India proposes tougher e-commerce rules to address ‘widespread cheating’ complaints

India proposed on Monday banning flash sales on e-commerce platforms and preventing their affiliate entities from being listed as sellers as the South Asian market looks to further tighten rules that could hurt the future prospects of Amazon and Walmart’s Flipkart in the world’s second largest market.

The proposal, unveiled by India’s Ministry of Consumer Affairs on Monday evening, comes at a time when brick-and-mortar retailers in India have ramped up their complaints to raise concerns about the what they allege as unfair practices employed by Amazon and Flipkart as they expand their operations in the country.

In its proposal, India’s Ministry of Consumer Affairs said that e-commerce firms should not be allowed to hold flash sales that are very popular during festive season in the country. During flash sales, which are akin to Amazon’s Prime Day, e-commerce firms see some of their biggest spikes in customer orders as brands offer heavy discounts on their products.

“Certain e-commerce entities are engaging in limiting consumer choice by indulging in ‘back to back’ or ‘flash’ sales wherein one seller selling on platform does not carry any inventory or order fulfilment capability but merely places a ‘flash or back to back’ order with another seller controlled by platform. This prevents a level playing field and ultimately limits customer choice and increases prices,” the ministry said in a statement.

As it has done with its recent IT rules, India is also proposing that e-commerce firms appoint Chief Compliance Officer, a nodal contact person for 24×7 coordination with law enforcement agencies, officers to ensure compliance to their orders and Resident Grievance Officer for redressing of the grievances of the consumers on the e-commerce platform.

“This would ensure effective compliance with the provisions of the Act and Rules and also strengthen the grievance redressal mechanism on e-commerce entities,” the ministry said.

Amazon said it was reviewing the proposed policies while Flipkart had no immediate comment.

In a court hearing on Monday, a Flipkart lawyer said the company sees nothing wrong in offering to cut charges for sellers on its platform if they lower product prices.

The ministry said it is making the proposal, for which it plans to seek industry feedback over the next 15 days, after receiving “several complaints against widespread cheating and unfair trade practices being observed in e-commerce ecosystem.”

Additionally, the new proposal asks e-commerce firms to introduce a mechanism to identify goods on their platforms based on country of origin and suggest alternatives to “ensure fair opportunity to domestic goods.”

The announcement comes at a time when Flipkart is in talks to raise as much as $3 billion and explore the public markets. Both Amazon and Flipkart are also the subject of an ongoing antitrust probe in India.

This is a developing story. More to follow…

#amazon, #amazon-india, #asia, #ecommerce, #flipkart, #india, #walmart

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Equity Monday: Jeff’s going to space, and everyone wants a piece of Flipkart

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This is Equity Monday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest private market news, talks about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here and myself here.

It’s WWDC week, so expect a deluge of Apple news to overtake your Twitter feed here and there over the next few days. But there’s a lot more going on, so let’s dig in:

And that’s your start to the week. More to come from your friends here on Wednesday, and Friday. Chat soon!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 AM PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#amazon, #china, #ecommerce, #elon-musk, #equity, #equity-podcast, #flipkart, #fundings-exits, #jeff-bezos, #kanzhun, #nigeria, #social-media, #space, #startups, #tesla, #trulioo, #twitter, #wwdc

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Walmart’s Flipkart to cover insurance for all sellers in India and waive additional fees

Walmart-owned Flipkart is exempting storage and cancellation fees for sellers on its marketplace and also providing them with insurance coverage as the top e-commerce platform in India looks to maintain cordial relationships with more than 300,000 sellers who are facing severe disruption amid an unprecedented rise in the spread of coronavirus infections in the South Asian nation.

The Bangalore-headquartered firm said Friday evening that it is exempting storage fees to sellers who use the company’s fulfilment centres, and also waiving off the cancellation fees until the end of the month. (Several Indian states, as they did during the first wave of the virus, have imposed restrictions on sale and delivery of non-essential items.)

Flipkart will bear 100% premium of COVID insurance to all sellers that transact on the platform, covering any hospitalization and consultation fees between 50,000 Indian rupees ($685) to 300,000 Indian rupees ($4095).

The news today comes a week after Amazon, Flipkart’s chief rival in India, announced it was waiving 50% of the referral fee sellers are required to pay the e-commerce firm for this month, though not all sellers are qualified to avail this benefit. (The company said earlier this week that it was also postponing Prime Day in India and Canada due to the growing cases of the infection.)

Flipkart said it is also making it easier for sellers to access working capital from the firm without any incremental cost, though it did not specify the steps it had made.

It is also extending the window for the Seller Protection Fund to 30 days (from 14) to make claims on returned products. Flipkart said it will also ease its policies and performance metrics to ensure that they are not impacted by state-led lockdowns.

Flipkart, which as of last year was working to go public this year, said it has partnered with Vriddhi, Walmart’s Supplier Development Program in India, to organize webinars for small businesses to share best practices to ensure safety of workforce and provide insights to stay afloat amid the crisis.

“Through these testing times it is our constant effort to support our seller partners who face immense operational challenges as a result of the pandemic. As a democratic marketplace, we want to ensure that our lakhs [hundreds of thousands] of seller partners are able to continue operations and keep the economic engine running,” said Jagjeet Harode, senior director and head of Marketplace at Flipkart, in a statement.

“With them and their family’s financial and health safety in mind, we have rolled out these initiatives that will bring them the much-needed respite to keep their businesses active.”

India has been reporting over 400,00 daily infections this week, more than any other nation, as the world’s second-most populated nation struggles to contain the second wave of the virus. Scores of firms, startups, investors and people alike are uniting to help the nation fight the virus, which has severely impacted the healthcare facilities.

#amazon, #amazon-india, #asia, #coronavirus, #ecommerce, #flipkart, #walmart

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India’s ElasticRun raises $75 million to grow its commerce platform for neighborhood stores

A startup that is helping over 125,000 neighborhood stores in India secure working capital, inventory from top brands, and work with e-commerce firms to boost revenues said on Thursday it has raised a new financing round as it looks to further its reach in the world’s second largest internet market.

Pune-based ElasticRun said it has raised $75 million in its Series D financing round co-led by existing investors Avataar Ventures and Prosus Ventures. Existing investor Kalaari Capital also participated in the round, which takes the four-year-old startup’s to-date raise to $130.5 million.

Millions of neighborhood stores that dot large and small cities, towns and villages in India and have proven tough to beat for e-commerce giants and super-chain retailers are at the center of a new play in the country.

A score of e-commerce companies, offline retail chains and fintech startups are now racing to work with these mom and pop stores as they look to tap a massive untapped opportunity.

Screen Shot 2019 10 30 at 2.18.53 PM

Sandeep Deshmukh, co-founder and CEO of ElasticRun, talking about the startup’s business at a conference in 2019.

ElasticRun helps merchants operating these stores, who typically have to spend a few days a month visiting bigger cities to secure inventory, get reliable and more affordable goods directly from big brands. (Big brands love this because this enables them to significantly expand their reach.)

These store owners also spend a number of hours a day not doing much when the business is slow. ElasticRun is also addressing this by partnering with some of the biggest e-commerce firms including Amazon and Flipkart to utilize this workforce to make deliveries to customers. (E-commerce firms find value in this because neighborhood stores have a larger presence in the country, can reach a customer much faster, and also often have their own inventory.)

Ashutosh Sharma, Head of Investments for India at Prosus Ventures, told TechCrunch that ElasticRun has built a variable capacity, crowdsourced delivery model, which distinguishes the startup from other players in the market that have a fixed number of people on payrolls making these deliveries. He said as the startup has developed the railroads, a number of new opportunities has unlocked.

One such opportunity is providing working capital to these neighborhood stores. Their operators typically don’t have savings, and need to sell the existing inventory to secure funds to refill the stock. In recent years, ElasticRun has struck partnerships with banks and NBFCs to provide credit to these merchants.

ElasticRun today operates in over 300 cities in nearly all Indian states. The startup works with over 125,000 neighborhood stores, and plans to expand to reach 1 million in 18 to 24 months, said Shitiz Bansal, co-founder and chief technology officer of ElasticRun, in an interview with TechCrunch.

The startup’s current run rate is about $350 million, a figure it plans to grow to over $1 billion in the next 12 months, he said.

Saurabh Nigam, co-founder and chief operating officer, said the new financing round has also enabled the startup to offer early employees access to “tangible benefits” of the firm’s growth over the last five years.

#amazon, #asia, #ecommerce, #elasticrun, #finance, #flipkart, #found, #india, #prosus-ventures

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Flipkart to acquire online travel firm Cleartrip

Flipkart said on Thursday it has agreed to acquire online travel and hotel ticketing firm Cleartrip as the Walmart-owned e-commerce firm looks to expand its offerings in the world’s second largest internet market.

The deal values 14-year-old Cleartrip, which raised about $74 million prior to the acquisition, at about $40 million, a person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. The distress sale comes as Cleartrip, like most other travel firms, faces unprecedented stress amid the global pandemic that has severely slowed down people’s appetite to move around.

Indian news outlet MoneyControl reported about the two companies exploring the deal last month.

Cleartrip raised about $74 million prior to selling to Flipkart for $40 million. (Data: Tracxn)

Cleartrip is also a partner of Amazon in India, powering the ticketing engine for the American e-commerce group. The two firms inked a deal in 2019. TechCrunch asked Amazon earlier this week if it was aware and fine with its vendor partner exploring a buyout deal with Flipkart. The American e-commerce firm, which is currently fighting a court battle to block its estranged Indian partner Future Group from selling business to Reliance Retail, did not respond.

Cleartrip will continue to operate as a separate brand, retaining all employees while working closely with Flipkart to “further develop technology solutions to make travel simple for customers,” the two companies said today.

Flipkart has been rumored to be working on introducing flight tickets purchase feature on its marketplace for over a year.

“The Flipkart Group is committed to transforming customer experiences through digital commerce. Cleartrip is synonymous with travel for many customers, and as we diversify and look at new areas of growth, this investment will help strengthen our wide range of offerings for customers. We welcome the Cleartrip team with their deep industry knowledge and technology capabilities to the Flipkart Group and look forward to providing deeper value and travel experiences for customers together,” said Kalyan Krishnamurthy, CEO of Flipkart Group, in a statement.

#apps, #asia, #cleartrip, #flipkart, #fundings-exits

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Tiger Global leads $100 million investment in Indian social commerce DealShare

Tiger Global has invested in DealShare, a startup in India that has built an e-commerce platform for middle- and lower-income groups of consumers, just three months after the Indian firm concluded its previous $21 million Series C funding round.

The New York-headquartered firm has led the $100 million Series D round in three-year-old social commerce startup DealShare, two people familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. Tiger Global declined to comment, and a founder of the Indian startup didn’t return an email sent on Sunday.

DealShare kickstarted its journey the day Walmart acquired Flipkart, the startup’s founder and chief executive Vineet Rao said at a virtual conference late last year. Rao said that even as Amazon and Flipkart had been able to create a market for themselves in the urban Indian cities, much of the nation was still underserved. There was an opportunity for someone to jump in, he said.

The startup began as an e-commerce platform on WhatsApp, where it offered hundreds of products to consumers. It didn’t take long before a major consumer spending pattern was visible, Rao said. People were only interested in buying items that were selling at discounted rates, said Rao.

Over time, that idea has become part of DealShare’s core offering. Today it incentivizes consumers — by offering them discounts and cashbacks — to share deals on products with their friends. The startup, which has since launched its own app and website, now operates in over two dozen cities in India.

Consumers wanted products that were relevant to them and they wanted to buy these items at a price that instilled the most value for their bucks, said Rao. “We focused on locally produced items instead of national brands. Even today, 80% to 90% of items we sell are locally produced,” he said.

How DealShare model works. Image Credits: Bain & Company

Amazon and Flipkart have captured less than 3% of the retail market in India, leaving room for firms to explore other models. Social commerce is one of the bets we’re seeing being played out in India. The other bet gaining traction is digitizing neighborhood stores in the country — without so much of the social element — that dot tens of thousands of towns, cities and villages in India.

The investment comes as Tiger Global looks to close over two dozen deals in India this year, TechCrunch reported on Monday. Tiger Global, which recently closed a $6.7 billion fund, last week led investments in social network ShareChat, business messaging platform Gupshup, and investment app Groww, and participated in fintech app CRED’s round, helping all of these startups attain the much sought-after unicorn status.

Meesho, the market leading social commerce in India, also turned a unicorn last week after SoftBank led a $300 million round in the Indian firm, valuing it at $2.1 billion.

DealShare counts WestBridge, Falcon Edge Capital’s Alpha Wave, Z3Partners, and Omidyar Network among its investors.

#apps, #asia, #dealshare, #ecommerce, #flipkart, #funding, #tiger-global

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Walmart’s Flipkart to deploy over 25,000 electric vehicles in India by 2030

India’s Flipkart said on Wednesday it will deploy more than 25,000 electric vehicles in its supply chain by 2030 as the Walmart-owned e-commerce giant looks to achieve a 100% transition to electric mobility in the next 10 years.

The Bangalore-headquartered firm said it has partnered with leading EV makers including Hero Electric, Mahindra Electric, and Piaggio to build vehicles for its first and last mile delivery fleets across the country.

The announcement comes a day after rival Amazon said it had partnered with Mahindra Electric to develop “close to hundred” electric three-wheeler in India. The American e-commerce giant last year pledged to deploy 10,000 electric vehicles in the country by 2025.

Flipkart said its electric fleet will include two-wheeler, three-wheeler, and four-wheeler vehicles, all of which will be designed and assembled in India. The company said it has already started to pilot two-wheeler and three-wheeler electric vehicles in “multiple locations” in India including Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Guwahati.

In recent years, New Delhi has pushed to replace gasoline and diesel vehicles in India with environmentally friendly electric vehicles. Reuters reported in 2019 that the Indian government was planning to order ride-hailing firms such as Ola and Uber to convert 40% of their fleets to electric by April 2026.

“Electrification of the logistics fleet is a key part of Flipkart’s larger sustainability goal and in line with our commitment to the Climate Group’s EV100 initiative,” said Amitesh Jha, SVP of Ekart and Marketplace at Flipkart, in a statement.

“In this journey of making our logistics fleet completely electric by 2030, we will collaborate and work with leading local players to procure and deploy electric vehicles while supporting the required infrastructure growth. We understand the relevance of electric mobility in achieving both business and sustainability goals and are committed to paving the way for greater adoption of EVs across the country,” he added.

The company said over the past year it has worked to create a network of ecosystem partners across charging providers, skill development agencies, aggregators, and original equipment manufacturers.

The company, which is expected to publicly list later this year, identified three models that will feature in its electric vehicles fleet: Nyx series by Hero Electric, which offers extended driving range of up to 150 kilometers (93.2 miles) per charge; Treo Zor by Mahindra Electric, which features “highest-in-class payload of 550kg (1212.5 pounds)”; and Ape’ E Xtra FX by Piaggio.

#amazon, #amazon-india, #asia, #flipkart, #piaggio, #transportation, #walmart

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India lifts restrictions on mapping and surveying to help local firms

India said on Monday local firms will no longer need license or other permission to collect, generate, store and share geospatial data of the country, bringing sweeping changes to its earlier stance that it admitted hindered innovation.

Until now, New Delhi required Indian firms to seek licenses and additional approvals to create and publish topographical data. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today’s “deregulation” step will help the country become more self-reliant and reach its $5 trillion GDP goal.

“The regulations that apply to geospatial data and maps henceforth stand radically liberalised. The Department of Science and Technology is announcing sweeping changes to India’s mapping policy, specifically for Indian companies. What is readily available globally does not need to be restricted in India and therefore geospatial data that used to be restricted will now be freely available in India,” New Delhi said in a statement.

In its guidelines, New Delhi said local firms will be permitted access to “ground truthing/verification” that includes access to Indian ground stations and augmentation services for real-time positioning. Indian firms will also be provided access to terrestrial mobile mapping survey, street view survey and surveying in Indian territorial waters.

New Delhi said in the guidelines that only Indian firms shall be permitted access to the aforementioned surveys. Google has previously made unsuccessful attempts to launch its Street View service in India. A Google spokesperson told TechCrunch that the company was reviewing the guidelines and had no immediate comment to offer.

“Foreign companies and foreign owned or controlled Indian companies can license from Indian Entities digital Maps/Geospatial Data of spatial accuracy/value finer than the threshold value only for the purpose of serving their customers in India. Access to such Maps/Geospatial Data shall only be made available through APIs that do not allow Maps/Geospatial Data to pass through Licensee Company or its servers. Re-use or resale of such map data by licensees shall be prohibited,” the guidelines added.

Devdatta Tengshe, who works in the GIS space, told TechCrunch that the government’s move today was significant for the local ecosystem including citizens as previous restrictions had created an uncertainty on what precisely was permitted.

“Today’s announcement makes it explicitly clear that Indian entities can perform any location data collection and we can collect data on our own,” he said. “Additionally, the location data from agencies like municipality will be made available to Indian entities.”

Flipkart-backed 25-year-old firm MapMyIndia said today’s move by the government is “historic” as it opens up maps and the geospatial sector and ushers the self-reliance era in “strategic areas of maps to empower all 1.3 billion Indians and give unprecedented opportunities and growth for Indian companies.”

Modi said: “The reforms will unlock tremendous opportunities for our country’s start-ups, private sector, public sector and research institutions to drive innovations and build scalable solutions. India’s farmers will also be benefited by leveraging the potential of geo-spatial & remote sensing data. Democratizing data will enable the rise of new technologies & platforms that will drive efficiencies in agriculture and allied sectors. These reforms demonstrate our commitment to improving ease of doing business in India by deregulation.”

#asia, #flipkart, #google, #google-maps, #government, #india, #mapmyindia

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Forget winning, can Amazon survive in India?

During a visit to India in 2014, Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos made a splashy announcement: His firm was investing $2 billion in the South Asian nation, just a year after beginning operations in the country.

Amazon’s announcement underscored how far India had come to open up to foreign firms. The nation, which had largely kept doors shut to international giants between its independence in 1947 to liberalization in 1991, has slowly transformed itself into the world’s largest open market.

In a televised interview in 2014, Bezos said that there was a perception about India not being an easy place to do business. But Amazon’s growth in the country, he said, was proof that this belief is not accurate.

“Are there obstacles? There are always obstacles. Anywhere you go, every country has its own regulations and rules,” he said.

Six years, and more than $4.5 billion of additional investments later, Amazon today appears to be facing more obstacles than ever in India, the second-largest internet market with more than 600 million users.

Long-standing laws in India have constrained Amazon, which has yet to turn a profit in the country, and other e-commerce firms to not hold inventory or sell items directly to consumers. To bypass this, firms have operated through a maze of joint ventures with local companies that operate as inventory-holding firms.

India got around to fixing this loophole in late 2018 in a move that was widely seen as the biggest blowback to the American firm in the country at the time. Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart scrambled to delist hundreds of thousands of items from their stores and made their investments in affiliated firms way more indirect.

Now the nation is set to further toughen this approach. Reuters reported last week that New Delhi is considering making adjustments to some provisions that would prevent affiliated firms to hold even an indirect stake in a seller through their parent.

The Confederation of All India Traders, an Indian trade body that claims to represent over 80 million businesses, told the publication that Indian Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal has assured the organization that it is working to shortly address concerns about alleged violations of current rules.

The forthcoming policy change is only one of the many headaches for the world’s largest e-commerce firm in India.

Offline retailers in India have long expressed concerns about what they allege to be unfair practices employed by Amazon in India. Last year, during Bezos’ visit to the country, they held several protests. (Photo by SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP via Getty Images)

Amazon is aggressively fighting a battle to block a deal between its estranged partner Future Group and Reliance Retail, the two largest retail chains in India.

Last year, Future Group announced that it would sell its retail, wholesale, logistics and warehousing businesses to Reliance Retail for $3.4 billion. Amazon, which in 2019 bought stakes in one of Future Group’s unlisted firms, says that the Indian firm has breached its contract (which would have given Amazon the right to first refusal) and engaged in insider trading.

Despite technology giants and investors ploughing more than $20 billion to create an e-commerce market in India in the past decade, online retail still accounts for only a single-digit pie of all retail in the country.

In recent years, Amazon, Walmart and scores of other startups have embraced this realization and sought to work with neighborhood stores that dot tens of thousands of cities, towns and villages in India.

With Reliance Retail and telecom giant Jio Platforms, two subsidiaries of one of India’s largest corporates (Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries) entering the e-commerce market, and receiving the backing of global giants including Facebook and Google last year, cornering a big stake in Future Group is one of the few ways Amazon can accelerate its growth in India.

The American e-commerce firm has had little luck so far in overturning the deal between the Indian firms. Last year, Amazon reached out to Indian antitrust body Competition Commission of India, and market regulator SEBI to block this transaction. Both the bodies have ruled in favor of Future Group and Reliance Retail.

Amazon must have foreseen this outcome because it initiated the legal proceedings at an arbitration court in Singapore. It’s no surprise that the firm chose to also pursue its legal argument outside of India.

Most cases that reach the Singapore International Arbitration Court have come from India in recent years. Vodafone, which has invested more than $20 billion in India, and has been dealt with billions of dollars in unpaid taxes by the country, is another high-profile name to have knocked on the door in Singapore. After losing in India, it emerged victorious in the Singapore arbitration court last year.

Amazon on Monday filed a new petition in Delhi High Court in which it is seeking to enforce SIAC’s ruling (which ordered last year that the deal should be temporarily halted) and prevent the Indian firm from going ahead with the deal based on CCI and SEBI’s judgements.

The company alleges that Future Group “deliberately and maliciously” disobeyed the international arbitration ruling from SIAC. In its petition, Amazon is also seeking detention of Kishore Biyani, the founder and chairman of Future Group.

“Vocal for Local”

As India grappled with containing the spread of the coronavirus last year, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the 1.3 billion citizens to make the country “self-reliant” and “be vocal for local.”

The move to turn inwards contrasts with his major promise in the first few years of assuming power in 2014 when he pledged to make India more welcoming to foreign firms than before. In recent years, India has proposed or enforced several regulations that hurt American firms, though none appear to suffer as much as Amazon.

Last year, New Delhi started to enforce a 2% tax on all foreign billings for digital services provided in the country. The U.S. Trade Representative said earlier this month that India was taxing numerous categories of digital services that are “not leviable under other digital services taxes adopted around the world.”

The aggregate tax bill for U.S. companies could exceed $30 million per year in India, USTR’s investigation found. In conclusion, it found India’s digital tax move to be inconsistent with international tax principles, unreasonable and burdening or restricting U.S. commerce.

Modi’s new way of life for India will be music to the ears of Mukesh Ambani, the chairman of Reliance Industries, an ally of the prime minister and India’s richest man.

Before selling stakes worth over $20 billion in Jio Platforms and more than $6 billion in Reliance Retail to marquee foreign investors, Ambani famously made a speech in 2019 in which he urged the need to protect Indians’ data in patriotic terms.

“We have to collectively launch a new movement against data colonization. For India to succeed in this data-driven revolution, we will have to migrate the control and ownership of Indian data back to India — in other words, Indian wealth back to every Indian,” he said.

Why so many international firms have invested in one of Reliance’s properties remains a big question. A senior executive at an American firm told TechCrunch on the condition of anonymity (out of fear of retribution) that the investments in Jio Platforms, which is India’s largest telecom network with nearly 410 million subscribers, and Reliance Retail is a déjà vu moment for the nation, where a few decades ago one of the only ways to do business in the nation was to partner with a local firm with massive political clout.

In a series of tweets, Raman Chima, a former policy executive at Google and who now works at nonprofit digital advocacy group Access Now, alleged that the Android-maker had weighed in 2011-12 partnering and investing in a firm like Reliance to “turn-the-page on Indian political risks.”

The idea prompted concerns about Google’s values, he claimed. “More than one executive involved in those discussions flagged concerns around Reliance’s reputation, particularly around problematic approaches towards gaining influence with policymaking civil servants and politicians, money, ethics in govt-business relationships.”

Amazon itself was rumored to be interested in getting a multi-billion-dollar stake in Reliance Retail last year, but it appears the two firms have stopped engaging on any matter.

BJP MLA Ram Kadam and his party workers protest against the Amazon Prime web series Tandav outside Bandra-Kurla Police station, on January 18, 2021 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Pratik Chorge/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

While Amazon sorts out these issues, last week delivered another blow to the firm. A senior executive with the firm as well as Indian makers of a mini-series for Amazon Prime Video are under threat of criminal prosecution in the country after Modi’s ruling party deemed the show offensive to the country’s Hindu majority.

A Hindu nationalist group, politicians with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, and a BJP group representing members of India’s lower castes, were among those who had filed police reports against the nine-part mini-series “Tandav” and Amazon. The company bowed to the pressure and edited out some scenes.

“The true reason for the complaints against ‘Tandav’ may be that the show holds up a mirror uncomfortably close to Indian society and some of the problems blamed on Mr. Modi’s administration. In the opening episode, the show features protesting students and disgruntled farmers, echoing events that have taken place in recent months,” The New York Times wrote.

“Mirzapur,” another show of Amazon, also attracted a criminal complaint in India last week for hurting religious and regional sentiments and defaming the Indian town. The Indian Supreme Court has issued notices to the makers of “Mirzapur” and has sought responses.

In the aforementioned interview, Bezos said Amazon’s job was to follow all the unique rules various countries require it to comply with and “adapt our business practice to those rules.”

In India, the company is increasingly being asked how far it is willing to adapt its business practice. How far is it willing to bend that it’s no longer the Amazon people cared for.

#amazon, #amazon-india, #amazon-prime-video, #apps, #asia, #ecommerce, #entertainment, #flipkart, #government, #india, #jio-platforms, #reliance-industries, #reliance-jio, #reliance-retail, #walmart

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Flipkart doubles down on rewards program, partners with 5,000 retail outlets in India

Flipkart on Monday launched SuperCoin Pay that its customers will be able to use across thousands of retail stores across the country as Walmart-owned e-commerce giant bets on its loyalty program to win and sustain its user base in the world’s second largest internet market.

The Bangalore-headquartered e-commerce giant said it had partnered with over 5,000 retail outlets including TimesPoints, Peter England, Cafe Coffee Day and Flying Machine across India to give its customers a “greater value and choice” to cash in on their Flipkart loyalty program, called SuperCoin Rewards. Flipkart customers earn these SuperCoins when they make purchases on the e-commerce platform.

Customers will be able to pay up to 100% of the bill value through SuperCoins, Flipkart said, pointing out that traditional loyalty programs have struggled to gain traction because they locked customers to their platform and made it difficult to convert reward points to cash.

Its retail partners operate in a wide-range of categories including fashion, grocery, food and beverages, travel, health and wellness. These retail partners will offer a QR code to make it easier for Flipkart customers to redeem their rewards points.

The move comes as giant e-commerce firms in India aggressively partner with physical and digital stores across the country. Amazon, too, has broadened its offering in recent years to offer coupons and discounts that Amazon Pay customers can redeem when making purchases at Urban Company, Domino’s, BigBazaar, More, Oyo Rooms, Licious, BookMyShow, Swiggy, and RedBus, for instance.

“The lines between online and offline shopping are becoming increasingly blurred, and our intention is to make the consumers’ shopping experience more rewarding, no matter where they shop,” said Prakash Sikaria, Vice President of Growth and Monetization at Flipkart, in a statement.

“Being a part of the SuperCoin programme enables our partners to reap the benefits of Flipkart’s 300 million customer base through a truly integrated rewards initiative,” he added.

Flipkart said customers on its platform have earned over a billion SuperCoin to date.

#amazon, #apps, #asia, #ecommerce, #flipkart, #india, #walmart

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Tiger Global is raising a new $3.75 billion venture fund, one year after closing its last

According to a recent letter sent to its investors, Tiger Global Management, the New York-based investing powerhouse, is raising a new $3.75 billion venture fund called Tiger Private Investment Partners XIV that it expects to close in March.

The fund is Tiger Global’s 13th venture fund, despite its title — the partners might be superstitious — and it comes hot on the heels of the firm’s 12th venture fund, closed exactly a year ago, also with $3.75 billion in capital commitments.

A spokesperson for the firm declined to comment on the letter or Tiger Global’s broader fundraising strategy when reached this morning.

It’s a lot of capital to target, even amid a sea of enormous new venture vehicles. New Enterprise Associates closed its newest fund with $3.6 billion last year. Lightspeed Venture Partners soon after announced $4 billion across three funds. Andreessen Horowitz, the youngest of the three firms, announced in November it had closed a pair of funds totaling $4.5 billion.

At the same time, Tiger Global has seemingly has a strong case to potential limited partners. Last year alone, numerous of its portfolio companies either went public or was acquired.

Yatsen Holding, the nearly five-year-old parent company of China-based cosmetics giant Perfect Diary, went public in November and is now valued at $14 billion. (Tiger Global’s ownership stake didn’t merit a mention on the company’s regulatory filing.)

Tiger Global also quietly invested in the cloud-based data warehousing outfit Snowflake and, while again, it didn’t have a big enough stake to be included in the company’s S-1, even a tiny ownership percentage would be valuable, given that Snowflake is now valued at $85 billion.

And Tiger Global backed Root insurance, a nearly six-year-old, Columbus, Oh.-based insurance company that went public in November and currently boasts a market cap of $5.3 billion. Tiger owned 10.3% sailing into the offering.

As for M&A, Tiger Global saw at least three of its companies swallowed by bigger tech companies during 2020, including Postmates’s all-stock sale to Uber for $2.65 billion; Credit Karma’s $7 billion sale in cash and stock to Intuit; and the sale of Kustomer, which focused on customer service platforms and chatbots, for $1 billion to Facebook.

Tiger Global, whose roots are in hedge fund management, launched its private equity business in 2003, spearheaded by Chase Coleman, who’d previously worked for hedge-fund pioneer Julian Robertson at Tiger Management; Scott Shleifer, who joined the firm in 2002 after spending three years with the Blackstone Group; and, soon after, Lee Fixel, who joined the firm in 2006.

Shleifer focused on China; Fixel focused on India, and the rest of the firm’s support team (it now has 22 investing professionals on staff) helped find deals in Brazil and Russia  before beginning to focus more aggressively on opportunities in the U.S.

Every investing decision was eventually made by each of the three. Fixel left in 2019 to launch his own investment firm, Addition. Now Shleifer and Coleman are the firm’s sole decision-makers.

Whether the firm replaces Fixel is an open question. Tiger Global is known for grooming investors within its operations rather than hiring outsiders, so a new top lieutenant would almost surely come from its current team.

In the meantime, the firm’s private equity arm — which has written everything from Series A checks (Warby Parker) to checks in the multiple hundreds of millions of dollars — is currently managing assets of $30 million, compared with the $49 billion that Tiger Global is managing more broadly.

A year ago, Tiger Global, which employs 100 people altogether, was reportedly managing $36.2 billion in assets.

According to the outfit’s investor letter, the firm’s gross internal rate of return across its 12 previous funds is 32%, while its net IRR is 24%.

Tiger Global’s investors include a mix of sovereign wealth funds, foundations, endowments, pensions, and its own employees, who are collectively believed to be the firm’s biggest investors at this point.

Some of Tiger Global’s biggest wins to date have include a $200 million bet on the e-commerce giant JD.com that produced a $5 billion for the firm. According to the WSJ, it also cleared more than $1 billion on the Chinese online-services platform Meituan Dianping, which went public in 2018.

Tiger Global also reportedly reaped $3 billion from majority sale of India’s Flipkart to Walmart in 2018,  though the Indian government has more recently been trying to recover $1.9 billion from the firm, claiming it has outstanding tax dues on the sale of its share in the company.

Not last, Tiger Global owned nearly 20% of the connected fitness company Peloton at the time of its 2019 IPO (a deal that Fixel reportedly brought to the table, along with Flipkart).

Peloton, valued by private investors at $4 billion before doubling immediately in value as a publicly traded company, now boasts a market cap of $48.6 billion.

Tiger Global has invested its current fund in roughly 50 companies over the last 12 months. Among its newest bets is Blend, an eight-year-old, San Francisco-based digital lending platform that yesterday announced $300 million in Series G funding, including from Coatue, at a post-money valuation of $3.3 billion.

It also led the newly announced $450 million Series C round for Checkout.com, an eight-year-old, London-based online payments platform that is now valued at $15 billion. And it wrote a follow-on check to Cockroach Labs, the nearly six-year-old, New York-based distributed SQL database that just raised $160 million in Series E funding at a $2 billion valuation, just eight months after raising an $86.6 million Series D round.

Another of its newest, biggest bets centers on the online education platform Zuowebang, in China. Back in June, Tiger Global co-led a $750 million Series E round in the company.

Last month, it was back again, co-leading a $1.6 billion round in the distance-learning company.

Pictured: Scott Shleifer, managing director of Tiger Global Management LLC, right, speaks with an attendee during the UJA-Federation of New York Wall Street Dinner in New York, on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011. 

#chime, #credit-karma, #flipkart, #kustomer, #lee-fixel, #peloton, #postmates, #recent-funding, #snowflake, #startups, #sumo-logic, #tc, #tiger-global-management, #venture-capital

0

Indian startups raised $9.3 billion in 2020

The coronavirus pandemic — and a handful of other factors — slowed dealmaking for startups in India this year.

Compared to their record $14.5 billion fundraise last year, Indian startups are ending 2020 with about $9.3 billion. This is the first time since 2016 that startups in India, one of the world’s largest startup communities, has raised less than $10 billion in a year, according to consultancy firm Tracxn.

The number of deals fell from 1,185 last year to 1,088 in 2020. There were fewer larger sized rounds, too. Rounds with dealsize $100 million or larger fell from 26 in 2019 to 20 (these rounds delivered $3.6 billion this year, compared to $7.5 billion last year), and similarly rounds with dealsize $50 million to $100 million fell from 27 to 13. (The figures do not include investments in telecom giant Jio Platforms, which alone raised over $20 billion this year.)

Despite the slowdown, Indian startups saw substantial rebound in the second half of this year. In the first half, startups in the world’s second largest internet market had raised just $4.2 billion from about 461 deals, said Tracxn.

Other than the coronavirus, which has impacted startups worldwide, another factor that impacted the dealmaking was absence of — or reduced participation from — some of the biggest investors.

Chinese giants such as Alibaba — and its affiliate Ant Group — and Tencent wrote fewer checks this year to Indian startups amid tension between the two neighboring nations. SoftBank also delivered less capital as many of its high-profile portfolio firms including Paytm, Oyo Rooms, and Ola did not raise money.

But the virus also accelerated growth of some startups. Byju’s is now valued at over $11 billion, up from $8 billion in January this year. Unacademy, another high-profile startup in the online learning space, raised two rounds at the height of the pandemic, increasing its valuation from about $500 million in February this year to over $2 billion.

Bond, a firm started by Mary Meeker and other high-profile investors, backed Byju’s this year. Bond believes that Byju’s will be worth over $30 billion in three years, a person who was briefed by the investment firm told TechCrunch. Several startups in India operating on a SaaS model and catering to customers worldwide also picked up momentum this year.

11 Indian startups including RazorPay, Unacademy, DailyHunt, and Glance became a unicorn this year. (On a side note, Google and Facebook wrote several checks to Indian firms this year. Google backed Glance and DailyHunt last week, while Facebook invested in Unacademy. Both the firms also invested in Jio Platforms this year.)

“I am old enough (unfortunately!) to have seen the 2001 and 2008 downturns so when Covid hit and there were stories of doom and gloom everywhere, I remembered what I saw happening in the past downturns — a beginning of a new generation of teams who built the next generation of companies,” said Vaibhav Domkundwar, founder and managing partner at Better Capital. Better Capital, which backs early stage startups in India, wrote 43 investment and follow-on checks this year.

M&A activities also accelerated this year. Byju’s acquired WhiteHat Jr for $300 million, while Unacademy acquired PrepLadder, which offers courses aimed at medical students, for $50 million in July. It also led an investment round of $5 million to acquire a majority stake in Mastree.

Reliance Industries acquired online pharmacy Nedmeds and, in a fire sale, Urban Ladder.

But for the first time, Indian startups are on the verge of seeing another kind of exit. Zomato, Flipkart, and Policybazaar are among some startups that plan to go public next year. Analysts at Bernstein have identified Paytm, Byju’s, PhonePe, and Delhivery among those who could also go public by 2022.

#apps, #asia, #dailyhunt, #flipkart, #funding, #glance, #jio-platforms, #ola, #oyo-rooms, #paytm, #policybazaar, #razorpay, #unacademy, #urban-ladder, #zomato

0

From India’s richest man to Amazon and 100s of startups: The great rush to win neighborhood stores

After spending more than a decade disrupting the neighborhood stores in the U.S. and several other markets, Amazon and Walmart are employing an unusual strategy in India to face off this competitor: Friending them.

Walmart and Amazon, both of which face restrictions from New Delhi on what all they could do in India, have partnered with tens of thousands of neighborhood stores in the world’s second-largest internet market this year to leverage the vast presence of these mom and pop stores.

In June this year, at the height of the pandemic, Amazon announced “Smart Stores.” Through this India-specific program, for instance, Amazon is providing physical stores with software to maintain a digital log of the inventory they have in the shop and supplying them with a QR code.

When consumers walk to the store and scan this QR code with the Amazon app, they see everything the shop has to offer, in addition to any discounts and past reviews from customers. They can select the items and pay for it using Amazon Pay. Amazon Pay in India supports a range of payments services, including the popular UPI, and debit and credit cards.

The world’s largest e-commerce giant also maintains partnerships that allow it to turn tens of thousands of neighborhood stores as its delivery point for customers — and sometimes even rely on them for inventory.

India has over 60 million small businesses that dot the thousands of cities, towns and villages across the country. These mom and pop stores offer all kinds of items, are family run, and pay low wages and little to no rent.

This has enabled them to operate at an economics that is better than most — if not all — of their digital counterparts, and their scale allows them to offer unmatched fast delivery.

Krishna Shah, a New Delhi-based doctor, on paper is one of the perfect customers of e-commerce services. She lives in an urban city, uses digital payments apps and her earnings put her in the top 5% income level in the country. Yet, when she needed to buy food for her cats and needed it as soon as possible, she realized the major giants would take hours, if not longer. She ended up placing a call to a neighborhood store, which delivered the item within 10 minutes.

That neighborhood store, which employs fewer than half a dozen people, was competing with over a dozen giants and heavily funded startups including Grofers and BigBasket — and it won.

At stake is India’s retail market, which is estimated to be worth $1.3 trillion by 2025, from about $700 billion last year, according to Boston Consulting Group and the Retailers’ Association India. E-commerce, by several estimates, accounts for just 3% of the retail market in the country.

If that figure wasn’t small enough already, consider this: Some of the biggest customers of Flipkart and Amazon are these small retail stores. An executive with direct knowledge of the matter told TechCrunch that during some sales, as high as 40% of all smartphone units are bought by physical stores. The idea is, the executive said, to buy the devices at a discounted price, sit on them for a few days and when Amazon and Flipkart are done with their sales, sell the same phones at their standard prices.

Sujeet Kumar, co-founder of Udaan, a Bangalore-based startup that works with merchants, said that even as smartphones and the internet have reached all corners of India, e-commerce hasn’t been able to disrupt the retail market.

“The problem is that it is very difficult for e-commerce companies to build a supply chain and distribution network that is more efficient than those established by neighborhood stores. These mom and pop stores operate on an insanely different kind of cost economics. E-commerce companies are not able to match it,” he said.

#amazon, #apps, #asia, #bigbasket, #ecommerce, #facebook, #finance, #flipkart, #food, #google, #grofers, #india, #instamojo, #khatabook, #mobile, #online-lending, #payments, #paytm, #phonepe, #udaan, #walmart, #whatsapp

0

Nokia launches a laptop with India’s Flipkart

Nokia, the 155-year-old iconic firm that has manufactured a range of items from rubber to cables to phones and telecommunications equipment, is ready to expand to a new category.

The Finnish firm on Monday launched the Nokia PureBook X14 laptop in collaboration with Walmart -owned Flipkart for the Indian market.

The Nokia PureBook X14, which is priced at Indian rupees 59,990 ($815), features a 14-inch full-HD display and is powered by Intel’s 10th generation quad-core i5 processor with up to 4.2GHz turbo speed.

The laptop, which ships pre-installed with Windows 10 Home, sports a 512GB NVMe SSD and 8 GB DD4 RAM.

Its other specs include: 86% screen-to-body ratio and 178-degree viewing angles, matte black finish, Dolby Atmos-powered speakers, Face Unlock with Windows Hello, Intel UHD 620 Graphics with 1.1GHz Turbo GPU, Bluetooth 5.1, two USB 3.1 ports, one USB 2.0 port, and one USB Type C port as well as dedicated ports for HDMI and ethernet. The Nokie PureBook X14, which weighs about 1.1kg, will last up to 8 hours on a single charge.

Flipkart, which has grown its private label and brand ecosystems in recent years, is the design and manufacturing partner for the new laptop. Like it does with Motorola, Flipkart has inked a licensing agreement with the Finnish firm, a representative of Flipkart told TechCrunch.

The laptop will be exclusively sold through Flipkart in India, which is also the only market for this particular device.

“Launching the Nokia brand into this new product category is testament to our successful collaboration with Flipkart. We are excited to offer consumers in India a Nokia branded laptop which brings innovation to address a gap in the market, as well as the style, performance and reliability that the Nokia brand is known for, said Vipul Mehrotra, VP for Brand Partnerships at Nokia, in a statement.

The Indian laptop market has attracted several new firms in recent years, including Xiaomi, which launched a range of affordable laptops in the country this year.

#asia, #flipkart, #hardware, #nokia, #walmart, #windows-10-home

0

DealShare raises $21 million to expand its e-commerce platform to 100 Indian cities and towns

DealShare, a startup in India that has built an e-commerce platform for middle and lower income groups of consumers in the world’s second largest market, said on Tuesday it has raised $21 million in a new financing round.

WestBridge Capital led the Series C round of the three-year-old Bangalore-headquartered startup. Alpha Wave Incubation, a venture fund managed by Falcon Edge Capital, Z3Partners and existing investors Matrix Partners India and Omidyar Network India also participated in the round, which brings DealShare’s to-date raise to $34 million.

DealShare kickstarted its journey the day Walmart acquired Flipkart, the startup’s founder and chief executive Vineet Rao said at a recent virtual conference. Rao said that even as Amazon and Flipkart had been able to create a market for themselves in the urban Indian cities, much of the nation was still underserved. There was an opportunity for someone to jump in, he said.

The startup began as an e-commerce platform on WhatsApp, where it offered hundreds of products to consumers. But in the early days itself, it became clear that people were only interested in buying items that were selling at discounted rates, said Rao.

Over time, that idea has become part of DealShare’s core offering. Today it incentivizes consumers to share deals on products with their friends. The startup, which has since launched its own app and website, now operates in over two dozen cities in India.

Consumers wanted products that were relevant to them and they wanted to buy these items at a price that instilled the most value for their bucks, said Rao. “We focused on locally produced items instead of national brands. “Even today, 80% to 90% of items we sell are locally produced,” he said.

“We started building a network of these suppliers. It was very tough because none of these guys fancied joining modern retail like e-commerce. Some of them had tried to work with e-commerce firms before but the experience left a lot to be desired,” he said.

Sandeep Singhal, Co-founder and Managing Director of WestBridge, said in a statement, “Majority of Indian population is currently residing in the non-metros and there is a huge business opportunity in these regions. The buying pattern of low and middle-income group is different especially in smaller markets and DealShare seems to have understood the nuances very well. We are very impressed with how the team has scaled up in the last 2 years, while retaining a sharp focus on low cost, high impact model,” said

The startup says it spent the last 18 months to improve its finances and is nearing profitability. Now it plans to invest in its technology stack and expand its platform to 100 cities and towns in five states of India in the next one year.

More to follow…

#apps, #asia, #dealshare, #ecommerce, #falcon-edge, #flipkart, #funding, #india, #matrix-partners, #omidyar-network, #walmart, #westbridge-capital, #whatsapp, #z3partners

0

PhonePe raises $700 million, becomes a separate entity

PhonePe, the crown jewel in Flipkart’s acquisition by Walmart, is “partially” spinning off, the Bangalore-based financial services firm said on Thursday. To kick off its new journey, the firm said it has secured $700 million in a new financing round.

This round, the name of which was not disclosed, was led by Walmart with participation from some existing investors, PhonePe said. The new round gave PhonePe, which was founded by a former Flipkart employee, a post-money valuation of $5.5 billion.

Today’s announcement is a big boost to the confidence investors have on PhonePe. The startup has been engaging with investors for new capital for several quarters and had struggled to raise capital at a $3 valuation earlier this year, TechCrunch reported earlier.

The partial spin-off, which had been in the works for more than a year, means that Flipkart’s stake in PhonePe will reduce from a 100% to 87%. “This partial spin-off gives PhonePe access to dedicated long-term capital to pursue our vision of providing financial inclusion to a billion Indians,” said Sameer Nigam, founder and chief executive of PhonePe, in a statement.

PhonePe currently leads the mobile payments market in India, by some metrics. In October, it surpassed Google Pay to become the top UPI payments app. UPI is a four-year-old payments infrastructure built by India’s largest banks. It is the most popular way people transact money digitally in India. PhonePe reported 835 million UPI transactions in October, ahead of Google Pay, which processed about 820 million transactions that month.

“As Flipkart Commerce continues to grow strongly serving the needs of Indian customers, we are excited at the future prospects of the group. This move will help PhonePe maximize its potential as it moves to the next phase of its development, and it will also maximize value creation for Flipkart and our shareholders,” said Kalyan Krishnamurthy, CEO of Flipkart Group, in a statement.

More to follow…

#apps, #asia, #flipkart, #funding, #google-pay, #india, #paytm, #phonepe, #walmart

0

Reliance Retail buys Urban Ladder for $24.4 million

Reliance Retail has acquired a majority stake in furniture and decor platform Urban Ladder, making a broader push into e-commerce as the largest retail chain in India gears up to fight Amazon and Flipkart.

In a filing to the local stock exchange, Reliance Retail said it had acquired a 96% stake in Urban Ladder for about $24.43 million. The Indian retail giant, which retains the option to acquire the remainder stake in the seven-and-a-half-years-old startup, said it has proposed to invest up to $10.06 million more in Urban Ladder by December 2023.

Founded in early 2012, Urban Ladder sells home furniture and decor products online. It also operates a chain of physical retail stores in several Indian cities. The deal size suggests that it was a fire sale.

The startup had raised about $115 million from Sequoia Capital, SAIF Partners, Steadview Capital, and MIT and other investors, according to Crunchbase and Tracxn. In the financial year that ended in March, the Indian startup reported a loss of $6.63 million on a turnover of $58.2 million.

Reliance Retail said (PDF) the investment “will further enable the group’s digital and new commerce initiatives and widen the bouquet of consumer products provided by the group, while enhancing user engagement and experience across its retail offerings.”

Urban Ladder is the latest acquisition for Reliance Retail, which earlier this year said it had entered into a $3.4 billion deal with Future Group to buy several of India’s second largest retail chain’s businesses. In August, Reliance acquired a 60% stake in pharma marketplace Netmeds’ parent firm Vitalic for about $83.2 million.

Reliance Retail, which is part of Reliance Industries (India’s most valued firm), has raised about $6.4 billion in recent months after its sister subsidiary, Jio Platforms, secured over $20 billion this year from Facebook and Google among other high-profile investors.

Reliance Retail, which serves more than 3.5 million customers each week through its nearly 10,000 physical stores in more than 6,500 cities and towns in the country, entered the e-commerce space with JioMart through a joint venture with Jio Platforms. JioMart now has a presence in over 200 Indian cities and towns, and it also maintains a partnership with Facebook for WhatsApp integration.

#amazon, #amazon-india, #asia, #ecommerce, #flipkart, #fundings-exits, #india, #reliance-retail, #urban-ladder, #walmart

0

Indian logistics startup Xpressbees raises $110 million

Xpressbees, an Indian logistics firm that works with several e-commerce firms in the country, said on Monday it has raised $110 million in a new financing round as online shopping booms in the world’s second largest internet market.

The Pune-headquartered startup’s Series E financing round was led by private equity firms Investcorp, Norwest Venture Partners and Gaja Capital, the five-year-old startup said. Xpressbees, which concluded its Series D round three years ago, has raised $175.8 million to date, according to research firm Tracxn. The new round valued the startup at more than $350 million.

Xpressbees helps more than 1,000 customers — including financial and e-commerce services giant Paytm, social commerce startup Meesho, eyewear seller Lenskart, phone maker Xiaomi, online pharmacy NetMeds and online marketplace Snapdeal — deliver their products across the country. It has presence in over 2,000 cities and towns, and it processes more than 2.5 million orders a day — up from about 600,000 daily orders last year.

“We have been truly impressed by their strong customer centricity and capital efficiency which has resulted in exceptional feedback from top players in the e-commerce sector!” said Niren Shah, managing director and head of Norwest Venture Partners in India, in a statement.

Xpressbees started its journey within FirstCry, an e-commerce for baby products, in 2012. But in 2015, it became an independent company with Amitava Saha, co-founder and chief operating officer of FirstCry, moving out of FirstCry to become chief executive of Xpressbees. Supam Maheshwari, who co-founded FirstCry and serves as its chief executive, is the other co-founder of Xpressbees.

The startup said it plans to deploy the fresh capital to further automate its hubs and sorting centres, and expand its delivery footprint to cover the entire country. “I am delighted to see the impact we are making in the logistics ecosystem in the country,” said Saha in a statement.

At stake is India’s growing logistics industry, which NVP’s Shah estimated to be worth $200 billion. “We continue to believe that new age technology led logistics players such as Xpressbees will continue to play a pivotal role both in the growth of the e-commerce sector in India,” he added.

E-commerce sales, which account for less than 5% of all retail sales in India, skyrocketed during the pandemic after New Delhi enforced a two-month nationwide lockdown. During their festival sales last month, Amazon India and Walmart-owned Flipkart reported a record surge in their sales. The firms have created more than 150,000 seasonal jobs to accommodate the growing demand of orders. Xpressbees works with over 30,000 delivery staff.

Xpressbees competes with a handful of established firms and startups, including SoftBank-backed Delhivery, which became a unicorn last year, and Ecom Express, which has presence in about 2,400 Indian cities and towns. 

#amazon, #amazon-india, #asia, #delhivery, #flipkart, #funding, #gaja-capital, #india, #investcorp, #logistics, #norwest-venture-partners, #recent-funding, #startups, #walmart, #xpressbees

0

Walmart’s PhonePe zips past Google Pay in India as UPI tops 2B monthly transactions

UPI, a four-year-old payments infrastructure built by India’s largest banks, surpassed 2 billion transactions last month, exactly a year after hitting the 1 billion monthly transactions milestone.

Driving the transactions for UPI — which has become the most popular digital payments method in India thanks to its open architecture that allows interoperability among all participating payments apps — are Walmart’s PhonePe, Google Pay, Paytm, and Amazon Pay.

But for the first time in more than a year, Google Pay did not drive the most volume of UPI transactions. PhonePe recorded 835 million UPI transactions in October, it said, while Google Pay hit about 820 million, according to people familiar with the matter.

Paytm recorded about 245 million transactions, while Amazon Pay settled with about 125 million, the people said.

In a statement, PhonePe confirmed that it assumed the “market leading position” with about 40% of all UPI transactions last month. Google and Paytm did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

TechCrunch could not determine how many unique monthly transacting users these payments firms have amassed in the country. In May, Google Pay had about 75 million transacting users, ahead of 60 million of PhonePe and 30 million of Paytm.

Unlike Google Pay, both Paytm and PhonePe also operate a wallet service. The wallet service is not powered by UPI. PhonePe said overall it processed 925 million transactions last month and had over 100 million monthly active users.

PhonePe has recently seen a surge in its transactions as more offline shops open and merchants and consumers opt for a digital alternative to complete transactions. The app has also added a range of financing services, including 600,000 insurance policies, it said.

“We are on a mission to make digital payments a way of life for every Indian citizen, and our next target is to cross 500 million registered users by Dec 2022. In line with our brand ethos of ‘Karte Ja. Badhte Ja,’ (Hindi for keep working and growing) we continue to launch new and innovative products for every strata of Indian society, as well as enable digital payment acceptance across every merchant in every village and town in India,” said Sameer Nigam, chief executive and founder of PhonePe, in a statement.

India’s mobile payments market is estimated to reach $1 trillion by 2023, according to Credit Suisse. More players are expected to join the race. WhatsApp, which has over 400 million users in India, started testing UPI payments on its app in 2018. It remains stuck in a regulatory maze, however, which has prevented it from rolling out WhatsApp Pay to most of its users in the country.

#amazon-pay, #apps, #asia, #flipkart, #google-pay, #india, #payments, #paytm, #phonepe, #walmart

0

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.

#amazon, #asia, #flexport, #flipkart, #funding, #india, #logistics, #pioneer-fund, #soma-capital, #y-combinator

0

Reliance says its $3.4 billion deal with Future Group ‘fully enforceable under Indian law’ despite Amazon winning an arbitration order

Reliance Retail, India’s largest retail chain, said on Sunday evening that its proposed deal to acquire Future Group’s assets for $3.4 billion — against which Amazon has filed a legal proceeding — is fully enforceable under the Indian law and it intends to complete the deal “without any delay.”

Mukesh Ambani’s firm issued the statement after Amazon won an emergency order from a Singapore arbitration panel to temporarily halt the proposed sale between the two Indian retail giants.

The American e-commerce group, which indirectly bought a 3.58% stake in Future Group’s Future Retail business last year, reached out to a Singapore arbitration panel over the multi-billion dollar proposed deal.

Amazon’s deal with Future Retail had given the American e-commerce giant the first right to refusal on purchase of more stakes in Future Retail, the Indian firm had said at the time. Amazon, Walmart’s Flipkart, and Reliance Industries, the most valuable firm in India, are locked in an intense battle to shape how hundreds of millions of Indians would shop in the future.

In a statement, an Amazon spokesperson said the company was “grateful for the order which grants all the reliefs that were sought. We remain committed to an expeditious conclusion of the arbitration process.”

At the moment, it is unclear whether today’s injunction is enforceable in India. Indeed, in a statement, a Reliance Industry spokesperson said that Reliance Retail’s transaction for acquisition of assets and business of Future Retail were conducted under “proper legal advice” and the “rights and obligations are fully enforceable under Indian law.”

Reliance Retail “intends to enforce its rights and complete the transaction in terms of the scheme and agreement with Future group without any delay,” the spokesperson added.

The legal proceeding in Singapore has come as a surprise to many in the industry, as Amazon is said to be preparing to acquire a multi-billion-dollar stake in Reliance Retail, according to earlier reports by ET Now and Bloomberg.

With e-commerce commanding only between 3 -7% of all retail sales in India — and Reliance Retail launching its own e-commerce business to fight Amazon and Flipkart — Amazon’s reported future deal with Reliance Retail is already been seen by many industry analysts as crucial for the American e-commerce firm’s future in India. Amazon, which kickstarted its journey in India seven years ago, has invested more than $6.5 billion in its local business in the country.

Founded in 2006, Reliance Retail serves more than 3.5 million customers each week (as of early this year) through its nearly 12,000 physical stores in more than 6,500 cities and towns in the country.

The retail chain, run by India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, has raised about $5.14 billion by selling about an 8.5% stake in its business to Silver Lake, Singapore’s GIC, General Atlantic and others in the past two months.

Ambani’s other venture, Jio Platforms, this year raised over $20 billion from more than a dozen marquee investors, including Google and Facebook.

 

#amazon, #asia, #ecommerce, #flipkart, #future-group, #india, #mukesh-ambani, #reliance-industries, #reliance-retail, #walmart

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India’s Flipkart buys over $200 million stake in Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail

Flipkart is acquiring a 7.8% stake in Aditya Birla Fashion as the Walmart-owned Indian e-commerce firm makes further push into the fashion category in one of the world’s largest retail markets.

The e-commerce group will pay $203.8 million for its stake in Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail, a conglomerate that operates over 3,000 stores including the Pantaloons brand. As part of the “landmark partnership,” Flipkart will also sell and distribute various Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail’s brands products.

“This partnership is an emphatic endorsement of the growth potential of India,” said Kumar Mangalam Birla, Chairman of Aditya Birla Group, which operates the fashion retail firm in a filing to the stock exchange. “It also reflects our strong conviction in the future of the apparel industry in India, which is poised to touch $100 billion in the next 5 years.”

Kalyan Krishnamurthy, CEO of Flipkart Group, said the two companies will work toward “making available a wide range of products for fashion-conscious consumers across different retail formats across the country. We look forward to working with ABFRL and its well established and comprehensive fashion and retail infrastructure as we address the promising opportunity of the apparel industry in India.”

In July, Flipkart also invested $35 million in $35 million in Arvind Fashions, one of the decades-old Indian firm’s subsidiaries.

More to follow…

#amazon, #amazon-india, #asia, #flipkart, #india

0

High-profile startup execs back Indian influencers platform CreatorOS

The advent of low-cost Android smartphones and the world’s cheapest mobile data has paved the way for millions of social media influencers in India to amass a following of tens of millions of users in recent years.

These influencers, also known as creators, share their daily vlogs, thoughts on a wide range of issues, and some engage with big brands to help sell their products to niche, loyal audiences. E-commerce giant Flipkart and scores of several other businesses today work with these influencers.

But India’s ban on TikTok, the Chinese short-video app that reached more than 200 million users in the country, in late June unearthed some of the biggest problems these creators face today: They are too reliant on a handful of platforms, and their work structure is not well organized.

A new startup believes it has built the platform to help creators assume more control over their work. And a number of high-profile entrepreneurs agree.

On Friday, Madhavan Malolan announced CreatorOS, a platform that enables creators to build, manage and grow their businesses. About 1,000 creators including a number of short-film makers, teachers, consultants have already joined the platform, Madhavan, who co-founded the startup, formerly known as Socionity, in January this year. Prior to CreatorOS, he worked at a number of firms including Microsoft.

“We believe that these creators will become an entrepreneur in the coming decade. So we are creating tools, connections and infrastructure that they will need to run their digital businesses. Currently, there is a lot of spray and pray happening on the creator’s part. They are producing videos in hopes that they go viral so more people in the industry discover them,” said Madhavan in an interview with TechCrunch.

The marquee tool on CreatorOS today is an app-builder that allows creators to build their own apps, push and sell their content in it, and build their own communities. Madhavan said CreatorOS has overly reduced the efforts that need to go into building an app to simply drag and drop.

The startup said today it has also raised $500,000 from a clutch of high-profile names. Some of the angel investors include Phanindra Sama (founder and former chief executive of online ticket booking platform RedBus.in), Gaurav Munjal (co-founder and chief executive of online learning platform Unacademy), Kalyan Krishnamurthy (chief executive of Flipkart Group), Sujeet Kumar (co-founder of business-to-business marketplace Udaan), Vidit Aatrey (co-founder and chief executive of social e-commerce Meesho), Vivekananda Hallekere (co-founder and chief executive of mobility firm Bounce), and Alvin Tse (GM of Xiaomi Indonesia).

Madhavan said that the trust that so many established entrepreneurs showed in CreatorOS convinced him that he did not need to engage with VC firms yet and instead put the entire focus on serving creators. He said the ban on TikTok and how so many startups are trying to scale their short-video apps has created an immense opportunity for CreatorOS.

The startup expects to have more than 5,000 creators on its platform by the end of the year. It is working with creators to understand and build more features that would benefit them, said Madhavan.

#apps, #asia, #flipkart, #funding, #india, #meesho, #social, #tiktok, #udaan, #unacademy, #xiaomi

0

Amazon adds support for Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu in local Indian languages push ahead of Diwali

More than seven years after Amazon began its e-commerce operations in India, and two years after its shopping service added support for Hindi, the most popular language in the country, the American giant is embracing more local languages to court hundreds of millions of new users.

Amazon announced on Tuesday its website and apps now support Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, and Telugu in a move that it said would help it reach an additional 200-300 million users in the country.

Localization is one of the most crucial — and popular — steps for companies to expand their potential reach in India. Netflix added support for Hindi last month, and Amazon’s Alexa started conversing in the Indian language last year. (Amazon’s on-demand video streaming service, Prime Video, also supports Hindi, in addition to Tamil and Telugu.)

The company said the usage of Hindi, which it rolled out on its website and apps in India in 2018, has grown by three times in the past five months, and “hundreds of thousands” of Amazon customers have switched to Hindi shopping experience.

Amazon’s further language push comes months after its chief rival in India, Walmart -owned Flipkart, added support for Tamil, Telugu and Kannada, three languages that are spoken by roughly 200 million people in India.

Like Flipkart, Amazon worked with expert linguists to develop an accurate and comprehensible experience in each of the languages, the American e-commerce firm said.

But simple translation is not enough to make inroads with users in India. YouTube and YouTube Music, for instance, understand when Bollywood fans in India search for music by the name of the movie character or actor who played the part instead of the actual musician or song title — a phenomenon unique among Indian users.

Amazon appears to have incorporated similar learnings into its shopping experience. The company said for translations it preferred using commonly used terms from daily life over perfectly translated words.

Kishore Thota, Director of Customer Experience and Marketing at Amazon India, termed the availability of Amazon India shopping experience in four new languages a “major milestone.”

The move comes weeks ahead of Diwali, the biggest festival in India that sees hundreds of millions of Indians spend lavishly. “We are super excited to do this ahead of the upcoming festive season,” said Thota.

#amazon, #amazon-india, #apps, #asia, #ecommerce, #flipkart, #walmart

0

Amazon launches online pharmacy in India

Amazon has launched an online pharmacy in Bangalore, the capital of India’s southern Karnataka state, as the e-commerce group looks to spread its tentacles in more categories in one of its key overseas markets.

The company said on Friday its new service, called Amazon Pharmacy, has started accepting orders for both over-the-counter and prescription-based medicines in Bangalore. (In India, antibiotics and several other drugs can often be purchased from pharmacies without prescriptions.)

Amazon Pharmacy is also selling traditional herbal medicines and some health devices such as glucose meters, nebulisers, and handheld massagers.

“This is particularly relevant in present times as it will help customers meet their essential needs while staying safe at home,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement.

Online sales of medicine in India, for which New Delhi currently does not have clear regulations, presents yet another major opportunity for Amazon that has invested more than $6.5 million to date into its India operations and where it competes with Walmart-owned Flipkart.

For Amazon, pharmacy is not a new idea. The company, which has hired several health experts in recent years, acquired online pharmacy startup PillPack for nearly $1 billion in 2018.

Scores of startups such as 1mg, Netmeds, Medlife, and PharmEasy currently sell medicines in India online and deliver to most parts of the country. 1mg, which has raised more than $170 million, today delivers orders in more than a 1,000 cities in the country, for instance.

These startups, as with any e-commerce player, offer enticing discounts to customers on each order to increase their market share. On that front, Amazon says it is also offering up to 20% discount on all orders.

In recent months, Amazon has expanded into a handful of new categories in India. It launched its food delivery service in parts of Bangalore in May and received approval to sell and deliver alcohol in the state of West Bengal a month later.

Last month, the company started to sell auto-insurance in India and said it planned to expand its insurance service to offer coverage on health, flight and cabs in the future.

Its expansion into more categories comes as Flipkart is also entering new spaces including hyperlocal delivery that it piloted in Bangalore late last month.

Both the firms are now facing an emerging challenger: India’s richest man. Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Retail, the largest retail chain in India, began testing e-commerce venture JioMart late last year.

The service, which is now operational in over 200 cities and towns across India, reported selling over 400,000 orders a day last month, surpassing daily peak figures of grocery delivery startups BigBasket and Grofers.

Local media has reported that Amazon is eyeing a multi-billion dollar stake in Reliance Retail. Ambani’s other venture, telecoms giant Jio Platforms, has raised about $20 billion from Facebook, Google, and 11 other high-profile investors in recent months. Ambani said last month that the company had concluded fundraise for Jio Platforms and is looking forward to “induct global partners and investors in Reliance Retail in the next few quarters.”

#amazon, #amazon-india, #apps, #asia, #ecommerce, #flipkart, #india, #jiomart, #mukesh-ambani, #online-pharmacy, #pharmacy, #reliance-jio, #reliance-retail, #walmart

0

India’s Flipkart gives hyperlocal delivery service another try

Flipkart on Tuesday launched a hyperlocal service in suburbs of Bangalore, four years after the e-commerce group abruptly concluded its previous foray into this category.

The e-commerce group, owned by Walmart, said Flipkart Quick leverages the company’s supply chain infrastructure and a new location mapping technology framework to deliver more than 2,000 products across grocery, perishables, smartphones, electronics accessories, and stationary items within 90 minutes to customers.

When a customer places an order, the items are sourced from local neighborhood stores, warehouses and retail chains. Flipkart Quick — initially operational in Whitefield, Panathur, HSR Layout, BTM Layout, Banashankari, KR Puram and Indiranagar among other suburbs of Bangalore — allows customers to book a convenient two-hour slot between 6am to midnight for delivery.

The company, which is working with a range of partnered firms, is levying a delivery charge starting 29 Indian rupees (39 cents) on servicing these orders, it said.

The launch of Quick stands to provide Flipkart an opportunity to reach a new set of users, especially those who otherwise see no reason to buy online, and also become a headache for some existing startups such as Dunzo that already operate in a similar space. It also marks Flipkart’s foray into servicing fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and milk orders.

“This is a great model for India as households of all sizes are already used to their neighbourhood Kirana stores. In fact, Indian families are so comfortable with what we call the ‘hyperlocal context’, that there is a tendency to develop deep, familial ties with vendors, shopkeepers and service providers – now with the convenience of e-commerce,” said Sandeep Karwa, a VP at Flipkart, in a statement.

“While we start with our dark store (no-walkin) model, wherein we enable sellers to store inventory close to the consumer; this model has the potential of encouraging local entrepreneurship and enabling new business strategies and partnerships. Today, with Flipkart Quick – our Hyperlocal capability, we have the potential to bring together the whole network of neighbourhood Kirana stores onto our platform with just a click,” he added.

This isn’t the first time Flipkart has explored the hyperlocal delivery category. In late 2015, Flipkart launched Nearby to deliver perishables, grocery, wellbeing, and household items within 60 minutes. But the company abruptly discontinued Nearby reportedly because of poor demand and thin margin.

Flipkart did not reference Nearby today, but talked about the efforts it has made to build Quick and the opportunities it sees in the market. A Flipkart spokeswoman told TechCrunch that the company plans to expand Quick hyperlocal delivery service outside of Bangalore in a few months.

Flipkart said for Quick, it is also moving away from the traditional model of using zip code system to identify delivery location and instead using a latitude and longitude approach. This model enables the company to “not only narrow down the location” but also be “more precise” and deliver more efficiently.

#amazon, #amazon-india, #asia, #ecommerce, #flipkart, #india, #walmart

0

Amazon reportedly in talks to buy a 9.9% stake in India’s Reliance Retail

Amazon may join its global rivals Google and Facebook in backing one of Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s ventures.

The American e-commerce giant is in preliminary talks to acquire a 9.9% stake in Reliance Retail, local TV news channel ET Now reported Thursday afternoon, citing unnamed sources.

Reliance Retail, founded in 2006, is the largest retail chain in India. It serves over 3.5 million customers each week through its nearly 10,000 physical stores in more than 6,500 cities and towns in the country.

Reliance Industries, which is the most valuable firm in India and runs Reliance Retail and Jio Platforms, declined to comment on the report. Amazon also declined to comment.

The reported talks between Amazon and Reliance Retail comes days after Ambani, who is India’s richest man, said several firms had expressed interest in backing the retail chain. Ambani’s other venture, Reliance Jio Platforms, has secured over $20 billion by selling 33% stake to more than a dozen investors including Facebook, Google, Silver Lake, and General Atlantic since April this year.

During Reliance Industries’ annual general meeting earlier this month, Ambani said the company will “induct global partners and investors in Reliance Retail in the next few quarters.”

Reliance Industries’ new venture JioMart is increasingly becoming a new challenger to Amazon, which has invested more than $6.5 billion in its India business, and Walmart’s Flipkart in recent months.

Morgan Stanley, which served as the financial advisor to Reliance Industries for Jio Platforms’ deals, recently valued Reliance Retail at about $29 billion.

Both Amazon and Reliance Retail, according to local media reports, have also been locked in a battle to acquire majority stake in Future Retail, India’s second largest retail chain.

#amazon, #asia, #ecommerce, #facebook, #flipkart, #funding, #google, #india, #jio-platforms, #mukesh-ambani, #reliance-industries, #reliance-jio, #reliance-jio-platforms, #walmart

0

Amazon now sells auto insurance in India

Amazon’s India business said on Thursday it has begun offering auto insurance to cover two and four-wheeler in the country, marking American giant’s first foray into this financial services category globally.

The e-commerce giant said it had inked a deal with Mumbai-headquartered Acko General Insurance to offer customers car and motor-bike insurance. Amazon is also an investor in Acko.

Mahendra Nerurkar, chief executive and director of Amazon Pay in India, said on Wednesday evening at a fintech conference that the company was planning to expand its insurance service to offer coverage on health, flight, and cabs.

The auto insurance is available to customers through Amazon Pay on e-commerce giant’s website and app. The company said buying insurance will take less than two minutes and requires no paperwork.

“This coupled with services like hassle-free claims with zero paperwork, one-hour pick-up, 3-day assured claim servicing and 1 year repair warranty – in select cities, as well as an option for instant cash settlements for low value claims, making it beneficial for customers,” it added.

Customers who have subscribed to Amazon Prime, the company’s loyalty program that costs about $13 a year in India, will be able to access additional benefits and discounts, Amazon said without identifying those benefits.

India’s insurance market is the latest financial services sector that has attracted the attention of local and international tech giants. Paytm, India’s most valued startup, and its chief executive Vijay Shekhar Sharma, acquired insurance firm Raheja QBE for a sum of $76 million earlier this month.

In India only a fraction of the nation’s 1.3 billion people currently have access to insurance and some analysts say that digital firms could prove crucial in bringing these services to the masses.

According to rating agency ICRA, insurance products had reached less than 3% of the population as of 2017. An average Indian makes about $2,100 a year, according to the World Bank. Of those Indians who had purchased an insurance product they were spending less than $50 on it in 2017, ICRA estimated.

“Our vision is to make Amazon Pay the most, trusted, convenient and rewarding way to pay for our customers. Delighted by this experience, there has been a growing demand for more services. In line with this need, we are excited to launch an auto insurance product that is affordable, convenient, and provides a seamless claims experience,” said Vikas Bansal, director and head of financial services at Amazon Pay in India, in a statement.

Though Amazon Pay is available in several markets, the payments service’s offering in India remains unmatched. The company has used the world’s second largest internet market, where it has invested more than $6.5 billion to date, as testbed to explore various unique opportunities. Amazon Pay app in India, for instance, also sells movie and flight tickets.

#amazon, #amazon-india, #apps, #asia, #automotive, #finance, #flipkart, #india, #insurance, #paytm, #walmart

0

Flipkart buys Walmart’s India wholesale business to reach mom and pop stores

Flipkart said on Thursday it is launching a wholesale marketplace to serve small and medium-sized businesses and neighborhood stores in India, entering an increasingly crowded space that has attracted several players including India’s richest man, Lightspeed-backed Udaan, Amazon, and Facebook in recent years.

To launch the wholesale marketplace, called Flipkart Wholesale, the e-commerce giant said it was acquiring a 100% stake in Walmart’s India business, which had limited standalone presence in the country and operated Best Price cash-and-carry business that runs 28 stores across the country and has amassed more than 1.5 million members.

Flipkart, which has sold more than 80% of the business to U.S. retail giant Walmart, did not disclose the financial terms of the acquisition. Earlier this month, Walmart led a $1.2 billion financing round in Flipkart to increase its majority stake in the Indian firm.

Flipkart Wholesale, which will become operational next month, will use the e-commerce giant’s existing vast supply chain infrastructure and offer an “exhaustive” range of products and merchandise, as well as easy credit options and opportunities for additional income generation to neighborhood stores (locally known as kiranas) and other small businesses, the company said, adding it will also help these businesses with insights so that they can plan their inventory needs more effectively.

Kalyan Krishnamurthy, chief executive of Flipkart Group, said the acquisition of Walmart India “adds a strong talent pool with deep expertise in the wholesale business that will strengthen our position to address the needs of kiranas and MSMEs uniquely. With this development, the Flipkart Group will further build upon the synergies across its businesses to drive greater value and choice for end-consumers and businesses alike.”

Flipkart said it has already signed up top Indian brands, local manufacturers, and sellers across the country. The wholesale business — to be overseen by Adarsh Menon, a veteran at Flipkart, and Sameer Aggarwal, chief executive at Walmart India — will pilot services for the grocery and fashion categories next month. Aggarwal will leave his current position after the transition and will serve in a new role within Walmart.

“For over a decade, we’ve been committed to India’s prosperity by serving kiranas and MSMEs, supporting smallholder farmers and building global sourcing and technology hubs throughout the country. Today marks the next big step as Walmart India’s pioneering cash-and-carry legacy meets Flipkart’s culture of innovation in the launch of Flipkart Wholesale,” said Judith McKenna, president and chief executive of Walmart International, in a statement.

A handful of startups have attempted to build business-to-business marketplaces in India over the years. Lightspeed-backed Udaan has emerged as the largest player in this space, with its logistics network reaching 600 cities in India (and an additional 300 with third-party logistics providers). It was joined by a new contender this year.

India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani’s JioMart, a new e-commerce venture between the nation’s largest retail chain (Reliance Retail) and telecom network (Reliance Jio Platforms), began limited operations this April and has since expanded to over 200 cities and towns across India.

Facebook, which invested $5.7 billion in Reliance Jio Platforms earlier this year, said the two companies will explore ways to serve the nation’s 60 million small and medium sized businesses.

“These small businesses are critical to the Indian economy. If you look at Facebook as a company, there has always been a focus on helping these businesses,” Facebook India head Ajit Mohan told TechCrunch in an interview earlier this year. “These small businesses, first-time entrepreneurs and new ventures leverage the Facebook platform to find new customers and expand to additional markets.”

On Wednesday, WhatsApp said it plans to help digitize small businesses in India.

Neighborhood stores dot tens of thousands of cities, towns and villages in India. They have survived — and thrived, despite — retail giants’ billions of investment in the country. In recent quarters, both Flipkart and Amazon have rushed to collaborate with these mom and pop.

#amazon, #amazon-india, #asia, #ecommerce, #flipkart, #india, #udaan, #walmart

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Walmart invests additional $1.2 billion in India’s Flipkart to increase stake

Walmart is increasing its stake in Flipkart by investing an additional $1.2 billion in the Indian e-commerce giant. The fresh equity round from Walmart, which acquired majority stake in Flipkart two years ago, values Flipkart at $24.9 billion post-money, the two companies said.

The American retail group said the fresh capital would help Flipkart further grow its e-commerce marketplace in India as the world’s second largest internet market begins to recover from Covid-19 crisis.  

“We’re grateful for the strong backing of our shareholders as we continue to build our platform and serve the growing needs of Indian consumers during these challenging times,” said Flipkart chief executive Kalyan Krishnamurthy in a statement.

“Since Walmart’s initial investment in Flipkart, we have greatly expanded our offer through technology, partnerships and new services. Today, we lead in electronics and fashion, and are rapidly accelerating share in other general merchandise categories and grocery, all while providing increasingly seamless payment and delivery options for our customers. We will continue innovating to bring the next 200 million Indian shoppers online,” he added.

#asia, #ecommerce, #flipkart, #funding, #india, #walmart

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Flipkart invests $35 million in Indian fashion brand to target youth

Flipkart, which competes with Amazon in India, is doubling down on an area where it has established a clear lead: Fashion.

On Thursday, the Flipkart Group announced it had invested $35 million in Arvind Fashions for a significant minority stake in one the decades-old Indian firm’s subsidiaries as the Walmart -owned firm looks to tighten its grip on fashion apparels in the world’s second largest internet market.

Through acquisition of Myntra and Jabong over the years, Flipkart has already established dominance in India’s fashion e-commerce market. The company said today it was acquiring a stake in Arvind Fashions‘ Arvind Youth Brands, which operates Flying Machine brand in India.

The two companies said the new investment strengthens their partnership as they look to serve demands and needs of the “fashion-conscious youth” in India. Arvind Fashions began selling items on Flipkart six years ago.

91-year-old Arvind Fashions runs of the nation’s largest fashion brands, and also manufactures and carries apparels of international brands including Polo Assn, Arrow, GAP, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Aeropostale, the Children’s Place and Ed Hardy among other local and international firms.

The investment comes at a time when both Flipkart and Amazon have been expanding their private labels ecosystem in India. And by courting Arvind Fashions, Flipkart could look to replicate a similar strategy in the fashion space. The Indian e-commerce market for fashion products was worth $7 billion last year, research firm Forrester told TechCrunch.

“Flying Machine is a brand that is known in households across India, popular with the youth and synonymous with value and style. Through this investment, we look forward to partnering with the team at Arvind Youth Brands to continue to grow the market for its portfolio of products and enhance the strong brand equity that has been built over the last few decades,” said Kalyan Krishnamurthy, chief executive officer of Flipkart Group, in a statement.

The partnership with the Flipkart Group is aimed at helping Arvind Fashions accelerate its online growth strategy, said J. Suresh, managing director and chief executive of Arvind Fashions.

“Given the strong existing relationship with the Flipkart Group, and their presence in online fashion, it was an obvious choice for us to enter into this engagement through which Flipkart and Myntra will be our preferred online partner for the Flying Machine brand, while we continue to grow our offline sales through channels like exclusive brand stores, department stores and multi-brand stores,” he said in a statement.

More to follow…

#amazon, #amazon-india, #asia, #ecommerce, #flipkart, #funding, #india, #walmart

0

Amazon eliminates single-use plastic in packaging in India

Amazon said on Monday it has eliminated all single-use plastic in its packaging across its fulfillment centers in India, delivering on a pledge it made last year to achieve this goal by June.

The American e-commerce group said it had replaced packaging materials such as bubble wraps with paper cushions and was also using “100% plastic-free biodegradable” paper tapes. All of Amazon’s 50-plus fulfilment centers in India were complying with the new guidelines, the company said.

Flipkart, which had made a similar pledge last year, said last month that its reliance on single-use plastic across its supply chain had dropped by 50%. Last year, the Walmart-owned marketplace said it intended to move entirely to recycled plastic consumption in its supply chain by March 2021.

Amazon’s announcement Monday follows Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s directive last year, when he urged Indians to put an end to usage of single-use plastic by 2022.

India has been grappling with a major plastic waste problem for several years. Asia’s third-largest economy is struggling with disposing of the 9.4 million tons of plastic waste it generates each year.

Dozens of nations across the world have in recent years moved to address this challenge by imposing curbs and levies on use of single-use plastic.

Amazon said today that it still uses some plastic in packaging material, but those are 100% recyclable through available collection, segregation and recycling channels. The company said it is continuing to educate sellers who fulfil customer orders to join in this nationwide change in packaging.

“Our aim is to minimize environmental impact while elevating customer experience. While navigating through unprecedented challenges with the lockdown and pandemic in the last few months, we have continued to take progressive steps towards ensuring that we meet our commitment,” said Prakash Kumar Dutta, Director of Customer Fulfilment & Supply Chain at Amazon India, in a statement.

Earlier this month, Amazon expanded Packaging-Free Shipping (PFS), an India-first initiative that sees fulfilment centers either deliver products that are completely packaging-free or have significantly reduced packaging, to over 100 cities in India. The company said more than 40% of its orders in India today are already using PFS.

Additionally, Amazon said it is also collecting and recycling plastic waste equivalent to its usage at a national level from September 2019, and has identified collection agencies to help collect equivalent 100% plastic waste generated from usage across the Amazon fulfilment network.

Earlier this month, Amazon announced it was launching a $2 billion internal venture-capital fund focused on technology investments to reduce the impact of climate change. The new fund, called The Climate Pledge Fund, will invest in firms across a number of industries, including transportation, energy generation, and manufacturing. Through the program, the companies aim to reach a goal of “net zero” carbon emissions by 2040.

#amazon, #asia, #ecommerce, #environment, #flipkart, #india

0

Indian startups diversify their businesses to offset COVID-19 induced losses

E-commerce giant Flipkart is planning to launch a hyperlocal service that would enable customers to buy items from local stores and have those delivered to them in an hour and a half or less. Yatra, an online travel and hotel ticketing service, is exploring a new business line altogether: Supplying office accessories.

Flipkart and Yatra are not the only firms eyeing new business categories. Dozens of firms in the country have branched out by launching new services in recent weeks, in part to offset the disruption the COVID-19 epidemic has caused to their core offerings.

Swiggy and Zomato, the nation’s largest food delivery startups, began delivering alcohol in select parts of the country last month. The move came weeks after the two firms, both of which are seeing fewer orders and had to let go hundreds of employees, started accepting orders for grocery items in a move that challenged existing online market leaders BigBasket and Grofers.

Udaan, a business-to-business marketplace, recently started to accept bulk orders from some housing societies and is exploring more opportunities in the business-to-commerce space, the startup told TechCrunch.

These shifts came shortly after New Delhi announced a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The lockdown meant that all public places including movie theaters, shopping malls, schools, and public transport were suspended.

Instead of temporarily halting their businesses altogether, as many have done in other markets, scores of startups in India have explored ways to make the most out of the current unfortunate spell.

“This pandemic has given an opportunity to the Indian tech startup ecosystem to have a harder look at the unit-economics of their businesses and become more capital efficient in the shorter and longer-term,” Puneet Kumar, a growth investor in Indian startup ecosystem, told TechCrunch in an interview.

Of the few things most Indian state governments have agreed should remain open include grocery shops, and online delivery services for grocery and food.

People buy groceries at a supermarket during the first day of the 21-day government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Bangalore on March 25, 2020. (Photo by MANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP via Getty Images)

E-commerce firms Snapdeal and DealShare began grocery delivery service in late March. The move was soon followed by social-commerce startup Meesho, fitness startup Curefit, and BharatPe, which is best known for facilitating mobile payments between merchants and users.

Meesho’s attempt is still in the pilot stage, said Vidit Aatrey, the Facebook-backed startup’s co-founder and chief executive. “We started grocery during the lockdown to give some income opportunities to our sellers and so far it has shown good response. So we are continuing the pilot even after lockdown has lifted,” he said.

ClubFactory, best known for selling low-cost beauty items, has also started to deliver grocery products, and so has NoBroker, a Bangalore-based startup that connects apartment seekers with property owners. And MakeMyTrip, a giant that provides solutions to book flight and hotel tickets, has entered the food delivery market.

Another such giant, BookMyShow, which sells movie tickets, has in recent weeks rushed to support online events, helping comedians and other artists sell tickets online. The Mumbai-headquartered firm plans to make further inroads around this business idea in the coming days.

For some startups, the pandemic has resulted in accelerating the launch of their product cycles. CRED, a Bangalore-based startup that is attempting to help Indians improve their financial behavior by paying their credit card bill on time, launched an instant credit line and apartment rental services.

Kunal Shah, the founder and chief executive of CRED, said the startup “fast-tracked the launch” of these two products as they could prove immensely useful in the current environment.

For a handful of startups, the pandemic has meant accelerated growth. Unacademy, a Facebook-backed online learning startup, has seen its user base and subscribers count surge in recent months and told TechCrunch that it is in the process of more than doubling the number of exam preparation courses it offers on its platform in the next two months.

Since March, the number of users who access the online learning service each day has surged to 700,000. “We have also seen a 200% increase in viewers per week for the free live classes offered on the platform. Additionally there has been a 50% increase in paid subscribers and over 50% increase in average watchtime per day among our subscribers,” a spokesperson said.

As with online learning firms, firms operating on-demand video streaming services have also seen a significant rise in the number of users they serve. Zee5, which has amassed over 80 million users, told TechCrunch last week that in a month it will introduce a new category in its app that would curate short-form videos produced and submitted by users. The firm said the feature would look very similar to TikTok.

The pandemic “has also accelerated the adoption of online services in India across all demographics. Many who would not have considered buying goods and services online are starting to adopt the online platforms for basic necessities at a faster pace,” said venture capitalist Kumar.

“As far as expansion into adjacent categories is concerned, some of this was a natural progression and startups were slowly moving in that direction anyway. The pandemic has forced people to get there faster.”

Roosh, a Mumbai-based game developing firm founded by several industry veterans, launched a new app ahead of schedule that allows social influencers to promote games on platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, Deepak Ail, co-founder and chief executive of Roosh, told TechCrunch.

ShareChat, a Twitter-backed social network, recently acquired a startup called Elanic to explore opportunities in social-commerce. OkCredit, a bookkeeping service for merchants, has been exploring ways to allow users to purchase items from neighborhood stores.

And NowFloats, a Mumbai-based SaaS startup that helps businesses and individuals build an online presence without any web developing skills, is on-boarding doctors to help people consult with medical professionals.

Startups are not the only businesses that have scrambled to eye new categories. Established firms such as Carnival Group, which is India’s third-largest multiplex theatre chain, said it is foraying into cloud kitchen business.

Amazon, which competes with Walmart’s Flipkart in India, has also secured approval from West Bengal to deliver alcohol in the nation’s fourth most populated state. The e-commerce giant is also exploring ways to work with mom and pop stores that dot tens of thousands of cities and towns of India.

Last week, the American giant launched “Smart Stores” that allows shoppers to walk to a participating physical store, scan a QR code, and pick and purchase items through the Amazon app. The firm, which is supplying these mom and pop stores with software and QR code, said more than 10,000 shops are participating in the Smart Stores program.

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