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Startup Street: Google’s First Indian Acquisition Is A 4-Month Old Startup

This week on Startup Street, Google acquires an AI-based startup which wants to solve “old problems” in India. Big data analytics finds cheaper alternatives to Bengaluru and Mumbai for startups. And find out who is in the running for Uber’s top job!

Google Acquires Bengaluru-based Halli Labs

Google has acquired Halli Labs, a 4-month old artificial intelligence startup, as the internet giant pushes its "AI-first" approach to get the "next billion users" from India.

Halli Labs is joining Google with a goal of applying modern machine learning techniques to "old problems and domains", the startup said in a blog post on Medium. The acquisition was later confirmed by Caeser Sengupta, vice-president of product management at Google, in a twitter post.

This is Google’s first acquisition in India. The deal value has not been disclosed.

Little is known about the young startup except that its founder and CEO, Pankaj Gupta, was the former chief technology and product officer of the now defunct Stayzilla. He also did a five-year stint at Twitter, working on personalisation and recommendation engines for the social media platform.

Halli Labs will be joining Google's Next Billion Users team, which is part of its bet to expand its services to non-English speaking users from India. Such users, according to a study it co-authored with KPMG, will form nine out of the ten new internet users coming online.

Google has increasingly emphasised how important AI and machine learning is to them. While announcing parent Alphabet Inc's earnings in April, chief executive Sundar Pichai had said "We're transitioning to an AI-first company". Google has acquired at least 11 AI-focussed startups since 2012, the most of any firm, according to a CB Insights report published in May.

Gupta has refrained from giving any more additional information as of now, but it will be interesting to see where Halli Labs fits into Google's future plans.

Pune And Chennai - Cheaper Alternatives For Startups?

India's startup ecosystem is largely concentrated in three cities -- Bengaluru, Mumbai and the Delhi-NCR region. However, finding talent in Pune and Chennai is cheaper when compared to those cities, a recent report by AI-based professional recruitment platform Cutshort.io showed.

The average salary of technology jobs is 30 percent cheaper in Pune, and 22 percent cheaper in Chennai, when compared to Bengaluru, according to the report.

The report was compiled using big data analytics and after surveying over 50,000 users from over 11,000 companies.

Even non-technology jobs are cheaper in Pune and Chennai.

Cutshort.io Yes, there is less availability of top talent in these two cities, but the costs are 30 percent lower with lower rates of attrition. If you’re bootstrapping or running a services startup, perhaps you should be looking at these two cities?

The report added that Bengaluru was the highest paying city for startup employees, followed by Delhi-NCR and then Mumbai.

The data also suggested that e-commerce startups and fintech startups paid higher salaries than other startup segments in the last twelve months.

Nikesh Arora Eyeing Uber Top Job, NYT Reports

Former president for the Softbank Group Nikesh Arora is among the names said to be in consideration for replacing Travis Kalanick as the CEO of Uber, the New York Times reported citing multiple anonymous sources.

The ride hailing startup has got a "flood of interest" and the board has already interviewed multiple candidates, according to the report.

File photo of Nikesh Arora and Masayoshi Son in Sun Valley, Idaho, U.S. (Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

Arora had surprisingly stepped down from Softbank last year even when he was being touted as the apparent heir to Masayoshi Son's multi-billion empire. During his time at the Japanese internet giant, Arora had became one of the highest paid executives in the world.

Uber, the world's most valued startup, is looking to reform after reports of a toxic work culture and a string of scandals resulted in a host of top executives leaving the company.

The NYT report said that Youtube head Susan Wojcicki, Twitter's former COO, Adam Bain and former Yahoo chief Marissa Mayer are the other the executives being considered.

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