxing and oil giant BP team up to build electric vehicle charging infrastructure in China

Ride-sharing and transportation platform Didi Chuxing announced today that it has formed a joint venture with BP, the British gas, oil and energy supermajor. to build electric vehicle charging infrastructure in China. The charging stations will be available to Didi and non-Didi drivers.

The news of Didi and BP’s joint venture comes one week after Didi announced that it had received funding totaling $600 million from Toyota Motor Corporation. As part of that deal, Didi and Toyota Motor set up a joint venture with GAC Toyota Motor to provide vehicle-related services to Didi drivers.

BP’s first charging site in Guangzhou has already been connected to XAS (Xiaoju Automobile Solutions), which Didi spun out in April 2018 to put all its vehicle-related services into one platform.

XAS is part of Didi Chuxing’s evolution from a ride-sharing company to a mobility services platform, with its services available to other car, transportation and logistics companies. In June, Didi also opened its ride-sharing platform to other companies, enabling its users to request rides from third-party providers in a bid to better compete with apps like Meituan Dianping and AutoNavi, which aggregate several ride-hailing services on their platforms.

Didi says it now offers ride-sharing, vehicle rental and delivery services to 550 million users and covers 1,000 cities through partnerships with Grab, Lyft, Ola, 99 and Bolt (Taxify). The company also claims to be the world’s largest electric vehicle operator with more than 600,000 EVs on its platform.

It also has partnerships with automakers and other car-related companies like Toyota, FAW, Dongfeng, GAC, Volkswagen and Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi to collaborate on a platform that uses new energy, AI-based and mobility technologies.

In a press statement, Tufan Erginbilgic, the CEO of BP’s Downstream business, said “As the world’s largest EV market, China offers extraordinary opportunities to develop innovative new businesses at scale and we see this as the perfect partnership for such a fast-evolving environment. The lessons we learn here will help us further expand BP’s advanced mobility business worldwide, helping drive the energy transition and develop solutions for a low carbon world.”

Education software maker Pearson says data breach affected thousands of accounts in the U.S.

Pearson, the London-based educational software maker, said today that thousands of school and university accounts, mostly in the United States, were affected by a data breach. The company added that it has notified affected users already and that the vulnerability has been fixed.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the data breach happened in November 2018 and Pearson was notified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in March. The perpetrator is still unknown.

According to Pearson, unauthorized access was gained to 13,000 school and university accounts on AIMSweb, the company’s student monitoring and assessment platform. The data exposed included first and last names and, in some cases, date of birth and email addresses. Each account could potentially include information about thousands of students.

Pearson added that it has no evidence that any of the exposed information was misused. It will offer free credit monitoring services to affected users as a “precautionary measure.”

News of Pearson’s data breach comes the same week that Capital One disclosed a massive cyber attack that exposed sensitive information for about 100 million people in the U.S. and 6 million in Canada.

Rebel Foods, which operates more than 235 ‘internet restaurants’ in India, quietly raised $125 million this month

In May, venture capitalist Michael Moritz of Sequoia Capital warned in a Financial Times column that Amazon’s recent $575 million investment in the London-based delivery service Deliveroo could prove ominous for local restaurants. Wrote Moritz: “Amazon is now one step away from becoming a multi-brand restaurant company — and that could mean doomsday for many dining haunts.”

Moritz was right to attract more attention to the deal. Deliveroo has begun operating shared kitchens from which it will not simply transport food to customers but eventually prepare it, too. His warning may even have played a role in this recent decision of Britain’s competition regulator to halt work on Amazon’s investment so it can first investigate whether the deal poses competitive concerns.

Moritz knows the playbook because of Sequoia’s early investment in Rebel Foods, formerly known as Faasos, a once-small Pune, India-based company that now prepares a variety of foods in its cloud kitchens. As he says in the same column, Faasos largely pioneered the trend. Still, the growth of the nine-year-old company is a bit breathtaking.

According to Bloomberg, Rebel — which this month raised $125 million in fresh capital from the Indonesian delivery service Go-jek, Coatue Management, and Goldman Sachs — now operates 235 kitchens across 20 Indian cities. And it’s processing two million orders a month. (It calls itself the “world’s largest internet restaurant company.”)

It began life as a chain of kebab restaurants, but that original concept, Faasos, is now just one of eight other brands that Rebel operates, including a tea brand called Kettle & Kegs, a Chinese concept called Mandarin Oak; a pizza brand called Oven Story; and a brand called Behrouz through which it makes and sells slow-cooked rice dishes known as biryani.

Most people ordering food might think each is individually operated and run; they aren’t.

Rebel Foods isn’t the only fast-moving operator using cloud kitchens to offer every kind of cuisine imaginable under one roof.

The company — which tells Bloomberg it is now valued at $525 million — has plenty of competitors, including UberEats and the food delivery company Zomato, which itself has plans to open more than 100 cloud kitchens by the end of this year.

Zomato says it isn’t getting into the food preparation business — yet — but rather renting out facilities, kitchen equipment, and software to restaurants.

Little wonder that Rebel is racing headlong into new markets as fast as it can. According to Bloomberg, the company is now planning to build 100 cloud kitchens in Indonesia over the next 18 months with Go-Jek’s help. It also plans to open 20 cloud kitchen facilities in the United Arab Emirates by December.

Rebel was founded by Jaydeep Barman, a native of Mumbai with an MBA from INSEAD who spent nearly four years with McKinsey before joining forces with business school classmate Kallol Banerjee to launch Faasos.

Despite raising money early on from Sequoia, the company was once at risk of going out of business, in part owing to high rents and employee turnover. But as Moritz tells it, things turned around dramatically when the duo closed their restaurants and opened their first centralized kitchen.

In fact, today, the company tells Bloomberg, the entire operation runs the equivalent of 1,600 restaurants.