Based in Bengaluru, it is hard to ignore the action in the Indian information technology (IT) and startup space. My interest in IT, startups and innovation at the incubation stage drives me to explore and write about inspiring entrepreneurial journey for Forbes India. Having worked for over ten years in the field of business journalism and covered everything from the corporate to the social sector, I have learnt to stay on top of news and leverage my experience as a reporter to lend depth and insight to the coverage.
Delhi-based online market-place player Snapdeal.com on Thursday raised $133.7 million (about Rs 800 crore) in its latest round of funding led by existing investor eBay, one of the largest investments in the country’s e-commerce space in recent times. Despite India’s $3 billion e-commerce industry finding it difficult to become profitable, long-term growth opportunities are keeping investors busy cherry picking ventures to park their funds.
Started in February 2010, Snapdeal.com is one of India’s first e-commerce players to adopt a market-place model, which is now the preferred model in the sector, with the likes of Flipkart also trying this model, moving away from the inventory- based business it adopted in 2007, when it started.
“We see eBay’s second round of investment in Snapdeal as an endorsement of our strategy and progress,” said Kunal Bahl, co-founder and CEO, Snapdeal in a statement, adding that all its current institutional investors including Kalaari Capital, Nexus Venture Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, Intel Capital and Saama Capital had also participated in the latest round of funding.
However, Bahl did not specify eBay’s current stake in the company and the financials of the deal. Last year US-based eBay made an initial investment in Snapdeal and also announced its partnership with the Indian market-place player to cross sell their products. According to reports, the global market-place player eBay invested $50 million in Snapdeal in 2013. There is no official figure, but according to markets, Snapdeal has raised over $200 million so far including the latest funding.
With over 20 million members, 500 plus product categories and over 20,000 sellers, Snapdeal.com had earlier said that it plans to clock gross merchandise sales on the platform of $1 billion by 2015, while it expects FY14 to end with a gross merchandise value of Rs 3,000 crore.
“Accelerating growth in India and other emerging markets continues to be a core strategy for driving eBay’s global e-commerce leadership. eBay is excited about the prospects ahead for both Snapdeal and the eBay India business,” said Jay Lee, senior vice president and APAC managing director eBay, adding that the company would continue to invest in Snapdeal due to its complementary business model.
According to data from investment research firm Venture Intelligence, in 2013, India’s e-commerce space attracted total funding of $542 million across 30 deals. Regarded as one of the highest amounts raised by an e-commerce company in the country, last year in July, Bangalore-based Flipkart.com raised $200 million (around Rs 1200 crore) from its existing private equity (PE) investors including Naspers, Accel, Iconiq Capital and Tiger Global.
Sensing immense potential in the country’s fledgling e-commerce sector, last year global major Amazon.com also launched its Indian marketplace platform. The Seattle-based online giant's choice of business over the traditional inventory model follows the more profitable approach its global peers, like eBay, adopted in India. Amazon operates its marketplace models in 10 countries. In India, it has software development centres in Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad.
Industry experts point out that there are not many attractive sectors where investors find good returns, while e-commerce players offer several innovations in categories and verticals. The e-commerce industry in India, which is growing at 40-50% annually, forms 6-7% of the organised retail market in the country. At present, the travel segment accounts for about 80% of all online sales in India. According to management consulting firm Technopak, e-commerce is projected to grow at a CAGR of 45% to touch $200 billion by 2020.