A display of computer coding sits on a glass panel in the Airbus SE Defence and Space CyberSecurity pavilion. (Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg)

Startup Street: The FreshMenu Hack And Why It Decided To Hide It From Customers

This week on Startup Street, we have food delivery service FreshMenu receiving backlash from its customers for not revealing an important detail. Cab-hailing services Ola and Uber have inspired its latest competitor. And the state of Assam is tying up with educational institutes to build a startup culture. Here’s what went on:

To Tell Or Not To Tell

If you've ordered a meal from food delivery service FreshMenu in the first two years of its launch, chances are that your data was leaked through the website.

In June 2016, the website suffered a data breach, according to website HaveIBeenPwned.com which has earlier revealed data breaches for Adobe, Forbes, Domino's and many more. The incident exposed personal data of over 1.1 lakh customers and included their names, email addresses, phone numbers, home addresses and order histories.

That, however, is not all.

“When advised of the incident, FreshMenu acknowledged being already aware of the breach but stated they had decided not to notify impacted customers,” HIBP said in a post on its website on Sept. 10.

FreshMenu soon came out with a post on its website, explaining and apologising for not revealing the breach.

“In that moment, we believe that since the breach was limited, we would focus on resolving the vulnerability and making sure that no further breaches happen. The stolen information comprised of names, email-ids and phone numbers. At no point during this time was information such as user passwords or payment related information, breached,” said founder Rashmi Daga.

I owe every user of FreshMenu a sincere apology for the breach and for not addressing this matter proactively.
Rashmi Daga, Founder, FreshMenu

After the 2016 breach, FreshMenu got in touch with AppSecure and white hat hacker Anand Prakash, to audit and strengthen its security systems, Daga said.

This jolt comes right after the four-year old startup lost a string of high level executives, as reported by TechCircle, including its chief business and technology officer Pradeep Desai, chief human resources officer Anita Menon and chief marketing officer Aparna Mahesh. Its director of new initiatives and chief product officer have also resigned from their positions.

The data breach incident has now led to fury from customers over social media.

Another Challenge To Ola, Uber?

Guwahati-based startup Wify Cab is entering India's highly competitve cab hailing industry to compete with giants like Ola and Uber. It even began its journey with a little jab on twitter. “Thank you Uber and Ola Cabs for inspiration,” it said.

The startup launched its brand on Friday, revealing its plan to begin operations across 98 smart cities across India.

“We are doing our market surveys now. We have already taken on board 2,000 cabs. The first service will be launched in Guwahati before Durga Puja,” Aspiring Ideas and Future TechSolutions Chief Executive Officer Mridul Das said, according to a PTI report.

The highlight of the app? No surge. Das said that Wify Cabs will only have one rate of Rs 5 per kilometer and will not have peak-time or night-time charges. The company is also tying up with various hospitals to provide similar ambulance services.

This, however, is not the first cab service in India with a no-surge policy. S3 Cab had earlier launched with a similar aim and policy in May 2018. Whether they do make a dent in Ola and Uber's market share while they are locked in a battle between themselves, is the question.

Wify Cabs has raised a seed capital of Rs 1.2 crore and plans to invest 8 percent of its profits into corporate social responsibility, Das said, “much higher than the mandates 2 percent. We will put in this money in constructing roads,” Das said.

Assam Wants To Develop Its Startup Culture

Industries and Commerce Department of Assam has inked a memorandum of understanding with the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, to boost the state's startup culture.

The management institute will help with the operation and maintenance of the state's startup incubation centre, PTI reported.

This came on the heels of a discussion held for the state's recently launched startup policy.

The department intends to tie up with educational institutions to form a pool which will become a reference point for the upcoming startups, it said in a statement. The institutions will also scrutinize the proposals for the department.

The state government plans to grant Rs 50 lakh per startup under the soon-to-be-launched incubation centre.